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Title: The Westward Movement 1832-1889 - Voices from America's Past Series
Author: Morris, Richard B., Woodress, James
Language: English
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                       VOICES FROM AMERICA’S PAST

                         THE WESTWARD MOVEMENT

  Edited by
      Richard B. Morris
      Gouverneur Morris Professor of History
      Columbia University
      New York, New York

  James Woodress
      Chairman, Department of English
      San Fernando Valley State College
      Northridge, California

                       WEBSTER PUBLISHING COMPANY
                     ST. LOUIS    ATLANTA    DALLAS

  _The Beginnings of America 1607-1763_
  _The Times That Tried Men’s Souls 1770-1783_
  _The Age of Washington 1783-1801_
  _The Jeffersonians 1801-1829_
  _Jacksonian Democracy 1829-1848_
  _The Westward Movement 1832-1889_
  _The House Divided: The Civil War 1850-1865_
  (_Other titles in preparation_)


Pages 5-8. From Sarah Royce, _A Frontier Lady_. Reprinted by permission
of Yale University Press.

Pages 8-11. From Henry Ellsworth, _Washington Irving on the Prairie_,
edited by Williams and Simison, reprinted by permission of American Book

Pages 14-16. From the _Autobiography of Isaac Jones Wistar_, reprinted
by permission of The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology.

Pages 51-55. From _Giants in the Earth_, by O. E. Rölvaag. Copyright
1927 by Harper and Brothers. Reprinted by permission of Harper and

  Copyright ©, 1961, by Webster Publishing Company
  Printed in the United States of America
  All rights reserved

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface                                                                v
                       I The Land and the People

Frémont Crosses the Sierras                                            1
    Colonel John Frémont Describes His Expedition                      1

The Desert Barrier                                                     5
    Sarah Royce Crosses the Desert                                     5

A Tour on the Prairies                                                 8
    Henry Ellsworth Accompanies Washington Irving Across the Plains    8

The Indians                                                           11
    Francis Parkman Describes the Dahcotahs                           11

The Trappers                                                          13
    Isaac Jones Wistar Endures a Hard Winter                          13

The Emigrants                                                         16
    Francis Parkman Encounters a Wagon Train                          16
                            II The Conquest

To California by Sea                                                  19
    Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Visits the Coast of California           20

A Day with the Cow Column                                             22
    Jesse Applegate Herds Cattle on the Oregon Trail                  22

The Donner Party Starves                                              25
    Virginia Reed Murphy Survives a Terrible Ordeal                   25

Mark Twain Rides the Overland Stage                                   28
    A Memorable Account of Stagecoach Travel from _Roughing It_       28

The Coming of the Railroad                                            31
    Walt Whitman Writes of the Continental Railroad                   31
    Samuel Bowles Travels on the Union Pacific                        32
                        III The Mining Frontier

The Discovery of Gold                                                 35
    Walter Colton Describes the Effect of the Discovery               36
    Eldorado: Bayard Taylor Visits the Mining Camps                   37
    Mark Twain Doesn’t Strike It Rich                                 40
                        IV The Ranching Frontier

The Long Drive                                                        44
    Andy Adams Encounters Rustlers                                    44
                         V The Farming Frontier

Homesteading in the Dakotas                                           50
    O. E. Rölvaag Pictures the Norwegian Settlers                     50

The Land Rush in Oklahoma                                             55
    Hamilton Wicks Races to Guthrie                                   55

The picture on page 1, George Catlin’s “Buffalo Hunt on Snow Shoes,” was
reprinted through the courtesy of the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of
American History and Art. The picture on page 19, “The Meeting of the
Rails,” was reprinted through the courtesy of the United States Bureau
of Public Roads. The picture on the cover; the picture on page 35, of
gold mining in California; the picture on page 44, of Texas cattle being
driven to the cattle rendezvous; and the picture on page 50, of plowing
on the prairies west of the Mississippi, were reprinted through the
courtesy of the Library of Congress.


It is hard to fix a beginning date for the Westward Movement, unless we
start with 1492 and Columbus’ first voyage of discovery. In reality the
entire history of the New World is a movement of Europeans to the
Western Hemisphere. In earlier booklets in this series we have dealt
with the migrations of pioneers from the Atlantic Coast to the land
beyond the Appalachian Mountains. We also have covered the expedition of
Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Coast in 1805 and the annexation of Texas
in 1845. This booklet is primarily concerned with the region beyond the
Midwest, the high plains, the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, the
deserts, and the fertile Pacific Coast.

Restlessness and mobility have always been distinguishing
characteristics of the American people. Revolutionary War veterans
settled in Ohio or Kentucky and lived to see their children move on to
Missouri or Texas. Their children’s children pushed farther west to the
Pacific Coast over the Oregon Trail or sailed around Cape Horn to join
the gold rush in California. The westward movement still goes on, as a
glance at the latest census report will quickly show. The difference is
that nowadays the immigrant can arrive in California in a few hours by
jet from New York, pan his gold on the assembly line of a company making
guided missiles, and sleep in a cabin with a barbecue grill and a
swimming pool in the back yard.

This booklet begins with descriptions of the land and the people in the
Great West before the Civil War. This was a period of exploration and
conquest. Until they saw for themselves, people could not believe the
plains were as broad, the deserts as hot and dry, and the mountains as
rugged and high as they really were. Every day was an adventure, some of
which ended disastrously. But the West was conquered and the continent
spanned by trail, by stagecoach route, and finally by railroad.

When one speaks of the frontier, he must keep in mind that there was
more than one frontier as the West filled up. There was, first of all,
the frontier of the explorer and trapper. These men had no more effect
on the land than the Indians who had roamed the mountains and plains for
thousands of years. Next, there was the mining frontier, which brought
mushroom growth to specific areas like central California or Denver,
Colorado, but left untouched the vast areas in between. Then there was
the ranching frontier which created cow towns and cattle trails.
Finally, there was the farming frontier, which changed the face of the
land unalterably and filled the gaps left by the miners and ranchers.

The frontier of the trappers and explorers ended with the discoveries of
gold and silver and the expansion of the borders of the United States
all the way to the Pacific Coast. The frontier of the miner and the
rancher ended with the building of the transcontinental railroad, which
opened up the West to farmers. The frontier of the farmer ended when the
entire West was more or less fenced in and dotted with settlements. The
closing of the frontier was dramatically announced in 1890 by the
director of the census, who reported that no longer could a line be
drawn on the map showing the farthest point reached by settlements.

This booklet illustrates the various frontiers from the plains to the
Pacific. The West has stimulated the American imagination as almost no
other aspect of our history (the television fare on any average night
proves this); hence the total literature on the subject is vast. We have
selected a handful of interesting reports from the many available.

In editing the manuscripts in this booklet, we have followed the
practice of modernizing punctuation, capitalization, and spelling only
when necessary to make the selections clear. We have silently corrected
misspelled words and typographical errors. Whenever possible we have
used complete selections, but occasionally space limitations made
necessary cuts in the original documents. Such cuts are indicated by
spaced periods. In general, the selections appear as the authors wrote

                                                       Richard B. Morris
                                                          James Woodress

                        The Land and the People

     [Illustration: George Catlin’s “Buffalo Hunt on Snow Shoes,”]

                      Frémont Crosses the Sierras

Col. John Frémont led several exploring expeditions into the Oregon
Territory, mapped the Oregon Trail, and helped add California to the
United States during the Mexican War. He later was one of California’s
first United States Senators and the first presidential candidate of the
Republican Party. In 1844 we find him at the head of an expedition
exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the account that follows,
Frémont describes crossing the snowy range in February, over what is now
Carson Pass and descending along the approximate route of U. S. Highway
50 to Sacramento.

Colonel John Frémont Describes His Expedition

  2d.—It had ceased snowing, and this morning the lower air was clear
  and frosty; and six or seven thousand feet above, the peaks of the
  Sierra now and then appeared among the rolling clouds, which were
  rapidly dispersing before the sun. Our Indian shook his head as he
  pointed to the icy pinnacles, shooting high up into the sky, and
  seeming almost immediately above us. Crossing the river on the ice,
  and leaving it immediately, we commenced the ascent of the mountain
  along the valley of a tributary stream. The people were unusually
  silent, for every man knew that our enterprise was hazardous, and the
  issue doubtful.

  The snow deepened rapidly, and it soon became necessary to break a
  road. For this service, a party of ten was formed, mounted on the
  strongest horses, each man in succession opening the road on foot, or
  on horseback, until himself and his horse became fatigued, when he
  stepped aside, and, the remaining number passing ahead, he took his
  station in the rear. Leaving this stream, and pursuing a very direct
  course, we passed over an intervening ridge to the river we had

  The nut-pines were now giving way to heavy timber, and there were some
  immense pines on the bottom, around the roots of which the sun had
  melted away the snow; and here we made our camp and built huge fires.
  Today we had traveled 16 miles, and our elevation above the sea was
  6,760 feet.

  3d.—Turning our faces directly towards the main chain, we ascended an
  open hollow along a small tributary to the river which, according to
  the Indians, issues from a mountain to the south. The snow was so deep
  in the hollow, that we were obliged to travel along the steep
  hillsides, and over spurs, where the wind and sun had in places
  lessened the snow, and where the grass, which appeared to be in good
  quality along the sides of the mountains, was exposed. We opened our
  road in the same way as yesterday, but made only seven miles, and
  encamped by some springs at the foot of a high and steep hill, by
  which the hollow ascended to another basin in the mountain. The little
  stream below was entirely buried in snow....

  4th—I went ahead early with two or three men, each with a lead horse
  to break the road. We were obliged to abandon the hollow entirely and
  work along the mountainside, which was very steep, and the snow
  covered with an icy crust. We cut a footing as we advanced and
  trampled a road through for the animals; but occasionally one plunged
  outside the trail, and slid along the field to the bottom, a hundred
  yards below. Late in the day we reached another bench in the hollow,
  where in summer the stream passed over a small precipice. Here was a
  short distance of dividing ground between the two ridges, and beyond
  an open basin, some ten miles across, whose bottom presented a field
  of snow. At the further or western side rose the middle crest of the
  mountain, a dark-looking ridge of volcanic rock.

  The summit line presented a range of naked peaks, apparently destitute
  of snow and vegetation; but below, the face of the whole country was
  covered with timber of extraordinary size.

  Towards a pass which the guide indicated here, we attempted in the
  afternoon to force a road; but after a laborious plunging through two
  or three hundred yards, our best horses gave out, entirely refusing to
  make any further effort, and, for the time, we were brought to a
  stand. The guide informed us that we were entering the deep snow, and
  here began the difficulties of the mountain; and to him, and almost to
  all, our enterprise seemed hopeless....

  5th—The night had been too cold to sleep, and we were up very early.
  Our guide was standing by the fire with all his finery on; and seeing
  him shiver in the cold, I threw on his shoulders one of my blankets.
  We missed him a few minutes afterwards, and never saw him again. He
  had deserted....

  While a portion of the camp were occupied in bringing up the baggage
  to this point, the remainder were busied in making sledges and
  snowshoes. I had determined to explore the mountain ahead, and the
  sledges were to be used in transporting the baggage....

  6th—Accompanied by Mr. Fitzpatrick, I set out today with a
  reconnoitering party on snowshoes. We marched all in single file,
  trampling the snow as heavily as we could. Crossing the open basin in
  a march of about ten miles, we reached the top of one of the peaks, to
  the left of the pass indicated by our guide. Far below us, dimmed by
  the distance, was a large snowless valley, bounded on the western
  side, at the distance of about a hundred miles, by a low range of
  mountains which [_Kit_] Carson recognized with delight as the
  mountains bordering the coast. “There,” said he, “is the little
  mountain—it is fifteen years since I saw it; but I am just as sure as
  if I had seen it yesterday.” Between us, then, and this low coast
  range, was the valley of the Sacramento.

Frémont and his companions retraced their steps to camp and spent the
next four days preparing for the final ascent to the pass. The
temperature was three below zero on the eighth, and on the ninth snow
fell. They then were camped at 8,000 feet.

  11th—High wind continued, and our trail this morning was nearly
  invisible—here and there indicated by a little ridge of snow. Our
  situation became tiresome and dreary, requiring a strong exercise of
  patience and resolution.

  In the evening I received a message from Mr. Fitzpatrick, acquainting
  me with the utter failure of his attempt to get our mules and horses
  over the snow—the half-hidden trail had proved entirely too slight to
  support them, and they had broken through, and were plunging about or
  lying half buried in snow. He was occupied in endeavoring to get them
  back to his camp; and in the meantime sent to me for further
  instructions. I wrote to him to send the animals immediately back to
  their old pastures; and, after having made mauls and shovels, turn in
  all the strength of his party to open and beat a road through the
  snow, strengthening it with branches and boughs of the pines.

  12th—We made mauls, and worked hard at our end of the road all day.
  The wind was high, but the sun bright, and the snow thawing. We worked
  down the face of the hill, to meet the people at the other end.
  Towards sundown it began to grow cold, and we shouldered our mauls and
  trudged back to camp....

  14th—the dividing ridge of the Sierra is in sight from this

  16th—We had succeeded in getting our animals safely to the first
  grassy hill; and this morning I started with Jacob on a reconnoitering
  expedition beyond the mountain. We traveled along the crests of narrow
  ridges, extending down from the mountain in the direction of the
  valley, from which the snow was fast melting away. On the open spots
  was tolerably good grass; and I judged we should succeed in getting
  the camp down by way of these. Towards sundown we discovered some icy
  spots in a deep hollow; and, descending the mountain, we encamped on
  the headwater of a little creek, where at last the water found its way
  to the Pacific....

  I was now perfectly satisfied that we had struck the stream on which
  Mr. Sutter lived; and turning about, made a hard push, and reached the
  camp at dark. Here we had the pleasure to find all the remaining
  animals, 57 in number, safely arrived at the grassy hill near the

  On the 19th, the people were occupied in making a road and bringing up
  the baggage; and, on the afternoon of the next day, _February 20,
  1844_, we encamped, with the animals and all the _matériel_ of the
  camp, on the summit of the PASS [_Carson Pass, altitude, 8,635 ft._]
  in the dividing ridge.

