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A History op the Sioux War, 





WBUsara s7 srasosipiioH omr. 






>•«, B. C. 

coptkight bt 
Columbian Book Coupant. 


P-A.RT I. 





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

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

IXTH()l»r( T!()\. 


iiiiidc quick by f^old, where the liardy moimtiiin liuntcr 
jhumkmI (lie l)ullUl() herds in soiireh of liis winter's supply 
of Ibod. 


le worn 


romance v,' 


1 once iiave eiu 



to stories of liardship and of dai'in^- deeds, suflered and 
done in tlu'se then distant wihls, is fast beiti^L'' <lissipated 
In' the rapid settlement of th(» new Territories, and by the 
familiarity of the public mind with tales of stirring adven- 
ture encountered in the search for <rlitterin<*' ores. It wa.s, 
then, not without an emotion of ])](<ased surprise that I 
first encountered in the iertile i)lains of Western Oreg(m 
the sul)ject of this bioii^raphy, a man fifty-eight yeai's of 
age, of fine appearance and buoyant temper, full of anec- 
dote, and with a mcMnory well stored with personal recol- 
lecti(uis of all the men of note who have formerly visited 
the old Oregon Territory, when it cc^mprised the whole 
country west of the Rocky Mountains lying north of Tali- 
fornia and south of the forty-ninth parallel. This man is 
JoHcph L. J\[c<'L\ to whose stories of mountain-life 1 have 
listened for diivs together; and who, after havinir fio-ured 




)t without 

(h'rable fa 



early history of Oregon, still })rides himself most of all on 

having been a "mountain-man." 

It has frequently been suggested to Mr. Meek, who has 
now come to be known by the familinr title df "rnele 
Joe" to all Oregon, that a history of his varied adventures 
would make a readable book, ami some of his neighbors 
have even undertaken to become his historian, yet with so 
little well-directed efforts that the task after all has fallen 
to a comparative strang(M'. 1 confess to having taken hold 
of it with some doubts as to my claims to the office; and 
the best recommendation I can give my work is the inter- 
est I myself felt in the subject of it; and the only apology 
1 can oilbr for anything incredible in the narrative which 



it luny contnin, is that T "tell tlic talc as 'twas told to mo," 
and that I liave no occasion to donl)t the trutli of it. 

Secin*]^ tliat the incidents I had to record embraced a 
period of a score and a half of years, and that they ex- 
tended over tliose years most interestinpf in Orej^nm his- 
tory, as well as (tf the history of the Fur Trade in the 
West, I have concluded V preface Mr. Meek's adventures 
with a sketch of the latter, believing that the information 
thus conveyed to the reader will give an additional degree 
of interest to their narration. The impression made upon 
my own mind as I gained a knowledge f)f the facts which 
I shall record in this l)ook relating to the early occupation 
of Oregon, was that they were uot only profoundly roman- 
tic, but decidedly unic^ue. 

Mr. Meek was born in Washington Co., Virginia, in 
1810, one year before the settlement o^ AGto7'ia^ and at a 
period when Congress was much interested in the cpiestion 
of our Western possessions and their boundary. "Mani- 
fest destiny " seemed to have raised him up, together with 
uany others, bold, hardy, and fearless men, to become 
sentinels on the outj)osts of civilization, securing to the 
United States with comparative ease a vast extent of ter- 
ritory, for which, -without them, a long struggle with Eng- 
land would have taken place, delaying the settlement of 
the Pacific Coast for numy years, if not losing it to us alto- 
gether. It is not without a feeling of genuine self-congrat- 
ulation, that I am able to bear testimony to the services, 
hitherto hardly recognized, of the " mountain-men " who 
have settled in Oregon. Whenever there shall arise a 
studious and faithful historian, their names shall not be 
excluded from honorable mention, nor least illustrious will 
appear that of Joseph L. Meek, the Rocky Mountain Hunt- 
er and Trapper. 



Astoria — Fort Vancouver — lis isoliiti'd Position — Prcfaiitions apainst In- 
dians — The Iluiison's Hay Company — Its I'olicy ami Inlrrioiirse with 
till' Indians — The Arrival of the " lJrij,Mde " — Other Yearly Arrivals — 
Puiii-hnient of Indian <)ireiider> — Indian Stratej^fy — A llenj — llio 
American Fur Companies — Their Dealin^^t; with the Indians — Ashley's 
Expedilicms to (Jreeii Kivi-r — Alt!"K- on Smith's Party — Wycith's Ex- 
peditions-Fort Hall — Decline of till ; r Trade — Causes of the Indmns' 
Hostility — Dangers attending the Trajjper's Life, - - - 23 

C H A P T E 11 1 . 

Early Life of Meek — He leaves Home— Knlists in a Fur Company — On 
the March — A Warning Voice — Fi antler Sjiorfs — Last Vestige of Civil- 
iziition — On the Plains — A first Advinture — A linn Fronts — A Parley — 
The Summer Rendezvous — An enchanting Picture — Tlie Free Trap- 
per's Indian Wife — Wild Carousals — Routine of Camp Life — Smoked 
Moccasins versus Green Ones — A " Trifling Fellow," - - - 41 


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



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


Removal to Powder River — A Trapper's Paradise — The Transformation 
in the Wilderness — The Encampment by Night — Meek takes to Study — 





On the Move — Loss of Horses and Traps — Robbed ard Insulted by a 
Bear — Crossing the Yellowstone — A Novel Ferriage — Annoyance from 
Blackfeet — A Cache Opened — A Comrade Killed — Rude Burial Serv- 
ice — Return to Rendezvous — Gay Times — The old Partners take Leave, 82 

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


I : 


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


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





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


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


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


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



Setting up as a Family Man — First Love — Cut out by the Booshway — 
Reward of Constancy — Beauty of Umentucken — Her Dress, Her Horse 
and Equipments — Anecdotes of the Mountain Lamb — Her Quarrel with 
The Trapper — Capture by Crows — Her Rescue — Meek Avenges an In- 
sult — A Row in Camp — Ihe Female EK-nient — Death of Umentucken, 175 






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


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


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


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

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





i)ecline of the Fur Trade— Wild Scenes at Rendezvous— A Missionary 
Party— Entertained by a War Dance— Meek in Armor— Deserted by 
his Indian Spouse— The Pursuit— Meek .ibuses a Missionary and Kid- 
naps his AVife— Meek's Black Eyed D:iu«rhter— Sin;,'ing for a Biscuit- 
Trapping Again— A hot March, aixd Fearful Sullering from Thirst— 
The Old Flathead Woman— Water at Last, - - - - 237 


A Chat about Buffalo Ilynting— Buffalo Horses— The Start— The Pur- 
suit—The Charge — Tumbles— Ilorsemansnip— The Glory of :Mountain 
Life— IIow a Nez Perce A'illage Hunts Butlalo— Kit Carson and the 
Frenchman on a Run — Mountain Manners, ... - 246 


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



A new Start in Life — Mountain-Men for Pione«!rs — Discovery of the Co- 
lumbia River — What Capt. Gray Did — What Vancouver Did — The 
United States' Claim to Oregon — First Missionaries to the Wallamet^^ 
John McLaughlin — Hosj)italities of Fort Vancouver — The Mission Re- 
inforced — Other Settlers in the Wallamet Valley — IIow thi'y Regarded 
the Mission — The California Cattle Company — Distribution of Settlers, 264 


Westward Ho ! — Opening Wagon Roads — Republicanism — Fat Pork for 
Preachers — Mission Work at Waiilatpu — Helen Mar — Off for the Wal- 
Inniet— Wagons Lefl at Walla-Walla— The Dnlles Mission -Indian 
Prayers — The Missionaries and the Mountain-Men — The Impious Cana- 
dian—Doing Penance — Down the Columbia — Trouble with Indians — 
Arrival at the Wallamet — Hunger, and Dependence on Fort Vancouver — 
Meeting Old Comrades — Settling ou the Tualatin Plains — A diaagreeabid 

Winter — Taking Claims- 

-Who furnished the Seed Wheat, 







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


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


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


Arrival of the Immij^^ration at the Dalles — Wagons Abandoned — Pitiable 
Condition of the Women and Children — Aid from the Hudson's Baj 
Company — Perils of the Columbia — Wreck of the Boat — Wonderful 
Escape — Trials of the New Colonists — The Generous Savage — The Bare- 
foot Lawyer — Meek's Pumpkin — Privation of the Settlers — Shopping 
under Difficulties — Attempt to Manufacture Ardent Spirits — Dilemma 
of the People — An Appeal — The Sheriflf Destroys the Distillery — Anec- 
dote of Dr. White and Madam Cooper — Meek LevieE on Her Whisky — 
First Official Act of the Sheriff, - - - • - - 294 


Excitement about Indians — Dr. White's Flogging Law — Indian Revenge — 
Raid of the Elamaths — Massacre of Indians — Affray at the Falls — 
Death of Cockstock — Death of LeBreton and Rogers — " You'd Better 
Run" — Meek's Policy with the Indians — Meek and the Agent — The 
Borrowed Horse — Solemn Audacity — Wonderful Transformation — Tem- 
perance — Courts — Anecdote of Jud'ge Nesmith — Early Days of Port- 
land — An Indian Carousal — Meek " Settles the Indians " — The Immigra- 
tion of 1845 — The Cascade Mountain Road-Hunters — Hunger and 
Peril — A Last Request — Succor at the Last Moment — A Reason for 
Patriotism, -- • - - • - - - 806 




DiflBculty of Collecting Taxes— A Ponderous Currency — Dr. McLaughlin's 
Ox — An Exciting Year — Tlie Boundary Question — " Fiftyfour-forty or 
Fight" — War VesBels in the Columbia — Loss of tlie Shark — Meoli He- 
ceives a Salute — Schenck Arrested — The Color-Stand of the Shark — 
" Sunset at the Mouth of the Columbia," - • • . .820 


"The Adventures of a Columbia River Salmon " — History of the Immigra- 
tion of IH-IG — Opening of Southern Route to the Wailamei — Tragic 
Fate of the California Immigrants — Sufferings of the Oregon Immi- 
grants — Tardy Relief — Celebrating the Fourth of July — Visit to the 
Ship Brutus — An Insult to the Mountain-Men — The Indignity Resented 
with a Twelve-Pounder — Dr. McLaughlin Interferes — Re-election of 
Meek — Large Immigration — Failure of the Territorial Bill — Affray 
between Immigrants and Indians at the Dalles — Meeting of the Legis- 
lature—Falling of the Thunderbolt, -. • • - -825 


Trouble with the Up-Country Indians — Causes of their Disquiet — Their 
Opinion of the Americana — " Humbugged and Cheated " — Fear of 
Greater Frauds in the Future — Resolve not to Submit — Their Feelings 
Toward Dr. Whitman — Acts of Violence — Influence of the Catholic 
Missionaries — A Season of Severe Sickness — What Provoked the Massa- 
cre — Joe Lewis the Half-Breed — The Fatal Test — Sickness Among the 
Immigrants — Dr. Whitman's Family — Persons at the Mission and Mill — 
Helen Mar — Arrival of Mr. Whitman and his Daughter — A Night Visit 
to the Umatilla — In the Lodge of Stickas, the Walla- Walla Chief — 
The Warning of Stickas and His Family — The Death Song — "Beware 
of the Cayuses at the Mission!" — Mr. Spaulding meets Brouillet, the 
Catholic Bishop — News of the Massacre — Escape to the Woods — Night 
Journeys to Lapwai, ........ 834 


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





Ilorrorsof tlu" Wiiiilatpii Massacre — Exemption of the Catholies — Char<;es 
of the Protestants — Natural Suspicions — Further Particulars of the Mas- 
sacre — Cruelty to die Children — Fate of the Younj^ Women — Miva 
Bulee and the Priests — Lapwai Mission — Arrival of Mr. Camfield — An 
Indian Trait — Heroism of Mrs. Spaldinpj — Appeal to (he Chiefs — Arrival 
of the News — Lapwai Plundered — Treachery of Joseph — Arrival of Mr. 
Spalding — Detained as Hostaj^es — llansonied by the H. B. Company — 
The " Blood of the Martyrs " — Country Abandoned to the Indians — 
Subsc([uent lluturn of Mr. Spalding to the Nez Pcrces, - - - 853 


The Call to Arms — Meetings and Speeches — Ways and Means of De- 
fence — The first Regiment of Oregon Riflemen — Messenger to the Gov- 
ernor of California — Meek Chosen Messenger to the President of the 
United States — He Proceeds to the Dalles — The Army Marches to 
Waiilntpu — A Skirmish with the Des Chutes — Burial of the Victims — 
Meek Escorted to the Blue Mountains, - - - - - 


hi ' ' 


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

- 868 


Meek Dines at Coleman's — A Sensation — An Amusing Scene — Recog- 
nized by Senator Underwood — Visit to the President — Cordial Recep- 
tion by the Family of Polk — Some Doubts of Himself — Rapid Recovery 
of Self-Possession — Action of the Friends of Oregon — The Two Oregon 
Representatives — Tlie Oregon Bill in the Senate — Mr. Tliomton — 
Meek's Successful Debut in Society — Curiosity of Ladies — Kit Carson 
and the "Contingent Fund" — Meek's Remarkable Popularity — Invited 
to Baltimore by the City Council — Escorts the President — Visit to 
Lowell — The Factory Girls — Some Natural Regrets — Kindness of Mrs. 
Polk and Mrs. WaD'er — Comm'^ dore Wilkes — Oregon Lies — Getting 
Franked — Champagne Supper? - . - . . 391 




jMeck Appointed U. S. Marshal I'or Ort'j>;f»n — "Home Sweet Home" — Pay 
of the Delegates — The Lion's Share — Meek's Interview with (Jov. 
Lane — Huyin;^ out a I'ediller — The Kseort of Hifienien — The Start fronj 
St. Louis, and the Itoute — Meeting Priee's Army — An Adventun; and 
a Pleasant Surprise — Leaving the Wagons — Desertion of Soldiers — 
Drought — The Trick of the Yunias — Demoralization of the Train — 
Rumors of Gold— (ien. Lane's Coflee— 'J'he Writer's Reflection— 'Hie 
Party on Foot — Extreme Suflerings — Arrival at AVilliam's Ranch — 
Speculation in Silks and Jaek-Knives — Miners at Los Angelos — Ore- 
gonians at San Francisco — Nat Lane and Meek Take the Gold Fever — 
Meek's Investment. — The CJovernor and Marshal Quarrel — Pranks 
with a Jew — A Salute — Arrival in Oregon City, - - - 


Lane's Course with the Cnyuvc Tndinns — Magnanimity of the Savages — 
Rebuke to Their Captors — Their Statements to Meek — Tlie Puzzle of 
Indian Ethics — Incidents of the Trial and Executiim — State of the 
Upper Country for A Term of Years — How Meek Was Received in Ore- 
gon — Ili'^ Incurable Wag;?ishness — Scene in a Cuurt-Uoom — Contempt 
of Court — Judj^e Nelson and the Carpenters — TVo Hundred Lies — An 
Excursion by the Oregon Court — Indians Tried for Murder — Proc(!ed- 
ings of a Jury — Sentence and Execution of the Indians — The Chief's 
Wife — Cost of Proceedings— Lane's Career in Oregon — Gov. Davis, 




Meek as U. S. Marshal — The Captain of the Melvin — i'he British Smug- 
gler — Returning a Compliment — " Barly Enough for tlu- Oiliccrs of the 
Court" — Misused Confidence — Indian Disturbances — 'Jiie Indian War 
of 18.')5-(j — (Jen Wool and (iov. Curry — OiHcers of the War — How the 
Volunteers Fared — Meek as a Volunteer — Feasting and Fun — "Mark- 
ing Time "-End of :Meek's Pu1)]ic Career- 417 




Ekolish Tourists' Camp— Dol-htfi-l Fuiends. — Frontispiece 


A Station of the Hudson's Bay Company, 

Watching for Indian Horse-Thieves, 

Map of the Fur Country, 

The Enlistment, .... 

The Summer Uenuezvous, 

Beavers at Work, - - - « 

Hunters' Winter Camp, 

The Three "Bares," 

The Wrong End of the Tree, 

Scouts in the Blackfoot Country — "Elk or Indians 

Branding Cattle in Southern California, 

A Fight with Camanches — The Mule Fort 

View on the Columbia, 

The Free Trapper's Indian Wife, 

" Indians, hy Jove ! " • 

Descending the Blue Mountains, 

The Bear in Camp, . . - 

Satisfied with Bear Fighting, - 

Cache, ..... 

The Trappkr's Last Shot, 

The Squaw's Escape, ... 

Horse-Tail Falls, - - - - 

A Buffalo Hunt, - - - 

Castle Rock, Columbia River, 

Wrecked in the Rapids, 

A Wild Indian in Town, ... 

The Ca^scade Mountain Road-Hunters, 

Mount Hood from the Dalles, - 

Massacre of the Whitman Family, - 

Meek as a Steamboat Runnkr, 

"Take Care Knox," 

A Mountain MAN in Clover, ... 

Gov. Lane and Meek on the Colorado Desert, 

Mkek as U. S. Marshal — Scene ux a Court-boom, 



f \ ' 







































* Q^B 


' 'fl 


























An Account of the Hudson's Bay Company's Intercoubse with the 
Indians of the Noutu-West Coast; with a Sketch of the Diffeu- 
ENT American Fur Companies, and their Dealings with the 
Tribes of the Rocky Mountains. 

In the year 1818, Mr. Prevost, acting for the United States, received Astoria 
back from the British, who had taken possession, as narrated by Mr. Irving, 
four years previous. The restoration took place in conformity with the treaty 
of Ghent, by which those places captured during the war were restored to their 
original possessors. Mr. Astor stood ready at that time to renew his enterprise 
on the Columbia Iliver, had Congress been disjMJsed to grant him the necessary 
protection which the undertaking recjulrcd. Failing to secure this, when the 
United States sloop of war Ontario sailed aw. y from Astoria, attitr having 
tiikcn formal possession of that phu-e for our (iovernnient, the country was left to 
the occupancy, (scarcely a joint-occupancy, since tliere were then no American> 
here,) of the British traders. Afh-r the war, and while negotiations were 
going on between Great Britain and the United States, the fort at Astoria had 
remained in possession of the North- West C()Uii)any, as their principal I'stahlish- 
ment west of the mountains. It had been considerably enlarged since it had 
come into their possession, and was furnished with artillery enough to have 
frightened into friendship a much more warlike people than the subjects of old 
king Conicomly; who, it will be remembered, was not at first very well disposed 
towards the "King George men," having learned to look u pun the "Boston 
men " as his friends in his earliest intercourse with the whites. At this time 
Astoria, or Fort George, as the British traders called it, contained sixty-five 
inmates, twenty-three of whom were whites, and the remainder Candian half- and Sandwich Islanders. Besides this number of men. there were a few 
women, the native wives of the men. and their half-breed offspring. The situ- 
ation of Astoria, however, was not favorable, 1)cing near the sea coast, and not 
surrounded with good farming lands such as were required for the furnishing 
of provisions to the fort. Therefore, when in 1821 it was- destroyed by fire, it 
was only in part rebuilt, but a better and more convenient location for the head- 
quarters of the North-West Company was sought for in the interior. 

About this time a quarrel of long standing between the Hudson's Bay and 
North- West Companies <ulniinated in a battle between their men in the Red 


|-'! •») ! 





' ! 
■' I 

1 '■: 


1 M' 





li; . 

River foiintrv, rcsultiiii: in u concidcraiiit' loss of lid' ami |in)|)«'rty. 'Ihis nfTair 
(Irt'w tlur attt'nti(K» ot" thi", (inv«'riniifiit at lioiiu' ; the rijrlits of tin- rival roin- 
j)aiu»'H wiTi! cxaiiiiiu'd into, the iiu-diation of the AIini^*tl'y seeiired, ami a com- 
proinise ellected, \>y which tlu' North-West Company, which had sueceedi'd iii 
disjMissi'ssiu}^ the I'aeilic Fur Company tmder Mr. Astor, was inerf^fed into tho 
Hudson's Bay Company, whose name and iiime arts so iiuuiliur to all tlu^ I'ariy 
settlers of Oregon. 

At the same time, Parliament passed an act by which the hands of the con- 
solidated company were much 8tren<fenthed, and the peace and security of all 
persons greatly insured; hut which became subsetpiently, in the joint occupancy 
of the country, a cause ol' olFence to the American citizens, as we shall see 
hen^aih'r. 1'his act allowed the commissioning of Justices of the Peace in all 
the tisrritories not belonging to the United States, nor already subject to griints. 
These justices were to execute and enforce the laws and decisions of the courts 
of Upper Canada ; to take evidence, and commit and send to Canada for trial 
the guilty ; and even in some cases, to hold courts themselves for the trial of 
criminal offences and misdemeanors not pimishable with death, or of civil causes 
in whi'jh the amount at issue should not exceed two hundred pounds. 

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

The site chosen by the North-West Company in 1821, for their new fort, 
combined all these advantages, and the further one of having been already 
commenced and named. Fort Vancouver beccame <at once on the accession of 
the Hudson's Bay Company, the metropolis of the northwest coast, the center 
of the fur trade, and the seat of government for that immense territory, over 
which roamed the hunters and trappers in the employ of that powerful corpo- 
ration. This post was situated on the edge of a beautiful sloping plain on the 
northern bank of the Columbia, about six miles above the upper mouth of the 
Wallamet. At this point the Columbia spreads to a great width, and is divided 
on the south side into bayous by long sandy islands, covered with oak, ash, and 
cotton-wood trees, making the noble river more attractive still by adding the 
charm of curiosity concerning its actual breadth to its natural and ordinary 





miignifircnre. Back of tlif fi)rt tlii' laiul roso jjently, covcrotl with forests of fir; 
iiiiil iiw;iy to the cast hw«'1U'i1 the loot-hills oftlic Cuscatlu range, tlien the inoim- 
taius tliemsclvuH, (irapeil in liliuy azure, ami over-lopped five thoiisutid teet by 
the snowy eone of Mt. Ilootl. 

In this lonely situation i^rew up, with the dispatch which characterized the 
acts of the Company, a tijrt in most respects similar to the original one at 
Astoria. It was not, however, thouj^ht necessary to make so great a display of 
artilleiy as had served to kcej) in order the sulijectsof C'omcomly. A stockade 
cm-losed a spact! al)out vh^Ut hundred leet IciUg hy live hundn-d broad, having 
a bastion at one corner, where were mounted ihree guns, while two eighteen 
j)oun(h'rs and two swivels were plantetl in front of the resilience of the (lov- 
ernor an<l chief factors. These eonnnanded the main entrance to the fort, 
besiiles which there were two other gates in tront, and another in the rear. 
Military precision was observed in the precautions taken against surprises, us 
well as in all the rules of the place. The gates were opened and closed at 
certain htnu's, and were always guarded. No large number of Indians were 
permitted within the enclosure at the s:une time, and every employee at the fort 
knew and licrtbrmed his duty with punctuality. 

The buildings within the stockade were the Governor's and chief faetora* 
residences, stores, olTices, work-shn{)s, magazines, warehouses, &c. 

Year by year, up to 183.') or '40, improvements continued to go on in and 
about the Ibrt, the chief of which was the cultivation of the large farm and 
garden outside the enclosure, and the erection of a hospital building, large barns> 
pcrAants' houses, and a boat-house, all outside of the fort ; so that at the jjcriod 
■when the Columbia River was a romance and a mystery to the people of the 
United States, (juite a nourishing and beautiful village adorned its northera 
shore, and that too erected and sustained by the enemies of American enter- 
prise on soil conmionly believed to belong to the United States : fair foes the 
author firmly believes them to have been in those days, yet foes nevertheless. 

The system on which the Hudson's Bay Compan' nducted its business was 
the result of long experiem-e, and was admirable tor its method and its justice also, 
"NVhcn a young man entered its service as a clerk, his wages were small for sev- 
eral years, increasing only as his ability and good conduct entitled him to advance- 
ment. When his salary had reached one hundred pounds sterling he became 
eligible to a chief-tradership as a partner in the concern, from which position 
he was promoted to the rank of a chief factor. No important business was 
ever intrusted to an inexperienced person, a policy which .almost certainly pre- 
vented any serious errors. A regular tariff was established on the Company's 
goods, comprising all the articles used in their trade with the Indians ; nor was 
the (juidity of their goods ever allowed to deteriorate. A price was also fixed 
w]»on furs according to their market value, and an Indian knowing this, knew 
exactly what he could purchase. No bartering was allowed. When skins 
were offered for sale at the fort they were handed to the clerk through a win- 
dow like a post-office delivery-window, and their value in the article desired, 
returned through the same aperture. All these regulations were of the high- 
est importance to the good order, safety, and profit of the Company. ITie con- 


intdxhatim; li^uous. 

\ li 

< ).' 


'. 'if 



liilcdic til' till' Iiiili,ii\-< \v;is sun- III lit' ^niiiiil liv llif t'cin--|;iiii'y mihI i^mitl I'lilli 
alwiiVM iiliMi'vi-tl iiiwani llii-iii, ami (lit- ('tiiii|iaiiy olilaiiiftl llit'H'liy iiiiiiin'iHiH 
4111(1 iMiwi'i'l'iil allies in nearly all llie irilies. 

Ah hihiii as it was pusxilile Id make the eliait'^e, llie Iiiilians wen* iletiieil ||u> 
use III' iiiltixii atiui; tlrinks, llie a|i|»elite liir wliitii liail early lieen inlrtitliieeil 
amtin;4 lluiii iiy eiiasliim vessels, ami even etniliiinetl l>y ihe I'aeilie Fur ('mn- 
pany at Aslnria. It would Iiave been ilan'^ei'nns in have siKitleiily ileprived 
ilit'tii III' lIuMiiveUMJ sliiuiilns ; lliereliu-e ilie |ii'at'litt' must InMlisennliniieil liy 
many wisi' ai'ls ami ileviees. A |iiililie imlife wa^ ^i\eii llial llie sale of it 
woiilil lie slo|i|ieil, ami the reasons liir this |ii-iihiliitioii explaiiieil to the Imliaiis. 
»>till. not III eonie into liireet eonlliet wilh then' a|i|ieliles, a lillle was soltl to 
the thiers, now ami then, liy the elerks, who all'eetetl In lie ninniiej, the j^reatest 
risks in vitilaliii'^ the oriler of ihe lompaiiy. The sliielest seereey was eii')oiiieil 
on the hii'ky eliief who, liy llie Iriemlship iit' some iimler-<-lerk, was enalileil to 
ttmiiii^le olV a liotlle iiiiili r his lilankel. Itiit tlit^ euniiin>^ clerk had j^eiierally 
managed to ;it'l his"jftiotl Irieml " into a slate so eleverly ln'twi'nn drunk and 
Holier, heliire he entrusted him wilh the pn-eions hotlks that he was sure to 
betray himself. Leaviii'j; llie shop with a mien «'ven more ertM't tlian usual, 
wilh a ^Mit atVeeted in its majesty, ami his blanket ti;^htened aroiiml liim to 
conei-al his secret tri'asure, the chucklinj; chief wonltl start to cross the i^ronmls 
within the fort. If he was a new customer, he wsw once or tv/'u-.v permitted to 
play his little f^ame with the ohli;;in«; clerk whose particular friend he was, and 
to escape ilelcclion. 

IJiit liy-and-by, when the ollicers had seen the olfence repeated more than 
once from their purposely contrived posts of observation, one of them would 
skillfully chance to intercept the guilty chief at whose comical cmhfiivors to 
appear sober he was inwardly lauffhin;^, and charjfe him with being intoxicated. 
Wresting away tjie tightened blanket, the bottle appean>d as evidence that 
coultl not be controverted, of the duplicity of the Indian and the unfaithfulness 
of the clerk, whose name was instantly di'manded, that he might be properly 
punished. AVhen Uu' chief again visiti-d the tort, his particular tinend nu-t him 
with a sori*owful countenance, reproaching him for having been the cause of 
his disgrace and loss. This reproach was the surest means of preventing an- 
other demand Itir rum, the Indian bi'ing too magnanimous, jirobably, to wish to 
get his frientl into trouble ; while tlie clerk afl'eeted to tear tlie consequences 
too much to bi- induced to take the risk another time. Thus by kind and care- 
ful ini'ans the traiHe in litpiors was at length broken up, which otherwise would 
have ruined both Intlian and trader. 

To the tompany's servants litpior was sold or allowed at certain times: to 
those on the sea-board, one half-pint two or thri'e times a year, to be used as 
medicine, — not that it was always needed or used for this purpose, but too strict 
inquiry into its use was wisely avoided, — and for this the company demanded 
pay. To their servants in the interior no Itquor was sold, but they were fur- 
nished as a gratuity with one pint on leaving rendezvous, and another on arriv- 
ing at winter quarters. By this management, it became impossible for them to 

AltltIV \l. (»!•' •• IIIK MtKiAIH;. 



ilispoMO of ilriiik l<i till- lii<liiiii'< ; tlnir miijiII alluwiiiH c lu-iti.; alwiivN iiniii<>ili- 
iitclv consuiiM'il itt II iiifftiii;^ or |tllrtill^ cHniiiMf. 

I'lic ari'iviil nt' ini'ii riniii tin- iiili rim' at Furl \':iii<<tiivi'r iiNCiiilly t<M)k jilaif 
in till' iiiniilli dl' •Iniif, vvlirii (lie (')iliiiiiliia was lii;^li, ami ii stirriti;^ mi'iic it 
waj». Till' rliicf trailrrs jfciirraily <(iMlriv<'<l tlii-ir iiianli tlir(iii;/li llic ii|t|Hr 
(•(jiiiitry, tlu'ir caiiiii', ami tlnir rfmlt/.vi»iis, m» as to imci tlic Kx|iri'HH wliirli 
uniiiiallv cuinc li> \ amitiivt'r iVinii Caii.iila ami llic K<'il Uivcr Mlllrimiils. 
'IIk \ tiK'ii ili'sccmli'il llic ('oliiiiiliia lu^rrllirr, ami arrivnl in Inici' at tlic I'lirl. 
Tliis aiiiiiial tlcrt wrnt )>)' llir iiaim- nf itri^^aWc a naim' wliidi Mi'_';;i'sti-i| n 
iniiitiirv spirit In tlu' < i«'ws llial llnir a|i|tfaram'f I'ailnl in vindirali-. Vci, 
tli<in;ih llirrr was iiotliiii'^ wiirliki* in llic wcni-, llnir was nniili ilial was cxcil- 
iiiLT. pirlnri'^Mnt', an<l even lirilliant ; fiir llifsc rnnrii rs ih In, is, i>v wiMni-i-an^i-rs, 
ami till' I'liiimii urs, or lioalnn-n, wnc llic niosi jiippisli of niorlaU wliiii ilicy 
iMMic to rcmlc/.vons. 'I'licn, too, tlicrc was an cxallalion ot' spirits on tlicirsati: 
anisal al licatl-tpi.irlci -, alter llicir year's toil iinil darc^cr in wildernesses, 
union;; Imlians ami wild lieasis, exposed to I'ainine and aeiidenl, lliat almost 
(lepiived ilieni of what is called " cotnnion sense," ami coni|iell*'d lliein to the 
most I'antasli*' excesses. 

Tlicir wtdl-iniderstood peculiarities did not make llieni the less witlcoinc al 
Vancouver. When the cry was ;fivcn — "the Mrii^ailel the Hri^ade ! "— Ihcre 
was a jfcncral rush to the river's hank to witness ihc s|icctacle. In aflvamc 
came the chiel-traders har^^c, with tht^ company's lla}^ at the how, and th«; 
cross of St. (icorj^e, ut the stern: the iK^ct as many ahreast as the, tnrninj^s ol" 
the river allowed. With stroiifjf and skilll'id s'rokes the hoatinen ^.'overiied their 
richly hulen hoats, keepin;^ them in line, and at the same lime '■in^rin;.' in clutrus 
a loud and not iininusicid hunting; or hoatin;; son;;. The ;;ay rihhoiis and leath- 
ers with which the sin;;ers were hedeckeil took nothin;; from the pictnrt!s<[ue- 
ness of their appearance. The hroad, full river, sparklin;f in the sunli;;ht, 
gennncd with emerald islands, and hordered with a rich {growth of flowering 
shriihhery ; the smilin;^ plain surroiindin;^ the; Fort ; the. distant mountains, 
where j^littered the sentinel Alt. Hood, all came ^^raceiully into the jjicture, and 
seeimul to furnish a fittinj^ hack-j^jround and middle distance fljr the hri;fht l)it 
of colorin;; ;iiven hy the inovin;; lile in tlu! scene. As with a skillful sweep the 
bri;rade touched the hank, and the traders and men sprang on shore, the first 
cheer which had wi'Icomi'd their ap[)earanee was heartily repeated, while u gay 
clamor of cpiestlons and answers followed. 

Ailer the business immediately inci<lent to their arrival had bi^en dispatched, 
then took place the regale of j)ork, tlour, and spirits, which was sure to end in 
a carouse, during which blackened eyes and broken noses were n(jt at all un- 
common ; but though blood was made to flow, life wa.s n(!ver put s(;riously in 
peril, and the belligerent parties were the best of friends when the, fra/.'as was 

The business of exchange being completed in three or four weeks — the rich 
stores of peltries consigned to their places in the warehouse, and the Ixjats re- 
laden with goods for the ne.xt year's trade ' ... .he Indians in the upper country, 
a parting carouse took place, and with ar.^rhei- parade of feathers, ribbons, and 






■ ± 




^ ,1. 



'I' ' 


otluT finon-, tlio briizaflft departed with songs and cheers nr it had come, but 
with probably heavier hearts. 

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

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

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

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

To the discipline, at once severe and just, which Dr. McLaughlin maintained 
in his district, was due the safety and prosperity of the company he served, 
and the servants of that company generally ; as well as. at a later period, of 
the emigration which followed the hunter and trapper into the wilds of Oregon. 




Cari'lul as were all the officers of the liinlson's Hay Cninpar-.y, they couM not 
always avoid conflicts with the Indians ; nor was their kindness and justiec 
always sii'Heiently appreiiated to prevent the outbreak ot" savage instincts. 
Fort Vancouver had bi-cn threatened in an early day ; a vessel or two had 
been lost in which the Indians were suspected to have been implicated ; at 
long intervals a trader was murdered in the interior ; or more frequently, 
Indian insolence put to the t^'st both the wisdom and couraj^e of the olHcers to 
jiffvent an outbreak. 

W'lien murders and robberies were committed, it was the custom at Fort 
■\'ancouver to send a strong jjarty to demand the offenders from their tribe ; 
iSuch was the well known power and inlluence of the Company, and such the 
wholesome fear of the " Kmj; (ieor^e men," that this demand was never re- 
sisted, and if the murderer coulil be found he was ijiven up to be hung accord- 
ing t(j " Kin.; (ieorge ' laws. They were almost equally impelled to good con- 
duct by the state of dependence on the company into which they had been 
brought. Once they had subsisted and clothed themselves from the spoils of 
the riveis and forest ; since they had tasted of the tree of knowledge of good 
and evil, they could no more return to skins fin' raiment, nor to game alone for 
Ibod. Blankets and flour, beads, guns, and aihmunition had become dear to 
their hearts : for all these things they must love and obey the Hudson's Bay 
Com])any. Another fine stroke of policy in the Company was to destroy the 
chieftain-ships in the various tribes ; thus weakening them by dividing them 
and preventing dangerous coalitions of the leading spirits : tor in savage as 
well as civilized life, the many are governed by the few. 

It may not be uninteresting in this place to give a few anecdotes of the man- 
ner in which conflicts with the India; is were prevented, or ofiences punished 
by the Hudson s Bay Company. In the year 1828 the ship William and Aim 
was cast away just inside the bar of the Columbia, under circumstances which 
seemed to direct suspicion to the Indians in that vicinity. Whether or not 
they jiad attacked the ship, not a soul was saved from the wreck to tell how 
she was lost. On hearing that the ship had gone to pieces, and that the In- 
dians hial appropriated a portion of her cargo. Dr. McLaughlin sent a message 
to the chiefs, demanding restitution of the stolen goods. Nothing was returned 
by the messenger except one or two worthless articles. Immediately an armed 
force was sent to the scene of the robbery with a fresh demand for the goods, 
which the. chief's, iu view of their spoils, thought proper to resist by firing uj)on 
the reclaiming party. But they wee not uni)repared ; and a swivel was dis- 
charged to let the savages know what they might expect in the way of fire- 
arms. Tlie argument was conclusive, the Indians fleeing into the woods. 
While making st'arch for the goods, a portion of Avhich Avere found, a chief 
was (l)si'rvr d skulking near, and cocking his gun ; on which motion one of the 
men fired, and he tell. This prompt action, the justice of which the Indians 
well understood, and the intimidating power of the swivel, put an end to the in- 
cipient war. Care was then taken to impress upon their minds that thev nmst 
not expect to profit by the disasters of vessels, nor be tempted to raiu*der white 
men for the sake of plunder. The William and Ann was supposed to have go* 





"i ; ! 

aground, when the savages seeing her situation, boarded her and innrdered the 
crew tor the cargo which they knew her to contain. Yet as there were no posi- 
tive prools, only such measures were taken as would deter them from a similar 
attempt in future. That the lesson was not lost, was proven two years later, 
when the Isabella, from Lon<lon, struck on the bar, her crew deserting her. in 
this instance no attemjjt was made to meddle with the vessel's cargo ; and as 
the crew made their way to Vancouver, the goods were nearly all saved. 

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

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

The great desire of the Indians for guns and ammunition led to many strata- 
gems which were dangerous to the possessors of the coveted articles. Much 
more dangerous would it have been to have allowed them a free supply of these 
things; nor could an Indian purchase from th3 Company more than a stated 
snpjily, which was to be used, not lor the purposes of war, but to keep himself 
in game. 

Dr. McLaughlin was himself once quite near falling into a trap of the Indians, 
so cunningly laid as to puzzle even him. This was ' a report brought to him 
by a deputation of Columbia River Indians, stating the startling fact that the 
fort at Nesqually had been attacked, and every inmate slaughtered. To this 
horrible story, told with every apf)earance of truth, the Doctor listened with 
incredulity mingled with apprehension. The Indians were closdy questioned 






jiivl crops-iiticstioned, but did not conflict in their tostiniony. Tlio matter as- 
^ iiiu'il a very painful aspect. Not to be deceived, tlie Doctor had the uuwel- 
cuiiie uiesseugers cumniitted to cU!?to>ly wliile he could bnn;r ether witnesses 
from their tribe. But they were prepan-d t'or this, and the whole tribe were as 
positive as tlmsc who brou;^ht the tale. Contbiinded by this cloud of wiinesses, 
Dr. AIoLaui'liiiu had almost detenuined upon sending an armed force to Xes- 
quallv to imiuire into the matter, and if nt'cc>sary, punish the Indians, when a 
dt'tailniient of men arrived from that post, and the plot was exjiosed ! The 
(leslLin of the Indians ha<l liecn limjjly to cause a division of the force at Van- 
c(»uvi'r, after which they believed they mi;:ht succeed in capturing and plunder- 
i:ii the fort. Had they truly been successful in this undertaking, every other 
tradiii;j,-post in the country would have been destroyed. But so long as the 
hcad-ipiarters of the Company remaiaec secure and powerful, the other stations 
were comparatively safe. 

An incident which has been several times related, occurred at fort Walla- 
"Walla, an<l shows how narrow escapes the interior traders sometimes made. 
The hero of this anecdote was Mr. ]\IcKinlav, one of the mos' estimable of the 
Hudson's Bay Company's oflicers, in charge ot' the Ibrt just named. An Indian 
was one day lounging about the fort, and seeing some timbe •£ lying in a heap 
that had been squared for pack saddles, helj)ed himself to one and connnenced 
cutting it down into a whip handle for his own use. To this procedure Mr. 
McKinlay's clerk demurred, first telling the Indian its use, and then ordering 
him to resign the piece of tunber. The Indian insolently re])lied that the tim- 
ber was his, and he should take it. At this the clerk, with more temper than 
prudence, struck the offender, knocking him over, soon after which the savage 
left the fort with sullen looks boding vengeance. The next day jVlr, ^IcKinlay, 
not being informed of what had taken place, was in a room of the fort with his 
clerk when a considerable party of Indians began dropping quietly in until 
there were fifteen or twenty of them inside the building. The first intimation 
of anything wrong McKinlay received was when he observed the clerk pointed 
out in a particular manner by one of the party. lie instantly comj)rehende(l 
the purpose of his visitors, and with that ([uiekness of thought which is habitual 
to the student of savage nature, he rushed into the store room and returned 
with a powder keg, flint and steel. By this time the unlucky clerk was strug- 
gling for his life with his vindictive foes. Butting down the powder in their 
midst and knocking out the head of the keg with a blow, McKinlay stood over 
it ready to strike fire with his flint and steel. The savages paused aghast. 
Tliey kn2w the nature of the " perilous stuff," and also understood the trader's 
purpose. " Come," said he with a clear, deternuned voice, *' you are twenty 
braves against us two : now touch him if you dare, and see who dies first " In 
a moment the fort was cleared, and McKinlay was lefl to inquire the cause of 
wdiat had so nearly been a tragedy. It is hardly a subject of doubt whether or 
not his clerk got a scolding. Soon afler, such was the powerful influence 
exerli'd by these gentlemen, the chief of the tribe flogged the pilfering Indian 
for the ofTence, and McKinlay became a great brave, a " big heart " for his 






i " 


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

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

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



i ;;;t "• 


M' J 



\ i 

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

Congress being importuned by the people of the West, finally, in 1815, passed 
an act expelling British trad( rs from American territory east of the Rocky 
Alountaius. Following the passage of this act the hunters and trappers of the 



:'e in doaliiv^ 
lessed. Per- 

their uliiel, 
1 the savages 
icts to them. 
1 Indian who 

Doctor was 
ting it in thy 
e stones are 

the devil ! " 
ht it prudent 

ndulgenee of 
at he can eat 
tiese uses, his 

character, to 
L of the influ- 
was founded, 
ide of dealin.f 
Tlie compari- 
i, a reference 
was forced to 
and trading 

Jnited States 
a commerce 

ation of that 
rprise from 
The people 

igement of a 
itish) ;a the 
ritorial sov- 
Britain, to 
le fur trade, 
y of Ghent, 
during that 
ically in the 
roamed the 
n believed), 

L815, passed 
the Rocky 
•pers of the 

old North American Company, at the head of which Mr. Astor still remained, 
bo;:an to range the country about the head waters of the Mississippi and the 
ujiiKT ^Missouri. Also a few American traders had ventured into the northern 
jirovinces of Mexico, previous to the overthrow of the Spanish (lovcrnmcnt : 
and after that event, a thriving trade grew up between St. Louis and Santa Fe. 

At length, in 1823, Mr. W. H. Ashley, of St. Louis, a merchant lor a long 
ti-me engaged in the fur trade on the Missouri ami its tributaries, dcturmined to 
push a trading party up to or beyond the Rocky Mountains. Following uji 
the Platte River, Mr. Ashley proceeded at the head of a large i)arty with horses 
and merchandise, as far as the northern branch of the Platte, called the Sweet- 
water. This he explored to its source, situated in that remarkable depression 
in tlu' Rocky Mountains, known as the South Pass — the same which Fremont 
tl'iscorr-red twenty years later, during which twenty years it was annually trav- 
eled by trading parties, and just prior to Fremont's discovery, by missionaries 
antl emigrants destined to Oregon. To Mr. Ashley also belongs the i-redit of 
liaving first explored the head-waters of the Colorado, called the Green River, 
afterwards a favorite rendezvous of the American Fur Companies. Tlie coun- 
try about the South Pass proved to be an entirely new hunting ground, and 
very rich in furs, as here many rivers take their rise, whose head-waters fur- 
nished abundant beaver. Here Mr. Ashley spent the summer, returning to St. 
Louis in the fall with a valuable collection of skins. 

In 1824, Mr. Ashley repeated the expedition, extending it this time beyond 
(ireen River as far as Great Salt Lake, near which to the south he discovered 
another smaller lake, which he named Lake Ashley, after Mmself. On the 
shores of this lake he built a fort for trading with the Indians, and leaving in it 
about one hundred men, retuvned to St. Louis the second time with a larsie 
amount of furs. During the time the fort was occupied by Mr. Ashley's uien, a 
period of three years, more than one hundred and eighty thousand dollars worth 
of furs were collected and sent to St. Louis. In .827, the fort, and all IMr. 
Ashley's interest in the business, was sold to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, 
at the head of which were Jedediah Smith, William Sublette, and David 
Jackson, Sublette being the leading spirit in the Company. 

The custom of these enterprising traders, who had been in the mountains 
since 1824, was to divide their force, each taking his command to a good hunt- 
ing ground, ana returning at stated times to rendezvous, genuially appointed 
on the head-waters of Green River. Frecpiently the other fur companies, (for 
there were other companies formed on the heels of Ashley's enterprise,) learn- 
ing of the place appointed for the yearly rendezvous, brought their goods to 
the same resort, when an intense rivalry was exhibited by the several traders 
as to which company should soonest dispose of its goods, getting, of course, the 
largest amount of furs from the trappers and Indians. So great was the com- 
j)etition in the years between 1826 and 1829, when there were about six hun- 
dred American trappers in and about the Rocky Mountains, besides those of 
the Hudson's Bay Company, that it was death for a man of one company to 
dispose of his furs to a rival association. Even a " free trapper " — that is, one 
not indentured, but hunting upon certain terms of agreement concernin"- the 






^ I 


E .v^i 


price of his furs and the cost of hl> outfit, only, dared not sell to any other 
company than th«' one lu' had a^ireed with. 

Ji'dcdiah Smith, of the Itocky Mountain Fur Company, durin;» their first 
year in the mountains, took a party of five trappers into Orejron, heinix tl"' 
first Ameriean, trader or other, to eross into that country sinee the breakinfjj 
up of Mr. Astor's establishment. He trapped on the head-waters of the Snake 
River initil autmun, when he fell in with a j)arty of Hudson's Bay trai)pers, 
and jfoiuji with them to their post in the Flathtiid country, wintered there. 

Ao;ain, in 182(j, Smith, Sublette, and Jackson, brouffht out a large number of 
men to trap in the Snake River country, and entered into direct competition 
with the Hudson's Ray Company, whom they opposed with hardly a de;rree 
more of zeal than they competed with rival Ami-rican trailers : this one extra 
degree being inspired by a " spirit of '"<> " toward anything British. 

Alter the Rocky Mountain Fur Company had extended its business by the 
purchase of INIr. Ashley's interest, the partners determined to push their enter- 
prise to the PiK'ific coast, regardless of the opposition they were likely to en- 
counter from the Hudson's Bay traders. Accordingly, in the spring of 1827, 
the Company was divided uj) into three parts, to be led separately, by different 
routes, into the Indian Territory, nearer the ocean. 

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

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


Mnu 1 

JOSEPH L. mki:k. 


Of tlic ini'ii left ill ('.imp, only two csca{H'd. Oik; u\:\n naim-'l l>l;i(k il-- 
I'cndcil liiinsclf until ho saw an opi'ortunify tor fllirlit, wln-n he t'sraptd to liio 
rovir ol" the woods, and finally to a Irirndly trilu' farilu r iiuiili, near tlio c-oa-t, 
who i)iloti'd him to Vaiu'oiivi-r. Thi' ri'iiiainiiii.f man was oiu- Tmiirr, ot'a vcty 
powerful frame, who was doinix eamp duty as cook on this evcntiiil miiniiiiir. 
WTien the Indians rushed ui)oii him he defended hiiiiseif \\'iA\ a liuj^e firebrand, 
or half-burnt poplar stick, with whieh hi; laid about him like Sampson, killing 
four red-skins before he saw a chance of escape. SiuLTularly, for one in his ex- 
tremity, he di<l escape, and also arrivecl at Vancouver that winter. 

J)r. JNh'Lau^ihlin received the unlucky tradir ami his thn-e surviving men 
with every mark and expression of kindness, and entertained them through the 
winter. Not only this, l)ut he dis|)afched a strong, armed party to the scene 
of the disaster to puni;.h the Indians ami recover the stolen goods ; all of which 
was done at his own expense, both as an act of friendship toward his Ameri- 
can rivals, and as necessary to the discipline which they everywhere maititained 
among the Indians. Should this ofTencc go unjMitiished, the next aitack might 
be npon one of his own parties going annualjy down into ("alil'ornia. Sir 
George Simpson, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, chanced to be 
spending the winter at Vancouver. lie offered to semi Smilli to London the 
following summer, in the Company's vessel, where he mi'_dit di-pose of his furs 
to advantage; but Smith declined this offer, and finally sold his furs to ])r. 
McLaughlin, and returned in the spring to the Kocky Mountains. 

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

Influenced by the hospitable treatment which Smith had received at the 
hands of the Hudson's Bay Company, the jiartners now determined to witli- 
draw from competition with them in the Snake country, and to trap upon the 
waters of the Colorado, in the neighborhood of their fort. But " luck," the 
mountain-man's Providence, seemed to have deserted Smith. In crossing the 
Colorado River with a considerable collection of skins, he was again attacked 




:< •> 

it i:i 



h '^i 


wvKTii s i;xi'i;i)mt>Ns. 

by Iiulians, iiml only escaped la losiie.' nil liis |inii>erty. He llieii went to St. 
JiOiiis tor 11 supply of iiiereliainlise, and lit led out a tradiu<4 parly tor Santa F6 ; 
but uii his way to that plaee was killed iu an eueonnter with the s!iva<^es. 

Tiu'iier, the man who so valiantly witdded the (irebiand on th(( rinp(|u;i 
River, several years lati-r met with a similar adventure on the Uojjne River, in 
Southern Ore^^on, and wasting means t)l' savinj; the lives of ids jmrty by iiis 
eoura^e, streu;j;th, and alertness. He finally, when trapping had beeoine un- 
prolitalile, relireil upon a farm in the Wallamet N'alley, as did many other 
niouutain-mei\ who survived the dau'jc rs of their perilous trade. 

Alter the di-ath of Smith, the Koeky iMountain Fur t'om|)any eontiiuied its 
operations under the eouuuand of Hridi^jer, Filzpalriek, iintl iMilton Sublette, 
brotlier of William. In the sprin<4 of IS.'lo they reeeived ubout two liundred 
recruits, and with little variation kept up their nIUul)(^r of thn-o or four hundred 
men H>r ;i period of ei^ht or ten years lonj^er, or until thu beaver were hunted 
out of every nook and corner of the Koeky ^b)untains. 

Previous to 18,'jr), there were in and about the Koeky Mountains, beside tin; 
" Anu'riean " and " Koeky Mountain " eomjianies, the St. Louis Company, iind 
oi<:ht or ten " lone traders." Amoui; these latter wen; William Sublette, 
Kobert Campbell, J. t). Tattie, ^Mr. I'ileher , Col. Charles lient, St. Vraiu, 
William Bent, ]\Ir. (lant, and Mr. Klackwell. All these eom[)anies and 
traders more or less frequently penetrated into the countries of New Mexico, 
Old Ah'xico, Sonora. and Calitlu'uia; returnin<j; sometinu-s throuj^h the moun- 
tain rei-ions of the latter Slate, bv the Humboldt Kivi-r to the head-waters of 
the Colorado. Seldom, in all tlu'ir journeys, did they intrude (m that portion 
of the Indian Territory lyinjif within three hundred miles of Fort Vancouver, 
or which forms the area of the ])resent State of Oregon. 

Up to 18;52, the fur traile in the West hail been ehietly conducted by luei'- 
cliants from the frontier eitii's. especially by those of St. Louis. The old 
" North American " was the only exception. But in the sprinjT of this year, 
Captain Bonneville, an United States ollieer on furlouiih, led a company of a 
hundred men, with a train of wagons, horses and uuiles, with merchandise, into 
the trapping: irrounds of the Koeky ^lountains. His waj^ons %vere the first that 
had ever crossed the siunmit of these mountains, though William Sublette had, 
two or three yeai's previous, broujilit wagons as liir as the valley of the AVind 
River, on the east side of the range. Captain Bonneville remained nearly 
three years in the hunting and trapping grounds, taking parties of men into 
the Colorado, Huujboldt, and Sacramento valleys; but he realized no profits 
from his expeilition. being opposed and competed with by both British and 
American traders of larger experience. 

But Captain Bonneville's venture was a fortunate one compared with that 
of Mr. Nathaniel Wyeth of ^lassachusetts, who also crossed the continent in 
1832, with the view of estabhshing a trade on the Columbia River. 'Mr. Wyeth 
brought with him a small party of men, all inexperienced in frontier or jnoun- 
tain life, and destined for a salmon fishery on the Columbia. He had reached 
Independence, ^lissouri, the last station before plunging into the wilderness, and 
found himself somewhat at a loss how to proceed, until, at this juncture, he was 



•lit to St. 
luilH Fu ; 

River, in 
ty by his 
(•oliin uii- 
my otlitT 

liniu'd its 
) lumtlrt'tl 
r liun(ln'«l 
ro hunti'd 

bcsidi'. tlio 

ipany, and 


St. Vraiii, 

)airu>s and 

w Mexico, 

the nioun- 

1-waters ut* 

it portion 


>d by mer- 

The old 

tills year, 

iipany ot" a 

iiuliso, into 

|e, first that 

blette had, 

the AVind 

led nearly 

men into 

no })rofit3 

Iritish and 

with that 
kntincnt in 
llr. Wyeth 

or juoun- 
1(1 reached 
Irness, and 
Ire, he was 

overtaken by tlic jiarty of William Sublette, lioiii St. F,oiiis to tlut Roeky Moun- 
tains, with whom he travelled in eoiiipany to the rendezvous at I'ierre's IloU;. 

Wlieii Wyeth arrived at th«^ ('olumbia River, at'ler tarrying until he. had 
iiciiuired some mountain e iierienees, he tixiiid that his vessel, which was loaded 
with iiierchaiidise for the Columbia River trade, had n(»t arrived. He remaiiierl 
at V'anccmver throuj^h the winter, the finest ol' tlie Hudson's Hay Company, 
and eiiher having; learned or surmised that his vi-ssel was wrei.ked, niturned to 
the rnited States in the fbllowin;^ year. Not (liscourajj;ed, however, he inaihr 
another venture in IHiU, ilespatchiii;^ the ship Miii/ Ditrn., Captain Lambert, 
lljr the Columbia River, with another ean^o of Indian floods, travelin<^ himself 
overland with a parly of two hundred men, and a considerable ((uantity of mer- 
chandise which he e.\pect»'d to still to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. In 
this expectation lu! was (hstliatecl by William Sublette, who had also brought out 
a lar;^e assortment of j^oods li>r the Indian trade, and had sold out, supplyin;^ 
the market, betbre Mr. Wyeth arrived. 

Wyeth then built a post, named Kort Hall, on Snake River, at the jun<tion 
of the Portneiif, where he stored his goods, and havin<^ detached most of his 
men in trapping; parties, [)roceeded to the Columbia River to meet the Mm/ 
JJacre. He n-ached the Columbia about the same time with his vessel, ami 
jiroceeded at once to ennt a salmon fishery. To forward this purpose he built 
a post, called Fort William, on the lower end of Wai)i)at<xj (now known as 
Sauvie's) Island, near where the Lower Wallauiet tiills into tlie Columbia. Rut 
for various reasons he limnd the business on which he had entered unprofitable. 
He had much trouble with the Indians, liiti men were killed or tlrowned, so that 
by the time lie had half a eart^o of fish, he was ready to al)an(lon the effort to 
establish a commerce with the Orejfon Indians, and was satisfied that no enter- 
prise less stupendous and powerful than that of the Hiulson's Bay Comjiany 
could be lonj: sustaine(l in that country. 

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

The Hudson's Bay Company were hardly so unfriendly to him as the Ameri- 

M can companies; since to the former he was enabled to sell his goods and fort on 

I the Snake River, before he returned to the United States, which he did in 18.35. 

d T\w sale of Fort Hall to the Hudson's Bay Company was a finishing blow at 

the American fur trade in tlie Rocky Mountains, wliich after two or three years 

of constantly declining profits, was entirely abandoned. 

Something of the dangers incident to the life of the hunter and trapper may 
be gathered from the following statements, made by various parties who have 
been engaged in it. In 1808, a Missouri Company engaged in fur hunting on 








\h ' 





•I !, 

1 1 ii ' 





lilt I' 
I" f 

I'i r 



the throp forks of tlu; riviT Missouri, were iittacktMl liy Hhickfet t, losini^ twt'iity- 
eeven men, and Ix-ini^ compellud to ubundon the coiuitry. In 1823, Mr. Ashley 
was attacked on the same river by the Arickaras, and had twenty-six men 
killed. About the same time the Missouri comijany lost seven men, and lit'teen 
thousand dollars' worth of merchandise on the Yellowstone River. A few years 
previous, Major Henry lost, on the Alissouri River, six men and fifty horses. 
In the sketch y;iven of Smith's tradinjf adventures is shown how uncertain were 
life and i)ro[K'rty at a later jteriod. Of the two hundred men whom AVyeth 
led into the Indian country, only about tbrty were alive at the end of three 
years. There was, indeed, a constant state of warfare between the Indians 
and the whites, wherever the American Companies hunted, in which great 
numbers of both lost their lives. Add to this cause of decimation the perils 
from wild beasts, famine, cold, and all manner of accidents, and the trapper's 
chance of life was about one in three. 

Of the causes which have jn-oduced the enmity of the Indians, there are 
about as many. It was found to be the case almost luiiversally, that on the 
first visit of the whites the natives were friendly, after their natural fears had 
been allaye.d. Rut by dej^rees their cupidity was excited to possess themselves 
of the much coveted dress, arms, and ;;oc Is of their visitors. As they had 
little or nothin;4 to oiler in exchange, which the white man considered an equiva- 
lent, they took the only method remaining of gratifying their desire of jxjssess- 
ion, and stole the coveted articles which they could not purchase. WIhui they 
learned that the white men punished thefl, they murdered to prevent the pun- 
ishment. Often, also, they had wrongs of their own to avenge. White men 
did not always regard their property-rights. They were guilty of infamous 
conduct toward Indian women. What one party of whites told them was true, 
another plainly contradicted, leaving the lie between them. They were over- 
bearing toward the Indians on their own soil, exciting to irrepressible hostility 
the natural jealousy of the inferior toward the superior race, where both are 
free, which characterizes all people. In short, the Indians were not without 
their grievances ; and from barbarous ignorance and wrong on one side, and 
intelligent wrong-doing on the other, together with the misunderstandings likely 
to arise between tAVO entirely distinct races, grew constantly a thousand abuses, 
which resulted in a deadly enmity between the two. 

For several reasons this evil existed to a greater degree among the American 
traders and trappers than among the British. Tlie American trapper was not, 
like the Hudson's Bay employees, bred to the business. Oflener than any 
other way he was some wild youth who, after an escapade in the society of hie 
native place, sought safety from reproach or punishment in the wilderness. Or 
he was some disappointed man who, with feelings embittered towards his fellows, 
preferred the seclusion of the forest and mountain. Many were of a class dis- 
reputable everywhere, who gladly embraced a life not subject to social laws. 
A few were brave, independent, and hardy spirits, who delighted in the hard- 
ships and wild adventures their calling made necessary. All these men, the 
best with the worst, were subject to no will but their own ; and all experience 
goes to prove that a life of perfect liberty is apt to degenerate into a life of 

IS not, 
In any 
lot' hie 
3S dis- 
I hard- 
pi, the 
life of 


1 1 


4 1 








1 " ' 



i5 , i:i 

i '^'i 




license. Even their own lives, and those of their eonipiinionH, when it dcpfiuletl 
u|K)u their own prudeAce, were but lightly con«iderod. The conttluut preMeuce 
of danger made them reekless. It is t-asy to conctuve how, under these eir- 
cumstances, the natives and the foruigners grew to hate each other, in the 
Indian country ; especially atler the Americans came to the determination to 
" shoot an Indian at sight," unless he belonged to some tribe with whom they 
had intermarried, after the manner of the trapiicrs. 

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

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

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

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


\ ' 







'Z..^ I 






o^f * s^sa 













As has been stated in the Introduction, Joseph L. Meek 
was a native of Washington Co., Va. Born in the early- 
part of the present century, and brought up on a planta- 
tion where the utmost liberty was accorded to the "young 
massa;" preferring out-door sports with the youthful 

I bondsmen of his father, to study with the bald-headed 
schoolmaster who furnished him the alphabet on a paddle ; 
possessing an exhaustless fund of waggish humor, united 
to a spirit of adventure and remarkable personal strength, 

I he unwittingly furnished in himself the very material of 
which the heroes of the wilderness were made. Virginia, 
"the mother of Presidents," has furnished many such men, 
who, in the early days of the now populous Western States, 
became the hardy frontiers-men, or the fearless Indian 
fio-hters who were the bone and sinew of the land. 

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


I r! 



til ■ 

^1 1 




( ';^ i 

•': ! ' 

'S . i ;i i 



« i 

I.- i 



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


*' How old are you ?" asked Suolette. 

"A little past eighteen." 

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

•" Yes." 

■ m 









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

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

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

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

Then commenced the business of preparing for the jour- 
ney — making acquaintance with the other recruits — enjoy- 
ing the novelty of owning an outfit, being initiated into 
the mysteries of camp duty by the few old hunters who 
Were to accompany the expedition, and learning some- 
thing of their swagger and disregard of civilized observ- 

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

Getting up at four o'clock of a March morning to kindle 




■ 'I • Wl 


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m 1 

fi ;; 


,.! ' M, 

lib ( 

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f! !' '■•■ 


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

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

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

Considering that these frontier people knew what In- 
dian fighting was, this was no doubt sound and disinter- 




ested advice, notwithstanding it was given somewhat 
sharply. And so the young men felt it to be ; hut it was 
not in the nature of either of them to turn back from a 
course because there was danger in it. The thought of 
liome, and somebody to mend their coats, was, however, 
for the time strongly presented. But the company moved 
on, with undiminished numbers, stared at by the few in- 
habitants, and hnviiiL;" their own little adventures, until 
they came to Independence, the last station before com- 
mitting themselves to the wilderness. 

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

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

The route of Captain Sublette led across the country 
from near the mouth of the Kansas River to the River Ar- 
kansas ; thence to the South Fork of the Platte ; thence 










1 ,■;<; 

if • 

on to the North Fork of tliat Hiver, to where Ft. Laramie 
now stands; thence up the North Fork to the Sweetwater, 
and thence across in a still northwesterly direction to the 
head of Wind River. 

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

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

Happily on this occasion the band proved to be more 
peaceably disposed than their appearance indicated, being 
the warriors of several tribes — the Sioux, Arapahoes, Kio- 
was, and Cheyennes, who had been holding a council to 
consider probably what mischief they could do to some 




other tribes. The spectacle they presented as they came 
at full speed on horseback, armed, painted, brandishing 
their weapons, and yellin<i: in first rate Indian style, was 
one which might well strike with a palsy the stoutest 
heart and arm. What wei-e a band of sixty men against 
a thousand armed warriors in full fighting trim, with 
spears, shields, bows, battle-axes, and not a few guns? 

But it is the rule of the mountain-men to Jiyht — and 
that there is a chance for life until the breath is out of the 
body • therefore Captain Sublette had his little force 
drawn up in line of battle. On came the savages, whoop- 
ing and swinging their weapons above their heads. Sub- 
lette turned to his men. "When you bear my shot, then 
fire." Still they came on, until within about fifty paces 
of the line of waiting men. Sublette turned his head, and 
saw his command with their guns all up to their faces 
ready to fire, then raised his own gun. Just at this mo- 
ment the principal chief sprang off his horse and laid his 
weapon on the ground, making signs of peace. Then fol- 
lowed a talk, and after the giving of a considerable pres- 
ent, Sublette was allowed to depart. This he did with all 
dispatch, the company putting as much distance as possi- 
ble between themselves and their visitors before making 
their next camp. Considering the warlike character of 
these tribes and their superior numbers, it was as narrow 
an escape on the part of the company as it was an excep- 
tional freak of generosity on the part of the savages to 
allow it. But Indians have all a great respect for a man 
who shows no fear ; and it was most probably the warlike 
movement of Captain Sublette and his party which in- 
spired a willingness on the part of the chief to accept a 
present, when he had the power to have taken the whole 
train. Besides, according to Indian logic, the present 
cost him nothing, and it might cost him many warriors to 



^ — '- 



■'•i « 

■ I 

vl !i ■ •■ 


;» ■' 

capture the train. Had there been the least wavering on 
Sublette's part, or fear in the countenances of his men, tlio 
end of the affair would have been different. This adven- 
ture was a grand initiation of the raw recruits, giving 
them both an insight into savage modes of attack, and an 
opportunity to test their own nerve. 

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

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

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

The Summer rendezvous was always chosen in some 
valley where there was grass for the animals, and game 
for the camp. The plains along the Popo Agie, besides 
furnishing these necessary bounties, were bordered by pic- 
turesque mountain ranges, whose naked bluffs of red sand- 
stone glowed in the morning and evening sun wuh a mel- 
lowness of coloring charming to the eye of the Virginia 



recruit. The waving grass of the plain, variegated with 
wild llowers; the clear summer heavens flecked with 
white clouds that threw soft shadows in passing ; the graz- 
ing animals scattered about the meadows ; the lodges of 
the Booslncays* around which clustered the camp in 
motley garb and brilliant coloring ; gay laughter, and the 
murmur of soft Tndian voices, all made up a most spir- 
ited and enchanting picture, in which the eye of an artist 
could not fail to delight. 

But as the goods wore opened the scene grew livelier. 
All were eager to purchase, most of the trappers to the 
full amount of their year's wages; and some of them, 
generally free trappers, went in debt to the company to a 
very considerable amoir t, after spending the value of a 
year's labor, privation, and danger, at the rate of several 
hundred dollars in a single day. 

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

There was also a class of free trappers, who were fur- 
nished with their outfit by the company they trapped for, 
iiiid who were obliged to agree to a certain stipulated 

;(^' ;^ 




* Leaders or chiefs — corrupted from the French of Bourgeois, and borrowed 
from the Canadians. 




price for thoir furs before the hunt commenced. But the 
genuine free i rapper regarded himself as greatly the su- 
perior of either of the foregoing classes. lie had his own 
horses and accoutrements, arms and ammunitioi.. He 
took what route he thought fit, luuited and trapped when 
and where he chose ; traded with the Indians ; sold his 
furs to whoever offered highest for them ; dressed flaunt- 
ingly, and generally had an Indian wife and half-breed 
children. They prided themselves on their hardihood 
and courage ; even on their recklessness and profligacy. 
Each claimed to own the best horse; to have had the 
wildest adventures; to have made the most narrow es- 
capes ; to have killed the greatest number of bears and In- 
dians ; to .be the greatest favorite with the Indian belles, 
the greatest consumer of alcohol, and to have the most 
money to spend, i. e. the largest credit on the books of 
the company. If his hearers did not believe him, he was 
ready to run a race with him, to beat him at "old sledge," 
or to fight, if fighting was preferred, — ready to prove 
what he affirmed in any manner the company pleased. 

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

One of the free trapper's special cVjlights was to take in 


Li ^f H 



id the raw recruits, to gorge their wonder with his 

istf'id tales, and to amuse himself with shocking his pu- 

I's civilized notions of propriety. Joe Meek did not 

lapc this sort of "breaking in;" and if it should appear 

the course of this narrative that ho proved an apt 

lular, it will but illustrate a truth — that high spirits and 

le talents tempt the tempter to win them over to his 

iks. But Joe was not won over all at once. He be- 

lld the beautiful spectacle of the encampment as it has 

jen described, giving life and enchantment to the sum. 

ir landscape, changed into a scene of the wildest ca- 

lusLil, going from bad to worse, until from harmless 

Mae and bluster it came to fighting and loss of life. At 

lis first rendezvous he was shocked to behold the revolt- 

Ig exhibition of four trappers playing at a game of cards 

ith the dead body of a comrade for a card-table ! Such 

|as the indifference to all the natural and ordinary emo- 

)ns which these veterans of the wilderness cultivated in 

lemselves, and inculcated in those who came under their 

ifluence. Scenes like this at first had the effect to bring 

feelings of home-sickness, while it inspired by contrast a 

fort of penitential and religious feeling also. According 

(o Meek's account of those early days in the mountains, 

ie said some secret prayers, and shed some secret tears. 

bt this did not last long. The force of example, and es- 

kcially the force of ridicule, is very potent with the 

joung; nor are we quite free from their influ. uje later in 


If the gambling, swearing, drinking, and fighting at 
frst astonished and alarmed the unsophisticated Joe, he 
)und at the same time something to admire, and that he 
i\t to be congenial with his own disposition, in the fearless- 
ness, the contempt of sordid gain, the hearty merriment 
bd frolicsome abandon of the bettor portion of the men 

• 1 

. i 

'■•\ t( 







about him. A spirit of emulation arose in him to become 
as brave as the bravest, as hardy as the hardiest, and as 
gay as the gayest, even while his feelings still revolted at 
many things which his heroic models were openly guilty of. 
If at any time in the future course of this narrative, Joe is 
discovered to have taken leave of his early scruples, the 
reader will considerately remember the associations by 
which he was surrounded for years, until the memory of 
the pious teachings of his childhood was nearly, if not 
quite, obliterated. To " nothing extenuate, nor set down 
aught in malice," should be the frame of mind in which 
both the writer and reader of Joe's adventures should 
strive to maintain himself. 

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

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

5t, and jis 
jvoltc'd at 
guilty of. 
i^c, Joe is 
iples, the 
itions by 
emory of 
iy, if not 
set down 
in which 
)S should 

3nes of a 
reader a 

' be able 
may be 

1 leader, 
;^ance, or 
3, chosen 
n which 
:her like 
, papers, 
n follow 
—one on 
ot to slip 
n called 
ok after, 
lies, one 
) women 
lere the 
e, often 
ile. At 

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■■■' ; 





1 , 




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the end of the column rides the second man, or "little 
Booshway," as the men call him ; usually a hired officer, 
whose buoiness it is to look after the order and condition 
of the whole camp. 

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

In the morning at daylight, or sometimes not till sun- 
rise, according to the safe or dangerous locality, the sec- 
ond man come^. forth from his lodge and cries in French, 
'' leve^ leve^ leve, leve, leve ! " fifteen or twenty times, which 


is the command to rise. In about ^ive minutes more 
cries out again, in French, " leche lego, leche lego ! " 


turn out, turn out ; at which command all come out from 
the lodges, and the horses are turned loose to feed ; but 
not before a horseman has galloped all round the camp at 
some distance, and discovered every thing to be sale in 
the neighborhood. Again, when the horses have been 


*• . 

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tt '. 

■f 1. 




sufficiently fed, under the eye of a guard, they are driven 
up, the packs replaced, the train mounted, and once more 
it moves off, in the order before mentioned. 

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

A gun is never allowed to be fired in eamp under any 



provocation, short of an Indian raid ; but the guns are 
frequently inspected, to see if they are hi order ; and 
woe to the careless camp-keeper who neglects this or any 
other duty. When the second man comes around, and 
finds a piece of work imperfectly done, whether it be 
cleaning the firearms, making a hair rope, or a skin lodge, 
or washing a horse's back, he does not threaten the 
offender with personal chastisement, but calls up another 
man and asks him, " Can you do this properly ? '" 

"Yes, sir." 

