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Title: Antoine of Oregon - A Story of the Oregon Trail
Author: Otis, James, 1848-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Antoine of Oregon - A Story of the Oregon Trail" ***

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Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

   Map to illustrate
   the Story of
   Antoine of Oregon]





     COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY



     W. P. I


The author of this series of stories for children has endeavored
simply to show why and how the descendants of the early colonists
fought their way through the wilderness in search of new homes. The
several narratives deal with the struggles of those adventurous people
who forced their way westward, ever westward, whether in hope of gain
or in answer to "the call of the wild," and who, in so doing, wrote
their names with their blood across this country of ours from the Ohio
to the Columbia.

To excite in the hearts of the young people of this land a desire to
know more regarding the building up of this great nation, and at the
same time to entertain in such a manner as may stimulate to noble
deeds, is the real aim of these stories. In them there is nothing of
romance, but only a careful, truthful record of the part played by
children in the great battles with those forces, human as well as
natural, which, for so long a time, held a vast portion of this broad
land against the advance of home seekers.

With the knowledge of what has been done by our own people in our own
land, surely there is no reason why one should resort to fiction in
order to depict scenes of heroism, daring, and sublime disregard of
suffering in nearly every form.




     THE FUR TRADERS                           9

     WHY I AM NOT A FUR TRADER                11


     AN INQUISITIVE STRANGER                  15

     AN UNEXPECTED PROPOSITION                16

     I SET OUT AS A GUIDE                     18

     JOHN MITCHELL'S OUTFIT                   20

     MAKING THE BARGAIN                       23

     WE LEAVE ST. LOUIS                       25


     THE CAMP AT INDEPENDENCE                 28

     A FRONTIER TOWN                          30

     THE START FROM INDEPENDENCE              33

     CARELESS TRAVELERS                       35

     OVERRUN BY WILD HORSES                   38

     SEARCHING FOR THE LIVE STOCK             40



     A TEMPEST                                46

     FACING THE INDIANS                       49


     THE PAWNEE VILLAGE                       53

     A BOLD DEMAND                            54

     I GAIN CREDIT AS A GUIDE                 56

     A DIFFICULT CROSSING                     58

     WASH DAY                                 60

     INDIAN PICTURES                          62

     A PLAGUE OF WOOD TICKS                   64

     ANOTHER TEMPEST                          66

     THE CATTLE STAMPEDED AGAIN               68

     DIFFICULT TRAVELING                      69

     COLONEL KEARNY'S DRAGOONS                71

     DISAGREEABLE VISITORS                    73

     DRIVING AWAY THE INDIANS                 75

     TURKEY HUNTING                           76

     EAGER HUNTERS                            77

     ANTELOPE COUNTRY                         79

     SHOOTING ANTELOPES                       81

     A PAWNEE VISITOR                         83


     DEFENDING OURSELVES                      87


     LAME OXEN                                91

     AN ARMY OF EMIGRANTS                     92

     THE BUFFALO COUNTRY                      95

     HUNTING BUFFALOES                        97

     MY MOTHER'S ADVICE                       99

     ASH HOLLOW POST OFFICE                  100

     NEW COMRADES                            102

     FORT LARAMIE                            103

     A SIOUX ENCAMPMENT                      106

     INDIANS ON THE MARCH                    107

     THE FOURTH OF JULY                      109

     MULTITUDES OF BUFFALOES                 111

     WE MEET COLONEL KEARNY AGAIN            113

     ACROSS THE DIVIDE                       115

     FORT BRIDGER                            117

     TRADING AT FORT HALL                    122

     THIEVISH SNAKES                         123

     THE HOT SPRINGS                         124

     THE FALLS OF THE SNAKE RIVER            126

     SIGNS OF THE INDIANS                    128

     BESET WITH DANGER                       129

     HUNGER AND THIRST                       131

     NEARLY EXHAUSTED                        133

     ARRIVAL AT FORT BOISE                   135

     ON THE TRAIL ONCE MORE                  137

     CAYUSE INDIANS                          139

     THE COLUMBIA RIVER                      140

     AN INDIAN FERRY                         141

     THE DALLES OF THE COLUMBIA              143

     OUR LIVE STOCK                          144

     MY WORK AS GUIDE ENDED                  145

     I BECOME A FARMER                       146



There is ever much pride in my heart when I hear it said that all the
trails leading from the Missouri River into the Great West were
pointed out to the white people by fur buyers, for my father was well
known, and in a friendly way, as one of the most successful of the
free traders who had their headquarters at St. Louis.


It is not for me to say, nor for you to believe, that the fur traders
were really the first to travel over these trails, for, as a matter of
fact, they were marked out in the early days by the countless numbers
of buffaloes, deer, and other animals that always took the most direct
road from their feeding places to where water could be found.

Then came the Indians, seeking a trail from one part of the country to
another, and they followed in the footsteps of the animals, knowing
full well that thereby they would not lack for water, the one thing
needful to those who go to and fro in the wilderness.

Thus it was that the animals and the Indians combined to mark out the
most direct roads that could be made, with due regard to the bodily
needs of those who traveled from one part of the Great West to

As the traders in furs journeyed from tribe to tribe of the Indians,
or sought the most favored places for trapping, they learned how white
men could go westward from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean
without fear of dying from hunger or thirst.

My father, Pierre Laclede, was, as I have said, a free trader, which
means that he went out into the wilderness with his crew of boatmen
and trappers, free from any bargains or duties to the great fur
trading companies, such as the Hudson's Bay, the Northwest, and the X.

There were regular battles fought between the hunters and trappers of
these great companies in the olden days, when St. Louis was under
Spanish rule and had become a famous gathering place for the fur

There were many like my father, who, hiring men to help them, carried
into the wilderness goods to be exchanged with the Indians for furs,
and, failing in this, set about trapping fur-bearing animals
throughout the winter season.

Wonderful sport these same traders had, as I know full well, having
been more than once with my father over that trail leading from the
Missouri River to the Oregon country.

Then there was the home-coming to St. Louis, when every man forgot the
days on which he had been cold or hungry, and no longer heeded the
half-healed wounds received in Indian attacks, when he had been forced
to defend with his life the furs he had gathered.

Once in St. Louis, what rare times of feasting and making merry, while
the furs were being shipped to New Orleans, or bartered to the big
companies that were ever on the watch for the return of the free


I, Antoine Laclede, would have followed in the footsteps of my father,
becoming myself a free trader after the treacherous Blackfeet Indians
killed him, had it not been that my mother, with her arms around my
neck, pleaded that I remain at home with her.

Therefore, instead of carrying on my father's business as a lad of
fifteen should have done, I strove to content myself at St. Louis, to
the pleasure of my dear mother.


However much affection there might be between us, it remained that we
must be supplied with food, and that my mother should have the things
necessary for her comfort.

But if I did not take up my father's business after he had lost, with
his life, the store of furs which he had been eight months in
gathering, as well as what remained of the goods he had carried into
the wilderness for trading, then how could I rightly fill the position
as head of the family, when all I had in this world were my two hands
and the desire to make my mother happy?

We lived on a street near the old cathedral, and it may be that our
small home was not the most pleasing to look upon of all the houses in
St. Louis; but in it I was born. My father had built it, paying for
every timber with furs he had gathered at risk of his life, and I
would not have yielded it in exchange for the finest house in the

The evil days fell upon us, meaning my mother and me, very shortly
after the news of my father's murder was brought to St. Louis, for we
soon came to know that we had neither goods nor furs enough to keep us
one full year.


Then it was that I went out one day alone to the river bank, where I
might have solitude and think how I could care for my mother as the
only son of a widow should care for that person whom he most loves.

I had lived fifteen years. There was no trapper in the Northwest
Company who could take more furs than I could. To ride and shoot were
my pleasures, and my unhappiness was in being forced to set down words
with a pen, or to puzzle my poor brain over long rows of figures which
must have been invented only for the sorrow of Antoine Laclede.

My rifle and Napoleon, a small spotted pony that could outkick any
beast this side the Rocky Mountains, made up all I owned of value, and
yet with them I must earn enough to support my mother and make her

The truth is, I might have joined with some free trader who had known
my father, working for a small wage, which would not be more than
enough to supply my mother with food and clothes such as had been
provided by my father; but I must earn more than that, lest the day
should come when, from wounds or sickness, I could not hold up my end
with my companions on the trail or with the traps.

All this made my heart heavy as I sat there on the river bank asking
myself what there was a lad like me could do.


Just at that time, when I was most downhearted, a man, tall of stature
and spare in flesh, came up close beside me, and, as it seemed, looked
down with much mirth in his heart, perhaps because I carried such a
woebegone expression on my face.


Then, much to my surprise, he said, speaking in what seemed an odd
tone, much as though he had a cold in his head:--

"Are you the son of Laclede, the free trader who was killed by the
Blackfeet Indians not so long ago?"

I was ever proud to own that I was my father's son, and speedily gave
the stranger an answer, although at the same time asking myself
whether there was any good reason for such a question, or if he was
intending to make sport of me.

"I am told that you have been over the trail 'twixt here and the
Oregon country with your father, lad?"

"I have been twice into the land of the Walla Wallas, but no farther
than that, although it would have pleased me well could I have seen
the great ocean."

"Now I am not so certain where the country of what you call the Walla
Wallas may be," the man said with a puzzled expression upon his face,
whereupon I answered quickly, proud because of being able to tell:--

"It is this side the Cascade Range, the other side of the Blue
Mountains, near where the Columbia River takes a sharp turn to the

"The Columbia River, eh?" the man repeated, as if satisfied with my
reply. "Then you surely must have traveled near to the Pacific Ocean?"

"I have been so near that one might go down the river to it in a
canoe, if he were so disposed; but there is a station of the Hudson's
Bay Company near the coast and we free traders who deal with the
Northwest Company have no desire for traffic with those who would shut
us out from St. Louis, fearing lest we may cut into their trade."



The man seated himself by my side as if satisfied that I was the one
whom he sought, and began his business by saying:--

"My name is John Mitchell. I am at the head of a party of thirty men,
women, and children who are bound for the Oregon country. We are
taking with us forty head of oxen, twenty horses, ten mules, and
thirty cows, to say nothing of the remainder of the outfit. I counted
on meeting here at St. Louis a man who would guide us across, but
find that he has left us in the lurch, likely because of getting a
better offer from some other company of settlers. Now I have been told
that you could serve us as guide; that you are what may be called a
fairly good hunter; and, although you look a bit too young for the
business, there are those here in St. Louis who say you may be
depended upon. What about guiding my party across? We are willing to
pay considerably more than fair wages--"

"It may not be for me to do any such thing," I replied quickly,
although at the same time wishing I could go once more into the Oregon
country and do a man's work as guide. "I have here my mother, who has
no other to depend upon, and I must stand by her, as a son should."

"Well said, lad, well said. It does you credit to think first of your
mother; but we are willing to pay considerable money to one who can
guide us, because this kind of traveling is new to all my party.
Already in coming up from Indiana we have had trouble with the cattle
and with the teams. Now say three hundred dollars for the trip, and if
you are minded to take your mother with you we stand ready to let her
share in whatsoever we have."

There is no reason why I should set down all we said, for we sat there
on the river bank until an hour had passed, talking all the while.

Each moment I grew more and more eager for the adventure, until it
seemed to me I had never had but one desire in life, and that to go
into the Oregon country and make there a home for my mother.

I promised to meet the man again that evening and went straight away
home to lay the matter before my mother. It surprised me not a little
that she seemed to be in favor of going to the Oregon country, and I
have since been led to believe that her willingness to abandon the
home in St. Louis came from the wish to make a change and to leave
that place where everything must needs remind her of my father.


Before seeking out John Mitchell, whose company was encamped on the
opposite side of the river, I visited a neighbor who had once offered
to buy our home. With him I agreed that for a certain sum of money he
should take possession of the house, using it as his own until my
mother and I came back, or, in case we remained in the Oregon country,
then he was to pay us as many dollars as we agreed upon.

That afternoon, an hour before sunset, I paddled across the river to
where John Mitchell's company was encamped, and for the first time I
questioned whether it might be possible for me, a lad only fifteen
years of age, to guide all these people, who seemingly had no more
idea of what was to be encountered in a journey to the Oregon country,
than if they had never heard of such a place.

I dare venture to say there could not have been found in St. Louis a
lad over ten years old who would have shown so much ignorance in
forming a camp, as did John Mitchell, who held himself commander of
the company.


True, there was no reason why they need guard themselves as if in the
country of an enemy. Yet if they were careless at the start, heeding
not the common precautions against the stampeding of their cattle, or
the possibility that prowling Indians might steal whatever lay
carelessly around, then surely when in a place where danger lurked,
they could not be depended upon to care for themselves in a sensible

Somewhat of this I said to John Mitchell while looking around the
encampment, and that he himself was ignorant of what might be met with
on a journey to the Oregon country, was shown when he asked:--

"And are you reckoning, lad, that we may come upon much danger?"

"Ay, sir, and plenty of it," I replied. "Just now the Indians are
quiet, so I have heard it said by the traders; but even when there is
no disturbance of any account, you are likely to come upon roving
bands that will make trouble. Even though they may do no worse, you
can set it down as a fact that from the time of leaving the settlement
of Independence, where the journey really begins, until you have come
into the Walla Walla country, there will be hardly a day, or, I should
say, a night, when you are not in danger of losing your stock through
these red thieves."


