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Title: Eleven Years in the Rocky Mountains and Life on the Frontier - Also a History of the Sioux War, and a Life of Gen. George A. Custer with Full Account of His Last Battle
Author: Victor, Frances Fuller, 1826-1902
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eleven Years in the Rocky Mountains and Life on the Frontier - Also a History of the Sioux War, and a Life of Gen. George A. Custer with Full Account of His Last Battle" ***

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A History of the Sioux War, and a Life of Gen. George A. Custer
with Full Account of His Last Battle.

Illustrated by Engravings and Maps.

Published by Subscription Only.

Columbian Book Company,
Hartford, Conn.

Copyright by
Columbian Book Company.




When the author of this book has been absorbed in the elegant narratives
of Washington Irving, reading and musing over _Astoria_ and
_Bonneville_, in the cozy quiet of a New York study, no prescient motion
of the mind ever gave prophetic indication of that personal acquaintance
which has since been formed with the scenes, and even with some of the
characters which figure in the works just referred to. Yet so have
events shaped themselves that to me Astoria is familiar ground; Forts
Vancouver and Walla-Walla pictured forever in my memory; while such
journeys as I have been enabled to make into the country east of the
last named fort, have given me a fair insight into the characteristic
features of its mountains and its plains.

To-day, a railroad traverses the level stretch between the Missouri
River and the Rocky Mountains, along which, thirty years ago, the
fur-traders had worn a trail by their annual excursions with men,
pack-horses, and sometimes wagons, destined to the Rocky Mountains.
Then, they had to guard against the attacks of the Savages; and in this
respect civilization is behind the railroad, for now, as then, it is not
safe to travel without a sufficient escort. To-day, also, we have new
Territories called by several names cut out of the identical
hunting-grounds of the fur-traders of thirty years ago; and steamboats
plying the rivers where the mountain-men came to set their traps for
beaver; or cities growing up like mushrooms from a soil made quick by
gold, where the hardy mountain-hunter pursued the buffalo herds in
search of his winter's supply of food.

The wonderful romance which once gave enchantment to stories of hardship
and of daring deeds, suffered and done in these then distant wilds, is
fast being dissipated by the rapid settlement of the new Territories,
and by the familiarity of the public mind with tales of stirring
adventure encountered in the search for glittering ores. It was, then,
not without an emotion of pleased surprise that I first encountered in
the fertile plains of Western Oregon the subject of this biography, a
man fifty-eight years of age, of fine appearance and buoyant temper,
full of anecdote, and with a memory well stored with personal
recollections of all the men of note who have formerly visited the old
Oregon Territory, when it comprised the whole country west of the Rocky
Mountains lying north of California and south of the forty-ninth
parallel. This man is _Joseph L. Meek_, to whose stories of
mountain-life I have listened for days together; and who, after having
figured conspicuously, and not without considerable fame, in the early
history of Oregon, still prides himself most of all on having been a

It has frequently been suggested to Mr. Meek, who has now come to be
known by the familiar title of "Uncle Joe" to all Oregon, that a history
of his varied adventures would make a readable book, and some of his
neighbors have even undertaken to become his historian, yet with so
little well-directed efforts that the task after all has fallen to a
comparative stranger. I confess to having taken hold of it with some
doubts as to my claims to the office; and the best recommendation I can
give my work is the interest I myself felt in the subject of it; and the
only apology I can offer for anything incredible in the narrative which
it may contain, is that I "tell the tale as 'twas told to me," and that
I have no occasion to doubt the truth of it.

Seeing that the incidents I had to record embraced a period of a score
and a half of years, and that they extended over those years most
interesting in Oregon history, as well as of the history of the Fur
Trade in the West, I have concluded to preface Mr. Meek's adventures
with a sketch of the latter, believing that the information thus
conveyed to the reader will give an additional degree of interest to
their narration. The impression made upon my own mind as I gained a
knowledge of the facts which I shall record in this book relating to the
early occupation of Oregon, was that they were not only profoundly
romantic, but decidedly unique.

Mr. Meek was born in Washington Co., Virginia, in 1810, one year before
the settlement of _Astoria_, and at a period when Congress was much
interested in the question of our Western possessions and their
boundary. "Manifest destiny" seemed to have raised him up, together with
many others, bold, hardy, and fearless men, to become sentinels on the
outposts of civilization, securing to the United States with comparative
ease a vast extent of territory, for which, without them, a long
struggle with England would have taken place, delaying the settlement of
the Pacific Coast for many years, if not losing it to us altogether. It
is not without a feeling of genuine self-congratulation, that I am able
to bear testimony to the services, hitherto hardly recognized, of the
"mountain-men" who have settled in Oregon. Whenever there shall arise a
studious and faithful historian, their names shall not be excluded from
honorable mention, nor least illustrious will appear that of Joseph L.
Meek, the Rocky Mountain Hunter and Trapper.



   Astoria--Fort Vancouver--Its isolated Position--Precautions against
     Indians--The Hudson's Bay Company--Its Policy and Intercourse with
     the Indians--The Arrival of the "Brigade"--Other Yearly
     Arrivals--Punishment of Indian Offenders--Indian Strategy--A
     Hero--The American Fur Companies--Their Dealings with the
     Indians--Ashley's Expeditions to Green River--Attack on Smith's
     Party--Wyeth's Expeditions--Fort Hall--Decline of the Fur
     Trade--Causes of the Indians' Hostility--Dangers attending the
     Trapper's Life,      23


   Early Life of Meek--He leaves Home--Enlists in a Fur Company--On
     the March--A Warning Voice--Frontier Sports--Last Vestige of
     Civilization--On the Plains--A first Adventure--A firm Front--A
     Parley--The Summer Rendezvous--An enchanting Picture--The Free
     Trapper's Indian Wife--Wild Carousals--Routine of Camp Life--Smoked
     Moccasins versus Green Ones--A "Trifling Fellow,"      41


   The Camp in Motion--A Trapping Expedition--Opposition to the
     Hudson's Bay Company--Beautiful Scenery--The Lost Leader
     Found--Rejoicings in Camp--The "Luck" of the Trappers--Conference
     of Leaders--The "Devil's Own"--Blackfoot Character--Account of the
     Tribes,      57


   How Beaver are Taken--Beaver Dams--Formation of Meadows--Beaver
     Lodges--"Bachelors"--Trapping in Winter--"Up to Trap"--Blackfeet on
     the Trail--On Guard--The Trapper's Ruse--A disappointed Bear--A
     Fight with Blackfeet--"Out of Luck"--Alone in the
     Mountains--Splendid Views--A Miserable Night--The last Luxury of
     Life--The Awfulness of Solitude--A Singular Discovery--A Hell on
     Earth--A Joyful Recognition--Hard Times in Camp--The Negro's
     Porcupine--Craig's Rabbit--Deep Snows--What the Scout saw--Bighorn
     River--"Colter's Hell"--An Alarm--Arrival at Wind River--Christmas,


   Removal to Powder River--A Trapper's Paradise--The Transformation
     in the Wilderness--The Encampment by Night--Meek takes to
     Study--On the Move--Loss of Horses and Traps--Robbed and Insulted
     by a Bear--Crossing the Yellowstone--A Novel Ferriage--Annoyance
     from Blackfeet--A Cache Opened--A Comrade Killed--Rude Burial
     Service--Return to Rendezvous--Gay Times--The old Partners take
     Leave,      82


   Grizzly Bears--An Adventure with a Grizzly--The Three "Bares"--The
     Mountain-Man's Manners--Joking the Leaders--The Irishman and the
     Booshway--How Sublette climbed a Tree and escaped a Bear--Rival
     Trappers--Whisky as a Strong Card--Ogden's Indian Wife--Her Courage
     and Escape--Winter Quarters--Crow Horse-Thieves--An Expedition on
     Foot--Night Attack on the Indian Fort--Fitzpatrick
     Missing--Destitution in Camp--A "Medicine-Man" consulted--"Making
     Medicine"--A Vision Obtained--Fitzpatrick Found--Death of Smith--An
     Expedition on Snow-Shoes,      90


   Annoying Competition--The Chief's Daughter--Sublette Wounded--Forty
     Days of Isolation--Sublette and Meek captured by Snake Indians--A
     Solemn Council--Sentence of Death--Hope Deferred--A Rescue--The
     "Mountain Lamb"--An Obstinate Rival--Blackfeet
     Marauders--Fitzpatrick's Adventures in the Mountains--"When the Pie
     was opened the Birds began to Sing"--Rough Sports--A Man on
     Fire--Brigades ready for the Start--Blackfeet Caravan--Peaceful
     Overtures--The Half-Breed's Revenge--A
     Battle--Reinforcements--Death of Sinclair--Sublette
     Wounded--Greenhorns--A false Alarm--Indian Adroitness--A Deserted
     Fort--Incident of the Blackfoot Woman--Murder of a Party by
     Blackfeet,      103


   The March to the Humboldt--Scarcity of Game--Terrible
     Sufferings--The Horrors of Thirst and Famine--Eating Ants, Crickets
     and Mules--Return to Snake River--A lucky Discovery--A Trout
     Supper--The Country of the Diggers--Some Account of Them--Anecdote
     of Wyeth and Meek--Comparison of Indian Tribes--The Blackfeet--The
     Crows--The Coast Tribes and the Mountain Tribes--The Columbia River
     Indians--Their Habits, Customs, and Dress--Indian Commerce--The
     Indians of the Plains--Their Dress, Manners, and Wealth--The Horses
     of the Plains--Language--The Indian's Moral Nature--Hungry and
     Hospitable Savages--A Trap set for a Rival--An Ambush--Death of
     Vanderburg--Skirmish with Blackfeet--The Woman Interpreter taken
     Prisoner--Bravery of her Husband--Happy Finale--Meek Rescues the
     "Mountain Lamb"--Intense Cold--Threatened by Famine--The Den of
     Grizzlys--Second Daniels,      119


   A Visit from Blackfeet--The Green River Rendezvous--A "Powerful
     Drunk"--Mad Wolf--A Friendly Warning--A Trip to the Salt Lake
     Country--Meek Joins Jo. Walker's California Expedition--Instinct of
     the Mule--On the Humboldt River--Massacre of Diggers at Mary's
     River--Vain Explorations--Crossing the Sierra Nevadas--Hardships
     and Sufferings--The Sacramento Valley--Delight of the
     Trappers--Meeting with Spanish Soldiers--A Parley--Escorted to
     Monterey--A Hospitable Reception--The Native Californians--Visit to
     the Mohave Village--Meeting with Trapp and Jervais--Infamous
     Conduct at the Moquis Village--The Return March,      141


   In the Camanche Country--A Surprise and a Rapid Movement--The Mule
     Fort--A Camanche Charge--Sure Aim--Another Charge--More Dead
     Indians--Woman's Weapon, the Tongue--Fearful Heat and Sufferings
     from Thirst--The Escape by Night--The South Park--Death of
     Guthrie--Meeting with Bonneville--Indignant Reproaches,      154


   Gossip at Rendezvous--Adventures in the Crow Country--Fitzpatrick
     Picked by the Crows and Flies from Them--Honor among
     Thieves--Unfair Treatment of Wyeth--Bonneville Snubbed at
     Walla-Walla--He Rejects good Counsel--Wyeth's Threat, and its
     Fulfillment--Division of Territory,      160


   In the Blackfoot Country--A Visit to Wyeth's Trappers--Sorry
     Experiences--Condolence and its Effect--The Visitors become
     Defenders--A Battle with Fire and Sword--Fighting for Life--The
     Trappers' Victory--A Trapping Excursion--Meek Plays a Trick and has
     one Played on Him--A Run to Camp--Taking up Traps--A Blackfoot
     Ambush--A Running Fire--A lucky Escape--Winter Camp on the
     Yellowstone--Interpretation of a Dream--A Buffalo Hunt and a
     Blackfoot Surprise--Meek's Mule Story,      166


   Setting up as a Family Man--First Love--Cut out by the
     Booshway--Reward of Constancy--Beauty of Umentucken--Her Dress, Her
     Horse and Equipments--Anecdotes of the Mountain Lamb--Her Quarrel
     with The Trapper--Capture by Crows--Her Rescue--Meek Avenges an
     Insult--A Row in Camp--The Female Element--Death of Umentucken,


   Visitors at Rendezvous--Advent of Missionaries--What Brought
     Them--Bonneville's account of the Nez Perces and Flatheads--An
     Enthusiastic View of Their Characters--Origin of some of Their
     Religious Observances--An Indian's Idea of a God--Material Good
     Desired--Mistake of the Missionaries--First Sermon in the Rocky
     Mountains--Interrupted by Buffaloes--Precept and Example--Dr.
     Whitman's Character--The Missionaries Separate--Dr. Whitman Returns
     to the States,      181


   Meek Falls into the Hands of Crows--The Story as He tells It--He
     Packs Moccasins, and Bears the Jeers of the Fair Sex--Bridger's
     Camp Discovered and the Lie Found out--A Desperate
     Situation--Signaling the Horse-Guard--A Parley with
     Bridger--Successful Strategy--Capture of Little-Gun--Meek Set at
     Liberty with a New Name--A Fort Besieged by Bears--A Lazy
     Trapper--The Decoy of the Delawares--Winter Amusements--The
     Ishmaelite of the Wilderness--March through the Crow
     Country--Return to Green River--Punishment of the
     Bannacks--Consolidation--An Excursion--Intercepted by Crows--A
     Scattered Camp--The Escape,      189


   An Express from Fitzpatrick--The Approach of Missionaries
     Announced--The Caravan Welcomed by a Party of Trappers--Noisy
     Demonstrations--Curiosity of the Indians--The Missionary
     Ladies--Preparations in the Indian Villages--Reception of the
     Missionaries by the Nez Perces and Flatheads--Kind Treatment from
     the Hudson's Bay Company--The Missionaries' Land of Promise--Visit
     to Fort Vancouver--Selection of Missionary Stations,      201


   The Den of Rattlesnakes--The Old Frenchman--How to Keep Snakes out
     of Bed--The Prairie Dog's Tenants at Will--Fight with
     Blackfeet--Policy of War--A Duel Averted--A Run-away Bear--Meek's
     Best Bear Fight--Winter Quarters on Powder River--Robbing
     Bonneville's Men,      214


   A Dissipated Camp--A Crow Carousal--Picked Crows--A Fight with
     Blackfeet--Manhead Killed--Night Visit to the Blackfoot
     Village--"Cooning a River"--Stanley the Indian Painter--Desperate
     Fight with Blackfeet--"The Trapper's Last Shot"--War and Peace--In
     the Wrong Camp--To Rendezvous on Wind River--Mr. Gray, and His
     Adventures--Massacre of Indian Allies--Capt. Stuart Robbed by
     Crows--Newell's Address to the Chiefs,      225


   Decline of the Fur Trade--Wild Scenes at Rendezvous--A Missionary
     Party--Entertained by a War Dance--Meek in Armor--Deserted by his
     Indian Spouse--The Pursuit--Meek abuses a Missionary and Kidnaps
     his Wife--Meek's Black Eyed Daughter--Singing for a
     Biscuit--Trapping Again--A hot March, and Fearful Suffering from
     Thirst--The Old Flathead Woman--Water at Last,      237


   A Chat about Buffalo Hunting--Buffalo Horses--The Start--The
     Pursuit--The Charge--Tumbles--Horsemanship--The Glory of Mountain
     Life--How a Nez Perce Village Hunts Buffalo--Kit Carson and the
     Frenchman on a Run--Mountain Manners,      246


   The Solitary Trapper--A Jest--Among the Nez Perces--Their Eagerness
     to be Taught--Meek is Called upon to Preach--He modestly
     Complies--Asks for a Wife--Polygamy Defended--Meek Gets a Wife--The
     Preacher's Salary--Surprised by Blackfeet--Death of Allen--The Last
     Rendezvous--Anecdote of Shawnee Jim--The new Wife Missing--Meeting
     with Farnham--Cold and Famine--Succor and Food--Parties at Fort
     Crockett--Setting up in Trade--How Al. Saved His Bacon--Bad
     Times--War upon Horse Thieves--In Search of Adventures--Green River
     Canyon--Running Antelope--Gambling--Vain Hunt for
     Rendezvous--Reflections and Half-Resolves--The last Trapping
     Expedition,      251


   A new Start in Life--Mountain-Men for Pioneers--Discovery of the
     Columbia River--What Capt. Gray Did--What Vancouver Did--The United
     States' Claim to Oregon--First Missionaries to the Wallamet--John
     McLaughlin--Hospitalities of Fort Vancouver--The Mission
     Reinforced--Other Settlers in the Wallamet Valley--How they
     Regarded the Mission--The California Cattle Company--Distribution
     of Settlers,      264


   Westward Ho!--Opening Wagon Roads--Republicanism--Fat Pork for
     Preachers--Mission Work at Waiilatpu--Helen Mar--Off for the
     Wallamet--Wagons Left at Walla-Walla--The Dalles Mission--Indian
     Prayers--The Missionaries and the Mountain-Men--The Impious
     Canadian--Doing Penance--Down the Columbia--Trouble with
     Indians--Arrival at the Wallamet--Hunger, and Dependence on Fort
     Vancouver--Meeting Old Comrades--Settling on the Tualatin Plains--A
     disagreeable Winter--Taking Claims--Who furnished the Seed Wheat,


   Scarcity of Employment--Wilkes' Exploring Expedition--Meek Employed
     as Pilot--Interchange of Courtesies at Vancouver--"The
     Peacock"--Unpleasant Reminder--Exploring the Cowelitz--Wilkes'
     Chronometer--Land Expedition to California--Meek
     Discharged--Gleaning Wheat--Fifty Miles for an Axe--Visit to the
     New Mission--Praying for a Cow--Marriage Ceremony,      280


   The Brooding of Events--Arrival of the Chenamus--Meek Celebrates
     the Fourth of July--Dr. Whitman Goes to Washington--An Alarming
     Feature--Mission Stations of the Upper Country--Discontent of the
     Indians--The Missionaries Insulted and Threatened--Mrs. Whitman
     Frightened Away from Waiilatpu,      285


   The Plot Thickens--The Wolf Association--Suspicions of the
     Canadians--"Who's for a Divide?"--The Die Cast--A Shout for
     Freedom--Meek Appointed Sheriff--The Provisional Government,      291


   Arrival of the Immigration at the Dalles--Wagons
     Abandoned--Pitiable Condition of the Women and Children--Aid from
     the Hudson's Bay Company--Perils of the Columbia--Wreck of the
     Boat--Wonderful Escape--Trials of the New Colonists--The Generous
     Savage--The Barefoot Lawyer--Meek's Pumpkin--Privation of the
     Settlers--Shopping under Difficulties--Attempt to Manufacture
     Ardent Spirits--Dilemma of the People--An Appeal--The Sheriff
     Destroys the Distillery--Anecdote of Dr. White and Madam
     Cooper--Meek Levies on Her Whisky--First Official Act of the
     Sheriff,      294


   Excitement about Indians--Dr. White's Flogging Law--Indian
     Revenge--Raid of the Klamaths--Massacre of Indians--Affray at the
     Falls--Death of Cockstock--Death of LeBreton and Rogers--"You'd
     Better Run"--Meek's Policy with the Indians--Meek and the
     Agent--The Borrowed Horse--Solemn Audacity--Wonderful
     Transformation--Temperance--Courts--Anecdote of Judge
     Nesmith--Early Days of Portland--An Indian Carousal--Meek "Settles
     the Indians"--The Immigration of 1845--The Cascade Mountain
     Road-Hunters--Hunger and Peril--A Last Request--Succor at the Last
     Moment--A Reason for Patriotism,      306


   Difficulty of Collecting Taxes--A Ponderous Currency--Dr.
     McLaughlin's Ox--An Exciting Year--The Boundary
     Question--"Fifty-four-forty or Fight"--War Vessels in the
     Columbia--Loss of the Shark--Meek Receives a Salute--Schenck
     Arrested--The Color-Stand of the Shark--"Sunset at the Mouth of the
     Columbia,"      320


   "The Adventures of a Columbia River Salmon"--History of the
     Immigration of 1846--Opening of Southern Route to the
     Wallamet--Tragic Fate of the California Immigrants--Sufferings of
     the Oregon Immigrants--Tardy Relief--Celebrating the Fourth of
     July--Visit to the Ship Brutus--An Insult to the Mountain-Men--The
     Indignity Resented with a Twelve-Pounder--Dr. McLaughlin
     Interferes--Re-election of Meek--Large Immigration--Failure of the
     Territorial Bill--Affray between Immigrants and Indians at the
     Dalles--Meeting of the Legislature--Falling of the Thunderbolt,


   Trouble with the Up-Country Indians--Causes of their
     Disquiet--Their Opinion of the Americans--"Humbugged and
     Cheated"--Fear of Greater Frauds in the Future--Resolve not to
     Submit--Their Feelings Toward Dr. Whitman--Acts of
     Violence--Influence of the Catholic Missionaries--A Season of
     Severe Sickness--What Provoked the Massacre--Joe Lewis the
     Half-Breed--The Fatal Test--Sickness Among the Immigrants--Dr.
     Whitman's Family--Persons at the Mission and Mill--Helen
     Mar--Arrival of Mr. Whitman and his Daughter--A Night Visit to the
     Umatilla--In the Lodge of Stickas, the Walla-Walla Chief--The
     Warning of Stickas and His Family--The Death Song--"Beware of the
     Cayuses at the Mission!"--Mr. Spaulding meets Brouillet, the
     Catholic Bishop--News of the Massacre--Escape to the Woods--Night
     Journeys to Lapwai,      334


   The Tragedy at Waiilatpu--Dr. Whitman's Arrival at Home--Monday
     Morning at the Mission--Commencement of the Massacre--The First
     Victim--"Oh, the Indians!"--Horrors of the Attack--Shooting of Mrs.
     Whitman--Treachery of Jo Lewis--Sufferings of the Children--Indian
     Orgies--The Victims Tortured--The Two Compassionate Indians--A
     Night of Horror--Remarkable Escape of Mr. Osborne and
     Family--Escape and Fate of Mr. Hall--Cruel Treatment of
     Fugitives--Kindness of Mr. Stanley--Inhospitable Reception at Fort
     Walla-Walla--Touching Kindness of Stickas,      344


   Horrors of the Waiilatpu Massacre--Exemption of the
     Catholics--Charges of the Protestants--Natural Suspicions--Further
     Particulars of the Massacre--Cruelty to the Children--Fate of the
     Young Women--Miss Bulee and the Priests--Lapwai Mission--Arrival of
     Mr. Camfield--An Indian Trait--Heroism of Mrs. Spalding--Appeal to
     the Chiefs--Arrival of the News--Lapwai Plundered--Treachery of
     Joseph--Arrival of Mr. Spalding--Detained as Hostages--Ransomed by
     the H.B. Company--The "Blood of the Martyrs"--Country Abandoned to
     the Indians--Subsequent Return of Mr. Spalding to the Nez Perces,


   The Call to Arms--Meetings and Speeches--Ways and Means of
     Defence--The first Regiment of Oregon Riflemen--Messenger to the
     Governor of California--Meek Chosen Messenger to the President of
     the United States--He Proceeds to the Dalles--The Army Marches to
     Waiilatpu--A Skirmish with the Des Chutes--Burial of the
     Victims--Meek Escorted to the Blue Mountains,      362


   Meek's Party--Precautions against Indians--Meeting with
     Bannacks--White Lies--Fort Hall--Deep Snows--Horses Abandoned--The
     Mountain Spirit Returning--Meeting with Peg-Leg Smith--A Mountain
     Revel--Meeting with An Old Leader--Reception at Fort
     Laramie--Passing the Sioux Village--Courtesy of a French
     Trader--Reflections on Nearing the Settlements--Resolve to Remain
     Joe Meek--Reception at St. Joseph--"The Quickest Trip Yet"--Arrival
     at St. Louis--Meek as Steamboat Runner--Interview with the Stage
     Agent at Wheeling--Astonishing the Natives--The Puzzled
     Conductor--Arrival at Washington,      368


   Meek Dines at Coleman's--A Sensation--An Amusing Scene--Recognized
     by Senator Underwood--Visit to the President--Cordial Reception by
     the Family of Polk--Some Doubts of Himself--Rapid Recovery of
     Self-Possession--Action of the Friends of Oregon--The Two Oregon
     Representatives--The Oregon Bill in the Senate--Mr.
     Thornton--Meek's Successful Debut in Society--Curiosity of
     Ladies--Kit Carson and the "Contingent Fund"--Meek's Remarkable
     Popularity--Invited to Baltimore by the City Council--Escorts the
     President--Visit to Lowell--The Factory Girls--Some Natural
     Regrets--Kindness of Mrs. Polk and Mrs. Walker--Commodore
     Wilkes--Oregon Lies--Getting Franked--Champagne Suppers,      381


   Meek Appointed U.S. Marshal for Oregon--"Home Sweet Home"--Pay of
     the Delegates--The Lion's Share--Meek's Interview with Gov.
     Lane--Buying out a Peddler--The Escort of Riflemen--The Start from
     St. Louis, and the Route--Meeting Price's Army--An Adventure and a
     Pleasant Surprise--Leaving the Wagons--Desertion of
     Soldiers--Drought--The Trick of the Yumas--Demoralization of the
     Train--Rumors of Gold--Gen. Lane's Coffee--The Writer's
     Reflection--The Party on Foot--Extreme Sufferings--Arrival at
     William's Ranch--Speculation in Silks and Jack-Knives--Miners at
     Los Angelos--Oregonians at San Francisco--Nat Lane and Meek Take
     the Gold Fever--Meek's Investment--The Governor and Marshal
     Quarrel--Pranks with a Jew--A Salute--Arrival in Oregon City,


   Lane's Course with the Cayuse Indians--Magnanimity of the
     Savages--Rebuke to Their Captors--Their Statements to Meek--The
     Puzzle of Indian Ethics--Incidents of the Trial and
     Execution--State of the Upper Country for A Term of Years--How Meek
     Was Received in Oregon--His Incurable Waggishness--Scene in a
     Court-Room--Contempt of Court--Judge Nelson and the Carpenters--Two
     Hundred Lies--An Excursion by the Oregon Court--Indians Tried for
     Murder--Proceedings of a Jury--Sentence and Execution of the
     Indians--The Chief's Wife--Cost of Proceedings--Lane's Career in
     Oregon--Gov. Davis,      408


   Meek as U.S. Marshal--The Captain of the Melvin--The British
     Smuggler--Returning a Compliment--"Barly Enough for the Officers of
     the Court"--Misused Confidence--Indian Disturbances--The Indian War
     of 1855-6--Gen. Wool and Gov. Curry--Officers of the War--How the
     Volunteers Fared--Meek as a Volunteer--Feasting and Fun--"Marking
     Time"--End of Meek's Public Career,      417








  THE ENLISTMENT,        42


  BEAVERS AT WORK,        66


  THE THREE "BARES,"        92





  VIEW ON THE COLUMBIA,        165


  "INDIANS, BY JOVE!"        200


  THE BEAR IN CAMP,        219


  CACHE,        227


  THE SQUAW'S ESCAPE,        231

  HORSE-TAIL FALLS,        245

  A BUFFALO HUNT,        246



  A WILD INDIAN IN TOWN,        307





  "TAKE CARE KNOX,"        385







In the year 1818, Mr. Prevost, acting for the United States, received
Astoria back from the British, who had taken possession, as narrated by
Mr. Irving, four years previous. The restoration took place in
conformity with the treaty of Ghent, by which those places captured
during the war were restored to their original possessors. Mr. Astor
stood ready at that time to renew his enterprise on the Columbia River,
had Congress been disposed to grant him the necessary protection which
the undertaking required. Failing to secure this, when the United States
sloop of war Ontario sailed away from Astoria, after having taken formal
possession of that place for our Government, the country was left to the
occupancy, (scarcely a joint-occupancy, since there were then no
Americans here,) of the British traders. After the war, and while
negotiations were going on between Great Britain and the United States,
the fort at Astoria had remained in possession of the North-West
Company, as their principal establishment west of the mountains. It had
been considerably enlarged since it had come into their possession, and
was furnished with artillery enough to have frightened into friendship a
much more warlike people than the subjects of old king Comcomly; who, it
will be remembered, was not at first very well disposed towards the
"King George men," having learned to look upon the "Boston men" as his
friends in his earliest intercourse with the whites. At this time
Astoria, or _Fort George_, as the British traders called it, contained
sixty-five inmates, twenty-three of whom were whites, and the remainder
Canadian half-breeds and Sandwich Islanders. Besides this number of men,
there were a few women, the native wives of the men, and their
half-breed offspring. The situation of Astoria, however, was not
favorable, being near the sea coast, and not surrounded with good
farming lands such as were required for the furnishing of provisions to
the fort. Therefore, when in 1821 it was destroyed by fire, it was only
in part rebuilt, but a better and more convenient location for the
headquarters of the North-West Company was sought for in the interior.

About this time a quarrel of long standing between the Hudson's Bay and
North-West Companies culminated in a battle between their men in the
Red River country, resulting in a considerable loss of life and
property. This affair drew the attention of the Government at home; the
rights of the rival companies were examined into, the mediation of the
Ministry secured, and a compromise effected, by which the North-West
Company, which had succeeded in dispossessing the Pacific Fur Company
under Mr. Astor, was merged into the Hudson's Bay Company, whose name
and fame are so familiar to all the early settlers of Oregon.

At the same time, Parliament passed an act by which the hands of the
consolidated company were much strengthened, and the peace and security
of all persons greatly insured; but which became subsequently, in the
joint occupancy of the country, a cause of offence to the American
citizens, as we shall see hereafter. This act allowed the commissioning
of Justices of the Peace in all the territories not belonging to the
United States, nor already subject to grants. These justices were to
execute and enforce the laws and decisions of the courts of Upper
Canada; to take evidence, and commit and send to Canada for trial the
guilty; and even in some cases, to hold courts themselves for the trial
of criminal offences and misdemeanors not punishable with death, or of
civil causes in which the amount at issue should not exceed two hundred

Thus in 1824, the North-West Company, whose perfidy had occasioned such
loss and mortification to the enterprising New York merchant, became
itself a thing of the past, and a new rule began in the region west of
the Rocky Mountains. The old fort at Astoria having been only so far
rebuilt as to answer the needs of the hour, after due consideration, a
site for head-quarters was selected about one hundred miles from the
sea, near the mouth of the Wallamet River, though opposite to it. Three
considerations went to make up the eligibility of the point selected.
First, it was desirable, even necessary, to settle upon good
agricultural lands, where the Company's provisions could be raised by
the Company's servants. Second, it was important that the spot chosen
should be upon waters navigable for the Company's vessels, or upon
tide-water. Lastly, and not leastly, the Company had an eye to the
boundary question between Great Britain and the United States; and
believing that the end of the controversy would probably be to make the
Columbia River the northern limit of the United States territory, a spot
on the northern bank of that river was considered a good point for their
fort, and possible future city.

The site chosen by the North-West Company in 1821, for their new fort,
combined all these advantages, and the further one of having been
already commenced and named. Fort Vancouver became at once on the
accession of the Hudson's Bay Company, the metropolis of the northwest
coast, the center of the fur trade, and the seat of government for that
immense territory, over which roamed the hunters and trappers in the
employ of that powerful corporation. This post was situated on the edge
of a beautiful sloping plain on the northern bank of the Columbia, about
six miles above the upper mouth of the Wallamet. At this point the
Columbia spreads to a great width, and is divided on the south side into
bayous by long sandy islands, covered with oak, ash, and cotton-wood
trees, making the noble river more attractive still by adding the charm
of curiosity concerning its actual breadth to its natural and ordinary
magnificence. Back of the fort the land rose gently, covered with
forests of fir; and away to the east swelled the foot-hills of the
Cascade range, then the mountains themselves, draped in filmy azure, and
over-topped five thousand feet by the snowy cone of Mt. Hood.

In this lonely situation grew up, with the dispatch which characterized
the acts of the Company, a fort in most respects similar to the original
one at Astoria. It was not, however, thought necessary to make so great
a display of artillery as had served to keep in order the subjects of
Comcomly. A stockade enclosed a space about eight hundred feet long by
five hundred broad, having a bastion at one corner, where were mounted
three guns, while two eighteen pounders and two swivels were planted in
front of the residence of the Governor and chief factors. These
commanded the main entrance to the fort, besides which there were two
other gates in front, and another in the rear. Military precision was
observed in the precautions taken against surprises, as well as in all
the rules of the place. The gates were opened and closed at certain
hours, and were always guarded. No large number of Indians were
permitted within the enclosure at the same time, and every employee at
the fort knew and performed his duty with punctuality.

The buildings within the stockade were the Governor's and chief factors'
residences, stores, offices, work-shops, magazines, warehouses, &c.

Year by year, up to 1835 or '40, improvements continued to go on in and
about the fort, the chief of which was the cultivation of the large farm
and garden outside the enclosure, and the erection of a hospital
building, large barns, servants' houses, and a boat-house, all outside
of the fort; so that at the period when the Columbia River was a romance
and a mystery to the people of the United States, quite a flourishing
and beautiful village adorned its northern shore, and that too erected
and sustained by the enemies of American enterprise on soil commonly
believed to belong to the United States: fair foes the author firmly
believes them to have been in those days, yet foes nevertheless.

The system on which the Hudson's Bay Company conducted its business was
the result of long experience, and was admirable for its method and its
justice also. When a young man entered its service as a clerk, his wages
were small for several years, increasing only as his ability and good
conduct entitled him to advancement. When his salary had reached one
hundred pounds sterling he became eligible to a chief-tradership as a
partner in the concern, from which position he was promoted to the rank
of a chief factor. No important business was ever intrusted to an
inexperienced person, a policy which almost certainly prevented any
serious errors. A regular tariff was established on the Company's goods,
comprising all the articles used in their trade with the Indians; nor
was the quality of their goods ever allowed to deteriorate. A price was
also fixed upon furs according to their market value, and an Indian
knowing this, knew exactly what he could purchase. No bartering was
allowed. When skins were offered for sale at the fort they were handed
to the clerk through a window like a post-office delivery-window, and
their value in the article desired, returned through the same aperture.
All these regulations were of the highest importance to the good order,
safety, and profit of the Company. The confidence of the Indians was
sure to be gained by the constancy and good faith always observed toward
them, and the Company obtained thereby numerous and powerful allies in
nearly all the tribes.

As soon as it was possible to make the change, the Indians were denied
the use of intoxicating drinks, the appetite for which had early been
introduced among them by coasting vessels, and even continued by the
Pacific Fur Company at Astoria. It would have been dangerous to have
suddenly deprived them of the coveted stimulus; therefore the practice
must be discontinued by many wise arts and devices. A public notice was
given that the sale of it would be stopped, and the reasons for this
prohibition explained to the Indians. Still, not to come into direct
conflict with their appetites, a little was sold to the chiefs, now and
then, by the clerks, who affected to be running the greatest risks in
violating the order of the company. The strictest secrecy was enjoined
on the lucky chief who, by the friendship of some under-clerk, was
enabled to smuggle off a bottle under his blanket. But the cunning clerk
had generally managed to get his "good friend" into a state so cleverly
between drunk and sober, before he entrusted him with the precious
bottle, that he was sure to betray himself. Leaving the shop with a mien
even more erect than usual, with a gait affected in its majesty, and his
blanket tightened around him to conceal his secret treasure, the
chuckling chief would start to cross the grounds within the fort. If he
was a new customer, he was once or twice permitted to play his little
game with the obliging clerk whose particular friend he was, and to
escape detection.

But by-and-by, when the officers had seen the offence repeated more than
once from their purposely contrived posts of observation, one of them
would skillfully chance to intercept the guilty chief at whose comical
endeavors to appear sober he was inwardly laughing, and charge him with
being intoxicated. Wresting away the tightened blanket, the bottle
appeared as evidence that could not be controverted, of the duplicity of
the Indian and the unfaithfulness of the clerk, whose name was instantly
demanded, that he might be properly punished. When the chief again
visited the fort, his particular friend met him with a sorrowful
countenance, reproaching him for having been the cause of his disgrace
and loss. This reproach was the surest means of preventing another
demand for rum, the Indian being too magnanimous, probably, to wish to
get his friend into trouble; while the clerk affected to fear the
consequences too much to be induced to take the risk another time. Thus
by kind and careful means the traffic in liquors was at length broken
up, which otherwise would have ruined both Indian and trader.

To the company's servants liquor was sold or allowed at certain times:
to those on the sea-board, one half-pint two or three times a year, to
be used as medicine,--not that it was always needed or used for this
purpose, but too strict inquiry into its use was wisely avoided,--and
for this the company demanded pay. To their servants in the interior no
liquor was sold, but they were furnished as a gratuity with one pint on
leaving rendezvous, and another on arriving at winter quarters. By this
management, it became impossible for them to dispose of drink to the
Indians; their small allowance being always immediately consumed in a
meeting or parting carouse.

The arrival of men from the interior at Fort Vancouver usually took
place in the month of June, when the Columbia was high, and a stirring
scene it was. The chief traders generally contrived their march through
the upper country, their camps, and their rendezvous, so as to meet the
Express which annually came to Vancouver from Canada and the Red River
settlements. They then descended the Columbia together, and arrived in
force at the Fort. This annual fleet went by the name of Brigade--a name
which suggested a military spirit in the crews that their appearance
failed to vindicate. Yet, though there was nothing warlike in the scene,
there was much that was exciting, picturesque, and even brilliant; for
these _couriers de bois_, or wood-rangers, and the _voyageurs_, or
boatmen, were the most foppish of mortals when they came to rendezvous.
Then, too, there was an exaltation of spirits on their safe arrival at
head-quarters, after their year's toil and danger in wildernesses, among
Indians and wild beasts, exposed to famine and accident, that almost
deprived them of what is called "common sense," and compelled them to
the most fantastic excesses.

Their well-understood peculiarities did not make them the less welcome
at Vancouver. When the cry was given--"the Brigade! the Brigade!"--there
was a general rush to the river's bank to witness the spectacle. In
advance came the chief-trader's barge, with the company's flag at the
bow, and the cross of St. George at the stern: the fleet as many abreast
as the turnings of the river allowed. With strong and skillful strokes
the boatmen governed their richly laden boats, keeping them in line, and
at the same time singing in chorus a loud and not unmusical hunting or
boating song. The gay ribbons and feathers with which the singers were
bedecked took nothing from the picturesqueness of their appearance. The
broad, full river, sparkling in the sunlight, gemmed with emerald
islands, and bordered with a rich growth of flowering shrubbery; the
smiling plain surrounding the Fort; the distant mountains, where
glittered the sentinel Mt. Hood, all came gracefully into the picture,
and seemed to furnish a fitting back-ground and middle distance for the
bright bit of coloring given by the moving life in the scene. As with a
skillful sweep the brigade touched the bank, and the traders and men
sprang on shore, the first cheer which had welcomed their appearance was
heartily repeated, while a gay clamor of questions and answers followed.

After the business immediately incident to their arrival had been
dispatched, then took place the regale of pork, flour, and spirits,
which was sure to end in a carouse, during which blackened eyes and
broken noses were not at all uncommon; but though blood was made to
flow, life was never put seriously in peril, and the belligerent parties
were the best of friends when the fracas was ended.

The business of exchange being completed in three or four weeks--the
rich stores of peltries consigned to their places in the warehouse, and
the boats reladen with goods for the next year's trade with the Indians
in the upper country, a parting carouse took place, and with another
parade of feathers, ribbons, and other finery, the brigade departed
with songs and cheers as it had come, but with probably heavier hearts.

It would be a stern morality indeed which could look upon the excesses
of this peculiar class as it would upon the same excesses committed by
men in the enjoyment of all the comforts and pleasures of civilized
life. For them, during most of the year, was only an out-door life of
toil, watchfulness, peril, and isolation. When they arrived at the
rendezvous, for the brief period of their stay they were allowed perfect
license because nothing else would content them. Although at
head-quarters they were still in the wilderness, thousands of miles from
civilization, with no chance of such recreations as men in the continual
enjoyment of life's sweetest pleasures would naturally seek. For them
there was only one method of seeking and finding temporary oblivion of
the accustomed hardship; and whatever may be the strict rendering of
man's duty as an immortal being, we cannot help being somewhat lenient
at times to his errors as a mortal.

After the departure of the boats, there was another arrival at the Fort,
of trappers from the Snake River country. Previous to 1832, such were
the dangers of the fur trade in this region, that only the most
experienced traders were suffered to conduct a party through it; and
even they were frequently attacked, and sometimes sustained serious
losses of men and animals. Subsequently, however, the Hudson's Bay
Company obtained such an influence over even these hostile tribes as to
make it safe for a party of no more than two of their men to travel
through this much dreaded region.

There was another important arrival at Fort Vancouver, usually in
midsummer. This was the Company's supply ship from London. In the
possible event of a vessel being lost, one cargo was always kept on
store at Vancouver; but for which wise regulation much trouble and
disaster might have resulted, especially in the early days of the
establishment. Occasionally a vessel foundered at sea or was lost on the
bar of the Columbia; but these losses did not interrupt the regular
transaction of business. The arrival of a ship from London was the
occasion of great bustle and excitement also. She brought not only goods
for the posts throughout the district of the Columbia, but letters,
papers, private parcels, and all that seemed of so much value to the
little isolated world at the Fort.

A company conducting its business with such method and regularity as has
been described, was certain of success. Yet some credit also must attach
to certain individuals in its service, whose faithfulness, zeal, and
ability in carrying out its designs, contributed largely to its welfare.
Such a man was at the head of the Hudson's Bay Company's affairs in the
large and important district west of the Rocky Mountains. The Company
never had in its service a more efficient man than Gov. John McLaughlin,
more commonly called Dr. McLaughlin.

To the discipline, at once severe and just, which Dr. McLaughlin
maintained in his district, was due the safety and prosperity of the
company he served, and the servants of that company generally; as well
as, at a later period, of the emigration which followed the hunter and
trapper into the wilds of Oregon. Careful as were all the officers of
the Hudson's Bay Company, they could not always avoid conflicts with the
Indians; nor was their kindness and justice always sufficiently
appreciated to prevent the outbreak of savage instincts. Fort Vancouver
had been threatened in an early day; a vessel or two had been lost in
which the Indians were suspected to have been implicated; at long
intervals a trader was murdered in the interior; or more frequently,
Indian insolence put to the test both the wisdom and courage of the
officers to prevent an outbreak.

When murders and robberies were committed, it was the custom at Fort
Vancouver to send a strong party to demand the offenders from their
tribe; Such was the well known power and influence of the Company, and
such the wholesome fear of the "King George men," that this demand was
never resisted, and if the murderer could be found he was given up to be
hung according to "King George" laws. They were almost equally impelled
to good conduct by the state of dependence on the company into which
they had been brought. Once they had subsisted and clothed themselves
from the spoils of the rivers and forest; since they had tasted of the
tree of knowledge of good and evil, they could no more return to skins
for raiment, nor to game alone for food. Blankets and flour, beads,
guns, and ammunition had become dear to their hearts: for all these
things they must love and obey the Hudson's Bay Company. Another fine
stroke of policy in the Company was to destroy the chieftain-ships in
the various tribes; thus weakening them by dividing them and preventing
dangerous coalitions of the leading spirits: for in savage as well as
civilized life, the many are governed by the few.

It may not be uninteresting in this place to give a few anecdotes of the
manner in which conflicts with the Indians were prevented, or offences
punished by the Hudson's Bay Company. In the year 1828 the ship _William
and Ann_ was cast away just inside the bar of the Columbia, under
circumstances which seemed to direct suspicion to the Indians in that
vicinity. Whether or not they had attacked the ship, not a soul was
saved from the wreck to tell how she was lost. On hearing that the ship
had gone to pieces, and that the Indians had appropriated a portion of
her cargo, Dr. McLaughlin sent a message to the chiefs, demanding
restitution of the stolen goods. Nothing was returned by the messenger
except one or two worthless articles. Immediately an armed force was
sent to the scene of the robbery with a fresh demand for the goods,
which the chiefs, in view of their spoils, thought proper to resist by
firing upon the reclaiming party. But they were not unprepared; and a
swivel was discharged to let the savages know what they might expect in
the way of firearms. The argument was conclusive, the Indians fleeing
into the woods. While making search for the goods, a portion of which
were found, a chief was observed skulking near, and cocking his gun; on
which motion one of the men fired, and he fell. This prompt action, the
justice of which the Indians well understood, and the intimidating power
of the swivel, put an end to the incipient war. Care was then taken to
impress upon their minds that they must not expect to profit by the
disasters of vessels, nor be tempted to murder white men for the sake of
plunder. The _William and Ann_ was supposed to have got aground, when
the savages seeing her situation, boarded her and murdered the crew for
the cargo which they knew her to contain. Yet as there were no positive
proofs, only such measures were taken as would deter them from a similar
attempt in future. That the lesson was not lost, was proven two years
later, when the _Isabella_, from London, struck on the bar, her crew
deserting her. In this instance no attempt was made to meddle with the
vessel's cargo; and as the crew made their way to Vancouver, the goods
were nearly all saved.

In a former voyage of the _William and Ann_ to the Columbia River, she
had been sent on an exploring expedition to the Gulf of Georgia to
discover the mouth of Frazier's River, having on board a crew of forty
men. Whenever the ship came to anchor, two sentries were kept constantly
on deck to guard against any surprise or misconduct on the part of the
Indians; so adroit, however, were they in the light-fingered art, that
every one of the eight cannon with which the ship was armed was robbed
of its ammunition, as was discovered on leaving the river! Such
incidents as these served to impress the minds of the Company's officers
and servants with the necessity of vigilance in their dealings with the

Not all their vigilance could at all times avail to prevent mischief.
When Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, was on a
visit to Vancouver in 1829, he was made aware of this truism. The
Governor was on his return to Canada by way of the Red River Settlement,
and had reached the Dalles of the Columbia with his party. In making the
portage at this place, all the party except Dr. Tod gave their guns into
the charge of two men to prevent their being stolen by the Indians, who
crowded about, and whose well-known bad character made great care
needful. All went well, no attempt to seize either guns or other
property being made until at the end of the portage the boats had been
reloaded. As the party were about to re-embark, a simultaneous rush was
made by the Indians who had dogged their steps, to get possession of the
boats. Dr. Tod raised his gun immediately, aiming at the head chief,
who, not liking the prospect of so speedy dissolution, ordered his
followers to desist, and the party were suffered to escape. It was soon
after discovered that every gun belonging to the party in the boat had
been wet, excepting the one carried by Dr. Tod; and to the fact that the
Doctor did carry his gun, all the others owed their lives.

The great desire of the Indians for guns and ammunition led to many
stratagems which were dangerous to the possessors of the coveted
articles. Much more dangerous would it have been to have allowed them a
free supply of these things; nor could an Indian purchase from the
Company more than a stated supply, which was to be used, not for the
purposes of war, but to keep himself in game.


Dr. McLaughlin was himself once quite near falling into a trap of the
Indians, so cunningly laid as to puzzle even him. This was a report
brought to him by a deputation of Columbia River Indians, stating the
startling fact that the fort at Nesqually had been attacked, and every
inmate slaughtered. To this horrible story, told with every appearance
of truth, the Doctor listened with incredulity mingled with apprehension.
The Indians were closely questioned and cross-questioned, but did not
conflict in their testimony. The matter assumed a very painful aspect.
Not to be deceived, the Doctor had the unwelcome messengers committed to
custody while he could bring other witnesses from their tribe. But they
were prepared for this, and the whole tribe were as positive as those
who brought the tale. Confounded by this cloud of witnesses, Dr.
McLaughlin had almost determined upon sending an armed force to
Nesqually to inquire into the matter, and if necessary, punish the
Indians, when a detachment of men arrived from that post, and the plot
was exposed! The design of the Indians had been simply to cause a
division of the force at Vancouver, after which they believed they might
succeed in capturing and plundering the fort. Had they truly been
successful in this undertaking, every other trading-post in the country
would have been destroyed. But so long as the head-quarters of the
Company remained secure and powerful, the other stations were
comparatively safe.

An incident which has been several times related, occurred at fort
Walla-Walla, and shows how narrow escapes the interior traders sometimes
made. The hero of this anecdote was Mr. McKinlay, one of the most
estimable of the Hudson's Bay Company's officers, in charge of the fort
just named. An Indian was one day lounging about the fort, and seeing
some timbers lying in a heap that had been squared for pack saddles,
helped himself to one and commenced cutting it down into a whip handle
for his own use. To this procedure Mr. McKinlay's clerk demurred, first
telling the Indian its use, and then ordering him to resign the piece of
timber. The Indian insolently replied that the timber was his, and he
should take it. At this the clerk, with more temper than prudence,
struck the offender, knocking him over, soon after which the savage left
the fort with sullen looks boding vengeance. The next day Mr. McKinlay,
not being informed of what had taken place, was in a room of the fort
with his clerk when a considerable party of Indians began dropping
quietly in until there were fifteen or twenty of them inside the
building. The first intimation of anything wrong McKinlay received was
when he observed the clerk pointed out in a particular manner by one of
the party. He instantly comprehended the purpose of his visitors, and
with that quickness of thought which is habitual to the student of
savage nature, he rushed into the store room and returned with a powder
keg, flint and steel. By this time the unlucky clerk was struggling for
his life with his vindictive foes. Putting down the powder in their
midst and knocking out the head of the keg with a blow, McKinlay stood
over it ready to strike fire with his flint and steel. The savages
paused aghast. They knew the nature of the "perilous stuff," and also
understood the trader's purpose. "Come," said he with a clear,
determined voice, "you are twenty braves against us two: now touch him
if you dare, and see who dies first." In a moment the fort was cleared,
and McKinlay was left to inquire the cause of what had so nearly been a
tragedy. It is hardly a subject of doubt whether or not his clerk got a
scolding. Soon after, such was the powerful influence exerted by these
gentlemen, the chief of the tribe flogged the pilfering Indian for the
offence, and McKinlay became a great brave, a "big heart" for his

It was indeed necessary to have courage, patience, and prudence in
dealing with the Indians. These the Hudson's Bay officers generally
possessed. Perhaps the most irascible of them all in the Columbia
District, was their chief, Dr. McLaughlin; but such was his goodness and
justice that even the savages recognized it, and he was _hyas tyee_, or
great chief, in all respects to them. Being on one occasion very much
annoyed by the pertinacity of an Indian who was continually demanding
pay for some stones with which the Doctor was having a vessel ballasted,
he seized one of some size, and thrusting it in the Indian's mouth,
cried out in a furious manner, "pay, pay! if the stones are yours, take
them and eat them, you rascal! Pay, pay! the devil! the devil!" upon
which explosion of wrath, the native owner of the soil thought it
prudent to withdraw his immediate claims.

There was more, however, in the Doctor's action than mere indulgence of
wrath. He understood perfectly that the savage values only what he can
eat and wear, and that as he could not put the stones to either of these
uses, his demand for pay was an impudent one.

Enough has been said to give the reader an insight into Indian
character, to prepare his mind for events which are to follow, to convey
an idea of the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company, and to show on
what it was founded. The American Fur Companies will now be sketched,
and their mode of dealing with the Indians contrasted with that of the
British Company. The comparison will not be favorable; but should any
unfairness be suspected, a reference to Mr. Irving's _Bonneville_, will
show that the worthy Captain was forced to witness against his own
countrymen in his narrative of his hunting and trading adventures in the
Rocky Mountains.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dissolution of the Pacific Fur Company, the refusal of the United
States Government to protect Mr. Astor in a second attempt to carry on a
commerce with the Indians west of the Rocky Mountains, and the
occupation of that country by British traders, had the effect to deter
individual enterprise from again attempting to establish commerce on the
Pacific coast. The people waited for the Government to take some steps
toward the encouragement of a trans-continental trade; the Government
beholding the lion (British) in the way, waited for the expiration of
the convention of 1818, in the Micawber-like hope that something would
"turn up" to settle the question of territorial sovereignty. The war of
1812 had been begun on the part of Great Britain, to secure the great
western territories to herself for the profits of the fur trade, almost
solely. Failing in this, she had been compelled, by the treaty of Ghent,
to restore to the United States all the places and forts captured during
that war. Yet the forts and trading posts in the west remained
practically in the possession of Great Britain; for her traders and fur
companies still roamed the country, excluding American trade, and
inciting (so the frontiers-men believed), the Indians to acts of blood
and horror.

Congress being importuned by the people of the West, finally, in 1815,
passed an act expelling British traders from American territory east of
the Rocky Mountains. Following the passage of this act the hunters and
trappers of the old North American Company, at the head of which Mr.
Astor still remained, began to range the country about the head waters
of the Mississippi and the upper Missouri. Also a few American traders
had ventured into the northern provinces of Mexico, previous to the
overthrow of the Spanish Government; and after that event, a thriving
trade grew up between St. Louis and Santa Fé.

At length, in 1823, Mr. W.H. Ashley, of St. Louis, a merchant for a long
time engaged in the fur trade on the Missouri and its tributaries,
determined to push a trading party up to or beyond the Rocky Mountains.
Following up the Platte River, Mr. Ashley proceeded at the head of a
large party with horses and merchandise, as far as the northern branch
of the Platte, called the Sweetwater. This he explored to its source,
situated in that remarkable depression in the Rocky Mountains, known as
the South Pass--the same which Fremont _discovered_ twenty years later,
during which twenty years it was annually traveled by trading parties,
and just prior to Fremont's discovery, by missionaries and emigrants
destined to Oregon. To Mr. Ashley also belongs the credit of having
first explored the head-waters of the Colorado, called the Green River,
afterwards a favorite rendezvous of the American Fur Companies. The
country about the South Pass proved to be an entirely new hunting
ground, and very rich in furs, as here many rivers take their rise,
whose head-waters furnished abundant beaver. Here Mr. Ashley spent the
summer, returning to St. Louis in the fall with a valuable collection of

In 1824, Mr. Ashley repeated the expedition, extending it this time
beyond Green River as far as Great Salt Lake, near which to the south he
discovered another smaller lake, which he named Lake Ashley, after
himself. On the shores of this lake he built a fort for trading with the
Indians, and leaving in it about one hundred men, returned to St. Louis
the second time with a large amount of furs. During the time the fort
was occupied by Mr. Ashley's men, a period of three years, more than one
hundred and eighty thousand dollars worth of furs were collected and
sent to St. Louis. In 1827, the fort, and all Mr. Ashley's interest in
the business, was sold to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, at the head of
which were Jedediah Smith, William Sublette, and David Jackson, Sublette
being the leading spirit in the Company.

The custom of these enterprising traders, who had been in the mountains
since 1824, was to divide their force, each taking his command to a good
hunting ground, and returning at stated times to rendezvous, generally
appointed on the head-waters of Green River. Frequently the other fur
companies, (for there were other companies formed on the heels of
Ashley's enterprise,) learning of the place appointed for the yearly
rendezvous, brought their goods to the same resort, when an intense
rivalry was exhibited by the several traders as to which company should
soonest dispose of its goods, getting, of course, the largest amount of
furs from the trappers and Indians. So great was the competition in the
years between 1826 and 1829, when there were about six hundred American
trappers in and about the Rocky Mountains, besides those of the Hudson's
Bay Company, that it was death for a man of one company to dispose of
his furs to a rival association. Even a "free trapper"--that is, one not
indentured, but hunting upon certain terms of agreement concerning the
price of his furs and the cost of his outfit, only, dared not sell to
any other company than the one he had agreed with.

Jedediah Smith, of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, during their first
year in the mountains, took a party of five trappers into Oregon, being
the first American, trader or other, to cross into that country since
the breaking up of Mr. Astor's establishment. He trapped on the
head-waters of the Snake River until autumn, when he fell in with a
party of Hudson's Bay trappers, and going with them to their post in the
Flathead country, wintered there.

Again, in 1826, Smith, Sublette, and Jackson, brought out a large number
of men to trap in the Snake River country, and entered into direct
competition with the Hudson's Bay Company, whom they opposed with hardly
a degree more of zeal than they competed with rival American traders:
this one extra degree being inspired by a "spirit of '76" toward
anything British.

After the Rocky Mountain Fur Company had extended its business by the
purchase of Mr. Ashley's interest, the partners determined to push their
enterprise to the Pacific coast, regardless of the opposition they were
likely to encounter from the Hudson's Bay traders. Accordingly, in the
spring of 1827, the Company was divided up into three parts, to be led
separately, by different routes, into the Indian Territory, nearer the

Smith's route was from the Platte River, southwards to Santa Fé, thence
to the bay of San Francisco, and thence along the coast to the Columbia
River. His party were successful, and had arrived in the autumn of the
following year at the Umpqua River, about two hundred miles south of the
Columbia, in safety. Here one of those sudden reverses to which the
"mountain-man" is liable at any moment, overtook him. His party at this
time consisted of thirteen men, with their horses, and a collection of
furs valued at twenty thousand dollars. Arrived at the Umpqua, they
encamped for the night on its southern bank, unaware that the natives in
this vicinity (the Shastas) were more fierce and treacherous than the
indolent tribes of California, for whom, probably, they had a great
contempt. All went well until the following morning, the Indians hanging
about the camp, but apparently friendly. Smith had just breakfasted, and
was occupied in looking for a fording-place for the animals, being on a
raft, and having with him a little Englishman and one Indian. When they
were in the middle of the river the Indian snatched Smith's gun and
jumped into the water. At the same instant a yell from the camp, which
was in sight, proclaimed that it was attacked. Quick as thought Smith
snatched the Englishman's gun, and shot dead the Indian in the river.

To return to the camp was certain death. Already several of his men had
fallen; overpowered by numbers he could not hope that any would escape,
and nothing was left him but flight. He succeeded in getting to the
opposite shore with his raft before he could be intercepted, and fled
with his companion, on foot and with only one gun, and no provisions, to
the mountains that border the river. With great good fortune they were
enabled to pass through the remaining two hundred miles of their journey
without accident, though not without suffering, and reach Fort Vancouver
in a destitute condition, where they were kindly cared for.

Of the men left in camp, only two escaped. One man named Black defended
himself until he saw an opportunity for flight, when he escaped to the
cover of the woods, and finally to a friendly tribe farther north, near
the coast, who piloted him to Vancouver. The remaining man was one
Turner, of a very powerful frame, who was doing camp duty as cook on
this eventful morning. When the Indians rushed upon him he defended
himself with a huge firebrand, or half-burnt poplar stick, with which he
laid about him like Sampson, killing four red-skins before he saw a
chance of escape. Singularly, for one in his extremity, he did escape,
and also arrived at Vancouver that winter.

Dr. McLaughlin received the unlucky trader and his three surviving men
with every mark and expression of kindness, and entertained them through
the winter. Not only this, but he dispatched a strong, armed party to
the scene of the disaster to punish the Indians and recover the stolen
goods; all of which was done at his own expense, both as an act of
friendship toward his American rivals, and as necessary to the
discipline which they everywhere maintained among the Indians. Should
this offence go unpunished, the next attack might be upon one of his own
parties going annually down into California. Sir George Simpson, the
Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, chanced to be spending the winter
at Vancouver. He offered to send Smith to London the following summer,
in the Company's vessel, where he might dispose of his furs to
advantage; but Smith declined this offer, and finally sold his furs to
Dr. McLaughlin, and returned in the spring to the Rocky Mountains.

On Sublette's return from St. Louis, in the summer of 1829, with men and
merchandise for the year's trade, he became uneasy on account of Smith's
protracted absence. According to a previous plan, he took a large party
into the Snake River country to hunt. Among the recruits from St. Louis
was Joseph L. Meek, the subject of the narrative following this chapter.
Sublette not meeting with Smith's party on its way from the Columbia, as
he still hoped, at length detailed a party to look for him on the
head-waters of the Snake. Meek was one of the men sent to look for the
missing partner, whom he discovered at length in Pierre's Hole, a deep
valley in the mountains, from which issues the Snake River in many
living streams. Smith returned with the men to camp, where the tale of
his disasters was received after the manner of mountain-men, simply
declaring with a momentarily sobered countenance, that their comrade has
not been "in luck;" with which brief and equivocal expression of
sympathy the subject is dismissed. To dwell on the dangers incident to
their calling would be to half disarm themselves of their necessary
courage; and it is only when they are gathered about the fire in their
winter camp, that they indulge in tales of wild adventure and
"hair-breadth 'scapes," or make sorrowful reference to a comrade lost.

Influenced by the hospitable treatment which Smith had received at the
hands of the Hudson's Bay Company, the partners now determined to
withdraw from competition with them in the Snake country, and to trap
upon the waters of the Colorado, in the neighborhood of their fort. But
"luck," the mountain-man's Providence, seemed to have deserted Smith. In
crossing the Colorado River with a considerable collection of skins, he
was again attacked by Indians, and only escaped by losing all his
property. He then went to St. Louis for a supply of merchandise, and
fitted out a trading party for Santa Fé; but on his way to that place
was killed in an encounter with the savages.

Turner, the man who so valiantly wielded the firebrand on the Umpqua
River, several years later met with a similar adventure on the Rogue
River, in Southern Oregon, and was the means of saving the lives of his
party by his courage, strength, and alertness. He finally, when trapping
had become unprofitable, retired upon a farm in the Wallamet Valley, as
did many other mountain-men who survived the dangers of their perilous

After the death of Smith, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company continued its
operations under the command of Bridger, Fitzpatrick, and Milton
Sublette, brother of William. In the spring of 1830 they received about
two hundred recruits, and with little variation kept up their number of
three or four hundred men for a period of eight or ten years longer, or
until the beaver were hunted out of every nook and corner of the Rocky

Previous to 1835, there were in and about the Rocky Mountains, beside
the "American" and "Rocky Mountain" companies, the St. Louis Company,
and eight or ten "lone traders." Among these latter were William
Sublette, Robert Campbell, J.O. Pattie, Mr. Pilcher, Col. Charles Bent,
St. Vrain, William Bent, Mr. Gant, and Mr. Blackwell. All these
companies and traders more or less frequently penetrated into the
countries of New Mexico, Old Mexico, Sonora, and California; returning
sometimes through the mountain regions of the latter State, by the
Humboldt River to the head-waters of the Colorado. Seldom, in all their
journeys, did they intrude on that portion of the Indian Territory lying
within three hundred miles of Fort Vancouver, or which forms the area of
the present State of Oregon.

Up to 1832, the fur trade in the West had been chiefly conducted by
merchants from the frontier cities, especially by those of St. Louis.
The old "North American" was the only exception. But in the spring of
this year, Captain Bonneville, an United States officer on furlough, led
a company of a hundred men, with a train of wagons, horses and mules,
with merchandise, into the trapping grounds of the Rocky Mountains. His
wagons were the first that had ever crossed the summit of these
mountains, though William Sublette had, two or three years previous,
brought wagons as far as the valley of the Wind River, on the east side
of the range. Captain Bonneville remained nearly three years in the
hunting and trapping grounds, taking parties of men into the Colorado,
Humboldt, and Sacramento valleys; but he realized no profits from his
expedition, being opposed and competed with by both British and American
traders of larger experience.

But Captain Bonneville's venture was a fortunate one compared with that
of Mr. Nathaniel Wyeth of Massachusetts, who also crossed the continent
in 1832, with the view of establishing a trade on the Columbia River.
Mr. Wyeth brought with him a small party of men, all inexperienced in
frontier or mountain life, and destined for a salmon fishery on the
Columbia. He had reached Independence, Missouri, the last station before
plunging into the wilderness, and found himself somewhat at a loss how
to proceed, until, at this juncture, he was overtaken by the party of
William Sublette, from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains, with whom he
travelled in company to the rendezvous at Pierre's Hole.

When Wyeth arrived at the Columbia River, after tarrying until he had
acquired some mountain experiences, he found that his vessel, which was
loaded with merchandise for the Columbia River trade, had not arrived.
He remained at Vancouver through the winter, the guest of the Hudson's
Bay Company, and either having learned or surmised that his vessel was
wrecked, returned to the United States in the following year. Not
discouraged, however, he made another venture in 1834, despatching the
ship _May Dacre_, Captain Lambert, for the Columbia River, with another
cargo of Indian goods, traveling himself overland with a party of two
hundred men, and a considerable quantity of merchandise which he
expected to sell to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. In this expectation
he was defeated by William Sublette, who had also brought out a large
assortment of goods for the Indian trade, and had sold out, supplying
the market, before Mr. Wyeth arrived.

Wyeth then built a post, named Fort Hall, on Snake River, at the
junction of the Portneuf, where he stored his goods, and having detached
most of his men in trapping parties, proceeded to the Columbia River to
meet the _May Dacre_. He reached the Columbia about the same time with
his vessel, and proceeded at once to erect a salmon fishery. To forward
this purpose he built a post, called Fort William, on the lower end of
Wappatoo (now known as Sauvie's) Island, near where the Lower Wallamet
falls into the Columbia. But for various reasons he found the business
on which he had entered unprofitable. He had much trouble with the
Indians, his men were killed or drowned, so that by the time he had half
a cargo of fish, he was ready to abandon the effort to establish a
commerce with the Oregon Indians, and was satisfied that no enterprise
less stupendous and powerful than that of the Hudson's Bay Company could
be long sustained in that country.

Much complaint was subsequently made by Americans, chiefly Missionaries,
of the conduct of that company in not allowing Mr. Wyeth to purchase
beaver skins of the Indians, but Mr. Wyeth himself made no such
complaint. Personally, he was treated with unvarying kindness, courtesy,
and hospitality. As a trader, they would not permit him to undersell
them. In truth, they no doubt wished him away; because competition would
soon ruin the business of either, and they liked not to have the Indians
taught to expect more than their furs were worth, nor to have the
Indians' confidence in themselves destroyed or tampered with.

The Hudson's Bay Company were hardly so unfriendly to him as the
American companies; since to the former he was enabled to sell his goods
and fort on the Snake River, before he returned to the United States,
which he did in 1835.

The sale of Fort Hall to the Hudson's Bay Company was a finishing blow
at the American fur trade in the Rocky Mountains, which after two or
three years of constantly declining profits, was entirely abandoned.

Something of the dangers incident to the life of the hunter and trapper
may be gathered from the following statements, made by various parties
who have been engaged in it. In 1808, a Missouri Company engaged in fur
hunting on the three forks of the river Missouri, were attacked by
Blackfeet, losing twenty-seven men, and being compelled to abandon the
country. In 1823, Mr. Ashley was attacked on the same river by the
Arickaras, and had twenty-six men killed. About the same time the
Missouri company lost seven men, and fifteen thousand dollars' worth of
merchandise on the Yellowstone River. A few years previous, Major Henry
lost, on the Missouri River, six men and fifty horses. In the sketch
given of Smith's trading adventures is shown how uncertain were life and
property at a later period. Of the two hundred men whom Wyeth led into
the Indian country, only about forty were alive at the end of three
years. There was, indeed, a constant state of warfare between the
Indians and the whites, wherever the American Companies hunted, in which
great numbers of both lost their lives. Add to this cause of decimation
the perils from wild beasts, famine, cold, and all manner of accidents,
and the trapper's chance of life was about one in three.

Of the causes which have produced the enmity of the Indians, there are
about as many. It was found to be the case almost universally, that on
the first visit of the whites the natives were friendly, after their
natural fears had been allayed. But by degrees their cupidity was
excited to possess themselves of the much coveted dress, arms, and goods
of their visitors. As they had little or nothing to offer in exchange,
which the white man considered an equivalent, they took the only method
remaining of gratifying their desire of possession, and _stole_ the
coveted articles which they could not purchase. When they learned that
the white men punished theft, they murdered to prevent the punishment.
Often, also, they had wrongs of their own to avenge. White men did not
always regard their property-rights. They were guilty of infamous
conduct toward Indian women. What one party of whites told them was
true, another plainly contradicted, leaving the lie between them. They
were overbearing toward the Indians on their own soil, exciting to
irrepressible hostility the natural jealousy of the inferior toward the
superior race, where both are free, which characterizes all people. In
short, the Indians were not without their grievances; and from barbarous
ignorance and wrong on one side, and intelligent wrong-doing on the
other, together with the misunderstandings likely to arise between two
entirely distinct races, grew constantly a thousand abuses, which
resulted in a deadly enmity between the two.

For several reasons this evil existed to a greater degree among the
American traders and trappers than among the British. The American
trapper was not, like the Hudson's Bay employees, bred to the business.
Oftener than any other way he was some wild youth who, after an
_escapade_ in the society of his native place, sought safety from
reproach or punishment in the wilderness. Or he was some disappointed
man who, with feelings embittered towards his fellows, preferred the
seclusion of the forest and mountain. Many were of a class disreputable
everywhere, who gladly embraced a life not subject to social laws. A few
were brave, independent, and hardy spirits, who delighted in the
hardships and wild adventures their calling made necessary. All these
men, the best with the worst, were subject to no will but their own; and
all experience goes to prove that a life of perfect liberty is apt to
degenerate into a life of license. Even their own lives, and those of
their companions, when it depended upon their own prudence, were but
lightly considered. The constant presence of danger made them reckless.
It is easy to conceive how, under these circumstances, the natives and
the foreigners grew to hate each other, in the Indian country;
especially after the Americans came to the determination to "shoot an
Indian at sight," unless he belonged to some tribe with whom they had
intermarried, after the manner of the trappers.


On the other hand, the employees of the Hudson's Bay Company were many
of them half-breeds or full-blooded Indians of the Iroquois nation,
towards whom nearly all the tribes were kindly disposed. Even the
Frenchmen who trapped for this company were well liked by the Indians on
account of their suavity of manner, and the ease with which they adapted
themselves to savage life. Besides most of them had native wives and
half-breed children, and were regarded as relatives. They were trained
to the life of a trapper, were subject to the will of the Company, and
were generally just and equitable in their dealings with the Indians,
according to that company's will, and the dictates of prudence. Here was
a wide difference.

Notwithstanding this, there were many dangers to be encountered. The
hostility of some of the tribes could never be overcome; nor has it ever
abated. Such were the Crows, the Blackfeet, the Cheyennes, the Apaches,
the Camanches. Only a superior force could compel the friendly offices
of these tribes for any white man, and then their treachery was as
dangerous as their open hostility.

It happened, therefore, that although the Hudson's Bay Company lost
comparatively few men by the hands of the Indians, they sometimes found
them implacable foes in common with the American trappers; and
frequently one party was very glad of the others' assistance.
Altogether, as has before been stated, the loss of life was immense in
proportion to the number employed.

Very few of those who had spent years in the Rocky Mountains ever
returned to the United States. With their Indian wives and half-breed
children, they scattered themselves throughout Oregon, until when, a
number of years after the abandonment of the fur trade, Congress donated
large tracts of land to actual settlers, they laid claim, each to his
selected portion, and became active citizens of their adopted state.

[Illustration: MAP OF THE FUR COUNTRY.]



As has been stated in the Introduction, Joseph L. Meek was a native of
Washington Co., Va. Born in the early part of the present century, and
brought up on a plantation where the utmost liberty was accorded to the
"young massa;" preferring out-door sports with the youthful bondsmen of
his father, to study with the bald-headed schoolmaster who furnished him
the alphabet on a paddle; possessing an exhaustless fund of waggish
humor, united to a spirit of adventure and remarkable personal strength,
he unwittingly furnished in himself the very material of which the
heroes of the wilderness were made. Virginia, "the mother of
Presidents," has furnished many such men, who, in the early days of the
now populous Western States, became the hardy frontiers-men, or the
fearless Indian fighters who were the bone and sinew of the land.

When young Joe was about eighteen years of age, he wearied of the
monotony of plantation life, and jumping into the wagon of a neighbor
who was going to Louisville, Ky., started out in life for himself. He
"reckoned they did not grieve for him at home;" at which conclusion
others besides Joe naturally arrive on hearing of his heedless
disposition, and utter contempt for the ordinary and useful employments
to which other men apply themselves.

Joe probably believed that should his father grieve for him, his
step-mother would be able to console him; this step-mother, though a
pious and good woman, not being one of the lad's favorites, as might
easily be conjectured. It was such thoughts as these that kept up his
resolution to seek the far west. In the autumn of 1828 he arrived in St.
Louis, and the following spring he fell in with Mr. Wm. Sublette, of the
Rocky Mountain Fur Company, who was making his annual visit to that
frontier town to purchase merchandise for the Indian country, and pick
up recruits for the fur-hunting service. To this experienced leader he
offered himself.

[Illustration: THE ENLISTMENT.]

"How old are you?" asked Sublette.

"A little past eighteen."

"And you want to go to the Rocky Mountains?"


"You don't know what you are talking about, boy. You'll be killed before
you get half way there."

"If I do, I reckon I can die!" said Joe, with a flash of his fall dark
eyes, and throwing back his shoulders to show their breadth.

"Come," exclaimed the trader, eyeing the youthful candidate with
admiration, and perhaps a touch of pity also; "that is the game spirit.
I think you'll do, after all. Only be prudent, and keep your wits about

"Where else should they be?" laughed Joe, as he marched off, feeling an
inch or two taller than before.

Then commenced the business of preparing for the journey--making
acquaintance with the other recruits--enjoying the novelty of owning an
outfit, being initiated into the mysteries of camp duty by the few old
hunters who were to accompany the expedition, and learning something of
their swagger and disregard of civilized observances.

On the 17th of March, 1829, the company, numbering about sixty men, left
St. Louis, and proceeded on horses and mules, with pack-horses for the
goods, up through the state of Missouri. Camp-life commenced at the
start; and this being the season of the year when the weather is most
disagreeable, its romance rapidly melted away with the snow and sleet
which varied the sharp spring wind and the frequent cold rains. The
recruits went through all the little mishaps incident to the business
and to their inexperience, such as involuntary somersaults over the
heads of their mules, bloody noses, bruises, dusty faces, bad colds,
accidents in fording streams,--yet withal no very serious hurts or
hindrances. Rough weather and severe exercise gave them wolfish
appetites, which sweetened the coarse camp-fare and amateur cooking.

Getting up at four o'clock of a March morning to kindle fires and
attend to the animals was not the most delectable duty that our
labor-despising young recruit could have chosen; but if he repented of
the venture he had made nobody was the wiser. Sleeping of stormy nights
in corn-cribs or under sheds, could not be by any stretch of imagination
converted into a highly romantic or heroic mode of lodging one's self.
The squalid manner of living of the few inhabitants of Missouri at this
period, gave a forlorn aspect to the country which is lacking in the
wilderness itself;--a thought which sometimes occurred to Joe like a
hope for the future. Mountain-fare he began to think must be better than
the boiled corn and pork of the Missourians. Antelope and buffalo meat
were more suitable viands for a hunter than coon and opossum. Thus those
very duties which seemed undignified, and those hardships without danger
or glory, which marked the beginning of his career made him ambitious of
a more free and hazardous life on the plains and in the mountains.

Among the recruits was a young man not far from Joe's own age, named
Robert Newell, from Ohio. One morning, when the company was encamped
near Boonville, the two young men were out looking for their mules, when
they encountered an elderly woman returning from the milking yard with a
gourd of milk. Newell made some remark on the style of vessel she
carried, when she broke out in a sharp voice,--

"Young chap, I'll bet you run off from your mother! Who'll mend them
holes in the elbow of your coat? You're a purty looking chap to go to
the mountains, among them Injuns! They'll _kill_ you. You'd better go
back home!"

Considering that these frontier people knew what Indian fighting was,
this was no doubt sound and disinterested advice, notwithstanding it
was given somewhat sharply. And so the young men felt it to be; but it
was not in the nature of either of them to turn back from a course
because there was danger in it. The thought of home, and somebody to
mend their coats, was, however, for the time strongly presented. But the
company moved on, with undiminished numbers, stared at by the few
inhabitants, and having their own little adventures, until they came to
Independence, the last station before committing themselves to the

At this place, which contained a dwelling-house, cotton-gin, and
grocery, the camp tarried for a few days to adjust the packs, and
prepare for a final start across the plains. On Sunday the settlers got
together for a shooting-match, in which some of the travelers joined,
without winning many laurels. Coon-skins, deer-skins, and bees-wax
changed hands freely among the settlers, whose skill with the rifle was
greater than their hoard of silver dollars. This was the last vestige of
civilization which the company could hope to behold for years; and rude
as it was, yet won from them many a parting look as they finally took
their way across the plains toward the Arkansas River.

Often on this part of the march a dead silence fell upon the party,
which remained unbroken for miles of the way. Many no doubt were
regretting homes by them abandoned, or wondering dreamily how many and
whom of that company would ever see the Missouri country again. Many
indeed went the way the woman of the gourd had prophesied; but not the
hero of this story, nor his comrade Newell.

The route of Captain Sublette led across the country from near the mouth
of the Kansas River to the River Arkansas; thence to the South Fork of
the Platte; thence on to the North Fork of that River, to where Ft.
Laramie now stands; thence up the North Fork to the Sweetwater, and
thence across in a still northwesterly direction to the head of Wind

The manner of camp-travel is now so well known through the writings of
Irving, and still more from the great numbers which have crossed the
plains since _Astoria_ and _Bonneville_ were written, that it would be
superfluous here to enter upon a particular description of a train on
that journey. A strict half-military discipline had to be maintained,
regular duties assigned to each person, precautions taken against the
loss of animals either by straying or Indian stampeding, etc. Some of
the men were appointed as camp-keepers, who had all these things to look
after, besides standing guard. A few were selected as hunters, and these
were free to come and go, as their calling required. None but the most
experienced were chosen for hunters, on a march; therefore our recruit
could not aspire to that dignity yet.

The first adventure the company met with worthy of mention after leaving
Independence, was in crossing the country between the Arkansas and the
Platte. Here the camp was surprised one morning by a band of Indians a
thousand strong, that came sweeping down upon them in such warlike style
that even Captain Sublette was fain to believe it his last battle. Upon
the open prairie there is no such thing as flight, nor any cover under
which to conceal a party even for a few moments. It is always fight or
die, if the assailants are in the humor for war.

Happily on this occasion the band proved to be more peaceably disposed
than their appearance indicated, being the warriors of several
tribes--the Sioux, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Cheyennes, who had been
holding a council to consider probably what mischief they could do to
some other tribes. The spectacle they presented as they came at full
speed on horseback, armed, painted, brandishing their weapons, and
yelling in first-rate Indian style, was one which might well strike with
a palsy the stoutest heart and arm. What were a band of sixty men
against a thousand armed warriors in full fighting trim, with spears,
shields, bows, battle-axes, and not a few guns?

But it is the rule of the mountain-men to _fight_--and that there is a
chance for life until the breath is out of the body; therefore Captain
Sublette had his little force drawn up in line of battle. On came the
savages, whooping and swinging their weapons above their heads. Sublette
turned to his men. "When you hear my shot, then fire." Still they came
on, until within about fifty paces of the line of waiting men. Sublette
turned his head, and saw his command with their guns all up to their
faces ready to fire, then raised his own gun. Just at this moment the
principal chief sprang off his horse and laid his weapon on the ground,
making signs of peace. Then followed a talk, and after the giving of a
considerable present, Sublette was allowed to depart. This he did with
all dispatch, the company putting as much distance as possible between
themselves and their visitors before making their next camp. Considering
the warlike character of these tribes and their superior numbers, it was
as narrow an escape on the part of the company as it was an exceptional
freak of generosity on the part of the savages to allow it. But Indians
have all a great respect for a man who shows no fear; and it was most
probably the warlike movement of Captain Sublette and his party which
inspired a willingness on the part of the chief to accept a present,
when he had the power to have taken the whole train. Besides, according
to Indian logic, the present cost him nothing, and it might cost him
many warriors to capture the train. Had there been the least wavering
on Sublette's part, or fear in the countenances of his men, the end of
the affair would have been different. This adventure was a grand
initiation of the raw recruits, giving them both an insight into savage
modes of attack, and an opportunity to test their own nerve.

The company proceeded without accident, and arrived, about the first of
July, at the rendezvous, which was appointed for this year on the Popo
Agie, one of the streams which form the head-waters of Bighorn River.

Now, indeed, young Joe had an opportunity of seeing something of the
life upon which he had entered. As customary, when the traveling partner
arrived at rendezvous with the year's merchandise, there was a meeting
of all the partners, if they were within reach of the appointed place.
On this occasion Smith was absent on his tour through California and
Western Oregon, as has been related in the prefatory chapter. Jackson,
the resident partner, and commander for the previous year, was not yet
in; and Sublette had just arrived with the goods from St. Louis.

All the different hunting and trapping parties and Indian allies were
gathered together, so that the camp contained several hundred men, with
their riding and pack-horses. Nor were Indian women and children wanting
to give variety and an appearance of domesticity to the scene.

[Illustration: _THE SUMMER RENDEZVOUS._]

The Summer rendezvous was always chosen in some valley where there was
grass for the animals, and game for the camp. The plains along the Popo
Agie, besides furnishing these necessary bounties, were bordered by
picturesque mountain ranges, whose naked bluffs of red sandstone glowed
in the morning and evening sun with a mellowness of coloring charming to
the eye of the Virginia recruit. The waving grass of the plain,
variegated with wild flowers; the clear summer heavens flecked with
white clouds that threw soft shadows in passing; the grazing animals
scattered about the meadows; the lodges of the _Booshways_,[A] around
which clustered the camp in motley garb and brilliant coloring; gay
laughter, and the murmur of soft Indian voices, all made up a most
spirited and enchanting picture, in which the eye of an artist could not
fail to delight.

    [A] Leaders or chiefs--corrupted from the French of Bourgeois, and
    borrowed from the Canadians.

But as the goods were opened the scene grew livelier. All were eager to
purchase, most of the trappers to the full amount of their year's wages;
and some of them, generally free trappers, went in debt to the company
to a very considerable amount, after spending the value of a year's
labor, privation, and danger, at the rate of several hundred dollars in
a single day.

The difference between a hired and a free trapper was greatly in favor
of the latter. The hired trapper was regularly indentured, and bound not
only to hunt and trap for his employers, but also to perform any duty
required of him in camp. The Booshway, or the trader, or the partisan,
(leader of the detachment,) had him under his command, to make him take
charge of, load and unload the horses, stand guard, cook, hunt fuel, or,
in short, do any and every duty. In return for this toilsome service he
received an outfit of traps, arms and ammunition, horses, and whatever
his service required. Besides his outfit, he received no more than three
or four hundred dollars a year as wages.

There was also a class of free trappers, who were furnished with their
outfit by the company they trapped for, and who were obliged to agree to
a certain stipulated price for their furs before the hunt commenced.
But the genuine free trapper regarded himself as greatly the superior of
either of the foregoing classes. He had his own horses and
accoutrements, arms and ammunition. He took what route he thought fit,
hunted and trapped when and where he chose; traded with the Indians;
sold his furs to whoever offered highest for them; dressed flauntingly,
and generally had an Indian wife and half-breed children. They prided
themselves on their hardihood and courage; even on their recklessness
and profligacy. Each claimed to own the best horse; to have had the
wildest adventures; to have made the most narrow escapes; to have killed
the greatest number of bears and Indians; to be the greatest favorite
with the Indian belles, the greatest consumer of alcohol, and to have
the most money to spend, _i. e._ the largest credit on the books of the
company. If his hearers did not believe him, he was ready to run a race
with him, to beat him at "old sledge," or to fight, if fighting was
preferred,--ready to prove what he affirmed in any manner the company

If the free trapper had a wife, she moved with the camp to which he
attached himself, being furnished with a fine horse, caparisoned in the
gayest and costliest manner. Her dress was of the finest goods the
market afforded, and was suitably ornamented with beads, ribbons,
fringes, and feathers. Her rank, too, as a free trapper's wife, gave her
consequence not only in her own eyes, but in those of her tribe, and
protected her from that slavish drudgery to which as the wife of an
Indian hunter or warrior she would have been subject. The only authority
which the free trapper acknowledged was that of his Indian spouse, who
generally ruled in the lodge, however her lord blustered outside.

One of the free trapper's special delights was to take in hand the raw
recruits, to gorge their wonder with his boastful tales, and to amuse
himself with shocking his pupil's civilized notions of propriety. Joe
Meek did not escape this sort of "breaking in;" and if it should appear
in the course of this narrative that he proved an apt scholar, it will
but illustrate a truth--that high spirits and fine talents tempt the
tempter to win them over to his ranks. But Joe was not won over all at
once. He beheld the beautiful spectacle of the encampment as it has been
described, giving life and enchantment to the summer landscape, changed
into a scene of the wildest carousal, going from bad to worse, until
from harmless noise and bluster it came to fighting and loss of life. At
this first rendezvous he was shocked to behold the revolting exhibition
of four trappers playing at a game of cards with the dead body of a
comrade for a card-table! Such was the indifference to all the natural
and ordinary emotions which these veterans of the wilderness cultivated
in themselves, and inculcated in those who came under their influence.
Scenes like this at first had the effect to bring feelings of
home-sickness, while it inspired by contrast a sort of penitential and
religious feeling also. According to Meek's account of those early days
in the mountains, he said some secret prayers, and shed some secret
tears. But this did not last long. The force of example, and especially
the force of ridicule, is very potent with the young; nor are we quite
free from their influence later in life.

If the gambling, swearing, drinking, and fighting at first astonished
and alarmed the unsophisticated Joe, he found at the same time something
to admire, and that he felt to be congenial with his own disposition, in
the fearlessness, the contempt of sordid gain, the hearty merriment and
frolicsome abandon of the better portion of the men about him. A spirit
of emulation arose in him to become as brave as the bravest, as hardy as
the hardiest, and as gay as the gayest, even while his feelings still
revolted at many things which his heroic models were openly guilty of.
If at any time in the future course of this narrative, Joe is discovered
to have taken leave of his early scruples, the reader will considerately
remember the associations by which he was surrounded for years, until
the memory of the pious teachings of his childhood was nearly, if not
quite, obliterated. To "nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in
malice," should be the frame of mind in which both the writer and reader
of Joe's adventures should strive to maintain himself.

Before our hero is ushered upon the active scenes of a trapper's life,
it may be well to present to the reader a sort of _guide to camp life_,
in order that he may be able to understand some of its technicalities,
as they may be casually mentioned hereafter.

When the large camp is on the march, it has a leader, generally one of
the Booshways, who rides in advance, or at the head of the column.
Near him is a led mule, chosen for its qualities of speed and
trustworthiness, on which are packed two small trunks that balance each
other like panniers, and which contain the company's books, papers, and
articles of agreement with the men. Then follow the pack animals, each
one bearing three packs--one on each side, and one on top--so nicely
adjusted as not to slip in traveling. These are in charge of certain men
called camp-keepers, who have each three of these to look after. The
trappers and hunters have two horses, or mules, one to ride, and one to
pack their traps. If there are women and children in the train, all are
mounted. Where the country is safe, the caravan moves in single file,
often stretching out for half or three-quarters of a mile. At the end
of the column rides the second man, or "little Booshway," as the men
call him; usually a hired officer, whose business it is to look after
the order and condition of the whole camp.

[Illustration: MULE PACKING.]

On arriving at a suitable spot to make the night camp, the leader stops,
dismounts in the particular space which is to be devoted to himself in
its midst. The others, as they come up, form a circle; the "second man"
bringing up the rear, to be sure all are there. He then proceeds to
appoint every man a place in the circle, and to examine the horses'
backs to see if any are sore. The horses are then turned out, under a
guard, to graze; but before darkness comes on are placed inside the
ring, and picketed by a stake driven in the earth, or with two feet so
tied together as to prevent easy or free locomotion. The men are divided
into messes: so many trappers and so many camp-keepers to a mess. The
business of eating is not a very elaborate one, where the sole article
of diet is meat, either dried or roasted. By a certain hour all is quiet
in camp, and only the guard is awake. At times during the night, the
leader, or the officer of the guard, gives the guard a challenge--"all's
well!" which is answered by "all's well!"

In the morning at daylight, or sometimes not till sunrise, according to
the safe or dangerous locality, the second man comes forth from his
lodge and cries in French, "_leve, leve, leve, leve, leve!_" fifteen or
twenty times, which is the command to rise. In about five minutes more
he cries out again, in French, "_leche lego, leche lego!_" or turn out,
turn out; at which command all come out from the lodges, and the horses
are turned loose to feed; but not before a horseman has galloped all
round the camp at some distance, and discovered every thing to be safe
in the neighborhood. Again, when the horses have been sufficiently fed,
under the eye of a guard, they are driven up, the packs replaced, the
train mounted, and once more it moves off, in the order before

In a settled camp, as in winter, there are other regulations. The leader
and the second man occupy the same relative positions; but other minor
regulations are observed. The duty of a trapper, for instance, in the
trapping season, is only to trap, and take care of his own horses. When
he comes in at night, he takes his beaver to the clerk, and the number
is counted off, and placed to his credit. Not he, but the camp-keepers,
take off the skins and dry them. In the winter camp there are six
persons to a lodge: four trappers and two camp-keepers; therefore the
trappers are well waited upon, their only duty being to hunt, in turns,
for the camp. When a piece of game is brought in,--a deer, an antelope,
or buffalo meat,--it is thrown down on the heap which accumulates in
front of the Booshway's lodge; and the second man stands by and cuts it
up, or has it cut up for him. The first man who chances to come along,
is ordered to stand still and turn his back to the pile of game, while
the "little Booshway" lays hold of a piece that has been cut off, and
asks in a loud voice--"who will have this?"--and the man answering for
him, says, "the Booshway," or perhaps "number six," or "number
twenty"--meaning certain messes; and the number is called to come and
take their meat. In this blind way the meat is portioned off; strongly
reminding one of the game of "button, button, who has the button?" In
this chance game of the meat, the Booshway fares no better than his men;
unless, in rare instances, the little Booshway should indicate to the
man who calls off, that a certain choice piece is designed for the mess
of the leader or the second man.

A gun is never allowed to be fired in camp under any provocation, short
of an Indian raid; but the guns are frequently inspected, to see if they
are in order; and woe to the careless camp-keeper who neglects this or
any other duty. When the second man comes around, and finds a piece of
work imperfectly done, whether it be cleaning the firearms, making a
hair rope, or a skin lodge, or washing a horse's back, he does not
threaten the offender with personal chastisement, but calls up another
man and asks him, "Can _you_ do this properly?"

"Yes, sir."

"I will give you ten dollars to do it;" and the ten dollars is set down
to the account of the inefficient camp-keeper. But he does not risk
forfeiting another ten dollars in the same manner.

In the spring, when the camp breaks up, the skins which have been used
all winter for lodges are cut up to make moccasins: because from their
having been thoroughly smoked by the lodge fires they do not shrink in
wetting, like raw skins. This is an important quality in a moccasin, as
a trapper is almost constantly in the water, and should not his
moccasins be smoked they will close upon his feet, in drying, like a
vice. Sometimes after trapping all day, the tired and soaked trapper
lies down in his blankets at night, still wet. But by-and-by he is
wakened by the pinching of his moccasins, and is obliged to rise and
seek the water again to relieve himself of the pain. For the same
reason, when spring comes, the trapper is forced to cut off the lower
half of his buckskin breeches, and piece them down with blanket leggins,
which he wears all through the trapping season.

Such were a few of the peculiarities, and the hardships also, of a life
in the Rocky Mountains. If the camp discipline, and the dangers and
hardships to which a raw recruit was exposed, failed to harden him to
the service in one year, he was rejected as a "trifling fellow," and
sent back to the settlement the next year. It was not probable,
therefore, that the mountain-man often was detected in complaining at
his lot. If he was miserable, he was laughed at; and he soon learned to
laugh at his own miseries, as well as to laugh back at his comrades.


The business of the rendezvous occupied about a month. In this period
the men, Indian allies, and other Indian parties who usually visited the
camp at this time, were all supplied with goods. The remaining
merchandise was adjusted for the convenience of the different traders
who should be sent out through all the country traversed by the company.
Sublette then decided upon their routes, dividing up his forces into
camps, which took each its appointed course, detaching as it proceeded
small parties of trappers to all the hunting grounds in the
neighborhood. These smaller camps were ordered to meet at certain times
and places, to report progress, collect and cache their furs, and "count
noses." If certain parties failed to arrive, others were sent out in
search for them.

This year, in the absence of Smith and Jackson, a considerable party was
dispatched, under Milton Sublette, brother of the Captain, and two other
free trappers and traders, Frapp and Jervais, to traverse the country
down along the Bighorn River. Captain Sublette took a large party, among
whom was Joe Meek, across the mountains to trap on the Snake River, in
opposition to the Hudson's Bay Company. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company
had hitherto avoided this country, except when Smith had once crossed to
the head-waters of the Snake with a small party of five trappers. But
Smith and Sublette had determined to oppose themselves to the British
traders who occupied so large an extent of territory presumed to be
American; and it had been agreed between them to meet this year on Snake
River on Sublette's return from St. Louis, and Smith's from his
California tour. What befel Smith's party before reaching the Columbia,
has already been related; also his reception by the Hudson's Bay
Company, and his departure from Vancouver.

Sublette led his company up the valley of the Wind River, across the
mountains, and on to the very head-waters of the Lewis or Snake River.
Here he fell in with Jackson, in the valley of Lewis Lake, called
Jackson's Hole, and remained on the borders of this lake for some time,
waiting for Smith, whose non-appearance began to create a good deal of
uneasiness. At length runners were dispatched in all directions looking
for the lost Booshway.

The detachment to which Meek was assigned had the pleasure and honor of
discovering the hiding place of the missing partner, which was in
Pierre's Hole, a mountain valley about thirty miles long and of half
that width, which subsequently was much frequented by the camps of the
various fur companies. He was found trapping and exploring, in company
with four men only, one of whom was Black, who with him escaped from the
Umpqua Indians, as before related.

Notwithstanding the excitement and elation attendant upon the success of
his party, Meek found time to admire the magnificent scenery of the
valley, which is bounded on two sides by broken and picturesque ranges,
and overlooked by that magnificent group of mountains, called the Three
Tetons, towering to a height of fourteen thousand feet. This emerald cup
set in its rim of amethystine mountains, was so pleasant a sight to the
mountain-men that camp was moved to it without delay, where it remained
until some time in September, recruiting its animals and preparing for
the fall hunt.

Here again the trappers indulged in their noisy sports and rejoicing,
ostensibly on account of the return of the long-absent Booshway. There
was little said of the men who had perished in that unfortunate
expedition. "Poor fellow! out of luck;" was the usual burial rite which
the memory of a dead comrade received. So much and no more. They could
indulge in noisy rejoicings over a lost comrade restored; but the dead
one was not mentioned. Nor was this apparently heartless and heedless
manner so irrational or unfeeling as it seemed. Everybody understood one
thing in the mountains--that he must keep his life by his own courage
and valor, or at the least by his own prudence. Unseen dangers always
lay in wait for him. The arrow or tomahawk of the Indian, the blow of
the grizzly bear, the mis-step on the dizzy or slippery height, the rush
of boiling and foaming floods, freezing cold, famine--these were the
most common forms of peril, yet did not embrace even then all the forms
in which Death sought his victims in the wilderness. The avoidance of
painful reminders, such as the loss of a party of men, was a natural
instinct, involving also a principle of self defence--since to have weak
hearts would be the surest road to defeat in the next dangerous
encounter. To keep their hearts "big," they must be gay, they must not
remember the miserable fate of many of their one-time comrades. Think of
that, stern moralist and martinet in propriety! Your fur collar hangs in
the gas-lighted hall. In your luxurious dressing gown and slippers, by
the warmth of a glowing grate, you muse upon the depravity of your
fellow men. But imagine yourself, if you can, in the heart of an
interminable wilderness. Let the snow be three or four feet deep, game
scarce, Indians on your track: escaped from these dangers, once more
beside a camp fire, with a roast of buffalo meat on a stick before it,
and several of your companions similarly escaped, and destined for the
same chances to-morrow, around you. Do you fancy you should give much
time to lamenting the less lucky fellows who were left behind frozen,
starved, or scalped? Not you. You would be fortifying yourself against
to-morrow, when the same terrors might lay in wait for you. Jedediah
Smith was a pious man; one of the few that ever resided in the Rocky
Mountains, and led a band of reckless trappers; but he did not turn back
to his camp when he saw it attacked on the Umpqua, nor stop to lament
his murdered men. The law of self-preservation is strong in the
wilderness. "Keep up your heart to-day, for to-morrow you may die," is
the motto of the trapper.

In the conference which took place between Smith and Sublette, the
former insisted that on account of the kind services of the Hudson's Bay
Company toward himself and the three other survivors of his party, they
should withdraw their trappers and traders from the western side of the
mountains for the present, so as not to have them come in conflict with
those of that company. To this proposition Sublette reluctantly
consented, and orders were issued for moving once more to the east,
before going into winter camp, which was appointed for the Wind River

In the meantime Joe Meek was sent out with a party to take his first
hunt for beaver as a hired trapper. The detachment to which he belonged
traveled down Pierre's fork, the stream which watered the valley of
Pierre's Hole, to its junction with Lewis' and Henry's forks where they
unite to form the great Snake River. While trapping in this locality the
party became aware of the vicinity of a roving band of Blackfeet, and in
consequence, redoubled their usual precautions while on the march.

The Blackfeet were the tribe most dreaded in the Rocky Mountains, and
went by the name of "Bugs Boys," which rendered into good English, meant
"the devil's own." They are now so well known that to mention their
characteristics seems like repeating a "twice-told tale;" but as they
will appear so often in this narrative, Irving's account of them as he
had it from Bonneville when he was fresh from the mountains, will, after
all, not be out of place. "These savages," he says, "are the most
dangerous banditti of the mountains, and the inveterate foe of the
trapper. They are Ishmaelites of the first order, always with weapon in
hand, ready for action. The young braves of the tribe, who are destitute
of property, go to war for booty; to gain horses, and acquire the means
of setting up a lodge, supporting a family, and entitling themselves to
a seat in the public councils. The veteran warriors fight merely for the
love of the thing, and the consequence which success gives them among
their people. They are capital horsemen, and are generally well mounted
on short, stout horses, similar to the prairie ponies, to be met with in
St. Louis. When on a war party, however, they go on foot, to enable them
to skulk through the country with greater secrecy; to keep in thickets
and ravines, and use more adroit subterfuges and stratagems. Their mode
of warfare is entirely by ambush, surprise, and sudden assaults in the
night time. If they succeed in causing a panic, they dash forward with
headlong fury; if the enemy is on the alert, and shows no signs of fear,
they become wary and deliberate in their movements.

"Some of them are armed in the primitive style, with bows and arrows;
the greater part have American fusees, made after the fashion of those
of the Hudson's Bay Company. These they procure at the trading post of
the American Fur Company, on Maria's River, where they traffic their
peltries for arms, ammunition, clothing, and trinkets. They are
extremely fond of spirituous liquors and tobacco, for which nuisances
they are ready to exchange, not merely their guns and horses, but even
their wives and daughters. As they are a treacherous race, and have
cherished a lurking hostility to the whites, ever since one of their
tribe was killed by Mr. Lewis, the associate of General Clarke, in his
exploring expedition across the Rocky Mountains, the American Fur
Company is obliged constantly to keep at their post a garrison of sixty
or seventy men."

"Under the general name of Blackfeet are comprehended several tribes,
such as the Surcies, the Peagans, the Blood Indians, and the Gros
Ventres of the Prairies, who roam about the Southern branches of the
Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, together with some other tribes further
north. The bands infesting the Wind River Mountains, and the country
adjacent, at the time of which we are treating, were Gros Ventres _of
the Prairies_, which are not to be confounded with the Gros Ventres _of
the Missouri_, who keep about the _lower_ part of that river, and are
friendly to the white men."

"This hostile band keeps about the head-waters of the Missouri, and
numbers about nine hundred fighting men. Once in the course of two or
three years they abandon their usual abodes and make a visit to the
Arapahoes of the Arkansas. Their route lies either through the Crow
country, and the Black Hills, or through the lands of the Nez Perces,
Flatheads, Bannacks, and Shoshonies. As they enjoy their favorite state
of hostility with all these tribes, their expeditions are prone to be
conducted in the most lawless and predatory style; nor do they hesitate
to extend their maraudings to any party of white men they meet with,
following their trail, hovering about their camps, waylaying and
dogging the caravans of the free traders, and murdering the solitary
trapper. The consequences are frequent and desperate fights between them
and the mountaineers, in the wild defiles and fastnesses of the Rocky
Mountains." Such were the Blackfeet at the period of which we are
writing; nor has their character changed at this day, as many of the
Montana miners know to their cost.


1830. Sublette's camp commenced moving back to the east side of the
Rocky Mountains in October. Its course was up Henry's fork of the Snake
River, through the North Pass to Missouri Lake, in which rises the
Madison fork of the Missouri River. The beaver were very plenty on
Henry's fork, and our young trapper had great success in making up his
packs; having learned the art of setting his traps very readily. The
manner in which the trapper takes his game is as follows:--

He has an ordinary steel trap weighing five pounds, attached to a chain
five feet long, with a swivel and ring at the end, which plays round
what is called the _float_, a dry stick of wood, about six feet long.
The trapper wades out into the stream, which is shallow, and cuts with
his knife a bed for the trap, five or six inches under water. He then
takes the float out the whole length of the chain in the direction of
the centre of the stream, and drives it into the mud, so fast that the
beaver cannot draw it out; at the same time tying the other end by a
thong to the bank. A small stick or twig, dipped in musk or castor,
serves for bait, and is placed so as to hang directly above the trap,
which is now set. The trapper then throws water plentifully over the
adjacent bank to conceal any foot prints or scent by which the beaver
would be alarmed, and going to some distance wades out of the stream.

In setting a trap, several things are to be observed with care:--first,
that the trap is firmly fixed, and the proper distance from the
bank--for if the beaver can get on shore with the trap, he will cut off
his foot to escape: secondly, that the float is of dry wood, for should
it not be, the little animal will cut it off at a stroke, and swimming
with the trap to the middle of the dam, be drowned by its weight. In the
latter case, when the hunter visits his traps in the morning, he is
under the necessity of plunging into the water and swimming out to dive
for the missing trap, and his game. Should the morning be frosty and
chill, as it very frequently is in the mountains, diving for traps is
not the pleasantest exercise. In placing the bait, care must be taken to
fix it just where the beaver in reaching it will spring the trap. If the
bait-stick be placed high, the hind foot of the beaver will be caught:
if low, his fore foot.

