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Title: Early Western Travels 1748-1846, Volume XX - Part II of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, 1831-1839
Author: Various
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Early Western Travels 1748-1846, Volume XX - Part II of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, 1831-1839" ***

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 Early Western Travels

 1748-1846

 Volume XX

 [Illustration: Indian alarm on the Cimarron River]



 Early Western Travels
 1748-1846


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

 Edited with Notes, Introductions, Index, etc., by
 Reuben Gold Thwaites, LL. D.

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

 Volume XX
 Part II of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, 1831-1839

 [Illustration]

 Cleveland, Ohio
 The Arthur H. Clark Company
 1905



 COPYRIGHT 1905, BY
 THE ARTHUR H. CLARK COMPANY

 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 The Lakeside Press
 R. R. DONNELLEY & SONS COMPANY
 CHICAGO



CONTENTS OF VOLUME XX


  COMMERCE OF THE PRAIRIES; or, The Journal of a Santa Fé
    Trader, during Eight Expeditions across the Great Western
    Prairies, and a Residence of nearly Nine Years in Northern
    Mexico. (Part II: Chapters xii-xvi of Volume I, and all
    of Volume II of original.) _Josiah Gregg._

  Author's Table of Contents                                        13

  Text of Part II:                                                  21



ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOLUME XX


  "Indian Alarm on the Cimarron River" _Frontispiece_

  "Map of the Interior of Northern Mexico" _Facing_                 21

  Medal of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Mexico (text cut)         40

  "Camp Comanche"                                                  123

  Mule emerging from a mine; Still Hunting (text cuts in
    original)                                                      181

  "'Dog Town,' or Settlement of Prairie Dogs"                      279



  PART II OF GREGG'S COMMERCE OF THE PRAIRIES, OR THE
    JOURNAL OF A SANTA FÉ TRADER--1831-1839

  Reprint of chapters xii-xvi of Volume I, and all of Volume
    II of the second edition: New York, 1845


CONTENTS

  CHAPTER XII

  Government of New Mexico -- The Administration of Justice
    -- Judicial Corruption -- Prejudices against Americans
    -- Partiality for the English -- Anecdote of Governor
    Armijo and a Trapper -- Outrage upon an American
    Physician -- Violence suffered by the American Consul
    and others -- Arbitrary Impositions upon Foreigners --
    _Contribucion de Guerra_ -- The Alcaldes and their
    System -- The _Fueros_ -- Mode of punishing Delinquents
    and Criminals -- Mexican System of Slavery -- Thieves
    and Thieveries Outrage upon an American Merchant --
    Gambling and Gambling-houses -- Game of _Monte_ --
    Anecdote of a Lady of Fashion -- _Chuza_ -- Cockpits --
    _Correr el gallo_ -- _El Coleo_ -- Fandangoes --
    _Cigarritos_,                                                   21

  CHAPTER XIII

  Military Hierarchy of Mexico -- Religious Superstitions --
    Legend of _Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe_ -- A profane
    Version of the Story -- A curious Plan for manufacturing
    Water -- Saints and Images -- Processions -- How to make
    it Rain -- The Sacred Host -- Fanaticism and Murder --
    Honors paid to a Bishop -- Servility to Priests --
    Attendance at Public Worship -- New Mexicans in Church
    -- The Vesper Bells -- Passion Week and the Ceremonies
    pertaining thereto -- Ridiculous _Penitencia_ --
    Whitewashing of Criminals -- Matrimonial Connexions and
    Mode of Contracting them -- Restrictions upon Lovers --
    Onerous Fees paid for Marriages and Burials -- Anecdote
    of a _Ranchero_ -- Ditto of a Servant and of a Widow,
    illustrative of Priestly Extortion -- Modes of Burial,
    and Burial Ground of the Heretics,                              37

  CHAPTER XIV

  The Pueblos -- Their Character for Sobriety, Honesty, and
    Industry -- Traditional descent from Montezuma -- Their
    Languages -- Former and present Population -- The Pueblo
    of Pecos -- Singular Habits of that ill-fated Tribe --
    Curious Tradition -- Montezuma and the Sun -- Legend of
    a Serpent -- Religion and government -- Secret Council
    -- Laws and Customs -- Excellent Provisions against
    Demoralization -- Primitive Pastimes of the Pueblos --
    Their Architecture -- Singular Structures of Taos, and
    other novel Fortifications -- Primitive state of the
    Arts among the Pueblos -- Style of Dress, Weapons, etc.
    -- Their Diet -- The _Guayave_,                                 54

  {xvi} CHAPTER XV

  The wild Tribes of New Mexico -- Speculative Theories --
    Clavigero and the _Azteques_ -- Pueblo Bonito and other
    Ruins -- Probable Relationship between the _Azteques_
    and Tribes of New Mexico -- The several Nations of this
    Province -- _Navajóes_ and _Azteques_ -- Manufactures of
    the former -- Their Agriculture, Religion, etc. --
    Mexican Cruelty to the Indians and its Consequences --
    Inroads of the Navajóes -- Exploits of a Mexican Army --
    How to make a Hole in a powder-keg -- The _Apaches_ and
    their character -- Their Food -- Novel Mode of settling
    Disputes -- Range of their marauding Excursions --
    Indian Traffic and imbecile Treaties -- Devastation of
    the Country -- Chihuahua Rodomontades -- Juan José, a
    celebrated Apache Chief, and his tragical End, etc. --
    Massacre of Americans in Retaliation -- A tragical
    Episode -- _Proyecto de Guerra_ and a 'gallant' Display
    -- The _Yutas_ and their Hostilities -- A personal
    Adventure with them, but no Bloodshed -- The Jicarillas,        67

  CHAPTER XVI

  Incidents of a Return Trip from Santa Fé -- Calibre of our
    Party -- Return Caravans -- Remittances -- Death of Mr.
    Langham -- Burial in the Desert -- A sudden Attack --
    Confusion in the Camp -- The Pawnees -- A Wolfish Escort
    -- Scarcity of Buffalo -- Unprofitable Delusion --
    Arrival -- Table of Camping Sites and Distances --
    Condition of the Town of Independence -- The Mormons --
    Their Dishonesty and Immorality -- Their high-handed
    Measures, and a Rising of the People -- A fatal Skirmish
    -- A chivalrous Parade of the Citizens -- Expulsion of
    the Mormons -- The Meteoric Shower, and Superstition,
    etc. -- Wanderings and Improprieties of the 'Latter-day
    Saints' -- Gov. Boggs' Recipe -- The City of Nauvoo --
    Contemplated Retribution of the Mormons,                        87

  CHAPTER XVII {I of Vol. II, original ed.}

  A Return to Prairie Life -- Abandonment of the regular
    Route -- The Start -- A Suicide -- Arrest of a Mulatto
    for Debt -- Cherokee 'Bankrupt Law' -- Chuly, the Creek
    Indian -- The Muster and the Introduction -- An '_Olla
    Podrida_' -- Adventure of a 'Down-Easter' -- Arrival of
    U. S. Dragoons -- Camp Holmes, and the Road -- A Visit
    from a Party of Comanches -- Tabba-quena, a noted Chief
    -- His extraordinary Geographical Talent -- Indians set
    out for the 'Capitan Grande,' and we through an
    unexplored Region -- Rejoined by Tabba-quena and his
    '_suite_' -- Spring Valley -- The Buffalo Fever -- The
    Chase -- A Green-horn Scamper -- Prairie Fuel,                  99

  CHAPTER XVIII {II of Vol. II}

  Travelling out of our Latitude -- The Buffalo-gnat -- A
    Kiawa and Squaw -- Indian _crim. con._ Affair --
    Extraordinary Mark of confidence in the White Man -- A
    Conflagration -- An Espy Shower -- Region of Gypsum --
    Our Latitude -- A Lilliputian Forest -- A Party of
    Comanches -- A Visit to a 'Dog-Town' -- Indian Archery
    -- Arrival of Comanche Warriors -- A 'Big Talk' and its
    Results -- Speech of the _Capitan Mayor_ -- Project of
    bringing Comanche Chiefs to Washington -- Return of
    Lieut. Bowman, and our March resumed -- Melancholy
    Reflections -- Another Indian Visit -- Mexican Captives
    -- Voluntary Captivity -- A sprightly Mexican Lad --
    Purchase of a Captive -- Comanche Trade and Etiquette --
    Indians least dangerous to such as trade with them,            114

  CHAPTER XIX {III of Vol. II}

  Ponds and Buffalo Wallows -- Valley of the Canadian, and
    romantic Freaks of Nature -- Formation of Ravines --
    Melancholy Adventure of a Party of Traders in 1832 --
    Fears of our being lost -- Arrival of a Party of
    _Comancheros_, and their wonderful Stories -- Their
    Peculiarities and Traffic -- Bitter Water, and the
    _Salitre_ of New Mexico -- Avant-couriers for Santa Fé
    -- Patent Fire-arms and their Virtues -- Ranchero Ideas
    of Distance, and their Mode of giving Directions -- The
    Angostura, and erroneous Notions of the Texans -- A new
    Route revealed -- Solitary Travel -- Supply of
    Provisions sent back -- Arrival at Santa Fé -- Gov.
    Armijo, etc. -- A 'Flare-up' with His Excellency,              132

  CHAPTER XX {IV of Vol. II}

  Preparations for a Start to Chihuahua -- Ineptness of
    Married Men for the Santa Fé Trade -- Annoying
    Custom-house Regulations -- Mails in New Mexico --
    Insecurity of Correspondence -- Outfit and Departure --
    _Derecho de Consumo_ -- Ruins of Valverde -- 'Towns
    without Houses' -- La Jornado del Muerto -- Laguna and
    Ojo del Muerto -- A Tradition of the _Arrieros_ --
    Laborious Ferrying and Quagmires -- Arrival at Paso del
    Norte -- Amenity of the Valley -- _Sierra Blanca_ and
    _Los Organos_ -- Face of the Country -- Seagrass --
    Médanos or Sand-hills -- An accidental River -- Carrizal
    -- Ojo Caliente -- Laguna de Encinillas -- Southern
    Haciendas -- Arrival -- Character of the Route and Soil,       145

  CHAPTER XXI {V of Vol. II}

  Trip from Chihuahua to Aguascalientes, in 1835 -- Southern
    Trade and _Ferias_ -- Hacienda de la Zarca, and its
    innumerable Stock -- Rio Nazas, and Lakes without outlet
    -- Perennial Cotton -- Exactions for Water and Pasturage
    -- Village of Churches -- City of Durango and its
    Peculiarities -- Fruits, Pulque, etc. -- Persecution of
    Scorpions -- Negro-ship in the ascendant -- Robbers and
    their _modus operandi_ -- City of Aguascalientes --
    Bathing Scene -- Haste to return to the North -- Mexican
    Mule-shoeing -- Difficulties and Perplexities -- A
    Friend in time of need -- Reach Zacatecas -- City
    Accommodations -- Hotels unfashionable -- _Locale_,
    Fortifications, etc., of the City of Zacatecas -- Siege
    by Santa Anna and his easy-won Victory -- At Durango
    again -- Civil Warfare among the 'Sovereigns' --
    Hairbreadth 'scapes -- Troubles of the Road -- Safe
    Arrival at Chihuahua -- Character of the Southern
    Country,                                                       162

  CHAPTER XXII {VI of Vol. II}

  Visit to the Mining Town of Jesus-Maria -- Critical Roads
    -- Character of the Town -- Losing Speculations -- Mine
    of Santa Juliana -- Curious mining Operations --
    Different Modes of working the Ore -- The Crushing-mill,
    etc. -- _Barras de Plata_ -- Value of Bullion -- The
    Silver Trade -- Return to Chihuahua -- Resumption of the
    regular Narrative -- Curious Wholesales -- Money Table
    -- Redundancy of Copper Coin -- City of Chihuahua and
    its Peculiarities -- Ecclesiastical Architecture --
    Hidalgo and his Monument -- Public Works, and their
    present Declension -- _Fête_ in honor of Iturbide --
    Illiberality towards Americans -- Shopping Mania --
    Anti-Masonic _Auto de Fe_,                                     178

  CHAPTER XXIII {VII of Vol. II}

  Departure for Santa Fé -- Straitened for Food -- Summary
    Effort to procure Beef -- Seizure of one of our Party --
    Altercation with a _Rico_ -- His pusillanimous Procedure
    -- Great Preparations in Chihuahua for our Arrest --
    Arrival of Mexican Troops -- A polite Officer -- Myself
    with three of my Men summoned back to Chihuahua --
    Amiable Conduct of Señor Artalejo -- _Junta_
    _Departmental_ and Discussion of my Affair -- Writ of
    _Habeas Corpus_ not in vogue -- The Matter adjusted and
    Passports granted -- The _Morale_ -- Impunity of savage
    Depredations -- Final Start -- Company of _Paseños_ with
    their Fruits and Liquors -- Arrival at Santa Fé,               193

  CHAPTER XXIV {VIII of Vol. II}

  Preparations for returning Home -- Breaking out of the
    Small-pox -- The Start -- Our Caravan -- Manuel the
    Comanche -- A new Route -- The Prairie on Fire -- Danger
    to be apprehended from these Conflagrations -- A
    Comanche Buffalo-chase -- A Skirmish with the Pawnees --
    An intrepid Mexican -- The Wounded -- Value of a thick
    Skull -- Retreat of the Enemy and their Failure -- A
    bleak Northwester -- Loss of our Sheep -- The Llano
    Estacado and Sources of Red River -- The Canadian River
    -- Cruelties upon Buffalo -- Feats at 'Still Hunting' --
    Mr. Wethered's Adventure -- Once more on our own Soil --
    The False Washita -- Enter our former Trail -- Character
    of the Country over which we had travelled -- Arrival at
    Van Buren -- The two Routes to Santa Fé -- Some
    Advantages of that from Arkansas -- Restlessness of
    Prairie Travellers in civilized Life, and Propensity for
    returning to the Wild Deserts,                                 203

  CHAPTER XXV {IX of Vol. II}
  CONCLUSION OF THE SANTA FE TRADE

  Decline of Prices -- Statistical Table -- Chihuahua Trade
    -- Its Extent -- Different Ports through which Goods are
    introduced to that Market -- Expedition between
    Chihuahua and Arkansas -- The Drawback -- The more
    recent Incidents of the Santa Fé Caravans -- Adventures
    of 1843 -- Robbery and Murder of Chavez -- Expedition
    from Texas -- Defeat of Gen. Armijo's Van-guard -- His
    precipitate Retreat -- Texan Grievances -- Unfortunate
    Results of indiscriminate Revenge -- Want of discipline
    among the Texans -- Disarmed by Capt. Cook -- Return of
    the Escort of U. S. Dragoons, and of the Texans --
    Demands of the Mexican Government -- Closing of the
    Santa Fé Trade,                                                221

  CHAPTER XXVI {X of Vol. II}
  GEOGRAPHY OF THE PRAIRIES

  Extent of the Prairies -- Mountains -- _Mesas_ or
    Table-lands -- _El Llano Estacado_ -- _Cañones_ -- Their
    Annoyance to the early Caravans -- Immense Gullies --
    Coal Mines and other Geological Products -- Gypsum --
    Metallic Minerals -- Salines -- Capt. Boone's
    Exploration -- 'Salt Plain' and 'Salt Rock' -- Mr.
    Sibley's Visit -- Saline Exudations -- Unhabitableness
    of the high Prairies -- Excellent Pasturage -- Rich
    border Country sufficient for two States -- Northern
    Texas -- Rivers of the Prairies -- Their Unfitness for
    Navigation -- Timber -- Cross Timbers -- Encroachments
    of the Timber upon the Prairies -- Fruits and Flowers --
    Salubrity of Climate,                                          237

  CHAPTER XXVII {XI of Vol. II}
  ANIMALS OF THE PRAIRIES

  The Mustang or Wild Horse -- Capturing him by 'Creasing,'
    and with the Lazo -- Horse-flesh -- The Buffalo -- Its
    Appearance -- Excellence of its Meat -- General Utility
    to the Indian and Traveller -- Prospect of its
    Extinction -- Hunting the Buffalo with Bow and Arrows,
    the Lance, etc. -- 'Still-hunting' -- The Buffalo
    ferocious only when wounded -- Butchering, etc. -- The
    Gray Wolf -- Its Modes of killing Buffalo -- Their great
    numbers -- A 'Wolf scrape' -- The Prairie Wolf, or
    'Jackal of the Prairies' -- The Elk, Deer and Bear --
    The Antelope -- The Bighorn -- The Prairie Dog -- Owls
    and Rattlesnakes -- The Horned Frog -- Fowls -- Bees,
    etc.,                                                          259

  CHAPTER XXVIII {XII of Vol. II}
  ABORIGINES OF AMERICA

  Indian Cosmogony -- Traditions of Origin -- Identity of
    Religious Notions -- Adoration of the Sun -- Shawnee
    Faith -- Anecdote of Tecumseh -- Legendary Traditions --
    Missionaries, and Success of the Catholics -- The
    Indian's Heaven -- Burial Customs -- Ancient Accounts --
    Depositing the Dead on Scaffolds -- Superstition and
    Witchcraft -- Indian Philosophy -- Polygamy and other
    Matrimonial Affairs -- Abhorrence of Incest --
    Difference in Character -- Indian Hospitality -- Traits
    of the Ancient Asiatics -- Names -- Relationship of
    Different Tribes -- Dreadful Decrease of the Indians,          283

  CHAPTER XXIX {XIII of Vol. II}
  THE FRONTIER INDIANS

  Causes of Removal West -- Annuities, etc. --
    Dissatisfaction of the Indians -- Their Melioration by
    the Change -- Superiority of their present Location --
    Lands granted to them -- Improvements, Agriculture,
    etc. -- Their Slaves -- Manufactures -- Style of Living,
    Dress, etc. -- Literary Opportunities and Improvements
    -- Choctaw Academy -- Harpies and Frauds -- Games --
    Systems of Government -- Polygamy -- Ancient Laws and
    Customs -- Intemperance -- Preventive Measures -- A
    Choctaw Enactment -- Marriage and Funeral Customs of the
    Choctaws -- The Creeks -- Their Summary Executions --
    Mourning -- Indian Titles -- The Northern Tribes --
    Census of the Frontier Nations,                                299

  CHAPTER XXX {XIV of Vol. II}
  INDIANS OF THE PRAIRIES

  System of Chiefs -- Mode of Warfare -- War-Council -- The
    Scalp-dance -- The Calumet or Pipe of Peace -- Treaties
    -- Public News-criers -- Arms of the Indians -- Bow and
    Arrows, etc. -- Hunting -- Dancing -- Language of Signs
    -- Telegraphs -- Wigwams or Lodges -- Pack-dogs --
    Costumes -- Painting, Tattooing, etc. -- Indian Dandies
    -- Manufactures, and Dressing the Buffalo Rug -- Indian
    Diet, Fasting, etc. -- Primitive Thomsonians -- Their
    domestic Animals, the Dog and the Horse -- Wampum --
    Their Chronology,                                              318

  CHAPTER XXXI {XV of Vol. II}
  INDIANS OF THE PRAIRIES

  Intermediate Tribes -- Their Wigwams and their Hunting
    Excursions -- Dress and Cut of their Hair -- The Pawnees
    -- The Osages -- Their Roguery -- Matrimonial Customs --
    Accomplished Mourners -- Their Superstitions -- The
    Indian Figure -- The 'Pawnee Picts' -- Wild Tribes --
    Census -- The Comanches -- Their Range -- Their Sobriety
    -- Their Chiefs, etc. -- Female Chastity -- Comanche
    Marriage -- Costumes -- Horsemanship -- Comanche Warfare
    -- Predatory Forays -- Martial Ceremonies -- Treatment
    of Captives -- Burial and Religious Rites,                     336

  GLOSSARY.

  Containing such Spanish or Hispano-Mexican words as occur
    undefined in this work, or recur without definition
    after having been once translated                              353


[Illustration: MAP OF THE INTERIOR OF NORTHERN MEXICO.]



 COMMERCE OF THE PRAIRIES
 {PART II}



CHAPTER XII[1]

Government of New Mexico -- The Administration of Justice --
  Judicial Corruption -- Prejudices against Americans -- Partiality
  for the English -- Anecdote of Governor Armijo and a Trapper --
  Outrage upon an American Physician -- Violence suffered by the
  American Consul and others -- Arbitrary Impositions upon Foreigners
  -- _Contribucion de Guerra_ -- The Alcaldes and their System --
  The _Fueros_ -- Mode of punishing Delinquents and Criminals --
  Mexican System of Slavery -- Thieves and Thieveries -- Outrage upon
  an American Merchant -- Gambling and Gambling-houses -- Game of
  _Monte_ -- Anecdote of a Lady of Fashion -- _Chuza_ -- Cockpits --
  _Correr_ _el gallo_ -- El Coleo -- Fandangoes -- _Cigarritos_.


Prior to the adoption of the _Sistema Central_ in the Mexican
republic, the province of New Mexico was under a territorial
government. The executive was called _Gefe Político_ (political
chief), and the _Diputacion Provincial_ very inefficiently supplied
the place of a legislature. Under the present system, however, New
Mexico being a _department_, the names of these powers have been
changed, but their functions remain very nearly the same. The
_Gobernador_ (governor) is appointed by the President for eight years.
The legislative power is nominally vested in a _Junta Departamental_,
a kind of state council, with very circumscribed {226} powers,
somewhat analogous to, and certainly not more extensive than, those of
a board of aldermen with us. But even this shadow of popular
representation was 'prorogued' by Gov. Armijo soon after his accession
to power (five or six years ago), and has never since been convened;
so that [Pg022] its functions have been arbitrarily exercised by the
governor ever since.

The administration of the laws in Northern Mexico constitutes one of
the most painful features of her institutions. Justice, or rather
judgments, are a common article of traffic; and the hapless litigant
who has not the means to soften the claws of the alcalde with a
'silver unction,' is almost sure to get severely scratched in the
contest, no matter what may be the justice of his cause, or the
uprightness of his character. It is easy to perceive, then, that the
poor and the humble stand no chance in a judicial contest with the
wealthy and consequential, whose influence, even apart from their
facilities for corrupting the court and suborning witnesses, is
sufficient to neutralize any amount of plebeian testimony that might
be brought against them.

The evil consequences arising from maladministration of justice in New
Mexico are most severely felt by foreigners, against whom a strong
prejudice prevails throughout the South. Of these, the citizens of the
United States are by far the most constant sufferers; an inevitable
result of that sinister feeling with which the 'rival republic' views
the advancement {227} and superiority of her more industrious
neighbors. It is a notorious fact, that while the English are
universally treated with comparative consideration and respect, the
Americans residing in the southern parts of the republic are
frequently taunted with the effeminacy of their government and its
want of decision. So openly has this preference for British subjects
been manifested, and so thoroughly conscious have the Americans become
of the humiliating fact, that when a mercantile firm, consisting of an
American and an Englishman, has occasion to present a memorial of any
description, or to sue either for an act of favor or of justice from
the nation, the application is sure [Pg023] to be made in the name of
the latter, knowing it will thus be more likely to command proper
attention.

Few men, perhaps, have done more to jeopard the interests of American
traders, or to bring the American character itself into contempt, than
Armijo, the present arbitrary governor of New Mexico. I am happy to
say, however, that in the midst of his many oppressions, he was once
at least obliged to 'knock under' to one of those bold and daring
spirits of the Rocky Mountains whom obstacles rather energize than
subdue. This was about the year 1828, during Armijo's previous
governorship. A law was then in existence which had been enacted by
the general Congress prohibiting foreigners from trapping beaver in
the Mexican territory, under penalty of confiscation, etc.; but as
there were no native {228} trappers in New Mexico, Gov. Baca and his
successor (Narbona) thought it expedient to extend licenses to
foreigners, in the name of citizens, upon condition of their taking a
certain proportion of Mexicans to learn the art of trapping. In
pursuance of this disposition, Gov. Narbona extended a license to one
Ewing Young, who was accompanied by a Mr. Sublette, brother of Capt.
Wm. Sublette, and almost equally celebrated for his mountain
adventures.[2] [Pg024] Previous to the return of this party from
their trapping expedition, Armijo had succeeded Narbona in office, and
they were informed that it was his intention to seize their furs. To
prevent this, they deposited them at a neighboring village, where they
were afterwards discovered, seized, and confiscated. The furs being
damp, they were spread out in the sun before the _Guardia_, in Santa
Fé, when Sublette, perceiving two packs of beaver which had been his
own property, got by honest labor, instantly seized them and carried
them away before the eyes of the whole garrison, and concealed both
them and his own person in a house opposite. The entire military force
was immediately put in requisition, and a general search made for the
offender and his prize; but in vain: indeed, if the truth must be
spoken, the troops seemed to have as little desire to find Sublette as
the latter had of being found; for his character was too well known to
leave any room for hope that his capture could be effected without a
great deal {229} of trouble. In the meanwhile, Armijo raved, and
threatened the Americans for not ferreting out their countryman and
delivering him over to justice. Failing to produce any impression by
blustering, however, he caused a couple of cannons to be pointed at
the house where the offender was supposed to be concealed, declaring
at the same time that he would batter it down; but all to no purpose.
Mr. Sublette finally conveyed his furs in safety to the frontier, and
thence to the United States. [Pg025]

The following anecdote affords another illustration of
Armijo's summary mode of dealing with Americans. In the fall of 1840,
a gross outrage was committed upon a physician from Massachusetts
(said to be a gentleman of unexceptionable deportment), who was
travelling through the country for his health. He had loaned nine
hundred dollars to a person of the name of Tayon, who afterwards
borrowed the same amount of another foreigner and repaid this debt.
The doctor then left for the South, where he intended to pass the
winter, being afflicted with a pulmonary disease. But the individual
who had lent Tayon the money, being informed that he was insolvent,
applied to Gov. Armijo for an order to compel the doctor to return,
expecting thereby to make him reimburse the money. The order overtook
him at the village of Algodones,[3] near forty miles from Santa Fé,
where he was at once arrested by the alcalde, and detained some time,
ignorant even of the offence for which he was doing penance. {230} In
the meantime, the American Consul at Santa Fé, having been informed of
what had taken place, procured a counter-order from the governor for
the release of the prisoner. When the alcalde of Algodones received
this document, he determined at once that so extraordinary an act of
justice should cost the foreigner some trifle. Accordingly, another
order was forged on the spot, commanding that he should be taken to
the capital--yet a 'gentle hint' was given, that his liberty might be
purchased by the payment of two hundred dollars. Being in a land of
strangers, among whom he had but little hope of receiving fair play,
the doctor resolved to pay the amount demanded, and fly to Chihuahua,
where he would at least be safe from Armijo's clutches. Having been
informed, however, of the fraud [Pg026] practised by the alcalde,
before he had proceeded far on his journey, he returned and made an
attempt to bring the delinquent officer to justice, but altogether
without success.

But perhaps the most glaring outrages upon American citizens were
committed in 1841, upon the occasion of the capture of the Texan Santa
Fé Expedition. In Taos, a poor deaf and dumb U. S. creole Frenchman
was beaten to death in open day. In San Miguel, the alcalde, at the
head of a mob, entered the store of a Mr. Rowland, whom he robbed of a
considerable amount of merchandise.[4] At the same time, the greatest
excitement raged in Santa Fé against Americans, whose lives appeared
in imminent danger; and a most {231} savage attack was made upon our
excellent Consul, Manuel Alvarez, Esq., who had always taken an active
interest in the welfare of American citizens.[5]

A few minutes after the governor had departed for San Miguel, to
encounter the Texans, a fellow named Martin, his nephew and
confidential agent, aided by a band of ferocious _sans culottes_, and
armed with a large knife, secretly entered the house of the Consul,
who perceived him in time, however, to avert the blow; yet he received
a severe wound in the face during the scuffle that ensued: the rabble
running in at the same time, and vociferating, "_Sáquenlo ajuera!
mátenlo!_"--Drag him out! kill him! Mr. Alvarez doubtless [Pg027]
owed his preservation partially to the consternation with which the
failure of their clandestine attempt at his life inspired the cowardly
ruffians. Instead of being punished for this diabolical act, the
principal assassin, on the contrary, was soon after promoted in the
army.

The outrage did not end here, however; for on the Consul's demanding
his passport for the United States, it was refused for nearly a month;
thus detaining him until the cold season had so far advanced, that, of
his party (about fifteen in number), two perished from the cold; and
not one arrived without being more or less frost-bitten--some very
severely--besides suffering a loss of about fifty animals from the
same cause.

Although these and other daring outrages have been duly represented to
our Government, {232} it does not appear that any measures of redress
have yet been taken.

With a view of oppressing our merchants, Gov. Armijo had, as early as
1839, issued a decree exempting all the natives from the tax imposed
on store-houses, shops, etc., throwing the whole burden of impost upon
foreigners and naturalized citizens; a measure clearly and
unequivocally at variance with the treaties and stipulations entered
into between the United States and Mexico. A protest was presented
without effect; when our Consul, finding all remonstrances useless,
forwarded a memorial to the American Minister at Mexico,[6] who,
although the vital interests of American citizens were at stake,
deemed the affair of too little importance, perhaps, and therefore
appears to have paid no attention to it. But this system of levying
excessive taxes upon foreigners, is by no means an original invention
of Gov. Armijo. In 1835, the government of Chihuahua having levied a
_contribucion de guerra_ for raising means to make [Pg028] war upon
the savages, who were laying waste the surrounding country, foreign
merchants, with an equal disregard for their rights and the
obligations of treaties, were taxed twenty-five dollars each per
month; while the native merchants, many of whom possessed large
haciendas, with thousands of stock, for the especial protection of
which these taxes were chiefly imposed, paid only from five to ten
dollars each. Remonstrances were presented to the governor, but in
vain. In his official {233} reply, that functionary declared, "_que el
gobierno cree arreglado el reparto de sus respectivas contribuciones_,"
--the government believes your respective contributions in accordance
with justice--which concluded the correspondence, and the Americans
paid their twenty-five dollars per month.

The only tribunals of 'justice' in New Mexico are those of the
ordinary _alcaldes_ or justices of the peace; and an appeal from them
is carried to the Supreme Court in the department of Chihuahua. The
course of litigation is exceedingly simple and summary. The plaintiff
makes his verbal complaint or demand before the alcalde, who orders
him to summon the defendant, which is done by simply saying, "_Le
llama el alcalde_" (the alcalde calls you) into his presence, the
applicant acting thus in the double capacity of constable and
complainant. The summons is always verbal, and rarely for a future
time--instant attendance being expected. Should the defendant refuse
to obey this simple mandate (which, by the bye, is a very rare
occurrence), the alcalde sends his _baston de justicia_, his staff of
justice, an ordinary walking-cane, distinguished only by a peculiar
black silk tassel. This never fails to enforce compliance, for a
refusal to attend after being shown the staff, would be construed into
a contempt of court, and punished accordingly. The witnesses are
sometimes sworn upon a cross cut on the _baston de justicia_, or more
frequently, perhaps, upon a cross [Pg029] formed with {234} the
finger and thumb. Generally speaking, however, the process of
examination is gone through without a single oath being administered;
and in the absence of witnesses, the alcalde often proceeds to
sentence upon the simple statements of the contending parties. By a
species of mutual agreement, the issue of a suit is sometimes referred
to _hombres buenos_ (arbitrators), which is the nearest approximation
that is made to trial by jury. In judicial proceedings, however, but
little, or rather no attention is paid to any code of laws; in fact,
there is scarcely one alcalde in a dozen who knows what a law is, or
who ever saw a law-book. Their decisions, when not influenced by
corrupt agencies, are controlled by the prevailing customs of the
country.

In the administration of justice, there are three distinct and
privileged jurisdictions, known as _fueros_:[7] the _eclesiástico_,
which provides that no member of the clergy, at least of the rank of
curate and upwards, shall ever be arraigned before a civil tribunal,
but shall be tried by their superiors in the order; the _militar_,
which makes a similar provision in favor not only of commissioned
officers, but of every common soldier from the ranks; and the _civil_
or ordinary courts, for all cases in which the defendants are laymen.
These _fueros_ have hitherto maintained the ecclesiastical and
military classes in perfect independence of the civil authorities. The
_civil_, in fact, remains in some degree subordinate to the other two
_fueros_; for it can, under no circumstances, {235} have any
jurisdiction whatever over them; while the lay plaintiff, in the
privileged tribunals of these, may, if unsuccessful, have judgment
entered up against him: a consequence that can never follow the suits
of the ecclesiastical or military orders before the civil tribunals.
The judgments of the latter, in [Pg030] such cases, would be void. It
is no wonder, then, that the cause of freedom in Mexico has made so
little progress.

Imprisonment is almost the only sort of punishment resorted to in the
North. For debt, petit larceny, highway robbery, and murder, the usual
sentence is "_A la cárcel_" (to jail), where a person is likely to
remain about as long for inability to pay _dos reales_, as for the
worst of crimes: always provided he has not the means to pacify the
offended majesty of the law. I never heard of but one execution for
murder in New Mexico, since the declaration of independence. The most
desperate and blood-stained criminals escape with impunity, after a
few weeks of incarceration, unless the prosecutor happens to be a
person of great influence; in which case, the prisoner is detained in
the _calabozo_ at will, even when the offence committed has been of a
trivial character. Notwithstanding this laxity in the execution of the
laws, there are few murders of any kind committed.

In case of debt, as before remarked, the delinquent is sent to
jail--provided the creditor will not accept his services. If he will,
however, the debtor becomes _nolens volens_ the {236} servant of the
creditor till the debt is satisfied; and, serving, as he does, at very
reduced wages, his expenses for clothing, and other necessaries, but
too often retain him in perpetual servitude. This system does not
operate, however, upon the higher classes, yet it acts with terrible
severity upon the unfortunate poor, whose condition is but little
better, if not worse indeed than that of the slaves of the South. They
labor for fixed wages, it is true; but all they can earn is hardly
sufficient to keep them in the coarsest clothing and pay their
contingent expenses. Men's wages range from two to five dollars a
month, and those of women from fifty cents to two dollars; in payment
of which, they rarely receive any money; but instead thereof, articles
of apparel and other necessaries at the most exorbitant prices. The
consequence is that the [Pg031] servant soon accumulates a debt which
he is unable to pay--his wages being often engaged for a year or two
in advance. Now, according to the usages, if not the laws of the
country, he is bound to serve his master until all arrearages are
liquidated; and is only enabled to effect an exchange of masters, by
engaging another to pay his debt, to whom he becomes in like manner
bound.

As I have already remarked, capital crimes and highway robberies are
of comparatively rare occurrence in the North, but in smaller
delinquencies, such as pilfering and petty rogueries of every shade
and description, the common classes can very successfully compete
{237} with any other people. Nothing indeed can be left exposed or
unguarded without great danger of its being immediately stolen. No
husbandman would think of leaving his axe or his hoe, or anything else
of the slightest value, lying out over night. Empty wagons are often
pillaged of every movable piece of iron, and even the wheels have been
carried away. Pieces of merchandise are frequently purloined from the
shelves, when they happen to be in reach. In Chihuahua, goods have
actually been snatched from the counter while being exposed to the
inspection of a pretended purchaser. I once had a trick of this kind
played upon me by a couple of boys, who made their escape through a
crowd of spectators with their booty exposed. In vain I cried
"_Agarren á los ladrones!_" (catch the thieves!) not a single
individual moved to apprehend them. I then proffered the goods stolen,
to any person who might succeed in bringing the rogues to me, but to
no purpose. In fact there seems to exist a great deal of repugnance,
even among the better classes, to apprehending thieves; as if the mere
act of informing against them was considered dishonorable. I heard a
very respectable caballero once remark that he had seen a man purloin
certain articles of merchandise, but he could not be induced to give
[Pg032] up his name; observing, "O, I can't think of exposing the poor
fellow!"

The impunity with which delinquencies of this description are every
day committed is {238} perhaps in some degree, the consequence of
those severe enactments, such as the _Leyes de las Indias_ (the laws
of the Indies), which rendered many thefts and robberies punishable
with death.[8] The magistracy contracted the habit of frequently
winking at crime, rather than resort to the barbarous expedients
prescribed by the letter of the law. The utmost that can be gained now
by public prosecution, is the recovery of the stolen property, if that
be anywhere to be found, and occasionally a short period of
imprisonment for the culprit. This is more particularly the case when
the prosecutor happens to be a foreigner; while on the other hand, if
he be the party accused, he is likely to be subjected to very severe
treatment. A remarkable circumstance of this kind occurred in
Chihuahua in the year 1835. One of our most respectable Missouri
merchants had bought a mule of a stranger, but the animal was soon
after claimed by a third person, who proved that it had been stolen
from him. The Missourian would have been perfectly satisfied to lose
the mule, and end the matter there; but to the surprise of all, he was
directly summoned before an alcalde, and forthwith sentenced to jail:
the partial judge having labored to fix the theft upon the innocent
purchaser, while the real culprit, who was a native, was permitted to
go at large.

The love of gambling also deserves to be noticed as a distinguishing
propensity of these people. Indeed it may well be said, without any
undue stretch of imagination, that [Pg033] shop-lifting, {239}
pocket-picking, and other elegant pastimes of the same kindred, are
the legitimate offspring, especially among the lower classes, of that
passion for gaming, which in Mexico more than anywhere else--to use
Madame Calderon's language[9]--"is impregnated with the
constitution--in man, woman, and child." It prevails in the lowly hut,
as well as in the glittering saloon; nor is the sanctity of the gown
nor the dignity of station sufficient proof against the fascinations
of this exciting vice. No one considers it a degradation to be seen
frequenting a _monte bank_: the governor himself and his lady, the
grave magistrate and the priestly dignity, the gay caballero and the
titled señora may all be seen staking their doubloons upon the turn of
a card; while the humbler ranchero, the hired domestic and the ragged
pauper, all press with equal avidity to test their fortune at the same
shrine. There are other games at cards practised among these people,
depending more upon skill; but that of _el monte_, being one
exclusively of chance, seems to possess an all-absorbing attraction,
difficult to be conceived by the uninitiated spectator.

The following will not only serve to show the light in which gambling
is held by all classes of society, but to illustrate the purifying
effects of wealth upon character. Some twelve or fifteen years ago
there lived (or rather roamed) in Taos a certain female of very loose
habits, known as _La Tules_. Finding it difficult to obtain the means
of living in that {240} district, she finally extended her wanderings
to the capital. She there became a constant attendant on one of those
pandemoniums where the favorite game of _monte_ was dealt _pro bono
publico_. Fortune, at first, did not seem inclined [Pg034] to smile
upon her efforts, and for some years she spent her days in lowliness
and misery. At last her luck turned, as gamblers would say, and on one
occasion she left the bank with a spoil of several hundred dollars!
This enabled her to open a bank of her own, and being favored by a
continuous run of good fortune, she gradually rose higher and higher
in the scale of affluence, until she found herself in possession of a
very handsome fortune. In 1843, she sent to the United States some ten
thousand dollars to be invested in goods. She still continues her
favorite 'amusement,' being now considered the most expert 'monte
dealer' in all Santa Fé. She is openly received in the first circles
of society: I doubt, in truth, whether there is to be found in the
city a lady of more fashionable reputation than this same Tules, now
known as Señora Doña Gertrudes Barceló.

Among the multitude of games which seem to constitute the real
business of life in New Mexico, that of _chuza_ evidently presents the
most attractions to ladies; and they generally lay very heavy wagers
upon the result. It is played with little balls, and bears some faint
resemblance to what is called _roulette_. Bull-baiting and
cock-fighting, about which so much has been said by every traveller in
Mexico, {241} are also very popular 'amusements' in the North, and
generally lead to the same excesses and the same results as gaming.
The cock-pit rarely fails to be crowded on Sundays and other feast
days; on which occasions the church, the ball-room, the
gambling-house, and the cock-pit look like so many opposition
establishments; for nothing is more common than to see people going
from one place to another by alternate fits, just as devotional
feeling or love of pleasure happens to prompt them.

One of the most attractive sports of the rancheros and the peasantry,
and that which, more than any other, calls for the exercise of skill
and dexterity, is that called _correr el gallo_, [Pg035] practised
generally on St. John's day. A common cock or hen is tied by the feet
to some swinging limb of a tree, so as to be barely within the reach
of a man on horseback: or the fowl is buried alive in a small pit in
the ground leaving only the head above the surface. In either case,
the racers, passing at full speed, grapple the head of the fowl, which
being well greased, generally slips out of their fingers. As soon as
some one, more dextrous than the rest, has succeeded in tearing it
loose, he claps spurs to his steed, and endeavors to escape with the
prize. He is hotly pursued, however, by the whole sporting crew, and
the first who overtakes him tries to get possession of the fowl, when
a strife ensues, during which the poor chicken is torn into atoms.
Should the holder of the trophy be able to outstrip his pursuers, he
carries {242} it to a crowd of fair spectators and presents it to his
mistress, who takes it to the fandango which usually follows, as a
testimony of the prowess of her lover.

Among the vaqueros, and even among persons of distinction, _el coleo_
(tailing) is a much nobler exercise than the preceding, and is also
generally reserved for days of festivity. For this sport the most
untractable ox or bull is turned loose upon a level common, when all
the parties who propose to join in the amusement, being already
mounted, start off in pursuit of him. The most successful rider, as
soon as he gets near enough to the bull, seizes him by the tail, and
with a sudden manœuvre, whirls him topsy-turvy upon the plain--to the
no little risk of breaking his own neck, should his horse stumble or
be tripped by the legs of the falling bull.

Respecting _fandangos_, I will observe that this term, as it is used
in New Mexico, is never applied to any particular dance, but is the
usual designation for those ordinary assemblies where dancing and
frolicking are carried on; _baile_ (or ball) being generally applied
to those of a higher grade. The former especially are very frequent;
for nothing is more [Pg036] general, throughout the country, and with
all classes than dancing. From the gravest priest to the buffoon--from
the richest nabob to the beggar--from the governor to the
ranchero--from the soberest matron to the flippant belle--from the
grandest _señora_ to the _cocinera_--all partake of this exhilarating
{243} amusement. To judge from the quantity of tuned instruments which
salute the ear almost every night in the week, one would suppose that
a perpetual carnival prevailed everywhere. The musical instruments
used at the _bailes_ and _fandangos_ are usually the fiddle and
_bandolin_, or _guitarra_, accompanied in some villages by the _tombé_
or little Indian drum. The musicians occasionally acquire considerable
proficiency in the use of these instruments. But what most oddly
greets, and really outrages most Protestant ears, is the accompaniment
of divine service with the very same instruments, and often with the
same tunes.

Of all the petty vices practised by the New Mexicans, the _vicio
inocente_ of smoking among ladies, is the most intolerable; and yet it
is a habit of which the loveliest and the most refined equally
partake. The _puro_ or _cigarro_[10] is seen in the mouths of all: it
is handed round in the parlor, and introduced at the dinner
table--even in the ball-room it is presented to ladies as regularly as
any {244} other species of 'refreshment;' and in the dance the
señorita may often be seen whirling round with a lighted _cigarrito_
in her mouth. The belles of the Southern cities are very frequently
furnished [Pg037] with _tenazitas de oro_ (little golden tongs), to
hold the cigar with, so as to prevent their delicate fingers from
being polluted either with the stain or scent of tobacco; forgetting
at the same time its disagreeable effects upon the lips and breath.

Notwithstanding their numerous vices, however, I should do the New
Mexicans the justice to say that they are but little addicted to
inebriety and its attendant dissipations. Yet this doubtlessly results
to a considerable degree from the dearness of spirituous liquors,
which virtually places them beyond the reach of the lower classes.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Chapter xii of volume i of the original edition.--ED.

[2] Both Bartolomé Baca (Vaca) and Narbona were Mexican officers. The
former, whose term of office was from 1823 to September, 1825,
belonged to a New Mexican family, and was one of the captains of the
companies organized in 1808. Antonio Narbona came (1805) from the
province of Chihuahua, as lieutenant of soldiers sent to repel a
Navaho raid. He was governor, September, 1825, to May 1827. In 1843 he
was colonel of an expedition against the Apache in Arizona.

Ewing Young was a native of Knox County, Tennessee. He early went west
for hunting and trapping, having passports for Mexican territory
signed at Washington in 1828-29. In these years he made his first
overland trip from New Mexico to California, where he aided the padres
of San José in an expedition against revolted neophytes. In 1829 he
returned to New Mexico, married a Taos woman, and again (1831) set out
for California. There in 1834 he met Hall Kelley, and was persuaded to
accompany him to Oregon, where he formed one of the first American
settlements in the Chehalem Valley, tributary to the Willamette. A
journey to California in 1836, to purchase cattle, resulted in
stocking the Oregon pioneers. Young's Oregon settlement prospered; he
erected saw and grist mills, and upon his death (1841) the
administration of his estate was the occasion of the first tentative
experiment in civil government in Oregon. In after years, a son
Joachim came from New Mexico, and laid successful claim to the
property, which was paid by the state.

Milton J. Sublette was a younger brother of William (for whom see our
volume xix, p. 221, note 55, Gregg) and himself a noted trapper and
trader, operating chiefly in the Rocky Mountains. In 1833 he entered
into arrangements with Nathaniel Wyeth (see our volume xxi), but the
next year was compelled to retire because of injury to a leg, which
caused his death at Fort Laramie, December 19, 1836.--ED.

[3] Algodones is a small Mexican town in Sandoval County, about
fifteen miles above Albuquerque. It is now a station on the Atchison,
Topeka, and Santa Fé Railway, and has promise of becoming a junction
with the Santa Fé Central.--ED.

[4] Thomas Rowland, a native Pennsylvanian, had been a resident of New
Mexico for a number of years, and had married there. His brother John
was accused of complicity with the Texans, which led to the attack
upon Rowland's property. This was shortly restored to him, as his
friends were influential in official circles. See George W. Kendall,
_Narrative of the Texan Santa Fé Expedition_ (New York, 1844), i, pp.
271, 272, 332. John Rowland led a party of immigrants to California
(1841), where he became a leading American pioneer.--ED.

[5] Manuel Alvarez was a native of Spain, who showed much enterprise
in establishing the trade between the United States and New Mexico. In
1839 he was appointed United States consul at Santa Fé, an office
which he held until the American conquest. In 1849 he took part in the
new state movement, and was by the suffrages of the people elected
governor; but Congress having erected New Mexico into a territory, the
state government lapsed.--ED.

[6] Powhattan Ellis, for notice of whom, see our volume xix, p. 274,
note 100 (Gregg).--ED.

[7] Originally a _fuero_ was any form of charter or privilege granted
to a kingdom, province, town, or person. _Fueros_ played great part in
the constitutional development of Spain and her colonies.--ED.

[8] The "Laws of the Indies," or the codification of the ordinances,
acts, etc., passed by the Council of the Indies and other
administrative Spanish authorities for the government of the colonies,
was first issued at Madrid in 1681, under the title _Recopilacion de
Leyes de los Reynos de Indias_. A fourth edition, under the direction
of the Council of the Indies, issued in 1791.--ED.

[9] Madame Frances Erskine Inglis Calderon de la Barca was a
Scotchwoman married to a Spaniard who was minister to the United
States, and later to Mexico. While in the latter country, she
published _Life in Mexico_ (London, 1843), an interesting, racy series
of letters on the manners and customs of Spanish America.--ED.

[10] The _puro_ is a common cigar of _pure_ tobacco; but the term
_cigarro_ or _cigarrito_ is applied to those made of cut tobacco
rolled up in a strip of paper or corn-husk. The latter are by far in
the most general use in New Mexico, even among the men, and are those
only smoked by the females. In this province cigarros are rarely sold
in the shops, being generally manufactured by every one just as they
are needed. Their expertness in this 'accomplishment' is often
remarkable. The mounted vaquero will take out his _guagito_ (his
little tobacco-flask), his packet of _hojas_ (or prepared husks), and
his flint, steel, etc.,--make his cigarrito, strike fire and commence
smoking in a minute's time--all while at full speed: and the next
minute will perhaps lazo the wildest bull without interrupting his
smoke.--GREGG.



CHAPTER XIII

Military Hierarchy of Mexico -- Religious Superstitions -- Legend of
  _Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe_ -- A profane version of the Story -- A
  curious Plan for manufacturing Water -- Saints and Images --
  Processions -- How to make it Rain -- The Sacred Host -- Fanaticism
  and Murder -- Honors paid to a Bishop -- Servility to Priests --
  Attendance at Public Worship -- New Mexicans in Church -- The Vesper
  Bells -- Passion Week and the Ceremonies pertaining thereto --
  Ridiculous _Penitencia_ -- Whitewashing of Criminals -- Matrimonial
  Connexions and Mode of Contracting them -- Restrictions upon Lovers
  -- Onerous Fees paid for Marriages and Burials -- Anecdote of a
  _Ranchero_ -- Ditto of a Servant and a Widow, illustrative of
  Priestly Extortion -- Modes of Burial, and Burial Ground of the
  Heretics.


The Mexicans seem the legitimate descendants of the subjects of 'His
Most Catholic Majesty;' for the Romish faith is not only the religion
established by law, but the only one tolerated by the constitution: a
system of republican liberty wholly incomprehensible to the
independent and tolerant spirits of the United States. Foreigners only
of other creeds, in accordance with treaty stipulations, can worship
privately within their own houses.[11] The Mexicans, indeed, talk of a
'union of Church and State:' they should rather say a 'union of Church
and Army;' for, as has {246} [Pg038] already been shown, the civil
authority is so nearly merged in the military and the ecclesiastical,
that the government, if not a military hierarchy, is something so near
akin that it is difficult to draw the distinction. As Mr. Mayer[12]
very appropriately remarks, you are warned of the double dominion of
the army and the church "by the constant sound of the drum and the
bell, which ring in your ears from morn to midnight, and drown the
sounds of industry and labor."

In the variety and grossness of popular superstitions, Northern Mexico
can probably compete with any civilized country in the world. Others
may have their extravagant traditions, their fanatical prejudices,
their priestly impostures, but here the popular creed seems to be the
embodiment of as much that is fantastic and improbable in idolatrous
worship, as it is possible to clothe in the garb of a religious faith.
It would fill volumes to relate one-half of the wonderful miracles and
extraordinary apparitions said to have occurred during and since the
conquest of the Indian Pueblos and their conversion to the Romish
faith. Their character may be inferred from the following national
legend of _La Maravillosa Aparicion de Nuestra Señora de
Guadalupe--anglicè_, the marvellous apparition of Our Lady of
Guadalupe,--which, in some one of its many traditionary shapes, is
generally believed throughout the republic. I have seen some half a
dozen written versions of this celebrated tradition, and heard about
as many oral {247} ones; but no two agree in all the particulars.
However, that which has received most currency informs us, that, on
the 12th of December, 1531, an Indian called Juan Diego, while passing
over the barren hill of Tepeyacac (about a league northward [Pg039]
from the city of Mexico), in quest of medicinal herbs, had his
attention suddenly arrested by the fragrance of flowers, and the sound
of delightful music; and on looking up, he saw an angelic sort of
figure directly before him. Being terrified he attempted to flee; but
the apparition calling to him by name, "Juan Diego," said she, "go
tell the bishop to have me a place of worship erected on this very
spot." The Indian replied that he could not return, as he was seeking
_remedios_ for a dying relative. But the figure bade him to do as
commanded, and have no further care about his relative--that he was
then well. Juan Diego went to the city, but being unable to procure an
audience from the bishop, he concluded he had been acting under a
delusion, and again set off for his _remedios_. Upon ascending the
same hill, however, the apparition again accosted him, and hearing his
excuse, upbraided him for his want of faith and energy; and said,
"Tell the bishop that it is Guadalupe, the Virgin Mary, come to dwell
amongst and protect the Mexicans, who sends thee." The Indian,
returning again to the city, forced his way into the presence of the
bishop, who, like a good sensible man, received the messenger with
jeers, and treated him as a maniac; {248} telling him finally to bring
some sign, which, if really the Mother of God, his directress could
readily furnish.

The perplexed Indian left the bishop's presence resolved to avoid
further molestation from his spiritual acquaintance, by taking another
route; yet, when near the place of his first meeting, he again
encountered the apparition, who, hearing the result of his mission,
ordered him to climb a naked rock hard by, and collect a bouquet of
flowers which he would find growing there. Juan Diego, albeit without
faith, obeyed, when, to his surprise he found the flowers referred to,
and brought them to the Virgin, who, throwing them into his _tilma_,
commanded him to carry them to the bishop; saying, [Pg040] "When he
sees these he will believe, as he well knows that flowers do not bloom
at this season, much less upon that barren rock." The humble messenger
now with more courage sought the bishop's presence, and threw out the
blooming credentials of his mission before him; when lo! to the
astonishment of all, and to the entire conviction of his _Senoría
ilustrísima_, the perfect image of the apparition appeared imprinted
on the inside of the _tilma_.[13]

The reverend Prelate now fully acknowledged the divinity of the
picture, and in a {249} conclave of ecclesiastics convened for the
purpose, he pronounced it the image of _La verdadera Vírgen_ and
protectress of Mexico. A splendid chapel was soon after erected upon
the spot designated in the mandate, in which the miraculous painting
was deposited, where it is preserved to the present day. In the
suburbs of every principal city in the republic, there is now a chapel
specially dedicated to _Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe_, where coarse
resemblances of the original picture are to be seen. Rough paintings
of the same, of various dimensions, are also to be met with in nearly
every dwelling, from the palace to the most miserable hovel. The
image, with an adapted [Pg041] motto, has also been stamped upon
medals, which are swung about the necks of the faithful.[14]

[Illustration]

{250} As a further confirmation of the miracle, it is also told, that
when Juan Diego returned to his home, he found his relative in good
health--that he had suddenly risen from the last extremity about the
time of the former's meeting with the Virgin.

Now comes the profane version of the story, which the skeptical have
set afloat, as the most reasonable one; but against which, in the name
of orthodoxy, I feel bound to enter my protest. To the better
understanding of this 'explanatory tradition,' it may be necessary to
premise that the name of Guadalupe was already familiar to the
Spaniards, the Virgin Mary having, it is said, long before appeared in
Spain, under the same title; on which occasion an order of monks,
styled _Frailes Guadalupanos_, had been instituted. One of these
worthy fathers who had been sent as a missionary to Mexico, finding
the Indians rather stubborn and unyielding, conceived the plan of
flattering their national vanity by fabricating a saint suited for the
occasion. The Guadalupano had a poor friend who was an excellent
painter, to whom he said, one day, "Take this tilma"--presenting him
one of the coarsest and most slazy texture {251} (a sort of _manta de
guangoche_); "paste it upon canvass, and paint me thereon the
handsomest effigy of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe that your fancy can
portray." When [Pg042] this was done according to order, and the
tilma separated from the canvass, the picture appeared somewhat
miraculous. Viewed very closely, it showed exceedingly dim; but upon
receding to some distance, so that the eye could embrace a larger
field of the open texture, it appeared quite distinct and beautiful.
This effect is often alluded to at the present day, and easily as it
might be accounted for upon philosophical principles, I have heard
many an ignorant Mexican declare, that _la Santisima Vírgen_ concealed
herself from such as profaned her shrine by a too near approach, and
only shone forth in all her brilliancy to those who kept at a
respectful distance. But in conclusion, the story relates, that a
suitable damsel being selected and decked out to represent the Virgin,
the affair was played off as it has been narrated.

As regards the miracle of the fresh flowers in December the _profanos_
say, that there was nothing very wonderful about it, as flowers were
known to bloom in the lowlands, and only a few leagues from the spot
where the affair took place, at all seasons of the year; implying that
these had been engrafted upon the rock for the occasion. There are
some who go so far as to insinuate that the bishop and other
ecclesiastics were privy to the whole affair, and that every
precaution had been {252} taken to see the Indian who played first
fiddle in the matter, provided with a tilma, similar to the one on
which the image of the Virgin was painted, and that this was artfully
slipped in the place of the former, which the Indian had doffed when
he climbed the rock after the flowers.--I have not seen the original
portrait, but most of the copies and imitations I have met with,
represent the Virgin with that peculiarly tawny complexion which was
probably deemed indispensable to conciliate the prejudices of the
aborigines. [Pg043]

The reader may reconcile the foregoing discrepancies in the best way
he can; all that I have to add is, that the apparition having been
canonized by the Pope, a belief in it now constitutes as much a part
of the religious faith of the Mexicans, as any article of the
Apostolic Creed. To judge from the blind and reverential awe in which
the Virgin Guadalupe is held by the lowly and the ignorant, one would
suppose her to be the first person in the Divinity, for to her their
vows are directed, their prayers offered up, and all their confessions
made.

Among the many traditions implicitly believed in by the people, and
which tend to obstruct the advancement of knowledge, there is one
equally as amusing and extravagant as the foregoing, which has been
gravely recounted by the present Vicar of New Mexico and ex-delegate
to Congress. During the memorable insurrection of 1680, the Pueblo of
San Felipe was about the only one that {253} remained faithful to the
Spaniards in all the North. It was during that exciting period that
the padre of another Pueblo took refuge among them. Being besieged by
their neighbors and their communication with the water entirely cut
off, they applied for advice to the reverend padre, who bade them not
despair, as he had it in his power to supply them with water. He then
began to pray very fervently, after which he opened a vein in each of
his arms, from whence there flowed two such copious streams of water
that all fears of being reduced by thirst were completely allayed![15]
[Pg044]

It is a part of the superstitious blindness of these people to
believe that every one of their legion of canonized saints possesses
the power of performing certain miracles; and their aid is generally
invoked on all occasions of sickness and distress. The kindest office,
therefore, that the friends of a sick person can perform, is to bring
forward the image of some of those saints whose healing powers have
been satisfactorily tested. The efficacy of these superstitious
remedies will not be difficult to account for, when the powerful
influence of the imagination upon disease is taken into consideration.

The images of patron saints are never put in such general requisition,
however, as in seasons of severe drought. The priests, being generally
expert at guessing the approach of a pluvial period, take good care
not to make confident promises till they have substantial {254} reason
to anticipate a speedy fulfilment of their prophecies. When the
fitting season draws nigh, they carry out the image of Nuestra Señora
de Guadalupe, or that of some other favorite saint, and parade about
the streets, the fields and the meadows, followed by all the men,
women, and children of the neighborhood, in solemn procession. Should
the clouds condescend to vouchsafe a supply of rain within a week or
two of this general humiliation, no one ever thinks of begrudging the
scores of dollars that have been paid to the priests for bringing
about so happy a result.

Speaking of processions, I am reminded of another peculiar custom so
prevalent in Mexico, that it never fails to attract the attention of
strangers. This is the passage of the Sacred Host to the residence of
persons dangerously ill, for the purpose of administering to them the
Extreme Unction. In New Mexico, however, this procession is not
attended with so much ostentatious display as it is in the South, the
paradise of ecclesiastics, where [Pg045] it is conveyed in a black
coach drawn by a pair of black mules, accompanied by armed soldiers
and followed by crowds of _léperos_ of all sexes and ages. During the
procession of the Host, two church-bells of different tones are kept
sounding by alternate strokes. Also the carriage is always preceded by
a bell-man tinkling a little bell in regular time, to notify all
within hearing of its approach, that they may be prepared to pay it
due homage. When {255} this bell is heard, all those that happen to be
within sight of the procession, though at ever so great a distance,
instantly kneel and remain in that position till it has passed out of
sight. On these occasions, if an American happens to be within
hearing, he endeavors to avoid the _cortége_, by turning the corner of
a street or entering a shop or the house of a friend; for although it
may be expedient, and even rational, to conform with the customs and
ceremonies of these countries we are sojourning in, very few
Protestants would feel disposed to fall on their knees before a coach
freighted with frail mortals pretending to represent the Godhead! I am
sorry to say that non-compliants are frequently insulted and sometimes
pelted with stones by the rabble. Even a foreign artisan was once
massacred in the Mexican metropolis because he refused to come out of
his shop, where he was kneeling, and perform the act of genuflexion in
the street!

This abject idolatry sometimes takes a still more humiliating aspect,
and descends to the worship of men in the capacity of religious
rulers. On the occasion of the Bishop of Durango's visit to Santa Fé
in 1833, an event which had not taken place for a great many years,
the infatuated population hailed his arrival with as much devotional
enthusiasm as if it had been the second advent of the Messiah.
Magnificent preparations were made everywhere for his reception: the
streets were swept, the roads and [Pg046] bridges on his route
repaired {256} and decorated; and from every window in the city there
hung such a profusion of fancy curtains and rich cloths that the
imagination was carried back to those glowing descriptions of
enchanted worlds which one reads of in the fables of necromancers. I
must observe, however, that there is a custom in all the towns of
Mexico (which it would not be safe to neglect), providing that
whenever a religious procession takes place, all the doors and windows
facing the street along which it is to pass, shall be decorated with
shawls, carpets, or fancy cloths, according to the means and
capabilities of the proprietor. During the bishop's sojourn in Santa
Fé, which, to the great joy of the inhabitants, lasted for several
weeks, he never appeared in the streets but that 'all true Catholics'
who were so fortunate as to obtain a glimpse of his _Señoría
Ilustrísima_ immediately dropped upon their knees, and never moved
from that position till the mitred priest had either vouchsafed his
benediction or had disappeared. Even the principal personages of the
city would not venture to address him till they had first knelt at his
feet and kissed his 'pastoral ring.' This, however, is only a
heightened picture of what occurs every day in the intercourse between
the rancheros and the common padres of the country. The slavish
obsequiousness of the lower classes towards these pampered priests is
almost incredible.

No people are more punctual in their attendance upon public worship,
or more exact {257} in the performance of the external rites of
religion, than the New Mexicans. A man would about as soon think of
venturing in twenty fathoms of water without being able to swim, as of
undertaking a journey without hearing mass first. These religious
exercises, however, partake but seldom of the character of true
devotion; for people may be seen chattering or tittering while in the
act of crossing themselves, or muttering [Pg047] some formal prayer.
Indeed, it is the common remark of strangers, that they are wont to
wear much graver countenances while dancing at a fandango than during
their devotional exercises at the foot of the altar. In nothing,
however, is their observance of the outward forms of religion more
remarkable than in their deportment every day towards the close of
twilight, when the large bell of the _Parroquia_ peals for _la
oracion_, or vespers.[16] All conversation is instantly suspended--all
labor ceases--people of all classes, whether on foot or on horseback,
make a sudden halt--even the laden porter, groaning under the weight
of an insupportable burden, stops in the midst of his career and
stands still. An almost breathless silence reigns throughout the town,
disturbed only by the occasional sibilations of the devout multitude:
all of which, accompanied by the slow heavy peals of a large sonorous
bell, afford a scene truly solemn and appropriate. At the expiration
of about two minutes the charm is suddenly broken by the clatter of
livelier-toned bells; and a _buenas {258} tardes_ (good evening) to
those present closes the ceremony: when _presto_, all is bustle and
confusion again--the colloquial chit-chat is resumed--the smith plies
upon his anvil with redoubled energy--the clink of the hammer
simultaneously resounds in every direction--the wayfarers are again in
motion,--both pleasure and business, in short, assume their respective
sway.

Although the Catholics have a saint for each day in the year, the
number of canonized _fiestas_ in which labor is prohibited has been
somewhat reduced in Mexico. _La Semana Santa_, or Passion Week, is
perhaps the period when the religious feeling, such as it is, is most
fully excited: [Pg048] _Viernes Santo_ (Good Friday), especially, is
observed with great pomp and splendor. An image of Christ large as
life, nailed to a huge wooden cross, is paraded through the streets,
in the midst of an immense procession, accompanied by a glittering
array of carved images, representing the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene,
and several others; while the most notorious personages of antiquity,
who figured at that great era of the World's history,--the centurion
with a band of guards, armed with lances, and apparelled in the
costume supposed to have been worn in those days,--may be seen
bestriding splendidly caparisoned horses, in the breathing reality of
flesh and blood. Taking it all in all, this spectacle,--the ceremonies
and manœuvres which attend its career through the densely crowded and
ornamented {259} streets,--are calculated to produce impressions of a
most confused description, in which regret and melancholy may be said
to form no inconsiderable share.

It has been customary for great malefactors to propitiate Divine
forgiveness by a cruel sort of _penitencia_, which generally takes
place during the _Semana Santa_. I once chanced to be in the town of
Tomé[17] on Good Friday, when my attention was arrested by a man
almost naked, bearing, in imitation of Simon, a huge cross upon his
shoulders, which, though constructed of the lightest wood, must have
weighed over a hundred pounds. The long end dragged upon the ground,
as we have seen it represented in sacred pictures, and about the
middle swung a stone of immense dimensions, appended there for the
purpose of making the task more laborious. Not far behind followed
another equally destitute of clothing, with his whole body wrapped in
chains and cords, which seemed buried in the [Pg049] muscles, and
which so cramped and confined him that he was scarcely able to keep
pace with the procession. The person who brought up the rear presented
a still more disgusting aspect. He walked along with a patient and
composed step, while another followed close behind belaboring him
lustily with a whip, which he flourished with all the satisfaction of
an amateur; but as the lash was pointed only with a tuft of untwisted
sea-grass, its application merely served to keep open the wounds upon
the penitent's {260} back, which had been scarified, as I was
informed, with the keen edge of a flint, and was bleeding most
profusely. The blood was kept in perpetual flow by the stimulating
juice of certain herbs, carried by a third person, into which the
scourger frequently dipped his lash. Although the actors in this
tragical farce were completely muffled, yet they were well known to
many of the by-standers, one of whom assured me that they were three
of the most notorious rascals in the country. By submitting to this
species of penance, they annually received complete absolution of
their past year's sins, and, thus 'purified,' entered afresh on the
old career of wickedness and crime.

In New Mexico, the institution of marriage changes the legal rights of
the parties, but it scarcely affects their moral obligations. It is
usually looked upon as a convenient cloak for irregularities, which
society less willingly tolerates in the lives of unmarried women. Yet
when it is considered that the majority of matches are forced and
ill-assorted, some idea may be formed of the little incitement that is
given to virtue. There are very few parents who would stoop to consult
a young lady's wishes before concluding a marriage contract, nor would
maidens, generally, ever dream of a matrimonial connection unless
proposed first by the father. The lover's proposals are, upon the same
principle, made in writing direct to the parents themselves, [Pg050]
and without the least deference to the wishes or inclinations {261} of
the young lady whose hand is thus sought in marriage. The tender
emotions engendered between lovers during walks and rambles along the
banks of silent streams, are never experienced in this country; for
the sexes are seldom permitted to converse or be together alone. In
short, instances have actually occurred when the betrothed couple have
never seen each other till brought to the altar to be joined in
wedlock.

Among the humbler classes, there are still more powerful causes
calculated to produce irregularity of life; not the least of which is
the enormous fee that must be paid to the curate for tying the
matrimonial knot. This system of extortion is carried so far as to
amount very frequently to absolute prohibition: for the means of the
bridegroom are often insufficient for the exigency of the occasion;
and the priests seldom consent to join people in wedlock until the
money has been secured to them. The curates being without control, the
marriage rates are somewhat irregular, but they usually increase in
proportion to the character of the ceremonies and to the circumstances
of the parties. The lowest (about twenty dollars) are adapted to the
simplest form, solemnized in church at mass; but with the excuse of
any extra service and ceremonies, particularly if performed at a
private house, the fees are increased often as high as several hundred
dollars: I have heard of $500 being paid for a marriage ceremony. The
following communication, which {262} appeared in a Chihuahua paper
under the signature of "_Un Ranchero_" affords some illustration of
the grievances of the plebeians in this respect. Literally translated
it runs thus:

  "_Messrs. Editors of the Noticioso de Chihuahua:_

  "Permit me, through your paper, to say a few words in print, as
  those of my pen have been unsuccessfully employed [Pg051] with the
  _curas_ of Allende and Jimenez, to whom I applied the other day for
  the purpose of ascertaining their legal charge to marry one of my
  sons. The following simple and concise answer is all that I have
  been able to elicit from either of these ecclesiastics:--'_The_
  _marriage fees are a hundred and nineteen dollars_.' I must confess
  that I was completely suffocated when I heard this outrageous demand
  upon my poor purse; and did I not pride myself on being a true
  Apostolic Roman Catholic, and were it not that the charming graces
  of my intended daughter-in-law have so captivated my son that
  nothing but marriage will satisfy him, I would assuredly advise him
  to contrive some other arrangement with his beloved, which might not
  be so ruinous to our poor purse; for reflect that $119 are the life
  and all of a poor ranchero. If nothing else will do, I shall have to
  sell my few cows (_mis vaquitas_) to help my son out of this
  difficulty."--The 'Ranchero' then appeals to the Government to
  remedy such evils, by imposing some salutary restrictions upon the
  clergy; and concludes by saying, "If this is not done, I will {263}
  never permit either of my remaining three sons to marry."

This article was certainly an effort of boldness against the
priesthood, which may have cost the poor 'Ranchero' a sentence of
ex-communication. Few of his countrymen would venture on a similar act
of temerity; and at least nine-tenths profess the most profound
submission to their religious rulers. Being thus bred to look upon
their priests as infallible and holy samples of piety and virtue, we
should not be so much surprised at the excesses of the 'flock' when a
large portion of the _pastores_, the padres themselves, are foremost
in most of the popular vices of the country: first at the
fandango--first at the gaming table--first at the cock-pit--first at
bacchanalian orgies--and [Pg052] by no means last in the contraction
of those _liaisons_ which are so emphatically prohibited by their
vows.

The baptismal and burial fees (neither of which can be avoided without
incurring the charge of heresy) are also a great terror to the
candidates for married life. "If I marry," says the poor yeoman, "my
family must go unclad to baptize my children; and if any of them
should die, we must starve ourselves to pay the burial charges." The
fee for baptism, it is true, is not so exorbitant, and in accordance
to custom, is often paid by the _padrino_ or sponsor; but the burial
costs are almost equally extravagant with those of marriage, varying
in proportion to the age and {264} circumstances of the deceased. A
faithful Mexican servant in my employ at Chihuahua, once solicited
forty dollars to bury his mother. Upon my expressing some surprise at
the exorbitancy of the amount, he replied--"That is what the cura
demands, sir, and if I do not pay it my poor mother will remain
unburied!" Thus this man was obliged to sacrifice several months'
wages, to pamper the avarice of a vicious and mercenary priest. On
another occasion, a poor widow in Santa Fé, begged a little medicine
for her sick child: "Not," said the disconsolate mother, "that the
life of the babe imports me much, for I know the _angelito_ will go
directly to heaven; but what shall I do to pay the priest for burying
it? He will take my house and all from me--and I shall be turned
desolate into the street!"--and so saying, she commenced weeping
bitterly.

Indigent parents are thus frequently under the painful necessity of
abandoning and disowning their deceased children, to avoid the
responsibility of burial expenses. To this end the corpse is sometimes
deposited in some niche or corner of the church during the night; and
upon being [Pg053] found in the morning, the priest is bound to inter
it gratis, unless the parent can be discovered, in which case the
latter would be liable to severe castigation, besides being bound to
pay the expenses.

Children that have not been baptized are destined, according to the
popular faith, to a kind of negative existence in the world of {265}
spirits, called _Limbo_, where they remain for ever without either
suffering punishment or enjoying happiness. Baptized infants, on the
other hand, being considered without sin, are supposed to enter at
once into the joys of heaven. The deceased child is then denominated
an _angelito_ (a little angel), and is interred with joy and mirth
instead of grief and wailing. It is gaudily bedecked with fanciful
attire and ornaments of tinsel and flowers; and being placed upon a
small bier, it is carried to the grave by four children as gaily
dressed as their circumstances will allow; accompanied by musicians
using the instruments and playing the tunes of the fandangos; and the
little procession is nothing but glee and merriment.

In New Mexico the lower classes are very rarely, if ever, buried in
coffins: the corpse being simply wrapped in a blanket, or some other
covering, and in that rude attire consigned to its last home. It is
truly shocking to a sensitive mind to witness the inhuman treatment to
which the remains of the dead are sometimes subjected. There being
nothing to indicate the place of the previous graves, it not
unfrequently happens that the partially decayed relics of a corpse are
dug up and forced to give place to the more recently deceased, when
they are again thrown with the earth into the new grave with perfect
indifference. The operation of filling up the grave especially, is
particularly repulsive; the earth being pounded down with a large
maul, {266} as fast as it is thrown in upon the unprotected corpse,
with a force sufficient to crush a delicate frame to atoms. [Pg054]

As the remains of heretics are not permitted to pollute either the
church-yard or _Campo Santo_, those Americans who have died in Santa
Fé, have been buried on a hill which overlooks the town to the
northward. The corpses have sometimes been disinterred and robbed of
the shroud in which they were enveloped; so that, on a few occasions,
it has been deemed expedient to appoint a special watch for the
protection of the grave.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] Religious freedom, and entire separation of church and state,
were secured in Mexico, after a long and bitter struggle, by the
constitution of 1873.--ED.

