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Full text of "Life and adventures of Polk Wells (Charles Knox Poll Wells) : the notorious outlaw, whose acts of fearlessness and chivalry kept the frontier trails afire with excitement, and whose roberies [sic] and other depredations in the Platte Purchase and elsewhere, have been a most frequent discussion to this day, all of which transpired during and just after the Civil War"

SHlHHMMIMWMIIJIINMNHWHHHHN 



BANCROFT 
LIBRARY 



THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 








From Photograph 

of him 

after 14 years 

Confinement in the 

Penitentiary 



"FOLK WELLS" 

(CHAS. POLK WELLS) 

When Captured 
and put in 

the 
Penitentiary 

at 
Ft. Madison, Iowa 




LIFE AND ADVENTURES 

OF 

POLK WELLS 

(CHARLES KNOX POLK WELLS) 



THE 
NOTORIOUS OUTLAW 




Whose Acts of Fearlessness and Chivalry Kept the Frontier Trails 
Afire with Excitement, and whose Roberies and other Depredations 
in the Platte Purchase and Elsewhere, have been a Most Frequent 
Discussion to this day, all of which Transpired During and Just After 
The Civil War. 




WRITTEN BY HIMSELF 

Published by G. A. WARNICA 

His Life Long Friend and Chief Financial Support 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 

$ 

Page 
Polk Wells' Portrait ~\ 

before entering penitentiary (. Frontispiece 

after 14 years in penitentiary j 

Father Wells Thrashes Polk for Striking Storekeeper 26 

Swimming the Missouri River, leaving home 28 

Escapes from Father by Swimming Creek 30 

Wells' First Shooting Scrape on Old Pomeroy Ferry at 

Atchison, Kans 38 

Entirely Surrounded by Indians Fights His Way Out. 59 

A Fearful Early Morning Charge 69 

Seven Dead Indians in this Escapade 90 

An Exciting Scrap with the Danites 149 

Holding up "Overland Route" Office Using Dummies Be- 
hind Log 164 

Portraits G A Warnica and Wife, formerly Mrs. Nora 

Wells Polk Wells' Chief Backers 167 

Nora Taking a Horse to Wells' Rescue 187 

Wouldn't Rob Orton Circus Because of Generous Hearted 

Showman 190 

Shot Through Knee at Riverton (la.) Bank Robbery 200 

Robbing The Jerseyville (111.) Bank 204 

Portrait Sheriff Chandler and Family 209 

Polk Wells Captured at Randolph, Wis 213 

Life in Fort Madison (Iowa) Penitentiary 218 

John Elder Chloroformed to Effect Escape from Penitentiary 221 
Escape of Wells, Cook and Fitzgerald .224 



-r-3 i 



PREFACE. 




jENTIMENT moulds public opinion. The ex- 
pressions of but a single man may change a 
whole epoch of history. The records of the 
world itself, which are known to us as history, 
are but the lives and acts of its citizenship. 
Each individual makes his or her part of that 
record, whether knowingly or unknowingly. It 
has been truthfully said that "it takes all kind of people to 
make a world." It likewise takes all kinds of lives to make 
up her history. 

History is seen through many eyes, and the records of her 
various lives, whether good or bad, must in the aggregate 
form a true and impartial history of the nation's life. What 
some men would discard from record, others would find most 
important to impress the public mind. It is with this feeling 
that this book, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF 
CHARLES KNOX POLK WELLS, better known to the public 
as "POLK WELLS," is made a matter of permanent record. 
We do not present it to you for your reading and considera- 
tion, as an example of perfect life or an exemplary one, far 
from it. His exciting career of lawlessness, his super daring 
deeds, has long since fixed his name on frontier record as one 
full of pathetic hatred and his very name as one with which 
to coerce children into good behavior. However, there are 
thousands of his friends, too, who have found much in his 
life to admire, for even his enemies freely admit he had a 
large, warm and kindly heart; that he never once took a 
penny from a poor person, and was always ready to bestow 
his last one upon them. He stands charged with many crimes 
of which he is but the rightful perpetrator, perhaps guilty 
of some even unknown, but many were false and but the work 



of a vicious public revenge, which places all crime committed 
upon the shoulders of he who at that time stands most promi- 
nent in daring deeds of outlawry, upon the public mind. 

The Life of Polk Wells is exceptionally full of the frontier 
life of the West. His adventures amongst the Indians is par- 
ticularly thrilling and reveal to us many of their singular 
traits, habits, etc. His boundless friendship to friends, and 
his excellent kindness to even enemies, is enobling. All we 
ask of you, kind reader, is a patient reading, a candid, careful 
sifting of the "wheat from the tares." 

This history of his life was written by himself, while an 
inmate of the penitentiary, in a lonely felon's cell, at Fort 
Madison, Iowa, where he poured out his soul in agony over 
his past missteps, talks to us of better things, and leaves for 
us this publication, whether for better or for worse. 

G. A. WARNICA, Publisher. 

Halls, Mo., February 1st, 1907. 



Life and Adventures of Polk Wells 



CHAPTER I. 

Messrs. Richard Wells and Moses Berriman were residents 
of London, England. The former was an Englishman by birth, 
education and religion, and the latter a Jew of the strictest sect. 
Mr. Wells and family usually spent the summer months in hunt- 
ing and fishing at his country residence. Barney, his eldest son, 
was a tall, handsome fellow; a man of unimpeachable veracity 
and integrity, an accomplished horseman, proficient with the 
fowling-piece, was first in the chase and greatly enjoyed the 
"music" produced by his "pack" of black-and-tan hounds. 

Mr. Berriman's family consisted of himself and daughter 
the country during the heated season at the home of a friend 
Rachel, and they, too, were wont to while away some weeks in 
living near the Wells estate. Rachel was cultured and refined, 
symmetrically developed, possessed a pure, spotless character and 
a warm, affectionate nature, and I need hardly say a handsome 
face as Jewish ladies are noted the world over for those attributes 
large, lustrous brown eyes, long, raven tresses and delicate, 
peachy complexion which the poets of all ages love to sing about 
and which (with other perfections of mind and body alluded to) 
stamp them the beauty queens of earth. The daughters of Job 
were the fairest in the land and it is safe to say that Raphael 
could not have found a model for his Madonna anywhere outside 
the Jewish race. 

If Rachel was exquisitely beautiful she also knew how to 
preserve that beauty by indulging her fondness for equestrian 
exercises, and while out for a canter one day met Barney Wells, 
to whom' she was soon married, and the following year (1791) 
they emigrated to the United States and settled in Henry County, 
Old Virginia, near the old Henry Court House, where they 
bought a large tobacco plantation with a 1 ! appurtenances thereto, 
including a number of slaves, thoroughbred horses, game-cocks, 
and a "pack" of fox-hounds all of which no planter could afford 



8 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

to be without, that is if he expected to retain the respect and 
good-will of his neighbors, as riding to the hounds was regarded 
as the one recreation necessar-y to engage the time, excite the 
brain, and try the skill and courage of the gentleman sportsman. 

The new home occupied an elevated position near the south- 
ern edge of a large maple grove from which a great deal of sugar 
and syrup were made. In the rear of the dwelling were the negro 
quarters, stock stables, tobacco barns and other buildings. Away 
to the south lay the large level fields, at the bottom of which was 
a three-quarter mile race-track and its accompanying "cock-pit." 
Hunting, racing, and cock-fighting were the principal amuse- 
ments of country gentlemen, therefore everyone owning land and 
slaves was necessarily obliged to keep a stable of fine-bred hunt- 
ers and racers, game-cocks and hounds; also a copper still for 
making "apple- jack" and corn whiskey without such delicacies 
no Virginian's table was properly furnished. 

The old coachman and the house servants soon informed their 
new "Massa" and "Missus" of those of their neighbors who were 
"de quality folks" and pointed out the "Po white trash," with 
which all communication and association was peremptorily inter- 
dicted by "Old Black Mammy." The Master, however, was giv- 
en a wide range of latitude and allowed much discretion in his 
intercourse with "uppertindum." Hence his wealth, refinement 
and lively disposition, to say nothing of his inclination, made it 
incumbent on him to assume the place in the social whirl and 
pastimes of the neighborhood that his predecessor had occupied 
consequently he soon became a leading spirit at the race course 
and fox chase. 

His wife, knowing it was customary in England for ladies 
to ride to hounds, and seeing her neighbor women accompanying 
the hunters, also joined the chase, and, being as fearless as she 
was graceful in the saddle, always demanded the best horse, 
which her husband gallantly yielded to her. After experiencing 
the enthusiasm and thrill of joy engendered by this sort of sport 
she became desirous of taking a "brush" which she accomplished 
by being first "in at the death." The hunt was so fascinating to 
her that she rode in the chase until her first son was of age. 

Here it was, amid splendid surroundings, scenes of mirth and 
chivalry that Barney and Rachel reared a family of eight boys 
and educated them in the best schools of the state The three 
youngest died on the old homestead, while the others drifted 
west and in various ways distinguished themselves. John was 
the champion hog and tobacco raiser of Jefferson County, Illinois 
Barney was a Major in the Mexican war, and, for many years, a 
Justice of the Peace of Jefferson County, Illinois, where he and 
John both died. William was a land speculator and money gath- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS '/ 

erer of Barton County, Missouri, where he was killed for his 
money by the Kansas Jayhawkers during the late Civil war. Ed- 
mond was for several terms Judge of the District Court of Linn 
County, Missouri, while Benjamin, the eldest son, distinguished 
himself principally as an honest man and a warrior. He served 
as Lieutenant in General Scott's command, and was twice wound- 
ed at the battle of Lundy's Lane during the war of 1812, after 
which he returned home and married. One son was born to him, 
and his wife died. He again married, three sons were born to 
him and the second wife died. With his four little boys he moved 
west, and, in 1830, he landed at the old trading post on the Mis- 
sissippi now the flourishing city of Fort Madison, Iowa, and two 
years later commanded a volunteer regiment against Black Hawk 

Joseph Bovay, an enterprising young Frenchman in 1790 
began trading with the Indians and later established a trading post 
on or near the present site of the city of Burlington, Iowa. About 
this time all thought and interest of the Sacs and Foxes was 
directed toward the young warrior "Muck-Ah-Ta-Mish-E-Kah- 
Knack," which translated into English means "Black Hawk, who 
early distinguished himself for bravery and wisdom," and, natur- 
ally enough, was elected chief of one of the largest and most war- 
like tribes of the nation. Mr. Bovay, better known along the up- 
per Mississippi as "French Joe," noting the popularity and influ- 
ence of the newly made chief hastened to win his support and 
patronage by marrying his sister who was, of course, the reigning 
belle of her tribe. Mr. Bovay, unlike the general run of "Squaw- 
men" (as they were called) seems to have had a genuine manly 
respect and true love for his Indian wife who died in giving 
birth to a baby girl since he named his little daughter Mizellah 
after and in honor of his own mother and took her to St. Louis 
Missouri, where she was reared and educated by his relatives. 
Each year with a boat load of furs he floated down the Mississippi 
to St. Louis and after disposing of his cargo spent some weeks 
visiting with his child who at the age of eighteen returned home 
with him. 

Randolph Smith, a young man of German and Scotch ex- 
traction, and an own uncle to the prophet John Smith of Mor- 
mon fame, now put in his appearance at the Bovay home and 
soon after married the Frenchman's daughter. The first fruits of 
this union was twins, a boy named Jerome, and a girl named 
Lureanah, who was also sent to St Louis and educated under the 
immediate directions of her mother's friends. She, some months 
previous to the commencement of the war with Black Hawk, mar- 
ried a Kentucky gentleman who was killed at the battle of "Bad 
Axe." 

Berriman G. Wells in 1834 wedded the young widow Lure- 



10 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

anah and took her and her little blue-eyed boy to his home in 
Augusta, Iowa, where he was engaged in the grocery business 
In 1840 they and Randolph Smith, familiarly known as "Black 
Hawk Smith," by reason of his relationship to that chieftain 
moved to Missouri and in the south-west corner of Buchanan 
County on the river bottom each bought a section of land on 
which they commenced rearing permanent homes. The great 
overflow in 1844 stopped the work and compelled the families to 
move from the bottom to Rushville, which is located on a piece 
of table land connecting the river bottom with the bluffs. The 
land having dried off the family returned to the farm but Mr. 
Wells remained in town to complete his "still-house" and "tobac- 
co press." In the former he converted the farmers' corn into 
whiskey, and in the latter their tobacco was manufactured into 
plugs or pressed into hogsheads ready for shipping. 

His business caused Rushville to rapidly increase in popula- 
tion which, of course, was the means of filling his coffers with 
gold, for whiskey and tobacco were staple articles Men could 
make their hats of rye straw and their shoes of cow skin, but 
lacked the means or ingenuity to manufacture whiskey and tobac- 
co which must be had at all hazards. Mr. Cleveland says the one 
is a "luxury," while Mr. Harrison affirms the other to be a "ne- 
cessity." So the people thought then and will perhaps continue to 
think unless some Brown-Sequard sort of a fellow compounds a 
new "Elixir of Life" with which to inoculate them with a dis- 
taste for such abominations. 

While Mr. Wells was engaged in making money to buy bet- 
ter breeds of stock and to make new improvements on his Ian j 
his wife and children were adding each year a new field to the 
farm and forcing the soil to its highest productive capacity. Mr 
Wells became smitten with the "gold fever" and immediately 
prepared an outfit for a trip across the plains. Four wagons were 
loaded with flour, bacon, whisky and tobacco, the three latter 
were of his own production, and four yoke of oxen, mostly of 
his raising, to each wagon. This little train in the hands of his 
four eldest sons started on the first day of May, 1849, f r the 
gold mines of California. The following spring Leonard I. 
Smith, Mrs. Wells' youngest brother, accompanied by her first 
son, James R., went to Salt Lake City, Utah. The home circle 
being thus broken up Mr. Wells thought it best to move the family 
to town, Rushville, so the small children could attend school. 



CHAPTER II. 

On the 5th day of June, 1851, Mr. and Mrs. Wells were 
made happy by the appearance of a fifteen pound baby boy whom 
they christened Charles Knox Polk Wells. The family now con- 
sisted of Mr. and Mrs. Wells, two daughters. Sarah and Ruth 
and three sons, Berriman, John and (the writer) the aforesaid 
Chas. K. Polk. There had been two other girls and a boy, but 
they died in infancy. 

Town life did not agree with my dear mother, whose gentle 
spirit wandered over mountain and valley in search of her absent 
boy whom she never saw or heard of again She longed to be 
on the farm where she might handle the implements that he 
worked with, and lean on the gate he had made with his own 
hands ; besides, Berriman and Sarah were better scholars than 
their teachers. John could not be persuaded or hired to go to 
school nnd Ruth and I were not old enough to attend except for 
the purpose of amusing the other pupils which we did some- 
times, consequently mother and the children were moved back to 
the old home in the woods. 

When father settled upon this land it was covered with sev- 
eral growths of the vegetable kingdom, the ground was matted 
with blueberries, gooseberries, wild roses, bullrushes and fox-tail 
which is and has ever been the terror of Missouri farmers. Then 
came the delicious paw-paw, the favorite fruit of the opossum 
which our Dutch neighbor persisted in calling the "slick-tailed 
tog," red and black haws, and red plums, the "hog" plums, mul- 
berry and boxelder were next in the line of march heavenward: 
the elm, hickory and hackberry looked up to their more preten- 
tious neighbors the white oak and black walnut; over and above 
all waved the majestic heads of the cottonwood and sycamore 
and in those monarchs of the forest the sly old coon made his 
home, fattened on the new corn and furnished great sport for 
the boys on "good coon nights." In this forest were to be found 
also the large timber wolf, saucy wild-cat, the timid hare and in- 
nvmerable squirrels and various species of the feathered trile 
from the pee-wee up to the wild turkey. In short this was a 
jungle fit for the Congo Valley and the idea of building a home 
in it would have been to the prairie-raised man about as rational 



12 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

as to undertake with a pocket knife to hew out a mansion in the 
Rock of Gibraltar, but to the man of Virginia or Kentucky it was 
the best, the only suitable place. So my father thought, and he. 
being a Virginian endowed with large destructiveness, combative- 
ness and continuity, attacked the huge task with a vim and cour- 
age these faculties can alone supply. A square containing four 
acres was cleared of everything but a few small shade trees and 
into its center all the buildings necessary for the family were 
erected, and the plat s>et to blue grass. Various kinds of fruit 
trees dotted the ground at regular intervals, while each fence 
corner around the entire enclosure contained a peach tree and 
under every fourth tree set a stand of honey bees. The hickory 
and hackberry timber was used for building purposes, while the 
oak and walnut were split into rails with which the whole planta- 
tion was fenced. But every tree that "brought forth not good 
fruit was cut down and cast into the fire." A notch, called 
"girdling," was cut through the sap or to the red around the tree 
about two feet above the ground, which process killed it. The 
timber subjected to this treatment in the spring was, during the 
fall and winter, cut down and sawed into short logs which to- 
gether with the tops and underbrush, and with the assistance of 
several yoke of oxen were piled around the stumps and set on 
fire and before retiring for the night all hands turned out to 
"chunk up the log heaps." Thus the work of destruction con- 
tinued day and night until there was not left a stump or even a 
riding switch on one hundred acres. The busy workers in the 
nightly scenes of song and fire would have led the ancient Greek 
or Roman gentleman to exclaim in a voice of reverence and ad- 
miration, "Ah ! the Holy Virgins are engaged in replenishing the 
sacred fires in the temple of Vesta." 

The dwelling, a two story structure with two rooms above 
and two below, with all attachment for kitchen and dining room 
was built of hewed logs ; in fact all the important houses were 
built of faced timbers. To the north and west of the door-yard 
lay the corn, hemp>, tobacco and wheat fields. On the south was 
the one hundred acres wood pasture with its carpet of rich blue 
grass on which were kept the work stock, milch cows and a small 
herd of sheep. A pair of old fashioned draw-barrows connected 
the pasture with the horse lot in which stood the corn cribs, stock 
stables and tobacco barns. Adjoining this lot on the west was the 
garden, the pride and special care of my sweet hearted mother 
hedged about with gooseberry and currant bushes, blackberry and 
raspberry vines. Here grew in riotous profusion all the old- 
fashioned flowers, bright marigolds, larkspur, deep blue bache- 
lor's buttons, and the tall, brilliant hollyhocks, the lordlings of 
the place, blood red poppies and roses everywhere nodding in the 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 13 

brteze; here also grew the silver skinned onions, sage for season 
ing the sausage, tansy and mint for flavoring the "social glass," 
'Tom Thumb" and crowder peas, in fact everything pertaining 
to the garden grew in its proper place and season ; all divi JeJ< off 
by broad, beautiful flower-lined walks (which were covered with 
white gravel from the sand-bars), all so harmonious!) blended as 
to stamp it as the work of delicate hands, guided by large order 
and ideality such gardens are enchanted with the spell of by- 
gone times and familiar faces, a place for day dreams, chivalrous 
sentiment and castle building. Over the gate leading from the 
garden into the door-yard, and over mother's bedroom window 
was carefully twined that favorite of our grandmother's "Wash- 
ington's Bower," while immediately in front of the window steed 
a mulberry tree about 12 inches in diameter and about its base 
she planted morning-glory seed and the vines spread themselves 
all over its branches. This tree with its thousands of blue, pink 
and white flowers glistening with dew drops in the morning sun 
was the loveliest object in the way of door-yard ornamentation 
that I ever beheld. 

In the spring of 1852 father built of hewed logs on the bank 
of the Missouri a large warehouse which two years later tumbled 
into the river. Then a frame building was erected on rollers so 
that it could be drawn back to a safe distance as the river drew 
near by cutting the bank away. A wood yard was next started 
so the steamboats could get good, hard wood at two dollars per 
cord. The warehouse and wood yard was widely known as the 
"Rushville Landing," where was stored all the produce such as 
hemp, tobacco and bacon of the surrounding country for shipping 
to St. Louis. The wagon road leading from Rushville to the 
landing about two miles distant wound its way through a dense 
forest to the corner of our pasture, thence north in front of our 
house to the warehouse. During the boating season this road 
was lined with teams hauling produce to, and goods from, the 
landing to the inland villages. Little sister Ruth and myself soon 
became great favorites with the teamsters, who bought her candy, 
beads, coral rings and bright colored ribbon for her hair, for all 
of which she sang sweet little songs ; while I was the happy re- 
cipient of many sets of "bull's-eye" marbles, large red apples, tops 
and other toys, that delight a well regulated boy and for which 
I was expected to (good-naturedly) torment and criticise every- 
body except the donor. 

Frequently teamsters from Old Sparta and DeKalb were 
obliged to stay over night with us and on such occasions were 
entertained with music and dancing. Berriman played the fiddle 
and John accompanied on the old banjo while Ruth and I danced 
the "tobacco-hill-shuffle." At this time father was quite wealthy. 



14 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

kept fast horses, fighting cocks and a pack of hounds, all of 
which, together with my mother's great hospitality, loving spirit 
and brilliant conversational powers, coupled with the willingness 
and the ability of her children to attract and amuse visitors, served 
to give our family a widespread reputation for politeness and un- 
affected generosity. And this popularity contributed to father 
gaining a controlling influence over a large majority of Rush 
Township, which, together with his fondness for making stump 
speeches in behalf of his favorite candidate, attracted the atten- 
tion of "office-seekers," who we're not slow in courting his politi- 
cal preferment. Such men during the electioneering season per- 
sisted in calling my father "Colonel," and who were, if of his 
choice, cordially invited to visit the farm. If not to his liking, 
they were obliged to extend the invitation themselves; at all 
events a visit to the farm was inevitable and during the stay of 
these aspiring gentlemen I was given a nice share of attention. 
They patted me on the head, laughed heartily at everything I said 
or did, and were unstinted in their praise whether deservedly or 
not. On one occasion a candidate for Governor of Missouri ac- 
companied by other gentlemen visited the farm, and almost the 
first thing he did after entering the house was to take me on his 
knee. He looked me over closely, gently stroked my black hair 
and then turning to my father said, "Colonel, this is a promising 
lad and he has a Webster head, therefore you ought to give him 
a first-class education." "I shall spare neither money or pains in 
the accomplishment of that end," was my father's hearty reply. 

It is not my purpose to call in question the veracity of the 
once beloved Chief Executive of my native state, yet I must say 
that my head has undergone a great change or else the gentle- 
man was a conscious flatterer or wholly ignorant of the shape of 
Mr. Webster's head, which, if the picture I have of the great 
statesman is a true likeness of him, was as unlike my head as the 
apple is unlike the pear. 

The compliment, however, whether genuine or affected, was 
unnecessary in as much as father had already decided to cast his 
vote and influence for the gentleman. Receiving so much of this 
sort of praise and attention, and the fact that I could walk and 
talk before I was one year old, made me a "precocious boy" in- 
deed. 

The Missouri, which was and is constantly changing its 
channel by cutting away the bank on one side and making a cor- 
responding fill or sand bar on the opposite side, had steadily en- 
croached on the bank necessitating the moving back of the ware- 
house each year, until it now (1856) stood on the corner of fath- 
er's land, only a furlong or two from the dwelling in which we 
Hved. 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 15 

There was at this time, owing to the gold excitement, a steady 
flow of emigration west. The river was lined with steamboats 
and each one loaded to the extent of its capacity with passengers 
for Omaha where they engaged passage across the plains with 
some "ox train" or "mule outfit." The wood yard my mother's 
enterprise was kept well supplied with choice, dry, hard wood 
full measure; hence the boat captains made the "Rushville Land- 
ing" a point for "wooding up." The "deck hands," too had a 
special interest in stopping here for wood as mother never failed 
to send Ruth and myself out to the landing with buckets full of 
cold sweet milk which we gave to therm while taking on wood 
and, when watermelons were ripe, brother John appeared on the 
scene with a skid load and contributed them among "the poor 
tired fellows," as my tender hearted mother called them, and 
who, when the boat left the shore, united their voices in singing 
"The Queen of the Wood Yards," a song composed in honor of 
her many kindnesses to them. 

While the deck hands were engaged in putting off, or taking 
on freight, or wood, as the case required, the boat officers and as 
many passengers as desired went out to the house to see my 
father's fine stock and mother's well kept garden. Father when 
at home (and in his absence I acted as guide) would first lead 
them into the barn lot to see the great stallion "Black Hawk," the 
fat hogs, sheep, and the large work oxen "Polk" and "Dallas," 
which brother John had trained to lie down, also broke them to 
ride. I rode everything, from the fat hogs up to the stallion, made 
Old Dallas lie down that I might get on him, make him get up. 
and then, standing erect on his broad back, rode him around the 
lot like a circus clown. Sometimes the old ox in brushing at the 
flies would strike me with his heavy tail and send me whirling 
from his back. I usually lit on my feet, which, when the visitors 
saw I was not hurt, caused a great laugh. Having carefully ex- 
amined and thoroughly praised the stock and barns the visitors 
were next led into the garden, which elicited much praise and ad- 
miration. Father, too, was unsparing in his remarks on the beauty 
and arrangement of the various vegetables and flowers and mani- 
fested as much pride in showing the garden as he did in extolling 
the fine qualities of his "blooded stock." The party now passes un- 
der "Washington's Bower" into the door-yard; here I would 
arouse the game cocks and battle with them until they were in 
good fighting trim, then dash in among the visitors, out again in- 
to the house, leaving them 1 to fight or run. After receiving a 
stab or two in the legs with the spurs of the little warriors they 
invariably chose the latter alternative. Once in the house they felt 
safe and laughted heartily over their defeat while the cocks crowed 
just as loudly over their victory. By this time mother had com- 



1(5 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

pleted her preparations for receiving the company by spreading a 
lunch consisting of cake, pie, cold sweet milk, "still beer," and a 
bottle of "old rye," in the center of the table for those who de- 
sired it, and there were few men in those days who did not drink 
whisky, and the person who refused to drink the "Mint Julep" 
that my mother prepared was regarded as a "rara-avis." After 
lunch the callers were conducted into the large sitting room where 
they were amused for a few minutes with music and dancing, 
Ruth and I sang for them such old songs as "Chicken Pie," "Com- 
ing Through the Rye," "Old Dan Tucker," "Nellie Gray," "Poor 
Lost Indian," and "Lazy Jackson," usually closing the entertain- 
men with the clown song, "I kissed Josh and Josh kissed me, as 
we went bobbing around, as we went b-o-b-b-i-n-g a-r-o-u-n-d." 
Ruth was a natural "mimic," and could draw out the last two 
words "bobbing around" with such artistic effect that she 
never failed being greeted with hearty applause and a shower of 
silver coin. 

At this time we were in a most prosperous and happy condi- 
tion. No family enjoyed life in a greater measure than did ours 
We had everything that heart could wish for in the way of good 
things to eat and wear ; there was not, however, much else to care 
for except Yankee Robinson's Show which annually visited our 
part of the country. 

In the fall we were all out in the woods gath- 
ering grapes, when a storm came upon us. Dark, 
heavy clouds hung in the tree tops, the most deaf- 
ening peals of thunder greeted our ears, and the rain fell in 
torrents upon us, and the whole elements were ablaze with God's 
mighty fire. We sought shelter under the largest trees, the most 
natural, and certainly the most dangerous thing to do in the midst 
of a storm. Ruth and I were standing by father, Berriman, John 
and Sarah stood together, while dear mother, alone, leaned against 
a large, forked elm. I was on my way to her when the tree was 
split from the fork to the ground by a bolt of lightning and mother 
fell forward as if struck dead. She was gently conveyed to the 
house and the doctor summoned. When he arrived she was sit- 
ting up in bed, and said, "I will be all right in a few hours." The 
doctor thought so too, and returned to town. Next morning 
father had scarcely reached his place of business when mother 
came running from the barn to the house, fell headlong into the 
room and expired almost instantly thus I lost my best and dear- 
est friend. My mother was proud of her Indian blood which 
doubtless heightened her sympathies for, and increased her de- 
sire to relieve, as far as possible, the wants and suffering of the 
Indian families living near her. She gave them much provision 
and clothing ; and brother Berriman rarely went to mill without an 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 17 

extra sack of corn to be converted into meal for "Old Ned's" 
family. Our white neighbors were scarce, so Ruth and I were 
obliged, for the most part, to accept the Indian children for our 
playfellows. We built "Wicky-Ups" of paw-paw poles and elm 
bark ; hunted the hare and opossum, painted our faces with poke- 
berry juice, had our feasts and war dances just the same as "Big 
Injuns." This great fun and friendly intercourse with the In- 
dians was, so far as I was concerned, at least, cut short by the 
death of my dear mother. She having been laid to rest, father 
turned the farm over to the boys and took me with him to town. 

Father now, when not otherwise engaged, amused himself 
by exercising me in the manly art of self defense, and by giving 
me lessons in "Poker" and "Seven-up." Being naturally inclined 
toward the funny and reckless things in life, I soon became an 
expert in the first law of nature self defense and quite profi- 
cient in handling the cards ; and was up to the age of fourteen 
at which time the latter was abandoned. I was then a creature 
of impulse, the sport of chance, and the victim of my own imag- 
inations and uncontrollable sensations, displaying at times a 
heroic and to some extent a poetic temperament. There is some- 
thing admirable in such a compound of emotions. Yet the one 
possessing such a character is to be pitied for it will, most likely, 
lead himi as it has me into serious trouble unless counter-balanced 
by a strong will and an unswerving purpose to do right, "though 
the heavens fall." However, there are phases in life that render 
the doing of right, at all times, an extremely difficult thing to ac- 
complish. 

Early in the spring of 1858 father began courting the Widow 
Fry, who lived near St. Joseph, and, as my presence was not 
deemed necessary to his success, I was sent back to the farm, 
which, together with the landing, my brothers had conducted 
about the same as heretofore stated, with the exception that 
steamboat passengers were not encouraged to visit the house. But 
it was necessary for brother Berriman to go upon the boat to 
transact business with the captain, so the children usually ac- 
companied him to the landing at least. 

Sister Ruth had become quite a ban joist, while I had learned 
to play the violin remarkably well for one of my age and town life 
had greatly increased my self reliance, therefore I was not long 
in persuading Ruth to join me in a visit to a boat with our instru- 
ments, which when the path was once opened,became a regular 
thing and while the boys were in the clerk's office giving and 
taking receipts for freight or receiving money for their work we 
were in the cabin amusing the passengers with music and danc- 
ing. We rendered with pleasing effect such old pieces as "Sally 
Gooden," "Money Musk," "Drunken Hickups," "Devil's Dream," 



18 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

"Leather Breeches" and "Bald 'Possum" these were everywhere 
the favorite tunes in "Ante-Bellum" days. 

Our Indian neighbors were still living near us, and when a 
boat landed they, with a score of owr former playmates, appeared 
with willow baskets and beaded moccasins to sell to the passen- 
gers. Having disposed of the ware, they .retired a few paces and 
seated themselves on the ground. Ruth and I sang and danced 
and having received our reward withdrew from the boat. I 
would then enter the warehouse, strip off my clothes, tie on my 
breech-clout, ready for a swim. The Indian boys were not 
obliged to go through this preparation as they only needed to let 
go of the corners of their blankets to fit them for the water. 
When I emerged from the warehouse they would drop their 
blankets and then with a shout we would dash down the stage 
plank in single file across the deck and plunge head first into the 
river. Here we would play at "ducking" until the boat started, 
and then float on the waves like so many corks. On another oc- 
casion a boat bound for Omaha stopped at the landing and while 
Berriman was attending to his business Ruth and I were enter- 
taining the passengers. We were playing the "Poor Lost In- 
dian" a family favorite since the death of our mother, therefore 
we always entered heart and soul into the rendition of this 
pathetic piece when a noise as if someone had fallen downstairs 
attracted our attention and caused us to cease playing. The next 
moment a tall, handsome young fellow rushed from his room into 
the cabin and exclaimed in a voice full of emotion, "Whence 
came that sweet music ?" The gentleman had evidently been 
reading or dreaming of the siren whose music is of such mar- 
velous sweetness that they are first enabled to captivate those 
sailing near their island, and then destroy them. Thinking the 
boat's crew and passengers were under a spell of enchantment, 
he was first charmed and then suddenly became apprehensive of 
what the result might be. A lady, however, noting his perplex- 
ity, dispelled his fears of evil consequences by inviting him for- 
ward to investigate for himself the source of the music he had 
heard. He immediately stopped in front of Ruth, and scrutinizing 
her face and banjo, said, "My little miss, please favor me with 
your, or at least my, favorite piece, 'Poor Nellie Gray.' She 
sang it most sweetly, accompanying her voice on the banjo. He 
was charmed by the music and highly pleased with my sister. 
Presently I began sawing on my fiddle which I held in the style 
of the Italian boy. For a moment he stared at me, then turning 
to Ruth asked, "Is this little Italian your brother?" "He is my 
brother, but not an Italian, sir." She put such emphasis on the 
last word as to cause the young man to laugh heartily, and to 
exclaim, "Good Heavens, what a spunky little duck you are." 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 19 

Ever after this she went by the name of "Duck," but. I shall con- 
tinue to call her Ruth. He next ventured to ask, "What is your 
brother's name?" "Charles K. Polk Wells. He was named after 
James K. Polk of Tennessee."' Answering this question put Ruth 
in a good humor for she as well as myself regarded it an honor 
to bear the name of the President of the United States. A big 
name is pleasant, usually makes one vain, however, and at 
all events amounts to but little in the way of saving one from 
temptation or of helping himself to resist it. The next question 
put to my sister was, "Is this banjo the only instrument you 
have?" "No, sir, we have two violins and an accordion." "Do 
you play the violin?" "Not yet, but my sister and brothers do." 
The young man brought from his stateroom a handsomely 
bound note book and a silver mounted guitar, which after playing 
excellently two or three pieces he presented to Ruth. The bell 
rang, the stage plank was drawn in and the boat swung out from 
the shore. Some one informed the captain that I was still on the 
boat. "Never mind, he'll get off when it suits him," said the 
officer. The scene in the cabin prevented my taking the usual 
collection and the captain, knowing it, called an old negro to 
"pat" while I danced the "Tobacco-hill-shuffle," and then "cut 
the Pigeon wing," in old Virginia style which pleased Mr. Taylor 
the young man, not a little, who said, "Well, Captain, since I have 
rewarded the girl for musical talent I suppose it is right that I 
should give this little hero something." He shook my hand 
warmly, gave me a beautiful penknife and the passengers filled 
my "weezel-skin" purse with silver coin. By this time the boat 
was some distance from the shore and above the landing, the 
Captain said to me, "Git now, you little rascal, or I'll take you to 
Council Bluffs and sell you to the Mormons." Another instant 
and I had disappeared over the side of the boat and amid hearty 
cheers I swam toward the landing. 



CHAPTER III. 

In November my father married the Widow Fry heretofore 
mentioned. She had five children, four boys and one girl; the 
three eldest boys were grown, and the fourth, Joe, was twelve 
years of age, and the girl, Sis, was ten years old. The two latter 
were brought home with our new mother who was a large, power- 
ful and warm hearted woman, in fact she was of so warm a dis- 
position that the atmosphere about the old home became so heated 
that my brothers found it necessary to emigrate to a more con- 
genial clime. Sister Sarah soon married and left home also, thus 
leaving little Ruth and myself to hoe a row that proved to be 
an unpleasant one. A change was soon effected. Our hunting 
and playing with the Indian children was strictly forbidden. Our 
music too was interdicted ; in fact our new mother interfered with 
everything we had been accustomed to, besides her children for 
awhile lorded it over us. They having spent several years at 
school in St. Joseph were fairly well educated, and were especially 
fond of reading ancient history and solving mathematical prob- 
lems, in a knowledge of which we were deficient, except the little 
gathered from father's reading of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of 
the Roman Empire," and the ability to repeat by heart the mul- 
tiplication table, which we learned from the lips of our own dear 
mother. We rather looked up to them on account of their superior 
knowledge in these matters, and loved to sit near and listen to 
their reading Virgil and Homer. This self acknowledged inferi- 
ority led them to look upon us as their servants. We implicitly 
obeyed them and meekly submitted to their taunts about our ig- 
norance and "countrified ways." They had no words of praise 
or commendation when we did things to please them, but when 
we happened to do wrong which frequently occurred since they 
were hard to suit and constantly on the alert for something about 
which to complain they hesitated not to scold us. "Familiarity 
breeds contempt," and tyranny, hatred and indifference; hence we 
drifted further and further apart as time progressed. When 
threats and scoldings no longer sufficed to insure compliance 
with their demands, or to appease their wrath, corporal punish- 
ment was resorted to. The atmosphere seemed to hatch excuses 
for mother to whip us ; Joe and Sis pinched our arms and slapped 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



our faces whenever they chose to do so. We were taught to re- 
spect the aged and to obey those older than ourselves, and father 
id given special orders to comply with all the wishes of our new 
mother. We tried to follow father's instructions but compliance 
seemed to add new wants and, of course, increased the demands. 
Presently, however, this unjust treatment awakened the voice of 
reason which marshalled in battle array the instinct of self-preser- 
vation and justice, so we began to meditate on the situation. We 
asked oui selves, "Who are these children that we should serve 
them and submit to their indignities? Are they any better than 
we are? Who gave them authority over us? What right have 
they to command us without a reasonable protest on our part?" 
This sort of reasoning resulting in our resolving to defend our 
bodies, and protect our rights at all hazards. An opportunity to 
test the firmness of our resolution was not long delayed, a hand 
to hand fight ensued and we were severely punished. 

Ruth and I, previous to the arrival of our stepmother and 
her children, never had a cross word, or the slightest ill feeling 
toward any one. We were the pets of the familv and neighbors 
and were strangers to acts of violence and feelings of hatred. It 
is true I had been in the habit of saying naughty things to, and 
throwing sticks at the teamsters but this was done in fun and was 
so understood by all concerned. Father and mother had always 
addressed Ruth and myself as, "My little man" and "My dear." 
They were as dignified in our presence and as courteous to us as 
if we were English potentates on a visit. Father, or anyone of 
the family occupying his place at the table, always filled his place 
(old Virginia style) and exchanged it for ones with the same 
degree of politeness that he showed the Governor of the State. 
Had I been permitted to remain in this atmosphere of courtesy, 
kindness and parental consideration, I should, no doubt, have con- 
tinued to be of a gentle, sweet, lovable disposition; but the en- 
vironments changed and I changed with them. 

I was born like all other children with a latent germ of sav- 
ajery in my little breast, consequently the loss of a mother's care 
and love, and a father's pleasant greeting and protection on the 
one hand, and cruel treatment and opposition on the other caused 
the beastly in my nature to rapidly develop. Thence forward, the 
tiger being loose, the pinching and face slapping which hither- 
to had been permitted without ill feeling on our part since they 
were accompanied with, "Oh ! I was only in fun and didn't mean 
to hurt you" were resented with a vengeance and to the utmost 
of our ability. We became stubborn and unfaithful servants, con- 
stantly plotting mischief and fought the foe at every turn in the 
road. We were sometimes roughly handled but whipping us was 
out of the question and to conquer us quite as impossible, since 



22 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

we had, as it were, imbibed the spirit and pluck of OUT game cocks 
and like therm, though temporarily defeated were always ready 
for another battle. 

The road this spring (1859) was lined with teams hauling 
produce to the landing. Ruth and I disobeyed orders by riding 
with some jolly fellows to the warehouse, or becoming weary of 
hearing the "don't do that," "stop your noise," and "you must 
not handle those books," we would make a visit to the hut of 
"Old Ned" a stalwart brave of the Kickapoos and have a romp 
with the Indian boys and girls. Mother, not being satisfied with 
punishing us nor with her wholesale prohibition, put a stop to 
our music by destroying the strings of the instruments. This ar- 
bitrary treatment and unjust inhibition of everything dear to us 
served only to increase our desire to say, or do, something which 
would aggravate our persecutors. Ruth was commander in chief 
of our force and her resource of comparison, vituperation and in- 
ventive might well have been the envy of Senator Ingalls. When 
piqued, and not feeling especially angry but desirous of doing 
something really exasperating, she would seize a clabboard. 
broom, or anything that could be used as a "make believe" guitar 
then singing at the top of her voice, keeping time the while by 
striking her finger nails against the improvised instrument, while 
I accompanied her on my corn-stalk fiddle. This performance, 
though amusing to any one else, put the Kentucky blood into a 
perfect rage. 

Father rarely visited the farm, and when he did his stay was 
so short, mother so good to us and remained so close to him that 
we had no opportunity to tell him of our troubles. One 1 day he 
appeared at the warehouse, having come down the river bank by 
a bridle path instead of following the road past the house as usual, 
so that mother was not aware of his arrival. We had just had 
an encounter with the enemy, in which. Ruth and I were badly 
hurt and were on the barn shed lamenting our sad fate, when 
father was seen riding up to the landing. We hastened to him 
and he patiently listened to our "tale of woe," but instead of sym- 
pathizing with us and trying to heal our bruises and wounded 
feelings whipped us both and drove us back home. We were too 
badly hurt not by the punishment (though in itself severe enough) 
to cry at first, but on the way to the house our anguished souls 
found relief in tears, for where we expected succor we received 
only stripes, and threats of much worse treatment should we re- 
peat the offense of claiming paternal protection. The most nat- 
ural inference to be drawn from this extraordinary conduct on 
the part of our father extraordinary because it was the first time 
he ever whipped or spoke angry to us would be that Ruth and 
I were completely subdued. Nay, verily, it served to increase our 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 23 

energy and to strengthen our determination not to be abused with 
impunity, but I draw the veil of charity and silence over the 
events that followed and simply say that the miserable warfare 
was brought to a close by the family moving to Rushville. 

: This village owes its beginning to William Henderson who 
erected on Mud Creek a water power saw mill of the "Muly" 
type, i. ., the saw was a straight, stiff blade, making a perpendic- 
ular stroke. All the settlers within a radius of a dozen miles pat- 
ronized this mill. In the winter they hauled their logs on "liz- 
ards" tree forks which served the same purpose as the modern 
bob-sled to mill, while the ground was frozen or covered .with 
snow. During the summer Saturday was the all important day 
(grist day), which usually lasted over Sunday and sometimes 
until Monday morning. While the grists were being ground the 
men gathered in groups under the beautiful shade trees near at 
hand to discuss the neighborhood affairs, such as the 
condition of the hemp and tobacco crops, the latest wedding and 
its charivari, cock-fighting, shooting matches, log-rollings, corn 
huskings and house raisings were topics of absorbing interest to 
those hardy pioneers of Rush Township, so called by reason of 
the immense growth of "bull rushes," which grew to the height of 
ten or twelve feet literally covering the river bottoms. The suc- 
cess of the little mill was a guarantee of the success of the black- 
smith shop in which the farmers could get their "bull-tongues" 
(single shovel cultivators) and turning plows sharpened. The 
grocery came next, then the hemp press with its lofty screw in 
which the hemp was pressed into bales for shipping to St. Louis. 
It was at this period (1844) of Rushville's development that 
father started his sixty gallon still and tobacco press, but now 
(1859) the population of Rushville was between twelve and fif- 
teen hundred; the water power saw mill, "cross roads" grocery, 
blacksmith shop and single hemp press had given place to a 
splendid steam circular saw and flour mill combined, seven hemp 
presses, half a dozen blacksmith shops and instead of father's 
one sixty gallon still he was operating three one hundred and 
sixty gallon stills. The log grocery had been superceded by a 
dozen general stores in which could be found anything in the way 
of hardware from a cambric needle to a sorghum mill, and in the 
line of dry goods anything from a "shouting Methodist minis- 
ter's" white cravat up to silk and satin. And there were several 
saloons, three shoe shops, a photograph gallery, a lawyer, several 
doctors, a drug store and a confectionery whose proprietor, Mr. 
Schultze, was very friendly toward me for awhile. I could not 
pass the candy store until my pockets were filled with good things 
Being used to receiving such presents I took no notice of it nor 
thought of questioning the motives of their generous donor, but 



24 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

one day I stopped in front of the store and was surprised to hear 
Mr. Schultze call out, "Oh ! you Polk Wells, you vas von schwind- 
ler." The trouble was that Mr. Schultze was in love with a Miss 
Cunningham whose brother John was an exact image of myself 
and the sweetmeats given to me were intended for him in order 
that he might speak a good word to "Doozen" (Susan), for the 
Dutch candy maker. 

The old log school house had been torn down and a neat 
frame building erected at the base of "Grave Yard Hill." This 
was a one story structure, unpainted and without ornament of any 
kindj long, high backed wooden benches served as seats for the 
pupils and worshippers as this building was not only a place for 
learning worldly wisdom but in it was dealt out spiritual food 
with a lavish hand. Preachers rode what were called "circuits," 
so that each Sunday in the month we had a different Minister 
who proclaimed the gospel from a different point of view to that 
of his predecessor. The Second Adventist told us "the Savior 
would soon come to claim his own ;" the Campbellite declared that 
"the righteous should inherit the earth and the fullness thereof ;" 
the Hardshell Baptist terrified us by saying, "There are infants 
in hell not a span long ;" and Uncle Joe Divorce, a representative 
ol "The Shouting Methodist," consigned the ungodly to a "laKv 
of fire and brimstone prepared for them before the foundation of 
the world." 

My step-mother was handsome, a charming conversation- 
alist, a model housekeeper, an excellent cook, and for a time kept 
her promise to treat Ruth and myself more humanely. During 
this armistice, Joe arid I became warm friends and when occasion 
required would fight for each other. The previous winter's train- 
ing I received from my father in the manly art of self-defense, 
coupled with my late conflicts with Joe, had so agitated the fac- 
ulty of combativeness that my once gentle, playful disposition 
gave way to a pugnacious feeling and in consequence I was for 
some weeks continually fighting I had many a hard tussel with 
the boys before the title of "Leader" was accorded me. Nothing 
to do, restless and full of curiosity, I, with kindred spirits, roamed 
from hill to hill, played "fox" and "conquer" games that all 
boys are familiar with went swimming in the river, and did 
many other things which healthy, ambitious boys are capable of 
doing. I never tired of playing in the woods where the birds 
sang merrily from morn till night and loved to gather May apples 
and feast on wild fruits. Huckleberries and gooseberries were 
plentiful and blackberry vines spread over many acres, covering 
the ground in the spring with their delicate white blossoms, and 
brightening it in the autumn with their gayly tinted leaves; the 
honeysuckle waved in the crevices of the .rock and wild bees feast- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 25 

ed unmolested on the honey of its tiny cells; sheep-sorrel and 
water-cress grew along the banks of every stream, and the wild 
cherry bloomed and ripened its fruit in every pasture, so that 
there was no lack of food for the body or of interesting things for 
the intellect to feast upon. 

While these excursions to the river along the creeks and into 
the woods were pleasant and profitable both to body and mind, 
there was much in town to enfeeble the one and debauch the 
other. Many a night I spent in my father's saloon keeping tally 
for gamblers and carrying whisky to them. This was* injurious to 
soul-life and a special bar to physical development, therefore I at- 
tribute my slender form to these nightly, unholy practices. While 
my association with sporting men tended to dwarf the body, there 
was another class of men assiduous in their efforts to befog and 
corrupt the mind by picturing scenes of sensuality and telling foul 
stories with which I soon became disgusted; since then obscenity 
has been to me both loathsome and unbearable. These men did 
not corrupt my morals further than to put me into a state of 
excitement and ugly temper whenever we met. I shunned them 
as much as possible, but there were times wften I could not avoid 
them. Father bought all his family supplies of Fenton Bros., 
and it was in their store that these men gathered every night to 
tell tales, talk politics and tease any boy who happened in. John 
R. Moberly was the leading light of the tormentors of boys. He 
was cross-eyed, near-sighted and constantly wore a pair of gold 
rimmed spectacles and when he wished to be especially aggravat- 
ing would look over them at one. Mother sent me to the store one 
night for a spool of thread. The clerk being busy, I was, of course, 
obliged to wait. This gave Mr. Moberly an opportunity to pro- 
voke me. He continued his beastly harangue until I was unable 
to control my temper longer, and stepping in front of him I plant- 
ed a stinging blow between his eyes which broke his spectacles 
the glass cutting his face, and the blow causing his nose to bleed 
freely. The joke being turned on him, and that too in the pres- 
ence of a score of men who laughed at him, he became furious, 
and though a deacon, swore by all the gods ancient and modern 
that he would "annihilate" me. I made a dash for the door, but 
a gentleman who did not approve of tormenting boys had shut 
and locked it to prevent my escape, and hoping, as he afterwards 
said, that I would "get hold of the scale weights and give Mr 
Moberly the thumping he so richly deserved." I certainly would 
have used the weights had I first seen them, but seeing my en- 
raged pursuer falling over chairs and barking his shins on nail 
kegs, I joined in the laugh and once in a good humor no longer 
desired to harm him. Mr. Harry Fowl, father's foreman and my 
staunch friend, was on his way home and hearing the boisterous 



26 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



laughter in the store came in and seeing me fleeing- before the in- 
furiated deacon asked what it meant. Having received a reply he 
seized Mr. Moberly by the arm, telling him to desist his pursuit 
of me or he would "himmediately put ha 'ead hon 'im." Next 
day Mr. Moberly reported the affair to my father and intimated 
that unless the spectacles were replaced he would institute suit for 
damages. Father refused to pay for them and having previously 
been informed of the difficulty by the foreman, said, "In my opin- 
ion Polk served you right." He nevertheless punished me for 
the act. Instead of having a restraining influence this served 
rather to make me more desperate, as a few days later I struck 
another man, who was teasing me, in the mouth with a stone. 
Knocking out several of his front teeth for which father unmerci- 




Father Wells thrashes Polk for Striking Storekeeper. 

fully whipped me. I cursed him, he whipped me again, and 
again I cursed him and threatened to retaliate if he attempted to 
lay violent hands on me again. We were in the back yard at 
home. I stood still with a stone in eachhand ready to execute 
my threat. For a moment, like two game cocks, we stared at 
each other both bent on victory. At first I thought he would 
spring at me and in that event I should have struck him, but his 
face changing from an expression of sternness to one of consider- 
ation assured me that I had achieved a victory without a blow. 
Various emotions were quickly written in his countenance. He 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 27 

thought such insubordination to paternal authority should be 
punished and his large blue eyes protruded as he noted my de- 
fiant attitude, but before he could make up his mind to act in ac- 
cordance with this rule benevolence put a restraining hand on 
combativeness. While these faculties were struggling for the 
mastery the voice of reason was laboring with paternal love, 
which, joining benevolence, quickly ended the strife. He became 
calm, the expression of his eyes changed and seemed to smile his 
approval of my pluck ; then he felt remorse of his treatment of 
me, a feeling of pity and compassion for me took possession of 
him and without a word he turned and walked into the house 
When I saw his tears my own stubborn heart melted, my hands 
relaxed and the stones fell to the ground. I prostrated myself 
under the big plum tree from w r hich the switches, with which I 
was punished, were taken and cried myself to sleep. 

I sometimes felt that the whole world were against me. Even 
the foreman looked cross and spoke unkind at times I thought, 
yet there was one (my dear sister Ruth) who never forsook me. 
She stooc by, invariably, always ready to defend, to pity and 
comfort me. 

Again trouble arose between Joe and myself, resulting in a 
desperate fight. I ran away and arriving at the crossing of the 
river at Doniphan, Kansas, was in that state in which the body 
exerts itself, apparently without the control of the mind. I soon 
divested myself of a straw hat, cotton shirt and tow linen pants, 
all of which I cast into the river, and then plunged head first into 
the water as if I would forever hide myself from view, but soon 
came to the surface and struck out for the Kansas shore. I landed 
some distance above the ferryman's house and the bluffs being 
close there was scarce room between them and the river for a 
wagon road. This I crossed and hid myself in the hazel and 
black-jack bushes on the hillside. A few moments' reflection 
brought me face to face with my helpless and melancholy condi- 
tion. Here I was alone, naked and in a strange land. "I can- 
not," I thought, "in this nude state present myself at the house 
of any stranger." My brother Berriman lived within a few miles 
of Doniphan, but in which direction I did not know. With my 
heart almost bursting with grief, and longing for a word of sym- 
pathy I threw myself on the ground beside a log and unconscious- 
ly wept aloud. Presently I was startled by hearing approaching 
footsteps. I sprang to my feet and was on the point of a^ain 
rushing into the river, when a tall dark visaged man came into 
view and greeted me with "My Little Man, what brought you 
here in that condition and why do you weep?" The pleasant 
smile which spread itself over his countenance, together with 
his soothing words, assured me that T stood in the presence of a 



28 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 




Swimming the Missouri River, leaving Home. 

friend ; besides his face seemed familiar to me as that of one whom 
I had always loved and who had petted and favored me in other 
days. I unhesitatingly approached and held out my hand which 
he grasped with the tenderness and sympathy which characterized 
a great soul when it beholds a fellow creature in distress. Thisr 
gentleman was Mr. Tom Sweeten, an old friend of our family, 
who now lived near my brother. He wrapped me in his long 
linen coat, carried me to the road, set me on his horse and spring- 
ing into the saddle galloped to my brother's house, where the 
ladies soon dressed me in a suit of new clothes. 

New 'environments, peaceful neighbors and loving friends 
soon put me in a happy state of mind and several weeks passed 
pleasantly to me. I had been at my brother's about three weeks 
when he went over to Rushville and with surprise and a troubled 
air received the sad intelligence of my disappearance and sup- 
posed death. Father had searched diligently, inquired along the 
river wherever a skiff was kept, and after two weeks hard rid- 
ing, without receiving the slightest clue as to my whereabouts 
and mourned me as dead. He was heart-broken and poor little 
Ruth grief-stricken. It was a great task for brother to withhold 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 29 

from them his knowledge of me and he would not have done so 
had it not been for Mr, Sweeten, who thought it would be a just 
punishment for father to remain in ignorance as to my happy 
condition. I was not then capable of comprehending the extreme 
agony of my father nor the anguish endured by sister Ruth on 
account of my mysterious disappearance and absence or I should 
have hastened to them. 

Ever since my first encounter with Joe I have always been 
ready too reaJy, perhaps to fight when there was a reasonable 
excuse for so doing, but never had it really been in my heart to 
kill a fellow creature with one exception many years after this 
event consequently I felt glad when brother informed me that 
Joe was not seriously hurt by the blow I gave him. 

Two or three weeks after brother's return from Rushville. 
my friend, Mr. Sweeten, went there on business and called to see 
my father who asked me if brother had heard anything concern- 
ing me. He at first gave a negative reply, but noting the intense 
sorrow depicted in the face of his old friend, could no longer 
keep from him news that was like ''pouring oil on troubled wa- 
ters." He told father my story, how I had been treated, why I 
ran away, and then severely censured him for not doing a father's 
duty toward a son by protecting him from the cruelty of a step- 
mother and her unfeeling children. Father frankly confessed that 
he had allowed a press of business to occupy his mind to the ex- 
clusion of his domestic affairs, that his conduct was somewhat 
premature and that he had acted very unwisely in not investigating 
matters before dealing so harshly with me. While he was willing 
to acknowledge his error to. a friend, he would not condescend to 
ask my forgiveness or allow his dignity to bend in my presence. 
When he came the following day to take me home he looked just 
as stern and spoke just as harsh to me as before, which led me to 
expect a repetition of what I had received under the big plum 
tree. After dinner he placed me behind him on the horse and 
started for home. His first words were, ''When we get to the 
bridge where I can get a suitable switch, Til teach you the folly 
of running away from home." The bridge was across a deep 
slough which two or three hundred yards distant connected with 
the Missouri, and along its banks near the bridge were to be had 
dogwood switches, several feet long, so that my apprehension of 
the terrible thrashing I was about to get forced a determination 
upon me never to reach the bridge. I said nothing, however, and 
we rode along in silence. When within a hundred yards of the 
dogwood swamp, I began to work myself over the horse's rump 
and at the right moment dropped to the ground, sped through 
the brush toward the slough and was half way to the water's edge 
before father missed me. He spurred his horse in pursuit, his 



30 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

high silk hat was knocked off, the overhanging limbs rudely 
combing his hair ; he paid no attention to these mishaps but urged 
his horse the faster. When he reached the slough bank, where 
he last saw me. I was sitting on the opposite shore. The approach 
to the water being miry, he was obliged to retire and go around 
by the bridge. I allowed him to come within fifty yards of me 
when I again plunged into the slough water and mud and swam 
to the other side. This was a veritable ''slough of despond" to 
my father and he looked after me as did Pliable after Christian 
for a moment and then rode leisurely away. When I heard the 
horse's feet strike the bridge, I again crossed the slough. I sat 
on the bank, meditating on what course to pursue when I was 
suddenly disturbed by the clatter of horse's hoofs on the bridge, 
and at the same time saw my brother emerge from bushes on the 
opposite shore. This, in my perplexity, was a ruse I had not 




Escapes from Father by Swimming the Creek. 

contemplated, and for a moment my capture seemed inevitable. 
But I was equal to the occasion, as it was but the work of a mo- 
ment to discard my clothes and get into the slough, and I was in 
the center swimming toward the river when father reached the 
spot where my garments lay. There was a smile of triumph on 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 31 

his face as he contemplated my speedy capture, but his (sup- 
posed) victory was turned into defeat. He told brother to swim in 
after me but he refused to do so on the pretext of having re- 
cently been sick. Father, then, told him to throw sticks at me and 
drive me out of the slough. Brother obeyed this order, but when 
the missiles left his hand I disappeared, and hearing them strike 
the water would come up for breath. Whether under or on the 
surface of the water I was swimming toward the river all the 
time. Father saw I was bound to get away despite their efforts 
to prevent it, so he called out, "Polk, if you will come out and go 
home with me I will never whip you again." I stopped swimming 
long enough to shout, "Honest Injun, won't you whip me any 
more?" "Yes, Honest Injun," he replied, "I won't do so myself 
nor allow anyone else to do so." According to my knowledge of 
human nature at this time it was not possible for a man to violate 
a promise to which he had prefixed the words "Honest Injun," 
besides, my father's voice bore a ring of sincerity. I swam ashore, 
put on my clothes, bade brother good-bye, mounted behind father 
and resumed my homeward journey and arrived there about sun- 
down. All my playmates were present to welcome me. Even 
mother, Joe and Sis seemed to be glad at my return and dear sis- 
ter Ruth shouted with joy. 

My school experience was rather peculiar and of short dura- 
tion. Miss Cleary of St Joseph, came to Rushville and inaugur- 
ated a subscription school for three months. Father signed for 
four pupils, Joe, "Sis," Ruth and myself. I learned rapidly, and. 
owing to my musical talent soon became a favorite with the 
teacher who was daily expecting her piano on which she promised 
to teach me to play and which, together wtih another incident, 
was the cause of breaking up the school. She received word that 
her piano would arrive on the morning train, and, before dismiss- 
ing the children that evening, announced "No school tomorrow." 
The train arrived on time but no piano. This was a great disap- 
pointment, but gave the children another day for gathering wal- 
nuts. 

Lish Watson (my chum, who was a timid little fellow en- 
dowed with large secretiveness, so that what he lacked in courage 
he more than made good by his cunning and wisdom), and myself 
took our wagons to the woods and having filled the boxes with 
hulled nuts we started home. Just below the creek bridge we 
came across "Limber" John Yocum, whose front teeth I had ex- 
tracted, lying drunk aha asleep by the roadside, and stopped to 
tease him. He recognized me, and after many efforts succeeded 
in getting on his feet, took after us. Lish left his wagon and ran, I 
clung to mine and in trying to escape with it sprained my ankle. 
T stopped and began pelting our pursuer with walnuts, there be- 



32 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ing nothing else at hand, but they were so light that all efforts to 
check his progress served only to increase it and make him more 
furious. Seeing I could not stop him I abandoned the wagon and 
followed the example of my chum, but my ankle was so painful 
that I could not .run. When "Limber" John who was really lim- 
ber by this time, came to my wagon he gave it a whirl over his 
head, scattering the walnuts like one sowing wheat, and then 
brought it down on the ground, smashing it into slivers. He now 
pressed forward after me and gained so rapidly that I left the 
road, and like Zachaeus, climbed the sycamore tree. The enemy 
came up, and not being able to climb after me, lay down at the 
base of the tree to wait my descent. The situation was not only 
serious but laughable. The broad, white face and the large bald 
head of my besieger were dotted all over with walnut stain, and 
reminded me of the boiled hams touched with the pepper box 
my mother prepared for her corn huskings and log rollings on the 
old farm. Lish, noting my dilemma, hastened to the still-house 
three or four hundred yards distant and sent the foreman to 
my rescue. "Limber" John began snoring loudly. Of course, I 
thought he was asleep, and not knowing what Lish had done, I 
began my descent and had scarcely touched the ground when a 
strong hand seized me. I was now at the mercy of an enraged, 
whisky-soaked demon, who soundly cuffed my ears and would, 
perhaps, have killed me but for the timely arrival of the foreman. 
The teacher's instrument had arrived during our absence, 
and a large crowd gathered at her boarding place to hear and see 
her operate on the "pianer," the first one in Rushville, and hence 
the great curiosity manifested. When Lish and I reached the 
house the teacher was playing, "Wake up Jake, steam am up and 
the engine smoking," and with one stroke she drew her pretty 
fore finger across the keys producing a sound something like 
"tra-lah-la-lee-ee-e," then, whirling around, waited for comments, 
which were plentifully bestowed. By this time Lish and I had 
reached the instrument, and, while the teacher was receiving 
complimentary remarks on her music, began to finger the keys 
Our hands were colored with walnut stain yet were clean, but the 
teacher thought differently, for when she saw them she indignant- 
ly requested us to keep our "black paws off those keys." We were 
grossly insulted, and immediately left the room, vowing vengeance 
on the "stuck-up thing," as my chum styled her. If an oppor- 
tunity had, at that moment, presented itself, I would have assisted 
him in any "trick" he might have proposed, but my feeling of re- 
sentment soon subsided and I was willing to let the matter drop. 
Not so with my friend. The longer he brooded over the indignity 
the worse it appeared to him. The more remote it became the less 
desire I had to resent it. Mrs. Doctor Saunders once wounded 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 33 

our feelings and on the spur of the moment, while smarting un- 
der the offence, we scared her so badly with a hawk's claw that 
she was compelled to keep her room for several days. I had felt 
sorry about the results of this trick, and reminded Lish that 
we had done it out of revenge. He knew I could not hold a 
grudge against anyone, and, after discussing several of his pro- 
posed tricks against the teacher, dropped out of the elements of 
revenge, and suggested that it would be "great fun to frighten 
her just a little so the folks could laugh at her." When he ap- 
pealed to the funny side of my nature I soon yielded to his de- 
sires. The teacher was a delicate little woman, and the trick we 
played on her so unsettled her nerves that she went home, thus 
ending the school. 

My next teacher was a large, cross-grained, vulgar, brutal, 
one-armed man, named Young, whose severity was the cause of 
his being dismissed. Then Tom Bracken, a small, red-headed 
irascible fellow, took charge of the school, continuing it until 
June of the following year, 1861. Father paid for nine months 
schooling for me but I did not attend more than one-fourth of 
the time, preferring to listen to the men talk war, and tell how 
one southern man could whip a dozen "Yankees." My father 
was a strong "Union Democrat," and had many a fierce argu- 
ment with the rebel element of Rushville. He was a large, pre- 
possessing individual, fluent and eloquent, and held at his com- 
mand all notable events of sacred as well as profane history 
therefore his opponents were silenced, if not convinced of his 
logic. He told them they were too "hot-headed," and advised 
them to put "ice in their hats." When they boasted of the super- 
iority of southern men over those of the north he would quote 
scripture to them, and tell themi that God had always used the 
barbarians of the north to subdue and discipline the wicked, stiff- 
necked, idolatrous Israelites ; that the Roman Empire, the great- 
est government ever erected by man, was overrun and conquered 
by the hardy, savage hordes of the north and that the people of 
the south would "be conquered in the event of their seceding 
from Union," but they laughed and said, "You'll be with us be- 
fore long. Colonel." 

Father was opposed to slavery, and also to freeing the slaves, 
unless the government paid their masters at least two-thirds ot 
their valuation; so, when General Fremont on August 31, 1861. 
issued his famous proclamation, and attempted military emanci- 
pation of the slaves in Missouri, he himself rebelled, and, believ- 
ing that Fremont was acting under orders from Washington, im- 
mediately raised a company of one hundred and twenty men and 
set out for "Pap" Price's army, which he and his men joined at the 
battle of Lexington, Missouri, and with which he remained until 



34 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

peace was declared. Father took with him two of my step- 
brothers Joe and Richard and "Black Joe," our colored man. 
as his servant. I was determined to go, too, and followed the 
company three days before father heard of me. I was captured 
by Black Joe, taken to father's quarters and informed that I must 
return. Black Joe was sent home with me, and with orders to 
return to his post, which he did. Two months later mother re- 
ceived a letter from father stating that he would not be home un- 
til the war ended. Upon receipt of this information she immedi- 
ately wrote her married son, Pance Fry, requesting him to come 
and live with her during father's absence. He responded at once 
to the invitation and this new acquisition to the family made it 
very hard on Ruth and myself. We were treated worse than ne- 
groes am! punished if we complained about it. Our new task- 
masters were so unreasonable, tyrannical and cruel that we could 
not endure our lot, and both ran away. Ruth going to live with 
sister Sarah, while I found a home with Mr. James Wilson, who 
owned a splendid farm, legions of hogs, cattle, sheep and honey 
bees, but his greatest wealth consisted of a most excellent wife, 
one son and five beautiful daughters. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were 
really father and mother to me, and I remember my short stay 
with them as being among the happiest days of my life. They 
were full of sympathy, kindness and generous to a fault. They 
called me "My Dear" and "My Honey" and nothing they had 
was too good for me, not even one of their daughters. Mrs. Wil- 
son said I should have for my wife, the fourth daughter, Nora. 
who was two years my junior and who was straight as a poplar, 
beautiful as Hebe, pure as a lily and could sing equal to our own 
"Mary Anderson." Nora and I walked and talked together, built 
play-houses, carried water from the river to make coffee, and to- 
gether rode "Old Buck," an old sway-backed, piebald horse, the 
only one Mr. Wilson had at the time, the soldiers and jayhawkers 
having taken the others. In short we became fast friends, which 
ripened into love, or, as Rev. Joseph Cook would say, "a supreme 
affection," which has, though our lives have been fraught with 
many trials and bereavements, remained pure and steadfast and 
is as warm today as when we made "mud-pies" and rode "stick 
horses." 

About the first of July (1862) mother came to Mr. Wilson's 
and succeeded in persuading me to go home with her. Pance had 
repaired the still-house and was ready to begin making whisky 
hence my labor and especially my knowledge of the business 
would be valuable to him. 

Soon after my return home Captain Floyd, a boy about my 
size and age, and living in Doniphan, Kan., came over to Rushville 
to get a doctor to visit his sick brother. His father made the 



EXCITING DAYS -AND DARING DEEDS 35 

original one hundred tubs for the still-house, had since done all 
my father's cooper work, and through him the Captain and I had 
become acquainted with each other's antecedents. We met on this 
occasion and were having a pleasant time when some large boys 
came along and got us into a quarrel. The chip was placed on 
my shoulde'r but he declined to knock it off, saying, "I will bring 
my friends next Sunday and will fight you single-handed or one 
company against the other." On the day appointed for the bat- 
tle I was engaged in riding a wild horse for a neighbor. All my 
friends were present, and on receiving the message from Captain 
Floyd, who, with twenty companions, was at the depot, awaiting 
my pleasure, I had little trouble in selecting an equal number to 
meet him. My company, of course, was composed of rebels, while 
the Captain and his followers were what we called "Black Aboli- 
tionists." I proudly marched at the head of my warriors, who, 
like myself, had nothing but their hands to fight with. We were 
surprised, and somewhat disconcerted, on seeing the enemy when 
we were within a hundred yards of its line, display hickory clubs 
but marched forward. The railroad company had intended build- 
ing a brick depot at Rushville, but abandoned the idea and, in re- 
moving the brick, a large amount of bats were left on the ground 
When we saw the clubs there passed along the line the words "let 
us make for the brick bats," which we did, and, on reaching them 
we were within twenty paces of the Captain's lines. I asked 
"Are you ready?" "We are," was the Captain's emphatic reply. 
Instantly the air was filled with clubs and brick bats, and both 
sides seemed determined to win, but presently the Union boys 
began to waver, and later made a precipitate flight through 
woods and fields for "Doniphan's Point." The boys, on both 
sides, ranged from ten to sixteen years of age, and not one of the 
whole number escaped unhurt. They were variously wounded 
from broken fingers to cut heads, and one poor fellow lost an eye 
as the result of this boy battle, which was widely commented on 
at the time. 

Mr Floyd, like my father, had impressed his youngest son 
with a Von Moltke, or Napoleon ambition, and, during his stay 
at our house while working at his trade for my father, told me 
much about the bravery and heroism of this boy, who possessed 



36 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

the gift of leadership in a marked degree, and had established 
his authority or the privilege to rule his comrades by a mixture of 
kindness and severity. Those whom he honored with his confi- 
dence were deeply attached to him, and there never was a King 
who had more absolute sway over his subjects than the Captain 
exercised over his followers, nor one who was more sincerely 
courted and admired than was this brave, noble boy ; and I accord 
him the distinction of being a worthy foe. What I have said of 
the executive ability of Captain Floyd might be said with equal 
force and candor of myself, for the boys of Rushville looked up 
to, and admired me as their leader and hero. 




CHAPTER IV. 