There was one thing in favor of John Mitchell, as I looked at the
matter, which was that his outfit was most complete. He had five
well-made carts with straight bodies, and sideboards from fourteen to
sixteen inches wide running outward four or five inches; in other
words, what are called "Mormon wagons," and to three of these he
counted on putting four yoke of cattle apiece. I was not so well
satisfied with this, for the beasts had been raised in Indiana, and
therefore were not accustomed to eating prairie grass, which would be
the greater portion of their food during the journey.


I had always heard it said that Illinois or Missouri cattle could
stand the journey to the Oregon country better than any others,
although then I did not know it from my own experience.

The ten mules were to be used for the hauling of the two remaining
wagons. To one of these would be harnessed six of the animals, and the
other, in which many of the women and children were to ride, was to be
drawn by four. The horses were to be used under the saddle.

I was forced to admit that Mitchell had not been niggardly in
outfitting his company.

He had no less than five sheet-iron stoves with boilers, one being
carried on a small platform at the rear end of each wagon. There were
tents in abundance for all the company, while for cooking utensils,
there were plates and cups and basins of tinware, half a dozen or more
churns, an ample supply of water kegs, and farming tools almost
without number.


I had little or no interest in this part of the outfit, but took good
care to make certain there were ropes and hobble straps in plenty for
tying up the horses and fettering those that were likely to stray,
because I knew from experience how much of such supplies might be lost
or stolen during the long journey.

The weapons carried by the men were of heavier caliber than I would
have suggested, unless they counted on using them wholly for buffalo
shooting. John Mitchell took no little pride in showing me his rifled
gun which carried thirty-two bullets to the pound, when to my mind
fifty-six would have served him better for general work; but that was
really no concern of mine.


We talked over the matter fairly and at great length, all the men of
the company and some of the women taking part in the parley. The
bargain, as I understood it, was that I was hired for no other service
than to guide this company, and also to make suggestions as to the
best places for camping, as well as how we could keep the people
supplied with fresh meat.

It was agreed that my mother should ride in the four-mule wagon with
John Mitchell's family, which consisted of his wife, a girl about my
own age by name of Susan, and three awkward-looking boys. The oldest
of these lads was not more than ten, I should think, and all of them
were so clumsy that it seemed almost impossible for them to avoid
treading on their own feet. About mounting a horse or rounding up
cattle, they knew no more than my Napoleon knew about good manners.

Susan, however, was a sprightly girl, who, as it seemed to me, had
more good sense in her little finger than might be found in all the
rest of the family. Before my visit was at an end, she came to ask
concerning this or that which we might meet with on the way, and I
believed I had found one who would be a most desirable comrade.


Unless I mistook her entirely, she was a girl to be depended upon in
the time of trouble, and when one would travel from the Missouri River
to the Oregon country, it is of the greatest importance to have with
him only those who can be relied on to a certainty when danger lurks
at hand, as it surely does, so I have heard my father say, from the
time the voyager leaves the Kansas River until he has come to the

It was agreed that my mother and I should have a day in which to make
ready for this journey, which, if we met with no serious mishaps,
would require not less than five months to make; therefore it can well
be understood that we had little time to spend in sleep, if we would
present ourselves to John Mitchell at the hour agreed upon.

It is my desire never to make a promise which I do not, or cannot
keep; consequently there were many things left undone in St. Louis
when mother and I crossed the river; but it was better thus than that
I should disappoint ever so slightly those with whom I had made a
positive agreement.


In order that one may the better understand how much of a journey it
is from the Missouri River to the Oregon country, I set down here the
fact that at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, on the twenty-fifth day
of April, in the year 1845, we, meaning John Mitchell's company, my
mother, and I, set off on that long march. The real journey would not
begin until we had passed that settlement on the Missouri known as
Independence, which is the point of departure for those who count on
traversing the Oregon or the Santa Fe trail.

Therefore concerning this portion of our march I shall content myself
simply with saying that we arrived at Independence on the morning of
May 6th, and made camp two miles beyond, on the bank of a small creek,
where there was plenty of grass for the cattle.

It must be understood that up to this time we had been traveling
through one settlement and another in a portion of the country where
were to be found as many people as lived, mayhap, in the neighborhood
from which John Mitchell had come. Yet so awkward were the men and
boys, that while we were traversing beaten roads they found it
exceedingly difficult to keep the cows from straying or the oxen from
stampeding even while they were yoked and hitched to the heavy wagons.

I do not claim to have had any experience at driving oxen or herding
cattle, and therefore I held myself aloof, saying it were better these
people from Indiana should learn their lesson when there were but few
difficulties in the way and no dangers, so that after we should come
where the real labor began, they might at least have some slight idea
of what was expected of them.


But for the fact that Susan Mitchell, riding upon a small black,
wiry-looking horse, held herself well by my side, I would have been
disheartened even before we had really begun the journey, because I
was looking forward to what we must encounter, and saying to myself
that unless these people could pull themselves together in better
fashion, we were certain to come to grief.

When a company fails to herd thirty cows, over what might well be
called a beaten highway, what would you expect when in a country where
the Indians are doing all they can to stampede and run off cattle as
well as horses?

I soon saw that Susan was a girl of good understanding, for without a
word having been spoken, she seemed to realize those fears which had
come into my mind, and said again and again as if to strengthen my

"They will know more about this kind of traveling when we reach


I could not refrain from saying in reply that unless they learned more
speedily it would be well we waited a full year at Independence,
rather than attempt a journey where so much danger and hardship
awaited us.

I venture to say that there was not one among John Mitchell's company
who could have put a pack upon a horse in such a manner that it would
hold in place half an hour over rough traveling; and as for handling
a mule team, the driver of that wagon in which my mother rode had no
more idea of how the beasts should be treated than if he had so many
sheep in harness.

To show how ignorant these people were regarding the country, I have
only to say that from the moment we left St. Louis one or another was
continually asking me whether we were likely to come upon buffaloes
before the night had set. The idea of buffaloes between St. Louis and
Independence, save perchance we came upon some old bull that had been
driven away from the herd by the hunters!

It was by my advice that John Mitchell decided to overhaul his outfit
at Independence in order to learn whether there might be anything
needed, for after having left the settlement we would find no
opportunity of replenishing our stores save at some one of the forts,
and then it was a question, serious indeed, whether we could get what
might be needed.


The tents were hardly more than set up, and the women had but just got
about their cooking, for the breakfast had been a hasty meal owing to
our being so near the settlement, when we were visited by a dozen or
more Kansas Indians, who are about as disreputable a looking lot as
can be found in the country--dirty, ill-favored red men with ragged
blankets cast about them, and seeming more like beggars than anything

To tell the truth, I would rather have seen around the camp a
Blackfoot, a Cheyenne, or a Sioux, knowing that any of them would
murder me if he had a fair opportunity, than those beggarly Kansas


It was the first time any of the women of our company, save my mother,
had seen an Indian near his own village, and straightway all of them,
with the exception of Susan, were in a panic of fear, believing harm
would be done.

Even John Mitchell was undecided as to how he should treat them, until
I told him that any attempt to drive the creatures away would be
useless, and that if his people were so disposed they might give them
some food; but it was in the highest degree necessary that sharp watch
be kept, else we would find much of our outfit missing after the
visitors had taken their departure.

The men and the boys of our company were so disquieted because of
having come thus suddenly upon the Indians, that they kept good watch
over the camp during this first day, and it would have been well for
all of us if they had continued to stand as honest guard over their

It was found that we were needing extra bows for the wagons, meaning
those bent hoops over which the canvas covering is stretched, that the
supply of shoes for the horses and mules was not sufficient, and, in
fact, there were half a hundred little things required which the women
believed necessary to their comfort.

Therefore John Mitchell and I went into the settlement to get what was
wanted, and, like the good comrade she gave promise of being, Susan
insisted on going with us.


Independence was much like a trading post, save that there were no
blockhouses; but the log tavern had the appearance of a building put
up to resist an attack, and the brick houses surrounding it were made
with heavy walls in which were more than one loophole for defense.

The idea that the settlement was a frontier post was heightened by the
number of Indians to be seen, while their scrawny ponies were tied
here and there in every available place.


There were the wretched Kansas, only half covered with their greasy,
torn blankets, Shawnees, decked out in calicoes and fanciful stuff,
Foxes, with their shaved heads and painted faces, and here and there a
Cheyenne sporting his war bonnet of feathers.

The scene was not new to me, and so did not invite my attention; but
Susan, who seemingly believed that she had suddenly come into the very
heart of the Indian country, was so interested that I went with her
here and there, while her father was bartering in the shops, and
before an hour had passed her idea of an Indian was far different from
what it had been before she left her home in Indiana.

I had nothing to say against the savages more than can be set down
when I speak of the murder of my father, and save for the fact that
Susan was so eager to see all she might, and that everything was so
strange to her, I would not have lingered in the settlement a single
minute longer than was necessary to complete our outfit.


There were here Santa Fe traders in Mexican costume; French trappers
from the mountains, with their long hair and buckskin clothing; groups
of Spaniards, who were evidently bound down the Santa Fe trail; and
here and there and everywhere as it seemed, were people from the
States, emigrants like those who followed John Mitchell, to the
number, I should say, of not less than two hundred, all expecting to
make homes in the Oregon country.

It saddened me to think of what was before these people. To gain the
banks of the Columbia River they must travel more than two thousand
miles, in part over sandy plains, where would be found little or no
water for themselves and scanty feed for their animals. There were
rivers to be crossed where the current ran so swiftly that a single
misstep might mean death. Mountain ranges were to be climbed when even
the strongest would find it difficult to make progress, and all the
while danger from wild beasts or wilder men.

And it was I who must show these men when and where to camp, how to
bring down the game which would be necessary for their very existence,
and lead them, in fact, as one might lead children.


We remained in camp by the creek until next morning, and then our way
lay over the rolling prairies, where was grass on every hand and water
in abundance, yet we made only fifteen miles between eight o'clock in
the morning and within an hour of sunset, owing to the awkwardness of
those who were striving to drive our few head of cattle.

Then came the first real camp, meaning the first time we had halted
where it was necessary to guard everything we owned against the
Indians, for we knew full well there were plenty in the vicinity of
Independence, and I strove my best to show these people how an
encampment should be formed on the prairie.


It was difficult to persuade John Mitchell that it would be better to
give the horses and mules a side hobble, than to take chances of
securing them by picket ropes. I had always heard that by buckling a
strap around the fore and hind legs, on the same side, taking due care
not to chafe the animal's legs, he could not move away faster than a
walk, while if he was hobbled by the forefeet only, it would be
possible for him to gallop after some practice.

There were many in our party who claimed it was a useless precaution
to hobble the horses, and insisted on fastening them to picket pins,
doing so in such a slovenly manner that I knew if the animals were
stampeded they could easily make their escape.

Before morning came we had good proof that carelessness in looking
after the live stock at such a time is much the same as a crime.


When I proposed that watch be set around the encampment during the
night, every man, even including John Mitchell, protested, saying it
was a needless precaution, that they were all needing sleep, and there
was no reason why any should stand guard when they could look around
on every hand and make certain there was no one near to do them harm.

One of the women asked me if there might be any danger from wild
beasts, and when I told her we had not yet come into that part of the
country where such game were found, every member of the company
believed I was only trying to show myself as the commander.

I heard one of the men say grumblingly to another, that he was not
minded to put himself under the orders of a boy who took pleasure in
displaying his authority even to the extent of making them stand
needless watch.

Never had I seen my father make camp, even though no more than two
miles from a fort or a settlement, without carefully hobbling his
horses, rounding up the cattle, if he had any, and stationing a picket
guard, insisting that those on duty remain awake during every hour of
the night.


Now, however, these people from Indiana, who knew nothing whatsoever
of traveling in the wilderness, claimed to have a better idea of how
camp should be guarded than did I, who had already traversed the
Oregon trail twice, and I so far lost my temper as to make no reply,
saying to myself that if they were inclined to take desperate chances,
the loss would be theirs, not mine.

Mayhap if we had been farther along the trail among the mountains,
where the danger would be greater if we lost all our animals, then for
my mother's sake I might have insisted strongly that the orders which
I gave should be obeyed.

As I have said, however, I held my peace, while those foolish people
lay down to sleep in their tents, or in the wagon bodies, believing
they were safe beyond any possible chance of danger simply because of
being no more than seventeen miles from Independence.

I must say to John Mitchell's credit that he outfitted me as he would
have done an older guide, and set apart for my especial use one of the
small canvas tents.

Believing that my mother would have more comfort by herself than if
she shared a bed in one of the larger tents, or in one of the wagons
where so many must sleep, I proposed that she use my camp, and we two
laid ourselves down that night feeling uncomfortable in mind, for she
understood quite as well as did I that we were taking great chances at
the outset of the journey.

I had hobbled Napoleon securely, as you can well fancy. In addition to
that I had made him fast to a picket pin firmly driven into the ground
so there might be no danger of his straying too far away.

It was not a simple matter to enjoy the resting time, because of the
weight of responsibility which was upon me.

Even though John Mitchell's people were not inclined to obey such
orders as I saw fit to give, yet I knew that in event of trouble they
would cast all the blame on my shoulders, and not until a full hour
had passed were my eyes closed in slumber.



It seemed as if I had hardly more than lost myself in sleep when I was
aroused by a noise like distant thunder, and springing to my feet, as
I had been taught to do by my father at the first suspicious sound, I
stood at the door of the tent while one might have counted ten, before
realizing that a herd of those wild ponies which are to be found now
and then on the prairies was coming upon us.