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

In the spring, when the camp breaks up, the skins 
which have been used all winter for lodges are cut up to 
make moccasins : because from their having been thor- 
oughly smoked by the lodge fires they do not shrink in 
wetting, like raw skins. This is an important qualit}' in a 
moccasin, as a trapper is almost constantly in the water, 
and should not his moccasins L ^moked they will close 
upon his feet, in drying, like a vice. Sometimes after 
trapping all day, the tired and soaked trapj^er lies <^')wn 
in his blankets at night, still wet. But by-and-by he is 
wakened by the pinching of his moccasins, and is obligea 
to rise and seek the water again to relieve himsel of the 
pain. For the same reason, when spring comes, the trap- 
per is forced to cut off the lower half of his burk^ \n 
breeches, and piece them down with blanket L oo^^^^' 
which he wears all through the trapping season. 

Such were a few of the peculiarities, and the hardships 
also, of a life in the Rocky Mountains. If the camp dis- 
cipline, and the dangers and hardships to which a raw re- 
cruit was exposed, failed to harden him to the service in 










. ! 

one year, he was rejected as a " trifling fellow," and sent 
back to the settlement the next year. It was not prob- 
able, therefore, that the mountain-man often was detected 
in complaining at his lot. If he was miserable, he was 
laughed at ; and he soon learned to laugh at his own mis- 
eries, as well as to laugh back at his comrades. 

■v^ i;! 


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

This year, in the absence of Smith and Jackson, a con- 
siderable party was dispatched, under Milton Sublette, 
brother of the Captain, and two other free trappers and 
traders, Frapp and Jervais, to traverse the country downj 
along the Bighorn River. Captain Sublette took a large 
party, among whom was Joe Meek, across the mountains 
to trap on the Snake River, in opposition to the Hudson's 
Bay Company. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company had 
hitherto avoided this country, except when Smith had 
once crossed to the head-waters of the Snake with a small 
party of five trappers. But Smith and Sublette . had 
determined to oppose themselves to the British traders 

"1 y 



1 '"( . . 







who occupied so large an extent of territory presumed to 
be American ; and it had been agreed between them to 
meet this year on Snake River on Sublette's return from 
St. Louis, and Smith's from his California tour. What 
befel Smith's party before reaching the Columbia, has 
already been related ; also his rec(*ption by the Hudson's 
Bay Company, and his departure from Vancouver. 

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

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

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



Here again the trappers indulged in their noisy sports 
and rejoicing, ostensibly on account of the return of the 
long-absent IJooshway. There was little said of the nuMi 
who had })erished in that unfortunate expedition. "Poor 
fellow! out of luck;" was the usual burial rite which 
the memory of a dead comrade received. So much and 
no more. They could indulge in noisy rejoicings over a 
lost comrade restored ; but the dead one was not men- 
tioned. Nor was this apparently heartless and heedless 
manner so irrational or unfeeling as it seemed. Every- 
body understood one thing in the mountains — that he must 
keep his life by his own courage and valor, or at the least 
by his own prudence. Unseen dangers always lay in 
wait for him. The arrow or tomahawk of the Indian, the 
blow of the grizzly bear, the mis-step on the dizzy or slip- 
pery height, the rush of boiling and foaming floods, freez- 
ing cold, famine — these were the most common forms of 
peril, yet did not embrace even then all the forms in which 
Death sought his victims in the wilderness. The avoid- 
ance of painful reminders, such as the loss of a party of 
men, was a na< instinct, involving also a principle of 

self defence — since to have weak hearts would be the 
surest road to defeat in the next dangerous encounter. 
To keep their hearts "big," they must be gay, they must 
not remember the miserable fate oi many of thoir one-time 
comrades. Think of that, stern moralist and martinet in 
propriety ! Your fur collar hangs in the gas-lighted hall. 
In your luxurious dressing gown and slippers, by the 
warmth of a glowing grate, you muse upon the depravity 
of your fellow men. But imagine yourself, if you can, in 
the heart of an interminable wilderness. Let the snow 
be three or four feet deep, game scarce, Indians on your 
track : escaped from these dangers, once more beside a 
camp fire, with a roast of buflfalo meat on a stick before it, 




■ i 

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1 i 




M ,1' 

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and several of your companions similarly escaped, and 
destined for the same chances to-morrow, around you. Do 
you fancy you should give much time to lamenting the less 
lucky fellows who were left behind frozen, starved, or 
scalped? Not you. You would be fortifying yourself 
against to-morrow, when the same terrors might lay in 
wait for you. Jedediah Smith was a pious man ; one of 
the few that ever resided in the Rocky Mountains, and led 
a band of reckless trappers ; but he did not turn back 
to his camp when he saw it attacked on the Umpqua, 
nor stop to lament his murdered men. The law of self- 
preservation is strong in the wilderness. " Keep up your 
heart to-day, for to-morrow you may die," is the motto 
of the trapper. 

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

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



, M 


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

Some of them are armed in the primitive style, with 
bows and arrows ; the greater part have American fusees, 
made after the fashion of those of the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany. These they procure at the trading post of the 
American Fur Company, on Maria's River, where they 




,,■ .(ij, 










traffic their peltries for arms, aram anition, clothing, and 
trinkets. They are extremely fond of spirituous liquors 
and tobacco, for which nuisances they are ready to exchange, 
not merely their guns and horses, but even their wives 
and daughters. As they are a treacherous race, and have 
cherished a lurking hostility to the whites, ever since one 
of their tribe was killed by Mr. Lewis, the associate of 
General Clarke, in his exj)loring expedition across the 
Rocky Mountains, the American Fur Company is obliged 
constantly to keep at their post a garrison of sixty or sev- 
enty men," 

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

" This hostile band keeps about the head- waters of the 
Missouri, and numbers about nine hundred fighting men. 
Once in the course of two or three years they abandon 
their usual abodes and make a visit to the Arapahoes of 
the Arkansas. Their route lies either through the Crow 
country, and the Black Hills, or through the lands of the 
Nez Perces, Flatheads, Bannacks, and Shoshonies. As 
they enjoy their favorite state of hostility with all these 
tribes, their expeditions are prone to be conducted in the 
most lawless and predatory style ; nor do they hesitate to 
extend their maraudings to any party of white men they 
meet with, following their trail, hovering about their 






camps, waylaying and dogging the caravans of the free 
traders, and murdering the solitary trapj)er. The conse- 
quences are frequent and desperate fights between them 
and the mountaineers, in the wild defiles and fastnesses of 
the Rocky Mountains." Such were the Blackfeet at the 
period of which we are writing ; nor has their character 
changed at this day, as many of the Montana miners know 
to their cost. 

' .i-ciy)^ 


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

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

In setting a trap, several things are to be observed with 
care : — first, that the trap is firmly fixed, and the proper 



WONOKUK^t ,NST,NOT o. r„, U.AV.,,. 

"■stance fro,,, t|,o l,n„k-f„r if ,},, , 

sl'ore will, the ir„,,, f,,, will ,.,', ,r , ^"'""' """ g«t on 

7«"7, that ti,„ fl,!,.; i, :; ;' ' '■;«"•' u, ,.,.,,0: «„„. 

"'>-• little a„i,„„l wi„ e„t it i '' '"?'"'"''' '' ""t be, 

-"' tl.e trap to the iMllnl' ''.'"'"'' '""' '^'"">""S 

"« ^eifff't. /„ the latter cl J"-' :','"' '"' '''■'"^"'■'' >'7 

.-l« '-' the .„o,.„i,.,, ho i , 'ZJT; ""-' '"'""-•'■ visit. hiH 

'"1^ into the wate,. ami swL ' ""-' "•-•'^'••■^^'■'>' "'' I-l"n«. 

""•1 chill, ^ it very fiX^e,,! " "f """■""'« ''« '''•-ty 
["■■ traps is not the lea ■ , £/! '" "'" """"""""% <livi.,s 
'-it, care must be taken to tt'T't '" '''"^•"'S '1'" 
'-ching it will .spring he tl'' ^ ,? J*"-" ''•••'"- "' 
placed high, the hind foot of the' 1 ' ^"'''''"^ ''« 

>f low, his fore foot. ''"'''"' ^'" be caught : 

The manner in whipi, *v„ , 
andconstruet theirlodl ha,. T""' ""'^'' ">* dam, 
the wonders of th am^Jr '""f- ''"" ^^■'''^■'""••'' "'"ong 
observers have claim J fo ' the hS" ^ ''"'' "'"'■= -"« 
g»cuy than it really po sesses ""'""•'' ■""'•« »- 

cently wonderful, ft f, eertl'l ' '"T"' '' ''^" «"«i- 
to teop the water of a r am "^ ? ""',' '' "^""^^ '"'^ 
of an obstruction; and haT^ 1 T"" ''"•^'' ^^^ '"^'"-s 
pose Of backing ;p the''^ ^Va'd™ "t '"' ''" P"' 
however, that it can always fell LJ , " ""' "•"«, 
q«'red for this purpose The i ' ? "'" '''''■''«""» re- 
- felled in all dire^. b ^sTrt" ";""" " '""''''' <1™ 
Wer, generally lean towards it I > "' ^''"^ "<>" the 
the proper direction t gtvL '' 7'' "''''" <=°'' ^^^es 
then proceeds to cut up the fit," u""'' '^^'^ '^^^ver 
*o«t three feet, and t'o con ^ "h^ tT ti?" ^^"^"'^ °^ 
the dam is to be situated, seeurintTh f^'^' ^'"^^^ 

hy means of mud and stones The "5 '" ""' ^'^^''' 
'^hen the water is low, anH^rriea trV^r "T'' 

^ "fl as It rises, until it 


;• \ 

» ' 





■[l ■ I 

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lias attained the desired height. And not only is it made 
of the requisite height and strength, but its shape is suited 
exactly to the nature of the stream in which it is built. 
If the water is sluggish the dam is straight ; if rapid and 
turbulent, the barrier is constructed of ■:. convex form, the 
better to resist the action of the water. 


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

The food en which the beaver subsists, is the bark of 
the vouhg trees in its neighborhood; and when laying up 
a winter store, the whole community join in the labor of 
selecting, cutting up, and carrying the strips lo their store- 



houses under water. They do not, as some writers have 
affirmed, when cutting wood for a dnm strip olY the bark 
and store it in their lodges for winter consumption ; but 
only carry under water the stick with the bark on. 

" The beaver two incisors and eight molars in eacli jaw ; and cinitty hol- 
lows where the canine teeth might be. Tlie upper pair of ''utting teetli extiiil 
far into the jaw, with a curve of rather more than a semicircle; and tlie lower 
pair of incisors form rather less than a semicircle. Sometimes, oiu' (jf these 
teeth gets broken and then tlie opposite tooth continues growing until it iorms a 
nearly complete circle. The chewing muscle of the beaver is strengthened by 
tendons in such a way as to give it great power. But more is needed to enable 
the beaver to eat wood. Tlie insalivation of the dry ibod is j)rovided fur by the 
extraordinary size of tlie salivary glands. 

" Now, every part of these instrument.- is of vital importance to tlie l)eav('rs. 
The loss of an incisor involves the formation of an obstructive circular tooth ; 
deficiency of saliva renders the food indigestible; and when old age comes and 
the enamel is worn down faster than it is renewed, the Ijcaver is not longer r.ble 
to cut branches for its support. Old, feeble and poor, unable to borrow, and 
ashamed to beg, he steals cuttings, and subjects himself to the ])enalty assigned 
to theft. Aged beavers are, often found dead with gashes in iheir bodies, show- 
ing that they have been kiileu by their mates In the fall of 1804, a very aged 
beaver was caught in one of the dams of the Esconawba River, and tliis was the 
reflection of a great authority on the occasion, one Ah-she-g(Kis, an Ojibwa tra|> 
per : ' Had he escaped the traj) he would have been killed beibre the winter was 
over, by other beavers, for stealing cuttings.' 

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

The lodge of a beaver is generally about six feet in di- 


i' it'i'" 
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araeter, on the inside, and about half as high. They are 
rounded or dome-shaped on the outside, with very thick 
walls, and communicate with the land by subterranean 
passages, below the depth at which the water freezes in 
winter. Each lodge is made to accommodate several in- 
mates, who have their beds ranged round the wfills, much 
as the Indian does in his tent. They are very cleanly, 
too, and after eating, carry out the sticks that have been 
strii)ped, and either use them in repairing their dam, or 
throw them into the stream below. 

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

An exception to this rule is that of certain individuals, 
who have no families, make no dam, and never live in 
lodges, but burrow in subterranean tunnels. They are al- 
ways found to be males, whom the French trappers call 
*'les T-';..rsspix,'* or idlers; and the American trappers, 
"bachelors. ' Several of them are sometimes found in 
one abode, which the trappers facetiously denominate 
"bachelor's hall." Being taken with less difficulty than 
the more domestic beaver, the trapper is always glad to 
come upon their habitations. 

The trapping season is usually in the spnng and au- 
tumn. But should the hunters find it necessary to con- 
tinue their work in winter, they capture the beaver by 
sounding on the ice until an aperture is discovered, when 
the ice is cut away and the opening closed up. Returning 
to the bank, they search for the subterranean passage, trac- 
ing its connection with the lodge ; and by patient watching 


. a 

1 •'■•V 





succeed in catching the beaver on some of its journeys 
between the water and the land. This, however, is not 
often resorted to when the hunt in the fall has been suc- 
cessful ; or when not urged by famine to take the beaver 
for food. 

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

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


■ ■}' ■ U 


i !^' 






Ml i 

I. . 



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

But as the camp moved eastward, or rather in a north- 
easterly direction, through the pine forests between Pier- 
re's Hole and the head-waters of the Missouri, it was con- 
tinually harrassed by Blackfeet, and required a strong 
guard at night, when these marauders delighted to make 
an attacl>:. The weather by this time was very cold in 
the mountains, and chilled the marrow of our young Vir- 
ginian. The travel was hard, too, and the recruits pretty 
well worn out. 

One cold night. Meek was put on guard on the further 
side of the camp, with a veteran named Reese. But 
neither the veteran nor the youngster could resist the ap- 
proaches of " tired Nature's sweet restorer," and went to 
sleep at their post of duty. When, during the night, 
Sublette eame out of his tent and gave the challenge — 
" All's well ! " there was no reply. To quote Meek's own 
language, " Sublette came round the horse-pen swearing 
and snorting. He was powerful mad. Before he got to 
where Reese was, he made so much noise that he waked 

k < 


U ( 
U ( 



few in 


I told 


saw fh 

and t]j 


of dut^ 

It Wi 

on the 
one of 
rades, ( 
left thei 
of beav 
so sudd( 
which cl 
easv to 
small tre 
upon hi 
With his 
feet agai 
a point 

111 >:'' 



him; aiid Uei'se, in a loud w}iisp(3r, called to liiin, 'Down, 
Billy! Indians!' SiiblelU; f^ot down on his bc^lly mighty 
(|uiclv. 'WharV wharV' ho asked. 

'' 'Tliicy were right there when you hollered so,' said 

" ' Where is Me(;k V whispered Sublette. 

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

'' Reese then crawled over to whar I war, and told me 
what had l^een said, and iiiformed me what to do. In a 
few minutes I cre[)t cautiously over to Reese's post, when 
Sublette asked me how many Indians had been thar, and 
I told him 1 couldn't make out their numbei*. In the 
morning a pair of Indian moccasins war found whiir Reese 
saw fhe Indians^ which I had taken care to, there } 
and thus confirmed, our story got us the credit o[' vigi- 
lance, instead of our receiving our just dues for neglect 
of duty." 

It was sometime during the fall hunt in the Pine Woods, 
on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, that Meek had 
one of his earliest adventures with a bear. Two com- 
rades, Craig and Nelson, and himself, while out trai)[)ing, 
left their horses, and traveled up a creek on foot, in search 
of beaver. They had not proceeded any great distance, 
before they came suddenly face to face with a red bear ; 
so suddenly, indeed, that the men made a spring for the 
nearest trees. Craig and Meek ascended a large pine, 
which chanced to be nearest, and having many limbs, was 
easy to climb. Nelson happened to take to one of two 
small trees that grew close together ; and the bear, fixing 
upon him for a victim, undertook to climb after him. 
With his back against one of these small trees, and his 
feet against the other, his bearship succeeded in reaching 
a point not far below Nelson's perch, when the trees 

i, j 




.( ) 



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I'. :, 

■ i; .. 



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opened with his weight, and down he went, with a shock 
that fairly shook the ground. But this bad luck only 
seemed to infuriate the beast, and up he went again, with 
the same result, each time almost reaching his enemy. 
With the second tumble he was not the least discouraged ; 
but started up the third time, only to be dashed once 
more to the ground when he had attained a certain height. 
At the third fall, however, he became thoroughly dis- 
gusted with his want of success, and turned and ran at 
full speed into the woods. 

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

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




plish in cold, and surrounded by dangers, before reaching 
the wintering ground. 

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

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

Hiding his mule in a thicket, he ascended to the moun- 
tain top to take a view of the country, and decide upon 
his course. And what a scene was that for the miser- 
able boy, whose chance of meeting with his comrades 
again was small indeed ! At his feet rolled the Yellow- 

r I.: 


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stone River, coursing away through the great plain to the 
eastward. To the north his eye follows the windings of 
the Missouri, as upon a map, but playing at hide-and-seek 
in amongst the mountains. Looking back, he saw the 
River Snake stretching its serpentine length through lava 
plains, far away, to its junction with the Columbia. To 
the north, and to the south, one white mountain rose 
above another as far as the eye could reach. What a 
mighty and magnificent world it seemed, to be alone in ! 
Poor Joe succumbed to the influence of the thought, and 

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

Descending the mountain to the hiding-place of his 
mule, by which time it was dark night, hungry and freez- 
ing, Joe still could not li^ht a fire, for fear of revealing his 
whereabouts to the Indians ; nor could he remain to per- 
ish with cold. Travel he must, and travel he did, going 
he scarcely knew whither. Looking back upon the terrors 
and discomforts of that night, the veteran mountaineer 
yet regards it as about the most miserable one of his 
life. When day at length broke, he had made, as well as 
he could estimate the distance, about thirty miles. Trav- 
eling on toward the southeast, he had crossed the Yellow- 
stone River, and still among the mountains, was obliged 
to abandon his mule and accoutrements, retaining only 
one blanket and his gun. Neither the mule nor himself 
had broken fast in the last two days. Keeping a south- 
erly course for twenty miles more, over a rough and 



elevated country, he came, on the evening of the third 
day, upon a band of mountain sheep. With what eager- 
ness did he liasten to kill, cook, and eat ! Three days of 
fasting was, for a novice, quite sufficient to provide him 
with an appetite. 

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

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

When the first surprise of this astonishing scene had 


h .1 

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: i. ' 1 1 . ■ ,-■ jt/uMsSJ 

1\.4 m 





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•< ■SI; 

;' ■iiii! 

. v. 

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

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

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

He had thought the country entirely desolate, as not a 


> }. M 





liviii*,^ creature had been seen in the vicinity ; but while 
he stood gazing about him in curious amazement, lie was 
startled by the report of two guns, followed by the Indian 
yell. While making rapid preparations for defence and 
flight, if either or both should be necessary, a familiar 
voice greeted him with the exclamation, "It is old Joe! " 
When the adjective " old " is applied to one of Meek's 
age at that time, it is generally understood to be a term 
of endearment. " My feelings you may imagine," says the 
"old Uncle Joe" of the present time, in recalling the 

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

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

While the men w^re starving, a negro boy, belonging to 
Jedediah Smith, by some means was so fortunate as to 
have caught a porcupine, which he was roasting before the 
fire. Happening to turn his back for a moment, to observe 

T-^- X^- 

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Ji,: ,: 


somctliiiiir ill ramp, Meek and Recso snatched the tompt- 
in^^ viand and nuide oil' with it, before the darkey discov- 
ered his loss. Hut when it was discovered, what a wail 
went up for the end)ezzled porcupine ! Suspicion fixed 
upon tlie guilty parties, but as no one would 'peach on 
wliito men to save a "nigger's" rights, the poor, disap- 
pointed boy could do nothing but lament in vain, to the 
great anniscment of the men, who upon the principle that 
"misery loves company," rather chuckled over than con- 
demned Meek's "mean act." 

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

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

is the acci 

The can 

f''e aniniaJt 

upon the 

"^'er, whic: 

^^ct that it 

^"le discove 

l^^ace affords 

|'''^^^ie forme 

I pronounced 


"•"AT ■,„« SfOln SAW. 


"•Iiosfole liis ,,il,l,il \(, jr. I , , "' 

'-"t the ,„,,„. ''""' "' " fe'CM.llenm,,, tlmt L L 

"'liilcoM III,, nmi-ch over tl„.. 

';""';'"''' ""' '"■'■•^'n-aic, r "j ' ••^'^ ""'■'■"'''^" '!'■"■'«. 

•'"''-■•''■'''' ■'^'"itl. one clay e nt n ^''^""' '" ""■'■'• •^''"■■■"i"'- 
'"l' "f " l.ife'1. ,.c.ak to take „ ", ;7,,,"™"' "••-"» to .ho 

rctun.ecl. " '"'Is'-me scramble the scout 

" I saw the citv of «?f t • 

'!'-f .' " replied llan-is prXd::' .r*' ''^"°" ""^■■'"^ » 
shocking oath. ' ^''-'-''^'ng the assertion with a 

Smith asked no more question, w , 
."an s answer that he had tde „n t ""• '"■''°°'' V the 
"'"1 knew that they had stilf ^ '"'"'fe' ^i^overies- 

'■-h the plains Llot Be i/elT^ ''^^°- *em to* 
'"»». and the coarse profanilv of\^ ""^ " ^''%i°"s 

.'•^'7 distasteful to him ' 11° *f , """"taineet^'was 
:»"/ and there were very few nT.^ •'"""' ''n'^ ^ Christ- 

'^^^Z^^^ ;- ^^ ''^e. -cept to 

l«PO" the waters of^heStinS„5fT ^'^^^' -^"d '^-e 

>-^>-, which deriyes its unfortunft ' f ^"""^^ "^ this 

ft^t that it flows throilhT'r ' ''PP«^"''tion from the 

»^ diseoyered by MeeSn the vtr *'''"=' =''"«- *« the 
I'lace afforded as much fon^ f ^eJlowstone plains. This 

h the former one had tolr ''^"'^f '° '^' ^^-^^ camp 
Konounceditthe "backdot toth /'' "''" ""'"'--% 

6 """'"^^'cou^tiy Which diyines 

;--;'!i* •,:•/•' 4^^'ft 
, ■'■■■>-. Is. •<«:, ■• ••;• i b"! 

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preach about." As this volcanic district had previously 
been seen by one of Lewis and Clarke's men, named Col- 
ter, v^hile on a solitary hunt, and by him also denominated 
"hell," there must certainly , have been something very 
suggest! v^e in its appearance. 

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

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

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




As soon r,s tlie camp ',ras sufficiently recruited for trav- 
eling, the united companies set out again toward the south, 
and crossed the Horn mountains once more into Wind River 
Valley ; having had altogether, a successful fall hunt, and 
made some important explorations, notwithstanding the 
severity of the weather and the difficulty of mountain trav- 
eling. It was about Christmas when the camp arrived on 
Wind River, and the cold intense. While the men cele- 
brated Christmas, as best they might under the circum- 
stances, Capt. Sublette started io St. Louis with one man, 
Harris, called among mountain-men Black Harris, on snow- 
shoes, with a train of pack-dogs. Such was the indomita- 
ble energy and courage of this famous leader I 

1 ^ 


! i 



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■#'. '^.'- 






» :■■! 



'I ' ' 

■ M 



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

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

In the large cotton wood bottoms on the Yellowstone 
River, it sometimes became necessary to station a double 
guard to keep the buffalo out of camp, so numerous wore 
they, when the severity of the cold drov<' them from the 
prairies to these cotton-wood thickets for subsistence. It 


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ing" o 



of arr 

of ga 


ing, d 


an iso 


was tl 


of the 

their n 

eers' a 


not the 


arrival i 

of Natl 

was the 

the biisj 

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of hors€ 

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was, therefore, of double importance to nuike the winter 
camp where the cotton-wood was plenty ; since not only 
did it furnish the animals of the camp with food, but by 
attracting buft'alo, made game plenty for the men. To 
such a hunter's paradise on Powder River, the camp was 
now traveling, and arrived, after a hard, cold march, 
about the middle of January, when the whole encamp- 
ment went into winter quarters, to remain until the open- 
ing of spring. 

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

The change wrought in a wilderness landscape by the 
arrival of the grand camp was w^onderful indeed. Instead 
of Nature's superb silence and majestic loneliness, there 
was the sound of men's voices in boisterous laughter, or 
the busy hum of conversation ; the loud-resounding stroke 
of the axe ; the sharp report of the rifle ; the neighing 
of horses, and braying of mules ; the Indian whoop and 
yell ; and all tliat not unpleasing confusion of sound whicli 
accompanies tlie movements of the creature man. Over 

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the plain, only dotted until now with shadows of ch^ids, 
or the transitory passage of the deer, the antelope, or the 
bear, were scattered hundreds of lodges and immense 
herds of grazing animals. Even the atmosphere itself 
seemed changed from its original purity, and became 
clouded with the smoke from many camp-fires. And all 
this change might go as quickly as it came. The tent 
struck and the march resumed, solitude reigned once 
more, and only the cloud dotted the silent landscape. 

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

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

In this life of careless gayety and plenty, the whole 
company was allowed to remain without interruption, 
until the first of April, when it was divided, and once 
more started on the march. Jackson, or " Davey," as ho 
was called by the men, with about half the company, left 

Hi: AW LU6S OF lIUllriES AHiD TliAl'H. 


for tlio SiKike country. The romainder, among whom 
was Meek, start(3(l north, with Smith for commander, and 
James Bridger as pilot. 

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

A large party usually hunted out the beaver and fright- 
ened away the game in a few weeks, or days, from any 
one locality. When this happened the camp moved on ; 
or, should not game be plenty, it kept .constantly on the 
move, the hunters and trappers sc.-Idom remaining out 
more than a day or two. Should the country be consid- 
ered dangerous on account of In>l:r- >, it was the habit of 
the men to return every night to the encampment. 

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

In the manner described, pushing on tlirongh an un- 

I,, ••■ 

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HOimiOl) AM) lN!r>ULTi;i) HV A ItKAlf. 


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known coiinliv, liuiilin;^' uiul lr;i[)|)in^' us llicy iuovimI, iho 
conipaii}' prdi'LHMlcd, passin;^' iiiiollicr low chniii of inouii- 
laiiis, llirou^li a ])ass called Pi'vor's (Jap, lo (Mark's Koi'k 
ol' tlie Yellowstone, tlieneo to Uose-Hud IMver, and linally 
to llie main ^'ellowslone IMver, where it makes a ^reat 
bend to the east, eneh)sin<;' a lar<4'e i)lain covered with 
^Tass, and Iniviiii;' also extensive eotton-wood bottoms, 
^vhieli snhsecinently beeiune a liivorite wintering •'•ronnd 
of the lur companies. 

It was while trappintr H]"* in this country, on the Rosc- 
Bud Kiver, that an amnsiug adventnre bel'el our trapper 
Joe. Beint;" out witli two t)ther trai)[)ei.s, at some distimco 
iVoni the i;reat camp, tliey liad killed and supped oil* a fat 
butValo cow. The ui<>'ht was snowy, and tluMr camp was 
made in a grove of young aspens. Having feasted them- 
selves, the remaining store of choice ))ieces was divided 
between, and ])laced, hunter fashion, under the h(Nuls of 
the party, on their betaking themselves to their blaidvct 
couches for the night. Neither Indian nor wild beast dis- 
turbed their repose, as they slept, with their guns beside 
them, filled with comfort and plenty. But who ever 
dreams of the presence of a foe under such circum- 
stances ? Certainly uot our young trapper, who was only 
awakened about day-break by something very large and 
heavy walking over him, and snuihng about him with a 
most insulting freedom. It did not need Yankee powers 
of guessing to make out who the intruder in camp might 
be: in truth, it was only too disagreeably certain that it 
was a full sized grizzly bear. Avhose keenness of smell had 
revealed to him the presence r^ flit cow-meat in that 

'' Y'ou may be sure," says Joe, ' that 1 kept very quiet, 
while that bar helped himself to sonu' of my bulllilo meat, 
and went u little way olf to eat it. But Haik llead, oliu 



A NDVKL n;i{i{iA(;i; 


of llic moil, raised uj), and h.-ick caino tlio l)ar. Down 
went our lu'iidH under llu; blankets, and I ]<n)\)t muw, (!(>v- 
ercd prctly snii<^, wliile IIk; beast took another walk over 
tlu; bed, but linidly went olT a'^iiin to a, little; distiinec;. 
Miteliel then wanttid to slioot ; but I said, 'no, no; hold 
on, or tlu; brnle will kill us, sure.' WIkmi llic bar lieard 
our voices, baek lu; run a«j;"jun, jind jninjxMl on the; bod as 
before. I'd hav(! Ixu'U happy to have felt myself siid\ing 
ton feet und(M- ground, whih; that l)ar promenaded ov(M* 
and around us ! Jfovvevi^r, he couldn't quite make out our 
style, and linally took fright, and ran olf down the moun- 
tain. Wanting to' be revenged for his im[)udene(.', I went 
after liim, and seeing a good chance, shot him dead. 
Thou I took my turn at running over him awhihi!" 

Such are the not infre(|uent incidents of the trapper's 
life, which furnish him with material, m;oding little em- 
bellishment to convert it into those wild tales with which 
the nights are whil(Ml away around the winter c;amp-fire. 

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

The mode usually adopted in crossing large rivers, was 
to spread the lodges on the ground, throwing on them llio 
light articles, saddles, etc. A rope was then run through 
the pin-holes around the edge of each, when it could bo 
drawn up like a reticule. It was then filled with the 
heavier camp goods, and being tightly drawn up, formed a 
perfect ball. A rope being tied to it, it was launched on 
llif water, the children of the camp on top, and the wo- 
liii'ii Hwiniming after and clinging to it, while a man, who 

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had tlio ropo in liis hand, swam ahead hoUling on to his 
horse's luaiie. In tliis way, dancing like a cork on the 
waves, tlie k)dge was piloted across; and passengers as 
well as freight consigned, nndamaged, to the o})[) 
shore. A large canii) of" three hnndred men, and one 
hnndred women and eliildren were frecpiently thus crossed 
in one hour's time. 

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

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

; \m 



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

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

The old partners left for St, Louis, with a company of 
seventy men, to convoy the furs. Two of them never re- 
turned to the Rocky Mountains ; one of them, Smith, be- 
ing killed the following year, as will hereafter be related ; 
and Jackson remaining in St. Louis, where, like a true 
mountain-man, he dissipated his large and hard-earned 
fortune in a few years. Captain Sublette, however, con- 
tinued to make his annual trips to and from the mountains 
for a nun.t ' ( of years; and until the consolidation of an- 
other werlthy company with the Rocky Mountain Com- 
pany, contl'iuiid to furnish goods to the latter, at a profit 
on St. Louis prices ; his capital and experience enabling 
him to keep the new firm under his control to a large 



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1830. The whole country lying upon the Yellowstone 
and its tributaries, iiud about the head-watersof theMissouri, 
at the time of wliich we are writing, abounded not only in 
beaver, but in buffalo, bear, elk, antelope, and many smaller 
kinds of ganie. Indeed the buffalo used then to cross 

the mountains into the valleys about the head- waters of the 
Snake and Colorado Rivers, in such numbers that at cer- 
tain seasons of the year, the plains and river bottoms 
swarmed with them. Since that day they have quite dis- 
appeared from the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, 
and are no longer seen in the same numbers on the east- 
ern side. 

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


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eye, or the spot just behind the ear, where certain death 

In the fre(iuent encounters of the mountain-men with 
these liuge Ijeasts, many acts of wonderful bravery were 
performed, while some tragedies, and not a few comedies 
were enacted. 

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

" The first fall on the Yellowstone, Hawkins and myself 
were coming up the river in search of camp, when we dis- 
covered a very large bar on the opposite bank. We shot 
across, and thought we had killed him, fur he laid quite 
still. As we wanted to take some trophy of our victory 
to camp, we tied our mules and left our guns, clothes, and 
everything except our knives and belts, and swum over to 
whar the bar war. But instead of being dead, as we ex- 
pected, he sprung up as we come near him, and took after 
us. Then you ought to have seen two naked men run ! 
It war a race for life, and a close one, too. But we made 
the river first. The bank war about fifteen feet high above 
the water, and the river ten or twelve feet deep ; but we 
didn't halt. Overboard we went, the bar after us, and in 
the stream about as quick as we war. The current war 
very strong, and the bar war about half way between 
Hawkins and me. Hawkins was trying to swim down 
stream faster than the current war carrying the bar, and I 
war a trying to hold bar k. You can reckon that I swam ! 
Every moment I felt myself being washed into the yawn- 
ing jaws of the mighty beast, whose head war up tho 



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Stream, and his eyes on mo. But the current war too strong 
for him, and swept him along as fast as it did me. All this 
time, not a long one, we war looking for some place to 
land where the bar could not overtake us. Hawkins war 
the first to make the shore, unknown to the bar, whose 
head war still uj) stream ; and he set up such a whooping 
and yelling that the bar landed too, but on the opposite 
side. I made haste to follow Hawkins, wlio had landed 
on the side of the river we started from, either by design 
or good luck : and then we traveled back a mile and more 
to whar our mules war left — a bar on one side of the river, 
and two hares on the other ! " 

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




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

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

"Be , I would throw it to them, and run the way 

ye did," answered Maloney, quickly. It was sometime 
after this incident before Bridger again examined Malo- 
ney's gun. 

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

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

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"T reckon you took tlio wrong end of it, that tinio, 

'' ril be , Meek, if T didn't thiidv [ was twenty 

feet np that tree wlien you shot; " answered tlie friglitetied 
Booslnvay ; and from that time the men never tired of 
aUuding to Milton's manner of clind»ing a tree. 



These were some of the mirthful incidents which gave 
occasion for a gayety which liad to be substituted for hap- 
piness, in the checkered life of the trapper ; and there 
were like to be many such, where there were two hun- 
dred men, each almost daily in the way of adventures by 
flood or field. 

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


Mi;i;riN(i with imvai, tisai'I'kijh. 


From tlio niiickloot Ilivcr die ('()iiij)nny prococdod down 
tlu' wcsl side (tf the iiioiiiitiiiiis to tlio lork.s of llicr Siiiike 
IJivi'i', Jiiid ul'tcr Iriippiii;^" for u short tiiiic in tliis loi^jility, 
continiKMl their iniirch southwurd jis far iis O^dt-n's llohj, 
ii small valley anion<j,- tlu; Boar llivor Moiuilaiiis. 

At this place tlu;y iell in with a tradin^^ and trat)ping 
parly, 'nnder iMi'. Peter Skeen ()<4(len, of lh<? ITndson's liay 
Company. And now cojnnieneed that irritating and rcp- 
ichensihh; style of rivalry with which the dillerent com- 
panies were accustomed to annoy one another. Accom- 
panying Mr. ()gden\s trading party were a party of Rock- 
way Indians, who were from the North, and who wero 
('in[)l()yed by the Hudson's Bay Company, as the Iroquois 
Mild Crows were, to trap for them. Fitzpatrick and asso- 
ciates camped in the neighborhood of Ogden's company, 
and immediately set about endeavoring to purchase from 
the Rockways and others, the furs collected for Mr. Ogden. 
Not succeeding by fair means, if the means to such an end 
could be called fair, — they opened a keg of whiskey, which, 
when the Indians had got a taste, soon drew them away 
from the Hudson's Bay trader, the regulations of whose 
company forbade the selling or givirtg of liquors to the 
Indians. Under its influence, the furs were disposed of to 
the Rocky Mountain Company, who in this manner obtained 
nearly the whole product of their year's hunt. This course 
of conduct was naturally exceedingly disagreeable to Mr. 
On^den, as well as unprofitable also ; and a feeling of hos- 
tility grew up and increased between the two camps. 

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




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

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

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

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



t 1 

to camp, accompanied only by a Frenchman named Cabc- 
neau; thus proving himself an efficient mountaineer at 
twenty years of age. 

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

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

' 1 



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X i' 






ing at tliuiii uiid tluur hopes, from the ovcrhaii^in^^ MiifT 
opposite tliein. And by and by, when they were wrapped 
in a satisfied shiniber, two of these hiugliin^ rognes, Rol)- 
ert Newell, and Antoine Godin, stole nnder the very 
walls of their fort, and setting the horses free, drove them 
across the crc^ek. 

The Indians were awakened l)y the noise of the tramp- 
ling horses, and sprang to arms, lint Meek and his fellow- 
trappers on the blulf fired into the fort with such elfect 
that the Crows v/ere appalled. Having delivered their 
first volley, they did not wait for the savages to recover 
from their recoil. Mounting in hot haste, the cavalcade 
of bare-back riders, and their drove of horses, were soon 
far away from the Crov/ fort, leaving the ambitious braves 
to finish their excursion on foot. It was afterwards ascer- 
tained that the Crows lost seven men by that one volley 
of the trappers. 

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

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



It was expected that Fitzpatrick would have arrived 
from St. Louis with the usuail annual I'ccruits and sup})li('s 
of mereluindise, iu time for the sununei* n-iidezvous; hut 
after waiting for some time in vain, IJiidger and Sublette 
determined to send out a snndl party to look for him. 
The large number of men now employed, had exhausted 
the stock of goods on haml. The camp was without 
blankets and without ammunition ; knives were not to be 
had; traps were scarce; but worse than all, the tobacco 
had given out, and alcohol was ncU ' In such a case as 
this, what could a mountain-nuui do? 

To seek the missinyf Booshwav jecame not onlv a dut\. 
but a necessity; and not only a necessity of the physical 
nifin, but in an equal degree a need of the moral and spir- 
itual man, which was rusting with the tedium of waiting. 
In the state of uncertainty in which the minds of the com- 
pany were involved, it occurred to that of Frapp to con- 
sult a great "medicine-man" of the Crows, one of those 
recruits fdched from Mr. Ogden's party by whiskey the 
previous year. 

Like all eminent professional men, the Crow chief re- 
quired a generous fee, of the value of a horse or two, 
before he would begin to make "medicine." This pecul- 
iar ceremony is pretty much alike among all the diiferent 
tribes. It is observed first in the making of a medicine 
man, t. e., qualifying him for his profession ; and after- 
wards is practiced to enable him to heal the sick, to 
prophecy, and to dream dreams, or even to give victory 
to his people. To a medicine-man was imputed great 
power, not only to cure, but to kill ; and if, as it some- 
times happened, the relatives of a sick man suspected the 
medicine-man of having caused his death, by the exercise 
of evil powers, one of them, or all of them, pursued him 


1 ■, '.' 

!. V-!*- 














to the death. Therefore, although it might be honorable, 
it was not always safe to be a great "medicine." 

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

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

Thus encouraged, Frapp determined to take a party, 
and go in search of him. Accordingly Meek, Reese, 
Ebarts, and Nelson, volunteered to accompany him. This 



Victoria, B. C. 



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

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

But Fitzpatrick's content at being once more with his 
company was poisoned by the disagreeable proximity of a 


.;■.' > 







tr -..t-. 

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

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


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

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to be inveigled into the service of a rival company, which 
about this time or a little later, was at its highest, and 
which finally ruined the fur-trade for the American com- 
panies in the Rocky Mountains. 

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

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



their bosoms, was revealed, — as men will reveal such 
things in the isolation of sea-voyages, or the solitary pres- 
ence of majestic Nature. 

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

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

The warriors of the village soon followed Sublette and 
Meek into their strange house of refuge. In half an 
hour it was filled. Not a word was addressed to the 
strangers ; nor by them to the Indians, who talked among 









r ^ 


i.f« •! 


i l-Hll 

themselves with a solemn eagerness, while they smoked 
the medicine pipe, as inspiration in their councils. Great 
was the excitement in the minds of the. listeners, who un- 
derstood the Snake tongue, as the question of their life or 
death was gravely discussed; yet in their countenances 
appeared only the utmost serenity. To show fear, is to 
whet an Indian's appetite for blood : coolness confounds 
and awes him when anything will. 

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

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

What an age of anxiety was that hour of waiting ! Not 
a word had been exchanged between the prisoners since 
the Indians entered the lodge, rntil now ; and now very 
little was said, for speech woulr" draw upon them the vigi- 
lance of their enemy, by whom they desired most ar- 
dently to be forgotten. 


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

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

Here they found the ubiquitous if not omnipresent 
American Fur Company encamped at the rendezvous of 
the Rocky Mountain Company. The partners being anx 



/ 4 

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■' \ 

ious to be freed from this sort of espionage, and obstinate 
competition on their own gronnd, made a proposition to 
Vanderljurg and Dripps to divide the country with them, 
each c(mi[)juiy to keep o!i its own territory. This proposi- 
tion was refused by the Anu'rican Company ; })erhaps be- 
cause they feared having the poorer portion set off to 
themseb/es by their more experienced rivals. On this re- 
fusal, the Rocky Mountain Company determined to send 
an express to meet Capt. William Sublette, who was on 
his way out with a heavy stock of merchandise, and hurry 
him forward, lest the American Company should have the 
opportunity of disposing of its goods, when the usual 
gathering to rendezvous began. On this decision being 
formed, Fitzpatrick determined to go on this errand him- 
self; which he accordingly did, falling in with Sublette, 
and Campbell, his associate, somewhere near the Black 
Hills. To them he imparted his wishes and designs, and 
receiving the assurance of an early arrival at rendezvous, 
parted from them at the Sweetwater, and hastened back, 
alone, as he came, to prepare for business. 

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

The caravan had reached the foot-hills of the Wind 
River Mountains, when the raw recruits belonging to both 
these parties were treated to a slight foretaste of what 
Indian fighting would be, should they ever have to en- 
counter it. Their camp was suddenly aroused at midnight 



by the simultaneous discharge of guns and arrows, and 
the frightful whoops and yells with which the savages 
make an attack. Nobody was wounded, however; but 
on springing to arms, the Indians fled, taking with them 
a few horses which their yells had frightened from their 
pickets. These marauders were Blackfeet, as Captain 
Sublette exphiinod to Mr. Wyeth, their moccasin tracks 
having betrayed them ; for as each tribe has a peculiar 
way of making or shaping the moccasin, the expert in 
Indian habits can detect the nationality of an Indian thief 
by his foot-print. After this episode of the night assault, 
the leaders redoubled their watchfvdness, .and reached 
their destination in Pierre's hole about the first of July. 

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

Fitzpatrick had met with an adventure, as had been 
conjectured. While coming up the Green river valley, 
he descried a small party of mounted men, whom he mis- 
took for a company of trappers, and stopped to recon- 
noitre ; but almost at the same moment the supposed 
trappers, perceiving him, set up a yell that quickly unde- 
ceived him, and compelled him to flight. Abandoning 
his pack-horse, he put the other to its topmost speed 
and succeeded in gaining the mountains, where in a deep 
and dark defile he secreted himself until he judged the 

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Indians had left that part of the valley. In this he was 
deceived, for no sooner did he emerge again into the open 
country, than he was once more pursued, and had to 
ahandon his horse, to take refuge among the clilTs of the 
mountains. Here he remained for several days, witliout 
hlankets or provisions, and with only one charge of aui- 
munition, which was in his rifle, and kept for self-defense. 
At length, however, by fre(|uent roconnoitering, he man 
aged to elude his enemies, traveling by night, until he 
fortunately met with the two hunters from camp, and was 
con\ eyed by them to the rendezvous. 

All the parties were now safely in. The lonely moun- 
tain \'alley was populous with the different camps. The 
Rocky Mountain and Americnn companies had tlrir sep- 
arate camps ; Wyeth had his ; a company of free trap[)ers, 
fifteen in number, led by a man named Sinclair, from Ar- 
kansas, had the fourth ; the Xez Perces and Flatheads, the 
allies of the Rocky ^Mountain company, and the friends of 
the whites, had their lodges along all the streams ; so that 
altogether there could not have been less than one thou- 
sand souls, and two or three thousand horses and mules 
gathered in this place. 

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


kind, the free trap])ers took tlu- k';i(l, uikI UHually carried 
oil' the pahii, like the privileged class that they "wore. 

But the horse-riicin^-, fine riding', ^v^esIli^l^^ and mU the 
luanliei" sports, soon deu'ciicrat -d iiilo the hascr e.\liil»i- 
lions of a ''cra/y drunlv"' condition. The vessel in which 
the trapper received and carried about his Hn[)[)ly of alco- 
liol was one of the small o;nn[) kettles. '• Passing round" 
this clmnsy goblet very Ireely. it was not long belbie a 
goodly number were in the condition just named, and 
ready for any mad freak whatever. It is reported by sev. 
eral of the mountain-men that on the occasion of one of 
these *' frolics," one of their number seized a kettle of al- 
cohol, and poured it over the head of a tall, lank, red- 
headed fellow, repeating as he did so the baptismal cere- 
mony. No sooner had he concluded, than another man 
with a lighted stick, touched him with the blaze, when in 
oil instant he was enveloped in flames. Luckily some of 
the company had sense enough left to perceive his danger, 
and began beating him with pack-saddles to put out the 
blaze. But between the burning and the beating, the 
unhappy wretch nearly lost his life, and never recovered 
from the effects of his baptism by fire. 

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

On the 17th of July they set out toward the south end 

of the valley, and having made but about eight miles the 


1 11 

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first (lay, camped tliat niglit near a pass in \\\v. mountains. 
Wyetli's party of raw New Englanders, and Sinclair's free 
trai)pers, had joined theniselvcs to the coni[)any of Milton 
Sublette, and swelled the number in camp to about 
sixty men, many of them new to the l)usiness of mounlaiii 

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


A "■^■'■Tu-umsm,^.^.^^^^^^^ 

"■HMO iiK.inejit lie ordoi-,.,! .1. r, , ' 

c;lH-.^-'ii.|l.iead. The i^^tl;^'' ;•'''' ^'' «-. '<!.„ 

Antnine boaring «,r a r ^T ^'""'^i'-' '-'>• •« can,,., 

This lU'tioM iriadc it ii.,, -i • 

- •'- -lead d,i..,> 1,,;, , ;;n'"; "; ""■^•''-'> ">« ,,a„io, 

■""'-"-tol, ,.„„„, ,,;.;- -;;"- ..,,. The Hiaekfcet 
<''-' l'<'avcr dam, and thicHv „ *''""'' '"™eil by an 

-;' -"O'V, .naltod uS^;':^T' T'"' «-«-'-ood 
e-'fe;o of this .li„„,d eo°v e tl w '"='' ^""••■^- 0" "'o 
"•'"' ""-'■> g"n.s and an 1 ,^ '■'•'''" '^''"•'^•'•■d, and shot 
;;-'-;■ en,,lo,.ed .hems ves t di'" ■'' ''""'' ""''«' "'« 

'"'-'■ S"ch a defence aa tC- tWd-V '' »•" '■"^^^''^ ^■'""•^ '° 
»»y to attaek ; its unseen Zi^" l'''^^^''^ ^"^ °»« not 
^"^;t to appal the .s.outest Can '"^'^'' "^"'"S «"<«• 

Meantime, an express hi,l h 
'f n Sublette of the ba « e ^,'1"^ '"" "^ '° ''"'■°™ Cap- 
Clair and his free trappers" ". r;"°" ""^'■^•»"««- Sin- 
-mpany, were the onE, !'' ^^'\ S»'''otte's small 
k"-ving the inefflc1e,fc7of r^"''".'"'»d. Mr. Wyeth, 
;;'d them entrenehed behind I 'f "" ^"''''"" %'« 
">»- to take eare of themSe ''t" 7"^^. '""' *-«'''« 
PPear i„ open field. As ft u^e f K •""^"' "'"'" ""' '° 
';o"ed themselves in a ravine wle/t"^ ■"'"' "'^^ «'-- 
''">;P-k olf a Blackfoot, and J d T' '""''^ °''^-''»'''- 

*^reat was the astonishment Jf^h Z r^'^forcements. 
'l^^'ed they had only MiltoTiS ,hl « ' ^'''^kfeet, who be- 
'^^7 beheld 15rst oVXlfl1:t''''''^'''<'si>t, .hen 

°*«r; and not only whites^ut^p ""'" ''"'^ ""-'" «"" 
™ne galloping up^he vSley Jf^T' '"""^ ^'"^"'-'^s 
"jattle to destroy the whites! w "°"'' " ^'-"^ "^^e" a 
"--elves. Prions to th;rar:rp^'''^"''^'<'^<^f-d 

-rrnaJ of Captain Sublette, 



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the opposiug forces had kept up only a scattering fire, in 
which nobody on the side of the trappers had been either 
kilU'd or wounded. But when the impetuous captain 
arrived on the battle-licld, he prepared for less guanU'd 
warftire. Stripped ns if for tlu» ])rize-ring, and armed 
cap-a-pie^ he hastened to the scene of action, accompanied 
by his intimate friend and associate in business, Robert 

At sight of the reinforcements, and their vigorous 
movements, «the Indians at tlie edge of the swamp fell 
back within their fort. To dislodge them was a danger- 
ous luidertaking, but Captain Sublette was determined to 
make the eifort. Finding the trappers generally disin- 
clined to enter the thicket, he set the exanii)le, together 
with Campbell, and thus induced some of the free trap- 
pers, with their leader, Sinclair, to emulate his action. 
However, the others took courage at this, and advanced 
near the swamp, firing at random atitlieir invisible foe, 
who, having the advantage of being able to see them, in- 
flicted some wounds on the party. 

The few white "braves" who had resolved to enter the 
swamp, made their wills as they went, feeling that they 
were upon perilous business. Sublette, Campbell, and 
Sinclair succeeded in penetrating the thicket without 
alarming the enemy, and came at length to a more open 
space from whence they could get a view of the fort. 
From this they learned that the women and children had 
retired to the mountains, and that the fort was a slight 
affair, covered with buffalo robes and blankets to keep out 
prying eyes. Moving slowly on, some slight accident 
betrayed their vicinity, and the next moment a shot struck 
Sinclair, wounding him mortally. He spoke to Campbell, 
requesting to be taken to his brother. By this time some 
of the men had come up, and he was given in charge to 



be talccn back to camp. Sublette tlieu pressed forward, 
and seeing an Indian looking througli an aperture, aimed 
at him with fatal elfect. No sooner had he done so, and 
pointed out the opening to Campbell, than he was struck 
with a ball in the shoulder, which nearly prostrated him, 
and turned him so faint that Campl)ell took him in his 
arms and carried him, assisted by Meek, out of the swamp. 
At the same time one of tiie men received a wound in the 
head. The battle was now cari'ied on with spirit, although 
from the difiiculty of approaching the fort, the firing was 
very irregular. 

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

Seeing that the women of the Nez Perces and Flat- 
heads were gathering up sticks to set fire to their breast- 
work of logs, an old chief proclaimed in a loud voice 
from within, the startling intelligence that there were 
four hundred lodges of his people close at hand, who 
would soon be there to avenge their deaths, shoidd the 
whites choose to reduce them to ashes. This harangue, 
delivered in the usual high-flown style of Indian oratory, 
either was not clearly understood, or was wrongly inter- 
preted, and the impression got abroad that an attack was 
being made on the great encampment. This intelligence 
occasioned a diversion, and a division of forces ; for while 



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a small party was left to watch the fort, the rest galloped 
in hot haste to the rescue of the main camp. When they 
arrived, they found it had been a false alarm, but it was 
too late to return that night, and the several camps re- 
mained where they were until the next day. 

Meantime the trap23ers left to guard the fort i*emained 
stationed within the wood all night, firmly believing they 
had their enemy "corraled," as the horsemen of the 
plains would say. On the return, in the morning, of their 
comrades from the main camp, they advanced cautiously 
up to the br'^uSjtwork of logs, and behold ! not a buffalo 
skin nor red blanket was to be seen ! Through the crevi- 
ces among the logs was seen an empty fort. On making 
this discovery there was much chagrin among the white 
trappers, and much lamentation among the Indian allies, 
who had abandoned the burning of the fort expressly to 
save for themselves the fine blankets and other goods of 
their hereditarj foes. 

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

On entering the fort, the dead bodies of ten Blackfeet 
were found, besidps others dead outside the fort, and over 
thirty horses, some of which were recognized as those 
stolen from Sublette's night camp on the other side of 
the mountains, besides those abandoned by Fitzpatrick. 
Doubtless the rascals had followed his trail to Pierre's 



Hole, not thinking, however, to come upon so large a 
camp as they found at last. The savage garrison which 
had so cunningly contrived to elude the guard set upon 
them, carried off some of their wounded, and, perhaps, also 
some of their dead ; for they acknowledged afterwards a 
much larger loss than appeared at the time. Besides Sin- 
clair, there were five other white men killed, one half- 
breed, and seven Nez Perces. About the same number 
of whites and their Indian allies were wounded. 

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

Still remembering the threats of the Blackfoot chief. 



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

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

,1 '.'.' ■■ 

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

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

In this plight Sublette found himself, and finally re- 
solved to turn north, in the hope of coming upon some 
better and more hospitable country. The sufferings of 
the men now became terrible, both from hunger and 
thirst. In the effort to appease the former, everything 
was eaten that could be eaten, and many things at which 


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llie well-fed man would siekeu with disgust. "I have," 
says Joe Meek, " held my hands in an ant-hill until they 
were covered with the ants, then greedily licked them oil'. 
I have taken the soles oil* my moccasins, crisped them in 
the fire, and eaten tli(!m. In our extremity, the large 
black crickets which are found in this country were con- 
sidered game. We used to take a kettle of hot water, 
catch the crickets and throw them in, and when they 
stopped kicking, eat them. That was not what we called 
cant ficJiup I'o hancli^ (good meat, my friend), but it kept 
us alive." 

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

A few times a mule had been sacrificed to obtain meat; 
and in this case the poorest one was always selected, so as 
to economise the chances for life for the whole band. In 
this extremity, after four days of almost total abstinence 
and several weeks of famine, the company reached the 
Snake River, about fifty miles above the fishing falls, where 
it boils and dashes over the rocks, forming very strong 




rapids. Here the company camped, rejoiced at the sight 
of the pure mountain water, but still in want of food. 
During the march a horse's back had beco^uc sore from 
some cause ; probably, his rider thought, becjjise the sad- 
dle did not set well ; and, althougli that particular animal 
was selected to be sacriiiced on the morrow, as one that 
could best be spared, he set about taking the stulTing out 
of his saddle and re-arranging the padding. While en- 
gaged in this considerate labor, he uttered aery of delight 
and held up to view a large brass pin, which had acciden- 
tally got into the stuffing, when the saddle was made, and 
had been the cause of all the mischief to his horse. 

The same thought struck all who saw the pin : it was 
soon converted into a fish-hook, a line was spun from horse- 
hair, and in a short time there were trout enough caught 
to furnish them a hearty and a most delicious repast. "In 
the morning," says Meek, "we went on our way rejoicing;" 
each man with the "five fishes" tied to his saddle, if with- 
out any "loaves." This was the end of their severest suf- 
fering, as they had now reached a country where absolute 
starvation was not the normal condition of the inhabitants ; 
and which was growing more and more bountiful, as they 
neared the Rocky Mountains, where they at length joined 
camp, not having made a very profitable expedition. 

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

Nothing can be more abject than the appearance of the 
Bigger Indian, in the fall, as he roams about, without food 

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and witliout wciipons, savo perliaps a bow and arrows, 
witli his eyes fixed upon the ground, looking for crickets! 
So despicable is he, that he has neither enemies nor friends; 
and the ueigliboring tribes do not condescend to notice his 
existence, unU)ss indeed he should come in their way, 
when they would not think it more than a mirthful act to 
put an end to his miserable existence. And so it must be 
confessed the trappers regarded him. When Sublette's 
party first struck the Humboldt, Wyeth's being still with 
them, Joe Meek one day shot a Digger who was prowling 
about a stream where his traps were set. 

" Why did you shoot him? " asked Wyeth. 

" To keep him from stealing traps." 

" Had he stolen any ? " 

" No : but he looked as if he tvas going to ! " 

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

It would be an interesting study, no doubt, to the phi- 
lanthropist, to ascertain in how great a degree the habits, 
manners, and morals of a people are governed by their 
resources, especially by the quality and quantity of their 





-• ;* 



diet. But when diet and clinuite iire both taken into con- 
sideration, tlic result is striking. 

Tlie character of the IMackfeet who inhabited the good 
hunting grounds on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, 
is ah'eady pretty well given. They were tall, sinewy, well- 
made fellows; good horsemen, and good flght(.'rs, though 
inclined to marauding and murdering. They dressed com- 
fortably and even handsomely, as dress goes amongst sava- 
ges, and altogether were more to be feared than despised. 

The Crows resendjled the Blackfeet, whose enemi(!S they 
were, in all the before-mentioned Iniits, but were if pos- 
sible, even more predatory in their habits. Unlike the 
Blackfeet, however, they were not the enemies of all 
mankind ; and even were disposed to cultivate some friend- 
liness with the white traders and trappers, in order, as 
they acknowledged, to strengthen their own hands 
against the Blackfeet. They too inhabited a good coun- 
try, full of game, and had horses in abundance. These 
were the mountain tribes. 

Comparing these with the coast tribes, there was a strik- 
ing difference. The natives of the Columbia were not a 
tall and robust people, like those east of the Rocky Moun- 
tains, who lived by hunting. Their height rarely exceeded 
five feet six inches ; their forms were good, rather inclin- 
ing to fatness, their faces round, features coarse, but 
complexion light, and their eyes large and intelligent. 
The custom of flattening their heads in infancy gave them 
a grotesque and unnatural appearance, otherwise they 
could not be called ill-looking. On the first advent of 
white men among them, they were accustomed to go en- 
tirely naked, except in winter, when a panther skin, or a 
mantle of other skins sewed together, served to protect 
them from the cold : or if the weather was rainy, as it 
generally was in that milder climate, a long mantle of rush 




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; VII 

jiuits, like the toga of the ancient Romans, took tin? [jlaci; 
of that made of skins. To tliis was aihhul a conical liat, 
woven of fibrous roots, and gaily painted. 

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

These were the people who lived almost exclusively by 
fishing, and whose climate was a mild and moist one. Fish- 
ing, in which both sexes engaged about equally, was an im- 
portant accomplishment, since it was by fish they lived in 
this world ; and by being good fishermen that they had hopes 
of the next one. • The houses in which they lived, instead 

TUEIU UAlilia, Cl'rtTOMri AND DKKSri. 


of Ix'iiig lodges made of buflulo skins, were of a liirgu 
size and very well eoiistnieted, being made out of eedar 
plaiiivs. An exeavati(Jii was (irst made in the earth two or 
tliree feet deej), [)r(>l)al)ly to secure greater warmth in 
winter. A double row of eedar posts was then planted 
(irmly all round the exeavation, and b(,'tween these; the 
})lani\s wen; laid, or, sonuitimes eeda,r bark, so overlapped 
as to exclude the rain and wind. The ridge-pole of the 
roof was supported on a row of taller posts, passing 
through the eentn; of tlu; 1)uilding, and notched to receive 
it. The rafters were then coven-d with plaidcs or bark, 
i'astcned down with ropes nuide of the librC of the cedar 
bark. A house made in this manner, and often a hundred 
feet long by thirty or forty wide, accommodated several 
families, who each had their separate entrance and liie- 
place ; the entrance being by a low oval-shaped door, and 
a flight of steps. 

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

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

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

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

By and by there came from the coast other Indians, 
with different varieties of fish, to exchange for the salmon 
in the Wish-ram warehouses. And by and by there came 
from the plains to the eastward, others who had horses, 



cuiims-root, bt'iir-grjiss, fur n)l)c's, and wliiitevor constituted 
the wuultli of the uiountaius uiul plaina, to oxelian^c; for 
tlu3 rich and nutritious salmon of tlio Cc»lunil)ia. 'I'licso 
Wisli-raui Indians were sliai-p traders, and usually made 
^omethin;!^ hy their exchanges; so that they gri'W rich 
iind insolent, and it was dangi lous for the unwary 
stranger to pass their wtiv. Of all (he trihes of the Co- 
li'uiliia, tli>'y perpetrated the most outrages upon their 
neighbors, the passing traveler, and the stranger within 
their gates. 

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

Their women, too, were good riders, and comfortably 

clad in dressed skins, kept white with chalk. So wealthy 

were some of the chiefs that they could count their fifteen 

hundred head of horses grazing on their grassy uplands. 

Horse-racing was their delight, and betting on them their 

besetting vice. For bridles they used horse-hair cords, 

attached around the animal's mouth. This was sufficient 



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to check him, and by laying a hand on this side or that of 
the horse's neck, the rider could wheel him in either direc- 
tion. The simple and easy-fitting saddle was a stuffed 
deer-skin, witli stirrups of wood, resembling in shape those 
used by the Mexicans, and covered with deer-skin sewed 
on wet, so as to tighten in drying. The saddles of the 
women were furnished with a pair of deer's antlers for the 

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

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

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

-h-h i, perhaps, the ZCd andT'p' ''^ ^^^'^^^ "^ 
all are cruel, thieving, and treti. ^"''^'^^ "««ons, 

pel .s literally the ^'gospel ofbt'!,'-. ^'"^ '""'''■= ^°- 
^ye, and a tooth for a tooth ° r! ' '" "^^'"^ '«'• an 
oommandment to him as at Jt ZT"^ '' '' '""^h a 
he Chnstian. But we have di~ f f ^"'''"S-"'^ '^ to 
*r ■■ ''"'^ "^ '* ^iU be necessa,: .r.1. '^''''" *^'"- "ai'ra- 
he moral code of savages futhlr '''''"' "^ '^<^ ^^bjer. of 
ieaje It for the present ' °" '" ""^ "arrative, we 

After the incident of fl,^ ■ 
party kept on to the north T '"'' ^^' **'^^' Sublette's 
f-r to Payette Lake, w ' 4 r? ""T "^ P^^^«e' 
^ent out trapping. A pTr v ^f r "P"^' ««<! the men 
Antoine Godin, disLea gi^f"^' ';°"«"^ ''' Meek 
north as far a. the Salmon ^iverandf' '"""'"^''^ '» 'he 
of one of its tributaries, whl T*^ '''^""'^' ^ the head 
«ce ,s located. WMe c^ d „ T"' =''^ "^ F^-- 
he men went out one day toll f .? ''^'''''' '^''<^ of 
;;"J strayed away, or been stolen bvThr"..'"'^^''^' ^^i^'eh 
their absence, Meek, who rem t"^^*' ^"*''"^- -During 
fine fat deer, and r.^ cooll '° '^'''"P. had killed f 

-- a band of about rhundr TlL'"''"" "' "' ^^^^ ^e 
^0 near were they that fliglt ^Is^^ "! poaching, and 
yet as a hundred asainsf . "°" '^'''''''in'y "seless- 

--ing away from Sttdr-"^" ^"'^^ -'<^^- --i 
^h'le « gave him somethi . t do i 'T"'' '^''' ""-"ber, 

oot to his heels and ran L^n^i " '"' °^^" defence, he 
Instead, however, of Tsuin " i' '°?"''^'"-'»''" oan un 
b--es set about finishing "hs^ol"' "'^ P'--''-J--uded 
had the whole deer roastbg be ore "hf T ''"' '^"'^ -°'' 
This procedure provoked tl '^''''• 

'-PPer.and after ^atcht; thm S?""'"':^ - ^^ our 

b iflem for some time from his 


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4 ■ ''■' 


hidiiig-pliicc, ho cletcrmiiuMl to return jmd share tlio feast. 
On reaching camp again, and introdncing himself to his 
not over-scrupulons visitors, he found they were from the 
Nez Perces tribe inhabiting tliat region, who, having been 
so rude ias to devour his stock of provisions, invited liini 
to accompany them to their village, not a great way off, 
where they would nnike some return for his involuntaiy 
hospitality. This he did, and there found his three com- 
rades and all their horses. Whilo still visiting at the Nez 
Perces village, they were joined by the remaining portion 
of Sublette's command, when the whole company staiMed 
south again. Passing Payette's lake to the cast, trav^.v' ,iiv 
the Boise Basin, going to the head-waters of that river, 
thence to the Malade, thence to Godin's river, and finally 
to the forks of the Salmon, where they found the mail; 
camp. Captain Bonneville, of whose three years wander- 
ings in the wilderness Mr. Irving has given a full and in- 
teresting account, was encamped in the same neighbor- 
hood, and had built there a small lort or trading-house, 
and finally wintered in the neighborhood. 

An exchange of men now took place, and Meek went 
easL of the mountains under Fitzpatrick and Bridger. 
When these famous leaders had first set out for the sum- 
mer hunt, after the battle of Pierre's Hole, their course 
had been to the he<»d-waters of the Missouri, to the Yel- 
lowstone lake, and the forks of the Missouri, some of the 
best beaver grounds known to them. But finding their 
steps dogged by the American Fur Company, and not 
wishing to be made use of as pilots by their riv l^. hey 
had flitted about for a time like an Arab camp, in the en- 
deavor to blind them, and finallv returned to the west side 
of the mountains, where Meek fell in with them. 

Exasperated by the perseverance of +he Arnerican 
Company, they had come to the determiaation ci leading 


■ ».■-■'■ 








thorn a march which sliould tin; tlicni of the; 'practice of 
keeping at their heels. They tliercjfore ])Iiiiiii(nl an exp(.'- 
(lition, from whicli they expected no other prolit tlian that 
of shaking off Jieir rivals. Taking no pains to conceal 
their expedition, they rather held ont the bait to the 
American Company, who, unsnspicious of their pnrpose, 
took it enough. They led them along across the 
mountains, and on to the head- waters of the Missouri. 
Here, packing np their tra})s, they tarried not for beaver, 
nor even tried to avoid the Blaekfeet, but pushed right 
ahead, into the very heart of their country, keeping away 
from any part of it where beaver might be found, and 
going away on beyond, to the elevated plains, (piite des- 
titute of that small but desirable game, but followed 
through it by their rivals. 

However justifiable on the part of trade this move- 
ment of the Rocky Mountain Company might have been, 
it was a cruel device as concerned the inexperienced lead- 
ers of the other company, one of whom lost his life in 
consequence. Not knowing of their danger, they only 
'liscovered their situation in the midst of Blackfeet, 
j^rtor discovering the ruse that had been played upon 
■ :;m. They then halted, and being determined to find 
ir? 7er, divided their forces and set out in opposite direc- 
tions for that purpose. Unhappily, Major Vanderburg 
took the worst possible direction for a small party to take, 
and had not traveled far v;hen his scouts came upon the 
still smoking camp-fires of a band of Indians who were 
returning from a buffalo hunt. From the "signs" left 
behind them, the scout judged that they had become 
<uvare of the near neighborhood of white men, and from 
their having stolen off, he judged that they were only 
gone for others of their nation, or to prepare for wr.r. 
But Vanderburg, with the fool-hardiness of one not 

fill '■ 


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

Fitzpatrick and Bridger, finding they were no longer 
pursued by their rivals, as the season advanced began to 
retrace their steps toward the good trapping grounds. 
Being used to Indian wiles and Blackfeet marauc'ings and 
ambushes, they traveled in close columns, and never 
camped or turned out their horses to feed, without the 
greatest caution. Morning and evening scouts were sent 
out to beat up every thicket or ravine that seemed to 
offer concealment to a foe, and the horizon was searched 




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m every direction for signs of ■„. T ,• 
complete safety of the camn V.1 ,'"" ''"'«='^-- The 

a pcradventu/e, the horZ t "^ ''"'^'^ ''''»°^t beyond 
never left unguarded """'^ '""«' J««^e. though 

^"th that nation. Wh'„ ,t h f ?°°' ""^ encounters 
of the Missouri, on the ,"t ^'f '' '"" h^^d-waters 
inelr.ling Meek, diseovered a Jf k ''' ^"'^ "^ '"-"PPer^, 
bend of the lal^;, and thSingth ' °' '"'^™^ '" » 

^good one, commenced firW ' °PP°'-t'"'ity for sport 
-ho were without guns took to T ,'"• ^''^ ^'"^'^n^. 
the trappers entertfined theLl ' ''\' '^"'^%e, while 
ment of keeping them in 1 J'' ""* *'' ^"e "-nnse- 
occasionall/ BViU „ ! rdXT'th'^ ^'""''"^ »' 'l^- 
stragglers from the mab ffla tlf """ ^"-"^ ™'>' " ^ew 
came up and put an end to the n .V'^^P' ""^'"^ ^°on 
Pers to flight in their tu™ Th^ T ^ ^""'"^ ">« "-"P- 
the Indians pursuing, unffl thel« T''' "^'^ '° ^«nip, 
had been led almo! i2 the '""'"'■'''' "'"t they " 

This occasioned a halt he fitif '^f ''^P °^ the '-h-'tes 
with superior number ''''''^'''' "°* "^^^g to engage 

i;t;"tre^C:;rbSr;r ;f *>>« ^efs came out 
also advanced to m^et h 'm l! . P*'"''' P'Pe- and Bridger 
the pommel of his saddl^' He T'"^ ''^ «"" ~ 
young Blackfoot woman, wife"? J^/.'='=°»Panied by a 
M interpreter. The chi f eSend^d ^ ?" '" ^'' ^^^^'"e, 
annty; but at that moment Brid ' ^"""^ '° '""^en of 

the chiefs, which he tooT^n „ ^"" '■"'" ^ movement of 
hi^ rifle. But the ock hldT" "'""''"'^' «"" -eked 
^Wet; a large and powerful Z '°°""' ''"'^'^"'^ '^an the 
'"ned the mu..le dol wIT,' ^"f^ "'e g"n and 
A^charged into theeartlSh „,.""!, ""'"'"'' ^^re 

W"h another dexterous move- 



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<■; •■ 

ment he wrested it from Bridgcr's bund, and struck him 
with it, felling him to the ground. In jiu instant all was 
confusion. The noise of whoops, yells, of fire-arms, and 
of running hither and thither, gathered like a tempest. 
At the first burst of this demoniac blast, the horse of the 
interpreter became frightened, and, by a sudden move- 
ment, unhorsed her, wheeling and running back to camp. 
In the melee which now ensued, the woman was carried 
oif by the Blackfeet, and Bridger was wounded twice in 
the back with arrows. A chance medley fight now ensued, 
continuing until night put a period to the contest. So 
well matched were the opposing forces, that each fought 
with caution firing from the cover of thickets and from 
behind rocks, neither side doing much execution. The 
loss on the part of the Blackfeet was nine warriors, and 
on that of the whites, three men and six horses. 

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






was therefore compelled to abandon his wife and child, 
and return to camp. 

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

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

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

1833. In the latter part of January it became neces- 
sary to move to the junction of the Portneuf to subsist 
the animals. The main body of the camp had gone on 
in advance, while some few, with pack horses, or women 
with children, .were scattered along the trail. Meek, with 
five others, had been left behind to gather up some horses 
that had strayed. When about a haif day's journey from 





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I ^ ■•' 



.1 •■ ''■ 


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camp, he overtook Umentucken, the Mountain Lamb, now 
the wife of Milton Sublette, with her child, on horseback. 
The weather was terribly cold, and seeming to grow 
colder. The naked i)lains afforded no shelter from the 
piercing winds, and the air fairly glittered with frost. 
Poor Umentucken was freezing, but more troubled about 
her babe than herself The camp was far ahead, with all 
the extra blankets, and the prospect was imminent that 
they would perish. Our gallant trapper had thought 
himself very cold until this moment, but what were his 
sufferings compared to those of the Mountain Lamb and 
her little Lambkin ? Without an instant^s hesitation, he 
divested himself of his blanket capote, which he wrapped 
round the mother and child, and urged her to hasten to 
camp. For himself, he could not hasten, as he had the 
horses in charge, but all that fearful afternoon, rode naked 
above the waist, exposed to the wind, and the fine, dry, 
icy hail, which filled the air as with diamond needles, to 
pierce the skin ; and, probably, to the fact that the hail 
luas so stinging, was owing the fact that his blood did not 

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

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



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

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

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

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

"The Indians suffered very much. Fuel '7< :r scarce on 
the Snake River, and but little fire could oe afforded — 
just sufficient for the children and their mothers to get 
warm by, for the fire was fed only with buffalo fat torn in 
strips, which blazed up quickly and did not last long. 
Many a time I have stood off", looking at the fire, but not 
venturing to approach, when a chief would say, ' Are you 
cold, my friend? come to the fire' — so kind are these 
Nez Perces and Flatheads." 