Pance, having learned all I knew about making whisky and 
finding it necessary to employ a man to do the heavy work, and 
also finding it to his pecuniary interests to get rid of me, com- 
menced to abuse me with that end in view. I left home and went 
to live with sister Sarah during the fall and winter, intending to 
start for the plains in the spring. On Saturday Ruth and I were 
sent to Atchison for some groceries and while in town made the 
acquaintance of Bill and Rolen Darth, the former a young man 
and the latter a boy about my age and size. Rolen and I started 
out to see the sights of the city. We entered most of the busi- 
ness houses on Commercial street (especially saloons and bake- 
shops), and bought whisky, beer, candy and pies. On Market 
Square we found Old Man Black, a Missouri farmer and negro 
hater, with a load of apples for sale. Rolen invested five cents 
and while receiving change for his twenty-five cents city script, 
a lady's hand encased in a black kid glove was thrust into the 
wagon, followed by a musical voice, "What are apples worth to- 
day, Mr. Black?" Without raising his head he replied, "Six bits 
a bushel, ma'am." In making change he discovered she was a 
negro woman and raising his hands in holy horror exclaimed, 
"Bless God, if I didn't say ma'am to a nigger." The old man 
threw his shoulders back and his capacious stomach forward in 
order to draw out the words, "Ma'am to a nigger," with a sort of 
jerking scream, or as it were the peroration of the bray of Uncle 
Jim Canter's jack. The exhibition was so ludicrous, the idea 
that a man should be so shocked at bein^ civil to a colored woman 
so amusingly absurd that Rolen and I laughed until the tears 
coursed down our cheeks. 

There came to our ears, in a tone indicative of excitement 
and earnestness, these words, "Gentlemen and fellow-citizens." 
We hastened around the corner and beheld Mr. Lang beginning 
his regular Saturday evening- harangue to the negroes of Atchi- 
son. He was a disciple of John Brown, therefore a zealous "Black 
Abolitionist." He came early to town every Saturday morning 
and drank "Touse" whisky until noon, when he was ready to ad- 
dress his "enslaved, down-trodden," sable audience. He was 
about seven feet high with a shock of red hair which Moses might 



38 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



have mistaken for the "burning bush." We listened awhile to 
Mr. Lang-, then returned to the ice cream parlor where we found 
Bill and Ruth eating cake and ice cream ; after taking a dish our- 
selves and another glass of whisky we all started for home. On 
boarding the ferry boat Bill and Ruth went up to the cabin, while 
Rolen and myself both pretty drunk remained on deck and got 
into a dispute as to the justness of Mr. Lang's remarks relative 
to emancipating the slaves. Rolen was in sympathy with the 
speaker and labored to justify all he had said, while I took an op- 
posite view of the matter. This difference of opinion, coupled 
with an overdose of bad whisky and a score of drunken Mis- 
sourians to agitate our already inflamed minds, enabled us finally 
to get into a fight. Rolen, of course, got the worst of it, and 
brought his brother who was about as drunk as ourselves, to 
whip me. Bill came down with Ruth at his side begging him not 
to bother me, but her entreaties served to increase his rage and 
desire to punish me. I heard his threats and seizing a double- 
barrel shotgun, ordered him to halt, but he heeded not the warning. 




Wells' First Shooting Scrape on Old Pomeroy Ferry at Atchison, Ks. 



At the crack of my gun he fell as if dead, but scared worse than 
hurt, for the gun happened to be loaded with quail shot, a number 
of which lodged in Ruth's breast. Next morning I reviewed the 
scene and saw what would have been the result had the gun been 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 39 

loaded with heavy shot. I then and there made a solemn pledge 
to my sisters that I would never drink any more whisky and with 
one or two exceptions have kept my vow. 

Monday morning I returned to Atchison and hired to drive 
an ox team to Denver. The train would not start the foreman 
said, until the following Sunday morning, so I put up at the 
"Jansen House," and during the week won seventy-five dollars 
at poker. With this addition to my funds I had sufficient means 
to purchase a plainsman's outfit, viz : two Colt's revolvers, a gen- 
erous supply of ammunition, blankets for bedding, and a large 
whip the pride of all teamsters. I dressed myself in the plains- 
man's garb of the period which consisted of a combrero, a 
blue flannel shirt embroidered down the front, buckskin coat and 
beeches with long fringe dangling at the outer seams, black silk 
handkerchief for a necktie, and a red silk sash Mexican style 
which passed several times around my slender waist, crossed in 
front with the ends tucked under at the side to allow the long 
fringe to hang over the hips. The sash suspended the ivory 
handled pistols. On the right side hung my long Spanish knife, 
also my beaded bullet pouch and powder flask, the latter sus- 
pended by a silk cord passed over the left shoulder. 

Mother received from father another letter stating that he 
expected soon to be at Rushville. His last words to her were 
that she should "keep the children at home and send them to 
school every day if an opportunity is afforded." This instruc- 
tion was given amid a shower of tears, and mother, having violat- 
ed her promise, felt uneasy and fearful as to what father might 
do on finding his children absent, and hearing too of my near 
departure for the plains she came to Atchison with the hope of 
persuading or forcing me to return with her. I was indulging in 
my favorite game of poker when she entered the hotel, and, on 
hearing her request, flatly refushed to comply; whereupon she 
seized me by the arm, saying, "I will compel you to go home." 
I freed myself, however, and escaped. By a circuitous route 
through alleys and back yards I finally reached the edge of the 
precipice overlooking the ferry-boat landing. Here I seated my- 
self to watch the boat in order to see mother when she boarded 
it on her way home. Policemen, or boy-catchers, were not so 
plentiful then as now, so mother after vainly searching for me 
two or three hours, gave up in despair and started for home. I 
could see down the road to where it turned into Commercial 
street and as the captain of the boat tapped the bell for the last 
time on his last trip for the day, I saw mother come around the 
corner waving her handkerchief at the captain, who kindly waited 
for her. She stood on the front deck looking: toward where I 
sat. I rose and waved my hat in triumph. She gazed steadily 
at me for a moment, then putting her handkerchief to her face 



40 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

walked around the engine room out of my sight. There was 
something about my step-mother, a sort of magnetism or bewitch- 
ing influence, that made me love her notwithstanding our many 
difficulties and her present sorrow touched me deeply; and had 
it been possible at that moment to have transported myself to 
the boat, I should have done so, but not having that power I was 
compelled to return to the hotel, where the card tables, the click 
of poker chips, and the allurements of the plains soon faded all 
thought of mother's sorrow and utterly effaced any real desire I 
may have had to return home. 

By daylight next morning '(Sunday), the train was rolling 
toward Denver. Bill Sapp, a giant of a Dutchman, whom I nick- 
named "Dutchy," was foreman of the outfit. I was given charge' 
of the "Mess" wagon and consequently had to drive the hindmost 
team 1 , which, owing to my chasing birds, rabbits, snakes and other 
small animals peculiar to the prairies of eastern Kansas, would 
drop behind, thus affording me the opportunity of using my big 
whip which I could wield in the most approved style as I had had 
much practice in handling the whips of the hemp haulers who 
came to the old warehouse. I was now in a new world. The 
beautiful hills, valleys and wooded streams, with clouds of quail 
and prairie chicken constantly rising along the road, were to my 
youthful mind enchanting and always interesting. The only thing 
that worried me was the slowness of our progress, as I was ever 
anxious and always in a hurry to reach the summit of the next 
hill that I might see what lay beyond. I was following a veritable 
ignus fatnus a sort of Utopia, as it were that eluded my gaze, 
and yet I saw my ideal every day in the lovely country, the clear, 
running streams with their pretty little fish and ducks, and breath- 
ed in it the virgin atmosphere, but did not so understand it then. 
The same long, level seemingly level of sunburned prairie (for 
the grass had turned yellow), which, further away, changed into 
a low, dark, blue ridge, which seemed to sink into the ground at 
night, and rise again in the morning with the first light, but never 
otherwise changed its height or distance. At the base of, or be- 
yond, this blue-line, I expected to find lovely cities, inhabited by 
giant-like, yet pure and generous people. Hence, I traveled on 
by night as well as day, hoping to reach the wonderland of my 
boyish imagination, which seemed no nearer at sunset than at 
sunrise, and in consequence of this illusion I experienced a sense 
of always moving with an indefinite purpose, and of halting at 
night at the same place for all the camping grounds presented 
the same appearance, since they were strewn with the same sort 
of rubbish, such as cast-off garments, pieces of rabbit skin and 
empty fruit cans with the same, yet different surroundings, a 
chalky taste of dust, and an all-pervading smell of cattle. Thus 
the days passed slowly but surely and with an increased anxiety 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 41 

on my part to reach Maryville on the Big Blue. With such a 
beautiful name I expected to see a lively town, but was surprised 
to find only a stone barn, a blacksmith shop and a saloon. 

Having crossed Big Blue we were really on the "great plains ' 
with the uncivilized west lying before us. At the west end of 
"Nine Mile Ridge" is a long, steep hill requiring the wagons to 
be locked in order to safely descend it. On reaching this point my 
team was some distance behind with but two or three teams in 
sight. I started my cattle in a trot to catch up and before reach- 
ing the locking place the last team had disappeared. I could not 
stop my team to lock the wagon, therefore it made a wild dash 
down the rocky hill. I stood breathless, watching the flying 
team, expecting every moment to see the wagon upset, scatter 
and smash things generally, but the cattle kept the road and did 
not stop running until my leaders had their heads against the rear 
wag-on. "Dutchy," who was riding at the front of the train, and 
who had frequently cautioned me about, and even threatened to 
whip me for running my team, and who had already whipped two 
young men with his blacksnake for disobeying orders, now dashed 
up the hill to meet me, and, with his whip drawn in a striking 
manner, said, "I've a mind to cut the skin off of you, you little 
rascal." "The sooner you commence the sooner you'll get 
through," was my impudent reply. I had struck a defensive atti- 
tude with ready hand on my pistol, which, coupled with his 
knowledge of my shooting the Swede on the ferry-boat, warned 
him to consult his own safety by compromising the matter. He 
hung his whip on his saddle horn, and extending his hand said, 
"I admire your pluck. Come, jump up behind me and we will 
soon catch the train." "Dutchy" talked very kindly and told me 
how to treat my team so it would love and obey me instead of 
running every time I approached it. "I want you," he said, "to 
be a man, not a little boy. Stop chasing snakes, lizards, toads and 
bugs and attend to your team, and I'll let you ride 'Brigham' 
his horse on day herd." Surely "soft words breaketh the bones/* 
and "kindness stilleth wrath." Just a moment before I was ready 
to shoot "Dutchy," but in the next would have fought for him 
henceforth he and I were excellent friends. I did, promptly, 
whatever he required of me and made myself as agreeable to my 
companions as the nature of the circumstances would permit. I 
had been quite disagreeable and complained, justly, perhaps, of 
many things to which the average teamster attached but little or 
no importance. The food was coarse and less skilfully prepared 
than that to which I had been accustomed, and there was a reck- 
less freedom and roughness in the intercourse of my comrades 
that shocked and sometimes angered me ; a speech untranslatable 
and a rudeness and haphazardness in their domestic arrangements 
that almost bordered on nastiness. The cook was the only one 



4:2 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

who made any pretensions to cleanliness and he sometimes did 
not wash his face for a week. This state of affairs was horri- 
fying to me, but I had to accept the situation and meekly follow 
"Dutchy's" advice "when on the great plains you must do as 
plainsmen do." While I reluctantly adopted the habits of my fel- 
low-travelers, and cheerfully complied with "Dutchy's" orders 
concerning the management of my team, while the train was in 
motion, I felt that I had a right when it made a halt for dinner 
or at night to occupy my time as best suited me ; therefore I wan- 
dered over the hills, along the streams, and shot at everything 
from a grasshopper up to a buffalo, and by the time we reached 
Old Julesburg on South Platte, was accorded the distinction of 
being the best marksman in the outfit. We camped at Julesburg 
for dinner and I, as usual, went out shooting. Prairie dogs were 
as numerous as moles in a Missouri bottom corn field, and my 
rapid firing at them attracted the attention of a lady and gentle- 
man who were standing in front of the station, and who were no 
less personages than the famous stage robber, Alf Slade and his 
wife. They came out where I was and after complimenting my 
marksmanship for I had killed several dogs, a difficult thing 
to do, as an evidence of it Slade drew his pistol and showed me 
how to shoot without taking aim. This mode of handling fire 
arms is similar to throwing a stone from the hand. The eye, of 
course, plays part, but the elevation and range, or direction of the 
muzzle of the gun is wholly the work of the mind. I readily saw 
the advantages of this style of shooting and adopted it in prefer- 
ence to that of taking sight, or as Slade termed it, "Hoosier 
shooting." Mrs. Slade was a tall, sprightly woman, with the 
most pleasing, or insinuating, manner I ever beheld and it was, 
perhaps, owing to this characteristic that I was led to regard her 
as handsome and to almost reverence her as a superior being. 
She read my thoughts or estimation of her as she would the pages 
of a book and having heard me say I had no relations with the 
outfit, proposed that I leave it and make my home with her and 
her husband. Of course I would go to live with people who 
would be kind to me, furnish me with an "abundance of good 
things to eat, a fine horse to ride, and breech-loading guns with 
which to hunt buffalo." Mrs. Slade and I having sealed the 
bargain with a kiss, Slade then told me to go to the train, get my 
things and come to the station for dinner. I hastened to the 
corral and informed "Dutchy" of my agreement. He raised his 
hands in horror and exclaimed, "Good heavens. Polk, my boy, 
that is Slade and his wife, and you shall not go with them if I 
can prevent it." He need not have added the latter clause, as the 
mere mention of Slade was sufficient to change my mind, and 
fill my soul with loathing for that "lady and gentleman." 

John Fry, my step-brother, had rode on the "Pony Express 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 43 

Line," and on his return from the West, stopped over night at 
our house, and Slade was the hero of his many tales of frontier 
life. Being thus made familiar with Slade's crimes, committed 
against the general public, and his fiendish cruelty toward his 
associates in wrong doing, it needed only the mention of his name 
to produce a sudden and violent revulsion of feeling toward him 
and his to me accomplished wife. Slade suspected that the 
foreman had persuaded, or compelled, me to break my engage- 
ment with his wife, and came out to the camp to inquire if such 
was the case. He stepped up close to me and asked, "Why did 
you not come to the station for dinner as you agreed to?" "Be- 
cause," said I, "you are Slade, the stage robber." His cold, steel 
gray eyes flashed fire as he asked, "Who told you that ?" I point- 
ed to "Dutchy," who took on a cadaverous look as Slade drew 
his pistol and said, 'I have a mind to crop your ears" a thing he 
had frequently done to those who had offended him. I drew a 
pistol and said, "Harm him and I'll drop you in your tracks." He 
replaced his pistol in its holster, turned and walked leisurely 
toward the station. , 

There was one extraordinary incident in the wild career of 
Slade that is worthy of mention here and that is the fact that he 
made himself such a terror to overland travelers that Ben Holla- 
day, proprietor of the stage line, personally made a treaty with 
him and appointed him special messenger over the Julesburg divi- 
sion. Slade was faithful to his employer and did his work so 
effectively that stage robbing along that part of the route became 
a thing of the past. He knew all the "free-booters" in that sec- 
tion of the country, and wherever, or whenever, he met one, shot 
him dead. Having killed and dispersed the lawless fellows, he 
was, of course, of no further use to the sagacious Ben, who it was 
said, gave him a sum of money for peacefully resigning his com- 
mission as agent. Shortly after I saw Slade he went to Virginia 
Qty, Montana, and organized another band of robbers. He was 
so bold and his stage robberies so frequent that the vigilants took 
his case in hand and in the early part of 1864 hung him. He had 
many friends at the execution and it was thought there would 
have been trouble between him and the vigilance committee had 
his brave, faithful wife appeared on the scene a little sooner. Mrs. 
Slade, riding man-fashion, with two large Colt's navies strapped 
to her slender waist, dashed through the crowd and up to the 
gallows. For a moment she gazed upon the suspended remains 
of her husband ("the proud monarch of the prairies"), then 
wheeled her horse and sped away to parts unknown. She was 
a cultured woman and the favorite daughter of a wealthy and 
influential gentleman of New York City, and it was thought by 
some that she had made her way back to the parental roof; others, 
who were familiarly acquainted with her and Slade, believed she 



44 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

returned to St. Joseph, Missouri, where they were married; but 
the probabilities are that she committed suicide and furnished a 
meal for hungry coyotes, or became the wife of a brave or some 
lonely trapper. 

The next interesting point was, "Fremont's Orchard," in 
which I expected to gather all manner of rich fruit, but was dis- 
appointed, as the famous orchard proved to be nothing more than 
a grove of scrubby cotton-wood on the Platte bottom. We reach- 
ed Denver, the village of small log cabins, unloaded the train and 
returned to Leavenworth, and owing to my faithful service and 
friendship to "Dutchy," I was given the cattle to herd that winter. 
Niext spring (1863) the train was loaded at White Cloud, Kan- 
sas, with corn, oats, bacon and flour, for the soldiers at Fort 
Laramie, Wyoming Territory. At Fort Kearney "Dutchy" in- 
troduced me to the noble Kit Carson, and patting my head, said, 
"This is the boy who prevented Slade from shooting me last fall." 
"That's a fact," said the scout, "for the saloon keeper at Jules- 
burg told me that Slade said he would have pierced your ears 
had the boy not looked so fearless and determined." Mr. Carson, 
after praising my conduct in the Slade affair and complimenting 
my marksmanship, gave me some good points on Indian warfare, 
how to handle a gun, and, presenting a fine buckhorn handled 
knife, with beaded scabbard, said, "Put this on your belt, and 
when you get into close quarters, which is certain to befall you 
if you stay out west very long, use it; it will never miss fire if 
you handle it right. Learn to use your gun as rapidly as possible. 
One second may save your life." 

There has been much said and written about prairie dogs. 
One authority says, "they are not overly fastidious in their choice 
i. e., if they have any choice in the matter of companions, for 
rattlesnakes and demure little gray owls with a large, white ring 
around each eye, and with wise, grave countenances, occupy the 
same hole with the rightful owners, though, on what terms they 
live together I could never ascertain." Of course he. could not 
collect substantial data of a domestic relation which does not 
exist, for the simple reason that the owl, snake and prairie dog 
belong to the class carnivera (more especially the two former), 
hence are mortal enemies, the one to the other. Another writer 
says, "Prairie dogs have a public well, to which the whole popu- 
lation of a village go for water." I have seen "dog towns," as 
they are called, on table-land where it would require a thousand 
feet of digging to reach water, and, if the above statement be 
true, there would have been thrown out of the "public well" an 
immense pile of earth, but I never saw such an accumualtion. 
On the contrary, the mounds ar-jnnd the holes are of as uniform 
size as the peas in a single pod. I account for their water supply 
on the theory that they require but little moisture and that little 



EXCITING D'AYS AND DARING DEEDS 45 

is obtained from the ants, insects and grass roots on which they 
subsist. On approaching their village they conne out and perch 
themselves on the little mounds, hold up their little paws in a 
supplicating attitude, and bark most vehemently at their intruder, 
whisking their bushy little tails all the while. When shooting 
these little p.nimals, it they stand on the mound next to the gun- 
ner and are hit, the force of the ball knocks them back into the 
hole, and in their death struggles work themselves down until out 
of reach, from which fact arose the erroneous idea that the dogs 
inside came out and dragged their dead comrade into the hole. 
But if they sit on the opposite side of the hole, and are hit, the 
ball forces them over the mound and they can be secured if 
wanted. The flesh of these little creatures is very tender and 
pleasant to the taste, and makes a delicious pot-pie, which 
"Dutchy" called "Plainsman's Delight," and it was for this pur- 
pose I killed so many of them. 

After unloading the train at Fort Laramie the wagons were 
coupled up so as to make twelve teams instead of twenty-four. 
By this arrangement half of the cattle got a rest every other day. 
The loose cattle were called the "Kavy-Yard," which the extra 
men took turns in driving. My day came. to drive "Cavy-Yard," 
and "Dead-Heads" (lazy cattle), as they are called, gave me 
much trouble straying from the road, first on one side and then 
on the other. One of these exasperating old sinners annoyed me 
all the forenoon. The more I whipped him and twisted his tail 
the slower he seemed to go. Continual hard labor becomes ex- 
haustive, and at times in the best of families, "patience ceases to 
be a virtue ;" therefore, while taking the noon rest, I studied out 
a plan whereby "Old Tex" could be made to travel a little faster 
than during the morning. Shortly after resuming our journey 
the old "Dead-Head" began to lag behind. I cut a prickly pear 
as large as a dinner plate, and put it close up under his tail, which 
closed down on the thorny appendage with a vise-like grip ; the 
worse the thorns hurt the tighter he held his tail. He commenced 
bellowing and dashed in among the loose cattle, causing them to 
stampede. The teams also stampeded, some running into the 
Platte and overturning the wagons and others out on the 
prairie also upsetting. 

Our next trip was also to Fort Laramie, and having crossed 
the South Platte, we camped for breakfast. A buffalo was seen 
out on the prairie, and "Dutchy" told me to go after him. With 
my Henry rifle in hand I got into a draw, leading toward my 
intended victim, and having approached within one hundred yards 
of him, raised and fired, the ball striking a little too high to 
prove fatal. This was an old bull, who had lately been wounded 
and was still angry, so that my shot merely increased his rage. 
He tossed his huge head in the air so that his "Langtry bangs" 



46 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

fell away from over his eyes, which afforded him a view of his 
enemy. He snorted loudly and viciously, then made toward me. 
I now had an opportunity of testing my courage and of putting 
into execution the edvice of my friend Kit Carson. Holding my 
gun against the shoulder with my left hand and working the 
lever with the right, I fired five shots into, or rather against, the 
head of the beast without in the least slacking his pace. It then 
occurred to me that "he who shoots and runs away will live to 
shoot another buffalo," so I made tracks two to the rod 
toward the corral five hundred yards distant. The situation was 
a critical one and I was forced into a desperate act. I saw a 
large wolf hole on the opposite side of the conlie, in which I had 
approached the buffalo, and made directly for it. Throwing my 
gun to one side, I drew my trusty blade and plunged head first 
into the wolf den. The infuriated monster was close behind roe, 
so close in fact that I felt his hot breath, and the next instant his 
head struck the earth at my heels. He turned a semi-somersault, 
thus leaving his short tail pointing toward several of my com- 
panions who were coming to my rescue. The bull rose quickly, 
gazed about wonderingly, but triumphantly, and in the language 
of the juggler seemed to say, "presto-change, now you see him, 
and now you don't see him." While exulting over his temporary 
victory the boys got close enough to pour their leaden messengers 
into his side, killing him instantly. His huge body lay partially 
across the wolf hole, shutting out most of the air, but I was quick- 
ly rescued from this unpleasant situation. We then examined 
the buffalo's head and found five bullets imbedded in the heavy 
mat of hair and sand that covered his skull, which flattened them 
as though they had been shot against a rock. 

At Cherry Creek, about twenty miles east of Fort Laramie, 
we camped for three days in order that other large trains might 
unload and get out of our way, besides we had several wagons 
to .repair, a number of lame cattle to shoe, and Cherry Creek af- 
forded better facilities for this and better grass for the cattle than 
nearer the Fort. A large number of Sioux Indians were camped 
on the Platte some distance below us and were holding a pro- 
tracted "pow-pow." I attracted their attention by my bold horse 
back riding and accurate shooting. "Dutchy" allowed me the 
use of his horse, from whose back while running at full speed I 
could pick off the ground a hat or lasso with perfect ease, which 
pleased the Indians, who, by reason of my long black hair, con- 
ceived the idea that I was a girl. Therefore, they regarded my 
feats of shooting and riding with awe, for such reckless exploits 
as I performed were unheard of among the Indians, at least so 
far as children and women were concerned. "Dutchy" took great 
pleasure in passing me off as his daughter and refused many 
fabulous offers for me from young braves who wanted me to 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 47 

make their moccasins, cook their venison and adorn their lodges 
generally. Just before noon on the third day of our stay at 
Cherry Creek a young warrior, whose name was "Antelope," and 
who was the finest looking Indian I have ever seen, came to the 
camp and exhibited a paper, stating he would soon be elected 
chief of a tribe. I shall have considerable to say about this fel- 
low, whose tout ensemble was about as follows : His head was 
large and well, or proportionately, developed; blood red streaks 
were drawn on the scalp, and from the braid of shimmering, 
black hair dangled several eagle feathers and the tails of a num- 
ber of rattlesnakes ; his cheeks were daubed with vermillion and 
his ears adorned with heavy, metal rings ; a collar of grizzly bear 
claws, a token of strength and courage, surrounded his neck, and 
a necklace of wampum hung on his broad breast. His manner 
at once stamped him as a man of note in his nation. He was 
fully six feet high, gracefully and strongly built; his hair hung 
down his back, and at the base of the braid was attached, by way 
of ornament and talisman the "mystic whistle," made of the wing 
bone of the war eagle, and endowed by the various occult virtues. 
The braid was also adorned with a line of highly polished brass 
plates tapering from the size of a silver dollar to that of a dime. 
With the exception of the ornaments his body was naked from 
the waist up, his red blanket having fallen about his loins, and 
confined there by a broad, beaded belt. The buckskin leggings 
and gaily beaded moccasins added grace and some measure of re- 
finement to this picturesque individual; his arms consisted of a 
short Ballard carbine, a quiver of beaver skin full of arrows at 
his back, a strong bow in his hand, and a large knife and the 
awful tomahawk stuck in his belt. "Dutchy" could speak the 
Sioux language and was conversing with the young warrior when 
I, having been on the herd, returned to the corral to get my din- 
ner. He immediately offered five ponies for me, and said, pat- 
ting himself on the breast, "Antelope make great chief with pale- 
face squaw." He was informed that all the horses in the Sioux 
nation could not buy me, which greatly exalted me in the mind 
of my dusky admirer, who then proposed to give me a pretty 
pony if I would sit on his knee and allow him to kiss me. 
"Dutchy" acquainted me with his proposition and told me to go 
to him and see what he would do. I walked up to him and put 
my hand on his arm. "Dutchy" said something to him and he 
caught me in his strong arms and almost smothered me with 
kisses ; I slapped him in the face and ran away. He thought he 
had offended me and immediately offered an apology for his 
rudeness. Chastity, though not generally believed to exist among 
the^ Indians, is by them highly esteemed, and the modest, chaste 
maiden is a joy to her family and the pride of her tribe. They 
are, however, without exception as fond of kissing as was Gen- 



48 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

eral Sherman. Antelope after being satisfied that I was not 
angry, sprang upon his noble war-horse and rode rapidly toward 
this camp. He soon returned, leading the loveliest black pony I 
ever beheld, and, handing the hair lasso, which was looped on its 
under-jaw to "Dutchy," said, "Me give him to white chiefs 
daughter." I thanked him for the handsome gift and he rode 
away chanting an Indian love song. 

Having unloaded our train we started for home. "Dutchy" 
secured for me a saddle at the Fort, and excused me from duty 
with the understanding that I should furnish the men with fresh 
meat. I now had no fear of buffalo, as I could ride my pony 
into a herd and shoot down such animals as I chose. 

We arrived at the company's farm near Leavenworth and I 
remained with the herd until a few days before Christmas, when 
there took possession of my thoughts an overwhelming desire to 
see my sisters. After buying a new suit for myself and a fine 
saddle and bridle for my pony, I bade "Dutchy" good-bye and 
started for home. As I rode onto the ferry boat at 
Atchison, a waggish fellow shouted, "Here comes 
Santa Claus." Well might he say that, as my pony 
was loaded with all sorts of presents for the dear ones 
whom I had not seen nor heard from for eighteen months. When 
I appeared at the yard gate to Sister Sarah's house, Ruth and 
the children were out in the yard playing, while Sarah was pre- 
paring a Christmas eve supper. Ruth and her little playmates 
stared at me, then at the tin horns, drums, china dolls and bundles 
of dry goods, but I was not recognized until I asked, "Does Mrs. 
Myers live here ?" Then came from Ruth the glad shout of recog- 
nition, which brought Sarah to the door. I was dragged from 
the pony and carried bodily into the house while dear little Mary 
(Sarah's eldest child), led my pony up to the front door where 
it was unpacked, and put in the stable. Oh, what a joyful meet- 
ing that was. 

All the able-bodied men had either gone into the war, or 
fled to the mountains to avoid "Uncle Sam's" draft, so that 
most of the ladies of Rushville had to be their own "drawers of 
water and hewers of wood." My step-mother had been de- 
serted by her son, Pance, and was destitute of the common 
necessities of life, and when I reached home she was weaving 
carpet, by which she meagerly supported herself and daughter 
"Sis." They were glad to see me and surprised me with em- 
braces and kisses, a manifestation of good will that I was not 
prepared for. I enjoyed it, however, and accepted it as genu- 
ine. They "had used the horse-lot fence and the siding from 
the ice-house for fire wood and bad commenced on the frame- 
work of the latter, and when I entered the house the ends of 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 49 

half a dozen rafters were sticking in the fire-place. As the ends 
burned off the ends were pushed further into the fire. 

Having plenty of money and not afraid to spend it, I was 
making life pleasant and comfortable for mother and "Sis," 
when one day about the eighth of January, 1864 the town 
was panic-stricken by the entrance of a company of Kansas 
jayhawkers who plundered every house in it. They knew my 
father was in the Confederate army and therefore took special pains 
pains to strip his house of everything in the shape of silverware, 
jewelry, fine bed-spreads, etc., and even took the rings from 
mother's and "Sis's" ears. Having satisfied themselves, or rath- 
er loaded themselves, they left the house and joined their com- 
rades at the public well and, after breaking the stocks and 
twisting or bending the barrels of a score of old guns, mounted 
their horses and rode out of town. They had not been gone 
more than two hours when my step-brothers, accompanied by 
the James boys, all direct from "Quantrel's Band," and well 
armed, arrived. We succeeded in getting together twenty-one 
men, including ourselves, and followed the enemy. Gearrie 
City, Kansas, a small town on the Missouri, some five miles 
distant, was the headquarters of the jayhawkers, and about 
daylight the next morning we dashed across the river on the 
ice, and, leaving our horses under the bank in charge of three 
old rrien, proceeded to the work in hand. The conflict was 
brought to a close by the jayhawkers fleeing into the hills and 
hollows back of the town which we burned, or at least the 
business portion of it. John Hart, captain of the jayhawkers, 
and two of his men were killed and several others seriously 
wounded. Our captain, Uncle Tom Irving, was shot through 
the shoulders and two or three others slightly hurt, while my 
clothes were in several places pierced by the enemies' bullets. 
We failed to recover any of the stolen property, but succeeded 
in teaching our Kansas neighbors a lesson which to some ex- 
tent checked their forays in Missouri. 



CHAPTER V. 

May first I divided what money I had with my step- 
mother and sisters, gave my pony to Ruth, went to Atchison 
and engaged to drive a team to Salt Lake City, Utah. The 
trip was pleasant until reaching Fort Kearney, but from there 
to the base of the mountains the road was almost impassable 
on account of rain, besides every mile of it was beset with 
dangers. Fierce and barbarous Sioux warriors lurketi behind 
the hills and in the hollows, ever on the alert to surprise and 
kill the men and plunder and burn the trains which toiled 
wearily through the unhospitable lands. For extent and sever- 
ity the perils by day and dangers by night along this route 
were without parallel in the history of human events. Owing 
to the small number of troops held at Forts Laramie and Kear- 
ney, the Indians were enabled to do about as they chose, there- 
fore sudden death or cruel and prolonged torture stared us in 
the face at every step. The wayside was lined with new 
graves and bleaching bones the latter having been stripped 
by the hungry coyotes of unfortunate men, women and chil- 
dren, who had fallen in the hands of the "noble red men." 

A mule train of eight teams was traveling with us for safe- 
ty and having crossed the South Platte we camped for break- 
fast. It was my day to herd and I drove the cattle out on the 
prairie where there was better grass than near the ford. A 
young man came out with the mules and we got together and 
were having fine sport shooting prairie dogs. I had emptied my 
pistols and sat down to reload them, when suddenly the cattle 
and! mules stampeded and my companion dashed pa'st me shout- 
ing, "Indians, Indians." I was surprised and to some extent dis- 
concerted at the suddenness of the attack, which proved con- 
clusively to my mind the correctness of the warning I had received 
from Kit Carson. "Danger," he said, "is never so near as when 
you are unprepared for it never so remote as when you are on the 
alert to meet it at any moment." He also said that a bold front 
and an apparent indifference to present danger would command 
the respect and admiration of the most hostile Indians. These 
thoughts with lightning rapidity flashed through my mind and 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 51 

by the time my friend had breathed his last I was as calm as 
a summer morning, and prepared to meet the consequences 
whatever they might be. A powerful warrior, painted in the 
most hideous manner, and riding an American horse, dashed 
up to me. I instinctively saw that I was to be taken captive 
and that resistance was useless or equivalent to suicide. I 
stretched out my hands toward my captor, who seized my arm, 
seated me on the horse behind him, and spurred on after the 
herd and his companions. I had frequently contemplated mak- 
ing my home with the Indians for the purpose of learning their 
language, observing their customs and studying their religious 
ceremon-es, so I was not averse to going with them on this 
occasion, and my apparent willingness to do so prevented their 
tying me as expected. They took my pistols, but otherwise 
treated me with marked attention and kindness. This consid- 
erate gentleness on the part of my captors was owing to the 
fact that I was recognized as the daughter of "Dutchy," and 
therefore a capital prize to present to ''Antelope/' who was now 
chief of his tribe. 

My captors left the cattle, but pushed the mules and horses 
as fast as possible, and by midnight reached their camp on the 
Dismal River, about sixty miles north of North Platte. Here 
about seventy-five families were camped while the main body 
of the nation was quartered on the Middle Loup River still 
further north. On arriving at the camp I was given in charge 
of an old woman, who, perhaps, was the mother or some near 
relative of the chief, took me to her lodge which was occupied 
by herself and a girl about my own size and age, and being 
very tired I stretched myself on the buffalo and wolf robes and 
soon passed into the land of forgetfulness. Next morning I was 
promptly called to breakfast which consisted of a stew of jack- 
rabbits and prairie-dogs, molasses, hard-tack, sugar and coffee. 
I ate heartily of all that was spread before me which seemed to 
pleased my entertainers not a little, for Indians love to see 
their guests eat with a relish. 

While the young and thoughtless members of the camp 
were enjoying themselves with their various sports, the war- 
riors and medicine-men appeared to be deeply concerned about 
something, as was indicated by their hog-like grunts, gestures, 
and serious faces and by their continual looking southward. 
"Antelope" was the only word I understood, and their frequent 
use of it, coupled with their glances in my direction, convinced 
me that they were discussing the meeting of the chief with 
myself, and anxious looks showed that he was soon expected 
to arrive. I was immediately thrown into a train of thoughts 



52 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

of the most apprehensive nature, feeling sure that "Antelope" 
would claim me as his wife which would result in my exposure, 
and as a natural consequence he would take my life for having 
deceived him on a former occasion. Various modes of escape 
flashed through my mind but before arriving at a definite plan 
of action "Antelope" and his band of warriors reached camp. 
Our recognition was mutual and our hands met in a friendly 
grasp. I was really glad to see him as my manner indicated, 
and his actions showed that he was equally pleased by my pres- 
ence. However, he made no improper advances, and in this 
proved himself a gentleman though he were an Indian. He 
could speak English sufficiently well for me to understand him 
and at once inquired about "Dutchy," whom he styled the 
"White Chief," and who, I told him, had gone to fight in the 
pale-faces' war with which he was familiar. 

I was permitted to go about camp at will and seemingly 
unwatched. This privilege, coupled with the gentlemanly man- 
ner in which "Antelope" greeted me, and the confusion occas- 
ioned by his arrival, caused me to forget all about escaping. 
I inferred from the listless tranquility into which the adult 
members of the camp had fallen after dinner that there was no 
danger apprehended from their white enemies, so I secured a 
lariat and ventured out among the boys and girls whom I soon 
had gyrating about to prevent my lassoing them which they 
enjoyed as much as myself. 

The chief and his party had captured a mule train, and 
after killing the men, loaded their horses with such things as 
they wanted, set fire to the wagons and brought the mules and 
horses away with them. A number of the Indians were wound- 
ed, showing that the white men had defended themselves as 
best they could. Among the wounded was a brother of the 
chief, who was shot through the shoulder with a gun of large 
caliber. I dressed the wound for him as tenderly as if he had 
been my own brother and am free to confess I felt sorry for 
him. This party had made a rich haul and the plunder was 
thrown together in a pile from which everybody helped himself 
or herself, a "all-things-in-common" sort of way of doing busi- 
ness. I selected such things as I wanted and set to work pre- 
paring dinner for "Antelope," his brother and myself. I took 
the wounded man some hot pancakes, fried dog and a cup of 
excellent coffee, which he devoured with the utmost satisfac- 
tion. The chief was highly pleased with my attentions toward 
his brother, and, after satisfying his own appetite, he and his 
wise men seated themselves in front of the "council lodge" to 
talk over the late events and boast of their individual achieve- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 53 

ments. While "Antelope" and his generals were exulting over 
past and planning future victories, the poor old women were 
busy carrying fuel for lighting up the dance ground, which 
was about the size of and similar to a circus ring, and which 
was encircled by the lodges of the principal families. After 
dark a fire was started in the center of the ring and the dance 
commenced, in which everybody who was able to jump and 
howl took part. The old women kept the fire going, while the 
marriageable girls, children and dogs furnished the music for 
the warriors and young men to dance by. This dance was 
given in praise of, and a thank-offering to the "Great Spirit," 
to whom they attributed their recent success in plundering 
the "pale faces." From early morning until night of the next 
day the whole camp was kept in an uproar. The boys and girls 
shouting and laughing; the old women bringing fuel ; the war- 
riors busily engaged in burnishing up their weapons, and plum- 
ing themselves for the war-dance 1 . Just before sundown Chief 
"Antelope" appeared in full dress, in the hour of his glory, with 
the whole tribe out to admire him as he swept around the camp 
on his mystic war-horse. His head dress was adorned with a 
crest of war-eagle's feathers, which rose in a waving ridge 
above his shapely brow, and almost sweeping the ground be- 
hind him ; a round, white shield with feathers and stained por- 
cupine quills alternately attached and radiating from the center 
'ke a star, hung from his breast ; his bow and quiver of arrows 
at his back, while in his hand he held a fine needle-gun, whose 
bright bands flashed against the declining sun ; and from his 
belt fluttered the scalps of his enemies together with the scalp- 
ing-knife and terrible tomahawk. Thus arrayed he rode around 
and around the circle of lodges, balancing himself gracefully to 
the free movements of his noble horse, while, with an air of 
reverence depicted in his handsome face, he rendered his song 
praise and gratitude to the "Great Spirit." Young warriors 
looked askance at him, vermillion cheeked skirls gazed in ad- 
miration, boys shouted in a thrill of delight, and old women 
yelled forth his name and proclaimed his virtues such, no 
doubt, as were bestowed on the shepherd boy from lodge to 
lodsre, while I, motionless and silent, looked upon the scene 
with reverential awe, and wondered what the magnificent dis- 
play of horsemanship, finery, trinkets and charms portended. 
I subsequently learned that this exhibition was intended to in- 
spire the young warriors with confidence in their chief, and fill 
them with patriotic ambition. 

The most conspicuous and the most curious things about 
the chief as he rode around the camp were his charms, which, 



54 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

to me, were merely pretty and curiously devised ornaments, 
but, to the Indians, they spoke in terms more eloquent and 
impressive than would, to the school boy, the utterances of 
Wendell Phillips, or the eloquence of a Depew. The wearing 
of charms is a common characteristic among the red men of 
every tribe and nation. They all have a tutilary spirit and 
wear badges representing it and their gods ; they also wear 
various charms for divers purposes, some to ward off sickness, 
others to shield them from harm, and still others to promote 
success in their undertakings. After dark the dancers began 
circling round and round, each figure brightly illumined by the 
fire in the center of the ring, and on each warrior's breast was 
an emblem denoting his character. I saw nothing indicating 
the wolf or the coyote, for the reason that these animals are 
considered mean and cowardly ; but the fox, hare, buffalo, bear, 
horse, antelope and war eagle all had representatives at the 
dance. When the first dancers became tired and withdrew 
from the ring a startling yell was given, fresh warriors leaped 
into the circle and with faces toward the moonlit sky, stamped, 
whooped, jumped stiff-kneed, brandished their weapons and 
went through all the motions that were likely to engage them 
when in actual conflict with the enemy. 

I have seen some wonderful things in my time, but nothing 
half so fantastical, nothing so awe inspiring as the "war dance/' 
Many men have endeavored to give an intelligent pen picture 
of it, but all have failed. It arouses the motions that cannot 
by word or pen be conveyed to another. One may see it for 
himself in order to feel its charm, appreciate its artistic merit 
and fully understand its terrible significance. The dance was 
continued until midnight, when the heavens were pierced with 
a loud, shrill and peculiar note from a whistle, horn or the 
throat of a warrior. From whatever it proceeded it had a mag- 
ical effect upon the spectators, as well as the dancers, as the 
ring was instantly vacated, the watchers and musicians dis- 
persed, and in less than ten minutes the entire camp was 
shrouded in a deathlike stillness. I was left alone to find my 
way to my quarters the best I could, and on my way to the 
tent discovered Chief "Antelope" in, what I thought, a strange 
attitude for an Indian. He was on his knees in front of his 
lodge with face upturned and his eyes riveted on something" 
invisible to me in the heavens. I waited until he was through 
with his prayer or communion with the "Great Spirit," which 
seemed an hour, and then approached him. He motioned to me 
to sit down on the buffalo robes at his side, which I did, and 
after talking sometime, ventured to ask what he was doing on 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 55 

his knees, and his reply was, "Me love Great Spirit heapmuch." 
He then pointed to various bright stars, muttered something in 
Indian about each of them, and then turning his eyes and finger 
toward the silver moon, said, "Great Spirit up there, me all 
time see him face." This pagan philosopher, magician and as- 
trologer deeply interested me as he had much to say about the 
planets, the "Great Spirit" and the "Happy Hunting Ground." 
He was so wrought up by the dance, his prayer or communion 
with the unseen, and I was so struck with wonder and admira- 
tion at his devotion and faith in the Heavenly Master that we 
were unaware of the time until there appeared the beautiful 
morning star to which he pointed and said, "Me call him little 
moon," then patting my head he added, "Me call you little 
moon too." I told him my name was Charles K. Polk, and that 
I was named after one of the "great fathers" at Washington, 
but he insisted that I should bear the above name and said, 
"Maybe one snow, maybe two snows, little moon go to wig- 
wam with Antelope." Then leading me by the hand to within 
a few rods of my lodge he said, "Go, little moon must sleep, 
Indian heap sleep, much good." With this he wheeled and 
walked rapidly to his own lodge and having seen him enter it I 
retired myself. 

The only occupants of my lodge were the same old woman 
and girl. I lay down on some buffalo robes but could not sleep 
for thinking of the peril and strangeness of my situation, be- 
sides the peculiar "thumpty bang" of the tom-tom and the aw- 
ful war whoop continued to ring in my ears, and the chief's 
remarks about my going to the lodge with him threw me into 
an apprehensive and thoughtful mood. He had formally post- 
poned our marriage for at least one year, but this temporary 
delay did not relieve me from the dangers and probability of 
exposing myself when asleep, or from the chances of my sex 
being discovered by the lynx-eyed girls, who, like Mary's lamb, 
persisted in following me wherever I went. My father taught 
me that a liar under any circumstances is loathsome to honest 
white men, and a most abominable wretch in the eye's of an In- 
dian, therefore exposure simply meant death, or still worse., 
prolonged torture, and I knew that it was only a matter of time 
when my deception would be discovered. From the harrowing- 
consequences of an exposure I turned to contemplate the scenes 
painted on the walls of my lodge. I had not previously noted 
these paintings, but now when a little blaze from the fire in 
the center of the lodge would shoot up, they attracted my at- 
tention and I carefully studied them. On the right was a scene 
of a battle between the Sioux and the the warriors of some 



56 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

other nation. On the left were various designs of peculiar di- 
mensions which were no doubt calculated to represent the gods 
of the owners of the lodge. Between these two scenes was one 
of a white man bound to a stake and undergoing the torture of 
fire. The figures of the former pictures were imperfectly drawn 
if the design of the artist was clearly seen; while the latter 
painting was executed by a master hand and one no doubt that 
had participated in the scene in its horrible reality. I looked 
upon this picture as foretelling my own fate. Horrible as it 
was, I could not help admiring it, and finally dropped into sleep 
with the whole scene rushing through my mind, and dreamed 
that the old woman had discovered my character and reported 
same to the chief, who ordered me to the stake. I saw the 
women as they placed the brush and wood around me ; the boys 
and girls spit in my face and tread on my fingers as I lay bound 
and helpless. The old woman was appointed master of cere- 
monies as a reward for her cunning and, when all was ready, 
chief "Antelope," whose hitherto noble countenance now had 
the appearance of a fiend and having given the order to com- 
mence the torture, she plunged a fine splinter, with its outer 
end on fire, into my side. This was so real that I awoke, and 
rushed out of the lodge with the determination to escape the 
first opportunity afforded me. 

The forenoon was half spent, but I saw no preparations 
being made to send out a war party as I had understood "An- 
telope" to say he intended doing. He was waiting for rein- 
forcements, and the delay thus occasioned was highly favor- 
able to my plans. The war party, of course, would go south 
in order to strike the emigrant and fighting outfits, and I 
knew that if it started before I did I would be obliged to await 
its return, or take the chances of meeting it after I had left the 
camp. I boldly accosted "Antelope" and said : "Great Chief is 
not going on the war path today." "Maybe so, yes, some 
young man pointing to the north coming to go with "An- 
telope," one sleep, maybe not." It was evident from his 
restlessness that he was momentarily expecting the young 
warriors, which convinced me that I must act promptly or 
not at all, and I said, "T do not like white men, and will shoot 
them so "Antelope" can take many scalps." Drawing my 
pistol ^and pointing to a buffalo skull, I said, "See pale face," 
and fired a ball through it, which pleased the chief very 
much. He patted mv head and said something in his own 
language which I did not understand. 

Mr. Thompson, our wagon foreman, and half owner of 
the train, had once traveled with a circus in the capacity of 
a horse trainer, and had taught many tricks to his fine sad- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 57 

die mare, who, owing to my kindness to her, performed as 
readily for me as for her master. I have always loved horses, 
and naturally put in many an hour petting and rubbing this 
noble animal, and for which gentle care I was allowed to ride 
her on my regular herd day, therefore on the day of my cap- 
ture she was driven off with the other horses. She was a 
bright bay, with white legs and face, and in Indian phrase- 
ology was called "Pale Face Squaw Horse/' All the horses, 
including those taken from the white men, were kept on the 
stream some distance below camp, and not having seen the 
mare since my arrival, I had not thought much about her, 
besides my mind had been fully occupied with the strange, 
fascinating scenes of Indian life, but on the morning in ques- 
tion the whole herd was brought near camp. The mare and 
a few of the American horses were picketed on the grass by 
long lariats to prevent their running away. When I saw her 
my soul leaped for joy. I felt certain that once on her back 
I would be perfectly safe. , 

After the chief finished his, to me, unintelligible remarks, 
I said, pointing to one of the men, "Pale face squaw horse is 
mine. I will ride her and go with 'Antelope' to fight the 
white men." He replied, "Little moon heap good shoot, heap 
much brave, heap much stay at camp. 'Antelope' bring heap 
pale face scalps." I inferred from this courteous but em- 
phatic answer that I would not be allowed to accompany him 
on the war path, nor did I want to, my object being to get on 
the mare through his permission, and his prompt refusal to 
acceed to my wishes put me out a little, but I rallied to the 
charge again, and I told him I wished to ride her and catch 
for him a wild pony with a lasso. He readily agreed to this 
proposition, and started a young man to bring her to camp. 
I stopped him, and, stepping out so the mare could see me, 
put two fingers in my mouth and gave a shrill whistle. She 
recognized the familiar note and answered me with a loud 
and prolonged whinny. I, in my eagerness and forgetting 
she was staked out, whistled again, and this time she saw me 
and came bounding toward me. The force with which she 
came against the picket rope caused it to part, thus setting 
herself free. She dashed up to my side and put her nose 
against my cheek as if she would kiss me. After fondling her 
a minute, I made her lay Jown, roll over, then get up and 
stand on her hind feet. If the Indians were surprised by 
former feats of shooting, lassoing and horsemanship, they 
were now dumbfounded with the performances with the mare. 
They regarded me with that speechless awe and wonder which 
characterizes the ignorant and superstitious of all peoples, of 



58 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

whatever color. Having, as it were, hypnotized the spec- 
tators through the tricks of the intelligent animal, I then put 
Mr. Thompson's saddle and bridle on her my pistols already 
having been restored to me by the chiefs order and, with 
lasso in hand, sprang into the saddle and asked "Antelope"" 
which pony I should catch for him. He pointed to a white 
one on the outskirts of the herd, and said, "Little Moon heap 
catch white pony." At a touch the mare sprang forward and 
at the right moment I cast the lasso, the loop of which set- 
tled gracefully over the pony's head, whereupon an enthusi- 
astic cheer from the Indians rang out on the air. I was now 
out of range of their guns and free to act, yet I hesitated to 
betray such implicit confidence as the chief had reposed in 
me, but, thinking of the fate awaiting me should my sex be 
discovered, I hesitated no longer, and turning the mare's head 
from the camp I dashed away toward Platte River. 

When the Indians saw that I was actually deserting 
them a terrible commotion ensued. The women and children 
set up a terrible howl, while the warriors, a dozen or more, 
with "Antelope" at their head, started in pursuit. I let them 
gain on me for a while, then gave the mare the rein and she 
left them so fast that they became disgusted with their short- 
legged ponies and stopped the chase, at least I saw no more of 
them. About half past eight o'clock, and before the men had 
had their supper, I rode into the corral and was greeted with 
cheers and compliments from my comrades, while Mr. Thomp- 
son shed joyous tears as he looked at me from the mare's 
back. 

The men of the mule train buried their unfortunate com- 
panion on the spot where killed, now the site of Ogalalla, Ne- 
braska. They recognized the futility of undertaking to re- 
cover their stock and my friends had abandoned all hope of 
ever seeing me again. Another large ox train had joined 
Mr. Thompson's, and between the two there were enough 
cattle spared to haul the wagons of the distressed and sor- 
rowing mule men, and when I returned they were all camped 
together the combined force of the two trains numbering 
eighty-five men and three boys, including myself. The next 
day at noon, while I was out playing with the mare, Mr. 
Thompson was interviewing the other proprietors, who 
agreed with him to employ me at one hundred dollars per 
month to act as scout and hunter for the whole company. Mr. 
Thompson called me to him, and, after acquainting me with 
their decision, said if I would undertake the dangerous task I 
should have the "pale-face squaw-horse" to ride. I accepted 
the proposition with all the zeal and heartiness of which 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



59 



youthful ambition and a daring nature are capable, and after 
dinner I saddled the mare, and, with rifle laying across my 
lap, as was the custom of frontiersmen, started out on my 
first scouting expedition. The mare, Molly, and myself, ow- 
ing to our late dash of about eighty-five miles, with but one 
stop for a few minutes on North Platte, were quite stiff, and 
for a few days I did not venture far from the .camp, but hav- 
ing worked off the effects of that terrible ride, I dared to go 
as far from the road as I chose. One day as we drew near the 
mountains I wandered some five miles from the road in search 
of game, but failed to find anything, and becoming hungry, 
I turned the mare toward camp again. The noble animal had 
several times warned me that Indians were near us, but I paid 
not the slightest attention to her for the reason that I had be- 
come foolhardy and insanely reckness. I had, perhaps, ridden 
two or three miles in the direction of the camp, when the 




Entirely Surrounded by Indians Fights His Way Out. 



mare suddenly snorted, struck the ground viciously with her 
front feet and tried to run. "Perhaps I had better take a 
view of the surrounding country," I thought ; so I rode out 
of the coulie which I had been following in the hope of find- 



60 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ing a buffalo or deer at one of the pools of water along its 
course onto the high prairie, and behold I was almost com- 
pletely surrounded by Indians. They had heard of my es- 
cape from "Antelope," and were bent on recapturing me 
alive. By drawing a line of warriors around me they hoped 
to fill me with consternation and awe me into an immediate 
surrender. The line was fast closing on me, an<f one of two 
things must be done meekly give myself into their hands and 
suffer the consequences, or make a bold dash through the line 
for liberty. I chose the latter alternative, and slipping my 
rifle into a loop kept on the horn of the saddle for that pur- 
pose, dropped the bridle reins, and guiding the mare by simply 
pressing her with the knee, drew both pistols and dashed to- 
ward the line of warriors, who rushed from the right and left 
to cut me off. I dropped four of them from their horses, thus 
making a gap through the line, through which I passed un- 
harmed, though the fringe on my buckskin shirt and pants 
was cut off in several places by their shots. In the start my 
hat blew off and my long black hair waving in the breeze- 
disclosed my identity to a certainty, which made the Indians 
doubly anxious to capture me, and about fifty warriors chased 
me to within half a mile of camp, when they suddenly stop- 
ped, viewed the situation, and rode away toward their com- 
rades. Two days later the train entered the mountains, the 
home of the Utes, who, up to that time, had been peaceable 
toward the whites, but were inveterate enemies of the Sioux, 
hence the latter did not dare to follow us into the dominion 
of the former. 

While on the plains, owing to the marauding bands of 
Indians, game was extremely scarce, and I often had to carry 
my belts of cartridges and my disappointment (which was 
much heavier) back to camp. I had killed a goodly number 
of sage hens, prairie dogs and jack rabbits, but these were in- 
sufficient to appease the appetites of so large a party; be- 
sides when able bodied men in that country sit down to eat, 
fresh meat vanishes before them like dry grass before a prairie 
fire. But after entering the mountains I had no trouble in 
furnishing the entire party with all the fresh meat it could 
consume. Elk, deer and mountain sheep were very plentiful, 
and the Laramie plains were literally alive with antelope. 
These fleet-footed, timid little creatures are as full of curi- 
osity as a woman and are as easily beguiled. A necklace of 
precious stones and gold bracelets have lured unnumbered 
scores of the latter to ruin, while a red silk handkerchief, or 
other red flag, has enticed thousands of the former to an un- 
timely end, and they have been known to follow a covered 
wagon for miles, while the wily red man, standing erect, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 61 

wrapped erect in his red blanket, never fails to draw them 
within reach of his deadly arrow. On one occasion near the 
crossing of Medicine Bow, and while seated behind my red 
silk handkerchief, I shot down five of these beautiful animals, 
and could, no doubt, have killed the whole herd had I so de- 
sired, for they not only gazed intently at the decoy, but grad- 
ually approached it until I arose to my feet, when they 
wheeled and scampered away. I disemboweled those I had 
killed, and, by attaching my lariat to the neck of one, then to 
the saddle horn, drew them, one by one, with the mare to the 
road, where they were picked up when the train came along. 
By this process I delivered at the road most all my game, but 
when far away I cut off the "saddle" (hind quarters) and car- 
ried it in front of me to the road or tent. 

The plains, with its pretty little animals, great herds of 
buffalo, immense clouds of quail, prairie chickens, sage hens, 
grouse, and beautiful streams, was very pleasing and inter- 
esting to me. My imagination kept me in an intoxicated 
state, so that I was constantly anticipating scenes that never 
appeared. I well remember with what eagerness and delight 
I rode with "Dutchy," when on our first trip to Fort Laramie, 
the five or more miles across the hills to the famous "Court 
House Rock," on North Platte River. I also remember my 
disappointment on arriving at this immense pile of sand-stone, 
for I had expected to see a great castle which it resembled 
from the road with its internal belongings complete. Hun- 
dreds of names were carved in the soft stone, so "Dutchy" 
and I followed the example. Climbing up its side as far as 
any one had been, I stood on his shoulders and cut our names 
above all others in the face of this famous landmark. 

While I was ever charmed and pleased with every turn 
in the road while on the plains, I was as certainly doomed to 
disappointment in my ideal, which was fully realized in the 
mountains, whose snow-capped peaks filled me with wonder 
and whose lofty sides were covered with a dense forest, which 
impregnated the air with the odor of pine and cedar, giving 
it a bracing and exhilirating influence on the physical system ; 
while the magnificent scenery of mighty cliffs, terrific walls, 
huge rocky towers and pine shaded glens, beautiful sweet sing- 
ing birds, the sleek elk, the pretty cotton-tail and the sprightly 
big horn all presented at one view, often held me in the em- 
brace of enchantment for hours at a time on the summit of 
some sky piercing peak. I never tired of looking at these 
wondrous beauty scenes of God's mighty work. I rode up one 
canyon and down another, from mountain top to mountain 
top, always feasting my eyes on the beautiful pictures of 
nature; and when I came to a place too steep to ride, I dis- 



62 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

mounted and, leaving Molly (my mare) to graze on the rich 
bunch grass, would clamber to the top of some shattered, 
splintered crag to see what lay beyond. 

On reaching Elk Mountain (so called by reason of the 
abundance of elk to be found on its broad sides and in its deep 
canyons) I rode "Molly" to the extreme top of it, which is 
far above the timber line. Here I had a magnificent view of 
the surrounding country. I could see Laramie's Peak and the 
Black Hills, the Laramie Plains, the Medicine Bow Valley, 
through which flowed the Medicine Bow River, the latter, as 
it wound it way toward the North Platte, resembling a thread 
of silver drawn through a field of gold. 

Echo Canyon, through which the road lay, was a marvel- 
ous curiosity to me. On the left, going west, is a high moun- 
tain ; on the right a perpendicular wall, two or three hundred 
feet high, and along the edge of this mighty precipice ten or 
fifteen miles long, and at. the base of which lay the wagon 
road Brigham Young had placed, by his followers, huge 
boulders, with which he intended crushing the army of Gen- 
eral Johnston. I found my way to the top of the precipice, 
and with feelings of awe contemplated the terrible purpose 
of the sagacious and determined Mormon leader. I was hor- 
rified by thought of the destruction of life had Mr. Johnston 
walked into the trap, and filled with admiration by the inge- 
nuity of the bold commander, and readily recognized the 
practicability of his monstrous scheme. One of those heavy 
boulders, falling hundreds of feet, striking on solid rock, must 
have burst like a bomb-shell and, doubtless with as deadly ef- 
fect. Passing down this wonderful canyon the teamsters 
shouted and popped their big whips, while I fired my pistols 
in rapid succession, for the purpose of hearing the echo, which 
was a conglomeration of peculiar yet fascinating sounds. 

On the morning of our last drive, before reaching Salt 
Lake City, I rode to the top of a high mountain, from which 
I obtained a full view of Salt Lake City, Utah Lake, Salt 
Lake, Utah and Tooele Valleys. All I have said of the scenic 
qualities and attractions of the Rocky Mountains and of the 
loveliness of the plains sinks into insignificance when com- 
pared to the picture of surpassing beauty I beheld on this 
lovely August morning. The city was shrouded in foliage, 
part forest and part fruit trees, and nothing could be seen 
but the tops of the houses. The great Salt Lake, from which 
the city derives its name, and from the blue depths of which 
spring majestic island mountains, was visible for many leagues 
to the northwest, while along the banks of the Jordan, once 
so barren and pronounced worthless and useless by Old Jim 
Bridger, who proposed to the first Mormon settlers to take all 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 63 

the wheat they could raise at ten dollars per bushel, were 
many happy homes, with broad fields covered with shocks 
and stacks of golden grain. As I, in a sort of bewilderment, 
gazed upon this indescribable and unequal loveliness of the 
lakes and valleys, bordered by the grandeur of lofty moun- 
tains and the entire panorama set off by a city whose mani- 
fold charms and attractions have few equals and no superiors 
in the American continent, I felt, if I did not utter, the senti- 
ments so beautifully expressed by Byron : "Truly there is no 
scene on earth that equals this," and which might with rea- 
sonable appropriateness be denominated the "promised land." 
When I saw the train emerge from Emigration Canyon 
and file out across the "bench," of plateau, on which Salt Lake 
City is situated, and which was once the shores of a great 
inland sea, I came down from my lofty prospect, joined Mr. 
Thompson, and rode on ahead of the train with him to the 
city. I decided to remain in the city and, after receiving my 
pay, went up town, bought me a suit of new clothes and gave 
a barber five dollars for the privilege of bathing in a tub of 
cold water in his back room, and for his services in cleaning 
and combing my hair, which hung in ringlets on my shoul- 
ders. Having thoroughly cleansed myself of sand, alkali dust 
and parasites, so universal with plainsmen at that time, and 
having arrayed myself in "purple and fine linen," started out 
to find my uncle, Leonard I. Smith, who, having been a 
member of the Mormon church since 1850, was a respected 
and prominent citizen of Mormondom, and who, being a 
United States mail contractor, and proprietor of two stage 
lines, was, of course, Quite wealthy and well known, even to 
the laymen of his faith. I found him in Lawrence and Kim- 
ball's grocery store on Main street, and, after making myself 
known to him, was taken in a carriage to his home and intro- 
duced to his wife and children. Next morning I went down 
to Emigrant Square to see my friends off for Missouri, and, 
like King Agrippa, was "almost persuaded" to accompany 
them, and would have done so perhaps had Uncle Leonard not 
excited my curiosity by his wonderful accounts about the city 
"ball-room" and "theater" and other attractions. He said if 
I would remain over winter, or longer, his house should be 
my home ; that he would take me with him and family to the 
dance-hall at that time a Gentile could not enter a ball-room 
without a friend or relative to secure his ticket or vouch for 
him where I should have the extraordinary privilege of danc- 
ing with President Young's daughters. With these promises 
of pleasure and distinction ringing in my ears I was enabled 
to withstand the appeals of my late comrades to return with 
them. The train being about ready to depart, I proposed buy- 



64 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ing "Mollie," the "pale-face squaw-horse," from Mr. Thomp- 
son. He said she was virtually mine already, as he had not 
expected to see her again after being driven away by the In- 
dians. "Therefore," said he, "I present her to you as a ma- 
terial token of my respect for you personally, and further as 
an evidence of my appreciation of the valuable service you 
have rendered me." Of course, I accepted with appropriate 
thanks this excellent gift from one whom I had learned to love 
and respect as a very dear friend. With what propriety he 
used the expression "valuable service," may be inferred from 
the fact that I had, on several occasions, at the risk of my own 
life, prevented the train from being surprised and, perhaps, 
utterly destroyed by the Indians, besides furnishing the men 
with fresh meat, thus saving him several hundred pounds of 
bacon, which at that time was worth in Salt Lake City sev- 
enty-five cents per pound. After bidding the boys good-bye 
and giving Mr. Thompson's hand a friendly shake, I led the 
mare away amid shouts of "Farewell, Charlie," and "God be 
with you till we meet again." Well, God has been with me 
or I should not be penning these incidents of my boyhood 
days. 

Uncle informed me that theatre going and dancing were 
the principal amusements of the period. Each ward was sup- 
plied with a large, one-story school house, in which the hum- 
ble, confiding saints "tripped the light fantastic toe" once or 
twice each week, while the city's elite gathered at the "hall" 
for the same purpose. "Now, Charles," said my uncle, "you 
ought to have a good time this winter." "Yes, sir ; that's what 
I live for." "Well, the first thing you must do is to cut off 
that hair." "Why so?" "Simply because our people do not 
approve of long haired men nor short haired women ; besides 
it makes you look like a desperado and robber, the president's 
daughter would not dance with you." I was very proud of 
my hair, but desiring to shun the appearance or suspicion of 
evil, and abhorring the thought of dishonesty, uncle's refer- 
ence to my looking like a "robber" was sufficient to stifle my 
pride in long hair, which I had cropped short, and have never 
since worn it otherwise. With short hair, and uncle to buy my 
ticket, I was readily admitted to the ball-room, where I not 
only had the pleasure of dancing with Brigham's daughters, 
but also the honor of dancing in the same set with that much 
married man. 



CHAPTER VI. 

On March 1st, 1865, I hired to drive a mule team to Atchi- 
son, Kansas. The mules being fresh, the wagons empty and 
the roads good, we therefore made good time. At Maryville. 
on the Big Blue in Kansas, we met a large ox-train, belong- 
ing to Messrs. Johnson and Stratton, who were conducting 
it themselves, and were bound for Salt Lake City. Three of 
the boys with whom I crossed the plains the previous year 
were with this train, and they easily persuaded me to take the 
team of a fellow who wanted to return home. Mr. Stratton, 
after being informed that I was the hero of the many tales 
told by my former companions, readily consented to the 
change. Messrs. Johnson and Stratton were Christian men, 
and would not move their train on Sunday. They allowed 
the boys to get breakfast every morning before starting, a 
privilege no other freighter, so far as my experience on the 
plains is concerned, would permit, except in the case of a 
break-down or some other misfortune. This outfit made bet- 
ter time, had less trouble among the men and fewer mishaps, 
thouhg harassed and often attacked by the Indians, than any 
other train with which I traveled, and always attributed its 
rapid progress and general success to the religious rites prac- 
ticed by its God-fearing owners. Every Sabbath Mr. Stratton 
delivered a good old Methodist sermon, and all the boys joined 
in singing those familiar hymns, "Am I a Soldier of the Cross" 
and "There is a fountain filled with blood," etc., etc., after 
which we knelt on the grass while Mr. Stratton besought for 
us all the special favors of the God who rules and directs the 
universe. 

On arriving at Fort Kearney the commanding officer in- 
formed Mr. Stratton that the Indians were out in full force 
on the war path, and advised him to employ an experienced 
person to act as scout and hunter for his train. He also ad- 
vised, or rather commanded, him to wait for reinforcements 
during which time he could select the scout. There were 
several old plainsmen at the fort, but Mr. Johnson objected 
to employing any of them for the reason that they were drink- 
ing men, and he had "no confidence in such fellows," and as 



66 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

none of his own men (excepting myself) had had any ex- 
perience in scouting, I volunteered to act in that capacity. 
Mr. Stratton thought I was too young and reckless for such 
a responsible position, and said that in case anything would 
happen to me he could never forgive himself. My reckless, 
daring disposition was the strongest point in my favor, as a 
man with large cautiousness would make a very poor scout; 
and as for any harm coming to me, I told him that God would 
protect me when alone as well as when in camp, and this ex- 
pression of faith in the Lord's goodness and power secured 
for me the position of scout. 

An ox-train of thirty teams, bound for Salt Lake City, 
having joined us, the post commander thought we were suf- 
ficiently numerous to defend ourselves and permitted us to 
depart for the land of dangers. After crossing the South 
Platte, I came in contact with bands of hostile Indians almost 
every day. They made frequent attempts to surprise and 
capture me, but my faithful "Molly" always warned me of 
their near approach, thereby frustrating their designs. After 
crossing Lodge Pole Creek I hastened one day to inform Mr. 
Stratton of my discoveries and conclusions, viz : that an at- 
tack would be made on the train that evening or the next 
morning. We camped an hour earlier than usual, turned the 
cattle out to grass with the yokes on, and after supper they 
were driven into the corral, coupled together and chained to 
the wagon ; the small gaps were made secure, and chains were 
stretched across the front and rear gaps, thus forming a solid 
enclosure. 

That night there was on duty a double watch, Mr. Strat- 
ton and myself remaining up with them all night. He and I 
took a stand near my mare, so that we could watch her move- 
ments, as I knew that an Indian could not approach within 
shooting distance without attracting her attention. During 
our long vigil I gave my grave companion a brief sketch .of 
my childhood history. I told him that my dear mother was a 
devoted Christian, a brilliant conversationalist, and that she 
had taught me "Lord's Prayer, "Mary had a little lamb," and 
other choice pieces of the time ; and that father was an orator 
of local repute, and who had taught me to repeat rare speeches 
from Calhoun, Polk, Clay and Webster. He was well ac- 
quainted with my vocal powers, having heard me sing the 
"Texas Rangers" and other frontier songs, and had also heard 
me recite portions of the "Declaration of Independence" and 
"The boy stood on the burning deck." Being familiar with 
these recitations and songs, and having heard my story, he 
declared I was a born orator and must make a speech to the 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS G7 

boys ; "and tell them," he said, "of our true situation and in- 
spire them with confidence in themselves. You can do it, as 
they have great faith in your judgment and courage." This 
was a compliment of which a more staid, older individual 
might have been more proud. It doubly repaid me for the 
hard rides and dangers I had passed through, and to say that 
it encouraged, strengthened and filled me with a sense of my 
own worth, would not be saying too much ; for where is the 
normally constituted boy who can be unaffectedly praised 
without having his soul filled with devotion and loyalty to 
those from whom the words of praise come, and without feel- 
ing a justifiable pride in himself? I felt the fire of this worthy 
element coursing through my veins, and when the men were 
collected at the front end of the corral, and after Mr. Stratton 
had introduced me by saying, "Friends and gentlemen, our 
little scout wishes to say a few words to you before our fun 
commences," I mounted the rostrum, which was the broad 
end of the tongue of the lead wagon, whose white canvas 
cover served as a sort of illuminating background, enabling 
my hearers to see every gesture I made and to note every 
expression of my countenance. In front of me, sitting on the 
grass in a circle four deep, were the teamsters and night herd- 
ers, on my right were Messrs. Johnson and Stratton and the 
other proprietors of the outfit, while to the left, leaning on 
their "three-band needle guns," were the two old mountaineers 
who joined us the evening before. I felt deeply impressed 
with the gravity of the situation, yet I was as full of enthusi- 
asm as was John Randolph when he delivered his famous 
speech against the "Yazoo Land Grant," and as determined 
as the noble patriot, Patrick Henry, when he uttered the world 
renowned sentence, "Give me liberty or give me death," and 
I looked out over my audience with a self-important air that 
would have excited the admiration of a Demosthenes or arous- 
ed the envy of a Cicero. My father when talking to political 
gatherings was very emphatic, made very many gestures ; and 
regarding him as I did as being one of the ablest men of the 
age, it was quite natural that I should try to imitate him on 
this auspicious occasion. It is over thirty years since I de- 
livered that speech, into which I wove pert sayings of eminent 
men, and portions of the "Declaration of Independence." I 
bowed to the thoughtful, earnest, upturned faces, and said, 
"Gentlemen and fellow travelers, when in the course of human 
events it becomes necessary for our people to rise in their 
might for the purpose of redress, and of opposing the tyranny 
and rapacity of another, it is their duty to do so without hesi- 
tation, and in a manner most" effective and becoming brave, 
Christian men. Believing- you will acquit yourselves as such, 



68 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

it is, therefore, my duty, painful as it is, to inform you that 
we are at this moment as the actions of my mare indicated 
being approached by at least three hundred, perhaps more, 
powerful Sioux warriors. Some of them are armed with guns, 
others with strong bows and swift flying arrows, and still 
others are provided with the fearful war club, while every one 
of them carries at this side the awful scalping knife and the 
death-dealing tomahawk." I continued in this strain for some 
time, and, as I proceeded, grew more eloquent and impressive, 
and, in referring to my journey with them across the "mighty 
plains," used the Henry Clay gesture, with outstretched arms 
sweeping the heavens from the eastern to the western horizon, 
and with the "sledge hammer gesture" of Webster, closed with 
"whoever fails to do his duty this morning ought to lose his 
life." As I stepped from the wagon tongue the men arose, 
with hats in hand, as if to cheer me, but a wave of Mr. Strat- 
ton's hand checked them. He then invited them to kneel with 
him in prayer. All the men fell upon their knees, even the old 
mountaineers bowed their heads in a reverential manner, 
while the man of God most fervently petitioned our Heavenly 
father to speedily deliver us from the hands of the Philistines 
and aid us in teaching them a lesson they would not soon for- 
get. Just over the brow of the hill the army of red men had 
been engaged in a similar worship. Chief "Antelope" had, no 
doubt, spent the entire night in imploring the "Great Spirit" 
to lead him to victory and give him "heap much pale face 
scalps." Here then were two men, each in earnest, each bent 
on the destruction of the other, and each devoutly engaged in 
beseeching aid from the same God, the source of all power. I 
have studied much on the worship of these two men, whom 
I believe to have been honest in the expressions of their faith, 
strictly sincere in the manifestations of their individual con- 
victions, and, reviewing their conduct from the point of self- 
preservation, they were both certainly justified in -seeking aid 
that would enable the one to overthrow the other. 