The manner in which the beavers make their dam, and construct their
lodge, has long been reckoned among the wonders of the animal creation;
and while some observers have claimed for the little creature more
sagacity than it really possesses, its instinct is still sufficiently
wonderful. It is certainly true that it knows how to keep the water of a
stream to a certain level, by means of an obstruction; and that it cuts
down trees for the purpose of backing up the water by a dam. It is not
true, however, that it can always fell a tree in the direction required
for this purpose. The timber about a beaver dam is felled in all
directions; but as trees that grow near the water, generally lean
towards it, the tree, when cut, takes the proper direction by
gravitation alone. The beaver then proceeds to cut up the fallen timber
into lengths of about three feet, and to convey them to the spot where
the dam is to be situated, securing them in their places by means of mud
and stones. The work is commenced when the water is low, and carried on
as it rises, until it has attained the desired height. And not only is
it made of the requisite height and strength, but its shape is suited
exactly to the nature of the stream in which it is built. If the water
is sluggish the dam is straight; if rapid and turbulent, the barrier is
constructed of a convex form, the better to resist the action of the

[Illustration: BEAVER-DAM.]

When the beavers have once commenced a dam, its extent and thickness are
continually augmented, not only by their labors, but by accidental
accumulations; thus accommodating itself to the size of the growing
community. At length, after a lapse of many years, the water being
spread over a considerable tract, and filled up by yearly accumulations
of drift-wood and earth, seeds take root in the new made ground, and the
old beaver-dams become green meadows, or thickets of cotton-wood and

The food on which the beaver subsists, is the bark of the young trees in
its neighborhood; and when laying up a winter store, the whole community
join in the labor of selecting, cutting up, and carrying the strips to
their store-houses under water. They do not, as some writers have
affirmed, when cutting wood for a dam strip off the bark and store it in
their lodges for winter consumption; but only carry under water the
stick with the bark on.

     "The beaver has two incisors and eight molars in each jaw; and
     empty hollows where the canine teeth might be. The upper pair of
     cutting teeth extend far into the jaw, with a curve of rather more
     than a semicircle; and the lower pair of incisors form rather less
     than a semicircle. Sometimes, one of these teeth gets broken and
     then the opposite tooth continues growing until it forms a nearly
     complete circle. The chewing muscle of the beaver is strengthened
     by tendons in such a way as to give it great power. But more is
     needed to enable the beaver to eat wood. The insalivation of the
     dry food is provided for by the extraordinary size of the salivary

     "Now, every part of these instruments is of vital importance to the
     beavers. The loss of an incisor involves the formation of an
     obstructive circular tooth; deficiency of saliva renders the food
     indigestible; and when old age comes and the enamel is worn down
     faster than it is renewed, the beaver is not longer able to cut
     branches for its support. Old, feeble and poor, unable to borrow,
     and ashamed to beg, he steals cuttings, and subjects himself to the
     penalty assigned to theft. Aged beavers are often found dead with
     gashes in their bodies, showing that they have been killed by their
     mates. In the fall of 1864, a very aged beaver was caught in one of
     the dams of the Esconawba River, and this was the reflection of a
     great authority on the occasion, one Ah-she-goes, an Ojibwa
     trapper: 'Had he escaped the trap he would have been killed before
     the winter was over, by other beavers, for stealing cuttings.'

     "When the beavers are about two or three years old, their teeth are
     in their best condition for cutting. On the Upper Missouri, they
     cut the cotton tree and the willow bush; around Hudson's Bay and
     Lake Superior, in addition to the willow they cut the poplar and
     maple, hemlock, spruce and pine. The cutting is round and round,
     and deepest upon the side on which they wish the tree to fall.
     Indians and trappers have seen beavers cutting trees. The felling
     of a tree is a family affair. No more than a single pair with two
     or three young ones are engaged at a time. The adults take the
     cutting in turns, one gnawing and the other watching; and
     occasionally a youngster trying his incisors. The beaver whilst
     gnawing sits on his plantigrade hind legs, which keep him
     conveniently upright. When the tree begins to crackle the beavers
     work cautiously, and when it crashes down they plunge into the
     pond, fearful lest the noise should attract an enemy to the spot.
     After the tree-fall, comes the lopping of the branches. A single
     tree may be winter provision for a family. Branches five or six
     inches thick have to be cut into proper lengths for transport, and
     are then taken home."

The lodge of a beaver is generally about six feet in diameter, on the
inside, and about half as high. They are rounded or dome-shaped on the
outside, with very thick walls, and communicate with the land by
subterranean passages, below the depth at which the water freezes in
winter. Each lodge is made to accommodate several inmates, who have
their beds ranged round the walls, much as the Indian does in his tent.
They are very cleanly, too, and after eating, carry out the sticks that
have been stripped, and either use them in repairing their dam, or throw
them into the stream below.

During the summer months the beavers abandon their lodges, and disport
themselves about the streams, sometimes going on long journeys; or if
any remain at home, they are the mothers of young families. About the
last of August the community returns to its home, and begins
preparations for the domestic cares of the long winter months.

An exception to this rule is that of certain individuals, who have no
families, make no dam, and never live in lodges, but burrow in
subterranean tunnels. They are always found to be males, whom the French
trappers call "les parasseux," or idlers; and the American trappers,
"bachelors." Several of them are sometimes found in one abode, which the
trappers facetiously denominate "bachelor's hall." Being taken with less
difficulty than the more domestic beaver, the trapper is always glad to
come upon their habitations.

The trapping season is usually in the spring and autumn. But should the
hunters find it necessary to continue their work in winter, they capture
the beaver by sounding on the ice until an aperture is discovered, when
the ice is cut away and the opening closed up. Returning to the bank,
they search for the subterranean passage, tracing its connection with
the lodge; and by patient watching succeed in catching the beaver on
some of its journeys between the water and the land. This, however, is
not often resorted to when the hunt in the fall has been successful; or
when not urged by famine to take the beaver for food.

"Occasionally it happens," says Captain Bonneville, "that several
members of a beaver family are trapped in succession. The survivors then
become extremely shy, and can scarcely be "brought to medicine," to use
the trappers' phrase for "taking the bait." In such case, the trapper
gives up the use of the bait, and conceals his traps in the usual paths
and crossing places of the household. The beaver being now completely
"up to trap," approaches them cautiously, and springs them, ingeniously,
with a stick. At other times, he turns the traps bottom upwards, by the
same means, and occasionally even drags them to the barrier, and
conceals them in the mud. The trapper now gives up the contest of
ingenuity, and shouldering his traps, marches off, admitting that he is
not yet "up to beaver."

Before the camp moved from the forks of the Snake River, the haunting
Blackfeet made their appearance openly. It was here that Meek had his
first battle with that nation, with whom he subsequently had many a
savage contest. They attacked the camp early in the morning, just as the
call to turn out had sounded. But they had miscalculated their
opportunity: the design having evidently been to stampede the horses and
mules, at the hour and moment of their being turned loose to graze. They
had been too hasty by a few minutes, so that when they charged on the
camp pell-mell, firing a hundred guns at once, to frighten both horses
and men, it happened that only a few of the animals had been turned out,
and they had not yet got far off. The noise of the charge only turned
them back to camp.

In an instant's time, Fitzpatrick was mounted, and commanding the men to
follow, he galloped at headlong speed round and round the camp, to drive
back such of the horses as were straying, or had been frightened from
their pickets. In this race, two horses were shot under him; but he
escaped, and the camp-horses were saved. The battle now was to punish
the thieves. They took their position, as usual with Indian fighters, in
a narrow ravine; from whence the camp was forced to dislodge them, at a
great disadvantage. This they did do, at last, after six hours of hard
fighting, in which a few men were wounded, but none killed. The thieves
skulked off, through the canyon, when they found themselves defeated,
and were seen no more until the camp came to the woods which cover the
western slope of the Rocky Mountains.

But as the camp moved eastward, or rather in a northeasterly direction,
through the pine forests between Pierre's Hole and the head-waters of
the Missouri, it was continually harrassed by Blackfeet, and required a
strong guard at night, when these marauders delighted to make an attack.
The weather by this time was very cold in the mountains, and chilled the
marrow of our young Virginian. The travel was hard, too, and the
recruits pretty well worn out.

One cold night, Meek was put on guard on the further side of the camp,
with a veteran named Reese. But neither the veteran nor the youngster
could resist the approaches of "tired Nature's sweet restorer," and went
to sleep at their post of duty. When, during the night, Sublette came
out of his tent and gave the challenge--"All's well!" there was no
reply. To quote Meek's own language, "Sublette came round the horse-pen
swearing and snorting. He was powerful mad. Before he got to where Reese
was, he made so much noise that he waked him; and Reese, in a loud
whisper, called to him, 'Down, Billy! Indians!' Sublette got down on his
belly mighty quick. 'Whar? whar?' he asked.

"'They were right there when you hollered so,' said Reese.

"'Where is Meek?' whispered Sublette.

"'He is trying to shoot one,' answered Reese, still in a whisper.

"Reese then crawled over to whar I war, and told me what had been said,
and informed me what to do. In a few minutes I crept cautiously over to
Reese's post, when Sublette asked me how many Indians had been thar, and
I told him I couldn't make out their number. In the morning a pair of
Indian moccasins war found whar Reese _saw the Indians_, which I had
_taken care to leave there_; and thus confirmed, our story got us the
credit of vigilance, instead of our receiving our just dues for neglect
of duty."

It was sometime during the fall hunt in the Pine Woods, on the west side
of the Rocky Mountains, that Meek had one of his earliest adventures
with a bear. Two comrades, Craig and Nelson, and himself, while out
trapping, left their horses, and traveled up a creek on foot, in search
of beaver. They had not proceeded any great distance, before they came
suddenly face to face with a red bear; so suddenly, indeed, that the men
made a spring for the nearest trees. Craig and Meek ascended a large
pine, which chanced to be nearest, and having many limbs, was easy to
climb. Nelson happened to take to one of two small trees that grew close
together; and the bear, fixing upon him for a victim, undertook to climb
after him. With his back against one of these small trees, and his feet
against the other, his bearship succeeded in reaching a point not far
below Nelson's perch, when the trees opened with his weight, and down
he went, with a shock that fairly shook the ground. But this bad luck
only seemed to infuriate the beast, and up he went again, with the same
result, each time almost reaching his enemy. With the second tumble he
was not the least discouraged; but started up the third time, only to be
dashed once more to the ground when he had attained a certain height. At
the third fall, however, he became thoroughly disgusted with his want of
success, and turned and ran at full speed into the woods.

"Then," says Meek, "Craig began to sing, and I began to laugh; but
Nelson took to swearing. 'O yes, you can laugh and sing now,' says
Nelson; 'but you war quiet enough when the bear was around.' 'Why,
Nelson,' I answered, 'you wouldn't have us noisy before that
distinguished guest of yours?' But Nelson damned the wild beast; and
Craig and I laughed, and said he didn't seem wild a bit. That's the way
we hector each other in the mountains. If a man gets into trouble he is
only laughed at: 'let him keep out; let him have better luck,' is what
we say."

The country traversed by Sublette in the fall of 1829, was unknown at
that period, even to the fur companies, they having kept either farther
to the south or to the north. Few, if any, white men had passed through
it since Lewis and Clarke discovered the head-waters of the Missouri and
the Snake Rivers, which flow from the opposite sides of the same
mountain peaks. Even the toils and hardships of passing over mountains
at this season of the year, did not deprive the trapper of the enjoyment
of the magnificent scenery the region afforded. Splendid views, however,
could not long beguile men who had little to eat, and who had yet a long
journey to accomplish in cold, and surrounded by dangers, before
reaching the wintering ground.

In November the camp left Missouri Lake on the east side of the
mountains, and crossed over, still northeasterly, on to the Gallatin
fork of the Missouri River, passing over a very rough and broken
country. They were, in fact, still in the midst of mountains, being
spurs of the great Rocky range, and equally high and rugged. A
particularly high mountain lay between them and the main Yellowstone
River. This they had just crossed, with great fatigue and difficulty,
and were resting the camp and horses for a few days on the river's bank,
when the Blackfeet once more attacked them in considerable numbers. Two
men were killed in this fight, and the camp thrown into confusion by the
suddenness of the alarm. Capt. Sublette, however, got off, with most of
his men, still pursued by the Indians.

Not so our Joe, who this time was not in luck, but was cut off from
camp, alone, and had to flee to the high mountains overlooking the
Yellowstone. Here was a situation for a nineteen-year-old raw recruit!
Knowing that the Blackfeet were on the trail of the camp, it was death
to proceed in that direction. Some other route must be taken to come up
with them; the country was entirely unknown to him; the cold severe; his
mule, blanket, and gun, his only earthly possessions. On the latter he
depended for food, but game was scarce; and besides, he thought the
sound of his gun would frighten himself, so alone in the wilderness,
swarming with stealthy foes.

Hiding his mule in a thicket, he ascended to the mountain top to take a
view of the country, and decide upon his course. And what a scene was
that for the miserable boy, whose chance of meeting with his comrades
again was small indeed! At his feet rolled the Yellowstone River,
coursing away through the great plain to the eastward. To the north his
eye follows the windings of the Missouri, as upon a map, but playing at
hide-and-seek in amongst the mountains. Looking back, he saw the River
Snake stretching its serpentine length through lava plains, far away, to
its junction with the Columbia. To the north, and to the south, one
white mountain rose above another as far as the eye could reach. What a
mighty and magnificent world it seemed, to be alone in! Poor Joe
succumbed to the influence of the thought, and wept.

Having indulged in this sole remaining luxury of life, Joe picked up his
resolution, and decided upon his course. To the southeast lay the Crow
country, a land of plenty,--as the mountain-man regards plenty,--and
there he could at least live; provided the Crows permitted him to do so.
Besides, he had some hopes of falling in with one of the camps, by
taking that course.

Descending the mountain to the hiding-place of his mule, by which time
it was dark night, hungry and freezing, Joe still could not light a
fire, for fear of revealing his whereabouts to the Indians; nor could he
remain to perish with cold. Travel he must, and travel he did, going he
scarcely knew whither. Looking back upon the terrors and discomforts of
that night, the veteran mountaineer yet regards it as about the most
miserable one of his life. When day at length broke, he had made, as
well as he could estimate the distance, about thirty miles. Traveling on
toward the southeast, he had crossed the Yellowstone River, and still
among the mountains, was obliged to abandon his mule and accoutrements,
retaining only one blanket and his gun. Neither the mule nor himself had
broken fast in the last two days. Keeping a southerly course for twenty
miles more, over a rough and elevated country, he came, on the evening
of the third day, upon a band of mountain sheep. With what eagerness did
he hasten to kill, cook, and eat! Three days of fasting was, for a
novice, quite sufficient to provide him with an appetite.

Having eaten voraciously, and being quite overcome with fatigue, Joe
fell asleep in his blanket, and slumbered quite deeply until morning.
With the morning came biting blasts from the north, that made motion
necessary if not pleasant. Refreshed by sleep and food, our traveler
hastened on upon his solitary way, taking with him what sheep-meat he
could carry, traversing the same rough and mountainous country as
before. No incidents nor alarms varied the horrible and monotonous
solitude of the wilderness. The very absence of anything to alarm was
awful; for the bravest man is wretchedly nervous in the solitary
presence of sublime Nature. Even the veteran hunter of the mountains can
never entirely divest himself of this feeling of awe, when his single
soul comes face to face with God's wonderful and beautiful handiwork.

At the close of the fourth day, Joe made his lonely camp in a deep
defile of the mountains, where a little fire and some roasted mutton
again comforted his inner and outer man, and another night's sleep still
farther refreshed his wearied frame. On the following morning, a very
bleak and windy one, having breakfasted on his remaining piece of
mutton, being desirous to learn something of the progress he had made,
he ascended a low mountain in the neighborhood of his camp--and behold!
the whole country beyond was smoking with the vapor from boiling
springs, and burning with gasses, issuing from small craters, each of
which was emitting a sharp whistling sound.

When the first surprise of this astonishing scene had passed, Joe began
to admire its effect in an artistic point of view. The morning being
clear, with a sharp frost, he thought himself reminded of the city of
Pittsburg, as he had beheld it on a winter morning, a couple of years
before. This, however, related only to the rising smoke and vapor; for
the extent of the volcanic region was immense, reaching far out of
sight. The general face of the country was smooth and rolling, being a
level plain, dotted with cone-shaped mounds. On the summits of these
mounds were small craters from four to eight feet in diameter.
Interspersed among these, on the level plain, were larger craters, some
of them from four to six miles across. Out of these craters issued blue
flames and molten brimstone.

For some minutes Joe gazed and wondered. Curious thoughts came into his
head, about hell and the day of doom. With that natural tendency to
reckless gayety and humorous absurdities which some temperaments are
sensible of in times of great excitement, he began to soliloquize. Said
he, to himself, "I have been told the sun would be blown out, and the
earth burnt up. If this infernal wind keeps up, I shouldn't be surprised
if the sun war blown out. If the earth is _not_ burning up over thar,
then it is that place the old Methodist preacher used to threaten me
with. Any way it suits me to go and see what it's like."

On descending to the plain described, the earth was found to have a
hollow sound, and seemed threatening to break through. But Joe found the
warmth of the place most delightful, after the freezing cold of the
mountains, and remarked to himself again, that "if it war hell, it war a
more agreeable climate than he had been in for some time."

He had thought the country entirely desolate, as not a living creature
had been seen in the vicinity; but while he stood gazing about him in
curious amazement, he was startled by the report of two guns, followed
by the Indian yell. While making rapid preparations for defence and
flight, if either or both should be necessary, a familiar voice greeted
him with the exclamation, "It _is_ old Joe!" When the adjective "old" is
applied to one of Meek's age at that time, it is generally understood to
be a term of endearment. "My feelings you may imagine," says the "old
Uncle Joe" of the present time, in recalling the adventure.

Being joined by these two associates, who had been looking for him, our
traveler, no longer simply a raw recruit, but a hero of wonderful
adventures, as well as the rest of the men, proceeded with them to camp,
which they overtook the third day, attempting to cross the high
mountains between the Yellowstone and the Bighorn Rivers. If Meek had
seen hard times in the mountains alone, he did not find them much
improved in camp. The snow was so deep that the men had to keep in
advance, and break the road for the animals; and to make their condition
still more trying, there were no provisions in camp, nor any prospect of
plenty, for men or animals, until they should reach the buffalo country
beyond the mountains.

During this scarcity of provisions, some of those amusing incidents took
place with which the mountaineer will contrive to lighten his own and
his comrades' spirits, even in periods of the greatest suffering. One
which we have permission to relate, has reference to what Joe Meek calls
the "meanest act of his life."

While the men were starving, a negro boy, belonging to Jedediah Smith,
by some means was so fortunate as to have caught a porcupine, which he
was roasting before the fire. Happening to turn his back for a moment,
to observe something in camp, Meek and Reese snatched the tempting
viand and made off with it, before the darkey discovered his loss. But
when it was discovered, what a wail went up for the embezzled porcupine!
Suspicion fixed upon the guilty parties, but as no one would 'peach on
white men to save a "nigger's" rights, the poor, disappointed boy could
do nothing but lament in vain, to the great amusement of the men, who
upon the principle that "misery loves company," rather chuckled over
than condemned Meek's "mean act."

There was a sequel, however, to this little story. So much did the negro
dwell upon the event, and the heartlessness of the men towards him, that
in the following summer, when Smith was in St. Louis, he gave the boy
his freedom and two hundred dollars, and left him in that city; so that
it became a saying in the mountains, that "the nigger got his freedom
for a porcupine."

During this same march, a similar joke was played upon one of the men
named Craig. He had caught a rabbit and put it up to roast before the
fire--a tempting looking morsel to starving mountaineers. Some of his
associates determined to see how it tasted, and Craig was told that the
Booshways wished to speak with him at their lodge. While he obeyed this
supposed command, the rabbit was spirited away, never more to be seen by
mortal man. When Craig returned to the camp-fire, and beheld the place
vacant where a rabbit so late was nicely roasting, his passion knew no
bounds, and he declared his intention of cutting it out of the stomach
that contained it. But as finding the identical stomach which contained
it involved the cutting open of many that probably did not, in the
search, he was fain to relinquish that mode of vengeance, together with
his hopes of a supper. As Craig is still living, and is tormented by the
belief that he knows the man who stole his rabbit, Mr. Meek takes this
opportunity of assuring him, upon the word of a gentleman, that _he_ is
not the man.

While on the march over these mountains, owing to the depth of the snow,
the company lost a hundred head of horses and mules, which sank in the
yet unfrozen drifts, and could not be extricated. In despair at their
situation, Jedediah Smith one day sent a man named Harris to the top of
a high peak to take a view of the country, and ascertain their position.
After a toilsome scramble the scout returned.

"Well, what did you see, Harris?" asked Smith anxiously.

"I saw the city of St. Louis, and one fellow taking a drink!" replied
Harris; prefacing the assertion with a shocking oath.

Smith asked no more questions. He understood by the man's answer that he
had made no pleasing discoveries; and knew that they had still a weary
way before them to reach the plains below. Besides, Smith was a
religious man, and the coarse profanity of the mountaineers was very
distasteful to him. "A very mild man, and a christian; and there were
very few of them in the mountains," is the account given of him by the
mountaineers themselves.

The camp finally arrived without loss of life, except to the animals, on
the plains of the Bighorn River, and came upon the waters of the
Stinking Fork, a branch of this river, which derives its unfortunate
appellation from the fact that it flows through a volcanic tract similar
to the one discovered by Meek on the Yellowstone plains. This place
afforded as much food for wonder to the whole camp, as the former one
had to Joe; and the men unanimously pronounced it the "back door to that
country which divines preach about." As this volcanic district had
previously been seen by one of Lewis and Clarke's men, named Colter,
while on a solitary hunt, and by him also denominated "hell," there must
certainly have been something very suggestive in its appearance.

If the mountains had proven barren, and inhospitably cold, this hot and
sulphurous country offered no greater hospitality. In fact, the fumes
which pervaded the air rendered it exceedingly noxious to every living
thing, and the camp was fain to push on to the main stream of the
Bighorn River. Here signs of trappers became apparent, and spies having
been sent out discovered a camp of about forty men, under Milton
Sublette, brother of Captain William Sublette, the same that had been
detached the previous summer to hunt in that country. Smith and Sublette
then cached their furs, and moving up the river joined the camp of M.

The manner of caching furs is this: A pit is dug to a depth of five or
six feet in which to stand. The men then drift from this under a bank of
solid earth, and excavate a room of considerable dimensions, in which
the furs are deposited, and the apartment closed up. The pit is then
filled up with earth, and the traces of digging obliterated or
concealed. These caches are the only storehouses of the wilderness.

While the men were recruiting themselves in the joint camp, the alarm of
"Indians!" was given, and hurried cries of "shoot! shoot!" were uttered
on the instant. Captain Sublette, however, checked this precipitation,
and ordering the men to hold, allowed the Indians to approach, making
signs of peace. They proved to be a war party of Crows, who after
smoking the pipe of peace with the Captain, received from him a present
of some tobacco, and departed.

As soon as the camp was sufficiently recruited for traveling, the united
companies set out again toward the south, and crossed the Horn mountains
once more into Wind River Valley; having had altogether, a successful
fall hunt, and made some important explorations, notwithstanding the
severity of the weather and the difficulty of mountain traveling. It was
about Christmas when the camp arrived on Wind River, and the cold
intense. While the men celebrated Christmas, as best they might under
the circumstances, Capt. Sublette started to St. Louis with one man,
Harris, called among mountain-men Black Harris, on snowshoes, with a
train of pack-dogs. Such was the indomitable energy and courage of this
famous leader!


1830. The furs collected by Jackson's company were cached on the Wind
River; and the cold still being very severe, and game scarce, the two
remaining leaders, Smith and Jackson, set out on the first of January
with the whole camp, for the buffalo country, on the Powder River, a
distance of about one hundred and fifty miles. "Times were hard in
camp," when mountains had to be crossed in the depth of winter.

The animals had to be subsisted on the bark of the sweet cotton-wood,
which grows along the streams and in the valleys on the east side of the
Rocky Mountains, but is nowhere to be found west of that range. This way
of providing for his horses and mules involved no trifling amount of
labor, when each man had to furnish food for several of them. To collect
this bark, the men carried the smooth limbs of the cotton-wood to camp,
where, beside the camp-fire, they shaved off the sweet, green bark with
a hunting-knife transformed into a drawing-knife by fastening a piece of
wood to its point; or, in case the cotton-wood was not convenient, the
bark was peeled off, and carried to camp in a blanket. So nutritious is
it, that animals fatten upon it quite as well as upon oats.

[Illustration: HUNTER'S WINTER CAMP.]

In the large cotton-wood bottoms on the Yellowstone River, it sometimes
became necessary to station a double guard to keep the buffalo out of
camp, so numerous were they, when the severity of the cold drove them
from the prairies to these cotton-wood thickets for subsistence. It
was, therefore, of double importance to make the winter camp where the
cotton-wood was plenty; since not only did it furnish the animals of the
camp with food, but by attracting buffalo, made game plenty for the men.
To such a hunter's paradise on Powder River, the camp was now traveling,
and arrived, after a hard, cold march, about the middle of January, when
the whole encampment went into winter quarters, to remain until the
opening of spring.

This was the occasion when the mountain-man "lived fat" and enjoyed
life: a season of plenty, of relaxation, of amusement, of
acquaintanceship with all the company, of gayety, and of "busy
idleness." Through the day, hunting parties were coming and going, men
were cooking, drying meat, making moccasins, cleaning their arms,
wrestling, playing games, and, in short, everything that an isolated
community of hardy men could resort to for occupation, was resorted to
by these mountaineers. Nor was there wanting, in the appearance of the
camp, the variety, and that picturesque air imparted by a mingling of
the native element; for what with their Indian allies, their native
wives, and numerous children, the mountaineers' camp was a motley
assemblage; and the trappers themselves, with their affectation of
Indian coxcombry, not the least picturesque individuals.

The change wrought in a wilderness landscape by the arrival of the grand
camp was wonderful indeed. Instead of Nature's superb silence and
majestic loneliness, there was the sound of men's voices in boisterous
laughter, or the busy hum of conversation; the loud-resounding stroke of
the axe; the sharp report of the rifle; the neighing of horses, and
braying of mules; the Indian whoop and yell; and all that not unpleasing
confusion of sound which accompanies the movements of the creature man.
Over the plain, only dotted until now with shadows of clouds, or the
transitory passage of the deer, the antelope, or the bear, were
scattered hundreds of lodges and immense herds of grazing animals. Even
the atmosphere itself seemed changed from its original purity, and
became clouded with the smoke from many camp-fires. And all this change
might go as quickly as it came. The tent struck and the march resumed,
solitude reigned once more, and only the cloud dotted the silent

If the day was busy and gleesome, the night had its charms as well.
Gathered about the shining fires, groups of men in fantastic costumes
told tales of marvelous adventures, or sung some old-remembered song, or
were absorbed in games of chance. Some of the better educated men, who
had once known and loved books, but whom some mishap in life had
banished to the wilderness, recalled their favorite authors, and recited
passages once treasured, now growing unfamiliar; or whispered to some
chosen confrere the saddened history of his earlier years, and charged
him thus and thus, should ever-ready death surprise himself in the next
spring's hunt.

It will not be thought discreditable to our young trapper, Joe, that he
learned to read by the light of the camp-fire. Becoming sensible, even
in the wilderness, of the deficiencies of his early education, he found
a teacher in a comrade, named Green, and soon acquired sufficient
knowledge to enjoy an old copy of Shakspeare; which, with a Bible, was
carried about with the property of the camp.

In this life of careless gayety and plenty, the whole company was
allowed to remain without interruption, until the first of April, when
it was divided, and once more started on the march. Jackson, or "Davey,"
as he was called by the men, with about half the company, left for the
Snake country. The remainder, among whom was Meek, started north, with
Smith for commander, and James Bridger as pilot.

Crossing the mountains, ranges of which divide the tributary streams of
the Yellowstone from each other, the first halt was made on Tongue
River. From thence the camp proceeded to the Bighorn River. Through all
this country game was in abundance,--buffalo, elk, and bear, and beaver
also plenty. In mountain phrase, "times were good on this hunt:" beaver
packs increased in number, and both men and animals were in excellent

A large party usually hunted out the beaver and frightened away the game
in a few weeks, or days, from any one locality. When this happened the
camp moved on; or, should not game be plenty, it kept constantly on the
move, the hunters and trappers seldom remaining out more than a day or
two. Should the country be considered dangerous on account of Indians,
it was the habit of the men to return every night to the encampment.

It was the design of Smith to take his command into the Blackfoot
country, a region abounding in the riches which he sought, could they
only be secured without coming into too frequent conflict with the
natives: always a doubtful question concerning these savages. He had
proceeded in this direction as far as Bovey's Fork of the Bighorn, when
the camp was overtaken by a heavy fall of snow, which made traveling
extremely difficult, and which, when melted, caused a sudden great rise
in the mountain streams. In attempting to cross Bovey's Fork during the
high water, he had thirty horses swept away, with three hundred traps: a
serious loss in the business of hunting beaver.

In the manner described, pushing on through an unknown country, hunting
and trapping as they moved, the company proceeded, passing another low
chain of mountains, through a pass called Pryor's Gap, to Clark's Fork
of the Yellowstone, thence to Rose-Bud River, and finally to the main
Yellowstone River, where it makes a great bend to the east, enclosing a
large plain covered with grass, and having also extensive cotton-wood
bottoms, which subsequently became a favorite wintering ground of the
fur companies.

It was while trapping up in this country, on the Rose-Bud River, that an
amusing adventure befel our trapper Joe. Being out with two other
trappers, at some distance from the great camp, they had killed and
supped off a fat buffalo cow. The night was snowy, and their camp was
made in a grove of young aspens. Having feasted themselves, the
remaining store of choice pieces was divided between, and placed, hunter
fashion, under the heads of the party, on their betaking themselves to
their blanket couches for the night. Neither Indian nor wild beast
disturbed their repose, as they slept, with their guns beside them,
filled with comfort and plenty. But who ever dreams of the presence of a
foe under such circumstances? Certainly not our young trapper, who was
only awakened about day-break by something very large and heavy walking
over him, and snuffing about him with a most insulting freedom. It did
not need Yankee powers of guessing to make out who the intruder in camp
might be: in truth, it was only too disagreeably certain that it was a
full sized grizzly bear, whose keenness of smell had revealed to him the
presence of fat cow-meat in that neighborhood.

"You may be sure," says Joe, "that I kept very quiet, while that bar
helped himself to some of my buffalo meat, and went a little way off to
eat it. But Mark Head, one of the men, raised up, and back came the
bar. Down went our heads under the blankets, and I kept mine covered
pretty snug, while the beast took another walk over the bed, but finally
went off again to a little distance. Mitchel then wanted to shoot; but I
said, 'no, no; hold on, or the brute will kill us, sure.' When the bar
heard our voices, back he run again, and jumped on the bed as before.
I'd have been happy to have felt myself sinking ten feet under ground,
while that bar promenaded over and around us! However, he couldn't quite
make out our style, and finally took fright, and ran off down the
mountain. Wanting to be revenged for his impudence, I went after him,
and seeing a good chance, shot him dead. Then I took my turn at running
over him awhile!"

Such are the not infrequent incidents of the trapper's life, which
furnish him with material, needing little embellishment to convert it
into those wild tales with which the nights are whiled away around the
winter camp-fire.

Arrived at the Yellowstone with his company, Smith found it necessary,
on account of the high water, to construct Bull-boats for the crossing.
These are made by stitching together buffalo hides, stretching them over
light frames, and paying the seams with elk tallow and ashes. In these
light wherries the goods and people were ferried over, while the horses
and mules were crossed by swimming.

The mode usually adopted in crossing large rivers, was to spread the
lodges on the ground, throwing on them the light articles, saddles, etc.
A rope was then run through the pin-holes around the edge of each, when
it could be drawn up like a reticule. It was then filled with the
heavier camp goods, and being tightly drawn up, formed a perfect ball. A
rope being tied to it, it was launched on the water, the children of the
camp on top, and the women swimming after and clinging to it, while a
man, who had the rope in his hand, swam ahead holding on to his horse's
mane. In this way, dancing like a cork on the waves, the lodge was
piloted across; and passengers as well as freight consigned, undamaged,
to the opposite shore. A large camp of three hundred men, and one
hundred women and children were frequently thus crossed in one hour's

The camp was now in the excellent but inhospitable country of the
Blackfeet, and the commander redoubled his precautions, moving on all
the while to the Mussel Shell, and thence to the Judith River. Beaver
were plenty and game abundant; but the vicinity of the large village of
the Blackfeet made trapping impracticable. Their war upon the trappers
was ceaseless; their thefts of traps and horses ever recurring: and
Smith, finding that to remain was to be involved in incessant warfare,
without hope of victory or gain, at length gave the command to turn
back, which was cheerfully obeyed: for the trappers had been very
successful on the spring hunt, and thinking discretion some part at
least of valor, were glad to get safe out of the Blackfoot country with
their rich harvest of beaver skins.

The return march was by the way of Pryor's Gap, and up the Bighorn, to
Wind River, where the cache was made in the previous December. The furs
were now taken out and pressed, ready for transportation across the
plains. A party was also dispatched, under Mr. Tullock, to raise the
cache on the Bighorn River. Among this party was Meek, and a Frenchman
named Ponto. While digging to come at the fur, the bank above caved in,
falling upon Meek and Ponto, killing the latter almost instantly. Meek,
though severely hurt, was taken out alive: while poor Ponto was "rolled
in a blanket, and pitched into the river." So rude were the burial
services of the trapper of the Rocky Mountains.

Meek was packed back to camp, along with the furs, where he soon
recovered. Sublette arrived from St. Louis with fourteen wagons loaded
with merchandise, and two hundred additional men for the service.
Jackson also arrived from the Snake country with plenty of beaver, and
the business of the yearly rendezvous began. Then the scenes previously
described were re-enacted. Beaver, the currency of the mountains, was
plenty that year, and goods were high accordingly. A thousand dollars a
day was not too much for some of the most reckless to spend on their
squaws, horses, alcohol, and themselves. For "alcohol" was the beverage
of the mountaineers. Liquors could not be furnished to the men in that
country. Pure alcohol was what they "got tight on;" and a desperate
tight it was, to be sure!

An important change took place in the affairs of the Rocky Mountain
Company at this rendezvous. The three partners, Smith, Sublette, and
Jackson, sold out to a new firm, consisting of Milton Sublette, James
Bridger, Fitzpatrick, Frapp, and Jervais; the new company retaining the
same name and style as the old.

The old partners left for St. Louis, with a company of seventy men, to
convoy the furs. Two of them never returned to the Rocky Mountains; one
of them, Smith, being killed the following year, as will hereafter be
related; and Jackson remaining in St. Louis, where, like a true
mountain-man, he dissipated his large and hard-earned fortune in a few
years. Captain Sublette, however, continued to make his annual trips to
and from the mountains for a number of years; and until the
consolidation of another wealthy company with the Rocky Mountain
Company, continued to furnish goods to the latter, at a profit on St.
Louis prices; his capital and experience enabling him to keep the new
firm under his control to a large degree.


1830. The whole country lying upon the Yellowstone and its tributaries,
and about the head-waters of the Missouri, at the time of which we are
writing, abounded not only in beaver, but in buffalo, bear, elk,
antelope, and many smaller kinds of game. Indeed the buffalo used then
to cross the mountains into the valleys about the head-waters of the
Snake and Colorado Rivers, in such numbers that at certain seasons of
the year, the plains and river bottoms swarmed with them. Since that day
they have quite disappeared from the western slope of the Rocky
Mountains, and are no longer seen in the same numbers on the eastern

Bear, although they did not go in herds, were rather uncomfortably
numerous, and sometimes put the trapper to considerable trouble, and
fright also; for very few were brave enough to willingly encounter the
formidable grizzly, one blow of whose terrible paw, aimed generally at
the hunter's head, if not arrested, lays him senseless and torn, an easy
victim to the wrathful monster. A gunshot wound, if not directed with
certainty to some vulnerable point, has only the effect to infuriate the
beast, and make him trebly dangerous. From the fact that the bear always
bites his wound, and commences to run with his head thus brought in the
direction from which the ball comes, he is pretty likely to make a
straight wake towards his enemy, whether voluntarily or not; and woe be
to the hunter who is not prepared for him, with a shot for his eye,
or the spot just behind the ear, where certain death enters.

[Illustration: _THE THREE "BARES."_]

In the frequent encounters of the mountain-men with these huge beasts,
many acts of wonderful bravery were performed, while some tragedies, and
not a few comedies were enacted.

From something humorous in Joe Meek's organization, or some wonderful
"luck" to which he was born, or both, the greater part of his adventures
with bears, as with men, were of a humorous complexion; enabling him not
only to have a story to tell, but one at which his companions were bound
to laugh. One of these which happened during the fall hunt of 1830, we
will let him tell for himself:

"The first fall on the Yellowstone, Hawkins and myself were coming up
the river in search of camp, when we discovered a very large bar on the
opposite bank. We shot across, and thought we had killed him, fur he
laid quite still. As we wanted to take some trophy of our victory to
camp, we tied our mules and left our guns, clothes, and everything
except our knives and belts, and swum over to whar the bar war. But
instead of being dead, as we expected, he sprung up as we come near him,
and took after us. Then you ought to have seen two naked men run! It war
a race for life, and a close one, too. But we made the river first. The
bank war about fifteen feet high above the water, and the river ten or
twelve feet deep; but we didn't halt. Overboard we went, the bar after
us, and in the stream about as quick as we war. The current war very
strong, and the bar war about half way between Hawkins and me. Hawkins
was trying to swim down stream faster than the current war carrying the
bar, and I war a trying to hold back. You can reckon that I swam! Every
moment I felt myself being washed into the yawning jaws of the mighty
beast, whose head war up the stream, and his eyes on me. But the
current war too strong for him, and swept him along as fast as it did
me. All this time, not a long one, we war looking for some place to land
where the bar could not overtake us. Hawkins war the first to make the
shore, unknown to the bar, whose head war still up stream; and he set up
such a whooping and yelling that the bar landed too, but on the opposite
side. I made haste to follow Hawkins, who had landed on the side of the
river we started from, either by design or good luck: and then we
traveled back a mile and more to whar our mules war left--a bar on one
side of the river, and _two bares_ on the other!"

Notwithstanding that a necessary discipline was observed and maintained
in the fur traders' camp, there was at the same time a freedom of manner
between the Booshways and the men, both hired and free, which could not
obtain in a purely military organization, nor even in the higher walks
of civilized life in cities. In the mountain community, motley as it
was, as in other communities more refined, were some men who enjoyed
almost unlimited freedom of speech and action, and others who were the
butt of everybody's ridicule or censure. The leaders themselves did not
escape the critical judgment of the men; and the estimation in which
they were held could be inferred from the manner in which they
designated them. Captain Sublette, whose energy, courage, and kindness
entitled him to the admiration of the mountaineers, went by the name of
_Billy_: his partner Jackson, was called _Davey_; Bridger, _old Gabe_,
and so on. In the same manner the men distinguished favorites or
oddities amongst themselves, and to have the adjective _old_ prefixed to
a man's name signified nothing concerning his age, but rather that he
was an object of distinction; though it did not always indicate, except
by the tone in which it was pronounced, whether that distinction were an
enviable one or not.

Whenever a trapper could get hold of any sort of story reflecting on the
courage of a leader, he was sure at some time to make him aware of it,
and these anecdotes were sometimes sharp answers in the mouths of
careless camp-keepers. Bridger was once waylaid by Blackfeet, who shot
at him, hitting his horse in several places. The wounds caused the
animal to rear and pitch, by reason of which violent movements Bridger
dropped his gun, and the Indians snatched it up; after which there was
nothing to do except to run, which Bridger accordingly did. Not long
after this, as was customary, the leader was making a circuit of the
camp examining the camp-keeper's guns, to see if they were in order, and
found that of one Maloney, an Irishman, in a very dirty condition.

"What would you do," asked Bridger, "with a gun like that, if the
Indians were to charge on the camp?"

"Be ----, I would throw it to them, and run the way ye did," answered
Maloney, quickly. It was sometime after this incident before Bridger
again examined Maloney's gun.

A laughable story in this way went the rounds of the camp in this fall
of 1830. Milton Sublette was out on a hunt with Meek after buffalo, and
they were just approaching the band on foot, at a distance apart of
about fifty yards, when a large grizzly bear came out of a thicket and
made after Sublette, who, when he perceived the creature, ran for the
nearest cotton-wood tree. Meek in the meantime, seeing that Sublette was
not likely to escape, had taken sure aim, and fired at the bear,
fortunately killing him. On running up to the spot where it laid,
Sublette was discovered sitting at the foot of a cotton-wood, with his
legs and arms clasped tightly around it.

"Do you always climb a tree in that way?" asked Meek.

"I reckon you took the wrong end of it, that time, Milton!"

"I'll be ----, Meek, if I didn't think I was twenty feet up that tree
when you shot;" answered the frightened Booshway; and from that time the
men never tired of alluding to Milton's manner of climbing a tree.

[Illustration: THE WRONG END OF THE TREE.]

These were some of the mirthful incidents which gave occasion for a
gayety which had to be substituted for happiness, in the checkered life
of the trapper; and there were like to be many such, where there were
two hundred men, each almost daily in the way of adventures by flood or

On the change in the management of the Company which occurred at the
rendezvous this year, three of the new partners, Fitzpatrick, Sublette,
and Bridger, conducted a large party, numbering over two hundred, from
the Wind River to the Yellowstone; crossing thence to Smith's River, the
Falls of the Missouri, three forks of the Missouri, and to the Big
Blackfoot River. The hunt proved very successful; beaver were plentiful;
and the Blackfeet shy of so large a traveling party. Although so long in
their country, there were only four men killed out of the whole company
during this autumn.

From the Blackfoot River the company proceeded down the west side of the
mountains to the forks of the Snake River, and after trapping for a
short time in this locality, continued their march southward as far as
Ogden's Hole, a small valley among the Bear River Mountains.

At this place they fell in with a trading and trapping party, under Mr.
Peter Skeen Ogden, of the Hudson's Bay Company. And now commenced that
irritating and reprehensible style of rivalry with which the different
companies were accustomed to annoy one another. Accompanying Mr. Ogden's
trading party were a party of Rockway Indians, who were from the North,
and who were employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, as the Iroquois and
Crows were, to trap for them. Fitzpatrick and associates camped in the
neighborhood of Ogden's company, and immediately set about endeavoring
to purchase from the Rockways and others, the furs collected for Mr.
Ogden. Not succeeding by fair means, if the means to such an end could
be called fair,--they opened a keg of whiskey, which, when the Indians
had got a taste, soon drew them away from the Hudson's Bay trader, the
regulations of whose company forbade the selling or giving of liquors to
the Indians. Under its influence, the furs were disposed of to the Rocky
Mountain Company, who in this manner obtained nearly the whole product
of their year's hunt. This course of conduct was naturally exceedingly
disagreeable to Mr. Ogden, as well as unprofitable also; and a feeling
of hostility grew up and increased between the two camps.

While matters were in this position, a stampede one day occurred among
the horses in Ogden's camp, and two or three of the animals ran away,
and ran into the camp of the rival company. Among them was the horse of
Mr. Ogden's Indian wife, which had escaped, with her babe hanging to the

Not many minutes elapsed, before the mother, following her child and
horse, entered the camp, passing right through it, and catching the now
halting steed by the bridle. At the same moment she espied one of her
company's pack-horses, loaded with beaver, which had also run into the
enemy's camp. The men had already begun to exult over the circumstance,
considering this chance load of beaver as theirs, by the laws of war.
But not so the Indian woman. Mounting her own horse, she fearlessly
seized the pack-horse by the halter, and led it out of camp, with its
costly burden.

At this undaunted action, some of the baser sort of men cried out "shoot
her, shoot her!" but a majority interfered, with opposing cries of "let
her go; let her alone; she's a brave woman: I glory in her pluck;" and
other like admiring expressions. While the clamor continued, the wife of
Ogden had galloped away, with her baby and her pack-horse.

As the season advanced, Fitzpatrick, with his other partners, returned
to the east side of the mountains, and went into winter quarters on
Powder river. In this trapper's "land of Canaan" they remained between
two and three months. The other two partners, Frapp and Jervais, who
were trapping far to the south, did not return until the following year.

While wintering it became necessary to send a dispatch to St. Louis on
the company's business. Meek and a Frenchman named Legarde, were chosen
for this service, which was one of trust and peril also. They proceeded
without accident, however, until the Pawnee villages were reached, when
Legarde was taken prisoner. Meek, more cautious, escaped, and proceeded
alone a few days' travel beyond, when he fell in with an express on its
way to St. Louis, to whom he delivered his dispatches, and returned to
camp, accompanied only by a Frenchman named Cabeneau; thus proving
himself an efficient mountaineer at twenty years of age.

1831. As soon as the spring opened, sometime in March, the whole company
started north again, for the Blackfoot country. But on the night of the
third day out, they fell unawares into the neighborhood of a party of
Crow Indians, whose spies discovered the company's horses feeding on the
dry grass of a little bottom, and succeeded in driving off about three
hundred head. Here was a dilemma to be in, in the heart of an enemy's
country! To send the remaining horses after these, might be "sending the
axe after the helve;" besides most of them belonged to the free
trappers, and could not be pressed into the service.

The only course remaining was to select the best men and dispatch them
on foot, to overtake and retake the stolen horses. Accordingly one
hundred trappers were ordered on this expedition, among whom were Meek,
Newell, and Antoine Godin, a half-breed and brave fellow, who was to
lead the party. Following the trail of the Crows for two hundred miles,
traveling day and night, on the third day they came up with them on a
branch of the Bighorn river. The trappers advanced cautiously, and being
on the opposite side of the stream, on a wooded bluff, were enabled to
approach close enough to look into their fort, and count the
unsuspecting thieves. There were sixty of them, fine young braves, who
believed that now they had made a start in life. Alas, for the vanity of
human, and especially of Crow expectations! Even then, while they were
grouped around their fires, congratulating themselves on the sudden
wealth which had descended upon them, as it were from the skies, an
envious fate, in the shape of several roguish white trappers, was
laughing at them and their hopes, from the overhanging bluff opposite
them. And by and by, when they were wrapped in a satisfied slumber, two
of these laughing rogues, Robert Newell, and Antoine Godin, stole under
the very walls of their fort, and setting the horses free, drove them
across the creek.

The Indians were awakened by the noise of the trampling horses, and
sprang to arms. But Meek and his fellow-trappers on the bluff fired into
the fort with such effect that the Crows were appalled. Having delivered
their first volley, they did not wait for the savages to recover from
their recoil. Mounting in hot haste, the cavalcade of bare-back riders,
and their drove of horses, were soon far away from the Crow fort,
leaving the ambitious braves to finish their excursion on foot. It was
afterwards ascertained that the Crows lost seven men by that one volley
of the trappers.

Flushed with success, the trappers yet found the backward journey more
toilsome than the outward; for what with sleeplessness and fatigue, and
bad traveling in melted snow, they were pretty well exhausted when they
reached camp. Fearing, however, another raid from the thieving Crows,
the camp got in motion again with as little delay as possible. They had
not gone far, when Fitzpatrick turned back, with only one man, to go to
St. Louis for supplies.

After the departure of Fitzpatrick, Bridger and Sublette completed their
spring and summer campaign without any material loss in men or animals,
and with considerable gain in beaver skins. Having once more visited the
Yellowstone, they turned to the south again, crossing the mountains into
Pierre's Hole, on to Snake river; thence to Salt river; thence to Bear
river; and thence to Green river, to rendezvous.

It was expected that Fitzpatrick would have arrived from St. Louis with
the usual annual recruits and supplies of merchandise, in time for the
summer rendezvous; but after waiting for some time in vain, Bridger and
Sublette determined to send out a small party to look for him. The large
number of men now employed, had exhausted the stock of goods on hand.
The camp was without blankets and without ammunition; knives were not to
be had; traps were scarce; but worse than all, the tobacco had given
out, and alcohol was not! In such a case as this, what could a
mountain-man do?

To seek the missing Booshway became not only a duty, but a necessity;
and not only a necessity of the physical man, but in an equal degree a
need of the moral and spiritual man, which was rusting with the tedium
of waiting. In the state of uncertainty in which the minds of the
company were involved, it occurred to that of Frapp to consult a great
"medicine-man" of the Crows, one of those recruits filched from Mr.
Ogden's party by whiskey the previous year.

Like all eminent professional men, the Crow chief required a generous
fee, of the value of a horse or two, before he would begin to make
"medicine." This peculiar ceremony is pretty much alike among all the
different tribes. It is observed first in the making of a medicine man,
_i. e._, qualifying him for his profession; and afterwards is practiced
to enable him to heal the sick, to prophecy, and to dream dreams, or
even to give victory to his people. To a medicine-man was imputed great
power, not only to cure, but to kill; and if, as it sometimes happened,
the relatives of a sick man suspected the medicine-man of having caused
his death, by the exercise of evil powers, one of them, or all of them,
pursued him to the death. Therefore, although it might be honorable, it
was not always safe to be a great "medicine."

The Indians placed a sort of religious value upon the practice of
fasting; a somewhat curious fact, when it is remembered how many
compulsory fasts they are obliged to endure, which must train them to
think lightly of the deprivation of food. Those, however, who could
endure voluntary abstinence long enough, were enabled to become very
wise and very brave. The manner of making a "medicine" among some of the
interior tribes, is in certain respects similar to the practice gone
through with by some preachers, in making a convert. A sort of
camp-meeting is held, for several nights, generally about five, during
which various dances are performed, with cries, and incantations, bodily
exercises, singing, and nervous excitement; enough to make many
patients, instead of one doctor. But the native's constitution is a
strong one, and he holds out well. At last, however, one or more are
overcome with the mysterious _power_ which enters into them at that
time; making, instead of a saint, only a superstitious Indian doctor.

The same sort of exercises which had made the Cree man a doctor were now
resorted to, in order that he might obtain a more than natural sight,
enabling him to see visions of the air, or at the least to endow him
with prophetic dreams. After several nights of singing, dancing,
hopping, screeching, beating of drums, and other more violent exercises
and contortions, the exhausted medicine-man fell off to sleep, and when
he awoke he announced to Frapp that Fitzpatrick was not dead. He was on
the road; some road; but not the right one; etc., etc.

Thus encouraged, Frapp determined to take a party, and go in search of
him. Accordingly Meek, Reese, Ebarts, and Nelson, volunteered to
accompany him. This party set out, first in the direction of Wind
River; but not discovering any signs of the lost Booshway in that
quarter, crossed over to the Sweetwater, and kept along down to the
North Fork of the Platte, and thence to the Black Hills, where they
found a beautiful country full of game; but not the hoped-for train,
with supplies. After waiting for a short time at the Black Hills,
Frapp's party returned to the North Fork of the Platte, and were
rejoiced to meet at last, the long absent partner, with his pack train.
Urged by Frapp, Fitzpatrick hastened forward, and came into camp on
Powder River after winter had set in.

Fitzpatrick had a tale to tell the other partners, in explanation of his
unexpected delay. When he had started for St. Louis in the month of
March previous, he had hoped to have met the old partners, Capt.
Sublette and Jedediah Smith, and to have obtained the necessary supplies
from them, to furnish the Summer rendezvous with plenty. But these
gentlemen, when he fell in with them, used certain arguments which
induced him to turn back, and accompany them to Santa Fe, where they
promised to furnish him goods, as he desired, and to procure for him an
escort at that place. The journey had proven tedious, and unfortunate.
They had several times been attacked by Indians, and Smith had been
killed. While they were camped on a small tributary of the Simmaron
River, Smith had gone a short distance from camp to procure water, and
while at the stream was surprised by an ambush, and murdered on the
spot, his murderers escaping unpunished. Sublette, now left alone in the
business, finally furnished him; and he had at last made his way back to
his Rocky Mountain camp.

But Fitzpatrick's content at being once more with his company was
poisoned by the disagreeable proximity of a rival company. If he had
annoyed Mr. Ogden of the Hudson's Bay Company, in the previous autumn,
Major Vanderburg and Mr. Dripps, of the American Company, in their turn
annoyed him. This company had been on their heels, from the Platte
River, and now were camped in the same neighborhood, using the Rocky
Mountain Company as pilots to show them the country. As this was just
what it was not for their interest to do, the Rocky Mountain Company
raised camp, and fairly ran away from them; crossing the mountains to
the Forks of the Snake River, where they wintered among the Nez Perces
and Flathead Indians.

Some time during this winter, Meek and Legarde, who had escaped from the
Pawnees, made another expedition together; traveling three hundred miles
on snowshoes, to the Bitter Root River, to look for a party of free
trappers, whose beaver the company wished to secure. They were absent
two months and a half, on this errand, and were entirely successful,
passing a Blackfoot village in the night, but having no adventures worth


1832. In the following spring, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company commenced
its march, first up Lewis' Fork, then on to Salt River, thence to Gray's
River, and thence to Bear River. They fell in with the North American
Fur Company on the latter river, with a large lot of goods, but no
beaver. The American Company's resident partners were ignorant of the
country, and were greatly at a loss where to look for the good trapping
grounds. These gentlemen, Vanderburg and Dripps, were therefore inclined
to keep an eye on the movements of the Rocky Mountain Company, whose
leaders were acquainted with the whole region lying along the mountains,
from the head-waters of the Colorado to the northern branches of the
Missouri. On the other hand, the Rocky Mountain Company were anxious to
"shake the dust from off their feet," which was trodden by the American
Company, and to avoid the evils of competition in an Indian country. But
they found the effort quite useless; the rival company had a habit of
turning up in the most unexpected places, and taking advantage of the
hard-earned experience of the Rocky Mountain Company's leaders. They
tampered with the trappers, and ferreted out the secret of their next
rendezvous; they followed on their trail, making them pilots to the
trapping grounds; they sold goods to the Indians, and what was worse, to
the hired trappers. In this way grew up that fierce conflict of
interests, which made it "as much as his life was worth" for a trapper
to suffer himself to be inveigled into the service of a rival company,
which about this time or a little later, was at its highest, and which
finally ruined the fur-trade for the American companies in the Rocky

Finding their rivals in possession of the ground, Bridger and Milton
Sublette resolved to spend but a few days in that country. But so far as
Sublette was concerned, circumstances ordered differently. A Rockway
Chief, named Gray, and seven of his people, had accompanied the camp
from Ogden's Hole, in the capacity of trappers. But during the sojourn
on Bear River, there was a quarrel in camp on account of some indignity,
real or fancied, which had been offered to the chief's daughter, and in
the affray Gray stabbed Sublette so severely that it was thought he must

It thus fell out that Sublette had to be left behind; and Meek who was
his favorite, was left to take care of him while he lived, and bury him
if he died; which trouble Sublette saved him, however, by getting well.
But they had forty lonesome days to themselves after the camps had moved
off,--one on the heels of the other, to the great vexation of Bridger.
Time passed slowly in Sublette's lodge, while waiting for his wound to
heal. Day passed after day, so entirely like each other that the
monotony alone seemed sufficient to invite death to an easy conquest.
But the mountain-man's blood, like the Indians, is strong and pure, and
his flesh heals readily, therefore, since death would not have him, the
wounded man was forced to accept of life in just this monotonous form.
To him Joe Meek was everything,--hands, feet, physician, guard, caterer,
hunter, cook, companion, friend. What long talks they had, when Sublette
grew better: what stories they told; what little glimpses of a secret
chamber in their hearts, and a better than the every-day spirit, in
their bosoms, was revealed,--as men will reveal such things in the
isolation of sea-voyages, or the solitary presence of majestic Nature.

To the veteran mountaineer there must have been something soothing in
the care and friendship of the youth of twenty-two, with his daring
disposition, his frankness, his cheerful humor, and his good looks;--for
our Joe was growing to be a maturely handsome man--tall,
broad-shouldered, straight, with plenty of flesh, and none too much of
it; a Southerner's olive complexion; frank, dark eyes, and a classical
nose and chin. What though in the matter of dress he was ignorant of the
latest styles?--grace imparts elegance even to the trapper's beaver-skin
cap and blanket capote.

At the end of forty days, as many as it took to drown a world, Sublette
found himself well enough to ride; and the two set out on their search
for camp. But now other adventures awaited them. On a fork of Green
River, they came suddenly upon a band of Snake Indians feeding their
horses. As soon as the Snakes discovered the white men, they set up a
yell, and made an instinctive rush for their horses. Now was the
critical moment. One word passed between the travelers, and they made a
dash past the savages, right into the village, and never slacked rein
until they threw themselves from their horses at the door of the
Medicine lodge. This is a large and fancifully decorated lodge, which
stands in the centre of a village, and like the churches of Christians,
is sacred. Once inside of this, the strangers were safe for the present;
their blood could not be shed there.

The warriors of the village soon followed Sublette and Meek into their
strange house of refuge. In half an hour it was filled. Not a word was
addressed to the strangers; nor by them to the Indians, who talked
among themselves with a solemn eagerness, while they smoked the
medicine pipe, as inspiration in their councils. Great was the
excitement in the minds of the listeners, who understood the Snake
tongue, as the question of their life or death was gravely discussed;
yet in their countenances appeared only the utmost serenity. To show
fear, is to whet an Indian's appetite for blood: coolness confounds and
awes him when anything will.

If Sublette had longed for excitement, while an invalid in his lonely
lodge on Bear River, he longed equally now for that blissful seclusion.
Listening for, and hearing one's death-warrant from a band of
blood-thirsty savages, could only prove with bitter sharpness how sweet
was life, even the most uneventful. For hours the council continued, and
the majority favored the death-sentence. But one old chief, called the
good _Gotia_, argued long for an acquittal: he did not see the necessity
of murdering two harmless travelers of the white race. Nothing availed,
however, and just at sunset their doom was fixed.

The only hope of escape was, that, favored by darkness, they might elude
the vigilance of their jailers; and night, although so near, seemed ages
away, even at sundown. Death being decreed, the warriors left the lodge
one by one to attend to the preparation of the preliminary ceremonies.
Gotia, the good, was the last to depart. As he left the Medicine lodge
he made signs to the captives to remain quiet until he should return;
pointing upwards to signify that there was a chance of life; and
downwards to show that possibly they must die.

What an age of anxiety was that hour of waiting! Not a word had been
exchanged between the prisoners since the Indians entered the lodge,
until now; and now very little was said, for speech would draw upon them
the vigilance of their enemy, by whom they desired most ardently to be

About dusk there was a great noise, and confusion, and clouds of dust,
in the south end of the village. Something was going wrong among the
Indian horses. Immediately all the village ran to the scene of the
disorder, and at the same moment Gotia, the good, appeared at the door
of the Medicine lodge, beckoning the prisoners to follow him. With
alacrity they sprang up and after him, and were led across the stream,
to a thicket on the opposite side, where their horses stood, ready to
mount, in the charge of a young Indian girl. They did not stop for
compliments, though had time been less precious, they might well have
bestowed some moments of it in admiration of _Umentucken Tukutsey
Undewatsey_, the Mountain Lamb. Soon after, the beautiful Snake girl
became the wife of Milton Sublette; and after his return to the States,
of the subject of this narrative; from which circumstance the incident
above related takes on something of the rosy hue of romance.

As each released captive received his bridle from the delicate hand of
the Mountain Lamb, he sprang to the saddle. By this time the chief had
discovered that the strangers understood the Snake dialect. "Ride, if
you wish to live," said he: "ride without stopping, all night: and
to-morrow linger not." With hurried thanks our mountain-men replied to
this advice, and striking into a gallop, were soon far away from the
Snake village. The next day at noon found them a hundred and fifty miles
on their way to camp. Proceeding without further accident, they crossed
the Teton Mountains, and joined the company at Pierre's Hole, after an
absence of nearly four months.

Here they found the ubiquitous if not omnipresent American Fur Company
encamped at the rendezvous of the Rocky Mountain Company. The partners
being anxious to be freed from this sort of espionage, and obstinate
competition on their own ground, made a proposition to Vanderburg and
Dripps to divide the country with them, each company to keep on its own
territory. This proposition was refused by the American Company; perhaps
because they feared having the poorer portion set off to themselves by
their more experienced rivals. On this refusal, the Rocky Mountain
Company determined to send an express to meet Capt. William Sublette,
who was on his way out with a heavy stock of merchandise, and hurry him
forward, lest the American Company should have the opportunity of
disposing of its goods, when the usual gathering to rendezvous began. On
this decision being formed, Fitzpatrick determined to go on this errand
himself; which he accordingly did, falling in with Sublette, and
Campbell, his associate, somewhere near the Black Hills. To them he
imparted his wishes and designs, and receiving the assurance of an early
arrival at rendezvous, parted from them at the Sweetwater, and hastened
back, alone, as he came, to prepare for business.

Captain Sublette hurried forward with his train, which consisted of
sixty men with pack-horses, three to a man. In company with him, was Mr.
Nathaniel Wyeth, a history of whose fur-trading and salmon-fishing
adventures has already been given. Captain Sublette had fallen in with
Mr. Wyeth at Independence, Missouri; and finding him ignorant of the
undertaking on which he was launched, offered to become pilot and
traveling companion, an offer which was gratefully accepted.

The caravan had reached the foot-hills of the Wind River Mountains, when
the raw recruits belonging to both these parties were treated to a
slight foretaste of what Indian fighting would be, should they ever have
to encounter it. Their camp was suddenly aroused at midnight by the
simultaneous discharge of guns and arrows, and the frightful whoops and
yells with which the savages make an attack. Nobody was wounded,
however; but on springing to arms, the Indians fled, taking with them a
few horses which their yells had frightened from their pickets. These
marauders were Blackfeet, as Captain Sublette explained to Mr. Wyeth,
their moccasin tracks having betrayed them; for as each tribe has a
peculiar way of making or shaping the moccasin, the expert in Indian
habits can detect the nationality of an Indian thief by his foot-print.
After this episode of the night assault, the leaders redoubled their
watchfulness, and reached their destination in Pierre's hole about the
first of July.

When Sublette arrived in camp, it was found that Fitzpatrick was
missing. If the other partners had believed him to be with the Captain,
the Captain expected to find him with them; but since neither could
account to the other for his non-appearance, much anxiety was felt, and
Sublette remembered with apprehension the visit he had received from
Blackfeet. However, before anything had been determined upon with regard
to him, he made his appearance in camp, in company with two Iroquois
half-breeds, belonging to the camp, who had been out on a hunt.

Fitzpatrick had met with an adventure, as had been conjectured. While
coming up the Green river valley, he descried a small party of mounted
men, whom he mistook for a company of trappers, and stopped to
reconnoitre; but almost at the same moment the supposed trappers,
perceiving him, set up a yell that quickly undeceived him, and compelled
him to flight. Abandoning his pack-horse, he put the other to its
topmost speed, and succeeded in gaining the mountains, where in a deep
and dark defile he secreted himself until he judged the Indians had
left that part of the valley. In this he was deceived, for no sooner did
he emerge again into the open country, than he was once more pursued,
and had to abandon his horse, to take refuge among the cliffs of the
mountains. Here he remained for several days, without blankets or
provisions, and with only one charge of ammunition, which was in his
rifle, and kept for self-defense. At length, however, by frequent
reconnoitering, he managed to elude his enemies, traveling by night,
until he fortunately met with the two hunters from camp, and was
conveyed by them to the rendezvous.

All the parties were now safely in. The lonely mountain valley was
populous with the different camps. The Rocky Mountain and American
companies had their separate camps; Wyeth had his; a company of free
trappers, fifteen in number, led by a man named Sinclair, from Arkansas,
had the fourth; the Nez Perces and Flatheads, the allies of the Rocky
Mountain company, and the friends of the whites, had their lodges along
all the streams; so that altogether there could not have been less than
one thousand souls, and two or three thousand horses and mules gathered
in this place.

"When the pie was opened then the birds began to sing." When Captain
Sublette's goods were opened and distributed among the trappers and
Indians, then began the usual gay carousal; and the "fast young men" of
the mountains outvied each other in all manner of mad pranks. In the
beginning of their spree many feats of horsemanship and personal
strength were exhibited, which were regarded with admiring wonder by the
sober and inexperienced New Englanders under Mr. Wyeth's command. And as
nothing stimulated the vanity of the mountain-men like an audience of
this sort, the feats they performed were apt to astonish themselves. In
exhibitions of the kind, the free trappers took the lead, and usually
carried off the palm, like the privileged class that they were.

But the horse-racing, fine riding, wrestling, and all the manlier
sports, soon degenerated into the baser exhibitions of a "crazy drunk"
condition. The vessel in which the trapper received and carried about
his supply of alcohol was one of the small camp kettles. "Passing round"
this clumsy goblet very freely, it was not long before a goodly number
were in the condition just named, and ready for any mad freak whatever.
It is reported by several of the mountain-men that on the occasion of
one of these "frolics," one of their number seized a kettle of alcohol,
and poured it over the head of a tall, lank, redheaded fellow, repeating
as he did so the baptismal ceremony. No sooner had he concluded, than
another man with a lighted stick, touched him with the blaze, when in an
instant he was enveloped in flames. Luckily some of the company had
sense enough left to perceive his danger, and began beating him with
pack-saddles to put out the blaze. But between the burning and the
beating, the unhappy wretch nearly lost his life, and never recovered
from the effects of his baptism by fire.

Beaver being plenty in camp, business was correspondingly lively, there
being a great demand for goods. When this demand was supplied, as it was
in the course of about three weeks, the different brigades were set in
motion. One of the earliest to move was a small party under Milton
Sublette, including his constant companion, Meek. With this company, no
more than thirty in number, Sublette intended to explore the country to
the south-west, then unknown to the fur companies, and to proceed as far
as the Humboldt river in that direction.

On the 17th of July they set out toward the south end of the valley, and
having made but about eight miles the first day, camped that night near
a pass in the mountains. Wyeth's party of raw New Englanders, and
Sinclair's free trappers, had joined themselves to the company of Milton
Sublette, and swelled the number in camp to about sixty men, many of
them new to the business of mountain life.

Just as the men were raising camp for a start the next morning, a
caravan was observed moving down the mountain pass into the valley. No
alarm was at first felt, as an arrival was daily expected of one of the
American company's partisans, Mr. Fontenelle, and his company. But on
reconnoitering with a glass, Sublette discovered them to be a large
party of Blackfeet, consisting of a few mounted men, and many more, men,
women, and children, on foot. At the instant they were discovered, they
set up the usual yell of defiance, and rushed down like a mountain
torrent into the valley, flourishing their weapons, and fluttering their
gay blankets and feathers in the wind. There was no doubt as to the
warlike intentions of the Blackfeet in general, nor was it for a moment
to be supposed that any peaceable overture on their part meant anything
more than that they were not prepared to fight at that particular
juncture; therefore let not the reader judge too harshly of an act which
under ordinary circumstances would have been infamous. In Indian
fighting, every man is his own leader, and the bravest take the front
rank. On this occasion there were two of Sublette's men, one a
half-breed Iroquois, the other a Flathead Indian, who had wrongs of
their own to avenge, and they never let slip a chance of killing a
Blackfoot. These two men rode forth alone to meet the enemy, as if to
hold a "talk" with the principal chief, who advanced to meet them,
bearing the pipe of peace. When the chief extended his hand, Antonio
Godin, the half-breed, took it, but at the same moment he ordered the
Flathead to fire, and the chief fell dead. The two trappers galloped
back to camp, Antoine bearing for a trophy the scarlet blanket of his

This action made it impossible to postpone the battle, as the dead chief
had meant to do by peaceful overtures, until the warriors of his nation
came up. The Blackfeet immediately betook themselves to a swamp formed
by an old beaver dam, and thickly overgrown with cotton-wood and willow,
matted together with tough vines. On the edge of this dismal covert the
warriors skulked, and shot with their guns and arrows, while in its very
midst the women employed themselves in digging a trench and throwing up
a breastwork of logs, and whatever came to hand. Such a defence as the
thicket afforded was one not easy to attack; its unseen but certain
dangers being sufficient to appal the stoutest heart.

Meantime, an express had been sent off to inform Captain Sublette of the
battle, and summon assistance. Sinclair and his free trappers, with
Milton Sublette's small company, were the only fighting men at hand. Mr.
Wyeth, knowing the inefficiency of his men in an Indian fight, had them
entrenched behind their packs, and there left them to take care of
themselves, but charged them not to appear in open field. As for the
fighting men, they stationed themselves in a ravine, where they could
occasionally pick off a Blackfoot, and waited for reinforcements.

Great was the astonishment of the Blackfeet, who believed they had only
Milton Sublette's camp to fight, when they beheld first one party of
white men and then another; and not only whites, but Nez Perces and
Flatheads came galloping up the valley. If before it had been a battle
to destroy the whites, it was now a battle to defend themselves.
Previous to the arrival of Captain Sublette, the opposing forces had
kept up only a scattering fire, in which nobody on the side of the
trappers had been either killed or wounded. But when the impetuous
captain arrived on the battle-field, he prepared for less guarded
warfare. Stripped as if for the prize-ring, and armed _cap-a-pie_, he
hastened to the scene of action, accompanied by his intimate friend and
associate in business, Robert Campbell.

At sight of the reinforcements, and their vigorous movements, the
Indians at the edge of the swamp fell back within their fort. To
dislodge them was a dangerous undertaking, but Captain Sublette was
determined to make the effort. Finding the trappers generally
disinclined to enter the thicket, he set the example, together with
Campbell, and thus induced some of the free trappers, with their leader,
Sinclair, to emulate his action. However, the others took courage at
this, and advanced near the swamp, firing at random at their invisible
foe, who, having the advantage of being able to see them, inflicted some
wounds on the party.

The few white "braves" who had resolved to enter the swamp, made their
wills as they went, feeling that they were upon perilous business.
Sublette, Campbell, and Sinclair succeeded in penetrating the thicket
without alarming the enemy, and came at length to a more open space from
whence they could get a view of the fort. From this they learned that
the women and children had retired to the mountains, and that the fort
was a slight affair, covered with buffalo robes and blankets to keep out
prying eyes. Moving slowly on, some slight accident betrayed their
vicinity, and the next moment a shot struck Sinclair, wounding him
mortally. He spoke to Campbell, requesting to be taken to his brother.
By this time some of the men had come up, and he was given in charge to
be taken back to camp. Sublette then pressed forward, and seeing an
Indian looking through an aperture, aimed at him with fatal effect. No
sooner had he done so, and pointed out the opening to Campbell, than he
was struck with a ball in the shoulder, which nearly prostrated him, and
turned him so faint that Campbell took him in his arms and carried him,
assisted by Meek, out of the swamp. At the same time one of the men
received a wound in the head. The battle was now carried on with spirit,
although from the difficulty of approaching the fort, the firing was
very irregular.

The mountaineers who followed Sublette, took up their station in the
woods on one side of the fort, and the Nez Perces, under Wyeth, on the
opposite side, which accidental arrangement, though it was fatal to many
of the Blackfeet in the fort, was also the occasion of loss to
themselves by the cross-fire. The whites being constantly reinforced by
fresh arrivals from the rendezvous, were soon able to silence the guns
of the enemy, but they were not able to drive them from their fort,
where they remained silent and sullen after their ammunition was

Seeing that the women of the Nez Perces and Flatheads were gathering up
sticks to set fire to their breastwork of logs, an old chief proclaimed
in a loud voice from within, the startling intelligence that there were
four hundred lodges of his people close at hand, who would soon be there
to avenge their deaths, should the whites choose to reduce them to
ashes. This harangue, delivered in the usual high-flown style of Indian
oratory, either was not clearly understood, or was wrongly interpreted,
and the impression got abroad that an attack was being made on the great
encampment. This intelligence occasioned a diversion, and a division of
forces; for while a small party was left to watch the fort, the rest
galloped in hot haste to the rescue of the main camp. When they arrived,
they found it had been a false alarm, but it was too late to return that
night, and the several camps remained where they were until the next

Meantime the trappers left to guard the fort remained stationed within
the wood all night, firmly believing they had their enemy "corraled," as
the horsemen of the plains would say. On the return, in the morning, of
their comrades from the main camp, they advanced cautiously up to the
breastwork of logs, and behold! not a buffalo skin nor red blanket was
to be seen! Through the crevices among the logs was seen an empty fort.
On making this discovery there was much chagrin among the white
trappers, and much lamentation among the Indian allies, who had
abandoned the burning of the fort expressly to save for themselves the
fine blankets and other goods of their hereditary foes.

From the reluctance displayed by the trappers, in the beginning of the
battle, to engage with the Indians while under cover of the woods, it
must not be inferred that they were lacking in courage. They were too
well informed in Indian modes of warfare to venture recklessly into the
den of death, which a savage ambush was quite sure to be. The very
result which attended the impetuosity of their leaders, in the death of
Sinclair and the wounding of Captain Sublette, proved them not over

On entering the fort, the dead bodies of ten Blackfeet were found,
besides others dead outside the fort, and over thirty horses, some of
which were recognized as those stolen from Sublette's night camp on the
other side of the mountains, besides those abandoned by Fitzpatrick.
Doubtless the rascals had followed his trail to Pierre's Hole, not
thinking, however, to come upon so large a camp as they found at last.
The savage garrison which had so cunningly contrived to elude the guard
set upon them, carried off some of their wounded, and, perhaps, also
some of their dead; for they acknowledged afterwards a much larger loss
than appeared at the time. Besides Sinclair, there were five other white
men killed, one half-breed, and seven Nez Perces. About the same number
of whites and their Indian allies were wounded.

An instance of female devotion is recorded by Bonneville's historian as
having occurred at this battle. On the morning following it, as the
whites were exploring the thickets about the fort, they discovered a
Blackfoot woman leaning silent and motionless against a tree. According
to Mr. Irving, whose fine feeling for the sex would incline him to put
faith in this bit of romance, "their surprise at her lingering here
alone, to fall into the hands of her enemies, was dispelled when they
saw the corpse of a warrior at her feet. Either she was so lost in grief
as not to perceive their approach, or a proud spirit kept her silent and
motionless. The Indians set up a yell on discovering her, and before the
trappers could interfere, her mangled body fell upon the corpse which
she had refused to abandon." This version is true in the main incidents,
but untrue in the sentiment. The woman's leg had been broken by a ball,
and she was unable to move from the spot where she leaned. When the
trappers approached her, she stretched out her hands supplicatingly,
crying out in a wailing voice, "kill me! kill me! O white men, kill
me!"--but this the trappers had no disposition to do. While she was
entreating them, and they refusing, a ball from some vengeful Nez Perce
or Flathead put an end to her sufferings.

Still remembering the threats of the Blackfoot chief, that four hundred
lodges of his brethren were advancing on the valley, all the companies
returned to rendezvous, and remained for several days, to see whether an
attack should take place. But if there had ever been any such intention
on the part of the Blackfoot nation, the timely lesson bestowed on their
advance guard had warned them to quit the neighborhood of the whites.

Captain Sublette's wound was dressed by Mr. Wyeth's physician, and
although it hindered his departure for St. Louis for some time, it did
not prevent his making his usual journey later in the season. It was as
well, perhaps, that he did not set out earlier, for of a party of seven
who started for St. Louis a few days after the battle, three were killed
in Jackson's Hole, where they fell in with the four hundred warriors
with whom the Blackfoot chief threatened the whites at the battle of
Pierre's Hole. From the story of the four survivors who escaped and
returned to camp, there could no longer be any doubt that the big
village of the Blackfeet had actually been upon the trail of Capt.
Sublette, expecting an easy victory when they should overtake him. How
they were disappointed by the reception met with by the advance camp,
has already been related.


1832. On the 23d of July, Milton Sublette's brigade and the company of
Mr. Wyeth again set out for the southwest, and met no more serious
interruptions while they traveled in company. On the head-waters of the
Humboldt River they separated, Wyeth proceeding north to the Columbia,
and Sublette continuing on into a country hitherto untraversed by
American trappers.

It was the custom of a camp on the move to depend chiefly on the men
employed as hunters to supply them with game, the sole support of the
mountaineers. When this failed, the stock on hand was soon exhausted,
and the men reduced to famine. This was what happened to Sublette's
company in the country where they now found themselves, between the
Owyhee and Humboldt Rivers. Owing to the arid and barren nature of these
plains, the largest game to be found was the beaver, whose flesh proved
to be poisonous, from the creature having eaten of the wild parsnip in
the absence of its favorite food. The men were made ill by eating of
beaver flesh, and the horses were greatly reduced from the scarcity of
grass and the entire absence of the cotton-wood.

In this plight Sublette found himself, and finally resolved to turn
north, in the hope of coming upon some better and more hospitable
country. The sufferings of the men now became terrible, both from hunger
and thirst. In the effort to appease the former, everything was eaten
that could be eaten, and many things at which the well-fed man would
sicken with disgust. "I have," says Joe Meek, "held my hands in an
ant-hill until they were covered with the ants, then greedily licked
them off. I have taken the soles off my moccasins, crisped them in the
fire, and eaten them. In our extremity, the large black crickets which
are found in this country were considered game. We used to take a kettle
of hot water, catch the crickets and throw them in, and when they
stopped kicking, eat them. That was not what we called _cant tickup ko
hanch_, (good meat, my friend), but it kept us alive."

Equally abhorrent expedients were resorted to in order to quench thirst,
some of which would not bear mention. In this condition, and exposed to
the burning suns and the dry air of the desert, the men now so nearly
exhausted began to prey upon their almost equally exhausted animals. At
night when they made their camp, by mutual consent a mule was bled, and
a soup made from its blood. About a pint was usually taken, when two or
three would mess together upon this reviving, but scanty and not very
palatable dish. But this mode of subsistence could not be long depended
on, as the poor mules could ill afford to lose blood in their famishing
state; nor could the men afford to lose their mules where there was a
chance of life: therefore hungry as they were, the men were cautious in
this matter; and it generally caused a quarrel when a man's mule was
selected for bleeding by the others.

A few times a mule had been sacrificed to obtain meat; and in this case
the poorest one was always selected, so as to economise the chances for
life for the whole band. In this extremity, after four days of almost
total abstinence and several weeks of famine, the company reached the
Snake River, about fifty miles above the fishing falls, where it boils
and dashes over the rocks, forming very strong rapids. Here the company
camped, rejoiced at the sight of the pure mountain water, but still in
want of food. During the march a horse's back had become sore from some
cause; probably, his rider thought, because the saddle did not set well;
and, although that particular animal was selected to be sacrificed on
the morrow, as one that could best be spared, he set about taking the
stuffing out of his saddle and re-arranging the padding. While engaged
in this considerate labor, he uttered a cry of delight and held up to
view a large brass pin, which had accidentally got into the stuffing,
when the saddle was made, and had been the cause of all the mischief to
his horse.

The same thought struck all who saw the pin: it was soon converted into
a fish-hook, a line was spun from horse-hair, and in a short time there
were trout enough caught to furnish them a hearty and a most delicious
repast. "In the morning," says Meek, "we went on our way rejoicing;"
each man with the "five fishes" tied to his saddle, if without any
"loaves." This was the end of their severest suffering, as they had now
reached a country where absolute starvation was not the normal condition
of the inhabitants; and which was growing more and more bountiful, as
they neared the Rocky Mountains, where they at length joined camp, not
having made a very profitable expedition.

It may seem incredible to the reader that any country so poor as that in
which our trappers starved could have native inhabitants. Yet such was
the fact; and the people who lived in and who still inhabit this barren
waste, were called _Diggers_, from their mode of obtaining their food--a
few edible roots growing in low grounds, or marshy places. When these
fail them they subsist as did our trappers, by hunting crickets and
field mice.

Nothing can be more abject than the appearance of the Digger Indian, in
the fall, as he roams about, without food and without weapons, save
perhaps a bow and arrows, with his eyes fixed upon the ground, looking
for crickets! So despicable is he, that he has neither enemies nor
friends; and the neighboring tribes do not condescend to notice his
existence, unless indeed he should come in their way, when they would
not think it more than a mirthful act to put an end to his miserable
existence. And so it must be confessed the trappers regarded him. When
Sublette's party first struck the Humboldt, Wyeth's being still with
them, Joe Meek one day shot a Digger who was prowling about a stream
where his traps were set.

"Why did you shoot him?" asked Wyeth.

"To keep him from stealing traps."

"Had he stolen any?"

"No: but he _looked as if he was going to_!"

This recklessness of life very properly distressed the just minded New
Englander. Yet it was hard for the trappers to draw lines of distinction
so nice as his. If a tribe was not known to be friendly, it was a rule
of necessity to consider it unfriendly. The abjectness and cowardice of
the Diggers was the fruit of their own helpless condition. That they had
the savage instinct, held in check only by circumstances, was
demonstrated about the same time that Meek shot one, by his being
pursued by four of them when out trapping alone, and only escaping at
last by the assistance of one of his comrades who came to the rescue.
They could not fight, like the Crows and Blackfeet, but they could steal
and murder, when they had a safe opportunity.

It would be an interesting study, no doubt, to the philanthropist, to
ascertain in how great a degree the habits, manners, and morals of a
people are governed by their resources, especially by the quality and
quantity of their diet. But when diet and climate are both taken into
consideration, the result is striking.

The character of the Blackfeet who inhabited the good hunting grounds on
the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, is already pretty well given.
They were tall, sinewy, well-made fellows; good horsemen, and good
fighters, though inclined to marauding and murdering. They dressed
comfortably and even handsomely, as dress goes amongst savages, and
altogether were more to be feared than despised.

The Crows resembled the Blackfeet, whose enemies they were, in all the
before-mentioned traits, but were if possible, even more predatory in
their habits. Unlike the Blackfeet, however, they were not the enemies
of all mankind; and even were disposed to cultivate some friendliness
with the white traders and trappers, in order, as they acknowledged, to
strengthen their own hands against the Blackfeet. They too inhabited a
good country, full of game, and had horses in abundance. These were the
mountain tribes.

Comparing these with the coast tribes, there was a striking difference.
The natives of the Columbia were not a tall and robust people, like
those east of the Rocky Mountains, who lived by hunting. Their height
rarely exceeded five feet six inches; their forms were good, rather
inclining to fatness, their faces round, features coarse, but complexion
light, and their eyes large and intelligent. The custom of flattening
their heads in infancy gave them a grotesque and unnatural appearance,
otherwise they could not be called ill-looking. On the first advent of
white men among them, they were accustomed to go entirely naked, except
in winter, when a panther skin, or a mantle of other skins sewed
together, served to protect them from the cold: or if the weather was
rainy, as it generally was in that milder climate, a long mantle of
rush mats, like the toga of the ancient Romans, took the place of that
made of skins. To this was added a conical hat, woven of fibrous roots,
and gaily painted.

For defensive armor they were provided with a tunic of elkskin double,
descending to the ankles, with holes in it for the arms, and quite
impenetrable to arrows. A helmet of similar material covered the head,
rendering them like Achilles, invulnerable except in the heels. In this
secure dress they went to battle in their canoes, notice being first
given to the enemy of the intended attack. Their battles might therefore
be termed compound duels, in which each party observed great
punctiliousness and decorum. Painted and armor-encased, the warriors in
two flotillas of canoes were rowed to the battle ground by their women,
when the battle raged furiously for some time; not, however, doing any
great harm to either side. If any one chanced to be killed, that side
considered itself beaten, and retired from the conflict to mourn over
and bury the estimable and departed brave. If the case was a stubborn
one, requiring several days fighting, the opponents encamped near each
other, keeping up a confusion of cries, taunts, menaces, and raillery,
during the whole night; after which they resumed the conflict, and
continued it until one was beaten. If a village was to be attacked,
notice being received, the women and children were removed; and if the
village was beaten they made presents to their conquerors. Such were the
decorous habits of the warriors of the lower Columbia.

These were the people who lived almost exclusively by fishing, and whose
climate was a mild and moist one. Fishing, in which both sexes engaged
about equally, was an important accomplishment, since it was by fish
they lived in this world; and by being good fishermen that they had
hopes of the next one. The houses in which they lived, instead of being
lodges made of buffalo skins, were of a large size and very well
constructed, being made out of cedar planks. An excavation was first
made in the earth two or three feet deep, probably to secure greater
warmth in winter. A double row of cedar posts was then planted firmly
all round the excavation, and between these the planks were laid, or,
sometimes cedar bark, so overlapped as to exclude the rain and wind. The
ridge-pole of the roof was supported on a row of taller posts, passing
through the centre of the building, and notched to receive it. The
rafters were then covered with planks or bark, fastened down with ropes
made of the fibre of the cedar bark. A house made in this manner, and
often a hundred feet long by thirty or forty wide, accommodated several
families, who each had their separate entrance and fireplace; the
entrance being by a low oval-shaped door, and a flight of steps.

The canoes of these people were each cut out of a single log of cedar;
and were often thirty feet long and five wide at midships. They were
gaily painted, and their shape was handsome, with a very long bow so
constructed as to cut the surf in landing with the greatest ease, or the
more readily to go through a rough sea. The oars were about five feet
long, and bent in the shape of a crescent; which shape enabled them to
draw them edgewise through the water with little or no noise--this
noiselessness being an important quality in hunting the sea otter, which
is always caught sleeping on the rocks.

The single instrument which sufficed to build canoes and houses was the
chisel; generally being a piece of old iron obtained from some vessel
and fixed in a wooden handle. A stone mallet aided them in using the
chisel; and with this simple "kit" of tools they contrived to
manufacture plates, bowls, carved oars, and many ornamental things.

Like the men of all savage nations, they made slaves of their captives,
and their women. The dress of the latter consisted merely of a short
petticoat, manufactured from the fibre of the cedar bark, previously
soaked and prepared. This material was worked into a fringe, attached to
a girdle, and only long enough to reach the middle of the thigh. When
the season required it, they added a mantle of skins. Their bodies were
anointed with fish-oil, and sometimes painted with red ochre in
imitation of the men. For ornaments they wore strings of glass beads,
and also of a white shell found on the northern coast, called _haiqua_.
Such were the _Chinooks_, who lived upon the coast.

Farther up the river, on the eastern side of the Cascade range of
mountains, a people lived, the same, yet different from the Chinooks.
They resembled them in form, features, and manner of getting a living.
But they were more warlike and more enterprising; they even had some
notions of commerce, being traders between the coast Indians and those
to the east of them. They too were great fishermen, but used the net
instead of fishing in boats. Great scaffoldings were erected every year
at the narrows of the Columbia, known as the Dalles, where, as the
salmon passed up the river in the spring, in incredible numbers, they
were caught and dried. After drying, the fish were then pounded fine
between two stones, pressed tightly into packages or bales of about a
hundred pounds, covered with matting, and corded up for transportation.
The bales were then placed in storehouses built to receive them, where
they awaited customers.

By and by there came from the coast other Indians, with different
varieties of fish, to exchange for the salmon in the Wish-ram
warehouses. And by and by there came from the plains to the eastward,
others who had horses, camas-root, bear-grass, fur robes, and whatever
constituted the wealth of the mountains and plains, to exchange for the
rich and nutritious salmon of the Columbia. These Wish-ram Indians were
sharp traders, and usually made something by their exchanges; so that
they grew rich and insolent, and it was dangerous for the unwary
stranger to pass their way. Of all the tribes of the Columbia, they
perpetrated the most outrages upon their neighbors, the passing
traveler, and the stranger within their gates.

Still farther to the east, on the great grassy plains, watered by
beautiful streams, coming down from the mountains, lived the Cayuses,
Yakimas, Nez Perces, Wallah-Wallahs, and Flatheads; as different in
their appearance and habits as their different modes of living would
naturally make them. Instead of having many canoes, they had many
horses; and in place of drawing the fishing net, or trolling lazily
along with hook and line, or spearing fish from a canoe, they rode
pell-mell to the chase, or sallied out to battle with the hostile
Blackfeet, whose country lay between them and the good hunting-grounds,
where the great herds of buffalo were. Being Nimrods by nature, they
were dressed in complete suits of skins, instead of going naked, like
their brethren in the lower country. Being wandering and pastoral in
their habits, they lived in lodges, which could be planted every night
and raised every morning.

Their women, too, were good riders, and comfortably clad in dressed
skins, kept white with chalk. So wealthy were some of the chiefs that
they could count their fifteen hundred head of horses grazing on their
grassy uplands. Horse-racing was their delight, and betting on them
their besetting vice. For bridles they used horse-hair cords, attached
around the animal's mouth. This was sufficient to check him, and by
laying a hand on this side or that of the horse's neck, the rider could
wheel him in either direction. The simple and easy-fitting saddle was a
stuffed deer-skin, with stirrups of wood, resembling in shape those used
by the Mexicans, and covered with deer-skin sewed on wet, so as to
tighten in drying. The saddles of the women were furnished with a pair
of deer's antlers for the pommel.

In many things their customs and accoutrements resembled those of the
Mexicans, from whom, no doubt, they were borrowed. Like the Mexican,
they threw the lasso to catch the wild horse. Their horses, too, were of
Mexican stock, and many of them bore the brand of that country, having
been obtained in some of their not infrequent journeys into California
and New Mexico.

As all the wild horses of America are said to have sprung from a small
band, turned loose upon the plains by Cortez, it would be interesting to
know at what time they came to be used by the northern Indians, or
whether the horse and the Indian did not emigrate together. If the horse
came to the Indian, great must have been the change effected by the
advent of this new element in the savage's life. It is impossible to
conceive, however, that the Indian ever could have lived on these
immense plains, barren of everything but wild grass, without his horse.
With him he does well enough, for he not only "lives on horseback," by
which means he can quickly reach a country abounding in game, but he
literally lives on horse-flesh, when other game is scarce.

Curious as the fact may seem, the Indians at the mouth of the Columbia
and those of New Mexico speak languages similar in construction to that
of the Aztecs; and from this fact, and the others before mentioned, it
may be very fairly inferred that difference of circumstances and
localities have made of the different tribes what they are.

As to the Indian's moral nature, that is pretty much alike everywhere;
and with some rare exceptions, the rarest of which is, perhaps, the
Flathead and Nez Perces nations, all are cruel, thieving, and
treacherous. The Indian gospel is literally the "gospel of blood"; an
"eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." Vengeance is as much a
commandment to him as any part of the decalogue is to the Christian. But
we have digressed far from our narrative; and as it will be necessary to
refer to the subject of the moral code of savages further on in our
narrative, we leave it for the present.

After the incident of the pin and the fishes, Sublette's party kept on
to the north, coursing along up Payette's River to Payette Lake, where
he camped, and the men went out trapping. A party of four, consisting of
Meek, Antoine Godin, Louis Leaugar, and Small, proceeded to the north as
far as the Salmon river and beyond, to the head of one of its
tributaries, where the present city of Florence is located. While camped
in this region, three of the men went out one day to look for their
horses, which had strayed away, or been stolen by the Indians. During
their absence, Meek, who remained in camp, had killed a fine fat deer,
and was cooking a portion of it, when he saw a band of about a hundred
Indians approaching, and so near were they that flight was almost
certainly useless; yet as a hundred against one was very great odds, and
running away from them would not increase their number, while it gave
him something to do in his own defence, he took to his heels and ran as
only a mountain-man can run. Instead, however, of pursuing him, the
practical-minded braves set about finishing his cooking for him, and
soon had the whole deer roasting before the fire.

This procedure provoked the gastronomic ire of our trapper, and after
watching them for some time from his hiding-place, he determined to
return and share the feast. On reaching camp again, and introducing
himself to his not over-scrupulous visitors, he found they were from the
Nez Perces tribe inhabiting that region, who, having been so rude as to
devour his stock of provisions, invited him to accompany them to their
village, not a great way off, where they would make some return for his
involuntary hospitality. This he did, and there found his three comrades
and all their horses. While still visiting at the Nez Perces village,
they were joined by the remaining portion of Sublette's command, when
the whole company started south again. Passing Payette's lake to the
east, traversing the Boise Basin, going to the head-waters of that
river, thence to the Malade, thence to Godin's river, and finally to the
forks of the Salmon, where they found the main camp. Captain Bonneville,
of whose three years wanderings in the wilderness Mr. Irving has given a
full and interesting account, was encamped in the same neighborhood, and
had built there a small fort or trading-house, and finally wintered in
the neighborhood.

An exchange of men now took place, and Meek went east of the mountains
under Fitzpatrick and Bridger. When these famous leaders had first set
out for the summer hunt, after the battle of Pierre's Hole, their course
had been to the head-waters of the Missouri, to the Yellowstone lake,
and the forks of the Missouri, some of the best beaver grounds known to
them. But finding their steps dogged by the American Fur Company, and
not wishing to be made use of as pilots by their rivals, they had
flitted about for a time like an Arab camp, in the endeavor to blind
them, and finally returned to the west side of the mountains, where Meek
fell in with them.

Exasperated by the perseverance of the American Company, they had come
to the determination of leading them a march which should tire them of
the practice of keeping at their heels. They therefore planned an
expedition, from which they expected no other profit than that of
shaking off their rivals. Taking no pains to conceal their expedition,
they rather held out the bait to the American Company, who, unsuspicious
of their purpose, took it readily enough. They led them along across the
mountains, and on to the head-waters of the Missouri. Here, packing up
their traps, they tarried not for beaver, nor even tried to avoid the
Blackfeet, but pushed right ahead, into the very heart of their country,
keeping away from any part of it where beaver might be found, and going
away on beyond, to the elevated plains, quite destitute of that small
but desirable game, but followed through it by their rivals.

However justifiable on the part of trade this movement of the Rocky
Mountain Company might have been, it was a cruel device as concerned the
inexperienced leaders of the other company, one of whom lost his life in
consequence. Not knowing of their danger, they only discovered their
situation in the midst of Blackfeet, after discovering the ruse that had
been played upon them. They then halted, and being determined to find
beaver, divided their forces and set out in opposite directions for that
purpose. Unhappily, Major Vanderburg took the worst possible direction
for a small party to take, and had not traveled far when his scouts came
upon the still smoking camp-fires of a band of Indians who were
returning from a buffalo hunt. From the "signs" left behind them, the
scout judged that they had become aware of the near neighborhood of
white men, and from their having stolen off, he judged that they were
only gone for others of their nation, or to prepare for war.

But Vanderburg, with the fool-hardiness of one not "up to Blackfeet,"
determined to ascertain for himself what there was to fear; and taking
with him half a score of his followers, put himself upon their trail,
galloping hard after them, until, in his rashness, he found himself
being led through a dark and deep defile, rendered darker and gloomier
by overhanging trees. In the midst of this dismal place, just where an
ambush might have been expected, he was attacked by a horde of savages,
who rushed upon his little party with whoops and frantic gestures,
intended not only to appal the riders, but to frighten their horses, and
thus make surer their bloody butchery. It was but the work of a few
minutes to consummate their demoniac purpose. Vanderburg's horse was
shot down at once, falling on his rider, whom the Indians quickly
dispatched. One or two of the men were instantly tomahawked, and the
others wounded while making their escape to camp. The remainder of
Vanderburg's company, on learning the fate of their leader, whose place
there was no one to fill, immediately raised camp and fled with all
haste to the encampment of the Pends Oreille Indians for assistance.
Here they waited, while those Indians, a friendly tribe, made an effort
to recover the body of their unfortunate leader; but the remains were
never recovered, probably having first been fiendishly mutilated, and
then left to the wolves.

Fitzpatrick and Bridger, finding they were no longer pursued by their
rivals, as the season advanced began to retrace their steps toward the
good trapping grounds. Being used to Indian wiles and Blackfeet
maraudings and ambushes, they traveled in close columns, and never
camped or turned out their horses to feed, without the greatest caution.
Morning and evening scouts were sent out to beat up every thicket or
ravine that seemed to offer concealment to a foe, and the horizon was
searched in every direction for signs of an Indian attack. The
complete safety of the camp being settled almost beyond a peradventure,
the horses were turned loose, though never left unguarded.


It was not likely, however, that the camp should pass through the
Blackfoot country without any encounters with that nation. When it had
reached the head-waters of the Missouri, on the return march, a party of
trappers, including Meek, discovered a small band of Indians in a bend
of the lake, and thinking the opportunity for sport a good one,
commenced firing on them. The Indians, who were without guns, took to
the lake for refuge, while the trappers entertained themselves with the
rare amusement of keeping them in the water, by shooting at them
occasionally. But it chanced that these were only a few stragglers from
the main Blackfoot camp, which soon came up and put an end to the sport
by putting the trappers to flight in their turn. The trappers fled to
camp, the Indians pursuing, until the latter discovered that they had
been led almost into the large camp of the whites. This occasioned a
halt, the Blackfeet not caring to engage with superior numbers.

In the pause which ensued, one of the chiefs came out into the open
space, bearing the peace pipe, and Bridger also advanced to meet him,
but carrying his gun across the pommel of his saddle. He was accompanied
by a young Blackfoot woman, wife of a Mexican in his service, as
interpreter. The chief extended his hand in token of amity; but at that
moment Bridger saw a movement of the chiefs, which he took to mean
treachery, and cocked his rifle. But the lock had no sooner clicked than
the chief, a large and powerful man, seized the gun and turned the
muzzle downward, when the contents were discharged into the earth. With
another dexterous movement he wrested it from Bridger's hand, and
struck him with it, felling him to the ground. In an instant all was
confusion. The noise of whoops, yells, of fire-arms, and of running
hither and thither, gathered like a tempest. At the first burst of this
demoniac blast, the horse of the interpreter became frightened, and, by
a sudden movement, unhorsed her, wheeling and running back to camp. In
the melee which now ensued, the woman was carried off by the Blackfeet,
and Bridger was wounded twice in the back with arrows. A chance medley
fight now ensued, continuing until night put a period to the contest. So
well matched were the opposing forces, that each fought with caution
firing from the cover of thickets and from behind rocks, neither side
doing much execution. The loss on the part of the Blackfeet was nine
warriors, and on that of the whites, three men and six horses.

As for the young Blackfoot woman, whose people retained her a prisoner,
her lamentations and struggles to escape and return to her husband and
child so wrought upon the young Mexican, who was the pained witness of
her grief, that he took the babe in his arms, and galloped with it into
the heart of the Blackfoot camp, to place it in the arms of the
distracted mother. This daring act, which all who witnessed believed
would cause his death, so excited the admiration of the Blackfoot chief,
that he gave him permission to return, unharmed, to his own camp.
Encouraged by this clemency, Loretta begged to have his wife restored to
him, relating how he had rescued her, a prisoner, from the Crows, who
would certainly have tortured her to death. The wife added her
entreaties to his, but the chief sternly bade him depart, and as sternly
reminded the Blackfoot girl that she belonged to his tribe, and could
not go with his enemies. Loretta was therefore compelled to abandon his
wife and child, and return to camp.

It is, however, gratifying to know that so true an instance of affection
in savage life was finally rewarded; and that when the two rival fur
companies united, as they did in the following year, Loretta was
permitted to go to the American Company's fort on the Missouri, in the
Blackfoot country, where he was employed as interpreter, assisted by his
Blackfoot wife.

Such were some of the incidents that signalized this campaign in the
wilderness, where two equally persistent rivals were trying to outwit
one another. Subsequently, when several years of rivalry had somewhat
exhausted both, the Rocky Mountain and American companies consolidated,
using all their strategy thereafter against the Hudson's Bay Company,
and any new rival that chanced to enter their hunting grounds.

After the fight above described, the Blackfeet drew off in the night,
showing no disposition to try their skill next day against such
experienced Indian fighters as Bridger's brigade had shown themselves.
The company continued in the Missouri country, trapping and taking many
beaver, until it reached the Beaver Head Valley, on the head-waters of
the Jefferson fork of the Missouri. Here the lateness of the season
compelled a return to winter-quarters, and by Christmas all the
wanderers were gathered into camp at the forks of the Snake River.

1833. In the latter part of January it became necessary to move to the
junction of the Portneuf to subsist the animals. The main body of the
camp had gone on in advance, while some few, with pack horses, or women
with children, were scattered along the trail. Meek, with five others,
had been left behind to gather up some horses that had strayed. When
about a half day's journey from camp, he overtook _Umentucken_, the
Mountain Lamb, now the wife of Milton Sublette, with her child, on
horseback. The weather was terribly cold, and seeming to grow colder.
The naked plains afforded no shelter from the piercing winds, and the
air fairly glittered with frost. Poor Umentucken was freezing, but more
troubled about her babe than herself. The camp was far ahead, with all
the extra blankets, and the prospect was imminent that they would
perish. Our gallant trapper had thought himself very cold until this
moment, but what were his sufferings compared to those of the Mountain
Lamb and her little Lambkin? Without an instant's hesitation, he
divested himself of his blanket capote, which he wrapped round the
mother and child, and urged her to hasten to camp. For himself, he could
not hasten, as he had the horses in charge, but all that fearful
afternoon rode naked above the waist, exposed to the wind, and the fine,
dry, icy hail, which filled the air as with diamond needles, to pierce
the skin; and, probably, to the fact that the hail _was_ so stinging,
was owing the fact that his blood did not congeal.

"O what a day was that!" said Meek to the writer; "why, the air war
thick with fine, sharp hail, and the sun shining, too! not one sun only,
but three suns--there were _three_ suns! And when night came on, the
northern lights blazed up the sky! It was the most beautiful sight I
ever saw. That is the country for northern lights!"

When some surprise was expressed that he should have been obliged to
expose his naked skin to the weather, in order to save Umentucken--"In
the mountains," he answered, "we do not have many garments. Buckskin
breeches, a blanket capote, and a beaver skin cap makes up our rig."

"You do not need a laundress, then? But with such clothing how could you
keep free of vermin?"

"We didn't always do that. Do you want to know how we got rid of lice in
the mountains? We just took off our clothes and laid them on an
ant-hill, and you ought to see how the ants would carry off the lice!"

But to return to our hero, frozen, or nearly so. When he reached camp at
night, so desperate was his condition that the men had to roll him and
rub him in the snow for some time before allowing him to approach the
fire. But Umentucken was saved, and he became heroic in her eyes.
Whether it was the glory acquired by the gallant act just recorded, or
whether our hero had now arrived at an age when the tender passion has
strongest sway, the writer is unprepared to affirm: for your
mountain-man is shy of revealing his past gallantries; but from this
time on, there are evidences of considerable susceptibility to the
charms of the dusky beauties of the mountains and the plains.