[12] Brantz Mayer (1809-79), a native of Baltimore, Maryland,
historian and diplomat. In 1843 he was secretary of legation at
Mexico, and upon his return published _Mexico as it was and as it is_
(New York, 1844), to which book Gregg here refers. Mayer was the
author of several other works, both on Mexico and American history,
and founder of the Maryland Historical Society.--ED.

[13] This is a kind of mantle or loose covering worn by the Indians,
which, in the present instance, was made of the coarse filaments of a
species of maguey, and a little resembled the common coffee sacks. The
painting, as it necessarily must be on such a material, is said to be
coarse, and represents the Virgin covered with a blue robe bespangled
with stars.--GREGG.

[14] The accompanying cut represents both sides of a medal of
"_Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Mexico_," of which, as I have been
informed, 216,000 were struck at Birmingham in the year 1831, designed
for the Mexican market. Similar medals are worn by nearly nine-tenths
of the population of Northern Mexico. On one side, as will be seen,
the Virgin is represented in her star-spangled robe, supported by a
cherub and the moon under her feet: a design, which, it has been
suggested, was most probably drawn from Revelation xii. 1. The date,
"A. 1805," is that perhaps of some one of the innumerable miracles,
which, according to fame in Mexico, have been wrought by the Virgin
Guadalupe. The motto, "_Non fecit taliter omni nationi_" (She "hath
not dealt so with any nation") which is found on the reverse of the
medal, is extracted from Psalm cxlvii. 20.--GREGG.

[15] This story is apochryphal, since the pueblo was besieged neither
during the revolt of 1680 nor that of 1696. The pueblo of San Felipe
is of Queres origin, and was known in the seventeenth century. Its
first friar was Cristobal Quiñones, who died in 1609. The pueblo was
faithful to the Spanish, its people killing none of that nation during
the revolt. It now occupied its fourth site in Sandoval County, at the
foot of a mesa which is crowned with the ruins of an earlier site. It
is the southernmost pueblo of Queres stock, and had (1903) a
population of five hundred and sixteen.--ED.

[16] The Parroquia, or cathedral of Santa Fé, stands upon the site of,
and partially incorporates the early building of 1627. It is built of
light brown stone, and flanked by two bell towers.--ED.

[17] Tomé is a town on the east bank of the Rio Grande, some distance
below Albuquerque. It was at one time the seat of Valencia County, and
in 1900 had a population of about eight hundred.--ED.



CHAPTER XIV

The Pueblos -- Their Character for Sobriety, Honesty, and Industry --
  Traditional Descent from Montezuma -- Their Languages -- Former and
  present Population -- The Pueblo of Pecos -- Singular Habits of that
  ill-fated Tribe -- Curious Tradition -- Montezuma and the Sun --
  Legend of a Serpent -- Religion and Government -- Secret Council --
  Laws and Customs -- Excellent Provisions against Demoralization --
  Primitive Pastimes of the Pueblos -- Their Architecture -- Singular
  Structures of Taos, and other novel Fortifications -- Primitive
  state of the Arts among the Pueblos -- Style of Dress, Weapons, etc.
  -- Their Diet -- The _Guayave_.


Allusion has so frequently been made to the aboriginal tribes of New
Mexico, known as _Los Pueblos_, that I think I shall not be
trespassing too much upon the patience of the reader, in glancing
rapidly at some of the more conspicuous features of their national
habits and character.

Although the term _Pueblo_ in Spanish literally means the _people_,
and their _towns_, it is here specifically applied to the
_Christianized Indians_ (as well as their villages)--to those
aborigines whom the Spaniards not only subjected to their laws, but to
an acknowledgment of the Romish faith, and upon whom they forced
baptism and the cross in exchange for {268} the vast possessions of
which they robbed them. All that was left them was, to each Pueblo a
league or two of land situated around their villages, the conquerors
reserving to themselves at least ninety-nine hundredths of the whole
domain as a requital for their generosity. [Pg055]

When these regions were first discovered it appears that the
inhabitants lived in comfortable houses and cultivated the soil, as
they have continued to do up to the present time. Indeed, they are now
considered the best horticulturists in the country, furnishing most of
the fruits and a large portion of the vegetable supplies that are to
be found in the markets. They were until very lately the only people
in New Mexico who cultivated the grape. They also maintain at the
present time considerable herds of cattle, horses, etc. They are, in
short, a remarkably sober and industrious race, conspicuous for
morality and honesty, and very little given to quarrelling or
dissipation, except when they have had much familiar intercourse with
the Hispano-Mexican population.

Most of these Pueblos call themselves the descendants of Montezuma,
although it would appear that they could only have been made
acquainted with the history of that monarch, by the Spaniards; as this
province is nearly two thousand miles from the ancient kingdom of
Mexico. At the time of the conquest they must have been a very
powerful people--numbering near a hundred villages, as existing {269}
ruins would seem to indicate; but they are now reduced to about
twenty, which are scattered in various parts of the territory.[18]

There are but three or four different languages spoken among them, and
these, indeed, may be distantly allied to each other. Those of Taos,
Picuris, Isleta, and perhaps some others, speak what has been called
the _Piro_ language. A large portion of the others, viz., those of San
Juan, Santa [Pg056] Clara, Nambé, Pojuaque, Tezuque, and some others,
speak _Tegua_, having all been originally known by this general name;
and those of Cochití, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, and perhaps Sandía,
speak the same tongue, though they seem formerly to have been
distinguished as _Queres_. The numerous tribes that inhabited the
highlands between Rio del Norte and Pecos, as those of Pecos, Ciénega,
Galisteo, etc., were known anciently as _Tagnos_, but these are now
all extinct; yet their language is said to be spoken by those of Jemez
and others of that section. Those further to the westward[19] {270}
are perhaps allied to the Navajoes. Though all these Pueblos speak
their native languages among themselves, a great many of them possess
a smattering of Spanish, sufficient to carry on their intercourse with
the Mexicans.[20]

The population of these Pueblos will average nearly five hundred souls
each (though some hardly exceed one hundred), making an aggregate of
nine or ten thousand. At the time of the original conquest, at the
close of the sixteenth century, they were, as has been mentioned,
much, [Pg057] perhaps ten-fold, more numerous.[21] Ancient ruins are
now to be seen scattered in every quarter of the territory: of some,
entire stone walls are yet standing, while others are nearly or quite
obliterated, many of them being now only known by their names which
history or tradition has preserved to us. Numbers were no doubt
destroyed during the insurrection of 1680, and the petty internal
strifes which followed.

Several of these Pueblos have been converted into Mexican villages, of
which that of _Pecos_ is perhaps the most remarkable instance. What
with the massacres of the second conquest, and the inroads of the
Comanches, they gradually dwindled away, till they found themselves
reduced to about a dozen, comprising all ages and sexes; and it was
only a few years ago that they abandoned the home of their fathers and
joined the Pueblo of Jemez.

Many curious tales are told of the singular habits of this ill-fated
tribe, which must no {271} doubt have tended to hasten its utter
annihilation. A tradition was prevalent among them that Montezuma had
kindled a holy fire, and enjoined their ancestors not to suffer it to
be extinguished until he should return to deliver his people from the
yoke of the Spaniards. In pursuance of these commands, a constant
watch had been maintained for ages to prevent the fire from going out;
and, as tradition further informed them, that Montezuma would appear
with the sun, the deluded Indians were to be seen every clear morning
upon the terraced roofs of their houses, attentively watching for the
appearance of the 'king of light,' in hopes of seeing him 'cheek by
jowl' with their immortal sovereign. I have [Pg058] myself descended
into the famous _estufas_, or subterranean vaults, of which there were
several in the village, and have beheld this consecrated fire,
silently smouldering under a covering of ashes, in the basin of a
small altar. Some say that they never lost hope in the final coming of
Montezuma until, by some accident or other, or a lack of a sufficiency
of warriors to watch it, the fire became extinguished; and that it was
this catastrophe that induced them to abandon their villages, as I
have before observed.

The task of tending the sacred fire was, it is said, allotted to the
warriors. It is further related, that they took the watch by turns for
two successive days and nights, without partaking of either food,
water, or sleep; while some assert, that instead of being restricted
to {272} two days, each guard continued with the same unbending
severity of purpose until exhaustion, and very frequently death, left
their places to be filled by others. A large portion of those who came
out alive were generally so completely prostrated by the want of
repose and the inhalation of carbonic gas that they very soon died;
when, as the vulgar story asseverates, their remains were carried to
the den of a monstrous serpent, which kept itself in excellent
condition by feeding upon these delicacies. This huge snake (invented
no doubt by the lovers of the marvellous to account for the constant
disappearance of the Indians) was represented as the idol which they
worshipped, and as subsisting entirely upon the flesh of his devotees:
live infants, however, seemed to suit his palate best. The story of
this wonderful serpent was so firmly believed in by many ignorant
people, that on one occasion I heard an honest ranchero assert, that
upon entering the village very early on a winter's morning, he saw the
huge trail of the reptile in the snow, as large as that of a dragging
ox. [Pg059]

This village, anciently so renowned, lies twenty-five miles eastward
of Santa Fé, and near the _Rio Pecos_, to which it gave name. Even so
late as ten years ago, when it contained a population of fifty to a
hundred souls, the traveller would oftentimes perceive but a solitary
Indian, a woman, or a child, standing here and there like so many
statues upon the roofs of their houses, with their eyes fixed on {273}
the eastern horizon, or leaning against a wall or a fence, listlessly
gazing at the passing stranger; while at other times not a soul was to
be seen in any direction, and the sepulchral silence of the place was
only disturbed by the occasional barking of a dog, or the cackling of
hens.[22]

No other Pueblo appears to have adopted this extraordinary
superstition: like Pecos, however, they have all held Montezuma to be
their perpetual sovereign. It would likewise appear that they all
worship the sun; for it is asserted to be their regular practice to
turn the face towards the east at sunrise.[23] They profess the
Catholic faith, however, of which, nevertheless, they cannot be
expected to understand anything beyond the formalities; as [Pg060]
but very few of their Mexican neighbors and teachers can boast of
more.

Although nominally under the jurisdiction of the federal government,
as Mexican citizens, many features of their ancient customs are still
retained, as well in their civil rule as in their religion. Each
Pueblo is under the control of a _cacique_ or _gobernadorcillo_,
chosen from among their own sages, and commissioned by the governor of
New Mexico. The cacique, when any public business is to be transacted,
collects together the principal chiefs of the Pueblo in an _estufa_,
or cell, usually under ground, and there lays before them the subjects
of debate, which are generally settled by the opinion of the majority.
No Mexican is admitted to these councils, nor do the {274} subjects of
discussion ever transpire beyond the precincts of the cavern. The
council has also charge of the interior police and tranquility of the
village.[24] One of their regulations is to appoint a secret watch for
the purpose of keeping down disorders and vices of every description,
and especially to keep an eye over the young men and women of the
village. When any improper intercourse among them is detected, the
parties are immediately carried to the council, and the cacique
intimates to them that they must be wedded forthwith. Should the girl
be of bad character, and the man, [Pg061] therefore, unwilling to
marry her, they are ordered to keep separate under penalty of the
lash. Hence it is, that the females of these Pueblos are almost
universally noted for their chastity and modest deportment.[25]

They also elect a _capitan de guerra_, a kind of commander-in-chief of
the warriors, whose office it is to defend their homes and their
interests both in the field and in the council chamber.[26] Though not
very warlike, these Pueblos are generally valiant, and well skilled in
the strategies of Indian warfare; and although they have been branded
with cruelty and ferocity, yet they can hardly be said to surpass the
Mexicans in this respect: both, in times of war, pay but little regard
either to age or sex. I have been told that when the Pueblos return
from their belligerent expeditions, instead of going directly to their
homes, they always visit their council cell first. Here {275} they
undress, dance, and carouse, frequently for two days in succession
before seeing their families.

Although the Pueblos are famous for hospitality and industry, they
still continue in the rudest state of ignorance, having neither books
nor schools among them, as none of their languages have been reduced
to rules, and very few of their children are ever taught in
Spanish.[27] A degree of primitiveness characterizes all their
amusements, which bear a strong similarity to those of the wilder
tribes. Before the New Mexican government had become so much [Pg062]
impoverished, there was wont to be held in the capital on the 16th of
September of every year, a national celebration of the declaration of
Independence, to which the Pueblos were invited. The warriors and
youths of each nation with a proportionate array of dusky damsels
would appear on these occasions, painted and ornamented in accordance
with their aboriginal customs, and amuse the inhabitants with all
sorts of grotesque feats and native dances. Each Pueblo generally had
its particular uniform dress and its particular dance. The men of one
village would sometimes disguise themselves as elks, with horns on
their heads, moving on all-fours, and mimicking the animal they were
attempting to personate. Others would appear in the garb of a turkey,
with large heavy wings, and strut about in imitation of that bird. But
the Pecos tribe, already reduced to seven men, always occasioned most
diversion. {276} Their favorite exploit was, each to put on the skin
of a buffalo, horns, tail, and all, and thus accoutred scamper about
through the crowd, to the real or affected terror of all the ladies
present, and to the great delight of the boys.

The Pueblo villages are generally built with more regularity than
those of the Mexicans, and are constructed of the same materials as
were used by them in the most primitive ages. Their dwelling-houses,
it is true, are not so spacious as those of the Mexicans, containing
very seldom more than two or three small apartments upon the ground
floor, without any court-yard, but they have generally a much loftier
appearance, being frequently two stories high and sometimes more. A
very curious feature in these buildings, is, that there is most
generally no direct communication between the street and the lower
rooms, into which they descend by a trap-door from the upper story,
the latter being accessible by means of ladders. Even the entrance to
the upper stories is frequently at the roof. This style of [Pg063]
building seems to have been adopted for security against their
marauding neighbors of the wilder tribes, with whom they were often at
war. When the family had all been housed at night, the ladder was
drawn up, and the inmates were thus shut up in a kind of fortress,
which bid defiance to the scanty implements of warfare used by the
wild Indians.

Though this was their most usual style of architecture, there still
exists a Pueblo of Taos, {277} composed, for the most part, of but two
edifices of very singular structure--one on each side of a creek, and
formerly communicating by a bridge. The base-story is a mass of near
four hundred feet long, a hundred and fifty wide, and divided into
numerous apartments, upon which other tiers of rooms are built, one
above another, drawn in by regular grades, forming a pyramidal pile of
fifty or sixty feet high, and comprising some six or eight stories.
The outer rooms only seem to be used for dwellings, and are lighted by
little windows in the sides, but are entered through trap-doors in the
_azoteas_ or roofs. Most of the inner apartments are employed as
granaries and store-rooms, but a spacious hall in the centre of the
mass, known as the _estufa_, is reserved for their secret councils.
These two buildings afford habitations, as is said, for over six
hundred souls.[28] There is likewise an edifice in the Pueblo of
Picuris[29] of the same class, and some of those of Moqui are also
said to be similar.

Some of these villages were built upon rocky eminences deemed almost
inaccessible: witness for instance [Pg064] the ruins of the ancient
Pueblo of San Felipe, which may be seen towering upon the very verge
of a precipice several hundred feet high, whose base is washed by the
swift current of the Rio del Norte. The still existing Pueblo of Acoma
also stands upon an isolated mound whose whole area is occupied by the
village, being fringed all around by a precipitous _ceja_ or cliff.
{278} The inhabitants enter the village by means of ladders, and by
steps cut into the solid rock upon which it is based.[30]

At the time of the conquest, many of these Pueblos manufactured some
singular textures of cotton and other materials; but with the loss of
their liberty, they seem to have lost most of their arts and
ingenuity; so that the finer specimens of native fabrics are now only
to be met with among the Moquis and Navajoes, who still retain their
independence. The Pueblos, however, make some of the ordinary classes
of blankets and _tilmas_,[31] as well as other woolen stuffs. They
also manufacture, according to their aboriginal art, both for their
own consumption, and for the purpose of traffic, a species of
earthenware not much inferior to the coarse crockery of our common
potters. The pots made of this material stand fire remarkably well,
and are the universal substitutes for all the purposes of cookery,
even among the Mexicans, for the iron castings of this country, which
are utterly unknown there. Rude as this kind of crockery is, it
nevertheless evinces a great deal of skill, considering that it is
made entirely [Pg065] without lathe or any kind of machinery. It is
often fancifully painted with colored earths and the juice of a plant
called _guaco_, which brightens by burning. They also work a singular
kind of wicker-ware, of which some bowls (if they may be so called)
are so closely platted, {279} that, once swollen by dampness, they
serve to hold liquids, and are therefore light and convenient vessels
for the purposes of travellers.[32]

The dress of many of the Pueblos has become assimilated in some
respects to that of the common Mexicans; but by far the greatest
portion still retain most of their aboriginal costume. The Taosas and
others of the north somewhat resemble the prairie tribes in this
respect; but the Pueblos to the south and west of Santa Fé dress in a
different style, which is said to be similar in many respects to that
of the aboriginal inhabitants of the city of Mexico. The moccasin is
the only part of the prairie suit that appears common to them all, and
of both sexes. They mostly wear a kind of short breeches and long
stockings, the use of which they most probably acquired from the
Spaniards. The _saco_, a species of woollen jacket without sleeves,
completes their exterior garment; except during inclement seasons,
when they make use of the tilma. Very few of them have hats or
head-dress of any kind; and they generally wear their hair
long--commonly fashioned into a _queue_, wrapped with some colored
stuff. The squaws of the northern tribes dress pretty much like those
of the Prairies; but the usual costume of the females of the southern
and western Pueblos is a handsome kind of small blanket of dark
color, [Pg066] which is drawn under one arm and tacked over the other
shoulder, leaving both arms free and naked. It is generally {280} worn
with a cotton chemise underneath and is bound about the waist with a
girdle. We rarely if ever see a thorough-bred Pueblo woman in Mexican
dress.[33]

The weapons most in use among the Pueblos are the bow and arrow, with
a long-handled lance and occasionally a fusil. The rawhide shield is
also much used, which, though of but little service against fire-arms,
serves to ward off the arrow and lance.

The aliment of these Indians is, in most respects, similar to that of
the Mexicans; in fact, as has been elsewhere remarked, the latter
adopted with their utensils numerous items of aboriginal diet. The
_tortilla_, the _atole_, the _pinole_,[34] and many others, together
with the use of _chile_, are from the Indians. Some of the wilder
tribes make a peculiar kind of _pinole_, by grinding the bean of the
mezquite tree into flour, which is then used as that of corn. And
besides the tortilla they make another singular kind of bread, if we
may so style it, called _guayave_, a roll of which so much resembles a
'hornets' nest,' that by strangers it is often designated by this
title. It is usually made of Indian corn prepared and ground as for
tortillas, and diluted into a thin paste. {281} I once happened to
enter an Indian hut where a young girl of the family was baking
_guayaves_. She was sitting by a fire, over which a large flat stone
was heating, with a crock of prepared paste by her side. She [Pg067]
thrust her hand into the paste, and then wiped it over the heated
stone. What adhered to it was instantly baked and peeled off. She
repeated this process at the rate of a dozen times or more per minute.
Observing my curiosity, the girl handed me one of the 'sheets,'
silently; for she seemed to understand but her native tongue. I found
it pleasant enough to the taste; though when cold, as I have learned
by experience, it is, like the cold tortilla, rather tough and
insipid. They are even thinner than wafers; and some dozens, being
folded in a roll, constitute the laminate composition before
mentioned. Being thus preserved, they serve the natives for months
upon their journeys.

FOOTNOTES:

[18] On the subject of Pueblo Indians, consult T. Donaldson, _Moqui
Pueblo Indians of Arizona and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico_
(Washington, 1893), extra bulletin of eleventh census; John T. Short,
North _Americans of Antiquity_ (New York, 1880); A. F. A. Bandelier,
Archæological Institute of America _Papers_, American Series, i-iv; N.
O. G. Nordenskiold, _Cliff-dwellers of the Mesa Verde_ (Chicago and
Stockholm, 1893); C. F. Lummis, _Land of Poco Tiempo_ (New York,
1893).--ED.

[19] Of these, the Pueblo of Zuñi has been celebrated for honesty and
hospitality. The inhabitants mostly profess the Catholic faith, but
have now no curate. They cultivate the soil, manufacture, and possess
considerable quantities of stock. Their village is over 150 miles west
of the Rio del Norte, on the waters of the Colorado of the West, and
is believed to contain between 1,000 and 1,500 souls. The "seven
Pueblos of Moqui" (as they are called) are a similar tribe living a
few leagues beyond. They formerly acknowledged the government and
religion of the Spaniards, but have long since rejected both, and live
in a state of independence and paganism. Their dwellings, however,
like those of Zuñi, are similar to those of the interior Pueblos, and
they are equally industrious and agricultural, and still more
ingenious in their manufacturing. The language of the _Moquis_ or
_Moquinos_ is said to differ but little from that of the
Navajoes.--GREGG.

_Comment by Ed._ For the Moki (properly Hopi), see Pattie's
_Narrative_, in our volume xviii, p. 130, note 64. The articles by
Frank H. Cushing in American Bureau of Ethnology _Reports_ first
directed attention to the Zuñi; consult also Bandelier, "Outline of
Documentary History of Zuñi Tribe," in _Journal of American Ethnology
and Archæology_ (Boston, 1891-94), iii.

[20] On the linguistic stocks of the pueblos, consult our volume xix,
p. 266, note 90 (Gregg).--ED.

[21] Bandelier, "Final Report," Archæological Institute of America
_Papers_, American Series, iii, pp. 121-136, considers the pueblo
population at the time of the Spanish conquest to have been about
twenty-five thousand. The present population of New Mexican pueblos,
exclusive of the Moki, is about nine thousand.--ED.

[22] The pueblo of Pecos was situated thirty miles southeast of Santa
Fé, and at the close of the seventeenth century had a population of
two thousand, being the largest pueblo in either New Mexico or
Arizona. It was visited as early as 1540 by Alvarado, a lieutenant of
Coronado. In 1598, the inhabitants rendered submission to Oñate, and a
mission was established among them for which a large church was built
in the seventeenth century, its ruins being still conspicuous. In the
revolt of 1680 the Pecos remained neutral; but soon thereafter decline
in numbers set in, and by 1837 but eighteen adults were left. A fever
swept away the majority of these, when in 1840 the remnant of five men
sold their lands to the government, and retired to their kinsmen at
Jemez. A son of the tribe was found in 1880 among the Mexicans of the
village of Pecos, a small, comparatively modern town. Bandelier
discredits the Montezuma myth, which he considers a Spanish-Mexican
importation. See Archæological Institute of America _Papers_, American
Series, i, pp. 110-125. He found among the ruins, however, evidences
of the existence of the sacred fire.--ED.

[23] The Pueblo Indians still cling to many features of aboriginal
worship. The sun-father and moon-mother are revered--not the orbs
themselves, but the spiritual beings residing therein. Consult on this
subject, Bandelier, _op. cit._, iii, pp. 276-316.--ED.

[24] The office of the cacique is in essence religious; but as
religion is interwoven with the entire life of the Pueblos, he is in a
sense a civil official as well. He is chosen because of fitness,
frequently on the nomination of his predecessor, and his education in
the mysteries and secrets of his people is exacting. The office is for
life, unless terminated by improper behavior, when the cacique may be
deposed. The candidate sometimes declines the office because of the
severity of the duties, which involve much fasting and abnegation.

The _estufa_ is not always subterranean. It originated before the
introduction of Christian family life, in a common home for the male
members of the pueblo. It has become the council house of the tribe.
Some pueblos contain more than one; unless rites are in progress, it
is a bare, rude room usually unornamented. For details, consult John
G. Bourke, _Snake Dance of the Moquis of Arizona_ (New York,
1884).--ED.

[25] Matrimonial relations among these people have been much modified
by the introduction of Christianity, and the requirements of the
friars, so that the monogamous family is now the rule among the
sedentary Indians; although there are still in force certain clan
restrictions in the choice of the mate.--ED.

[26] Although the Pueblos have, since the subjugation of the Apache,
engaged in no wars, a war-captain is each year selected by the
cacique, who has, as Gregg relates, certain protective and religious
functions.--ED.

[27] Primary schools were established for several pueblos, about 1872,
but met with opposition from priests, who did not desire Indian
children to learn English. There are in the territory at present
(1903), about eighteen day-schools, and two industrial boarding
schools.--ED.

[28] For a brief sketch of the history of Taos, see our volume xviii,
p. 73, note 44. The Taos communal architecture is of the primitive
type; after the Spanish conquest, the separate houses of the other
pueblos were gradually adopted.--ED.

[29] Picuries is one of the northern group. Like Taos, it is of Tiguan
stock, and participated in the history of the region, being visited by
one of Coronado's party in 1540. It yielded to Oñate in 1598, took
part in the revolts of 1680 and 1696, and in the uprising against the
Americans in 1848. The pueblo was formerly much larger than at
present, its population now consisting of only about a hundred poor
and rather unprogressive Indians. It is in Taos County about seventy
miles north of Santa Fé.--ED.

[30] Acoma is a Queres pueblo, built upon a cliff, about seventy miles
southwest of Santa Fé, in Valencia County. Because of its
inaccessibility, and the charm of its situation, it has been much
noted. Coronado described it in his journey of 1540--see George P.
Winship, _Journey of Coronado_ (New York, 1904); and here a great
battle was fought between Spaniards and Acomans in 1599. The pueblo
took part in the revolts of 1680 and 1696; but has since lived
quietly, and has at present a population of about six hundred.--ED.

[31] The _tilma_ of the North is a sort of small but durable blanket,
worn by the Indians as a mantle.--GREGG.

[32] Recent authorities do not consider the decline of domestic arts a
sign of deterioration among the Pueblos. They taught the Navaho to
weave, and now purchase blankets from the latter. Pottery is still
manufactured among the New Mexican pueblos. See on these subjects
Washington Matthews, "Navaho Weavers," in U. S. Bureau of Ethnology
_Report_, 1881-82, pp. 371-391; and William H. Holmes, "Pottery of the
Ancient Pueblos," _ibid._, 1882-83, pp. 265-358.--ED.

[33] The Pueblos still retain their native dress, which is
picturesque, healthful, convenient, and often relatively costly--a
woman's costume sometimes being worth as much as twenty-five
dollars.--ED.

[34] _Pinole_ is in effect the _cold-flour_ of our hunters. It is the
meal of parched Indian corn, prepared for use by stirring it up with a
little cold water. This food seems also to have been of ancient use
among the aborigines of other parts of America. Father Charlevoix, in
1721, says of the savages about the northern lakes, that they "reduce
[the maize] to Flour which they call _Farine froide_ (cold Flour), and
this is the best Provision that can be made for Travellers."--GREGG.



CHAPTER XV

The wild Tribes of New Mexico -- Speculative Theories -- Clavigero and
  the _Azteques_ -- Pueblo Bonito and other Ruins -- Probable
  Relationship between the _Azteques_ and tribes of New Mexico -- The
  several Nations of this Province -- _Navajóes_ and _Azteques_ --
  Manufactures of the former -- Their Agriculture, Religion, etc. --
  Mexican Cruelty to the Indians and its Consequences -- Inroads of
  the Navajóes -- Exploits of a Mexican Army -- How to make a Hole in
  a Powder-keg -- The _Apaches_ and their Character -- Their Food --
  Novel Mode of settling Disputes -- Range of their marauding
  Excursions -- Indian Traffic and imbecile Treaties -- Devastation of
  the Country -- Chihuahua Rodomontades -- Juan José, a celebrated
  Apache Chief, and his tragical End, etc. -- Massacre of Americans in
  Retaliation -- A tragical Episode -- _Proyecto de Guerra_ and a
  'gallant' Display -- The _Yutas_ and their Hostilities -- A personal
  Adventure with them, but no blood shed -- Jicarillas.


All the Indians of New Mexico not denominated Pueblos--not professing
the Christian religion--are ranked as _wild tribes_, although these
include some who have made great advances in arts, manufactures and
agriculture. Those who are at all acquainted with the ancient history
of Mexico, will recollect that, according to the traditions of the
aborigines, all the principal tribes of Anahuac descended from the
North: and that those of Mexico, especially [Pg068] the Azteques,
emigrated {283} from the north of California, or northwest of New
Mexico. Clavigero, the famous historian heretofore alluded to,[35]
speaking of this emigration, observes, that the _Azteques_, or Mexican
Indians, who were the last settlers in the country of Anahuac, lived
until about the year 1160 of the Christian era in Aztlan, a country
situated to the north of the Gulf of California; as is inferred from
the route of their peregrinations, and from the information afterwards
acquired by the Spaniards in their expeditions through those
countries. He then proceeds to show by what incentives they were
probably induced to abandon their native land; adding that whatever
may have been the motive, no doubt can possibly exist as to the
journey's having actually been performed. He says that they travelled
in a southeastwardly direction towards the Rio Gila, where they
remained for some time--the ruins of their edifices being still to be
seen, upon its banks. They then struck out for a point over two
hundred and fifty miles to the northwest of Chihuahua in about 29° of
N. latitude, where they made another halt. This place is known by the
name of _Casas Grandes_[36] (big houses), on account of a large
edifice which still stands on the spot, and which, according to the
general tradition of those regions, was erected by the Mexican
Indians, during their [Pg069] wanderings. The building is constructed
after the plan of those in New Mexico, with three stories, covered
with an _azotea_ or terrace, and without door or entrance {284} into
the lower story. A hand ladder is also used as a means of
communication with the second story.

Even allowing that the traditions upon which Clavigero founded his
theoretical deductions are vague and uncertain, there is sufficient
evidence in the ruins that still exist to show that those regions were
once inhabited by a far more enlightened people than are now to be
found among the aborigines. Of such character are the ruins of _Pueblo
Bonito_, in the direction of Navajó, on the borders of the
Cordilleras; the houses being generally built of slabs of fine-grit
sand-stone, a material utterly unknown in the present architecture of
the North.[37] Although some of these structures are very massive and
spacious, they are generally cut up into small irregular rooms, many
of which yet remain entire, being still covered, with the _vigas_ or
joists remaining nearly sound under the _azoteas_ of earth; and yet
their age is such that there is no tradition which gives any account
of their origin. But there have been no images or sculptured work of
any kind found about them. Besides these, many other ruins (though
none so perfect) are scattered over the plains and among the
mountains. What is very remarkable is, that a portion of them are
situated at a great distance from any water; so that the inhabitants
must have depended entirely upon rain, as is the case with the Pueblo
of Acoma at the present day.

The general appearance of Pueblo Bonito, {285} as well as that of the
existing buildings of Moqui in the [Pg070] same mountainous regions,
and other Pueblos of New Mexico, resembles so closely the ruins of
Casas Grandes, that we naturally come to the conclusion that the
founders of each must have descended from the same common stock. The
present difference between their language and that of the Indians of
Mexico, when we take into consideration the ages that have passed away
since their separation, hardly presents any reasonable objection to
this hypothesis.

The principal wild tribes which inhabit or extend their incursions or
peregrinations upon the territory of New Mexico, are the _Navajóes_,
the _Apaches_, the _Yutas_, the _Caiguas_ or Kiawas, and the
_Comanches_.[38] Of the latter I will speak in another place. The two
first are from one and the same original stock, there being, even at
the present day, no very important difference in their language. The
Apaches are divided into numerous petty tribes, of one of which an
insignificant band, called Jicarillas, inhabiting the mountains north
of Taos, is an isolated and miserable remnant.[39]

The _Navajóes_ are supposed to number about 10,000 souls, and though
not the most numerous, they are certainly the most important, at least
in a historical point of view, of all the northern tribes of Mexico.
They reside in the main range of Cordilleras, 150 to 200 miles west of
Santa Fé, on the waters of Rio Colorado of California, not far from
the region, according to historians, from whence the [Pg071] {286}
Azteques emigrated to Mexico; and there are many reasons to suppose
them direct descendants from the remnant, which remained in the North,
of this celebrated nation of antiquity. Although they mostly live in
rude _jacales_, somewhat resembling the wigwams of the Pawnees, yet,
from time immemorial, they have excelled all others in their original
manufactures: and, as well as the Moquis, they are still distinguished
for some exquisite styles of cotton textures, and display considerable
ingenuity in embroidering with feathers the skins of animals,
according to their primitive practice. They now also manufacture a
singular species of blanket, known as the _Sarape Navajó_, which is of
so close and dense a texture that it will frequently hold water almost
equal to gum-elastic cloth. It is therefore highly prized for
protection against the rains. Some of the finer qualities are often
sold among the Mexicans as high as fifty or sixty dollars each.

Notwithstanding the present predatory and somewhat unsettled habits of
the Navajóes, they cultivate all the different grains and vegetables
to be found in New Mexico. They also possess extensive herds of
horses, mules, cattle, sheep and goats of their own raising, which are
generally celebrated as being much superior to those of the Mexicans;
owing, no doubt, to greater attention to the improvement of their
stocks.

Though Baron Humboldt[40] tells us that some missionaries were
established among this tribe {287} prior to the general massacre of
1680, but few attempts to christianize them have since been made. They
now remain in a state of primitive paganism--and not only independent
of the Mexicans, but their most formidable enemies.[41] [Pg072]

After the establishment of the national independence, the
government of New Mexico greatly embittered the disposition of the
neighboring savages, especially the Navajoes, by repeated acts of
cruelty and ill-faith well calculated to provoke hostilities. On one
occasion, a party consisting of several chiefs and warriors of the
Navajoes assembled at the Pueblo of Cochiti,[42] by invitation of the
government, to celebrate a treaty of peace; when the New Mexicans,
exasperated no doubt by the remembrance of former outrages, fell upon
them unawares and put them all to death. It is also related, that
about the same period, three Indians from the northern mountains
having been brought as prisoners into Taos, they were peremptorily
demanded by the Jicarillas, who were their bitterest enemies; when the
Mexican authorities, dreading the resentment of this tribe, quietly
complied with the barbarous request, suffering the prisoners to be
butchered in cold blood before their very eyes! No wonder, then, that
the New Mexicans are so generally warred upon by their savage
neighbors.

About fifteen years ago, the Navajoes were subjected by the energy of
Col. Vizcarra, who succeeded in keeping them in submission for {288}
some time; but since that officer's departure from New Mexico, no man
has been [Pg073] found of sufficient capacity to inspire this daring
tribe either with respect or fear; so that for the last ten years they
have ravaged the country with impunity, murdering and destroying just
as the humor happened to prompt them. When the spring of the year
approaches, terms of peace are generally proposed to the government at
Santa Fé, which the latter never fails to accept. This amicable
arrangement enables the wily Indians to sow their crops at leisure,
and to dispose of the property stolen from the Mexicans during their
marauding incursions, to advantage; but the close of their
agricultural labors is generally followed by a renewal of hostilities,
and the game of rapine and destruction is played over again.

Towards the close of 1835, a volunteer corps, which most of the
leading men in New Mexico joined, was raised for the purpose of
carrying war into the territory of the Navajoes. The latter hearing of
their approach, and anxious no doubt to save them the trouble of so
long a journey, mustered a select band of their warriors, who went
forth to intercept the invaders in a mountain pass, where they lay
concealed in an ambuscade. The valiant corps, utterly unconscious of
the reception that awaited them, soon came jogging along in scattered
groups, indulging in every kind of boisterous mirth; when the
war-whoop, loud and shrill, followed by several shots, threw them all
into a state of speechless consternation. {289} Some tumbled off their
horses with fright, others fired their muskets at random: a terrific
panic had seized everybody, and some minutes elapsed before they could
recover their senses sufficiently to betake themselves to their heels.
Two or three persons were killed in this ridiculous engagement, the
most conspicuous of whom was a Capt. Hinófos, who commanded the
regular troops.[43] [Pg074]

A very curious but fully authentic anecdote may not be
inappropriately inserted here, in which this individual was concerned.
On one occasion, being about to start on a belligerent expedition, he
directed his orderly-sergeant to fill a powder-flask from an
unbroached keg of twenty-five pounds. The sergeant, having bored a
hole with a gimlet, and finding that the powder issued too slowly,
began to look about for something to enlarge the aperture, when his
eyes haply fell upon an iron poker which lay in a corner of the
fire-place. To heat the poker and apply it to the hole in the keg was
the work of but a few moments; when an explosion took place which blew
the upper part of the building into the street, tearing and shattering
everything else to atoms. Miraculous as their escape may appear, the
sergeant, as well as the captain who witnessed the whole operation,
remained more frightened than hurt, although they were both very
severely scorched and bruised. This ingenious sergeant was afterwards
Secretary of State to Gov. Gonzalez, of revolutionary {290}
memory,[44] and has nearly ever since held a clerkship in some of the
offices of state, but is now captain in the regular army.

I come now to speak of the _Apaches_, the most extensive and powerful,
yet the most vagrant of all the savage nations that inhabit the
interior of Northern Mexico. They are supposed to number some fifteen
thousand souls, although they are subdivided into various petty bands,
and scattered over an immense tract of country. Those that are found
east of the Rio del Norte are generally known as _Mezcaleros_, on
account of an article of food much in use among them, called
_mezcal_,[45] but by far the greatest portion of the nation is located
in the west, and is mostly known by the sobriquet [Pg075] of
_Coyoteros_, in consequence, it is said, of their eating the _coyote_
or prairie-wolf.[46] The Apaches are perhaps more given to itinerant
habits than any other tribe in Mexico. They never construct houses,
but live in the ordinary wigwam, or tent of skins and blankets. They
manufacture nothing--cultivate nothing: they seldom resort to the
chase, as their country is destitute of game--but depend almost
entirely upon pillage for the support of their immense population,
some two or three thousand of which are warriors.

For their food, the Apaches rely chiefly upon the flesh of the cattle
and sheep they can steal from the Mexican ranchos and haciendas. They
are said, however, to be more fond of {291} the meat of the mule than
that of any other animal. I have seen about encampments which they had
recently left, the remains of mules that had been slaughtered for
their consumption. Yet on one occasion I saw their whole trail, for
many miles, literally strewed with the carcasses of these animals,
which, it was evident, had not been killed for this purpose. It is the
practice of the Apache chiefs, as I have understood, whenever a
dispute arises betwixt their warriors relative to the ownership of any
particular animal, to kill the brute at once, though it be the most
valuable of the drove; and so check all further cavil. It was to be
inferred from the number of dead mules they left behind them, that the
most harmonious relations could not have existed between the members
of the tribe, at least during this period of their journeyings. Like
most of the savage tribes of North America, the Apaches are
passionately fond of spirituous liquors, and may frequently be seen,
in times [Pg076] of peace, lounging about the Mexican villages, in a
state of helpless inebriety.

The range of this marauding tribe extends over some portions of
California, most of Sonora, the frontiers of Durango, and at certain
seasons it even reaches Coahuila: Chihuahua, however, has been the
mournful theatre of their most constant depredations. Every nook and
corner of this once flourishing state has been subjected to their
inroads. Such is the imbecility of the local governments, that the
savages, in order to dispose of {292} their stolen property without
even a shadow of molestation, frequently enter into partial treaties
of peace with one department, while they continue to wage a war of
extermination against the neighboring states. This arrangement
supplies them with an ever-ready market, for the disposal of their
booty and the purchase of munitions wherewith to prosecute their work
of destruction. In 1840, I witnessed the departure from Santa Fé of a
large trading party freighted with engines of war and a great quantity
of whiskey, intended for the Apaches in exchange for mules and other
articles of plunder which they had stolen from the people of the
south. This traffic was not only tolerated but openly encouraged by
the civil authorities, as the highest public functionaries were
interested in its success--the governor himself not excepted.

The Apaches, now and then, propose a truce to the government of
Chihuahua, which is generally accepted very nearly upon their own
terms. It has on some occasions been included that the marauders
should have a _bonâ fide_ right to all their stolen property. A
_venta_ or quit-claim brand, has actually been marked by the
government upon large numbers of mules and horses which the Indians
had robbed from the citizens. It is hardly necessary to add that these
truces have rarely been observed by the wily savages longer than
[Pg077] the time necessary for the disposal of their plunder. As soon
as more mules were needed for service or for traffic--more cattle for
beef--more {293} scalps for the war-dance--they would invariably
return to their deeds of ravage and murder.

The depredations of the Apaches have been of such long duration, that,
beyond the immediate purlieus of the towns, the whole country from New
Mexico to the borders of Durango is almost entirely depopulated. The
haciendas and ranchos have been mostly abandoned, and the people
chiefly confined to towns and cities. To such a pitch has the temerity
of those savages reached, that small bands of three or four warriors
have been known to make their appearance within a mile of the city of
Chihuahua in open day, killing the laborers and driving off whole
herds of mules and horses without the slightest opposition.
Occasionally a detachment of troops is sent in pursuit of the
marauders, but for no other purpose, it would seem, than to illustrate
the imbecility of the former, as they are always sure to make a
precipitate retreat, generally without even obtaining a glimpse of the
enemy.[47] And yet the columns of a little weekly sheet published in
Chihuahua always teem with flaming accounts of prodigious feats of
valor performed by the 'army of operations' against _los bárbaros_:
showing how "the enemy was pursued with all possible vigor"--how the
soldiers "displayed the greatest {294} bravery, and the most
unrestrainable desire to overhaul the dastards," and by what
extraordinary combinations of adverse circumstances they were
"compelled to relinquish the pursuit." Indeed, it would be difficult
to find a braver race of people than the [Pg078] _Chihuahueños_[48]
contrive to make themselves appear upon paper. When intelligence was
received in Chihuahua of the famous skirmish with the French, at Vera
Cruz, in which Santa Anna acquired the glory of losing a leg,[49] the
event was celebrated with uproarious demonstrations of joy; and the
next number of the _Noticioso_[50] contained a valiant fanfaronade,
proclaiming to the world the astounding fact, that one Mexican was
worth four French soldiers in battle: winding up with a "_Cancion
Patriótica_," of which the following exquisite verse was the
_refrain_:

  "_Chihuahuenses, la Patria gloriosa_
  _Otro timbre á su lustre ha añadido;_
  _Pues la_, ıuʌıɔʇɐ lɐ פɐlıɐ ıupoɯɐqlǝ
  AL VALOR MEXICANO _ha cedido_."

Literally translated:

  Chihuahuenses! our glorious country
  Another ray has added to her lustre;
  For the _invincible, indomitable Gallia_
  Has succumbed to Mexican valor.

By the inverted letters of "_invicta, la Galia indomable_," in the
third line, the poet gives {295} the world to understand that the
kingdom of the Gauls had at length been whirled topsy-turvy, by the
glorious achievements of _el valor Mexicano_!

From what has been said of the ravages of the Apaches, one would be
apt to believe them an exceedingly brave people; but the Mexicans
themselves call them cowards when compared with the Comanches; and we
are wont to look upon the latter as perfect specimens of poltroonery
when brought [Pg079] in conflict with the Shawnees, Delawares, and
the rest of our border tribes.[51]

There was once a celebrated chief called Juan José at the head of this
tribe, whose extreme cunning and audacity caused his name to be
dreaded throughout the country. What contributed more than anything
else to render him a dangerous enemy, was the fact of his having
received a liberal education at Chihuahua, which enabled him, when he
afterwards rejoined his tribe, to outwit his pursuers, and, by robbing
the mails, to acquire timely information of every expedition that was
set on foot against him. The following account of the massacre in
which he fell may not be altogether uninteresting to the reader.

The government of Sonora, desirous to make some efforts to check the
depredations of the Apaches, issued a proclamation, giving a sort of
_carte blanche_ patent of 'marque and reprisal,' and declaring all the
booty that might be taken from the savages to be the rightful property
of the captors. Accordingly, in the {296} spring of 1837, a party of
some 20 men composed chiefly of foreigners, spurred on by the love of
gain, and never doubting but the Indians, after so many years of
successful robberies, must be possessed of a vast amount of property,
set out with an American as their commander, who had long resided in
the country.[52] In a few days they reached a _ranchería_ of about
fifty warriors with their families, among whom was the [Pg080] famous
Juan José himself, and three other principal chiefs. On seeing the
Americans advance, the former at once gave them to understand, that,
if they had come to fight, they were ready to accommodate them; but on
being assured by the leader, that they were merely bent on a trading
expedition, a friendly interview was immediately established between
the parties. The American captain having determined to put these
obnoxious chiefs to death under any circumstances, soon caused a
little field-piece which had been concealed from the Indians to be
loaded with chain and canister shot, and to be held in readiness for
use. The warriors were then invited to the camp to receive a present
of flour, which was placed within range of the cannon. While they were
occupied in dividing the contents of the bag, they were fired upon and
a considerable number of their party killed on the spot! The remainder
were then attacked with small arms, and about twenty slain, including
Juan José and the other chiefs. Those who escaped became afterwards
their own avengers in a {297} manner which proved terribly disastrous
to another party of Americans, who happened at the time to be trapping
on Rio Gila not far distant. The enraged savages resolved to take
summary vengeance upon these unfortunate trappers; and falling upon
them, massacred them every one![53] They were in all, including
several Mexicans, about fifteen in number.[54] [Pg081]

The projector of this scheme had probably been under the
impression that treachery was justifiable against a treacherous enemy.
He also believed, no doubt, that the act would be highly commended by
the Mexicans who had suffered so much from the depredations of these
notorious chiefs. But in this he was sadly mistaken; for the affair
was received with general reprehension, although the Mexicans had been
guilty of similar deeds themselves, as the following brief episode
will sufficiently show.

In the summer of 1839, a few Apache prisoners, among whom was the wife
of a distinguished {298} chief, were confined in the calabozo of Paso
del Norte. The bereaved chief, hearing of their captivity, collected a
band of about sixty warriors, and, boldly entering the town, demanded
the release of his consort and friends. The commandant of the place
wishing to gain time, desired them to return the next morning, when
their request would be granted. During the night the forces of the
country were concentrated; notwithstanding, when the Apaches
reappeared, the troops did not show their faces, but remained
concealed, while the Mexican commandant strove to beguile the Indians
into the prison, under pretence of delivering to them their friends.
The unsuspecting chief and twenty others were entrapped in this
manner, and treacherously dispatched in cold blood: not, however,
without some loss to the Mexicans, who had four or five of their men
killed in the fracas. Among these was the commandant himself, who had
no sooner given the word, "_¡Maten á los carajos!_" (kill the
scoundrels!) than the chief retorted, [Pg082] "_¡Entónces morirás tu
primero, carajo!_" (then you shall die first, carajo!) and immediately
stabbed him to the heart!

But as New Mexico is more remote from the usual haunts of the Apaches,
and, in fact, as her scanty ranchos present a much less fruitful field
for their operations than the abundant haciendas of the South, the
depredations of this tribe have extended but little upon that
province. The only serious incursion that has come within my
knowledge, was some ten {299} years ago. A band of Apache warriors
boldly approached the town of Socorro[55] on the southern border, when
a battle ensued between them and the Mexican force, composed of a
company of regular troops and all the militia of the place. The
Mexicans were soon completely routed and chased into the very streets,
suffering a loss of thirty-three killed and several wounded. The
savages bore away their slain, yet their loss was supposed to be but
six or seven. I happened to be in the vicinity of the catastrophe the
following day, when the utmost consternation prevailed among the
inhabitants, who were in hourly expectation of another descent from
the savages.

Many schemes have been devised from time to time, particularly by the
people of Chihuahua, to check the ravages of the Indians, but
generally without success. Among these the notorious _Proyecto de
Guerra_, adopted in 1837, stands most conspicuous. By this famous
'war-project' a scale of rewards was established, to be paid out of a
fund raised for that purpose. A hundred dollars reward were offered
for the scalp of a full grown man, fifty for that of a squaw, and
twenty-five for that of every papoose! To the credit of the republic,
however, this barbarous _proyecto_ was in operation but a few weeks,
and [Pg083] never received the sanction of the general government;
although it was strongly advocated by some of the most intelligent
citizens of Chihuahua. Yet, pending its existence, it was rigidly
complied with. I saw myself, on one {300} occasion, a detachment of
horsemen approach the Palacio in Chihuahua, preceded by their
commanding officer, who bore a fresh scalp upon the tip of his lance,
which he waved high in the air in exultation of his exploit! The next
number of our little newspaper contained the official report of the
affair. The soldiers were pursuing a band of Apaches, when they
discovered a squaw who had lagged far behind in her endeavors to bear
away her infant babe. They dispatched the mother without commiseration
and took her scalp, which was the one so 'gallantly' displayed as
already mentioned! The officer concluded his report by adding, that
the child had died not long after it was made prisoner.

The _Yutas_ (or _Eutaws_, as they are generally styled by Americans)
are one of the most extensive nations of the West, being scattered
from the north of New Mexico to the borders of Snake river and Rio
Colorado, and numbering at least ten thousand souls. The habits of the
tribe are altogether itinerant. A band of about a thousand spend their
winters mostly in the mountain valleys northward of Taos, and the
summer season generally in the prairie plains to the east, hunting
buffalo. The vernacular language of the Yutas is said to be distantly
allied to that of the Navajoes, but it has appeared to me much more
guttural, having a deep sepulchral sound resembling ventriloquism.
Although these Indians are nominally at peace with the New Mexican
government, they do not hesitate to lay {301} the hunters and traders
who happen to fall in with their scouring parties under severe
contributions; and on some occasions they have been known to proceed
[Pg084] even to personal violence. A prominent Mexican officer[56] was
scourged not long ago by a party of Yutas, and yet the government has
never dared to resent the outrage. Their hostilities, however, have
not been confined to Mexican traders, as will be perceived by the
sequel.

In the summer of 1837, a small party of but five or six Shawnees fell
in with a large band of Yutas near the eastern borders of the Rocky
Mountains, south of Arkansas river. At first they were received with
every demonstration of friendship; but the Yutas, emboldened no doubt
by the small number of their visitors, very soon concluded to relieve
them of whatever surplus property they might be possessed of. The
Shawnees, however, much to the astonishment of the marauders, instead
of quietly surrendering their goods and chattels, offered to defend
them; upon which a skirmish ensued that actually cost the Yutas
several of their men, including a favorite chief; while the Shawnees
made their escape unhurt toward their eastern homes.

A few days after this event, and while the Yutas were still bewailing
the loss of their people, I happened to pass near their _rancherías_
(temporary village) with a small caravan which mustered about
thirty-five men. We {302} had hardly pitched our camp, when they began
to flock about us--men, squaws, and papooses--in great numbers; but
the warriors were sullen and reserved, only now and then muttering a
curse upon the Americans on account of the treatment they had just
received from the Shawnees, whom they considered as half-castes, and
our allies. All of a sudden, a young warrior seized a splendid steed
which belonged to our party, and, leaping upon his back, galloped
[Pg085] off at full speed. Being fully convinced that, by acquiescing
in this outrage, we should only encourage them to commit others, we
resolved at once to make a peremptory demand for the stolen horse of
their principal chief. Our request being treated with contumely, we
sent in a warlike declaration, and forthwith commenced making
preparations for descending upon the _rancherías_. The war-whoop
resounded immediately in every direction; and as the Yutas bear a very
high character for bravery and skill, the readiness with which they
seemed to accept our challenge began to alarm our party considerably.
We had defied them to mortal combat merely by way of bravado, without
the least expectation that they would put themselves to so much
inconvenience on our account. It was too late, however, to back out of
the scrape.

No sooner had the alarm been given than the _rancherías_ of the
Indians were converted into a martial encampment; and while the
mounted warriors were exhibiting their preliminary {303} feats of
horsemanship, the squaws and papooses flew like scattered partridges
to the rocks and clefts of a contiguous precipice. One-third of our
party being Mexicans, the first step of the Indians was to proclaim a
general _indulto_ to them, in hopes of reducing our force, scanty as
it was already. "My Mexican friends," exclaimed in good Spanish, a
young warrior who daringly rode up within a few rods of us, "we don't
wish to hurt _you_; so leave those Americans, for we intend to kill
every one of _them_." The Mexicans of our party to whom this language
was addressed, being rancheros of some mettle, only answered, "_Al
diablo_! we have not forgotten how you treat us when you catch us
alone: now that we are with Americans who will defend their rights,
expect ample [Pg086] retaliation for past insults." In truth, these
rancheros seemed the most anxious to begin the fight,--a remarkable
instance of the effects of confidence in companions.

A crisis seemed now fast approaching: two swivels we had with us were
levelled and primed, and the matches lighted. Every man was at his
post, with his rifle ready for execution, each anxious to do his best,
whatever might be the result; when the Indians, seeing us determined
to embrace the chances of war, began to open negotiations. An aged
squaw, said to be the mother of the principal chief, rode up and
exclaimed, "My sons! the Americans and Yutas have been friends, and
our old men wish to continue so: it is only a {304} few impetuous and
strong-headed youths who want to fight." The stolen horse having been
restored soon after this harangue, peace was joyfully proclaimed
throughout both encampments, and the _capitanes_ exchanged
ratifications by a social smoke.

The little tribe of Jicarillas also harbored an enmity for the
Americans, which, in 1834, broke out into a hostile _rencontre_. They
had stolen some animals of a gallant young backwoodsman from Missouri,
who, with a few comrades, pursued the marauders into the mountains and
regained his property; and a fracas ensuing, an Indian or two were
killed. A few days afterward all their warriors visited Santa Fé in a
body, and demanded of the authorities there, the delivery of the
American offenders to their vengeance. Though the former showed quite
a disposition to gratify the savages as far as practicable, they had
not helpless creatures to deal with, as in the case of the Indian
prisoners already related. The foreigners, seeing their protection
devolved upon themselves, prepared for defence, when the savages were
fain to depart in peace.



CHAPTER XVI

Incidents of a Return Trip from Santa Fé -- Calibre of our Party --
  Return Caravans -- Remittances -- Death of Mr. Langham -- Burial in
  the Desert -- A sudden Attack -- Confusion in the Camp -- A Wolfish
  Escort -- Scarcity of Buffalo -- Unprofitable Delusion -- Arrival
  -- Table of Camping Sites and Distances -- Condition of the Town
  of Independence -- The Mormons -- Their Dishonesty and Immorality
  -- Their high-handed Measures, and a Rising of the People -- A
  fatal Skirmish -- A chivalrous Parade of the Citizens -- Expulsion
  of the Mormons -- The Meteoric Shower, and Superstition, etc. --
  Wanderings and Improprieties of the 'Latter-day Saints' -- Gov.
  Boggs' Recipe -- The City of Nauvoo -- Contemplated Retribution of
  the Mormons.


I do not propose to detain the reader with an account of my
journeyings between Mexico and the United States, during the seven
years subsequent to my first arrival at Santa Fé. I will here merely
remark, that I crossed the plains to the United States in the falls of
1833 and 1836, and returned to Santa Fé with goods each succeeding
spring. It was only in 1838, however, that I eventually closed up my
affairs in Northern Mexico, and prepared to take my leave of the
country, as I then supposed, forever. But in this I was mistaken, as
will appear in the sequel.

The most usual season for the return of the {306} caravans to the
United States is the autumn, and not one has elapsed since the
commencement of the trade which has not witnessed some departure from
Santa Fé with that destination. They have also crossed occasionally in
the spring, but without any regularity or frequency, and generally in
very small parties. Even the 'fall companies,' in fact, are small when
compared with the outward-bound caravans; for besides the numbers who
remain permanently in the country, many of those who trade southward
return to the United States _via_ Matamoros or some other Southern
port. The return parties of autumn are therefore comparatively small,
varying in number from fifty to a hundred [Pg088] men. They leave
Santa Fé some four or five weeks after their arrival--generally about
the first of September. In these companies there are rarely over
thirty or forty wagons; for a large portion of those taken out by the
annual caravans are disposed of in the country.

Some of the traders who go out in the spring, return the ensuing fall,
because they have the good fortune to sell off their stock promptly
and to advantage: others are compelled to return in the fall to save
their credit; nay, to preserve their homes, which, especially in the
earlier periods, have sometimes been mortgaged to secure the payment
of the merchandise they carried out with them. In such cases, their
goods were not unfrequently sold at great sacrifice, to avoid the
penalties which the breaking of their engagements at home {307} would
involve. New adventurers, too, are apt to become discouraged with an
unanticipated dullness of times, and not unfrequently sell off at
wholesale for the best price they can get, though often at a serious
loss. But those who are regularly engaged in this trade usually
calculate upon employing a season--perhaps a year, in closing an
enterprise--in selling off their goods and making their returns.

The wagons of the return caravans are generally but lightly laden: one
to two thousand pounds constitute the regular return cargo for a
single wagon; for not only are the teams unable to haul heavy loads,
on account of the decay of pasturage at this season, but the
approaching winter compels the traders to travel in greater haste; so
that this trip is usually made in about forty days. The amount of
freight, too, from that direction is comparatively small. The
remittances, as has already been mentioned, are chiefly in specie, or
gold and silver bullion. The gold is mostly _dust_, from the Placer or
gold mine near Santa Fé:[57] [Pg089] the silver bullion is all from
the mines of the South--chiefly from those of Chihuahua. To these
returns may be added a considerable number of mules and asses--some
buffalo rugs, furs, and wool,--which last barely pays a return freight
for the wagons that would otherwise be empty. Coarse Mexican blankets,
which may be obtained in exchange for merchandise, have been sold in
small quantities to advantage on our border.

{308} On the 4th of April, 1838, we departed from Santa Fé. Our little
party was found to consist of twenty-three Americans, with twelve
Mexican servants. We had seven wagons, one dearborn, and two small
field-pieces, besides a large assortment of small-arms. The principal
proprietors carried between them about $150,000 in specie and bullion,
being for the most part the proceeds of the previous year's adventure.

We moved on at a brisk and joyous pace until we reached Ocaté creek, a
tributary of the Colorado,[58] a distance of a hundred and thirty
miles from Santa Fé, where we encountered a very sudden bereavement in
the death of Mr. Langham, one of our most respected proprietors. This
gentleman was known to be in weak health, but no fears were
entertained for his safety. We were all actively engaged in assisting
the more heavily laden wagons over the miry stream, when he was seized
with a fit of apoplexy and expired instantly. As we had not the means
of giving the deceased a decent burial, we were compelled to consign
him to the earth in a shroud of blankets. A grave was accordingly dug
on an elevated spot near the north bank of the creek, and on the
morning of the 13th, ere the sun had risen in the east, the mortal
remains of this most worthy [Pg090] man and valued friend were
deposited in their last abode,--without a tomb-stone to consecrate the
spot, or an epitaph to commemorate his virtues. The deceased was from
St. Louis, {309} though he had passed the last eleven years of his
life in Santa Fé, during the whole of which period he had seen neither
his home nor his relatives.

The melancholy rites being concluded, we resumed our line of march. We
now continued for several days without the occurrence of any important
accident or adventure. On the 19th we encamped in the Cimarron valley,
about twelve miles below the Willow Bar. The very sight of this
desolate region, frequented as it is by the most savage tribes of
Indians, was sufficient to strike dismay into the hearts of our party;
but as we had not as yet encountered any of them, we felt
comparatively at ease. Our mules and horses were 'staked' as usual
around the wagons, and every man, except the watch, betook himself to
his blanket, in anticipation of a good night's rest. The hour of
midnight had passed away, and nothing had been heard except the
tramping of the men on guard, and the peculiar grating of the mules'
teeth, nibbling the short grass of the valley. Ere long, however, one
of our sentinels got a glimpse of some object moving stealthily along,
and as he was straining his eyes to ascertain what sort of apparition
it could be, a loud Indian yell suddenly revealed the mystery. This
was quickly followed by a discharge of fire-arms, and the shrill note
of the 'Pawnee whistle,' which at once made known the character of our
visitors. As usual, the utmost confusion prevailed in our camp: some,
who had been snatched {310} from the land of dreams, ran their heads
against the wagons--others called out for their guns while they had
them in their hands. During the height of the bustle and uproar, a
Mexican servant was observed leaning with his back against a wagon,
and his fusil elevated at an [Pg091] angle of forty-five degrees,
cocking and pulling the trigger without ceasing, and exclaiming at
every snap, "_Carajo, no sirve!_"--Curse it, it's good for nothing.

The firing still continued--the yells grew fiercer and more frequent;
and everything betokened the approach of a terrible conflict.
Meanwhile a number of persons were engaged in securing the mules and
horses which were staked around the encampment; and in a few minutes
they were all shut up in the _corral_--a hundred head or more in a pen
formed by seven wagons. The enemy failing in their principal
object--to frighten off our stock, they soon began to retreat; and in
a few minutes nothing more was to be heard of them. All that we could
discover the next morning was, that none of our party had sustained
any injury, and that we had not lost a single animal.

The Pawnees have been among the most formidable and treacherous
enemies of the Santa Fé traders. But the former have also suffered a
little in turn from the caravans. In 1832, a company of traders were
approached by a single Pawnee chief, who commenced a parley with them,
when he was shot down by a Pueblo Indian of New Mexico who happened
{311} to be with the caravan. Though this cruel act met with the
decided reprobation of the traders generally, yet they were of course
held responsible for it by the Indians.

On our passage this time across the 'prairie ocean' which lay before
us, we ran no risk of getting bewildered or lost, for there was now a
plain wagon trail across the entire stretch of our route, from the
Cimarron to Arkansas river.

This track, which has since remained permanent, was made in the year
1834. Owing to continuous rains during the passage of the caravan of
that year, a plain trail was then cut in the softened turf, on the
most direct route across [Pg092] this arid desert, leaving the
Arkansas about twenty miles above the 'Caches.' This has ever since
been the regular route of the caravans; and thus a recurrence of those
distressing sufferings from thirst, so frequently experienced by early
travellers in that inhospitable region, has been prevented.

We forded the Arkansas without difficulty, and pursued our journey to
the Missouri border with comparative ease; being only now and then
disturbed at night by the hideous howling of wolves, a pack of which
had constituted themselves into a kind of 'guard of honor,' and
followed in our wake for several hundred miles--in fact to the very
border of the settlements. They were at first attracted no doubt by
the remains of buffalo which were killed by us upon the high plains,
and {312} afterwards enticed on by an occasional fagged animal, which
we were compelled to leave behind, as well as by the bones and scraps
of food, which they picked up about our camps. Not a few of them paid
the penalty of their lives for their temerity.

Had we not fortunately been supplied with a sufficiency of meat and
other provisions, we might have suffered of hunger before reaching the
settlements; for we saw no buffalo after crossing the Arkansas river.
It is true that, owing to their disrelish for the long dry grass of
the eastern prairies, the buffalo are rarely found so far east in
autumn as during the spring; yet I never saw them so scarce in this
region before. In fact, at all seasons, they are usually very abundant
as far east as our point of leaving the Arkansas river.

Upon reaching the settlements, I had an opportunity of experiencing a
delusion which had been the frequent subject of remark by travellers
on the Prairies before. Accustomed as we had been for some months to
our little mules, and the equally small-sized Mexican ponies, our
[Pg093] sight became so adjusted to their proportions, that when we
came to look upon the commonest hackney of our frontier horses, it
appeared to be almost a monster. I have frequently heard exclamations
of this kind from the new arrivals:--"How the Missourians have
improved their breed of horses!"--"What a huge gelding!"--"Did you
ever see such an animal!" This delusion is frequently availed of by
the frontiersmen {313} to put off their meanest horses to these
deluded travellers for the most enormous prices.

On the 11th of May we arrived at Independence, after a propitious
journey of only thirty-eight days.[59] We found the town in a thriving
condition, although it had come very near being laid waste a few years
before by the [Pg094] Mormons, who had originally selected this
section of the country for the site of their New Jerusalem. In this
they certainly displayed far more taste and good sense than they are
generally supposed to be endowed {314} with: for the rich and
beautiful uplands in the vicinity of Independence might well be
denominated the 'garden spot' of the Far West. Their principal motive
for preferring the border country, however, was no doubt a desire to
be in the immediate vicinity of the Indians, as the reclamation of the
'Lost tribes of Israel' was a part of their pretended mission.

Prior to 1833, the Mormons, who were then flocking in great swarms to
this favored region, had made considerable purchases of lots and
tracts of land both in the town of Independence and in the adjacent
country. A general depot, profanely styled the 'Lord's Store,' was
established, from which the faithful were supplied with merchandise at
moderate prices; while those who possessed any surplus of property
were expected to deposit it in the same, for the benefit of the mass.
The Mormons were at first kindly received by the good people of the
country, who looked upon them as a set of harmless fanatics, very
susceptible of being moulded into good and honest citizens. This
confidence, however, was not destined to remain long in the ascendant,
for they soon began to find that the corn in their cribs was sinking
like snow before the sun-rays, and that their hogs and their cattle
were by some mysterious agency rapidly disappearing. The new-comers
also drew upon themselves much animadversion in consequence of the
immorality of their lives, and in particular their disregard for the
sacred rites of marriage.

{315} Still they continued to spread and multiply, not by conversion
but by immigration, to an alarming extent; and in proportion as they
grew strong in numbers, they [Pg095] also became more exacting and
bold in their pretensions. In a little paper printed at Independence
under their immediate auspices,[60] everything was said that could
provoke hostility between the 'saints' and their 'worldly' neighbors,
until at last they became so emboldened by impunity, as openly to
boast of their determination to be the sole proprietors of the 'Land
of Zion;' a revelation to that effect having been made to their
prophet.

The people now began to perceive, that, at the rate the intruders were
increasing, they would soon be able to command a majority of the
country, and consequently the entire control of affairs would fall
into their hands. It was evident, then, that one of the two parties
would in the course of time have to abandon the country; for the old
settlers could not think of bringing up their families in the midst of
such a corrupt state of society as the Mormons were establishing.
Still the nuisance was endured very patiently, and without any attempt
at retaliation, until the 'saints' actually threatened to eject their
opponents by main force. This last stroke of impudence at once roused
the latent spirit of the honest backwoodsmen, some of whom were of the
pioneer settlers of Missouri, and had become familiar with danger in
their terrific wars with the savages. They were therefore by no {316}
means appropriate subjects for yielding what they believed to be their
rights. Meetings were held for the purpose of devising means of
redress, which only tended to increase the insolence of the Mormons.
Finally a mob was collected which proceeded at once to raze the
obnoxious printing establishment to the ground, and to destroy all the
materials they could lay hands upon. One or two of the Mormon leaders
who fell into the hands of the people, were treated [Pg096] to a
clean suit of 'tar and feathers,' and otherwise severely punished.[61]
The 'Prophet Joseph,' however, was not then in the neighborhood.
Having observed the storm-clouds gathering apace in the frontier
horizon, he very wisely remained in Ohio, whence he issued his flaming
mandates.

These occurrences took place in the month of October, 1833, and I
reached Independence from Santa Fé while the excitement was raging at
its highest. The Mormons had rallied some ten miles west of the town,
where their strongest settlements were located. A hostile encounter
was hourly expected: nay, a skirmish actually took place shortly
after, in which a respectable lawyer of Independence, who had been an
active agent against the Mormons, was killed. In short, the whole
country was in a state of dreadful fermentation.

Early on the morning after the skirmish just referred to, a report
reached Independence that the Mormons were marching in a {317} body
towards the town, with the intention of sacking and burning it. I had
often heard the cry of "Indians!" announcing the approach of hostile
savages, but I do not remember ever to have witnessed so much
consternation as prevailed at Independence on this memorable occasion.
The note of alarm was sounded far and near, and armed men, eager for
the fray, were rushing in from every quarter. Officers were summarily
selected without deference to rank or station: the 'spirit-stirring
drum' and the 'ear-piercing fife' made the air resound with music, and
a little army of as brave and resolute a set of fellows as ever trod a
field of battle, was, in a very short time, paraded through the
streets. After a few preliminary exercises, they started for a certain
point on the road where they intended to await the approach of the
Mormons. [Pg097] The latter very soon made their appearance, but
surprised at meeting with so formidable a reception, they never even
attempted to pull a trigger, but at once surrendered at discretion.
They were immediately disarmed, and subsequently released upon
condition of their leaving the country without delay.

It was very soon after this affair that the much talked of phenomenon
of the meteoric shower (on the night of November 12th) occurred. This
extraordinary visitation did not fail to produce its effects upon the
superstitious minds of a few ignorant people, who began to wonder
whether, after all, the Mormons might not be in the right; and whether
this was not a sign sent from heaven as a remonstrance for the
injustice they had been guilty of towards that chosen sect.[62]
Sometime afterward, a terrible misfortune occurred which was in no way
calculated to allay the superstitious fears of the ignorant. As some
eight or ten citizens were returning with the ferry-boat which had
crossed the last Mormons over the Missouri river, into Clay county,
the district selected for their new home, the craft filled with water
and sunk in the middle of the current; by which accident three or four
men were drowned![63] It was owing perhaps to the craziness of the
boat, yet some persons suspected the Mormons of having scuttled it by
secretly boring auger-holes in the bottom just before they had left
it.

After sojourning a few months in Clay county, to the serious annoyance
of the inhabitants (though, in fact, they [Pg098] had been kindly
received at first), the _persecuted_ 'Latter day Saints' were again
compelled to shift their quarters further off. They now sought to
establish themselves in the new country of Caldwell, and founded their
town of Far West, where they lingered in comparative peace for a few
years.[64] As the county began to fill up with settlers however,
quarrels repeatedly {319} broke out, until at last, in 1838, they
found themselves again at open war with their neighbors. They appear
to have set the laws of the state at defiance, and to have acted so
turbulently throughout, that Governor Boggs deemed it necessary to
order out a large force of state militia to subject them: which was
easily accomplished without bloodshed. From that time the Mormons have
harbored a mortal enmity towards the Governor: and the attempt which
was afterwards made to assassinate him at Independence, is generally
believed to have been instigated, if not absolutely perpetrated, by
that deluded sect.[65]

Being once more forced to emigrate, they passed into Illinois, where
they founded the famous 'City of Nauvoo.' It would seem that their
reception from the people of this state was even more strongly marked
with kindness and indulgence than it had been elsewhere, being
generally looked upon as the victims of persecution on account of
[Pg099] their religious belief; yet it appears that the good people of
Illinois have since become about as tired of them as were any of their
former neighbors.[66] It seems very clear then, that fanatical
delusion is not the only sin which stamps the conduct of these people
with so much obliquity, or they would certainly have found permanent
friends somewhere; whereas it is well known that a general aversion
has prevailed against them wherever they have sojourned.

Before concluding this chapter, it may be {320} proper to remark, that
the Mormons have invariably refused to sell any of the property they
had acquired in Missouri, but have on the contrary expressed a firm
determination to reconquer their lost purchases.[67] Of these, a large
lot, situated on an elevated point at Independence, known as the
'Temple Lot,' upon which the 'Temple of Zion' was to have been
raised,--has lately been 'profaned,' by cultivation, having been
converted into a corn-field!

FOOTNOTES:

[35] See our volume xix, p. 293, note 116 (Gregg).--ED.

[36] The Casa Grande ruin in Pinal County, Arizona, just south of Gila
River, has been known to antiquarians since the first discovery of the
region. The earliest detailed description was written after the visit
of Father Kuehne (Kino) in 1694. American explorers noted it during
the passage of 1846; Bartlett's description of 1854 was the most
faithful. For recent accounts, see Cosmos Mindeleff, in U. S. Bureau
of Ethnology _Reports_, 1891-92, pp. 295-361; 1893-94, pp. 321-349. In
1889 congress appropriated funds for its preservation and repair, and
in 1892 set it apart as a public reservation. Modern archæologists
discredit any connection of its builders with Mexican Aztecs. It is a
work of Pueblo Indians, probably of the ancestors of the modern
Pima--see our volume xviii, p. 200, note 96. This ruin should not be
confused with one of a like name in Northern Mexico, for which see
volume xviii of our series, p. 155, note 88.--ED.

[37] It is uncertain to which ruin Gregg here refers. That of
Cebolitta, not far from Acoma, answers his description as built of
sandstone. There is a small ruin at Ojos Bonitos, not far from Zuñi,
that may be intended; but the more probable is the former, on the
well-known trace between Acoma and Zuñi, and of remarkably good
workmanship in stone.--ED.