• •> 


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Tlio cold WHS not tlio only enciuy in cjinii) that winter, 
but fiiniinc thrcjitcniMl thuiii. Tlio bulValo luul boon early 
driven cast of the mountains, and other ^aine was scarce. 
Sonietinics a l)arty of hunters were absent lor days, ev(;n 
weeks, without linding more pinie than woidd subsist 
themselves. As i\w. trappers were all hunters in the win- 
ter, it frequently happened that Meek and one or more 
of his associates went on a hunt in company, for the bene- 
fit of the camp, which was very liun«;ry at times. 

On one of these hunting e.\[)editi()ns that winter, the 
party consisting of Meek, Hawkins, Doughty, and Antoino 
Claymore, tiiey had been out nearly a fortnight without 
killing anything of conse(|uence, and had chunbered up 
the side of the mountains on the frozen snow, in hopes of 
finding some mountain sheep. As they traveled along 
under a projecting ledge of rocks, they came to a ee 
where there were the impressions in the snow of Yi- 
mous grizzly feet. Close by was an opening in the 
rocks, revealing a cavern, and to this the tracks in the 
snow conducted. Evidently the creature had come out 
of its winter den, and made just one cirr^iit back again. 
At these signs of game the hunters hesitated — certain it 
was there, but doubtful how to obtain it. 

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

" I'm your man," answered Meek. 

" And I too," said Claymore. 

" I'll be if we are not as brave as you are," said 

Hawkins, as he prepared to follow. 

On entering the cave, which was sixteen or twenty feet 
square, and high enough to stand erect in, instead of one, 
three bears were discovered. They were standing, the 
largest one in the middle, with their eyes staring at the 



ciitranci', but quitu ([uiet, grocllii^ the himtcrs only with 
a k)W growl. Kiiidiiig that there was a bear apiece to bo 
disposed of, the liimters kept eh)se to the wall, and out of 
the stream of light from the eiitraiiee, while they iid- 
vaiiccd a little way, cautiously, towards their game, which, 
however, seemed to takci no notice of tiuMu. After ma- 
neuvering a few minutes to get nearer, M(;ek finally struck 
the large bear on the head with his wi})ing-stick, when it 
immediately moved off and ran out of the cave. As it 
came out, Doughty shot, but oidy wounded it, and it 
came rushing back, siuorting, and running around in a 
circle, till the well directed shots from all three killed it 
on the spot. Two more bears now remained to be dis- 
posed of. 

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

Sleds were soon constructed out of the branches of the 



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mountain willow, and on these light vehicles the fortune ^e 
find of bear meat was .;oon conveyed to the hungry camp 
in the plain below. And ever after this singular exploit 
of the party, Hawkins continued to aver, in language 
more strong than elegant, that the Scripture Daniel was a 
humbug compared to himself, and Meek, and Claymore. 


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



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

The rendezvous, at this time, furnished him a striking 
example of some of the ways of mountain-men, least to 
their honorable fame ; and we fear we must confess that 
our friend Joe Meek, who had been gathering laurels as a 
valiant hunter and trapper during the three or four years 
of his apprenticeship, was also becoming fitted, by jfrequent 
practice, to graduate in some of the vices of camp life. 





especially the one of conviviality during rendezvous. Had 
he not given his permission, we should not perhaps have 
said what he says of himself, that he was at such times of- 
ten very "powerful drunk." 

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

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

"It would have killed him, — sure, if it hadn't cu.^d 
him ! " said Meek, — alluding to the beUef that alcohvi is a 
remedy for the poison of hydrophobia. 

When sobriety returned, and work was once more to be 
resumed. Meek returned with three or four associates to 
the Salt Lake country, to trap on the numerous streams 
that flow down from the mountains to the east of Salt Lake. 
He had not been long in this region when he fell in on 
Bear River with a company of Bonneville's men, one hun- 

. 10 

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dred and eighteen in number, under Jo Walker, who had 
been sent to explore the Great Salt Lake, and the adja- 
cent country ; to make charts, keei3 a journal, and, in short, 
make a thorough discovery of all that region. Great ex- 
pectations were cherished by the Captain concerning this 
favorite expedition, which were, however, utterly blighted, 
as his historian has recorded. The disappointment and loss 
which Bonneville suffered from it, gave a tinge of preju- 
dice to his delineations of the trapper's character. It was 
true that they did not explore Salt Lake ; and that they 
made a long and expensive journey, collecting but few 
peltries. It is true also, that they caroused in true moun- 
tain style, while among the Californians : but that the ex- 
pedition was unprofitable was due chiefly to the difficul- 
ties attending the exploration of a new country, a large 
portion of which was desert and mountain. 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Walker's company continued on down to the main or 
Humboldt River, trapping as they went, both for the furs, 
and for something to eat ; and expecting to find that the 



river whose course they were following through these bar- 
ren plains, would lead them to some moi e importan; river, 
or to some large lake or inland sea. This was a country 
entirely unknown, even to the adventurous traders and 
trappers of the fur companies, who avoided it because it 
was out of the buffalo range ; and because the borders of 
it, along which they sometimes skirted, 'were found to bo 
wanting in water-courses in which beaver might be looked 
for. Walker's company therefore, now determined to 
prosecute their explorations until they came to some new 
and profitable boaver grounds. 

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

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

And now began the arduous labor of crossing an un- 



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

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

They proceeded down the Sacramento valley, toward 











' I 


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

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

After astonishing them with a series of whoops and 
yells, and trying to astonish them with feats of horseman- 
ship, they began to discover that when it came to the lat- 
ter accomplishment, even mountain-men could learn some- 
thing from a native Californian. In this latter frame of 
mind they consented to be conducted to Monterey as pris- 
oners or not, just as the Spanish government should here- 
after be pleased to decree ; and they had confidence in 

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themselves that they shoukl be a])le to bend that high and 
mighty authority to their own purposes thereafter. 

Nor were they mistaken in their caleulations. Their 
fearless, free and easy style, united to their complete fur- 
nishing of arms, their numbers, and their superior ability 
to stand up under the demoralizing efl'ect of the favorite 
aguadiente^ soon so far influenced the soldiery at least, that 
the trappers were allowed perfect freedom under the very 
eyes of the jealous Spanish government, and were treated 
with all hospitality. 

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

The partial civilization of the Californians accorded 
with every feeling to which the mountain-men could be 
brought to confess. To them the refinements of cities 
would have been oppressive. The adobe houses of Mon- 
terey were not so restraining in their elegance as to trou- 
ble the sensations of men used to the heavens for a roof 
in summer, and a skin lodge for shelter in winter. Some 
fruits and vegetables, articles not tasted for years, they 
obtained at the missions, where the priests received tliein 



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courteously and lios[)itu))ly, as tlicy liad done .Todcdiali 
Smith and his c'.oni[)aiiy, live years l)el'()r(', vvh(;n on tlioir 
long and disastrous journey they found themselves almost 
destitute of the necessaries of life, ujx)!! lli(Mr ai'rival in 
California. Then.' was somet]iin<^ loo, in the dress of the 
people, both men and women, which a^n-(!ed with, while 
din'ering from, the dross of the mountaineers and their 
now absent Indian dulcineas. 

The men wore garments of many colors, consisting of 
blue velveteen breeches and jack(;t, the jacket having a 
scarlet collar and culls, and the breeches being oi)en at 
the knee to display the stocking of white. Beneath these 
were displayed high buskins made of deer skin, fringed 
down the outside of the ankle, and laced with a cord and 
tassels. On the head was worn a broad brimnujd aonthreroj 
and over the shoulders the jaunty Mexican aarapc. VVhen 
they rode, the Californians wore enormous spurs, fastened 
on by jingling chains. Their saddles were so shap(Ml that 
it was dilllcult to dislodge the rider, being high ')efore and 
behind ; and the indispensable lasso hung coiled from the 
pomnud. Their stirrups were of wood, broad on the bot- 
tom, with a guard of leather that protected the fancy bus- 
kin of the horseman from injury. Thus accoutred, and 
mounted on a wild horse, the Californian was a suitable 
comrade, in appearance, at least, for the buckskin clad trap- 
per, with his high beaver-skin cap, his gay scarf, and moc- 
casins, and profusion of arms. 

The dress of the women was a gown of gaudy calico 
or silk, and a bright colored shawl, which served for man- 
tilla and bonnet together. They Avere well formed, with 
languishing eyes and soft voices ; and doubtless appeared 
charming in the eyes of our band of trap])ers, with whom 
they associated freely at fandangoes, buU-fights, or bear- 
baitings. In such company, what wonder that Bonneville's 

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men lingered for a whole month ! AVliat wonder that the 
California expedition was a favorite theme by camp-fires, 
for a long time snbsoquent ? 

1834. In February the tra2:)pers bethought themselves 
of returning to the niountains. The route fixed upon was 
one which should take them through Southern California, 
and New Mexico, along the course of all the principal 
rivers. Crossing the coast mountains, into the valley of 
the San Joaquin, tney followed its windings until they 
came to its rise in the Lulare Lake. Thence turning in a 
southeasterly course, they came to the Colorado, at the 
Mohave villages, where they traded rith the natives,, 
whom they found friendly. Keeping on down the Colo- 
rado, to the mouth of the Gila, they turned back from 
that river, and ascended the Colorado once more, to Wil- 
liams' Fork, and up the latter stream to some distance,, 
when they fell in with a company of sixty men under 
Frapp and Jervais, two of the partners in the Rocky 
Mountain Company. The meeting was joyful on all 
sides ; but particularly so between Meek and some of his 
old comrades, with whom he had fought Indians and griz- 
zly bears, or set beaver traps on some lonely stream in 
the Blackfoot country, A lively exchange of questions 
and answers took place, while gaiety and good feeling 

Frapp had been out quite as long as the Monterey party. 
It was seldom, that the brigade v hich traversed the south- 
ern countr)^, on the Colorado, and its Large tributaries, 
returned to winter quarters; for in the region where they 
trapped winter was unknown, and the journey to the north- 
ern country a 1' ng and hazardous one. But the reunited 
trappers had each their own expenences to relate. 

Th(! two companies united made a party nearly two hun- 
dred strong. Keeping with Frapp, they crossed over from 




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

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

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






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

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


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



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clear air of the prairie, and giving tlie beliolder a ilirill of 
fear mingled with admiration. 

The first moment given to this spectacle, the second one 
was eini)loyed to devisee some means of escape. To run 
was useless. The swift Cannmche steeds wouhl soon over- 
take them; and then their horrible doom was fixed. No 
covert was at hand, neither thicket nor ravine, as in the 
mountains there might have been. Carson and Meek ex- 
changed two or three sentences. At last, " we must kill 
our mules ! " said they. 

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

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

This was what the trappers had relied upon. They 
were cool and determined, while terribly excited and 
wrought up by their situation. It was agreed that no 
more than three should fire at a time, the other three re- 

\ 1 ' ••'-* f 







serving their fire while the empty guns could be reloaded. 
They were to pick their men, and kill one at every shot. 

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

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

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

It was terrible work for the trappers. The burning sun 
of the plains shone on them, scorching them to faintness. 
Their faces were begrimed with powder and dust ; their 




throats parched, and tongues swollen with thirst, and their 
whole frames aching from their cramped positions, as well 
as the excitement and fatigue of the battle. But they 
dared not relax their vigilance for a moment. They were 
fighting for their lives, and they meant to win. 

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

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

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

While they remained in the South Paik, Mr. Guthrie, 
one of the Rocky Mountain Company's traders, was killed 
by lightning. A number of persons were collected in the 
lodge of the Booshway, Frapp, to avoid the rising tempest, 
when Guthrie, who was leaning against the lodge pole, 







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was struck by a flash of the electric current, and fell dead 
instantly. Frapp rushed out of the lodge, partly bewil- 
dered himself by the shock, and under the impression that 
Guthrie had been shot. Frapp was a German, and spoke 
English somewhat imperfectly. In the excitement of the 

moment he shouted out, " Py , who did shoot 

Guttery ! " 

" — a' , I expect: He's a firing into camp;" 

drawled out Hawkins, whose ready wit was very disregard- 
ful of sacred names and subjects. 

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

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

On Bear River, Bonneville's men fell in with their com- 
mander. Captain Bonneville, whose disappointment and 
indignation at the failure of his plans was exceedingly 
great. In this indignation there was considerable justice; 
yet much of his disappointment was owing to causes which 
a more experienced trader would have avoided. The only 
conclusion which can be arrived at by an impartial ob' 



server of the events of 1832-35, is, that none but certain 
men of long experience and liberal means, could succeed 
in the business of the fur-trade. There were too many 
chances of loss ; too many wild elements to be mingled 
in amity ; and too powerful opposition from the old estab- 
lished companies. Captain Bonneville's experience was 
no different from Mr. Wyeth's. In both cases there was 
much effort, outlay, and loss. Nor was their failure owing 
to any action of the Hudson's Bay Company, different 
from, or more tyrannical, than the action of the American 
companies, as has frequently been represented. It was 
the American companies in the Rocky Mountains that 
drove both Bonneville and Wyeth out of the field. Their 
inexperience could not cope with the thorough knowledge 
of the business, and the country, which their older rivals 
possessed. Raw recruits were no match, in trapping or 
fighting, for old mountaineers: and those veterans who 
had served long under certain leaders could not be in- 
veigled from their service except upon the most extrava- 
gant offers; and these extravagant wages, which if one 
paid, the other must, would not allow a profit to either of 
the rivals. 

"How much does your company pay you?" asked Bon- 
neville of Meek, to whom he was complaining of the con- 
duct of his men on the Monterey expedition. 

"Fifteen hundred dollars," answered Meek. 
'Yes: and /will give it to you," said Bonneville with 

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







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

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

While he was exchanging civilities with the Crow chief, 
a party of the young braves stole out of camp, and taking 
advantage of the leader's absence, made an attack on his 
camp, so sudden and successful that not a horse, nor any. 
thing else which they could make booty of was left. 



Even fiiptain Stuart, who was traveling with Fitzpatrick, 
and who was an active officer, was powerless to resist the 
attack, and had to consent to see the camp rifled of every- 
thing valuable. 

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

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

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

While the trappers exchanged accounts of their indi- 



"i ; 


ii " i 






vidual experiences, the leaders lind more important mat- 
ters to gossip over. The rivalry between the several fur 
companies was now at its climax. Tiu'ongh the energy 
and ability of Captain Sublette of the St. Louis Company, 
and the experionco and industry of the Rocky Mountain 
Company, wliich Captain Sublette still continued to con- 
trol in a measure, the power still remained with them. 
The American Cc^mpany had never been able to cope with 
them in the Rocky Mountains ; and the St. Louis Com- 
pany were already invading their territory on the Missouri 
River, by carrying goods up that river in boats, to trade 
with the Indians under the very walls of the American 
Company's forts. 

In August of the previous year, when Mr. Nathaniel 
Wyeth had started on his return to the states, he was ac- 
companied as fiir as the mouth of the Yellowstone by 
Milton Sublette ; and had engaged with that gentleman 
to furnish him with goods the following year, as he be- 
lieved he could do, cheaper than the St. Louis Company, 
who purchased their goods in St. Louis at a great advance 
on Boston prices. But Milton Sublette fell in with his 
brother the Captain, at the mouth of the Yellowstone, 
with a keel-boat loaded with merchandise; and while 
Wyeth pursued his way eastward to purchase the Indian 
goods which were intended to supply the wants of the 
fur-traders in the Rocky Mountains, at a profit to him, and 
an advantage to them, the Captain was persuading his 
brother not to encourage any interlopers in the Indian 
trade ; bilt to continue to buy goods from himself, as for- 
merly. So potent were his arguments, that Milton yielded 
to them, in spite of his engagement with Wyeth. Thus 
during the autumn of 1833, while Bonneville was being 
wronged and robbed, as he afterwards became convinced, 
by his men under Walker, and anticipated in the hunting- 





ground selected for hinisi'll', in tlio Crow country, by Fitz- 
patrick, us he liad previously Injeu in tlie Snake C(juntry 
by Milton Sublette, Wyetli was proceeding to Boston in 
good I'aitb, to execute what proved to be a fool's errand. 
Bonneville also had gone on another, when after the trap- 
ping season was over he left his eainp to winter on the 
Snake River, and started with a small escort to visit the 
Columbia, and select a spot for a trading-post on the lower 
portion of that river. On arriving at Wallah- Wallah, af- 
ter a hard journey over the Blue Mountains in the winter, 
the agent at that post had refused to supi)ly him with pro- 
visions to prosecute his journey, and given him to under- 
stand that the Hudson's Bay Company might be polite 
and hospitable to Captain Bonneville as the gentleman, 
but that it was against their regulations to encourage the 
advent of other traders who would interfere with their 
business, and unsettle the minds of the Indians in that 


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

Such was the relative position of the several fur com- 
panies in the Rocky Mountains in 1834 ; and it was of 
such matters that the leaders talked in the lodge of the 
Booshways, at rendezvous. In the meantime W^yeth ar- 

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rived in the mountains with his goods, as he had .con- 
tracted with Milton Sublccte in the j^rcvious year. But 
on his heels came Captain Sublette, also with goods, and 
the lioc-^y Mountain Company violated their contract with 
Wyeth, and purchased of their old leader. 

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

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

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

As for Bonneville, lie made one more effort to reach the 
lower Columbia ; failing, however, a second time, for the 
same reasorx as before — he could not subsist himself and 
companv in a country where even every Indian refused to 
sell to him either furs o' provisions. After being reduced 
to horse-flesh, and finding no encouragement that his con- 
dition would be improved farther down the river, he 

! ■? 



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turned back once more from about Wallah- Wallali, and 
returned to the mountains, and from there to the east in 
the following year. A company of his trappers, however, 
continued to hunt for him east of the mountains for two 
or three years longer. 

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



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

The camp had reached the Blackfoot country in the 
autumn of this year, and the trappers were out in all 
directions, hunting beaver in the numerous small streams 
that flow into the Missouri. On a small branch of the 
Gallatin Fork, some of the trappers fell in with a party 
of Wyeth's men, under Joseph Gale. When their neigh- 
borhood became known to the Rocky Mountain camp, 
Meek and a party of sixteen of his associates immediately 
resolved to pay them a visit, and inquire into their expe- 
rience since leaving rendezvous. These visits between 
diiferent camps are usually seasons of great interest and 
general rejoicing. But glad as Gale and his naen were 
to meet with old friends, when the first burst of hearty 
greeting was over, they had but a sori'y experience to re- 
late. They had been out a long time. The Blackfeet 
had used them badly — several men had been killed. 



Their guns were out of order, their ammunition all but 
exhausted ; they were destitute, or nearly so, of traps, 
blankets, knives, everything. They were what the Indian 
and the mountain-man call "very poor." 

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

It was this sort of cheer which the trapping party con- 
veyed to Wjeth's men on this visit, and it was gratefully 
received, as being of the true kind. 

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

It was but a momentary shock, however. In another 
instant the roar of twenty guns reverberated from the 
mountains that rose higli on either side of camp. The 






. i, 


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

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

The trappers being driven out of the grove by the fire, 
were forced to take to the open ground. The Indians, 
following the fire, had the advantage of the shelter 
afibrded by the trees, and their shots made havoc among 
the horses, most of which were killed because they could 
not be taken. As for the trappers, they used the horses 
for defence, making rifle-pits behind them, when no other 
covert could be found. In this manner the battle was 




sustained until three o'clock in the afternoon, without loss. 
of life to the whites, though several men were wounded. 

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

Not long after this battle with the Blackfeet, Meek and 
a trapper named Crow, with two Shawnees, went over 
into the Crow Country to trap on Pryor's River, a branch 
of the Yellowstone. On coming to the pass in the moun- 
tains between the Gallatin Fork of the Missouri and t)ie 
great bend in the Yellowstone, called Pryor's Gap, Meek 
rode forward, with the mad-cap spirit strong in him, to 
"have a little fun with the boys," and advancing a short 
distance into the jtass, wheeled suddenly, and came racing 
back, whooping and yelling, to make his comrades think 


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he had discovered Indians. And lo ! as if his yells had 
invoked tliem from the rocks and trees, a war party sud- 
denly emerged from the pass, on the heels of the jester, 
and what had been sport speedily became earnest, as the 
trappers turned their horses' heads and niadi' olf in the 
direction of camp. They liad a line race of it, and heard 
other yells and war-whoops besides their own ; but they 
contrived to elude their pursuers, returning safe to camp, 

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

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

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

" I told Crow," said Meek, "that I didn't like in go \\\ 
there. He laughed at me, and called me acowiud. 'All 
tin:; same,' I said ; I had no fancy for the place just then 
— I didn't like the indications. But he kept jeering me. 

and at last I got mad and started in. 

Just as I got to my 




traps, I discovered tluit two red devils war a watching me 
from the shelter of tlie thicket to my left, about two rods 
oir. When they saw that they war discovered they raised 
their guns and fired. 1 turned my horse's head at the 
same instant, and one ball i)assed through his neck, under 
the neck bone, and the other through his withers, just 
forward of my saddle. 

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

" 'Try him again,' said Crow, who war as anxious to be 
off as I war. 1 did try him agin, and sure enough, he got 
up a gallop, and away we went, the F31ackfeet after us. 
But being mounted, we had the advantage, and soon dis- 
tanced them. Before we had run a mile, T had to dismount 
and breathe my horse. We war in a narrow pass whar it 
war impossible to hide, so when the Indians came up with 
us, as they did, while I war dismounted we took sure aim 
and killed the two foremost ones. Before the others could 
get close enough to fire we war off agin. It didn't take 



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much urging to make my horse go then, for the yells of 
them Blackieet spurred him on. 

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

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

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

Seeing that the dream troubled Rose, who was supersti- 
tiously inclined, Meek resorted to that "certain medicine 

1 ' 


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for minds diseased" which was in use in the mountains, and 
added to the distress of Rose his interpretation, in the 
spirit of ridicule, telling him that he was an adept in the 
matter of dreams, and that unless he, Rose, was very mind- 
ful of himself that day, he would shake hands with Beel- 
zebub before he slept again. 

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

The otliej- men then began to call out to Meek to stop 

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and (\^h{. " Kim for your lives, boys," roared Mook back 
at tluMii, "there's teu thouHaiid of thein ; they'll kill every 
one of you ! " 

The Tuule had f^ot hm head, and there was no more stop- 
ping him than there had Ixhmi startin<2j him. On he went 
in the direction of the Yellowstone, while the others made 
for Clarke's Fork. On arriving at the former river, Meek 
found that sonu? of the pack horses had followed him, 
and others the rest of the ])arty. This had divided the 
Indians, three or four of whom were on his trail. S[)ring- 
ing off his mule, he threw his blankets down on the ice, 
and by moving them alternately soon crossed the mule 
over to theoi)posite side, just in tinuUo avoid a ])ulletthat 
came whistling after him. As the Indians could not fol- 
low, he pursued his way to camp in safety, arriving late 
that evening. The main party were already in and expect- 
ing him. Soon after, the buffalo hunters returned to the 
big camp, minus some pack horses, but with a good story 
to tell, at the expense of Meek, and which he enjoys tell- 
ing of himself to this day. 

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

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

Whether it was the act of a gay Lothario, or whether 

the law of divorce is even more easy in the mountains 

than in Indiana, we have always judiciously refrained from 

inquiring; but this we do know, upon the word of Meek 

himself, no sooner was Milton's back turned, than his friend 





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SO insinuated himself into the good graces of his Isabel, 
as Sublette was wont to name the lovely Umentucken, that 
she consented to join her fortunes to those of the handsome 
young trapper without even the ceremony of serving a 
notice on her former lord. As their season of bliss only 
extended over one brief year, this chapter shall be entirely 
devoted to recording such facts as have been imparted to 
us concerning this free trapper's wife. 

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

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

Although Umentucken was beautiful, and had a name 
signifying gentleness, she was not without a will and a 
spirit of her own, when the occasion demanded it. While 
the camp was on the Yellowstone River, in the summer of 
1835, a party of women left it to go in search of berries, 
which were often dried and stored for winter use by the 



< :. 



Indian women. Umentucken accompanied this party, 
which was attacked by a band of Blackfeet, some of the 
squaws being taken prisoners. But Umentucken saved 
herself by flight, and by swimming the Yellowstone while 
a hundred guns were leveled on her, the bullets whistling 
about her ears. ' 

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

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


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

During this year of which we are writing, a considera- 
ble party had been out on Powder River hunting buffalo, 
taking their wives along wnth them. When on the return, 
just before reaching camp, Umentucken was missed from 
the cavalcade. She had fallen behind, and been taken 
prisoner by a party of twelve Crow Indians. As soon as 
she was missed, a volunteer party mounted their buffalo 
horses in such haste that they waited not for saddle or bri- 
dle, but snatched only a halter, and started back in pursuit. 
They had not run a V3ry long distance when they discov- 
ered poor Umentucken in the midst of her jubilant captors, 
who were delighting their eyes with gazing at her fine 
feathers, and promising themselves very soon to pluck the 
gay bird, and appropriate her trinkets to their own use. 

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



Crow bit the dust. Finding thnt thoy were getting the 
worst of the fight, the Indians at h-iigth took to flight, 
and the trappers returned to camp rejoicing, and compli- 
menting Meek on his gallantry in attacking the Crows 

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

The Indians are lordly arid tyrannical in their treatment 
of women, thinking it no shame to beat them cruelly ; 
even taking the liberty of striking other women than those 
belonging to their own families. While the camp was trav- 
eling through the Crow country in the spring of 183(), a 
party of that nation paid a visit to Bridger, bringing skins 
to trade for blankets and ammunition. The bargaining 
went on quite pleasantly for some time ; but one of 
the braves who was promenading about camp inspecting 
whatever came in his way, chanced to strike Umentucken 
with a whip he carried in his hand, by way of displaying 
his superiority to squaws in general, and trappers' wives 
in particular. It was an unlucky blow for the brave, for 
in another instant he rolled on the ground, shot dead by- 
a bullet from Meek's gun. 

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

" Well, you raised a hell of a row in camp ; " said the 
commander, rolling out his deep bass voice in the slow 


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monotonous tones which mountain men very quickly ac- 
quire from the Indians. 

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

" But you got a man killed." 

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

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

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

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


1835. The rendezvous of the Rocky Mountain Com- 
pany seldom took place without combining with its many 
wild elements, some other more civilized and refined. 
Artists, botanists, travelers, and hunters, from the busy 
world outside the wilderness, frequently claimed the com- 
panionship, if not the hospitality of the fur companies, in 
their wanderings over prairies and among mountains. Up 
to the year 18.'J5, these visitors had been of the classes 
just named ; nijn traveling either for the love of adven- 
ture, to prosecute discoveries in science, or to add to art 
the treasure of new scenes and subjects. 

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

The cause which had brought these gentlemen to the 
wilderness was a little incident connected with the fur 
trade. Four Flathead Indians, in the year 1832, having 
heard enough of the Christian religion, from the few de- 


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I ipi I 


vout men connected with the fur companies, to desire to 
know more, performed a winter journey to St. Louis, and 
there made inquiry about the white man's religion. This 
incident, which to any one acquainted with Indian charac- 
ter, would appear a very natural one, when it became 
known to Christian churches in the United States, excited 
a very lively interest, and seemed to call upon them like 
a voice out of heaven, to fly to the rescue of ])erishing 
heathen souls. The Methodist Church was the first to re- 
spond. When Wyeth returned to the mountains in 1834, 
four missionaries accompanied him, destined for the valley 
of the Wallamet River in Oregon. In the following year, 
the Presbyterian Church sent out its agents, the two gen- 
tlemen above mentioned; one of whom. Dr. Whitman, 
subsequently located near Fort Walla- Walla. 

The account given by Capt. Bonneville of the Flatheads 
and Nez Perces, as he found them in 1832, before mission- 
ary labor had been among them, throws some light on the 
incident of the journey to St. Louis, which so touched the 
Christian heart in the United States. After relaiing his 
surprise at finding that the Nez Perces observed certain 
sacred days, he continues : "A few days afterwards, four 
of them signified that they were about to hunt. ' What !' 
exclaimed the captain, ' without guns or arrows ; and 
with only one old spear ? What do you expect to kill ? ' 
They smiled among themselves, but made no answer. 
Preparatory to the chase, they performed some religious 
rights, and oifered up to the Great Spirit a few short 
prayers for safety and success ; then having received the 
blessing of their wives, they leaped upon their horses and 
departed, leaving the whole party of Christian spectators 
amazed and rebuked by this lesson of faith and depend- 
ence on a supreme and benevolent Being. Accustomed 
as I had heretofore been to find the wretched Indian rev- 



eliiig in blood, and stained by every vice which can de- 
grade human nature, 1 could scarcely realize the scene 
which I had witnessed. Wonder at such unallected ten- 
derness and piety, where it was least to have been sought, 
contended in all our bosoms with shame and confusion, at 
receiving such pure and wholesome instructions from 
creatures so far below us in all the arts and comforts 
of life. • 

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

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

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


■ '-mm. 


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have become blended with their own wiUl rites, and pre- 
sent a strange medley, civilized and barbarous." 

Finding that these i)et)i)le among whom he was thrown 
exhibited such remarkal)le traits of character. Captain 
Bonneville exerted hiniRelf to make them ac(iuainted with 
the history and spirit of Christianity. To these exj)lana- 
tions they listened with great eagerness. " Many a time," 
he says, "• was my little lodge thronged, or rather piled 
with hearers, for they lay on the ground, one leaning over 
the other, until there was no further room, all listening 
with greedy ears to the wonders which the Great Spirit 
had revealed to. the white man. No other subject gave 
them half the satisfaction, or commanded half the atten- 
tion ; and but few scenes of my life remain so freshly on 
my memory, or are so ploasurabl}' i ccalled to my contempla- 
tion, as these hours of intercourse with a distant and be- 
nighted race in the midst of the desert." 

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

The trait of Indian character which Bonneville, in his 
pleased surprise at the apparent piety of the Nez Perces 
and Flatheads, failed to observe, and which the missiona- 
ries themselves for a long time remained oblivious to, was 
the material nature of their religious views. The Indian 
judges of all things by the material results. If he is pos- 
sessed of a good natural intelligence and powers of obser- 
vation, he soon discovers that the God of the Indian is 


THE Indian's uemgion — matekial good desiiied. 185 

but a feeble deity; for does he not permit tlic Indian to 
be defeated in war; to starve, and tt) freeze? Do not tlio 
Indian niedieine men often fail to save life, to win battles, 
to enrse their enemies? The Indian's (Jod, he ar^iu's, 
must be a good deal of a hum))n;^^ lie sees the white 
men faring much better. They liaxc gnns, ammunition, 
blankets, knives, everything in plenty ; and they are sne- 
cessful in war; are skillful in a thousand tilings the Indian 
knows nothing of To be so blest implies a very wise and 
powerful Deity. To giiin all these things they are eag(?r 
to learn about the white man's God; av ■ willing to do 
whatever is necessary to please and prupitiaiv; Him. llenee 
their attentiveness to the white man's d'seoiirse about his 
religion. Naturally enough they were struck with won- 
der at the doctrine of peace and good will; a doctrine so 
diilerent from the law of blood by which the Indian, in 
his natural state, lives. Yet if it is good for the white 
men, it must be good for him ; at all events he is anxious 
to try it. 

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

Such was the Indian's view of religion, and it could be 
no other. Until the wants of the body have been sup- 
plied by civilization, the wants of the soul do not develop 
themselves: and until then the savage is not prepared 
to understand Christianity. This is the law of Nature and 
of God. Primeval man was a savage ; and it was little 


.■(,. T. 





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by little, through thousands of years, that Christ was re- 
vealed. Every child born, even now, is a savage, and has 
to be taught civilization year after year, until he arrives 
at the possibility of comprehending spiritual religion. So 
every full grown barbarian is a child in moral develop- 
ment ; and to expect him to comprehend those mysteries 
over which the world has agonized for centuries, is to 
commit the gravest error. Into this error fell all the mis- 
sionaries who came to the wilds that lay beyond the Rocky 
Mountains. They undertook to teach religion first, and 
moi*e simple matters afterward — building their edifice like 
the Irishman's chimney, by holding up the top brick, and 
putting the others under it. Failure was the result of 
such a process, as the record of the Oregon Missions suffi- 
ciently proves. 

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

On the following day religious services were held in the 
Rocky Mountain Camp. A scene more unusual could 
hardly have transpired than that of a company qf trap- 
pers listening to the preaching of the Word of God. 
Yery little pious reverence marked the countenances of 
that wild and motley congregation. Curiosity, incredulity, 
sarcasm, or a mocking levity, were more plainly percepti- 
ble in the expression of the men's faces, than either devo- 
tion or the longing expectancy of men habitually deprived 



l-i i. 



of what they once highly valued. The Indians alone 
showed by their eager listening that they desired to be- 
come acquainted with the mystery of the "Unknown 

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

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

Dr. Marcus Whitman was another style of man. What- 
ever he thought of the wild ways of the mountain-men 
he discreetly kept to himself, preferring to teach by ex- 
ample rather than precept; and showing no fastidious 
contempt for any sort of rough duty he might be called 
upon to perform. So aptly indeed had he turned his hand 
to all manner of camp service on the journey to the moun- 
tains, that this abrogation of clerical dignity had become 
a source of solicitude, not to say disapproval and displeas- 
ure on the part of his colleague ; and it was agreed be- 

i. 3 ' ; . * ,* Mil' 


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tween them that the Doctor should return to the states 
with the St. Louis Company, to procure recruits for the 
promising field of labor which they saw before them, 
while Mr. Parker continued his journey to the Columbia 
to decide upon the location of the missionary stations. 
The difierence of character of tlie two men was clearly 
illustrated by the results of this understanding. Parker 
went to Vancouver, where he was hospitably entertained, 
and where he could inquire into the workings of the mis- 
sionary system as pursued by the Methodist missionaries. 
His investigations not proving the labor to his taste, he 
sailed the following summer for the Sandwich Islands, and 
thence to New York ; leaving only a brief note for Doctor 
Whitman, when he, with indefatigable exertions, arrived 
that season among the Nez Perces Avith a missionary com- 
pany, eager for the work which they hoped to make as 
great as they believed it to be good. 

t '' 

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

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

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

"Well, I liked to live, — being then in the prime of life; 
and though it hurt me powerful, I resolved to part with 
Sally. I laid her down. As I did so, the chief picked her 
up, and one of the braves sprang at me with a spear, and 
would have run me through, but the chief knocked him 
down with the butt of my gun. Then they led me forth 
to the high plain on the south side of the stream. There 


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they called a halt, and I was given in charge of three wo- 
men, while the warriors formed a ring to smoke and con- 
sult. This gave me an opportunity to count them: they 
numbered one hundred and eighty-seven men, nine boys, 
and three women. 

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

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

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

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

"I said 'Bridger is my captain's name; or, in the. Crow 
tongue, Casa])])^ the 'Blanket chief At this answer the 
chief Feemed lost in thought. AX last he asked me — 

" ' How many men has he ?' 

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

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

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

"It war now late in the afternoon, and thar war a great 
bustle, getting ready for the march to meet Bridger. Two 
big Indians mounted my mule, but the women made me 
pack moccasins. The spies started first, and after awhile 
the main pc-rty. Seventy warriors traveled ahead of me : 



I war placed with the women and boys ; and after us the 
balance of the braves. As we traveled along, the women 
would prod me with sticks, and laugh, and say ' Masta 
Sheela,' (which means white man,) 'Masta sheela very 
poor now.' The fair sex war very much amused. 

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

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

"On the afternoon of the fourth day, the spies, who 
war in advance, looking out from a high hill, made a sign 
to the main party. In a moment all sat down. Directly 
they got another sign, and then they got up and moved 
on. I war as well up in Indian signs as they war ; and I 
knew they had discovered white men. What war worse, 
I knew they would soon discover that I had been lying to 
them. A.11 1 had to do then war to trust to luck. Soon we 
came to the top of the hill, which overlooked the Yellow- 
stone, from which I could see the plains below extending 
as far as the eye could reach, and about three miles off, 
the camp of my friends. My heart beat double quick 
about that time ; and I once in a while put my hand to 
my head, to feel if my scalp war thar. 

" While I war watching our camp, I discovered that the 
horse guard had seen us, for I knew the sign he would 


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make if he discovered Indians. I thought the camp a 
splendid sight that evening. It made a powerful show to 
me, who did not expect ever to see it after that day. And 
it war a fine sight any how, from the hill whar I stood. 
About two hundred and fifty men, and women and chil- 
dren in great numbers, and about a thousand horses and 
mules. Then the beautiful plain, and the sinking sun ; 
and the herds of buffalo that could not be numbered ; 
and the cedar hills, covered with elk, — I never saw so fine 
a sight as all that looked to me then ! 

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

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

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

"As quick as he could he ran to camp, and in a few 
minutes Bridger appeared, on his large white horse. He 
came up to within three hundred yards of us, and called 
out to me, asking who the Indians v^ n. I answered 



'Crows.' lie then told me to say to the chief he wished 
him to send one of his sub-chiefs to smoke with him. 

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

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

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

"In the evening the chief, with forty of his braves, vis- 

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ited Briclger uiul made a treaty of three months. They 
said they war formerly at war with the whites ; but that 
they desired to be friendly with them now, so that to- 
gether they might fight the Blackfect, who war every- 
body's enemies. As for me, they returned me my mule, 
gun, and beaver packs, and siiid my name should be 
Shiam SJiasjmsia, for I could out-lie the Crows." 

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

The sight of Doughty lying rolled in his blanket, and 
the monster grizzlys inspecting the fort, caused the two 
trappers who were safely perched in the cotton-wood to 
make merry at Doughty's expense ; saying all the mirth- 
provoking things they could, and then advising him not 


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to laugh, for fear the bsars should seize hira. Poor 
Doughty, agonizing between suppressed laughter and 
growing fear, contrived to lie still however, while tlie 
bears gazed upward at the speakers in W(jnder, and alter- 
nately at the suspicious looking bundle inside the fort. 
Not being able to make out the meaning of either, they 
gave at last a grunt of dissatisfaction, and ran off into a 
tliicket to consult over these strange appearances ; leaving 
tlie trappers to enjoy the incident as a very good joke. 
For a long time after. Doughty was reminded how close 
to the ground he laid, when the grizzlys paid their com- 
pliments to him. Such were the everyday incidents from 
which the mountain-men contrived to derive their rude 
jests, and laughter-provoking reminiscences. 

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

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

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Truly indeed, was the Bhickfoot tlu; Isluuiicl of tlu? vvil- 
dcnicas, whose liaiid was against every man, and every 
man's haiul against liini. 

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

183G. In January, however, this repose was broken in 
upon by a visit from the Blackfect. As their visitations 
were never of a friendly character, so then they were not 
bent upon pacific rites and ceremonies, such as all the rest 
of the world find pleasure in, but came in full battle array 
to U-y their fortunes in war against the big camp of the 
whit OS. They had evidently made great preparation. 
Tlieir warriors numbered eleven hundred, got up in the 
top of the Blackfoot fashions, and armed with all manner 
of savage and some civilized weapons. But Bridger was 
prepared for them, although their numbers were so over- 
whelming. He built a fort, had the animals corraled, and 
put himself on the defensive in a prompt and thorough man- 
ner. This made the Elackfeet cautious; they too built 
forts of cotton-wood in the shape of lodges, ten men to 
each fort, and carried on a skirmishing fight for two days, 
w^ien finding there was nothing to be gained, they de- 
parted, neither side having sustained much loss; the 
whites losing only two men by this grand Blackfoct army. 



Soon uft,<!r tliis attack JJridgcr broke caiiip, and travclrMl 
up the Yellowstone, throJi^^h the (/row country. It was 
while on this nuirch that llnuintucken was struck by a 
Crow, and Meek put the whole camp in peril, ])y shootiii^j 
liiui. They passed on to tin; \V\^ Horn and Little Horn 
rivers, down throuf^di the Wind River valley and through 
the South Pass to Green River. 

While in that country, there occurred the fi«j^}itwith the 
Rannacks in which llnientucken was killed. A small party 
of Nez Perces had lost their horses by the thieviri*.,' of the 
Rannacks. They came into camp and complained to the 
whites, who promised them their protection, should they 
be able to recover their horses. Accordingly the Nez Per- 
ces started after the thieves, and by dogging their camp, 
succeeded in re-capturing their horses sind getting back 
to Rridger's camp with them. In ord(jr to divert the 
vengeance of the Baimjicks from themselves, they pre- 
sentcMl their horses to the whites, and a very fine one to 

All went well for a time. The Bannacks went on their 
way to hunt buffalo ; but they treasured up their wrath 
against the supposed white thieves who had stolen the 
horses which they had come by so honestly. 0" their re- 
turn from the hunt, having learned by spies that the horses 
were in the camp of the whites, they prepared for war. 
Early one morning they made their appearance mounted 
and armed, and making a dash at the camp, rode through 
it with the usual yells and frantic gestures. The attack 
was entirely unexpected. Bridger stood in front of his 
lodge, holding his horse by a lasso, and the head chief 
rode over it, jerking it out of his hand. At this unprece- 
dented insult to his master, a negro named Jim, cook to 
the Booshways, seized a rifle and shot the chief dead. At 
the same time, an arrow shot at random struck Umen- 

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tucken in flu; breast, and the joys and sorrows of the 
Mountain Lamb were over forevermoro. 

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

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

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

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

While awaiting, in the Green River valley, the arrival 
of the St. Louis Company, the Rocky Mountain and North 
American companies united ; after which Captain Sublette 
and his brother returned no more to the mountains. The 
new firm was known only as the American Fur Company, 
the other having dropped its title altogether. The object 
of their consolidation was by combining their capital and 



expuriencc to strengthen their hiinds against the Hudson's 
JJay Company, which now had an establishment at Fort 
Hall, on the Snake River. By this new arrangement, 
Bridger and Fontenelle commanded ; and Dripps was to 
be the traveling partner who was to go to St. Louis lor 

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

It happened, however, that a war party of a hundred 
Crows were out on the trail l>efore them, looking perhaps 
for the same party, and the trappers had not made more 
than one or two camps before they discovered signs which 
satisfied them of the neighboihood of an enemy. At 
their next camp on the Sandy, Meek and Carson, with the 
caution and vigilance peculiar to them, kept their saddles 
on their horses, and the horses tied to themselves by a 
long rope, so that on the least unusual motion of the ani- 
mals they should be readily informed of the disturbance. 
Their precaution was not lost. Just after midnight had 
given place to the first faint kindling of dawn, their ears 
were stunned by the simultaneous discharge of a hundred 
guns, and the usual furious din of the war-whoop and yell. 
A stampede immediately took place of all the horses ex- 
cepting those of Meek and Carson. " Every man for himself 
and God for us all," is the motto of the mountain-man in 
case of an Indian attack ; nor did our t j-ppers forget it 


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on this occasion. Quickly mounting, they put their horses 
to their speed, which was not checked until they had left 
the Sandy far behind them. Continuing on in the direc- 
tion of the proposed meeting with the St. Louis Company, 
they made their first camp on the Sweetwater, where they 
fell in with Victor, the Flathead chief, who had made his 
way on foot to this place. One or two others came into 
camp that night, and the following day this portion 
of the party traveled on in company until within about 
five miles of Independence Rock, when they were once 
more charged on by the Indians, who surrounded them in 
such a manner that they were obliged to turn back to 

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

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

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

On the Sweetwater about two days' travel from camp 

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the caravan of the advancing company was discovered, 
and the trappers prepared to give them a characteristic 
greeting. To prevent mistakes in recognizing them, a 
white flag was hoisted on one of their guns, and the word 
was given to start. Then over the brow of a hi 11 they 
made their appearance, riding with that mad speed only 
an Indian or a trapper can ride, yelling, whooping, dash- 
ing forward with frantic and threatening gestures ; their 
dress, noises, and motions, all so completely savage that 
the white men could not have been distinguished from 
the red. 

The first effect of their onset was what they probably 
intended. The uninitiated travelers, including the mis- 
sionaries, believing they were about to be attacked by 
Indians, prepared for defence, nor could be persuaded that 
the preparation was unnecessary until the guide pointed 
out to them the white flag in advance. At tlie assurance 
that the flag betokened friends, apprehension was changed 
to curiosity and intense interest. Every movement of the 
wild brigade became fascinating. On they came, riding 
faster and faster, yelling louder and louder, and gesticu- 
lating more and more madly, until, as they met and passed 
the caravan, they discharged their guns in one volley over 
the heads of the company, as a last finishing /e^« dejoiej 
and suddenly wheeling rode back to the front as wildly 
as they had come. Nor could this first brief display con- 
tent the crazy cavalcade. After reaching the front, they 
rode back and forth, and around and around the caravan, 
which had relumed their salute, showing off their feats of 
horsemanship, and the knowing tricks of their horses to- 
gether ; hardly stopping to exchange questions and an- 
swers, but seeming really intoxicated with delight at the 
meeting. What strange emotions filled the breasts of the 
lady missionaries, when they beheld among whom their 






lot was cast, may now be faintly outlined by a vivid 
imagination, but have never been, perhaps never could be 
put into words. 

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

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

Mrs. Whitman, who was in fine health, rode the greater 
part of the journey on horseback. She was a large, stately, 

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fair-skinned woman, with blue eyes and light auburn, al- 
most golden hair. Her manners were at once dignified 
and gracious. She was, both by nature and education a 
lady ; and had a lady's appreciation of all that was cour- 
teous and refined ; yet not without an element of romance 
and heroism in her disposition strong enough to have 
impelled her to undertake a missionary's life in the wil- 

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

As might be expected, the trappers turned from the con- 
templation of the pale, dark-haired occupant of the wagon, 
with all her humility and gentleness, to observe and 
admire the more striking figure, and more affably attractive 
manners of Mrs. Whitman. Meek, who never lost an 
opportunity to see and be seen, was seen riding alongside 
Mrs. Whitman, answering her curious inquiries, and enter- 
taining her with stories of Blackfeet battles, and encoun- 
ters with grizzly bears. Poor lady ! could she have looked 
into the future about which she was then so curious, she 
would hove turned back appalled, and have fled with fran- 



tic fear to the home of her grieving parents. How could 
she then behold in the gay and boastful mountaineer, 
whose peculiarities of dress and speech so much diverted 
her, the very messenger who was to bear to the home of 
her girlhood the sickening tale of her bloody sacritice to 
savage superstition and revenge ? Yet so had fate de- 
creed it. 

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

After a day of toilsome preparation all was ready for 
the grand reception in the camp of the Nez Perces. Word 
was at length given that the caravan was in sight. There 
was a rush for horses, and in a few moments the Indians 
were mounted and in line, ready to charge on the advanc- 
ing caravan. When the command of the chiefs was given 
to start, a simultaneous chorus of yells and whoops burst 
forth, accompanied by the deafening din of the war-drum, 




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the discharge of fire-arms, and the clatter of the whole 
cavalcade, which was at once in a mad gallop toward the 
on-coming train. Nor did the yelling, whooping, drum- 
ming, and firing cease until within a few yards of the 

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

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

When the intention of the Indians became known. Dr. 
Whitman, who was the leader of the missionary party, was 
boyishly delighted with the reception which had been 
given him. His frank, hearty, hopeful nature augured 
much good from the enthusiasm of the Indians. If his 
estimation of the native virtues of the savages was much 
too high, he suffered with those whom he caused to suffer 
for his belief, in the years which followed. Peace to the 
ashes of a good man ! And honor to his associates, whose 



hearts were in the cause they had undertaken of Christian- 
izing the Indians. Two of them still live — one of whom, 
Mr. Spalding, has conscientio isly labored and deeply suf- 
fered for the faith. Mr. Gray, who was an unmarried man, 
returned the following year to the States, for a wife, and 
settled for a time among the Indians, but finally abandoned 
the missionary service, and removed to the Wallamet val- 
ley. These five persons constituted the entire force of 
teachers who could be induced at that time to devote 
their lives to the instruction of the savages in the neigh- 
borhood of the Rocky Mountains. 

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

On the contrary, the leaders of the American Fur Com- 
pany, Captain Wyeth and Captain Stuart, paid Mrs. Whit- 
man the most marked and courteous attentions. She shone 
the bright particular star of that Rocky Mountain encamp- 
ment, softening the hearts and the manners of all who 
came within her womanly influence. Not a gentleman 


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among them but felt her silent command upon him to bo 
his better self while she remained in his vicinity ; not a 
trapper or camp-keeper but respected the presence of 
womanhood and piety. But while the leaders paid court 
to her, the bashful trappers contented themselves with 
promenading before her tent. Sliould they succeed in 
catching her eye, they never failed to touch their beaver- 
skin caps in their most studiously graceful manner, though 
that should prove so dubious as to bring a mischievous 
smile to the blue eyes of the observant lady. 

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

The missionaries remained at the rendezvous long enough 
to recruit their own strength and that of their stock, and 
to restore to something like health the invaUd Mrs. Spald- 
ing, who, on changing her diet to dried meat, which the 
resident partners were able to supply her, commenced rap- 
idly to improve. Letters were written and given to Capt. 
Wyeth to carry home to the States. The Captain had 
completed his sale of Fort Hall and the goods it contained 



ti> the Hudson's Bay Company only a short time previous, 
and was now about to abandon the effort to establish any 
enterprise either on the Columbia or in the Rocky Moun- 
tains. He had, however, executed his threat of the year 
previous, and punished the bad faith of the Rocky Moun- 
tain Company by placing them in direct competition with 
the Hudson's Bay Company. 

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

The two traders, whose camp they now joined, were 
named McLeod and McKay. The latter, Thomas McKay, 
was the half-breed son of that unfortunate McKay in Mr. 
Astor's service, who perished on board the Tonquin^ as re- 
lated in Irving's Astoria. He was one of the bravest 
and most skillful partisans in the employ of the Hudson's 

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Bay Company. McLcod had met tho missionaries at the 
American rcMid(;zvous and invited them to travel in liis 
company ; an (^Hcr which they were j'lad to accept, as it 
secnred them ample protection and other more triflin«^ 
benefits, besides some society other than the Indians. 

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

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

On went the party from the Snake River through the 
Grand Ronde to the Blue Mountains. The crossing here 
■was somewhat difficult but accomplished in safety. The 

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descent from the Bliio Muuiitiiins on the ^vl 
the missionaries their first view o^ tlie couiiliv thcv Inid 
come to possess, and to civilize and Christianize. Tliat 
view was beantiful and grand — as goodly a prospect as 
longing eyes ever beheld this side of Canaan. Hcfore 
them lay a country spread out like a map, with tin; wind- 
ings of its rivers marked by fringes of tnv's, and its bound- 
aries fixed by mountain ranges above which lowered the 
snowy peaks of 
Mt. Hood, Mt. 
Adams, and Mt. 
Rainier. Far 
away could be 
traced the 
course of the 
Columbia ; and 
over all the mag- 
nificent scene 
glowed the red 
rays of sunset, 
tinging the dis- 
tant blue of the 
mountains until 
they seemed 
shrouded in a 
veil of violet 
mist. It were 
not strange that 
with the recep- 
tion given them by the Indians, and with this bird's-eye 
view of their adopted country, the hearts of the missiona- 
ries beat high with hope. 

The descent from the Blue Mountains brought the party 
out on the Umatilla River, where they camped, Mr. McLeod 




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parting company with them at this place to hasten for- 
ward to Fort Walla- Walla, and prepare for their recep- 
tion. After two more days of slow and toilsome travel 
with cattle whose feet were cut and sore from the sharp 
rocks of the mountains, the company arrived safely at 
Walla- Walla fort, on the third of September. Here 
they found Mr. McLeod, and Mr. Panbram who had charge 
of that post. 

Mr. Panbram received the missionary party with every 
token of respect, and of pleasure at seeing ladies among 
them. The kindest attentions were lavished upon them 
from the first moment of their arrivrJ, when the ladies 
were lifted from their horses, to the time of their depar- 
ture; the apartments belongin«5 to the fort being assigned 
to them, and all that the place afforded of comfortable 
living placed at their disposal. Here, for the first time in 
several months, they enjoyed the luxury of bread — a favor 
for which the suffering Mrs. Spalding was especially grate- 

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





idly caway in the enjoyment of refined society, and all 
the other elegancies of the highest civilization. 

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

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







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

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

Pierre's Hole, notwithstanding its beauties, had some re- 
pulsive features, or rather perhaps one repulsive feature, 
which was, its great numbers of rattlesnakes. Meek relates 
that being once caught in a very violent thunder storm, 
he dismounted, and holding his horse, a fine one, by the 
bridle, himself took shelter under a narrow shelf of rock 
projecting from a precipitous bluff. Directly he observed 
an enormous rattlesnake hastening close by him to its den 
in the mountain. Congratulating himself on his snake- 
ship's haste to get out of the storm and his vicinity, he 
had only time to have one rejoicing thought when two or 



three others followed the trail of the first one. They were 
seeking the same rocky den, of whose proximity Meek 
now felt uncomfortably assured. Before these were out 
of sight, there came instead of twos and threes, tens and 
twenties, and then hundreds, and finally Meek believes 
thousands, the grovmd being literally alive with them. 
Not daring to stir after he discovered the nature of his 
situation, he was obliged to remain and endure the dis- 
gusting and friglitful scene, while he exerted himself to 
keep his horse quiet, lest the reptiles should attack him. 
By and by, when there were no more to come, but all 
were safe in their holes in the rock. Meek hastily mounted 
and galloped in the face of the tempest in preference to 
remaining longer in so r.upleasant a neighborhood. 

There was an old Frenchman among the trappers who 
used to charm rattlesnakes, and handling them freely, 
place them in his bosom, or allow them to wind about his 
arms, several at a time, their flat heads extending in all 
directions, and their bodies waving in the air, in the mosc 
snaky and nerve-shaking manner, to the infinite disgust 
of all the camp, and of Hawkins and Meek in particular. 
Hr,wkins often became so nervous that he threatened to 
SI: oot the Frenchman en the instant, if he did not desist ; 
r. V .':ieat was the dislike he entertained for what he term- 
La L -fc " infernal old wizard." 

It \v as often the case in the mountains and on the plains 
that the camr) was troubled with rattlesnakes, so that 
each man on laying down to sleep found it necessary to 
encircle his bed with a hair rope, thus effectually fencing 
out the reptiles, which are too fastidious and sensitive of 
touch to crawl over a hair rope. But for this precaution, 
•^he trapper must often have shared his blanket couch 
with this foe to the " seed of the woman," who being 
asleep would have neglected to " crush his head," receiv- 

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ing instead the serpent's fang in "his heel," if not in some 
nobler portion of his body. 

There is a common belief abroad that the prairie dog 
harbors the rattlesnake, and the owl also, in his subterra- 
nean house, in a more or less friendly manner. Meek, 
however, who has had many opportunities of observing 
the habits of those three ill-assorted denizens of a common 
abode, gives it as his opinion that the prairie dog consents 
to the invasion of his premises alone through his inability 
to prevent it. As these prairie dog villages are always 
found on the naked prairies, where there is neither rocky 
den for the rattlesnn' f nor shade for the blinking eyes of 
the owl, these two idlt 1 impudent foreigners, availing 
themselves of the labors of the industrious little animal 
which builds itself a cool shelter from the sun, and a safe 
one from the storm, whenever their own necessities drive 
them to seek refuge from either sun or storm, enter unin- 
vited and take possession. It is probable also, that so far 
from being a welcome guest, the rattlesnake occasionally 
gorges himself with a young praine-dog, when other game 
is not conveniently nigh, or that the owl lies in wait at the 
door of its borrowed-without-leave domicile, and succeeds 
in nabbing a careless field-mouse more easily than it could 
catch the same game by seeking it as an honest owl should 
do. The owl and the rattlesnake are like the Sioux when 
they go on a visit to the Omahas — the visit being always 
timed so as to be identical in date with that of the Gov- 
ernment Agents who are distributing food and clothing. 
They are very good friends for the nonce, the poor Oma^ 
has not daring to be otherwise for fear of the ready ven- 
geance on the next summer's buffalo hunt ; therefore they 
conceal their grimaces and let the Sioux eat them up ; and 
when summer comes get massacred on their buffalo hunt, 
all the same. 



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

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

Since men were of such value to the fur companies, it 
would seem strange that they should deliberately enter 
upon an Indian fight before being attacked. But unfortu- 
nate as these encounters really were, they knew of no 
other policy to be pursued. They, (the American Com- 
panies,) were not resident, with a long acquaintance, and 

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

It happened, however, during this autumn, that while 
the main camp was in the valley of the Yellowstone, a 
party of eight trappers, including Meek and a comrade 
named Stanberry, were trapping together on the Mussel 



Shell, when the question as to which was the bravest man 
got started between them, and at length, in the heat of 
controversy, assumed such importance that it was agreed 
to settle the matter on the following day according to the 
Virginia code of honor, i. e., by fighting a duel, and shoot- 
ing at each other with guns, which hitherto had only done 
execution on bears and Indians. 

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

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





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more to be resurrected between them, while a fat supper 
of bear meat celebrated the compact of everlasting amity. 

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

It wa. also while the camp was at the Cross Creeks of 
the Yellowstone that Meek had one of his best fought bat- 
tles with a grizzly bear. He was out with two compan- 
ions, one Gardiner, and Mark Head, a Shawnee Indian. 
Seeing a very large bear digging roots in the creek bot- 
tom, Meek proposed to attack it, if the others would hold 




his horse ready to mount if he failed to kill the creature. 
This being agreed to he advanced to within about forty 
puces of his game, when he raised his gun and attempted 
to fire, but the cap bursting he only roused the beast, 
which turned on him with a terrific noise between a snarl 
and a growl, showing some fearful looking teeth. Meek 
turned to run for his horse, at the same time trying to put 
a cap on his gun ; but when he had almost reached his 
comrades, their horses and his own took fright at the bear 
now close on his heels, and ran, leaving him alone with the 
now fully infuriated beast. Just at the moment he suc- 
ceeded in getting a cap on his gun, the teeth of the bear 
closed on his blanket capote which was belted around the 
waist, the suddenness and ^jrce of the seizure turning him 
around, as the skirt of his capote yielded to the strain 
and tore off at the belt. Being now nearly face to face 


with his foe, the intrepid trapper thrust hia gun into the 




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creature's mouth and attempted again to fire, but the gun 
being double triggered and not set, it failed to go ofT. 
Perceiving the difficulty he managed to set the triggers 
with the gun still in the bear's mouth, yet no sooner was 
this done than the bear succeeded in knocking it out, and 
firing as it slipped out, it hit her too low down to inflict a 
fatal wound and only served to irritate her still farther. 

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

At this critical juncture the second cub interfered, and 
got a boxing from the old bear, as the first one had done. 
This too, gave Meek time to make a movement, and loosen- 
ing his tomahawk from his belt, he made one tremen- 
dous effort, taking deadly aim, and struck her just behind 
the ear, the tomahawk sinking into the brain, and his 
powerful antagonist lay dead before him. When the blow 
was struck he stood with his back against a little bluff of 
rock, beyond which it was impossible to retreat. It was 
his last chance, and his usual good fortune stood by him. 

i ■■ 

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When the struggle was over the weary victor mounted 
the rock behind him and looked down ui)on his enemy 
slain; and " camo to ihe conclusion tliat he was satisfied 
with bar-ligliting." 

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

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

About Christmas all the company went into winter-quar- 
ters on Powder River, in the neighborhood of a company 
of Bonneville's men, left under the command of Antoine 

Montero, who had established a trading-post and fort at* 


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

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

11 :i 



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

The Crows, who had for two years been on terms of a 
sort of semi-amity with the whites, found it to their in- 
terest to conciliate so powerful an enemy as the American 
Fur Company was now become, and made frequent visits 
to the camp, on which occasion they usually succeeded in 
obtaining a taste of the fire-water of which they were in- 
ordinately fond. Occasionally a trader was permitted to 
sell liquor to the whole village, when a scene took place 


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whose peculiar horrors were wholly iuciescribable, from the 
inability of language to convey an adequate idea of its 
hellish degradation. When a trader sold alcohol to a 
village ii was understood both by himself and the Indians 
what TVP.s to follow. And to secure the trader against in- 
jury a certain number of warriors wcie selected out of 
the village to act as a police force, and to guard the trader 
during the ' drunk ' from the insane passions of his cus- 
tomers. To the police not a drop was to be given. 

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

When everybody, police excepted, was drunk as urunk 
com " be, the trader began to dilute his alcohol wlih water, 
until finally his keg contained water only, slightly flavort^d 
by the washings of the keg, and as they continued to 
drink of it without detecting its weak quality, they finally 
drank themselves sober, and were able at last to sum up 
the cost of their intoxication. This was generally nothing 
less than the whole property of the village, added to which 
were not a few personal injuries, and usually a few mur- 
ders. The village now beihg poor, the Indians were cor- 
respondingly humble ; and were forced to begin a system 
of reprisal by stealing and making war, a course for which 
the trad IS were prepared, and which they avoided by 
leaving that neighborhood. Such were some of the sins 
and sorrows for which the American far companies were 



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answerable, and which detracted seriously from, the re- 
spect that the courage, and other good qualities if the 
mountain-men freely commanded. 

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

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

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

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

Not long after coming upon these evidences of prox- 



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

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




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hard that the arrow dropped, just as Meek, who had loaded 
his gun running, was ready to fire, and the Indian dropped 
after his arrow. 

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

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

Just before getting clear of this entanglement Meek be- 
came the subject of another picture, by Stanley, who was 
viewing the battle from the heights above the valley. 
The picture which is well known as " The Trapper's Last 
Shot," represents him as he turned upon his horse, a fine 
and spirited animal, to discharge his last shot at an Indian 



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pursuing, while in the bottom, at a little distance away, 
other Indians are seen skulking in the tall reedy grass. 

The last shot having been discharged with fatal effect, 
our trapper, so persistently lionized by painters, put his 
horse to his utmost speed and soon after overtook the 
camp, which had now passed the strait of danger. But 
the Blackfeet were still unsatisfied with the result of the 
contest. They followed after, reinforced from the village, 
and attacked the camp. In the fight which followed a 
Blackfoot woman's horse was shot down, and Meek tried 
to take her prisoner : but two or three of her people com- 


ing to the rescue, engaged his attention ; and the woman 
was saved by seizing hold of the tail of her husband's 
horse, which setting oflf at a run, carried her out of 

The Blackfeet found the camp of Bridger too strong 
for them. They were severely beaten and compelled to 
retire to their village, leaving Bridger free to move on. 
The following day the camp reached the village of Little- 
Robe, a chief of the Peagans, who held a talk with Bridger, 





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complaining that his nation were all perishing from the 
small-pox which had been given to them by the whites. 
Bridger was able to explain to Little-Robe his error; in- 
asmuch as although the disease might have originated 
among the whites, it was communicated to the Blackfeet 
by Jim Beckwith, a negro, and principal chief of their 
enemies the Crows. This unscrupulous wretch had caused 
two infected articles to be taken from a Mackinaw boat, 
up from St. Louis, and disposed of to the Blackfeet — 
whence the horrible scourge under which they were suf- 

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

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Fontenelle, and a consequent delay in receiving supplies, 
tobacco was scarce among the mountaineers. 

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

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

Mr. Gray was accompanied by two young men (whites) 
who wished to return to the States, and also by a son of 
one of the Flathead chiefs. Two other Flathead Indians, 
and one Iroquois and one Snake Indian, were induced to 
accompany Mr. Gray. The undertaking was not without 
danger, and so the leaders of the Fur Company assured 
him. But Mr. Gray was inclined to make light of the 
danger, having traveled with entire safety when under the 
protection of the Fur Companies the year before. He 
proceeded without interruption until he reached Ash Hol- 
low, in the neighborhood of Fort Laramie, when his party 
was attacked by a large band of Sioux, and compelled to 
accept battle. The five Indians, with the whites, fought 
bravely, killing fifteen of the Sioux, before a parley was 
obtained by the intervention of a French trader who 



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chanced to be among the Sioux. When Mr. Gray was 
ul)le to hold a 'talk' with the attacking party he was as- 
sured that his life and that of his two white associates 
would be spared, but that they, wanted to kill the strange 
Indians and take their fine horses. It is not at all proba- 
ble that Mr. Gray consented to this sacrifice ; though he 
has been accused of doing so. 

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

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

There were no outsiders besides Gray's party at the ren- 
dezvous of this year, except Captain Stuart, and he was 
almost as good a mountaineer as any. This doughty 
English traveler had the bad fortune together with that 
experienced leader Fitzpatrick, of being robbed by the 
Crows in the course of the fall hunt, in the Crow country. 
These expert horse thieves had succeeded in steaUng 



nearly all the horses belonging to the joint camp, and had 
so disabled the eonipany that it could not proceed, la 
this emergency, Newell, who had long been a sub-trader 
and was wise in Indian arts and wiles, was sent to hold a 
talk with the thieves. The talk was held, according- to 
custom, in the the Medicine lodge, and the usual amount 
of smoking, of long silence ;, and grave looks, had to be 
participated in, before the subject on hand could be Gon- 
sidered. Then the chiefs complained as usual of wrongs 
at the hands of the white men ; of their fear of small-pox, 
from which some of their tribe had suffered ; of friends 
killed in battle with the whites, and all the list of ills that 
Crow flesh is heir to at the will of their white enemies. 
The women too had their complaints to proffer, and the 
number of widows and orphans in the tribe was pathetic- 
ally set forth. The chiefs also made a strong point of 
this latter complaint ; and on it the wily Newell hung 
his hopes of recovering the stolen property. 

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

" But it is true that you have many widows and orphans 
to support, and that is bad. I pity the orphans, and will 
help you to support them, if you will restore to my cap- 
tain the property stolen from his camp. Otherwise 
Bridger will bring more horses, and plenty of ammuni- 


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tion, and there ^A'ill be more widows and orphans among 
the Crows than ever before." 

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


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

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

However there was beaver enough in camp to furnish 
th3 means for the usual profligacy. Horse-racing, betting, 
gambling, drinking, were freely indulged in. In the 
midst of this '^ fun," there appeared at the rendezvous Mr. 





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Gray, now accompanied by ]\Irs. Gray and six other mission- 
ary ladies and gentlemen. Here also were two gentlemen 
from the Methodist mission on the Wallamet, who were 
returning to the States. Captain Stuart was still traveling 
with the Fur Company, and was also present with his 
party ; besides which a Hudson's Bay trader named Ema- 
tinger was encamped near by. As if actuated to extra- 
ordinary displays by the unusual number of visitors, espe- 
cially the four ladies, both trappers and Indians conducted 
themselves like the mad-caps they were. The Shawnees 
and Delawares danced their great war-dance before the 
tents of the missionaries ; and Joe Meek, not to be out- 
done, arrayed himself in a suit of armor belonging to Cap- 
tain Stuart and strutted about the encampment ; then 
mounting his horse played the part of an ancient knight, 
with a good deal of eclat 

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



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

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

Mrs. Smith made a weeping appeal to Meek for water 
for her dying husband ; and truly the poor woman's situ- 
ation was a pitiable one. Behind camp, with no protec- 
tion from the perils of the desert and wilderness — only a 
terrible care instead — the necessity of trying to save her 
husband's life. As no water was to be had, alcohol was 


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offered to the famishing man, who, however, could not be 
aroused from his stupor of wretchedness. Seeing that 
death really awaited the unlucky missionary unless some- 
thing could be done to cause him to exert himself, Meek 
commenced at once, and with unction, to abuse the man 
for his unmanlinesa His style, though not very refined, 
was certainly very vigorous. 

" You're a pretty fellow to be lying on the 

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

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

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



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

The unhappy wife, whose conscience reproached her 
for leaving her husband to die .alone, looked back, and 

saw him raising his head to gaze after them. 

Her grief 

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

While the camp was at Soda Springs, Meek observed 
the missionary ladies baking bread in a tin reflector before 
a fire. Bread was a luxury unknown to the mountain- 

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MEEK's black-eyed DAUGirnOR. 

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

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

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

The weather was still extremely warm. It had been 
a season of great drought, and the streams were nearly 



nil f!iitii'<;ly dried up. The first night out, the horses, 
tight ill iiumher, strayed oil' in search of water, and were 
lost. Now commenced a day of fearful sufferings. No 
water had been found since leaving the fort. The loss of 
tlie horses nuide it necessary for tlie company to separate 
to loolv for them; Mansfield and Wilkins going in one di- 
rection. Meek and the old Flathead woman in anotlier. 
The little coolness and moisture which night had imparted 
to the atmosphere was quickly dissipated by the unchecked 
rays of the pitiless sun shining on a dry and barren plain, 
with not a vestige of verdure anywhere in sight. On 
and on went the old Flathead woman, keeping always in 
the advance, and on and on followed Meek, anxiously 
scanning the horizon for a chance sight of the horses. 
Higher and higher mounted the sun, the temperature in- 
creasing in intensity until the great plain palpitated with 
radiated heat, and the horizon flickered almost like a 
flame where the burning heavens met the burning earth. 
Meek had been drinking a good deal of rum at the fort, 
which circumstance did not lessen the terrible consuming 
thirst that was torturing him. 

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

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ways just ahead, and the woman was howling to hi in to 
show him tho trail. 

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

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

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

From Godin's Fork they crossed over to Salmon River, 



and presently struck the Nez Perci; trail which leads from 
that river over into the ]5eaver-head country, on the 
IJeaver-liead or .lellerson Fork of the Missouri, where 
there was a Fhithead and Nez Perce village, on or about 
the present site of Virginia City, in Montana. 

Not stop])ing long here, Meek and his companions went 
on to the Madison Fork with the Indian village, and to 
the shores of Missouri Lake, joining in the fall hunt for 

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

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

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

" Thar may be ten thousand in a band. Directly we 
crowd them so close that nothing can be seen but dust, 
nor anything heard but the roar of their trampling and 
bellowing. The hunter now keeps close on their heels to 
escape being blinded by the dust, which does not rise as 
high as a man on horseback, for thirty yards behind the 
animals. As soon as we are close enough the fii'ing begins, 





and the ])an(l is on the run; and a herd of bnfralo can rim 
about as fast as a good race-horse. How they do thunder 
along! They give us a pretty sharp race. Take care! 
Down goes a rider, and away goes his iiorse with the hand. 
Do you tliink we stopped to hjok after tlie fallen man ? 
Not we. We rather thought that war fun, and if he got 
killed, why, ' he war unlucky, that war all. Plenty more 
men: couldn't bother about him.' 

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

" Look out ; thnr's a ravine ahead, as you can see by the 
plunge which the band makes. Hold up! or somebody 
goes to the d — 1 now. If the band is larp-e it tills the 
ravine full to the brim, and the hindmost of the herd pass 
over on top of the foremost. It requires horseman- 
ship not to be carried over without our own consent ; but 
then we mountain-men are all good horsemen. Over the 
ravine we go ; but we do it our own way. 

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

" But you w^ere going to tell me about the buffalo hunt 
at Missouri Lake ?" 

*' Thar isn't much to tell. It war pretty much like other 







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bulValo liuiits. Thar war a lot of us trappers hnpponorl to 
bo at a Ncz Perce and Flatlicad village iti tlie liill of '.'{8, 
when they war agoin' to kill winter moat; and as tlicir 
hunt lay in the direction we war going, we joined in. The 
old Nez Perce chief, Kow-e-so-te had conmiiind of the vil- 
lage, and we trappers had to obey him, too. 