The cold of this winter was very severe, insomuch that men and mules
were frozen to death. "The frost," says Meek, "used to hang from the
roofs of our lodges in the morning, on first waking, in skeins two feet
long, and our blankets and whiskers were white with it. But we trappers
laid still, and called the camp-keepers to make a fire, and in our close
lodges it was soon warm enough.

"The Indians suffered very much. Fuel war scarce on the Snake River, and
but little fire could be afforded--just sufficient for the children and
their mothers to get warm by, for the fire was fed only with buffalo fat
torn in strips, which blazed up quickly and did not last long. Many a
time I have stood off, looking at the fire, but not venturing to
approach, when a chief would say, 'Are you cold, my friend? come to the
fire'--so kind are these Nez Perces and Flatheads."

The cold was not the only enemy in camp that winter, but famine
threatened them. The buffalo had been early driven east of the
mountains, and other game was scarce. Sometimes a party of hunters were
absent for days, even weeks, without finding more game than would
subsist themselves. As the trappers were all hunters in the winter, it
frequently happened that Meek and one or more of his associates went on
a hunt in company, for the benefit of the camp, which was very hungry at

On one of these hunting expeditions that winter, the party consisting of
Meek, Hawkins, Doughty, and Antoine Claymore, they had been out nearly a
fortnight without killing anything of consequence, and had clambered up
the side of the mountains on the frozen snow, in hopes of finding some
mountain sheep. As they traveled along under a projecting ledge of
rocks, they came to a place where there were the impressions in the snow
of enormous grizzly bear feet. Close by was an opening in the rocks,
revealing a cavern, and to this the tracks in the snow conducted.
Evidently the creature had come out of its winter den, and made
just one circuit back again. At these signs of game the hunters
hesitated--certain it was there, but doubtful how to obtain it.

At length Doughty proposed to get up on the rocks above the mouth of the
cavern and shoot the bear as he came out, if somebody would go in and
dislodge him.

"I'm your man," answered Meek.

"And I too," said Claymore.

"I'll be ---- if we are not as brave as you are," said Hawkins, as he
prepared to follow.

On entering the cave, which was sixteen or twenty feet square, and high
enough to stand erect in, instead of one, three bears were discovered.
They were standing, the largest one in the middle, with their eyes
staring at the entrance, but quite quiet, greeting the hunters only
with a low growl. Finding that there was a bear apiece to be disposed
of, the hunters kept close to the wall, and out of the stream of light
from the entrance, while they advanced a little way, cautiously, towards
their game, which, however, seemed to take no notice of them. After
maneuvering a few minutes to get nearer, Meek finally struck the large
bear on the head with his wiping-stick, when it immediately moved off
and ran out of the cave. As it came out, Doughty shot, but only wounded
it, and it came rushing back, snorting, and running around in a circle,
till the well directed shots from all three killed it on the spot. Two
more bears now remained to be disposed of.

The successful shot put Hawkins in high spirits. He began to hallo and
laugh, dancing around, and with the others striking the next largest
bear to make him run out, which he soon did, and was shot by Doughty. By
this time their guns were reloaded, the men growing more and more
elated, and Hawkins declaring they were "all Daniels in the lions' den,
and no mistake." This, and similar expressions, he constantly
vociferated, while they drove out the third and smallest bear. As it
reached the cave's mouth, three simultaneous shots put an end to the
last one, when Hawkins' excitement knew no bounds. "Daniel was a
humbug," said he. "Daniel in the lions' den! Of course it was winter,
and the lions were sucking their paws! Tell me no more of Daniel's
exploits. We are as good Daniels as he ever dared to be. Hurrah for
these Daniels!" With these expressions, and playing many antics by way
of rejoicing, the delighted Hawkins finally danced himself out of his
"lion's den," and set to work with the others to prepare for a return to

Sleds were soon constructed out of the branches of the mountain willow,
and on these light vehicles the fortunate find of bear meat was soon
conveyed to the hungry camp in the plain below. And ever after this
singular exploit of the party, Hawkins continued to aver, in language
more strong than elegant, that the Scripture Daniel was a humbug
compared to himself, and Meek, and Claymore.


1833. In the spring the camp was visited by a party of twenty Blackfeet,
who drove off most of the horses; and among the stolen ones, Bridger's
favorite race-horse, Grohean, a Camanche steed of great speed and
endurance. To retake the horses, and if possible punish the thieves, a
company of the gamest trappers, thirty in number, including Meek, and
Kit Carson, who not long before had joined the Rocky Mountain Company,
was dispatched on their trail. They had not traveled long before they
came up with the Blackfeet, but the horses were nowhere to be seen,
having been secreted, after the manner of these thieves, in some defile
of the mountains, until the skirmish was over which they knew well
enough to anticipate. Accordingly when the trappers came up, the wily
savages were prepared for them. Their numbers were inferior to that of
the whites; accordingly they assumed an innocent and peace-desiring air,
while their head man advanced with the inevitable peace-pipe, to have a
"talk." But as their talk was a tissue of lies, the trappers soon lost
patience, and a quarrel quickly arose. The Indians betook themselves to
the defences which were selected beforehand, and a fight began, which
without giving to either party the victory of arms, ended in the killing
of two or three of the Blackfeet, and the wounding very severely of Kit
Carson. The firing ceased with nightfall; and when morning came, as
usual the Blackfeet were gone, and the trappers returned to camp without
their horses.

The lost animals were soon replaced by purchase from the Nez Perces, and
the company divided up into brigades, some destined for the country east
of the mountains, and others for the south and west. In this year Meek
rose a grade above the hired trapper, and became one of the order
denominated skin trappers. These, like the hired trappers, depend upon
the company to furnish them an outfit; but do not receive regular wages,
as do the others. They trap for themselves, only agreeing to sell their
beaver to the company which furnishes the outfit, and to no other. In
this capacity, our Joe, and a few associates, hunted this spring, in the
Snake River and Salt Lake countries; returning as usual to the annual
rendezvous, which was appointed this summer to meet on Green River. Here
were the Rocky Mountain and American Companies; the St. Louis Company,
under Capt. Wm. Sublette and his friend Campbell; the usual camp of
Indian allies; and, a few miles distant, that of Captain Bonneville. In
addition to all these, was a small company belonging to Capt. Stuart, an
Englishman of noble family, who was traveling in the far west only to
gratify his own love of wild adventure, and admiration of all that is
grand and magnificent in nature. With him was an artist named Miller,
and several servants; but he usually traveled in company with one or
another of the fur companies; thus enjoying their protection, and at the
same time gaining a knowledge of the habits of mountain life.

The rendezvous, at this time, furnished him a striking example of some
of the ways of mountain-men, least to their honorable fame; and we fear
we must confess that our friend Joe Meek, who had been gathering laurels
as a valiant hunter and trapper during the three or four years of his
apprenticeship, was also becoming fitted, by frequent practice, to
graduate in some of the vices of camp life, especially the one of
conviviality during rendezvous. Had he not given his permission, we
should not perhaps have said what he says of himself, that he was at
such times often very "powerful drunk."

During the indulgence of these excesses, while at this rendezvous, there
occurred one of those incidents of wilderness life which make the blood
creep with horror. Twelve of the men were bitten by a mad wolf, which
hung about the camp for two or three nights. Two of these were seized
with madness in camp, sometime afterwards, and ran off into the
mountains, where they perished. One was attacked by the paroxysm while
on a hunt; when, throwing himself off his horse, he struggled and foamed
at the mouth, gnashing his teeth, and barking like a wolf. Yet he
retained consciousness enough to warn away his companions, who hastened
in search of assistance; but when they returned he was nowhere to be
found. It was thought that he was seen a day or two afterwards, but no
one could come up with him, and of course, he too, perished. Another
died on his journey to St. Louis; and several died at different times
within the next two years.

At the time, however, immediately following the visit of the wolf to
camp, Captain Stuart was admonishing Meek on the folly of his ways,
telling him that the wolf might easily have bitten him, he was so drunk.

"It would have killed him,--sure, if it hadn't cured him!" said
Meek,--alluding to the belief that alcohol is a remedy for the poison of

When sobriety returned, and work was once more to be resumed, Meek
returned with three or four associates to the Salt Lake country, to trap
on the numerous streams that flow down from the mountains to the east of
Salt Lake. He had not been long in this region when he fell in on Bear
River with a company of Bonneville's men, one hundred and eighteen in
number, under Jo Walker, who had been sent to explore the Great Salt
Lake, and the adjacent country; to make charts, keep a journal, and, in
short, make a thorough discovery of all that region. Great expectations
were cherished by the Captain concerning this favorite expedition, which
were, however, utterly blighted, as his historian has recorded. The
disappointment and loss which Bonneville suffered from it, gave a tinge
of prejudice to his delineations of the trapper's character. It was true
that they did not explore Salt Lake; and that they made a long and
expensive journey, collecting but few peltries. It is true also, that
they caroused in true mountain style, while among the Californians: but
that the expedition was unprofitable was due chiefly to the difficulties
attending the exploration of a new country, a large portion of which was
desert and mountain.

But let us not anticipate. When Meek and his companions fell in with Jo
Walker and his company, they resolved to accompany the expedition; for
it was "a feather in a man's cap," and made his services doubly valuable
to have become acquainted with a new country, and fitted himself for a

On leaving Bear River, where the hunters took the precaution to lay in a
store of dried meat, the company passed down on the west side of Salt
Lake, and found themselves in the Salt Lake desert, where their store,
insufficiently large, soon became reduced to almost nothing. Here was
experienced again the sufferings to which Meek had once before been
subjected in the Digger country, which, in fact, bounded this desert on
the northwest. "There was," says Bonneville, "neither tree, nor herbage,
nor spring, nor pool, nor running stream; nothing but parched wastes of
sand, where horse and rider were in danger of perishing." Many an
emigrant has since confirmed the truth of this account.

It could not be expected that men would continue on in such a country,
in that direction which offered no change for the better. Discerning at
last a snowy range to the northwest, they traveled in that direction;
pinched with famine, and with tongues swollen out of their mouths with
thirst. They came at last to a small stream, into which both men and
animals plunged to quench their raging thirst.

The instinct of a mule on these desert journeys is something wonderful.
We have heard it related by others besides the mountain-men, that they
will detect the neighborhood of water long before their riders have
discovered a sign; and setting up a gallop, when before they could
hardly walk, will dash into the water up to their necks, drinking in the
life-saving moisture through every pore of the skin, while they
prudently refrain from swallowing much of it. If one of a company has
been off on a hunt for water, and on finding it has let his mule drink,
when he returns to camp, the other animals will gather about it, and
snuff its breath, and even its body, betraying the liveliest interest
and envy. It is easy to imagine that in the case of Jo Walker's company,
not only the animals but the men were eager to steep themselves in the
reviving waters of the first stream which they found on the border of
this weary desert.

It proved to be a tributary of Mary's or Ogden's River, along which the
company pursued their way, trapping as they went, and living upon the
flesh of the beaver. They had now entered upon the same country
inhabited by Digger Indians, in which Milton Sublette's brigade had so
nearly perished with famine the previous year. It was unexplored, and
the natives were as curious about the movements of their white visitors,
as Indians always are on the first appearance of civilized men.

They hung about the camps, offering no offences by day, but contriving
to do a great deal of thieving during the night-time. Each day, for
several days, their numbers increased, until the army which dogged the
trappers by day, and filched from them at night, numbered nearly a
thousand. They had no guns; but carried clubs, and some bows and arrows.
The trappers at length became uneasy at this accumulation of force, even
though they had no fire-arms, for was it not this very style of people,
armed with clubs, that attacked Smith's party on the Umpqua, and killed
all but four?

"We must kill a lot of them, boys," said Jo Walker. "It will never do to
let that crowd get into camp." Accordingly, as the Indians crowded round
at a ford of Mary's River, always a favorite time of attack with the
savages, Walker gave the order to fire, and the whole company poured a
volley into the jostling crowd. The effect was terrible. Seventy-five
Diggers bit the dust; while the others, seized with terror and horror at
this new and instantaneous mode of death, fled howling away, the
trappers pursuing them until satisfied that they were too much
frightened to return. This seemed to Captain Bonneville, when he came to
hear of it, like an unnecessary and ferocious act. But Bonneville was
not an experienced Indian fighter. His views of their character were
much governed by his knowledge of the Flatheads and Nez Perces; and also
by the immunity from harm he enjoyed among the Shoshonies on the Snake
River, where the Hudson's Bay Company had brought them into subjection,
and where even two men might travel in safety at the time of his
residence in that country.

Walker's company continued on down to the main or Humboldt River,
trapping as they went, both for the furs, and for something to eat; and
expecting to find that the river whose course they were following
through these barren plains, would lead them to some more important
river, or to some large lake or inland sea. This was a country entirely
unknown, even to the adventurous traders and trappers of the fur
companies, who avoided it because it was out of the buffalo range; and
because the borders of it, along which they sometimes skirted, were
found to be wanting in water-courses in which beaver might be looked
for. Walker's company therefore, now determined to prosecute their
explorations until they came to some new and profitable beaver grounds.

But after a long march through an inhospitable country they came at last
to where the Humboldt sinks itself in a great swampy lake, in the midst
of deserts of sage-brush. Here was the end of their great expectations.
To the west of them, however, and not far off, rose the lofty summits of
the Sierra Nevada range, some of whose peaks were covered with eternal
snows. Since they had already made an unprofitable business of their
expedition, and failed in its principal aim, that of exploring Salt
Lake, they resolved upon crossing the mountains into California, and
seeking new fields of adventure on the western side of the Nevada

Accordingly, although it was already late in the autumn, the party
pushed on toward the west, until they came to Pyramid Lake, another of
those swampy lakes which are frequently met with near the eastern base
of these Sierras. Into this flowed a stream similar to the Humboldt,
which came from the south, and, they believed, had its rise in the
mountains. As it was important to find a good pass, they took their
course along this stream, which they named Trucker's River, and
continued along it to its head-waters in the Sierras.

And now began the arduous labor of crossing an unknown range of lofty
mountains. Mountaineers as they were, they found it a difficult
undertaking, and one attended with considerable peril. For a period of
more than three weeks they were struggling with these dangers; hunting
paths for their mules and horses, traveling around canyons thousands of
feet deep; sometimes sinking in new fallen snow; always hungry, and
often in peril from starvation. Sometimes they scrambled up almost
smooth declivities of granite, that offered no foothold save the
occasional seams in the rock; at others they traveled through pine
forests made nearly impassable by snow; and at other times on a ridge
which wind and sun made bare for them. All around rose rocky peaks and
pinnacles fretted by ages of denudation to very spears and needles of a
burnt looking, red colored rock. Below, were spread out immense fields,
or rather oceans, of granite that seemed once to have been a molten sea,
whose waves were suddenly congealed. From the fissures between these
billows grew stunted pines, which had found a scanty soil far down in
the crevices of the rock for their hardy roots. Following the course of
any stream flowing in the right direction for their purpose, they came
not infrequently to some small fertile valley, set in amidst the rocks
like a cup, and often containing in its depth a bright little lake.
These are the oases in the mountain deserts. But the lateness of the
season made it necessary to avoid the high valleys on account of the
snow, which in winter accumulates to a depth of twenty feet.

Great was the exultation of the mountaineers when they emerged from the
toils and dangers, safe into the bright and sunny plains of California;
having explored almost the identical route since fixed upon for the
Union Pacific Railroad.

They proceeded down the Sacramento valley, toward the coast, after
recruiting their horses on the ripe wild oats, and the freshly springing
grass which the December rains had started into life, and themselves on
the plentiful game of the foot-hills. Something of the stimulus of the
Californian climate seemed to be imparted to the ever buoyant blood of
these hardy and danger-despising men. They were mad with delight on
finding themselves, after crossing the stern Sierras, in a land of
sunshine and plenty; a beautiful land of verdant hills and tawny plains;
of streams winding between rows of alder and willow, and valleys dotted
with picturesque groves of the evergreen oak. Instead of the wild blasts
which they were used to encounter in December, they experienced here
only those dainty and wooing airs which poets have ascribed to spring,
but which seldom come even with the last May days in an eastern climate.

In the San José valley they encountered a party of one hundred soldiers,
which the Spanish government at Monterey had sent out to take a party of
Indians accused of stealing cattle. The soldiers were native
Californians, descendants of the mixed blood of Spain and Mexico, a
wild, jaunty looking set of fellows, who at first were inclined to take
Walker's party for a band of cattle thieves, and to march them off to
Monterey. But the Rocky Mountain trapper was not likely to be taken
prisoner by any such brigade as the dashing _cabelleros_ of Monterey.

After astonishing them with a series of whoops and yells, and trying to
astonish them with feats of horsemanship, they began to discover that
when it came to the latter accomplishment, even mountain-men could learn
something from a native Californian. In this latter frame of mind they
consented to be conducted to Monterey as prisoners or not, just as the
Spanish government should hereafter be pleased to decree; and they had
confidence in themselves that they should be able to bend that high and
mighty authority to their own purposes thereafter.

Nor were they mistaken in their calculations. Their fearless, free and
easy style, united to their complete furnishing of arms, their numbers,
and their superior ability to stand up under the demoralizing effect of
the favorite _aguadiente_, soon so far influenced the soldiery at least,
that the trappers were allowed perfect freedom under the very eyes of
the jealous Spanish government, and were treated with all hospitality.

The month which the trappers spent at Monterey was their "red letter
day" for a long time after. The habits of the Californians accorded with
their own, with just difference enough to furnish them with novelties
and excitements such as gave a zest to their intercourse. The
Californian, and the mountain-men, were alike centaurs. Horses were
their necessity, and their delight; and the plains swarmed with them, as
also with wild cattle, descendants of those imported by the Jesuit
Fathers in the early days of the Missions. These horses and cattle were
placed at the will and pleasure of the trappers. They feasted on one,
and bestrode the other as it suited them. They attended bull-fights, ran
races, threw the lasso, and played monte, with a relish that delighted
the inhabitants of Monterey.

The partial civilization of the Californians accorded with every feeling
to which the mountain-men could be brought to confess. To them the
refinements of cities would have been oppressive. The adobe houses of
Monterey were not so restraining in their elegance as to trouble the
sensations of men used to the heavens for a roof in summer, and a skin
lodge for shelter in winter. Some fruits and vegetables, articles not
tasted for years, they obtained at the missions, where the priests
received them courteously and hospitably, as they had done Jedediah
Smith and his company, five years before, when on their long and
disastrous journey they found themselves almost destitute of the
necessaries of life, upon their arrival in California. There was
something too, in the dress of the people, both men and women, which
agreed with, while differing from, the dress of the mountaineers and
their now absent Indian dulcineas.

[Illustration: _BRANDING CATTLE._]

The men wore garments of many colors, consisting of blue velveteen
breeches and jacket, the jacket having a scarlet collar and cuffs, and
the breeches being open at the knee to display the stocking of white.
Beneath these were displayed high buskins made of deer skin, fringed
down the outside of the ankle, and laced with a cord and tassels. On the
head was worn a broad brimmed _sombrero_; and over the shoulders the
jaunty Mexican _sarape_. When they rode, the Californians wore enormous
spurs, fastened on by jingling chains. Their saddles were so shaped that
it was difficult to dislodge the rider, being high before and behind;
and the indispensable lasso hung coiled from the pommel. Their stirrups
were of wood, broad on the bottom, with a guard of leather that
protected the fancy buskin of the horseman from injury. Thus accoutred,
and mounted on a wild horse, the Californian was a suitable comrade, in
appearance, at least, for the buckskin clad trapper, with his high
beaver-skin cap, his gay scarf, and moccasins, and profusion of arms.

The dress of the women was a gown of gaudy calico or silk, and a bright
colored shawl, which served for mantilla and bonnet together. They were
well formed, with languishing eyes and soft voices; and doubtless
appeared charming in the eyes of our band of trappers, with whom they
associated freely at fandangoes, bull-fights, or bear-baitings. In such
company, what wonder that Bonneville's men lingered for a whole month!
What wonder that the California expedition was a favorite theme by
camp-fires, for a long time subsequent?

1834. In February the trappers bethought themselves of returning to the
mountains. The route fixed upon was one which should take them through
Southern California, and New Mexico, along the course of all the
principal rivers. Crossing the coast mountains, into the valley of the
San Joaquin, they followed its windings until they came to its rise in
the Lulare Lake. Thence turning in a southeasterly course, they came to
the Colorado, at the Mohave villages, where they traded with the
natives, whom they found friendly. Keeping on down the Colorado, to the
mouth of the Gila, they turned back from that river, and ascended the
Colorado once more, to Williams' Fork, and up the latter stream to some
distance, when they fell in with a company of sixty men under Frapp and
Jervais, two of the partners in the Rocky Mountain Company. The meeting
was joyful on all sides; but particularly so between Meek and some of
his old comrades, with whom he had fought Indians and grizzly bears, or
set beaver traps on some lonely stream in the Blackfoot country. A
lively exchange of questions and answers took place, while gaiety and
good feeling reigned.

Frapp had been out quite as long as the Monterey party. It was seldom
that the brigade which traversed the southern country, on the Colorado,
and its large tributaries, returned to winter quarters; for in the
region where they trapped winter was unknown, and the journey to the
northern country a long and hazardous one. But the reunited trappers had
each their own experiences to relate.

The two companies united made a party nearly two hundred strong. Keeping
with Frapp, they crossed over from Williams' Fork to the Colorado
Chiquito river, at the Moquis village, where some of the men disgraced
themselves far more than did Jo Walker's party at the crossing of Mary's
River. For the Moquis were a half-civilized nation, who had houses and
gardens, and conducted themselves kindly, or at the worst peaceably,
toward properly behaved strangers. These trappers, instead of
approaching them with offers of purchase, lawlessly entered their
gardens, rifling them of whatever fruit or melons were ripe, and not
hesitating to destroy that which was not ripe. To this, as might be
expected, the Moquises objected; and were shot down for so doing. In
this truly infamous affair fifteen or twenty of them were killed.

"I didn't belong to that crowd," says Joe Meek, "I sat on the fence and
saw it, though. It was a shameful thing."

From the Moquis village, the joint companies crossed the country in a
northeasterly direction, crossing several branches of the Colorado at
their head-waters, which course finally brought them to the head-waters
of the Rio Grande. The journey from the mouth of the Gila, though long,
extended over a country comparatively safe. Either farther to the south
or east, the caravan would have been in danger of a raid from the most
dangerous tribes on the continent.


1834. But Joe Meek was not destined to return to the Rocky Mountains
without having had an Indian fight. If adventures did not come in his
way he was the man to put himself in the way of adventures.

While the camp was on its way from the neighborhood of Grande River to
the New Park, Meek, Kit Carson, and Mitchell, with three Delaware
Indians, named Tom Hill, Manhead, and Jonas, went on a hunt across to
the east of Grande River, in the country lying between the Arkansas and
Cimarron, where numerous small branches of these rivers head together,
or within a small extent of country.

They were about one hundred and fifty miles from camp, and traveling
across the open plain between the streams, one beautiful May morning,
when about five miles off they descried a large band of Indians mounted,
and galloping toward them. As they were in the Camanche country, they
knew what to expect if they allowed themselves to be taken prisoners.
They gave but a moment to the observation of their foes, but that one
moment revealed a spirited scene. Fully two hundred Camanches, their
warriors in front, large and well formed men, mounted on fleet and
powerful horses, armed with spears and battle axes, racing like the wind
over the prairie, their feather head-dresses bending to the breeze, that
swept past them in the race with double force; all distinctly seen in
the clear air of the prairie, and giving the beholder a thrill of
fear mingled with admiration.

[Illustration: _THE MULE FORT._]

The first moment given to this spectacle, the second one was employed to
devise some means of escape. To run was useless. The swift Camanche
steeds would soon overtake them; and then their horrible doom was fixed.
No covert was at hand, neither thicket nor ravine, as in the mountains
there might have been. Carson and Meek exchanged two or three sentences.
At last, "we must kill our mules!" said they.

That seems a strange devise to the uninitiated reader, who no doubt
believes that in such a case their mules must be their salvation. And so
they were intended to be. In this plight a dead mule was far more useful
than a live one. To the ground sprang every man; and placing their
mules, seven in number, in a ring, they in an instant cut their throats
with their hunting knives, and held on to the bridles until each animal
fell dead in its appointed place. Then hastily scooping up what earth
they could with knives, they made themselves a fort--a hole to stand in
for each man, and a dead mule for a breastwork.

In less than half an hour the Camanches charged on them; the
medicine-man in advance shouting, gesticulating, and making a desperate
clatter with a rattle which he carried and shook violently. The yelling,
the whooping, the rattling, the force of the charge were appalling. But
the little garrison in the mule fort did not waver. The Camanche horses
did. They could not be made to charge upon the bloody carcasses of the
mules, nor near enough for their riders to throw a spear into the fort.

This was what the trappers had relied upon. They were cool and
determined, while terribly excited and wrought up by their situation. It
was agreed that no more than three should fire at a time, the other
three reserving their fire while the empty guns could be reloaded. They
were to pick their men, and kill one at every shot.

They acted up to their regulations. At the charge the Camanche horses
recoiled and could not be urged upon the fort of slaughtered mules. The
three whites fired first, and the medicine-man and two other Camanches
fell. When a medicine-man is killed, the others retire to hold a council
and appoint another, for without their "medicine" they could not expect
success in battle. This was time gained. The warriors retired, while
their women came up and carried off the dead.

After devoting a little time to bewailing the departed, another chief
was appointed to the head place, and another furious charge was made
with the same results as before. Three more warriors bit the dust; while
the spears of their brethren, attached to long hair ropes by which they
could be withdrawn, fell short of reaching the men in the fort. Again
and again the Camanches made a fruitless charge, losing, as often as
they repeated it, three warriors, either dead or wounded. Three times
that day the head chief or medicine-man was killed; and when that
happened, the heroes in the fort got a little time to breathe. While the
warriors held a council, the women took care of the wounded and slain.

As the women approached the fort to carry off the fallen warriors, they
mocked and reviled the little band of trappers, calling them "women,"
for fighting in a fort, and resorting to the usual Indian ridicule and
gasconade. Occasionally, also, a warrior raced at full speed past the
fort apparently to take observations. Thus the battle continued through
the entire day.

It was terrible work for the trappers. The burning sun of the plains
shone on them, scorching them to faintness. Their faces were begrimed
with powder and dust; their throats parched, and tongues swollen with
thirst, and their whole frames aching from their cramped positions, as
well as the excitement and fatigue of the battle. But they dared not
relax their vigilance for a moment. They were fighting for their lives,
and they meant to win.

At length the sun set on that bloody and wearisome day. Forty-two
Camanches were killed, and several more wounded, for the charge had been
repeated fifteen or twenty times. The Indians drew off at nightfall to
mourn over their dead, and hold a council. Probably they had lost faith
in their medicines, or believed that the trappers possessed one far
greater than any of theirs. Under the friendly cover of the night, the
six heroes who had fought successfully more than a hundred Camanches,
took each his blanket and his gun, and bidding a brief adieu to dead
mules and beaver packs, set out to return to camp.

When a mountain-man had a journey to perform on foot, to travel express,
or to escape from an enemy, he fell into what is called a dog trot, and
ran in that manner, sometimes, all day. On the present occasion, the
six, escaping for life, ran all night, and found no water for
seventy-five mile. When they did at last come to a clear running stream,
their thankfulness was equal to their necessity, "for," says Meek,
"thirst is the greatest suffering I ever experienced. It is far worse
than hunger or pain."

Having rested and refreshed themselves at the stream, they kept on
without much delay until they reached camp in that beautiful valley of
the Rocky Mountains called the New, or the South Park.

While they remained in the South Park, Mr. Guthrie, one of the Rocky
Mountain Company's traders, was killed by lightning. A number of persons
were collected in the lodge of the Booshway, Frapp, to avoid the rising
tempest, when Guthrie, who was leaning against the lodge pole, was
struck by a flash of the electric current, and fell dead instantly.
Frapp rushed out of the lodge, partly bewildered himself by the shock,
and under the impression that Guthrie had been shot. Frapp was a German,
and spoke English somewhat imperfectly. In the excitement of the moment
he shouted out, "By ----, who did shoot Guttery!"

"-- a'----, I expect: He's a firing into camp;" drawled out Hawkins,
whose ready wit was very disregardful of sacred names and subjects.

The mountaineers were familiar with the most awful aspects of nature;
and if their familiarity had not bred contempt, it had at least hardened
them to those solemn impressions which other men would have felt under
their influence.

From New Park, Meek traveled north with the main camp, passing first to
the Old Park; thence to the Little Snake, a branch of Bear River; thence
to Pilot Butte; and finally to Green River to rendezvous; having
traveled in the past year about three thousand miles, on horseback,
through new and often dangerous countries. It is easy to believe that
the Monterey expedition was the popular theme in camp during rendezvous.
It had been difficult to get volunteers for Bonneville's Salt Lake
Exploration: but such was the wild adventure to which it led, that
volunteering for a trip to Monterey would have been exceedingly popular
immediately thereafter.

On Bear River, Bonneville's men fell in with their commander, Captain
Bonneville, whose disappointment and indignation at the failure of his
plans was exceedingly great. In this indignation there was considerable
justice; yet much of his disappointment was owing to causes which a more
experienced trader would have avoided. The only conclusion which can be
arrived at by an impartial observer of the events of 1832-35, is, that
none but certain men of long experience and liberal means, could succeed
in the business of the fur-trade. There were too many chances of loss;
too many wild elements to be mingled in amity; and too powerful
opposition from the old established companies. Captain Bonneville's
experience was no different from Mr. Wyeth's. In both cases there was
much effort, outlay, and loss. Nor was their failure owing to any action
of the Hudson's Bay Company, different from, or more tyrannical, than
the action of the American companies, as has frequently been
represented. It was the American companies in the Rocky Mountains that
drove both Bonneville and Wyeth out of the field. Their inexperience
could not cope with the thorough knowledge of the business, and the
country, which their older rivals possessed. Raw recruits were no match,
in trapping or fighting, for old mountaineers: and those veterans who
had served long under certain leaders could not be inveigled from their
service except upon the most extravagant offers; and these extravagant
wages, which if one paid, the other must, would not allow a profit to
either of the rivals.

"How much does your company pay you?" asked Bonneville of Meek, to whom
he was complaining of the conduct of his men on the Monterey expedition.

"Fifteen hundred dollars," answered Meek.

"Yes: and _I_ will give it to you," said Bonneville with bitterness.

It was quite true. Such was the competition aroused by the Captain's
efforts to secure good men and pilots, that rather than lose them to a
rival company, the Rocky Mountain Company paid a few of their best men
the wages above named.


1834. The gossip at rendezvous was this year of an unusually exciting
character. Of the brigades which left for different parts of the country
the previous summer, the Monterey travelers were not the only ones who
had met with adventures. Fitzpatrick, who had led a party into the Crow
country that autumn, had met with a characteristic reception from that
nation of cunning vagabonds.

Being with his party on Lougue River, in the early part of September, he
discovered that he was being dogged by a considerable band of Crows, and
endeavored to elude their spying; but all to no purpose. The Crow chief
kept in his neighborhood, and finally expressed a desire to bring his
camp alongside that of Fitzpatrick, pretending to the most friendly and
honorable sentiments toward his white neighbors. But not feeling any
confidence in Crow friendship, Fitzpatrick declined, and moved camp a
few miles away. Not, however, wishing to offend the dignity of the
apparently friendly chief, he took a small escort, and went to pay a
visit to his Crow neighbors, that they might see that he was not afraid
to trust them. Alas, vain subterfuge!

While he was exchanging civilities with the Crow chief, a party of the
young braves stole out of camp, and taking advantage of the leader's
absence, made an attack on his camp, so sudden and successful that not a
horse, nor anything else which they could make booty of was left. Even
Captain Stuart, who was traveling with Fitzpatrick, and who was an
active officer, was powerless to resist the attack, and had to consent
to see the camp rifled of everything valuable.

In the meantime Fitzpatrick, after concluding his visit in the most
amicable manner, was returning to camp, when he was met by the exultant
braves, who added insult to injury by robbing him of his horse, gun, and
nearly all his clothes, leaving him to return to his party in a
deplorable condition, to the great amusement of the trappers, and his
own chagrin.

However, the next day a talk was held with the head chief of the Crows,
to whom Fitzpatrick represented the infamy of such treacherous conduct
in a very strong light. In answer to this reproof, the chief disowned
all knowledge of the affair; saying that he could not always control the
conduct of the young men, who would be a little wild now and then, in
spite of the best Crow precepts: but that he would do what he could to
have the property restored. Accordingly, after more talk, and much
eloquence on the part of Fitzpatrick, the chief part of the plunder was
returned to him, including the horses and rifles of the men, together
with a little ammunition, and a few beaver traps.

Fitzpatrick understood the meaning of this apparent fairness, and
hastened to get out of the Crow country before another raid by the
mischievous young braves, at a time when their chief was not "honor
bound," should deprive him of the recovered property. That his
conjecture was well founded, was proven by the numerous petty thefts
which were committed, and by the loss of several horses and mules,
before he could remove them beyond the limits of the Crow territory.

While the trappers exchanged accounts of their individual experiences,
the leaders had more important matters to gossip over. The rivalry
between the several fur companies was now at its climax. Through the
energy and ability of Captain Sublette of the St. Louis Company, and the
experience and industry of the Rocky Mountain Company, which Captain
Sublette still continued to control in a measure, the power still
remained with them. The American Company had never been able to cope
with them in the Rocky Mountains; and the St. Louis Company were already
invading their territory on the Missouri River, by carrying goods up
that river in boats, to trade with the Indians under the very walls of
the American Company's forts.

In August of the previous year, when Mr. Nathaniel Wyeth had started on
his return to the states, he was accompanied as far as the mouth of the
Yellowstone by Milton Sublette; and had engaged with that gentleman to
furnish him with goods the following year, as he believed he could do,
cheaper than the St. Louis Company, who purchased their goods in St.
Louis at a great advance on Boston prices. But Milton Sublette fell in
with his brother the Captain, at the mouth of the Yellowstone, with a
keel-boat loaded with merchandise; and while Wyeth pursued his way
eastward to purchase the Indian goods which were intended to supply the
wants of the fur-traders in the Rocky Mountains, at a profit to him, and
an advantage to them, the Captain was persuading his brother not to
encourage any interlopers in the Indian trade; but to continue to buy
goods from himself, as formerly. So potent were his arguments, that
Milton yielded to them, in spite of his engagement with Wyeth. Thus
during the autumn of 1833, while Bonneville was being wronged and
robbed, as he afterwards became convinced, by his men under Walker, and
anticipated in the hunting-ground selected for himself, in the Crow
country, by Fitzpatrick, as he had previously been in the Snake country
by Milton Sublette, Wyeth was proceeding to Boston in good faith, to
execute what proved to be a fool's errand. Bonneville also had gone on
another, when after the trapping season was over he left his camp to
winter on the Snake River, and started with a small escort to visit the
Columbia, and select a spot for a trading-post on the lower portion of
that river. On arriving at Wallah-Wallah, after a hard journey over the
Blue Mountains in the winter, the agent at that post had refused to
supply him with provisions to prosecute his journey, and given him to
understand that the Hudson's Bay Company might be polite and hospitable
to Captain Bonneville as the gentleman, but that it was against their
regulations to encourage the advent of other traders who would interfere
with their business, and unsettle the minds of the Indians in that

This reply so annoyed the Captain, that he refused the well meant advice
of Mr. Pambrun that he should not undertake to recross the Blue
Mountains in March snows, but travel under the escort of Mr. Payette,
one of the Hudson's Bay Company's leaders, who was about starting for
the Nez Perce country by a safer if more circuitous route. He therefore
set out to return by the route he came, and only arrived at camp in May,
1834, after many dangers and difficulties. From the Portneuf River, he
then proceeded with his camp to explore the Little Snake River, and
Snake Lake; and it was while so doing that he fell in with his men just
returned from Monterey.

Such was the relative position of the several fur companies in the Rocky
Mountains in 1834; and it was of such matters that the leaders talked in
the lodge of the Booshways, at rendezvous. In the meantime Wyeth
arrived in the mountains with his goods, as he had contracted with
Milton Sublette in the previous year. But on his heels came Captain
Sublette, also with goods, and the Rocky Mountain Company violated their
contract with Wyeth, and purchased of their old leader.

Thus was Wyeth left, with his goods on his hands, in a country where it
was impossible to sell them, and useless to undertake an opposition to
the already established fur-traders and trappers. His indignation was
great, and certainly was just. In his interview with the Rocky Mountain
Company, in reply to their excuses for, and vindication of their
conduct, his answer was:

"Gentlemen, I will roll a stone into your garden that you will never be
able to get out."

And he kept his promise; for that same autumn he moved on to the Snake
River, and built Fort Hall, storing his goods therein. The next year he
sold out goods and fort to the Hudson's Bay Company; and the stone was
in the garden of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company that they were never
able to dislodge. When Wyeth had built his fort and left it in charge of
an agent, he dispatched a party of trappers to hunt in the Big Blackfoot
country, under Joseph Gale, who had previously been in the service of
the Rocky Mountain Company, and of whom we shall learn more hereafter,
while he set out for the Columbia to meet his vessel, and establish a
salmon fishery. The fate of that enterprise has already been recorded.

As for Bonneville, he made one more effort to reach the lower Columbia;
failing, however, a second time, for the same reason as before--he could
not subsist himself and company in a country where even every Indian
refused to sell to him either furs or provisions. After being reduced to
horse-flesh, and finding no encouragement that his condition would be
improved farther down the river, he turned back once more from about
Wallah-Wallah, and returned to the mountains, and from there to the east
in the following year. A company of his trappers, however, continued to
hunt for him east of the mountains for two or three years longer.

The rivalry between the Rocky Mountain and American Companies was this
year diminished by their mutually agreeing to confine themselves to
certain parts of the country, which treaty continued for two years, when
they united in one company. They were then, with the exception of a few
lone traders, the only competitors of the Hudson's Bay Company, for the
fur-trade of the West.

[Illustration: VIEW ON THE COLUMBIA.]


1834. The Rocky Mountain Company now confined themselves to the country
lying east of the mountains, and upon the head-waters and tributaries of
the Missouri, a country very productive in furs, and furnishing
abundance of game. But it was also the most dangerous of all the
northern fur-hunting territory, as it was the home of those two nations
of desperadoes, the Crows and Blackfeet. During the two years in which
the company may have been said almost to reside there, desperate
encounters and hair-breadth escapes were incidents of daily occurrence
to some of the numerous trapping parties.

The camp had reached the Blackfoot country in the autumn of this year,
and the trappers were out in all directions, hunting beaver in the
numerous small streams that flow into the Missouri. On a small branch of
the Gallatin Fork, some of the trappers fell in with a party of Wyeth's
men, under Joseph Gale. When their neighborhood became known to the
Rocky Mountain camp, Meek and a party of sixteen of his associates
immediately resolved to pay them a visit, and inquire into their
experience since leaving rendezvous. These visits between different
camps are usually seasons of great interest and general rejoicing. But
glad as Gale and his men were to meet with old friends, when the first
burst of hearty greeting was over, they had but a sorry experience to
relate. They had been out a long time. The Blackfeet had used them
badly--several men had been killed. Their guns were out of order, their
ammunition all but exhausted; they were destitute, or nearly so, of
traps, blankets, knives, everything. They were what the Indian and the
mountain-man call "very poor."

Half the night was spent in recounting all that had passed in both
companies since the fall hunt began. Little sympathy did Wyeth's men
receive for their forlorn condition, for sympathy is repudiated by your
true mountaineer for himself, nor will he furnish it to others. The
absurd and humorous, or the daring and reckless, side of a story is the
only one which is dwelt upon in narrating his adventures. The laugh
which is raised at his expense when he has a tale of woes to
communicate, is a better tonic to his dejected spirits than the gentlest
pity would be. Thus lashed into courage again, he is ready to declare
that all his troubles were only so much pastime.

It was this sort of cheer which the trapping party conveyed to Wyeth's
men on this visit, and it was gratefully received, as being of the true

In the morning the party set out to return to camp, Meek and Liggit
starting in advance of the others. They had not proceeded far when they
were fired on by a large band of Blackfeet, who came upon them quite
suddenly, and thinking these two trappers easy game, set up a yell and
dashed at them. As Meek and Liggit turned back and ran to Gale's camp,
the Indians in full chase charged on them, and rushed pell-mell into the
midst of camp, almost before they had time to discover that they had
surprised so large a party of whites. So sudden was their advent, that
they had almost taken the camp before the whites could recover from the
confusion of the charge.

It was but a momentary shock, however. In another instant the roar of
twenty guns reverberated from the mountains that rose high on either
side of camp. The Blackfeet were taken in a snare; but they rallied and
fell back beyond the grove in which the camp was situated, setting on
fire the dry grass as they went. The fire quickly spread to the grove,
and shot up the pine trees in splendid columns of flame, that seemed to
lick the face of heaven. The Indians kept close behind the fire,
shooting into camp whenever they could approach near enough, the
trappers replying by frequent volleys. The yells of the savages, the
noise of the flames roaring in the trees, the bellowing of the guns,
whose echoes rolled among the hills, and the excitement of a battle for
life, made the scene one long to be remembered with distinctness.

Both sides fought with desperation. The Blackfoot blood was up--the
trapper blood no less. Gale's men, from having no ammunition, nor guns
that were in order, could do little more than take charge of the horses,
which they led out into the bottom land to escape the fire, fight the
flames, and look after the camp goods. The few whose guns were
available, showed the game spirit, and the fight became interesting as
an exhibition of what mountain white men could do in a contest of one to
ten, with the crack warriors of the red race. It was, at any time, a
game party, consisting of Meek, Carson, Hawkins, Gale, Liggit, Rider,
Robinson, Anderson, Russel, Larison, Ward, Parmaley, Wade, Michael Head,
and a few others whose names have been forgotten.

The trappers being driven out of the grove by the fire, were forced to
take to the open ground. The Indians, following the fire, had the
advantage of the shelter afforded by the trees, and their shots made
havoc among the horses, most of which were killed because they could not
be taken. As for the trappers, they used the horses for defence, making
rifle-pits behind them, when no other covert could be found. In this
manner the battle was sustained until three o'clock in the afternoon,
without loss of life to the whites, though several men were wounded.

At three in the afternoon, the Blackfoot chief ordered a retreat,
calling out to the trappers that they would fight no more. Though their
loss had been heavy, they still greatly outnumbered the whites; nor
would the condition of the arms and the small amount of ammunition left
permit the trappers to pursue them. The Indians were severely beaten,
and no longer in a condition to fight, all of which was highly
satisfactory to the victors. The only regret was, that Bridger's camp,
which had become aware during the day that a battle was going on in the
neighborhood, did not arrive early enough to exterminate the whole band.
As it was, the big camp only came up in time to assist in taking care of
the wounded. The destruction of their horses put an end to the
independent existence of Gale's brigade, which joined itself and its
fortunes to Bridger's command for the remainder of the year. Had it not
been for the fortunate visit of the trappers to Gale's camp, without
doubt every man in it would have perished at the hands of the Blackfeet:
a piece of bad fortune not unaccordant with that which seemed to pursue
the enterprises set on foot by the active but unlucky New England

Not long after this battle with the Blackfeet, Meek and a trapper named
Crow, with two Shawnees, went over into the Crow Country to trap on
Pryor's River, a branch of the Yellowstone. On coming to the pass in the
mountains between the Gallatin Fork of the Missouri and the great bend
in the Yellowstone, called Pryor's Gap, Meek rode forward, with the
mad-cap spirit strong in him, to "have a little fun with the boys," and
advancing a short distance into the pass, wheeled suddenly, and came
racing back, whooping and yelling, to make his comrades think he had
discovered Indians. And lo! as if his yells had invoked them from the
rocks and trees, a war party suddenly emerged from the pass, on the
heels of the jester, and what had been sport speedily became earnest, as
the trappers turned their horses' heads and made off in the direction of
camp. They had a fine race of it, and heard other yells and war-whoops
besides their own; but they contrived to elude their pursuers, returning
safe to camp.

This freak of Meek's was, after all, a fortunate inspiration, for had
the four trappers entered the pass and come upon the war party of Crows,
they would never have escaped alive.

A few days after, the same party set out again, and succeeded in
reaching Pryor's River unmolested, and setting their traps. They
remained some time in this neighborhood trapping, but the season had
become pretty well advanced, and they were thinking of returning to camp
for the winter. The Shawnees set out in one direction to take up their
traps, Meek and Crow in another. The stream where their traps were set
was bordered by thickets of willow, wild cherry, and plum trees, and the
bank was about ten feet above the water at this season of the year.

Meek had his traps set in the stream about midway between two thickets.
As he approached the river he observed with the quick eye of an
experienced mountain-man, certain signs which gave him little
satisfaction. The buffalo were moving off as if disturbed; a bear ran
suddenly out of its covert among the willows.

"I told Crow," said Meek, "that I didn't like to go in there. He laughed
at me, and called me a coward. 'All the same,' I said; I had no fancy
for the place just then--I didn't like the indications. But he kept
jeering me, and at last I got mad and started in. Just as I got to my
traps, I discovered that two red devils war a watching me from the
shelter of the thicket to my left, about two rods off. When they saw
that they war discovered they raised their guns and fired. I turned my
horse's head at the same instant, and one ball passed through his neck,
under the neck bone, and the other through his withers, just forward of
my saddle.

"Seeing that they had not hit me, one of them ran up with a spear to
spear me. My horse war rearing and pitching from the pain of his wounds,
so that I could with difficulty govern him; but I had my gun laid across
my arm, and when I fired I killed the rascal with the spear. Up to that
moment I had supposed that them two war all I had to deal with. But as I
got my horse turned round, with my arm raised to fire at the other red
devil, I encountered the main party, forty-nine of them, who war in the
bed of the stream, and had been covered by the bank. They fired a volley
at me. Eleven balls passed through my blanket, under my arm, which war
raised. I thought it time to run, and run I did. Crow war about two
hundred yards off. So quick had all this happened, that he had not
stirred from the spot whar I left him. When I came up to him I called
out that I must get on behind him, for my horse war sick and staggering.

"'Try him again,' said Crow, who war as anxious to be off as I war. I
did try him agin, and sure enough, he got up a gallop, and away we went,
the Blackfeet after us. But being mounted, we had the advantage, and
soon distanced them. Before we had run a mile, I had to dismount and
breathe my horse. We war in a narrow pass whar it war impossible to
hide, so when the Indians came up with us, as they did, while I war
dismounted we took sure aim and killed the two foremost ones. Before the
others could get close enough to fire we war off agin. It didn't take
much urging to make my horse go then, for the yells of them Blackfeet
spurred him on.

"When we had run another mile I dismounted agin, for fear that my horse
would give out, and agin we war overtaken. Them Blackfeet are powerful
runners:--no better than us mountain-men, though. This time we served
them just as we did before. We picked off two of the foremost, and then
went on, the rest whooping after us. We war overtaken a third time in
the same manner; and the third time two Blackfeet fell dead in advance.
At this, they took the hint. Six warriors already gone for two white
scalps and two horses; they didn't know how many more would go in the
same way. And I reckon they had run about all they wanted to, anyway."

It is only necessary to add that Meek and Crow arrived safely at camp;
and that the Shawnees came in after a day or two all right. Soon after
the whole command under Bridger moved on to the Yellowstone, and went
into winter camp in the great bend of that river, where buffalo were
plenty, and cotton-wood was in abundance.

1835. Towards spring, however, the game had nearly all disappeared from
the neighborhood of the camp; and the hunters were forced to follow the
buffalo in their migration eastward. On one of these expeditions a party
of six trappers, including Meek, and a man named Rose, made their camp
on Clarke's fork of the Yellowstone. The first night in camp Rose had a
dream with which he was very much impressed. He dreamed of shaking hands
with a large white bear, which insisted on taking his right hand for
that friendly ceremony. He had not given it very willingly, for he knew
too much about bears in general to desire to be on very intimate terms
with them.

Seeing that the dream troubled Rose, who was superstitiously inclined,
Meek resorted to that "certain medicine for minds diseased" which was
in use in the mountains, and added to the distress of Rose his
interpretation, in the spirit of ridicule, telling him that he was an
adept in the matter of dreams, and that unless he, Rose, was very
mindful of himself that day, he would shake hands with Beelzebub before
he slept again.

With this comforting assurance, Rose set out with the remainder of the
party to hunt buffalo. They had proceeded about three miles from camp,
Rose riding in advance, when they suddenly encountered a company of
Blackfeet, nine in number, spies from a war party of one hundred and
fifty, that was prowling and marauding through the country on the
lookout for small parties from the camp of Bridger. The Blackfeet fired
on the party as it came up, from their place of concealment, a ball
striking Rose's right arm, and breaking it at the elbow. This caused his
gun to fall, and an Indian sprang forward and raised it up quickly,
aiming it at Meek. The ball passed through his cap without doing any
other harm. By this time the trappers were made aware of an ambuscade;
but how numerous the enemy was they could not determine. However, as the
rest, who were well-mounted, turned to fly, Meek, who was riding an old
mule that had to be beaten over the head to make it go, seeing that he
was going to be left behind, called out lustily, "hold on, boys! There's
not many of them. Let's stop and fight 'em;" at the same time pounding
the mule over the head, but without effect. The Indians saw the
predicament, and ran up to seize the mule by the bridle, but the moment
the mule got wind of the savages, away he went, racing like a
thoroughbred, jumping impediments, and running right over a ravine,
which was fortunately filled with snow. This movement brought Meek out

The other men then began to call out to Meek to stop and fight. "Run
for your lives, boys," roared Meek back at them, "there's ten thousand
of them; they'll kill every one of you!"

The mule had got his head, and there was no more stopping him than there
had been starting him. On he went in the direction of the Yellowstone,
while the others made for Clarke's Fork. On arriving at the former
river, Meek found that some of the pack horses had followed him, and
others the rest of the party. This had divided the Indians, three or
four of whom were on his trail. Springing off his mule, he threw his
blankets down on the ice, and by moving them alternately soon crossed
the mule over to the opposite side, just in time to avoid a bullet that
came whistling after him. As the Indians could not follow, he pursued
his way to camp in safety, arriving late that evening. The main party
were already in and expecting him. Soon after, the buffalo hunters
returned to the big camp, minus some pack horses, but with a good story
to tell, at the expense of Meek, and which he enjoys telling of himself
to this day.


1835. Owing to the high rate of pay which Meek was now able to command,
he began to think of imitating the example of that distinguished order,
the free trappers, to which he now belonged, and setting up a lodge to
himself as a family man. The writer of this veracious history has never
been able to obtain a full and particular account of our hero's earliest
love adventures. This is a subject on which, in common with most
mountain-men, he observes a becoming reticence. But of one thing we feel
quite well assured: that from the time when the young Shoshonie beauty
assisted in the rescue of himself and Sublette from the execution of the
death sentence at the hands of her people, Meek had always cherished a
rather more than friendly regard for the "Mountain Lamb."


But Sublette, with wealth and power, and the privileges of a Booshway,
had hastened to secure her for himself; and Meek had to look and long
from afar off, until, in the year of which we are writing, Milton
Sublette was forced to leave the mountains and repair to an eastern city
for surgical aid; having received a very troublesome wound in the leg,
which was only cured at last by amputation.

Whether it was the act of a gay Lothario, or whether the law of divorce
is even more easy in the mountains than in Indiana, we have always
judiciously refrained from inquiring; but this we do know, upon the word
of Meek himself, no sooner was Milton's back turned, than his friend so
insinuated himself into the good graces of his _Isabel_, as Sublette was
wont to name the lovely Umentucken, that she consented to join her
fortunes to those of the handsome young trapper without even the
ceremony of serving a notice on her former lord. As their season of
bliss only extended over one brief year, this chapter shall be entirely
devoted to recording such facts as have been imparted to us concerning
this free trapper's wife.

"She was the most beautiful Indian woman I ever saw," says Meek: "and
when she was mounted on her dapple gray horse, which cost me three
hundred dollars, she made a fine show. She wore a skirt of beautiful
blue broadcloth, and a bodice and leggins of scarlet cloth, of the very
finest make. Her hair was braided and fell over her shoulders, a scarlet
silk handkerchief, tied on hood fashion, covered her head; and the
finest embroidered moccasins her feet. She rode like all the Indian
women, astride, and carried on one side of the saddle the tomahawk for
war, and on the other the pipe of peace.

"The name of her horse was "All Fours." His accoutrements were as fine
as his rider's. The saddle, crupper, and bust girths cost one hundred
and fifty dollars; the bridle fifty dollars; and the musk-a-moots fifty
dollars more. All these articles were ornamented with fine cut glass
beads, porcupine quills, and hawk's bells, that tinkled at every step.
Her blankets were of scarlet and blue, and of the finest quality. Such
was the outfit of the trapper's wife, _Umentucken, Tukutey Undenwatsy_,
the Lamb of the Mountains."

Although Umentucken was beautiful, and had a name signifying gentleness,
she was not without a will and a spirit of her own, when the occasion
demanded it. While the camp was on the Yellowstone River, in the summer
of 1835, a party of women left it to go in search of berries, which were
often dried and stored for winter use by the Indian women. Umentucken
accompanied this party, which was attacked by a band of Blackfeet, some
of the squaws being taken prisoners. But Umentucken saved herself by
flight, and by swimming the Yellowstone while a hundred guns were
leveled on her, the bullets whistling about her ears.

At another time she distinguished herself in camp by a quarrel with one
of the trappers, in which she came off with flying colors. The trapper
was a big, bullying Irishman named O'Fallen, who had purchased two
prisoners from the Snake Indians, to be kept in a state of slavery,
after the manner of the savages. The prisoners were Utes, or Utahs, who
soon contrived to escape. O'Fallen, imagining that Umentucken had
liberated them, threatened to whip her, and armed himself with a
horsewhip for that purpose. On hearing of these threats Umentucken
repaired to her lodge, and also armed herself, but with a pistol. When
O'Fallen approached, the whole camp looking on to see the event,
Umentucken slipped out at the back of the lodge and coming around
confronted him before he could enter.

"Coward!" she cried. "You would whip the wife of Meek. He is not here to
defend me; not here to kill you. But I shall do that for myself," and
with that she presented the pistol to his head. O'Fallen taken by
surprise, and having every reason to believe she would keep her word,
and kill him on the spot, was obliged not only to apologize, but to beg
to have his life spared. This Umentucken consented to do on condition of
his sufficiently humbling himself, which he did in a very shame-faced
manner; and a shout then went up from the whole camp--"hurrah for the
Mountain Lamb!" for nothing more delights a mountaineer than a show of
pluck, especially in an unlooked for quarter.

The Indian wives of the trappers were often in great peril, as well as
their lords. Whenever it was convenient they followed them on their long
marches through dangerous countries. But if the trapper was only going
out for a few days, or if the march before him was more than usually
dangerous, the wife remained with the main camp.

During this year of which we are writing, a considerable party had been
out on Powder River hunting buffalo, taking their wives along with them.
When on the return, just before reaching camp, Umentucken was missed
from the cavalcade. She had fallen behind, and been taken prisoner by a
party of twelve Crow Indians. As soon as she was missed, a volunteer
party mounted their buffalo horses in such haste that they waited not
for saddle or bridle, but snatched only a halter, and started back in
pursuit. They had not run a very long distance when they discovered poor
Umentucken in the midst of her jubilant captors, who were delighting
their eyes with gazing at her fine feathers, and promising themselves
very soon to pluck the gay bird, and appropriate her trinkets to their
own use.

Their delight was premature. Swift on their heels came an avenging, as
well as a saving spirit. Meek, at the head of his six comrades, no
sooner espied the drooping form of the Lamb, than he urged his horse to
the top of its speed. The horse was a spirited creature, that seeing
something wrong in all these hasty maneuvers, took fright and adding
terror to good will, ran with the speed of madness right in amongst the
startled Crows, who doubtless regarded as a great "medicine" so fearless
a warrior. It was now too late to be prudent, and Meek began the battle
by yelling and firing, taking care to hit his Indian. The other
trappers, emulating the bold example of their leader, dashed into the
melee and a chance medley fight was carried on, in which Umentucken
escaped, and another Crow bit the dust. Finding that they were getting
the worst of the fight, the Indians at length took to flight, and the
trappers returned to camp rejoicing, and complimenting Meek on his
gallantry in attacking the Crows single-handed.

"I took their compliments quite naturally," says Meek, "nor did I think
it war worth while to explain to them that I couldn't hold my horse."

The Indians are lordly and tyrannical in their treatment of women,
thinking it no shame to beat them cruelly; even taking the liberty of
striking other women than those belonging to their own families. While
the camp was traveling through the Crow country in the spring of 1836, a
party of that nation paid a visit to Bridger, bringing skins to trade
for blankets and ammunition. The bargaining went on quite pleasantly for
some time; but one of the braves who was promenading about camp
inspecting whatever came in his way, chanced to strike Umentucken with a
whip he carried in his hand, by way of displaying his superiority to
squaws in general, and trappers' wives in particular. It was an unlucky
blow for the brave, for in another instant he rolled on the ground, shot
dead by a bullet from Meek's gun.

At this rash act the camp was in confusion. Yells from the Crows, who
took the act as a signal for war; hasty questions, and cries of command;
arming and shooting. It was some time before the case could be explained
or understood. The Crows had two or three of their party shot; the
whites also lost a man. After the unpremeditated fight was over, and the
Crows departed not thoroughly satisfied with the explanation, Bridger
went round to Meek's lodge.

"Well, you raised a hell of a row in camp;" said the commander, rolling
out his deep bass voice in the slow monotonous tones which mountain men
very quickly acquire from the Indians.

"Very sorry, Bridger; but couldn't help it. No devil of an Indian shall
strike Meek's wife."

"But you got a man killed."

"Sorry for the man; couldn't help it, though, Bridger."

And in truth it was too late to mend the matter. Fearing, however, that
the Crows would attempt to avenge themselves for the losses they had
sustained, Bridger hurried his camp forward, and got out of their
neighborhood as quickly as possible.

So much for the female element in the camp of the Rocky Mountain
trapper. Woman, it is said, has held the apple of discord, from mother
Eve to Umentucken, and in consonance with this theory, Bridger,
doubtless, considered the latter as the primal cause of the unfortunate
"row in camp," rather than the brutality of the Crow, or the imprudence
of Meek.

But Umentucken's career was nearly run. In the following summer she met
her death by a Bannack arrow; dying like a warrior, although living she
was only a woman.


1835. The rendezvous of the Rocky Mountain Company seldom took place
without combining with its many wild elements, some other more civilized
and refined. Artists, botanists, travelers, and hunters, from the busy
world outside the wilderness, frequently claimed the companionship, if
not the hospitality of the fur companies, in their wanderings over
prairies and among mountains. Up to the year 1835, these visitors had
been of the classes just named; men traveling either for the love of
adventure, to prosecute discoveries in science, or to add to art the
treasure of new scenes and subjects.

But in this year there appeared at rendezvous two gentlemen, who had
accompanied the St. Louis Company in its outward trip to the mountains,
whose object was not the procurement of pleasure, or the improvement of
science. They had come to found missions among the Indians; the Rev.
Samuel Parker and Rev. Dr. Marcus Whitman; the first a scholarly and
fastidious man, and the other possessing all the boldness, energy, and
contempt of fastidiousness, which would have made him as good a mountain
leader, as he was an energetic servant of the American Board of Foreign

The cause which had brought these gentlemen to the wilderness was a
little incident connected with the fur trade. Four Flathead Indians, in
the year 1832, having heard enough of the Christian religion, from the
few devout men connected with the fur companies, to desire to know
more, performed a winter journey to St. Louis, and there made inquiry
about the white man's religion. This incident, which to any one
acquainted with Indian character, would appear a very natural one, when
it became known to Christian churches in the United States, excited a
very lively interest, and seemed to call upon them like a voice out of
heaven, to fly to the rescue of perishing heathen souls. The Methodist
Church was the first to respond. When Wyeth returned to the mountains in
1834, four missionaries accompanied him, destined for the valley of the
Wallamet River in Oregon. In the following year, the Presbyterian Church
sent out its agents, the two gentlemen above mentioned; one of whom, Dr.
Whitman, subsequently located near Fort Walla-Walla.

The account given by Capt. Bonneville of the Flatheads and Nez Perces,
as he found them in 1832, before missionary labor had been among them,
throws some light on the incident of the journey to St. Louis, which so
touched the Christian heart in the United States. After relating his
surprise at finding that the Nez Perces observed certain sacred days, he
continues: "A few days afterwards, four of them signified that they were
about to hunt. 'What!' exclaimed the captain, 'without guns or arrows;
and with only one old spear? What do you expect to kill?' They smiled
among themselves, but made no answer. Preparatory to the chase, they
performed some religious rites, and offered up to the Great Spirit a few
short prayers for safety and success; then having received the blessing
of their wives, they leaped upon their horses and departed, leaving the
whole party of Christian spectators amazed and rebuked by this lesson of
faith and dependence on a supreme and benevolent Being. Accustomed as I
had heretofore been to find the wretched Indian reveling in blood, and
stained by every vice which can degrade human nature, I could scarcely
realize the scene which I had witnessed. Wonder at such unaffected
tenderness and piety, where it was least to have been sought, contended
in all our bosoms with shame and confusion, at receiving such pure and
wholesome instructions from creatures so far below us in all the arts
and comforts of life.

"Simply to call these people religious," continued Bonneville, "would
convey but a faint idea of the deep hue of piety and devotion which
pervades their whole conduct. Their honesty is immaculate, and their
purity of purpose, and their observance of the rites of their religion,
are most uniform and remarkable. They are certainly more like a nation
of saints than a horde of savages."

This was a very enthusiastic view to take of the Nez Perce character,
which appeared all the brighter to the Captain, by contrast with the
savage life which he had witnessed in other places, and even by contrast
with the conduct of the white trappers. But the Nez Perces and Flatheads
were, intellectually and morally, an exception to all the Indian tribes
west of the Missouri River. Lewis and Clarke found them different from
any others; the fur-traders and the missionaries found them different;
and they remain at this day an honorable example, for probity and piety,
to both savage and civilized peoples.

To account for this superiority is indeed difficult. The only clue to
the cause is in the following statement of Bonneville's. "It would
appear," he says, "that they had imbibed some notions of the Christian
faith from Catholic missionaries and traders who had been among them.
They even had a rude calender of the fasts and festivals of the Romish
Church, and some traces of its ceremonials. These have become blended
with their own wild rites, and present a strange medley, civilized and

Finding that these people among whom he was thrown exhibited such
remarkable traits of character, Captain Bonneville exerted himself to
make them acquainted with the history and spirit of Christianity. To
these explanations they listened with great eagerness. "Many a time," he
says, "was my little lodge thronged, or rather piled with hearers, for
they lay on the ground, one leaning over the other, until there was no
further room, all listening with greedy ears to the wonders which the
Great Spirit had revealed to the white man. No other subject gave them
half the satisfaction, or commanded half the attention; and but few
scenes of my life remain so freshly on my memory, or are so pleasurably
recalled to my contemplation, as these hours of intercourse with a
distant and benighted race in the midst of the desert."

It was the interest awakened by these discourses of Captain Bonneville,
and possibly by Smith, and other traders who happened to fall in with
the Nez Perces and Flatheads, that stimulated those four Flatheads to
undertake the journey to St. Louis in search of information; and this it
was which resulted in the establishment of missions, both in western
Oregon, and among the tribes inhabiting the country between the two
great branches of the Columbia.

The trait of Indian character which Bonneville, in his pleased surprise
at the apparent piety of the Nez Perces and Flatheads, failed to
observe, and which the missionaries themselves for a long time remained
oblivious to, was the material nature of their religious views. The
Indian judges of all things by the material results. If he is possessed
of a good natural intelligence and powers of observation, he soon
discovers that the God of the Indian is but a feeble deity; for does he
not permit the Indian to be defeated in war; to starve, and to freeze?
Do not the Indian medicine men often fail to save life, to win battles,
to curse their enemies? The Indian's God, he argues, must be a good deal
of a humbug. He sees the white men faring much better. They have guns,
ammunition, blankets, knives, everything in plenty; and they are
successful in war; are skillful in a thousand things the Indian knows
nothing of. To be so blest implies a very wise and powerful Deity. To
gain all these things they are eager to learn about the white man's God;
are willing to do whatever is necessary to please and propitiate Him.
Hence their attentiveness to the white man's discourse about his
religion. Naturally enough they were struck with wonder at the doctrine
of peace and good will; a doctrine so different from the law of blood by
which the Indian, in his natural state, lives. Yet if it is good for the
white men, it must be good for him; at all events he is anxious to try

That is the course of reasoning by which an Indian is led to inquire
into Christianity. It is a desire to better his physical, rather than
his spiritual condition; for of the latter he has but a very faint
conception. He was accustomed to desire a material Heaven, such a world
beyond the grave, as he could only imagine from his earthly experience.
Heaven was happiness, and happiness was plenty; therefore the most a
good Indian could desire was to go where there should forevermore be

Such was the Indian's view of religion, and it could be no other. Until
the wants of the body have been supplied by civilization, the wants of
the soul do not develop themselves: and until then the savage is not
prepared to understand Christianity. This is the law of Nature and of
God. Primeval man was a savage; and it was little by little, through
thousands of years, that Christ was revealed. Every child born, even
now, is a savage, and has to be taught civilization year after year,
until he arrives at the possibility of comprehending spiritual religion.
So every full grown barbarian is a child in moral development; and to
expect him to comprehend those mysteries over which the world has
agonized for centuries, is to commit the gravest error. Into this error
fell all the missionaries who came to the wilds that lay beyond the
Rocky Mountains. They undertook to teach religion first, and more simple
matters afterward--building their edifice like the Irishman's chimney,
by holding up the top brick, and putting the others under it. Failure
was the result of such a process, as the record of the Oregon Missions
sufficiently proves.

The reader will pardon this digression--made necessary by the part which
one of the gentlemen present at this year's rendezvous, was destined to
take in the history which we are writing. Shortly after the arrival of
Messrs. Parker and Whitman, rendezvous broke up. A party, to which Meek
was attached, moved in the direction of the Snake River head-waters, the
missionaries accompanying them, and after making two camps, came on
Saturday eve to Jackson's Little Hole, a small mountain valley near the
larger one commonly known as Jackson's Hole.

On the following day religious services were held in the Rocky Mountain
Camp. A scene more unusual could hardly have transpired than that of a
company of trappers listening to the preaching of the Word of God. Very
little pious reverence marked the countenances of that wild and motley
congregation. Curiosity, incredulity, sarcasm, or a mocking levity, were
more plainly perceptible in the expression of the men's faces, than
either devotion or the longing expectancy of men habitually deprived of
what they once highly valued. The Indians alone showed by their eager
listening that they desired to become acquainted with the mystery of the
"Unknown God."

The Rev. Samuel Parker preached, and the men were as politely attentive
as it was in their reckless natures to be, until, in the midst of the
discourse, a band of buffalo appeared in the valley, when the
congregation incontinently broke up, without staying for a benediction,
and every man made haste after his horse, gun, and rope, leaving Mr.
Parker to discourse to vacant ground.

The run was both exciting and successful. About twenty fine buffaloes
were killed, and the choice pieces brought to camp, cooked and eaten,
amidst the merriment, mixed with something coarser, of the hunters. On
this noisy rejoicing Mr. Parker looked with a sober aspect: and
following the dictates of his religious feeling, he rebuked the
sabbath-breakers quite severely. Better for his influence among the men,
if he had not done so, or had not eaten so heartily of the tender-loin
afterwards, a circumstance which his irreverent critics did not fail to
remark, to his prejudice; and upon the principle that the "partaker is
as bad as the thief," they set down his lecture on sabbath-breaking as
nothing better than pious humbug.


Dr. Marcus Whitman was another style of man. Whatever he thought of the
wild ways of the mountain-men he discreetly kept to himself, preferring
to teach by example rather than precept; and showing no fastidious
contempt for any sort of rough duty he might be called upon to perform.
So aptly indeed had he turned his hand to all manner of camp service on
the journey to the mountains, that this abrogation of clerical dignity
had become a source of solicitude, not to say disapproval and
displeasure on the part of his colleague; and it was agreed between
them that the Doctor should return to the states with the St. Louis
Company, to procure recruits for the promising field of labor which they
saw before them, while Mr. Parker continued his journey to the Columbia
to decide upon the location of the missionary stations. The difference
of character of the two men was clearly illustrated by the results of
this understanding. Parker went to Vancouver, where he was hospitably
entertained, and where he could inquire into the workings of the
missionary system as pursued by the Methodist missionaries. His
investigations not proving the labor to his taste, he sailed the
following summer for the Sandwich Islands, and thence to New York;
leaving only a brief note for Doctor Whitman, when he, with
indefatigable exertions, arrived that season among the Nez Perces with a
missionary company, eager for the work which they hoped to make as great
as they believed it to be good.


From the mountains about the head-waters of the Snake River, Meek
returned, with Bridger's brigade to the Yellowstone country, where he
fell into the hands of the Crows. The story as he relates it, is as

"I war trapping on the Rocky Fork of the Yellowstone. I had been out
from camp five days; and war solitary and alone, when I war discovered
by a war party of Crows. They had the prairie, and I war forced to run
for the Creek bottom; but the beaver had throwed the water out and made
dams, so that my mule mired down. While I war struggling in the marsh,
the Indians came after me, with tremendous yells; firing a random shot
now and then, as they closed in on me.

"When they war within about two rods of me, I brought old _Sally_, that
is my gun, to my face, ready to fire, and then die; for I knew it war
death this time, unless Providence interfered to save me: and I didn't
think Providence would do it. But the head chief, when he saw the
warlike looks of _Sally_, called out to me to put down my gun, and I
should live.

"Well, I liked to live,--being then in the prime of life; and though it
hurt me powerful, I resolved to part with _Sally_. I laid her down. As I
did so, the chief picked her up, and one of the braves sprang at me with
a spear, and would have run me through, but the chief knocked him down
with the butt of my gun. Then they led me forth to the high plain on the
south side of the stream. There they called a halt, and I was given in
charge of three women, while the warriors formed a ring to smoke and
consult. This gave me an opportunity to count them: they numbered one
hundred and eighty-seven men, nine boys, and three women.

"After a smoke of three long hours, the chief, who war named 'The Bold,'
called me in the ring, and said:

"'I have known the whites for a long time, and I know them to be great
liars, deserving death; but if _you_ will tell the truth, you shall

"Then I thought to myself, they will fetch the truth out of me, if thar
is any in me. But his highness continued:

"'Tell me whar are the whites you belong to; and what is your captain's

"I said 'Bridger is my captain's name; or, in the Crow tongue,
_Casapy_,' the 'Blanket chief.' At this answer the chief seemed lost in
thought. At last he asked me--

"'How many men has he?'

"I thought about telling the truth and living; but I said 'forty,' which
war a tremendous lie; for thar war two hundred and forty. At this answer
The Bold laughed:

"'We will make them poor,' said he; 'and you shall live, but they shall

"I thought to myself, 'hardly;' but I said nothing. He then asked me
whar I war to meet the camp, and I told him:--and then how many days
before the camp would be thar; which I answered truly, for I wanted them
to find the camp.

"It war now late in the afternoon, and thar war a great bustle, getting
ready for the march to meet Bridger. Two big Indians mounted my mule,
but the women made me pack moccasins. The spies started first, and after
awhile the main party. Seventy warriors traveled ahead of me: I war
placed with the women and boys; and after us the balance of the braves.
As we traveled along, the women would prod me with sticks, and laugh,
and say 'Masta Sheela,' (which means white man,) 'Masta sheela very poor
now.' The fair sex war very much amused.

"We traveled that way till midnight, the two big bucks riding my mule,
and I packing moccasins. Then we camped; the Indians in a ring, with me
in the centre, to keep me safe. I didn't sleep very well that night. I'd
a heap rather been in some other place.

"The next morning we started on in the same order as before: and the
squaws making fun of me all day; but I kept mighty quiet. When we
stopped to cook that evening, I war set to work, and war head cook, and
head waiter too. The third and the fourth day it war the same. I felt
pretty bad when we struck camp on the last day: for I knew we must be
coming near to Bridger, and that if any thing should go wrong, my life
would pay the forfeit.

"On the afternoon of the fourth day, the spies, who war in advance,
looking out from a high hill, made a sign to the main party. In a moment
all sat down. Directly they got another sign, and then they got up and
moved on. I war as well up in Indian signs as they war; and I knew they
had discovered white men. What war worse, I knew they would soon
discover that I had been lying to them. All I had to do then war to
trust to luck. Soon we came to the top of the hill, which overlooked the
Yellowstone, from which I could see the plains below extending as far as
the eye could reach, and about three miles off, the camp of my friends.
My heart beat double quick about that time; and I once in a while put my
hand to my head, to feel if my scalp war thar.

"While I war watching our camp, I discovered that the horse guard had
seen us, for I knew the sign he would make if he discovered Indians. I
thought the camp a splendid sight that evening. It made a powerful show
to me, who did not expect ever to see it after that day. And it _war_ a
fine sight any how, from the hill whar I stood. About two hundred and
fifty men, and women and children in great numbers, and about a thousand
horses and mules. Then the beautiful plain, and the sinking sun; and the
herds of buffalo that could not be numbered; and the cedar hills,
covered with elk,--I never saw so fine a sight as all that looked to me

"When I turned my eyes on that savage Crow band, and saw the chief
standing with his hand on his mouth, lost in amazement; and beheld the
warriors' tomahawks and spears glittering in the sun, my heart war very
little. Directly the chief turned to me with a horrible scowl. Said he:

"'I promised that you should live if you told the truth; but you have
told me a great lie.'

"Then the warriors gathered around, with their tomahawks in their hands;
but I war showing off very brave, and kept my eyes fixed on the
horse-guard who war approaching the hill to drive in the horses. This
drew the attention of the chief, and the warriors too. Seeing that the
guard war within about two hundred yards of us, the chief turned to me
and ordered me to tell him to come up. I pretended to do what he said;
but instead of that I howled out to him to stay off, or he would be
killed; and to tell Bridger to try to treat with them, and get me away.

"As quick as he could he ran to camp, and in a few minutes Bridger
appeared, on his large white horse. He came up to within three hundred
yards of us, and called out to me, asking who the Indians war. I
answered 'Crows.' He then told me to say to the chief he wished him to
send one of his sub-chiefs to smoke with him.

"All this time my heart beat terribly hard. I don't know now why they
didn't kill me at once; but the head chief seemed overcome with
surprise. When I repeated to him what Bridger said, he reflected a
moment, and then ordered the second chief, called Little-Gun, to go and
smoke with Bridger. But they kept on preparing for war; getting on their
paint and feathers, arranging their scalp locks, selecting their arrows,
and getting their ammunition ready.

"While this war going on, Little-Gun had approached to within about a
hundred yards of Bridger; when, according to the Crow laws of war, each
war forced to strip himself, and proceed the remaining distance in a
state of nudity, and kiss and embrace. While this interesting ceremony
war being performed, five of Bridger's men had followed him, keeping in
a ravine until they got within shooting distance, when they showed
themselves, and cut off the return of Little-Gun, thus making a prisoner
of him.

"If you think my heart did not jump up when I saw that, you think wrong.
I knew it war kill or cure, now. Every Indian snatched a weapon, and
fierce threats war howled against me. But all at once about a hundred of
our trappers appeared on the scene. At the same time Bridger called to
me, to tell me to propose to the chief to exchange me for Little-Gun. I
explained to The Bold what Bridger wanted to do, and he sullenly
consented: for, he said, he could not afford to give a chief for one
white dog's scalp. I war then allowed to go towards my camp, and
Little-Gun towards his; and the rescue I hardly hoped for war

"In the evening the chief, with forty of his braves, visited Bridger
and made a treaty of three months. They said they war formerly at war
with the whites; but that they desired to be friendly with them now, so
that together they might fight the Blackfeet, who war everybody's
enemies. As for me, they returned me my mule, gun, and beaver packs, and
said my name should be _Shiam Shaspusia_, for I could out-lie the

In December, Bridger's command went into winter quarters in the bend of
the Yellowstone. Buffalo, elk, and bear were in great abundance, all
that fall and winter. Before they went to camp, Meek, Kit Carson,
Hawkins, and Doughty were trapping together on the Yellowstone, about
sixty miles below. They had made their temporary camp in the ruins of an
old fort, the walls of which were about six feet high. One evening,
after coming in from setting their traps, they discovered three large
grizzly bears in the river bottom, not more than half a mile off, and
Hawkins went out to shoot one. He was successful in killing one at the
first shot, when the other two, taking fright, ran towards the fort. As
they came near enough to show that they were likely to invade camp, Meek
and Carson, not caring to have a bear fight, clambered up a cotton-wood
tree close by, at the same time advising Doughty to do the same. But
Doughty was tired, and lazy besides, and concluded to take his chances
where he was; so he rolled himself in his blanket and laid quite still.
The bears, on making the fort, reared up on their hind legs and looked
in as if meditating taking it for a defence.

The sight of Doughty lying rolled in his blanket, and the monster
grizzlys inspecting the fort, caused the two trappers who were safely
perched in the cotton-wood to make merry at Doughty's expense; saying
all the mirth-provoking things they could, and then advising him not to
laugh, for fear the bears should seize him. Poor Doughty, agonizing
between suppressed laughter and growing fear, contrived to lie still
however, while the bears gazed upward at the speakers in wonder, and
alternately at the suspicious looking bundle inside the fort. Not being
able to make out the meaning of either, they gave at last a grunt of
dissatisfaction, and ran off into a thicket to consult over these
strange appearances; leaving the trappers to enjoy the incident as a
very good joke. For a long time after, Doughty was reminded how close to
the ground he laid, when the grizzlys paid their compliments to him.
Such were the every day incidents from which the mountain-men contrived
to derive their rude jests, and laughter-provoking reminiscences.

A few days after this incident, while the same party were trapping a few
miles farther down the river, on their way to camp, they fell in with
some Delaware Indians, who said they had discovered signs of Blackfeet,
and wanted to borrow some horses to decoy them. To this the trappers
very willingly agreed, and they were furnished with two horses. The
Delawares then went to the spot where signs had been discovered, and
tying the horses, laid flat down on the ground near them, concealed by
the grass or willows. They had not long to wait before a Blackfoot was
seen stealthily advancing through the thicket, confident in the belief
that he should gain a couple of horses while their supposed owners were
busy with their traps.

But just as he laid his hand on the bridle of the first one, crack went
the rifles of the Delawares, and there was one less Blackfoot thief on
the scent after trappers. As soon as they could, after this, the party
mounted and rode to camp, not stopping by the way, lest the main body of
Blackfeet should discover the deed and seek for vengeance. Truly
indeed, was the Blackfoot the Ishmael of the wilderness, whose hand was
against every man, and every man's hand against him.

The Rocky Mountain Company passed the first part of the winter in peace
and plenty in the Yellowstone camp, unannoyed either by enemies or
rivals. Hunting buffalo, feeding their horses, playing games, and
telling stories, occupied the entire leisure of these months of repose.
Not only did the mountain-men recount their own adventures, but when
these were exhausted, those whose memories served them rehearsed the
tales they had read in their youth. Robinson Crusoe and the Arabian
Nights Entertainment, were read over again by the light of memory; and
even Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was made to recite like a sensation
novel, and was quite as well enjoyed.

1836. In January, however, this repose was broken in upon by a visit
from the Blackfeet. As their visitations were never of a friendly
character, so then they were not bent upon pacific rites and ceremonies,
such as all the rest of the world find pleasure in, but came in full
battle array to try their fortunes in war against the big camp of the
whites. They had evidently made great preparation. Their warriors
numbered eleven hundred, got up in the top of the Blackfoot fashions,
and armed with all manner of savage and some civilized weapons. But
Bridger was prepared for them, although their numbers were so
overwhelming. He built a fort, had the animals corraled, and put himself
on the defensive in a prompt and thorough manner. This made the
Blackfeet cautious; they too built forts of cotton-wood in the shape of
lodges, ten men to each fort, and carried on a skirmishing fight for two
days, when finding there was nothing to be gained, they departed,
neither side having sustained much loss; the whites losing only two men
by this grand Blackfoot army.

Soon after this attack Bridger broke camp, and traveled up the
Yellowstone, through the Crow country. It was while on this march that
Umentucken was struck by a Crow, and Meek put the whole camp in peril,
by shooting him. They passed on to the Big Horn and Little Horn rivers,
down through the Wind River valley and through the South Pass to Green

While in that country, there occurred the fight with the Bannacks in
which Umentucken was killed. A small party of Nez Perces had lost their
horses by the thieving of the Bannacks. They came into camp and
complained to the whites, who promised them their protection, should
they be able to recover their horses. Accordingly the Nez Perces started
after the thieves, and by dogging their camp, succeeded in re-capturing
their horses and getting back to Bridger's camp with them. In order to
divert the vengeance of the Bannacks from themselves, they presented
their horses to the whites, and a very fine one to Bridger.

All went well for a time. The Bannacks went on their way to hunt
buffalo; but they treasured up their wrath against the supposed white
thieves who had stolen the horses which they had come by so honestly. On
their return from the hunt, having learned by spies that the horses were
in the camp of the whites, they prepared for war. Early one morning they
made their appearance mounted and armed, and making a dash at the camp,
rode through it with the usual yells and frantic gestures. The attack
was entirely unexpected. Bridger stood in front of his lodge, holding
his horse by a lasso, and the head chief rode over it, jerking it out of
his hand. At this unprecedented insult to his master, a negro named Jim,
cook to the Booshways, seized a rifle and shot the chief dead. At the
same time, an arrow shot at random struck Umentucken in the breast, and
the joys and sorrows of the Mountain Lamb were over forevermore.

The killing of a head chief always throws an Indian war party into
confusion, and negro Jim was greatly elated at this signal feat of his.
The trappers, who were as much surprised at the suddenness of the
assault as it is in the mountain-man's nature to be, quickly recovered
themselves. In a few moments the men were mounted and in motion, and the
disordered Bannacks were obliged to fly towards their village, Bridger's
company pursuing them.

All the rest of that day the trappers fought the Bannacks, driving them
out of their village and plundering it, and forcing them to take refuge
on an island in the river. Even there they were not safe, the guns of
the mountain-men picking them off, from their stations on the river
banks. Umentucken was well avenged that day.

All night the Indians remained on the island, where sounds of wailing
were heard continually; and when morning came one of their old women
appeared bearing the pipe of peace. "You have killed all our warriors,"
she said; "do you now want to kill the women? If you wish to smoke with
women, I have the pipe."

Not caring either to fight or to smoke with so feeble a representative
of the Bannacks, the trappers withdrew. But it was the last war party
that nation ever sent against the mountain-men; though in later times
they have by their atrocities avenged the losses of that day.

While awaiting, in the Green River valley, the arrival of the St. Louis
Company, the Rocky Mountain and North American companies united; after
which Captain Sublette and his brother returned no more to the
mountains. The new firm was known only as the American Fur Company, the
other having dropped its title altogether. The object of their
consolidation was by combining their capital and experience to
strengthen their hands against the Hudson's Bay Company, which now had
an establishment at Fort Hall, on the Snake River. By this new
arrangement, Bridger and Fontenelle commanded; and Dripps was to be the
traveling partner who was to go to St. Louis for goods.

After the conclusion of this agreement, Dripps, with the restlessness of
the true mountain-man, decided to set out, with a small party of equally
restless trappers, always eager to volunteer for any undertaking
promising either danger or diversion, to look for the St. Louis Company
which was presumed to be somewhere between the Black Hills and Green
River. According to this determination Dripps, Meek, Carson, Newell, a
Flathead chief named Victor, and one or two others, set out on the
search for the expected company.

It happened, however, that a war party of a hundred Crows were out on
the trail before them, looking perhaps for the same party, and the
trappers had not made more than one or two camps before they discovered
signs which satisfied them of the neighborhood of an enemy. At their
next camp on the Sandy, Meek and Carson, with the caution and vigilance
peculiar to them, kept their saddles on their horses, and the horses
tied to themselves by a long rope, so that on the least unusual motion
of the animals they should be readily informed of the disturbance. Their
precaution was not lost. Just after midnight had given place to the
first faint kindling of dawn, their ears were stunned by the
simultaneous discharge of a hundred guns, and the usual furious din of
the war-whoop and yell. A stampede immediately took place of all the
horses excepting those of Meek and Carson. "Every man for himself and
God for us all," is the motto of the mountain-man in case of an Indian
attack; nor did our trappers forget it on this occasion. Quickly
mounting, they put their horses to their speed, which was not checked
until they had left the Sandy far behind them. Continuing on in the
direction of the proposed meeting with the St. Louis Company, they made
their first camp on the Sweetwater, where they fell in with Victor, the
Flathead chief, who had made his way on foot to this place. One or two
others came into camp that night, and the following day this portion of
the party traveled on in company until within about five miles of
Independence Rock, when they were once more charged on by the Indians,
who surrounded them in such a manner that they were obliged to turn back
to escape.

Again Meek and Carson made off, leaving their dismounted comrades to
their own best devices. Finding that with so many Indians on the trail,
and only two horses, there was little hope of being able to accomplish
their journey, these two lucky ones made all haste back to camp. On
Horse Creek, a few hours travel from rendezvous, they came up with
Newell, who after losing his horse had fled in the direction of the main
camp, but becoming bewildered had been roaming about until he was quite
tired out, and on the point of giving up. But as if the Creek where he
was found meant to justify itself for having so inharmonious a name, one
of their own horses, which had escaped from the Crows was found quietly
grazing on its banks, and the worn out fugitive at once remounted.
Strange as it may appear, not one of the party was killed, the others
returning to camp two days later than Meek and Carson, the worse for
their expedition only by the loss of their horses, and rather an
unusually fatigued and forlorn aspect.

[Illustration: "INDIANS BY JOVE!"]


1836. While the resident partners of the consolidated company waited at
the rendezvous for the arrival of the supply trains from St. Louis, word
came by a messenger sent forward, that the American Company under
Fitzpatrick, had reached Independence Rock, and was pressing forward.
The messenger also brought the intelligence that two other parties were
traveling in company with the fur company; that of Captain Stuart, who
had been to New Orleans to winter, and that of Doctor Whitman, one of
the missionaries who had visited the mountains the year previous. In
this latter party, it was asserted, there were two white ladies.

This exhilarating news immediately inspired some of the trappers,
foremost among whom was Meek, with a desire to be the first to meet and
greet the on-coming caravan; and especially to salute the two white
women who were bold enough to invade a mountain camp. In a very short
time Meek, with half-a-dozen comrades, and ten or a dozen Nez Perces,
were mounted and away, on their self-imposed errand of welcome; the
trappers because they were "spoiling" for a fresh excitement; and the
Nez Perces because the missionaries were bringing them information
concerning the powerful and beneficent Deity of the white men. These
latter also were charged with a letter to Doctor Whitman from his former
associate, Mr. Parker.

On the Sweetwater about two days' travel from camp the caravan of the
advancing company was discovered, and the trappers prepared to give them
a characteristic greeting. To prevent mistakes in recognizing them, a
white flag was hoisted on one of their guns, and the word was given to
start. Then over the brow of a hill they made their appearance, riding
with that mad speed only an Indian or a trapper can ride, yelling,
whooping, dashing forward with frantic and threatening gestures; their
dress, noises, and motions, all so completely savage that the white men
could not have been distinguished from the red.

The first effect of their onset was what they probably intended. The
uninitiated travelers, including the missionaries, believing they were
about to be attacked by Indians, prepared for defence, nor could be
persuaded that the preparation was unnecessary until the guide pointed
out to them the white flag in advance. At the assurance that the flag
betokened friends, apprehension was changed to curiosity and intense
interest. Every movement of the wild brigade became fascinating. On they
came, riding faster and faster, yelling louder and louder, and
gesticulating more and more madly, until, as they met and passed the
caravan, they discharged their guns in one volley over the heads of the
company, as a last finishing _feu de joie_; and suddenly wheeling rode
back to the front as wildly as they had come. Nor could this first brief
display content the crazy cavalcade. After reaching the front, they rode
back and forth, and around and around the caravan, which had returned
their salute, showing off their feats of horsemanship, and the knowing
tricks of their horses together; hardly stopping to exchange questions
and answers, but seeming really intoxicated with delight at the meeting.
What strange emotions filled the breasts of the lady missionaries, when
they beheld among whom their lot was cast, may now be faintly outlined
by a vivid imagination, but have never been, perhaps never could be put
into words.

The caravan on leaving the settlements had consisted of nineteen laden
carts, each drawn by two mules driven tandem, and one light wagon,
belonging to the American Company; two wagons with two mules to each,
belonging to Capt. Stuart; and one light two-horse wagon, and one
four-horse freight wagon, belonging to the missionaries. However, all
the wagons had been left behind at Fort Laramie, except those of the
missionaries, and one of Capt. Stuart's; so that the three that remained
in the train when it reached the Sweetwater were alone in the enjoyment
of the Nez Perces' curiosity concerning them; a curiosity which they
divided between them and the domesticated cows and calves belonging to
the missionaries: another proof, as they considered it, of the superior
power of the white man's God, who could give to the whites the ability
to tame wild animals to their uses.

But it was towards the two missionary ladies, Mrs. Whitman and Mrs.
Spalding, that the chief interest was directed; an interest that was
founded in the Indian mind upon wonder, admiration, and awe; and in the
minds of the trappers upon the powerful recollections awakened by seeing
in their midst two refined Christian women, with the complexion and
dress of their own mothers and sisters. United to this startling effect
of memory, was respect for the religious devotion which had inspired
them to undertake the long and dangerous journey to the Rocky Mountains,
and also a sentiment of pity for what they knew only too well yet
remained to be encountered by those delicate women in the prosecution of
their duty.

Mrs. Whitman, who was in fine health, rode the greater part of the
journey on horseback. She was a large, stately, fair-skinned woman,
with blue eyes and light auburn, almost golden hair. Her manners were at
once dignified and gracious. She was, both by nature and education a
lady; and had a lady's appreciation of all that was courteous and
refined; yet not without an element of romance and heroism in her
disposition strong enough to have impelled her to undertake a
missionary's life in the wilderness.

Mrs. Spalding was a different type of woman. Talented, and refined in
her nature, she was less pleasing in exterior, and less attached to that
which was superficially pleasing in others. But an indifference to
outside appearances was in her case only a sign of her absorption in the
work she had taken in hand. She possessed the true missionary spirit,
and the talent to make it useful in an eminent degree; never thinking of
herself, or the impression she made upon others; yet withal very firm
and capable of command. Her health, which was always rather delicate,
had suffered much from the fatigue of the journey, and the constant diet
of fresh meat, and meat only, so that she was compelled at last to
abandon horseback exercise, and to keep almost entirely to the light
wagon of the missionaries.

As might be expected, the trappers turned from the contemplation of the
pale, dark-haired occupant of the wagon, with all her humility and
gentleness, to observe and admire the more striking figure, and more
affably attractive manners of Mrs. Whitman. Meek, who never lost an
opportunity to see and be seen, was seen riding alongside Mrs. Whitman,
answering her curious inquiries, and entertaining her with stories of
Blackfeet battles, and encounters with grizzly bears. Poor lady! could
she have looked into the future about which she was then so curious, she
would have turned back appalled, and have fled with frantic fear to the
home of her grieving parents. How could she then behold in the gay and
boastful mountaineer, whose peculiarities of dress and speech so much
diverted her, the very messenger who was to bear to the home of her
girlhood the sickening tale of her bloody sacrifice to savage
superstition and revenge? Yet so had fate decreed it.

When the trappers and Nez Perces had slaked their thirst for excitement
by a few hours' travel in company with the Fur Company's and
Missionary's caravan, they gave at length a parting display of
horsemanship, and dashed off on the return trail to carry to camp the
earliest news. It was on their arrival in camp that the Nez Perce and
Flathead village, which had its encampment at the rendezvous ground on
Green River, began to make preparations for the reception of the
missionaries. It was then that Indian finery was in requisition! Then
the Indian women combed and braided their long black hair, tying the
plaits with gay-colored ribbons, and the Indian braves tied anew their
streaming scalp-locks, sticking them full of flaunting eagle's plumes,
and not despising a bit of ribbon either. Paint was in demand both for
the rider and his horse. Gay blankets, red and blue, buckskin fringed
shirts, worked with beads and porcupine quills, and handsomely
embroidered moccasins, were eagerly sought after. Guns were cleaned and
burnished, and drums and fifes put in tune.

After a day of toilsome preparation all was ready for the grand
reception in the camp of the Nez Perces. Word was at length given that
the caravan was in sight. There was a rush for horses, and in a few
moments the Indians were mounted and in line, ready to charge on the
advancing caravan. When the command of the chiefs was given to start, a
simultaneous chorus of yells and whoops burst forth, accompanied by the
deafening din of the war-drum, the discharge of fire-arms, and the
clatter of the whole cavalcade, which was at once in a mad gallop toward
the on-coming train. Nor did the yelling, whooping, drumming, and firing
cease until within a few yards of the train.

All this demoniac hub-bub was highly complimentary toward those for whom
it was intended; but an unfortunate ignorance of Indian customs caused
the missionaries to fail in appreciating the honor intended them.
Instead of trying to reciprocate the noise by an attempt at imitating
it, the missionary camp was alarmed at the first burst and at once began
to drive in their cattle and prepare for an attack. As the missionary
party was in the rear of the train they succeeded in getting together
their loose stock before the Nez Perces had an opportunity of making
themselves known, so that the leaders of the Fur Company, and Captain
Stuart, had the pleasure of a hearty laugh at their expense, for the
fright they had received.

A general shaking of hands followed the abatement of the first surprise,
the Indian women saluting Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spalding with a kiss,
and the missionaries were escorted to their camping ground near the Nez
Perce encampment. Here the whole village again formed in line, and a
more formal introduction of the missionaries took place, after which
they were permitted to go into camp.

When the intention of the Indians became known, Dr. Whitman, who was the
leader of the missionary party, was boyishly delighted with the
reception which had been given him. His frank, hearty, hopeful nature
augured much good from the enthusiasm of the Indians. If his estimation
of the native virtues of the savages was much too high, he suffered with
those whom he caused to suffer for his belief, in the years which
followed. Peace to the ashes of a good man! And honor to his associates,
whose hearts were in the cause they had undertaken of Christianizing
the Indians. Two of them still live--one of whom, Mr. Spalding, has
conscientiously labored and deeply suffered for the faith. Mr. Gray, who
was an unmarried man, returned the following year to the States, for a
wife, and settled for a time among the Indians, but finally abandoned
the missionary service, and removed to the Wallamet valley. These five
persons constituted the entire force of teachers who could be induced at
that time to devote their lives to the instruction of the savages in the
neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains.

The trappers, and gentlemen of the Fur Company and Captain Stuart, had
been passive but interested spectators of the scene between the Indians
and the missionaries. When the excitement had somewhat subsided, and the
various camps had become settled in their places, the tents of the white
ladies were besieged with visitors, both civilized and savage. These
ladies, who were making an endeavor to acquire a knowledge of the Nez
Perce tongue in order to commence their instructions in the language of
the natives, could have made very little progress, had their purpose
been less strong than it was. Mrs. Spalding perhaps succeeded better
than Mrs. Whitman in the difficult study of the Indian dialect. She
seemed to attract the natives about her by the ease and kindness of her
manner, especially the native women, who, seeing she was an invalid,
clung to her rather than to her more lofty and self-asserting associate.

On the contrary, the leaders of the American Fur Company, Captain Wyeth
and Captain Stuart, paid Mrs. Whitman the most marked and courteous
attentions. She shone the bright particular star of that Rocky Mountain
encampment, softening the hearts and the manners of all who came within
her womanly influence. Not a gentleman among them but felt her silent
command upon him to be his better self while she remained in his
vicinity; not a trapper or camp-keeper but respected the presence of
womanhood and piety. But while the leaders paid court to her, the
bashful trappers contented themselves with promenading before her tent.
Should they succeed in catching her eye, they never failed to touch
their beaver-skin caps in their most studiously graceful manner, though
that should prove so dubious as to bring a mischievous smile to the blue
eyes of the observant lady.

But our friend Joe Meek did not belong by nature to the bashful brigade.
He was not content with disporting himself in his best trapper's toggery
in front of a lady's tent. He became a not infrequent visitor, and
amused Mrs. Whitman with the best of his mountain adventures, related in
his soft, slow, yet smooth and firm utterance, and with many a merry
twinkle of his mirthful dark eyes. In more serious moments he spoke to
her of the future, and of his determination, sometime, to "settle down."
When she inquired if he had fixed upon any spot which in his imagination
he could regard as "home" he replied that he could not content himself
to return to civilized life, but thought that when he gave up "bar
fighting and Injun fighting" he should go down to the Wallamet valley
and see what sort of life he could make of it there. How he lived up to
this determination will be seen hereafter.

The missionaries remained at the rendezvous long enough to recruit their
own strength and that of their stock, and to restore to something like
health the invalid Mrs. Spalding, who, on changing her diet to dried
meat, which the resident partners were able to supply her, commenced
rapidly to improve. Letters were written and given to Capt. Wyeth to
carry home to the States. The Captain had completed his sale of Fort
Hall and the goods it contained to the Hudson's Bay Company only a
short time previous, and was now about to abandon the effort to
establish any enterprise either on the Columbia or in the Rocky
Mountains. He had, however, executed his threat of the year previous,
and punished the bad faith of the Rocky Mountain Company by placing them
in direct competition with the Hudson's Bay Company.

The missionaries now prepared for their journey to the Columbia River.
According to the advice of the mountain-men the heaviest wagon was left
at the rendezvous, together with every heavy article that could be
dispensed with. But Dr. Whitman refused to leave the light wagon,
although assured he would never be able to get it to the Columbia, nor
even to the Snake River. The good Doctor had an immense fund of
determination when there was an object to be gained or a principle
involved. The only persons who did not oppose wagon transportation were
the Indians. They sympathised with his determination, and gave him their
assistance. The evidences of a different and higher civilization than
they had ever seen were held in great reverence by them. The wagons, the
domestic cattle, especially the cows and calves, were always objects of
great interest with them. Therefore they freely gave their assistance,
and a sufficient number remained behind to help the Doctor, while the
main party of both missionaries and Indians, having bidden the Fur
Company and others farewell, proceeded to join the camp of two Hudson's
Bay traders a few miles on their way.

The two traders, whose camp they now joined, were named McLeod and
McKay. The latter, Thomas McKay, was the half-breed son of that
unfortunate McKay in Mr. Astor's service, who perished on board the
_Tonquin_, as related in Irving's ASTORIA. He was one of the bravest and
most skillful partisans in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company.
McLeod had met the missionaries at the American rendezvous and invited
them to travel in his company; an offer which they were glad to accept,
as it secured them ample protection and other more trifling benefits,
besides some society other than the Indians.

By dint of great perseverance, Doctor Whitman contrived to keep up with
the camp day after day, though often coming in very late and very weary,
until the party arrived at Fort Hall. At the fort the baggage was again
reduced as much as possible; and Doctor Whitman was compelled by the
desertion of his teamster to take off two wheels of his wagon and
transform it into a cart which could be more easily propelled in
difficult places. With this he proceeded as far as the Boise River where
the Hudson's Bay Company had a small fort or trading-post; but here
again he was so strongly urged to relinquish the idea of taking his
wagon to the Columbia, that after much discussion he consented to leave
it at Fort Boise until some future time when unencumbered by goods or
passengers he might return for it.

Arrived at the crossing of the Snake River, Mrs. Whitman and Mrs.
Spalding were treated to a new mode of ferriage, which even in their
varied experience they had never before met with. This new ferry was
nothing more or less than a raft made of bundles of bulrushes woven
together by grass ropes. Upon this frail flat-boat the passengers were
obliged to stretch themselves at length while an Indian swam across and
drew it after him by a rope. As the waters of the Snake River are rapid
and often "dancing mad," it is easy to conjecture that the ladies were
ill at ease on their bulrush ferry.

On went the party from the Snake River through the Grand Ronde to the
Blue Mountains. The crossing here was somewhat difficult but
accomplished in safety. The descent from the Blue Mountains on the west
side gave the missionaries their first view of the country they had come
to possess, and to civilize and Christianize. That view was beautiful
and grand--as goodly a prospect as longing eyes ever beheld this side of
Canaan. Before them lay a country spread out like a map, with the
windings of its rivers marked by fringes of trees, and its boundaries
fixed by mountain ranges above which towered the snowy peaks of Mt.
Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier. Far away could be traced the course of
the Columbia; and over all the magnificent scene glowed the red rays of
sunset, tinging the distant blue of the mountains until they seemed
shrouded in a veil of violet mist. It were not strange that with the
reception given them by the Indians, and with this bird's-eye view of
their adopted country, the hearts of the missionaries beat high with


The descent from the Blue Mountains brought the party out on the
Umatilla River, where they camped, Mr. McLeod parting company with them
at this place to hasten forward to Fort Walla-Walla, and prepare for
their reception. After two more days of slow and toilsome travel with
cattle whose feet were cut and sore from the sharp rocks of the
mountains, the company arrived safely at Walla-Walla fort, on the third
of September. Here they found Mr. McLeod, and Mr. Panbram who had charge
of that post.

Mr. Panbram received the missionary party with every token of respect,
and of pleasure at seeing ladies among them. The kindest attentions were
lavished upon them from the first moment of their arrival, when the
ladies were lifted from their horses, to the time of their departure;
the apartments belonging to the fort being assigned to them, and all
that the place afforded of comfortable living placed at their disposal.
Here, for the first time in several months, they enjoyed the luxury of
bread--a favor for which the suffering Mrs. Spalding was especially

At Walla-Walla the missionaries were informed that they were expected to
visit Vancouver, the head-quarters of the Hudson's Bay Company on the
Lower Columbia. After resting for two days, it was determined to make
this visit before selecting places for mission work among the Indians.
Accordingly the party embarked in the company's boats, for the voyage
down the Columbia, which occupied six days, owing to strong head winds
which were encountered at a point on the Lower Columbia, called Cape
Horn. They arrived safely on the eleventh of September, at Vancouver,
where they were again received with the warmest hospitality by the
Governor, Dr. John McLaughlin, and his associates. The change from the
privations of wilderness life to the luxuries of Fort Vancouver was very
great indeed, and two weeks passed rapidly away in the enjoyment of
refined society, and all the other elegancies of the highest

At the end of two weeks, Dr. Whitman, Mr. Spalding, and Mr. Gray
returned to the Upper Columbia, leaving the ladies at Fort Vancouver
while they determined upon their several locations in the Indian
country. After an absence of several weeks they returned, having made
their selections, and on the third day of November the ladies once more
embarked to ascend the Columbia, to take up their residence in Indian
wigwams while their husbands prepared rude dwellings by the assistance
of the natives. The spot fixed upon by Dr. Whitman for his mission was
on the Walla-Walla River about thirty miles from the fort of that name.
It was called _Waiilatpu_; and the tribe chosen for his pupils were the
Cayuses, a hardy, active, intelligent race, rich in horses and pasture

Mr. Spalding selected a home on the Clearwater River, among the Nez
Perces, of whom we already know so much. His mission was called
_Lapwai_. Mr. Gray went among the Flatheads, an equally friendly tribe;
and here we shall leave the missionaries, to return to the Rocky
Mountains and the life of the hunter and trapper. At a future date we
shall fall in once more with these devoted people and learn what success
attended their efforts to Christianize the Indians.


