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John Bratt 






Trails of Yesterday 

By John Bratt 

Lincoln Cbtcap Dallas 



Copyright, 1921 




I. Advent into the World — Birthplace — Bread Riot. . . i 

II. Childhood Memories — Sunshine and Clouds — The 

Ministry Is Not My Calling — Early Education .... 2 

III. Ambition — An Apprentice to a Merchant — Youth 
in Business — America and its Opportunities — Why 
Not ? — Tears and Good-Bye 7 

IV. Leaving England for America — A Trip into Ire- 
land — O'Brien — A True Lover — Funeral at Sea — 
Land Ahoy ! 11 

V. Arrival at New York — A Search for O'Brien's 

Katherine — Civil War — Westward to Chicago. ... 16 

VI. Arrival at Chicago — A Letter from Katherine — 

O'Brien's Hasty Departure 18 

VII. Life in Chicago — My Wedding Is Planned with- 
out My Knowledge — Speculations on the Chicago 
Board of Trade — A Wreck Investigation 20 

VIII. Strenuous Times — Lee's Surrender to Grant — As- 
assination of President Lincoln — I Attend Lincoln's 
Funeral 24 

IX. Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained — Terrific 
Storm at Sea — My Small Fortune Cast upon the 
Waters — Heavy Hearted but Willing to Begin 
Again 27 

X. Reembark for New Orleans — Homeless, Starv- 
ing and no Work — War Prices — Employment at 
Last 38 

XI. Building the Levee at Morganzie — Living too 
Close to Nature — Life with the Levee Gang — Merit 
Receives Reward 43 

XII. Experiences as Purchasing Agent — Frazell Kills 
O'Hay — Floods Break the Levee — Freight Checker 
on a River Boat 47 



XIII. Gallatin Valley Gold Fever — Destination Fourth 
Company Post (Ft. Phil Kearny) — Nebraska City 
in the Early Days — My Five Resolutions — Life as a 
Bullwhacker — An Enemy — Mr. Bass 50 

XIV. On the Overland Trail — Fort McPherson in 
1866 — The Morrow Ranch — Other Noted Road 
Ranches 59 

XV. Bass Becomes Intolerable — Stuck in the South 
Platte River — Red Cloud's Threat — A Visit to 
Spotted Tail's Daughter's Grave — My First Chase 
by Indians — Tenderfoot Takes a Stand — My Fight. 64 

XVI. Cheyenne Indians Visit Our Camp — Dull Knife 
and His Band Became Enraged — The Peace Pipe Is 
Smoked — A Quart of Whiskey Poured down Ten- 
derfoot — A Herd of Five Thousand Buffalo — 
Attacked by the Arapahoes 74 

XVII. Arrival at Fort Phil Kearny — Another Controversy 

with Bass — Mr. Bass under Arrest 84 

XVIII. Perilous Times — Employed by Mr. Carter — In- 
dians! Indians! Indians! — More Gallatin Valley 
Gold Enthusiasm — My Guardian Angel 87 

XIX. Experience at Fort Mitchell — Phil Kearny Mas- 
sacre — Sibson's Road Ranch — A Ride for Life — Big 
Mouth's Threat and Deception — A Stranger Crosses 
my Path — Indian's Revenge on an Outlaw 103 

XX. Frontier Justice — Hunter Tries to Bribe the Wrong 
Man — A Forced Confession — Negro John in Love 
with Puss — Grandma Antelope Is Active — A White 
Woman Appears on the Scene 119 

XXI. Arrival at Pine Bluffs — In Charge of a Store — 
Whiskey and Pets Must Go — Bibles Placed in 
Camp — Caught Cribbing — A Memorable Night — 
Gold Dust in a Well — More Indian Excitement. . . 136 

XXII. Sherman Station — Tie and Wood Camp — Mr. 
Nuckolls First and Last Lawsuit — Lost in a Bliz- 
zard — Too Quick for the Mexican — Honest Mr. 
Carter 153 



XXIII. Experiences at Fort McPherson and Wood River 
— A Government Hay Contract — Buffalo Bill and 
Other Friends — The Burke Family — The Fair 
Daughter — Embark in the Cattle Business — A Com- 
promise with the Pawnees — Battle Between the Paw- 
nees and Sioux — Raw Corn Only on My Menu — 
Again My Guardian Angel Protects 166 

XXIV. Life as a Cattleman — The Firm of John Bratt 
& Co. — "Point Lookout" — The Home Ranch — 
Trailing Indian Horse and Cattle Thieves — The 
Cattleman's Life not a Picnic — Modernizing the 
Cattle Business — Origin of the Word "Maverick". . 179 

XXV. The Round-Up — Initiating the Tenderfoot — 
Dangers of the Cowboy — Organization and Manage- 
ment — Tribute to the Cowboy 197 

XXVI. Our Cowboys — Characteristics — Adventures 209 

XXVII. On the Range— A Time when Might Didn't 
Make Right — Renew the Acquaintance at Dull 
Knife 222 

XXVIII. Hardships of the Cattle Business — The Disas- 
trous Prairie Fire of 1874 — "Buffalo White" Takes 
an Icewater Bath — Cattle Companies Become Num- 
erous — "Buck" Taylor's Threat — How "Sleepy" 
Was Made an Early Riser 228 

XXIX. Citizen Duties in Additon to the Cattle Busi- 
ness — Swim the River to Elect a Teacher — A Snake 
in a Tobacco Pocket — Two Hotheads — Ogallala in 
the Early Days — Honorable Cattlemen 241 

XXX. A Brighter Outlook — Love Creeps in — Marriage — 

Home Ties 248 

XXXI. Later Days — Lost His Ambition to Become a 
Cowboy — Organization of Frontier County — A Life 
Saved — The North Platte Home Guards — Our Last 
Indian Encounter 250 

XXXII. Interesting Developments — A Trip to Pine Ridge 
and Rosebud Agencies — Spotted Tail — A True 
Friend — The Town of Whitman — A Prayer Meet- 
ing in a Dance Hall 270 


XXXIII. Active Men and Strenuous Activities — Colonel 
W. F. Cody — Major North — A Speedy Run — 
Crooked Tie Inspector — Credit Mobilier — A Dang- 
erous Undertaking 278 

XXXIV. Many Irons in the Fire — The Birdwood and 
Blue Creek Canals — I am Introduced as "Mr. 
Kelly" — The Equitable Farm and Stock Improve- 
ment Company — Dissolution of Partnership 290 

XXXV. Conclusion — Two Terms as Mayor — Real Estate 
and Insurance Business — A Threatening Letter — 
Brief Review of My Career 294 