The expedition then began the descent towards the Sacramento River
Valley, which was just as hard as the climb. By the time they reached
lower altitudes, where they found grass for their horses and mules and
game and fish for themselves, they were nearly exhausted and their
animals almost starved. But the journey ended successfully, and the
expedition reached Sutter’s ranch on the American River on March 6.

                           The Desert Barrier

Sarah Royce Crosses the Desert

It is hard today to realize the terrors that the desert held for
settlers who toiled across the empty wastes by covered wagon in 1849.
The trip, which now takes only a few hours by auto, then required days
of courage and endurance, plus careful preparation. In the following
narrative Sarah Royce, mother of the philosopher Josiah Royce, tells of
her experiences in crossing the desert from Salt Lake City to the
California gold fields. She was traveling in a single wagon with her
two-year-old daughter, her husband, and several other men when the party
lost its way. They had started before daylight and missed a turn which
led to a grassy meadow and water. Hence they found themselves at noon
far out on the desert, lacking fodder for the oxen and water.

  We began to look anxiously for the depression in the ground, and the
  holes dug, which we were told would mark the Sink of the Humboldt. But
  it was nearly noonday before we came to them. There was still some
  passable water in the holes, but not fit to drink clear, so we
  contrived to gather enough sticks of sage to boil some, made a little
  coffee, ate our lunch and, thus refreshed, we hastened to find the
  forking road. Our director had told us, that within about two or three
  miles beyond the Sink we might look for the road, to the left, and we
  did look, and kept looking, and going on, drearily, till the sun got
  lower and lower, and night was fast approaching. Then the conviction,
  which had long been gaining ground in my mind, took possession of the
  whole party. We had passed the forks of the road before daylight, that
  morning, and were now miles out on the desert without a mouthful of
  food for the cattle and only two or three quarts of water in a little

  What could be done? Halt we must, for the oxen were nearly worn out
  and night was coming on. The animals must at least rest, if they could
  not be fed: and, that they might rest, they were chained securely to
  the wagon, for, hungry and thirsty as they were, they would, if loose,
  start off frantically in search of water and food, and soon drop down
  exhausted. Having fastened them in such a way that they could lie
  down, we took a few mouthfuls of food, and then, we in our wagon and
  the men not far off upon the sand, fell wearily to sleep; a forlorn
  little company wrecked upon the desert.

  The first question in the morning was, “How can the oxen be kept from
  starving?” A happy thought occurred. We had, thus far on our journey,
  managed to keep something in the shape of a bed to sleep on. It was a
  mattress-tick, and, just before leaving Salt Lake, we had put into it
  some fresh hay—not very much, for our load must be as light as
  possible; but the old gentleman traveling with us also had a small
  straw mattress; the two together might keep the poor things from
  starving for a few hours. At once a small portion was dealt out to
  them and for the present they were saved. For ourselves we had food
  which we believed would about last us till we reached the Gold Mines
  if we could go right on: if we were much delayed anywhere, it was
  doubtful. The two or three quarts of water in our little cask would
  last only a few hours, to give moderate drinks to each of the party.

They decided they must return, the distance to the next waterhole was
too far. Soon after they began retracing their steps, they met another
group of emigrants, who confirmed their suspicions that they had missed
the turn 15 miles back.

  I had now become so impressed with the danger of the cattle giving
  out, that I refused to ride except for occasional brief rests. So,
  soon after losing sight of the dust of the envied little caravan, I
  left the wagon and walked the remainder of the day. For a good while I
  kept near the wagon but, by and by, being very weary I fell behind.
  The sun had set, before we reached the Sink, and the light was fading
  fast when the wagon disappeared from my sight behind a slight
  elevation; and, as the others had gone on in advance some time before,
  I was all alone on the barren waste. However, as I recognized the
  features of the neighborhood, and knew we were quite near the Sink, I
  felt no particular apprehension, only a feeling that it was a weird
  and dreary scene and instinctively urged forward my lagging footsteps
  in hope of regaining sight of the wagon....

  The next morning we resumed our backward march after feeding out the
  last mouthful of fodder. The water in the little cask was nearly used
  up in making coffee for supper and breakfast; but, if only each one
  would be moderate in taking a share when thirst impelled him, we might
  yet reach the wells before any one suffered seriously. We had lately
  had but few chances for cooking; and only a little boiled rice with
  dried fruit, and a few bits of biscuit remained after we had done
  breakfast. If we could only reach the meadows by noon. But that we
  could hardly hope for, the animals were so weak and tired. There was
  no alternative, however, the only thing to be done was to go steadily
  on, determined to do and endure....

  I found no difficulty this morning in keeping up with the team. They
  went so slowly, and I was so preternaturally [_unnaturally_]
  stimulated by anxiety to get forward, that, before I was aware of it I
  would be some rods ahead of the cattle, straining my gaze as if
  expecting to see a land of promise, long before I had any rational
  hope of the kind. My imagination acted intensely. I seemed to see
  Hagar, in the wilderness walking wearily away from her fainting child
  among the dried-up bushes, and seating herself in the hot sand. I
  seemed to become Hagar myself, and when my little one, from the wagon
  behind me, called out, “Mamma I want a drink”—I stopped, gave her
  some, noted that there were but a few swallows left, then mechanically
  pressed onward again, alone, repeating, over and over, the words, “Let
  me not see the death of the child.”

  Just in the heat of noonday we came to where the sage bushes were
  nearer together; and a fire, left by campers or Indians, had spread
  for some distance, leaving beds of ashes, and occasionally charred
  skeletons of bushes to make the scene more dreary. . . .

  Wearily passed the hottest noonday hour, with many an anxious look at
  the horned-heads, which seemed to me to bow lower and lower, while the
  poor tired hoofs almost refused to move. The two young men had been
  out of sight for some time; when, all at once, we heard a shout, and
  saw, a few hundred yards in advance a couple of hats thrown into the
  air and four hands waving triumphantly. As soon as we got near enough,
  we heard them call out, “Grass and water! Grass and water!” and
  shortly we were at the meadows.

                         A Tour on the Prairies

When wagon trains reached Independence, Missouri, and prepared to jump
off for the Far West, they faced some six hundred miles of prairie
before reaching the mountains. There was water, grass, and game
(especially buffalo) in abundance, but it was an awesome spectacle to
travel week after week across the empty plains. When Washington Irving
returned from many years in Europe, he wanted to see the prairie and
joined an expedition in 1832 which traveled as far west as the present
site of Oklahoma City. One of his companions was Henry Ellsworth, a
commissioner appointed by Andrew Jackson to help pacify the Indians. In
the selection that follows, Ellsworth describes the prairie in central
Oklahoma, tells how one of his men captured a wild horse, and recounts
his own experience in shooting a buffalo.

Henry Ellsworth Accompanies Washington Irving Across the Plains

  The country today is truly delightful. The prairies are smooth, the
  streams frequent, and meandering so as to present a vigorous growth of
  stately trees on every side. The flowers of spring have disappeared
  and left the numerous stalks covered with seeds as mementoes of vernal
  fragrance, but the autumnal blossoms mixed with the prairie grass
  never fail to attract the eye with delight, or refresh the lungs by
  their sweet odours. My late travelling companion, Dr. O’Dwyer, says
  Eden was here and not on the Euphrates: “Adam’s paradise was in these

  Mr. Irving said often today that the most splendid parks in England
  did not surpass the beautiful scenery around us, and yet between both
  there was such a striking resemblance as to recall to his mind at once
  the delightful rambles he had in Europe where art had been lavish in
  her favors to enhance the beauties of nature. I can say also, though
  my residence in Europe was short, that I beheld no scenery there so
  truly beautiful and grand as the rich prairies of the West. And if the
  prairies now are so charming, what must they be decked with the
  variegated plumage of spring?...

  I ought perhaps to mention the woods on these parks afforded excellent
  varieties of fruits. The season now was too late for most of them—the
  persimmon, haws, and winter grape were very abundant.

  Our ride was made more cheering by the fresh signs of buffalo. Not the
  short grass but tracks and recent dung (resembling entirely that of
  our oxen and cows) assured us we should soon meet these _terrific_
  animals. Excavations in the ground showed where they indulged in their
  great pastime, in _wallowing_. The excavations are generally about 10
  feet in diameter and 12 to 20 inches deep. It is these hollows,
  especially when filled with water, that make the chase, as I found it
  afterwards, so difficult and dangerous. The trees also furnish _their_
  evidence and every low limb was worn by the buffalo while scratching
  his skin after coming out of his mud or sand bath.

  As soon as we had arrived at camp this evening, Billet requested the
  privilege to hunt a while, and mounting his horse with lariat and gun,
  cantered off, and was soon out of sight. The firing on all sides
  assured us we should have plenty of game, and the hunters soon
  returned loaded with deer, turkeys, etc. It was not until after supper
  that Billet came to our camp quite out of breath and asked for help to
  bring in a wild horse he had just caught the other side of Red Fork.
  He had brought him through the river, but got him no farther....

  The horse was soon brought in, trembling at the sight of so many new
  things. He was between two and three years old, well made, and will
  doubtless make an excellent horse. The horse struggled for a while
  against Billet’s mode of civilization and fell exhausted in the
  struggle. He panted and lay as submissive as a lamb. Twenty or thirty
  handled him from head to foot without any offer on his part to make
  resistance. He gave up the contest and submitted unconditionally and
  never afterwards was more disobedient than colts in general, nor
  indeed as much.... Tomorrow Billet said he should pack him with a
  saddle and make him do his share of work. We did not believe it
  possible and waited with curiosity to see the experiment. [_He
  succeeded. Eds._]

  Billet is an adventuresome as well as brave man. He has had both arms
  and one leg broken during exploits besides having his ribs on one side
  mashed in. He told us when he saw the horses they were distant from
  him. He stopped, laid down his gun, adjusted his saddle, and with
  lariat in hand he put spurs to his race horse, whose speed I never saw
  excelled. The wild horses stood amazed for a moment, then started and
  fled. They ran up a small hill and descending again were for a moment
  out of sight. When Billet came to the brow, he was frightened: a
  precipice was before him which he must leap or lose his prize. He
  chose the former, shut his eyes, and strained upon the reins and
  safely landed upon the bottom—a leap of 25 feet. His horse, accustomed
  to the race, soon recovered from the shock and continued pursuit. The
  race now continued for 1½ miles. He then reached the horses, and
  having failed in his first effort to take a Pawnee mare (with a slit
  in her ears) he put his lariat over the head of the horse brought to
  the camp. It was truly a great exploit....

  No sooner had I reined my horse towards the buffalo (notwithstanding
  he had been racing several hours and was then wet with perspiration)
  than he pricked up his ears and entered into a full run. I _never_
  went _half so fast before or mean to again_. I ran a quarter of a mile
  before [_the_] buffalo apprehended danger. They then began to make the
  best of their way to the west. Billet called out: “Remember the holes;
  let _him run_; let _him run_.” After running 1½ miles with gun in
  hand, almost tired to death and shook not a little, I came along side
  of the animal I had selected. He appeared a monster, for his weight
  was 1600. I fired. Billet said: “Take care; he will be upon you.” The
  animal now began to throw blood from his mouth and nose, which
  satisfied me I had reached his heart. He stopped. I fired again. Both
  balls entered just _back of his fore shoulder_. He now came towards me
  with his tongue extended and his round full eye darting vengeance. My
  horse parried his movements, and I fired my rifle pistol and then
  seized the remaining one. At this moment the buffalo fell, exhausted
  with the loss of blood, and stretching out his legs died before I
  could get to him.... Billet performed the operation of cutting out his
  tongue, by opening the flesh on the under jaw and through this
  aperture taking the tongue, which I tied to my saddle and reached the
  camp a little after sunset.

                              The Indians

Ever since James Fenimore Cooper made use of frontier life in his
novels, the Indian has been romanticized in fiction as the noble savage.
But Cooper’s Indians did not bear much resemblance to the real Indians
who were, after all, savages living in a primitive environment. A good
observer of Indians as they actually were was the eminent historian
Francis Parkman, who spent the summer of 1846 traveling as far as
Wyoming on the Oregon Trail. Here is his account of one of the tribes
living on the plains:

Henry Ellsworth Accompanies Washington Irving Across the Plains

  When we came in sight of our little white tent under the big tree, we
  saw that it no longer stood alone. A huge old lodge was erected by its
  side, discolored by rain and storms, rotten with age, with the uncouth
  figures of horses and men and outstretched hands that were painted
  upon it, well nigh obliterated. The long poles which supported this
  squalid habitation thrust themselves rakishly out from its pointed
  top, and over its entrance were suspended a “medicine-pipe” and
  various other implements of the magic art. While we were yet at a
  distance, we observed a greatly increased population of various colors
  and dimensions, swarming about our quiet encampment.

  Morin, the trapper, having been absent for a day or two, had returned,
  it seemed, bringing all his family with him. He had taken to himself a
  wife, for whom he had paid the established price of one horse. This
  looks cheap at first sight, but in truth the purchase of a squaw is a
  transaction which no man should enter into without mature
  deliberation, since it involves not only the payment of the price, but
  the burden of feeding and supporting a rapacious horde of the bride’s
  relatives, who hold themselves entitled to feed upon the indiscreet
  white man. They gather about him like leeches, and drain him of all he

  The moving spirit of the establishment was an old hag of eighty. Human
  imagination never conceived hob-goblin or witch more ugly than she.
  You could count all her ribs through the wrinkles of her leathery
  skin. Her withered face more resembled an old skull than the
  countenance of a living being, even to the hollow, darkened sockets,
  at the bottom of which glittered her little black eyes. Her arms had
  dwindled into nothing but whip-cord and wire. Her hair, half black,
  half gray, hung in total neglect nearly to the ground, and her sole
  garment consisted of the remnant of a discarded buffalo-robe tied
  around her waist with a string of hide.

  Yet the old squaw’s meagre anatomy was wonderfully strong. She pitched
  the lodge, packed the horses, and did the hardest labor of the camp.
  From morning till night she bustled about the lodge, screaming like a
  screech-owl when anything displeased her. Her brother, a
  “medicine-man,” or magician, was equally gaunt and sinewy with
  herself. His mouth spread from ear to ear, and his appetite, as we had
  occasion to learn, was ravenous in proportion....