Once before in my life had I seen horses and cattle stampeded by a
herd of those little animals, and without loss of time I rushed into
the open air, shouting loudly for the men to bear a hand, at the same
time discharging all the chambers of my weapon.

Unfortunately, however, I was too late to avert the evil. If we had
had a single man on guard he could have given warning in time for us
to have checked the rush; but as it was the ponies were within the
encampment before I had emptied my weapon.

John Mitchell had not brushed the slumber from his eyelids before the
ponies overran the camp and passed on at full speed, taking with them
every horse, mule, ox, and cow we had among us, save only Napoleon,
who would have joined in the flight had it been possible for him to do

"What has happened? What was it?" John Mitchell cried as he came
running toward my tent with half a dozen of the other men at his
heels, and I replied with no little bitterness in my tone:--

"A herd of wild ponies has stampeded every head of stock, except

"But _my_ horse was made fast," one man cried, as if, because he had
left the animal with his leading rope around a picket pin loosely
driven, it would have been impossible for him to get away.

The driver of the four-mule team declared that his stock could not
have been run off because he had seen to it that each animal was
hitched securely, while a third insisted that we must have been
visited by the Indians, who had frightened the beasts in order the
better to carry them away.

I could not refrain from saying what was true:--

"If we had had but one man on guard this could not have happened. I
tell you that the disturbance this night was caused by a herd of wild

"Then why do we not go in search of the stock?" John Mitchell cried,
and I replied:--

"That you may do, if it please you; but I have never yet seen the man
who, on foot, could come up with a horse that had joined the wild of
his kind. When the morning dawns, I will do all I can to aid in
gathering up the stock, but until then there is nothing to be done."

Then, with much anger in my heart because this thing had happened
through sheer carelessness, I went back into my tent, nor would I have
more to say to any member of the company, although no less than half a
dozen men stood outside asking this question or that, all of which
simply served to show their folly.


When day broke John Mitchell was man enough to meet me as I came out
of my tent, and say in what he intended should be a soothing tone:--

"I am willing to admit, lad, that we showed ourselves foolish in not
obeying your orders. From now on you can make certain every man jack
of us will do whatsoever you say. Now tell us how we had best set off
in search of the stock."

"There is no haste. The horses and mules will run with the ponies
until they are tired and need food, therefore we may eat our breakfast
leisurely. My advice is that the company get under way, moving a few
miles across the prairie to the next creek, while all, save those
needed to drive the teams, go with me."


"But we can't start a single wheel. There is no ox, horse, or mule in
the encampment," John Mitchell cried, and then my face flushed with
shame because I had forgotten for the instant that we had no means of
breaking camp.

There is little need why I should spend many words in telling of what
we did during that day. Within an hour we found one of the mules and
succeeded in getting hold of his leading rope. Before noon we had
overtaken all the cows and eight of the oxen, bringing them back to
camp while the wild ponies circled around the prairie within seven or
eight miles of us, as if laughing to scorn our poor attempts to catch
the horses which they had stolen.

The afternoon was not yet half spent when we succeeded in gathering up
all our stock save two horses and two mules, and then I insisted we
should go on without them.

"Between here and the Columbia River we shall lose more stock than
that," I said, "and if we are to reach the Oregon country before
winter sets in, such misadventures as this must not be allowed to
delay us."


I noted that more than one of the men wore a dissatisfied look, as if
believing we should remain at this camp until all the stock had been
found; but mayhap they remembered that the loss was caused by their
not listening to me, and not a word was said in protest.

Next day, without giving further heed to the horses and mules that
were with the pony herd, we pushed forward toward the Oregon country
once more, traveling twenty-two miles and in the meanwhile crossing
the Wakarusa River.

Then came a stretch of prairie land, and after that, near nightfall,
we arrived at the Kansas River, where camp was made.

This time you may set it down as certain that when I claimed we ought
to set a picket guard, there were none to say me nay. Even more, I
noticed that every man carefully hobbled his horses or his mules, as I
hobbled Napoleon, and when I went into my tent I said to myself that
we need have no fear of trouble that night.

When we started out next day, Susan Mitchell insisted on riding by my
side. She held her place there until we made camp, although it was no
slight task, for while the company was passing over twenty miles of
distance, I had ridden from the front to the rear of the train mayhap
twelve times, thereby almost doubling the length of the journey.

Not once did the plucky girl show signs of faltering, even though a
good half of the day's march was up the side of a ridge and along the
top of it, where the way was hard even for those of us who were riding


We were traveling within two or three miles of the Kansas River, not
yet having come to the ford, when at about four o'clock in the
afternoon we overtook a company of people who were bound for the
Oregon country, having in their train twenty-eight wagons.

At first John Mitchell was eager to join the strangers as they
suggested; but he lost much of the desire on being told that two miles
in advance was another party having nearly a hundred wagons. I really
believe the man grew confused when he learned there were so many
people on the Oregon trail.


When he asked my advice as to joining the larger company, I told him
that my father had ever said if he could travel independently of any
one else, it was profitable for him to do so, for then he was forced
neither to go faster than he desired, nor remain idle when it pleased
him to push on.

I asked John Mitchell how much he could gain by forming a small part
of such a large company, unless, perhaps, he intended to dismiss me
as guide, whereupon he assured me heartily that he had no such idea,
but it seemed to him we might join the strangers for mutual

It was not for me to do more than offer advice, and I told him that
unless we came upon hostile Indians, we had best continue on by
ourselves, for the time was coming, and not very far in the future,
when we should be put to it to find grass for the cattle and fuel with
which to cook our food. At such times the smaller the company, the
less chance for suffering.

It was Susan who settled the matter, for she said very decidedly that
I, who had already traveled over the Oregon trail twice, ought to know
more about such affairs than any other in the company.

When she had spoken, her father held his peace as if convinced that
her words were wise.

We did not overtake the company of a hundred wagons that night, but
camped near a small brook about four miles from the Kansas River, I
having led the people off the trail a mile or more so that we might
not be joined by those emigrants in the rear.

Next morning we traveled four miles to the river ford, and there found
the water already so high that there was nothing to do but to ferry
our wagons over in a flatboat owned by a man named Choteau whom I had
already known in St. Louis.

He was no relative of that famous Choteau of the fur company, but a
very obliging Frenchman indeed, who, because of his acquaintance with
me, did all he could to hasten our movements. It was necessary we have
a friend in such work, for it was a hard task to make the journey back
and forth across that muddy stream, which was at least two hundred and
fifty yards wide, when we could carry only one unloaded wagon at a



It was nearly nightfall before we were all across with our outfit and
cattle, and then I gave the word that we should encamp within a mile
of the stream, for I was not pleased with the appearance of dark
clouds which were rolling up from the west.

It would have been better had I halted the company when we first
crossed, for before we could get the tents up and the wagons in place,
a terrific storm of thunder and lightning was upon us.

Instantly, as it seemed, our oxen and cows were stampeded, rushing off
across the prairie like wild things, and although I did my best to
round them up, all efforts were vain.

There was nothing for it but to let them go, and seek shelter from the
downpour of water, which was so heavy that at times one could hardly
stand against it.


Susan Mitchell had followed my mother into the tent which I had taken
care to set up immediately we halted, and because there was no other
shelter save the overcrowded wagons, the girl was there when I
entered. It made my heart ache to see the evidences of her fright.
Well was it for her that she was with my mother, for I truly believe
none could have soothed her fears so readily.

I left the two together while the storm was at its height, and sought
shelter in one of the wagons, believing the tempest would continue to
rage throughout the night.

Next morning, before day had fully come, I aroused all the men. We
saddled our horses and set out in search of the cattle, John Mitchell
saying in a grumbling tone as he rode forward, that it seemed to him
as if he was "doing more in the way of running down oxen and cows,
than in making any progress toward the Oregon country."

Hardly realizing how true my words might prove to be, I told him
laughingly that we were likely to get more of such work as the days
wore on, rather than less, and another four and twenty hours had not
passed before he came to believe that I was a true prophet.

Not until noon did we succeed in getting all the live stock rounded
up, and I believed we were exceedingly fortunate in not losing a
single animal, for it seldom happens, as I have heard, that cattle can
be stampeded during the night and every one brought into camp next

It was my belief that we ought to travel rapidly during the afternoon
and until a reasonably late hour in the night, in order to make up the
time we had lost; but it is one thing to say and quite another matter
to accomplish.


After traveling no more than three miles we arrived at Big Soldier
Creek. As Susan and I were riding on in advance to make certain the
ford was safe for heavy wagons, I saw coming down over a slight
incline a band of mounted Indians, who immediately, on seeing our
company, came forward at full speed, brandishing bows and arrows, or
guns, accordingly as they were armed, and yelling furiously.

Susan Mitchell screamed with fear, as well she might; but I had
already seen just such an Indian maneuver and knew what it meant. I
hurriedly told her to ride back and join the company, while I held
Napoleon steady.

Their intention was to stampede the cattle, as I well knew, and
although it would have been unwise for me to have sent a bullet among
them, it was my purpose to do so if I failed in checking their advance

Then Napoleon took the matter into his own hands, or, I should say,
his own feet, for when the Indians were perhaps thirty yards away he
wheeled about, flinging up his heels as if he counted on kicking the
entire band over the ridge.


Do what I might I could not get the stubborn animal wheeled around
before the savages had rushed by me, whooping and yelling in such a
manner as caused a panic among our company and a stampede of the

The oxen wheeled around in the yokes until they were so mixed up that
the most expert would have found it difficult to untangle them, while
the cows, their tails straight up in the air, fled back over the
trail, bellowing with fright.


By the time all this mischief had been done, Napoleon was ready to
attend to his own business once more, and I rode among the company to
find the people in such a state of panic and fear as one would hardly

"Get your rifles and follow me!" I shouted as I rushed forward, and it
is quite certain that more than one of the men cried after me to come
back, for all were so terrified that they would have suffered the loss
of the stock rather than make any attempt at reclaiming it.


It must not be supposed that I am trying to make it appear as if I was
wondrously brave in thus giving chase. I knew from the experience
gained while with my father, that there is but one way to treat these
savages, and that is to put on a bold front.

After doing any mischief the Indians would go farther and farther,
until having accomplished all their desires, if their victims made no
attempt to defend themselves; therefore it was necessary that we make
a decided stand.

I knew full well that if we pursued, these Pawnees, as I judged them
to be, would speedily be brought to their senses. Whereas if we
remained idle in camp they would run off all the stock, and for us to
lose that herd of cows at the very outset of the journey would indeed
have been disastrous.

It was fortunate for those under my charge that they followed as I
commanded, even though they did not do so willingly. When we had
ridden at our best pace six miles or more, we came upon all except
three of the cows who, wearied with their mad race, were now feeding;
but not a feather of an Indian could be seen.

That the Pawnees knew we were coming in pursuit, there could be no
doubt, and because they were not in war paint I understood that they
must have an encampment near by.

Therefore, as soon as we had rounded up the cattle, I told John
Mitchell it was our duty to search for the Indian camp, and there
demand that they return to us, or aid us in searching for, the cows we
failed to find.


The man looked at me uncertainly an instant, as if questioning whether
we had the pluck, as the Easterners say, to ride into an Indian
encampment. Then he said grimly, almost as if doubting his own

"I shall do as you say, boy; but if mischief comes of it, remember
that I hold you responsible."

"Mischief will surely come of it if we fail to put on a bold front," I
replied hotly, and then wheeling Napoleon around, I sent him ahead
under the whip, which he richly deserved because, but for his foolish
trick of kicking, all this mischief might have been spared us.

We rode through our encampment, for by this time the lads and the
women had set up some of the tents, while one of the men who had
remained behind was straightening out the oxen, and from there on a
distance of about three miles, when we found that for which we were

It was a Pawnee village, and in it there might have been forty men,
women, and children, occupying say, ten tepees, or lodges, while there
were so many ponies and dogs that one would hardly have had the
patience to count them.

We could see no signs of our cattle, nor did I expect to find them
there; but, riding directly into the center of the village, I brought
Napoleon to a standstill, at the same time demanding in the Pawnee
language, or such smattering of it as I could command, to be brought
to the chief.



Within a minute he came out from one of the lodges, and it gave me
more courage when I noted the fact that he was looking disturbed in

I demanded that he, or some of his tribe, return to us the cows which
had been driven away.

If there had ever been such a being as an honest Indian, then I might
have believed we had come upon him, for this chief, knowing there were
men enough in our company to wipe out his entire band, declared again
and again, with no little show of innocence, that neither he nor his
young men had had anything to do with our cattle.


Straightway I pointed here to one fellow and there to another, as two
whom I recognized among those who had ridden over the ridge, and
called the attention of the chief to the ponies at the farther end of
the village, which were yet covered with perspiration.

Instead of staying there to parley with the fellows, I insisted that
the cows be brought to us before another day had passed, and made
many threats as to what would happen in case my demands were not
complied with.

Then we rode out of the village. When we were some distance away, John
Mitchell asked in a bantering tone if I really expected to see the
cows again, whereupon I told him we would not move from the present
encampment, save to punish the rascally Pawnees, until every head of
the three had been brought to us.

Because he laughed I saw that he believed that he never would see his
cattle again; but I was better acquainted with the Pawnees than he.