Mr. Stratton was conscientious in the belief that it was 
his duty to help open up the great West and bring it into a 
state of civilization, while the noble chief "Antelope" was just 
as conscientious that it was his duty to defend the hunting 
grounds, homes and lives of his people. The former, with the 
spirit of progression, helped to force the wedge, whose point 
had been entered many years previous, to the bursting asunder 
of the ancient hills and valleys of superstition and retrogres- 
sion, giving the beautiful land over which they held for many 
years absolute sway an opportunity to "blossom as the rose" ; 
while the latter was stricken down in the prime of his man- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



69 



hood, and his people forced to retire, or silently observe the 
usurpation of their country by their more enlightened and 
civilized (?) white brothers. I question that doctrine which 
holds it right to appropriate the property of others under the 
specious pretext of "the greatest good to the greatest num- 
ber." ^ 

"Night, sable goddess, from her ebon throne, in rayless 
majesty, now stretches forth her leaden sceptre o'er a slumber- 
ing camp." While Mr. Stratton was engaged in prayer, the 
hitherto bright stars seemed to recede, drawing with them 
their peaceful lustre, and leaving us in Egyptian darkness. 
My noble mare became more restless, and the poor cattle, as 
they stood chained to the wagons, keeping up a continual faint 




A Fearful Early Morning Charge. 

lowing, as if fully conscious of the approaching storm of lead 
and arrows, while the men were silent, thoughtful, and anx- 
iously awaiting the appearance of light, which would bring 
about a crisis, and thus terminate the terrible suspense. The 
situation was awfully impressive, and calculated to inspire 



70 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

one with fear, rather than a feeling of combativeness. The 
glorious sun was marching steadily on, and the first rays of 
light that shot across the extended plains revealed a long line 
of mounted bronze statues, real, life-size, pulsating statues, 
and each holding in his strong right hand a weapon of death. 
Each warrior was gorgeously painted, and his body, with the 
exception of charms and ornaments, naked from the waist up. 
Beautiful charges, with heads erect, stood as motionless as 
Pike's Peak, and as ready to obey their riders as is the prop- 
erly adjusted vane to obey the wind. The riders themselves 
were as motionless as their ponies, and were gazing as intent- 
Iv toward us as we were toward them ; though we, being in 
the bottom, while they were on the ridge, saw them at least a 
minute before our camp became visible to them. Although 
there was death to some of us in that line, yet it held us, as 
it were, transfixed on the spear of admiration, as it was a mag- 
nificent picture and one that would have delighted a Meyer- 
heim, and taxed the skill of a Raphael to produce on canvas. 
There were between three and four hundred warriors, who 
were not more than that many yards from us, and they seemed 
perfectly confident that a single dash around or through the 
corral would be equivalent to a coup de grace in their favor. 
O'ur camp was wrapped in a deathlike stillness ; even my mare 
had become silent, the cattle ceased their mournful lowing 
and hugged closer to the wagons, as if to shield themselves 
from the impending danger. The suspense and silence was 
terrible, but it was soon broken up by the soul-piercing war 
whoop, and the Indians came pouring down the hill like a 
Nevada snowslide. Thev rode around and around the cor- 
ral, shooting and shouting, by which they hoped to terrify 
the men and thus render them an easy prey. Seeing that they 
had underestimated the courage of the "pale-faces," now col- 
lected and made a straight run for the corral, intending to ride 
through it, stampede the cattle and kill a number of our boys 
as they did so. One of the old mountaineers shouted, "This 
way, lads." The order was promptly obeyed, and a solid line 
formed across the mouth of the corral. With our long-range 
rifles we opened a deadly fire on the bold warriors, some fall- 
ing to the right and some to the left, while those unharmed 
pressed forward with renewed determination. "Now the shot- 
guns," called out our self-appointed commander. They were 
discharged with a fearful slaughter of the enemy, yet the sur- 
vivors advanced on us and were within fifty yards of our line, 
when the old mountaineer's voice was again hear, "Draw your 
revolvers." Chief "Antelope," as I had anticipated, was lead- 
ing the warriors, and was several yards in advance of them, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 71 

making directly toward where Mr. Stratton and myself were 
standing, and at the crack of my pistol fell from his horse and 
died within ten feet of me. His followers now fled, leaving on 
the ground fifty of their dying and dead companions, and be- 
sides these the fleeing host carried away with a number of dis- 
abled warriors. When the Indians reached a safe distance 
they halted for a review. One brawny brave came sweeping 
back toward the battle ground in quest of a companion, broth- 
er, or most likely a son. It was with difficulty that Mr. Strat- 
ton prevailed on the old mountaineers not to shoot the bold 
warrior, as he came nearer and nearer in search of his friend. 
When the noble fellow saw the object for which he was risk- 
ing his life, he dashed up to it, leaned forward, seized the belt 
around the dead man's waist with his right hand, and, with 
Herculean strength, raised the body and laid it across the 
horse in front of him, and, with triumphant shouts rode rap- 
idly toward his cheering and admiring comrades. This was 
one of the grandest feats of heroism I ever witnessed, and was 
as neatly performed as a Hector or an Achilles could have 
done. 

Seven of our men, one horse (belonging to one of the old 
mountaineers) and four or five steers were killed, and quite 
a number of both men and cattle wounded. The poor cattle 
having been turned on the grass, our wounded friends cared 
for and our dead comrades buried, Mr. Stratton and I went 
out to inspect the dead Indians, who were left as they lay so 
their friends could get them when we broke camp. Mr. Strat- 
ton delivered a very touching address on the sad fate of our 
friends, and at my request briefly eulogized the great chief 
"Antelope." He had the reputation of being the youngest 
chief, the most successful leader of his nation, and had clothed 
and fed from his own resources more widows and orphans 
than any other warrior, and had stolen a greater number of 
horses and taken more of the enemy's scalps than any other 
man of the day. He was also credited with being a most de- 
vout worshipper of the "Great Spirit," whom he consulted on 
every occasion, and no doubt acted according to the inspira- 
tion or revelation vouchsafed to him. The .star, like that of 
Napoleon's, which led him to many victories, ceased to shine, 
or misdirected him, on this fatal morning, and when he fell 
Mr. Stratton explained, "There, Charles, you have done the 
one thing needful." He persisted in giving me credit for turn- 
ing apparent defeat into victory, but I resolutely disclaimed 
the honor of killing the chief. A burly Missourian, named 
Howard, to whom I shall have occasion to allude hereafter, 
contended that he fired the shot that killed the bold leader. I 



72 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

was perfectly willing he should bear that distinction, as it was 
sufficiently painful to me to look on the cold, handsome face 
of the great chief "Antelope," without feeling myself respons- 
ible for his demise. I respected and warmly admired this 
young chieftain, and felt sorry that he was now cold in death, 
notwithstanding my knowledge of his character and the fact 
that had he lived to effect my recapture would have merci- 
lessly put me to the stake. 

Mr. Stratton, though a very pious man, was a jolly, 
boisterous fellow, who ordinarily would be suspected to en- 
gage in a fight at any time, while Mr. Johnson, his partner, 
was a quiet, unassuming man, and one would naturally expect 
him to shrink from the very thought of shedding blood. But 
on the plains, as elsewhere, modestly reserved men are often 
those who in the presence of eminent danger show themselves 
best qualified to hold their own, and once thoroughly aroused 
will fight with cool ferociousness that is terrible to witness. 
Such was Mr. Johnson. Although a rifle ball had passed 
through his left shoulder, yet he faced the shot and arrows as 
only a brave man can, without a tremor. Having had our 
dinner, the cattle were driven in, yoked and hitched to the 
wagons and the train was set rolling away from this camp of 
death and unpleasant scenes. 

I rode far from the road in search of game and Indians. 
I saw none of the former except jack rabbits and prairie dogs. 
but saw many of the latter, and was several times chased into 
camp by them. It is a well-known fact that Indians, of what- 
ever tribe or nation, will not harm a demented or simple- 
minded person, hence I may attribute the sparing of my life 
to the fact that they either regarded me as a simpleton or 
recognized me as "Little Moon/' and therefore wanted to 
capture me alive, as they certainly had many opportunities to 
kill me had they so desired. I did not then so regard my 
escape, but rather ascribed it to my own courage and boldness 
and to the swiftness and sagacity of my faithful mare. Mr. 
Stratton often cautioned me about being so reckless, but his 
warnings only served to make me more venturesome. I 
courted the most hazardous positions possible for the very love 
of it, and was extremely proud of the wonder I excited, and 
delighted in the comments my daring evoked from my com- 
panions. 

In 1865 I was employed as scout and hunter for the large 
freighting outfit belonging to Messrs. Johnson & Stratton, 
bound for Salt Lake City, Utah. We were traveling up the 
north side of South Plate and having crossed Pawnee Creek, 
camped for dinner. Another large train corralled on the east 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 73 

side of the creek and between the two large trains on the west 
side of the creek was an emigrant outfit of two teams, the 
family consisted of an old man and his wife and three chil- 
dren, the eldest being a handsome girl about eighteen or nine- 
teen years old. I had warned the old gentleman of the great 
danger to which he was subjecting his family by camping 
alone and my employers had kindly invited him to corral 
with their train, but he preferred to take the risk, saying, "The 
Great God whom we serve is able to deliver us." 

Both trains were attacked simultaneously by the Sioux 
under the leadership of Chief Rain-in-the-Face, who was then 
in his prime. There was a terrible slaughter on both sides and 
the emigrant outfit was literally annihilated. Two young war- 
riors whose horses had been shot from under them, and who 
desired to win the applause of their comrades, attacked the 
emigrants single-handed, killing the old lady, boy and the 
smaller girl instantly. The old man was tomahawked and 
scalped, but did not die for several days. The young braves 
next fired the wagons, then seized the young woman and tried 
to carry her off, but she fought them like a tigress, compelling 
them to deal severely with her. She was knocked down, one 
of the fiends grasping a handful of her long black hair and 
the other caught her by the ankle and in this condition began 
dragging her across the prairie toward the North Platte. More 
than one hundred shots were aimed at the bold abductors with- 
out effect; I, myself, fired twice at them, emptying my gun. 
There is a chained incipient Calibou, a germ of savagery, in 
the bosom of every human being and the piteous screams of 
that poor girl loosened the tiger in my breast, therefore I turned 
to "Smoky Bill" (a boy about my own age, but larger and 
stronger) and said, "Bill, let us rescue the girl." "Agreed, 
pard," was his laconic but resolute reply. We soon overtook 
the savages and a fierce hand to hand fight with knives against 
tomahawks ensued. Well, to make a long story short we not 
only slew the Philistines but carried the unconscious girl to 
camp amid the cheers of our companions, followed by the ter- 
rible yells, bullets and arrows from fifty or more mounted war- 
riors who chased us to the very mouth of our corral. Poor 
"Smoky Bill," the bravest of the brave, was riddled with bul- 
lets and arrows and died an hour later while I escaped without 
a scratch, though several shots and arrows passed through my 
buckskin shirt and pants. 

The Indians being repulsed, Mr. Stratton, accompanied 
by some of his teamsters, went over to the emigrant wagons 
which were enveloped in flames, and, finding the old man 
still alive, brought him to camp. By this time the girl had 



74 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

regained consciousness, but late in the afternoon died in her 
father's arms, and a few days later the old gentleman himself 
gave up the ghost and was buried on a knoll near the banks of 
the beautiful Cache La Pondra river. The last words uttered 
by this unfortunate, broken hearted old man were words of 
praise, expressions of gratitude and blessings upon my head 
for doing what he termed "an act of heroism worthy of Old 
Hector." 

Most boys are ambitious and their actions, according to 
their susceptibility, more or less tempered by praise. Being 
largely endowed with approbativeness I readily yielded to the 
goddess of vanity, or as Miss Rose Elizabeth Cleveland would 
say, 'There was in the fresh, young years of my life a facility 
of feeling, a readiness of devotion, and a reckless expenditure 
of love for the hazardous things." I ventured into places that 
men of large cautiousness and matured judgment would not 
and hence gathered information that made us victorious over 
our red brothers, who, under the leadership of Chief Rain-in- 
the-Face, attacked us once more and killed two of our men 
while we retaliated by sending a number of warriors to the 
"Happy Hunting Ground." 

Our last days travel in the hostile country was in the foot- 
hills bordering the majestic Rockies, and as the sun descended 
behind them there appeared on the prairie a scalloped line of 
alternate shade and sunshine, which was very beautiful and 
more than once I paused to let Molly nip the grass in the shade 
of some peak taller than its fellows, while I breathed the fresh, 
pure air, laden with the odor of pine and cedar. On entering 
the mountains the combination w r as dissolved so that the lesser 
outfits of three and four wagons might push ahead as rapidly 
as they chose. 

Mr. Stratton being short of men, now asked me to take my 
team again. Recognizing the justness of the request and hav- 
ing a strong desire to please and accommodate him, I readily 
consented to resume my old position. Howard (the "burly 
Missourian," to whom I referred on a previous page) and his 
son had all along been jealous of my success and envied by 
reason of the confidence which Messrs. Johnson and Stratton 
reposed in me. The Howards prided themselves on being 1 
"ring-fighters," or, in the phraseology of Missouri, "the rec- 
ognized bullies of their neighborhood." I had a quarrel with 
these men the first day of my connection with the train at 
Maryville, Kansas, and another when Mr. Stratton accepted 
me as a scout in preference to young Howard. No matter what 
might be the subject of conversation, it was sure to remind 
them of some brilliant achievement or act of their power and 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 75 

prowess, and then would follow a blood-curdling story to 
which all must listen, or subject themselves to their displeas- 
ure which meant for the rash individual taunts, insults, and, 
in some cases, blows in the face. Most of the men delighted 
(or pretended to) in hearing their stories, yet there were a 
few, including myself and young Clark, to whom I was de- 
votedly attached and who was my bed-fellow, who had the 
temerity to treat their vulgar yarns with contempt by absent- 
ing ourselves from the circle when they were commenced. 
Mr. Clark was a small, courageous fellow, yet preferred to 
submit to the indignities heaped upon him by these men rather 
than "lower" himself as he said "to the level of bar-room 
bully." He was no match for the Howards in physical strength 
or size, and had no desire, not even in self defense, to use his 
pistol which was at that time, anywhere west of the Missouri 
river, the only arbiter of disputes between men, and a man 
was respected and admired in proportion to his ability to 
handle, and his readiness of resorting to that all-powerful 
equalizer. The late Mr. Nasby said that "the invention of the 
pistol and the production of the spelling book made all men 
equal." When I started out, at the age of eleven I did so with 
"nemo me impune lacissit" written in letters of fire in my 
countenance. With this motto stamped upon my brow, armed 
with two big revolvers, the ability to handle them and the nat- 
ural courage to do so on proper occasions, I was, therefore, 
prepared to and did forstall Mr. Nasby's statement by an ac- 
tual experience. 

However loathsome and detestable a man may become, 
there are times when his company cannot be avoided ; especial- 
ly is this the case in soldiering and driving a team on the 
plains. So after resuming my old place as teamster I was of 
necessity thrown into close association with the Howards. I 
was fond of playing the fiddle and singing comic songs by 
which I attracted a good share of the attention which had 
hitherto been monopolized by the Howards, and frequently 
silenced them in the midst of a vile, or bombastic narrative by 
playing a lively tune. My music was as disgusting to them as 
their boastful fighting stories were loathsome to me. They 
frequently made satirical remarks about my fiddling, and com- 
pared my singing to the "scream of an overcrowded sorghum 
mill." I, in return, retaliated by referring to their inhuman, 
brutal treatment of drunken men at home. Mr. Clark was 
raised in the same neighborhood with these men. He gave 
me their full pedigree and forgetting nothing I heard, I was 
able to give them dart for dart. The power of self restraint 
gradually weakened and finally relaxed altogether, allowing us 



76 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

to collide with a violence as painful and beneficial to them as 
it was pleasing and interesting to our fellow travelers. For- 
tunately neither of them were seriously hurt though both of 
them were shot, one through the arm and the other through 
the shoulder. This affair, though in itself a deplorable one, 
had a most salutary effect upon the language and conduct of 
the two big Missourians. The self-conceit was completely tak- 
en out of them, and from that time they were as pleasant and 
agreeable companions as one could wish for. They were well 
educated and prepossessing in appearance, capable of attract- 
ing attention and qualified to entertain a company with some- 
thing better than obscene stories and "ring-fighting" narra- 
tives. 

Having crossed Medicine Bow we camped for the night. 
I had frequently told Mr. Stratton of the great herds of elk, 
deer and mountain sheep that were to be found on the Medi- 
cine Bow range of mountains, and of the large droves of ante- 
lopes in the valleys ; and there being at this camp ground such 
a plenty of wood, water and rich grass, he decided to remain 
here two or three days, in order that the cattle might rest and 
to give the men an opportunity to do some repairing such as 
making bow keys, setting loose tirf s and shoeing lame cattle, 
etc., etc., and while this was being done I was expected to fur- 
nish the boys with all the fresh meat they wanted. But, alas! 
they were sadly disappointed as their expectations of elk steak, 
roast mutton and broiled venison were not realized, unless 
antelope meat could be said to take the place of the above. This 
disappointment was not due to a scarcity of game, but wholly 
chargeable to a rosy cheeked, bright eyed maiden. 

A mile or so east of our camp was the junction of the 
North Platte road and the California route, the former being 
more popularly known as the "Mormon Trail/' and the latter 
as the "Overland Route." Mormon immigrants traveled up 
the North Platte, therefore we had expected, at least hoped, to 
meet a Mormon train i t this camping ground, and our hopes in 
this case were fully realized for half an hour after striking camp 
ourselves, a large Mormon outfit literally alive with new converts 
to the Mormon faith, rolled up and corralled on the east side of 
the river. This train was being conducted through to "Zion" 
by an elder, whom I had met at my uncle's house in Salt Lake 
City during the previous winter. After supper I got out my old 
fiddle and commenced playing. Presently some one behind me 
called out, "give us 'Lazy Jackson/ " which was familiarly 
known in my native state as the "Rye Straw," and which 
was, and is yet, no doubt, a special favorite with the Mor- 
mons. I looked up to see who had thus addressed me, and 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 77 

behold it was the elder. He invited us over to his camp to 
have a friendly dance. About a dozen of our number, includ- 
ing myself and employers, accompanied him to his camp. 
There was soon prepared a spot on which to dance, the fiddlers 
took their places on the platform, which was erected by laying 
ox-yokes on top of one another until the necessary height 
was reached, then the end gates of wagons was placed on 
them. Everything being in readiness the elder read a chapter 
in the Bible, closing with the words, "let all things be done de- 
cently and in order" ; then said, "let us pray." After an elo- 
quent and impressive prayer the elder, being a Virginian, 
called out in stentorian tones, "partners for old Virginny reel." 
The brightly illumined ring was quickly, but silently, filled 
with stalwart young men and merry lasses, the music started 
up and the dance commenced. My comrades declined to par- 
ticipate, but I, having been introduced by the elder to the 
bright-eyed maiden referred to, danced several times. About 
eleven o'clock the merry-making was brought to a close with 
"Old Dan Tucker," after which we sang, "Marching to Zion," 
then a short prayer by the elder and the people retired. 

Darwin says that "instinct teaches the bird, while wooing 
his mate, to plume his pinions to their highest gloss," and a 
similar feeling now took possession of me, for I was smitten 
with the perfect physique and sweet smiles of my dark-eyed 
partner. So, the next day, after killing three antelopes and 
bringing them to camp, I resurrected a seamless sack the 
common wardrobe of all plainsmen containing a new suit of 
buckskin, neatly fringed, and with embroidery work about the 
pants pockets, vest front and cuffs of the coat ; beaded mocca- 
sins, black silk handkerchief, blue flannel shirt, in the front 
of which was worked vines and leaves of bright colors. I 
brushed the dust off my sombrero, put new strings in my moc- 
casins and, after dinner, dressed myself and went over to the 
Mormon camp. By this time my deeds of daring and shooting 
were known to every member in the party, also my relation- 
ship to "Brother Leonard I. Smith." The latter fact was, of 
itself, sufficient to make me an honored and welcome vistor, 
and, perhaps, served to elevate me in the estimation of a certain 
young lady, who was also dressed much more elaborately, 
smiled more sweetly, and therefore looked handsomer than the 
evening before. I was not at all backward about talking to 
her, and promptly invited her to take a horseback ride with me, 
and she as promptly accepted the invitation. 

There was among the Mormons a young Lamach, a two- 
ply plygamist courting this young lady with a vengeance, in 
the hope of making her number three in his household, and on 



78 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

returning from our ride we found him in a perfect rage about 
her "sweeping wildly over the prairies with an accursed Gen- 
tile," as he was pleased to call me. That night, before the 
dance commenced, he told her if she danced with me it would 
be at the risk of exciting his displeasure with her, and of sub- 
jecting myself to a terrible thrashing. Hattie (that being t ; ;e 
young lady's name) immediately informed me of the conse- 
quences awaiting us should we presume to dance together, 
sweetly adding, "I told him you were perfectly capable of de- 
fending yourself." The elder was not aware of this flirtation 
or he would have stopped the dance at once, but I told Mr. 
Stratton all that had been said, and after half an hour's close 
observation of the girl and her lover, he warned me against 
having anything more to do with them. He was a student of 
human nature and prided himself on being able to read one's 
thoughts through the flashing of the eye and the curl of the 
lip, and I believe he could, as his diagnosis of the character of 
Miss Hattie and her Mormon friend was so perfect as to be al- 
most equivalent tx> a mathematical demonstration. Just be- 
fore starting for the camp he came to me and said, "Charles, I 
beseech you for your soul's welfare and the peace of your mind 
to shun, as you would the presence of a leper, the wiles of that 
girl for she is a consummate and unscrupulous coquette." He 
saw that my attentions toward the girl were born of admira- 
tion and a love of the beautiful for I had not in the slightest 
degree forgotten the little Nora back in Old Missouri ; and he 
also saw that if the flirtation was continued it might lead the 
Mormon lover, through a fit of jealous rage, into a treacherous 
attempt on my life "for he'll do nothing openly and above 
board," Mr. Stratton had said and thus force me through self- 
defence into committing an act that might result in the death 
of my adversary which of course would trouble my mind. I 
felt the force of my friend's counsel but did not accompany 
him to camp as he so much desired I should. Though in no 
sense in love with Miss Hattie, yet I was captivated by her 
beautiful face, soul-stirring smiles and winning ways, and was 
exceedingly proud of the preference she paid me over the 
other fellow, besides I was not sufficiently endowed with that 
forbearance and Christian virtue which, when the gauntlet is 
tossed up, enable their possessor to quietly withdraw from the 
scene; therefore Mr. Clark and I and two or three other com- 
rades remained at the dance until it closed by the elder's pray- 
er. Having, so far as the field of honor is concerned, quit the 
Mormon camp with a clear conscience, my affections not seri- 
ously disturbed, and being free from any feeling of malice or 
hatred toward the love-sick Lamach, I rolled myself up in the 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 79 

blankets and soon went to sleep. Not so with my enemy. He 
slept not, for his heart was bleeding with jealousy and hatred, 
and being devoid of manhood and knowing of my intense 
pride in, and affection for my noble mare, he determined to 
strike through her at me. The Mormon train had with it a 
large, vicious bull that had to be kept chained to prevent it 
fighting other stock ; so the would-be three-ply polygamist, 
when sufficient time had elapsed for both camps to be fully 
embraced by nature's law, sleep, untied the ferocious beast, led 
him across the river and turned him loose near my mare (who 
was tied alongside of my wagon in which Mr. Clark and I 
slept), and he rushed upon her and gored her to death. While 
on the plains in the midst of perils I slept lightly, as the least 
noise or jar would instantlv wake me in possession of all my 
faculties and reasoning powers and under such circumstances 
I might have saved my poor "Molly's" life, but being in a 
country where human foes were not thought of and having so 
energetically participated in the dance, a "Rip Van Winkle" 
appetizer so far possessed me that I naturally slept sound, yet 
I felt the first jar of the wagon and heard the one piteous 
scream of my poor mare but before I could collect my thoughts 
and get out of the wagon the bull had finished his deadly work, 
accomplished the work of his jealous master and was on l.'s 
way to the herd. By the time I had got my cartridge box and 
gun from the wagon Mr. Stratton appeared on the scene and 
seeing that I was bent on killing the bull, said, "Charles, stop, 
the poor brute is not to blame because your mare is a victim 
of a dastard's revenge." I promptly returned to his side weep- 
ing like a heart-broken child, and expressed a desire to call 
the man out and shoot him down, but Mr. Stratton, having 
allowed his sympathy for me to cause him to utter one indis- 
creet expression, and recognizing his error as a peacemakei 
and knowing how easily I was wrought up to a fighting mood, 
now sought in his most pleasing and persuasive manner to 
pacify my ill temper and soothe my wounded feelings. He 
thought there was a possibility that the bull had escaped by 
breaking his chain, "but even if he did not and you knew he 
had been let loose for the express purpose of killing your mare 
it would still be wrong to kill the man, for by so doing you 
would bring upon his innocent family a greater sorrow and in- 
injury than the loss of the mare is to you." Thus argued my 
good friend and believing him to be right and just I readily 
acquiesced in his better judgment and Christ-like way of set- 
tling the matter. He seemed perfectly satisfied with' my de- 
cision, individually, yet he feared the other boys who had 
learned to love "Molly" oy reason of her great intelligence and 



80 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

playfulness, might incite me to avenge the sad fate of my faith- 
ful mare, herefore he sent word to the night herder to corral 
the cattle as soon as it became light enough to see to yoke 
them, and the train was for the first time put in motion before 
getting breakfast. Up to this time I had never been present 
at the death of a dear friend or relative, except when my 
mother died and I was then too young to fully realize what 
death meant, yet the cruel fate of my mare produced the most 
sorrowful feeling in my soul, as she had almost become a part 
of myself, hence this modern Lamach inflicted upon me a 
greater punishment by killing her than he could possibly have 
done by threshing me as he at first proposed in his heart. Al- 
though I deeply mourned the death of "Molly" and regretted 
her loss, not so much for her intrinsic value as for her compan- 
ionship, yet the occasion of her death has been of incalculable 
service and benefit to me, and taught me a lesson that has been 
a guiding star on my moral pathway, a lesson that was as bit- 
ter to bear and cost me as much sorrow as it has been correc- 
tive and profitable to me, and pointed out an error (flirtation) 
I have ever since been very careful to avoid, an error that 
taught me to recognize the fact that the power to love was and 
is the greatest blessing, the greatest gift that God has bestowed 
on mankind, and he who abuses it by trifling with the affec- 
tions of another not only brings sorrow and shame to his vic- 
tim, but will, sooner or later, ensnare himself in the toils of 
merited grief and perhaps destruction. 

On reaching- the eastern border of the Bitter Creek coun- 
try a treeless, grassless, and, with the exception of salt and 
alkali springs, waterless, sandy desert some sixty-five miles in 
length, lying between the now beautiful cities of Rawlins and 
Green River, Wyoming Territory we camped a few hours for 
the purpose of filling our kegs and casks with pure water, and 
to collect a supply of dry sage brush and buffalo-chips for 
cooking purposes. In this region the nights were quite cool, 
while the days were made loathsome with thick dust and with- 
ering heat, and the man who presumed to travel through it in 
the day time was sure to be loser, for the cattle, being exces- 
sively heated by their toil and almost maddened with thirst, 
would, when turned loose, rush to the pools and fill themselves 
with alkali which would kill many and render others unfit for 
service for sometime ; so this part of the road, by reason of 
foolhardy travelers, was strewn with bleaching bones of pois- 
oned cattle. I informed Mr. Stratton of the nature of this 
part of our route and pointed out to him the necessity of doing 
most of our traveling over it in the night. He readily recog- 
nized the advisability of so doing, accordingly we were on the 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 81 

road late and early, resting during the heat of the day. About 
midway of the desert were two springs known as the "Salt 
Wells," which we reached about eight o'clock in the morning 
of the second day on this barren, inhospitable road. In the 
evening, while the cattle were being driven to the corral, they 
became frightened and fled over the prairie in every direction. 
They were, however, soon collected and corralled but on yok- 
ing up it was found that five head were still missing and I vol- 
unteered to go after them while the train proceeded. I had 
been out about an hour when suddenly there arose, in the 
northwest, an ominous looking cloud of dust and sand which 
soon reached me and was so thick that an object fifty yards 
away could not be distinguished. The trail of the strays grew 
dimmer and finally disappeared altogether, then I thought of 
returning to the train to get a horse on which to follow the 
cattle but, behold, before traveling a hundred yards I found 
that my own tracks were thoroughly obliterated by the falling 
dust and sand. I did not at first think I was lost but was, for 
the radius of my horizon was not above fifty yards, and not a 
living thing to be seen or a sound of any kind to be heard ex- 
cept the rushing wind. I was simply in a little world of my 
own which accompanied me over hill and vale and which grew 
no larger or smaller, hence my solitude was as intensely com- 
plete as that which befell the man on the "Island of Patmos," 
or the shipwrecked mariner. Not feeling alarmed by the situ- 
ation I walked along as rapidly as possible in what I believed 
to be the direction of the road. The elements were fully im- 
pregnated with dust and sand over which floated dense clouds 
which rendered my little world dark as Erebus as soon as the 
sun disappeared behind the snow-capped mountains. Finding 
myself thus cut off from further progress I stopped short and 
began shouting at the top of my voice, then fired my pistol 
several times in rapid succession, but no answer came to greet 
my ears. I passed a dreary, lonesome and almost sleepless 
night, and next morning as soon as light enough appeared to 
see the ground on which I stood I set out again toward the north. 
Some writer on physiology has made the statement that 
"every person is so constructed that one side is more active 
than the other. In one it will be in the right and in another 
the left side, so that if a man be blindfolded and started to a 
given spot, he will walk either to the right or left of it and, in 
proportion to the increased strength of one side over that of the 
other, in that proportion will his circle be greater or smaller." 
If this theory be true (and I believe it is) it is 
a wise provision of nature ; for if a man has pow- 
er to walk in a straight line, but unable to choose 



82 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

the right direction when lost which is invariably the 
case, and I say this advisedly and from experience he would 
get so far away from his starting point in three days' travel 
that it would be next to a miracle if he ever found his way 
back. I spent two days more in this envelope of dust and sand 
and about ten o'clock of the third night the storm ceased and 
the clouds dispersed, revealing to my delighted gaze the twink- 
ling stars and the bright silver moon. For some time I lay on 
my back admiring these heavenly beauties and speculating in 
a boyish fashion as to what might be in or beyond them. I 
thought of my angel mother, of God, and whether He now saw 
me in my lonely, desolate, starved condition and whether He 
would direct me out of it if I asked Him. Mother often told 
me no matter where or in what state I might be, His eye 
was ever upon me and His ear always open to receive the 
smallest petition from the humblest of his creatures. It is 
easier to follow a trail than to create one, and I so found it in 
the matter of prayer. I might have substituted those mother 
taught me or those I had repeated as they fell from the lips of 
Mr. Stratton, but none of these seemed appropriate for the pres- 
ent occasion and while I believed in a vague sort of way all 
that mother had told me, yet I was unable to address the Om- 
nipotent in words, but my prayer or the desire of my heart 
was answered for there (fame, as it were, a voice from Heaven 
saying, "Arise, search out the north star, it will lead you to 
the road." I am not given to talking in my sleep, nor to my- 
self when awake, yet I may unconsciously have uttered the 
above words, but whence came the thought? It was not the 
result of reflection, or of intelligent consideration, but rather 
of spontaneous origin ; in short it was the voice of God. I 
promptly acted upon the suggestion, easily found the north star 
and knowing myself to be south of the road, traveled in its 
direction. About eight o'clock I was agreeably surprised by 
finding the lost cattle which were quietly and contentedly feed- 
ing on the green, wiry grass that sprung up around a spring of 
cold, sparkling water, which trickled along in a tiny stream 
for a hundred yards and then disappeared beneath the sun- 
baked earth. This was the first green spot I had come across 
and the only water I had seen during my three days travel. The 
water was so clear and inviting that I did not think of ascer- 
taining its nature, but unhesitatingly threw myself at the edge 
of the spring and drank to satiety without raising my head 
from the beautiful fluid, whose cool, clear and sparkling at- 
tributes were its only virtues, its evil essence consisted of be- 
ing strongly impregnated with salt and alkali. In less than 
five minutes I was in the condition of the old Irishman, "striv- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 83 

ing to live and couldn't die." Poor little Josephs in "Never 
too late to mind," could not have been much sicker than I 
was or less capable of helping himself while in the hands of his 
implacible enemy, Governor Hawes. 

My first thought after getting on my feet again was to kill 
an ox and satisfy the cravings of hunger, but abandoned this 
idea and instead, after many efforts, managed to get on the 
back of the steer I had intended butchering and started him 
toward the road with the other cattle following close behind. 
On reaching the summit of the ridgre I saw straight ahead of 
me a long train of dust arising from a large ox-train which 
soon corralled for breakfast. I reached the camp by the time 
the meal was ready and was at first too sick to eat. but after 
drinking a little good coffee, such as the teamster alone can 
make, was able to eat a dish of cold stewed apples and a bis- 
cuit. The foreman had heard from the stage driver of my be- 
ing lost which aroused his sympathy for the "wandering boy," 
and he received me in the most cordial manner, did all he could 
to make me comfortable, sent a note by the west bound stage 
to Mr. Stratton informing him of my arrival and that I would 
reach Green River by noon of the following day. Early the 
next morning I took my strays and pushed ahead, and by ten 
o'clock reached our camp at Green River. As I came in sight 
the boys wildly cheered me and shouted themselves hoarse for joy 
over the return of the prodigal. Mr. Stratton had been very 
anxious about me but was powerless to do anything as it 
would have been folly to have started out in search of m*e while 
enveloped in that cloud of dust and sand, but when the storm 
ceased he saddled his horse and started back to look for me. 
On meeting the stage he inquired about me and receiving the 
foreman's note returned to camp with the glad tidings. 




CHAPTER VII. 

At Salt Lake City I bade Messrs. Stratton and Johnson 
and my late comrades good-bye and started for Helena, Mon- 
tana. One day I stood watching the cook on his knees stir- 
ring a pan of flour. The perspiration from his brow and the 
drippings from his nose fell into the dough which aroused my 
indignation to< an uncontrollable pitch, and, springing in front 
of him, I kicked the pan and its contents into his face. With- 
out rising he struck me a backhanded slap in the mouth send- 
ing me whirling headfirst into the sage brush a rod away. I 
quickly rose with pistol in hand and shot him in the shoulder. 
For this act of violence I was highly praised and received ex- 
pressions of gratitude from every man in the outfit. The fel- 
low soon recovered from his wound but did no more cooking 
on that trip. 

Arriving at Helena I immediately engaged myself to Mr. 
Casper, proprietor of the St. Louis Restaurant, to wait on the 
tables. An easterner would imagine that a rentaurant in a 
wild mining camp at this period must necessarily be a poor 
affair, but the contrary of this is true since the palates of the 
patrons of the St. Louis Restaurant were tickled with buffalo 
hump, buffalo tenderloin, elk steak, roast venison, antelope 
chops, boiled duck, fricassed grouse and sage hen, the finest 
of vegetables, and not only oleomargerine but genuine ranch 
butter and pastry that would vie with Delmonico's best. 

The steward of the St. Louis was a large, fine looking 
young man, and like myself fond of gambling, and when I left 
the house at night he remained on duty to serve late custom- 
ers ; hence his complaint to the proprietor about my going to 
the gambling hall. Mr. Casper authorized him to make me 
stay at the restaurant until nine o'clock (closing time) or whip 
me. One evening he undertook to execute his commission, but 
the result was rather humiliating and disastrous to him. I 
was promptly discharged, while the steward was obliged to 
leave town to avoid the jeers and ridicule heaped upon him by 
the people. 

Being out of employment I spent most of my time at the 
gambling hall, which was a large structure, built of hewed 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 85 

logs, and stood on the north-east corner of Main and Bridge 
Streets. In this famous building I witnessed several desperate 
conflicts between miners, gamblers and the boys of the plains. 
The most fatal fight of the season occurred about the first of 
December. When I entered the hall that night it was bril- 
liantly lighted, but few men present. At intervals of ten or 
twelve feet clear around the room were tables on which were 
played all manner of games. Near the door was the throne of 
Bacchus where the vilest of liquors were dealt out to the fre- 
quenters of the hall at the modest sum of fifty cents per glass; 
and at the rear end of the building was a platform on which 
sat a large, good-looking, cross-eyed fellow dispensing sweet 
strains of music on the violin to attract the attention of the 
new arrivals and lure him into the toils of fate for weal or woe 
generally woe. By half-past eight o'clock the hall was com- 
pletely packed with the most varied and grotesque assembly of 
humanity I have ever seen ; not that it differed so widely from 
previous gatherings but that its peculiar aspects seemed to 
strike me more forcibly on this than on other occasions. That 
is, I was an observer and not a participant and, having preceded 
the crowd had an excellent opportunity as I sat on the stand 
with the musician to minutely examine the features, dress and 
peculiarities of each group of patrons as they filed into that 
hall and took seats around the tables. First came a group of 
"dealers" for the various games, accompanied by those whose 
business it was to lure and deceive, closely followed by a score 
of teamsters who entered in the most boisterous manner, then 
came a party of professional scouts and cowboys all dressed 
in fringed buckskin. The former in their soft moccasins, en- 
tered with a cat-like tread, while the latter wore boots, at the 
heels of which dangled heavy steel spurs with little bells at- 
tached to them on the outside and with great rowels rasping 
the floor at every step as they marched up to the counter to 
pay their respects to "Madam Bacchus." Next came a cloud 
of Mexicans with their yellow skins and glittering eyes peeping 
out from under broad brimmed hats, wearing dog or buckskin 
breeches, and around the waist of each was wound the indis- 
pensible red silk sash without which no Mexican would con- 
sider himself properly dressed. These represented almost 
every phase of Mexican society and were the special devotees 
of Spanish Monte. They scowled and cried "Carajo" when 
they lost, and smiled sweetly and praised "Santissima Virgin" 
when the cards came up in their favor. Besides these special 
groups there were Frenchmen, Black Greasers, a few from the 
coast of Killarney, Mulattoes and Negroes black as Erebus, 
who were kept busy carrying drinks to the players; the slant- 



86 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

eyed Celestials, too had found their way to the "New Eldora- 
do" in their search after gold, "alle-samee as Melican man." 
In this motley crowd were men of every hue and from every 
clime, drawn together by the common accidents of life or by 
the instincts of adventure and the love of "filthy lucre." The 
progressive business man and the successful freighter were 
sandwiched in between teamsters, cowboys, greasers, all re- 
duced or elevated to a common level, or, as it were, a sort of 
harmonious blending of the higher and lowly element. 

The musician having accomplished his purpose, laid his 
violin down and leisurely walked toward the bar. I arose as if 
to follow him but stood for some time gazing upon the peculiar 
assembly, which, so far as conversation was concerned, was 
wrapped in profound silence. The only sounds that reached 
my ears were the "whish whish" of the cards as they fluttered 
off the delicate thumbs of the dealers, the "chink chink" of 
gold as it changed hands and the shuffling of chips between 
deals. When the music ceased ringing in my ears I left the 
stand and walked toward the door intending to go to my room 
and to bed, but my progress was arrested by a familiar voice 
apparently addressing me with, "Hello, Missouri, you're not 
going away wihtout having a game, are you ?" I had not told any- 
one that I came from Missouri, no one present knew me, and most 
likely no one had spoken to me for when I turned to see if I 
recognized the speaker, there was not a single person looking 
toward me nor did anyone seem to care a snap whether I left 
without having a game or not. However, I passed around the 
entire room and took a peep at the players but failed to see 
anyone with whom I was acquainted. Every table was sur- 
rounded with men two or three tiers deep, those in front plac- 
ing bets for those in the rear. Thousands upon thousands of 
dollars were stacked on the tables and carefully guarded by 
the owners, yet, notwithstanding this vigilance, there was con- 
stantly going on a petty stealing by professional "check snatch- 
ers," who are to be found in every gambling house and who 
seem to be in league with the proprietor and dealer, and who 
sooner or later create trouble by their pilfering. Such men 
are, of course, used to brawling and are not only sure shots, 
but what is equally important, able to draw their weapons in 
marvelous quickness, and think but little of taking the life of 
a fellow creature in furthering their purposes, and are always 
prepared to fight if caught stealing. Though usually good 
character readers they sometimes erred in their judgment and 
took the chips of honest, brave men, who were as ready to re- 
sent a wrong and equally as well prepared to defend their 
rights. When such a mistake occurred it was sure to result 
in bloodshed, for the one would fight rather than meekly sub- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 87 

mit to exposure, while the other would do likewise in order to 
verify his veracity, and establish the justness of his accusa- 
tion, and, as I have elsewhere said, the pistol and the knife 
were the arbiters. I again passed around the room stopping at 
the faro game, whence I fancied came the words, "Hello, Mis- 
souri, etc." Those nearest the- table were sitting down which 
afforded me a view of the case of chips and the dealer, who, 
having slipped the cards into his silver case, looked up, recog- 
nized me, and at the same time, with a significant smile on his 
handsome face, shoved a stack of blue chips toward me. Sure- 
ly here is an evil agent in every deck of cards, in every faro 
and poker chip an angel of darkness, which entice the unwary 
to physical ruin and lure him step by step into moral suicide, 
if not spiritual destruction. That stack of blue chips was so 
fascinating and contained such wondrous charms that I could 
not withstand the temptation to indulge, and so I passed in the 
requisite fifty dollars and took it into my possession. I com- 
menced placing the chips on the cards in a most promiscuous 
manner without any regard to order or attention to the case 
keeper, and, strange to say, won four out of every five bets. At 
the end of the deal I had in front of me seven stacks of blue 
chips which, after deducting the fifty dollars paid for the first 
stack, left me three hundred dollars winner. Just as the dealer 
tapped the case with his .long middle finger and said, "Make 
your bets, gentlemen," someone on the opposite side of the 
room shouted, "Let 'em fight." Instantly the hitherto orderly 
crowd, which resembled a Quaker meeting was plunged into a 
chaotic state and in another moment the fight became general. 
Every man was armed and most of them seemed to have a 
grudge at someone else and now was the time, the propitious 
time, to wreak vengeance. Pistols flashed in quick succession, 
long knives glittered in the bright light, and strong men seized 
each other in deadly conflict. Some fought arms length, while 
others were clutched in a desperate struggle for mastery or 
death. The lights, as in all such emergencies, were extin- 
guished as quickly as possible, yet the conflict continued and 
the stream of fire issuing from the pistols at intervals revealed 
the awful and horrible picture. The defiant yells of the scouts, 
cowboys and teamsters, and the savage shouts of miners and 
"check mothers" were changed into groans and such earnest 
exclamations as, "Oh, God, I am shot," came from the "Anglo- 
Saxon ;" "Carajo! Santissima Maria," cried the disciples of 
Montezuma and the humble descendants of Ham shouted, "Fo" 
de Lawd, I jis b'leve de Devil have got inter de white folks." 
At the beginning of the fight I pocketed my chips and when 
the lights were put out threw myself on the floor under the 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



faro table, as it was dangerous to stand up and utterly impos- 
sible to get out of the room. The conflict grew so desperately 
violent that those not engaged in it became panic stricken and 
made a blind rush for the door, the table was pushed from over 
me, and several men one after another stepped on me and one 
heavy fellow planted his foot on the small of my back with 
such force as to completely disable me, so that I made no fur- 
ther efforts to rise. The panic, however, stopped the fight. The 
lamps were quickly relighted and the room cleared of the un- 
fortunates, then the musician resumed his seat and soon filled 
the hall again with men, and the chips and coin again began to 
click over the tables as though nothing had happened. I was 
carried to my lodging place where I remained in bed for sev- 
eral days, during which I carefully reviewed my life and came 
to the conclusion that if I continued in such a course I would 
sooner or later become a physical and moral wreck. There in 
the solitude of my chamber, thousands of miles from home and 
friends, I made a solemn vow, invoking the presence of my 
dear mother's spirit to witness the same, that I would never 
gamble any more, and as far as possible shun the society of 
gamblers. With one exception I have never been inside of a 
gambling house since, and on that occasion I entered to see its 
proprietor on business which had no relation to his vocation; 
otherwise I have, in this vow, as with the one made to my sis- 
ters that I would drink no more intoxicating liquors, "fought 
a good fight and have kept the faith." 

At this time of the year (middle of December) there was 
not much work in progress and failing to find employment, and 
having ceased gambling, my income, of course, ceased also, 
while my expenses averaged about twenty dollars per week; 
therefore I readily concurred in a proposition of a little Scotch- 
man familiarly known as "Honest Scotty" who said we 
could spend the winter months in hunting and trapping which 
he thought would be more agreeable and profitable to us than 
laying idle in the city, in which the scenes of misery and want 
would cause our hearts to bleed in sympathy for our unfor- 
tunate fellow creatures whom we couldn't aid except at the 
risk of reducing ourselves to the same conditions confronting 
them. "Scotty" had had considerable experience in mining 
towns and knew what he was talking about, besides I had al- 
ready seen enough to convince me that the picture of distress 
he presented was not drawn from imagination and, having de- 
cided to accompany him, was anxious to get away at once. 
Early next morning we packed our provisions, blankets and 
traps on his old "cayuse" (pony) and, after depositing our 
money with a business firm of Helena, set out for the Mis- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 89 

souri river. On or near the present site of Bedford we erected 
our winter quarters. After putting the finishing- touches on 
our hut, and having placed our traps, we began preparing our 
first supper in our new home. "Scotty" made the bread de- 
licious bread while I made the coffee and cooked the meat. 
The odor from the frying bacon and jack-rabbit aroused our 
savage neighbors. Sneaking coyotes, with Sarah Bernhardt 
waists, set up a monotonous wail which would have terrified 
General Grant to a greater degree than did the howling of 
their Georgia brethren ; large, bold and nearly white wolves, 
with Bill Nye physiognomies, began to howl and, as the dark- 
ness became denser, drew nearer and nearer until we could 
see their flashing eyes and glittering teeth as they pranced 
within the radius of the light from our camp fire. When we 
went to bed there must have been a hundred of these ferocious 
looking beasts within a dozen rods of us. At intervals they 
howled singly and collectively, snapped and snarled at each 
other most viciously, the eyes of those standing or sitting just 
within the rays of light resembled little balls of fire which gave 
to the scene a sort of Chinese fireworks display, for they, as 
the animals moved their heads from side to side, changed from 
red to green, from green to blue, or pink to gray, just as the 
light happened to strike them. When this semi-circlet I say 
"semi" because our camp was in the edge of the brush with 
heavy timber and the river north of us, while the prairie 
stretched away to the south of sparkling, forty-colored gems, 
resembling the footlights in a theatre and excited the most in- 
tense admiration; it also filled me with horror and sent a 
stream of cold chills up the spinal column at the thought of the 
piobability of my slender body being devoured by this pack of 
hungry wolves and coyotes. For a while I lay resting myself 
on my elbow watching their capers and listening to the won- 
drous variety and peculiar modulations of their voices, and 
wondered if they were thus inspiring themselves with courage, 
like a boy whistling through the dark woods, or summoning 
their distant brethren to assist them in making a successful at- 
tack upon us, and to share in the feast. These were, of course, 
unpleasant thoughts and I dwelt upon them for a time but the 
fire glow caused mother nature to assert her rights and being of 
a reckless disposition, with a strong will, I was enabled to cast 
them off and adopt in their stead the fatalistic view of the situ- 
ation if eaten by wolves I would not be hung, hence my 
head dropped on the pillow and I was soon fast asleep. 

We rose next morning, embraced by a calm which was 
lonesome and oppressive. The wolves and coyotes would have 
been welcome visitors now, but were nowhere to be seen or 



90 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



heard. The pony, motionless as a stump, was the only living 
thing in sight, and the "quack quack" of a duck in the river was 
the only sound that reached our ears. "Scotty" after breakfast 
loaded his gun with buckshot and said, "Now, my lad, we'll go 
up the river and see if we can find a deer." Passing the gun 
to me to hold he sat down on the end of a log and filled and 
lighted his pipe for the last time, for just as he rose from the 
fire a gun cracked and poor "Scotty" fell dead at my feet. I 
wheeled around to see whence came the shot and beheld five 
stalwart Bloods in their war paint coming toward me and one 
of them holding a smoking rifle in his hand. Further explana- 
tion of their design was unnecessary. I fired both barrels of 




Seven Dead Indians in this Escapade. 



the gun and two braves expired. I then dropped the gun, drew 
a pistol and sent another warrior into the presence of the great 
"Manitap." I threw the pistol up to cock it after the fashion 
of Slade and Carson intending to shoot again but the bursted 
cap slipped from the tube preventing free action of cylinder, 
and my fruitless efforts to get it to revolve again somewhat 
disconcerted me. The surviving braves, seeing something was 
wrong with the pistol, took advantage of the occasion and be- 
fore I could draw my other pistol, bounded forward to my side, 
one of them dealing me a fearful blow on the head with his 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 91 

tomahawk. I fell to the ground in a helpless or, as it were, 
paralyzed condition, yet conscious of all that was taking place 
around me. There were other eyes bent on this tragic scene 
and before my captors got me securely bound the report of two 
rifles reached us and one of the braves fell dead across my 
legs, and the other one though wounded succeeded in making 
his escape. 

My rescuers had been prospecting in the mountains north 
of the river and were on their way to Helena for fresh supply 
of provisions and blasting powder, and having seen the smoke 
issuing from our camp and the Indians slyly approaching the 
latter, they concluded that the reds were bent on mischief and 
hastened forward with the above result. My friends, after ex- 
amining the Indians, remarked that a large party of Bloods 
had been on a warlike expedition against the Crows and, hav- 
ing been scattered or most likely all killed but those attacking 
"Scotty" and myself, were on their way home. These fellows 
feeling disappointed and angry thought to avert some of the 
ridicule that would be heaped upon them by their brethren by 
taking home with them a white scalp and a white captive, to- 
gether with their worldly possessions. 

The Blood Indians had a custom founded no doubt upon 
our Savior's advice to the disciples to take with them "neither 
purse nor script," which, when on the war path, was strictly 
adhered to for they regarded life as nothing and no hardship 
or danger too great to undergo in order to win the respect and 
admiration of their fellows. If they started out empty handed 
and returned with the ponies and scalps of their enemies, they 
would be looked up to as great men ; but if they returned as 
they went they would be no worse off than before, barring, of 
course, their feelings of disgrace and the jeers which awaited 
them, of which they might on some future occasion acquit 
themselves by a more successful display of sagacity and prow- 
ess. The trials that a Blood warrior encountered and the ob- 
stacles surmounted in saving his life are counted as nothing. 
He must return with something that would be reasonable proof 
of what he said in order to obtain the encouraging approval of 
the tried old warriors and "Medicine Men," and the smiles of 
the gentler sex. Hence, the poor fellows who attacked us, 
feeling keenly ashamed of their unsuccessful raid and dreading 
to meet their friends, were, by reason of this just pride, ex- 
cusable for their conduct, for the hardest thing for any man, 
white, red or black, to face is the ridicule and taunts of those 
who happen to be acquainted with his failures. After piling 
some brush and logs on "Scotty's" grave to prevent the wolves 



92 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

from disinterring and devouring the body, I repacked the pony 
and accompanied the prospectors back to Helena. 

At this time Captain Nicholas Wall, of St. Louis, Mis- 
souri, was operating two hundred freighting teams in Montana. 
The whole being divided into ten teams, each having a fore- 
man and one assistant, and over all the General Superinten- 
dent, a Mr. William Perkins, an English Naturalist and Pub- 
licist, who was engaged collecting these trains at the company's 
ranch on Boulder River, in Boulder Valley, where they would 
remain during the winter so that the stock could be more 
properly cared for and the wagons, yokes, chains, etc., receive 
such repairs as were necessary. I met Mr. Perkins and hired 
to him to help move a large outfit from Helena to the ranch, 
and, in doing so, crossed a range of mountains dividing Prickly 
Pear from Boulder Valleys, reaching the ranch about twelve 
o'clock Christmas night. It was intensely cold and while 
rough-lockink the wagons on the summit of the mountain in 
order to safely descend into the valley, a large number of the 
men were frozen, some quite severely ; therefore on corralling 
at the ranch they pulled the yokes and bows from the poor 
tired cattle as rapidly as possible, and, without further atten- 
tion to their duty, hastened to the house to warm themselves, 
leaving the yokes and chains on the ground to be covered by 
the fast falling snow. I did not go to the house until my 
chains were hung on the side-board and my yokes set up in 
their proper place against the front wheel of my wagon. The 
men wrapped themselves in their blankets and slept until 
breakfast was ready. When all (about fifty) were seated at 
the long table, the superintendent came in from the corral and 
said, "I would like to know who drove number 17." Mr. Frank 
Williams, the wagon foreman, pointed to me and said, "The 
boy over there drove that team." "Well," said the superintend- 
ent, "he's got the right kind of stuff in him." "Why so?" "Sim- 
ply because he has properly cared for his yokes and chains, 
while these fellows (waving his hand over the busy eaters) left 
theirs on the ground. They are now two feet under the snow." 
I simply did my duty as I understood it and, of course, was not 
expecting such a compliment from so great a personage as the 
learned professor. I enjoyed it, however. Had any consider- 
able number of the men done as I did, there would have been 
no notice taken of the incident, but my yokes and chains being 
the only ones visible naturally attracted the superintendent's 
attention, and won for me his respect and admiration which 
ripened into warm friendship. 

Having finished my breakfast Mr. Perkins asked me to 
accompany him to his private apartments, after learning my 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 93 

name and acquainting himself with some antecedents, said, 
"Charles, the maneuvers of certain animals, especially the 
beaver, are indicative of a long and severe winter ; so the poor 
fellows who happen to be without money or employment will 
necessarily have to suffer many privations, hardships and en- 
dure the agony that hunger produces before the avenues of 
business are again unlocked by the return of warm weather. 
This being true, and a fact that you are a boy far from home 
and friends, together with the pluck and energy you displayed 
last night, has enlisted my sympathy for you, and hence feel 
it my duty to interest myself in your behalf; therefore I pro- 
pose to give you your board and twenty-five dollars per month 
from now until the first of May, and after that the prevailing 
wages, should you desire to remain with us." The mines had 
shut down for the winter and the ox and mule trains had gone 
into winter quarters, thus throwing thousands of men out of 
employment, many of whom would gladly have given what 
little money they had and their utmost labor to secure their 
board and lodging for the winter, therefore I not only gladly 
but thankfully accepted Mr. Perkins' generous offer. Provis- 
ions of all kinds were extremely high, flour was worth, or at 
least sold at, one dollar per pound, while tobacco brought seven 
dollars for a like amount; merely a marked contrast between 
the price of this filthy .weed and the "staff of life," yet sentient 
beings, stamped with divine image, and endowed with facul- 
ties of reason and reflection, disgraced themselves by begging 
the former, while they subjected their bodies to attacks of 
rheumatism and debauched their souls by pawning their 
clothes and blankets for the latter. Large, fine looking men, 
who a few days before Christmas boasted of taking their meals 
($1.50 each) at the Star and St. Louis restaurants, after the 
holidays were forced, by hunger, to solicit the crumbs that once 
fell from the tables of their more fortunate brothers. This 
state of affairs though humiliating to an inexpressable degree, 
was better than resorting to dishonesty, which, no matter how 
trifling, was punished by death by the vigilance committee, 
which reigned supreme, and which, while it checked crime in 
those not under the shadow of its protecting wing, became in 
itself a most terrible and corrupt organization. Innocent men, 
known to have money, were taken from their beds at midnight, 
conveyed in an old hack to the slaughter-house, in "Dry- 
Gulch," and hung to a limb of a pine tree standing just in 
front of it. Having strangled a victim to their greed, they then 
pinned to his clothes a card bearing this inscription, "Horse 
Thief," "Roda Agent," or "Stage Robber," and left the body 
suspended between heaven and earth until morning, when it 



94 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

was taken down and dumped into a hole like a cat or a dog. 
Either of the above titles, if not sufficient to prove the victim 
guilty, sufficed to> place the murder where it justly belonged, on 
the shoulders of the invincible "committee." 

The hardships, exposures to inclement weather, and the 
suffering by hunger fell principally upon the miners and team- 
sters, while the professional scouts and experienced cowboys 
enjoyed the necessary comforts of life. The services of these 
men could not be dispensed with, as dispatches and business 
communications had to be carried from fort to fort and from 
town to town, while it was absolutely necessary to have the 
cattle carefully guarded to prevent them straying away or be- 
ing driven off by unscrupulous men though their wages were 
small compared to summer prices, yet handsomely paid if the 
extra cost of living be considered. 

Early in January, 1866, Mr. Perkins was, by reason of the 
high price of tobacco, induced to send the team to Fort 
Benton for a load of "Army-Navy." Mr. Frank Williams, the 
foreman, Billy Gay, the noted scout, another man whose name 
I have forgotten, and myself were selected to make this trip; 
and the reason for so many going with one team was for pro- 
tection against small parties of hostile Indians. We arrived 
at the Fort without trouble or delay, got our tobacco and re- 
turned to the government farm on Sun River, where we met 
Mr. Perkins and his chief clerk. Snow began falling and con- 
tinued until it lay three feet deep on the level, running an ef- 
fectual blockade upon our further progress. There were in the 
wagon two ten gallon kegs of fine Bourbon, for Mr. Perkins* 
private use, and finding himself shut in by the snow, he or- 
dered one of the kegs tapped so that its exhilirating contents 
might dispel the monotony of the situation. The men spent the 
time playing cards and drinking whisky, and my refusal to in- 
dulge in either placed me for the time being, outside the pale 
of their consideration and respect, and reduced me, in their es- 
timation to a common menial. It fell to my lot to get- the wood 
and keep the fires going, to do the cooking for the party and 
look after the stock. The poor cattle, the pick and flower of 
more than fifteen hundred head, were slowly but surely starv- 
ing to death, and all would have died had it not been for my 
efforts to save them. I went out every day and cut down wil- 
lows and small trees fpr them to browse on and with a miner's 
shovel managed to find for them a little grass by scooping the 
snow away in spots. The poor things followed me from spot 
to spot like pet lambs and licked up the grass like a prairie fire. 
I was disgusted with the drunken crowd, while my sympathies 
were wrought to the highest pitch for the poor cattle and three 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 95 

ponies, and every moment I could spare from the house was de- 
voted to relieving their wants. I worked like a hero, yet despite 
my best efforts they became thinner and weaker. Besides they 
were beset by clouds of voracious magpies, who were bent on 
devouring them alive. They ate great holes along the back 
and shoulders where the poor creatures could not reach them 
with their tails. These little birds, something like a jaybird but 
larger, with long, yellow or black bills, were so bold and de- 
termined in their work of destruction that they even questioned 
my right to drive them from their prey, and flew hither and 
thither about my head uttering their protests with screams and 
chatters in the most vehement manner. I shot a great many, 
but, like flies in preserve making time, there seemed to be a 
dozen ready and willing to take the place of each one killed. I 
was obliged to tie strips of canvas and old gunny sacks on the 
backs of the stock to prevent its annihilation by these ener- 
getic and courageous members of the feathered tribe. On two 
occasions I reported the situation to Mr. Perkins, but each time 
he sent me away amid a shower of oats and disparaging epi- 
thets, from which I could not flee, and had no desire to resent, 
since they came from a mad man, a beast in human form. 

When we arrived at the farm house it was occupied by 
two old trappers, who welcomed us most heartily. They read- 
ily joined in the games and zealously helped to drink the su- 
perintendent's good whisky. My fellow-laborers, too, joined 
heart and soul in the festivities to please the chief, who was 
master of ceremonies, and who ordered the games and paid 
for the liquor; they seemed to have no thought of our situa- 
tion, nor care as to what became of the stock or load of to- 
bacco. This carousal, for three or four days, was conducted in 
the most friendly and courteous manner possible, then they be- 
gan to jangle about unfairness in dealing the cards, applied un- 
gentlemanly epithets to each other, and each accused the other 
of being drunk. I expected to see a fight, but somehow they 
kept from coming to blows, which was a wonder, considering 
the fact that the seven men in less than so many days drank 
twenty gallons of whisky ; yet the greatest wonder to me was 
that the whole party escaped serpentine visitations, and so 
quickly regained equilibrium after such a spree. 

Near the close of the seventh day the snow ceased falling, 
and during the night the wind began howling, therefore when 
we arose the next morning the Heavens were filled with the 
flying crystals. The magpies fled before the storm, and I ex- 
pected the cattle and ponies had done likewise, but they were 
found huddled together in behind an old shed not far from the 
house, and thus had unconsciously corralled themselves. I cut 



96 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

some willows and threw them in to the almost famished ponies, 
then returned to the house and gathered up a bushel or two of 
old cold bread which had accumulated during the week by rea- 
son of the men not eating, yet demanding fresh bread at each 
meal, which I fed to the poor cattle. By noon the men were tol- 
erably sober and capable of realizing the seriousness of our sit- 
uation and when after dinner I raked the cold bread into a pan 
and asked Mr. Perkins to accompany me, they seemed greatly 
surprised, none more so than the superintendent himself; but 
he followed close after me and on reaching the snow-bound cat- 
tle and ponies with intense interest watched me feed them and, 
after hearing how I tied canvas and gunny-sacks on them and 
fought the magpies, scooped snow off the grass and cut wil- 
lows to feed them, and of how he had abused and cursed me 
for doing my duty, he fell upon his knees in the snow and most 
eloquently begged my pardon and blessed and praised me so 
earnestly that I was half beside myself, and did not know 
whether to regard the extra labor I was subjected to as a mis- 
fortune and hardship or a blessing. 

The stock was now well cared for by my companions who 
were led by the old trappers to a piece of low lands where the 
grass was thick and heavy, and after shoveling away the snow 
they used their long knives in mowing the grass which they 
carried to the stock, as it could not be induced to leave the shel- 
ter while the storm lasted. When we emerged from the house- 
on the morning of the fourth day after the wind arose, there was 
not a speck of snow in sight except the little heaps behind 
the shed and house and that on the mountains. The rapidity 
with which a strong wind sweeps two or three feet of snow 
from a valley or plain is truly surprising and no less so is the 
calm, balmy weather which follows one of these terrific wind 
and snow storms. Therefore, the beautiful morning after nine 
days of gloom and monotony was to an inexpressible degree 
encouraging and refreshing. The magpies and other birds re- 
turned and twittered and sang to us as though it were a May 
morning, while along the ridge in front of the house the coy- 
otes frisked merrily about and howled out their appreciation 
of and thankfulness for the return of pleasant weather. 

The superintendent and his clerk hastened back to Helena. 
We followed with the team until reaching "Medicine Rock 
Hill," an exceeding high mountain over which the road lay. 
Half way up the hill we encountered a snow drift on its steep- 
est part and our cattle being weak we were compelled to re- 
turn to the mouth of Prickly Pear Canyon and go into winter 
quarters in an old cabin. There was and doubtless exists to- 
day, a tradition among the Northwest Indians (especially the 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 97 

Peigans) concerning this mountain. Anything not compre- 
hensible to the Indian mind is termed "Medicine," so that the 
greater the mystery the more potent and consequential the 
"medicine," hence "Medicine Rock Hill," as on its summit was 
enacted a stupendous mystery a miracle. Mr. Per- 
kins, while at the government farm on Sun River, 
asked the old Peigan Chief, who visited us there, 
why the mountain was thus named. The reply 
was to the following effect: His forefathers in passing 
from one valley to another, crossed this mountain on a trail, 
now, or then, occupied by the wagon road, and on reaching 
its summit (about noon) it suddenly became dark as midnight 
and the travelers being frightened by the change, prostrated 
themselves on the ground and prayed for the restoration of 
life, which, in answer to their united petitions as they sup- 
posed, gradually returned in all its glory and loveliness. Mr. 
Perkins then inquired how long since this extraordinary event 
occurred. The Chief counted the "moons" (or years) by shut- 
ting and opening his hands, each time he did so meaning ten. 
The superintendent, after adding up his tally marks, said that 
the sun had been in a total eclipse and, according to the chiefs 
count, happened about eight hundred years ago. Mr. Perkins 
was, as I have elsewhere said, a man of science and profound 
learning and capable of clothing the children of his brain in 
the most attractive and common-sense manner possible. He 
was very decided in his convictions as to the origin of the 
North American Indians which, after hearing the chief's story, 
became more deeply rooted than ever. He averred that the 
tribal customs, religious rights, and marriage ceremonies of 
the Northwest Indians pointed unmistakably to the fact that 
they were descended from the Israelites, and most likely a por- 
tion of the so-called "lost ten tribes," and had reached the 
American continent by way of the Behring Straits. The Mor- 
mons hold substantially the same views in reference to the 
origin of the Indians as did Mr. Perkins, with the exception 
that they reached America from the East instead of the West. 
Medicine Rock Hill then is not only an interesting point, 
but is proved to be one of the "ancient mountains," on top of 
which is a few acres of open, level ground, dotted here and 
there with curiously formed piles of stone, some the result 
of volcanic eruptions, while others were erected by human 
hands. It was here that darkness overtook the Indians and 
the great miracle of restoring life was performed for their 
special benefit. Hence the Indians, singly or collectively, hav- 
ing faith in the traditions of their fathers, will not pass the 
sacred spot without making some sort of a sacrifice in order 
to reassure the unseen spirit of their faithfulness. Some gash 



98 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

their legs and arms and prostrate themselves on the ground as 
an evidence of their love and devotion to the "Great Monitau 
of the Happy Hunting Grounds," while others scatter "wam- 
pum" or some other article that would be a, real sacrifice to 
their comfort or vanity to appease the wrath of the "Great 
Monitau of Darkness and Misery," whose wisdom and power 
they claim is co-equal with that of the former great spirit. 
This belief and ceremony of the Indians common to all the 
North American tribes evinces an earnestness of faith in, and 
consistent devotion to, the supernatural not surpassed, if 
equalled by their more enlightened brothers, and which, more 
than anything else, convinces me that instead of one there are 
at least two Supreme Beings, the one presiding over the moral, 
intellectual and spiritual nature, inspiring pure thoughts, noble 
actions and worthy aspirations ; while the other rules over the 
appetites, perpensities and animal instincts which foster ex- 
cesses, prompts improprieties and encourages ignoble deeds. 




CHAPTER VIII. 

Prickly Pear Canyon, at the mouth of which we were 
camped, is thousands of feet deep and several miles in length ; 
its western wall is precipitous, almost perpendicular in many 
places and in others great ledges of limestone crop out and 
rise, one above the other, like the steps leading to the upper 
court of Monte Zuma's temple and which, at intervals, is split 
and waterworn into fantastic shapes resembling the ruins of 
an ancient mosque or castle. In the crevices of this mighty 
stairway, which, like Jacob's ladder, pierces the heavens, grow 
a variety of small fruit, such as choke cherries, mountain cur- 
rants and sarvis berries, on which the grizzly bear loves to 
feed. The east side of the canyon, covered with white pine, 
spurce and some cedar, rises gradually until its summit is lost 
in the heavens far above the timber line. At the bottom of this 
canyon flows the Prickly Pear River, a clear, cold, rapid 
stream, such as the poets love to linger over and which will 
always fill the heart of the true lover of nature with rapture 
when he beholds its crystal fluid, and listens to its joyous 
music, as it rushes over its rocky bed and small rapids on its 
way to the gulf. 