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

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

" That war a sight to make a man's blood warm ! A 
thousand men, »^11 trained hunters, on horseback, carrying 
their guns, and with their horses painted in the height of 
Indians' fashion. We advanced until within about half a 
mile of the herd ; then the chief ordered us to deploy to 
the right and left, until the wings of the column extended 
a long way, and advance again. 

"By this time the buffalo war all moving, and we had 
come to within a hundred yards of them. Kow-e-so-te then 
gave us the word, and away we went, pell-mell. Heavens, 

what a charere ! 

What a rushing and roaring- 

-men shoot- 

ing, buffido bellowing and trampling until the earth shook 
under them ! 

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



" Now camo out the women of the villar^o to help us 
butcher and pack up the meat. It war a bi<,^ job ; but wo 
war not lon^^ about it. By ni<>lit the camp war full of 
meat, and every])ody merry. Jirid<^''er\s camp, whicli war 
passinjj^ that way, traded with tlie vilhi<^e for lil'tcen hun- 
dred biilfah) tongues — the tonu^-ue being reckoned a choice 
part of the animal. And that's the way we lielped the 
Nez Perces hunt ])uiralo." 

'' J bit when you were hunting for your own sub.sistenco 
in camp, you sometimes went out in small parties?" 

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

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

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

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

" Can't you pack him to camp ?" 

" Pack — " said I ; " I should rather pack a load of 

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

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" So 1 went over, found the dead man leaning his 
head on his hand, and groanirg; for he war pretty bad 
hurt. I got him on his horse, though, after a while, and 
took him ba^ : to whar Kit war at work. We soon finished 
the butchering job, and started back to camp with our 
wounded Frenchman, and three loads of fat meat." 

" You were not very compassioi^ate toward each other, 
in the mountains:'" 

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

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

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

Meek, for a time, would neither deny nor confess, but 
put on his free trappor airs, and laughed in the ftice of 
the Booshways. Bridger, who half suspected some trick, 
took the matter lightly, but Dripps was very much an- 
noyed, and made some threats, at which Meek only 
laughed the more. Finally the certificate from their own 
trader, Jo Walker, was produced, the new pack of furs 






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surrendered, and Dripps' wrath turned into smiles of ap- 

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

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

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

These services were repeated whenever the Indians 
seemed to desire it, until Christmas. Then, the village 
being about to start upon a hunt, the preacher took occa- 
sion to intimate to the chief that a wife would be an 
agreeable present. To this, however, Kow-e-so-te de- 
murred, saying that Spalding's religion did not permit 
men to have two wives : that the Nez Perces had many 
of them given up their wives on this account ; and that 






thereAjre, since Meek already had one wife among the Nez 
Perces, he could not have another without being false to 
the religion he professed. 

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

After accompanying the Indians on their hunt to the 
Beaver-head country, where they found plenty of buffalo, 
Meek remained with the Nez Perce village until about the 
first of March, when he again intimated to the chief that 
it was the custom of white men to pay their preachers. 
Accordingly the people were notified, and tlr3 winter's 
salary began to arrive. It amounted altogether to thir- 
teen horses, and many packs of beaver, beside sheep-skins 
an'l buffalo-robes; so that he "considered that with his 
young wife, he had made a pretty good winter's work 
of it." 

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


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Leaving thoir camp one morning to take uj) tlieir traps, 
tlicy wore discovered and attacked by a party uf J31ack- 
leet just as they came near the trapping ground. The only 
refuge at liand was a thicket of willows on the opposite 
side of the creek, and towards this the trappers directed 
their flight. Meek, who was in advance, succeeded in 
gaining the thicket without being seen ; but Allen stum- 
bled and fell in crossing the stream, and wet his guiL He 
quickly recovered his footing and crossed over; but the 
Blackfeet had seen him enter the thicket, and came up to 
within a short distance, yet not approaching too near the 
place where they knew he was concealed. Unfortunately, 
Allen, in his anxiety to be ready for defense, commenced 
snapping caps on his gun to dry it. The quick ears of the 
savages caught the sound, and understood the meaning 
of it. Knowing him to be defenceless, they plunged into 
the thicket after him, shooting him almost immediately, 
and dragging him out still breathing to a small prairie 
about two rods away. 

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

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




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

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

Of the men who remained in the mountains trapping, 

that year. Meek was one. Leaving his wife at Fort Hall, 

he set out in company with a Shawnee, named Big Jim, 

to take beaver on Salt River, a tributary of the Snake. 

The two trappers had each his riding and his pack horse, 

and at night generally picketed them all ; but one night 

Big Jim allowed one of his to remain loose to graze. 

This horse, after eating for some hours, came back and 







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laid down behind the other horses, and every now and 
then raised up his head ; which slight movement at length 
aroused Big Jim's attention, and liis suspicions also. 

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

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

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

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

Continuing his journey alone, soon after parting from 
Farnham, he lost the hammer of his gun, which accident 
deprived him of the means of subsisting himself, and he 
had no dried meat, nor provisions of any kind. The 
weather, too, was very cold, increasing the necessity for 
food to support animal heat. However, the deprivation 
of food was one of the accidents to which mountain-men 
were constantly liable, and one from which he had often 
suH\3red severely; therefore he pushed on, without feeling 
any unusual alarm, and had arrived within fifteen miles 

■ f}''i;T 



of the fort bufurc ho yielded to tlie feeling of exhiuistion, 
and laid down beside the trail to rest. Wliethi^r he would 
ever have finished the journey alone he eould not tell ; l)ut 
fortunately for him, he was discovered ])y Jo Walker, and 
Gordon, another acciuaintanee, who chanced to pass that 
way toward the fort. 

Meek answered their hail, and inquired if they had any- 
thing to eat. Walker rc^plied in the affirmative, and get- 
ting down from his horse, produced some dried buffalo 
meat which he gave to the famishing trapper. But seeing 
the ravenous manner in which he began to eat, Widker 
inquired how long it had been since he had eaten any- 

"Five days since I had a bite." 

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

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

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

Accordingly they set out, with one other man belonging 






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to Farnhain's former adherents. They traveled to TTeiny''s 
Fork, to Bhick Fork, where Fort 15rid<;er now is, to IJcar 
River, to Soda Springs, and finally to Fort Hall, siill'ering 
much from cold, and finding vovy little to eat by the way. 
At Fort Hall, which was still in charge of Courtenny 
Walker, Meek and Newell remained a week, when, having 
purchased their goods and horses to pack them, they once 
more set out on the long, cold journey to Fort Crockett. 
They had lifteen horses to take care of and only one assist- 
ant, a Snake Indian called Al. The return proved an 
arduous and difficult undertaking. The cold was very se- 
vere ; they had not been able to lay in a sufficient stock of 
provisions at Fort Hall, and game there was none, on the 
route. By the time they arrived at Ham's Fork the only 
atom of food they had left was a small piece of bacon which 
they had been carefully saving to eat with any poor meat 
they might chance to find. 

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

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



It Wiis now Christmas; iiiid tlio lustivities wliich took 
place at the Fort were attLMided willi a ^ood deal of niiii 
drinkin*^, in wliich Alook, according to his custcjiii, joirKMl, 
and as a considerahlo portion of" their stock in trade 
consisted of tliis article, it may fairly l)e })r(,'snm(Ml that 
the home consumption of these two "lone traders" 
amounted to the lar<j;(!r half of what tiiey had with so 
much trouble trans[)orted from Fort Hall, fn fact, "times 
were bad enough " among the men so sudd(;nly thrown 
upon their own resources among tlu; mountains, at a, time 
when that little creature, which had made mountain life 
tolerable, or possible, was fast being exterminated. 

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

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

Tint liorBcs were found on an island in Green River, the 



l. ■• 






robbers liavin^^ duuiiciled themselves in an old fort at the 
mouth ol' the Uintee. In order to avoid having a light 
with the renegades, wliose white blood the trappers were 
not anxious to spill, Walker made an ellbi't to get the horses 
off the island undiseovered. But while horses and men 
were erossing the river on the iee, the iee sinking with 
them until the water was knee-deej), the robbers discovered 
the escape of their ))ooty, and charging on the trappers 
tried to recover the horses. In this effort they were not 
successful; while Walker made a masterly flank movement 
and getting iii Thompson's rear, ran the horses into the 
fort, where he stationed his men, and succeeded in keeij- 
ing the robbers on the outside. Thompson then com- 
menced giving the horses away to a village of Utes in the 
neighborhood of the fort, on condition that they should 
assist in retaking them. On his side. Walker threatened 
the Utes with dire vengeance if they dared interfere. The 
Utes who had ji wholesome fear not only of the trappers, 
but of their foes the Snakes, declined to enter into the 
quarrel. After a day of strategy, and of threats alterna- 
ted with arguments, strengthened by a warlike display, 
the trappers marched out of the fort before the faces of 
the discomfitted thieves, taking their booty with them, 
which was duly restored to the Snakes on their return to 
Fort Crockett, and peace secured once more with that 

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

* p 

« I 

111:NN1N(j| ANTELorES. 


ii- : 

This pa.Sisetl the time until Mtircli. Tlicii tlio conipiuiy 
of NowL'll and Mock Wiis joined l^y AnUjine Uul)idL'jiu, 
who liad brought goods from Santo Fo to tnidc with tlio 
Indians. Setting out in eoni[)any, they traded ah)ng up 
(Jreen River to the luoutli of Ham's fork, and camped. 
The snow was still deep in the mountains, and the tra})})ers 
found great sport in running antelope. On one oceasion 
a large herd, numbering several hundreds, were run on to 
the ice, on Green River, where they were crowded into 
an air hole, and large nund)ers slaughtered only for the 
cruel sport which they afforded. 

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

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

With mmy "aelancholy reflections, the man of twenty- 
eight years of age recalled how, a mere boy, he had fallen 
half unawares into the kind of life he had ever since 

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led amongst the mountains, with only (jther men oqually 
the victims of circumstance, and the degraded savages, for 
his companions. The best that coukl be made of it, 
such life had been and must ])e constantlv deterioratinjr 
to the minds and souls of himself and his associates. 
Away from all laws, and refined habits of living ; away 
from the society of religious, modest, and accomplished 
women; always surrounded by savage scenes, and fcjrced 
to cultivate a taste for barbarous things — what had this 
life made of him? what was he to do with himself in the 
future ? 

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

At Fort Hall, on his return, he met two more missiona- 
ries and their wives going to Oregon, but these four did 
not affect him pleasantly ; he had no mind to go witli 
theuL Instead, he set out on what proved to be his last 
trapping expedition, with a Frenchman, named Mattileau. 


Tiiey visited the old trapping grounds on Pierre's Fork. 
Lewis' Lake, Jackson's River, Jackson's ILjle, Lewis 
River and Salt River: but beaver were scarce; and it 
was with a feeling of relief that, on returning by wiiy 
of Bear River, ^[eek heard from a Frenclinian whom 
he met there, that he was wanted at Fort Hall, by his 
friend Newell, who had something to propose to him. 



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

" Come," said Newell to Meek, " we are done with this 
life in the mountains — done with wading in beaver-dams, 
and freezing or starving alternately — done with Indian 
trading and Indian fighting. The fur trade is dead in the 
Rocky Mountains, and it is mo place for us now, if ever it 
was. We are young yet, and have life before us. We 
cannot waste it here ; we cannot or will not return to the 
States. Let us go down to the Wallamet and take farms. 
There is already quite a settlement there made by the 
Methodist ^lission and the Hudson's Bay Company's re- 
tired servants. 

"I have had some talk with the Americans who have 
gone down there, and the talk is that the country is going 
to be settled up by our people, and that the Hudson's 




Bay Company are not going to rule this country much 
longer. What do you say, Meek ? Shall we turn Ameri- 
can settlers ?" 
" I'll go where you do, Newell. What suits you suits 



" I thought you'd say so, and that's why I sent for you, 
Meek. In my way of thinking, a white man is a little 

better than a Canadian Frenchman. Fllbe if I'll 

hang 'round a post of the Hudson's Bay Company. So 
you'll go ?" 

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

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

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

In order to understand the condition of things in the 
Wallamet Valley, or Lower Columbia country, it will be 
necessary to revert to the earliest history of that territory, 
as sketched in the first chapter of this book. A history 




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

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

We trust the morning was fine : for then Captain Gray 
must have beheld a sight which a discoverer should re- 
member for a lifetime. This magnificent bay, surrounded 
by lofty hills, clad thick with noble forests of fir, and 
fretted along its margin with spurs of the highlands, form- 
ing other smaller bays and coves, into which ran streams 
whose valleys were hidden among the hills. From beyond 





the farthest point, whose dark ridge jutted across this in- 
land sea, flowed down the deep, broad river, whose course 
and origin was still a magnificent mystery, but wliich in- 
dicated by its volume that it drained a jnighty region of 
probable great fertility and natural wealth. Perhaps Cap- 
tain Gray did not fully realize the importance of his dis- 
covery. If the day was fine, with a blue sky, and the 
purple shadows lying in among the hills, with smooth 
water before him and the foamy breakers behind — {/" he 
felt what his discovery was, in point of importance, to 
the world, he was a proud and happy man, and enjoyed 
the reward of his daring. 

The only testimony on that head is the simple entry on 
his log-book, telling us that he hud named the river " Co- 
lumbia's River, ''^ — with an apostrophe, that tiny point 
intimating much. This was one ground of the American 
claim, though Vancouver, after Gray had reported his 
success to him, sent a lieutenant to explore the river, and 
then claimed the discovery for England ! The next claim 
of the United States upon the Oregon territory was by 
virtue of the Florida treaty and the Louisiana purchase. 
These, and the general one of natural boundaries, Eng- 
land contested also. Hence the treaty of joint occupancy 
for a term of ten years, renewable, unless one of the parties 
to it gave a twelve-month's notice of intention to with- 
d: w. Meantime this question of territorial claims hung 
over the national head like the sword suspended by a 
hair, which statesmen delight in referring to. We did 
not dare to say Oregon was ours, because we were afraid 
England would make war on us ; and England did not 
dare say Oregon was hers, for the same reason. There- 
fore "joint-occupancy" was the polite word with which 
statesmen glossed over the fact that Great Britain actually 
possessed the country through the monopoly of the Hud- 

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son's Bay Company. That company liad a good tlnn«r so 
]on<^ as the i^ovurnment of Great Britain |)revented any 
outbreak, by simply renewing the treaty every ten years. 
Their maimer of doing business was such as to prevent 
any h)ss powerful corporation from interfering with them, 
while individual enterprise was sure to be crushed at the 

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

There was nothing in the character of the Christian 
Missionary's labor which the Hudson's Bay Company could 
possibly object to without a palpable violation of the 

DR. JOHN Mclaughlin. 


Convention of 1818. Therefore, although the Methodist 
mission in the Wallamet Vanev received a Lirire acces- 
sion to its numbers in 1S37, they were as kindly wel- 
comed as had l)een those of 1834 ; and also tliose Pres- 
byterian missionaries of 1830, who had settled in the 
" upper country." 

Tliree points, however, the Hudson's Bay Company 
insisted upon, so fjir as, under the treaty, they could ; 
the Americans must not trade with the Indians, hut con- 
fine themselves to agricultural i)ursuits and missionary 
labor, and keep on the south side of the Columl)ia. 

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

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


•^,i I 







V U 





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

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

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


•■■ *. ; 

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

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

Arrived at Fort Boise, a post of the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany, the little caravan stopped for a few days to rest and 
recruit their animals. With the usual courtesy of that 
Company, Mr. Payette, the trader in charge, offered New- 
ell quarters in the fort, as leader of his party. To Meek 
and Craig who were encamped outside, he sent a piece of 

sturgeon with his compliments, which our incipient Ore- 

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gonians sent back apjain witli their coinpHiiKMits. No 
Hudsoirs Bay distinctions of I'ank I'ur tlicni ! No, indeed ! 
The moment that an American commenced to tliink of 
himself as a setthji* on tlie most remote corner of Ameri- 
cjui soil, that moment, as if l)y instinct, he hc/jjan to defend 
and support his repuljlicanism. 

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

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

At Walla- Walla Newell decided to leave the wagons, 
the weather having become so rainy and disagreeable as 



to miiko it (loul^tfiil about gottiii<^ them over the Cascade 
Mountains that fall. Accordiufifly the goods were trans- 
ferred to pack-horses for the remainder of the journey. 
In the following year, however, one of the wagons was 
brought down by Newell, and taken to tiie plains on the 
Tualatin River, being the lirst vehicle of the kind iu the 
Wallamet Valley. 

On arriving at the Dalles of the Columbia, our moun- 
tain men found that a mission had been established at that 
place for the conversion of those i -^onscionable thieves, 
the Wish-ram Indians, renowned in Ijidian history for their 
acf|uisitiveness. This mission wis under the charge of 
Daniel Lee and a Mr. Perkins, and was an oifshoot of the 
iVieihodist Mission in +he Wallamet Vulley. These gentle- 
men having found the benighted condition of the Indians 
to exceed their powers of enlightment in any ordinary 
way, were having recourse to extraordinary efl'orts, and 
were carrying on what is commonly termed a revival' 
though what piety there was in the hearts of these savages 
to be revived, it would be difficult to determine. How- 
ever, they doubtless hoped so to wrestle with God them- 
selves, as to compel a blessing upon their labors. 

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



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

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

The mischievous Frenchman had only recited with truly 
artistic power, and with such variations as the situation 



suggested, one of the most wonderful and effective tales 
from the Arabian Nights Entertainment^ with which he 
was wont to delight and amuse his comrades beside the 
winter camp-fire! 

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

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

To return to our immigrants. On leaving the Dalles 
they proceeded on down the south side of the river as far 






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as practicable, or opposite to the Wind Mountain. At this 
point the Indians assisted to cross them over to the north 
side, when they again made their way along the river as 
far as Tea Prairie above Vancouver. The weather was 
execrable, with a pouring rain, and sky of dismal gray ; 
December being already far pdvanced. Our travelers 
were not in the best of humors : indeed a saint-like amia- 
bility is seldom found in conjunction with rain, mud, fa- 
tigue, and an empty stomach Some ill-natured suspicions 
were uttered to the efi'ect that the Indians who were assist- 
ing to cross the party at this point, had stolen some ropes 
that were missing. 

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

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

To Fort Vancouver then, Newell went the next day, 
and returned on the following one with some dried sal- 



mon, tea, sugar, and sea-bread. It was not quite what the 
mountain-men could have wished, this dependence on the 
Hudson's Bay Company for food, and did not quite agree 
with what they had said when their hearts were big in the 
inountains. Being patriotic on a fall stomach is easy com- 
pared to being the same thing on an empty one; a truth 
which became more and more apparent as the winter pro- 
gressed, and the new settlers found that if they would eat 
they must ask food of some person or persons outside of 
the Methodist Mission. And outside of that there was in 
all the country only the Hudson's Bay Company, and a 
few mountain-mon like themselves, who had brought noth- 
ing into the country, and could get nothing out of it at 

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

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

His friend Newell had the advantage of him in several 

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particulars. He had rather more book-knowledge, more 
business experience, and idso more means. With 
advantages he became a sort of "Boosliway" amonij- liis 
old comrades, who consented to follow his lead in tlie im- 
portant movement about to be made, and settle in tlie 
Tualatin Plains should he decide to do so. 

Accordingly camp was raised, and the party proceeded 
to the Plains, where they ariived on Christmas, and went 
into camp again. The hardsliips of mountain life were 
light compared to the hardships of this winter. For in 
the mountains, when the individual's resources were ex- 
hausted, there was always the Company to go to, whicli 
was practically inexhaustible. Should it be necessary, the 
Company was always willing to become the creditor of a 
good mountain-man. And tlie del)tor gave himself no 
uneasiness, because he knew that if he lived he could dis- 
char^re his indebtedness, l^ut evervthini'' was different 

O I/O 

now. There was no way of paying debts, even if there 
had been a company willing to give them credit, whicli 
there was not, at least amor.g Americans. Hard times 
they had seen in the mountains ; harder times they were 
likely to see in the valley ; indeed were already experi- 

Instead of fat buffalo meat, antelope, and mountain 
mutton, which made the plenty of a camp on PoAvder 
River, our carniverous hunters were reduced to eating 
daily a little boiled wheat. In this extremity, ^leek went 
en an expedition of discovery across the' highlands that 
border the Lower Wallamet, and found on Wappatoo 
(now Sauvis) Island, a ^Ir. and Mrs. Baldra living, who 
were in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, and 
drew rations from them. "With great kindness they 
divided the provisions on hand, furnishing him with dried 
salmon and sea-bread, to which he added ducks and swans 


A l)l8A(Jin:KAliLE WINTKlt. 


procured from the Indians. Poor and scanty as was the 
supply thus obtained, it was, after boiled wheat, compara- 
tive luxury while it lasted. 

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

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

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

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

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

During the summer, however, the United States Explor- 
ing Squadron, under Commodore Wilkes, entered the Co- 
lumbia River, and proceeded ,o explore the country in 
several directions ; and it was now that Meek found an 



employment suited to him ; beiiif^ enf^agecl by Wilkes as 
pilot and servant while on his several tours through the 

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

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

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

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

While Wilkes was exploring in the Cowelitz Valley, 
with Meek and a Hudson's Bay man named Forrest, as 
guides, he one day laid down in his tent to sleep, leaving 
his chronometer watch lying on tiie camp-table beside 
him. Forrest, happening to observe that it did lot agree 
with his own, which he believed to be correct, very kindly, 
as he supposed, regulated it to agree with his. On awak- 

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ening and takiiio- up his watch, a puzzled expression came 
over Wilkus' face for a moment, as he discovered the 
cliango in the time ; then one of anger and disappoint- 
ment, as what had occurred flashed over his mind; fol- 
lowed by some rather strong expressions of indignation. 
Forrest was penitent when he perceived the mischief done 
by his meddling, but that would not restore the chronom- 
eter to the true time : and this accident proved a serious 
annoyance and hindrance during the remainder of the 

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

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

"What do you mean by loading a gun like that?" in- 
quired Emmons, in a rage. 

"I meant it to kill two Lijuns; — one before, and one 
behind;" answered Jandreau. 

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

The expedition had not proceeded much farther when 
it again became necessary to send an express to Vancou- 




ver, and Meek was orikTed upon this duty, lleiv lie 
found that Wilkes had purchased a snuill vessel which he 
named the Oregon^ with which he was ahout to leave the 
country. As there was no further use for his services our 
quondam trapper was again thrown out of employment. 
In this exigency, iinding it necessary to uiake some pro- 
vision for the winter, he became a gleaner of wheat in the 
lields of his more provident neighbors, ]jy which means a 
sufficient supply was secured to keep himself and his snudl 
family in food until another spring. 

When winter set in, ^leek paid a visit to the new mis- 
sion. He had been there once before, in the s})ring, to 
buy an axe. Think, reader, of traveling lifty or more 
miles, on horseback, or in a small boat, to procure so sim- 
ple and necessary an article of civilized life as an axe ! 
But none of the every-day conveniencies of living grow 
spontaneously in the wilderness — niore'.^ the }>ity : — else 
life m the wilderness would be thought more delightful 
far than life in the most luxurious of cities; inasmuch as 
Nature is more satisfving than art. 

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

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


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"It is every mail's business to pray for himself," an- 
swered Whiteom. 

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

"How eaii yon expeet to get what you want, if you 
wont ask for it?" inquired Whiteom. 

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

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

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

"Down ou your knees then." 

"You'll furnish the cow?" 

"Yes," said Whiteom, fairly cornered. 

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

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

Perhaps the most important personal event .vhich dis 
tinguished this year in Meek's history, was the celebra 
tion, according to the rites of the Christian church, of his 
marriage with the Nez Perce woman who had alread}' 
borne him two children, and who still lives, the mother 
of a family of seven. 




1842. By the opening of jinotlior s])nng, Meek had 
so far overcome his distaste for farm labor as to piil in a 
liohl of wheat for himself, with Donghly, and 1o make 
some arrangements abont his future sul)sistence. This 
done, he was ready, as usual, for anything in the way of 
adventure which might turn u[). This was, however, a 
very quiet summer in the little colony. Important events 
were brooding, but as yet results were not percei)tible, 
except to the mind of a prophet. The Hudson's Bay 
Company, conformably to British policy, were at work 
to turn the balance of power in Oregon in favor of Brit- 
ish occupation, and, unknown even to the colonists, the 
United States Government was taking what measures it 
could to shift the balance in its own fliv . Very little 
was said about the subject of government claims among 
the colonists, but a feeling of suspense oppressed all 

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

When the Fourth of July came, the Ghenamus was 

.1 1 





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lying in the Wulljinict, below the Falls, near where the 
present eity of Portland stands. Meek, who was always 
(irst to be (it any spot where noise, hustle, or excitement 
mi^dit be anticipated, and whose fine humor and lund of 
anecdote made him always welcome, had borrowed a boat 
li'oni Capt. Couch's clerk, at the Falls, and j^one down (o 
the vessel early in the mcu'ning, bclbre the salute for tiie 
Glorious Fourth was lired. There he remained all dav, 
enjoying a patriotic swagger, and an occasional glass of 
something good to drink. Other visitors came aboard 
during the day, which was duly celebrated to the satisfac- 
tion of all. 

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




In tho in('tiiitim(\ Dr. Marcus Wliiliiian, i»r tin* Waii- 
I'l.pu Mission, in tlic n|>|n'r connlrv. wns so feurliil of the 
intcnlions of tlu* liiitish ;:()V('i'iiiiit'nt tiiat he sot ont lor 
\Vasliin<;-ton late in the antnnin «>l" 1S4'J, to put the Sec- 
rotary of State on his «,nianl concern in «^'' tho boundary 
((Mostion, and to pray tliat it nii^dit loscltlod conformably 
with the wishes of the Americans in Oregon. 

There was one feature, liowever, of this otherwise 
radier entertaining race for ])ossession, whicli was becom- 
ing quite ahirming. Tn all this strife about claiming tho 
country, tlie Indian claim had not been considered. It 
has been already intinnited that the attempt to civilize or 
Christianize the Indians of western Oregon was practically 
an entire failure. But they were not naturally of a war- 
like disposition, and had been so long under tho control 
of the Hudson's 15ay Company that there was compara- 
tively little to apprehend from them, even though they 
felt some discontent at the incoming immigration. 

But with the Indians of the upper Columbia it wjis dif- 
ferent ; especially so with the tribes among whom the 
Presbyterian missionaries were settled — the Walla- Wallas^ 
Cayuses, and Noz Perces, three brave and powerful na- 
tions, much united by intermarriages. The impression 
which these people had first made on the missionaries was 
very favorable, their evident intelligence, inquisitiveness, 
and desire for religious teachings seeming to promise a 
good reward of missionary labor. Dr. Whitman and his 
associates had been diligent in their efforts to civilize and 
Christianize them — to induce the men to leave off their 
migratory habits and learn agriculture, and the women to 
learn spinning, sewing, cooking, and all the most essential 
arts of domestic life. At the firs* me novelty of these 
new pursuits engaged their interest, as it also excited 

their hope of gain. But the task of keeping them to 




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their work with sufficient steadiness, was very great. 
They required, like children, to be bribed with promises 
of more or less immediate reward of their exertions, nor 
would they relinquish the fulfilment of a promise, even 
though they had failed to perform the conditions on which 
the promise became binding. 

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

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



to be benefited as had been hoped, as the whites were 
turning their attention to benefiting themselves. 

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

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

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mission ; on the contrary they applied themselves conscien- 
tiously to the work they had undertaken. 

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

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

.! - 





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1842-3. The plot thickened that winter, "n the httle 
drama being enacted west of tlie Rocky Mountains. 

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

When the confusion had somewhat subsided, Mr. G. W. 
LeBreton made a motion that the meeting should divide ; 
those who were in favor of an organization taking their 



positions on the right hand ; and those opposed to it on 
the left, marching into iile. The proposition carried ; and 
Joe Meek, who, in all this historical reminiscence we have 
almost lost sight of — though he had not lost sight of 
events — stepped to the front, with a characteristic air of 
the free-born American in his gait and gestures: — 

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

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

" Three cheers for our side!" 

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

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

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

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

But for the people, especially the women and children, 
active and efficient help was demanded. There was some- 
thing truly touching and pitiable in the appearance of these 
hundreds of worn-out, ragged, sun-burnt, dusty, emaciated, 
yet indomitable pioneers, who, after a journey of nearly 
iwo thousand miles, and of several months duration, over 



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fertile plains, barren deserts, and rugged mountains, stood 
at last beside the grand and beautiful river of their hopes, 
exhausted by the toils of their pilgrimage, dejected and 
yet rejoicing. 

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

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





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Numerous have been the victims suddi'uly clutdiod from 
life by tlie <;Tiisj) of tlio Avliirl[)0()ls, or daslied to dciith 
amoui;- tlic fciirl'ul rii[)ids of the Iteauliful, but wihl and 
pitiless, Columbia. 

The imminration of ]S4') did not escape without loss 
and bereavement. Three brothers frowi Missoui'i, by tlic 
name of Ap[)le<;'ate, witli their families, were deseendin^^ 
th(? river to^'ether, when, by the striking of a boat on a 
rock in the rapids, a number of passengers, mostly child- 
ren of these gentlemen, were precipitated into the fright- 
ful current. The brothers each had a son in this boat, 
one of whorii was lost, another injured for life, and the 
third escaped as by a miracle. This last boy was only 
ten years of age, yet such was the presence of mind and 
courage displayed in saving his own and a companion's 
life, that the miracle of his escape might be said to be his 
own. Being a good swimmer, he kept himself valiantly 
above the surface, while being tossed about for nearly two 
miles. Succeeding at last in grasping a feather bed which 
was floating near him, he might have passed the remain- 
ing rapids without serious danger, had he not been seized, 
as it were, by the feet, and drawn down, down, into a 
seething, turning, roaring abyss of water, where he was 
held, whirling about, and dancing up and down, striking 
now and then upon the rocks, until death seemed not 
only imminent but certain. After enduring this violent 
whirling and dashing for what seemed a hopelessly long 
period of time, he was suddenly a omited forth by the 
whirlpool once more upon the surface of the rapids, and, 
notwithstanding the bruises he had received, was able, by 
great exertion, to throw himself near, and seize upon a 
ledge of rocks. To this he clung with desperation, until, 
by dint of much effort, he finally drew himself out of the 
water, and stretched himself on the narrow shelf, where. 



fur a moment, ho swooned away. But on opening his 
eyes, he beheld, strugf^diiig in the foaming (hxjd, a young 
man who had l)een a passenger in the wrecked boat with 
himself, and who, though older, was not so good a swim- 
mer. Calling to him with all his might, to mal<e his voiee 
heard above the roar of the rapids, he at last gained his 
uLtention, and encouraged him to try to reach the ledge 
of rocks, where he would assist him to climl) up ; and the 
almost impossible feat was really accomplished by their 
united elforts. This done, young Applegate sank again 
into momentary unconsciousness, while poor exhausted 
Nature recruited her forces. 

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

In this extremity, it was the boy who resolved to risk 
his life to save it. Seeing that a broken ledge of rock 
extended nearly across the river from a point within his 
reach, but only coming to the surface here and there* and 
of course very slippery, he nevertheless determined to at- 
tempt to cross on foot, amidst the roaring rapids. Starting 
alone to make the experiment, he actually made the cross- 
ing in safety, amid the thundering roar and dizzying rush 
of waters — not only made it once, but returned to assure 
his companion of its practicability. The young man, how- 
ever, had not the courag# to undertake it, until he had 
repeatedly been urged to do so, and at last only by being 
pursuaded to go before, while his younger comrade fol- 


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lowed after, not to lose sight of him, (for it was impos- 
sible to turn around,) and directed him where to place 
his steps. In this manner that which appears incredible 
was accomplished, and the two arrived in safety on the 
opposite side, where they were ultinuitely discovered by 
their distressed relatives, who had believed them to be 
lost. Such was the battle which young Applegate had 
with the rocks, that the flesh was torn from the palms of 
his hands, and his whole body bruised and lacerated. 

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

Not only was the question of domiciles a trying one, 
but that of food still more so. Some, who had families 
of boys to help in the rough labor of building, soon be- 
came* settled in houses of their own, more or less com- 
fortable ; nor was anything very commodious required 
for the frontiers-men from Missouri ; but in the matter of 
something to eat, the more boys there were in the family, 
the more hopeless the situation. They had scarcely man- 
aged to bring with them provisions for their summer's 
journey — it was not possible to bring more. In the 
colony was food, but they had tio money — few of them 
had much, at least ; they had not goods to exchange ; 
labor was not in demand : in short, the first winter in 



Oregon was, to nuurly nil the new colonists, a time of 
trial, if not of actual sulVering. Many fninilies now occu- 
pying positions of eminence on the Pacific coast, knew 
what it was, in those early days, to feel the pangs of 
hunger, and to want for a suflicient covering for their 

Two anecdotes of this kind come to the writer's mem- 
ory, as related by the parties themselves : the Indians, 
who are everywhere a begging race, were in the habit of 
visiting the houses of the settlers and demanding food. 
On one occasion, one of them came to the house of a now 
prominent citizen of Oregon, as usual petitioning for some- 
thing U> eat. The lady of the house, and mother of sev- 
eral young children, replied that she had nothing to give. 
Not liking to believe her, the Indian persisted in his de- 
mand, when the lady pointed to her little children and 
said, '' Go away ; I have nothing — not even for those." 
The savage turned on his heel and strode quickly away, 
as the lady thought, offended. In a short time he reap- 
peared with a sack of dried venison, which he laid at her 
feet. " Take that," he said, " and give the tenas tillicum 
(little children) something to eat." From that day, as 
long as he lived, that humane savage was a " friend of the 

The other anecdote concerns a gentleman who was 
chief justice of Oregon under the provisional govern- 
ment, afterwards governor of California, and at present a 
banker in San Francisco. He lived, at the time spoken 
of, on the Tualatin Plains, and was a neighbor of Joe 
Meek. Not having a house to go into at first, he was per- 
raitted to settle his family in the district schooMiouse, 
with the understanding that on certain days of the month 
he was to allow religious services to be held in the build- 
in this he assented. Meeting day came, and the 


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family put on their best apparel to make themselves tidy- 
in the eyes of their neighbors. Only one difficulty was 

hard to get over : Mr. had only one shoe, the other 

foot was bare. But he considered the matter for some 
time, and then resolved that he might take a sheltei'ed 
position behind the teacher's desk, where his deficiency 
would be hidden, and when the house filled up, as it 
would do very rapidly, he could not be expected to stir 
for want of space. However, that happened to the ambi- 
tious young lawyer which often does happen to the "best 
laid schemes of mice and men" — his went "all aglee.'' 
In the midst of the services, the speaker needed a cup of 
water, and requester" Mr. — — to furnish it. There was 
no refusing so reasonable a request. Oat before all the 
congregation, walked the abashed and blushing pioneer, 
with his ill-matched feet exposed to view. This mortify- 
ing exposure was not without an agreeable result ; for 
next day he received a present of a pair of moccasins, 
and was enabled thereafter to appear with feet that bore 
a brotherly resemblance to each other. 

About this time, the same gentleman, who was, as has 
been said, a neighbor of Meek's, was going to Wallamet 
Falls with a wagon, and Meek was going along. " Take 
something to eat,'' said he to Meek, " for I have nothing;" 
and Meek promised that he would. 

Accordingly when it came time to camp for the night, 
Meek was requested to produce his lunch basket. Going 
to the wagon, Meek unfolded an immense pumpkin, and 
brought it to the fire. 

" What !" exclaimed Mr. , " is that all we have for 

supper ?" 

" Roast pumpkin is not so bad," said Meek, laughing 
back at him ; " I've had worse fare in the mountains. 
It's buffalo tongue compared to ants or moccasin soles." 



And so with much merriment they proceeded to cut up 
their pumpkin and roast it, linding it as Meek had said — 
" not so bad " when there was no better. 

These anecdotes illustrate what a volume could only d(^- 
scribe — the perils and privations endured by the colonists 
ui Oregon. If we add that there were only two flouring 
mills iii the Wallamet Valley, and these two not conven- 
ient for most of the settlers, both belonging to the mis- 
sion, and that to get a few bushels of wheat ground in- 
volved the taking of a journey of from four to six days, 
for many, and that, too, over half-broken roads, destitute 
of bridges, it will be seen how difficult it was to obtain 
the commonest comforts of life. As for such luxuries as 
groceries and clothing, they had to wait for better times. 
Lucky was the man whc, "by hook or by crook," got 
hold of an order on the Hudson's Bay Company, the 
Methodist Mission, or the Milling Company at the Falls. 
Were he thus fortunate, he had much ado to decide how 
to make it go farthest, and obtain the most. Not far 
would it go, at the best, for fifty per cent, profit on all 
sales was what was demanded and obtained. Perhaps the 
holder of a ten dollar draft made out his list of necessa- 
ries, and presented himself at the store, expecting to get 
them. He wanted some unbleached cotton, to be dyed to 
make dresses for the children ; he would buy a pair of 
calf-skin shoes if he^ could afford them ; and — yes — he 
would indulge in the luxury of a little — a very little — 
sugar, just for that once ! 

Arrived at the store after a long, jolting journey, in 
the farm wagon which had crossed the continent the year 
before, he makes his inquiries : " Cotton goods ?" " No ; 
just out." "Shoes?" "Got one pair, rather small — 
wouldn't fit you." " What have you got in the way of 
goods ?" " Got a lot of silk handkerchiefs and twelve 






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dozen straw hats." 'Any pins?" "No; a few knitting 
needles." "Any yarn?" "Yes, there's a pretty good 
lot of yarn , but don't you want some sugar ? the last 
g'nip that was in left a quantity of sugar." So the holder 
of the draft exchanges it for some yarn and a few nails, 
and takes the balance in sugar ; fairh compelled to be 
luxurious in one article, for the reason that others were 
not to be had till some other ship came in. 

No mails reached the colony, and no letters left it, ex- 
cept such as were carried by private hand, or were sent 
once a year in the Hudson's Bay Company's express to 
Canada, and thence to the States. Newspapers arri. "d 
in the same manner, or by vessel from the Sandwi a 
Islands. Notwithstanding all these drawbacks, education 
was encouraged even from the very beginning ; a library 
was started, and literary societies formed, and this all the 
more, perhaps, that the colony was so isolated and depend- 
ent on itself for intellectual pleasures. 

The spring of 1844 saw the colony in a state of some ex- 
citement on account of an attempt to introduce the manu- 
facture of ardent spirits. This dangerous article had al- 
ways been carefully excluded from the country, first by 
the Hudson's Bay Company, and secondly by the Meth- 
odist Mission; and since the time when a Mr. Young 
had been induced to relinquish its manufacture, no seri- 
ous effort had been made to introduce it. 

It does not appear from the Oregon archives, that any 
law against its manufacture existed at that time : it had 
probably been overlooked in the proceedings of th^ 
islative committee of the previous spmmer ; neitht-. 
there yet any executive head to the Provisional Govern- 
ment, the election not having taken place. In this di- 
lemma the people found themselves in the month of Feb- 










ruaiy, when one James Conner had been discovered to be 
erecting a distillery at the Falls of the Wallamet. 

It happened, however, that an occasion for the exer- 
cise of executive power had occurred before the election 
of the execu'dve commit i*^e, and now what was to be 
done? It was a case too, which required absolute power, 
for there was no law on the subject of distilleries. After 
some deliberation it was decided to allow the Indian agent 
temporary power, and several letters were addressed to 
him, informing him of the calamity which threatened the 
community at the Falls. "Now, we believe that if there 
is anything which calls your attention in your official ca- 
pacity, or anythin.g in which you would be most cordially 
supported by the good sense and prompt action of the 
better part of community, it is the present case. We do 
not wish to dictate, but we hope for the best, begging 
pardon for intrusions." So read the dosing paragraph 
of one of the letters. 

Perhaps this humble petition touched the Doctor's heart ; 
perhaps he saw in the circumstance a possible means of 
acquiring influence ; at all events he hastened to the Falls, 
a distance of fifty miles, and entered at once upon the dis- 
charge of the executive duties thus thrust upon him in 
uie hour of danger. Calling upon Meek, who had entered 
upon his duties as sheriff the previous summer, he gave 
him his orders. Writ in hand. Meek proceeded to the 
distillery, frightened the poor ci^iiier into quiet submission 
with a display of his mountain manners ; made a bugle of 
the worm, and blew it, to announce to the Doctor his com- 
plete success ; after which he tumbled the distillery appa- 
iatus into the river, and retired. Connor was put under 
three hundred dollar bonds, and so the case ended. 

But there were other occasions on which the Doctor's 



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authority was put in requisition. It happened that a ves- 
sel from Australia had been in the river, and left one Mad- 
am Cooper, who was said to have brought with her a bar- 
rel of whisky. Her cabin stood on the east bank of the 
Wallamet, opposite the present city ot Portland. Not 
thinking it necessary to send the sheriff to deal with a 
woman, the Doctor went in person, accompanied by a 
couple of men. Entering the cabin the Doctor remarked 
blandly, " you have a barrel of whisky, I believe." 

Not kno 'jio- but her visitor's intention was to purchase, 
and not haviL eviously resided in a strictly temperance 
community, Mauam Cooper replied frankly that she had, 
and pointed to the barrel in question. 

The Doctor then stepped forward, and placing his foot 
on it, said: "In the name of the United States, I levy 
execution on it!" 

At this unexpected declaration, the English woman 
stared wildly one moment, then recovering herself quickly, 
seized the poker from the chimney corner, and raising it 
over the Doctor's head, exclaimed — '^In the name of 
Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland, I levy execution on 

But when the stick descended, the Doctor was not there. 
He had backed out at the cabin door ; nor did he after- 
wards attempt to interfere with a subject of the crown of 
Great Britain 

On the following day, however, the story having got 
afloat at the Falls, Meek and a young man highly esteem- 
ed at the mission, by the name of Le Breton, set out to 
pay their respects to Madam Cooper. Upon entering the 
cabin, the two callers cast their eyes about until they 
rested on the whisky barrel. 

'' Have you come to levy on my whisky?" inquired the 
now suspicious Madam. 

H 1 '1 



"Yes," said Meek, " I have come to levy ou it ; but as 
I am not quite so high in authority as Doctor White, I 
don't intend to levy on the whole of it at once. I think 
about a quart of it will do me." 

Comprehending by the twinkle in Meek's eye that she 
had now a customer more to her mind. Madam Cooper 
made haste to set before her visitors a bottle and tin cup, 
upon which invitation they proceded to levy frequently 
upon the contents of the bottle ; and we fear that the 
length of time spent there, and the amount of whisky 
drank must have strongly reminded Meek of past rendez- 
vous times in the mountains ; nor can we doubt that he 
entertained Le Breton and Madam Cooper with many rem- 
iniscences of those times. However that may be, this 
was not the last visit of Meek to Madam Cooper's, nor his 
last levy on her whisky. 

Shortly after his election as sheriff he had been called 
upon to serve a writ upon a desperate character, for an 
attempt to kill. Many persons, however, fearing the re- 
sult of trying to enforce the law upon desperadoes, in the 
then defenceless condition of the colony, advised him to 
wait for the immigration te come in before attempting the 
arrest. But Meek preferred to do his duty then, and went 
with the writ to arrest him. The man resisted, making 
an attack on the sheriff with a carpenter's axe ; but Meek 
coolly presented a pistol, assuring the culprit of the use- 
lessness of such demonstrations, and soon brought him to 
terms of compliance. Such coolness, united with a fine 
physique, and a mountain-man's reputation for reckless 
courage, made it very desirable that Meek should con- 
tinue to hold the ofl&ce of sheriff during that stage of the 
colony's development. 



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1844. As has before been mentioned, the Indians of 
the Wallamet valley were by no means so formidable as 
those of the upper country : yet considering their num- 
bers and the condition of the settlers, they were quite for- 
midable enough to occasion considerable alarm when any 
one of them, or any number of them betrayed the savage 
passions by which they were temporarily overcome. Con- 
siderable excitement had prevailed among the more scat- 
tered settlers, ever since the reports of the disaffection 
among the up-country tribes had reached them ; and Dr. 
White had been importuned to throw up a strong fortifi- 
cation in the most central part of the colony, and to pro 
cure arms for t? air defence, at the expense of the United 

This excitement had somewhat subsided when an event 
occurred which for a time renewed it: a house was plun- 
dered and some horses stolen from the neighborhood of 
the Falls. An Indian from the Dalles, named Cockstock, 
was at the bottom of the mischief, and had been commit- 
ting or instigating others to commit depredations upon the 
settlers, for a year previous, because he had been, as he 
fancied, badly treated in a matter between himself and a 
negro in the colony, in which the latter had taken an un- 
fair advantage of him in a bargain. 

To crown his injuries Dr. White had caused a relative 
of his to be flogged by the Dalles chief, for entering the 

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house of the Methodist niissiunary at that place, and tyiii*^- 
him, with the pui'pose of flo^'m'ing- him. (It was a poor 
law, he thought, that would not work both ways.) 

In revenge for this insult Cockstock came to the Due- 
tor's house in the Wallamet, threatening to shoot him at 
sight, but not finding him at home, contented himself 
for that time, by smashing all the windows in the dwell- 
ing and olHce of the Doctor, and nearly frightening to 
death a young man on the i)remises. 

When on the Doctor's return in the evening, the extent 
of the outrage became known, a pai'ty set out in pursuit 
of Cockstock and his band, but failed to overtake them, 
and the settlers rerr lined in ignorance concerning the 
identity of the marauders. About a month later, how- 
ever, a party of Klamath and Molalla Indians from the 
south of Oregon, numbering fifteen, came riding into the 
settlement, armed and painted in true Indian war-style. 
They made their way to the lodge of a Calapooya chief 
in the neighborhood — the Calapooyas being the Indians 
native to the valley. Dr. White fearing these mischiev- 
ous visitors might infect the mind of the Calapooya chief, 
sent a message to him, to bring his friends to call upon 
him in the morning, as he had something good to say to 

This they did, when Dr. White explained the laws of the 
Nez Perces to them, and told them how much it would be 
to their advantage to adopt such laws. He gave the Cal- 
apooya chief a fine fat ox to feast his friends with, well 
knowing that an Indian's humor depends much on the 
state of his stomach, whether shrunken or distended. Af- 
ter the feast there was some more talk about the laws, in 
the midst of which the Indian Cockstock made his appear- 
ance, armed, and sullen in his demeanor. But as Dr. 
White did not know him, for the perpetrator of the out- 


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rage on his premises, he took no notice of him more than 
of the others. The Mokillas and Klamaths finally agreed to 
receive the laws; departing in high good humor, singing 
and shouting. So little may one know of the savage 
heart from the savage professions! Some of these In- 
dians were boiling over with secret wrath at the weakness 
of their brethren in consenting to laws of the Agent's dic- 
tation ; and while they were crossing a stream, fell upon 
and massacred them without mercy, Cockstock taking an 
active part in the murder. 

The whites were naturally much excited by the villianous 
and horrible aifray, and were for taking and hanging the 
murderers. " The Agent, however, was more cautious, and 
learning that there had been feuds among these Indians 
long unsettled, decided not to mterfere. 

In February, 1844, fresh outrages on settlers having 
been committed so that some were leaving their claims 
and coming to stop at the Falls through fear. Dr. White 
was petitioned to take the case in hand. He accordingly 
raised a party of ten men, who had nearly all suffered 
some loss or outrage at Cockstock's hands, and set out in 
search of him, but did not succeed in finding him. His 
next step was to offer a reward of a hundred dollars for 
his arrest, meaning to send him to the upper country to 
be tried and punished by the Cayuses and Nez Perces, the 
Doctor prudently desiring to have them bear the odium, 
and suffer the punishment, should any follow, of executing 
justice on the Indian desperado. Not so had the fates or- 

About a week after the reward was offered, Cockstock 
came riding into the settlement at the Falls, at mid-day, 
accompanied by five other Indians, al^ well armed, and 
frightfully painted. Going from house to house on their 
horses, they exhibited their pistols, and by look and ges- 



tiire seemed to defy the settlers, who, however, kept quiet 
through prudential motives. Not succeeding in provok- 
ing the whites to commence the fray, Cockstock finally re- 
tired to an Indian ^nllage on the other side of the river, 
where he labored to get up an insurrection, and procure 
the burning of the settlement houses. 

Meantime the people at the Falls were thoroughly 
alarmed, and bent upon the capture of this desperate sav- 
age. When, after an absence of a few hours, they saw 
him recrossing the river with his party, a crowd of per- 
sons ran down to the landing, some with offers of large 
reward to any person who would attempt to take him, 
while others, more courageous, were determined upon 
earning it. No definite plan of capture or concert of ac- 
tion was decided on, but all was confusion and doubt. In 
this frame of mind a collision was sure to take place ; both 
the whites and Indians firing at the moment of landing. 
Mr. LeBreton, the young man mentioned in the previous 
chapter, after firing ineffectually, rushed unarmed upon 
Cockstock, whose pistol was also empty, but who still had 
his knife. In the struggle both fell to the ground, when 
a mulatto man, who had wrongs of his own to avenge, ran 
up and struck Cockstock a blow on the head with the butt 
of his gun which dispatched him at once. 

Thus the colony was rid of a scourge, yet not without 
loss which counterbalanced the gain. Young LeBreton 
besides having his arm shattered by a ba]^ v^as wounded 
by a poisoned arrow, which occasioned his death; and 
Mr. Rogers, another esteemed citizen, died from the same 
cause; while a third was seriously injured by a slight 
wound from a poisoned arrow. As for the five friends of 
Cockstock, they escaped to the bluffs overlooking the set- 
tlement, and commenced firing down upon the peopla 
But fire-arms were mustered sufficient to dislodge them, 

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and thus the affuir ended ; except that the Agent had 
some troubUi to settle it with tlic Dalles Indians, who came 
down in a body to demand payment for the loss of their 
brother. After much talk and explanation, a present to 
the widow of the dead Indian was made to smooth over 
the dilliculty. 

Meek, who at the time of the collision was rafting tim- 
ber for Dr. McLaughlin's mill at the Falls, as might have 
been expected was appealed to in the melee by citizens 
who knew less about Indian fighting. 

A prominent citizen and merchant, who probably sel- 
dom spoke of him as Mr. Meek, came running to him in 
great affright: — "Mr. Meek! Mr. Meek! Mr. Meek! — I 
want to send my wife down to Vancouver. Can you as- 
sist me ? Do you think the Indians will take the town ?" 

*'It 'pears like halfa-dozen Injuns might do it," r^ 'ted 
Meek, going on with his work. 

"What do you think we had better do, Mr. Meek? — 
What do you advise ?" 

"I think you\I better run." 

In all difficulties between the Indians and settlers. Meek 
usually refrained from taking sides — especially from taking 
sides against the Indians. For Indian slayer as he had 
once been when a ranger of the mountains, he had too 
much compassion for the poor wretches in the Wallamet 
Valley, as well as too much knowledge of the savage na- 
ture, to like to make unnecessary war upon them. •» Had 
he been sent to take Cockstock, very probably he would 
have done it with little uproar ; for he had sufficient influ- 
ence among the Calapooyas to have enlisted them in the 
undertaking. But this was the Agent's business and he 
let him manage it ; for Meek and the Doctor were not in 
love with one another ; one was solemnly audacious, the 
other mischievously so. Of the latter sort of audacity, 



hero is an example. Meek wanted a horse to ride out to 
tlic Plains where his family were, and not knowing how 
t'lse to obtain it, helped himself to one belonging to Dr. 
White ; which presumption greatly incensed the Doctoi-, 
and caused him to threaten various punishments, hanging 
among the rest. But the Indians overhearing him replied 

" Wake nika cumtux — You dare not. — You no put rope 
round Meek's neck. He fyee (chief) — no hang him." 

Upon which the Doctor thought better of it, and having 
vented his solemn audacity, received smiling audacity with 
apparent good humor when he came to restore the bor- 
rowed horse. 

As our friend Meek was sure to be found wherever there 
was anything novel or exciting transpiring, so he was sure 
to fall in with visitors of disLinguished character, and as 
ready to answer their questions as they were to ask them. 
The conversation chanced one day to run upon the changes 
that had taken place in the country since the earliest set- 
tlement by the Americans, and Meek, who felt an honest 
pride in them, was expatiating at some length, to the ill- 
concealed amusement of two young oflBcers, who probably 
saw nothing to admire in the rude improvements of the 
Oregon pioneers. 

"Mr. Meek," said one of them, "if you have been so 
long in the country and have witnessed such wonderful 
transformations, doubtless you may have observed equally 
great ones in nature ; in the rivers and mountains, for in- 
stance ?" 

Meek gave a lightning glance at the speaker who had so 
mistaken his respondent : 

" I reckon I have," said he slowly. Then waving his 
hand gracefully toward the majestic Mt. Hood, towering 
thousands of feet above the summit of the Cascade range. 

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and white with everlasting snows: " When /came to tiiis 
country, jSIount Hood was a hole in the ground /" 

It is hardly necessary to say that the conversation ter- 
minated abruptly, amid the universal cachinations of the 
by slanders. 

Notwithstanding tlie slighting views of Her British Ma 
jesty's naval ofhcers, the young colony was making rapid 
strides. The population had been increased nearly eight 
hundred by the immigration of 184-4, so that now it num- 
bered nearly two thousand. Grain had been raised in 
considerable quantities, cattle and hogs had multiplied, 
and the farmers were in the best of spirits. Even our hero, 
who hated farm labor, began to entertain faith in the re- 
sources of his land claim to make him rich. 

Such was the promising condition of the colony in the 
summer of 1845. Much of the real prosperity of the set- 
tlers was due to tie determinaticn of the majority to ex- 
clude ardent spirits and all intoxicating drinks from the 
country. So well had they succeeded that a gentleman 
writing of the colony at that time, says: "I attended the 
last term of the circuit courts in most of tne counties, and 
I found great respect shown to judicial authority every- 
where ; nor did I see a single drunken juryman^ nor ivit- 
ness, nor spectator. So much industry, good order, and 
sobriety I have never seen in any community." 

While this was the rule, there were exceptions to it. 
During the spring term of the Circuit Court, Judge Ne- 
smith being on the bench, a prisoner was arraigned before 
him for " assault with mtent to kill." The witness for the 
prosecution was called, and was proceeding to give evi- 
dence, when, at some statement of his, the prisoner vocifer- 
ated that he was a "d d liar," and quickly stripping 

o3" his coat demanded a chance to fight it out with the 



Judge Nesmith called for the iuterference of Meek, 
who had been made marshal, but just at tlvit moment he 
was not to be found. Coming into the room a moment 
later, Meek saw the Judge down from his bench, holding 
the prisoner by the collar, 

*' You can imagine," says Meek, " the bustle in court. 
But the Judge had the best of it. lie lined the rascal, 
and made him pay it on the spot ; while I just stood back 
to see his honor handle him. That was fun for me." 

The autumn of 1845 was marked less by striking events 
than by the energy which the people exhibited in improv- 
ing the colony by laying out roads and town-sites. Al- 
ready quite a number of towns were located, in which 
the various branches of business were beginning to de- 
velop themselves. Oregon City was the most populous 
and important, but Salem, Champocg, and Portland were 
known as towns, and other settlements were growing up 
on the Tualatin Plains and to the south of them, in the 
fertile valleys of the numerous tributaries to the Wal- 

Portland was settled in this year, and received its name 
from the game of " heads you lose, tails I win," by which 
its joint owners agreed to determine it. One of them 
being a Maine man, was for giving it the name which it 
now bears , i he other partner being in favor of Boston, 
because he was a Massachusetts man. It was, therefore, 
agreed between them that a copper cent should be tossed 
to decide the question of the caristening, which being 
done, heads and Portland won. 

The early days of that city were not always safe and 
pleasant any more than those of itfe older rivals ; and the 
few inhabitants frequently were much annoyed b^ the 
raids they were subject to from the now thoroughly vag- 
abondized Indians. On one occasion, while yet the pop- 
ulation was small, they were very much annoyed by the 

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visit of eight or ten lodges of Indians, who had some- 
where obtained liquor enough to get drunk on, and were 
enjoying a debauch in that spirit of total abandon which 
distinguishes the Indian carousal. 

Their performances at length alarmed the people, yet 
no one could be found who could put an end to them. 
In this dilemma the Marshal came riding into town, splen- 
didly mounted on a horse that would turn at the least 
touch of the rein. The countenances of the anxious 
Portland ers brightened. One of the town proprietors 
eagerly besought him to "settle those Indians." "Very 
well," answered Meek ; " I reckon it won't take me long." 
Mounting his horse, after first securing a rawhide rope, he 
"charged" the Indian lodges, rope in hand, laying it on 
with force, the bare shoulders of the Indians offering 
good hack-grounds for the pictures which he was rapidly 

Not one made any resistance, for they had a wholesome 
fear of tyee Meek. In twenty minutes not an Indian, man 
or woman, was left in Portland. Some jumped into the 
river and swam to the opposite side, and some fled to the 
thick woods and hid themselves. The next morning, 
early, the women cautiously returned and carried away 
their property, but the men avoided being seen again by 
the marshal who punished drunkenness so severely. 

Reader's querij. Was it Meek or the Marshal who so 
strongly disapproved of spreeing ? 

Ans. It was the Marshal. 

The immigration to Oregon this year much exceeded 
that of any previous year ; and there was the usual 
amount of poverty, sickness, and suffering of every sort, 
among the fresh arrivals. Indeed the larger the trains 
the greater the amount of suffering generally ; since the 
grass was more likely to be exhausted, and more hin- 



drances of every kind were likely to occu'v In any case, 
a march of several months through an unsettled country 
was sure to leave the traveler in a most forlorn and ex- 
hausted condition every way. 

This was the situation of thousands of people who 
reached the Dalles in the autumn of 1845. Food was 
very scarce among them, and the difficulties to encounter 
before reaching the Wallamet just as great as those of the 
two previous years. As usual the Hudson s Bay Company 
came to the assistance of the immigrants, furnishing a pas- 
sage down the river in their boats; the sick, and the 
women and children being taken first. 

Among the crowd of people encamped at the Dalles, 
was a Mr. Hector, since well known in Oregon and Cali- 
fornia. Like many others he was destitute of provisions ; 
his supplies having given out. Neither had he any money. 
In this extremity he did that which was very disagreeable 
to him, as one of the "prejudiced" American citizens 
who were instructed beforehand to hate and suspect the 
Hudson's Bay Company — he ..|)plied to the company's 
agent at the Dalles for some potatoes and Hour, confessing 
his present inability to pay, with much shame and reluc- 

"Do not apologize, sir," said the agent kindly; " take 
what you need. There is no occasion to starve vhile our 
supplies hold out." 

Mr. R. found his prejudices in danger of melting r, way 
under such treatment; and not liking to receive l./unty a 
second time, he resolved lo undertake the crossing of the 
Cascade mountains while the more feeble of the immi- 
grants were being boated down the Columbia. A few 
others who were in good health decided to accompany 
him. They succeeded in getting their wagons forty miles 
beyond the Dalles ; but there they could move no further. 

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In this (lileiiima, after consultation, Mr. Rector and Mr. 
Barlow agreed to go ahead and look out a wagon road. 
Taking with them two days' provisions, they started on 
in the direction of Oregon City. But they found road 
hunting in the Cascade mountains an experience unlike 
any they had ever had. Not oi. y had they to contend 
with the usual obstacles of precipices, ravines, mountain 
torrents, and weary stretches of ascent and descent ; but 
they found the forests standing so thickly that it would 
have been impossible to have passed between the trees 
with their wagons had the ground been clear of fallen 
timber and undergrowth. On the contrary these latter 
obstacles were the greatest of all. So thickly were the 
trunks of fallen trees crossed ami recrossed everywheie, 
and so dense the growth of bushes in amongst them, that 
it was with difficulty they could force their way on foot. 

It soon became apparent to the road hunters, thot two 
days' rations would not suffice for what work they had 
before ihem. At the first camp it was agreed to live 
upon half rations the next day ; and to divide and subdi- 
vide their food each day, only eating half of what was 
left from the day before, so that there would always still 
remain a morsel in case of dire extremity. 

But the toil of getting through the woods and over the 
mountains proved excessive ; n nd that, together with in- 
sufficient food, had in the course of two or three days 
reduced the strength of Mr. Barlow so that it was with 
great effort only that he could keep up with his younger 
and more robust companion, stumbling and falling at 
every few steps, and frequently hurtiiig himself considera- 

So wolfish and cruel is the nature of jnen, under trying 
circumstances, that instead of feeling pity for his weaker 
and less fortunate companion, Mr. Rector became impa- 






tient, blaming hiin for causing delays, and often requiring 

To render tlioir situation still more trying, rain began 
to fall heavily, which with tlie cold air of tlio mountains, 
soon benumbed their exhaustiid frames. Fearing tliat 
.shoulcl they go to sleep so cold and famished, they might 
never be able to rise a<''ain, un the fourth or fifth evenino* 

they resolved to 
kindle a fire, if by 
a n y means they 
con hi do so. Dry 
and bi'oken wood 
h a d been plenty 
enough, but for the 
rain, w h ic h was 
drenching every- 
thing. Neither 
matches nor flint 
had they, however, 
in any case. The 
night was setting 
in black with dark- 
ness ; the wind 
swayed the giant 
firs over head, and 
then they heard 
the thunder of a 
falling monarch of 
the forest unpleas- 
antly near. Search- 
ing among the bush- 
es, and under fallen timber for some dry Teaves and sticks, 
Mr. Rector took a bundle of them to the most sheltered 
spot he could find, and set himself to work to coax a spark 
of fire out of two ])ieces of dry wood which he had split 








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for that purpose. It was a long and weary while before suc- 
cess was attained, by vigorous rubbing together of the dry 
wood, but it was attained at last ; and the stiffening limbs 
of the road-hunters were warmed by a blazing camp-fire. 

The following day, the food being now reduced to a 
crumb for each, the explorers, weak and dejected, toiled 
on in silence, Mr. Rector always in advance. On chancing 
to look back at his companion he observed him to be 
brushing away a tear. *' What now, old man ?" asked 
Mr. R. with most unchristian harshness. 

" What would you do with me. Rector, should I fall and 
break a leg, or become in any way disabled?" inquired 
Mr. Barlow, nervously. 

*'Do with you? I would eat your growled Mr. Rec- 
tor, stalking on again. 

As no more was said for some time, Mr. R.'s Conscience 
rather misgave him that he treated his friend unfeelingly ; 
then he stole a look back at him, and beheld the wan face 
bathed in tears. 

"Come, come, Barlow," said he more kindly, "don't 
take affairs so much to heart. You will not break a leg, 
and I should not eat you if you did, for you have'nt any 
flesh on you to eat." 

" Nevertheless, Rector, I want you to promise me that 
in case I should fall and disable myself, so that I cannot 
get on, you will not leave me here to die alone, but will 
kill me with your axe instead." 

"Nonsense, Barlow; you are weak and nervous, but 
you are not going to be disabled, nor eaten, nor killed. 
Keep up man ; we shall reach Oregon City yet." 

So, onward, but ever more slowly and painfully, toiled 
again the pioneers, the wonder being that Mr. Barlow's 
fears were not realized, for the clambering and descend- 
ing gave him many a tumble, the tumbles becoming more 
frequent as his strength declined. 




Towards evening of this day as they came to the pre- 
cipitous bank of a mountain stream which was flowing in 
the direction they wished to go, suddenly there came to 
their ears a sound of more than celestial melody ; the 
tinkling of bells, lowing of cattle, the voice of men hal- 
looing to the herds. They had struck the cattle trail, 
which they had first diverged 'from in the hope of finding 
a road passable to wagons. In the overwhelming revul- 
sion of feeling which seized them, neither were able for 
some moments to command their voices to call for assist- 
ance. That night they camped with the herdsmen, and 
supped in such plenty as an immigrant camp afforded. 

Such were the sufferings of two individuals, out of a 
great crowd of sufferers ; some afflicted in one way and 
some in another. That people who endured so much to 
reach their El Dorado should be the most locally patriotic 
people in the world, is not singular. Mr. Barlow lived to 
construct a wagon road over the Cascades for the use of 
subsequent immigrations. 



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Early in 1846, Meek resigned his office of marshal of 
the colony, owing to the difficulty of collecting taxes; for 
in a thinly inhabited country, where wheat was a legal 
tender, at sixty cents per bushel, it was rather a burden- 
some occupation to collect, in so ponderous a currency ; 
and one in which the collector required a granary more 
than a pocket-book. Besides, Meek had out-grown the 
marshalship, and aspired to become a legislator at the next 
June election. 

He had always discharged his duty with promptitude 
and rectitude while sheriff; and to his known courage 
might be attributed, in many instances, the ready compli- 
ance with law which was remarkable in so new and pecu- 
liar an organization as that of the Oregon colony. • The 
people had desired not to be taxed, at first ; and for a 
year or more the goverment was sustained by a fund 
raised by subscription. When at last it was deemed best 
to make collections by law, the Canadians objected to taxa- 
tion to support an American government, while they were 
still subjects of Great Britain ; but ultimately yielded the 
point, by the advice of Dr. McLaughlin. 

But it was not always the Canadians who objected to 
being taxed, as the following anecdote will bhow. Dr. 
McLaughlin was one day seated in his office, in conversa- 
tion with some of his American friends, when the tall form 
of the sheriff darkened the doorway. 

"I have come to tax you. Doctor," said Meek with his 



blandest manner, and with a merry twinkle, half sup- 
pressed, in his black eyes. 

"To tax me, Mr. Jo. I was not aware — I really was 
not aware — I believed I had paid my tax, Mr. Jo," 
stammered the Doctor, somewhat annoyed at the prospect 
of some fresh demand. 

" Thar is an old ox out in my neighborhood. Doctor, 
and he is said to belong to you. Thar is a tax of twenty- 
five cents on him." 

" I do not understand you, Mr. Jo. I have no cattle out 
in your neighborhood."' 

"I couldn't say how that maybe. Doctor. All I do 
know about it, is just this, I went to old G — 's to collect 
the tax on his stock — and he's got a powerful lot of cat- 
tle, — and while we war a countin 'em over, he left out 
that old ox and said it belonged to you." 

"Oh, oh, I see, Mr. Jo: yes, yes, I see! So it was 
Mr. G — ," cried the Doctor, getting very red in the face, 
" I do remember now, since you bring it to my mind, that 
/ lent Mr. G — that steer six years ago ! Here are the 
twenty-five cents, Mr. Jo." 

The sheriff took his money, and went away laughing ; 
while the Doctor's American friends looked quite as much 
annoyed as the Doctor himself, over the meanness of some 
of their countrvmen. 

The year of 1846 was one of the most exciting in. the 
political history of Oregon. President Polk had at last 
given the notice required by the Joint occupation treaty, 
that the Oregon boundary question must be settled. 

Agreeably to the promise which Dr. McLaughlin had 
received from the British Admiral, H. B. M. Sloop of war 
Modeste had arrived in the Columbia River in the month 
of October, 1845, and had wintered there. Much as the 


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Doctor had wished for protection from possible outbreaks, 
he yet felt that the presence of a British man-of-war in 
the Columbia, and another one in Puget Sound, was offen- 
sive to the colonists. He set himself to cover up as care- 
fully as possible the disagreeable features of the British 
lion, by endeavoring to establish social intercourse between 
the officers of the Modeste and the ladies and gentlemen 
of the colony, and his endeavors were productive of a 
partial success. 

During the summer, however, the United States Schooner 
Shark appeared in the Columbia, thus restoring the balance 
of power, for the relief of national jealousy. After re- 
maining for some weeks, the Shark took her departure, 
but was wrecked on the bar at the mouth of the river, 
according to a prophecy of Meek's, who had a grudge 
against her commander, Lieut. Howison, for spoiling the 
sport he was having in company with one of her officers, 
while Howison was absent at the Cascades. 

It appears that Lieut. Schenck was hospitably inclined, 
and that on receiving a visit from the hero of many bear- 
fights, who proved to be congenial on the subject of good 
liquors, he treated both Meek and himself so freely as to 
render discretion a foreign power to either of them. Va- 
ried and brilliant were the exploits performed by these 
jolly companions during the continuance of the spree; 
and still more brilliant were those they talked of perform- 
ing, even the taking of the Modeste, which was lying a 
little way off, in front of Vancouver. Fortunately for the 
good of all concerned, Schenck contented himself with 
firing a salute as Meek was going over the side of the ship 
on leaving. But for this misdemeanor he was put under 
arrest by Howison, on his return from the Cascades, an in- 
dignity which Meek resented for the prisoner, by assuring 
Lieut. Howison that he would lose his vessel before he 

)■ 1 




got out of the river. And lose her he did. Schcnck was 
released after the vessel struck, escaping with the other 
officers and crew by means of small boats. Very few arti- 
cles were saved from the wreck, but among those few was 
the stand of colors, which Lieut. Ilowison subsequently 
presented to Gov. Abernethy for the colony. 

There sinks the sun ; like cavalier of old, 

Servant of crafty Spain, 
He llaunts his banner, barred with blood and gold; 

Wide o'er the western main ; 
A thousand spear lieads glint beyond the trees 

In columns bright and long, 
Wliile kindling fancy hears upon the breeze 

The swell of shout and song. 

And yet not here Spain's gay, adventurous host 

Dipped sword or planted cross ; 
The treasures guarded by this rock-bound coast 

Counted them gain nor loss. 
The blue Columbia, sired by the eternal hills 

And wedded with the sea, 
O'er golden sands, tithes from a thousand rills, 

Rolled in lone majesty — 

Through deep ravine, through burning, barren plain. 

Through wild and rocky strait, 
Through forest dark, and mountain rent in twain 

Toward the sunset gate; 
While curious eyes, keen witli the lust of gold. 

Caught not the informing gleam. 
These mighty breakers age on age have rolled 

To meet this mighty stream. 

Age after age these noble hills have kept, 

The same majestic lines ; 
Age after age the horizon's edge been swept 

By fringe of pointed pines. 
Summers and Winters circling came and went. 

Bringing no change of scene ; 
Unresting, and unhasting, and unspent, 

Dwelt Nature here serene ! 






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Till God's own time to plant of Freedom's seed, 

In tills selected soil ; 
Denied forever unto blood tind greed, 

But blest to honest toil. 
There sinks the sun ; day cavallur no more I 

Ilis banners trail the sea, 
Aud all his legions shining on the shore 

Fade into mystery. 

The swelling tide laps on the shingly beach, 

Like any starving thing ; 
And hungry breakers, white with wrath, upreachy 

In a vain clamoring. 
The shadows fall ; just level with mine eye 

Sweet Hesper stands and shines, 
And shines beneath an arc of golden sky, 

Finked round with pointed pines. 

A noble scene t all breadth, deep tone, and power^ 

Suggesting glorious themes ; 
Shaming the idler who would fill the hour 

With unsubstantial dreams. 
Be mine the dreams prophetic, shadowing forth 

The things that yet shall be, 
When Hirough this gate the treasures of the Nortli 

Flow outward to the Beat 


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The author of the following, " poem " waa not either a 
dull or an unobservant writer ; and we insert his verses as 
a comical bit of natural history belonging peculiarly to 


"What is yon object which attracts the eye 
Of the observing traveler, who ascends 
Columbia's waters, when the summer sky 
In one soft tint, calm nature's clothing blends: 
As glittering in the sunbeams down it floats 
'Till some vile vulture on its carcase gloats ? 

*Tis a poor salmon, which a short time past, 
With thousands of her finny sisters came, 
By instinct taught, to seek and find at last, 
The place that gave her birth, there to remain 
'Till nature's offices had been discharged, 
And fry from out the ova had emei^ed. 