John Bratt Frontispiece 

Where the Writer First Saw the Light of Day 

Facing page I 

I Well Remember Falling into the River Churnet 

Facing page 2 

We Became Bitter Enemies 3 

Father Appeared on the Scene 5 

St. Edward's Parish School Facing page 6 

An Irish Jaunting Car 12 

Lincoln's Funeral Car Facing page 26 

Life as a Bullwhacker 52 

Cattle and Wagon Corral 55 

Fort McPherson in 1866 Facing page 60 

On the Overland Trail 62 

Chimney Rock Facing page 66 

Court House and Jail Rocks Facing page 66 

Red Cloud Facing page 68 

Sitting Bull Facing page 68 

Indian War Dance 97 

Brigham Young Facing page 107 

Stage Coach Chased by Indians 108 

A Degenerate White Man 116 

Grandma Antelope Becomes Active 129 

Surrounded by a Pack of Hungry Wolves 149 

Photograph of the Writer taken by Mrs. Larimer 

Facing page 1 56 

Lost in a Blizzard 159 

Driving the Golden Spike 163 

General Coe Facing page 164 

Levi Carter Facing page 164 

Sioux Squaw and Papoose Facing page 175 

Pawnee and Sioux Indians Facing page 175 

Our Ranch Brand 181 

The Home Ranch 182 

A Stampede 187 

On the Texas Trail. 191 

Initiating the Tenderfoot 198 

Caught in a Prairie Dog Hole 201 



A Hasty Meal 202 

A Branding Scene 204 

Nibsey on a Wild Steer 210 

Birdwood Ranch and Cowboys Facing page 211 

Some of the "Circle" Cowboys in 1888 Facing page 213 

Cowboys of the "Circle" Outfit Facing page 213 

Leonard Cornet Facing page 217 

The Fate of the Knee Breeches 218 

The Fire Crowded on the Heels of My Horse 237 

"Buck" Taylor Facing page 238 

How "Sleepy" Was Made an Early Riser 239 

A Crack Shot 240 

Miss Elizabeth Burke Facing page 249 

She was an Outlaw 251 

I Dare Ride Where You Dare Drive 256 

Spotted Tail Facing page 273 

"Doc" Middleton Facing page 276 

Col. W. F. Cody Facing page 278 

Waste-gate No. i on Birdwood Canal Facing page 291 

John Bratt Facing page 293 


THE wife and four daughters of a most beloved hus- 
band and father have endeavored to carry out his 
wishes to publish his autobiography, so that his friends 
and relatives may read the story of his very eventful life 
correctly told. 

Often when urged by his family to publish this he would 
remark, "Some day when I have more time I will rewrite it 
and put on the finishing touches." 

But this time never came. Being in comparatively good 
health, he enjoyed his business activities, in which he con- 
tinued until three days before his sudden and unexpected 

His original writings have not been disturbed, so it is 
hoped that the readers will overlook some repetitions which 
could not have been avoided, considering the manner in 
which it was written. As he himself says : "Sometimes these 
were written under difficulties in tent, wagon box, ranch, or 
on the open prairie, if not on my field desk; perhaps on a 
cracker box, the cook's bread box, the end gate or seat of a 
wagon, the skirts of my saddle, or on an ox yoke. These 
facts are what I have seen and done in years of activity, often 
at the risk of my life." 

The many temptations that confronted the early 
frontiersman have often made his friends marvel that he 
remained a clean moral man ; though he professed no ortho- 
dox creed, yet he had an unfailing trust in a protecting God. 

The writer's description of frontier life as cowpuncher 
and cowboy, with its buffaloes, Indians and untold hardships, 
will ever be of interest to the reader. 

The automobile and the Lincoln Highway have taken 
the place of the ox train, the immigrants and the Oregon 

Trail ; yet so vivid are the descriptions that even now as you 
travel over parts of Colorado and Wyoming, where there 
are miles and miles of nothing but sagebrush, you find your- 
self almost looking for the Indian and horseman to appear 
and are somewhat disappointed because they do not. But 
they have disappeared with the wilds of the country and noth- 
ing but memory and imagination can take you to them now. 


To-day we enjoy the beautiful West, 
Its rivers and mountains and plains; 

Let a thrill of thanksgiving heave in the breast 
For the pioneer and his trials and pains. 

With a knife in his boot 

A gun at his side, 
His law was "Do right," 

And his conscience his guide. 

He knew not God through religion or creed. 

But out in the open, the stars overhead, 
A stick for a pillow, the dew for a spread, 

He felt a Protector that met every need. 

With the courage of soldier in battle, 

No fear in his heart or dread, 
He succeeded in blazing the trail 

Where we now thoughtlessly tread. 

The sage brush, the sunshine and rivers 

Are there and the lofty pine tree, 
But pioneer, bullwhacker and cowboy, 

A thing of the past is he. 

G. B. G. 


Advent into the World — Birthplace — Bread Riot 

ON the 9th day of August, 1842, in the town of Leek, 
Staffordshire, England, the writer of this book first 
saw the light of day, at the time the bread riots were 
so prevalent in many parts of England. I have often heard 
my parents speak of those exciting days and say that my 
advent into the world at that particular time was probably 
the means of saving our home from destruction, because 
father, in his capacity 7 of minister of the gospel, had incurred 
the enmity of the mob. He had remonstrated against lawless 
and violent acts in the destruction of life and property, and 
the angry rabble, enraged at this, set upon and beat him into 
insensibility, after which they started to demolish our home 
in which lay my poor sick mother with a two-day old babe 
in her arms. When this became known to them, it appealed 
to their better nature and our home was spared. 


Childhood Memories — Sunshine and Clouds — The Ministry is Not 
My Calling — Early Education 

UNDER the kind fostering care of good and pious 
parents, loving sisters and brothers, my child life de- 
veloped into boyhood with the usual incidents of joy 
and sorrow attending it; part sunshine and part clouds. 

While in short dresses I remember joining some neighbor- 
ing children in a hunt for blackberries in nearby woods, and 
in my anxiety to keep up with the others, I took off and laid 
down my skirt, which I failed to find when ready to return 

I remember going in swimming with some other boys and 
all our clothes being stolen, so that we had to wait until dark 
before we could return to our homes. 

I remember my first attendance at Sunday school, also at 
day school, the latter kept by my aunt, and how a pretty, 
flaxen-haired, blue-eyed miss took special pains to teach me to 
knit garters; I also remember sending by my father a small 
basket of fruit to my little instructress, for which thoughtful 
act I was greatly teased by my sisters. 