  A day passed, and Indians began rapidly to come in. Parties of two,
  three, or more would ride up and silently seat themselves on the
  grass. The fourth day came at last, when about noon horsemen appeared
  in view on the summit of the neighboring ridge. Behind followed a wild
  procession, hurrying in haste and disorder down the hill and over the
  plain below; horses, mules, and dogs; heavily burdened _traineaux_
  [_sleds_], mounted warriors, squaws walking amid the throng, and a
  host of children. For a full half-hour they continued to pour down;
  and keeping directly to the bend of the stream, within a furlong of
  us, they soon assembled there, a dark and confused throng, until, as
  if by magic, a hundred and fifty tall lodges sprang up. The lonely
  plain was transformed into the site of a swarming encampment.
  Countless horses were soon grazing over the meadows around us, and the
  prairie was animated by restless figures careering on horseback, or
  sedately stalking in their long white robes....

  The Dahcotah or Sioux range over a vast territory, from the river St.
  Peter to the Rocky Mountains. They are divided into several
  independent bands, united under no central government, and
  acknowledging no common head. The same language, usages, and
  superstitions form the sole bond between them. They do not unite even
  in their wars. The bands of the east fight the Ojibwas on the Upper
  Lakes; those of the west make incessant war upon the Snake Indians in
  the Rocky Mountains. As the whole people is divided into bands, so
  each band is divided into villages.

  Each village has a chief, who is honored and obeyed only so far as his
  personal qualities may command respect and fear. Sometimes he is a
  mere nominal chief; sometimes his authority is little short of
  absolute, and his fame and influence reach beyond his own village, so
  that the whole band to which he belongs is ready to acknowledge him as
  their head. This was, a few years since, the case with the Ogillallah.
  Courage, address, and enterprise may raise any warrior to the highest
  honor, especially if he be the son of a former chief, or a member of a
  numerous family, to support him and avenge his quarrels; but when he
  has reached the dignity of chief, and the old men and warriors, by a
  peculiar ceremony, have formally installed him, let it not be imagined
  that he assumes any of the outward signs of rank and honor. He knows
  too well on how frail a tenure he holds his station. He must
  conciliate his uncertain subjects.

  Many a man in the village lives better, owns more squaws and more
  horses, and goes better clad than he. Like the Teutonic chiefs of old,
  he ingratiates himself with his young men by making them presents,
  thereby often impoverishing himself. If he fails to gain their favor,
  they will set his authority at naught, and may desert him at any
  moment; for the usages of his people have provided no means of
  enforcing his authority. Very seldom does it happen, at least among
  these western bands, that a chief attains to much power, unless he is
  the head of a numerous family. Frequently the village is principally
  made up of his relatives and descendants, and the wandering community
  assumes much of the patriarchal character.

                              The Trappers

The fur trade was an important industry long before the Revolution, but
after the Westward Movement opened up the region beyond the Mississippi,
the search for furs moved to the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific
Northwest. Much of the Far West was first visited by the trappers, who
ranged widely in their lonely and often hazardous vocation. Many of them
were French Canadians or of French extraction, such as Henry Chatillon,
the guide of Parkman’s party. In the following selection we have printed
an episode from the early career of General Isaac Jones Wistar, who
later became a general in the Union Army during the Civil War. Wistar at
this time, about 1850, was running his trap lines in the Peace River
region of western Canada. François is his partner. Needless to say,
trapping was a winter occupation.

Isaac Jones Wistar Endures a Hard Winter

  After the trapper has laid in his provisions, disposed of his horses,
  and settled down in his solitary winter quarters, incidents are few;
  and as none of a pleasant character are likely to occur, the fewer
  they are, the better for him....

  In our case about this time, martens being scarce and the camp, in
  consequence of the lateness of our arrival, having been badly chosen,
  it was found necessary to shift it in the dead of winter; for which
  purpose, taking but little provision from our scanty store and
  _caching_ the rest of our effects, we pushed out in a northerly
  direction, hoping to find a better location on some of the other
  tributaries of the Peace. But with ground covered by heavy snow,
  streams hard bound with ice, and frequent wind storms which at the low
  prevailing temperatures none can face and live, our progress was slow
  and no place looked very attractive. Hence no great time had elapsed
  before we found our provisions exhausted, in a difficult country with
  game not to be had. Making a temporary shelter in a bad place and
  under unfavorable circumstances, we therefore proceeded to devote our
  whole attention to hunting, till after some days we became awake to
  the fact that the district was absolutely without game. Every day the
  weather permitted, we covered long distances in opposite directions,
  without finding so much as a recent sign or track. Then we set traps
  for fish in such rapids as remained open, and for birds and small
  animals, but without success....

  After trying in vain all the resources practiced by trappers in such
  straits, all of which were well known to François, we ate the grease
  in our rifle stocks, all the fringes and unnecessary parts of our
  buck-leather clothes, gun and ammunition bags, and every scrap of
  eatable material, boiling it down in an Assinaboine basket with hot
  stones, and were finally reduced to buds and twigs. After many days of
  this extreme privation, no longer possessing strength to travel or
  hunt, I became discouraged; and as we lay down one night I determined
  to abandon the struggle and remain there, enduring with such fortitude
  as I might the final pangs, which could not be long deferred. At this
  last stage in the struggle, an event occurred of the most
  extraordinary character, which cannot seem more strange and incredible
  to any one than it has always appeared to me on the innumerable
  occasions when I have since reflected on it. Notwithstanding our
  exhaustion and desperate conclusion of the night before, François rose
  at daylight, made up the fire as well as his strength permitted,
  blazed a tree near by on which he marked with charcoal a large cross,
  and carefully reloading and standing his gun against that emblem,
  proceeded to repeat in such feeble whispers as he was yet capable of,
  all the scraps of French and Latin prayers he could remember, to all
  of which I was in no condition to give much attention. When he got
  through he remarked with much cheerfulness that he was now sure of
  killing something and urged me to make one more effort with him, which
  I rather angrily refused, and bade him lie down and take what had to
  come, like a man. With cheerful assurance he replied that he was not
  afraid to die, but our time had not come. He knew he would find and
  kill, and we would escape all right. Then desisting from his useless
  effort to get me up, François, leaving his heavy snow-shoes behind,
  directed himself with weak and uneven steps down the little stream in
  the deep gorge of which our camp was made; and never expecting to see
  him again, my mind relapsed into an idle, vacuous condition, in which
  external circumstances were forgotten or disregarded. But scarcely a
  few minutes had elapsed, and as it afterwards appeared he had hardly
  traversed a couple of hundred yards when I heard his gun, which I knew
  never cracked in vain.

  I had thought myself unable to rise, but at that joyful sound promptly
  discovered my mistake. I found François in the spot from which he had
  fired, leaning against a tree in such deep excitement that he could
  speak with difficulty. On that rugged side hill apparently destitute
  of life, in that most improbable of all places, within sound and smell
  of our camp, he had seen, not a squirrel or a rabbit, but a deer.
  Attempting to climb for a better shot, the deer jumped, and with
  terrible misgivings he had fired at it running. He had heard it
  running after his shot but was sure he had made a killing hit.
  Scrambling with difficulty up the hill, we found a large clot of blood
  and a morsel of “lights” [_lungs_], which we divided and ate on the
  spot. After taking up the trail we soon found the animal....

  After passing safely through that period of starvation, we were glad
  enough to get back to the old camp and make the best of it during the
  remainder of the season, which furnished little more of incident to
  vary the monotony of our solitary occupation.

                             The Emigrants

In the year that Parkman visited Wyoming, 1846, the Oregon Trail was a
well-traveled route. Thousands of emigrants in covered wagons were
moving westward from Independence or St. Joseph, Missouri, along the
Platte River towards Wyoming and the South Pass over the Rockies. In the
next selection Parkman describes an emigrant train he encountered near
the point where the trail struck the Platte River in central Nebraska.

Francis Parkman Encounters a Wagon Train

  About dark a sallow-faced fellow descended the hill on horseback, and
  splashing through the pool, rode up to the tents. He was enveloped in
  a huge cloak, and his broad felt hat was weeping about his ears with
  the drizzling moisture of the evening. Another followed, a stout,
  square-built, intelligent-looking man, who announced himself as leader
  of an emigrant party, encamped a mile in advance of us. About twenty
  wagons, he said, were with him; the rest of his party were on the
  other side of the Big Blue, waiting for a woman who was in the pains
  of childbirth, and quarreling meanwhile among themselves.

  These were the first emigrants that we had overtaken, although we had
  found abundant and melancholy traces of their progress throughout the
  course of the journey. Sometimes we passed the grave of one who had
  sickened and died on the way. The earth was usually torn up, and
  covered thickly with wolf-tracks. Some had escaped this violation. One
  morning, a piece of plank, standing upright on the summit of a grassy
  hill, attracted our notice, and riding up to it, we found the
  following words very roughly traced upon it, apparently with a red-hot
  piece of iron:—

                                   MARY ELLIS
                             DIED MAY 7th, 1845
                              Aged two months.

  Such tokens were of common occurrence.

  We were late in breaking up our camp on the following morning, and
  scarcely had we ridden a mile when we saw ... the emigrant caravan,
  with its heavy white wagons creeping on in slow procession, and a
  large drove of cattle following behind. Half a dozen yellow-visaged
  Missourians, mounted on horseback, were cursing and shouting among
  them, their lank angular proportions enveloped in brown homespun,
  evidently cut and adjusted by the hands of a domestic female tailor.
  As we approached, they called out to us: “How are ye, boys? Are ye for
  Oregon or California?”

  As we pushed rapidly by the wagons, children’s faces were thrust out
  from the white coverings to look at us; while the care-worn,
  thin-featured matron, or the buxom girl, seated in front, suspended
  the knitting on which most of them were engaged to stare at us with
  wondering curiosity. By the side of each wagon stalked the proprietor,
  urging on his patient oxen, who shouldered heavily along, inch by
  inch, on their interminable journey. It was easy to see that fear and
  dissension prevailed among them.... Many were murmuring against the
  leader they had chosen, and wished to depose him....

  We soon left them far behind, and hoped that we had taken a final
  leave; but our companions’ wagon stuck so long in a deep muddy ditch,
  that before it was extricated the van of the emigrant caravan appeared
  again, descending a ridge close at hand. Wagon after wagon plunged
  through the mud; and as it was nearly noon, and the place promised
  shade and water, we saw with satisfaction that they were resolved to
  encamp. Soon the wagons were wheeled into a circle: the cattle were
  grazing over the meadow, and the men, with sour, sullen faces, were
  looking about for wood and water. They seemed to meet but indifferent
  success. As we left the ground, I saw a tall slouching fellow ...
  contemplating the contents of his tin cup, which he had just filled
  with water.

  “Look here, you,” said he; “it’s chock-full of animals!”

  The cup, as he held it out, exhibited in fact an extraordinary variety
  and profusion of animal and vegetable life.

  Riding up the little hill, and looking back on the meadow, we could
  easily see that all was not right in the camp of the emigrants. The
  men were crowded together, and an angry discussion seemed to be going
  forward. R—— [_one of Parkman’s party_] was missing from his wonted
  place in the line, and the Captain told us that he had remained behind
  to get his horse shod by a blacksmith attached to the emigrant party.
  Something whispered in our ears that mischief was on foot; we kept on,
  however, and coming soon to a stream of tolerable water, we stopped to
  rest and dine. Still the absentee lingered behind. At last, at the
  distance of a mile, he and his horse suddenly appeared, sharply
  defined against the sky on the summit of a hill; and close behind, a
  huge white object rose slowly into view.

  “What is that blockhead bringing with him now?”

  A moment dispelled the mystery. Slowly and solemnly, one behind the
  other, four long trains of oxen and four emigrant wagons rolled over
  the crest of the hill and gravely descended, while R—— rode in state
  in the van. It seems that during the process of shoeing the horse the
  smothered dissensions among the emigrants suddenly broke into open
  rupture. Some insisted on pushing forward, some on remaining where
  they were, and some on going back. Kearsley, their captain, threw up
  his command in disgust. “And now, boys,” said he, “if any of you are
  for going ahead, just you come along with me.”

  Four wagons, with ten men, one woman, and one small child, made up the
  force of the “go-ahead” faction, and R——, with his usual proclivity
  toward mischief, invited them to join our party. Fear of the
  Indians—for I can conceive no other motive—must have induced him to
  court so burdensome an alliance. At all events, the proceeding was a
  cool one. The men who joined us, it is true, were all that could be
  desired; rude indeed in manners, but frank, manly, and intelligent. To
  tell them we could not travel with them was out of the question. I
  merely reminded Kearsley that if his oxen could not keep up with our
  mules he must expect to be left behind, as we could not consent to be
  farther delayed on the journey; but he immediately replied, that his
  oxen “_should_ keep up; and if they couldn’t, why, he allowed, he’d
  find out how to make ’em.”

                              The Conquest

               [Illustration: “The Meeting of the Rails”]

                          To California by Sea

We now have introduced the land and the people: the mountains, deserts,
and prairies; the Indians, trappers, and settlers. This is the cast of
characters, so to speak, who played out the drama of winning the West.
The next group of selections will illustrate the ways by which the land
was tamed and the wilderness brought under the yoke of civilization. We
will visit California by ship, travel with the covered wagons, starve
with the Donner party in the Sierras, and ride the Overland Stage with
Mark Twain. Finally we will look at the building of the railroad, the
event that spelled the end of the Old West.

The coast of California was first explored by Juan Cabrillo in 1542, but
it was not until the time of the American Revolution that the Spanish
established effective political control as far north as San Francisco.
Then, for the next three quarters of a century, until the Mexican War,
Spanish culture flourished. By the time California was annexed to the
United States, a great deal of commerce was being carried on between
eastern United States ports and the West Coast, and when the gold rush
took place thousands of fortune seekers came to California via sea.

Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Visits the Coast of California

One of the best descriptions of California before it became part of the
United States was written by a young Bostonian, Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
This young man suffered eye trouble during his sophomore year at Harvard
and sailed for California in 1834 as a common sailor. After working 15
months on the California coast gathering hides, the cargo that American
ships carried home in exchange for manufactured products, he returned to
Harvard and completed his education. His book, _Two Years Before the
Mast_, from which the next selection is taken, is a splendid adventure

  Just before sun-down the mate ordered a boat’s crew ashore, and I went
  as one of the number. We passed under the stern of the English brig,
  and had a long pull ashore. I shall never forget the impression which
  our first landing on the beach of California made upon me. The sun had
  just gone down; it was getting dusky; the damp night wind was
  beginning to blow, and the heavy swell of the Pacific was setting in,
  and breaking in loud and high “combers” upon the beach. We lay on our
  oars in the swell, just outside of the surf, waiting for a good chance
  to run in, when a boat, which had put off from the _Ayacucho_ just
  after us, came alongside of us, with a crew of dusky Sandwich
  Islanders, talking and hallooing in their outlandish tongue. [_This
  landing took place at Santa Barbara._]

  They knew that we were novices in this kind of boating, and waited to
  see us go in. The second mate, however, who steered our boat,
  determined to have the advantage of their experience, and would not go
  in first. Finding, at length, how matters stood, they gave a shout,
  and taking advantage of a great comber which came swelling in, rearing
  its head, and lifting up the stern of our boat nearly perpendicular,
  and again dropping it in the trough, they gave three or four long and
  strong pulls, and went in on top of the great wave, throwing their
  oars overboard, and as far from the boat as they could throw them, and
  jumping out the instant that the boat touched the beach, and then
  seizing hold of her and running her up high and dry upon the sand.

  We saw, at once, how it was to be done, and also the necessity of
  keeping the boat “stern on” to the sea; for the instant the sea should
  strike upon her broad-side or quarter, she would be driven up
  broad-side on, and capsized. We pulled strongly in, and as soon as we
  felt that the sea had got hold of us and was carrying us in with the
  speed of a race-horse, we threw the oars as far from the boat as we
  could, and took hold of the gunwale, ready to spring out and seize her
  when she struck, the officer using his utmost strength to keep her
  stern on. We were shot up upon the beach like an arrow from a bow, and
  seizing the boat, ran her up high and dry, and soon picked up our
  oars, and stood by her, ready for the captain to come down.

  Finding that the captain did not come immediately, we put our oars in
  the boat, and leaving one to watch it, walked about the beach to see
  what we could of the place. The beach is nearly a mile in length
  between the two points, and of smooth sand. We had taken the only good
  landing-place, which is in the middle; it being more stony toward the
  ends. It is about twenty yards in width from high-water mark to a
  slight bank at which the soil begins, and so hard that it is a
  favorite place for running horses. It was growing dark, so that we
  could just distinguish the dim outlines of the two vessels in the
  offing; and the great seas were rolling in, in regular lines, growing
  larger and larger as they approached the shore, and hanging over the
  beach upon which they were to break, when their tops would curl over
  and turn white with foam, and, beginning at one extreme of the line,
  break rapidly to the other, as a long card-house falls when the
  children knock down the cards at one end.

  The Sandwich Islanders, in the meantime, had turned their boat round,
  and ran her down into the water, and were loading her with hides and
  tallow. As this was the work in which we were soon to be engaged, we
  looked on with some curiosity. They ran the boat into the water so far
  that every large sea might float her, and two of them, with their
  trousers rolled up, stood by the bows, one on each side, keeping her
  in her right position. This was hard work; for beside the force they
  had to use upon the boat, the large seas nearly took them off their
  legs. The others were running from the boat to the bank, upon which,
  out of the reach of the water, was a pile of dry bullocks’ hides,
  doubled lengthwise in the middle, and nearly as stiff as boards. These
  they took upon their heads, one or two at a time, and carried down to
  the boat, where one of their number stowed them away. They were
  obliged to carry them on their heads, to keep them out of the water,
  and we observed that they had on thick woolen caps. “Look here, Bill,
  and see what you’re coming to!” said one of our men to another who
  stood by the boat. “Well, D——,” said the second mate to me, “this does
  not look much like Cambridge college, does it? This is what I call
  ‘_head work_’.” To tell the truth, it did not look very encouraging.

                       A Day with the Cow Column

The following account of life on the Oregon Trail was written by Jesse
Applegate, who traveled West in 1843 with an emigrant train of 60 wagons
and thousands of cattle. Perhaps 500 persons journeyed with this
caravan, which was well organized and well led, a bigger and better
equipped expedition than the one Parkman met three years later. Here is
a typical day on the trail:

Jesse Applegate Herds Cattle on the Oregon Trail

  It is four o’clock A.M.; the sentinels on duty have discharged their
  rifles—the signal that the hours of sleep are over; and every wagon
  and tent is pouring forth its night tenants, and slow-kindling smokes
  begin largely to rise and float away upon the morning air. Sixty men
  start from the corral, spreading as they make through the vast herd of
  cattle and horses that form a semi-circle around the encampment, the
  most distant perhaps two miles away.

  The herders pass to the extreme verge and carefully examine for trails
  beyond, to see that none of the animals have strayed or been stolen
  during the night. This morning no trails lead beyond the outside
  animals in sight, and by five o’clock the herders begin to contract
  the great moving circle and the well-trained animals move slowly
  toward camp, clipping here and there a thistle or a tempting bunch of
  grass on the way. In about an hour five thousand animals are close up
  to the encampment, and the teamsters are busy selecting their teams
  and driving them inside the “corral” to be yoked. The corral is a
  circle one hundred yards deep, formed with wagons connected strongly
  with each other, the wagon in the rear being connected with the wagon
  in front by its tongue and ox chains. It is a strong barrier that the
  most vicious ox cannot break, and in case of an attack of the Sioux
  would be no contemptible entrenchment.

  From six to seven o’clock is a busy time; breakfast is to be eaten,
  the tents struck, the wagons loaded, and the teams yoked and brought
  up in readiness to be attached to their respective wagons. All know
  when, at seven o’clock, the signal to march sounds, that those not
  ready to take their proper places in the line of march must fall into
  the dusty rear for the day.

At seven the bugle sounds and the party moves out, led by the pilot and
his guards. Meantime, a group of young men form a hunting party to look
for buffalo. It is from the viewpoint of the hunters on the bluffs of
the river that we next see the emigrant train:

  We are full six miles away from the line of march; though everything
  is dwarfed by distance, it is seen distinctly. The caravan has been
  about two hours in motion and is now as widely extended as a prudent
  regard for safety will permit. First, near the bank of the shining
  river, is a company of horsemen; they seem to have found an
  obstruction, for the main body has halted while three or four ride
  rapidly along the bank of the creek or slough. They are hunting a
  favorable crossing for the wagons; while we look they have succeeded;
  it has apparently required no work to make it passable, for all but
  one of the party have passed on and he has raised a flag, no doubt a
  signal to the wagons to steer their course to where he stands. The
  leading teamster sees him though he is yet two miles off, and steers
  his course directly towards him, all the wagons following in his
  track. They (the wagons) form a line three quarters of a mile in
  length; some of the teamsters ride upon the front of their wagons,
  some march beside their teams; scattered along the line companies of
  women and children are taking exercise on foot; they gather bouquets
  of rare and beautiful flowers that line the way; near them stalks a
  stately greyhound or an Irish wolf dog, apparently proud of keeping
  watch and ward over his master’s wife and children.

  Next comes a band of horses; two or three men or boys follow them, the
  docile and sagacious animals scarce needing this attention, for they
  have learned to follow in the rear of the wagons, and know that at
  noon they will be allowed to graze and rest. Their knowledge of time
  seems as accurate as of the place they are to occupy in the line, and
  even a full-blown thistle will scarcely tempt them to straggle or halt
  until the dinner hour has arrived. Not so with the large herd of
  horned beasts that bring up the rear; lazy, selfish and unsocial, it
  has been a task to get them in motion; the strong, always ready to
  domineer over the weak, halt in front and forbid the weaker to pass
  them. They seem to move only in fear of the driver’s whip; though in
  the morning full to repletion, they have not been driven an hour
  before their hunger and thirst seem to indicate a fast of days’
  duration. Through all the long day their greed is never satisfied, nor
  their thirst quenched, nor is there a moment of relaxation of the
  tedious and vexatious labors of their drivers, although to all others
  the march furnishes some season of relaxation or enjoyment. For the
  cow-drivers there is none....

  The pilot, by measuring the ground and timing the speed of the wagons
  and the walk of his horses, has determined the rate of each, so as to
  enable him to select the nooning place, as near as the requisite grass
  and water can be had at the end of five hours’ travel of the wagons.
  Today, the ground being favorable, little time has been lost in
  preparing the road, so that he and his pioneers are at the nooning
  place an hour in advance of the wagons, which time is spent in
  preparing convenient watering places for the animals and digging
  little wells near the bank of the Platte. As the teams are not
  unyoked, but simply turned loose from the wagons, a corral is not
  formed at noon, but the wagons are drawn up in columns, four abreast,
  the leading wagon of each platoon on the left—the platoons being
  formed with that view. This brings friends together at noon as well as
  at night....

  It is now one o’clock; the bugle has sounded, and the caravan has
  resumed its westward journey. It is in the same order, but the evening
  is far less animated than the morning march; a drowsiness has fallen
  apparently on man and beast; teamsters drop asleep on their perches
  and even when walking by their teams, and the words of command are now
  addressed to the slowly creeping oxen in the softened tenor of women
  or the piping treble of children, while the snares of teamsters make a
  droning accompaniment.

As the sun goes down, the pilot halts the column for the night. The
evening meal is prepared, watches are set, and another day of the march
comes to an end.

                        The Donner Party Starves

The hardships of the trail took their toll from the west-bound settlers.
The Donner party, which left Illinois in the summer of 1846, reached the
Sierras in October after the winter snows had begun. Marooned at what is
now Donner Lake, this group slowly starved to death until only 48 out of
the original 87 were left when rescue parties broke through to them in
February. Some of them even turned to cannibalism to survive. The
following narrative, which does not mention cannibalism, nonetheless
tells vividly of the ordeal of that terrible winter. The author is
Virginia Reed Murphy, who was a child at the time of the ordeal.

Virginia Reed Murphy Survives a Terrible Ordeal

  Snow was already falling, although it was only the last week in
  October. Winter had set in a month earlier than usual. All trails and
  roads were covered, and our only guide was the summit, which it seemed
  we would never reach. Despair drove many nearly frantic. Each family
  tried to cross the mountains but found it impossible. When it was seen
  that the wagons could not be dragged through the snow, their goods and
  provisions were packed on oxen and another start was made, men and
  women walking in snow up to their waists, carrying their children in
  their arms and trying to drive their cattle. The Indians said they
  could find no road; so a halt was called, and Stanton went ahead with
  the guides and came back and reported that we could get across if we
  kept right on, but that it would be impossible if [_more_] snow fell.
  He was in favor of a forced march until the other side of the summit
  should be reached, but some of our party were so tired and exhausted
  with the day’s labor that they declared they could not take another
  step; so the few who knew the danger that the night might bring
  yielded to the many, and we camped within three miles of the summit.

  That night came the dreaded snow. Around the campfires under the trees
  great feathery flakes came whirling down. The air was so full of them
  that one could see objects only a few feet away.... With heavy hearts
  we turned back to a cabin that had been built ... on the shore of a
  lake, since known as Donner Lake. The Donners were camped in Alder
  Creek Valley below the lake.... The snow came on so suddenly that they
  had no time to build cabins, but hastily put up brush sheds, covering
  them with pine boughs....

  Many attempts were made to cross the mountains, but all who tried were
  driven back by the pitiless storms. Finally a party was organized,
  since known as the “Forlorn Hope.” They made snowshoes, and fifteen
  started—ten men and five women—but only seven lived to reach
  California; eight men perished. They were over a month on the way, and
  the horrors endured by that Forlorn Hope no pen can describe nor
  imagination conceive....

  The misery endured during those four months at Donner Lake in our
  little dark cabins under the snow would fill pages and make the
  coldest heart ache. Christmas was near, but to the starving its memory
  gave no comfort. It came and passed without observance, but my mother
  had determined weeks before that her children should have a treat on
  this one day. She had laid away a few dried apples, some beans, a bit
  of tripe, and a small piece of bacon. When this hoarded store was
  brought out, the delight of the little ones knew no bounds. The
  cooking was watched carefully, and when we sat down to our Christmas
  dinner, Mother said, “Children, eat slowly, for this one day you can
  have all you wish.”...

  The storms would often last ten days at a time, and we would have to
  cut chips from the logs inside which formed our cabins in order to
  start a fire. We could scarcely walk, and the men had hardly strength
  to procure wood. We would drag ourselves through the snow from one
  cabin to another, and some mornings snow would have to be shoveled out
  of the fireplace before a fire could be made. Poor little children
  were crying with hunger, and mothers were crying because they had so
  little to give to their children. We seldom thought of bread, we had
  been without it so long....

  Time dragged slowly along till we were no longer on short allowance
  but were simply starving. My mother determined to make an effort to
  cross the mountains. She could not see her children die without trying
  to get them food. It was hard to leave them, but she felt that it must
  be done. She told them she would bring them bread, so they were
  willing to stay, and with no guide but a compass we started—my mother,
  Eliza, Milt Elliot, and myself. Milt wore snow-shoes, and we followed
  in his tracks. We were five days in the mountains; Eliza gave out the
  first day and had to return, but we kept on and climbed one high
  mountain after another only to see others higher still ahead. Often I
  would have to crawl up the mountains, being too tired to walk ... we
  were compelled to return, and just in time, for that night a storm
  came on, the most fearful of the winter, and we should have perished
  had we not been in the cabins.

  We now had nothing to eat but raw hides, and they were on the roof of
  the cabin to keep out the snow; when prepared for cooking and boiled
  they were simply a pot of glue. When the hides were taken off our
  cabin and we were left without shelter, Mr. Breen gave us a home with
  his family, and Mrs. Breen prolonged my life by slipping me little
  bits of meat now and then when she discovered that I could not eat the
  hide. Death had already claimed many in our party, and it seemed as
  though relief never would reach us. Baylis Williams, who had been in
  delicate health before we left Springfield, was the first to die; he
  passed away before starvation had really set in....