Her Winter spent amongst the sheltered bays 
Of the salt sea, where numerous fish of prey, 
With appetite keen, the number of her days 
Would soon have put an end to, could but they 
Have caught her ; but as they could not, she. 
Spring having come, resolved to quit the sea : 

And moving with the shoal along the coast, at length 
She reached the outlet of her native river, 
There tarried for a little to recruit her strength, 
So tried of late by cold and stormy weather ; 
Sporting in playful gambols o'er the banks and sandfly 
Chasing the tiny fish firequenting there in bands. 




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'Gut ah, how little thoutrht this simple fish, 
The toils and perils she had yet to suffer, 
The chance ihe ran of serving as a dish 
For hungry white men or for Indian's supper,— 
Of enemies in which the stream aboun'cd, 
When lo I she's by a fisher's net siuTounded. 

Partly conscious of her approaching end, 

She darts with meteoric swiftness to and fro, 

Striking the frail meshes, within which she's penned, 

"VMiich bid defiance to her stoutest blow : 

To smaller compass by degrees the snare is drawn, 

When with - leap she clears it and is gone. 

Once more at large with her companions, now 
Become more cautious fi-om her late escape, 
She keeps in deeper water and thinks how 
Foolish she was to get in such a, scrape j 
As mounting further up the stream, she vieq 
With other nfh in catching gnats and flies. 

And as she on her way did +hus enjoy 
Lift's fleeting moments, there arose a panic* 
Am.ongst the stragglers, who in haste deploy 
Around their elder leaders, quick as magic, 
While she unconscious of the untimely rout, 
Was by a hungry otter singled out : 

Vigorous was the chase, on the marked victim shot 
Through the clear water, while in close pursuit 
Followed her amphibious foe, who scarce had got 
Near enough to grasp her, when with turns acute, 
And leaps and revolutions, she so tried the otter, 
He gave up the hunt with merely having bit her. 

Scarce had she recovered from her weakiies,:;. when 
An ancient eagle, of the bald-head kind, 
Winging his dreary way to'rds soma lone glen, 
Where was her nest with four hirap eaglets lined, 
Espied the fish, which he judged quite a treat, 
And just ihe morsel for his little ones to eat : 

And sailing in spiral circles o'er the spot, 
»iTiere lay his prey, the.: hovering for a time, 
To take his wary aim, he stooped i.-_-«d caught 
His booty, which he carried to a Infty pine ; 
Upon whose topmr^t branches, he first adjusted 
His awkward load, ere with his cla^ ^s he crushed it. 


" 111 is the wind that blows iio person good "— 

So said the ad^ige, and vs inck would have it. 

A huge grey eagle out in search of food, , 

Who just had whet his hunger with a rabbit, 

Attacked the other, and the pair together, 

In deadly combat fell into the river. 

Our hiend of course made off, when she'd done falling 

Some sixty yards, and well indeed she might ; 

For ne'er, perhaps, a fish got such a mauling 

Since Adam's time, or went up such a height 

Into the air, and came down helter-skelter, 

As did this poor production of a melter. , 

All these, with many other dangers, she survived, 
Too manifold in this short space to mention ; 
So we'll suppose her to have now arrived 
Safe at the Falls, without much more detention 
Than one could look for, where so many liked her 
Company, and so many Indians spiked her. 

And hc^p a mighty barrier stops her way : 
The tranquil water, finding in its course 
Itself beset with rising rocks, which lay 
As though they said, " retire ye to your source," 
Bursts with indignant fury from its bondage, now 
Rushes ill foaming torrents to the chasm below. 

The persevering f sh t^jn at the foot arrives. 
Laboring with redoubled vigor mid the surging tide, 
And finding, by her strength, she vainly strives 
To overcome the flood, though o'er and o'er she tried ; 
Her tail takes in her mouth, and bending like a bow 
That's to full compass drawn, aloft herself doth throw; 

And spinning in the air, as would a silver wand 
That's bended end to end and upwards cast, 
Headlong she falls amid the showering waters, and 
Gasping for breath, against the rocks is dashed : 
Again, again she vaults, again she tries, 
And in one last and feeble effort — dies. 

There was, in Oregon City, a literary society called the 
"Falls Association," some of whose effusions were occa- 
sionally sent to the Spectator, and this may have been one 



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of them. At all events, it is plain that with balls, the- 
atres, literary societies, and politics, the colony was not 
afflicted with dullness, in the winter of 1846. 

But the history of the immigration this year, afforded, 
perhaps, more material for talk than any one other sub- 
ject. The condition in which the immigrants arrived was 
one of great distress. A new road into the valley had 
been that season explored, at great labor and expense, by 
a company of gentlemen who had in view the aim to 
lessen the perils usually encountered in descending the 
Columbia. They believed that a better pass might be 
discovered through the Cascade range to the south, than 
that which had been found around the base of Mount 
Hood, and one which should bring the immigrants in at 
the upper end of the valley, thus saving them consid- 
erable travel and loss of time at a season of the year 
when the weather was apt to be unsettled. 

With this design, a party had set out to explore the 
Cascades to the south, quite early in the spring ; but fail- 
ing in ^^/^ir undertaking, had returned. Another com- 
pany was then immediately formed, headed by a promi- 
nent member of society and the legislature. This com- 
pany followed the old Hudson's Bay Company's trail, 
crossing all those ranges of mountains perpendicular to 
the coast, which form a triple wall between Oregon and 
California, until they came out into the valley of the Hum- 
boldt, whence they proceeded along a nearly level, but 
chiefly barren country to Fort Hall, on the Snake River. 

The route was found to be practicable, although there 
was a scarcity of grass and water along a por'don of it ; 
but as the explorers had with great difficulty found out 
and marked all the best camping grounds, and encoun- 
tered first for themselves all the dangers of a hitherto un- 
explored region, most of which they believed they had 




overcome, they felt no hesitation in recommending the 
new road to the emigrants whom they met at Fort Hall. 

Being aware of the hardships which the immigrants of 
the previous years had undergone on the Snake River 
plains, at the crossing of Snake River, the John Day, and 
Des Chutes Rivers, and the passage of the Columbia, the 
travelers gladly accepted the tidings of a safer route to 
the Wallamet. A portion of the immigration had already 
gone on by the road to the Dalles ; the remainder turned 
off by the southern route. 

Of those who took the new route, a part were destined 
for California. All, however, after passing through the 
sage deserts, committed the error of stopping to recruit 
their cattle and horses in the fresh green valleys among 
the foot-hills of the mountains. It did not occur to 
them that they were wasting precious time in this way ; 
but to this indulgence was owing an incredible amount of 
suffering. The California-bound travelers encountered 
the season of snow on the Sierras, and such horrors are 
recorded of their sufferings as it is seldom the task of ears 
to hear or pen to record. Snow-bound, without food, 
those who died of starvation were consumed by the liv- 
ing ; even children were eaten by their once fond parents, 
with an indifference horrible to think on : so does the 
mind become degraded by great physical suffering. 

The Oregon immigrants had not to cross the lofty Sier- 
ras ; but they still found mountains before them which, in 
the dry season, would have been formidable enough. In- 
stead, however, of the dry weather continuing, very heavy 
rains set in. The streams became swollen, the mountain 
sides heavy and slippery with the wet earth. Where the 
road led through canyons, men and women were some- 
times forced to stem a torrent, breast high, and cold 
enough to chill the life in their veins. The cattle gave 




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out, the wagons broke down, provisions became exhausted, 
and a few persons perished, while all were in the direst 

The first who got through into the valley sent relief to 
those behind ; but it was weeks before the last of the 
worn, weary, and now impoverished travelers escaped 
from the horrors of the mountains in which they were so 
hopelessly entangled, and where most of their worldly 
goods were left to rot. 

The Oregon legislature met as usual, to hold its winter 
session, though the people hoped and expected it would 
be for the last time under the Provisional Government. 
There were only two " mountain-men " in the House, at 
this session — Meek and Newell. 

In the suspense under which they for the present re- 
mained, there was nothing to do but to go on in the path 
of duty as they had heretofore done, keeping up their 
present form of government until it was supplanted by a 
better. one. So passed the summer until the return of the 
"Glorious Fourth," which, being the first national anni- 
versary occuring since the news of the treaty had reached 
the colony, was celebrated with proper enthusiasm. 

It chanced that an American ship, the Brutus^ Capt. 
Adams, from Boston, was lying in the Wallamet, and that 
a general invitation had been given to the celebrationists 
to visit the ship during the day. A party of fifty or sixty, 
including Meek and some of his mountain associates, had 
made their calculations to go on board at the same time, 
and were in fact already alongside in boats, when Captain 
Adams singled out a boat load of people belonging to the 
mission clique, and inviting them to come on board, or- 
dered all the others off. 

This was an insult too great to be borne by mountain- 



men, who resented it not only for themselves, but for the peo- 
ple's party of Americans to which they naturally belonged. 
Their blood was up, and without stopping to deliberate, 
Meek and Newell hurried off to fetch the twelve-pounder 
that had a few hours before served to thunder forth the 
rejoicings of a free people, but with which they now pur- 
posed to proclaim their indignation as freeman heinously 
insulted. The little twelve-pound cannon was loaded with 
rock, and got into range with the offending ship, and there 
is little doubt that Capt. Adams would have suffered loss 
at the hands of the incensed multitude, but for the timely 
interference of Dr. McLaughlin. On being informed of 
the warlike intentions of Meek and- his associates, the good 
Doctor came running to the rescue, his white hair flowing 
back from his noble face with the hurry of his movements. 

"Oh, oh, Mr. Joe, Mr. Joe, you must not do this! in- 
deed, you must not do this foolish thing ! Come now ; 
come away. You will injure your country, Mr. Joe. How 
can you expect that ships will come here, if they are fired 
on? Come away, come away!" 

And Meek, ever full of wagishness, even in his wrath, 
replied : 

" Doctor, it is not that I love the Brutus less, but my 
dignity more." 

"Oh, Shakespeare, Mr. Joe! But come with me; come 
with me." 

And so the good Doctor, half in authority, half in kind- 
ness, persuaded the resentful colonists to pass by the favor- 
itism of the Boston captain. 

Meek was reelected to the legislature this summer, and 
swam out to a vessel lying down at the mouth of the 
Wallamet, to get liquor to treat his constituents; from 
which circumstance it may be inferred that wh^le Oregon 
was remarkable for temperance, there were occasions on 



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which conviviality was deemed justifiable by a portion of 
her people. 

Thus passed the summer. The autumn brought news 
of a large emigration en route for the new territory ; but 
it brought no news of good import from Congress. On 
the contrary the bill providing for a territorial government 
for Oregon had failed, because the Organic Laws of that 
territory excluded slavery forever from the country. The 
history of its failure is a part and parcel of the record of 
the long hard struggle of the south to extend slavery into 
the United States' territories. 

Justly dissatisfied, but not inconsolable, the colony, now 
that hope was extinguished for another season, returned 
to its own affairs. The immigration, which had arrived 
earl^'- this year, amounted to between four and five thou- 
sand. An unfortunate affray between the immigrants and 
the Indians at the Dalles, had frightened away from that 
station the Rev. Father Waller ; and Dr. Whitman of the 
Waiilatpu mission had purchased the station for the Pres- 
byterian mission, and placed a nephew of his in charge. 
Although, true to their original bad character, the Dalles 
Indians had frequently committed theft upon the passing 
emigration, this was the first difficulty resulting in loss 
of lifi, which had taken place. Thi^ quarrel arose out of 
some thefts committed by the Indians, and the unwise ad- 
vice of Mr. Waller, in telling the immigrants to retaliate 
by taking some of the Indian horses. An Indian can see 
the justice of taking toll from every traveler passing 
through his country ; but he cannot see the justice of be- 
ing robbed in return ; and Mr. Waller had been long 
enough among them to have known this 

Finding that it must continue yet a little longer to look 
after its own government and welfare, the colony had 
settled back into its wonted pursuits. The legislature 



had convened for its winter session, and had hardly elected 
its ollicers and read the usual message of the Governor, 
befoje there came another, which fell upon their ears like 
a thunderbolt. Gov. Abernethy had sent in the following 
letter, written at Vancouver the day before : 

Fort Vancouver, Dec. 7, 1847. 
George Abemetht/, Esq.; 

SiH : — Having received intelligence, last night, by special expre88 from 
Walla-Walla, of the destruction of the missionary settlenaent at Waiilatpu, by 
the Cayuse Indians of that place, we hasten to cunnnunicate the particulars of 
that dreadful event, one of the most atrocious which darkens the annals of In- 
dian crime. 

Our lamented friend, Dr. "Whitman, his amiable and accomplished lady, with 
nine other persons, have fallen victims to the fury of these remorseless savages, 
who appear to have been instigated to this appalling crime by a horrible sus- 
picion which had taken possession of their superstitious minds, in consequence 
of the number of deaths from dysentery and measles, that Dr. Whitman was 
silently working the destruction of their tribe by administering poisonous drugs, 
under the semblance of salutary medicines. 

With a goodness of heart and benevolence truly his own, Dr. Whitman had 
been laboring incessantly since the appearance of the measles and dysentery 
among his Indian converts, to relieve their sufferings ; and such has been the 
reward of his generous labors. 

A copy of Mr. McBean's letter, herewith transmitted, will give you all the 
particulars known to us of this indescribably painM event. 

Mr. Ogden, with a strong party, will leave this place as soon as possible for 
Walla-Walla, to endeavor to prevent further evil ; and we beg to suggest to 
you the propriety of taking instant measures for the protection of the Rev. Mr. 
Spalding, who, for the sake of his family, ought to abandon the Clear-water 
mission without delay, and retire to a place of safety, as he cannot remain at 
that isolated station without imminent risk, in the present excited and irritable 
state of the Indian population. 

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant, 


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1842-7. Doubtless the reader remembers the disquiet 
felt and expressed by the Indians in the upper country in 
the year 1842. For the time they had been quieted by 
presents, by the advice of the Hudson's Bay Company^ 
and by the Agent's promise that in good time the United 
States would send them blankets, guns, ammunition, food 
farming implements, and teachers to show them how to 
live like the whites. 

In the meantime, five years having passed, these prom- 
ises had not been kept. Five times a large number of 
whites, with their children, their cattle, and wagons, had 
passed through their country, and gone down into the 
Wallamet Valley to settle. Now they had learned that 
the United States claimed the Wallamet valley ; yet they 
had never heard that the Indians of that country had re- 
ceived any pay for it. 

They had accepted the religion of the whites believing 
it would do them good ; but now they were doubtful. 
Had they not accepted laws from the United States agent, 
and had not their people been punished for acts which 
their ancestors and themselves had always before commit- 
ted at will? None of these innovations seemed to do 
them any good : they were disappointed. But the whites, 
or Bostons, (meaning the Americans) were coming more 




and more every year, so that by-and-by there would be 
all Bostons and no Indians. 

Once they had trusted in the words of the Americans ; 
Imt now they knew how worthless were their promises. 
The Americans had done them much harm. Years before 
had not one of the missionaries suffered several of their 
people, and the son of one of their chiefs, to be slain in 
his company, yet himself escaped? Had not the son of 
another chief, who had gone to California to buy cattle, 
been killed by a party of Americans, for no fault of his 
own? Their chief's son was killed, the cattle robbed from 
his party, after having been paid for; and his friends 
obUged to return poor and in grief. ' • 

To be sure, Dr. White had given them some drafts to 
be used in obtaining cattle from the immigration, as a 
compensation for their losses in California ; but they could 
not make '.hem available; and those who wanted cattle 
had to go down to the Wallamet for them. In short, 
could the Indians have thought of an American epithet to 
apply to Americans, it would have been that expressive 
word humbug. What they felt and what they thought, 
was, that fhey had been cheated. They feared greater 
frauds in the future, and they were secretly resolved not 
to submit to them. 

So far as regarded the missionaries. Dr. Whitman and. 
his associates, they were divided ; yet as so many looked 
on the Doctor as an agent in promoting the settlement of 
the country with whites, it was thought best to drive him 
from the country, together with all the missionaries. Sev- 
eral years before Dr. Whitman had known that the Indians 
were displeased with his settlement among them. They 
had told him of it : they had treated him with violence ; 
they had attempted to outrage his wife ; had burned his 
property; and had more recently several times warned 

him to leave their country, or they should kill him. 











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Not that all were angry at him alike, or that any were 
personally very ill-disposed towards him. Everything 
that a man could do to instruct and elevate these savage 
people, he had done, to the best of his ability, together 
with his wife and assistants. But he had not been able, or 
perhaps had not attempted, to conceal the fact, that he 
looked upon the country as belonging to his people, rather 
than to the natives, and it was this fact which was at the 
bottom of their "bad hearts " toward the Doctor. So often 
had warnings been given which were disregarded by Dr. 
Whitman, that his friends, both at Vancouver and in the 
settlements, had long felt great uneasiness, and often be- 
sought him to remove to the Wallamet valley. 

But although Dr. Whitman sometimes was half per- 
suaded to give up the mission ^on the representations of 
others, he could not quite bring himself to do so. So far 
as the good conduct of the Indians was concerned, they 
had never behaved better than for the last two years. 
There had been less violence, less open outrage, than for- 
merly ; and their civilization seemed to be progressing ; 
while some few were apparently hopeful converts. Yet 
there was ever a whisper in the air — "Dr. Whitman must 

The mission at Lapwai was peculiaily successful. Mrs. 
Spalding, more than any other of the missionaries, had 
been able to adapt herself to the Indian character, and to 
gain their confidence. Besides, the Nez Perces were a 
better nation than the Cayuses ; — more easily controlled 
by a good counsel ; and it seemed like doing a wrong to 
abandon the work so long as any good was likely to result 
from it. There were other reasons too, why the missions 
could not be abandoned in haste, one of which was the 
difficulty of disposing of the property. This might have 



been done perhaps, to the Catholics, who were establish- 
in;^ missions throughout the upper country ; but Dr. Whit- 
man would never have been so false to his own doctrines, 
as to leave the field of his labors to the Romish Church. 

Yet the division of sentiment among the Indians with 
regard to religion, since the Catholic missionaries had come 
among them, increased the danger of a revolt: for in 
the Indian country neither two rival trading companies, 
nor two rival religions can long prosper side by side. 
The savage cannot understand the origin of so many re- 
ligions. He either repudiates all, or he takes that which 
addresses itself to his understanding through the senses. 
In the latter respect, the forms of Catholicism, as adapted 
to the savage understanding, made that religion a danger- 
ous rival to intellectual and idealistic Presbyterianism. 
But the more dangerous the rival, the greater the firmness 
with which Dr. Whitman would cling to his duty. 

There were so many causes at work to produce a revo- 
lution among the Indians, that it would be unfair to name 
any one as the cause. The last and immediate provoca- 
tion was a season of severe sickness among them. The 
disease was measels, and was brought in the train of the 

This fact alone was enough to provoke the worst pas- 
sions of the savage. The immigration in itself was a suf- 
ficient offense ; the introductian through them of a pesti- 
lence, a still weightier one. It did not signify that Dr. 
Whitman had exerted himself night and day to give them 
relief. Their peculiar notions about a medicine-man made 
it the Doctor's duty to cure the sick ; or made it the duty 
of the relatives of the dead and dying to avenge their 

Yet in spite of all and every provocation, perhaps the 
fatal tragedy might have been postponed, had it not been 





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for the evil influence of one Jo Lewis, a liaH'breed, who 
had accompanied the emigration from the vicinity ol' Foi-t 
Hall. This Jo Lewis, with a lai\u;e party of emi<^ranlH, 
had stopped to winter at the mission, much against J)r. 
Whitman's wishes; for he feared not liavin<j^ food enou<i;h 
for so many persons. Finding that he could not prevent 
them, he took some of the men into his employ, and among 
others the stranger half-breed. 

This man was much about the house, and affected to re- 
late to the Indians conversations which he heard between 
Dr. and Mrs. Whitman, and Mr. Si)alding, who with his 
little daughter, was visiting at Waiilatpu. Those conver- 
sations related to poisoning the Indians, in order to get 
them all out of the way, so that the white men could en- 
joy their country unmolested. Yet this devil incarnate 
did not convince his hearers at once of the truth of his 
statements ; and it was resolved in the tribe to make u 
test of Dr. Whitman's medicine. Three persons were se- 
lected to experiment upon ; two of them already sick, and 
the third quite well. Whether it was that the medicine 
was administered in too large quantities, or whether an 
unhappy chance so ordered it, all those three persons died. 
Surely it is not singular that in the savage mind this cir- 
cumstance should have been deemed decisive. It was 
then that the decree went forth that not only the Doctor 
and Mrs. Whitman, but all the Americans at the mission 
must die. 

On the 2 2d of November, Mr. Spalding arrived at 
Waiilatpu, from his mission, one hundred and twenty 
miles distant, with his daughter, a child of ten years, 
bringing with him also several horse-loads of grain, to 
help feed the emigrants wintering there. He found the 
Indians suffering very much, dying one, two, three, and 
sometimes five in a day. Several of the emigrant families, 

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also, were sick with moasols and the dvsoiiterv, wliich fol- 
lowed the disease. A ehihl of one of them died tlie day 
following Mr. 8i)alding'^ arrival. 

Dr. Whitman's family consisted of himself and wife, 
a young man named Rodgers, who was em])loyed as a 
teaeher, and also studying for the ministry, two young 
people, a brother and sister, named Ihdee, seven orphaned 
children of one family, whose ])arents had died on the 
road to Oregon in a previous year, named Sager, Helen 
Mar, the daughter of Joe Meek, another little half-breed 
girl, daughter of Bridger the fnr-trader, a half-breed 
Spanish boy whom the Doctor had l>rouglit up from in- 
fancy, and two sons of a Mr. Manson, of the Hudson's 
Bay Company. 

Besides these, there were half-a-dozen other families at 
the mission, and at the saw-mill, twenty miles distant, five 
families more — in all, forty-six persons at Waiilatpu, and 
fifteen at the mill, who were among those who sullered by 
the attack. But there were also about the mission, three 
others, Joe Lewis, Nicholas Finlay, and Joseph Stanfield, 
who probably knew what was about to take place, and 
may, therefore be reckoned as among the con<^pirators. 

While Mr. Spalding was at Waiilatpu, a message came 
from two Walla- Walla chiefs, living on the Umatilla River, 
to Dr. Whitman, desiring him to visit the sick in their 
villages, and the two friends set out together to attend to 
the call, on the evening of the 27th of November. Says 
Mr. Spalding, referring to that time : " The night was 
dark, and the wind and rain beat furiously upon us. But 
our interview was sweet. We little thought it was to be 
our last. With feelings of the deepest emotion we called 
to mind the fact, that eleven years before, we crossed this 
trail before arriving at Walla- Walla, the end of our seven 
months' journey from New York. We called to mind 



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the high hopey and thrilling interests which had been 
nvvukened during the year that followed — of our success- 
ful labors and the consta.nt devotedness of the Indians lo 
imprc ement. True, we remembered the months of deep 
solicitude we had, occasioned by the increasing menacing 
demands ol the Indians for pay for their wood, their 
water, their air, their lands. But much of this had passed 
away, and the Cayuses were W a far more encouraging 
condition than ever before." Mr. Spalding further re- 
lates that himself and Dr. Whitman also conversed on the 
danger which threatened them from the Catholic influence. 
" We felt,"' he says, " that the present sickness afforded 
them a favorable opportunity to excita the Indians to 
drive us from the country, and all the movements about 
us seemed to indicate that this would soon be attempted, 
if not executed." Such was the suspicion in the minds 
of the Protestants. Let us hope that it was not so well 
founded as they believed. 

The two friends arrived late at the lodge of Stickas, a 
chief, and kid down before a blazing fire to dry iheir 
drenched clothing. In the morning a good breakfast was 
prepared for them, consisting of beef, vegetables, and 
bread — all of which showed the improvement of the In- 
dians in the art cf living. The day, being Sunday, was 
observed with as much decorum as in a white man's house. 
After breakfast, Dr. Whitman crossed the river to visit 
ohe chiefs who had sent for him, namely, Tan-i-tan, Five 
Groivs, and Yam-ha-wa-lis^ returning about four o'clock 
in the afternoon, saying he had taken tea with the Cath- 
olic bishop and two priests, at their house, which belonged 
to Tan-i-tan, and that they had promised to visit Lim in a 
short time. He then departed for the mission, feeling 
uneasy about the sick ones at home. 

Mr. Spalding remained with the intention of visiting 



the sick and offering consolation to the dying. But he 
soon discovered that there was a weighty and uncomfort- 
able secret on the mind of his entertainer, Sticlcas. After 
much questioning, Stickas admitted that the thought which 
troubled him was that the Americans had been '' decreed 
against " by his people ; more he could not be induced to 
reveal. Anxious, yet not seriously alarmed, — for these 
warnings had been given before many times, — he retired 
to his couch of skins, on ^he evening of the 29th, being 
Monday — not to sleep, however; for on either side of 
him an Indian woman sat down to chant the death-song 
— that frightful lament which announces danger and death. 
On being questioned they would reveal nothing. 

On the following morning, Mr. Spalding could no longer 
remain in uncertainty, but set out for Waiilat])u. As he 
mounted his horse to depart, an Indian woman placed 
her hand on the neck of his horse to arrest him, and pre- 
tending to be arranging his head-gear, said in a low voice 
to the rider, "Beware of the Cay uses at the mission." 
Now more than ever disturbed by this intimation that it 
was the mission which was threatened, he hurried for- 
ward, fearing for his daughter and his friends. He pro- 
ceeded without meeting any one until within sight of the 
lovely Walla- Walla valley, almost in sight of the mission 
itself, when suddenly, at a wooded spot where the trail 
passes through a little hollow, ^ j beheld two horsemen 
advancing, whom he watched with a fluttering heart, 
longing for, and yet dreading, the news which the very 
air seemed whispering. 

The two horsemen proved to be the Catholic Vicar 
General, Brouillet, who, with a party of priests and nuns 
had arrived in the country only a few months previous, 
and his half breed interpreter, both of whom were known 





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to Mr. Spalding. They each drew rein as they approach- 
ed, Mr. Spalding immediately inquiring " what news ?" 

" There are very many sick at the Whitman station," 
answered Brouillot, with evident embarrassment. 

"How are Doctor and Mrs. Whitman V" asked Spalding- 

" The Doctor is ill — is dead," added the priest reluc- 

"And Mrs. Whitman ?" gasped Spalding. 

"Is dead also. The Indians have killed them." 

" My daughter ?" murmured the agonized questioner. 

" Is safe, with the other prisoners," answered Brouillet. 

"And then," says Spalding in speaking of that moment 
of infinite horror, when in his imagination a picture of the 
massacre, of the anguish of his child, the suffering of the 
prisoners, of the probable destruction of his own family 
and mission, and his surely impending fate, all rose up 
before him — "I felt the world all blotted out at once, and 
sat on my horse as rigid as a stone, not knowing or feeling 

While this conversation had been going on the half- 
breed interpreter had kept a sinister wat«3h over the com- 
munication, and his actions had so suspicious a look that 
the priest ordered him to ride on ahead. When he had 
obeyed, Brouillet gave some rapid instructions to Spald- 
ing ; not to go near the mission, where he could do no 
good, but would be certainly murdered ; but to fly, to 
hide himself until the excitement was ovei. The men at 
the mission were probably all killed ; the women and 
children would be spared; nothing could be done at pres- 
ent but to try to save his own life, wdiich the Indians were 
resolved to take. 

The conversation was hurried, for there was no time to 
lose. Spalding gave his pack-horse to Brouillet, to avoi<l 



being encumbered by it ; and taking some provisions 
which the priest olFered, struck off into the woods there 
to hide until dark. Nearly a week from this night he ar- 
rived at the Lapwai mission, starved, torn, with bleeding 
feet as well as broken heart. Obliged to secrete himself 
by day, his horse had escaped from him, leaving him to 
perform his night journeys on foot over the sharp rocks 
and prickly cactus plants, until hot only his shoes had 
been worn out, but his feet had become cruelly lacerated. 
The constant fear which had preyed upon his heart of 
finding his family murdered, had produced fearful havoc 
in the life-forces; and although Mr. Spalding had the hap- 
piness of finding that the Xez Perces had been triie to 
Mrs. Spalding, defending her from destruction, yet so 
^•reat had been the first shock, and so long continued the 
strain, that his nervous system remained a wreck ever 


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1847. When Dr. Whitman reached home on that Sun- 
day night, after parting with Mr. Spalding at the Umatilla, 
it was already about midnight ; yet he visited the sick 
'before retiring to rest; and early in the morning resumed 
his duties among them. An Indian died that morning. 
At his burial, which the Doctor attended, he observed 
that but few of the friends and relatives of the deceased 
were present but attributed it to the fear which the In- 
dians hjive of disease. 

Everything about the mission was going on as usual. 
Quite a number of Indians were gathered about the place; 
but as an ox was being butchered, the crowd was easily 
accounted for. Three men were dressini>: the beef in the 
yard. The afternoon session of the mission school had 
just commenced. The mechanics belonging to the station 
were about their various avocations. Young Bulee was 
sick in the Doctor's house. Three of the orphan children 
who were recovering from the measles, were with the 
Doctor and Mrs. Whitman in the sitting-room ; and also a 
Mrs. Osborne, one of the emigrants who had just got up 
from a sick bed, and who had a sick child in her arms. 

The Doctor had just come in, wearied, and dejected as it 
was possible for his resolute spirit to be, and had sen ted 
himself, bible in hand, when several Indians came to a side 
door, asking permission to come in and get some medicine. 
The Doctor rose, got his medicines, gave them out, and 

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sat down again. At that moment Mrs. Whitman was in 
an adjoining room and did not see what followed. Ihm- 
a-has^ a chief called "the murderer," came behind the 
Doctor's chair, and raising his tomahawk, struck the Doc- 
tor in the back of the head, stunning but not killing him. 

Instantly there was a violent commotion. John Sager, 
one of the adopted children, sprang up with his pistol in 
his hand, but before he could fire it, he too was struck 
down, and cut and hacked shockingly. In the meantime 
Dr. Whitman had received a second blow ujoon the head, 
and now laid lifeless on the floor. Cries and confusion 
filled the house. 

At the first sound, Mrs. Whitman, in whose ears that 
whisper in the air had so long sounded, began in agony 
to stamp upon the floor, and wring her hands, crying out, 
"Oh, the Indians, the Indians!" At that moment one of 
the women from an adjoining building came running in, 
gasping with terror, for the b .tchery was going on outside 
as well, and Tam-a-has and his associates were now assist- 
ing at it. Going to the room where the Doctor lay insen- 
sible, Mrs. Whitman and her terrified neighbor dragged 
him to the sofa and laid him upon it, doing all they could 
to revive him. To all their inquiries he answered by a 
whispered "no," probaV>ly not conscious what was said. 

While this was being done, the people from every quar- 
ter began to crowd into the Doctor's house, many of them 
wounded. Outside were heard the shrieks of women, the 
yells of the Indians, the roar of musketry, the noise of fu- 
rious riding, of meeting war-clubs, groans, and every 
frightful combination of sound, such as only could be heard 
at such a carnival of blood. Still Mrs. Whitman sat by 
her husband's side, intent on trying to rouse him to say 
one coherent word. 

Nearer and nearer came the struggle, and she heard 


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some one excLaim that two of her friends were being mur- 
dered beneath the window. Starting up, she approached 
the casement to get a view, as if by looking she could 
save ; but that moment she encountered the fiendish gaze 
of Jo Lewis the half-breed, and comprehended his guilt. 
" Is it you, Jo, who are doing this?" she cried. Before the 
expression of horror had left her lips, a young Indian who 
had been a special favorite about the mission, drew up his 
gun and fired, the ball entering her right breast, when she 
fell without a groan. 

When the people had at first rushed in, Mrs. Whitman 
had ordered the doors fastened and the sick children re- 
moved to a room up stairs. Thither now she was herself 
conveyed, having first recovered sufficiently to stagger to 
the sofa where lay her dying husband. Those who wit- 
nessed this strange scene, say that she knelt and prayed — 
prayed for the orphan children she was leaving, and for 
her aged parents. The only expression of personal regret 
she was heard to utter, was sorrow that her father and 
mother should live to know she had perished in such a 

In the chamber were now gathered Mrs. Whitman, Mrs. 
Hayes, Miss Bulee, Catharine Sager, thirteen years of age, 
and three of the sick children, besides Mr. Rogers and Mi'. 
Kimble. Scarcely had they gained this retreat w^hen the 
crashing of windows and doors was heard below, and with 
whoops and yells the savages dashed into the sitting-room 
where Doctor Whitman still lay dying. While some 
busied themselves removing fr. m the house the goods and 
furniture, a chief named Te-la 'rka-ikf, a favorite at the 
mission, and on probation for adniisslon into the church, 
deliberately chopped and mangled the lllce of his still 
breathing teacher and friend with his tomahawk, until every 
feature was rendered unrecognizable. 



The children from the school-house were brought into 
the kitchen of the Doctor's house about this time, by Jo 
Lewis, where, he told them, they were going to be shot. 
Mr. Spalding's little girl Eliza, was among them. Under- 
standing the native language, she was fully aware of the 
terrible import of what was being said by their tormen- 
tors. While the Indians talked of shooting the children 
huddled together in the kitchen, pointing their guns, and 
yelling, Eliza covered her face with her apron, and leaned 
over upon the sink, that she might not see them shoot her. 
After being tortured in this manner for some time, the 
children were finally ordered out of doors. 

While this was going on, a chief called Tamt'Sak-y^ was 
trying to induce Mrs. Whitman to come down into the 

She replied that she was wounded and could not do so, 
upon which he professed much sorrow, and still desired 
her to be brought down, " If you are my friend Tamt- 
sak-y, come up and see me," was her reply to his profes- 
sions, but he objected, saying there were Americans con* 
cealed in the chamber, whom he feared might kill him. 
Mr. Rogers then went to the head of the stairs and en* 
deavored to have the chief come up, hoping there might 
be some friendly ones, who would aid them in escaping 
from the murderers. Tamt-sak-y^ however, would not 
come up the stairs, although he persisted in saying that 
Mrs. Whitman should not be harmed, and that if all would 
come down and go over to the other house where the fami- 
lies were collected, they might do so in safety. 

The Indians below now began to call out that they were 
going to burn the Doctor's house. Then no alternative 
remained ])ut to descend and trust to the mercy of the 
Hiivd^ns, As Mrs. Whitman entered the sitting-room, lean- 
ing on one arm of Mr. Rogers, who also was wounded m 













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the head, and had a broken arm, she caught a view uf the 
shockingly mutihitcd face of her husband and fell fainting 
upon the sofa, just as Doctor Whitman gave a dying gasp. 

Mr. Rogers and Mrs. Hayes now attempted to get tlic 
sofa, or settee, out of the house, and had succeeded iu 
moving it through the kitchen to the door. No sooner 
did they appear in the open door-way than a volley of balls 
assailed them. Mr. Rogers fell at once, but did not die 
immediately, for one of the most horrid features in this 
horrid butchery was, that the victims were murdered by 
torturing degrees. Mrs. Whitman also received several 
gunshot wounds, lying on the settee. Francis Sager, the 
oldest of her adopted boys, was dragged into the group of 
dying ones and shot down. 

The children, who had been turned out of the kitchen 
w^ere still huddled together about the kitchen door, so 
near to this awful scene that every incident was known to 
them, so near that the flashes from the guns of the Indians 
burnt their hair, and the odor of the blood and the burn- 
ing powder almost suffocated them. 

At two o'clock in the afternoon the massacre had com- 
menced. It was now growing dusk, and the demons were 
eager to finish their work. Seeing that life still lingered 
in the mangled bodies of their victims, they finished theii* 
atrocities by hurling them in the mud and gore which filled 
the yard, and beating them upon their faces with whips 
and clubs, while the air was filled with the noise of their 
shouting, singing, and dancing — the Indian women and 
children assisting at these orgies, as if the Bible had never 
been preached to them. And thus, after eleven years of 
patient endeavor to save some heathen souls alive, perished 
Doctor and Mrs. Whitman. 

In all that number of Indians who had received daily 
kindnesses at the hands of the missionaries, only two 


— '»' - 



showed any compassion. These two, Tips and Madpool^ 
Walla- Wallas, who were employed by the Doctor, took 
ihe children away from the sickening sights that sur- 
rounded them, into the kitchen pantry, ;ind there in secret 
tried to comfort them. 

When night set in the children and families were all re- 
moved to the building called the mansion-house, where they 
spent a night of horror ; all, except those who were left in 
Mrs. Whitman's chamljer, from wliich they dared not de- 
scend, and the family of Mr. Osborne, who escaped. 

On the first assault Mr. and Mrs. Osborne ran into their 
bedroom which adjoined the sitting-room, taking with 
them their three small children. Raising a plank in the 
floor, Mr. 0. quickly thrust his wife and children into the 
space beneath, and then following, let the plank down to 
its place. Here they remained until darkness set in, able 
to hear all that "was passing about them, and fearing to 
stir. When all was quiet at the Doctor's house, they stole 
out under cover of darkness and succeeded in reaching 
Fort Walla- Walla, after a painful journey of several days, 
or rather nights, for they dared not travel by day. 

Another person who escaped was a Mr. Hall, carpenter, 
who in a hand to hand contest with an Indian, received a 
wound in the face, but finally reached the cover of some 
bushes where he remained until dark, and then fled in the 
direction of Fort Walla- Walla. Mr. Hall was the first to 
arrive at the fort, where, contrary to his expectations, and 
to all humanity, he was but coldly received by the gentle- 
ma ;i in . harge, Mr. McBean. 

\v'liet'ier it was from cowardice or cruelty as some al- 
leged, that Mr. McBean rejoiced in the slaughter of the 
Protestant missionaries, himself being a Catholic, can never 
be known. Had that been true, one might have supposed 
that their death would have been enough, and that he 


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might have sheltered a wounded man fleeing for his life, 
without grudging him this atom of comfort. Unfortunately 
for Mr. McBean's reputation, he declined to grant such shel- 
ter willingly. Mr. Hall remained, however, twelve hours, 
until he heard a report that the women and children were 
murdered, when, knowing how unwelcome he was, and be- 
ing in a half distracted state, he consented to be set across 
the Columbia to make his way as best he could to the Walla- 
met. From this hour he was never seen or heard from, 
the manner of his death remaining a mystery to his wife 
and their family of five children, who were amon^ the 
prisoners at Waiilatpu. 

When Mr. Osborne left the mission in the darkness, he 
was able only to proceed about two miles, before Mrs. Os- 
borne's strength gave way, she lately having been con- 
fined by an untimely birth ; and he was compelled to stop, 
secreting himself and family in some bushes. Here they 
remained, suffering with cold, and insufficient food, having 
only a little bread and cold mush which they had found 
in the pantry of the Doctor's house, before leaving it. On 
Tuesday night, Mrs. 0. was able to move about three miles 
more : and again they were compelled to stop. In this 
way to proceed, they must all perish of starvation ; 
therefore on Wednesday night Mr. 0. took the second 
child and started with it for the fort, where he arrived be- 
fore noon on Thursday. 

Although Mr.McBean received him with friendliness of 
manner, he refused him horses to go for Mrs. Osborne and 
his other children, and even refused to furnish food to re- 
relieve their hunger, telling him to go to the Umatilla, 
and forbidding his return to the fort. A little food was 
given to himself and child, who had been fasting since 
Monday night. Whether Mr. McBean would have allowed 
this man to perish is uncertain : but certain it is that some 



linse or cowardly motive niiKk' him exceedingly cruel to 
both Hall and Osborne. 

While Mr Osborne was partaking of his tea and crackers, 
there arrived at the fort Mr. Stanley, the artist, whom the 
reader will remember having met in the mountains seveial 
years before. When the case became known to him, he 
offered his horses immediately to go for Mrs. Osborne. 
Shamed into an appearance of humanity, Mr. McBean thea 
furnished an Indian guide to accompany Mr. 0. to the 
Umatilla, where he still insisted the fugitives should go^ 
though this was in the murderer's country. 

A little meat and a few crackers were furnished for the 
supper of the travelers; and with a handkerchief for his 
hatless head and a pair of socks for his child's naked feet, 
all furnished by Mr. Stanley, Mr. Osborne set out to return 
to his suffering wife and children. He and his guide trav- 
eled rapidly, arriving in good time near the spot where 
he believed his family to be concealed. But the darkness 
had confused his recollection, and after beating the bushes 
until daylight, the unhappy husband and father was about 
to give up the search in despair, when his guide at length 
discovered their retreat. 

The poor mother and children were barely alive, hav- 
ing suffered much from famine and exposure, to say noth- 
ing of their fears. Mrs. Osborne was compelled to be 
tied to the Indian in order to sit her horse. In this con- 
dition the miserable fugitives turned toward the Umatilla, 
in obedience to the command of McBean, and were only 
saved from being murdered by a Cayuse by the scornful 
words of the guide, who shamed the murderer from his 
purpose of slaughtering a sick and defenceless family. 
At a Canadian farm-house, where they stopped to change 
horses, they were but roughly received ; and learning 

here that Tamt-sak-y^ 8 lodge was near by, Mi's. Osborne 

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refused to proceed any farther toward the Umatilla. She 
said, " I doubt if I can live to reach the Umatilla ; and if 
I must die, I may as well die at the gates of the Fort." 
Let us, then, turn back to the Fort." 

To this the guide assented, saying it was not safe going 
among the Cayuses. 'the little party, quite exhausted, 
reached Walla- Walla about ten o'clock at night, and were 
at once admitted. Contrary to his former course, Mr. 
McBean now ordered a lire made to warm the benumbed 
travelers, who, after being made tolerably comfortable, 
were placed in a secret room of the fort. Again Mr. 
Osborne was importuned to go away, down to the Walla- 
met, Mr. McBean promising to take care of his family 
and furnish him an outfit if he would do so. Upon being 
asked to furnish a boat, and Indians to man it, in order 
that the family might accompany him, he replied that his 
Indians refused to go. 

From all this reluctance, not only on the part of Mc- 
Bean, but of the Indians also, to do any act which ap- 
peared like befriending the Americans, it would appear 
that there was a very general fear of the Cayuse Indians, 
and a belief that they were about to inaugurate a general 
war upon the Americans, and their friends and allies. Mr. 
Osborne, however, refused to leave his family behind, and 
Mr. McBean was forced to let him remain until relief 
came. When it did come at last, in the shape of Mr. 
Ogden's party, Stickas, the chief who had warned Mr. 
Spalding, showed his kind feeling for the sufferers by 
removing his own cap and placing it on Mr. Osborne's 
head, and by tying a handkerchief over the ears of Mr. 
Osborne's little son, as he said, " to keep him warm, going 
down the river." Sadly indeed, did the little ones who 
suffered by the massacre at Waiilatpu, stand in need of 
any Christian kindness. 


1847. A FULL account of the horrors of the Waii- 
latpu massacre, together with the individual sufferings of 
the captives whose lives were spared, would fill a volume, 
and be harrowing to the reader ; therefore, only so much 
of it will be given here as, from rts bearing upon Oregon 
history, is important to our narrative. 

The day following the massacre, being Tuesday, was 
the day on which Mr. Spalding was met and warned not 
to go to the mission, by the Vicar General, Brouillet. 
Happening at the mission on that day, and finding the 
bodies of the victims still unburied, Brouillet had them 
hastily interred before leaving, if interment it could be 
called which left them still a prey to wolves. The reader 
of this chapter of Oregon history will always be very much 
puzzled" to understand by what means the Catholic priests 
procured their perfect exemption from harm during this 
time of terror to the Americans. Was it that they were 
French, and that they came into the country only as mis- 
sionaries of a religion adapted to the savage mind, and 
not as settlers ? Was it at all owing to the fact that they 
were celibates, with no families to excite jealous feelings 
of comparison in the minds of their converts ? 

Through a long and bitter war of words, which fol- 
lowed the massacre at Waiilatpu, terrible sins were charged 
upon the priests — no less than inciting the Indians to the 
murder of the Protestants, and winking at the atrocities of 


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every kind committed by the savages. Whether they 
feared to enter into the quarrel, and were restrained from 
showing sympathy solely by this fear, is a question only 
themselves can determine. Certain it is, that they pre- 
served a neutral position, when to be neutral was to seem, 
if not to be, devoid of human sympathies. That the 
event would have happened without any other provoca- 
tion than such as the Americans furnished by their own 
reckless disregard of Indian prejudices, seems evident. 
The question, and the only question which is suggested 
by a knowledge of all the circumstances, is whether the 
event was helped on by an intelligent outside influence. 

It was quite natural that tlie Protestants should wonder 
at the immunity from danger which the priests enjoyed ; 
and that, not clearly seeing the reason, they should sus- 
pect them of collusion with the Indians. It was natural, 
too, for the sufferers from the massacre to look for some 
expression of sympathy from any and all denominations 
of Christians ; and that, not receiving it, they should have 
doubts of the motives which prompted such reserve. 
The story of that time is but an unpleasant record, and 
had best be lightly touched upon. 

The work of death and destruction did not clbse with 
the first day at Waiilatpu. Mr. Kimble, who had re- 
mained in the chamber of the Doctor's house all night, 
had suffered much from the pain of his broken arm. On 
Tuesday, driven desperate by his own sufferings, and those 
of the three sick children with him, one of whom was the 
little Helen Mar Meek, he resolved to procure some water 
from the stream which ran near the house. But he had 
not proceeded more than a few rods before he was shot 
down and killed instantly. The same day, a Mr. Young, 
from the saw-mill, was also killed. In the course of the 
week, Mr. Bulee, who was sick over at the mansion, was 
brutally murdered. 



Meanwhile the feuuilo captives and cliihh'eii were en- 
during such agony as seldom falls to the lot oC humanity 
to suH'er. Compelled to work for the Indians, tlieir feel- 
ings were continually harrowed up by the terril)le sights 
which everywhere met their eyes in going back and forth 
between the houses, in carrying water from the stream, or 
moving in any direction whatever. For the dead were 
not removed until the setting in of decay made it neces- 
sary to the Indians themselves. 

The goods belonging to the mission were taken from 
the store-room, and the older women ordered to make them 
up into clothing for the Indians. The buildings were plun- 
dered of everything which the Indians coveted; all the 
rest of their contents that could not be made useful to 
themselves were destroyed. Those of the captives who 
were sick were not allowed proper attention, and in a day 
or two Helen Mar Meek died of neglect. 

Thus passed four or five days. On Saturday a new 
horror was added to the others. The savages began to 
carry off the young women for wives. Three were thus 
dragged away to Indian lodges to suffer tortures worse 
than death. One young girl, a daughter of Mr. Kimble, 
was taken possession of by the murderer of her father, 
who took daily delight in reminding her of that fact, and 
when her sorrow could no longer be restrained, only 
threatened to exchange her for another young girl who 
was also a wife by compulsion. 

Miss Bulee, the eldest of the young women at the mission, 
and who was a teacher in the mission school, was taken to 
the Umatilla, to the lodge of Five-Crows. As has before 
been related, there was a house on the Umatilla belonging 
to Tan-i-tan^ in which were residing at this time two Cath- 
olic priests — the Yicar-General Brouillet, and Blanchet, 
Bishop of Walla- Walla. To this house Miss Bulee applied 

X V 





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for protection, and was refused, whether from fear, or from 
the motives subsequently attributed to them by some 
Protestant writer's in Oregon, is not known to any but 
themselves. The only thing certain about it is, that Miss 
Bulee was allowed to be violently dragged from their 
presence every night, to return to them weeping in the 
morning, and to have her entreaties for their assistance 
answered by assurances from them that the wisest course 
for her was to submit. And this continued for more than 
two weeks, until the news of Mr. Ogden's arrival at Walla- 
Walla became known, when Miss Bulee was told that if 
Five- Crotvs ' would not allow her to remain at their house 
altogether, she must remain at the lodge of Five-Croivs 
without coming to their house at all, well knowing what 
Five- Grows would do, but wishing to have Miss Bulee's 
action seem voluntary, from shame perhaps, at their own 
cowardice. Yet the reason they gave ought to go for all 
it is worth — that they being priests could not have a 
woman about their house. In this unhappy situation did 
the female captives spend three most miserable weeks. 

In the meantime the mission at Lapwai had been broken 
up, but not destroyed, nor had any one suffered death as 
was at first feared. The intelligence of the massacre at 
Waiilatpu was first conveyed to Mrs. Spalding by a Mr. 
Camfield, who at the breaking out of the massacre, fied 
with his wife and children to a small room in the attic of 
the mansion, from the window of which he was able to 
behold the scenes which followed. When night came Mr. 
Camfield contrived to elude observation and descend into 
the yard, where he encountered a French Canadian long 
in the employ of Dr. Whitman, and since suspected to 
have been privy to the plan of the murders. To him Mr. 
Camfield confided his intention to escape, and obtained a 
promise that a horse should be brought to a certain place 



at fi certjiiu time for his use. But the Canadian failing to 
appear with his horse, Mr. C. set out on foot, and under 
cover of night, in the direction of the Lapwai mission, 
lie arrived m the Nez Perce country on Thursday. On 
the following day he came upon a camp of these people, 
and procured from them a guide to Lapwai, without, how- 
ever, speaking of what had occurred at Waiilatpu. 

The caution of Mr. Camfield relates to a trait of Indian 
character which the reader of Indian history must bear in 
mind, that is, the close relationship and identity of feeling 
of allied tribes. Why he did not inform the Nez Perces 
of the deed done by their relatives, the Cay uses, was be- 
cause in that case he would have expected them to have 
sympathized with their allies, even to the point of making 
him a prisoner, or of taking his life. It is this ftict concern- 
ing the Indian character, which alone furnishes an excuse 
for the conduct of Mr. McBean and the Catholic priests. 
Upon it Mr. Camfield acted, making no sign of fear, nor 
betraying any knowledge of the terrible matter on his 
mind to the Nez Perces. 

On Saturday afternoon Mr. C. arrived at Mrs. Spalding's 
house and dismissed his guide with the present of a buf- 
falo robe. When he was alone with Mrs. Spalding he 
told his unhappy secret. It was then that the strength 
and firmness of Mrs. Spalding's character displayed itself 
in her decisive action. Well enough she knew the close 
bond between the Nez Perces and Cayuses, and also the 
treachery of the Indian character. But she saw that if 
affairs were left to shape themselves as Mr. Camfield 
entreated they might be left to do, putting off the evil 
day, — that when the news came from the Cayuses, there 
would be an outbreak. 

The only chance of averting this danger was to inform 
the chiefs most attached to her, at once, and throw herself 




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and her family upon their mercy. Her resolution was 
taken not an hour too soon. Two of the chiefs most re- 
lied upon happened to be at the place that very afternoon, 
one of whom was called Jacob, and the other Eagle. To 
these two Mrs. Spalding confided the news without delay, 
and took counsel of them. According to her hopes, they 
assumed the responsibility of protecting her. One of 
them went to inform his camp, and give them orders to 
stand by Mrs. S., while the other carried a note to Mr. 
Craig, one of our Rocky Mountain acquaintances, who 
lived ten miles from the mission. 

Jacob and Eagle, with two other friendly chiefs, deci- 
ded that Mrs. S. must go to their camp near Mr. Craig's ; 
because in case the Cayuses came to the mission as was to 
be expected, she would be safer with them. Mrs. S. how- 
ever would not consent to make the move on the Sabbath, 
but begged to be allowed to remain quiet until Monday. 
Late Saturday evening Mr. Craig came down ; and Mrs. 
Spalding endeavored with his assistance to induce the In- 
dians to carry an express to Cimikain in the country of 
the Spokanes, where Messrs. Walker and Eells had a sta- 
tion. Not an Indian could be persuaded to go. An ef- 
fort, also, was made by the herojc and suffering wife and 
mother, to send an express to Waiilatpu to learn the fate 
of her daughter, and if possible of her husband. But the 
Indians were none of them inclined to go. They said, 
without doubt all the women and children were slain. 
That Mr. Spalding was alive no one believed. 

The reply of Mrs. S. to their objections was that she 
could not believe that they were her friends if they would 
not undertake this journey, for the relief of her feelings 
under such circumstances. At length Eagle consented to 
go ; but so much opposed were the others to having any- 
thing done which their relations, the Cayuses, might be 



displeased with, that it was nearly twenty-four hours be- 
fore Eagle got leave to go. 

On Monday morning a Nez Perce arrived from Waii- 
latpu with the news of what the Cayuses had done. With 
him were a number of Indians from the camp where Mr. 
Camfield had stopped for a guide, all eager for plunder, and 
for murder too, had not they found Mrs. Spalding pro- 
tected by several chiefs. Her removal to their camp 
probably saved her from the fate of Mrs. Whitman. 

Among those foremost in plundering the mission build- 
ings at Lapwai were some of the hitherto most exemplary 
Indians among the Nez Perces. Even the chief, first in 
authority after Ellis, who was absent, was prominent in 
these robberies. For eight years had this chief, Joseph, 
been a member of the church at Lapwai, and sustained a 
good reputation during that time. How bitter must have 
been the feelings of Mrs. Spalding, who had a truly de- 
voted missionary heart, when she beheld the fruit of her 
life's labor turned to ashes in her sight as it was by the 
conduct of Joseph and his family. 

Shortly after the removal of Mrs. Spalding, and the pil- 
laging of the buildings, Mr. Spalding arrived at Lapwai 
from his long and painful journey during which he had 
wandered much out of his way, and suffered many things. 
His appearance was the signal for earnest consultations 
among the Nez Perces who were not certain that they 
might safely give protection to him without the consent 
of the Cayuses. To his petition that they should carry a 
letter express to Fort Colville or Fort Walla-Walla, they 
would not consent. Their reason for refusing seemed to 
be a fear that such a letter might b.3 answered by an 
armed body of Americans, who would come to avenge the 
deaths of their countrymen. 

To deprive them of this suspicion, Mr. Spalding told 

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them that as he had been robbed of everything, ho had 
no means of paying them for tlieir serviees to liis faniily, 
and that it was necossjiry to write to Walla-Walla f(»r 
blankets, and to the Umatilla for his horses. He assnrcd 
them that he wonld write to his eountrymen to keep qniet, 
and that they had nothing to fear from the Americans. 
The truth was, however, that he had forwarded through 
Brouillet, a letter to Gov. Abernethy asking for hel| 
which could only come into that hostile country armed 
and equipped for war. 

Late in . the month of December there arrived in Ore- 
gon City to be delivered to the governor, sixty-two cap- 
tives, bought from the Cayuses and Nez Perces by Hud- 
son's Bay blankets and goods ; and obtained at that price 
by Hudson's Bay influence. "No other power on earth," 
says Joe Meek, the American, "could have rescued those 
prisoners from the hands of the Indians ;" and no man 
better than Mr. Meek understood the Indian character, 
or the Hudson's Bay Company's power over them. 

The number of victims to the Waiilatpu massacre was 
fourteen. None escaped who had not to mourn a father, 
brother, son, or friend. If "the blood of the martyrs is 
the seed of the church," there ought to arise on the site 
of Waiilatpu a generation of extraordinary piety. As for 
the people for whom a noble man and woman, and num- 
bers of innocent persons were sacrificed, they have re- 
turned to their traditions ; with the exception of the Nez 
Perces, who under the leadership of their old teacher Mr 
Spalding, have once more resumed the pursuits of civil- 
ized and Christianized nations. 

The description (.►f Waiilatpu at the present time given 
on the following page, is from ^^All Over Oregon and 
Wd-^hiiKjton,'''' by the author of this book. 




" Wftiilfttpu is just tliat — ft crook-ltottoiii-llio creeks dii citlicr 
pide of it frin^'cd with trees; lii^lier liiiul hiiiittin^' out the view 
in front; isolation and solitude tlio most strikiiii,' ffiittires of 
the ])lnce. Vet here (;anie a man and a woman to live and tt> 
labor amon|5 the bava^es, wlien all the old Oregon territory wao 
an Indian country. Here btooil the station erected hy them : 
adofw liouses, u mill, a sehool-llou^!e for the Indians, blioji.-, 
and all the necessary appurtenanets of an isolated sc^ttlenieiit. 
Nothing remains today hut mouiuls of earth, into which the 
luJohfis wore dissolved hy weather, after hurning. 

"A few rods away, on tlie side of tlu* hill is u ditlcront mound : 
the common grave of fourteen victims oi ivage superstition, 
jealotisy, and wrath. It is roughly indos ;u by u board fence, 
and has not a shrub or a flower to di; ^^uibt its terrible sign ili- 
caiice. The most afl'ecting reminders of wasted efl'ort which 
remuui on the old IMissioii-grounds arc the two or three apjilc- 
trces which escaped the general destruction, and the scarli't 
poppies which are scattered broadcast through the creek-hottom 
near the houses. Sadly significant it is. that the flower v.lioso 
ftvanescent bloom is the 8ynd)ol of unendtiring joys, should ho 
the only tangible witness left of the wonumly tastes and labors 
uf the devoted Missionary who gave her life a sacrifice to un- 
grateful Indian savagery. 

"The place is occupied, at present, by one of Dr. "Whitman's 
early friends and co-laborers, who claimed the Wission-ground, 
under the Donation Act, and who was first and most active in 
founding the seminary to the memory of a Christian gentleman 
and martyr. On the identical spot where stood the Doctor's 
residence, now stands the more modern one of his friend ; and. 
he seems to take a melancholy pleasure in keeping in remem- 
brance the events of that unhappy time, which threw a gloom 
over the whole territory west of the Hocky Mountains." 

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1847-8. When the contents of Mr. Douglas' letter to 
the governor became known to the citizens of the Walla- 
met settlement, the greatest excitement prevailed. On 
the reading of that letter, and those accompanying it, be- 
fore the House, a resolution was immediately introduced 
authorizing the governor to raise a company of riflemen, 
not to exceed fifty in number, to occupy and hold the 
mission station at the Dalles, until a larger force could be 
raised, and such measures adopted as the government 
might think advisable. This resolution being sent to the 
governor without delay, received his approval, when the 
House adjourned. 

A large meeting of the citizens was held that evening, 
which was addressed by several gentlemen, among whom 
was Meek, whose taste for Indian fighting was whetted to 
keenness by the aggravating circumstances of the Waiilat- 
pu massacre, and the fact that his little Helen Mar was 
among the captives. Impatient as was Meek to avenge 
the murders, he was too good a mountain-man to give any 
rash advice. All that could be done under the existing 
circumstances was to trust to the Hudson's Bay Company 
for the rescue of the prisoners, and to take such means for 
defending the settlements as the people in their unarmed 
condition could devise. 

The legislature undertook the settlement of the ques- 
tion of ways and means. To raise money for the carrying 




out ol' the most important measures immediately, was a 
task which after some consideration was entrusted to three 
commissioners ; and by these commissioners letters were 
addressed to the Hudson's Bay Company, the superintend- 
ent of the Methodist mission, and to the " merchants and 
citizens of Oregon." The latter communication is valua- 
ble as fully explaining the position of adUirs at that time 

in Oregon. 

It is dated Dec. 17th, and was as follows: 


':■ ■ i. 

Gkntlkmen : — You are aware that the undersigned have been charrred by 
the legislature of our provisional government with the didieult duty of o])tain- 
ing the necessary means to arm, equip, and supjjort in the field a force sufficient 
to obtain full satisfaction of the Cayuse Indians, fur the late massacre at Waiilat- 
pu, and to protect the white population of our common country from further 


In furtherance of this object they have deemed it their duty to make imme- 
diate application to the merchants and citizens of the country for the requisite 

Though clothed with the power to pledge, to the fullest extent, the faith and 
means of the present government of Oregon, they do not consider this pledge 
the only security to those who, in this distressing emergency, may extend to the 
people of this country the means of protection and redress. 

Without claiming any special authority from the government of the United 
States to contract a debt to be licjuiduted by that power, yet, from all prece- 
dents of like character in the history of our country, the undersigned feel con- 
fident that the United Sta+es government will regard the murder of the late 
Dr. Whitman and his lady, as a national wrong, and will fully justify the peo- 
ple of Oregon in taking active measures to obtain redress for that outrage, and 
for their protection from further aggression. 

The right of self-defence is tacitly acknowledged to every body politic in the 
confederacy to which we claim to belong, and in every case similar to our own, 
within our knowledge, the general government has promptly assumed the pay- 
ment of all liabilities groAving out of the measures taken by the constituted 
authorities, to protect the lives and property of those who reside within the 
limits of their districts. 

If the citizens of the States and territories, east of the Rocky mountains, 
are justified in promptly acting in such emergencies, who are under the 
immediate protection of the general government, there appears no room for 
doubt that the lawful acts of the Oregon government will receive a like ap- 

Though the Indians of the Columbia have committed a great outrage upon 
our fellow citizens passing through their country, and residing among them, 

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and their punifshment for these nmnU^rs may, and ought to be, a prime object 
■with every citizen of Oregon, yet, as that duty more particularly devolves upon 
the government of the United States, and admits of delay, we do not make 
this the strongest ground upon which to found our earnest appeal to you for 
pecuniary assistance. It is a fact well known to every person acquainted with 
the Indian character, that, by passing silently over their repeated thefts, rob- 
beries, and murders of our fellow-citizens, they have been emboldened to the 
c'omnussion of the apjialling massacre at Waiilatpu. They call us women, 
destitute of the hearts and courage of men, and if we allow this wholesale mur- 
der to pass by as former aggressions, who can tell how long either life or prop- 
erty will be secure in any part of this country, or what moment the Willamette 
will be the scene of blood and carnage. 

The officers of our provisional govcnment have nobly performed their duty. 
None can doubt the readiness of the patriotic sons of the west to offer their 
personal services in defence of a cause so righteous. So it now rests with you, 
gentlemen,. to say whether our rights and our fire-sides shall be defended, or 

Hoping that none will be found to falter in so high and so sacred a duty, vre 
beg leave, gentlemen, to subscribe ourselves, 

Your servants and fellow-citizens, 

Jesse Applegate, 
A. L. LovEjoY, 
Geo. L. Curry, 


A similar letter had been addressed to the Hudson's 
Bay Company, and to the Methodist mission. From each 
of these sources such assistance was obtained as enable(^ 
the colony to arm and equip the first regiment of Oregon 
riflemen, which in the month of January proceeded to the 
Cayuse country. The amount raised, however, was very 
small, being less than five thousand dollars, and it became 
imperatively necessary that the government of the United 
States should be called upon to extend its aid and protec- 
tion to the loyal but distressed young territory. 

In view of this necessity it was resolved in the leg« 
islature to send a messenger to carry the intelligence 
^of the massacre to Gov. Mason of California, and through 
him to the commander of the United States squadron 
in the Pacific, that a vessel of war might be sent into 


the Columbia River, and arms and ammunition borrowed 
{'or the present emergency, from the nearest arsenal. 
For this duty was chosen Jesse Applegate, Esq., a gentle- 
man who combined in his character and person the ability 
of the statesman with the sagacity and strength of the 
pioneer. Mr. Applegate, with a small party of brave 
jnen, set out in midwinter to cross the moantuins into Cal- 
ifornia, but such w:is the depth of snow they encountered 
that traveling beciuio impossible, even after abandoning 
their horses, and they were conijx'llcd to return. 

The messenger elected to proceed to the United States 
was Joseph L. Meek, whose Rocky Mountain experiences 
eminently fitted him to encouiitci* the dangers of such a 
winter journey, and whoso manliness, firmness, and ready 
wit stood him instead of statesmanship. 

On the 17th December Meek resigned his seat in the 
House in order to prepare for the discharge of his duty as 
messenger to the United States. On the 4th of January, 
armed with his credentials fi'om the Oregon legislature, 
and bearing dispatches from that body and the Governor 
to the President, he at length set out on the long and per- 
ilous expedition, having for traveling companions Mr. 
John Owens, and Mr. George Ebbarts — the latter having 
formerly been a Rocky Mountain man, like himself. 

At the Dalles they found the first regiment of Oregon 
Riflemen, under Major Lee, of the newly created army of 
Oregon. From the reports which the Dalles Indians 
brought in of the hostility of the Indians beyond the Des 
Chutes River it was thought best not to proceed before 
the arrival of the remainder of the army, when all the 
forces would proceed at once to Waiilatpu. Owing to 
various delays, the army, consisting of about five hundred 
men, under Colonel Gilliam, did not reach the Dalles until 
late in January, when the troops proceeded at once to the 
seat of war. 






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The reports concoriiing the warlike disposition of the 
Indiiuis proved to be correct. Ah*eudy, tlie Wascopams 
or Dalles Indians had begnn robbing the mission at tliat 
place, when Colonel Lee's arrival among them with troops 
had compelled them to return the stolen property. As 
the army advanced they found that all the tribes above 
the Dalles were holding themsc^lves prepared for hostilities. 
At Well Springs, beyond the Des Chutes River, they were 
met by a body of about six hundred Indians to whom they 
gave battle, soon dispersing them, the superior arms and 
equipments of the whites tending to render timid those 
tribes yet unaccustomed to so superior an enemy. From 
thence to Waiilatpu the course of the army was unob- 

In the meantime the captives had been given up to the 
Hudson's Bay Company, and full particulars of the massa- 
cre were obtained b} the army, with all the subsequent 
abuses and atrocities suffered by the prisoners. The hor- 
rible details were not calculated to soften the first bitterness 
of hatred which, had animated the volunteers on going 
into the field. Nor was the appearance of an armed force 
in their midst likely to allay the hostile feelings with 
which other causes had inspired the Indians. Had not the 
captives already been removed out of the country, no 
influence, not even that of the Hudson's Bay Company, 
could have prevailed to get them out of the power of their 
captors then. Indeed, in order to treat with the Cayuses 
in the first place, Mr. Ogden had been obliged to promise 
peace to the Indians, and now they found instead of peace, 
every preparation for war. However, as the army took 
no immediate action, but only remained in their country to 
await the appearance of the commissioners appointed by 
the legislature of Oregon to hold a council with the chiefs 
of the various tribes, the Cayuses were forced to observe 

mi:i:k ErtcoiriEi) to tiik hluk mountains. 


llio outward seiiihljuico of amity whilo IIkjso councils were 

Arrived at Waiilatpu, tlu? friends find ac([uaintaiiccs ol" 
l)i'. Whitiuau \v<'re sliockcd to find that tlio roniains of tin* 
victims were still unhiiricd, although a little earth had 
been thrown over them. Meek, to whom, ever since his 
jne(!ting with her in the train of the fur-trader, Mrs. vVliit- 
iiian had seemed all that was nohle and captivating, had 
the melancholy satisfaction of bestowing, with others, the 
last sad rite of burifil upon such portions of her once fair 
person as murder and the wolves had not destroyed. Some 
tresses of gohlen hair were severed from the brow so ter- 
ribly disfigured, to be given to her friends in the Walla- 
met as a last and only memorial. Among the State docu- 
ments at Salem, Oregon, may still be seen one of these 
relics of the Waiilatpu tragedy. 

Not only had Meek to discover and inter the remains of 
Dr. and Mrs. Whitman, but also of his little girl, who was 
being educated at the mission, with a daughter of his 
former leader, Bridger. 

This sad duty performed, he immediately set out, escorted 
by a company of one hundred men under Adjutant Wil- 
cox, who accompanied him as far as the foot of the Blue 
Mountains. Here the companies separated, and Meek 
went on his way to Washington. 





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UL#L.^.i.:( ,^ 

1848. Mbek's party now consisted of himself, Ebbarts, 
Owens, and four men, who being desirous of returning to 
the States took this opportunity. However, as the snow 
proved to be very deep on the Blue Mountains, and the 
cold severe, two of these four volunteers became discour- 
aged and concluded to remain at Fort Boise, where was a 
small trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company. 

In order to avoid trouble with the Indians he might 
meet on the western side of the Rocky mountains. Meek 
had adopted the red belt and Canadian cap of the employees 
of the Hudson's Bay Company ; and to this precaution 
was owing the fact of his safe passage through the coun- 
try now all infected with hostility caught from the Cayuses. 
About three days' travel beyond Fort Boise, the party 
met a village of Bannack Indians, who at once made war- 
like demonstrations ; but on seeing Meek's costume, and 
receiving an invitation to hold a ' talk', desisted, and re- 
ceived the travelers in a friendly manner. Meek informed 
the chief, with all the gravity which had won for him the 
name of ^'■sJiiam shuspima'''' among the Crows in former 
years, that he was going on the business of the Hudson's 
Bay Company to Fort Hall ; and that Thomas McKay was 
a day's march behind with a large trading party, and 
plenty of goods. On the rec jipt of this good news, the 
chief ordered his braves to fp back, and permit the party 
to pass. Yet, fearing the deception might be discovered, 



they tliouglit it prudent to travel day aud night until they 
reached Fort Hall. 

At this post of the Hudson's Bay Company, in cliargo 
of Mr. Grant, they were kindly received, and stopped for 
a few hours of rest. Mr. Grant being absent, his wife pro- 
vided liberally for the refreshment of the party, who were 
glad to find themselves even for a short interval under a 
roof, beside a fire and partaking of freshly C(joked food. 
But they permitted themselves no unnecessary delay. Be- 
fore night they were once more on their way, though 
snow had now commenced to fidl afresh, rendering the 
traveling very difficult. For two days they struggled on, 
their horses floundering in the soft drifts, until further 
progress in that manner became impossible. The only al- 
ternative left was to abandon their horses and proceed on 
snow-shoes, which were readily constructed out of willow 

Taking only a blanket and their rifles, and leaving the 
animals to find their way back to Fort Hall, the little party 
pushed on. Meek was now on familiar ground, and the 
old mountain spirit which had once enabled him to endifre 
hunger, cold, and fatigue without murmuring, possessed 
him now. It was not without a certain sense of enjoy- 
ment that he found himself reduced to the necessity of 
shooting a couple of pole-cats to furnish a supper for him- 
self and party. How long the enjoyment of feeling want 
would have lasted is uncertain, but probably only long 
enough to whet the appetite for plenty. 

To such a point had the appetites of all the party been 
whetted, when, aft^r several days of i.carcity and toil, fol- 
lowed by nights of emptiness and cold. Meek had the 
agreeable surprise of falling in with an old mountain com- 
rade on the identical ground of many a former adventure, 
the head-waters of Bear River. This man, whom Meek 





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was delighted to meet, was Peg-leg Smith, one of the 
most famous of many well-known mountjiin-men. He 
was engaged in herding cattle in the valley of Thomas' 
Fork, where the tall grass was not quite buried under 
snow, and had with him a party of ten men. 

Meek was as cordially received by his former comrade 
as the unbounded hospitality of mountain manners ren- 
dered it certain he would be. A fat cow was immediately 
sacrificed, which, though not buffalo meat, as in former 
times it would have been, was very good beef, and fur- 
nished a luxurious repast to the pole-cat eaters of the 
last several days. Smith's camp did not lack the domes- 
tic element of women and chidren, any more than had 
the trapper's camps in the flush times of the fur-trade. 
Therefore, seeing that the meeting was most joyful, and 
full of reminiscences of former winter camps, Smith 
thought to celebrate the occasion by a grand entertain- 
ment. Accordingly, after a great deal of roast beef had 
been disposed of, a dance was called for, in which white 
men and Indian women joined with far more mirth and 
jollity than grace or ceremony. Thus passed some hours 
of the night, the bearer of dispatches seizing, in true 
mountain style, the passing moment's pleasure, so long as 
it did not interfere with the punctilious discharge of his 
duty. And to the honor of our hero be it said, nothing 
was ever allowed to interfere with that. 

Refreshed and provided with rations for a couple of 
days, the party started on again next morning, still on 
snow-shoes, and traveled up Bear River to the head- waters 
of Green River, crossing from the Muddy fork over to 
Fort Bridger, where they arrived very much fatigued but 
quite well in little more than three days' travel. Here 
again it was Meek's good fortune to meet with his former 
leader, Bridger, to whom he related what had befallen 




liiiii since turning pioneer. Tlie meeting was joyful on 
both sides, clouded only by the renieniljriinee of what had 
brought it about, and the reilection that both had a per- 
sonal wrong to avenge in bringing about the punishment 
of the Cayuse murderers. 