I well remember falling into the river Churnet when it 
was a raging torrent. A plank, used by workmen at the silk 
dyehouse owned by a distant relative, had broken its fasten- 
ings, and in my boyish efforts to push it back I fell into the 
river. While spinning and rolling around like a chip in the 
swift current I thought of all the mean things I ever did. I 
made a grab for my Scotch cap, and as the torrent rushed me 
under the stone-arched bridge I wondered if the large crowd 
of people standing on the battlements would see me and 
rescue me. While these thoughts were passing through my 
brain I felt myself crowded against a hard substance, when 
the current began to whirl me around like a spinning top and 
my hand caught the branches of a tree, to which I clung 


/ Well Remember Falling into the River Churnet 

Trails of Yesterday 3 

tenaciously and got my head above water. Then I saw that 
I had been washed against a pile of refuse dyestuff, up which 
I climbed, and thanks to my lucky star, was soon on terra 
firma, glad that I was out and all conceit taken out of me. I 
fully resolved, while picking up my bowl and stick and steal- 
ing my way home, never to bother that plank again, especially 
during high water. I experienced no bad effects from this 
ducking except a slight deafness in my left ear, which bothers 
me yet. Mother scolded me, made me put on dry clothes, 
and kept me in bed the rest of the day. 

We Became Bitter Enemies 

I also well remember about this time the mean tricks of 
a certain goat that loafed around the dyehouse stables. He 
seemed to take pleasure in lying in wait for me in any dark 
corner on my return home at night, when he would rush at me 
and chase me, often attacking and hurting me. The result 
was that we became bitter enemies and it was a source of great 
relief when I heard he was dead. He had simply tackled the 
wrong fellow and had died in his efforts to be boss. 

I was not a bad boy, but I often wished that my father 
was not a minister, so that I could be free to act and play like 
other boys. My parents often advised me to be careful about 
my words and actions. They wanted me to be a model boy 
and an example to other boys of the town. Father would 

4 Trails of Yesterday 

often invite me to accompany him to nearby villages where he 
would preach and en route talk about religion and encourage 
me to join him in his work. This was all very good but some- 
times, I must confess, rather distasteful to me. I often 
longed to be free from the restraint that surrounded me. My 
parents were very strict about the company I should keep. 

They had allowed me to become a fifer in a drum and fife 
band belonging to a temperance organization known as "The 
Band of Hope." I was fond of music, both vocal and instru- 
mental. I was a singer in the Chapel Choir and sang at many 
entertainments before I was twelve years old. I had also 
been permitted by my parents to take part in the public pre- 
sentation of a temperance piece known as John Barleycorn, in 
which I took three characters, one the part of a woman, "Eliza 
Brokenheart" (the wife of a drunkard), a bartender and 
another character. 

Occasionally I was allowed to play with other boys when 
my parents were satisfied that they were the right kind. At 
one of these gatherings I became mixed up in a quarrel, taking 
up the rights of another boy who had been imposed upon by 
a larger one. The latter challenged me to fight. I tried to 
avoid this but a cousin, who happened to be there, gave me to 
understand that I must fight the boy and whip him, otherwise 
he would whip me. Preliminaries were quickly arranged and 
before taking off our coats, the fight was on in dead earnest. 
Under the earnest backing of my cousin and other young men 
present we were just getting warmed up to our work when, to 
my surprise and humiliation, my father appeared on the scene 
and marched me home where I received further punishment, 
together with a long moral lecture from both parents, who 
said that I had brought lasting disgrace upon them. This 
bad break on my part was no doubt the cause of my becoming 
fully resolved that I would never become a minister. 

After attending my aunt's school I was sent to a very 
strict sectarian school kept by a Miss Turner, who was a 
prominent member of father's church and a friend of our 
family. What she lacked in good looks she made up in disci- 

Trails of Yesterday 5 

pline. I got along nicely with her until one day one of the 
school boys unintentionally broke a pane in one of the 
windows with a snowball. Miss Turner became very angry 
and threatened to punish all if the guilty one did not go to 
her desk and acknowledge it. She finally called me up and 
asked if I knew who had broken the pane. I told her I 
thought I did. She commanded me to tell his name. I told 
her I could not do that. She said I must or I would receive 
the punishment. I replied that she could punish me but I 

Father Appeared on the Scene 

would not give the boy's name. At this remark, and without 
a moment's warning, she struck me on the side of my head 
and knocked me to the floor where I saw stars for a few 
moments. When I got up I made a rush for my books, slate 
and cap. She tried to prevent this but could not. I went 
home and told my father what had occurred. He said I ought 
to have told the boy's name and he ought to be punished; that 
he was not a manly boy or he would have acknowledged break- 
ing the pane, especially when he saw I was being punished for 
his act. Father said he would see Miss Turner that evening 
and explain matters to her so everything would be understood 

6 Trails of Yesterday 

in the morning. I told father that he could talk to Miss 
Turner if he wanted to but I would not go to her school again. 
He said I must not talk to him that way. I told him he could 
do what he pleased with me, even to cutting me up into strips, 
but I would never go to that school again. And I did not, but 
was sent to St. Edwards Parish School, taught by a Mr. Can- 
nings, my parents paying a stipulated weekly tuition fee for 
this privilege. 

St. Edward ' s Parish School 


Ambition — An Apprentice to a Merchant — Youth in Business — 

America and its Opportunities — Why Not? — Tears and 


1WAS in my twelfth year, had attended the Parish school 
for some time, had read the Bible through, had taken an 

active part in Sunday School work where I had taught a 
class of little ones, sang alto in the Methodist Chapel choir 
and was an active worker in the Band of Hope and other 
good moral organizations. All of this had encouraged my 
family, especially father, to hope that I would yet study for 
the ministry, but my fight with Arthur K and the conse- 
quent disgrace in the minds of my parents, changed this and 
assisted me materially in following my own inclinations. 

It was about all father could do to support our family, yet 
he would persist in aiding every poor person he knew. When I 
would appeal to him for better clothes, he would tell me not 
to worry — that the Lord would provide them. Sometimes, 
however, I must confess, I thought the Lord had forgotten 
me. It was this, combined with other circumstances, that 
caused me to urge and finally persuade my father to allow me 
to adopt a business career. I was accordingly bound out for 
five years as an apprentice to a merchant, a friend of our 
family. This merchant had two children, a son and a 
daughter, the latter a little older than myself. I was taken 
in and treated as a member of the family. The daughter was 
a tall, beautiful girl with dark hair and eyes, and a fine form. 
She was a great lover of pets, among which were a parrot and 
a cat. The latter was an especial favorite and was permitted 
at times to eat beside her at the table. This daughter became 
very kind to me and often assisted me in my studies before 
and after attendance at night school, where I was taking up 
special branches. I had won the confidence and esteem of my 
employer and his good wife and was permitted to accompany 