[38] For the Navaho, Apache, and Ute tribes, see our volume xviii, p.
69 (note 41), p. 109 (note 60), p. 140 (note 70); for the Kiowa,
volume xv, p. 157, note 48; for the Comanche, volume xvi, p. 233, note
109.--ED.

[39] The Jicarrilla (Xicarrilla) are of _Athapascan_ stock, but from
the similarity of their language are classed as Apache, although they
are not known to have had any tribal connection with them. Their
alliance was more frequently with the Ute, with whom they
intermarried, and whose customs they assimilated. They were a
predatory race, and from their vantage ground on the upper waters of
the Rio Grande, Pecos, and Canadian, caused much annoyance. They are
now located on a reservation in Rio Arriba County, and number about
seven hundred and fifty.--ED.

[40] For Humboldt, see our volume xviii, p. 345, note 136.--ED.

[41] The Navaho were friendly with the Spaniards until about 1700,
when they began depredations and cattle lifting, and frequent
campaigns against them were undertaken. In 1744 a mission was
attempted among them, which was abandoned after six years' futile
efforts. Serious difficulties, however, did not recur until the
beginning of the nineteenth century. The period of Gregg's sojourn in
New Mexico was that of greatest hostility. For over twenty-five years
the United States government had much difficulty with the Navaho.
There are yet over twenty thousand of these tribesmen on the different
reservations, chiefly in Arizona.--ED.

[42] Cochiti is one of the smaller Queres pueblos, situated on the
west side of the Rio Grande, almost directly west of Santa Fé. It was
near the same spot, at the time of the Spanish accession in 1598. The
Cochitiaños took part in the rebellions of 1680 and 1696, and part of
the mutineers were, about 1699, removed to the pueblo of Laguna. There
are now less than two hundred and fifty inhabitants of this Indian
village.--ED.

[43] The only other authority for this campaign is A. R. Thümmel,
_Mexiko und die Mexikaner_ (Erlangen, 1848), pp. 350, 351.--ED.

[44] For Governor José Gonzalez and his exploits during the
insurrection of 1837 see preceding volume, ch. vi (Gregg).--ED.

[45] _Mezcal_ is the baked root of the _maguey_ (_agave Americana_)
and of another somewhat similar plant.--GREGG.

[46] Like the Jicarrilla, the Mescallero were in reality a distinct
tribe, and related to the Apache only by linguistic affinities. Since
1865 they have been confined upon a reservation in southern New
Mexico, where about four hundred still exist. The Coyoteros is one of
some dozen tribes or bands among the Apache proper.--ED.

[47] It has been credibly asserted, that, during one of these 'bold
pursuits,' a band of Comanches stopped in the suburbs of a village on
Rio Conchos, turned their horses into the wheat-fields, and took a
comfortable _siesta_--desirous, it seemed, to behold their pursuers
face to face; yet, after remaining most of the day, they departed
without enjoying that pleasure.--GREGG.

[48] Or _Chihuahuenses_, citizens of Chihuahua.--GREGG.

[49] During the so-called "Pastry War," for which see our volume xix,
p. 274, note 101 (Gregg).--ED.

[50] _Noticioso de Chihuahua_ of December 28, 1838.--GREGG.

[51] The experience of the United States army with the Apache has not
proved their cowardice. Since the running of the boundary line after
the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848) up to 1886, one outbreak after
another characterized our relations with the Apache. For fifteen years
(1871-86) General Crook watched the Apache, and after each raid forced
them back upon their reservations. Geronimo's band, which surrendered
in September, 1886, was transported to Florida and Alabama.--ED.

[52] The leader's name was James Johnson, who afterwards removed to
California, where he died in poverty. See H. H. Bancroft, _History of
Arizona and New Mexico_, p. 407.--ED.

[53] Bancroft (_op. cit._) relates the escape of Benjamin Wilson, who
afterwards narrated the event, and the death of the leader, Charles
Kemp.--ED.

[54] The Apaches, previous to this date, had committed but few
depredations upon foreigners--restrained either by fear or respect.
Small parties of the latter were permitted to pass the highways of the
wilderness unmolested, while large caravans of Mexicans suffered
frequent attacks. This apparent partiality produced unfounded
jealousies, and the Americans were openly accused of holding secret
treaties with the enemy, and even of supplying them with arms and
ammunition. Although an occasional foreigner engaged in this
clandestine and culpable traffic, yet the natives themselves embarked
in it beyond comparison more extensively, as has been noted in another
place. This unjust impression against Americans was partially effaced
as well by the catastrophes mentioned in the text, as by the defeat
and robbery (in which, however, no American lives were lost), of a
small party of our people, about the same period, in _La Jornada del
Muerto_, on their way from Chihuahua to Santa Fé.--GREGG.

[55] For Socorro, consult Pattie's _Narrative_, in our volume xviii,
p. 86, note 52.--ED.

[56] Don Juan Andrés Archuleta, who commanded at the capture of Gen.
McLeod's division of the Texans.--GREGG.

[57] For the placer mines, see our volume xix, p. 304, note 128
(Gregg).--ED.

[58] Ocaté Creek is in Mora County, New Mexico, a tributary of the
upper waters of the Canadian, one of the several streams called
Colorado by the Mexicans. Because of this name, it was thought (until
Long's expedition in 1820) to be the headwaters of Red River.--ED.

[59] Having crossed the Prairies between Independence and Santa Fé six
times, I can now present a table of the most notable camping sites,
and their respective intermediate distances, with approximate
accuracy--which may prove acceptable to some future travellers. The
whole distance has been variously estimated at from 750 to 800 miles,
yet I feel confident that the aggregate here presented is very nearly
the true distance.

 From INDEPENDENCE to                     _M._       _Agg._
 Round Grove,                              35
 Narrows,                                  30           65
 110-mile Creek,                           30           95
 Bridge Cr.,                                8          103
 Big John Spring, (crossing sv'l. Crs.)    40          143
 Council Grove,                             2          145
 Diamond Spring,                           15          160
 Lost Spring,                              15          175
 Cottonwood Cr.,                           12          187
 Turkey Cr.,                               25          212
 Little Arkansas,                          17          229
 Cow Creek,                                20          249
 Arkansas River,                           16          265
 Walnut Cr., (up Ark. r.)                   8          273
 Ash Creek,                                19          292
 Pawnee Fork,                               6          298
 Coon Creek,                               33          331
 Caches,                                   36          367
 Ford of Arkansas,                         20          387
 Sand Cr. (leav. Ark. r.)                  50          437
 Cimarron r. (Lower sp.)                    8          445
 Middle spr. (up Cim. r.)                  36          481
 Willow Bar,                               26          507
 Upper Spring,                             18          525
 Cold spr. (leav. Cim. r.)                  5          530
 M'Nees's Cr.,                             25          555
 Rabbit-ear Cr.,                           20          575
 Round Mound,                               8          583
 Rock Creek,                                8          591
 Point of Rocks,                           19          610
 Rio Colorado,                             20          630
 Ocatè,                                     6          636
 Santa Clara Spr.,                         21          657
 Rio Mora,                                 22          679
 Rio Gallinas (Vegas),                     20          699
 Ojo de Bernal (spr.),                     17          716
 San Miguel,                                6          722
 Pecos village,                            23          755
 SANTA FE,                                 25          770

                                              --GREGG.

[60] This paper, the first printed in Jackson County, was called The
Evening and Morning Star, the first issue being in June, 1832.--ED.

[61] This occurred July 20, 1833. Bishop Partridge and Charles Allen
were the victims of the punishment.--ED.

[62] In Northern Mexico, as I learned afterwards, the credulity of the
superstitious was still more severely tried by this celestial
phenomenon. Their Church had been deprived of some important
privileges by the Congress but a short time before, and the people
could not be persuaded but that the meteoric shower was intended as a
curse upon the nation in consequence of that sacrilegious act.--GREGG.

[63] The following were drowned: James Campbell, George Bradbury,
David Linch, Thomas Harrington, William Everett, Smallwood Nolan.--ED.

[64] Far West was begun in 1836; by 1838 there was a Mormon population
of twelve thousand in and around the city.--ED.

[65] Lilburn W. Boggs was born in Kentucky in 1798. Early removed to
Missouri, he became prominent as a trader, pioneer, and political
leader. In 1832 he was elected lieutenant-governor, serving as the
acting-governor during part of his term. At its close (1836) he was
chosen governor, and served for four years. During this term he
incurred the animosity of the Mormons, by what was known as his
"extermination order," issued in October, 1838. The attempt to
assassinate him at the close of his term of office, at his home in
Independence (1841), was popularly ascribed to a Mormon fanatic, who
was, however, acquitted in the courts. In 1846 Governor Boggs led an
overland party to California, where he assisted in the American
occupation. Removed to Napa Valley in 1852, he died there nine years
later. His wife was a granddaughter of Daniel Boone.--ED.

[66] The year in which Gregg's book was published (June, 1844),
Prophet Joseph Smith was killed by a mob in the jail of Carthage,
Illinois.--ED.

[67] After the death of the founder there was dissension in the ranks,
one wing being headed by his eldest son, Joseph Smith III. The latter
founded what is known as the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints,
which repudiates polygamy. These were the sectarians who returned to
Jackson County, Missouri, where a large number now reside.--ED.



CHAPTER XVII {I}[68]

A Return to Prairie Life -- Abandonment of the regular Route -- The
  Start -- A Suicide -- Arrest of a Mulatto for Debt -- Cherokee
  'Bankrupt Law' -- Chuly, the Creek Indian -- The Muster and the
  Introduction -- An '_Olla Podrida_' -- Adventure of a 'Down-Easter'
  -- Arrival of U.S. Dragoons -- Camp Holmes, and the Road -- A Visit
  from a Party of Comanches -- Tabba-quena, a noted Chief -- His
  extraordinary Geographical Talent -- Indians set out for the
  'Capitan Grande,' and we through an Unexplored Region -- Rejoined by
  Tabba-quena and his '_suite_' -- Spring Valley -- The Buffalo Fever
  -- The Chase -- A Green-horn Scamper -- Prairie Fuel.


An unconquerable propensity to return to prairie life inclined me to
embark in a fresh enterprise. The blockade [Pg100] of the Mexican
ports by the French also offered strong inducements for undertaking
such an expedition in the spring of 1839; for as Chihuahua is supplied
principally through the sea-ports, it was now evident that the place
must be suffering from great scarcity of goods. Being anxious to reach
the market before the ports of the Gulf were reopened, we deemed it
expedient to abandon the regular route from {10} Missouri for one
wholly untried, from the borders of Arkansas, where the pasturage
springs up nearly a month earlier. It is true, that such an attempt to
convey heavily laden wagons through an unexplored region was attended
with considerable risk; but as I was familiar with the general
character of the plains contiguous to the north, I felt little or no
apprehension of serious difficulties, except from what might be
occasioned by regions of sandy soil. I have often been asked since,
why we did not steer directly for Chihuahua, as our trade was chiefly
destined for that place, instead of taking the circuitous route _via_
Santa Fé. I answer, that we dreaded a journey across the southern
prairies on account of the reputed aridity of the country in that
direction, and I had no great desire to venture directly into a
southern port in the present state of uncertainty as to the conditions
of entry.

Suitable arrangements having been made, and a choice stock of about
$25,000 worth of goods shipped to Van Buren[69] on the Arkansas river,
we started on the evening of the 21st of April, but made very little
progress for the first eight days. While we were yet but ten or
fifteen miles from Van Buren, [Pg101] an incident occurred which was
attended with very melancholy results. A young man named Hays, who had
driven a wagon for me for several months through the interior of
Mexico, and thence to the United States in 1838, having heard that
this expedition was projected, {11} was desirous of engaging again in
the same employ. I was equally desirous to secure his services, as he
was well-tried, and had proved himself an excellent fellow on those
perilous journeys. But soon after our outset, and without any apparent
reason, he expressed an inclination to abandon the trip. I earnestly
strove to dissuade him from his purpose, and supposed I had succeeded.
What was my surprise, then, upon my return after a few hours' absence
in advance of the company, to learn that he had secretly absconded! I
was now led to reflect upon some of his eccentricities, and bethought
me of several evident indications of slight mental derangement. We
were, however, but a few miles from the settlements of the whites, and
in the midst of the civilized Cherokees, where there was little or no
danger of his suffering; therefore, there seemed but little occasion
for serious uneasiness on his account. As it was believed he had
shaped his course back to Van Buren, I immediately wrote to our
friends there, to have search made for him. However, nothing could be
found of him till the next day, when his hat and coat were discovered
upon the bank of the Arkansas, near Van Buren, which were the last
traces ever had of the unfortunate Hays! Whether intentionally or
accidentally, he was evidently drowned.

On the 28th of April we crossed the Arkansas river a few miles above
the mouth of the Canadian fork.[70] We had only proceeded {12} a short
distance beyond, when a Cherokee shop-keeper came up to us with an
attachment for debt [Pg102] against a free mulatto whom we had
engaged as teamster. The poor fellow had no alternative but to return
with the importunate creditor, who committed him at once to the care
of 'Judge Lynch' for trial. We ascertained afterwards that he had been
sentenced to 'take the benefit of the bankrupt law' after the manner
of the Cherokees of that neighborhood. This is done by stripping and
tying the victim to a tree; when each creditor, with a good cowhide or
hickory switch in his hand, scores the amount of the bill due upon his
bare back. One stripe for every dollar due is the usual process of
'whitewashing;' and as the application of the lash is accompanied by
all sorts of quaint remarks, the exhibition affords no small merriment
to those present, with the exception, no doubt, of the delinquent
himself. After the ordeal is over, the creditors declare themselves
perfectly satisfied: nor could they, as is said, ever be persuaded
thereafter to receive one red cent of the amount due, even if it were
offered to them. As the poor mulatto was also in our debt, and was
perhaps apprehensive that we might exact payment in the same currency,
he never showed himself again.

On the 2d of May we crossed the North Fork of the Canadian about a
mile from its confluence with the main stream. A little westward of
this there is a small village of {13} Creek Indians, and a shop or two
kept by American traders.[71] An Indian who had quarrelled with his
wife, came out and proposed to join us, and, to our great surprise,
carried his proposal into execution. The next morning his repentant
consort came into our camp, and set up a most dismal weeping and
howling after her truant husband, who, notwithstanding, was neither to
be caught by tears nor [Pg103] softened by entreaties, but persisted
in his determination to see foreign countries. His name was
Echú-eleh-hadjó (or _Crazy-deer-foot_), but, for brevity's sake, we
always called him _Chuly_. He was industrious, and possessed many
clever qualities, though somewhat disposed to commit excesses whenever
he could procure liquor, which fortunately did not occur until our
arrival at Santa Fé. He proved to be a good and willing hand on the
way, but as he spoke no English, our communication with him was
somewhat troublesome. I may as well add here, that, while in Santa Fé,
he took another freak and joined a volunteer corps, chiefly of
Americans, organized under one James Kirker to fight the Navajó and
Apache Indians; the government of Chihuahua having guarantied to them
all the spoils they should take.[72] With these our Creek found a few
of his 'red brethren'--Shawnees and Delawares, who had wandered thus
far from the frontier of Missouri. After this little army was
disbanded, Chuly returned home, as I have been informed, with a small
{14} party who crossed the plains directly from Chihuahua.

We had never considered ourselves as perfectly _en chemin_ till after
crossing the Arkansas river; and as our little party experienced no
further change, I may now be permitted to introduce them collectively
to the reader. It consisted of thirty-four men, including my brother
John Gregg and myself. These men had all been hired by us except
three, two of whom were Eastern-bred boys--a tailor and a
silversmith--good-natured, clever little fellows, who had thought
themselves at the 'jumping-off place' when they reached [Pg104] Van
Buren, but now seemed nothing loth to extend their peregrinations a
thousand miles or so further, in the hope of 'doing' the 'Spaniards,'
as the Mexicans are generally styled in the West, out of a little
surplus of specie. The other was a German peddler, who somewhat
resembled the Dutchman's horse, "put him as you vant, and he ish
alvays tere;" for he did nothing during the whole journey but descant
on the value of a chest of trumperies which he carried, and with which
he calculated, as he expressed it, to "py a plenty of te Shpanish
tollar." The trip across the Prairies cost these men absolutely
nothing, inasmuch as we furnished them with all the necessaries for
the journey, in consideration of the additional strength they brought
to our company.

It is seldom that such a variety of ingredients are found mixed up in
so small a compass. {15} Here were the representatives of seven
distinct nations, each speaking his own native language, which
produced at times a very respectable jumble of discordant sounds.
There was one Frenchman whose volubility of tongue and curious
gesticulations, contrasted very strangely with the frigidity of two
phlegmatic wanderers from Germany; while the calm eccentricity of two
Polish exiles, the stoical look of two sons of the desert (the Creek
already spoken of, and a Chickasaw), and the pantomimic gestures of
sundry loquacious Mexicans, contributed in no small degree to heighten
the effects of the picture. The Americans were mostly backwoodsmen,
who could handle the rifle far better than the whip, but who
nevertheless officiated as wagoners.

We had fourteen road-wagons, half drawn by mules, the others by oxen
(eight of each to the team); besides a carriage and a Jersey wagon.
Then we had two swivels mounted upon one pair of wheels; but one of
them was attached to a movable truckle, so that, upon stopping, it
could be transferred [Pg105] to the other side of the wagons. One of
these was a long brass piece made to order, with a calibre of but an
inch and a quarter, yet of sufficient metal to throw a leaden ball to
the distance of a mile with surprising accuracy. The other was of
iron, and a little larger. Besides these, our party was well supplied
with small arms. The Americans mostly had their rifles and a musket in
addition, which {16} they carried in their wagons, always well charged
with ball and buckshot. Then my brother and myself were each provided
with one of Colt's repeating rifles, and a pair of pistols of the
same, so that we could, if necessary, carry thirty-six ready-loaded
shots apiece; which alone constituted a capacity of defence rarely
matched even on the Prairies.

Previous to our departure we had received a promise from the war
department of an escort of U.S. Dragoons, as far as the borders of the
Mexican territory; but, upon sending an express to Gen. Arbuckle at
Fort Gibson to that effect,[73] we were informed that in consequence
of some fresh troubles among the Cherokees, it was doubtful whether
the force could be spared in time. This was certainly no very
agreeable news, inasmuch as the escort would have been very
serviceable in assisting to search out a track over the unexplored
wilderness we had to pass. It was too late, however, to recede; and so
we resolved at all hazards to pursue our journey. [Pg106]

We had advanced beyond the furthest settlements of the Creeks
and Seminoles, and pitched our camp on a bright balmy evening, in the
border of a delightful prairie, when some of the young men, attracted
by the prospect of game, shouldered their rifles and wended their
steps through the dense forest which lay contiguous to our encampment.
Among those that went forth, there was one of the 'down-easters'
already mentioned, who was much more familiar with the interior of
{17} a city than of a wilderness forest. As the shades of evening were
beginning to descend, and all the hunters had returned except him,
several muskets and even our little field-pieces were fired, but
without effect. The night passed away, and the morning dawned upon the
encampment, and still he was absent. The firing was then renewed; but
soon after he was seen approaching, very sullen and dejected. He came
with a tale of perilous adventures and 'hair-breadth 'scapes' upon his
lips, which somewhat abated the storm of ridicule by which he was at
first assailed. It seemed that he had heard our firing on the previous
evening, but believed it to proceed from a contrary direction--a very
common mistake with persons who have become bewildered and lost. Thus
deceived and stimulated by the fear of Indians (from a party of whom
he supposed the firing to proceed), he continued his pathless
wanderings till dark, when, to render his situation still more
critical, he was attacked by a 'painter'--_anglicè_, panther--which he
actually succeeded in beating off with the breech of his gun, and then
betook himself to the topmost extremity of a tree, where, in order to
avoid a similar intrusion, he passed the remainder of the night. From
a peculiar odor with which the shattered gun was still redolent,
however, it was strongly suspected that the 'terrific painter' was not
many degrees removed, in affinity, from a----polecat.

We had just reached the extreme edge of {18} the far [Pg107] famed
'Cross Timbers,'[74] when we were gratified by the arrival of forty
dragoons, under the command of Lieut. Bowman, who had orders to
accompany us to the supposed boundary of the United States.[75] On the
same evening we had the pleasure of encamping together at a place
known as Camp Holmes, a wild romantic spot in latitude 35° 5′, and but
a mile north of the Canadian river. Just at hand there was a beautiful
spring, where, in 1835, Colonel Mason with a force of U. S. troops,
had a 'big talk' and still bigger 'smoke' with a party of Comanche and
Witchita Indians.[76] Upon the same site Col. Chouteau had also caused
to be erected not long after, a little stockade fort, where a
considerable trade was subsequently carried on with the Comanches and
other tribes of the southwestern prairies. The place had now been
abandoned, however, since the preceding winter.

From the Arkansas river to Chouteau's Fort, our route presented an
unbroken succession of grassy plains and fertile glades, intersected
here and there with woody belts and numerous rivulets, most of which,
however, are generally dry except during the rainy season. As far as
Camp Holmes, [Pg108] we had a passable wagon road, which was opened
upon the occasion of the Indian treaty before alluded to, and was
afterwards kept open by the Indian traders. Yet, notwithstanding the
road, this stretch gave us more trouble--presented more rugged passes,
miry ravines and steep {19} ascents--than all the rest of our journey
put together.

We had not been long at the Fort, before we received a visit from a
party of Comanches, who having heard of our approach came to greet us
a welcome, on the supposition that it was their friend Chouteau
returning to the fort with fresh supplies of merchandise. Great was
their grief when we informed them that their favorite trader had died
at Fort Gibson, the previous winter.[77] On visiting their wigwams and
inquiring for their _capitan_,[78] we were introduced to a corpulent,
squint-eyed old fellow, who certainly had nothing in his personal
appearance indicative of rank or dignity. This was Tábba-quena (or the
Big Eagle), a name familiar to all the Comanche traders. As we had
frequently heard that he spoke Spanish fluently, we at once prepared
ourselves for a social chit-chat; but, on accosting him in that
tongue, and inquiring whether he could talk Spanish, he merely replied
'_Poquito_,' putting at the same time his forefinger to his ear, to
signify that he merely understood a little--which proved true to a
degree, for our communication was chiefly [Pg109] by signs. We were
now about to launch upon an unknown region--our route lay henceforth
across that unexplored wilderness, of which I have so frequently
spoken, without either pilot or trail to guide us for nearly 500
miles. We had to depend entirely upon {20} our knowledge of the
geographical position of the country for which we were steering, and
the indications of a compass and sextant. This was emphatically a
pioneer trip; such a one also as had, perhaps, never before been
undertaken--to convey heavily laden wagons through a country almost
wholly untrod by civilized man, and of which _we_, at least, knew
nothing. We were therefore extremely anxious to acquire any
information our visitors might be able to give us; but Tábba-quena
being by no means experienced in wagon tactics, could only make us
understand, by gestures, mixed with a little wretched Spanish, that
the route up the Canadian presented no obstacles according to _his_
mode of travelling. He appeared, however, very well acquainted with
the whole Mexican frontier, from Santa Fé to Chihuahua, and even to
the Gulf, as well as with all the Prairies. During the consultation he
seemed occasionally to ask the opinions of other chiefs who had
huddled around him. Finally, we handed him a sheet of paper and a
pencil, signifying at the same time a desire that he would draw us a
map of the Prairies. This he very promptly executed; and although the
draft was somewhat rough, it bore, much to our astonishment, quite a
map-like appearance, with a far more accurate delineation of all the
principal rivers of the plains--the road from Missouri to Santa Fé,
and the different Mexican settlements, than is to be found in many of
the engraved maps of those regions.

{21}Tabba-quena's party consisted of about sixty persons, including
several squaws and papooses, with a few Kiawa chiefs and warriors,
who, although of a tribe so entirely distinct, are frequently found
domiciled among the Comanches. As we were about to break up the camp
they all started for [Pg110] Fort Gibson, for the purpose, as they
informed us, of paying a visit to the 'Capitan Grande'--a Spanish
phrase used by many prairie tribes, and applied, in their confused
notions of rank and power, not only to the President of the United
States himself, but to the seat of the federal government. These they
are again apt to confound with Fort Gibson and the commanding officer
of that station.

On the 18th of May, we set out from Chouteau's fort. From this forward
our wagons were marched in two lines and regularly 'formed' at every
camp, so as to constitute a fortification and a _corral_ for the
stock. This is different from the 'forming' of the large caravans. The
two front wagons are driven up, side by side, with their 'tails' a
little inclined outward. About half of the rest are drawn up in the
same manner, but each stopped with the fore-wheel a little back of the
hind-wheel of the next ahead. The remainder are similarly brought up,
but inclined inward behind, so as nearly to close again at the rear of
the pen; leaving a gap through which to introduce the stock. Thus the
_corral_ remains of an ovate form. After the drivers become expert the
whole is performed in a very short time.

{22}On the following day we were again joined by old Tabba-quena, and
another Comanche chief, with five or six warriors, and as many squaws,
including Tab's wife and infant son. As we were jogging along in the
afternoon, I held quite a long conversation in our semi-mute language
with the squinting old chief. He gave me to understand, as well as he
could, that his comrades[79] had proceeded on their journey to see the
Capitan Grande, but that he had concluded to return home for better
horses. He boasted in no measured terms of his friendship for the
Americans, and [Pg111] promised to exert his influence to prevent
turbulent and unruly spirits of his nation from molesting us. But he
could not disguise his fears in regard to the Pawnees and Osages, who,
he said, would be sure to run off with our stock while we were asleep
at night. When I informed him that we kept a strict night-watch, he
said, "_Está bueno_" (that's good), and allowed that our chances for
safety were not so bad after all.

These friendly Indians encamped with us that night, and on the
following morning the old chief informed us that some of his party had
a few "mulas para _swap_" (mules to trade; for having learned the word
_swap_ of some American traders, he very ingeniously tacked it at the
tail of his little stock of Spanish). A barter of five mules was
immediately concluded {23} upon, much to our advantage, as our teams
were rather in a weak condition. Old Tab and his party then left us to
join his band, which, he said, was located on the Faux Ouachittâ
river, and we never saw aught of them more.[80]

After leaving the Fort we generally kept on the ridge between the
Canadian and the North Fork, crossing sometimes the tributary brooks
of the one and sometimes those of the others. Having travelled in this
manner for about eighty miles, we entered one of the most charming
prairie vales that I have ever beheld, and which in the plenitude of
our enthusiasm, we named 'Spring Valley,' on account of the numerous
spring-fed rills and gurgling rivulets that greeted the sight in every
direction;[81] in whose limpid pools swarms of trout and perch were
carelessly playing. Much of the country, indeed, over which we had
passed was somewhat of a similar character--yet nowhere quite so
beautiful. I must premise, however, that westward of this, it [Pg112]
is only the valleys immediately bordering the streams that are at all
fit for cultivation: the high plains are too dry and sandy. But here
the soil was dark and mellow, and the rich vegetation with which it
was clothed plainly indicated its fertility. 'Spring Valley' gently
inclines towards the North Fork, which was at the distance of about
five miles from our present route. It was somewhere along the border
of this enchanting vale that a little picket fort was erected in {24}
1822, by an unfortunate trader named McKnight, who was afterwards
betrayed and murdered by the faithless Comanches.[82] The landscape is
beautifully variegated with stripes and fringes of timber: while the
little herds of buffalo that were scattered about in fantastic groups
imparted a degree of life and picturesqueness to the scene, which it
was truly delightful to contemplate.

It was three days previous that we had first met with these 'prairie
cattle.' I have often heard backwoodsmen speak of the 'buck ague,' but
commend me to the 'buffalo fever' of the Prairies for novelty and
amusement. Very few of our party had ever seen a buffalo before in its
wild state; therefore at the first sight of these noble animals the
excitement surpassed anything I had ever witnessed before. Some of our
dragoons, in their eagerness for sport, had managed to frighten away a
small herd that were quietly feeding at some distance, before our
'still hunters,' who had crawled towards them, had been able to get
within rifle-shot of them. No sooner were the movements of our mounted
men perceived, than the whole extent of country, as far as the eye
could reach, became perfectly animate with living objects, fleeing and
scampering in every direction. From the surrounding valleys sprang up
numerous herds of these animals which had hitherto been unobserved,
many of which, in their indiscriminate flight, passed so near the
wagons, that the [Pg113] drivers, carried away by the contagious
excitement of {25} the moment, would leave the teams and keep up a
running fire after them. I had the good fortune to witness the
exploits of one of our Northern greenhorns, who, mounted upon a
sluggish mule, and without any kind of weapon, amused himself by
chasing every buffalo that came scudding along, as if he expected to
capture him by laying hold of his tail. Plying spur and whip, he would
gallop after one division till he was left far behind: and then turn
to another and another, with the same earnestness of purpose, until
they had all passed out of sight. He finally came back disheartened
and sullen, with his head hanging down like one conscious of having
done something supremely ridiculous; but still cursing his lazy mule,
which, he said, might have caught the buffalo, if it had had a mind
to.

The next day the buffalo being still more numerous, the chase was
renewed with greater zest. In the midst of the general hurly-burly
which ensued, three persons on foot were perceived afar off, chasing
one herd of buffalo and then another, until they completely
disappeared. These were two of our cooks, the one armed with a pistol,
the other with a musket, accompanied by Chuly (the Creek), who was
happily provided with a rifle. We travelled several miles without
hearing or seeing anything of them. At last, when we had almost given
them up for lost, Frank, the French cook, came trudging in, and his
rueful countenance was no bad index of the {26} doleful tale he had to
relate. Although he had been chasing and shooting all day, he had, as
he expressed it, "no killet one," till eventually he happened to
stumble upon a wounded calf, which he boldly attacked; but as ill luck
would have it, the youngster took it into his head to give him battle.
"Foutre de varment! he butt me down," exclaimed the exasperated
Frenchman,--"Sacré! me plentee scart; but me kill him for all." Chuly
and the [Pg114] other cook came in soon after, in equally dejected
spirits; for, in addition to his ill luck in hunting, the latter had
been lost. The Indian had perhaps killed buffalo with his rifle, but
he was in no humor to be communicative in his language of signs; so
nothing was ever known of his adventures. One thing seemed pretty
certain, that they were all cured of the 'buffalo fever.'

On the night after the first buffalo scamper, we encamped upon a
woodless ravine, and were obliged to resort to 'buffalo chips' (dry
ordure) for fuel. It is amusing to witness the bustle which generally
takes place in collecting this offal. In dry weather it is an
excellent substitute for wood, than which it even makes a hotter fire;
but when moistened by rain, the smouldering pile will smoke for hours
before it condescends to burn, if it does at all. The buffalo meat
which the hunter roasts or broils upon this fire, he accounts more
savory than the steaks dressed by the most delicate cooks in civilized
life.

FOOTNOTES:

[68] Chapter i of volume ii of the original edition.--ED.

[69] It is said that Major Long first chose the site of Van Buren for
the fort afterwards erected at Bellepoint, five miles higher up the
river, and known as Fort Smith--see our volume xiii, p. 197, note 166.
The site was not occupied until after the removal of the Cherokee in
1828; the next year it was made a post-office, and in 1838 the seat
for Crawford County, Arkansas. For two decades Van Buren was a
prosperous frontier town, the home of a large Indian trade. Since the
War of Secession it has not regained its prestige.--ED.

[70] The caravan crossed the Arkansas, between the embouchment of the
Illinois and Canadian rivers, in what is now the Cherokee Nation,
Indian Territory.--ED.

[71] The North Fork of the Canadian unites with the main stream on the
boundary between the Creek and Cherokee nations. The Creek town of
Eufaula is near the site mentioned by Gregg.--ED.

[72] James Kirker, known to the Mexicans as Santiago Querque, was an
American who led an adventurous life upon the plains. Like several
others he embarked in Apache warfare for the government of Chihuahua;
and was accused, probably unjustly, of cheating in the delivery of
scalps. He retired in bad humor to his hacienda in Sonora; later
removing to California, where he died about 1853. See Kendall, _Texan
Santa Fé Expedition_, ii, pp. 57-59.--ED.

[73] Matthew Arbuckle was the son of a Virginia pioneer of the same
name, who participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. The
son was born in 1776, and entered the regular army at the age of
twenty-three, passing through all of the grades until in 1830 he was,
for meritorious services, breveted brigadier-general. He died at Fort
Smith June 11, 1851.

Fort Gibson was erected in 1824 on the left bank of Neosho River, near
its mouth. The western boundary of Arkansas was in 1825 removed forty
miles to the west, so that this military post fell within its border.
Later (1830), the boundary was again replaced at the original limits,
whereupon Fort Gibson fell into Cherokee territory. Several unavailing
efforts were made (1834-38) to have the garrison removed to Fort
Smith; and after numerous protests by the Cherokee against its
maintenance within their borders, Fort Gibson was finally abandoned in
1857.--ED.

[74] For the description of the belt of woodland known as Cross
Timbers, see _post_, p. 253.--ED.

[75] Lieutenant James Monroe Bowman entered the West Point military
academy from Pennsylvania, was made lieutenant in the mounted rangers
in 1832, and transferred to the dragoons in 1833. For his death (July
21, 1839), see _post_.--ED.

[76] Camp Holmes was at the site later occupied by Fort Holmes, in the
Creek Nation, near its western boundary. In 1849 there was no
habitation at this place; see _Senate Doc._, 31 Cong., 1 sess., 12.

Richard Barnes Mason was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1797; at
the age of twenty he entered the army as lieutenant, two years later
(1819) became captain, and in 1833 major of the 1st dragoons. He was
lieutenant-colonel in 1836, colonel in 1846, and brigadier-general two
years later, dying at St. Louis in 1850. He served in the Black Hawk
War, and was first military and civil governor of California.

For the Comanche, see our volume xvi, p. 233, note 109. For the
Wichita, also called Pawnee Picts, _ibid._, p. 95, note 55.

The treaty here alluded to was signed at Camp Holmes, August 24, 1835.
If Colonel Mason was present it was in a subordinate capacity, as
General Arbuckle and Montford Stokes were the federal commissioners.
The treaty was one of peace and friendship between the Comanche,
Wichita, and associated bands on the one part, and the tribes recently
removed to the vicinity--Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, etc.--on the other,
the government commissioners acting as mediators.--ED.

[77] Auguste Pierre Chouteau, eldest son of the senior Pierre (for
whom see our volume xvi, p. 275, note 127) and brother of Pierre
(cadet), so well known in connection with the Missouri Fur Company,
was born at St. Louis in 1786. After being educated at West Point, he
entered the army, where he was ensign of the 1st infantry. In 1809, he
resigned, married his cousin Sophie Labadie, and embarked in the fur
trade, in which he had charge of the Arkansas branch of the business
until his death at Fort Gibson.--ED.

[78] Most of the prairie Indians seem to have learned this Spanish
word, by which, when talking with the whites, all their chiefs are
designated.--GREGG.

[79] Some of these (principally Kiawas, as I afterwards learned),
reached Fort Gibson, and received a handsome reward of government
presents for their visit.--GREGG.

[80] For this stream, see our volume xvi, p. 138, note 66.--ED.

[81] In Oklahoma, probably not far from the present town of that
name.--ED.

[82] See our volume xix, p. 176, note 13 (Gregg).--ED.



CHAPTER XVIII {II}

Travelling out of our Latitude -- The Buffalo-gnat -- A Kiawa and
  Squaw -- Indian _crim. con._ Affair -- Extraordinary Mark of
  Confidence in the White Man -- A Conflagration -- An Espy Shower --
  Region of Gypsum -- Our Latitude -- A Lilliputian Forest -- A Party
  of Comanches -- A Visit to a 'Dog Town' -- Indian Archery -- Arrival
  of Comanche Warriors -- A 'Big Talk,' and its Results -- Speech of
  the _Capitan Mayor_ -- Project of bringing Comanche Chiefs to
  Washington -- Return of Lieut. Bowman, and our March resumed --
  Melancholy Reflections -- Another Indian Visit -- Mexican Captives
  -- Voluntary Captivity -- A sprightly Mexican Lad -- Purchase of a
  Captive -- Comanche Trade and Etiquette -- Indians least dangerous
  to such as trade with them.


As it now appeared that we had been forced at least two points north
of the course we had originally intended to steer, by the northern
bearing of the Canadian, we made an effort to cross a ridge of timber
to the south, which, after considerable labor, proved successful. Here
we found a [Pg115] multitude of gravelly, bright-flowing streams,
with rich bottoms, lined all along with stately white oak,
black-walnut, mulberry, and other similar growths, that yielded us
excellent materials for wagon repairs, of which the route from
Missouri, after passing Council Grove, is absolutely in want.

{28} Although we found the buffalo extremely scarce westward of Spring
Valley, yet there was no lack of game; for every nook and glade
swarmed with deer and wild turkeys, partridges and grouse. We had also
occasion to become acquainted with another species of prairie-tenant
whose visits generally produced impressions that were anything but
agreeable. I allude to a small black insect generally known to prairie
travellers as the 'buffalo-gnat.' It not only attacks the face and
hands, but even contrives to insinuate itself under the clothing, upon
the breast and arms, and other covered parts. Here it fastens itself
and luxuriates, until completely satisfied. Its bite is so poisonous
as to give the face, neck, and hands, or any other part of the person
upon which its affectionate caresses have been bestowed, the
appearance of a pustulated varioloid. The buffalo-gnat is in fact a
much more annoying insect than the mosquito, and also much more
frequently met with on the prairie streams.

We now continued our line of march between the Canadian and the
timbered ridge with very little difficulty. Having stopped to 'noon'
in a bordering valley, we were quite surprised by the appearance of an
Indian with no other protection than his squaw. From what we could
gather by their signs, they had been the victims of a 'love scrape.'
The fellow, whom I found to be a Kiawa, had, according to his own
account, stolen the wife of another, and then fled to the thickets,
{29} where he purposed to lead a lonely life, in hopes of escaping the
vengeance of his incensed predecessor. From this, it would appear that
affairs of gallantry are not [Pg116] evils exclusively confined to
civilization. Plausible, however, as the Indian's story seemed to be,
we had strong suspicions that others of his band were not far off; and
that he, with his 'better half,' had only been skulking about in hopes
of exercising their 'acquisitiveness' at our expense; when, on finding
themselves discovered, they deemed it the best policy fearlessly to
approach us. This singular visit afforded a specimen of that
confidence with which civilization inspires even the most untutored
savages. They remained with us, in the utmost nonchalance, till the
following morning.

Shortly after the arrival of the visitors, we were terribly alarmed at
a sudden prairie conflagration. The old grass of the valley in which
we were encamped had not been burned off, and one of our cooks having
unwittingly kindled a fire in the midst of it, it spread at once with
wonderful rapidity; and a brisk wind springing up at the time, the
flames were carried over the valley, in spite of every effort we could
make to check them. Fortunately for us, the fire had broken out to the
leeward of our wagons, and therefore occasioned us no damage; but the
accident itself was a forcible illustration of the danger that might
be incurred by pitching a camp in the midst of dry grass, and the
advantages {30} that might be taken by hostile savages in such a
locality.

After the fire had raged with great violence for a few hours, a cloud
suddenly obscured the horizon, which was almost immediately followed
by a refreshing shower of rain: a phenomenon often witnessed upon the
Prairies after an extensive conflagration; and affording a practical
exemplification of Professor Espy's celebrated theory of artificial
showers.[83] [Pg117]

We now continued our journey without further trouble, except
that of being still forced out of our proper latitude by the northern
bearing of the Canadian. On the 30th of May, however, we succeeded in
'doubling' the spur of the Great North Bend.[84] Upon ascending the
dividing ridge again, which at this point was entirely destitute of
timber, a 'prairie expanse' once more greeted our view. This and the
following day, our route lay through a region that abounded in gypsum,
from the finest quality down to ordinary plaster. On the night of the
31st we encamped on a tributary of the North Fork, which we called
Gypsum creek, in consequence of its being surrounded with vast
quantities of that substance.[85]

Being compelled to keep a reckoning of our latitude, by which our
travel was partly governed, and the sun being now too high at noon for
the use of the artificial horizon, we had to be guided entirely by
observations of the meridian altitude of the moon, planets, or {31}
fixed stars. At Gypsum creek our latitude was 36° 10′--being the
utmost northing we had made. As we were now about thirty miles north
of the parallel of Santa Fé, we had to steer, henceforth, a few
degrees south of west in order to bring up on our direct course.

The following night we encamped in a region covered with sandy
hillocks, where there was not a drop of water to be found: in fact, an
immense sand-plain was now opening before us, somewhat variegated in
appearance, [Pg118] being entirely barren of vegetation in some
places, while others were completely covered with an extraordinarily
diminutive growth which has been called _shin-oak_, and a curious
plum-bush of equally dwarfish stature. These singular-looking plants
(undistinguishable at a distance from the grass of the prairies) were
heavily laden with acorns and plums, which, when ripe, are of
considerable size although the trunks of either were seldom thicker
than oat-straws, and frequently not a foot high. We also met with the
same in many other places on the Prairies.

Still the most indispensable requisite, water, was nowhere to be
found, and symptoms of alarm were beginning to spread far and wide
among us. When we had last seen the Canadian and the North Fork, they
appeared to separate in their course almost at right angles, therefore
it was impossible to tell at what distance we were from either. At
last {32} my brother and myself, who had been scouring the plains
during the morning without success, finally perceived a deep hollow
leading in the direction of the Canadian, where we found a fine pool
of water, and our wagons 'made port' again before mid-day; thus
quieting all alarm.

Although we had encountered but very few buffalo since we left Spring
Valley, they now began to make their appearance again, though not in
very large droves; together with the deer and the fleet antelope,
which latter struck me as being much more tame in this wild section of
the Prairies than I had seen it elsewhere. The graceful and majestic
mustang would also now and then sweep across the naked country, or
come curvetting and capering in the vicinity of our little caravan,
just as the humor prompted him. But what attracted our attention most
were the little dog settlements, or, as they are more technically
called, 'dog towns,' so often alluded to by prairie travellers. As we
were passing through their 'streets,' multitudes of the diminutive
inhabitants [Pg119] were to be seen among the numerous little
hillocks which marked their dwellings, where they frisked about, or
sat perched at their doors, yelping defiance, to our great
amusement--heedless of the danger that often awaited them from the
rifles of our party; for they had perhaps never seen such deadly
weapons before.

On the 5th of June, we found ourselves once more travelling on a firm
rolling prairie, {33} about the region, as we supposed,[86] of the
boundary between the United States and Mexico; when Lieut. Bowman, in
pursuance of his instructions, began to talk seriously of returning.
While the wagons were stopped at noon, a small party of us, including
a few dragoons, advanced some miles ahead to take a survey of the
route. We had just ascended the highest point of a ridge to get a
prospect of the country beyond, when we descried a herd of buffalo in
motion and two or three horsemen in hot pursuit. "Mexican Ciboleros!"
we all exclaimed at once; for we supposed we might now be within the
range of the buffalo hunters of New Mexico. Clapping spurs to our
horses, we set off towards them at full speed. As we might have
expected, our precipitate approach frightened them away and we soon
lost sight of them altogether. On reaching the spot where they had
last been seen, we found a horse and two mules saddled, all tied to
the carcass of a slain buffalo which was partly skinned. We made
diligent search in some copses of small growth, and among the adjacent
ravines, but could discover no further traces of the fugitives. The
Indian rigging of the animals, however, satisfied us that they were
not Mexicans.

We were just about giving up the pursuit, when a solitary Indian
horseman was espied upon a ridge about a mile from [Pg120] us. My
{34} brother and myself set out towards him, but on seeing us
approach, he began to manifest some fear, and therefore my brother
advanced alone. As soon as he was near enough he cried out "_Amigo!_"
to which the Indian replied "_Comantz!_" and giving himself a thump
upon the breast, he made a graceful circuit, and came up at full
speed, presenting his hand in token of friendship. Nothing, however,
could induce him to return to his animals with us, where the rest of
our party had remained. He evidently feared treachery and foul play.
Therefore we retraced our steps to the wagons, leaving the Indian's
property just as we had found it, which, we subsequently discovered,
was taken away after our departure.

In the afternoon of the same day, five more Indians (including a
squaw), made their appearance, and having been induced by friendly
tokens to approach us, they spent the night at our encampment. The
next morning, we expressed a desire, by signs, to be conducted to the
nearest point on our route where good pasturage and water might be
found. A sprightly young chief, armed only with his bow and arrows, at
once undertook the task, while his comrades still travelled along in
our company. We had not progressed far before we found ourselves in
the very midst of another large 'dog-town.'

The task of describing the social and domestic habits of these
eccentric little brutes, has been so graphically and amusingly
executed {35} by the racy and popular pen of G. Wilkins Kendall, that
any attempt by me would be idle; and I feel that the most agreeable
service I can do my readers is to borrow a paragraph from his alluring
"Narrative," describing a scene presented by one of these prairie
commonwealths.[87] [Pg121]

"In their habits they are clannish, social, and extremely
convivial, never living alone like other animals, but, on the
contrary, always found in villages or large settlements. They are a
wild, frolicsome, madcap set of fellows when undisturbed, uneasy and
ever on the move, and appear to take especial delight in chattering
away the time, and visiting from hole to hole to gossip and talk over
each other's affairs--at least so their actions would indicate.... On
several occasions I crept close to their villages, without being
observed, to watch their movements. Directly in the centre of one of
them I particularly noticed a very large dog, sitting in front of the
door or entrance to his burrow, and by his own actions and those of
his neighbors it really seemed as though he was the president, mayor,
or chief--at all events, he was the 'big dog' of the place. For at
least an hour I secretly watched the operations in this community.
During that time the large dog I have mentioned received at least a
dozen visits from his fellow-dogs, which would stop and chat with him
a few moments, and then run off to their domiciles. All this while he
never left his post for a moment, and I thought I could discover a
gravity in his deportment {36} not discernible in those by which he
was surrounded. Far is it from me to say that the visits he received
were upon business, or had anything to do with the local government of
the village; but it certainly appeared so. If any animal has a system
of laws regulating the body politic, it is certainly the prairie dog."

As we sat on our horses, looking at these 'village transactions,' our
Comanche guide drew an arrow for the purpose of cutting short the
career of a little citizen that sat yelping most doggedly in the mouth
of his hole, forty or fifty paces distant. The animal was almost
entirely concealed behind the hillock which encompassed the entrance
of his apartment, so that the dart could not reach it in a [Pg122]
direct line; but the Indian had resort to a manœuvre which caused the
arrow to descend with a curve, and in an instant it quivered in the
body of the poor little quadruped. The slayer only smiled at his feat,
while we were perfectly astounded. There is nothing strange in the
rifleman's being able to hit his mark with his fine-sighted barrel;
but the accuracy with which these savages learn to shoot their
feathered missiles, with such random aim, is almost incomprehensible.
I had at the same time drawn one of Colt's repeating pistols, with a
view of paying a similar compliment to another dog; when, finding that
it excited the curiosity of the chief, I fired a few shots in quick
succession, as an explanation of its virtues. He seemed to {37}
comprehend the secret instantly, and, drawing his bow once more, he
discharged a number of arrows with the same rapidity, as a palpable
intimation that he could shoot as fast with his instrument as we could
with our patent fire-arms. This was not merely a vain show: there was
more of reality than of romance in his demonstration.

Shortly after this we reached a fresh brook, a tributary of the North
Fork, which wound its silent course in the midst of a picturesque
valley, surrounded by romantic hills and craggy knobs. Here we pitched
our camp: when three of our visitors left us for the purpose of going
to bring all the 'capitanes' of their tribe, who were said to be
encamped at no great distance from us.

Our encampment, which we designated as 'Camp Comanche,' was only five
or six miles from the North Fork, while, to the southward, the main
Canadian was but a little more distant.[88]

[Illustration: Camp Comanche]

After waiting anxiously for the arrival of the Comanche chiefs, until
our patience was well nigh exhausted, I ascended [Pg125] a high
knoll just behind our camp, in company with the younger of the two
chiefs who had remained with us, to see if anything could be
discovered. By and by, the Comanche pointed anxiously towards the
northwest, where he espied a party of his people, though at such a
great distance, that it was some time before I could discern them.
With what acuteness of vision are these savages endowed! Accustomed
{38} to the open plains, and like the eagle to look out for their prey
at immense distances, their optical perception is scarcely excelled by
that of the king of birds.

The party, having approached still nearer, assembled upon an eminence
as if for the purpose of reconnoitring; but our chief upon the knoll
hoisting his blanket, which seemed to say, 'come ahead,' they advanced
slowly and deliberately--very unlike the customary mode of approach
among all the prairie tribes.

The party consisted of about sixty warriors, at the head of whom rode
an Indian of small stature and agreeable countenance, verging on the
age of fifty. He wore the usual Comanche dress, but instead of
moccasins, he had on a pair of long white cotton hose, while upon his
bare head waved a tall red plume,--a mark of distinction which
proclaimed him at once the _capitan mayor_, or principal chief. We
addressed them in Spanish, inquiring if they had brought an
interpreter, when a lank-jawed, grum-looking savage announced his
readiness to officiate in that capacity. "_Sabes hablar en Español,
amigo?_" (can you talk Spanish, friend?) I inquired. "_Si_" (yes), he
gruffly replied. "Where are your people?" "Encamped just above on
yonder creek." "How many of you are there?" "Oh, a great many--nearly
all the Comanche nation; for we are _en junta_ to go and fight the
Pawnees." "Well, can you tell us how far it is to Santa Fé?"--But the
surly savage cut short my inquiries by observing--{39} "_Ahí
platícarémos despues_"--"We will talk about that hereafter." [Pg126]

We then showed them a spot a few rods from us, where they might encamp
so as not to intermix their animals with ours; after which all the
_capitanes_ were invited to our camp to hold a 'big talk.' In a very
short time we had ten chiefs seated in a circle within our tent, when
the pipe, the Indian token of peace, was produced: but, doubting
perhaps the sincerity of our professions, they at first refused to
smoke. The interpreter, however, remarked as an excuse for their
conduct, that it was not their custom to smoke until they had received
some presents: but a few Mexican _cigarritos_ being produced, most of
them took a whiff, as if under the impression that to smoke cigars was
no pledge of friendship.

Lieut. Bowman now desired us to broach the subject of peace and amity
betwixt the Comanches and our people, and to invite them to visit the
'Capitan Grande' at Washington, and enter into a perpetual treaty to
that effect; but they would not then converse on the subject. In fact,
the interpreter inquired, "Are we not at war?--how can we go to see
the Capitan Grande?" We knew they held themselves at war with Mexico
and Texas, and probably had mistaken us for Texans, which had no doubt
caused the interpreter to speak so emphatically of their immense
numbers. Upon this we explained to them that the United States was a
distinct government {40} and at peace with the Comanches. As an
earnest of our friendly disposition, we then produced some scarlet
cloth, with a small quantity of vermilion, tobacco, beads, etc., which
being distributed among them, they very soon settled down into a state
of placidness and contentment. Indeed, it will be found, that, with
wild Indians, presents are always the corner-stone of friendship. "We
are rejoiced," at last said the elder chief with a ceremonious air,
"our hearts are glad that you have arrived among us: it makes our eyes
laugh to see Americans walk in our land. We will notify our old and
young men--our boys [Pg127] and our maidens--our women and
children,--that they may come to trade with you. We hope you will
speak well of us to your people, that more of them may hunt the way to
our country, for we like to trade with the white man." This was
delivered in Comanche, but translated into Spanish by the interpreter,
who, although a full Indian, had lived several years among the
Mexicans and spoke that language tolerably well. Our 'big talk' lasted
several hours, after which the Indians retired to sleep. The next
morning, after renewing their protestations of friendship, they took
their departure, the principal chief saying, "Tell the Capitan Grande
that when he pleases to call us we are all ready to go to see him."

The project of bringing some of the chiefs of these wild prairie
tribes to Washington city, has been entertained, but never yet carried
{41} into effect. The few who have penetrated as far as Fort Gibson,
or perhaps to a frontier village, have probably left with more
unfavorable impressions than they had before. Believing the former to
be our great Capital, and the most insignificant among the latter, our
largest cities, they have naturally come to the conclusion that they
surpass us in numbers and power, if not in wealth and grandeur. I have
no doubt that the chiefs of the Comanches and other prairie tribes, if
rightly managed, might be induced to visit our veritable 'Capitan
Grande,' and our large cities, which would doubtless have a far better
effect than all the treaties of peace that could be concluded with
them for an age to come. They would then 'see with their own eyes and
hear with their own ears' the magnificence and power of the whites,
which would inspire them at once with respect and fear.

This was on the 7th of June. About noon, Lieut. Bowman and his command
finally took leave of us, and at the same time we resumed our forward
march. This separation was [Pg128] truly painful: not so much on
account of the loss we were about to experience, in regard to the
protection afforded us by the troops (which, to say the truth, was
more needed now than it had ever been before), as for the necessity of
parting with a friend, who had endeared himself to us all by his
affable deportment, his social manners and accommodating disposition.
Ah! little did we think then that we should never see that gallant
officer more! {42} So young, so robust, and so healthy, little did we
suspect that the sound of that voice which shouted so vigorously in
responding to our parting salute in the desert, would never greet our
ears again! But such was Fate's decree! Although he arrived safely at
Fort Gibson, in a few short weeks he fell a victim to disease.

There were perhaps a few timid hearts that longed to return with the
dragoons, and ever and anon a wistful glance would be cast back at the
receding figures in the distance. The idea of a handful of thirty-four
men having to travel without guide or protection through a dreary
wilderness, peopled by thousands of savages who were just as likely to
be hostile as friendly, was certainly very little calculated to
produce agreeable impressions. Much to the credit of our men, however,
the escort was no sooner out of sight than the timorous regained
confidence, and all seemed bound together by stronger ties than
before. All we feared were ambuscades or surprise; to guard against
which, it was only necessary to redouble our vigilance.

On the following day, while we were enjoying our noon's rest upon a
ravine of the Canadian, several parties of Indians, amounting
altogether to about three hundred souls, including women and children,
made their appearance. They belonged to the same band of Comanches
with whom we had had so agreeable an intercourse, and had brought
several mules in the expectation of driving a trade with us. The
squaws and papooses {43} were so anxious to gratify their [Pg129]
curiosity, and so very soon began to give such striking manifestations
of their pilfering propensities, that, at the request of the chiefs,
we carried some goods at a little distance, where a trade was opened,
in hopes of attracting their attention. One woman, I observed, still
lingered among the wagons, who, from certain peculiarities of
features, struck me very forcibly as not being an Indian. In
accordance with this impression I addressed her in Spanish, and was
soon confirmed in all my suspicions. She was from the neighborhood of
Matamoros, and had been married to a Comanche since her captivity. She
did not entertain the least desire of returning to her own people.

Similar instances of voluntary captivity have frequently occurred. Dr.
Sibley, in a communication to the War Department, in 1805, relates an
affecting case, which shows how a sensitive female will often prefer
remaining with her masters, rather than encounter the horrible ordeal
of ill-natured remarks to which she would inevitably be exposed on
being restored to civilized life.[89] The Comanches, some twenty years
previous, having kidnapped the daughter of the Governor-General of
Chihuahua, the latter transmitted $1000 to a trader to procure her
ransom. This was soon effected, but to the astonishment of all
concerned, the unfortunate girl refused to leave the Indians. She sent
word to her father, that they had disfigured her by tattooing; that
she was married and perhaps _enceinte_; {44} and that she would be
more unhappy by returning to her father under these circumstances than
by remaining where she was.

My attention was next attracted by a sprightly lad, ten or twelve
years old, whose nationality could scarcely be detected under his
Indian guise. But, though quite 'Indianized,' he was exceedingly
polite. I inquired of him in Spanish, [Pg130] "Are you not a
Mexican?" "Yes, sir,--I once was." "What is your name?" "Bernardino
Saenz, sir, at your service." "When and where were you taken?" "About
four years ago, at the Hacienda de las Animas, near Parral." "Shan't
we buy you and take you to your people?--we are going thither." At
this he hesitated a little, and then answered in an affecting tone,
"_No, señor; ya soy demasiado bruto para vivir entre los Cristianos_"
(O, no, sir; I am now too much of a brute to live among Christians);
adding that his owner was not there, and that he knew the Indian in
whose charge he came would not sell him.

The Hacienda de las Animas is in the department of Chihuahua, some
fifteen miles from the city of Parral, a much larger place than Santa
Fé. Notwithstanding this, about three hundred Comanches made a bold
inroad into the very heart of the settlements--laid waste the
unfortunate hacienda, killing and capturing a considerable number--and
remained several days in the neighborhood, committing all sorts of
outrages. This occurred in 1835. I happened to be in Chihuahua {45} at
the time, and very well remember the bustle and consternation that
prevailed. A thousand volunteers were raised, commanded by the
governor himself, who 'hotly pursued' the enemy during their tardy
retreat; but returned with the usual report--"_No les pudimos
alcanzar_,"--we could not overtake them.

Out of half a dozen Mexican captives that happened to be with our new
visitors, we only met with one who manifested the slightest
inclination to abandon Indian life. This was a stupid boy about
fifteen years of age, who had probably been roughly treated on account
of his laziness. We very soon struck a bargain with his owner, paying
about the price of a mule for the little outcast, whom I sent to his
family as soon as we reached Chihuahua. Notwithstanding the [Pg131]
inherent stupidity of my _protégé_, I found him abundantly
grateful--much to his credit be it spoken--for the little service I
had been able to render him.

We succeeded in purchasing several mules which cost us between ten and
twenty dollars worth of goods apiece. In Comanche trade the main
trouble consists in fixing the price of the first animal. This being
settled by the chiefs, it often happens that mule after mule is led up
and the price received without further cavil. Each owner usually wants
a general assortment; therefore the price must consist of several
items, as a blanket, a looking-glass, an awl, a flint, a little
tobacco, vermillion, beads, etc.

Our trade with the new batch of Comanches {46} being over, they now
began to depart as they had come, in small parties, without bidding us
adieu, or even informing us of their intention, it being the usual
mode of taking leave among Indians, to depart _sans cérémonie_, and as
silently as possible.

The Santa Fé caravans have generally avoided every manner of trade
with the wild Indians, for fear of being treacherously dealt with
during the familiar intercourse which necessarily ensues. This I am
convinced is an erroneous impression; for I have always found, that
savages are much less hostile to those with whom they trade, than to
any other people. They are emphatically fond of traffic, and, being
anxious to encourage the whites to come among them, instead of
committing depredations upon those with whom they trade, they are
generally ready to defend them against every enemy.



CHAPTER XIX {III}

Ponds and Buffalo Wallows -- Valley of the Canadian, and romantic
  Freaks of Nature -- Melancholy Adventure of a Party of Traders in
  1832 -- Fears of being lost -- Arrival of a Party of _Comancheros_,
  and their wonderful Stories -- Their Peculiarities and Traffic --
  Bitter Water, and the _Salitre_ of New Mexico -- Avant-couriers for
  Santa Fé -- Patent Fire-arms and their Virtues -- Ranchero Ideas of
  Distance, and their Mode of giving Directions -- The Angostura, and
  erroneous Notions of the Texans -- A new Route revealed -- Solitary
  Travel -- Supply of Provisions sent back -- Arrival at Santa Fé --
  Gov. Armijo, etc. -- A 'Flare-up' with His Excellency.


The Comanches having all disappeared, we resumed our march, and soon
emerged into an open plain or _mesa_ which was one of the most
monotonous I had ever seen, there being not a break, not a hill nor
valley, nor even a shrub to obstruct the view. The only thing which
served to turn us from a direct course pursued by the compass, was the
innumerable ponds which bespeckled the plain, and which kept us at
least well supplied with water. Many of these ponds seem to have grown
out of 'buffalo wallows,'--a term used on the Prairies to designate a
sink made by the buffalo's pawing the earth for the purpose of
obtaining a smooth dusty surface to roll upon.

{48} After three or four days of weary travel over this level plain,
the picturesque valley of the Canadian burst once more upon our view,
presenting one of the most magnificent sights I had ever beheld. Here
rose a perpendicular cliff, in all the majesty and sublimity of its
desolation;--there another sprang forward as in the very act of losing
its balance and about to precipitate itself upon the vale below;--a
little further on, a pillar with crevices and cornices so curiously
formed as easily to be mistaken for the work of art; while a thousand
other objects grotesquely and fantastically arranged, and all shaded
in the sky-bound perspective by the blue ridge-like brow of the _mesa_
far beyond the Canadian, [Pg133] constituted a kind of chaotic space
where nature seemed to have indulged in her wildest caprices. Such was
the confusion of ground-swells and eccentric cavities, that it was
altogether impossible to determine whereabouts the channel of the
Canadian wound its way among them.

It would seem that these mesas might once have extended up to the
margin of the stream, leaving a _cañon_ or chasm through which the
river flowed, as is still the case in some other places. But the basis
of the plain not having been sufficiently firm to resist the action of
the waters, these have washed and cut the bordering _cejas_ or brows
into all the shapes they now present. The buffalo and other animals
have no doubt assisted in these transmutations. Their deep-worn paths
over the {49} brows of the plains, form channels for the descending
rains; which are soon washed into the size of ravines--and even
considerable creeks. The beds of these continue to be worn down until
veins of lasting water are opened, and constant-flowing streams thus
established. Numerous were the embryo rivulets which might be observed
forming in this way along the borders of those streams. The frequent
isolated benches and mounds, whose tabular summits are on a level with
the adjacent plains, and appear entirely of a similar formation,
indicate that the intermediate earth has been washed away, or removed
by some other process of nature--all seeming to give plausibility to
our theory.

It was somewhere in this vicinity that a small party of Americans
experienced a terrible calamity in the winter of 1832-3, on their way
home; and as the incident had the tendency to call into play the most
prominent features of the Indian character, I will digress so far here
as to relate the facts.

The party consisted of twelve men, chiefly citizens of Missouri. Their
baggage and about ten thousand dollars in specie were packed upon
mules. They took the route of [Pg134] the Canadian river, fearing to
venture on the northern prairies at that season of the year. Having
left Santa Fé in December, they had proceeded without accident thus
far, when a large body of Comanches and Kiawas were seen advancing
towards them. Being well acquainted with the treacherous and
pusillanimous {50} disposition of those races, the traders prepared at
once for defence; but the savages having made a halt at some distance,
began to approach one by one, or in small parties, making a great show
of friendship all the while, until most of them had collected on the
spot. Finding themselves surrounded in every direction, the travellers
now began to move on, in hopes of getting rid of the intruders: but
the latter were equally ready for the start; and, mounting their
horses, kept jogging on in the same direction. The first act of
hostility perpetrated by the Indians proved fatal to one of the
American traders named Pratt, who was shot dead while attempting to
secure two mules which had become separated from the rest. Upon this,
the companions of the slain man immediately dismounted and commenced a
fire upon the Indians, which was warmly returned, whereby another man
of the name of Mitchell was killed.

By this time the traders had taken off their packs and piled them
around for protection; and now falling to work with their hands, they
very soon scratched out a trench deep enough to protect them from the
shot of the enemy. The latter made several desperate charges, but they
seemed too careful of their own personal safety, notwithstanding the
enormous superiority of their numbers, to venture too near the rifles
of the Americans. In a few hours all the animals of the traders were
either killed or wounded, but no personal damage was done to the
remaining ten men, {51} with the exception of a wound in the thigh
received by one, which was not at the time considered dangerous.
[Pg135]

During the siege, the Americans were in great danger of perishing from
thirst, as the Indians had complete command of all the water within
reach. Starvation was not so much to be dreaded; because, in case of
necessity, they could live on the flesh of their slain animals, some
of which lay stretched close around them. After being pent up for
thirty-six hours in this horrible hole, during which time they had
seldom ventured to raise their heads above the surface without being
shot at, they resolved to make a bold _sortie_ in the night, as any
death was preferable to the fate which awaited them there. As there
was not an animal left that was at all in a condition to travel, the
proprietors of the money gave permission to all to take and
appropriate to themselves whatever amount each man could safely
undertake to carry. In this way a few hundred dollars were started
with, of which, however, but little ever reached the United States.
The remainder was buried deep in the sand, in hopes that it might
escape the cupidity of the savages; but to very little purpose, for
they were afterwards seen by some Mexican traders making a great
display of specie, which was without doubt taken from this unfortunate
_cache_.

With every prospect of being discovered, overtaken, and butchered, but
resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible, they at last {52}
emerged from their hiding-place, and moved on silently and slowly
until they found themselves beyond the purlieus of the Indian camps.
Often did they look back in the direction where from three to five
hundred savages were supposed to watch their movements, but, much to
their astonishment, no one appeared to be in pursuit. The Indians,
believing no doubt that the property of the traders would come into
their hands, and having no amateur predilection for taking scalps at
the risk of losing their own, appeared willing enough to let the
spoliated adventurers depart without further molestation. [Pg136]

The destitute travellers having run themselves short of provisions,
and being no longer able to kill game for want of materials to load
their rifles with, they were very soon reduced to the necessity of
sustaining life upon roots, and the tender bark of trees. After
travelling for several days in this desperate condition, with
lacerated feet, and utter prostration of mind and body, they began to
disagree among themselves about the route to be pursued, and
eventually separated into two distinct parties. Five of these unhappy
men steered a westward course, and after a succession of sufferings
and privations which almost surpassed belief, they reached the
settlements of the Creek Indians, near the Arkansas river, where they
were treated with great kindness and hospitality. The other five
wandered about in the greatest state of distress and bewilderment, and
only two {53} finally succeeded in getting out of the mazes of the
wilderness. Among those who were abandoned to their fate, and left to
perish thus miserably, was a Mr. Schenck, the same individual who had
been shot in the thigh; a gentleman of talent and excellent family
connections, who was a brother, as I am informed, of the Hon. Mr.
Schenck, at present a member of Congress from Ohio.[90]

But let us resume our journey. We had for some days, while travelling
along the course of the Canadian, been in anxious expectation of
reaching a point from whence there was a cart-road to Santa Fé, made
by the Ciboleros; but being constantly baffled and disappointed in
this hope, serious apprehensions began to be entertained by some of
[Pg137] the party that we might after all be utterly lost. In this
emergency, one of our Mexicans who pretended to be a great deal wiser
than the rest, insisted that we were pursuing a wrong direction, and
that every day's march only took us further from Santa Fé. There
appeared to be so much plausibility in his assertion, as he professed
a perfect knowledge of all the country around, that many of our men
were almost ready to mutiny,--to take the command from the hands of my
brother and myself and lead us southward in search of the Colorado,
into the fearful _Llano Estacado_, where we would probably have
perished.[91] But our observations of the latitude, which we took very
frequently, as well as the course we were pursuing, completely
contradicted the {54} Mexican wiseacre. A few days afterwards we were
overtaken by a party of _Comancheros_, or Mexican Comanche traders,
when we had the satisfaction of learning that we were in the right
track.

These men had been trading with the band of Comanches we had lately
met, and learning from them that we had passed on, they had hastened
to overtake us, so as to obtain our protection against the savages,
who, after selling their animals to the Mexicans, very frequently take
forcible possession of them again, before the purchasers have been
able to reach their homes. These parties of _Comancheros_ are usually
composed of the indigent and rude classes of the frontier villages,
who collect together, several times a year, and launch upon the plains
with a few trinkets and trumperies of all kinds, and perhaps a bag of
bread and may-be another of _pinole_, which they barter away to the
savages for horses and mules. The entire stock of an individual trader
very seldom exceeds the value of twenty dollars, with which he is
content to wander about for several months, [Pg138] and glad to
return home with a mule or two, as the proceeds of his traffic.

These Mexican traders had much to tell us about the Comanches: saying,
that they were four or five thousand in number, with perhaps a
thousand warriors, and that the fiery young men had once determined to
follow and attack us; but that the chiefs and sages had deterred them,
by stating that our cannons {55} could kill to the distance of many
miles, and shoot through hills and rocks and destroy everything that
happened to be within their range. The main object of our visitors,
however, seemed to be to raise themselves into importance by
exaggerating the perils we had escaped from. That they had considered
themselves in great jeopardy, there could be no doubt whatever, for,
in their anxiety to overtake us, they came very near killing their
animals.

It was a war-party of this band of Comanches that paid the 'flying
visit' to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas river, to which Mr. Farnham
alludes in his trip to Oregon.[92] A band of the same Indians also
fell in with the caravan from Missouri, with whom they were for a
while upon the verge of hostilities.

The next day we passed the afternoon upon a ravine where we found
abundance of water, but to our great surprise our animals refused to
drink. Upon tasting the water, we found it exceedingly nauseous and
bitter; far more [Pg139] repugnant to some palates than a solution of
Epsom salts. It is true that the water had been a little impregnated
with the same loathsome substance for several days; but we had never
found it so bad before. The salinous compound which imparts this
savor, is found in great abundance in the vicinity of the table-plain
streams of New Mexico, and is known to the natives by the name of
_salitre_.[93] We {56} had the good fortune to find in the valley, a
few sinks filled by recent rains, so that actually we experienced no
great inconvenience from the want of fresh water. As far as our own
personal necessities were concerned, we were abundantly supplied; it
being an unfailing rule with us to carry in each wagon a five-gallon
keg always filled with water, in order to guard against those
frightful contingencies which so frequently occur on the Prairies. In
truth upon leaving one watering place, we never knew where we would
find the next.

On the 20th of June we pitched our camp upon the north bank of the
Canadian or Colorado, in latitude 35° 24′ according to a meridian
altitude of Saturn. On the following day, I left the caravan,
accompanied by three Comancheros, and proceeded at a more rapid pace
towards Santa Fé. This was rather a hazardous journey, inasmuch as we
were still within the range of the Pawnee and Comanche war-parties,
and my companions were men in whom I could not repose the slightest
confidence, except for piloting; being fully convinced that in case of
meeting with an enemy, they would either forsake or deliver me up,
just as it might seem most conducive to their own interest and safety.
All I had to depend upon were my fire-arms, which could hardly fail to
produce an impression in my favor; for, thanks to Mr. Colt's
invention, I carried thirty-six charges ready-loaded, which I could
easily fire at the rate of {57} a dozen [Pg140] per minute. I do not
believe that any band of those timorous savages of the western
prairies would venture to approach even a single man, under such
circumstances. If, according to an old story of the frontier, an
Indian supposed that a white man fired both with his tomahawk and
scalping knife, to account for the execution done by a brace of
pistols, thirty-six shots discharged in quick succession would
certainly overawe them as being the effect of some great medicine.

As we jogged merrily along, I often endeavored to while away the time
by catechising my three companions in relation to the topography of
the wild region we were traversing; but I soon found, that, like the
Indians, these ignorant rancheros have no ideas of distances, except
as compared with time or with some other distance. They will tell you
that you may arrive at a given place by the time the sun reaches a
certain point: otherwise, whether it be but half a mile or half a
day's ride to the place inquired for, they are as apt to apply _está
cerquita_ (it is close by), or _está lejos_ (it is far off), to the
one as to the other, just as the impression happens to strike them,
when compared with some other point more or less distant. This often
proves a source of great annoyance to foreign travellers, as I had an
opportunity of experiencing before my arrival. In giving directions,
these people--in fact, the lower classes of Mexicans generally--are
also in the habit of using very odd gesticulations, altogether {58}
peculiar to themselves. Instead of pointing with their hands and
fingers, they generally employ the mouth, which is done by thrusting
out the lips in the direction of the spot, or object, which the
inquirer wishes to find out--accompanied by _aquí_ or _allí está_.
This habit of substituting labial gestures for the usual mode of
indicating, has grown from the use of the _sarape_, which keeps their
hands and arms perpetually confined. [Pg141]

From the place where we left the wagons, till we reached the
_Angostura_, or narrows,[94] (a distance of 60 miles), we had followed
a plain cart-road, which seemed everywhere passable for wagons. Here,
however, we found the point of a table plain projecting abruptly
against the river, so as to render it impossible for wagons to pass
without great risk. The huge masses of solid rock, which occur in this
place, and the rugged cliffs or brows of the table lands which rise
above them, appear to have been mistaken by a detachment of the Texan
Santa Fé expedition, for spurs of the Rocky Mountains; an error which
was rational enough, as they not unfrequently tower to the height of
two thousand feet above the valley, and are often as rocky and rough
as the rudest heaps of trap-rock can make them. By ascending the main
summit of these craggy promontories, however, the eastern ridge of the
veritable Rocky Mountains may be seen, still very far off in the
western horizon, with a widespread and apparently level table plain,
intervening and extending in every direction, {59} as far as the eye
can reach; for even the deep-cut chasms of the intersecting rivers are
rarely visible except one be upon their very brink.