Messrs. King & Gillett, of Helena, secured a charter to 
build a "toll road" through this canyon, which would obviate 
the necessity of pulling teams over "Medicine Rock Hill," a 
most lavorious task frought with many dangers and hardships. 
About forty men with two weeks' provisions were sent from 
Helena to build the road, and were at work when we arrived 
at the canyon. I soon tired of lounging idlv about the cabin, 
and, about the first of February, visited the road-workers' 
camp. The overseer was preparing a gang of fifteen men for 
another camp farther up the river and gladly employed me 
to accompany them as cook. In a lovely cove about a mile 
from Clark's ranch, at the head of the canyon, surrounded by 
stately pines, Rocky Mountain sheep, elk and black-tailed deer, 
the company went into permanent quarters, and, after erect- 
ing a comfortable hut out of poles and pine boughs, set to 
work on the road. Our provisions were soon exhausted, leav- 
ing us at the beginning of a snow storm, lasting three weeks, 



100 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

during which time we lived on elk and deer meat straight, yet 
the men did good work even on this meager fare. Our em- 
ployers made several efforts to send us provisions, but each 
time the pack mule drivers were compelled to return to the 
city by reason of the fierceness of the storm and the fear of 
snow-blindness. The situation was monotonous and the daily 
menu uninviting, and especially so since we had neither salt 
nor pepper with which to season it ; therefore two young men 
and myself, all having money with us, and more deposited in 
Helena, decided to return to the city. My experience in the 
snow storm on Sun River ought to> have been sufficient to 
warn me from making this start for Helena; yet experience, 
though the harshest and best of teachers, fails to make an im- 
pression on the faculty of cautiousness of such reckless dis- 
positions as mine; or, as a blunt old divine of Iowa puts it, 
"Some people learn from experience, but sense has to be 
pounded into others." This was my case exactly. I had the 
experience," but no sense which must be, and was, "pounded" 
into me. My young friends were large, courageous fellows 
and anxious to get back to the city, and through their zeal and 
encouragement I managed to not only stifle the feeble voice 
of experience and reason, but utterly ignored the advice of 
our comrades, who endeavored to persuade us not to take the 
trip. This sensible advice was given just after breakfast, while 
we were preparing to start and the laughable manner in which 
it was delivered increased our desire of returning to Helena. 
The young men had never seen a real snow-blizzard, and con- 
sequently knew nothing of the dangers they were likely to 
encounter. They regarded the stories of our friends as 
"trumped up" to deter us. While I admitted all that was said 
to be true, I was nevertheless bent on making the trip, for 
once having promised to do a thing, the yawning abyss of 
hell itself would not prevent me from making an effort toward 
its fulfillment. 

After acknowledging the compliments and hearty good 
wishes of our comrades, we bowed ourselves out of camp and 
plunged into the trail leading to Clark's ranch. On reaching 
the edge of the timber skirting the valley, we found a vast ocean 
of snow spread out for our view. Across the valley, thirty miles 
in extent, could be seen a dark ridge rolled up against the 
sky, extending to the .right and left as far as the eye could 
reach. This dark ridge was the timber on the Boulder Range 
of mountains at the base of which is located the city of Helena. 
It seemed but a few miles a common illusion in the crystal 
atmosphere of these elevated regions from where we stood 
to the dark line on the opposite side of the valley. It was one 
of those clear, calm, cold mornings when the very thought of 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 101 

going out makes ones ears tingle and the flesh hug the bones 
more closely, but the distance seemed so short and the antici- 
pation of a meal at the Star Restaurant offered an irresistable 
temptation. We resolutely entered the great sea of snow 
which was above my knees, but dry and soft, readily yielding 
to the pressure of legs the men taking turns leading in order 
to favor me as much as possible. The leader kept his eye on 
the dark line and his thoughts centered upon hot rolls, ranch 
butter and fresh oysters, which acted as a goad to urge him 
forward. 

We had traveled at least one-third of the distance when 
a regular "North-Wester" swept down upon us. In less than 
ten minutes the whole expanse of heaven was filled with fly- 
ing snow and, like an immense impenetrable veil reaching 
from earth to the throne of God, cut off our view of the Boul- 
der as well as the Prickly Pear range of mountains which we 
had just left. This foolhardy undertaking was simply a repe- 
tition of my experience in the sand storm on Bitter Creek and 
all that I suffered on that occasion from thirst and hunger was 
as nothing compared to what I endured in this snow storm 
from cold and awful apprehensions as to what the final out- 
come would be of this rash, uncalled for adventure. However, 
the wheel had made its first revolution, the balls were in mo- 
tion and, of course, we had to abide by the consequences. My 
companions were cheerful and had great faith in their physical 
abilities and confidential belief they could walk a straight line 
without an objective point to guide them. If one of them had 
been constructed with greater activity in the right, and the 
otler in the left side, and with frequent changes of leaders, 
v/e might have zigzagged ourselves across the valley, but 
they were unfortunatelv built on the same plan, to describe 
the same circle, whether to the right or to the left does not 
matter since the result was what it was. We toiled wearily 
on. The snow was constantly lising and falling about us, the 
sun glanced up frjin the brilliant surface and the reflecting 
rays were dazzling and painful to the eyes ; the wind grew 
stronger and fiercer, loading the air with clouds of snow and 
filling us with painful forebodings as we strained our eyes ?n 
vain to get another glin.pse of the Boulder range, but alas! 
we were in the midst of a vast sea with white waves rolling 
over us. We no longer feared the Bloods, nature herself was 
the foe with which we had to contend, and the most energetic, 
relentless enemy she was, too. However, we pushed forward 
as rapidly as possible, but in silence. A scene of enchantment 
confronted us. Vast towers of snow rose vertically into the 
sky, they sprang up so suddenly and one after another chased 
past us with such fearful rapidity that our heads began to 



102 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

swim. They were beautifully luminous, by reason of the sun 
glistening through the floating crystals, presenting all the 
hues of the rainbow. I was strangely affected and watched 
them glide by with feelings that baffled description. The 
mighty rushing wind filled my ears with a buzzing sound like 
the hum of a circular saw whirling through an oak log. My 
eyes distorted the natural outlines of my comrades, and the 
huge columns of snow took on fantastical shapes and stalked 
across the plains as if they were endowed with supernatural 
life. From regarding so intently these wonderfully beautiful 
funnel-shaped clouds of snow as they danced along, sometimes 
plunging into one another, causing both to mingle again with 
the common element or form new columns, there came upon 
me a fainting or falling sensation. I felt weak and sick, be- 
came dizzy, m}' eyes seemed to be filled with pricking needles 
and sand and were extremely painful; peculiar objects made 
their appearance to my bewildered brain and I cried out, "I 
am stricken with snow-blindness" to me an unexpecting and 
crushing calamity. 'Cheer up, Charles," said one of my ccii- 
panions, "for it is nearly sundown and we cannot be very far 
from Helena/' I was getting very tired and begun to lag, but 
the hopeful, confident assurance that we were not far from 
the city braced me up wonderfully, and I kept close to my 
friends for another hour, but could not distinguish one form 
from another, except as they spoke to me or to each other. 

"The sun," as one of the boys expressed it, "has settled 
behind the snow-capped Sierras," the wind ceased to blow, but 
the warmth of the declining sun caused the temperature to 
fall several degrees ; our hands and ears tingled with cold, our 
stomachs chilled and collapsed and seemed to be held firmly 
against the spine by some mechanical appliance. We shouted 
until hoarse and fired our pistols in the hope of attracting the 
attention of some one who would come to our rescue, but no 
answer greeted our expectant ears, only the echoes of our own 
voices came back to mock us. We "cussed and discussed" the 
subject of "snow dumplins seasoned with a Northwester," as 
the old trapper put it, from a practical and experimental stand- 
point, and concluded we had "played-the-fool" by not heeding 
the advice of our friends. Just before daylight the wind be- 
gan to whistle again, filling the atmosphere with flying snow 
and we, like the previous day, wandered over the valley, not 
knowing in what direction we were going, yet hoping and be- 
lieving we were near Helena. "When the sun rises," said one 
of my comrades, "we can get the right course and hold it by 
keeping the wind on one side all the time," but to our aston- 
ishment and dismay that luminous orb made its appearance 
in the northwest, instead of rising in its accustomed place ; 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 103 

and the wind, from the way the snow rose about us, seemed 
to issue from the earth as if intentionally to defeat our pur- 
pose, for it was about and on all sides of us at the same time. 
About noon we came in sight of timber and small patches of 
bare ground and, like little children shouting with delight, we 
rushed forward to embrace the monarchs of the forest. We 
tried in vain all of the arts known to woodcraft in our efforts 
to start a fire. Then arose a discussion as to whether we had 
wandered to the east or west of Helena, as we all felt positive 
of being in the timber that skirted the Boulder Range of 
mountains and which was doubly convincing, since our be- 
wildered minds had set the sun going east instead of west. 

The mind in its normal condition would have detected 
this error at once, for if we had been on the south side of the 
valley the timber would have been between us and the sun, 
but the opposite was the case, thus showing that we were on 
the same side of the valley from which we had started. My 
friends thought we were west of the city, but I supposed my 
reasons for believing otherwise by pointing out familiar ob- 
jects, familiar only in my imagination, as I had never before 
seen them such as the twisted trunk of a tree or a peculiar 
shaped boulder; we were, however, really east of Helena, but 
my idea of that fact was based upon instinct rather than from 
any real knowledge I had of the surroundings. I was stupi- 
fied by cold, hunger and general exhausted vitality, rendering 
me incapable of intelligent argument. My comrades, too, were 
badly worn, which prevented their recognizing my real condi- 
tion, and hence my entreaties rather than my logic, enduced 
them to go west, which proved to be the right course. I gave 
out, lay down at the base of a large pine tree and finally pre- 
vailed on the boys to leave me and hasten on to town and 
send someone back with a horse after me. They soon met the 
old hunter from Clark's ranch, at the head of Prickly Pear 
Canyon, who directed them to the ranch and then hurried on 
after me. I had passed the point of suffering and was sleep- 
ing "the sleep that knows no waking," when the old hunter 
arrived. He understood the situation and lost no time in try- 
ing to arouse me, but at once placed me in his saddle, sprang 
on behind to keep me from falling off the horse, and, by tak- 
ing a cut-off through the woods, reached the ranch only a few 
minutes behind my companions, who, after partaking of a 
good meal at Mr. Clark's expense, passed on down the can- 
yon to the road-workers' camp. 

Mr. Clark was one of those large-hearted, whole-souled 
and sympathetic old Frenchmen so frequently met with on 
the plains, and frontiers of civilization. There is an old pro- 
verb, very current in my boyhood days in Missouri, which 



104 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

says, "fool for luck, a poor man for children, and a Dutchman 
for dogs," and I will add a Frenchman for Indian women, for 
Mr. Clark possessed the characteristic fondness of his race for 
the gentler sex, and, of course, kept about his ranch all the 
time half a dozen of the fair subjects of his Peigan neighbors, 
to whom he assigned the task of restoring me to conscious- 
ness. One of these humble, gentle,kind-hearted women was 
at my bedside day and night. They seemed to anticipate my 
every wish, and placed before me the very best that Mr. 
Clark's table afforded. They made, of mountain herbs, a de- 
coction with which they bathed me three times a day, for a 
week, and two days more were spent in gently rubbing me 
with the palms of their hands. The liquid they used in bath- 
ing me was a fiery red, and produced a tingling, burning and 
unpleasant sensation, but the rubbing was soothing and de- 
lightful, promoting a speedy return of vital energies, which, 
in a few days, enabled me to resume my former position as 
cook for the road workers. 

The kind, fatherly care bestowed on me by Mr. Clark, the 
untiring watchfulness and faithful ministry to my wants by 
his humble, but devoted women was never compensated for 
except through my sense of increasing gratitude, which the 
English language does not afford words strong enough to 
convey. I offered to pay my benefactor for the trouble he had 
been put to in caring for me, but he emphatically refused to 
accept the same, saying that he felt doubly repaid for what he 
had done by seeing me restored to health, especially so since 
"French blood" flowed in my veins. 

Sentimentalists and philanthropists are doing much writ- 
ing and talking nowadays on the subject of crime, and puz- 
zling their brains, passing sleepless nights and ruining their 
health in their efforts to devise means, or discover some plan, 
by which criminals can be painlessly executed. If the suffer- 
ing preceding the transition from consciousness to uncon- 
sciousness could be avoided, I would recommend these gen- 
tlemen to urge if nothing short of life for life would suffice 
the adoption of freezing or drowning as being not only the 
least painful, but the most genteel way of disposing of con- 
demned men. I am inclined, however, to favor freezing as 
the death penalty, nothwithstanding the suffering prior to in- 
sensibility to pain, as after that period until death intervenes, 
the victim would experience such pleasurable sensations as to 
fully compensate him for the agony endured. My own exper- 
ience under the pine tree, and while being conveyed from there 
to the ranch, is a case in point. I had, before laying down, 
become insensible to cold and soon drifted into the realms of 
most exquisite joy and lovely scenery. I seemed to be float- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 105 

ing on atmospheric waves, over beautiful valleys, vine-clad 
hills, and forest covered mountains, with the air impregnated 
with a delicious odor of flowers, laden with the songs of the 
rarest birds, and resounding with the most melodious strains 
of vocal and instrumental music. If, as the old colored 
preacher of Georgia, while addressing his people, averred, 
"Hell am (de) composed ob icebergs, lakes frozen to de bot- 
tom, mountains and valleys cubbered wid snow," then I have 
had a foretaste of the horrors, the inexpressible grief and pain 
in store for those who enter the abode of his Satanic Majesty; 
while on the other hand I have anticipated some of the joys 
and sweets of the Lord's Mansion. The toll road was com- 
pleted by the latter part of April, and I claimed the honor (if 
honor it can be), of driving the first team through Prickly 
Pear Canyon, for I was driving the lead team in Mr. Perkins* 
first train to Fort Benton. Returning to Helena I met my 
step-brother, Joe Fry, who had just received a letter from his 
mother, stating that my father had returned from the war and 
that he was very anxious to learn something definite relative 
to my whereabouts. I gave Joe to understand that I was con- 
templating a trip to California, and, perhaps, on to Alaska, 
and requested him to so inform his mother. I had seriously 
thought of making the trip to Alaska, but abandoned it the 
moment I heard of my father's return, and thought only of him 
and determined to go home after making one more trip to 
Benton. I said nothing to Joe, however, about my intentions, 
so that my unexpected arrival there would be a complete and 
happy surprise to my dear old father. 

Helena, at this time, was in the morning of her glory. 
New mines had been discovered, the news of which spread 
rapidly, bringing hundreds of gold-seekers to the city. The 
various business houses were crowded with cash customers, 
while Charlie Curtis, city auctioneer, set the streets ablaze 
with profanity, evoked much laughter by his ludicrous com- 
parisons and told white lies enough to damn a hundred men 
every day as he dashed up and down the street tryiner to sell 
for one hundred dollars, an old cayuse (pony) worth about ten 
dollars. Every foot of ground, on both sides of grizzly gulch 
from end to beginning was being worked with might and 
main by the excited delvers after the precious metal ; some 
were washing dirt bv the panful, others used "rockers" and 
still others employed the more pretentious sluice-boxes, while 
at the head of the gulch stood a sixty-stamp quartz mill that 
run day and night. During this scramble after gold, teamsters 
were scarce even at one hundred dollars per month, while 
able-bodied men could earn from eight to fifteen dollars per 
day in the mines. I do not mean by this that there were no 



106 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



able-bodied men among the teamsters. On the contrary, there 
were many strong, well-developed fellows driving teams for a 
living. Such men will accept small wages at light work, where 
board is included, rather than exert themselves for more 
money ; yet teaming is the hardest work any man ever engaged 
in I mean in a moral and healthful sense. The duties of a 
teamster are not, in themselves considered laborious, except 
at short intervals, such as extricating a wagon from a mud- 
hole, drawing an ox team from the mire, loading and unload- 
ing the train; but the exposure to all kinds of weather, the 
hard fare he is subjected to, together with the debauch at the 
end of each trip is many times more injurious to his physical 
constitution than the work required of him ; and so far as de- 
moralization is concerned, I know of no element more thor- 
oughly calculated to destroy the finer qualities of his charac- 
ter than the immoral atmosphere always clinging to the 
freight train, for while it is in motion there is poured into his 
ears a continual stream of profanity, and when in camp he 
hears nothing but vulgar jests and obscene stories which 
would bring a blush of shame to the cheek of a Hottentot or 
create a wholesome disgust in the bosom of an Australian 
Bushman. In fact such a vocation dwarfs the intellect, de- 
grades the manners and defiles the speech of man the inevi- 
table result of idleness and the absence of refining influence of 
pure, Christian women. But these immoralities of language 
and conduct are common failings where large bodies of men 
congregate without the presence of spotless, high-minded 
ladies to remind them of their manliness and moral obliga- 
tions ; they exist, however, in a greater degree among plains- 
men than among people who are collected in towns and cities 
for the reason that the latter, being permanently located, make 
some pretensions toward sociability and strive after moral and 
intellectual supremacy, which effort is greatly encouraged by 
the constant arrival of strangers to whom it would be bad form 
to address words unbecoming to a gentleman; while the for- 
mer go on long trips, thrown together for weeks and months 
without the intervention of new faces or new thoughts, and, 
since "familiarity breeds contempt," they become disrespect- 
ful to* their employers, discourteous to their companions and 
assume an air of haughty indifference for culture, purity and 
refinement. The professional scouts look upon the cowboys 
as being a notch or two below them in the scale of importance 
and the knights of the lariat regard with disfavor the stage- 
drivers; and these "ribbon" manipulators raise clouds of "dust 
and profanity as they whirl past, throwing dirt and sand into 
the faces of the mule drivers, who in turn sit bolt upright in 
their saddles on the near wheeler with "jerk-line" in the left 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 107 

and big blacksnake whip in the right hand and hurry past the 
ox-teamster without so much as a nod or a smile of brotherly 
recognition. Here, however, the scale of descent comes to a 
standstill, for the ox- drive, has not a boot black even upon 
whom to cast his reproachful looks, and before whom to 
spread his record of dignity he occupies absolutely the lowest 
strata of western society. Yet driving cattle is as honorable 
work as that of any other calling, and from which has sprung 
some illustrous characters; for instance, Mr. Mackey, Nevada's 
bonanza king, once engaged in that employment, and it was 
said bv one who crossed the plains with him that he could 
not at the end of the journey (Salt Lake City), pick out and 
correctly yoke up his own team. The faculty of memory was 
so deficient that he could not remember the spots or the num- 
ber of wrinkles on the horns of his cattle, yet his perceptive 
organs and the faculty of acquisitiveness were naturally of re- 
markable keenness and depth ; the former enabled him to rec- 
ognize not the external markings of cattle, but the conditions, 
peculiarities and qualities of things of vastly greater import- 
ance, while the latter gave him the desire and will to seize 
upon and utilize them for his special benefit. Mr. Heck Reel, 
Cheyenne's millionaire and cattle king, laid the foundation of 
his fortane by driving teams on the plaino ; and the famous 
Ben Holliday in his youth wielded a large hemp whip over a 
prairie breaking team in Missouri. I could mention many 
other gentlemen of today, famous in politics and for their 
wealth, who followed the plains for a livelihood or to avoid 
Uncle Sam's draft. Driving team on the plains, if not condu- 
cive to health and morality, is legitimate business, therefore 
the plainsman is worthy of some consideration and respect, 
especially so since the great west of today is largely indebted 
to him for its wonderful growth and prosperity ; for without 
his strong arm, unflinching courage and indomitable will, in 
times which tried men's souls, she would not be what she is 
today the queen of the continent. 

Lying at the wharf, on our return to Fort Benton, were 
two steamboats with cargoes partially unloaded. Each had on 
board a number of passengers from Eastern cities, bound for 
the various mining towns in Montana, Utah and Idaho. Cap- 
tain Wall, proprietor of the boats and of the train, had come 
up with them from St. Louis, and, expecting our outfit, under 
the management of Bob Ford, to meet him at Benton, had 
agreed to provide for them transportation to Helena. They 
had heard many wonderful things about the wild, untamable 
teamsters of the West, and Mr. Wall had no doubt heightened 
their terror of them by relating real or fictitious stories con- 
cerning the audacity and marvelous daring of the objects of 



108 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

their fearful apprehension and curiosity. I was, as before, 
driving the lead team, and on Hearing the landing, the team- 
sters poured forth a deafening yell. Mr. Wall, whom I had 
not seen, had been to the Fort and was returning to the wharf 
accompanied by his superintendent, Mr. Perkins, and several 
of Uncle Sam's officers. I noticed that these gentlemen as 
well as the passengers were closely watching my maneuvers 
and observing my dress. Driving down to the landing to have 
my wagon loaded, my cattle shied off from the road and start- 
ed to run, I raised my hand and shouted, "Whoa, Big Horn 
and Butler;" the old wheelers set back upon their haunches, 
bringing the team to a halt, my big whip fell in rapid succes- 
sion on the backs of the poor, unfortunate cattle; then, the 
wagon being stopped at the proper place, my comrades cheer- 
ed loudly, the passengers seemed to be terrified, while the 
gentlemen with the superintendent stood gazing at me as if 
they were undecided whether to admire or condemn my con- 
duct. However, I felt somewhat proud of the terror I excited 
in the passengers, inwardly rejoiced at the cheers of my com- 
panions and gratified by the approving smile on Mr. Perkins* 
countenance, but Mr. Wall was displeased with the exhibition 
and approached me with a rapidity and stately tread arid with 
fire flashing from his piercing eyes, said, "Young man, I de- 
mand a more humane treatment of those cattle than you gave 
them just now. I'll give you to understand, sir" he did not 
finish the sentence, for I began uncoiling my whip intending 
to strike him with it, and at the same time poured forth a vol- 
ley of "cuss" words which excited the envy and admiration of 
"Big Ben" the champion profane swearer of the West and 
nonplussed the gentleman. My insolence and profanity were 
more than he had bargained for, and turning on his heel, with 
hands on his ears as if he meant to exclude the awful words, 
fled from my presence. Wildly gesticulating he stopped for 
a moment and hurriedly said something to Mr. Perkins, who 
came directly to me and asked, "Charles, do you know the 
gentleman you were cursing just now?" "No, sir." "Well, 
that is Mr. Wall." I felt certain that the superintendent had 
received orders to turn me off, and not liking the idea of be- 
ing discharged, I was about to take advantage of his delay in 
using the fatal words by demanding my wages. Mr. Perkins, 
reading my thoughts, then said, "My boy, I have not come as 
you suspect, for the purpose of dismissing you from our ser- 
vice, but rather to assure you of the Captain's respect and 
friendship. He likes your pluck and admires the skill you dis- 
played in the management of your team, but told me to cau- 
tion you about whipping it so severely." I felt deeply grate- 
ful for Mr. Wall's good opinion, promptly confessed that I had 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 109 

overreached the bounds of reason, and that I was not only 
sorry but ashamed of myself and begged his pardon, which was 
graciously granted. By noon the train was loaded, and the 
boys went to camp for dinner. Those of the passengers who 
ventured among the men did so for the purpose of acquaint- 
ing themselves with the situation and, if possible, become 
reconciled to their fate, and to select someone with whom they 
entrust their baggage and morals during the trip to Helena. 
They passed back and forth among the teamsters like a pren- 
ologist, manipulating the head of a subject, scanning the feat- 
ures of each and noting the language they used and closely ob- 
serving their deportment and the degree of cleanliness mani- 
fested. Two or three of them condescended to bow to me as 
they passed, while two superior looking, well dressed gentle- 
men strutted by apparently oblivious of my existence, and en- 
gaged in conversation with "Big Ben" physically the filthiest 
and morally the most depraved man in the outfit with whom 
they concluded to ride to the city. A handsome young. man. 
named Cameron, claiming to be a nephew of Simon Cameron, 
the celebrated politician, walked up to me and, looking me 
square in -the eye, while warmly shaking my hand, said. 
"Young man, I like the looks of you, notwithstanding your lan- 
guage and conduct this morning, and shall be glad to trust 
myself and luggage in your wagon." I keenly felt the rebuke, 
blushingly acknowledged his compliment, and assured him he 
was welcome to my wagon, and that I would use my best en- 
deavors to make the journey to Helena as pleasant as possible 
tinder the circumstances. 

The teamsters had nothing to say as to whether the pas- 
sengers should or should not ride with them, but they had in- 
finitely much to say as to the agreeableness or disagreeable- 
ness of the trip, for they had it in their power, in spite of their 
wishes to the contrary, to annoy them in a thousand ways and 
it was, no doubt, the knowledge of this fact that led the gen- 
tlemen to make their own selections, rather than be assigned 
to a certain wagon by Superintendent Perkins. My wagon 
was loaded with flour on top of which I placed a thick layer of 
long grass to serve as a mattress, on which the blankets were 
spread, and by pinning up the sides of the wagon cover, make a 
very cozy place in which to pass the night. I cheerfully sur- 
rendered this comfortable lodging to Mr. Cameron and his 
feeble friend, and spread my own blankets on the ground un- 
der the wagon. Although I was obliged to haul theirs, or 
someone else's baggage, it was optional with me whether I 
gave them my bed; hence Mr. Cameron was unsparing in his 
praises of my self-sacrifice in his behalf, and frequently de- 



110 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

clared that I was a "noble, generous hearted boy, sadly out of 
place associating with low, vulgar men." I often thought my- 
self that I was worthy of a higher position in the social scale 
but just then there was not much else I could do; I was phys- 
ically unable for a miner, there was a super abundance of cow- 
boys and scouts ; a lack of educational qualifications barred 
me from a clerkship and my proud spirit revolted at becoming 
a waiter on tables in restaurants or hotels. Such employment 
had in it too much of the element of serfdom to suit my demo- 
cratic instincts, and what little time I did work at the business 
I was reminded by my own actions every day of the stories my 
father used to tell of the cringing, servile attitude of the old 
slaves of his Virginia home. 

Mr. Cameron was highly educated, of pleasant manners 
and excitable temperament and delighted in exercising his 
feelings by working upon my emotional features. Some people 
are redundant in speech and not very strong in the philosophic 
side of the mind such persons talk much and say little but 
Mr. Cameron was of a different order, and, though he talked 
much all he said was amusing and interesting; and being en~ 
dowed with good or large language he was enabled to express 
in a clear, full and efficient manner all the facts, with their 
shadings and blendings, relative to the little pleasantries of 
the elegant home he had recently abandoned for a life in the 
west. He talked lovingly of his parents and childhood sports, 
and spoke reverently of his sweetheart the former made me 
very desirous of seeing father and sisters, and the latter filled 
me with an inexpressable longing to see my own dark-eyed 
Nora. At one point of his narrative I was profused in tears, 
the next moment convulsed with laughter. We learned to love 
each other and, on reaching Helena, parted in tears. 

Having unloaded the train we repaired to Mr. Perkins' 
office to receive our wages for the trip, after which I pre- 
sented a due-bill, signed by the superintendent and his chief 
clerk for nine hundred and fifty dollars, which I deposited 
with them when I began work for the company, and Mr. Wall, 
not having recognized me until its presentation, grasped my 
hand in the embrace of fatherly affection and said, "My lad, I 
hope you will not let our little fight at Benton be the means 
of driving you from our employment. Mr. Perkins has spoken 
of you in the highest terms of praise and I shall be exceedingly 
glad to have you rem'ain with us." I assured him that our late 
unpleasantness was not the reason for my quitting him ; then 
told him of my father's return and how I longed to see him 
again. "Mr. Perkins and I," said the captain, "were talking 
of you this morning and mapped out a course by which we 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS ill 

intended making a thorough business man of you, but, having 
heard your story and feeling a parent's love I cannot, in jus- 
tice to your father, hold out any inducement that would be 
likely to keep you from him. I will say, however, that if you 
conclude to return to the mountains, come to us and we will 
then see what we can do for you." Then at his suggestion I 
sold my fine revolvers and big whip to one of the boys and ex- 
changed with him my gold dust and coin for greenbacks the 
latter being worth only seventy-five cents on the dollar and 
by this trade my fortune was swelled to upwards of sixteen 
hundred dollars, which I proudly bore away in a beautifully 
beaded money belt presented me by Mr. Wall Mr. Perkins 
also gave me a handsome present as a token of his respect and 
good will. Mr. Wall said I could return with his train free of 
charge to Benton, and I could take passage on a steamboat 
for home. After receiving the blessings, the expressions of 
love, and the expressed hope of a safe journey, of these noble, 
generous-hearted gentlemen, I bade them farewell and the 
next morning before they were out o bed the train was en- 
route for Benton. 

Having nothing to do and detesting the conversation of 
the average teamster, I wandered from the road with my soul 
ablaze with the anticipated joys in meeting the loved ones in 
old Missouri. I searched far and near for a certain flower 
which possessed all the hues of the rainbow. The abundance 
and variety of other flowers was simply wonderful but the 
species for which I searched was very scarce and when I found 
one I greedily plucked it from its stem, placed it neatly in the 
center of a handful of other choice flowers and then (mentally) 
presented the handsome boquet to my darling Nora, the play- 
mate of my childhood, the object and joy of my heart. It is 
strange how the thoughts and desires so persistently cling to a 
prospective object which has recently aroused the slumbering 
affections. Previous to my meeting Mr. Cameron, the hand- 
some and fluent New Yorker, I rarely thought of the dear ones 
at home, but, when my face was turned toward "God's coun- 
try," the land of my youth, then it was that I began to think 
of them and frequently said, "Oh ! my beloved, every moment, 
every second is bringing me closer, ever closer to thee." 

Arriving at the fort I was delighted to see, lying at the 
wharf, the little stern-wheel pocket Mr. Wall had spoken of. 
And, half an hour later, I was duly booked cabin passenger for 
St. Joseph, Missouri. I feasted my eyes on the beautiful, curi- 
ous and wonderful scenes on both sides of the river, but none 
half so sublime, yet pathetic, as the one I beheld some dis- 
tance below the confluence of Milk River with the Missouri. 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



To the north could be seen great clouds of dust rising and a 
rumbling noise, like that produced by a heavy wind rushing 
through a forest, reached our ears. Presently a long line of 
buffalo appeared on the ridge overlooking the little bottom. 
and seeing the boat directly in front of them, without halting, 
they bore away to the left at a rapid gait as if bent on heading 
us off. Their course led them to a precipice some forty or 
more feet in height, at the base of which the main current of 
the river flower. The leaders on reaching the cliff, tried to 
stop or change their course, but those behind crowded them 
over the precipice and the whole herd, a hundred or more, like 
sheep jumping a pasture fence followed them in rapid suc- 
cession. Had it not been for the depth and swiftness of the 
stream, which swept them on as they fell like shot from a 
tower, the entire band must have perished on the spot. Rising 
to the surface they snorted loudly and made for the opposite 
shore, and by the time the last one of the herd took the dizzy 
leap, the boat was in the midst of the swimming creatures. It 
was the work of a moment to form a loop at the end of a tow 
line and selecting a cow I caught the noose over her head. 
By means of the great spar and "nigger-head" she was hoisted 
on deck and slaughtered. For this slight manifestation of my 
skill with the lasso, I was dubbed "Buffalo Charley," and much 
admired by the captain and his wife. 

About the first of August, seventeen days after leaving 
Benton, the little boat landed at St. Joseph, Missouri. I pro- 
ceeded at once to Kahn's clothing emporium where I donned 
a suit of fine new clothes, then boarded the two o'clock train 
for Rushville, and three-quarters of an hour later I was stand- 
ing in the presence of my father. 




CHAPTER IX. 

Four years of terrible warfare and crushing adversity had 
not affected father's old Virginia ideas of hospitality, nor his 
habit of interrogating strangers. The old decanter which I 
had many times passed around the board filled with "Apple- 
jack" and a glass were handed to me with "Take something 
stranger." My refusal surprised him and staring at me for a 
moment, he asked, "What is your name, sir?" "John Wat- 
son." "Where are beg pardon, sir, did you say Helena, Mon- 
tana?" "Yes, sir." He was about to ask, "Where are you go- 
ing, sir?" but the mention of Helena bethought him of his 
wandering boy and, as he again fastened his large, blue eyes 
upon me, I could see the parental love beaming forth like the 
rays of a morning sun. It was all I could do to restrain the 
tears and hold myself from his throbbing bosom, and kissing 
him, which would have answered the question I saw quivering 
on his lips. His manner was completely changed ; instead of 
an indignant stare, his gaze was one of condescension and he 
courteously remarked, "Perhaps, sir, you knew my baby boy ; 
Polk, out there." "The object of my visit, sir," I said, "is to 
tell you all about your boy." Just then Joe Fry who had pre- 
ceded my arrival by several days entered the room and, ex- 
tending his hand toward me, said, "How do you do, Polk?" 
The next instant I was folded in father's loving embrace. The 
parent of that much abused prodigal could not have been hap- 
pier than was my dear old father on this occasion. He wept 
like a child, and between sobs, said, "Joe told em that you had 
gone to Alaska and I feared I should never see you again." 

Father returned from the war on Christmas night, 1865. 
and found mother in an almost destitute condition. He also 
found himself financially wrecked. The Kansas jayhawkers 
and his step-son (Pance Fry) had stripped him of all his per- 
sonal property and all that was left of the well-equipped still- 
house was the stock of the old wooden pump ; and the Missouri 
had, with the exception of one hundred acres of timber, swal- 
lowed up the once famous "River Side Farm." He sold the 
timber for two thousand dollars, which was barely sufficient 
to cancel his debts, thus leaving him without a dollar, but with 



114 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

an enviable reputation for veracity and integrity which he 
prized above everything else. Alfred Fenton, a rich gentleman 
of Rushville, of whom I shall have occasion to speak further on, 
gave father a start in the saloon business and when I reached 
home he was in a prosperous condition. 

At the close of a week's visit with my sisters and sweet- 
heart, I returned to my father's house, only to find his family 
increased. Joe Fry had married and brought his wife home 
and his brother Richard had arrived from the mountains, all 
serenely lodging and feasting at my father's expense. A few 
weeks passed pleasantly, then all except father began to regard 
me as an intruder. Mother slighted me at the table, rarely 
made my bed, and did my white shirts and underwear up in 
a slovenly manner, while exact neatness and studied courtesy 
in everything was extended toward her own children, thus 
making her neglect of me all the more glaring and significant. 
She also joined them in criticising my clothing, manners and 
language. When I made use of some western phrase, they, 
amid boisterous laughter, exclaimed, "that's grammar for you 
with a vengeance," or "with which of the old masters did you 
study?" I could barely read in the first reader but could not 
write, therefore, after four years of association with the roughest 
element of the west, it may be inferred that my grammatical 
errors were numerous, that my ideas though frank and always can- 
did, were crude and immature, and I confess that my dress was 
rather extravagant for a boy. While their criticisms were de- 
livered in what I regarded as a playful, friendly manner, I ac- 
cepted them in good faith, but when it became apparent that 
they were poured out in a spirit of contempt, I resented them. 
They were simply trying to drive me from home by their taunts 
and incivilities and on two or three occasions mother hinted at my 
father's displeasure of my presence, but so long as he said 
nothing to that effect himself I pretended not to hear or under- 
stand her. Then Canna, Joe's wife, a sweet faced, willing little 
creature, whom I liked very much, approached me in a confi- 
dential mianner and expressed great sympathy for me on ac- 
count of father's "discourteous conduct" toward me. It was 
"apparent" to her that he was "getting tired of feeding" me 
for nothing. These evil suggestions coming from one who 
seemed deeply interested in my welfare, one whom I respected 
and admired (notwithstanding she sometimes laughed at me) 
and being of a simple confiding nature, I was the more ready 
to consider them in the light of reason and cold facts. Father 
one day remarked that since I would not attend school which 
I declined to do on the ground that I could not bear to subject 
myself as laughing stock for small children I had better go to 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 115 

work instead of idling my time away and spending my money 
foolishly. Significant glances from five pairs of malicious eyes 
were shot at me as if to say, "I guess you will take the hint 
now." If I was simple and confiding, I was also as proud as 
Lucifer and readily took "the hint," since it came from lawful 
authority. Canna's subtle tongue had shaken my faith in fath- 
er's love, poisoned my mind with the oil of suspicion, and pre- 
pared me to resent his kindly advice, coupled with his frowns 
and the manner in which it was given, convinced me that Can- 
na was right. Pride and the desire to avoid trouble with my 
arch enemy constrained me to leave home. I arose from the 
dinner table before finishing the meal, went to the stable, sad- 
dled my pony and rode rapidly away. Arriving at sister 
Sarah's house my temper had somewhat subsided, and I was 
capable of discussing with her, in a dispassionate manner, the 
course of my precipitated flight from home. We concluded 
father's advice was not directed at me, but given in the hope 
that my step-brothers would acknowledge its propriety and act 
accordingly. 

I rode down to Rushville, one day, in response to father's 
invitation. Entering the saloon I found him alone, and, after 
the little rupture between us had been satisfactorily explained 
away, he proposed that I should enter into partnership with 
him and assume full control of the business, but I declined to 
accept his proposition on any terms. We then engaged in an 
argument as to the nterits, or demerits, of the liquor traffic. 
He held that the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors 
had been a legal and honorable business throughout the his- 
torical period, quoted scripture, and such political dogmas as 
"the voice of the people is the law," and "the majority must, 
and will, rule," to prove his statements. Of course I was not 
able to measure intellectual swords, on a great theme, with a 
man of mature years and profound wisdom, and who knew the 
Bible almost by heart, was well versed in history and a veteran 
controversalist. He did not, however, succeed in converting 
me to his ideas for I believed then, as now, that history and 
political assumptions were not proper criterions upon which 
to base a great moral law ; that the majority was not always 
right, and the minority not always wrong; and as for "the 
voice of the people," history shows that individual man has 
ever been prone to "run after a multitude to do evil/' but I 
could not present my convictions and hence was obliged to 
adhere to the one assertion that it was "wrong to take a man's 
money for something that did him harm instead of good." 
Father admired my firmness and respected the position I had 
taken to the extent of condescending to ask my opinion as to 



116 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

the propriety of allowing boys to frequent and lounge about 
saloons. In substance my reply was that boys ought to be per- 
mitted to go wherever their fathers went, and if the saloon was 
a proper place for the latter, the former would not be seriously 
damaged by lounging about it. This discussion was abruptly 
terminated by the entrance of the widow Yazell (whose two 
sons, George and Kelly, excellent young men, were among 
father's best customers) who at first sight was very mild and 
courteous in forbidding father to allow her boys to come into 
the saloon, then grew furiously abusive. "My good woman," 
said father, "if I shut my door against your boys, they will go 
elsewhere to spend their time and money ; they are almost of 
age and capable I think of judging for themselves the course to 
pursue, therefore, I cannot comply with your unreasonable de- 
mand." Mrs. Yazell was a devoted Christian, an honest hard- 
working Christian, and no doubt felt justified in invoking from 
Heaven a fearful curse upon my father, after which she prophe- 
sied that his business should wither like Jonah's gourd! that 
he, himself, should come to grief and shame and that his family 
should be utterly destroyed whether the good lady was or 
was not uttering words of inspiration may be inferred from 
subsequent chapters. She said, as she flounced out of the room, 
"God is on my side, he'll avenge my wrongs and overturn this 
accursed house of Satan." The word "Satan" had scarcely 
passed her lips when the building began to tremble violently, 
chairs waltzed around the room in regular file, whisky bottles 
made graceful bows at each other and then tumbled from the 
shelf, bar glasses made frantic efforts to get out of the rack, 
while their "chink chink" against one another seemed to have 
a special significance and the billiard balls rolled to and fro 
across the table, their hard surfaces as they came together 
produced a metallic ring not noticeable in them before. I 
never had such a peculiar and awful sensation pass over me 
as I experienced on this occasion, and father, the only time I 
ever saw him frightened, was as white as this paper. And as 
the terrified widow flew down the street she shouted, "Oh! 
God, Oh ! God, have mercy on us." She had presumed a little 
too far on the Lord's prerogative and it seemed likely that she 
had by her rashness, called upon herself and us speedy destruc- 
tion. Father and I hastened out of the room. The room was 
filled with wonder-stricken and frightened people, some cry- 
ing, others on their knees praying, and still others standing 
erect with their hands stretched Heavenward and loudly im- 
ploring God to spare them and the town. This amusing, yet 
pathetic and awe-inspiring scene, was caused by an earthquake 
shock lasting ten or fifteen seconds, but this was sufficient to 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 117 

fill the people with excitement and terror. Mrs. Yazell, the 
widow, and author of this disturbance and fearful apprehen- 
sion, is, I am happy to say, still living- and prays that the "gates 
of Heaven may open to receive Polk Wells" God grant that 
it may be so. 

About the first of May, 1867, I went to Kansas, and hired to 
Mr. Howard Glenn, wagon foreman for Russell & Majors, to drive 
a team to Santa Fe, New Mexico. At this time the Sioux. 
Pawnee, Dog-Soldier, Comanche, and Cheyenne Indians were 
committing bloody depredations all along the frontier settle- 
ments from the Niobrara, in northern Nebraska, down to the 
Rio Pecos in northern New Mexico. Having crossed the 
Neosho river we camped for dinner. A recruiting officer came 
to the camp, and after a well directed speech on the cruelties 
perpetrated by the Indians, called for volunteers. Seven of the 
men, including myself and George Caruthers, a former com- 
panion on the plains, and whom I had shot through the right 
arm before leaving Atchison for attempting to force me at the 
muzzle of a pistol to drink whisky with him, responded to the 
invitation and immediately set out on foot for Council Grove, 
where our captain had in waiting teams to convey us to Junc- 
tion City, where we would be sworn in and equipped for the 
expedition. While in Council Grove, awaiting the arrival of 
other recruits, a large number of men collected on the street 
one evening and were discussing the various outrages, when a 
woe-begone looking outfit halted in front of the excited crowd. 
The man held a pair of rope reins over a span of very poor 
horses, hitched to a clumsy and rickety old wagon, behind 
which wa.s tied another horse equally as poor as the team. The 
grasshoppers had destroyed the previous year's crop and now 
the Indians had driven him from his little home. "But," said 
he, smiling sweetly, "I'll be all right if I can get back to my 
wife's people in Old Missouri, and (pointing to the extra horse) 
I'll sell that animal for half he's worth rather than have to beg 
my way home." "At what do you value the horse ?" asked 
some one in the crowd. "Three hundred dollars," was the 
prompt reply. The shout of derision that rent the air caused 
the poor, sick wife to raise her head and peep out from under 
the tattered and besmeared old wagon sheet; the children too 
with their pale, hunger-pinched faces, looked out to see what 
was the matter. The picture thus presented had been so fre- 
quently reproduced to the inhabitants of Council Grove that 
they seemed to have lost all interest in, pity for, and desire to 
help such unfortunates. I caught a glimpse of the wave of sor- 
row and disappointment that spread over the sick woman's 
face when her husband informed her that the men were laugh- 



118 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ing at his "proposition to sell Frank for one hundred and fifty 
dollars." The sickened wife lay back on her humble couch, 
the husband picked up his rope reins, lightly tapping his horses 
with them said, "Come lads, we must move on." "Knowledge 
is the hill which few may hope to climb. Duty is the path 
which all may tread." Here, then, was an opportunity to put 
in practice the golden rule, an opportunity to rebuke an un- 
feeling, sympathetic people, an opportunity to do my duty as 
I felt it, and thereby make happy a weary, forlorn family; 
therefore my ire at the crowd for its shameful conduct and 
sympathy for the unhappy wife and children, being aroused to 
the highest pitch I determined to buy the animal, and shouted. 
"Hold, my friend, let me look at your horse." He brought his 
team to a halt with a jerk, walked back to Frank, untied him 
and led him around and around, up and down the street, then, 
holding a stick two or three feet from the ground, said, "Frank, 
come over, sir." The horse leaped back and forth over the 
stick like a trained dog. The exercises through which he put 
the horse showed that the animal was sound, and the pedigree 
he gave him was doubtless true; both of which were wholly 
unnecessary since I had decided to take him though he should 
die on my hands the next moment after paying for him. I 
counted out one hundred and fifty dollars and handed them to 
the (now) happy man and sent him on his way rejoicing. As 
I led Frank past the crowd an old man remarked, "That's a 
noble-hearted young man." "Yes," said another, "a fool and 
his money are soon parted." The consciousness of having 
done my duty toward a distressed brother, of having performed 
a noble act, thereby casting the rays 'of sunshine and hope into 
an otherwise clouded life, filled my mind with most pleasure- 
able sensations, hence I allowed this misanthropic pessimist 
and his ungenerous thrust at my sanity to pass unheeded I 
was not only happy myself, but had made others so, too. 

Arriving at Junction City, our captain informed us that 
the call for volunteers had been fully responded to seven days 
past, consequently our little band of would-be Indian fighters 
was dismissed without ceremony. 

The proprietor of the private boarding house at which 
Caruthers and I lodged, was head hostler in the livery stable 
where I kept Frank. My companion got work in the stable, 
while I, for two weeks, put in most of my time feeding, rub- 
bing and exercising my horse, who, at the end of that time, was 
as proud and spirited as a game-cock. Returning one evening 
from my regular exercise, I noticed a fine horse in the stall 
next to Frank, and since I know of no animal (except a pretty 
woman) that will attract my attention quicker, or more thor- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 119 

oughly arouse my admiration than a noble horse, naturally I 
wished to know to whom the animal belonged. Caruthers in- 
formed me that he ha,d been left there by the famous scout. 
Wild Bill, who, though regarded in the east as a human mon- 
ster, was in the west looked up to as the prototype of honor 
and manly courage. His picture was displayed in every win- 
dow. His name in deeds of valor on every tongue, and while 
he was, from the sod hut to the mansion, and from the camp 
fire to the military post, the reverenced hero, he was also a 
terror to, and the object of hatred to evil doers, whom he pur- 
sued with bloodhound sagacity and invincible purpose. For 
sometime it had been my desire and ambition to make the ac- 
quaintance of, and to accompany this honored and respected 
scout of western nobility on some dangerous enterprise, and. 
putting my horse away, hurried up town to see the all-impor- 
tant individual. My conceptions of Wild Bill were of such 
wondrous proportions that I had but little hope of his conde- 
scending to even speak to me, much less to engage me as a 
fighting comrade, yet I was constrained, as a bark impelled 
against a craggy coast, to seal my fate by personal interview 
or contact with the scout my ideal of physical perfection and 
intellectual supremacy. I was standing on a corner, listening 
to some men talking about the outrages of the Indians, the 
depredations of white robbers and the too frequent desertions 
from the army, when Bill rode up and asked, "Can I get a man 
from this crowd to go with me for a few days?" It was evi- 
dent, from his hurried manner, and determined look, that he 
was bent on carrying out some dangerous commission. The 
noted scouts and adventurous characters of the city had accom- 
panied the various Indian expeditions, and these fellows, (the 
dudes of the town) brought forth excuses similar to those who 
were bidden to the "Great Supper ;" therefore it seemed reason- 
ably certain that Bill was doomed to follow his quest in silence 
and alone. I had felt that a conversation with Wild Bill, or 
even the privilege of touching the fringe on his buckskin coat 
would be an honor and a blessing, and moreover inspire me 
with something of his great courage and unequalled sagacity; 
but now the opportunity was present, I shrank from making 
the necessary application, yet I managed, though my heart was 
in my mouth, to say, "I will go with you Sir." He turned his 
piercing eyes upon me, and, with a frown on his handsome 
face, a touch of contempt in his voice, said, "You don't call 
yourself a man, I hope." To be sure I was but a beardless boy. 
without influential friends to recommend me, but had, pre- 
viously, felt myself equal to almost any undertaking, yet on 
this occasion I was abashed, and quailed beneath the fierce 



120 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

glances of the greatest scout in the west. As I retreated a 
step or two a contemptuous smile spread over features of the 
spectators, and, resting their cowardly gaze upon me, they in- 
dulged in various satirical remarks on my " presumtpion" as 
they termed it. Their unjust criticisms stung to the quick and 
aroused my wonted boldness and pride, the all-powerful gov- 
ernor of moral action, which sent me lightly to the curbstone 
and enabled me to say, "Sir, I may not be a man in size or age. 
but I am a man, in-as-much as I am able and willing to follow 
whithersoever you may choose to lead." "Bravo/' said the 
scout, dismounting and cordially grasping my hand, "That's 
the way I like to hear a fellow talk. Come, young man, let us 
be off." We walked down to the stable where we made a care- 
ful examination of Frank, and after witnessing my workman- 
ship, expressed himself as being perfectly satisfied with my 
horse, and doubly willing to have me accompany him on his 
perilous trip. Leaving the stable we went directly to his room 
where I was made acquainted with his plans and purposes. "I 
have," said he, "for several days, been trailing five men ; two 
of them are deserters from Fort Wallace, and the others are 
robbers. I have here authority producing the document to 
bring them back dead, or alive ; what say you?" I assured him 
of my hearty co-operation, whereupon he said, "We'll take a 
wash and go down to the restaurant and get a good meal before 
starting, as it will be the last we shall enjoy for several days, 
for the men are many miles ahead of us by this time." While 
T was washing Bill drew my knife and read, engraved on the 
silver plates on both sides of the handles, these words : "From 
Kit Carson to C. P. Wells." As I turned to the towel to dry 
my face, he sprang forward with the knife partially raised in 
his right hand, and with the left caught me by the shoulder and 
rudely turned me around face to face with him. My hair 
seemed to stand erect, for I thought I was about to be made a 
sacrifice to appease the appetite of this man-eater of the west. 
Springing quickly to one side, I threw myself into a defensive 
attitude and determined to sell my life as dearly as possible. 
Bill divined my thoughts and instantly dropped his hands to 
his sides, laughed heartily and said, "Charles, don't be too 
hasty. I had no thought of harming you. I saw Kit Carson 
last summer, and he told me all about your little affair with 
Slade at Old Julesburg, and this knife (holding it up) is equiv- 
alent to a letter of introduction from that honored scout and 
friend." 

Having finished our toilet we hastened to the restaurant, 
and, after an excellent repast, mounted our horses and rode 
rapidly toward the trail ef the fugitives, who were heading for 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 121 

the Indian Territory, as two of them had friends living at, or 
near, Vinita. Wishing to avoid uninteresting details of this 
chase, I will simply state that we captured the men, and, re- 
turning to the city, delivered them to the proper authorities, 
and for my services I received fifty dollars and marked praise, 
which I valued a grrat deal more than money, from the famous 
scout, manhunting Wild Bill. 

Next morning Bill boarded a K. P. passenger train for 
Kansas City, while Caruthers and myself went west with a 
haying outfit belonging to Messrs. Brown & Callen of Junction 
City, and Dr. Robison of Manhattan. These gentlemen had 
contracted with "Uncle Sam" to put up eight hundred tons of 
hay at Fort Wallace and several hundred cords of wood at 
Monument Station. Mr. Robinson, being the brainy man and 
wire-pulling financier of the company, accompanied us and,. on 
reaching Fort Hayes, prevailed on the Post Commander to 
furnish him fifty negro soldiers in charge of a bright mulatto 
sergeant to escort his train to Wallace. Most of the teamsters, 
like myself, were southern sympathizers, hence an ill feeling 
existed between them and the sable escort from the time it 
joined us until we separated. After passing Monument Station 
we camped, one day, on the Smoky Hill River. I went down 
to the stream to water my horse, and, after picketing him on 
the grass, returned to camp. Sitting in the shade of the "mess- 
wagon" were two white men and two negroes playing "seven- 
up." This was a spectacle I had not before witnessed; it was 
a little too much for my democratic ideas of social equality, 
therefore, in tones expressive of the deepest dudgeon and con- 
tempt, I said : "You white men are reducing yourselves to the 
level of negroes by playing cards with them." Then, with 
feelings of great superiority and disdain, I turned to walk 
away, when the sergeant (who was one of the players) sprang 
to his feet and remarked, "I'm jest 'bout as white as you is 
(which was certainly true) an' persume miself bettern'n po' 
white trash." Such impudence and audacity in a "nigger" was 
more than high-pitched rebel gravity could stand, so I slapped 
the sergeant in the face, and was promptly knocked down by 
him. This exchange of blows precipitated a general 
fight, during which I had my shirt torn off and 
was completely disabled by a kick in the stomach from a 
burly, black negro, who was instantly rendered "hors de com- 
bat" by a lick on the head from an ox-bow by my friend Car- 
uthers. I fell backward over the edge of an incline leading to 
the brink of a precipice overlooking the river. This incline 
was covered with sand burrs and prickly pears, whose thorns 
had free access to my flesh as I rolled toward the cliff, on the 



122 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

edge of which I lodged against some small bushes, with my 
face toward the river. The kick in the stomach, however, 
rendered me insensible to the thorn thrusts, and unconscious 
of my perilous situation, for had those bushes given way I 
would have passed through fifty feet of space before striking 
the river bed, which was a hard-pan formation, and covered 
with only a few inches of water. While the battle was raging 
most furiously two strangers appeared, and my being naked 
from the waist up, and battling with a physically superior foe, 
their interest and attention was centered upon me, but for a 
moment their eyes were taken from me and when returned I 
had disappeared, over the incline. A minute later the fight 
ceased and I was becoming conscious of my situation, when 
one of the strangers seized my arm and assisted me up the in- 
cline and turned me over to Caruthers, who industriously ap- 
plied himself for two hours extracting thorns from my body. 

Dr. Robinson had been a surgeon in the Union Army dur- 
ing the rebellion, hence he had, from the start, tried to enforce 
his ideas by military discipline upon his men, and now, being 
wroth at me as the originator of the row, which delayed the 
train that evening, he purposed to chastise him, there- 
by putting a stop to his pugnacity." These words were ad- 
dressed to Mr. Jack Council, the wagon foreman, who had 
known me all my life, and who persuaded the doctor to aban- 
don his rash intentions. The purposed chastisement consisted 
of tying me to a wagon wheel and flogging me with a black- 
snake whip. Had the doctor called upon the negroes to exe- 
cute his cruel design there would have been a deadly encoun- 
ter, for every teamster, including those I had rebuked, buckled 
on his revolvers ready to defend me. The doctor and I,- 1 am 
happy to say, soon became good friends, and he, after the out- 
fit had fulfilled its mission and returned to Junction City 
which was not accomplished without many noteworthy events 
recommended me to several gentlemen as an "honest, trust- 
worthy boy." 

During the spring and summer of 1868 I was engaged in 
various ways, sometimes driving hack about the city, at others 
collecting beef cattle for the butchers, or scouting with Wild 
Bill for Indians or other law-breakers. On one occasion we 
got after three men who had stolen five horses from an old 
farmer near Junction City. Early twilight of the second day 
we came in sight of the fugitives' camp fire on the Neosho 
River. Leaving the trail we rode direct to the river bottom, 
which we followed down to within half a mile of our prospec- 
tive point, when we halted, and, after caring for our horses, 
proceeded to eat our crackers and dried beef which we washed 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 12,3 

down with Neosho water. Having finished our frugal meal 
we resumed our journey on foot toward the fugitives and did 
not halt until almost within the radius of the light of their 
camp-fire. We were close enough to occasionally catch a few 
words of what the men had to say. One fellow laughingly re- 
marked ,"I guess we have given that long-haired cuss the slip 
at last." "Not much," said Bill as he mischievously but good- 
naturedly twitched my ear. He had been in the saddle almost 
day and night for a week, was, of course, very tired and having 
implicit confidence in me, and after giving me instructions, 
stretched himself and quickly went to sleep. The men being 
in a sparsely settled country believed themselves comparative- 
ly safe, or they would not have started a fire, yet they deemed 
it advisable to appoint one of their number to stand guard 
while the others slept. Their sentinel appeared to be perfectly 
contented as he made regular puffs from the short stem of his 
corncob pipe. With the toe of his boot he occasionally stirred 
the fire which sent up fitful blazes, illuminating the woods for 
rods around and causing the giant-like trees to assume peculiar 
and fantastic shapes. Again my fellow watchman looked at 
his watch and, turning to his companion, said, "Come Dick, 
get up, it is half-past twelve o'clock." "Oh! h 1, lay down 
and go to sleep ; we are in no danger here." "That's my opin- 
ion, too," replied the first speaker, who stretched himself on 
the ground with head in his saddle and slept soundly. 

The silver moon was nearing the horizon and a last ray 
from that wondrous orb stole through the thick foliage and for 
a moment rested upon the upturned, handsome face of Wild 
Bill. He lay so still I thought him dead but, gently placing 
my hand on his broad chest, the strong regular pulsations of 
his heart convinced me that he was sleeping the sleep of the 
brave, the true and the just. The familiar notes of the coyotes 
had long since died away and the horses, too, had ceased their 
monotonous "crop, crop" of the grass ; so that a death-like 
stillness reigned over the romantic scene. Being thus left 
alone, I sat down, leaned against a tree, with face toward the 
men and delivered myself up to the sweet, though in some re- 
spects regretful retrospect. I had left home in a, fit of melan- 
choly, the result of my Nora's seeming indifference toward me. 
there was but one object on my memory and upon that object 
did my affections dwell. I was transported in thought to the 
little farm house in Missouri where lived my Nora. I mentally 
gazed into her deep brown eyes and again heard her say in 
faltering tones, "I would not cross the plains any more if I 
were you." This 'is what she said the day I held her little 
hand in mine and bade her good-bye. I had told sister Ruth 



124 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

that I was going away because Nora would not play with and. 
kiss me as she used to do while we were children. "Oh ! you 
silly boy," said my sister, "Nora loves you as she does her own 
soul, but she cannot grant you the same privileges that she once 
did." Ruth was right, of course, but I was unable at that time, 
by any process of reasoning at my command, to draw an ethic- 
al line between Polk Wells the playfellow and Mr. Wells, the 
lover, for in either stage of life my love for Nora was as pure 
as it was ardent ; hence I saw no excuse for reserve and con- 
ventionality. Her sadness at my departure was apparent and I 
seemed to gloat on it, but, sitting in the loneliness of the night 
in the presence of evil men, not knowing what the morning 
would bring forth, and with her sorrowful face before my 
mind's eye, my actions toward her had a recoiling force which 
struck me with a vengeance; my heart was pierced with the 
arrows of remorse for having deserted the loveliest creature 
on earth for the frivilous cause (to her momentous cause) of 
refraining from an embrace or withholding a kiss. Oppressed 
with the bitterness of remorse and loneliness, my thoughts nat- 
urally reverted to scenes of childhood and other days on the 
plains, and my melancholy surroundings recalled the stories 
of the "Middle Ages," which I had heard my father read. 
Mailed Knights and Cowled Padres with their innumerable 
serfs and crowned kings in their pomrp and glory of ancient 
times all passed in mental review. The transition of my mind 
from one subject was easy and rapid. I reflected on the prob- 
able cause that led to the misdeeds of the men lying asleep 
within a stone's throw, and pondered on the great fame of Wild 
Bill. My disjointed reverie was interrupted by the stolen 
horses making a simultaneous attack on the rich grass, and a 
moment later a meadow lark the prairie nightingale sent 
forth a stream of melody that warned me of the approach of 
day. I knew the scout wanted to make some preliminary ar- 
rangements before assaulting the enemy, so I touched him on 
the shoulder and said, "Bill." One spring landed him at my 
side, and, with his eyes flashing in the darkness, he said, "What 
time is it? Is everything all right?" I pointed up to the lark, 
still filling the air with his lovely song, and then to the streaks 
of light athwart the eastern sky. My companion was familiar 
with every foot of this country and decided, therefore, to place 
the enemy between us and the river, the ground in that direc- 
tion being less thickly covered with timber, rendering it next 
to impossible for the men to escape the unerring aim of Wild 
Bill in case they should run when apprised of his presence. 
After administering a gentle reprimand for *my failure to wak- 
en him at midnight as per order, the scout said, "Follow me." 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 125 

Reaching the objective point we lay down in the tall grass to 
await broad daylight. Presently the men arose and started a 
roaring fire, on which they placed juicy steaks from the quarter 
of some farmer's bullock. The odor of the broiling meat almost 
drove us mad with hunger. One of the men (whistling the 
"Arkansas Traveler") went out to inspect the horses and find- 
ing them all right returned to camp, singing the burlesque 
song on "Brigham Young." His parody on the original chorus 
created a hearty laugh and evoked the general term of praise, 
"well done, my boy." The change of airs showed the mood and 
versatility of the man. This easy transition, however, from 
the sentimental to the ridiculous is common with the criminal 
who, when in doubt, sings something befitting the state of his 
feelings, but who, when confidence is restored and prosperity 
apparent, exhibits the lively aspects of his nature by singing 
something in harmony therewith. While the men were eating 
their hard-tack and steak, we were worming our way through 
the tall grass toward them, and their faces being toward the 
river enabled us to approach within a few rods of them ; 
.here we waited until the light of day had consumed the fire- 
light, when we arose, and, in catlike bounds, sprang upon our 
prey. Bill shouted "surrender." The men leaped to their feet, 
intending, no doubt, to resist or run, but seeing four large pis- 
tols leveled at them dropped their guns and meekly submitted 
to the inevitable. We secured the men and returned to Junc- 
tion City, where they were properly disposed of and the stolen 
horses delivered to their rightful owners. 

The reflections of that lonely night on the Neosho, and 
more especially the sad face (as I then saw it) of my sweet- 
heart, were constantly before me. I hastened to settle up my 
business matters preparatory to an early start to old Mis- 
souri, "therefore," I thought, "I must bid Wild Bill good-bye 
tonight, as I will not have an opportunity of doing so in the 
morning. When I entered the room Bill was preparing to 
spend the night in a gambling house. He, after being apprised 
of my fears and intentions, looked me full in the face for a mo- 
ment, then said, "Come, let us go down and have a game of 
poker or faro (his favorites), and that sad look and melancholy 
feeling of yours will disappear." "No, Bill," said I, "I cannot 
do that. I would gladly follow you through fire, and even into 
a gambling house if necessary to accomplish some worthy end 
but never for the purpose you suggest." I then told him of 
my experience with faro while in Helena, Montana, and of the 
vow to which I invoked, as a witness, the spirit of my dear 
mother. He paced the floor for a minute, then turning to me 
with tears coursing down his sunburned cheeks, said, "My lit- 



126 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POIK WELLS 

tie friend, forgive me for thus tempting you to break a vow 
that should ever be sacred to the memory of your mother. I 
once made a similar pledge to my dear mother, but have shock- 
ingly violated it, from the fact that the gambling room and 
cards possess charms that I cannot resist, and I find comfort 
in them not attainable elsewhere ; though I would not for any- 
thing encourage you in this direction at least, to follow in my 
footsteps. It has been my opinion all the while that you were 
a gambler, or I should not have made the proposition I did." 
Instead of going to the hall, we spent the night together in his 
rooms. Wild Bill feared not the devil nor regarded man, yet 
the word "mother" caused his heart to throb like a pulsating 
pyramid, brought tears to his eyes, and changed his prospec- 
tive night's debauch into one of quietude and real enjoyment. 
Having had ample opportunity to observe the peculiarities and 
noble traits of character of this famed man, I am prepared to 
say that he was a hero of heroes, enstamped with valor divine. 
a star of beauty, a jewel coined synonym of the true, master of 
the most perfect marksmanship attainable by finite capacity, 
uncultured, yet wise as the serpent, an Apollo in form, a Her- 
cules in strength, quick to resent a wrong, yet forgiving and 
generous to a fault, and, when in seclusion with a friend, as 
loving as a, girl and as playful as a child. 

That portion of Kansas lying west of the line drawn from 
Washington County to Wichita, was a bleak and barren coun- 
try, unfit, it was thought, for the home of man. During Daniel 
Webster's ascendancy in the Senate of the United States a bill 
was presented to establish a mail route between Independence. 
Missouri, and the mouth of the Columbia River, some three 
thousand miles across plains and mountains, but the great 
statesman denounced the measure in toto and exclaimed. 
"What do we want with this vast, worthless area? This region 
of savages and wild beasts, of deserts of shifting sands, and 
whirl-winds of dusts, of cactus and prairie-dogs?" Mr. Web- 
ster thought the country was then, and always would be 
worthless, but today the entire proposed mail route is lined 
with beautiful Christian homes and thriving towns and cities 
which add great commercial importance to the United States. 
And Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill (especially the former) did 
more than any other two men to bring about this happy result. 
They made it possible for General Miles, Crook and Custer to 
act intelligently with regard to the movements of bands of 
hostile Indians. They carried messages from one to the other 
of those commanders when other scouts could not be induced 
to venture across the hostile country. Therefore, Kansas will 
not have fittingly acknowledged its appreciation of Wild Bill's 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 127 

services, nor have done adequate justice to his memory until it has 
erected at the state capitol at Topeka, a life size equestrian statue 
of America's greatest scout, not excepting Kit Carson or "Cali- 
fornia Joe." 




CHAPTER X. 

Having affectionately pressed the hand of Wild Bill for 
the last time, I mounted Frank and set out for Missouri and 
two days later reached the home of sister Sarah, who* informed 
me that sister Ruth was dead and buried, and that the Fry boys 
were still living with father. I first visited Nora, and having a 
lover's quarrel with her, and deciding to leave the country 
called on father to bid him good-bye. The noon meal being over 
we .seated ourselves on the front porch for a talk. He, gently 
laying his hand on my head, expressed the hope that I would 
not again leave him; and, after speaking of his age and the 
probability of his not living many years, again urged me to 
take charge of the. saloon business. His confidential friend. 
Alfred Fenton, previously alluded to, also urged me to remain 
at home and take care of him. "Polk," said Mr. Fenton, "you 
must stay at home and rid your father of the imposition put 
upon him by your step-brothers, who have feasted on the fat 
of the land at his expense ever since their return from the 
mountains two years ago." My step-brothers drank the best 
liquor, smoked the finest cigars, and, like Mark Twain's loafer 
"never missed a meal or paid a cent." They ate at the first 
table, thereby compelling my poor old father to take his meals 
cold. It was this state of affairs that induced me to take charge 
of the saloon, which was full of men when father and I entered 
Dick Fry was playing billiards and Joe was engaged in a four- 
handed game of seven-up. It was customary when they lost to 
set out the drinks themselves, but otherwise made father wait 
on them as if they were kings. I took my place behind the bar 
and began arranging things to my notion. The seven-up game 
ended and Joe had lost. He started to come behind the coun- 
ter but I stopped him and said, "I shall be pleased to serve you, 
sir." This, as I anticipated, made him angry, and without a 
reply he turned and left the room. Dick lost his game, too, and 
was treated similar to his brother whom he followed out of 
doors the result was a terrible fight between us, but I main- 
tained my position and succeeded in banishing the privileged 
class from my father's house. When, on the evening of the 
fight, I went to supper mother ordered me to leave the place, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 129 

and declared that if her boys could not stay at home I should 
not. I caught her in my arms, kissing- her and vowed that her 
"God should be my God," and that, "I would be to her a son 
indeed." I rose early every morning, built a fire in the cook 
stove and put the tea-kettle on. I did all the milking, some- 
times the churning, and occasionally washed the dishes for her. 
For a while she treated me with alternate fits of rage and kind- 
ness, but after her boys were beyond recall, and seeing that 
my behavior toward her was uniformly kind and courteous ; 
she responded in a true motherly spirit. I often gave her money 
and did little acts of kindness she was not accustomed to re- 
ceive from her sons or my father. In turn for these favors, 
she became as solicitous about the care of my clothing as if I 
really were her own son. When I dressed myself for a ball or 
other special occasion she would not suffer me to depart until 
she saw, with her own eyes, that everything about me was in 
its proper condition. She always tied my neck-tie, and I imag- 
ined she could get up the "bow" in the neatest manner pos- 
sible. She tenaciously clung to her orthodox faith, therefore I 
often, to oblige her, sacrificed engagements of my own in or- 
der to escort her to church on Sunday, and to the regular night 
meetings. The family, since the source of evil had departed 
assumed a good-natured aspect. There were no more cross 
looks or crusty words passed between father and mother. All 
was sunhsine, and the wheels of domestic affairs moved har- 
moniously together. 

My father's extreme old age had rendered him a mere 
play-thing in the hands of the rough element, therefore the 
''exchange" had become a noisy and unwholesome place on ac- 
count of the too frequent brawls within its walls. Conse- 
quently the better class of men withdrew their patronage and' 
my initiatory degree as bar-tender was calculated to confirm 
the withdrawal ; however, that day's triumph proved the con- 
trary, for they established me as the hero of every fire-side in 
Rushville. My demand for peace became the law, from which 
no one presumed to appeal. I soon reduced the hitherto noisy 
crowds to order and respectability, and set up a code of rules 
which I maintained to the very letter. It soon became gen- 
erally known that decent men could get their wants supplied 
at the "Exchange" without running the risk of being insulted 
or knocked down by some ruffian, and that I kept the best or- 
der, the neatest house, a better quality of liquors and other re- 
freshments than any of my contemporaries and even better 
than my father had furnished. The latter was certainly imag- 
inary, for father furnished all the supplies, and bought for me 
the same grade of goods (always the best) he had used. How- 



130 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ever, the report served to increase my popularity as a saloon- 
ist; therefore, all my father's old time friends including the 
Pitts', Fentons, Severs', "Cash" boys, Wells', Wilson and the 
numerous Watson family, all men. of wealth and respectability 
returned their patronage to the "Exchange." I furnished 
various ministers of the gospel with wine for sacramental pur- 
poses, which is not strange since Missourians were a whisky- 
drinking people. I record these facts with some degree of 
pride, although the liquor traffic was then, has ever been, and 
always will be, odious to my sense of right, and my father's 
extreme necessity for a comforter and protector is the only 
ground upon which I can base an excuse for ever engaging in 
the accursed business at all. 

Having put the " Exchange" in good order, I frequently 
left father in charge and rode out in the country to visit and 
enjoy myself with old friends. About the first of December 
I accepted an invitation to attend the birthday party of my 
good friend, Christopher Callahan. Arriving at the yard gate 
I delivered Frank to the hostler and proceeded to the house, 
where a most lovely sight met my gaze. At one end of the 
large room was erected a platform for the musicians, on which 
stood Miss Mattie and (my) Nora Wilson, singing the rebel 
air, "Jeff Davis' Cousin." They were handsomely dressed in 
white, were beautiful beyond description, and looked more like 
theatrical stars than demure country girls. Having finished 
the song they stepped from the stage and resumed their seats. 
My friend, Christopher, now came forward, and, after a most 
cordial greeting, introduced me to Miss Mattie Wilson, who 
was an own cousin to Nora, and styled the "Lake Township 
Beauty." Father had said many times that I ought to get mar- 
ried and settle down, and I thought so too, but in all my wan- 
derings I failed to meet a lady who could compete with Nora 
for my affections until meeting her cousin, Mattie, on this oc- 
casion. The two girls were about the same age (fifteen years), 
equal in wealth, health, mental capacity, and equally beauti- 
ful in face and symmetrical development. 