8 Trails of Yesterday 

the daughter to and from church and other places. In our 
constant association a brotherly and sisterly feeling sprang up 
between us. Young as I was, I could see from the actions of 
our parents and others interested that it would not be objec- 
tionable should this brotherly and sisterly feeling ripen into 
love and ultimate marriage, for perhaps unknown to either 
we had, in a measure, been plighted to each other by our 
respective parents who later on gave us to understand that at 
the proper time, no serious objections intervening, we would 
be expected to seal our friendship with our marriage vows. 
Occasionally when alone, the daughter — whom I will call my 
adopted sister, as that term better describes my own feelings 
in the matter — would refer to our future. She had wealth, 
social position and was highly educated, while I was a poor 
boy, trying to make my place in the world, an employee of 
her father. A great gulf was between us and I had fully de- 
termined, should I ever learn to love her, never to ask her 
to marry me until I could properly support her in the station 
in life to which she was accustomed. While I was her Sir 
Knight in every sense of the word, anticipating her every wish 
and doing everything in my power to please her and further 
the interests of my employer, yet never for one moment did I 
act the role of the lover, believing that such a course would be 
unmanly and unworthy of the confidence placed in me by her 

I was closing my seventeenth year, my apprenticeship was 
ended, and I was offered a position at a fair salary by my late 
employer, which I declined for several reasons, contrary to 
the wishes of my former employer and my family. After a 
short vacation and a trip through the Potteries in Stafford- 
shire, Manchester and other places, I concluded to go into 
business with my brother-in-law in Manchester, opening a 
general provision store on the Oldfield Road, Salford. A few 
months' trial at this proved unsatisfactory. The business was 
too top heavy. In other words, too many bosses for the work 
and the location was not the right one, so I decided to sell my 
interest or buy that of my brother-in-law. I bought his 

Trails of Yesterday 9 

interest, then looked around for a better location which I 
soon found on Ludgate Hill. I sent for my youngest sister to 
come and keep house for me. Here I remained and did well 
until I was twenty-one years old. 

I had read every book and newspaper article I could 
find that told anything of America. I had read "Uncle Tom's 
Cabin." Though opposed to slavery, my feelings went out to 
a certain extent to the Southern people, who, I believed, were 
fighting for their rights — the right to govern themselves. 
This sympathy was shared by seven-tenths of the English 
people. I had listened to the talks of Henry Ward Beecher 
and other Northern advocates and I became interested in the 
Civil War, termed in England "The Rebellion in the North- 
ern States." Civil war was raging and it was a question at 
that time which side would win. War or no war I had made 
up my mind to close out my business as soon as I reached the 
age of twenty-one and go to America, that home of the free 
and land of the brave, where one man was as good as another 
and where I would not be obliged to bow and doff my hat 
to the country squire and give him three-fourths of the road. 
I had always loved America. Its large, red apples that came 
to my home town in barrels had made a great impression on 
my child mind, its republican institutions, its mighty rivers, 
broad prairies, gold mines, its undiscovered wealth, and its 
great possibilities ! Who would not want to emigrate to such 
a free and glorious country and get out of the ruts trodden by 
my forefathers generations ago? I had already written my 
parents of my intention to close out my business and go to 
America. Letters arrived thick and fast, trying to persuade 
me from such a foolish step. Why not wait until the war was 
over? How foolish to give up a good business for an un- 
certainty ! I was doing well. Mother knew I would be killed 
and she would never consent to my going unless I promised 
not to join the army or navy. Nothing but disaster was in 
store for me. Even my adopted sister opposed this uncalled- 
for step and my old employer thought there was a good 
opening for me to remain in England and said, "When you 

10 Trails of Yesterday 

think of it, John, remember you are going to a new country 
where you have neither friend nor relative. It is being dev- 
astated by civil war, all the country under martial law. You 
will be drafted into the army and rushed to the front at the 
point of the bayonet the moment you land, if not captured by 
the 'Alabama' during passage. Think of the wild Indians 
and other lawless men you will meet. Why not think the 
matter over more carefully before you decide?" Many 
letters I received from relatives and friends who no doubt 
wished me well, advocating the abandonment of the con- 
templated move, all of which I took courage to ignore and 
brush aside. I finally sold my business in Manchester and 
took my sister home, where I bade my family good-bye. My 
poor mother was much grieved and would not let me go until 
I promised that I would join neither the army nor navy of my 
own free will. A special dinner was arranged for me and my 
parents by my old employer. Here I was for three long 
hours subject to all the eloquence that could be used by my 
parents, my employer and his family. The pictures portrayed 
were dark if I went. If I remained, hints were thrown out 
which meant a closer union than a copartnership. I could fill 
a chapter of very interesting reading if I gave full particulars 
of what occurred in that last farewell, but, with the reader's 
permission, I will draw the curtain here. With tear-filled eyes 
I bade my employer and his family good-bye. It took tact 
and courage to say good-bye to these good people without dis- 
playing some hidden emotions that had been fostered and 
encouraged by five years of uninterrupted kindness on the 
part of these very kind people. 


Leaving England for America — A Trip into Ireland — O'Brien — A 
True Lover — Funeral at Sea — Land Ahoy! 

AFTER converting all my little property into gold coin, 
bidding my family, relatives and friends a last farewell, 
with as little baggage as possible I left Liverpool on the 
Steamship "City of Limerick" on the 22nd day of June, 
1864, for New York. I was not twenty-two years old, my 
fellow passengers were all strangers to me, and not until we 
had left the dock and were plowing our way through the 
English Channel for Queenstown did I begin to realize my 
loneliness. The knowing ones among my relatives and 
friends had shaken their heads and predicted all kinds of ill 
luck and disaster to my adventure, going to a strange country 
where I had neither relatives nor friends and where civil war 
was in full force, and where some wise (?) English statesmen 
predicted that the South would conquer the North. A few 
others had given me words of encouragement, admired my 
pluck, as they termed it, and told me I would come out all 
right in the end. These prophecies, together with thoughts 
of the future, gave me food for thought, but on the whole I 
found my time well occupied during the voyage. 

We arrived at Queenstown in the evening, and since our 
ship had to remain there until the following morning, I was 
invited by the ship's physician to accompany him to Cork. 
The evening was ideal and our ride in a jaunting car over a 
beautiful road along the banks of the River Lee to the old 
city of Cork was grand. The scenery was superb. Arriving 
before dark, chaperoned by the doctor, who knew the city 
well, I saw many of the old but substantial buildings. We 
stayed at the best hotel and after a good supper, attended the 
theater. The doctor, probably for a joke, ordered the best 
room in the house for me — nothing less than the bridal 
chamber. The furnishings were beautiful — the bed a dream. 



Trails of Yesterday 

A blue silk canopy top covered the high bed posts. The bed 
proper was not less than four feet high and one climbed into 
it by means of several steps covered with rich carpet. I hesi- 
tated for some time about climbing into this luxury but with 
the thought that the best was none too good for me, I dropped 
into the center of the downy mass, which not only enveloped 
me but which I thought would smother me before morning. 
But it did not. The previous wakeful night, the sea air, the 
jaunting car ride and exercise made me sleep like a log until 
called for breakfast the following morning. After breakfast 

An Irish Jaunting Car 

and a stroll through the principal streets, I left with my friend, 
the doctor, on another jaunting car for our boat which was 
scheduled to leave Queenstown at n :oo A. M. My impres- 
sions of what I had seen of Ireland and its people on this 
quick trip to Cork were very favorable. The scenery was 
beautiful and the roads that I saw were good. Cork is a 
quaint old city, surrounded by many points of interest. Its 
people seem happy, good natured, vivacious, and with the 
mother brogue, are very interesting to converse with. We 
took aboard quite a number of passengers, nearly all, like 
myself, going to America to seek a home in the land of the 

free, Where a man is a man and is willing to toil, 

To earn with free labor the fruits of the soil. 