Because of all that had happened I found no reason to complain of the
manner in which watch was kept over the encampment that night, and at
a fairly early hour next morning, even before I had begun to expect
them, the Indians came into camp with two of the cows. They talked
much about their innocence so far as causing a stampede and claimed
that it was not possible to find the third beast.

The Pawnee who acted as spokesman would have tried to make me believe
they were simply in sport when they overrode our camp; but I let him
know that I was acquainted with such thievish tricks, and threatened
them as to the future, much as though I had a company of soldiers at
my back.

It may be that the Indians were not greatly frightened by what I said;
but certain it is that the members of John Mitchell's company began to
believe that I was to be treated less like a boy, and more after the
manner of one who knew somewhat regarding the work in which we were


They gave more heed to my words from that time on, and Susan Mitchell
seemed to think I had done some wondrously brave deed when I
frightened the cowardly red men, or attempted to; but we never again
saw that third cow.

I believe that the Pawnees had hidden her, intending to have a great
feast after we had gone away; but I dared not go any farther in the
way of threats lest they openly defy me, when I would have been
powerless because the men of our company were not equal to fighting
the savages.

I could have told Susan that if we had come across a party on the
warpath, then my words would have been laughed at, and I might have
found myself in serious trouble through making threats which could not
be carried into execution.



Because of having been thus delayed by waiting for the cattle, we
traveled only five miles on this day, which, if I remember rightly,
was the 14th of May. Then we arrived where Big Soldier Creek must be
crossed, an undertaking I had been looking forward to with no little
anxiety because the banks of the creek are very steep and it is
impossible to drive either mules or oxen down to the bed of the
stream while attached to the wagons.

We were forced to unyoke the oxen and unharness the mules, after which
we let the wagons down by means of ropes, with four men to steer the
tongue of each cart.

The ford was shallow, but on the other side the banks loomed in front
of us like the sides of a cliff. In order to get even the lightest
wagon to the top we had to yoke all the oxen in one team, and even
then every man of us put his shoulder to the tailboard, pushing and
straining as we forced the heavy vehicle straight into the air, as one
might say.

One entire day was spent in crossing, and within an hour of sunset we
pitched our tents on the high banks, where we let down buckets by
ropes in order to get water for cooking,--this method being easier
than scrambling up and down the steep incline.

Before night had come a party of about sixty from the Ohio country
joined us, having fifteen wagons.

They were unaccustomed to such traveling, as I understood after seeing
them make camp. When the leader came up to John Mitchell, proposing
that we journey together from then onward, claiming that by thus
increasing the numbers each company would be in greater security from
the Indians, I gave my employer a look which I intended should say
that we would travel as we had started, independently.


From this point on to the Little Vermilion Creek was eighteen miles
over high, rolling prairie, and I believed we ought to make it in one
day's travel, which we did.


We arrived at the creek about four o'clock in the afternoon, and
within thirty minutes it seemed as if the banks of that small stream
were literally lined with fires, over each of which was suspended a
kettle filled with water. Tubs were brought out from all the wagons,
for the women of our company had decided on making a "wash day" of
the three or four hours remaining before sunset.

On seeing that Susan Mitchell was not taking part in this labor, I
proposed that we ride five or six miles onward, where I knew would be
found quite a large village of Kansas Indians. She was only too well
pleased with the proposition, even though having been in the saddle
since early morning.


To me one Indian village is much like another; but before we had come
to the end of our journey Susan could point out the difference between
a Kansas, a Pawnee, a Cheyenne, or a Sioux tepee.

The Kansas Indians make their houses about thirty feet in length by
fifteen feet wide, and build them by sticking hickory saplings firmly
into the ground in the shape of the lodge desired. These are bent to
form an arch eight to ten feet in height, when the tops of the
saplings are bound together by willow twigs. This forms the inner
framework, which is covered with bark taken from linden trees; over
this is another frame of saplings, also tied with willows, to bind the
whole together securely and prevent the coverings from being blown
away during a high wind.

Each of these lodges has one small door about four feet in height and
three feet wide, while at the top of the hut is an opening for the
smoke to pass out, when a fire is built in the center of the floor
during cold or stormy weather.


There were in the village when we arrived but few women and children,
with here and there an old man, all the hunters having gone out, as I
learned, hoping to find antelopes near at hand.

Understanding by this information that there would be no attempt made
to hinder us from gratifying our curiosity, I led Susan into one of
the largest of the empty lodges. She was filled with wonder because of
the pictures, drawn with charcoal and colored with various paints,
which were to be seen on the inside of the bark walls.

There were mounted men fighting with bows and arrows, horses hauling
wagons, figures of beasts and reptiles, all done as one can well fancy
in a rude way; but to Susan they afforded no little amusement, and
she would have remained studying them until after nightfall, had I not
insisted that we must return to camp before darkness.


It was an odd picture which our encampment presented when we rode in
just at twilight. The women had finished their washing, and, having no
ropes on which to stretch their clothes, had hung them on wagon wheels
and the tongues of the carts, in fact, on everything available, until
the entire place had much the appearance of a gigantic, ragged ghost.

Because so much time was spent next morning in gathering up these
garments and packing them away, we traveled only twelve miles,
arriving at the bank of a small stream with all the animals, save the
saddle horses, showing signs of weariness.

I insisted we should take a day for resting the cattle, although John
Mitchell would have pushed on, regardless of their condition; but I
knew we must keep them in good shape, else when we arrived at the more
difficult portion of the journey they would fail us entirely. Perhaps
because of our experience with the Indians, the men failed to grumble
at the delay.


Every member of the party was not only willing, but eager, to set out
after our long halt, for we had a most disagreeable experience with
wood ticks, little insects much like those that worry sheep. They
covered every bush as with a veil and lay like a carpet over the
ground as far as one could see.

I have never come upon them in such numbers, and before we lay down to
rest I wished a dozen times that I had delayed the halt another day.

These ticks fasten themselves to a person's skin so tightly that, in
picking them off, the heads are often left embedded in the flesh, and
unless carefully removed, cause most painful sores. It was like one of
the Plagues of Egypt such as I have heard my mother read about, and so
much did our people suffer that John Mitchell came to me in the middle
of the night, urging that we break camp at once rather than remain
there to be tortured.

I soon convinced him that we could not hope to drive the cattle in the
darkness, without danger of losing one or more, therefore he ceased to
urge; but before the sun had risen, all our company were astir making
preparations for the day's journey.


Early though it was when we set off, only fourteen miles were
traveled, owing to the difficulty in crossing the Big Vermilion River.

The banks of the stream were steep and the channel muddy, affording
such difficult footing for the animals that we were forced to hew down
many small trees and lop off large quantities of branches to fill up
the bed of the river before the wagons could be hauled across. All
this occupied so much time that after arriving at the opposite bank we
traveled only one mile before it was necessary to make camp.

On this night we were not troubled by wood ticks, yet I had the camp
astir early next morning, knowing that before nightfall we must cross
the Bee and the Big Blue Creeks, therefore much time would be spent in
making the passages.

The difficulties which I had anticipated in crossing the creeks were
not realized. We got over in fairly good shape, being forced on Bee
Creek to double up the teams in order to pull the wagons across, and
when night came we were two and a half miles west of Big Blue.

There I believed we should make a long halt, for the country was
covered with oak, walnut, and hickory trees, and, if I remembered
rightly, this would be the last time we could procure timber for wagon
tongues, axletrees, and such other things as might be needed in case
of accidents.


It was well we came to a halt early, for the tents were no more than
up and the wagons not yet drawn in a circle to form a corral for the
horses, before the most terrific storm of rain I ever experienced
burst upon us.

The women had but just begun to cook supper. The first downpour from
the clouds quenched the fires, making literal soup of the bread dough,
and it was only by building a small blaze under one of the wagons,
where it would be partly sheltered from the storm, that we could get
sufficient heat to make coffee.


Before this was done--and nearly all us men took part in it, for the
storm was so furious that the women could not be expected to remain
exposed to its full fury--no less than two hours were spent, and I had
almost forgotten that the encampment and all within it were under my


Each moment the storm increased, and had I been attending to my duties
instead of trying to play the part of cook in order to enjoy a cup of
coffee, I would have noticed that the cattle were growing uneasy.
After standing with their tails to the storm for a while, they began
milling, that is running around in a circle, and by the time I
gathered my wits every animal was galloping off across the plain.

Fortunately the horses and mules were properly hobbled, and, in fact,
some of the saddle beasts had been brought into the corral formed by
the wagons; therefore when John Mitchell would have set off in pursuit
of the oxen and cows despite the terrific storm, I insisted that he
take such ease in camp as was possible because on the following
morning we, mounted, would quickly round up the stampeded cattle.

It was a most dismal night, and for the first time since leaving their
homes these people, who were setting their faces toward the Oregon
country, had a fair taste of what hardships awaited them.

So furious was the wind that the rain found entrance to every camp and
beneath each wagon cover, until beds and bedding were saturated.

Welcome indeed was the morning to my mother and me, for our tent stood
in a tiny pond when the day broke, and we waded out to a higher bit
of ground, where the gentle summer breeze, now that the storm had
cleared away, might dry our water-soaked clothing.

Without waiting for breakfast I saddled Napoleon, calling upon the men
to follow me, and within four hours we had rounded up and brought into
camp the missing animals.

Then came a hasty meal, and I gave the word to break camp, whereupon
John Mitchell reminded me that we were to take in a store of oak and
hickory timber for future needs; but I insisted that we push on a
short distance, knowing that this wooded country extended ten or
twelve miles farther westward, where I hoped to find higher ground, so
we might be able to camp with some comfort.


The trail was heavy. The rain had so softened the ground that the
wagon wheels sank several inches into it, and many times before
nightfall we were forced to hew trees and cut large quantities of
brush, in order to fill up the depressions in the way where the water
stood deep and the bottom was much like a bog.

Again and again we found it necessary to double up the teams in order
to haul the heavy wagons over the spongy soil, and after we had
traveled eight miles with more labor than on the previous day we had
expended in going twice that distance, we decided to encamp.


We were on reasonably high ground, or, in other words, we were not in
a quagmire, and after camp had been made I counted that we would spend
the following day in getting as much hickory and oak timber as we
might need when we came to the mountain ranges, where axletrees, wagon
tops, and even the wheels themselves, were likely to be splintered
because of the roughness of the way.

Next morning while the men were hewing trees and shaping them roughly
into such forms as might come convenient, the women took advantage of
the opportunity to churn, and at noon we had fresh butter on our
bread, which was indeed a luxury.

We were yet eating slowly in order the better to enjoy the butter,
when we saw in the distance, coming toward us, what appeared to be a
large body of soldiers and emigrants.



Among the foremost of the horsemen who came up and halted near us, was
Colonel Stephen W. Kearny who, with three hundred dragoons, nineteen
wagons drawn by mules, fifty head of cattle, and twenty-five sheep,
was making the first military campaign into the Far West, in order
properly to impress the Indians with the strength and power of the
Great Father at Washington.

Colonel Kearny would not permit his train to halt where we were
encamped, but he remained with us a full half hour, taking his due
share of the newly made butter, and eating heartily of our poor store.

It was a most pleasing break in the journey, and to me it was indeed
something to be remembered, for never before had I seen or heard of
such a number of soldiers so far away from the frontier.

When we set off again all our teamsters pressed forward eagerly,
hoping to overtake the dragoons, who had already no less than two
hours' start of us.

Perhaps I ought to have checked them, knowing they were forcing our
stock at too rapid a pace; but yet I did not, and when next we halted
thirty-two miles had been traversed since morning. This, though the
way was smooth and the crossings easy, I allowed was a good day's

It was on the twenty-sixth day of May, after we had traveled ten
miles, that we came to the bank of Little Sandy River, where was
already encamped a company of emigrants bound for the Oregon country.
They had thirty-two wagons, and, in addition to the other stock,
ninety cows, having started from Independence with a hundred.

Susan Mitchell laughed with glee when we arrived at this camp and,
when I asked the reason for her high spirits, told me our people could
spend the evening visiting these strangers even as they visited their
neighbors at home. Indeed, I saw that all the members of the company
were prinking and pluming like a party of savages making ready for a
war dance.

Men whose clothing had been well-nigh in rags suddenly appeared decked
out in finery, and as for the women and the girls, a garden of flowers
could hardly have compared with them for variety of colors.


However, our company did not spend the evening visiting the strangers;
on the contrary, they were forced to entertain others, for before
supper had been cooked and eaten about three hundred Kansas Indians,
men, women, and children, some walking, some riding, came into camp.

The emigrants whom our people had intended to visit were overrun even
as we were, and during two hours or more the beggars remained watching
for an opportunity to steal something, or striving to trade their
skeleton-like ponies for our horses and mules.

Some of the visitors were clad in buckskin, others had leggings of elk
hide, with buffalo skins over their shoulders, while many wore only
greasy, ragged blankets and leggings so besmeared with blood and dirt
that one could not tell what the material might be.

Many of the men had long hair, while the heads of others were shaved
close to the skin, save for a tuft extending from the forehead over
the crown and down to the neck, much like the comb of a rooster.


Some had their faces painted in a fanciful manner with red, while
others had only their eyelids and lips colored. Again, there were
those with various colored noses or ears, and I failed to see any two
who were decked out, either with garments or by paint, in the same

The costumes and decorations of the women were as varied as those of
the men, and equally filthy. All, from the smallest papoose to the
oldest brave, were repulsive, at least to me, because of their


How long those representatives of the Kansas tribe would have remained
with us awaiting an opportunity to steal whatever they might, I cannot
say; but at about eight o'clock John Mitchell urged that I drive them
away, if indeed I dared. This last suggestion caused me to smile, for
what fellow would not dare anything among the Kansas Indians, who know
no more of courage than they do of cleanliness?