1836. The company of men who went north this year under Bridger and
Fontenelle, numbered nearly three hundred. Rendezvous with all its
varied excitements being over, this important brigade commenced its
march. According to custom, the trappers commenced business on the
head-waters of various rivers, following them down as the early frosts
of the mountains forced them to do, until finally they wintered in the
plains, at the most favored spots they could find in which to subsist
themselves and animals.

From Green River, Meek proceeded with Bridger's command to Lewis River,
Salt River, and other tributaries of the Snake, and camped with them in
Pierre's Hole, that favorite mountain valley which every year was
visited by the different fur companies.

[Illustration: _THE BEAR IN CAMP._]

Pierre's Hole, notwithstanding its beauties, had some repulsive
features, or rather perhaps _one_ repulsive feature, which was, its
great numbers of rattlesnakes. Meek relates that being once caught in a
very violent thunder storm, he dismounted, and holding his horse, a fine
one, by the bridle, himself took shelter under a narrow shelf of rock
projecting from a precipitous bluff. Directly he observed an enormous
rattlesnake hastening close by him to its den in the mountain.
Congratulating himself on his snake-ship's haste to get out of the storm
and his vicinity, he had only time to have one rejoicing thought when
two or three others followed the trail of the first one. They were
seeking the same rocky den, of whose proximity Meek now felt
uncomfortably assured. Before these were out of sight, there came
instead of twos and threes, tens and twenties, and then hundreds, and
finally Meek believes thousands, the ground being literally alive with
them. Not daring to stir after he discovered the nature of his
situation, he was obliged to remain and endure the disgusting and
frightful scene, while he exerted himself to keep his horse quiet, lest
the reptiles should attack him. By and by, when there were no more to
come, but all were safe in their holes in the rock, Meek hastily mounted
and galloped in the face of the tempest in preference to remaining
longer in so unpleasant a neighborhood.

There was an old Frenchman among the trappers who used to charm
rattlesnakes, and handling them freely, place them in his bosom, or
allow them to wind about his arms, several at a time, their flat heads
extending in all directions, and their bodies waving in the air, in the
most snaky and nerve-shaking manner, to the infinite disgust of all the
camp, and of Hawkins and Meek in particular. Hawkins often became so
nervous that he threatened to shoot the Frenchman on the instant, if he
did not desist; and great was the dislike he entertained for what he
termed the "---- infernal old wizard."

It was often the case in the mountains and on the plains that the camp
was troubled with rattlesnakes, so that each man on laying down to sleep
found it necessary to encircle his bed with a hair rope, thus
effectually fencing out the reptiles, which are too fastidious and
sensitive of touch to crawl over a hair rope. But for this precaution,
the trapper must often have shared his blanket couch with this foe to
the "seed of the woman," who being asleep would have neglected to "crush
his head," receiving instead the serpent's fang in "his heel," if not
in some nobler portion of his body.

There is a common belief abroad that the prairie dog harbors the
rattlesnake, and the owl also, in his subterranean house, in a more or
less friendly manner. Meek, however, who has had many opportunities of
observing the habits of these three ill-assorted denizens of a common
abode, gives it as his opinion that the prairie dog consents to the
invasion of his premises alone through his inability to prevent it. As
these prairie dog villages are always found on the naked prairies, where
there is neither rocky den for the rattlesnake, nor shade for the
blinking eyes of the owl, these two idle and impudent foreigners,
availing themselves of the labors of the industrious little animal which
builds itself a cool shelter from the sun, and a safe one from the
storm, whenever their own necessities drive them to seek refuge from
either sun or storm, enter uninvited and take possession. It is probable
also, that so far from being a welcome guest, the rattlesnake
occasionally gorges himself with a young prairie-dog, when other game is
not conveniently nigh, or that the owl lies in wait at the door of its
borrowed-without-leave domicile, and succeeds in nabbing a careless
field-mouse more easily than it could catch the same game by seeking it
as an honest owl should do. The owl and the rattlesnake are like the
Sioux when they go on a visit to the Omahas--the visit being always
timed so as to be identical in date with that of the Government Agents
who are distributing food and clothing. They are very good friends for
the nonce, the poor Omahas not daring to be otherwise for fear of the
ready vengeance on the next summer's buffalo hunt; therefore they
conceal their grimaces and let the Sioux eat them up; and when summer
comes get massacred on their buffalo hunt, all the same.

But to return to our brigade. About the last of October Bridger's
company moved down on to the Yellowstone by a circuitous route through
the North Pass, now known as Hell Gate Pass, to Judith River, Mussel
Shell River, Cross Creeks of the Yellowstone, Three Forks of Missouri,
Missouri Lake, Beaver Head country, Big Horn River, and thence east
again, and north again to the wintering ground in the great bend of the

The company had not proceeded far in the Blackfeet country, between Hell
Gate Pass and the Yellowstone, before they were attacked by the
Blackfeet. On arriving at the Yellowstone they discovered a considerable
encampment of the enemy on an island or bar in the river, and proceeded
to open hostilities before the Indians should have discovered them.
Making little forts of sticks or bushes, each man advanced cautiously to
the bank overlooking the island, pushing his leafy fort before him as he
crept silently nearer, until a position was reached whence firing could
commence with effect. The first intimation the luckless savages had of
the neighborhood of the whites was a volley of shots discharged into
their camp, killing several of their number. But as this was their own
mode of attack, no reflections were likely to be wasted upon the
unfairness of the assault; quickly springing to their arms the firing
was returned, and for several hours was kept up on both sides. At night
the Indians stole off, having lost nearly thirty killed; nor did the
trappers escape quite unhurt, three being killed and a few others

Since men were of such value to the fur companies, it would seem strange
that they should deliberately enter upon an Indian fight before being
attacked. But unfortunate as these encounters really were, they knew of
no other policy to be pursued. They, (the American Companies,) were not
resident, with a long acquaintance, and settled policy, such as
rendered the Hudson's Bay Company so secure amongst the savages. They
knew that among these unfriendly Indians, not to attack was to be
attacked, and consequently little time was ever given for an Indian to
discover his vicinity to a trapper. The trapper's shot informed him of
that, and afterwards the race was to the swift, and the battle to the
strong. Besides this acknowledged necessity for fighting whenever and
wherever Indians were met with in the Blackfeet and Crow countries,
almost every trapper had some private injury to avenge--some theft, or
wound, or imprisonment, or at the very least, some terrible fright
sustained at the hands of the universal foe. Therefore there was no
reluctance to shoot into an Indian camp, provided the position of the
man shooting was a safe one, or more defensible than that of the man
shot at. Add to this that there was no law in the mountains, only
license, it is easy to conjecture that might would have prevailed over
right with far less incentive to the exercise of savage practices than
actually did exist. Many a trapper undoubtedly shot his Indian "for the
fun of it," feeling that it was much better to do so than run the risk
of being shot at for no better reason. Of this class of reasoners, it
must be admitted, Meek was one. Indian-fighting, like bear-fighting, had
come to be a sort of pastime, in which he was proud to be known as
highly accomplished. Having so many opportunities for the display of
game qualities in encounters with these two by-no-means-to-be despised
foes of the trapper, it was not often that they quarreled among
themselves after the grand frolic of the rendezvous was over.

It happened, however, during this autumn, that while the main camp was
in the valley of the Yellowstone, a party of eight trappers, including
Meek and a comrade named Stanberry, were trapping together on the
Mussel Shell, when the question as to which was the bravest man got
started between them, and at length, in the heat of controversy, assumed
such importance that it was agreed to settle the matter on the following
day according to the Virginia code of honor, _i.e._, by fighting a duel,
and shooting at each other with guns, which hitherto had only done
execution on bears and Indians.

But some listening spirit of the woods determined to avert the danger
from these two equally brave trappers, and save their ammunition for its
legitimate use, by giving them occasion to prove their courage almost on
the instant. While sitting around the camp-fire discussing the coming
event of the duel at thirty paces, a huge bear, already wounded by a
shot from the gun of their hunter who was out looking for game, came
running furiously into camp, giving each man there a challenge to fight
or fly.

"Now," spoke up one of the men quickly, "let Meek and Stanberry prove
which is bravest, by fighting the bear!" "Agreed," cried the two as
quickly, and both sprang with guns and wiping-sticks in hand, charging
upon the infuriated beast as it reached the spot where they were
awaiting it. Stanberry was a small man, and Meek a large one. Perhaps it
was owing to this difference of stature that Meek was first to reach the
bear as it advanced. Running up with reckless bravado Meek struck the
creature two or three times over the head with his wiping-stick before
aiming to fire, which however he did so quickly and so surely that the
beast fell dead at his feet. This act settled the vexed question. Nobody
was disposed to dispute the point of courage with a man who would stop
to strike a grizzly before shooting him: therefore Meek was proclaimed
by the common voice to be "cock of the walk" in that camp. The pipe of
peace was solemnly smoked by himself and Stanberry, and the tomahawk
buried never more to be resurrected between them, while a fat supper of
bear meat celebrated the compact of everlasting amity.

It was not an unfrequent occurrence for a grizzly bear to be run into
camp by the hunters, in the Yellowstone country where this creature
abounded. An amusing incident occurred not long after that just related,
when the whole camp was at the Cross Creeks of the Yellowstone, on the
south side of that river. The hunters were out, and had come upon two or
three bears in a thicket. As these animals sometimes will do, they
started off in a great fright, running toward camp, the hunters after
them, yelling, frightening them still more. A runaway bear, like a
runaway horse, appears not to see where it is going, but keeps right on
its course no matter what dangers lie in advance. So one of these
animals having got headed for the middle of the encampment, saw nothing
of what lay in its way, but ran on and on, apparently taking note of
nothing but the yells in pursuit. So sudden and unexpected was the
charge which he made upon camp, that the Indian women, who were sitting
on the ground engaged in some ornamental work, had no time to escape out
of the way. One of them was thrown down and run over, and another was
struck with such violence that she was thrown twenty feet from the spot
where she was hastily attempting to rise. Other objects in camp were
upset and thrown out of the way, but without causing so much merriment
as the mishaps of the two women who were so rudely treated by the


It was also while the camp was at the Cross Creeks of the Yellowstone
that Meek had one of his best fought battles with a grizzly bear. He was
out with two companions, one Gardiner, and Mark Head, a Shawnee Indian.
Seeing a very large bear digging roots in the creek bottom, Meek
proposed to attack it, if the others would hold his horse ready to
mount if he failed to kill the creature. This being agreed to he
advanced to within about forty paces of his game, when he raised his gun
and attempted to fire, but the cap bursting he only roused the beast,
which turned on him with a terrific noise between a snarl and a growl,
showing some fearful looking teeth. Meek turned to run for his horse, at
the same time trying to put a cap on his gun; but when he had almost
reached his comrades, their horses and his own took fright at the bear
now close on his heels, and ran, leaving him alone with the now fully
infuriated beast. Just at the moment he succeeded in getting a cap on
his gun, the teeth of the bear closed on his blanket capote which was
belted around the waist, the suddenness and force of the seizure turning
him around, as the skirt of his capote yielded to the strain and tore
off at the belt. Being now nearly face to face with his foe, the
intrepid trapper thrust his gun into the creature's mouth and attempted
again to fire, but the gun being double triggered and not set, it failed
to go off. Perceiving the difficulty he managed to set the triggers with
the gun still in the bear's mouth, yet no sooner was this done than the
bear succeeded in knocking it out, and firing as it slipped out, it hit
her too low down to inflict a fatal wound and only served to irritate
her still farther.

In this desperate situation when Meek's brain was rapidly working on the
problem of live Meek or live bear, two fresh actors appeared on the
scene in the persons of two cubs, who seeing their mother in difficulty
seemed desirous of doing something to assist her. Their appearance
seemed to excite the bear to new exertions, for she made one desperate
blow at Meek's empty gun with which he was defending himself, and
knocked it out of his hands, and far down the bank or sloping hillside
where the struggle was now going on. Then being partially blinded by
rage, she seized one of her cubs and began to box it about in a most
unmotherly fashion. This diversion gave Meek a chance to draw his knife
from the scabbard, with which he endeavored to stab the bear behind the
ear: but she was too quick for him, and with a blow struck it out of his
hand, as she had the gun, nearly severing his forefinger.

At this critical juncture the second cub interfered, and got a boxing
from the old bear, as the first one had done. This too, gave Meek time
to make a movement, and loosening his tomahawk from his belt, he made
one tremendous effort, taking deadly aim, and struck her just behind the
ear, the tomahawk sinking into the brain, and his powerful antagonist
lay dead before him. When the blow was struck he stood with his back
against a little bluff of rock, beyond which it was impossible to
retreat. It was his last chance, and his usual good fortune stood by
him. When the struggle was over the weary victor mounted the rock
behind him and looked down upon his enemy slain; and "came to the
conclusion that he was satisfied with bar-fighting."

But renown had sought him out even here, alone with his lifeless
antagonist. Capt. Stuart with his artist, Mr. Miller, chanced upon this
very spot, while yet the conqueror contemplated his slain enemy, and
taking possession at once of the bear, whose skin was afterward
preserved and stuffed, made a portrait of the "satisfied" slayer. A
picture was subsequently painted by Miller of this scene, and was copied
in wax for a museum in St. Louis, where it probably remains to this day,
a monument of Meek's best bear fight. As for Meek's runaway horse and
runaway comrades, they returned to the scene of action too late to be of
the least service, except to furnish our hero with transportation to
camp, which, considering the weight of his newly gathered laurels, was
no light service after all.

In November Bridger's camp arrived at the Bighorn River, expecting to
winter; but finding the buffalo all gone, were obliged to cross the
mountains lying between the Bighorn and Powder rivers to reach the
buffalo country on the latter stream. The snow having already fallen
quite deep on these mountains the crossing was attended with great
difficulty; and many horses and mules were lost by sinking in the snow,
or falling down precipices made slippery by the melting and freezing of
the snow on the narrow ridges and rocky benches along which they were
forced to travel.

About Christmas all the company went into winter-quarters on Powder
River, in the neighborhood of a company of Bonneville's men, left under
the command of Antoine Montero, who had established a trading-post and
fort at this place, hoping, no doubt, that here they should be
comparatively safe from the injurious competition of the older
companies. The appearance of three hundred men, who had the winter
before them in which to do mischief, was therefore as unpleasant as it
was unexpected; and the result proved that even Montero, who was
Bonneville's experienced trader, could not hold his own against so
numerous and expert a band of marauders as Bridger's men, assisted by
the Crows, proved themselves to be; for by the return of spring Montero
had very little remaining of the property belonging to the fort, nor
anything to show for it. This mischievous war upon Bonneville was
prompted partly by the usual desire to cripple a rival trader, which the
leaders encouraged in their men; but in some individual instances far
more by the desire for revenge upon Bonneville personally, on account of
his censures passed upon the members of the Monterey expedition, and on
the ways of mountain-men generally.

About the first of January, Fontenelle, with four men, and Captain
Stuart's party, left camp to go to St. Louis for supplies. At Fort
Laramie Fontenelle committed suicide, in a fit of _mania a potu_, and
his men returned to camp with the news.


1837. The fate of Fontenelle should have served as a warning to his
associates and fellows. 'Should have done,' however, are often idle
words, and as sad as they are idle; they match the poets 'might have
been,' in their regretful impotency. Perhaps there never was a winter
camp in the mountains more thoroughly demoralized than that of Bridger
during the months of January and February. Added to the whites, who were
reckless enough, were a considerable party of Delaware and Shawnee
Indians, excellent allies, and skillful hunters and trappers, but having
the Indian's love of strong drink. "Times were pretty good in the
mountains," according to the mountain-man's notion of good times; that
is to say, beaver was plenty, camp large, and alcohol abundant, if dear.
Under these favorable circumstance much alcohol was consumed, and its
influence was felt in the manners not only of the trappers, white and
red, but also upon the neighboring Indians.

The Crows, who had for two years been on terms of a sort of semi-amity
with the whites, found it to their interest to conciliate so powerful an
enemy as the American Fur Company was now become, and made frequent
visits to the camp, on which occasion they usually succeeded in
obtaining a taste of the fire-water of which they were inordinately
fond. Occasionally a trader was permitted to sell liquor to the whole
village, when a scene took place whose peculiar horrors were wholly
indescribable, from the inability of language to convey an adequate idea
of its hellish degradation. When a trader sold alcohol to a village it
was understood both by himself and the Indians what was to follow. And
to secure the trader against injury a certain number of warriors were
selected out of the village to act as a police force, and to guard the
trader during the 'drunk' from the insane passions of his customers. To
the police not a drop was to be given.

This being arranged, and the village disarmed, the carousal began. Every
individual, man, woman, and child, was permitted to become intoxicated.
Every form of drunkenness, from the simple stupid to the silly, the
heroic, the insane, the beastly, the murderous, displayed itself. The
scenes which were then enacted beggared description, as they shocked the
senses of even the hard-drinking, license-loving trappers who witnessed
them. That they did not "point a moral" for these men, is the strangest
part of the whole transaction.

When everybody, police excepted, was drunk as drunk could be, the trader
began to dilute his alcohol with water, until finally his keg contained
water only, slightly flavored by the washings of the keg, and as they
continued to drink of it without detecting its weak quality, they
finally drank themselves sober, and were able at last to sum up the cost
of their intoxication. This was generally nothing less than the whole
property of the village, added to which were not a few personal
injuries, and usually a few murders. The village now being poor, the
Indians were correspondingly humble; and were forced to begin a system
of reprisal by stealing and making war, a course for which the traders
were prepared, and which they avoided by leaving that neighborhood. Such
were some of the sins and sorrows for which the American fur companies
were answerable, and which detracted seriously from the respect that
the courage, and other good qualities of the mountain-men freely

[Illustration: THE GAME OF CACHE.]

By the first of March these scenes of wrong and riot were over, for that
season at least, and camp commenced moving back toward the Blackfoot
country. After recrossing the mountains, passing the Bighorn, Clarke's,
and Rosebud rivers, they came upon a Blackfoot village on the
Yellowstone, which as usual they attacked, and a battle ensued, in which
Manhead, captain of the Delawares was killed, another Delaware named Tom
Hill succeeding him in command. The fight did not result in any great
loss or gain to either party. The camp of Bridger fought its way past
the village, which was what they must do, in order to proceed.

Meek, however, was not quite satisfied with the punishment the Blackfeet
had received for the killing of Manhead, who had been in the fight with
him when the Camanches attacked them on the plains. Desirous of doing
something on his own account, he induced a comrade named LeBlas, to
accompany him to the village, after night had closed over the scene of
the late contest. Stealing into the village with a noiselessness equal
to that of one of Fennimore Cooper's Indian scouts, these two daring
trappers crept so near that they could look into the lodges, and see the
Indians at their favorite game of _Cache_. Inferring from this that the
savages did not feel their losses very severely, they determined to
leave some sign of their visit, and wound their enemy in his most
sensitive part, the horse. Accordingly they cut the halters of a number
of the animals, fastened in the customary manner to a stake, and
succeeded in getting off with nine of them, which property they
proceeded to appropriate to their own use.

As the spring and summer advanced, Bridger's brigade advanced into the
mountains, passing the Cross Creek of the Yellowstone, Twenty-five-Yard
River, Cherry River, and coming on to the head-waters of the Missouri
spent the early part of the summer in that locality. Between Gallatin
and Madison forks the camp struck the great trail of the Blackfeet. Meek
and Mark Head had fallen four or five days behind camp, and being on
this trail felt a good deal of uneasiness. This feeling was not lessened
by seeing, on coming to Madison Fork, the skeletons of two men tied to
or suspended from trees, the flesh eaten off their bones. Concluding
discretion to be the safest part of valor in this country, they
concealed themselves by day and traveled by night, until camp was
finally reached near Henry's Lake. On this march they forded a flooded
river, on the back of the same mule, their traps placed on the other,
and escaped from pursuit of a dozen yelling savages, who gazed after
them in astonishment; "taking their mule," said Mark Head, "to be a
beaver, and themselves great medicine men." "That," said Meek, "is what
I call 'cooning' a river."

From this point Meek set out with a party of thirty or forty trappers to
travel up the river to head-waters, accompanied by the famous Indian
painter Stanley, whose party was met with, this spring, traveling among
the mountains. The party of trappers were a day or two ahead of the main
camp when they found themselves following close after the big Blackfoot
village which had recently passed over the trail, as could be seen by
the usual signs; and also by the dead bodies strewn along the trail,
victims of that horrible scourge, the small pox. The village was
evidently fleeing to the mountains, hoping to rid itself of the plague
in their colder and more salubrious air.

Not long after coming upon these evidences of proximity to an enemy, a
party of a hundred and fifty of their warriors were discovered encamped
in a defile or narrow bottom enclosed by high bluffs, through which the
trappers would have to pass. Seeing that in order to pass this war
party, and the village, which was about half a mile in advance, there
would have to be some fighting done, the trappers resolved to begin the
battle at once by attacking their enemy, who was as yet ignorant of
their neighborhood. In pursuance of this determination, Meek, Newell,
Mansfield, and Le Blas, commenced hostilities. Leaving their horses in
camp, they crawled along on the edge of the overhanging bluff until
opposite to the encampment of Blackfeet, firing on them from the shelter
of some bushes which grew among the rocks. But the Blackfeet, though
ignorant of the number of their enemy, were not to be dislodged so
easily, and after an hour or two of random shooting, contrived to scale
the bluff at a point higher up, and to get upon a ridge of ground still
higher than that occupied by the four trappers. This movement dislodged
the latter, and they hastily retreated through the bushes and returned
to camp.

The next day, the main camp having come up, the fight was renewed. While
the greater body of the company, with the pack-horses, were passing
along the high bluff overhanging them, the party of the day before, and
forty or fifty others, undertook to drive the Indians out of the bottom,
and by keeping them engaged allow the train to pass in safety. The
trappers rode to the fight on this occasion, and charged the Blackfeet
furiously, they having joined the village a little farther on. A general
skirmish now took place. Meek, who was mounted on a fine horse, was in
the thickest of the fight. He had at one time a side to side race with
an Indian who strung his bow so hard that the arrow dropped, just as
Meek, who had loaded his gun running, was ready to fire, and the Indian
dropped after his arrow.

Newell too had a desperate conflict with a half-dead warrior, who having
fallen from a wound, he thought dead and was trying to scalp. Springing
from his horse he seized the Indian's long thick hair in one hand, and
with his knife held in the other made a pass at the scalp, when the
savage roused up knife in hand, and a struggle took place in which it
was for a time doubtful which of the combatants would part with the
coveted scalp-lock. Newell might have been glad to resign the trophy,
and leave the fallen warrior his tuft of hair, but his fingers were in
some way caught by some gun-screws with which the savage had ornamented
his _coiffure_, and would not part company. In this dilemma there was no
other alternative but fight. The miserable savage was dragged a rod or
two in the struggle, and finally dispatched.

Mansfield also got into such close quarters, surrounded by the enemy,
that he gave himself up for lost, and called out to his comrades: "Tell
old Gabe, (Bridger,) that old Cotton (his own sobriquet) is gone." He
lived, however, to deliver his own farewell message, for at this
critical juncture the trappers were re-inforced, and relieved. Still the
fight went on, the trappers gradually working their way to the upper end
of the enclosed part of the valley, past the point of danger.

Just before getting clear of this entanglement Meek became the subject
of another picture, by Stanley, who was viewing the battle from the
heights above the valley. The picture which is well known as "The
Trapper's Last Shot," represents him as he turned upon his horse, a fine
and spirited animal, to discharge his last shot at an Indian
pursuing, while in the bottom, at a little distance away, other Indians
are seen skulking in the tall reedy grass.

[Illustration: _THE TRAPPER'S LAST SHOT._]

The last shot having been discharged with fatal effect, our trapper, so
persistently lionized by painters, put his horse to his utmost speed and
soon after overtook the camp, which had now passed the strait of danger.
But the Blackfeet were still unsatisfied with the result of the contest.
They followed after, reinforced from the village, and attacked the camp.
In the fight which followed a Blackfoot woman's horse was shot down, and
Meek tried to take her prisoner: but two or three of her people coming
to the rescue, engaged his attention; and the woman was saved by seizing
hold of the tail of her husband's horse, which setting off at a run,
carried her out of danger.

[Illustration: "AND THEREBY HANGS A TAIL."]

The Blackfeet found the camp of Bridger too strong for them. They were
severely beaten and compelled to retire to their village, leaving
Bridger free to move on. The following day the camp reached the village
of Little-Robe, a chief of the Peagans, who held a talk with Bridger,
complaining that his nation were all perishing from the small-pox which
had been given to them by the whites. Bridger was able to explain to
Little-Robe his error; inasmuch as although the disease might have
originated among the whites, it was communicated to the Blackfeet by Jim
Beckwith, a negro, and principal chief of their enemies the Crows. This
unscrupulous wretch had caused two infected articles to be taken from a
Mackinaw boat, up from St. Louis, and disposed of to the
Blackfeet--whence the horrible scourge under which they were suffering.

This matter being explained, Little-Robe consented to trade horses and
skins; and the two camps parted amicably. The next day after this
friendly talk, Bridger being encamped on the trail in advance of the
Blackfeet, an Indian came riding into camp, with his wife and daughter,
pack-horse and lodge-pole, and all his worldly goods, unaware until he
got there of the snare into which he had fallen. The French trappers,
generally, decreed to kill the man and take possession of the woman. But
Meek, Kit Carson, and others of the American trappers of the better
sort, interfered to prevent this truly savage act. Meek took the woman's
horse by the head, Carson the man's, the daughter following, and led
them out of camp. Few of the Frenchmen cared to interrupt either of
these two men, and they were suffered to depart in peace. When at a safe
distance, Meek stopped, and demanded as some return for having saved the
man's life, a present of tobacco, a luxury which, from the Indian's
pipe, he suspected him to possess. About enough for two chews was the
result of this demand, complied with rather grudgingly, the Indian
vieing with the trapper in his devotion to the weed. Just at this time,
owing to the death of Fontenelle, and a consequent delay in receiving
supplies, tobacco was scarce among the mountaineers.

Bridger's brigade of trappers met with no other serious interruptions on
their summer's march. They proceeded to Henry's Lake, and crossing the
Rocky Mountains, traveled through the Pine Woods, always a favorite
region, to Lewis' Lake on Lewis' Fork of the Snake River; and finally up
the Grovant Fork, recrossing the mountains to Wind River, where the
rendezvous for this year was appointed.

Here, once more, the camp was visited by a last years' acquaintance.
This was none other than Mr. Gray, of the Flathead Mission, who was
returning to the States on business connected with the missionary
enterprise, and to provide himself with a helpmeet for life,--a
co-laborer and sufferer in the contemplated toil of teaching savages the
rudiments of a religion difficult even to the comprehension of an old

Mr. Gray was accompanied by two young men (whites) who wished to return
to the States, and also by a son of one of the Flathead chiefs. Two
other Flathead Indians, and one Iroquois and one Snake Indian, were
induced to accompany Mr. Gray. The undertaking was not without danger,
and so the leaders of the Fur Company assured him. But Mr. Gray was
inclined to make light of the danger, having traveled with entire safety
when under the protection of the Fur Companies the year before. He
proceeded without interruption until he reached Ash Hollow, in the
neighborhood of Fort Laramie, when his party was attacked by a large
band of Sioux, and compelled to accept battle. The five Indians, with
the whites, fought bravely, killing fifteen of the Sioux, before a
parley was obtained by the intervention of a French trader who chanced
to be among the Sioux. When Mr. Gray was able to hold a 'talk' with the
attacking party he was assured that his life and that of his two white
associates would be spared, but that they wanted to kill the strange
Indians and take their fine horses. It is not at all probable that Mr.
Gray consented to this sacrifice; though he has been accused of doing

No doubt the Sioux took advantage of some hesitation on his part, and
rushed upon his Indian allies in an unguarded moment. However that may
be, his allies were killed and he was allowed to escape, after giving up
the property belonging to them, and a portion of his own.

This affair was the occasion of much ill-feeling toward Mr. Gray, when,
in the following year, he returned to the mountains with the tale of
massacre of his friends and his own escape. The mountain-men, although
they used their influence to restrain the vengeful feelings of the
Flathead tribe, whispered amongst themselves that Gray had preferred his
own life to that of his friends. The old Flathead chief too, who had
lost a son by the massacre, was hardly able to check his impulsive
desire for revenge; for he held Mr. Gray responsible for his son's life.
Nothing more serious, however, grew out of this unhappy tragedy than a
disaffection among the tribe toward Mr. Gray, which made his labors
useless, and finally determined him to remove to the Wallamet Valley.

There were no outsiders besides Gray's party at the rendezvous of this
year, except Captain Stuart, and he was almost as good a mountaineer as
any. This doughty English traveler had the bad fortune together with
that experienced leader Fitzpatrick, of being robbed by the Crows in the
course of the fall hunt, in the Crow country. These expert horse thieves
had succeeded in stealing nearly all the horses belonging to the joint
camp, and had so disabled the company that it could not proceed. In this
emergency, Newell, who had long been a sub-trader and was wise in Indian
arts and wiles, was sent to hold a talk with the thieves. The talk was
held, according to custom, in the Medicine lodge, and the usual amount
of smoking, of long silences, and grave looks, had to be participated
in, before the subject on hand could be considered. Then the chiefs
complained as usual of wrongs at the hands of the white men; of their
fear of small-pox, from which some of their tribe had suffered; of
friends killed in battle with the whites, and all the list of ills that
Crow flesh is heir to at the will of their white enemies. The women too
had their complaints to proffer, and the number of widows and orphans in
the tribe was pathetically set forth. The chiefs also made a strong
point of this latter complaint; and on it the wily Newell hung his hopes
of recovering the stolen property.

"It is true," said he to the chiefs, "that you have sustained heavy
losses. But that is not the fault of the Blanket chief (Bridger.) If
your young men have been killed, they were killed when attempting to rob
or kill our Captain's men. If you have lost horses, your young men have
stolen five to our one. If you are poor in skins and other property, it
is because you sold it all for drink which did you no good. Neither is
Bridger to blame that you have had the small-pox. Your own chief, in
trying to kill your enemies the Blackfeet, brought that disease into the

"But it is true that you have many widows and orphans to support, and
that is bad. I pity the orphans, and will help you to support them, if
you will restore to my captain the property stolen from his camp.
Otherwise Bridger will bring more horses, and plenty of ammunition, and
there will be more widows and orphans among the Crows than ever before."

This was a kind of logic easy to understand and quick to convince among
savages. The bribe, backed by a threat, settled the question of the
restoration of the horses, which were returned without further delay,
and a present of blankets and trinkets was given, ostensibly to the
bereaved women, really to the covetous chiefs.


1837. The decline of the business of hunting furs began to be quite
obvious about this time. Besides the American and St. Louis Companies,
and the Hudson's Bay Company, there were numerous lone traders with whom
the ground was divided. The autumn of this year was spent by the
American Company, as formerly, in trapping beaver on the streams issuing
from the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. When the cold weather
finally drove the Fur Company to the plains, they went into winter
quarters once more in the neighborhood of the Crows on Powder River.
Here were re-enacted the wild scenes of the previous winter, both
trappers and Indians being given up to excesses.

On the return of spring, Bridger again led his brigade all through the
Yellowstone country, to the streams on the north side of the Missouri,
to the head-waters of that river; and finally rendezvoused on the north
fork of the Yellowstone, near Yellowstone Lake. Though the amount of
furs taken on the spring hunt was considerable, it was by no means equal
to former years. The fact was becoming apparent that the beaver was
being rapidly exterminated.

However there was beaver enough in camp to furnish the means for the
usual profligacy. Horse-racing, betting, gambling, drinking, were freely
indulged in. In the midst of this "fun," there appeared at the
rendezvous Mr. Gray, now accompanied by Mrs. Gray and six other
missionary ladies and gentlemen. Here also were two gentlemen from the
Methodist mission on the Wallamet, who were returning to the States.
Captain Stuart was still traveling with the Fur Company, and was also
present with his party; besides which a Hudson's Bay trader named
Ematinger was encamped near by. As if actuated to extraordinary displays
by the unusual number of visitors, especially the four ladies, both
trappers and Indians conducted themselves like the mad-caps they were.
The Shawnees and Delawares danced their great war-dance before the tents
of the missionaries; and Joe Meek, not to be outdone, arrayed himself in
a suit of armor belonging to Captain Stuart and strutted about the
encampment; then mounting his horse played the part of an ancient
knight, with a good deal of _eclat_.

Meek had not abstained from the alcohol kettle, but had offered it and
partaken of it rather more freely than usual; so that when rendezvous
was broken up, the St. Louis Company gone to the Popo Agie, and the
American Company going to Wind River, he found that his wife, a Nez
Perce who had succeeded Umentucken in his affections, had taken offence,
or a fit of homesickness, which was synonymous, and departed with the
party of Ematinger and the missionaries, intending to visit her people
at Walla-Walla. This desertion wounded Meek's feelings; for he prided
himself on his courtesy to the sex, and did not like to think that he
had not behaved handsomely. All the more was he vexed with himself
because his spouse had carried with her a pretty and sprightly
baby-daughter, of whom the father was fond and proud, and who had been
christened Helen Mar, after one of the heroines of Miss Porter's
_Scottish Chiefs_--a book much admired in the mountains, as it has been

Therefore at the first camp of the American Company, Meek resolved to
turn his back on the company, and go after the mother and daughter.
Obtaining a fresh kettle of alcohol, to keep up his spirits, he left
camp, returning toward the scene of the late rendezvous. But in the
effort to keep up his spirits he had drank too much alcohol, and the
result was that on the next morning he found himself alone on the Wind
River Mountain, with his horses and pack mules, and very sick indeed.
Taking a little more alcohol to brace up his nerves, he started on
again, passing around the mountain on to the Sweetwater; thence to the
Sandy, and thence across a country without water for seventy-five miles,
to Green River, where the camp of Ematinger was overtaken.

The heat was excessive; and the absence of water made the journey across
the arid plain between Sandy and Green Rivers one of great suffering to
the traveler and his animals; and the more so as the frequent references
to the alcohol kettle only increased the thirst-fever instead of
allaying it. But Meek was not alone in suffering. About half way across
the scorching plain he discovered a solitary woman's figure standing in
the trail, and two riding horses near her, whose drooping heads
expressed their dejection. On coming up with this strange group, Meek
found the woman to be one of the missionary ladies, a Mrs. Smith, and
that her husband was lying on the ground, dying, as the poor sufferer
believed himself, for water.

Mrs. Smith made a weeping appeal to Meek for water for her dying
husband; and truly the poor woman's situation was a pitiable one. Behind
camp, with no protection from the perils of the desert and
wilderness--only a terrible care instead--the necessity of trying to
save her husband's life. As no water was to be had, alcohol was offered
to the famishing man, who, however, could not be aroused from his stupor
of wretchedness. Seeing that death really awaited the unlucky missionary
unless something could be done to cause him to exert himself, Meek
commenced at once, and with unction, to abuse the man for his
unmanliness. His style, though not very refined, was certainly very

"You're a ---- pretty fellow to be lying on the ground here, lolling
your tongue out of your mouth, and trying to die. Die, if you want to,
you're of no account and will never be missed. Here's your wife, who you
are keeping standing here in the hot sun; why don't _she_ die? She's got
more pluck than a white-livered chap like you. But I'm not going to
leave her waiting here for you to die. Thar's a band of Indians behind
on the trail, and I've been riding like ---- to keep out of their way.
If you want to stay here and be scalped, you can stay; Mrs. Smith is
going with me. Come, madam," continued Meek, leading up her horse, "let
me help you to mount, for we must get out of this cursed country as fast
as possible."

Poor Mrs. Smith did not wish to leave her husband; nor did she relish
the notion of staying to be scalped. Despair tugged at her
heart-strings. She would have sunk to the ground in a passion of tears,
but Meek was too much in earnest to permit precious time to be thus
wasted. "Get on your horse," said he rather roughly. "You can't save
your husband by staying here, crying. It is better that one should die
than two; and he seems to be a worthless dog anyway. Let the Indians
have him."

Almost lifting her upon the horse, Meek tore the distracted woman away
from her husband, who had yet strength enough to gasp out an entreaty
not to be left.

"You can follow us if you choose," said the apparently merciless
trapper, "or you can stay where you are. Mrs. Smith can find plenty of
better men than you. Come, madam!" and he gave the horse a stroke with
his riding-whip which started him into a rapid pace.

The unhappy wife, whose conscience reproached her for leaving her
husband to die alone, looked back, and saw him raising his head to gaze
after them. Her grief broke out afresh, and she would have gone back
even then to remain with him: but Meek was firm, and again started up
her horse. Before they were quite out of sight, Meek turned in his
saddle, and beheld the dying man sitting up. "Hurrah;" said he: "he's
all right. He will overtake us in a little while:" and as he predicted,
in little over an hour Smith came riding up, not more than half dead by
this time. The party got into camp on Green River, about eleven o'clock
that night, and Mrs. Smith having told the story of her adventures with
the unknown trapper who had so nearly kidnaped her, the laugh and the
cheer went round among the company. "That's Meek," said Ematinger, "you
may rely on that. He's just the one to kidnap a woman in that way." When
Mrs. Smith fully realized the service rendered, she was abundantly
grateful, and profuse were the thanks which our trapper received, even
from the much-abused husband, who was now thoroughly alive again. Meek
failed to persuade his wife to return with him. She was homesick for her
people, and would go to them. But instead of turning back, he kept on
with Ematinger's camp as far as Fort Hall, which post was then in charge
of Courtenay Walker.

While the camp was at Soda Springs, Meek observed the missionary ladies
baking bread in a tin reflector before a fire. Bread was a luxury
unknown to the mountain-man,--and as a sudden recollection of his
boyhood, and the days of bread-and-butter came over him, his mouth began
to water. Almost against his will he continued to hang round the
missionary camp, thinking about the bread. At length one of the Nez
Perces, named James, whom the missionary had taught to sing, at their
request struck up a hymn, which he sang in a very creditable manner. As
a reward of his pious proficiency, one of the ladies gave James a
biscuit. A bright thought struck our longing hero's brain. "Go back,"
said he to James, "and sing another hymn; and when the ladies give you
another biscuit, bring it to me." And in this manner, he obtained a
taste of the coveted luxury, bread--of which, during nine years in the
mountains he had not eaten.

At Fort Hall, Meek parted company with the missionaries, and with his
wife and child. As the little black-eyed daughter took her departure in
company with this new element in savage life,--the missionary
society,--her father could have had no premonition of the fate to which
the admixture of the savage and the religious elements was step by step
consigning her.

After remaining a few days at the fort, Meek, who found some of his old
comrades at this place, went trapping with them up the Portneuf, and
soon made up a pack of one hundred and fifty beaver-skins. These, on
returning to the fort, he delivered to Jo Walker, one of the American
Company's traders at that time, and took Walker's receipt for them. He
then, with Mansfield and Wilkins, set out about the first of September
for the Flathead country, where Wilkins had a wife. In their company was
an old Flathead woman, who wished to return to her people, and took this

The weather was still extremely warm. It had been a season of great
drought, and the streams were nearly all entirely dried up. The first
night out, the horses, eight in number, strayed off in search of water,
and were lost. Now commenced a day of fearful sufferings. No water had
been found since leaving the fort. The loss of the horses made it
necessary for the company to separate to look for them; Mansfield and
Wilkins going in one direction, Meek and the old Flathead woman in
another. The little coolness and moisture which night had imparted to
the atmosphere was quickly dissipated by the unchecked rays of the
pitiless sun shining on a dry and barren plain, with not a vestige of
verdure anywhere in sight. On and on went the old Flathead woman,
keeping always in the advance, and on and on followed Meek, anxiously
scanning the horizon for a chance sight of the horses. Higher and higher
mounted the sun, the temperature increasing in intensity until the great
plain palpitated with radiated heat, and the horizon flickered almost
like a flame where the burning heavens met the burning earth. Meek had
been drinking a good deal of rum at the fort, which circumstance did not
lessen the terrible consuming thirst that was torturing him.

Noon came, and passed, and still the heat and the suffering increased,
the fever and craving of hunger being now added to that of thirst. On
and on, through the whole of that long scorching afternoon, trotted the
old Flathead woman in the peculiar traveling gait of the Indian and the
mountaineer, Meek following at a little distance, and going mad, as he
thought, for a little water. And mad he probably was, as famine
sometimes makes its victims. When night at last closed in, he laid down
to die, as the missionary Smith had done before. But he did not remember
Smith: he only thought of water, and heard it running, and fancied the
old woman was lapping it like a wolf. Then he rose to follow her and
find it; it was always just ahead, and the woman was howling to him to
show him the trail.

Thus the night passed, and in the cool of the early morning he
experienced a little relief. He was really following his guide, who as
on the day before was trotting on ahead. Then the thought possessed him
to overtake and kill her, hoping from her shriveled body to obtain a
morsel of food, and drop of moisture. But his strength was failing, and
his guide so far ahead that he gave up the thought as involving too
great exertion, continuing to follow her in a helpless and hopeless kind
of way.

At last! There was no mistake this time: he heard running water, and the
old woman _was_ lapping it like a wolf. With a shriek of joy he ran and
fell on his face in the water, which was not more than one foot in
depth, nor the stream more than fifteen feet wide. But it had a white
pebbly bottom; and the water was clear, if not very cool. It was
something to thank God for, which the none too religious trapper
acknowledged by a fervent "Thank God!"

For a long time he lay in the water, swallowing it, and by thrusting his
finger down his throat vomiting it up again, to prevent surfeit, his
whole body taking in the welcome moisture at all its million pores. The
fever abated, a feeling of health returned, and the late perishing man
was restored to life and comparative happiness. The stream proved to be
Godin's Fork, and here Meek and his faithful old guide rested until
evening, in the shade of some willows, where their good fortune was
completed by the appearance of Mansfield and Wilkins with the horses.
The following morning the men found and killed a fat buffalo cow,
whereby all their wants were supplied, and good feeling restored in the
little camp.

From Godin's Fork they crossed over to Salmon River, and presently
struck the Nez Perce trail which leads from that river over into the
Beaver-head country, on the Beaver-head or Jefferson Fork of the
Missouri, where there was a Flathead and Nez Perce village, on or about
the present site of Virginia City, in Montana.

Not stopping long here, Meek and his companions went on to the Madison
Fork with the Indian village, and to the shores of Missouri Lake,
joining in the fall hunt for buffalo.

[Illustration: HORSE-TAIL FALL.]


"Tell me all about a buffalo hunt," said the writer to Joe Meek, as we
sat at a window overlooking the Columbia River, where it has a beautiful
stretch of broad waters and curving wooded shores, and talking about
mountain life, "tell me how you used to hunt buffalo."

"Waal, there is a good deal of sport in runnin' buffalo. When the camp
discovered a band, then every man that wanted to run, made haste to
catch his buffalo horse. We sometimes went out thirty or forty strong;
sometimes two or three, and at other times a large party started on the
hunt; the more the merrier. We alway had great bantering about our
horses, each man, according to his own account, having the best one.

"When we first start we ride slow, so as not to alarm the buffalo. The
nearer we come to the band the greater our excitement. The horses seem
to feel it too, and are worrying to be off. When we come so near that
the band starts, then the word is given, our horses' mettle is up, and
away we go!

[Illustration: _A BUFFALO HUNT._]

"Thar may be ten thousand in a band. Directly we crowd them so close
that nothing can be seen but dust, nor anything heard but the roar of
their trampling and bellowing. The hunter now keeps close on their heels
to escape being blinded by the dust, which does not rise as high as a
man on horseback, for thirty yards behind the animals. As soon as we are
close enough the firing begins, and the band is on the run; and a
herd of buffalo can run about as fast as a good race-horse. How they
_do_ thunder along! They give us a pretty sharp race. Take care! Down
goes a rider, and away goes his horse with the band. Do you think we
stopped to look after the fallen man? Not we. We rather thought that war
fun, and if he got killed, why, 'he war unlucky, that war all. Plenty
more men: couldn't bother about him.'

"Thar's a fat cow ahead. I force my way through the band to come up with
her. The buffalo crowd around so that I have to put my foot on them, now
on one side, now the other, to keep them off my horse. It is lively
work, I can tell you. A man has to look sharp not to be run down by the
band pressing him on; buffalo and horse at the top of their speed.

"Look out; thar's a ravine ahead, as you can see by the plunge which the
band makes. Hold up! or somebody goes to the d--l now. If the band is
large it fills the ravine full to the brim, and the hindmost of the herd
pass over on top of the foremost. It requires horsemanship not to be
carried over without our own consent; but then we mountain-men are _all_
good horsemen. Over the ravine we go; but we do it our own way.

"We keep up the chase for about four miles, selecting our game as we
run, and killing a number of fat cows to each man; some more and some
less. When our horses are tired we slacken up, and turn back. We meet
the camp-keepers with pack-horses. They soon butcher, pack up the meat,
and we all return to camp, whar we laugh at each other's mishaps, and
eat fat meat: and this constitutes the glory of mountain life."

"But you were going to tell me about the buffalo hunt at Missouri Lake?"

"Thar isn't much to tell. It war pretty much like other buffalo hunts.
Thar war a lot of us trappers happened to be at a Nez Perce and Flathead
village in the fall of '38, when they war agoin' to kill winter meat;
and as their hunt lay in the direction we war going, we joined in. The
old Nez Perce chief, _Kow-e-so-te_ had command of the village, and we
trappers had to obey him, too.

"We started off slow; nobody war allowed to go ahead of camp. In this
manner we caused the buffalo to move on before us, but not to be
alarmed. We war eight or ten days traveling from the Beaver-head to
Missouri Lake, and by the time we got thar, the whole plain around the
lake war crowded with buffalo, and it war a splendid sight!

"In the morning the old chief harangued the men of his village, and
ordered us all to get ready for the surround. About nine o'clock every
man war mounted, and we began to move.

"That war a sight to make a man's blood warm! A thousand men, all
trained hunters, on horseback, carrying their guns, and with their
horses painted in the height of Indians' fashion. We advanced until
within about half a mile of the herd; then the chief ordered us to
deploy to the right and left, until the wings of the column extended a
long way, and advance again.

"By this time the buffalo war all moving, and we had come to within a
hundred yards of them. _Kow-e-so-te_ then gave us the word, and away we
went, pell-mell. Heavens, what a charge! What a rushing and roaring--men
shooting, buffalo bellowing and trampling until the earth shook under

"It war the work of half an hour to slay two thousand or may be three
thousand animals. When the work was over, we took a view of the field.
Here and there and everywhere, laid the slain buffalo. Occasionally a
horse with a broken leg war seen; or a man with a broken arm; or maybe
he had fared worse, and had a broken head.

"Now came out the women of the village to help us butcher and pack up
the meat. It war a big job; but we war not long about it. By night the
camp war full of meat, and everybody merry. Bridger's camp, which war
passing that way, traded with the village for fifteen hundred buffalo
tongues--the tongue being reckoned a choice part of the animal. And
that's the way we helped the Nez Perces hunt buffalo."

"But when you were hunting for your own subsistence in camp, you
sometimes went out in small parties?"

"Oh yes, it war the same thing on a smaller scale. One time Kit Carson
and myself, and a little Frenchman, named Marteau, went to run buffalo
on Powder River. When we came in sight of the band it war agreed that
Kit and the Frenchman should do the running, and I should stay with the
pack animals. The weather war very cold and I didn't like my part of the
duty much.

"The Frenchman's horse couldn't run; so I lent him mine. Kit rode his
own; not a good buffalo horse either. In running, my horse fell with the
Frenchman, and nearly killed him. Kit, who couldn't make his horse
catch, jumped off, and caught mine, and tried it again. This time he
came up with the band, and killed four fat cows.

"When I came up with the pack-animals, I asked Kit how he came by my
horse. He explained, and wanted to know if I had seen anything of
Marteau: said my horse had fallen with him, and he thought killed him.
'You go over the other side of yon hill, and see,' said Kit.

"What'll I do with him if he is dead?" said I.

"Can't you pack him to camp?"

"Pack ----" said I; "I should rather pack a load of meat."

"Waal," said Kit, "I'll butcher, if you'll go over and see, anyhow."

"So I went over, and found the dead man leaning his head on his hand,
and groaning; for he war pretty bad hurt. I got him on his horse,
though, after a while, and took him back to whar Kit war at work. We
soon finished the butchering job, and started back to camp with our
wounded Frenchman, and three loads of fat meat."

"You were not very compassionate toward each other, in the mountains?"

"That war not our business. We had no time for such things. Besides,
live men war what we wanted; dead ones war of no account."


1838. From Missouri Lake, Meek started alone for the Gallatin Fork of
the Missouri, trapping in a mountain basin called Gardiner's Hole.
Beaver were plenty here, but it was getting late in the season, and the
weather was cold in the mountains. On his return, in another basin
called the Burnt Hole, he found a buffalo skull; and knowing that
Bridger's camp would soon pass that way, wrote on it the number of
beaver he had taken, and also his intention to go to Fort Hall to sell

In a few days the camp passing found the skull, which grinned its threat
at the angry Booshways, as the chuckling trapper had calculated that it
would. To prevent its execution runners were sent after him, who,
however, failed to find him, and nothing was known of the supposed
renegade for some time. But as Bridger passed through Pierre's Hole, on
his way to Green river to winter, he was surprised at Meek's appearance
in camp. He was soon invited to the lodge of the Booshways, and called
to account for his supposed apostacy.

Meek, for a time, would neither deny nor confess, but put on his free
trapper airs, and laughed in the face of the Booshways. Bridger, who
half suspected some trick, took the matter lightly, but Dripps was very
much annoyed, and made some threats, at which Meek only laughed the
more. Finally the certificate from their own trader, Jo Walker, was
produced, the new pack of furs surrendered, and Dripps' wrath turned
into smiles of approval.

Here again Meek parted company with the main camp, and went on an
expedition with seven other trappers, under John Larison, to the Salmon
River: but found the cold very severe on this journey, and the grass
scarce and poor, so that the company lost most of their horses.

On arriving at the Nez Perce village in the Forks of the Salmon, Meek
found the old chief _Kow-e-so-te_ full of the story of the missionaries
and their religion, and anxious to hear preaching. Reports were
continually arriving by the Indians, of the wonderful things which were
being taught by Mr. and Mrs. Spalding at Lapwai, on the Clearwater, and
at Waiilatpu, on the Walla-Walla River. It was now nearly two years
since these missions had been founded, and the number of converts among
the Nez Perces and Flatheads was already considerable.

Here was an opening for a theological student, such as Joe Meek was!
After some little assumption of modesty, Meek intimated that he thought
himself capable of giving instruction on religious subjects; and being
pressed by the chief, finally consented to preach to _Kow-e-so-te's_
people. Taking care first to hold a private council with his associates,
and binding them not to betray him, Meek preached his first sermon that
evening, going regularly through with the ordinary services of a

These services were repeated whenever the Indians seemed to desire it,
until Christmas. Then, the village being about to start upon a hunt, the
preacher took occasion to intimate to the chief that a wife would be an
agreeable present. To this, however, _Kow-e-so-te_ demurred, saying that
Spalding's religion did not permit men to have two wives: that the Nez
Perces had many of them given up their wives on this account; and that
therefore, since Meek already had one wife among the Nez Perces, he
could not have another without being false to the religion he professed.

To this perfectly clear argument Meek replied, that among white men, if
a man's wife left him without his consent, as his had done, he could
procure a divorce, and take another wife. Besides, he could tell him how
the Bible related many stories of its best men having several wives. But
_Kow-e-so-te_ was not easily convinced. He could not see how, if the
Bible approved of polygamy, Spalding should insist on the Indians
putting away all but one of their wives. "However," says Meek, "after
about two weeks' explanation of the doings of Solomon and David, I
succeeded in getting the chief to give me a young girl, whom I called
Virginia;--my present wife, and the mother of seven children."

After accompanying the Indians on their hunt to the Beaver-head country,
where they found plenty of buffalo, Meek remained with the Nez Perce
village until about the first of March, when he again intimated to the
chief that it was the custom of white men to pay their preachers.
Accordingly the people were notified, and the winter's salary began to
arrive. It amounted altogether to thirteen horses, and many packs of
beaver, beside sheep-skins and buffalo-robes; so that he "considered
that with his young wife, he had made a pretty good winter's work of

In March he set out trapping again, in company with one of his comrades
named Allen, a man to whom he was much attached. They traveled along up
and down the Salmon, to Godin's River, Henry's Fork of the Snake, to
Pierre's Fork, and Lewis' Fork, and the Muddy, and finally set their
traps on a little stream that runs out of the pass which leads to
Pierre's Hole.

Leaving their camp one morning to take up their traps, they were
discovered and attacked by a party of Blackfeet just as they came near
the trapping ground. The only refuge at hand was a thicket of willows on
the opposite side of the creek, and towards this the trappers directed
their flight. Meek, who was in advance, succeeded in gaining the thicket
without being seen; but Allen stumbled and fell in crossing the stream,
and wet his gun. He quickly recovered his footing and crossed over; but
the Blackfeet had seen him enter the thicket, and came up to within a
short distance, yet not approaching too near the place where they knew
he was concealed. Unfortunately, Allen, in his anxiety to be ready for
defense, commenced snapping caps on his gun to dry it. The quick ears of
the savages caught the sound, and understood the meaning of it. Knowing
him to be defenceless, they plunged into the thicket after him, shooting
him almost immediately, and dragging him out still breathing to a small
prairie about two rods away.

And now commenced a scene which Meek was compelled to witness, and which
he declares nearly made him insane through sympathy, fear, horror, and
suspense as to his own fate. Those devils incarnate deliberately cut up
their still palpitating victim into a hundred pieces, each taking a
piece; accompanying the horrible and inhuman butchery with every
conceivable gesture of contempt for the victim, and of hellish delight
in their own acts.

Meek, who was only concealed by the small patch of willows, and a pit in
the sand hastily scooped out with his knife until it was deep enough to
lie in, was in a state of the most fearful excitement. All day long he
had to endure the horrors of his position. Every moment seemed an hour,
every hour a day, until when night came, and the Indians left the place,
he was in a high state of fever.

About nine o'clock that night he ventured to creep to the edge of the
little prairie, where he lay and listened a long time, without hearing
anything but the squirrels running over the dry leaves; but which he
constantly feared was the stealthy approach of the enemy. At last,
however, he summoned courage to crawl out on to the open ground, and
gradually to work his way to a wooded bluff not far distant. The next
day he found two of his horses, and with these set out alone for Green
River, where the American Company was to rendezvous. After twenty-six
days of solitary and cautious travel he reached the appointed place in
safety, having suffered fearfully from the recollection of the tragic
scene he had witnessed in the death of his friend, and also from
solitude and want of food.

The rendezvous of this year was at Bonneville's old fort on Green River,
and was the last one held in the mountains by the American Fur Company.
Beaver was growing scarce, and competition was strong. On the disbanding
of the company, some went to Santa Fe, some to California, others to the
Lower Columbia, and a few remained in the mountains trapping, and
selling their furs to the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Hall. As to the
leaders, some of them continued for a few years longer to trade with the
Indians, and others returned to the States, to lose their fortunes more
easily far than they made them.

Of the men who remained in the mountains trapping, that year, Meek was
one. Leaving his wife at Fort Hall, he set out in company with a
Shawnee, named Big Jim, to take beaver on Salt River, a tributary of the
Snake. The two trappers had each his riding and his pack horse, and at
night generally picketed them all; but one night Big Jim allowed one of
his to remain loose to graze. This horse, after eating for some hours,
came back and laid down behind the other horses, and every now and then
raised up his head; which slight movement at length aroused Big Jim's
attention, and his suspicions also.

"My friend," said he in a whisper to Meek, "Indian steal our horses."

"Jump up and shoot," was the brief answer.

Jim shot, and ran out to see the result. Directly he came back saying:
"My friend, I shoot my horse; break him neck;" and Big Jim became
disconsolate over what his white comrade considered a very good joke.

The hunt was short and not very remunerative in furs. Meek soon returned
to Fort Hall; and when he did so, found his new wife had left that post
in company with a party under Newell, to go to Fort Crockett, on Green
River,--Newell's wife being a sister of Virginia's,--on learning which
he started on again alone, to join that party. On Bear River, he fell in
with a portion of that Quixotic band, under Farnham, which was looking
for paradise and perfection, something on the Fourier plan, somewhere in
this western wilderness. They had already made the discovery in crossing
the continent, that perfect disinterestedness was lacking among
themselves; and that the nearer they got to their western paradise the
farther off it seemed in their own minds.

Continuing his journey alone, soon after parting from Farnham, he lost
the hammer of his gun, which accident deprived him of the means of
subsisting himself, and he had no dried meat, nor provisions of any
kind. The weather, too, was very cold, increasing the necessity for food
to support animal heat. However, the deprivation of food was one of the
accidents to which mountain-men were constantly liable, and one from
which he had often suffered severely; therefore he pushed on, without
feeling any unusual alarm, and had arrived within fifteen miles of the
fort before he yielded to the feeling of exhaustion, and laid down
beside the trail to rest. Whether he would ever have finished the
journey alone he could not tell; but fortunately for him, he was
discovered by Jo Walker, and Gordon, another acquaintance, who chanced
to pass that way toward the fort.

Meek answered their hail, and inquired if they had anything to eat.
Walker replied in the affirmative, and getting down from his horse,
produced some dried buffalo meat which he gave to the famishing trapper.
But seeing the ravenous manner in which he began to eat, Walker inquired
how long it had been since he had eaten anything.

"Five days since I had a bite."

"Then, my man, you can't have any more just now," said Walker, seizing
the meat in alarm lest Meek should kill himself.

"It was hard to see that meat packed away again," says Meek in relating
his sufferings, "I told Walker that if my gun had a hammer I'd shoot and
eat him. But he talked very kindly, and helped me on my horse, and we
all went on to the Fort."

At Fort Crockett were Newell and his party, the remainder of Farnham's
party, a trading party under St. Clair, who owned the fort, Kit Carson,
and a number of Meek's former associates, including Craig and Wilkins.
Most of these men, Othello-like, had lost their occupation since the
disbanding of the American Fur Company, and were much at a loss
concerning the future. It was agreed between Newell and Meek to take
what beaver they had to Fort Hall, to trade for goods, and return to
Fort Crockett, where they would commence business on their own account
with the Indians.

Accordingly they set out, with one other man belonging to Farnham's
former adherents. They traveled to Henry's Fork, to Black Fork, where
Fort Bridger now is, to Bear River, to Soda Springs, and finally to Fort
Hall, suffering much from cold, and finding very little to eat by the
way. At Fort Hall, which was still in charge of Courtenay Walker, Meek
and Newell remained a week, when, having purchased their goods and
horses to pack them, they once more set out on the long, cold journey to
Fort Crockett. They had fifteen horses to take care of and only one
assistant, a Snake Indian called Al. The return proved an arduous and
difficult undertaking. The cold was very severe; they had not been able
to lay in a sufficient stock of provisions at Fort Hall, and game there
was none, on the route. By the time they arrived at Ham's Fork the only
atom of food they had left was a small piece of bacon which they had
been carefully saving to eat with any poor meat they might chance to

The next morning after camping on Ham's Fork was stormy and cold, the
snow filling the air; yet Snake Al, with a promptitude by no means
characteristic of him, rose early and went out to look after the horses.

"By that same token," said Meek to Newell, "Al has eaten the bacon." And
so it proved, on investigation. Al's uneasy conscience having acted as a
goad to stir him up to begin his duties in season. On finding his
conjecture confirmed, Meek declared his intention, should no game be
found before next day night, of killing and eating Al, to get back the
stolen bacon. But Providence interfered to save Al's bacon. On the
following afternoon the little party fell in with another still smaller
but better supplied party of travelers, comprising a Frenchman and his
wife. These had plenty of fat antelope meat, which they freely parted
with to the needy ones, whom also they accompanied to Fort Crockett.

It was now Christmas; and the festivities which took place at the Fort
were attended with a good deal of rum drinking, in which Meek, according
to his custom, joined, and as a considerable portion of their stock in
trade consisted of this article, it may fairly be presumed that the home
consumption of these two "lone traders" amounted to the larger half of
what they had with so much trouble transported from Fort Hall. In fact,
"times were bad enough" among the men so suddenly thrown upon their own
resources among the mountains, at a time when that little creature,
which had made mountain life tolerable, or possible, was fast being

To make matters more serious, some of the worst of the now unemployed
trappers had taken to a life of thieving and mischief which made enemies
of the friendly Indians, and was likely to prevent the better disposed
from enjoying security among any of the tribes. A party of these
renegades, under a man named Thompson, went over to Snake River to steal
horses from the Nez Perces. Not succeeding in this, they robbed the
Snake Indians of about forty animals, and ran them off to the Uintee,
the Indians following and complaining to the whites at Fort Crockett
that their people had been robbed by white trappers, and demanding

According to Indian law, when one of a tribe offends, the whole tribe is
responsible. Therefore if whites stole their horses they might take
vengeance on any whites they met, unless the property was restored. In
compliance with this well understood requisition of Indian law, a party
was made up at Fort Crockett to go and retake the horses, and restore
them to their rightful owners. This party consisted of Meek, Craig,
Newell, Carson, and twenty-five others, under the command of Jo Walker.

The horses were found on an island in Green River, the robbers having
domiciled themselves in an old fort at the mouth of the Uintee. In order
to avoid having a fight with the renegades, whose white blood the
trappers were not anxious to spill, Walker made an effort to get the
horses off the island undiscovered. But while horses and men were
crossing the river on the ice, the ice sinking with them until the water
was knee-deep, the robbers discovered the escape of their booty, and
charging on the trappers tried to recover the horses. In this effort
they were not successful; while Walker made a masterly flank movement
and getting in Thompson's rear, ran the horses into the fort, where he
stationed his men, and succeeded in keeping the robbers on the outside.
Thompson then commenced giving the horses away to a village of Utes in
the neighborhood of the fort, on condition that they should assist in
retaking them. On his side, Walker threatened the Utes with dire
vengeance if they dared interfere. The Utes who had a wholesome fear not
only of the trappers, but of their foes the Snakes, declined to enter
into the quarrel. After a day of strategy, and of threats alternated
with arguments, strengthened by a warlike display, the trappers marched
out of the fort before the faces of the discomfitted thieves, taking
their booty with them, which was duly restored to the Snakes on their
return to Fort Crockett, and peace secured once more with that people.

Still times continued bad. The men not knowing what else to do, went out
in small parties in all directions seeking adventures, which generally
were not far to find. On one of these excursions Meek went with a party
down the canyon of Green River, on the ice. For nearly a hundred miles
they traveled down this awful canyon without finding but one place where
they could have come out; and left it at last at the mouth of the

This passed the time until March. Then the company of Newell and Meek
was joined by Antoine Rubideau, who had brought goods from Santa Fe to
trade with the Indians. Setting out in company, they traded along up
Green River to the mouth of Ham's fork, and camped. The snow was still
deep in the mountains, and the trappers found great sport in running
antelope. On one occasion a large herd, numbering several hundreds, were
run on to the ice, on Green River, where they were crowded into an air
hole, and large numbers slaughtered only for the cruel sport which they

But killing antelope needlessly was not by any means the worst of
amusements practiced in Rubideau's camp. That foolish trader occupied
himself so often and so long in playing _Hand_, (an Indian game,) that
before he parted with his new associates he had gambled away his goods,
his horses, and even his wife; so that he returned to Santa Fe much
poorer than nothing--since he was in debt.

On the departure of Rubideau, Meek went to Fort Hall, and remained in
that neighborhood, trapping and trading for the Hudson's Bay Company,
until about the last of June, when he started for the old rendezvous
places of the American Companies, hoping to find some divisions of them
at least, on the familiar camping ground. But his journey was in vain.
Neither on Green River or Wind River, where for ten years he had been
accustomed to meet the leaders and their men, his old comrades in
danger, did he find a wandering brigade even. The glory of the American
companies was departed, and he found himself solitary among his long
familiar haunts.

With many melancholy reflections, the man of twenty-eight years of age
recalled how, a mere boy, he had fallen half unawares into the kind of
life he had ever since led amongst the mountains, with only other men
equally the victims of circumstance, and the degraded savages, for his
companions. The best that could be made of it, such life had been and
must be constantly deteriorating to the minds and souls of himself and
his associates. Away from all laws, and refined habits of living; away
from the society of religious, modest, and accomplished women; always
surrounded by savage scenes, and forced to cultivate a taste for
barbarous things--what had this life made of him? what was he to do with
himself in the future?

Sick of trapping and hunting, with brief intervals of carousing, he felt
himself to be. And then, even if he were not, the trade was no longer
profitable enough to support him. What could he do? where could he go?
He remembered his talk with Mrs. Whitman, that fair, tall, courteous,
and dignified lady who had stirred in him longings to return to the
civilized life of his native state. But he felt unfit for the society of
such as she. Would he ever, could he ever attain to it now? He had
promised her he might go over into Oregon and settle down. But could he
settle down? Should he not starve at trying to do what other men,
mechanics and farmers, do? And as to learning, he had none of it; there
was no hope then of "living by his wits," as some men did--missionaries
and artists and school teachers, some of whom he had met at the
rendezvous. Heigho! to be checkmated in life at twenty-eight, that would
never do.

At Fort Hall, on his return, he met two more missionaries and their
wives going to Oregon, but these four did not affect him pleasantly; he
had no mind to go with them. Instead, he set out on what proved to be
his last trapping expedition, with a Frenchman, named Mattileau. They
visited the old trapping grounds on Pierre's Fork, Lewis' Lake,
Jackson's River, Jackson's Hole, Lewis River and Salt River: but beaver
were scarce; and it was with a feeling of relief that, on returning by
way of Bear River, Meek heard from a Frenchman whom he met there, that
he was wanted at Fort Hall, by his friend Newell, who had something to
propose to him.

[Illustration: CASTLE ROCK.]


1840. When Meek arrived at Fort Hall, where Newell was awaiting him, he
found that the latter had there the two wagons which Dr. Whitman had
left at the points on the journey where further transportation by their
means had been pronounced impossible. The Doctor's idea of finding a
passable wagon-road over the lava plains and the heavily timbered
mountains lying between Fort Hall and the Columbia River, seemed to
Newell not so wild a one as it was generally pronounced to be in the
mountains. At all events, he was prepared to undertake the journey. The
wagons were put in traveling order, and horses and mules purchased for
the expedition.

"Come," said Newell to Meek, "we are done with this life in the
mountains--done with wading in beaver-dams, and freezing or starving
alternately--done with Indian trading and Indian fighting. The fur trade
is dead in the Rocky Mountains, and it is no place for us now, if ever
it was. We are young yet, and have life before us. We cannot waste it
here; we cannot or will not return to the States. Let us go down to the
Wallamet and take farms. There is already quite a settlement there made
by the Methodist Mission and the Hudson's Bay Company's retired

"I have had some talk with the Americans who have gone down there, and
the talk is that the country is going to be settled up by our people,
and that the Hudson's Bay Company are not going to rule this country
much longer. What do you say, Meek? Shall we turn American settlers?"

"I'll go where you do, Newell. What suits you suits me."

"I thought you'd say so, and that's why I sent for you, Meek. In my way
of thinking, a white man is a little better than a Canadian Frenchman.
I'll be ---- if I'll hang 'round a post of the Hudson's Bay Company. So
you'll go?"

"I reckon I will! What have you got for me to do? _I_ haven't got
anything to begin with but a wife and baby!"

"Well, you can drive one of the wagons, and take your family and traps
along. Nicholas will drive the other, and I'll play leader, and look
after the train. Craig will go also, so we shall be quite a party, with
what strays we shall be sure to pick up."

Thus it was settled. Thus Oregon began to receive her first real
emigrants, who were neither fur-traders nor missionaries, but true
frontiersmen--border-men. The training which the mountain-men had
received in the service of the fur companies admirably fitted them to
be, what afterwards they became, a valuable and indispensable element in
the society of that country in whose peculiar history they played an
important part. But we must not anticipate their acts before we have
witnessed their gradual transformation from lawless rangers of the
wilderness, to law-abiding and even law-making and law-executing
citizens of an isolated territory.

In order to understand the condition of things in the Wallamet Valley,
or Lower Columbia country, it will be necessary to revert to the
earliest history of that territory, as sketched in the first chapter of
this book. A history of the fur companies is a history of Oregon up to
the year 1834, so far as the occupation of the country was concerned.
But its political history was begun long before--from the time (May
11th, 1792) when the captain of a New England coasting and fur-trading
vessel entered the great "River of the West," which nations had been
looking for a hundred years. At the very time when the inquisitive
Yankee was heading his little vessel through the white line of breakers
at the mouth of the long-sought river, a British exploring expedition
was scanning the shore between it and the Straits of Fuca, having wisely
declared its scientific opinion that there was no such river on that
coast. Vancouver, the chief of that expedition, so assured the Yankee
trader, whose views did not agree with his own: and, Yankee-like, the
trader turned back to satisfy himself.

A bold and lucky man was Captain Gray of the ship _Columbia_. No
explorer he--only an adventurous and, withal, a prudent trader, with an
eye to the main chance; emulous, too, perhaps, of a little glory! It is
impossible to conceive how he could have done this thing calmly. We
think his stout heart must have shivered somewhat, both with
anticipation and dread, as he ran for the "opening," and plunged into
the frightful tumult--straight through the proper channel, thank God!
and sailed out on to the bosom of that beautiful bay, twenty-five miles
by six, which the great river forms at its mouth.

We trust the morning was fine: for then Captain Gray must have beheld a
sight which a discoverer should remember for a lifetime. This
magnificent bay, surrounded by lofty hills, clad thick with noble
forests of fir, and fretted along its margin with spurs of the
highlands, forming other smaller bays and coves, into which ran streams
whose valleys were hidden among the hills. From beyond the farthest
point, whose dark ridge jutted across this inland sea, flowed down the
deep, broad river, whose course and origin was still a magnificent
mystery, but which indicated by its volume that it drained a mighty
region of probable great fertility and natural wealth. Perhaps Captain
Gray did not fully realize the importance of his discovery. If the day
was fine, with a blue sky, and the purple shadows lying in among the
hills, with smooth water before him and the foamy breakers behind--_if_
he felt what his discovery was, in point of importance, to the world, he
was a proud and happy man, and enjoyed the reward of his daring.

The only testimony on that head is the simple entry on his log-book,
telling us that he had named the river "_Columbia's River_,"--with an
apostrophe, that tiny point intimating much. This was one ground of the
American claim, though Vancouver, after Gray had reported his success to
him, sent a lieutenant to explore the river, and then claimed the
discovery for England! The next claim of the United States upon the
Oregon territory was by virtue of the Florida treaty and the Louisiana
purchase. These, and the general one of natural boundaries, England
contested also. Hence the treaty of joint occupancy for a term of ten
years, renewable, unless one of the parties to it gave a twelve-month's
notice of intention to withdraw. Meantime this question of territorial
claims hung over the national head like the sword suspended by a hair,
which statesmen delight in referring to. We did not dare to say Oregon
was ours, because we were afraid England would make war on us; and
England did not dare say Oregon was hers, for the same reason. Therefore
"joint-occupancy" was the polite word with which statesmen glossed over
the fact that Great Britain actually possessed the country through the
monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company. That company had a good thing so
long as the government of Great Britain prevented any outbreak, by
simply renewing the treaty every ten years. Their manner of doing
business was such as to prevent any less powerful corporation from
interfering with them, while individual enterprise was sure to be
crushed at the start.

But "man proposes and God disposes." In 1834, the Methodist Episcopal
Board of Missions sent out four missionaries to labor among the Indians.
These were two preachers, the Rev. Messrs. Jason and Daniel Lee, and two
lay members, Cyrus Shepard and P.L. Edwards. These gentlemen were
liberally furnished with all the necessaries and comforts of life by the
Board, in addition to which they received the kindest attentions and
consideration from the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company at
Vancouver. Their vessel, the _May Dacre_, Captain Lambert, had arrived
safely in the river with the mission goods. The gentlemen at Vancouver
encouraged their enterprise, and advised them to settle in the Wallamet
valley, the most fertile tract of country west of the Rocky Mountains.
Being missionaries, nothing was to be feared from them in the way of
trade. The Wallamet valley was a good country for the mission--at the
same time it was south of the Columbia River. This latter consideration
was not an unimportant one with the Hudson's Bay Company, it being
understood among those in the confidence of the British government, that
in case the Oregon territory had to be divided with the United States,
the Columbia River would probably be made the northern boundary of the
American possessions.

There was nothing in the character of the Christian Missionary's labor
which the Hudson's Bay Company could possibly object to without a
palpable violation of the Convention of 1818. Therefore, although the
Methodist mission in the Wallamet Valley received a large accession to
its numbers in 1837, they were as kindly welcomed as had been those of
1834; and also those Presbyterian missionaries of 1836, who had settled
in the "upper country."

Three points, however, the Hudson's Bay Company insisted upon, so far
as, under the treaty, they could; the Americans must not trade with the
Indians, but confine themselves to agricultural pursuits and missionary
labor, and keep on the south side of the Columbia.

Not an immigrant entered Oregon in that day who did not proceed at once
to Vancouver: nor was there one who did not meet with the most liberal
and hospitable treatment. Neither was this hospitality a trifling
benefit; to the weary traveler just arrived from a long and most
fatiguing journey, it was extremely welcome and refreshing. At Vancouver
was the only society, and the only luxurious living to be enjoyed on the
whole Northwest coast.

At the head of the first was Dr. John McLaughlin, already mentioned as
the Chief Factor, and Deputy Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in
Oregon, and all the Northwest. He was of Scotch origin, and Canadian
birth, a gentleman bred, with a character of the highest integrity, to
which were united justice and humanity. His position as head of the
Hudson's Bay Company's affairs, was no enviable one during that period
of Oregon history which followed the advent of Americans in the Wallamet
Valley. Himself a British subject, and a representative of that powerful
corporation which bent the British Government to its will, he was bound
to execute its commands when they did not conflict too strongly with his
consciousness of right and justice.

As has been stated, the Methodist mission settlement was reinforced in
1837, by the arrival of about twenty persons, among whom were several
ladies, and a few children. These, like those preceding them, were first
entertained at Fort Vancouver before proceeding to the mission, which
was between fifty and sixty miles up the Wallamet, in the heart of that
delightful valley. These persons came by a sailing vessel around Cape
Horn, bringing with them supplies for the mission.

In the two following years there were about a dozen missionary arrivals
overland, all of whom tarried a short time at the American Company's
rendezvous, as before related. These were some of them designed for the
upper country, but most of them soon settled in the Wallamet valley.

During these years, between 1834 and 1840, there had drifted into the
valley various persons from California, the Rocky Mountains, and from
the vessels which sometimes appeared in the Columbia; until at the time
when Newell and Meek resolved to quit the mountains, the American
settlers numbered nearly one hundred, men, women, and children. Of
these, about thirty belonged to the missions; the remainder were
mountain-men, sailors, and adventurers. The mountain-men, most of them,
had native wives. Besides the Americans there were sixty Canadian
Frenchmen, who had been retired upon farms by the Hudson's Bay Company;
and who would probably have occupied these farms so long as the H.B.
Company should have continued to do business in Oregon.


When it was settled that Newell and Meek were to go to the Wallamet,
they lost no time in dallying, but packed the wagons with whatever they
possessed in the way of worldly goods, topped them with their Nez Perce
wives and half-breed children, and started for Walla-Walla, accompanied
by Craig, another mountain-man, and either followed or accompanied by
several others. Meek drove a five-in-hand team of four horses and one
mule. Nicholas drove the other team of four horses, and Newell, who
owned the train, was mounted as leader.

The journey was no easy one, extending as it did over immense plains of
lava, round impassable canyons, over rapid unbridged rivers, and over
mountains hitherto believed to be only passable for pack trains. The
honor which has heretofore been accorded to the Presbyterian
missionaries solely, of opening a wagon road from the Rocky Mountains to
the Columbia River, should in justice be divided with these two
mountaineers, who accomplished the most difficult part of this difficult

Arrived at Fort Boise, a post of the Hudson's Bay Company, the little
caravan stopped for a few days to rest and recruit their animals. With
the usual courtesy of that Company, Mr. Payette, the trader in charge,
offered Newell quarters in the fort, as leader of his party. To Meek and
Craig who were encamped outside, he sent a piece of sturgeon with his
compliments, which our incipient Oregonians sent back again with
_their_ compliments. No Hudson's Bay distinctions of rank for them! No,
indeed! The moment that an American commenced to think of himself as a
settler on the most remote corner of American soil, that moment, as if
by instinct, he began to defend and support his republicanism.

After a few days' rest, the party went on, encountering, as might be
expected, much difficulty and toil, but arriving safely after a
reasonable time at the Columbia River, at the junction of the Umatilla.
Here the wagons and stock were crossed over, and the party proceeded
directly to Dr. Whitman's mission at Waiilatpu. Dr. Whitman gave them a
friendly reception; killing for them, if not the fatted calf, the
fattest hog he had; telling Meek at the same time that "fat pork was
good for preachers," referring to Meek's missionary labors among the Nez

During the three years since the commencement of the mission at
Waiilatpu considerable advancement had been made in the progress of
civilization among the Cayuses. Quite a number of Indian children were
domesticated with Mrs. Whitman, who were rapidly acquiring a knowledge
of housekeeping, sewing, reading, and writing, and farm labor. With Mrs.
Whitman, for whom Meek still entertained great admiration and respect,
he resolved to leave his little girl, Helen Mar; the fruit of his
connexion with the Nez Perce woman who persisted in abandoning him in
the mountains, as already related. Having thus made provision for the
proper instruction of his daughter, and conferred with the Doctor on the
condition of the American settlers in Oregon--the Doctor being an ardent
American--Meek and his associates started once more for the Wallamet.

At Walla-Walla Newell decided to leave the wagons, the weather having
become so rainy and disagreeable as to make it doubtful about getting
them over the Cascade Mountains that fall. Accordingly the goods were
transferred to pack-horses for the remainder of the journey. In the
following year, however, one of the wagons was brought down by Newell,
and taken to the plains on the Tualatin River, being the first vehicle
of the kind in the Wallamet Valley.

On arriving at the Dalles of the Columbia, our mountain men found that a
mission had been established at that place for the conversion of those
inconscionable thieves, the Wish-ram Indians, renowned in Indian history
for their acquisitiveness. This mission was under the charge of Daniel
Lee and a Mr. Perkins, and was an offshoot of the Methodist Mission in
the Wallamet Valley. These gentlemen having found the benighted
condition of the Indians to exceed their powers of enlightment in any
ordinary way, were having recourse to extraordinary efforts, and were
carrying on what is commonly termed a _revival_; though what piety there
was in the hearts of these savages to be revived, it would be difficult
to determine. However, they doubtless hoped so to wrestle with God
themselves, as to compel a blessing upon their labors.

The Indians indeed were not averse to prayer. They could pray willingly
and sincerely enough when they could hope for a speedy and actual
material answer to their prayers. And it was for that, and that only,
that they importuned the Christian's God. Finding that their prayers
were not answered according to their desire, it at length became
difficult to persuade them to pray at all. Sometimes, it is true, they
succeeded in deluding the missionaries with the belief that they were
really converted, for a time. One of these most hopeful converts at the
Dalles mission, being in want of a shirt and capote, volunteered to
"pray for a whole year," if Mr. Lee would furnish him with these truly
desirable articles.

It is no wonder that with such hopeless material to work upon the Dalles
missionaries withdrew from them a portion of their zeal, and bestowed
it, where it was quite as much needed, upon any "stray mountain-man" who
chanced to be entertained "within their gates." Newell's party, among
others, received the well-meant, but not always well-received or
appreciated attentions of these gentlemen. The American mountaineer was
not likely to be suddenly surprised into praying in earnest; and he
generally had too much real reverence to be found making a jest in the
form of a mocking-prayer.

Not so scrupulous, however, was Jandreau, a lively French Canadian, who
was traveling in company with the Americans. On being repeatedly
importuned to pray, with that tireless zeal which distinguishes the
Methodist preacher above all others, Jandreau appeared suddenly to be
smitten with a consciousness of his guilt, and kneeling in the midst of
the 'meeting,' began with clasped hands and upturned eyes to pour forth
a perfect torrent of words. With wonderful dramatic power he appeared to
confess, to supplicate, to agonize, in idiomatic French. His tears and
ejaculations touched the hearts of the missionaries, and filled them
with gladness. They too ejaculated and wept, with frequently uttered
"Amens" and "hallelujahs," until the scene became highly dramatic and
exciting. In the midst of this grand tableau, when the enthusiasm was at
its height, Jandreau suddenly ceased and rose to his feet, while an
irrepressible outburst of laughter from his associates aroused the
astonished missionaries to a partial comprehension of the fact that they
had been made the subjects of a practical joke, though they never knew
to exactly how great an extent.

The mischievous Frenchman had only recited with truly artistic power,
and with such variations as the situation suggested, one of the most
wonderful and effective tales from the _Arabian Nights Entertainment_,
with which he was wont to delight and amuse his comrades beside the
winter camp-fire!

But Jandreau was called to account when he arrived at Vancouver. Dr.
McLaughlin had heard the story from some of the party, and resolved to
punish the man's irreverence, at the same time that he gave himself a
bit of amusement. Sending for the Rev. Father Blanchet, who was then
resident at Vancouver, he informed him of the circumstance, and together
they arranged Jandreau's punishment. He was ordered to appear in their
united presence, and make a true statement of the affair. Jandreau
confessed that he had done what he was accused of doing--made a mock of
prayer, and told a tale instead of offering a supplication. He was then
ordered by the Rev. Father to rehearse the scene exactly as it occurred,
in order that he might judge of the amount of his guilt, and apportion
him his punishment.

Trembling and abashed, poor Jandreau fell upon his knees and began the
recital with much trepidation. But as he proceeded he warmed with the
subject, his dramatic instinct asserted itself, tears streamed, and
voice and eyes supplicated, until this second representation threatened
to outdo the first. With outward gravity and inward mirth his two solemn
judges listened to the close, and when Jandreau rose quite exhausted
from his knees, Father Blanchet hastily dismissed him with an admonition
and a light penance. As the door of Dr. McLaughlin's office closed
behind him, not only the Doctor, but Father Blanchet indulged in a burst
of long restrained laughter at the comical absurdities of this impious

To return to our immigrants. On leaving the Dalles they proceeded on
down the south side of the river as far as practicable, or opposite to
the Wind Mountain. At this point the Indians assisted to cross them over
to the north side, when they again made their way along the river as far
as _Tea Prairie_ above Vancouver. The weather was execrable, with a
pouring rain, and sky of dismal gray; December being already far
advanced. Our travelers were not in the best of humors: indeed a
saint-like amiability is seldom found in conjunction with rain, mud,
fatigue, and an empty stomach. Some ill-natured suspicions were uttered
to the effect that the Indians who were assisting to cross the party at
this point, had stolen some ropes that were missing.

Upon this dishonorable insinuation the Indian heart was fired, and a
fight became imminent. This undesirable climax to emigrant woes was
however averted by an attack upon the indignant natives with firebrands,
when they prudently retired, leaving the travelers to pursue their way
in peace. It was on Sunday that the weary, dirty, hungry little
procession arrived at a place on the Wallamet River where the present
town of Milwaukie is situated, and found here two missionaries, the Rev.
Messrs. Waller and Beers, who were preaching to the Indians.

Meek immediately applied to Mr. Waller for some provisions, and received
for answer that it was "Sunday." Mr. Waller, however, on being assured
that it was no more agreeable starving on Sunday than a week-day,
finally allowed the immigrants to have a peck of small potatoes. But as
a party of several persons could not long subsist on so short allowance,
and as there did not seem to be any encouragement to expect more from
the missionaries, there was no course left to be pursued but to make an
appeal to Fort Vancouver.

To Fort Vancouver then, Newell went the next day, and returned on the
following one with some dried salmon, tea, sugar, and sea-bread. It was
not quite what the mountain-men could have wished, this dependence on
the Hudson's Bay Company for food, and did not quite agree with what
they had said when their hearts were big in the mountains. Being
patriotic on a full stomach is easy compared to being the same thing on
an empty one; a truth which became more and more apparent as the winter
progressed, and the new settlers found that if they would eat they must
ask food of some person or persons outside of the Methodist Mission. And
outside of that there was in all the country only the Hudson's Bay
Company, and a few mountain-men like themselves, who had brought nothing
into the country, and could get nothing out of it at present.

There was but short time in which to consider what was to be done.
Newell and Meek went to Wallamet Falls, the day after Newell's return
from Vancouver, and there met an old comrade, Doughty, who was looking
for a place to locate. The three made their camp together on the west
side of the river, on a hill overlooking the Falls. While in camp they
were joined by two other Rocky Mountain men, Wilkins and Ebbarts, who
were also looking for a place to settle in. There were now six of the
Rocky Mountain men together; and they resolved to push out into the
plains to the west of them, and see what could be done in the matter of
selecting homes.

As for our hero, we fear we cannot say much of him here which would
serve to render him heroic in criticising Yankee eyes. He was a
mountain-man, and _that only_. He had neither book learning, nor a
trade, nor any knowledge of the simplest affairs appertaining to the
ordinary ways of getting a living. He had only his strong hands, and a
heart naturally stout and light.

His friend Newell had the advantage of him in several particulars. He
had rather more book-knowledge, more business experience, and also more
means. With these advantages he became a sort of "Booshway" among his
old comrades, who consented to follow his lead in the important movement
about to be made, and settle in the Tualatin Plains should he decide to
do so.

Accordingly camp was raised, and the party proceeded to the Plains,
where they arrived on Christmas, and went into camp again. The hardships
of mountain life were light compared to the hardships of this winter.
For in the mountains, when the individual's resources were exhausted,
there was always the Company to go to, which was practically
inexhaustible. Should it be necessary, the Company was always willing to
become the creditor of a good mountain-man. And the debtor gave himself
no uneasiness, because he knew that if he lived he could discharge his
indebtedness. But everything was different now. There was no way of
paying debts, even if there had been a company willing to give them
credit, which there was not, at least among Americans. Hard times they
had seen in the mountains; harder times they were likely to see in the
valley; indeed were already experiencing.

Instead of fat buffalo meat, antelope, and mountain mutton, which made
the plenty of a camp on Powder River, our carniverous hunters were
reduced to eating daily a little boiled wheat. In this extremity, Meek
went on an expedition of discovery across the highlands that border the
Lower Wallamet, and found on Wappatoo (now Sauvis) Island, a Mr. and
Mrs. Baldra living, who were in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company,
and drew rations from them. With great kindness they divided the
provisions on hand, furnishing him with dried salmon and sea-bread, to
which he added ducks and swans procured from the Indians. Poor and
scanty as was the supply thus obtained, it was, after boiled wheat,
comparative luxury while it lasted.

1841. The winter proved a very disagreeable one. Considerable snow fell
early, and went off with heavy rains, flooding the whole country. The
little camp on the Tualatin Plains had no defence from the weather
better than Indian lodges, and one small cabin built by Doughty on a
former visit to the Plains; for Doughty had been one of the first of the
mountain-men to come to the Wallamet on the breaking up of the fur
companies. Indian lodges, or no lodges at all, were what the men were
used to; but in the dryer climate of the Rocky Mountains it had not
seemed such a miserable life, as it now did, where, for months together,
the ground was saturated with rain, while the air was constantly charged
with vapor.

As for going anywhere, or doing anything, either were equally
impossible. No roads, the streams all swollen and out of banks, the
rains incessant, there was nothing for them but to remain in camp and
wait for the return of spring. When at last the rainy season was over,
and the sun shining once more, most of the mountain-men in the Tualatin
Plains camp took land-claims and set to work improving them. Of those
who began farming that spring, were Newell, Doughty, Wilkins, and
Walker. These obtained seed-wheat from the Hudson's Bay Company, also
such farming implements as they must have, and even oxen to draw the
plow through the strong prairie sod. The wheat was to be returned to the
company--the cattle also; and the farming implements paid for whenever
the debtor became able. This was certainly liberal conduct on the part
of a company generally understood to be opposed to American settlement.


1841. When spring opened, Meek assisted Newell in breaking the ground
for wheat. This done, it became necessary to look out for some
immediately paying employment. But paying occupations were hard to find
in that new country. At last, like everybody else, Meek found himself,
if not "hanging about," at least frequently visiting Vancouver. Poor as
he was, and unpromising as looked the future, he was the same
light-hearted, reckless, and fearless Joe Meek that he had been in the
mountains: as jaunty and jolly a ragged mountaineer as ever was seen at
the Fort. Especially he delighted in recounting his Indian fights,
because the Company, and Dr. McLaughlin in particular, disapproved the
American Company's conduct with the Indians.

When the Doctor chanced to overhear Meek's stories, as he sometimes did,
he would say "Mr. Joe, Mr. Joe,--(a habit the Doctor had of speaking
rapidly, and repeating his words,)--Mr. Joe, Mr. Joe, you must leave off
killing Indians, and go to work."

"I can't work," Meek would answer in his impressively slow and smooth
utterance, at the same time giving his shoulders a slight shrug, and
looking the Doctor pleasantly in the face.

During the summer, however, the United States Exploring Squadron, under
Commodore Wilkes, entered the Columbia River, and proceeded to explore
the country in several directions; and it was now that Meek found an
employment suited to him; being engaged by Wilkes as pilot and servant
while on his several tours through the country.

On the arrival of three vessels of the squadron at Vancouver, and the
first ceremonious visit of Dr. McLaughlin and his associates to
Commodore Wilkes on board, there was considerable display, the men in
the yards, saluting, and all the honors due to the representative of a
friendly foreign power. After dinner, while the guests were walking on
deck engaged in conversation, the talk turned upon the loss of the
_Peacock_, one of the vessels belonging to the U.S. squadron, which was
wrecked on the bar at the mouth of the Columbia. The English gentlemen
were polite enough to be expressing their regrets at the loss to the
United States, when Meek, who had picked up a little history in spite of
his life spent in the mountains, laughingly interrupted with:

"No loss at all, gentlemen. Uncle Sam can get another Peacock the way he
got that one."

Wilkes, who probably regretted the allusion, as not being consonant with
the spirit of hospitality, passed over the interruption in silence. But
when the gentlemen from Vancouver had taken leave he turned to Meek with
a meaning twinkle in his eyes:

"Meek," said he, "go down to my cabin and you'll find there something
good to eat, and some first-rate brandy." Of course Meek went.

While Wilkes was exploring in the Cowelitz Valley, with Meek and a
Hudson's Bay man named Forrest, as guides, he one day laid down in his
tent to sleep, leaving his chronometer watch lying on the camp-table
beside him. Forrest, happening to observe that it did not agree with his
own, which he believed to be correct, very kindly, as he supposed,
regulated it to agree with his. On awakening and taking up his watch, a
puzzled expression came over Wilkes' face for a moment, as he discovered
the change in the time; then one of anger and disappointment, as what
had occurred flashed over his mind; followed by some rather strong
expressions of indignation. Forrest was penitent when he perceived the
mischief done by his meddling, but that would not restore the
chronometer to the true time: and this accident proved a serious
annoyance and hindrance during the remainder of the expedition.

After exploring the Cowelitz Valley, Wilkes dispatched a party under
Lieutenant Emmons, to proceed up the Wallamet Valley, thence south along
the old trail of the Hudson's Bay Company, to California. Meek was
employed to pilot this party, which had reached the head of the valley,
when it became necessary to send for some papers in the possession of
the Commodore; and he returned to Astoria upon this duty. On joining
Emmons again he found that some of his men had become disaffected toward
him; especially Jandreau, the same Frenchman who prayed so dramatically
at the Dalles.

Jandreau confided to Meek that he hated Emmons, and intended to kill
him. The next morning when Lieut. E. was examining the arms of the
party, he fired off Jandreau's gun, which being purposely overcharged,
flew back and inflicted some injuries upon the Lieutenant.

"What do you mean by loading a gun like that?" inquired Emmons, in a

"I meant it to kill two Injuns;--one before, and one behind;" answered

As might be conjectured Jandreau was made to fire his own gun after

The expedition had not proceeded much farther when it again became
necessary to send an express to Vancouver, and Meek was ordered upon
this duty. Here he found that Wilkes had purchased a small vessel which
he named the _Oregon_, with which he was about to leave the country. As
there was no further use for his services our quondam trapper was again
thrown out of employment. In this exigency, finding it necessary to make
some provision for the winter, he became a gleaner of wheat in the
fields of his more provident neighbors, by which means a sufficient
supply was secured to keep himself and his small family in food until
another spring.

When winter set in, Meek paid a visit to the new mission. He had been
there once before, in the spring, to buy an axe. Think, O reader, of
traveling fifty or more miles, on horseback, or in a small boat, to
procure so simple and necessary an article of civilized life as an axe!
But none of the every-day conveniencies of living grow spontaneously in
the wilderness--more's the pity:--else life in the wilderness would be
thought more delightful far than life in the most luxurious of cities;
inasmuch as Nature is more satisfying than art.

Meek's errand to the mission on this occasion was to find whether he
could get a cow, and credit at the same time: for the prospect of living
for another winter on boiled wheat was not a cheerful one. He had not
succeeded, and was returning, when at Champoeg he met a Mr. Whitcom,
superintendent of the mission farm. A conversation took place wherein
Meek's desire for a cow became known. The missionaries never lost an
opportunity of proposing prayers, and Mr. Whitcom thought this a good
one. After showing much interest in the condition of Meek's soul, it was
proposed that he should pray.

"_I_ can't pray: that's your business, not mine," said Meek pleasantly.

"It is every man's business to pray for himself," answered Whitcom.

"Very well; some other time will do for that. What I want now is a cow."

"How can you expect to get what you want, if you wont ask for it?"
inquired Whitcom.

"I reckon I have asked you; and I don't see nary cow yet."

"You must ask God, my friend: but in the first place you must pray to be
forgiven for your sins."

"I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will furnish the cow, I'll agree to
pray for half an hour, right here on the spot."

"Down on your knees then."

"You'll furnish the cow?"

"Yes," said Whitcom, fairly cornered.

Down on his knees dropped the merry reprobate, and prayed out his half
hour, with how much earnestness only himself and God knew.

But the result was what he had come for, a cow; for Whitcom was as good
as his word, and sent him home rejoicing. And thus, with what he had
earned from Wilkes, his gleaned wheat, and his cow, he contrived to get
through another winter.

Perhaps the most important personal event which distinguished this year
in Meek's history, was the celebration, according to the rites of the
Christian church, of his marriage with the Nez Perce woman who had
already borne him two children, and who still lives, the mother of a
family of seven.


1842. By the opening of another spring, Meek had so far overcome his
distaste for farm labor as to put in a field of wheat for himself, with
Doughty, and to make some arrangements about his future subsistence.
This done, he was ready, as usual, for anything in the way of adventure
which might turn up. This was, however, a very quiet summer in the
little colony. Important events were brooding, but as yet results were
not perceptible, except to the mind of a prophet. The Hudson's Bay
Company, conformably to British policy, were at work to turn the balance
of power in Oregon in favor of British occupation, and, unknown even to
the colonists, the United States Government was taking what measures it
could to shift the balance in its own favor. Very little was said about
the subject of government claims among the colonists, but a feeling of
suspense oppressed all parties.

The work of putting in wheat and improving of farms had just begun to
slacken a little, when there was an arrival in the Columbia River of a
vessel from Boston--the _Chenamus_, Captain Couch. The _Chenamus_
brought a cargo of goods, which were placed in store at Wallamet Falls,
to be sold to the settlers, being the first successful attempt at trade
ever made in Oregon, outside of the Hudson's Bay and Methodist Mission

When the Fourth of July came, the _Chenamus_ was lying in the Wallamet,
below the Falls, near where the present city of Portland stands. Meek,
who was always first to be at any spot where noise, bustle, or
excitement might be anticipated, and whose fine humor and fund of
anecdote made him always welcome, had borrowed a boat from Capt. Couch's
clerk, at the Falls, and gone down to the vessel early in the morning,
before the salute for the Glorious Fourth was fired. There he remained
all day, enjoying a patriotic swagger, and an occasional glass of
something good to drink. Other visitors came aboard during the day,
which was duly celebrated to the satisfaction of all.

Towards evening, a party from the Mission, wishing to return to the
Falls, took possession of Meek's borrowed boat to go off with. Now was a
good opportunity to show the value of free institutions. Meek, like
other mountain-men, felt the distance which the missionaries placed
between him and themselves, on the score of their moral and social
superiority, and resented the freedom with which they appropriated what
he had with some trouble secured to himself. Intercepting the party when
more than half of them were seated in the boat, he informed them that
they were trespassing upon a piece of property which for the present
belonged to him, and for which he had a very urgent need. Vexed by the
delay, and by having to relinquish the boat to a man who, according to
their view of the case, could not "read his title clear," to anything
either on earth or in heaven, the missionaries expostulated somewhat
warmly, but Meek insisted, and so compelled them to wait for some better
opportunity of leaving the ship. Then loading the boat with what was
much more to the purpose--a good supply of provisions, Meek proceeded to
drink the Captain's health in a very ostentatious manner, and take his

In the meantime, Dr. Marcus Whitman, of the Waiilatpu Mission, in the
upper country, was so fearful of the intentions of the British
government that he set out for Washington late in the autumn of 1842, to
put the Secretary of State on his guard concerning the boundary
question, and to pray that it might be settled conformably with the
wishes of the Americans in Oregon.

There was one feature, however, of this otherwise rather entertaining
race for possession, which was becoming quite alarming. In all this
strife about claiming the country, the Indian claim had not been
considered. It has been already intimated that the attempt to civilize
or Christianize the Indians of western Oregon was practically an entire
failure. But they were not naturally of a warlike disposition, and had
been so long under the control of the Hudson's Bay Company that there
was comparatively little to apprehend from them, even though they felt
some discontent at the incoming immigration.

But with the Indians of the upper Columbia it was different; especially
so with the tribes among whom the Presbyterian missionaries were
settled--the Walla-Wallas, Cayuses, and Nez Perces, three brave and
powerful nations, much united by intermarriages. The impression which
these people had first made on the missionaries was very favorable,
their evident intelligence, inquisitiveness, and desire for religious
teachings seeming to promise a good reward of missionary labor. Dr.
Whitman and his associates had been diligent in their efforts to
civilize and Christianize them--to induce the men to leave off their
migratory habits and learn agriculture, and the women to learn spinning,
sewing, cooking, and all the most essential arts of domestic life. At
the first, the novelty of these new pursuits engaged their interest, as
it also excited their hope of gain. But the task of keeping them to
their work with sufficient steadiness, was very great. They required,
like children, to be bribed with promises of more or less immediate
reward of their exertions, nor would they relinquish the fulfilment of a
promise, even though they had failed to perform the conditions on which
the promise became binding.

By-and-by they made the discovery that neither the missionaries could,
nor the white man's God did, confer upon them what they desired--the
enjoyment of all the blessings of the white men--and that if they wished
to enjoy these blessings, they must labor to obtain them. This discovery
was very discouraging, inasmuch as the Indian nature is decidedly averse
to steady labor, and they could perceive that very little was to be
expected from any progress which could be achieved in one generation. As
for the Christian faith, they understood about as much of its true
spirit as savages, with the law of blood written in their hearts, could
be expected to understand. They looked for nothing more nor less than
the literal fulfilment of the Bible promises--nothing less would content
them; and as to the forms of their new religion, they liked them well
enough--liked singing and praying, and certain orderly observances, the
chiefs leading in these as in other matters. So much interest did they
discover at first, that their teachers were deceived as to the actual
extent of the good they were doing.

As time went on, however, there began to be cause for mutual
dissatisfaction. The Indians became aware that no matter how many
concessions their teachers made to them, they were still the inferiors
of the whites, and that they must ever remain so. But the thought which
produced the deepest chagrin was, that they had got these white people
settled amongst them by their own invitation and aid, and that now it
was evident they were not to be benefited as had been hoped, as the
whites were turning their attention to benefiting themselves.

As early as 1839, Mr. Smith, an associate of Mr. Spalding in the country
of the Nez Perces, was forbidden by the high chief of the Nez Perces to
cultivate the ground. He had been permitted to build, but was assured
that if he broke the soil for the purpose of farming it, the ground so
broken should serve to bury him in. Still Smith went on in the spring to
prepare for ploughing, and the chief seeing him ready to begin, inquired
if he recollected that he had been forbidden. Yet persisting in his
undertaking, several of the Indians came to him and taking him by the
shoulder asked him again "if he did not know that the hole he should
make in the earth would be made to serve for his grave." Upon which
third warning Smith left off, and quitted the country. Other
missionaries also left for the Wallamet Valley.