Trails of Yesterday 13 

I became well acquainted with an Irish gentleman 
named O'Brien, who embarked at Queenstown, and owing to 
lack of room, I allowed him to share my stateroom. We soon 
became congenial friends. His only failing was drink. He 
had given up a good business as a corn merchant at Youghal 
and was desperately in love with a pretty Irish girl of wealthy 
parents, who opposed his suit on account of difference in 
religion. This opposition drove O'Brien to drink. The 
parents had compelled the girl, much against her will, to 
marry a young physician of her own religion, who had sailed 
for America with his unwilling bride about a month previous. 
O'Brien, heartbroken, had hastily closed out his business and 
was now in hot pursuit. The poor fellow would sit down and 
weep like a child. Naturally my heart went out to him and 
while his lady love had written him that the marriage was 
against her will, she, like a sensible girl, had advised O'Brien 
to give her up for the present, although she hoped that some 
day she might be his legally in the eyes of the world. I 
advised him to try to forget her, but he would say, "No, I 
cannot. She is and shall be mine. Life is blank without her." 
O'Brien was a scholar and a gentleman. He had many ac- 
complishments, was a natural-born actor, had a splendid voice 
could play the piano, tell a good story, dance a jig, preach 
a sermon, or make a political speech. He was in demand 
everywhere and cabin and deck seemed lonesome without 
him. When not in our cabin sleeping or reading, we would be 
on deck watching or participating in the games or amusements. 
We were all a happy family. The sea was mostly calm and 
our ship, though slow, was making what was for her a good 
daily record. 

On the seventh day out from Queenstown a sad event 
occurred on the ship, casting a gloom over all, including the 
sailors. A steerage passenger, formerly a mail carrier from 
Birmingham, England, died during the night of delirium 
tremens. At the peep of day many sharks were seen follow- 
ing in the wake of our ship. At 1 1 :oo o'clock A. M. the 
body had been prepared for sea burial. Passengers, officers 

14 Trails of Yesterday 

and sailors who could be spared from duty had been sum- 
moned on deck to attend the burial service, which was per- 
formed by the captain. The body had been placed in a rude 
box weighted with shot or coal at the foot. The service was 
very impressive, passengers, officers and sailors joining in 
the songs "Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me," "Jesus, Lover of 
My Soul," and other well-known hymns. When the captain 
came to the words, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," the end of 
the plank on which the body rested was gently raised and the 
box containing all that was mortal of the poor fellow slid off 
and dropped into the ocean, only to be torn to pieces in a 
second by the school of hungry sharks following us. The box 
had scarcely struck the water when it was smashed to splinters 
and the body torn limb from limb and the flesh into shreds, 
leaving a trail of blood as far as we could see. This was a sad 
day for all on board. It left a depressing effect on all for 
several days and on some until we reached New York. Except 
for this sad event our trip across the Atlantic would have 
been a pleasant one. 

On nearing the Grand Banks of Newfoundland we ran 
into a heavy fog and nearly struck some icebergs. Our 
captain used every precaution by going slowly and using the 
fog horn continuously. Perhaps the only thing that saved us 
from accident and probable disaster was the sudden lifting 
of the fog, when the ship's engines had to be reversed to 
avoid striking a monster berg that towered over our ship like 
a huge mountain. 

Well do I remember the glad cry, "Land Ahoy," as we 
approached the American Continent. What joy ! How glad 
many of our passengers were — those expecting to meet friends, 
relatives and loved ones. For me it was somewhat sad news. 
I had made some nice acquaintances. We were a great, big, 
happy family about to separate, perhaps forever. O'Brien 
was glad and quite impatient to get ashore. 

Before going into the Narrows the pilot and Customs 
House officers were taken aboard. These gentlemen, with 
their square-toed shoes, were Americans. They told us the 

Trails of Yesterday 15 

latest war news from a Northern view, namely: that the 
Rebels, as they termed the Southerners, were whipped and 
all ready to surrender. 

The officers and seamen of the ship had been very kind 
and considerate to all of us during the trip. The customary 
resolutions had been drawn up, adopted and presented with 
a present to the captain and chief officers of the Limerick. 
I had passed through the ordeal of bidding my relatives and 
friends good-bye on leaving England, but to leave and say 
good-bye to my newly made friends on the "City of Limerick" 
was almost equally as hard. No doubt the thought of being 
a stranger in a strange land and alone except for O'Brien, 
whom I had decided to help in every way possible, made me 
doubly sad when I bade some of my fellow passengers good- 
bye as we neared the landing at the ship's pier in New York 
on the 9th day of July. As previously stated, I had brought 
but little baggage — the same with O'Brien — so the Customs 
House officers were soon through with us. A long, last look 
at the old ship and we took our turn marching down the 
gang plank and were soon lost in the stream of humanity 
surging on the pier in New York City. 


Arrival at New York — A Search for O'Brien's Katherine — Civil 
War — Westward to Chicago 

THE happiest and most anxious man to leave the "City 
of Limerick" was my friend O'Brien. We had no 
sooner registered and checked our baggage in one of 
the down-town hotels than he invited me to accompany him 
in search of a certain number at Fifty-third Street with a view 
to finding his old sweetheart, now Mrs. Katherine Ragan. 
We found the address but were told that Dr. and Mrs. iRagan 
had left there about ten days previous for parts unknown. 
O'Brien asked question after question about them but gained 
little or no information. He sat down on the curb of the 
walk a short distance from the house and cried like a child. 
He said he had nothing more to live for and wished he could 
die. I did all I could to encourage and brace him up. On 
passing the first saloon he left me abruptly, saying he would 
be out in a moment. After a short time I went in and found 
him standing by the bar draining the contents of a second 
glass of whiskey. After a lot of persuasion I got him into 
the street but had not gone far before he began to act silly 
like all drunken men. Fearing he would be arrested, I called 
a cab and took him to the hotel, where after a time I got him 
to sleep, during which he was very restless, often calling the 
name, "Katherine! Katherine!" 