  On his arrival at Sutter’s Fort my father [_the author’s father had
  led a second and successful effort to cross the mountains to get
  help_] made known the situation of the emigrants, and Captain Sutter
  offered at once to do everything possible for their relief. He
  furnished horses and provisions, and my father and Mr. McClutchen
  started for the mountains, coming as far as possible with horses and
  then with packs on their backs proceeding on foot; but they were
  finally compelled to return. Captain Sutter was not surprised at their
  defeat. He stated that there were no able-bodied men in that vicinity,
  all having gone down the country with Frémont to fight the Mexicans.
  He advised my father to go to Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, and make
  his case known to the naval officer in command. My father was in fact
  conducting parties there—when the seven members of the Forlorn Hope
  arrived from across the mountains. Their famished faces told the
  story. Cattle were killed and men were up all night, drying beef and
  making flour by hand mills, nearly two hundred pounds being made in
  one night, and a party of seven, commanded by Captain Reasen P.
  Tucker, were sent to our relief by Captain Sutter and the alcalde, Mr.
  Sinclair. On the evening of February 19, 1847, they reached our
  cabins, where all were starving. They shouted to attract attention.
  Mr. Breen clambered up the icy steps from our cabin, and soon we heard
  the blessed words, “Relief, thank God, relief!”

                  Mark Twain Rides the Overland Stage

The career of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) as a river pilot ended when
the Civil War stopped steamboat traffic on the Mississippi. He then
joined his brother, who was going to Carson City, Nevada, to be
secretary to the governor of the territory. The brothers took a
steamboat to St. Joseph, Missouri, where they caught the Overland Stage.
Sam Clemens’ account of his trip to Nevada is a memorable picture of
stagecoach travel across the prairies and mountains just eight years
before the railroads made the Overland Stage obsolete. Here is a
selection from _Roughing It_:

A Memorable Account of Stagecoach Travel from _Roughing It_

  It was now just dawn; and as we stretched our cramped legs full length
  on the mail sacks, and gazed out through the windows across the wide
  wastes of greensward clad in cool, powdery mist, to where there was an
  expectant look in the eastern horizon, our perfect enjoyment took the
  form of a tranquil and contented ecstasy. The stage whirled along at a
  spanking gait, the breeze flapping curtains and suspended coats in a
  most exhilarating way; the cradle swayed and swung luxuriously, the
  pattering of the horses’ hoofs, the cracking of the driver’s whip, and
  his “Hi-yi! g’lang!” were music; the spinning ground and the waltzing
  trees appeared to give us a mute hurrah as we went by, and then slack
  up and look after us with interest, or envy, or something; and as we
  lay and smoked the pipe of peace and compared all this luxury with the
  years of tiresome city life that had gone before it, we felt that
  there was only one complete and satisfying happiness in the world, and
  we had found it.

  After breakfast, at some station whose name I have forgotten, we three
  climbed up on the seat behind the driver, and let the conductor have
  our bed for a nap. And by and by, when the sun made me drowsy, I lay
  down on my face on top of the coach, grasping the slender iron
  railing, and slept for an hour more. That will give one an appreciable
  idea of those matchless roads. Instinct will make a sleeping man grip
  a fast hold of the railing when the stage jolts, but when it only
  swings and sways, no grip is necessary. Overland drivers and
  conductors used to sit in their places and sleep thirty or forty
  minutes at a time, on good roads, while spinning along at the rate of
  eight or ten miles an hour. I saw them do it, often. There was no
  danger about it; a sleeping man _will_ seize the irons in time when
  the coach jolts. These men were hard worked, and it was not possible
  for them to stay awake all the time.

  By and by we passed through Marysville, and over the Big Blue and
  Little Sandy; thence about a mile, and entered Nebraska. About a mile
  further on, we came to the Big Sandy—one hundred and eighty miles from
  St. Joseph.

  As the sun went down and the evening chill came on, we made
  preparation for bed. We stirred up the hard leather letter-sacks, and
  the knotty canvas bags of printed matter (knotty and uneven because of
  projecting ends and corners of magazines, boxes and books). We stirred
  them up and redisposed them in such a way as to make our bed as level
  as possible. And we _did_ improve it, too, though after all our work
  it had an upheaved and billowy look about it, like a little piece of a
  stormy sea. Next we hunted up our boots from odd nooks among the
  mail-bags where they had settled, and put them on. Then we got down
  our coats, vests, pantaloons and heavy woolen shirts, from the
  arm-loops where they had been swinging all day, and clothed ourselves
  in them—for, there being no ladies either at the stations or in the
  coach, and the weather being hot, we had looked to our comfort by
  stripping to our under-clothing, at nine o’clock in the morning. All
  things being now ready, we stowed the uneasy Dictionary where it would
  lie as quiet as possible, and placed the water-canteens and pistols
  where we could find them in the dark. Then we smoked a final pipe, and
  swapped a final yarn; after which, we put the pipes, tobacco and bag
  of coin in snug holes and caves among the mail-bags, and then fastened
  down the coach curtains all around, and made the place as “dark as the
  inside of a cow,” as the conductor phrased it in his picturesque way.
  It was certainly as dark as any place could be—nothing was even dimly
  visible in it. And finally, we rolled ourselves up like silk-worms,
  each person in his own blanket, and sank peacefully to sleep.

  Whenever the stage stopped to change horses, we would wake up, and try
  to recollect where we were—and succeed—and in a minute or two the
  stage would be off again, and we likewise. We began to get into
  country, now, threaded here and there with little streams. These had
  high, steep banks on each side, and every time we flew down one bank
  and scrambled up the other, our party inside got mixed somewhat. First
  we would all be down in a pile at the forward end of the stage, nearly
  in a sitting posture, and in a second we would shoot to the other end,
  and stand on our heads. And we would sprawl and kick, too, and ward
  off ends and corners of mailbags that came lumbering over us and about
  us; and as the dust rose from the tumult, we would all sneeze in
  chorus, and the majority of us would grumble, and probably say some
  hasty thing, like: “Take your elbow out of my ribs!—can’t you quit

  Every time we avalanched from one end of the stage to the other, the
  Unabridged Dictionary would come too; and every time it came it
  damaged somebody. One trip it “barked” the Secretary’s elbow; the next
  trip it hurt me in the stomach, and the third it tilted Bemis’s nose
  up till he could look down his nostrils—he said. The pistols and coin
  soon settled to the bottom, but the pipes, pipe-stems, tobacco and
  canteens clattered and floundered after the Dictionary every time it
  made an assault on us, and aided and abetted the book by spilling
  tobacco in our eyes, and water down our backs.

  Still, all things considered, it was a very comfortable night. It wore
  gradually away, and when at last a cold gray light was visible through
  the puckers and chinks in the curtains, we yawned and stretched with
  satisfaction, shed our cocoons, and felt that we had slept as much as
  was necessary. By and by, as the sun rose up and warmed the world, we
  pulled off our clothes and got ready for breakfast. We were just
  pleasantly in time, for five minutes afterward the driver sent the
  weird music of his bugle winding over the grassy solitudes, and
  presently we detected a low hut or two in the distance. Then the
  rattling of the coach, the clatter of our six horses’ hoofs, and the
  driver’s crisp commands, awoke to a louder and stronger emphasis, and
  we went sweeping down on the station at our smartest speed. _It was
  fascinating—that old Overland stagecoaching._

                       The Coming of the Railroad

One of the dramatic events of American history took place at Promontory
Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869. On that day a golden spike was driven into
the last stretch of track, and for the first time the East and West were
linked by a railroad. After the spike-driving ceremony, the engineer of
the Central Pacific, which had started east from San Francisco, and the
engineer of the Union Pacific, which had been built west from the
Mississippi, ran their engines up until they touched. Then they shook
hands and broke champagne bottles over each other’s locomotive. There
were speeches before and after, as gangs of Irish and Chinese laborers
joined governors, railroad dignitaries and other notables in celebrating
the momentous occasion.

Walt Whitman Writes of the Continental Railroad

To Walt Whitman this event had a highly emotional significance. It came
in the same year that the Suez Canal was opened, and to Whitman the two
events marked a great step forward in the advance of civilization. In
his poem, “A Passage to India,” Whitman writes of the continental

  I see over my own continent the Pacific railroad surmounting every
  I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte carrying
              freight and passengers,
  I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill
  I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the
  I cross the Laramie plains, I note the rocks in grotesque shapes, the
  I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions, the barren, colorless,
  I see in glimpses afar or towering immediately above me the great
              mountains, I see the Wind river and the Wahsatch
  I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle’s Nest, I pass the
              Promontory, I ascend the Nevadas,
  I scan the noble Elk mountain and wind around its base,
  I see the Humboldt range, I thread the valley and cross the river,
  I see the clear waters of lake Tahoe, I see forests of majestic pines,
  Or crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold enchanting
              mirages of waters and meadows,
  Marking through these and after all, in duplicate slender lines,
  Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel,
  Tying the Eastern to the Western sea,
  The road between Europe and Asia.

Samuel Bowles Travels on the Union Pacific

During the summer before the railroad was finished, the editor of the
Springfield, Massachusetts, _Republican_, Samuel Bowles, visited the
West. He traveled over the Union Pacific from Omaha, which he noted had
become a boom town since he had visited it last in 1865. He describes
his ride along the same route followed by the Oregon Trail and the
Overland Stage.

  The day’s ride grows monotonous. The road is as straight as an arrow.
  Every dozen or fifteen miles is a station—two or three sheds, and a
  waterspout and wood-pile; every one hundred miles or so a home or a
  division depot, with shops, eating-house, “saloons” uncounted, a store
  or two, a few cultivated acres, and the invariable half-a-dozen seedy,
  staring loafers, that are a sort of fungi indigenous to American
  railways. We yawn over the unchanging landscape and the unvarying
  model of the stations, and lounge and read by day, and go to bed early
  at night. But the clear, dry air charms; the half dozen soldiers
  hurriedly marshalled into line at each station, as the train comes up,
  suggest that the Indian question is not disposed of yet; we catch a
  glimpse of antelopes in the distance; and we watch the holes of the
  prairie dogs for their piquant little owners and their traditional
  companions of owls and snakes—but never see the snakes.

  The Plains proper and the first day’s ride end at Cheyenne, five
  hundred and sixteen miles from Omaha. Here a branch road goes off
  south a hundred miles to Denver, where it connects with the St. Louis
  or Eastern Division of the Pacific road. Cheyenne is also a great
  railroad work and supply shop, as becomes its location adjoining the
  mountain and winter-exposed section of the road.

He continued on across Wyoming to the end of the line, which then was
crossing the high, arid tablelands near Rawlins. He saw the track laid
over the Continental Divide and marveled at the speed with which the job
was being accomplished. By the next May the construction crews had laid
another 250 miles of track to complete the work.

  Within this desert of the mountains, the divide of the continent
  occurs both on the old stage road and the new Railroad line; and here,
  in the summer of 1868, we witnessed the building of the track over the
  parting of the waters. The last rail on the Atlantic slope and the
  first on the Pacific were laid in our presence; and Governor Bross
  pinned them down with stalwart blows upon their spikes. As yet, still,
  no mountains appear in the path of the track, and it winds easily
  along through these rolling sand-hills, occasionally helped over a
  deep dry gulch, and spanning a feeble or possible river. But the whole
  section is mountainously high, from seven thousand to eight thousand
  feet above the sea level.

  We witnessed here the fabulous speed with which the Railroad was
  built. Through the two or three hundred miles beyond were scattered
  ten to fifteen thousand men in great gangs preparing the road bed;
  plows, scrapers, shovels, picks and carts; and, among the rocks,
  drills and powder were doing the grading as rapidly as men could stand
  and move with their tools. Long trains brought up to the end of the
  completed track loads of ties and rails; the former were transferred
  to teams, sent one or two miles ahead, and put in place upon the
  grade. Then rails and spikes were reloaded on platform cars, these
  pushed up to the last previously laid rail, and with an automatic
  movement and a celerity that were wonderful, practiced hands dropped
  the fresh rails one after another on the ties exactly in line, huge
  sledges sent the spikes home, the car rolled on, and the operation was
  repeated; while every few minutes the long heavy train behind sent out
  a puff from its locomotive, and caught up with its load of material
  the advancing work. The only limit, inside of eight miles in
  twenty-four hours, to the rapidity with which the track could thus be
  laid, was the power of the road behind to bring forward the materials.

  As the Railroad marched thus rapidly across the broad Continent of
  plain and mountain, there was improvised a rough and temporary town at
  its every public stopping-place. As this was changed every thirty or
  forty days, these settlements were of the most perishable
  materials—canvas tents, plain board shanties, and turf-hovels—pulled
  down and sent forward for a new career, or deserted as worthless, at
  every grand movement of the Railroad company. Only a small proportion
  of their populations had aught to do with the road, or any legitimate
  occupation. Most were the hangers-on around the disbursements of such
  a gigantic work, catching the drippings from the feast in any and
  every form that it was possible to reach them. Restaurant and saloon
  keepers, gamblers, desperadoes of every grade, the vilest of men and
  of women made up this “Hell on Wheels,” as it was most aptly termed.

  When we were on the line, this congregation of scum and wickedness was
  within the Desert section, and was called Benton. One to two thousand
  men, and a dozen or two women were encamped on the alkali plain in
  tents and board shanties; not a tree, not a shrub, not a blade of
  grass was visible; the dust ankle deep as we walked through it, and so
  fine and volatile that the slightest breeze loaded the air with it,
  irritating every sense and poisoning half of them; a village of a few
  variety stores and shops, and many restaurants and grog-shops; by day
  disgusting, by night dangerous; almost everybody dirty, many filthy,
  and with the marks of lowest vice; averaging a murder a day; gambling
  and drinking, hurdy-gurdy dancing and the vilest of sexual commerce,
  the chief business and pastime of the hours—this was Benton. Like its
  predecessors, it fairly festered in corruption, disorder and death,
  and would have rotted, even in this dry air, had it outlasted a brief
  sixty-day life. But in a few weeks its tents were struck, its shanties
  razed, and with their dwellers moved on fifty or a hundred miles
  farther to repeat their life for another brief day. Where these people
  came from originally; where they went to when the road was finished,
  and their occupation was over, were both puzzles too intricate for me.
  Hell would appear to have been raked to furnish them; and to it they
  must have naturally returned after graduating here, fitted for its ...
  most diabolical service.