In 1842 there were three mission stations in the upper country; that of
Dr. Whitman at Waiilatpu on the Walla-Walla River, that of Mr. Spalding
on the Clearwater River, called Lapwai, and another on the Spokane
River, called Cimakain. These missions were from one hundred and twenty
to three hundred miles distant from each other, and numbered altogether
only about one dozen whites of both sexes. At each of these stations
there was a small body of land under cultivation, a few cattle and hogs,
a flouring and saw mill, and blacksmith shop, and such improvements as
the needs of the mission demanded. The Indians also cultivated, under
the direction of their teachers, some little patches of ground,
generally but a small garden spot, and the fact that they did even so
much was very creditable to those who labored to instruct them. There
was no want of ardor or industry in the Presbyterian mission; on the
contrary they applied themselves conscientiously to the work they had

But this conscientious discharge of duty did not give them immunity from
outrage. Both Mr. Spalding and Dr. Whitman had been rudely handled by
the Indians, had been struck and spat upon, and had nose and ears
pulled. Even the delicate and devoted Mrs. Spalding had been grossly
insulted. Later the Cayuses had assailed Dr. Whitman in his house with
war-clubs, and broken down doors of communication between the private
apartments and the public sitting room. Explanations and promises
generally followed these acts of outrage, yet it would seem that the
missionaries should have been warned.

Taking advantage of Dr. Whitman's absence, the Cayuses had frightened
Mrs. Whitman from her home to the Methodist mission at the Dalles, by
breaking into her bed-chamber at night, with an infamous design from
which she barely escaped, and by subsequently burning down the mill and
destroying a considerable quantity of grain. About the same time the Nez
Perces at the Lapwai mission were very insolent, and had threatened Mr.
Spalding's life; all of which, one would say, was but a poor return for
the care and instruction bestowed upon them during six years of patient
effort on the part of their teachers. Poor as it was, the Indians did
not see it in that light, but only thought of the danger which
threatened them, in the possible loss of their country.


1842-3. The plot thickened that winter, in the little drama being
enacted west of the Rocky Mountains.

The forests which clad the mountains and foot-hills in perpetual
verdure, and the thickets which skirted the numerous streams flowing
into the Wallamet, all abounded in wild animals, whose depredations upon
the domestic cattle, lately introduced into the country, were a serious
drawback to their natural increase. Not a settler, owning cattle or
hogs, but had been robbed more or less frequently by the wolves, bears,
and panthers, which prowled unhindered in the vicinity of their herds.

This was a ground of common interest to all settlers of whatever
allegiance. Accordingly, a notice was issued that a meeting would be
held at a certain time and place, to consider the best means of
preventing the destruction of stock in the country, and all persons
interested were invited to attend. This meeting was held on the 2d of
February, 1843, and was well attended by both classes of colonists. It
served, however, only as a preliminary step to the regular "Wolf
Association" meeting which took place a month later. At the meeting, on
the 4th of March, there was a full attendance, and the utmost harmony
prevailed, notwithstanding there was a well-defined suspicion in the
minds of the Canadians, that they were going to be called upon to
furnish protection to something more than the cattle and hogs of the

After the proper parliamentary forms, and the choosing of the necessary
officers for the Association, the meeting proceeded to fix the rate of
bounty for each animal killed by any one out of the Association, viz:
$3.00 for a large wolf; $1.50 for a lynx; $2.00 for a bear; and $5.00
for a panther. The money to pay these bounties was to be raised by
subscription, and handed over to the treasurer for disbursement; the
currency being drafts on Fort Vancouver, the Mission, and the Milling
Company; besides wheat and other commodities.

This business being arranged, the real object of the meeting was
announced in this wise:

"_Resolved_,--That a committee be appointed to take into consideration
the propriety of taking measures for the civil and military protection
of this colony."

A committee of twelve were then selected, and the meeting adjourned. But
in that committee there was a most subtle mingling of all the
elements--missionaries, mountain-men, and Canadians--an attempt by an
offer of the honors, to fuse into one all the several divisions of
political sentiment in Oregon.

On the 2d day of May, 1843, the committee appointed March 4th to "take
into consideration the propriety of taking measures for the civil and
military protection of the colony," met at Champoeg, the Canadian
settlement, and presented to the people their ultimatum in favor of
organizing a provisional government.

On a motion being made that the report of the committee should be
accepted, it was put to vote, and lost. All was now confusion, various
expressions of disappointment or gratification being mingled in one
tempest of sound.

When the confusion had somewhat subsided, Mr. G.W. LeBreton made a
motion that the meeting should divide; those who were in favor of an
organization taking their positions on the right hand; and those
opposed to it on the left, marching into file. The proposition carried;
and Joe Meek, who, in all this historical reminiscence we have almost
lost sight of--though he had not lost sight of events--stepped to the
front, with a characteristic air of the free-born American in his gait
and gestures:--

"Who's for a divide! All in favor of the Report, and an Organization,
follow me!"--then marched at the head of his column, which speedily fell
into line, as did also the opposite party.

On counting, fifty-two were found to be on the right hand side, and
fifty on the left,--so evenly were the two parties balanced at that
time. When the result was made known, once more Meek's voice rang out--

"Three cheers for our side!"

It did not need a second invitation; but loud and long the shout went up
for FREEDOM; and loudest and longest were heard the voices of the
American "mountain-men." Thus the die was cast which made Oregon
ultimately a member of the Federal Union.

The business of the meeting was concluded by the election of a Supreme
Judge, with probate powers, a clerk of the court, a sheriff, four
magistrates, four constables, a treasurer, a mayor, and a captain,--the
two latter officers being instructed to form companies of mounted
riflemen. In addition to these officers, a legislative committee was
chosen, consisting of nine members, who were to report to the people at
a public meeting to be held at Champoeg on the 5th of July following. Of
the legislative committee, two were mountain-men, with whose names the
reader is familiar--Newell and Doughty. Among the other appointments,
was Meek, to the office of sheriff; a position for which his personal
qualities of courage and good humor admirably fitted him in the then
existing state of society.


The immigration into Oregon of the year 1843, was the first since Newell
and Meek, who had brought wagons through to the Columbia River; and in
all numbered nearly nine hundred men, women, and children. These
immigrants were mostly from Missouri and other border States. They had
been assisted on their long and perilous journey by Dr. Whitman, whose
knowledge of the route, and the requirements of the undertaking, made
him an invaluable counselor, as he was an untiring friend of the

At the Dalles of the Columbia the wagons were abandoned; it being too
late in the season, and the wants of the immigrants too pressing, to
admit of an effort being made to cut out a wagon road through the heavy
timber of the Cascade mountains. Already a trail had been made over them
and around the base of Mount Hood, by which cattle could be driven from
the Dalles to the settlements on the Wallamet; and by this route the
cattle belonging to the train, amounting to thirteen hundred, were
passed over into the valley.

But for the people, especially the women and children, active and
efficient help was demanded. There was something truly touching and
pitiable in the appearance of these hundreds of worn-out, ragged,
sun-burnt, dusty, emaciated, yet indomitable pioneers, who, after a
journey of nearly two thousand miles, and of several months duration,
over fertile plains, barren deserts, and rugged mountains, stood at
last beside the grand and beautiful river of their hopes, exhausted by
the toils of their pilgrimage, dejected and yet rejoicing.

[Illustration: _WRECKED IN THE RAPIDS._]

Much they would have liked to rest, even here; but their poverty
admitted of no delay. The friends to whom they were going, and from whom
they must exact and receive a temporary hospitality, were still
separated from them a weary and dangerous way. They delayed as little as
possible, yet the fall rains came upon them, and snow fell in the
mountains, so as seriously to impede the labor of driving the cattle,
and hunger and sickness began to affright them.

In this unhappy situation they might have remained a long time, had
there been no better dependence than the American settlers already in
the valley, with the Methodist Mission at their head; for from them it
does not appear that aid came, nor that any provision had been made by
them to assist the expected immigrants. As usual in these crises, it was
the Hudson's Bay Company who came to the rescue, and, by the offer of
boats, made it possible for those families to reach the Wallamet. Not
only were the Hudson's Bay Company's boats all required, but canoes and
rafts were called into requisition to transport passengers and goods. No
one, never having made the voyage of the Columbia from above the Dalles
to Vancouver, could have an adequate idea of the perils of the passage,
as it was performed in those days, by small boats and the flat-bottomed
"Mackinaw" boats of the Hudson's Bay Company. The Canadian "voyageurs,"
who handled a boat as a good rider governs a horse, were not always able
to make the passage without accident: how, then, could the clumsy
landsmen, who were more used to the feel of a plow handle than an oar,
be expected to do so? Numerous have been the victims suddenly clutched
from life by the grasp of the whirlpools, or dashed to death among the
fearful rapids of the beautiful, but wild and pitiless, Columbia.

The immigration of 1843 did not escape without loss and bereavement.
Three brothers from Missouri, by the name of Applegate, with their
families, were descending the river together, when, by the striking of a
boat on a rock in the rapids, a number of passengers, mostly children of
these gentlemen, were precipitated into the frightful current. The
brothers each had a son in this boat, one of whom was lost, another
injured for life, and the third escaped as by a miracle. This last boy
was only ten years of age, yet such was the presence of mind and courage
displayed in saving his own and a companion's life, that the miracle of
his escape might be said to be his own. Being a good swimmer, he kept
himself valiantly above the surface, while being tossed about for nearly
two miles. Succeeding at last in grasping a feather bed which was
floating near him, he might have passed the remaining rapids without
serious danger, had he not been seized, as it were, by the feet, and
drawn down, down, into a seething, turning, roaring abyss of water,
where he was held, whirling about, and dancing up and down, striking now
and then upon the rocks, until death seemed not only imminent but
certain. After enduring this violent whirling and dashing for what
seemed a hopelessly long period of time, he was suddenly vomited forth
by the whirlpool once more upon the surface of the rapids, and,
notwithstanding the bruises he had received, was able, by great
exertion, to throw himself near, and seize upon a ledge of rocks. To
this he clung with desperation, until, by dint of much effort, he
finally drew himself out of the water, and stretched himself on the
narrow shelf, where, for a moment, he swooned away. But on opening his
eyes, he beheld, struggling in the foaming flood, a young man who had
been a passenger in the wrecked boat with himself, and who, though
older, was not so good a swimmer. Calling to him with all his might, to
make his voice heard above the roar of the rapids, he at last gained his
attention, and encouraged him to try to reach the ledge of rocks, where
he would assist him to climb up; and the almost impossible feat was
really accomplished by their united efforts. This done, young Applegate
sank again into momentary unconsciousness, while poor exhausted Nature
recruited her forces.

But, although they were saved from immediate destruction, death still
stared them in the face. That side of the river on which they had found
lodgment, was bounded by precipitous mountains, coming directly down to
the water. They could neither ascend nor skirt along them, for foot-hold
there was none. On the other side was level ground, but to reach it they
must pass through the rapids--an alternative that looked like an
assurance of destruction.

In this extremity, it was the boy who resolved to risk his life to save
it. Seeing that a broken ledge of rock extended nearly across the river
from a point within his reach, but only coming to the surface here and
there, and of course very slippery, he nevertheless determined to
attempt to cross on foot, amidst the roaring rapids. Starting alone to
make the experiment, he actually made the crossing in safety, amid the
thundering roar and dizzying rush of waters--not only made it once, but
returned to assure his companion of its practicability. The young man,
however, had not the courage to undertake it, until he had repeatedly
been urged to do so, and at last only by being pursuaded to go before,
while his younger comrade followed after, not to lose sight of him,
(for it was impossible to turn around,) and directed him where to place
his steps. In this manner that which appears incredible was
accomplished, and the two arrived in safety on the opposite side, where
they were ultimately discovered by their distressed relatives, who had
believed them to be lost. Such was the battle which young Applegate had
with the rocks, that the flesh was torn from the palms of his hands, and
his whole body bruised and lacerated.

So it was with sorrow, after all, that the immigrants arrived in the
valley. Nor were their trials over when they had arrived. The worst
feature about this long and exhausting journey was, that it could not be
accomplished so as to allow time for recruiting the strength of the
travelers, and providing them with shelter before the rainy season set
in. Either the new arrivals must camp out in the weather until a log
house was thrown up, or they must, if they were invited, crowd into the
small cabins of the settlers until there was scarce standing room, and
thus live for months in an atmosphere which would have bred pestilence
in any other less healthful climate.

Not only was the question of domiciles a trying one, but that of food
still more so. Some, who had families of boys to help in the rough labor
of building, soon became settled in houses of their own, more or less
comfortable; nor was anything very commodious required for the
frontiers-men from Missouri; but in the matter of something to eat, the
more boys there were in the family, the more hopeless the situation.
They had scarcely managed to bring with them provisions for their
summer's journey--it was not possible to bring more. In the colony was
food, but they had no money--few of them had much, at least; they had
not goods to exchange; labor was not in demand: in short, the first
winter in Oregon was, to nearly all the new colonists, a time of trial,
if not of actual suffering. Many families now occupying positions of
eminence on the Pacific coast, knew what it was, in those early days, to
feel the pangs of hunger, and to want for a sufficient covering for
their nakedness.

Two anecdotes of this kind come to the writer's memory, as related by
the parties themselves: the Indians, who are everywhere a begging race,
were in the habit of visiting the houses of the settlers and demanding
food. On one occasion, one of them came to the house of a now prominent
citizen of Oregon, as usual petitioning for something to eat. The lady
of the house, and mother of several young children, replied that she had
nothing to give. Not liking to believe her, the Indian persisted in his
demand, when the lady pointed to her little children and said, "Go away;
I have nothing--not even for those." The savage turned on his heel and
strode quickly away, as the lady thought, offended. In a short time he
reappeared with a sack of dried venison, which he laid at her feet.
"Take that," he said, "and give the _tenas tillicum_ (little children)
something to eat." From that day, as long as he lived, that humane
savage was a "friend of the family."

The other anecdote concerns a gentleman who was chief justice of Oregon
under the provisional government, afterwards governor of California, and
at present a banker in San Francisco. He lived, at the time spoken of on
the Tualatin Plains, and was a neighbor of Joe Meek. Not having a house
to go into at first, he was permitted to settle his family in the
district school-house, with the understanding that on certain days of
the month he was to allow religious services to be held in the building.
In this he assented. Meeting day came, and the family put on their best
apparel to make themselves tidy in the eyes of their neighbors. Only one
difficulty was hard to get over: Mr. ---- had only one shoe, the other
foot was bare. But he considered the matter for some time, and then
resolved that he might take a sheltered position behind the teacher's
desk, where his deficiency would be hidden, and when the house filled
up, as it would do very rapidly, he could not be expected to stir for
want of space. However, that happened to the ambitious young lawyer
which often does happen to the "best laid schemes of mice and men"--his
went "all aglee." In the midst of the services, the speaker needed a cup
of water, and requested Mr. ---- to furnish it. There was no refusing so
reasonable a request. Out before all the congregation, walked the
abashed and blushing pioneer, with his ill-matched feet exposed to view.
This mortifying exposure was not without an agreeable result; for next
day he received a present of a pair of moccasins, and was enabled
thereafter to appear with feet that bore a brotherly resemblance to each

About this time, the same gentleman, who was, as has been said, a
neighbor of Meek's, was going to Wallamet Falls with a wagon, and Meek
was going along. "Take something to eat," said he to Meek, "for I have
nothing;" and Meek promised that he would.

Accordingly when it came time to camp for the night, Meek was requested
to produce his lunch basket. Going to the wagon, Meek unfolded an
immense pumpkin, and brought it to the fire.

"What!" exclaimed Mr. ----, "is that all we have for supper?"

"Roast pumpkin is not so bad," said Meek, laughing back at him; "I've
had worse fare in the mountains. It's buffalo tongue compared to ants or
moccasin soles."

And so with much merriment they proceeded to cut up their pumpkin and
roast it, finding it as Meek had said--"not so bad" when there was no

These anecdotes illustrate what a volume could only describe--the perils
and privations endured by the colonists in Oregon. If we add that there
were only two flouring mills in the Wallamet Valley, and these two not
convenient for most of the settlers, both belonging to the mission, and
that to get a few bushels of wheat ground involved the taking of a
journey of from four to six days, for many, and that, too, over
half-broken roads, destitute of bridges, it will be seen how difficult
it was to obtain the commonest comforts of life. As for such luxuries as
groceries and clothing, they had to wait for better times. Lucky was the
man who, "by hook or by crook," got hold of an order on the Hudson's Bay
Company, the Methodist Mission, or the Milling Company at the Falls.
Were he thus fortunate, he had much ado to decide how to make it go
farthest, and obtain the most. Not far would it go, at the best, for
fifty per cent. profit on all sales was what was demanded and obtained.
Perhaps the holder of a ten dollar draft made out his list of
necessaries, and presented himself at the store, expecting to get them.
He wanted some unbleached cotton, to be dyed to make dresses for the
children; he would buy a pair of calf-skin shoes if he could afford
them; and--yes--he would indulge in the luxury of a little--a very
little--sugar, just for that once!

Arrived at the store after a long, jolting journey, in the farm wagon
which had crossed the continent the year before, he makes his inquiries:
"Cotton goods?" "No; just out." "Shoes?" "Got one pair, rather
small--wouldn't fit you." "What have you got in the way of goods?" "Got
a lot of silk handkerchiefs and twelve dozen straw hats." "Any pins?"
"No; a few knitting needles." "Any yarn?" "Yes, there's a pretty good
lot of yarn, but don't you want some sugar? the last ship that was in
left a quantity of sugar." So the holder of the draft exchanges it for
some yarn and a few nails, and takes the balance in sugar; fairly
compelled to be luxurious in one article, for the reason that others
were not to be had till some other ship came in.

No mails reached the colony, and no letters left it, except such as were
carried by private hand, or were sent once a year in the Hudson's Bay
Company's express to Canada, and thence to the States. Newspapers
arrived in the same manner, or by vessel from the Sandwich Islands.
Notwithstanding all these drawbacks, education was encouraged even from
the very beginning; a library was started, and literary societies
formed, and this all the more, perhaps, that the colony was so isolated
and dependent on itself for intellectual pleasures.

The spring of 1844 saw the colony in a state of some excitement on
account of an attempt to introduce the manufacture of ardent spirits.
This dangerous article had always been carefully excluded from the
country, first by the Hudson's Bay Company, and secondly by the
Methodist Mission; and since the time when a Mr. Young had been induced
to relinquish its manufacture, no serious effort had been made to
introduce it.

It does not appear from the Oregon archives, that any law against its
manufacture existed at that time: it had probably been overlooked in the
proceedings of the legislative committee of the previous summer; neither
was there yet any executive head to the Provisional Government, the
election not having taken place. In this dilemma the people found
themselves in the month of February, when one James Conner had been
discovered to be erecting a distillery at the Falls of the Wallamet.

It happened, however, that an occasion for the exercise of executive
power had occurred before the election of the executive committee, and
now what was to be done? It was a case too, which required absolute
power, for there was no law on the subject of distilleries. After some
deliberation it was decided to allow the Indian agent temporary power,
and several letters were addressed to him, informing him of the calamity
which threatened the community at the Falls. "Now, we believe that if
there is anything which calls your attention in your official capacity,
or anything in which you would be most cordially supported by the good
sense and prompt action of the better part of community, it is the
present case. We do not wish to dictate, but we hope for the best,
begging pardon for intrusions." So read the closing paragraph of one of
the letters.

Perhaps this humble petition touched the Doctor's heart; perhaps he saw
in the circumstance a possible means of acquiring influence; at all
events he hastened to the Falls, a distance of fifty miles, and entered
at once upon the discharge of the executive duties thus thrust upon him
in the hour of danger. Calling upon Meek, who had entered upon his
duties as sheriff the previous summer, he gave him his orders. Writ in
hand, Meek proceeded to the distillery, frightened the poor sinner into
quiet submission with a display of his mountain manners; made a bugle of
the worm, and blew it, to announce to the Doctor his complete success;
after which he tumbled the distillery apparatus into the river, and
retired. Connor was put under three hundred dollar bonds, and so the
case ended.

But there were other occasions on which the Doctor's authority was put
in requisition. It happened that a vessel from Australia had been in the
river, and left one Madam Cooper, who was said to have brought with her
a barrel of whisky. Her cabin stood on the east bank of the Wallamet,
opposite the present city of Portland. Not thinking it necessary to send
the sheriff to deal with a woman, the Doctor went in person, accompanied
by a couple of men. Entering the cabin the Doctor remarked blandly, "you
have a barrel of whisky, I believe."

Not knowing but her visitor's intention was to purchase, and not having
previously resided in a strictly temperance community, Madam Cooper
replied frankly that she had, and pointed to the barrel in question.

The Doctor then stepped forward, and placing his foot on it, said: "In
the name of the United States, I levy execution on it!"

At this unexpected declaration, the English woman stared wildly one
moment, then recovering herself quickly, seized the poker from the
chimney corner, and raising it over the Doctor's head, exclaimed--"In
the name of Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland, I levy execution on

But when the stick descended, the Doctor was not there. He had backed
out at the cabin door; nor did he afterwards attempt to interfere with a
subject of the crown of Great Britain.

On the following day, however, the story having got afloat at the Falls,
Meek and a young man highly esteemed at the mission, by the name of Le
Breton, set out to pay their respects to Madam Cooper. Upon entering the
cabin, the two callers cast their eyes about until they rested on the
whisky barrel.

"Have _you_ come to levy on my whisky?" inquired the now suspicious

"Yes," said Meek, "I have come to levy on it; but as I am not quite so
high in authority as Doctor White, I don't intend to levy on the whole
of it at once. I think about a quart of it will do me."

Comprehending by the twinkle in Meek's eye that she had now a customer
more to her mind, Madam Cooper made haste to set before her visitors a
bottle and tin cup, upon which invitation they proceeded to levy
frequently upon the contents of the bottle; and we fear that the length
of time spent there, and the amount of whisky drank must have strongly
reminded Meek of past rendezvous times in the mountains; nor can we
doubt that he entertained Le Breton and Madam Cooper with many
reminiscences of those times. However that may be, this was not the last
visit of Meek to Madam Cooper's, nor his last levy on her whisky.

Shortly after his election as sheriff he had been called upon to serve a
writ upon a desperate character, for an attempt to kill. Many persons,
however, fearing the result of trying to enforce the law upon
desperadoes, in the then defenceless condition of the colony, advised
him to wait for the immigration to come in before attempting the arrest.
But Meek preferred to do his duty then, and went with the writ to arrest
him. The man resisted, making an attack on the sheriff with a
carpenter's axe; but Meek coolly presented a pistol, assuring the
culprit of the uselessness of such demonstrations, and soon brought him
to terms of compliance. Such coolness, united with a fine physique, and
a mountain-man's reputation for reckless courage, made it very desirable
that Meek should continue to hold the office of sheriff during that
stage of the colony's development.


1844. As has before been mentioned, the Indians of the Wallamet valley
were by no means so formidable as those of the upper country: yet
considering their numbers and the condition of the settlers, they were
quite formidable enough to occasion considerable alarm when any one of
them, or any number of them betrayed the savage passions by which they
were temporarily overcome. Considerable excitement had prevailed among
the more scattered settlers, ever since the reports of the disaffection
among the up-country tribes had reached them; and Dr. White had been
importuned to throw up a strong fortification in the most central part
of the colony, and to procure arms for their defence, at the expense of
the United States.

This excitement had somewhat subsided when an event occurred which for a
time renewed it: a house was plundered and some horses stolen from the
neighborhood of the Falls. An Indian from the Dalles, named Cockstock,
was at the bottom of the mischief, and had been committing or
instigating others to commit depredations upon the settlers, for a year
previous, because he had been, as he fancied, badly treated in a matter
between himself and a negro in the colony, in which the latter had taken
an unfair advantage of him in a bargain.

[Illustration: A WILD INDIAN IN TOWN.]

To crown his injuries Dr. White had caused a relative of his to be
flogged by the Dalles chief, for entering the house of the Methodist
missionary at that place, and tying him, with the purpose of flogging
him. (It was a poor law, he thought, that would not work both ways.)

In revenge for this insult Cockstock came to the Doctor's house in the
Wallamet, threatening to shoot him at sight, but not finding him at
home, contented himself for that time, by smashing all the windows in
the dwelling and office of the Doctor, and nearly frightening to death a
young man on the premises.

When on the Doctor's return in the evening, the extent of the outrage
became known, a party set out in pursuit of Cockstock and his band, but
failed to overtake them, and the settlers remained in ignorance
concerning the identity of the marauders. About a month later, however,
a party of Klamath and Molalla Indians from the south of Oregon,
numbering fifteen, came riding into the settlement, armed and painted in
true Indian war-style. They made their way to the lodge of a Calapooya
chief in the neighborhood--the Calapooyas being the Indians native to
the valley. Dr. White fearing these mischievous visitors might infect
the mind of the Calapooya chief, sent a message to him, to bring his
friends to call upon him in the morning, as he had something good to say
to them.

This they did, when Dr. White explained the laws of the Nez Perces to
them, and told them how much it would be to their advantage to adopt
such laws. He gave the Calapooya chief a fine fat ox to feast his
friends with, well knowing that an Indian's humor depends much on the
state of his stomach, whether shrunken or distended. After the feast
there was some more talk about the laws, in the midst of which the
Indian Cockstock made his appearance, armed, and sullen in his demeanor.
But as Dr. White did not know him for the perpetrator of the outrage on
his premises, he took no notice of him more than of the others. The
Molallas and Klamaths finally agreed to receive the laws; departing in
high good humor, singing and shouting. So little may one know of the
savage heart from the savage professions! Some of these Indians were
boiling over with secret wrath at the weakness of their brethren in
consenting to laws of the Agent's dictation; and while they were
crossing a stream, fell upon and massacred them without mercy, Cockstock
taking an active part in the murder.

The whites were naturally much excited by the villainous and horrible
affray, and were for taking and hanging the murderers. The Agent,
however, was more cautious, and learning that there had been feuds among
these Indians long unsettled, decided not to interfere.

In February, 1844, fresh outrages on settlers having been committed so
that some were leaving their claims and coming to stop at the Falls
through fear, Dr. White was petitioned to take the case in hand. He
accordingly raised a party of ten men, who had nearly all suffered some
loss or outrage at Cockstock's hands, and set out in search of him, but
did not succeed in finding him. His next step was to offer a reward of a
hundred dollars for his arrest, meaning to send him to the upper country
to be tried and punished by the Cayuses and Nez Perces, the Doctor
prudently desiring to have them bear the odium, and suffer the
punishment, should any follow, of executing justice on the Indian
desperado. Not so had the fates ordained.

About a week after the reward was offered, Cockstock came riding into
the settlement at the Falls, at mid-day, accompanied by five other
Indians, all well armed, and frightfully painted. Going from house to
house on their horses, they exhibited their pistols, and by look and
gesture seemed to defy the settlers, who, however, kept quiet through
prudential motives. Not succeeding in provoking the whites to commence
the fray, Cockstock finally retired to an Indian village on the other
side of the river, where he labored to get up an insurrection, and
procure the burning of the settlement houses.

Meantime the people at the Falls were thoroughly alarmed, and bent upon
the capture of this desperate savage. When, after an absence of a few
hours, they saw him recrossing the river with his party, a crowd of
persons ran down to the landing, some with offers of large reward to any
person who would attempt to take him, while others, more courageous,
were determined upon earning it. No definite plan of capture or concert
of action was decided on, but all was confusion and doubt. In this frame
of mind a collision was sure to take place; both the whites and Indians
firing at the moment of landing. Mr. LeBreton, the young man mentioned
in the previous chapter, after firing ineffectually, rushed unarmed upon
Cockstock, whose pistol was also empty, but who still had his knife. In
the struggle both fell to the ground, when a mulatto man, who had wrongs
of his own to avenge, ran up and struck Cockstock a blow on the head
with the butt of his gun which dispatched him at once.

Thus the colony was rid of a scourge, yet not without loss which
counterbalanced the gain. Young LeBreton besides having his arm
shattered by a ball, was wounded by a poisoned arrow, which occasioned
his death; and Mr. Rogers, another esteemed citizen, died from the same
cause; while a third was seriously injured by a slight wound from a
poisoned arrow. As for the five friends of Cockstock, they escaped to
the bluffs overlooking the settlement, and commenced firing down upon
the people. But fire-arms were mustered sufficient to dislodge them,
and thus the affair ended; except that the Agent had some trouble to
settle it with the Dalles Indians, who came down in a body to demand
payment for the loss of their brother. After much talk and explanation,
a present to the widow of the dead Indian was made to smooth over the

Meek, who at the time of the collision was rafting timber for Dr.
McLaughlin's mill at the Falls, as might have been expected was appealed
to in the melee by citizens who knew less about Indian fighting.

A prominent citizen and merchant, who probably seldom spoke _of_ him as
Mr. Meek, came running to him in great affright:--"Mr. Meek! Mr. Meek!
Mr. Meek!--I want to send my wife down to Vancouver. Can you assist me?
Do you think the Indians will take the town?"

"It 'pears like half-a-dozen Injuns might do it," retorted Meek, going
on with his work.

"What do you think we had better do, Mr. Meek?--What do you advise?"

"I think _you'd_ better RUN."

In all difficulties between the Indians and settlers, Meek usually
refrained from taking sides--especially from taking sides against the
Indians. For Indian slayer as he had once been when a ranger of the
mountains, he had too much compassion for the poor wretches in the
Wallamet Valley, as well as too much knowledge of the savage nature, to
like to make unnecessary war upon them. Had he been sent to take
Cockstock, very probably he would have done it with little uproar; for
he had sufficient influence among the Calapooyas to have enlisted them
in the undertaking. But this was the Agent's business and he let him
manage it; for Meek and the Doctor were not in love with one another;
one was solemnly audacious, the other mischievously so. Of the latter
sort of audacity, here is an example. Meek wanted a horse to ride out
to the Plains where his family were, and not knowing how else to obtain
it, helped himself to one belonging to Dr. White; which presumption
greatly incensed the Doctor, and caused him to threaten various
punishments, hanging among the rest. But the Indians overhearing him

"_Wake nika cumtux_--You dare not.--You no put rope round Meek's neck.
He _tyee_ (chief)--no hang him."

Upon which the Doctor thought better of it, and having vented his solemn
audacity, received smiling audacity with apparent good humor when he
came to restore the borrowed horse.

As our friend Meek was sure to be found wherever there was anything
novel or exciting transpiring, so he was sure to fall in with visitors
of distinguished character, and as ready to answer their questions as
they were to ask them. The conversation chanced one day to run upon the
changes that had taken place in the country since the earliest
settlement by the Americans, and Meek, who felt an honest pride in them,
was expatiating at some length, to the ill-concealed amusement of two
young officers, who probably saw nothing to admire in the rude
improvements of the Oregon pioneers.

"Mr. Meek," said one of them, "if you have been so long in the country
and have witnessed such wonderful transformations, doubtless you may
have observed equally great ones in nature; in the rivers and mountains,
for instance?"

Meek gave a lightning glance at the speaker who had so mistaken his

"I reckon I have," said he slowly. Then waving his hand gracefully
toward the majestic Mt. Hood, towering thousands of feet above the
summit of the Cascade range, and white with everlasting snows: "When
_I_ came to this country, Mount Hood was _a hole in the ground_!"

It is hardly necessary to say that the conversation terminated abruptly,
amid the universal cachinations of the bystanders.

Notwithstanding the slighting views of Her British Majesty's naval
officers, the young colony was making rapid strides. The population had
been increased nearly eight hundred by the immigration of 1844, so that
now it numbered nearly two thousand. Grain had been raised in
considerable quantities, cattle and hogs had multiplied, and the farmers
were in the best of spirits. Even our hero, who hated farm labor, began
to entertain faith in the resources of his land claim to make him rich.

Such was the promising condition of the colony in the summer of 1845.
Much of the real prosperity of the settlers was due to the determination
of the majority to exclude ardent spirits and all intoxicating drinks
from the country. So well had they succeeded that a gentleman writing of
the colony at that time, says: "I attended the last term of the circuit
courts in most of the counties, and I found great respect shown to
judicial authority everywhere; nor did I see a single _drunken juryman_,
_nor witness_, _nor spectator_. So much industry, good order, and
sobriety I have never seen in any community."

While this was the rule, there were exceptions to it. During the spring
term of the Circuit Court, Judge Nesmith being on the bench, a prisoner
was arraigned before him for "assault with intent to kill." The witness
for the prosecution was called, and was proceeding to give evidence,
when, at some statement of his, the prisoner vociferated that he was a
"d----d liar," and quickly stripping off his coat demanded a chance to
fight it out with the witness.

Judge Nesmith called for the interference of Meek, who had been made
marshal, but just at that moment he was not to be found. Coming into the
room a moment later, Meek saw the Judge down from his bench, holding the
prisoner by the collar.

"You can imagine," says Meek, "the bustle in court. But the Judge had
the best of it. He fined the rascal, and made him pay it on the spot;
while I just stood back to see his honor handle him. That was fun for

The autumn of 1845 was marked less by striking events than by the energy
which the people exhibited in improving the colony by laying out roads
and town-sites. Already quite a number of towns were located, in which
the various branches of business were beginning to develop themselves.
Oregon City was the most populous and important, but Salem, Champoeg,
and Portland were known as towns, and other settlements were growing up
on the Tualatin Plains and to the south of them, in the fertile valleys
of the numerous tributaries to the Wallamet.

Portland was settled in this year, and received its name from the game
of "heads you lose, tails I win," by which its joint owners agreed to
determine it. One of them being a Maine man, was for giving it the name
which it now bears, the other partner being in favor of Boston, because
he was a Massachusetts man. It was, therefore, agreed between them that
a copper cent should be tossed to decide the question of the
christening, which being done, heads and Portland won.

The early days of that city were not always safe and pleasant any more
than those of its older rivals; and the few inhabitants frequently were
much annoyed by the raids they were subject to from the now thoroughly
vagabondized Indians. On one occasion, while yet the population was
small, they were very much annoyed by the visit of eight or ten lodges
of Indians, who had somewhere obtained liquor enough to get drunk on,
and were enjoying a debauch in that spirit of total abandon which
distinguishes the Indian carousal.

Their performances at length alarmed the people, yet no one could be
found who could put an end to them. In this dilemma the Marshal came
riding into town, splendidly mounted on a horse that would turn at the
least touch of the rein. The countenances of the anxious Portlanders
brightened. One of the town proprietors eagerly besought him to "settle
those Indians." "Very well," answered Meek; "I reckon it won't take me
long." Mounting his horse, after first securing a rawhide rope, he
"charged" the Indian lodges, rope in hand, laying it on with force, the
bare shoulders of the Indians offering good _back-grounds_ for the
pictures which he was rapidly executing.

Not one made any resistance, for they had a wholesome fear of _tyee_
Meek. In twenty minutes not an Indian, man or woman, was left in
Portland. Some jumped into the river and swam to the opposite side, and
some fled to the thick woods and hid themselves. The next morning,
early, the women cautiously returned and carried away their property,
but the men avoided being seen again by the marshal who punished
drunkenness so severely.

_Reader's query._ Was it Meek or the Marshal who so strongly disapproved
of spreeing?

_Ans._ It was the Marshal.

The immigration to Oregon this year much exceeded that of any previous
year; and there was the usual amount of poverty, sickness, and suffering
of every sort, among the fresh arrivals. Indeed the larger the trains
the greater the amount of suffering generally; since the grass was more
likely to be exhausted, and more hindrances of every kind were likely
to occur. In any case, a march of several months through an unsettled
country was sure to leave the traveler in a most forlorn and exhausted
condition every way.

This was the situation of thousands of people who reached the Dalles in
the autumn of 1845. Food was very scarce among them, and the
difficulties to encounter before reaching the Wallamet just as great as
those of the two previous years. As usual the Hudson's Bay Company came
to the assistance of the immigrants, furnishing a passage down the river
in their boats; the sick, and the women and children being taken first.

Among the crowd of people encamped at the Dalles, was a Mr. Rector,
since well known in Oregon and California. Like many others he was
destitute of provisions; his supplies having given out. Neither had he
any money. In this extremity he did that which was very disagreeable to
him, as one of the "prejudiced" American citizens who were instructed
beforehand to hate and suspect the Hudson's Bay Company--he applied to
the company's agent at the Dalles for some potatoes and flour,
confessing his present inability to pay, with much shame and reluctance.

"Do not apologize, sir," said the agent kindly; "take what you need.
There is no occasion to starve while our supplies hold out."

Mr. R. found his prejudices in danger of melting away under such
treatment; and not liking to receive bounty a second time, he resolved
to undertake the crossing of the Cascade mountains while the more feeble
of the immigrants were being boated down the Columbia. A few others who
were in good health decided to accompany him. They succeeded in getting
their wagons forty miles beyond the Dalles; but there they could move no

In this dilemma, after consultation, Mr. Rector and Mr. Barlow agreed to
go ahead and look out a wagon road. Taking with them two days'
provisions, they started on in the direction of Oregon City. But they
found road hunting in the Cascade mountains an experience unlike any
they had ever had. Not only had they to contend with the usual obstacles
of precipices, ravines, mountain torrents, and weary stretches of ascent
and descent; but they found the forests standing so thickly that it
would have been impossible to have passed between the trees with their
wagons had the ground been clear of fallen timber and undergrowth. On
the contrary these latter obstacles were the greatest of all. So thickly
were the trunks of fallen trees crossed and recrossed everywhere, and so
dense the growth of bushes in amongst them, that it was with difficulty
they could force their way on foot.

It soon became apparent to the road hunters, that two days' rations
would not suffice for what work they had before them. At the first camp
it was agreed to live upon half rations the next day; and to divide and
subdivide their food each day, only eating half of what was left from
the day before, so that there would always still remain a morsel in case
of dire extremity.

But the toil of getting through the woods and over the mountains proved
excessive; and that, together with insufficient food, had in the course
of two or three days reduced the strength of Mr. Barlow so that it was
with great effort only that he could keep up with his younger and more
robust companion, stumbling and falling at every few steps, and
frequently hurting himself considerably.

So wolfish and cruel is the nature of men, under trying circumstances,
that instead of feeling pity for his weaker and less fortunate
companion, Mr. Rector became impatient, blaming him for causing delays,
and often requiring assistance.

[Illustration: THE ROAD-HUNTERS.]

To render their situation still more trying, rain began to fall heavily,
which with the cold air of the mountains, soon benumbed their exhausted
frames. Fearing that should they go to sleep so cold and famished, they
might never be able to rise again, on the fourth or fifth evening they
resolved to kindle a fire, if by any means they could do so. Dry and
broken wood had been plenty enough, but for the rain, which was
drenching everything. Neither matches nor flint had they, however, in
any case. The night was setting in black with darkness; the wind swayed
the giant firs over head, and then they heard the thunder of a falling
monarch of the forest unpleasantly near. Searching among the bushes, and
under fallen timber for some dry leaves and sticks, Mr. Rector took a
bundle of them to the most sheltered spot he could find, and set himself
to work to coax a spark of fire out of two pieces of dry wood which he
had split for that purpose. It was a long and weary while before
success was attained, by vigorous rubbing together of the dry wood, but
it was attained at last; and the stiffening limbs of the road-hunters
were warmed by a blazing camp-fire.

The following day, the food being now reduced to a crumb for each, the
explorers, weak and dejected, toiled on in silence, Mr. Rector always in
advance. On chancing to look back at his companion he observed him to be
brushing away a tear. "What now, old man?" asked Mr. R. with most
unchristian harshness.

"What would you do with me, Rector, should I fall and break a leg, or
become in any way disabled?" inquired Mr. Barlow, nervously.

"Do with you? _I would eat you!_" growled Mr. Rector, stalking on again.

As no more was said for some time, Mr. R.'s conscience rather misgave
him that he treated his friend unfeelingly; then he stole a look back at
him, and beheld the wan face bathed in tears.

"Come, come, Barlow," said he more kindly, "don't take affairs so much
to heart. You will not break a leg, and I should not eat you if you did,
for you haven't any flesh on you to eat."

"Nevertheless, Rector, I want you to promise me that in case I should
fall and disable myself, so that I cannot get on, you will not leave me
here to die alone, but will kill me with your axe instead."

"Nonsense, Barlow; you are weak and nervous, but you are not going to be
disabled, nor eaten, nor killed. Keep up man; we shall reach Oregon City

So, onward, but ever more slowly and painfully, toiled again the
pioneers, the wonder being that Mr. Barlow's fears were not realized,
for the clambering and descending gave him many a tumble, the tumbles
becoming more frequent as his strength declined.

Towards evening of this day as they came to the precipitous bank of a
mountain stream which was flowing in the direction they wished to go,
suddenly there came to their ears a sound of more than celestial melody;
the tinkling of bells, lowing of cattle, the voice of men hallooing to
the herds. They had struck the cattle trail, which they had first
diverged from in the hope of finding a road passable to wagons. In the
overwhelming revulsion of feeling which seized them, neither were able
for some moments to command their voices to call for assistance. That
night they camped with the herdsmen, and supped in such plenty as an
immigrant camp afforded.

Such were the sufferings of two individuals, out of a great crowd of
sufferers; some afflicted in one way and some in another. That people
who endured so much to reach their El Dorado should be the most locally
patriotic people in the world, is not singular. Mr. Barlow lived to
construct a wagon road over the Cascades for the use of subsequent



Early in 1846, Meek resigned his office of marshal of the colony, owing
to the difficulty of collecting taxes; for in a thinly inhabited
country, where wheat was a legal tender, at sixty cents per bushel, it
was rather a burdensome occupation to collect, in so ponderous a
currency; and one in which the collector required a granary more than a
pocket-book. Besides, Meek had out-grown the marshalship, and aspired to
become a legislator at the next June election.

He had always discharged his duty with promptitude and rectitude while
sheriff; and to his known courage might be attributed, in many
instances, the ready compliance with law which was remarkable in so new
and peculiar an organization as that of the Oregon colony. The people
had desired not to be taxed, at first; and for a year or more the
government was sustained by a fund raised by subscription. When at last
it was deemed best to make collections by law, the Canadians objected to
taxation to support an American government, while they were still
subjects of Great Britain; but ultimately yielded the point, by the
advice of Dr. McLaughlin.

But it was not always the Canadians who objected to being taxed, as the
following anecdote will show. Dr. McLaughlin was one day seated in his
office, in conversation with some of his American friends, when the tall
form of the sheriff darkened the doorway.

"I have come to tax you, Doctor," said Meek with his blandest manner,
and with a merry twinkle, half suppressed, in his black eyes.

"To tax me, Mr. Jo. I was not aware--I really was not aware--I believed
I had paid my tax, Mr. Jo," stammered the Doctor, somewhat annoyed at
the prospect of some fresh demand.

"Thar is an old ox out in my neighborhood, Doctor, and he is said to
belong to you. Thar is a tax of twenty-five cents on him."

"I do not understand you, Mr. Jo. I have no cattle out in your

"I couldn't say how that may be, Doctor. All I do know about it, is just
this. I went to old G----'s to collect the tax on his stock--and he's
got a powerful lot of cattle,--and while we war a countin 'em over, he
left out that old ox and said it belonged to you."

"Oh, oh, I see, Mr. Jo: yes, yes, I see! So it was Mr. G----," cried the
Doctor, getting very red in the face. "I do remember now, since you
bring it to my mind, that _I lent Mr. G---- that steer six years ago_!
Here are the twenty-five cents, Mr. Jo."

The sheriff took his money, and went away laughing; while the Doctor's
American friends looked quite as much annoyed as the Doctor himself,
over the meanness of some of their countrymen.

The year of 1846 was one of the most exciting in the political history
of Oregon. President Polk had at last given the notice required by the
Joint occupation treaty, that the Oregon boundary question must be

Agreeably to the promise which Dr. McLaughlin had received from the
British Admiral, H.B.M. Sloop of war _Modeste_ had arrived in the
Columbia River in the month of October, 1845, and had wintered there.
Much as the Doctor had wished for protection from possible outbreaks,
he yet felt that the presence of a British man-of-war in the Columbia,
and another one in Puget Sound, was offensive to the colonists. He set
himself to cover up as carefully as possible the disagreeable features
of the British lion, by endeavoring to establish social intercourse
between the officers of the _Modeste_ and the ladies and gentlemen of
the colony, and his endeavors were productive of a partial success.

During the summer, however, the United States Schooner _Shark_ appeared
in the Columbia, thus restoring the balance of power, for the relief of
national jealousy. After remaining for some weeks, the _Shark_ took her
departure, but was wrecked on the bar at the mouth of the river,
according to a prophecy of Meek's, who had a grudge against her
commander, Lieut. Howison, for spoiling the sport he was having in
company with one of her officers, while Howison was absent at the

It appears that Lieut. Schenck was hospitably inclined, and that on
receiving a visit from the hero of many bear-fights, who proved to be
congenial on the subject of good liquors, he treated both Meek and
himself so freely as to render discretion a foreign power to either of
them. Varied and brilliant were the exploits performed by these jolly
companions during the continuance of the spree; and still more brilliant
were those they talked of performing, even the taking of the _Modeste_,
which was lying a little way off, in front of Vancouver. Fortunately for
the good of all concerned, Schenck contented himself with firing a
salute as Meek was going over the side of the ship on leaving. But for
this misdemeanor he was put under arrest by Howison, on his return from
the Cascades, an indignity which Meek resented for the prisoner, by
assuring Lieut. Howison that he would lose his vessel before he got out
of the river. And lose her he did. Schenck was released after the vessel
struck, escaping with the other officers and crew by means of small
boats. Very few articles were saved from the wreck, but among those few
was the stand of colors, which Lieut. Howison subsequently presented to
Gov. Abernethy for the colony.

    There sinks the sun; like cavalier of old,
      Servant of crafty Spain,
    He flaunts his banner, barred with blood and gold,
      Wide o'er the western main;
    A thousand spear heads glint beyond the trees
      In columns bright and long,
    While kindling fancy hears upon the breeze
      The swell of shout and song.

    And yet not here Spain's gay, adventurous host
      Dipped sword or planted cross;
    The treasures guarded by this rock-bound coast
      Counted them gain nor loss.
    The blue Columbia, sired by the eternal hills
      And wedded with the sea,
    O'er golden sands, tithes from a thousand rills,
      Boiled in lone majesty--

    Through deep ravine, through burning, barren plain,
      Through wild and rocky strait,
    Through forest dark, and mountain rent in twain
      Toward the sunset gate;
    While curious eyes, keen with the lust of gold,
      Caught not the informing gleam,
    These mighty breakers age on age have rolled
      To meet this mighty stream.

    Age after age these noble hills have kept,
      The same majestic lines;
    Age after age the horizon's edge been swept
      By fringe of pointed pines.
    Summers and Winters circling came and went,
      Bringing no change of scene;
    Unresting, and unhasting, and unspent,
      Dwelt Nature here serene!

    Till God's own time to plant of Freedom's seed,
      In this selected soil;
    Denied forever unto blood and greed,
      But blest to honest toil.
    There sinks the sun; Gay cavalier no more!
      His banners trail the sea,
    And all his legions shining on the shore
      Fade into mystery.

    The swelling tide laps on the shingly beach,
      Like any starving thing;
    And hungry breakers, white with wrath, upreach,
      In a vain clamoring.
    The shadows fall; just level with mine eye
      Sweet Hesper stands and shines,
    And shines beneath an arc of golden sky,
      Pinked round with pointed pines.

    A noble scene! all breadth, deep tone, and power,
      Suggesting glorious themes;
    Shaming the idler who would fill the hour
      With unsubstantial dreams.
    Be mine the dreams prophetic, shadowing forth
      The things that yet shall be,
    When through this gate the treasures of the North
      Flow outward to the sea.


The author of the following, "poem" was not either a dull or an
unobservant writer; and we insert his verses as a comical bit of natural
history belonging peculiarly to Oregon.


    What is yon object which attracts the eye
    Of the observing traveler, who ascends
    Columbia's waters, when the summer sky
    In one soft tint, calm nature's clothing blends:
    As glittering in the sunbeams down it floats
    'Till some vile vulture on its carcase gloats?

    'Tis a poor salmon, which a short time past,
    With thousands of her finny sisters came,
    By instinct taught, to seek and find at last,
    The place that gave her birth, there to remain
    'Till nature's offices had been discharged,
    And fry from out the ova had emerged.

    Her Winter spent amongst the sheltered bays
    Of the salt sea, where numerous fish of prey,
    With appetite keen, the number of her days
    Would soon have put an end to, could but they
    Have caught her; but as they could not, she,
    Spring having come, resolved to quit the sea:

    And moving with the shoal along the coast, at length
    She reached the outlet of her native river,
    There tarried for a little to recruit her strength,
    So tried of late by cold and stormy weather;
    Sporting in playful gambols o'er the banks and sands,
    Chasing the tiny fish frequenting there in bands.

    But ah, how little thought this simple fish,
    The toils and perils she had yet to suffer,
    The chance she ran of serving as a dish
    For hungry white men or for Indian's supper,--
    Of enemies in which the stream abounded,
    When lo! she's by a fisher's net surrounded.

    Partly conscious of her approaching end,
    She darts with meteoric swiftness to and fro,
    Striking the frail meshes, within which she's penned,
    Which bid defiance to her stoutest blow:
    To smaller compass by degrees the snare is drawn,
    When with a leap she clears it and is gone.

    Once more at large with her companions, now
    Become more cautious from her late escape,
    She keeps in deeper water and thinks how
    Foolish she was to get in such a scrape;
    As mounting further up the stream, she vies
    With other fish in catching gnats and flies.

    And as she on her way did thus enjoy
    Life's fleeting moments, there arose a panic
    Amongst the stragglers, who in haste deploy
    Around their elder leaders, quick as magic,
    While she unconscious of the untimely rout,
    Was by a hungry otter singled out:

    Vigorous was the chase, on the marked victim shot
    Through the clear water, while in close pursuit
    Followed her amphibious foe, who scarce had got
    Near enough to grasp her, when with turns acute,
    And leaps and revolutions, she so tried the otter,
    He gave up the hunt with merely having bit her.

    Scarce had she recovered from her weakness, when
    An ancient eagle, of the bald-head kind,
    Winging his dreary way to'rds some lone glen,
    Where was her nest with four plump eaglets lined,
    Espied the fish, which he judged quite a treat,
    And just the morsel for his little ones to eat:

    And sailing in spiral circles o'er the spot,
    Where lay his prey, then hovering for a time,
    To take his wary aim, he stooped and caught
    His booty, which he carried to a lofty pine;
    Upon whose topmost branches, he first adjusted
    His awkward load, ere with his claws he crushed it.

    "Ill is the wind that blows no person good"--
    So said the adage, and as luck would have it,
    A huge grey eagle out in search of food,
    Who just had whet his hunger with a rabbit,
    Attacked the other, and the pair together,
    In deadly combat fell into the river.

    Our friend of course made off, when she'd done falling
    Some sixty yards, and well indeed she might;
    For ne'er, perhaps, a fish got such a mauling
    Since Adam's time, or went up such a height
    Into the air, and came down helter-skelter,
    As did this poor production of a melter.

    All these, with many other dangers, she survived,
    Too manifold in this short space to mention;
    So we'll suppose her to have now arrived
    Safe at _the Falls_, without much more detention
    Than one could look for, where so many liked her
    Company, and so many Indians spiked her.

    And here a mighty barrier stops her way:
    The tranquil water, finding in its course
    Itself beset with rising rocks, which lay
    As though they said, "retire ye to your source,"
    Bursts with indignant fury from its bondage, now
    Rushes in foaming torrents to the chasm below.

    The persevering fish then at the foot arrives,
    Laboring with redoubled vigor mid the surging tide,
    And finding, by her strength, she vainly strives
    To overcome the flood, though o'er and o'er she tried;
    Her tail takes in her mouth, and bending like a bow
    That's to full compass drawn, aloft herself doth throw;

    And spinning in the air, as would a silver wand
    That's bended end to end and upwards cast,
    Headlong she falls amid the showering waters, and
    Gasping for breath, against the rocks is dashed:
    Again, again she vaults, again she tries,
    And in one last and feeble effort--dies.

There was, in Oregon City, a literary society called the "Falls
Association," some of whose effusions were occasionally sent to the
_Spectator_, and this may have been one of them. At all events, it is
plain that with balls, theatres, literary societies, and politics, the
colony was not afflicted with dullness, in the winter of 1846.

But the history of the immigration this year, afforded, perhaps, more
material for talk than any one other subject. The condition in which the
immigrants arrived was one of great distress. A new road into the valley
had been that season explored, at great labor and expense, by a company
of gentlemen who had in view the aim to lessen the perils usually
encountered in descending the Columbia. They believed that a better pass
might be discovered through the Cascade range to the south, than that
which had been found around the base of Mount Hood, and one which should
bring the immigrants in at the upper end of the valley, thus saving them
considerable travel and loss of time at a season of the year when the
weather was apt to be unsettled.

With this design, a party had set out to explore the Cascades to the
south, quite early in the spring; but failing in their undertaking, had
returned. Another company was then immediately formed, headed by a
prominent member of society and the legislature. This company followed
the old Hudson's Bay Company's trail, crossing all those ranges of
mountains perpendicular to the coast, which form a triple wall between
Oregon and California, until they came out into the valley of the
Humboldt, whence they proceeded along a nearly level, but chiefly barren
country to Fort Hall, on the Snake River.

The route was found to be practicable, although there was a scarcity of
grass and water along a portion of it; but as the explorers had with
great difficulty found out and marked all the best camping grounds, and
encountered first for themselves all the dangers of a hitherto
unexplored region, most of which they believed they had overcome, they
felt no hesitation in recommending the new road to the emigrants whom
they met at Fort Hall.

Being aware of the hardships which the immigrants of the previous years
had undergone on the Snake River plains, at the crossing of Snake River,
the John Day, and Des Chutes Rivers, and the passage of the Columbia,
the travelers gladly accepted the tidings of a safer route to the
Wallamet. A portion of the immigration had already gone on by the road
to the Dalles; the remainder turned off by the southern route.

Of those who took the new route, a part were destined for California.
All, however, after passing through the sage deserts, committed the
error of stopping to recruit their cattle and horses in the fresh green
valleys among the foot-hills of the mountains. It did not occur to them
that they were wasting precious time in this way; but to this indulgence
was owing an incredible amount of suffering. The California-bound
travelers encountered the season of snow on the Sierras, and such
horrors are recorded of their sufferings as it is seldom the task of
ears to hear or pen to record. Snow-bound, without food, those who died
of starvation were consumed by the living; even children were eaten by
their once fond parents, with an indifference horrible to think on: so
does the mind become degraded by great physical suffering.

The Oregon immigrants had not to cross the lofty Sierras; but they still
found mountains before them which, in the dry season, would have been
formidable enough. Instead, however, of the dry weather continuing, very
heavy rains set in. The streams became swollen, the mountain sides heavy
and slippery with the wet earth. Where the road led through canyons, men
and women were sometimes forced to stem a torrent, breast high, and cold
enough to chill the life in their veins. The cattle gave out, the
wagons broke down, provisions became exhausted, and a few persons
perished, while all were in the direst straits.

The first who got through into the valley sent relief to those behind;
but it was weeks before the last of the worn, weary, and now
impoverished travelers escaped from the horrors of the mountains in
which they were so hopelessly entangled, and where most of their worldly
goods were left to rot.

The Oregon legislature met as usual, to hold its winter session, though
the people hoped and expected it would be for the last time under the
Provisional Government. There were only two "mountain-men" in the House,
at this session--Meek and Newell.

In the suspense under which they for the present remained, there was
nothing to do but to go on in the path of duty as they had heretofore
done, keeping up their present form of government until it was
supplanted by a better one. So passed the summer until the return of the
"Glorious Fourth," which, being the first national anniversary occurring
since the news of the treaty had reached the colony, was celebrated with
proper enthusiasm.

It chanced that an American ship, the _Brutus_, Capt. Adams, from
Boston, was lying in the Wallamet, and that a general invitation had
been given to the celebrationists to visit the ship during the day. A
party of fifty or sixty, including Meek and some of his mountain
associates, had made their calculations to go on board at the same time,
and were in fact already alongside in boats, when Captain Adams singled
out a boat load of people belonging to the mission clique, and inviting
them to come on board, ordered all the others off.

This was an insult too great to be borne by mountain-men, who resented
it not only for themselves, but for the people's party of Americans to
which they naturally belonged. Their blood was up, and without stopping
to deliberate, Meek and Newell hurried off to fetch the twelve-pounder
that had a few hours before served to thunder forth the rejoicings of a
free people, but with which they now purposed to proclaim their
indignation as freeman heinously insulted. The little twelve-pound
cannon was loaded with rock, and got into range with the offending ship,
and there is little doubt that Capt. Adams would have suffered loss at
the hands of the incensed multitude, but for the timely interference of
Dr. McLaughlin. On being informed of the warlike intentions of Meek and
his associates, the good Doctor came running to the rescue, his white
hair flowing back from his noble face with the hurry of his movements.

"Oh, oh, Mr. Joe, Mr. Joe, you must not do this! indeed, you must not do
this foolish thing! Come now; come away. You will injure your country,
Mr. Joe. How can you expect that ships will come here, if they are fired
on? Come away, come away!"

And Meek, ever full of waggishness, even in his wrath, replied:

"Doctor, it is not that I love the Brutus less, but my dignity more."

"Oh, Shakespeare, Mr. Joe! But come with me; come with me."

And so the good Doctor, half in authority, half in kindness, persuaded
the resentful colonists to pass by the favoritism of the Boston captain.

Meek was reëlected to the legislature this summer, and swam out to a
vessel lying down at the mouth of the Wallamet, to get liquor to treat
his constituents; from which circumstance it may be inferred that while
Oregon was remarkable for temperance, there were occasions on which
conviviality was deemed justifiable by a portion of her people.

Thus passed the summer. The autumn brought news of a large emigration
_en route_ for the new territory; but it brought no news of good import
from Congress. On the contrary the bill providing for a territorial
government for Oregon had failed, because the Organic Laws of that
territory excluded slavery forever from the country. The history of its
failure is a part and parcel of the record of the long hard struggle of
the south to extend slavery into the United States' territories.

Justly dissatisfied, but not inconsolable, the colony, now that hope was
extinguished for another season, returned to its own affairs. The
immigration, which had arrived early this year, amounted to between four
and five thousand. An unfortunate affray between the immigrants and the
Indians at the Dalles, had frightened away from that station the Rev.
Father Waller; and Dr. Whitman of the Waiilatpu mission had purchased
the station for the Presbyterian mission, and placed a nephew of his in
charge. Although, true to their original bad character, the Dalles
Indians had frequently committed theft upon the passing emigration, this
was the first difficulty resulting in loss of life, which had taken
place. This quarrel arose out of some thefts committed by the Indians,
and the unwise advice of Mr. Waller, in telling the immigrants to
retaliate by taking some of the Indian horses. An Indian can see the
justice of taking toll from every traveler passing through his country;
but he cannot see the justice of being robbed in return; and Mr. Waller
had been long enough among them to have known this.

Finding that it must continue yet a little longer to look after its own
government and welfare, the colony had settled back into its wonted
pursuits. The legislature had convened for its winter session, and had
hardly elected its officers and read the usual message of the Governor,
before there came another, which fell upon their ears like a
thunderbolt. Gov. Abernethy had sent in the following letter, written at
Vancouver the day before:

     FORT VANCOUVER, Dec. 7, 1847.

     _George Abernethy, Esq._;

     SIR:--Having received intelligence, last night, by special express
     from Walla-Walla, of the destruction of the missionary settlement
     at Waiilatpu, by the Cayuse Indians of that place, we hasten to
     communicate the particulars of that dreadful event, one of the most
     atrocious which darkens the annals of Indian crime.

     Our lamented friend, Dr. Whitman, his amiable and accomplished
     lady, with nine other persons, have fallen victims to the fury of
     these remorseless savages, who appear to have been instigated to
     this appalling crime by a horrible suspicion which had taken
     possession of their superstitious minds, in consequence of the
     number of deaths from dysentery and measles, that Dr. Whitman was
     silently working the destruction of their tribe by administering
     poisonous drugs, under the semblance of salutary medicines.

     With a goodness of heart and benevolence truly his own, Dr. Whitman
     had been laboring incessantly since the appearance of the measles
     and dysentery among his Indian converts, to relieve their
     sufferings; and such has been the reward of his generous labors.

     A copy of Mr. McBean's letter, herewith transmitted, will give you
     all the particulars known to us of this indescribably painful

     Mr. Ogden, with a strong party, will leave this place as soon as
     possible for Walla-Walla, to endeavor to prevent further evil; and
     we beg to suggest to you the propriety of taking instant measures
     for the protection of the Rev. Mr. Spalding, who, for the sake of
     his family, ought to abandon the Clear-water mission without delay,
     and retire to a place of safety, as he cannot remain at that
     isolated station without imminent risk, in the present excited and
     irritable State of the Indian population.

     I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,



1842-7. Doubtless the reader remembers the disquiet felt and expressed
by the Indians in the upper country in the year 1842. For the time they
had been quieted by presents, by the advice of the Hudson's Bay Company,
and by the Agent's promise that in good time the United States would
send them blankets, guns, ammunition, food farming implements, and
teachers to show them how to live like the whites.

In the meantime, five years having passed, these promises had not been
kept. Five times a large number of whites, with their children, their
cattle, and wagons, had passed through their country, and gone down into
the Wallamet Valley to settle. Now they had learned that the United
States claimed the Wallamet valley; yet they had never heard that the
Indians of that country had received any pay for it.

They had accepted the religion of the whites believing it would do them
good; but now they were doubtful. Had they not accepted laws from the
United States agent, and had not their people been punished for acts
which their ancestors and themselves had always before committed at
will? None of these innovations seemed to do them any good: they were
disappointed. But the whites, or Bostons, (meaning the Americans) were
coming more and more every year, so that by-and-by there would be all
Bostons and no Indians.

Once they had trusted in the words of the Americans; but now they knew
how worthless were their promises. The Americans had done them much
harm. Years before had not one of the missionaries suffered several of
their people, and the son of one of their chiefs, to be slain in his
company, yet himself escaped? Had not the son of another chief, who had
gone to California to buy cattle, been killed by a party of Americans,
for no fault of his own? Their chief's son was killed, the cattle robbed
from his party, after having been paid for; and his friends obliged to
return poor and in grief.

To be sure, Dr. White had given them some drafts to be used in obtaining
cattle from the immigration, as a compensation for their losses in
California; but they could not make them available; and those who wanted
cattle had to go down to the Wallamet for them. In short, could the
Indians have thought of an American epithet to apply to Americans, it
would have been that expressive word _humbug_. What they felt and what
they thought, was, that they had been cheated. They feared greater
frauds in the future, and they were secretly resolved not to submit to

So far as regarded the missionaries, Dr. Whitman and his associates,
they were divided; yet as so many looked on the Doctor as an agent in
promoting the settlement of the country with whites, it was thought best
to drive him from the country, together with all the missionaries.
Several years before Dr. Whitman had known that the Indians were
displeased with his settlement among them. They had told him of it: they
had treated him with violence; they had attempted to outrage his wife;
had burned his property; and had more recently several times warned him
to leave their country, or they should kill him.

Not that all were angry at him alike, or that any were personally very
ill-disposed towards him. Everything that a man could do to instruct and
elevate these savage people, he had done, to the best of his ability,
together with his wife and assistants. But he had not been able, or
perhaps had not attempted, to conceal the fact, that he looked upon the
country as belonging to his people, rather than to the natives, and it
was this fact which was at the bottom of their "bad hearts" toward the
Doctor. So often had warnings been given which were disregarded by Dr.
Whitman, that his friends, both at Vancouver and in the settlements, had
long felt great uneasiness, and often besought him to remove to the
Wallamet valley.

But although Dr. Whitman sometimes was half persuaded to give up the
mission upon the representations of others, he could not quite bring
himself to do so. So far as the good conduct of the Indians was
concerned, they had never behaved better than for the last two years.
There had been less violence, less open outrage, than formerly; and
their civilization seemed to be progressing; while some few were
apparently hopeful converts. Yet there was ever a whisper in the
air--"Dr. Whitman must die."

The mission at Lapwai was peculiarly successful. Mrs. Spalding, more
than any other of the missionaries, had been able to adapt herself to
the Indian character, and to gain their confidence. Besides, the Nez
Perces were a better nation than the Cayuses;--more easily controlled by
a good counsel; and it seemed like doing a wrong to abandon the work so
long as any good was likely to result from it. There were other reasons
too, why the missions could not be abandoned in haste, one of which was
the difficulty of disposing of the property. This might have been done
perhaps, to the Catholics, who were establishing missions throughout the
upper country; but Dr. Whitman would never have been so false to his own
doctrines, as to leave the field of his labors to the Romish Church.

Yet the division of sentiment among the Indians with regard to religion,
since the Catholic missionaries had come among them, increased the
danger of a revolt: for in the Indian country neither two rival trading
companies, nor two rival religions can long prosper side by side. The
savage cannot understand the origin of so many religions. He either
repudiates all, or he takes that which addresses itself to his
understanding through the senses. In the latter respect, the forms of
Catholicism, as adapted to the savage understanding, made that religion
a dangerous rival to intellectual and idealistic Presbyterianism. But
the more dangerous the rival, the greater the firmness with which Dr.
Whitman would cling to his duty.

There were so many causes at work to produce a revolution among the
Indians, that it would be unfair to name any one as _the_ cause. The
last and immediate provocation was a season of severe sickness among
them. The disease was measles, and was brought in the train of the

This fact alone was enough to provoke the worst passions of the savage.
The immigration in itself was a sufficient offense; the introduction
through them of a pestilence, a still weightier one. It did not signify
that Dr. Whitman had exerted himself night and day to give them relief.
Their peculiar notions about a medicine-man made it the Doctor's duty to
cure the sick; or made it the duty of the relatives of the dead and
dying to avenge their deaths.

Yet in spite of all and every provocation, perhaps the fatal tragedy
might have been postponed, had it not been for the evil influence of
one Jo Lewis, a half-breed, who had accompanied the emigration from the
vicinity of Fort Hall. This Jo Lewis, with a large party of emigrants,
had stopped to winter at the mission, much against Dr. Whitman's wishes;
for he feared not having food enough for so many persons. Finding that
he could not prevent them, he took some of the men into his employ, and
among others the stranger half-breed.

This man was much about the house, and affected to relate to the Indians
conversations which he heard between Dr. and Mrs. Whitman, and Mr.
Spalding, who with his little daughter, was visiting at Waiilatpu. These
conversations related to poisoning the Indians, in order to get them all
out of the way, so that the white men could enjoy their country
unmolested. Yet this devil incarnate did not convince his hearers at
once of the truth of his statements; and it was resolved in the tribe to
make a test of Dr. Whitman's medicine. Three persons were selected to
experiment upon; two of them already sick, and the third quite well.
Whether it was that the medicine was administered in too large
quantities, or whether an unhappy chance so ordered it, all those three
persons died. Surely it is not singular that in the savage mind this
circumstance should have been deemed decisive. It was then that the
decree went forth that not only the Doctor and Mrs. Whitman, but all the
Americans at the mission must die.

On the 22d of November, Mr. Spalding arrived at Waiilatpu, from his
mission, one hundred and twenty miles distant, with his daughter, a
child of ten years, bringing with him also several horse-loads of grain,
to help feed the emigrants wintering there. He found the Indians
suffering very much, dying one, two, three, and sometimes five in a day.
Several of the emigrant families, also, were sick with measles and the
dysentery, which followed the disease. A child of one of them died the
day following Mr. Spalding's arrival.

Dr. Whitman's family consisted of himself and wife, a young man named
Rodgers, who was employed as a teacher, and also studying for the
ministry, two young people, a brother and sister, named Bulee, seven
orphaned children of one family, whose parents had died on the road to
Oregon in a previous year, named Sager, Helen Mar, the daughter of Joe
Meek, another little half-breed girl, daughter of Bridger the
fur-trader, a half-breed Spanish boy whom the Doctor had brought up from
infancy, and two sons of a Mr. Manson, of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Besides these, there were half-a-dozen other families at the mission,
and at the saw-mill, twenty miles distant, five families more--in all,
forty-six persons at Waiilatpu, and fifteen at the mill, who were among
those who suffered by the attack. But there were also about the mission,
three others, Jo Lewis, Nicholas Finlay, and Joseph Stanfield, who
probably knew what was about to take place, and may, therefore be
reckoned as among the conspirators.

While Mr. Spalding was at Waiilatpu, a message came from two Walla-Walla
chiefs, living on the Umatilla River, to Dr. Whitman, desiring him to
visit the sick in their villages, and the two friends set out together
to attend to the call, on the evening of the 27th of November. Says Mr.
Spalding, referring to that time: "The night was dark, and the wind and
rain beat furiously upon us. But our interview was sweet. We little
thought it was to be our last. With feelings of the deepest emotion we
called to mind the fact, that eleven years before, we crossed this trail
before arriving at Walla-Walla, the end of our seven months' journey
from New York. We called to mind the high hopes and thrilling interests
which had been awakened during the year that followed--of our successful
labors and the constant devotedness of the Indians to improvement. True,
we remembered the months of deep solicitude we had, occasioned by the
increasing menacing demands of the Indians for pay for their wood, their
water, their air, their lands. But much of this had passed away, and the
Cayuses were in a far more encouraging condition than ever before." Mr.
Spalding further relates that himself and Dr. Whitman also conversed on
the danger which threatened them from the Catholic influence. "We felt,"
he says, "that the present sickness afforded them a favorable
opportunity to excite the Indians to drive us from the country, and all
the movements about us seemed to indicate that this would soon be
attempted, if not executed." Such was the suspicion in the minds of the
Protestants. Let us hope that it was not so well founded as they

The two friends arrived late at the lodge of _Stickas_, a chief, and
laid down before a blazing fire to dry their drenched clothing. In the
morning a good breakfast was prepared for them, consisting of beef,
vegetables, and bread--all of which showed the improvement of the
Indians in the art of living. The day, being Sunday, was observed with
as much decorum as in a white man's house. After breakfast, Dr. Whitman
crossed the river to visit the chiefs who had sent for him, namely,
_Tan-i-tan_, _Five Crows_, and _Yam-ha-wa-lis_, returning about four
o'clock in the afternoon, saying he had taken tea with the Catholic
bishop and two priests, at their house, which belonged to _Tan-i-tan_,
and that they had promised to visit him in a short time. He then
departed for the mission, feeling uneasy about the sick ones at home.

Mr. Spalding remained with the intention of visiting the sick and
offering consolation to the dying. But he soon discovered that there was
a weighty and uncomfortable secret on the mind of his entertainer,
_Stickas_. After much questioning, _Stickas_ admitted that the thought
which troubled him was that the Americans had been "decreed against" by
his people; more he could not be induced to reveal. Anxious, yet not
seriously alarmed,--for these warnings had been given before many
times,--he retired to his couch of skins, on the evening of the 29th,
being Monday--not to sleep, however; for on either side of him an Indian
woman sat down to chant the death-song--that frightful lament which
announces danger and death. On being questioned they would reveal

On the following morning, Mr. Spalding could no longer remain in
uncertainty, but set out for Waiilatpu. As he mounted his horse to
depart, an Indian woman placed her hand on the neck of his horse to
arrest him, and pretending to be arranging his head-gear, said in a low
voice to the rider, "Beware of the Cayuses at the mission." Now more
than ever disturbed by this intimation that it was the mission which was
threatened, he hurried forward, fearing for his daughter and his
friends. He proceeded without meeting any one until within sight of the
lovely Walla-Walla valley, almost in sight of the mission itself, when
suddenly, at a wooded spot where the trail passes through a little
hollow, he beheld two horsemen advancing, whom he watched with a
fluttering heart, longing for, and yet dreading, the news which the very
air seemed whispering.

The two horsemen proved to be the Catholic Vicar General, Brouillet,
who, with a party of priests and nuns had arrived in the country only a
few months previous, and his half-breed interpreter, both of whom were
known to Mr. Spalding. They each drew rein as they approached, Mr.
Spalding immediately inquiring "what news?"

"There are very many sick at the Whitman station," answered Brouillet,
with evident embarrassment.

"How are Doctor and Mrs. Whitman?" asked Spalding anxiously.

"The Doctor is ill--is dead," added the priest reluctantly.

"And Mrs. Whitman?" gasped Spalding.

"Is dead also. The Indians have killed them."

"My daughter?" murmured the agonized questioner.

"Is safe, with the other prisoners," answered Brouillet.

"And then," says Spalding in speaking of that moment of infinite horror,
when in his imagination a picture of the massacre, of the anguish of his
child, the suffering of the prisoners, of the probable destruction of
his own family and mission, and his surely impending fate, all rose up
before him--"I felt the world all blotted out at once, and sat on my
horse as rigid as a stone, not knowing or feeling anything."

While this conversation had been going on the half-breed interpreter had
kept a sinister watch over the communication, and his actions had so
suspicious a look that the priest ordered him to ride on ahead. When he
had obeyed, Brouillet gave some rapid instructions to Spalding; not to
go near the mission, where he could do no good, but would be certainly
murdered; but to fly, to hide himself until the excitement was over. The
men at the mission were probably all killed; the women and children
would be spared; nothing could be done at present but to try to save his
own life, which the Indians were resolved to take.

The conversation was hurried, for there was no time to lose. Spalding
gave his pack-horse to Brouillet, to avoid being encumbered by it; and
taking some provisions which the priest offered, struck off into the
woods there to hide until dark. Nearly a week from this night he arrived
at the Lapwai mission, starved, torn, with bleeding feet as well as
broken heart. Obliged to secrete himself by day, his horse had escaped
from him, leaving him to perform his night journeys on foot over the
sharp rocks and prickly cactus plants, until not only his shoes had been
worn out, but his feet had become cruelly lacerated. The constant fear
which had preyed upon his heart of finding his family murdered, had
produced fearful havoc in the life-forces; and although Mr. Spalding had
the happiness of finding that the Nez Perces had been true to Mrs.
Spalding, defending her from destruction, yet so great had been the
first shock, and so long continued the strain, that his nervous system
remained a wreck ever afterward.



1847. When Dr. Whitman reached home on that Sunday night, after parting
with Mr. Spalding at the Umatilla, it was already about midnight; yet he
visited the sick before retiring to rest; and early in the morning
resumed his duties among them. An Indian died that morning. At his
burial, which the Doctor attended, he observed that but few of the
friends and relatives of the deceased were present but attributed it to
the fear which the Indians have of disease.

Everything about the mission was going on as usual. Quite a number of
Indians were gathered about the place; but as an ox was being butchered,
the crowd was easily accounted for. Three men were dressing the beef in
the yard. The afternoon session of the mission school had just
commenced. The mechanics belonging to the station were about their
various avocations. Young Bulee was sick in the Doctor's house. Three of
the orphan children who were recovering from the measles, were with the
Doctor and Mrs. Whitman in the sitting-room; and also a Mrs. Osborne,
one of the emigrants who had just got up from a sick bed, and who had a
sick child in her arms.


The Doctor had just come in, wearied, and dejected as it was possible
for his resolute spirit to be, and had seated himself, bible in hand,
when several Indians came to a side door, asking permission to come in
and get some medicine. The Doctor rose, got his medicines, gave them
out, and sat down again. At that moment Mrs. Whitman was in an
adjoining room and did not see what followed. _Tam-a-has_, a chief
called "the murderer," came behind the Doctor's chair, and raising his
tomahawk, struck the Doctor in the back of the head, stunning but not
killing him.

Instantly there was a violent commotion. John Sager, one of the adopted
children, sprang up with his pistol in his hand, but before he could
fire it, he too was struck down, and cut and hacked shockingly. In the
meantime Dr. Whitman had received a second blow upon the head, and now
laid lifeless on the floor. Cries and confusion filled the house.

At the first sound, Mrs. Whitman, in whose ears that whisper in the air
had so long sounded, began in agony to stamp upon the floor, and wring
her hands, crying out, "Oh, the Indians, the Indians!" At that moment
one of the women from an adjoining building came running in, gasping
with terror, for the butchery was going on outside as well, and
_Tam-a-has_ and his associates were now assisting at it. Going to the
room where the Doctor lay insensible, Mrs. Whitman and her terrified
neighbor dragged him to the sofa and laid him upon it, doing all they
could to revive him. To all their inquiries he answered by a whispered
"no," probably not conscious what was said.

While this was being done, the people from every quarter began to crowd
into the Doctor's house, many of them wounded. Outside were heard the
shrieks of women, the yells of the Indians, the roar of musketry, the
noise of furious riding, of meeting war-clubs, groans, and every
frightful combination of sound, such as only could be heard at such a
carnival of blood. Still Mrs. Whitman sat by her husband's side, intent
on trying to rouse him to say one coherent word.

Nearer and nearer came the struggle, and she heard some one exclaim
that two of her friends were being murdered beneath the window. Starting
up, she approached the casement to get a view, as if by looking she
could save; but that moment she encountered the fiendish gaze of Jo
Lewis the half-breed, and comprehended his guilt. "Is it _you_, Jo, who
are doing this?" she cried. Before the expression of horror had left her
lips, a young Indian who had been a special favorite about the mission,
drew up his gun and fired, the ball entering her right breast, when she
fell without a groan.

When the people had at first rushed in, Mrs. Whitman had ordered the
doors fastened and the sick children removed to a room up stairs.
Thither now she was herself conveyed, having first recovered
sufficiently to stagger to the sofa where lay her dying husband. Those
who witnessed this strange scene, say that she knelt and prayed--prayed
for the orphan children she was leaving, and for her aged parents. The
only expression of personal regret she was heard to utter, was sorrow
that her father and mother should live to know she had perished in such
a manner.

In the chamber were now gathered Mrs. Whitman, Mrs. Hayes, Miss Bulee,
Catharine Sager, thirteen years of age, and three of the sick children,
besides Mr. Rogers and Mr. Kimble. Scarcely had they gained this retreat
when the crashing of windows and doors was heard below, and with whoops
and yells the savages dashed into the sitting-room where Doctor Whitman
still lay dying. While some busied themselves removing from the house
the goods and furniture, a chief named _Te-lau-ka-ikt_, a favorite at
the mission, and on probation for admission into the church,
deliberately chopped and mangled the face of his still breathing teacher
and friend with his tomahawk, until every feature was rendered

The children from the school-house were brought into the kitchen of the
Doctor's house about this time, by Jo Lewis, where, he told them, they
were going to be shot. Mr. Spalding's little girl Eliza, was among them.
Understanding the native language, she was fully aware of the terrible
import of what was being said by their tormentors. While the Indians
talked of shooting the children huddled together in the kitchen,
pointing their guns, and yelling, Eliza covered her face with her apron,
and leaned over upon the sink, that she might not see them shoot her.
After being tortured in this manner for some time, the children were
finally ordered out of doors.

While this was going on, a chief called _Tamt-sak-y_, was trying to
induce Mrs. Whitman to come down into the sitting-room.

She replied that she was wounded and could not do so, upon which he
professed much sorrow, and still desired her to be brought down, "If you
are my friend _Tamt-sak-y_, come up and see me," was her reply to his
professions, but he objected, saying there were Americans concealed in
the chamber, whom he feared might kill him. Mr. Rogers then went to the
head of the stairs and endeavored to have the chief come up, hoping
there might be some friendly ones, who would aid them in escaping from
the murderers. _Tamt-sak-y_, however, would not come up the stairs,
although he persisted in saying that Mrs. Whitman should not be harmed,
and that if all would come down and go over to the other house where the
families were collected, they might do so in safety.

The Indians below now began to call out that they were going to burn the
Doctor's house. Then no alternative remained but to descend and trust to
the mercy of the savages. As Mrs. Whitman entered the sitting-room,
leaning on one arm of Mr. Rogers, who also was wounded in the head, and
had a broken arm, she caught a view of the shockingly mutilated face of
her husband and fell fainting upon the sofa, just as Doctor Whitman gave
a dying gasp.

Mr. Rogers and Mrs. Hayes now attempted to get the sofa, or settee, out
of the house, and had succeeded in moving it through the kitchen to the
door. No sooner did they appear in the open door-way than a volley of
balls assailed them. Mr. Rogers fell at once, but did not die
immediately, for one of the most horrid features in this horrid butchery
was, that the victims were murdered by torturing degrees. Mrs. Whitman
also received several gunshot wounds, lying on the settee. Francis
Sager, the oldest of her adopted boys, was dragged into the group of
dying ones and shot down.

The children, who had been turned out of the kitchen were still huddled
together about the kitchen door, so near to this awful scene that every
incident was known to them, so near that the flashes from the guns of
the Indians burnt their hair, and the odor of the blood and the burning
powder almost suffocated them.

At two o'clock in the afternoon the massacre had commenced. It was now
growing dusk, and the demons were eager to finish their work. Seeing
that life still lingered in the mangled bodies of their victims, they
finished their atrocities by hurling them in the mud and gore which
filled the yard, and beating them upon their faces with whips and clubs,
while the air was filled with the noise of their shouting, singing, and
dancing--the Indian women and children assisting at these orgies, as if
the Bible had never been preached to them. And thus, after eleven years
of patient endeavor to save some heathen souls alive, perished Doctor
and Mrs. Whitman.

In all that number of Indians who had received daily kindnesses at the
hands of the missionaries, only two showed any compassion. These two,
_Ups_ and _Madpool_, Walla-Wallas, who were employed by the Doctor, took
the children away from the sickening sights that surrounded them, into
the kitchen pantry, and there in secret tried to comfort them.

When night set in the children and families were all removed to the
building called the mansion-house, where they spent a night of horror;
all, except those who were left in Mrs. Whitman's chamber, from which
they dared not descend, and the family of Mr. Osborne, who escaped.

On the first assault Mr. and Mrs. Osborne ran into their bedroom which
adjoined the sitting-room, taking with them their three small children.
Raising a plank in the floor, Mr. O. quickly thrust his wife and
children into the space beneath, and then following, let the plank down
to its place. Here they remained until darkness set in, able to hear all
that was passing about them, and fearing to stir. When all was quiet at
the Doctor's house, they stole out under cover of darkness and succeeded
in reaching Fort Walla-Walla, after a painful journey of several days,
or rather nights, for they dared not travel by day.

Another person who escaped was a Mr. Hall, carpenter, who in a hand to
hand contest with an Indian, received a wound in the face, but finally
reached the cover of some bushes where he remained until dark, and then
fled in the direction of Fort Walla-Walla. Mr. Hall was the first to
arrive at the fort, where, contrary to his expectations, and to all
humanity, he was but coldly received by the gentleman in charge, Mr.

Whether it was from cowardice or cruelty as some alleged, that Mr.
McBean rejoiced in the slaughter of the Protestant missionaries, himself
being a Catholic, can never be known. Had that been true, one might have
supposed that their death would have been enough, and that he might
have sheltered a wounded man fleeing for his life, without grudging him
this atom of comfort. Unfortunately for Mr. McBean's reputation, he
declined to grant such shelter willingly. Mr. Hall remained, however,
twelve hours, until he heard a report that the women and children were
murdered, when, knowing how unwelcome he was, and being in a half
distracted state, he consented to be set across the Columbia to make his
way as best he could to the Wallamet. From this hour he was never seen
or heard from, the manner of his death remaining a mystery to his wife
and their family of five children, who were among the prisoners at

When Mr. Osborne left the mission in the darkness, he was able only to
proceed about two miles, before Mrs. Osborne's strength gave way, she
lately having been confined by an untimely birth; and he was compelled
to stop, secreting himself and family in some bushes. Here they
remained, suffering with cold, and insufficient food, having only a
little bread and cold mush which they had found in the pantry of the
Doctor's house, before leaving it. On Tuesday night, Mrs. O. was able to
move about three miles more: and again they were compelled to stop. In
this way to proceed, they must all perish of starvation; therefore on
Wednesday night Mr. O. took the second child and started with it for the
fort, where he arrived before noon on Thursday.

Although Mr. McBean received him with friendliness of manner, he refused
him horses to go for Mrs. Osborne and his other children, and even
refused to furnish food to relieve their hunger, telling him to go to
the Umatilla, and forbidding his return to the fort. A little food was
given to himself and child, who had been fasting since Monday night.
Whether Mr. McBean would have allowed this man to perish is uncertain:
but certain it is that some base or cowardly motive made him
exceedingly cruel to both Hall and Osborne.

While Mr. Osborne was partaking of his tea and crackers, there arrived
at the fort Mr. Stanley, the artist, whom the reader will remember
having met in the mountains several years before. When the case became
known to him, he offered his horses immediately to go for Mrs. Osborne.
Shamed into an appearance of humanity, Mr. McBean then furnished an
Indian guide to accompany Mr. O. to the Umatilla, where he still
insisted the fugitives should go, though this was in the murderer's

A little meat and a few crackers were furnished for the supper of the
travelers; and with a handkerchief for his hatless head and a pair of
socks for his child's naked feet, all furnished by Mr. Stanley, Mr.
Osborne set out to return to his suffering wife and children. He and his
guide traveled rapidly, arriving in good time near the spot where he
believed his family to be concealed. But the darkness had confused his
recollection, and after beating the bushes until daylight, the unhappy
husband and father was about to give up the search in despair, when his
guide at length discovered their retreat.

The poor mother and children were barely alive, having suffered much
from famine and exposure, to say nothing of their fears. Mrs. Osborne
was compelled to be tied to the Indian in order to sit her horse. In
this condition the miserable fugitives turned toward the Umatilla, in
obedience to the command of McBean, and were only saved from being
murdered by a Cayuse by the scornful words of the guide, who shamed the
murderer from his purpose of slaughtering a sick and defenceless family.
At a Canadian farm-house, where they stopped to change horses, they were
but roughly received; and learning here that _Tamt-sak-y's_ lodge was
near by, Mrs. Osborne refused to proceed any farther toward the
Umatilla. She said, "I doubt if I can live to reach the Umatilla; and if
I must die, I may as well die at the gates of the Fort. Let us, then,
turn back to the Fort."

To this the guide assented, saying it was not safe going among the
Cayuses. The little party, quite exhausted, reached Walla-Walla about
ten o'clock at night, and were at once admitted. Contrary to his former
course, Mr. McBean now ordered a fire made to warm the benumbed
travelers, who, after being made tolerably comfortable, were placed in a
secret room of the fort. Again Mr. Osborne was importuned to go away,
down to the Wallamet, Mr. McBean promising to take care of his family
and furnish him an outfit if he would do so. Upon being asked to furnish
a boat, and Indians to man it, in order that the family might accompany
him, he replied that his Indians refused to go.

From all this reluctance, not only on the part of McBean, but of the
Indians also, to do any act which appeared like befriending the
Americans, it would appear that there was a very general fear of the
Cayuse Indians, and a belief that they were about to inaugurate a
general war upon the Americans, and their friends and allies. Mr.
Osborne, however, refused to leave his family behind, and Mr. McBean was
forced to let him remain until relief came. When it did come at last, in
the shape of Mr. Ogden's party, _Stickas_, the chief who had warned Mr.
Spalding, showed his kind feeling for the sufferers by removing his own
cap and placing it on Mr. Osborne's head, and by tying a handkerchief
over the ears of Mr. Osborne's little son, as he said, "to keep him
warm, going down the river." Sadly indeed, did the little ones who
suffered by the massacre at Waiilatpu, stand in need of any Christian


1847. A full account of the horrors of the Waiilatpu massacre, together
with the individual sufferings of the captives whose lives were spared,
would fill a volume, and be harrowing to the reader; therefore, only so
much of it will be given here as, from its bearing upon Oregon history,
is important to our narrative.

The day following the massacre, being Tuesday, was the day on which Mr.
Spalding was met and warned not to go to the mission, by the Vicar
General, Brouillet. Happening at the mission on that day, and finding
the bodies of the victims still unburied, Brouillet had them hastily
interred before leaving, if interment it could be called which left them
still a prey to wolves. The reader of this chapter of Oregon history
will always be very much puzzled to understand by what means the
Catholic priests procured their perfect exemption from harm during this
time of terror to the Americans. Was it that they were French, and that
they came into the country _only_ as missionaries of a religion adapted
to the savage mind, and not as settlers? Was it at all owing to the fact
that they were celibates, with no families to excite jealous feelings of
comparison in the minds of their converts?

Through a long and bitter war of words, which followed the massacre at
Waiilatpu, terrible sins were charged upon the priests--no less than
inciting the Indians to the murder of the Protestants, and winking at
the atrocities of every kind committed by the savages. Whether they
feared to enter into the quarrel, and were restrained from showing
sympathy solely by this fear, is a question only themselves can
determine. Certain it is, that they preserved a neutral position, when
to be neutral was to seem, if not to be, devoid of human sympathies.
That the event would have happened without any other provocation than
such as the Americans furnished by their own reckless disregard of
Indian prejudices, seems evident. The question, and the only question
which is suggested by a knowledge of all the circumstances, is whether
the event was helped on by an intelligent outside influence.

It was quite natural that the Protestants should wonder at the immunity
from danger which the priests enjoyed; and that, not clearly seeing the
reason, they should suspect them of collusion with the Indians. It was
natural, too, for the sufferers from the massacre to look for some
expression of sympathy from any and all denominations of Christians; and
that, not receiving it, they should have doubts of the motives which
prompted such reserve. The story of that time is but an unpleasant
record, and had best be lightly touched upon.

The work of death and destruction did not close with the first day at
Waiilatpu. Mr. Kimble, who had remained in the chamber of the Doctor's
house all night, had suffered much from the pain of his broken arm. On
Tuesday, driven desperate by his own sufferings, and those of the three
sick children with him, one of whom was the little Helen Mar Meek, he
resolved to procure some water from the stream which ran near the house.
But he had not proceeded more than a few rods before he was shot down
and killed instantly. The same day, a Mr. Young, from the saw-mill, was
also killed. In the course of the week, Mr. Bulee, who was sick over at
the mansion, was brutally murdered.

Meanwhile the female captives and children were enduring such agony as
seldom falls to the lot of humanity to suffer. Compelled to work for the
Indians, their feelings were continually harrowed up by the terrible
sights which everywhere met their eyes in going back and forth between
the houses, in carrying water from the stream, or moving in any
direction whatever. For the dead were not removed until the setting in
of decay made it necessary to the Indians themselves.

The goods belonging to the mission were taken from the store-room, and
the older women ordered to make them up into clothing for the Indians.
The buildings were plundered of everything which the Indians coveted;
all the rest of their contents that could not be made useful to
themselves were destroyed. Those of the captives who were sick were not
allowed proper attention, and in a day or two Helen Mar Meek died of

Thus passed four or five days. On Saturday a new horror was added to the
others. The savages began to carry off the young women for wives. Three
were thus dragged away to Indian lodges to suffer tortures worse than
death. One young girl, a daughter of Mr. Kimble, was taken possession of
by the murderer of her father, who took daily delight in reminding her
of that fact, and when her sorrow could no longer be restrained, only
threatened to exchange her for another young girl who was also a wife by

Miss Bulee, the eldest of the young women at the mission, and who was a
teacher in the mission school, was taken to the Umatilla, to the lodge
of _Five-Crows_. As has before been related, there was a house on the
Umatilla belonging to _Tan-i-tan_, in which were residing at this time
two Catholic priests--the Vicar-General Brouillet, and Blanchet, Bishop
of Walla-Walla. To this house Miss Bulee applied for protection, and
was refused, whether from fear, or from the motives subsequently
attributed to them by some Protestant writers in Oregon, is not known to
any but themselves. The only thing certain about it is, that Miss Bulee
was allowed to be violently dragged from their presence every night, to
return to them weeping in the morning, and to have her entreaties for
their assistance answered by assurances from them that the wisest course
for her was to submit. And this continued for more than two weeks, until
the news of Mr. Ogden's arrival at Walla-Walla became known, when Miss
Bulee was told that if _Five-Crows_ would not allow her to remain at
their house altogether, she must remain at the lodge of _Five-Crows_
without coming to their house at all, well knowing what _Five-Crows_
would do, but wishing to have Miss Bulee's action seem voluntary, from
shame perhaps, at their own cowardice. Yet the reason they gave ought to
go for all it is worth--that they being priests could not have a woman
about their house. In this unhappy situation did the female captives
spend three most miserable weeks.

In the meantime the mission at Lapwai had been broken up, but not
destroyed, nor had any one suffered death as was at first feared. The
intelligence of the massacre at Waiilatpu was first conveyed to Mrs.
Spalding by a Mr. Camfield, who at the breaking out of the massacre,
fled with his wife and children to a small room in the attic of the
mansion, from the window of which he was able to behold the scenes which
followed. When night came Mr. Camfield contrived to elude observation
and descend into the yard, where he encountered a French Canadian long
in the employ of Dr. Whitman, and since suspected to have been privy to
the plan of the murders. To him Mr. Camfield confided his intention to
escape, and obtained a promise that a horse should be brought to a
certain place at a certain time for his use. But the Canadian failing
to appear with his horse, Mr. C. set out on foot, and under cover of
night, in the direction of the Lapwai mission. He arrived in the Nez
Perce country on Thursday. On the following day he came upon a camp of
these people, and procured from them a guide to Lapwai, without,
however, speaking of what had occurred at Waiilatpu.

The caution of Mr. Camfield relates to a trait of Indian character which
the reader of Indian history must bear in mind, that is, the close
relationship and identity of feeling of allied tribes. Why he did not
inform the Nez Perces of the deed done by their relatives, the Cayuses,
was because in that case he would have expected them to have sympathized
with their allies, even to the point of making him a prisoner, or of
taking his life. It is this fact concerning the Indian character, which
alone furnishes an excuse for the conduct of Mr. McBean and the Catholic
priests. Upon it Mr. Camfield acted, making no sign of fear, nor
betraying any knowledge of the terrible matter on his mind to the Nez

On Saturday afternoon Mr. C. arrived at Mrs. Spalding's house and
dismissed his guide with the present of a buffalo robe. When he was
alone with Mrs. Spalding he told his unhappy secret. It was then that
the strength and firmness of Mrs. Spalding's character displayed itself
in her decisive action. Well enough she knew the close bond between the
Nez Perces and Cayuses, and also the treachery of the Indian character.
But she saw that if affairs were left to shape themselves as Mr.
Camfield entreated they might be left to do, putting off the evil
day,--that when the news came from the Cayuses, there would be an

The only chance of averting this danger was to inform the chiefs most
attached to her, at once, and throw herself and her family upon their
mercy. Her resolution was taken not an hour too soon. Two of the chiefs
most relied upon happened to be at the place that very afternoon, one of
whom was called _Jacob_, and the other _Eagle_. To these two Mrs.
Spalding confided the news without delay, and took counsel of them.
According to her hopes, they assumed the responsibility of protecting
her. One of them went to inform his camp, and give them orders to stand
by Mrs. S., while the other carried a note to Mr. Craig, one of our
Rocky Mountain acquaintances, who lived ten miles from the mission.

_Jacob_ and _Eagle_, with two other friendly chiefs, decided that Mrs.
S. must go to their camp near Mr. Craig's; because in case the Cayuses
came to the mission as was to be expected, she would be safer with them.
Mrs. S. however would not consent to make the move on the Sabbath, but
begged to be allowed to remain quiet until Monday. Late Saturday evening
Mr. Craig came down; and Mrs. Spalding endeavored with his assistance to
induce the Indians to carry an express to Cimikain in the country of the
Spokanes, where Messrs. Walker and Eells had a station. Not an Indian
could be persuaded to go. An effort, also, was made by the heroic and
suffering wife and mother, to send an express to Waiilatpu to learn the
fate of her daughter, and if possible of her husband. But the Indians
were none of them inclined to go. They said, without doubt all the women
and children were slain. That Mr. Spalding was alive no one believed.

The reply of Mrs. S. to their objections was that she could not believe
that they were her friends if they would not undertake this journey, for
the relief of her feelings under such circumstances. At length _Eagle_
consented to go; but so much opposed were the others to having anything
done which their relations, the Cayuses, might be displeased with, that
it was nearly twenty-four hours before _Eagle_ got leave to go.

On Monday morning a Nez Perce arrived from Waiilatpu with the news of
what the Cayuses had done. With him were a number of Indians from the
camp where Mr. Camfield had stopped for a guide, all eager for plunder,
and for murder too, had not they found Mrs. Spalding protected by
several chiefs. Her removal to their camp probably saved her from the
fate of Mrs. Whitman.

Among those foremost in plundering the mission buildings at Lapwai were
some of the hitherto most exemplary Indians among the Nez Perces. Even
the chief, first in authority after Ellis, who was absent, was prominent
in these robberies. For eight years had this chief, Joseph, been a
member of the church at Lapwai, and sustained a good reputation during
that time. How bitter must have been the feelings of Mrs. Spalding, who
had a truly devoted missionary heart, when she beheld the fruit of her
life's labor turned to ashes in her sight as it was by the conduct of
Joseph and his family.

Shortly after the removal of Mrs. Spalding, and the pillaging of the
buildings, Mr. Spalding arrived at Lapwai from his long and painful
journey during which he had wandered much out of his way, and suffered
many things. His appearance was the signal for earnest consultations
among the Nez Perces who were not certain that they might safely give
protection to him without the consent of the Cayuses. To his petition
that they should carry a letter express to Fort Colville or Fort
Walla-Walla, they would not consent. Their reason for refusing seemed to
be a fear that such a letter might be answered by an armed body of
Americans, who would come to avenge the deaths of their countrymen.

To deprive them of this suspicion, Mr. Spalding told them that as he
had been robbed of everything, he had no means of paying them for their
services to his family, and that it was necessary to write to
Walla-Walla for blankets, and to the Umatilla for his horses. He assured
them that he would write to his countrymen to keep quiet, and that they
had nothing to fear from the Americans. The truth was, however, that he
had forwarded through Brouillet, a letter to Gov. Abernethy asking for
help which could only come into that hostile country armed and equipped
for war.

Late in the month of December there arrived in Oregon City to be
delivered to the governor, sixty-two captives, bought from the Cayuses
and Nez Perces by Hudson's Bay blankets and goods; and obtained at that
price by Hudson's Bay influence. "No other power on earth," says Joe
Meek, the American, "could have rescued those prisoners from the hands
of the Indians;" and no man better than Mr. Meek understood the Indian
character, or the Hudson's Bay Company's power over them.

The number of victims to the Waiilatpu massacre was fourteen. None
escaped who had not to mourn a father, brother, son, or friend. If "the
blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church," there ought to arise on
the site of Waiilatpu a generation of extraordinary piety. As for the
people for whom a noble man and woman, and numbers of innocent persons
were sacrificed, they have returned to their traditions; with the
exception of the Nez Perces, who under the leadership of their old
teacher Mr. Spalding, have once more resumed the pursuits of civilized
and Christianized nations.

The description of Waiilatpu at the present time given on the following
page, is from "_All Over Oregon and Washington_" by the author of this

"Waiilatpu is just that--a creek-bottom--the creeks on either side of it
fringed with trees; higher land shutting out the view in front;
isolation and solitude the most striking features of the place. Yet here
came a man and a woman to live and to labor among the savages, when all
the old Oregon territory was an Indian country. Here stood the station
erected by them: _adobe_ houses, a mill, a school-house for the Indians,
shops, and all the necessary appurtenances of an isolated settlement.
Nothing remains to-day but mounds of earth, into which the _adobes_ were
dissolved by weather, after burning.

"A few rods away, on the side of the hill, is a different mound: the
common grave of fourteen victims of savage superstition, jealousy, and
wrath. It is roughly inclosed by a board fence, and has not a shrub or a
flower to disguise its terrible significance. The most affecting
reminders of wasted effort which remain on the old Mission-grounds are
the two or three apple-trees which escaped the general destruction, and
the scarlet poppies which are scattered broadcast through the
creek-bottom near the houses. Sadly significant it is that the flower
whose evanescent bloom is the symbol of unenduring joys, should be the
only tangible witness left of the womanly tastes and labors of the
devoted Missionary who gave her life a sacrifice to ungrateful Indian

"The place is occupied, at present, by one of Dr. Whitman's early
friends and co-laborers, who claimed the Mission-ground, under the
Donation Act, and who was first and most active in founding the seminary
to the memory of a Christian gentleman and martyr. On the identical spot
where stood the Doctor's residence, now stands the more modern one of
his friend; and he seems to take a melancholy pleasure in keeping in
remembrance the events of that unhappy time, which threw a gloom over
the whole territory west of the Rocky Mountains."


1847-8. When the contents of Mr. Douglas' letter to the governor became
known to the citizens of the Wallamet settlement, the greatest
excitement prevailed. On the reading of that letter, and those
accompanying it, before the House, a resolution was immediately
introduced authorizing the governor to raise a company of riflemen, not
to exceed fifty in number, to occupy and hold the mission station at the
Dalles, until a larger force could be raised, and such measures adopted
as the government might think advisable. This resolution being sent to
the governor without delay, received his approval, when the House

A large meeting of the citizens was held that evening, which was
addressed by several gentlemen, among whom was Meek, whose taste for
Indian fighting was whetted to keenness by the aggravating circumstances
of the Waiilatpu massacre, and the fact that his little Helen Mar was
among the captives. Impatient as was Meek to avenge the murders, he was
too good a mountain-man to give any rash advice. All that could be done
under the existing circumstances was to trust to the Hudson's Bay
Company for the rescue of the prisoners, and to take such means for
defending the settlements as the people in their unarmed condition could

The legislature undertook the settlement of the question of ways and
means. To raise money for the carrying out of the most important
measures immediately, was a task which after some consideration was
entrusted to three commissioners; and by these commissioners letters
were addressed to the Hudson's Bay Company, the superintendent of the
Methodist mission, and to the "merchants and citizens of Oregon." The
latter communication is valuable as fully explaining the position of
affairs at that time in Oregon. It is dated Dec. 17th, and was as

     GENTLEMEN:--You are aware that the undersigned have been charged by
     the legislature of our provisional government with the difficult
     duty of obtaining the necessary means to arm, equip, and support in
     the field a force sufficient to obtain full satisfaction of the
     Cayuse Indians, for the late massacre at Waiilatpu, and to protect
     the white population of our common country from further aggression.

     In furtherance of this object they have deemed it their duty to
     make immediate application to the merchants and citizens of the
     country for the requisite assistance.

     Though clothed with the power to pledge, to the fullest extent, the
     faith and means of the present government of Oregon, they do not
     consider this pledge the only security to those who, in this
     distressing emergency, may extend to the people of this country the
     means of protection and redress.

     Without claiming any special authority from the government of the
     United States to contract a debt to be liquidated by that power,
     yet, from all precedents of like character in the history of our
     country, the undersigned feel confident that the United States
     government will regard the murder of the late Dr. Whitman and his
     lady, as a national wrong, and will fully justify the people of
     Oregon in taking active measures to obtain redress for that
     outrage, and for their protection from further aggression.