I was, soon after the party, engaged to Mattie, but father 
objected on account of her being a "plebian." He seemed to 
forget that he had married to suit himself, that his second as 
well as his third wife (the latter my mother) were "plebians." 
His fourth wife (my step-mother) lay claim to blood royalty, 
and some of her children were not worth the powder and lead 
it would take to kill them. I was convinced then, and doubly 
so now, that the blood has nothing to do with forming a good, 
or bad, character. I believe that in the course of a few genera- 
tions any individual family state or nation of families can 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 131 

be graded up to a high point of excellence, or down to the low- 
est depths of degredation. I had some such thoughts as these 
when father spoke of his superiority, therefore, his (to me) un- 
reasonable opposition served to increase, rather than diminish 
my determination to fulfill my engagement; and the young 
lady was as zealous in the matter as myself, so the old folks, 
seeing that we were determined to consummate our desires, 
withdrew their objections and advised an early date for the 
nuptials. 

A few days previous to the date (January 15th, 1869), set 
for our wedding I went to Atchison and, after purchasing a 
regulation suit, in company with a friend entered a wholesale 
liquor establishment of Messrs. Quigg and Allen, who politely 
insisted on selling me a bill of goods and I finally bought as a 
sample ten gallons of fine peach brandy. I had the keg sent 
over to the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs Railroad 
Depot at Winthrop, Missouri; here I put it in the baggage car 
and pre-paid the charges. Arriving at Rushville I stepped to 
the car door to receive the keg when the baggage man, Mr. 
Massy, demanded another fee which I refused to pay ; where- 
upon he and the conductor, Mr. Hemingway, jerked it from me 
and rolled it to the back side of the car. I knew nothing about 
railroad matters, but felt confident they had no right to collect 
charges twice on the same article, and being in the habit of 
protecting my rights by force of muscle or otherwise when 
occasion required it, I whipped out a "Colt's 44" and sprang 
into the car. The four men brakeman, baggageman, conduc- 
tor and express messenger seeing the big pistol fled from the 
car, leaving me master of the situation. The messenger left his 
safe open and its contents exposed to view, which I could 
have taken had I so desired, but touched nothing except my 
own property, with which I walked out of the car. Next day I 
was arrested on a charge of highway robbery, taken to St. Jos- 
eph and delivered to Sheriff Fish, who held a grudge against 
me,- and to gratify his spleen put me into a cell already occu- 
pied by two of the filthiest ruffians imaginable. He also gave 
the reporters misleading information concerning the charge 
preferred against me, and would not (at least did not) deliver 
my message to Hon. Henry Tutt, who, for many years, was my 
father's legal adviser and substantial friend. 

It was about two o'clock at night when the iron door of a 
felon's cell first closed upon me. The prisoners set up a fear- 
ful howl, which reverberated from side to side of the jail, caus- 
ing my hair to almost stand on end all the slang names be- 
longing to criminal phraseology were quickly interchanged be- 
tween the men. When the Sheriff retired the boys became 



132 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

suddenly quiet. This was to give my cell-mates an opportuni- 
ty to interrogate me as to my social and financial standing. For 
a moment I eyed in wounded pride and painful apprehensions 
my ill-favored associates, then, in tears, poured out the agony 
of my soul. One of the men was a loquacious fellow, and had 
no doubt seen better days, for he spoke with the ease and elo- 
quence of a philosopher. His wily tongue and affected sym- 
pathy for my misfortune, and the double assurance that I 
would come out all right quickly dried my tears and put me 
into a talkative mood, just what he was laboring for. I can 
fully realize, as I reflect on the scene, the story of the spider 
and the fly. I yielded wholly, and answered, unreservedly, 
every question put to me ; and .from time to time, as he gloried 
in his ability to draw me out, a smile of self-complacency 
spread over his cadaverous countenance. The boys being impa- 
tient, my story was frequently interrupted by the query, "who 
is he," "what is he," "is he a country lad?" to all of which the 
only answer vouchsafed by my interrogator was simply "No." 
When I had finished the oily-tongued individual gave the signal 
for the boys to listen profound stillness reigned my loqua- 
cious friend called out, in stentorian tones, "Rushville train 
robber." "Lots of tobacco tomorrow," suggested one fellow. 
Then tremendous shouts went up, which called forth an in- 
junction from the Sheriff to keep quiet. Roused to the point 
of violent resentment by the accusation of "robber," I sprang 
to my feet, and when the din subsided, so I could be under- 
stood, said, "You are a liar, Sir, I am not a robber." The fel- 
low laughed in my face and meekly replied, "Oh, I know you 
are innocent, but that is what the morning paper called you." 
Shortly after this all, save myself, were wrapped in profound 
slumber. I stood at the door of the cell, with my nose through 
the grating a greater portion of the night, for I could not, at 
first, endure the stench arising from the other occupants of the 
cell. 

The prisoners had organized among themselves a "judicial 
bench" through which they supplied themselves with tobacco 
from the fines imposed on late arrivals. Next morning I was 
arrested and taken into the presence of the unjust judge, whose 
office was at one end of the jail corridor. The jury was al- 
ready empaneled anxious to convict me, for they were all without 
tobacco. Half a dozen eminent lawyers proposed to defend me 
for the small fee of twenty-five cents. I gave the case to a 
bright young fellow, who demanded a private interview with 
his client, which the imposing judge reluctantly granted. The 
young attorney, after acquainting me with the proceedings of 
jail courts, advised me to plead guilty. We returned to the 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 133 

court room and the prosecuting attorney read the charge, 
horse-stealing. The judge, with the austere solemnity of a 
Chief Justice Fuller, asked, "Are you guilty or not guilty, Mr. 
Wells?" My counsel, calm and dignified, stepped forward 
saying, "We plead guilty, your honor," and in a neat, able 
speech recommended me to the mercy of the court. It smote 
my conscience- heavily to plead guilty to a dishonorable act 
even in a mock trial, and I was minded to retract, but the Devil 
whispered, "it is all in fun, you must, now, go ahead with the 
farce," so I wrote an order to Sheriff Fish for two dollars, the 
amount of my fine and costs, and handed it to the trial judge 
who, after giving me a moral lecture, eloquently logical and 
sound in principle, said, "You are now dismissed and one of 
the boys, Mr. Wells." The coveted tobacco arrived and was 
impartially divided among the men, whereupon gambling com- 
menced, and, before night, my attorney and the judge had most 
of the comfort-giving weed, showing conclusively that they 
had mastered Hoyt if not Blackstone. 

The Sheriff passed in a morning paper containing a two 
column account of the "train robbery at Rushville." My lit- 
erary cell-mate read it aloud to the boys, who cheered hearti- 
ly. At this time train-robbing was in its infancy the James 
boys, only, having preceded me in that nefarious business 
therefore the reporter seized this opportunity to air his pro- 
fessional pen, and I am free to confess that his article on the 
subject was a master composition. He recounted with careful 
and astonishing exactness, the duels of my boyhood ; traced me 
to and fro on the plains ; related my latest difficulties in Rush- 
ville and vicinity ; and then told how I had, with revolver in 
hand, taken possession of the train, plundered its safe and 
seriously wounded "Mr. Hemingway, our efficient and oblig- 
ing conductor." The fact is that I touched nothing but what 
belonged to me, and the conductor, in some way, hurt himself 
getting out of the car certainly not my fault. I protested 
against the charge of dishonesty, and stoutly insisted that if a 
wrong was committed the train men were the perpetrators. 

When I arrived at home, two hours after being released 
from jail, father handed me a letter from my betrothed, and he 
evidently hoped it contained a dismissal. I read the letter, 
then handed it to him, and after devouring its contents he re- 
turned it with the remark, "her pluck and devotion is not char- 
acteristic of plebians." "Plebian or no plebian, I shall see her 
before I sleep, though she were a thousand miles away instead 
of twenty." Her letter informed me that she had read all the 
news, declared her belief in my innocence, and vowed that she 
loved me more dearly now than ever before. It was dark 



134 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

when some two miles west of Troy, Kansas I rode up to an 
imposing farm-house and "helloed." The front door opened 
an an elderly lady stepped into the aperture. "Docs Mr. Mc- 
Allister live here?" I inquired. Before the lady could answer 
a beautiful girl, who recognized my voice, shot forth and ex- 
claimed, "Oh! it's Polk, it's Polk." She was so pure that, up 
to this time, I had not dared to touch her, but now she volun- 
tarily threw herself on my breast and our lips met in the first 
kiss a kiss of innocence and reciprocal love. 

The McAlisters, distantly related to Mattie, and to whom 
she was sent in the hope of alienating her affections, received 
me cordially and treated mie most kindly. Mrs. McAlister 
was a vivacious little lady, skilled in love's diplomacy, and 
her whole nature atuned to the romantic side of life ; therefore 
she urged us to get married. "It would be a splendid joke on 
your father, Mattie," she said. My father foresaw that this 
might occur, and had warned me against yielding to the tempta- 
tion. 

On the morning of the third day I kissed my affianced 
and returned home, only to find myself involved in another 
scandal. It was rumored that I had fled the country. My 
warmest friends (who were afraid of railroad influence, ad- 
vised me to leave, and went so far as to offer to help raise one 
thousand dollars, which they said would satisfy and secure 
my bondsmen, Judges Tutt and Tool, of St. Joseph, against 
any loss. The penitentiary was a perfect hell in my imagina- 
tion, and I was half inclined to act upon the importunities of 
my friends and depart while times were favorable. Father, 
however, turned a deaf ear to this proposition, and said that 
in adopting such a course I would not only deceive, and lose 
the respect of my bondsmen, but establish my guilt as well, 
besides placing him in a false position I had a holy horror for 
anything dishonorable, so the thought of fleeing, even to es- 
cape state's prison, was dismissed. 

Father had employed Silas B. Woodson (recently Gov- 
ernor of Missouri) and Judge Vinton Pike of St. Joseph to 
assist Mr. Tutt in my defense. They made able arguments in 
mjy behalf, but to no purpose, as court and jury were extreme- 
ly "radical," some of the latter having fought my father at 
the battles of "Wilson's Creek" and "Pea Ridge," consequently 
I was convicted before the evidence was rendered. I was ar- 
rested on the charge of highway robbery, but tried for gen- 
eral larceny, and the jury found me guilty of petty larceny, 
and assessed my fine at one dollar and costs strange render- 
ing of the law this. My attorneys were indignant at the ver- 
dict and wanted to carry the case to the Supreme Court, but I 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 135 

persuaded father to drop the matter, since I was acknowledged 
innocent in the minds of the people ; the fine and costs were 
paid and I was discharged if placed in a similar position 
again I would not rest under such an unjust, unholy decision. 

My betrothed had returned home while I was at court. I 
hastened to acquaint her with the fact that I was again a free 
man, and on Thursday evening, March 25th, 1869, we were 
married at the home of her parents. Having received the con- 
gratulations of our friends, and partaken of a sumptuous re- 
past, the inevitable old slippers, rice balls and good-natured 
jokes were thrust at us until bed time, when we were carried 
bodily into the bridal chamber and put to bed. Mattie's par- 
ents, after seeing the young people start for home, came into 
our room. Mrs. Wilson leaned over and kissed her daughter 
then pressed her lips to my cheek, with a "God bless you both." 
Mr. Wilson came forward, and taking each of us by the right 
hand, said, "My dear children, I wish you happiness and pros- 
perity in unlimited measure." Then placing Mattie's hand in 
mine, he turned to his wife, took her by the arm, picked up 
the lamp, and after a cheery "Good-night," retired. Next day 
I took my wife to Rushville, our future home. Mattie ex- 
celled herself in preparing a good dinner, and had invited some 
young folks to receive us. Father was greatly pleased, kissed 
and addressed the bride as "My dear Mattie." Mother was 
very gracious to her for a while ; then came dark frowns ; 
divers and unjust complainings. I complained of nothing my- 
self, but did a great deal worse. I avoided the presence and 
corrtpany of my wife in every way, and under every pretext I 
possibly could. I frequently remained all night in the saloon 
with customers when there was little or no profit in so doing 
I abandoned those little offices about the house that had so pleased 
and delighted mother, and withheld the usual allowance of 
pin-money. The latter aroused her displeasure to the point of 
accusing poor Mattie of being the cause of my stinginess to- 
ward her. Mattie's face, as the weeks and months rolled by 
grew wan and pinched, and her eyes lost the heavenly bright- 
ness that I was once so fond of. She was treated worse than 
a slave, yet she, "like a sheep before her shearers, opened not 
her mouth." Thus matters progressed until the middle of 
July, when one day a very sudden change of feeling came over 
me. After dinner I went to the barn to care for the stock, and 
instead of going back to the saloon by way of the street, as I 
uniformly did, returned through the garden to the house. As 
I reached the kitchen door angry words greeted my ears, and I 
stopped to hear what was being said. Mother was berating 
my wife for carelessness and "countrified manners." "And 



136 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

you are the cause," she said, "of Polk treating me so meanly, 
you know you are." "Oh ! Mrs. Wells, I never thought of try- 
ing to influence Folk's actions toward you," meekly replied the 
sorrowing Mattie, as she hastened to ascend the stairway. This 
sort of thing had become an almost daily occurrence, yet Mat- 
tie had not even hinted to me that mother was unkind to her. 
Nor had it occurred to me that I was lacking in attention, or 
in those little civilities and expressions of love that are so 
dear to feminine nature. I performed the duties devolving 
upon me in an unconcerned and mechanical sort of manner, 
yet regarded myself as being a model husband. But this affair 
aroused the slumbering forces of my better self, and my first 
impulse was to rush into the room and curse mother for 
her cruelty. "That would be unmanly," I thought, besides 
the plaintive and humble reply of my wife touched the sym- 
pathetic chords of my heart and filled me with pity for her. I 
hurried upstairs and found her sitting on the bed with face 
buried in her hands, rocking herself back and forward as if 
crushed by grief. Stepping in front of her I said, in tones full 
of sympathy and love, "My darling, what is the matter? Has 
mother been treating you meanly?" I had never spoken to 
her harshly, or in a manner implying anger, yet this was the 
first expression of real endearment that had escaped my lips 
since our marriage. She sprang to her feet, and, with a look 
of surprise and hope, gazed steadily for a moment in my eyes, 
and being assured that she was not mistaken in what she 
heard, flung herself upon my bosom, and poured out in tears 
the agony of her soul. Thus far I had not accompanied her 
anywhere, neither had I purchased so much as a pocket hand- 
kerchief for her. I was simply indifferent to outward circum- 
stances, and apparently devoid of those higher and nobler 
emotions involving the happiness of the marriage relation. 
But now, while holding her to my breast, a new spirit was 
born within me, and seeing the errors of the past, I vowed that 
I would be to her all that I had promised. The tears were 
kissed away, and the hitherto sad face now took an angelic 
smile. It was a lovely day, so I proposed a, walk. We de- 
scended the stairs, each with arm encircling the other a 
departure that mother was not prepared for, hence she stared 
at us in utter astonishment passed out of the front door and 
up the street. Reaching the point of a high bluff, overlooking 
the town of Rushville, in the great Missouri bottoms, we seat- 
ed ourselves on the luxuriant blue grass, in the shade of a 
large sugar tree, for a talk and to feast our eyes on the grand 
panorama. Atchison and the Kansas bluffs were plainly seen. 
The river right and left was visible for miles, and opposite us 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 137 

it seemed a mile wide, but tapered in both directions to a 
point, resembling a great silver serpent as it glided on through 
the majestic woods that lined its banks. When my father 
settled at Rushville these bottoms were covered with a solid 
mass of heavy timber and a dense growth of bullrushes the 
latter as high as a man's head when on horseback; but today 
beautiful and happy homes are interspersed in the great for- 
est the strips of timber dividing the farms resemble over- 
grown hedge rows. And the large fields of golden grain were 
beautiful to behold. I had looked upon this scene many times 
before, but did not discover its charms until now, and invol- 
untarily exclaimed, "I would like to be a farmer, but (regret- 
fully adding) I haven't the money to buy a farm and the nec- 
essary stock and tools with which to manage it." Mattie, full 
of enthusiasm, said, "Oh ! you could rent one for a few years 
perhaps papa could tell you of one for rent. I could help you 
ever so much, and we would soon be able to buy a place of our 
own ; in the country I could have my chickens, ducks and beau- 
tiful flowers, and and we would be so happy alone." Then 
taking my face between her hands, she kissed my lips. This 
settled the question, and I determined to become a farmer as 
soon as possible. 

Father tried to dissuade me from making the venture, but 
finding his efforts futile, gracefully acquiesced in my wishes, 
and said, "If you are bent on farming, I will do what I can t6 
assist you in making a start." Mr. Wilson thought he could 
get me a small farm from his neighbor, Mr. Isaac Peck. "I 
will endorse any agreement you make with Mr. Peck," said 
my father. The farm was secured, and possession promised 
the first of August. On that day Mr. Wilson and his wife 
came after us, and after receiving father's blessing, we set out 
for our country home. Mattie was deeply affected on leaving 
father, for she had learned to love him as. her own parent. It 
was he who, unconscious of the cause of her sorrow, had 
through kindness and words of sympathy sustained her in the 
dark hours of mother's persecution and my cruel indifference. 
On reaching Mr. Wilson's house I proposed, after unloading 
our little possessions, that we go on to St. Joseph and buy our 
furniture and other necessities. Mattie's parents had fore- 
stalled this necessity and held in store a great surprise for us ; 
they insisted on our seeing the farm first, so that we might 
better understand what was really needed. We all got into 
the wagon again and drove up to the big gate, leading through 
the horse lot to a neat little one-story, two-roomed log cabin. 
In the lot was an excellent young horse a good mate for my 
Frank two fine cows with young calves, and two Chester 



138' LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

White sows with a dozen shoats following them. In one cor- 
ner of the lot was a rail pen full of corn, under a shed built 
against the pen was a wagon, a set of harness and some plows, 
all brand new. The smokehouse contained a liberal supply of pro- 
visions, and from the roof of the house protruded a new stove- 
pipe, out of which a column of smoke was circling heaven- 
ward. The rooms were fitted up with all that was necessary 
for our health and happiness. Before reaching the house, I 
remarked that "from appearances the folks have not moved, as 
per agreement." "This is very strange," said Mr. Wilson, 
nudging his wife not to laugh and pinching himself for the 
same reason. My wife's two little brothers, as we entered the 
house, sat at the window reading, and the teakettle on the new 
stove was, singing its happy song of welcome to the new pro- 
prietors. It is needless to say that Mattie and I cried for very 
joy when Mr. Wilson handed me a bill of sale signed by him- 
self and wife to all this property. After dinner the old folks re- 
turned to their own home, leaving us to work out our own 
prosperity through love and perseverence. 

Now that the springs of love were loosened, the constant 
flow, of affection, deep and ardent, went out to my auburn- 
haired wife. To make her happy was the sole object of my 
life, and to gratify her wishes my chief desire; while she, in 
turn, sought in every way possible to make me as happy as 
herself. Mr. Peck, after getting my fall wheat in, gave me a 
lease on ten acres of land for five years, on which I was, to 
have all I could raise during that time for clearing the ground. 
The heavy timber had been cut down for saw logs, which were 
removed to the river, leaving the land covered with an almost 
impenetrable mass of debris. Mattie and I worked like beavers 
in this clearing, and being encouraged by each other's pres- 
ence and smiles, we failed to learn the meaning of the word 
tired. Day after day, side by side, we wrestled with the brush, 
grape vines and tree tops; with fire and ax, love and persever- 
ence, we succeeded in getting most of the land ready for 
spring plowing. Mattie then turned her attention to other 
matters, while I proceeded with my labors. All day long I 
could hear her happy song, as she flitted from place to place 
attending to her garden or poultry. When plowing at the back 
of the field and wanting water, all I had to do was to wave 
my handkerchief. She seemed to be always on the watch for 
the signal, and would immediately start toward me with a 
pitcher of cold sweet milk in one hand and a slice of bread and 
butter in the other. With a little straw hat set jauntily on her 
well shaped head, her large blue eyes animated with love's fire, 
and a neat white apron over a well-fitting gown, made her a 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 139 

fit subject for an artist she was the embodiment of health and 
modesty, the incarnation of beauty and happiness. After kiss- 
ing her red, rosy lips, I would devour the lunch, then another 
kiss, and she would start for the house, singing the merry old 
song, "Oh, how happy are we." 

Though buried in the depths of a great forest, we were 
not alone, for our former young friends came to see us on 
Sundays, besides legions of good spirits attended our little log 
cabin home, which was Colonel R. G. Ingersoll's ideal : "The 
home where virtue dwells, the love is like a lily with a heart 
of fire, the fairest flower in all this world/' Those were days 
enstamped with heavenly bliss, but we were not only permitted 
to enjoy them for about eighteen months, for Erebus, with 
sorrow and death in his wings, crossed the threshold of our 
little log cabin home. On New Year's night (1871) we at- 
tended a ball, and after a lively dance Mattie, unconscious of 
harm, placed herself in the draught of an open window, there- 
by contracting a severe cold, which finally developed into 
pneumonia, of which she died about the first of April. We 
had, on two or three occasions, talked of my early affections 
for her cousin, and why I had deserted her; and now, a few 
minutes before she expired, being warned of God that she was 
wanted up higher, said, "I know that Nora has always loved you). 
She is as pure as an angel and worthy to be your wife, and I 
hope you will marry her when I am gone." I assured her that 
should I conclude to marry again, none could fill her place in 
my heart so well as her cousin Nora. This seemed perfectly 
satisfactory to her, and, after a few expressions of endearment 
she took my face between her hands and drew me to her, then, 
kissing me sweetly, tenderly bade me farewell, closed her eyes 
and stepped into the golden chariot that was awaiting to con- 
vey her to heaven. 

Mattie was the most even tempered woman I ever saw. 
She never got angry, never spoke disrespectful of any one. 
and if she ever had an enemy, the fact was never made known 
to know her was to love her. Therefore a combination of 
the synonyms of grief and sorrow, with all the adjectives ap- 
plicable to them, would prove inadequate to express my lone- 
liness and distress of mind at the loss of her. The memory 
of this spotless creature of God has filled me with a desire to 
be as pure as she was, and has placed my feet on the solid rock, 
up which I am slowly creeping into realms of higher thoughts 
and nobler aspirations, and in whatever degree I may attain 
to these soul-longings after purity and goodness it will be 
due, in a great measure, to the inspiration engendered by re- 
flection on the character of a spotless and lovely woman. 



140 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

In the spring of 1872 I sought an audience with my first 
love, Nora, sweet, beautiful Nora. She was. present when I 
married her cousin, Mattie, and when the words, "I pronounce 
you man and wife," fell from the preacher's lips, she turned 
deathly pale and left the room. Up to this moment I believed 
I loved Mattie, but I was mistaken, for every tender emotion 
I was capable of followed the sorrowing Nora. So when I 
found her, I told her that the shameful treatment to which I 
had subjected poor Mattie, during the first six months of our 
wedded life, was due to my love for her ; frankly confessed my 
sin, begged a thousand pardons, which were graciously grant- 
ed, and asked her to be my wife. She said "Yes," and on the 
eighteenth of June we were married. I engaged in the grocery 
business at Hall's Station, Missouri, and lived a most happy 
and prosperous life for two years, during which time I had the 
confidence and patronage of the entire community. Nora was 
exquisitely handsome, a capital hostess, had a cordial greeting 
for all, of vivacious temperament, of pleasant address, and de- 
servedly, the most popular woman in the whole settlement. 

On the eighteenth of June (1875) a girl baby was born. 
We called her Maggie Jane, but she was soon nicknamed 
"Polk," on account of her striking resemblance to me. Al- 
though I had lost a small fortune in a lawsuit (to which I will 
refer in a subsequent chapter), and was now compelled to 
work hard to support my little family, yet I was the happiest 
man in fourteen states, for I had the prettiest and best wife in 
all America, and the smartest and sweetest baby living. Dark 
clouds, however, were gathering all along the horizon of my 
happiness. Presently the storm burst in all its fury, and great 
waves of distress, sorrow and shame engulfed my pleasant 
home. For four years I was a wandering refugee, a stranger 
to peace and joy ; and for two years more hunted and chased 
by real or imaginary foes, inevitably becoming an Ishmaelite. 
I first had a siege of rheumatism, during which time Nora was 
obliged to sell some furniture in order to supply the necessities 
of life. We then moved to Jefferson County, Illinois, to take 
charge of my uncle, John Wells,' farm, but not being satisfied 
with the country, we returned to Missouri. During my ab- 
sence father, while sick, was persuaded by mother to make 
over all his property to her. She already had in her posses- 
sion all his money (some twelve hundred dollars), and when 
he recovered sufficiently to be out again, she packed up the 
best of everything, and, taking the money with her, moved to 
her daughter's home in Kansas, thus leaving him destitute 
and alone. Leaving Nora at her brother-in-law's, I went to 
Rushville to see father. Finding the old home closed, I then 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 141 

called on his old friend, Mr. Fenton, who said, "Polk, under the 
circumstances I was compelled to accede to your father's 
wishes to be taken to the poor farm, where he died a few days 
ago of heart disease." "What ! My proud old father die in the 
poor house? My God, is this the beginning of the fulfillment 
of Mrs. Yazell's prophecy?" The constant recurrence of these 
thoughts unmanned me and I prayed to die. The finger of 
scorn was ever before me, and wherever I went was sure to 
meet that same "Go-away-don't-come-near-me-your-father-died- 
ini-the-poor-house" sort of expression on the faces of my once 
familiar and trusted friends. Occasionally those touched with 
my grief tried to console me, but their very efforts stung me 
to the heart, and I spurned their sympathy. "If they are truly 
friends," I asked myself, "why do they reproach me with a re"- 
hearsal of my father's misfortune?" Some, I have no doubt 
now, were sincere in their efforts to cheer and comfort me, but 
I misconstrued their motives, saw only the sting of contempt 
beneath their honeyed words and pleasant smiles, and, of 
course, repelled them all alike. Sensitiveness, then, was, has 
been, and is yet in too great a measure, the bane of the 
genius in my life. A proud, high-strung man will suffer more 
through sensitiveness than from the rigors, hardships and pri- 
vations of a prolonged war. If this characteristic element, 
spirit, or whatever it is (I call it Devil) could be eliminated 
from human nature, existence on this earth would not be so 
replete with sorrows, disappointments and vexations. I say. 
most emphatically, that nine-tenths of the crimes committed 
today, or any other time, must be originally charged to sensi- 
tiveness. It had complete possession of me, and in conse- 
quence thereof I cursed Mr. Yeakly, my brother-in-law, and 
almost struck him for offering to give me work. The proposi- 
tion to employ me as a common laborer on his farm was a re- 
flection on my reduced condition, an insult of the rankest sort 
to my proud nature, but when his wife (Nora's sister) told 
me to ride his horse to town and sell it I did not become of- 
fended, as would have been the case under other circum- 
stances. Of course the good lady had no thought of my act- 
ing upon her jesting advice. I was, however, in a condition 
to consider a proposition of dishonesty in preference to one 
of honest toil, for the. Devil had taken absolute control of my 
mind and held it. "Oh, yes," said Mr. Devil, "I know you are 
already on record (referring to my late trial for train robbery) 
as a petty thief, so why halt ye between two opinions? You 
can sell the horse for enough to take you to the mountains, 
where you can soon make a fortune, return home, refund the 
money obtained through sale of the animal, and live like a 



142 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

gentleman the remainder of your days on earth." This crush- 
ing insinuation, "you are already on record as a petty thief/' 
together with my father's ignoble death, stifled my pride, 
while the advice of the mysterious messenger gave me courage 
to act with hope of retrieving all I had lost. The more I 
thought about this matter the clearer I saw my way out of 
the difficulty, a'nd mentally remarked, "If I sell the horse and 
afterward refund the money, I will not have committed a very 
great sin." There was, at this time, great gold excitement in 
various parts of the west. I could see great masses of precious 
ore lying on the ground waiting for me to come and gather 
it up. This vision of gold and happiness put new life into me. 
My step became more energetic and my eyes brightened at 
the prospect of having, once more, a home for my wife and 
baby. I yielded to Satan's suggestions, through my sister-in- 
law, rode the horse to St. Joseph, sold him to Jones Casey for 
fifty dollars, and took the train for Salt Lake City, Utah. 




CHAPTER XL 

Uncle Leonard I Smith was still living in the Mormon 
metropolis, and to him I applied for information concerning 
the mines. "The gold excitement," said he, "has subsided, 
leaving the country overrun with idle men; I can, however, 
give you work, or get you a situation elsewhere, but just now 
you don't look able to do much ; so make yourself at home and 
rest easy for a while." At this time there was a craze for 
private teachers in the homes of city gentlemen; therefore 
uncle employed me to act in that capacity in his country home. 
Having received instructions, I started for the ranch, which 
was some six miles east of Tooele City, Utah. I was cordial- 
ly received by Aunt Mary and felt myself at home from the 
start, but soon learned that my pupils were better educated 
than myself. I never felt so unfit and unworthy of a situa- 
tion as I did of this one of schoolmaster. Besides a relapse of 
rheumatism, brought on by the sudden change of climate, 
rendered me a burden rather than a blessing to the family. 
However, my malady was of short duration, for the great kindness 
with which I was treated, the thoughts of Nora and the baby, 
the wish to get well, and the health-giving breeze off the great 
Salt Lake soon put me on the road to convalescence. I quick- 
Iv grew strong in body and vigorous in mind, and zealously 
entered upon my new duties. My topographical knowledge of 
a good portion of the United States, coupled with a familiar- 
ity of the history of many leading statesmen, enabled me to 
answer, with some degree of intelligence, the many questions 
of my pupils. I not only succeeded in getting them interest- 
ed in their studies, but aroused their agricultural proclivities 
as well. Willie, a boy of sixteen, and I soon put the farm in 
excellent condition, and collected a number of cattle belong- 
ing to the ranch. 

Having harvested the wheat, I began plowing for another 
crop, when uncle appeared on the scene. He was so well 
pleased with the way I had conducted his affairs that he 
shouted for joy, and declared I had made the old ranch to 
"blossom as the rose," and said he would have the patriarch, 
John Smith, bless me the first time I came to the city. I now 



144 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

made a bargan with uncle to work the farm on shares. He 
was to furnish everything, including my board, and give me 
half of all the produce, as well as half of the increase of stock. 
When he departed for the city he took with him a letter for 
Nora, in which I presented my prospects and implored her 
forgiveness for leaving home without bidding her and the 
baby good-bye. Her answer relieved me very much. Mr. 
Yeakly had recovered his horse, and Mr. Casey, to whom I 
sold the animal, said he would not prosecute me. Nora 
graciously forgave me, and Mrs. Yeakly said she would take, 
care of her and the baby until I was able to send for them 
"by so doing," she said, "I will, in a measure, atone for my 
sin in prompting you to do as you did." Being thus freed 
from anxiety about my family, and the dread of arrest for 
horse-stealing dispelled, I could work with a will and a light 
heart. Having filled our own yard with wood (which had to 
be drawn from the mountains four miles away) for winter 
use, I then contributed two loads 'to the village school house, 
which served as a place of worship for the "Saints," where 
they gathered once a week in summer and twice a week in 
winter to "trip the light fantastic toe." Uncle's family and 
myself were regular attendants at the dances, which were 
opened and closed by prayer by the "Presiding Elder." At 
intervals, the music would stop long enough for someone to tell 
a story or sing a song. These parties were highly enjoyable 
and instructive, good feeling among themselves prevailed, and 
courtesy toward strangers (Gentiles) was the rule. What- 
ever may be thought of, or said about, Mormonism, I have 
this to say of its votaries : they are the most industrious, eco- 
nomical, virtuous, sociable and benevolent people I ever dwelt 
among the Dunkards not excepted. They are, however, ter- 
ribly vindictive when their religion is scoffed at. 

During the early part of 1877 uncle made us several visits. 
each time delivering a lecture in the school house, on what he 
termed "The Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon." 
He was a handsome man, faultless in speech, elegant in man- 
ner, and mathematically precise in his comparisons and rep- 
resentations ; hence the people "heard him gladly." He labor- 
ed diligently to impress me with the reasonableness of his 
faith in, and the infallibility of, Mormonism, and urged me 
to embrace it. "The Patriarch," he said, "is of the opinion 
that you are of the seed of Ephriam, and if so, you are not 
only under ten-fold obligation, individually to become a Latter 
Day Saint, but bound by all the ties of kinship to cast your 
lot with us God has sent you to Zion for the express pur- 
pose of saving your friends and relatives." "How can I save 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 145 

them," I asked, "when they are dead or beyond my power of 
assistance?" Having read ist Cor. 15-29, 32, he said, "You 
see God has provided a way by which you can save them, 
though dead, viz. : link yourself with his chosen people, re- 
pent of your sins, believe on Jesus Christ and His Prophet 
Joseph Smith, get baptized, first for yourself, then for each 
of your male relatives, using their names at the fount in- 
stead of yours ; your wife can act as proxy for your mother 
and sisters, and then in turn you can do the same for the male 
portion of her relatives just think how glorious it will be for 
you to reign king of the Wells and Wilsons and receive their 
praises for evermore." This was a beautiful idea, and I was 
deeply impressed by the earnestness with which it was pre- 
sented, yet the whole scheme was to me the veriest bosh, and 
hence I declined to accept the crown. Uncle received my 
reply in evident sorrow and disappointment, and after a mo- 
ment's reflection said, "Charles, there cannot be a lake of fire 
to consume the wicked as represented by Gentile Christianity, 
but there is a hell worse than that, viz. : eternal servitude to 
God's people (Mormons), will be the portion of the ungodly 
The Saints will own everything, have all the women, too, and 
there will be no appeal or change of venue granted from this 
decree when once made. I would feel greatly pained to have 
you apply to me in Heaven for a situation as carriage driver." 
"My dear uncle," said I, "you certainly will not be less kindly 
to me there than you have been here, therefore, since as you 
know I am particularly fond of fine horses, I shall consider 
myself extremely fortunate in securing the position of coach- 
man of your Heavenly mansion." This sort of levity, though 
no disrespect intended, was rank sacrilege in my uncle's esti- 
mation, and he turned angrily away, muttering something to 
himself about the "buffetings of Satan." He was not so 
agreeable or talkative after this, but always treated me kind- 
ly. On the 17th of July he came out to the farm, bringing 
with him a letter from Nora, which informed me of the death 
of our baby, and urgently requesting me to send for her immedi- 
ately. The next morning uncle and I met in deadly combat 
he armed with a double-barreled shotgun and I with a Colt's 
revolver. He fell at the second shot, while I remained stand- 
ing, though twenty-eight number two buck-shot from his gun 
entered my breast, left arm and thighs. Bleeding furiously I 
hastened to Tooele, (the county seat) and after having my 
wounds dressed by Dr. Dodds, surrendered to the sheriff. No 
words can fittingly express the regret of my heart over this 
tragedy, which occurred in the presence of twenty witnesses 
and all I have to say in vindication of my conduct is that I was 



146 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

innocent of the charge uncle preferred against me, and, of 
course, acted in self-defense. Yet I have a thousand times 
wished that I had fallen instead of uncle, for he was a good 
man, kind husband, an indulging father and a mo-st excellent 
neighbor. 

The Endowment House (practically house of secrets) is 
a prominent and significant feature of Mormonism, and only 
the true and tried are permitted to cross the threshold of this 
sacred institution, and one of the many orders finding ready 
admittance is the "Danites," six hundred strong, composed of 
"mighty men of valor," who are ready and willing to do any- 
thing in the behalf of the church, or to avenge wrongs com- 
mitted by Gentiles against its subjects. In the absence of male 
relatives to administer vengeance, a young Danite is commis- 
sioned to execute the decree of death. He goes forth with or- 
ders to follow the condemned to the ends of the earth, and is 
bound by a terrible oath never to return until having killed 
the offender. John D. Lee, Porter Rockwell and Bally Hick- 
man (the delegated "Destroying Angels") were at the head 
of the Danites. Ordinarily they were able in themselves to 
cope with offenders, but were vested with power in extra- 
ordinary case to summon the entire "order," and a failure to 
respond to their call was equivalent to death. The Danites 
talked freely of lynching me, but they were confused over the 
execution of their leader, John D. Lee, by the United States 
Government. Besides, Sheriff Mitchell, who was an old Cali- 
fornian, said if mob violence was attempted he would oppose 
it with the entire Gentile population, which was largely in the 
majority in Tooele County. All county officials, except Judge 
William Lee, were Gentiles. I was given a preliminary hear- 
ing, and would have been acquitted under the same evidence 
rendered before a Gentile judge, but Mr. Lee was a Mormon 
of the Endowment Order, and, though in great sympathy with 
me, dare not ignore his oath ; therefore, I was held to await the 
action of the grand jury, and ordered confined in the county 
jail. The sheriff, however, disregarded the order, gave me 
two pistols with which to defend myself, and said, "All I ask 
of you, Charles, is to report at the hotel where I stay for your 
meals and lodging until your case is finally disposed of by 
proper authority. 

Sheriff Mitchell, upon August 10th, having business in 
another county, requested me to go to Salt Lake City and sur- 
render to the United States marshal. He gave me ten dollars 
and allowed me to keep his revolvers, and sent his deputy 
with me to the city. We wandered about town for some time, 
and I was given every opportunity to escape which the sher- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 147 

iff no doubt intended I should do but such a thought never 
entered my mind. The deputy, noting this fact, was obliged 
at last to deliver me to the marshal, Colonel Nelson, who, af- 
ter consulting the court, decided that, since the county jail 
was controlled by Mormons, the penitentiary was the safest 
place for me. Accordingly Deputy Marshal Cole escorted me 
to the prison, some four miles southeast of the city. I was 
cordially received by Warden Van Camp and presented to a 
number of his more noted and conspicuous guests, to three of 
whom I will introduce the reader, Eli Lee, son of John D. Lee. 
of Mountain Meadow massacre fame; William Sloan (alia^ 
"Idaho Bill"), only survivor of the above named massacre, and 
Dick Bennett (alias Jack Wiggins), originally from Missouri 
and a once trusted member of the James gang. Eli and Idaho 
were raised together by Rachel, the legitimate wife of John D. 
Lee. They were fast friends, fairly well educated, and early 
became imbued with a deadly hatred for Mormonism, and 
hence stood no better in the eyes of the church than myself. 
These men had just begun a ten years' sentence, the first two 
for highway robbery, and the latter for murder in the second 
degree; consequently they were very anxious to gfet away, 
but two escapes having occurred within six weeks, in which 
two of Warden Van Camp's predecessors were killed, caused 
that gentleman to be doubly vigilant. When I entered the in- 
stitution, the boys took new hope, and finally convinced me 
that, if I had neither money nor friends, the lawyers would 
not take my case. "If one is appointed by the court to de- 
fend you," said Lee, "he will put your case off to attend to 
other business, and the chances are that you will have to lay 
here for years before getting a trial." Idaho then pointed out 
two young men who were in my condition, and who had been 
in prison four years and were no nearer a trial than when ar- 
rested. I learned this also from one of the guards, who 
seemed kindly disposed toward me. I recognized the fact 
that I could not, without money, command the services of an 
attorney, and would, of course, have to await his pleasure 
in taking hold of my case. The idea of escaping was farthest 
from my thoughts, nor did the men around suggest such a 
measure at first. They seemed to content themselves with 
making me feel as blue as possible, but on reaching that state 
of desperation when death is preferable to life, Idaho Bill, who 
was a skillful mind reader, approached me on the subject of 
making an escape. 

The penitentiary consisted of one acre of ground, en- 
closed by four huge adobe walls, on which were stationed day 
and night, four guards armed with Winchester rifles; four 



148 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

large street lamps kept the yard bright as day at night. Its 
walls were of two by eight stuff, spiked together flatwise ; the 
foundation was of ordinary construction, and the floor laid of 
large flat stones. Along the east side and south ends were 
three tiers of bunks. In the west side were three small win- 
dows, and in the north end was the iron-grated door. Imme- 
diately north of this door, twenty paces, was the big gate 
which opened into the warden's reception room, and adjoining 
this on the east along the north wall was his residence. Di- 
rectly over the big gate was a room leading onto the wall. In 
this room the relief guards slept, in front of which gathered 
those on duty when anything unusual was going on in the 
prison house, and in which eighty-five men sixty convicts, 
the rest, like myself, awaiting trial were compelled (during 
summer) from six p. m. to half past seven a. m. They were 
allowed two meals a day breakfast at eight and supper at 
four. The menu was too horrible for description. The men 
were dressed in citizen style and without employment. After 
breakfast everybody (except the sick) were turned into the 
yard, the house locked and the key sent to the warden's of- 
fice. The prisoners were allowed an undisturbed intercourse. 
Some walked arm in arm and conversed on the political issues 
of the day; others engaged in various athletic sports to pass 
away the time, while the desperate characters were plotting an 
escape. At six o'clock the men were driven into the house 
and counted like a flock of sheep. Now fiddling, dancing, card 
playing and vile stories were in order until nine o'clock, when 
all must retire, and from that time on no one was allowed to 
speak above a low whisper. 

Lee and Idaho having formulated a plan of escape it de- 
volved upon me to play sick, in order that I might remain in 
the house, so I could braid, out of strips of blanket, a rope 
with which to scale the wall. On the night of September 4th. 
while the guards were collected at the guard house over the 
big gate so they could look through the grated door at the 
prisoners dancing, I went to work on the foundation of the 
house that held me captive. Having accomplished my pur- 
pose, I said "Come on, boys," and as the last man (Wiggins) 
in the secret, made his exit the guard called, "Nine O'clock." 
W r e hastened to the southwest corner of the enclosure where 
Idaho Bill, the giant, placed his hands against the wall, Wig- 
gins next on top of Bill, and Wilson on Wiggins' shoulders ; 
now Lee, with the agility of a cat, sprang up the improvised 
ladder, and from Wilson's shoulders was enabled to mount the 
wall, but his panther-like spring sent the boys to the ground 
like a "strike" in nine-pins. He took a turn around a post in 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



149 



the wall with the blanket rope, which was quickly ascended by 
the other men, but the terrible ordeal I had passed through, 
coupled with the work and excitement incident to such an 
event, overtaxed my strength, and when midway up the rope 
I gave out and fell to the ground. By this time our escape had 
been discovered, and the guards were rushing along the walls 
in search of us. Lee was the bravest of the brave, and well he 
deserved the sobriquet "Daring Eli," now said, "Charles, tie 
the rope around your waist and we'll pull you up or die try- 
ing." Although an expert with the rope, I had not time to 
make a loop, so I seized it with both hands and teeth and was 
quickly landed on top of the wall, from which we tumbled like 
turtles off a log and disappeared in the darkness. 

Hatless, coatless and barefooted, over sage brush and 
prickly pear, we hurried toward Tooele City, where Lee had 
friends, of whom we expected to get clothes and arms. Before 




An Exciting Scrap with the Danites. 



daylight we entered the timber on the mountains overlooking 
Garfield station, on the great Salt Lake. Here we remained un- 
til night came again, and when the lights in the village were 
extinguished, came down from our hiding place and entered the 
store of Mr. Moss, a good Mormon, and took a double-bar- 
reled shot-gun along with such other things as were most 



150 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

needed. I vigorously protested against this unlawful act, but 
the boys laughed at me and said they would, in a few days, pay 
for the goods providing the merchant said nothing about our 
visit, but the gentleman, recognizing Lee and myself said ne 
would report us to the officers in the city at the earliest pos- 
sible moment. The officers of the law and the Danites were 
soon in pursuit of us ; we succeeded, however, in eluding them 
and returned to the city where Higgins and Wilson deserted 
us. Lee and Idaho now stole three fine horses which, under 
my protest, we mounted and started for the Medicine Bow 
Mountains, in Wyoming. The next evening at the camp of a 
sheep herder, where we stopped to get something to eat and 
to let our horses rest, we had a battle with the Danites, in 
which several of them were wounded. After the first volley 
Idaho Bill run, Lee fell forward on his face as if a bullet had 
pierced his heart, and I then ran in the same direction Bill had 
taken. 

The sun had settled behind the tall Wastch Mountains, 
which cast a grateful shadow over the scene, preventing fur- 
ther pursuit on the part of the Danites for that evening. Bill 
and I soon got together and hid ourselves in the brush, on the 
creek bottom, to await the passing of a Union Pacific train, so 
.we could tell in which direction we wanted to go by its whistle. 
Presently one was heard coming down Echo Canyon, and a min- 
ute later began whistling for Echo City, but we could not for the 
life of us locate the whistle. Its sound rushed up one canyon 
and down another, bouncing from crag to crag, filling the 
mountains with bellowing fiery monsters, completely bewil- 
dering us as to the direction. If "Mark Twain" is still in 
search of an "eighteen carat echo," he can surely find one in 
the vicinity of the "Devil's Slide," on Weber River, Utah. The 
roaring of the train died away like unto distant thunder, and 
the wind had driven the thick clouds before it, letting the sil- 
ver moon look down upon us in peaceful splendor, raising our 
courage, and increasing our hopes of escape. The north star- 
in its shroud of purple, glittered like a jewel, and seemed to 
invite us in his direction, but we preferred going east. As we 
were about to depart soft footsteps fell upon our alert ears. 
I caught a glimpse of an object through an opening in the 
bushes which had every appearance of a man crawling along 
on his hands and knees. When directly in front, and within 
ten paces of us, I leveled my gun to fire. "Hold," said Bill, 
"it's a bear ; if you shoot it the Danites who were still at the 
sheep camp, for we could hear them talking will be after us 
in a minute." Old Bruin, hearing Bill's voice, or the click of 
the gun lock, reared on his haunches and gazed so steadily at 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 151 

us that I began to doubt its being a bear and,since decisive 
action is more agreeable to my nature than prolonged suspense, 
I threw a stone, which struck the intruder's head, in anticipa- 
tion of his retreating or attacking us at once, and he chose the 
latter. Bill had said, "If he attacks us we must fight it out 
with our knives as it will not do to run or shoot." We met 
Bruin with cold steel, and equally cool determination, and his 
bearship was quickly dispatched. Bill received an affectionate 
embrace and was bitten in the hand, but I escaped without 
harm. We cut from the bear's quarter a chunk of meat for our 
breakfast and immediately left this unpleasant place. We 
reached Weber River late in the evening of the next day, and 
secreted ourselves in the tall willows some distance below Echo 
City, at the mouth of Echo Canyon. Here we were obliged to 
remain until dark in order to enter the canyon unobserved, or 
make a long and tedious journey around the village. We were 
facetiously congratulating ourselves on having successfully 
eluded the sleuth-hounds of Mormondo<m, when lo, to our as- 
tonishment and dismay, about thirty well mounted avenging 
angels appeared on the bluff directly above and within one 
hundred yards of where we lay. "Here's where they went 
down," said one. of the Danites, and the party plunged down 
the hillside toward us. We rushed fro mour hiding places 
amid shouts of "Halt, halt, sic, sic." [The two big black dogs 
thinking we were after the same object dashed past us, 
leaped over the bank and swam across the river. We dropped 
on the ground, in a clump of bushes, and the destroying angels 
seeing the dogs sweeping along the opposite shore, sailed past 
on either side and within ten paces of where we lay. We now 
returned to the point from which we were routed. I led the 
way, holding to Bill's coat-tail, while we walked backward 
with brush in hand, effacing our trail in the sand. Presently 
our pursuers returned, as anticipated, looking for our tracks. 
They rode around and around, passed and repassed us twenty 
times, and when they could no longer see, galloped away down 
the river, cursing their "stupid" canine friends and their ill 
success. We suffered much from hunger and nightly forced 
marches, no human eye seeing us until Green River City. Here 
Bill sold a Masonic badge for ten dollars, and we then entered 
a restaurant for supper. There are at least two periods in a 
man's life when he will diligently search the papers, viz: when 
running for, or running from, an officer. So while our meal 
was being prepared, we hastily examined the news stand. A 
Salt Lake paper was found containing a full account of our 
chase up to the sheep camp, and closed by saying, "Wiggins. 
Wilson, Lee and Idaho Bill made good their escape, but Wells 



152 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

was captured, hung, and his body riddled with Danite bullets." 
Of course it was gratifying to be thus disposed of, and as I 
had some delicacy in contradicting the statement, the Mor- 
mons were permitted for a time to gloat over the false ac- 
count of "summary vengeance and retributive justice." Next 
day, at Wilkins, we were arrested on a charge of robbing a 
ranchman's wagon, taken back to Green River and put in jail. 
Three days later, while having our preliminary examination, 
the Sheriff brought in the guilty parties and we were released. 
But Bill made use of insulting language to express his indig- 
nation at our unlawful detention, whereupon the judge fined 
him twenty-five dollars for contempt of court, and not having 
that amount he was returned to jail. His Honor then gave me "fif- 
teen minutes to get out of town." I was not like the cowboy, 
who, on receiving similar instructions at Cheyenne, said, "all 
right, jedge, if my broncho don't buck I'll git thar." There 
was no danger of my broncho bucking, therefore the time al- 
lowed to disappear was sufficient and right willingly did I 
avail myself of the privilege. Lee was captured at Cheyenne 
and taken back to the Utah penitentiary; Wilson and Idaho 
Bill were hung for stage robbery by the vigilantes near Vir- 
ginia City, Montana, and Wiggins (alias Jack McCarthy) died 
with smallpox in 1884. He was still a fugitive from justice, liv- 
ing in a "dug-out" on the western border of Kansas, when the 
Sheriff of Satan seized him and he went down to the grave un- 
wept, unhonored and unsung such is the fate of the trans- 
gressor. 

I traveled mostly alone after leaving Green River, but at 
midnight joined myself to a "citizen (tramp) of that country," 
and "would fain have filled my belly" with the roots that the 
prairie dogs did eat, but God, in His mercy, withheld the curse 
of Nebuchadnezzar. Arriving at a water tank, some miles west 
of Rawlins, I found half a dozen tramps waiting for an east 
bound freight train. They had all been to the section house for 
something to eat, but each, in turn, was sent away empty 
handed. They laughed at me when I proposed to try my luck 
with Mr. Dives, of the "Bitter Creek" Division. The foreman 
of the section gang was digging a cellar near his kitchen door. 
I approached and said, "Sir, please let me work a while for 
something to eat/' He readily recognized the fact that I was 
not a professional tramp, and the scowl that darkened his 
handsome face changed into compassion as he said, "All right 
young fellow." He went to the depot, leaving me at work 
on the cellar while his little girl sat on the bank and talked to 
me. Her mother's maiden name was Fannie Cox and her 
Grandma Cox, she said, "lived in .Omaha, Nebraska." The 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 153 

child, having given me a full account of the family, ran after 
her pa, leaving me to wrestle with the dirt and with the demon 
spirit of hypocrisy and selfishness. "I will," I said, "pretend 
to know Mrs. Fannie and perhaps she will give me a good 
supper." Accordingly, when the lady called me, I entered the 
house and in a surprised but pleased manner extended my hand 
with "glad to see you, Fannie." The lady was really "delighted 
to see an old friend," but she could not recall my name. She 
gave me an excellent supper and when I declined to stay over 
night, said, "let me put you up a lunch for tomorrow." I ac- 
cepted the lunch in genuine thankfulness, yet my tongue 
burned with shame and my soul was marred by the practice of 
deception. Her husband, too, pressed me to stay over night 
with them, but I could not, having already told a hundred lies 
in support of each other, and refused to give my name for rea- 
sons already known. The freight train arrived and the foreman 
asked the conductor to let me ride with him to Rawlins. 

At Fort Steel, on the North Platte River, I undertook to 
ride a wild horse for a ranchman. The saddle was re-adjusted 
and I mounted the unconquerable steed, raised the blind and 
he at once commenced the gyrating movement, then bucked 
backwa-d and forward alternately, which movement would up- 
set, the liver of a wooden man, but failing to throw me off 
sprang forward at full speed a characteristic of the wild horse 
that if he starts to run he will continue until exhausted, when 
he becomes perfectly tractable and ever after recognizes that 
rider as his master, though he will sometimes buck when a 
stranger mounts him toward the river, and, instead of turn- 
ing, as I expected, took a fearful leap into the stream. The 
water was not deep enough to break the force of our descent 
consequently the horse's front legs were broken short off by 
striking the hard bottom, and the shock so stunned me that I 
fell into the water and drowned, that is to say, I was past re- 
covery so far as any efforts to save myself were concerned. I 
was quickly rescued from my perilous condition and soon re- 
gained consciousness, and after receiving from the gentleman 
the ten dollars, which he had offered to anyone who could ride 
the horse, and to which the cowboys admitted I was entitled. 
I again started toward the rising sun. I was about to give up 
the search for employment when Mr. D. R. Clay, County Com- 
missioner, drove into Medicine Bow and someone said "there's 
young Clay, he has a fine ranch eighteen miles northwest of 
here ; perhaps he can give you work." I was a seedy looking 
individual, but mustered courage to ask the commissioner for 
a job. "I have," said he, "more men than I really need, but 
you may stay with me until the round-up commences when 



154 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

your services will be needed by some of my neighbors, or an op- 
portunity may present itself by which you can make a few dol- 
lars by catching Mavericks." I took a seat in the buggy beside 
the gentleman, and at sundown we reached his home on Medi- 
cine River. Mrs. Clay, dressed in silk, with diamonds flashing, 
looking more like a princess than the wife of a ranchman, came 
out to meet her husband, and said, "Dear, you must come right 
in for supper is waiting." On our way to the ranch Mr. Clay, 
a philosopher and a brilliant conversationalist, talked about the 
mountains and valleys ; of various countries and sancient 
heroes; quoted Homer and Shakespeare, and told me many 
pleasant stories. But he asked no questions relative to my life 
or calling, nor did he say anything about his own affairs. 
Therefore, I was unprepared to meet the handsome lady and 
her little daughter, Mabel, amid the splendors of civilization 
away out here among the sage brush and mountain lion; but 
rather expected to find a den of cowboys surrounded with their 
usual paraphernalia : saddles, spurs, lariats, horse hobbles and 
big whips ; with the walls strung with hair cinches, cantanas. 
tapideroes and chaparijoes (leather breeches), pistols and guns. 
After supper Mr. and Mrs. Clay stepped into the parlor, leav- 
ing me alone in the dining room. I almost adored Mr. Clay for 
his kindness to me and thought I had detected (and did) some- 
thing of his noble character and considerateness in the beauti- 
ful face of his wife, yet she seemed so self-superior and haughty 
that I wished myself away, and was on the point of flying 
from the room, when she entered with a lovely boquet and ; 
holding it toward me, asked, "Are you fond of flowers?" I 
replied that I was, at the same time taking them from her 
jeweled hand. "What is your name?" was the next puzzling 
question. I was not as proficient in lying then as I became 
afterward, but, swallowing the lump that had risen in my 
throat, I managed to say, "John Watson." Taking me by the 
arm she said, "Come with me, John." We passed into a large, 
well furnished room, where Mr. Clay sat playing with his little 
angel, Mabel. I was shown the bric-a-brac, flowers, picture 
albums and a large case full of excellent books, which the good 
lady said I was welcome to use, and that I must consider my- 
self at home while I remained with them. The whole scene 
appeared to be a dream, or a real reproduction of that happy 
home of my childhood, therefore, when Mr. Clay who ap- 
provingly witnessed our tour of inspection asked, "Now, sir. 
how do you like our little home," I could not answer him but 
buried my face in my hands and silently wept while he played 
"Home, Sweet Home" on the organ, his wife accompanying 
him with her voice and the guitar. I was most miserable in 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 155 

thought, yet felt happy and thankful for having fell into the 
hands of these good Samaritans. The music was continued until 
bed time, when Mr. Clay escorted me into an adjoining room 
and pointing to a bed (fit for President Cleveland), said, "You 
can sleep there, John." "I cannot sleep in that bed, sir." "Why 
not?" "Because I am covered with filth and parasites." "Oh, 
we can easily remedy that," said he. After taking a thorough 
bath, I put on a suit of Mr. Clay's clothes, consigned my own. 
with its numerous family, to the flames and returned to my 
room. 

There has been much speculation as to the origin of the 
term "Maverick," and the vocation of the "cowboy." Most 
people believe the latter is of the nineteenth century produc- 
tion, but a perusal of sacred history shows that Abel "brought 
of the firstlings of his flock an offering unto the Lord." Abra- 
ham and Lot had herds in the land of Canaan, "and there was 
a strife" between their cow-boys. Saul was a ranchman and 
Da an Edomite, was his foreman, and kept on hand an army 
of cowboys. Amos was a cowboy in Syria, and Moses himself 
participated in the great "round-up" in Egypt. And Isaac was 
a cattle king in Gerar. St. Patrick, the exterminator of snakes 
herded cattle on the mountains of Ireland; and Carrera, begin- 
ning life as a cowboy, rose to the Presidency of the Republic of 
Gautemala. Therefore, the cowboys' profession is not only 
made honorable by its long standing, but by its distinguished 
participants ; while the "Maverick" is of comparatively recent 
origin. I have heard many hot and furious debates over its 
birthplace, but the most reasonable and authentic account 
comes from George M. Maverick, who, in a letter to the St. 
Louis Republic, says : "Honorable Samuel A. Maverick, of San 
Antonio, Texas, was a lawyer, with a strong propensity for 
speculation, and during the year 1845, a neighbor being in debt 
to him, settled the account by transferring to him a herd of 
cattle. Mr. Maverick, being absorbed in real estate matters, 
allowed the increase of his herd to grow up unbranded. The 
calf, becoming independent, leaves the mother, and, if over 
six months old and unbranded is thereafter known as a "Mav- 
erick." Neighbors regarded all such calves as being Maver- 
icks, so they called them 'Mavericks.' No one could know his 
cattle except by the brand, and so the first brand settled the 
question of ownership ; therefore the unbranded, stray calves 
were dubbed 'Mavericks.' The name spread throughout the 
west and 'filled an aching void/ for the cowboy of today would 
be lonesome if he could not call a 'maverick' a 'maverick/ J 

On the tenth day after my arrival at Mr. Day's the 
"round-up" (a semi-annual practice) was inaugurated. A num- 



156 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

her of stock raisers, with a score of cowboys, mounted their 
horses and set out for the chase. Mr. Clay, myself and his 
herder accompanied the party. The various herds, after sev- 
eral days hard riding, were collected at Mr. Clay's ranch, 
where the necessary branding was to be done. Small bands 
were "cut out" from the main herd and driven into a stout 
corral, where two or more posts were set firmly into the 
ground, and to these the cattle, after being lassoed, were 
drawn, with heads cloise up to the snubbing post. Another 
rope is thrown over the head, two half-hitches taken round the 
body, then a quick, strong pull on it by the cowboys and the 
animal falls on its side, and before recovering from the surprise 
the branding iron is applied. The unclaimed and unbranded 
stock (mostly young) was put into a separate lot while the rest 
of the band was turned upon the prairie and another corralled 
Thus the work continued until the entire herd was disposed of. 
Then the "Mavericks" the legitimate property of the cowboys 
were driven into the corral, when, to me, the real fun com- 
menced. On such occasions each vaquero stands ready, lasso 
in hand, and at the word "go" all rush toward the "mavericks." 
Occasionally all the boys miss, owing to the fact of their be- 
coming entangled in each other's lariats, in which case the um- 
pire calls "time," and a new start is taken. When the first loop 
encircles a calf's neck "time" is called. The "maverick" brand- 
ed with the employer's brand, and the successful cowboy re- 
ceives its value in cash. In case of two being caught simultan- 
eously they are both branded, otherwise only the first, and the 
other turned loose when a new start is made. I have seen as 
high as three lassoes on one calf's neck at the same time, but 
the first loop held the "maverick." On the occasion of the 
"round-up" in question there were twenty-five "mavericks" 
and eighteen "contestants" in the corral. I caught seven out 
of the twenty-five "mavericks," thereby distinguishing myself 
as an expert with the lasso. My seven calves were branded 
with Mr. Clay's brand and I received for them sixty dollars. 
Mr. Stanley, a large stock owner, being present, offered me 
sixty dollars per month to work for him. I told Mr. Clay I 
would accept the offer unless he wanted me whereupon he 
said, "John, I will give you sixty dollars per month to work 
for me," which offer was gladly and thankfully accepted. Mr. 
Jones gave a dance at his ranch on the success of the "round- 
up," and at its close received a purse of fifteen dollars for my 
services, thus suddenly rising from penury to opulence. Dur- 
ing the fall and winter I played the fiddle for many parties, and 
on Sundays rode wild horses for the neighbors, these side is- 
sues raising my income to nearly one hundred dollars pen 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 157 

month, which I carefully hoarded. I worked hard and rode 
through storms looking after poor stock or cows with young 
calves when no other cowboy would venture on the range. I 
never left the ranch during a storm without a large bundle of 
hay, which I gave to those animals most needing it. On sev- 
eral occasions I appeared at the herd in time to kill or drive 
away a mountain lion or disperse a pack of hungry wolves, 
bent on attacking a calf or some animal not able to defend it- 
self. By these acts of care and daring I not only saved to Mr. 
Clay all, or nearly all, my hire, but won the title : "The most 
humane cowboy on the range." I was also accorded the dis- 
tinction of being the best broncho rider in the settlement. 

Most people imagine that any man astride a horse, with a 
large sombrero on his head, pistols in his belt and a lariat in his 
hand is necessarily a cowboy, but this is a great mistake, for 
there is as much difference between a thorough, practical cow- 
boy and the average person wearing that title as there is be- 
tween the ancient "star-gazers" and our modern professors of 
astronomy. There are three distinct grades of the cowboy: 
first, the range herder, second the cow-puncher (trailman), and 
the cowboy proper. The two former may be, and in many in- 
stances are disqualified, by reason of temperament, to take the 
place of one another, and neither of them competent to make 
and keep in order their necessary accoutrements, or to lasso 
and ride a wild horse ; while the latter possesses every faculty 
of mind and natural disposition of character, to enable him to 
not only fill his own sphere satisfactorily but also enables him 
to assume, and successfully execute the duties of a herder or a 
cow-puncher. To become an all-around successful, "humane 
cowboy" one must be endowed with good health, strong, wiry 
muscles and an iron will, backed up by a large continuity, com- 
bativeness and benevolence. Continuity enables him, when 
necessary, to be content on the range, and patient and long- 
suffering on the trail, while combativeness sends him forth to 
battle with storm and wild beasts, the natural enemies of his 
charge, and, having found an animal reduced in strength, or 
wounded by wild beasts, benevolence prompts him to pour in 
the "oil and wine" of sympathy and proper care ; he must also 
be intelligent, prompt in emergencies, always loyal to and scru- 
pulously honest with his employer I have seen a number of 
this style of cowboy, and such men will never be found in com- 
pany with those who delight to terrorize and annoy the people 
of small towns. There is also a prevalent false impression re- 
garding the (broncho) wild horse. It being generally supposed 
that one who is able to ride a common, unbroken farm horse 
is equally able to ride a broncho. I have ridden all sorts and 



158 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

sizes of wild horse and am, therefore, prepared to say that the 
difference, in bucking capacity, between the broncho and farm 
horse is greater even than that existing between the stick horse 
of my childhood and the trickiest bicycle of today. The man- 
euvers being displayed on horse back in Buffalo Bill's Wild 
West Show at Chicago are doubtless clever and admirable, but. 
while I do not wish to disparage such feats of horsemanship, 
must say they are mere child's play when compared to the rid- 
ing of a seven-year-old broncho. Barnam's trick mule did not 
know even the first principles of bucking, measured by the 
broncho's standard. The difference in riding a trick mule and 
a wild horse lies in the fact that the rider knows every move 
his mule will make, and braces himself accordingly, but he 
can not tell anything about the actions of a broncho until after 
he has ridden him, for he does not jump twice in the same di- 
rection, and no two of them buck alike. 

On April 1st, 1878, Mr. Clay, having sold his ranch, took 
me back to Medicine Bow and got me a position in the branch 
store of Trabing Bros., wholesale grocers, of Laramie. These 
gentlemen lived at Medicine Bow, and conducted in connection 
with the store, a saloon, restaurant, livery stable, stock ranch 
and a freighting outfit. The government warehouse was locat- 
ed here afterward removed through the influence of Governor 
Thayer to Rock Creek so that Forts Fetterman and McKin- 
ney could be more readily supplied with provisions, which 
must be transported by ox trains, in consequence of which 
Medicine Bow was usually flooded with teamsters and other 
rough characters. One evening there was great hilarity on the" 
street in front of the store, and stepping out to see the occasion 
of it, I beheld a scene that made my blood boil with indigna- 
tion. Mr. Trabing and a score of roughs were engaged in 
cruelly tormenting two old drunken men, employees of the for- 
mer. "Temperance John" so called on account of his lectur- 
ing other people for drinking when drunk himself was the 
hostler, and "Shu-Fly John" was the chief cook. They were 
educated men, and had once been respected members of so- 
ciety, but whisky blighted their manhood and brought them 
down to the level of brutes. They would work faithfully for 
three or four months, then draw their wages and go on a spree. 
When their money was exhausted they would pawn their 
clothes and deliver stump speeches for more rum. The hostler 
had been standing on the head of a barrel lecturing the chef for 
being intoxicated, when someone kicked the barrel over giving 
the old man a severe fall. It was this inhuman act that created 
the laugh that brought me upon the scene, and when the roughs 
attempted to put the old men in a box scarcely large enough 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS loi) 

for one man, I could not longer restrain my pent-up indigna- 
tion. I threw their tormentors right and lift and assisted the 
old men to rise. I cursed Mr. Trabing for countenancing such 
treatment of his old servants, and declared myself able and 
willing to thrash anyone of the boisterous crowd not satisfied 
with what I had said or done. My challenge was not accepted, 
so the shameful affair passed without bloodshed. I re-entered 
the store to get my things, expecting, of course, to be dis- 
charged. Mr. Trabing, being a sensible man and divining my 
thoughts, seized my hand and said, "John, your rebuke was 
just and timely, so you must not think of quitting us on that 
account." 

Shortly after the above event the bar-keeper, one night 
rushed wildly into the store and exclaimed, "Oh, Mr. Trabing ; 
the teamsters are breaking everything to pieces in the saloon." 
"I cannot do anything with the devils," said the proprietor re- 
signedly. Mr. John Smith, the government agent, remarked 
that it was a pity to have the saloon (which was nicely fur- 
nished) "again gutted by those ruffians," whereupon Mr. Trab- 
ing beseechingly requested me to go down to the saloon and 
quiet the boys, which I did. He was so well pleased with my 
ability to handle rough men that he raised my salary ten dol- 
lars per month, and gave me full control over the saloon busi- 
ness. I was greatly elated over, and justly proud of the confi- 
dence reposed in me by Mr. Trabing, and happily looked for- 
ward to the day when I could bring my Nora to this village. I 
was patiently waiting for the foliage to thicken so I could slip 
back to Missouri, and, under its protecting shadow, spirit my 
wife away, and return with her to Medicine Bow, but alas! 
these fond hopes were ruthlessly swept aside by the inexorable 
laws of fate. 

Messrs. Bailey, Townsend & Co., wholesale merchants of 
St. Joseph, Missouri, sent their chief clerk to Wyoming to look 
after their interests in a stock ranch located near Medicine 
Bow. The clerk arrived on the morning train, and after mak- 
ing arrangements for conveyance to the ranch, he and Mr. 
Trabing came to the saloon for their bitters. Turning to go 
out the clerk's eye fell upon the head lines of mv paper as it 
lay on the card table, and shouted, as if he had discovered an 
old friend, "Hello, who takes the St. Joseph Gazette in this far 
off land?" "The barkeeper," replied Mr. Trabing. The clerk 
now returned for a chat with me. I had already recognized 
him, owing to the fact that I had paid him considerable money 
for goods while in business at Hall's Station, but feared to let 
myself be known. Our versatile discourse finally turned upon 
the notables of St. Joseph and vicinity, and my heart beat like 



160 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

a trip hammer when the clerk asked, "Were you acquainted 
with Phillip Kerlin and his great friend Polk Wells?" "Yes ; 
sir, I knew Mr. Kerlin quite well, and was on intimate terms with 
Mr. Wells, who, I understand, got into serious trouble out in 
Utah. I should be glad to hear what became of Polk and his 
lovely wife Nora." "I can," said the clerk, "give you full par- 
ticulars in reference to them." His statement after rehearsing 
my trouble in Utah was substantially as follows : "Mr. Kerlin 
and Folk's wife became so intimate that Mrs. Kerlin objected 
to her husband's attention toward the young widow; the af- 
fairs got into the papers, and the result was Mr. Kerlin killed 
his wife and eldest daughter, and he himself was subsequently 
murdered by a mob living in and around Hall's Station, and 
Polk's wife, poor creature, was driven mad by the death of her 
baby, the loss of her husband, and this scandal, consequently 
she drifted to Kansas City, where she entered a house of ill- 
repute, the only alternative left the unhappy woman, and re- 
ports say she committed suicide." I knew the clerk to be a 
man of integrity and unquestionable veracity, therefore, the 
truth of his painful story was not for a moment doubted, and 
with heavy heart and sorrow unspeakable I fled from the 
saloon, down to the river, where I prostrated myself upon the 
bank and cried aloud, "My God, My God, thou hast stricken 
me at last." Again all the imps of darkness surrounded me. 
holding up before my disturbed mind banners on which were 
written in letters of living fire that burned themselves into my 
brain and heart, maddening the one and torturing the other. 
Mrs. Yazell's prophesy against my father, and Satan's remind- 
er that I was already on record as a petty thief," and "you are 
now a fugitive from justice." Here I lay for some time, fer- 
vently praying that my miserable life might cease. The good 
Lord, whose ways are past finding out, thought it best not to 
grant my prayer, therefore, since I had not the courage to cast 
myself into the Medicine Bow, or to send a bullet through a 
vital part, I was obliged to return to my post in the saloon 
heart-sick, doubly desperate with the sense of self respect and 
hope dead. Life possessed no charms and death no terrors for 
me, hence I decided to go north into the hostile country. Mr. 
Trabing's outfit was loaded with his own goods for the purpose 
of starting another branch store near the new coast, Fort Mc- 
Kinney, on Clear Creek, Wyoming. . I requested him to give 
me a team to drive and a position in the store when estab- 
lished. "All right, John, it shall be as you desire," said he. 