Upon expressing my fears that our wagons would not be able to pass the
_Angostura_ in safety, my comrades informed me that there was an
excellent route, of which no previous mention had been made, passing
near the _Cerro de Tucumcari_, a round mound plainly visible to the
southward.[95] After several vain efforts to induce some of the party
to carry a [Pg142] note back to my brother, and to pilot the caravan
through the Tucumcari route, one of them, known as Tio Baca, finally
proposed to undertake the errand for a bounty of ten dollars, besides
high wages till they should reach the frontier. His conditions being
accepted, he set out after breakfast, not, however, without previously
recommending himself to the Virgin Guadalupe, and all the saints in
the calendar, and desiring us to remember him in our prayers.
Notwithstanding his fears, however, he arrived in perfect safety, and
I had the satisfaction of learning afterward that my brother found the
new route everything he could have desired.

I continued my journey westward with my two remaining companions; but,
owing to their being provided with a relay of horses, they very soon
left me to make the balance of the travel alone--though yet in a
region haunted by hostile savages. On the following day, about the
hour of twelve, as I was pursuing a horse-path along the course of the
{60} Rio Pecos, near the frontier settlements, I met with a shepherd,
of whom I anxiously inquired the distance to San Miguel. "O, it is
just there," responded the man of sheep. "Don't you see that point of
mesa yonder? It is just beyond that." This welcome information cheered
me greatly; for, owing to the extraordinary transparency of the
atmosphere, it appeared to me that the distance could not exceed two
or three miles. "_Está cerquita_," exclaimed the shepherd as I rode
off; "_ahora está V. allá_"--"it is close by; you will soon be there."

I set off at as lively a pace as my jaded steed could carry me,
confident of taking dinner in San Miguel.[96] Every ridge I turned I
thought must be the last, and thus I jogged on, hoping and
anticipating my future comforts till the shades of evening began to
appear; when I descended into [Pg143] the valley of the Pecos, which,
although narrow, is exceedingly fertile and beautifully lined with
verdant fields, among which stood a great variety of mud cabins. About
eight o'clock, I called at one of these cottages and again inquired
the distance to San Miguel; when a swarthy-looking ranchero once more
saluted mine ears with "_Está cerquita; ahora está V. allá_." Although
the distance was designated in precisely the same words used by the
shepherd eight hours before, I had the consolation at least of
believing that I was something nearer. After spurring on for a couple
of miles over a rugged road, I at last reached the long-sought
village.

{61} The next day, I hired a Mexican to carry some flour back to meet
the wagons; for our party was by this time running short of
provisions. In fact, we should long before have been in danger of
starvation, had it not been for our oxen; for we had not seen a
buffalo since the day we first met with the Comanches. Some of our
cattle being in good plight, and able, as we were, to spare a few from
our teams, we made beef of them when urged by necessity: an extra
advantage in ox teams on these perilous expeditions.

On the 25th of June I arrived safely at Santa Fé,--but again rode back
to meet the wagons, which did not reach the capital till the 4th of
July. We did not encounter a very favorable reception from 'his
majesty,' Gov. Armijo. He had just established his arbitrary impost of
$500 per wagon, which bore rather heavily upon us; for we had an
overstock of coarse articles which we had merely brought along for the
purpose of increasing the strength of our company, by adding to the
number of our wagons.

But these little troubles in a business way, were entirely drowned in
the joyful sensations arising from our safe arrival, after so long and
so perilous an expedition. Considering the character and our ignorance
of the country over which we had travelled, we had been exceedingly
successful. [Pg144] Instances are certainly rare of heavily-laden
wagons' having been conducted, without a guide, through an unexplored
desert; and yet we {62} performed the trip without any important
accident--without encountering any very difficult passes--without
suffering for food or for water.

We had hoped that at least a few days of rest and quiet recreation
might have been allowed us after our arrival; for relaxation was
sorely needed at the end of so long a journey and its concomitant
privations: but it was ordered otherwise. We had scarcely quartered
ourselves within the town before a grand 'flare-up' took place between
Gov. Armijo and the foreigners[97] in Santa Fé, which, for a little
while, bid fair to result in open hostilities. It originated in the
following circumstances.

In the winter of 1837-8, a worthy young American, named Daley, was
murdered at the Gold Mines, by a couple of villains, solely for
plunder. The assassins were arrested, when they confessed their guilt;
but, in a short time, they were permitted to run at large again, in
violation of every principle of justice or humanity. About this time
they were once more apprehended, however, by the interposition of
foreigners: and, at the solicitation of the friends of the deceased, a
memorial from the Americans in Santa Fé was presented to Armijo,
representing the injustice of permitting the murderers of their
countrymen to go unpunished; and praying that the culprits might {63}
be dealt with according to law. But the governor affected to consider
the affair as a conspiracy; and, collecting his ragamuffin militia,
attempted to intimidate the petitioners. The foreigners were now
constrained to look to their defence, as they saw that [Pg145] no
justice was to be expected. Had Armijo persisted, serious consequences
might have ensued; but seeing the 'conspirators' firm, he sent an
apology, affecting to have misconstrued their motives, and promising
that the laws should be duly executed upon the murderers.

Besides the incentives of justice and humanity, foreigners felt a deep
interest in the execution of this promise. But a few years previous,
another person had been assassinated and robbed at the same place; yet
the authorities having taken no interest in the matter, the felons
were never discovered; and now, should these assassins escape the
merited forfeit of their atrocious crime, it was evident there would
be no future security for our lives and property. But the governor's
_due execution of the laws_ consisted in retaining them a year or two
in nominal imprisonment, when they were again set at liberty. Besides
these, other foreigners have been murdered in New Mexico with equal
impunity:--all which contrasts very strikingly with the manner our
courts of justice have since dealt with those who killed Chavez, in
1843, on the Santa Fé road.[98]

FOOTNOTES:

[83] James Pollard Espy (1785-1860), a well-known meteorologist. His
collection of reports on the weather, while occupied in his
experiments, contributed towards the founding of the present United
States weather-bureau. His theory was, that storms could be produced
artificially by heating the atmosphere with long-continued fires. He
published _Philosophy of Storms_ (Boston and London, 1841).--ED.

[84] About the ninety-ninth meridian, the Canadian extends above the
thirty-sixth parallel, forming the Great North Bend. The Oklahoma town
of Taloga is on the southern curve of the bow.--ED.

[85] The Canadian and its North Fork approach very closely at this
point. The region between the North Bend and the one hundredth
meridian contains much gypsum. See James's _Long's Expedition_, in our
volume xvi, pp. 141-143.--ED.

[86] From subsequent observations, this point appears to have been
some miles west of the 100th degree of longitude.--GREGG.

_Comment by Ed._ See volume xix, p. 217, note 52 (Gregg).

[87] Kendall, _Texan Santa Fé Expedition_, i, p. 192.--ED.

[88] Camp Comanche would appear to have been in Lipscombe or Ochiltree
County, Texas.--ED.

[89] For Dr. John Sibley, see our volume xvii, p. 68, note 60. This
anecdote is found in his report in _American State Papers_, "Indian
Affairs," i, p. 724.--ED.

[90] Robert C. Schenck was born at Franklin, Ohio, in 1809, graduated
from Miami University, and practised law at Dayton. After one term in
the state legislature (1841-42), he was sent to Congress (1843-51),
which he left to become American minister to Brazil (1851-53). In the
War of Secession he attained a major-generalship, and resigned to
re-enter Congress (1863-70). For six years (1870-76) Schenck served as
minister to Great Britain, being one of the commissioners to adjust
the Alabama claims. He died in Washington in 1890. Another brother was
an admiral in the American navy.--ED.

[91] Colorado is the usual Spanish term for Red River, which Gregg
here intends. For Llano Estacado, see his description _post_, p.
239.--ED.

[92] Thomas J. Farnham, _Travels in the Great Western Prairie, the
Anahuac and Rocky Mountains, and in Oregon Territory_ (London, 1843),
reprinted in volume xxvii of our series.

Bent's Fort, sometimes called Fort William for its founder Colonel
William Bent, was situated on the north bank of the Arkansas, between
the present towns of La Junta and Las Animas, Colorado. Founded in
1829, it was an important fur-trade post, and base of supplies for the
mountain trail to Santa Fé. The United States army of occupation
(1846) passed by this post. In 1852, the government attempted to
purchase the post; but not satisfied with the terms, its owner
destroyed the stockade.--ED.

[93] Literally _saltpetre_; but the _salitre_ of New Mexico is a
compound of several other salts beside nitre.--GREGG.

[94] On the eastern border of San Miguel County, New Mexico, are three
peaks known as Los Cuervos, or The Crows. The river winding through
this high land, forms the narrows of which Gregg speaks. Consult
Kendall, _Texan Santa Fé Expedition_, i, p. 174.--ED.

[95] Tucumcari Mountain is in eastern Quay County, with a town of the
same name at its base--a junction on the Chicago, Rock Island, and
Pacific Railway. For an interesting description of this mound, which
he likens to the dome of the capitol at Washington, see report of
James H. Simpson (1849), in _Senate Doc._, 31 cong., 2 sess., vi, 12,
p. 14.--ED.

[96] For San Miguel, see our volume xix, p. 253, note 76 (Gregg).--ED.

[97] Among the New Mexicans, the terms _foreigner_ and _American_ are
synonymous: indeed, the few citizens of other nations to be found
there identify themselves with those of the United States. All
foreigners are known there as _Americanos_; but south of Chihuahua
they are indiscriminately called _Los Ingleses_, the English.--GREGG.

[98] See post, pp. 227-232.--ED.



CHAPTER XX {IV}

Preparations for a Start to Chihuahua -- Ineptness of Married Men for
  the Santa Fé Trade -- The Chihuahua Trade -- Annoying Custom-house
  Regulations -- Mails in New Mexico -- Insecurity of Correspondence
  -- Outfit and Departure -- _Derecho de Consumo_ -- Ruins of Valverde
  -- 'Towns without Houses' -- La Jornada del Muerto -- Laguna and Ojo
  del Muerto -- A Tradition of the _Arrieros_ -- Laborious Ferrying
  and Quagmires -- Arrival at Paso del Norte -- Amenity of the Valley
  -- _Sierra Blanca_ and _Los Organos_ -- Face of the Country --
  Seagrass -- An accidental River -- Laguna de Encinillas -- Southern
  Haciendas -- Arrival -- Character of the Route and Soil.


After passing the custom-house ordeal, and exchanging some of our
merchandise for 'Eagle Dollars'--an operation which occupied us
several weeks, I prepared to set out for [Pg146] the Chihuahua
market, whither a portion of our stock had been designed. Upon this
expedition I was obliged to depart without my brother, who was
laboring under the 'home fever,' and anxious to return to his family.
"He that hath wife and children," says Lord Bacon, "hath given
hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises,
either of virtue or mischief." Men under such bonds are peculiarly
unfitted for the chequered life of a Santa Fé trader. The domestic
hearth, {65} with all its sacred and most endearing recollections, is
sure to haunt them in the hour of trial, and almost every step of
their journey is apt to be attended by melancholy reflections of home
and domestic dependencies.

Before starting on this new journey I deem it proper to make a few
observations relative to the general character of the _Chihuahua
Trade_. I have already remarked, that much surprise has frequently
been expressed by those who are unacquainted with all the bearings of
the case, that the Missouri traders should take the circuitous route
to Santa Fé, instead of steering direct for Chihuahua, inasmuch as the
greatest portion of their goods is destined for the latter city. But
as Chihuahua never had any port of entry for foreign goods till the
last six or eight years, the market of that department had to be
supplied in a great measure from Santa Fé. By opening the ports of El
Paso and Presidio del Norte,[99] the commercial interest was so little
affected, that when Santa Anna's decree for closing them again was
issued, the loss was scarcely felt at all.

The mode of transmitting merchandise from the ports to the interior,
is very different from what it is in the United States. It is not
enough to have to pass the tedious ordeal [Pg147] of custom-houses on
the frontier, and we have not only to submit to a supervision and
repayment of duty on arriving at our point of destination, but our
cargo is subject to scrutiny at every town we have to pass through on
our {66} journey. Nor would it be advisable to forsake the main route
in order to avoid this tyrannical system of taxation; because,
according to the laws of the country, every _cargamento_ which is
found out of the regular track (except in cases of unavoidable
necessity), is subject to confiscation, although accompanied by the
necessary custom-house documents.

There are also other risks and contingencies very little dreamed of in
the philosophy of the inexperienced trader. Before setting out, the
entire bill of merchandise has to be translated into Spanish; when,
duplicates of the translation being presented to the custom-house, one
is retained, while the other, accompanied by the _guia_ (a sort of
clearance or mercantile passport), is carried along with the cargo by
the conductor. The trader can have three points of destination named
in his _guia_, to either of which he may direct his course, but to no
others: while in the drawing up of the _factura_, or invoice, the
greatest care is requisite, as the slightest mistake, even an
accidental slip of the pen, might, according to the terms of the law,
subject the goods to confiscation.[100]

The _guia_ is not only required on leaving the ports for the interior,
but is indispensable to the safe conveyance of goods from one
department of the republic to another: nay, the {67} simple transfer
of property from town to town, and from village to village, in the
same department, is attended by precisely the same proportion of risk,
and requires the same punctilious accuracy in the accompanying
documents. [Pg148] Even the produce and manufactures of the country
are equally subject to these embarrassing regulations. New Mexico has
no internal custom-houses, and is therefore exempt from this rigorous
provision; but from Chihuahua south every village has its revenue
officers; so that the same stock of merchandise sometimes pays the
internal duty at least half-a-dozen times before the sale is
completed.

Now, to procure this same _guia_, which is the cause of so much
difficulty and anxiety in the end, is no small affair. Before the
authorities condescend to draw a single line on paper, the merchant
must produce an endorser for the _tornaguía_, which is a certificate
from the custom-house to which the cargo goes directed, showing that
the goods have been legally entered there. A failure in the return of
this document within a prescribed limit of time, subjects the endorser
to a forfeiture equal to the amount of the impost. Much inconvenience
and not a little risk are also occasioned on this score by the
irregularity--I may say, insecurity of the mails.

Speaking of mails, I beg leave to observe, that there are no
conveniences of this kind in New Mexico, except on the route from
Santa Fé to Chihuahua, and these are very {68} irregular and
uncertain. Before the Indians had obtained such complete possession of
the highways through the wilderness, the mails between these two
cities were carried semi-monthly; but now they are much less frequent,
being mere expresses, in fact, dispatched only when an occasion
offers. There are other causes, however, besides the dread of
marauding savages, which render the transportation of the mails in New
Mexico very insecure: I mean the dishonesty of those employed in
superintending them. Persons known to be inimical to the post-master,
or to the 'powers that be,' and wishing to forward any communication
to the South, most generally either wait for private conveyance,
[Pg149] or send their letters to a post-office (the only one besides
that of Santa Fé in all New Mexico) some eighty miles on the way; thus
avoiding an overhauling at the capital. Moreover, as the post-rider
often carries the key of the mail-bag (for want of a supply at the
different offices), he not unfrequently permits whomsoever will pay
him a trifling _douceur_, to examine the correspondence. I was once
witness to a case of this kind in the Jornada del Muerto, where the
entire mail was tumbled out upon the grass, that an individual might
search for letters, for which luxury he was charged by the
accommodating carrier the moderate price of one dollar.

The _derecho de consumo_ (the internal or consumption duty) is an
impost averaging nearly twenty per cent. on the United States cost of
{69} the bill. It supplies the place of a direct tax for the support
of the departmental government, and is decidedly the most troublesome,
if not the most oppressive revenue system that ever was devised for
internal purposes. It operates at once as a drawback upon the
commercial prosperity of the country, and as a potent incentive to
fraudulent practices. The country people especially have resort to
every species of clandestine intercourse, to escape this galling
burden; for, every article of consumption they carry to market,
whether fish, flesh or fowl, as well as fruit and vegetables, is taxed
more or less; while another impost is levied upon the goods they
purchase with the proceeds of their sales. This system, so beautifully
entangled with corruptions, is supported on the ground that it
supersedes direct taxation, which, in itself, is an evil that the
'free and independent' people of Mexico would never submit to. Besides
the petty annoyances incidental upon the laxity of custom-house
regulations, no one can travel through the country without a passport,
which to free-born Americans, is a truly insupportable nuisance.
[Pg150]

Having at last gone through with all the vexatious preparations
necessary for our journey, on the 22d of August we started for
Chihuahua. I fitted out myself but six wagons for this market, yet
joining in company with several other traders, our little caravan
again amounted to fourteen wagons, with about forty men. Though our
route lay through {70} the interior of Northern Mexico, yet, on
account of the hostile savages which infest most of the country
through which we had to pass, it was necessary to unite in caravans of
respectable strength, and to spare few of those precautions for safety
which are required on the Prairies.

The road we travelled passes down through the settlements of New
Mexico for the first hundred and thirty miles, on the east side of the
Rio del Norte. Nevertheless, as there was not an inn of any kind to be
found upon the whole route, we were constrained to put up with very
primitive accommodations. Being furnished from the outset, therefore,
with blankets and buffalo rugs for bedding, we were prepared to
bivouac, even in the suburbs of the villages, in the open air; for in
this dry and salubrious atmosphere it is seldom that travellers go to
the trouble of pitching tents.[101] When travelling alone, however, or
with but a comrade or two, I have always experienced a great deal of
hospitality from the rancheros and villageois of the country. Whatever
sins these ignorant people may have to answer for, we must accord to
them at least two glowing virtues--gratitude and hospitality. I have
suffered like others, however, from one very disagreeable custom which
prevails {71} among them. Instead of fixing a price for the services
they bestow upon travellers, they are apt to answer, "_Lo que guste_,"
or "_Lo_ [Pg151] _que le dé la gana_" (whatever you please, or have a
mind to give), expecting, of course, that the liberal foreigner will
give more than their consciences would permit them to exact.

In about ten days' drive we passed the southernmost settlements of New
Mexico, and twenty or thirty miles further down the river we came to
the ruins of Valverde. This village was founded about twenty years
ago, in one of the most fertile valleys of the Rio del Norte. It
increased rapidly in population, until it was invaded by the Navajoes,
when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon the place after
considerable loss, and it has never since been repeopled. The bottoms
of the valley, many of which are of rich alluvial loam, have lain
fallow ever since, and will perhaps continue to be neglected until the
genius of civilization shall have spread its beneficent influences
over the land. This soil is the more valuable for cultivation on
account of the facilities for irrigation which the river affords; as
it too frequently happens that the best lands of the settlements
remain unfruitful for want of water.[102]

Our next camping place deserving of mention was _Fray Cristóbal_,
which, like many others on the route, is neither town nor village, but
a simple isolated point on the river-bank--a mere _parage_, or
camping-ground. We had already passed San Pascual, El Contadero, {72}
and many others, and we could hear Aleman, Robledo, and a dozen such
spoken of on the way, leading the stranger to imagine that the route
was lined with flourishing villages. The arriero will tell one to
hasten--"we must reach San Diego before sleeping." We spur on perhaps
with redoubled [Pg152] vigor, in hopes to rest at a town; but lo!
upon arriving, we find only a mere watering-place, without open ground
enough to graze the _caballada_. Thus every point along these
wilderness highways used as a camping-site, has received a distinctive
name, well known to every muleteer who travels them. Many of these
_parages_, without the slightest vestige of human improvement, figure
upon most of the current maps of the day as towns and villages. Yet
there is not a single settlement (except of very recent establishment)
from those before mentioned to the vicinity of El Paso, a distance of
near two hundred miles.

We arrived at Fray Cristóbal[103] in the evening, but this being the
threshold of the famous _Jornada del Muerto_, we deemed it prudent to
let our animals rest here until the following afternoon. The road over
which we had hitherto been travelling, though it sometimes traverses
upland ridges and undulating sections, runs generally near the border
of the river, and for the most part in its immediate valley: but here
it leaves the river and passes for nearly eighty miles over a
table-plain to the eastward of a small ledge of mountains, whose
western base is hugged {73} by the circuitous channel of the Rio del
Norte. The craggy cliffs which project from these mountains render the
eastern bank of the river altogether impassable. As the direct route
over the plain is entirely destitute of water, we took the precaution
to fill all our kegs at Fray Cristóbal, and late in the afternoon we
finally set out. We generally find a great advantage in travelling
through these arid tracts of land in the freshness of the evening, as
the mules suffer less from thirst, and move [Pg153] on in better
spirits--particularly in the season of warm weather.

Early the next morning we found ourselves at the _Laguna del Muerto_,
or 'Dead Man's Lake,' where there was not even a vestige of water.
This _lake_ is but a sink in the plain of a few rods in diameter, and
only filled with water during the rainy season. The _marshes_, which
are said by some historians to be in this vicinity, are nowhere to be
found: nothing but the firmest and driest table land is to be seen in
every direction. To procure water for our thirsty animals it is often
necessary to make a halt here, and drive them to the _Ojo del Muerto_
(Dead Man's Spring), five or six miles to the westward, in the very
heart of the mountain ridge that lay between us and the river. This
region is one of the favorite resorts of the Apaches, where many a
poor arriero has met with an untimely end. The route which leads to
the spring winds for two or three miles down a narrow cañon or gorge,
overhung on either side by abrupt precipices, {74} while the various
clefts and crags, which project their gloomy brows over the abyss
below, seem to invite the murderous savage to deeds of horror and
blood.

There is a tradition among the arrieros from which it would appear
that the only road known in ancient time about the region of the
_Jornada_, wound its circuitous course on the western side of the
river. To save distance, an intrepid traveller undertook to traverse
this desolate tract of land in one day, but having perished in the
attempt, it has ever after borne the name of _La Jornada del Muerto_,
'the Dead Man's Journey,' or, more strictly, 'the Day's Journey of the
Dead Man.' One thing appears very certain, that this dangerous pass
has cost the life of many travellers in days of yore; and when we at
last reached Robledo, a camping-site upon the river, where we found
abundance of wood and water, we felt truly grateful that the arid
_Jornada_ had not [Pg154] been productive of more serious
consequences to our party. We now found ourselves within the
department of Chihuahua, as the boundary betwixt it and New Mexico
passes not far north of Robledo.[104]

We were still some sixty miles above Paso del Norte, but the balance
of the road now led down the river valley or over the low bordering
hills. During our journey between this and El Paso we passed the ruins
of several settlements, which had formerly been the seats of opulence
and prosperity, but which have since been abandoned in consequence
{75} of the marauding incursions of the Apaches.

On the 12th of September we reached the usual ford of the Rio del
Norte, six miles above El Paso; but the river being somewhat flushed
we found it impossible to cross over with our wagons. The reader will
no doubt be surprised to learn that there is not a single ferry on
this 'Great River of the North' till we approach the mouth. But how do
people cross it? Why, during three-fourths of the year it is
everywhere fordable, and when the freshet season comes on, each has to
remain on his own side, or swim, for canoes even are very rare. But as
we could neither swim our wagons and merchandise, nor very comfortably
wait for the falling of the waters, our only alternative was to unload
the vehicles, and ferry the goods over in a little 'dug-out' about
thirty feet long and two feet wide, of which we were fortunate enough
to obtain possession.

We succeeded in finding a place shallow enough to haul our empty
wagons across: but for this good fortune we should have been under the
necessity of taking them to pieces (as I had before done), and of
ferrying them on the 'small craft' [Pg155] before mentioned. Half of
a wagon may thus be crossed at a time, by carefully balancing it upon
the canoe, yet there is of course no little danger of capsizing during
the passage.

This river even when fordable often occasions a great deal of trouble,
being, like the Arkansas, embarrassed with many quicksand {76} mires.
In some places, if a wagon is permitted to stop in the river but for a
moment, it sinks to the very body. Instances have occurred where it
became necessary, not only to drag out the mules by the ears and to
carry out the loading package by package, but to haul out the wagon
piece by piece--wheel by wheel.

On the 14th we made our entrance into the town of _El Paso del
Norte_,[105] which is the northernmost settlement in the department of
Chihuahua. Here our cargo had to be examined by a stern, surly
officer, who, it was feared, would lay an embargo on our goods upon
the slightest appearance of irregularity in our papers; but
notwithstanding our gloomy forebodings, we passed the ordeal without
any difficulty.

The valley of El Paso is supposed to contain a population of about
four thousand inhabitants, scattered over the western bottom of the
Rio del Norte to the length of ten or twelve miles. These settlements
are so thickly interspersed with vineyards, orchards, and corn-fields,
as to present more the appearance of a series of plantations than of a
town: in fact, only a small portion at the head of the valley, where
the _plaza pública_ and parochial church are located, would seem to
merit this title. {77} Two or three miles above the _plaza_ there is a
dam of stone and brush across the river, the purpose of which is to
turn the current into a dike or canal, which conveys nearly half the
water of the stream, during a [Pg156] low stage, through this well
cultivated valley, for the irrigation of the soil. Here we were
regaled with the finest fruits of the season: the grapes especially
were of the most exquisite flavor. From these the inhabitants
manufacture a very pleasant wine, somewhat resembling Malaga. A
species of _aguardiente_ (brandy) is also distilled from the same
fruit, which, although weak, is of very agreeable flavor. These
liquors are known among Americans as 'Pass wine' and 'Pass whiskey,'
and constitute a profitable article of trade, supplying the markets of
Chihuahua and New Mexico.[106]

As I have said before, the road from Santa Fé to El Paso leads partly
along the margin of the Rio del Norte, or across the bordering hills
and plains; but the _sierra_ which separates the waters of this river
and those of the Rio Pecos was always visible on our left. In some
places it is cut up into detached ridges, one of which is known as
_Sierra Blanca_, in consequence of its summit's being covered with
snow till late in the spring, and having all {78} the appearance of a
glittering white cloud. There is another still more picturesque ridge
further south, called _Los Organos_, presenting an immense cliff of
basaltic pillars, which bear some resemblance to the pipes of an
_organ_, whence the mountain derived its name. Both these sierras are
famous as being the strongholds of the much-dreaded Apaches.

The mountains from El Paso northward are mostly clothed with pine,
cedar, and a dwarfish species of oak. The valleys are timbered with
cottonwood, and occasionally with _mezquite_, which, however, is
rarely found higher up than the lower settlements of New Mexico. In
the immediate vicinity [Pg157] of El Paso there is another small
growth called _tornillo_ (or screw-wood), so denominated from a spiral
pericarp, which, though different in shape, resembles that of the
mezquite in flavor.[107] The plains and highlands generally are of a
prairie character, and do not differ materially from those of all
Northern Mexico, which are almost everywhere completely void of
timber.

One of the most useful plants to the people of El Paso is the
_lechuguilla_, which abounds on the hills and mountain sides of that
vicinity, as well as in many other places from thence southward.[108]
Its blades, which resemble those of the palmilla, being mashed,
scraped, and washed, afford very strong fibres like the common Manilla
sea-grass, and equally serviceable for the manufacture of ropes, and
other purposes.

{79} After leaving El Paso, our road branched off at an angle of about
two points to the westward of the river, the city of Chihuahua being
situated nearly a hundred miles to the west of it. At the distance of
about thirty miles we reached _Los Médanos_, a stupendous ledge of
sand-hills, across which the road passes for about six miles. As teams
are never able to haul the loaded wagons over this region of loose
sand, we engaged an _atajo_ of mules at El Paso, upon which to convey
our goods across. These Médanos consist of huge hillocks and ridges of
pure sand, in many places without a vestige of vegetation. Through the
lowest gaps between the hills, the road winds its way.

What renders this portion of the route still more unpleasant and
fatiguing, is the great scarcity of water. All that is to [Pg158] be
found on the road for the distance of more than sixty miles after
leaving El Paso, consists in two fetid springs or pools, whose water
is only rendered tolerable by necessity. A little further on, however,
we very unexpectedly encountered, this time, quite a superabundance of
this necessary element. Just as we passed Lake Patos,[109] we were
struck with astonishment at finding the road ahead of us literally
overflowed by an immense body of water, with a brisk current, as if
some great river had suddenly been conjured into existence by the aid
of supernatural arts. A considerable time elapsed before we could
unravel the mystery. At last we discovered that a freshet had lately
occurred {80} in the streams that fed Lake Patos, and caused it to
overflow its banks, which accounted for this unwelcome visitation. We
had to flounder through the mud and water for several hours, before we
succeeded in getting across.

The following day we reached the _acequia_ below Carrizal, a small
village with only three or four hundred inhabitants, but somewhat
remarkable as being the site of a _presidio_ (fort), at which is
stationed a company of troops to protect the country against the
ravages of the Apaches, who, notwithstanding, continue to lay waste
the ranchos in the vicinity, and to depredate at will within the very
sight of the fort.[110]

About twelve miles south of Carrizal there is one of the most charming
warm springs called Ojo Caliente, where we arrived the next day. It
forms a basin some thirty feet long by about half that width, and just
deep and warm enough for a most delightful bath at all seasons of the
year. Were this spring (whose outlet forms a bold little rivulet)
anywhere [Pg159] within the United States, it would doubtless soon be
converted into a place of fashionable resort. There appears to be a
somewhat curious phenomenon connected with this spring. It proceeds,
no doubt, from the little river of Cármen, which passes within half a
mile, and finally discharges itself into the small lake of Patos
before mentioned. During the dry season, this stream disappears in the
sand some miles above the spring; and what medium it traverses in its
subterranean passage to impart {81} to it so high a temperature,
before breaking out in this fountain, would afford to the geologist an
interesting subject of inquiry.[111]

After fording the Rio Cármen, which, though usually without a drop of
water in its channel, we now found a very turbulent stream, we did not
meet with any object particularly worthy of remark, until we reached
the _Laguna de Encinillas_.[112] This lake is ten or twelve miles long
by two or three in width, and seems to have no outlet even during the
greatest freshets, though fed by several small constantly-flowing
streams from the surrounding mountains. The water of this lake during
the dry season is so strongly impregnated with nauseous and bitter
salts, as to render it wholly unpalatable to man and beast. The most
predominant of these noxious substances is a species of alkali, known
there by the title of _tequesquite_. It is often seen oozing out from
the surface of marshy grounds, about the table plains of all Northern
Mexico, forming a grayish crust, and is extensively used in the
manufacture of soap, and sometimes by the bakers even for raising
bread. Here we had another evidence of the alarming effects of the
recent flood, the road for several miles along the margin of the lake
being [Pg160] completely inundated. It was, however, in the city of
Chihuahua itself that the disastrous consequences of the freshet were
most severely felt. Some inferior houses of _adobe_ were so much
soaked by the rains, that they tumbled to the ground, occasioning the
loss of several lives.

{82} The valley of Encinillas is very extensive and fertile, and is
the locale of one of those princely estates which are so abundant
further south, and known by the name of _Haciendas_. It abounds in
excellent pasturage, and in cattle of all descriptions. In former
times, before the Apaches had so completely devastated the country,
the herds which grazed in this beautiful valley presented much the
appearance of the buffalo of the plains, being almost as wild and
generally of dark color. Many of the proprietors of these princely
haciendas pride themselves in maintaining a uniformity in the color of
their cattle: thus some are found stocked with black, others red,
others white--or whatsoever shade the owner may have taken a fancy to.

As we drew near to Chihuahua, our party had more the appearance of a
funeral procession than of a band of adventurers, about to enter into
the full fruition of 'dancing hopes,' and the realization of 'golden
dreams.' Every one was uneasy as to what might be the treatment of the
revenue officers. For my own part, I had not quite forgotten sundry
annoyances and trials of temper I had been made to experience in the
season of 1837, on a similar occasion. Much to our surprise, however,
as well as delight, we were handled with a degree of leniency by the
custom-house deities, on our arrival, that was almost incomprehensible.
But the charm which operated in our favor, when understood, was very
simple. A caravan had left Chihuahua direct {83} for the United
States, the spring previous, and was daily expected back. The officers
of the custom-house were already compromised by certain cogent
arguments to receive the [Pg161] proprietors of this caravan with
striking marks of favor, and the _Señor Administrador de Rentas_,
Zuloaga himself, was expecting an _ancheta_ of goods. Therefore, had
they treated us with their wonted severity, the contrast would have
been altogether too glaring.[113]

We arrived at Chihuahua on the first of October, after a trip of forty
days, with wagons much more heavily laden than when we started from
the United States. The whole distance from Santa Fé to Chihuahua is
about 550 miles,--being reckoned 320 to Paso del Norte, and 230 from
thence to Chihuahua. The road from El Paso south is mostly firm and
beautiful, with the exception of the sand-hills before spoken of; and
is only rendered disagreeable by the scarcity and occasional ill-savor
of the water. The route winds over an elevated plain among numerous
detached ridges of low mountains--spurs, as it were, of the main
Cordilleras, which lie at a considerable distance to the westward.
Most of these extensive intermediate plains, though in many places of
fertile looking soil, must remain wholly unavailable for agricultural
purposes, on account of their natural aridity and a total lack of
water for irrigation.

FOOTNOTES:

[99] For El Paso, see Pattie's _Narrative_, in our volume xviii, p.
155, note 89.

Presidio del Norte is in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, at the mouth
of Los Conchos River; hence the town is sometimes called Presidio de
las Juntas (junction). It is one of the oldest posts in northern
Mexico.--ED.

[100] In confirmation of this, it is only necessary to quote the
following from the _Pauta de Comisos_, Cap. II., Art. 22: "Ni las
guias, ni las facturas, ni los pases, en todos los casos de que trata
este decreto, han de contener enmendadura, raspadura, ni
entrerenglonadura alguna"--and this under penalty of confiscation.
--GREGG.

[101] How scant soever our outfit of 'camp comforts' might appear, our
Mexican muleteers were much more sparely supplied. The exposure
endured by this hardy race is really surprising. Even in the coldest
winter weather, they rarely carry more than one blanket apiece--the
_sarape_, which serves as a cloak during the day, and at night is
their only 'bed and bedding.'--GREGG.

[102] The precinct of Valverde, on the east bank of the Rio Grande, a
few miles below Socorro, has now a population of three hundred.
Although of considerable importance in the early nineteenth century,
the town has never been rebuilt since Gregg's time. The site was,
however, the rendezvous for Doniphan's troops (1846) preparatory to
his march into Chihuahua. It was also the field for a battle in the
War of Secession (1862), wherein the Texans won a victory over the
Federal troops.--ED.

[103] Fray Cristobal was long an important station in New Mexico; but,
as Gregg says, never a town of any size, merely a camping place at the
beginning of the Jornada del Muerto. The latter is well described by
Gregg, and was the dreaded portion of the journey from north to south
until the building of the railway, which traverses the larger part of
the old caravan route, but leaves the river somewhat higher up and
returns to it at Rincon, some distance above Robledo.--ED.

[104] Robledo was on the Rio Grande at the site where the Americans
later erected Fort Selden.

El Paso and the district north had formerly been a part of New Mexico;
but the act of 1824, reconstituting the northern states, assigned El
Paso district to Chihuahua, hence the boundary here mentioned.--ED.

[105] This place is often known among Americans as '_The Pass_.' It
has been suggested in another place, that it took its name from the
_passing_ thither of the refugees from the massacre of 1680; yet many
persons very rationally derive it from the _passing_ of the river (_el
paso del Rio del Norte_) between two points of mountains which project
against it from each side, just above the town.--GREGG.

[106] There is very little wine or legitimate _aguardiente_
manufactured in New Mexico. There was not a distillery, indeed, in all
the province until established by Americans some fifteen or twenty
years ago. Since that period, considerable quantities of whiskey have
been made there, particularly in the vicinity of Taos,--distilled
mainly from wheat, as this is the cheapest grain the country
affords.--GREGG.

[107] For the ordinary mesquit, see Pattie's _Narrative_, in our
volume xviii, p. 94, note 56. The tornillo is _Prosopis pubescens_,
the fruit of which is often called the screw-bean, and used by the
Indians both for food and fodder.--ED.

[108] A particular species of _agave_, called _A. lechuguilla_,
abounding in the El Paso region. See J. N. Rose, "Useful Plants of
Mexico," in U. S. Herbarium _Contributions_, volume v, no. 4, p.
209.--ED.

[109] Lake Patos (Lake of Geese), in northern Chihuahua, is the outlet
for Rio Carmen.--ED.

[110] Carrizal was founded about 1750, and at one time considered a
part of the province of New Mexico. It was later made a presidio, or
frontier fort, with a surrounding wall.--ED.

[111] Wislizenus found the temperature of these springs 84°
Fahrenheit. There is now a station called Ojo Calientes, on the
Mexican Central Railway, but it is some distance from the
springs.--ED.

[112] The size of Laguna de Encinillas (Lake of Live-Oaks) varies
greatly with the season of drouth or rain.--ED.

[113] For a brief sketch of Chihuahua, see Pattie's _Narrative_, in
our volume xviii, p. 153, note 85.--ED.



CHAPTER XXI {V}

Trip from Chihuahua to Aguascalientes, in 1835 -- Southern Trade
  and _Ferias_ -- Hacienda de la Zarca, and its innumerable Stock
  -- Rio Nazas, and Lakes without outlet -- Perennial Cotton --
  Exactions for Water and Pasturage -- Village of Churches -- City
  of Durango and its Peculiarities -- Persecution of Scorpions
  -- Negro-ship in the ascendant -- Robbers and their _modus_
  _operandi_ -- City of Aguascalientes -- Bathing Scene -- Haste to
  return to the North -- Mexican Mule-shoeing -- Difficulties and
  Perplexities -- A Friend in time of need -- Reach Zacatecas -- City
  Accommodations -- Hotels unfashionable -- _Locale_, Fortifications,
  etc. of the City of Zacatecas -- Siege by Santa Anna and his
  easy-won Victory -- At Durango again -- Civil Warfare among the
  'Sovereigns' -- Hairbreadth 'scapes -- Troubles of the Road -- Safe
  Arrival at Chihuahua -- Character of the Southern Country.


The patient reader who may have accompanied me thus far, without
murmuring at the dryness of some of the details, will perhaps pardon
me for presenting here a brief account of a trip which I made to
_Aguascalientes_, in the interior of Northern Mexico, in the year
1835, and which the arrangement I have adopted has prevented me from
introducing before, in its chronological order.

The trade of the South constitutes a very important branch of the
commerce of the country, in which foreigners, as well as natives, {85}
are constantly embarking. It is customary for most of those who
maintain mercantile establishments in Chihuahua, to procure
assortments of Mexican fabrics from the manufactories of Leon,
Aguascalientes, and other places of the same character in the more
southern districts of the republic. At certain seasons of the year,
here are held regular _ferias_, at which the people assemble in great
numbers, as well of sellers as of purchasers. There are some eight or
ten of these annual fairs held in the republic, each of which usually
lasts a week or more. It was about as much, however, from a desire to
behold the sunny districts of the South, as for commercial purposes,
that I undertook this expedition in 1835; and as my engagements have
not permitted me to revisit this section since, the few [Pg163] notes
of interest I was then able to collect, seem to come more
appropriately in this part of my work than in any other place that I
could readily select.

I set out from Chihuahua on the 26th of February, 1835. My party
consisted of four men (including myself) and two empty wagons--not a
very formidable escort to protect our persons as well as specie and
bullion (the only transmissible currency of the country) against the
bands of robbers which at all times infest that portion of our route
that lay south of Durango. From Chihuahua to that city the road was
rendered still more perilous by the constant hostilities of the
Indians. On the 7th of March, however, we arrived, without {86}
accident, at the town of Cerro Gordo, the northernmost settlement in
the department of Durango; and the following day we reached La Zarca,
which is the principal village of one of the most extensive haciendas
in the North. So immense is the amount of cattle on this estate, that,
as it was rumored, the proprietor once offered to sell the whole
hacienda, stock, etc., for the consideration alone of fifty cents for
each head of cattle found on the estate; but that no person has ever
yet been able or willing to muster sufficient capital to take up the
offer. It is very likely, however, that if such a proposition was ever
made, the proprietor intended to include all his stock of rats and
mice, reptiles and insects--in short, every genus of 'small cattle' on
his premises. This estate covers a territory of perhaps a hundred
miles in length, which comprises several flourishing villages.

In two days more, we reached Rio Nazas, a beautiful little river that
empties itself into Lake Cayman.[114] Rio [Pg164] Nazas has been
celebrated for the growth of cotton, which, owing to the mildness of
the climate, is sometimes planted fresh only every three or four
years. The light frosts of winter seldom destroy more than the upper
portion of the stalk, so that {87} the root is almost perennial. About
twenty-five miles further, we stopped at the mining village of La
Noria, where we were obliged to purchase water for our mules--a novel
expense to the American traveller, but scarcely to be complained of,
inasmuch as the water had to be drawn from wells with a great deal of
labor. It is not unusual, also, for the proprietors of haciendas to
demand remuneration for the pasturage on the open plains, consumed by
the animals of travellers--a species of exaction which one never hears
of further north.

Our next stopping-place was Cuencamé, which may well be called the
Village of Churches: for, although possessing a very small population,
there are five or six edifices of this description.[115] As I had
business to transact at Durango, which is situated forty or fifty
miles westward of the main Southern road, I now pursued a direct route
for that city, where I arrived on the 16th of March.

Durango is one of the handsomest cities in the North, with a
population of about 20,000. It is situated in a level plain,
surrounded in every direction by low mountains. It presents two or
three handsome squares, with many fine edifices and some really
splendid churches. The town is supplied with water for irrigating the
gardens, and for many other ordinary purposes, by several open
aqueducts, which lead through the streets, from a large spring, a mile
or {88} two distant; but as these are kept filthy by the offal that is
thrown into them, the inhabitants who are able to buy it, procure most
of their [Pg165] water for drinking and culinary purposes, from the
_aguadores_, who pack it, on asses, usually in large jars, from the
spring.

This is the first Northern city in which there is to be found any
evidence of that variety of tropical fruits, for which Southern Mexico
is so justly famed. Although it was rather out of season, yet the
market actually teemed with all that is most rich and exquisite in
this kind of produce. The _maguey_, from which is extracted the
popular beverage called _pulque_,[116] is not only cultivated
extensively in the fields, but grows wild everywhere upon the plains.
This being the height of the pulque season, a hundred shanties might
be seen loaded with jugs and goblets filled with this favorite liquor,
from its sweetest unfermented state to the grade of 'hard cider;'
while the incessant cries of "Pulque! pulque dulce! pulque bueno!"
added to the shrill and discordant notes of the fruit venders, created
a confusion of {89} sounds amidst which it was impossible to hear
oneself talk.

Durango is also celebrated as being the head-quarters, as it were, of
the whole scorpion family. During the spring, especially, so much are
the houses infested by these poisonous insects, that many people are
obliged to have resort to a kind of mosquito-bar, in order to keep
them out of their beds at night. As an expedient to deliver the city
from this terrible pest, a society has actually been formed, which
pays a reward of a _cuartilla_ (three cents) for every _alacran_ (or
scorpion) that is brought to them. Stimulated by the [Pg166] desire
of gain, the idle boys of the city are always on the look-out: so
that, in the course of a year, immense numbers of this public enemy
are captured and slaughtered. The body of this insect is of the bulk
and cast of a medium spider, with a jointed tail one to two inches
long, at the end of which is a sting whose wounds are so poisonous as
often to prove fatal to children, and are very painful to adults.

The most extraordinary peculiarity of these scorpions is, that they
are far less dangerous in the North than in the South, which in some
manner accounts for the story told Capt. Pike, that even those of
Durango lose most of their venom as soon as they are removed a few
miles from the city.[117]

Although we were exceedingly well armed, yet so many fearful stories
of robberies said to be committed, almost daily, on the Southern
roads, reached my ears, that before {90} leaving Durango, I resolved
to add to my 'weapons of defence' one of those peculiarly terrible
dogs which are sometimes to be found in this country, and which are
very serviceable to travellers situated as I was. Having made my
wishes known to a free negro from the United States, named George, he
recommended me to a custom-house officer, and a very particular friend
of his, as being possessed of the very article I was in search of. I
accordingly called at the house of that functionary, in company with
my sable informant, and we were ushered into a handsome parlor, where
two or three well-dressed señoritas sat discussing some of the
fruitful topics of the day. One of them--the officer's wife, as it
appeared, and a very comely dame she was--rose immediately, and, with
a great deal of ceremonious deference, saluted _Señor Don Jorge_,
inviting him at the same time to a [Pg167] seat, while I was left to
remain perfectly unnoticed in my standing position. George appeared
considerably embarrassed, for he had not quite forgotten the customs
and manners of his native country, and was even yet in the habit of
treating Americans not only with respect but with humility. He
therefore declined the tendered distinction, and remarked that '_el
señor_' had only come to purchase their dog. Upon this, the lady
pointed to a kennel in a corner, when the very first glimpse of the
ferocious animal convinced me that he was precisely the sort of a
customer I wanted for a companion. Having therefore paid {91} down six
dollars, the stipulated sum of purchase, I bowed myself out of the
presence of the ladies, not a little impressed with my own
insignificance, in the eyes of these fair _doñas_, contrasted with the
grandeur of my sable companion. But the popularity of negroes in
Northern Mexico has ceased to be a matter of surprise to the
traveller.

With regard to _Don Jorge_, if I was surprised at the marks of
attention paid him by a white lady, I had cause to be much more
astonished shortly after. As the sooty don was lounging about my
wagons, a clever-visaged youth approached and placed in his hands a
satin stock, with the compliments of his sister (the officer's wife),
hoping that he would accept that trifle, wrought by her own hand, as a
token of her particular regard! But, notwithstanding these marks of
distinction (to apply no harsher epithet), George was exceedingly
anxious to engage in my employ, in whatsoever capacity I might choose
to take him; for he had discovered that such honors were far from
affording him a livelihood: yet I did not then need his services, and
have never heard of him since.

On the 22d we left Durango, and after a few days' march found
ourselves once more in the _camino real_ that led from Chihuahua to
Zacatecas. All the frightful stories I had [Pg168] heard about
robbers now began to flash upon my memory, which made me regard every
man I encountered on the road with a very suspicious eye. As all
travellers go armed, it {92} is impossible to distinguish them from
banditti;[118] so that the unsuspecting traveller is very frequently
set upon by the very man he had been consorting with in apparent
good-fellowship, and either murdered on the spot, or dragged from his
horse with the lazo, and plundered of all that is valuable about him.

I have heard it asserted that there is a regular bandit trade
organized throughout the country, in which some of the principal
officers of state (and particularly of the judicial corps) are not
unfrequently engaged. A capital is made up by shares, as for any other
enterprise, bandits are fitted out and instructed where to operate,
and at stated periods of the year a regular dividend is paid to the
stockholders. The impunity which these 'gentlemen of the order' almost
everywhere enjoy in the country, is therefore not to be marvelled at.
In Durango, during my sojourn there, a well dressed caballero was
frequently in the habit of entering our _meson_, whom mine host soon
pointed out to me as a notorious brigand. "Beware of him," said the
honest publican; "he is prying into your affairs"--and so it turned
out; for my muleteer informed me that the fellow had been trying to
pump from him all the particulars in regard to our condition and
destination. Yet this worthy was not only suffered to prowl about
unmolested {93} by the authorities, but appeared to be on familiar
terms with many of the principal dignitaries of the city.
Notwithstanding all our apprehensions, however, we arrived at our
place of destination without even the novelty of an incident to swell
our budget of gossip. [Pg169]

The city of Aguascalientes is beautifully situated in a level
plain, and would appear to contain about twenty thousand inhabitants,
who are principally engaged in the manufacture of _rebozos_ and other
textures mostly of cotton.[119] As soon as I found myself sufficiently
at leisure, I visited the famous warm spring (_ojo caliente_) in the
suburbs, from which the city derives its euphonious name. I followed
up the _acequia_ that led from the spring--a ditch four or five feet
wide, through which flowed a stream three or four feet in depth. The
water was precisely of that agreeable temperature to afford the luxury
of a good bath, which I had hoped to enjoy; but every few paces I
found men, women, and children, submerged in the acequia; and when I
arrived at the basin, it was so choked up with girls and full-grown
women, who were paddling about with all the nonchalance of a gang of
ducks, that I was forced to relinquish my long-promised treat.

It had been originally my intention to continue on to Leon, another
manufacturing town some seventy or eighty miles from Aguascalientes;
but, hearing that Santa Anna had just arrived there with a large army,
on his way to Zacatecas to quell an insurrection,[120] I {94} felt
very little curiosity to extend my rambles further. Having, therefore,
made all my purchases in the shortest possible time, in a few days I
was again in readiness to start for the North.

That my mules might be in condition for the hard travel before me, it
was necessary to have them shod: a precaution, however, which is
seldom used in the north of Mexico, either [Pg170] with mules or
horses. Owing a little to the peculiar breed, but more still no doubt
to the dryness of the climate, Mexican animals have unusually hard
hoofs. Many will travel for weeks, and even months, over the firm[121]
and often rocky roads of the interior (the pack-mules carrying their
huge loads), without any protection whatever to the feet, save that
which nature has provided. But most of mine being a little
tender-footed, I engaged Mexican _herreros_ to fit them out in their
own peculiar style. Like almost everything else of their
manufacturing, their mule-shoes are of a rather primitive model--broad
thin plates, tacked on with large club-headed nails. But the
expertness of the shoers compensated in some degree for the defects of
the _herraduras_. It made but little odds how wild and vicious the
mule--an assistant would draw up his foot in an instant, and soon
place him _hors de combat_; and then fixing a nail, the shoer {95}
would drive it to the head at a single stroke, standing usually at
full arm's length, while the assistant held the foot. Thus in less
than half the time I had ever witnessed the execution of a similar job
before, they had completely shod more than twenty of the most unruly
brutes--without once resorting to the expedient so usual in such
cases, of throwing the animals upon the ground.

Just as the process of shoeing my mules had been completed, a person
who proved to be a public officer entered the _corral_, and pointing
to the mules, very politely informed me that they were wanted by the
government to transport troops to Zacatecas. "They will be called for
to-morrow afternoon," he continued; "let them not be removed!" I had
of course to bow acquiescence to this imperative edict, well knowing
that all remonstrance would be vain; yet fully [Pg171] determined to
be a considerable distance on the road northward before that 'morrow'
should be very far advanced.

But a new difficulty now presented itself. I must procure a _guia_ or
passport for my cargo of merchandise, with a _responsible
endorser_,--an additional imposition I was wholly unprepared for, as I
was then ignorant of any law to that effect being in force, and had
not a single acquaintance in the city. I was utterly at a loss what to
do: under any other circumstances I might have left the amount of the
_derecho de consumo_ in deposit, as others have been obliged to do on
similar occasions; but {96} unfortunately I had laid out the last
dollar of my available means.

As I left the custom-house brooding over these perplexities, one of
the principal clerks of the establishment slipped a piece of paper
into my hand containing the following laconic notice:--"_Aguárdeme
afuera_" (wait for me without);--an injunction I passively obeyed,
although I had not the least idea of its purport. The clerk was soon
with me, and remarked, "You are a stranger in the city, and ignorant
of our severe revenue laws: meet me in an hour from this at my
lodgings, and we will devise some remedy for your difficulties." It
may be well supposed that I did not fail to be punctual. I met the
obliging officer in his room with a handful of blank custom-house
_pases_. It should be understood that a _pase_ only differs from a
_guia_ in requiring no endorser, but the former can only be extended
for amounts of goods not exceeding fifty dollars. Taking my bill, he
very soon filled me up a _pase_ for every package, directing each to a
different point in the North. "Now," observed my amiable friend, "if
you are disposed to do a little smuggling, these will secure your
safety, if you avoid the principal cities, till you reach the borders
of Chihuahua: if not, you may have a friend on the way who will
endorse your _guia_." I preferred the latter alternative. I had formed
an acquaintance [Pg172] with a worthy German merchant in Durango,
who, I felt convinced, would generously lend his signature to the
required document.

{97} As the revenue officers of Northern Mexico are not celebrated for
liberality and disinterestedness, I took it for granted that my friend
of the custom-house was actuated by selfish motives, and therefore
proffered him a remuneration for the trouble he had taken on my
account; but to my surprise, he positively refused accepting anything,
observing that he held it the duty of every honest man to assist his
fellow creatures in case of difficulty. It is truly a pleasant task to
bear record of such instances of disinterestedness, in the midst of so
many contaminating influences.

While speaking of _guias_, I may as well remark that they are also
frequently required for specie and always for bullion. This is often
very annoying to the traveller, not only because it is sometimes
inconvenient to find an endorser, but because the robbers are thus
enabled to obtain precise and timely information of the funds and
route of every traveller; for they generally have their agents in all
the principal cities, who are apt to collude with some of the
custom-house clerks, and thus procure regular reports of the
departures, with the amounts of valuables conveyed.

I was not long in taking leave of Aguascalientes, and heard nothing
more of the impressment of my mules. It was not my good fortune,
however, to remain for any length of time out of trouble. Being
anxious to take the city of Zacatecas in my route without jeopardizing
my goods, I took passage by the _diligencia_, while my wagons
continued on in {98} the _camino real_ or main road. On my arrival at
Zacatecas, I very soon discovered that by leaving 'my bed and board'
behind with the wagons, I had doomed myself to no small inconvenience
and privation. It was with the greatest difficulty I could obtain a
place to lie upon, and [Pg173] clean victuals with which to allay my
hunger. I could get a room, it is true, even for a _real_ per day, in
one of those great barn-like _mesones_ which are to be met with in all
these cities, but not one of them was at all furnished. There is
sometimes, in a corner, a raised platform of mud, much resembling a
common blacksmith's hearth, which is to supply the place of a
bedstead, upon which the traveller may spread his blankets, if he
happen to have any. On this occasion I succeeded in borrowing one or
two of the stage-driver who was a Yankee, and so made out 'pretty
comfortably' in the sleeping way. These _mesones_ are equally
ill-prepared to furnish food for the traveller, unless he is willing
to put up with a dish of _frijoles_ and _chile guisado_ with
_tortillas_, all served up in the most filthy manner. I therefore
sought out a public _fonda_ kept by an Italian, where I procured an
excellent supper. Fondas, however, are mere _restaurants_, and
consequently without accommodations for lodging.

Strange as the fact may appear, one may travel fifteen hundred miles,
and perhaps more, on the main public highway through Northern Mexico,
without finding a single tavern with general accommodations. This,
however, may {99} be accounted for, by taking into consideration the
peculiar mode of travelling of the country, which renders resorts of
this kind almost unnecessary. _Arrieros_ with their _atajos_ of
pack-mules always camp out, being provided with their cooks and stock
of provisions, which they carry with them. Ordinary travellers
generally unite in little caravans, for security against robbers and
marauders; and no caballero ever stirs abroad without a train of
servants, and a pack-mule to carry his _cantinas_ (a pair of large
wallets or leathern boxes), filled with provisions, on the top of
which is lashed a huge machine containing a mattress and all the other
'fixings' for bed furniture. Thus equipped, the [Pg174] caballero
snaps his fingers at all the _hotels garnis_ of the universe, and is
perfectly independent in every movement.

The city of Zacatecas, as my readers are doubtless aware, is
celebrated for its mining interests. Like all other Mexican towns of
the same class, it originated in small, insignificant settlements on
the hillsides, in the immediate vicinity of the mines, until it
gradually grew up to be a large and wealthy city, with a population of
some 30,000 inhabitants. Its locale is a deep ravine formed among
rugged mountain ridges; and as the houses are mostly built in rows,
overtopping one another, along the hillsides, some portions of the
city present all the appearance of a vast amphitheatre. Many of the
streets are handsomely paved, and two of the squares are finely
ornamented with curiously carved _jets-d'eau_, {100} which are
supplied with water raised by mule power, from wells among the
adjacent hills. From these the city is chiefly furnished with water.

I have already mentioned, that General Santa Anna was at this time
marching against Zacatecas with a large force. It may be remembered
that after the General's accession to the supreme authority of Mexico
(upon the establishment of _Centralismo_), he deemed it expedient to
issue a decree abolishing the state militia, known as _Cívicos_, as
being dangerous to the liberties of----the _dictador_. Zacatecas, so
far from obeying this despotic mandate, publicly called on the Cívicos
to defend their rights, and Santa Anna was now descending upon them
with an army double that which the city could raise, to enforce their
obedience. The _Zacatecanos_, however, were not idle. The militia was
pouring in from the surrounding villages, and a degree of enthusiasm
prevailed throughout the city, which seemed to be the presage of a
successful defence. In fact, the city itself, besides being from its
location almost impregnable, was completely protected by artificial
fortifications. The only accessible point [Pg175] was by the main
road, which led from the south immediately up the narrow valley of the
ravine. Across this a strong wall had been erected some years before,
and the road passed through a large gate, commanded by a bastion upon
the hillside above, whence a hundred men well supplied with arms and
ammunition, might easily cut {101} off thousands upon thousands, as
fast as they advanced. The city was therefore deemed impregnable, and
being supplied with provisions for a lengthy siege, the patriots were
in high spirits. A foreign engineer or two had been engaged to
superintend the fortifications.

Santa Anna reached Zacatecas a few days after my departure. As he had
no idea of testing the doubtful mettle of his army, by an attempt to
storm the place, which presented so formidable an appearance, he very
quietly squatted himself down at the village of Guadalupe, three miles
below. From this point he commenced his operations by throwing
'missiles' into the city--not of lead, or cast-iron, or any such cruel
agents of warfare, but _bombs of paper_, which fell among the
besieged, and burst with gentle overtures to their commanding
officers. This novel 'artillery' of the dictator produced a perfectly
electric effect; for the valor of the commandant of the Cívicos rose
to such a pitch, that he at once marched his forces out of the
fortifications, to attack the besiegers in the open field--face to
face, as true bravery required. But on the very first onset, this
valiant officer, by some mysterious agency which could not be
accounted for, was suddenly seized with a strange panic, and, with all
his forces, made a precipitate retreat, fleeing helter-skelter, as if
all the engines of destruction that were ever invented, had been
brought to bear upon them; when the victorious army of Santa Anna
marched into the city without further opposition.

{102} This affair is a pretty just sample of most of the [Pg176]
successful battles of this 'great general.' The treacherous collusion
of the principal Zacatecas officers was so apparent, that they deemed
it prudent to fly the city for safety, lest the wrath of their
incensed fellow-citizens should explode upon them. Meanwhile the
soldiery amused themselves by sacking the city, and by perpetrating
every species of outrage that their mercenary and licentious appetites
could devise. Their savage propensities were particularly exercised
against the few foreigners that were found in the place.

Meanwhile I was journeying very leisurely towards Durango, where I
arrived on the 21st of April. As the main wagon road to the north does
not pass through that city, it was most convenient and still more
prudent for me to leave my wagons at a distance: their entrance would
have occasioned the confiscation of my goods, for the want of the
'necessary documents,' as already alluded to. But I now procured a
_guia_ without further difficulty; which was indeed a principal object
of my present visit to that city.

Before leaving Durango I witnessed one of those civil broils which are
so common in Mexico. I was not even aware that any difficulty had been
brewing, till I was waked on the morning of the 25th by a report of
fire-arms. Stepping out to ascertain what was the matter, I perceived
the _azotea_ of the parochial church occupied by armed men, who seemed
to be employed in amusing themselves {103} by discharging their guns
at random upon the people in the streets. These _bravos_, as I was
afterwards informed, belonged to the bishop's party, or that of the
_Escoceses_, which was openly at war with the liberalists,
anti-hierarchists, or _Yorkinos_, and were resorting to this summary
mode of proceeding, in order to bring about a change of affairs; for
at this time the liberal party had the ascendency in the civil
government of Durango. [Pg177]

Being somewhat curious to have a nearer view of what was going on, I
walked down past the church, towards a crowd which was assembled in a
_plaza_ beyond. This movement on my part was rather inconsiderate: for
foreigners were in extremely bad odor with the belligerents; nor had I
mingled with the multitude many minutes, before a sober-looking
citizen plucked me by the sleeve, and advised me, if I valued my two
ears, and did not wish to have my career of usefulness cut short
prematurely, to stay within doors. Of course I needed no further
persuasion, and returned at once to my lodgings, where I made
immediate preparations for a speedy departure. As I was proceeding
through the streets soon afterward, with a cargo of goods, I received,
just after leaving the custom-house, a very warm salutation from the
belligerents, which made the dust start from almost under my very
feet. The _cargadores_ who were carrying my packages were no doubt as
much frightened as myself. They supposed the reason of their shooting
at us to be because {104} they imagined we were carrying off the
_parque_ (ammunition) of the government, which was deposited in the
building we had just left.

We were soon under way, and very little regret did I feel when I
fairly lost sight of the city of scorpions. But I was not yet wholly
beyond the pale of difficulties. Owing to the fame of the Indian
hostilities in the North, it was almost impossible to procure the
services of Mexican muleteers for the expedition. One I engaged, took
the first convenient opportunity to escape at night, carrying away a
gun with which I had armed him; yet I felt grateful that he did not
also take a mule, as he had the whole _caballada_ under his exclusive
charge: and soon after, a Mexican wagoner was frightened back by the
reports of savages.

After a succession of such difficulties, and still greater [Pg178]
risks from the Indians that infested the route, I was of course
delighted when I reached Chihuahua, on the 14th of May, in perfect
safety.[122]

FOOTNOTES:

[114] The numerous little lakes throughout the interior of Mexico,
without outlets yet into which rivers are continually flowing, present
a phenomenon which seem, quite singular to the inhabitants of our
humid climates. But the wastage in the sand, and still greater by
evaporation in those elevated dry regions, is such that there are no
important rises in the lakes except during unusual freshets.--GREGG.

[115] The road passed southeast through the state of Durango, where
all these small stations may be found on any good map. According to
Pike the owner of the vast estate near La Zarca was the Marquis de San
Miguel.--ED.

[116] Also, from the _Pulque_ is distilled a spiritous liquor called
_mezcal_. The _maguey_ (_Agave Americana_) is besides much used for
hedging. It here performs the double purpose of a cheap and
substantial fence, and of being equally valuable for _pulque_. When no
longer serviceable in these capacities, the pulpy stalk is converted,
by roasting, into a pleasant item of food, while the fibrous blades,
being suitably dressed, are still more useful. They are manufactured
into ropes, bags, etc., which resemble those made of the common
sea-grass, though the fibres are finer. There is one species (which
does not produce pulque, however), whose fibres, known in that country
as _pita_, are nearly as fine as dressed hemp, and are generally used
for sewing shoes, saddlery, and similar purposes.--GREGG.

[117] See Elliott Coues, _Expeditions of Zebulon M. Pike_ (New York,
1895), ii, p. 763, note 34. That editor identifies the scorpion as
_Androctomus biaculeatus_, and favorably comments on Gregg's sensible
explanation of Pike's story.--ED.

[118] Travellers on these public highways not only go 'armed to the
teeth,' but always carry their weapons exposed. Even my wagoners
carried their guns and pistols swung upon the pommels of their
saddles. At night, as we generally camped out, they were laid under
our heads, or close by our sides.--GREGG.

[119] Aguascalientes is the capital of a small interior Mexican state
of the same name, now on the line of the Mexican Central Railway. It
was founded in 1575, and at the close of the eighteenth century was a
place of considerable importance. During the negotiations for peace
between the United States and Mexico (1848), a revolution broke out at
this place, that was with difficulty subdued.--ED.

[120] This was part of the centralist revolution, for which see our
volume xix, p. 271, note 96 (Gregg). Santa Ana himself subdued the
opposition in Zacatecas, where his soldiers were permitted to plunder
widely.--ED.

[121] Some of these table-plain highways, though of but a dry sandy
and clayey soil, are as firm as a brick pavement. In some places, for
miles, I have remarked that the nail-heads of my shod animals would
hardly leave any visible impression.--GREGG.



CHAPTER XXII {VI}

Visit to the Mining Town of Jesus-Maria -- Critical Roads -- Losing
  Speculations -- Mine of Santa Juliana -- Curious mining Operations
  -- Different Modes of working the Ore -- The Crushing-mill, etc. --
  _Barras de Plata_ -- Value of Bullion -- The Silver Trade -- Return
  to Chihuahua -- Resumption of the regular Narrative -- Curious
  Wholesales -- Money Table -- Redundancy of Copper Coin -- City of
  Chihuahua and its Peculiarities -- Ecclesiastical Architecture --
  Hidalgo and His Monument -- Public Works, and their present
  Declension -- _Fête_ in honor of Iturbide -- Illiberality towards
  Americans -- Shopping Mania -- Anti-Masonic _Auto de Fe_.


Before resuming my regular narrative, I trust the reader will pardon
me for introducing here a brief account of an excursion which I made
in the fall of the year 1835, to the mining town of Jesus-Maria, one
of the most important mineral districts in the department of
Chihuahua, situated about a hundred and fifty miles west of the city,
in the very heart of the great Cordilleras.[123]

I had long been desirous of visiting some of the mining establishments
of Mexico, and seeing a favorable opportunity of embarking in a
profitable enterprise, I set out from Chihuahua on the 15th of
October. My party consisted of but one American comrade, with {106} a
Mexican muleteer--and three or four mules freighted with specie to be
employed in the _silver trade_: a rather scanty convoy for a route
subject to the inroads both of savages and robbers. For
transportation, [Pg179] we generally pack our specie in sacks made of
raw beef hide, which shrinks upon drying, and thus presses the
contents so closely as to prevent friction. A pair of these packages,
usually containing between one and two thousand dollars each,
constitutes an ordinary mule-load on the mountain routes.

The road in this direction leads through the roughest mountain passes;
and, in some places, it winds so close along the borders of
precipices, that by a single misstep an animal might be precipitated
several hundred feet. Mules, however, are very surefooted; and will
often clamber along the most craggy cliffs with nearly as much
security as the goat. I was shown the projecting edge of a rock over
which the road had formerly passed. This shelf was perhaps thirty feet
in length by only two or three in width. The road which leads into the
town of Jesus-Maria from the west side of the mountain is also
extremely perilous and steep, and seems almost to overhang the houses
below. Heavily laden mules have sometimes slipped off the track, and
tumbled headlong into the town. This place is even more pent up
between ridges than Zacatecas: the valley is narrower and the
mountains much higher; while, as is the case with that remarkable
city, the houses are {107} sometimes built in successive tiers, one
above another; the _azoteas_ of the lower ones forming the yard of
those above.

The first mine I visited consisted of an immense horizontal shaft cut
several hundred feet into a hill-side, a short distance below the town
of Jesus-Maria, upon which the proprietors had already sunk, in the
brief space of one year, the enormous sum of one hundred and twenty
thousand dollars! Such is often the fate of the speculative miner,
whose vocation is closely allied to gaming, and equally precarious.
[Pg180]

The most important mine of Jesus-Maria at this time was one called
Santa Juliana, which had been the means of alternately making and
sinking several splendid fortunes. This mine had then reached a depth
of between eight and nine hundred feet, and the operations were still
tending downwards. The materials were drawn up by mule power applied
to a windlass: but as the rope attached to it only extended half way
down, another windlass had been erected at the distance of about four
hundred feet from the mouth of the cavern, which was also worked by
mules, and drew the ores, etc., from the bottom. On one occasion, as I
was standing near the aperture of this great pit, watching the ascent
of the windlass-rope, expecting every moment the appearance of the
large leathern bucket which they employ for drawing up the minerals as
well as the rubbish and water[124] from the bottom, {108} what should
greet my vision but a mule, puffing and writhing, firmly bound to a
huge board constructed for the purpose, and looking about as demure
upon the whole as a sheep under the shears. On being untied, the
emancipated brute suddenly sprang to his feet, and looked around him
at the bright scenes of the upper world with as much astonishment as
Rip Van Winkle may be supposed to have felt after waking up from his
twenty years' sleep.

The ore which is obtained from these mines, if sufficiently rich to
justify the operation, is transferred to the smelting furnaces, where
the pure metal is melted down and extracted from the virgin fossil.
If, on the contrary, the ore is deemed of inferior quality, it is then
submitted to the process of amalgamation.

[Illustration: Mule emerging from a mine]

[Illustration: Still Hunting]

{109} The _moliendas_, or crushing-mills (_arrastres_, as called at
some mines), employed for the purpose of grinding the [Pg183] ores,
are somewhat singular machines. A circular (or rather annular) cistern
of some twenty or thirty feet in diameter is dug in the earth, and the
sides as well as the bottom are lined with hewn stone of the hardest
quality. Transversely through an upright post which turns upon its
axis in the centre of the plan, passes a shaft of wood, at each end of
which are attached by cords one or two grinding-stones with smooth
flat surfaces, which are dragged (by mules fastened to the extremities
of the shaft) slowly around upon the bottom of the cistern, into which
the ore is thrown after being pounded into small pieces. It is here
ground, with the addition of water, into an impalpable mortar, by the
constant friction of the dragging stones against the sides and bottom
of the cistern. A suitable quantity of quicksilver is perfectly mixed
with the mortar; to which are added some muriates, sulphates, and
other chemical substances, to facilitate the amalgamation. The
compound is then piled up in small heaps, and not disturbed again
until this process is supposed to be complete, when it is transferred
to the washing-machine. Those I have observed are very simple,
consisting of a kind of stone tub, into which a stream of water is
made to flow constantly, so as to carry off all the lighter matter,
which is kept stirred up by an upright studded with pegs, that
revolves in the centre, while the amalgamated metals sink {110} to the
bottom. Most of the quicksilver is then pressed out, and the silver
submitted to a burning process, by which the remaining portion of
mercury is expelled.

The silver which is taken from the furnace, generally contains an
intermixture of gold, averaging from ten to thirty per cent.; but what
is extracted by amalgamation is mostly separated in the washing. While
in a liquid state, the gold, from its greater specific gravity, mostly
settles to the bottom: yet it usually retains a considerable alloy of
silver. The [Pg184] compound is distinguished by the name of
_oroche_. The main portion of the silver generally retains too little
gold to make it worth separating.

Every species of silver is moulded into _barras_ or ingots, weighing
from fifty to eighty pounds each, and usually worth between one and
two thousand dollars. These are assayed by an authorized agent of the
government, and stamped with their weight and character, which enables
the holder to calculate their value by a very simple rule. When the
bullion is thus stamped, it constitutes a species of currency, which
is much safer for remittances than coin. In case of robbery, the
_barras_ are easily identified, provided the robbers have not had time
to mould them into some other form. For this reason, people of wealth
frequently lay up their funds in ingots; and the cellars of some of
the _ricos_ of the South, are often found teeming with large
quantities of them, presenting the appearance of a winter's supply of
firewood.

{111} As the charge for parting the gold and silver at the Mexican
mints, is generally from one to two dollars, and coinage about fifty
cents, per pound, this assayed bullion yields a profit upon its
current value of nearly ten per cent. at the United States Mint; but,
if unassayed, it generally produces an advance of about double that
amount upon the usual cost at the mines. The exportation of bullion,
however, is prohibited, except by special license from the general
government. Still a large quantity is exported in this way, and
considerable amounts smuggled out through some of the ports.

A constant and often profitable business in the 'silver trade' is
carried on at these mines. As the miners rarely fail being in need of
ready money, they are generally obliged to sell their bullion for
coin, and that often at a great sacrifice, so as to procure available
means to prosecute their mining [Pg185] operations. To profit by this
trade, as is already mentioned, was a principal object of my present
visit. Having concluded my business transactions, and partially
gratified my curiosity, I returned to Chihuahua, where I arrived,
November 24, 1835, without being molested either by robbers or
Indians, though the route is sometimes infested by both these classes
of independent gentry.

But, as it is now high time I should put an end to this digression, I
will once more resume my narrative, where it was interrupted at my
arrival in Chihuahua, on the first of October, 1839.

{112} It is usual for each trader, upon his arrival in that city, to
engage a store-room, and to open and exhibit his goods, as well for
the purpose of disposing of them at wholesale as retail. His most
profitable custom is that of the petty country merchants from the
surrounding villages. Some traders, it is true, continue in the retail
business for a season or more, yet the greater portion are transient
dealers, selling off at wholesale as soon as a fair bargain is
offered.