                          The Mining Frontier

               [Illustration: Gold mining in California]

                         The Discovery of Gold

Gold was discovered in January, 1848, on a ranch owned by John Sutter on
the American River in northern California. News of the find spread like
a prairie fire, and California, which had been a sparsely populated land
of cattle ranchers, became the Mecca of goldseekers. Everyone who was
lucky enough to be on the Pacific Coast rushed to the foothills of the
Sierras to hunt for gold, and as soon as the news reached the East
Coast, thousands of emigrants by land and by sea joined the gold rush.

In the years that followed the California gold rush, other rich deposits
of precious metals were found elsewhere in the West. The Comstock Lode
in Nevada produced a fabulous amount of silver, and later strikes in
Colorado made boom towns out of Denver, Cripple Creek, and Central City.
Still another gold rush after the Civil War took place in the Black
Hills of South Dakota.

In the following selections we offer three glimpses of the rush for
precious metals. The first two recount gold-rush days in California; the
third deals with the silver bonanza in Nevada.

Walter Colton Describes the Effect of the Discovery

The Reverend Walter Colton, a Congregational minister, arrived in
California in 1846 just after the Americans had taken possession of
Monterey. He was preaching and serving as alcalde (mayor) of Monterey at
the time gold was discovered. The following paragraphs come from his
book, _Three Years in California_.

  _Monday, May 29, 1848_: Our town was startled out of its quiet dreams
  today by the announcement that gold had been discovered on the
  American Fork. The men wondered and talked, and the women too; but
  neither believed....

  _Monday, June 12_: A straggler came in today from the American Fork
  bringing a piece of yellow ore weighing an ounce.... But doubts still
  hovered on the minds of the great mass. They could not conceive that
  such a treasure could have lain there so long undiscovered....

  _Tuesday, June 20_: My messenger sent to the mines has returned with
  specimens of the gold; he dismounted in a sea of upturned faces. As he
  drew forth the yellow lumps from his pockets, and passed them around
  among the eager crowd, the doubts, which had lingered till now, fled.
  All admitted they were gold, except one old man, who still persisted
  they were some Yankee invention, got up to reconcile the people to the
  change of flag. The excitement produced was intense; and many were
  soon busy in their hasty preparations for a departure to the mines.
  The family who had kept house for me caught the moving infection.
  Husband and wife were both packing up; the blacksmith dropped his
  hammer, the carpenter his plane, the mason his trowel, the farmer his
  sickle, the baker his loaf, and the tapster his bottle. All were off
  for the mines, some on horses, some on carts, and some on crutches,
  and one went in a litter. An American woman, who had recently
  established a boarding-house here, pulled up stakes, and was off
  before her lodgers had even time to pay their bills. Debtors ran, of
  course. I have only a community of women left, and a gang of
  prisoners, with here and there a soldier, who will give his captain
  the slip at the first chance. I don’t blame the fellow a whit; seven
  dollars a month, while others are making two or three hundred a day!
  that is too much for human nature to stand.

  _Saturday, July 15_: The gold fever has reached every servant in
  Monterey; none are to be trusted in their engagement beyond a week,
  and as for compulsion, it is like attempting to drive fish into a net
  with the ocean before them. Gen. Mason, Lieut. Lanman, and myself,
  form a mess; we have a house, and all the table furniture and culinary
  apparatus requisite; but our servants have run, one after another,
  till we are almost in despair: even Sambo, who we thought would stick
  by from laziness, if no other cause, ran last night; and this morning,
  for the fortieth time, we had to take to the kitchen and cook our own
  breakfast. A general of the United States Army, the commander of a
  man-of-war, and the Alcalde of Monterey, in a smoking kitchen,
  grinding coffee, toasting a herring, and peeling onions!


When the news of the gold strike reached New York, Horace Greeley,
editor of the _Tribune_, sent a reporter, Bayard Taylor, to visit the
mining camps. Taylor, who later became a well-known poet and travel
writer, reached San Francisco by sea in August, 1849. On his way to the
diggings he passed through Stockton:

  Our first visit to Stockton was made in company, on some of Major
  Graham’s choicest horses. A mettled roan _canalo_ fell to my share,
  and the gallop of five miles without check was most inspiring. A view
  of Stockton was something to be remembered. There, in the heart of
  California, where the last winter stood a solitary ranch in the midst
  of tule marshes, I found a canvas town of a thousand inhabitants, and
  a port with twenty-five vessels at anchor! The mingled noises of labor
  around—the click of hammers and the grating of saws—the shouts of
  mule-drivers—the jingling of spurs—the jar and jostle of wares in the
  tents—almost cheated me into the belief that it was some old
  commercial mart, familiar with such sounds for years past. Four
  months, only, had sufficed to make the place what it was; and in that
  time a wholesale firm established there (one out of a dozen) had done
  business to the amount of $100,000. The same party had just purchased
  a lot of eighty by one hundred feet, on the principal street, for
  $6,000, and the cost of erecting a common one-story clapboard house on
  it was $15,000.

He continued by mule from Stockton to the diggings on the Mokelumne
River, some forty miles away. He was lodged in an open-air hotel which
consisted of two log tables, one for eating, the other for gambling. The
morning after arriving he inspected the mining operations:

  I slept soundly that night on the dining-table, and went down early to
  the river, where I found the party of ten bailing out the water which
  had leaked into the riverbed during the night. They were standing in
  the sun, and had two hours’ hard work before they could begin to wash.
  Again the prospect looked uninviting, but when I went there again
  towards noon, one of them was scraping up the sand from the bed with
  his knife, and throwing it into a basin, the bottom of which glittered
  with gold. Every knifeful brought out a quantity of grains and scales,
  some of which were as large as the fingernail. At last a two-ounce
  lump fell plump into the pan, and the diggers, now in the best
  possible humor, went on with their work with great alacrity. Their
  forenoon’s digging amounted to nearly six pounds [_an ounce of gold in
  California was then worth exactly $16.00_]. It is only by such
  operations as these, through associated labor, that great profits are
  to be made in those districts which have been visited by the first
  eager horde of gold-hunters. The deposits most easily reached are soon
  exhausted by the crowd, and the labor required to carry on further
  work successfully deters single individuals from attempting it. Those
  who, retaining their health, return home disappointed say they have
  been humbugged about the gold, when in fact they have humbugged
  themselves about the work. If anyone expects to dig treasures out of
  the earth, in California, without severe labor, he is woefully
  mistaken. Of all classes of men, those who pave streets and quarry
  limestone are best adapted for gold-diggers.

One of the principal mining operators at the Mokelumne River site, Dr.
Gillette, told Taylor how he and a companion struck it rich in a
particular gulch nearby:

  One day at noon, while resting in the shade of a tree, Dr. G. took a
  pick and began carelessly turning up the ground. Almost on the
  surface, he struck and threw out a lump of gold of about two pounds’
  weight. Inspired by this unexpected result, they both went to work,
  laboring all that day and the next, and even using part of the night
  to quarry out the heavy pieces of rock. At the end of the second day
  they went to the village on the Upper Bar and weighed their profits,
  which amounted to fourteen pounds! They started again the third
  morning under pretense of hunting, but were suspected and followed by
  the other diggers, who came upon them just as they commenced work. The
  news rapidly spread, and there was soon a large number of men on the
  spot, some of whom obtained several pounds per day, at the start. The
  gulch had been well dug up for the large lumps, but there was still
  great wealth in the earth and sand, and several operators only waited
  for the wet season to work it in a systematic manner.

  The next day Colonel Lyons, Dr. Gillette, and myself set out on a
  visit to the scene of these rich discoveries. Climbing up the rocky
  bottom of the gulch, as by a staircase, for four miles, we found
  nearly every part of it dug up and turned over by the picks of the
  miners. Deep holes, sunk between the solid strata or into the
  precipitous sides of the mountains, showed where veins of the metal
  had been struck and followed as long as they yielded lumps large
  enough to pay for the labor. The loose earth, which they had
  excavated, was full of fine gold, and only needed washing out. A
  number of Sonorians were engaged in dry-washing this refuse sand—work
  which requires no little skill, and would soon kill any other men than
  these lank and skinny Arabs of the West. Their mode of work is as
  follows: Gathering the loose dry sand in bowls, they raise it to their
  heads and slowly pour it upon a blanket spread at their feet.
  Repeating this several times, and throwing out the worthless pieces of
  rock, they reduce the dust to about half its bulk; then, balancing the
  bowl on one hand, by a quick, dexterous motion of the other they cause
  it to revolve, at the same time throwing its contents into the air and
  catching them as they fall. In this manner everything is finally
  winnowed away except the heavier grains of sand mixed with gold, which
  is carefully separated by the breath. It is a laborious occupation,
  and one which, fortunately, the American diggers have not attempted.
  This breathing the fine dust from day to day, under a more than torrid
  sun, would soon impair the strongest lungs.

  We found many persons at work in the higher part of the gulch,
  searching for veins and pockets of gold, in the holes which had
  already produced their first harvest. Some of these gleaners,
  following the lodes abandoned by others as exhausted, into the sides
  of the mountain, were well repaid for their perseverance. Others,
  again, had been working for days without finding anything. Those who
  understood the business obtained from one to four ounces daily. Their
  only tools were the crowbar, pick, and knife, and many of them,
  following the veins under strata of rock which lay deep below the
  surface, were obliged to work while lying flat on their backs, in
  cramped and narrow holes.

Mark Twain Doesn’t Strike It Rich

As Bayard Taylor suggests in the preceding narrative, not all fortune
seekers in the mining camps succeeded in finding gold or silver. Many
were unlucky or unwilling to work hard and returned home disillusioned.
Most of them stayed in California, however, and became farmers or city
workers. Thus the West Coast was settled before many states farther
east. Sam Clemens, who tried his hand at prospecting, was not a very
serious miner and found his gold when he turned his western experiences
into literary material, such as _Roughing It_, from which the next
selection comes. Here he tells how he almost got rich.

  I confess, without shame, that I expected to find masses of silver
  lying all about the ground. I expected to see it glittering in the sun
  on the mountain summits. I said nothing about this, for some instinct
  told me that I might possibly have an exaggerated idea about it, and
  so if I betrayed my thought I might bring derision upon myself. Yet I
  was as perfectly satisfied in my own mind as I could be of anything,
  that I was going to gather up, in a day or two, or at furthest a week
  or two, silver enough to make me satisfactorily wealthy—and so my
  fancy was already busy with plans for spending this money. The first
  opportunity that offered, I sauntered carelessly away from the cabin,
  keeping an eye on the other boys, and stopping and contemplating the
  sky when they seemed to be observing me; but as soon as the coast was
  manifestly clear, I fled away as guiltily as a thief might have done
  and never halted till I was far beyond sight and call.

  Then I began my search with a feverish excitement that was brimful of
  expectation—almost of certainty. I crawled about the ground, seizing
  and examining bits of stone, blowing the dust from them or rubbing
  them on my clothes, and then peering at them with anxious hope.
  Presently I found a bright fragment and my heart bounded! I hid behind
  a boulder and polished it and scrutinized it with a nervous eagerness
  and a delight that was more pronounced than absolute certainty itself
  could have afforded. The more I examined the fragment the more I was
  convinced that I had found the door to fortune. I marked the spot and
  carried away my specimen. Up and down the rugged mountain side I
  searched, with always increasing interest and always augmenting
  gratitude that I had come to Humboldt and come in time. Of all the
  experiences of my life, this secret search among the hidden treasures
  of silver-land was the nearest to unmarred ecstasy. It was a delirious

  By and by, in the bed of a shallow rivulet, I found a deposit of
  shining yellow scales, and my breath almost forsook me! A gold mine,
  and in my simplicity I had been content with vulgar silver! I was so
  excited that I half believed my overwrought imagination was deceiving
  me. Then a fear came upon me that people might be observing me and
  would guess my secret. Moved by this thought, I made a circuit of the
  place, and ascended a knoll to reconnoiter. Solitude. No creature was
  near. Then I returned to my mine, fortifying myself against possible
  disappointment, but my fears were groundless—the shining scales were
  still there. I set about scooping them out, and for an hour I toiled
  down the windings of the stream and robbed its bed. But at last the
  descending sun warned me to give up the quest, and I turned homeward
  laden with wealth. As I walked along I could not help smiling at the
  thought of my being so excited over my fragment of silver when a
  nobler metal was almost under my nose. In this little time the former
  had so fallen in my estimation that once or twice I was on the point
  of throwing it away.

  The boys were as hungry as usual, but I could eat nothing. Neither
  could I talk. I was full of dreams and far away. Their conversation
  interrupted the flow of my fancy somewhat, and annoyed me a little,
  too. I despised the sordid and commonplace things they talked about.
  But as they proceeded, it began to amuse me. It grew to be rare fun to
  hear them planning their poor little economies and sighing over
  possible privations and distresses when a gold mine, all our own, lay
  within sight of the cabin and I could point it out at any moment.
  Smothered hilarity began to oppress me, presently. It was hard to
  resist the impulse to burst out with exultation and reveal everything;
  but I did resist. I said within myself that I would filter the great
  news through my lips calmly and be serene as a summer morning while I
  watched its effect in their faces. I said:

  “Where have you all been?”


  “What did you find?”


  “Nothing? What do you think of the country?”

  “Can’t tell, yet,” said Mr. Ballou, who was an old gold miner, and had
  likewise had considerable experience among the silver mines.

  “Well, haven’t you formed any sort of opinion?”

  “Yes, a sort of a one. It’s fair enough here, maybe, but over-rated.
  Seven-thousand-dollar ledges are scarce, though. That Sheba may be
  rich enough, but we don’t own it; and besides, the rock is so full of
  base metals that all the science in the world can’t work it. We’ll not
  starve, here, but we’ll not get rich, I’m afraid.”

  “So you think the prospect is pretty poor?”

  “No name for it!”

  “Well, we’d better go back, hadn’t we?”

  “Oh, not yet—of course not. We’ll try it a riffle, first.”