While I had been devoting much time to O'Brien I had 
not been unmindful or unobservant of the new scenes that 
I came across in the great city of New York; its crowded 
streets, its jam of traffic, its ever busy, rushing, pushing citizens 
full of energy, not only in the streets but at their meals. It 
was not an uncommon thing to see them finish a four or five- 
course meal while we ate our soup and fish. Its large, beauti- 
ful stores thronged with customers, its great theaters filled 
with enthusiastic audiences nightly, its well-filled churches 
and lecture halls would not indicate that not far from this 


Trails of Yesterday 17 

great city civil war was devastating the country. The only 
indication of this was the "Extras" issued three or four times 
a day, giving the latest war news at the front, and now and 
then a company or regiment of troops either going, re- 
turning or being changed to different localities. I was offered 
$1500.00 for ninety days' service as a substitute — but, no, 
I could not accept it. That promise to my mother barred 
that. Every issue of the papers was full of war news. Yester- 
day Harrisburg was in danger of being captured by the 
Rebels — to-day Washington — to-morrow would be some other 
place. Such is war. Rebel and Northern spies were every- 
where. Copperheads, as the Northern people called the 
people of the South and their sympathizers, were thick; and 
dozens, sometimes hundreds, of these were marched off to 
different forts to be kept under surveillance or shot. Martial 
law was supreme. All were afraid to talk to strangers, and 
to express sympathy for a band of sick, emaciated Southerners 
just captured at the front and being sent to nearby forts, meant 
being taken along also by the provost guard without any 

I was doing all in my power to aid and brace up O'Brien, 
who was evidently determined to drown his troubles in 
liquor. We had decided to seek employment of some kind in 
New York, but neither could find what he wanted, hence we 
decided to go to Chicago. I had sold the gold I brought with 
me at the highest price for paper money called "greenbacks" 
and the ten-cent scrip, better known as "shin plasters." Prices 
for everything were exceedingly high, but then I received 
nearly three dollars in greenbacks for one dollar of gold. 

After making another fruitless search for O'Brien's 
Katherine, we took the train for Chicago. Our train just 
missed being captured by Colonel Mosby's cavalry near 
Harrisburg. Our route over the Allegheny mountains was 
interesting. The scenery was grand and impressed me with 
the idea that Americans, as well as Englishmen, knew some- 
thing about building and operating a railroad. We finally 
arrived at Chicago in safety about the middle of August, 


Arrival at Chicago — A Letter from Katherine — O'Brien s Hasty 


AS soon as we arrived in Chicago, after securing a 
boarding place, O'Brien insisted on again taking up 
the search for Katherine. After about a month's 
diligent search, with no result, O'Brien received a letter from 
Ireland, giving the information that Dr. Ragan, who had 
married Katherine, had gone South and joined a certain 
Georgia regiment as army surgeon ; that he had taken his wife 
with him; and that she, according to last reports, was in 
Columbus, Georgia, while the doctor was supposed to have 
gone to the front. O'Brien was elated at this information 
and the first mail out of Chicago carried a letter addressed 
to "Mrs. Dr. (Katherine) Ragan," Columbus, Georgia. 
The letter was brimful of sweetest sentiment, breathing 
eternal love and devotion. The letter did not return, neither 
did an answer. It might have been captured and destroyed 
or fallen into the hands of the censor. Another and another 
equally or more loving than the first followed. 

In the meantime O'Brien had secured a situation as book- 
keeper in one of the packing houses. While he was often 
discouraged and in his "cups," yet I would talk to him and 
brace him up. I believe I did much to keep him from going 
to the bad. I had agreed to go with him to his church 
(Catholic) in the mornings and he would go with me to the 
Protestant church in the evenings on Sundays. Like myself, 
he was fond of music and enjoyed the singing. We roomed 
together for quite a while at a nice boarding house kept by 
Mrs. Dunham on Madison street. I had gone into business 
on South Water street and was doing well. 

One evening in the latter part of October O'Brien came 
running into the room with a letter in his hand. His joy 
knew no bounds. The letter was from his long lost Katherine. 


Trails of Yesterday 19 

It was dated Columbus, Georgia. It commenced, "My Dear 
John," and went on to state that he probably knew that her 
parents had insisted on her breaking her engagement with 
him and marrying Dr. Ragan, who shortly after their arrival 
at a Southern port, had joined the Confederate army and 
after being at the front but a short time had been killed. 
She wrote that at present she was dependent on friends, had 
written home for money, expecting when she received it, to 
return to her home in Ireland, but that before going she 
wished he would come to her and that she was still ready 
and willing to fulfil the vows they had plighted months ago 
and marry the only man she ever loved. O'Brien threw him- 
self on the bed and wept and between sobs exclaimed, "I knew 
she was always true to me." Poor O'Brien! My heart went 
out in pity for him. I gave him all the consolation I could. 
We sat up the greater part of the night planning how he 
could get to Columbus, Georgia, for which place he had 
determined to leave the next day, and he did. He secured 
the necessary papers from the British Consul, showing that he 
was a British subject, that his destination was Columbus, 
Georgia, and what his mission was. I gave him needed funds, 
accompanied him to the depot, saw him safely on the train and 
bade him God-speed and a safe, quick return. Poor O'Brien ! 
I never heard from him afterwards, although I made many 
efforts to locate him and his Katherine. Perhaps he was 
killed in crossing the lines. If not, let us hope he found his 
true, loving Katherine; that they became one and inseparable; 
and that their lives have been continued sunshine and happi- 
ness. This is the fervent wish of the writer. 


Life in Chicago — My W edding is Planned without my Knowledge — ■ 

Speculations on the Chicago Board of Trade — A Wreck 


A FTER O'Brien's departure I felt sad. While relieved 
r\ of the constant watch I had had to keep him from in- 
dulging too freely in order to make his grief easier to 
bear, yet I was worried to think there would be no one to 
guide, brace and cheer him on his perilous trip to Columbus, 
Georgia, which he thought he could reach overland. I had 
grave doubts about his getting through the Northern army 
lines in safety. I could not help admiring the man for his 
nerve and his devotion to Katherine, for the whole world 
loves a lover like O'Brien. He was the only one I cared to 
call friend. In fact, I felt as though I had lost a brother. I 
had made some business acquaintances, but I felt lonesome 
and watched the mail closely many weeks, hoping I would 
receive some tidings of him, but none came. 

Chicago was full of Copperheads or sympathizers of the 
Southern cause and there were as many or more Union spies. 
Like many other Northern cities, it was under martial law. 
At our boarding house there were some twenty gentlemen 
and from eight to twelve ladies. The former consisted of 
lawyers, doctors, lake captains, bank and other clerks. Some 
of the ladies were the wives of the gentlemen, others were 
pursuing studies of one kind or another. Still others had 
come from near the Mason and Dixon line in order to be 
safer, and a couple were holding positions in large dry goods 
stores. We were a happy family. Our landlord and landlady, 
assisted by a charming daughter who was an expert at the 
piano, did everything to make life pleasant and homelike. 
There were several musicians and good singers among the 
boarders. O'Brien had a splendid voice and was greatly 
missed when he went away. It was an extremely dull evening 


Trails of Yesterday 21 

if we did not have singing, dancing, music or games of some 
kind, besides discussing the latest war news. 