Once more ^leek's party were generously fed, and fur- 
nished with such provisions as they could carry about 
their persons. In addition to this, Bridger presented 
them with four good mules, by which means the travelers 
were mounted four at a time, while the lifth took exercise 
on foot ; so that by riding or Avalking, turn about, they 
were enabled to get on very well as far as the South Pass. 
Here again for some distance the snow was very deep, 
and two of their mules were lost in it. Their v^ourse lay 
down the Sweetwater River, past many familiar hunting 
and camping grounds, to the Platte River. Owing to the 
deep snows, game was very scarce, and a long day of toil 
was frequently closed by a supperless sleep under shelter 
of some rock or bank, with only a blanket for cover. At 
Red Buttes they were so fortunate as to find and kill a 
single buffalo, which, separated from the distant herd, was 
left by Providence in the path of the famished travelers. 

On reaching the Platte River they found the traveling 
improved, as well as the supply of game, and proceeded 
with less difficulty as far as Fort Laramie, a trading post 
ill charge of a French trader named Papillion. Here 
again fresh mules were obtained, and the little party 
treated in the most hospitable manner. In parting from 
his entertainer. Meek was favored with this brief counsel : 

" There is a village of Sioux, of about six hundred 
lodges, a hundred miles from here. Your course will 
bring you to it. Look out for yourself, and don't make 
a Gray muss of it!" — which latter clause referred to the 

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affair of 1837, when the Sioux had killed the Indian es- 
cort of Mr. Gray. 

When the party arrived at Ash Hollow, which they 
meant to have passed in the night, on account of the 
Sioux village, the snow was again falling so thickly that 
the party had not perceived their nearness to the village 
until they were fairly in the midst of it. It was now no 
safer to retreat than to proceed ; and after a moment's 
consultation, the word was given to keep on. In truth, 
Meek thought it doubtful whether the Sioux would trouble 
themselves to come out in such a tempest, and if they did 
so, that the blinding snow-fall was rather in his favor. 
Thus reasoning, he was forcing his mule through the 
drifts as rapidly as the poor worried animal could make 
its way, when a head was protruded from a lodge door, 
and "Hallo, Major!" greeted his ear in an accent not 
altogether English. 

On being thus accosted, the party came to a halt, and 
Meek was invited to enter the lodge, with his friends. 
His host on this occasion was a French trader named Le 
Bean, who, after offering the hospitalities of the lodge, 
and learning who were his guests, offered to accompany 
the party a few miles on its way. This he did, saying by 
way of explanation of this act of courtesy, " The Sioux 
are a bad people ; I thought it best to see yen safe out 
of the village." Receiving the thanks of the travelers, 
he turned back at night-fall, and they continued on all 
night without stopping to camp, going some distance to 
the south of their course before turning east again, in 
order to avoid any possible pursuers. 

Without further adventures, and by dint of almost con- 
stant travel, the party arrived at St. Joseph, Mo., in 
safety, in a little over two months, from Portland, Oregon. 
Soon afterwards, when the circumstances of this jourue}/ 



became known, a steamboat built for the Missouri River 
trade was christened tlie Joseph L. Meek., and bore for a 
motto, on her pilot-house, '' The quickest trip yet," in 
reference both to Meek's overland journey and her own 
steaming qualities. 

As Meek approached the settlements, and knew that he 
must soon be thrown into society of the highest official 
f^rade, and be subjected to such ordeals as he dreaded far 
more than Indian fighting, or even traveling express 
across a continent of snow, the subject of how he was to 
behave in these new and trying positions very frequently 
occurred to him. He, an uneducated man, trained to 
mountain life and manners, without money, or even 
clothes, with nothing to depend on but the importance of 
his mission and his own mother wit, he felt far more 
keenly than his careless appearance would suggest, the 
difficulties and awkwardness of his position. 

"I thought a great deal about it," confesses the Col. 
Joseph L. Meek of to-day, " and I finally concluded that 
as I had never tried to act like anybody but myself, I 
Avould not make myself a fool by beginning to ape other 
folks now. So I said, ' Joe Meek you al- ys have been, 
and Joe Meek you shall remain ; go ahead, Joe Meek !' " 

In fact, it would have been rather difficult putting on 
fine gentleman airs, in that old worn-out hunting suit of 
his, and with not a dollar to bless himself. On the con- 
trary, it needed just the devil-may-care temper which 
naturally belonged to our hero, to carry him through the 
remainder of his journey to Washington. To be hungry, 
ill-clad, dirty, and penniless, is sufficient in itself for the 
subduing of most spirits ; how it affected the temper of 
the messenger from Oregon we shall now learn. 

When the weary little party arrived in St. Joseph, they 
repaired to a hotel, and Meek requested that a menj 











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l{ECi:;i'TION AT ST. .lOSKI'U. 

should be served for all, but frankly confessing that they 
had no money tt) pay. The landlord, however, decliiKMl 
furnisliing guests of his style ui)on such terms, and oin- 
travelers were forced to go into camp below the town. 
Meek now bethouglit himself of his letters of introduc- 
tion. It clianced that he had one from two young men 
among the Oregon volunteers, to their father in St. Jo- 
seph. Stopping a negro who was passing his camp, he 
inquired whether such a gentleman was known to him ; 
and on learning that he was, succeeded in inducing the 
negro to deliver the letter from his sons. 

This movement proved successful. In a short space of 
time the gentleman presented himself, and learning the 
situation of the party, provided generously for their pres- 
ent wants, and promised any assistance which might be 
required in future. Meek, however, chose to accept only 
that which was imperatively needed, namely, something 
to eat, and transportation to some point on the river 
where he could take a steamer for St. Louis. A portion 
of his party chose to remain in St. Joseph, and a portion 
accompanied him as far as Independence, whither this 
same St. Joseph gentleman conveyed them in his carriage. 

While Meek was stopping at Independence, he was 
recognized by a sister, whom he had not seen for nineteen 
years ; who, marrying and emigrating from Virginia, had 
settled on the frontier of Missouri. But he gave himself 
no time for family reunion and gossip. A steamboat that 
had been fro/xT up in the ice all winter, was just about 
starting for St. Louis, and on board of this he went, with 
an introduction to the captain, which secured for him 
every privilege the boat afforded, together with the kind- 
est attention of its officers. 

When the steamer arrived in St. Louis, by one of those 
fortuitous circumstances so common in our hero's career, 



ho was mot at tho lan(liii<jf l)y Cainplx'll, a Rocky Moiiii- 
tiiiii trador wlio liiid i'oi'iiiorly holoii^cd to tho St. Louis 
Coiiii)any. This meeting roliovod him ol' any caro about 
his uight's entertain luout in St. Ii(mi;5, and it also had an- 
other oflcct — that of relieving hiiu of any further care 
about the remainder of his journey ; for, nflcr hearing 
Mcek's story of the positiou of all'airs in Oregon iind his 
errand to the United States, Campbell had given tho 
same to tho nowspajjer re[)i)i-ters, and Meek, like Byrou, 
vvaked up next morning to find himself famous. 

Having telegraphed to Washington, and received tho 
President's order to come on, the previous evening, our 
hero wended his way to the levee the morning after his 


arrival in St. Louis. There werr , \> o steamers lying side 
by side, both up for Pittsburg, with runners for each, 

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striving to outdo each other in securing passengers. A 
bright thought occurred to the moneyless envoy — he 
would earn his passage ! 

Walking on board one of the boats, which bore the 
name of The Dedaratian^ himself a figure which attracted 
all eyes by his size and outlandish dress, he mounted to 
the hurricane deck and began to harrangue the crowd 
upon the levee, in the voice of a Stentor : 

'' This way, gentlemen, if you please. Come right on 
board the Declaration. 1 am the man from Oregon, with 
dispatches to the President of these United States, that 
you all read about in this morning's paper. Come on 
board, ladies and gentlemen, if you want to hear the news 
from Oregon. I've just come across the plains, two 
months from the Columbia River, where the Injuns are 
killing your missionai'ies. Those passengers who come 
aboard the Declaratw7i shall hear all about it before they 
get to Pittsburg. Don't stop thar, looking at my old 
wolf-skin cap, but just come aboard, and hear what I've 
got to tell!" 

The novelty of this sort of solicitation operated cap- 
itally. Many persons crowded on board the Declaration 
only to get a closer look at this picturesque personage 
who invited them, and many more because they were re- 
ally interested to know the news from the far off young 
territory which had fallen into trouble. So it chanced 
that the Declaration was inconveniently crowded on this 
particular morning. 

After the boat had got under way, the captain {ip- 
proached his roughest looking cabin passenger and in- 
quired in a low tone of voice if he were really and truly 
the messenger from Oregon. 

" Thar's what I've got to show for it ;" answered Meek, 
producing his papers. 

w ■' 



'' Well, all I have to say is, Mr. Meek, that you are the 
best runner this boat ever hud; and you are welcome to 
your passage ticket, and anytliing you desire besides." 

Finding that his bright thought had succeeded so well, 
Meek's spirit rose with the occasion, and the passengers 
had no reason to complain that he had not kept his word. 
Before he reached Wheeling his popularity was immense, 
notwithstanding the condition of his wardrobe. At Cin- 
cinnati he had time to present a letteJr to the celebrated 

Doctor , who gave him another, which proved to be 

an ' open sesame ' wherever he went thereafter. 

On the morning of his arrival in Wheeling it happened 
that the stage which then carried passengers to Cumber- 
land, where they took the train for Washington, had al- 
ready departed. Elated by his previous good fortune our 
ragged hero resolved not to be delayed by so trivial a 
circumstance ; but walking pompously into the stage office 
inquired, w^ ith an air which laust have smacked strongly 
of the mock-heroic, if he '' could have a stage for Cum- 
berland ?" 

The nicely dressed, dignified elderly gentleman who 
managed the business of the office, regarded the man who 
proffi^red this modest request for a moment in motionless 
silence, then slowly raising the spectacles over his eyes to 
a position on his forehead, finished his survey with unas- 
sisted vision. Somewhat impressed by the manner in 
which Meek bore this scrutiny, he ended by demanding 
*' who are you ?" 

Tickled by the absurdity of the tableau they were en- 
acting. Meek straightened himself up to his six feet two, 
and replied with an air of superb self assurance — 

"■ I am Envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotenti- 
ary from the Republic of Oregon to the Court of the 
United States!" 

' ■ 



r- . •] 


'i i: 








After a pause in wliicli the old gentleman seemed to be 
reeoverirg from some great surprise, lie requested to see 
the eredentials of this extraordinary envoy. Still more 
surprised he seemed on discovering for himself that the 
personage before him was really a messenger from Oregon 
to the government of the United States. But the effect 
was magical. In a moment the bell- rope was pulled, and 
in an incredibly short space of time a coach stood at the 
door ready to convey the waiting messenger on his way 
to Washington. 

In the meantime in a con\ ersation with the stage agent, 
Meek had exj^'ained more fully the circumstances of his 
mission, and the agent had become much interested. On 
parting. Meek received a ticket to the Relay House, with 
many expressions of regret from the agent that he could 
ticket him no farther. 

" But it is all the same," said he ; " you are sure to go 

" Or run a train off the track," rejoined Meek, as he 
was bowed out of the office. 

It happened that there were some other passengers 
waiting to take the first stage, and they crowded into this 
one, glad of the unexpected opportunity, but wondering 
at the queer looking passenger to whom the agent was so 
polite. This scarcely concealed curiosity was all that was 
needed to stimulate the mad-cap spirits of our sc far " con- 
quering hero." Putting his head out of the window just 
at the TT-oment of starting, he electrified everybody, 
horses included, by the utterance of a war-whoop and yell 
that would have done credit to a wild Camanche. Satis- 
fied with the speed to which this demoniac noise had ex- 
cited the driver's prancing steeds, he quietly ensconced 
himself in his corner of the coach and waited for his fel- 
low passengers to recover from their stunned sensations. 



Wlicn their complete recovery had been cficcted, tliero 
followed the usual questioning and explanations, which 
ended in the inevitable lionizing that was so much to the 
taste of this sensational individual. 

On the ears at Cumberland, and at the cating-liouses, 
the messenger from Oregon kept up his sensational char- 
acter, indulging in alternate fits of mountain manners, and 
again assuming a disproportionate amount of grandeur ; 
but in either view proving himself very amusing. By the 
time the train reached the Relay House, many of the pas- 
sengers had become acquainted with Meek, and were pie- 
pared to urderstand and enjoy each new phase of his 
many-sided comicality. 

The ticket with which the stage agent presented him, 
dead-headed him only to this point. Here again he must 
make his poverty a jest, and joke himself through to 
Washington. Accordingly when the conductor came 
through the car in which he, with several of his new 
acquaintances were sitting, demanding tickets, he was 
obliged to tap his blanketed passenger on the shoulder 
to attract his attention to the "ticket, sir !" 

^^ Ha ho any me ca^ lianchf^ said Meek, starting up 
and addressing him in the Snake tongue. 

"Ticket, sir!" repeated the conductor, staring. 

" Ka hum pa^ hanch f returned Meek, assuming a look 
which indicated that English was as puzzling to him, as 
Snake to other people. 

Finding that his time would be wasted on this singular 
passenger, the conductor went on through the train ; re- 
turning after a time with a fresh demand for his ticket. 
But Meek sustained his character admirably, and it was 
only through the excessive amusement of the passengers 
that the conductor suspected that he w as being made the 
.subject of a practical joke. At this stage of affairs it was 

••■ . . V 




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privately explained to him who and what his waggish cus- 
tomer was, and tickets were no more mentioned during 
the journey. 

On the arrival of the train at Washington, the heart of 
our hero became for a brief moment of time "very little." 
He felt that the importance of his mission demanded some 
dignity of appearance — some conformity to established 
rules and precedents. But of the latter he knew abso- 
lutely nothing ; and concerning the former, he realized 
the absurdity of a dignitary clothed in blankets and a 
wolf-skin cap. ' Joe Meek I must remain,' said he to him- 
self, as he- stepped out of the train, and glanced along the 
platform at the crowd of porters with the names of their 
hotels on their hat-bands. Learning from inquiry that 
Coleman's was the most fashionable place, he decided that 
to Coleman's he would go, judging correctly that it was 
best to show no littleness of heart even in the matter of 


ij"' Ji; " 

■V It 

.«.-,— • 


1848. When Meek arrived at Coleman's it was the 
dinner hour, and following the crowd to the dining saloon, 
he took the first seat he came to, not without being very 
much stared at. He had taken his cue and the staring 
was not unexpected, consequently not so embarrassing as 
it might otherwise have been. A bill of fare was laid be- 
side his plate. Turning to the colored waiter who placed 
it there, he startled him first by inquiring in a low growl- 
ing voice — 

" What's that boy ?" 
"Bill of fare, sah," replied the "boy," who recognized 
the Southerner in the use of that one word. 

"Read!" growled Meek again. "The people in my 
country can't read." 

Though taken by surprise, the waiter, politely obedient, 
proceeded to enumerate the courses on the bill of fare. 
When he came to game 

" Stop thar, boy !" commanded Meek, "what kind of 
game ?" 

"Small game, sah." 

" Fetch me a piece of antelope," leaning back in his 
chair with a look of satisfaction on his face. 

" Got none of that sah ; don't know what that ar' sah." 

" Don't know !" with a look of pretended surprise. "In 
my country antelope and deer ar' small game; bear and 
buffalo ar' large game. I reckon if you haven't got one. 


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you havn't got the other, either. In that case you may 
fetch me some beef." 

The waiter disappeared grinning, and soon returned with 
the customary thin and small cut, which Meek eyed at first 
contemptuously, and then accepting it in the light of a 
sample swallowed it at two mouthfuls, retur'iing his plate 
to the waiter with an approving smile, and saying loud 
enough to be overheard by a score of people 

" Boy, that will do. Fetch me about four pounds of the 
same kind." 

By this time the blanketed beef-eater was the recipient 
of general attention, and the "boy" who served him com- 
prehending with that quickness which distinguishes ser- 
vants, that he had no ordinary backwoodsman to deal with, 
was all the time on the alert to make himself useful. Peo- 
ple stared, then smiled, then asked each other " who is it?" 
loud enough for the stranger to hear. Meek locked nei- 
ther to the right nor to the left, pretending not to hear 
the whispering. When he had finished his beef, he again 
addressed himself to the attentive "boy." 

" That's better meat than the old mule I eat in the moun- 

Upon this remark the whispering became more general, 
and louder, and smiles more frequent. 

" What have you got to drink, boy ?" continued Meek, 
still unconscious. " Isil't there a sort of wine called — 
some kind of jjam ?" 

" Champagne, sah ?" 

" That's the stuff, I reckon; bring me some." 

While Meek drank his champagne, with an occasional 
aside to his faithful attendant, people laughed and won- 
dered " who the devil it was." At length, having finished 
his wine, and overhearing many open inquiries as to his 
identity, the hero of many bear-fights slowly arose, and 



addressing the company through the before-mentioned 
" boy," said : 

" You want to know who I am ?" 

" If you please, sah; yes, if you please, vih, for the 
sake of these gentlemen present," replied the "boy," an- 
swering for the company. 

"Wall then," proclaimed Meek with a grandiloquent 
air quite at variance with his blanket coat and unkempt 
hair, yet which displayed his fine person to advantage, "I 
am Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from 
the Republic of Oregon to the Court of the United 

With that he turned and strode from the room. He 
had not proceeded far, however, before he was overtaken 
by a party of gentlemen in pursuit. Senator Underwood 
of Kentucky immediately introduced himself, calling the 
envoy by name, for the dispatch from St. Louis had pre- 
pared the President and the Senate for Meek's appearance 
in Washington, though it had not advised them of his 
style of dress and address. Other gentlemen were intro- 
duced, and questions followed questions in rapid succes- 

When curiosity was somewhat abated, Meek expressed 
a wish to see the President without delay. To Under- 
wood's question as to whether he did not wisli to make his 
toilet before visiting the White House, his reply was, 
"business first, and toilet afterwards." 

"But," said Underwood, "even your business can wait 
long enough for that." 

" No, that's your mistake, Senator, and I'll tell you why: 
I can't dress, for two reasons, both good ones. I've not 
got a cent of money, nor a second suit of clothes." 

The generous Kentuckian offered to remove the first of 



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the objections on the spot, but Meek declined. 'TU see 
the President first, and hear what he has to say about my 
mission." Then calling a coach from the stand, he sprang 
into it, answering the driver's question of where he would 
be taken, with another inquiry. 

" Whar should a man of 7ny style want to go ? — to the 
White House, of course !" and so was driven away amid 
the general laughter of the gentlemen in the portico at 
Coleman's, who had rather doubted his intention to pay 
his respects to the President in his dirty blankets. 

He was admitted to the Presidential mansion by a mu- 
latto of about his own age, with whom he remembered 
playing when a lad, for it must be remembered that the 
Meeks and Polks were related, and this servant had grown 
up in the family. On inquiring if he could see the Presi- 
dent, he was directed to the office of the private Secretary, 
Knox Walker, also g, relative of Meek's on the mother's 

On entering he found the room filled with gentlemen 
waiting to see the President, each when his turn to be ad- 
mitted should arrive. The Secretary sat reading a paper, 
over the top of which he glanced but once at the new 
comer, to ask him to be seated. But Meek was not in the 
humor for sitting. He had not traveled express for more 
than two months, in storm and cold, on foot and on horse- 
back, by day and by night, with or without food, as it 
chanced, to sit down quietly now and wait. So he took a 
few turns up and down the room, and seeing that the 
Secretary glanced at him a little curiously, stopped and 
said : 

" I should like to see the President immediately. Just 
tell him if you please that there is a gentleman from Ore- 
gon waiting to see him on very important business." 




At tlie word Oregon, the Secretary sprang up, dashed 
liis paper to the ground, and crymg out "Uncle Joe!" 
came forward with both hands extended to greet his long 
lost relative. 

"Take care, Knox! don't come too close," said Meek 
stepping back, "I'm ragged, dirty, and — lousy." 


But Walker seized his cousin's hand, without seeming 
fear of the consequences, and for a few moments there 
was an animated exchange of questions and answers, which 
Meek at last interrupted to repeat his request to be admit- 
ted to the President without delay. Several times the Sec- 
retary turned to leave the room, but as often came back 
with some fresh inquiry, until Meek fairly refused to say 
another word, until he had delivered his dispatches. 

When once the Secretary got away he soon returned 
with a request from the President for the appearance of 
the Oregon messenger, all other visitors being dismissed 
for that day. Polk's reception proved as cordial as Walk- 


1 1 


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er's had been. He seized the hand of his newly found 
relative, and welcomed him in his own name, as well us 
that of messenger from the distant, much loved, and loii^- 
neglected Oregon. The interview lasted for a couple of 
hours. Oregon affairs and faniil}- affairs were talked over 
together; the President promising to do all for Oregon 
that he could do ; at the same time he bade Meek make 
himself at home in the Presidential mansion, with true 
southern hospitality. 

But Meek, although he had carried off his poverty and 
all his d'cficiencies in so brave a style hitherto, felt his a: - 
surance leaving him, when, his errand performed, he stood, 
in the presence of rank and elegance, a mere mountain- 
man in ragged blankets, whose only wealth consisted of 
an order for five hundred dollars on the IMethodist mission 
in New York, unavailable for present emergencies. And 
so he declined the hospitalities of the White House, say- 
ing he " could make himself at home in an Indian wigwam 
in Oregon, or among the Rocky Mountains, but in the 
residence of the chief magistrate of a great nation, he felt 
out of place, and ill at ease." 

Polk, however, would listen to no refusal, and still fur- 
ther abashed his Oregon cousin by sending for Mrs. Polk 
and Mrs. Walker, to make his acquaintance. Says Meek : 

"When I heard the silks rustling in the passage, I felt 
more frightened than if a hundred Blackfeet had whooped 
in my ear. A mist came over my eyes, and when Mrs. 
Polk spoke to me I couldn't think of anything to say in 

But the ladies were so kind and courteous that he soon 
began to see a little, though not quite plainly while their 
visit lasted. Before the interview with the President and 
his family was ended, the poverty of the Oregon envoy 
became known, which led to the immediate supplying of 




nil his wants. Major Polk was called in and introduced; 
and to him was deputed the business of seeing Meek 
"got up" in a style creditable to himself and his relations. 
Meek avers that when he had gone through the hands of 
the barber and tailor, and surveyed himself in a full length 
mirror, he was at first rather emljarrassod, being under the 
impression that he was being introduced to a fashionable 
and decidedly good-looking gentleman, before whose over, 
powering style he was disposed to shrink, with the old fa- 
miliar feeling of being in blankets. 

But Meek was not the sort of man to be long in getting 
used to a situation however novel or dillicult. In a very- 
short time he was au fait in the customs of the capital. 
His perfect frankness led people to laugh at his errors as 
eccentricities ; his good looks and natural honhomie pro- 
cured him plenty of admirers ; while his position at the 
White House caused him to be envied and lionized at 

On the day following his arrival the President sent in a 
message to Congress accompanied by the memorial from 
the Oregon legislature and other documents appertaining 
to the Oregon cause. Meek was introduced to Benton, 
Oregon's indefatigable friend, and received from him the 
kindest treatment ; also to Dallas, President of the Senate ; 
Douglas, Fremont, Gen. Houston, and all the men who 
had identified themselves with the interests of the West. 

It should be stated that only a short time previous 
to the Waiilatpu massacre a delegate had left Oregon for 
Washington, by ship around Cape Horn, who had been 
accredited by the governor of the colony only, and that 
the legislature had subsequently passed resolutions expres- 
sive of their disapproval of "secret factions," by which 
was meant the mission party, whose delegate Mr. Thorn- 
ton was. 



* '-'t ■ /f * 


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It so happened that, by reason of the commander of the 
Portsinontli liaving assumed it to be a duty to convey Mr. 
Thornton from La Paz, where througli the infidelity of the 
Captain of the Whitfon, he was stranded, he was enabled 
to reach the States early in the Spring, arriving in fact a 
week or two before ^leek reached Washington. Thus 
Oregon had tw(j representatives, although not entitled to 
any : nor had either a right to a seat in either House ; yet 
to one this courtesy was granted, while the two together 
controlled more powerful influences than were ever before 
or since brought to bear on the fate of any single terri- 
tory of the United States. While Mr. Thornton sat among 
Senators as a sort of consulting member or referee, but 
without a vote ; Meek had the private ear of the Presi- 
dent, and mingled freely among members of both Houses, 
in a social character, thereby exercising a more immediate 
influence than his more learned coadjutor. 

In the meantime our hero was making the most of his 
He went to dinners and champagne suppers, 

one of the latter. At the 
presidential levees he made himself agreeable to witty and 
distinguished ladies, answering innumerable questions 
about Oregon and Indians, generally with a veil of reserve 
between himself and the questioner whenever the inqui* 
ries became, as they sometimes would, disagreeably search- 
ing. Again the spirit of ])erversity and mischief led him 
to make his answers so very direct as to startle or bewilder 
the questioner. 

On one occasion a lady with whom he was promenading 
a drawing-room at some Senator's reception, admiring his 
handsome physique perhaps, and wondering if any woman 
owned it, finally ventured the question — was he married ? 

" Yes, indeed," answered Meek, with emphasis, " I have 
a wife and several children.." 


besides giving an occasional 




"Oh dear/' cxcluimcd the lady, " I should think your 
wife would be so al'raid of the Indians!" 

"Afraid of the Indians!" exclaimed Meek in his turn; 
" why, madam, she is an Indian herself!" 

No further remarks on the subject were ventured that 
evening ; and it is doubtful if the lady did not take his 
answer as a rebuke to her curiosity rather than the plain 
truth that it was. 

Meek found his old comrade, Kit Carson, in Washington, 
staying with Fremont at the house of Senator Benton. 
Kit, who had left the mountains as poor as any other of 
the mountain-men, had no resource at that time except 
the pay furnished by Fremont for his services as guide and 
explorer in the California and Oregon expeditions ; where, 
in fact, it was Carson and not Fremont who deserved fame 
as a path-finder. However that may be, Carson had as 
little money as men of his class usually have, and needed 
it as much. So long as Meek's purse was supplied, as it 
generally was, by some member of the family at the White 
House, Carson could borrow from him. But one being 
quite as careless of money as the other, they were some- 
times both out of pocket at the same time. In that case 
the conversation was apt to take a turn like this : 

Carson. Meek, let me have some money, can't you ? 

3IeeJc. I hav 'nt got any money, Kit. 

Carson. Go and get some. 

Meek it, whar am I to get money from? 

Carson. Try the "contingent fund," can't you? 

Truth to tell the contingent fund was made to pay for 
a good many things not properly chargeable to the neces- 
sary expenditures of "Envoy Extraordinary" like our 
friend from Oregon. 

The favoritism with which our hero was everywhere re- 
ceived was something remarkable, even when all the cir- 


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cumstances of his relationship to the chief magistrate, and 
the popularity of the Oregon question were considered. 
Doubtless the novelty of having a bear-fighting and In- 
dian-fighting Rocky Mountain man to lionize, was one 
great secret of the furore which greeted him wherever he 
went ; but even that fails to account fully for the enthu- 
siasm he awakened, since mountain-men had begun to be 
pretty well known and understood, from the journal of 
Fremont and other explorers. It could only have been 
the social genius of the man which enabled him to over- 
come the impediments of lack of education, and the asso- 
ciations of' half a lifetime. But whatever was the fortu- 
nate cause of his success, he enjoyed it to the full. He 
took excursioriS about the country in all directions, 
petted and spoiled like any "curled darling" instead of 
the six-foot-two Rocky Mountain trapper that he was. 

In June he received an invitation to Baltimore, tender- 
ed by the city council, and was received by that body 
with the mayor at its head, in whose carriage he was con- 
veyed to Monument Square, to be welcomed by a thou- 
sand lodies, smiling and showering roses upon him as he 
passed. And kissing the roses because he could not kiss 
the ladies, he bowed and smiled himself past the festive 
groups waiting to receive the messenger from Oregon. 
Music, dining, and the parade usual to such occasions 
distinguished this day, which Meek declares to have been 
the proudest of his life ; not denying that the beauty of 
the Baltimore ladies contributed chiefly to produce that 

On the fourth of July, Polk laid the corner itone of the 
National ^lonument. The occasion was celebrated with 
great eclat^ the address being delivered by Winthrop, the 
military display, and the fire-works in the evening being 
unusually fine. In the procession General Scott and stafl 





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rode on one side of the President's carriage, Col. May and 
Meek on the other, — Meek making a great display of 
horsemanship, in which as a mountain-man he excelled. 

A little later in the summer Meek joined a party of Con- 
gressmen who were making campaign speeches in tlie 
principal cities of the north. At Lowell, Mass., he visited 
the cotton factories, and was equally surprised at the ex- 
tent of the works, and the number of young women em 
ployed in them. Seeing this, the forewoman requested 
him to stop until noon and see the girls come out. As 
they passed in review before him, she asked if he had 
made his choice. 

"No." replied tho gallant Oregonian, " it would be im- 
possible to choose, out of such a lot as that ; I should have 
to take them all." 

If our hero, under all his gaity smothered a sigh of re- 
gret that he was not at liberty to take one — a woman like 
those with whom for the first time in his life he was privi- 
leged to associate — who shall blame him ? The kind of 
life he was living now was something totally different to 
anything in the past. It opened to his comprehension 
delightful possibilities of what might have been done and 
enjoyed under other circumstances, yet which now never 
v'ould be done or enjoyed, until sometimes he was ready 
to fly from all these allurements, and hide himself again 
in the Rocky Mountains. Then agaiu by a desperate effort, 
such thoughts were banished and he rushed more eagerly 
than before into every pleasure afforded by the present 
moment, as if to make the present atone for the past and 
the future. 

The kindness of the ladies at the White House, while it 
was something to be grateful for, as well rs to make him 
envied, often had the effect to disturb his tranquility by 
the suggestions it gave rise to. Yet he was always de- 








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md sometimes as to be overheard by 
) smothered a laugh behind a hat or 

man ding it, always accepting it. So constantly was he 
the attendant of his lady cousins in public and in private, 
riding and driving, or sauntering in the gardens of the 
presidential mansion, that the less favored among their 
acquaintances felt called upon to believe themselves ag- 
grieved. Often, as the tall form of our horo was seen 
with a lady on either arm promenading the gardens at 
evening, the question would pass among the curious but 
uninitiated — ''Who is that?" And the reply of some 

jealous grumbler would be — "It is that Rocky 

Mountain man, 
the careless • trio, 
a fan. 

And so passed that brief summer of our hero's life. A 
great deal of experience, of sight-seeing, and enjoyment 
had been crowded into a short few months of time. He 
had been introduced to and taken by the hand by the 
most celebrated men of the day. Nor had he failed to 
meet with men whom he hud known in the mountains and 
in Oregon. His old employer, Wilkes, who was ill in 
Washington, sent for him to come and tell " some of those 
Oregon lies" for his amusement, and Meek, to humor him, 
stretched some of his good stories to the most wonderful 

But from the very nature of the enjoyment it could not 
last long ; it was too vivid and sensational for constant 
wear. Feeling this, he began to weary of Washington, 
and more particularly since he had for the last few weeks 
been stopping away from the White House. In one of his 
restless moods he paid a visit to Polk, who detecting the 
state of his mind asked laughingly 

"Well, Meek, what do you want now?" 

" I want to be franked." 

" How long will five hundred dollars last you?" 

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*'About as many days as there ar' hundreds, I reckon." 

" You are shockingly extravagant, Meek. Where do 
you think all this money is to come from ?" 

" It is not my business to know, Mr. President," replied 
Meek, laughing, " but it ts the business of these United 
States to pay the expenses of the messenger from Oregon, 

" I think I will send you to the Secretary of War to be 
franked. Meek ; his frank is better than mine. But no, 
stay ; I will speak to Knox about it this time. And you 
must not spend your money so recklessly, Meek ; it will 
not do — it will not do." 

Meek thanked the President both for the money and the 
advice, but gave a champagne supper the next night, and 
in a week's time was as empty-handed as ever. 

The close of the seseion was at hand and nothing had 
been done except to talk. Congress was to adjourn at 
noon on Monday, August 14th, and it was now Saturday 
the 12th. The friends of Oregon we^e anxious; the two 
waiting Oregonians nearly desperate. On this morning 
of the 12th, the friends of the bill, under Benton's lead, de- 
termined upon obtaining a vote on the final passage of the 
bill ; resolving that they would not yield to the usual mo- 
tions for delay and adjournments, but that they would, if 
necessary, sit until twelve o'clock Monday. 

Saturday night wore away; the Sabbath morning's 
sun arose ; and at last, two hours after sunrise, a consul- 
tation was held between Butler, Mason, Calhoun, Davis, 
and Poote, whicli resulted in the announcement that no 
farther opposition would be offered to taking the vote 
upon the final passage of the Oregon biU. The vote 
was then taken, the bill passed, and the weary Senate 
adjourned, to meet again on Monday for a final adjourn- 

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1848-9. The long suspense ended, Meek prepared to 
return to Oregon, if not without some regrets, at the same 
time not unwillingly. His restless temper, and life-long 
habits of unrestrained freedom began to revolt against the 
conventionality of his position in Washington. Besides, 
in appointing officers for the new territory, Polk had made 
Mm United States Marshal, than which no office could 
have suited him better, and he wag as prompt to assume 
the discharge of its duties, as all his life he had been to 
undertake any duty to which his fortunes assigned him. 

On the 20th of August, only six days after the passage 
of the territorial bill, he received his papers from Buchan- 
an, and set off for Bedford Springs, whither the family 
from the White House were flown to escape from the suf- 
focating air of Washington in August. He had brought 
his papers to be signed by Polk, and being expected by 
the President found everything arranged for his speedy 
departure ; Polk even ordering a seat for him in the up- 
coming coach, by telegraph. On learning this from the 
President, at dinner, when the band was playing, Meek 
turned to the leader and ordered him to play " Sweet 
Home," much to the amusement of his lady cousins, who 
had their own views of the sweets of a home in Oregon. 
A hurried farewell, spoken to each of his friends sepa- 
rately, and Oregon's new was ready to proceed 
on his long journey toward the Pacific. 



The occasiou of Polk's haste in the matter of getting 
Meek started, was his anxiety to have the Oregon govern- 
ment become a fact before the expiration of his term of 
office. The appointment of Governor of the new terri- 
tory had been offered to Shields, and declhied. Another . 
commission had been made out, appointing General Jo- 
seph Lane of Indiana, Governor of Oregon, and the com- 
mission was that day signed by the President and given 
to Meek to be delivered to Lane in the shortest possible 
time. His last words to the Marshal on parting were — 
" God bless you, Meek. Tell Lane to have a territorial 
government organized during my administration." 

Of the ten thousand dollars appropriated by Congress 
"to be expended under the direction of the President, in 
payment for services and expenses of such persons as had 
been engaged by the provisional government of Oregon 
in conveying communications to and from the United 
States; and for purchase of presents for such Indian 
tribes as the peace and quiet of the country required" — 
Thornton received two thousand six hundred dollars, 
Meek seven thousand four hundred, and the Indian tribes 
none. Whether the President believed that the peace 
and quiet of the country did not require presents to be 
made to the Indians, or whether family credit required 
that Meek should get the lion's share, is not known. How- 
ever that may be, our hero felt himself to be quite rich, 
and proceeded to get rid of his superfluity, as will hereafter 
be seen, with his customary prodigality and enjoyment of 
the present without regard to the future. 

Before midnight on the day of his arrival at the springs, 
Meek was on his way to Indiana to see General Lane. Ar- 
riving at the Newburg landing one morning at day-break, 
he took horse immediately for the General's residence at 
Newburg, and presented him with his commission soon 




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after breakfast. Lane sat writing, when Meek, introducing 
himself, laid his papers before him. 

" Do jou accept?" asked Meek. 

"Yes," answered Lane. 

"How soon can you be ready to start ?" 

"In fifteen minutes!" answered Lane, with military 

Three days, however, were actually required to make the 
necessary preparations for leaving his farm and proceed- 
ing to the most remote corner of the United States terri- 

At St. Louis they were detained one day, waiting for a 
boat to Leavenworth, where they expected to meet their 
escort. This one day was too precious to be lost in wait- 
ing by so business-like a person as our hero, who, when 
nothing more important was to be done generally was 
found trying to get rid of his money. So, on this occa- 
sion, after having disburdened himself of a small amount 
in treating the new Governor and all his acquaintances, he 
entered into negotiations with a peddler who was impor- 
tuning the passengers to buy everything, from a jack- 
knife to a silk dress. 

Finding that Nat. Lane, the General's son, wanted a 
knife, but was disposed to beat down the price, Meek 
made an offer for the lot of a dozen or two, and thereby 
prevented Lane getting one at any price. Not satisfied 
with this investment, he next made a purchase of three 
whole pieces of silk, at one dollar and fifty cents per yard. 
At this stage of the transaction General Lane interfered 
sufficiently to inquire " what he expected to do with that 

" Can't tell," answered Meek ; " but I reckon it is worth 
the money." 

'• Better sa/e your money," said the more prudent Lane. 



But the incorrigible spendthrift only laughed, and threat- 
ened to buy out the Jew's entire stock, if Lane persisted 
in preaching economy. 

At St. Louis, besides his son Nat., Lane was met by 
Lieut. Hawkins, who was appointed to the command of 
the escort of twenty-five riflemen, and Dr. Ilayden, sur- 
geon of the company. This party proceeded to Leaven- 
worth, the point of starting, where the wagons and men 
of Hawkins' command awaited them. At this place. Meek 
was met by a brother and two sisters who had come to 
look on him for the first time in many years. The two 
days' delay which was necessary to get the train ready for 
a start, aftbrded an opportunity for this family reunion, the 
last that might ever occur between its widely separated 
branches, new shoots from which extend at this day from 
Virginia to Alabama, and from Tennessee to California 
and Oregon. 

By the 10th of September the new government was on 
its way to Oregon in the persons of Lane and Meek. The 
whole company of officers, men, and teamsters, numbered 
about fifty -five ; the wagons ten ; and riding-horses, an 
extra supply for each rider. 

The route taken, with the object to avoid the snows of 
a northern winter, was from Leavenworth to Santa Fe, 
and thence down the Rio Grande to near El Paso ; thence 
northwesterly by Tucson, in Arizona; thence to the 
t*imas village on the Gila River ; following the Gila to its 
junction with the Colorado, thence northwesterly again to 
the Bay of San Pedro in California. From this place the 
company were to proceed by ship to San Francisco ; and 
thence again by ship to the Columbia River. 

On the Santa Fe trail they met the army returning 
from Mexico, under Price, and learned from them that 
they could not proceed with wagrns beyond Santa Fe. 

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The lateness of the season, although it was not attended 
with snow, as on the northern route it would have been, 
subjected the travelers nevertheless to the strong, cold 
winds which blow over the vast extent of open country 
between the Missouri River and the high mountain range 
which forms the water-shed of the continent. It also 
made it more difficult to subsist the animals, especially 
after meeting Price's army, which had already swept the 
country bare. 

On coming near Santa Fe, Meek was riding ahead of 
his party, "when he had a most unexpected encounter. 
Seeing a covered traveling carriage drawn up under the 
shade of some trees growing beside a small stream, not 
far off from the trail, he resolved, with his usual love of 
adventure, to discover for himself the character of the 
proprietor. But as he drew nearer, he discovered no 
one, although a camp-table stood under the trees, spread 
with refreshments, not only of a solid, but a fluid nature. 
The sight of a bottle of cognac induced him to dismount, 
and he was helping himself to a liberal glass, when a 
head was protruded from a covering of blankets inside 
the carriage, and a heavy bass voice was heard in a polite 
protest : 

" Seems to me, stranger, you are making free with my 
property !" 

" Here's to you, sir," rejoined the purloiner ; " it isn't 
often I find as good brandy as that," — holding out the 
glass admiringly, — " but when I do, I make it a point of 
honor not to pass it." 

" May I inquire your name, sir ?" asked the owner of 
the brandy, forced to smile at the goocl-humored audacity 
of his guest. 

" I couldn't refuse to give my name after that," — ^re- 
placing the glass on the table, — "and I now introduce 



myself as Joseph L. Meek, Es(|., ^liirshal of Oregon, on 
my way from \yashington to assist General Lane in estab- 
lishing a territorial Government west of the Iloeky Moun- 

" Meek ! — what, not the Joe Meek I have heard my 
brothers tell so nmch about ?" 

" Joe ^leek is my name ; but whar did your brothers 
know me ?" inquired our hero, mystified in his turn. 

" I think you must have known Captain William Sub- 
lette and his brother Milton, ten or twelve years ago, in 
the Rocky Mountains," said the gentleman, getting out of 
the carriage, and approaching Meek with extended hand. 

A delighted recognition now took place. From Solo- 
mon Sublette, the owner of the carriage and the cognac, 
Meek learned many particulars of the life and death of 
his former leaders in the mountains. Neither of them 
were then living ; but this younger brother, Solomon, 
had inherited Captain Sublette's wife and wealth at the 
same time. After these explanations, Mr. Sublette raised 
the curtains of the carriage again, and assisted to descend 
from it a lady, whom he introduced as his wife, and who 
exhibited much gratification in becoming acquainted with 
the hero of many a tale recited to her by her former hus- 
band, Captain Sublette. 

In the midst of this pleasant exchange of reminiscences, 
the remainder of Meek's party rode up, were introduced, 
and invited to regale themselves on the fir- ^;quors with 
which Mr. Sublette's carriage proved to be well furnished. 
This little adventure gave our hero much pleasure, as 
furnishing a link between the past and present, and bring- 
ing freshly to mind many incidents already beginning to 
fade in his memory. 

At Santa Fe, the train stopped to be overhauled and 
reconstructed. The wagons having to be abandoned, 


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their contents had to be packed on mules, after the man- 
ner of mountain or of Mexican travel and transportation. 
This change accomplished, with as little delay as possible, 
the train proceeded without any other than the usual 
difhculties, as far as Tucson, when two of the twenty-five 
riflemen deserted, having become suddenly enamored of 
liberty, in the dry and dusty region of southern Arizona. 

Lieutenant Hawkins, immediately on discovering the 
desertion, dispatched two men, well armed, to compel 
their return. One of the men detailed for this dutv be- 
longed to the riflemen, but the other was an Americuu, 
who, with a company of Mexican packers, had joined the 
train at Santa Fe, and was acting in the capacity of pilot. 
In order to fit out this volunteer for the service, always 
dangerous, of retaking deserting soldiers. Meek hp ^ent 
him his Colt's revolvers. It was a vain precautior w- 
ever, both the men being killed in attempting to capture 
the deserters ; and Meek's pistols were never more heard 
of, having fallen into the murderous hands of the run- 

Drouth now began to be the serious evil with which 
the travelers had to contend. From the Pimas villages 
westward, it continually grew worse, the animals being 
greatly reduced from the want both of food and water. 
At the crossing of the Colorado, the animals had to be 
crossed over by swimming, the officers and men by rafts 
made of bulrushes. Lane and Meek being the first to be 
ferried over, were landed unexpectedly in the midst of a 
Yuma village. The Indians, however, gave them no 
trouble, and, except the little artifice of drowning some 
of the mules at the crossing, in order to get their flesh to 
eat, committed neither murders nor thefts, nor any out- 
rage whatever. 

It was quite as well for the unlucky mules to be 






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drowned and eaten as it was for their fellows to travel on 
over the arid desert before them until they starved and 
perished, wliich they nearly all did. From the Colorado 
on, the company of Lieut. Hawkins became thoroughly 
demoralized. Not only would the animals persist in 
dying, several in a day, but the soldiers also persisted in 
deserting, until, by the time he reached the coast, his for- 
lorn hope was reduced to three men. But it was not the 
drouth in their case which caused the desertions : it was 
rumors which they heard everywhere along the route, of 
mines of gold and silver, where they flattered themselves 
they could draw better pay than from Uncle Sam's coffers. 

The same difficulty from desertion harassed Lieutenant- 
Colonel Loring in the following summer, when he at- 
tempted to establish a line of posts along the route to 
Oregon, by the way of Forts Kearney, Laramie, and 
tiirough the South Pass to Fort Hall. His mounted rifle 
regiment dwindled down to almost nothing. At one 
time, over one hundred men deserted in a body : and al- 
though he pursued and captured seventy of them, he 
could not kfeep them from deserting again al the first 
favorable moment. The bones of many of those gold- 
seeking soldiers were left on the plains, where wolves had 
stripped the i^esh from them ; and many more finally had 
rude burial at the hands of fellow *old-seekers : but few 
indeed ever won or enjoyed thai for which they risked 

On arriving at Cook's wells, some distance beyond the 
Colorado, our travelers found that the water at this place 
was tainted by the body of a mule which had lost its life 
some days before in endeavoring to get at the water. 
This was a painful discovery for the thirsty party to make. 
However, there being no water for some distance ahead. 
General Lane boiled some of it, and made coffee of it, 






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remarking that "maggots were more easily swallowed 
cooked than raw!" 

And here the writer, and no doubt, the reader too, is 
compelled to make a reflection. Was the ofl&ce of Gover- 
nor of a Territory at fifteen hundred dollars a year, and 
Indian agent at fifteen hundred more, worth a journey of 
over three thousand miles, chiefly by land, even allowing 

that there had been no maggots in the water ? Quien 

Not far from this locality our party came upon one hun- 
dred wagons abandoned by Major Graham, who had not 
been able to cross the desert with them. Proceeding on- 
ward, the riders eventually found themselves on foot, there 
being only a few animals left alive to transport the bag- 
gage that could not be abandoned. So great was their 
extremity, that to quench their thirst the stomach of a 
mule was opened to get at the moisture it contained. In 
the horror and pain of the thirst-fever, Meek renewed 
again the sufferings he had undergone years before in the 
deserts inhabited by Diggers, and on the parched plains 
of the Snake River. 

About the middle of January the Oregon Government, 
which had started cut so gaily from Fort Leavenworth, 
arrived weary, dusty, foot-sore, famished, and suffering, at 
William's Ranch on the Santa Anna River, which empties 
into the Bay of San Pedro. Here they were very kindly 
received, and their wants ministered to. 

At this place Meek developed, in addition to his various 
accomplishments, a talent for speculation. While over- 
hauling his baggage, the knives and the silk which had 
been purchased of the peddler in St. Louis, were brought 
to light. No sooner did the senoritas catch a glimpse of 
the shining fabrics than they went into raptures over them, 
after the fashion of their sex. Seeing the state of mind 



to which these raptures, if unheeded, were likely to re- 
duce the ladies of his house, Mr. Williams approached 
Meek delicately on the subject of purchase. But Meek, 
in the first flush of speculative shrewdness declared that 
as he had bought the goods for his own wife, he could not 
find it in his heart to sell them. 

However, as the senoritas were likely to prove inconsola- 
ble, Mr. Williams again mentioned the desire of his family 
to be clad in silk, and the great difficulty, nay, impossi- 
bility, of obtaining the much coveted fabric in that part 
of the world, and accompanied his remarks with an offer 
of ten dollars a yard for the lot. At this magnificent offer 
our hero aff'xted to be overcome by regard for the feel- 
ings of the senoritas, and consented to sell his dollar and 
a-half silks for ten dollars per yard. 

In the same manner, finding that knives were a desira- 
ble article in that country, very much wanted by miners 
and others, he sold out his dozen or two, for an ounce 
each of gold-dust, netting altogether the convenient little 
profit of about five hundred d lars. When Gen. Lane 
was informed of the transaction, and ti'miiuled of his ob- 
jections to the original purchase, he laui;iied heartily. 

" Well, Meek," said he, " you were drunk when you 

bought them, and by I think you must have beei 

drunk when you sold them; but drunk or sober, I will 
own you can beat me at a bargain." 

Such bargains, however, became common enough about 
this time in California, for this was the year memoi"' 'o in 
California history, of the breaking out of the gold-fever, 
and the great rush to the mines which made even the 
commonest things worth their weight in gold-dust. 

Proceeding to Los Angelos, our party, once more comfort- 
ably mounted, found traveling comparatively easy. At this 
place they found quartered the command of Maj. Graham, 

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whose abandoned wagons had been passed at the Hornella 
on the Cc/lorado River. The town, too, was crowded 
with miners, men of every class, but chiefly American 
adventurers, drawn together from every quarter of Cali- 
fornia and Mexico by the rumor of the gold discovery at 
Sutter's Fort. 

On arriving at San Pedro, a vcb^el — the Southampton^ 
was found ready to sail. She had on board a crowd of 
fugitives from Mexico, bound to San Francisco, where they 
hoped to find repose from the troubles which harassed 
that revolutionary Republic. 

At San Francisco, Meek was surprised to meet about 
two hundred Oregonians, who on the first news of the 
gold discovery the previous autumn, had fled, as it is said 
men shall flee on the day of judgment — leaving the wheat 
ungathered in the fields, the grain unground in the mills, 
the cattle unherded on the plains, their tools and farming 
implements rusting on the ground — everything abandoned 
as if it would never more be needed, to go and seek the 
shining dist, which is vainly denominated "filthy lucre." 
The iwo hundred were on their way home, having all 
either made something, or lost their health by exposure 
so that they were obliged to return. But they left many 
more in the mines. 

Such were the tales told in San Francisco of the won- 
derful fortunes of some of the minors that young Lane be- 
came infected with the universal fever and declared his 
intention to try mining with the rest. Meek too, deter- 
mined to risk something in gold-seeking, and as some of 
the teamsters who had left Fort Lea'senworth with the 
company, and had come as far as San Francisco, were very 
desirous of going to the mines. Meek fitted out two or 
three with pack-horses, tools, and provisions, to accompany 
young Lane. For the money expended in the outfit he 




was to receive half of their first year's profits. The re- 
sult of this venture was three pickle-jars of gold-dust, 
which were sent to him by the hands of Nat. Lane, the 
following year ; and which just about reimbursed him for 
the outlay. 

At Scir Francisco, Gen. Lane found the U. S. Sloop of 
War, the St. Mary's; and Meek insisted that the Oregon 
government, which was represented in their persons, had 
a right to require her services in transporting itself to its 
proper seat. But Lane, whose notions of economy ex- 
tended, singularly enough, to the affairs of the general 
government, would not consent to the needless expendi- 
ture. Meek was rebellious, and quoted Thornton, by 
whom he was determined not to be outdone in respect of 
expense for transportation. Lane insisted that his dignity 
did not require a government vessel to convey him to 
Oregon. In short the new government was very much 
divided against itself, and only escaped a fall by Meek's 
finding some one, or some others, else, on whom to play 
his pranks. 

The first one was a Jew peddler who had gentlemen's 
clothes to sell. To him the Marshal represented himself 
as a United States Custom officer, and after frightening 
him with a threat of confiscating his entire stock, finally 
compromised with the terrified Israelite by accepting a 
suit of clothes for himself. After enjoying the mortifica- 
tion of spirit which the loss inflicted on the Jew, for twen- 
ty-four hours, he finally paid him for the clothes, at the 
same time administering a lecture upon the sin and dan- 
ger of smuggling. 

The party which had left Leavenworth for Oregon 
nearly six months before, numbering fifty-five, now num- 
bered only seven. Of the original number two had been 
killed, and all the rest had deserted to go to the mines. 



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There remained only Gen. Lane, Meek, Lieut. Hawkins 
and Haydeii, surgeon, besides three soldiers. With this 
small company Gen. Lane went on board the Jeanette^ a 
small vessel, crowded with miners, and destined for the 
Columbia River. As the Jeanette dropped down the Bay, 
a salute was fired from the St. Marijs in honor of Gen. 
Lane, and appropriated to himself by Marshal Meek, who 
seems to have delighted in appropriating to himself all 
the honors in whatever circumstances he might be placed ; 
the more especially too, if such assumption annoyed the 

After a* tedious voyage of eighteen days the Jeanette 
arrived in the Columbia River. From Astoria the party 
took small boats for Oregon City, a voyage of one hun- 
dred and twenty miles ; so that it was already the 2d of 
March when they arrived at that place, and only one day 
was left for the organization of the Territorial Govern- 
ment before the expiration of Polk's term of office. 

On the 2d of March Gen. Lane arrived at Oregon City, 
and was introduced to Gov. Abernethy, by Marshal Meek. 
On the iid, there appeared the following — 


In pursuance of an act of Congress, approved the 14tli of August, in the 
year of our Lord 1848, establishing a Territorial Government in the Territory 
of Oregon: 

I, Joseph Lane, was, on the 18th day of August, in the year 1848, appointed 
Governor in and for the Territory of Oregon. I have therefore thought it 
proper to issue this, my proclamation, making known that I have this day en- 
tered upon the discharge of the duties of my office, and by virtue thereof do 
declare the laws of the United States extended over, and declared to be in 
force in said Territory, so far as the same, or any portion thereof, may be ap- 

Given under my hand at Oregon City, in the Territory of Oregon, this 3d 
day of March, Anno Domini 1849. Joseph Lane. 

Thus Oregon had one day, under Polk, who, take it all 
in all, had been a faithful guardian of her interests. 



In the month of August, 1848, the Honolulu^ a vessel 
of one hundred and fifty tons, owned in Boston, carrying 
a consignment of goods to a mercantile house in Portland, 
arrived at her anchorage in the Wallamet, via San Fran- 
cisco, California. Captain Newell, almost before he had 
discharged freight, commenced buying up a cargo of flour 
and other provisions. But what excited the wonder of 
the Oregonians was the fact that he also bought up all 
manner of tools such as could be used in digging or cut- 
ting, from a spa:le and pickaxe, to a pocket-knife. This 
singular proceeding naturally aroused the suspicions of a 
people accustomed to have something to suspect. A de- 
mand was made for the Honolulu^ s papers, and these not 
being forthcoming, it was proposed by some of the pru- 
dent ones to tie her up. When this movement was at- 
tempted, the secret came out. Cai)tain Newell, holding 
up a bag of gold-dust before the astonished eyes of his 
persecutors, cried out — 

" Do you see that gold ? you, I will depopulate 

your country ! now where there is plenty of this stuff, 

and I am taking these tools whore it is to be found." 

This was in August, the month of harvest. So great 
was the excitement which seized the people, that all classes 
of men were governed by it. Fgw persons stopped to 
consider that this was the time for producers to reap golden 
harvests of precious ore, for the other yellow harvest of 
grain which was already ripe and waiting to be gathered. 
Men left their grain standing, and took their teams from 
the reapers to pack their provisions and tools to the mines. 

Some men would have gladly |)aid doul)le to get back 
the spades, shovels, or picks, which the shrewd Yankee 
Captain had purchased from them a week previous. All 
implements of this nature soon commanded fabulous prices, 
and he was a lucky man who had a supply. 

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1850-4. The Territorial law of Oregon combined the 
offices of Governor and Indian Agent. One of the most 
important acts which marked Lane's administration was 
that of securing and punishing the murderers of Dr. and 
Mrs. Whitman. The Indians of the Cayuse tribe to whom 
the murderers belonged, were assured that the only way 
in which they could avoid a war with the whites was to 
deliver up the chiefs who had been engaged in the massacre, 
to be tried and punished according to the laws of the 
whites. Of the two hundred Indians implicated in the 
massacre, five were given up to be dealt with according to 
law. These were the five chiefs, Te-lov-i-kife, Tam-a-hds^ 
Klok-a-mas, Ki-am-a-sumj^Jcm^ and I-sa-i-a-clia-lah-is. 

These men might have made their escape ; there was 
no imperative necessity upon them to suffer death, had 
they chosen to flee to the mountains. But with that 
strange magnanimity which the savage often shows, to the 
astonishment of Christians, they resolved to die for their 
people rather than by their flight to involve them in 

Early in the summer of 1850, the prisoners were deli v. 
ered up to Gov. Lane, and brought down to Oregon City, 
where they were given into the keeping of the marshal. 
During their passage down the river, and while they were 
incarcerated at Oregon City, their bearing was most proud 
and haughty. Some food, more choice than their prison- 
er's fare, being offered to one of the chiefs at a camp of 



the guard, in their transit down Uie Columbia, the proud 
savage rejected it witli scorn. 

"What sort of heart have you," he asked, "that you 
offer food to me, whose hands arc red with your brother's 
blood ?" 

And this, after eleven years of missionary labor, was all 
the comprehension the savage nature knew of the main 
principle of Christianity, — forgiveness, or charity toward 
our enemies. 

At Oregon City, Meek had many conversations with 
them. In all of these they gave but one explanation of 
their crime. They feared that Dr. Whitman intended, 
with the other whites, to take their land from them ; and 
they were told by Jo Lewis, the half-breed, that the Doc- 
tor's medicine was intended to kill them off quickly, in 
order the sooner to get possession of their country. None 
of them expressed any sorrow for what had been done ; 
but one of them, Ki-am-a-sump-Mn^ declared his inno- 
cence to the last. 

In conversations with others, curious to gain some 
knowledge of the savage moral nature, Te-lou-i-Jcite often 
puzzled these students of Indian ethics. When ques- 
tioned as to his motive for allowing himself to be taken, 
Te-lou-i-Mte answered : 

"Did not your missionaries tell us that Christ died to 
save his people? So die we, to save our people!" 

Notwithstanding the prisoners were pre-doomed to 
death, a regular form of trial was gone through. The 
Prosecuting Attorney for the Territory, A. Holbrook, con- 
ducted the prosecution : Secretary Pritchett, Major Run- 
nels, and Captain Claiborne, the defence. The fee of- 
fered by the chiefs was fifty head of horses. Whether it 
was compassion, or a love of horses which animated the 

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dut'ence, quite an effort was made to show that the mur- 
derers were not guilty. 

The presiding Justice was 0. C. Pratt — Bryant having 
resigned. Perhaps we cannot do better than to give the 
Marshal's own description of the trial and execution, 
which is as follows: "Thar war a great many indict- 
ments, and a great many people in attendance at this 
court. The Grand Jury found true bills against the five 
Indians, and they war arraigned for trial. Captain Clai- 
borne led off for the defence. He foamed and ranted 
like he war acting a play in some theatre. He knew 
about as much law as one of the Indians he war defend 
ing ; and his gestures were so powerful that he smashed 
two tumblers that the Judge had ordered to be filled with 
cold water for him. After a time he gave out mentally 
and physically. Then came Major Runnels, who made a 
very good defence. But the Marshal thought they must 
do better, for they would never ride fifty head of horses 
with them speeches. 

Mr. Pritchett closed for the defence with a very able 
argument ; for he war a man of brains. But then followed 
Mr. Holbrook, for the prosecution, and he laid down the 
case so plain that the jury were convinced before they 
left the jury-box. When the Judge passed sentence of 
death on them, two of the chiefs showed no terror ; but 
the other three were filled with horror and consternation 
that they could not conceal. 

After court had adjourned, and Gov. Lane war gone 
South on some business with the Rogue River Indians, 
Secretary Pritchett came to me and told me that as he 
war now acting Governor he meant to reprieve the In- 
dians. Said he to me, ' Now Meek, I want you to liber- 
ate them Indians, when you receive the order.' 



'Pritchctt,' said I, 'so far as Meek is concerned, he 
would do anything for you.' 

This talk pleased him ; he said he 'war glad to hear it; 
and would go right off and write the reprieve.' 

*But,' said I, 'Pritchett, let us talk now like men. I 
have got in my pocket the death-warrant of them Indians, 
signed by Gov. Lane. The Marshal will execute them 
men, Jis certain as the day arrives.' 

Pritchett looked surprised, and remarked — 'That war 
not what you just said, that you would do anything for 

Said I, 'you were talking then to Meek, — not to the 
Marshal, who always does his duty.' At that he goi mad 
and left. 

When the 3d of June, the day of execution, arrived, 
Oregon City was thronged with people to witness it. I 
brought forth the five prisoners and placed them on a 
drop. Here the chief, who always declared his innocence, 
Ki-am-t-siimp-Mn, begged me to kill him with my knife, — 
for an Indian fears to be hanged, — but I soon put an end 
to his entreaties by cutting the rope which held the drop, 
with my tomahawk. As I said ' The Lord have mercy on 
your souls,' the trap fell, and the five Cayuses hung in 
the air. Three of them died instantly. The other two 
struggled for several minutes ; the Little Chief, Tam-a-has^ 
the longest. It was he who was cruel to my little girl at 
the time of the massacre ; so I just put my foot on the 
knot to tighten it, and he got quiet. After thirty-five 
minutes they were taken down and buried." 

Thus terminated a tragic chapter in the history of Ore- 
gon. Among the services which Thurston performed for 
the Territory, was getting an appropriation of $100,000, 
to pay the expenses of the Cayuse war. From the Spring 
of 1848, when all the whites, except the Catholic mission- 
aries, were withdrawn from the upper country, for a pe- 



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liod of sovenil years, or until Government had made 
treaties with the tribes cast of the Cascades, no settlers 
were permitted to take up land in Eastern Oregon. Dur- 
ing those years, the Indians, dissatisfied with the encroach- 
ments which they foresaw the whites woukl finally make 
upon their country, and incited by certain individuals who 
had sulTered wrongs, or been punished for their own of- 
fences at the hands of the whites, finally combined, as it 
was supposed from the extent of the insurrection, and 
Oregon was involved in a three years Indian war, the his- 
tory of which would fill a volume of considerable size. 

When Meek returned to Oregon as marshal, with his 
fine clothes and his newly acquired social accomplish- 
ments, he was greeted with a cordial acknowledgment of 
his services, as well as admiration for his improved appear- 
ance. He was generally acknowledged to be the model 
of a handsome marshal, when clad in his half-military 
dress, and placed astride of a fine horse, in the execution 
of the more festive duties of marshal of a procession on 
some patriotic occasion. 

But no amount of official responsibility could ever 
change him from a wag into a "grave and reverend 
seignior." No place nor occasion was sacred to him when 
the wild humor was on him. 

At this same term of court, after the conviction of the 
Cayuse chiefs, there was a case before Judge Pratt, in 
which a man was charged with selling liquor to the In- 
dians. In these cases Indian evidence was allowed, but 
the jury-room being up stairs, caused a good deal of 
annoyance in court ; because when an Indian witness was 
wanted up stairs, a dozen or more who were not wanted 
would follow. The Judge's bench was so placed that it 
commanded a full view of the staircase and -ivery one 
passing up or down it. 

A call for some witness to go before the jury was fol 



lowed on this occasion, as on all olliors, by a general rush 
of the Indians, who were curious to witness the i)roceed- 
ings. One fat old sfjiiaw had got part way up the stairs, 
when the Marshal, full of wrath, seized her by a h,>g and 
dragged her down flat, at the same time holding the fat 


member so that it was pointed directly toward the Judge. 
A general explosion followed this pointed action, and the 
Judge grew very red in the face. 

"Mr. Marshal, come within the bar!" thundered the 

Meek complied, with a very dubious expression of 

" I must fine you fifty dollars," continued the Judge ; 
"the dignity of the Court must be maintained." 

When court had adjourned that evening, the Judge 
and the Marshal were walking toward their respective 
lodgings. Said Meek to his Honor : 

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" Why did you fin? me so heavily to-day ?" 
" I ?wz<s^ do it," returned the Judge. " I must keep up 
the dignity of the Court ; I must do it, i^ I pay the fines 



" And you must pay all the fines you lay on the marshal, 
of course," answered Meek. 

" Very well," said the Judge ; "I shall do so." 

" All right, Judg^. As I am the proper disbursing 
officer, you can pay that fifty dollars to me — and I'll take 
it now." 

At this view of the case, his Honor was staggered foi- 
one moment, and could only swing hio cane and laugh 
faintly. After a little reflection, he said : 

" Marshal, when court is called to-morrow, I shall remit 
your fine ; but don't you let me have occasion to fine you 

After the removal of the onpital to Salem, in 1852, 
court was held in a new building, on which the carpenters 
were still at work. Judge Nelson, then presiding, was 
much put out by the noise of hammers, and sent the 
marshal more than once, to request the men to suspend 
their wcrk during those hours when court was in session, 
but all to no purpose. Finally, when his forbearance was 
quite exhausted, he appealed to the marshal for advice. 

"What shall I do^ Meek," said he, "to stop that in- 
fenirl noise?" 

"Put the workmen on the Gr; nd Jury," replied Meek, 

" Summon them instantly !" returned the Judge. They 
were summoned, and quiet secured for that term. 

At this _.aDie term of court, a great many of the foreign 
born settlers appeared, to file their nitention of becoming 
iV.merican citizens, in order to secure the benefits of the 
Donation Law. Meek was retained as a witness, to swear 
to their qualifications, one of which was, that they were 








possessed of good moral characters. The first day there 
were about two hundred who made declarations, Meek 
witnessing for most of them. On the day following, he 
declined serving any longer. 

"What now?" inquired the Judge; "you made no 
objections yesterday." 

"Very true," replied ^leek ; "and two hundred lies 
are enough for me. I swore that all those mountain-men 
were of 'good moral character,' and I never knew a 
mountain-man of that description in my life ! Let Newell 
take the job for to-day," 

The "job" was turned over to Newell; but whether 
the second lot was better than the first, has never trans- 

During Lane's administration, there was a murder com- 
mitted by a party of Indians at the Sound, on the person 
of a Mr. Wallace. Owing to the sparse settlement of the 
country, Governor Lane adopted the original measure of 
exporting not only the officers of the court, but the jury 
also, to the Sound district. Meek was ordered to find 
transportation for the court in toto^ jury and all. Boats 
were hired and provisioned to take the party to the 
Cuwelitz Landing, and from thence to Fort Steilacoom, 
horses were hired for the land transportation. 

The Indians accused were five in number — two chiefs 
and three slaves. The Grand Jury found a true bill 
against the two chiefs, and let the slaves go. So few 
were the inhabitants of those parts, that the marshal was 
obliged to take a part of the grand jury to serve on the 
petite jury. The form of a trial was gone through with, 
the Judge delivered his charge, and the jury retired. 

It was just after night-fall when these worthies betook 
themselves to the jury-room. One of them curled him- 
self up in a corner of the room, with the injunction to 

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the others to " wake him up when they got ready to haii^u" 

them rascals." The rest of the party spent four 

or five hours betting against monte, when, being sleepy 
also, they waked up their associate, spent about ten min- 
utes in arguing their convictions, and returned a verdict 
of "guilty of murder in the lirst degree." 

The Indians were sentenced to be hung at noon on the 
following day, and the marshal was at work early in the 
morning preparing a gallows. A rope was procured 
from a ship lying in the sound. At half-past eleven 
o'clock, guarded by a company of artillery from the fort, 
the miserable savages were marched forth to die. A 
large number of Indians were collected to witness the 
execution ; and to prevent any attempt at rescue. Captain 
Hill's artillery formed a ring around the marshal and his 
prisoners. The execution was interrupted or delayed for 
some moments, on account of the frantic behavior of an 
Indian woman, wife of one of the chiefs, whose entreaties 
for the life of her husband were very affecting. Having 
exhausted ill h^r eloquence in an appeal to the nobler 
feelings of tu^ man, she finally promised to leave her 
husband and become his wife, if he, the marshal, would 
spare her lord and chief. 

She was carried forcibly out of the ring, and the hang- 
ing took place. When the bodies were taken down. 
Meek spoke to the woman, telling her that now she could 
have her husband ; but she only sullenly replied, " You 
have killed him, and you may bury him." 


,'ii ^ 


While Meek was in Washington, he had been dubbed 
with the title of Colonel, which title he still bears, though 
during the Indian war of 1855-56, it was alternated with 
that of Major. During his marshalship he was fond of 
showing off his titles and authority to the discomfiture of 
thai class of people who had " put on airs " with him 
in former days, when he was in his transition stage from 
a trapper to a United States Marshal. 

While Pratt was Judge of the District Court, a kidnap- 
ing case came before him. The writ of habeas corpus 
having been disregarded by the Captain of the Melvin^ 
who was implicated in the business. Meek was sent to 
arrest him, and also the first mate. Five of the Melvmls 
sailors were ordered to be summoned as witnesses, at the 
same time. 

Meek went on board with his summons, marched for- 
ward, and called out the names of the men. Every man 
came up as he was summoned. When they were together, 
Meek ordered a boat lowered for their conveyance to 
Oregon City. The men started to obey, when the Cap- 
tain interfered, saying that the boat should not be taken 
for such a purpose, as it belonged to him. 

" That is of no consequence at all," answered the smiling 
marshal. " It is a very good boat, and will suit our pur- 
pose very well. Lower away, men ■" 

The men quickly dropped the boat. As it fell, they 



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were ordorod to man it. When they were at the oars, 
the mate was then invited to take a seat in it, which he 
did, after a moment's hesitation, and glancing at his supe- 
rior officer. Meek then turned to the Captain, and ex- 
tended the same invitation to him. But he was reluctant 
to accept the courtesy, blustering considerably, and de- 
claring his intention to remain where he was. Meek 
slowly drew his revolver, all the time cool and smiling. 

" I don't like having to urge a gentleman too hard," 
he said, in a meaning tone ; "but thar is an argument 
that few men ever resist. Take a seat. Captain." 

The Captain took a seat ; the idlers on shore cheered 
for "Joe Meek" — which was, after all, his most familiar 
title ; the Captain and mate went to Oregon City, and 
were fined respectively $500 and $300 ; the men took 
advantage of being on shore to desert ; and altogether, 
the master of the Melvin felt himself badly used. 

About the same time news was received that a British 
vessel was unloading goods for the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany, somewhere on Puget Sound. Under the new order 
of affairs in Oregon, this was smuggling. Delighted with 
an opportunity of doing the United States a service, and 
the British traders an ill turn. Marshal Meek immediately 
summoned a posse of men and started for the Sound. On 
his way he learned the name of the vessel and Captain, 
and recognized them as having been in the Columbia 
River some years before. On that occasion the Captain 
had ordered Meek ashore, when, led by his curiosity and 
general love of novelty, he had paid a visit to this vessel. 
This information was " nuts" to the marshal, who believed 
that " a turn about was fair play." 

With great dispatch and secrecy he arrived entirely 
unexpected at the point where the vessel was lying, and 
proceeded to board her without loss of time. The Cap- 




tain and officers were taken l)y surprise and were all 
aghast at this unlocked for appearance. But after the 
first moment of agitation was over, the Captain recognized 
Meek, he being a man not likely to be forgotten, and 
thinking to turn this circumstance to advantage, approach- 
ed him with the blandest of smiles and the most cordial 
manner, saying with forced frankness — 

" I am sure I have had the pleasure of meeting you be- 
fore. You must have been at Vancouver when my ves- 
sel was in the river, seven or eight years ago. I am very 
happy to have met with you again." 

" Thar is some truth in that remark of yours, Captain," 
replied Meek, eyeing him with lofty scorn; "you did 
meet me at Vancouver several years ago. But I was 
nothing but ' Joe Meek ' at that time, and you ordered me 
ashore. Circumstances are changed since then. I am 
now Colonel Joseph L. Meek, United States Marshal for 
Oregon Territory ; and you sir, are only a smug- 
gler ! Go ashore, sir !" 

The Captain saw the point of that concluding "go 
ashore, sir!" and obeyed with quite as bad a grace as 'Joe 
Meek ' had done in the first instance. 

The vessel was confiscated and sold, netting to the Gov- 
ernment about $40,000, above expenses. This money, 
which fell into bad hands, failed to be accounted for. 
Nobody suspected the integrity of the marshal, but most 
persons suspected that he placed too much confidence in 
the District Attorney, who had charge of his accounts. 
On some one asking him, a short time after, what had be- 
come of the money from the sale of the smuggler, he 
seemed struck with a sudden surprise : 

*'Why," said he, looking astonished at the question, 
*'thar was barly enough for the officers of the court!" 