     The right of self-defence is tacitly acknowledged to every body
     politic in the confederacy to which we claim to belong, and in
     every case similar to our own, within our knowledge, the general
     government has promptly assumed the payment of all liabilities
     growing out of the measures taken by the constituted authorities,
     to protect the lives and property of those who reside within the
     limits of their districts.

     If the citizens of the States and territories, east of the Rocky
     mountains, are justified in promptly acting in such emergencies,
     who are under the immediate protection of the general government,
     there appears no room for doubt that the lawful acts of the Oregon
     government will receive a like approval.

     Though the Indians of the Columbia have committed a great outrage
     upon our fellow citizens passing through their country, and
     residing among them, and their punishment for these murders may,
     and ought to be, a prime object with every citizen of Oregon, yet,
     as that duty more particularly devolves upon the government of the
     United States, and admits of delay, we do not make this the
     strongest ground upon which to found our earnest appeal to you for
     pecuniary assistance. It is a fact well known to every person
     acquainted with the Indian character, that, by passing silently
     over their repeated thefts, robberies, and murders of our
     fellow-citizens, they have been emboldened to the commission of the
     appalling massacre at Waiilatpu. They call us women, destitute of
     the hearts and courage of men, and if we allow this wholesale
     murder to pass by as former aggressions, who can tell how long
     either life or property will be secure in any part of this country,
     or what moment the Willamette will be the scene of blood and

     The officers of our provisional government have nobly performed
     their duty. None can doubt the readiness of the patriotic sons of
     the west to offer their personal services in defence of a cause so
     righteous. So it now rests with you, gentlemen, to say whether our
     rights and our fire-sides shall be defended, or not.

     Hoping that none will be found to falter in so high and so sacred a
     duty, we beg leave, gentlemen, to subscribe ourselves,

     Your servants and fellow-citizens,
     A.L. LOVEJOY,
     GEO. L. CURRY,

A similar letter had been addressed to the Hudson's Bay Company, and to
the Methodist mission. From each of these sources such assistance was
obtained as enabled the colony to arm and equip the first regiment of
Oregon riflemen, which in the month of January proceeded to the Cayuse
country. The amount raised, however, was very small, being less than
five thousand dollars, and it became imperatively necessary that the
government of the United States should be called upon to extend its aid
and protection to the loyal but distressed young territory.

In view of this necessity it was resolved in the legislature to send a
messenger to carry the intelligence of the massacre to Gov. Mason of
California, and through him to the commander of the United States
squadron in the Pacific, that a vessel of war might be sent into the
Columbia River, and arms and ammunition borrowed for the present
emergency, from the nearest arsenal. For this duty was chosen Jesse
Applegate, Esq., a gentleman who combined in his character and person
the ability of the statesman with the sagacity and strength of the
pioneer. Mr. Applegate, with a small party of brave men, set out in
midwinter to cross the mountains into California, but such was the depth
of snow they encountered that traveling became impossible, even after
abandoning their horses, and they were compelled to return.

The messenger elected to proceed to the United States was Joseph L.
Meek, whose Rocky Mountain experiences eminently fitted him to encounter
the dangers of such a winter journey, and whose manliness, firmness, and
ready wit stood him instead of statesmanship.

On the 17th December Meek resigned his seat in the House in order to
prepare for the discharge of his duty as messenger to the United States.
On the 4th of January, armed with his credentials from the Oregon
legislature, and bearing dispatches from that body and the Governor to
the President, he at length set out on the long and perilous expedition,
having for traveling companions Mr. John Owens, and Mr. George
Ebbarts--the latter having formerly been a Rocky Mountain man, like

At the Dalles they found the first regiment of Oregon Riflemen, under
Major Lee, of the newly created army of Oregon. From the reports which
the Dalles Indians brought in of the hostility of the Indians beyond the
Des Chutes River it was thought best not to proceed before the arrival
of the remainder of the army, when all the forces would proceed at once
to Waiilatpu. Owing to various delays, the army, consisting of about
five hundred men, under Colonel Gilliam, did not reach the Dalles until
late in January, when the troops proceeded at once to the seat of war.

The reports concerning the warlike disposition of the Indians proved to
be correct. Already, the Wascopams or Dalles Indians had begun robbing
the mission at that place, when Colonel Lee's arrival among them with
troops had compelled them to return the stolen property. As the army
advanced they found that all the tribes above the Dalles were holding
themselves prepared for hostilities. At Well Springs, beyond the Des
Chutes River, they were met by a body of about six hundred Indians to
whom they gave battle, soon dispersing them, the superior arms and
equipments of the whites tending to render timid those tribes yet
unaccustomed to so superior an enemy. From thence to Waiilatpu the
course of the army was unobstructed.

In the meantime the captives had been given up to the Hudson's Bay
Company, and full particulars of the massacre were obtained by the army,
with all the subsequent abuses and atrocities suffered by the prisoners.
The horrible details were not calculated to soften the first bitterness
of hatred which had animated the volunteers on going into the field. Nor
was the appearance of an armed force in their midst likely to allay the
hostile feelings with which other causes had inspired the Indians. Had
not the captives already been removed out of the country, no influence,
not even that of the Hudson's Bay Company, could have prevailed to get
them out of the power of their captors then. Indeed, in order to treat
with the Cayuses in the first place, Mr. Ogden had been obliged to
promise peace to the Indians, and now they found instead of peace, every
preparation for war. However, as the army took no immediate action, but
only remained in their country to await the appearance of the
commissioners appointed by the legislature of Oregon to hold a council
with the chiefs of the various tribes, the Cayuses were forced to
observe the outward semblance of amity while these councils were

Arrived at Waiilatpu, the friends and acquaintances of Dr. Whitman were
shocked to find that the remains of the victims were still unburied,
although a little earth had been thrown over them. Meek, to whom, ever
since his meeting with her in the train of the fur-trader, Mrs. Whitman
had seemed all that was noble and captivating, had the melancholy
satisfaction of bestowing, with others, the last sad rite of burial upon
such portions of her once fair person as murder and the wolves had not
destroyed. Some tresses of golden hair were severed from the brow so
terribly disfigured, to be given to her friends in the Wallamet as a
last and only memorial. Among the State documents at Salem, Oregon, may
still be seen one of these relics of the Waiilatpu tragedy.

Not only had Meek to discover and inter the remains of Dr. and Mrs.
Whitman, but also of his little girl, who was being educated at the
mission, with a daughter of his former leader, Bridger.

This sad duty performed, he immediately set out, escorted by a company
of one hundred men under Adjutant Wilcox, who accompanied him as far as
the foot of the Blue Mountains. Here the companies separated, and Meek
went on his way to Washington.


1848. Meek's party now consisted of himself, Ebbarts, Owens, and four
men, who being desirous of returning to the States took this
opportunity. However, as the snow proved to be very deep on the Blue
Mountains, and the cold severe, two of these four volunteers became
discouraged and concluded to remain at Fort Boise, where was a small
trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company.

In order to avoid trouble with the Indians he might meet on the western
side of the Rocky mountains, Meek had adopted the red belt and Canadian
cap of the employees of the Hudson's Bay Company; and to this precaution
was owing the fact of his safe passage through the country now all
infected with hostility caught from the Cayuses. About three days'
travel beyond Fort Boise, the party met a village of Bannack Indians,
who at once made warlike demonstrations; but on seeing Meek's costume,
and receiving an invitation to hold a 'talk', desisted, and received the
travelers in a friendly manner. Meek informed the chief, with all the
gravity which had won for him the name of "_shiam shuspusia_" among the
Crows in former years, that he was going on the business of the Hudson's
Bay Company to Fort Hall; and that Thomas McKay was a day's march behind
with a large trading party, and plenty of goods. On the receipt of this
good news, the chief ordered his braves to fall back, and permit the
party to pass. Yet, fearing the deception might be discovered, they
thought it prudent to travel day and night until they reached Fort Hall.

At this post of the Hudson's Bay Company, in charge of Mr. Grant, they
were kindly received, and stopped for a few hours of rest. Mr. Grant
being absent, his wife provided liberally for the refreshment of the
party, who were glad to find themselves even for a short interval under
a roof, beside a fire and partaking of freshly cooked food. But they
permitted themselves no unnecessary delay. Before night they were once
more on their way, though snow had now commenced to fall afresh,
rendering the traveling very difficult. For two days they struggled on,
their horses floundering in the soft drifts, until further progress in
that manner became impossible. The only alternative left was to abandon
their horses and proceed on snow-shoes, which were readily constructed
out of willow sticks.

Taking only a blanket and their rifles, and leaving the animals to find
their way back to Fort Hall, the little party pushed on. Meek was now on
familiar ground, and the old mountain spirit which had once enabled him
to endure hunger, cold, and fatigue without murmuring, possessed him
now. It was not without a certain sense of enjoyment that he found
himself reduced to the necessity of shooting a couple of pole-cats to
furnish a supper for himself and party. How long the enjoyment of
feeling want would have lasted is uncertain, but probably only long
enough to whet the appetite for plenty.

To such a point had the appetites of all the party been whetted, when,
after several days of scarcity and toil, followed by nights of emptiness
and cold, Meek had the agreeable surprise of falling in with an old
mountain comrade on the identical ground of many a former adventure, the
head-waters of Bear River. This man, whom Meek was delighted to meet,
was Peg-leg Smith, one of the most famous of many well-known
mountain-men. He was engaged in herding cattle in the valley of Thomas'
Fork, where the tall grass was not quite buried under snow, and had with
him a party of ten men.

Meek was as cordially received by his former comrade as the unbounded
hospitality of mountain manners rendered it certain he would be. A fat
cow was immediately sacrificed, which, though not buffalo meat, as in
former times it would have been, was very good beef, and furnished a
luxurious repast to the pole-cat eaters of the last several days.
Smith's camp did not lack the domestic element of women and children,
any more than had the trapper's camps in the flush times of the
fur-trade. Therefore, seeing that the meeting was most joyful, and full
of reminiscences of former winter camps, Smith thought to celebrate the
occasion by a grand entertainment. Accordingly, after a great deal of
roast beef had been disposed of, a dance was called for, in which white
men and Indian women joined with far more mirth and jollity than grace
or ceremony. Thus passed some hours of the night, the bearer of
dispatches seizing, in true mountain style, the passing moment's
pleasure, so long as it did not interfere with the punctilious discharge
of his duty. And to the honor of our hero be it said, nothing was ever
allowed to interfere with that.

Refreshed and provided with rations for a couple of days, the party
started on again next morning, still on snow-shoes, and traveled up Bear
River to the head-waters of Green River, crossing from the Muddy fork
over to Fort Bridger, where they arrived very much fatigued but quite
well in little more than three days' travel. Here again it was Meek's
good fortune to meet with his former leader, Bridger, to whom he related
what had befallen him since turning pioneer. The meeting was joyful on
both sides, clouded only by the remembrance of what had brought it
about, and the reflection that both had a personal wrong to avenge in
bringing about the punishment of the Cayuse murderers.

Once more Meek's party were generously fed, and furnished with such
provisions as they could carry about their persons. In addition to this,
Bridger presented them with four good mules, by which means the
travelers were mounted four at a time, while the fifth took exercise on
foot; so that by riding or walking, turn about, they were enabled to get
on very well as far as the South Pass. Here again for some distance the
snow was very deep, and two of their mules were lost in it. Their course
lay down the Sweetwater River, past many familiar hunting and camping
grounds, to the Platte River. Owing to the deep snows, game was very
scarce, and a long day of toil was frequently closed by a supperless
sleep under shelter of some rock or bank, with only a blanket for cover.
At Red Buttes they were so fortunate as to find and kill a single
buffalo, which, separated from the distant herd, was left by Providence
in the path of the famished travelers.

On reaching the Platte River they found the traveling improved, as well
as the supply of game, and proceeded with less difficulty as far as Fort
Laramie, a trading post in charge of a French trader named Papillion.
Here again fresh mules were obtained, and the little party treated in
the most hospitable manner. In parting from his entertainer, Meek was
favored with this brief counsel:

"There is a village of Sioux, of about six hundred lodges, a hundred
miles from here. Your course will bring you to it. Look out for
yourself, and don't make a Gray muss of it!"--which latter clause
referred to the affair of 1837, when the Sioux had killed the Indian
escort of Mr. Gray.

When the party arrived at Ash Hollow, which they meant to have passed in
the night, on account of the Sioux village, the snow was again falling
so thickly that the party had not perceived their nearness to the
village until they were fairly in the midst of it. It was now no safer
to retreat than to proceed; and after a moment's consultation, the word
was given to keep on. In truth, Meek thought it doubtful whether the
Sioux would trouble themselves to come out in such a tempest, and if
they did so, that the blinding snow-fall was rather in his favor. Thus
reasoning, he was forcing his mule through the drifts as rapidly as the
poor worried animal could make its way, when a head was protruded from a
lodge door, and "Hallo, Major!" greeted his ear in an accent not
altogether English.

On being thus accosted, the party came to a halt, and Meek was invited
to enter the lodge, with his friends. His host on this occasion was a
French trader named Le Bean, who, after offering the hospitalities of
the lodge, and learning who were his guests, offered to accompany the
party a few miles on its way. This he did, saying by way of explanation
of this act of courtesy, "The Sioux are a bad people; I thought it best
to see you safe out of the village." Receiving the thanks of the
travelers, he turned back at night-fall, and they continued on all night
without stopping to camp, going some distance to the south of their
course before turning east again, in order to avoid any possible

Without further adventures, and by dint of almost constant travel, the
party arrived at St. Joseph, Mo., in safety, in a little over two
months, from Portland, Oregon. Soon afterwards, when the circumstances
of this journey became known, a steamboat built for the Missouri River
trade was christened the _Joseph L. Meek_, and bore for a motto, on her
pilot-house, "The quickest trip yet," in reference both to Meek's
overland journey and her own steaming qualities.

As Meek approached the settlements, and knew that he must soon be thrown
into society of the highest official grade, and be subjected to such
ordeals as he dreaded far more than Indian fighting, or even traveling
express across a continent of snow, the subject of how he was to behave
in these new and trying positions very frequently occurred to him. He,
an uneducated man, trained to mountain life and manners, without money,
or even clothes, with nothing to depend on but the importance of his
mission and his own mother wit, he felt far more keenly than his
careless appearance would suggest, the difficulties and awkwardness of
his position.

"I thought a great deal about it," confesses the Col. Joseph L. Meek of
to-day, "and I finally concluded that as I had never tried to act like
anybody but myself, I would not make myself a fool by beginning to ape
other folks now. So I said, 'Joe Meek you always have been, and Joe Meek
you shall remain; go ahead, Joe Meek!'"

In fact, it would have been rather difficult putting on fine gentleman
airs, in that old worn-out hunting suit of his, and with not a dollar to
bless himself. On the contrary, it needed just the devil-may-care temper
which naturally belonged to our hero, to carry him through the remainder
of his journey to Washington. To be hungry, ill-clad, dirty, and
penniless, is sufficient in itself for the subduing of most spirits; how
it affected the temper of the messenger from Oregon we shall now learn.

When the weary little party arrived in St. Joseph, they repaired to a
hotel, and Meek requested that a meal should be served for all, but
frankly confessing that they had no money to pay. The landlord, however,
declined furnishing guests of his style upon such terms, and our
travelers were forced to go into camp below the town. Meek now bethought
himself of his letters of introduction. It chanced that he had one from
two young men among the Oregon volunteers, to their father in St Joseph.
Stopping a negro who was passing his camp, he inquired whether such a
gentleman was known to him; and on learning that he was, succeeded in
inducing the negro to deliver the letter from his sons.

This movement proved successful. In a short space of time the gentleman
presented himself, and learning the situation of the party, provided
generously for their present wants, and promised any assistance which
might be required in future. Meek, however, chose to accept only that
which was imperatively needed, namely, something to eat, and
transportation to some point on the river where he could take a steamer
for St. Louis. A portion of his party chose to remain in St. Joseph, and
a portion accompanied him as far as Independence, whither this same St.
Joseph gentleman conveyed them in his carriage.

While Meek was stopping at Independence, he was recognized by a sister,
whom he had not seen for nineteen years; who, marrying and emigrating
from Virginia, had settled on the frontier of Missouri. But he gave
himself no time for family reunion and gossip. A steamboat that had been
frozen up in the ice all winter, was just about starting for St. Louis,
and on board of this he went, with an introduction to the captain, which
secured for him every privilege the boat afforded, together with the
kindest attention of its officers.

When the steamer arrived in St. Louis, by one of those fortuitous
circumstances so common in our hero's career, he was met at the landing
by Campbell, a Rocky Mountain trader who had formerly belonged to the
St. Louis Company. This meeting relieved him of any care about his
night's entertainment in St. Louis, and it also had another effect--that
of relieving him of any further care about the remainder of his journey;
for, after hearing Meek's story of the position of affairs in Oregon and
his errand to the United States, Campbell had given the same to the
newspaper reporters, and Meek, like Byron, waked up next morning to find
himself famous.


Having telegraphed to Washington, and received the President's order to
come on, the previous evening, our hero wended his way to the levee the
morning after his arrival in St. Louis. There were two steamers lying
side by side, both up for Pittsburg, with runners for each, striving to
outdo each other in securing passengers. A bright thought occurred to
the moneyless envoy--he would earn his passage!

Walking on board one of the boats, which bore the name of _The
Declaration_, himself a figure which attracted all eyes by his size and
outlandish dress, he mounted to the hurricane deck and began to
harrangue the crowd upon the levee, in the voice of a Stentor:

"This way, gentlemen, if you please. Come right on board the
_Declaration_. I am the man from Oregon, with dispatches to the
President of these United States, that you all read about in this
morning's paper. Come on board, ladies and gentlemen, if you want to
hear the news from Oregon. I've just come across the plains, two months
from the Columbia River, where the Injuns are killing your missionaries.
Those passengers who come aboard the _Declaration_ shall hear all about
it before they get to Pittsburg. Don't stop thar, looking at my old
wolf-skin cap, but just come aboard, and hear what I've got to tell!"

The novelty of this sort of solicitation operated capitally. Many
persons crowded on board the _Declaration_ only to get a closer look at
this picturesque personage who invited them, and many more because they
were really interested to know the news from the far off young territory
which had fallen into trouble. So it chanced that the _Declaration_ was
inconveniently crowded on this particular morning.

After the boat had got under way, the captain approached his roughest
looking cabin passenger and inquired in a low tone of voice if he were
really and truly the messenger from Oregon.

"Thar's what I've got to show for it;" answered Meek, producing his

"Well, all I have to say is, Mr. Meek, that you are the best runner this
boat ever had; and you are welcome to your passage ticket, and anything
you desire besides."

Finding that his bright thought had succeeded so well, Meek's spirit
rose with the occasion, and the passengers had no reason to complain
that he had not kept his word. Before he reached Wheeling his popularity
was immense, notwithstanding the condition of his wardrobe. At
Cincinnati he had time to present a letter to the celebrated Doctor
----, who gave him another, which proved to be an 'open sesame' wherever
he went thereafter.

On the morning of his arrival in Wheeling it happened that the stage
which then carried passengers to Cumberland, where they took the train
for Washington, had already departed. Elated by his previous good
fortune our ragged hero resolved not to be delayed by so trivial a
circumstance; but walking pompously into the stage office inquired, with
an air which must have smacked strongly of the mock-heroic, if he "could
have a stage for Cumberland?"

The nicely dressed, dignified elderly gentleman who managed the business
of the office, regarded the man who proffered this modest request for a
moment in motionless silence, then slowly raising the spectacles over
his eyes to a position on his forehead, finished his survey with
unassisted vision. Somewhat impressed by the manner in which Meek bore
this scrutiny, he ended by demanding "who are you?"

Tickled by the absurdity of the tableau they were enacting, Meek
straightened himself up to his six feet two, and replied with an air of
superb self assurance--

"I am Envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the Republic
of Oregon to the Court of the United States!"

After a pause in which the old gentleman seemed to be recovering from
some great surprise, he requested to see the credentials of this
extraordinary envoy. Still more surprised he seemed on discovering for
himself that the personage before him was really a messenger from Oregon
to the government of the United States. But the effect was magical. In a
moment the bell-rope was pulled, and in an incredibly short space of
time a coach stood at the door ready to convey the waiting messenger on
his way to Washington.

In the meantime in a conversation with the stage agent, Meek had
explained more fully the circumstances of his mission, and the agent had
become much interested. On parting, Meek received a ticket to the Relay
House, with many expressions of regret from the agent that he could
ticket him no farther.

"But it is all the same," said he; "you are sure to go through."

"Or run a train off the track," rejoined Meek, as he was bowed out of
the office.

It happened that there were some other passengers waiting to take the
first stage, and they crowded into this one, glad of the unexpected
opportunity, but wondering at the queer looking passenger to whom the
agent was so polite. This scarcely concealed curiosity was all that was
needed to stimulate the mad-cap spirits of our so far "conquering hero."
Putting his head out of the window just at the moment of starting, he
electrified everybody, horses included, by the utterance of a war-whoop
and yell that would have done credit to a wild Camanche. Satisfied with
the speed to which this demoniac noise had excited the driver's prancing
steeds, he quietly ensconced himself in his corner of the coach and
waited for his fellow passengers to recover from their stunned
sensations. When their complete recovery had been effected, there
followed the usual questioning and explanations, which ended in the
inevitable lionizing that was so much to the taste of this sensational

On the cars at Cumberland, and at the eating-houses, the messenger from
Oregon kept up his sensational character, indulging in alternate fits of
mountain manners, and again assuming a disproportionate amount of
grandeur; but in either view proving himself very amusing. By the time
the train reached the Relay House, many of the passengers had become
acquainted with Meek, and were prepared to understand and enjoy each new
phase of his many-sided comicality.

The ticket with which the stage agent presented him, dead-headed him
only to this point. Here again he must make his poverty a jest, and joke
himself through to Washington. Accordingly when the conductor came
through the car in which he, with several of his new acquaintances were
sitting, demanding tickets, he was obliged to tap his blanketed
passenger on the shoulder to attract his attention to the "ticket, sir!"

"_Ha ko any me ca, hanch?_" said Meek, starting up and addressing him in
the Snake tongue.

"Ticket, sir!" repeated the conductor, staring.

"_Ka hum pa, hanch?_" returned Meek, assuming a look which indicated
that English was as puzzling to him, as Snake to other people.

Finding that his time would be wasted on this singular passenger, the
conductor went on through the train; returning after a time with a fresh
demand for his ticket. But Meek sustained his character admirably, and
it was only through the excessive amusement of the passengers that the
conductor suspected that he was being made the subject of a practical
joke. At this stage of affairs it was privately explained to him who
and what his waggish customer was, and tickets were no more mentioned
during the journey.

On the arrival of the train at Washington, the heart of our hero became
for a brief moment of time "very little." He felt that the importance of
his mission demanded some dignity of appearance--some conformity to
established rules and precedents. But of the latter he knew absolutely
nothing; and concerning the former, he realized the absurdity of a
dignitary clothed in blankets and a wolf-skin cap. 'Joe Meek I must
remain,' said he to himself, as he stepped out of the train, and glanced
along the platform at the crowd of porters with the names of their
hotels on their hat-bands. Learning from inquiry that Coleman's was the
most fashionable place, he decided that to Coleman's he would go,
judging correctly that it was best to show no littleness of heart even
in the matter of hotels.


1848. When Meek arrived at Coleman's it was the dinner hour, and
following the crowd to the dining saloon, he took the first seat he came
to, not without being very much stared at. He had taken his cue and the
staring was not unexpected, consequently not so embarrassing as it might
otherwise have been. A bill of fare was laid beside his plate. Turning
to the colored waiter who placed it there, he startled him first by
inquiring in a low growling voice--

"What's that boy?"

"Bill of fare, sah," replied the "boy," who recognized the Southerner in
the use of that one word.

"Read!" growled Meek again. "The people in _my_ country can't read."

Though taken by surprise, the waiter, politely obedient, proceeded to
enumerate the courses on the bill of fare. When he came to game----

"Stop thar, boy!" commanded Meek, "what kind of game?"

"Small game, sah."

"Fetch me a piece of antelope," leaning back in his chair with a look of
satisfaction on his face.

"Got none of that sah; don't know what that ar' sah."

"Don't know!" with a look of pretended surprise. "In _my_ country
antelope and deer ar' small game; bear and buffalo ar' large game. I
reckon if you haven't got one, you haven't got the other, either. In
that case you may fetch me some beef."

The waiter disappeared grinning, and soon returned with the customary
thin and small cut, which Meek eyed at first contemptuously, and then
accepting it in the light of a sample swallowed it at two mouthfuls,
returning his plate to the waiter with an approving smile, and saying
loud enough to be overheard by a score of people----

"Boy, that will do. Fetch me about four pounds of the same kind."

By this time the blanketed beef-eater was the recipient of general
attention, and the "boy" who served him comprehending with that
quickness which distinguishes servants, that he had no ordinary
backwoodsman to deal with, was all the time on the alert to make himself
useful. People stared, then smiled, then asked each other "who is it?"
loud enough for the stranger to hear. Meek looked neither to the right
nor to the left, pretending not to hear the whispering. When he had
finished his beef, he again addressed himself to the attentive "boy."

"That's better meat than the old mule I eat in the mountains."

Upon this remark the whispering became more general, and louder, and
smiles more frequent.

"What have you got to drink, boy?" continued Meek, still unconscious.
"Isn't there a sort of wine called--some kind of _pain_?"

"Champagne, sah?"

"That's the stuff, I reckon; bring me some."

While Meek drank his champagne, with an occasional aside to his faithful
attendant, people laughed and wondered "who the devil it was." At
length, having finished his wine, and overhearing many open inquiries as
to his identity, the hero of many bear-fights slowly arose, and
addressing the company through the before-mentioned "boy," said:

"You want to know who I am?"

"If you please, sah; yes, if you please, sah, for the sake of these
gentlemen present," replied the "boy," answering for the company.

"Wall then," proclaimed Meek with a grandiloquent air quite at variance
with his blanket coat and unkempt hair, yet which displayed his fine
person to advantage, "I am Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary from the Republic of Oregon to the Court of the United

With that he turned and strode from the room. He had not proceeded far,
however, before he was overtaken by a party of gentlemen in pursuit.
Senator Underwood of Kentucky immediately introduced himself, calling
the envoy by name, for the dispatch from St. Louis had prepared the
President and the Senate for Meek's appearance in Washington, though it
had not advised them of his style of dress and address. Other gentlemen
were introduced, and questions followed questions in rapid succession.

When curiosity was somewhat abated, Meek expressed a wish to see the
President without delay. To Underwood's question as to whether he did
not wish to make his toilet before visiting the White House, his reply
was, "business first, and toilet afterwards."

"But," said Underwood, "even your business can wait long enough for

"No, that's your mistake, Senator, and I'll tell you why: I can't dress,
for two reasons, both good ones. I've not got a cent of money, nor a
second suit of clothes."

The generous Kentuckian offered to remove the first of the objections
on the spot, but Meek declined. "I'll see the President first, and hear
what he has to say about my mission." Then calling a coach from the
stand, he sprang into it, answering the driver's question of where he
would be taken, with another inquiry.

"Whar should a man of _my_ style want to go?--to the White House, of
course!" and so was driven away amid the general laughter of the
gentlemen in the portico at Coleman's, who had rather doubted his
intention to pay his respects to the President in his dirty blankets.

He was admitted to the Presidential mansion by a mulatto of about his
own age, with whom he remembered playing when a lad, for it must be
remembered that the Meeks and Polks were related, and this servant had
grown up in the family. On inquiring if he could see the President, he
was directed to the office of the private Secretary, Knox Walker, also a
relative of Meek's on the mother's side.

On entering he found the room filled with gentlemen waiting to see the
President, each when his turn to be admitted should arrive. The
Secretary sat reading a paper, over the top of which he glanced but once
at the new comer, to ask him to be seated. But Meek was not in the humor
for sitting. He had not traveled express for more than two months, in
storm and cold, on foot and on horseback, by day and by night, with or
without food, as it chanced, to sit down quietly now and wait. So he
took a few turns up and down the room, and seeing that the Secretary
glanced at him a little curiously, stopped and said:

"I should like to see the President immediately. Just tell him if you
please that there is a gentleman from Oregon waiting to see him on very
important business."

At the word _Oregon_, the Secretary sprang up, dashed his paper to the
ground, and crying out "Uncle Joe!" came forward with both hands
extended to greet his long lost relative.

"Take care, Knox! don't come too close," said Meek stepping back, "I'm
ragged, dirty, and--lousy."

[Illustration: "TAKE CARE, KNOX."]

But Walker seized his cousin's hand, without seeming fear of the
consequences, and for a few moments there was an animated exchange of
questions and answers, which Meek at last interrupted to repeat his
request to be admitted to the President without delay. Several times the
Secretary turned to leave the room, but as often came back with some
fresh inquiry, until Meek fairly refused to say another word, until he
had delivered his dispatches.

When once the Secretary got away he soon returned with a request from
the President for the appearance of the Oregon messenger, all other
visitors being dismissed for that day. Polk's reception proved as
cordial as Walker's had been. He seized the hand of his newly found
relative, and welcomed him in his own name, as well as that of messenger
from the distant, much loved, and long neglected Oregon. The interview
lasted for a couple of hours. Oregon affairs and family affairs were
talked over together; the President promising to do all for Oregon that
he could do; at the same time he bade Meek make himself at home in the
Presidential mansion, with true southern hospitality.

But Meek, although he had carried off his poverty and all his
deficiencies in so brave a style hitherto, felt his assurance leaving
him, when, his errand performed, he stood in the presence of rank and
elegance, a mere mountain-man in ragged blankets, whose only wealth
consisted of an order for five hundred dollars on the Methodist mission
in New York, unavailable for present emergencies. And so he declined the
hospitalities of the White House, saying he "could make himself at home
in an Indian wigwam in Oregon, or among the Rocky Mountains, but in the
residence of the chief magistrate of a great nation, he felt out of
place, and ill at ease."

Polk, however, would listen to no refusal, and still further abashed his
Oregon cousin by sending for Mrs. Polk and Mrs. Walker, to make his
acquaintance. Says Meek:

"When I heard the silks rustling in the passage, I felt more frightened
than if a hundred Blackfeet had whooped in my ear. A mist came over my
eyes, and when Mrs. Polk spoke to me I couldn't think of anything to say
in return."

But the ladies were so kind and courteous that he soon began to see a
little, though not quite plainly while their visit lasted. Before the
interview with the President and his family was ended, the poverty of
the Oregon envoy became known, which led to the immediate supplying of
all his wants. Major Polk was called in and introduced; and to him was
deputed the business of seeing Meek "got up" in a style creditable to
himself and his relations. Meek avers that when he had gone through the
hands of the barber and tailor, and surveyed himself in a full length
mirror, he was at first rather embarrassed, being under the impression
that he was being introduced to a fashionable and decidedly good-looking
gentleman, before whose overpowering style he was disposed to shrink,
with the old familiar feeling of being in blankets.

But Meek was not the sort of man to be long in getting used to a
situation however novel or difficult. In a very short time he was _au
fait_ in the customs of the capital. His perfect frankness led people to
laugh at his errors as eccentricities; his good looks and natural
_bonhomie_ procured him plenty of admirers; while his position at the
White House caused him to be envied and lionized at once.

On the day following his arrival the President sent in a message to
Congress accompanied by the memorial from the Oregon legislature and
other documents appertaining to the Oregon cause. Meek was introduced to
Benton, Oregon's indefatigable friend, and received from him the kindest
treatment; also to Dallas, President of the Senate; Douglas, Fremont,
Gen. Houston, and all the men who had identified themselves with the
interests of the West.

It should be stated that only a short time previous to the Waiilatpu
massacre a delegate had left Oregon for Washington, by ship around Cape
Horn, who had been accredited by the governor of the colony only, and
that the legislature had subsequently passed resolutions expressive of
their disapproval of "secret factions," by which was meant the mission
party, whose delegate Mr. Thornton was.

It so happened that, by reason of the commander of the _Portsmouth_
having assumed it to be a duty to convey Mr. Thornton from La Paz, where
through the infidelity of the Captain of the _Whitton_, he was stranded,
he was enabled to reach the States early in the Spring, arriving in fact
a week or two before Meek reached Washington. Thus Oregon had two
representatives, although not entitled to any: nor had either a right to
a seat in either House; yet to one this courtesy was granted, while the
two together controlled more powerful influences than were ever before
or since brought to bear on the fate of any single territory of the
United States. While Mr. Thornton sat among Senators as a sort of
consulting member or referee, but without a vote; Meek had the private
ear of the President, and mingled freely among members of both Houses,
in a social character, thereby exercising a more immediate influence
than his more learned coadjutor.

In the meantime our hero was making the most of his advantages. He went
to dinners and champagne suppers, besides giving an occasional one of
the latter. At the presidential levees he made himself agreeable to
witty and distinguished ladies, answering innumerable questions about
Oregon and Indians, generally with a veil of reserve between himself and
the questioner whenever the inquiries became, as they sometimes would,
disagreeably searching. Again the spirit of perversity and mischief led
him to make his answers so very direct as to startle or bewilder the

On one occasion a lady with whom he was promenading a drawing-room at
some Senator's reception, admiring his handsome physique perhaps, and
wondering if any woman owned it, finally ventured the question--was he

"Yes, indeed," answered Meek, with emphasis, "I have a wife and several

"Oh dear," exclaimed the lady, "I should think your wife would be _so_
afraid of the Indians!"

"Afraid of the Indians!" exclaimed Meek in his turn; "why, madam, she is
an Indian herself!"

No further remarks on the subject were ventured that evening; and it is
doubtful if the lady did not take his answer as a rebuke to her
curiosity rather than the plain truth that it was.

Meek found his old comrade, Kit Carson, in Washington, staying with
Fremont at the house of Senator Benton. Kit, who had left the mountains
as poor as any other of the mountain-men, had no resource at that time
except the pay furnished by Fremont for his services as guide and
explorer in the California and Oregon expeditions; where, in fact, it
was Carson and not Fremont who deserved fame as a path-finder. However
that may be, Carson had as little money as men of his class usually
have, and needed it as much. So long as Meek's purse was supplied, as it
generally was, by some member of the family at the White House, Carson
could borrow from him. But one being quite as careless of money as the
other, they were sometimes both out of pocket at the same time. In that
case the conversation was apt to take a turn like this:

_Carson._ Meek, let me have some money, can't you?

_Meek._ I haven't got any money, Kit.

_Carson._ Go and get some.

_Meek._ ---- it, whar am I to get money from?

_Carson._ Try the "contingent fund," can't you?

Truth to tell the contingent fund was made to pay for a good many things
not properly chargeable to the necessary expenditures of "Envoy
Extraordinary" like our friend from Oregon.

The favoritism with which our hero was everywhere received was something
remarkable, even when all the circumstances of his relationship to the
chief magistrate, and the popularity of the Oregon question were
considered. Doubtless the novelty of having a bear-fighting and
Indian-fighting Rocky Mountain man to lionize, was one great secret of
the furore which greeted him wherever he went; but even that fails to
account fully for the enthusiasm he awakened, since mountain-men had
begun to be pretty well known and understood, from the journal of
Fremont and other explorers. It could only have been the social genius
of the man which enabled him to overcome the impediments of lack of
education, and the associations of half a lifetime. But whatever was the
fortunate cause of his success, he enjoyed it to the full. He took
excursions about the country in all directions, petted and spoiled like
any "curled darling" instead of the six-foot-two Rocky Mountain trapper
that he was.

In June he received an invitation to Baltimore, tendered by the city
council, and was received by that body with the mayor at its head, in
whose carriage he was conveyed to Monument Square, to be welcomed by a
thousand ladies, smiling and showering roses upon him as he passed. And
kissing the roses because he could not kiss the ladies, he bowed and
smiled himself past the festive groups waiting to receive the messenger
from Oregon. Music, dining, and the parade usual to such occasions
distinguished this day, which Meek declares to have been the proudest of
his life; not denying that the beauty of the Baltimore ladies
contributed chiefly to produce that impression.

On the fourth of July, Polk laid the corner stone of the National
Monument. The occasion was celebrated with great _eclat_, the address
being delivered by Winthrop, the military display, and the fire-works in
the evening being unusually fine. In the procession General Scott and
staff rode on one side of the President's carriage, Col. May and Meek
on the other,--Meek making a great display of horsemanship, in which as
a mountain-man he excelled.

[Illustration: _A MOUNTAIN-MAN IN CLOVER._]

A little later in the summer Meek joined a party of Congressmen who were
making campaign speeches in the principal cities of the north. At
Lowell, Mass., he visited the cotton factories, and was equally
surprised at the extent of the works, and the number of young women
employed in them. Seeing this, the forewoman requested him to stop until
noon and see the girls come out. As they passed in review before him,
she asked if he had made his choice.

"No," replied the gallant Oregonian, "it would be impossible to choose,
out of such a lot as that; I should have to take them all."

If our hero, under all his gaity smothered a sigh of regret that he was
not at liberty to take _one_--a woman like those with whom for the first
time in his life he was privileged to associate--who shall blame him?
The kind of life he was living now was something totally different to
anything in the past. It opened to his comprehension delightful
possibilities of what might have been done and enjoyed under other
circumstances, yet which now never could be done or enjoyed, until
sometimes he was ready to fly from all these allurements, and hide
himself again in the Rocky Mountains. Then again by a desperate effort,
such thoughts were banished, and he rushed more eagerly than before into
every pleasure afforded by the present moment, as if to make the present
atone for the past and the future.

The kindness of the ladies at the White House, while it was something to
be grateful for, as well as to make him envied, often had the effect to
disturb his tranquility by the suggestions it gave rise to. Yet he was
always demanding it, always accepting it. So constantly was he the
attendant of his lady cousins in public and in private, riding and
driving, or sauntering in the gardens of the presidential mansion, that
the less favored among their acquaintances felt called upon to believe
themselves aggrieved. Often, as the tall form of our hero was seen with
a lady on either arm promenading the gardens at evening, the question
would pass among the curious but uninitiated--"Who is that?" And the
reply of some jealous grumbler would be--"It is that ---- Rocky Mountain
man," so loud sometimes as to be overheard by the careless trio, who
smothered a laugh behind a hat or a fan.

And so passed that brief summer of our hero's life. A great deal of
experience, of sight-seeing, and enjoyment had been crowded into a short
few months of time. He had been introduced to and taken by the hand by
the most celebrated men of the day. Nor had he failed to meet with men
whom he had known in the mountains and in Oregon. His old employer,
Wilkes, who was ill in Washington, sent for him to come and tell "some
of those Oregon lies" for his amusement, and Meek, to humor him,
stretched some of his good stories to the most wonderful dimensions.

But from the very nature of the enjoyment it could not last long; it was
too vivid and sensational for constant wear. Feeling this, he began to
weary of Washington, and more particularly since he had for the last few
weeks been stopping away from the White House. In one of his restless
moods he paid a visit to Polk, who detecting the state of his mind asked

"Well, Meek, what do you want now?"

"I want to be franked."

"How long will five hundred dollars last you?"

"About as many days as there ar' hundreds, I reckon."

"You are shockingly extravagant, Meek. Where do you think all this money
is to come from?"

"It is not my business to know, Mr. President," replied Meek, laughing,
"but it _is_ the business of these United States to pay the expenses of
the messenger from Oregon, isn't it?"

"I think I will send you to the Secretary of War to be franked, Meek;
his frank is better than mine. But no, stay; I will speak to Knox about
it this time. And you must not spend your money so recklessly, Meek; it
will not do--it will not do."

Meek thanked the President both for the money and the advice, but gave a
champagne supper the next night, and in a week's time was as
empty-handed as ever.

The close of the session was at hand and nothing had been done except to
talk. Congress was to adjourn at noon on Monday, August 14th, and it was
now Saturday the 12th. The friends of Oregon were anxious; the two
waiting Oregonians nearly desperate. On this morning of the 12th, the
friends of the bill, under Benton's lead, determined upon obtaining a
vote on the final passage of the bill; resolving that they would not
yield to the usual motions for delay and adjournments, but that they
would, if necessary, sit until twelve o'clock Monday.

Saturday night wore away; the Sabbath morning's sun arose; and at last,
two hours after sunrise, a consultation was held between Butler, Mason,
Calhoun, Davis, and Foote, which resulted in the announcement that no
further opposition would be offered to taking the vote upon the final
passage of the Oregon bill. The vote was then taken, the bill passed,
and the weary Senate adjourned, to meet again on Monday for a final


1848-9. The long suspense ended, Meek prepared to return to Oregon, if
not without some regrets, at the same time not unwillingly. His restless
temper, and life-long habits of unrestrained freedom began to revolt
against the conventionality of his position in Washington. Besides, in
appointing officers for the new territory, Polk had made him United
States Marshal, than which no office could have suited him better, and
he was as prompt to assume the discharge of its duties, as all his life
he had been to undertake any duty to which his fortunes assigned him.

On the 20th of August, only six days after the passage of the
territorial bill, he received his papers from Buchanan, and set off for
Bedford Springs, whither the family from the White House were flown to
escape from the suffocating air of Washington in August. He had brought
his papers to be signed by Polk, and being expected by the President
found everything arranged for his speedy departure; Polk even ordering a
seat for him in the upcoming coach, by telegraph. On learning this from
the President, at dinner, when the band was playing, Meek turned to the
leader and ordered him to play "Sweet Home," much to the amusement of
his lady cousins, who had their own views of the sweets of a home in
Oregon. A hurried farewell, spoken to each of his friends separately,
and Oregon's new Marshal was ready to proceed on his long journey toward
the Pacific.

The occasion of Polk's haste in the matter of getting Meek started, was
his anxiety to have the Oregon government become a fact before the
expiration of his term of office. The appointment of Governor of the new
territory had been offered to Shields, and declined. Another commission
had been made out, appointing General Joseph Lane of Indiana, Governor
of Oregon, and the commission was that day signed by the President and
given to Meek to be delivered to Lane in the shortest possible time. His
last words to the Marshal on parting were--"God bless you, Meek. Tell
Lane to have a territorial government organized during my

Of the ten thousand dollars appropriated by Congress "to be expended
under the direction of the President, in payment for services and
expenses of such persons as had been engaged by the provisional
government of Oregon in conveying communications to and from the United
States; and for purchase of presents for such Indian tribes as the peace
and quiet of the country required"--Thornton received two thousand six
hundred dollars, Meek seven thousand four hundred, and the Indian tribes
none. Whether the President believed that the peace and quiet of the
country did not require presents to be made to the Indians, or whether
family credit required that Meek should get the lion's share, is not
known. However that may be, our hero felt himself to be quite rich, and
proceeded to get rid of his superfluity, as will hereafter be seen, with
his customary prodigality and enjoyment of the present without regard to
the future.

Before midnight on the day of his arrival at the springs, Meek was on
his way to Indiana to see General Lane. Arriving at the Newburg landing
one morning at day-break, he took horse immediately for the General's
residence at Newburg, and presented him with his commission soon after
breakfast. Lane sat writing, when Meek, introducing himself, laid his
papers before him.

"Do you accept?" asked Meek.

"Yes," answered Lane.

"How soon can you be ready to start?"

"In fifteen minutes!" answered Lane, with military promptness.

Three days, however, were actually required to make the necessary
preparations for leaving his farm and proceeding to the most remote
corner of the United States territory.

At St. Louis they were detained one day, waiting for a boat to
Leavenworth, where they expected to meet their escort. This one day was
too precious to be lost in waiting by so business-like a person as our
hero, who, when nothing more important was to be done generally was
found trying to get rid of his money. So, on this occasion, after having
disburdened himself of a small amount in treating the new Governor and
all his acquaintances, he entered into negotiations with a peddler who
was importuning the passengers to buy everything, from a jack-knife to a
silk dress.

Finding that Nat. Lane, the General's son, wanted a knife, but was
disposed to beat down the price, Meek made an offer for the lot of a
dozen or two, and thereby prevented Lane getting one at any price. Not
satisfied with this investment, he next made a purchase of three whole
pieces of silk, at one dollar and fifty cents per yard. At this stage of
the transaction General Lane interfered sufficiently to inquire "what he
expected to do with that stuff?"

"Can't tell," answered Meek; "but I reckon it is worth the money."

"Better save your money," said the more prudent Lane. But the
incorrigible spendthrift only laughed, and threatened to buy out the
Jew's entire stock, if Lane persisted in preaching economy.

At St. Louis, besides his son Nat., Lane was met by Lieut. Hawkins, who
was appointed to the command of the escort of twenty-five riflemen, and
Dr. Hayden, surgeon of the company. This party proceeded to Leavenworth,
the point of starting, where the wagons and men of Hawkins' command
awaited them. At this place, Meek was met by a brother and two sisters
who had come to look on him for the first time in many years. The two
days' delay which was necessary to get the train ready for a start,
afforded an opportunity for this family reunion, the last that might
ever occur between its widely separated branches, new shoots from which
extend at this day from Virginia to Alabama, and from Tennessee to
California and Oregon.

By the 10th of September the new government was on its way to Oregon in
the persons of Lane and Meek. The whole company of officers, men, and
teamsters, numbered about fifty-five; the wagons ten; and riding-horses,
an extra supply for each rider.

The route taken, with the object to avoid the snows of a northern
winter, was from Leavenworth to Santa Fe, and thence down the Rio Grande
to near El Paso; thence northwesterly by Tucson, in Arizona; thence to
the Pimas village on the Gila River; following the Gila to its junction
with the Colorado, thence northwesterly again to the Bay of San Pedro in
California. From this place the company were to proceed by ship to San
Francisco; and thence again by ship to the Columbia River.

On the Santa Fe trail they met the army returning from Mexico, under
Price, and learned from them that they could not proceed with wagons
beyond Santa Fe. The lateness of the season, although it was not
attended with snow, as on the northern route it would have been,
subjected the travelers nevertheless to the strong, cold winds which
blow over the vast extent of open country between the Missouri River and
the high mountain range which forms the water-shed of the continent. It
also made it more difficult to subsist the animals, especially after
meeting Price's army, which had already swept the country bare.

On coming near Santa Fe, Meek was riding ahead of his party, when he had
a most unexpected encounter. Seeing a covered traveling carriage drawn
up under the shade of some trees growing beside a small stream, not far
off from the trail, he resolved, with his usual love of adventure, to
discover for himself the character of the proprietor. But as he drew
nearer, he discovered no one, although a camp-table stood under the
trees, spread with refreshments, not only of a solid, but a fluid
nature. The sight of a bottle of cognac induced him to dismount, and he
was helping himself to a liberal glass, when a head was protruded from a
covering of blankets inside the carriage, and a heavy bass voice was
heard in a polite protest:

"Seems to me, stranger, you are making free with my property!"

"Here's to you, sir," rejoined the purloiner; "it isn't often I find as
good brandy as that,"--holding out the glass admiringly,--"but when I
do, I make it a point of honor not to pass it."

"May I inquire your name, sir?" asked the owner of the brandy, forced to
smile at the good-humored audacity of his guest.

"I couldn't refuse to give my name after that,"--replacing the glass on
the table,--"and I now introduce myself as Joseph L. Meek, Esq.,
Marshal of Oregon, on my way from Washington to assist General Lane in
establishing a territorial Government west of the Rocky Mountains."

"Meek!--what, not the Joe Meek I have heard my brothers tell so much

"Joe Meek is my name; but whar did your brothers know me?" inquired our
hero, mystified in his turn.

"I think you must have known Captain William Sublette and his brother
Milton, ten or twelve years ago, in the Rocky Mountains," said the
gentleman, getting out of the carriage, and approaching Meek with
extended hand.

A delighted recognition now took place. From Solomon Sublette, the owner
of the carriage and the cognac, Meek learned many particulars of the
life and death of his former leaders in the mountains. Neither of them
were then living; but this younger brother, Solomon, had inherited
Captain Sublette's wife and wealth at the same time. After these
explanations, Mr. Sublette raised the curtains of the carriage again,
and assisted to descend from it a lady, whom he introduced as his wife,
and who exhibited much gratification in becoming acquainted with the
hero of many a tale recited to her by her former husband, Captain

In the midst of this pleasant exchange of reminiscences, the remainder
of Meek's party rode up, were introduced, and invited to regale
themselves on the fine liquors with which Mr. Sublette's carriage proved
to be well furnished. This little adventure gave our hero much pleasure,
as furnishing a link between the past and present, and bringing freshly
to mind many incidents already beginning to fade in his memory.

At Santa Fe, the train stopped to be overhauled and reconstructed. The
wagons having to be abandoned, their contents had to be packed on
mules, after the manner of mountain or of Mexican travel and
transportation. This change accomplished, with as little delay as
possible, the train proceeded without any other than the usual
difficulties, as far as Tucson, when two of the twenty-five riflemen
deserted, having become suddenly enamored of liberty, in the dry and
dusty region of southern Arizona.

Lieutenant Hawkins, immediately on discovering the desertion, dispatched
two men, well armed, to compel their return. One of the men detailed for
this duty belonged to the riflemen, but the other was an American, who,
with a company of Mexican packers, had joined the train at Santa Fe, and
was acting in the capacity of pilot. In order to fit out this volunteer
for the service, always dangerous, of retaking deserting soldiers, Meek
had lent him his Colt's revolvers. It was a vain precaution, however,
both the men being killed in attempting to capture the deserters; and
Meek's pistols were never more heard of, having fallen into the
murderous hands of the runaways.

Drouth now began to be the serious evil with which the travelers had to
contend. From the Pimas villages westward, it continually grew worse,
the animals being greatly reduced from the want both of food and water.
At the crossing of the Colorado, the animals had to be crossed over by
swimming, the officers and men by rafts made of bulrushes. Lane and Meek
being the first to be ferried over, were landed unexpectedly in the
midst of a Yuma village. The Indians, however, gave them no trouble,
and, except the little artifice of drowning some of the mules at the
crossing, in order to get their flesh to eat, committed neither murders
nor thefts, nor any outrage whatever.


It was quite as well for the unlucky mules to be drowned and eaten as
it was for their fellows to travel on over the arid desert before them
until they starved and perished, which they nearly all did. From the
Colorado on, the company of Lieut. Hawkins became thoroughly
demoralized. Not only would the animals persist in dying, several in a
day, but the soldiers also persisted in deserting, until, by the time he
reached the coast, his forlorn hope was reduced to three men. But it was
not the drouth in their case which caused the desertions: it was rumors
which they heard everywhere along the route, of mines of gold and
silver, where they flattered themselves they could draw better pay than
from Uncle Sam's coffers.

The same difficulty from desertion harassed Lieutenant-Colonel Loring in
the following summer, when he attempted to establish a line of posts
along the route to Oregon, by the way of Forts Kearney, Laramie, and
through the South Pass to Fort Hall. His mounted rifle regiment dwindled
down to almost nothing. At one time, over one hundred men deserted in a
body: and although he pursued and captured seventy of them, he could not
keep them from deserting again at the first favorable moment. The bones
of many of those gold-seeking soldiers were left on the plains, where
wolves had stripped the flesh from them; and many more finally had rude
burial at the hands of fellow gold-seekers: but few indeed ever won or
enjoyed that for which they risked everything.

On arriving at Cook's wells, some distance beyond the Colorado, our
travelers found that the water at this place was tainted by the body of
a mule which had lost its life some days before in endeavoring to get at
the water. This was a painful discovery for the thirsty party to make.
However, there being no water for some distance ahead, General Lane
boiled some of it, and made coffee of it, remarking that "maggots were
more easily swallowed cooked than raw!"

And here the writer, and no doubt, the reader too, is compelled to make
a reflection. Was the office of Governor of a Territory at fifteen
hundred dollars a year, and Indian agent at fifteen hundred more, worth
a journey of over three thousand miles, chiefly by land, even allowing
that there had been no maggots in the water? _Quien sábe?_

Not far from this locality our party came upon one hundred wagons
abandoned by Major Graham, who had not been able to cross the desert
with them. Proceeding onward, the riders eventually found themselves on
foot, there being only a few animals left alive to transport the baggage
that could not be abandoned. So great was their extremity, that to
quench their thirst the stomach of a mule was opened to get at the
moisture it contained. In the horror and pain of the thirst-fever, Meek
renewed again the sufferings he had undergone years before in the
deserts inhabited by Diggers, and on the parched plains of the Snake

About the middle of January the Oregon Government, which had started out
so gaily from Fort Leavenworth, arrived weary, dusty, foot-sore,
famished, and suffering, at William's Ranch on the Santa Anna River,
which empties into the Bay of San Pedro. Here they were very kindly
received, and their wants ministered to.

At this place Meek developed, in addition to his various
accomplishments, a talent for speculation. While overhauling his
baggage, the knives and the silk which had been purchased of the
_peddler_ in St. Louis, were brought to light. No sooner did the
senoritas catch a glimpse of the shining fabrics than they went into
raptures over them, after the fashion of their sex. Seeing the state of
mind to which these raptures, if unheeded, were likely to reduce the
ladies of his house, Mr. Williams approached Meek delicately on the
subject of purchase. But Meek, in the first flush of speculative
shrewdness declared that as he had bought the goods for his own wife, he
could not find it in his heart to sell them.

However, as the senoritas were likely to prove inconsolable, Mr.
Williams again mentioned the desire of his family to be clad in silk,
and the great difficulty, nay, impossibility, of obtaining the much
coveted fabric in that part of the world, and accompanied his remarks
with an offer of ten dollars a yard for the lot. At this magnificent
offer our hero affected to be overcome by regard for the feelings of the
senoritas, and consented to sell his dollar and a-half silks for ten
dollars per yard.

In the same manner, finding that knives were a desirable article in that
country, very much wanted by miners and others, he sold out his dozen or
two, for an ounce each of gold-dust, netting altogether the convenient
little profit of about five hundred dollars. When Gen. Lane was informed
of the transaction, and reminded of his objections to the original
purchase, he laughed heartily.

"Well, Meek," said he, "you were drunk when you bought them, and by ----
I think you must have been drunk when you sold them; but drunk or sober,
I will own you can beat me at a bargain."

Such bargains, however, became common enough about this time in
California, for this was the year memorable in California history, of
the breaking out of the gold-fever, and the great rush to the mines
which made even the commonest things worth their weight in gold-dust.

Proceeding to Los Angelos, our party, once more comfortably mounted,
found traveling comparatively easy. At this place they found quartered
the command of Maj. Graham, whose abandoned wagons had been passed at
the _Hornella_ on the Colorado River. The town, too, was crowded with
miners, men of every class, but chiefly American adventurers, drawn
together from every quarter of California and Mexico by the rumor of the
gold discovery at Sutter's Fort.

On arriving at San Pedro, a vessel--the _Southampton_, was found ready
to sail. She had on board a crowd of fugitives from Mexico, bound to San
Francisco, where they hoped to find repose from the troubles which
harassed that revolutionary Republic.

At San Francisco, Meek was surprised to meet about two hundred
Oregonians, who on the first news of the gold discovery the previous
autumn, had fled, as it is said men shall flee on the day of
judgment--leaving the wheat ungathered in the fields, the grain unground
in the mills, the cattle unherded on the plains, their tools and farming
implements rusting on the ground--everything abandoned as if it would
never more be needed, to go and seek the shining dust, which is vainly
denominated "filthy lucre." The two hundred were on their way home,
having all either made something, or lost their health by exposure so
that they were obliged to return. But they left many more in the mines.

Such were the tales told in San Francisco of the wonderful fortunes of
some of the miners that young Lane became infected with the universal
fever and declared his intention to try mining with the rest. Meek too,
determined to risk something in gold-seeking, and as some of the
teamsters who had left Fort Leavenworth with the company, and had come
as far as San Francisco, were very desirous of going to the mines, Meek
fitted out two or three with pack-horses, tools, and provisions, to
accompany young Lane. For the money expended in the outfit he was to
receive half of their first year's profits. The result of this venture
was three pickle-jars of gold-dust, which were sent to him by the hands
of Nat. Lane, the following year; and which just about reimbursed him
for the outlay.

At San Francisco, Gen. Lane found the U.S. Sloop of War, the _St.
Mary's_; and Meek insisted that the Oregon government, which was
represented in their persons, had a right to require her services in
transporting itself to its proper seat. But Lane, whose notions of
economy extended, singularly enough, to the affairs of the general
government, would not consent to the needless expenditure. Meek was
rebellious, and quoted Thornton, by whom he was determined not to be
outdone in respect of expense for transportation. Lane insisted that his
dignity did not require a government vessel to convey him to Oregon. In
short the new government was very much divided against itself, and only
escaped a fall by Meek's finding some one, or some others, else, on whom
to play his pranks.

The first one was a Jew peddler who had gentlemen's clothes to sell. To
him the Marshal represented himself as a United States Custom officer,
and after frightening him with a threat of confiscating his entire
stock, finally compromised with the terrified Israelite by accepting a
suit of clothes for himself. After enjoying the mortification of spirit
which the loss inflicted on the Jew, for twenty-four hours, he finally
paid him for the clothes, at the same time administering a lecture upon
the sin and danger of smuggling.

The party which had left Leavenworth for Oregon nearly six months
before, numbering fifty-five, now numbered only seven. Of the original
number two had been killed, and all the rest had deserted to go to the
mines. There remained only Gen. Lane, Meek, Lieut. Hawkins and Hayden,
surgeon, besides three soldiers. With this small company Gen. Lane went
on board the _Jeanette_, a small vessel, crowded with miners, and
destined for the Columbia River. As the _Jeanette_ dropped down the Bay,
a salute was fired from the _St. Mary's_ in honor of Gen. Lane, and
appropriated to himself by Marshal Meek, who seems to have delighted in
appropriating to himself all the honors in whatever circumstances he
might be placed; the more especially too, if such assumption annoyed the

After a tedious voyage of eighteen days the _Jeanette_ arrived in the
Columbia River. From Astoria the party took small boats for Oregon City,
a voyage of one hundred and twenty miles; so that it was already the 2d
of March when they arrived at that place, and only one day was left for
the organization of the Territorial Government before the expiration of
Polk's term of office.

On the 2d of March Gen. Lane arrived at Oregon City, and was introduced
to Gov. Abernethy, by Marshal Meek. On the 3d, there appeared the


     In pursuance of an act of Congress, approved the 14th of August, in
     the year of our Lord 1848, establishing a Territorial Government in
     the Territory of Oregon:

     I, Joseph Lane, was, on the 18th day of August, in the year 1848,
     appointed Governor in and for the Territory of Oregon. I have
     therefore thought it proper to issue this, my proclamation, making
     known that I have this day entered upon the discharge of the duties
     of my office, and by virtue thereof do declare the laws of the
     United States extended over, and declared to be in force in said
     Territory, so far as the same, or any portion thereof may be

     Given under my hand at Oregon City, in the Territory of Oregon,
     this 3d day of March, Anno Domini 1849.


Thus Oregon had one day, under Polk, who, take it all in all, had been a
faithful guardian of her interests.

In the month of August, 1848, the _Honolulu_, a vessel of one hundred
and fifty tons, owned in Boston, carrying a consignment of goods to a
mercantile house in Portland, arrived at her anchorage in the Wallamet,
_via_ San Francisco, California. Captain Newell, almost before he had
discharged freight, commenced buying up a cargo of flour and other
provisions. But what excited the wonder of the Oregonians was the fact
that he also bought up all manner of tools such as could be used in
digging or cutting, from a spade and pickaxe, to a pocket-knife. This
singular proceeding naturally aroused the suspicions of a people
accustomed to have something to suspect. A demand was made for the
_Honolulu's_ papers, and these not being forthcoming, it was proposed by
some of the prudent ones to tie her up. When this movement was
attempted, the secret came out. Captain Newell, holding up a bag of
gold-dust before the astonished eyes of his persecutors, cried out--

"Do you see that gold? ---- you, I will depopulate your country! I know
where there is plenty of this stuff, and I am taking these tools where
it is to be found."

This was in August, the month of harvest. So great was the excitement
which seized the people, that all classes of men were governed by it.
Few persons stopped to consider that this was the time for producers to
reap golden harvests of precious ore, for the other yellow harvest of
grain which was already ripe and waiting to be gathered. Men left their
grain standing, and took their teams from the reapers to pack their
provisions and tools to the mines.

Some men would have gladly paid double to get back the spades, shovels,
or picks, which the shrewd Yankee Captain had purchased from them a week
previous. All implements of this nature soon commanded fabulous prices,
and he was a lucky man who had a supply.


1850-4. The Territorial law of Oregon combined the offices of Governor
and Indian Agent. One of the most important acts which marked Lane's
administration was that of securing and punishing the murderers of Dr.
and Mrs. Whitman. The Indians of the Cayuse tribe to whom the murderers
belonged, were assured that the only way in which they could avoid a war
with the whites was to deliver up the chiefs who had been engaged in the
massacre, to be tried and punished according to the laws of the whites.
Of the two hundred Indians implicated in the massacre, five were given
up to be dealt with according to law. These were the five chiefs,
_Te-lou-i-kite_, _Tam-a-has_, _Klok-a-mas_, _Ki-am-a-sump-kin_, and

These men might have made their escape; there was no imperative
necessity upon them to suffer death, had they chosen to flee to the
mountains. But with that strange magnanimity which the savage often
shows, to the astonishment of Christians, they resolved to die for their
people rather than by their flight to involve them in war.

Early in the summer of 1850, the prisoners were delivered up to Gov.
Lane, and brought down to Oregon City, where they were given into the
keeping of the marshal. During their passage down the river, and while
they were incarcerated at Oregon City, their bearing was most proud and
haughty. Some food, more choice than their prisoner's fare, being
offered to one of the chiefs at a camp of the guard, in their transit
down the Columbia, the proud savage rejected it with scorn.

"What sort of heart have you," he asked, "that you offer food to me,
whose hands are red with your brother's blood?"

And this, after eleven years of missionary labor, was all the
comprehension the savage nature knew of the main principle of
Christianity,--forgiveness, or charity toward our enemies.

At Oregon City, Meek had many conversations with them. In all of these
they gave but one explanation of their crime. They feared that Dr.
Whitman intended, with the other whites, to take their land from them;
and they were told by Jo Lewis, the half-breed, that the Doctor's
medicine was intended to kill them off quickly, in order the sooner to
get possession of their country. None of them expressed any sorrow for
what had been done; but one of them, _Ki-am-a-sump-kin_, declared his
innocence to the last.

In conversations with others, curious to gain some knowledge of the
savage moral nature, _Te-lou-i-kite_ often puzzled these students of
Indian ethics. When questioned as to his motive for allowing himself to
be taken, _Te-lou-i-kite_ answered:

"Did not your missionaries tell us that Christ died to save his people?
So die we, to save our people!"

Notwithstanding the prisoners were pre-doomed to death, a regular form
of trial was gone through. The Prosecuting Attorney for the Territory,
A. Holbrook, conducted the prosecution: Secretary Pritchett, Major
Runnels, and Captain Claiborne, the defence. The fee offered by the
chiefs was fifty head of horses. Whether it was compassion, or a love of
horses which animated the defence, quite an effort was made to show
that the murderers were not guilty.

The presiding Justice was O.C. Pratt--Bryant having resigned. Perhaps we
cannot do better than to give the Marshal's own description of the trial
and execution, which is as follows: "Thar war a great many indictments,
and a great many people in attendance at this court. The Grand Jury
found true bills against the five Indians, and they war arraigned for
trial. Captain Claiborne led off for the defence. He foamed and ranted
like he war acting a play in some theatre. He knew about as much law as
one of the Indians he war defending; and his gestures were so powerful
that he smashed two tumblers that the Judge had ordered to be filled
with cold water for him. After a time he gave out mentally and
physically. Then came Major Runnels, who made a very good defence. But
the Marshal thought they must do better, for they would never ride fifty
head of horses with them speeches.

Mr. Pritchett closed for the defence with a very able argument; for he
war a man of brains. But then followed Mr. Holbrook, for the
prosecution, and he laid down the case so plain that the jury were
convinced before they left the jury-box. When the Judge passed sentence
of death on them, two of the chiefs showed no terror; but the other
three were filled with horror and consternation that they could not

After court had adjourned, and Gov. Lane war gone South on some business
with the Rogue River Indians, Secretary Pritchett came to me and told me
that as he war now acting Governor he meant to reprieve the Indians.
Said he to me, 'Now Meek, I want you to liberate them Indians, when you
receive the order.'

'Pritchett,' said I, 'so far as Meek is concerned, he would do anything
for you.'

This talk pleased him; he said he 'war glad to hear it; and would go
right off and write the reprieve.'

'But,' said I, 'Pritchett, let us talk now like men. I have got in my
pocket the death-warrant of them Indians, signed by Gov. Lane. The
Marshal will execute them men, as certain as the day arrives.'

Pritchett looked surprised, and remarked--'That war not what you just
said, that you would do anything for me.'

Said I, 'you were talking then to Meek,--not to the Marshal, who always
does his duty.' At that he got mad and left.

When the 3d of June, the day of execution, arrived, Oregon City was
thronged with people to witness it. I brought forth the five prisoners
and placed them on a drop. Here the chief, who always declared his
innocence, _Ki-am-i-sump-kin_, begged me to kill him with my knife,--for
an Indian fears to be hanged,--but I soon put an end to his entreaties
by cutting the rope which held the drop, with my tomahawk. As I said
'The Lord have mercy on your souls,' the trap fell, and the five Cayuses
hung in the air. Three of them died instantly. The other two struggled
for several minutes; the Little Chief, _Tam-a-has_, the longest. It was
he who was cruel to my little girl at the time of the massacre; so I
just put my foot on the knot to tighten it, and he got quiet. After
thirty-five minutes they were taken down and buried."

Thus terminated a tragic chapter in the history of Oregon. Among the
services which Thurston performed for the Territory, was getting an
appropriation of $100,000, to pay the expenses of the Cayuse war. From
the Spring of 1848, when all the whites, except the Catholic
missionaries, were withdrawn from the upper country, for a period of
several years, or until Government had made treaties with the tribes
east of the Cascades, no settlers were permitted to take up land in
Eastern Oregon. During those years, the Indians, dissatisfied with the
encroachments which they foresaw the whites would finally make upon
their country, and incited by certain individuals who had suffered
wrongs, or been punished for their own offences at the hands of the
whites, finally combined, as it was supposed from the extent of the
insurrection, and Oregon was involved in a three years Indian war, the
history of which would fill a volume of considerable size.

When Meek returned to Oregon as marshal, with his fine clothes and his
newly acquired social accomplishments, he was greeted with a cordial
acknowledgment of his services, as well as admiration for his improved
appearance. He was generally acknowledged to be the model of a handsome
marshal, when clad in his half-military dress, and placed astride of a
fine horse, in the execution of the more festive duties of marshal of a
procession on some patriotic occasion.

But no amount of official responsibility could ever change him from a
wag into a "grave and reverend seignior." No place nor occasion was
sacred to him when the wild humor was on him.

At this same term of court, after the conviction of the Cayuse chiefs,
there was a case before Judge Pratt, in which a man was charged with
selling liquor to the Indians. In these cases Indian evidence was
allowed, but the jury-room being up stairs, caused a good deal of
annoyance in court; because when an Indian witness was wanted up stairs,
a dozen or more who were not wanted would follow. The Judge's bench was
so placed that it commanded a full view of the staircase and every one
passing up or down it.

A call for some witness to go before the jury was followed on this
occasion, as on all others, by a general rush of the Indians, who were
curious to witness the proceedings. One fat old squaw had got part way
up the stairs, when the Marshal, full of wrath, seized her by a leg and
dragged her down flat, at the same time holding the fat member so that
it was pointed directly toward the Judge. A general explosion followed
this _pointed_ action, and the Judge grew very red in the face.


"Mr. Marshal, come within the bar!" thundered the Judge.

Meek complied, with a very dubious expression of countenance.

"I must fine you fifty dollars," continued the Judge; "the dignity of
the Court must be maintained."

When court had adjourned that evening, the Judge and the Marshal were
walking toward their respective lodgings. Said Meek to his Honor:

"Why did you fine me so heavily to-day?"

"I _must_ do it," returned the Judge. "I must keep up the dignity of the
Court; I must do it, if I pay the fines myself."

"And you _must_ pay all the fines you lay on the marshal, of course,"
answered Meek.

"Very well," said the Judge; "I shall do so."

"All right, Judge. As I am the proper disbursing officer, you can pay
that fifty dollars to me--and I'll take it now."

At this view of the case, his Honor was staggered for one moment, and
could only swing his cane and laugh faintly. After a little reflection,
he said:

"Marshal, when court is called to-morrow, I shall remit your fine; but
don't you let me have occasion to fine you again!"

After the removal of the capital to Salem, in 1852, court was held in a
new building, on which the carpenters were still at work. Judge Nelson,
then presiding, was much put out by the noise of hammers, and sent the
marshal more than once, to request the men to suspend their work during
those hours when court was in session, but all to no purpose. Finally,
when his forbearance was quite exhausted, he appealed to the marshal for

"What shall I do, Meek," said he, "to stop that infernal noise?"

"Put the workmen on the Grand Jury," replied Meek.

"Summon them instantly!" returned the Judge. They were summoned, and
quiet secured for that term.

At this same term of court, a great many of the foreign born settlers
appeared, to file their intention of becoming American citizens, in
order to secure the benefits of the Donation Law. Meek was retained as a
witness, to swear to their qualifications, one of which was, that they
were possessed of good moral characters. The first day there were about
two hundred who made declarations, Meek witnessing for most of them. On
the day following, he declined serving any longer.

"What now?" inquired the Judge; "you made no objections yesterday."

"Very true," replied Meek; "and two hundred lies are enough for me. I
swore that all those mountain-men were of 'good moral character,' and I
never knew a mountain-man of that description in my life! Let Newell
take the job for to-day."

The "job" was turned over to Newell; but whether the second lot was
better than the first, has never transpired.

During Lane's administration, there was a murder committed by a party of
Indians at the Sound, on the person of a Mr. Wallace. Owing to the
sparse settlement of the country, Governor Lane adopted the original
measure of exporting not only the officers of the court, but the jury
also, to the Sound district. Meek was ordered to find transportation for
the court _in toto_, jury and all. Boats were hired and provisioned to
take the party to the Cowelitz Landing, and from thence to Fort
Steilacoom, horses were hired for the land transportation.

The Indians accused were five in number--two chiefs and three slaves.
The Grand Jury found a true bill against the two chiefs, and let the
slaves go. So few were the inhabitants of those parts, that the marshal
was obliged to take a part of the grand jury to serve on the petite
jury. The form of a trial was gone through with, the Judge delivered his
charge, and the jury retired.

It was just after night-fall when these worthies betook themselves to
the jury-room. One of them curled himself up in a corner of the room,
with the injunction to the others to "wake him up when they got ready
to hang them ---- rascals." The rest of the party spent four or five
hours betting against monte, when, being sleepy also, they waked up
their associate, spent about ten minutes in arguing their convictions,
and returned a verdict of "guilty of murder in the first degree."

The Indians were sentenced to be hung at noon on the following day, and
the marshal was at work early in the morning preparing a gallows. A rope
was procured from a ship lying in the sound. At half-past eleven
o'clock, guarded by a company of artillery from the fort, the miserable
savages were marched forth to die. A large number of Indians were
collected to witness the execution; and to prevent any attempt at
rescue, Captain Hill's artillery formed a ring around the marshal and
his prisoners. The execution was interrupted or delayed for some
moments, on account of the frantic behavior of an Indian woman, wife of
one of the chiefs, whose entreaties for the life of her husband were
very affecting. Having exhausted all her eloquence in an appeal to the
nobler feelings of the man, she finally promised to leave her husband
and become his wife, if he, the marshal, would spare her lord and chief.

She was carried forcibly out of the ring, and the hanging took place.
When the bodies were taken down, Meek spoke to the woman, telling her
that now she could have her husband; but she only sullenly replied, "You
have killed him, and you may bury him."


While Meek was in Washington, he had been dubbed with the title of
Colonel, which title he still bears, though during the Indian war of
1855-56, it was alternated with that of Major. During his marshalship he
was fond of showing off his titles and authority to the discomfiture of
that class of people who had "put on airs" with him in former days, when
he was in his transition stage from a trapper to a United States

While Pratt was Judge of the District Court, a kidnaping case came
before him. The writ of _habeas corpus_ having been disregarded by the
Captain of the _Melvin_, who was implicated in the business, Meek was
sent to arrest him, and also the first mate. Five of the _Melvin's_
sailors were ordered to be summoned as witnesses, at the same time.

Meek went on board with his summons, marched forward, and called out the
names of the men. Every man came up as he was summoned. When they were
together, Meek ordered a boat lowered for their conveyance to Oregon
City. The men started to obey, when the Captain interfered, saying that
the boat should not be taken for such a purpose, as it belonged to him.

"That is of no consequence at all," answered the smiling marshal. "It is
a very good boat, and will suit our purpose very well. Lower away, men!"

The men quickly dropped the boat. As it fell, they were ordered to man
it. When they were at the oars, the mate was then invited to take a seat
in it, which he did, after a moment's hesitation, and glancing at his
superior officer. Meek then turned to the Captain, and extended the same
invitation to him. But he was reluctant to accept the courtesy,
blustering considerably, and declaring his intention to remain where he
was. Meek slowly drew his revolver, all the time cool and smiling.

"I don't like having to urge a gentleman too hard," he said, in a
meaning tone; "but thar is an argument that few men ever resist. Take a
seat, Captain."

The Captain took a seat; the idlers on shore cheered for "Joe
Meek"--which was, after all, his most familiar title; the Captain and
mate went to Oregon City, and were fined respectively $500 and $300; the
men took advantage of being on shore to desert; and altogether, the
master of the _Melvin_ felt himself badly used.

About the same time news was received that a British vessel was
unloading goods for the Hudson's Bay Company, somewhere on Puget Sound.
Under the new order of affairs in Oregon, this was smuggling. Delighted
with an opportunity of doing the United States a service, and the
British traders an ill turn, Marshal Meek immediately summoned a _posse_
of men and started for the Sound. On his way he learned the name of the
vessel and Captain, and recognized them as having been in the Columbia
River some years before. On that occasion the Captain had ordered Meek
ashore, when, led by his curiosity and general love of novelty, he had
paid a visit to this vessel. This information was "nuts" to the marshal,
who believed that "a turn about was fair play."

With great dispatch and secrecy he arrived entirely unexpected at the
point where the vessel was lying, and proceeded to board her without
loss of time. The Captain and officers were taken by surprise and were
all aghast at this unlooked for appearance. But after the first moment
of agitation was over, the Captain recognized Meek, he being a man not
likely to be forgotten, and thinking to turn this circumstance to
advantage, approached him with the blandest of smiles and the most
cordial manner, saying with forced frankness--

"I am sure I have had the pleasure of meeting you before. You must have
been at Vancouver when my vessel was in the river, seven or eight years
ago. I am very happy to have met with you again."

"Thar is some truth in that remark of yours, Captain," replied Meek,
eyeing him with lofty scorn; "you _did_ meet me at Vancouver several
years ago. But I was nothing but 'Joe Meek' at that time, and you
ordered me ashore. Circumstances are changed since then. I am now
Colonel Joseph L. Meek, United States Marshal for Oregon Territory; and
you sir, are only a ---- smuggler! Go ashore, sir!"

The Captain saw the point of that concluding "go ashore, sir!" and
obeyed with quite as bad a grace as 'Joe Meek' had done in the first

The vessel was confiscated and sold, netting to the Government about
$40,000, above expenses. This money, which fell into bad hands, failed
to be accounted for. Nobody suspected the integrity of the marshal, but
most persons suspected that he placed too much confidence in the
District Attorney, who had charge of his accounts. On some one asking
him, a short time after, what had become of the money from the sale of
the smuggler, he seemed struck with a sudden surprise:

"Why," said he, looking astonished at the question, "thar was barly
enough for the officers of the court!"

This answer, given as it was, with such apparent simplicity became a
popular joke; and "barly enough" was quoted on all occasions.

The truth was, that there was a serious deficiency in Meek's account
with the Government, resulting entirely from his want of confidence in
his own literary accomplishments, which led him to trust all his
correspondence and his accounts to the hands of a man whose talents were
more eminent than his sense of honor. The result of this misplaced
confidence was a loss to the Government, and to himself, whom the
Government held accountable. Contrary to the general rule of disbursing
officers, the office made him poor instead of rich; and when on the
incoming of the Pierce administration he suffered decapitation along
with the other Territorial officers, he was forced to retire upon his
farm on the Tualatin Plains, and become a rather indifferent tiller of
the earth.

The breaking out of the Indian war of 1855-6, was preceded by a long
period of uneasiness among the Indians generally. The large emigration
which crossed the plains every year for California and Oregon was one
cause of the disturbance; not only by exciting their fears for the
possession of their lands, but by the temptation which was offered them
to take toll of the travelers. Difficulties occurred at first between
the emigrants and Indians concerning stolen property. These quarrels
were followed, probably the subsequent year, by outrages and murder on
the part of the Indians, and retaliation on the part of volunteer
soldiers from Oregon. When once this system of outrage and retaliation
on either side, was begun, there was an end of security, and war
followed as an inevitable consequence. Very horrible indeed were the
acts perpetrated by the Indians upon the emigrants to Oregon, during the
years from 1852 to 1858.

But when at last the call to arms was made in Oregon, it was an
opportunity sought, and not an alternative forced upon them, by the
politicians of that Territory. The occasion was simply this. A party of
lawless wretches from the Sound Country, passing over the Cascade
Mountains into the Yakima Valley, on their way to the Upper Columbia
mines, found some Yakima women digging roots in a lonely place, and
abused them. The women fled to their village and told the chiefs of the
outrage; and a party followed the guilty whites and killed several of
them in a fight.

Mr. Bolin, the Indian sub-agent for Washington went to the Yakima
village, and instead of judging of the case impartially, made use of
threats in the name of the United States Government, saying that an army
should be sent to punish them for killing his people. On his return
home, Mr. Bolin was followed and murdered.

The murder of an Indian agent was an act which could not be overlooked.
Very properly, the case should have been taken notice of in a manner to
convince the Indians that murder must be punished. But, tempted by an
opportunity for gain, and encouraged by the somewhat reasonable fears of
the white population of Washington and Oregon, Governor G.L. Curry, of
the latter, at once proclaimed war, and issued a call for volunteers,
without waiting for the sanction or assistance of the general
Government. The moment this was done, it was too late to retract. It was
as if a torch had been applied to a field of dry grass. So
simultaneously did the Indians from Puget Sound to the Rocky Mountains,
and from the Rocky Mountains to the southern boundary of Oregon send
forth the war-whoop, that there was much justification for the belief
which agitated the people, that a combination among the Indians had been
secretly agreed to, and that the whites were all to be exterminated.

Volunteer companies were already raised and sent into the Indian
country, when Brevet Major G.O. Haller arrived at Vancouver, now a part
of the United States. He had been as far east as Fort Boise to protect
the incoming immigration; and finding on his return that there was an
Indian war on hand, proceeded at once to the Yakima country with his
small force of one hundred men, only fifty of whom were mounted. Much
solicitude was felt for the result of the first engagement, every one
knowing that if the Indians were at first successful, the war would be
long and bloody.

Major Haller was defeated with considerable loss, and notwithstanding
slight reinforcements, from Fort Vancouver, only succeeded in getting
safely out of the country. Major Raines, the commanding officer at
Vancouver, seeing the direction of events, made a requisition upon
Governor Curry for four of his volunteer companies to go into the field.
Then followed applications to Major Raines for horses and arms to equip
the volunteers; but the horses at the Fort being unfit for service, and
the Major unauthorized to equip volunteer troops, there resulted only
misunderstandings and delays. When General Wool, at the head of the
Department in San Francisco, was consulted, he also was without
authority to employ or receive the volunteers; and when the volunteers,
who at length armed and equipped themselves, came to go into the field
with the regulars, they could not agree as to the mode of fighting
Indians; so that with one thing and another, the war became an exciting
topic for more reasons than because the whites were afraid of the
Indians. As for General Wool, he was in great disfavor both in Oregon
and Washington because he did not believe there ever had existed the
necessity for a war; and that therefore he bestowed what assistance was
at his command very grudgingly. General Wool, it was said, was jealous
of the volunteers; and the volunteers certainly cared little for the
opinion of General Wool.

However all that may be, Col. Meek gives it as his opinion that the old
General was right. "It makes me think," said he, "of a bear-fight I once
saw in the Rocky Mountains, where a huge old grizzly was surrounded by a
pack of ten or twelve dogs, all snapping at and worrying him. It made
him powerful mad, and every now and then he would make a claw at one of
them that silenced him at once."

The Indian war in Oregon gave practice to a number of officers, since
become famous, most prominent among whom is Sheridan, who served in
Oregon as a Lieutenant. Grant himself, was at one time a Captain on that
frontier. Col. Wright, afterwards Gen. Wright, succeeded Major Raines at
Vancouver, and conducted the war through its most active period. During
a period of three years there were troops constantly occupied in trying
to subdue the Indians in one quarter or another.

As for the volunteers they fared badly. On the first call to arms the
people responded liberally. The proposition which the Governor made for
their equipment was accepted, and they turned in their property at a
certain valuation. When the war was over and the property sold, the men
who had turned it in could not purchase it without paying more for it in
gold and silver than it was valued at when it was placed in the hands of
the Quartermaster. It was sold, however, and the money enjoyed by the
shrewd political speculators, who thought an Indian war a very good

Meek was one of the first to volunteer, and went as a private in Company
A. On arriving at the Dalles he was detailed for special service by Col.
J.W. Nesmith, and sent out as pilot or messenger, whenever any such
duty was required. He was finally placed on Nesmith's staff, and given
the title of Major. In this capacity, as in every other, he was still
the same alert and willing individual that we have always seen him, and
not a whit less inclined to be merry when an opportunity offered.

While the army was in the Yakima country, it being an enemy's country,
and provisions scarce, the troops sometimes were in want of rations. But
Meek had not forgotten his mountain craft, and always had something to
eat, if anybody did. One evening he had killed a fat cow which he had
discovered astray, and was proceeding to roast a twenty-pound piece
before his camp-fire, when a number of the officers called on him. The
sight and savory smell of the beef was very grateful to them.

"Major Meek," said they in a breath, "we will sup with you to-night."

"I am very sorry, gentlemen, to decline the honor," returned Meek with a
repetition of the innocent surprise for which he had so often been
laughed at, "but I am very hungry, and thar is barly enough beef for one

On hearing this sober assertion, those who had heard the story laughed,
but the rest looked rather aggrieved. However, the Major continued his
cooking, and when the beef was done to a turn, he invited his visitors
to the feast, and the evening passed merrily with jests and camp

After the army went into winter-quarters, Nesmith having resigned, T.R.
Cornelius was elected Colonel. One of his orders prohibited firing in
camp, an order which as a good mountaineer the Major should have
remembered. But having been instructed to proceed to Salem without
delay, as bearer of dispatches, the Major committed the error of firing
his gun to see if it was in good condition for a trip through the
enemy's country. Shortly after he received a message from his Colonel
requesting him to repair to his tent. The Colonel received him politely,
and invited him to breakfast with him. The aroma of coffee made this
invitation peculiarly acceptable--for luxuries were scarce in camp--and
the breakfast proceeded for some time very agreeably. When Meek had
breakfasted, Colonel Cornelius took occasion to inquire if the Major had
not heard his order against firing in camp. "Yes," said Meek. "Then,"
said the Colonel, "I shall be obliged to make an example of you."

While Meek stood aghast at the idea of punishment, a guard appeared at
the door of the tent, and he heard what his punishment was to be, "Mark
time for twenty minutes in the presence of the whole regiment."

"When the command "forward!" was given," says Meek, "you might have seen
somebody step off lively, the officer counting it off, 'left, left.' But
some of the regiment grumbled more about it than I did. I just got my
horse and my dispatches and left for the lower country, and when I
returned I asked for my discharge, and got it."

And here ends the career of our hero as a public man. The history of the
young State, of which he is so old a pioneer furnishes ample material
for an interesting volume, and will sometime be written by an abler than
our sketchy pen.





The reader of the foregoing pages can hardly have failed to observe,
that the region east of the Big Horn Mountains, including the valleys of
the Yellowstone, Big Horn, Powder, and Rosebud Rivers, was the favorite
haunt of the Rocky Mountain hunters and trappers--the field of many of
their stirring adventures and hardy exploits. Here was the "hunters'
paradise," where they came to secure game for food and to feed their
animals on the nutritious bark of the cottonwoods; here they assembled
at the Summer rendezvous, to exchange their peltries for supplies; and
here, ofttimes, was established their winter camp, with its rough cheer,
athletic sports, and wild carousals.

Here, also, between the plains and the mountains, was the dark and
sanguinary ground where terrific and deadly combats were fought between
the Delawares, Iroquois, Crows, and Blackfeet, and between the trappers
and Indians; and here, fifty years later, were enacted scenes of warfare
and massacre which cast a gloom over the festivities of our Centennial

The recent campaign against the hostile Sioux was over the identical
ground where the fur-traders roamed intent on beaver-skins and
adventure; and it is believed that some account thereof, and a sketch of
the renowned Indian fighter who perished on the Little Big Horn, may
appropriately supplement the story of the Mountain-men.



   Our Centennial War with the Sioux--Scene of the Campaign--General
     Aspect of the Country--The hostile Indians and their
     Grievances--The People of the Frontier--The Treaty of 1868--The
     Invasion of the Black Hills--Sitting Bull--Immediate Causes of the
     War--The Indians Warned and Threatened--The Warning Disregarded--An
     Appeal to Arms--Bishop Whipple on the Roaming Indians,      7


   General Crook's First Expedition--The March Northward--Reynolds
     Follows a Trail--Camp of Crazy Horse Discovered and Attacked--The
     Battle of Powder River--Return to Fort Fetterman--Crook's Second
     Expedition--On the Head Waters of Tongue River--Friendly
     Crows--Battle of the Rosebud--Retreat to Goose Creek Camp,      20


   Gen. Terry's Expedition--March from Fort Lincoln--Rendezvous on the
     Yellowstone--The Montana Column--Reno's Scouting Party Discovers a
     Trail--The Seventh Cavalry Start up the Rosebud--Custer Discovers
     an Indian Village and Advances to Attack,      26


   Gibbon's Troops Cross the Yellowstone--March up the Big Horn--A
     Smoke Cloud--An Omen of Victory--Crow Scouts--Indians in Front--A
     Night's Bivouac on the Little Big Horn--Site of a deserted
     Village--Evidences of Conflict--A breathless Scout--Intrenched
     Cavalry--Reno Relieved--"Where is Custer?"      30


   Custer's last Battle--Revelations of the Battle-field--Theories as
     to the Engagement--Custer and His Officers--Capt. Tom
     Custer--Boston Custer--Armstrong Reed--Burial of the Slain--Retreat
     to the Yellowstone--Story of Custer's Scout "Curley"--Death of
     Custer,      35


   Reno's Battles--His Charge down the Valley, and Retreat to the
     Bluffs--Benteen's Battalion--A terrific Assault--Holding the
     Fort--Volunteer Water Carriers--Removal of Indian Village--Approach
     of Terry--Statements of Benteen and Godfrey--A Scout's Narrative,


   Kill Eagle at Sitting Bull's Camp--His Account of the Battles with
     Custer and Reno--"We have Killed them all"--What Buck Elk Saw,


   Criticisms on the Conduct of Reno and Benteen--Reno's Defence--What
     Benteen Says--Gen. Sheridan on the Custer Disaster,      56


   The Midsummer Campaign--Adventures of a Scouting Party--Running the
     Gauntlet--Indian Allies--Hazardous Service--Junction of Terry and
     Crook--Following the Trail--At the Mouth of Powder River--Crook
     Starts for the Black Hills--Short Rations--Battle of Slim
     Buttes--The Chief American Horse--Deadwood--Terry at Glendive
     Creek--A Chase after Sitting Bull--Close of the Campaign--Long
     Dog's Reconnoitering Party,      62


   Autumn on the Yellowstone--Gallant Defence of a Wagon Train--A
     Letter from Sitting Bull--A Flag of Truce--Col. Miles and Sitting
     Bull Have a "Talk" between the Lines--An Exciting Scene--The
     Council Disperses--The Troops Advance--A Battle and its
     Results--Escape of Sitting Bull--Surrender of Chiefs as Hostages,


   Terry and Crook at the Sioux Agencies--The Agency Indians Disarmed
     and Dismounted--A Gleam of Daylight--What became of the Ponies--Red
     Cloud Deposed--Spotted Tail Declared Chief Sachem--Gen. Crook's
     Address to His Troops,      77


   Winter Operations--Crook's Expedition--Col. McKenzie on the
     Trail--A Night's March--A Charge down a Canyon--Destruction of a
     Cheyenne Village--Life at the Tongue River Cantonment--Miles'
     Excursion Northward--Capture of Sitting Bull's Camp--An Unfortunate
     Affair--Massacre of Five Chiefs--Treacherous Crows--Winter March
     Southward--Desperate Battle in the Wolf Mountains--Defeat of Crazy
     Horse--Red Horse Surrenders--His Story of the Big Horn
     Battles--Spotted Tail's Mission--Surrender of Roman Nose, Standing
     Elk and Crazy Horse,      81


   George A. Custer--Early Youth--Cadet Life--From West Point to Bull
     Run--On Kearny's Staff--Wades the Chickahominy--On McClellan's
     Staff--Antietam--On Pleasonton's Staff--Aldie--A General at
     Gettysburg--Pursues Lee--Falling Waters--Wounded--Cavalry
     Engagement at Brandy Station--Marriage,      90


   A Raid toward Richmond--With Sheridan in the Shenandoah
     Valley--Opequan Creek--Fisher's Hill--Commander of the Third
     Division--Fight with Rosser--Sheridan's Army Surprised--Defeat and
     Victory--The Cavalry at Cedar Creek--The last great Raid,      98


   The last Struggle for Richmond--Custer at Dinwiddie and Fire
     Forks--Petersburg Evacuated--The Pursuit of
     Lee--Jetersville--Sailor's Creek--Appomattox--A Flag of
     Truce--Custer's Address to His Soldiers--The Great Parade--A Major
     General--Texas--Negotiation with Romero,      106


   The Seventh Cavalry--Hancock's Expedition--Tricky Indians--A Scout
     on the Plains--Camp Attacked by Indians--A Fight for the Wagon
     Train--The Kidder Massacre--Court Martialed--Sully's
     Expedition--Battle of the Washita--Death of Black Kettle--Fate of
     Major Elliot--Night Retreat--March to Fort Cobb--Lone Wolf and
     Satanta--After the Cheyennes--Captive Women Recovered,      113


   The Yellowstone Expedition--Road-hunters--A Siesta--Dashing
     Indians--A Trap--Fearful Odds--Rapid Volleys--Attack
     Renewed--Reinforcements--The Foe Repulsed--A Tragedy--The Revenge
     of Rain in the Face--Another Fight--Assigned to Fort Lincoln--Mrs.
     Custer,      121


   The Campaign of 1876--The Dakota Column--The Babcock
     Investigation--The Congressional Committee--Grant's
     Displeasure--Appeal to the President--Custer's last Campaign,


   Reminiscences of General Custer--Personal Characteristics,      132


   The Indian Commission of 1876--Purchase of the Black Hills--Indian
     Orators--Speeches of Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, Blue Teeth, Running
     Antelope, Two Bears, Red Feather, Swan, White Ghost, etc.,      138





The scene of the campaign against the hostile Indians in 1876, was the
rugged, desolate, and partially unexplored region lying between the Big
Horn and Powder Rivers, and extending from the Big Horn Mountains
northerly to and beyond the Yellowstone River. This region is the most
isolated and inaccessible of any lying east of the Rocky Mountains, and
is admirably adapted for Indian warfare and defense. Several rivers,
tributaries of the Yellowstone, flow through it, and it abounds in
creeks, ravines, and canyons. It is the hereditary country of the Crows,
who for generations defended it against marauding tribes of Blackfeet.

A vivid description of the general aspect of the country and of the
hardships and perils of our soldiers, has been given by Col. Nelson A.
Miles, of the Fifth Infantry, in a letter written from the mouth of the
Powder River. "No service," he says, "is more thankless or dangerous
than contending against these treacherous savages, and if you will come
out and learn the real sentiment of the army, you will find the officers
of the army the strongest advocates of any peace policy that shall be
just and honorable. You will find us out here, five hundred miles from
railroad communication, in as barren, desolate and worthless a country
as the sun shines upon--volcanic, broken, and almost impassable--so
rugged as to make our granite hills of Vermont and New Hampshire appear
in comparison as pleasant parks. Jagged and precipitous cliffs; narrow
and deep arroyos filled with massive boulders; alkali water, or for
miles and miles none at all; and vegetation of cactus and sage-bushes,
will represent to you, feebly indeed, the scene of the present campaign,
in which we are contending against the most powerful, warlike, and
best-armed body of savages on the American Continent, armed and mounted
partly at the expense of the Government, and fully supplied with the
most improved magazine guns and tons of metallic ammunition."

"The brave mariner," wrote a newspaper correspondent, "on the trackless
ocean without compass, is no more at the mercy of wind and wave than
Terry's army, out upon this vast trackless waste, is at the mercy of his
guides and scouts. The sun rises in the east, shines all day upon a vast
expanse of sage-brush and grass, and, as it sets in the west, casts its
dull rays into a thousand ravines that neither man nor beast can cross.
The magnet always points north; but whether one can go either north or
south can be decided only by personal effort. An insignificant turn to
the wrong side of a little knoll or buffalo-wallow ofttimes
imperceptibly leads the voyager into ravine after ravine, over bluff
after bluff, until at last he stands on the edge of a yawning canyon,
hundreds of feet in depth and with perpendicular walls. Nothing is left
for him to do but to retrace his steps and find an accessible route."

The hostile Indians with whom our soldiers have had to contend are no
despicable foe; on the contrary they are quite able, in frontier
warfare, to cope with disciplined troops. They fight in bodies, under
skilled leaders, and have regular rules which they observe in battle, on
their marches, and in their camps. "They have systems of signalling and
of scouting, of posting sentinels and videttes, and of herding their
animals." They are remarkably expert horsemen, and are so dependent on
their steeds, that "a Sioux on foot is a Sioux warrior no longer." Gen.
Crook testifies to their adroitness and skill as follows:--

     "When the Sioux Indian was armed with a bow and arrow he was more
     formidable, fighting as he does most of the time on horseback, than
     when he came into possession of the old fashioned muzzle loading
     rifle. But when he came into possession of the breech loader and
     metallic catridge, which allows him to load and fire from his horse
     with perfect ease, he became at once ten times more formidable.
     With the improved arms I have seen our friendly Indians, riding at
     full speed, shoot and kill a wolf, also on the run, while it is a
     rare thing that our troops can hit an Indian on horseback though
     the soldier may be on his feet at the time.

     "The Sioux is a cavalry soldier from the time he has intelligence
     enough to ride a horse or fire a gun. If he wishes to dismount, his
     hardy pony, educated by long usage, will graze around near where he
     has been left, ready when his master wants to mount either to move
     forward or escape. Even with their lodges and families they can
     move at the rate of fifty miles per day. They are perfectly
     familiar with the country, have their spies and hunting parties out
     all the time at distances of from twenty to fifty miles each way
     from their villages, know the number and movements of all the
     troops that may be operating against them, just about what they can
     probably do, and hence can choose their own times and places of
     conflict or avoid it altogether."

The primary causes of the hostilities of the Indians which made this
campaign and previous ones against them necessary, extend far back and
are too numerous to be here fully stated. The principal Indian
grievances however, for which the government is responsible, are a
failure to fulfil treaties, encroachment on reserved territories, and
the dishonesty of agents. Col. Miles speaks of our relationship with the
Indians for the last fifty years, as the dark page in our history,
which, next to African slavery, has done more to disgrace our
government, blacken our fair name, and reflect upon our civilization,
than aught else. It has, he says, been a source of corruption and a
disturbing element, unconfined to any one political party or class of

Wendell Phillips asserts that the worst brutality which prurient malice
ever falsely charged the Indian with, is but weak imitation of what the
white man has often inflicted on Indian men, women and children; and
that the Indian has never lifted his hand against us until provoked to
it by misconduct on our part, compared with which, any misconduct of his
is but dust in the balance.

The great difference in the condition and character of the Indians over
the Canada line and our own, can only be accounted for by the different
treatment they have received. The Canadian Indians are, on the whole, a
harmless, honest people, who, though they are gradually disappearing
before the white man, bear him no ill-will, but rather the contrary.
Bishop Whipple of Minnesota, an earnest advocate of the peace policy,
draws the following contrast:--

     "Here are two pictures--on one side of the line a nation has spent
     $500,000,000 in Indian war; a people who have not 100 miles between
     the Atlantic and the Pacific which has not been the scene of an
     Indian massacre; a government which has not passed twenty years
     without an Indian war; not one Indian tribe to whom it has given
     Christian civilization; and which celebrates its centennial year
     by another bloody Indian war. On the other side of the line there
     is the same greedy, dominant Anglo-Saxon race, and the same
     heathen. They have not spent one dollar in Indian war; they have
     had no Indian massacres. Why? In Canada the Indian treaty calls
     these men 'the Indian subjects of her Majesty.' When civilization
     approaches them they are placed on ample reservations; they receive
     aid in civilization; they have personal rights of property; they
     are amenable to law and are protected by law; they have schools,
     and Christian people delight to give them their best men to teach
     them the religion of Christ. We expend more than one hundred
     dollars to their one in caring for Indian wards."

The results of the Indian disturbances, whatever their causes, have
borne heavily on the hardy and enterprising settlers along the border.
Of these citizens Gen. Crook says:--

     "I believe it is wrong for a Government as great and powerful as
     ours not to protect its frontier people from savages. I do not see
     why a man who has the courage to come out here and open the way for
     civilization in his own country, is not as much entitled to the
     protection of his Government as anybody else. I am not one of those
     who believe, as many missionaries sent out here by well-meaning
     eastern socities do, that the people of the frontiers are
     cut-throats, thieves, and murderers. I have been thrown among them
     for nearly 25 years of my life, and believe them to compare
     favorably in energy, intelligence and manhood with the best of
     their eastern brethren. They are mercilessly plundered by Indians
     without any attempt being made to punish the perpetrators, and when
     they ask for protection, they are told by some of our peace
     commissioners sent out to make further concessions to the Indians,
     that they have no business out here anyhow. I do not deny that my
     sympathies have been with the frontier people in their unequal
     contest against such obstacles. At the same time I do not wish to
     be understood as the unrelenting foe of the Indian."

The Sioux Indians, embracing several tribes, are the old Dakotahs, long
known as among the bravest and most warlike aboriginals of this
continent. They were steadily pushed westward by the tide of
civilization to the Great Plains north of the Platte, where they claimed
as their own all the vast region west of the Missouri as far as they
could roam or fight their way. They resisted the approach of all
settlers and opposed the building of the Pacific Railroad.

In 1867, Congress sent out four civilians and three army officers as
Peace Commissioners, who, in 1868, made a treaty with the Sioux, whereby
for certain payments or stipulations, they agreed to surrender their
claims to a vast tract of country, to live at peace with their
neighbors, and to restrict themselves to a territory bounded south by
Nebraska, west by the 104th meridian, and north by the 46th parallel of
latitude--a territory as large as the State of Michigan. "They had the
solemn pledge of the United States that they should be protected in the
absolute and peaceable possession of the country thus set apart for
them; and the constitution makes such treaties the highest of all
authorities, and declares that they are binding upon every citizen."

In the western part of the Sioux territory, lying between the two forks
of the Cheyenne River, is the Black Hills country with an area of four
or five thousand square miles. Of the interior of this region up to 1874
nothing was known excepting from the indefinite reports of hunters who
had penetrated therein. The arrival at a trading post of Indians who
offered gold-dust for sale which they said was procured at the Black
Hills, caused much excitement; and a military expedition of 1200 men was
sent from Fort Lincoln in July 1874, to explore the Hills and ascertain
if gold existed there. As was expected, no hostile enemy were
encountered by the large expedition which thus invaded the Indian
territory. A few lodges of Indians were met in the Hills, and they ran
away notwithstanding friendly overtures were made. An attempt was made
to lead the pony of one mounted Indian to headquarters, but he got away,
and a shot was fired after him which, says General Custer, wounded
either the Indian or his pony as blood was found on the ground.

The geologists of the expedition reported that there was gold in the
Black Hills, and miners and others began to flock thither. In 1875,
troops were sent to remove the trespassers on the Indian reservation,
but as fast as they compelled or persuaded the miners to go away others
came to fill their places; and at the present date there are more
settlers there than ever before.

Of the treaty of 1868 and the so-called peace policy then inaugurated
various opinions are entertained. Gen. Sherman, a member of the
commission, in his report for 1876, says:--

     "The commission had also to treat with other tribes at the south;
     viz,--the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas and Commanches; were engaged
     for two years in visiting and confering with these scattered bands;
     and finally, in 1868, concluded many treaties, which were the best
     possible at that date, and which resulted in comparative peace on
     the Plains, by defining clearly the boundaries to be thereafter
     occupied by the various tribes, with the annuities in money,
     provisions, and goods to be paid the Indians for the relenquishment
     of their claims to this vast and indefinite region of land. At this
     time the Sioux nation consisted of many distinct tribes, and was
     estimated at 50,000, of whom some 8,000 were named as hostiles.

     "These Indians, as all others, were under the exclusive
     jurisdiction of the Indian Bureau, and only small garrisons of
     soldiers were called for at the several agencies, such as Red Cloud
     and Spotted Tail on the head of the White Earth River in Nebraska
     (outside their reservation), and at Standing Rock, Cheyenne, and
     Crow Creek on the Missouri River, to protect the persons of the
     agents and their employes. About these several agencies were
     grouped the several bands of Sioux under various names, receiving
     food, clothing, etc., and undergoing the process of civilization;
     but from the time of the Peace Commission of 1868 to the date of
     this report, a number of Sioux, recognized as hostile or 'outlaws,'
     had remained out under the lead of Sitting Bull and a few other

     "The so-called peace policy," says Bishop Whipple, "was commenced
     when we were at war. The Indian tribes were either openly hostile,
     or sullen and turbulent. The new policy was a marvellous success. I
     do honestly believe that it has done more for the civilization of
     the Indians than all which the Government has done before. Its only
     weakness was that the system was not reformed. The new work was
     fettered by all the faults and traditions of the old policy. The
     nation left 300,000 men living within our own borders without a
     vestige of government, without personal rights of property, without
     the slightest protection of person, property, or life. We persisted
     in telling these heathen tribes that they were independent nations.
     We sent out the bravest and best of our officers, some who had
     grown gray in the service of the country; men whose slightest word
     was as good as their bond--we sent them because the Indians would
     not doubt a soldier's honor. They made a treaty, and they pledged
     the nation's faith that no white man should enter that territory. I
     do not discuss its wisdom. The Executive and Senate ratified it....
     A violation of its plain provisions was an act of deliberate
     perjury. In the words of Gen. Sherman, 'Civilization made its own
     compact with the weaker party; it was violated, but not by the
     savage.' The whole world knew that we violated that treaty, and the
     reason of the failure of the negotiations of last year was that our
     own commissioners did not have authority from Congress to offer the
     Indians more than one-third of the sum they were already receiving
     under the old treaty."