It was at this place that a serious joke was played on the 
writer by one of the lake captains. There was a neat, comely, 
innocent Swede girl called "Tilly" who waited on our table, 
and I would occasionally speak to her when arriving late for 
lunch. I would sometimes jokingly remark, "Now, Tilly, 
bring me a good lunch as soon as possible and I will look 
out for a good husband for you." Tilly would smile and a 
nice lunch would soon be before me. It was not long before 
I noticed that Tilly would serve me before other boarders 
and pay me more than common attention. It was also noticed 
by some of the other boarders and I was inclined to think 
that I had perhaps made a mistake in making so free in 
talking with her. I began to pay little or no attention to her 
outside of being polite and civil, but this did not check her 
preference for serving me before others. One day I noticed 
a smile play over a certain lake captain's face when he 
whispered something to Tilly. The interest of Tilly in me 
grew more as the days went by until one evening, when nearly 
ready to go to the theater, I heard a knock on the door of my 
room. I was told I was wanted in the parlor, which, on enter- 
ing, I found full of company, among them strangers I had not 
seen before and to whom I was introduced by Captain Blanch- 
ard. Among these strangers was one whom the captain 
called Reverend Wadsworth, who had kindly, so the captain 
stated, agreed to perform the marriage ceremony for me and 
Miss Tilly, who stood there all fixed up very prettily and 
smiling sweetly, with a large bouquet of roses in her hands 
and with flowers in her hair, for this, to her, auspicious 
occasion. Of course, this had all been gotten up unknown 
to me. The Reverend ( ?) Wadsworth explained his mission 
and said that he was pleased to have the honor of uniting 
Miss Tilly and me in the holy bonds of wedlock. I felt like 
knocking him down and thrashing some others. Looking 
around for my friend, the captain, I found he was not there. 
I asked Miss Tilly who had encouraged her to carry out this 

22 Trails of Yesterday 

deception. She stated that Captain Blanchard had come to 
her about a month ago; had told her I was anxious to marry 
her and that he had given her money to purchase her wedding 
clothes; that although she thought it strange I had said 
nothing to her about the matter, the captain assured her 
that I was in earnest, but being bashful, had delegated the 
whole thing to him. Tilly did not take the joke as seriously 
as I did. The affair ended by a theater party that evening 
at my expense. 

I had become a member of the Chicago Board of Trade 
but did not confine my operations exclusively to articles dealt 
in by that body. I would buy and sell anything I saw a 
margin of profit in, not as a plunger but in a conservative 
manner. The market on staples, such as wheat, corn, oats, 
high wines, provisions, etc., had been almost a continual 
bull market and it was almost impossible to lose money on 
that side of the market. Everything pointed to the defeat 
of the Southern cause and I trimmed the sails of my little 
barque accordingly. I had cleaned up some fifteen thousand 
dollars in my few months' operation when some of my friends 
encouraged me to buy an interest in a vessel known as the 
"Western Metropolis," at that time engaged in the grain 
carrying business from Chicago to Buffalo. Unfortunately, 
shortly before Thanksgiving Day in 1864, she was wrecked 
near Pine Station on the Lake some twenty-two miles from 
Chicago. The cargo, like the vessel, was partially insured 
I was delegated as a committee of one to visit the wreck and 
report on it. This I did, or tried to do. Leaving Chicago 
very early on Thanksgiving Day I got the conductor of the 
train to let me off at Pine Station, which was nothing but a 
siding used as a flag station. After wandering around for 
some time I came across a young man who offered to pilot me 
to the wrecked vessel, which I found some three miles from 
the siding, lying near the shore, keel in, in some fifteen to 
twenty feet of water. Though the keel and exposed side had 
not been damaged greatly, it was evident from the wreckage 
strewn along the shore that the vessel had encountered a bad 

Trails of Yesterday 23 

storm and was breaking up. With the assistance of the young 
man, who was anxious to accompany me, I succeeded in getting 
the top of the cabin, which lay on the beach, afloat. We picked 
up an oar and were soon floating from shore toward the 
wreck assisted by an off shore breeze. The waves beat over 
our little craft which commenced sinking. The young man 
became excited when the water came up to our knees. I told 
him to jump and pull for shore. He said he could not swim. 
We were then in over six feet of water and every minute 
getting deeper. Something had to be done and done quickly 
so I pushed him off and jumped in after him. He fought 
me hard and came near putting me under. Luckily I had 
taken off my overcoat and left it on shore, otherwise I think 
he would have drowned me. I finally caught him by the tail 
of his coat and pulled him ashore, where he started on a brisk 
run for home, I suppose, since he quickly disappeared in the 
brush. I put on my overcoat and walked around all day, 
hoping to find a house, but I did not. Several trains passed 
on the siding headed for Chicago, but it was nearly eleven 
o'clock that night before I got aboard one. I was still in my 
wet clothes when I arrived in Chicago, the result being that 
I took a severe cold, pneumonia set in and for over a month 
I was confined to my room under the care of two doctors and 
nurses. It was some two weeks before the doctors gave any 
encouragement that I was not booked for that unknown 
country "from whose bourn no traveler returns." But thanks 
to the doctors, nurses, my landlady (Mrs. Dunham) and to 
that good, Christian, ministering angel, Miss Percy, I pulled 
through. May God always bless and reward these good 
people for their kindness to me. My report of the wreck was 
not only delayed but was not a very complete one when I 
made it. 


Strenuous Times — Lee's Surrender to Grant — Assassination of 
President Lincoln — / Attend Lincoln's Funeral 

CHICAGO was a hotbed of secession and many ap- 
parently respectable citizens, both men and women, 
some innocent, were marched off to the provost office 
to give an account of their actions and, if guilty, were taken 
to Camp Douglas, where a drum head court-martial was 
constantly in session passing on such cases. If found guilty, 
the poor fellow's soul would be before his Master before 
sunset. Spies, both Southern and Northern, were every- 
where. It was dangerous to express ideas of the progress 
of the war. It was common to see a man shot down on the 
street. The greatest orators were engaged nightly to talk 
to enthusiastic audiences in the halls, theaters and churches, 
firing the hearts and passions of the people, advocating the 
Union cause and condemning slavery. Often a general right 
from the front would be persuaded to tell how "he did it." 
I had the pleasure of listening to a fiery talk by General 
"Fighting Joe" Hooker. Bands of music were playing war 
songs. The Lombard Brothers were singing them, the people 
joining in the chorus. All were worked up into a fever heat. 
These were some of the greatest scenes I ever witnessed. 
I shall never forget them. The war governors of the dif- 
ferent Northern states would often visit Chicago. That great, 
noted, loyal citizen, John Wentworth, with his burning 
eloquence, could set an audience wild if he only stood on 
his feet. He was over six feet six inches tall and weighed 
nearly three hundred and fifty pounds. Henry Ward Beecher 
and many other noted orators of the Union's cause and the 
condemnation of slavery, always drew large audiences. Lee 
had surrendered to Grant. The streets were a blaze of light. 
Flags were flying everywhere. Crowds of people on the 
streets, in the theaters and hotels, were shouting themselves 


Trails of Yesterday 25 

hoarse. Bands of music were numerous on the streets and one 
was in the Tremont Hotel where I happened to be. Cannon 
thundered the glad tidings from the garrison at Fort Douglas 
and from the Lake Front. 