The usual mode of selling by the lot in Chihuahua is somewhat
singular. All such cottons as calicoes and other prints, bleached,
brown and blue domestics both plain and twilled, stripes, checks,
etc., are rated at two or three _reales_[125] per _vara_, without the
least reference to quality or cost, and the 'general assortment' at 60
to 100 per cent. upon the bills of cost, according to the demand. The
_varage_ is [Pg186] usually estimated by adding eight per cent. to
the yardage, but the _vara_ being thirty-three inches (nearly), the
actual difference is more than nine. In these sales, cloths--{113}
indeed all measurable goods, except ribands and the like, sometimes
enter at the _varage_ rate. I have heard of some still more curious
contracts in these measurement sales, particularly in Santa Fé, during
the early periods of the American trade. Everything was sometimes
rated by the vara--not only all textures, but even hats, cutlery,
trinkets, and so on! In such cases, very singular disputes would
frequently arise as to the mode of measuring some particular articles:
for instance, whether pieces of riband should be measured in bulk, or
unrolled, and yard by yard; looking-glasses, cross or lengthwise;
pocket-knives, shut or open; writing-paper, in the ream, in the quire,
or by the single sheet; and then, whether the longer or shorter way of
the paper; and so of many others.

Before the end of October, 1839, I had an opportunity of selling out
my stock of goods to a couple of English merchants, which relieved me
from the delays, to say nothing of the inconveniences attending a
retail trade: such, for instance, as the accumulation of copper coin,
which forms almost the exclusive currency in petty dealings. Some
thousands of dollars' worth are frequently accumulated upon the hands
of the merchant in this way, and as the copper of one department is
worthless in another, except for its intrinsic value, which is seldom
more than ten per cent. of the nominal value, the holders are
subjected to a great deal of trouble and annoyance.

With regard to the city, there is but little to {114} be said that is
either very new or unusually interesting. When compared with Santa Fé
and all the towns of the North, Chihuahua might indeed be pronounced a
magnificent place; but, compared with the nobler cities of _tierra
afuera_, it sinks [Pg187] into insignificance. According to Capt.
Pike, the city of Chihuahua was founded in 1691. The ground-plan is
much more regular than that of Santa Fé, while a much greater degree
of elegance and classic taste has been exhibited in the style of the
architecture of many buildings; for though the bodies be of _adobe_,
all the best houses are cornered with hewn stone, and the doors and
windows are framed in the same. The streets, however, remain nearly in
the same state as Nature formed them, with the exception of a few
roughly-paved side-walks. Although situated about a hundred miles east
of the main chain of the Mexican Cordilleras, Chihuahua is surrounded
on every side by detached ridges of mountains, but none of them of any
great magnitude. The elevation of the city above the ocean is between
four and five thousand feet; its latitude is 28° 36′; and its entire
population numbers about ten thousand souls.

The most splendid edifice in Chihuahua is the principal church, which
is said to equal in architectural grandeur anything of the sort in the
republic. The steeples, of which there is one at each front corner,
rise over a hundred feet above the azotea. They are composed of very
fancifully-carved columns; and {115} in appropriate niches of the
frontispiece, which is also an elaborate piece of sculpture, are to be
seen a number of statues, as large as life, the whole forming a
complete representation of Christ and the twelve Apostles. This church
was built about a century ago, by contributions levied upon the mines
(particularly those of Santa Eulalia, fifteen or twenty miles from the
city), which paid over a per centage on all the metal extracted
therefrom; a _medio_, I believe, being levied upon each _marco_ of
eight ounces. In this way, about a million of dollars was raised and
expended in some thirty years, the time employed in the construction
of the building. It is a curious fact, however, that, notwithstanding
the enormous sums of money expended [Pg188] in outward embellishments,
there is not a church from thence southward, perhaps, where the
interior arrangements bear such striking marks of poverty and neglect.
If, however, we are not dazzled by the sight of those costly
decorations for which the churches of Southern Mexico are so much
celebrated, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the turrets are
well provided with bells, a fact of which every person who visits
Chihuahua very soon obtains auricular demonstration. One, in
particular, is so large and sonorous that it has frequently been
heard, so I am informed, at the distance of twenty-five miles.

A little below the _Plaza Mayor_ stands the ruins (as they may be
called) of San Francisco--the mere skeleton of another great church
{116} of hewn-stone, which was commenced by the Jesuits previous to
their expulsion in 1767, but never finished. By the outlines still
traceable amid the desolation which reigns around, it would appear
that the plan of this edifice was conceived in a spirit of still
greater magnificence than the Parroquia which I have been describing.
The abounding architectural treasures that are mouldering and ready to
tumble to the ground, bear sufficient evidence that the mind which had
directed its progress was at once bold, vigorous and comprehensive.

This dilapidated building has since been converted into a sort of
state prison, particularly for the incarceration of distinguished
prisoners. It was here that the principals of the famous Texan Santa
Fé Expedition were confined, when they passed through the place, on
their way to the city of Mexico.[126] This edifice has also acquired
considerable celebrity as having received within its gloomy embraces
several of the most distinguished patriots, who were taken prisoners
during the first infant struggles for Mexican independence. [Pg189]
Among these was the illustrious ecclesiastic, Don Miguel Hidalgo y
Costilla, who made the first declaration at the village of Dolores,
September 16, 1810.[127] He was taken prisoner in March, 1811, some
time after his total defeat at Guadalaxara; and being brought to
Chihuahua, he was shot on the 30th of July following, in a little
square back of the prison, where a plain white monument of hewn stone
{117} has been erected to his memory. It consists of an octagon base
of about twenty-five feet in diameter, upon which rises a square,
unornamented pyramid to the height of about thirty feet. The monument
indeed is not an unapt emblem of the purity and simplicity of the
curate's character.

Among the few remarkable objects which attract the attention of the
traveller is a row of columns supporting a large number of stupendous
arches which may be seen from the heights, long before approaching the
city from the north. This is an aqueduct of considerable magnitude
which conveys water from the little river of Chihuahua, to an eminence
above the town, whence it is passed through a succession of pipes to
the main public square, where it empties itself into a large stone
cistern; and by this method the city is supplied with water. This and
other public works to be met with in Chihuahua, and in the southern
cities, are glorious remnants of the prosperous times of the Spanish
empire. No improvements on so exalted a scale have ever been made
under the republican government. In fact, everything in this benighted
country now seems to be on the decline, and the plain honest citizen
of the old school is not unfrequently heard giving vent to his
feelings by ejaculating "_¡Ojalá por los dias felices del Rey!_"--Oh,
for the happy days of the King! In short, there can be no doubt, that
the common people enjoyed more ease--more protection against the
[Pg190] savages--more {118} security in their rights and
property--more _liberty_, in truth, under the Spanish dynasty than at
present.

No better evidence can be found of the extensive operations which have
been carried on in this the greatest mining district of Northern
Mexico, than in the little mountains of _scoria_ which are found in
the suburbs of the city. A great number of poor laborers make a
regular business of hammering to pieces these metallic excrescences,
from which they collect silver enough to buy their daily bread. An
opinion has often been expressed by persons well acquainted with the
subject, that a fair business might be done by working this same
scoria over again. There are still in operation several furnaces in
the city, where silver ores extracted from the mines of the
surrounding mountains are smelted. There is also a rough mint in
Chihuahua (as there is indeed in all the mining departments), yet most
of its silver and all of its gold have been coined in the cities
further south.

When I arrived at Chihuahua, in 1839, a great fête had just come off
for the double purpose of celebrating the anniversary of the Emperor
Iturbide's birth day (Sept. 27, 1783), and that of his triumphal
entrance into the city of Mexico in 1821. It will be remembered, that,
after Mexico had been struggling for independence several years,
General Iturbide, who had remained a faithful officer of the crown,
and an active agent in persecuting the champions of Mexican liberty,
finding {119} himself, about the close of 1820, at the head of a large
division of the royal army sent against the patriot Guerrero, suddenly
turned over his whole force to the support of the republican cause,
and finally succeeded in destroying the last vestige of Spanish
authority in Mexico. How he was afterwards crowned emperor, and
subsequently [Pg191] dethroned, outlawed by a public decree and
eventually executed, is all matter of history.[128] But it is not
generally known, I believe, that this unfortunate soldier has since
received the honors of the Father of the Republic, a dignity to which
he was probably as much entitled as any one else--absurd though the
adoption of such a hero as the 'champion of liberty,' may appear to
'republicans of the Jefferson school.' A _grande fête d'hilarité_
takes place annually, in honor of his political canonization, which
'comes off' at the date already mentioned. To this great ball,
however, no Americans were invited, with the exception of a
Mexicanized denizen or two, whose invitation tickets informed the
_honored party_ that the price of admission to this famous feast,--a
ball given by the governor and other magnates of the land, in honor of
the hero of independence,--was twenty-five dollars.

Balls or reunions of this kind, however, seem not as frequent in
Chihuahua as in New Mexico: and to those we hear of, claiming the
title of 'fashionable,' Americans are very rarely invited. There is,
in fact, but little social intercourse between foreigners and the
natives, {120} except in a business way, or with a certain class of
the former, at the gambling-table. This want of hospitable feelings is
one of the worst traits in the character of the Chihuahueños, and when
placed in contrast with the kind and courteous treatment those who
visit the United States invariably experience from the lawgivers of
fashion among us, their illiberality will appear a hundred fold more
ungracious. These exclusive laws are the more severely felt in
Chihuahua, because in that city there are no _cafés_, [Pg192] nor
reading rooms, nor in short any favorite public resorts, except of a
gambling character, at which gentlemen can meet to lounge or amuse
themselves.

Besides the cock-pit, the gaming-table, and the _Alameda_, which is
the popular promenade for the wealthy and the indolent, one of the
most favorite pastimes of the females generally is shopping; and the
most fashionable time for this is by candle-light, after they have
partaken of their chocolate and their _cigarritos_. The streets and
shops are literally filled from dusk till nine or ten o'clock; and
many a time have I seen the counter of a store actually lined till a
late hour, with the fairest and most fashionable señoritas of the
city. On such occasions it is not a little painful as well as
troublesome to be compelled to keep a strict eye to the rights of
property, not that the dealers are all dishonest, but because there
never fail to be some present who are painfully afflicted with the
self-appropriating mania, {121} even among the fairest-looking
señoritas. This, with other purposes no less culpable, has no doubt
tended to establish the custom of night-shopping.

It may already be generally known perhaps, that the predominant party,
in Mexico, (and particularly in the North), is decidedly anti-masonic.
During my stay in Chihuahua I had an opportunity to test their
antipathy for that mysterious brotherhood. This was evinced in the
seizure of a dozen or two cotton handkerchiefs, which, unknown to
myself, happened to bear the stamp of the 'masonic carpet.' These
obnoxious articles having attracted the attention of some lynx-eyed
friars, one day, much to my consternation, my store was suddenly
invaded by the alcalde and some ecclesiastics. The handkerchiefs were
seized without ceremony, and by an _auto de fe_, condemned to be
publicly burned.



CHAPTER XXIII {VII}

Departure for Santa Fé -- Straitened for Food -- Summary Effort to
  procure Beef -- Seizure of one of our Party -- Altercation with
  a _Rico_ -- His pusillanimous Procedure -- Great Preparations in
  Chihuahua for our Arrest -- Arrival of Mexican Troops -- A polite
  Officer -- Myself with three of my Men summoned back to Chihuahua
  -- Amiable Conduct of Señor Artalejo -- _Junta Departmental_ and
  Discussion of my Affair -- Writ of _Habeas Corpus_ not in vogue
  -- The Matter adjusted and Passport granted -- The _Morale_ --
  Impunity of savage Depredators -- Final Start -- Company of
  _Paseños_ with their Fruits and Liquors -- Arrival at Santa Fé.


Having closed all my affairs in Chihuahua, and completed my
preparations for departing, I took my leave of that city for the
North, on the 31st of October, 1839. I was accompanied by a caravan
consisting of twenty-two wagons (all of which save one belonged to
me), and forty odd men, armed to the teeth, and prepared for any
emergency we might be destined to encounter: a precaution altogether
necessary, in view of the hordes of hostile savages which at all times
infested the route before us.

We also set out provided with an ample stock of bread and other
necessaries; for, from the suburbs of Chihuahua to the village of
{123} Carrizal, a distance of nearly a hundred and fifty miles, there
are no settlements on the route, from whence to procure supplies. To
furnish the party with meat, I engaged twenty sheep, to be delivered a
few miles on the way, which were to be driven along for our daily
consumption. But the contractor having failed, we found ourselves
entering the wilderness without a morsel of meat. The second day our
men began to murmur--it was surely 'dry living' upon mere bread and
coffee: in fact, by the time we entered the 'territory' of the
Hacienda de Encinillas, spoken of in another chapter, they were
clearly suffering from hunger. I was therefore under the necessity of
sending three Mexican muleteers of our party [Pg194] to _lazo_ a beef
from a herd which was grazing at some distance from where we had
pitched our camp; being one of those buffalo-like droves which run so
nearly wild upon this extensive domain. It had been customary, from
time immemorial, for travellers when they happened to be distressed
for meat, to supply their wants out of the wild cattle which nominally
belonged to this hacienda, reserving to themselves the privilege of
paying a reasonable price afterwards to the proprietor for the damage
committed. I must say, however, that, although I had travelled over
the same road nine times, I had never before resorted to this summary
mode of procuring food; nor should I, on the present occasion, have
deviated from my regular practice, though thus partially authorized by
a custom of the {124} country, but for the strait in which we found
ourselves, and the fact that I was confident I should meet either with
a _mayordomo_ or some of the _vaqueros_, to whom I could pay the value
of the beef, before passing beyond the purlieus of the hacienda, upon
the lands of which we had yet to travel for sixty or eighty miles.

The muleteers had just commenced giving chase to the cattle, when we
perceived several horsemen emerge from behind a contiguous eminence,
and pursue them at full speed. Believing the assailants to be Indians,
and seeing them shoot at one of the men, chase another, and seize the
third, bearing him off prisoner, several of us prepared to hasten to
the rescue, when the other two men came running in and informed us
that the aggressors were Mexican vaqueros. We followed them,
notwithstanding, to the village of Torreon, five or six miles to the
westward, where we found a crowd of people already collected around
our poor friend, who was trembling from head to foot, as though he had
really fallen into the hands of savages. I immediately inquired for
the mayordomo, when I was [Pg195] informed that the proprietor
himself, Don Angel Trias, was present. Accordingly I addressed myself
to _su señoría_, setting forth the innocence of my servant, and
declaring myself solely responsible for whatever crime had been
committed. Trias, however, was immovable in his determination to send
the boy back to Chihuahua to be tried for robbery, and all further
expostulation only drew down the {125} grossest and coarsest insults
upon myself, as well as my country, of which he professed no
inconsiderable knowledge.[129]

The altercation was at first conducted solely in Spanish; but the
princely señor growing weary of hearing so many unpalatable truths
told of himself in the vernacular of his own humble and astounded
menials, he stepped out from among the crowd, and addressed me in
English,--a language in which he had acquired some proficiency in the
course of his travels. The change of language by no means altered his
views, nor abated his pertinacity. At last, finding there was nothing
to be gained by this war of words, I ordered the boy to mount his
horse and rejoin the wagons. "Beware of the consequences!" vociferated
the enraged Trias. "Well, let them come," I replied; "here we are."
But we were suffered to depart in peace with the prisoner.

That the reader may be able to form some idea of the pusillanimity of
this lordly _haciendero_, it is only necessary to add, that when the
altercation took place we were inside of the fortifications, from
which our egress might easily have been prevented by simply closing
the outer gate. We [Pg196] were surrounded by the whole population of
the village, besides a {126} small detachment of regular troops, whose
commandant took a very active part in the controversy, and fought most
valiantly with his tongue. But the valor of the illustrious Señor Don
Angel knew a much safer course than to vent itself where there was
even a remote chance of personal risk. His influence could not fail to
enlist the public in his behalf, and he thought no doubt that his
battles might just as well be fought by the officers of justice as by
himself.

Yet ignorant of his designs, and supposing the matter would end at
this, we continued our march the next day, and by the time night
approached we were full twenty miles from the seat of our late
troubles. While at breakfast on the following morning we were greatly
surprised by the appearance of two American gentlemen direct from
Chihuahua, who had ridden thus far purposely to apprise us of what was
brewing in the city to our detriment. It appeared that Trias had sent
an express to the governor accusing me of rescuing a culprit from the
hands of justice by force of arms, and that great preparations were
accordingly being made to overtake and carry me back. That the reader
may be able to understand the full extent and enormity of my offence,
he has only to be informed that the proprietor of an hacienda is at
once governor, justice of the peace, and everything besides which he
has a mind to fancy himself--a perfect despot within the limits of his
little dominion. It was, therefore, through contempt for _his_
'excellency' {127} that I had insulted the majesty of the laws!

Having expressed my sentiments of gratitude to my worthy countrymen
for the pains they had taken on my account, we again pursued our
journey, determined to abide the worst. This happened on the 3d of
November: on the [Pg197] 5th we encamped near the Ojo Caliente, a
hundred and thirty miles from Chihuahua. About eleven o'clock at
night, a large body of men were seen approaching. They very soon
passed us, and quietly encamped at a distance of several hundred
yards. They were over a hundred in number.

Nothing further occurred till next morning, when, just as I had risen
from my pallet, a soldier approached and inquired if I was up. In a
few minutes he returned with a message from _El Señor Capitan_ to know
if he could see me. Having answered in the affirmative, a very
courteous and agreeable personage soon made his appearance, who, after
bowing and scraping until I began to be seriously afraid that his body
would break in two, finally opened his mission by handing me a packet
of letters, one of which contained an order from the Governor for my
immediate presence in Chihuahua, together with the three muleteers
whom I had sent after the cattle; warning me, at the same time, not to
give cause, by my resistance, for any other measure, which might be
unpleasant to my person. The next document was from Señor Trias
himself, in which he expressed his regret {128} at having carried the
matter to such an extreme, and ended with the usual offer of his
services to facilitate an adjustment. Those, however, which most
influenced my course, were from Don José Artalejo (_Juez de Hacienda_,
Judge of the Customs, of Chihuahua), who offered to become responsible
for a favorable issue if I would peaceably return; and another from a
Mr. Sutton, with whom I had formerly been connected in business. The
manly and upright deportment of this gentleman had inspired me with
the greatest confidence, and therefore caused me to respect his
opinions. But, besides my obligation to submit to a mandate from the
government, however arbitrary and oppressive, another [Pg198] strong
motive which induced me to return, in obedience to the Governor's
order, was a latent misgiving lest any hostile movement on my part, no
matter with what justice or necessity, might jeopardize the interests
if not the lives of many of my countrymen in Chihuahua.

With regard to ourselves and our immediate safety, we would have found
but very little difficulty in fighting our way out of the country. We
were all well-armed, and many appeared even anxious to have a brush
with the besiegers. However, I informed the captain that I was willing
to return to Chihuahua, with the three 'criminals,' provided we were
permitted to go armed and free, as I was not aware of having committed
any crime to justify an arrest. He rejoined that {129} this was
precisely in accordance with his orders, and politely tendered me an
escort of five or six soldiers, who should be placed under my command,
to strengthen us against the Indians, that were known to infest our
route. Thanking him for his favor, I at once started for Chihuahua,
leaving the wagons to continue slowly on the journey, and the amiable
captain with his band of _valientes_ to retrace their steps at leisure
towards the capital.

Late on the evening of the third day, I reached the city, and put up
at the American Fonda, where I was fortunate enough to meet with my
friend Artalejo, who at once proposed that we should proceed forthwith
to the Governor's house. When we found ourselves in the presence of
his excellency, my valued friend began by remarking that I had
returned according to orders, and that he would answer for me with his
person and property; and then, without even waiting for a reply, he
turned to me and expressed a hope that I would make his house my
residence while I remained in the city. I could not, of course,
decline so friendly an invitation, particularly as I thought it
probable [Pg199] that, being virtually my bail, he might prefer to
have me near his person. But, as soon as we reached the street, he
very promptly removed that suspicion from my mind. "I invite you to my
house," said he, "as a friend, and not as a prisoner. If you have any
business to transact, do not hold yourself under the least restraint.
To-morrow I will see the affair satisfactorily settled."

{130} The _Junta Departamental_, or State Council, of which Señor
Artalejo was an influential member, was convened the following day.
Meanwhile, every American I met with expressed a great deal of
surprise to see me at liberty, as, from the excitement which had
existed in the city, they expected I would have been lodged in the
safest calabozo. I was advised not to venture much into the streets,
as the rabble were very much incensed against me; but, although I
afterwards wandered about pretty freely, no one offered to molest me;
in fact, I must do the 'sovereigns of the city' the justice to say,
that I was never more politely treated than during this occasion.
Others suggested that, as Trias was one of the most wealthy and
influential citizens of Chihuahua, I had better try to pave my way out
of the difficulty with _plata_, as I could stand no chance in law
against him. To this, however, I strenuously objected. I felt
convinced that I had been ordered back to Chihuahua mainly for
purposes of extortion, and I was determined that the _oficiales_
should be disappointed. I had unbounded confidence in the friendship
and integrity of Don José Artalejo, who was quite an exception to the
general character of his countrymen. He was liberal, enlightened and
honorable, and I shall ever remember with gratitude the warm interest
he took in my affair, when he could have had no other motive for
befriending me except what might spring from the consciousness of
having performed a generous action. [Pg200]

{131} At first, when the subject of my liberation was discussed in the
_Junta Departamental_, the symptoms were rather squally, as some
bigoted and unruly members of the Council seemed determined to have me
punished, right or wrong. After a long and tedious debate, however, my
friend brought me the draft of a petition which he desired me to copy
and sign, and upon the presentation of which to the Governor, it had
been agreed I should be released. This step, I was informed, had been
resolved upon, because, after mature deliberation, the Council came to
the conclusion that the proceedings against me had been extremely
arbitrary and illegal, and that, if I should hereafter prosecute the
Department, I might recover heavy damages. The wholesome lesson which
had so lately been taught the Mexicans by France, was perhaps the
cause of the fears of the Chihuahua authorities. A clause was
therefore inserted in the petition, wherein I was made to renounce all
intention on my part of ever troubling the Department on the subject,
and became myself a suppliant to have the affair considered as
concluded.

This petition I would never have consented to sign, had I not been
aware of the arbitrary power which was exercised over me.
Imprisonment, in itself, was of but little consequence; but the total
destruction of my property, which might have been the result of
further detention, was an evil which I deemed it necessary to ward
off, even at a great sacrifice {132} of feeling. Moreover, being in
duress, no forced concession would, of course, be obligatory upon me
after I resumed my liberty. Again, I felt no very great inclination to
sue for redress where there was so little prospect of procuring
anything. I might certainly have represented the matter to the Mexican
government, and even have obtained perhaps the acknowledgment of my
claims against Chihuahua for damages; but the payment would [Pg201]
have been extremely doubtful. As to our own Government, I had too much
experience to rely for a moment upon her interposition.

During the progress of these transactions, I strove to ascertain the
character of the charges made against me; but in vain. All I knew was,
that I had offended a _rico_, and had been summoned back to Chihuahua
at his instance; yet whether for 'high treason,' for an attempt at
robbery, or for contempt to his _señoría_, I knew not. It is not
unusual, however, in that 'land of liberty,' for a person to be
arrested and even confined for weeks without knowing the cause. The
writ of _Habeas Corpus_ appears unknown in the judicial tribunals of
Northern Mexico.

Upon the receipt of my petition, the Governor immediately issued the
following decree, which I translate for the benefit of the reader, as
being not a bad specimen of Mexican grand eloquence:

"In consideration of the memorial which you have this day directed to
the Superior Government, His Excellency, {133} the Governor, has been
pleased to issue the following decree:

"'That, as Don Angel Trias has withdrawn his prosecution, so far as
relates to his personal interests, the Government, using the equity
with which it ought to look upon faults committed without a deliberate
intention to infringe the laws, which appears presumable in the
present case, owing to the memorialist's ignorance of them, the grace
which he solicits is granted to him; and, in consequence, he is at
liberty to retire when he chooses: to which end, and that he may not
be interrupted by the authorities, a copy of this decree will be
transmitted to him.'

"In virtue of the above, I inclose the said decree to you, for the
purposes intended.

"God and Liberty. Chihuahua, Nov. 9, 1839.

  "AMADO DE LA VEGA, Sec.

  "TO DON JOSIAH GREGG."

Thus terminated this 'momentous' affair. The moral of it may be summed
up in a few words. A citizen [Pg202] of the United States who, under
the faith of treaties, is engaged in his business, may be seized and
harassed by the arbitrary authorities of Chihuahua with perfect
impunity, because experience has proved that the American Government
winks at almost every individual outrage, as utterly unworthy of its
serious consideration. At the same time, the Indians may enter, as
they frequently do, the suburbs of the city,--rob, plunder, and
destroy life, without a single soldier being raised, or an effort made
to bring the savage malefactors within the pale of justice. But a few
days before the occasion of my difficulty at Torreon, the Apaches had
killed a ranchero or two in the immediate neighborhood of the same
village; and afterwards, {134} at the very time such a bustle was
being made in Chihuahua to raise troops for my 'special benefit,' the
Indians entered the corn-fields in the suburbs of the city, and killed
several _labradores_ who were at work in them. In neither of these
cases, however, were there any troops at command to pursue and
chastise the depredators--though a whole army was in readiness to
persecute our party. The truth is, they felt much less reluctance to
pursue a band of civil traders, who, they were well aware, could not
assume a hostile attitude, than to be caught in the wake of a band of
savages, who would as little respect their lives as their laws and
their property.

Early on the morning of the 10th, I once more, and for the last time,
and with anything but regret, took my leave of Chihuahua, with my
companions in trouble. Toward the afternoon we met my old friend the
captain, with his valiant followers, whom I found as full of urbanity
as ever--so much so, indeed, that he never even asked to see my
passport.

On the evening of the next day, now in the heart of the savage haunts,
we were not a little alarmed by the appearance of a large body of
horsemen in the distance. [Pg203] They turned out, however, to be
_Paseños_, or citizens of the Paso del Norte. They were on their way
to Chihuahua with a number of pack-mules laden with apples, pears,
grapes, wine, and _aguardiente_--proceeds of their productive orchards
and vineyards. It is from El Paso that Chihuahua is chiefly supplied
with fruits and {135} liquors, which are transported on mules or in
carretas. The fruits, as well fresh as in a dried state, are thus
carried to the distant markets. The grapes, carefully dried in the
shade, make excellent _pasas_ or raisins, of which large quantities
are annually prepared for market by the people of that delightful town
of vineyards and orchards, who, to take them altogether, are more
sober and industrious than those of any other part of Mexico I have
visited; and are happily less infested by the extremes of wealth and
poverty.

On the 13th, I overtook my wagons a few miles south of El Paso, whence
our journey was continued, without any additional casualty, and on the
6th of December we reached Santa Fé, in fine health and spirits.

FOOTNOTES:

[122] The distance from Chihuahua to Durango is about five hundred
miles, and from thence to Aguascalientes it is nearly three
hundred--upon the route we travelled, which was very circuitous. All
the intermediate country resembles, in its physical features, that
lying immediately north of Chihuahua, which has already been
described.--GREGG.

[123] Jesus-Maria is still a mining town in western Chihuahua, in the
heart of a sierra of the same name.--ED.

[124] Water has sometimes accumulated so rapidly in this mine as to
stop operations for weeks together.--GREGG.

[125] The Mexican money table is as follows: 12 _granos_ make 1
_real_; 8 _reales_, 1 _peso_, or dollar. These are the divisions used
in computation, but instead of _granos_, the copper coins of Chihuahua
and many other places, are the _claco_ or _jola_ (1/8 real) and the
_cuartilla_ (1/4 real). The silver coins are the _medio_ (6-1/4
cents), the _real_ (12-1/2 cents), the _peseta_ (2 reales), the
_toston_ or half dollar, and the _peso_ or dollar. The gold coins are
the _doblon_ or _onza_ (doubloon), with the same subdivisions as the
silver dollar, which are also of the same weight. The par value of the
doubloon is sixteen dollars; but, as there is no kind of paper
currency, gold, as the most convenient remittance, usually commands a
high premium--sometimes so high, indeed, that the doubloon is valued
in the North at from eighteen to twenty dollars.--GREGG.

[126] See Kendall, _Texan Santa Fé Expedition_, ii, pp. 66-73.--ED.

[127] For Hidalgo, see our volume xix, p. 176, note 11 (Gregg).--ED.

[128] For Guerrero and Iturbide see Pattie's _Narrative_, in our
volume xviii, p. 314 (note 130), p. 362 (note 141).--ED.

[129] Trias, while yet a youth, was dispatched by his adopted father
to take the tour of Europe and the United States. He was furnished for
'pocket money' (as I have been told) with nearly a hundred _barras de
plata_, each worth a thousand dollars or upwards. This money he easily
got rid of during his travels, but retained most of his innate bigotry
and self-importance: and, with his knowledge of the superiority of the
people among whom he journeyed, grew his hatred for foreigners.
--GREGG.



CHAPTER XXIV [VIII]

Preparations for returning Home -- Breaking out of the Small-pox --
  The Start -- Our Caravan -- Manuel the Comanche -- A New Route --
  The Prairie on Fire -- Danger to be apprehended from these
  Conflagrations -- A Comanche Buffalo-chase -- A Skirmish with the
  Pawnees -- An intrepid Mexican -- The Wounded -- Value of a thick
  Skull -- Retreat of the Enemy and their Failure -- A bleak
  Northwester -- Loss of our Sheep -- The Llano Estacado and Sources
  of Red River -- The Canadian River -- Cruelties upon Buffalo --
  Feats at 'Still-hunting' -- Mr. Wethered's Adventure -- Once more on
  our own Soil -- The False Washita -- Enter our former Trail --
  Character of the Country over which we had travelled -- Arrival at
  Van Buren -- The two Routes to Santa Fé -- Some Advantages of that
  from Arkansas -- Restlessness of Prairie Travellers in civilized
  life, and Propensity for returning to the Wild Deserts.


About the beginning of February, 1840, and just as I was making
preparations to return to the United States, [Pg204] the small-pox
broke out among my men, in a manner which at first occasioned at least
as much astonishment as alarm. One of them, who had been vaccinated,
having travelled in a district where the small-pox prevailed,
complained of a little fever, which was followed by slight eruptions,
but so unlike true variolous pustules, that I treated the matter very
lightly; not even suspecting a varioloid. These slight symptoms {137}
having passed off, nothing more was thought of it until eight or ten
days after, when every unvaccinated member of our company was attacked
by that fell disease, which soon began to manifest very malignant
features. There were no fatal cases, however; yet much apprehension
was felt, lest the disease should break out again on the route; but,
to our great joy, we escaped this second scourge.

A party that left Santa Fé for Missouri soon afterward, was much more
unfortunate. On the way, several of their men were attacked by the
small-pox: some of them died, and, others retaining the infection till
they approached the Missouri frontier, they were compelled to undergo
a 'quarantine' in the bordering prairie, before they were permitted to
enter the settlements.

On the 25th of February we set out from Santa Fé; but owing to some
delays, we did not leave San Miguel till the 1st of March. As the
pasturage was yet insufficient for our animals, we here provided
ourselves with over six hundred bushels of corn, to feed them on the
way. This time our caravan consisted of twenty-eight wagons, two small
cannons, and forty-seven men, including sixteen Mexicans and a
Comanche Indian who acted in the capacity of guide.[130] Two gentlemen
of Baltimore, {138} Messrs. [Pg205] S. Wethered and J. R. Ware, had
joined our caravan with one wagon and three men, making up the
aggregate above-mentioned. We had also a caballada of more than two
hundred mules, with nearly three hundred sheep and goats. The sheep
were brought along partially to supply us with meat in case of
emergency: the surplusage, however, could not fail to command a fair
price in the United States.

Instead of following the trail of the year before, I determined to
seek a nearer and better route down the south side of the Canadian
river, under the guidance of the Comanche; by which movement, we had
again to travel a distance of four hundred miles over an entirely new
country. We had just passed the Laguna Colorada, where, the following
year, a division of Texan volunteers, under General McLeod,
surrendered to Col. Archuleta,[131] when our fire was carelessly
permitted to communicate with the prairie grass. As there was a
head-wind blowing at the time, we very soon got out of reach of the
conflagration: but the next day, the wind having changed, the fire was
again perceived in our rear approaching us at a very brisk pace. The
terror [Pg206] which these prairie conflagrations are calculated to
inspire, when the grass is tall and dry, as was the case in the
present instance, has often {139} been described, and though the
perils of these disasters are not unfrequently exaggerated, they are
sometimes sufficient to daunt the stoutest heart. Mr. Kendall relates
a frightful incident of this kind which occurred to the Texan Santa Fé
Exposition; and all those who have crossed the Prairies have had more
or less experience as to the danger which occasionally threatens the
caravans from these sweeping visitations. The worst evil to be
apprehended with those bound for Santa Fé is from the explosion of
gunpowder, as a keg or two of twenty-five pounds each, is usually to
be found in every wagon. When we saw the fire gaining so rapidly upon
us, we had to use the whip very unsparingly; and it was only when the
lurid flames were actually rolling upon the heels of our teams, that
we succeeded in reaching a spot of short-grass prairie, where there
was no further danger to be apprehended.

The headway of the conflagration was soon after checked by a small
stream which traversed our route; and we had only emerged fairly from
its smoke, on the following day (the 9th), when our Comanche guide
returned hastily from his accustomed post in advance, and informed us
that he had espied three buffaloes, not far off. They were the first
we had met with, and, being heartily anxious for a change from the
dried beef with which we were provided, I directed the Comanche, who
was by far our surest hunter, to prepare at once for the _chasse_. He
said he preferred to hunt on {140} horseback and with his bow and
arrow; and believing my riding-horse the fleetest in company (which,
by the by, was but a common pony, and thin in flesh withal), I
dismounted and gave him the bridle, with many charges to treat him
kindly, as we still had a long journey before [Pg207] us. "Don't
attempt to kill but one--that will serve us for the present!" I
exclaimed, as he galloped off. The Comanche was among the largest of
his tribe--bony and muscular--weighing about two hundred pounds: but
once at his favorite sport, he very quickly forgot my injunction, as
well as the weakness of my little pony. He soon brought down two of
his game,--and shyly remarked to those who followed in his wake, that,
had he not feared a scolding from me, he would not have permitted the
third to escape.

On the evening of the 10th our camp was pitched in the neighborhood of
a ravine in the prairie, and as the night was dark and dreary, the
watch tried to comfort themselves by building a rousing fire, around
which they presently drew, and commenced 'spinning long yarns' about
Mexican fandangoes, and black-eyed damsels. All of a sudden the
stillness of the night was interrupted by a loud report of fire-arms,
and a shower of bullets came whizzing by the ears of the heedless
sentinels. Fortunately, however, no one was injured; which must be
looked upon as a very extraordinary circumstance, when we consider
what a fair mark our men, thus huddled {141} round a blazing fire,
presented to the rifles of the Indians. The savage yells, which
resounded from every part of the ravine, bore very satisfactory
testimony that this was no false alarm; and the 'Pawnee whistle' which
was heard in every quarter, at once impressed us with the idea of its
being a band of that famous prairie banditti.

Every man sprang from his pallet with rifle in hand; for, upon the
Prairies, we always sleep with our arms by our sides or under our
heads. Our Comanche seemed at first very much at a loss what to do. At
last, thinking it might possibly be a band of his own nation, he began
a most boisterous harangue in his vernacular tongue, which he [Pg208]
continued for several minutes; when finding that the enemy took no
notice of him, and having become convinced also, from an occasional
Pawnee word which he was able to make out, that he had been wasting
breath with the mortal foes of his race, he suddenly ceased all
expostulations, and blazed away with his rifle, with a degree of
earnestness which was truly edifying, as if convinced that that was
the best he could do for us.

It was now evident that the Indians had taken possession of the entire
ravine, the nearest points of which were not fifty yards from our
wagons: a warning to prairie travellers to encamp at a greater
distance from whatsoever might afford shelter for an enemy. The banks
of the gully were low, but still they formed a very good breastwork,
behind which {142} the enemy lay ensconced, discharging volleys of
balls upon our wagons, among which we were scattered. At one time we
thought of making an attempt to rout them from their fortified
position; but being ignorant of their number, and unable to
distinguish any object through the dismal darkness which hung all
around, we had to remain content with firing at random from behind our
wagons, aiming at the flash of their guns, or in the direction whence
any noise appeared to emanate. Indeed their yelling was almost
continuous, breaking out every now and then in the most hideous
screams and vociferous chattering, which were calculated to appal such
timorous persons as we may have had in our caravan. All their
screeching and whooping, however, had no effect--they could not make
our animals break from the enclosure of the wagons, in which they were
fortunately shut up; which was no doubt their principal object for
attacking us.

I cannot forbear recording a most daring feat performed by a Mexican
muleteer, named Antonio Chavez, during the hottest of the first onset.
Seeing the danger of my [Pg209] two favorite riding horses, which
were tethered outside within a few paces of the savages, he rushed out
and brought safely in the most valuable of the two, though fusil-balls
were showering around him all the while. The other horse broke his
halter and made his escape.

Although sundry scores of shots had been fired at our people, we had
only two men {143} wounded. One, a Mexican, was but slightly injured
in the hand, but the wound of the other, who was an Italian, bore a
more serious aspect, and deserves especial mention. He was a short,
corpulent fellow, and had been nicknamed 'Dutch'--a loquacious,
chicken-hearted _fainéant_, and withal in the daily habit of gorging
himself to such an enormous extent, that every alternate night he was
on the sick list. On this memorable occasion, Dutch had 'foundered'
again, and the usual prescription of a double dose of Epsom salts had
been his supper potion. The skirmish had continued for about an hour,
and although a frightful groaning had been heard in Dutch's wagon for
some time, no one paid any attention to it, as it was generally
supposed to be from the effects of his dose. At length, however, some
one cried out, "Dutch is wounded!" I immediately went to see him, and
found him writhing and twisting himself as if in great pain, crying
all the time that he was shot. "Shot!--where?" I inquired. "Ah! in the
head, sir?" "Pshaw! Dutch, none of that; you've only bumped your head
in trying to hide yourself." Upon lighting a match, however, I found
that a ball had passed through the middle of his hat, and that, to my
consternation, the top of his head was bathed in blood. It turned out,
upon subsequent examination, that the ball had glanced upon the skull,
inflicting a serious-looking wound, and so deep that an inch of sound
skin separated the holes at which the {144} bullet had entered and
passed out. Notwithstanding I at first apprehended [Pg210] a fracture
of the scull, it very soon healed, and Dutch was 'up and about' again
in the course of a week.

Although teachers not unfrequently have cause to deplore the thickness
of their pupils' skulls, Dutch had every reason to congratulate
himself upon possessing such a treasure, as it had evidently preserved
him from a more serious catastrophe. It appeared he had taken shelter
in his wagon at the commencement of the attack, without reflecting
that the boards and sheets were not ball-proof: and as Indians,
especially in the night, are apt to shoot too high, he was in a much
more dangerous situation than if upon the ground.

The enemy continued the attack for nearly three hours, when they
finally retired, so as to make good their retreat before daylight. As
it rained and snowed from that time till nine in the morning, their
'sign' was almost entirely obliterated, and we were unable to discover
whether they had received any injury or not. It was evidently a foot
party, which we looked upon as another proof of their being Pawnees;
for these famous marauders are well known to go forth on their
expeditions of plunder without horses, although they seldom fail to
return well mounted.

Their shot had riddled our wagons considerably: in one we counted no
less than eight bullet-holes. We had the gratification to believe,
however, that they did not get a single {145} one of our animals: the
horse which broke away at the first onset, doubtless made his escape;
and a mule which was too badly wounded to travel, was dispatched by
the muleteers, lest it should fall into the hands of the savages, or
into the mouths of the wolves; and they deemed it more humane to leave
it to be eaten dead than alive. We also experienced considerable
damage in our stock of sheep, a number of them having been devoured by
wolves. They had been scattered at the beginning of the attack;
[Pg211] and, in their anxiety to fly from the scene of action, had
jumped, as it were, into the very jaws of their ravenous enemies.

On the 12th of March, we ascended upon the celebrated _Llano
Estacado_, and continued along its borders for a few days. The second
night upon this dreary plain, we experienced one of the strongest and
bleakest 'northwesters' that ever swept across those prairies; during
which, our flock of sheep and goats, being left unattended, fled over
the plain, in search of some shelter, it was supposed, from the
furious element. Their disappearance was not observed for some time,
and the night being too dark to discern anything, we were obliged to
defer going in pursuit of them till the following morning. After a
fruitless and laborious search, during which the effects of the mirage
proved a constant source of annoyance and disappointment, we were
finally obliged to relinquish the pursuit, and return to the caravan
without finding one of them.

{146} These severe winds are very prevalent upon the great western
prairies, though they are seldom quite so inclement. At some seasons,
they are about as regular and unceasing as the 'trade winds' of the
ocean. It will often blow a gale for days, and even weeks together,
without slacking for a moment, except occasionally at night. It is for
this reason, as well as on account of the rains, that percussion guns
are preferable upon the Prairies, particularly for those who
understand their use. The winds are frequently so severe as to sweep
away both sparks and priming from a flint lock, and thus render it
wholly ineffective.

The following day we continued our march down the border of the Llano
Estacado. Knowing that our Comanche guide was about as familiar with
all those great plains as a landlord with his premises, I began to
question him, [Pg212] as we travelled along, concerning the different
streams which pierced them to the southward. Pointing in that
direction, he said there passed a water-course, at the distance of a
hard day's ride, which he designated as a _cañada_ or valley, in which
there was always water to be found at occasional places, but that none
flowed in its channel except during the rainy season. This cañada he
described as having its origin in the Llano Estacado some fifty or
sixty miles east of Rio Pecos, and about the same distance south of
the route we came, and that its direction was a little south of east,
passing to the southward {147} of the northern portion of the Witchita
mountains, known to Mexican Ciboleros and Comancheros as _Sierra
Jumanes_. It was, therefore, evident that this was the principal
northern branch of Red River. The False Washita, or _Rio Negro_, as
the Mexicans call it, has its rise, as he assured me, between the
Canadian and this cañada, at no great distance of the southeastward of
where we were then travelling.

On the 15th, our Comanche guide, being fearful lest we should find no
water upon the plain, advised us to pursue a more northwardly course,
so that, after a hard day's ride, we again descended the _ceja_ or
brow of the Llano Estacado, into the undulating lands which border the
Canadian; and, on the following day, we found ourselves upon the
southern bank of that stream.

Although, but a few days' travel above where we now were, the Canadian
runs pent up in a narrow channel, scarcely four rods across, we here
found it spread out to the width of from three to six hundred yards,
and so full of sand-bars (only interspersed with narrow rills) as to
present the appearance of a mere sandy valley instead of the bed of a
river. In fact, during the driest seasons, the water wholly disappears
in many places. Captain Boone, of the U. S. Dragoons, being upon an
exploring expedition [Pg213] in the summer of 1843, came to the
Canadian about the region of our western boundary, where he found the
channel perfectly dry.[132] Notwithstanding {148} it presents the face
of one of the greatest rivers of the west during freshets, yet even
then it would not be navigable on account of its rapidity and
shallowness. It would appear almost incredible to those unacquainted
with the prairie streams, that a river of about 1500 miles in length,
and whose head wears a cap of perennial snow (having its source in the
Rocky Mountains), should scarcely be navigable, for even the smallest
craft, over fifty miles above its mouth.

We pursued our course down the same side of the river for several
days, during which time we crossed a multitude of little streams which
flowed into the Canadian from the adjoining plains, while others
presented nothing but dry beds of sand. One of these was so
remarkable, on account of its peculiarity and size, that we named it
'Dry River.' The bed was at least 200 yards wide, yet without a
vestige of water; notwithstanding, our guide assured us that it was a
brisk-flowing stream some leagues above: and from the drift-wood along
its borders, it was evident that, even here, it must be a considerable
river during freshets.[133]

While traveling down the course of the Canadian, we sometimes found
the buffalo very abundant. On one [Pg214] occasion, two or three
hunters, who were a little in advance of the caravan, perceiving a
herd quietly grazing in an open glade, they 'crawled upon' them after
the manner of the 'still hunters.' Their first shot having brought
down a fine {149} fat cow, they slipped up behind her, and, resting
their guns over her body, shot two or three others, without
occasioning any serious disturbance or surprise to their companions;
for, extraordinary as it may appear, if the buffalo neither see nor
smell the hunter, they will pay but little attention to the crack of
guns, or to the mortality which is being dealt among them.

The slaughter of these animals is frequently carried to an excess,
which shows the depravity of the human heart in very bold relief. Such
is the excitement that generally prevails at the sight of these fat
denizens of the prairies, that very few hunters appear able to refrain
from shooting as long as the game remains within reach of their
rifles; nor can they ever permit a fair shot to escape them. Whether
the mere pleasure of taking life is {150} the incentive of these
brutal excesses, I will not pretend to decide; but one thing is very
certain, that the buffalo killed yearly on these prairies far exceeds
the wants of the traveller, or what might be looked upon as the
exigencies of rational sport.[134]

But in making these observations, I regret that I cannot give to my
precepts the force of my own example: I have not always been able
wholly to withstand the cruel temptation. Not long after the incident
above alluded to, as I was pioneering alone, according to my usual
practice, at a distance of a mile or two ahead of the wagons, in
search of the best route, I perceived in a glade, a few rods in front
[Pg215] of me, several protuberances, which at first occasioned me no
little fright, for I took them, as they loomed dimly through the tall
grass, for the tops of Indian lodges. But I soon discovered they were
the huge humps of a herd of buffalo, which were quietly grazing.

I immediately alighted, and approached unobserved to within forty or
fifty yards of the unsuspecting animals. Being armed with one of
Cochran's nine-chambered rifles, I took aim at one that stood
broad-side, and 'blazed away.' The buffalo threw up their heads and
looked about, but seeing nothing (for I remained concealed in the
grass), they again {151} went on grazing as though nothing had
happened. The truth is, the one I had shot was perhaps but little
hurt; for, as generally happens with the inexperienced hunter--and
often with those who know better, the first excitement allowing no
time for reflection--I no doubt aimed too high, so as to lodge the
ball in the hump. A buffalo's heart lies exceedingly low, so that to
strike it the shot should enter not over one-fourth of the depth of
the body above the lower edge of the breast bone.

The brutes were no sooner quiet, than I took another and more
deliberate aim at my former victim, which resulted as before. But
believing him now mortally wounded, I next fired in quick succession
at four others of the gang. It occurred to me, by this time, that I
had better save my remaining three shots; for it was possible enough
for my firing to attract the attention of strolling savages, who might
take advantage of my empty gun to make a sortie upon me--yet there
stood my buffalo, some of them still quietly feeding.

As I walked out from my concealment, a party of our own men came
galloping up from the wagons, considerably alarmed. They had heard the
six shots, and, not recollecting my repeating rifle, supposed I had
been attacked [Pg216] by Indians, and therefore came to my relief.
Upon their approach the buffalo all fled, except three which appeared
badly wounded--one indeed soon fell and expired. The other two would
doubtless have followed {152} the example of the first, had not a
hunter, anxious to dispatch them more speedily, approached too near;
when, regaining strength from the excitement, they fled before him,
and entirely escaped, though he pursued them for a considerable
distance.

A few days after this occurrence, Mr. Wethered returned to the camp
one evening with seven buffalo tongues (the hunter's usual trophy)
swung to his saddle. He said that, in the morning, one of the hunters
had ungenerously objected to sharing a buffalo with him; whereupon Mr.
W. set out, vowing he would kill buffalo for himself, and 'no thanks
to any one.' He had not been out long when he spied a herd of only
seven bulls, quietly feeding near a ravine; and slipping up behind the
banks, he shot down one and then another, until they all lay before
him; and their seven tongues he brought in to bear testimony of his
skill.

Not long after crossing Dry River, we ascended the high grounds, and
soon found ourselves upon the high ridge which divides the waters of
the Canadian and False Washita, whose 'breaks' could be traced
descending from the Llano Estacado far to the southwest.

By an observation of an eclipse of one of Jupiter's satellites, on the
night of the 25th of March, in latitude 35° 51′ 30″, I found that we
were very near the 100th degree of longitude west from Greenwich. On
the following day, therefore, we celebrated our entrance into the
United States territory. Those who {153} have never been beyond the
purlieus of the land of their nativity, can form but a poor conception
of the joy which the wanderer in distant climes [Pg217] experiences
on treading once more upon his own native soil! Although we were yet
far from the abodes of civilization, and further still from home,
nevertheless the heart within us thrilled with exhilarating
sensations; for we were again in our own territory, breathed our own
free atmosphere, and were fairly out of reach of the arbitrary power
which we had left behind us.

As we continued our route upon this narrow dividing ridge, we could
not help remarking how nearly these streams approach each other: in
one place they seemed scarcely five miles apart. On this account our
Comanche guide, as well as several Mexicans of our party, who had some
acquaintance with these prairies, gave it as their opinion that the
Washita or _Rio Negro_ was in fact a branch of the Canadian; for its
confluence with Red River was beyond the bounds of their
peregrinations.

As the forest of Cross Timbers was now beginning to be seen in the
distance, and fearing we might be troubled to find a passway through
this brushy region, south of the Canadian, we forded this river on the
29th, without the slightest trouble, and very soon entered our former
trail, a little west of Spring Valley. This gave a new and joyful
impulse to our spirits; for we had been travelling over twenty days
without even a trail, {154} and through a region of which we knew
absolutely nothing, except from what we could gather from our Comanche
pilot. This trail, which our wagons had made the previous summer, was
still visible, and henceforth there was an end to all misgivings.

If we take a retrospective view of the country over which we
travelled, we shall find but little that can ever present attractions
to the agriculturist. Most of the low valleys of the Canadian, for a
distance of five hundred miles, are either too sandy or too marshy for
cultivation; and the upland prairies are, in many places, but little
else than [Pg218] sand-hills. In some parts, it is true, they are
firm and fertile, but wholly destitute of timber, with the exception
of a diminutive branch of the Cross Timbers, which occupies a portion
of the ridge betwixt the Canadian and the North Fork. The Canadian
river itself is still more bare of timber than the upper Arkansas. In
its whole course through the plains, there is but little except
cottonwood, and that very scantily scattered along its banks--in some
places, for leagues together, not a stick is to be seen. Except it be
near the Mountains, where the valleys are more fertile, it is only the
little narrow bottoms which skirt many of its tributary rivulets that
indicate any amenity. Some of these are rich and beautiful in the
extreme, timbered with walnut, mulberry, oak, elm, hackberry, and
occasionally cedar about the bluffs.

We now continued our journey without encountering any further
casualty, except in {155} crossing the Arkansas river, where we lost
several mules by drowning; and on the 22d of April we made our
entrance into Van Buren. This trip was much more tedious and
protracted than I had contemplated--owing, in the first part of the
journey, to the inclemency of the season, and a want of pasturage for
our animals; and, towards the conclusion, to the frequent rains, which
kept the route in a miserable condition.

Concerning this expedition, I have only one or two more remarks to
offer. As regards the two different routes to Santa Fé, although
Missouri, for various reasons which it is needless to explain here,
can doubtless retain the monopoly of the Santa Fé trade, the route
from Arkansas possesses many advantages. Besides its being some days'
travel shorter,[135] it is less intersected with large streams; there
are fewer sandy stretches, and a greater variety of [Pg219]
wood-skirted brooks, affording throughout the journey very agreeable
camping-places. Also, as the grass springs up nearly a month earlier
than in Upper Missouri, caravans could start much sooner, and the
proprietors would have double the time to conduct their mercantile
transactions. Moreover, the return companies would find better
pasturage on their way back, and reach their homes before the season
of frost had far advanced. Again, such as should desire to engage in
the 'stock {156} trade' would at once bring their mules and horses
into a more congenial climate--one more in accordance with that of
their nativity; for the rigorous winters of Missouri often prove fatal
to the unacclimated Mexican animals.

This was my last trip across the Plains, though I made an excursion,
during the following summer, among the Comanche Indians, and other
wild tribes, living in the heart of the Prairies, but returned without
crossing to Mexico. The observations made during this trip will be
found incorporated in the notices, which are to follow, of the
Prairies and their inhabitants.

Since that time I have striven in vain to reconcile myself to the even
tenor of civilized life in the United States; and have sought in its
amusements and its society a substitute for those high excitements
which have attached me so strongly to Prairie life. Yet I am almost
ashamed to confess that scarcely a day passes without my experiencing
a pang of regret that I am not now roving at large upon those western
plains. Nor do I find my taste peculiar; for I have hardly known a
man, who has ever become familiar with the kind of life which I have
led for so many years, that has not relinquished it with regret.

There is more than one way of explaining this apparent incongruity. In
the first place--the wild, unsettled and independent life of the
Prairie trader, makes perfect freedom [Pg220] from nearly every kind
of social dependence an absolute necessity of his being. He is in
{157} daily, nay, hourly exposure of his life and property, and in the
habit of relying upon his own arm and his own gun both for protection
and support. Is he wronged? No court or jury is called to adjudicate
upon his disputes or his abuses, save his own conscience; and no
powers are invoked to redress them, save those with which the God of
Nature has endowed him. He knows no government--no laws, save those of
his own creation and adoption. He lives in no society which he must
look up to or propitiate. The exchange of this untrammelled
condition--this sovereign independence, for a life in civilization,
where both his physical and moral freedom are invaded at every turn,
by the complicated machinery of social institutions, is certainly
likely to commend itself to but few,--not even to all those who have
been educated to find their enjoyments in the arts and elegancies
peculiar to civilized society;--as is evinced by the frequent
instances of men of letters, of refinement and of wealth, voluntarily
abandoning society for a life upon the Prairies, or in the still more
savage mountain wilds.

A 'tour on the Prairies' is certainly a _dangerous_ experiment for him
who would live a quiet contented life at home among his friends and
relatives: not so dangerous to life or health, as prejudicial to his
domestic habits. Those who have lived pent up in our large cities,
know but little of the broad, unembarrassed freedom of the Great
Western Prairies. {158} Viewing them from a snug fire-side, they seem
crowded with dangers, with labors and with sufferings; but once upon
them, and these appear to vanish--they are soon forgotten.

There is another consideration, which, with most men of the Prairies,
operates seriously against their reconciliation to the habits of
civilized life. Though they be [Pg221] endowed naturally with the
organs of taste and refinement, and though once familiar with the ways
and practices of civilized communities, yet a long absence from such
society generally obliterates from their minds most of those common
laws of social intercourse, which are so necessary to the man of the
world. The awkwardness and the _gaucheries_ which ignorance of their
details so often involves, are very trying to all men of sensitive
temperaments. Consequently, multitudes rush back to the Prairies,
merely to escape those criticisms and that ridicule, which they know
not how to disarm.

It will hardly be a matter of surprise then, when I add, that this
passion for Prairie life, how paradoxical soever it may seem, will be
very apt to lead me upon the Plains again, to spread my bed with the
mustang and the buffalo, under the broad canopy of heaven,--there to
seek to maintain undisturbed my confidence in men, by fraternizing
with the little prairie dogs and wild colts, and the still wilder
Indians--the _unconquered Sabæans_ of the Great American Deserts.

FOOTNOTES:

[130] Manuel _el Comanche_ was a full Indian, born and bred upon the
great prairies. Long after having arrived at the state of manhood, he
accompanied some Mexican _Comancheros_ to the frontier village of San
Miguel, where he fell in love with a Mexican girl--married her--and
has lived in that place, a sober, 'civilized' citizen for the last ten
or twelve years--endowed with much more goodness of heart and
integrity of purpose than a majority of his Mexican neighbors. He had
learned to speak Spanish quite intelligibly, and was therefore an
excellent Comanche interpreter: and being familiar with every part of
the prairies, he was very serviceable as a guide.--GREGG.

[131] Laguna Colorada is in the northeastern part of what is now Quay
County, New Mexico, about twelve miles west of Tucumcari Mount.

General Hugh McLeod was born in New York in 1814. Graduated at West
Point, he resigned from the army to offer his services to the Texans
in their struggle for independence. He also commanded in a campaign
against the Cherokee in 1839. After the unfortunate Texan-Santa Fé
expedition, McLeod was imprisoned in Mexico for about a year, and
finally released at the request of the United States government. He
served throughout the Mexican War, and joining the Confederate army in
1861 died in Virginia the following year.

Colonel Juan Andrés Archuleta, to whom McLeod surrendered, was not the
Archuleta who conspired against the United States in 1846-47.--ED.

[132] Nathan Boone was the youngest son of the noted pioneer Daniel.
Born in Kentucky in 1780, he emigrated to Missouri late in the
eighteenth century, and distinguished himself in frontier service
during the War of 1812-15. He made his home in St. Charles County,
Missouri, and built therein the first stone house, in which his father
died in 1820. The younger Boone entered the regular army in 1832, as
captain of rangers; the following year saw him in command of a company
of the 1st dragoons, with whom he saw much frontier service. In 1847
he received his majoralty, and in 1850 became lieutenant-colonel.
Three years later, he resigned from the army, dying at his home in
Green County, Missouri, in 1857.--ED.

[133] Dry River is not laid down on current modern maps. It is in
northwestern Texas, apparently near the line of the Atchison, Topeka
and Santa Fé Railway, in Roberts and Hemphill counties. See our volume
XVI, p. 130, note 61; also map 2 in _Senate Docs._, 31 cong., 1 sess.,
12.--ED.

[134] The same barbarous propensity is observable in regard to wild
horses. Most persons appear unable to restrain this wanton inclination
to take life, when a mustang approaches within rifle-shot. Many a
stately steed thus falls a victim to the cruelty of man.--GREGG.

[135] The latitude of Independence, Mo., is 39° 8′, while that of Van
Buren is 35° 26′,--within a few miles of the parallel of Santa Fé: and
being on about the same meridian as Independence, the distance, of
course, is considerably shorter.--GREGG.



CHAPTER XXV {IX} CONCLUSION OF THE SANTA FÉ TRADE

Decline of Prices -- Statistical Table -- Chihuahua Trade -- Its
  Extent -- Different Ports through which Goods are introduced to that
  Market -- Expedition between Chihuahua and Arkansas -- The more
  recent Incidents of the Santa Fé Caravans -- Adventures of 1843 --
  Robbery and Murder of Chavez -- Expedition from Texas -- Defeat of
  Gen. Armijo's Van-guard -- His precipitate Retreat -- Texan
  Grievances -- Unfortunate Results of Indiscriminate Revenge -- Want
  of Discipline among the Texans -- Disarmed by Capt. Cook -- Return
  of the Escort of U.S. Dragoons, and of the Texans -- Demands of the
  Mexican Government -- Closing of the Santa Fé Trade.


Before proceeding to the graver matters to be presented in the
succeeding chapters, a few words to those who are curious about the
history of the Santa Fé trade [Pg222] intervening between the
conclusion of my personal narrative and the closing of the trade by
the Mexican government, in 1843, may not be amiss.

The Santa Fé trade, though more or less fluctuating from its origin,
continued to present an average increase and growth down to the year
1831. During the same period, the prices of goods continued to go down
in even a more rapid ratio. Since 1831, the rates of {160} sales have
continued steadily to fall, to the latest period of the trade,
although there has been no average increase in the number of
adventurers, or amount of merchandise.[136]

{161} From 1831 to the present date, prices have scarcely averaged,
for medium calicoes, thirty-seven cents, and for plain domestic
cottons thirty-one cents per yard. Taking [Pg223] assortments round,
100 per cent, upon United States costs were generally considered
excellent sales: many stocks have been sold at a much lower rate. The
average prices of Chihuahua are equally low, yet a brisker demand has
rendered this the most agreeable and profitable branch of the trade.

{162} The first attempt to introduce American goods into the more
southern markets of Mexico from Santa Fé, was made in the year 1824.
The amounts were very small, however, till towards the year 1831. For
a few of the first years, the traders were in the habit of conveying
small lots to Sonora and California; but this branch of the trade has,
I believe, latterly ceased altogether. Yet the amounts transferred to
Chihuahua have generally increased; so that for the last few years,
that trade has consumed very nearly half of the entire imports by the
Missouri Caravans.

The entire consumption of foreign goods in the department of
Chihuahua, has been estimated by intelligent Mexican merchants, at
from two to three millions annually; [Pg224] the first cost of which
might be set down at nearly one half. Of this amount the Santa Fé
trade, as will be seen from the accompanying table, has not furnished
a tenth part; the balance being introduced through other ports, viz.:
_Matamoras_, whence Chihuahua has received nearly half its
supplies--_Vera Cruz_ via the city of Mexico, whence considerable
amounts have been brought to this department--_Tampico_ on the Gulf of
Mexico, and _Mazatlan_ on the Pacific, via Durango, whence the imports
have been of some importance--while nearly all the west of the
department, and especially the heavy consumption of the mining town of
Jesus-Maria, receives most of its supplies from the port of _Guaymas_
on the Gulf of {163} California; whence, indeed, several stocks of
goods have been introduced as far as the city of Chihuahua itself. In
1840, a large amount of merchandise was transported directly from the
Red River frontier of Arkansas to Chihuahua; but no other expedition
has ever been made in that direction.[137] [Pg225]

{164} By far the greatest portion of the introductions through
the sea-ports just alluded to, have been made by British merchants. It
is chiefly the preference given to American manufacturers, which has
enabled the merchandise of the Santa Fé adventurers to compete in the
Southern markets, with goods introduced through the sea-ports, which
have had the {165} benefit of the drawback. In this last respect our
traders have labored under a very unjust burden.

It is difficult to conceive any equitable reason why merchants
conveying their goods across the Prairies in wagons, should not be as
much entitled to the protection of the Government, as those who
transport them in vessels across the ocean. This assistance (with the
reopening of the ports) might enable our merchants to monopolize the
rich trade of Chihuahua; and they would obtain a share of that of the
still richer departments of Durango and Zacatecas, as well as some
portion of the Sonora and California [Pg226] trade. Then rating that
of Chihuahua at two millions, half that of Durango at the same, and a
million from Zacatecas, Sonora, etc., it would ascend to the clever
amount of some five millions of dollars per annum.

In point of revenue, the Santa Fé trade has been of but little
importance to the government of Mexico. Though the amount of duties
collected annually at this port has usually been fifty to eighty
thousand dollars, yet nearly one-half has been embezzled by the
officers of the customs, leaving an average net revenue of perhaps
less than forty thousand dollars per annum.

It is not an unimportant fact to be known, that, since the year 1831,
few or none of the difficulties and dangers which once environed the
Santa Fé adventurer have been encountered. No traders have been killed
by the {166} savages on the regular route, and but few animals stolen
from the caravans. On the whole, the rates of insurance upon
adventures in this trade should hardly be as high as upon marine
adventures between New York and Liverpool. While I declare, however,
the serious dangers and troubles to have been in general so slight, I
ought not to suppress at least an outline of the difficulties that
occurred on the Prairies in 1843, which were attended with very
serious consequences. [Pg227]

It had been reported in Santa Fé as early as November, 1842, that a
party of Texans were upon the Prairies, prepared to attack any Mexican
traders who should cross the plains the succeeding spring; and as some
Americans were accused of being spies, and in collusion with the
Texans, many were ordered to Santa Fé for examination, occasioning a
deal of trouble to several innocent persons. Than this, however, but
little further attention was paid to the report, many believing it but
another of those rumors of Texan invasion which had so often spread
useless consternation through the country.

So little apprehension appeared to exist, that, in February, 1843, Don
Antonio José Chavez, of New Mexico, left Santa Fé for Independence,
with but five servants, two wagons, and fifty-five mules. He had with
him some ten or twelve thousand dollars in specie and gold bullion,
besides a small lot of furs. As the month of March was extremely
inclement, the little party suffered inconceivably {167} from cold and
privations. Most of them were frost-bitten, and all their animals,
except five, perished from the extreme severity of the season; on
which account Chavez was compelled to leave one of his wagons upon the
Prairies. He had worried along, however, with his remaining wagon and
valuables, till about the tenth of April, when he found himself near
the Little Arkansas; at least a hundred miles [Pg228] within the
territory of the United States. He was there met by fifteen men from
the border of Missouri, professing to be Texan troops, under the
command of one John M'Daniel. This party had been collected, for the
most part, on the frontier, by their leader, who was recently from
Texas, from which government he professed to hold a captain's
commission. They started no doubt with the intention of joining one
Col. Warfield (also said to hold a Texan commission), who had been
upon the Plains near the Mountains, with a small party, for several
months--with the avowed intention of attacking the Mexican traders.

Upon meeting Chavez, however, the party of M'Daniel at once determined
to make sure of the prize he was possessed of, rather than take their
chances of a similar booty beyond the U. S. boundary. The unfortunate
Mexican was therefore taken a few miles south of the road, and his
baggage rifled. Seven of the party then left for the settlements with
their share of the booty, amounting to some four or five hundred
dollars apiece; making the journey on foot, as their horses had taken
{168} a stampede and escaped. The remaining eight, soon after the
departure of their comrades, determined to put Chavez to death,--for
what cause it would seem difficult to conjecture, as he had been, for
two days, their unresisting prisoner. Lots were accordingly cast to
determine which four of the party should be the cruel executioners;
and their wretched victim was taken off a few rods and shot down in
cold blood. After his murder a considerable amount of gold was found
about his person, and in his trunk. The body of the unfortunate man,
together with his wagon and baggage, was thrown into a neighboring
ravine; and a few of the lost animals of the marauders having been
found, their booty was packed upon them and borne away to the frontier
of Missouri. [Pg229]

Great exertions had been made to intercept this lawless band at the
outset; but they escaped the vigilance even of a detachment of
dragoons that had followed them over a hundred miles. Yet the honest
citizens of the border were too much on the alert to permit them to
return to the interior with impunity. However, five of the whole
number (including three of the party that killed the man) effected
their escape, but the other ten were arrested, committed, and sent to
St. Louis for trial before the United States Court. It appears that
those who were engaged in the killing of Chavez have since been
convicted of murder; and the others, who were only concerned in the
robbery, were found guilty {169} of larceny, and sentenced to fine and
imprisonment.[138]

About the first of May of the same year, a company of a hundred and
seventy-five men, under one Col. Snively, was organized in the north
of Texas, and set out from the settlements for the Santa Fé trace. It
was at first reported that they contemplated a descent upon Santa Fé;
but their force was evidently too weak to attempt an invasion at that
crisis. Their prime object, therefore, seems to have been to attack
and make reprisals upon the Mexicans engaged in the Santa Fé trade,
who were expected to cross the Prairies during the months of May and
June.

After the arrival of the Texans upon the Arkansas, they were joined by
Col. Warfield with a few followers. This officer, with about twenty
men, had some time previously attacked the village of Mora, on the
Mexican frontier, killing five men (as was reported) and driving off a
number of horses.[139] They were afterwards followed by a party
[Pg230] of Mexicans, however, who _stampeded_ and carried away, not
only their own horses, but those of the Texans. Being left afoot the
latter burned their saddles, and walked to Bent's Fort, where they
were disbanded; whence Warfield passed to Snively's camp, as before
mentioned.

The Texans now advanced along the Santa Fé road, beyond the sand hills
south of the Arkansas, when they discovered that a party of Mexicans
had passed towards the river. They soon came upon them, and a skirmish
{170} ensuing, eighteen Mexicans were killed, and as many wounded,
five of whom afterwards died. The Texans suffered no injury, though
the Mexicans were a hundred in number. The rest were all taken
prisoners except two, who escaped and bore the news to Gen. Armijo,
encamped with a large force at the Cold Spring, 140 miles beyond. As
soon as the General received notice of the defeat of his vanguard, he
broke up his camp most precipitately, and retreated to Santa Fé. A
gentleman of the caravan which passed shortly afterward, informed me
that spurs, lareats and other scraps of equipage, were found scattered
in every direction about Armijo's camp--left by his troops in the
hurly-burly of their precipitate retreat.[140]

Keeping beyond the territory of the United States, the right of the
Texans to harass the commerce of Mexicans will hardly be denied, as
they were at open war: yet another consideration, it would seem,
should have restrained them from aggressions in that quarter. They
could not have been ignorant that but a portion of the traders were
Mexicans--that many American citizens were connected in [Pg231] the
same caravans. The Texans assert, it is true, that the lives and
property of Americans were to be respected, _provided_ they abandoned
the Mexicans. But did they reflect upon the baseness of the terms they
were imposing? What American, worthy of the name, to save his own
interests, or even his life, could deliver up his travelling
companions {171} to be sacrificed? Then, after having abandoned the
Mexicans, or betrayed them to their enemy--for such an act would have
been accounted treachery--where would they have gone? They could not
then have continued on into Mexico; and to have returned to the United
States with their merchandise, would have been the ruin of most of
them.

The inhuman outrages suffered by those who were captured in New Mexico
in 1841, among whom were many of the present party, have been pleaded
in justification of this second Texan expedition. When we take their
grievances into consideration, we must admit that they palliate, and
indeed justify almost any species of revenge consistent with the laws
of Nature and of nations: yet whether, under the existing
circumstances, this invasion of the Prairies was proper or otherwise,
I will leave for others to determine, as there seems to be a
difference of opinion on the subject. The following considerations,
however, will go to demonstrate the unpropitious consequences which
are apt to result from a system of indiscriminate revenge.

The unfortunate Chavez (whose murder, I suppose, was perpetrated under
pretext of the cruelties suffered by the Texans, in the name of whom
the party of M'Daniel was organized) was of the most wealthy and
influential family of New Mexico, and one that was anything but
friendly to the ruling governor, Gen. Armijo. Don Mariano Chavez, a
brother to the deceased, is a gentleman of very [Pg232] amiable {172}
character, such as is rarely to be met with in that unfortunate land.
It is asserted that he furnished a considerable quantity of
provisions, blankets, etc., to Col. Cooke's division of Texan
prisoners.[141] Señora Chavez (the wife of Don Mariano), as is told,
crossed the river from the village of Padillas, the place of their
residence, and administered comforts to the unfortunate band of
Texans.[142] Though the murder of young Chavez was evidently not
sanctioned by the Texans generally, it will, notwithstanding, have
greatly embittered this powerful family against them--a family whose
liberal principles could not otherwise have been very unfavorable to
Texas.[143]

The attack upon the village of Mora, though of less important results,
was nevertheless an unpropitiatory movement. The inhabitants of that
place are generally very simple and innocent rancheros and hunters,
and, being separated by the snowy mountains from the principal
settlements of New Mexico, their hearts seem ever to have been
inclined to the Texans. In fact, the village having been founded by
some American denizens, the Mexican inhabitants appear in some degree
to have imitated their character.

The defeat of Armijo's vanguard was attended by still more disastrous
consequences, both to the American and Texan interest. That division
was composed of the militia of {173} the North--from about Taos--many
of them Taos Pueblos. These people had not only remained [Pg233]
embittered against Gov. Armijo since the revolution of 1837, but had
always been notably in favor of Texas. So loth were they to fight the
Texans, that, as I have been assured, the governor found it necessary
to bind a number of them upon their horses, to prevent their escape,
till he got them fairly upon the Prairies. And yet the poor fellows
were compelled to suffer the vengeance which was due to their guilty
general!

When the news of their defeat reached Taos, the friends and relatives
of the slain--the whole population indeed, were incensed beyond
measure; and two or three, naturalized foreigners who were supposed to
favor the cause of Texas, and who were in good standing before, were
now compelled to flee for their lives; leaving their houses and
property a prey to the incensed rabble. Such appears to have been the
reaction of public sentiment resulting from the catastrophe upon the
Prairies!

Had the Texans proceeded differently--had they induced the Mexicans to
surrender without battle, which they might no doubt easily have
accomplished, they could have secured their services, without
question, as guides to Gen. Armijo's camp, and that unmitigated tyrant
might himself have fallen into their hands. The difficulty of
maintaining order among the Texans was perhaps the cause of many of
their unfortunate proceedings. {174} And no information of the caravan
having been obtained, a detachment of seventy or eighty men left, to
return to Texas.

The traders arrived soon after, escorted by about two hundred U. S.
Dragoons under the command of Capt. Cook.[144] Col. Snively with a
hundred men being then encamped on the south side of the Arkansas
river, some ten to fifteen miles below the point called the 'Caches,'
[Pg234] he crossed the river and met Capt. Cook, who soon made known
his intention of disarming him and his companions,--an intention which
he at once proceeded to put into execution. A portion of the Texans,
however, deceived the American captain in this wise. Having concealed
their own rifles, which were mostly Colt's repeaters, they delivered
to Capt. Cook the worthless fusils they had taken from the Mexicans;
so that, when they were afterwards released, they still had their own
valuable arms; of which, however, so far as the caravan in question
was concerned, they appear to have had no opportunity of availing
themselves.