On October first Ed Callahan and myself quit Mr. Trabing 
and started for the "states." Leaving the outfit, with which 
we were traveling, we went out for a hunt one day and were 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 161 

attacked by a band of Sioux warriors. We dropped seven of 
them from their horses in such quick succession that the oth- 
ers, having recognized our fearlessness, and knowing some- 
thing of the deadly capacity of the Winchester rifle, made a 
precipitated ignominous flight. While partaking of the noon 
meal a band of elk, having been scared by the Indians or hunt- 
ers, crossed the narrow valley in front of our camp. I noticed 
that there were some calves in the herd, and, determined to 
catch one, mounted a swift horse and dashed after the fleeing 
elk. Coming up to them I cast a lasso, the loop of which set- 
tled gracefully over the brownie's head. The calf finding it- 
self suddenly checked and unable to get free, began bleating 
piteously. This scared my horse and by his fearful leaps to get 
away broke the neck of my captive. It was dragged some dis- 
tance and I was finally compelled to cut the lasso from my 
saddle before I could stop and quiet my frightened and inex- 
perienced steed. The mother, hearing the plaintive cries of her 
babe, dashed back to its rescue and, after a careful examina- 
tion, became satisfied that it was dead and that I was the cause 
of it. She raised her large brown eyes, stared steadily at me 
for a moment, then hastened after the herd. The sorrow and 
suffering that my Nora had to endure at the loss of our dear 
little Maggie was vividly portrayed in the face of that poor 
mother elk, down whose cheeks rolled tears large as marbles 
and glistening in the sun like great balls of fire, each one send- 
ing a dart of sorrow and pain into my heart. I sat down on 
the grass and cried like a whipped child. Some of the teamsters, 
thinking I was seriously hurt, accompanied Callahan to assist 
me to camp, but, finding me uninjured rebuked me for not kill- 
ing the elk (which no amount of money would have induced 
me to do), and ridiculed my emotion or as they termed it, 
"childish sentimentality," and which would perhaps have ended 
in a deadly encounter had they not been persuaded to desist. 

Arriving at Rock Creek I met Mr. D. R. Clay, my former 
employer, and at his request accompanied him home, while 
Callahan took the east bound train for Laramie. Mrs. Clay, as 
before, met us in the yard, but my reception was quite differ- 
ent on this occasion to what it was then as she cordially 
grasped my hand and exclaimed, "J onn I'm truly glad to see 
you. I have missed you ever so much. I have had no one to 
take my part and Randal (pointing to her husband) has made 
me do all the work since you left us." She continued in this 
strain until Mr. Clay caught her in his arms and carried her 
into the house, and I, with little Mabel clinging to my neck 
followed them. For a few days I was comparatively calm, and, 
after a fashion, enjoyed myself in this home of plenty and re- 



162 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

finement, where sympathy, charity and mercy dwelt harmoni- 
ously together, but the spirit of restlessness asserted itself and 
I longed for some kind of employment or adventure. Mr. Clay 
still living on the old ranch, perceived that I was unhappy in 
idleness, got Mr. Chapman, to whom he had sold the ranch and 
stock, to engage me to look after the old herd of cattle, every 
one of which I could point out without resorting to the brand 
for identification. A few days after taking charge of the herd 
I went down the Medicine Bow River in search of some stock 
that had fled before a storm. About one mile east of Medicine 
Bow station, on the river, I rode up to a camp fire around 
which sat three desperate individuals. I readily recognized 
two of them as being the two strangers referred to at the battle 
on Smoky Hill River, Kansas, with the negro escort. On mak- 
ing myself known they dragged me from the horse and ex- 
plained, "The Captain and Callahan are at the station making 
inquiries concerning your whereabouts." Callahan and these 
men were old acquaintances, and he, having left them at Lara- 
mie, joined the party in the expectation of kidnapping Jay 
Gould. Another man and a favorable place to execute theif 
design was needed, so they came to Medicine Bow where they 
found both the place and the man (myself). The Captain (for 
whom I know no other name )was a man of culture, strikingly 
handsome, and once a respected member of New York society, 
and who, after being introduced to me, spoke as follows: "Since 
my comrades here have so highly praised your marksmanship, 
expressed implicit confidence in your courage, and have so en- 
thusiastically and confidently assured me of your willingness to 
participate in such an undertaking as we now have at hand 
here he, in eloquent terms, expressed his own opinion of my 
individuality I have therefore, no hesitency in unfolding my- 
self to you. Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, in a railroad deal, robbed 
me of all I possessed and I swore eternal vengeance on them, 
but Fisk, being dead, I am obliged to call on Mr. Gould to set- 
tle the account. After losing my fortune I moved to Chicago 
and engaged in the saloon business, but again lost all in the 
great fire. I then secured a position on the police force, where 
the opportunities for practicing dishonesty were so great and 
so numerous that my hitherto honest heart became impregnat- 
ed with the evil, and my presence here is the logical, the inevit- 
able result. I can find scores oi^nen to rob stages or steal 
horses, but to find half a dozen men with sufficient courage 
and the requisite desire to execute the scheme I now have in 
view has been a difficult task, and I thank God (as if the good 
Lord ever mixed up in such alliances) that I have, at last, got 
a crew to my liking. I have friends in the east to keep me in- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 163 

formed as to the movements of Mr. Gould, who will be along 
here in a few days enroute to Utah, where he intends buying 
a railroad. It is our intention to rob his train and spirit him 
away to the Big Horn Mountains where we will hold him for 
a ransom that will make us all rich." Of course, I entered into 
this extraordinary scheme with all the zeal and desperation of 
my young soul. To rob "the chief of robbers" was the grand- 
est thing my imagination could picture. 

Jacob, an emisary, was left at Laramie to telegraph the 
Captain when Mr. Gould's train passed that point. The tele- 
gram came but was so worded as to give the Captain to under- 
stand that he must not attack the train going west. Jacob ar- 
rived at Medicine Bow on Mr. Gould's train, which was heavily 
guarded, a sufficient reason for our not attacking it. After an 
interview with the Captain, Jacob boarded the next train for 
Rawlins, from which place he would wire the Captain of Mr. 
Gould's return. It was now proposed that we wreck the train 
on its return trip, but I objected to this wholesale murder of 
innocent people in order to capture Mr. Gould. The Captain 
lacked the courage (which he so much admired in other men) 
to attack Mr. Gould while surrounded by his trusty guards, 
therefore, the "kidnapping" scheme was abandoned. We then 
went to Fort Fetterman, intending to rob the quarterly pay 
master, but learned from the post sutler that Congress had 
failed to appropriate money to pay the soldiers. The Captain 
was exceedingly wroth at this news, and began to drink. Cal- 
lahan finally got him to camp and informed me that he had 
sworn to kill me for having defeated the cherished scheme of 
his life. Toward evening he got the opportunity, and, when 
raising his gun to fire, Callahan shouted, "Look out, John." 
The bullet whistled suspiciously close to my ear and I turned 
upon my assailant. He fell on his knees and cried, "For God's 
sake, don't shoot, don't shoot, for the sake of my wife and 
children I beseech you to spare by life." Thus I came near be- 
ing murdered for averting a disaster that would have cost Mr. 
Gould many thousand dollars, and in all probability his life. 
This affair was the cause of the party disbanding. Callahan 
and myself again returned to Medicine Bow, while the Captain 
and his followers went east and robbed the stage running be- 
tween Cheyenne and Deadwood. The Sheriff and his men 
overtook the Captain and his comrades on the North Platte 
near Fort Fetterman, and killed them all in the fight that en- 
sued. 

Early in the spring, while working for Mr. Trabing, I 
joined the Odd Fellows at Carbon. Callahan was also an Odd 
Fellow, but denounced the order for not assisting him in a 



164 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



shameful affair, for which he had to leave home. I contended 
that it was a benevolent institution and would assist a worthy 
member in an honorable way. 'Til bet you ten dollars," said 
he, "that you cannot borrow fifty dollars from your lodge." 
Previous to this argument we had agreed to return to Mis- 
souri, for I remembered that the clerk from St. Joseph had said 
that my wife's death was only a rumor. It occurred to me that 
she might still be living. If so, I would find her and again 
take her to my bosom. Before starting for Missouri I decided 
to win Callahan's ten dollars and obtain a traveling card from 




Holding up "Overland Route" office using Dummies 
behind log. 

my lodge. To make sure of the former I got a friend to write 
a letter, purporting to be from my father, and containing a re- 
quest for me to come home. I showed the letter to Mr. James 
Ross, treasurer of the lodge, and asked him if I could borrow 
fifty dollars. That night the lodge voted me the card and the 
money and I returned to Medicine Bow exulting over my tri- 
umph, not so much for having won Callahan's money (which 
I never exacted) as for maintaining the position I had taken 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 165 

in reference to the order's benevolence, and readiness to accom- 
modate its needy members. I regard this transaction as being 
one of the basest acts of my life, though I intended, at the time 
to refund the money, and have since resolved, but as yet have 
failed to do so. 




CHAPTER XII. 

December ninth Callahan and I reached my sister's house 
in Doniphan, Kansas. She informed me that Nora had con- 
ducted herself in a becoming manner ; that she had married an 
honorable, hard working young man. Callahan now learned 
my real name and the nature of my Utah trouble, so he joined 
my sister in saying that the best thing for me to do under the 
circumstancs, was to leave the country without seeing my wife. 
Her happiness being the chief desire of my heart, I concluded 
that the advice was reasonable and proper and readily decided 
to act upon it. Accordingly Callahan and I crossed the river 
into Missouri, where we bought a couple of saddle horses and 
started for the southern part of the state, where his father 
lived. As we passed familiar scenes and places where I had 
sported with my darling Nora, an overwhelming and irresist- 
able desire came upon me to see her once more. So, sending 
Callahan on to Platte City, where he was to wait for me, I 
entered the woods in which lived Mr. Al Warnica the man. 
living with my wife, and whose picture was photographed on 
my mind and hearing someone chopping wood, and that be- 
ing Mr. Warnica's business, I rode out to where the man was 
at work. I readily recognized him and introduced myself by 
saying ,"I am Polk Wells, and have come to pay you and Nora 
a friendly visit." He staggered back a step or two and turned 
pale as his eyes fell on the double row of cartridges around my 
waist, and the pearl-handled pistols which were mischievously 
displayed, and from these he glanced along the glittering bar- 
rel of the Winchester rifle lying across my lap. I saw that he 
feared trouble and hastened to put him at ease by saying, "Mr. 
Warnica, I respect and honor you for caring for and protecting the 
woman I love, and hence you need have no fear of harm from 
me." Being thus assured he pressed my hand warmly and said, 
"Come, let us go to the house ; Nora will be glad to see you." 
After dinner I said, "My dear Nora, Mr. Warnica and I 
both love you, but the law will not recognize two husbands at 
the same time, so we have agreed to let you settle the matter 
by choosing one of us, and have pledged ourselves to abide by 
your decision." An oppressive silence followed. I hastily 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



1G7 



scanned the features of my wife and Mr. Warnica's. The 
criminal about to be executed could look no worse than he 
did, and poor Nora was the very picture of despair and sorrow. 
"Oh, my God, help me; oh, I cannot, I will not decide the mat- 
ter. I love you both but you must settle the question between 
yourselves." It seemed so cowardly in us to cast all responsi- 
bility on her that I was made speechless for very shame. Nora 
would not, and it was evident that Mr. Warnica felt himself 
unequal to the task, therefore it devolved upon me to settle the 
question, which, after recovering the power of speech, I did by 




G. A. Warnica and wife (formerly Mrs. Nora Wells), 
(His Chief Backers) 



taking them both in my arms, and, having invoked the choicest 
blessing on them, registered this vow: "I now swear in the 
presence of God and the archangels, that I will go away, per- 
haps never to return ; but if I should, neither word nor act of 
mine shall ever cause any trouble to arise between you." I 
then gave Mr. Warnica three hundred dollars to buy himself a 
team, as he had no means of support except with the axe. I 
kissed them both good-bye, mounted my horse and rode rapidly 



168 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

away, leaving my rifle on the bed where I placed it on entering 
the house. 

To those who know what it is to see a great hope die, to 
have the happiness that makes life worth living blighted by a 
single turn of the wheel of time, to know what it is to drop 
from the noonday heights of joy to the depths of darkest mid- 
night, I need not even mention the weeks and months of suf- 
fering that came to me through my self surrender to any fur- 
ther claims in the affections of the woman I loved ; to those 
who have not experienced such trials it would be useless for 
me to try to make it in any sense tangible. It is not in the 
province of the pen, no matter how cultivated the mind or 
skillful the hand may be that guides it, portray the soul-kill- 
ing agony that I endured. There are some things in life, that 
are harder to bear than death, and this event in my career is 
one of them ; and only those who have had a similar experi- 
ence, or have had a close companionship with an awful sor- 
row, will be able to sympathize with me, or in a measure 
comprehend my suffering during that dark period of my life ; 
nor did I fully realize it myself, for I was absolutely uncon- 
scious for six weeks ; I remember only the iron heel of fate 
striking my heart as I rode away from the little log cabin on 
the hill, and the distress of mind experienced for a long time 
after my recovery. I left Mr. Warnica's house on the fifteenth 
of December, 1878, and from that date until the middle of Jan- 
uary, 1879, there is no record, so far as I know, of my life. 
What I did, where I went, or what became of my horse is 
mere speculation ; but my whereabouts during the remaining 
two weeks of that comatose condition are easily accounted for. 
When I, like the prodigal, came to my senses I was in a rob- 
bers' camp near Vinita, Indian Territory. 

Callahan, after waiting a day or two for me at Platte City, 
returned to the neighborhood in which we had parted and 
there learned that I had left the country. Meeting a cool re- 
ception at his father's house, he again left the parental roof 
and started for Texas. At Vinita he met two of his old asso- 
ciates, and joined them in the proposed robbery of the Indian 
pay master, who was expected to arrive in Vinita some time 
during the month of February. He attended the arrival of all 
trains for the purpose of getting papers in which he hoped to 
learn something of me. One evening on the arrival of a pas- 
senger train on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, at 
Vinita, the then terminus of that road, a commotion in one of 
the cars attracted the attention of bystanders, who rushed to 
the windows to see what was going on inside. All the other 
passengers had left the car, and when I refused to go the 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 169 

trainmen undertook to put me off, but hastily retreated when 
I drew my pistol. Callahan, being in the crowd of sightseers 
at the window, recognized me and quickly entered the car and 
led me away with him to camp. He learned afterwards from 
the conductor that I had boarded the train at Springfield, Mis- 
souri, and paid my fare in money to the end of the road ; that 
I declared Vinita was not the end, hence my refusal and the 
conductor's attempt to put me off the train at that point. 

During the early part of February, 1879, two United States 
marshals arrived at Vinita in search of Callahan's two friends, 
who immediately left us for parts unknown. Some days later 
Callahan and myself started for Carthage, Missouri, at which 
place we separated, and I have never seen or heard of him 
since. From Carthage I went to Joplin, a lead mining town 
possessing various evil dens that characterized the mining 
camps in early days out west. Here I met a young man 
named Martin, from Wyoming, and who gave me his plans 
for robbing the Moffitt & Sargeant Bank in Joplin. He then 
introduced me to some of the city officials and the proprietor 
of a leading hotel. "These gentlemen" ( ?) he said, "will shield 
us in our work." The proprietor was hard pushed for money, 
and, of course, eager for the robbery, but continuously re- 
marked that it would "take four or five good men to do it." 
He introduced us to two men, whom he styled "thorough- 
breds." These fellows introduced me to other noted criminals 
and they in turn to still others. Thus the introducing business 
continued until I was presented to over fifty "thoroughbreds," 
and at last I exclaimed (my soul bursting with disgust, and 
my voice full of contempt), "Good God, is this town com- 
posed of thieves only?" Tom White, a beardless boy, was 
presented to me under the appellation of "thoroughbred" by 
half a dozen different parties, and he proved himself worthy 
of the title. Robbery, however, was not the uppermost 
thought of my mind. The chief hopes and desire of my heart 
were circling around a certain little log cabin, which rendered 
me silent and thoughtful ; therefore, this reserve, coupled with 
the fact of my total abstinence from the use of liquor and to- 
bacco, and from visiting houses of ill-repute, stamped me as 
a man of prudence and sagacity, in consequence of which I 
was chosen leader, and it devolved upon me to select three men 
to help Martin and myself rob the bank. Tom White was my 
first choice, but a prolonged conversation with him on the sub- 
ject weakened my determination to act in the matter. White 
after extolling the general virtues of Messrs. Moffitt & Sar- 
geant, said, "They made this town and they are the poor man's 
best friends." This extraordinary praise about the proposed 



170 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

victims coming as it did from a professed and avowed enemy 
of society, so impressed me with the enormity of the con- 
templated sin that I concluded to make an investigation before 
further committing myself. I consulted a number of miners 
and business men, who united in confirming White's story of 
the bankers; and to further satisfy my conscience and gratify 
a curiosity to see the men thus universally praised, decided 
to visit them. I entered the bank, got a fifty-dollar bill 
changed, and then engaged Mr. Sargeant in conversation 
about deposits and mining stock?. The kindness and consid- 
eration with which he answered my many questions made me 
his friend, ami I left the bank feeling better for having talked 
to him. In the evening the two officers, Martin, White, the 
proprietor and myself gathered in a private room at the hotel 
for consultation. I briefly informed them of my investigations 
in consequence of which I declared I could not participate in 
a robbery of such men. A painful silence reigned for a few 
minutes, then the proprietor said, "I am glad you have arrived 
at that conclusion, for Moffitt & Sargeant are certainly not 
proper subjects for .such a diabolical act as we have proposed 
but I must have some money soon or I will be financially 
ruined." My companions were all hard up, and the changing 
tithes of emotion had swept their exalted hopes of riches 
against the rock of disappointment. Depicted on the coun- 
tenance of each member of the little group was an expression 
of sadness that rendered the scene a pitiable one indeed. I 
thought of their "hungry wives and children" with such a 
flood of sympathy that my purse, containing over four hun- 
dred dollars, of which they were not aware, was instantly 
brought out, and when I proposed to let them have some 
money to carry them through their present needs, they were 
not only surprised, but the well-springs of hope and joy made 
their faces radiant with gratitude, transforming them from 
prospective criminals into respectable looking gentlemen. I 
gave the proprietor one hundred dollars and ten dollars to 
each of the other men, and after my generosity was duly ac- 
knowledged the little band of would-be robbers adjourned 
sine die. 

Here I leave the proprietor and officers, but will take Mar- 
tin and White a little further on the road that "leadeth to the 
valley of woe" and degredation. From Joplin we went to Em- 
pire and Galena, two small mining towns lying on the line be- 
tween Missouri and Kansas, commonly known as "Short 
Creek," but might be more appropriately named Sodom and 
Gommorah. At Short Creek I was introduced to twcr more 
officers and another hotel proprietor, who, like the Joplin trio, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 171 



were willing to have their friends and neighbors robbed. They 
would keep us informed as to the movements and suspicions 
of other officers, point out the victims, and, in case an arrest 
was made, would do the necessary swearing, for which ser- 
vices they demanded twenty per cent of the money stolen. Our 
first victim had just sold his claim (in the new diggings across 
Spring River )for twenty- five hundred dollars, but we got only 
two hundred dollars of it, he having deposited the remainder of 
it in a bank. Next morning two innocent young men were 
arrested for the robbery. Martin got scared and left the coun- 
try, while White and I remained and proposed to our col- 
leagues (who received their share of the money) that we do 
something to clear those under arrest, to -rhich they agreed. 

The next day the proprietor introduced me to Mr. Taylor 
who had seen a trunk full of greenbacks at the farm house of 
Snapp brothers, living three miles northwest of Joplin. Taylor 
assured me that the ladies were absent, or I would not have 
agreed to this robbery, but, on entering the house we found 
them all present. They were, however, brave, resolute wo- 
men, having been schooled to danger during the rebellion 
Their husbands were officers in the Confederate army under 
"Pap" Price, which fact was sufficient to subject their house 
to frequent raids from the Kansas Jayhawkers. We tied the 
men and seated the ladies beside them. The women became 
quite talkative when they saw no personal harm was intended, 
and cheerily invited us to have supper, which was on the 
table and had not yet been touched by the family. The elder 
lady, learning we wanted nothing but money, handed me a 
bunch of keys, saying, "Please, sir, do not break anything." 
Leaving White to guard the prisoners, I hastened upstairs in 
search of the treasure trunk, which I had no difficulty in locat- 
ing, and whose lid I threw back, disclosing a till full of green- 
backs, which, on examination, proved to be Confederate scrip. 
Taylor, who did not enter the house on this occasion, had re- 
cently accompanied his father to borrow money from the 
Snapp brothers, hence his opportunity to see the trunk full of 
southern money. My surprise at this revelation was only 
equaled by my indignation at having allowed myself to be led 
into this sin by a silly, wild-eyed sycophant. I returned to the 
lower room, and would have left the house a\. once, but White 
insisted on making a search. I had touched nothing except 
the big "Saratoga," and while White was examining the other 
trunks, drawers and closets, I was pleasantly Chatting with 
the family. These good people had heard of the young men 
being under arrest for the Spring River robbery. I told them 
that myself and partners were the guilty parties, and request- 



172 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ed them to so inform the authorities, so that innocent men 
might not suffer. The gentlemen frankly, smilingly assured 
me that my request should have a speedy and extended circu- 
lation. White now returned, having found about iifty dollars 
and a quart bottle of fine port wine, used for sacramental pur- 
poses, for the Snapps were Christians. I did not know that 
he had the wine or I would have made him leave it. On reach- 
ing Empire, Mr. Snapp's horses were turned loose and started 
toward home. The fifty dollars were equally divided, the 
wine was then passed, and the chief officer, who had been a 
colonel in the Union army, drank a toast, ending with "Better 
luck next time, boys." 

Just before noon the following morning the colonel came 
to me and said, "I have a cash job for you now. A wholesale 
firm in Joplin at the end of each month sends its agent here to 
collect money due from our merchants, and he will be here to- 
day for that purpose and will take dinner with me. You and 
White (for Taylor had gone home) can capture him on his 
way back to Joplin." The agent arrived, and I ate dinner at 
the same table with him, went to the stable, saw his horse and 
buggy, then White and myself went out on the road to wait 
for him. When the buggy came into view there were two 
men in it, but I recognized one of them as the agent, so we 
stepped into the road and started toward them. The agent 
mistrusting something wrong, wheeled his horse from the 
road and dashed away across the prairie. That evening, while 
we were reporting our failure to capture the agent the other 
officer came in and handed the colonel a telegram. He sprang 
to his feet and excitedly hissed, "Taylor is under arrest at 
Joplin and has betrayed you boys, so you had better leave 
town immediately." White went out to see a friend, and was 
arrested by a party just from Joplin, but he escaped. The 
men were running in every direction, and a company of horse- 
men dashed up the street toward where the colonel and I were 
standing, he pressed my hand affectionately, saying, "Good- 
bye, good-bye, John, take care of yourself." I glided around 
the corner of the old theatre, and like a skulking coyote threw 
myself on the ground and pressed closely to the foundation of 
the building. I felt a rock yield to my pressure, I pulled it 
out, entered the aperture feet foremost and replaced it thus 
imprisoning myself. I had scarcely finished my work before 
the colonel, with half a dozen men, rushed up to the building 
and halted just in front of me. Here two men were stationed 
with orders "not to relieve their posts until relieved and to 
arrest every man that came along." I was wedged in between 
two joists, and could neither raise up or turn around. The 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 173 

ground was cold and damp, and in this condition I was com- 
pelled to remain for fifty hours without food or water. Each 
change of guards had something to say about me. I was either 
praised in the highest terms for bravery atid generosity, or 
consigned to the lowest depths of hell on account of my "dou- 
ble-dyed, red-headed villainy." The former gave me a feeling 
of pardonable pride, while the latter caused my face to burn 
with shame and my soul to revolt at the thought of being 
styled a thief and a murderer ; therefore, I resolved to abandon 
the life of a robber, and return, if possible, to the paths of 
honor and righteousness. 

About eleven o'clock of the third night of my self-im- 
posed captivity the guards were notified that a party was in 
hot pursuit of White and myself near Chetopa, Kansas ; conse- 
quently they we're relieved from further duty, and I breathed 
a sigh of relief as their footsteps died away in the silent hours 
of the night. I lost no time in idle speculation, but immedi- 
ately began to drag myself "from under the old theatre. I say 
"drag," but that does not express my painful efforts to get 
out of that unpleasant situation. The moment the excitement, 
caused by immediate danger, left me, cramps seized on every 
fibre and muscle in my body, and for two hours I wrestled 
with an invisible foe that seemed bent on my destruction, 
but, God be praised, I got the better of the contest and final- 
ly struggled to my feet, and, like Lot of old, fled as rapidly 
as possible from the presence of Sodom and Gommorah. 

While walking up the railroad track, a few miles south 
of Doniphan, Kansas, I chanced to look back and saw two 
men following me; one of them White and the other a son of 
a prominent physician of Atchison. I told the young doctor 
where he could find the roots he was in search of, and so we 
continued our walk up the road together. At a little farm 
house on the roadside three large dogs came out and took a 
stand on the track as if they would contest the right of way. 
Not wishing to show my pistols, I picked up some stones and 
threw them at the dogs. A young man, plowing in the field, 
drove up to the fence and said, "If you tramps hurt those dogs 
I'll horsewhip every one of you." "Come over and do it, any- 
how," said White. He did come over, but the latter's blows 
fell with such rapid precision of aim that the young granger 
fled to the house. His mother met him in the yard with a 
double-barreled shotgun, which he seized and discharged at 
us (several shot striking my breast, but were too small for 
serious damage), whereupon White drew his pistol. I sprang 
forward to prevent his shooting, but succeeded only in di- 
recting his aim. At the crack of the pistol the old woman fell 



174 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

as if dead, but, as was afterward shown, was not touched by 
the bullet. A boy was dispatched to Atchison to notify the 
officers of the affair. Mr. Phil Duncan, city marshal, and Mr. 
Wm. Wily, sheriff of the county, started out after us. We 
crossed the bluffs to the wagon road, leading from Atchison to 
Doniphan, on which we met the sheriff and marshal. They 
came around the curve in the road so swiftly, yet noiselessly, 
that they were right at us before we saw them. "Howdy, 
boys," said the sheriff, good naturedly. "Has either of you," 
he continued, "got a pistol?" "No, sir," said I. The marshal 
sprang lightly out of the buggy, and as he came around the 
rear end I covered him with a pair of large pistols, while 
White held another pair on the sheriff. I ordered Mr. Dun- 
can and the young doctor to get into the buggy and return 
to the city. The order was promptly obeyed, but an hour 
later the officers returned with a hundred men, armed with 
Winchester rifles, pitchforks, hay-knives, bull dogs, etc. The 
party halted near where we were hid in the bushes, and while 
consulting as to the best place to route us, John, Joe and 
Mark Taylor (three brave and honorable men, who were 
raised on a farm adjoining my father's, and consequently 
knew me from infancy), rode into the crowd and the latter 
gentleman addressed the sheriff thus: "Are you positive that 
Polk Wells is one of the parties?" "Quite sure of it," replied 
the officer. Then Mr. Taylor, after indulging in some very 
complimentary remarks about myself and family, said, "I'll 
never believe Polk guilty of shooting a woman." Mr. Joe 
Taylor then spoke very disparagingly of the woman and her 
son, and the crowd, as if by mutual consent, turned their 
horses and rode rapidly away. The old woman, at the pre- 
liminary trial of the doctor, claimed she was shot, but re- 
fused to show the wound ; she, however, had the grace to 
join the doctor in exonorating me. 

White and I reached Lawrence without further interfer- 
ence, and one night while sitting on the railroad, near the 
depot, mapping out our course, three tramps joined us. Pres- 
ently two officers came along and arrested the party. I 
leaped into the darkness and ran some distance, and, think- 
ing White at my heels, stopped to congratulate him on our 
escape, when a heavy hand was laid on my shoulder with 
"Oh, you rascal, it takes a good one to beat me running." "I1 
does, ah !" said I, and with a heavv revolver I dealt the man 
a blow across the nose that stretched him on the ground at 
my feet. Next morning I returned to the city and bought a 
paper giving an account of this event. "The tramps," it said, 
"were taken to jail, but the other two scamps escaped by 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 17.3 

slugging one of the officers." Thus White and I were sep- 
arated and he was, the last I heard of him, serving a ten 
years' sentence in the penitentiary at Jefferson City, Missouri. 

Each of the various papers that came to Lawrence, as 
well as those published there, contained an article about me. 
which varied in detail according to the. fancy or imagination 
of the writer. When I entered a barber shop to get shaved a 
number of gentlemen were discussing the exploits of Polk 
Wells, and while I was yet in the chair, the officer, whom I 
struck, came in and the men commenced teasing him for al- 
lowing a tramp to get the better of him. "That fellow," he 
replied, "is no tramp. He has taught me a lesson I shall not 
soon forget. When I chase another man in the dark, I'll have 
to be drunker than I was last night." I did not care to hear 
any more, and so got out of the house and went to my room 
in the Cincinnati hotel. The proprietor, Mr. Beebush, treated 
me kindly, and when I inquired about work, said he could 
get me a job with his friend, Mr. John Medsker, one of the 
best and wealthiest farmers in Douglas County. When Mr. 
Medsker came in I was duly presented, accepted and taken 
out to his paradise of a farm and home, about eighteen miles 
southwest of Lawrence. I worked hard in the fields and did 
chores about the house that no other hired man had ever con- 
descended to do. I arose early, built a fire in the cook stove, 
put on a teakettle full of water, and frequently helped to 
wash the supper dishes, for which services I was amply rewarded 
by the musical voice and bewitching smiles of the farmer's 
beautiful daughter, Jane, who could ride wild horses, milk 
cows, plow corn, and manipulate the ivory on a grand piano 
equal to any of her city cousins. Mr. Medsker and family 
were Dunkards, and, of course, very plain folks, and I regu- 
larly attended church with them; hence Jane and I soon be- 
came good friends, so much so that I had about concluded 
to ask her to be my wife, when one morning, while milking, 
a refractory cow kicked a bucket of milk in my face, I dis- 
graced myself by hurling uncomplimentary and untheological 
expressions at the bovine race ; so on Sunday Jane refused 
my company to church. Perhaps my story would end here 
had it not been for that vicious cow, but, since God works in 
mysterious ways His purposes to accomplish, I must con- 
tinue the narrative. 

On the fourth of July I attended a picnic dance, after 
which I accepted an invitation to ride home in a four-horse 
wagcm. Though the moon and stars were shining brightly 
and the sky clear, it was quite dark on the creek bottoms. We 
had fairly gotten into the timber when something glided 



176 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

across the road in front of our team. There were, besides 
myself, six couple in the wagon, and all, except Miss Harvey, 
heroine of this event, were confident that the solitary figure 
(probably a cow) was a robber. Some declared there were 
two, while others insisted there were more and that all had 
guns. It is surprising how the imagination will at night fill 
the woods with savage beasts and more savage human beings 
and people the element with spooks and hob-goblins. For*- 
tunately it was not far through the timber, otherwise we 
should have had a panic, as two of three of the girls clutched 
at the reins to stop the team and begged to go back. "Oh !" 
said one, "if it should be that awful Polk Wells and his part- 
ners, they will kill every one of us." At the mention of my 
name a wave of terror spread over the youngsters, and the 
driver was half inclined to turn back, but Miss Harvey laughed 
at him, taunted him with cowardice, and declared she was "not 
afraid of Polk Wells." "Nor me, either," said I, and to quiet 
the girls I got out and walked ahead of the team until through 
the timber. Some of the young people were very bitter to- 
ward me, but Miss Harvey, the belle of the neighborhood, 
defended me on every point of attack, and, judging from her 
remarks, I was in her estimation a much abused man, and 
an ideal of manly courage and physical perfection. She was 
correct. 

About the first of August I quit Mr. Medsker and started 
for Missouri. Some miles south of Lawrence I stopped to 
stay over night with a farmer, and after supper was taken into- 
the front room and left alone while the gentleman and his 
wife did the evening chores. Presently two bright-eyed, 
sweet-faced little girls (twins) three or four years old, came 
into the room and got into an altercation over their playthings. 
Each seized the limb of the old rag doll and began pulling 
and stamping their little feet with all their- might. I expected 
to see the doll ripped asunder. Not so, however, for the 
mother foresaw that "Judy" would be the instigator of the 
bitter strife and had, consequently, done her work well. She 
heard the babies quarreling and came in to quiet them. 
"Naughty girls," she said, "you ought to be ashamed to act 
that way before a gentleman such conduct would I sup- 
posed be proper at other time if you don't behave better, I 
shall give you to Polk Wells." "Oh, mamma," cried the ter- 
rified children, "we'll be ever so nice if you won't give us to 
that awfully bad man." The lady returned to her work in 
the kitchen and the babies sat down on the floor and were 
soon as playful and loving to one another as kittens. I 
watched them a few minutes, then called them to me, took 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 177 

them on my knees, gave each one fifty cents in silver to buy 
a china doll, and told them not to be afraid of Polk Wells, 
that he loved little girls very much and would do anything 
for them. "Do you weally fink so?" asked one of the little 
things. "Yes, I am sure he would," said I, then drawing them 
close to my breast, rocked them to sleep. 

How strangely are the emotions of men altered by a 
change in their condition. The compliments showered upon 
me by Miss Harvey, the accomplished and beautiful young 
lady, raised me almost to the seventh heaven of glory, but. 
while nursing these dear children, I floundered in the lowest 
depths of shame and remorse at having my name used as a 
cudgel to coerce little children into submission and obedience 
Parents who resort to such means to control their children 
ought to be sent to the penitentiary for cruelty to animals, or 
to the insane asylum for incompetency to raise a family. 

The next day, while wandering about the streets of Law- 
rence, I was arrested along with three other young men. I 
knocked my captor down, mounted a good horse, on which I 
made my escape, and which I turned loose after riding a few 
miles. Arriving at Doniphan, the officers got after me again 
I crossed the river into Missouri, determined to see my wife 
I reached her brother-in-law's house after dark, and, as it 
was raining, concluded to stay over night there. About ten 
o'clock the house was surrounded by a score of men, who had 
come to capture me dead or alive, but they lay all night in 
the rain and allowed me to leave the house without even 
showing themselves. When I reached Mr. Warnica's house 
(the little log cabin on the hill) his brother-in-law, Fred 
Crandall, was there. He was an enemy of mine, was in col- 
lusion with my pursuers and had come to Mr. Warnica's in 
the hope of inducing Nora to betray me into their hands. Mr. 
Warnica informed me of my danger, and advised me to leave 
immediately. Nora brought out my Winchester rifle, saying 
"Take this with you and use it on those who seek to injure 
you, and come back in a few days." I took the gun, kissed 
Al and Nor-a good-bye, walked past Mr. Crandall (who had 
the impudence to raise his hat to'me), disappeared in the 
woods. Ten minutes later I stopped in the bushes, near the 
road, which turned into the head of a deep hollow. The rain 
had so softened the ground that I did not hear the rapidly ap- 
proaching horseman until he was within ten paces of me. 
This was Crandall, who, when my gun was leveled at his 
breast, shouted, "Polk, for God's sake don't shoot. I am your 
friend." This Judas was very explicit in directing me how to 
evade my would-be captors. I listened patiently to him and 



178 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

(not wishing to let him know that Al and Nora had apprised 
me of his treachery) agreed to follow his instructions. He- 
rode down the hollow and I crossed the road as if intending 
to act upon his advice, but, instead of doing so, recrossed it. 
taking care to leave no tracks, and took a stand on the point 
of a high bluff. Presently Crandall, with a dozen men, re- 
turned, and after pointing to the spot where he saw me, said. 
"We'll just about overtake him at the big spring." The party 
dashed on across the hill, and this was the last I saw of it. I 
returned to the "cabin" that same evening in time to take 
supper with Al and Nora. It was agreed that I should go 
back into the country and work on a farm until they could 
settle up their affairs, when we would leave the country to- 
gether. In accordance with this plan I went out near 
Plattsburg, Missouri, and commenced work for an old farmer 
who came home drunk one evening, and, as I entered the din- 
ing room in response to the 1 supper bell, began abusing me. 
"Why," said he, "I can do more work in one hour than you 
have done in three days." I had worked very hard, conse- 
quently this unjust imputation stung me deeply, and next 
morning notified the farmer I must quit him, whereupon he 
said, "Mr. Weber, I thought you had better sense than to get 
angry at anything a drunken man might say." "I have, sir," 
said I, "when at myself, but the fact is I sometimes become 
deeply intoxicated with melancholy, and, should you attack 
me as you did last night, while laboring under its influence 
the result might be serious ; therefore it is best for me to leave 
before harm is done." 

I next applied to "Uncle Bobby" Scarce, the wealthiest 
farmer in Clinton County, for work. He looked me full in 
the lace for a moment, then said, "My young sir, you have a 
very bad eye, and I doubt if you want work." In all my 
travels and intercourse with men, this was the only one who 
ever doubted my integrity. The grandsons of St. Jude were 
arraigned on a charge of aspiring to the throne of David, but 
on showing their hands hardened with toil, were dismissed 
by the emperor as unworthy subjects of his fierce anger. So 
the calloused lumps at the base of my fingers, which on re- 
quest I showed to the sagacious old farmer, proved to be a 
passport to his favorable consideration, and I was employed 
and set to work facing fence posts. At the time appointed 
I quit Mr. Scarce and returned to the log cabin. Al and Nora 
were overjoyful at the turn matters had taken since my de- 
parture. "We need not emigrate now, unless we want to," 
said Al. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

In August, 1862, my step-brothers returned from Price's 
armv on a recruiting expedition. The commander, Gen. James 
Craig Home, of the militia at St. Joseph, heard of their de- 
sign and sent a company to Rushville to capture them. The 
boys anticipated such a move, and hid themselves in the woods, 
and it devolved upon me to carry them provisions. Joe, hand- 
ing me a double-barreled pistol, said, "In case the soldiers pre- 
vent you coming to us, fire it off and we will know what td 
do." The soldiers surrounded the town, but the boys were 
outside the line, and at dark I started to them with a basket 
of victuals and a pot full of genuine coffee :I say genuine, for 
most people, and many of them wealthy, were using parchec* 
rye for making coffee. Just over the brow of the hill I 
entered the paw-paw bushes, and was tripping along the path 
that led into the graveyard hollow, in which the boys were 
hiding, when I was seized by the arm and commanded to sur- 
render. There were four of my captors, and while they were 
devouring the contents of my basket and coffee pot I learned 
from their conversation that a messenger had been sent to 
town for information concerning the whereabouts of the Fry 
boys, and the best plan for effecting their capture. I denied 
my knowledge of them, but the note in the basket, from mother 
to Joe, proved me a conscious liar. Then I was threatened 
with punishment if I did not tell where they were, but I re- 
fused so emphatically to do so that they became angry and 
hung me up to a limb of a tree. In a few seconds, which 
seemed hours, I was let down with the remark, "I think he'll 
tell now where they are." "I'd see you d d first," was my 
earnest reply. Again I was suspended, and again let down to 
hear "Tell us where the Fry boys are, or we'll leave yon 
hanging to that limb." Many thoughts flashed through my 
mind, and I mentally remarked, "This is an excellent oppor- 
tunity to wreak vengeance on Joe for his many cruelties to 
Ruth and myself," but the thought of treason suppressed the 
idea as soon as it was formed. Whatever I might personally 
do to Joe, I could not bear the thought of betraying him into 
the hands of our common enemy. The halter had hurt my 



180 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

neck so that several minutes elapsed before I could speak in- 
telligently. "If you will untie me, I will," said I, "take you to 
where the boys are. I have no special love for them ; they are 
only my step-brothers, and used to treat me meanly." This 
frank statement was known to be correct by two of my cap- 
tors, who had been neighbors to my Nora's father, Mr. Wil- 
son, therefore they readily agreed to my proposition. 1 was 
no sooner set at liberty than I fired .my pistol over the 
heads of the men, who sprang for their guns, setting against 
a tree, while I dashed down the hill through paw-paw bushes 
and briars. The boys heard the shot and made good their 
escape ; but instead of returning to the regular army, they 
stopped by the wayside and joined the redoubtable Quantrel. 
The militia was ordered back to St. Joseph that same night, 
but before departing I was roundly "cussed" by Captain Ennis 
Thomas, who said I was a "fit representative of Balaam's ad- 
monisher." 

Two of the men helping to hang me were with the jay- 
hawkers who robbed my father's house during the war, and 
shortly after the fight at Geary City they met my old friend. 
Philip Kerlin, at Doniphan, Kansas, and hung him up three 
times because he would not cheer Jim Lane. These men, also 
Mr. Kerlin, at the close of the war settled in the vicinity of 
Hall's Station, and the former, while I was doing business 
there, inaugurated a sort of "White Cap" organization, which, 
for convenience I will designate as "The Mob" ; and which 
numbered but six men, who were my best customers. Mr. 
Kerlin also patronized me, and occasionally met members of 
"The Mob" at my house, and, when under the influence of 
liquor, roundly abused them for their cruel treatment of him 
at Doniphan, which resulted in stiffening his neck so that he 
was obliged to turn the whole body in order to turn his head. 
On such occasions it was with great difficulty that I pre- 
vented bloodshed between them ; but while I was in the moun- 
tains they killed himi in his cornfield. 

The Henry boys, friends and neighbors of Mr. Kerlin. 
and Charles Hinman, a friend of "The Mob," got into an 
altercation over a water line. The latter being caught in the 
act of breaking the dam, was promptly shot by one of the 
former. The rage of "The Mob" now knew no bounds. It 
accused Mr. Kerlin of inciting young Henry to shoot Hinman. 
and declared he must now hang until "dead, dead." I was on 
the most intimate terms with the leader of "The Mob/' who. 
one evening, said to me, "Polk, we are going to hang old 
stiff neck (Mr. Kerlin) tonight, and we want you to go with 
us." I did not say I would go, but censured Mr. Kerlin and 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 181 



expressed the belief that he was responsible for the shooting, 
which the chief construed as equivalent to saying I would 
accompany him. I put on my pistols, rode out to Mr. Kerlin's 
house, notified him of the proposed attack on his life, and re- 
mained with him all night. The chief called for me, as he said 
he would. Nora told him where I was, and advised him to 
abandon his wicked purpose and let the law handle Mr. Ker- 
lin. H'e concluded, and correctly too, that I had gone to Mr. 
Kerlin's for the purpose of defending him, therefore the mat- 
ter was hushed up. "The Mob," however, now turned its de- 
structive battery against me, and, having a controlling influ-* 
ence, both political and social, in the neighborhood, had no 
difficulty in instituting an effectual boycott on my business, 
and rough characters were incited to create disturbances at 
my house. I was almost killed one day by a burly ruralist. 
who struck me on the head with a heavy railroad pick. This 
frightened Nora, and she persuaded me to sell out the busi- 
ness and buy a farm. I did so, but bought a lawsuit with 
the farm, and through a technicality in law not only lost the 
land, but everything else I had, and was compelled to labor 
daily in order to support my little family, as previously stated. 

On my return to Missouri from Utah, the news got out 
that I had come back for the purpose of killing all those im- 
plicated in the murder of my friend, Philip Kerlin. I made 
no such threats, but did say, however, that I would endeavor 
to bring the guilty parties to justice. "The Mob" was fear- 
fully exercised on account of this declaration, and took occa- 
sion to circulate all sorts of evil reports about me. Every 
crime committed within fifty miles of Hall's Station was 
charged to my account, and rewards (emanating from their 
prolific brains) for my capture ranged from one hundred to 
fifteen hundred dollars. The excitement caused by these evil 
reports and fictitious rewards, like the dew Hron before the 
morning sun, melted away under the decisive test of an 
honest investigation, which was made by Mr. William Mur- 
ren, of Rushville, who was my staunch friend, and who would 
not believe me guilty of a dishonorable act, no matter who 
made the accusation. Mr. Murren published an account of 
his investigations, which served to not only silence "The 
Mob," but enlist public sympathy in my behalf. This was 
the "glad tidings of great joy" I received on the day of my 
return from Uncle "Bobby" Scearce's, from Al and Nora, with 
whom I was permitted to remain unmolested. We lived hap- 
pily together, and were made welcome wherever we chose to 
go, even exchanging visits with members of "The Mob." 

I could not, however, meet either of these men without 



182 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

seeing in his countenance the perpetrator, or accessory, of the 
foul murder of my friend, which kept alive the determination 
to see that each got his just deserts before the law. I soon 
gained the confidence of a member of one of the families of 
"The Mob," who, one day in a fit of anger, said to the head 
of the family and in the presence of the chief of "The Mob/' 
"Poke Wells will soon have you and your gang in the peni- 
tentiary." This was sufficient for them to know that I was IP 
possession of all the facts concerning: their crime, therefore 
"The Mob" resolved to at once suppress or extinguish me. 
Hitherto the accusations against me were comparatively in- 
significant to what "The Mob" now brought forth. Its move- 
ments became more marked and unrelenting in purpose and 
its members (men of wealth), being actuated by self-preser- 
vation, now vouched for- the three hundred dollars reward of- 
fered for my arrest by their chief. One day a man was robbed 
near the "log cabin." The robber looked very much like me 
and unfortunately had, at the time of the robbery, one of my 
pistols. "The Mob" got hold of the victim who was a mem- 
ber of a gang of horse thieves, was riding a stolen mule when 
robbed, and had in his pocket a letter of introduction to the 
very man who robbed him and induced him to swear out a 
warrant for my arrest. This was the first legal document 
procured against me. The sheriff, Fay Spencer, being well 
acquainted with my father's family, believed it to be a "ma- 
licious conspiracy," and refused to have anything to do with 
the matter, but allowed "The Mob" to retain the warrant, and 
told one of its members to make the arrest if he wanted to. 
"The Mob," failing to enlist the sheriff in its cause, finally 
secured the services of two policemen of St. Joseph to assist 
in my capture and overthrow. I was promptly notified of 
this combination, in consequence of which I decided to make 
my home for a time in the woods. While sitting one evening 
at the west entrance to my cave, waiting for Al and Nora to 
arrive with my supper, a beautiful black shepherd dog came 
to me. I regarded this as a good omen, and therefore named 
my mute but intelligent friend "Luck." The faithfulness of 
the dog to his master is too well known to need recounting 
here. I may say, however, that "Luck" became at once my 
companion, protector and messenger. Through his fidelity 
and sagacity I was enabled to inform Al and Nora of my 
movements. 

Bill Norris, on moving into our neighborhood, assiduous- 
ly courted my company. There was something in the man 
that affected me strangely and gave him power to exert an 
evil influence over me; and notwithstanding the repeated en- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 183 

treaties of Al and Nora to have nothing to do with him, I 
yielded to his persuasions, and our first act was .the robbing 
of a store at DeKalb, Missouri. He now proposed that we 
rob the express train. I agreed to do so, and went to Atchi- 
son to make some investigations in the matter. While there 
I called on a friend who had frequently sent me word to 
visit him. He was, and is yet, a prominent man, and his 
business with me "was evil in the sight of the Lord." Of 
course I agreed to his liberal offer to share ten thousand dol- 
lars with me, whereupon he introduced me to the conductor 
from whom he was to get the desired information. I was then 
shown about the train I was to rob. This train was called 
"The Plug." and its only business was to transfer passengers 
from the Union depot in Atchison across the river to Paw Paw 
Junction, on the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs 
railroad. It made two trips each night to the Junction, one 
at eleven o'clock to meet the north-bound express and the 
other to meet the south-bound passenger. These two trains 
met at Hall's Station, thus allowing "The Plug" barely time 
to make its first trip and return in time to meet the passenger ; 
consequently the treasure received from the first train (which 
was to bring the money we were waiting for) was kept in the 
little iron safe. After completing arrangements and adopting 
a signal, by which I would know the money was on "The 
Plug," I returned home and notified Norr-is of my success. 
We rode down to Winthrop, a distance of twelve miles, four 
nights in succession, and on the fourth night the signal ap- 
peared, we boarded the train and passed through the coach 
containing several passengers, into the express car. I com- 
pelled Mr. Simms, the conductor, to open the little safe, the 
contents of which were put into his mail pouch, which was 
thrown over my shoulder. I then searched the conductor, 
took from him a small pistol of the "Swamp Angel" pattern 
and his pocketbook, which he said contained his private re- 
mittance to the company, and for which he was "personalty 
responsible," therefore the purse and its contents were re- 
turned. The baggage master had forty dollars, his "own 
money," which I did not take from him. We then left 'the 
train and returned home, only to find we had made a blunder 
on acconut of a misunderstanding in the adjustment of the 
signal, whereby we attacked the train on its first trip instead 
of waiting for the second, consequently failed to get the ten 
thousand dollars due that evening. This robbery occurred on 
Thursday night, July 8th, 1880, and the booty obtained con- 
sisted of two hundred dollars in greenbacks, six dollars in 
silver, ten Elgin watch movements, valued at one hundred 



184 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

and forty dollars, one fifty dollar silver certificate and a lot of 
papers, whose value I did not ascertain. The certificate 
watches, papers and pistols were put into the conductor's 
pouch, which I, on Sunday night, hung on the knob of the 
back door to the express office in Atchison. I gave our friend 
his share of the money and again returned to my home in the 
woods, deeply impressed with the fact that I was not, prac- 
tically, a complicated schemer; that the expectations of a rob- 
ber were too often extravagant and delusive, therefore, I be- 
came disgusted with the profession of highway robbery, and 
again vowed I would lead an honorable, upright life. 

My headquarters were near the graveyard, in which was 
buried my first wife, who, as stated elsewhere, was an angel, 
and I concluded to make a practical test of my faith in the 
efficacy of prayer. Accordingly six nights in succession were 
spent in prayer at her grave. About one o'clock of the sixth 
night I knelt, for the last time, at the grave and humbly but 
earnestly besought God to send the spirit of my dear- Mattie 
to advise me what to do and how to do it. I did not want to 
lead a wicked life, yet lacked the will power to evade the dic- 
tates of conscience, and hence sought heavenly aid and guid- 
ance. The city of the dead is on a knoll, at the mouth of a 
deep hollow, and surrounded by a dense growth of timber. 
The night was calm and beautiful, yet quite dark where I sat 
after prayer, leaning against the head-stone of my wife's 
grave, awaiting the answer to my petition, and to my notion 
a more fitting time, place and occasion for the appearance of 
a disembodied spirit could not be imagined. "Luck" lay at 
my side, with his head affectionately resting on my lap. Pres- 
ently I heard something tripping over the grass toward where 
I sat. "Ah, my darling," I said, "is coming to comfort and 
strengthen me and lead me into the way of everlasting life." Then 
the tree tops began to sway back and forth, tombstones set up a 
march and countermarch movement around me, the earth 
trembled, my head swami and my heart, beating faster and 
faster as the footsteps drew nearer, actually ceased to pulsate 
when the spirit stopped at my side, and I, with a last breath, 
reverentially exclaimed, "Oh ! Heavenly Father, I thank thee 
that thou hast heard and answered my prayer." Just then 
"Luck" darted across my lap, seized something in his teeth, 
gave it a vigorous shake, then a whine, an energetic jerk of 
a bushy tail and the odor of a healthy skunk arose to the very 
throne of grace. It would consume a ream of foolscap to 
record all that passed through my mind in the brief space of 
a few moments, and I doubt if there is a mind strong enough 
to endure for ten minutes the emotions I experienced on that 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 185 

occasion. I was so overwhelmed by anticipated joys arising 
from the expectations of a conversation with my departed 
wife's spirit that I could not rise, but when the stifling odor 
of that skunk reached my nostrils, I sprang to my feet and. 
uttering a volley of terrible oaths, fled from the city of the 
dead. Now, I believe in the visitation of both good and bad 
disembodied spirits, and my mind, while at the grave of my 
wife, was so perplexed with evil suggestions, by the latter 
that I but faintly felt the strivings of the former; hence my 
discomfiture and subsequent sins. 

Shortly after my graveyard experience, Norris and I re- 
turning home one night, encountered "The Mob" (now num- 
bering twenty-five men, well armed) at Hall's Station. ^ 
rope was stretched from the corner of the depot across the 
road and made fast to a tree (the object being to jerk me 
from the saddle in case I started to run), and the men sta- 
tioned on each side of the road, placing me under a cross-fire, 
with orders to shoot me if I did not fall. As we drew near 
the Station, the deathlike stillness resting over that hitherto 
noisy place became so oppressive and ominous, so much so 
that I was seized with a positive presentiment. I stopped 
short and said, "Bill, let us turn off here and go around the 
Station, for there is danger awaiting us." "I believe you are 
the most visionary fellow in America. I was thinking your 
silence would result in another revelation from on high," he 
irreverently replied. I was piqued by his lack of respect for 
my feelings and quietly rode on. He himself became im- 
pressed that all was not right, and as we neared the railroad 
crossing I heard him cock his pistol, and had only time to say 
softly, "Don't shoot any one if you can help it," when "Halt, 
halt," rang out on the stillness of the night from a dozen 
angry throats. I pressed the spurs to my horse, and he shot 
forward like an arrow, then "bang, bang," went the pistols, 
and "boom, boom" echoed the double-barreled shotguns, 
There was no moon, but the stars shone with uncommon bril- 
liancy, enabling me to see the rope in time to lean forward so 
as to pass under it. As I did so the fellow behind the tree 
discharged both barrels of his gun at me. The saddle-horn 
and the front part of my vest were swept away by the shot, 
but neither horse nor myself were touched. I ran a hundred 
yards or so and stopped. Bill's horse dashed past me with- 
out the rider. Thus far I had had no desire to return the fire 
but now, supposing my friend killed, was on the point of go- 
ing back to fight the whole "Mob" single-handed when I 
heard Bill whistle in the field at my left. Norris, when his 
horse fell at the first fire, pierced with a load of buck-shot in 



186 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

the head and neck, sprang over the hedge fence and escaped 
but two buck-shot had passed through his left hand. Next 
day Norris went to St. Joseph and had warrants issued for tlie 
whole party of would-be assassins, who were promptly ar- 
rested, and as promptly released on bail. 

This affair discovered the friendship existing between 
Norris and myself, and henceforward his house was watched 
day and night in the hope of catching me. "The Mob's" first 
reward was secret, or limited to the society of "regulators," 
but now it was increased to five hundred dollars and made 
public. Hitherto the officers of the law paid no attention 
to the rewards supposed to have been offered for my capture 
but this one, vouched for by men financially able to make it 
good, had the effect of not only arousing the whole legal 
force against me, but the community at large. Men who had 
been my dearest friends, and to whom I had rendered acts 
of love and assistance on various occasions, now sought my 
life or liberty 'for the sake of a few dollars. Jacob Starmen 
whose life I saved at the risk of my own, became my most 
relentless pursuer, the only cause for his enmity being based 
upon the fact of my having assisted his daughter to secure 
an excellent husband. There were at least five hundred 
men in search of me, and, to use their own words, "every 
house where he is known to get aid or provisions is watched 
and every avenue of escape cut off." I overheard this remark 
one night as I lay in the bushes on the roadside near a spring 
at which a lengthy conversation took place between two of 
my pursuers. For five days I had nothing to eat except 
slippery-elm bark and a sheaf of oats, yet my faithful "Luck" 
remained at my side. He seemed to understand the gravity 
of the situation, and appeared to be doubly watchful, but this 
was not necessary, as my enemies had no intention of attack- 
ing me in the woods, but secreted themselves along the roads, 
paths, and in the vicinity of certain springs. By this clever 
strategem they hoped to entrap me, or force me, through 
hunger, to ' surrender. My chances for escape lay in a bold 
dash through the enemy's line, or in my ability to endure 
hunger, thereby giving the impression that I had already 
passed beyond successful pursuit. Late in the evening of the 
fifth day, I sent "Luck" to the cabin. He soon returned with 
a note from Nora, requesting me to leave the country for a 
while, and stating that she would bring my horse to me "or 
die trying." I wrote another note, saying, "Bring the horse 
by all means, and tie Luck in the house." I fastened the note 
to his collar, shook his paw good-bye and said, "Go, my dear 
friend." About fifty yards away he stopped and looked back, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DKKDS 



187 



as if to say, "Dear master, I know that I shall never see you 
again" ; I waved my hand for him to go on, he dropped his 
tail and passed out of my sight under a sweeping trot. About 
sundown Nora started to me, and as she came out of the 
bushes into the road the horse coughed, thereby attracting the 
attention of a dozen men, who were hid at the mouth of a hol- 
low. They saw her and shouted, "Halt, halt, or we'll shoot," 
and started in pursuit of her. The horse was a good one, and. 
as she said, "fairly flew down the road." I heard the clatter 



Nora taking a Horse to Wells' Rescue. 



of his feet, and, looking up the road, beheld the loveliest pic- 
ture my eyes ever rested upon. The horse, with nostrils ex- 
panded, was running at full speed, Nora sitting erect and 
gracefully poised in the saddle, her black tresses waving in 
the breeze, her eyes sparkling with uncommon fire, and her 
cheeks aglow with excitement and love. She dismounted. 
threw her arms around my neck, kissed me, and said, "Polk, 
for my sake get away from here as quick as you can. A dozen 
men are coming this way. When you stop let us know where 
you are and we will come to you. Here, put this lunch in 
your pocket, and go. God bless you, and keep you from evil 
and harm." I mounted the horse, and with her prayer ring- 



188 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ing in my ears, disappeared in the bushes. My pursuers, meet- 
ing Nora returning afoot, knew she had given me the horse, 
therefore shamefully abused her, and declared they would not 
rest until I was captured and to accomplish this a man was 
sent post haste to Hall's Station to telegraph the other branches 
of the association to look out for me. I knew this would be 
done, but hoped to be beyond the committee's reach before 
morning, and would have done so if I had not fallen asleep in 
my saddle. Though I had implicit confidence in Luck, whom 
I had trained to awaken me without barking, yet I could not 
sleep soundly. The breaking of a twig or the chirp of a bird 
was sufficient to bring me to my feet, pistol in hand, ready 
to battle for my life or liberty I would not again experience 
such feelings for all the gold and silver in the universe. 

After leaving Nora I remember passing Wallace, on the 
Rock Island road, but there I fell asleep and did not wake un- 
til nearly sunrise, and, finding myself within a mile of De- 
Kftlb, and not more than six miles from where I started ; and 
where the regulators were as thick and ferocious as alligators 
ia a Mississippi swamp. I turned my horse in the opposite 
direction, and by eight o'clock crossed the Platte River. The 
road lay up the river bottom, which was covered with heavy 
timber and underbrush. At a short turn in the road I came 
face to face with a dozen men, all well armed and riding good 
horses. To run was to be riddled with bullets ; to submit to 
arrest was simply to be hung. I concluded they could do no 
more than kill me, and, drawing both pistols, dashed forward 
to meet the foe, regardless of consequences. My first im- 
pulse was to kill every man I could, so that I would, like 
Samson, be crowned with victory even in death ; but better 
thoughts entered my mind on seeing the confusion my bold 
onslaught had thrown the enemy into, and decided to simply 
wound a few of them. "Before they can examine the wound- 
ed and get over their surprise I will be out of reach," was 
my idea. Accordingly, as I passed through the party, I shot 
two men through the arm and one through the shoulder, the 
latter falling from his horse, exclaimed, "I'm shot, boys." Some 
of the cooler heads recovered sufficiently to send a shower of 
shot after me as I turned my horse into an opening in the 
woods. Several shot passed through my clothes, and one 
struck my horse a little below and back of the right ear. He 
ran about fifty yards and fell dead. That night I stole a horse 
and by daylight next morning was on the river opposite Lex- 
ington, Missouri. Here I turned the horse loose, and crossed 
the river in a skiff. As I passed up a back street of Lexing- 
ton I saw a sign, "Washing and ironing done to order." 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 180 

Entering the little cottage I found an old negro woman alone. 
She, seeing that I was muddy from head to foot, took me for a 
tramp, and was about to order me from the house, when I 
produced a five dollar bill and, holding it toward her said. 
"Auntie, I will give you this if you will get me something to 
eat and clean my clothes ; I can go to bed while you do the 
latter." She laughed heartily and said, "Bless de Lawd, I 
nebber hearn ob sich a thing in all de days ob my life befo'." 
While I was doing justice to an excellent breakfast, my 
sable-skinned hostess was preparing a bed for me, after which 
I gave her the money, saying, "Now, auntie, if you tell any 
one that I am here, or have been here, I will never patronize 
you again." "Fo' he Lawd I wouldn't tell de angels in heben 
'bout you, sah," was her earnest reply. After a bath in a tub 
of cold water, I went to bed and to sleep. When I awoke, at 
nine o'clock that evening, my clothes were lying on a chair 
looking as bright as when I bought them, and my boots nice- 
ly polished. Stepping from the bedroom into the presence of 
my benefactress, she made a stately bow and laughingly re- 
marked that I did not look like "de same person." I was 
greatly refreshed, and felt as differently as I looked. 

I put up at one of the best hotels in Lexington, and was 
frequently obliged to enter into a discussion with other guests 
about myself. I was praised by one side and denounced by 
the other. I had but little to say when the remarks were mina- 
tory, but when of a complimentary nature I would tell a story 
touching some of my exploits on the plains. One evening I 
was engaged in conversation with Mr. Price, a commercial 
traveler for a Kansas City tea firm, who seemed to take spe- 
cial delight in relating daring deeds and hair-breadth escapes 
of Poke Wells. "Are you personally acquainted with the 
famous outlaw?" I asked. "Oih, yes, I know himi quite well," 
said the gentleman. I then demanded a description of my- 
self, which I could give verbatim, but will refrain from doing 
so. I was represented as being a model type of manhood, 
and possessed of intellectual qualifications and shrewdness in 
trickery equal to General Jim Weaver of Iowa. He concluded 
his eulogy of me by saying, "Polk is a jolly good fellow and a 
fine billiard player." Mr. Price's acquaintance with me was 
imaginary, and so far as my playing billiards with him or any 
one else is concerned is wholly untrue, as I never played a 
game of billiards. I have had this sort of thing to occur 
many times, and I am unable to understand why intelligent 
men resort to such questionable means in order to make some- 
one else oelieve they are intimately, or even remotely, ac- 
quainted with some notorious character. 



190 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



From Lexington I went to Norbourne, which I found 
profusely decorated with Miles Orton's circus bills. Here I 
met two men whom I agreed to help rob the ticket wagon on 
show day, which would have been done had I not met Mr. 
Orton, who, with his leading men, put up at the same hotel 
I was staying at. Just before dinner a little boy came in and 
said, "Gentlemen, I want to black your boots to get some 
money so I can go to the show to see Mr. Orton, the best 
bareback rider in the world." "How do you know he is?" 
asked Mr. Orton. "Because my papa says so," was the boy's 




Wouldn't Rob the Show because Proprietor too Generous Hearted. 

reply. Some one then inquired, "Can't your father buy yon 
a ticket?" "No, sir; he got hurt in a railroad wreck several 
weeks ago and has not earned any money since." This 
touched the great showman's heart, and he said, "Frank," 
speaking to one of his men, "pass the hat." Everyone in the 
room contributed something, and one gentleman dropped a bill 
into the cap of the astonished boy, whose tongue had been 
taught to say "thank you," and whose heartfelt gratitude 
beamed forth from his large brown eyes as he bowed himself 
out of the room. This was a beautiful scene, and completely 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 15)1 

changed my thoughts for that day at least. After dinner I 
met my partners and told them that Mr. Orton was my personal 
friend, and, of course, could not see him robbed. "Well, we 
can all go to the show then, if that is the case," said one of the 
boys. When I reached the circus ground the tent was full of 
merry people, but outside stood a score of little ones, whose 
apparel and pinched faces stamped them as children of pov- 
erty, with their sad little eyes turned longingly toward the 
tent entrance. My sympathy for these unfortunate ones was 
deeply moved. I stepped to the ticket wagon, and placing five 
dollars on the board, said to the agent, "Pleace give me half- 
fare tickets for that." I gave the tickets to the little girls 
and boys, who shouted, "Goody, goody, we'll get to see the 
elephant dance." I entered the tent, too, as the clown said, 
"just to please the children." Thus Mr. Orton's kindness to 
the little boy not only saved him from being robbed, but put 
money in his pocket, and the delight and thankfulness with 
which the little fellow received his collection from the hotel 
guests and showman must have caused his heart to leap for 
joy; besides his generosity opened the way for me to share in 
the common glory of ministering unto the poor and needy ones 
of earth. 

I remained in and around Norborne for some time after 
the circus, always thinking of Nora, often repeating those 
lovely lines of the great poet, Goethe : "Nora, dear Nora, when 
thou are near I feel I ought not to love, but when far away I 
feel I love thee so much, Oh, much." Besides loving Nora, I 
loved my native county (Buchanan), and as I could not bo 
happy anywhere, concluded to return home, surrender my- 
self to the law and accept a sentence in the penitentiary, if 
that would free me from further persecution, rather than re- 
main an exile from home and friends ; besides I wanted to 
testify against "The Mob" for shooting at Norris and myself. 
Arriving at the "log cabin," I informed Al and Nora of my 
decision, which they heartily approved. Al and Nora were 
witnesses against "The Mob," and on the day of trial (Sep- 
tember 9th) we all started for St. Joseph. When we reached 
the city they went on to the court house, while I stopped to 
get shaved before presenting myself to the sheriff. While I 
was in the barber chair a member of "The Mob" passed the 
door, and recognizing me, hurried on to inform his colleagues 
who quickly came to the shop, accompanied by Deputy Sher- 
iff Tom Kelly, who entered the room and asked, "Is your 
name Wells Polk Wells?" "Yes, sir." "Well, I have a war- 
rant for you, Mr. Wells," said he. I discovered "The Mob" 
outside, and taking the deputy for one of its members, con- 



192 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

eluded to fight; therefore, I struck the officer, sending him 
whirling across the room. I was seized by half a dozen strong- 
men and a terrible struggle ensued. I was finally disarmed 
and triumphantly carried off to jail, and when safely behind 
the bars the deputy sheriff read two warrants to me, one for 
highway robbery, which was committed by the "fellow that 
looked like me," and the other for assault with intent to kill. 
The latter charge was preferred by Fred Crandall, with whom 
I had a difficulty a year previous, and with whom I had made 
friends. In the case of robbery the prosecuting attorney, Mr. 
Hall, entered a nolle prosequi. Then "The Mob" joined Cran- 
dall in the hope of sending me to the penitentiary. I waived 
examination, and the court fixed my bond at two thousand 
dollars, in default of which I was again taken to jail. There 
were scores of good men who were inclined to go on my 
bond, but feared to identify themselves as my friends by such 
an open demonstration, consequently I was obliged to remain 
in durance vile. 

About the first of February, 1881, the Talbott brothers 
under sentence of death for the murder of their father, Dr. 
Talbott, a wealthy and prominent gentleman of Nodaway 
County, were brought to the St. Joseph jail for safe keeping 
until the day set for their execution. Mrs. Talbott came to 
see her boys, and I proposed to rescue them and see them 
safely out of the country, provided she would put up one 
thousand dollars ( which would secure my release), furnish 
money to buy arms and horses and defray traveling expenses 
Next morning she returned and handed me a belt containing 
ten hundred and twenty dollars, with orders to call at her 
house as soon as liberated. My attorney, Colonel Sam B. 
Green, took the money and deposited it in the First National 
Bank, whole president, Honorable A. M. Saxton, came to the 
court house, signed my bond, and I walked out a free man 
once more. Next day I arrived at the Talbot mansion and 
was gretted with tears and cheers of the sorrowing mother 
of the doomed boys. I was furnished ample means for carry- 
ing out my design, and a fine mule team, wagon and harness 
and an excellent saddle horse were given into my charge. The 
team was intended for conveying the boys away after being 
released, and the horse was a present to myself. A livery 
stable man of St. Joseph was interested in and hoped for my 
success and furnished me one of the best carriage teams in the 
city with which to carry the boys to the mule team in the 
woods near Al and Nora's house. "Big Mike" was also in 
jail waiting trial for robbing the train at Paw Paw Junction. 
After passing the postoffice I stopped the team and got out 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 193 

of the carriage, for that mysterious messenger, which has ac- 
companied me through so many adventures, now warned me 
that "discretion is the better part of valor/' and that I had 
better investigate matters before venturing further, and it is 
well for me that I heeded the warning of the "still, small 
voice," for when I reached the jail, "Big Mike" informed me 
through the "chuck hole" that it was heavily guarded, and 
certain death awaited me in case I made an effort to rescue 
him and the Talbot boys. The Sheriff overheard them wish 
for my return, and, suspecting their mother's money had ef- 
fected my release, notified the court, from which he received 
orders to arm a dozen men to defend the jail. I prudently 
withdrew and advised my comrades to leave the city immedi- 
ately. The Talbott boys were secretly removed to another 
jail. It was, however, confidently expected that I would make 
another effort to rescue the boys which was fully contem- 
plated by me, and would have been attempted had not the 
mother stopped me either from jail or on the day of the ex- 
ecution ; therefore, a number of sheriffs from southwestern 
Iowa were invited to assist the Missouri officers in maintain- 
ing the majesty of the law, consequently the boys were hung 
on the clay appointed. 