I speedily sent them out of the camp, and when, next morning, the
whole tribe returned begging this or that, I threatened punishment to
any who should dare linger around.

Again we had an opportunity to join forces with another company, for
those emigrants whom we met at Little Sandy River were eager to
journey with us, but intended to remain one full day on the bank of
the stream in order to rest their stock.

I urged that we push on, lest they should travel with us whether we
wished or not, and so we set off at an early hour across the prairie,
arriving next day at the Republican Fork of the Blue River.

It was on the last day of May that we came to where the trail turns
abruptly away from the stream, stretching out twenty-five miles or
more to the Platte River.

Then we advanced in wild, fertile bottoms, where wild peas abounded,
and we were among the last of the oak and hickory trees that we would
see for many a long day.


Here I knew we might find game, and said to those men who had been
eagerly inquiring day after day as to when we would come upon
buffaloes, that now was the time when they could display their skill
in bringing down wild turkeys.


I had supposed that these people knew somewhat about hunting; but when
one of the men turned upon me sharply, asking how I knew turkeys could
be found near about, I nearly laughed in his face. For it seemed to me
that a child should have known we were come at last to where game of
some sort might be taken easily.

I had no idea of hunting turkeys, for I knew that within the next few
hours there should be a possibility of bringing down as many antelopes
as Napoleon would be willing to carry.

Therefore I remained in camp, and saw those eager hunters striding off
amid the timber, making noise enough to warn every fowl or beast of
their coming.

The wonder of it was that the fellows brought in a feather; yet at
night they returned triumphant and excited, with two turkeys, and one
would have believed, from the way the game was displayed, that they
had shown great skill.

When Susan Mitchell asked why I did not go out in search of game, I
told her it was not for me to spend my time in such sport, but that
before many days had passed I would show her what a hunter could and
should do in this country.

It may be she thought I was boasting, and I fancied I read as much on
her face; but I contented myself in silence, knowing that she soon
would see what kind of hunting those, who have crossed from the
Missouri River into the Oregon country twice, could do.


Next day every man and boy in our company was looking eagerly forward
for signs of game, and when, the afternoon being nearly spent, they
saw large herds of antelopes in the distance, it was only with
difficulty I could force the teamsters to remain on their wagons.

Every horseman would have set off at that time in the afternoon with
weary steeds, when there was no possibility of running down the game,
had it not been for John Mitchell, who, after talking with me,
insisted that no man should leave the company until we had made camp.


The Platte River was to be crossed before we halted, and we needed
every man with us, for I knew that the bottom of the stream was soft,
and the chances many that we would be forced to double up our teams.

However, we gained the opposite bank without much difficulty and were
hardly more than ready to encamp, after having traveled eighteen or
nineteen miles, when it began to rain once more, and then the men
were glad that they had not set off to hunt at nightfall.

We camped where it would be possible for us to get water without too
much labor, and set about gathering fuel before everything was soaked
by the rain, and darkness was upon us.

Then the men began to treat me as if I was of their own age. They came
into my tent by twos and threes, asking when it would be possible for
them to hunt antelopes, and when I would go with them to bring in
fresh meat.

I told them that on the next day they should have all the hunting that
would satisfy them and their horses, and this caused them to wonder
how I knew antelopes might be near at hand.


Next morning, when we had traveled no more than six miles, any hunter
could see that we were in a game country, and because our people were
really in need of fresh meat, to say nothing of the desire of the men
for sport, I gave the word to halt and make camp.

John Mitchell angrily demanded why I had halted the company before the
forenoon was half spent.

When I told him that here was our opportunity to get antelope steaks
for supper, he looked at me as if he believed I was talking of
something wholly beyond my knowledge. I have an idea he would have
countermanded my order to form camp, insisting that we move on, had
not his wife suggested that now we were so near the river, where the
bank was shelving instead of steep, it would be a good time for the
women to finish washing their clothing.


After she had spoken he said to me:--

"Very well, lad, you may show the other men your antelopes. I have no
desire for a wild-goose chase across the prairie."

I gave little heed to his banter, and those who had been so eager for
the hunt were right willing to follow me on the chance that they
might come upon something that could be killed; John Mitchell finally
consented to go with us, in order, as he said, to hear what sort of
excuse I would make for not finding game.

We rode straight away from the river, and within half an hour came
upon a herd of from twenty to thirty antelopes feeding less than three
miles away, whereupon every member of the company would have started
off singly, taking the poor chances of getting a shot, had I not
insisted they should hold themselves under my orders, lest there be no
possibility of bringing in fresh meat that day.

"You made a good guess, lad," John Mitchell said to me, as if he was
disappointed because we had brought the game to view, and I replied:--

"Any one familiar with this country may say with reasonable certainty
that he will find deer in such and such a place without first having
seen any signs. With buffaloes it is different. But on feeding grounds
like this, one can declare positively that he will come upon some kind
of deer without riding very far."


Then I gave the word for the men to divide into two parties, one going
to the right and the other to the left toward the herd, in order to
come up with them on both sides at the same moment, and the silly
animals did not note our approach until we were within half a mile.

Then they showed how rapidly they could run.

I have never seen antelopes in full flight without thinking how nearly
alike they are to swallows, both for swiftness and the manner in which
they bound over the ground without seeming to touch it. There are not
many horses that can come up with this game once the fleet animals
have been aroused; but I knew my pony could gain upon them in a chase
of five miles or less, and straightway urged him on, shouting for the
others to follow.


It was like horses accustomed to the plow striving to keep the pace
with a blooded racer, when we struck off across the plains, and before
two miles had been traversed, my companions were left so far in the
rear that there was little chance they could take any part in this

I urged Napoleon on until we were in fairly good range, when, firing
rapidly, I brought two of the beautiful creatures to the ground.

There was no possibility of overtaking the herd, once having halted,
so swinging the game across the saddle in front of me, I let my pony
walk leisurely back to where the men waited, each of them looking with
envious eyes at the result of the chase.

Within half an hour after our return to camp, five or six fires had
been built, and our people were busily engaged in cooking the fresh
meat, which was so welcome to them, giving little or no heed to
anything save the preparations for a feast. Suddenly a single Indian
of the Pawnee tribe stood before us, having ridden up without
attracting the attention of any member of the company.


It was the first time such a thing had ever occurred while I was
supposed to be on duty, and I said to myself that until we had come
into the Oregon country and I had said good-by to these people, I
should never again be caught off guard.

The Indian who had thus surprised me was as fine a specimen of a
Pawnee as I have ever seen. He was tall, had a good figure, and rode a
handsome pony which was really fat,--something seldom come upon, for
the Indians do not generally allow their horses to take on very much

He wore a calico shirt, buckskin leggings, and fancifully decorated
moccasins. It would seem as if he had set himself up as a trader in
footgear, for he carried with him half a dozen or more pairs of
moccasins, some of them well worn, which he wanted to trade for meat.


Our people were so foolish as to bargain with him, when, had they been
content to wait a few days longer, until we were in a country
abounding with game, they might have made any number of pairs out of
fresh hides.

This fellow remained in camp after having disposed of his wares, until
he had eaten three times as much as could any member of our company,
going from camp fire to camp fire and gorging himself as an Indian
will, until it was only with difficulty that he could mount his pony.

I felt more at ease when the fellow had left us, for I never see one
of his race hanging around an encampment without good reason for
believing he is trying to steal something; but the women of our
company were saddened because he went so soon, and I verily believe
they would have served him with another feast had it been possible for
him to eat more.

There was, perhaps, some petulance in my tones when I told Susan
Mitchell that she need not feel badly because he had taken his
departure so soon, for before arriving at the Oregon country she would
come across Indians to her heart's content, and perhaps to her heart's

I little dreamed how soon my words were to come true, although knowing
that we would meet more red people than white during the remainder of
the journey; but next day, when we had traveled perhaps eight miles
and were halted at noon that the women might prepare dinner, our
company saw Indians in a way which was, during a few moments, anything
rather than pleasant.


We had camped in a slight depression of the prairie, and were just
about eating the noonday meal, when the distant trampling of hoofs
told me that a party of some considerable size was approaching.

I had barely time to spring to my feet before twenty-three mounted
Pawnees, all armed with bows and arrows, rode up over the crest of
land, halting there an instant as if to measure our strength.

Because they were not in full paint, I understood that it was a
hunting party, and therefore I gave the word for our men to arm
themselves without delay, for it is true that in the wilderness one
expects the savages will take advantage of any opportunity to work

John Mitchell was not disposed to obey the command, fearing lest if we
made any show of warlike preparations it would only incite the Indians
to anger, but, fortunately, the other men did as I told them.


Marshaling this little force, I moved out from among the wagons,
bidding every fellow to stand firm, while I motioned for the savages
to keep back. However, they urged their ponies on at full speed,
riding toward us like fiends, and, as I knew very well, striving to
throw us into a panic, in which case there is no question but that
they would have plundered the camp.

Because I was the guide, it was necessary for me to take on the
greater share of the danger, and, stepping four or five paces in
advance of my comrades, I made signs for the savages to keep away, at
the same time leveling my rifle.


The band was coming down upon us at the full speed of their ponies,
when I thus gave evidence that it was my intention to fire if they
continued, and immediately the horses were checked, the band riding
off toward the south, leaving the leader behind.


Dismounting, while the others wheeled about to join him again, he came
toward me, his eyes roving from one member of our company to the
other, as if to learn whether we had backbone enough to stand up for
our rights.

He must have understood that we would put up with no foolishness, for
straightway all his show of fierceness vanished. He told me that his
party had been out hunting buffaloes, but failed to come across any,
and then begged like a dog for us to give him food.

To have admitted such a crowd into our encampment would have been
giving them a license to plunder, therefore I warned the fellow off. I
insisted that they go back to their village, where, beyond doubt, they
would find food if they were very hungry.


John Mitchell would have argued with me because I was turning hungry
people away; but I refused to listen to him, and put on such a bold
front that without further parley the leader mounted his pony, and
away they went over the ridge, much to my relief.

When we were making camp that night a party of emigrants, numbering no
less than fifty, all bound for the Oregon country, came up with us.

Instead of halting as one might have supposed, for a quiet chat, they
rode on as though fearing we might want to join them, and I said to
myself that their guide must be one who, like myself, had already
traversed the Oregon trail; yet I was pleased because of their desire
to continue on alone.


We made only twelve miles on this day, and then camped on the open
prairie where we were sadly in need of fuel, being obliged to scrape
up dried grass and gather even the tiniest twigs. The scarcity of fuel
was no more than might have been expected, for now we were coming to
that part of the country where wood was a rarity.

Next day the wind blew strong and cold from the northwest, and the
cattle hurried onward in order, as it seemed, to keep up a circulation
of the blood, therefore before we encamped, our party had advanced
twenty miles nearer our destination; but all the men and boys were
decidedly uncomfortable in body.

We had crossed five or six creeks which were no more than half their
usual height; but the beds of the streams were so soft that we were
forced again and again to wade in that we might lay our shoulders to
the wheels when the wagons were stuck fast in the mire.


To work in water nearly above your waist for half an hour or more
until having become thoroughly heated and then come out into that
chilling wind, was indeed a hardship.

During the next day, which was the 7th of June, we saw the first signs
of buffaloes, and then indeed our hunters were wild to go out and kill
some of the huge animals, insisting that I lead the party.

Through these bottom lands, which were from two to four miles wide,
there ran in every direction buffalo paths, which had been traversed
so often by the animals that they were no less than fifteen inches
wide and four inches deep in the solid earth, and as smooth as if cut
out with a spade.

Although we knew that buffaloes ranged in this region, it would indeed
have been folly to set off, especially at nightfall, with the idea
that we might find a herd, and so I told the eager ones, who grumbled
not a little, believing I refused to lead them in the chase because of
my own indolence.


When we made camp, after having traveled sixteen miles, John Mitchell
called my attention to the fact that our oxen were growing lame, and
he seemed quite vexed because I treated it as a matter of course.

Any one who has traveled from the Missouri River to the Oregon
country, knows that while crossing the prairies, which are covered
with a dry stubble of matted grass, the hoofs of the animals will
become hard and crack, thus allowing dirt to collect in the crevices
until the leg above the hoof swells, and sometimes festers.

There is only one way to treat this trouble, which is to wash
thoroughly in water made very strong with soap, and then scrape away
all the diseased part of the hoof, after which tar, or hot pitch,
should be applied freely.


Our men should have looked after the feet of the animals, but perhaps
because that required too much labor, they had allowed the poor beasts
to go neglected, and now had come the time when, unless they set about
it manfully, our journey to the Oregon country might be ended


That evening, while every man was working for the relief of the oxen,
three companies of emigrants, one after another, came up and encamped
within half a mile of us, until we had close under our eyes,
belonging to these strangers, more than a hundred wagons.

There were in the first company fifty-two wagons, each drawn by four
yoke of cattle; the smallest company had thirteen wagons in its train,
therefore you can understand that we were almost an army.

Now John Mitchell and Susan understood why I had protested against
joining forces with any of the companies we came across, for at this
place the grass was scanty indeed, with many animals to feed upon it,
and we had the greatest difficulty to find for our beasts as much food
as they were needing.