These facts are mentioned merely as they are said to have occurred.
Capt. Cook has been much abused by the Texans, and accused of having
violated a friendly flag--of having taken Col. Snively prisoner while
on a friendly visit. This is denied by Capt. Cook, and by other
persons who were in company at the time. But apart from the means
employed by the American commander (the propriety or impropriety of
which I shall not attempt {175} to discuss), the act was evidently the
salvation of the Santa Fé caravan, of which a considerable portion
were Americans. Had he left the Texans with their arms, he would
doubtless have been accused by the traders of escorting them to the
threshold of danger, and then delivering them over to certain
destruction, when he had it in his power to secure their safety.

Capt. Cook with his command soon after returned to the United
States,[145] and with him some forty of the [Pg235] disarmed Texans,
many of whom have been represented as gentlemen worthy of a better
destiny. A large portion of the Texans steered directly home from the
Arkansas river; while from sixty to seventy men, who elected Warfield
their commander, were organized for the pursuit and capture of the
caravan, which had already passed on some days in advance towards
Santa Fé. They pursued in the wake of the traders, it is said, as far
as the Point of Rocks (twenty miles east of the crossing of the
Colorado or Canadian), but made no attempt upon them[146]--whence they
returned direct to Texas. Thus terminated the 'Second Texan Santa Fé
Expedition,' as it has been styled; and {176} though not so disastrous
as the first, it turned out nearly as unprofitable.

Although this expedition was composed wholly of Texans, or persons not
claiming to be citizens of the United States, and organized entirely
in Texas--and, notwithstanding the active measures adopted by the
United States government to defend the caravans, as well of Mexicans
as of Americans, against their enemy--Señor Bocanegra, Mexican
Minister of Foreign Relations, made a formal demand upon the United
States (as will be remembered), for damages resulting from this
invasion. In a rejoinder to Gen. Thompson (alluding to Snively's
company), he says, that "Independence, in Missouri, was the starting
point of these men." The preceding narrative will show the error under
which the honorable secretary labored.[147] [Pg236]

A portion of the party who killed Chavez was from the
frontier of Missouri; but witness the active exertions on the border
to bring these depredators to justice--and then let the contrast be
noted betwixt this affair and the impunity with which robberies are
every day committed throughout Mexico, where well-known highwaymen
often run at large, unmolested either by the citizens or by the
authorities. What would Señor Bocanegra say if every other government
were to demand indemnity for all the robberies committed upon their
citizens in Mexico?

But the most unfortunate circumstance attending this invasion of the
Prairies--unfortunate {177} at least to the United States and to New
Mexico--was the closing of the Northern ports to foreign commerce,
which was doubtless, to a great degree, a consequence of the
before-mentioned expedition, and which of course terminated the Santa
Fé Trade, at least for the present.[148]

I am of the impression, however, that little apprehension need be
entertained, that this decree of Gen. Santa Anna will be permitted
much longer to continue,[149] unless our peaceful relations with
Mexico should be disturbed; an event, under any circumstances,
seriously to be deprecated. With the continuation of peace between us,
the Mexicans will certainly be compelled to open their northern
frontier [Pg237] ports, to avoid a revolution in New Mexico, with
which they are continually threatened while this embargo continues.
Should the obnoxious decree be repealed, the Santa Fé Trade will
doubtless be prosecuted again with renewed vigor and enterprise.

FOOTNOTES:

[136] Some general statistics of the Santa Fé Trade may prove not
wholly without interest to the mercantile reader. With this view, I
have prepared the following table of the probable amounts of
merchandise invested in the Santa Fé Trade, from 1822 to 1843
inclusive, and about the portion of the same transferred to the
Southern markets (chiefly Chihuahua) during the same period; together
with the approximate number of wagons, men and proprietors engaged
each year.

  ------|--------|-----|-----|----|-------|-----------------------------
  Years.   Amt.   W'gs. Men. Pro's. T'n to    Remarks.
          Mdse.                     Ch'a.
  ------|--------|-----|-----|----|-------|-----------------------------
   1822   15,000         70   60    9,000  Pack-animals only used.
   1823   12,000         50   30    3,000  Pack-animals only used.
   1824   35,000   26   100   80    3,000  Pack-animals and wagons.
   1825   65,000   37   130   90    5,000  Pack-animals and wagons.
   1826   90,000   60   100   70    7,000  Wagons only henceforth.
   1827   85,000   55    90   50    8,000
   1828  150,000  100   200   80   20,000 3 men killed, being the first.
   1829   60,000   30    50   20    5,000  1st U.S.Es.--1 trader killed.
   1830  120,000   70   140   60   20,000  First oxen used by traders.
   1831  250,000  130   320   80   80,000  Two men killed.
   1832  140,000   70   150   40   50,000  {Party defeated on Canadian
   1833  180,000  105   185   60   80,000  {2 men killed, 3 perished.
   1834  150,000   80   160   50   70,000  2d U.S. Escort
   1835  140,000   75   140   40   70,000
   1836  130,000   70   135   35   50,000
   1837  150,000   80   160   35   60,000
   1838   90,000   50   100   20   80,000
   1839  250,000  130   250   40  100,000  Arkansas Expedition.
   1840   50,000   30    60    5   10,000  Chihuahua Expedition.
   1841  150,000   60   100   12   80,000  Texan Santa Fé Expedition.
   1842  160,000   70   120   15   90,000
   1843  450,000  230   350   30  300,000  3d U.S.Es.--Ports closed.
  ------|--------|-----|-----|----|-------|-----------------------------

The foregoing table is not given as perfectly accurate, yet it is
believed to be about as nearly so as any that could be made out at the
present day. The column marked "Pro's." (Proprietors), though even
less precise than the other statistics, presents, I think, about the
proportion of the whole number engaged each year who were owners. At
first, as will be seen, almost every individual of each caravan was a
proprietor, while of late the capital has been held by comparatively
few hands. In 1843, the greater portion of the traders were New
Mexicans, several of whom, during the three years previous, had
embarked in this trade, of which they bid fair to secure a monopoly.

The amount of merchandise transported to Santa Fé each year, is set
down at its probable cost in the Eastern cities of the United States.
Besides freights and insurance to Independence, there has been an
annual investment, averaging nearly twenty-five per cent. upon the
cost of the stocks, in wagons, teams, provisions, hire of hands, &c.,
for transportation across the Prairies. A large portion of this
remaining unconsumed, however, the ultimate loss on the outfit has not
been more than half of the above amount. Instead of purchasing outfit,
some traders prefer employing freighters, a number of whom are usually
to be found on the frontier of Missouri, ready to transport goods to
Santa Fé, at ten to twelve cents per pound. From thence to Chihuahua
the price of freights is six to eight cents--upon mules, or in wagons.

The average gross returns of the traders has rarely exceeded fifty per
cent. upon the cost of their merchandise, leaving a net profit of
between twenty and forty per cent.; though their profits have not
unfrequently been under ten per cent.: in fact, as has before been
mentioned, their adventures have sometimes been losing speculations.[A]
--GREGG.

[A] Those who are familiar with Mr. Mayer's very interesting work on
Mexico, will observe that a portion of the preceding table corresponds
substantially with one presented on page 318 of that work. In justice
to myself, I feel compelled to state, that, in 1841, I published, in
the Galveston "Daily Advertiser," a table of the Santa Fé trade from
1831 to 1840 inclusive, of which that of Mr. Mayer embraces an exact
copy. I have since made additions, and corrected it to some extent,
but still the correspondence is such as seemed to require of me this
explanation.

[137] With a view to encourage adventurers, the government of
Chihuahua agreed to reduce the impost duties to a very low rate, in
favor of a pioneer enterprise; and to furnish an escort of dragoons
for the protection of the traders.

The expedition was undertaken chiefly by Mexicans; but one American
merchant, Dr. H. Connelly, having invested capital in it. I obtained
from this intelligent gentleman a very interesting sketch of the
adventures of this pioneer party, which I regret that my plan will not
permit me to present in detail.

The adventurers set out from Chihuahua on the 3d of April, 1839,
amidst the benisons of the citizens, and with the confident hope of
transferring the valuable trade of the North to their city. The
caravan (including fifty dragoons), consisted of over a hundred men,
yet only about half a dozen of the number were proprietors. Though
they had but seven wagons, they brought about seven hundred mules, and
two or three hundred thousand dollars in specie and bullion, for the
purposes of their adventure.

They took the Presidio del Norte in their route, and then proceeding
northwestwardly, finally arrived at Fort Towson after a protracted
journey of three months; but without meeting with any hostile savages,
or encountering any serious casualty, except getting bewildered, after
crossing Red River, which they mistook for the Brazos. This caused
them to shape their course thence nearly north, in search of the
former stream, until they reached the Canadian river, where they met
with some Delaware Indians, of whom they obtained the first correct
information of their whereabouts; and by whom they were piloted safely
to Fort Towson.

It had been the intention of these adventurers to return to Chihuahua
the ensuing fall; but from various accidents and delays, they were
unable to get ready until the season had too far advanced; which, with
an incessant series of rains that followed, prevented them from
travelling till the ensuing spring. Learning that the Texans were
friendly disposed towards them, they now turned their course through
the midst of the northern settlements of that republic. Of the kind
treatment they experienced during their transit, Dr. Connelly speaks
in the following terms: "I have never been more hospitably treated, or
had more efficient assistance, than was given by the citizens of Red
River. All seemed to vie with each other in rendering us every aid in
their power; and our Mexican friends, notwithstanding the hostile
attitude in which the two countries stood towards each other, were
treated with a kindness which they still recollect with the warmest
feelings of gratitude." This forms a very notable contrast with the
treatment which the Texan traders, who afterwards visited Santa Fé,
received at the hands of the Mexicans.

The Caravan now consisted of sixty or seventy wagons laden with
merchandise, and about two hundred and twenty-five men, including
their escort of Mexican dragoons. They passed the Texan border early
in April, and expected to intersect their former track beyond the
Cross Timbers, but that trail having been partially obliterated, they
crossed it unobserved, and were several days lost on the waters of the
Brazos river. Having turned their course south for a few days,
however, they fortunately discovered their old route at a branch of
the Colorado.

After this they continued their journey without further casualty; for
notwithstanding they met with a large body of Comanches, they passed
them amicably, and soon reached the Rio Pecos. Though very narrow,
this stream was too deep to be forded, and they were compelled to
resort to an expedient characteristic of the Prairies. There being not
a stick of timber anywhere to be found, of which to make even a raft,
they buoyed up a wagon-body by binding several empty water-kegs to the
bottom, which served them the purpose of a ferry-boat.

When they reached Presidio del Norte again, they learned that Gov.
Irigóyen, with whom they had celebrated the contract for a diminution
of their duties, had died during their absence. A new corps of
officers being in power, they were now threatened with a charge of
full tariff duties. After a delay of forty-five days at the Presidio,
however, they made a compromise, and entered Chihuahua on the 27th of
August, 1840.

The delays and accumulated expenses of this expedition caused it to
result so disastrously to the interests of all who were engaged in it,
that no other enterprise of the kind has since been undertaken.
--GREGG.

[138] John McDaniel and his brother David were both executed. For the
names of other participators, consult _Niles' Register_, lxiv, pp.
195, 280. The Texas government disclaimed all responsibility for
McDaniel.--ED.

[139] Mora is on a stream of the same name, for which see our volume
xix, p. 252, note 73 (Gregg), and is the seat of Mora County. The
first settlement was made in 1832, but repulsed by Indians; not until
1840, therefore, could the place be called permanent. In the
revolution of 1847, Mora was involved against the United States whose
troops burned the town in reprisal. The present population is about
seven hundred.--ED.

[140] For a more detailed account of this expedition, see H. Yoakum,
_History of Texas_ (New York, 1856), ii, pp. 399-405.--ED.

[141] Colonel William G. Cooke, of Texas, appointed one of the
commissioners to negotiate with the New Mexicans. He was treacherously
induced to surrender to a force under Dimasio Salezar, at Anton
Chico.--ED.

[142] Padilla is a small village on the eastern side of Rio Grande, a
few miles below Albuquerque. The Chavez family owned a large ranch,
and its younger members had been engaged in the American trade for
some years.--ED.

[143] This family is very distinct from one Manuel Chavez (who, though
Gov. Armijo's nephew, is a very low character), a principal agent in
the treacheries practised upon the Texan Santa Fé Expedition.--GREGG.

[144] Philip St. George Cooke, for whom see volume xix, p. 187, note
32 (Gregg).-ED.

[145] As U. S. troops cannot go beyond our boundary, which, on this
route is the Arkansas river, these escorts afford but little
protection to the caravans. Such an extensive, uninhabitable waste as
the great prairies are, ought certainly to be under maritime
regulations. Some international arrangements should be made between
the United States and Texas or Mexico (accordingly as the
proprietorship of the region beyond our boundary may be settled),
whereby the armies of either might indiscriminately range upon this
desert, as ships of war upon the ocean.--GREGG.

[146] For Point of Rocks, see our volume xix, p. 249, note 70
(Gregg).--ED.

[147] José Maria Bocanegra was a member of the liberal party in
Mexico, who came into power under Guerrero in 1829. He was also
president ad interim, and for some years minister of foreign affairs.

Waddy Thompson, of South Carolina, was born in 1798; and after serving
in the state legislature was member of Congress (1835-41). In 1842 he
was made minister to Mexico, which position he filled but two years.
Upon his return he published _Recollections_ (New York, 1846). Going
to Mexico as an advocate of Texas annexation, he returned its
opponent, convinced that slavery could not be maintained on soil
acquired from Mexico. The latter years of his life were devoted to
cotton-raising in Florida, where he died in 1868.--ED.

[148] The following is the substance of Santa Anna's decree, dated at
his Palace of Tacubaya, August 7, 1843:

"Article 1st. The frontier custom-houses of Taos, in the department of
New Mexico, Paso del Norte and Presidio del Norte in that of
Chihuahua, are entirely closed to all commerce.

"Art. 2d. This decree shall take effect within forty-five days after
its publication in the capital of the Republic."

It should be understood that the only port in New Mexico for the
introduction of foreign goods was nominally Taos, though the
custom-house was at Santa Fé, where all the entrances were
made.--GREGG.

[149] These northern ports have since been reopened by decree of March
31, 1844; and about ninety wagons, with perhaps $200,000 cost of
goods, (and occupying 150 to 200 men), crossed the plains to Santa Fé,
during the following summer and fall.--GREGG.



CHAPTER XXVI {X}

GEOGRAPHY OF THE PRAIRIES

Extent of Prairies -- Mountains -- _Mesas_ or Table-lands -- _El_
  _Llano Estacado_ -- _Cañones_ -- Their Annoyance to the early
  Caravans -- Immense Gullies -- Coal Mines and other geological
  Products -- Gypsum -- Metallic Minerals -- Salines -- Capt. Boone's
  Exploration -- 'Salt Plain' and 'Salt Rock' -- Mr. Sibley's Visit --
  Saline Exudations -- Unhabitableness of the high Prairies --
  Excellent Pasturage -- Rich border Country sufficient for two States
  -- Northern Texas -- Rivers of the Prairies -- Their Unfitness for
  Navigation -- Timber -- Cross Timbers -- Encroachments of the Timber
  upon the Prairies -- Fruits and Flowers -- Salubrity of Climate.


While I have endeavored in the preceding pages to give the reader some
general idea of life upon the Prairies, I feel that I have wholly
failed thus far to convey any adequate notions of their natural
history. I propose in the following pages to repair this deficiency as
far as I am able, and to present a rapid sketch of the vastness of
those mighty territories; of their physical geography; and of the
life, as well vegetable as animal, which they sustain. It is to be
regretted that this ample field for observation should have received
so little of the consideration of scientific men; for there {179} is
scarcely a province in the whole wide range of Nature's unexplored
domains, which is so worthy of study, and yet has been so little
studied by the natural philosopher.

If we look at the Great Western Prairies, independently of the
political powers to which portions of them respectively belong, we
shall find them occupying the whole of that [Pg238] extensive
territory lying between the spurs of the Rocky Mountains on the north,
and the rivers of Texas on the south--a distance of some seven or
eight hundred miles in one direction; and from the frontiers of
Missouri and Arkansas on the east to the eastern branches of the
southern Rocky Mountains on the west--about six hundred miles in the
transverse direction: the whole comprising an area of about 400,000
square miles, some 30,000 of which are within the original limits of
Texas, and 70,000 in those of New Mexico (if we extend them east to
the United States boundary), leaving about 300,000 in the territory of
the United States.

This vast territory is not interrupted by any important mountainous
elevations, except along the borders of the great western sierras, and
by some low, craggy ridges about the Arkansas frontier--skirts of the
Ozark mountains. There is, it is true, high on the dividing ridge
between Red River and the False Washita, a range of hills, the
southwestern portion of which extends about to the 100th degree of
longitude west from Greenwich; that is, to the United States {180}
boundary line. These are generally called the Witchita mountains, but
sometimes _Towyash_ by hunters, perhaps from _tóyavist_, the Comanche
word for mountain. I inquired once of a Comanche Indian how his nation
designated this range of mountains, which was then in sight of us. He
answered, "_Tóyavist_." "But this simply means a mountain," I replied.
"How do you distinguish this from any other mountain?" "There are no
other mountains in the Comanche territory," he rejoined--"none till we
go east to your country, or south to Texas, or west to the land of the
Mexican."

With these exceptions, there are scarcely any elevations throughout
these immense plains which should be dignified by the title of
mountains. Those seen by the Texan Santa [Pg239] Fé Expedition about
the sources of Red River, were without doubt the _cejas_ or brows of
the elevated table plains with which the Prairies abound, and which,
when viewed from the plain below, often assume the appearance of
formidable mountains; but once upon their summit, the spectator sees
another vast plain before him.

These _table lands_, or _mesas_, as the Mexicans term them, of which
there are many thousands of square miles lying between the frontier of
the United States and the Rocky Mountains, are level plains, elevated
a considerable distance above the surrounding country, and may be
likened to the famous steppes of Asia. They are cut up with numerous
{181} streams, the largest of which are generally bordered for several
miles back by hilly uplands, which are for the most part sandy, dry
and barren.

The most notable of the great _plateaux_ of the Prairies is that known
to Mexicans as _El Llano Estacado_, which is bounded on the north by
the Canadian river--extends east about to the United States boundary,
including the heads of the False Washita and other branches of Red
River--and spreads southward to the sources of Trinity, Brazos and
Colorado rivers, and westward to Rio Pecos. It is quite an elevated
and generally a level plain, without important hills or ridges, unless
we distinguish as such the craggy breaks of the streams which border
and pierce it. It embraces an area of about 30,000 square miles, most
of which is without water during three-fourths of the year; while a
large proportion of its few perennial streams are too brackish to
drink of.

I have been assured by Mexican hunters and Indians, that, from Santa
Fé southeastward, there is but one route upon which this plain can be
safely traversed during the dry season; and even some of the
watering-places on this are at intervals of fifty to eighty miles, and
hard to find. [Pg240] Hence the Mexican traders and hunters, that
they might not lose their way and perish from thirst, once staked out
this route across the plain, it is said; whence it has received the
name of _El Llano Estacado_, or the Staked Plain.

{182} In some places the brows of these _mesas_ approach the very
borders of the streams. When this occurs on both sides, it leaves deep
chasms or ravines between, called by the Mexicans _cañones_, and which
abound in the vicinity of the mountains. The Canadian river flows
through one of the most remarkable of these cañones for a distance of
more than fifty miles--extending from the road of the Missouri
caravans downward--throughout the whole extent of which the gorge is
utterly impassable for wagons, and almost so for animals.

Intersecting the direct route from Missouri, this cañon was a source
of great annoyance to some of the pioneers in the Santa Fé trade. In
1825, a caravan with a number of wagons reached it about five miles
below the present ford. The party was carelessly moving along, without
suspecting even a ravine at hand, as the bordering plains were
exceedingly level, and the opposite margins of equal height, when
suddenly they found themselves upon the very brink of an immense
precipice, several hundred yards deep, and almost perpendicular on
both sides of the river. At the bottom of those cliffs, there was, as
is usually the case, a very narrow but fertile valley, through which
the river wound its way, sometimes touching the one bluff and
sometimes the other.

Ignorant of a ford so near above, the caravan turned down towards the
crossing of the former traders. "We travelled fifty miles," {183} says
Mr. Stanley, who was of the caravan, "the whole of which distance the
river is bound in by cliffs several hundred feet high, in many places
nearly perpendicular. We at length came to the termination of the
table land; but what scene presented itself! [Pg241] The valley below
could only be reached by descending a frightful cliff of from 1200 to
1500 feet, and more or less precipitous. After a search of several
hours, a practicable way was found; and, with the greatest fatigue and
exertion, by locking wheels, holding on with ropes, and literally
lifting the wagons down in places, we finally succeeded in reaching
the bottom.... How did the Canadian and other streams in New Mexico
sink themselves to such immense depths in the solid rock? It seems
impossible that the water should have worn away the rock while as hard
as in its present state. What a field of speculation for the
geologist, in the propositions--Were the chasms made for the streams,
or did the streams make the chasms? Are they not of volcanic origin?"

Nor are the flat prairies always free from this kind of annoyance to
travellers. They are not unfrequently intersected by diminutive chasms
or water-cuts, which, though sometimes hardly a rod in width, are
often from fifty to a hundred feet deep. These little cañones are
washed out by the rains, in their descent to the bordering streams,
which is soon effected after an opening is once made through the
surface; for though the clayey {184} foundation is exceedingly firm
and hard while dry, it seems the most soluble of earths, and melts
almost as rapidly as snow under the action of water. The tenacious
turf of the 'buffalo grass,' however, retains the marginal surface, so
that the sides are usually perpendicular--indeed, often shelving
inward at the base, and therefore utterly impassable. I have come
unsuspectingly upon the verge of such a chasm; and though, to a
stranger, the appearance would indicate the very head of the ravine, I
would sometimes be compelled to follow its meandering course for miles
without being able to double its 'breaks.' These I have more
especially observed high on the borders of the Canadian. [Pg242]

The geological constitution of the Prairies is exceedingly
diversified. Along the eastern border, especially towards the north,
there is an abundance of limestone, interspersed with sandstone,
slate, and many extensive beds of bituminous coal. The coal is
particularly abundant in some of the regions bordering the Neosho
river; where there are also said to be a few singular bituminous or
'tar springs,' as they are sometimes called by the hunters. There are
also many other mineral, and particularly sulphur springs, to be met
with.

Further westward, the sandstone prevails; but some of the table plains
are based upon strata of a sort of friable calcareous rock, which has
been denominated 'rotten limestone:' yet along the borders of the
mountains the base of the plains seems generally {185} to be of trap
and greenstone. From the waters of Red River to the southwest corner
of Missouri, throughout the range of the Ozark mountains, granite,
limestone, flint and sandstone prevail. But much of the middle portion
of the Prairies is without any apparent rocky foundation--we sometimes
travel for days in succession without seeing even as much as a pebble.

On passing towards Santa Fé in 1839, and returning in 1840, I observed
an immense range of plaster of Paris, both north and south of the
Canadian river, and between thirty and fifty miles east of the United
States western boundary. The whole country seemed based upon this
fossil, and cliffs and huge masses of it were seen in every direction.
It ranges from the coarsest compact sulphate of lime or ordinary
plaster, to the most transparent gypsum or selenite, of which last
there is a great abundance. By authentic accounts from other
travellers, this range of gypsum extends, in a direction nearly north,
almost to the Arkansas river. [Pg243]

Of metallic minerals, iron, lead, and perhaps copper, are found on the
borders of the Prairies; and it is asserted that several specimens of
silver ores have been met with on our frontier, as well as about the
Witchita and the Rocky Mountains. Gold has also been found, no doubt,
in different places; yet it is questionable whether it has anywhere
been discovered in sufficient abundance to render it worth the
seeking. Some trappers have reported {186} an extensive gold region
about the sources of the Platte river; yet, although recent search has
been made, it has not been discovered.[150]

The most valuable perhaps, and the most abundant mineral production of
the Prairies is _Salt_. In the Choctaw country, on the waters of Red
River, there are two salt-works in operation; and in the Cherokee
nation salt springs are numerous, three or four of which are now
worked on a small scale; yet a sufficient quantity of salt might
easily be produced to supply even the adjoining States. The _Grand
Saline_, about forty miles above Fort Gibson, near the Neosho river,
was considered a curiosity of its kind, before its natural beauties
were effaced by 'improvements.'[151] In the border of a little valley,
a number of small salt springs break out, around the orifice of each
of which was formed, in the shape of a pot, a kind of calcareous
saline concretion. None of the springs are very bold, but the water is
strong, and sufficiently abundant for extensive works.

There have been several _Salines_, or mines (if we may so term them)
of pure salt, discovered in different parts of the Prairies. The most
northern I have heard of, is [Pg244] fifty or sixty miles west of the
Missouri river, and thirty or forty south of the Platte, near a
tributary called the Saline; where the Otoes and other Indians procure
salt. It is described as resembling the _salinas_ of New Mexico, and
the quantity of salt as inexhaustible. South of the Arkansas river and
a degree or two further {187} westward, there are several of these
salines, which are perhaps still more extensive.

I have been favored with some extracts from the journal of Capt.
Nathan Boone[152] of the United States' Dragoons, who made an
exploring tour through those desolate regions during the summer of
1843. In his journey, between the Canadian and Upper Arkansas, he
found efflorescent salt in many places, as well as a superabundance of
strongly impregnated salt-water; but, besides these, he visited two
considerable salines.

Of the first, which he calls the 'Salt Plain,' he remarks, that "the
approach was very gratifying, and from the appearance one might expect
to find salt in a solid mass, for the whole extent of the plain, of
several feet in thickness." This is situated in the forks of the Salt
Fork of the Arkansas. The plain is described as being level as a
floor, and evidently sometimes overflowed by the streams which border
it. Yet the extent of salt, it would seem, did not realize Capt.
Boone's anticipations, as he remarks that it was covered "with the
slightest possible film of crystallized salt on the surface, enough to
make it white." But he explored only a small portion of the plain,
which was very extensive. [Pg245]

However, the most wonderful saline is the great _Salt Rock_,
which he found further to the {188} southwestward, on the main Red
Fork. "The whole cove on the right of the two forks of the river,"
says Capt. Boone, "appears to be one immense salt spring of water so
much concentrated, that, as soon as it reaches the point of breaking
forth, it begins depositing its salt. In this way a large crust, or
rock is formed all over the bottom for perhaps 160 acres. Digging
through the sand for a few inches anywhere in this space, we could
find the solid salt, so hard that there was no means in our power of
getting up a block of it. We broke our mattock in the attempt. In many
places, through this rock-salt crust the water boiled up as clear as
crystal ... but so salt that our hands, after being immersed in it and
suffered to dry, became as white as snow. Thrusting the arm down into
these holes, they appeared to be walled with salt as far down as one
could reach. The cliffs which overhang this place are composed of red
clay and gypsum, and capped with a stratum of the latter.... We found
this salt a little bitter from the impurities it contained, probably
Epsom salts principally." As it is overhung with sulphate of lime, and
perhaps also based upon the same, might not this 'salt-rock' be
heavily impregnated with this mineral, occasioning its excessive
hardness? Capt. Boone also speaks of gypsum in various other places,
both north and south of this, during his travel.

Mr. Sibley (then of Fort Osage), who was quite familiar with the
western prairies, visited {189} a saline, over thirty years ago, which
would seem to be the 'Salt Plain' first mentioned by Capt. Boone. The
former, it is true, found the salt much more abundant than as
described by the latter; but this may be owing to Capt. Boone's not
having [Pg246] penetrated as far as the point alluded to by Mr.
Sibley,--whose description is in the following language:[153]

"The Grand Saline is situated about 280 miles southwest of Fort Osage,
between two forks of a small branch of the Arkansas, one of which
washes its southern extremity, and the other, the principal one, runs
nearly parallel, within a mile of its opposite side. It is a hard
level plain of reddish colored sand, and of an irregular or mixed
figure. Its greatest length is from northwest to southeast, and its
circumference about thirty miles. From the appearance of the driftwood
that is scattered over, it would seem the whole plain is at times
inundated by the overflowing of the streams that pass near it. This
plain is entirely covered in dry hot weather, from two to six inches
deep, with a crust of beautiful clean white salt, of a quality rather
superior to the imported blown salt. It bears a striking resemblance
to a field of brilliant snow after a rain, with a light crust on its
top."

This is, in extent and appearance, nearly as described by several
hunters and Indian traders with whom I have conversed. Col. Logan, a
worthy former agent of the Creek Indians,[154] {190} visited no doubt
the same, not far from the same period; and he describes it in a
similar manner--only representing the depth of the salt as greater.
Everywhere that he dug through the stratum of earth about the margin,
at the depth of a few inches he came to a _rock of solid salt_, which
induced him to believe that the whole country thereabouts was based
upon a stratum of 'rock salt.' [Pg247] This was of a reddish cast,
partaking of the color of the surface of the surrounding country. Mr.
Sibley remarks that "the distance to a navigable branch of Arkansas is
about eighty miles"--referring perhaps to the Red Fork; though the
saline is no doubt at a still less distance from the main stream.

With such inexhaustible mines of salt within two or three days'
journey of the Arkansas river, and again within the same distance of
the Missouri, which would cost no further labor than the digging it up
and the transporting of it to boats for freighting it down those
streams, it seems strange that they should lie idle, while we are
receiving much of our supplies of this indispensable commodity from
abroad.

Besides the _salines_ already mentioned, there is one high on the
Canadian river, some two hundred miles east of Santa Fé. Also, it is
said, there are some to be found on the waters of Red River; and
numerous others are no doubt scattered throughout the same regions,
which have never been discovered.

Many of the low valleys of all the western {191} streams (Red River as
well as Arkansas and its branches), are impregnated with salinous
qualities, and, during wet weather, ooze saltish exudations, which
effloresce in a thin scum. This is sometimes pure salt, but more
frequently compounded of different salts--not only of the muriate, but
of the sulphate of soda, and perhaps magnesia; often strongly
tinctured with nitre. Some of the waters of these sections
(particularly when stagnant) are so saturated with this compound
during dry weather, that they are insupportable even for brutes--much
to the consternation of a forlorn traveller. In these saline flats
nothing grows but hard wiry grass, which a famished beast will
scarcely eat. [Pg248]

It is from these exudations, as well as from the salines or salt
plains before mentioned, that our western waters, especially from
Arkansas to Red River, acquire their brackishness during the low
seasons; and not from the mountains, as some have presumed. Such as
issue from thence are there as pure, fresh and crystalline as snow-fed
rills and icy fountains can make them.

It will now readily be inferred that the Great Prairies from Red River
to the western sources of the Missouri, are, as has before been
intimated, chiefly uninhabitable--not so much for want of wood (though
the plains are altogether naked), as of soil and of water; for though
some of the plains appear of sufficiently fertile soil, they are
mostly of a sterile character, and all too dry to be cultivated. {192}
These great steppes seem only fitted for the haunts of the mustang,
the buffalo, the antelope, and their migratory lord, the prairie
Indian. Unless with the progressive influence of time, some favorable
mutation should be wrought in nature's operations, to revive the
plains and upland prairies, the occasional fertile valleys are too
isolated and remote to become the abodes of civilized man.

Like the table plains of Northern Mexico, these high prairies could at
present only be made available for grazing purposes, and that in the
vicinity of the water-courses. The grass with which they are mostly
clothed, is of a superior quality. The celebrated 'buffalo grass' is
of two kinds, both of which are species of the _grama_ of New Mexico,
and equally nutritious at all seasons. It is the same, I believe, that
is called 'mezquite grass' in Texas, from the mezquite tree which
grows there in the same dry regions with it. Of this unequalled
pasturage the great western prairies afford a sufficiency to graze
cattle for the supply of all the United States. It is particularly
adapted to [Pg249] sheep-raising, as is shown by example of the same
species in New Mexico.

But from the general sterility and unhabitableness of the Prairies is
excepted, as will be understood, that portion, already alluded to,
which borders our western frontier. The uplands from the Arkansas
boundary to the Cross Timbers, are everywhere beautifully interspersed
with isolated prairies and glades, many of which are fertile, though
some are {193} too flat, and consequently inclined to be marshy. The
valleys of the streams are principally of a rich loam, rather subject
to inundations, but mostly tillable. The timbered uplands are mostly
of fair quality, except on the broken ridges and mountainous sections
before referred to. Some of the uplands, however, known usually as
'post-oak flats,' like the marshy prairies, seem to be based upon
quick-sand. The soil is of a dead unproductive character, and covered
with small lumps or mounds of various sizes, and of irregular shapes.

The country lying west of Missouri, which includes the sources of the
Neosho, the Verdigris, the Marais-des-Cygnes and other branches of the
Osage, and the lower sections of the Kansas river, vies with any
portion of the Far West in the amenity of its upland prairies--in the
richness of its alluvial bottoms--in the beauty and freshness of its
purling rills and rivulets--and in the salubrity of its atmosphere.

We have here then, along the whole border, a strip of country,
averaging at least two hundred miles wide by five hundred long--and
even more if we extend it up the Missouri river--affording territory
for two States, respectable in size, and though more scant in timber,
yet more fertile, in general, than the two conterminous States of
Missouri and Arkansas. But most of this delightful region has been
ceded to the different tribes of the Frontier Indians. [Pg250]

{194} Concerning that portion of the Prairies which lies south of Red
River, in Northern Texas, I learn from some interesting memoranda,
politely furnished me by Dr. Henry Connelly, one of the principals of
the pioneer expedition from Chihuahua to Arkansas, of which I have
already spoken, that, besides some beautiful lands among the Cross
Timbers, there is a great deal of delightful country still further
west, of a part of which that gentleman holds the following
language:--"Between the Brazos and Red River, there is surely the most
beautiful and picturesque region I have ever beheld. I saw some of the
finest timber, generally oak--not that scrubby oak which characterizes
so much of the Texan territory--but large black and bur-oak; such as
would answer all the purposes for which the largest timber is useful.
Between those two rivers, no doubt there is destined to be one of the
most dense and prosperous settlements. The fertility of the soil is
not exceeded by any I have seen; and, from the high and undulating
character of the country, there can be no doubt of its being very
healthy."

To the westward of Rio Brazos, and south of some sandy and saline
regions which border the upper portions of this stream, the same
enterprising traveller represents many of the valleys as rich and
beautiful, and the uplands as being in many places sparsely timbered
with mezquite trees. This is particularly the case on the sources of
the Colorado, where the country is delightfully watered. But
immediately {195} north of this sets in that immense desert region of
the Llano Estacado.

The chief natural disadvantage to which the Great Western Prairies are
exposed, consists in the absence of navigable streams. Throughout the
whole vast territory which I have been attempting to describe, there
is not a single river, except the Missouri, which is navigable during
[Pg251] the whole season. The remaining streams, in their course
through the plains, are and must continue to be, for all purposes of
commerce, comparatively useless.

The chief of these rivers are the Missouri, the Arkansas, and Red
River, with their numerous tributaries. The principal western branches
of the Missouri are the Yellow Stone, the Platte and the Kansas. Small
'flats' and 'buffalo boats' have passed down the two former for a
considerable distance, during high water; but they are never navigable
to any extent by steamboats.

The _Arkansas_ river penetrates far into the Rocky Mountains, its
ramifications, interlocking with some of the waters of the Missouri,
Columbia, San Buenaventura, Colorado of the West, and Rio del
Norte.[155] The channel of this stream, in its course through the
Prairies, is very wide and shallow, with banks in many places hardly
five feet above low water. It will probably measure nearly 2000 miles
in length, from its source to the frontier of Arkansas. It is called
_Rio Napeste_ by the Mexicans; but among the early French voyagers it
acquired the name of _Arkansas_, or rather {196} _Akansa_,[156] from a
tribe of the Dahcotah or Osage stock, who lived near its mouth. This
river has numerous tributaries, some of which are of great length, yet
there is not one that is at all navigable, except the [Pg252] Neosho
from the north, which has been descended by small boats for at least a
hundred miles.

_Red River_ is much shorter and narrower from the frontier westward
than the Arkansas, bearing but little over half the volume of water.
Even in its serpentine course it can hardly exceed 1200 miles from the
Arkansas boundary to its source. This river rises in the table plains
of the Llano Estacado, and has not, as I have been assured by traders
and hunters, any mountainous elevations about its source of any
consequence;[157] although we are continually hearing the inhabitants
of its lower borders speak of the "_June freshets_ produced by the
melting of the snow in the mountains."

The upper portions of this river, and emphatically from the mouth of
the False Washita (or Faux Ouachittâ) upward, present little or no
facilities for navigation; being frequently spread out over sand-bars
to the width of several hundred yards. A very credible Indian trader,
who had been on Red River {197} some two hundred miles above the False
Washita, informed me, that, while in some places he found it not over
fifty yards wide, in others it was at least five hundred. This and
most other prairie streams have commonly very low banks with
remarkably shallow channels, which, during droughts, sometimes go dry
in their transit through the sandy plains.[158] [Pg253]

It would be neither interesting nor profitable to present to
my readers a detailed account of all the tributaries of the three
principal rivers already mentioned. They may be {198} found for the
most part laid down, with their bearings and relative magnitudes, upon
the map which accompanies this work. It is only necessary to say in
addition, that none of them can ever be availed of to any considerable
extent for purposes of navigation.

With regard to the productions of the soil of these regions, the
reader will probably have formed, in the main, a tolerably correct
idea already; nevertheless a few further specifications may not be
altogether unacceptable.

The timber of that portion of the United States territory which is
included between the Arkansas frontier and the Cross Timbers,
throughout the highlands, is mostly oak of various kinds, of which
black-jack and post-oak predominate, as these, and especially the
former, seem only capable of withstanding the conflagrations to which
they are exposed, and therefore abound along the prairie borders. The
black-jack presents a blackened, scrubby appearance, with harsh rugged
branches--partly on account of being so often scorched and crisped by
the prairie fires. About the streams we find an intermixture of elm,
hackberry, [Pg254] peccan (or pecan), ash, walnut, mulberry, cherry,
persimmon, cottonwood, sycamore, birch, etc., with varieties of
hickory, gum, dogwood, and the like. All of the foregoing, except
paccan, gum and dogwood, are also found west of Missouri, where,
although the uplands are almost wholly prairie, the richest growths
predominate in the valleys.

{199} In many of the rich bottoms from the Canadian to Red River, for
a distance of one or two hundred miles west of the frontier, is found
the celebrated _bois-d'arc_ (literally, _bow-wood_), usually corrupted
in pronunciation to _bowdark_. It was so named by the French on
account of its peculiar fitness for _bows_. This tree is sometimes
found with a trunk two or three feet in diameter, but, being much
branched, it is rarely over forty or fifty feet high. The leaves are
large, and it bears a fruit a little resembling the orange in general
appearance, though rougher and larger, being four or five inches in
diameter; but it is not used for food. The wood is of a beautiful
light orange color, and, though coarse, is susceptible of polish. It
is one of the hardest, firmest and most durable of timbers, and is
much used by wagon-makers and millwrights, as well as by the wild
Indians, who make bows of the younger growths.[159]

On the Arkansas and especially its southern tributaries as far west as
the Verdigris, and up those of Red River nearly to the False Washita,
the bottoms are mostly covered with cane. And scattered over all the
south to about the same distance westward, the sassafras abounds,
which grows here in every kind of soil and locality.

The celebrated _Cross Timbers_, of which frequent mention has been
made, extend from the Brazos, or perhaps from the Colorado of Texas,
across the sources of Trinity, traversing [Pg255] Red River above the
False Washita, and thence {200} west of north, to the Red Fork of
Arkansas, if not further. It is a rough hilly range of country, and,
though not mountainous, may perhaps be considered a prolongation of
that chain of low mountains which pass to the northward of Bexar and
Austin city in Texas.[160]

The Cross Timbers vary in width from five to thirty miles, and
entirely cut off the communication betwixt the interior prairies and
those of the great plains. They may be considered as the 'fringe' of
the great prairies, being a continuous brushy strip, composed of
various kinds of undergrowth; such as black-jacks, post-oaks, and in
some places hickory, elm, etc., intermixed with a very diminutive
dwarf oak, called by the hunters 'shin-oak.' Most of the timber
appears to be kept small by the continual inroads of the 'burning
prairies;' for, being killed almost annually, it is constantly
replaced by scions of undergrowth; so that it becomes more and more
dense every reproduction. In some places, however, the oaks are of
considerable size, and able to withstand the conflagrations. The
underwood is so matted in many places with grape-vines, greenbriars,
etc., as to form almost impenetrable 'roughs,' which serve as
hiding-places for wild beasts, as well as wild Indians; and would, in
savage warfare, prove almost as formidable as the hammocks of Florida.

South of the Canadian, a branch of these Cross Timbers projects off
westward, extending across this stream, and up its course for 100
{201} miles or so, from whence, it inclines northwest beyond the North
Fork, and ultimately ceases, no doubt, in the great sandy plains in
that direction. [Pg256]

The region of the Cross Timbers is generally well-watered; and
is interspersed with romantic and fertile tracts. The bottoms of the
tributaries of Red River, even for some distance west of the Cross
Timbers (perhaps almost to the U. S. boundary), are mostly very
fertile, and timbered with narrow stripes of elm, hackberry, walnut,
hickory, mulberry, bur-oak and other rich growths.

But further north, and west of the Cross Timbers, even the streams are
nearly naked. The Cimarron river for more than a hundred miles is
absolutely without timber; and the Arkansas, for so large a stream, is
remarkably scant. The southern border, being protected from the
prairie fires by a chain of sand-hills, which extends for two hundred
miles along it, is not so bare as the northern bank; though even here
it is only skirted with occasional sparsely set groves of cottonwood
in the nooks and bends. It is upon the abundance of islands which
intersperse its channel, that the greatest quantity of timber (though
purely cottonwood) is to be found; yet withal, there are stretches of
miles without a tree in view. The banks of the Canadian are equally
naked; and, having fewer islands, the river appears still more barren.
In fact, there is scarce anything else but cottonwood, and that very
sparsely scattered {202} along the streams, throughout most of the
far-western prairies.

It is unquestionably the prairie conflagrations that keep down the
woody growth upon most of the western uplands. The occasional skirts
and fringes which have escaped their rage, have been protected by the
streams they border. Yet may not the time come when these vast plains
will be covered with timber? It would seem that the prairie region,
long after the discovery of America, extended to the very banks of the
Mississippi. Father Marquette, in a voyage down this river, in 1673,
after passing below [Pg257] the mouth of the Ohio, remarks:--"The
banks of the river began to be covered with high trees, which hindered
us from observing the country as we had done all along; but we judged
from the bellowing of the oxen [buffalo] that the meadows are very
near."[161]--Indeed, there are parts of the southwest now thickly set
with trees of good size, that, within the remembrance of the oldest
inhabitants, were as naked as the prairie plains; and the appearance
of the timber in many other sections indicates that it has grown up
within less than a century. In fact, we are now witnessing the
encroachment of the timber upon the prairies, wherever the devastating
conflagrations have ceased their ravages.

The high plains seem too dry and lifeless to produce timber; yet might
not the vicissitudes of nature operate a change likewise upon the
seasons? Why may we not suppose {203} that the genial influences of
civilization--that extensive cultivation of the earth--might
contribute to the multiplication of showers, as it certainly does of
fountains? Or that the shady groves, as they advance upon the
prairies, may have some effect upon the seasons? At least, many old
settlers maintain that the droughts are becoming less oppressive in
the West. The people of New Mexico also assure us that the rains have
much increased of latter years, a phenomenon which the vulgar
superstitiously attribute to the arrival of the Missouri traders. Then
may we not hope that these sterile regions might yet be thus revived
and fertilized, and their surface covered one day by flourishing
settlements to the Rocky Mountains?

With regard to fruits, the Prairies are of course not very plentifully
supplied. West of the border, however, for nearly two hundred miles,
they are covered, in many places, [Pg258] with the wild strawberry;
and the groves lining the streams frequently abound in grapes, plums,
persimmons, mulberries, peccans, hackberries, and other 'sylvan
luxuries.' The high prairies beyond, however, are very bare of fruits.
The prickly pear may be found over most of the dry plains; but this is
neither very palatable nor wholesome, though often eaten by travellers
for want of other fruits. Upon the branches of the Canadian, North
Fork, and Cimarron, there are, in places, considerable quantities of
excellent plums, grapes, choke-cherries, gooseberries, and
currants--of the {204} latter there are three kinds, black, red, and
white. About the ravines and marshy grounds (particularly towards the
east) there are different kinds of small onions, with which the
traveller may season his fresh meats. On the plains, also, I have met
with a species resembling garlic in flavor.

But the flowers are among the most interesting products of the
frontier prairies. These gay meadows wear their most fanciful piebald
robes from the earliest spring till divested of them by the hoary
frosts of autumn. When again winter has fled, but before the grassy
green appears, or other vegetation has ventured to peep above the
earth, they are bespeckled in many places with a species of
_erythronium_, a pretty lilaceous little flower, which springs from
the ground already developed, between a pair of lanceolate leaves, and
is soon after in full bloom.[162] But the floriferous region only
extends about two hundred miles beyond the border: the high plains are
nearly as destitute of flowers as they are of fruits.

The _climate_ of most parts of the Prairies is no doubt healthy in the
extreme; for a purer atmosphere is hardly to be found. But the cold
rains of the 'wet season,' and the colder snows of winter, with the
annoying winds [Pg259] that prevail at nearly all times, often render
it very unpleasant. It can hardly be said, it is true, that the
Prairies have their regular 'dry and rainy seasons;' yet the summers
are often so droughty, that, unless some change should {205} be
effected in nature's functions, cultivators would generally find it
necessary, no doubt, to resort to irrigation. That portion, however,
which is conterminous with our western border, and to the distance of
nearly two hundred miles westward, in every respect resembles the
adjacent States of Missouri and Arkansas in climate. The south is a
little disposed to chills and fevers; but the northern portion is as
healthy as the most salubrious uplands of Missouri.

FOOTNOTES:

[150] This discovery was verified by the finding of gold near Denver
in 1858. A reader of Gregg's book, in the St. Louis Mercantile
Library, wrote upon the margin in 1858, opposite this paragraph: "The
truth of this report has been verified this year."--Chittenden,
_Fur-Trade_, ii, p. 486.--ED.

[151] For an early description of the Grand Saline, see Bradbury's
_Travels_, in our volume v, pp. 192, 193.--ED.

[152] Capt. Boone is a son of the late Col. Daniel Boone, the
celebrated pioneer of the West. Being of practical habits, and of
extensive experience upon those deserts, much weight is due to his
observations.--GREGG.

[153] Brackenbridge's [Brackenridge's] Voyage up the Missouri River,
p. 205.--GREGG.

_Comment by Ed._ See our volume vi, p. 153, note 54; also our volume
v, pp. 191-194.

[154] James Logan was appointed agent among the Creeks shortly after
their final removal to Indian Territory (about 1838), and was replaced
about 1842.--ED.

[155] Gregg probably takes this information from Pike's journals. In
his edition thereof, Elliott Coues claims (ii, p. 733, note 18) that
San Buenaventura River was a myth of this early period. Pike describes
it as emptying into the Pacific north of California; but upon his map
it runs into a nameless salt lake, and is probably to be identified
with Sevier River.--ED.

[156] A stranger would be led to suppose we were without a system of
orthography, from the fact of our so generally adopting the French
spelling of Indian names, whereby all sight is soon lost of the
original. The French first corrupt them, and we, by adapting our
pronunciation to their orthography, at once transform them into new
names. Thus 'polite usage' has converted into _Arkan´sas_ the plural
of the primitive _Arkansa_ or _Arkonsah_; though an approximate,
_Ar´kansaw_, is still the current 'vulgar' pronunciation. _Osage_ and
a great many others have suffered similar metamorphoses.--GREGG.

[157] For the exploration of the sources of Red River, see our volume
xvi, p. 85, note 52. Gregg would appear to be one of the first
correctly to locate the headwaters of this stream.--ED.

[158] Of all the rivers of this character, the Cimarron, being on the
route from Missouri to Santa Fé, has become the most famous. Its water
disappears in the sand and reappears again, in so many places, that
some travellers have contended that it 'ebbs and flows' periodically.
This is doubtless owing to the fact, that the little current which may
flow above the sand in the night, or in cloudy weather, is kept dried
up, in an unshaded channel, during the hot sunny days. But in some
places the sand is so porous that the water never flows above it,
except during freshets.

I was once greatly surprised upon encountering one of these sandy
sections of the river after a tremendous rain-storm. Our caravan was
encamped at the 'Lower Cimarron Spring:' and, a little after
night-fall, a dismal, murky cloud was seen gathering in the western
horizon, which very soon came lowering upon us, driven by a hurricane,
and bringing with it one of those tremendous bursts of thunder and
lightning, and rain, which render the storms of the Prairies, like
those of the tropics, so terrible. Hail-stones, as large as turkeys'
eggs, and torrents of rain soon drenched the whole country; and so
rapidly were the banks of the river overflowed, that the most active
exertions were requisite to prevent the mules that were 'staked' in
the valley from drowning. Next morning, after crossing the neck of a
bend, we were, at the distance of about three miles, upon the
river-bank again; when, to our astonishment, the wetted sand, and an
occasional pool, fast being absorbed, were the only vestiges of the
recent flood--no water was flowing there!

In these sandy stretches of the Cimarron, and other similar 'dry
streams,' travellers procure water by excavating basins in the
channel, a few feet deep, into which the water is filtrated from the
saturated sand.--GREGG.

[159] This is the shrub now known as Osage orange (_Maclura
aurantiaca_).--ED.

[160] Bexar is the older name for San Antonio, Texas, which was
founded (1718) as a presidio and mission to the memory of San Antonio
de Bejar (Bexar). Austin was laid out (1839) as the capital of the
independent state of Texas. See George P. Garrison, _Texas_ (New York,
1902).--ED.

[161] See Thwaites, _Jesuit Relations_, lix, for Marquette's journal.
This quotation is found on p. 149.--ED.

[162] Commonly known as dog-toothed violet.--ED.



CHAPTER XXVII {XI}

ANIMALS OF THE PRAIRIES

The Mustang or Wild Horse -- Capturing him by 'Creasing,' and with
  the Lazo -- Horse-flesh -- The Buffalo -- Its Appearance --
  Excellence of its Meat -- General Utility to the Indian and
  Traveller -- Prospect of its Extinction -- Hunting the Buffalo with
  Bow and Arrows, the Lance, etc. -- 'Still-hunting' -- The Buffalo
  ferocious only when wounded -- Butchering, etc. -- The Gray Wolf --
  Its Modes of killing Buffalo -- Their great Numbers -- A
  'Wolf-scrape' -- The Prairie Wolf, or 'Jackal of the Prairies' --
  Elk, Deer and Bear -- The Antelope -- The Bighorn -- The Prairie Dog
  -- Owls and Rattlesnakes -- The Horned Frog -- Fowls -- Bees, etc.


The zoology of the Prairies has probably attracted more attention than
any other feature of their natural history. This has not arisen
altogether from the peculiar interest the animals of the Prairies
possess; but they constitute so considerable a portion of the society
of the traveller who journeys among them, that they get to hold
somewhat the same place in his estimation that his fellow-creatures
would occupy if he were in civilization. Indeed, the animals are _par
éminence_ the communities of the Prairies.

By far the most noble of these, and therefore {207} the [Pg260] best
entitled to precedence in the brief notice I am able to present of the
animals of those regions, is the _mustang_[163] or wild horse of the
Prairies. As he is descended from the stock introduced into America by
the first Spanish colonists, he has no doubt a partial mixture of
Arabian blood. Being of domestic origin, he is found of various
colors, and sometimes of a beautiful piebald.

It is a singular fact in the economy of nature, that all _wild_
animals of the same species should have one uniform color (with only
occasional but uniform differences between males and females); while
that of the _domestic_ animals, whether quadruped or fowl, is more or
less diversified.

The beauty of the mustang is proverbial. One in particular has been
celebrated by hunters, of which marvellous stories are told. He has
been represented as a medium-sized stallion of perfect symmetry,
milk-white, save a pair of black ears--a natural 'pacer,' and so
fleet, it has been said, as to leave far behind every horse that had
been tried in pursuit of him, without breaking his 'pace.' But I infer
that this story is somewhat mythical, from the difficulty which one
finds in fixing the abiding place of its equine hero. He is familiarly
known, by common report, all over the great Prairies. The trapper
celebrates him in the vicinity of the northern Rocky {208} Mountains;
the hunter, on the Arkansas, or in the midst of the Plains; while
others have him pacing at the rate of half a mile a minute on the
borders of Texas. It is hardly a matter of surprise, then, that a
creature of such an ubiquitary existence should never have been
caught.

The wild horses are generally well-formed, with trim and clean limbs;
still their elegance has been much exaggerated by travellers, because
they have seen them at large, abandoned [Pg261] to their wild and
natural gaiety. Then, it is true, they appear superb indeed; but when
caught and tamed, they generally dwindle down to ordinary ponies.
Large droves are very frequently seen upon the Prairies, sometimes of
hundreds together, gambolling and curvetting within a short distance
of the caravans. It is sometimes difficult to keep them from dashing
among the loose stock of the traveller, which would be exceedingly
dangerous; for, once together, they are hard to separate again,
particularly if the number of mustangs is much the greatest. It is a
singular fact, that the gentlest wagon-horse (even though quite fagged
with travel), once among a drove of mustangs, will often acquire in a
few hours all the intractable wildness of his untamed companions.

The mustang is sometimes taken by the cruel expedient of 'creasing,'
which consists in shooting him through the upper _crease_ of the neck,
above the cervical vertebræ; when, the ball cutting a principal nerve,
he falls as suddenly {209} as if shot in the brain, and remains
senseless for a few minutes, during which he is secured with a rope.
He soon recovers from the shock, however, and springs to his feet, but
finds himself deprived of his liberty. He is easily tamed after this,
and the wound heals without leaving any physical injury. But
'creasing' is so nice an operation that many are killed in the
attempt. If the ball pass a little too low, it fractures a vertebra
and kills the poor brute instantly.

But the most usual mode, among the Mexicans and Indians, of taking the
_mesteña_ (as the former call these animals), is with the lazo. They
pursue them on fleet horses, and great numbers are thus noosed and
tamed. The mustang has been taken in Texas in considerable numbers by
preparing a strong pen at some passway or crossing of a river, into
which they are frightened and caught. [Pg262]

Upon the plains, I once succeeded in separating a gay-looking stallion
from his herd of _mesteñas_, upon which he immediately joined our
_caballada_, and was directly lazoed by a Mexican. As he curvetted at
the end of the rope, or would stop and gaze majestically at his
subjecters, his symmetrical proportions attracted the attention of
all; and our best jockeys at once valued him at five hundred dollars.
But it appeared that he had before been tamed, for he soon submitted
to the saddle, and in a few days dwindled down to scarce a
twenty-dollar hackney.

Prairie travellers have often been reduced {210} to the necessity of
eating the flesh of the mustang; and, when young and tender, it has
been accounted savory enough; but, when of full age, it is said to be
exceedingly rancid, particularly when fat. They are sometimes hunted
by Mexicans for their oil, which is used by the curriers.

The _buffalo_, though making no pretensions to the elegance and
symmetry of the mustang, is by far the most important animal of the
Prairies to the traveller. It is sufficiently well known that these
animals bear but little resemblance to the buffalo of India; but that
they are a species of bison, or _bos Americanus_, according to
naturalists. They are called _Cíbolos_ by the Mexicans; and it would
certainly have prevented ambiguity, had they been distinguished by
some other name than buffalo with us.

Their dusky black color becomes much paler during the season of long
hair.[164] The phenomenon of a white buffalo has frequently been
remarked upon the Prairies; but as the white skin is said to have been
used in the mystic ceremonies of many of the northern tribes of
Indians, this probably created such a demand for them, that they have
become nearly extinct. Their unusual [Pg263] color has commonly been
considered a _lusus naturæ_, yet it is probable that they stand in
about the same relation to the black or brown buffalo that black sheep
do to white ones. The horns of {211} the buffalo are short and black,
and almost concealed under the frightfully shaggy frontlets of long
woolly hair that crown the foreheads of the bulls; which, with the
goat-like beard, and ill-shapen hump, form the chief distinction
between them and the domestic cattle: in fact, they are so nearly of
the same species that they will breed together; though the offspring,
like the mule, is said to be unfruitful. Between the males and females
there is still a greater disproportion in size than among the domestic
cattle. A buffalo cow is about as heavy as a common ox, while a large
fat bull will weigh perhaps double as much.

These are very gregarious animals. At some seasons, however, the cows
rather incline to keep to themselves; at other times they are mostly
seen in the centre of the gang, while the bulls are scattered around,
frequently to a considerable distance, evidently guarding the cows and
calves. And on the outskirts of the buffalo range, we are apt to meet
with small gangs of bulls alone, a day or two's travel distant, as
though performing the office of 'piquet guards' for the main herds.

The flesh of the buffalo is, I think, as fine as any meat I ever
tasted: the old hunter will not admit that there is anything equal to
it. Much of its apparent savoriness, however, results perhaps from our
sharpened 'prairie appetites,' and our being usually upon salt
provisions awhile before obtaining it. The {212} flesh is of coarser
texture than beef, more juicy, and the fat and lean better
distributed. This meat is also very easy of digestion,[165] [Pg264]
possessing even aperient qualities. The circumstance that bulls of all
ages, if fat, make good beef, is a further proof of the superiority of
buffalo meat. These are generally selected for consumption in the
winter and early spring, when the cows, unless barren, are apt to be
poor; but during most of the year, the latter are the fattest and
tenderest meat. Of these, the udder is held as hardly second to the
tongue in delicacy. But what the tail of the beaver is to the trapper,
the tongue of the buffalo is to the hunter. Next to this are the
'marrow-bones,' the tender-loins, and the hump-ribs. Instead of a
gristly substance, as sometimes stated, the hump is produced by a
convex tier of vertical ribs, which project from the spine, forming a
gradual curve over the shoulders: those of the middle being sometimes
nearly two feet in length. The 'veal' is rarely good, being generally
poor, owing to the scanty supply of milk which their dams afford, and
to their running so much from hunters and wolves.

This animal furnishes almost the exclusive food of the prairie
Indians, as well as covering for their wigwams and most of their
clothing; also their bedding, ropes, bags for their meat, &c.; sinews
for bow-strings, for sewing moccasins, leggins, and the like; besides
{213} sustenance for the numerous travellers and trappers who range
upon their grazing regions. Were they only killed for food, however,
their natural increase would perhaps replenish the loss: yet the
continual and wanton slaughter of them by travellers and hunters, and
the still greater havoc made among them by the Indians, not only for
meat, but often for the skins and tongues alone (for which they find a
ready market among their traders), are fast reducing their numbers,
and must ultimately effect their total annihilation from the
continent. It is believed that the annual [Pg265] 'export' of
_buffalo rugs_[166] from the Prairies and bordering 'buffalo range,'
is about a hundred thousand: and the number killed wantonly, or
exclusively for meat, is no doubt still greater, as the skins are fit
to dress scarcely half the year. The vast extent of the prairies upon
which they now pasture is no argument against the prospect of their
total extinction, when we take into consideration the extent of
country from which they have already disappeared; for it is well
known, that, within the recollection of our oldest pioneers, they were
nearly as abundant east of the Mississippi as they now are upon the
western prairies; and from history we learn, that they once ranged to
the Atlantic coast. Even within thirty years, they were abundant over
much of the present States of Missouri and Arkansas; yet they are now
rarely seen within two hundred miles of the frontier. Indeed, upon the
high {214} plains they have very sensibly decreased within the last
ten years. Nevertheless, the number of buffalo upon the Prairies is
still immense. But, as they incline to migrate _en masse_ from place
to place, it sometimes happens, that, for several days' travel
together, not a single one is to be met with; but, in other places,
many thousands are often seen at one view.

The Indians, as well as Mexicans, hunt the buffalo mostly with the bow
and arrows. For this purpose they train their fleetest horses to run
close beside him; and, when near enough, with almost unerring aim,
they pierce him with their arrows, usually behind the short ribs,
ranging forward, which soon disables and brings him to the ground.
When an arrow has been ill-directed, or does not enter deep enough,
and even sometimes when it has penetrated a vital part, but is needed
to use again, the [Pg266] hunter sometimes rides up and draws it out
while the animal is yet running. An athletic Indian will not
unfrequently discharge his darts with such force, that I have seen
them (30 inches long) wholly buried in the body of a buffalo: and I
have been assured by hunters that the arrows, missing the bones, have
been known to pass entirely through the huge carcass and fall upon the
ground.

The dexterity acquired by these wild hunters in shooting the buffalo,
is very surprising. On one occasion, upon the prairies, a party of
Witchita Indians were encamped near us; and {215} a drove of buffalo
passing in the vicinity, I requested a chief to take my horse and kill
one 'upon the shares.' He delighted in the sport: so, gathering his
arrows, he mounted the pony, which was slow, and withal very lean, and
giving chase, in a few minutes he had two buffaloes lying upon the
plain, and two others went off so badly wounded, that, with a little
exertion, they might have been secured.

But the dexterity of the Comanches in the buffalo chase is perhaps
superior to that of any other tribe. The Mexican _Ciboleros_, however,
are scarcely if at all inferior to the Indians in this sport. I once
went on a hunting expedition with a Cibolero, who carried no arms
except his bow and arrows and a butcher's knife. Espying a herd of
buffalo, he put spurs to his horse, and, though I followed as fast as
a mule I rode could trudge, when I came up with him, after a chase of
two or three miles, he had the buffalo partly skinned! This was rather
unusual dispatch, to be sure, for the animal oftener lingers awhile
after receiving the fatal dart.

In the chase, the experienced hunter singles out the fattest buffalo
as his victim, and having given him a mortal wound, he in like manner
selects another, and so on, till the plain is sometimes literally
strewed with carcasses. [Pg267]

It seems that Capt. Bonneville[167] marvelled greatly that some
Indians, during his peregrinations in the Rocky Mountains, should have
{216} killed buffalo "without guns or arrows, and with only an old
spear;" and he was no doubt mistaken in supposing "that they had
chased the herds of buffalo at full speed, until they tired them down,
when they easily dispatched them with the spear:" for both Indians and
Mexicans often chase with a long-handled spear or lance, which, if the
horse be well trained, is still a more expeditious mode of killing
them than with the bow and arrow. An expert lancer will enter a drove,
and drawing up alongside, will pierce buffalo after buffalo until
several are brought down.

In default of bow or lance, they chase with the fusil, but seldom so
successfully as with the former weapons. The Americans generally
prefer 'running' with the horseman's pistol; yet the Indian is apt to
kill double as many with his arrows or lance.

In all these modes of hunting, the buffalo is sometimes dangerous;
for, becoming enraged from his wounds, he will often make desperate
lunges at his pursuer; and, if the horse be not well trained, he may
be himself disembowelled, leaving his rider at the mercy of the
buffalo, [Pg268] as has happened on some occasions. But if the steed
understand his business, he will dodge the animal with the expertness
of a fencer.

Buffalo calves (but not full-grown buffalo) are often taken with the
lazo by Mexicans and Indians; yet, being separated from their dams and
the droves during chases, these simple little creatures not
unfrequently take up with {217} the riding animals of the hunters, and
follow them to the camp as tamely as though they were their dams. If
provided with domestic cows, they may be raised without much
difficulty.

Some of the northern Indians, particularly the Assiniboins,[168] are
said to practise still a distinct mode of taking the buffalo. A
staunch pound is erected at some convenient point, and, after a course
of mystic rites by their medicine-men, they start upon the enterprise.
A gang of buffalo is frightened towards the pen, while an Indian,
covered with one of their woolly skins, runs at a distance ahead.
Being seen by the animals, they mistake him for one of their kind, and
follow him into the pen. Once secured in the enclosure, they leisurely
dispatch them with their arrows, as they are said to believe it would
offend the Great Spirit and render future hunts unpropitious to use
fire arms in killing their imprisoned game.

However, of all other modes, our backwoodsmen prefer
'still-hunting'--that is, stealing upon their game afoot with the
rifle. Buffalo are much more easily approached than deer. When the
hunter perceives a herd at rest, or quietly feeding, he crawls upon
them behind a bank, a shrub, or a tuft of grass, with the greatest
facility, provided he 'has the wind of them,' as hunters say--that is,
if the wind blows from the buffalo; but if the reverse, he will
[Pg269] find it impossible to approach them, however securely he may
have {218} concealed himself from their sight. In fact, their scent
being acute, they seem to depend more upon it than their sight; for if
a gang of buffalo be frightened, from any quarter whatever, they are
apt to shape their course against the wind, that they may scent an
enemy in their way.

If the hunter succeed in 'bringing down' his first shot, he may
frequently kill several out of the same herd; for, should the game
neither see nor smell him, they may hear the rifle-cracks, and witness
their companions fall one after another, without heeding, except to
raise their heads, and perhaps start a little at each report. They
would seem to fancy that the fallen are only lying down to rest, and
they are loth to leave them. On one occasion, upon the Cimarron river,
I saw some ten or a dozen buffaloes lying upon a few acres of ground,
all of which had been shot from the same herd by a couple of our
hunters. Had not the gang been frightened by the approaching caravan,
perhaps a dozen more of them might have fallen.

A dexterous hunter will sometimes 'crawl upon' a gang of buffalo, on a
perfectly level plain. As their sight is at best not acute, and is
always more or less obscured by the shaggy hair of their foreheads,
they will hardly observe an approaching enemy when they are feeding,
unless the wind bears them the scent. The hunter is, therefore,
careful to 'have the wind' of them, and crawls slowly and closely upon
the ground, until within gun-shot. If {219} he bring down the first,
the others will perhaps retire a little, when he may sometimes
approach behind the fallen buffalo, and shoot several others.

The tenacity of these animals for life is often very extraordinary.
When one receives even a mortal shot, he frequently appears not
hurt--he seems to disdain to [Pg270] flinch--but will curl his tail
and step about as though he neither felt nor feared anything! If left
undisturbed, however, he begins to stagger, and in a few moments
expires: but if provoked, he might run for miles before he would fall.
I have seen a party of hunters around a wounded and enraged bull,
fire, at a few paces distance, a dozen or two shots, aimed at his very
heart, without their seeming to have any effect till his anger cooled,
when in an instant he would lie lifeless upon the ground. In such
cases, the inexperienced hunter often aims to shoot them in the brain,
but without success. Owing not only to the thickness of the scull, but
to the matted wool upon it, I have never witnessed an instance of a
rifle-ball's penetrating to the brain of a buffalo bull.

The 'still-hunter' must needs be upon his guard; for the wounded
buffalo is prone to make battle, upon the too near approach of his
enemy. With a little presence of mind, however, his attacks are easily
shunned. If he makes a lunge, the pedestrian hunter has only to wheel
abruptly to one side; for the animal is apt to pass on in a direct
line. I have never heard of a serious accident of the {220} kind; yet
some frightful though amusing incidents have occurred in such cases.

The buffalo never attacks, however, except when wounded. Even the
largest droves (the opinion of some travellers to the contrary
notwithstanding), though in the wildest career, are easily turned from
their course by a single man who may intercept their way. I have
crouched in the tall grass in the direct route of a frighted gang,
when, firing at them on their near approach, they would spread in
consternation to either side. Still their advance is somewhat
frightful--their thundering rumble over the dry plain--their lion-like
fronts and dangling beards--their open mouths and hanging tongues--as
they come on, puffing [Pg271] like a locomotive engine at every
bound, does at first make the blood settle a little heavy about the
heart.

The gait of these animals is a clumsy gallop, and any common pony can
overtake them in the chase; though, as the hunter would express it,
they 'lumber' over the ground rather deceivingly. The cows are usually
much faster than the bulls. It has been the remark of travellers that
the buffalo jumps up from the ground differently from any other
animal. The horse rises upon his fore feet first, and the cow upon her
hind feet, but the buffalo seems to spring up on them all at once.

American hunters, as well as Indians, to butcher the buffalo,
generally turn it upon the belly, and commence on the back. The {221}
hump-ribs, tender-loins, and a few other choice bits being
appropriated, the remainder is commonly left for the wolves. The skin
is chiefly used for buffalo rugs, but for which it is only preserved
by the Indians during fall and winter (and then rarely but from the
cows and bullocks), when the hair is long and woolly. I have never
seen the buffalo hide tanned, but it seems too porous and spongy to
make substantial leather. Were it valuable, thousands of hides might
be saved that are annually left to the wolves upon the Prairies.

Although the buffalo is the largest, he has by no means the control
among the prairie animals: the sceptre of authority has been lodged
with the large _gray wolf_. Though but little larger than the wolf of
the United States, he is much more ferocious. The same species abound
throughout the north of Mexico, where they often kill horses, mules
and cattle of all sizes; and on the Prairies they make considerable
havoc among the buffalo.

Many curious tales are told of the wiles and expedients practised by
these animals to secure their prey. Some [Pg272] assert that they
collect in companies, and chase a buffalo by turns, till he is
fatigued, when they join and soon dispatch him: others, that, as the
buffalo runs with the tongue hanging out, they snap at it in the chase
till it is torn off, which preventing him from eating, he is reduced
by starvation, and soon overpowered: others, that, while running, they
gnaw and lacerate {222} the legs and ham-strings till they disable
him, and then he is killed by the gang. Be this as it may, certain it
is that they overcome many of the largest buffaloes, employing perhaps
different means of subduing them, and among these is doubtless the
last mentioned, for I have myself seen them with the muscles of the
thighs cruelly mangled--a consequence no doubt of some of these
attacks. Calves are constantly falling victims to the rapacity of
these wolves; yet, when herds of buffalo are together, they defend
their offspring with great bravery.

Though the color of this wolf is generally a dirty gray, it is
sometimes met with nearly white. I am of opinion, however, that the
diversity of color originates chiefly from the different ages of the
hair, and the age and condition of the animal itself. The few white
wolves I have seen, have been lean, long-haired, and apparently very
old. There are immense numbers of them upon the Prairies. Droves are
frequently to be seen following in the wake of caravans, hunting
companies, and itinerant Indian bands, for weeks together--not, like
the jackal, so much to disinter the dead (though this they sometimes
do), as to feast upon the abandoned carcasses of the buffalo which are
so often wantonly killed and wasted. Unless in these cases, they are
rarely seen, except in the neighborhood of buffalo; therefore, when
the hungry traveller meets with wolves, he feels some assurance that
supplies of his favorite game are at hand. [Pg273]

{223} I have never known these animals, rapacious as they are, [to]
extend their attacks to man, though they probably would, if very
hungry and a favorable opportunity presented itself. I shall not soon
forget an adventure with one of them, many years ago, on the frontier
of Missouri. Riding near the prairie border, I perceived one of the
largest and fiercest of the gray species, which had just descended
from the west, and seemed famished to desperation. I at once prepared
for a chase; and, being without arms, I caught up a cudgel, when I
betook me valiantly to the charge, much stronger, as I soon
discovered, in my cause than in my equipment. The wolf was in no humor
to flee, however, but boldly met me full half-way. I was soon
disarmed, for my club broke upon the animal's head. He then 'laid to'
my horse's legs, which, not relishing the conflict, gave a plunge and
sent me whirling over his head, and made his escape, leaving me and
the wolf at close quarters. I was no sooner upon my feet than my
antagonist renewed the charge; but, being without weapon, or any means
of awakening an emotion of terror, save through his imagination, I
took off my large black hat, and using it for a shield, began to
thrust it towards his gaping jaws. My _ruse_ had the desired effect;
for, after springing at me a few times, he wheeled about and trotted
off several paces, and stopped to gaze at me. Being apprehensive that
he might change his mind and return to the attack, and conscious that,
under the {224} compromise, I had the best of the bargain, I very
resolutely---- took to my heels, glad of the opportunity of making a
drawn game, though I had myself given the challenge.