Having been dimsissed from Mrs. Talobt's employment, 
I returned home and went to work with Al and Nora on a 
little farm. Our cabin was on the bluff, overlooking the Mis- 
souri bottoms, and when the river flooded the cemetery that 
spring (1881), we took our teams and worked day and night 
in the water, rescuing the people and their property. Some 
of those whom we assisted from the bottom and cared for 
until the river receded into its banks were our bitterest ene- 
mies. I will note one case on account of its remarkable fea- 
tures. A widow, Mrs. McBride, and her son lived about two 
miles from our cabin. I knew the young man, Reuben, but 
had never seen his mother, who had invoked a"n awful fate 
upon me. "I do wish," she said, "that the vigilantes would 
leave him hanging until the crows pick his eyes out." When 
Al and I, with oui team?, arrived at her house the water wa? 
rushing through it. Reuben was away trying to get his stock 
to the bluffs, while the old lady lay on a bed weeping. "My 
good woman," said I, "will you let us take you to a place of 
safety?" "Yes, sir, and God will bless you for it, too," was 
her thankful reply. After filling our wagons with the most 
valuable and perishable goods, we then carried the lady in a 
chair between us through the water (waist deep) to my wag- 
on, gave her a comfortable seat and started for the cabin. Ar- 
riving there she was sent to the house, while we hastened to 



194 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

help Reuben corral his stock in our lot. He was very thankful 
for our assistance 1 , and said, "I guess mother will be surprised 
when she finds out where she is." Mrs. McBride was not 
afraid of Al and Nora, but denounced them in strongest terms 
for their friendship to me ; nevertheless Nora received her in 
a royal manner and bid her welcome, thereby fulfilling our 
Savior's command to "love and do good to those who hate 
you." On entering the house the old lady inquired, "Whose 
house am I at, to whom am I indebted for this great assist- 
ance, and who is that dark-complexioned young man who has 
treated me so kindly and tenderly?" Nora replied, "That is 
Polk Wells, and the young man with him is my husband, Mr. 
Warnica, whose house you are in." "Then you are Nora 
Wells, or, I should say, Warnica?" "Yes, ma'am." "And is 
it possible that such a man as I believed Polk Wells to be can 
be so kind and gentlemanly." Nora assured the old lady that 
I was far from being a savage. The McBrides became our 
most zealous friends and promptly rebuked any one who 
dared, in her presence, speak disrespectful of Al, Nora or myself. 

A large majority of those driven from their humble homes 
by the river were very poor, and lived, as it were, from hand 
to mouth, even in good times; but now, in their deplorable 
condition, they became worthy objects of pity and assistance. 
The bluffs were alive with bare-footed, pale-faced, hungry lit- 
tle children, care-worn mothers and tired fathers. This was a 
most affecting scene, and, strange to say, many of the people 
from whom I could take nothing and had not, and never de- 
sired to wrong in any way, had earnestly sought my life or 
liberty; yet their sad situation aroused my sympathy to its 
utmost capacity. I drove Mrs. Talbot's mules and horse to 
St. Joseph, sold them and distributed the money among the 
most needy of these unfortunate people. It may be thought 
that I could well afford to be charitable with other people's 
money, yet It was virtually mine, as Mrs. Talbott had not 
asked the return of her property, and the probabilities were 
it would not have been restored if she had, consequently my 
generosity was the effusion of true sympathy and self-sacri- 
fice. But my kindness was not appreciated, as these same 
people to whom I gave the money were, when again in their 
own homes, as bitter toward me as before. 

The man who planned the train robbery for Norris and 
myself the previous summer now proposed that we rob a rich 
merchant, who, in connection with his store, was transacting 
a sort of banking business at Nortonville, Kansas. I went out 
to investigate the financial standing of the firm (McCarthy & 
Layson), and after a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Me- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 195 

Carthy, concluded that he was not the kind of a man I desired 
to rob and so informed my friend. "Mr. McCarthy," he said, 
"is a very nice man now, but he made his start robbing Mis- 
sourians during the war; beside he has used some very strong 
language about you of late." This sneering reply sealed the 
fate of the merchant, so I hurried to Missouri after Norris to 
help me execute my friend's wishes. At nine o'clock P. M. on 
or about the 14th of June, Norris, James Dougherty and my- 
self arrived at Nortonville, and when we entered the store 
there were several men and three ladies in it. The latter 
stood behind a stack of cailco, which prevented my seeing 
them, or I would not have made the attack when I did but 
would have waited until their departure. The safe was open 
and Mr. McCarthy and an old gentleman stood near it count- 
ing their money. I stepped behind the counter, and after as- 
suring the ladies that no personal harm was intended, pro- 
ceeded to examine the interior of the safe, from which I took 
twelve hundred dollars but failed to get a larger amount locked 
in a little side drawer. I saw Mr. McCarthy hand something 
to his wife, which she quickly slipped into the bosom of her 
dress (the all-important receptacle of every woman's treas- 
ure), and which was the key to the money drawer, but I af- 
fected not to see this clever maneuver as I knew I could not 
get the key without thrusting my crime-stained hand into the 
sacred folds of the lady's bosom ; besides I had promised not 
to molest her and my word, though a robber, was always 
sacredly observed, therefore my attention was given to the 
men, whom I searched only for fire arms. One young fellow 
had forty dollars and one of the ladies said, "Oh, Mr. Robber 
don't take it, he had to work very hard for it." I was not 
offering to take his money, nor had I even asked him for it, 
but he presented the purse to me unsolicited. I looked at his 
hands which bore the marks of toil, and returned his purse 
without looking into it. Then bidding Mr. McCarthy good- 
night, and bowing politely to the ladies, I bade my comrades 
follow me out of the store. A few days later Dougherty was 
arrested and to save himself confessed to the crime and impli- 
cated Norris and myself. On the same day that Dougherty 
was arrested I went to St. Joseph, where I met Mr. Layton 
just from Iowa and who had telegraphed his sister at Rush- 
ville to come to St. Joseph on the eight P. M. train. We met 
the sister and escorted her to the Gault House. Here, in a 
private parlor, Miss Layton informed me that my sister had 
accompanied her from Rushville to Halls Station, at which 
place she left the train and walked out to where Al and Nora 
lived. My attorney in Atchison learned that a large party 



196 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

from Nortonville was on its way to Halls Station to join "the 
Mob" for the purpose of capturing or killing me. He told sis- 
ter of the proposed attack and advised her to notify me as 
quick as possible of my danger. Mr. Layton, after hearing 
this extraordinary news, produced a paper clipping and handed 
it to me to read. It was a sketch of his life which instantly 
transformed Mr. Layton and his sister into Mr. and Mrs. Wil- 
son. Thinking my absence would be agreeable 'to the Wilsons 
I turned to leave the room determined to return home that 
night so I could get ready to receive my enthusiastic friends 
from Kansas. Before reaching the door Mr. Wilson said, 
"Stop, Mr. Wells, I have a proposition to make to you." "Out 
with it," said I. He then spoke of his admiration and his re- 
spect for me and his growing desire to become my associate in 
crime and notoriety, and closed his remarks by saying, "Now. 
sir, I propose to accompany you through good as well as evil 
report, and to share any danger you may have to face. It has 
for some time been my ambition to have an encounter just 
such a one as you are likely to have with the regulators." I 
warned him, as I did all other young men who wished to link 
their fortunes with mine, of the hardships, dangers, disgrace 
and shame which awaited not only himself, but his parents, 
also, by leading a life of crime ; but he insisted so stoutly on 
going with me that after considering the old proverb of "a 
friend in need," etc., I concluded to accept his company. 

The conductor, who was my friend, on reaching the woods 
near Norris' house, stopped for us to get off. It was quite dark 
in the heavy timber and the women, knowing that the train 
never stopped at this point except to let me on or off, came out 
to scare him. When opposite them Nora broke a twig in her 
hand and shouted "Halt, surrender." That beloved voice 
though somewhat muffled, was readily recognized, otherwise 
my darling Nora would have been killed, for Wilson drew his 
pistol with deadly intent, but my alert ears caught the sound 
of clicking triggers in time to say, "Don't shoot/' After talk- 
ing with sister I came to the conclusion that my real danger 
had been magnified, but it had not. 

Wilson and I the next morning returned to St. Joseph and 
entered the law office of my attorney, S. B. Green, to whom I 
introduced him as Mr. Layton. Mr. Green wrote the letter 
of introduction as desired to Mr. Booher, of the Savannah 
Bar, and give it to Mr. Layton, who, after leaving the office, 
handed the document to me. Accompanied by Mrs. Wilson 
I entered Mr. Booher's office and handed him the letter from 
his distinguished legal friend, which he read and immediately 
made out the necessary papers, took me to the court house and 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 197 

introduced me to the judge, clerk of the court and the Sheriff 
as Mr. Layton, of St. Joseph. The notice of divorce was is- 
sued against Wilson, who was to pass Savannah that evening 
on the train and I accompanied the Sheriff to the depot to 
point him out to the officer. The train arrived but Wilson 
was not on board. As we returned to the city Mr. Lincoln in- 
formed me that he had just received authority from St. Joseph 
to "arrest the notorious Polk Wells five hundred dollars re- 
ward for dead or alive." The telegram stated that I had left St. 
Joseph in company with a woman for Savannah, but my busi- 
ness was not revealed, therefore the two prominent lawyers 
mixed up in the case left the officers in doubt as to whom I 
really was ; and as I deemed it prudent to remain quiet on the 
subject, they were obliged to await further developments. The 
Deputy Sheriff and several gentlemen accompanied the Sheriff 
and myself from the depot up-town. I noticed they were eye- 
ing me closely, and Mr. Lincoln, with whom I was walking 
said, "Polk Wells is a desperate and dangerous character/' 
whereupon I offered my assistance in making the arrest in case 
he located his man. On reaching the public square the offi- 
cers turned into the court yard, and I hurried to the hotel and 
notified Mrs. Wilson of my danger and advised her immediate 
return to Rushville, and as I passed through the office heard 
the clerk say to Sheriff Lincoln, who had come to the hotel for 
the purpose of examining the register, "there goes Mr. Layton 
now." I pretended not to hear this remark but proceeded to 
the livery stable, and, as I sallied forth astride a fine horse, the 
Sheriff and several men came around the corner of the hotel 
in pursuit of me. I rode the horse a few miles and then left 
him in a woods pasture. I boarded the south bound passenger 
train at Amazonia, and on reaching the woods near Norris' 
house my conductor friend stopped and let me off. I reached 
the "log cabin" about five minutes after a dozen men had left 
it. They searched the house for me and again declared that 
only my head would satisfy them It was such declarations as 
the above that made "Polk Wells a desperate and dangerous 
character," and they would do the same for any man having a 
spark of courage in his soul. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Again I was forced to take refuge in the woods, and 
would have been compelled to fight my way to liberty through 
the enemy's lines, or obliged by hunger to surrender but for 
a most fortunate and unexpected event, which was as delight- 
ful and profitable to me as it was pleasing and dangerously ro- 
mantic to my fair friend, who was the lovely daughter of a 
well-to-do farmer, who himself was with #, party which 
searched the cabin for me. I had known this gentleman (for 
he was such) and his family all my life, and had once befriend- 
ed his little daughter who was now a charming young lady. 
She remembered my kindness and while I was in jail asked 
Nora what she could do to help me. "Get your pa to sign his 
bond," was Nora's reply. She made the request of her father, 
though in great sympathy with me refused to comply with her 
wishes. Since Dougherty had exposed me by his confession, 
and "The Mob" having embittered his mind against me by say- 
ing I had "designs on his blooded horses," the old farmer be- 
came a bold and aggressive foe. His daughter, however, re- 
mained true, and on the evening of the third day, after taking 
my stand in the woods, I chanced to meet this beautiful girl 
in the path as she was returning home from a neighbor's house. 
She was not frightened by my presence. On the contrary she 
was heartily glad to see me, and expressed her great sympathy 
for me, and regrets at my misfortunes in life, complimented 
my bravery and boldness in remaining so near my relentless 
enemies, and, after thanking me again for my kindness to her 
when a little girl, asked, "Now, Mr. Wells, is there anything 
I can do for you?" "Yes," said I, "there are many things you 
can do to assist me," and she did help me in a brave, lady-like 
manner. I surrendered myself, wholly and unreservedly, to 
the guidance of this angel of the woods. She fed me with the 
best her father's table afforded, brought me papers and the 
latest news from my besiegers every day, and conveyed a note 
from me to Nora, who gave it to my conductor friend, who 
circulated the news that he had taken me to Kansas City on his 
train, and at the end of the second week my beautiful young 
friend of the forest informed me that the conductor's report had 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 199 

served to raise the siege, and that the enemy had concluded 
(since Norris could not be found) that he and I had left the 
country together and returned to their homes. "Now, Mr. 
Wells," said my little star of the woods, "I will bid you good- 
bye, and may God bless you and keep you is my earnest 
prayer." I raised the lovely hand to my lips and impressed 
upon it a burning kiss of gratitude and reverence. We parted 
in tears and have never seen each other since that memorable 
eve. 

I was talking to a young lady in Atchison one evening 
when she suddenly seized my hand and drew me into her pri- 
vate room. "Remain perfectly quiet," she said, then retired, 
locking the door on me. I was completely dazed by this freak 
of feminine eccentricity. She quickly returned and said, "Mr. 
Wells, some gentlemen wish to see you in the parlor." When 
I entered the room Mr. Mark Taylor, the Sheriff and another 
gentleman greeted me. I have spoken of Mr. Taylor on an- 
other occasion, and who now said, "Polk, you must get out of 
this city before dark or submit to arrest, or fight your way 
out, for officers (naming them) are planning your capture/' 
The gentlemen shook my hand warmly, bid me god-speed, 
returned to their carriage and drove rapidly away. My lady 
friend had seen the gentlemen get out of the carriage, through 
the window. She recognized the Sheriff and supposed he was 
after me, hence her mysterious and silent conduct. It requires a 
more proficient use of the English vocabulary than I possess 
to express my appreciation of the many favors bestowed upon 
me by these gentlemen, and more especially by these good and 
pure young ladies, who sought to befriend me at the risk of 
incurring public calumny. I could multiply similar favors be- 
stowed by young ladies, not only upon myself but upon other 
noted outlaws and desperadoes, but it is unnecessary and I 
make special mention of these two young ladies simply for the 
purpose of pointing out a melancholy, and, so far as I am con- 
cerned, incomprehensible fact that the best and purest women 
have all along been the greatest and truest frinds to the crim- 
inal. 

After kissing the lily-white hand which fed me so many 
days in the woods, I hurried up the ridge to a point overlooking 
Norris' house, and made the usual signal which brought Al, 
Nora, Mrs. Norris, Mr. Wilson and his two wives to my side. A 
consultation resulted in Wilson and myself volunteering to 
make a search for Bill Norris, whose mysterious disappearance 
had well nigh stricken his wife with grief. She was a pure, 
high-minded woman, and worshipped the notorious Bill with a 
consuming love. After Mrs. Norris left the party Al and Nora 



200 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

seated themselves on one end of a long- log, and Wilson and 
his second wife on the other end, while his first wife and myself 
sat on the grass some distance from them. I thought a great 
deal of Fannie, yet my affections were centered in the woman 
on the end of the log at my left. Fannie honored and respected 
me as much as one friend could another, but it was evident; 
from the longing glances she cast toward Wilson that she yet 
loved him to distraction. Al and Nora were sensibly effected 
by the situation, but Wilson and "dear Annie," as he called 
her, seemed oblivious to the melancholy surroundings. Pres- 
ently we arose, as if by common consent, came together, then 




Shot Through Knee at Riverton (Iowa) Bank Robbery. 

each received and bestowed a kiss and a blessing upon the 
other. We then parted in silence and in tears. Al and the 
three women returning to the house, while Wilson and myself 
started in our self-imposed mission, viz: the discovery of the 
lost Bill. 

We arrived at Cameron, Missouri, in time to participate in 
the Fourth of July celebration. After dinner we borrowed two 
saddle horses, which had been dressed up by some jockey for 
trade, they proved worthless for our business and were soon 
exchanged for a pair of fine black mares. Reaching Fremont 
County, Iowa, we learned that Bill Norris had been at his 
uncle's house, but had started home the day before. Wilson 
now insisted on being initiated as a bank or train robber. The 
black mares were too large and fat for hard riding, and were 
traded for a little gray mare and a sorrel horse that suited. 
These animals belonged to neighboring farmers, living three 



EXCITING DAYS AND DAUIM; DKKDS 



miles north of Sidney, Iowa. At Riverton, the next morning, 
we entered a saloon to get some lemonade, as neither of us 
drank anything stronger. I noticed the sign "bank," on the 
opposite side of the street, and asked the bar-keeper for infor- 
mation concerning its financial standing and as to the esteem 
in which its proprietors were held by the people. His reply 
was, "The bank is the richest one in the county, and the pro- 
prietor is the grandest rascal in the state." We entered the 
bank that same day, July Hth, 1881, at three o'clock, P. M., 
and ordered the cashier, Mr. Saxton, to open his safe. While 
Wilson held a pistol on him I collected the money, amounting 
to something over four thousand dollars. We then passed out 
at the back door, while Mr. Saxton made his exit by the front 
door, shouting, ''Robbers, shoot, shoot." We were flying up 
the street when Mr. Thomas, a merchant, a quick, cool-headed 
fellow, ran to the door with his Winchester rifle and fired at 
us, the ball passing through the center of my left knee, inflict- 
ing a wound which rendered me utterly helpless, and came 
near costing me my life ; but a strong will and healthy consti- 
tution enabled me to bear the pain and to finally regain the 
use of my leg. 

Some fourteen miles south of town we entered a thick 
woods which was surrounded by a wheat field. Here I was 
taken from the mare and laid at the edge of a small stream of 
clear water, with which I bathed my wound, which continued 
to bleed for thirty-six hours. I was so weak and dizzy from 
the loss of blood that I could not sit up, and was consequently 
compelled to remain here for two nights and two days. About 
ten o'clock of the third night I decided to move on and re- 
quested Wilson to lift me into my saddle. We soon came to 
a large barn, from which Wilson brought forth a set of fine 
harness and a double-seated carriage, to which we hitched the 
horses. The little gray mare was proud as a peacock, neck 
arched beautifully, and possessed vim 1 and excellent bottom. 
It did my soul good, and, to some extent, relieved the pain in 
my leg to see her trot. We remained two days at the old man 
Wilson's house and then started for Utica( Missouri, where we 
expected, by appointment, to meet the two wives of young 
Wilson. We were traveling in a covered wagon (having left 
the stolen carriage and harness in the woods, where they were 
found by the owner), and in the edge of Missouri stopped at 
a farm house to stay over night. I was carried in and laid on 
a bed. The farmer, Mr. James Sego, and I had known each 
other for years, but he failed to recognize me. Some of his 
brothers were officers of the law and had been after me on 
several occasions, therefore I preferred to remain incognito 



202 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

while in his house. Two days later the old man Wilson re- 
turned from Utica with the news that detectives were watch- 
ing the women in the hope of catching his son and myself; 
that the James boys had just robbed the train at Winston, and 
that the country was alive with men searching for them. The 
old gentleman was greatly frightened, and, as I did not wish 
to stand in the way of young Wilson's liberty, I told them to 
leave me to the tender mercies of fate, and consult their own 
safety in immediate flight, which they did. 

Several parties on the hunt for horse thieves or robbers 
came to Mr. Sego's house to see me, but the old farmer assured 
them that I was an "honest man," so each company retired 
without searching me. Mr. Sego and his excellent wife were 
very kind to me, and at the end of a week I gave him twenty- 
five dollars to take me home in his spring wagon. Bill Norris' 
mother was very bitter against me and was at his house when 
we arrived, and said to Mr. Sego, "Do you know that man?" 
pointing to me. "No, ma'am," he replied. "Well, sir, that is 
Polk Wells, and these woods and hills are full of men search- 
ing for him, and you are likely to be killed for one of his 
friends." Mr. Sego was terribly frightened by this news, and, 
leaving his team in Norris' lot, hastened to Hairs Station. 
Half an hour later Al, Nora and Bill were at my side, and it 
was decided that Norris and I must leave the country. 

We left home in a covered wagon. The officers, however, 
learned of our mode of traveling (of which we were promptly 
informed through the papers), necessitating a change in our 
appearance. The wagon sheet and some other articles we 
dispensed with, therefore our outfit was not so easily distin- 
guished as before. We had to submit, when a halt was neces- 
sary, to a most careful and sympathetic interrogation. Every 
one wanted to know how I got hurt and each fellow insisted on 
my using his infallible remedy. I felt grateful for the sym- 
pathy bestowed on me but was terribly annoyed by questions, 
from, the fact that I have always had a profound regard for 
veracity, and it was absolutely necessary in almost every in- 
stance for me to utter a falsehood in replying to my sympa- 
thetic interrogators. To avoid suspicion, and the possibility 
of entangling ourselves, we were obliged to keep moving dur- 
ing the day, which made it very hard on me. I was not out of 
the wagon for over three weeks, during which time we trav- 
eled back and forth through the northeast portion of Missouri 
with the hot sun and dust pouring down on me. My leg was 
swollen to the size of my body, and was black as tar. I could 
not have endured what I did had Norris been less patient and 
kind to me. He was scrupulously exact in supplying my every 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 203 

want, he kept a keg of ice in the wagon, and, as it melted, drew 
the water and poured it on my leg as I required it. At one 
time he thought I was bound to die, and" urged me to submit o 
medical treatment, but I peremptorily refused to do so. I krew 
my case would not bear inspection, and, as I preferred death 
rather than again see "The Mob" exult over my capture, I re- 
quested Bill to continue the cold water applications to my leg, 
the swelling in which began to decrease and the flesh gradu- 
ally resumed its natural color. 

When I was able to sit up our lumber cart was traded off 
for a new spring wagon in which traveling became a luxury. 
We crossed the Mississippi at Louisiana, Missouri, and one 
evening, about September first, stopped over night with Mrs. 
Roundtree, a rich widow, living in the bluffs in the northwest 
corner of Jersey County, Illinois. These bluffs extend for 
miles up and down the Illinois River, and were covered with 
a dense growth of timber. Mrs. Roundtree's neighbors were 
the most improvident and non-progressive people I have ever 
met. I did not see half a dozen books nor a daily newspaper in 
all my visitations in that neighborhood. The widow herself; 
however, was a bright, intelligent woman, and evidently had 
once been a great reader, but for some cause or other her li- 
brary had dwindled away to a single book, which was the 
most magnificent Bible I have ever seen, and it was conspicu- 
ously placed on the marble-top center table. She was an ac- 
complished housekeeper and an excellent cook. A lovely niece 
and one hired man constituted her family. The locality and 
its general surroundings were most favorable to our desires, 
and, as I was badly in need of quiet and rest, we decided to re- 
main a week or two with the genial widow. She gladly con- 
sented and did all she could to make us comfortable and happy. 

For two weeks Norris nursed me as tenderly as if I were 
a baby, under which treatment, together with the cheery pres- 
ence of the pleasant widow and her beautiful niece, I rapidly 
grew strong and when able to mount my mare without assist- 
ance, Norris said, "It is time we were doing something," which 
of course, meant robbery, and the Jerseyville Bank was select- 
ed as a suitable victim. On the way to the city, for the purpose 
named, October 19th, 1881, we halted at Fieldon, a small in- 
land town, to get some repairing done at a shoe shop. The 
proprietor was a Missourian and soon introduced the topic of 
crime and noted criminals. He had considerable to say about 
the James and Younger brothers, but dwelt more especially on 
the late exploits of Polk Wells, and expressed the wish that 
"some of the boys would come along and rob this bank in 
Fieldon." I carelessly remarked that they would hardly get 



204 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



paid for their trouble, whereupon the builder of boots exclaim- 
ed, "You 1 are badly mistaken, sir, that bank contains over 
eighty thousand dollars of Jake and John Radish's money, be- 
sides a considerable amount belonging to the banker (Mr. 
Parks). They are all rascals of the deepest dye and it would 
therefore do me good to see them robbed." I had had several 
conversations on the stock raising resources of the west with 
the Radish's, who were very wealthy gentlemen, and I learned 
from their own lips that they were collecting money with a 
view to stock raising in Texas. But I gave them credit for 
having better sense than to deposit large sums of money in a 
village bank, which opinion proved correct. Burrus (alias 




Robbing the Jerseyville (111) Bank. 



Norris), after leaving the shoe-shop, remarked that eight thou- 
sand dollars was double the amount we were likely to get out 
of the Jerseyville Bank. This coupled with my knowledge of 
the affairs and intentions of the Radish brothers, and the fact 
that they lived in Fieldon, together with the shoemaker's eri- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 205 

thusiasm, momentarily dwarfed my better judgment; hence we 
proceeded to the bank and requested the proprietor, Dr. Parks, 
to open his safe, from which I took sixteen hundred dollars in 
greenbacks, sixteen hundred dollars in gold coin, in a buckskin 
bag, and seventy-five dollars in silver coin, in a cotton bag. 
I also picked up a package containing twenty-five thousand 
dollars in registered bonds, which I replaced in the safe, but 
took the doctor's fine gold watch and diamond pin and then 
retired. 

While in the bank I noticed an old rusty Colt's revolver, 
of the cap and ball pattern (once the pride of the west) hang- 
ing against the wall, but this old relic of the past caused no 
serious apprehensions, so I left it undisturbed. But the old 
thing possessed some virtue yet, for as I passed the front door 
the doctor thrust it out and fired. My mare dropped as if shot 
through the heart, pinning me to the ground by lying on my 
lame leg. After a persistent and painful effort I succeeded in 
freeing myself, but the doctor continued to snap his old pistol 
at me all the while. Burris finally got his mare under control 
and dashed back to my rescue. I gave him the signal not to 
shoot to hit anyone, for the people were riveted to the grouna 
with astonishment at the extraordinary proceedings. Lea-ving 
my mare lying in the street, I sprang up behind Burris and 
rode rapidly away. In the struggle to extricate myself I lost 
my hat, some silver and the doctor's watch, all of which lie- 
recovered. The mare was only crazed, therefore soon sprang to 
her feet, more surprised than hurt. She was returned to her 
rightful owner by Sheriff Chandler of Fremont County, Towa. 
We met a man near town, and 'I took his hat and gave him 
a handful of silver he reported we robbed him of thirty dol- 
lors. A little further on we met a young man riding. I re- 
lieved him of his horse and sent him on afoot. We now made 
direct for Wisconsin. 

Some distance north of Peoria we stopped to stay over 
night with an old farmer, who was more observant and inquis- 
itive than wise. I awoke early next morning and was instinct- 
ively impressed with the thought that someone was trying to 
steal our money. I rushed out to the barn where I had hid it 
at the bottom of the manger and behold it was gone. I heard 
something at the side of the barn and as I passed around the 
front end of the building the farmer came around the other, 
and there between us was his young dog vigorously shaking 
our money bag. The dog had been digging for rats under the 
side of the barn, and when the bag fell into his hole, he seized 
it and drew it out on fair ground. He had torn the cotton bag 
with his sharp teeth, and had consequently strewn the silver 



206 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

about in a most promiscuous manner. The farmer drove the 
dog away and helped to collect the money. The gold was now 
divided, placed in two glass fruit jars, which were buried (one 
on each side of the road) near Dixon, Illinois. The silver was 
disposed of by giving it to the poor children where we stopped 
for accommodations. This trip was fraught with trials, hard- 
ships and wild adventures, but we passed through it all in 
safety, and arrived at Oconomowac, Wisconsin, on the ninth 
day of November. I immediately presented myself to Mr. P. 
H. Davis, harness dealer and noted horse trainer, who was a 
warm friend of "Big Mike," the Kansas Jesse James. 

After miy release from jail I secured the services of Green 
and Ramey (two of the best lawyers in St. Joseph), in Mike's 
behalf, and he had written of my generosity to Mr. Davis, who 
received me with open arms, and introduced me to his friends 
as his cousin, "Harry Warner," from Boston, but Burris regis- 
tered at the hotel as "Frank Johnson." Mr. Davis finally per- 
vailed on me to visit his father, A. T. Davis, a wealthy re- 
tired farmer living in the city of Beaver Dam. I was so thor- 
oughly drilled as to his Boston relations that I readily passed 
myself on the old gentleman as one of his own nephews. He 
not only presented me to his excellent wife and four beautiful 
daughters as his relative, but took me in his buggy, drove 
about the city, and introduced me to his friends and a number 
of business men as his nephew, "formerly from Boston, but 
lately from Montana." Everybody was eager to hear from the 
west, and, as I had an abundance of western lore, saved my- 
self from exposing my ignoran.ce about Boston affairs and so- 
ciety. I had no idea of remaining with Mr. Davis longer than 
a week or I should not have permitted this deception to go so 
far ; but as time passed I was compelled to continue the farce 
in order to save his family, as well as myself, from exposure. 
I moved in the best society and was royally entertained on sev- 
eral occasions by members of Beaver Dam's elite, especially so 
at the home of Mr. J. H. Barritt, cashier of the First National 
Bank. His handsome, accomplished daughter was a frequent 
caller at the Davis mansion, and, of course, I was invited to 
call on her in company with my cousins. 

Johnson followed me to Beaver Dam and proposed that 
we establish a home in Wisconsin instead of going to Texas 
as agreed upon when the jars of gold were buried, which still 
remained where we left them. I accepted Johnson's proposi- 
tion, and immediately rented the Russell house in Randolph, 
which I refitted and furnished and named it "Commercial Ho- 
tel." Our card read : "P. H. Davis and G. A. Warnica, Pro- 
prietors, C. H. Warner (myself), Clerk." We also run a har- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 207 



ness shop, feed and livery stable in connection with the hotel. 
But Johnson remained in Beaver Dam and opened a gambling 
room over a large store. He sent me a telegram one day to 
"Come in haste." When I arrived he was lying on a bed moan- 
ing piteously. "What is the trouble, old boy?" said I, shaking 
his hand warmly. "Last night," he replied, "while the clerks 
were up in the club room, burglars entered the store, and as 
we (members of the club), stepped in at the front, they sprang 
out at the back door, locking it behind them, and while the 
clerk was searching for his key, I leaped through the back win- 
dow after the robbers and fell into an open cellar, striking my 
breast against the stone wall. Oh, God, I am nearly dead." I 
laughed heartily and quoted, "Thou hypocrite, first cast the 
beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to 
cast the mote out of thy brother's eye." When a man gratui- 
tously advertises himself as being very religious and extreme- 
Iv honest and patriotic, it is generally safe to put him down as 
a rogue ; Johnson's behavior is a case in point. He wanted to 
be first in laying hands on the burglars, whereby he hoped to 
establish a reputation for courage and honesty. His misfor- 
tune, however, favored him to a greater extent than if he had 
succeeded in his hypocritical purpose. Unstinted praise and 
sympathy were showered upon him by an "appreciative pub- 
lic," and when I arrived a handsome young lady was devoting 
her time administering to his wants and consoling him with 
her most winsome smiles and sweetest words of praise. I 
shipped his furniture to Randolph and took him home with 
me. He soon got well and declared he would never undertake 
to catch another burglar. 

The Commercial Hotel was formally opened to the public 
on the tenth of February, 1882, by a grand ball in the Clemens 
Hall, and supper for the throng was served at the Commercial, 
which was soon crowded with excellent guests, among them 
the Honorable H. H. Russell and family. They took their 
meals at the Commercial, but otherwise occupied their own 
rooms across the street. We 1 contemplated starting a race 
track, on which Mr. Davis was to train young horses for the 
New York market, and to carry out this plan we must have Al 
and Nora to assist Mrs. Davis with the hotel. Accordingly 
Mr. Davis was sent to Missouri after them. He returned with 
Al and Mrs. (Norris) Johnson, but Nora could not come on ac- 
count of her sister's illness. Al and Mrs. Johnson were sent 
home, the latter was to remain on her farm, but Al and Nora 
were to return overland, bringing their two teams with them. 

The ground on which to locate the race track was engaged 
and a large house filled with ice, corn and hay for the barn, 



208 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

and wood for the hotel were contracted for from the farmers. 
These arrangements having been satisfactorily settled, I then 
tried my abilities in soliciting transient custom for the Com- 
mercial. My quick wit, sharp repartee, and the characteris- 
tic gallantry of my French ancestors coupled with a pleasant 
voice, attractive appearance and 'a ready flow of speech, made 
me a formidable rival in courting the patronage of that num- 
erous class called "drummers" or "commercial travelers." Mr. 
Clemens, proprietor of the Clemens House, a good natured and 
honest man, was my competitor for this trade. 

My success as a hotel man was, I must say, largely due 
to the assistance of Mr. Russell, who was constantly traveling 
on business. He spoke in the highest terms of praise of the 
Commercial, and informed traveling men that we conveyed 
our patrons wherever they wished to go in fine buggies, drawn 
by eight hundred dollar horses. Besides he ordered several 
oyster suppers with champagne accompaniment, to which he 
invited the best people of Randolph. Among those with whom 
I became most intimate through his influence were Mr. John 
Lightner, city druggist; Mr. Coleman, wholesale and retail 
hardware dealer ; Mr. Evans, dry goods and grocery merchant, 
and Mr. Foster, a Methodist minister. These were grand, good 
people, who treated me royally, and whom I shall ever remem- 
ber with love and gratitude. Mrs. Russell gave select parties 
in her own parlor for the purpose of introducing me to her 
young lady friends, in whose presence, as well as that of all 
other respectable people, I felt most keenly my moral infirmi- 
ty and absolute unworthiness. Although enjoying their com- 
pany, after a fashion, my happiest hours were spent in com- 
pany with Misses Clara Russell and Clara Davis, aged thirteen 
and eight respectively. They called me "Uncle Harry/' and 
were constantly at my side when at home. I was playing the 
violin, they accompanying me on the piano. Mrs. Russell and 
Mrs. Davis heard the fearful noise we were making in the par- 
lor, and tip-toed to the door to witness the performance. I 
happened to look around, and, seeing them, stopped playing, 
whereupon Mrs. Russell said, "Mr. Warner, I really think you 
are the greatest baby man I ever met/' "I too," echoed Mrs. 
Davis. They laughed heartily, and after making some com- 
ments on the quality and volume of our music, walked away. 
They often, but good naturedly, twitted me for being so play- 
ful and childlike in my behavior, yet were highly pleased with 
the fact that I loved their babies." My love for children is pure 
and natural, and, when attacked by the ladies on account of my 
fondness for them, quoted His words," "Suffer little children to 
come unto nie," etc. 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



209 



D.A.Farrell 
Sheriff of 
Mills 
County, 
Glen wood, 
Iowa, 
Captor of 
Polk Wells. 



Samuel 
Chandler, 
Sheriff of 
Fremont 
County, 
Sidney, la., 
who 
located 
Polk Well 
but took no 
part in his 
Capture. 




210 ' LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



Samuel Chandler and Dan Farrell, Sheriffs of Fremont 
and Mills Counties, Iowa, learning of my whereabouts, and 
accompanied by R. E. Thomas, Marshal of Beaver Dam, Wis- 
consin, arrived at Randolph February 24th, on the eight P. 
M. train. Next morning, shortly after breakfast, they arrested 
Johnson (Norris) in the harness shop. He was handcuffed, 
heavily shackled and left in charge of Sheriff Chandler, while 
the other two officers proceeded to the hotel to effect my cap- 
ture. My pearl handled pistols, which I was never without, 
were the finest in the land, and the belt and holsters were made 
in Omaha, Nebraska, under my immediate supervision. The 
curves on the latter, coming up over the trigger guards, were 
made extra strong in order to prevent the pistols bouncing out 
when riding rapidly, and, as I had decided to ride my fine sad- 
dle mare down to Beaver Dam to see Miss Davis, the pistols 
were, therefore, settled firmly into their holtsers. The officers, 
being joined by Mr. Russell, entered the hotel office, and Mr. 
Davis stepped to the door and called, "Harry, some gentlemen 
wish to see you." This was a daily and almost hourly occur- 
rence, as farmers, book agents, insurance men, and commercial 
travelers called at the hotel to see me on business pertaining 
to their respective vocations, and as all were alike strangers. 
I w r as therefore perfectly unconscious of the danger awaiting 
me. Had I been expecting an attack at that moment the sight 
of two men would not in the least have aroused any appre- 
sion or affected my nerves, as it never occurred to me that 
less than twenty men would ever undertake my capture ; not 
that I considered myself such a great man, but that the people 
generally magnified my powers of resistance, consequently, 
having finished my toilet, I walked boldly and confidently into 
the office and stepped to within three feet of the officers and 
said, ''Good morning, gentlemen." Sheriff Farrell bowed po- 
litely and said, "How do you do, Mr. Warner? Please step 
outside as I have special business with you." "Wait one mo- 
ment, sir, until I get my hat," and making a courteous bow I 
passed into the dining room after it. The Sheriff stepped 
softly into the room behind me and said, "I can tell you what 
I want right here." I wheeled around to hear what he had to 
say, but words were not necessary to explain his wants, as the 
first thing my eye met was the glaring muzzle of a six shooter 
within a loot of my breast, and with the finger of a brave, de- 
termined man on its sensitive trigger. Quick as a flash my 
hand grasped the butt of a pistol, which I had some difficulty 
in drawing owing to the curves over the trigger guard hereto- 
fore mentioned. My right hand being drawn back threw me 
sidewise, presenting my left breast to the Sheriff. He fired, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



the ball entering my breast a little to the right and above the 
left nipple, passing diagonally through the lungs. I sprang 
back to prevent him jumping on me. He followed and fired 
again but missed his aim. The next shot was mine, the ball 
making a scalp wound above and a little back of the left ear. 
He pitched forward, and I, thinking him dead, turned to shoot 
the Marshal, who was now flying toward the street door. I 
had recovered from the shot produced' by the Sheriff's first 
bullet, and could easily have killed the Marshal, but my fath- 
er's words, "Never strike a man in the back," were as truly a 
safeguard to him as if the Chinese wall had been between us. 
The Sheriff, instead of falling as I had anticipated, recovered, 
and while my face was toward his contemptible colleague, 
fired at me again, the bullet entering the back part of my 
head, a little to the right of the occipital protuberance, passed 
around the skull and came out at the edge of the hair, directly 
above the right eye. I again wheeled around to confront ny 
terrible and determined foe, but could not see him( as his shot 
had not only blinded me but momentarily stunned and con- 
fused my mind, and before I could recover my antagonist 
closed with me in a life and death struggle. Around and 
around we went over tables and chairs, the former yet covered 
with the breakfast dishes which were scattered hither "ind 
thither. Mrs. Davis, with baby in her arms, stood in one door 
and the hired girls in another, screaming at the top of their 
voices as the fight progressed, turning the room into a perfect 
pandemonium. While waltzing around to our own music, we 
each fired two shots, but neither took effect. We finally fell, 
side by side on the floor, discharging our pistols at the same 
time. I was shot through the left wrist, and the Sheriff slight- 
ly wounded in the left shoulder. My wounds bled freely, and 
being almost blinded with my own blood, coupled with the 
last shot in the wrist, which numbed my arm, causing me to 
drop my pistol, gave my worthy foe a momentary advantage 
over me. He had but one pistol which was now empty, while 
I had another, loaded, in my belt, and was making frantic ef- 
forts to get it out, but the position in which I lay (on my left 
side ) prevented my doing so, and hence gave up the unequal 
task of holding a strong man with one hand while trying to 
draw a pistol with the other, and "set my face like a flint," de- 
termined to win the fight or die in the attempt, and was about 
to attack the officer with my sharp, strong teeth, which have 
helped me out on several occasions when other resources failed 
The Sheriff doubtless divined my thoughts, and, seeing f he 
formidable rows of ivory shouted, "Help, help." The bravo 
Marshal (?) slipped back to the door and seeing us, and my 



212 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



pistol ten feet away laying on the floor, mentally remarked, 
"Now is the time to show my courage and win the laurels that 
justly belong to another/' "Suiting his actions to his thoughts/' 
as Mrs. Holmes would say, he tip-toed across the room, picked 
up my pistol, threw his two hundred and twenty pounds avoir- 
dupois on my prostrate form and commenced pounding me 
on the head with the heavy weapon. The first blow caused 
my nerves to relax, and the second completely paralyzed my 
whole frame, yet I was conscious of all that was said or done, 




Polk Weils Captured at Randolph, Wisconsin. 

and finding myself powerless to act and no one likely to ccme 
tq my aid, I concluded that it was worse than madness to fight 
against such powerful odds and, thereby lose my life, so I said, 
"Gentlemen, I surrender." But the brave Marshal ( ?) had not 
his courage- aroused for nothing, and so he struck me two 
more heavy. blows on the head, whereupon the Sheriff cursed 
him.; "D n you, stop when the man says enough," said he. 
I was '.raised to my feed bleeding furiously, and led away to the 
other hotel: Here I was disarmed,, laid- on a Ipunge and a doc- 
tor summoned to dress- my wounds; he^did nothing; however, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 213 

but take a couple of stitches in the gashes cut in my head by 
the Marshal. Norris sat close by heavily ironed and looked the 
very picture of despair. I felt much worse over our capture on 
his account than my own. We boarded the west bound train at 
eight P. M., and of all the acquaintances and friends I had 
made in Randolph, there were only two who showed any sym- 
pathy or had the courage to bid me good-bye. Those two were 
Mrs. Russell and her little daughter, Clara. The former shook 
my hand warmly, and the latter put her arms around my neck, 
kissed me tenderly and said, "Farewell, Uncle Harry." 

Mr. H. E. Davis, my supposed uncle, and father of my 
partner, P. H. Davis, is, or was, an honest gentleman in every 
sense that the word implies ; his wife and daughters were as 
perfect ladies as I have ever met and were as kind to me as I 
could wish a real relative to be. The old gentleman, at my re- 
quest, gave me a letter of introduction to Mr. F. F. Zimmer- 
man, carriage manufacturer, of Waupun, who, shaking my 
hand warmly, said I could have all the vehicles I wanted and 
on time to suit my own convenience. I ordered one buggy and 
two extra heavy platform-spring wagons, but they were not 
yet delivered when I was called away. I next purchased a 
piano of Messrs. Hawley & Hawley, music dealers, of Beaver 
Dam. When the instrument was delivered at the hotel I paid 
part down, and gave my note for two hundred dollars, payable 
in sixty days, for which Mr. Davis gave them a check on the 
bank. When my real name and character were unfolded, by 
arrest, Beaver Dam society ostracized him and his innocent 
family. His introducing me as his nephew, together with the 
piano and wagon trade were subjects of discussion in the par- 
lor, on the street and rehearsed in the daily papers. His daugh- 
ters could not go on the street without being subjected to such 
remarks as, "Hello Polk Wells," and, "Where, oh, where, is 
Mr. Warner." Mr. Davis was shunned by old friends, openly 
accused of being accessory to my crimes, and of sharing in the 
profits thereof. I admit that the circumstances in the case were 
very discrediting to his character, and carried with them an al- 
most unquestionable proof of his guilt, but I most solemnly 
declare that he was absolutely ignorant of my real name or 
calling until I was arrested. No words I can put together will 
express the regret I feel for having brought shame to the face, 
and disgrace upon the character of this noble man and his fam- 
ily. As for his son, P. H. Davis I, have no apology to offer. 

The news of my capture spread rapidly and when we 
reached Portage the depot was crowded with people eager to 
see me. Here Sheriff Farrell had a skillful surgeon dress my 
wounds. Next morning we arrived at Chicago and were taken 



214 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

to police headquarters to await the west bound train at one 
o'clock P. M. Sheriff Farrell went out to get my breakfast, 
and returned in time to hear a blood-curdling remark by the 
Police Captain, who had been looking at my pistols. The 
Sheriff's eyes flashed fire as he said, "that's my prisoner, sir, 
and you can't abuse him in my presence, whereupon the Cap- 
tain disappeared and one of his own men said, ''No brave man 
will abuse or wound the feelings of a prisoner, either by word 
or act if he can possibly avoid it," and complimented the Sher- 
iff for his timely rebuke. On account of my bunk, on which I 
left the hotel, we were obliged to ride in a mail car, and about 
midnight the officers went to sleep, and when the train stopped 
at a small station, Norris slipped out of the car. I tried to 
follow but could not. The train gave a sudden jerk in start- 
ing that the officers were awakened and started in pursuit of 
the fugitive ; he was recaptured and returned to the car in tri- 
umph by Sheriff Chandler. Every station was, during day- 
light, lined with people who were anxious to see me and offer- 
ed money for that privilege. I could have sold a thousand dol- 
lars' worth of pictures if I had had them on this trip. 

We were met at the depot at Sidney, Iowa, by a large 
crowd of people who escorted us to the jail. Norris was put 
into the "cage," while I was kept in a side room adjoining the 
Sheriff's house, and, by order of the court, was given the best 
medical treatment the city afforded. Thomas Hatton and 
Tinker Wells (not related to me) were engaged to guard and 
wait upon me. Mr. Hatton was exceedingly kind, careful and 
obliging, and Dr. Stephens (an old Missourian) treated me 
tenderly and skillfully and responded to my every wish or 
want as readily as if I were a prince. I shall ever remember 
these two grand, noble-hearted men with feelings of love and 
gratitude. 

I confessed to robbing the Riverton Bank, but exonerated 
Norris, who was immediately discharged. I did this to keep 
the Missouri or Kansas officers from getting him, and hop- 
ing th?t he and other friends would rescue me before court 
convened, the latter part of March. The people from far and 
near came to see me. The gentlemen brought cigars, tobacco 
and apples, and expressed great sympathy, while the young 
ladies brought nuts, candies and other sweetmeats as their 
offerings of good wishes and compassion for me. The bank- 
er's daughter, a charming lass of sixteen summers, said, "Mr. 
Wells, I really hope you may get an opportunity to escape." 
Messrs. Morgan and Simon, editors of the Democrat and 
Union, called quite often to see me. They treated me kindly, 
and correctly reported me in their papers. Mrs. Chandler. 



Excni.xc DAYS AND DARIN*, DKKHS 



the sheriff's wife, was very kind and attentive. Every day 
she brought something nice in her own hands for me, and 
made the best lemon pies I ever ate. For these expressions 
ui sympathy and acts of kindness from the gentlemen, young 
and old ladies, editors and Mrs. Chandler, I was then and am 
still thankful, and I shall ever pray God's richest blessings 
for them. 

On the '25th of March, Sheriffs Chandler and Farrell as- 
sisted me into court. I plead guilty to the charge, where- 
upon Judge Reed sentenced me to ten years, at hard labor, 
in the penitentiary at Fort Madison. Next morning Sheriff 
Chandler and Thomas Hatton started with W. O. Fimple and 
myself for the prison. We traveled in a spring wagon from 
Sidney to Riverton, where we had to wait some time for the 
train. I was taken into the depot and laid on the floor. The 
room was soon filled with the town's people, many of whom 
grasped my hand in a most friendly manner, inquired of my 
health, and complimented my courage and determined fight 
with Sheriff Farrell. Presently the postmaster (Mr. Spears, 
who had been to Missouri with Sheriff Chandler in search of 
me, and who had found in the woods one of my old crutches, 
which he brought home with him), accompanied by a dozen 
young ladies, entered the room, shook hands with me, and in- 
troduced me to the ladies, among whom were six daughters 
of the banker I had robbed, and the daughter of Mr. Thomas, 
the man who shot me when leaving the bank. This beauti- 
ful girl presented her album for my autograph, in which I 
wrote: "Kind miss, I entertain no ill feeling toward your 
father for shooting me, but rather respect and honor him for 
doing his duty," to which I attached my signature. She read 
it and said, "Mr. Wells, I heartily thank you for this state- 
ment." When the albums were exhausted the depot agent 
furnished the ladies with strips of paper, on which I wrote my 
name. I was thus kept busy until our train arrived, where- 
upon I bade these good people farewell and was lifted into the 
passenger coach. Here our party was joined by Sheriff Far- 
rail and four deputies, who remained with us to the end of our 
journey. 

Ed Prather, a devoted friend of "Big Mike's," got a few 
of the boys together, intending to rescue me from the officers, 
the failure of which was caused by a delay in the branch train 
from St. Joseph, therefore our train had passed the junction 
an hour before the rescuing party arrived, and thus a bloody 
encounter was providentially averted, for Prather and his 
comrades were brave, resolute men, and would have made a 
desperate effort to take me from the officers. 

There was on the train a commercial traveler, who, hear- 



216 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ing of my presence, came into our car and engaged me in con- 
versation. Mr. Yocum, that being the gentleman's name, said 
his mother was a Wells and claimed to be a cousin of mine, 
and on her account he would be glad to assist me in an honor- 
able way. I noticed the "all seeing eye" (emblem of Odd Fel- 
lowship) pinned to his vest, and gave him the usual sign, 
which he recognized, and, grasping my hand, asked, "Where 
do you belong?" "Wyoming, Mountain Lodge No. 3," was 
my reply. I revealed my membership in order that he might 
console his mother with the fact that I was once a respected 
and honest man (for no known rascal can join the Odd Fel- 
lows), and not the thief from birth, as represented by some 
shallow newspapers and more shallow hereditary theorists. He 
was now doubly proud of his relation to me, and expressed 
his indignation at my having to ride in the same car with a 
"common horse thief," referring to W. O. Fimple, who was 
heavily ironed and sat opposite us. Our conversation attract- 
ed no special attention until the alert ears of Sheriff Chandler 
caught the words, "Lodge No. 3," to which he attached an 
ambiguous and deadly meaning, and regarded my friend as an 
outlaw and emissary of the rescuing party; consequently he 
seated himself near us, where he remained until Mr. Yocum 
left the train at Creston. I tried to explain the mystic figure 
"3" to Sheriff Chandler, but he would not accept my story, 
and, no doubt, believes to this day that the stranger was a 
desperado and comrade of mine. I was suffering intense pain, 
which, now that my friend had withdrawn his cheerful pres- 
ence and sympathy, became almost unendurable ; therefore 
Sheriff Farrell telegraphed a surgeon, at Chariton, to meet 
us at the depot. The doctor responded promptly, and gave me 
a hypodermic injection directly over the pain in my breast, 
after which I fell off into a peaceful slumber and did not 
awake until our arrival at Burlington. Here we changed cars 
for Fort Madison, which place we reached at 8:30 a. m., and 
were driven immediately to the prison. In the turnkey's of- 
fice I was placed in a barber chair and carried, by two gentle- 
men in stripes, into the hospital, where A. W. Hoffmeister, 
the prison physician, examined my wounds. He said he could 
do nothing for me ; that I must be patient and trust nature to 
effect a cure, and laughingly remarked that he would turn 
me "over to the care of the chaplain/' 

Sheriffs Chandler and Farrell, after visiting through the 
prison, returned to the hospital to bid me good-bye, and to 
inquire what they should do with my clothes and pistols. I 
gave my fine overcoat to Thomas HSatton, my kind and faith- 
ful nurse, and directed my other clothes sent to Al and Nora. 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 217 

I sold one of the pistols to Sheriff Chandler and gave the 
other to Sheriff Farrell, as a token of my appreciation of his 
kindness to me, and further as a mark of my respect and ad- 
miration of his dauntless courage. He is, without doubt, one 
of the bravest men of the age. I do not say this because he 
captured me, but because the facts in the case warrant it. 




CHAPTER XV. 

When the "big gate" closed behind me 1 felt that, so far 
as I was concerned, the joys of this life had practically ended, 
and when the kind words of Sheriff Farrell ceased to ring in 
my ears, a feeling of inexpressable sadness and loneliness 
seized upon me. A dozen or more convicts, all as silent and mo- 
tionless as statues, sat about the room, apparently exulting 
over my misfortune. The hospital steward, too, regarded me 
with a fiendish-like expression of satisfaction on his otherwise 
handsome countenance, and seemed to rejoice in my sad con- 
dition and depressed feelings. Even the huge stone walls ap- 
peared to look down on me in special triumph, as if to say, 
"We told you so." After this hasty view of the situation, I 
spread a handkerchief over my face to shut out the somber, 
melancholy scene, and soon drifted into a troublesome slum- 
ber, in which the world appeared to be passing in review. 
The whole earth was covered with zebras walking on their 
hind legs, and at their sides were huge elephants, also walk- 
ing erect, directing them with their trunks. I was aroused 
from this horrid nightmare by a terrible "clang" nearby, 
which proved to be the prison dinner bell. I looked out on 
the yard through the window and beheld my dream virtually 
realized. Long lines of erect figures were moving in every 
direction. After rubbing my eyes and collecting my thoughts, 
I saw that the zebras were really men dressed in striped cloth- 
ing. The elephants also proved to be men, arrayed in citi- 
zens' garb, and their trunks were simply huge hickory clubs, 
carried in their hands, and I saw that instead of the various 
lines marching in different directions, as I first supposed, the 
whole menagerie were pointed toward a common center the 
dining-room. Next morning when the doctor arrived at the 
hospital about twenty-five prisoners were marched in for 
treatment. They were afflicted with all sorts of ailments, 
from a pain in the toe to quick consumption. The expression 
on some of their faces and writhing of the body would have 
done justice to a professional contortionist, and I really ex- 
pected to see some of them expire before their cases could be 
reached. They stood in line, like men at a public delivery 



EXCITING DAYS AND DAKINC DKKDS 



819 



window in a postoffice waiting their turn to be served. This 
scene was repeated every morning-, and I watched the per- 
formance with renewed interest and profit. Some of the men 
were excused for a few days from work, others put to bed, 
and those whom the doctor had reason to believe were "play- 
ing* sick to get rid of work" were treated to a "fly-blister," 
which usually convinced them that the remedy was worse 
than the disease. 

Charles Cook and George Fitzgerald were both prisoners. 
The latter was at work in one of the contract shops, and had 
about six months yet to serve. Cook was acting as assistant 
hospital steward, and his time expired June first. He was 
trusted both inside and outside of the prison, and was, there- 




Life in Fort Madison (Iowa) Penitentiary. 



fore, familiar with all the possible avenues of escape. His 
mind had been poisoned with the notoriety accorded me, and, 
thinking he would be a great fellow if he should succeed in 
scaling the prison wall with me, he made a proposition to that 
effect, which I, at first, spurned to consider, as I thought he 
had been prompted by the officers to ascertain whether I en- 
tertained such an idea. I listened patiently, however, to all 
he said. Every word he uttered was music in my ear, and my 
soul rapidly filled with hope of freedom as he unfolded his 
plans of escape. "There is," he said, "only an inch board, with 



220 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

a sheet of tin on it (the hospital roof) between us and liberty. 
All we have to do is to tie the night guard, cut through the 
roof, step from this onto the cell room roof, which joins the 
east wall, over which passes within easy reach, a guy running 
from the top of a smokestack to an anchor on the outside of 
the wall." I had nothing to lose, and everything to win, by 
accepting this proposition, which I did after convincing myself 
that he was in earnest and his plan of escape practicable. On 
the twenty-third of April Fitzgerald and six other men, all 
with measles, were brought into the hospital for treatment. 
The doctor now ordered a strict quarantine on the room, 
which contained twelve prisoners, including myself. The hos- 
pital steward remained on duty from seven a. m. until seven 
p. m., when Mr. John Elder, seventy-three years of age, took 
charge for the night. Cook soon got an opportunity to speak 
with Fitzgerald, who readily agreed to join us in a move for 
liberty. By Sunday, April thirtieth, the men were all well 
and seated around the stove. I saw a vacant chair beside 
Fitzgerald, and asked to be placed in it until my bed could 
be stirred up. Fitzgerald, in reply to my question as to 
whether he really understood the nature of our proposition, 
and fully knew his own mind concerning it, said, "Yes, sir; 
and if you think I am not in earnest, I will take the initiative 
step," that is to say, he would be first to attack the night 
guard. 

Ed Hoffman, captain of the cell-room night guards, 
whose duty it was to visit the hospital at intervals of two to 
three hours every night, was relieved during the quarantine, 
consequently this feeble, inoffensive old man was left alone 
with twelve prisoners. The officers feared nothing from me 
as yet, for I was unable to walk across the floor without as- 
sistance, but had misjudged Cook, who learned from the 
steward that the measles men would be sent back to the shops 
Monday morning and the quarantine declared off; therefore, 
we decided that our escape must be made "tonight or never." 
Mr. Elder arrived at seven p. m., and entered upon his duties 
for the night. We had agreed to choke him into silence, and 
then by intimidation keep him submissive to our will ; but af- 
ter reverentially regarding his extreme old age, comparing his 
silver locks to those of my own dear father's, and remembering 
his many kindnesses to me, I declared to Cook that I could not 
in violence lay my crime-stained hand upon his honest throat. 
Hence the chloroform, instead of being a premeditated con- 
tingency, was thought of and substituted at the last mo- 
ment as a more gentlemanly and humane agent to employ in 
dealing with the old man. On two or three occasions I had 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



221 



seen this drug administered to my father (who was at the 
time older than Mr. Elder) both internally and by application 
without harm, and after some reflection on the matter I con- 
curred in Cook's proposition to give Mr. Elder a small dose 
in a glass of wine. 

Cook had access to the key which unlocked the cupboard 
containing chloroform, liquors and some of the most deadly 
poisons known to medical science, either of which, had we 



i 




John Elder, Age 73 Years, Drugged in order to Escape from 
Penitentiary. 

meditated, could have been substituted for the chloroform. 
At nine o'clock the men were all in bed and the lights all out 
but one. Cook now drank a glass of -wine, and asked the old 
man if he would have some too. "Don't care if I do," he re- 
plied, taking the glass in his own hand, while Cook poured 
the wine into it until he said "Stop." He tasted it and ex- 
claimed, "Good gracious, how bitter." Cook produced the- 
chloroform and said, "Let me put some syrup in.it for you" ^ 
then measuring half a drachm in the graduate, he emptied it 
into the wine, which the guard disposed of at. one .gulp. He 



222 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

coughed a little, said something about the wine being strong 
and bitter, then seating himself under the gas light, took up 
his paper and began reading. Half an hour passed, each mo- 
ment seeming to be an hour, and no drowsiness visible in the 
large blue eyes of the solitary reader. I was beginning to 
think and hope that the drug would not operate, but it was 
doing its work cautiously and its effect was instantaneous. 
The hands dropped into the lap, like inanimate things, and 
the old man tumbled off his chair onto the floor. 

The knee in which I was shot was not yet well when I 
was arrested, and two months of inaction rendered it so weak 
and tender that the leg was practically useless ; besides an 
abscess was forming around the bullet in my breast, causing 
great pain. In consequence of these ailments I could not (a 
moment before the old man fell from his chair) have crossed 
the room without assistance, but was now instantly trans- 
formed from 1 a penitent weakling into a fierce and terrible 
giant who will say that the Devil does not care for his own? 
and consequently sprang forward, raised the unconscious 
man (who weighed at least 160 pounds) bodily in my arms, 
carried him to my bed and laid him on it. I took off his hat 
and pants and put them on myself and spread the blankets 
over him to prevent him from getting cold. Cook now hand- 
ed Fitzgerald a bottle containing about eight ounces of chloro- 
form, and instructed him how and .when to use it on the old 
man. He- then entered a closet and went to work on the roof 
of the building, his tools consisting of one pocket knife, one 
small shoe knife and a pair of barber shears. By this time all 
the other prisoners in the room were aroused, some sitting 
up in bed and others standing on the floor. I saw they were 
halting between two opinions : first, whether it would be pru- 
dent to join us, and second, whether it would be possible or 
safe to give the alarm. I had no desire for the former and 
determined they should not do the latter ; therefore I seized 
a heavy cane, and, advancing toward them, said, "I want you 
fellows to lie down and keep quiet." It is said that "actions 
speak louder than words," and it can be truly said that a 
man's looks will sometimes transcend both words and actions 
in effecting a desired end. Such was the case in this instance, 
as I had scarcely uttered the last word ere the men had re- 
sumed their former positions in bed. The physical strength 
of either of these men was far superior to mine, even in my 
best days, yet not one of them had the courage to ask for an 
explanation, much less to offer a protest. 

For three hours I walked the floor like a caged lion, with 
the cane under my arm and whetting knives on a scythe stone, 



DAYS AND DARIN*, DKKDS 223 



which I gave to Cook when sharp for his dull one. At half 
past one o'clock Cook broke the roof, which created a noise 
sufficiently loud to attract the attention of Ed Hoffman, who 
immediately came up to see what was the matter. He knocked 
at the door, which was locked, for admittance. I turned the 
key and invited him to come in. As I swung the door open 
one of the prisoners said, ''Boys, you are done for now." 
Hoffman heard this remark, and becoming suspicious, asked, 
"Are you the guard?" "No, sir; he is on the bed asleep," was 
my reply, and at the same time seized the terrified Hoffman 
by the collar, jerked him into the room and locked the door 
again. The captain immediately recognized me, and began 
begging for his life to be spared. "Keep quiet and you shall 
not be hurt," was the only answer vouchsafed. I tied his 
.hands and made him sit down. Cook continued his work as if 
no interruption had occurred, but Fitzgerald had become so 
excited that he left his post. The old man threw the blankets 
back as if he were about to rise. I sprang to his side and 
covered him up again. His respiration was regular and per- 
fectly natural, which assured me that he was in no danger, or 
even pain. Ten minutes later Cook said, "Come up boys, I am 
through." Cook got out first, myself next, then Fitzgerald. 
We stepped from the hospital roof onto the cell-room, and 
from this to the east wall, over which passed the smokestack 
guy, heretofore mentioned), which afforded us an easy de- 
scent, and on reaching terra firma we scurried over the hills 
in a northwest direction as rapidly as possible. 

When I allow my mind to dwell upon this affair, T be- 
come more thoroughly convinced of the practicability and util- 
ity of presentiments, or of the visitations of disembodied spir- 
its, "heretofore alluded to, and which I will endeavor to ex- 
press according to my light and convictions in a future chap- 
ter. The whole scene was as dramatic as it proved tragical, 
for the old man ceased to breathe soon after our departure, and 
in consequence of his death Warden McMillan offered a re- 
ward of two hundred dollars for my return, either dead or 
alive, and fifty dollars each for Cook and Fitzgerald. My 
whole being was charged, as it were, with the electricity of 
excitement and hope of liberty, and it was this artificial 
strength that carried me lightly ajid unaided over the rough 
ground for more than half a mile from the penitentiary, but 
having obtained freedom by surmounting the obstacles that 
created this strength I breathed easier and felt perfectly safe. 
When this thought took possession of my mind a terrible re- 
action occurred, and I suddenly dropped to the ground, com- 
pletely exhausted by the four hours of uncommon mental and 



224: 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



nervous strain superinduced by the fickle goddess of liberty; 
a result I might have foreseen had not my reason been blinded 
with the love of freedom. I struggled hard to rise, but could 
not do so. I then urged the boys to leave me in the hands of 
fate and save themselves; but they would not desert me, and 
after a short rest assisted me to rise, and with one under each 
arm I was hurried along until daylight, when we entered the 
barn of Mr. Winterbottom, and concealed ourselves in the 
haymow. This was Monday morning, May first, 1882, and by 
ten o'clock the whole country was alive with men searching 
for us. About noon half a dozen men stopped at the house and 




The Escape of Wells, Cook and Fitzgerald. 

insisted on searching the barn, but Mr. Winterbottom .assured 
them there was no one in it, so they continued on their 
course. We lay in a row with our backs against the wall, with 
about one foot of hay over us, Cook's head resting on my hip 
and Fitzgerald's head on. Cook's. After dinner Mr. Winter- 
bottom, to satisfy his wife .that we were not in the barn, came 
in, picked up a three-tined pitchfork and commenced thrust- 
ing it into the hay in a manner that showed he did not be^ 
lieve we were in it. He came nearer and nearer, thrusting 
his fork into the hay at every step. I could see every motion 
he made and felt certain he would plunge the fork into me, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 225 

therefore nerved myself to bear it without flinching. The 
first thrust I received two tines struck the head and the other 
one entered the side of my neck, behind the ear. He looked 
surprised at this resistance to the fork, but thinking he had 
struck the wall (as he afterward testified), took another step 
and plunged the fork into my breast, but I did not move a 
muscle, so he made another step forward with his fork pointed 
direct at Cook's eyes, and the thought of their being put out 
was so horrifying that I could no longer restrain my emotions, 
shouted, "Hold on, sir !" He sprang back and began scream- 
ing like a woman scared at a mouse. Again I was endowed 
with extraordinary strength, which enabled me to make a 
heroic effort, and I sprang toward the farmer. He struck me 
a tremendous blow with the fork, laying the skull bare for 
four inches. I wrenched the fork from him and run him out 
of the barn. The hired man had just led two fine horses, 
with harness on, into the back lot. Cook and I mounted one 
of them, and, expecting Fitzgerald to mount the other, rode 
rapidly toward the timber, leaving the old farmer shouting 
like a Sioux warrior. On reaching the woods we dismount- 
ed (as I could not ride any farther), turned the horse loose 
and started him. toward the barn. Fitzgerald, instead of fol- 
Jowing us on the other horse, crossed the road and surrendered 
to an old farmer, who returned him to the penitentiary that 
evening. 

Cook and I encountered a dozen men, and escape now 
seemed an utter impossibility, but I had no idea of giving up 
until compelled to. I forged ahead of Cook, and, on reaching 
Mud Creek, stepped into the water. and waded upstream about 
twenty yards to a short bend. Here the bank was some ten 
feet high, with the upper edge projecting two or three feet, 
and quite a number of roots hanging down to the water. We 
quickly dropped into this friendly cave, and soon buried our- 
selves in the water and sand. In less than an hour there were 
five hundred men gathered about us. They rode up and down, 
on both sides of the creek, crossed and recrossed it many times 
within a rod of where we lay. This dress parade continued as 
long as daylight lasted. We remained in our uncomfortable 
hiding place until long after dark, and when I attempted to 
rise, I found myself helpless, and, had I been alone, must have 
perished or surrendered to someone passing by. The boys 
had nearly torn me to pieces in getting me through the hos- 
pital roof, and the pitchfork thrusts, coupled -with this cold 
water bed for nine hours, had well nigh finished me.. Cook, 
however, finally succeeded in getting me out on dry land. He 
wrung the water out of our clothes, and, after rubbing my 



226 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

limbs for an hour, I was able to stand up. We worked hard 
all night and probably traveled two or three miles. At day- 
break we hid ourselves in the straw on top of the cow-shed 
near the road, and not more than a mile from Winterbot- 
tom's barn. It was here the house dog discovered us, and, as 
the road was lined with men all day, some going to the chase 
and other returning from it, kept us in a state of terror. H ; e 
would bark at us until a searching party came in sight, then 
run back to the house, only to return when people had passed. 

Late in the evening Mr. Willard's little boy came out to 
gather up the eggs, after which he climbed onto the shed and 
grasped an armful of straw within a foot of my head. After 
dark we tried to milk the cows, but they would not let us do 
so; then a search for eggs was made, but without desired re- 
sults. We then entered the barn and secreted ourselves in the 
.hay (which had been turned upside down by our pursuers) 
for a sleep. I felt assured that this barn would not be 
searched again, therefore, we unreservedly delivered ourselves 
over to the goddess of night and soon fell asleep. During the 
ni)?ht one of the horses broke his halter, got out of the stall, 
and, when I woke up next morning, was standing at the end 
of the barn to shelter himself from the rain. Presently two 
boys came out to feed the horses. One of them mounted the 
hay and began pitching it to the other boy, who shouted, "Old 
Tom's out again." The boy on the hay spied the horse through 
a crack, and, instead of going after him as I thought a well 
trained boy should, ran across the hay and planted one of his 
big feet right across my nose and eyes and began kicking the 
wall with the other, and cursing "Old Tom" because he would 
not move. After a while the horse concluded to go around to 
his oats, and the boy returned to his task. He seemed to 
weigh a ton and it appeared to be an hour that he stood on 
my nose. 

When our pursuers could hear nothing more of us, they 
lost their enthusiasm, gave up the chase and returned home 
a result I had fully anticipated. We left Mr. Willard's barn 
after dark and traveled about two miles west that night. At 
Mr. J. Sturger's we concluded to make another search for 
eggs, which proved fruitless as before. The cows would not 
allow Cook, on account of his stripes, within a rod of them. I 
got an armful of corn and laid it on the ground before a large 
white cow, and, while she ate it, filled the crown of my hat 
with milk, which I gave to Cook ; then milked a hatful for my- 
self, and thought it the sweetest milk I had ever tasted. Mr. 
Stenger had some fine horses, and I felt sure of his having a 
light vehicle of some sort for family conveyance ; so we de- 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 227 

cided to wait until morning to make a survey of the premises 
and determine if possible which of the outhouses contained 
his carriage, and acquaint ourselves with the location of gates 
so that we might move intelligently in the dark ; besides, I was 
in no hurry, and, having found a crib full of corn and a cow 
to milk, there was no danger of starving. 