I insisted on pulling out at an early hour next morning, in order to
get ahead of this army of emigrants, and we traveled all day without
finding better food for the cattle, encamping at night, after having
journeyed twelve miles, with the knowledge that every beast we owned
was sadly in need of something to eat.

One train of the emigrants which we had left behind, numbering
forty-three wagons, came within sight of our camp that night just at
sunset and, finding the grass poor where we had halted, continued on;
but I knew full well there were not hours enough of daylight remaining
for them to find better pasturage.

When another day dawned the rain was falling heavily, and even John
Mitchell proposed that we remain in camp, rather than attempt to push
on; but when I reminded him that the oxen and cows were straying here
and there, striving eagerly to pick up a few scanty blades of grass,
he held his peace.


We continued the journey while floods of water came down from the
clouds, until before we were half an hour on the way every one, save
the women and children, who were protected by the wagon covers, was

After traveling fifteen miles, we encamped where the ground was so
sodden that our feet sank into the soil two inches or more; however,
we gained such shelter as we could under the wagon bodies or beneath
the wagon coverings, striving to sleep while the wind drove the rain
in upon us like a shower bath.

We could not well put up the tents in such mire, and it was more
comfortable pacing to and fro as if doing sentry duty, than lying at
full length in a veritable swamp.

Again we set out with the rain coming down as if it would never cease,
passing village after village of prairie dogs; but the children and
the women showed no desire to spend any time looking at them, for all
our company were in such discomfort that it would have needed
something more than an ordinary animal to entice them out of their way
a dozen paces.

Not until we arrived at the lower crossing of the Platte River did the
storm of rain subside, and while we were striving to get the wagons
across, the sun came out with full strength, making matters quite as
uncomfortable for us who labored, as when the torrents of water were
pouring down upon our bodies.


At this crossing the water was from one to three feet deep and the bed
of the river sandy, therefore in order to get our wagons over it was
necessary to double up the teams, and in some cases put on twelve or
fourteen yoke of oxen, all of which required considerable time.

When we were on the other side of the river, and our men so weary that
they spent but little time making camp, in order the sooner to throw
themselves down to rest, I aroused them to the highest pitch of
excitement by announcing that now we were in a buffalo country, and
that before many hours had passed they should have as many short
ribs, humps, and tongues for roasting as could be eaten at one meal,
however hungry they were.

As if some magic change had been wrought, every man sprang to his
feet, insisting that we go at once in search of the game; but I held
firm, claiming that the horses were far too weary to take part in a

Before the next day had fully dawned, the men who were standing guard
aroused the camp by shouting excitedly that we were surrounded by


It was not a very great surprise to me that the huge beasts should
come so near the camp, for I had heard from men who traveled over the
Santa Fe trail that the buffaloes would often mingle with straggling
cows, and more than once had emigrants lost their live stock by having
the animals literally forced away by these big brutes.


It was a difficult matter to restrain the hunters who were bent on
starting off on the instant, believing they could kill a buffalo with
but little effort, if one came within range.

To bring a buffalo down, one must shoot him in the lungs. To hit the
skull is much like sending a bullet against a rock, for it has no
other effect than to excite the animal, and oftentimes even then not
very much. Of course if a hunter can send a ball through the brute's
heart, that settles the matter, but it is a difficult shot.

I did my best to explain how they ought to shoot in order to kill, and
then, finding they were not inclined to heed my words, I proposed that
we set off, each going his own way and doing the work after his own

It caused me to smile when I saw those men creeping up on some old
bull, whose flesh was so dry and tough that none save a starving man
would eat it; but they seemed to think it was size that counted.

Knowing that now was the time when I could again profit by my
experience as a hunter and trapper, I went off in chase of a couple of
young cows, and within thirty minutes had them stretched out on the
prairie. Meanwhile I believe that no less than a hundred shots had
been fired by the other members of the company; but I failed to see
that any of them had been successful.


John Mitchell and one of the men who went out with him succeeded in
killing an old bull, and although during three hours of that forenoon
there were hundreds of buffaloes in sight, all our company took from
that vast herd were the two cows I had killed and the tough old fellow
that had fallen under John Mitchell's rifle.

Because Susan's father did not call upon me for advice as to how his
share of the game should be cut up ready for cooking, I held my peace,
but set about taking the flesh from each side of the spine, from the
shoulders to the rump, of the two animals I had killed. Afterward I
cut out the tongue and the hump ribs, while those two men were hacking
at their game, apparently believing his flesh should be treated after
the same manner as that of a stall-fed ox.

While I was making ready some of the hump ribs for roasting, my mother
came to my side, saying, as she pointed to our companions:--


"It pains me to see these people heedless of that which they must meet
with before we can arrive at the Oregon country. They who complain
bitterly because the sun falls upon them too warmly, or that the ford
is very deep, hope to make their way to that far-off land with no more
labor and no more suffering than they have already experienced since
we left Independence."


"They will soon learn, mother," I said laughingly, and yet in my heart
was sorrow for the people whom I had so lately come to know, because
of the lesson that was before them. "The one fear is that when we come
to the mountains, when we must fight with all our strength to gain a
half mile in this direction or a mile in that, camping without food
and without fuel, whether they will keep on or grow disheartened and
turn back."

"I cannot understand, my son, that you need feel anxious. Do your duty
by them as you have agreed, and even though we are forced to come
straight away back over the trail, it will be through no fault of

I have allowed myself to set down details concerning this journey of
ours into the Oregon country as if there was ample time at my
disposal; yet if I am to tell all the story of that long tramp, and
then attend to the work which I have taken upon myself, it is
necessary I hasten in the recital, instead of striving to give the
particulars of each day's march.

After leaving the camp where we had killed the buffaloes, we found the
traveling good, grass plenty, and game so abundant that one might go
out and shoot whatever he needed of buffaloes, antelopes, or elks,
without spending very much time at the work, providing he was
reasonably expert with his rifle.


Susan rode with me, as she had from the beginning of the journey.
Nothing of note happened to us, unless I should set down that this day
was stormy, and on that day the sun shone, until we came into the
valley of the North Fork of the Platte, through a pass which is known
as Ash Hollow.

There we drove down a dry ravine on our winding way to the river
bottoms, stopping now and then to gather a store of wild currants and
gooseberries which grew in abundance.


Near the mouth of the ravine we came upon a small log cabin, which had
evidently been built by trappers, but the emigrants on their way into
the Oregon country had converted it into a post office, by sticking
here and there, in the crevices of the logs, letters to be forwarded
to their friends in the States. Hung on the wall where all might see
it, was a general notice requesting any who passed on their way to the
Missouri River to take these missives, and deposit them in the nearest
regular post office.

The little cabin had an odd appearance, and Susan confessed that,
almost for the first time since leaving Independence, she was growing
homesick, solely because of seeing this queer post office.

After crossing the stream we came upon a party of emigrants from Ohio,
having only four wagons drawn by ten yoke of oxen, and driving six

Truly it was a small company to set out on so long a march, and when
the leader begged that they be allowed to join us, I could not object,
understanding that unless the strangers had some one of experience to
guide them, the chances were strongly against their arriving at the
Columbia River.


There was in the company a girl of about Susan's age, whose name was
Mary Parker, and from that time I had two companions as I rode in
advance of the train.

I could have found no fault with these new members of our company, for
they obeyed my orders without question from the oldest man to the
youngest child.

Mary Parker was a companionable girl, and she and Susan often cheered
me on the long way, for even when the rain was coming down in
torrents, drenching them to the skin, they rode by my side, laughing
and singing.


On the twenty-fourth day of June we arrived at Fort Laramie, in the
midst of a heavy storm of rain, thunder, and lightning. We had
traveled six hundred sixty-seven miles since leaving Independence, if
our course had been the most direct; but allowing for the distances
some of us had ridden in search of cattle or here and there off the
trail looking for a camping place it must have been that we made at
least a hundred miles more.


Fort Laramie is on the west side of a stream known as Laramie's Fork
and about two miles from the Platte River. It is a trading post
belonging to the North American Fur Company, and built of adobe, by
which I mean sun dried bricks, with walls not less than two feet thick
and twelve or fourteen feet high, the tops being well guarded by long,
sharp spikes to prevent an enemy from climbing over.


This fort, if it can be called such, is simply a wall inclosing an
open square of twenty-five yards each way, along the sides of which
are the dwellings, storerooms, blacksmith shops, carpenter shops, and
offices all fronting inside, while from the outside can be seen only
two gates, one of which faces the north and the other the south.

Just south of the fort is a wall inclosing about an acre of land,
which is used as a stable or corral, while a short distance farther on
is a cultivated field, the scanty crops of which give good evidence
that the soil is not suitable for farming.

About a mile below Fort Laramie, and having much the same appearance
as that fortification, although not so large, is Fort John, which is
in possession of the St. Louis Fur Company.


We were given quarters inside Fort Laramie, which was much to our
liking, for it would have been more than disagreeable had we been
forced to camp outside the walls, where were, when we arrived, at
least three thousand Sioux Indians. Their buffalo-skin lodges dotted
the plain all around the fort until one could have well fancied there
were three times the real number in the neighborhood, and it was as
if their tepees were countless, although John Mitchell was told that
they had no more than six hundred.

I learned shortly after our arrival that the Sioux had gathered here
for the purpose of making ready to attack the tribes of the Snakes and
Crows, and they had but just finished their war dance when we came up,
seemingly having no regard for the violent storm which was raging.

Even as we drove into the fort the water was descending from the
clouds in torrents, but there were hundreds of these savages dancing
and singing, and in various ways striving to show their joy because a
war was about to be begun against their enemies.


A Sioux lodge is made of poles lightly stuck into the ground, in a
circle of about ten feet in diameter; the tops come together within
less than twelve inches, this opening being left for the smoke to pass
out, because in stormy weather the Sioux women do all their cooking
under cover, when a fire is built in the center of the tepee. Herein
they differ considerably from the Pawnees, who seem to think it
disgraceful to seek shelter, save in the most bitter weather of

Over the framework of poles are buffalo robes, tied together with
sinews until the covering will shed water and resist wind. Inside,
the floor is covered thickly with skins of many kinds, on which by day
the occupants lounge or cook, play or gamble, as best suits their
fancy, and at night the same furs serve as a bed for all the family.

It was at Fort Laramie that I was met by certain members of the
American Fur Company, who had in the older days been well acquainted
with my father, and had seen me more than once when I was with him.


They paid their respects to my mother, and she and I, in company with
John Mitchell and Susan, were invited to dinner with the gentlemen. We
had cold corned beef and biscuit, with plenty of milk to drink, which
fare was to us a luxury.


We remained at Fort Laramie one day and had the good fortune to see
the Indians setting out on the march, the men to go against their
enemies, and the women to return to the villages.

We saw the squaws taking down the lodges and fastening the poles on
either side of the pack animals, with one end dragging on the ground.
Across these poles, just behind the horse, were lashed short pieces of
wood, forming a framework on which were tied the food, furs, and
household belongings, while in many cases the children rode on top of
the load during the journey.


Then the babies were shut up in small willow cages, and either
fastened on the backs of the pack horses, or securely tied to the
trailing poles.

The women performed all the work from taking down the lodges to
leading the pack animals. The men did nothing save sit on their
ponies, decked out in a fanciful array of feathers, with their war
shields and spears from which fluttered gay-colored bits of cloth, as
if their only purpose in life was to present a warlike appearance.

As I told the girls, those Sioux Indians making ready for battle were
the first real savages we had met. They would not hesitate to carry
away anything belonging to a white man, if they could get their hands
upon it, but they acted more like men, than did any we had seen


Within two days after leaving Fort Laramie, we killed three elks and
four deer. It was necessary to halt another day in order to cure the
meat, after which we pushed on at our best speed until the Fourth of
July, when all the company, John Mitchell's following as well as that
party of emigrants who joined us at Ash Hollow, remained in camp
during a full day to celebrate properly the winning of our

There was nothing we could do, save follow the example of the savages,
when they want to show signs of rejoicing, and that was to make a
great feast.

I had the good fortune to shoot an elk and an antelope shortly after
daybreak that morning, and much to my surprise John Mitchell and one
of the men brought in a small bear.

During the feast those men who believed they excelled in speech making
showed their skill at great length. The chief part of what was said
concerned the Oregon country and the possibility that the Government
at Washington would stretch out its arms over the land to which we
were traveling, showing the English people that we claimed it as our
own, and intended to hold it against all comers.

This halting for the celebration was of advantage to the cattle, whose
feet were yet sore, for they needed rest quite as much as did the
women of the company.


Then, when we set off once more, it was with greater cheerfulness and
increased hope, for the way could not have been improved nor made more
pleasant. There was timber in abundance, so we were not put to it for
fuel, and as for game, a good hunter might go out at almost any hour
in the day two or three miles from our wagon train, and bring back
deer, buffaloes, antelopes, or even bears.


Ten days after we celebrated the independence of this country we
encamped near the Narrows, within sight of the snow-capped Wind River
Mountains, and then it was that our company got some idea of what a
herd of buffaloes looked like.


When we broke camp in the morning it seemed as if the entire land was
covered with the animals. They were in such throngs that the sound of
their hoofs was like the rumbling of distant thunder, and one could
hear the click, click, clicking of the thousands upon thousands of
horns when they came together in battle, for the bulls appeared to be
fighting incessantly as they moved here and there.