There is a small species called the _prairie wolf_ on the frontier,
and _coyote_[169] by the Mexicans, which is also found [Pg274] in
immense numbers on the Plains. It is rather smaller than an ordinary
dog, nearly the color of the common gray wolf, and though as rapacious
as the larger kind, it seems too cowardly to attack stout game. It
therefore lives upon the remains of buffalo killed by hunters and by
the large wolves, added to such small game as hares, prairie dogs,
etc., and even reptiles and insects. It will lie for hours beside a
'dog-hole,' watching for the appearance of the little animal, which no
sooner peeps out than the enemy pounces upon it.

The coyote has been denominated the 'jackal of the Prairies;' indeed,
some have reckoned it really a species of that animal, yet it would
seem improperly, as this creature {225} partakes much less of the
nature of the jackal than of the common wolf. Still, however noisy the
former may be, he cannot exceed the prairie wolf. Like ventriloquists,
a pair of these will represent a dozen distinct voices in such quick
succession--will bark, chatter, yelp, whine, and howl in such variety
of note, that one would fancy a score of them at hand. This, added to
the long and doleful bugle-note of the large wolf, which often
accompanies it, sometimes makes a night upon the Prairies perfectly
hideous.--Some hunters assert that the coyote and the dog will breed
together. Be this as it may, certain it is that the Indian dogs have a
wonderfully wolfish appearance.

The _elk_ as well as the _deer_ is found somewhat abundant [Pg275]
upon the Arkansas river, as high as the Santa Fé road, but from thence
westward they are both very scarce; for these animals do not resort to
the high prairie plains. Further south, however, in the prairies
bordering the brushy tributaries of the Canadian and Red River, deer
are exceedingly plenty--herds of hundreds are sometimes seen together;
but in these southern regions there are but few elks.

About the thickety streams above-mentioned, as well as among the Cross
Timbers, the _black bear_ is very common, living chiefly upon acorns
and other fruits. The grape vines and the branches of the scrubby
oaks, and plum-bushes, are in some places so torn and broken by the
bear in pursuit of fruits, that a stranger {226} would conclude a
violent hurricane had passed among them.

That species of gazelle known as the _antelope_ is very numerous upon
the high plains. This beautiful animal, though reckoned a link between
the deer and goat, is certainly much nearest the latter. It is about
the size and somewhat of the figure of a large goat. Its horns also
resemble those of the latter, being likewise persistent; but they are
more erect, and have a short prong projecting in front. The ground of
this animal's color a little resembles that of the common deer, but it
is variegated with a whitish section or two on each side.

The antelope is most remarkable for its fleetness: not bounding like
the deer, but skimming over the ground as though upon skates. The
fastest horse will rarely overtake them. I once witnessed an effort to
catch one that had a hind-leg broken, but it far outstripped our
fleetest 'buffalo-horse.' It is, therefore, too swift to be hunted in
the chase. I have seen dogs run after this animal, but they would soon
stop and turn about, apparently much ashamed of being left so far
behind. [Pg276]

The flesh of the antelope is, like that of the goat, rather coarse,
and but little esteemed: consequently, no great efforts are made to
take them. Being as wild as fleet, the hunting of them is very
difficult, except they be entrapped by their curiosity. Meeting a
stranger, they seem loth to leave him until they have fully found him
out. They will often {227} take a circuit around the object of their
curiosity, usually approaching nearer and nearer, until within
rifle-shot--frequently stopping to gaze. Also, they are often decoyed
with a scarlet coat, or a red handkerchief attached to the tip of a
ramrod, which will sometimes allure them within reach of the hunter's
aim. But this interesting animal, like the buffalo, is now very rarely
seen within less than 200 miles of the frontier: though early voyagers
tell us that it once frequented as far east as the Mississippi.

The _bighorn_ (_carnero cimarron_, as called by the Mexicans, and
sometimes known to trappers as the mountain sheep), so abundant in
most of the Rocky Mountain chain, is found in the spurs and
table-plain cliffs about the sources of the Cimarron river (whence
this stream acquired its name), as well as in the highland gorges, and
other parts of those mountain borders. Its flesh is said to be
excellent, and is preferred by many hunters to venison. It is larger
than a common sheep, and covered with brownish hair instead of
wool--darker than the deer, but whitish on the belly. It is most
remarkable for its huge spiral horns, resembling in shape and
curvature those of the sheep, but sometimes over three feet long, and
four to six inches in diameter at the base.[170] [Pg277]

{228} The bighorn is quite celebrated for its agility, and its
habit of secluding itself among the most inaccessible mountain crags.
It seems to delight in perching and capering upon the very verge of
the most frightful precipices and overhanging cliffs, and in skipping
from rock to rock, regardless of the yawning chasms, hundreds of feet
in depth, which intervene. In fact, when pursued, it does not
hesitate, as I have been assured, to leap from a cliff into a valley a
hundred or more feet below, where, lighting upon its huge horns, it
springs to its feet uninjured; for the neck is so thick and strong as
to support the greatest shock the animal's weight can bring upon it.
Being exceedingly timorous, it rarely descends to the valleys, but
feeds and sleeps about such craggy fastnesses as are inaccessible to
the wolves and other animals of prey. This animal seems greatly to
resemble the _moufflon_ of Buffon, in color, figure and horns, but the
_chamois_ in habits.

But of all the prairie animals, by far the most curious, and by no
means the least celebrated, is the little _prairie dog_. This singular
quadruped is but little larger than a common squirrel, its body being
nearly a foot long, with a tail of three or four inches. The color
ranges from brown to a dirty yellow. The flesh, though often eaten by
travellers, is not esteemed savory. It was denominated the 'barking
squirrel,' the 'prairie ground-squirrel,' etc., by early explorers,
with much more apparent propriety than the present established {229}
name. Its yelp, which resembles that of the little toy-dog, seems its
only canine attribute. It rather appears to occupy a middle ground
betwixt the rabbit and squirrel--like the former in feeding and
burrowing--like the latter in frisking, flirting, sitting erect, and
somewhat so in its barking.

The prairie dog has been reckoned by some naturalists a species of the
marmot (_arctomys ludoviciana_); yet it seems [Pg278] to possess
scarce any other quality in common with this animal except that of
burrowing. Some have supposed, it is true, that like the marmot, they
lie torpid during the cold season; and it is observed in 'Long's
Expedition,' that, "as they pass the winter in a lethargic state, they
lay up no provisions," &c.: but this is no doubt erroneous; for I have
the concurrent testimony of several persons, who have been upon the
Prairies in winter, that, like rabbits and squirrels, they issue from
their holes every soft day; and therefore lay up no doubt a hoard of
'hay' (as there is rarely anything else to be found in the vicinity of
their towns) for winter's use.

A collection of their burrows has been termed by travellers a 'dog
town,' which comprises from a dozen or so, to some thousands in the
same vicinity; often covering an area of several square miles. They
generally locate upon firm dry plains, coated with fine short grass,
upon which they feed; for they are no doubt exclusively herbivorous.
But even when tall coarse grass surrounds, they seem commonly to
destroy this within their 'streets,' {230} which are nearly always
found 'paved' with a fine species suited to their palates. They must
need but little water, if any at all, as their 'towns' are often,
indeed generally, found in the midst of the most arid plains--unless
we suppose they dig down to subterranean fountains. At least they
evidently burrow remarkably deep. Attempts either to dig or drown them
out of their holes have generally proved unsuccessful.

[Illustration: "Dog Town," or Settlement of Prairie Dogs]

Approaching a 'village,' the little dogs may be observed frisking
about the 'streets'--passing from dwelling to dwelling apparently on
visits--sometimes a few clustered together as though in council--here
feeding upon the tender herbage--there cleansing their 'houses,' or
brushing the little hillock about the door--yet all quiet. Upon
[Pg281] seeing a stranger, however, each streaks it to its home,
but is apt to stop at the entrance, and spread the general alarm by a
succession of shrill yelps, usually sitting erect. Yet at the report
of a gun or the too near approach of the visitor, they dart down and
are seen no more till the cause of alarm seems to have disappeared.

Two other animals appear to live in communion with the prairie
dogs--the _rattle-snake_ and a small _owl_;[171] but both are no doubt
intruders, resorting to these burrows for shelter, and to feed, it is
presumed, upon the 'pups' of the inmates.

{231} Rattle-snakes are exceedingly abundant upon these plains: scores
of them are sometimes killed in the course of a day's travel; yet they
seem remarkably harmless, for I have never witnessed an instance of a
man's being bitten, though they have been known to crawl even into the
beds of travellers.[172] Mules are sometimes bitten by them, yet very
rarely, though they must daily walk over considerable numbers.

The _horned frog_, as modern travellers have christened it, or horned
lizard,[173] as those of earlier times more rationally called it, is
the most famed and curious reptile of the plains. Like the prairie
dog, it is only found in the dry regions, often many miles from water.
It no doubt lives nearly, if not wholly, without drink. Its food
probably consists chiefly of ants and other insects; though many
Mexicans will have it, that the _camaleon_ (as they call it) _vive del
aire_--lives upon the air. It has been kept several [Pg282] months
without partaking of a particle of aliment. I once took a pair of them
upon the far-western plains, which I shut up in a box and carried to
one of the eastern cities, where they were kept for several months
before they died,--without having taken food or water, though
repeatedly offered them.

{232} The whole length of the horned frog is from two to five
inches--body flatted horizontally, oval-shaped, and between one and
two inches wide in the middle. The back is beautifully variegated,
with white and brown, and sometimes a yellowish purple. The belly is
whitish and covered with brown specks. It acquired its name from a
pair of short horns projecting from the top of the head--with other
smaller horny protuberances upon the head and body. It has a short
tail, which gives it a lizard-like appearance. It is a very
inoffensive creature, and may be handled with perfect impunity,
notwithstanding its uncouth appearance, and sometimes vicious
demonstrations.

As birds mostly incline to the timbered regions, there is but a scant
variety to be met with upon the plains. About the Cross Timbers and
indeed on all the brushy creeks, especially to the southward, are
quantities of wild _turkeys_, which are frequently seen ranging in
large flocks in the bordering prairies. That species of American
grouse, known west as the _prairie-hen_, is very abundant on the
frontier, and is quite destructive, in autumn, to the prairie
corn-fields. This fowl is rarely seen over two hundred miles beyond
the border. _Partridges_ are found about as far west; but their number
is quite limited anywhere beyond the precincts of the settlements.
About the streams there are different species of geese and ducks, as
well as both sand-hill and white cranes: also flocks of a species of
plover and {233} curlew. Add to these numbers of hawks and ravens, and
we have most of the fowls of the [Pg283] Prairies. Flocks of the
latter follow in the wake of caravans with even greater constancy than
wolves.

The _bee_, among Western pioneers, is the proverbial precursor of the
Anglo-American population: in fact, the aborigines of the frontier
have generally corroborated the notion; for they used to say, they
knew the whites were not far behind, when bees appeared among them.
This partial coincidence, I suppose, is the result of their emigration
westward being at nearly an even pace with that of the settlers. As
yet no honey-bees seem to have been discovered as far westward as any
part of the Rocky Mountains. They are scattered, however, to the
distance of two or three hundred miles west of the Missouri and
Arkansas frontier, where there is timber affording them suitable
habitations. On the Santa Fé route but few have been found beyond the
Council Grove.

FOOTNOTES:

[163] _Mustang_ would most naturally seem a corruption of the Spanish
adjective _mostrenco_ (without owner), but the Mexicans call wild
horses _mesteñas_, a synonyme in one of its senses with
_mostrenco_.--GREGG.

[164] The bulls usually shed in the spring, from the shoulders back,
but not in front, which imparts to them quite a lion-like
appearance.--GREGG.

[165] It has often been remarked by travellers, that however much
buffalo meat one may eat, no inconvenience is ever suffered from
it.--GREGG.

[166] Often, but it would seem improperly, called 'buffalo
_robes_.'--GREGG.

[167] Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville was born in France in 1796.
At an early age he came to America with his mother, where he was cared
for by Thomas Paine, who secured for him a cadetship in the United
States Military Academy, from which he was graduated in 1819, when he
entered the army. During Lafayette's visit of 1825, Bonneville was
detailed as his aide. He was later stationed on the Western frontier,
and obtaining leave of absence (1831) planned an extensive fur-trading
and exploring expedition. This is the journey graphically described by
Washington Irving, in _Rocky Mountains, or Scenes, Incidents and
Adventures in the far West, digested from the journal of B. L. E.
Bonneville of the army of the United States_ (Phila., 1837).
Bonneville was absent from civilization for three years (1832-35), and
wandered as far west as the Columbia. His trading venture was but
moderately successful, and he returned to army life, participating in
both the Seminole and Mexican wars, in the latter of which he was
severely wounded. During the War of Secession, he was stationed
chiefly at frontier posts, being breveted brigadier-general in 1865.
He died at Fort Smith in 1878.--ED.

[168] For the Assiniboin consult our volume xiv, p. 275, note
197.--ED.

[169] _Canis latrans_, a distinction to which its noisiness
emphatically entitles it. Clavigero says of this animal: "El _coyotl_,
_ó coyote_, como dicen los Españoles, es una fiera semejante al lobo en
la voracidad, á la zorra en la astucia, al perro en la forma, y en
otras propiedades al _adive_, ó _chacal_; por lo que algunos
escritores Megicanos lo han numerado entre varias de aquellas
especias; pero es indudable que se diferencia de todas ellas,"
etc.--_Hist. Ant. de Még. Tom. I. p. 40._

A similar propensity is observable among us to refer nearly all
American animals to European species, whereas but very few that are
legitimately indigenous to this continent, agree in every particular
to those of the Old World. It would surely have contributed to the
copiousness and euphony of the language, as well as to perspicuity in
the distinction of species, had we, like the Mexicans, retained the
Indian names of our indigenous animals.--GREGG.

[170] Mr. Irving furnishes the following dimensions of a male of this
species: "From the nose to the base of the tail, five feet; length of
the tail, four inches; girth of the body, four feet; height, three
feet eight inches," &c.--_Rocky Mts., Vol. I., p._ 48.--GREGG.

[171] This has been called the _Coquimbo owl_. Its note, whether
natural or imitative, much resembles that of the prairie dog.--GREGG.

[172] Though I never saw it tried, it has been said that snakes will
not crawl over a hair-rope stretched upon the ground, and that
consequently these form good barriers to keep these reptiles out of a
bed.--GREGG.

[173] Orbicular lizard, as it has been technically denominated. It
would seem a species of chameleon, having apparently some, though very
little, variability of color.--GREGG.



CHAPTER XXVIII {XII}

ABORIGINES OF AMERICA

Indian Cosmogony -- Traditions of Origin -- Identity of Religious
  Notions -- Adoration of the Sun -- Shawnee Faith -- Anecdote of
  Tecumseh -- Legendary Traditions -- Missionaries, and Success of the
  Catholics -- The Indian's Heaven -- Burial Customs -- Ancient
  Accounts -- Depositing the Dead on Scaffolds -- Superstition and
  Witchcraft -- Indian Philosophy -- Polygamy and other Matrimonial
  Affairs -- Abhorrence of Incest -- Difference in Character -- Indian
  Hospitality -- Traits of the Ancient Asiatics -- Names --
  Relationship of Different Tribes -- Dreadful Decrease of the
  Indians.


It will hardly be expected from a work making so little pretension as
this to scientific accuracy and completeness, that the remarks which
my plan necessarily leads me to make, concerning the aborigines of
western America, should be either critical or comprehensive. Neither
can I feel that it is a topic which I am at liberty wholly to
disregard. The opportunities which I have enjoyed for [Pg284]
obtaining a knowledge of the character and habits of the western
Indians have been such, that I trust that a brief account of them may
prove in some measure new, and not altogether uninteresting to a
portion of my readers. Impressed with this belief, I propose, in the
few {235} following pages, to record such facts as shall seem to be
most novel, and to corroborate, in my humble measure, occasional
others which have before been related. With this view, I shall proceed
to notice, in the present chapter, such leading characteristics of the
aborigines generally, as shall seem most noteworthy; and then, in
those that follow, ask the reader's attention to many peculiarities
which make the most conspicuous differences between them.

No aboriginal nation or people has ever yet been discovered, to my
knowledge, which has not professed to have a mysterious ancestry of a
mythical character. It is interesting to mark the analogies and the
differences between their various systems. Although among some tribes
who have lived much in communication with the whites, their cosmogony
has been confounded very much with the Mosaic or Scripture account, so
that it is now often difficult to distinguish clearly the aboriginal
from the imported, yet all the Americo-Indian tribes have more or less
preserved their traditions on this subject. The old full-blood
Choctaws, for instance, relate that the first of their tribe issued
from a cave in Nunnewaya or Bending Mountain, in the 'Old Nation,'
east of the Mississippi; yet this tradition has but little currency
among the young men and mixed-bloods of the tribe. The minute account
of this supposed origin cannot now be readily procured; yet some idea
may be formed of it from a kindred tradition among {236} the Mandans
which has been preserved to us by Lewis and Clark, and is thus
related: [Pg285]

"The whole nation resided in one large village under ground near a
subterraneous lake: a grape vine extended its roots down to their
habitation and gave them a view of the light: some of the most
adventurous climbed up the vine, and were delighted with the sight of
the earth, which they found covered with buffalo, and rich with every
kind of fruits: returning with the grapes they had gathered, their
countrymen were so pleased with the taste of them that their whole
nation resolved to leave their dull residence for the charms of the
upper regions; men, women and children ascended by means of the vine;
but when about half the nation had reached the surface of the earth, a
corpulent woman who was clambering up the vine broke it with her
weight, and closed upon herself and the rest of the nation, the light
of the sun."[174]

Besides the Mandans it seems that other neighboring tribes had
somewhat analogous notions of their origin. An early explorer relates
that the Osages believed that their fore-fathers grew from a snail,
which, having become a man, married the daughter of a beaver, whence
sprang the present race.

The resemblance of the American Indians to each other, however, is not
more conspicuous in anything than in their religious opinions. They
seem to have no well-defined creeds: yet there are very few but
profess a faith in some sort of First Cause--a Great {237} Spirit, a
Master of Life, who rules the destinies of the world. Though the
different nations have not always typified their deity by the same
objects, yet by far the greater number seem to have fixed upon the sun
as the fit object of their adoration.[175] "Next to _Virachocha_, or
their supreme God," says Father [Pg286] Acosta,[176] speaking of the
Indians of Peru, "that which most commonly they have and do adore
amongst the Infidells is the Sunne." Many of the Mexican tribes[177]
profess the same faith, and particularly those of New Mexico, as has
already been mentioned. This seems also the most current among the
Comanches and other wild tribes of the Prairies: and the Choctaws and
several other nations of the frontier appear at least to have held the
sun in great veneration.

But of all the Indian tribes, none appear to have ascribed to the
'fountain of light' more of the proper attributes of deity than the
Shawnees. They argue, with some plausibility, that the sun animates
everything--therefore, he is clearly the Master of Life, or the Great
Spirit; and that everything is produced originally from the bosom of
the earth--therefore, she is the mother of creation. The following
anecdote[178] (as told to me by a gentleman of integrity), which
transpired upon {238} the occasion of an interview of Tecumseh with
Gen. Harrison, is as illustrative of the religious opinions of the
Shawnees, as it is characteristic of the hauteur and independent
spirit of that celebrated [Pg287] Shawnee chief. The General, having
called Tecumseh for a 'talk,' desired him to take a seat, saying,
"Come here, Tecumseh, and sit by your father." "You my father?"
replied the chief, with a stern air--"No! yonder sun is my father
(pointing towards it), and the earth is my mother; so I will rest on
her bosom"--and immediately seated himself upon the ground, according
to Indian custom.

But though the Shawnees consider the sun the type, if not the essence,
of the Great Spirit, many also believe in an evil genius, who makes
all sorts of bad things, to counterbalance those made by the Good
Spirit. For instance, when the latter made a sheep, a rose, wholesome
herbs, etc., the bad spirit matched them with a wolf, a thorn,
poisonous plants, and the like. They also appear to think there is a
kind of purgatory in which the spirits of the wicked may be cleansed
before entering into their elysium.

The worship of all the aborigines seems to consist chiefly in feasting
and dancing. A worthy missionary among the Shawnees related to me the
following legendary tradition, as explanatory of their ideas of
another world, and the institution of their worship, which may serve
as a fair sample of the traditions of many other tribes.

{239} In days of yore (say the Shawnees) there lived a pious brother
and an affectionate sister, who were inordinately attached to each
other. It came to pass that the sister sickened and died, and was
carried to the world of spirits. The good brother was inconsolable,
and for a while refused to eat or drink, or to partake of any kind of
nourishment: he wished to follow his beloved sister. At length he
resolved to set out in search of her; so he commenced his pilgrimage
toward the setting sun. Steadily pursuing the same course for days and
moons together, he at last came to where the sky and earth meet; and
finding [Pg288] an opening, he ascended into the upper regions. He
now turned his course towards the rising sun, which he continued,
above the sky, till he came to the abode of his grandfather--which
seems but another name for one of the good spirits. This sage, knowing
his errand, gave him 'medicine' to transform him into a spirit, that
he might pass through the celestial courts. He also gave him
instructions how to proceed, and where he would find his sister. He
said she would be at a dance; and when she rose to join in the
amusement, he must seize and ensconce her in the hollow of a reed with
which he was furnished, and cover the orifice with the end of his
finger.

After an arduous peregrination through the land of spirits, the
brother found and secured his sister as directed. He returned with his
charge to the habitation of his grandfather, who gave another
'medicine' to transform {240} them both into material beings again,
that they might revisit their brothers on earth. The sage also
explained to them the mysteries of heaven and the sacred rites of
worship, that they might instruct their tribe therein. When about to
start back, the venerable spirit told them that the route by which the
brother had come was very circuitous--there was a much nearer way; and
opening a trap-door through the sky, they beheld their native town
just below them. So the good brother and sister descended; and
returning home, a great feast was celebrated, accompanied by a solemn
dance--in accordance with the grandfather's instructions. Thus
originated, as they say, the sacred dances and other religious
ceremonies now in practice.

As they believe the Indian heaven separate, and essentially different
and distinct from that of the whites, and as they do not wish their
people divided, this has often occasioned a serious opposition to the
labors of the missionaries.[179] [Pg289] For the purpose of thwarting
the {241} measures of these, a noted anti-christian sage 'played off,'
a few years ago, the following 'vision.' Being very ill (as they
relate), this sage, to all appearance, died, and became stiff and
cold, except a spot upon his breast, which still retained the heat of
life. In this state he remained a day or more, when he again breathed
and returned among the living: and calling his friends about him, he
related the scenes he had witnessed. He had ascended to the Indian's
heaven, he said, which he described as usual: a fine country,
abounding in all sorts of game, and everything an Indian could desire.
There he met with his grandfather, who said to him, "It is meet, my
son, that thou return to the earth, and warn thy brothers against the
dangers that await them. Tell them to beware of the religion of the
white man: that every Indian who embraces it is obliged to take the
road to the white man's heaven; and yet no red man is permitted to
enter there, but will have to wander about forever without a
resting-place."

The identity of the notions which the different tribes have conceived
of a future existence, and the character of the 'world of spirits,'
seems still more general. They [Pg290] fancy {242} heaven but another
material world, superior, it is true, yet resembling this--a kind of
elysian vale, or paradise--a 'happy hunting-ground,' abounding in game
and all their comforts of life, which may be procured without labor.
This elysium they generally seem to locate 'upon the sky,' which they
fancy a material solid vault. It appears impossible for them, in their
pristine barbarism, to conceive of a spiritual existence, or of a
world differing materially from that which they see around them.

Father Hennepin (writing about 1680) relates, that the northern
Indians inquired about the manner of living in heaven, and remarks:
"When I made answer that they live there without eating or drinking,
'We will not go thither,' said they, 'because we must not eat;' and
when I have added that there would be no occasion for food there, they
clapt their hands to their mouths, as a sign of admiration, and said,
'_Thou art a great liar!--is there anything can live without
eating?_'"[180]

Similar opinions, among many different tribes, I have heard declared
in direct terms; yet, did we want further testimony, some of their
burial customs and funeral rites would seem to indicate their ideas of
the future state. The Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, Kansas, and kindred
tribes, besides many others, or perhaps most others of the frontier,
have been accustomed to inter the most valuable property of the
deceased and many necessaries with them. "Their whole property was
buried {243} with them,"[181] says an intelligent Cherokee, in some
manuscript notes concerning his ancestors, I have in my possession:
and I have been assured by creditable natives, that, within their
recollection [Pg291] they have seen, at these burials, provisions,
salt, and other necessaries, interred with the dead for their long
journey.

There are very few of the prairie Indians but practise something of
this kind: many kill the favorite hunting-horses, and deposit the
arms, etc., of the deceased, for his use in the chase, when he arrives
at the 'happy hunting ground.' We are also informed by Capt.
Bonneville, and other travellers, that this is practised by some, if
not all, of the natives beyond the Rocky Mountains. The same is told
of the Navajoes, Apaches, and other uncatholicized tribes of the north
of Mexico.

Peter Martyr, a learned and celebrated protestant divine, who wrote
his "Decades of the Newe Worlde"[182] towards the middle of the
sixteenth century, observes that, "in many places of the firme lande,
when any of the kynges dye, all his householde servauntes, as well
women as men which have continually served hym, kyl themselves,
beleavynge, as they are taught by the devyl _Tuyra_, that they which
kyll themselves when the kynge dyeth, go with hym to heaven and serve
hym in the same place and office as they dyd before on {244} the earth
whyle he lyved.[183] And that all that refuse so to doo, when after
they dye by theyr naturall death or otherwyse, theyr soules to dye
with theyr bodyes, and to bee dissolved into ayer and become nothynge
as do the soules of hogges, byrdes or fysshes, or other brute [Pg292]
beastes."[184] In corroboration of a similar custom among the natives
along the Mississippi, in 1542, Herrera relates,[185] that, after the
death of Fernando de Soto, and his party had set out westward, they
were joined by a youth, who stated that he had fled to escape being
buried with his lord who had died; which was the practice in that
country. Travellers from the upper lakes to the Mississippi speak of
similar customs, at an early day, among the tribes of that quarter.

It would appear that they believe everything, both animate and
inanimate--beasts, arms, ornaments, etc.--to possess immortal
attributes, subject to resurrection in the world of spirits. However,
did not their motives seem so well defined by the direct allusions to
their notions of futurity, we might suppose, as is frequently urged,
that the burying of property, slaves, etc., with the deceased, was
only intended as a mark of respect; which, indeed, is hardly more
irrational than the custom {245} of interring costly garniture and
appendages with the dead among us.

Some of the modes of burial adopted by the American aborigines are
different, I believe, from those of any other people. Though, as among
civilized nations, even the wildest tribes sometimes inter in ordinary
graves, yet they frequently deposit their dead, in a sitting and even
in a standing posture, in pits, caves, and hollow trees; and
occasionally, they lay the corpse out upon scaffolds suspended from
the branches of trees, or resting upon them where they will admit of
it, so as to be out of reach of the wolves and other beasts.

I was once, with a little caravan, travelling up the course of the
Arkansas river, when, a thunder-storm coming up [Pg293] suddenly, and
night drawing near, we turned the wagons as soon as we could, to the
river-bank, to encamp. The bustle of ungearing and securing the teams
before they should be frightened by the tempest, was hardly over, when
we discovered a platform suspended above our heads, upon the branches
of a cottonwood, which, upon examination, was found to contain an
Indian corpse, from whose bones the putrid flesh had not yet
separated!

This mode of disposing of the dead would seem once to have been quite
extensive; for, as well as upon the western prairies, it formerly
prevailed among the Potawatomies of the north, and the Choctaws of the
south, at least while on their expeditions. In this case, if
practicable, they would leave a band of {246} aged men, known as
bone-pickers,' to clean the bones, when the flesh decayed, and carry
them to their village for interment.

Barbarians are generally superstitious to an extreme, believing in
hobgoblins, witchcraft, legerdemain and all sorts of mummeries.[186]
Like many grandmothers in backwoods life, they delight in recounting
the extraordinary apparitions, transmigrations, sorceries, etc., which
they pretend to have witnessed. Nothing seems too absurd for their
belief. Among many other cases of similar cast, an intelligent
Potawatomie once assured me that he had witnessed the death of one of
his nation, who had received [Pg294] a stab in his side with a knife
(probably in some illicit adventure); and it being unknown to his
friends how the wound had been inflicted, it was currently reported
and believed, that from their {247} present home on the frontier of
Missouri, he had visited the 'Old Nation' in Michigan,[187] poisoned
an enemy there, received the fatal stab, and returned and died, all in
one day.

If you tell an Indian that such things are absurd and impossible, he
is apt to answer, "It may be so with the white man, but how do you
know it to be impossible with the Indian? You tell us many strange
things which happened to your fathers--we don't contradict them,
though we believe such things never could have happened to the red
man." Or, they will reply, perhaps, as they did to Father Hennepin in
a similar case: "Fie, thou knowest not what thou sayest; thou may'st
know what has passed in thy own Country, for thy Ancestors have told
thee of them; but thou canst not know what has passed in ours before
the Spirits (that is to say the Europeans) came hither."

In their matrimonial customs there is also a similarity among most of
the American savages. Polygamy seems once to have been universal; and
I believe still is so among the uncivilized tribes. Every man takes as
many wives as he can obtain, or is able to support. The squaws,
however, the more willingly consent to this multiplicity, as it
affords additional helpmates in their labors. Polygamy among these
savages would appear, indeed, not altogether an unwise provision. At
least it seems palliated with such [Pg295] a belligerent people, who
lose so many males in their continual wars, leaving a great surplus of
females; and {248} where the duties of the latter are so numerous and
so severe.

The custom of buying wives, or at least making large presents to their
parents, has always been very general; and still exists, not only
among the more savage, but even with many of the partially civilized
nations. Yet, notwithstanding their depravity in other respects, there
is one thing truly remarkable in their marriages. All modern observers
seem to agree with the ancient authors, that they universally abhor
incestuous connections. Among the Creeks, even the marrying of cousins
was punished by cutting off the ears. The Cherokees (according to some
manuscript notes which I have of an intelligent member of the tribe)
were prohibited from marrying in their own clans (i. e. kindred) under
penalty of death; and their clans themselves were their executioners.
But, although the Indians thus so strictly prohibit marriage within
the degree of consanguinity, it is not so with those of affinity among
many tribes. The Otoes, Kansas, and others of the same stock, will not
only marry several sisters, but their deceased brothers' wives; in
fact, this last seems considered a duty so that the orphan children of
the brother may not be without a protector.[188]

While the aborigines of the New World {249} have been noted above
almost every other uncivilized nation in history, for their
vindictiveness and cruelty towards their enemies, there are, in these
attributes, wide differences apparent among them. The Indians along
the Pacific coast, as well as in most of Mexico, were always more mild
and peaceable than those of the United States. Hence it is, [Pg296]
in fact, that the Spaniards did not meet with that formidable
resistance to their conquests which they encountered among the fiery
tribes of Florida, or that relentless and desperate hostility which
the Anglo-Americans experienced in the first settlement of most parts
of the United States.

But in the common trait of hospitality to strangers all the western
tribes are alike distinguished. The traveller who is thrown upon their
charity, is almost universally received and treated with the greatest
kindness; and, though they might pilfer him to the skin, and even
place his person in jeopardy, if he show want of confidence in them,
and endeavor to conceal his effects, yet his property is generally
secure when under their charge: they appear to consider a breach of
confidence one of the greatest crimes.

Among the wild tribes, as well as among most of the unadulterated
border Indians, to set something to eat before a friend, and even a
stranger, immediately upon his arrival at a lodge or a cabin, is
deemed not only an act of hospitality but of necessary etiquette; and
a refusal to partake is looked upon as an unfriendly {250} token--an
insult, in fact, to the family. Travellers are often severely taxed to
preserve the good feeling of their hosts in this particular,
especially among the prairie Indians. One at all fastidious in matters
of diet, would find it hard to relish food from a greasy hornspoon
which every urchin had been using; and then to ladle it out of a pot
which had been common for all the papooses and pups of the premises:
or to partake from a slice rolled up in a musty skin, or a dirtier
blanket. And yet an apology even of having already dined half-a-dozen
times would scarcely palliate the insult of a refusal. Though one
visit fifty lodges in the course of a day, he must taste the food of
every one.

The Indian system of chiefs, which still prevails, and is nearly the
same everywhere, except with the Cherokees, [Pg297] Choctaws,
Chickasaws, and the Creeks to a degree, seems to bear a strong
resemblance to that of the patriarchs of old; which, with their clans
so analogous to those of our forefathers, perhaps affords as strong a
proof as any other of their Asiatic origin.[189] To this might be
added their {251} mode of naming;[190] for the Indians universally
apply [Pg298] names significant of acts, qualities, beasts, birds,
etc., to their offspring,--a practice which seems to have prevailed
generally among the ancient Asiatics. Surnames have only been adopted
by educated families {252} and mixed-bloods of the border nations, and
are generally taken from their missionaries or some favorite friends;
except they inherit surnames from parents of white extraction.

That the Indians of America are decreasing in numbers is very well
known, but many are dwindling away, perhaps, at a more rapid pace than
is generally suspected. The number of the Osages, it is confidently
believed, has diminished fifty per cent. within the last ten years:
the once powerful tribe of Missouries is now reduced to a mere
remnant; while the Mandans, as a nation, have become entirely extinct:
and others have shared or bid fair soon to share the same fate. This
has resulted partially from the ravages of the small-pox and other
diseases, yet as much no doubt from the baneful effects of
intoxicating liquors. On this account, their diminution has generally
been less in proportion as they are more remote from the whites. But
the 'red man' has suffered from his intercourse with the whites not in
this respect alone. The incentives to luxury and avarice continually
presented by them, have had a very pernicious influence. Formerly the
savages were contented with the indispensables of life--generally
sober, just and charitable; but now they will sacrifice their
comfort--risk their lives, and commit the most atrocious outrages to
gratify their vanity and lusts--to bedeck themselves with gewgaws and
finery.



CHAPTER XXIX {XIII}

THE FRONTIER INDIANS

Causes of Removal West -- Annuities, etc. -- Dissatisfaction of
  the Indians -- Their Melioration by the Change -- Superiority of
  their present Location -- Lands granted to them -- Improvements,
  Agriculture, etc. -- Their Slaves -- Manufactures -- Style of
  Living, Dress, etc. -- Literary Opportunities and Improvements
  -- Choctaw Academy -- Harpies and Frauds -- Games -- Systems of
  Government -- Polygamy -- Ancient Laws and Customs -- Intemperance
  -- Preventive Measures -- A Choctaw Enactment -- Marriage and
  Funeral Customs of the Choctaws -- The Creeks -- Their Summary
  Executions -- Mourning -- Indian Titles -- The Northern Tribes --
  Census of the Frontier Nations.


For the purpose of a somewhat more discriminating notice of the Indian
tribes beyond our western border--for it is to those I intend my
remarks, in these pages, to be strictly confined--I will distinguish
them, according to the prevailing classification of the West, as
'Frontier' or 'Border Indians,' which title includes those occupying
that district lying west of and immediately adjoining Arkansas and
Missouri, and known as the _Indian Territory_; and the 'Wild Tribes'
or 'Prairie Indians,' by which are meant those who are found west of
the others, and who range those immense {254} plains from the borders
of the Indian Territory to the Rocky Mountains. Of these I will speak
in their order.

The most important of the frontier tribes, as is well known, are the
Cherokees, Choctaws and Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles, Shawnees,
Delawares, etc. It is equally well known that most of these tribes
were removed from within the States, not less because of the vicious
propensities which they contracted and the imposition to which they
were continually exposed, than on account of the difficulty of
maintaining peaceful relations between them and our own citizens,
while they remained in their midst. Their situation within the States
certainly presented quite [Pg300] an anomaly in government--
independent powers within the limits of others claiming sovereign
jurisdiction.[191]

A mistaken philanthropy--mistaken for want of a full knowledge of all
the bearings of the subject--among some people, has occasioned much
censure upon this branch of the policy of our government. But were we
to take into consideration the treatment of other nations towards the
aborigines of America, that of the United States, when placed in
contrast, would certainly present a very benevolent aspect. They have
always been removed by their own consent, obtained through their
chiefs and councils; and have not only been given equal amounts of
land, west of the border, but have generally been removed and
furnished a year's subsistence {255} at the expense of the government,
and received valuable equivalents beside, in utensils and other
necessaries, and in regular annuities. These are sums, generally in
money, annually paid, for a series of years, to the several tribes,
proportioned usually to the size of the tribe and the amount of
territory acquired from it. This institution of annuities, however,
though intended as the most charitable, has doubtless been the most
injurious branch of the policy of the United States towards the
Indians. Being thus afforded the means of living without much labor,
they have neglected manufactures, and even agriculture, to a
considerable degree, and many of them have acquired [Pg301] confirmed
habits of indolence and dissipation; and now that their annuities are
growing short, they are being left destitute, without the energy, the
industry, or the means wherewith to procure a livelihood.

But, notwithstanding the constant efforts of the general government to
make them comfortable, and the immense sums of money which have been
paid them, and their being located in regions far better suited to
their wants and their habits of life than those they abandoned, many
of them appear greatly dissatisfied with the change and with the
government; which seems painfully demonstrative of that perverse,
restless disposition, which appears ever to have characterized the
conduct of half-civilized nations.

One ostensible reason for their unwillingness {256} to remove, has
been a reluctance to abandon their native homes and the 'graves of
their fathers.' Many fabulous legends are told of the attachment of
the Indian to his native soil, yet but few who are acquainted with
their habitudes, will place much stress on this. Their own traditions,
as well as experience, have shown, that, when left to themselves, they
incline to migrate; of which the Azteques of Mexico, and the Osages,
with others of our border, afford striking examples: in fact, there is
scarcely a tribe on the frontier which has not its traditions of
migrations at some period. The Shawnees say their forefathers
emigrated from the south to the regions north of the Ohio--the Creeks,
as well as many of the Choctaws, that they were originally from west
of the Mississippi--besides many other cases.

But, with regard to this passage of our country's history, I will
merely say, in addition, that, so far as I am able to judge, the
condition of the 'red man' has been very materially bettered by the
change. The lands they at present occupy are, for the most part, of a
more fertile character [Pg302] than those which they have left. The
climate is equally or perhaps more healthy, in general;
notwithstanding the dreadful mortality which afflicted many of them
shortly after their removal--a calamity which was attributable,
primarily, to the change of climate, as well as to the change of
habits which their new dwelling-places involved; and secondarily, to
the too abundant use of {257} spirituous liquors, with which they were
frequently provided by both native and white peddlers and traders,
before any measures, efficient enough to check the evil, were taken
either by themselves or by the general government. But, although the
latter cause still prevails to some degree, I have little doubt that
the average mortality among the frontier tribes, at present, is less
than it was before their removal.

To each tribe has generally been granted a greater number of acres,
with definite metes and boundaries, than had been ceded by them east
of the Mississippi. It is deemed unnecessary, however, to swell this
brief notice with a statement of the several amounts of land given to
each tribe, and their localities, as these may be seen with sufficient
accuracy and definiteness by consulting the map which accompanies this
work.

The lands of each tribe are the property of the Indian commonwealth;
and, therefore, even among the most civilized of them, the settler has
a title only in his improvement, which he holds by occupancy, and can
sell at pleasure. To prevent collisions in improvements, the first
occupant is entitled to a certain distance in every direction. Among
the Cherokees, no one can build within a quarter of a mile of the
house or field of another: so, to extend their possessions, the more
wealthy sometimes make several isolated improvements, scattered in
different directions, within half a mile of each other. [Pg303]

{258} The game in the interspersed forests having now become scarce,
and that of the western prairies being too remote, the frontier
Indians have generally turned their attention to agriculture, and to
the raising of stock; and most of them have large numbers of horses,
cattle, and hogs.

Some of these Indians, particularly of the southern nations, have very
extensive farms: but the mass of their population extend their culture
no further than they seem compelled by necessity. The traveller,
passing through the Cherokee Nation, is struck with the contrast
between an occasional stately dwelling, with an extensive farm
attached, and the miserable hovels of the indigent, sometimes not ten
feet square, with a little patch of corn, scarce large enough for a
family garden. In fact, among all the tribes who have no slaves, what
little there is of cultivation, is mostly the work of the women.
Scattered through the country, one continually encounters dilapidated
huts with trifling improvements, which have been abandoned by the
owners for some fancy they may have taken to some other location at a
distance, better adapted, as they think, to the promotion of their
comfort, and upon which they may live with less labor.

Most of the labor among the wealthier classes of Cherokees, Choctaws,
Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles, is done by negro slaves; for they
have all adopted substantially the Southern system of slavery.[192]
Some individuals of these nations own over fifty slaves each: {259}
but they [Pg304] are the only slaveholders of the frontier tribes,
except very few among the Shawnees.

With some tribes, and particularly among the lower classes of the
Creeks, they are inclined to settle in 'towns,' as they are
called,--making large fields, which are cultivated in common, and the
produce proportionally distributed. But these 'towns' are rather
settlements than villages, being but sparse clusters of huts without
any regularity. Indeed, there is not, I believe, a regularly laid out
town in all the Indian country, nor a place that could even merit the
name of a village; except Doaksville near Fort Towson, and perhaps
Park Hill in the Cherokee Nation.[193]

Besides agriculture, most of the frontier tribes attend a little to
manufactures, though with no greater energy. The women have generally
learned to spin, weave and sew, at which they occupy themselves,
occasionally, during recess from the labors of the field. But very few
of the men acquire mechanical arts or follow trades of any kind: their
carpenter, wheelwright and smith work is done by a few mechanics
provided the several tribes in accordance with treaty stipulations. To
each tribe is furnished in particular one or more blacksmiths from the
United States.

These frontier Indians for the most part live in cabins of logs, like
those of our backwoods settlers; and many of them are undistinguishable,
except in color, language, and to some degree in costume, from the
poorer {260} classes of their white neighbors. Even in dress and
language the more civilized are fast conforming to the latter. In many
families, especially of the Cherokees, the [Pg305] English tongue
only is spoken; and great numbers of these, as well as of the Choctaws
and Chickasaws, dress according to the American fashions: but the
ruder portions of even these, the most enlightened nations, as is also
the case with nearly all of the northern tribes, wear the
hunting-shirt, sometimes of buckskin, but now more commonly of calico,
cotton plaid or linsey. Instead of using hats, they wreathe about
their heads a fancy-colored shawl or handkerchief. Neither do the
women of these classes wear bonnets, but leave their heads exposed, or
protected only with a shawl, somewhat after the manner of the Mexican
females; to the lower classes of whom, indeed, the mixed-bloods of
these Indians bear a strong resemblance. Their most usual dress is a
short petticoat of cotton goods, or as frequently with the tribes of
the north, of coarse red or blue broad-cloth.

The literary opportunities afforded to the border tribes are so
important in their consequences as to deserve some notice. To each
tribe has been granted, by the United States, a school fund, generally
somewhat proportioned to the extent of the tribe. The Cherokees and
Choctaws seem to have availed themselves of this provision to the
greatest advantage. These funds are for the most part invested in
American stocks, and the proceeds {261} appropriated to educational
uses, establishing schools, etc.[194] [Pg306] The tuition is, I
believe, in every case, free to the Indians; and yet it is painful to
know that comparatively few of the common classes will send their
children.

The most extensive literary institution which has ever been in
operation, for the benefit of the 'red man,' was the 'Choctaw
Academy,' established in Kentucky, and supported by a common fund of
several different tribes. It was not as successful, however, as was
anticipated by its projectors; and is now being transferred and merged
into an academy near Fort Towson, in the Choctaw country, wholly
supported out of the Choctaw fund. This Academy proved very
unsatisfactory to many of the tribes concerned. They said, with
apparent justice, that their boys, educated there, forgot all their
customs, their language, their relatives, their national attachments;
and, in exchange, often acquired indolent and effeminate, if not
vicious habits; and were rendered {262} unfit to live among their
people, or to earn a maintenance by labor. There seems but little
doubt that the funds of each tribe might be employed to a much better
advantage in their own country. The influence of the institutions
would there be more likely to extend to all classes; and by gradual,
the only practicable means, a change might be wrought upon the
nation.[195]

It is one of the calamities incident to the state of ignorance in
which most of these poor Indians remain, and their close, indeed
political connection with the more civilized people [Pg307] of the
United States, that they are continually preyed upon by the
unprincipled harpies who are ever prowling through their country,
ready to seize every opportunity of deceiving and defrauding them out
of their money or effects.[196] {263} The most depraving agencies
employed to this end are the ministration of intoxicating drinks, and
gaming, of both which the Indians are passionately fond, and by which
they are frequently robbed of their money as soon almost as received.

Apart from the usual games at cards, dice, etc., the Indians of the
border have some peculiar games of their own, as well at cards as
otherwise. Among these the most celebrated is the 'Ball Play,' which
resembles, in some respects, the old-fashioned game of _bandy_. The
wagers are usually laid upon beating the majority of a given number, a
dozen or more of these games; and large amounts in horses, blankets,
and other goods, and even money, are frequently staked upon the
result.

Besides the ball play, _dancing_ is a most favorite amusement of these
tribes, indeed of all the frontier as well as prairie Indians. They
formerly had many kinds of dances,--the green-corn dance, the
medicine, the eagle, the scalp and the war dances. But these are now
only practised by the ruder portions of the border nations and the
less improved tribes; among whom may still be witnessed frequently
their genuine aboriginal frolics. [Pg308]

The green-corn dance generally lasts several {264} days, commencing
when the new crop begins to ripen. A large arbor of green branches is
usually prepared, and numerous parties of both sexes dance in a body
to their native songs and rude instrumental music, accompanied by
their monotonous "heh! heh! heh!" with a chorus of yells at intervals;
and their movements are attended with the most comical gesticulations.
Having passed through a course of 'purification' by drinking a
decoction of certain stimulant herbs, prepared by their medicine-men,
and put out all the fires, they strike fire anew by rubbing sticks
together; and a quantity of corn, pulse and other fruits of the
season, being cooked with the 'new fire,' the dance is closed with a
general feast. Each family, as it is said, then takes a supply from
the 'new breed' of fire. A more interesting and salutary influence of
this custom, which is said to prevail among some tribes at this
festival, is the cancelling or composing of all old difficulties and
disputes.

The most advanced of these border nations, the _Cherokees_ and the
united tribes of the _Choctaws_ and _Chickasaws_, have adopted systems
of government, which are based upon [Pg309] the constitutions of our
States. The Cherokee being the most complete, some account of it may
not be out of place in this connection.

A council or convention of the wise men of the nation was convened on
the first of July, 1839, who framed a constitution, of which the
following are the general features, it being somewhat similar to one
previously adopted in {265} the 'Old Nation.' The three powers,
legislative, executive and judicial, are distinguished and
established. The legislative consists of a National Committee and
Council. The former is composed of two and the latter of three members
from each of the eight or ten districts into which the nation was to
be divided--elected for two years by the people. They convene annually
on the first Monday in October, and each house elects a presiding
officer out of its own body. Bills are introduced, discussed and
passed according to parliamentary usage.

The executive, called Principal Chief, and an assistant chief, are
elected for four years by the people. The executive has the usual veto
and pardoning power. He is assisted by an 'Executive Council' of five,
and the common cabinet of secretaries. The judiciary consists of a
Supreme and Circuit Court, and the ordinary justices of the peace.
Trial by jury is secured; and the common law of England appears to
have been generally adopted. Religious toleration is guarantied, but
no person can hold a civil office who denies the existence of a God,
and a future state of rewards and punishments.[197]

According to laws subsequently enacted by the same council, the
punishment for murder is death; and for an attempt to kill, a fine
correspondent to the damage, for the benefit of the injured party: for
rape, a hundred lashes--but [Pg310] for infanticide, only twenty-five
to fifty![198] Whipping seems the punishment {266} for all inferior
crimes; which is the same with the Choctaws and Creeks, among whom the
executioners are called the 'light-horse,' a kind of police-guard,
also formerly in use by the Cherokees, but now their place is supplied
by a common sheriff and _posse_.

As is to be inferred from their institutions, the Cherokees stand
first among the 'red men' in refinement, though in industry, morality,
and sobriety, they are no doubt excelled by the Choctaws and
Chickasaws, who are reckoned the most quiet and Christian-like Indians
of the border.

No laws have yet been passed to enforce the payment of debts, except
by the Cherokees; and these found it necessary to suspend their
operation for two years. Even the most improved have not prohibited
polygamy by any law; though, from the example of the whites and of the
more civilized among them, as well as the exertions of the
missionaries, it is growing out of repute with most of the border
nations. It is still occasionally practised, however; and the ruder
classes among them all, I believe, sometimes still take any number of
wives, and divorce them at pleasure. But the more enlightened are
married by preachers, or authorized civil officers.

With the united nation of Choctaws and Chickasaws, the executive power
is vested in four chiefs, called in Choctaw _mingoes_, who are
selected one from each of the districts into which the country is
divided, {267} and of which the Chickasaw tribe constitutes one.[199]
These chiefs are vested with the usual veto and pardoning powers, and
are elected [Pg311] for four years. Most of their other
constitutional provisions resemble those of the Cherokees. The
Choctaws, as well as the Creeks, punish the crime of murder with death
by shooting, which is generally executed immediately after trial, by
the 'light-horse.'

It has become evident, however, that written laws and courts of
justice, judges and juries, are still rather in advance of the state
of civilization of the ruder classes, even among these most
enlightened tribes. It has been found very difficult to bring them
under their subordination. They have had, notwithstanding, a salutary
effect in many cases, and especially with regard to murder. Among most
of these nations (as well as the wild tribes), it was formerly the
custom to leave the punishment of homicide to the relatives of the
murdered. With the Choctaws and Cherokees, in particular, the entire
clan or family of the murderer were held responsible for the crime;
and though the real offender might escape, the bereaved family had a
right to kill any one of his nearest relatives that could be found, up
to the most remote kindred. There seemed no exceptions for accidental
homicide, or killing in self-defence: the Mosaic precept of 'life for
life' must be fulfilled, unless satisfactorily commuted. This savage
custom had at least one salutary effect, however: the relatives
themselves, instead of assisting {268} the escape, as so often occurs
in civilized life, were generally the first to apprehend and bring the
fugitive criminal to justice.

But among the Choctaws, at least, any one might take the place of the
murderer, and in the death of the substitute the law was satisfied,
and the true criminal remained exempt. An intelligent and creditable
Choctaw related to me an affecting incident, for the truth of which he
vouched. An Indian had remained responsible for the appearance, on a
certain day, of his brother, who had killed a man. [Pg312] When the
day arrived, the murderer exhibited some reluctance to fulfil the
pledge, when the other said to him: "My brother, you are no brave--you
are afraid to die--stay here and take care of my family--I will die in
your place:" whereupon he immediately attended the appointed spot, and
was executed accordingly.

The highest honor known among them, in fact, being that of a 'great
brave,' it reflected the greatest credit to meet death boldly. Instead
of being visited by his tribe with infamy for the crime he had
committed, it rather tended to make his name illustrious, if he met
the consequences without fear or flinching: whereas, any effort to
avoid death was attributed to cowardice. It would have been esteemed
quite as ignominious for the murderer to flee the established forfeit
of his life, as for a 'gentleman' under the 'civilized code of honor,'
to back out from a duel.

But among most of the frontier, as also the {269} wild tribes, a
commutation, though not honorable to the perpetrator, was and still is
permitted, except by the Cherokees and Choctaws. Any recompense which
would satisfy the bereft family, released the murderer from further
penalty.

There is scarcely any temptation which the Indian tribes have to
encounter so frequently, and so seriously fatal to their social
improvement, as intemperance. Of this they are conscious themselves,
and most of them have adopted measures for prohibiting the
introduction of ardent spirits among them, and for checking the
propensity to use them, with various degrees of success. Among the
Choctaws, a law was passed upon this subject, which, though not
entirely, was measurably successful; and the spirit which effected its
passage was worthy of the most exalted state of civilization.

It seems that the tribe had generally become sensible [Pg313] of the
pernicious influences of strong drink upon their prosperity and
happiness, and had attempted various plans for its suppression,
without success. At last, it was determined by the chiefs, captains,
and head men, to strike a blow which should reach the very root of the
evil at once. A council was called, and many and long were the
speeches which were made, and much enthusiasm was created against the
monster 'Whiskey,' and all his brood of compound enormities. Still
every one seemed loth to move his arrest and execution. Finally, a
{270} captain of more than ordinary temerity arose, and offered a
resolution that each and every individual who should thenceforward
dare to introduce any of the liquid curses into their country, should
be punished with a hundred lashes on his bare back, and the liquor be
poured out. This was passed, after some slight changes, by
acclamation: but, with a due sense of the injustice of _ex-post-facto_
restrictions, all those who had liquors on hand were permitted to sell
them. The council adjourned; but the members soon began to canvass
among each other the pernicious consequences which might result from
the protracted use of the whiskey already in the shops, and therefore
concluded the quicker it was drank up, the more promptly would the
evil be over: so, falling to, in less than two hours Bacchus never
mustered a drunker troop than were these same temperance legislators.
The consequences of their determination were of lasting importance to
them. The law, with some slight improvements, has ever since been
rigorously enforced.

Among most of the Indian tribes the daughter has very little to do
with the selection of her husband. The parents usually require to be
satisfied first, and their permission being secured the daughter never
presumes to offer any important resistance. There is a post-nuptial
custom peculiar to the full-blood Indians of the Choctaws, which
[Pg314] deserves particular notice. For years, and perhaps for life,
{271} after the marriage of her daughter, the mother is forbidden to
look upon her son-in-law. Though they converse together, he must be
hidden from her by a wall, a tent, a curtain, or, when nothing else
offers, by covering the eyes. During their emigration, it is said
these poor superstitious matrons were put to infinite trouble so as
not to infract this custom. While travelling, or in camp often without
tents, the mother-in-law was afraid to raise her head or open her
eyes, lest they should meet the interdicted object.

It is another peculiarity, which they have in common with some of the
more northern tribes, that the Choctaw wife, of the 'old school,' can
never call her husband by name. But if they have offspring--she calls
him "my son's father;" or, more commonly using the child's name, when,
if Ok-le-no-wa, for instance, she calls the husband "Ok-le-no-wa's
father." And yet another oddity regarding names: the ignorant Choctaw
seems to have a superstitious aversion to telling his own name: indeed
it appears impossible to get it from him, unless he have an
acquaintance present, whom he will request to tell it for him.

In burials, the civilized Choctaws follow the customs of the whites,
but the ruder classes still preserve their aboriginal usages.
According to these, a painted pole with a flag is stuck up at the
grave, which usually remains three months. During this period they
have regular mourning exercises every morning and evening; and are
always prompt to avail themselves, {272} at any other hour of the day,
of the assistance of any friend who may visit them to help them to
weep. At the end of the prescribed term, the friends of the bereft
family attend a feast at their house, and, after dancing all night,
the next morning visit the grave and pull down the pole; which is
called 'the [Pg315] pole-pulling.' After this all mourning ceases,
and the family is permitted to join in the usual amusements and
festivities of the tribe, which was not allowable before.

Though the _Creeks_[200] are generally a very industrious people,
raising an abundance of corn and vegetables, yet they are quite behind
their neighbors, of whom I have been speaking, as well politically as
in a social and literary view. Their executive consists of two
principal chiefs, and their legislature or council of about forty
minor chiefs or captains, who are also, _ex officio_, justices of the
peace.[201] They have no trial by jury, and their judicial proceedings
are exceedingly summary--frequently without witnesses; for the
warriors are generally too proud to deny a charge, lest it be
construed into cowardice. Executions sometimes take place within an
hour after the commencement of trial. Murder, rape and a third
conviction of stealing are punished with death, usually by shooting;
but, in case of homicide, if claimed by the relatives of the {273}
deceased, the criminal is executed with the same kind of weapon, or,
if possible, the very same, with which he committed the murder.

Most inferior crimes, as has been mentioned, are punished by whipping:
for the first offence of stealing, fifty lashes; for the second, a
hundred and ears cropped. Adultery is punished by cutting off both the
nose and ears of the adulteress; but the husband has a right to say if
the law shall be executed: in fact, he is generally the executioner,
and that often without trial. Notwithstanding the severity of these
laws, they are for the most part rigorously enforced; though a
commutation satisfactory to the [Pg316] aggrieved is still permitted
to release the offender. Their laws, in cases of accidental homicide,
are still more barbarously rigid than those of the other nations.

The obsequies of the Creeks are peculiar in this,--that at the moment
an Indian expires, a gun is discharged. Their graves are generally
under the floors of their dwellings, and a husband's is apt to be
under the bed of his widow. The fate of the unfortunate relict is
miserable enough in any country, but among the Creeks her doom is
barbarously rigorous. She remains in strict mourning for four
years,[202] with dishevelled hair and without {274} combing,--unless
the relatives of the deceased interfere; whereby it is sometimes put
an end to in a few months, provided the sincerity of her grief be
evident and her conduct meritorious. In their mourning, however, they
do not weep and cry with such clamorous vehemence as the Choctaws and
others. But the Shawnees and Delawares are still more celebrated for
quiet mourning.[203] As warlike nations, they appear to disdain to
mourn and wail aloud, as is the practice among the greater portion of
the savage tribes.

Though these people have no family names, they generally take a kind
of honorary title or _sobriquet_, as is also the case with the wild
tribes, upon the occurrence of any important incident, or the
performance of a meritorious feat. A singular mode of inheritance
prevails among the Cherokees, the Creeks, and perhaps others. Though
the women in other respects are mostly held as very inferior beings,
the clans are all reckoned by them: the children pertain to [Pg317]
the mother, and the estates descend through the female branch of the
family. They say it is easy enough to verify the mothers of families,
but it is difficult to identify the fathers.

The remaining tribes, inhabiting the more northern frontier, as well
as the Seminoles who are located among the Creeks, possess so few
distinct or striking characteristics, and, indeed, are mostly so few
in number, that a particular notice of them seems hardly to be
required. Suffice it to say, that all of them, {275} as I believe,
still retain their ancient systems of arbitrary chiefs and councils of
sages and braves, nearly in their primitive state; and that the
greater portion of them live in log huts, and cultivate the soil to a
considerable extent. Though the Shawnees, Delawares, and Kickapoos,
are among the most agricultural of the northern Indians, yet a few of
these spend the greater portion of their time on the Prairies in
hunting and in trading with the wild tribes.[204]

FOOTNOTES:

[174] Consult Thwaites, _Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark
Expedition_, (New York, 1904-05) v, p. 347.--ED.

[175] The consensus of modern opinion is, that the Indians worshipped
the sun only as a symbol. They were in a stage neither monotheistic
nor pantheistic, but recognized all manifestations of the unseen,
without a sense of personal unity. Consult on this subject, J. W.
Powell, "Mythology of North American Indians," in U. S. Bureau of
Ethnology _Report_, 1879-80, pp. 17-56; D. G. Brinton, _Myths of the
New World_ (third edition, Philadelphia, 1896); R. M. Dorman, _Origin
of Primitive Superstitions among the Aborigines of America_ (Phila.,
1881).--ED.

[176] José de Acosta, a Jesuit historian (1539-1600), born in Spain,
was missionary to Peru for many years. Upon his return to Spain he
published _Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias_ (Seville, 1590),
both in Latin and Spanish. An English translation appeared in
1604.--ED.

[177] Clavigero asserts of the Indians of Mexico, that their first
heaven (that of the warriors, &c.) they called "_la casa del sol_"
(the house of the sun), which luminary they worshipped every morning
at sunrise.--GREGG.

[178] I have since met with the same, in substance, related by Mr.
Schoolcraft.--GREGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864), for many years
Indian agent at Mackinac, and a prolific writer on Indian subjects.

[179] The Shawnees have four missionary establishments among them,
viz. a Methodist, Baptist, Moravian, and Quaker. There are also
missionaries of different sects among most of the tribes of the
border, the labors of whom have been attended with some degree of
success. There is, I believe, but one Catholic Mission upon the
frontier, which is among the Potawatomies, about a thousand of whom
have embraced this faith. The Catholics, however, appear to have
succeeded better than most other denominations, in their missionary
efforts. It is so in Mexico, so in Canada, and appears so everywhere
else that they have undertaken the Christianization of the heathen. I
would not be understood to attribute this to any intrinsic superiority
of their religion, but to the peculiarities of its forms and
ceremonies. The pageantry of their worship, the palpable
representation of the divine mysteries by the introduction of images,
better accords with their pristine idolatry, than a more spiritual
faith. Catholics, indeed, have had the sagacity to permit the Indians
(at least in some countries) to interweave many of their own heathen
ceremonies with the sacred Christian rites, forming a singular _mêlée_
of Romish and pagan worship, which is especially the case in Mexico.
Also, the less rigid Catholic creed and customs do not debar them from
their wonted favorite amusements, not to say vices. It is therefore
that whole tribes sometimes simultaneously embrace this imposing
creed.--GREGG.

[180] See Thwaites, _Hennepin's New Discovery_ (Chicago, 1903), ii,
pp. 537, 538.--ED.

[181] Adair, who resided forty years with the southern Indians,
previous to 1775, speaks of the same among them all.--GREGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Consult J. Long's _Voyages_ in our volume ii, p. 64,
note 31.

[182] Peter Martyr de Anghiera (1457 (?)-1526) was the first historian
of the New World. Born in North Italy, he went to Rome in 1477, in the
train of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. Ten years later he was invited to
Spain, where he became tutor to the royal children, and later
protonothary and royal historiographer. His _Decades_ (_De Rebus
Oceanicis et Novo Orbe Decades_) first appearing in 1530, are a prime
source for the early history of America, he having known and conversed
with the Spanish discoverers.--ED.

[183] Also Clavigero speaks of similar beliefs and practices among the
Mexican Indians, particularly in the obsequies of the kings; and
adds--"El número de víctimas correspondía á la grandeza del funeral,
y, segun algunos autores, llegaban á veces á doscientas."--GREGG.

[184] Edition of 1555, translated from the Latin, fol. 181.--In
another place, the same author also says they buried corn, etc., with
the dead, for their use in the world to come.--GREGG.

[185] For Herrera, see our volume xix, p. 258, note 79 (Gregg).--ED.

[186] The Indians often so imposed upon the credulous ancients as to
make them believe they had direct communication with Satan. The
learned divine, Peter Martyr, has a whole chapter "Of the familiaritie
which certeyne of the Indians have with the devyll, and howe they
receave answere of hym of thynges to coome:" and very seriously and
philosophically concludes, that, "the devyll beynge so auncient an
Astronomer, knowethe the tymes of thynges, and seeth howe they are
naturally directed:" to which he appends numerous instances of the
evil spirit's revelations of the "tymes of thynges to coome" to his
ministers, the magi. And even as late as 1721, Father Charlevoix
gravely says, an instance he relates, and many others that he "knows,
which are equally certain, prove that the Devil is sometimes concerned
in the magic of the Savages." The Choctaws, and perhaps some others,
used to punish witchcraft with all the rigor of our own ancestors,
putting poor creatures to death upon the slightest proof of their
tampering with the black art: but this barbarity is now prohibited by
their more civilized laws. Yet the more barbarous tribes still have
their conjurers and medicine-men, who deal in auguries and mystic
ceremonies; which, with their dances, constitute the greater part of
their worship.--GREGG.

[187] For the early habitat of the Potawatomi, consult Croghan's
_Journals_, in our volume i, p. 115 note 84.--_Ed._

[188] Clavigero remarks of the Indians of Mexico, "Estaba severamante
prohibido .  .  .  todo enlace matrimonial, entre parientes en primer
grado de consanguinidad, ó de afinidad, excepto entre cuñados."
--GREGG.

[189] The origin of the American Indians has been discussed by too
many able writers for me to enter into it here: nor will I attempt to
show the general traits of similarity that are to be observed in their
various languages: yet it may interest an occasional reader, to be
informed of the relations of consanguinity which subsist between many
of the different Indian tribes. They may be arranged principally under
the following heads: 1. The Dahcotah stock, which is by far the most
extensive of those indigenous west of the Mississippi. It embraces the
Arkansas (of which the Quapaws are now the only remnant), the Osages,
Kansas or Kaws, Iowas, Winnebagoes, Otoes, Missouries, Omahas, Poncas,
and the various bands of the Sioux: all of whom speak a language still
traceable to the same origin, though some of them have been separated
for several centuries. I call these indigenous to the West, because
most of them have been so from the period of the earliest explorers on
the Mississippi; yet the tradition among them is that they came from
about the northern lakes; which appears corroborated by the fact, that
the language of the Naudowessies, Assiniboins, and perhaps others in
that quarter, shows them to be of the same family.--2. The different
bands of the Comanches and Shoshonies or Snakes, constitute another
extensive stock, speaking one language.--3. The Blackfeet, Gros
Ventres or Minnatarees, Crows and Arrapahoes, speak dialects of
another.--4. The Pawnees and Rickaras of the north, and the Wacoes,
Wichitas, Towockanoes, Towyash and Keechyes, of Red River, are of the
same origin. The Chayennes, originally from near Lake Winnipeg, and
the Kiawas (or Caiguas, according to Mexican orthography), appear
unallied to any of the foregoing nations.--5. Of those from the north
and east, the Algonquin stock appears most extensive,--embracing the
Potawatomies, Ottawas, Chippewas, Knisteneaux, Crees, Sacs and Foxes;
with whom the Delawares have also been classed, though their language
would now appear very distinct.--6. The Wyandots, Senecas, and others
of the Six Nations, are of the Huron or Iroquois.--7. The Shawnees and
Kickapoos are of one stock.--8. The Kaskaskias, Piorias, Piankeshaws
and Weaws, are descendants of the Miamies.--9. The Choctaws and
Chickasaws are nearly the same people.--10. The Creeks and
Seminoles--though old authors speak of the Creeks as being akin to the
Choctaws, yet there is now but little relationship to be traced in
their language; while that of the Cherokees appears entirely _sui
generis_.--GREGG.

_Comment by Ed._ On this subject consult J. W. Powell, "Indian
Linguistic Families of America north of Mexico" in U. S. Bureau of
Ethnology _Report_, 1885-86. Gregg is unusually correct in his
classification, but nevertheless has fallen into a few errors.

[190] The _tribes_ often take the names of the seceding chiefs who
originate them, or are called from some circumstance attending their
separation; but frequently they assume a name from an important word
in their languages: thus _Choctaw_ and _Chickasaw_ are said to have
been the names of chiefs; _Seminole_ (or _Seminóleh_) and _Pioria_
imply runaways or seceders; while _Illinois_, in the language of that
ancient tribe, and _Lunnapáe_, by which the Delawares distinguish
themselves, signify _man_. This last is perhaps most common; for, as
each nations holds itself superior to all others, its members call
themselves _men_, in contradistinction to _boys_ or _squaws_, as they
are wont to denominate their enemies.--GREGG.

[191] Pressure of the white population upon the southern tribes,
induced them to migrate to the west of the Mississippi, a movement
which began with detached parties of Choctaw as early as 1805. In 1824
President Monroe recommended their removal, and in 1830 Jackson
ordered it. Large bands of these Indians had already received lands in
Arkansas; wherefore, in 1832, Indian Territory was set apart for the
tribes and removals thither began. The Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek
made but little difficulty; the Cherokee and Seminole opposed the
removal. The former were forcibly ejected (1836-38), and by 1839 were
united on their present site in Indian Territory. The Seminole
resistance led to the war with that people (1835-42), in which a large
portion of the tribesmen perished. The remainder were finally united
in Indian Territory in 1846.--ED.

[192] The civilized tribes had been slave-holders before their removal
to Indian Territory. At the outbreak of the War of Secession their
sympathies were with the Confederacy, with whom the Cherokee made a
treaty October 7, 1861. Early in 1863, however, they abolished slavery
by law, and the large majority of their regiments went over to the
Union side. A constitutional amendment in 1866, forever abolished
slavery or involuntary servitude, except for crime. See _Constitution
and Laws of Cherokee Nation_.--ED.

[193] Neither of these places has developed into towns of importance,
although both are still on the map of Indian Territory. By an act of
1898, towns were to be incorporated, and town sites surveyed. In 1900,
the largest town was Ardmore, in the Chickasaw Nation. There were
seven towns of more than two thousand population, and twelve more
exceeding one thousand.--ED.

[194] Their schools are mostly conducted in English, yet among some
tribes they are often taught in their native languages. As in other
respects, the Cherokees have made the greatest advancement in a
literary point. Their singular system of characters representing
syllables, invented by an illiterate native, is no doubt known to most
of my readers. In these characters, a considerable number of books
have been printed in their vernacular tongue. Many Cherokees, however,
as well as Choctaws, have received good English educations. In the
language of the latter also a great number of books have been
published, but in which the common letter is used. A few books have
also been printed in the languages of the Creeks, Wyandots,
Potawatomies, and Ottawas, Shawnees, Delawares, and some in the
different dialects of Osage, Kansas, Otoes, etc. There is now a
printing-office in operation at Park Hill, in the Cherokee Nation, and
another among the Shawnees at the Baptist Mission.--GREGG.

[195] By the treaty of 1825 with the Choctaw, a fund of six thousand
dollars per year for twenty years was to be allotted for the use of
schools. The Indians requested that a portion of this fund might be
used to educate boys at a distance from home. This was a cherished
plan of Colonel Richard M. Johnson, who was chosen sponsor for the new
academy, and began the erection of buildings near his home at Great
Crossings, in Scott County, Kentucky, where the first boys were
received in the autumn of 1825. Baptist co-operation was enlisted, and
Rev. Thomas Henderson chosen first principal of Choctaw Academy. At
first the school flourished, and Indian boys from many other tribes
were sent to Kentucky, until at one time the academy had an enrollment
of more than one hundred and fifty lads. In consequence of the
dissatisfaction which Gregg here describes the Choctaw and other
Southern Indians began to withdraw their boys about 1842, and the
school's usefulness terminated. Consult _House Ex. Docs._, 26 Cong., 2
sess., 109. The civilized tribes now maintain several higher boarding
schools and academies in the territory. The Choctaw and Chickasaw each
have five; the Cherokee two at Tallequah, in which the nation is much
interested.--ED.

[196] By no means the least considerable of the frauds practised upon
the frontier Indians, have been by contractors and government agents.
The character of these impositions may be inferred from the following
instance, as it is told, and very generally believed, upon the
southwestern frontier.

It had been pretty well known, that some of those who had been in the
habit of contracting to furnish with subsistence several of the
southern tribes, in the year 1838 _et seq._, had been imposing most
grossly upon the Indians as well as the Government, in the way of
'short rations' and other delinquencies, which resulted in the gain of
a very large sum to the parties concerned. About the close of their
operations, one of the _employés_, who was rather more cunning than
the principals, took it into his head, on account of some
ill-treatment he had suffered, to make an _exposé_ of their
transactions. He happened to hold a letter of instructions (which were
of course of a confidential character), wherein were set forth the
processes by which these frauds were to be practised. And to turn the
affair to his particular profit, he threatened the parties with a
complete exposure, unless a satisfactory _gratification_ should
interpose. A compromise being indispensable to the welfare of 'all
whom it concerned,' a negotiation was soon set on foot: but the 'noisy
customer' was not silenced, until he was paid $13,500 in cash;
whereupon he delivered up the obnoxious 'papers,' and agreed to
abscond. Some notice of the facts of this case are said to have been
brought to the knowledge of the Government; and how it has escaped an
investigation--and, more especially, how it escaped the attention of
the Superintendent of that immediate district, have been matters of
great surprise to those who had a knowledge of the particulars.
--GREGG.

[197] See _Constitution and Laws of Cherokee Nation_, published at
Tallequah. The constitution was signed at the latter place, September
6, 1839.--ED.

[198] These laws have now been changed, and correspond to those of the
United States.--ED.

[199] In 1837, the Chickasaw bought an interest in Choctaw lands; but
in 1855 they purchased from the latter tribe the right of
self-government, and established a Chickasaw Nation. Their
constitution, drawn in 1867, is liberal, being closely modelled on
that of the United States.--ED.

[200] These Indians call themselves _Muscogee_ or _Muscóhgeh_. They
acquired the name of _Creeks_, by the whites, from the great number of
small streams that intersect the country which they formerly
inhabited--being first called, "Indians of the country of
_creeks_."--GREGG.

[201] The Creeks established a republican government in 1867, modelled
upon that of the neighboring tribes.--ED.