Curling up in the haymow Cook soon went to sleep, but 
such was out of the question so far as I was concerned. Early 
next morning the old farmer and his son (both large, power- 
ful men) came out to feed the horses. The old gentleman 
sprang into the mow, pitchfork in hand, and gently raked the 
hay from over my face. I was suffering terribly and was 
about half glad of this opportunity to honorably surrender. 
Therefore I said, "Hold, sir, I will come out." He dropped the 
fork, and seized my arm in a vice-like grip, and asked, "Are 
there any more in that hole?" "No, sir," said I. It was my 
purpose to give Cook a chance to escape by remaining quiet, 
which he might have done, as the farmer took me for a tramp 
on account of my dress, but when he, being true and brave, 
loomed up in his stripes, the young man shouted, "Look out, 
father, that is Polk Wells you have hold of." Cook seized the 
fork and ordered the old man to let loose of me, which he did. 
The Devil again took possession of me and I made another 
desperate effort to escape. We rushed from the barn lot and 
started towards the woods, with the old man following close- 
behind us. The young man quickly returned from the house 
with a double-barreled shotgun, which he pointed at my 
breast and said, "Surrender or I'll shoot." I saw that death 
was my portion unless I obeyed orders, and, since I was not 
morally fit to die, made a polite bow and unconditionally sur- 
rendered to the stalwart young German. Cook, being some 
distance ahead, and seeing I had given up, came back and 
surrendered also. Our captors marched us up to Mr. Rice's 
house. That gentleman, his son and another man, shook hands 
with us, and informed us that Mr. Elder, the night guard, had 
died soon after our escape. Had I known this a moment soon- 
er Mr. Stenger and his son would have had to fight, but now 
ic-sistance would have been worse than folly, as we had five 
strong men to contend with, instead of two as before. Mrs. 
Rice invited us in to breakfast, while Mr. Stenger was getting 
his team ready to convey us back to prison. We had had 
nothing to eat, except the little drop of milk the night before, 
since Sunday noon, and this was Thursday. Cook ate greed- 
ily from the start, but not so with me. The feeling of hunger 
I had experienced the day before had left me, and with it 
went my appetite. I looked at the rich food for a moment 



228 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

with a sort of loathing for it, and began pushing back from 
the table as I said, "Oh, I am too hungry to eat anything." 
The good lady's sympathy was touched and she said, "Mr. 
Wells, drink a little coffee and your appetite will return." 
Did she know this from experience, or was she prompted by 
some good spirit? I firmly believe the latter to have been the 
case. I drank the coffee as she recommended, my appetite 
returned and I ate the most delicious breakfast of my life' 
thanks to Mrs. Rice. 

On May 4th, four days after our escape, we were again 
placed behind the bars. On the nineteenth we were taken be- 
fore His Honor, Judge Stutsman, to plead to the charge of 
murder. We were ably defended by Honorable J. M. Casey 
and son, while Honorable John Von Volkenburg assisted Mr. 
Bereman in the prosecution. Cook and I were convicted of 
murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment 
at hard labor, while Fitzgerald got off with murder in the 
second degree at eighteen years hard labor. I was undergo- 
ing the most intense suffering from my wounds, was desper- 
ately miserable, and without a single beacon of hope to look 
forward to, hence I was as unappreciative of the sympathetic 
smiles that greeted me here and there throughout the vast 
audience as I was indifferent to the sentence pronounced 
against me. The only thing in connection with the trial that 
kept me in touch with my fellows, or in any way affected me, 
was the presence of my dear, sad-faced sister, from Atchison, 
Kansas. The trouble and sorrow she endured on my account 
hurt me far more than any punishment the law might have 
imposed. 

Cook and Fitzgerald were put to work on the contract, 
while I was consigned to solitary confinement, where I re- 
mained from May 19th, 1882, to June 1st, 1884, during which 
time I was interviewed by all classes from governor down to 
the plowboy. Scarcely a day passed without bringing me 
from one to a dozen visitors. It was a great pleasure to me 
to chat with them ; many of whom spoke kindly to me, and 
all united in saying, "Polk, you don't look like a bad fellow." 
I will not dwell upon the physical and mental suffering en- 
dured during this long period of hibernation, but will simply 
state that no punishment that human ingenuity can devise 
will equal solitary confinement. At the end of eighteen 
months the warden allowed me to have a lamp and some tools 
with which to make notions to sell to visitors, .the proceeds 
of sales to be placed to my credit. This one act of kindness 
banished all ill feeline I may have had toward the warden. I 
manufactured such things as cowboy bridles, quirts, whips, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 229 

billies, canes, toothpicks, pin-cushions and horseshoe match 
boxes. I found ready sale for these articles as fast as I could 
make them. This employment was not only profitable in a 
financial sense, but beneficial to the body and mind, as it serv- 
ed to occupy my hands and turn the thoughts out of the chan- 
nel which was leading me into madness. Surely the people 
who are so zealously advocating the abolition of convict labor 
in penitentiaries cannot be in earnest. If they are, a few days 
of solitary confinement would be sufficient to cure them of 
this false theory. 




CHAPTER XVI. 

Colonel G. W. Crosley, shortly after taking charge of 
this institution as warden, April 1st, 1884, came to me and 
said, "Polk, you do not look like a bad man. I see no reason 
why you should be treated like some wild beast, and kept 
locked up as a sort of ten cent show, therefore I have con- 
cluded to put you to work, notwithstanding Governor Sher- 
man's advice to the contrary." "Warden," said I, "if you put 
me among the men you will be sorry for it. I have nothing 
against you nor any one else, yet I would not hesitate to 
knock you in the head should you stand between me and lib- 
erty." He replied, "Polk, I have fully considered the prob- 
ability of such an event, but I believe your intelligence will 
lead you to think differently after a while. I shall, neverthe- 
less, put you to work regardless of consequences." He then 
shook hands with me and walked away, leaving me to reflect 
on the situation. 

I had asked Warden McMillan to put me to work in the 
hope of raising an insurrection, through which I expected to 
escape, but having reviewed my past career, and, seeing the 
trouble I had brought upon others, concluded to remain in 
my cell without a murmur, in order to avoid further trouble. 
I had received many notes proposing escape, and once in a 
shop they would reach me from all quarters of the prison ; 
besides visitors and guards passing my cell gave me an ex- 
alted opinion of myself by such remarks as, "Oh, he's a holy 
terror," and "They say he's the best pistol shot in the coun- 
try." I heard so much of this sort of praise, and having my 
bravery so frequently complimented by gentlemen who came 
to see me, that I began to think myself a very dangerous 
man, and, being of a naturally impulsive temperament, with 
this profusion of praise ringing in my ears made it morally 
certain that I would yield to the first temptation that offered 
a probable success, unless some extraordinary moral influence 
should be brought to bear on me. 

During the month of May, Mr. Jameson, cell-room guard, 
by order of Warden Crosley, took me out into the yard every 
afternoon for an hour's exercise in the sunshine. It was,, at 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



first, extremely painful to the eyes on coming out of the dark 
room into the bright light of day, and difficult for me to walk 
straight. I staggered from one side of the walk to the other 
like one intoxicated. June 1st the warden himself took me out 
for a walk, chatting pleasantly all the while, and after pass- 
ing entirely around the inner court we came to the greenhouse, 
into which I was invited to see the flowers, a favor, I must 
say, undeservedly bestowed, for I was too vile to enter the 
sanctum of so much beauty and purity. The warden's man- 
ner, from the first, impressed me with the fact that he was, 
and is, a man of superior qualities and excellent virtues ; and 
his frankness, coupled with his uniform kindness and gentle 
firmness, were evidences of the fact that he expected his or- 
ders to be implicitly obeyed. There was no begging that I 
would be good nor fearing that I would not. I wvs simply 
thrown upon my own resources to act the fool or conduct my- 
self as became a man of "good sense," as the warden expressed 
it. 

I was taken to "Shop 12" (shoe contract) and set to work 
lasting boots. Mr. Huiskamp treated me kindly, and his fore- 
man, Captain Bradish, was very patient and painstaking in 
showing me. I had often thought I would like to be a shoe- 
maker, therefore I applied myself to the task with zeal and 
determination. My ambition to succeed was only equaled by 
my inability, from various causes, to perform the work al- 
lotted me. I was as nearly crazy as it is possible for a man to 
get without being adjudged insane, and I certainly would 
have become a raving maniac had I been kept a few months 
longer in solitary confinement, therefore, the harder I worked 
the less headway I seemed to make. Everything fretted and 
annoyed me. My pincers were constantly slipping, my 
knuckles received the blow intended for the peg, the sharp 
iron tacks stuck my fingers and I drove the peg awl through 
the fleshy part of my hand several times. Besides these per- 
plexities the guard's presence added fuel to the flames. He 
seemed never to take his eye off of me, which vexed me 
almost beyond endurance, and I fairly frothed at the mouth 
with madness, making me a fit subject of the text, "Anger 
resteth in the bosom of fools." Thus matters ran along for 
two weeks, during which times I received several notes pro- 
posing escape, from different prisoners. One fellow wrote: 
"Friend Wells The foreman (who was a large, powerful 
man) is constantly troubling Smith and myself (both small 
men), and if you will agree to engage the guard we'll attack 
him with our shoe knives." For some reason I did not like 
(hose men, which fact, coupled with the kindness I had re- 



332. ....XlEE-jmD. AP.VENTURES OF .POLK WELLS 

ceived at "the 'hands of the foreman prevented a terrible, and* 
possibly fatal, row; so my reply to Mr/ Picket was to the 
effect that""! wished to' he excused from participating in his 
deadly purpose." 

I received another note, which bore evidence of the earn- 
estness and feasibility of the writer's proposition to escape. 
He signed himself "Missouri," and very kindly and thought- 
fully furnished nie paper and pencil with which to write my 
acceptance. I confess I seized the pencil to do- so, but for the 
life of me could not write a single word. My right arm seem- 
ed 'paralyzed and my whole frame trembled so violently that 
I became alarmed and threw the pencil down and went to bed. 
This proposed escape, if carried out, would have involved the 
lives of several innocent people, and hence I attributed the. 
strange actions of my arm and the peculiar and indescribable 
sensations I experienced to supernatural agency, or; in other 
words, it was the manifestation of power, and almost visible 
presence, of the good disembodied spirits striving with me. I 
had felt something like this before when about to commit 
crime, but had, in each instance, frowned down the "still, 
small yoice," continued in the broad path of sin, and it was 
only a matter of time when I would stifle conscience and yield 
to this Missourian's wishes. Being without money or friends, 
practically without a hope of legitimate, freedom, the thought 
of wearing out my life in the penitentiary at hard labor, to fill 
the contractor's coffers with gold, was hot calculated to in- 
spire me with very serious, conscientious scruples about taking 
the life of any one standing between me and liberty. 

Charles Gibbs, the famous pirate, when standing on the 
scaffold said, "My first crime was piracy, for which my life 
would pay the forfeit on conviction. No punishment could be 
inflicted on me greater than that, and therefore I had nothing 
to fear but detection, for had my offenses been millions of 
times more aggravated than they now are, death must have 
satisfied all." In my pressed and depressed condition I felt as 
Gibbs felt, and thought as he thought, "If I escape I have 
nothing to fear but detection ; if I elude the officers for a few 
years (for I expected no more), I am that much ahead. If I 
am killed, on being recaptured, death must end all ; or, if re- 
turned to prison, I will be no worse off than before." With 
these desperate and devilish thoughts surging through my 
diseased and excited brain, I fell into a troubled sleep, from 
which I was aroused by the tapping of the breakfast bell. I 
remained in the shop two or three hours after breakfast, but 
could not work, and, at my own request, was taken back to 
my cell. I then asked the deputy warden to telephone Judge 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 233 

Casey, my attorney, to come up to see me. I had no partic- 
ular business with him, but "must unburden my mind to some- 
body," and I know of no one who would listen to me so pati- 
ently and sympathetically as he. He arrived at one o'clock 
and I was taken to the "bell-house" to see him. I told him of 
the warden's great kindness to me ; of the foreman's patience 
in teaching me to perform my work correctly; of Pickett's 
proposition to attack the foreman, which I had spurned from 
me, and the Missourian's plan to escape, to which I added my 
convictions and intentions and asked him to tell me how to 
act most intelligently in the matter. The idea of asking a 
prominent and respected lawyer to direct me in an escape is 
suggestive of my mental condition, and I need say nothing 
further on the point. The judge is a student of human nature 
as well as of law, therefore he readily recognized my infirm- 
ity and treated me accordingly. He listened patiently to my 
story, which, when finished, threw him into a meditative 
mood. His prolonged silence was distressing to me, and I 
was on the point of fleeing from the room, when he raised his 
large blue eyes and fixed them on my countenance as if to 
read the innermost thoughts of my troubled soul. I could not 
look at him, but keenly felt the burning glances of his kindly 
and pitying eyes, which filled my aching heart with a delight- 
ful feeling that had Ions: been a stranger to my bosom. Pres- 
ently the judge broke the silence, and delivered the following 
exhortation, which I will endeavor to give, as nearly verbatim 
as a good memory and an honest purpose will admit. He said : 
"Polk, you have, from the first, been exceedingly frank with 
me, and I am thoroughly convinced that you have now ex- 
pressed the honest purposes of your heart. I never fo~ a mo- 
ment believed you the demon that the papers have so luridly 
painted you. I know that liberty is as sweet to you as it is 
to me, yet I am unwilling to believe that you would wilfully 
take the life of a fellowbeing to gain even so great a boon as 
freedom, which would only be temporary at best, for you can- 
not successfully fight the whole United States single handed. 
I am glad you did not enter into that Pickett affair, and I hope 
and believe you, like our Savior, will say to all other tempters, 
'Get thee behind me, Satan.' I beseech you, my dear boy, als 
a friend, to conduct yourself like a man. You owe it to me 
and yourself to do so, and gratitude to Col. Crosley, who has 
rescued you from a living death, calls loudly for your respect 
and good behavior, which will, I trust, be such as not only 
merit the warden's kindness and good wishes toward you, but 
also enlist the sympathy and friendship of those outside, who 
now believe you to be void of manly principle and unworthy 



234 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

of human treatment. A single act of violence on your par! 
would subject the warden to the severest censure and pro u - 
ably cause his removal by the governor. Now then, Polk, u 
the face of these facts, I say you owe the profoundest respect 
and the strictest obedience that your manhood is capable of 
to Col. Crosley, who has shown himself to be a brave, good 
man by taking you out of -that miserable old cell, thereby ig- 
noring public sentiment through his humanity toward you, 
and which I am confident you fully appreciate and will ac- 
knowledge by deporting yourself as becomes a man of good 
sense." I was taken back to my cell with a lighter heart, 
and feeling happier than I had for years. The germ of hope 
(which never dies) being well irrigated by the judge's logical 
advise and fatherly sympathy, instantly begun to revive. 

The beautiful, loving and beloved Theodocia once wrote 
her father, Aaron Burr, these words : "I contemplate you with 
such a strange mixture of humility, admiration, -reverence, 
love and pride, that very little superstition would be neces- 
sary to make me worship you as a superior being." The char- 
acters of Col. Crosley and Col. Burr are diametrically oppo- 
site, yet they excite similar emotions, as I entertain that feel- 
ing for the former that the gifted Theodocia has so beautifully 
expressed for the latter; but mind was so clouded that I could 
not comprehend my duty toward the warden until Judsfe 
C?sey prompted me by" gratitude, reverence and obedience" 
to the man who had delivered me from a fate worse than 
death. I lay down on my humble cot, and mentally thanked 
the judge for his consolation, blessed the warden for his kind- 
ness to me and went to sleep, breathing this prayer, "Oh thou 
merciful God, help me to think right and to act ri^ht." I 
passed a restful night and awoke next morning much re- 
freshed. 

September first the warden took me to the hospital. The 
doctor pronounced me an unsound man, and not able for con- 
tract work. I expected the warden would return and take nit 
out of the room, but he did not ; so I informed the steward 
that I would not remain with him any longer. He notified the 
warden, who sent Mr. Whitney, assistant deputy warden, to 
see me, and who said, ''The warden says you must stay here 
today." "Tell him I shall not do so," was my impudent re- 
ply. I did not mean to be uncivil to the officer or in any way 
disregard the warden's order, but when "anger is in the wits 
are out," and hence I failed to say what I most wanted to say. 
The warden came ,up and approached me in a calm, kind and 
dignified manner. "What is the matter, Polk why do you 
not wish to stay here?" he asked. "The smell of medicine 



EXCITINC DAYS AND DAKIN<; DKKDS 235 

makes me sick," I said. If I had said, "The room recalls un- 
pleasant memories," the warden would out of respect for my 
feelings have taken me away. For a moment he remained 
silent, bending his large brown eyes upon me with an expres- 
sion difficult to depict. There was in it a mixture of pity, 
reproach and indignation, which seemed to say, "This is the 
way you thank me for having been kind to you." "Your ex- 
cuse," said the warden, "for not wishing to re-main here is in- 
sufficient." I made no reply, and he continued in a voice 
freighted with tenderness and firmness, "Polk, the doctor has 
ordered you a day's rest in the hospital, and you say you will 
not stay. It is my place to see that you do ; so you and I had 
as well come to an understanding now as any other time. I 
say you must stay here today." 

Dr. Talmage says, "There is no monstrosity of wicked- 
ness that can stand unabashed under the glance of purity and 
honor." So it was in this case, as I had risen to confront the 
warden, but quailed beneath his reproachful glance, and stood 
abashed and silent. He saw that I was completely subdued 
?nd left the room, and in which it is needless to say I re- 
mained that day. I have had many a hard tussel in my life, 
but Warden Crosley is the only man who can boast of having 
whipped me, and he did it without a lick or an unkind word, 
yet so neatly and thoroughly that I shall feel the effects of it 
until the day I die had he approached me in a blustering, 
bragadocia manner, the results would most likely have been 
different. 

In a preceding chapter I have disposed of all my Utah 
and Wyoming associates in crime but Callahan, and will now 
dispose of him and those in league with me after my return 
to Missouri. Callahan was killed in Waco, Texas. James 
Dougherty, a participant in the Nortonville Bank robbery, was 
hung for horse stealing in Texas, by a band of Texas Rangers. 
Bill Norris was recaptured in Watertown, South Dakota, taken to 
Kansas and tried for the Nortonville robbery and was sen- 
tenced to twenty-one years in the penitentiary at Leaven- 
worth ; and the next morning after arriving at the prison, was 
found dead in his cell, having butted his brains out against 
the stone wall. Wilson, my partner in the bank robbery at 
Riverton, Iowa, was captured by Sheriffs Farrell and Chand- 
ler in Nebraska, taken to Sidney, where he plead guilty and 
was sentenced to eleven years in this prison. P. H. Davis, 
my partner in the hotel at Randolph, Wisconsin, was disin- 
herited and disowned by his proud old father, his wife left him, 
and he became a wanderer. The six men composing the Hall's 
Station "Mob" have all come to grief through sin ; one was 



236 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

hung for stealing cattle in Colorado by the invincible cow- 
boys'; two died most horrible and agonizing deaths; two were 
sent to the penitentiary at Jefferson City, and the last one be- 
came a wandering vagabond, his wife having completely 
wrecked his fortune and happiness. I had many opportunities 
to kill these six men, but only once, did I entertain the thought 
of doing so,, and that was. one day while they had me sur- 
rounded in the woods near the little log cabin. I secreted 
myself near the roadside, fully determined to shoot, into the 
first party that came along. After waiting two or three hours 
I came to the conclusion that their evil, unwarranted reports 
could not injure Nora, and immediately abandoned my deadly 
purpose. The only thing I blamed these men for was their 
unprincipled efforts to break down the character of a pure and 
innocent woman (Nora), and their unscrupulous and unrea- 
sonable charges against me, while on the other hand I had 
some degree of respect for their bold defiance and open en- 
mity toward me. 

Al and Nora, soon after I left Missouri, were arrested at 
the instigation of "The Mob" on a charge of adultery, and 
thrown into that horrid jail at St. Joseph. They were finally 
released, and returning to their .home only to find it sacked, 
the furniture strewn about the yard, the house shockingly mal- 
treated, the stock turned on the common and their crop ut- 
terly destroyed, and were, for two years, unjustly and unmer- 
cifully persecuted by these men ; but they are today, thank 
God, in a healthy and prosperous condition, and enjoy the 
love and confidence of all their neighbors. Although they suf- 
fered much on my account, they had never even intimated 
that they thought so or in any way referred to me as being 
the source of their troubles. They are certainly two of the 
best people God ever gave existence; they did everything in 
their power to keep me in the paths of honor, and risked their 
lives in bringing me food and trying to save me from the 
clutches of the law ; and this, their friendship and love for 
me, was .their only crime that is, if such an attachment can 
be called a crime. I certainly would have been a Devil had 
it not been for the wholesome influence they exerted over me. 

In this connection I wish to say that the statements ap- 
pearing in the columns of several newspapers, of recent date, 
imputing to me the murder of thirty-seven men are gratuitous 
errors. One man killed in Utah (in self defense) and partici- 
pation in the act which subsequently resulted in the death of 
the guard at this prison, constitute the sum total of my oper- 
ations in this respect. I was an expert with the rifle and 
pistol, cool and fearless, and always shot in the interest of my 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 237 

comrades, as I thought that there was no harm in dead In- 
dians, with whom I was engaged in many a deadly strife, and 
it may be that I killed thirty-seven of them, but I do not know ; 
I can only say positively that I killed three of my ill-used 
brothers, namely, those attacking "Scotty" and myself on the 
Missouri in Montana. But these homicides cannot be classed 
as murder, for the laws defines that as a "malicious, premedi- 
tated act." My courage and marksmanship were always com- 
mendable, and if, by use of them, I sent a number of Indians 
to the "Happy Hunting Grounds," was, to use a familiar 
phrase, "good riddance to the country," which tended to rend- 
er the peace and safety of the inhabitants of our western 
frontier more secure, and their property less liable to unlawful 
appropriation. 

There are two events of my life which, legally speaking, 
were penitentiary offenses ; but, looking at them from a moral 
standpoint, were just and right, and my re-ason for omitting 
details of them is to prevent unsavory reflections being cast 
upon good and innocent persons. These were acts against the 
letter but not the spirit of the law, and were punishable by 
imprisonment for from six months to two years. I performed 
my part in these incidents simply out of sympathy for the 
other parties to the contracts, my being already an outlaw, 
rendered the offense against society purely a matter of indif- 
ference so far as I was individually concerned. I make the 
above statement in order that those acquainted with all the 
facts relative to the two cases cited, may not have occasion to 
say, "If he eliminates or ignores these events in his life, it is 
quite probable that he has omitted others equally as repre- 
hensible." 

Aside from the overt criminal acts described, the two ir- 
regularities mentioned above and a too liberal use of profan- 
ity, my life has been approximately pure and correct. But 
these delinquencies were amply sufficient to bring me to this 
institution, a description of which may as well be given here 
as anywhere, since the story would, it seems to me, be in- 
complete without it. It was established in 1839, gradual!}' 
developed from a mere stockade into one of the most mapf- 
ificent and humanely disciplined prisons in the United States. 
It is situated on a knoll, commanding a splendid view of the 
grand old Mississippi River. The four high stone walls en- 
closed four acres of land, on which are built the various work- 
shops, numbering from 1 to 18. The latter is known as the 
"State Shop," by reason of the laundering, tailoring and cfen- 
eral repairs for the entire prison being done there. The bath- 
house is admirably arranged, the stalls, thirty in number, be- 



238 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

ing supplied wdth both hot and cold water pipes, so the bather 
may temper the water to suit himself. While bathing, once 
each week, and which was compulsory, the soiled clothes ars 
taken up and clean ones put in their places. Each prisoner's 
registered number is on his clothes, so that he gets his own 
each week. In addition to four ounces of chewing or smoking 
tobacco each week, he is allowed his choice of cotton or 
woolen socks and of woolen or cotton flannel underwear. The 
clothing is of the best material, warm and durable, and is made 
up neatly and substantially. The most prominent building 
in the institution is a large two-story structure, occupying a 
central position, and is called the "Bell House," in which is 
located the deputy warden's and clerk's offices. Between 
these is a hall, leading into the large dining-room, with its one 
hundred clean tables, each capable of accommodating four 
persons. Adjoining this is a culinary department, which has 
lately been supplied with a steam cooking apparatus. In a 
side room is the oven, in which cords of bread are baked 
every week. The provisions used are the best quality and 
unlimited in quantity. Immediately over the dining-room is 
the chapel, a large, well-appointecj room, with seating capacity 
of four hundred. Adjoining the chapel is the hospital, a 
spacious and well-ventilated room, supplied with all needed 
medicines of the best quality; easy chairs, tables, flowers in 
abundance, papers and clean, inviting beds and various other 
articles adorn this room. The sick are treated with skill, fidel- 
ity and kindness by Doctor Casey. The light formerly used 
was gas, which was superceded by electricity, a system of 
perfect illumination. The entire institution, including- resi- 
dences of the officials, is lighted by this system. Each cell 
is provided with a ten-candle-power lamp, and each corner 
of the outside walls has a large headlight reflector placed on 
it. Steam is used for heating purposes, and a comfortable 
temperature is maintained during the season requiring arti- 
ficial heat. 

On the bluff overlooking the prison is a large reservoir, 
into which is pumped water from the river, whence it is dis- 
tributed into the various shops and residences on the prison 
ground. Back of the reservoir is the prison cemetery, where 
many of my crime-stained brothers were laid to rest, whose 
bodies eventually found, or will find, their way to some 
medical institute, or into the private sanctum of ambitious 
students throughout the state. 

The prison yard is set to blue grass, and is beautiful and 
cheerful to the unfortunates here ; flowers and shrubs grow 
in profusion along the walks and adorn the shop windows, 



K.\< ni\<; DAYS AND I)AKI\<; l)i-:i-:ns 



and trailing vines scale the walls in every direction. A green- 
house is kept for preserving these beauties of nature, and in 
front of the "Bell House" is a fountain, in which are growing 
beautiful water lilies, about whose stems sport lively gold- 
fish. 

The cell-room contains three tiers of cells, styled ''first, 
second and third ranges, north," and "first, second and third 
ranges, south," which furnish homes for the boys, at present 
about four hundred. 

The prison library contains eight thousand volumes of the 
choicest reading matter, on a wide range of subjects, and books 
are distributed to the cells on Tuesday and Saturday of each 
week. The night school, which commences October first and 
continues until the following May of each year, is one of the 
most beneficial features of the institution. Many young men 
come here who are unable to read, and who go out at the ex- 
piration of their sentences with a practical education. The 
chaplain, W. G. Gunn, conducts both the library and the 
school, and is, therefore, doing a grand work for the state 
and humanit}'. 

The contractors give their men salaries ranging from two 
to six dollars per month, which money they are allowed to 
spend for groceries, etc. The goods are delivered on Saturday 
of each week, and, under the immediate supervision of the 
clerk, are put into the cells, the doors locked, and when the 
prisoner returns at night finds everything he ordered. 

At six o'clock every morning the men are unlocked and 
marched to their respective shops, where they wash, and at 
each tap of the bell a company starts for the dining-room. 
When all are seated at the tables, the deputy warden rings a 
hand bell, whereupon the men set to eating, and the noise they 
create with the "click" and "snap" of knives and forks fills 
the new recruit with a variety of peculiar sensations. A score 
of waiters are kept busy carrying food, but no one is allowed 
to speak during the meal a silly, barbarous rule. If one 
wants bread he must hold up one hand ; coffee, a cup ; meat, a 
fork. Thus everything is carried on by signals, and when the 
men are through eating the deputy taps his cane on the floor 
and they rise, company after company, and march back to 
their shops. The same maneuver is repeated at dinner. At 
supper time they march past a long table, from which each 
man takes as much bread as he wants, a slice of cheese or 
sausage and a cup of coffee or cake, and passes on with the 
company to the cell-room. Each man enters his own cell, 



40 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

closes the door and holds his hand on it until it is locked 
thus the treadmill continues week after week and year after 
year. 

Men wishing to see the doctor must report to the "sick 
table," where bread, rice and water constitute a meal. On all 
holidays, as a sort of compromise to the "sick table" affair, 
a Delmonico spread is provided, which I consider to be one of 
the most pernicious features of prison life. 

Prisoners are allowed to write once in six weeks, except 
there be urgent business, and in that event a special permit 
to write is granted. They are also allowed to subscribe for 
any of the weekly or daily newspapers, or their friends can 
send them such as they wish. 

The attendance at religious services Sunday morning- is 
compulsory, owing- to there being work in the cell-room which 
cannot be done while the men are in their cells. The attend- 
ance at Sabbath school is voluntary, and about two-thirds of 
the men respond. Mr. Samuel Doyle is our superintendent, 
and the classes are taught by benevolent ladies and gentlemen 
of Fort Madison. Conspicuous among these are Mr. Pound, 
Mrs. General Gilchrist, Mrs. Knoch and others, and up to his 
death, of recent date, the venerable Judge Beck, who, twenty- 
five years ago, established the Sunday school, visited us, and 
with his s'uperior wisdom unfolded the word of God to a class. 
Messrs. Holt, Doyle and Foster and other gentlemen are also 
untiring in their efforts to encourage and enlighten the boys. 
These good people have led scores of men to see their folly, 
and have, by their patience and loving kindness', won them 
back to themselves and to society. 

The late Miss Jennie Cassiday, of Louisville, Kentucky, 
who had been an invalid all her life, thought she would like 
to do something that would bring sunshine and hope to the 
inmates of jails and penitentiaries, therefore she organized a 
"Flower Mission Society" in her own state, and, on her birth- 
day (June 9th) of each year, sent a beautiful bouquet to the 
prisoners. The W. C. T. U. ladies of Iowa grasped the idea, 
and each year visit this institution, presenting to each pris- 
oner a lovely bouquet of lovely flowers as a token of Miss 
Cassiday's love, but specially to remind them of what God 
would have them be. Heaven alone can measure the sfood that 
is being accomplished by these divine Sunday school teachers 
and blessed angels of the "Flower Mission." Besides, these 
pleasant features of prison life, the warden takes special p^ins 
to secure public speakers of note to address the boys. 

Atheists say that the founder of Christianity is an im- 



KXUTI.M; DAYS AND DARING DKKDS -J 1 1 

poster; that his followers are "canting fanatics," etc. Sup- 
pose I admit this to be true (which I do not), does it follow 
that the principle of Christianity is also false? Not by any 
means. Christ has brought forth a doctrine that will save 
us all if we will only abide by it. He may have been a Devil 
incarnate, and these angels of mercy "canting fanatics," I care 
nothing about that, as I do not embrace any man or woman 
in my religious faith. All I care for is the truth, which I will 
accept from Saint or Devil. These self-sufficient people, who 
style themselves "free-thinkers," gather around the festive 
board, bump glasses and utter this prayer: "We thank thee, 
O illustrious Bacchus, that we are not as this impostor 
(Christ), who wants to rescue the perishing, or even as these 
publicans dressed in stripes. We are as treacherous as hell, 
get drunk twice a week and pay to thee tithes of all that we 
possess. While we thus honor and adore thee, oh mighty 
Bacchus, these 'canting fanatics' the loveliest, best and pur- 
est women of our glorious country are going about the jails 
and penitentiaries, and even into the hedgeways of vice and 
sin, making proselytes of our former associates and leading 
them to a higher plane of thought, hope and happiness ; there- 
fore, Oh Supreme One, we beseech thee to stop this interfer- 
ence with thy fiendish purpose and turn the army of souls to- 
ward thy brilliant throne of fire," and the glasses clink with 
their hellish "amen." These same people say that "assistance 
in time of need and good will toward men is the best and most 
practical religion to embrace." Do they practice this doc- 
trine? No. I have been in this prison nearly twelve years, 
and have yet to see a party of infidels here with flowers, 
papers or a band of music to cheer and comfort the boys. If 
any person ever needed "assistance and good will" it is the 
convict. 

Infidelity says, "The criminal is a creature of destiny and 
unworthy of consideration." Christianity holds that he is 
made in the image of God, and has in him that which entitles 
him to salvation. Therefore Christ's angels of mercy and love 
pursue the wayward boy, rescue him from the very jaws of 
hell, and make it possible for him to again became a useful 
and respected member of society. Christianity has trans- 
formed the prisons from veritable hells into homes for the 
friendless and prodigal sons, and has opened wide the gates 
of charity so that a little sunshine and mirth may enter to 
cheer and gladden the hearts of those bound in the fetters of 
civil law. Warden Crosley and the prison contractors gave 
the boys an entertainment on Christmas day, 1885, since 
which time we have had on each recurring holiday some sort 



24:2 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

of a jollification in the chapel, followed by two or three hours 
of uninterrupted intercourse with one another in the yard, 
supplemented with "music by the band." 

There is no place on the globe that affords a better op- 
portunity in which the study of human nature 1 can be more 
thorough and complete than a prison. I have, from my earli- 
es youth, been a close observer of the habits and peculiarities 
of the domestic animals, as well as of their wild brothers on 
the plains, and must say, since I like to study human nature, 
that I like a prison for my teacher. Everything in and about 
it is so convenient and comes so natural that I need only keep 
my eyes open to what is passing around me to learn lifelong 
lessons of practical usefulness ; besides the prison presents ex- 
tra advantages no other institution can offer. It is admirably 
adapted in many ways, if not desirable in others, therefore I 
have a grand opportunity in which to gratify the natural bent 
of my mind in the study and contemplation of man. While I 
have been closely observant of the traits and peculiarities of 
my fellow prisoners, I have not neglected to take a peep into 
the innermost recesses of my own nature, from which I con- 
clude that the individuality of man is an extraordinary thing, 
and extremely difficult to comprehend. I have, however, come 
to know my own pretty well from having had, in these long 
years of confinement, on the one hand, to rely solely on my- 
self, and on the other, from having had to associate in silence 
with people who are strangers to me. This self-dependence 
and enforced silence breeds thought, and thought, coupled 
with judicious reading, has brought me a genuine discrim- 
inative knowledge of men and things, which enables me to 
judge something of their nature and relations to each other. 
The more I read and think, the more my mind expands and 
reaches out into realms of the unseen in its effort to grasp 
the meaning of God in nature. 

I once stood before the furnaces of the great smelting 
works in Salt Lake City, and watched the process of extract- 
ing the precious metal from the rough, unsightly ore. I had 
no idea then that I must pass through a similar fiery trial 
before my better self, like the silver, would appear. But such 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 243 

has been the case, for what giant powder and the smelter did 
for the quartz, in order to reveal the pure metal, sorrow, ad- 
versity, imprisonment and sympathetic friends the latter, all 
instruments in the hand of God have been necessary to bring 
out the gold and silver of my nature. I mean to say that, 
through this awful process of smelting and refining, I have 
refound those pure thoughts, honest purposes, sturdy, manly 
principles and the desire to do right which was so character- 
istic of my youth and early manhood, and which I shall, by the 
grace of God, retain to the end. 




CHAPTER XVII. 

My parents were inveterate readers and thoroughly versed 
in the scriptures, and, of course, had many friendly argu- 
ments on the promises of God and the plan of salvation. 
Father was not by any means an atheist, nor yet a universalist 
in the broadest sense. He thought there would be made a 
vii-tinction in the future disposition of men, "If not, why the 
many mansions of our Savior," and "The seventh Heaven 
which Paul was permitted to see": He believed there were 
even more Heavens than the number named by the apostle, 
"Else why stop at seven, why not say the last Heaven?" He 
also believed that truth'fulness, honesty, chastity and charity 
were the only requirements necessary to attain to the highest 
state of future bliss. Mother, on the contrary, clung stoutly 
to the tenets of orthodoxy, and held that faith in, and belief 
on, the Lord Jesus Christ was the only way in which eternal 
happiness could or would be attained. She, dear soul, taught 
me at her knee to pray and reverence our Savior, and in all 
my youthful follies, wanderings on the plains, and participa- 
tions in crime I have not been able, except at short intervals, 
to escape the holy influences of her prayers, though she has 
been dead nearly thirty-five years. My earliest recollections 
are that I slept in the same bed with her, and each night, be- 
fore retiring, lisped on my knees a sweet little prayer, and each 
morning, kneeling in the bed, put up my little hands in the 
same manner and repeated the Lord's Prayer; was then 
kissed, washed and dressed and taken in to breakfast. Since 
then I have, by turns, been a skeptic and a scoffer, not at the 
principles of religion, but at those who professed them; yet 
failed to carry them out in deed as well as in word, and am 
now conscious that I was as sinful in the sight of the Lord as 
those whom I condemned for insincerity. I sinned in not 
heeding the lessons taught me by my sweet hearted mother, 
which were, and are still, of greater value to me than the 
treasures of Ophir ; and had it not been for the essence of the 
Devil in my nature, I should have identified myself long be- 
fore I did with the true lovers and followers' of the Lord whom 
she served and adored. She was a member of that much 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DKKDS 



abused sect denominated "Shouting Methodist." The holy 
character and divine teachings of my mother have served me 
well in my confinement, for since June, 1884, when Warden 
Crosley allowed me to join the prison Sunday school, they 
have been constantly before my eyes, urging and admonishing 
and gently leading me into the ways of righteousness. For 
four years I was instructed in the laws of love and purity by 
Mrs. Sophia Deomude, a most excellent Christian lady of Fort 
Madison. On entering her class I was as ignorant of the 
higher orders of literature, mental philosophy and sacred and 
profane 1 history, as I was indifferent to the blessed truths she 
so beautifully unfolded to me. She continued, however, to ply 
me with questions that would tax the erudition of a Beecher 
or a Talmage to answer. "Now, Mr. Wells," she would say, 
"What do you think of Paul's doctrine of election?" and 
"How do you interpert this passage concerning the return of 
the prodigal son?" She finally interested me, or at least made 
me ashamed of my stupidity and ignorance in such momentous 
subjects ; therefore I searched history, the Bible and religious 
literature for matter relative to each Sunday's lesson, and 
studied hard in order that I might be able to render an intelli- 
gent reply. I succeeded to such an extent that she referred 
all the difficult questions asked by other members of the class 
to me for an explanation. It affords me great pleasure to ac- 
knowledge my gratitude and obligations to this splendid little 
woman, who is the true mother of my intellectual and spiritual 
growth, as well as my contentment. The fortress of doubt 
and the sophistry of infidelity were undermined by her zeal 
and childlike faith, and it is to her sweet voice, patience and 
kind advice that I ascribe my invincible love of reading, which 
I deem more precious than the treasures of many Eldorados. 

Having distinguished myself as a Bible student, I was 
then permitted to join the choir class, which was taught by 
Mrs. Edna M. Crosley, wife of Warden Crosley. This angel 
of a woman seemed deeply interested in me from the start, and 
sought, in every honorable way possible, to win me from my- 
self and from the snares of the Devil. I confess, with shame, 
that I was sometimes so ungallant as to ask her perplexing 
questions regarding the "reasonableness and justifiableness of 
vicarious atonement," the "improbability of the divine nature 
or element in Christ," and presumed to class his miracles in 
the category of fraud and jugglery." She was very kind, and 
ordinarily timid, but, when I provoked her, became bold and 
aggressive, defending her cause with dispatch and effective- 
ness ; her lustrous brown eyes, flashing with holy enthusiasm, 
as she, in verification of her position, poured forth a stream 



246 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

of eloquence that would have delighted a Phillips or a Cooke. 
These outbursts of eloquence and enthusiasm were very bene- 
ficial to me, and this is the only excuse I have to offer for 
occasionally drawing them out. The mantle of love, patience, 
kindness and Christian helpfulness so modestly and so effec- 
tively worn by Mrs. Crosley could not have descended upon 
a more zealous, intelligent, Christ-like character than Mrs. Dr. 
Smith, of this city. This eminently cultured, world-wide 
traveler and Biblical scholar built largely and widely upon the 
spiritual walls (the foundations of which were laid in my na- 
ture by my dear mother) so gently and so rapidly reared by 
Mrs. Deomude and Mrs. Crosley. She, by her wisdom and 
devotion to the Master, broadened my mental horizon, in- 
creased my faith and strengthened my grasp on the blissful 
beyond. 

These three blessed women, with the exception of a few 
weeks, have been mjy spiritual guides and comforters, and, of 
the teachers heretofore mentioned, they stand pre-eminently 
above them all as Christian workers. Mrs. Smith has at 
present sixteen men in her class, every one of whom loves and 
respects her, and believes her to be a true friend, not only 
in the spirit but in the flesh as well. She possesses, in a 
superlative degree, that finesse (sometimes called tact) so 
essential to success in handling grown pupils. Her presence 
inspires respect, but neither fear nor awe, and her extreme 
politeness is 1 equalled only by her apparent sincerity. She 
makes war upon vices, not persons; and corrects those that 
err without insulting them. Her selections and explanations 
of scripture texts excites none but happy passions, which 
move the heart without depraving it. She pleases us without 
soothing our frailties ; engages our attention without amusing 
us with trivial and ridiculous tales ; makes us know God with- 
out representing Him under images unworthy of the divine 
nature; surprises us without leading us astray through fan- 
tastic regions and chimerical wonders; always agreeable and 
helpful ; noble by bold expressions, glowing figures, and still 
more so by the blessed truths with which she fills the mind 
and heart. Ten thousand such teachers working in concert 
would, in one year, sweep the rum traffic and infidelity into 
Hades, to keep company with their triplet brother, Slavery. 

I shall ever reverence and remember, with feelings of 
love and gratitude, Mrs. Deomude, Mrs. Crosley and Mrs. 
Smith (three star-crowned ladies) for leading me "into the 
light that lighteth every man (who is willing) that cometh 
into the world." Besides my gratitude to these ladies, I am 
under lasting obligations of love and respect toward many 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 247 

other good people, among whom are ex-Governor Wm. Larra- 
bee, of Clermont; Rev. J. G. Lemen of Council Bluffs; Hon. 
W. G. Ken, Judge Casey, M. T. Butterfield, Samuel Doyle and 
others of Fort Madison, Iowa it is worth some years of life, 
even in prison, to have won the admiration and friendship of 
such a galaxy of kind, gentle, intellectual, refined Christian 
men and women, and I feel exceedingly proud of the fact ; and 
to me the unaffected love of one such man as Senator Kent is 
of greater value than the treasures of India. 

Some of my beloved friends have passed over Jordan, 
others are far away, yet the spirits of all are set about the 
firmament of my existence, encouraging me to righteous acts 
and pure thoughts, always directing or leading me toward 
the Lamb of God, which is, to my mind, an absolute demon- 
stration of the visitation of embodied spirits to which I have 
already alluded. I believe that the spirits of men, though 
their bodies are a thousand miles apart and alive, yet dead in 
sleep, communicate with one another on a variety of subjects. 
Greater men than I believed the same. Shakespeare believed 
that the spirits of the dead, in some measure, affected the liv- 
ing. Napoleon had his star (a friendly spirit) which led him 
to success. Constantine, the great, saw a cross in the sky 
(the spirit, no doubt, of one of the apostles), which he in- 
terpreted as an omen of victory. Jesse James, when about to 
commit some unlawful act, invariably saw the same white 
horse and rider at his side, and which was invisible to his 
comrades. I never heard what interpretation, if any, Jesse 
put upon this stranger's visits, but I venture to say he was 
always affected by them. The actions of all men are affect- 
ed, more or less, by the invisible. The bodies of Socrates, 
Milton, Raphael and Mendelssohn have long ago crumbled to 
dust. Are they dead by reason of this fact? No. Socrates, 
through his philosophy ; Milton, through "Paradise Lost" ; 
Raphael, through his matchless paintings, and Mendelssohn, 
through his music, speak to, and influence, thousands, and 
will continue to do so as long as the human race shall last. 
The law makers, and especially mobs, should consider this 
subject and govern their enactments toward the delinquent 
members of society accordingly, for I most solemnly declare 
that the soul of man is not the result of material organization, 
but is a principle capable of exercising its faculties inde- 
pendently of the bodily organs ; therefore by killing, or even 
by imprisoning, the body of an offender, he is not by any 
means disposed of, as the revengeful essence, the evil spirit, 
still lurks about and waits to take its revenge, through some 
disconsolate individual, upon its adversaries. 



248 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

Spirits do return under favorable circumstances, and any 
one believing the Bible dare not deny it. And these same 
favorable circumstances are governed by the individual's pa"- 
ticular mood. If he contemplates committing an unlawful 
act, legions of the imps of hell are instantly at his side, 
prodding him with reminders of his real or imaginary wrongs, 
offering suggestions and urging him forward. On the other 
hand, when, after having accomplished his purpose, he re- 
flects on his evil act and begins to feel sorry for doing it (the 
inevitable result of every sin, I care not how desperate the man 
may have become), then the white-robed hosts of heaven, 
having followed him all the while, though he comprehended it 
not, now approach him and console him with the promise, 
''Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and 
I will give you rest," and ''Turn ye from thy sin and I will 
remember thy transgression no more forever." Then he 
makes the grandest and noblest resolutions, only to break 
them again and again. Many a time have I passed through 
such an ordeal, and, on various occasions, thought my body 
would be rent asunder, so fierce was the contest between the 
emotions of right and wrong. I shall write another book on 
crime, criminals and prison management, in which I will dis- 
cuss more fully this subject of good and bad influences of 
disembodied spirits. 

Mrs. Deomude, my first Sunday school teacher, having 
created in me anjntense desire for knowledge, and determined 
to find out, if possible, the true religion, the will and pur- 
poses of God concerning me, I "girded on the whole armor" 
of zeal and persistent effort. From fiction and daily papers 
I turned to the graver sorts of literature. The first thing 
that impressed fne was Solomon's advice : "My son, hear the 
instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy 
mother." I felt deeply convicted of my sin for not heeding 
the one and ignoring the other, and, falling on my knees, be- 
sought God to cast behind Him 1 my transgressions and re- 
member them no longer against me. Having read the Bible 
through, dwelling upon the promises, as well as the denuncia- 
tions, of the Lord, I took up Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of 
the Roman Empire," and, lingering with the fifteenth to the 
nineteenth chapters carefully compared the zeal, faith and con- 
stancy of the "Christian Martyrs" with that of their nineteenth 
century brethren, much to the dfscredit of the latter, excepting 
always, however, my Sunday school teachers. I next read 
Shakespeare, Pope's Homer, Virgil, "Life of Christ," Voltair's 
"Philosophical Dictionary," "Age of Reason," "Pilgrim's Pro- 
gress," "Mistakes of Moses," "Natural Selections," "Origin of 



, EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 



Species," "Chips from a German Workshop," "Origin of the 
World," by Dawson, the celebrated debate between Professor 
Huxley and Doctor Wall, and many other works similar to 
these were devoured by my insatiable mind. I have, in fact, 
read around the entire circle of classical literature, comparing 
everything with the Book of all Books, and wherever I found 
a "truth," either in God's or the Devil's literature, "bound it 
upon the tablets of my heart," but casting aside everything 
conflicting with the word of God. 

There is much said and written these days about ungodly 
and pernicious literature, which, to me, seems very much out 
of place, since trials and temptations are necessary to the high- 
er development of the bodily as well as the spiritual functions. 
I can say, with all candor, that I never read a book in which 
I did not find something to console and benefit me, something 
to excite my pity and compassion for my fellowman, some- 
thing to encourage me in all good works, something to 
strengthen my belief in the wisdom and goodness of God. 
Even in the "Age of Reason," whose author, Thomas Paine, I 
have been taught all my life to regard as the pope of atheism 
and hater of God, I find this declaration of faith, which is as 
beautiful as it is extraordinary: "I content myself," says Mr. 
Paine, "with believing, even to a positive conviction, that that 
power (God) which gave me existence is able to continue it 
in any form or manner desired, either with or without this 
body ; and it appears to me more probable that I shall con- 
tinue to exist hereafter than that I had existence as I now 
have before this existence began." On the other hand, I have 
found much that is calculated to lead one further and further 
from God, unless he has, like myself, learned wisdom through 
the things he has suffered. For instance, Professor Huxley 
says, "Star-dust is the material out of which the world was 
formed." Agassiz holds that "Man sprung, not from one cen- 
ter, but from several centers ; not from one human pair, but 
from more than half a dozen human pairs." Herbert Spencer 
maintains that his theory of force is sufficient to account for 
the world as it is, and for the origin of the human race, while 
Dr. Darwin is equally positive that "evolution" is the royal 
road by which man ascended from; an inanimate, senseless 
atom of Nile mud to a mighty giant of activity and intellectu- 
ality. Ministers of the gospel, men whom we naturally ex- 
pect to uphold the word of God, join the caravan of science 
(so called) and by their sophistical, and in some instances 
blasphemous, utterances, are filling the land with doubt and 
skepticism. Geologists think they have given the Bible its 
"death-blow" by proving that this little planet of ours has 



250 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

been in existence for millions of years. Evolutionists scoff at and 
ridicule the idea that God created all things out of nothing; 
and scientists have "demonstrated, beyond a doubt," that it is 
asolutely impossible for a whale to swallow a man, while 
Bible apologists render themselves contemptible in the sight 
of man and insulting to God by attempting to show that the 
"great fish," with which Jonah had such a remarkable en- 
counter, "was in all probability a white shark." Instead of 
these ridiculously absurd propositions, I prefer to accept the 
plain, unvarnished statements of the Bible, i. e., that God in 
the beginning, "created all things," and, by the power of His 
word, or, "out of nothing," made man in His own image. To 
me it seems infinitely more reasonable to believe that man is 
the product of an all-powerful and all-wise being than that he 
should evolve from nothing into a tad-pole and from that into 
a monkey, etc., and as for myself, take pride in believing I am 
a child of love and intelligence, rather than a result of blind, 
insensible laws ; and from what I have heard and read con- 
cerning the capacity of the shark, am doubly certain that Jonah 
was not in that creature's maw; besides, I believe the Lord 
knew what He was talking about when He said, "Jonah was 
three days and three nights in the whale's belly." 

The efforts of these super-wise gentlemen to account for 
the origin of the world and the creation of man are as unsat- 
isfactory as their theories concerning the end of the former and 
the final disposition of the latter. Having thoroughly studied 
the pros and cons of the profoundest thinkers on these sub- 
jects, I conclude that it is of little consequence as to how I 
came into the world, while there is infinite importance attach- 
ing to the manner and condition of my exit. If science fas- 
cinates and perplexes the mind, the platitudes and inconsist- 
encies emanating from the pulpit lacerate the soul, and either 
destroy faith in the purity and love of God, or, at least, render 
it extremely vacillating. For instance, the man standing on 
the Lords rostrum hurls over the sacred desk, in tones equal- 
ing, or meant to equal, the thunderings on Mount Sinai, such 
incongruities as "if you multiply one hundred billion by one 
hundred billion you will obtain some idea of the intensity of 
God's hatred for sin," and in the next breath declares, "God 
is infinite love, and, while He desires to and will punish sin, 
pities the sinner." What dazzling, monstrous, childish ab- 
surdities. The absurdity lies in the personification of the 
criminal act, "sin," and the declaration "God's hatred for sin." 
We are told that to "please God" we must "love what He 
loves" and "hate what He hates," and a little later we are con- 
fronted with the terrible assertion, "God is infinite in all His 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 251 

attributes, therefore your most magnificent gifts will not add 
one iota to His treasure ; your most eloquent prayers will not 
secure the slightest addition to His mercy, nor will a lifetime 
of good works insure immunity from punishment." The Lord, 
if I read the Scriptures aright, was delighted with Abel's of- 
fering; that "whatsoever a man asketh, believing, shall be 
given unto him," and that "God loves a cheerful giver." Many 
of the Psalms commence in melancholy and end in triumph, 
and God, in answer to prayer, sent an angfel to "strengthen 
Him" Christ. All the good that has been accomplished is 
the result of earnest, agonizing prayer; all the evil that has 
been committed is, also, the result of prayer. God loves to 
answer the prayers of His children ; and so does the Devil, 
with alacrity and in hellish glee grant the petitions of his 
subjects. 

The popular thing of today is to scoff at the "old-fash- 
ioned Hell" of John Wesley and the stern Tertullion, as well 
as to heap ridicule upon the Hell of the Bible, and instead a 
sort of a classical Hell a careful separation of the sheep from 
the goats is set up. I once encouraged Nora to ask my 
father if he believed in a "lake of fire and brimstone," where 
the ungodly would be punished forever and forever. "No," 
said he, "no human being could stand it for a moment, to say 
nothing of enduring it for eternity." There are living germs, 
declares science, that cannot be destroyed by boiling water, 
and that the salamander (an extinct quadruped) was capable 
of living in fire. History records instances of men having 
been subjected to. that element for hours, and in some cases for 
days, before death ensued. In 1820, in what is now Crowley 
County, Kansas, a brave general of the United States army 
was captured by the Comanche Indians, who kept him in a 
circle of fire and compelled him to walk barefooted on the 
live coals for two days, thus burning him to death by de- 
grees, and the burning of the negro in Texas recently is an- 
other proof that man is able, for a short time, at least, to live 
in a veritable hell. It is said that man is so constituted that he 
can adapt himself to almost any condition or environment. An 
evidence of this is noted in women washing dishes or clothes, 
they can, without experiencing any pain, hold their hands in 
water so hot as to remove the skin from a man's hand, and 
the Sullivan-Corbett fight convinces me that human flesh can, 
by proper treatment, be prepared to undergo the torments of 
Hell. The punishment that Sullivan endured would kill half 
a dozen ordinary men men unprepared for such an ordeal. 
Heaven and Hell will be to the unprepared man what Cor- 
bett would be to an amateur pugilist. Transport a man to 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 



Heaven, without any preparation for the change, and the joy 
and splendors meeting him there would be as fatal to his exist- 
ence as if he had dropped straight into Hell. I cannot escape 
the conviction that there is future joy or pain awaiting man- 
kind, but no one will go to either place without his, or her. 
own consent. I have it in my power to defy God or the Devil, 
but the lines are so closely drawn that I cannot ignore both 
the love of the one and the hatred of the other at the same 
time ; I must choose between God's mercy and the Devil's 
vengeance. 

Col. R. G. Ingersoll, the priest of infidelity, makes a great 
deal of fuss, and pours out sarcasm by the barrel, about the 
"Saints lookin^ over the battlements of Heaven and rejoicing 
to see the greater portion of mankind undergoing the tor- 
ments of perdition." "Such a thing," says he, "would be ab- 
solutely impossible for a civilized human being." Let us ex- 
amine this statement a little. There are, according to the lat- 
est prison bulletins, about eighty-two thousand human be- 
ings confined in the various penal institutions, jails and re- 
formatories in the United Sates, all subjected to more or less 
punishment, yet the rest of the sixty-two millions of people 
(Mr. Ingersoll included), being conscious of this fact, seem 
to get a liberal share of joy and satisfaction out of the situa- 
tion. Fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, 
lovers and sweethearts patronize the ball-room, theater, circus, 
state and county fairs and other places of amusement, and. 
despite the fact that some one near and dear to them is lan- 
guishing in prison (in torment), seem to enjoy themselves im- 
mensely notwithstanding. Now then, if people can become so 
steeped in the venalities of this world to forget, for the time 
being, the sufferings of their dear ones, it is quite probable 
(certainly possible) they will be able, when experiencing the 
delights of Heaven, to do so on the other side of Jordan. 

Again we are told that the Bible is full of contradictions, 
and that the road leading to perdition is well lubricated so as 
to accelerate our movements in that direction. As to the first, 
I have to say that the discrepancies found in the Bible are 
due to the Devil, not God. I believe the Bible is as much the 
work of the former as it is the word of the latter ; that the 
prophets and sacred writers often mistook the voice of Satan 
for that of Jehovah. God admonishes us to "Turn ye, turn 
ye, Oh house of Israel, for why will ye die?" while the Devil 
commands us tx> "Go* in, slay old and young; spare not one 
alive." As to the slippery road, I must say that I found it 
heavily sanded, and covered with such obstructions as honor- 
able desires, worthy purposes, lofty ambitions, the up"aised 



KxrniNG DAYS AND DARING DKKDS 253 

hands of little children, the pleadings of sisters, the friendship 
of brothers, the entreaties of wives, the counsel of father, the 
prayers of dear mother and the eternal love of my blessed 
Savior. Sam Jones says, "There is but one road, one end of 
which enters Hell and the other Heaven." I have traveled in 
both directions, and, at first, found progress Heavenward fully 
as difficult as the opposite course. 

When I gave my heart to God I thought I would have 
nothing further to do but serenely sail into the glory on 
"flowery beds of ease" ; but I was sadly mistaken, for, at first, 
I met at every turn in the road with new and terrible diffi- 
culties. Temptations, to which I have already alluded, beset 
me on every hand; I felt morose and suspicious and suspected 
that everybody was trying to injure me ; and the many little 
kindnesses bestowed on me by sympathizing friends were at- 
tributed to sinister motives ; besides the more I read and the 
harder I studied the more my mind became imbued with doubt 
and skepticism. At times I seemed to lose sight of the prom-, 
ises of God, and the consciousness of the drawings of His 
holy Spirit, and gave myself up to feelings of vengeance, dis- 
trust and even hatred toward my fellow man. I laughed at 
the idea of an "immaculate conception," and seriously ques- 
tioned the genuineness of miracles, yet all the while believing 
in the goodness, wisdom and power of God. . About this time, 
1889, while so terribly wrought up by these matters, I hap- 
pened, providentially, no doubt, to get hold of a magazine 
containing one of Professor Huxley's masterful arguments, in 
which he said : "From all I know of physiological and patho- 
logical science, I find nothing in the story of the conception 
and birth of Christ, as related by Mark, that contravenes 
probability." This remarkable concession, by the leading sci- 
entist of the day, relieved my mind very much, and I said, 
"This intellectual giant having virtually admitted that Christ 
is the son of God, then why should I longer entertain doubt 
as to His divine origin?" A few days later Mrs. Crosley sent 
me a copy of "Robert Elsmer," with the request that I should 
"carefully and prayerfully read it through." I had read many 
adverse criticisms on this book, emanating from the clergy, 
therefore, I never read any work with deeper interest, or with 
greater determination to comprehend its meaning. I returned 
the book with a note stating I heartily and cheerfully sub- 
scribed to the "New Brotherhood," the motto being: "In thee, 
oh eternal, have I put my trust: this do in remembrance of 
me." The more I studied over this book the more thoroughly 
I became convinced that "Robert Elsmere" had failed in his 
purpose. With all his love and eloquence he could not shake 
the faith of the sweet, the pure and devoted Catherine, who 



254 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

said, "I will never give up hope ; I will pray for you (Robert) 
night and day. God will bring you back." Assailing Cather- 
ine with skeptical philosophy of himself and friends, together 
with the sophistry of Squire Wendover, and a strong appeal 
to her love for him,, Robert succeeded only in wringing from 
her heart this concession : "I will learn to hear the two voices, 
the voice that speaks to you and the voice that speaks to me." 

"Robert Elsmer" declares that Christ is merely a "sym- 
bol," and that a miracle is a "natural product of human feeling 
and imagination." Yet he allows his imagination to clothe 
Christ ("a being composed of ordinary flesh and properties") 
with attributes that, admitting Him to be only human, resolve 
themselves into a more stupendous miracle than any ascribed 
to our Savior. I read another paper from the pen of Professor 
(Huxley, in which he, in speaking of one of Christ's miracles, 
says, "There are physical things, such as taenia and trichinae, 
which can be transferred from man to pigs and vice versa, and 
which do, undoubtedly, produce most diabolical and deadly 
effects on both. For anything I can absolutely prove to the 
contrary there may be spiritual things capable of the same 
transmigration, with like effects * * * so I declare that I 
am unable to show cause why these transferable devils should 
not exist." The reading of "Robert Elsmer" and Professor 
Huxley's articles removed all doubts as to the incarnation, 
resurrection and miracles of Christ, therefore, the transition 
from a physical to a spiritual faith was sudden and decided. 
Here then we have an instance of pernicious literature (so 
called) working a miracle in the life of a so-called "very bad 
man" "to the pure in heart all things are pure," and "to him 
that esteemeth a thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean." 
Having once for all made this transition from evil thoughts and 
malicious purposes to worthy ambitions and holy desires, my 
life became calm and less easily disturbed by outward circum- 
stances. Occurrences that once set my brain in a whirl of 
excitement, now pass me almost daily without affecting me 
in the least, except to arouse my sympathy for, and desire to 
help, others to correct their errors. The enemy of my soul no 
longer has any power over me, and when he does appear for a 
moment with his winsome ways and beguiling smiles, I only 
need to breathe the Lord's name to banish him from my pres- 
ence. 

Men of superior intelligence ridicule the idea that invis- 
ible spirits have anything to do with the good or bad actions 
of men, yet they are unable to otherwise account for the 
righteousness and wickedness surrounding them. I believe, 
unqualifiedly, in a personal God and a personal Devil, and by 



EXCITING DAYS AND DAR.NC DEEDS 255 

cultivating, or encouraging, the latter I could keep him con- 
stantly at my side, just as easily as I now, through prayer, 
dwell in the presence and love of my Savior. I know that God 
is pained when He sees men exercise themselves in treachery, 
deceit, malice, revenge, intemperance or any other hurtful vice, 
but pleased when they deal in justice, sincerity, friendship, be- 
nevolence, love and all helpful virtues ; while the Devil de- 
lights to have them practice the former, and roars with rage 
if they do not omit the latter. 

There is a dual existence in the world all nature cries 
aloud. The earth has its centripetal and centrifugal forces. 
God sends the sunshine and the rain to fill the land with fruit 
and verdure for man's use, while the Kansas cyclone, the 
furious breath of the Devil, sweeps across the country, par- 
tially destroying everything in its course. This leads me to 
declare that I firmly believe, not in one, but in two trinities: 
"God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost ; God Satan, Devil and 
Beelzebub" ; both infinite in their purposes. They are coeval, 
co-existent, co-eternal and co-equal in power and wisdom. The 
one cannot destroy the other, but men, by co-operating with 
either, can raise to the throne of grace or descend to the pits 
of torment. They worked harmoniously together in the crea- 
tion of this planet and its manifold species of vegetable and 
animal life, on up to the entrance of Adam and Eve into the 
Garden of Eden. Here a controversy arose between them as 
to the disposition of their crowning work Man. Having cre- 
ated man in their own "image" (which implies the power of 
choice), they could not deprive him of the right to choose 
whom he would serve, and not being able to amicably settle 
the dispute, they mutually agreed to separate, and, leaving 
man in his original state, made an interchange of attributes, 
God assuming all that was pure and elevating, conceding to 
Satan all that was vile and debasing. God said, "I will win 
man to my standing and by my manifestations of love, kind- 
ness, gentleness, patience and the assurance of a home in 
glory." Satan replied: "I shall induce him to follow me by 
direct appeals to his animal passions, and a guarantee to make 
him a conspicuous figure in my kingdom." The lines being 
thus drawn the struggle for supremacy for man's favor be- 
gun, which reached its maximum intensity during the latter 
part of the century preceding the birth of Christ. Since that 
time the world has steadily grown better and more beauti- 
ful. Famines, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and the 
scourges of other devastating elements have been less fre- 
quent, and the people are learning (through arbitration) to 
"beat their weapons of war into plowshares and pruning 



256 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WELLS 

hooks/' thus showing that if Satan was a long time in making 
up his mind to dissolve partnership with God, he is equally 
slow about concluding to resume the old relations. There- 
fore, I conclude that hell may continue to exist for some thou- 
sand years, but it and death will finally be swallowed up in 
victory as Christ said they would, when Satan's abode will be 
turned into a vast bakeshop, from whence the sweetest of 
bread will come to feed the millions of the redeemed and 
purified. 

Elsewhere I have given an account of the "cowboy" and 
the origin of the "Maverick," and a description of its disposi- 
tion. The world, as I see it, is a vast stock range, and the 
people are cattle on a thousand hills and valleys, and are con- 
tinually being "rounded up" and driven into the corrals of the 
two great cattle kings God and Satan. Those who will not 
accept God's mercy, and are indifferent to the hardships that 
Satan imposes upon them, are the "Mavericks," and must, 
sooner or later, run the gauntlet of the invincible "cowboys" 
with their long lariats. Satan has his headquarters in the 
breweries and distilleries and obtains his "cowboys" from the 
saloons, brothels and dens of vice. They are provided with 
swift, black horses and strong lariats, the strands of which are 
treachery, deceit, licentiousness, intemperance, lust, envyings, 
vile thoughts and hatred. God has his headquarters in the 
tabernacles and churches, and secures recruits for his band of 
vaqueroes from the school houses and Sunday schools. These 
are furnished with fleet-footed white horses and stout lassoes, 
the strands of which are honor, righteousness, temperance, 
justice, charity, patience, kindness and love. Out west the 
quadruped "Maverick" sometimes escaped the cowboys by 
slipping into the bushes where the lasso could not be used, 
but the elusion was only temporary, for if he escaped in the 
spring he would be caught at the fall "round up" and, having 
the hot iron pressed to his tender skin, was no longer a "Mav- 
erick," but the legitimate property of Jones or Johnson. Just 
so with the biped "Maverick," who sometimes eludes Satan's 
cowboys by attending church and Sunday school, or by enter- 
ing dens of vice where the Lord's vaqueroes cannot reach him. 
But occasionally one ventures out on the plain, between the 
heights of purity and the depths of corruption ; then the black 
horse and the white horse riders St. John saw two such rid- 
ers on a similar mission make a rush for him. The "Maver- 
ick" runs this way and that, first giving the advantage to the 
black, and then to the white horse riders, then running straight 
ahead, he enters a parte-colored throng and escapes for the 
time being. Another comes out on the plain and is lassoed by 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DKMDS -j.-)7 

the black horse cowboys, who drag him to the snubbing-post, 
where they burn into his heart Satan's initial letters, "C. & 
L." condemned and lost. Still another ventures upon the 
plain and the eager cowboys, one party flushed with victory 
and the other stimulated by defeat, make a simultaneous dash 
for him. He dodges to the right and to the left, then makes a 
straight cut for the parte-colored throng (a conglomeration 
of sinners, hypocrites, infidels, Christians and the self-right- 
eous). Another moment and he is safe. The black horse 
riders stab their panting steeds with the spurs of despair, while 
the white horse cowboys ply the quirts of encouragement to 
the sides of their flying ponies. One more leap and he is out 
of reach ; but hold, there ! A dozen lassoes hiss through the 
air, the loop of one of them encircles the neck of the fleeing 
"Maverick," and a white horse cowboy claims the prize, which 
is led away to the snubbing-post, where it is branded in the 
forehead with the large initial letters, "F. & S." forgiven and 
saved. Then the celestial hosts stand still while the victorious 
cowboys send up a shout to the throne of God : ''There is more 
joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth than ninety and 
nine just men who need no repentance." 

This exposition of the biped "Maverick" may seem some- 
what metaphorical, yet it is a literal experience in my own life, 
for Mesdames Deomude, Crosley and Smith chased me over 
the mountains of obtuseness and silly pride, up and down the 
valleys of despondency and desperation, and finally surround- 
ed me on the great plain of hope, and, dexterously slipping the 
noose of their Master's lariat over my head, led me away in 
triumph to the foot of the cross, where I heard the joyful 
words, "Come ye, blessed of my father, where I a,m there shalt 
thou be also" hence I am no longer a "Maverick," but an 
heir of God and a joint heir with the Lord Jesus Christ. These 
blessed angels of love and mercy are doing for others what 
they have done for me, thereby adding jewels to the crowns 
that are being prepared for them in the land of glory where 
they shall hear the glad approval: "Well done, thou good and 
faithful servants, enter ye into the presence of thy Lord." 

Before my conversion, when hearing people in prayer 
meeting testify that God had forgiven them I wondered how 
this information reached them ; but now the manner in which 
consciousness of forgiveness is manifested is perfectly compre- 
hensible, and for the benefit of those who are similarly per- 
plexed I will state how the knowledge of full and free for- 
giveness came to me. I first cultivated a desire for purity, 
goodness and peacefulness, but, trusting in my own strength 
and wisdom to reach this state, found I was still unforgiven. 



258 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF POLK WKI.LS 

Then I began praying to God to put me in a proper mood to 
receive his grace and smiles. Night and morning I knelt be- 
side my cot and asked Heavenly guidance, and besought 
Christ to take complete possession of my soul and free it from 
every form of atheism, impiety and hypocrisy ; that he would 
help me to be faithful in the discharge of my duties, to be re- 
spectful and obedient to the powers that be; that he would 
help me to refrain from calumny, detraction, deceit, envy, 
fraud, hatred, lying and ingratitude ; that he would assist me 
to be sincere in friendship and watchful against pride and 
anger; that he would fill my heart with kindliness and benev- 
olence, with tenderness for the weak, with respect and gentle- 
ness toward the aged and infirm ; that he would aid me in 
cultivating frankness, cheerfulness and to be ready at all times 
to rejoice in the good of others, and to have pity and compas- 
sion on the unfortunate; that he would constantly remain at 
my side, guiding me in the way of honor, sobriety, innocence 
and goodness, and make me truly virtuous and magnanimous, 
and ready to forgive my enemies (if any exist) as willing to 
accept forgiveness for myself. All of this the dear Lord has 
done for me, and the last unclean spirit to come forth from my 
heart was the demon, vengeance. The latter being utterly cast 
out, I felt that the Son had indeed "set me free" and would to 
God that all men were as I am, except these stripes and being 
bound by the law. There is not a person so mean that I would 
hesitate to enter the flames of Hell to assist in making an es- 
cape from Satan ; there is not one so vile that I would not give 
him my hand and help him to raise to a higher plane of life ; 
there is not a person anywhere against whom I have the slight- 
est ill feeling. To adore the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is the 
height of my ambition ; to treat my fellow-men with respect 
and kindness is my miission ; therefore I know, for certainty, 
that I am a forgiven, redeemed man ; a "brand plucked from 
the burning," and a witness to the power of the regenerated 
influence eminating from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If 
there were a mountain of doubt as to the genuineness of mir- 
acles, this transformation of my character would be sufficient 
to remove it and cast it into the sea of nothingness he who 
can, in sincerity and truth, make a declaration like the above, 



EXCITING DAYS AND DARING DEEDS 259 

may know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is a redeemed 
soul, "washed clean in the blood of the Lamb." 

In conclusion, and as typical of my return to my mother's 
God, I will present the following beautiful lines : "Reclaimed," 
by Susie M. Best, Cincinnati, Ohio. 

"I have grasped in the blackness of darkness, 

I have scoffed at my early belief, 
I have felt all my faith go to pieces 

Like a vessel that's wrecked on a reef. 

I have mocked at the scriptural teachings, 

And flung them as fables aside, 
The truth of miraculous marvels, 

My lips have boldly denied. 

I have labored with abstruse questions, 

And vexed my spirit for naught, 
For in all the lore of the ages 

I have found not the solace I sought. 

I have wandered far off in the highway, 

And swore I would never return ; 
But back like a suppliant stealing 

The fold I am glad to discern. 

All else but the fond faith of childhood 

Is ruin and ashes I know, 
And so I am once more praying 

The prayers that I lisped long ago." 




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