Some of the brutes were rolling in the dust, turning from side to side
as if in greatest delight, others had gathered in groups as if
watching those who fought. One could compare the scene to nothing
more than to an ocean of dark water surrounding us on every side,
pitching and tossing as if under the influence of a strong wind.

It was such a sight as I had seen more than once, but to my companions
it was terrifying at the same time that it commanded their closest


The big brutes were in such numbers that they gave no heed to us. Had
we been needing meat, hundreds upon hundreds might have been brought
down within a mile of the encampment. As it was, four of our men could
not resist the temptation to go out and kill some, although it was
wanton butchery, for we had then so much flesh in camp that more could
not be carried.

I was a little anxious on beginning the day's march, fearing lest we
might find ourselves in the midst of that herd, for they gave no
attention to man even when our people were shooting.

But it was not for us to halt because of a lot of stupid buffaloes,
and I gave the word to move on, insisting that all the men, being
fully armed, should guard the cows lest they be stampeded.

For two hours we rode in the very midst of that countless herd, with
the shaggy, heavy brutes pressing so close to our wagons that some of
the men were forced to go on ahead and drive them away by firing
pistols or using clubs, for one could get near enough to pommel them
as you might pommel a lazy horse.

I did not breathe freely until past noon, and then we had left behind
us that surging sea of beasts.

But for the fact that the time would come, as I knew full well, when
we should need meat, I would have said I hoped we should never see
another buffalo that side of the mountains.


On this night, within about a dozen miles of the Narrows, we came upon
Colonel Kearny's soldiers, returning from their long march, having
come through South Pass. Somewhat of the hardships they had
encountered, and which we must face, could be guessed at by looking at
those seasoned troopers, who appeared to be completely exhausted by
long riding and scanty rations.

No less than twenty of the men were on the sick list, and at least a
hundred others looked as if they soon would be.


I believe nothing could have been shown John Mitchell's company which
would have told more eloquently of the hardships to be encountered
when we came among the foothills.

Then we pushed onward more sturdily, and I could see that every man in
our company was looking forward into the future, understanding that
there must be no faltering now, else they would fall by the wayside,
as had so many of whom we heard from day to day.

On the seventeenth day of July we felt the first frost of the season,
when ice formed a quarter of an inch thick, and this warned our people
that there was no time to be lost, if we would win our way through. If
winter caught us while we were among the mountains, it would be
necessary to make camp until spring, and who could say whether during
those long months we would be able to get sufficient game to keep us



Two days after we had this first token that winter was coming, we
passed over the dividing ridge which separates the waters flowing into
the Atlantic from those which find their way into the Pacific Ocean,
and, bringing the train to a stop before any of our people realized
that we had arrived at what one might call the parting of the ways, I
called out that three cheers be given for the Oregon country, at the
same time pointing to the streams which were running westward.

There was great excitement in our company when it was known that we
were really on the Divide, and regardless of the fact that we should
have been pushing on, all insisted upon halting until late in the
afternoon, in order, as Mary Parker said, that they might celebrate
properly having accomplished thus much of the journey.

That night the air was filled with frost, and we who had been sleeping
with no blankets over us, were glad to wrap ourselves in whatsoever we
could lay hands upon, to prevent our blood from being chilled.

When we camped, there was no water to be seen on either hand, nothing
save the sandy bed of the stream, and I verily believe all our people
would have gone thirsty if I had not insisted that they dig in the
sand a hole from eighteen to twenty inches in depth.

We then watched until enough brackish water had oozed up to moisten
the tongues of our thirsty stock, after which, by waiting a full hour
we got enough to satisfy us partly.

It was the twenty-fifth day of July when we halted at Fort Bridger
and set up our tents just outside the adobe walls, for, knowing the
place right well, I had no desire to spend a night inside the


This fort, like many another, is little more than a trading post, and
was built two years before we started for the Oregon country, by two
old trappers who had turned fur traders. The largest building is made
of adobes and serves as storehouse, while the others are flimsy
shelters built from time to time to serve the needs of visitors.

I remember having heard in St. Louis why James Bridger forsook his
calling of trapper to engage as trader, and have even seen the letter
he wrote Pierre Chouteau when he settled in the valley of Black's Fork
of the Green River, asking that goods for trading with the Indians be
sent to him.

In it he wrote: "I have established a small fort with a blacksmith
shop and a supply of iron, on the road of the emigrants, which
promises fairly. People coming from the East are generally well
supplied with money, but by the time they get here are in want of all
kinds of supplies. Horses, provisions, and smith work bring ready cash
from them, and should I receive the goods hereby ordered will do a
considerable business with them. The same establishment trades with
the Indians in the neighborhood, who have mostly a good number of
beaver among them."

John Mitchell had a very good idea of how great a profit the owners of
the fort hoped to make, when he was forced to pay five cents a pound
for flour, and three dollars a pound for powder, with other supplies
in like proportion.


James Bridger was exceedingly kind to mother and me when he learned
who we were, for he had often trapped in company with my father, and I
believe he would have given us outright anything we might have needed
from his stores, had we told him we lacked money with which to pay for
what was wanted; but I would not have taken a dollar's worth from any
man, unless my mother had been in sore distress.

Susan Mitchell was greatly interested in the trapper who had turned
trader, when she heard from my mother that James Bridger had been
grievously wounded in a battle with the Blackfeet Indians, had
received two arrows through his back, and yet after so severe an
injury he, with his friend, Bascus, and two other comrades, held the
savages at bay for two days, until a company of white hunters came to
his relief.

One of the arrows was taken from Bridger's body during the fight, but
the other held firm in the wound, and Bascus cut off the wooden
portion close to the flesh, letting the iron head remain. This piece
of metal he carried in his body three years, until Dr. Marcus Whitman,
who was on his way to the Oregon country, cut it out after long and
painful work. The arrowhead was three inches long, and the barbs had
become hooked around one of the man's bones, which held it until it
was cut out by Dr. Whitman.

We were at our nearest point to the Great Salt Lake, and at this place
a trail branched off, leading to what is known as Ogden's Hole, close
by that vast inland sea. If we had desired to go to the California
country, it would only have been necessary to continue on around the
Wasatch Mountains, and then strike off again to the westward, unless
we were inclined to climb the hills, going by the way of that salt

There were twenty-five lodges of Indians near Fort Bridger, some of
the savages having come to trade, and not a few of them being employed
as trappers by the fur buyers. They were mostly of the Snake tribe
and had with them quite a large herd of cattle.

Already Susan Mitchell and Mary Parker had seen enough of the Indians
to satisfy their curiosity, and whether they wore moccasins of a
little different pattern from other Indians, or fashioned their bows
and arrows after another manner, was not sufficient inducement to
persuade them to encounter such conditions as were to be found in the


In order to give our cattle a rest we remained at Fort Bridger two
days, after which we went on again with the hope of soon coming upon
the Columbia River.

Our men had been told by the fur buyers that it was of the greatest
importance we push forward at all speed, lest we be caught among the
hills by the snow, and during the four or five days following our
departure from the post, we traveled more rapidly than at any other
time since leaving Independence.

The month of August had well set in when we came to Soda Springs, and
there it was I had counted upon surprising Susan Mitchell; nor was I


These springs are small hills or mounds standing at the right of the
trail near a grove of cedars and pines, while the water that has
oozed out of them in the past has formed a solid crust of soda for
miles around, so hard that one may walk upon it.

The liquid soda is warm and sparkling as it comes to the surface, and
when it has been led some distance away where it may be cooled, is as
pleasing a drink as one can find in any of the shops in the East, for
it is the true soda water as made by God Himself.


At the end of the first week in August we arrived early one forenoon,
at Fort Hall, which is a trading post belonging to the Hudson's Bay
Company and having the appearance of a regular fortification, because
of being built chiefly of adobe brick.


There we were able to buy flour at two cents a pound, providing we
were willing to pay for it in cattle at the rate of from five to
twelve dollars per head, and since we had two lame oxen and three cows
that could travel but little farther, we laid in a supply, being
allowed for our five animals thirty-six dollars in goods.

At this place John Mitchell's people were urged to abandon the idea of
going into the Oregon country because of the hardships and dangers
which must be encountered, and those trappers who were lounging about
the fort insisted that it would be better that we went to California,
instead of attempting to go farther on the road we had chosen.

The emigrants who had joined us on the way became frightened because
of the many stories which were told, and decided to try their fortunes
in California rather than Oregon. Therefore when we pulled out from
Fort Hall, Susan Mitchell was saddened at parting with Mary Parker,
who had been a cheery comrade for the girl during the time they had
traveled together.


We were now in the country of the Snake Indians, and while one might
believe that the Pawnees are the most expert thieves in the world, he
has simply to come across the Snake tribe in order to learn what may
be done in the way of robbery.

Two days after we left Fort Hall, when I had warned John Mitchell
that it was necessary to keep a sharp watch both day and night lest
even the clothing be stolen from our backs, he laughed me to scorn;
but I noticed that he took exceedingly good care of his saddle horse,
not only hobbling the animal, but tying him to a picket rope which was
fastened to his own wrist.

This he did twice, and yet on the third morning, despite all such
precautions, the horse was gone, the hobble having been cut and left
on the ground, while the picket rope was severed neatly within a half
dozen inches of his hand.

This theft had been committed while Mr. Mitchell slept, and he prided
himself upon being one who was easily aroused. After this, and I may
as well say here that John Mitchell never saw his horse again, there
was no reason why I should urge watchfulness upon any of our people.
They voluntarily redoubled the guards while we were in the Snake
country, and although I am not able to say we got through without
losing anything, nothing of great value was taken from us, with the
exception of the horse.


I had one more marvel on this road to the Oregon country with which to
surprise Susan Mitchell, and that was the Hot Springs, which were
within a mile of the trail; therefore I led the company directly to
them, there making camp.


There are five or six of these springs, from which water bubbles up so
hot that one may boil meat in it without need of fire, and when I said
as much to Susan's mother, she was inclined to think I would make
sport of her; therefore she boldly plunged her hand in, with the
result that every part of the skin which came in contact with the
water was reddened to the point of being blistered.

That night we boiled some pemmican[1] in one of the springs, and the
girls of the party amused themselves by making up balls of meal dough
and lowering them into the water by strands of plaited grass, cooking
them as dumplings are cooked in a stew of meat.

When we camped at Portneuf Crossing, mother told us the story of the
trapper Portneuf, who was murdered at this place by the Indians, and
spoke in such a tragic manner that even John Mitchell was impressed by
the brutal details. When I made the rounds of the camp before going to
sleep, I took note that none of the men were inclined to move around
alone outside the rays of light cast by the camp fires, and he whose
turn it was to stand watch, had with him a companion, much as though
he was afraid to remain without a comrade near at hand in a place
where such an evil deed had been done.


[1] A prepared meat carried by all travelers over the Oregon trail.


Next day, after a march of fourteen miles, we came to the American
Falls of the Snake River, and supper was long delayed because all the
women and girls were lost in wonder and surprise at the beautiful
scene. I told them that the Snake River flows over three immense
cataracts, the American, the Shoshone, and Salmon Falls, one quite as
awe-inspiring as the other.

We slept that night with the roaring of the cataract drowning all
other noises, and next morning we were as wet as if we had been
exposed to a smart shower. The wind had changed about midnight, and
the spray from the falls was blown into the tents as well as under
the wagon covers, until we were so uncomfortable that sleep left us at
an early hour.


Because of thus being awakened before break of day, we set off on the
march sooner than usual, with the result that before sunset we had
arrived at Raft River, twenty-six long miles from the American falls.
The trail was difficult even for pack horses, and there were many
places where it seemed an absolute impossibility to drag the heavy
wagons with the teams doubled until we had at times as many as twelve
yoke of cattle to one cart.

We were encamped in a valley, the bottom lands of which were covered
with heavy, rich grass that must have been a real surprise to the
animals after the scanty fare they had had from the time of leaving
Fort Bridger. I believed that we might spend a full day here, in order
to give the animals good rest before undertaking the mountainous
trail, and was on the point of telling John Mitchell what I had in
mind when Susan called my attention to six or eight wreaths of smoke
coming from as many different points on the mountains around us.


To the girl it was a cause only for surprise that smoke should be seen
ascending in such a place; but on the instant I was alarmed, knowing
beyond doubt that signal fires had been kindled by the Indians,
warning others of their tribe that a small company of white people
were where they might be attacked with small chance of defending

No one except my mother knew of the anxiety which filled my heart that
night. Knowing that we were at the mercy of the savages, if they
should fall upon us while we were in the valley and they on the rising
ground around us, I could not sleep, although needing rest sadly. I
spent the time until sunrise walking from one sentinel to another in
order to make certain each man was keeping sharp watch.

John Mitchell must have guessed that danger threatened, for he came
out from beneath the cover of his wagon shortly after midnight and
remained on the alert until sunrise.


Then we could see many columns of smoke from the sides of the
mountains, and I knew we were surrounded by savages who would not
hesitate to make an attack in order to gain possession of our goods,
if it could be done without great danger to themselves.


I would not listen to John Mitchell when he proposed that we make a
hurried start, for I knew the Indians were near enough to see clearly
what we were doing, and at the first show of fear on our part the
whole crew would be upon us. However, I insisted that no member of the
company should stray ever so short a distance from the train, and I
took good care that the cows were herded in close order between two of
the wagons.