[202] This custom seems to have descended from antiquity. Adair, prior
to 1775, writes, that "The Muscohge widows are obliged to live a
chaste single life for the space of four years; and the Chikkasah
women, for the term of three, at the risk of the law of adultery being
executed against the recusants." But I have not heard this custom
spoken of among the Chickasaws at the present day.--GREGG.

[203] The Delaware and Shawnee removed from Kansas in 1866-67, and
1869 respectively, and became incorporated with the Cherokee Nation.
The Delaware, however, still maintain a form of tribal autonomy.--ED.

[204] No complete census has been taken of the frontier Indians since
their removal; but the aggregate population of those settled west of
the border, exclusive of the Osages, Kansas, and others of the north
(who are more appropriately ranked among the Prairie Indians), is
76,664, according to the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
for the year 1844. Of these there are reckoned of Cherokees, 25,911;
Choctaws, 12,410; Chickasaws, 4,111; Creeks, 24,594; Seminoles, or
Florida Indians, 3,136; Senecas from Sandusky, 125; Senecas and
Shawnees, 211; Quapaws, 400; Wyandots, 585; Potawatomies, Chippewas
and Ottawas, located on the waters of the Osage, 2,028; Kaskaskias and
Piorias, 150; Piankeshaws, 98; Weaws, 176; Shawnees, 887; Delawares,
1,059; Stockbridges, Munsees, &c., 278; Kickapoos, 505; In addition to
these, there still remain east of the Mississippi, of Cherokees,
1,000; Choctaws, 7,000, (but which are now, January, 1845, in progress
of emigration); Chickasaws, 20; Creeks, 744; Potawatomies, &c., 92;
Weaws, 30; besides some entire remnant tribes.

Many of the foregoing amounts, however, have been standing numbers in
the tables of the reports of the Indian Department, ever since the
removal of these tribes, and as it is known that most of them have
been on the decline, the above aggregate is no doubt excessive. For
instance, instead of 25,911, as given in the report for the Cherokees,
their very intelligent agent, Governor Butler, reckoned them, in 1842,
at only about 18,000: the Creeks in place of 24,594, have, in like
manner, been set down at about 20,000; and in the 'Choctaw Almanac'
for 1843, I find the population of that nation rated at 12,690,
instead of 15,177, as stated in the Commissioner's report for the same
year.--GREGG.



CHAPTER XXX {XIV}

INDIANS OF THE PRAIRIES

System of Chiefs -- Mode of Warfare -- War-Council -- The
  Scalp-dance -- The Calumet or Pipe of Peace -- Treaties -- Public
  News-criers -- Arms of the Indians -- Bow and Arrows, etc. --
  Hunting -- Dancing -- Language of Signs -- Telegraphs -- Wigwams
  or Lodges -- Pack-dogs -- Costumes -- Painting, Tattooing, etc.
  -- Indian Dandies -- Manufactures, and Dressing the Buffalo
  Rug -- Indian Diet, Feasting, etc. -- Primitive Thomsonians --
  Their domestic Animals, the Dog and the Horse -- Wampum -- Their
  Chronology.


Those savage hordes which may be considered as the Prairie Indians
proper, have made little or no perceptible progress in civilization.
They mostly live by plunder and the chase: a few eke out a subsistence
by agriculture. They consist of various distinct tribes, but among
whom there is a greater diversity of language than of habitudes. I
would not have it understood, however, that all the customs of every
band are entirely similar: it is this assumption, together with the
practice of setting down as standing customs what they have observed
on some particular occasions, that has frequently created such a
discrepancy between the accounts of transient travellers.

{277} There is scarcely a prairie tribe, however limited in numbers,
but is subdivided into petty bands, each under the immediate control
of its own chief. Their systems of government are frequently
compounded of the patriarchal and military. The most influential heads
of families exercise a petty rule, which often extends beyond their
own household to a circle of adherents. Several of these clans, bound
by the ties of consanguinity or friendship, are apt to come under the
control, by common consent, of some more influential chief, who may
have gained celebrity in their wars; but a regular hereditary descent
seems rarely established. These petty bands seldom unite under one
general leader, except for the common defence, when [Pg319]
threatened with danger. Occasionally there springs up a master
spirit--a great brave and a great sage, who is able to unite his whole
tribe, in which he is generally aided by a sufficient knack at
sorcerous tricks to give him the character of a great 'medicine-man.'

War seems to be the element of the prairie Indians, notwithstanding
but few possess much intrinsic bravery. They are, in fact, the most
cowardly savages east of the Rocky Mountains, bearing but little
similitude in this respect to the aborigines of the interior of the
United States. They rarely attack an enemy except with a decided
advantage; for the prospect of losing even a single warrior will often
deter them from undertaking the most flattering adventure. It is true
that, in addition {278} to their timidity, they are restrained by the
fact that the loss of a man often casts a gloom upon the most
brilliant victory, and throws a whole clan into mourning. On this
account they generally attack by surprise, and in the night, when all
are presumed to be asleep; having care, if against a formidable enemy,
that it be long enough before the morning dawn to allow them to retire
beyond reach of pursuit before daylight. When the moon rises at a late
hour, just before she appears, is a favorite time; for then they will
have a gleam of light by which to collect and drive off the prize of
stock which they may be able to frighten away. These prowling parties
around a camp sometimes employ a species of signals in imitation of
wolves, owls and other nocturnal animals, by which they communicate
with each other--mimicking so to the life as not to give alarm to
unsuspecting travellers.

War is seldom concluded upon, or even a campaign undertaken, without a
general council, in which all the chiefs and most distinguished braves
and sages assemble. After all are seated in a circle, the pipe is
passed around until their brains are sufficiently soothed to enable
them [Pg320] to consult the Great Spirit, and take freely into
advisement the important matters under consideration. Therefore the
tobacco smoke is usually blown upwards, as a propitiatory incense to
the invoked spirits or genii who dwell 'upon the sky.' In this
operation the smoke is generally inhaled into {279} the lungs, and
discharged in murky streams from the olfactories. If a council be
preparatory to a campaign, the warriors sometimes catch the tobacco
smoke in the hand, anointing their bodies with it; which they fancy
renders them, if not invulnerable, at least far more secure from the
darts of their enemies.

Although in their warfare they employ every wile and stratagem, and
faithless subterfuge, to deceive their enemies, and in battle are
relentless and cruel in the extreme, yet they seldom resort to those
horrid punishments and tortures upon their prisoners which were wont
to be inflicted by the savages of the interior of the United States,
during their early wars with the whites. The practice of burning their
captives alive, said to have prevailed many years ago among some
prairie tribes, seems now to have grown quite out of use.

Upon returning from a campaign after a defeat, the village resounds
for many days with the lamentations, the shrieks and wailings of the
women and children; in which, not only the bereft families, but all
the relatives and most of the friends of the deceased join. If, on the
contrary, the warriors have been successful, and bring home scalps of
their enemies, all join in their most famous festival, the
scalp-dance. In this fête the savage trophies are usually elevated
upon a pole in the centre of the dance; or perhaps the brave captors
retain them in their hands, tossing and swinging them about their
heads; at the same time vehemently apostrophizing these ghastly
representatives {280} of their enemies, with the most taunting and
insulting [Pg321] bravadoes; branding the nation with cowardice and
effeminacy; daring them to come forward and revenge the blood of their
slain; then concluding with scoffs and exulting yells at the dastardly
silence of their enemies, whom they represent as afraid to whisper a
note of vengeance against their superiors and masters, the triumphing
conquerors. After the warriors have become fatigued, the squaws and
children generally continue the barbarous festivity; in the midst of
which some vainglorious brave will rise perhaps, and repeat the
apostrophic fanfaronades, representing that the very squaws and
papooses hold them in cowering submission, and that henceforth these
only will be sent to subdue them; their warriors being reserved for
more noble enemies. These brutal rites and rodomontades being
concluded, the scalps are handed to their owners, who cure and paint
them for future war-dances and other kindred ceremonies.

When a tribe wishes to celebrate a treaty of peace with an enemy, a
number of their warriors, as ambassadors, or perhaps a whole band,
move to the neighborhood, and send the calumet or pipe of peace, which
supplies the place of the flag of truce among civilized nations:[205]
though, when the embassy {281} is to the whites, a flag usually
accompanies, as they have learned that this is our token of peace. The
overture being accepted, the chiefs and principals of each band meet
in council, sometimes in a wigwam, if there [Pg322] be a suitable
one, else in the open air, taking their seats, as usual, upon their
haunches in a circle proportioned to the number. If there be
presents--and these are an indispensable earnest of friendship from
the whites--the essence, the seal of the treaty, without which
negotiation is vain--these are laid in the centre. A personage in the
capacity of an orderly sergeant then lights the calumet, which he
hands to a principal chief, who, before smoking, usually points the
stem towards the four cardinal points, and towards the heavens and the
earth--then takes a certain number of whiffs (generally about three),
and passing it to the next, who draws an equal number of whiffs, it
thus continues around the circle, in the direction of the sun, each
sending fumid {282} currents upward from the nozzle. It seems looked
upon as sacrilege for a person to pass before the pipe while the
chiefs are smoking; and the heedless or impudent are sometimes
severely punished for the act. The 'big talk' follows, and the
presents are distributed by a chief who exercises the office of
commissary. But in the petty truces among each other, presents are
scarcely expected, except they be claimed by the more powerful party
as a matter of tribute.

Travellers and hunters are generally obliged to hold a treaty or 'big
talk' with every band of prairie Indians they may encounter, if they
wish to maintain friendly relations with them. Treaties have also been
held, at different periods, with most of the wild tribes, by agents of
the U. S. [Pg323] Government, yet for the most part with but very
little effect--they generally forget or disregard them by the time the
presents they may have received are consumed.

These treaties, as well as other council deliberations, are generally
promulgated by a sort of public crier, who proclaims the stipulations
and resolutions from lodge to lodge; and the event is preserved in the
memory of the sages to future generations. Among some of the tribes
their memory is assisted by the famous 'wampum belt,' which is a list
or belt made of wampum beads, so interwoven in hieroglyphic figures as
to form a record of important events. Others preserve the same by
hieroglyphic paintings on their buffalo rugs, and the like.

{283} The _arms_ of the wild Indians are chiefly the bow and arrows,
with the use of which they become remarkably expert. A dexterous
savage will lay a wager, at short shots, against many riflemen.
Indeed, there is hardly any more effective weapon than the bow and
arrow in the hands of an expert archer. While the musketeer will load
and fire once, the bowman will discharge a dozen arrows, and that, at
distances under fifty yards, with an accuracy nearly equal to the
rifle. In a charge, they are eminently serviceable; for the Indian
seems to discharge his arrows with about as much certainty when
running at full speed as when standing.

The usual length of the Indian bow is about three feet, though it is
sometimes as much as four. It is generally made of elastic wood, yet
elk's horn is occasionally used. Those of the latter are made of two
of the longest and straightest shafts, which, being shaved down to the
necessary proportions, are united by lapping their ends together and
binding them firmly with sinew. Bows have also been made, in the same
manner, of a pair of buffalo ribs; but as well these as those of
elk-horn, are rather items of [Pg324] curiosity than of service: at
least, they are not equal to bows of the bois-d'arc tree. Even the
backs of the _wooden_ bows are often lined the whole length with a
broad strip of sinew, and the whole wrapped with shreds of the same.
The arrows are generally about thirty inches long, and pointed with
iron, though the primitive {284} flint points are still met with among
some of the wildest tribes.

Besides these, the lance or spear, the use of which they may have
learned from the Mexicans, is an effective weapon in the charge as
well as the chase. Many are also provided with the Northwestern fusil,
and some have rifles. Very few, however, have acquired the dexterity
of our frontier Indians with this deadly weapon. But no Indian deems
his equipage complete without a 'scalping-knife;' yet among the
western prairie Indians the tomahawk is but little known. These
employ, in its stead, the war-club or 'war-hawk,' which are bludgeons
with an encased stone for a head in the former, and with a transverse
blade or spike in its place in the latter. Many are provided with
shields of raw buffalo or elk skin, upon which are frequently painted
some rude hieroglyphical devices representing the enemies they have
slain, as well as any other notable exploits of which they can boast.
Such as are without these have their titles to renown recorded
commonly upon the handles of their hatchets, their war-clubs, or
perhaps tattooed upon their breasts or arms.

Besides war, _hunting_ seems the only creditable employment in which a
warrior can engage. Every other labor is put upon the squaws; and even
when a party of hunters set out, they generally provide themselves
with enough of these 'menials' to take charge of the meat: the Indian
only deigns to shoot {285} down the game; the squaws not only have it
to cure and pack, but to skin and dress. [Pg325]

Except such tribes as are expert with the rifle, very few of the
prairie Indians hunt other game than the buffalo: not, as some have
presumed, because they deem all small game too ignoble for them, but
because the former is at once easiest taken, and affords the most
bounteous supply of food. The antelope is too wild and fleet for their
mode of hunting, and is only occasionally taken by stratagem; while
the deer, as difficult to take in the chase, is less easily entrapped.
But, mounted upon their trained steeds, and with the arrow or lance,
they are not to be excelled in the chase. A few of them, let loose
among a herd of buffalo, will soon have the plain strewed with their
carcasses.

Among the amusements of the Indians generally, _dancing_ is perhaps
the most favorite. Besides a war accompaniment, it is practised as a
recreation, and often connected with their worship. Their social
frolics, in which the squaws are commonly permitted to join, are
conducted with less ferocity of manner than their war dances; though
even these are accompanied with the wildest and most comical
gesticulations, and songs full at once of mirth and obscenity. In
these, as well as in the war and scalp dances, a sort of little drum
and a shrill squeaking pipe are their common instruments of music.

As so many tongues, entirely different, are spoken by the prairie
Indians, a 'language of {286} signs' has become the general medium of
communication between the different nations. This system of signs has
been brought to such perfection among them, that the most intricate
correspondence seems to be intelligibly conducted by such as have
acquired a proficiency in this 'dumb language.'

Their systems of telegraphs are very peculiar, and though they might
seem impracticable at first, yet so thoroughly are they understood by
the savages, that it is availed of [Pg326] frequently to immense
advantage. The most remarkable is by raising smokes, by which many
important facts are communicated to a considerable distance--and made
intelligible by the manner, size, number or repetition of the smokes,
which are commonly raised by firing spots of dry grass. When
travelling, they will also pile heaps of stones upon mounds or
conspicuous points, so arranged as to be understood by their passing
comrades; and sometimes they set up the bleached buffalo heads, which
are everywhere scattered over those plains, to indicate the direction
of their march, and many other facts which may be communicated by
those simple signs.

Almost every tribe has some peculiarity in the construction of their
lodges or wigwams, in the manner of arranging their camps, and in the
different items of dress, by any or all which peculiarities the
experienced traveller is able to recognize the tribe of their owner.
If a moccasin, or other article of apparel be {287} found, he at once
designates the nation to which it belongs--even a track is often
sufficient to identify them.[206] Also by the 'sign,' and especially
the remains of fires, he determines the interval elapsed since their
departure, with remarkable accuracy.

The lodges are composed of a frame of small poles or rods, covered
usually with buffalo skins, which receive but little further
preparation than the currying off of the hair. Some give their lodges
a round wagon-top shape, as those of the Osages, which commonly
consist of a frame of bent rods, resembling wagon-bows, and covered
with skins, the bark of trees, or, as is generally the case in their
villages, with grass and earth. Again, some dispose the poles in two
parallel lines, and incline them against a ridge-pole, [Pg327] which
gives the wigwam the shape of a house-roof: others, planting small
rods in a circle, to swine the points together as to resemble, in some
degree, when covered, a rounded hay-mow: but by far the most general
style, among the wild tribes, of constructing their wigwams, is by
planting the lodge-poles so as to enclose a circular area of from ten
to twenty feet in diameter (the size depending upon the number of the
family); and the tops being brought together, it forms a conical
frame, which is closely covered with skins, except an aperture in the
apex for the escape of the {288} smoke. This is the style of the
Comanches and most other tribes of the great plains. The doors of the
lodges being closed with a skin, they are kept very comfortable in
winter with but little fire. This is kindled in the centre, and a hole
is left in the vertex of the lodge, through which the smoke is
discharged so freely, that the interior is but seldom infected by it.

These lodges are always pitched or set up by the squaws, and with such
expedition, that, upon the stopping of an itinerant band, a town
springs up in a desert valley in a few minutes, as if by enchantment.
The lodge-poles are often neatly prepared, and carried along from camp
to camp. In conveying them, one end frequently drags on the ground;
whereby the trail is known to be that of a band with families, as war
parties never carry lodge-poles. The Chayennes, Sioux and some other
northern tribes, often employ dogs for carrying and dragging their
lodge covers and poles; indeed for conveying most of their light
baggage: but, for ordinary travelling purposes and packing their more
weighty baggage, they use horses. So few navigable waters traverse the
Prairies, that none of the Indians of the high plains have learned the
use of canoes or water-craft of any kind.

There is some variety in the dress in vogue among the [Pg328]
different tribes; though they all use moccasins, leggins, flap or
breech-clout, and, when not in active pursuits, they generally wrap
their bodies in buffalo rugs, blankets or {289} mantles of strouding,
according to their wealth or opportunities. Some of the northern
tribes display considerable ingenuity and taste in the manufacture of
moccasins. But this is the work of the women, who often embroider them
with beads and colored porcupine quills, in a most beautiful manner.
The _leggin_ is a buckskin or cloth covering for the leg and thigh, as
of the pantaloon. A superfluous list is usually left outside the seam,
which, if of skin, is slitted into long tassels, or if of cloth, the
wide border remains entire, to dangle and flap upon the exterior of
the legs. A strip of strouding (that is, coarse broad-cloth) about a
foot in width and a yard or more long, constitutes the most usual
flap; which being passed betwixt the legs, the ends are secured under
the belt around the waist, whence the leggins are suspended. As the
flap is sometimes near two yards long, a surplusage of half a yard or
more at each end is sometimes left dangling down before and behind.

The Indians use no head-dress, but support the bleakest rains and
hottest suns of those bare plains with naked heads. Nevertheless,
their coarse black hair seems 'fertilized' by exposure; for they
rarely become gray till an exceeding old age; and I do not recollect
to have ever seen a bald Indian. Their eyesight also, they retain in
extraordinary vigor, notwithstanding the want of protection even of
the eye-lashes and brows (which are plucked out), and in spite of the
constant use of apparently deleterious paints around the edges {290}
of the lids. Though using no regular head-dress, they sometimes wear,
as a temporary ornament, a fantastic cap of skins; and it is not
unusual to see a brave with the entire shaggy frontlet of a buffalo,
[Pg329] horns and all, set upon his head--which, with his painted
face, imparts a diabolical ferocity to his aspect.

The Indians of the Plains, almost without exception, wear long hair,
which dangles in clotted tresses over the shoulders--besmeared with
gum, grease and paints, and ornamented with feathers and trinkets. But
most of those intermediate tribes nearer our border, trim their hair
in a peculiar manner.

Vermillion seems almost indispensable to the Indian's toilet; but in
default of this they paint with colored earths. When going to war,
they bedaub their bodies with something black--mud, charcoal or
gunpowder, which gives them a frightful appearance. But 'ornamental'
painting is much more gay and fanciful. The face, and sometimes arms
and breast are oddly striped and chequered, interspersed with shades
of yellow and white clay, as well as occasional black, though the
latter is chiefly appropriated to war. Especial pains are taken to tip
the eyelids most gaily with vermillion.

Besides painting, most of the tribes tattoo--some sparingly, while
others make their faces, breasts, and particularly their arms,
perfectly piebald. This seems practised to some extent by all the
savages from the Atlantic {291} to the Pacific. Figures are pierced in
the skin with any sharp pointed instrument--often the keen prickles of
the cactus--and pulverized charcoal or gunpowder, or sometimes the
coloring juice of a plant, is rubbed into the fresh punctures, which
leaves a lasting stain.

The most usual female dress is of the style worn by the Comanche
squaws, which is described in speaking of that nation. With respect to
dress and other ornaments, however, the order of the civilized world
is reversed among the Indians. The 'fair sex' paint less than the
men--use fewer ornaments generally, and particularly, wear [Pg330] no
pendants in the ears. While a savage beauty pays but little attention
to her person, a 'brave' will spend as much time at his toilet as a
French belle, in the adjustment of his ornaments--his paint, trinkets,
beads and other gewgaws. A mirror is his idol: no warrior is equipped
without this indispensable toilet companion, which he very frequently
consults. He usually takes it from its original case, and sets it in a
large fancifully carved frame of wood, which is always carried about
him. He is also rarely without his tweezers, whether of a fold of tin,
of hardened wood, or of spirally twisted wire, with which he carefully
eradicates, not only his beard, eye-lashes and brows, but every
villous particle from his body, as fast as it appears; for everything
of the kind is considered as extremely unbecoming a warrior. It is on
this account that Indians {292} have frequently been represented as
naturally beardless.

All Indians are passionately fond of beads, trinkets and gewgaws of
every kind. The men often cut up the rim of the ears in a frightful
manner to admit their pendants of beads, plate, shells, etc.; and even
strips of lead are sometimes twined around the separated rim, by the
weight of which the detached portion of the ear is frequently swagged
down some inches. It is not unusual to see near half a pound even of
beads and 'jewelry' swung to each ear; and among some tribes, also a
large quantity to the nose. The hair is likewise garnished with the
same, and the neck with strings of beads, bear's claws, and the like;
while the arms are profusely ornamented with bracelets of wire or
plated metal. The 'braves' are those who commonly deck themselves with
the most gaudy trappings, and would usually be taken by a stranger for
the chiefs of the band, who, on the other hand, are often apparelled
in the most ordinary manner. [Pg331]

The squaws are, in every sense of the word the slaves of the men. They
are called upon to perform every toilsome service--to carry wood and
make fires--to skin and dress the meat and prepare the food--to herd,
drive up, saddle and unsaddle their lords' horses--to pitch and strike
the lodges--to pack up the baggage, and often indeed to carry heavy
loads during travel--in short, everything else pretty much but fight
and hunt, which the {293} Indian boasts of, as being his peculiar, if
not his sole vocations.

What little of manufacturing is done among the Indians is also the
work of the women. They prepare the different articles of apparel. In
embroidering moccasins and their leathern petticoats, etc., their
greatest skill, particularly among the northern tribes, is exhibited.
But the most extensive article of their manufacture is the _buffalo
rug_, which they not only prepare for their own use, but which
constitutes the largest item of their traffic with the Indian traders.
These are dressed and cured exclusively by the squaws.

To dress a buffalo rug, the first step is to 'flesh' the skin, or
neatly scrape from the inner surface every carneous particle. This is
generally done with an instrument of bone, cut something in the shape
of a small adz, with a serrate edge. For this operation the skin is
sometimes suspended in a frame upon the branch of a tree, or a fork of
the lodge--though more commonly, perhaps, stretched with pegs upon the
smooth ground, with the flesh-side up. After it dries, the spongy
surface of the skin is neatly curried off with another adz-shaped bone
or handle of wood, with a flat bit of iron transversely set for the
blade, which is edged after the manner of a currier's instrument. The
surface is then besmeared with brains (which the Canadians call
_mettre à la cervelle_), and rolled up with the flesh-side in, in
which condition it is left for two or three days. The brains of the
same {294} animals are generally used; those [Pg332] of a buffalo
being more than sufficient to dress his own hide. The pores of the
skin being fully penetrated by the brains, it is again wetted, and
softened by continual working and rubbing till it dries. To facilitate
this last operation, it is sometimes stretched in a frame and
suspended before a fire, when the inner surface is scraped with the
serrated adz before mentioned, and finished off by assiduous rubbing
with a pumice-stone, if that article can be had; if not, by passing
the skin by small sections rapidly back and forth over a slack cord.

Buffalo rugs are often observed with a seam in the middle. This is
caused by cutting them in two, partly for convenience in dressing
them, and partly to take out the hollow occasioned by the hump,
particularly of the bulls. The hump of the cow being less, their skins
generally bear dressing without being cut. The hide is frequently
split in two, however, in skinning the animal, the Indians preferring
to commence on the back.

The buffalo skin is often dressed without the wool. To this end the
hide is soaked in water till the hair is loosened, when it is
'curried' and 'brained,' and softened as above. Of these dressed
buffalo skins (known among Mexicans as _anta blanca_) is made a
considerable portion of the Indian clothing for both sexes--even the
petticoats of the females; though these prefer buckskin when they can
procure it.

The chief aliment of the Prairie Indians is {295} flesh, though in
default of this they often sustain themselves for weeks together upon
roots, herbs and fruits. The buffalo are the common herds of these
savages, affording them 'food, raiment and shelter.' It seems there
were anciently occasional cannibal tribes[207] in those regions, but
not a [Pg333] vestige of cannibalism, as I believe, now remains;
except such an inhuman appetite may be ascribed to some of the more
savage warriors, who, as I have heard, in the delirium of exultant
victory, have been known to devour the hearts of their bravest
victims, at once to satiate their blood-thirsty propensities, and to
appropriate to themselves, as they fancy, the valor of the slain
enemy.

However, they make food of nearly every animal of their country, and
often of insects and even the filthiest vermin. By some tribes,
grasshoppers, locusts and the like are collected and dried for future
use. Among nearly all the northern tribes, the flesh of the dog[208]
is considered as the greatest delicacy; so much so, indeed, that when
a favorite visitor is expected to dine, they are sure to have served
up for him the choicest pieces from some one of the many fat whelps
which pertain to every lodge. In this way travellers have often been
{296} constrained to eat Indian dog-meat, and which, prejudice apart,
is by no means an unsavory viand; but the flesh of the wolf, and even
the American dog, is generally said to be ill-flavored and sometimes
insupportable. The polecat is also a favorite food among the Indians;
and though the celebrated Irving, during a "Tour on the Prairies,"
seems to claim a deal of credit for having "plumped into the river" a
dressed polecat, whereby he prevented an Osage from "disgracing" their
fire by the cooking of it, yet all travellers who have tasted the
flesh of this animal have pronounced it fine, and of exquisite
relish.[209] "The flesh of the skunk," observes Dr. James, in his
account of Maj. Long's Expedition, "we [Pg334] sometimes had dressed
for dinner, and found it remarkably rich and delicate food."

These wild tribes are without other kitchen utensils than an
occasional kettle. They sometimes broil their meats, but often eat
them raw. A savage will feast upon the warm carcass of the buffalo;
selecting bits of the tenderloin, liver, etc., and it is not uncommon
to see him use the gall as sauce! Feasting is one of their favorite
enjoyments; though their ability to endure hunger almost exceeds
belief. They will fast a week and yet retain their strength and vigor:
but then when they do procure food again, it seems as if they never
would be satiated.

The Indians of the Prairies have become acquainted with the medical
virtues of many of their indigenous plants, which are often {297} used
in connection with the vapor sweat, and cold bath: wherefore we may
consider them as the primitive Thomsonians.[210] After a profuse
sweating, assisted by decoctions of sudorific herbs, in a tight lodge
filled with vapor by pouring water over heated stones, and while still
dripping, they will leap into a pool of cold water, and afterwards
wrap themselves in a buffalo rug. This course has proved successful in
some diseases, and extraordinary cures have thus been performed: but
in other cases, and especially in the small-pox, it has been attended
with horrible fatality. They frequently let blood for disease, which
is oftenest performed with the keen edge of a flint: and though they
sometimes open a vein, they more commonly make their incisions
indiscriminately. They have great faith in their 'medicine men,' who
pretend to cure the sick with conjurations and charms; and the
Comanches and many others often keep up an irksome, monotonous singing
over the diseased person, to frighten away [Pg335] the evil spirit
which is supposed to torment him: all of which, from its effect upon
the imagination, often tends, no doubt, to hasten recovery.

These Indians keep no domestic animals, except horses, mules, and
dogs. With the latter every lodge is abundantly supplied; yet, as has
already been shown, they are more useful appendages than the annoying
packs which so often infest the country cabins, and frequently the
villages, in the United States. {298} Horses, however, constitute the
chief wealth of the prairie Indian. These are the incentives to most
of their predatory excursions. The tribes of the north in particular,
as well as the white trappers, frequently maintain their horses,
during winter, upon the tender bark of the sweet cottonwood, the
_populus angulata_ of the Mississippi valley.

The western savages know nothing of the value of money. The wampum
bead, it is true, among a few tribes, somewhat resembles a currency:
for, being generally esteemed, it acquires a value in proportion to
size, and sometimes passes from hand to hand, in exchange for
necessaries. The legitimate wampum is only of shells, and was of
aboriginal manufacture; being small long tubes with an ovate surface,
or sometimes simply cylindrical; and handsomely polished: but
imitations of glass or porcelain seem now the most common. The color
is generally white, though sometimes blue or striped.

These Indians have no knowledge of the divisions of time, except by
palpable distinctions; as days, moons and years; which last they
commonly represent as so many springs, or falls of the leaves, or as
often by winters, that is, frosts or snows. Distances are represented
by days' journey, which are oftener designated by camps or 'sleeps.'
When a day's journey is spoken of in general terms, it is meant that
of a band in regular travel, which rarely exceeds twenty miles.



CHAPTER XXXI [XV]

INDIANS OF THE PRAIRIES

Intermediate Tribes -- Their Wigwams and their Hunting Excursions
  -- Dress and Cut of their Hair -- The Pawnees -- The Osages --
  Their Roguery -- Matrimonial Customs -- Accomplished Mourners --
  Their Superstitions -- The Indian Stature -- The 'Pawnee Picts'
  -- Wild Tribes -- Census -- The Comanches -- Their Range -- Their
  Sobriety -- Their Chiefs, etc. -- Female Chastity -- Comanche
  Marriage -- Costumes -- Horsemanship -- Comanche Warfare --
  Predatory Forays -- Martial Ceremonies -- Treatment of Captives --
  Burial and Religious Rites.


The tribes inhabiting near the borders of the frontier Indians differ
from those that range the far-western prairies in several traits of
general character. The former have their fixed villages, and, for the
most part, combine the pursuits of agriculture and the chase. They
form, indeed, a sort of intermediate class between the frontier and
the wild tribes, resembling the one or the other in all important
particulars. I will merely notice in this place a few of the
characteristics by which the more conspicuous of these tribes are
distinguished.

Their village wigwams differ from the lodges of the wilder tribes, in
their being {300} much more substantial, and usually covered with
grass and earth instead of skins. The Indians commonly remain in their
villages during the inclement portion of the winter; yet most of them
spend the early spring upon the Prairies in buffalo-hunting; as well
as such portions of the summer and autumn as are not occupied in the
cultivation and gathering of their crops, which they secure in
_caches_ till their return.

In dress they differ but little from the wilder tribes, except that,
having more communication with the whites, they make greater use of
our fabrics--blankets, coarse cloths, calicoes and the like. Their
most striking peculiarity consists in the cut of their hair. Most of
them, [Pg337] instead, like the Indians of the Plains, of wearing the
hair long, trim and arrange it in the most fantastic style. In the
care bestowed upon this part of their toilet, they cannot be excelled
by the most _soigneux_ of civilized dandies. They shave a large
portion of the head, but leave a fanciful lock upon the crown as a
scalp-crest (an indispensable trophy for the enemy), which is in
general gorgeously bedecked with painted feathers and gewgaws.

The _Pawnees_, who now have their principal village on the Loup Fork
of the Platte river, are perhaps the most famous of these tribes.
Small bands of their war-parties roam on foot through every portion of
the Prairies, often to the Mexican frontier, though they generally
contrive to return well mounted. {301} When upon these expeditions,
they may properly enough be considered the Ishmaelites of the
Prairies--their hands are against every man, and every man's hand is
against them. They will skulk about in the vicinity of a prize of
mules or horses for several days unsuspected, till a favorable
opportunity offers to pounce upon them.

This nation is divided into four principal bands, the Grand Pawnees
(or _Grand Pans_, as called by the Canadians), the Republics, the
Mahas or Loups, and the Tapage or Noisy Pawnees. Their relatives, the
Rickaras, are now considered a distinct tribe.[211]

The _Osages_ are at present the most important western branch of the
Dahcotah stock, after the Sioux. There are two bands of them, the Big
and Little Osages.[212] Though the Pawnees stand most prominent as
prairie marauders, these are unsurpassed in simple rogueries.
Expertness at stealing appears indeed to constitute a part [Pg338] of
their faith, and an all-important branch of education, in which
degrees are conferred in true 'academic order;' for I have been
assured, that, in their councils, the claims of the candidates to the
honors of rogueship are duly considered, and to the most proficient is
awarded an honorary badge--the right to wear a fancy feather stuck
athwart his scalp-crest.

The habitudes of the Osages do not appear to have undergone any
material change, notwithstanding the exertions of the government and
the missionaries to civilize and to christianize {302} them. Some of
their matrimonial customs are very curious and rather peculiar. The
eldest daughter seems not only 'heiress apparent,' but, when married,
becomes absolute owner of the entire property and household of her
parents--family and all. While single, however, she has no authority,
but is herself held as a piece of merchantable property, estimated
somewhat as in civilized life, in proportion to her 'charms,' and to
the value of her 'hereditaments.' She is therefore kept under the
strictest watch by her parents, that she may not diminish her worth by
any improper conduct.

When some warrior 'beau' has taken a fancy to the heiress and wishes
to possess her and her estate of sisters, dogs, rugs and household, he
takes his finest horses, (and if she be a 'belle' he need not attempt
it unless he have some of the noblest), and tying them at her lodge
door departs without saying a word; leaving them, like a slow-match,
silently to effect his purpose. After the 'pretender' has disappeared,
the matron of the premises and her lord inspect the valuables, the
'demure damsel' barely venturing a sly peep through some crevice of
the wigwam. If the offer be found unworthy, the horses are sent back
to the owner as silently as they came, or maybe with some apology,
provided he be a warrior whom they are afraid of offending. [Pg339]
But if accepted, the father takes instead some of his own horses and
ties them at the door of the proposer, as a token of admission. If the
{303} parties be without horses, some other valuables are employed in
lieu. After this the marriage is solemnized with a joyous fête, and
their primitive ceremonies.

But now the son-in-law is fully indemnified for his heavy
'disbursement' in the _purchase_ of his bride; for he at once becomes
possessor of the entire wealth of his father-in-law--master of the
family-lodge and all the household: if there be a dozen younger
daughters, they are all _de droit_--his wives or slaves as we may
choose to consider them: in fact, the 'heiress' herself seems in the
same predicament, and the wife among them all who may have the tact to
gain the husband's affections, generally becomes mistress of the
'harem.' From the refuse of this estate of 'fair ones' the indigent
warriors and inferior Indians who are not able to purchase an
'heiress' are apt to supply themselves with wives upon a cheaper
scale.[213]

The Osages bury their dead according to the usual Indian mode; and,
though it seems always to have been the custom among most {304} savage
nations, to keep up a chorus of hideous cries and yells for a long
while after the death of a relative, yet the Osages are by far the
most accomplished mourners of them all. Being once encamped near a
party of them, I was awakened at the dawn of day [Pg340] by the most
doleful, piteous, heart-rending howls and lamentations. The apparently
distressed mourners would cry with a protracted expiration till
completely out of breath. For some instants he seemed to be in the
very last agonies: then he would recover breath with a smothered,
gurgling inspiration: and thus he continued for several minutes,
giving vent to every variety of hideous and terrific sounds. Looking
around, I perceived the weeper standing with his face towards the
faint gleam which flitted from the still obscured sun. This was
perhaps his idol; else he was standing thus because his deceased
relation lay in that direction. A full 'choir' of these mourners
(which is always joined by the howls and yelps of their myriads of
dogs), imparts the most frightful horror to a wilderness camp.

It is considered among these as well as other 'crying' tribes, quite a
merit to be a graceful weeper: it becomes even a profitable vocation
to those whose eyes and lungs are most capacious of such things. If
you tell an Osage that you have lost a kinsman or friend for whom you
wish him to mourn, he will undertake the service for a trifling
reward--and acquit himself with more 'credit'--more to the spirit than
the best tragic {305} actor. He will mimic every exterior indication
of grief and the most heart-felt wailing, till the tears trickle in
torrents down his cheeks.[214]

The Osages seem generally to worship a good and evil spirit, and to
believe in the most usual Indian paradise. No people can have more
implicit faith in witchcraft and all kinds of sorcery and
superstitions--such as holding converse with deceased friends or
relations--appointing a time to die, etc.: and instances are related
of their fancying [Pg341] themselves thus called to the world of
spirits, which would so powerfully affect the imagination as to cause
them to pine away, and sometimes die even to the appointed day.

Owing partially, no doubt, to the burdensome life they lead, the
squaws of all the tribes are, for the most part, much more inclined to
corpulency than the men. They are generally chubby and ill-favored,
while the males are usually tall, erect, well-turned and active. For
their proverbial straightness, however, the Osages are perhaps more
famous than any of the other prairie Indians.

The _Wacoes_, _Witchitas_ and their kindred tribes on Red River, are,
for the most part, a very indigent race. They are chiefly remarkable
for their profuse tatooing, whereby they have sometimes acquired the
title of 'Pawnee Picts:' the females particularly make a perfect
calico of the whole under-jaw, breast and arms, and the mammæ are
fancifully ornamented with rings and rays. The tattoo, in fact, seems
to constitute the chief female ornament {306} of these tribes; for
their only gown consists of about a yard and a half of strouding, or
else a small dressed skin, suspended from the waist, and constituting
a sort of primitive petticoat. The upper portion of the body remains
uncovered, except by a blanket or small skin, thrown loosely over the
shoulders. The men are often without any other vesture than the flap,
and sometimes a buffalo rug or blanket.

As the remaining tribes of this intermediate class present few or no
distinctive characteristics, we will pass at once to the consideration
of the _wild tribes_ proper[215] of the Great [Pg342] Western
Prairies. These neither cultivate the soil nor live in fixed villages,
but lead a roving life in pursuit of plunder and game, and without
ever submitting themselves to that repose--to those fixed habits,
which must always precede any progress in civilization. But as the
_Comanches_ are the only tribe of these 'wandering Arabs' of the
Plains which {307} present any distinguishing features of
interest--any prominent points of national character--the remarks that
follow will be devoted almost exclusively to them.

The relationship of the Comanches to the Snakes or Shoshonies, shows
them to have descended from the north: in fact, it is but half a
century since their range was from the Arkansas river northward; but
at present this stream is their _ultima Thule_. Yet they even now
acknowledge no boundaries, but call themselves the lords of the entire
Prairies--all others are but 'tenants at will.' They lead a wandering
sort of life, betaking themselves whithersoever the seasons or the
habits of the buffalo, their chief object of pursuit, may lead them.
Although during summer they are not unfrequently found as far north as
the Arkansas river, their winters they usually pass about the head
branches of the Brazos and Colorado rivers of Texas.

In their domestic habits, these Indians, for the most part, resemble
the other wild tribes; yet in some respects they differ materially.
One of the most interesting traits of difference is to be found in
their distaste for ardent [Pg343] spirits: but few of them can be
induced to taste a drop of intoxicating liquors; thus forming an
exception, I believe, to the entire race of the 'red man,' who appears
to have a constitutional appetite for strong drinks. The frontier as
well as the prairie tribes--the Mexican as well as the Mountain
Indians--all are equally slaves to their use.

{308} The Comanches are divided into numerous petty bands, each under
the control of its own particular chief. When a chief becomes old and
care-worn, he exercises but the 'civil authority' of his clan; while
his son, if deemed worthy, otherwise some distinguished brave,
assumes, by 'common consent,' the functions of war-chief. As is the
case with all barbarous tribes, their chiefs assume every judicial and
executive authority. Complaints are made to them and sentence
summarily pronounced, and often as summarily executed. For most
offences, the chief, if he considers his authority sufficiently well
established, freely uses the rod upon his subjects. He rarely attempts
this, however, upon noted warriors or 'braves,' whose influence and
resentment he may have reason to fear. The punishment of murder among
these, as among most of the savage nations, devolves upon the bereaved
relatives, who are free to pursue and punish the perpetrators
according to their own liking, which is seldom short of death. But the
offended party, if disposed to compromise, has also the privilege of
accepting a commutation and releasing the murderer.

The husband seems to have complete power over the destinies of his
wife and children. For adultery, his punishment is most usually to cut
off the nose or ears,[216] or {309} both; and he may even take the
life of his unfaithful wife [Pg344] with impunity. The squaw who has
been mutilated for such a cause, is _ipso facto_ divorced, and, it is
said, for ever precluded from marrying again. The consequence is, that
she becomes a confirmed harlot in the tribe. Owing in part, no doubt,
to such severity in their customs, the Comanche squaws have ever been
noted for their chastity. This may result also, in some degree, from
the circumstance, that the Comanche husbands, fathers and brothers,
seldom or never subject their wives, daughters and sisters, to that
debasing traffic practised among so many of the northern nations.

Like other wild tribes, the Comanches tolerate polygamy, the chiefs
and braves sometimes taking as many as eight or ten wives at a time.
Three is considered the usual number, however, for 'subjects' or
common warriors, and nine for the chiefs. Their marriage ceremonies
vary in different bands; but the following has been represented as the
most usual. Unlike most other tribes, the consent of the maiden has to
be obtained. This done, the lover, from apparent delicacy, goes not to
the father of his intended, but, in accordance with a custom which
prevails among some other tribes, communicates his desire to an uncle
or other aged relative, who enters into the marriage contract. The
parties, however, are not yet fully betrothed; but, as a test of the
submission of the bride to the service of her proposed lord, the
latter ties his riding-horse {310} at her lodge door. If she turn him
loose, she has resolved finally to reject him; but if she lead him to
the _caballada_, it is an unequivocal agreement to take the charge of
his horses and other property; and the marriage is soon concluded. The
'uncle' now communicates the engagement to the chief, who causes the
'bans' to be published, that no other wooer may interfere. As the
horse is with them the type of every important interest, the
bridegroom next [Pg345] proceeds to kill the least valuable one he is
possessed of; and, taking out the heart, hangs it at the door of his
betrothed, who takes and roasts it, and then dividing it into two
parts, each eats a half, which perfects the bond of wedlock. The heart
of the buffalo or other animal may perhaps be substituted, if the
bridegroom has not a superabundance of horses. Should the
circumstances of the parties admit of it, the marriage is usually
celebrated with feasting and dances; though, in general, the Comanches
are less fond of dancing than most other Indians.

The Comanche dress consists of the usual leggins, moccasins, flap and
blanket or robe. Many wear in addition a kind of leathern jerkin, or
tight jacket closed before. Their moccasins differ from those of other
tribes, by having a lengthy tassel of leathern fringes attached to the
heels, which trail the ground as they walk. Instead of this fringe,
the tassels sometimes consists of the tail of a polecat or some other
animal. When he can procure {311} it, the young warrior is wont to
wear a mantle and leggins of strouding. Both of these articles,
according to the 'latest fashions,' should be one-half red, the other
blue. The bi-colored mantle, as well as the blanket or buffalo rug, is
carelessly thrown over the shoulders, and must be long enough to drag
the ground; for they seem to have an instinct for the 'regal grandeur
of a sweeping gown.'

Though all the far-western Indians wear their hair long, the Comanche
seems to take most pride in the voluminousness of his 'tresses,' and
the length of his _queue_, which is sometimes eked out with buffalo or
other hair, till its tip reaches the ground, and is bedaubed with gum,
grease and paint, and decorated with beads and other gewgaws. We are
not to think that foppery and coxcombry are generated exclusively in
civilized life. I am sure I never saw a vainer creature than a
Comanche brave in full costume, of dress, [Pg346] trinkets and paint.
He steps as if he disdained the very ground upon which he walks.

The dress of the Comanche squaw is usually a kind of loose gown or
tunic of leather, or cotton if it can be procured, which hangs from
the shoulders and is bound around the waist with a girdle; thus
presenting a resemblance in its appearance to our ordinary female
costume. They wear moccasins, to which short leggins are attached, and
which constitute a sort of leathern hose. They are not permitted to
wear long hair: that 'manly' prerogative would be degraded by such an
{312} association. It is therefore kept docked so as scarcely to reach
the shoulders.

A style of dress similar to that of the Comanche females, is worn by
those of most of the erratic tribes. The squaws of the north usually
embroider their leathern frocks in a fanciful manner with colored
porcupine quills and beads, and bedeck the borders with rattling
shells, tags, hawk-bells, and the like. Such as have the fortune to
marry Canadian or American trappers, are those who usually dress most
gaily.

The prairie Indians generally are an equestrian race; yet in
horsemanship the Comanches stand decidedly preeminent; and can only be
equalled by the Northern Mexicans, and perhaps the Arabs. Like the
latter, they dote upon their steeds: one had as well undertake to
purchase a Comanche's child as his favorite riding-horse. They have a
peculiar mark for their animals: every one which has pertained to them
may always be recognized by a slit in the tip of each ear; a practice
apparently universal among all their tribe.

In their warlike expeditions they avail themselves of their equestrian
skill with wonderful success. As they always fight on horseback, they
depend chiefly upon the charge, at which they use their arrows and
javelins with wonderful [Pg347] efficacy.[217] On such occasions a
Comanche will often throw himself upon {313} the opposite side of his
charger, so as to be protected from the darts of the enemy; and, while
clinging there, he will discharge his arrows with extraordinary
dexterity from underneath his horse's neck. Different from the
'prowling' tribes, they seldom attack at night, or in timbered or
rough regions; for they would then be unable to manœuvre their
coursers to advantage.

Although not meriting the title of brave Indians, they are held by the
Mexicans as the most valiant of their border: but when they come in
contact with Americans or any of our frontier tribes, they generally
appear timid and cowardly. Their predatory forays are therefore
directed mostly westward. They make continual inroads upon the whole
eastern frontier of Mexico, from Chihuahua to the coast; driving off
immense numbers of horses and mules, and killing the citizens they may
encounter, or making them prisoners--particularly the females and
boys. Of the latter they make slaves, to perform such menial service
as usually pertains to the squaws, particularly the herding of the
stock. It is perhaps this alleviation of their labor by slaves, that
has contributed to elevate the Comanche women above those of many of
the northern tribes. Of their female captives they often make wives; a
fate which has befallen some of those taken from Texas.

Strange as it may appear, their captives frequently become attached to
their masters and to the savage life, and with difficulty are {314}
induced to leave them after a few years' captivity. In fact, these
prisoners, it is said, in time often turn out to be the most
formidable savages. Combining the subtlety of the Mexican with the
barbarity of the Indian, they sometimes pilot into their native
frontier [Pg348] and instigate horrid outrages. The department of
Chihuahua has been the greatest sufferer from their inroads.

But, though at continual war with the south of the republic, for many
years the Comanches have cultivated peace with the New Mexicans--not
only because the poverty of the country offers fewer inducements for
their inroads, but because it is desirable, as with the interior
Mexican tribes, to retain some friendly point with which to keep an
amicable intercourse and traffic. Parties of them have therefore
sometimes entered the settlements of New Mexico for trading purposes;
while every season numerous bands of New Mexicans, known as
_Comancheros_, supplied with arms, ammunitions, trinkets, provisions
and other necessaries, launch upon the Prairies to barter for mules,
and the different fruits of their ravages upon the south.

This powerful nation, combined with the petty southern tribes, has
also waged an almost unceasing warfare upon Texas, ever since her
independence. War-parties have frequently penetrated to the very heart
of the settlements, perpetrating murderous outrages, and bearing away
into captivity numerous women and children. They have entered {315}
the city of Austin, then the seat of government, in open day; and, at
other times, have been known to descend to the very seacoast,
committing many frightful depredations. "On the 8th of August, 1840,"
writes a friend who resided at Linnville, on Matagorda Bay, "several
hundred Comanches came down from the mountains, and charged upon us
without the least notice. They burned and made a perfect destruction
of the village and everything pertaining to it."[218] [Pg349]

Besides continual hostilities with Mexico and Texas, the
Comanches are at war with most of the Indians of the Mexican interior,
as also with the tribes of the more northern prairies--and
particularly the Arrapahoes and Chayennes, with whom they have many
bloody rencounters.[219] But they generally remain on friendly terms
with the petty tribes of the south, whom, indeed, they seem to hold as
their vassals.

As these Indians always go to war on horseback, several days are often
spent previous to a campaign in equestrian exercises and ceremonies,
which seem partly to supply the place of the war-dance of other
tribes; though they sometimes join in preparatory dances also. It is
not an unusual custom, when a campaign is in agitation, for a band of
about twenty Comanche maidens to chant, for three nights in
succession, the victories of their ancestors, the valor of their
brothers and cotemporaries, and the individual prowess of all such
young warriors as they consider should engage in {316} the
contemplated enterprise: and all those designated by the serenading
band are held as drafted for the [Pg350] campaign. Fired by the
encomiums and excitations of the 'fair _cantatrices_,' they fly at
once to the standard of their favorite chief: and the ceremony is
concluded by a war-dance.

Upon their return from a successful expedition, the 'war-worn corps'
halts on some elevation at a distance from the village, and a herald
is sent forward to announce their arrival. Thereupon, one of their
most respectable and aged matrons issues forth to receive them,
carrying with her a very long-handled lance kept for the purpose. On
the top of this the victorious Indians fasten all the scalps they may
have taken, so arranged that each shall be conspicuous. The matron
squaw then approaches the wigwams, holding her scalp-garnished lance
high in the air, and chanting some favorite war-legend. She is soon
joined by other squaws and Indian lasses, who dance around as the
procession moves through the entire circuit of the village. If the
victory has been brilliant, the dancing and feasting are apt to be
kept up for several days, all parties joining in the general jubilee.

If the conquerors bring any prisoners with them, these have to
encounter the scourgings and insults of the squaws and children. Each
seems entitled to a blow, a kick, a pinch, a bite, or whatever simple
punishment they may choose to inflict upon the unfortunate captives.
This done, they are delivered {317} over to the captors as slaves, and
put to the service and drudgery of the camp.

After their first entrance it seems rare for them to treat their
captives with much cruelty: though an instance was related to me by
some Mexican prisoners, of a very barbarous massacre which they
witnessed during their captivity. Two white men, supposed to be
Texans, were tied to a stake, and a number of their marksmen, retiring
to a distance and using the naked bodies of their victims [Pg351] as
targets, began wantonly to fire at them, and continued their horrid
sport, until some fatal balls put an end to their sufferings! The
capture of these had probably been attended with some aggravating
circumstances, which induced the savages to resort to this cruel
method of satiating their revenge.

If a campaign has been unsuccessful, the warriors separate upon their
return, and drop into the village one by one. Nothing is now heard for
several days, but the wailings and howlings of the bereft relatives
and friends. They will also scarify their arms and legs, and subject
themselves to other carnal mortifications of the most powerful
character. On these occasions their previous captives, and
particularly such as may belong to the nation of their victorious
enemy, are sure to be roughly treated, and sometimes massacred by the
enraged relatives of the slain.

When a Comanche dies, a similar course of mourning is practised; and
he is usually wrapped in his best blankets or robes, and interred
{318} with most of his 'jewelry' and other articles of esteem;
accompanying which, it is said, an awl and some moccasin leather is
generally added, as a provision, it would appear, for his use during
his long journey to the 'happy hunting ground' beyond the grave. They
also kill the favorite horses of the deceased, which are often buried
by his side, doubtless with the same object.

The religious notions of the Comanches resemble, in most particulars,
those of the other prairie tribes; yet they appear to have an
occasional peculiarity. Some say the dry buffalo head or cranium is
their idol. True it is that they show it great reverence, and use it
in many of their mystic ceremonies. The Pawnees also hold these
buffalo heads, with which the plains are strewed, in great reverence;
and usually for many leagues around, these skulls are set up facing
towards their villages, in the belief that the herds [Pg352] of
buffalo will thus be conducted by them into their neighborhood.[220]
Of the Comanches the sun is no doubt the principal deity. When
preparing for a campaign, it is said they do not fail to place their
arms betimes every morning on the east side of their lodges, that they
may receive the blessing of the fountain of light at his first
appearance. This indeed seems the usual time for offering their
devotions to the sun, of many tribes of the American aborigines.

FOOTNOTES:

[205] This seems to have been of ancient and general use among the
savages of North America. "I must speak here of the _Calumet_,"
remarks Father Marquette, "the most mysterious thing in the world. The
sceptres of our kings are not so much respected; for the savages have
such a deference for this pipe, that one may call it _the god of peace
and war, and the arbiter of life and death_. One, with this calumet,
may venture amongst his enemies, and in the hottest engagement they
lay down their arms before this sacred pipe." The deference is perhaps
not so great at the present day, though the 'pipe of peace' is still
very much respected. Even the ashes from the calumet seem to be held
sacred; for, usually after smoking, the pipe is emptied in some corner
of the lodge specially allotted for the purpose. But as they have
generally learned that smoking is not practised by the whites on these
occasions, it is now not commonly held important for us to smoke with
them; but presents are expected instead. Anciently, however, they were
more strict; for, in another place, the same author (in 1673)
relates:--"As soon as we sat down, they presented us, according to
custom, their _calumet_, which one must needs accept, for else he
should be lookt upon as an enemy, or a meer brute; however, it is not
necessary to smoak, and provided one puts it to his mouth, it is
enough."--GREGG.

_Comment by Ed._ See Thwaites, _Jesuit Relations_, lix, pp. 117, 119,
131.

[206] As many tribes make their moccasins of different shapes--some
with hooked toes, others broad--some with the seam on the bottom,
etc., there is always a palpable difference in the tracks.--GREGG.

[207] A diminutive tribe on the Texas border, called Tonkewas, made
food of human flesh within the present century, and, it may be of late
years, though I have not heard it mentioned.--GREGG.

[208] Dogs seem always to have been a favorite article of food among
the aborigines of different parts. Father Marquette, in his voyage
down the Mississippi in 1673, remarks of an Indian feast, "The third
service was a huge Dog, whom they killed on purpose," &c.--GREGG.

[209] See Irving, _Tour on the Prairies_, pp. 83, 84.--ED.

[210] Dr. Samuel Thomson (1769-1843), a New England physician,
advocated a method of treating fevers and similar diseases by means of
steaming.--ED.

[211] For the Pawnee groups and habitat, see Pattie's _Narrative_, in
our volume xviii, p. 40, note 24. For the Arikara, consult Bradbury's
_Travels_, in our volume v, p. 127, note 83.--ED.

[212] For the Osage see our volume v, p. 50, note 22.--ED.

[213] The custom of taking all the sisters of a family is also said to
be common among the Kansas, Omahas and other kindred tribes; indeed it
appears to have prevailed from the earliest ages among all the
Dahcotah family as well as many Algonquins and most other tribes about
the great Lakes. Mons. La Salle, in his trip from these to the
Mississippi in 1673, remarks of the savages of those regions: "They
marry several Wives, and commonly all Sisters, if they can, thinking
they agree better in their Family." Hennepin, Charlevoix and others
speak of the same custom. Murray also mentions something of the kind
among the Pawnees. Forbes alludes to the same in California. But I am
uninformed, whether, in these several instances, the husband's right
was only _de facto_, or _de jure_ as among the Osages, to all the
younger sisters.--GREGG.

[214] Note Bradbury's experience with the mourning Osage, in our
volume v, pp. 63, 64.--ED.

[215] The population of the intermediate tribes, according to the
Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for 1844 is as follows:
Pawnees, 12,500 souls (though some experienced traders rate them at
only about 5,000); Rickaras, 1,200; Chippewas, Potawatomies and
Ottawas of the North, 2,298; Sacs and Foxes, 2,762; Winnebagoes,
2,183; Iowas, 470; Poncas, 777; Omahas, 1,301; Otoes and Missouries,
931; Kansas, 1,700; Osages, 4,102;--besides of Caddoes and Inyes about
500; Wacoes, Witchitas, Towockanoes, Towyashes and Keechyes, 1,000;
who maintain themselves chiefly in Northern Texas. The wild tribes
proper of the Prairies, are, the Comanches, consisting of about 10,000
souls; Kiawas, 2,000; Apaches, 100; Arrapahoes, 2,000; Chayennes,
2,000; besides many others to the north and westward, who rarely
descend within the regions to the notice of which these pages are
confined. As these tribes would doubtless average at least
three-fifths females, they could hardly turn out one-fifth of their
numbers in warriors, though this is the usual rule of estimating them
by men of Indian experience.--GREGG.

[216] This custom was perhaps once quite extensive. It prevails among
the Creeks to the present day, and was anciently practised by other
southern nations; and "Among the Miamis," says Father Charlevoix, "the
Husband has a right to cut off his wife's nose if she runs away from
him."--GREGG.

[217] The Comanches employ usually short-handled javelins or lances,
declaring, like the Spartan mother, that cowards only need long
weapons.--GREGG.

[218] The Comanche had been hostile to the Spanish in Texas,
preventing its settlement, and about 1757 destroying the mission of
San Saba. In 1785 the troops were obliged to retire into the Alamo at
San Antonio, in order to be secured from their raids. The Texans were
at first friendly with the Comanche; but in 1832 a Mexican deputation
visited the border tribes, and incited them against the Texans. Open
war broke out in 1837, and several battles were fought. In February,
1840, twelve chiefs with a numerous retinue came to San Antonio to
make peace. Refusing to deliver up their white captives, troops were
set upon them, and in the ensuing mêlée all the chiefs and twenty
other Indians were killed. The Comanche retired to plan revenge. Early
in August, they advanced, avoiding Austin and San Antonio, and fell
upon the town of Victoria. The inhabitants resisting, about fifteen of
them were killed. When the Indians reached Linnville, a village of
only five houses, its inhabitants fled to a ship in the bay, whereupon
the hamlet was destroyed. A pursuing party under General Felix Houston
defeated the natives, and recovered the white prisoners. In September,
an expedition headed by Colonel John Moore attained the Comanche
village high up on the Colorado River, and severely chastised them,
killing one hundred and twenty-eight, and capturing thirty-two. After
this the Comanche avoided the Texans for some years.--ED.

[219] For the Arapaho, consult James's _Long's Expedition_, our volume
xv, p. 157, note 48. A brief notice of the Cheyenne is in our volume
v, p. 140, note 88.--ED.

[220] Most of the plains Indians had superstitions regarding the
buffalo. Consult on this subject, James O. Dorsey, "Study of Siouan
Cults," in U. S. Bureau of Ethnology _Reports_, 1889-90, pp. 361-544;
George A. Dorsey, _Traditions of the Skidi Pawnee_ (Boston and New
York, 1904).--ED.



GLOSSARY

  [Pg353] CONTAINING SUCH SPANISH OR HISPANO-MEXICAN WORDS
    AS OCCUR UNDEFINED IN THIS WORK, OR RECUR WITHOUT
    DEFINITION AFTER HAVING BEEN ONCE TRANSLATED.


  _A_, _al_, to, to the.

  _Abajo_, down, under, below.

  _Acequia_, ditch, canal.

  _Adelantado_, governor of a province.

  _A dios_, adieu, farewell.

  _Administrador de Rentas_, a custom-house officer.

  _Adobe_, a sort of unburnt brick.

  _Afuera_, without, abroad.

  _Aguador_, water-carrier.

  _Aguardiente_, brandy.

  _Alacran_, scorpion.

  _Alameda_, public walk, with rows of trees, usually the
    _álamo_.

  _Alamo_ (in Mexico), cotton-wood.

  _Alcalde_, justice of the peace.

  _Alegria_, mirth; a plant.

  _Allí_, there.

  _Amigo_, friend.

  _Ancheta_, adventure of goods.

  _Angelito_, little angel.

  _Angostura_, narrowness.

  _Aparejo_, sort of pack-saddle.

  _Aquí_, here.

  _Arancel_, tariff.

  _Armas_, arms.

  _Arriba_, up, above.

  _Arriero_, muleteer.

  _Asambléa_, assembly.

  _Astucia_, cunning, artifice.

  _Atajo_, drove of pack mules, &c.

  _Atole_, sort of thick gruel.

  _Auto_, act, edict.

  _Ayotéa_, flat roof, terrace.


  _Baile_, ball, dance.

  _Bandolin_, species of small guitar.

  _Bárbaro_, barbarous; a savage.

  _Barra_, ingot, bar of silver, &c.

  _Baston_, staff, cane.

  _Blanco_, white.

  _Bolsa_, pocket, purse.

  _Bonanza_, prosperity.

  _Bonito_, pretty.

  _Bota_, boot, leggin.

  _Bravo_, brave, bold.

  _Bueno_, good.

  _Burro_, ass.


  _Caballada_, drove of horses, &c.

  _Caballero_, gentleman, knight.

  _Caballo_, horse.

  _Cacique_, Indian chief or prince.

  _Café_, coffee; coffee-house.

  _Calabozo_, dungeon, jail.

  _Caliente_, warm, hot.

  _Camino_, road.

  _Campo_, field, camp.

  _Campo santo_, cemetery without a church.

  _Cancion_, song, poem.

  _Cañada_, valley.

  _Cañon_, deep gorge or ravine; cannon.

  _Capilla_, chapel.

  _Capitan_, captain.

  _Carajo_, an oath; scoundrel.

  _Caravana_, caravan.

  _Cárcel_, prison, jail.

  _Carga_, load.

  _Cargador_, carrier.

  _Cargamento_, cargo.

  _Carnero_, male sheep.

  _Carreta_, cart.

  _Carro_, wagon, &c.

  _Casa_, house.

  _Cautivo_, captive.

  _Ceja_, brow.

  _Centralismo_, central government.

  _Cerro_, mound.

  _Chacal_, jackal.

  _Chico_, small; small person. [Pg354] _Chile_, red
    pepper.

  _Cibolero_, buffalo-hunter.

  _Cibolo_, the American buffalo.

  _Cigarrito_, little cigar.

  _Cigarro_, cigar.

  _Cimarron_, wild.

  _Claco_, small copper coin.

  _Coche_, coach.

  _Cocina_, kitchen.

  _Cocinera_, female cook.

  _Cola_, tail; glue.

  _Colorado_, red.

  _Comanchero_, Comanche trader.

  _Comiso_, confiscation.

  _Consumo_, consumption.

  _Contra-revolucion_, counter-revolution.

  _Cordillera_, chain of mountains.

  _Corral_, yard, pen.

  _Correr_, to run.

  _Coyote_, prairie-wolf.

  _Crepúsculo_, dawn, twilight.

  _Cristo_, Christ.

  _Cruz_, cross.

  _Cuñado_, brother-in-law.


  _De_, _del_, of, of the, &c.

  _Decreto_, decree.

  _Derecho_, tax; right.

  _Descubrimiento_, discovery.

  _Dia_, day.

  _Diablo_, devil.

  _Dictador_, dictator.

  _Diligencia_, diligence; stage-coach.

  _Dios_, God.

  _Doblon_, doubloon.

  _Domingingo_, Sunday; Dominic.

  _Doña_, Madam, Mrs., Miss.

  _Dorado_, gilt.

  _Dos_, two.

  _Dulce_, sweet.


  _Eclesiástico_, ecclesiastical.

  _El_, the; he, him.

  _Enáguas_, sort of petticoat.

  _En junta_, in council.

  _Enmendadura_, enmendation.

  _Entrada_, entrance.

  _Entrerenglonadura_, interlineation.

  _Escritor_, writer.

  _Escuadron_, squadron.

  _Español_, Spanish; Spaniard.

  _Está_, is, he is, it is, &c.

  _Estacado_, staked.

  _Estrangero_, stranger, foreigner.

  _Estufa_, cell; stove.


  _Factura_, invoice.

  _Fandango_, dance; ball.

  _Fiera_, wild beast.

  _Fe_, faith.

  _Feria_, fair.

  _Fierro_, iron; branding-iron, &c.

  _Fiesta_, feast.

  _Fonda_, eating-house, inn.

  _Fraile_, _Fray_, friar.

  _Frijol_, bean.

  _Fueros_, chartered privileges.


  _Gachupin_, Spaniard in America.

  _Gallina_, hen.

  _Gallo_, cock.

  _Ganado_, cattle.

  _Gefe_, chief.

  _Gobernador_, governor.

  _Gobernadorcillo_, petty governor, or chief.

  _Gobierno_, government.

  _Grama_, species of grass.

  _Gran_, _grande_, great, large.

  _Grandeza_, greatness, grandeur.

  _Grano_, grain.

  _Gauge_, gourd, flask.

  _Guardia_, guard, watch; watch-house.

  _Guerra_, war.

  _Guia_, sort of passport for goods.

  _Guisado_, cooked, stewed.

  _Guitarra_, guitar.


  _Hacienda_, estate; lands; treasure.

  _Haciendero_, proprietor of an hacienda.

  _Herradura_, horse-shoe.

  _Herrero_, blacksmith.

  _Hidalgo_, nobleman.

  _Hoja_, leaf, husk, &c.

  _Hombre_, man.

  _Hombre bueno_, arbitrator.


  _Ilustrísimo_, most illustrious.

  _Imprenta_, printing-office.

  _Inocente_, innocent.


  _Jacal_, hut, wigwam.

  _Jola_, copper coin, penny.

  _Jornada_, day's travel; journey.

  _Juez_, judge.

  _Junta_, council; union.


  _La_, _las_, the; her, it, them.

  _Labor_, labor; field; mining-pit.

  _Labrador_, laborer, farmer.

  _Ladron_, thief, robber.

  _Laguna_, lake.

  _Lanzada_, thrust with a lance.

  _Layador_, nooser.

  _Lazito_, little lazo.

  _Lazo_, noosing rope.

  _Legua_, league.

  _Lépero_, vagabond, _sans-culotte_.

  _Ley_, law.

  _Limosnero_, beggar.

  _Llano_, plain; prairie; smooth.

  _Lo_, _los_, the; it, them, &c.

  _Lobo_, wolf.


  _Madre_, mother.

  _Manifiesto_, manifest; bill of goods presented to the
    custom-house.

  _Manta_, covering; cotton-cloth.

  _Marco_, weight of eight ounces; mark.

  _Mayor_, great, superior.

  _Mayordomo_, overseer.

  _Médano_, sand-hill.

  _Medio_, half; picayune.

  _Menor_, less, inferior.

  _Mesa_, table; table-plain.

  _Meson_, inn, hotel.

  _Mestizo_, mongrel.

  _Mezquite_, a tree, acacia.

  _Mi_, _mis_, my.

  _Militar_, military.

  _Monte_, a game; grove; mount.

  _Mora_, mulberry.

  _Muerto_, dead; dead man.

  _Mula_, mule; unsalable item.


  _Negro_, black; a black person.

  _Noria_, machine for drawing water; well.

  _Norte_, north.

  _Noticioso_, giving information.

  _Número_, number.


  _Oficial_, official; officer.

  _Ojo_, eye; spring of water.

  _Oro_, gold.


  _Padre_, father; priest.

  _Padrino_, godfather, sponsor.

  _Paisano_, countryman.

  _Palacio_, palace.

  _Panza_, paunch.

  _Papa_, pope; potato.

  _Parage_, place; camping-site.

  _Pariente_, relative, kin.

  _Parroquia_, parish; parish church.

  _Pasa_, raisin.

  _Paséo_, pleasure walk or ride.

  _Paso_, pass, passage; step.

  _Pastor_, pastor; shepherd.

  _Patio_, court, enclosed yard.

  _Pato_, duck.

  _Patriótico_, patriotic.

  _Pauta_, rule, model.

  _Pelo_, hair.

  _Penitencia_, penance, penitence.

  _Perro_, dog.

  _Peso_, dollar; weight.

  _Piedra_, stone.

  _Pinole_, food of parched Indian meal stirred in water.

  _Placer_, pleasure; gold region.

  _Plata_, silver.

  _Plaza_, square; place; village.

  _Poquito_, very little.

  _Portal_, porch, corridor.

  _Perfecto_, perfect.

  _Presidio_, garrison, fort.

  _Presto_, quick, soon.

  _Profano_, profane.

  _Pronunciamento_, act of making a public declaration.

  _Proyecto_, project, plan.

  _Público_, public.

  _Pueblo_, people; Catholic Indians, &c.

  _Puerta_, door.

  _Puro_, pure; pure tobacco cigar.


  _Ranchera_, country woman.

  _Ranchería_, village of wild Indians.

  _Ranchero_, inhabitant of a rancho.

  _Rancho_, stock-farm.

  _Raspadura_, erasure; rasping.

  _Real_, a coin; royal, real, grand.

  _Rebozo_, muffler, species of scarf.

  _Remedio_, remedy, medicine.

  _Rey_, king.

  _Rico_, rich; rich man.

  _Rio_, river.


  _Sala_, hall, parlor.

  _Salina_, salt pond or pit.

  _San_, _santo_, _santa_, saint, holy.

  _Sandía_, watermelon.

  _Sangre_, blood.

  _Santísimo_, most holy.

  _Saquéo_, sack, pillage.

  _Sarape_, sort of blanket.

  _Semana_, week.

  _Señor_, sir, Mr.; lord.

  _Señora_, Madam, Mrs.; lady.

  _Señoría_, lordship.

  _Señoría ilustrísima_, title of a bishop, &c.

  _Señorita_, madam, miss, Mrs., &c.

  _Sierra_, ridge of mountains; saw.

  _Siesta_, afternoon's sleep.

  _Silla_, chair; saddle.

  _Sistema_, system.

  _Sol_, sun.

  _Soldado_, soldier.

  _Sombrero_, hat.

  _Sonoreño_, citizen of Sonora.

  _Su_, _sus_, his, her, its, their.


  _Tarde_, evening.

  _Tierra_, country, land.

  _Tierra Afuera_ (in Mexico), the exterior, or country near
    the coast, &c.

  _Tilma_, Indian mantle.

  _Tio_, uncle.

  _Todo_, all, every, whole.

  _Tonillo_, screw.

  _Tortilla_, thin cake, diminutive of _torta_, cake, loaf.


  _Vado_, ford.

  _Valiente_, valiant, brave.

  _Valle_, valley, dale.

  _Vaquero_, cowherd.

  _Vaquita_, diminutive of _vaca_, cow.

  _Vara_, Spanish yard of 33 inches.

  _Venta_, sale; sale-brand; inn.

  _Verdadero_, true.

  _Verde_, green.

  _Vicio_, vice.

  _Viernes_, Friday.


  _Un_, _uno_, a, one.


  _Y_, _é_, and.

  _Yeso_, gypsum.


  _Zambo_, offspring of the Indian and negro.

  _Zaguan_, entry, porch.

  _Zarco_, light blue.

  _Zorra_, fox.



TRANSCRIBER NOTE:


Original spelling and grammar has mostly been retained. Figures were
moved from within paragraphs to between paragraphs. Footnotes were
moved to the ends of chapters. This 1905 edition is an annotated
reprint of "Part II of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, 1831-1839";
the pagination of the latter document is shown herein as a number
enclosed in curly brackets, e.g. {226}. The pagination of the 1905
publication is shown in square brackets, e.g. [Pg009].

Page 78: the phrase "invicta, la Galia indomable" is printed upside
down. This was not a mistake, as it is explained in a following
paragraph. This has been reproduced herein as well as possible
("ıuʌıɔʇɐ lɐ פɐlıɐ ıupoɯɐqlǝ"), using Unicode characters. Some of
these characters may not be properly displayed in all browsers and
fonts.

Footnote 59: the original large table was broken into two pieces.

Page 99: "ofthe regular Route" was changed to "of the regular Route".

Page 144: "consipracy" was changed to "conspiracy".

Page 145: "futurese curity" to "future security".

Page 168: an initial quotation mark was added to "he is prying into
your affairs".

Page 173: "mattrass" to "mattress".

Footnote 123: "Jesus Maria" changed to "Jesus-Maria".

Page 193: "invogue" to "in vogue".

Page 208: "discharging valleys" to "discharging volleys".

Footnote 136: Several instances of "do." (abbreviation for "ditto")
replaced by repeated text. Also, a Remark that applies to two years
1832 and 1833 is indicated herein

 "{Party defeated on Canadian
  {2 men killed, 3 perished."

The original replaced the two "{" by a single double-height "{".

Page 268: "Assinaboins" to "Assiniboins", to match the footnote. The
more usual modern spelling seems to be "Assiniboine" ("Assiniboines",
plural).

Page 274: "dolefu" to "doleful".

Page 296: "resistence" to "resistance".

Page 320: "tancy" to "fancy".

In this simple .txt version, italics are _indicated by underscoring_.
Small caps are converted to uppercase.





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