This answer, given as it was, with such apparent simplic- 



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ity, became a popular joke; and "barly enough" was 
quoted on all occasions. 

The truth was, that there was a serious deficiency in 
Meek's account with the Government, resulting entirely 
from his want of confidence in his own literary accom- 
plishments, which led him to trust all his correspondence 
and his accounts to the hands of a man whose talents were 
more eminent than his sense of honor. The result of this 
misplaced confidence was a loss to the Government, and 
to himself, whom the Government held accountable. Con- 
trary to the general rule of disbursing officers, the office 
made him poor instead of rich ; and when on the incom- 
ing of the Pierce administration he suffered decapitation 
along with the other Territorial officers, he was forced to 
retire upon his farm on the Tualatin Plains, and become a 
rather indifferent tiller of the earth. 

The breaking out of the Indian war of 1855-6, was 
preceded by a long period of uneasiness among the Indi- 
ans generally. The large emigration which crossed the 
plains every year for California and Oregon was one cause 
of the disturbance ; not only by exciting their fears for 
the possession of their lands, but by the temptation which 
was offered them to take toll of the travelers. Difficulties 
occurred at first between the emigrants and Indians con- 
cerning stolen property. These quarrels were followed, 
probably the subsequent year, by outrages and murder 
on the part of the Indians, and retaliation on the part of 
volunteer soldiers from Oregon. When once this system 
of outrage and retaliation on either side, was begun, there 
was an end of security, and war followed as an inevitable 
consequence. Very horrible indeed were the acts per- 
petrated by the Indians upon the emigrants to Oregon, 
during the years from 1852 to 1858. 

But when at last the call to arms was made in Oregon, 



it Wiis ail opportunity sought, and not an alternative 
forced upon them, by the politicians of that Territory. 
The occasion was simply this. A party of lawless wretches 
from the Sound Country, passing over the Cascade Moun- 
tains into the Yakima Valley, on their way to the Upper 
Columbia mines, found some Yakima women digging roots 
in a lonely place, and abused them. The women fled to 
their village and told the chiefs of the outrage ; and a party 
followed the guilty whites and killed several of them in a 

Mr. Bolin, the Indian sub-agent for Washington went 
to the Yakima village, and instead of judging of the case 
impartially, made use of threats in the name of the United 
States Government, saying that an army should be sent to 
punish them for killing his people. On his return home, 
Mr. liolin was folio v.-'ed and murdered. 

The murder of an Indian agent was an act which could 
not be overlooked. Very properly, the case should have 
been taken notice of in a manner to convince the Indians 
that murder must be punished. But, tempted by an op- 
portunity for gain, and encouraged by the somewhat rea- 
sonable fears of the white population of Washington and 
Oregon, Governor G. L. Curry, of the latter, at once pro- 
claimed war, and issued a call for volunteers, without wait- 
ing for the sanction or assistance of the general Govern- 
ment. The moment this was done, it was too late to re- 
tract. It was as if a torch had been applied to a field of 
dry grass. So simultaneously did the Indians from Puget 
Sound to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Rocky Moun- 
tains to the southern boundary of Oregon send forth the 
war-whoop, that there was much justification for the belief 
which agitated the people, that a combination among the 
Indians had been secretly agreed to, and that the whites 
were all to be exterminated. 





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Volunteer companies were already raised and sent into 
the Indian country, when Brevet Major G. 0. Haller ar- 
rived at Vancouver, now a part of the United States. He 
had been as far cast as Fort Boise to protect the incoming 
immigration ; and linding on his return that there was an 
Indian war on hand, proceeded at once to the Yakima 
country with his small force of one hundred men, only 
fifty of whom were mounted. Much solicitude was felt 
for the result of the first engagement, every one knowing 
that if the Indians were at first successful, the war would 
be long and bloody. 

Major Haller was defeated with considerable loss, and 
notwithstanding slight reinforcements, from Fort Vancou- 
ver, only succeeded in getting safely out of the country. 
Major Raines, the commanding officer at Vancouver, seeing 
the direction of events, made a requisition upon Governor 
Curry for four of his volunteer companies to go into the 
field. Then followed applications to Major Raines for 
horses and arms to equip the volunteers ; but the horses 
at the Fort being unfit for service, and the Major unau- 
thorized to equip volunteer troops, there resulted only 
misunderstandings and delays. When General Wool, at 
the head of the Department in San Francisco, was con- 
sulted, he also was without authority to employ or receive 
the volunteers ; and when the volunteers, who at length 
armed and equipped themselves, came to go into the field 
with the regulars, they could not agree as to the mode of 
fighting Indians ; so that with one thing and another, the 
war became an exciting topic for more reasons than be- 
cause the whites were afraid of the Indians. As for Gen- 
eral Wool, he was in great disfavor both in Oregon and 
Washington because he did not believe there ever had 
existed the necessity for a war ; and that therefore he 
bestowed what assistance was at his command very grudg- 



iiigly. General Wool, it was said, was jealous of the vol- 
unteers ; and the volunteers certainly cared little for the 
opinion of General Wool. 

However all that may be, Col. Meek gives it as his opin- 
ion that the old General was right. " It makes me think," 
said he, " of a bear-fight I once saw in the Rocky Moun- 
tains, where a huge old grizzly was surrounded by a pack 
of ten or twelve dogs, all snapping at and worrying him. 
It made him powerful mad, and every now and then he 
would make a claw at one of them that silenced him at 



The Indian war in Oregon gave practice to a number of 
officers, since become famous, most prominent among 
whom is Sheridan, vho served in Oregon as a T.ioutenant. 
Grant himself, was at one time a Captain on that frontier. 
Col. Wright, afterwards Gen. Wright, succeeded Major 
Raines at Vancouver, and conducted the war through its 
most active period. During a period of three years there 
were troops constantly occupied in trying to subdue the 
Indians in one quarter or another. 

As for the volunteers they fared badly. On the first 
call to arms the people responded liberally. The proposi- 
tion which the Governor made for their equipment was 
accepted, and they turned in their property at a certain 
valuation. When the war was over and the property sold, 
the men who had turned it in could not purchase it with- 
out paying more for it in gold and silver than it was val- 
ued at when it was placed in the hands of the Quarter- 
master. It was sold, however, and the money enjoyed by 
the shrewd political speculators, who thought an Indian 
war a very good investment. 

Meek was one of the first to volunteer, and went as a 
private in Company A. On arriving at the Dalles he was 
detailed for special service by Col. J. W. Nesmith, and 




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sent out as pilot or messenger, whenever any such duty 
was required. He was finally placed on Nesmith's staff, 
and given the title of Major. In this capacity, as in every 
other, he was still the same alert and willing individual 
that we have always seen him, and not a whit less inclined 
to be inerry when an opportunity offered. 

While the army was in the Yakima country, it being an 
enemy's country, and provisions scarce, the troops some- 
times were in want of rations. But Meek had not forgot- 
ten his mountain craft, tind always had something to eat, 
if anybody did. One evening he had killed a fat cow 
which he had discovered astray, and was proceeding to 
roast a twenty-pound piece before his camp-fire, when a 
number of the officers called on 1 u. The sight and sa- 
vory smell of the beef was very grateful to them. 

"Major Meek," said they in a breath, "we will sup with 
you to-night." 

"I am very sorry, gentlemen, to decline the honor," 
returned Meek with a repetition of the innocent surprise 
for which ho had so often been laughed at, "but I am 
very hungry, and thar is barly enough beef for one 

On heiiing this sober assertion, those who had heard 
the story laughed, but the rest looked rather aggrieved. 
However, the Major continued his cooking, and when the 
beef was done to a turn, he invited his visitors to the 
feast, and the evening passed merrily with jests and camp 

After the army went into winter-quarters, Nesmith hav- 
ing resigned, T. R. Cornelius was elected Colonel. One 
of his orders prohibited firing in camp, an order which as 
a good mountaineer the ]\Iajor should have remembered. 
But having been instructed to proceed to Salem without 
delay, as bearer of dispatches, the Major committed the 






error of lirlng his gun to see if it was in good condition 
for a trip through the enemy's country. Shortly after he 
received a message from his Colonel re([Liesting him to 
repair to his tent. The Colonel received him politely, and 
invited him to breakfast with him. The aroma of coffee 
made this invitation peculiarly acceptable — for luxuries 
were scarce in camp — and the breakfast proceeded for 
some time very agreeably. When Meek had breakfasted, 
Colonel Cornelius took occasion to inquire if the Major 
had not heard his order against firing in camp. " Yes," 
said Meek. "Then," said the Colonel, "I shall be 
obliged to make an example of you." - 

While Meek stood aghast at the idea of punishment, a 
guard appeared at the door of the tent, and he heard 
what his punishment was to be, " Mark time for twenty 
minutes in the presence of the whole regiment." 

"When the command "forward! was given," says Meek, 
" you might have seen somebody step off lively, the offi- 
cer counting it off, 'left, left.' But some of the regiment 
grumbled more about it than I did. I just got my horse 
and my dispatches and left for the lower country, and 
when I returned I asked for my discharge, and got it." 

And here ends the career of our hero as a public man. 
The history of the young State, of which he is so old a 
pioneer furnishes ample material for an inter^ting volume, 
and will sometime be written by an abler than our sketchy 


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The reader of tlie foregoing pages can hardly have 
failed to o])serve, that the region east of the Big Horu 
Mountains, including the valleys of the Yellowstone, 
.Big Horn, Powder, and Eosebud Rivers, was the 
favorite haunt of the Rocky Mountain hunters and 
trappers — the held of many of their stirring adventures 
and hardy exploits. Here was the " hunters' para 
dise," where they came to secure game for food and 
to feed their animals on the nutritious bark of the 
cotton woods ; here they assembled at the Summer ren- 
dezvous, to excliange iheir peltries for supplies ; and 
here, ofttimes, was established their winter camp, with 
its rough cheer, athletic sports, and wild carousals. 

Here, also, between the plains and the mountains, 
was the dark and sanguinary ground where te/rific and 
deadly coinl)ats were fought betAveen the DelaAvares, 
Iroquois, Cro^vs, and Bhickfeet, and between the trap- 
pers and Indians ; and here, fifty years later, were en- 
acted scenes of warfare and massacre which cast a gloom 
over the festivities of our Centennial anniversary. 

The recent campaign against the hostile Sioux was 
ov«^r the identical ground where tlie fur-traders roamed 
intent on beaver-skins and adventure ; and it is he- 
lieved that some account thereof, and a sketch of the 
renowned Indian lighter wdio perished on the Little 
Big Horn, may appropriately supplement the jtory of 
the Mountain-men. 






Our Centennial War with thev Sioux -Scene of the Campaign — General 
Aspect of the Country — 'I'he liostile Indians and tlicir Grievances — 
The IVopU> of tlie Fioiilirr — The Treaty of l.S(i8 — The Invasion of 
the Bhick Hills— Sittitij- ihill—Iiiinicdiate Causes of the War— The 
Indians Warned and Threatenet'. 'I'he Wiirniny Disregarded — An 
Appeal to Arms — Bishop Whipple or. the lioiuning Indians, - 


General Crook's First Expedition — The March Northward — Reynolds 
Follows a Trail — Camp of Crazy Horse Discovered and Attacked — 
The Battle of Powder River — Return to Fort Fettcrnian — Crook's 
Second Expedition— On the Hea<l Waters of Tongue River — Friendly 
Crows — Battle of the Rosebud — Retreat to Goose Creek Camp, 


Gen. Terry's Expedition — March from Fort Lincoln — Rendezvous on 
the Yellowstone — The Montana Column — Reno's Scouting Party 
Discovers a Trail — The Seventh Cavalry Start up the Rosebud — 
Custer Discovers an Indian Village and Advances to Attack, 


Gibbon's Troops Cross the Yellowstone — March up the Big Horn — A 
Smoke Cloud — An Omen of Victory — Crow Scouts — Indians in Front 
— A Night's Bivouac on the Little Big H<jrn — Site of a deserted 
Village — Evidences of Conflict — A breathless Scout — Intrer.ched 
Cavalry — Reno Relieved — " Where is Custer?" ... 


Custer's last Battle — Revelations of the Battle-field — Theories as to the 
Engagement — Custer and His Officers — (^r , Tom Custer — Boston 
Custer — Armstrong Reed -Burial of the Oain — Retreat to the 
Yellowstone — Story of Custer's Scout " Curley " — Death of Custer, - 


Reno's Battles — His Charge down the Valley, and Retreat to the Bluffs 
— Benteen's Battalion — A terrific Assault — Holding the Fort — Volun- 
teer Water Carriers — Removal of Indian Village — Approach of Terry 
— Statements of Benteen and Godfrey — A Scout's Narrative, 

C H A P T ]•: R VII. 
Kill Eagle at Sitting Bull's Camp— His Account of the Battles with 
Custer and Reno— "We have Killed them all "—What Buck Elk Saw, 52 




n r 









Criticisms en the Conduct of Keno and Benteen — Reno's Defence— 
What Benteen Says — Gen. Slieridan on the Cluster Disaster, - - 66 

The Midsummer Campaign — Adventures of a Scouting Party — Running 
the Gauntlet — Indian Allits — Hazardous Service— Junction of Terry 
and Oook — Following the Trail — At the Mouth of Powder River — 
Crook Starts for the Black Hills— Short Rations— Battle of Slim 
Buttes — The Chief American Horse— Deadwood— Terry at Glendive 
Creek — A Chase after Sitting Bull — Close of the Campaign — Long- 
Dog's Reconnoitering Party, - - - - - - 63 


Autumn on the Yellowstone — Gallant Defence of, a Wagon Train— A 
Letter from Sitting Bull— A Flag of Truce — Col. Miles and Sitting 
Bull Have a " Talk " between the Linns — An Exciting Scene — The 
Council Disperses — The Troops Advance — A Battle and its Results 
— Escape of Sitting Bull— Surrender of Chiefs as Hostages, - - 70 

Terry and Crook at the Sioux Agencies — The Agency Indians Disarmed 
and Dismounted — A Gleam of Daylight — What became of the Ponies 
— Red Cloud Deposed — Spotted Tail Declared Chief Sachem — Gen. 
Crook's Address to His Troops, - - - - - 77 

Winter Operations— Crook's Expedition — Col. McKenzie on the Trail 
— A Night's March — A Charge down a Canyon — Destruction of a 
Cheyenne Village — Life at the Tongue River Cantonment — Miles' 
Excursion Northward — Capture of Sitting Bull's Camp — An Unfor- 
tunate Affair — Massacre of Five Chiefs — Treacherous Crows — Win- 
ter March Southward — Desperate Battle in the Wolf Mountains — 
Defeat of Crazy Horse — Red Hnrse Surrenders — His Story of the 
Big Horn Battles— Spotted Tails Mission— Surrender of Roman 
Nose, Standing Elk and Crazy Horse, - - - - 81 

George A. Custer— Early Youth— Cadet Life— From West Point to 
Bull Run— On Kearny's Staff— Wades the ChicKahominy— On Mc- 
Clellan's Staff— Antietam— On Pleasonton's Staff— Aldie— A General 
at Gettysburg — Pursues Lee — Falling Waters — Wounded— Cavalry 
Engagement at Brandy Station — Marriage, - - - - 90 

A Raid toward Richmond — With Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley — 
Opequan Creek — Fisher's Hill —Commander of the Third Division — 
Fight with Rosser — Sheridan's Army Surprised — Defeat and Victory 
—The Cavalry at Cedar Creek— The last great Raid - - - 98 

I i> 'it'. 



The last Struggle for Richmond— Custer at Dinwiddle and Five Forks 
— Petersburg Evacuated — The Pursuit of Lee— Jctcrsville — Sailor's 
Creek — Appomattox — A Flag of Truce— Custer's Address to His 
Soldiers— The Great Parade — A Major General — Texas — Negotia- 
tion with Romero, ....... 106 


The Seventh Cavalry — Hancock's Expedition — Tricky Indians— A 
Scout on the Plains — Camp Attacked by Indians — A Fight for the 
Wagon Train — The Kidder Massacre — Court Martialed — Sully's 
Expedition— Battle of the Washita— Death of Black Kettle— Fate of 
Major Elliot — Night Retreat— March to Fort Cobb — Lone Wolf and 
Satanta — After the Cheyennes — Captive Women Recovered, - 113 


The Yellowstone Expedition — Road-hunters — A Siesta — Dashing 
Indians — A Trap — Fearful Odds — Rapid Volleys — Attack Renewed 
— Reinforcements — The Foe Repulsed — A Tragedy — The Revenge of 
Rain in the Face — Another Fight — Assigned to Fort Lincoln — Mrs. 
Custer, - - - - - - - - - 121 


The Campaign of 1876— The Dakota Column — The Babcock Investiga- 
tion — The Congressional Committee — Grant's Displeasure — Appeal 
to the President — Custer's last Campaign, .... 126 


Reminiscences of General Custer — Personal Characteristics, - - 132 


The Indian Commission of 1876 — Purchase of the Black Hills — Indian 
Orators — Speeches of Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, Blue Teoth, Running 
Antelope, Two Bears, Red Feather, Swan, White Ghost, etc., - 18& 



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The scene of the campaign against the hostile 
Indians in 1876, was the rugged, desolate, and par- 
tially unexplored region lying between the Big Horn 
and Powder Rivers, and extending from the Big Horn 
Mountains northerly to and beyond the Yellowstone 
Iliver. This region is the most isolated and inaccess- 
il)le of any lying east of the Rocky Mountains, and is 
admirably adapted for Indian warfare and defense. 
Several rivers, tributaries of the Yellowstone, ilow 
through it, and it abounds in creeks, ravines, and 
canyons. It is the hereditarv country of the Crows, 
who for generations defended it against marauv^ing 
tribes of Blackfeet. 

A vivid description of the general aspect of the 
country and of the liardships and perils of our soldiers, 
has been given by Col. Nelson A. Miles, of the Fit'rh 
Infantry, in a letter written from the mouth of the 
Powder River. " No service," he says, " is moro 
thankless or dangerous than contending against these 
treacherous savages, and if you will come out and 
learn the real sentiment of the army, you will iind 
the officers of the army the strongest advocates of any 
peace policy that shall be just and honorable. You 
will find us out here, five hundred miles from railroad 
communication, in as barren, desolate and worthless a 

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country as the sun shines upon — volcanic, broken, and 
almost impassable — so rugged as to make our granite 
hills of Vermont and New Hampshire ai)pear in com- 
parison as pleasant parks. Jagged and precipitous 
cliffs; narrow and deep arroyos filled with massive 
boulders ; alkali water, or for miles and miles none 
at all ; and vegetation of cactus and sage-bushes, will 
rej^resent to you, feebly indeed, the scene of the 
present campaign, in which we are contending against 
the most powerful, warlike, and best-armed body 
of savages on the American Continent, armed and 
mounted partly at the expense of the Government, 
and fully supplied with the most improved magazine 
guns and tons of metallic ammunition." 

"The brave mariner," wrote a newspaper corre- 
spondent, " on the trackless ocean without compass, 
is no more at the mercy of wind and wave than Terry's 
army, out upon this vast trackless waste, is at the 
mercy of his guides and scouts. The sun rises in the 
east, shines all day upon a vast expanse of sage-brush 
and grass, and, as it sets in the west, casts its dull rays 
into a thousand ravines that neither man nor beast 
can cross. The magnet always points north ; but 
whether one can go eitlier north or south can be de- 
cided only by personal effort. An insignificant turn 
to the wrong side of a little knoll or buffalo-wallow 
ofttimes imperceptibly leads the voyager into ravine 
after ravine, over bluff after bluff, until at last he 
stands on the edge of a yawning canyon, hundreds of 
feet in depth and with perpendicular walls. Nothing 
is left for him to do Ijut to retrace his steps and find 
an accessible route." 

The hostile Indians with whom our soldiers have 
had to contend are no despicable foe ; on the contrary 



they are quite able, in frontier warfare, to cope with 
disciplined troops. They figlit in bodies, undci' skilled 
leaders, and have regular rules which they observe in 
battle, on their marches, and in their camps " Tlie}- 
have systems of signalling and of scouting, of posting 
sentinels and videttcs, and of herding their animals," 
They are remarkably expert horsemen, an<l are so de- 
pendent on their steeds, that " a Sioux on foot is a 
Sioux warrior no longer." Gen. Crook testifies to 
their adroitness and skill as follows: — 

"When the Sioux Indian was armed Avith a bow and arrow he 
was more formidabU;, fighting as lie does most of the time on 
horseback, tlian when he came into possession of tlie old fash- 
ioned muzzle loading rifle. But when he came into possession of 
the breech loader and metallic catridge. whicli allows him to load 
and fire from his horse with perfect o;ir ■:, he became at once ten 
times more formidable. With the improved ar)ns I have seen 
our friendly Indians, riding at f'\\]. speed, shoot and kill a wolf, 
also on the run, while it is a rare il.' ;• that our troops can hit an 
Indian on horseback though the soldier may be on his feet at the 

" The Sioux is a cavalry soldier from the time he has intolll- 
sence enough to ride a horse or fire a gun. If he wishes to dis- 
mount, his hardv ponj-, educated by loiig usage, will graze 
around near where he has been loft, ready when his master wants 
to mount either to mo\o forward or escape. Even with their 
lodges and families tliey can move at the rate of fifty miles per 
day. They are perfectly familiar with the country, have their 
spies and hunting parties out all the time at distances of from 
twenty to fifty miles each waj' from their villages, know the 
number and movements of all the troops that may be operating 
against them, just about what they can probably do, and hence 
can choose their own times and places of conflict or avoid it 

The primary causes of the hostilities of the Indians 
which made this campaign and previous ones against 
them necessary, extend far back and are too numerous 


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to be here fully stated. Tlie principal Iiulian griev- 
ances however, for which the government is responsi- 
ble, are a f'aihire to fnliil treaties, encroachment on 
reserved territories, and the dishonesty of agents. 
Col. Miles speaks of our relationship with the Indians 
for the last fifty years, as the dark i)age in our history, 
which, next to African slavery, lias doi^e more to dis- 
grace our government, blacken our fair name, and 
reflect upon our civilization, than aught else. It has, 
he says, been a source of corruj^tion and a disturbing 
element, unconiined to any one political party or class 
of individuals. 

Wendell Phillips asserts that the worst brutality 
which prurient malice ever falsely charged tlie Indian 
with, is ])ut weak imitation of ^vhat the white man has 
often inflicted on Indian men, ^vomen and children ; 
and that the Indian has never lifted his hand against 
us until provoked to it by misconduct on our part, 
compai'ed with wliich, any misconduct of his is l)ut 
dust in tlie balance. 

The great difference in the condition and character 

of the Indians over the Canada line and our o^vn, 

can only be accounted for l)y the difterent treatment 

they have received. The Canadian Indians are, on 

the Avliole, a harmless, honest people, who, though 

they are gradually disappearing before the white 

man, bcai' liim no ill-Avill, but rather the contrary. 

Bi>hop AViii]»ple ctf Minnesota, an earnest advocate 

of the peai'e ['olicy, draws tlu fol|o^ving contrast : — 

'" Hore are two pictures — on one f vie of ttlt^ line a nation lias 
si3ent Sf)0(),00(). ()()() in. Indian war; a people wlio have not 100 
miles between the Atlantic and the rftclUc which hils not been 
the scene of an Indian massacre ; a government which has hot 
passed tnenty years without an Indian war; not one Indiiiii 
tribe to whom it has given Christian civilization ; and which 

1 r 



celebrates its centennial yeaV by another liloody Indian war. On 
tile utlier side of tlie line tliere is the same greedy, dominant 
Anglo-Saxon race, and the same heathen. They have not spent 
one dollar in Indian war ; they have had no Indian massacre*. 
Why? In Canada the Indian treaty calls these nien ' the Indian 
subjects of her Majesty.' When civilization approaches them 
they arc placed on ample reservations ; tiiey receive aid in civil- 
ization ; they have personal rights of property ; tlioy are ame- 
nable to law and are protected by law ; the}- have schools, and 
Christian people delight to give them their best men to teach 
them the religion of Christ. We expend more than one hundred 
dollars to their one in caring for Indian wards." 

The results of the ludiiin distiirl>unces, whatever 
their causes, have borne heavily on the hardy and en- 
terprising settlers along the Ijorder. Of these citizens 
Gen. Crook says : — 

" I believe it is wrong for a Government as great and power- 
ful as ours not to protect its frontier people from savages. I do 
not see w'hy a man who has the courage to come out here and 
open the way for civilization in his own country, is not as much 
entitled to the i)r()tection of his Government as anybod}' else. 
I am not one of those who believe, as many missionaries sent 
out here by well-meaning eastern socities do, that the people of 
the frontiers are cut-throats, thieves, and murderers. I have 
been thrown among them for nearly 25 years of m}' life, and 
believe them to compare favoraldy in energy, intelligence and 
manhood with the best of their eastern brethren. They are 
mercilessh' plundered by Indians witJiout any attempt being 
made to punish the perpetrators, and when thej^ ask for protec- 
tion, they are told by some of our peace commissioners sent out 
to make further concessions to the Indians, that they have no 
business out here anyhow. I do not deny that my sympathies 
have been with the frontier people in their unequal contest 
against such obstacles. At the same time I do not wish to be 
understood as the unrelenting foe of the Indian." 

The Rioiix Indians, embracing several tribes, are 
tlin old Dakotnhs, loncc known as anionc; the bravest 
niid most warlike aboriginals of this continent. They 



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were steadily pushed westward Ijy the tide of civili- 
zation to the Great Plains north of the Platte, where 
they claimed as their own all tlie vast region west of 
the Missouri as far as they could roam or fight their 
way. They resisted the approfich of all settlers and 
opposed the building of the Paeitic Railroad. 

In 1867, Congress sent out four civilians and three 
army officers as Peace Conmiissioners, who, in 1808, 
made a treaty with the Sioux, wherehy for certain 
payments or stipulations, they agreed to surrender 
their claims to a vast tract of country, to live at peace 
with their neighbors, and to restrict themselves to a 
territory bounded south by Nebraska, west by the 
104th meridian, and north by the 46th parallel of 
latitude — a territory as large as the State of Michigan. 
"They had the solemn pledge of the United States 
that they should be protected in the absolute.' and 
peaceable possession of the country thus set apai't for 
them ; and the constitution makes such treaties the 
highest of all authorities, and declares that they are 
binding apon every citizen." 

In the western part of the Sioux territory, lying 
between the two forks of the Cheyenne River, is the 
Black Hills country with an area of four or five 
thousand square miles. Of the interior of this region 
up to 1874 nothing was known excepting from the 
indefinite reports of hunters who had penetrated 
therein. The arrival at a trading post of Indians who 
offered gold-dust for sale which they said was pro- 
cured at the Black Hills, caused much excitement ; and 
a military expedition of 1200 men was sent from Fort 
Lincoln in July 1874, to explore the Hills and ascer- 
tain if gold existed there. As was expected, no hos- 
tile enemy were encountered by the large expedition 




which thus invaded the Indian territory. A few 
lodges of Indians were met in the Hills, and they ran 
away notwithstanding friendly overtures were made. 
An attempt was made to lead the pony of one 
mounted Indian to headquarters, l)ut he got awa}', 
and a shot was fired after him which, says General 
Custer, wounded either the Indian or his pony as 
blood was found on the ground. 

The geologists of the expedition reported that there 
was gold in the Black Hills, and miners and others 
began to flock thither. In 1875, troops were sent to 
remove the tres2)assers on the Indian reservation, but 
as fast as they compelled or persuaded the miners to 
go away others came to fill their places ; and at the 
present date there are more settlers there than ever 

Of the treaty of 1868 and the so-called peace policy 
then inaugurated various opinions are entertained. 
Gen. Sherman, a member of the commission, in his 
report for 1876, says: — 

"The commission had also to treat with other tribes at the south ; 
viz, — the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas and Commaches ; were 
engaged for two years in visiting and confering with these 
scattered bands ; and flnallj', in 18G8, concluded many treaties, 
which were the best possible at that date, and which resulted in 
comparative peace on the Plains, b^' defining clearh' the bound- 
aries to be thereafter occupied b}' the various tribes, with the 
annuities in money, provisions, and goods to be paid the Indians 
for the relenquishment of their claims to this vast and indefinite 
regicii of land. At this time the Sioux nation consisted of 
many distinct tribes, and was estimated at 50,000, of whom some 
8,00 * wi'ie named as hostiles. 

"These Indians, as all others, were under the exclusive jurisdic- 
tion of the Indian Bureau, and onl}' small garrisons of soldiers 
were called for at the several agencies, such as lied Cloud and 
Spotted Tail on the head of the White Earth River in Nebraska 
(outside their reservation), and at Standing Rock, Cheyenne, 

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and Crow Creek on the Missouri River, to protect the persons of 
the agents and their eniphjyes. About these several agencies 
were gr(ni[)ed the .several bands of Sioux under various names, 
receiving food, clotliing, etc., and undergoing tlie process of civili- 
zation ; but from the time of the Teace Connnissson of 1«CH to 
the date of this report, a nirtnber of Sioux, recognized as hostile 
or ' outlaws,' had remained out under the lead of Sitting Bull and 
a few other chiefs." 

" Tlie so-called peace polic}'," says Bishop Whipple, " was 
commenced when we were at war. The Indian tribes were 
either openly hostile, or sullen and turbulent. The new polic}- 
was a marvellous success. I do honestly believe that it has 
done more for the civilization of the Indians than all which the 
Govermnent has done before. Its only weakness was that the 
system was not reformed. The new work was fettered by all 
the faults and traditions of the old polic}'. The nation left 
300,000 men living within our own borders without a vestige of 
government, without personal rights of property, without the 
slighest protection of person, proi)erty, or life. We persisted in 
telling these heathen tribes that the}- were independent nations. , 
We sent out the bravest and best of our officers, some who had 
grown gray in the service of the country ; men whose slightest 
word was as good .as their bond — we sent them because the In- 
dians would not doubt a soldier's honor. They made a treaty, 
and the}' pledged the nation's faith that no white man should 
enter that territory. I do not discuss its wisdom. The P^xecu- 
tive and Senate ratihed it. ... A violation of its i)lain 
provisions w^as an act of deliberate perjury. In the words of 
Gen. Sherman, ' Civilization made its own compact with the 
weaker party ; it was violated, but not by the savage.' The 
whole world knew that we violated that treaty, and the reason 
of the failure of the negotiations of last year was that our own 
commissioners did not have authority from Congress to offer the 
Indians more than one-third of the sum they were alread}- receiv- 
ing under the old troatv." 

" The Sioux Nation." says Gen. Crook, in his report of Sept» 
1876, " numbers many thousands of warriors, and they have 
been encouraged in their insolent overbearing conduct by the 
fact, that those who participated in the wliolesale massacre of 
the innocent people in Minnesota during the brief period that 




preceded their removal to 1,beir prosetit location, never received 
adeiiuate punishment therefor. Following hard ni)on ami as the 
apparent result of the mass?i,cre of over eighty ollicers and men of 
the armv at Fort Phil Kearnev, the Government abandoned three 
of its military posts, and made a treaty of unparalleled liberality 
with the perpetrators of these crimes, against whom any other 
nation would have proseeute<l a vigorous war. 

" Since that time the reservations, instead of being the abode 
of loyal Indians holding the terms of their agreement sacred, 
have been nothing but nests of disloyalty to their treaties and 
the Government, and scourges to the people whose misfortune it 
has been to be within the reach of the endurance of their ponies. 
And in this connection, I regret to say, they have been materially 
aided by sub- agents who have disgraced a bureau established for 
the propagation of peace and good will, man to man. 

" What is the lo\"al condition of mind of a lot of savages, who 
will not allow the folds of the Hag of the country to lloat over 
the very sugar, cotfee and beef, the}' are kind enough to accept 
at the hands of the nation to which they have thus far dictated 
their own terms? Such has been the condition of things at the 
Red Cloud Agency. 

" The hostile bands roamed over a vast extent of country, 
making tne Agencies their base of supplies, their recruiting and 
ordinance depots, and were so closely coimected by intermarriage, 
intex'est and common cause with the Agency Indians, that it was 
dillicult to determine where the lineof peaceably disposed ceased 
and the hostile conunenced. They have, without interrni)tion, 
attacked persona at home, murdered and scalped them, stolen 
their stock — in fact violated ever^- leading feature in the treaty. 
Indeed, so great were their depredations on the sto<;k belonging 
to the settlers, that at certain times they have not had sufllcient 
horses to do their ordinar}' farming work — all the horses being 
concentrated on the Sioux Reser\ation or among the bands which 
owe allegiance to what is called the Sioux Nation. In the winter 
months these renegade bands dwindle down to a comparatively 
small number ; while in summer tliey are recruited by restless 
spirits from the ditl'erent reservations, attracted by the oppor- 
tunity to plunder the frontiersman, so that by midsummer they 
become augmented from small bands of one hundred to thousands. 

" In fact, it was well known that the treaty of 1«6H had been 
regarded by the Indians as an instrument binding on us but not 












binding on them. On the part of the Government, notwithstand- 
ing the utter disregard by the Sioux of tlie terms of the treaty, 
stringent orders, enforced by military power, had been issued 
prohibiting settlers from trespassing upon the country known as 
the Black Hills. The people of the country against whom the 
provisions of the treaty were so rigidly enforced naturally com- 
plained that if thcj' Avere required to observe this treat}-, some 
effort should bo made to compel the Indians to observe it 

" The occupation by the settlers of the Black Hills country had 
nothing to do with the hostilities which have been in progress. 
In fact, by the continuous violations by these Indians of the 
treat}- referred to, the settlers were furnished with at least a 
reasonable excuse for such occupation, in that a treat)'- so long 
and persistently violated by the Indians themselves, should not 
be quoted as a valid instrument for the preventing of such occu- 
pation. Since the occupation of tlie Black Hills there has not 
been an}- greater number of depredations committed by the 
Indians than previous to such occupation ; in truth, the people 
who have gone to the Hills have not suffered any more and 
probably not as much from Indians, as they would had they 
remained at their homes along the border." 

" In 1868," says Wra. R. Steele, delegate from Wyoming, " the 
United States made a treatv with the Sioux Nation, which was 
a grave mistake, if it was not a national dishonor and disgrace ; 
that treaty has been the foundation of all the ditHculties in the 
Sioux country. In 18GG, Gen. Pope established posts at Fort 
Phil Kearney, Reno, and Fort Smith, so as to open the road to 
Montana and protect the country and friendly Crows from the 
hostile Sioux. In keeping these posts and opening that road, 
many men, citizens and soldiers, had been killed. Notable 
among the actions that had taken place was the massacre of 
Fetterman and his command at Fort Phil Kearney ; and yet 
after these men had sacrificed their lives, the Government went 
to work and made a treaty by which it ignominiously abandoned 
that country to these savages, dismantling its own forts, and 
leaving there the bones of men who had laid dow-n their lives in 
the wilderness. Was it to be wondered at, under these circum- 
stances, that Sitting Bull and his men believed they were supe- 
rior to the general government? Any body who knows anything 



about Indian nature knows that the legitimate result of that cow- 
ardly policy of peace at any price, was to defer only the evil 
day which has now come upon us. Since that time the Sioux 
have been constantly depredating on the frontiers of Nebraska, 
Wyoming and Montana, and more men have fallen there in the 
peaceful vocations of civil life, without a murmer being heard, 
than fell under the gallant Custer. The friendly Crows have 
been raided with every full moon ; so with the Shoshones ; and at 
last these outrages have become so great and so long continued 
that even the peaceable Indian Department could not stand them 
any longer, and called on the military arm of the Government to 
punish these men." 

President Grant, in his message of December, 187C, uses the 
following language : — "A polic}- has been adopted towards the 
Indian tribes inhabiting a large portion of- the territory of the 
United States, which has been humane, and has substantially 
ended Indian hostilities in the whole land, except in a portion of 
Nebraska, and Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana territories, the 
Black Hills region, and approaches thereto. Hostilities there 
have grown out of the avarice of the white man, who has vio- 
lated our treaty stipulations in his search for gold. The question 
might be asked, why the Government had not enforced obedience 
to the terms of the treaty prohibiting the occupation of the 
Black Hills region by whites? The answer is simple. The first 
immigrants to the Black Hills were removed by troops, but 
rumors of rich discoveries of gold took into that region increased 
numbers. Gold has actually been found in paying quantity, 
and an effort to remove the miners would only result in the de- 
sertion of the bulk of the troops that might be sent there to 
remove them." 

The causes and objects of the military operations 
against the Sioux in 1876, as stated by the Secretary 
of War in a letter to the President dated July 8th, 
1876, were in part as follows: — 

" The present military operations are not against the Sioux 
nation at all, but against certain hostile parts of it which defy 
the Government, and are undertaken at the special request of 
the bureau of the Government charged with their supervision, 
and wholly to make the civilization of the remainder possible. 

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No part of these operations are on or near the Sioux reservation. 
The accidental discovery of j^oM on the western border of the 
Sioux reservation and tlic intrusion of our people thereon have 
not caused this war, and have only complicated it by the uncer- 
tainty of luunbers to be encountcreil. The young warriors love 
Mar, and fre(]uentl3' escape their agents to go to the hunt or war 
path— their only idea of the object of life. The object of these 
military expeditions was in the interest of the peaceful parts of 
the Sioux nation, supposed to embrace at least nine-tenths of the 
whole, and not one of these [)eaceful treat}- Indians has been 
molested by the military authorities." 

Of the liostile IncUaiis rut'crrecl to by the Secretury 
of Wai", IIou. E. P. Smith, Comniissiouer of Imliaii 
Affairs, repoi'ted Nov. Ist, 1875: — "It will probably 
be found iiect'ssary to compel the Northern non- 
treaty Sioux, luuler the leader.shii) of Sitting Bidl, 
who have never yet in any way recoj^nized the United 
States Government, except l)y snatching 3'ations occa- 
sionally at an agency, and such outlaws from the 
sevei'al acfencies as have attached themselves to these 
same liostiles, to cease marauding and settle down, as 
the other Sioux have done, at some designated point." 

Soon afterwards, Indian Inspector E. C. Watkins 
addressed the Commissioner res])ecting these Indians, 
as follows : — "The true ])olicy in my judgment is to 
send troops against them in winter, the sooner the 
better, and whip them into subjection. They richly 
merit punishment for their incessant warfare and their 
numerous nuirders of white settlers and their fami- 
lies, or white men whenever found unarmed." 

Early in December, by the advice of the Secretary 
of the Interior, Conunissioner Smith directed that 
runners be s,ent out to notify " said Indian Sitting 
Bull, and others outside their reservation, that they 
must move to the reservation before the 31st day of 
January, 187(3 ; that if they neglect or refuse so to 




niDve, tlioy will T)e reported to the War Department 
jis hostile Indians, and that a military force will !>« 
sent to com])el them to oLey the order of the In<lian 
officer." Respecting this order to the Indians. Bishoj) 
Wliipple, in a letter to the Nfir York Trifniup^ says : — 

"There was an inadoquatc supply of provisions at the agen- 
cies that Fall, and the Indians went out to their uncedcd territory 
to hunt. The}' went as they were accustomed to do — with the 
consent of their agents and as provided by the treaty. * * * 
The Indians had gone away iVoni the ngencii'S to .secure food, 
and skins for ch)tliing. The United States jiad set apart this ver}' 
country as a hunting-ground for them forever. Elglit months 
after this order to return or he treated as liostile, Congress 
appropriated money for the seventh of thirt\' Installments for 
these roaming Indians. It was impossible lor the Indians to obey 
the order. No one of the runners sent out to inform the Indians, 
was able to return himself by the time appointed ; yet Indian 
women and children were exi)ected to travel a treeless desert, 
without food or proper clothing, under th(i penalt}' of death." 

As the oi-der and warning were disregarded Ly the 
Indians, the Secretary of the Interior notified the Sec- 
retary of War, Fel>. 1st, 1870, that "the time given 
him (Sitting Bull) in wliicli to return to an agency 
having expired, and advices received at the Indian 
Office being to the effect that Sitting Bull still refuses 
to comply with the direction of the Commissioner, 
the said Indians are hereby turned over to the War 
Department for such action on the part of the army 
. J you may deem proj^er under the circum.stances." 

By direction of Lieut. General Sheridan, Com- 
mander over the vast extent of territory included in 
the Military Division of Missouri, Brig. Gen. George 
Crook, Commander of the Department of the Platte, 
an officer of great merit and experience in Indian 
fighting, now undertook to reduce these Indian out- 
laws to subjection, and made preparations for an eicpe- 
dition against them. 


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General Crook started from Fort Fetterman, "W". 
T., March 1st, 1876, at the head of an expedition 
composed of ten companies of the 2d and 3d Cavahy 
under Col. J. J. Reynolds, and two companies of the 
4th Infantry, with teamsters, guides, etc., amounting 
in all to nearly nine hundred men. His course was 
nearly north, past the abandoned Forts Reno and 
Phil. Kearney to Tongue River. He descended this 
river nearly to the Yellowstone, scouted Rosebud 
River, and then changed his course to the south-east 
toward Powder River. At a point on the head of 
Otter Creek, Crook divided his command, and sent 
Col. Reynolds with six companies of cavalry and one 
day's rations to follow the trail of two Indians dis- 
covered that day in the snow. 

Col. Reynolds moved at 5 p. m. of the 16th, and at 

4.20 A. M., after a night's march of thirty miles, was 

near the forks of Powder River. The following 

extracts are copied from a letter written to the Hew 

Yo7'k Tribune: — 

" A halt was called here and the column took shelter in a 
ravine. No fires were allowed to be kindled, nor even a match 
lighted. The cold was intense and seemed to be at least 30*^ 
below zero. The command remained here till about 6 o'clock, 
doing their uttermost to keep from freezing, the scouts meantime 
going out to reconnoitre. At this hour they returned, reporting 



n hvrgcr ami IVcsher trail leading (.lown to tlu' river wliich was 
about four niilos distant. Tlic column inuuciliatoly started on 
the trail. The approacli to the river seeineil almost impraeticahh'. 
Before reaeiiing tlie fnial prcei[uces wliieh ovorlookeil the river- 
bed, tlie scouts diseoveretl that a village lay in the valley at the 
foot of the blulls. It was now 8 o'clock. The sun shone brightly 
throujih the cold frostv air. 

•' The colinnn halteil, and Noyes's battalion, L'd Cavalry, was 
orderecl up to the front. It consisted of Company I, Capt. Noyes, 
and Company' K, Capt. PLgan. This battalion was ordered to 
descend to the valley, and while Egan charged the camp, Noyes 
was to cut out the herd of horses feeding close by and drive it 
up the river. Capt. Moore's battalion of two comi)anies was 
ordered to dismount and proceed along the edge of the ridge to 
a position covering the eastern side of the village opposite that 
from which Egan was to charge. Ci\[)i. Mills's l)attalion was 
ordered to follow Egan dismounted, and support him in the en- 
gagement which might follow the charge. 

''These columns began the descent of the mountain, through 
gorges which were almost perpendicular. Nearly two hours 
were occupied in getting the horses of the charging cohnnns 
down these rough sides of the mountain, and oven then, w hen a 
point was reached where the men could mount their horses and 
proceed toward the village in the narrow valley beneath, Moore's 
battalion had not been able to gain its i)osition on the eastern 
side after clambering along the edges of the mountain. A few 
Indians could be seen with the herd, driving it to the edge of 
the river, but nothing indicated that they knew of our approach. 

"Just at 9 o'clock Cai)t. Egan turned the point of the mount- 
ain nearest the river, and lirst in a walk and then in a rapid trot 
started for the village. The compau}' went first in column of 
twos, but when within 200 yards of the village the command ' Left 
front into line ' was given, and with a yell they rushed into the 
encampment. Capt. Noyes had in the meantime wheeled to the 
right and started the herd up the river. With the yell of the 
charging column the Indians sprang up as if b^- magic and 
poured in a rapid fire from all sides. Egan charged through 
and through the village before ^Loore'sand Mills's battalions got 
within supporting distance, and finding things getting very hot, 
formed his line in some high willows on the south side of the 
camp, from which he poured in rapid volleys upon the Indians. 



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" Up to this time the Indians supposed tliut one company was 
all they had to contend with, l)Ut wlien tlie otlier Ijaltnlions 
ajjpcared, rapidly advancing;, deployed as skirmishers and 
pouring in a galling lire jl'nuisketry, they broke on all sides anil 
took refuge in the rocks along tlie siile ol' the mountain. The 
cami), consisting of 1 10 lodges, with innnense (pianties of rohes, 
fresh meat, and plunder of all kinds, with over 700 head of 
horses were in our possession. Tiie work of burning iinniedi- 
atel}' began, and soon the whole encam[)nuMit was in llames. 

"After the work of destructioji was completed the wlude com- 
mand moved rapidly up the river twenty iiiiles to Lodgepole 
Creek. This point was readied at nightfall b}- all except 
Moore's battjilion and Kgan's company. Company E was the 
rear guard, and assisted Major Stanton and the scouts in bring- 
ing up the herd of horses ; many of these were shot on the road, 
and the remainder readied camp about 9 v. m. These troops 
had been in the saddle for 3(J hours, with the exception of live 
hours during which the}' were lighting, and all, olllcers and men, 
were nuich exhausted. 

" Upon arriving at Lodgepole, it was found that General Ciook 
ami the other four companies and pack-train ht.d not arrived, 
80 that evcrvbod}' was supperless and without a blanket. The 
night, therefore, was not u cheerful one, but not a murnnu' wtis 
beard. The tired men lay upon the snow or leaned against a 
tree, and slept as best they could on so cold a night. Saturday, 
at noon, General Crook arrived. In the meantime a portion of 
the herd of horses had straggled into the ravines, and fallen into 
the hands of the Indians." 

The village thus destroyed was that of Crazy Horse, 
one of the avowedly hostile chiefs. "He had witli 
him," wrote Gen. Crook, " the Northern Cheyennes, 
and some of the Minneconjous — probably in all one- 
half of the Indians off the reservations." The Indian 
loss was unknown. Four of Eeynolds' men were 
killed, and six men includinf' one officer were wound- 
ed. The whole force subsequently returned to Fort 
Fetterman, reaching there March 26th. 

The results of this expedition were neither conclu- 



sive or satisfactory. Therefore, Geii. Slieiidan detcr- 
luined to ])rocee(l more Hystematically l>y concentric 
movements. He ordered tliree distinct colinnns to 
be prepared to move to a common centi'e, wlici'e tlie 
hostiles were supposed to l»e, from Montana, from 
Dakota, and from tlie Platte. Tlie two former fell 
under the command of Gen. Alfred 1[. Terry, Com- 
mander of the Department of Dakota, and the luttci" 
under Gen. Crook. Tliese movements were to be 
simultaneous, so that Tndi.'ins avoiding om; column 
might be encountered by anothei'. 

Gen. Crook marched from Fort Fettei-man on the 
29th of May, with two battalions of the 2d and 8d 
Cavalry under Lieut. Col. W. B. Royall, and a bat- 
talion of five com])anies of the 4th and Dth Infantry 
under Major Alex. Chambers, with a train of wagons, 
pack-nudes, and Indian scouts, all amounting to 47 
officers and 1,000 men present for duty. This exi>«'- 
dition marched by the same route as the preceding- 
one, to a point on Goose Creek, which is the head of 
Tongue River, where a supply camp was established 
on June 8th. During the preceding night a party of 
Sioux came down on the encampment, and endeavored 
to stami)ede the horses, In'inging on an engagement 
which resulted in the discomfiture and retreat of the 
enemy. On the 1 4th, a band of Shoshones and Crows 
— Indians unfriendly to the Sioux — joined Crook, and 
were provided with arms and ammunition. 

The aggi'essive column of the expedition resumed 
the march forward on the morning of the 16th, leaving 
the trains parked at the Goose Creek camp. The 
infantry were mounted on mules borrowed from the 
pack-train, and each man carried his own supplies 
consisting of only three days' rations and one blanket. 


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At iiijLi^ht, af'ttT inarcliing aljout .'^5 miles, llu' litll(< 
army eiicamju'd iH'twceu liigh blull's at the Lead 
waters of Koselnid Uiver. 

At 5 A. M. on tlie morning ot'tlie 1 7tli the troo])s 
started d<nvn tlie valley of tlie Ivoselmd, the Indian 
allies mareliing in front and on tlie flanks. After 
advancing abont seven miles sneeessive shots were 
lieard in front, the seonts eame running in to rejjori. 
Indians advancing, and Gen. Crook had hardly time 
to form his men, before large niiml)er8 of warriors 
fully ]>re])ared for a tight were in view. 

The battle which ensued was on both banks of the 
Rosebud, near the uj)i)ei end of a deej) canyon liaving 
sides which were steej), covered with jnue, and a])- 
parently impregnable, through Avhich the stream ran. 
Tlie Indians displayed a strong force at all points, and 
contested the ground ^vith a tenacity which indicated 
that they were lighting for time to remove their vil- 
hige, which was supposed to be about six miles down 
the Rosebud at the lower end of the canyon, or 
believed themselves strong enougli to defeat their 

Tlie oflScers and men of Crook's command behaved 
with marked gallantry during the engagement. The 
Sioux were finally rei)ulsed in their bold onset, and 
lost many of their bravest warriors ; but when they 
fled they could not l)e pursued far without great 
danger owing to the roughness of the country. The 
Indian allies were full of enthusiasm but not very 
managable, prefering to fight independently of orders. 
Crook's losses were nine soldiers killed, and twenty- 
one wounded, including Capt. Henry of the 3d 
Cavalry. Seven of the friendly Inchaus were wound- 
ed, and one was killed. 



Gen. Crook was s.itist'uMl that tlic iminln'i' 
({Uality of the eiu'iny r('(|iiin'<l iikh'c nicii than lir had, 
and being encinnlM'i<'«l with wountU-d 1m* eonclinhd 
to retreat. The nii;lit was passed on tlie l»atth*-fi»'l<l, 
and the next day Ik* startcil for liis canij) on Goose 
Creek, wliieli was reached June lUtli. Couriers W(*re 
sent to Fort Fetternian tor reiid*orc«'nu'nts and snj)- 
]dies, and the command remained inactive f(>r several 
weeks awaiting their arrival. 

The battle of the Ilosebud .''Might not very far 
from the .scene of Custer's d(*fefi1 a few days later, 
and Gen. Crook concbides th. '. hi^ oj)iM)iients wen; 
the same that Custer and Ueno em ountt*red. 

" It now became ai)[>arent/' says Gen. Sheridan in 
his report "that Gen. Cro(»k had not only Crazy 
Horse and his small band to contend with, l)Ut that 
the hostile force had l)ecn augmented by lai'ge 
numl)ers of the young warriors from the agencies 
along the Missouri River, and the Red Cloud and 
Spotted Tail agencies in Nebraska, and that the 
Indian agents at these agencies had concealed the fact 
of the departure of these warriors, and that in most 
cases they continued to issue rations as though they 
were present." 

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terry's expedition — OPENING OF THE CAMPAIGN. 

General Terry left Fort Abraham Lincoln on the 
Missouri River, May 17th 1876, with his division, con- 
sisting of the 7th Cavalry under Lieut. Col. George 
A. Custer, three companies of infantry, a battery of 
Gatling guns, and 45 enlisted scouts. His whole force, 
exclusive of the wagon-train drivers, numbered about 
1000 men. His march was westerly, over the route 
taken by the Stanley expedition in 1873. 

On the 11th of June, Terry reached the south bank 
of the Yellowstone at the mouth of Powder River, 
where by appointment he met steamboats, and estab- 
lished his supply camp. A scouting party of six 
companies of the 7th Cavalry under Major M. A. Reno 
was sent out June 10th, which ascended Powder 
River to its forks, crossed westerly to Tongue River 
and beyond, and discovered, near Rosebud River, a 
heavy Indian trail about ten days old leading west- 
ward toward Little Big Horn River. After follow- 
ing this trail a short distance Reno returned to the 
Yellowstone and rejoined his regiment, which then 
marched, accompanied by steamboats, to the mouth 
of Rosebud River where it encamped June 21st. 
Communication by steamboats and scouts had pre- 
viously been opened with Col. John Gibbon, whose 



column vras at tliis time encamped on the north side 
of the Yellowstone, near by. 

Col. Gibbon of the 7th Infantry had left Fort Ellis 
in Montana about the middle of May, with a force 
consisting of six companies of his regiment, and four 
comjianies of the 2d Cavalry under ^Major J. S. Bi-is- 
bin. He had marched eastward down the north 
bank of the Yellowstone to the mouth of the Rose- 
bud, where he encamped about June 1st. 

Gen. Terry now consulted \viih. Giljbon and Custer, 
and decided upon a plan for attacking the Indians 
who were believed to be assembled ' in large numbers 
near Bii? Horn River. Custer with his rei^iment was 
to ascend the valley of the Rosebud, and then turn 
towards Little Big Horn River, keeping well to the 
south. Gibbon's troops were to cross the Yellowstone 
at the mouth of Big Horn River, and march up the 
Big Horn to its junction with the Little Big Horn, 
to co-operate with Custer. It was hoj)ed that the 
Indians would thus be brouc^ht between the two 
forces so that their escajje would be impossible. 

Col. Gibbon's column was immediately put in 
motion for the mouth of the Big Horn. On the next 
day, June 22d, at noon, Custer announced himself 
ready to start, and drew out his regiment. It con- 
sisted of 12 companies, numbering 28 officers and 747 
soldiers. There were also a strong detachment of 
scouts and guides, several civilians, and a supply train 
of 185 pack nmles. Gen. Teny reviewed the column 
in the presence of Gibbon and Brisbin, and it was 
pronounced in splendid condition. "The officers 
clustered around Terry for a final shake of the hand, 
the last good-bye was said, and in the best of spirits, 

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filled with high Lopes, tliey galloped away — many of 
them to tlieir death." 

Gen. Terry's orders to Custer were as folloAvs : — 

Camp at the mouth of Rosebud Riveu, ) 

June 22d, 1870. ji 
Lieut. Col. Custer^ 1th Cavalry. 

Colonel: The Brigadiei- General Commanding directs that 
as soon as your regiment can be made read}- for the march, you 
proceed up the Rosebud in pursuit of tlie Indians wliose trail was 
discovered by Major Reno a few da} 3 ago. It is, of course, im- 
possible to give an}' definite instructions in regard to tliis moAo- 
ment, and, were it not impossible to do so, the Department Com- 
mander places too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and 
ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders .which might 
hamper your action when nearly in contact with the enemy. lie 
will, however, indicate to you liis own views of what yotir action 
should be, and he desires that you should conform to them unions 
you shall see sufficient reason for departing from tliem. He 
thinks that you should proceed up the Rosebud until you ascer- 
tain definitely the direction in which the trail above spoken of 
leads. Should it be found (as it appears to be almost certain 
that it will be found) to turn towards the Little Big Horn, he 
thinks that you should still proceed southward perhaps as far 
as the head waters of the To.ngue, and then turn toward the Little 
Big Horn, feeling constantly, however, to your left, so as to pre- 
clude the possibility of the escape of the Indians to the south or 
south-east by passing around your left flank. Tlie column of 
Col. Gibbon is now in motion for the mouth of the Big Horn. 
As soon as it reaches tliat point it will cross the Yellowstone, 
and move up at least as far as the forks of the Big and Little 
Big Horn. Of course its future movements must be controlled 
by circumstances as they arise ; but it is hoped that the Indians, 
if up on the Little Big Horn, may be so nearly inclosed by the 
two columns that their escape will be impossible. The Depart- 
ment Commander desires that on your way up the Rosebud you 
should thoroughly examine the upper part of Tulloch's Creek, 
and that you should endeavor to send a scout through to Col. 
Gibbon's column with information of the result of your examina- 
tion. The lower part of this creek will be examined by a detach- 
ment from Col. Gibbon's command. The supply steamer will 



be pushed up the Big Horn as far as the forks of the river are 
found to be navigable for that space, and the Department Com- 
mander, who will accompany the column of Col. Gibbon, desires 
you to report to him there not later than the exi)iration of the 
time for which your troops are rationed, unless in the meantinit; 
you receive further orders. Rospoctfully, &c., 

E. "W. Smith, Captain 18th Tnfantr}-, 

Acting Assistant Adjutant General. 

After proceeding soutlierly up the E,osel)n<l for 
about seventy miles, Custer, at 11 p. m. on the niirlit 
of the 24th, turned westerly towards Little Big Horn 
River. The next morninc: while crossiuij the elevated 
land between the two rivers, a larire Indian village 
was discovered about fifteen miles distant, just across 
Little Big Horn River. Custer with characteristic 
promptness decided to attack the village at once. 

One company was escorting the train at the roar. 
The balance of the force was divided into three col- 
umns. The trail they were on led down to the stream 
at a point some distance south of the village. Major 
Reno, with three comjianies under Caj^t. T. H. French, 
Capt. Myles Moylan, and Lieut. Donald Mcintosh, 
was ordered to follow the trail, cross the stream, and 
charge down its north bank. Capt. F. W. Benteen, 
Avitli his own company and two others under Capt. T. 
B. Weir and Lieut. E. S. Godfrey, was sent to make a 
detour to the south of Reno. The other five com- 
l^anies of the regiment, under the immediate command 
of Custer, formed the right of the little army. 

On reaching the river Reno crossed it as ordei'ed, 
and Custer with his five cc^npanies turned northerly 
into a ravine running behind the blufl:*s on the east 
side of the stream. 

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The supply steamer Far West with Gen. Terry 
and Col. Gibbon on board, wbicli steamed up the 
Yellowstone on the evening of June 23d, overtook 
Gibbon's troops near the mouth of the Big Horn 
early on the morning of the 24th ; and by 4 o'clock 
p. M. of the same day, the entire command with the 
animals and supplies ^lad been ferried over to the 
south side of the Yellowstone. An hour later the 
column marched out to and across Tulloch's Creek, 
and then encamped for the night. 

At 5 o'clock on the morning of the 25th, (Sunday) 
the column was again in motion ; and after marching 
22 miles over a country so rugged as to task the en- 
durance of the men to the utmost, the infantry halted 
for the night. Gen. Terry, however, with the cavalry 
and the battery pushed on 14 miles further in hopes 
of opening communication with Custer, and camped 
at midnight near the mouth of the Little Big Horn. 

Scouts sent out from Terry's camp early on the 
morning of the 26th discovered three Indians, who 
proved to be Crows who had accompanied Custer's 
regiment. They reported that a battle had been 
fought and that the Indians were killing white men 
in great numbers. Their story was not fully credited, 
as it was not expected that a conflict would occur so 

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soon, or believed that serious disaster could Lave over- 
taken so large a force. 

The infantry, Avliich had broken camp very early, 
now came up, and the whole column crcjssed the 
Little Big Horn and moved up its western valley. 
It was soon reported that a dense heavy smoke was 
resting over the southern horizon i'ar ahead, and in a 
short time it became visible to all. This Avas hailed as 
a sign that Custer had met the Indians, defeated them, 
and burned their village. The weary foot soldiers 
were elated and freshened by the sight, and pressed 
on with increased spirit and speed. ' 

Custer's position was believed to be not far ahead^ 
and efforts were repeatedly made during the after- 
noon to open communication with him ; but the scouts 
who attempted to go through were met and driven 
back by hostile Indians who were hovering in the 
front. As evening came on, their numbers increased 
and large parties could be seen on the bluffs hurrying 
from place to place and watching every movement of 
the advancing soldiers. 

At 8:40 in the evening the infantry had marched 
that day about 30 miles. The forks of the Big Horn, 
the place where Terry had requested Custer to report 
*.o him, were many miles behind and the expected 
messenger from Custer had not arrived. Daylight 
was fading, the men were fatigued, and the column 
was therefore halted for the night. The animals 
were picketed, guards were set, and the weary men, 
wrapped in their blankets and with their weapons 
beside them, were soon asleep on the ground. 

Early on the morning of the 27th the march up the 
Little Big Horn was resumed. The smoke cloud was 
still visible and apparently but a short distance ahead.. 


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Soon a dense grove of trees was reached and passed 
tlirough cautiously, and tlieu the head of the column 
entered a heautiful level meadow about a mile in 
■ width, extending along the west side of the stream 
and overshadowed east and Avest by high bluffs. It 
soon became apparent that this meadow had recently 
been the site of an immense Indian village, and the 
great number of temporary bi'ushwood and willow 
huts indicated that many Indians beside the usual 
inhabitants had rendezvoused there. It was also evi- 
dent that it had been hastily deserted. Hundreds of 
lodge-poles, with finel}^-dressed buffalo-robes and other 
hides, dried meat, stores, axes, utensils, and Indian 
trinkets were left l)ehind; and in two tepees or 
lodges still standing, Avere the bodies of nine Indians 
who had gone to the " hai)py hunting-grounds." 

Every step of the march now revealed some 
evidence that a conflict had taken place not far 
away. The dead bodies of Indian horses were seen, 
and cavalry equipments and weapons, bullet-pierced 
clothing, and blood-stained gloves were picked up ; 
and at last the bodies of soldiei's and their horses 
gave positive proof that a disastrous battle had taken 
place. The Crow Indians had told the truth. 

The head of the column was now met by a breath- 
less scout, who came running up Avith the intelli- 
gence that Major Reno with a l)ody of troo])Swas in- 
trenched on a bluft' i'urther on, awaitinir r'.'llef. The 
soldiers pushed alit^ad in the direction pointed out, 
and soon came in sight of men and horses intrenched 
on top of a hill on the opjiosite or east side of the 
river. Terry and Gibbon ini' lediately forded the 
stream and rode toward the ^roup. As they ap- 
proached the top of the hill, they were welcomed by 



hearty cheers from a swarm of soldiers "who came out 
of their intreiiclmieiits to meet tlieir deliverers. The 
scene was a touching one. Stout-hearted soldiers who 
had kept bravely uj) during the hours of conflict and 
danger now cried like children, and the pale faces of 
the wounded lighted up as ho])e revived \vitliin them. 

The story of the relie\'ed men l)rieily told was as 
follows : — After separating from Custer al»out noon, 
June 25th, (as related in the last chaj)ter) Reno i)ro- 
ceeded to the river, forded it, and charged down its 
west hank toward the village, meeting at first witli 
but little resistance. Soon however .he was attacked 
by such numbers as to be obliged to dismount his 
men, shelter his horses in a stri]) of woods, and figlit 
on foot. Finding that they Avould soon be surrounded 
and defeated, he again mounted his men, and charging 
upon such of the enemy as oljstructed his w^'iy, re- 
treated across the river, and reached the top of a bluff 
followed closely by Indians. Just then Benteen, re- 
turning from his detour southward, discovered lleno's 
perilous ])Osition, drove back the Indians, and joined 
him on the hill. Shortly after\vard, the company 
which was escorting the mule train also joined Reno. 
The seven companies thus brought together had been 
subsequently assailed by Indians ; many of the men 
had been killed and wounded, and it was only by 
obstinate resistance that they had been enabled to 
defend themselves in an entrenched position. The 
enemy had retired on the evening of the 2Gth. 

iVfter congratulations to Reno and his brave men 
for tlieir successful defence enquiries were made re- 
specting Custer, but no one could tell where he was. 
Neither he or any of his men had l)een seen since the 
fight commenced, and the musketry heard from the 


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direction he took had ceased on tlie afternoon of the 
25th. It was supjiosed by Reno and Benteen that lie 
had heen repulsed, and retreated northerly towai'ds 
Tei'ry's tro()|)s. 

A search for Custer and his men was immediately 
began, and it revealed a scene calculated to appal the 
stoutest heart. Although neither Custer or any of 
that part of his regiment which he led to combat were 
found alive to tell the tale, an examination of their 
trail and the scene of conflict enaljled their comrades 
to form sonie idea of the engagement in which they 




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General Custer's trail, fi-oni the place where he 
left Reno's and turned north wai'd, passed along and 
in the rear of the crest of hills on the east l)ank of 
the stream for nearly three miles; and then led, 
through an opening in the bhiff, down to the river. 
Here Custer had evidently attempted to cross over to 
attack the village. The trail then turned back on 
itself, as if Custer had been repulsed aiid obliged to 
retreat, and branched to the northward, as if he had 
been prevented from returning southerly by the way 
he came, or had determined to retreat in the direction 
from which Terry's troops were advancing. 

Several theories as to the subsequent movements 
of the troops have been entertained by persons who 
visited the grounds. One is, that the soldiers in re- 
treating took advantage of two ravines; that two 
companies under Capt. T. W. Custer and Lieut. A. 
E. Smith, were led by Gen. Custer up the ravine 
nearest the river, while the upper ravine furnished a 
line of retreat for the three companies of Capt. G. W. 
Yates, Capt. M. W. Keogh, and Lieut. James Calhoun. 
At the head of this upper ravine, a mile from the 
river, a stand had been made by Calhoun's company ; 
the skirmish lines were marked by rows of the slain 
with heaps of empty cartridge shells before them, and 




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Lieuts. Calhoun and Crittenden lay dead just behind 
the files. Further on, Ca^it. Keogh had fallen sur- 
rounded by liis men ; and still further on, ujion a 
hill, Caj)t. Yates' company took its final stand. Here, 
according to this theory, Yates was joined by what 
remained of the other two companies, who had been 
furiously assailed in the lower ravine ; and here Gen. 
Custei' and the last survivors of the five comi)anies 
met their death, fighting bravely to the end. 

Another theory of the engagement is, that Custer 
attempted to retreat wp the lower ravine in colunms 
of companies ; that the companies of Custer and Smith 
being first in the advance and last in the retreat, fell 
first in the slaughter which followed the retrograde 
movement ; tlmt T ates' company took the position on 
the hill, and ])erished there with Custer and other 
ofiScers; and that the two other companies, Keogh 's 
and Calhoun's, perished while fighting their way back 
towards Reno — a few reaching the place where Custer 
first struck the hif»:h banks of the river. 

Still another theory is, that the main line of retreat 
was by the upper ravine ; that Calhoun's company 
was thrown across to check the Indians, and was the 
first annihilated. That the two companies of Capt. 
Custer and Lieut. Smith retreated from the place 
^vhere Gen. Custer was killed into the lower ravine, 
and were the last survivors of the conflict. 

Near the highest point of the hill lay the body of 
General Custer, and nearby were those of his brother 
Caj^tain Custer, Lieut. Smith, Capt. Yates, Lieut. W. 
V. Riley of Yates' company, and Lieut. W. "W. Cooke. 
Some distance away, close together, were found 
another brother of Gen. Custer — Boston Custer, a 
civilian, who had accompanied the expedition as 



forage master of the 7tli Cavalry — and his nephew 
Armstrong Reed, a youth of nineteen, wlio was visit- 
ing the General at the time the expedition started, 
and aceonipanied it as a driver of the herd of cattle 
taken along. The wife of Lieut. Callionn was a 
sister of the Custer's, and she here lost her husband, 
three l)rothers, and a nephew. 

Other officers of Custer's battalion killed hut not 
already mentioned, were Asst. Surgeon L. W. Lord, 
and Lieuts. H. M. Harrington, J. E. Porter, and J. G. 
Sturgis. The last named ^vas a West Point graduate 
of 1875, and a son of General S. D. Sturgis, the Col- 
onel of the 7th Cavalry, who had been detained by 
other duties when his regiment started on this expedi- 
tion. The bodies of the slain were rifled of valuables 
and all were mutilated excepting Gen. Custer, and 
Mark Kellogg — a correspondent of the New Yoi^h 
Herald. Gen. Custer was clad in a buckskin suit ; and 
a Canadian — Mr. Macdonald — was subsequently in- 
formed by Indians, who were in the fight, that for this 
reason he was not mangled, as they took him to be 
some brave hunter accidentally with the troops* 
Others believe that Custer was passed by from r-^-pect 
for the heroism of one whom the Indians had learned 
to fear and admire. 

The dead were buried June 28th, where they fell, 
Major Reno and the survivors of his regiment per- 
forming the last sad rites over their comrades. 

A retreat to the mouth of Big Horn River was now 
ordered and successfully effected, the wounded being 
comfortably transported on mule litters to the mouth 
of the Little Big Horn, where they were placed on a 
steamboat and taken to Fort Lincoln. Gibbon's 
Cavalry followed the Indians for about ten miles, and 





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ascertained that they had moved to the south and 
west by several trails. A good deal of property had 
been thrown away by them to lighten their march, 
and was found scattered about. Many of their dead 
were also discovered secreted in ravines a long dis- 
tance from the battle field. 

At the boat was found one of Custer's scouts, who 
had been in the light — a Crow named Curley; his 
story was as follows : — 

" Custer kept down the river on the north bank four miles, 
after Reno had crossed to the south side above. He thou<^ht 
Reno would drive dpwn the vallc}', to attack the village at the 
upper end, while he (Custer) would go in at the lower end. 
Custer had to go further down the river and further away from 
Reno than he wished on account of the steep bank along the 
north side ; but at last he found a ford and dashed for it. The 
Indians met him and poured in a heav}' lire from across the nar- 
row river. Custer dismounted to fight on foot, but could not 
get his skirmishers over the stream. Meantime hundreds of 
Indians, on foot and on ponies, poured over the river, which was 
only about three feet deep, and filled the ravine on each side of 
Custer's men. Custer then fell back to some high ground behind 
him and seized the ravines in his immediate vicinit}*. The Indi- 
ans completely surrounded Custer and poured in a terrible fire 
on all sides. Thej' charged Custer on foot in vast numbers, but 
were again and again driven back. 

" The fight began about 2 o'clock, and lasted almost until the 
sun went down over the hills. The men fought desperately', and 
after the ammunition in their belts was exhausted went to their 
saddlebags, got more and continued the fight. Custer lived until 
nearl}' all his men had been killed or wounded, and went about 
encouraging his soldiers to fight on. He got a shot in the left 
side and sat down, with his pistol in his hand. Another shot 
struck Custer in the breast, and he fell over. The last oflftcer 
killed was a man who rode a white horse — believed to be Lieut. 
Cooke, as Cooke and Calhoun were the only oflflcers who rode 
white horses. 

" When he saw Custer hopelessly surrounded he watched his 


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opportunity, got a Sioux blnnkct, put it on, nnd worked up a 
ravine, ami wlien tlio Sioux charged, lie got among them and 
they did not know liiin from one of their own men. Tlicre were 
Home mounted Sioux, and seeing one fall, he ran to liim, momit- 
ed his pony, and galloped down as if going towards the white 
men, but wont up a ravine and got nwa}*. As he rode olf he 
Haw, when nearly a mile from the battle field, a dozen or more 
soldiers in a ravine, fighting with Sioux all firound them. He 
thinks all were killed, as they were outnumbered five to one, and 
apparently dismounted. The battle was desperate in the ex- 
treme, and more Indians than white men must have been killed." 

The followiug extract ia from, a letter written to 
Gen. Sheridan by Gen. Terry at his camp on the Big 
Horn, July 2d : — 

" We calculated it would take Gibbon's command until the 
26th to reach the moutli of the Little Big Horn, and that the 
wide sweep I had proposed Custer should make would rec^uire so 
much time that Gibbon would be able to co-operate with him in 
attacking any Indians that might be found on tLe stream. I 
asked Custer how long his marches would bo. He said thej' 
would be at the rate of about 30 miles a day. Measurements 
were made and calculations based on that rate of progress. I 
talked with him about his strength, and at one time suggested 
that perhaps it would be well for me to take Gibbon's cavalry 
and go with him. To the latter suggestion he replied : — that, 
without reference to the command, he would prefer his own reg- 
iment alone. As a homogeneous body, as much could be done 
with it as with the two combined. He expressed the utmost 
confidence that he had all the force that he could need, and I 
shared his confidence. The plan adopted was the only one 
which promised to bring the infantr}' into action, and I desired 
to make sure of things by getting up ever}' available man. I 
offered Custer the battorj' of Gatling guns, but he declined it, 
saying that it might embarrass him, and that he was strong 
enough without it. The movements proposed by General Gib- 
bon's column were carried out to the letter, and had the attack 
been deferred until it was up, I cannot doubt that we should 
have been successful." 