  “Suppose, now—this is merely a supposition, you know—suppose you could
  find a ledge that would yield, say, a hundred and fifty dollars a
  ton—would that satisfy you?”

  “Try us once!” from the whole party.

  “Or suppose—merely a supposition, of course—suppose you were to find a
  ledge that would yield two thousand dollars a ton—would _that_ satisfy

  “Here—what do you mean? What are you coming at? Is there some mystery
  behind all this?”

  “Never mind. I am not saying anything. You know perfectly well there
  are no rich mines here—of course you do. Because you have been around
  and examined for yourselves. Anybody would know that, that had been
  around. But just for the sake of argument, suppose—in a kind of
  general way—suppose some person were to tell you that
  two-thousand-dollar ledges were simply contemptible—contemptible,
  understand—and that right yonder in sight of this very cabin there
  were piles of pure gold and pure silver—oceans of it—enough to make
  you all rich in twenty-four hours! Come!”

  “I should say he was as crazy as a loon!” said old Ballou, but wild
  with excitement, nevertheless.

  “Gentlemen,” said I, “I don’t say anything—_I_ haven’t been around,
  you know, and of course don’t know anything—but all I ask of you is to
  cast your eye on _that_, for instance, and tell me what you think of
  it!” and I tossed my treasure before them.

  There was an eager scramble for it, and a closing of heads together
  over it under the candle-light. Then old Ballou said:

  “Think of it? I think it is nothing but a lot of granite rubbish and
  nasty glittering mica that isn’t worth ten cents an acre!”

  So vanished my dream. So melted my wealth away. So toppled my airy
  castle to the earth and left me stricken and forlorn.

  Moralizing, I observed, then, that “all that glitters is not gold.”

  Mr. Ballou said that I could go further than that, and lay it up among
  my treasures of knowledge, that _nothing_ that glitters is gold. So I
  learned then, once for all, that gold in its native state is but dull,
  unornamental stuff, and that only lowborn metals excite the admiration
  of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest
  of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men
  of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.

                         The Ranching Frontier

   [Illustration: Texas cattle being driven to the cattle rendezvous]

                             The Long Drive

Before the Texans won independence from Mexico, stocks of Spanish cattle
owned by Mexicans ranged the plains of southern Texas. Then the Mexicans
were driven out, and their cattle ran wild. By the time of the Civil
War, herds of wild longhorns roamed the Texas ranges. As the population
of the United States grew and the railroads pushed into the
trans-Mississippi region, the cattle industry became big business. Texas
ranchers began rounding up the wild cattle and driving them to market
over various trails, the best known of which probably is the Chisholm
Trail. Ranching soon spread to other western states clear to the
Canadian border. The decades following the Civil War were the golden age
of the cowboy.

Andy Adams Encounters Rustlers

Andy Adams, who was born in Georgia of Scotch-Irish parents, moved to
Texas after the Civil War. He grew up in the cattle country and
naturally drifted into cow-punching as a career. When he was in his
early twenties, he joined a long cattle drive from Texas to Montana
under the leadership of a foreman named Jim Flood. The expedition, which
he describes vividly in _The Log of a Cowboy_, began along the Rio
Grande River in Texas in April, 1882. Six men rode on either side of a
long cow column that stretched out over three quarters of a mile of
crooked trail. The main problem until the herd reached the Colorado
River in central Texas was to find watering places, but as the animals
approached the river, the cowboys learned that rustlers were active in
that area. Their chief worry was that the rustlers would sneak into
their midst at night, stampede the cattle, and then drive off part of
the herd under cover of darkness.

  We camped that night some five or six miles back from the river on the
  last divide. From the time the second guard went on until the third
  was relieved, we took the precaution of keeping a scout outriding from
  a half to three quarters of a mile distant from the herd, Flood and
  Honeyman serving in that capacity. Every precaution was taken to
  prevent a surprise; and in case anything did happen, our night horses
  tied to the wagon wheels stood ready and saddled and bridled for any
  emergency. But the night passed without incident.

  An hour or two after the herd had started the next morning, four
  well-mounted, strange men rode up from the westward, and representing
  themselves as trail cutters, asked for our foreman. Flood met them, in
  his usual quiet manner, and after admitting that we had been troubled
  more or less with range cattle, assured our callers that if there was
  anything in the herd in the brands they represented, he would gladly
  hold it up and give them every opportunity to cut their cattle out. As
  he was anxious to cross the river before noon, he invited the visitors
  to stay for dinner, assuring them that before starting the herd in the
  afternoon, he would throw the cattle together for their inspection.
  Flood made himself very agreeable, inquiring into cattle and range
  matters in general as well as the stage of water in the river ahead.
  The spokesman of the trail cutters met Flood’s invitation to dinner
  with excuses about the pressing demands on his time, and urged, if it
  did not seriously interfere with our plans, that he be allowed to
  inspect the herd before crossing the river. His reasons seemed trivial
  and our foreman was not convinced.

  “You see, gentlemen,” he said, “in handling these southern cattle, we
  must take advantage of occasions. We have timed our morning’s drive so
  as to reach the river during the warmest hour of the day, or as near
  noon as possible. You can hardly imagine what a difference there is,
  in fording this herd, between a cool, cloudy day and a clear, hot one.
  You see the herd is strung out nearly a mile in length now, and to
  hold them up and waste an hour or more for your inspection would
  seriously disturb our plans. And then our wagon and _remuda_ [_spare
  horses_] have gone on with orders to noon at the first good camp
  beyond the river. I perfectly understand your reasons, and you equally
  understand mine; but I will send a man or two back to help you recross
  any cattle you may find in our herd. Now, if a couple of you gentlemen
  will ride around on the far side with me, and the others will ride up
  near the lead, we will trail the cattle across when we reach the river
  without cutting the herd into blocks.”

  Flood’s affability, coupled with the fact that the lead cattle were
  nearly up to the river, won his point. Our visitors could only yield,
  and rode forward with our lead swing men to assist in forcing the lead
  cattle into the river. It was swift water, but otherwise an easy
  crossing, and we allowed the herd, after coming out on the farther
  side, to spread out and graze forward at its pleasure. The wagon and
  saddle stock were in sight about a mile ahead, and leaving two men on
  herd to drift the cattle in the right direction, the rest of us rode
  leisurely on to the wagon, where dinner was waiting. Flood treated our
  callers with marked courtesy during dinner, and casually inquired if
  any of their number had seen any cattle that day or the day previous
  in the Ellison road brand. They had not, they said, explaining that
  their range lay on both sides of the Concho, and that during the trail
  season they kept all their cattle between that river and the main
  Colorado. Their work had kept them on their own range recently, except
  when trail herds were passing and needed to be looked through for
  strays. It sounded as though our trail cutters could also use
  diplomacy on occasion.

  When dinner was over and we had caught horses for the afternoon and
  were ready to mount, Flood asked our guests for their credentials as
  duly authorized trail cutters. They replied that they had none, but
  offered in explanation the statement that they were merely cutting in
  the interest of the immediate locality, which required no written

  Then the previous affability of our foreman turned into iron. “Well,
  men,” said he, “if you have no authority to cut this trail, then you
  don’t cut this herd. I must have inspection papers before I can move a
  brand out of the county in which it is bred, and I’ll certainly let no
  other man, local or duly appointed, cut an animal out of this herd
  without written and certified authority. You know that without being
  told, or ought to. I respect the rights of every man posted on a trail
  to cut it. If you want to see my inspection papers, you have a right
  to demand them, and in turn I demand of you your credentials, showing
  who you work for and the list of brands you represent; otherwise no
  harm’s done; nor do you cut any herd that I’m driving.”

  “Well,” said one of the men, “I saw a couple of head in my own
  individual brand as we rode up the herd. I’d like to see the man who
  says that I haven’t the right to claim my own brand, anywhere I find

  “If there’s anything in our herd in your individual brand,” said
  Flood, “all you have to do is to give me the brand, and I’ll cut it
  for you. What’s your brand?”

  “The ‘Window Sash.’”

  “Have any of you boys seen such a brand in our herd?” inquired Flood,
  turning to us as we all stood by our horses ready to start.

The strangers, who actually were rustlers, had hoped to bluff Flood out
of some cattle. All herds traveling across unfenced range managed to
pick up strays from time to time. When Flood would not let the men get
away with their trick, they fell back on claiming cows with the “Window
Sash” brand. Three such animals had found their way into the big herd as
it moved north. After the rustlers angrily drove off their trio of
scrawny cows, Flood met some Texas Rangers under the command of Corporal
Homes. They laid a trap for the rustlers, who had threatened to return.

  Hames at once assumed charge of the herd, Flood gladly rendering every
  assistance possible. We night herded as usual, but during the two
  middle guards, Hames sent out four of his Rangers to scout the
  immediate outlying country, though, as we expected, they met with no
  adventure. At daybreak the Rangers threw their packs into our wagon
  and their loose stock into our _remuda_, and riding up the trail a
  mile or more, left us, keeping well out of sight. We were all hopeful
  now that the trail cutters of the day before would make good their
  word and return. In this hope we killed time for several hours that
  morning, grazing the cattle and holding the wagon in the rear. Sending
  the wagon ahead of the herd had been agreed on as the signal between
  our foreman and the Ranger corporal, at first sight of any posse
  behind us. We were beginning to despair of their coming, when a dust
  cloud appeared several miles back down the trail. We at once hurried
  the wagon and _remuda_ ahead to warn the Rangers, and allowed the
  cattle to string out nearly a mile in length.

  A fortunate rise in the trail gave us a glimpse of the cavalcade in
  our rear, which was entirely too large to be any portion of Straw’s
  [_foreman of a herd that the rustlers had stampeded earlier_] outfit;
  and shortly we were overtaken by our trail cutters of the day before,
  now increased to twenty-two mounted men. Flood was intentionally in
  the lead of the herd, and the entire outfit galloped forward to stop
  the cattle. When they had nearly reached the lead, Flood turned back
  and met the rustlers.

  “Well, I’m as good as my word,” said the leader, “and I’m here to trim
  your herd as I promised you I would. Throw off and hold up your
  cattle, or I’ll do it for you.”

  Several of our outfit rode up at this juncture in time to hear Flood’s
  reply: “If you think you’re equal to the occasion, hold them up
  yourself. If I had as big an outfit as you have, I wouldn’t ask any
  man to help me. I want to watch a Colorado River outfit work a herd—I
  might learn something. My outfit will take a rest, or perhaps hold the
  cut or otherwise clerk for you. But be careful and don’t claim
  anything that you are not certain is your own, for I reserve the right
  to look over your cut before you drive it away.”

  The rustlers rode in a body to the lead, and when they had thrown the
  herd off the trail, about half of them rode back and drifted towards
  the rear cattle. Flood called our outfit to one side and gave us our
  instructions, the herd being entirely turned over to the rustlers.
  After they began cutting, we rode around and pretended to assist in
  holding the cut as the strays in our herd were being cut out.... Not a
  man of us even cast a glance up the trail, or in the direction of the
  Rangers; but when the work was over, Flood protested with the leader
  of the rustlers over some five or six head of dim-branded cattle which
  actually belonged to our herd. But he was exultant and would listen to
  no protests, and attempted to drive away the cut, now numbering nearly
  fifty head. Then we rode across their front and stopped them. In the
  parley which ensued, harsh words were passing, when one of our outfit
  blurted out in well-feigned surprise——

  “Hello, who’s that, coming over there?”

  A squad of men were riding leisurely through our abandoned herd,
  coming over to where the two outfits were disputing.

  “What’s the trouble here, gents?” inquired Hames as he rode up.

  “Who are you and what might be your business, may I ask?” inquired the
  leader of the rustlers.

  “Personally I’m nobody, but officially I’m Corporal in Company B,
  Texas Rangers—well, if there isn’t smiling Ed Winters, the biggest
  cattle thief ever born in Medina County. Why, I’ve got papers for you;
  for altering the brands on over fifty head of ‘C’ cattle into a ‘G’
  brand. Come here, dear, and give me that gun of yours. Come on, and no
  false moves or funny work or I’ll shoot the white out of your eye.
  Surround this layout, lads, and let’s examine them more closely.”

  At this command, every man in our outfit whipped out his six-shooter,
  the Rangers leveled their carbines on the rustlers, and in less than a
  minute’s time they were disarmed and as crestfallen a group of men as
  ever walked into a trap of their own setting. Hames got out a “black
  book,” and after looking the crowd over concluded to hold the entire
  covey, as the descriptions of the “wanted” seemed to include most of
  them. Some of the rustlers attempted to explain their presence, but
  Hames decided to hold the entire party, “just to learn them to be more
  careful of their company the next time,” as he put it.

                          The Farming Frontier

    [Illustration: Plowing on the prairies west of the Mississippi]

                      Homesteading in the Dakotas

The last frontier to fall before the westward march of civilization was
that of the farmer. Farmers were beginning to plow the virgin prairie
soil even before the Civil War, but after the conflict the line of
farming communities in Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas began to move
relentlessly westward. The railroads were given large tracts of public
land which they sold to settlers. Many Civil War veterans took up free
land after their discharge, as provided for in the Homestead Act of
1862. The following selections illustrate the farming frontier on the

O. E. Rölvaag Pictures the Norwegian Settlers

O. E. Rölvaag, the author of the following selection, grew up in a
Norwegian fishing village, but at the age of twenty he emigrated to
America and worked for his uncle on a Dakota farm. Later he worked his
way through St. Olaf College and eventually became a professor of
Norwegian literature at his alma mater. His excellent novel, _Giants in
the Earth_, from which the following pages are taken, describes the life
of Norwegian farmers in the Dakota Territory. As the novel opens,
several Norwegian families are taking up homesteads. Before they make
their first crops and can afford real houses, they have to live in sod
houses, which are really cellars dug in the prairie and roofed over with

  On the side of a hill, which sloped gently away toward the southeast
  and followed with many windings a creek that wormed its way across the
  prairie, stood Hans Olsa, laying turf. He was building a sod house.
  The walls had now risen breast-high; in its half-finished condition,
  the structure resembled more a bulwark against some enemy than
  anything intended to be a human habitation. And the great heaps of cut
  sod, piled up in each corner, might well have been the stores of
  ammunition for defense of the stronghold.