Despite all I could say to the contrary, Susan insisted on
accompanying me when I rode to and fro along the line, keeping sharp
watch for a possible ambush and fearing each instant to hear that
savage yell which would tell that the enemy was upon us.

Yet we passed along the mountain sides and across narrow valleys in
peace until after sixteen miles we arrived at the banks of Marsh
Creek, where I gave the word that a halt be made, because then we were
where it would be possible to make some show of defending ourselves in
event of an attack, owing to a small thicket of stunted pines on a
slight elevation of land near the water.

During all the day's journey, I knew the Indians were hovering close
around us, because of the signal fires that were lighted just in
advance of us from time to time; but we failed to see the enemy except
once, when a half-naked savage showed himself, as if by accident, as
we rounded a bend in the trail. Other than that one glimpse of a dark
form and the signal fires on every hand, we had no proof that danger
lurked near us. It is likely that the greater number of our company
were ignorant of that which menaced; but I knew full well that we had
been in peril of our lives from the moment we made camp at Raft River.


Again I passed a sleepless night, and again John Mitchell joined me as
I went from sentinel to sentinel, asking now and then if any
suspicious noise had been heard, until another day had dawned, and
then I failed to see signal smoke, search the country with my eyes
though I did. It was evident the Snakes believed we would put up a
strong fight if attacked, and, failing to catch us at a disadvantage,
they had drawn off, most likely hoping to come across some other
company of emigrants who were not so cautious.


From Marsh Creek we journeyed to Goose Creek, a distance of seventeen
miles, earning by most severe labor every yard of advance and failing
to find water during the entire day. That part of the country yielded
no grass for the animals, and when we made camp at night we took good
care to see that every beast was hobbled so securely that he could not
stray very far in search of food.

The next day's march ended at Rock Creek, and although the traveling
was quite as hard for beasts and men, we made twenty-four miles, urged
to most severe exertions because our store of food was being consumed
rapidly. I knew we could not hope to find game and therefore we must
go hungry until arriving at the trading post on the Snake River known
as Fort Boise, while the animals would have great difficulty in
finding grass. The country was stripped as bare of green as though a
fire had passed over it, and many were the distressing tales I could
have told of emigrants who had perished miserably by starvation while
trying to make this portion of the long journey.

We left Rock Creek a full hour before daylight, urging the famished
beasts at their best pace while we ourselves strove not to think of
food lest the hunger which beset us should become more keen. Not until
forty-two miles had been traversed did I give the word to encamp, and
it was full time, for I question if we could have held on half an hour


Then we had arrived at Salmon Falls Creek. It was nearly nine o'clock
in the evening when we came to a halt, and during the last half hour
of the march we had been more nearly asleep than awake. At this camp
we found a scanty crop of grass, but no food for ourselves, and when,
weary to the verge of exhaustion, we crept under such shelters as had
been put up hurriedly in the darkness, it was with the knowledge that
sleep would come quickly, enabling us to forget, even for a short
time, our great needs.

From this point the next camping place would be on the bank of the
Snake River, at what is known as the first crossing, twenty-five miles
away, and then we had before us a journey of seventy-three miles to
the Boise River, after which we must march forty-eight miles farther
in order to gain Fort Boise, where food could be had.

One hundred forty-six miles stretched out ahead of us before it would
be possible to satisfy our hunger, and this distance could not be
covered in less than three days. Our animals were so nearly worn out
with severe work and lack of food that it did not seem possible we
could advance another ten miles, and yet all that long distance must
be traversed unless we gave up the struggle, leaving our bones to
bleach on the trail, as many another had done before us.

Now and again we came upon ghastly evidences of death, in wrecks of
wagons and tokens of human beings who had perished by starvation.
Perhaps it was well we saw those things, since they forced our people
to struggle all the harder.


We traveled in silence during the three days before arriving at Fort
Boise, eating nothing at noon, and for breakfast and supper receiving
no more than enough to prove how desperately hungry we were. I strove
to keep my mind fixed upon the danger which might menace from Indians,
in order to be ready to guard against it; but the others, even
including Susan, rode or walked listlessly, as if already despairing
of ever being able to accomplish the task before us.

The animals moved feebly; twice an ox fell in the yoke, refusing to
rise again, and we were forced to leave him behind. The men worked
half-heartedly when it became necessary to double the teams in order
to haul the wagons over the rough road, and so great became the
suffering of all that we moved onward as if in a dream.


I shall not speak of that terrible time, save to say that the good God
permitted us to arrive finally at Fort Boise at the very moment when I
believed there was no hope of our succeeding. It was as if we had been
dead and come alive again, when the trappers came out to meet us, and
carried the women and children into the inclosure, for, having arrived
where grass could be found, the hungry beasts came to a full stop
nearly a quarter mile distant, nor was it possible to force them
forward a single pace farther.

Fort Boise is a Hudson's Bay Company's post, and if the trappers and
traders there had been members of the American Company they could not
have treated us with greater kindness. Because of our exhausted
condition the men took entire charge of our cattle, and we were
treated almost as children, being waited upon during the first hours
after our arrival as if we were not capable of caring for ourselves,
which I suppose really was the case, for if we had been allowed to
have all the food we desired some of the weaker ones might have eaten
until they died.


Two days at this post served to put the members of the company, as
well as the cattle, in fairly good condition, and the men who had
treated us so kindly urged that we take our departure without further
loss of time lest we be overtaken by snowstorms while among the Blue
Mountains, which range it would be necessary to cross before we
arrived at the Oregon country.


I understood that such advice was good, and when John Mitchell would
have lingered despite the advice of the trappers, I took it upon
myself to insist that we go forward, picturing to him in the most
vivid colors the result if winter came upon us before we had scaled
the mountain range.

In order that we might not overtax our newly acquired strength, we
brought the first day's march from Fort Boise to an end at the bank of
the Malheur River, sixteen miles distant. Next day we traveled
thirty-one miles to Burnt River, where we halted one day to make ready
for a sixty-mile journey to Powder River.

To make any attempt at describing this part of our journey would be
repeating the words I have set down many times before. The trail was
as rough as can well be imagined, and the labor of getting the heavy
wagons along quite as great as had been found elsewhere.

Because of the supplies bought at Fort Boise, we did not suffer
greatly from hunger, although we were allowed only a small portion of
food each day; but the animals were in a half-famished condition all
the while until we had arrived at the Grande Ronde, which is a
beautiful valley among the mountains, where grass can be found in

There in that excellent camping place we remained two days, the cattle
meanwhile feeding greedily, as if realizing that it was necessary they
add to their strength in order to make the journey over the mountains,
fifteen miles away.


Refreshed by the long halt, we began to climb the Blue Mountains,
where the trail led over such steep ascents that it became necessary
to yoke all our cattle to one wagon, pull it a mile or two up what was
much like a cliff, and then drive the oxen back for another load, thus
winning our advance with the greatest difficulty, and after the most
severe labor traveling no more than seven miles in one day.


It was about the middle of September when we arrived at the Umatilla
River, where is an Indian village under rule of the chief Five Crows
of the Cayuse tribe, and a more friendly tribe I have never seen. They
had not a little land cultivated,--of course all the work had been
done by the squaws,--and stood ready to trade with us for whatever we
had, but were more eager for clothing than anything else.


On leaving the valley, the trail runs straight up the bluff, over a
high, grassy plain, affording fairly good footing for the animals; but
when we halted that night it was necessary to carry water from the
stream no less than a mile and a half up on the ridge, to our camp.

Two days later we came upon a village of the Walla Walla Indians, who,
instead of begging, offered us venison and potatoes and seemed to be
much pleased when we accepted their gifts; we lingered with them a
day, for now the time had come when I could no longer call myself


We had come within sight of the Columbia River, which was not more
than four miles away, and farther than this I had never gone, for my
father in his trading trips had generally halted in the Umatilla
Valley, where he remained until having gathered a large supply of


Now that the river was in full view, any of the party might have led
the way, for the trail was fairly well defined; but there were so many
chances of wandering out of the most direct course that I urged John
Mitchell to hire one of the Walla Walla Indians to serve us until we
arrived at Oregon City.

To my surprise he refused, but insisted that I finish the task.

It is true that I could continue as guide while we had the river near
at hand to mark out the general course, and it pleased me much that he
should be willing to put so much confidence in me, for I understood,
or believed I did, when we left Independence, that he was more than
doubtful whether a lad of my age could properly do that which might be

As I learned from the Indians, we had but one more difficult passage
to make before the journey would be finished, and although the cattle
and the horses were worn nearly to the verge of uselessness, I
believed that by making slow marches, if the winter did not come upon
us too suddenly, it would be possible to make our way through.


The way was hard, more difficult, it seemed to me, than any over which
we had passed. But by working carefully, sparing the cattle as much as
we could, and not forcing them more than an eight- or ten-mile march,
we succeeded in passing over the bluff, until we came to the Des
Chutes River.

At this stream it was necessary to have assistance from the Indians,
because it would be impossible for so small a party as ours to make
the crossing. The current was so rapid and violent, besides being
exceedingly deep at places, that we could not hope to take the wagons
over except by using canoes as ferryboats.

This last we did, lashing upon five or six of the largest a platform
of poles and split logs, until there had been formed a bed
sufficiently large to give room for a wagon.

It seemed to me as if John Mitchell would never make a bargain for
this rough ferrying. The Indians demanded as the price of their labor
almost everything they saw in the wagons, and at least three hours
were spent in haggling, before we were ready to make the first


Then our picket ropes were doubled and tied together until we had a
length sufficient to stretch across the stream. One end of this was
made fast to the platform of logs and canoes, and the other carried
by a party of the Indians to the opposite side of the stream, when
all the strength of every man that could be mustered was required to
keep our ferryboat from striking upon the rocks.

We were two days making this passage, although the stream at its
widest part is not over a hundred fifty yards, and when, finally, the
task had been accomplished and we started on the last stage of our
journey, it was found that, in addition to what we had given the
Indians, they had succeeded in stealing a quantity of powder and shot,
several shirts, and two pair of trousers, one pair of which, I grieve
to say, belonged to me and were the best I ever owned.


I wish I could express the thankfulness and relief which came upon me
on the 29th of September, when we arrived at the end of our journey,
for then we had come to the Dalles, or the Methodist Missions, beyond
which no wagon had ever passed.

At this place we found several families of would-be settlers waiting
for a passage down the river in one of the two small boats which ran
from Cascade Falls to Fort Vancouver, from which place they might
continue the journey by water to Oregon City.

Here, at what is known as the Dalles of the Columbia, where the water
rushes through a long, narrow channel of rock with so swift a current
that when the water is high even boats propelled by steam cannot stem
it, the missionaries sent out by the Methodist Church have built a few
dwellings, a schoolhouse, and a barn, besides planting the surrounding
land by aid of the Indians whom they have converted from a life of
savagery to the knowledge of God.



I cannot take to myself very much credit because of having led John
Mitchell's company without serious mishap, even though I have twice
before traversed the trail from the Missouri River. Yet we had no
trouble which could not be overcome by hard labor, and every member of
the company arrived at the journey's end in good health, which is more
than can be said of other emigrants.

When we arrived at the Dalles of the Columbia, we found there
emigrants who had lost more than half of all their live stock during
the long journey, and again my heart was overflowing with
thankfulness, because we had suffered no great loss.

On leaving Independence there were in John Mitchell's train, as I have
already set down, thirty cows, forty oxen, twenty horses, and ten
mules. We arrived at the Dalles with twenty-one cows, thirty-two oxen,
seventeen horses, and six mules.


Here at the Dalles, as I have said, the journey was nearly ended, and
here it is that I, Antoine, who now three times have crossed from the
Missouri to the Columbia River, have come to an end of my

In guiding John Mitchell's company over this long journey of more than
two thousand miles, I did no more than show them what I knew of
woodcraft, how to kill the buffalo, to stalk the antelope, to creep up
on the elk, and, what in the Indian country is of the greatest
importance, how to form camp so that they might be in least danger of
a surprise.

My mother had come over this long stretch of country with fewer
hardships than any other woman in the company. She had been, as you
might say, familiar with travel in the wilderness, for twice had she
been out with my father on his trading trips, and knew how to take
advantage of this time of rest, or of that period of toil.


Having left our home in St. Louis, we began to realize, as the end of
the journey drew near, that we must look upon ourselves now as
settlers in the Oregon country.

Because of not having sufficient money with which to embark in my
father's business, I must content myself with becoming a farmer, that
I might the better care for my mother. Even though it did not accord
with my wishes to abandon the life of a trapper, yet that was of no
account, so long as I was able to do my duty by my mother, even as she
has done her duty, and more, by me.

Concerning the journey down the river, when we traveled comfortably on
a boat, there is no reason why I should set down anything, save that
we arrived at Oregon City on the twenty-second day of October. We
remained at the Mission, with other intending settlers, a long time
waiting for the boats, and when we arrived the journey which had been
begun on the sixth day of May, if we counted the beginning when we
left Independence, was at an end.

There were many matters regarding this long march of ours, many small
adventures and larger misadventures, which I would dearly have loved
to set down.

It would also have pleased me to tell how it was that I came to buy
land on the Columbia River, with the money earned as a guide, together
with what was received from the sale of the old home.

All this and more, I would like to set down in detail; but I have not
the time in which to do it, therefore I will write as the last words,
that I, who once claimed St. Louis as my home, while I labor with my
hands in the fields for my dear mother, have put behind me the past
with its lure of trapping and hunting, and learned to think of myself
only as Antoine of Oregon.



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