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After the battle in which Lieut. Col. Custer lost 
his life, the command of the 7th Cavalry regiment de- 
volved on Major Reno. The following is a copy of 
Reno's official report to Gen. Terry, excepting that a 
few unimportant paragraphs are omitted. It is dated 
July 5th, 1876. 

" The regiment left the camp at the mouth of Rosebud River, 
after passing in review before the department commander, under 
command of Brevet Major General G. A. Custer, Lieutenant 
Colonel, on the afternoon of the 22d of June, and marched up 
the Rosebud 12 miles and encamped. 23d — Marched up the 
Rosebud, passing manj' old Indian camps, and following a very 
large lodge-pole trail, but not fresh, making 33 miles. 24th — The 
march was continued up the Rosebud, the trail and signs fresh- 
ening with every' mile until we had made 28 miles, and we then 
encamped and waited for information from the scouts. At 9.25 
p. M., Custer called the officers together, and informed us that 
beyond a doubt the village was in the valley of the Little Big 
Horn, and that to reach it, it was necessary to cross the divide 
between the Rosebud and Little Big Horn, and it would be im- 
possible to do so in the daytime without discovering our march 
to the Indians ; that we would prepare to move at 1 1 p. m. This 
was done, the line of march turning from the Rosebud to the 
right, up one of its branches, which headed near the summit of 
the divide. 

" About 2 A. M. of the 25th, the scouts told him that he could not 
cross the divide before daylight. We then made coffee and 
rested for three hours, at the expiration of which time the march 
was resumed, the divide crossed, and about 8 a. m. the command 


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Tvas in the valley of one of the branches of the Little Big Horn. 
By this time Indians had been seen, and it was certain that we 
conld not surprise them, and it was determined to move at once 
to the attack. 

"Previous to this no division of the regiment had been made 
since the order was issued on tlie Yellowstone, annulling wing 
and battalion organizations, (leneral Custer informed me he 
would assign commands on the march. I was ordered by Lieut. 
W. W. Cooke, Adjutant, to assume command of Companies M, 
A, and G ; Capt. Benteen of Companies II, D, and K ; Custer 
retainiuj^ C, E, F, I, and L, under his immediate command ; and 
Company B, Capt. McDougall, being in rear of the pack train. 
I assumed command of the companies assigned to me, and with- 
out any definite orders, moved forward with the rest of the col- 
umn, and well to its left. I saw Benteen moving .further to the 
left, and, as they passed, he told me he had orilers to move well 
to the left, and sweep everything before him ; I did not see him 
again until about 2:30 r. m. The connnand moved down the 
creek towards the Little Big Horn Vallcv. Custer with five 
companies on the right bank ; myself and three companies on 
the left bank ; and Benteen further to the left, and out of sight. 

" As we approached a deserted village, in which was standing 
one tepee, about 11 a. m., Custer motioned me to cross to him, 
•which I did, and moved nearer to his column, until about 12:30 
A. M., when Lieut. Cooke came to me and said the village was 
onlv two miles ahead and running awav. To ' move forward at as 
rapid a gait as I tlunight prudent and to charge afterward, and 
that the whole outfit would support me.' I think those were his 
exact words. I at once took a fast trot, and moved down 
fibout two miles, when I came to a ford of the river. I crossed 
immediately, and halted about ten minutes or less, to gather the 
battalion, sending word to Custer that I had evervthing in front 
of me, and that they were strong. 

" I deployed, and, with the Ree scouts on mj' left, charged 
down the valley, driving the Indians with great ease for about 
2^ miles. I, however, soon saw that I was being drawn into 
some trap, as they certainly would fight harder, and especially as 
we wey e nearing their village, which was still standing ; besides, 
I could not see Custer or any other support ; and at the same time 
the very earth seemed to grow Indians, and they were running 

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toward me in swarms, and from all directions. I saw I must 
defend myself, and give up the attack mounted. This 1 did, 
taking possession of a point of woods, which furnished near its 
edge a shelter for the horses ; dismounted, ami fought them ou 
foot, making headway through the woods. I soon found myself 
in the near vicinityof the village, saw that I was lighting odds of 
at least five to one, and that my onl}' hope was to get out of the 
woods, where I would soon have been surrounded, and gain some 
high ground. I accomplished this by mounting and charging the 
Indians between me and the bluffs on the opposite side of the 
river. In this charge First Lieut. Donald Mcintosh, Second 
Lieut. Benjamin II. Hodgson, and Acting Assistant Surgeon J. 
M. De Wolf were killed. 

" I succeeded in reachinfT- the top of the bluff, with a loss of the 
three officers and 29 enlistcd men killed, and seven men wounded. 
Almost at the same time I reached the top, mounted men were 
seen to be coming toward us, and it proved to be Capt. Benteen's 
battalion. Companies II, D, and K ; we joined forces, and in a 
short time the pack train came up. As senior my command was 
then Companies A, B, D, G, II, K, and M, about 380 men ; and 
the following officers : — Captains Benteen, Weir, French, and 
McDougall, FiiHt Lieutenants Godfrey, Mathej-, and Gibson, 
Second Lieutenants Edgerh Wallace, Varnum, and xlare, and 
A. A. Surgeon Porter. First Lieut. De Rudio was in the dis- 
mounted fight in the woods, but having some trouble with his 
horse did not join the command in the charge out, and hiding 
himself in the woods, joined the command after nightfall of the 

" Still hearing nothing of Custer, and with this reinforcement, 
I moved down the river in the direction of the village, keeping on 
the blufl's. We had heard firing in that direction, and knew it 
could onlj' be Custer. I moved to the summit of the highest 
bluff, but seeing and hearing nothing, sent Capt. Weir, with his 
company, to open pommunication with the other command. He 
soon sent back woi-d by Lieut. Hare that he could go no further, 
and that the Indians were getting around him. At this time he 
was keeping up a heavy fire from his skirmish line. I at once 
turned everything back to the first position I had taken on the 
bluff, and which seemed to me the best. I dismounted the men, 
had the horses and mules of the pack train driven together in a 

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depression, put the men on the crests of the hills making the 
depression, and had hardly done so when I was furiously attack- 
ed. This was about 6 p. m. We held our ground, with the loss 
of ly enlisted men killed and 46 wounded, until the attack ceased, 
about 9 p. M. 

'' As 1 knew by this time their overwhelming numbers, and had 
given up any support from the portion of the regiment with Cus- 
ter, I had the men tlig rifle-pits ; barricadetl with dead horses, 
mules, and boxes of hard bread, the opening of the depression 
toward the Indians in which the animals were herded ; and made 
every exertion to be ready for what I saw would be a terrific 
assault the next da}'. All this night the men were busy, and the 
Indians holding a scalp dance underneath us in the bottom and 
in our hearing. 

" On the morning of the 26th I felt confident that I could hold 
my own, and was ready as far as I could be, when at daylight, 
about 2:30 a. m., I heard the crack of two rifles. This was the 
signal for the beginning of a fire that I have never seen equaled. 
Every rifle was handled by an expert and skilled marksman, and 
with a range that exceeded our carbine ; and it was simply im- 
possible to show i\ny part of the bod}-, before it was struck. We 
could see, as the dny brightened, countless hordes of them pour- 
ing up the valley from out the village, and scampering over the 
high points toward t lie places designated for them b}' their chiefs, 
and which entirely surrounded our position. The}- had sufficient 
numbers to completely encircle us, and men were struck on the 
opposite sides of the lines from which the shots were fired. I 
think we were fighting all the Sioux nation, and also all the des- 
perados, renegades, half-breeds and squaw men, between the 
Missouri and the Arkansas and east of the Rocky Mountains. 
They must have numbered at least 2,500 warriors. 

"The fire did not slacken until about 9:30 a. m., and then we 
discovered that they were making a last desperate attempt, which 
was directed against the lines held b)' Companies H and M. In 
this attack they charged close enough to use their bows and 
arrows, and one man lying dead within our lines was touched by 
the 'coup stick' of one of the foremost Indians. When I say 
the stick was only about 10 or 12 feet long, some idea of the 
desperate and reckless fighting of these people may be under- 
stood. This charge of theirs was gallantly repulsed by the men 


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on that line led by Capt. Benteen. They also came close enough 
to send their arrows into the line held b}' Companies D and K, 
but were driven away by a like charge of tlie line, which I accom- 
pani'^d. We now had many wounded, and the question of water 
was vital, as from 6 p. m. of the previous evening until now, 10 
A. M. (about 16 hours) we had been without it. A skirmish line 
was for ned under Capt. Benteen, to protect the descent of volun- 
teers down the hill in front of his position to reach the water. 
We succeeded in getting some canteens, although manj- of the 
men were hit in doing so. 

" The fury of the attack was now over, and to my astonish- 
ment the Indians were seen going in parties toward the vilhige. 
But two solutions occurred to us for this movement — that they 
were going for something to eat, more ammunition (as thej' had 
been throwing arrows), or that Custer was coming. We took 
advantage of this lull to fdl all vessels with water, and soon had 
it b}' the camp kettle full ; but they continued to withdraw, and 
all firing ceased, save occasional sliots from sharpshooters, sent 
to annoy us about the water. About 2 p. m. the grass 'n the 
bottom was set on fire, and followed up by Indians wno encour- 
aged its burning, and it was evident it was done for a purpose, 
which purpose I discovered, later on, to be the creation of a dense 
cloud of smoke, behind which the}- were packing and preparing 
to move their tepees. 

" It was between 6 and 7 p. m. that the village came out from 
behind the clouds of smoke and dnst. We had a close and good 
view of them, as they filed away in the direction of the Big Horn 
Mountains, moving in almost perfect military- order. The length 
of the column was fully equal to that of a large division of the 
cavalr}' corps of the Army of the Potomac, as I have seen it on 
its march. 

" We now thought of Custer, of whom nothing had been seen 
and nothing heard since the firing in his direction about 6 p. m. 
on the eve of the 25tli, and we concluded that tlie Indians had 
gotten between him and us, and driven him toward the boat, at 
the mouth of Little Big Horn River ; the awful fate that did befall 
him never occurring to any of us as within the limits of possibili- 
ties. During the night I changed my position, in order to secure 
an unlimited supply of water, and was prepared for their return, 
feeling sure they would do so, as they were in such numbers. But 







early in the morning of the 27th, and while we were on the qui 
vive for Indians, I saw with my glass a dust some distance down 
the vallej'. There was no certainty for some time what they 
were, but finally I satisfied myself they were cavahy, and if so 
could only be Custer, as it was ahead of tlie time that I under- 
atood that General Terry could be expected. Before this time, 
however, I had written a communication to Gen. Terry, and three 
volunteers were to try and reach him (I had "no confidence in the 
Indians with me, and could not get them to do any tiling). If 
this dust were Indians, it was possible they would not expect any 
one to leave. The men started, and were told to go as near as 
was safe to determine if the approaching column was white men, 
and to return at once in case thej- found it so ; but if they were 
Indians to push on to General Terry. In a short time we saw 
them returning over the high bluff already alluded to ; they were 
accompanied by a scout who had a note from Terry to Custer, 
saying, ' Crow scouts had come to camp saying he had been 
whipped, but it was not believed.' I think it was about 10:30 
A. M. that General Terry rode into my lines, and the fate of 
Custer and his brave men was soon determined by Capt. Benteen 
proceeding with his company to the battle ground. 

" The wounded in my lines were, during the afternoon and eve 
of the 27th, moved to the camp of General Terrj- ; and at 5 a. m. 
of the 28th, I proceeded with the regiment to the battle ground 
of Custer, and buried 204 bodies, including tlie folio wi..g named 
citizens : — Mr. Boston Custer, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Kellogg. 
The following named citizens and Indians, who were with my 
command, were also killed : — Charles Reynolds (guide and 
hunter) Isaiah ; (colored) interpreter ; Blood}- Knife (who fell 
from immediately by my side) ; Bob-tailed Bull and Stab of the 
Indian scouts. 

" After following over his trail, it is evident to me that Custer 
intended to support me by moving further down the stream, and 
attacking the village in flank ; that he found the distance to the 
ford greater than he anticipated ; that he did charge, but his 
march had taken so long, although his trail shows he moved 
rapidl}', that they were ready for him ; that Companies C and I, 
and perhaps part of Company E, crossed to the village or 
attempted it at the charge and were met by a staggering fire ; and 
that they fell back to secure a position from which to defend 

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themselves ; butthc}- were followed too closely- b3'the Indians to 
permit him to form any kind of a line. I think had the ret^iment 
gone in as a bod}', and from tlie woods in which I fouglit advanced 
on the village, its destruction was certain ; but he was fully con- 
fident they were running, or he would not have turned from 
me. I think (after the great number of Indians that were in tho 
village) that the following reasons obtained for the misfortunr : 
His rapid marcliing for two daj-s and one night before the tight, 
attacking in the day time at 12 m. and when the}^ were on the 
qui vive, instead of early in the morning ; and lastly, his unfor- 
tunate division of the regiment into three commands. 

" During my fight with the Indians I had the heartiest support 
from officers and men, but the conspicuous services of Brevet 
Colonel F. W. Bente'en, I desire to call attention to especially^ 
for if ever a soldier deserved recognition by his government for 
distinguished services, he certainly does. 

" The harrowing sight of the dead bodies crowning the height 
on which Custer fell, and which will remain vividly in my memory 
until death, is too recent for me not to ask the good people of 
this country whether a polic}- that sets opposing parties in the 
field, armed, clothed, and equipped bj' one and the same govern- 
ment, should not be abolished. All of which is respectfully 

The following is Capt. Benteen's account of his de- 
tour to tlie south and junction with Reno : — 

" I was sent with my battalion to the left to a line of bluffs 
about five miles off, with instructions to look for Indians and 
see what was to be seen, and if I saw nothing there to go on, and 
when I had satisfied mj-self that it was useless to go further in 
that direction to rejoin the main trail. After pi'oceeding through 
a rough and difficult country, very tiring on the horses, and seeing 
nothing, and wishing to save the horses unnecessary fatigue, I 
decided to return to the main trail. Before I had proceeded a 
mile in the direction of the bluffs I was overtaken b}- the chief 
trumpeter and the sergeant major, with instructions from Gen. 
Custer to use my own discretion, and in case I should find any 
trace of Indians, at once to notify Gen. Custer. 

"Having marched rapidly and passed the line of bluffs on the 
left bank i.f a branch of the Little Big Horn which made into the 
main stream about two and a half miles above the ford crossed by 




Col. Reno's command, as ordered, I continued m}- march in the 
same direction. Tlie whole time occui)ied in this marcli was 
about an hour and a half. As I was anxious to regain tlie main 
command, as there was no signs of Indians, 1 then decided to 
rejoin the main trail, as the country before me was mostly Oi" the 
same character as that 1 had already passed over, without valley 
and without water, and offering no inducement for the Indians. 
No valleys were visible, not even the valley where the fight took 
place, until my command struck the river. 

" About three miles from the point where Reno crossed the 
ford, I met a sergeant bringing orders to the commanding ollicer 
of the rear guard, Capt. McDougall, to hurry up the pack trains. 
A mile further I was met bj- m}- trumpeter, bringing a written 
order from Lieut. Cooke, the adjutant of the regiment, to this 
effect : — ' Benteen, come on ; big village ; be quick ; bring packs :* 
and a postscript saying, 'Bring packs.' A mile or a mile and 
a half further on I first came in sight of the valley and Little Big 
Horn. About twelve or fifteen dismounted men were fighting on 
the plains with Indians, charging and recharging them. This 
body numbered about 900 at this time. Col. Reno's mounted 
party were retiring across the river to the bluffs. I did not rec- 
ognize till later what part of the command this was, but was clear 
they had been beaten. I then marched ni}' command in line to 
their succor. 

" On reaching the bluff I reported to Col. Reno, and first 
learned that the command had been separated and that Custer 
was not In that part of the field, and no one of Reno's command 
was able to inform me of the whereabouts of Gen. Custer. While 
the command was awaiting the arrival of the pack mules, a com- 
pany was sent forward in the direction supposed to have been 
taken by Custer. After proceeding about a mile the}- were at- 
tacked and driven back. During this time I heard no heav}- 
firinrr, and there was nothimi to indicate that a heavy fight was 
goinor on, and I believe that at this time Custer's immediate 
command had been annihilated." 

In a letter addressed to the Army cmd Navy Jour- 
nal^ Lieut. E. L. Godfiy, of Benteen's battalion, give& 

the following information : — 

" Captain Benteen was some six miles from the scene of action 
when he received Lieut. Cooke's note ; he had no intimation that 



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the battle had begun, of the force of the Imli.ans, or plan of 
attack. Benteen pushed ahead ; the packs followed, and not 
until ho reached the high blurt's over-looking the river valley and 
near to where the troops afterwards were beseiged, did he know 
of the battle or immediate presence of the troops to the enemj' ; 
he could only hear occasional shots, not enough to intimate that 
a battle was going on. Soon after reaching this point two 
volleys were heard down the river where Gen. Custer was, but 
his force was not in sight. Soon after this Reno and Benteen 
joined. By accident Benteen's column constituted a reserve. It 
was well it was so. As soon as dispositions wore made on the 
blutf, Weir's company was sent to look for Gen. Custer. He 
went to a high point about three-quarters of a mile down the 
river, from which he 'had a good view of the country. From it 
could be seen Custer's battle field, but there was nothing to indi- 
cate the result. The field was covered with Indians. He was 
recalled from the place ; the packs closed up ; ammunition was 
issued and the command moved down the river to, if possible, 
join Custer. Upon reaching this high point we could see nothing, 
hear nothing, to indicate Custer's vicinage. But immediately the 
Indians started for us." 

The following is the narrative of George Herndon, 
a scout, published in the New Yoi'h Herald : — 

"At 11 P.M., June 24th, Custer followed the scouts up the 
right-hand fork of the Rosebud. About daylight we went into 
camp, made coffee, and soon after it was light the scouts brought 
Custer word that they had seen the village from the top of a 
divide that separates the Rosebud from Little Big Horn River. 
We moved up the creek until near its head, and concealed our- 
selves in a ravine. It was about three miles from the head of 
the creek where we then were to the top of the divide where the 
Indian scouts said the village could be seen, and after hiding his 
command, General Custer with a few orderlies galloped forward 
to look at the Indian camp. In about an hour he returned, and 
said he could not see the Indian village, but the scouts and a 
half-breed guide said they could distinctly see it some 15 miles 
ofl". Custer had 'officers' call' blown, gave his orders, and the 
command was put in fighting order. The scouts were ordered 
forward, and the regiment moved at a walk. After going about 




three miles the scouts reported Indians ahead, and the command 
then took the trail.* 

" Our way lay down a little creelc, a branch of the Little Bi<; 
Horn, and after going some six miles we discovered an Indian 
lodge ahead and Custer bore down on it at a stiff trot. In 
coming to it we found ourselves in a freshly-abandoned Indian 
camp, all the lodges of wliich were gone except the one we saw, 
and on entering it we found it contained a dead Indian. From 
this point we could see into the Little Big Horn valley, and ob- 
served heavy clouds of dust rising about five miles dislunt. 
Many thought the Indians were moving away, and 1 think Custer 
believed so, for he sent word to Reno, who was ahead, to push on 
the scouts rapidly and head for the dust. Reno took a steady 
gallop down the creek bottom three miles to where it emptied 
into the Little Big Horn, and found a natural ford across Little 
Big Horn River. He started to cross, when the scouts came 
back and called oiit to him to hold on, that the Sioux were 
coming in large numbers to meet him. He crossed over, however, 
formed his companies on the prairie in line of battle, and moved 
forward at a trot, but soon took a gallop. 

" The valley was about three-fourths of a mile wide. On the 
left a line of low, round hills, and on the right the river bottom, 
covered with a growth of Cottonwood trees and bushes. Alter 
scattering shots were fired from the hills and a few from the river 
bottom, and Reno's skirmishers had returned the shots, he ad- 
vanced about a mile from the ford, to a line of timber on the 
right, and dismounted his men to fight on foot. The horses were 
sent into the timber, and the men formed on the prairies and ad- 
vanced toward the Indians. The Indians, mounted on ponies, 
came across the prairies and opened a heav}' fire on the soldiers. 
After skirmishing for a few minutes Reno fell back to his horses 
in the timber. The Indians moved to his left and rear, evidently 
with the intention of cutting him off from the ford. Reno or- 
dered his men to mount and move through the timber. Just as 
the men got into the saddle the Sioux, who had advanced in the 
timber, fired at close range and killed one soldier. Reno then 
commanded the men to dismount, and they did so ; but he soon 
ordered them to mount again and moved out on the open prairie. 
The command headed for the ford, pressed closely by Indians in 
large numbers, and at every moment the rate of speed was 



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increased, until it became a dead run for the ford. The Sioux, 
mounted on their swift ponies, dashed up by the side of the sol- 
diers and fired at them, killing both men and horses. Little 
resistance was offered, and it was a complete route to the ford. 

" I did not see the men at the ford, and do not know what 
took place further than a good man}' wore killed when the com- 
mand left the timber. Just as I got out my horse stumbled and 
fell, and I was dismounted — the horse running away after Reno's 
command. I saw several soldiars who were dismounted, their 
horses having been killed or having run away. There were also 
some soldiers mounted who had remained behind. lu all there 
was as many as 13 men, three of whom were wounded. Seeing no 
chance to get away, I called on them to come into the timber 
and we would stand off the Indians. They wnn^ftd to go out, 
but I said ' No, we can't get to the ford, and, besides, we have 
wounded men and must stand by them.' They still wanted 
to go, but I told them I was an old frontiersman, understood 
Indians, and, if the^- would do as I said, I would get them out 
of the scrape, which was no worse than scrapes I had been in 
before. About half of the men were mounted, and they wanted 
to keep their horses with them ; but I told them to let them go, 
and light on foot. We stayed in the bush about three hours, and 
I could hear heavy firing below in the river, apparently about 
two miles distant. I did not know who it was, but knew the 
Indians were fighting some of our men, and learned afterward 
it was Custer's command. Nearly all the Indians in the upper 
end of the valley drew off down the river, and the fight with 
Custer lasted about one hour, when the heavy firing ceased. 

" When the shooting below began to die away I said to the 
boys, ' Come, now is the time to get out ; the Indians will come 
back, and we had better be off at once.' Eleven of the 13 said 
thej'^ would 2:0, but two staid behind. I deployed the men as 
skirmishers, and we moved forward on foot townrd the river. 
Wlien we had got nearly to the river we met five Indians on 
ponies, and they fired on us. I returned the fire and the Indians 
broke, and we forded the river, the water being breast-deep. We 
finally got over, wounded men and all, and headed for Reno's 
command, which I could see drawn up on the bluffs along the 
river about a mile off. We reached Reno in safety. We had 
not been with Reno more than 15 minutes when I saw the 


i. IKI 

A scours NARRATIVE. 


Indians coining up the valley from Custer's fight. Reno was 
then moving his whole command down the ridge toward Custer. 
The Indians crossed the river below Reno and swarmed up the 
bluir on all sides. After skirmishing with them Reno went back 
to his old position which was on one of the higliest points along 
the bluffs. It was now about 5 p. m., and the light lasted until 
it was too dark to see to shoot. As soon as it was dark, Reno 
took the packs and saddles off the nudes and horses and made 
breastworks of them. He also dragged the dead horses and 
mules on the line and sheltered the men behind them. Some of 
the men dug rifle pits with their butcher knives and all slept on 
their arms. 

"At the peep of day the Indians opened a heavy fire and a 
desperate fight ensued, lasting until 10 a. m. The Indians 
charged our position three or four times, coming up close enough 
to hit our men with stones, which they threw by hand. Captain 
Benteen saw a large mass of Indians gathering on his front to 
charge, and ordered his men to charge on foot and scatter them. 
Benteen led the charge, and was upon the Indians before the}' 
knew what they were about and killed a great many. They were 
evidently surprised at this offensive movement. I think in des- 
perate fighting Benteen is one of the bravest men I ever saw. 
All the time he was going about through the bullets, encouraging 
the' soldiers to stand up to their work and not let the Indians 
whip them. He never sheltered his own person once during the 
battle, and I do not see how he escaped being killed. The des- 
perate charging and fighting was at about 1 p. m., but firing was 
kept up on both sides until late in the afternoon. 

" I think the Indian village must have contained about 6,000 
people, fully 3,000 of whom were warriors. The Indians fought 
Reno first and then went to fight Custer, after which the}' came 
back to finish Reno. Hordes of squaws and old, graj-haired 
Indians were roaming over the battle-field howling like mad. 
The squaws had stone mallets, and mashed in the skulls of the 
dead and wounded. Our men did not kill any squaws, but the 
Ree Indian scouts did. The bodies of six squaws were found 
in the little ravine. The Indians must have lost as many men in 
killed and wounded as the whites did." 




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KILL eagle's narrative. 

A vivid account of Custer's last battle has been 
given by an Indian named Kill Eagle, who was in 
Sitting Bull's village on the day of the fight as, he 
claims, a non-combatant. Kill Eagle was head chief 
of the Cheyenne River Agency Indians who had 
become much dissatisfied. Capt. Poland, formerly 
commander of the troops at Standing Rock, says that 
the Indians there were " abominably starved during 
the winter and spring of 1875 — the authorities hav- 
ing failed to deliver the rations due them ; and in 
May and June 1876, the Indians received practically 
nothing except two issues of beef and ground coi'n, 
called meal, but so coarse that one peck yielded but 
a quart of meal." 

Early in May, Kill Eagle entered the military post 
with a party of warriors, gave a dance, demanded 
rations, and proclaimed " that ho owned the land the 
post was built on, the timber and stone which had 
been used in its construction, and that he would have 
the Great Father pay for all these things ; that his 
people were starving and they could get no food from 
the agent." The post commander told them he could 
do nothing for them. Kill Eagle's party manifested 
sulliness, and demonstrated their defiance by firing 
off pistols in the air as they marched outside of the 



gnrrison. A few days Liter the post commander was 
infonned that Kill Eai:;!*' had started for the hostile 
camp Avith ahout thirty lodges. 

Ill September, Kill Eagle came near the post and 
sent word that he intended to kill all the soldiers 
unless tlu^y crossed the river. The troops were under 
arms all night anticipating an attack, Imt none was 
made. Subsequently Kill Eagle surrendered to tlie 
autnorities, and gave them an account of his wander- 
ings during the summer. A letter written at Stand- 
ing Rock described his story as follows : — 

" lie commences with tlio date at which he left this agency, 
last spring, with 2G lodges, for the purpose of hunting buffalo 
and trading wi*t\ the hostile Indians. He speaks of having 
heard reports that troops were going out to punish the hostiles, 
but thought he would have time to do his hunting and trading 
and get out of the way before a battle occurred. Tijey were 
obliged to hunt, as they were starving at the agency, and were 
very successful. 

''On the seventh day they arrived at Sitting Bull's village, 
where a feast and numerous presents of ponies and robes were 
given them. Efforts were made to induce Kill Eagle and his 
band to join in the contemplated movements and hostilities, but 
evidently without much success. They were desirous of getting 
back again to the protecting arms of their agency, but were un- 
able to escape from the meshes of the wih- Sitting Bull. They 
found, too late, that for them there was no escape ; their horses 
were either shot or stolen, and wounds and insults were showered 
upon them from every side. In the meantime the forces of 
Crook were approaching, and with his people Kill Eagle suc- 
ceeded in escaping temporarily from the hostiles. He claims to 
have been distant some forty or fifty miles from the scene of the 
Rosebud fight, and relates many of the incidents which he was 
able subsequently to gather from the participants. He places the 
loss of the Indians in the Rosebud fight at four dead, left on the 
field, and twelve that were brought to camp. He places the 
wounded at as high as 400, and says they had 180 horses killed, 
besides those that were captured. 


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" He next comes to the fight on the Little Big Horn, and 
describes the Indian village, which was six miles long and one 
wide. He then speaks of Custer's approach and fight with its 
tragic details as an unwilling spectator, rather than a participant, 
who, during its progress, remained quietly in his lodge in the 
centre of the Indian village. The fight with Reno commenced 
about noon, the Indians all rushing to oppose his advance, until 
the approach of Custer toward the lower end of the village v/as 
announced, when the wildest confusion prevailed thoughout the 
camp. Lodges were struck and preparations made for instant 
flight. Vast numbers of Indians left Reno's front and hastened 
to the assistance of their red brethren engaged with Custer, who 
was steadily forced back and surrounded until all were swept 
from the field by the repeated charges of the Indians. 

" He described the firing at this point as simpl}'^ terrific, and 
illustratid its force by clapping his hand." together with great 
rapidity and regularity. Then came a lull in the fearful storm 
of iron hail and his hands were still again. The storm beat fast 
and furious as the thought of some loved one nerved the arm of 
each contending trooper. Then the movement of his 
slackened and gradually grew more feeble. A few scattering 
shakes, like the rain upon a window pane, and then the move- 
ment ceased as the last of Custer's band of heroes went down 
with the setting sun. 

" It was dusk as the successful combatants returned to camp 
littered with their dead and wounded. '"We have killed them 
all,' they said, ' put up your lodges where they are.* Thej' had 
just began co fix their lodges that evening, when a report came 
that troops were coming from toward the mouth of the creek. 
"When this report came, after dark, the lodges were ail taken 
down and they started up the creek. ' I told my men,' says Kill 
Eagle, ' to keep together, and we would tr}' and get away. Some 
one told on me, and they said let us kill him and his band, we 
have lost many young men to-day, and our hearts are bad. "We 
travelled all night and next day ; after crossing the Greasy 
Grass we encamped near the foot of the "White Mountains. That 
night, when I was asleep, I heard a man calling. I woke up my 
people and this man proved to be a Cheyenne Indian, belong- 
ing to a party that had been oflf on the war-path in the "White 


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" It was not to the Indians a bloodless victory. Fourteen had 
fallen in front of Reno, thirty-nine went down with Cu«ter, and 
fourteen were dead in camp. Horses and travoises were ladon 
with their wounded on every hand and in countless numbers. 
One band alone of Ogallallas had twenty-seven wounded on 
tn voises, and thirtj-eight thrown across horses. There were no 
white a en in the fight or on the field. The bugle calls were 
sounded by an Indian. No prisoners were taken. The troops 
were all killed on the east side ; none crossed the rivr." 

Little Buck-Elk, an Uncapapa chief who came into 
Fort Peck in September, said that he was present at 
the fight with Custer, and that eleven different tribes 
were engaged in it. " The Indians were as thick as 
bees at the fight, and there were so many of them 
that they could not all take part in it. The soldiers 
were all brave men and fought well ; some of them, 
when they found themselves surrounded and over- 
powered, broke through the lines and tried to make 
their escape, but were pursued and killed miles from 
the battle ground. The Indians captured six battle 
flags. No soldiers were taken alive, but after the 
fight the women went among the dead bodies and 
robbed and mutilated them. There were plenty of 
watches and money taken, which the young warriors 
are wearing in their shirts and belts." 

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Major Reno's conduct on the first day of tlie fight- 
ing on the Little Big Hoi'n, has been se /erly criticised 
by "'several of Gen. Custer's personal friends ; and one 
of them, Gen T. L. Rosser, in a letter addressed to 
Reno and published in the Army and Navy Journal^ 
blames him for taking to the timber when his " Ic^o 
was little or nothing." " You had," he says, " an open 
field for cavalry operations, and I believe that if you 
had remained in the saddle and charged boldly into 
the village, the shock upon the Indians would have 
been so great that they would have been compelled to 
withdraw their attacking force from Custer, who, when 
relieved, could have pushed his command through to 
open ground, where he could have manoeuvred his 
command, and thus greatiy have increased his chances 
of success." It would seem as if this and similar criti- 
cisms were sufficiently answered by Reno's report ; and 
by his reply to Rosser, which is given in part below : — 

" After reading all j'our letter I could no longer look upon it 
as a tribute of a generous enemy, since through me j'ou had at- 
tacked as brave officers as ever served a government, and with 
the same recklessness and ii2;norance of circumstaix^ies as Custer 
is charged with in his attacks upon the hostile Indians. Both 
charges — the one made against him and the one made by jou 
against us — are equally' untrue, You say : — ' I feel Custer would 
have succeeded had Reno, with all the reserve of seven companies, 
passed through and joined Custer after the first repulse ; ' ai; I 




after confessing that you are firing at long range sa}- further : 
'I think it quite certain that Custer had agreed with Reno upon a 
place of junction in case of the repulse of either or both detach- 
ments ; and, instead of an effort being made by Reno for such a 
junction, as soon as he encountered heavy resistance he took 
refuge in the hills and abandoned Custer and his gallant com- 
rades to their fate. 

" As I shall show, both the premises are false, and consequently 
all the conclusions of your letter fall to the ground. * * The 
only official orders I had from Custer were about five miles from 
the village, when Cooke gave me his orders in these words : 'Custor 
says to move at as rapid a gait as you think i)rudent, and to 
charge afterwards, and you will ])o supported b}- the whole outfit.' 

" No mention of any plan, no thought of junction, only the 
usual orders to the advance gurid to attack b\- the charge. When 
the enemy wai readied I muved to the front at a fast trot, and at 
the river halted ten minutes or less to gather the battalion. I 
sent word to Custer that I had the enemy in m^' front ver^- strong, 
and then charged, driving the reds before me about three miles 
or less, to within a short distance of their village, supposing my 
command, consisting of 120 officers and men and abo' t 25 scouts 
and guards, followed by the columns under Custer. The stream 
was ver^' crooked, like a letter S in its wanderings, and on the 
side on which the village was it opened out into a broad bottom, 
perhaps half or three-quarters of a mile wide. The stream was 
fr:n?cd, as usual, with the trees of the plains — a growth of large 
coUoawood, and on the opposite side was a range of high bluffs 
• iWvr uad been cut into very deep ravines. 

' ' . v^ I neared the village the Indians came out in great numbers, 
and ! '.as soon convinced I had at least ten to one against me, 
and was forced on the defensive. Tliis I accomplished by taking 
possession of a point of woods where I lound shelter for m\'^ horses. 
I fought there dismounted, and made mv vrr^v co within 200 yards 
of the villagt , and firmly belie'«'c that if, at that moment, the 
seven companies had been together the Indians could have been 
driven from their village. As we approached near their village 
•>hey came out in overwhelming numbers, and soon the small com- 
■ •.:i,.A would have been surrounded on all sides, to prevent which 
I mounted and charged through them to a position I could hold 
with the few men I had. 

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and draw firo, and was consequently the command to be support- 
ed, and not the one from which su[)pi it couUl be expcK^ted. All 
I know of Custer iVom the time he ordered mc to attack till 1 saw 
him buried, is that he did not follow my trail, but kept on his side 
of the river and along the crest of the blull's on the opi)osite side 
from the village and from ni}' connnanil ; tliat he heard and saw 
my action I believe, although I could not see him ; and ii is just 
here that the Indians deceived ns. AH this time 1 was driving 
them with ease, and his trail shows he moved rapidly down the 
river for three miles to the ford, at which he attempted to cross 
into their village, and with the conviction that he would strike a 
a retreating enemy. T'-umi)eter Martin, of Co. II, who the last 
time of any living pei , ird and saw Gen. Custer, and who 

brought the last order Li . djutant ever penciled, says he left 
the General at the summit of the highest blutf on that side, and 
which overlooked the village and ni}- llrst battle-lield, and as he 
turned, Gen. Custer raised his hat and gave a yell, saying tlicy 
were asleep in their tepees and surprised, and to charge. * * * 
" The Indians made him over confident l)y appearing to be 
stampeded, and, undoubtedly, when he arrived at the ford, expect- 
ing to go with ease through their village, he rode into an ambus- 
cade of at least 2,000 reds. My getting the command of the 
seven companies was not the result of any order or prearranged 
plan. Benteen and McDougal arrived separately, and saw the 
command on the bluffs and came to it. They did not go into the 
bottom at all after the junction. They attempted to go down the 
trail of Gen. Custer, but the advance compan}^ soon sent back 
word they were being surrounded. Crowds of reds were seen on 
all sides of us, and Custer's fate had evidently been determined. 
I knew the position I had first taken on the bluff was near and a 
strong one. I at once moved there, dismounted, and herded the 
pack train, and had but just time to do so when they came upon 
me by thousands. Had we been twenty minutes later effecting 
the junction not a man of that regiment would be living to-day to 
tell the tale." 

Another writer attacks both Reno and Beuteen,, 
accusing one of incapacity and utter demoralization 
during the attack of the Indians, and the other of 
wilful disobedience. " That he (Benteen) should have, 
as his o\> . testimony confesses, deliberately disobeyed 



tilt! 'peremptory or'der of Custer to ' Come on,' argues 
either a desire to sacrifice Custer, or an ignorance of 
wliicli his past career rentiers him incapable. Custer 
told him to ' Come on,' and he re^H^rted to Reno." In 
order, as he says, to "vindicate the reputation of a 
nol)leman from unjust aspersions," this writer further 
declares, that " had Reno fought as Custt^r fought, and 
had Benteen obeyed Custer's orders, the battle of the 
Little Big Horn might have proved Custer's last and 
greatest Indian victory." 

Of the writer last quoted, the Aimiy and Navy 
Journal says : — " With reckless pen he thrusts right 
and left, careless of reputations, regardless of facts, 
darkening the lives of other men, in the vain hope 
that one name may shine more brightly on the page 
of history * * * Nothing but the most absolute 
demonstration, accompanied by the proof, would jus- 
tify such statements as he has made, and this he has 
not given. The reports of anonymous ne\\ spaper cor- 
respondents, and an ex parte statement of the conclu- 
sions drawn from letters, of which we have not so 
much as the names of the wiiters, is not jjroof on which 
to base ci'iticisms affecting character and reputation." 

Capt. Benteen, Brevet Colonel U. S. A., who has 
been a captain in the 7th Cavalry since its organiza- 
tion in 1866, at which date Gen. Custer was appointed 
its Lieut. Colonel, in a letter to the Army and Navy 
Jownal uses the following language : — 

" Col. Reno and I thought during the seige of June 
25th and 26th, at the Little Big Horn, that he, Reno, 
was the abandoned party, and spoke of it as another 
'Major Elliot * affair'; thinking that General Custer 

* Major Joel H. Elliot of the 7th Cavalry, and 19 of his command, were 
missing after the Battle of the Washita in Nov., 1868. Their ^iead bodies 
were found some weeks later. 

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had retreated to the moutli of the river, where the 
steamboat was supposed to be, and that Reno's com- 
mand was left to its fate. I am accused of disobey- 
ing Custer's orders. Nothi ng is further from the truth 
in point of fact ; and I do not think the matter of suffi- 
cient importance to attemj)t to vindicate myself, but 
can rest contentedly under the ban when I have the 
consoling belief that the contrary is so well known by 
all my military superiors and comrades." 

Lieut. Gen. Sheridan, in his report for 1876, ex- 
presses his views of the Custer disaster as follows : — 

" As much has been said in regard to the misfortune that oc- 
curred to General Custer and the portion of his regiment under 
his immediate command in this action, I wish to express the con- 
viction I have arrived at concerning it. From all the information 
that has reached me, I am led to believe that the Indians were 
not aware of the proximity of Custer until he had arrived within 
about eight or nine miles of their village, and that then their scouts 
who carried the intelligence back to the valley were so closely 
followed up by Custer, that he arrived on the summit of the divide 
overlooking the upper por'ion of the village, almost as soon as 
the scouts reached it. As soon as the news was given, the Indians 
began to strike their lodges and get their women and children out 
of the way — a movement they always make under such circum- 
stances. Custer, seeing this, believed the village would escape 
him if he awaited the arrival of the four companies of his regi- 
ment—still some miles in his rear. Only about 75 or 100 lodges 
or tepees could be seen from the summit or divide, and this, prob- 
ably, deceived him as to the extent of the village. He therefore 
directed Major Reno, with three companies, to cross the river and 
charge the village, while he, with the remaining five companies, 
would gallop down the east bank of the river behind the bluff and 
cut off the retreat of the Indians. Reno crossed and attacked 
gallantly with his three companies— about 110 men — but the 
warriors, leaving the women to strike the lodges, fell on Reno's 
handful of men and drove them back to and over the river with 
severe loss. 

" About this time Custer reached a point about three and a half 






or four miles down the river, but instead of finding a village of 
75 or 100 lodges, he found one of perhaps from 1500 to 2000. 
and swarming with warriors, who brought him to a halt. This, 1 
think, was the first intimation the Indians hail of Custer's approacli 
to cut them off, for the}- at once left Reno and concentrated tu 
meet the new danger. The point where Custer reached the river, 
on the opposite side of which was the village, was broken into 
choppy ravines, and the Indians, crossing from Reno, got between 
the two commands, and as Custer could not return, he fell back 
over the b* 'ken ground with his tired men and tired horses (they 
had ridden about 70 miles with but few halts) and became, I am 
afraid, an easy prey to the enemy. Their wild, savage j'ells, 
overwhelming numbers, and frightening war paraphernalia, made 
it as much as each trooper could do to take care of his horse, thus 
endangering his own safety and efficiency. If Custer could have 
reached any position susceptible of defence, he could have defend- 
ed himself; but none offered itself in the choppy and broken 
ravines over which he had to pass, and he and his command were 
lost without leaving any one to tell the tale. 

" As soon as Custer and his gallant officers and men were ex- 
terminated and the scenes of mutilation by the squaws commenced, 
the warriors returned to renew the attack upon Reno ; but he had 
been joined by Captain Benteen and the four comi)anies of the 
regiment that were behind when the original attack took place, 
and the best use had been made of the respite given by the attack 
on Custer, to entrench their position. 

" Had the 7th Cavalry been kept together, it is my belief it 
would have been able to handle the Indians on the Little Big 
Horn, and under any circumstances it could have at least defend- 
ed itself; but separated as it was into three distinct detachments, 
the Indians had largely the advantage in addition to their over- 
whelming numbers. If Custer had not come upon the village so 
suddenly, the warriors would have gone to meet him, in order to 
give time to the women and children to get out of the way, as they 
did with Crook only a few days before, and there would liave 
been, as with Crook, what might be designated a rearguard fight 
— a fight to get their valuables out of the way, or in other words, 
to cover the escape of their women, children and lodges." 

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After regaining his position at the mouth of the 
Big Horn River, Gen. Terry called for reinforcements 
and additional troops were at once put in motion for 
his camp ; but as they had to be collected from all the 
various stations on the frontier — some of them very 
remote from railroads — considerable time elapsed 
before their arrival. 

During this period, the bands which had broken 
off from the main body of hostiles, and the young 
men at the agencies, continued their old and well- 
known methods of warfare, stealing horses on the 
frontier and killing small parties of citizens ; while 
the constant communication by the hostiles with the 
Indians at the agencies made it evident that supplies 
of food and ammunition were being received. To 
prevent this, Gen. Sheridan deemed it necessary that 
the military should control the agencies, and at his 
requ«^st, the Secretary of the Interior, July 2 2d, au- 
thorized the military to assume control of all the 
agencies in the Sioux country. 

About the same date Medicine Cloud, a chief, who 
had been sent from Fort Peck, in May, with a mes- 
sage to Sitting Bull inviting him to visit Fort Peck 
with a view to reconciliation, returned to the agency. 
To the invitation, Sitting Bull had replied : — 



" Tell him I am coming before lon^ to his post to 
trade. Tell him I did not commence. I am getting 
old, and I did not want to fight, but tlie whites rush 
on me, and I am compelled to defend myself. But 
for the soldiers stationed on the Rosebud, I Avith my 
people would have Vjeen there before that. If I was 
assured of the protection of the Great Fatlier, I 
would go to Fort Peck for the purpose of making 
peace. I and others want the Black Hills abandoned, 
and we will make peace." 

While awaiting reinforcements. Generals Terry and 
Crook were separated ^ / about 100 miles of rough 
teiTitory, the hostile Indians were between them, and 
for reliable communication with each other it "was 
necessary to send around by the I'ear nearly 2000 
miles. The carrying of dispatches direct was a woi'k 
of the most ardurous and perilous nature, and in 
doing it, and in reconnoitering, brave and gallant 
deeds were performed. 

On the 6th of July, Gen. Crook sent out Lieut. Sibley 
of the 2nd Cavalry with 25 mounted troops and two 
guides, Gerard and Babtiste, to reconnoiter the coun- 
try to the front, and learn if possible the movements 
of the enemy and the whereabouts of Terry's division. 
The party marched all night, and in the morning 
were near where the Little Big Horn debouches from 
the mountains. Here, from an eminence, they espied 
a large body of Indians marching eastward as though 
meditating an attack on the camp at Goose Creek. 
Concealing themselves as well as they could, they 
watched the movements of the enemy ; but a great 
shout soon warned them that their trail had been dis- 
covered, and hundreds of savages immediately set out 
to follow it, uttering terrific cries. 






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The fugitives galloped toward the mountains, and 
seemed to outrun their pursuers ; but about noon, 
while going through a ravine, a sudden volley was 
fired upon them from the surrounding slopes, and 
many Indians charged down upon them. They 
wheeled, and took refuge in the woods, but three 
horses were already wounded. Taking the ammuni- 
tion from the saddles, and leaving their horses tied to 
the trees to divert the enemy, they now moved stealth- 
ily and unseen from the ground, and escaped behind 
adjacent rocks ; then they climbed over steep and 
slippery places till exhausted, and while halting for a 
rest knew by the repeated firing that their horses 
were undergoing an attack. 

All that night they toiled among the mountains, 
and on the morning of the 9th reached Tongue River. 
As they had left their rations behind, they suffered 
much from hunger, and two of the men were so weak 
they could not ford the deep stream, and remained 
behind. When near the camp one of the guides went 
ahead for assistance, and a company of cavalry brought 
in the exhausted men. 

Having urgent occasion to communicate with Gen. 
Crook, Gen. Terry, by the promise of a large reward, 
induced a professional scout to make an attempt to 
reach him, but he soon returned unsuccessful. No 
other scout would undertake the task, and as a last 
resort a call for volunteers was made, in response to 
which, 12 soldiers promptly offered their services for 
the hazardous duty without hope of pecuniary reward. 
Three of these, Privates Wm. Evans, Benjamin F. 
Stewart, and Joseph Bell, of the 17th Infantry, w^ere 
selected. They set out on the 9th of July, reached 
Crook's camp on the 12th ; and returned on the 25th 

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accompanied by tlii'ee Crow Indians who had arrived 
from Terry's camp on the 19th. The three sohliers 
were thanked by their commander, in a General OrikM', 
"for a deed reHecting so much credit on the Service.'* 

Partial reinforcements having reached Gen. Crook, 
on the 16th of July he broke camp and moved grad- 
ually along the hills toAvard Tongue River. On the 
3d of August, just before sunset, an additional regi- 
ment, the 5th Cavalry, ten comj)anies, under Col. W. 
Merritt, " marched into camp ^vith their supply wagons 
close on their heels, presenting a fine appearance, 
despite the fatigue and dust of the march." 

Gen. Crook's fighting force now numbered about 

2000 men. Among them were over 200 Shoshone 

and Ute Indians, sworn enemies to the Sioux, led 

by Washakie, a well known Shoshone chief. These 

Indians were thus spoken of by a correspondent who 

saw them at Fort Bridger, drawn up in line before 

starting to Join Gen. Crook : — 

" In advance of the partj' was a swarthy temporary chief, his face 
covered with vertical white streaks. In his right hand, hanging 
to the end of a window-blind rod, were the two finp^ers of a dead 
Sioux. Another rod had a white flag nailed to it — a precaution 
necessary to preserve them from being fired upon in proceeding 
to the seat of war. The faces of the rest had on a plentiful sup- 
ply of warpaint. Once in line, they struck up a peculiar grunting^ 
sound on a scale of about five notes. One of the braves, aflflicted 
with a malady peculiar to the Caucasian race, began to urayj what 
he'd do when he got to the seat of war, winding up m broken 
English, ' Me little mad now ; bime by me heap mad.' Old 
Washakie, their chief, wants to die in battle, and not in bed." 

On the 5th of Aug., Gen. Crook cut loose from his 
wagon trains and started in pursuit of the Indians 
who, it was ascertained, had left the foot of the Big 
Horn Mountains, July 25th, and moved eastward. 
His route was north-easterly, across the Panther 


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Mountains to Rosebud Riv^er. On the 8tli of Aug. 
the troops were ten miles north of the l^attle-ground 
of June 17th, and near the site of a deserted viHage. 
The country west of the Roselnid liad been burned 
over, and a trail recently traveled by large numbers 
of Indians led down the valley. U2)on this trail the 
march was continued. 

Meantime, Gen. Terry had been reinforced by six 
companies of the 5th Infantry under Col. Nelson A. 
Miles, six companies of the 2 2d Infantry under Lt. 
Col. Otis, and other detachments, until his conmiand 
numbered abbut the same as Gen. Crook's. On the 
25th of July, he started for the mouth of the Rosebud 
and there established a ])ase of operations. On the 
8th of Aug., with his troops and a train of 225 wagons 
with supplies for 30 days, he moved down the west 
bank of the Rosebud ; and on thelOth, when 35 miles 
from its mouth, a junction with Crook's com- 
mand. Col. Miles with the 5th Infantry was sent 
back to the mouth of the Rosebud to patrol the 
Yellowstone, aided by steamboats, and intercept the 
Indians should they attempt to cross the river. 

The trail which Gen. Crook had been following 
now turned from the Rosebud eastward, and its pur- 
suit was promptly and steadily continued by the 
united forces. It led the troops across to Powder 
River and down its valley. On the 17th of August 
they were encamped near the mouth of Powder River, 
on both sides of the stream ; and here the two com- 
mands separated on the 24th of August. 

As the principal Indian trail had turned eastward 
toward the Little Missouri, Gen. Crook's column took 
up the pursuit in that direction. On the 5th of Sept, 
when on the headwaters of Heart River, a small party 


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of Indians were discovered going ejistward, — the first 
hostile Indians seen since leavin«jr Tont^iie River. 

The trail had now scattered so that it could l)e 
followed no longer, and Crook (h'cided to 2)ush for 
the Black Hills settlements. His ti'<)oi)s wei'e nearly 
out of food, and suffering from want <»f clothing, and 
bad weather. Cokl rains j)r(jvaile(l, and camp life 
with no tents, few Mankcts, and half I'ations, 1)ore hard 
on the soldiers. Meat was scai'ce and some of the 
horses were killed to supply food. 

On the 7th of Sept., Capt. Anson Mills with 150 men 
and a pack-train, was sent ahead with directions to 
obtain food at the Black Hills settlements about 100 
miles distant, and to return to the hungry column as 
soon as possible. Gerard, the scout, accompanied the 
detachment, and on the evening ol* the 8th, he dis- 
covered a hostile village of 40 lodges and several 
hundred jDonies. Capt. Mills retreated a few miles, 
hid his men in a ravine, and at daybreak next morn- 
ing dashed into the village. The Indians were com- 
pletely surprised and fled to the surrounding hills, 
from which they exchanged shots with their assailants. 
The lodges were secured, with their contents consist- 
ing of large quantities of dried meat and other food, 
robes, and flags and clothing taken from Custer and 
his men. 140 ponies were also among the spoils. 

A small party of the Indians had taken possession 
of a narrow ravine or canyon near the village, and in 
trying to dislodge them several soldiers were wound- 
ed. By direction of Gen. Crook, who had reached the 
field with reinforcements, the Indians in the ravine 
were informed that if they would surrender they 
would not be harmed. An old squaw was the first 
to take advantage of the offer, and was followed by 



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15 women and children, and, lastly, by three warriors^ 
one of whom, the chief American Horse, had been 
mortally wounded. 

Later in the day, before the troops had left the 
village, the Indians appeared in force and began a 
vigorous attacJ:. Infantry were at once thrown out . 
along the slope of the bluffs and, " about sundown 
it was a very inspiring sight to see this branch of the 
command with their long Springfield breach-loaders 
drive the enemy for a mile and a half to the west, 
and behind the castellated rocks." The captives in 
camp said the attacking Indians were reinforcements 
from the camp of Crazy Horse further west. This 
engagement is known as the battle of Slim Buttes. 
Our losses during the day were three killed, and 11 
wounded including Lieut. Von Leuttroitz. 

During the march of Sept. 10th a number of Indians 
came down on the rear, but were repulsed with a loss 
of several killed and wounded. Three soldiers were 
Wuunded in this skirmish. 

The remainder of this long and difficult march was 

successfully accomplished. On the 16th, Gen. Crook 

reached Deadwood, a Black Hills settlement, and was 

cordially received by the inhabitants. In a speech 

made by the General on this occasion, he said : — 

" Citizens : while j'ou welcome me and my personal staff as the 
representatives of the soldiers who are here encamped upon the 
White wood, let me ask j'ou, wlien the rank and file pass through 
here, to show that 30U appreciate their admirable fortitude in 
bearing the sufferings of a terrible march almost without a 
murmur, and to show them that they are not fighting for $13 per 
month, out for the cause — the proper development of our gold 
and other mineral resources, and of humanity. This exhibition 
of your gratitude need not be expensive. Let the private soldier 
feel that he is remembered by our people as the real defender of 
his country." 


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After parting witli Gen. Crook, Aug. 24th, Gen. 
Terry crossed the Yellowstone and marched down its 
left bank, his object being to intercept the Indians 
Crook was following if they attemi)ted to cross the 
river. On the 27th he left the river, and moved north- 
erly into the buffalo range where hunting parties 
were detailed wdio secured considerable game. The 
country was parched, the small streams dry, and 
water scarce. A scouting party made a detour to the 
north and west, but no Indians could l)e found. On 
the 5th of Sept. the whole command was at the mouth 
of Glendive Creek, where a military post had been 

Gen. Terry now decided to close the campaign and 
distribute his troops to their winter quarters. The 
Montana column under Col. Gibbon started on the 
retui !i march to Fort Ellis, 400 miles distant ; Lieut. 
Col. Otis of the 2 2d Infantry, with his command, re- 
maijied at Glendive Creek, to build a stockade and 
co-opeiate with Col. Miles, who was establishing a 
winter post at the mouth of Tongue River ; and Gen. 
Terry with the balance of the troops started for 
Fort Buford at the mouth of the Yellowstone. 

Hearing that ^-'Hting Bull with a large band had 
recently crossed to the north side of the Missouri 
River near Fort Peck, Terry sent Re no with trooj^s 
— then en route to Fort Buford — in pursuit. Reno 
marched to Fort Peck, and thence to Foi-t Buford, 
l)ut encountered no Indians. A reconnoitering party 
under Long Dog hiid been near Foi-t Peck, and that 
chief passed one night at the agency. They did not 
want rations or annuities, but desired plenty of am- 
munition, for w^hich they were ready to exchange 7th 
Cavalry horses, arms and equipments. 

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On the lOth of October, as a train escorted by two 
companies of the 6th Infantry was carrying supplies 
from Glendive Creek to the cantonment at the mouth 
of Tongue River, it was attacked by Indians, and was 
obliged to return to Glendive with a loss of sixty 

Lieut. Col. Otis was in comniand at Glendive, and 
on the 14th he again started out the train and per- 
sonally accompanied it. The train consisted of 86 
wagons, 41 of which were driven by soldiers, who had 
taken the places of as many citizen teamsters too de- 
moralized by the recent attack to continue in the 
service. The military escort numbered with officers 
196 men. The following interesting narrative of 
subsequent events is from the report of Col. Otis : — 

"We proceeded on the first day 12 miles, and encamped on the 
broad bottom of the Yellowstone River, without discovering a 
sign of the presence of Indians. Daring the night a small thiev- 
ing part}' was fired upon by the pickets, but the part}^ escaped, 
leaving behind a single pon}-, with its trappings, which was killed. 
At dawn of day, upon the 15th, the train pulled out in two strings, 
and proceeded quietly to Spring Creek, distant from camp about 
three miles, when I directed two mounted men to station them- 
selves upon a hill beyond the creek, and watch the surrounding 
countr}'- until the train should pass through the defile. Tlie men 
advanced at swift pace in proper direction, and when within 60 
yards of the designated spot, they received a volley from a number 



of concealed Indians, when suddenly men and Inc'ians came 
leaping down the blutf. The men escaped without injuty to per- 
son, although their clothing was riddled with bullets. 1 quickly 
advanced on the skirmish line, which drove out 40 or 50 Indians, 
and making a similar movement on the opposite flunk, passed 
through the gorge and gained the high table land. Here, three 
or four scouts, sent out by Colonel Miles, from Tongue River, 
joined us. They had been driven into the Tongue upon tlic pre- 
vious evening, there corraled, had lost theii horses and one of 
their number, and escaped to the bluffs under cover ol tlie dark- 
ness. The dead scout was found and buried. 

" The train proceeded along the level prairie, surrounded by 
the skirmish line, and the Indians were coming thick and fast 
from tha direction of Cabin Creek. But few shots were ex- 
changed, and both parties were preparinsj^ for the stru<rgle which 
it was evident would take place at the deep and broken ravine 
at ClearCreek,thi'ough which the train must pass. We cautious- 
ly entered the ravine, and from 150 to 200 Indians had gained 
the surrounding bluffs to our left ; signal fires were liglited for 
miles around, and extended far away on the opposite side of the 
Yellowstone. The prairies to our front were tired, and sent up 
vast clouds of smoke. We had no ai'tillery, and nothing reuiuined 
to us except to charge the bluffs. Com uy C, of the 17th In- 
fantry, and Company II, of the 22d Infantr}-, were thrown for- 
ward upon the run, and gallantl}' scaled the blufFs, nnswering the 
Indian yell with one equally as barbarous, and driving back the 
enemj' to another ridge of hills. We then watered all the stock 
at the creek, took on water for the men, and the train slowly 
ascended the bluffs. 

" The country now surrounding us was broken. The Indians 
continued to increase in numbers, surrounded the train, and the 
entire escort became engaged. The train was drawn up in four 
strings, and the entire escort enveloped it by a thin skirmish lin« 
In that formation we advanced, the Indians pressing every point, 
especially the rear. Company C, 17th, which was only able to 
follow by charging tlie enemy, and then retreating rapidly toward 
the train, taking advantage of all the knolls and ridges in its 
course. The flanks, Companies G, 17th„andKand G, 22d, were 
advanced about 1000 yards, and the road was opened in the front, 
by Company H, 22d, by repeated charges. 






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"In this manner we advanced several miles, and then halted 
for the night upon a depression of the high prairie, the escort 
holding the surrounding ridge. The Indians now had attempted 
every artifice. Tliey had pressed every i)oint of the line, had run 
their fires through the train, which we were compelled to cross 
with great rapidity, had endeavored to approach under cover of 
smo'ke, when tlu'v found themselves oveniuvtched by the officers 
and men, wlio, taking advantage of the cover, moved forward and 
took them at close range. They had met with considerable loss, 
a good many of their saddles were emptied, and several ponies 
wounded. Their firing was wild in the extreme, and I should 
consider them the poorest of marksmen. For several hours they 
kept up a brisk fire and wounded but three of our men. 

"Upon the niorning of the 16th, the train pulled out in four 
strings, and we took up the advance, formed as on the previous 
day. Many Indians occupied the surrounding hills, and soon a 
number approached, and left a communication upon a distant hill. 
It was brought in by Scout Jackson, and read as follows : — 

" Yellowstone." 
" I want to know what you are doing traveling on this road? 
you scare all the buffalo away. I want to hunt on the place. I 
want you to turn back from here : if you don't I will fight you 
again. I want you to leave what you have got here, and turn 
back fi im here. 

" I am your friend. Sitting Bull. 
" I mean all the rations you have got and some powder ; I wish 
you would write ae soon as 30U can." 

" I directed the Scout Jackson to inform the Indians that I 
had nothing to say in reply, except that we intended to take the 
train through to Tongue River, and thnt we should be pleased to 
accommodate them at any time with a fight. The train continued 
to proceed, and about eight o'clock the Indians began to gather 
for battle. 

" We passed through the long, narrow gorge, near Bad Route 
Creek, when we again .vatered the stock, and Gook in wood and 
water, consuming in this labor about an hour's time. When we 
had pulled up the gentle ascent, the Indians had ncrain surround- 
ed us, but the lesson of the previous day taught tiiom to keep at 
long range, and there was but little firing by either party. I 
counted 150 Indians in our rear, and from their movements and 
position I judged numbers to be between 300 and 500. 



After proceeding a short dishinco, a flag of truce appeared on 
the left flank, borne by two Indians, whom I directed to be 
allowed to enter the lines. The}- proved to be Indian scouts 
from Standing Rock Agency, bearing dispatches from Lieut. Col. 
Carlin, of the 17th Infantry, stating thattlie}- had been sent out 
to find Sitting Bull, and to endeavor to influence him to proceed 
to some military post and treat for peace. 

"These scouts informed me that they had that morning 
reached the camp of Sitting Bull and Man-afraid-of-his-horse, 
near the mouth of Cabin Creek, and that they had talked with 
Sitting Bull, who wished to see me outside the lines. I declined 
the invitation, but professed a willingness to see Sitting Bull 
within my own lines. The scouts left me, and soon returned 
with three of the principal soldiers of Sitting Bull — the last 
named individual being unwilling to trust his person within our 
reach. The chiefs said that tlieir people were angry because our 
train was driving awa}- the buffalo from their hunting grounds, 
that they were hungry and without ammunition, and that they 
especiallj' wished to obtain the latter ; that they were tired of war, 
and desired to conclude a peace. 

"I informed them that I could not give them ammur'ition, 
that had they saved the amount already wasted upon the train 
it would have supplied them for hunting purposes for a long 
time, that I had no authority to treat with them upon any terms 
whatever, but they were at libert}- to visit Tongue River, and 
there make known conditions. Tliey wished to know what assur- 
ance I could give them of their safety should they visit that place, 
and I replied that I could give them nothing but the word of an 
officer. They then wished rations for their people, promising to 
proceed to Fort Rock immediately, and from thence to Tongue 
River. I declined to give them rations, but finally offered them 
as a present 1501b. of hard bread and two sides of bacon, which 
they gladly accepted. The train moved on, and the Indians fell 
to the rear. Upon the following day I saw a number of them 
from Cedar Creek, far away to the right, and after that time they 
disappeared entirely. 

"Upon the evening of the 18th I met Col. Miles encamped with 
his entire regiment on Custer Creek. Alarmed for the safetj- of 
the train, he had set out from Tongue River upon the previous 


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While Col. Otis was thus gallantly advancing with 
his train, Col. Miles, of the 5th Infantry, fearing for 
its safety, had crossed the Yellowstone before day- 
break on the 17th and started toward Glendive. He 
met Col. Otis, as above stated, on the evening of the 
18th ; and on being informed of the attack on the 
train, started in pursuit of the enemy. On the 21st, 
when about eight miles beyond Cedar Creek , a large 
number of Indians appeared in front of the column, 
and two of them, bearing a white flag, rode up to the 
line. They proved to be the Standing Rock embas- 
sadors who had met Col. Otis; and brought word 
that Sitting Bull wished a conference with Col. Miles. 
Lieut. H. R. Bailey accompanied the t\vo friendly 
Indians to the hostile camp, and there aiTanged with 
Sitting Bull's white interpreter for a meeting to take 
place between the lines. 

The troops rested on their arms in line of battle 
while Col. Miles with a few officers rode forward and 
halted ab^ut half way between the two forces. Sit- 
ting Bull with a dozen unarmed warriors presently 
emerged from the hostile lines and walked slowly 
forward in single file. Col. Miles' party dismounted 
and advanced to meet them, and the council began. 
The scene was picturesque and exciting ; and the oc- 
casion one of much anxiety to the troops who remem- 
bered the assassination of Gen. Canby — especially so 
when dozens of armed warriors rode forward and sur- 
rounded the little group. 

The "talk" was long and earnest; the Indians 
wanted an " old-fashioned peace," with privileges of 
trade — especially in ammunition, and demanded the 
discontinuing of supply trains and the abandonment 
of Fort Buford. Col. Miles explained that he could 





only accept surrender on the terms of absolute sub- 
mission to the U. S. Government. At evening the 
conference was adjourned to the next day, and the 
parties separated as quietly as they had assembled. 
In the morning Col. Miles moved his command north, 
so as to intercept retreat in that direction. At al)out 
11a. m., Sitting Bull, Pretty Bear, Bull Eagle, John, 
Standing Bear, Gall, White Bull and others, came 
forward, marching abreast, and met Col. Miles and 
several officers on a knoll half way between the op^ 
posing lines. The Indiana asked to be let alone, and 
professed a w iali for peace, but such a- peace as Col. 
Miles could not concede. " After much talk by the 
various chiefs, Sitting Bull was informed once and for 
all that he must accept the liberal conditions offered 
by the Government or prepare for immediate hostili- 
ties; and the council dispersed — Sitting Bull disap- 
pearing like a shadow in the crowd of warriors behind 

" The scene," wrote ^ correspondent of the Army and Navy 
Journal^ " was now most animated. Col. Miles sent for his 
company commanders, and they came charging over the field 
to receive his final instructions. On the other side, the Sioux 
leaders rode hither and thither at full speed a front of their line, 
marshaling their men and haranguing them, calling on them to 
be brave. Sitting Bull's interpreter, Bruoy, rode back to ask 
why the troops were following him? He was answered by Col. 
Miles, that the non-acceptance of the liberal terms offered was 
considered an act of hostility, and he would open fire at once. 
The whole line then advanced in skirmish order. One company- 
occupied a knoll on the left with the 3-inch gun, the first shell 
from which was greeted with a hearty cheer from the advancing 
line. The Indians tried their old tactics and attempted rear and 
flank attacks from the ravines, but they found those vital points 
well protected hy companies disposed en potence, which poured 
in a torrent of lead wherever an Indian showed himself. The 

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firing then became general along the whole line. Some of the 
sharpest shooting was done by the Sioux, and manj' olllccrs only 
escaped " close calls " by the ends of their hair. Two enlisted 
men were wounded. Finally, Sitting Bull, finding his old plan 
of battle frustrated by that solid infantry skirmish line advanc- 
ing upon him with the relentless sternness of fate, began a 
general and precipitate retreat." 

The pursuit was resolutely kept up. The Indians 
fled down Bad Route Creek and across the Yellow- 
stone, a distance of 42 miles, abandoning tons of dried 
meat, lodge-poles, camp equipments, ponies, etc. The 
troops on foot followed rapidly, not stopping to count 
the dead or gather the plunder ; and the result was, 
that on the 27th of October five principal chiefs sur- 
rendered themselves to Col. Miles, on the Yellow- 
stone, opposite the mouth of Cabin Creek, as hostages 
for the surrender of their whole people, represented 
as between 400 and 500 lodges, equal to about 2,000 
souls. The hostages were sent under escort to Gen. 
Terry, at St. Paul, and the Indians were allowed five 
days in their then camp to gather food, and thirty 
days to reach the Cheyenne Agency on the Missouri 
River, where they were to surrender their arms and 
ponies, and remain either as prisoners of war or 
subject to treatment such as is usually accorded to 
friendly Indians. 

Sitting Bull was not among the chiefs who surren- 
dered ; during the retreat, they said, he had slipped 
out, with thirty lodges of his own special followers, 
and gone northerly. 



The disarming and dismounting of the Sioux 
Agency Indians being deemed necessary as a pre- 
cautionary measure, to prevent the hostile Indians 
from receiving constant supplies of arms, ammuni- 
tion, and ponies from their friends at the agencies. 
General Sheridan directed Generals Crook and Terry 
to act simultaneously in accomplishing that oVyect. 
The friendly and unfriendly Indians at the agencies 
were so intermixed, that it seemed impossible to dis- 
criminate between them. 

After refitting at the Black Hills, Gen. Crook pro- 
ceeded to the Red Cloud Agency, and found the 
Indians there in a dissatisfied mood and probably 
about to start to join the hostile bands. They had 
moved out some 25 miles from the agency, and re- 
fused to return although informed that no more 
rations would be given them till they did so. 

At daylight, Oct. 22d, Col. Mackenzie, the post 
commander, with eight companies of the 4th and 
5th Cavalry, surrounded the Indian camp containing 
300 lodges, and captured Red Cloud and his whole 
band, men, squaws and ponies without firing a shot, 
and marched them into the agency dismounted and 
disarmed. The Indians at Spotted Tail Agency were 
also disarmed and dismounted. 



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Gen. Crook had an interview with Spotted Tail, 
and being satisfied that he was the only important 
Sioux leader who had remained friendly, he deposed 
lied Cloud, and declared Spotted Tail, his rival, the 
"Sachem of the whole Sioux Nation, hy the grace of 
the Great Father the President. As the representa- 
tive of the latter, Gen. Crook invested him with the 
powers of a grand chief, and in token thereof i)re- 
sented him his commission as such, written u2:)on a 
parchment scroll tied with richly colored ribbons. 
Spotted Tail's heart was very glad." 

"The line of the hostile and the peacably dis- 
posed," wrote Gen. Crook at this time, "is now 
plainly drawn, and we shall have our enemies only 
in the front in the future. I feel that this is the first 
gleam of daylight we have had in this business." 

Meantime Gen. Terry, with the 7th Cavalry and 
local garrisons, was disarming and dismounting the 
Indians at the Standing E-ock and Cheyenne River 
Agencies. The following is a copy of his report to 
Gen. Sheridan, written at Standing Eock, Oct. 25th: — 

" Colonel Sturgis left Lincoln on the 20th, Major Reno on the 
21st, and each arrived here on the afternoon of the 22d. Sturgis 
immediately commenced dismounting and disarming the Indians 
at Two Bears' camp, on the left bank of the riA'cr, and Lieut. 
Col. Carlin, with his own and Reno's forces, dismounted and dis- 
armed them at both camps on this side. Owing partiall}- to the 
fact that before I arrived at Lincoln news was sent the Indians 
here, it is said, by Mrs. Galpin, that we were coming, and our 
purpose stated ; but principally, I believe, that some time since, 
owing to the failure of the grass here, the animals were sent to 
distant grazing places many miles away, comparatively only a few 
horses were found. I, therefore, the next morning, called the 
chiefs together, and demanded the surrender of their horses and 
arms, telling them that unless thej' complied their rations would 
be stopped, and also telling them that whatever might be realized 




from the sale of the property taken would bo invested in stocli 
for them. The}' liavo quielly submitted, and have sent out to 
bring in their animals. Some have already arrived, and avo 
have now in our possession 700. More are arrivin<^ rapidly, and 
I expect to double that number. 1 have ke[)l the whole force 
here until now for the ell'ect its pi-esence ^jroduces. 

" I shall start Sturgls to-morrow morning for Cheyenne, leav- 
ing Reno until Carlin eom[)letes tlie work iiere. Only a few arms 
have yet been found or surrendered, but I think our restdts are 
satisfactory. Not a shot was fired on either side of the river. 
Of course no surprise can now be expected ut Cheyenne. The 
desired effect will be attained there by the same means us those 
employed here." 

The late Sioux Commissioners, who made a treaty 

for the Black Hills iu Sept. 187(3, gave their pledge 

that all ffiemllu Indians would be protected iu their 

persons and property. Bishop Whipjde comments on 

the dismounting of the Indians as follows : — 

" In violation of these pledges 2,000 ponies were taken from 
Cheyenne and Standing Rock Agencies. No inventory was 
kept of individual propert}'. Of 1,100 ponies taken at Standing 
Rock, only 874 left Bismark for Saint Paul. No provision was 
made to feed them on the way. The grass had burned on the 
prairie and there was several inches of snow on the ground. 
The small streams were frozen, and no water was to be had until 
they reached the James River. There was no grass, and no haj'- 
could be purchased until the}' reached the Chey