  For a man of his strength and massive build, his motions were
  unusually quick and agile; but he worked by fits and starts today. At
  times he stopped altogether; in these pauses he would straighten
  himself up and draw his sleeve with a quick stroke across his troubled
  face; with each stroke the sleeve would come away damper; and standing
  so, he would fix his gaze intently on the prairie to the eastward. His
  eyes had wandered so often now over the stretch of land lying before
  them, that they were familiar with every tussock and hollow.... [_The
  spaced periods in this selection do not indicate omitted material but
  are the author’s own punctuation._] No—nothing in sight yet!... He
  would resume his task, as if to make up for lost time, and work hard
  for a spell; only to forget himself once more, pause involuntarily,
  and stand inert and abstracted, gazing off into the distance.

  Beyond the house a tent had been pitched; a wagon was drawn up close
  beside it. On the ground outside of the tent stood a stove, a couple
  of chairs, and a few other rough articles of furniture. A stout,
  healthy-looking woman, whose face radiated an air of simple wisdom and
  kindliness, was busy preparing the midday meal. She sang to herself as
  she worked. A ten-year-old girl, addressed by the woman as Sofie, was
  helping her. Now and then the girl would take up the tune and join in
  the singing.

  Less than a quarter of a mile away, in a southeasterly direction, a
  finished sod house rose on the slope of the hill. Smoke was winding up
  from it at this moment. This house, which had been built the previous
  fall, belonged to Syvert Tönseten.

  Some distance north from the place where Hans Olsa had located, two
  other sod houses were under construction; but a hillock lay between,
  so that he could not see them from where he stood. There the two Solum
  boys had driven down their stakes and had begun building. Tönseten’s
  completed house, and the other three half-finished ones, marked the
  beginning of the settlement on Spring Creek.

  The woman who had been bustling about preparing the meal, now called
  to her husband that dinner was ready—he must come at once! He answered
  her, straightened up for the hundredth time, wiped his hands on his
  trousers, and stood for a moment gazing off eastward.... No use to
  look—not a soul in sight yet!... He sighed heavily, and walked with
  slow steps toward the tent, his eyes on the ground.

  It was light and airy inside the tent, but stifling hot, because of
  the unobstructed sunlight beating down upon it. Two beds were ranged
  along the wall, both of them homemade; a big emigrant chest stood at
  the head of each. Nails had been driven into the centre pole of the
  tent, on which hung clothing; higher up a crosspiece, securely
  fastened, was likewise hung with clothes. Two of the walls were lined
  with furniture; on these pieces the dishes were displayed, all neatly

  A large basin of water stood on a chair just inside the tent door.
  Hans Olsa washed his face and hands; then he came out and sat down on
  the ground, where his wife had spread the table. It was so much cooler
  outside. The meal was all ready; both mother and daughter had been
  waiting for him.

  “I suppose you haven’t seen any signs of them yet?” his wife asked at

  “No—nothing at all!”

  “Can you imagine what has become of them?”

  “The Lord forgive us—if I only knew!”

They are waiting for Per Hansa and his family, whose wagon broke down,
to reach the homestead site. The Hansas arrive soon, and the next
selection describes them the day after, as the father goes to town to
register his claim and the mother wonders fearfully what the future
holds for them on the empty, lonely prairie.

  Early the next morning Per Hansa and one of the Solum boys set out on
  the fifty-two mile journey to Sioux Falls, where Per Hansa filed an
  application for the quarter-section of land which lay to the north of
  Hans Olsa’s. To confirm the application, he received a temporary deed
  to the land. The deed was made out in the name of _Peder Benjamin
  Hansen_; it contained a description of the land, the conditions which
  he agreed to fulfil in order to become the owner, and the date, _June
  6, 1873_.

  Sörine [_Hans Olsa’s wife_] wanted Beret and the children to stay with
  her during the two days that her husband would be away; but she
  refused the offer with thanks. If they were to get ready a home for
  the summer, she said, she would have to take hold of matters right

  ... “For the summer?” exclaimed the other woman, showing her
  astonishment. “What about the winter, then?”

  Beret saw that she had uttered a thought which she ought to have kept
  to herself; she evaded the question as best she could.

  During the first day, both she and the boys found so much to do that
  they hardly took time to eat. They unloaded both wagons, set up the
  stove, and carried out the table. Then Beret arranged their bedroom in
  the larger wagon. With all the things taken out it was quite roomy in
  there; it made a tidy bedroom when everything had been put in order.
  The boys thought this work great fun, and she herself found some
  relief in it for her troubled mind. But something vague and intangible
  hovering in the air would not allow her to be wholly at ease; she had
  to stop often and look about, or stand erect and listen.... Was that a
  sound she heard? ... All the while, the thought that had struck her
  yesterday when she had first got down from the wagon, stood vividly
  before her mind: here there was nothing even to hide behind!... When
  the room was finished, and a blanket had been hung up to serve as a
  door, she seemed a little less conscious of this feeling. But back in
  the recesses of her mind it still was there....

  After they had milked the cow, eaten their evening porridge, and
  talked awhile to the oxen, she took the boys and And-Ongen and
  strolled away from camp. With a common impulse, they went toward the
  hill; when they had reached the summit, Beret sat down and let her
  gaze wander aimlessly around.... In a certain sense, she had to admit
  to herself, it was lovely up here. The broad expanse stretching away
  endlessly in every direction, seemed almost like the ocean—especially
  now, when darkness was falling. It reminded her strongly of the sea,
  and yet it was very different.

  ... This formless prairie had no heart that beat, no waves that sang,
  no soul that could be touched ... or cared....

  The infinitude surrounding her on every hand might not have been so
  oppressive, might even have brought her a measure of peace, if it had
  not been for the deep silence, which lay heavier here than in a
  church. Indeed, what was there to break it? She had passed beyond the
  outposts of civilization; the nearest dwelling places of men were far
  away. Here no warbling of birds rose on the air, no buzzing of insects
  sounded; even the wind had died away; the waving blades of grass that
  trembled to the faintest breath now stood erect and quiet, as if
  listening, in the great hush of the evening.... All along the way,
  coming out, she had noticed this strange thing: the stillness had
  grown deeper, the silence more depressing, the farther west they
  journeyed; it must have been over two weeks now since she had heard a
  bird sing! Had they travelled into some nameless, abandoned region?
  Could no living thing exist out here, in the empty, desolate, endless
  wastes of green and blue?... How _could_ existence go on, she thought,
  desperately? If life is to thrive and endure, it must at least have
  something to hide behind!...

  The children were playing boisterously a little way off. What a
  terrible noise they made! But she had better let them keep on with
  their play, as long as they were happy.... She sat perfectly quiet,
  thinking of the long, oh, so interminably long march that they would
  have to make, back to the place where human beings dwelt. It would be
  small hardship for her, of course, sitting in the wagon; but she
  pitied Per Hansa and the boys—and then the poor oxen!... He certainly
  would soon find out for himself that a home for men and women and
  children could never be established in this wilderness.... And how
  could she bring new life into the world out here!...

  Slowly her thoughts began to centre on her husband; they grew warm and
  tender as they dwelt on him. She trembled as they came....

  But only for a brief while. As her eyes darted nervously here and
  there, flitting from object to object and trying to pierce the purple
  dimness that was steadily closing in, a sense of desolation so
  profound settled upon her that she seemed unable to think at all. It
  would not do to gaze any longer at the terror out there, where
  everything was turning to grim and awful darkness.... She threw
  herself back in the grass and looked up into the heavens. But darkness
  and infinitude  lay there, also—the sense of utter desolation still
  remained.... Suddenly, for the first time, she realized the full
  extent of her loneliness, the dreadful nature of the fate that had
  overtaken her. Lying there on her back, and staring up into the quiet
  sky across which the shadows of night were imperceptibly creeping, she
  went over in her mind every step of their wanderings, every mile of
  the distance they had travelled since they had left home.

                       The Land Rush in Oklahoma

The history of Oklahoma contains two of the most fascinating episodes in
the Westward Movement. These were the land rushes of 1889 and 1893, when
the government threw open several million acres of land to settlers on a
first-come, first-served basis. The opening of these tracts came at a
time when choice land throughout the plains states already had been
taken up, and because the openings were well publicized throughout the
country, the competition for farms and town lots was tremendous. In the
following report Hamilton Wicks describes the boom psychology and his
own part in the race for free land in 1889. Guthrie, Oklahoma, where
Wicks claimed a town lot, was on the route of the Henry Ellsworth and
Washington Irving expedition in 1832.

Hamilton Wicks Races to Guthrie

  And now the hour of twelve was at hand, and every one on the _qui
  vive_ for the bugle blast that would dissolve the chain of enchantment
  hitherto girding about this coveted land. Many of the “boomers” were
  mounted on high-spirited and fleet-footed horses, and had ranged
  themselves along the territorial line, scarcely restrained even by the
  presence of the troops of cavalry from taking summary possession. The
  better class of wagons and carriages ranged themselves in line with
  the horsemen, and even here and there mule teams attached to
  canvas-covered vehicles stood in the front ranks, with the reins and
  whip grasped by the “boomers’” wives. All was excitement and
  expectation. Every nerve was on tension and every muscle strained.

  Suddenly the air was pierced with the blast of a bugle. Hundreds of
  throats echoed the sound with shouts of exultation. The quivering
  limbs of saddled steeds, no longer restrained by the hands that held
  their bridles, bounded forward, simultaneously into the “beautiful
  land” of Oklahoma; and wagons and carriages and buggies and prairie
  schooners and a whole congregation of curious equipages joined in this
  unparalleled race, where every starter was bound to win a prize—the
  “Realization Stakes” of home and prosperity.

  We, the spectators, witnessed the spectacle with most intense
  interest. Away dashed the thoroughbreds, the bronchos, the pintos, and
  the mustangs at a breakneck pace, across the uneven surface of the
  prairie. It was amazing to witness the recklessness of those cowboy
  riders. They jumped obstacles. They leaped ditches. They cantered with
  no diminution of speed through waterpools; and when they came to a
  ravine too wide to leap, down they would go with a rush, and up the
  other side with a spurt of energy, to scurry once more like mad over
  the level plain.

  The occupants of our train now became absorbed in their own fate....
  It was rather hard pulling for our engine until we reached the apex of
  the Cimarron Valley, spread out in picturesque beauty at our very
  feet. Our train now rushed along the downgrade with the speed of a
  limited express crossing the fine bridge that spans the Cimarron with
  a roar, and swinging around the hills that intervened between the
  river and the Guthrie town site with the rapidity of a swallow’s
  flight. All that there was of Guthrie, the now famous “magic city,” on
  April 22, at 1:30 P.M., when the first train from the north drew up at
  the station and unloaded its first instalment of settlers, was a
  water-tank, a small station-house, a shanty for the Wells Fargo
  Express, and a Government Land Office.

  I remember throwing my blankets out of the car window the instant the
  train stopped at the station. I remember tumbling after them through
  the self-same window. Then I joined the wild scramble for a town lot
  up the sloping hillside at a pace discounting any “go-as-you-please”
  race. There were several thousand people converging on the same plot
  of ground, each eager for a town lot which was to be acquired without
  cost and without price, each solely dependent on his own efforts, and
  animated by a spirit of fair play and good humor. The race was not
  over when you reached the particular lot you were content to select
  for your possession. The contest still was who should drive their
  stakes first, who would erect their tents soonest, and then, who would
  quickest build a little wooden shanty. It reminded me of playing
  blind-man’s bluff. One did not know how far to go before stopping. It
  was hard to tell when it was best to stop; and it was a puzzle whether
  to turn to the right hand or the left.

  I found myself, without exactly knowing why, about midway between the
  government building and depot. It occurred to me that a street would
  probably run past the depot. I accosted a man who looked like a
  deputy, with a piece of white card in his hands, and asked if this was
  to be a street along here.

  “Yes,” he replied. “We are laying off four corner lots right here for
  a lumber yard.”

  “Is this the corner where I stand?” I inquired.

  “Yes,” he responded, approaching me.

  “Then I claim this corner lot!” I said with decision, as I jammed my
  location stick in the ground and hammered it securely home with my

  An angry altercation [_argument_] ensued, but I stoutly maintained my
  position and my rights. I proceeded at once to unstrap a small
  folding-cot I brought with me, and by standing it on its end made a
  tolerable center-pole for a tent. I then threw a couple of my blankets
  over the pole, and staked them securely into the ground on either
  side. Thus I had a claim that was unjumpable because of substantial

  As night approached I strolled up on the eminence near the land
  office, and surveyed the wonderful cyclorama spread out before me on
  all sides. Ten thousand people had “squatted” upon a square mile of
  virgin prairie that first afternoon, and as the myriad of white tents
  suddenly appeared upon the face of the country, it was as though a
  vast flock of huge white-winged birds had just settled down upon the
  hillsides and in valleys. Here indeed was _a city laid out and
  populated in half a day_. Thousands of campfires sparkled upon the
  dark bosom of the prairie as far as the eye could reach.

  I will never forget the first night of occupancy of this army. Unlike
  the hosts of the Assyrians that descended on the Israelites, their
  tents were not silent. On the contrary, there was a fusilade of shots
  on all sides from Winchesters, and Colts, and Remingtons, disturbing
  the stillness of the night, mingled with halloos, and shoutings, and
  the rebel yell, and the imitated warwhoop of the savage. I expected on
  the morrow to see the prairie strewn with gory corpses, but not a
  single corpse appeared, and I was not slow in making up my mind that
  nine-tenths of all the shots were fired in a mere wanton spirit of
  bravado to intimidate a few such nervous tenderfeet as myself.

  I was witness of all this magical municipal development, and could
  scarcely realize the miracle that was unfolding before me. The
  wealth-creating force that was displayed in the building up of Guthrie
  can not be better illustrated than in the fact that lots which had no
  value prior to April 22 sold in the center of the business district as
  high as five hundred dollars within a week thereafter, and a number
  changed hands before the expiration of the first month for one
  thousand, five hundred dollars each.

   [Illustration: Texas cattle being driven to the cattle rendezvous]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

--Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected a few palpable typos, leaving period spellings

--In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

--Added subheadings in the text to match entries in the Table of

--Added captions to illustrations based on the attributions in front

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