     "The Sioux Nation," says Gen. Crook, in his report of Sept. 1876,
     "numbers many thousands of warriors, and they have been encouraged
     in their insolent overbearing conduct by the fact, that those who
     participated in the wholesale massacre of the innocent people in
     Minnesota during the brief period that preceded their removal to
     their present location, never received adequate punishment
     therefor. Following hard upon and as the apparent result of the
     massacre of over eighty officers and men of the army at Fort Phil
     Kearney, the Government abandoned three of its military posts, and
     made a treaty of unparalleled liberality with the perpetrators of
     these crimes, against whom any other nation would have prosecuted a
     vigorous war.

     "Since that time the reservations, instead of being the abode of
     loyal Indians holding the terms of their agreement sacred, have
     been nothing but nests of disloyalty to their treaties and the
     Government, and scourges to the people whose misfortune it has been
     to be within the reach of the endurance of their ponies. And in
     this connection, I regret to say, they have been materially aided
     by sub-agents who have disgraced a bureau established for the
     propagation of peace and good will, man to man.

     "What is the loyal condition of mind of a lot of savages, who will
     not allow the folds of the flag of the country to float over the
     very sugar, coffee and beef, they are kind enough to accept at the
     hands of the nation to which they have thus far dictated their own
     terms? Such has been the condition of things at the Red Cloud

     "The hostile bands roamed over a vast extent of country, making the
     Agencies their base of supplies, their recruiting and ordinance
     depots, and were so closely connected by intermarriage, interest
     and common cause with the Agency Indians, that it was difficult to
     determine where the line of peaceably disposed ceased and the
     hostile commenced. They have, without interruption, attacked
     persons at home, murdered and scalped them, stolen their stock--in
     fact violated every leading feature in the treaty. Indeed, so great
     were their depredations on the stock belonging to the settlers,
     that at certain times they have not had sufficient horses to do
     their ordinary farming work--all the horses being concentrated on
     the Sioux Reservation or among the bands which owe allegiance to
     what is called the Sioux Nation. In the winter months these
     renegade bands dwindle down to a comparatively small number; while
     in summer they are recruited by restless spirits from the different
     reservations, attracted by the opportunity to plunder the
     frontiersman, so that by midsummer they become augmented from small
     bands of one hundred to thousands.

     "In fact, it was well known that the treaty of 1868 had been
     regarded by the Indians as an instrument binding on us but not
     binding on them. On the part of the Government, notwithstanding the
     utter disregard by the Sioux of the terms of the treaty, stringent
     orders, enforced by military power, had been issued prohibiting
     settlers from trespassing upon the country known as the Black
     Hills. The people of the country against whom the provisions of the
     treaty were so rigidly enforced naturally complained that if they
     were required to observe this treaty, some effort should be made to
     compel the Indians to observe it likewise.

     "The occupation by the settlers of the Black Hills country had
     nothing to do with the hostilities which have been in progress. In
     fact, by the continuous violations by these Indians of the treaty
     referred to, the settlers were furnished with at least a reasonable
     excuse for such occupation, in that a treaty so long and
     persistently violated by the Indians themselves, should not be
     quoted as a valid instrument for the preventing of such occupation.
     Since the occupation of the Black Hills there has not been any
     greater number of depredations committed by the Indians than
     previous to such occupation; in truth, the people who have gone to
     the Hills have not suffered any more and probably not as much from
     Indians, as they would had they remained at their homes along the

     "In 1868," says Wm. R. Steele, delegate from Wyoming, "the United
     States made a treaty with the Sioux Nation, which was a grave
     mistake, if it was not a national dishonor and disgrace; that
     treaty has been the foundation of all the difficulties in the Sioux
     country. In 1866, Gen. Pope established posts at Fort Phil Kearney,
     Reno, and Fort Smith, so as to open the road to Montana and protect
     the country and friendly Crows from the hostile Sioux. In keeping
     these posts and opening that road, many men, citizens and soldiers,
     had been killed. Notable among the actions that had taken place was
     the massacre of Fetterman and his command at Fort Phil Kearney; and
     yet after these men had sacrificed their lives, the Government went
     to work and made a treaty by which it ignominiously abandoned that
     country to these savages, dismantling its own forts, and leaving
     there the bones of men who had laid down their lives in the
     wilderness. Was it to be wondered at, under these circumstances,
     that Sitting Bull and his men believed they were superior to the
     general government? Any body who knows anything about Indian
     nature knows that the legitimate result of that cowardly policy of
     peace at any price, was to defer only the evil day which has now
     come upon us. Since that time the Sioux have been constantly
     depredating on the frontiers of Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana, and
     more men have fallen there in the peaceful vocations of civil life,
     without a murmur being heard, than fell under the gallant Custer.
     The friendly Crows have been raided with every full moon; so with
     the Shoshones; and at last these outrages have become so great and
     so long continued that even the peaceable Indian Department could
     not stand them any longer, and called on the military arm of the
     Government to punish these men."

     President Grant, in his message of December, 1876, uses the
     following language:--"A policy has been adopted towards the Indian
     tribes inhabiting a large portion of the territory of the United
     States, which has been humane, and has substantially ended Indian
     hostilities in the whole land, except in a portion of Nebraska, and
     Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana territories, the Black Hills region,
     and approaches thereto. Hostilities there have grown out of the
     avarice of the white man, who has violated our treaty stipulations
     in his search for gold. The question might be asked, why the
     Government had not enforced obedience to the terms of the treaty
     prohibiting the occupation of the Black Hills region by whites? The
     answer is simple. The first immigrants to the Black Hills were
     removed by troops, but rumors of rich discoveries of gold took into
     that region increased numbers. Gold has actually been found in
     paying quantity, and an effort to remove the miners would only
     result in the desertion of the bulk of the troops that might be
     sent there to remove them."

The causes and objects of the military operations against the Sioux in
1876, as stated by the Secretary of War in a letter to the President
dated July 8th, 1876, were in part as follows:--

     "The present military operations are not against the Sioux nation
     at all, but against certain hostile parts of it which defy the
     Government, and are undertaken at the special request of the bureau
     of the Government charged with their supervision, and wholly to
     make the civilization of the remainder possible. No part of these
     operations are on or near the Sioux reservation. The accidental
     discovery of gold on the western border of the Sioux reservation
     and the intrusion of our people thereon have not caused this war,
     and have only complicated it by the uncertainty of numbers to be
     encountered. The young warriors love war, and frequently escape
     their agents to go to the hunt or war path--their only idea of the
     object of life. The object of these military expeditions was in the
     interest of the peaceful parts of the Sioux nation, supposed to
     embrace at least nine-tenths of the whole, and not one of these
     peaceful treaty Indians has been molested by the military

Of the hostile Indians referred to by the Secretary of War, Hon. E.P.
Smith, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, reported Nov. 1st, 1875:--"It
will probably be found necessary to compel the Northern non-treaty
Sioux, under the leadership of Sitting Bull, who have never yet in any
way recognized the United States Government, except by snatching rations
occasionally at an agency, and such outlaws from the several agencies as
have attached themselves to these same hostiles, to cease marauding and
settle down, as the other Sioux have done, at some designated point."

Soon afterwards, Indian Inspector E.C. Watkins addressed the
Commissioner respecting these Indians, as follows:--"The true policy in
my judgment is to send troops against them in winter, the sooner the
better, and whip them into subjection. They richly merit punishment for
their incessant warfare and their numerous murders of white settlers and
their families, or white men whenever found unarmed."

Early in December, by the advice of the Secretary of the Interior,
Commissioner Smith directed that runners be sent out to notify "said
Indian Sitting Bull, and others outside their reservation, that they
must move to the reservation before the 31st day of January, 1876; that
if they neglect or refuse so to move, they will be reported to the War
Department as hostile Indians, and that a military force will be sent to
compel them to obey the order of the Indian officer." Respecting this
order to the Indians, Bishop Whipple, in a letter to the _New York
Tribune_, says:--

     "There was an inadequate supply of provisions at the agencies that
     Fall, and the Indians went out to their unceded territory to hunt.
     They went as they were accustomed to do--with the consent of their
     agents and as provided by the treaty. * * * The Indians had gone a
     way from the agencies to secure food, and skins for clothing. The
     United States had set apart this very country as a hunting-ground
     for them forever. Eight months after this order to return or be
     treated as hostile, Congress appropriated money for the seventh of
     thirty installments for these roaming Indians. It was impossible
     for the Indians to obey the order. No one of the runners sent out
     to inform the Indians, was able to return himself by the time
     appointed; yet Indian women and children were expected to travel a
     treeless desert, without food or proper clothing, under the penalty
     of death."

As the order and warning were disregarded by the Indians, the Secretary
of the Interior notified the Secretary of War, Feb. 1st, 1876, that "the
time given him (Sitting Bull) in which to return to an agency having
expired, and advices received at the Indian Office being to the effect
that Sitting Bull still refuses to comply with the direction of the
Commissioner, the said Indians are hereby turned over to the War
Department for such action on the part of the army as you may deem
proper under the circumstances."

By direction of Lieut. General Sheridan, Commander over the vast extent
of territory included in the Military Division of Missouri, Brig. Gen.
George Crook, Commander of the Department of the Platte, an officer of
great merit and experience in Indian fighting, now undertook to reduce
these Indian outlaws to subjection, and made preparations for an
expedition against them.



General Crook started from Fort Fetterman, W.T., March 1st, 1876, at the
head of an expedition composed of ten companies of the 2d and 3d Cavalry
under Col. J.J. Reynolds, and two companies of the 4th Infantry, with
teamsters, guides, etc., amounting in all to nearly nine hundred men.
His course was nearly north, past the abandoned Forts Reno and Phil.
Kearney to Tongue River. He descended this river nearly to the
Yellowstone, scouted Rosebud River, and then changed his course to the
south-east toward Powder River. At a point on the head of Otter Creek,
Crook divided his command, and sent Col. Reynolds with six companies of
cavalry and one day's rations to follow the trail of two Indians
discovered that day in the snow.

Col. Reynolds moved at 5 P.M. of the 16th, and at 4.20 A.M., after a
night's march of thirty miles, was near the forks of Powder River. The
following extracts are copied from a letter written to the _New York

     "A halt was called here and the column took shelter in a ravine. No
     fires were allowed to be kindled, nor even a match lighted. The
     cold was intense and seemed to be at least 30° below zero. The
     command remained here till about 6 o'clock, doing their uttermost
     to keep from freezing, the scouts meantime going out to
     reconnoitre. At this hour they returned, reporting a larger and
     fresher trail leading down to the river which was about four miles
     distant. The column immediately started on the trail. The approach
     to the river seemed almost impracticable. Before reaching the final
     precipices which overlooked the riverbed, the scouts discovered
     that a village lay in the valley at the foot of the bluffs. It was
     now 8 o'clock. The sun shone brightly through the cold frosty air.

     "The column halted, and Noyes's battalion, 2d Cavalry, was ordered
     up to the front. It consisted of Company I, Capt. Noyes, and
     Company K, Capt. Egan. This battalion was ordered to descend to the
     valley, and while Egan charged the camp, Noyes was to cut out the
     herd of horses feeding close by and drive it up the river. Capt.
     Moore's battalion of two companies was ordered to dismount and
     proceed along the edge of the ridge to a position covering the
     eastern side of the village opposite that from which Egan was to
     charge. Capt. Mills's battalion was ordered to follow Egan
     dismounted, and support him in the engagement which might follow
     the charge.

     "These columns began the descent of the mountain, through gorges
     which were almost perpendicular. Nearly two hours were occupied in
     getting the horses of the charging columns down these rough sides
     of the mountain, and even then, when a point was reached where the
     men could mount their horses and proceed toward the village in the
     narrow valley beneath, Moore's battalion had not been able to gain
     its position on the eastern side after clambering along the edges
     of the mountain. A few Indians could be seen with the herd, driving
     it to the edge of the river, but nothing indicated that they knew
     of our approach.

     "Just at 9 o'clock Capt. Egan turned the point of the mountain
     nearest the river, and first in a walk and then in a rapid trot
     started for the village. The company went first in column of twos,
     but when within 200 yards of the village the command 'Left front
     into line' was given, and with a yell they rushed into the
     encampment. Capt. Noyes had in the meantime wheeled to the right
     and started the herd up the river. With the yell of the charging
     column the Indians sprang up as if by magic and poured in a rapid
     fire from all sides. Egan charged through and through the village
     before Moore's and Mills's battalions got within supporting
     distance, and finding things getting very hot, formed his line in
     some high willows on the south side of the camp, from which he
     poured in rapid volleys upon the Indians.

     "Up to this time the Indians supposed that one company was all they
     had to contend with, but when the other battalions appeared,
     rapidly advancing, deployed as skirmishers and pouring in a galling
     fire of musketry, they broke on all sides and took refuge in the
     rocks along the side of the mountain. The camp, consisting of 110
     lodges, with immense quantities of robes, fresh meat, and plunder
     of all kinds, with over 700 head of horses were in our possession.
     The work of burning immediately began, and soon the whole
     encampment was in flames.

     "After the work of destruction was completed the whole command
     moved rapidly up the river twenty miles to Lodgepole Creek. This
     point was reached at nightfall by all except Moore's battalion and
     Egan's company. Company E was the rear guard, and assisted Major
     Stanton and the scouts in bringing up the herd of horses; many of
     these were shot on the road, and the remainder reached camp about 9
     P.M. These troops had been in the saddle for 36 hours, with the
     exception of five hours during which they were fighting, and all,
     officers and men, were much exhausted.

     "Upon arriving at Lodgepole, it was found that General Crook and
     the other four companies and pack-train had not arrived, so that
     everybody was supperless and without a blanket. The night,
     therefore, was not a cheerful one, but not a murmur was heard. The
     tired men lay upon the snow or leaned against a tree, and slept as
     best they could on so cold a night. Saturday, at noon, General
     Crook arrived. In the meantime a portion of the herd of horses had
     straggled into the ravines, and fallen into the hands of the

The village thus destroyed was that of Crazy Horse, one of the avowedly
hostile chiefs. "He had with him," wrote Gen. Crook, "the Northern
Cheyennes, and some of the Minneconjous--probably in all one-half of the
Indians off the reservations." The Indian loss was unknown. Four of
Reynolds' men were killed, and six men including one officer were
wounded. The whole force subsequently returned to Fort Fetterman,
reaching there March 26th.

The results of this expedition were neither conclusive or satisfactory.
Therefore, Gen. Sheridan determined to proceed more systematically by
concentric movements. He ordered three distinct columns to be prepared
to move to a common centre, where the hostiles were supposed to be, from
Montana, from Dakota, and from the Platte. The two former fell under the
command of Gen. Alfred H. Terry, Commander of the Department of Dakota,
and the latter under Gen. Crook. These movements were to be
simultaneous, so that Indians avoiding one column might be encountered
by another.

Gen. Crook marched from Fort Fetterman on the 29th of May, with two
battalions of the 2d and 3d Cavalry under Lieut. Col. W.B. Royall, and a
battalion of five companies of the 4th and 9th Infantry under Major
Alex. Chambers, with a train of wagons, pack-mules, and Indian scouts,
all amounting to 47 officers and 1,000 men present for duty. This
expedition marched by the same route as the preceding one, to a point on
Goose Creek, which is the head of Tongue River, where a supply camp was
established on June 8th. During the preceding night a party of Sioux
came down on the encampment, and endeavored to stampede the horses,
bringing on an engagement which resulted in the discomfiture and retreat
of the enemy. On the 14th, a band of Shoshones and Crows--Indians
unfriendly to the Sioux--joined Crook, and were provided with arms and

The aggressive column of the expedition resumed the march forward on the
morning of the 16th, leaving the trains parked at the Goose Creek camp.
The infantry were mounted on mules borrowed from the pack-train, and
each man carried his own supplies consisting of only three days' rations
and one blanket. At night, after marching about 35 miles, the little
army encamped between high bluffs at the head waters of Rosebud River.

At 5 A.M. on the morning of the 17th the troops started down the valley
of the Rosebud, the Indian allies marching in front and on the flanks.
After advancing about seven miles successive shots were heard in front,
the scouts came running in to report Indians advancing, and Gen. Crook
had hardly time to form his men, before large numbers of warriors fully
prepared for a fight were in view.

The battle which ensued was on both banks of the Rosebud, near the upper
end of a deep canyon having sides which were steep, covered with pine,
and apparently impregnable, through which the stream ran. The Indians
displayed a strong force at all points, and contested the ground with a
tenacity which indicated that they were fighting for time to remove
their village, which was supposed to be about six miles down the Rosebud
at the lower end of the canyon, or believed themselves strong enough to
defeat their opponents.

The officers and men of Crook's command behaved with marked gallantry
during the engagement. The Sioux were finally repulsed in their bold
onset, and lost many of their bravest warriors; but when they fled they
could not be pursued far without great danger owing to the roughness of
the country. The Indian allies were full of enthusiasm but not very
manageable, preferring to fight independently of orders. Crook's losses
were nine soldiers killed, and twenty-one wounded, including Capt. Henry
of the 3d Cavalry. Seven of the friendly Indians were wounded, and one
was killed.

Gen. Crook was satisfied that the number and quality of the enemy
required more men than he had, and being encumbered with wounded he
concluded to retreat. The night was passed on the battle-field, and the
next day he started for his camp on Goose Creek, which was reached June
19th. Couriers were sent to Fort Fetterman for reinforcements and
supplies, and the command remained inactive for several weeks awaiting
their arrival.

The battle of the Rosebud was fought not very far from the scene of
Custer's defeat a few days later, and Gen. Crook concludes that his
opponents were the same that Custer and Reno encountered.

"It now became apparent," says Gen. Sheridan in his report "that Gen.
Crook had not only Crazy Horse and his small band to contend with, but
that the hostile force had been augmented by large numbers of the young
warriors from the agencies along the Missouri River, and the Red Cloud
and Spotted Tail agencies in Nebraska, and that the Indian agents at
these agencies had concealed the fact of the departure of these
warriors, and that in most cases they continued to issue rations as
though they were present."



General Terry left Fort Abraham Lincoln on the Missouri River, May 17th
1876, with his division, consisting of the 7th Cavalry under Lieut. Col.
George A. Custer, three companies of infantry, a battery of Gatling
guns, and 45 enlisted scouts. His whole force, exclusive of the
wagon-train drivers, numbered about 1000 men. His march was westerly,
over the route taken by the Stanley expedition in 1873.

On the 11th of June, Terry reached the south bank of the Yellowstone at
the mouth of Powder River, where by appointment he met steamboats, and
established his supply camp. A scouting party of six companies of the
7th Cavalry under Major M.A. Reno was sent out June 10th, which ascended
Powder River to its forks, crossed westerly to Tongue River and beyond,
and discovered, near Rosebud River, a heavy Indian trail about ten days
old leading westward toward Little Big Horn River. After following this
trail a short distance Reno returned to the Yellowstone and rejoined his
regiment, which then marched, accompanied by steamboats, to the mouth of
Rosebud River where it encamped June 21st. Communication by steamboats
and scouts had previously been opened with Col. John Gibbon, whose
column was at this time encamped on the north side of the Yellowstone,
near by.

Col. Gibbon of the 7th Infantry had left Fort Ellis in Montana about the
middle of May, with a force consisting of six companies of his regiment,
and four companies of the 2d Cavalry under Major J.S. Brisbin. He had
marched eastward down the north bank of the Yellowstone to the mouth of
the Rosebud, where he encamped about June 1st.

Gen. Terry now consulted with Gibbon and Custer, and decided upon a plan
for attacking the Indians who were believed to be assembled in large
numbers near Big Horn River. Custer with his regiment was to ascend the
valley of the Rosebud, and then turn towards Little Big Horn River,
keeping well to the south. Gibbon's troops were to cross the Yellowstone
at the mouth of Big Horn River, and march up the Big Horn to its
junction with the Little Big Horn, to co-operate with Custer. It was
hoped that the Indians would thus be brought between the two forces so
that their escape would be impossible.

Col. Gibbon's column was immediately put in motion for the mouth of the
Big Horn. On the next day, June 22d, at noon, Custer announced himself
ready to start, and drew out his regiment. It consisted of 12 companies,
numbering 28 officers and 747 soldiers. There were also a strong
detachment of scouts and guides, several civilians, and a supply train
of 185 pack mules. Gen. Terry reviewed the column in the presence of
Gibbon and Brisbin, and it was pronounced in splendid condition. "The
officers clustered around Terry for a final shake of the hand, the last
good-bye was said, and in the best of spirits, filled with high hopes,
they galloped away--many of them to their death."

Gen. Terry's orders to Custer were as follows:--

                         June 22d, 1876.}

     _Lieut. Col. Custer, 7th Cavalry._

     COLONEL: The Brigadier General Commanding directs that as soon as
     your regiment can be made ready for the march, you proceed up the
     Rosebud in pursuit of the Indians whose trail was discovered by
     Major Reno a few days ago. It is, of course, impossible to give any
     definite instructions in regard to this movement, and, were it not
     impossible to do so, the Department Commander places too much
     confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon
     you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in
     contact with the enemy. He will, however, indicate to you his own
     views of what your action should be, and he desires that you should
     conform to them unless you shall see sufficient reason for
     departing from them. He thinks that you should proceed up the
     Rosebud until you ascertain definitely the direction in which the
     trail above spoken of leads. Should it be found (as it appears to
     be almost certain that it will be found) to turn towards the Little
     Big Horn, he thinks that you should still proceed southward perhaps
     as far as the head waters of the Tongue, and then turn toward the
     Little Big Horn, feeling constantly, however, to your left, so as
     to preclude the possibility of the escape of the Indians to the
     south or south-east by passing around your left flank. The column
     of Col. Gibbon is now in motion for the mouth of the Big Horn. As
     soon as it reaches that point it will cross the Yellowstone, and
     move up at least as far as the forks of the Big and Little Big
     Horn. Of course its future movements must be controlled by
     circumstances as they arise; but it is hoped that the Indians, if
     up on the Little Big Horn, may be so nearly inclosed by the two
     columns that their escape will be impossible. The Department
     Commander desires that on your way up the Rosebud you should
     thoroughly examine the upper part of Tulloch's Creek, and that you
     should endeavor to send a scout through to Col. Gibbon's column
     with information of the result of your examination. The lower part
     of this creek will be examined by a detachment from Col. Gibbon's
     command. The supply steamer will be pushed up the Big Horn as far
     as the forks of the river are found to be navigable for that space,
     and the Department Commander, who will accompany the column of Col.
     Gibbon, desires you to report to him there not later than the
     expiration of the time for which your troops are rationed, unless
     in the meantime you receive further orders. Respectfully, &c.,

     E.W. SMITH, Captain 18th Infantry,

     Acting Assistant Adjutant General.

After proceeding southerly up the Rosebud for about seventy miles,
Custer, at 11 P.M. on the night of the 24th, turned westerly towards
Little Big Horn River. The next morning while crossing the elevated land
between the two rivers, a large Indian village was discovered about
fifteen miles distant, just across Little Big Horn River. Custer with
characteristic promptness decided to attack the village at once.

One company was escorting the train at the rear. The balance of the
force was divided into three columns. The trail they were on led down to
the stream at a point some distance south of the village. Major Reno,
with three companies under Capt. T.H. French, Capt. Myles Moylan, and
Lieut. Donald Mclntosh, was ordered to follow the trail, cross the
stream, and charge down its north bank. Capt. F.W. Benteen, with his own
company and two others under Capt. T. B. Weir and Lieut. E.S. Godfrey,
was sent to make a detour to the south of Reno. The other five companies
of the regiment, under the immediate command of Custer, formed the right
of the little army.

On reaching the river Reno crossed it as ordered, and Custer with his
five companies turned northerly into a ravine running behind the bluffs
on the east side of the stream.



The supply steamer Far West with Gen. Terry and Col. Gibbon on board,
which steamed up the Yellowstone on the evening of June 23d, overtook
Gibbon's troops near the mouth of the Big Horn early on the morning of
the 24th; and by 4 o'clock P.M. of the same day, the entire command with
the animals and supplies had been ferried over to the south side of the
Yellowstone. An hour later the column marched out to and across
Tulloch's Creek, and then encamped for the night.

At 5 o'clock on the morning of the 25th, (Sunday) the column was again
in motion; and after marching 22 miles over a country so rugged as to
task the endurance of the men to the utmost, the infantry halted for the
night. Gen. Terry, however, with the cavalry and the battery pushed on
14 miles further in hopes of opening communication with Custer, and
camped at midnight near the mouth of the Little Big Horn.

Scouts sent out from Terry's camp early on the morning of the 26th
discovered three Indians, who proved to be Crows who had accompanied
Custer's regiment. They reported that a battle had been fought and that
the Indians were killing white men in great numbers. Their story was not
fully credited, as it was not expected that a conflict would occur so
soon, or believed that serious disaster could have overtaken so large a

The infantry, which had broken camp very early, now came up, and the
whole column crossed the Little Big Horn and moved up its western
valley. It was soon reported that a dense heavy smoke was resting over
the southern horizon far ahead, and in a short time it became visible to
all. This was hailed as a sign that Custer had met the Indians, defeated
them, and burned their village. The weary foot soldiers were elated and
freshened by the sight, and pressed on with increased spirit and speed.

Custer's position was believed to be not far ahead, and efforts were
repeatedly made during the afternoon to open communication with him; but
the scouts who attempted to go through were met and driven back by
hostile Indians who were hovering in the front. As evening came on,
their numbers increased and large parties could be seen on the bluffs
hurrying from place to place and watching every movement of the
advancing soldiers.

At 8:40 in the evening the infantry had marched that day about 30 miles.
The forks of the Big Horn, the place where Terry had requested Custer to
report to him, were many miles behind and the expected messenger from
Custer had not arrived. Daylight was fading, the men were fatigued, and
the column was therefore halted for the night. The animals were
picketed, guards were set, and the weary men, wrapped in their blankets
and with their weapons beside them, were soon asleep on the ground.

Early on the morning of the 27th the march up the Little Big Horn was
resumed. The smoke cloud was still visible and apparently but a short
distance ahead. Soon a dense grove of trees was reached and passed
through cautiously, and then the head of the column entered a beautiful
level meadow about a mile in width, extending along the west side of the
stream and overshadowed east and west by high bluffs. It soon became
apparent that this meadow had recently been the site of an immense
Indian village, and the great number of temporary brushwood and willow
huts indicated that many Indians beside the usual inhabitants had
rendezvoused there. It was also evident that it had been hastily
deserted. Hundreds of lodge-poles, with finely-dressed buffalo-robes and
other hides, dried meat, stores, axes, utensils, and Indian trinkets
were left behind; and in two tepees or lodges still standing, were the
bodies of nine Indians who had gone to the "happy hunting-grounds."

Every step of the march now revealed some evidence that a conflict had
taken place not far away. The dead bodies of Indian horses were seen,
and cavalry equipments and weapons, bullet-pierced clothing, and
blood-stained gloves were picked up; and at last the bodies of soldiers
and their horses gave positive proof that a disastrous battle had taken
place. The Crow Indians had told the truth.

The head of the column was now met by a breathless scout, who came
running up with the intelligence that Major Reno with a body of troops
was intrenched on a bluff further on, awaiting relief. The soldiers
pushed ahead in the direction pointed out, and soon came in sight of men
and horses intrenched on top of a hill on the opposite or east side of
the river. Terry and Gibbon immediately forded the stream and rode
toward the group. As they approached the top of the hill, they were
welcomed by hearty cheers from a swarm of soldiers who came out of
their intrenchments to meet their deliverers. The scene was a touching
one. Stout-hearted soldiers who had kept bravely up during the hours of
conflict and danger now cried like children, and the pale faces of the
wounded lighted up as hope revived within them.

The story of the relieved men briefly told was as follows:--After
separating from Custer about noon, June 25th, (as related in the last
chapter) Reno proceeded to the river, forded it, and charged down its
west bank toward the village, meeting at first with but little
resistance. Soon however he was attacked by such numbers as to be
obliged to dismount his men, shelter his horses in a strip of woods, and
fight on foot. Finding that they would soon be surrounded and defeated,
he again mounted his men, and charging upon such of the enemy as
obstructed his way, retreated across the river, and reached the top of a
bluff followed closely by Indians. Just then Benteen, returning from his
detour southward, discovered Reno's perilous position, drove back the
Indians, and joined him on the hill. Shortly afterward, the company
which was escorting the mule train also joined Reno. The seven companies
thus brought together had been subsequently assailed by Indians; many of
the men had been killed and wounded, and it was only by obstinate
resistance that they had been enabled to defend themselves in an
entrenched position. The enemy had retired on the evening of the 26th.

After congratulations to Reno and his brave men for their successful
defence enquiries were made respecting Custer, but no one could tell
where he was. Neither he or any of his men had been seen since the fight
commenced, and the musketry heard from the direction he took had ceased
on the afternoon of the 25th. It was supposed by Reno and Benteen that
he had been repulsed, and retreated northerly towards Terry's troops.

A search for Custer and his men was immediately began, and it revealed a
scene calculated to appal the stoutest heart. Although neither Custer or
any of that part of his regiment which he led to combat were found alive
to tell the tale, an examination of their trail and the scene of
conflict enabled their comrades to form some idea of the engagement in
which they perished.




General Custer's trail, from the place where he left Reno's and turned
northward, passed along and in the rear of the crest of hills on the
east bank of the stream for nearly three miles, and then led, through an
opening in the bluff, down to the river. Here Custer had evidently
attempted to cross over to attack the village. The trail then turned
back on itself, as if Custer had been repulsed and obliged to retreat,
and branched to the northward, as if he had been prevented from
returning southerly by the way he came, or had determined to retreat in
the direction from which Terry's troops were advancing.

Several theories as to the subsequent movements of the troops have been
entertained by persons who visited the grounds. One is, that the
soldiers in retreating took advantage of two ravines; that two companies
under Capt. T.W. Custer and Lieut. A. E. Smith, were led by Gen. Custer
up the ravine nearest the river, while the upper ravine furnished a line
of retreat for the three companies of Capt. G.W. Yates, Capt. M.W.
Keogh, and Lieut. James Calhoun. At the head of this upper ravine, a
mile from the river, a stand had been made by Calhoun's company; the
skirmish lines were marked by rows of the slain with heaps of empty
cartridge shells before them, and Lieuts. Calhoun and Crittenden lay
dead just behind the files. Further on, Capt. Keogh had fallen
surrounded by his men; and still further on, upon a hill, Capt. Yates'
company took its final stand. Here, according to this theory, Yates was
joined by what remained of the other two companies, who had been
furiously assailed in the lower ravine; and here Gen. Custer and the
last survivors of the five companies met their death, fighting bravely
to the end.

Another theory of the engagement is, that Custer attempted to retreat up
the lower ravine in columns of companies; that the companies of Custer
and Smith being first in the advance and last in the retreat, fell first
in the slaughter which followed the retrograde movement; that Yates'
company took the position on the hill, and perished there with Custer
and other officers; and that the two other companies, Keogh's and
Calhoun's, perished while fighting their way back towards Reno--a few
reaching the place where Custer first struck the high banks of the

Still another theory is, that the main line of retreat was by the upper
ravine; that Calhoun's company was thrown across to check the Indians,
and was the first annihilated. That the two companies of Capt. Custer
and Lieut. Smith retreated from the place where Gen. Custer was killed
into the lower ravine, and were the last survivors of the conflict.

Near the highest point of the hill lay the body of General Custer, and
near by were those of his brother Captain Custer, Lieut. Smith, Capt.
Yates, Lieut. W. V. Riley of Yates' company, and Lieut. W.W. Cooke. Some
distance away, close together, were found another brother of Gen.
Custer--Boston Custer, a civilian, who had accompanied the expedition
as forage master of the 7th Cavalry--and his nephew Armstrong Reed, a
youth of nineteen, who was visiting the General at the time the
expedition started, and accompanied it as a driver of the herd of cattle
taken along. The wife of Lieut. Calhoun was a sister of the Custer's,
and she here lost her husband, three brothers, and a nephew.

Other officers of Custer's battalion killed but not already mentioned,
were Asst. Surgeon L.W. Lord, and Lieuts. H.M. Harrington, J.E. Porter,
and J.G. Sturgis. The last named was a West Point graduate of 1875, and
a son of General S.D. Sturgis, the Colonel of the 7th Cavalry, who had
been detained by other duties when his regiment started on this
expedition. The bodies of the slain were rifled of valuables and all
were mutilated excepting Gen. Custer, and Mark Kellogg--a correspondent
of the _New York Herald_. Gen. Custer was clad in a buckskin suit; and a
Canadian--Mr. Macdonald--was subsequently informed by Indians who were
in the fight, that for this reason he was not mangled, as they took him
to be some brave hunter accidentally with the troops. Others believe
that Custer was passed by from respect for the heroism of one whom the
Indians had learned to fear and admire.

The dead were buried June 28th, where they fell, Major Reno and the
survivors of his regiment performing the last sad rites over their

A retreat to the mouth of Big Horn River was now ordered and
successfully effected, the wounded being comfortably transported on mule
litters to the mouth of the Little Big Horn, where they were placed on a
steamboat and taken to Fort Lincoln. Gibbon's Cavalry followed the
Indians for about ten miles, and ascertained that they had moved to the
south and west by several trails. A good deal of property had been
thrown away by them to lighten their march, and was found scattered
about. Many of their dead were also discovered secreted in ravines a
long distance from the battle field.

At the boat was found one of Custer's scouts, who had been in the
fight--a Crow named Curley; his story was as follows:--

     "Custer kept down the river on the north bank four miles, after
     Reno had crossed to the south side above. He thought Reno would
     drive down the valley, to attack the village at the upper end,
     while he (Custer) would go in at the lower end. Custer had to go
     further down the river and further away from Reno than he wished on
     account of the steep bank along the north side; but at last he
     found a ford and dashed for it. The Indians met him and poured in a
     heavy fire from across the narrow river. Custer dismounted to fight
     on foot, but could not get his skirmishers over the stream.
     Meantime hundreds of Indians, on foot and on ponies, poured over
     the river, which was only about three feet deep, and filled the
     ravine on each side of Custer's men. Custer then fell back to some
     high ground behind him and seized the ravines in his immediate
     vicinity. The Indians completely surrounded Custer and poured in a
     terrible fire on all sides. They charged Custer on foot in vast
     numbers, but were again and again driven back.

     "The fight began about 2 o'clock, and lasted almost until the sun
     went down over the hills. The men fought desperately, and after the
     ammunition in their belts was exhausted went to their saddlebags,
     got more and continued the fight. Custer lived until nearly all his
     men had been killed or wounded, and went about encouraging his
     soldiers to fight on. He got a shot in the left side and sat down,
     with his pistol in his hand. Another shot struck Custer in the
     breast, and he fell over. The last officer killed was a man who
     rode a white horse--believed to be Lieut. Cooke, as Cooke and
     Calhoun were the only officers who rode white horses.

     "When he saw Custer hopelessly surrounded he watched his
     opportunity, got a Sioux blanket, put it on, and worked up a
     ravine, and when the Sioux charged, he got among them and they did
     not know him from one of their own men. There were some mounted
     Sioux, and seeing one fall, he ran to him, mounted his pony, and
     galloped down as if going towards the white men, but went up a
     ravine and got away. As he rode off he saw, when nearly a mile from
     the battle field, a dozen or more soldiers in a ravine, fighting
     with Sioux all around them. He thinks all were killed, as they were
     outnumbered five to one, and apparently dismounted. The battle was
     desperate in the extreme, and more Indians than white men must have
     been killed."

The following extract is from a letter written to Gen. Sheridan by Gen.
Terry at his camp on the Big Horn, July 2d:--

     "We calculated it would take Gibbon's command until the 26th to
     reach the mouth of the Little Big Horn, and that the wide sweep I
     had proposed Custer should make would require so much time that
     Gibbon would be able to co-operate with him in attacking any
     Indians that might be found on the stream. I asked Custer how long
     his marches would be. He said they would be at the rate of about 30
     miles a day. Measurements were made and calculations based on that
     rate of progress. I talked with him about his strength, and at one
     time suggested that perhaps it would be well for me to take
     Gibbon's cavalry and go with him. To the latter suggestion he
     replied:--that, without reference to the command, he would prefer
     his own regiment alone. As a homogeneous body, as much could be
     done with it as with the two combined. He expressed the utmost
     confidence that he had all the force that he could need, and I
     shared his confidence. The plan adopted was the only one which
     promised to bring the infantry into action, and I desired to make
     sure of things by getting up every available man. I offered Custer
     the battery of Gatling guns, but he declined it, saying that it
     might embarrass him, and that he was strong enough without it. The
     movements proposed by General Gibbon's column were carried out to
     the letter, and had the attack been deferred until it was up, I
     cannot doubt that we should have been successful."



After the battle in which Lieut. Col. Custer lost his life, the command
of the 7th Cavalry regiment devolved on Major Reno. The following is a
copy of Reno's official report to Gen. Terry, excepting that a few
unimportant paragraphs are omitted. It is dated July 5th, 1876.

     "The regiment left the camp at the mouth of Rosebud River, after
     passing in review before the department commander, under command of
     Brevet Major General G.A. Custer, Lieutenant Colonel, on the
     afternoon of the 22d of June, and marched up the Rosebud 12 miles
     and encamped. 23d--Marched up the Rosebud, passing many old Indian
     camps, and following a very large lodge-pole trail, but not fresh,
     making 33 miles. 24th--The march was continued up the Rosebud, the
     trail and signs freshening with every mile until we had made 28
     miles, and we then encamped and waited for information from the
     scouts. At 9.25 P.M., Custer called the officers together, and
     informed us that beyond a doubt the village was in the valley of
     the Little Big Horn, and that to reach it, it was necessary to
     cross the divide between the Rosebud and Little Big Horn, and it
     would be impossible to do so in the daytime without discovering our
     march to the Indians; that we would prepare to move at 11 P.M. This
     was done, the line of march turning from the Rosebud to the right,
     up one of its branches, which headed near the summit of the divide.

     "About 2 A.M. of the 25th, the scouts told him that he could not
     cross the divide before daylight. We then made coffee and rested
     for three hours, at the expiration of which time the march was
     resumed, the divide crossed, and about 8 A.M. the command was in
     the valley of one of the branches of the Little Big Horn. By this
     time Indians had been seen, and it was certain that we could not
     surprise them, and it was determined to move at once to the attack.

     "Previous to this no division of the regiment had been made since
     the order was issued on the Yellowstone, annulling wing and
     battalion organizations. General Custer informed me he would assign
     commands on the march. I was ordered by Lieut. W.W. Cooke,
     Adjutant, to assume command of Companies M, A, and G; Capt. Benteen
     of Companies H, D, and K; Custer retaining C, E, F, I, and L, under
     his immediate command; and Company B, Capt. McDougall, being in
     rear of the pack train. I assumed command of the companies assigned
     to me, and without any definite orders, moved forward with the rest
     of the column, and well to its left. I saw Benteen moving further
     to the left, and, as they passed, he told me he had orders to move
     well to the left, and sweep everything before him; I did not see
     him again until about 2:30 P.M. The command moved down the creek
     towards the Little Big Horn Valley. Custer with five companies on
     the right bank; myself and three companies on the left bank; and
     Benteen further to the left, and out of sight.

     "As we approached a deserted village, in which was standing one
     tepee, about 11 A.M., Custer motioned me to cross to him, which I
     did, and moved nearer to his column, until about 12:30 A.M., when
     Lieut. Cooke came to me and said the village was only two miles
     ahead and running away. To 'move forward at as rapid a gait as I
     thought prudent and to charge afterward, and that the whole outfit
     would support me.' I think those were his exact words. I at once
     took a fast trot, and moved down about two miles, when I came to a
     ford of the river. I crossed immediately, and halted about ten
     minutes or less, to gather the battalion, sending word to Custer
     that I had everything in front of me, and that they were strong.

     "I deployed, and, with the Ree scouts on my left, charged down the
     valley, driving the Indians with great ease for about 2-1/2 miles.
     I, however, soon saw that I was being drawn into some trap, as they
     certainly would fight harder, and especially as we were nearing
     their village, which was still standing; besides, I could not see
     Custer or any other support; and at the same time the very earth
     seemed to grow Indians, and they were running toward me in swarms,
     and from all directions. I saw I must defend myself, and give up
     the attack mounted. This I did, taking possession of a point of
     woods, which furnished near its edge a shelter for the horses;
     dismounted, and fought them on foot, making headway through the
     woods. I soon found myself in the near vicinity of the village, saw
     that I was fighting odds of at least five to one, and that my only
     hope was to get out of the woods, where I would soon have been
     surrounded, and gain some high ground. I accomplished this by
     mounting and charging the Indians between me and the bluffs on the
     opposite side of the river. In this charge First Lieut. Donald
     McIntosh, Second Lieut. Benjamin H. Hodgson, and Acting Assistant
     Surgeon J. M. De Wolf were killed.

     "I succeeded in reaching the top of the bluff, with a loss of the
     three officers and 29 enlisted men killed, and seven men wounded.
     Almost at the same time I reached the top, mounted men were seen to
     be coming toward us, and it proved to be Capt. Benteen's battalion,
     Companies H, D, and K; we joined forces, and in a short time the
     pack train came up. As senior my command was then Companies A, B,
     D, G, H, K, and M, about 380 men; and the following
     officers:--Captains Benteen, Weir, French, and McDougall, First
     Lieutenants Godfrey, Mathey, and Gibson, Second Lieutenants
     Edgerly, Wallace, Varnum, and Hare, and A.A. Surgeon Porter. First
     Lieut. De Rudio was in the dismounted fight in the woods, but
     having some trouble with his horse did not join the command in the
     charge out, and hiding himself in the woods, joined the command
     after nightfall of the 26th.

     "Still hearing nothing of Custer, and with this reinforcement, I
     moved down the river in the direction of the village, keeping on
     the bluffs. We had heard firing in that direction, and knew it
     could only be Custer. I moved to the summit of the highest bluff,
     but seeing and hearing nothing, sent Capt. Weir, with his company,
     to open communication with the other command. He soon sent back
     word by Lieut. Hare that he could go no further, and that the
     Indians were getting around him. At this time he was keeping up a
     heavy fire from his skirmish line. I at once turned everything back
     to the first position I had taken on the bluff, and which seemed to
     me the best. I dismounted the men, had the horses and mules of the
     pack train driven together in a depression, put the men on the
     crests of the hills making the depression, and had hardly done so
     when I was furiously attacked. This was about 6 P.M. We held our
     ground, with the loss of 18 enlisted men killed and 46 wounded,
     until the attack ceased, about 9 P.M.

     "As I knew by this time their overwhelming numbers, and had given
     up any support from the portion of the regiment with Custer, I had
     the men dig rifle-pits; barricaded with dead horses, mules, and
     boxes of hard bread, the opening of the depression toward the
     Indians in which the animals were herded; and made every exertion
     to be ready for what I saw would be a terrific assault the next
     day. All this night the men were busy, and the Indians holding a
     scalp dance underneath us in the bottom and in our hearing.

     "On the morning of the 26th I felt confident that I could hold my
     own, and was ready as far as I could be, when at daylight, about
     2:30 A.M., I heard the crack of two rifles. This was the signal for
     the beginning of a fire that I have never seen equaled. Every rifle
     was handled by an expert and skilled marksman, and with a range
     that exceeded our carbine; and it was simply impossible to show any
     part of the body, before it was struck. We could see, as the day
     brightened, countless hordes of them pouring up the valley from out
     the village, and scampering over the high points toward the places
     designated for them by their chiefs, and which entirely surrounded
     our position. They had sufficient numbers to completely encircle
     us, and men were struck on the opposite sides of the lines from
     which the shots were fired. I think we were fighting all the Sioux
     nation, and also all the desperados, renegades, half-breeds and
     squaw men, between the Missouri and the Arkansas and east of the
     Rocky Mountains. They must have numbered at least 2,500 warriors.

     "The fire did not slacken until about 9:30 A.M., and then we
     discovered that they were making a last desperate attempt, which
     was directed against the lines held by Companies H and M. In this
     attack they charged close enough to use their bows and arrows, and
     one man lying dead within our lines was touched by the 'coup stick'
     of one of the foremost Indians. When I say the stick was only about
     10 or 12 feet long, some idea of the desperate and reckless
     fighting of these people may be understood. This charge of theirs
     was gallantly repulsed by the men on that line led by Capt.
     Benteen. They also came close enough to send their arrows into the
     line held by Companies D and K, but were driven away by a like
     charge of the line, which I accompanied. We now had many wounded,
     and the question of water was vital, as from 6 P.M. of the previous
     evening until now, 10 A.M. (about 16 hours) we had been without it.
     A skirmish line was formed under Capt. Benteen, to protect the
     descent of volunteers down the hill in front of his position to
     reach the water. We succeeded in getting some canteens, although
     many of the men were hit in doing so.

     "The fury of the attack was now over, and to my astonishment the
     Indians were seen going in parties toward the village. But two
     solutions occurred to us for this movement--that they were going
     for something to eat, more ammunition (as they had been throwing
     arrows), or that Custer was coming. We took advantage of this lull
     to fill all vessels with water, and soon had it by the camp kettle
     full; but they continued to withdraw, and all firing ceased, save
     occasional shots from sharpshooters, sent to annoy us about the
     water. About 2 P.M. the grass in the bottom was set on fire, and
     followed up by Indians who encouraged its burning, and it was
     evident it was done for a purpose, which purpose I discovered,
     later on, to be the creation of a dense cloud of smoke, behind
     which they were packing and preparing to move their tepees.

     "It was between 6 and 7 P.M. that the village came out from behind
     the clouds of smoke and dust. We had a close and good view of them,
     as they filed away in the direction of the Big Horn Mountains,
     moving in almost perfect military order. The length of the column
     was fully equal to that of a large division of the cavalry corps of
     the Army of the Potomac, as I have seen it on its march.

     "We now thought of Custer, of whom nothing had been seen and
     nothing heard since the firing in his direction about 6 P.M. on the
     eve of the 25th, and we concluded that the Indians had gotten
     between him and us, and driven him toward the boat, at the mouth of
     Little Big Horn River; the awful fate that did befall him never
     occurring to any of us as within the limits of possibilities.
     During the night I changed my position, in order to secure an
     unlimited supply of water, and was prepared for their return,
     feeling sure they would do so, as they were in such numbers. But
     early in the morning of the 27th, and while we were on the _qui
     vive_ for Indians, I saw with my glass a dust some distance down
     the valley. There was no certainty for some time what they were,
     but finally I satisfied myself they were cavalry, and if so could
     only be Custer, as it was ahead of the time that I understood that
     General Terry could be expected. Before this time, however, I had
     written a communication to Gen. Terry, and three volunteers were to
     try and reach him (I had no confidence in the Indians with me, and
     could not get them to do anything). If this dust were Indians, it
     was possible they would not expect any one to leave. The men
     started, and were told to go as near as was safe to determine if
     the approaching column was white men, and to return at once in case
     they found it so; but if they were Indians to push on to General
     Terry. In a short time we saw them returning over the high bluff
     already alluded to; they were accompanied by a scout who had a note
     from Terry to Custer, saying, 'Crow scouts had come to camp saying
     he had been whipped, but it was not believed.' I think it was about
     10:30 A.M. that General Terry rode into my lines, and the fate of
     Custer and his brave men was soon determined by Capt. Benteen
     proceeding with his company to the battle ground.

     "The wounded in my lines were, during the afternoon and eve of the
     27th, moved to the camp of General Terry; and at 5 A.M. of the
     28th, I proceeded with the regiment to the battle ground of Custer,
     and buried 204 bodies, including the following named citizens:--Mr.
     Boston Custer, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Kellogg. The following named
     citizens and Indians, who were with my command, were also
     killed:--Charles Reynolds (guide and hunter); Isaiah (colored)
     interpreter; Bloody Knife (who fell from immediately by my side);
     Bob-tailed Bull and Stab of the Indian scouts.

     "After following over his trail, it is evident to me that Custer
     intended to support me by moving further down the stream, and
     attacking the village in flank; that he found the distance to the
     ford greater than he anticipated; that he did charge, but his march
     had taken so long, although his trail shows he moved rapidly, that
     they were ready for him; that Companies C and I, and perhaps part
     of Company E, crossed to the village or attempted it at the charge
     and were met by a staggering fire; and that they fell back to
     secure a position from which to defend themselves; but they were
     followed too closely by the Indians to permit him to form any kind
     of a line. I think had the regiment gone in as a body, and from the
     woods in which I fought advanced on the village, its destruction
     was certain; but he was fully confident they were running, or he
     would not have turned from me. I think (after the great number of
     Indians that were in the village) that the following reasons
     obtained for the misfortune: His rapid marching for two days and
     one night before the fight, attacking in the day time at 12 M. and
     when they were on the _qui vive_, instead of early in the morning;
     and lastly, his unfortunate division of the regiment into three

     "During my fight with the Indians I had the heartiest support from
     officers and men, but the conspicuous services of Brevet Colonel
     F.W. Benteen, I desire to call attention to especially, for if ever
     a soldier deserved recognition by his government for distinguished
     services, he certainly does.

     "The harrowing sight of the dead bodies crowning the height on
     which Custer fell, and which will remain vividly in my memory until
     death, is too recent for me not to ask the good people of this
     country whether a policy that sets opposing parties in the field,
     armed, clothed, and equipped by one and the same government, should
     not be abolished. All of which is respectfully submitted."

The following is Capt. Benteen's account of his detour to the south and
junction with Reno:--

     "I was sent with my battalion to the left to a line of bluffs about
     five miles off, with instructions to look for Indians and see what
     was to be seen, and if I saw nothing there to go on, and when I had
     satisfied myself that it was useless to go further in that
     direction to rejoin the main trail. After proceeding through a
     rough and difficult country, very tiring on the horses, and seeing
     nothing, and wishing to save the horses unnecessary fatigue, I
     decided to return to the main trail. Before I had proceeded a mile
     in the direction of the bluffs I was overtaken by the chief
     trumpeter and the sergeant major, with instructions from Gen.
     Custer to use my own discretion, and in case I should find any
     trace of Indians, at once to notify Gen. Custer.

     "Having marched rapidly and passed the line of bluffs on the left
     bank of a branch of the Little Big Horn which made into the main
     stream about two and a half miles above the ford crossed by Col.
     Reno's command, as ordered, I continued my march in the same
     direction. The whole time occupied in this march was about an hour
     and a half. As I was anxious to regain the main command, as there
     was no signs of Indians, I then decided to rejoin the main trail,
     as the country before me was mostly of the same character as that I
     had already passed over, without valley and without water, and
     offering no inducement for the Indians. No valleys were visible,
     not even the valley where the fight took place, until my command
     struck the river.

     "About three miles from the point where Reno crossed the ford, I
     met a sergeant bringing orders to the commanding officer of the
     rear guard, Capt. McDougall, to hurry up the pack trains. A mile
     further I was met by my trumpeter, bringing a written order from
     Lieut. Cooke, the adjutant of the regiment, to this
     effect:--'Benteen, come on; big village; be quick; bring packs:'
     and a postscript saying, 'Bring packs.' A mile or a mile and a half
     further on I first came in sight of the valley and Little Big Horn.
     About twelve or fifteen dismounted men were fighting on the plains
     with Indians, charging and recharging them. This body numbered
     about 900 at this time. Col. Reno's mounted party were retiring
     across the river to the bluffs. I did not recognize till later what
     part of the command this was, but was clear they had been beaten. I
     then marched my command in line to their succor.

     "On reaching the bluff I reported to Col. Reno, and first learned
     that the command had been separated and that Custer was not in that
     part of the field, and no one of Reno's command was able to inform
     me of the whereabouts of Gen. Custer. While the command was
     awaiting the arrival of the pack mules, a company was sent forward
     in the direction supposed to have been taken by Custer. After
     proceeding about a mile they were attacked and driven back. During
     this time I heard no heavy firing, and there was nothing to
     indicate that a heavy fight was going on, and I believe that at
     this time Custer's immediate command had been annihilated."

In a letter addressed to the _Army and Navy Journal_, Lieut. E.L.
Godfry, of Benteen's battalion, gives the following information:--

     "Captain Benteen was some six miles from the scene of action when
     he received Lieut. Cooke's note; he had no intimation that the
     battle had begun, of the force of the Indians, or plan of attack.
     Benteen pushed ahead; the packs followed, and not until he reached
     the high bluffs over-looking the river valley and near to where the
     troops afterwards were besieged did he know of the battle or
     immediate presence of the troops to the enemy; he could only hear
     occasional shots, not enough to intimate that a battle was going
     on. Soon after reaching this point two volleys were heard down the
     river where Gen. Custer was, but his force was not in sight. Soon
     after this Reno and Benteen joined. By accident Benteen's column
     constituted a reserve. It was well it was so. As soon as
     dispositions were made on the bluff, Weir's company was sent to
     look for Gen. Custer. He went to a high point about three-quarters
     of a mile down the river, from which he had a good view of the
     country. From it could be seen Custer's battle field, but there was
     nothing to indicate the result. The field was covered with Indians.
     He was recalled from the place; the packs closed up; ammunition was
     issued and the command moved down the river to, if possible, join
     Custer. Upon reaching this high point we could see nothing, hear
     nothing, to indicate Custer's vicinage. But immediately the Indians
     started for us."

The following is the narrative of George Herndon, a scout, published in
the _New York Herald_:--

     "At 11 P.M., June 24th, Custer followed the scouts up the
     right-hand fork of the Rosebud. About daylight we went into camp,
     made coffee, and soon after it was light the scouts brought Custer
     word that they had seen the village from the top of a divide that
     separates the Rosebud from Little Big Horn River. We moved up the
     creek until near its head, and concealed ourselves in a ravine. It
     was about three miles from the head of the creek where we then were
     to the top of the divide where the Indian scouts said the village
     could be seen, and after hiding his command, General Custer with a
     few orderlies galloped forward to look at the Indian camp. In about
     an hour he returned, and said he could not see the Indian village,
     but the scouts and a half-breed guide said they could distinctly
     see it some 15 miles off. Custer had 'officers' call' blown, gave
     his orders, and the command was put in fighting order. The scouts
     were ordered forward, and the regiment moved at a walk. After going
     about three miles the scouts reported Indians ahead, and the
     command then took the trail.

     "Our way lay down a little creek, a branch of the Little Big Horn,
     and after going some six miles we discovered an Indian lodge ahead
     and Custer bore down on it at a stiff trot. In coming to it we
     found ourselves in a freshly-abandoned Indian camp, all the lodges
     of which were gone except the one we saw, and on entering it we
     found it contained a dead Indian. From this point we could see into
     the Little Big Horn valley, and observed heavy clouds of dust
     rising about five miles distant. Many thought the Indians were
     moving away, and I think Custer believed so, for he sent word to
     Reno, who was ahead, to push on the scouts rapidly and head for the
     dust. Reno took a steady gallop down the creek bottom three miles
     to where it emptied into the Little Big Horn, and found a natural
     ford across Little Big Horn River. He started to cross, when the
     scouts came back and called out to him to hold on, that the Sioux
     were coming in large numbers to meet him. He crossed over, however,
     formed his companies on the prairie in line of battle, and moved
     forward at a trot, but soon took a gallop.

     "The valley was about three-fourths of a mile wide. On the left a
     line of low, round hills, and on the right the river bottom,
     covered with a growth of cottonwood trees and bushes. After
     scattering shots were fired from the hills and a few from the river
     bottom, and Reno's skirmishers had returned the shots, he advanced
     about a mile from the ford, to a line of timber on the right, and
     dismounted his men to fight on foot. The horses were sent into the
     timber, and the men formed on the prairies and advanced toward the
     Indians. The Indians, mounted on ponies, came across the prairies
     and opened a heavy fire on the soldiers. After skirmishing for a
     few minutes Reno fell back to his horses in the timber. The Indians
     moved to his left and rear, evidently with the intention of cutting
     him off from the ford. Reno ordered his men to mount and move
     through the timber. Just as the men got into the saddle the Sioux,
     who had advanced in the timber, fired at close range and killed one
     soldier. Reno then commanded the men to dismount, and they did so;
     but he soon ordered them to mount again and moved out on the open
     prairie. The command headed for the ford, pressed closely by
     Indians in large numbers, and at every moment the rate of speed
     was increased, until it became a dead run for the ford. The Sioux,
     mounted on their swift ponies, dashed up by the side of the
     soldiers and fired at them, killing both men and horses. Little
     resistance was offered, and it was a complete route to the ford.

     "I did not see the men at the ford, and do not know what took place
     further than a good many were killed when the command left the
     timber. Just as I got out my horse stumbled and fell, and I was
     dismounted--the horse running away after Reno's command. I saw
     several soldiers who were dismounted, their horses having been
     killed or having run away. There were also some soldiers mounted
     who had remained behind. In all there was as many as 13 men, three
     of whom were wounded. Seeing no chance to get away, I called on
     them to come into the timber and we would stand off the Indians.
     They wanted to go out, but I said 'No, we can't get to the ford,
     and, besides, we have wounded men and must stand by them.' They
     still wanted to go, but I told them I was an old frontiersman,
     understood Indians, and, if they would do as I said, I would get
     them out of the scrape, which was no worse than scrapes I had been
     in before. About half of the men were mounted, and they wanted to
     keep their horses with them; but I told them to let them go, and
     fight on foot. We stayed in the bush about three hours, and I could
     hear heavy firing below in the river, apparently about two miles
     distant. I did not know who it was, but knew the Indians were
     fighting some of our men, and learned afterward it was Custer's
     command. Nearly all the Indians in the upper end of the valley drew
     off down the river, and the fight with Custer lasted about one
     hour, when the heavy firing ceased.

     "When the shooting below began to die away I said to the boys,
     'Come, now is the time to get out; the Indians will come back, and
     we had better be off at once.' Eleven of the 13 said they would go,
     but two staid behind. I deployed the men as skirmishers, and we
     moved forward on foot toward the river. When we had got nearly to
     the river we met five Indians on ponies, and they fired on us. I
     returned the fire and the Indians broke, and we forded the river,
     the water being breast-deep. We finally got over, wounded men and
     all, and headed for Reno's command, which I could see drawn up on
     the bluffs along the river about a mile off. We reached Reno in
     safety. We had not been with Reno more than 15 minutes when I saw
     the Indians coming up the valley from Custer's fight. Reno was
     then moving his whole command down the ridge toward Custer. The
     Indians crossed the river below Reno and swarmed up the bluff on
     all sides. After skirmishing with them Reno went back to his old
     position which was on one of the highest points along the bluffs.
     It was now about 5 P.M., and the fight lasted until it was too dark
     to see to shoot. As soon as it was dark, Reno took the packs and
     saddles off the mules and horses and made breastworks of them. He
     also dragged the dead horses and mules on the line and sheltered
     the men behind them. Some of the men dug rifle pits with their
     butcher knives and all slept on their arms.

     "At the peep of day the Indians opened a heavy fire and a desperate
     fight ensued, lasting until 10 A.M. The Indians charged our
     position three or four times, coming up close enough to hit our men
     with stones, which they threw by hand. Captain Benteen saw a large
     mass of Indians gathering on his front to charge, and ordered his
     men to charge on foot and scatter them. Benteen led the charge, and
     was upon the Indians before they knew what they were about and
     killed a great many. They were evidently surprised at this
     offensive movement. I think in desperate fighting Benteen is one of
     the bravest men I ever saw. All the time he was going about through
     the bullets, encouraging the soldiers to stand up to their work and
     not let the Indians whip them. He never sheltered his own person
     once during the battle, and I do not see how he escaped being
     killed. The desperate charging and fighting was at about 1 P.M.,
     but firing was kept up on both sides until late in the afternoon.

     "I think the Indian village must have contained about 6,000 people,
     fully 3,000 of whom were warriors. The Indians fought Reno first
     and then went to fight Custer, after which they came back to finish
     Reno. Hordes of squaws and old, gray-haired Indians were roaming
     over the battle-field howling like mad. The squaws had stone
     mallets, and mashed in the skulls of the dead and wounded. Our men
     did not kill any squaws, but the Ree Indian scouts did. The bodies
     of six squaws were found in the little ravine. The Indians must
     have lost as many men in killed and wounded as the whites did."



A vivid account of Custer's last battle has been given by an Indian
named Kill Eagle, who was in Sitting Bull's village on the day of the
fight as, he claims, a non-combatant. Kill Eagle was head chief of the
Cheyenne River Agency Indians who had become much dissatisfied. Capt.
Poland, formerly commander of the troops at Standing Rock, says that the
Indians there were "abominably starved during the winter and spring of
1875--the authorities having failed to deliver the rations due them; and
in May and June 1876, the Indians received practically nothing except
two issues of beef and ground corn, called meal, but so coarse that one
peck yielded but a quart of meal."

Early in May, Kill Eagle entered the military post with a party of
warriors, gave a dance, demanded rations, and proclaimed "that he owned
the land the post was built on, the timber and stone which had been used
in its construction, and that he would have the Great Father pay for all
these things; that his people were starving and they could get no food
from the agent." The post commander told them he could do nothing for
them. Kill Eagle's party manifested sulliness, and demonstrated their
defiance by firing off pistols in the air as they marched outside of
the garrison. A few days later the post commander was informed that
Kill Eagle had started for the hostile camp with about thirty lodges.

In September, Kill Eagle came near the post and sent word that he
intended to kill all the soldiers unless they crossed the river. The
troops were under arms all night anticipating an attack, but none was
made. Subsequently Kill Eagle surrendered to the authorities, and gave
them an account of his wanderings during the summer. A letter written at
Standing Rock described his story as follows:--

     "He commences with the date at which he left this agency, last
     spring, with 26 lodges, for the purpose of hunting buffalo and
     trading with the hostile Indians. He speaks of having heard reports
     that troops were going out to punish the hostiles, but thought he
     would have time to do his hunting and trading and get out of the
     way before a battle occurred. They were obliged to hunt, as they
     were starving at the agency, and were very successful.

     "On the seventh day they arrived at Sitting Bull's village, where a
     feast and numerous presents of ponies and robes were given them.
     Efforts were made to induce Kill Eagle and his band to join in the
     contemplated movements and hostilities, but evidently without much
     success. They were desirous of getting back again to the protecting
     arms of their agency, but were unable to escape from the meshes of
     the wily Sitting Bull. They found, too late, that for them there
     was no escape; their horses were either shot or stolen, and wounds
     and insults were showered upon them from every side. In the
     meantime the forces of Crook were approaching, and with his people
     Kill Eagle succeeded in escaping temporarily from the hostiles. He
     claims to have been distant some forty or fifty miles from the
     scene of the Rosebud fight, and relates many of the incidents which
     he was able subsequently to gather from the participants. He places
     the loss of the Indians in the Rosebud fight at four dead, left on
     the field, and twelve that were brought to camp. He places the
     wounded at as high as 400, and says they had 180 horses killed,
     besides those that were captured.

     "He next comes to the fight on the Little Big Horn, and describes
     the Indian village, which was six miles long and one wide. He then
     speaks of Custer's approach and fight with its tragic details as an
     unwilling spectator, rather than a participant, who, during its
     progress, remained quietly in his lodge in the centre of the Indian
     village. The fight with Reno commenced about noon, the Indians all
     rushing to oppose his advance, until the approach of Custer toward
     the lower end of the village was announced, when the wildest
     confusion prevailed throughout the camp. Lodges were struck and
     preparations made for instant flight. Vast numbers of Indians left
     Reno's front and hastened to the assistance of their red brethren
     engaged with Custer, who was steadily forced back and surrounded
     until all were swept from the field by the repeated charges of the

     "He described the firing at this point as simply terrific, and
     illustrated its force by clapping his hands together with great
     rapidity and regularity. Then came a lull in the fearful storm of
     iron hail and his hands were still again. The storm beat fast and
     furious as the thought of some loved one nerved the arm of each
     contending trooper. Then the movement of his hands slackened and
     gradually grew more feeble. A few scattering shakes, like the rain
     upon a window pane, and then the movement ceased as the last of
     Custer's band of heroes went down with the setting sun.

     "It was dusk as the successful combatants returned to camp littered
     with their dead and wounded. 'We have killed them all,' they said,
     'put up your lodges where they are.' They had just began to fix
     their lodges that evening, when a report came that troops were
     coming from toward the mouth of the creek. When this report came,
     after dark, the lodges were all taken down and they started up the
     creek. 'I told my men,' says Kill Eagle, 'to keep together, and we
     would try and get away. Some one told on me, and they said let us
     kill him and his band, we have lost many young men to-day, and our
     hearts are bad. We travelled all night and next day; after crossing
     the Greasy Grass we encamped near the foot of the White Mountains.
     That night, when I was asleep, I heard a man calling. I woke up my
     people and this man proved to be a Cheyenne Indian, belonging to a
     party that had been off on the war-path in the White Mountains.'

     "It was not to the Indians a bloodless victory. Fourteen had fallen
     in front of Reno, thirty-nine went down with Custer, and fourteen
     were dead in camp. Horses and travoises were laden with their
     wounded on every hand and in countless numbers. One band alone of
     Ogallallas had twenty-seven wounded on travoises, and thirty-eight
     thrown across horses. There were no white men in the fight or on
     the field. The bugle calls were sounded by an Indian. No prisoners
     were taken. The troops were all killed on the east side; none
     crossed the river."

Little Buck-Elk, an Uncapapa chief who came into Fort Peck in September,
said that he was present at the fight with Custer, and that eleven
different tribes were engaged in it. "The Indians were as thick as bees
at the fight, and there were so many of them that they could not all
take part in it. The soldiers were all brave men and fought well; some
of them, when they found themselves surrounded and overpowered, broke
through the lines and tried to make their escape, but were pursued and
killed miles from the battle ground. The Indians captured six battle
flags. No soldiers were taken alive, but after the fight the women went
among the dead bodies and robbed and mutilated them. There were plenty
of watches and money taken, which the young warriors are wearing in
their shirts and belts."



Major Reno's conduct on the first day of the fighting on the Little Big
Horn, has been severely criticised by several of Gen. Custer's personal
friends; and one of them, Gen T.L. Rosser, in a letter addressed to Reno
and published in the _Army and Navy Journal_, blames him for taking to
the timber when his "loss was little or nothing." "You had," he says,
"an open field for cavalry operations, and I believe that if you had
remained in the saddle and charged boldly into the village, the shock
upon the Indians would have been so great that they would have been
compelled to withdraw their attacking force from Custer, who, when
relieved, could have pushed his command through to open ground, where he
could have manoeuvred his command, and thus greatly have increased his
chances of success." It would seem as if this and similar criticisms
were sufficiently answered by Reno's report; and by his reply to Rosser,
which is given in part below:--

     "After reading all your letter I could no longer look upon it as a
     tribute of a generous enemy, since through me you had attacked as
     brave officers as ever served a government, and with the same
     recklessness and ignorance of circumstances as Custer is charged
     with in his attacks upon the hostile Indians. Both charges--the one
     made against him and the one made by you against us--are equally
     untrue, You say:--'I feel Custer would have succeeded had Reno,
     with all the reserve of seven companies, passed through and joined
     Custer after the first repulse;' and after confessing that you are
     firing at long range say further: 'I think it quite certain that
     Custer had agreed with Reno upon a place of junction in case of the
     repulse of either or both detachments; and, instead of an effort
     being made by Reno for such a junction, as soon as he encountered
     heavy resistance he took refuge in the hills and abandoned Custer
     and his gallant comrades to their fate.

     "As I shall show, both the premises are false, and consequently all
     the conclusions of your letter fall to the ground. * * * The only
     official orders I had from Custer were about five miles from the
     village, when Cooke gave me his orders in these words: 'Custer says
     to move at as rapid a gait as you think prudent, and to charge
     afterwards, and you will be supported by the whole outfit.'

     "No mention of any plan, no thought of junction, only the usual
     orders to the advance guard to attack by the charge. When the enemy
     was reached I moved to the front at a fast trot, and at the river
     halted ten minutes or less to gather the battalion. I sent word to
     Custer that I had the enemy in my front very strong, and then
     charged, driving the reds before me about three miles or less, to
     within a short distance of their village, supposing my command,
     consisting of 120 officers and men and about 25 scouts and guards,
     followed by the columns under Custer. The stream was very crooked,
     like a letter S in its wanderings, and on the side on which the
     village was it opened out into a broad bottom, perhaps half or
     three-quarters of a mile wide. The stream was fringed, as usual,
     with the trees of the plains--a growth of large cottonwood, and on
     the opposite side was a range of high bluffs which had been cut
     into very deep ravines.

     "As I neared the village the Indians came out in great numbers, and
     I was soon convinced I had at least ten to one against me, and was
     forced on the defensive. This I accomplished by taking possession
     of a point of woods where I found shelter for my horses. I fought
     there dismounted, and made my way to within 200 yards of the
     village, and firmly believe that if, at that moment, the seven
     companies had been together the Indians could have been driven from
     their village. As we approached near their village they came out in
     overwhelming numbers, and soon the small command would have been
     surrounded on all sides, to prevent which I mounted and charged
     through them to a position I could hold with the few men I had.

     "You see by this I was the advance and the first to be engaged and
     draw fire, and was consequently the command to be supported, and
     not the one from which support could be expected. All I know of
     Custer from the time he ordered me to attack till I saw him buried,
     is that he did not follow my trail, but kept on his side of the
     river and along the crest of the bluffs on the opposite side from
     the village and from my command; that he heard and saw my action I
     believe, although I could not see him; and it is just here that the
     Indians deceived us. All this time I was driving them with ease,
     and his trail shows he moved rapidly down the river for three miles
     to the ford, at which he attempted to cross into their village, and
     with the conviction that he would strike a a retreating enemy.
     Trumpeter Martin, of Co. H, who the last time of any living person
     heard and saw Gen. Custer, and who brought the last order his
     adjutant ever penciled, says he left the General at the summit of
     the highest bluff on that side, and which overlooked the village
     and my first battle-field, and as he turned, Gen. Custer raised his
     hat and gave a yell, saying they were asleep in their tepees and
     surprised, and to charge. * * *

     "The Indians made him over confident by appearing to be stampeded,
     and, undoubtedly, when he arrived at the ford, expecting to go with
     ease through their village, he rode into an ambuscade of at least
     2,000 reds. My getting the command of the seven companies was not
     the result of any order or prearranged plan. Benteen and McDougal
     arrived separately, and saw the command on the bluffs and came to
     it. They did not go into the bottom at all after the junction. They
     attempted to go down the trail of Gen. Custer, but the advance
     company soon sent back word they were being surrounded. Crowds of
     reds were seen on all sides of us, and Custer's fate had evidently
     been determined. I knew the position I had first taken on the bluff
     was near and a strong one. I at once moved there, dismounted, and
     herded the pack train, and had but just time to do so when they
     came upon me by thousands. Had we been twenty minutes later
     effecting the junction not a man of that regiment would be living
     to-day to tell the tale."

Another writer attacks both Reno and Benteen, accusing one of incapacity
and utter demoralization during the attack of the Indians, and the other
of wilful disobedience. "That he (Benteen) should have, as his own
testimony confesses, deliberately disobeyed the _peremptory order of
Custer_ to 'Come on,' argues either a desire to sacrifice Custer, or an
ignorance of which his past career renders him incapable. Custer told
him to 'Come on,' and he reported to Reno." In order, as he says, to
"vindicate the reputation of a noble man from unjust aspersions," this
writer further declares, that "had Reno fought as Custer fought, and had
Benteen obeyed Custer's orders, the battle of the Little Big Horn might
have proved Custer's last and greatest Indian victory."

Of the writer last quoted, the _Army and Navy Journal_ says:--"With
reckless pen he thrusts right and left, careless of reputations,
regardless of facts, darkening the lives of other men, in the vain hope
that one name may shine more brightly on the page of history * * *
Nothing but the most absolute demonstration, accompanied by the proof,
would justify such statements as he has made, and this he has not given.
The reports of anonymous newspaper correspondents, and an _ex parte_
statement of the conclusions drawn from letters, of which we have not so
much as the names of the writers, is not proof on which to base
criticisms affecting character and reputation."

Capt. Benteen, Brevet Colonel U.S.A., who has been a captain in the 7th
Cavalry since its organization in 1866, at which date Gen. Custer was
appointed its Lieut. Colonel, in a letter to the _Army and Navy Journal_
uses the following language:--

"Col. Reno and I thought during the siege of June 25th and 26th, at the
Little Big Horn, that he, Reno, was the abandoned party, and spoke of it
as another 'Major Elliot[B] affair'; thinking that General Custer had
retreated to the mouth of the river, where the steamboat was supposed to
be, and that Reno's command was left to _its_ fate. I am accused of
disobeying Custer's orders. Nothing is further from the truth in point
of fact; and I do not think the matter of sufficient importance to
attempt to vindicate myself, but can rest contentedly under the ban when
I have the consoling belief that the contrary is so well known by all my
military superiors and comrades."

    [B] Major Joel H. Elliot of the 7th Cavalry, and 19 of his command,
    were missing after the Battle of the Washita in Nov., 1868. Their
    dead bodies were found some weeks later.

Lieut. Gen. Sheridan, in his report for 1876, expresses his views of the
Custer disaster as follows:--

     "As much has been said in regard to the misfortune that occurred to
     General Custer and the portion of his regiment under his immediate
     command in this action, I wish to express the conviction I have
     arrived at concerning it. From all the information that has reached
     me, I am led to believe that the Indians were not aware of the
     proximity of Custer until he had arrived within about eight or nine
     miles of their village, and that then their scouts who carried the
     intelligence back to the valley were so closely followed up by
     Custer, that he arrived on the summit of the divide overlooking the
     upper portion of the village, almost as soon as the scouts reached
     it. As soon as the news was given, the Indians began to strike
     their lodges and get their women and children out of the way--a
     movement they always make under such circumstances. Custer, seeing
     this, believed the village would escape him if he awaited the
     arrival of the four companies of his regiment--still some miles in
     his rear. Only about 75 or 100 lodges or tepees could be seen from
     the summit or divide, and this, probably, deceived him as to the
     extent of the village. He therefore directed Major Reno, with three
     companies, to cross the river and charge the village, while he,
     with the remaining five companies, would gallop down the east bank
     of the river behind the bluff and cut off the retreat of the
     Indians. Reno crossed and attacked gallantly with his three
     companies--about 110 men--but the warriors, leaving the women to
     strike the lodges, fell on Reno's handful of men and drove them
     back to and over the river with severe loss.

     "About this time Custer reached a point about three and a half or
     four miles down the river, but instead of finding a village of 75
     or 100 lodges, he found one of perhaps from 1500 to 2000, and
     swarming with warriors, who brought him to a halt. This, I think,
     was the first intimation the Indians had of Custer's approach to
     cut them off, for they at once left Reno and concentrated to meet
     the new danger. The point where Custer reached the river, on the
     opposite side of which was the village, was broken into choppy
     ravines, and the Indians, crossing from Reno, got between the two
     commands, and as Custer could not return, he fell back over the
     broken ground with his tired men and tired horses (they had ridden
     about 70 miles with but few halts) and became, I am afraid, an easy
     prey to the enemy. Their wild, savage yells, overwhelming numbers,
     and frightening war paraphernalia, made it as much as each trooper
     could do to take care of his horse, thus endangering his own safety
     and efficiency. If Custer could have reached any position
     susceptible of defence, he could have defended himself; but none
     offered itself in the choppy and broken ravines over which he had
     to pass, and he and his command were lost without leaving any one
     to tell the tale.

     "As soon as Custer and his gallant officers and men were
     exterminated and the scenes of mutilation by the squaws commenced,
     the warriors returned to renew the attack upon Reno; but he had
     been joined by Captain Benteen and the four companies of the
     regiment that were behind when the original attack took place, and
     the best use had been made of the respite given by the attack on
     Custer, to entrench their position.

     "Had the 7th Cavalry been kept together, it is my belief it would
     have been able to handle the Indians on the Little Big Horn, and
     under any circumstances it could have at least defended itself; but
     separated as it was into three distinct detachments, the Indians
     had largely the advantage in addition to their overwhelming
     numbers. If Custer had not come upon the village so suddenly, the
     warriors would have gone to meet him, in order to give time to the
     women and children to get out of the way, as they did with Crook
     only a few days before, and there would have been, as with Crook,
     what might be designated a rearguard fight--a fight to get their
     valuables out of the way, or in other words, to cover the escape of
     their women, children and lodges."



After regaining his position at the mouth of the Big Horn River, Gen.
Terry called for reinforcements and additional troops were at once put
in motion for his camp; but as they had to be collected from all the
various stations on the frontier--some of them very remote from
railroads--considerable time elapsed before their arrival.

During this period, the bands which had broken off from the main body of
hostiles, and the young men at the agencies, continued their old and
well-known methods of warfare, stealing horses on the frontier and
killing small parties of citizens; while the constant communication by
the hostiles with the Indians at the agencies made it evident that
supplies of food and ammunition were being received. To prevent this,
Gen. Sheridan deemed it necessary that the military should control the
agencies, and at his request, the Secretary of the Interior, July 22d,
authorized the military to assume control of all the agencies in the
Sioux country.

About the same date Medicine Cloud, a chief, who had been sent from Fort
Peck, in May, with a message to Sitting Bull inviting him to visit Fort
Peck with a view to reconciliation, returned to the agency. To the
invitation, Sitting Bull had replied:--

"Tell him I am coming before long to his post to trade. Tell him I did
not commence. I am getting old, and I did not want to fight, but the
whites rush on me, and I am compelled to defend myself. But for the
soldiers stationed on the Rosebud, I with my people would have been
there before that. If I was assured of the protection of the Great
Father, I would go to Fort Peck for the purpose of making peace. I and
others want the Black Hills abandoned, and we will make peace."

While awaiting reinforcements, Generals Terry and Crook were separated
by about 100 miles of rough territory, the hostile Indians were between
them, and for reliable communication with each other it was necessary to
send around by the rear nearly 2000 miles. The carrying of dispatches
direct was a work of the most arduous and perilous nature, and in doing
it, and in reconnoitering, brave and gallant deeds were performed.

On the 6th of July, Gen. Crook sent out Lieut. Sibley of the 2nd Cavalry
with 25 mounted troops and two guides, Gerard and Baptiste, to
reconnoiter the country to the front, and learn if possible the
movements of the enemy and the whereabouts of Terry's division. The
party marched all night, and in the morning were near where the Little
Big Horn debouches from the mountains. Here, from an eminence, they
espied a large body of Indians marching eastward as though meditating an
attack on the camp at Goose Creek. Concealing themselves as well as they
could, they watched the movements of the enemy; but a great shout soon
warned them that their trail had been discovered, and hundreds of
savages immediately set out to follow it, uttering terrific cries.

The fugitives galloped toward the mountains, and seemed to outrun their
pursuers; but about noon, while going through a ravine, a sudden volley
was fired upon them from the surrounding slopes, and many Indians
charged down upon them. They wheeled, and took refuge in the woods, but
three horses were already wounded. Taking the ammunition from the
saddles, and leaving their horses tied to the trees to divert the enemy,
they now moved stealthily and unseen from the ground, and escaped behind
adjacent rocks; then they climbed over steep and slippery places till
exhausted, and while halting for a rest knew by the repeated firing that
their horses were undergoing an attack.

All that night they toiled among the mountains, and on the morning of
the 9th reached Tongue River. As they had left their rations behind,
they suffered much from hunger, and two of the men were so weak they
could not ford the deep stream, and remained behind. When near the camp
one of the guides went ahead for assistance, and a company of cavalry
brought in the exhausted men.

Having urgent occasion to communicate with Gen. Crook, Gen. Terry, by
the promise of a large reward, induced a professional scout to make an
attempt to reach him, but he soon returned unsuccessful. No other scout
would undertake the task, and as a last resort a call for volunteers was
made, in response to which, 12 soldiers promptly offered their services
for the hazardous duty without hope of pecuniary reward. Three of these,
Privates Wm. Evans, Benjamin F. Stewart, and Joseph Bell, of the 17th
Infantry, were selected. They set out on the 9th of July, reached
Crook's camp on the 12th; and returned on the 25th accompanied by three
Crow Indians who had arrived from Terry's camp on the 19th. The three
soldiers were thanked by their commander, in a General Order, "for a
deed reflecting so much credit on the Service."

Partial reinforcements having reached Gen. Crook, on the 16th of July he
broke camp and moved gradually along the hills toward Tongue River. On
the 3d of August, just before sunset, an additional regiment, the 5th
Cavalry, ten companies, under Col. W. Merritt, "marched into camp with
their supply wagons close on their heels, presenting a fine appearance,
despite the fatigue and dust of the march."

Gen. Crook's fighting force now numbered about 2000 men. Among them were
over 200 Shoshone and Ute Indians, sworn enemies to the Sioux, led by
Washakie, a well known Shoshone chief. These Indians were thus spoken of
by a correspondent who saw them at Fort Bridger, drawn up in line before
starting to join Gen. Crook:--

     "In advance of the party was a swarthy temporary chief, his face
     covered with vertical white streaks. In his right hand, hanging to
     the end of a window-blind rod, were the two fingers of a dead
     Sioux. Another rod had a white flag nailed to it--a precaution
     necessary to preserve them from being fired upon in proceeding to
     the seat of war. The faces of the rest had on a plentiful supply of
     war paint. Once in line, they struck up a peculiar grunting sound
     on a scale of about five notes. One of the braves, afflicted with a
     malady peculiar to the Caucasian race, began to brag what he'd do
     when he got to the seat of war, winding up in broken English, 'Me
     little mad now; bime by me heap mad.' Old Washakie, their chief,
     wants to die in battle, and not in bed."

On the 5th of Aug., Gen. Crook cut loose from his wagon trains and
started in pursuit of the Indians who, it was ascertained, had left the
foot of the Big Horn Mountains, July 25th, and moved eastward. His route
was north-easterly, across the Panther Mountains to Rosebud River. On
the 8th of Aug. the troops were ten miles north of the battle-ground of
June 17th, and near the site of a deserted village. The country west of
the Rosebud had been burned over, and a trail recently traveled by large
numbers of Indians led down the valley. Upon this trail the march was

Meantime, Gen. Terry had been reinforced by six companies of the 5th
Infantry under Col. Nelson A. Miles, six companies of the 22d Infantry
under Lt. Col. Otis, and other detachments, until his command numbered
about the same as Gen. Crook's. On the 25th of July, he started for the
mouth of the Rosebud and there established a base of operations. On the
8th of Aug., with his troops and a train of 225 wagons with supplies for
30 days, he moved down the west bank of the Rosebud; and on the 10th,
when 35 miles from its mouth, made a junction with Crook's command. Col.
Miles with the 5th Infantry was sent back to the mouth of the Rosebud to
patrol the Yellowstone, aided by steamboats, and intercept the Indians
should they attempt to cross the river.

The trail which Gen. Crook had been following now turned from the
Rosebud eastward, and its pursuit was promptly and steadily continued by
the united forces. It led the troops across to Powder River and down its
valley. On the 17th of August they were encamped near the mouth of
Powder River, on both sides of the stream; and here the two commands
separated on the 24th of August.

As the principal Indian trail had turned eastward toward the Little
Missouri, Gen. Crook's column took up the pursuit in that direction. On
the 5th of Sept, when on the headwaters of Heart River, a small party
of Indians were discovered going eastward,--the first hostile Indians
seen since leaving Tongue River.

The trail had now scattered so that it could be followed no longer, and
Crook decided to push for the Black Hills settlements. His troops were
nearly out of food, and suffering from want of clothing, and bad
weather. Cold rains prevailed, and camp life with no tents, few
blankets, and half rations, bore hard on the soldiers. Meat was scarce
and some of the horses were killed to supply food.

On the 7th of Sept., Capt. Anson Mills with 150 men and a pack-train,
was sent ahead with directions to obtain food at the Black Hills
settlements about 100 miles distant, and to return to the hungry column
as soon as possible. Gerard, the scout, accompanied the detachment, and
on the evening of the 8th, he discovered a hostile village of 40 lodges
and several hundred ponies. Capt. Mills retreated a few miles, hid his
men in a ravine, and at daybreak next morning dashed into the village.
The Indians were completely surprised and fled to the surrounding hills,
from which they exchanged shots with their assailants. The lodges were
secured, with their contents consisting of large quantities of dried
meat and other food, robes, and flags and clothing taken from Custer and
his men. 140 ponies were also among the spoils.

A small party of the Indians had taken possession of a narrow ravine or
canyon near the village, and in trying to dislodge them several soldiers
were wounded. By direction of Gen. Crook, who had reached the field with
reinforcements, the Indians in the ravine were informed that if they
would surrender they would not be harmed. An old squaw was the first to
take advantage of the offer, and was followed by 15 women and children,
and, lastly, by three warriors, one of whom, the chief American Horse,
had been mortally wounded.

Later in the day, before the troops had left the village, the Indians
appeared in force and began a vigorous attack. Infantry were at once
thrown out along the slope of the bluffs and, "about sundown it was a
very inspiring sight to see this branch of the command with their long
Springfield breech-loaders drive the enemy for a mile and a half to the
west, and behind the castellated rocks." The captives in camp said the
attacking Indians were reinforcements from the camp of Crazy Horse
further west. This engagement is known as the battle of Slim Buttes. Our
losses during the day were three killed, and 11 wounded including Lieut.
Von Leuttroitz.

During the march of Sept. 10th a number of Indians came down on the
rear, but were repulsed with a loss of several killed and wounded. Three
soldiers were wounded in this skirmish.

The remainder of this long and difficult march was successfully
accomplished. On the 16th, Gen. Crook reached Deadwood, a Black Hills
settlement, and was cordially received by the inhabitants. In a speech
made by the General on this occasion, he said:--

     "Citizens: while you welcome me and my personal staff as the
     representatives of the soldiers who are here encamped upon the
     Whitewood, let me ask you, when the rank and file pass through
     here, to show that you appreciate their admirable fortitude in
     bearing the sufferings of a terrible march almost without a murmur,
     and to show them that they are not fighting for $13 per month, but
     for the cause--the proper development of our gold and other mineral
     resources, and of humanity. This exhibition of your gratitude need
     not be expensive. Let the private soldier feel that he is
     remembered by our people as the real defender of his country."

After parting with Gen. Crook, Aug. 24th, Gen. Terry crossed the
Yellowstone and marched down its left bank, his object being to
intercept the Indians Crook was following if they attempted to cross the
river. On the 27th he left the river, and moved northerly into the
buffalo range where hunting parties were detailed who secured
considerable game. The country was parched, the small streams dry, and
water scarce. A scouting party made a detour to the north and west, but
no Indians could be found. On the 5th of Sept. the whole command was at
the mouth of Glendive Creek, where a military post had been established.

Gen. Terry now decided to close the campaign and distribute his troops
to their winter quarters. The Montana column under Col. Gibbon started
on the return march to Fort Ellis, 400 miles distant; Lieut. Col. Otis
of the 22d Infantry, with his command, remained at Glendive Creek, to
build a stockade and co-operate with Col. Miles, who was establishing a
winter post at the mouth of Tongue River; and Gen. Terry with the
balance of the troops started for Fort Buford at the mouth of the

Hearing that Sitting Bull with a large band had recently crossed to the
north side of the Missouri River near Fort Peck, Terry sent Reno with
troops--then en route to Fort Buford--in pursuit. Reno marched to Fort
Peck, and thence to Fort Buford, but encountered no Indians. A
reconnoitering party under Long Dog had been near Fort Peck, and that
chief passed one night at the agency. They did not want rations or
annuities, but desired plenty of ammunition, for which they were ready
to exchange 7th Cavalry horses, arms and equipments.



On the 10th of October, as a train escorted by two companies of the 6th
Infantry was carrying supplies from Glendive Creek to the cantonment at
the mouth of Tongue River, it was attacked by Indians, and was obliged
to return to Glendive with a loss of sixty mules.

Lieut. Col. Otis was in command at Glendive, and on the 14th he again
started out the train and personally accompanied it. The train consisted
of 86 wagons, 41 of which were driven by soldiers, who had taken the
places of as many citizen teamsters too demoralized by the recent attack
to continue in the service. The military escort numbered with officers
196 men. The following interesting narrative of subsequent events is
from the report of Col. Otis:--

     "We proceeded on the first day 12 miles, and encamped on the broad
     bottom of the Yellowstone River, without discovering a sign of the
     presence of Indians. During the night a small thieving party was
     fired upon by the pickets, but the party escaped, leaving behind a
     single pony, with its trappings, which was killed. At dawn of day,
     upon the 15th, the train pulled out in two strings, and proceeded
     quietly to Spring Creek, distant from camp about three miles, when
     I directed two mounted men to station themselves upon a hill beyond
     the creek, and watch the surrounding country until the train should
     pass through the defile. The men advanced at swift pace in proper
     direction, and when within 50 yards of the designated spot, they
     received a volley from a number of concealed Indians, when
     suddenly men and Indians came leaping down the bluff. The men
     escaped without injury to person, although their clothing was
     riddled with bullets. I quickly advanced on the skirmish line,
     which drove out 40 or 50 Indians, and making a similar movement on
     the opposite flank, passed through the gorge and gained the high
     table land. Here, three or four scouts, sent out by Colonel Miles,
     from Tongue River, joined us. They had been driven into the Tongue
     upon the previous evening, there corraled, had lost their horses
     and one of their number, and escaped to the bluffs under cover of
     the darkness. The dead scout was found and buried.

     "The train proceeded along the level prairie, surrounded by the
     skirmish line, and the Indians were coming thick and fast from the
     direction of Cabin Creek. But few shots were exchanged, and both
     parties were preparing for the struggle which it was evident would
     take place at the deep and broken ravine at Clear Creek, through
     which the train must pass. We cautiously entered the ravine, and
     from 150 to 200 Indians had gained the surrounding bluffs to our
     left; signal fires were lighted for miles around, and extended far
     away on the opposite side of the Yellowstone. The prairies to our
     front were fired, and sent up vast clouds of smoke. We had no
     artillery, and nothing remained to us except to charge the bluffs.
     Company C, of the 17th Infantry, and Company H, of the 22d
     Infantry, were thrown forward upon the run, and gallantly scaled
     the bluffs, answering the Indian yell with one equally as
     barbarous, and driving back the enemy to another ridge of hills. We
     then watered all the stock at the creek, took on water for the men,
     and the train slowly ascended the bluffs.

     "The country now surrounding us was broken. The Indians continued
     to increase in numbers, surrounded the train, and the entire escort
     became engaged. The train was drawn up in four strings, and the
     entire escort enveloped it by a thin skirmish line. In that
     formation we advanced, the Indians pressing every point, especially
     the rear, Company C, 17th, which was only able to follow by
     charging the enemy, and then retreating rapidly toward the train,
     taking advantage of all the knolls and ridges in its course. The
     flanks, Companies G, 17th, and K and G, 22d, were advanced about
     1000 yards, and the road was opened in the front, by Company H,
     22d, by repeated charges.

     "In this manner we advanced several miles, and then halted for the
     night upon a depression of the high prairie, the escort holding the
     surrounding ridge. The Indians now had attempted every artifice.
     They had pressed every point of the line, had run their fires
     through the train, which we were compelled to cross with great
     rapidity, had endeavored to approach under cover of smoke, when
     they found themselves overmatched by the officers and men, who,
     taking advantage of the cover, moved forward and took them at close
     range. They had met with considerable loss, a good many of their
     saddles were emptied, and several ponies wounded. Their firing was
     wild in the extreme, and I should consider them the poorest of
     marksmen. For several hours they kept up a brisk fire and wounded
     but three of our men.

     "Upon the morning of the 16th, the train pulled out in four
     strings, and we took up the advance, formed as on the previous day.
     Many Indians occupied the surrounding hills, and soon a number
     approached, and left a communication upon a distant hill. It was
     brought in by Scout Jackson, and read as follows:--


     "I want to know what you are doing traveling on this road? you
     scare all the buffalo away. I want to hunt on the place. I want you
     to turn back from here: if you don't I will fight you again. I want
     you to leave what you have got here, and turn back from here.

     "I am your friend, SITTING BULL.

     "I mean all the rations you have got and some powder; I wish you
     would write as soon as you can."

"I directed the Scout Jackson to inform the Indians that I had nothing
to say in reply, except that we intended to take the train through to
Tongue River, and that we should be pleased to accommodate them at any
time with a fight. The train continued to proceed, and about eight
o'clock the Indians began to gather for battle.

"We passed through the long, narrow gorge, near Bad Route Creek, when we
again watered the stock, and took in wood and water, consuming in this
labor about an hour's time. When we had pulled up the gentle ascent, the
Indians had again surrounded us, but the lesson of the previous day
taught them to keep at long range, and there was but little firing by
either party. I counted 150 Indians in our rear, and from their
movements and position I judged their numbers to be between 300 and
500. After proceeding a short distance, a flag of truce appeared on the
left flank, borne by two Indians, whom I directed to be allowed to enter
the lines. They proved to be Indian scouts from Standing Rock Agency,
bearing dispatches from Lieut. Col. Carlin, of the 17th Infantry,
stating that they had been sent out to find Sitting Bull, and to
endeavor to influence him to proceed to some military post and treat for

"These scouts informed me that they had that morning reached the camp of
Sitting Bull and Man-afraid-of-his-horse, near the mouth of Cabin Creek,
and that they had talked with Sitting Bull, who wished to see me outside
the lines. I declined the invitation, but professed a willingness to see
Sitting Bull within my own lines. The scouts left me, and soon returned
with three of the principal soldiers of Sitting Bull--the last named
individual being unwilling to trust his person within our reach. The
chiefs said that their people were angry because our train was driving
away the buffalo from their hunting grounds, that they were hungry and
without ammunition, and that they especially wished to obtain the
latter; that they were tired of war, and desired to conclude a peace.

"I informed them that I could not give them ammunition, that had they
saved the amount already wasted upon the train it would have supplied
them for hunting purposes for a long time, that I had no authority to
treat with them upon any terms whatever, but they were at liberty to
visit Tongue River, and there make known conditions. They wished to know
what assurance I could give them of their safety should they visit that
place, and I replied that I could give them nothing but the word of an
officer. They then wished rations for their people, promising to proceed
to Fort Rock immediately, and from thence to Tongue River. I declined to
give them rations, but finally offered them as a present 150lb. of hard
bread and two sides of bacon, which they gladly accepted. The train
moved on, and the Indians fell to the rear. Upon the following day I saw
a number of them from Cedar Creek, far away to the right, and after that
time they disappeared entirely.

"Upon the evening of the 18th I met Col. Miles encamped with his entire
regiment on Custer Creek. Alarmed for the safety of the train, he had
set out from Tongue River upon the previous day."

While Col. Otis was thus gallantly advancing with his train, Col. Miles,
of the 5th Infantry, fearing for its safety, had crossed the Yellowstone
before daybreak on the 17th and started toward Glendive. He met Col.
Otis, as above stated, on the evening of the 18th; and on being informed
of the attack on the train, started in pursuit of the enemy. On the
21st, when about eight miles beyond Cedar Creek, a large number of
Indians appeared in front of the column, and two of them, bearing a
white flag, rode up to the line. They proved to be the Standing Rock
ambassadors who had met Col. Otis; and brought word that Sitting Bull
wished a conference with Col. Miles. Lieut. H.R. Bailey accompanied the
two friendly Indians to the hostile camp, and there arranged with
Sitting Bull's white interpreter for a meeting to take place between the

The troops rested on their arms in line of battle while Col. Miles with
a few officers rode forward and halted about half way between the two
forces. Sitting Bull with a dozen unarmed warriors presently emerged
from the hostile lines and walked slowly forward in single file. Col.
Miles' party dismounted and advanced to meet them, and the council
began. The scene was picturesque and exciting; and the occasion one of
much anxiety to the troops who remembered the assassination of Gen.
Canby--especially so when dozens of armed warriors rode forward and
surrounded the little group.

The "talk" was long and earnest; the Indians wanted an "old-fashioned
peace," with privileges of trade--especially in ammunition, and demanded
the discontinuing of supply trains and the abandonment of Fort Buford.
Col. Miles explained that he could only accept surrender on the terms
of absolute submission to the U.S. Government. At evening the conference
was adjourned to the next day, and the parties separated as quietly as
they had assembled.

In the morning Col. Miles moved his command north, so as to intercept
retreat in that direction. At about 11 A.M., Sitting Bull, Pretty Bear,
Bull Eagle, John, Standing Bear, Gall, White Bull and others, came
forward, marching abreast, and met Col. Miles and several officers on a
knoll half way between the opposing lines. The Indians asked to be let
alone, and professed a wish for peace, but such a peace as Col. Miles
could not concede. "After much talk by the various chiefs, Sitting Bull
was informed once and for all that he must accept the liberal conditions
offered by the Government or prepare for immediate hostilities; and the
council dispersed--Sitting Bull disappearing like a shadow in the crowd
of warriors behind him."

     "The scene," wrote a correspondent of the _Army and Navy Journal_,
     "was now most animated. Col. Miles sent for his company commanders,
     and they came charging over the field to receive his final
     instructions. On the other side, the Sioux leaders rode hither and
     thither at full speed in front of their line, marshaling their men
     and haranguing them, calling on them to be brave. Sitting Bull's
     interpreter, Bruey, rode back to ask why the troops were following
     him? He was answered by Col. Miles, that the non-acceptance of the
     liberal terms offered was considered an act of hostility, and he
     would open fire at once. The whole line then advanced in skirmish
     order. One company occupied a knoll on the left with the 3-inch
     gun, the first shell from which was greeted with a hearty cheer
     from the advancing line. The Indians tried their old tactics and
     attempted rear and flank attacks from the ravines, but they found
     those vital points well protected by companies disposed _en
     potence_, which poured in a torrent of lead wherever an Indian
     showed himself. The firing then became general along the whole
     line. Some of the sharpest shooting was done by the Sioux, and many
     officers only escaped "close calls" by the ends of their hair. Two
     enlisted men were wounded. Finally, Sitting Bull, finding his old
     plan of battle frustrated by that solid infantry skirmish line
     advancing upon him with the relentless sternness of fate, began a
     general and precipitate retreat."

The pursuit was resolutely kept up. The Indians fled down Bad Route
Creek and across the Yellowstone, a distance of 42 miles, abandoning
tons of dried meat, lodge-poles, camp equipments, ponies, etc. The
troops on foot followed rapidly, not stopping to count the dead or
gather the plunder; and the result was, that on the 27th of October five
principal chiefs surrendered themselves to Col. Miles, on the
Yellowstone, opposite the mouth of Cabin Creek, as hostages for the
surrender of their whole people, represented as between 400 and 500
lodges, equal to about 2,000 souls. The hostages were sent under escort
to Gen. Terry, at St. Paul, and the Indians were allowed five days in
their then camp to gather food, and thirty days to reach the Cheyenne
Agency on the Missouri River, where they were to surrender their arms
and ponies, and remain either as prisoners of war or subject to
treatment such as is usually accorded to friendly Indians.

Sitting Bull was not among the chiefs who surrendered; during the
retreat, they said, he had slipped out, with thirty lodges of his own
special followers, and gone northerly.



The disarming and dismounting of the Sioux Agency Indians being deemed
necessary as a precautionary measure, to prevent the hostile Indians
from receiving constant supplies of arms, ammunition, and ponies from
their friends at the agencies, General Sheridan directed Generals Crook
and Terry to act simultaneously in accomplishing that object. The
friendly and unfriendly Indians at the agencies were so intermixed, that
it seemed impossible to discriminate between them.

After refitting at the Black Hills, Gen. Crook proceeded to the Red
Cloud Agency, and found the Indians there in a dissatisfied mood and
probably about to start to join the hostile bands. They had moved out
some 25 miles from the agency, and refused to return although informed
that no more rations would be given them till they did so.

At daylight, Oct. 22d, Col. Mackenzie, the post commander, with eight
companies of the 4th and 5th Cavalry, surrounded the Indian camp
containing 300 lodges, and captured Red Cloud and his whole band, men,
squaws and ponies without firing a shot, and marched them into the
agency dismounted and disarmed. The Indians at Spotted Tail Agency were
also disarmed and dismounted.

Gen. Crook had an interview with Spotted Tail, and being satisfied that
he was the only important Sioux leader who had remained friendly, he
deposed Red Cloud, and declared Spotted Tail, his rival, the "Sachem of
the whole Sioux Nation, by the grace of the Great Father the President.
As the representative of the latter, Gen. Crook invested him with the
powers of a grand chief, and in token thereof presented him his
commission as such, written upon a parchment scroll tied with richly
colored ribbons. Spotted Tail's heart was very glad."

"The line of the hostile and the peaceably disposed," wrote Gen. Crook
at this time, "is now plainly drawn, and we shall have our enemies only
in the front in the future. I feel that this is the first gleam of
daylight we have had in this business."

Meantime Gen. Terry, with the 7th Cavalry and local garrisons, was
disarming and dismounting the Indians at the Standing Rock and Cheyenne
River Agencies. The following is a copy of his report to Gen. Sheridan,
written at Standing Rock, Oct. 25th:--

     "Colonel Sturgis left Lincoln on the 20th, Major Reno on the 21st,
     and each arrived here on the afternoon of the 22d. Sturgis
     immediately commenced dismounting and disarming the Indians at Two
     Bears' camp, on the left bank of the river, and Lieut. Col. Carlin,
     with his own and Reno's forces, dismounted and disarmed them at
     both camps on this side. Owing partially to the fact that before I
     arrived at Lincoln news was sent the Indians here, it is said, by
     Mrs. Galpin, that we were coming, and our purpose stated; but
     principally, I believe, that some time since, owing to the failure
     of the grass here, the animals were sent to distant grazing places
     many miles away, comparatively only a few horses were found. I,
     therefore, the next morning, called the chiefs together, and
     demanded the surrender of their horses and arms, telling them that
     unless they complied their rations would be stopped, and also
     telling them that whatever might be realized from the sale of the
     property taken would be invested in stock for them. They have
     quietly submitted, and have sent out to bring in their animals.
     Some have already arrived, and we have now in our possession 700.
     More are arriving rapidly, and I expect to double that number. I
     have kept the whole force here until now for the effect its
     presence produces.

     "I shall start Sturgis to-morrow morning for Cheyenne, leaving Reno
     until Carlin completes the work here. Only a few arms have yet been
     found or surrendered, but I think our results are satisfactory. Not
     a shot was fired on either side of the river. Of course no surprise
     can now be expected at Cheyenne. The desired effect will be
     attained there by the same means as those employed here."

The late Sioux Commissioners, who made a treaty for the Black Hills in
Sept. 1876, gave their pledge that all _friendly_ Indians would be
protected in their persons and property. Bishop Whipple comments on the
dismounting of the Indians as follows:--

     "In violation of these pledges 2,000 ponies were taken from
     Cheyenne and Standing Rock Agencies. No inventory was kept of
     individual property. Of 1,100 ponies taken at Standing Rock, only
     874 left Bismark for Saint Paul. No provision was made to feed them
     on the way. The grass had burned on the prairie and there was
     several inches of snow on the ground. The small streams were
     frozen, and no water was to be had until they reached the James
     River. There was no grass, and no hay could be purchased until they
     reached the Cheyenne River, more than ten days' travel, and then
     nothing until they reached Fort Abercrombie. No wonder that there
     were only 1,200 ponies out of 2,000 that left Abercrombie, and that
     of these only 500 reached St. Paul. The wretched, dying brutes were
     made the subject of jest as the war horses of the Dakota. Many died
     on the way, many were stolen, and the remnant were sold in St.
     Paul. It was worse than the ordinary seizure of property without
     color of law. It was not merely robbery of our friends. It was
     cruel. The Indians are compelled to camp from 10 to 40 miles away
     from the agency to find fuel. They have to cross this distance in
     the coldest weather to obtain their rations, and without ponies
     they must cross on foot, and some of them may perish."

Gen. Crook issued at Red Cloud Agency his General Orders, No. 8--in part
as follows:--

                    CAMP ROBINSON, NEB., Oct. 24th, 1876.}

     "The time having arrived when the troops composing the Big Horn and
     Yellowstone Expedition are about to separate, the Brigadier-General
     commanding addresses himself to the officers and men of the
     command, to say:--

     "In the campaign now closed he has been obliged to call upon you
     for much hard service and many sacrifices of personal comfort. At
     times you have been out of reach of your base of supplies; in most
     inclement weather you have marched without food and slept without
     shelter. In your engagements you have evinced a high order of
     discipline and courage, in your marches wonderful powers of
     endurance, and in your deprivations and hardships, patience and

     "Indian warfare is, of all warfare, the most trying, the most
     dangerous, and the most thankless; not recognized by the high
     authority of the United States Congress as war, it still possesses
     for you the disadvantages of civilized warfare with all the
     horrible accompaniments that barbarians can invent and savages can
     execute. In it, you are required to serve without the incentive to
     promotion or recognition; in truth, without favor or hope of

     "The people of our sparsely settled frontier, in whose defence this
     war is waged, have but little influence with the powerful
     communities in the East; their representatives have little voice in
     our national councils, while your savage foes are not only the
     wards of the nation, supported in idleness, but objects of sympathy
     with a large number of people otherwise well informed and
     discerning. You may, therefore, congratulate yourselves that in the
     performance of your military duty you have been on the side of the
     weak against the strong, and that the few people there are on the
     frontier will remember your efforts with gratitude."

Gen. Crook's losses during the campaign extending from May 27th to Oct.
24th, were 12 killed, 32 wounded (most of whom subsequently returned to
duty), one death by accident and one by disease.



After leaving Red Cloud, Gen. Crook marched to Fort Fetterman and
organized a new column for a winter expedition against the enemy.
Subsequently, with a force of ten companies of cavalry under Col.
Mackenzie, eleven companies of infantry and four of artillery under
Lieut. Col. R.I. Dodge, and about 200 Indian allies, some of whom were
friendly Sioux enlisted at Red Cloud Agency, Gen. Crook advanced to old
Fort Reno, head of Powder River, where a cantonment had been built.

Hearing that a band of Cheyenne Indians were encamped among the Big Horn
Mountains to the southwest, Gen. Crook, Nov. 23d, sent Col. Mackenzie
with his cavalry and the Indian allies to hunt them up. At noon, Nov.
24th, after marching some 30 miles along the base of the mountains
toward the Sioux Pass, Mackenzie met five of seven Indian scouts who had
been sent ahead the evening previously. These scouts reported that they
had discovered the camp of the Cheyennes at a point in the mountains
about 20 miles distant, and that the other two scouts had remained to
watch the camp.

A night's march was decided upon and, at sunset, after a halt of three
hours, the command moved forward toward the village; but owing to the
roughness of the country, it was daylight when they reached the mouth
of a canyon leading to and near the village. Through this canyon the
column advanced, crossing several deep ravines, and when within a mile
of the camp the order to charge was given. The Indian allies, who were
in front, rushed forward howling and blowing on instruments, and some of
them subsequently ascended the side of the canyon and occupied a high
bluff opposite to and overlooking the village.

The surprise was nearly complete; but some of the Cheyennes, whom the
scouts had reported as being engaged in a war dance, sounded the alarm
on a drum, and began firing on the advancing column. The inhabitants
immediately deserted their lodges, taking nothing but their weapons with
them, and took refuge in a net-work of very difficult ravines beyond the
upper end of the village. A brisk fight for about an hour ensued, after
which skirmishing was kept up until night. The village of 173 lodges and
their entire contents were destroyed, about 500 ponies were captured,
and the bodies of 25 Indians killed in the engagement were found. Col.
Mackenzie's loss was Lieut. J.A. McKinney and six men killed, and
twenty-two men wounded.

On the 4th of Dec., Gen. Crook left Fort Reno with his whole force, and
moved down Little Powder River, intending to form at its junction with
Powder River a supply camp from which to operate against the Indians.
Subsequently, however, he crossed over to the Belle Fourche River, and,
Dec. 22d, started for Fort Fetterman where he arrived Dec. 29th. The
weather during this homeward march was at times intensely cold, and the
men and horses suffered considerably thereby.

While Gen. Crook was thus looking for and harassing the Indians in the
Powder River country, the isolated garrison of the Tongue River
cantonment, further north, were not idle. An excursion northward in
search of Sitting Bull was led by Col. Miles, the post-commander, and as
reports as to the location of the Indians were conflicting and their
trails obscured by snow, he divided his force, and sent Lieut. Frank D.
Baldwin with three companies of the 5th Infantry to the north of the
Missouri, while he examined the the Mussel Shell and Dry Forks country.

On the 7th of Dec., Lieut. Baldwin discovered Sitting Bull's band, and
followed the Indians to the Missouri River, where they crossed and for a
short time resisted the crossing of the troops. The Indians then
retreated south, but were overtaken in the Redwood country and attacked,
Dec. 18th. Their camp of 122 lodges was captured and burned with its
contents, and 60 mules and horses were taken. The Indians escaped, but
carried off little property except what they had on their backs. Lieut.
Baldwin's command marched on this expedition over 500 miles--walking on
one occasion 73 miles in 48 hours--and endured the cold of a Montana
winter with great fortitude.

A very unfortunate affair occurred at the Tongue River cantonment,
within a few hundred yards of the parade-ground, Dec. 16th. The
following is from Col. Miles' report thereof:--

     "As five Minneconjou chiefs were coming in, bearing two white
     flags, followed by twenty or thirty other Indians, and were passing
     by the Crow Indian camp, the five in advance were surrounded by
     twelve Crows and instantly killed. The act was an unprovoked,
     cowardly murder. The Crows approached them in a friendly manner,
     said "How," shook hands with them, and when they were within their
     power and partly behind a large wood pile, killed them in a most
     brutal manner. Upon hearing the first shot, both officers and men
     rushed out and tried to save the Minneconjous, but could not reach
     them in time. The Crows were aware of the enormity of their crime,
     as they saw that the Minneconjous had a flag of truce, and they
     were told to come back. They were warned the day before against
     committing any act of violence against messengers or other parties
     coming in for friendly purposes. They tried to hide the flag of
     truce and, taking advantage of the momentary excitement, while
     efforts were being made to open communication and bring back the
     others, who were following, and who became alarmed and fled to the
     bluffs, the guilty Crow Indians jumped upon their ponies and fled
     to their agency in Montana. The only thing that can be said in
     defence of the Crows is, that a false report was made by one of the
     Crow women that the Sioux had fired upon her, and that within the
     last few months some of their number had lost relatives killed by
     the Sioux in the vicinity of the Rosebud. These Indians have
     claimed to be friends of the white man for years, have been
     frequently in the Government employ, and were brought down to fight
     such outlaws as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

     "Those killed were believed to be Bull Eagle, Tall Bull, Red ----,
     Red Cloth, and one other prominent chief of the Sioux nation. I am
     unable to state the object of Bull Eagle's coming, but am satisfied
     he came with the best of motives. I can only judge from the
     following:--When he surrendered on the Yellowstone, after the
     engagement on Cedar Creek, he was the first to respond to my
     demands, and, I believe, was largely instrumental in bringing his
     people to accept the terms of the Government. When I had received
     five of the principal chiefs as hostages, and was about parting
     with him, I told him, if he had any trouble in going in, or his
     people hesitated or doubted that the Government would deal fairly
     and justly with them, to come back to me, and I would tell him what
     to do; that if he would come back to my command, I would be glad to
     see him and, so long as he complied with the orders of the
     Government, he could be assured of the friendship of its officers.
     I could not but regard him with respect, as he appeared in every
     sense a chief, and seemed to be doing everything in his power for
     the good of his people, and endeavoring to bring them to a more
     peaceful condition. He appeared to have great confidence in what I
     told him; I gave him five days to obtain meat; during that time he
     lost three favorite ponies, which were brought to this place.
     During my absence he came in, bringing five horses that had strayed
     or been stolen from some citizens in the vicinity, and requested
     his own. He also inquired if he could send up to the Big Horn
     country for the remainder of his people, and take them in on the
     pass I had given him. He was informed by the commanding officer,
     Gen. Whistler (whom he had known for years before), that he could,
     and was told to send for them. Whether he had met with some trouble
     in taking his people in to their agency, and had returned, as I had
     told him, for directions, or had gathered up his people, and in
     passing had come in to apprise me of the fact, I know not; but
     there is every reason to believe that the above mentioned
     circumstances gave rise to his motives and prompted his actions.

     "The Crows were immediately disarmed, twelve of their ponies taken
     from them, and other considerations, together with a letter
     explaining the whole affair, were sent to the people and friends of
     those killed, as an assurance that no white man had any part in the
     affair, and that we had no heart for such brutal and cowardly acts.

     "It illustrates clearly the ferocious, savage instincts of even the
     best of these wild tribes, and the impossibility of their
     controlling their desire for revenge when it is aroused by the
     sight of their worst enemies, who have whipped them for years and
     driven them out of this country. Such acts are expected and
     considered justifiable among these two tribes of Indians, and it is
     to be hoped that the Sioux will understand that they fell into a
     camp of their ancient enemies, and did not reach the encampment of
     this command."

In January, 1877, Col. Miles with 350 of his troops marched southerly
sixty miles up the Tongue River, and on the evening of the 7th
discovered a large Indian village. Skirmishing ensued, and on the next
day 1000 well-armed warriors appeared in front, and a battle was fought.
The battle-ground was very rough and broken, and a heavy snow storm came
on during the fight. The Indians fought with desperation; but our
troops had been so admirably arranged that they succeeded in gaining a
decisive victory. The following is Col. Miles' report of the affair:--

     "I have the honor to report that this command fought the hostile
     tribes of Cheyenne and Ogallala Sioux, under Crazy Horse, in
     skirmishes on the 1st, 3d, and 7th of January, and in a five hours'
     engagement on the 8th inst. Their camp, consisting of some 500
     lodges, extended three miles along the valley of Tongue River,
     below Hanging Woman's Creek. They were driven through the canyons
     of the Wolf or Panther Mountains, in the direction of Big Horn
     Mountains. Their fighting strength outnumbered mine by two or three
     to one, but by taking advantage of the ground we had them at a
     disadvantage, and their loss is known to be heavy. Our loss is
     three killed and eight wounded. They fought entirely dismounted,
     and charged on foot to within fifty yards of Captain Casey's line,
     but were taken in front and flank by Captain Butler's and
     Lieutenant McDonald's companies. They were whipped at every point
     and driven from the field, and pursued so far as my limited
     supplies and worn down animals would carry my command."

The following additional particulars are derived from a letter to the
_Army and Navy Journal_:--

     "On the 5th January, Indian signs grew thicker and thicker. Miles
     of hastily abandoned war lodges were passed. The country became
     very rough. The valley of the Tongue grew narrower, the stream more
     tortuous, and the hills on both sides loftier and more precipitous,
     until the valley shrank into a prolonged and winding canyon. At
     short distances, jutting bluffs made narrow passes which offered
     points of vantage to the savage enemy. The gorges of the Wolf
     Mountains had been reached.

     "On the 6th, the march was through a large war camp, recently and
     hurriedly abandoned. Unusual heat was followed by snow. In the
     evening there was snow and hail driven by a cruel wind, and by 5
     P.M. it was pitch dark. On the evening of the 7th, the scouts
     captured four Cheyenne squaws, a youth, and three young children.
     Two hundred Indians made a dash at the scouts, shot two of their
     horses and made a desperate effort to take them. Casey opened a
     musketry fire on the Indians, and darkness supervening, they

     "Next morning the fight was renewed shortly after daylight. The
     Indians charged down the valley in large force, close up to the
     skirmish line, but failed to make any impression. They then turned
     their attention to the flanks, and began to swarm on the bluffs to
     the right. The action then became general. The Indians were in
     strong force, and tried every point of the line. The hills and
     woods resounded with their cries and the high-pitched voices of the
     chiefs giving their orders.

     "It is the opinion of some who have had years of experience in
     Indian fighting, that there has rarely, if ever, been a fight
     before in which the Sioux and Cheyenne showed such determination
     and persistency, where they were finally defeated. They had chosen
     their ground; and it has since been learned that they expected to
     make another Custer slaughter. The Cheyenne captives, in the hands
     of the troops, sang songs of triumph during the entire fight, in
     anticipation of a speedy rescue and the savage orgies of a

In a complimentary order to his troops, dated Jan. 31st, Col. Miles

     "Here in the home of the hostile Sioux, this command, during the
     past three months, has marched 1200 miles and fought three
     engagements--besides affairs of less importance. * * * Fortunate
     indeed is the officer who commands men who will improvise boats of
     wagon beds, fearlessly dash out into the cold and turbid waters,
     and amid the treacherous current and floating ice, cross and
     recross the great Missouri; who will defy the elements on these
     bleak plains in a Montana winter; and who have in every field
     defeated superior numbers."

The dismounting and disarming policy was kept up at the Agencies through
the winter. Several bands came in and surrendered--among them that of
Red Horse, who had been actively hostile. This chief thus describes the
engagement on the Little Big Horn. The "brave officer" referred to is
said to be Capt. T.H. French, of Reno's battalion.

     "On the morning of the attack, myself and several women were out
     about a mile from camp gathering wild turnips. Suddenly one of the
     women called my attention to a cloud of dust rising in the
     neighborhood of the camp. I soon discovered that troops were making
     an attack. We ran for the camp, and when I got there I was sent for
     at once to come to the council-lodge. I found many of the council
     men already there when I arrived. We gave directions immediately
     for every Indian to get his horse and arms; for the women and
     children to mount the horses and get out of the way, and for the
     young men to go and meet the troops.

     "Among the troops was an officer who rode a horse with four white
     feet. The Indians have fought a great many tribes of people, and
     very brave ones, too, but they all say that this man was the
     bravest man they had ever met. I don't know whether this man was
     General Custer or not. This officer wore a large-brimmed hat and
     buckskin coat. He alone saved his command a number of times by
     turning on his horse in the retreat. In speaking of him, the
     Indians call him the 'man who rode the horse with four white feet.'

     "After driving this party back, the Indians corraled them on top of
     a high hill, and held them there until they saw that the women and
     children were in danger of being made prisoners by another party of
     troops which just then made its appearance below. The word passed
     among the Indians like a whirlwind, and they all started to attack
     the new party, leaving the troops on the hill. When we attacked the
     other party, we swarmed down on them and drove them in confusion.
     No prisoners were taken. All were killed. None were left alive even
     for a few minutes. These troopers used very few of their
     cartridges. I took a gun and a couple of belts off two dead men.
     Out of one belt two cartridges were gone; out of the other five.

     "It was with captured ammunition and arms that we fought the other
     body of troops. If they had all remained together they would have
     hurt us very badly. The party we killed made five different starts.
     Once we charged right in until we scattered the whole of them,
     fighting among them hand to hand. One band of soldiers was right in
     the rear of us when they charged. We fell back, and stood for one
     moment facing each other. Then the Indians got courage and started
     for them in a solid body. We went but a little distance when we
     spread out and encircled them. All the time I could see their
     officers riding in front, and hear them shouting to their men. We
     finished up the party right there in the ravine.

     "The troops up the river made their first attack, skirmishing a
     little while after the fight commenced with the other troops below
     the village. While the latter fight was going on we posted some
     Indians to prevent the other command from forming a junction. As
     soon as we had finished the fight we all went back to massacre the
     troops on the hill. After skirmishing around awhile we saw the
     walking soldiers coming. These new troops making their appearance
     was the saving of the others. An Indian started to go to Red Cloud
     Agency that day, and when a few miles from camp discovered dust
     rising. He turned back and reported that a large herd of buffalo
     was approaching the camp, and a short time after he reported this
     the camp was attacked by troops."

In February, Spotted Tail, with a body-guard of 200 warriors, started
out to visit his roaming brethren as a peacemaker; and through his
influence, or for other reasons, all the hostile bands, it is believed,
except Sitting Bull's, have accepted the terms offered by the Government
and surrendered their arms and ponies. One band of about 1000 encircled
the Indian camp at Spotted Tail Agency, April 16th, and after
discharging their guns in the air by way of salutation, surrendered to
Gen. Crook. Roman Nose, whose village was destroyed at Slim Buttes,
indicated his desire for peace in a short speech and by laying his rifle
at the feet of the General. Five days later, 500 Cheyennes, with 600
ponies, came into Red Cloud Agency. Their village near Sioux Pass had
been destroyed in November, and they were in a destitute and pitiable

Crazy Horse and his band of 900 Indians surrendered at Red Cloud, May
5th. They appeared to be in a comfortable condition and had 2000 ponies.

At the latest date, Sitting Bull and his band were reported moving
toward Canada. If they return south, Col. Miles will be prepared to give
them a suitable reception.



George Armstrong Custer, son of Emmanuel H. Custer, a hard-working,
enterprising farmer, was born at New Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio,
December 5th, 1839. He grew up into an active, athletic, and amiable
youth, acquired a fair English education, and at the age of sixteen
years engaged in teaching school near his native town.

Having determined to go to West Point if possible, young Custer
addressed a letter on the subject to Hon. John A. Bingham, Member of
Congress from his district, to whom he was personally unknown, and
subsequently called on him. The result was that he entered West Point
Academy as a cadet in 1857. The official notification of his appointment
was signed by Jefferson Davis, President Buchanan's secretary of war.

As a cadet, Custer did not achieve a brilliant record either for
scholarship or good behavior. This was not owing to any want of
intelligence or quickness of comprehension, but rather to a love of
mischief and hatred of restraint. During the four years of his academic
term he spent 66 Saturdays in doing extra guard duty as penance for
various offences; and he graduated in 1861, at the foot of a class of


His stay terminated with a characteristic incident. He chanced one
day when officer of the guard to come upon two angry cadets, who from
words had come to blows, and were just ready to settle their difficulty
with their fists. Custer pushed through the crowd of spectators who
surrounded the combatants, but instead of arresting them, as was his
duty, he restrained those who were endeavoring to restrain them, and
called out:--

"Stand back, boys; let's have a fair fight."

His appeal was heard by Lieuts. Hazen and Merritt, and he was placed
under arrest and kept back to be court-martialed, while the rest of his
class, (excepting such as had already resigned to join the Southern
army) departed for active service. The court-martial was however cut
short, through the exertions of his fellow cadets at Washington, by a
telegraphic order summoning him there.

Custer reported to the Adjutant-General of the Army at Washington, July
20th, and was by him introduced to Gen. Scott. The company (G, 2nd
Cavalry) to which he had been assigned, with the rank of 2nd lieutenant,
was at this time near Centerville, and as he was to join it, Gen. Scott
entrusted to him some dispatches for Gen. McDowell who commanded the
troops in the field. A night's ride on horseback took him to the army,
the dispatches were delivered, and then he joined his company before
daybreak just as they were preparing to participate in the battle of
Bull Run. In this battle, however, the cavalry took but little part; in
the frantic retreat that followed, Custer's company was among the last
to retire, and did so in good order, taking with them Gen. Heintzelman
who was wounded.

After Gen. McClellan took command of the army, Custer's company was
attached to Gen. Phil Kearny's brigade, and that general detailed Custer
as his aid-de-camp, and afterwards as assistant adjutant-general, which
position he held till deprived of it by a general order prohibiting
officers of the regular army from serving on the staffs of volunteer

About this time he obtained leave of absence on account of ill health,
and visited his sister, Mrs. Reed, at her home in Monroe, Michigan; and
it is said that through her entreaties and influence he then gave up the
habit of using strong drinks, which, in common with many of his fellow
officers, he had acquired during his brief army life near Washington.
Thenceforth, through the remainder of his life, he drank no intoxicating

Returning to the army in Feb. 1862, he was assigned to the 5th Cavalry,
and when the enemy evacuated Manassas he participated in the advance on
that place, and led the company which drove the hostile pickets across
Cedar Run.

When the Army of the Potomac was transferred to the Peninsula, Custer's
company was among the first to reach Fortress Monroe, and it then
marched to Warwick. Here he was detailed as assistant to the chief
engineer, on Gen. W.F. Smith's staff; he served in that capacity during
the siege of Yorktown, and planned the earthwork nearest the enemy's
lines. At the battle of Williamsburg, where he acted as aid-de-camp to
Gen. Hancock, he effected the capture of a battle-flag--the first taken
by the Army of the Potomac.

When the army was encamped near the Chickahominy River, late in May,
Custer accompanied Gen. Barnard, the chief engineer of the army, on a
reconnoisance outside the picket line to the bank of the river; and at
the request of his superior, he dismounted, jumped into the river, and
waded across the stream--the object being to ascertain the depth of the
water, which in some places came nearly up to his shoulders. On reaching
the opposite bank he examined the ground for some distance, and
discovered, unseen by them, the position of the enemy's pickets. Barnard
reported to McClellan that the river was fordable, and how he had
ascertained that it was so. McClellan sent for Custer, and was so
pleased with his appearance and courageous act that he transferred him
to his own staff; and in June, Custer received from the Secretary of War
his appointment as additional aid-de-camp, with the rank of captain
during the pleasure of the President. Previously to this he had crossed
the Chickahominy at daybreak with a company of infantry, attacked the
enemy's picket post, and captured prisoners and arms.

Custer served on McClellan's staff through all of the Peninsular
campaign; and after the battles of Gaines' Mills, Fair Oaks, Malvern
Hill, etc., retreated with him to the protection of the gunboats at
Harrison's Landing on the James River. Subsequently, after the
withdrawal of the army from the Peninsula and the defeat of Banks and
Pope in Virginia, he was McClellan's aid-de-camp in the Maryland
campaign which closed with the battle of Antietam. When McClellan was
superseded by Burnside, Nov. 10th, 1862, Custer accompanied his chief to
Washington, and subsequently visited his friends in Ohio and Michigan.
His staff position as captain ceased with the retirement of McClellan,
and he was now a first lieutenant, commissioned July 17th, 1862.

In April, 1863, Custer rejoined his company which was with Gen. Hooker's
army near Fredericksburg, and took part in the battle of
Chancellorsville. In June he was on the staff of Gen. Pleasonton, then
chief of the cavalry corps, and was conspicuous at Beverly Ford and
other places across the Rappahannock where Stuart's cavalry were met and
roughly handled.

At the battle of Aldie, Virginia, Custer distinguished himself in the
charge made by Kilpatrick's cavalry. The onset was irresistible; the
Confederate forces were driven back in confusion, and Custer's
impetuosity carried him far within their lines, from which he was
allowed to escape in consequence, he believed, of the similarity of his
hat to those worn by the Confederates. For his gallantry in this action,
Custer was promoted at one bound from a first lieutenant to a

Gen. Custer was now assigned to the command of a Michigan brigade in
Kilpatrick's division, the 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th Cavalry, and joined his
command at Hanover, Md., June 29th. The next day he was engaged in a
skirmish with Stuart's cavalry, and attracted the attention of all by
the peculiarity of his dress. He wore a broad-brimmed, low-crowned felt
hat; loose jacket and trowsers of velveteen, the former profusely
trimmed with gold-braid and the latter tucked into high boots; a blue
shirt, with turnover collar on either corner of which was an embroidered
star; and a flaming neck-tie.

The battle of Gettysburg was now in progress, and on the 2nd of July
Custer distinguished himself, and won the respect of his officers, by
charging the enemy at the head of a company of his troops, having his
horse shot under him. The next day his brigade was actively engaged,
and the charge of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, supported by a battery, is
designated by Custer as one of the most brilliant and successful
recorded in the annals of warfare.

After the battle Gen. Lee retreated rapidly toward the Potomac, and the
cavalry moving by different routes harassed him continually, capturing
trains and prisoners. The following paragraph is copied from Headley's
"History of the Civil War."

     "Kilpatrick clung to the rebel army with a tenacity that did not
     allow it a moment's rest. At midnight, in a furious thunder storm,
     he charged down the mountain through the darkness with unparalleled
     boldness, and captured the entire train of Elwell's division, eight
     miles long. At Emmettsburg, Haggerstown, and other places, he smote
     the enemy, with blow after blow. Buford, Gregg, Custer, and others,
     performed deeds which, but for the greater movements that occupied
     public attention, would have filled the land with shouts of
     admiration. In fact, the incessant protracted labors of the cavalry
     during this campaign, rendered it useless for some time."

Custer's brigade came upon the enemy's rear guard at Falling Waters, and
the 6th Michigan made a gallant charge which was repulsed with
considerable loss; but after a two hours' fight the enemy was driven to
the river; Gen. Pettegrew and 125 of his men were killed, and 1500 were
taken prisoners; cannon and battle-flags were also captured.

When the cavalry crossed the Rappahannock in September, pushing back
Stuart's cavalry to Brandy Station, Culpepper C.H., and across the
Rapidan, Custer, as usual, was with the advance, and in one engagement
was slightly wounded by a piece of a shell--the first and only time he
was wounded during the war. After a short vacation in consequence of his
wound, he rejoined his command in season to accompany the advance of
cavalry to and across the Rapidan in October; and when Mead's army was
forced back across the Rappahannock, he assisted in covering the
retreat. The following description of the engagement at Brandy Station
is also copied from Headley:--

     "Pleasonton, with the cavalry, remained behind to watch the enemy,
     and then slowly retired toward the retreating army. Buford had been
     forced back more rapidly than Kilpatrick, whose command--with Davis
     over the right brigade, and Custer over the left--fell back more
     slowly. When the latter reached Brandy Station, he found the
     former, ignorant of his movements, was far in advance, leaving his
     right entirely exposed. To make matters worse Stuart had passed
     around his left, so that Kilpatrick, with whom was Pleasonton
     himself, was suddenly cut off. The gallant leader saw at a glance
     the peril of his position, and, riding to a slight eminence took a
     hasty survey of the ground before him. He then gave his orders, and
     three thousand swords leaped from their scabbards, and a long, loud
     shout rolled over the field.

     "With a heavy line of skirmishers thrown out, to protect his flanks
     and rear, he moved in three columns straight on the rebel host that
     watched his coming. At first, the well-closed columns advanced on a
     walk, while the batteries of Pennington and Elder played with
     fearful precision upon the hostile ranks. He thus kept on, till
     within a few hundred yards of the rebel lines, when the band struck
     up "Yankee Doodle." The next instant, a hundred bugles pealed the
     charge, and away, with gleaming sabres and a wild hurrah, went the
     clattering squadrons. As they came thundering on, the hostile lines
     parted, and let them pass proudly through. Buford was soon
     overtaken, and a line of battle formed; for the rebels, outraged to
     think they had let Kilpatrick off so easy, reorganized, and now
     advanced to the attack.

     "A fierce cavalry battle followed, lasting till after dark.
     Pleasonton, Buford, Kilpatrick, Custer and Davis again and again
     led charges in person. It seemed as if the leaders on both sides
     were determined to test, on the plains of Brandy Station, the
     question of superiority between the cavalry; for the charges on
     both sides were of the most gallant and desperate character. The
     dark masses would drive on each other, through the deepening gloom,
     with defiant yells, while the flashing sabres struck fire as they
     clashed and rung in the fierce conflict. At length the rebels gave
     it up, and our cavalry, gathering up its dead and wounded, crossed
     the Rappahannock."

In the spirited encounter near Buckland's Mills, Oct. 19th, in which
Stuart, aided by a flank attack from Fitz Hugh Lee, worsted Kilpatrick
by force of numbers, Custer's brigade bore the brunt of the attack, and
did most of the fighting on our side. This fight terminated the active
campaign of 1863 for Custer's brigade, which subsequently guarded the
upper fords of the Rapidan.

On the 9th of February, 1864, Gen. Custer was married at Monroe,
Michigan, to Miss Elizabeth Bacon, only daughter of Judge Daniel S.
Bacon of Monroe. When he rejoined his command at Stevensburg a few days
later, his wife accompanied him, and she remained in camp till the
opening of the spring campaign of 1864. The marriage was, as far as
Custer was concerned, the consequence of love at first sight, and ever
proved to be for both parties a happy one.

Late in February, 1864, Gen. Custer crossed the Rapidan with 1500
cavalry in light marching order, flanking Lee's army on the west, and
pushed rapidly ahead to within four miles of Charlottesville, where he
found his progress arrested by a far superior force. He then turned
northward toward Stannardsville where he again encountered the enemy,
and after skirmishing, returned to his camp followed by some hundreds of
refugees from slavery. This raid was designed to draw attention from a
more formidable one led by Kilpatrick at the same time.




In the spring of 1864, Gen. Grant was placed at the head of all the
Union armies; Gen. Sheridan was called to command the cavalry corps in
place of Gen. Pleasonton; and Custer with his brigade was transferred to
the First division under Torbert.

In May, the Army of the Potomac once more advanced to the Rapidan and
crossed it. In the battle of the Wilderness, owing to the character of
the field, the cavalry were compelled to remain almost idle spectators,
but subsequently, at Spottsylvania C.H., Torbert's division was
seriously engaged.

On the 9th of May, Gen. Sheridan started out on his first great cavalry
raid toward Richmond. At Beaverdam Station he inflicted great damage on
the railroads, destroyed much property, and liberated 400 Union
prisoners on their way to Richmond. Continuing his march, he found, at
Yellow Tavern a few miles north of Richmond, Stuart's cavalry drawn up
to oppose his passage. A spirited fight ensued, resulting in the death
of Stuart and the dispersion of his troops. Our cavalry pressed on down
the road to Richmond, and Custer's brigade attacked and carried the
outer line of defenses, and took 100 prisoners. The second line of
works was too strong to be taken by cavalry, and Sheridan was obliged to
retreat. Beating off assailants both in front and rear he crossed the
Chickahominy, pushed southward to Haxall's Landing on the James River,
and then leisurely returned by way of White House and Hanover C.H. to
Grant's army, arriving in time to be present at the sanguinary battle of
Cool Arbor.

On the 9th of June, Custer accompanied Sheridan on a raid around Lee's
army. They struck the railroad at Trevilian's, drove off a large force
of the enemy and broke up a long section of the road. Retracing their
steps to Trevilian's, they had there a spirited contest with Fitz Hugh
Lee, and then drew off and rejoined Gen. Grant. During this raid
Sheridan lost over 700 men, and captured 400 prisoners.

In the autumn of 1864, two divisions of cavalry under Torbert were with
Sheridan's army operating in the Shenandoah Valley. Custer's brigade was
in the First division, commanded by Merritt. Averill commanded the
Second division.

Having received from Gen. Grant the order, "Go in"--the only
instructions which Grant deemed it necessary to give--Sheridan, Sept.
19th, attacked the Confederate forces at Opequan Creek. The artillery
opened along the whole line, the columns moved steadily forward, and
Gen. Early soon discovered that Sheridan was in earnest. Early's
position was a strong one, and he stubbornly held it until the cavalry
bugles were heard on his right, as the firm-set squadrons bore fiercely
down. Rolled up before the impetuous charge, the rebel line at length
crumbled into fragments, and the whole army broke in utter confusion and
was sent "whirling through Winchester," followed until dark by the
pursuing cavalry. 3000 prisoners were taken.

Three days later Sheridan attacked Early at Fisher's Hill--a strong
position to which he had retired--and again forced him to retreat with a
loss of 1100 men taken prisoners. The cavalry pursued so sharply and
persistently, that Early left the valley and took refuge in the
mountains where cavalry could not operate.

On the 26th of Sept., Custer was transferred from the command of the
Michigan brigade in the First division to the head of the Second
division; but before he was able to reach his new command, he was placed
at the head of the Third division, with which he had formerly been
connected under Kilpatrick.

When Sheridan moved back through the valley from Port Republic to
Strasburg, sparing the houses, but burning all the barns, mills and
hay-stacks, and driving off all the cattle, his rear was much harassed
by the rebel cavalry under Gen. Rosser--a class-mate of Custer's at West
Point; and on the night of Oct. 8th, Sheridan ordered Torbert to "start
out at daylight, and whip the rebel cavalry or get whipped himself."
Accordingly on the next morning the cavalry, led on by Merritt and
Custer and supported by batteries, swept boldly out to attack a larger
force drawn up in battle array. At the first charge upon them Rosser's
men broke and fled, but subsequently rallied, and were again pushed back
and utterly routed. Rosser lost all his artillery but one piece, and
everything else which was carried on wheels, and was pursued to Mt.
Jackson, 26 miles distant. Of this affair, Gen. Torbert reported:--

     "The First Division captured five pieces of artillery, their
     ordnance, ambulance, and wagon trains, and 60 prisoners. The Third
     Division captured six pieces of artillery, all of their headquarter
     wagons, ordnance, ambulance, and wagon trains. There could hardly
     have been a more complete victory and rout. The cavalry totally
     covered themselves with glory, and added to their long list of
     victories the most brilliant one of them all, and the most decisive
     the country has ever witnessed."

On the 15th of Oct., Sheridan started on a flying visit to Washington,
leaving his army encamped on three ridges or hills. The crest nearest
the enemy was held by the Army of West Virginia under Crook; half a mile
to the rear of this was the second one, held by the 19th Corps under
Emory; and still further to the rear, on the third crest, was the 6th
Corps under Gen. Wright, who commanded the whole army during Sheridan's
absence. The cavalry under Torbert lay to the right of the 6th Corps.

Gen. Early, having resolved to surprise and attack the Union army,
started out his troops on a dark and foggy night, and advanced
unperceived and unchallenged in two columns along either flank of the
6th Corps. The march was noiseless; and trusty guides led the steady
columns through the gloom, now pushing through the dripping trees and
now fording a stream, till at length, an hour before day-break, Oct.
18th, Early's troops, shivering with cold, stood within 600 yards of
Crook's camp. Two of Crook's pickets had come in at 2 A.M. and reported
a heavy, muffled tramp heard at the front; but though some extra
precautions were taken, no one dreamed that an attack would be made.

Crook's troops, slumbering on unconscious of danger, were awakened at
daybreak by a deafening yell and the crack of musketry on either flank;
following which, charging lines regardless of the pickets came
immediately on over the breastworks. The surprise was complete, and
after a brief struggle the Army of West Virginia was flying in confusion
toward the second hill occupied by the 19th Corps. Emory attempted to
stop the progress of the enemy, but they got in his rear, and his
command soon broke and fled with the rest toward the hill where the 6th
Corps lay.

Gen. Wright formed a new line of battle, and repulsed a tremendous
charge of the enemy, thus obtaining time to cover the immense crowd of
fugitives that darkened the rear. A general retreat was then begun and
continued in good order till 10 A.M. when, the enemy having ceased to
advance, Wright halted and commenced reorganizing the scattered troops.
The cavalry, being at the rear and extreme right, had not suffered in
the first assault on the Union army, but they were subsequently
transferred to the left flank, and did brave service in covering the
retreat of the infantry.

Meanwhile Sheridan, returning from Washington, had slept at Winchester
20 miles distant, and in the morning rode leisurely toward his army. The
vibrations of artillery at first surprised him, and he soon became aware
that a heavy battle was raging and that his army was retreating. Dashing
his spurs into his horse he pushed madly along the road, and soon left
his escort far behind. Further on he met fugitives from the army, who
declared that all was lost. As the cloud of fugitives thickened he
shouted, as he drove on and swung his cap, "Face the other way, boys; we
are going back to our camp; we are going to lick them out of their
boots." The frightened stragglers paused, and then turned back.

On arriving at the front, where the work of reorganization was already
well advanced, Sheridan inspired his men with new courage by his
appearance and words. For two hours he rode back and forth in front of
the line, encouraging the troops; and when the order was given, "The
entire line will advance, etc.," the infantry went steadily forward upon
the enemy. Early's front was soon carried, while his left was partly
turned back; and after much desperate fighting, his astonished troops
turned and fled in utter confusion over the field.

     "As they streamed down into the Middletown meadow," says Headley,
     "Sheridan saw that the time for the cavalry had come, and ordered a
     charge. The bugles pealed forth their stirring notes, and the
     dashing squadrons of Custer and Merritt came down like a clattering
     tempest on the right and left, doubling up the rebel flanks, and
     cleaving a terrible path through the broken ranks. Back to, and
     through our camp, which they had swept like a whirlwind in the
     morning, the panic-stricken rebels went, pellmell, leaving all the
     artillery they had captured, and much of their own, and strewing
     the way with muskets, clothing, knapsacks, and everything that
     could impede their flight. The infantry were too tired to continue
     the pursuit, but the cavalry kept it up, driving them through
     Strasburg to Fisher's Hill, and beyond, to Woodstock, sixteen miles

After the battle of Cedar Creek and during the winter of 1864--5,
Sheridan's army, including Custer's division, remained inactive,
occupying cantonments around Winchester.

On the 27th of Feb., Sheridan started out on his last great raid, taking
with him Gen. Merritt as chief of cavalry, the First and Third divisions
of cavalry under Generals Devin and Custer, artillery, wagons, and
pack-mules. The raiding column, including artillerymen and teamsters,
numbered 10,000 men.

Moving rapidly up the Shenandoah Valley over the turnpike road, they
passed many villages without halting or opposition, and on the 29th,
approached Mount Crawford, where Rosser with 400 men disputed the
passage over a stream and attempted to burn the bridge; but Col.
Capehart of Custer's command, which was in advance, by a bold dash drove
Rosser away and saved the bridge.

Custer now pushed on to Waynesboro' and finding Early intrenched there,
immediately attacked him. The result, as told by Sheridan, was as

     "Gen. Custer found Gen. Early in a well chosen position, with two
     brigades of infantry, and some cavalry under Rosser, the infantry
     occupying breastworks. Custer, without waiting for the enemy to get
     up courage over the delay of a careful reconnaissance, made his
     dispositions for attack at once. Sending three regiments around the
     left flank of the enemy, Custer with the other two brigades, partly
     mounted and partly dismounted, at a given signal attacked and
     impetuously carried the enemy's works; while the Eight New York and
     the First Connecticut cavalry, who were formed in columns of fours,
     charged over the breastworks, and continued the charge through the
     streets of Waynesboro', sabring a few men as they went along, and
     did not stop until they had crossed the South Fork of the
     Shenandoah, (which was immediately in Early's rear) where they
     formed as foragers, and with drawn sabres held the east bank of the
     stream. The enemy threw down their arms and surrendered, with
     cheers at the suddenness with which they had been captured."

Sixteen hundred prisoners, 11 pieces of artillery, 200 loaded wagons,
and 17 battle-flags were captured single-handed by Custer at
Waynesboro', while his own loss was less than a dozen men. Vast amounts
of public property were subsequently destroyed. The prisoners were sent
to Winchester under guard.

Pushing on across the Blue Ridge in a heavy rain during the night after
Early's defeat, Custer, still in the van, approached Charlottesville the
next afternoon, and was met by the authorities, who surrendered to him
the keys of the public buildings as a token of submission. The balance
of the column soon came up, and two days were spent in destroying
bridges, mills, and the railroad leading to Lynchburg.

Sheridan now divided his command, and sent Merritt and Devin to destroy
the canal from Scottsville to New Market, while he and Custer tore up
the railroads as far west as Amherst C.H. The columns united again at
New Market on the James River; and as the enemy had burned the bridges
so they could not cross to the south side, they moved eastward behind
Lee's army, destroying bridges, canals, railroads and supplies, thus
inflicting a more serious blow to the confederate cause than any
victories by land or sea gained during the last campaign. Then they
swept around by the Pamunkey River and White House, and joined Grant's
besieging army in front of Petersburg, March 27th. They encamped on the
extreme left of the lines, close to their old comrades of the Second
Division of cavalry, (now under Gen. Crook) who here again came under
Sheridan's command.





The final struggle for the possession of Richmond and Petersburg was now
commenced by an extension of the Union lines westward, Grant's object
being to attack the right flank of the Confederates.

On the 29th of March, Sheridan, with his cavalry, moved southwest to
Dinwiddie C.H., where Devin's and Crook's divisions halted for the
night. Custer was some distance in the rear protecting the train. In the
morning, Devin pushed the enemy back northerly to their intrenchments at
Five Forks; but being unable to advance further, he returned to
Dinwiddie C.H. Gen. Warren, with the 5th Infantry Corps, had meantime
been put under Sheridan's command as a support to the cavalry, but had
not yet come up.

The next day, 31st, Lee's troops attacked Warren unexpectedly, and drove
two of his divisions back upon a third, where their advance was stopped;
and with the assistance of Humphrey's 2nd Corps, the enemy were driven
back into their entrenched position along the White Oak road. Then the
rebel infantry moved westward along the road to Five Forks, and attacked
Devin, who, earlier in the day, had advanced to Five Forks and carried
that position. Devin was driven out in disorder and forced back, and
after some difficulty rejoined Crook's division at Dinwiddie C. H. The
confederates now assailed Sheridan with a superior force, but could make
no headway, and during the night they withdrew.

Meantime Custer, and Gen. McKenzie with 1,000 additional cavalry, had
joined Sheridan, and Warren was within supporting distance. At daybreak
the cavalry advanced steadily on the enemy, and by noon had driven them
behind their works at Five Forks, and were menacing their front. Warren
was now ordered forward, and after more delay than Sheridan deemed
necessary, he reached his assigned position and charged furiously
westward on the enemy's left flank. Custer and Devin at the same time
charged their right flank and front. Thus assailed by double their
numbers the rebel infantry fought on with great gallantry and fortitude;
but at length their flank defenses were carried by Warren's troops, and
simultaneously the cavalry swept over their works. A large portion of
the enemy surrendered, and the balance fled westward, pursued by Custer
and McKenzie; 5,000 prisoners were taken.

The next morning, Sunday, April 2nd, at daybreak, a general assault was
made by Grant's army upon the defences of Petersburg, and some of them
were carried. Lee telegraphed to Davis that Richmond must be evacuated;
and by night the Confederate rule in that city was ended, and Davis and
his Government on the way by railroad to Danville. Lee's troops withdrew
from Richmond and Petersburg the same night, and marched rapidly
westward to Amelia C.H. on the Danville railroad, where they halted,
April 4th and 5th, to gather supplies of food from the country.

Meantime, the Union army was pursuing the retreating Confederates and
making every effort to prevent their escape. Custer and Devin moved
southwesterly toward Burkesville destroying the railroad, and then
joined Crook, McKenzie, and the 5th Corps at Jetersville five miles west
of Amelia C.H. Sheridan intrenched his infantry across the railroad,
supported them by his cavalry, and felt prepared to stop the passage of
Lee's whole army. Lee, however, finding his way to Danville thus
blocked, moved northerly around Sheridan's left, and thence westerly
toward Farmville on the Appomattox River. Gen. Davies, of Crook's
division, made a reconnoisance and struck Lee's train moving ahead of
his troops, destroying wagons, and taking prisoners. A fight followed,
and Davies fell back to Jetersville where nearly the whole army was then

On the morning of the 6th, Crook, Custer, and Devin started out in
pursuit. Crook, who was in advance, was ordered to attack the trains,
and if the enemy was too strong, another division was to pass him, while
he held fast and pressed the enemy, and attack at a point further
on--thus alternating until some vulnerable point was found. Crook came
upon Lee's columns near Deatonsville, and charged upon them, determined
to detain them at any cost. Crook was finally repulsed, but his action
gave Custer time to push ahead, and strike further on at Sailor's Creek.
Crook and Devin came promptly to Custer's support, and he pierced the
line of march, destroyed 400 wagons, and took many prisoners. Elwell's
division was separated from Lee, who was further ahead, and being
enclosed between the cavalry in front and the infantry on their rear,
the troops threw down their arms and surrendered.

That evening Lee crossed the Appomattox at Farmville, and tried to burn
the bridges behind him, but troops arrived in season to save one of
them. Lee halted five miles beyond Farmville, intrenched himself, and
repulsed an attack from the infantry. At night he silently resumed his

On the morning of the 7th, Custer and Devin, under Merritt, were sent on
a detour to the left, to cut off retreat toward Danville should it be
attempted; while Crook forded the Appomattox and attacked a train. On
the 8th, Sheridan concentrated the cavalry at Prospect Station, and sent
Merritt, Custer, and Devin swiftly ahead 28 miles to Appomattox Station,
where, he had learned from scouts, were four trains loaded with supplies
for Lee, just arrived from Lynchburg.

Gen. Custer took the lead, and on reaching the railroad station he
skillfully surrounded and captured the trains. Then, followed by Devin,
he hurried on five miles further to Appomattox C.H., where he confronted
the van of Lee's army, immediately attacked it, and by night had turned
it back on the main column, and captured prisoners, wagons, guns, and a
hospital train. The balance of the cavalry hurried up, and a position
was taken directly across the road, in front of Lee's army.

By a forced march the infantry under Griffin and Ord, supporting the
cavalry, reached the rear of Sheridan's position by daybreak the next
morning. Grant and Mead were pressing closely on Lee's rear, and Lee saw
there was no escape for him unless he could break through the cavalry
force which he supposed alone disputed his passage. He therefore ordered
his infantry to advance. The result of this charge, the last one made
by the Army of Virginia, is thus described in Greeley's "_American

     "By Sheridan's orders, his troopers, who were in line of battle
     dismounted, gave ground gradually, while showing a steady front, so
     as to allow our weary infantry time to form and take position. This
     effected, the horsemen moved swiftly to the right, and mounted,
     revealing lines of solid infantry in battle array, before whose
     wall of gleaming bayonets the astonished enemy recoiled in blank
     despair, as Sheridan and his troopers, passing briskly around the
     rebel left, prepared to charge the confused, reeling masses. A
     white flag was now waved by the enemy before Gen. Custer, who held
     our cavalry advance, with the information that they had concluded
     to surrender."

The next day, April 9th, Gen. Custer, who had been brevetted
Major-General after the battle of Cedar Creek, issued the following
complimentary order to his troops:--

     APPOMATTOX COURT HOUSE, VA., April 9, 1865.}


     With profound gratitude toward the God of battles, by whose
     blessings our enemies have been humbled and our arms rendered
     triumphant, your Commanding General avails himself of this his
     first opportunity to express to you his admiration of the heroic
     manner in which you have passed through the series of battles which
     to-day resulted in the surrender of the enemy's entire army.

     The record established by your indomitable courage is unparalleled
     in the annals of war. Your prowess has won for you even the respect
     and admiration of your enemies. During the past six months,
     although in most instances confronted by superior numbers, you have
     captured from the enemy, in open battle, 111 pieces of field
     artillery, 65 battle-flags, and upward of 10,000 prisoners of war
     including seven general officers. Within the last ten days, and
     included in the above, you have captured 46 field-pieces of
     artillery and 37 battle-flags. You have never lost a gun, never
     lost a color, and have never been defeated; and notwithstanding the
     numerous engagements in which you have borne a prominent part,
     including those memorable battles of the Shenandoah, you have
     captured every piece of artillery which the enemy has dared to
     open upon you. The near approach of peace renders it improbable
     that you will again be called upon to undergo the fatigues of the
     toilsome march, or the exposure of the battle-field; but should the
     assistance of keen blades wielded by your sturdy arms be required
     to hasten the coming of that glorious peace for which we have been
     so long contending, the General Commanding is firmly confident
     that, in the future as in the past, every demand will meet a hearty
     and willing response.

     Let us hope that our work is done, and that blessed with the
     comforts of peace, we may be permitted to enjoy the pleasures of
     home and friends. For our comrades who have fallen, let us ever
     cherish a grateful remembrance. To the wounded and to those who
     languish in Southern prisons, let our heartfelt sympathy be

     And now, speaking for myself alone, when the war is ended and the
     task of the historian begins; when those deeds of daring which have
     rendered the name and fame of the Third Cavalry Division
     imperishable are inscribed upon the bright pages of our country's
     history, I only ask that my name may be written as that of the
     Commander of the Third Cavalry Division.

Lee's flag of truce at Appomattox--a white towel--and also the table on
which Grant and Lee signed the capitulation agreement, were presented to
Mrs. Custer by Gen. Sheridan, and are now in her possession. In a letter
accompanying them Sheridan wrote, that he "knew of no person more
instrumental in bringing about this most desired event than her own most
gallant husband."

In the great parade of the Army of the Potomac at Washington in May
1865, Sheridan's cavalry were at the head of the column; and the Third
Division, first in peace as it had been first in war, led the advance.
Custer, now a Major-General of volunteers, at the age of 26 years, rode
proudly at the head of his troopers, a prominent figure in the stirring
pageant, and the observed of all beholders. He had put off for the
occasion his careless dashing style of dress, and wore, with becoming
dignity, the full regulation uniform of a Major-General.

Shortly after the parade, Custer was sent to Texas, where he had command
of a cavalry division at Austin, but no active service became necessary.
In March, 1866, he was mustered out of service as a Major-General, and
took rank as a Captain, assigned to the 5th Cavalry, U.S.A. Soon
afterward, he applied to Senor Romero, Minister from Mexico, for a
position as chief of President Juarez's cavalry, in his struggle with
Maximilian. He presented a letter of introduction from General Grant in
which he was spoken of in the most complimentary terms. Romero was
anxious to secure his services, and made him liberal offers; but as
Custer could not obtain leave of absence from his Government, the
contemplated arrangement was not completed.





In July, 1866, Custer received from Andrew Johnson, a commission as
Lieut. Col. of the 7th Cavalry--a new regiment; and after accompanying
the President on his famous tour through the country, he proceeded to
Fort Riley, Kansas.

In the spring of 1867, an expedition under Gen. Hancock marched from
Fort Riley to Fort Larned near the Arkansas River, and the 7th Cavalry,
under Lieut. Col. Custer, accompanied it. The dissatisfied Indians had
been invited by the Indian agent to meet Hancock in council at Fort
Larned, and had agreed to do so; but as they failed to appear at the
appointed time, Hancock started for a village of Sioux and Cheyenne
Indians, distant some 30 miles from the fort. On the way he met several
of the chiefs, and they agreed to hold a council at Hancock's camp on
the next day, April 14th. As none of the chiefs came, as promised,
Hancock again started for their village, and soon came upon several
hundred Indians drawn up in battle array directly across his path. The
troops were immediately formed in line of battle, and then the General,
with some of his officers and the interpreter, rode forward and invited
the chiefs to a meeting between the lines, which were half a mile apart.
The invitation was accepted; several chiefs advanced to the officers,
and a friendly interview was holden--all seeming pleased at the peaceful
turn things had taken. The result of the "talk" was an arrangement for a
council to be held at Hancock's headquarters after he had camped near
the Indian village, toward which both parties then proceeded. It was
ascertained on reaching it that the women and children had been sent
away; and during the night the warriors, unobserved by the white men,
also fled, leaving their lodges and stores.

Mistrusting something of the kind, Custer, with the cavalry, had during
the night stealthily surrounded the village, and on entering it later
found it deserted. Pursuit of the Indians was commenced, but their trail
soon scattered so it could not be followed. After burning the deserted
village, the expedition returned to Fort Hayes, where the 7th Cavalry

The next summer, Custer with several companies of his regiment and 20
wagons, was sent on a long scouting expedition to the southward in
search of Indians. Leaving Fort Hayes in June, he proceeded to Fort
McPherson on the Platte River, and thence to the forks of the Republican
River in the Indian country. From this place he sent Major J.A. Elliott,
on the 23d of June, with ten men and one guide, to carry despatches to
Gen. Sherman at Fort Sedgwick, 100 miles distant. The wagons, escorted
by cavalry, were also started the same day to procure supplies from Fort
Wallace, about the same distance away in an opposite direction.

Early the next morning, an attack was made on the camp, but the soldiers
rallied so promptly and effectively that the Indians soon withdrew.
Interpreters were then sent toward them, who arranged for a council
which was held near by. After an unsatisfactory interview, Custer
returned to his camp and started in pursuit of the Indians, but was
unable to overtake them.

On the fifth day after his departure, Major Elliott returned in safety
to the camp. He had traveled only by night, and had seen no Indians. The
wagon train was not so fortunate. It reached Fort Wallace safely, and
started to return escorted by 48 troopers. On the way it was attacked by
a large number of Indians, who for three hours kept up a running fight
around the circle. The wagons moved forward in two strings, with the
cavalry horses between them for safety, and the dismounted soldiers
defended them so successfully that their progress forward was
uninterrupted. Meanwhile Custer, fearing for the safety of the train,
had sent out cavalry to meet it; and their approach caused the Indians
to cease from their attack and withdraw. The balance of the journey was
safely accomplished.

Resuming his march, Custer again struck the Platte, some distance west
of Fort Sedgwick. Here he learned by telegraph that Lieut. Kidder with
ten men and an Indian scout had started from Fort Sedgwick, with
despatches for Custer directing him to proceed to Fort Wallace, shortly
after Major Elliott had left the fort. As Kidder had not returned and
Custer had not seen him, fears for his safety were entertained, and
Custer immediately started for his late camp at the forks of the
Republican. On the way thither some of his men deserted, and being
followed and refusing to surrender, were fired upon, and three were

On reaching the camp, an examination was made by the Indian guide, and
it was ascertained that Kidder's party had arrived there in safety, and
continued on towards Fort Wallace, over the trail made by the wagons. In
the morning Custer started in pursuit, and by noon it became evident by
the tracks of their horses, that Kidder's party had been hard chased for
several miles. Further on one of their horses was found, shot dead; and
at last the mutilated and arrow-pierced bodies of the 12 men were found
lying near each other. They had been chased, overtaken, and killed by
the savages. They were buried in one grave, and the troops proceeded to
Fort Wallace.

Custer had been ordered to report to Gen. Hancock at Fort Wallace, and
receive further orders from him; but on arriving there he found that the
General had retired to Fort Leavenworth. The location of Fort Wallace
was isolated and remote from railroads, and as the stock of provisions
was low, Custer decided to go for supplies. He started on the evening of
July 15th, with 100 men, and arrived at Fort Hayes on the morning of
July 18th, having marched 150 miles, with a loss of two men who had been
surprised by Indians. He then proceeded to Fort Harker, 60 miles further
on, and after making arrangements for the supplies, obtained from Gen.
Smith permission to visit his wife, who was at Fort Riley, 90 miles
distant by rail.

Soon after this Custer was arraigned before a court-martial, charged
with leaving Fort Wallace without orders, and making a journey on
private business, during which two soldiers were killed; also for
over-tasking his men on the march, and for cruelty while quelling a
mutiny. After trial, he was pronounced guilty of a breach of discipline
in making a journey on private business (which he earnestly denied) and
acquitted of the other charges. His sentence was a suspension of pay and
rank for a year, during which period he remained in private life, while
his regiment was engaged in an expedition under Gen. Sully.

In October, 1868, Custer was recalled into service, and joined his
regiment at Fort Dodge on the Arkansas River. Early in Nov., a winter
campaign against the Indians was commenced. Gen. Sully, with the 7th
Cavalry, detachments of infantry, and a large supply train, marched to
the borders of the Indian country and established a post called Camp

On the 23d of Nov., Custer with his regiment of about 800 men started
out in a snow storm on a scout for the enemy. The next day a trail was
discovered and pursued, and at night the troops were in the valley of
the Washita River, and near an Indian village which had been seen from a
distance. The village was stealthily surrounded, and at daybreak an
attack was made simultaneously by several detachments.

The Indians were taken entirely by surprise. The warriors fled from the
village, but took shelter behind trees, logs, and the bank of the
stream, and fought with much desperation and courage, but were finally
driven off. The village was captured with its contents, including 50
squaws and children who had remained safely in the lodges during the
fight. Some 800 ponies were also captured. On questioning the squaws,
one of them said that she was a sister of the Cheyenne chief Black
Kettle, that it was his village that had been captured, and that
several other Indian villages were located within ten miles--the nearest
one being only two miles distant.

Before Custer had time to retreat, hostile Indians--reinforcements from
the other villages--arrived in such numbers as to surround the captured
village, which Custer and his men occupied; and an attack was begun
which continued nearly all day. The Indians were finally driven away.
The village and its contents were burned. The captives were allowed to
select ponies to ride on, and the balance of the drove were shot. The
retreat was begun by a march forward, as if to attack the next village.
The Indians fled; and after dark Custer moved rapidly back toward Supply
Camp, taking the captives along as prisoners of war.

In this engagement, known as the Battle of the Washita, Major Elliott,
Capt. Hamilton, and 19 privates were killed, and three officers and 11
privates wounded. Captains Weir, Benteen, T.W. Custer, and Lieut. Cook,
participated in this fight. It was estimated that at least 100 Indians
were killed, among whom was the noted chief Black Kettle.

The death of Black Kettle was much regretted by many white people. Gen.
Harney said respecting him:--"I have worn the uniform of my country 55
years, and I know that Black Kettle was as good a friend of the United
States as I am." Col. A.G. Boone, a member of the recent Indian
Commission, who had known Black Kettle for years, said tearfully:--"He
was a good man; he was my friend; he was murdered."

Early in Dec., the 7th Cavalry and a Kansas cavalry regiment,
accompanied by Gen. Sheridan and staff, again started out to look for
Indians. The recent battle-ground was revisited, and then the force
proceeded along the valley of the Washita, finding the sites of several
villages which appeared to have been lately and hastily removed. Large
numbers of lodge poles, and robes, utensils, and stores were left
behind; and a broad trail, leading down the river toward Fort Cobb, 100
miles distant, showed the direction their owners had taken when
frightened away from their winter retreat. A pursuit of the trail was
commenced, but it soon branched. The troops continued on, and when
within 20 miles of Fort Cobb, Indians appeared in front with a flag of
truce. They proved to be Kiowas led by Lone Wolf, Satanta, and other

A council was held, and both parties agreed to proceed together to Fort
Cobb; and the Indians agreed that they would then remain on their
reservation. On the way to the fort, many of the Indians slipped away,
and as Custer then supposed (erroneously) that Lone Wolf and Satanta had
been engaged in the recent battle and might also escape, he placed them
under guard and took them to Fort Cobb, where they were held as hostages
for the return of the roaming Kiowas, who finally came in on learning
that Sheridan had determined to hang their chiefs if they failed to do

Soon after this, Little Robe--a Cheyenne chief, and Yellow Bear--a
friendly Arapahoe, were visiting at Fort Cobb, and at Custer's
suggestion Sheridan permitted him with a small party to go with these
chiefs as a peace ambassador. The mission was successful as far as the
Arapahoes were concerned, and as its result the whole tribe returned to
their reservation.

The effort to arrange with the Cheyennes proving unavailing, Custer with
800 men started, March, 1869, in pursuit of them. On the 13th of March
he arrived in the vicinity of several Cheyenne villages, one of which
belonged to Little Robe. Several councils were held with the chiefs; and
it was ascertained that two white women who had been recently captured
in Kansas were held as captives in one of the villages. For this reason
Custer could not attack the Indians, who were still intractable, and had
to continue negotiations with them. They refused to release the women
unless a large ransom was paid.

Custer subsequently seized four of the chiefs, and threatened to hang
them if the white women were not given up unconditionally. This threat
produced the desired effect, and the women were surrendered. Custer then
marched to the supply camp, taking with him the captured chiefs, who
begged for freedom as the white women had been given up. Their friends
also entreated for their release; but Custer assured them that the
Washita prisoners and the captive chiefs would not be liberated until
the Cheyennes returned to their reservation. This they promised to do,
and subsequently kept their word.





A treaty having been made with the Indians and peace restored, the 7th
Cavalry enjoyed a long season of rest. In the autumn of 1870, it was
broken into detachments and distributed to different posts. Custer, with
two companies, was assigned to a post at Elizabethtown, Ky., 40 miles
from Louisville, and in this isolated place he remained two years.
During this period of inaction he engaged in literary pursuits and wrote
an account of his life on the Plains. He also joined in a buffalo-hunt
given on the Plains in honor of the Russian Grand Duke Alexis, and after
the hunt he and Mrs. Custer accompanied the Duke in his travels through
the Southern States.

In March, 1873, the 7th Cavalry was ordered to Dakota, and in May was
encamped at Fort Rice far up the Missouri. Here also were assembled
other soldiers, and in July the so-called Yellowstone Expedition,
commanded by Gen. D.S. Stanley, started out on its mission, which was to
escort and protect the engineers and surveyors of the Northern Pacific
Railroad. The march was westward to the Yellowstone and up its valley,
accompanied part of the way by steamboats. The country was rough and
broken, and the wagon trains were got forward with much difficulty. It
was Custer's custom to go ahead every day with a small party of
road-hunters, to pick out and prepare the most suitable road for the

On the 4th of Aug., when opposite the mouth of Tongue River, as Custer
and his advance party of about 100 men were enjoying a noon-day siesta
in a grove on the bank of the river, they were aroused by the firing of
the pickets. A few Indians had made a dash to stampede the horses which
were grazing near by, and failing in this, were riding back and forth as
if inviting pursuit. The soldiers speedily mounted, and Custer with 20
men followed the Indians, who retreated slowly, keeping out of the reach
of shot.

After going nearly two miles the retreating Indians faced about as if to
attack, and simultaneously, 300 mounted warriors emerged from a forest
and dashed forward. Custer's men immediately dismounted, and while five
of them held the horses, the remainder, with breech-loading carbines,
awaited the enemy's charge. Several rapid volleys were sufficient to
repulse the Indians, and cause them to take shelter in the woods from
which they came.

Just then the remainder of Custer's men came up, and the whole force
retreated to the resting place they had so lately vacated. The horses
were sheltered in the timber, and the men took advantage of a natural
terrace, using it as a breastwork. The Indians had followed them
closely, and now made persistent but unsuccessful attempts to drive them
from their position. Being defeated in this, they next tried to burn
them out by setting fire to the grass. After continuing their assault
for several hours, the Indians withdrew at the approach of the main
column, and Custer and the fresh troops chased them several miles.

[Illustration: COUNTING HIS COUPS.]

The same day, two elderly civilians connected with the expedition were
murdered while riding in advance of the main column. Nearly two years
later, Charles Reynolds, a scout subsequently killed at the battle of
the Little Big Horn, while at Standing Rock Agency, heard an Indian who
was "counting his _coups_," or in other words rehearsing his great
achievements, boast of killing two white men on the Yellowstone. From
his description of the victims and the articles he exhibited, Reynolds
knew that he was the murderer of the two men.

The name of this Indian was Rain in the Face. He was subsequently
arrested by Captains Yates and Custer, and taken to Fort Lincoln where
he was interviewed by Gen. Custer and finally confessed the deed. He was
kept a close prisoner in the guardhouse for several months, but managed
to escape, and joined Sitting Bull's band. It is thought by some that he
was the identical Indian who killed Gen. Custer, and that he did it by
way of revenge for his long imprisonment. There seems to be no real
foundation for this theory; but the "Revenge of Rain in the Face" will
probably go down to posterity as an historical truth, as it has already
been immortalized in verse by one of our most gifted poets, who seems,
however, to have overlooked the fact that Gen. Custer's body was not

A week after the affair on the Yellowstone a large Indian trail was
discovered leading up the river, and Custer was sent in pursuit. On
arriving near the mouth of Big Horn River, it was discovered that the
enemy had crossed the Yellowstone in "bull boats." As Custer had no
means of getting across, he camped for the night. Early the next
morning he was attacked by several hundred warriors, some of whom had
doubtless recrossed the river for that purpose. Sitting Bull was
commander of the Indians, and large numbers of old men, squaws, and
children were assembled on the high bluffs and mounds along the river to
witness the fight. After considerable skirmishing Custer ordered his
troops to charge, and as they advanced the Indians fled, and were
pursued some distance.

In these two engagements our loss was four men killed, and two were
wounded. Custer's horse was shot under him. There was no further trouble
with the Indians, and the expedition returned to Fort Rice about the 1st
of October. Later in the autumn, Gen. Custer was assigned to the command
of Fort Lincoln, on the Missouri River, opposite the town of Bismark.

In the summer of 1874, a military expedition to explore the Black Hills
was decided on, and Gen. Custer was selected to command it. The column
of 1,200 troops, escorting a corps of scientists, etc., started from
Fort Lincoln, July 1st, moved southwesterly about 250 miles to the Black
Hills, and then explored the region. No trouble was experienced with
Indians, and the expedition returned to Fort Lincoln in September.

Mrs. Custer had accompanied her husband to the Plains when he first went
thither, and excepting when he was engaged in some active campaign or
both were East, she shared with him the hardships, privations, and
pleasures of frontier life. Mrs. Champney, speaking of her in the
_Independent_, says:--"She followed the general through all his
campaigns, her constant aim being to make life pleasant for her husband
and for his command. General Custer's officers were remarkably attached
to him; to a man they revered and admired his wife. She was with him not
only in the idleness of summer camp-life, when the days passed in a
_dolce far niente_ resembling a holiday picnic; but in ruder and more
dangerous enterprises she was, as far as he would permit, his constant

When Gen. Custer was ordered to Fort Lincoln Mrs. Custer went there with
him; that retired post was their home for the remainder of his life, and
when he started out on his last campaign she parted with him there.





When a campaign against the roaming hostile Indians was decided on in
1876, Lieut. Col. Custer was naturally selected as the leader of the
Dakota column, which was organized at Fort Lincoln, and mainly composed
of his regiment.

About this time a Congressional committee at Washington were
investigating the charges against Gen. Belknap, who had recently
resigned the office of Secretary of War. Many persons were called to
testify; and while Custer was actively engaged in organizing the Sioux
expedition, he received a telegraphic summons to appear before the

On the receipt of the summons, Custer telegraphed to Gen. Terry, the
Department Commander, informing him of the fact, stating that what he
knew as to any charges against the War Department was only from hearsay
evidence, and asking his advice as to what he had better do. Terry, who
was a lawyer as well as a soldier, in reply informed Custer that his
services were indispensable, and that he feared it would delay the
expedition if he had to go to Washington. He suggested that if Custer
knew nothing of the matter, he might perhaps get excused from going

After hearing from Terry, Custer telegraphed to the chairman of the
committee as follows;--

     "While I hold myself in readiness to obey the summons of your
     committee, I telegraph to state that I am engaged upon an important
     expedition, intended to operate against the hostile Indians, and I
     expect to take the field early in April. My presence here is very
     necessary. In view of this, would it not be satisfactory for you to
     forward to me such questions as may be necessary, allowing me to
     return my replies by mail."

As the committee would not consent to the plan proposed, Custer went to
Washington, and was detained there on this business about one month. He
was severely cross-examined, but the result showed that he knew but
little of the matter in controversy. All he could say of his own
knowledge was, that a contractor had turned over to him at Fort Lincoln
a quantity of grain, which he suspected had been stolen from the Indian
Department, as the sacks bore the Indian brand. He had at first refused
to receive the grain, and had informed the Department commander of his
suspicions. He had received in reply an order to accept the grain; and
he believed that the order emanated from the Secretary of War, and so
testified before the committee. On returning west, he learned from Gen.
Terry that he alone was responsible for the order to receive the grain;
and thereupon, Custer telegraphed the fact to Mr. Clymer, and
added:--"As I would not knowingly do injustice to any individual, I ask
that this telegram may be appended to and made part of my testimony
before your committee."

On being discharged by the committee, Custer, for the third time it is
said, called at the White House, hoping to remove the wrong impression
and misunderstanding as to his action before the committee which, he
had learned from private sources, the President had received and still
entertained. He did not however succeed in getting an interview, and it
is said that Gen. Grant even refused to see him.

Leaving the White House, Custer proceeded to the office of Gen. Sherman,
and learned that the General had gone to New York, but was expected back
that evening. Custer then took the train for Chicago, and on arriving
there was halted by Gen. Sheridan who had received from Gen. Sherman a
telegram dated May 2nd, as follows:--

     "I am this moment advised that General Custer started last night
     for Saint Paul and Fort Abraham Lincoln. He was not justified in
     leaving without seeing the President or myself. Please intercept
     him at Chicago or Saint Paul, and order him to halt and await
     further orders. Meanwhile let the expedition from Fort Lincoln
     proceed without him."

Gen. Custer was of course greatly surprised on learning that such a
telegram had been received, and he immediately telegraphed to Gen.
Sherman a statement of the circumstances under which he left Washington.
He reminded the General that at their last interview he had stated that
he would start west May 1st, and had been told in reply that it was the
best thing he could do; he said further that he had every reason to
believe, that in leaving Washington when he did he was acting in
accordance with the General's advice and wishes; and in conclusion, he
reminded the General of his promise that he should go in command of his
regiment, and asked that justice might be done him. Receiving no answer
to this message, he again telegraphed to Sherman asking as a favor that
he might proceed to Fort Lincoln where his family was. In reply, Sherman
telegraphed as follows:--

     "Before receipt of yours, I had sent orders to Gen. Sheridan, to
     permit you to go to Fort Lincoln on duty, but the President adheres
     to his conclusion that you are not to go on the expedition."

Sherman's orders to Sheridan were as follows:--

     "I have received your despatch of to-day, announcing Gen. Custer's
     arrival. Have just come from the President, who orders that Gen.
     Custer be allowed to rejoin his post, to remain there on duty, but
     not to accompany the expedition supposed to be on the point of
     starting against the hostile Indians, under Gen. Terry."

General Custer accordingly started for Fort Lincoln, and on arriving at
Saint Paul, May 6th, he addressed the following letter to President

     "TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT, through Military Channels:

     I have seen your order transmitted through the General of the army,
     directing that I be not permitted to accompany the expedition about
     to move against hostile Indians. As my entire regiment forms a part
     of the proposed expedition, and as I am the senior officer of the
     regiment on duty in this Department, I respectfully but most
     earnestly request that while not allowed to go in command of the
     expedition, I may be permitted to serve with my regiment in the
     field. I appeal to you as a soldier to spare me the humiliation of
     seeing my regiment march to meet the enemy and I not to share its

This appeal to the President was forwarded by Gen. Terry with the
following communication:--

     "In forwarding the above, I wish to say expressly, that I have no
     desire to question the orders of the President, or of my military
     superiors. Whether Lieut. Col. Custer shall be permitted to
     accompany my column or not, I shall go in command of it. I do not
     know the reasons upon which the orders already given rest; but if
     those reasons do not forbid it, Lieut, Col. Custer's services would
     be very valuable with his command."

It may be well to state here the probable causes of the unfriendly
feeling which Gen. Grant at this period manifested toward one whom he
had "endorsed to a high degree" ten years previously. The Congressional
committee hitherto mentioned, had been appointed by the Opposition
members of the House, and some of its proceedings had, doubtless,
annoyed and vexed the President. Gen. Babcock had been on his staff
during the war, and enjoyed his friendship and support even after the
damaging disclosures respecting the sale of the post-tradership at a
western fort. Attempts had also been made about this time to injure
Grant's administration, by seeking to identify it with the frauds which
had been discovered, or which were suspected, and he naturally
considered those who volunteered information to the committee as
unfriendly to himself.

It was currently reported that Custer telegraphed to the committee's
chairman, that an investigation into the post-traderships upon the Upper
Missouri would reveal a state of things quite as bad as at Fort Sill;
and that in consequence of this communication he was summoned before the

But whatever the causes of Gen. Grant's unfriendliness, or the cruelty
charged upon him for showing his displeasure as he did, the result of
Gen. Custer's appeal was creditable to the President. Custer resumed his
position as Terry's trusted coadjutor in fitting out the expedition, and
finally marched from Fort Lincoln as commander of his regiment. It was
no disgrace to him that Terry accompanied the column, and the best
feeling always existed between the two officers. The junction with the
Montana troops was contemplated at the time, and their commander, Col.
Gibbon, would have ranked Lieut. Col. Custer when their forces united.
Some commanding general had usually accompanied previous expeditions
into the Indian country, and it seems probable that Gen. Terry would
have participated in the campaign under any circumstances. Besides, it
does not appear from Custer's despatch to Sheridan, that he had been
promised more than the command of his regiment.

The history of the campaign, and the story of the disastrous battle in
which Gen. Custer lost his life have been given in preceding chapters.
His action in attacking the Indians before the arrival of Gibbon's
troops has been the subject of controversy, and by some few even his
motives have been impugned. The following paragraphs relative thereto
are from the editorial columns of the _Army and Navy Journal_:--

     "It was not in Terry's instructions, and it clearly was not in his
     mind, that Custer, if he came "in contact with the enemy," should
     defer fighting him until the infantry came up. * * * There could be
     no justification whatever for any plan of operations which made an
     attack dependent upon a junction between Custer and Gibbon, after
     three or four days' march from different points.

     "It has been asserted that, smarting under the wounds which
     preceding events had inflicted upon his pride, Custer dashed
     recklessly into this affair for the purpose of eclipsing his
     superior officers in the same field, regardless of cost or
     consequences. This, it seems to us, is going much too far. Custer
     was doubtless glad of the opportunity to fight the battle alone,
     and was stimulated by the anticipation of a victory which,
     illuminating his already brilliant career, would make him outshine
     those put on duty over him in this campaign. But his management of
     the affair was probably just about what it would have been under
     the same circumstances, if he had had no grievance. His great
     mistake was in acting in mingled ignorance of, and contempt for his
     enemy. He regarded attack and victory in this instance as
     synonymous terms, the only point being to prevent the escape of the
     foe. Under this fatal delusion he opened the engagement, with his
     command divided into four parts, with no certainty of co-operation
     or support between any two of them. Neither ambition, nor wounded
     vanity, prompted these vicious and fatal dispositions, nor were
     they due to lack of knowledge of the principles of his profession."




As the foregoing biography of Gen. Custer has been confined chiefly to
his military career, it may be well in conclusion to give some account
of his personal characteristics; and this can be best done in the
language of those who knew him well. A gentleman who accompanied Gen.
Custer on the Yellowstone and Black Hills expeditions, contributed to
the _New York Tribune_ the following:--

     "Gen. Custer was a born cavalryman. He was never more in his
     element than when mounted on Dandy, his favorite horse, and riding
     at the head of his regiment. He once said to me, 'I would rather be
     a private in the cavalry than a line officer in the infantry.' He
     was the personification of bravery and dash. If he had only added
     discretion to his valor he would have been a perfect soldier. His
     impetuosity very often ran away with his judgment. He was impatient
     of control. He liked to act independently of others, and take all
     the risk and all the glory to himself. He frequently got himself
     into trouble by assuming more authority than really belonged to his
     rank. It was on the Yellowstone expedition where he came into
     collision with Gen. Stanley, his superior officer, and was placed
     under arrest and compelled to ride at the rear of his column for
     two or three days, until Gen. Rosser, who fought against Custer in
     the Shenandoah Valley during the war but was then acting as
     engineer of the Northern Pacific Railroad, succeeded in effecting a
     reconciliation. Custer and Stanley afterward got on very well, and
     perhaps the quarrel would never have occurred if the two generals
     had been left alone to themselves without the intervention of camp
     gossips, who sought to foster the traditional jealousy between
     infantry and cavalry. For Stanley was the soul of generosity, and
     Custer did not really mean to be arrogant; but from the time when
     he entered West Point to the day when he fell on the Big Horn, he
     was accustomed to take just as much liberty as he was entitled to.

     "For this reason, Custer worked most easily and effectively when
     under general orders, when not hampered by special instructions, or
     his success made dependent on anybody else. Gen. Terry understood
     his man when, in the order directing him to march up the Rosebud,
     he very liberally said: 'The Department Commander places too much
     confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon
     you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in
     contact with the enemy.' But Gen. Terry did not understand Custer
     if he thought he would wait for Gibbon's support before attacking
     an Indian camp. Undoubtedly he ought to have done this; but with
     his native impetuosity, his reckless daring, his confidence in his
     own regiment, which had never failed him, and his love of public
     approval, Custer could no more help charging this Indian camp, than
     he could help charging just so many buffaloes. He had never learned
     to spell the word 'defeat;' he knew nothing but success, and if he
     had met the Indians on the open plains, success would undoubtedly
     have been his; for no body of Indians could stand the charge of the
     7th Cavalry when it swept over the Plains like a whirlwind. But in
     the Mauvaises Terres and the narrow valley of the Big Horn he did
     it at a fearful risk.

     "With all his bravery and self-reliance, his love of independent
     action, Custer was more dependent than most men on the kind
     approval of his fellows. He was even vain; he loved display in
     dress and in action. He would pay $40 for a pair of troop boots to
     wear on parade, and have everything else in keeping. On the
     Yellowstone expedition he wore a bright red shirt, which made him
     the best mark for a rifle of any man in the regiment. I
     remonstrated with him for this reckless exposure, but found an
     appeal to his wife more effectual, and on the next campaign he wore
     a buckskin suit. He formerly wore his hair very long, letting it
     fall in a heavy mass upon his shoulders, but cut it off before
     going out on the Black Hills, producing quite a change in his
     appearance. But if vain and ambitious, Custer had none of those
     great vices which are so common and so distressing in the army. He
     never touched liquor in any form; he did not smoke, or chew, or
     gamble. He was a man of great energy and remarkable endurance. He
     could outride almost any man in his regiment, I believe, if it were
     put to a test. When he set out to reach a certain point at a
     certain time, you could be sure that he would be there if he killed
     every horse in the command. He was sometimes too severe in forcing
     marches, but he never seemed to get tired himself, and he never
     expected his men to be so. In cutting our way through the forests
     of the Black Hills, I have often seen him take an ax and work as
     hard as any of the pioneers. He was never idle when he had a
     pretext for doing anything. Whatever he did he did thoroughly. He
     would overshoot the mark, but never fall short. He fretted in
     garrison sometimes, because it was too inactive; but he found an
     outlet here for his energies in writing articles for the press.

     "He had a remarkable memory. He could recall in its proper order
     every detail of any action, no matter how remote, of which he was a
     participant. He was rather verbose in writing, and had no gifts as
     a speaker; but his writings interested the masses from their close
     attention to details, and from his facility with the pen as with
     the sword in bringing a thing to a climax. As he was apt to overdo
     in action, so he was apt to exaggerate in statement, not from any
     wilful disregard of the truth, but because he saw things bigger
     than they really were. He did not distort the truth; he magnified
     it. He was a natural optimist. He took rose-colored views of
     everything, even of the miserable lands of the Northern Pacific
     Railroad. He had a historical memory, but not a historical mind. He
     was no philosopher; he could reel off facts from his mind better
     than he could analyze or mass them. He was not a student, nor a
     deep thinker. He loved to take part in events rather than to brood
     over them. He was fond of fun, genial and pleasant in his manner; a
     loving and devoted husband. It was my privilege to spend two weeks
     in his family at one time, and I know how happy he was in his
     social relations."

The following rambling remarks are accredited to a general, whose name
is not given:--

     "The truth about Custer is, that he was a pet soldier, who had
     risen not above his merit, but higher than men of equal merit. He
     fought with Phil Sheridan, and through the patronage of Sheridan he
     rose; but while Sheridan liked his valor and dash he never trusted
     his judgment. He was to Sheridan what Murat was to Napoleon. While
     Sheridan is always cool, Custer was always aflame. Rising to high
     command early in life, he lost the repose necessary to success in
     high command. * * * Then Custer must rush into politics, and went
     swinging around the circle with Johnson. He wanted to be a
     statesman, and but for Sheridan's influence with Grant, the
     republicans would have thrown him; but you see we all liked Custer,
     and did not mind his little freaks in that way any more than we
     would have minded temper in a woman. Sheridan, to keep Custer in
     his place, kept him out on the Plains at work. He gave him a fine
     command--one of the best cavalry regiments in the service. The
     colonel, Sturgis, was allowed to bask in the sunshine in a large
     city, while Custer was the real commander. In this service Custer
     did well, and vindicated the partiality of Sheridan as well as the
     kind feelings of his friends. * * * The old spirit which sent
     Custer swinging around the circle revived in him. He came East and
     took a prominent part in reforming the army. This made feeling, and
     drew upon Custer the anger of the inside forces of the

     "Then he must write his war memoirs. Well, in these memoirs he
     began to write recklessly about the army. He took to praising
     McClellan as the greatest man of the war, and, coming as it did
     when the democrats began to look lively, it annoyed the
     administration. Grant grew so much annoyed that even Sheridan could
     do no good, and Custer was disgraced. Technically it was not a
     disgrace. All that Grant did was to put Terry, a general, over
     Custer, a lieutenant-colonel, who had his regiment all the same;
     but all things considered, it was a disgrace."

The following is from an article by Gen. A.B. Nettleton, published in
the _Philadelphia Times_:--

     "It must be remembered that in fighting with cavalry, which was
     Custer's forte, instantaneous quickness of eye--that is, the
     lightning-like formation and execution of successive correct
     judgments on a rapidly-shifting situation--is the first thing, and
     the second is the power of inspiring the troopers with that
     impetuous yet intelligent ardor with which a mounted brigade
     becomes a thunderbolt, and without which it remains a useless mass
     of horses and riders. These qualities Gen. Custer seemed to me to
     manifest, throughout the hard fighting of the last year of the war,
     to a degree that was simply astounding, and in a manner that marked
     him as one of the few really great cavalry commanders developed by
     the wars of the present century. Of fear, in the sense of dread of
     death or of bodily harm, he was absolutely destitute, yet his love
     of life and family and home was keen and constant, leaving no room
     in his nature for desperation, recklessness, or conscious rashness.
     In handling his division under Sheridan's general oversight, he
     seemed to act always on the belief that in campaigning with
     cavalry, when a certain work must be done, audacity is the truest
     caution. In action, when all was going well and success was only a
     question of time or of steady 'pounding,' Gen. Custer did not
     unnecessarily expose himself, but until the tide of battle had been
     turned in the right direction, and especially when disaster
     threatened, the foremost point in our division's line was almost
     invariably marked by the presence of Custer, his waving division
     tri-color and his plucky staff.

     "A major-general of wide and splendid fame at twenty-five, and now
     slain at thirty-six, the gallant Custer had already lived long if
     life be measured by illustrious deeds."

The following is from a sketch of Gen. Custer published in the _Army and
Navy Journal_:--

     "Custer was passionately addicted to active and exciting sports as
     the turf and hunting. He was a splendid horseman and a lover of the
     horse; he attended many American race-meetings and ran his own
     horses several times in the West. His greyhounds and staghounds
     went with him at the head of his regiment, to be let slip at
     antelope or buffalo. With rifle or shotgun he was equally expert,
     and had killed his grizzly bear in the most approved fashion. * * *
     Bold to rashness; feverish in camp, but cool in action; with the
     personal vanity of a carpet knight, and the endurance and
     insensibility to fatigue of the hardiest and boldest rough rider; a
     prince of scouts; a chief of guides, threading a trackless prairie
     with unerring eye of a native and the precision of the needle to
     the star; by no means a martinet, his men were led by the golden
     chain of love, admiration and confidence. He had the proverbial
     assurance of a hussar, but his personal appearance varied with
     occasion. During the war he was 'Custer of the golden locks, his
     broad sombrero turned up from his hard-bronzed face, the ends of
     his crimson cravat floating over his shoulder, gold galore
     spangling his jacket sleeves, a pistol in his boot, jangling spurs
     on his heels, and a ponderous claymore swinging at his side.' And
     long after, when he roamed a great Indian fighter on the Plains,
     the portrait was only slightly changed. The cavalry jacket was
     exchanged for the full suit of buckskin, beautifully embroidered by
     Indian maidens; across his saddle rested a modern sporting rifle,
     and at his horse's feet demurely walked hounds of unmixed breed.
     Again, within a few months, he appears in private society as an
     honored guest; scrupulously avoiding anything like display, but in
     a quiet conventional suit of blue, with the 'golden locks' closely
     shorn, and the bronzed face pale from recent indisposition, he
     moves almost unnoticed in the throng."

The faithful correspondent who perished with Gen. Custer on the Little
Big Horn portrayed him thus:--

     "A man of strong impulses, of great hearted friendships and bitter
     enmities; of quick, nervous temperament, undaunted courage, will,
     and determination; a man possessing electric mental capacity, and
     of iron frame and constitution; a brave, faithful, gallant soldier,
     who has warm friends and bitter enemies; the hardest rider, the
     greatest pusher; with the most untiring vigilance overcoming
     seeming impossibilities, and with an ambition to succeed in all
     things he undertakes; a man to do right, as he construes right, in
     every case; one respected and beloved by his followers, who would
     freely follow him into the 'jaws of hell.'"

Gen. Custer's last battle "will stand in history as one of the most
heroic engagements ever fought, and his name will be respected so long
as chivalry is applauded and civilization battles against barbarism."



In 1875, the Black Hills country had acquired a white population and an
importance which rendered its possession and control by the Government
desirable and necessary; and an attempt was made to treat with the
Indians for its purchase, but without success.

In 1876, Congress expressed its determination to appropriate nothing
more for the subsistence of the Sioux Indians unless they made certain
concessions, including the surrender of the Black Hills, and entered
into some agreement calculated to enable them to become self-supporting.
Geo. W. Manypenny, H. C. Bullis, Newton Edmunds, Rt. Rev. H.B. Whipple,
A.G. Boone, A.S. Gaylord, J.W. Daniels, and Gen. H.H. Sibley, were
appointed commissioners to negotiate for the concessions demanded. The
following is an extract from their instructions under which they

     "The President is strongly impressed with the belief that the
     agreement which shall be best calculated to enable the Indians to
     become self-supporting is one which shall provide for their
     removal, at as early a day as possible, to the Indian Territory.
     For the past three years they have been kept from starvation by
     large appropriations for their subsistence. These appropriations
     have been a matter not of obligation but of charity, and the
     Indians should be made to understand distinctly that they can hope
     for continued appropriations only by full submission to the
     authority and wishes of the Government, and upon full evidence of
     their disposition to undertake, in earnest, measures for their own
     advancement and support."

The first council was held Sept. 7th, at Red Cloud agency, with chiefs
and headmen representing 4,901 Indians then at the agency. Red Cloud and
other chiefs met the commissioners with warm welcomes, and said with
deep earnestness:--"We are glad to see you; you have come to save us
from death." The conditions required by Congress were then submitted to
the Indians, with the assurance that the commissioners had no authority
to change them in any particular; but that they were authorized to
devise a plan to save their people from death and lead them to
civilization. The plan decided on was then carefully explained and
interpreted, and a copy of the agreement given to the Indians to take to
their own council. Other councils were held Sept. 19th and 20th, and
after mutual explanations the agreement was signed.

Subsequently, the commissioners visited Spotted Tail agency, Standing
Rock agency, Cheyenne River agency, Crow Creek agency, Lower Brule
agency, and Santee agency. At all of these agencies the agreement was
made plain to the Indians, and after due deliberation and considerable
discussion, duly signed. The following are extracts from the report of
the commissioners:--

     "While the Indians received us as friends, and listened with kind
     attention to our propositions, we were painfully impressed with
     their lack of confidence in the pledges of the Government. At times
     they told their story of wrongs with such impassioned earnestness
     that our cheeks crimsoned with shame. In their speeches, the
     recital of the wrongs which their people had suffered at the hands
     of the whites, the arraignment of the Government for gross acts of
     injustice and fraud, the description of treaties made only to be
     broken, the doubts and distrusts of present professions of
     friendship and good-will, were portrayed in colors so vivid and
     language so terse, that admiration and surprise would have kept us
     silent had not shame and humiliation done so. Said a chief to a
     member of our commission:--'I am glad to see you, you are our
     friends, but I hear that you have come to move us. Tell your people
     that since the Great Father promised that we should never be
     removed we have been moved five times.' He added, with bitter
     irony, 'I think you had better put the Indians on wheels so you can
     run them about wherever you wish.'

     "The present condition of the Sioux Indians is such as to awaken
     the deepest sympathy. They were our friends. If many of this
     powerful tribe have been changed to relentless foes, we must not
     forget that it is the simple outcome of our own Indian
     training-school. Generals Sherman, Harney, Terry, and others, use
     these words:--

     'The moment the war of the rebellion was over, thousands of our
     people turned their attention toward the treasures of Montana. The
     Indian was forgotten. It did not occur to any man that this poor,
     despised red man was the original discoverer, and sole occupant for
     many centuries, of every mountain seamed with quartz and every
     stream whose yellow sand glittered in the noonday sun. He asked to
     retain only a secluded spot where the buffalo and elk could live,
     and that spot he would make his home. The truth is, no place was
     left for him. If the lands of the white men are taken, civilization
     justifies him in resisting the invader. Civilization does more than
     this--it brands him as a coward and a slave if he submits to the
     wrong. If the savage resists, civilization, with the Ten
     Commandments in one hand and the sword in the other, demands his
     immediate extermination. That he goes to war is not astonishing. He
     is often compelled to do so. Wrongs are borne by him in silence
     that never fail to drive civilized men to deeds of violence. * * *
     But it is said that our wars with them have been almost constant.
     Have we been uniformly unjust? We answer unhesitatingly, 'yes.'"

     "General Stanley in 1870 writes from Dakota, that he is 'ashamed to
     appear any longer in the presence of the chiefs of the different
     tribes of the Sioux, who inquire why we do not do as we promised,
     and in their vigorous language aver that we have lied.' Sitting
     Bull, who had refused to come under treaty relations with the
     Government, based his refusal in these words, sent to the
     commission of which Assistant Secretary Cowen was chairman:
     'Whenever you have found a white man who will tell the truth, you
     may return, and I shall be glad to see you.'"

     "It has been claimed that all Indians found outside of their
     reservation shall be regarded as hostile. Gen. Sheridan, June 29th,
     1869, says in an official order, that all Indians outside the
     well-defined limits of the reservation are under the original and
     exclusive jurisdiction of the military authority, _and as a rule
     will be considered hostile_. This order is the more surprising to
     us when we remember that the treaty made by General Sherman and
     others expressly provided that these Indians might hunt upon the
     unceded territory; and we find that so late as its last session
     Congress appropriated $200,000 to be used in part for the payment
     of the seventh of thirty installments '_for Indians roaming_.' We
     repeat that, under this treaty, it is expressly provided that the
     Indians may hunt in the unceded territory north and west of the
     Sioux reservation, and until last year they had the right to hunt
     in Western Nebraska. We believe that our failure to recognize this
     right has led to many conflicts between the citizens and army of
     the United States and the Indians."

     "In 1874, the late lamented Gen. Custer made an expedition to the
     Black Hills. It was done against the protest of the Indians and
     their friends, and in plain, direct violation of the treaty. Gold
     was discovered, white men flocked to the El Dorado. Notwithstanding
     the gross violation of the treaty, no open war ensued. If our own
     people had a sad story of wrongs suffered from the Indians, we must
     not forget that the Indians, who own no telegraph-lines, who have
     no press and no reporters, claimed that they, too, had been the
     victims of lawless violence, and had a country of untold value
     wrested from them by force.

     "The charge is made that the agency Indians are hostile, and that
     they have furnished ammunition and supplies to the Indians with
     Sitting Bull. There is water-navigation for 3,000 miles through
     this territory, and an unguarded border of several hundred miles
     along the Canadian frontier. So long as the Indians will sell
     buffalo-robes at a low price and pay two prices for guns, the greed
     of white men will furnish them. It is gross injustice to the agents
     and the Interior Department to accuse them of furnishing arms and
     ammunition for Indians to fight our army and murder our citizens.

     "Of the results of this year's war we have no wish to speak. It is
     a heart-rending record of the slaughter of many of the bravest of
     our army. It has not only carried desolation and woe to hundreds of
     our own hearthstones, but has added to the cup of anguish which we
     have pressed to the lips of the Indian. We fear that when others
     shall examine it in the light of history, they will repeat the
     words of the officers who penned the report of 1868:--'The results
     of the year's campaign satisfied all reasonable men that the war
     was useless and expensive.'

     "We hardly know how to frame in words the feelings of shame and
     sorrow which fill our hearts as we recall the long record of the
     broken faith of our Government. It is made more sad, in that the
     rejoicings of our centennial year are mingled with the wail of
     sorrow of widows and orphans made by a needless Indian war, and
     that our Government has expended more money in this war than all
     the religious bodies of our country have spent in Indian missions
     since our existence as a nation.

     "After long and careful examination we have no hesitation in
     recommending that it is wise to continue the humane policy
     inaugurated by President Grant. The great obstacle to its complete
     success is that no change has been made in the laws for the care of
     Indians. The Indian is left without the protection of law in
     person, or property, or life. He has no personal rights. He has no
     redress for wrongs inflicted by lawless violence. He may see his
     crops destroyed, his wife or child killed. His only redress is
     personal revenge. * * * In the Indian's wild state he has a rude
     government of chiefs and headmen, which is advisory in its
     character. When located upon reservations under the charge of a
     United States agent, this government is destroyed, and we give him
     nothing in its place.

     "We are aware that many of our people think that the only solution
     of the Indian problem is in their extermination. We would remind
     such persons that there is only One who can exterminate. There are
     too many graves within our borders over which the grass has hardly
     grown, for us to forget that God is just. The Indian is a savage,
     but he is also a man. He is one of the few savage men who clearly
     recognize the existence of a Great Spirit. He believes in the
     immortality of the soul. He has a passionate love for his
     children. He loves his country. He will gladly die for his tribe.
     Unless we deny all revealed religion, we must admit that he has the
     right to share in all the benefits of divine revelation. He is
     capable of civilization. Amid all the obstacles, the wrongs, and
     evils of our Indian policy, there are no missions which show richer
     rewards. Thousands of this poor race, who were once as poor and
     degraded as the wild Sioux, are to-day civilized men, living by the
     cultivation of the soil, and sharing with us in those blessings
     which give to men home, country, and freedom. There is no reason
     why these men may not also be led out of darkness to light."

The following is a synopsis of the arrangement agreed on by the
commissioners and Indians:--

     The Sioux surrender all claim to so much of their reservation as
     lies west of the 103d meridian of longitude, and to so much of it
     as lies between the North and South Forks of the Cheyenne River
     east of said meridian; also all claim to any country lying outside
     of their reservation. Cannon Ball River and its south branch are to
     be the northern boundary of the reservation. Three wagon or other
     roads may be maintained across the reservation from the Missouri
     River to the Black Hills. All subsistence and supplies which may be
     hereafter provided, are to be delivered on or near the Missouri
     River. A delegation of chiefs and leading men from each band shall
     visit the Indian Territory, with a view to selecting therein a
     permanent home for the Indians. If such delegation shall make a
     selection satisfactory to the Indians they represent and to the
     United States, then the Indians are to remove to the selected
     country within one year, select allotments as soon as possible
     afterwards, and use their best efforts to cultivate the same. They
     are in all things to submit themselves to such beneficent plans as
     the Government may provide for them in the selection of a permanent
     home where they may live like white men.

     The United States agree to furnish subsistence to the Sioux until
     such time as they shall become self-supporting--rations to be
     issued to heads of families; and in case the Indians are located on
     lands suitable for cultivation, and educational facilities are
     afforded by the Government, the issue of rations is to be
     conditioned on the performance of labor by the Indians and the
     attendance of their children at school. Assistance in the way of
     schools and instruction in the agricultural and mechanical arts, as
     provided by the treaty of 1868, is guaranteed; and the building of
     comfortable houses on allotments in severalty is provided for. The
     Sioux are declared amenable to the laws of the United States; and
     Congress shall secure to them an orderly government and protect
     individual property, person, and life. The agreement not to be
     binding on either party till approved by Congress and the

With the exception of the Santees, the Indians on the Missouri River
objected to visiting the Indian Territory, and were exempted from that
part of the agreement by a supplementary clause. A delegation of 90
Indians from the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies visited the Indian
Territory in October as provided in the agreement. The following is from
the report of Commissioners Boone and Daniels who accompanied the

     "While travelling through the Territory, Spotted Tail took special
     pains to inform us that he was not pleased with anything that came
     within his observation, and his part of the delegation, with but
     few exceptions, were not disposed to express themselves in any
     other way. Many of the Red Cloud party were well pleased. Their
     chief said 'his Great Father asked him to go and find a place where
     his children could live by cultivating the land. This was the
     country, and he should go back and tell his people so.' The
     manual-labor school of 120 scholars at the Cheyenne and Arapahoe
     agency, was of more interest to them and gave them more pleasure
     than anything else seen on the journey. They manifested much
     interest in the progress of civilization among the Sac and Fox, and
     when passing the Creek country, the delegation was received by
     these tribes with generous hospitality and a hearty welcome. When
     we were at Okmulgee, the capital of the Creek Nation, they were
     invited to the council-house by the Creek chief, where he made a
     very friendly speech to them. The following is a copy thereof:--

     "To the Sioux, my brethren:--I am well pleased to see you here in
     the Mus-koke Nation, brethren of the same race as ourselves. I was
     told a long time ago of my red brethren, the Sioux, that were
     living in the far Northwest. I had heard of the name of your tribe
     and of many of your leading chiefs. I have heard of your great men,
     great in war, and great in council. I have heard of your trouble on
     account of the intrusion of the white men on your reservation in
     search of gold. I have heard that the United States Government had
     determined to remove you from your present home, and, perhaps it
     might be, to this Indian Territory, to the west of us. When I heard
     that you might possibly come to this Territory, which has been 'set
     apart for the home of the Indians forever,' I was glad. I would
     like to have all our red brethren settled in this Territory, as we
     have provided in our treaty. We, the Creeks and Cherokees, have the
     same kind of title and patent for our lands from the United States,
     which guarantees this Territory to us for a home, under our own
     form of government, by people of our own race, as long as 'grass
     grows and water runs.' And I think, therefore, we shall live
     forever on our lands. I should like--and I express the wish of our
     people--that every Indian tribe should come here and settle on
     these lands, that this Territory may become filled up with Indians,
     to the exclusion of others who may be inimical to our race and
     interests. We believe our right to our soil and our government,
     which is best suited to our peculiar necessities, would be safer if
     all our race were united together here. This is my earnest wish.
     Then I think the rising generation could be educated and civilized,
     and, what is still better, christianized, which, I believe, would
     be the greatest benefit of all. This would be to our mutual benefit
     and good. I know I express the minds of our people when I give you
     this welcome to our life of a higher civilization, which is better
     than the old life so long led by our race in the past."

At the councils held at the different agencies, the chiefs and principal
men made numerous speeches, which conveyed a good idea of Indian views
and feelings, and were often able and eloquent. The balance of this
chapter will be filled up with extracts from some of these speeches.

     _Red Cloud Agency._ FAST BEAR:--My good friends, you have come here
     to ask me for something, and I have come here to-day to answer. You
     ask me to give up the mountains that are to the north of us, and I
     answer yes to that question. I give them up. You are here also to
     ask me to take a journey to look at a country, and I also answer
     yes to that question. I consent for my young men to go down there
     and see that country; but they must look at it in silence, and come
     back in silence. When they have seen the country I will consider
     it. If it is good I will consider it so; if bad I will consider
     that it is bad. Do you understand, my friends, what I last said to
     you? We do not agree to go there to live before we have seen the

     YOUNG-MAN-AFRAID-OF-HIS-HORSE:--My father shook hands with the
     Dakotas peacefully on the Platte River. I have been brought up here
     from a boy until I got to be a chief. The soldiers have no business
     in this country at all. I wish to tell you plainly that I have been
     very much ashamed ever since the soldiers came here. This is my
     country, and I have remained here with my women and children eating
     such things as the Great Father has sent us. I am going to ask the
     Great Father for a great many things, things that will make me
     rich. I am going to ask for so much that I am afraid the Great
     Father will not consent to give it to me. I want you to tell the
     Great Father that I, and all the men like me, and the children, are
     going to ask him for a great many things, and we expect to have
     food, and blankets to wear as long as we live.

     BLACK COAL:--This place here is a place of peace, where we and our
     people have lived together happily, and behaved ourselves, and we
     do not understand why so many soldiers have come here among us. We
     have never had any trouble and have behaved ourselves, and wish to
     have the soldiers sent away as soon as possible, and leave us in
     peace. The people that live here have both minds and hearts and
     good sense, but it seems as if the Great Father all at once thought
     differently, and speaks of us as people that are very bad.

     RED CLOUD:--The commissioners have both brains and hearts. The
     Great Father has sent you here to visit me and my people, and I
     want that you should help us. We see a great many soldiers here in
     our country. We do not like to see them here. I want you to have
     pity upon us, and have them all taken away. I understand all the
     ways of the whites. I know that everything that has been said has
     been wri