Yes, it was victory for the North, but what of the poor 
South? One-half of its manhood was in Southern graves 
and hospitals or in Northern prisons — its women and children 
starving — homes destroyed and farms ruined. These sad 
thoughts going through my mind made me sick as I sat or 
mingled in the jostling crowd in the Tremont Hotel. The 
Tremont Hotel was alive with people. Men in different 
groups were discussing the end of the war and the future of 
the South. Some fiery, hotheaded politicians wanted to wipe 
the last Rebel, his family and all his belongings off the face 
of the earth ; but Lincoln — the patriot, the friend of the con- 
quered South — desirous of making a united country again out 
of the fragments remaining, still lived and victory would be 
tempered with mercy. I had been in the hotel but a short 
time when word was flashed over the wire in the hotel that 
President Lincoln had been assassinated. I jumped up from 
my seat and joined the surging mass of men. Officers, soldiers 
and citizens were united in condemning the cowardly act, 
and yet there were some Copperheads in that crowd who 
were glad the deed was done. I heard one so express him- 
self. He made the remark that he was d — d glad of it, when 
an army officer, a colonel, hearing the man's remark, drew his 
revolver and sent a ball between the man's eyes. The man 
fell dead at our feet. General Sherman truthfully said that 
"war is hell." The Southern people as a whole condemned 
this assassination as bitterly as the Northern people. They 
knew that in Lincoln's death they had lost their best friend. 
What a change the next dayl Flags half mast everywhere — 
stores, business houses and residences all draped in black! 
In halls and churches the following Sunday thousands con- 
gregated and listened to eloquent speakers and ministers who 
condemned the dastardly murder of the noble Lincoln. Grief 
and sadness were on every face. Even the would-be Copper- 

26 Trails of Yesterday 

head had discovered he had lost a true friend in Lincoln. 
This manifestation of grief continued until the remains ar- 
rived in Chicago where the body lay in state. Thousands 
viewed it before being taken to Springfield, to which place, 
as a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, I accompanied 
it. I remember paying $175.00 for a suit of clothes to wear 
on this sad occasion. I could fill many pages should I attempt 
to chronicle one-tenth of what I saw and heard during these 
dark days of American history. 





Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained — A Terrific Storm at Sea — My 

Small Fortune Cast upon the Waters — Heavy Hearted but 

Willing to Begin Again 

WHILE I had been doing very well in Chicago, 
nearing the fall of 1865 I learned from what I 
considered a reliable source that a certain line of 
merchandise was in great demand in New Orleans. Acting on 
this information I closed up my business in Chicago and after 
securing letters of introduction and recommendations to some 
business firms in New York and New Orleans, I started, for 
the former city, where I purchased my goods and on Saturday 
in the latter part of October, I embarked with them on the 
steamship "Victor" bound for New Orleans. Many of my 
goods arrived on board late, where I stored them on deck and 
covered them with tarpaulins and tied them down with ropes 
fastened to iron rings in the deck. While heaving anchor and 
feeling our way through the many vessels, preparatory to our 
course down the river, I noticed the freight hatchways were 
being well calked and things placed in quick readiness for a 
rough voyage, it being October, when sometimes equinoctial 
storms get busy and cause more or less anxiety to those who 
go down to the sea in ships. Though quite a few of the some 
two hundred passengers became seasick during Saturday and 
Sunday, on the whole we were a happy family on such a short 
acquaintance until Monday night when we were rounding 
Cape Hatteras. A monster black cloud commenced to show 
itself on the horizon. This finally lost itself in fog, rain and 
wind which for a time came in great gusts, the rain falling 
in sheets. The darkness was intense except for the continual 
flashes of lightning. The increasing wind was whipping the 
sea into huge waves which dashed against the sides and over 
our ship without mercy. There was one young man who, 
more forcible than polite, had expressed a wish to run into 


28 Trails of Yesterday 

a storm. His every word was accompanied by an oath and 
he hoped we would see a d — d good storm. 

It was nearly ten o'clock P. M. I was the only one left 
of a number of passengers who had been entertaining each 
other in the smoking room, which was located amidships on 
the deck of the "Victor." I lay communing with my thoughts, 
thinking of the dear ones at home. All my earthly posses- 
sions were aboard this ship with not one dollar's worth of 
insurance on them — just one thin plank between me and the 
bottom of the sea. I did not know one soul on board, neither 
had I any friends or relatives in New Orleans, should I get 
there, and I must confess that I felt blue but not entirely dis- 
couraged or forsaken. I knew that the same God who had 
watched over me and cared for me always would not forsake 
me. While occupied with these thoughts, I was suddenly 
pushed off the top of the table where I lay and thrown against 
the opposite door, which was burst open by the force of a 
wave which nearly washed me overboard. For a time I was 
nearly strangled by the salt water. As soon as I could gather 
myself together I groped my way to the hatchway of the cabin, 
which I finally found, concluding it to be a safer place than 
on that smoking room table. I finally tumbled into my berth 
but not to sleep. 

By this time the wind was blowing a hurricane. The 
lightning was terrific and the thunder almost deafening. The 
sea at times would dash against the sides and over our ship 
with such force that every timber in her would shake like a 
leaf, the rain still coming down in torrents. At intervals the 
ship would be thrown with such violent force into the trough 
of the sea that it made us at times think we had been sent to 
the bottom, when there would come the sensation of rising 
with the crest of the waves to be again hurled to the bottom, 
making every beam in the ship tremble and quiver. What a 
night we spent! Some passengers weeping, some praying. 
The first sincere prayer offered up was by our young man 
who early in the evening had said he would like to see a d — d 
good storm. He was seeing and feeling it. I had made my 

Trails of Yesterday 29 

peace with God and was reconciled to the worst that might 
befall us. Daylight on Tuesday morning came, but with it no 
let up in the fury of the storm. The deck over our heads had 
commenced to open through the center, and at intervals of 
every few minutes, when the waves would dash over our 
vessel, the sea water would pour through this opening so the 
passengers were saturated with salt water. During the day 
the partitions between the steerage and cabin passengers were 
torn loose and the freight commenced to shift with the motion 
of the vessel. Barrels of beef, lard, whiskey and boxes of 
merchandise were pitched and tossed around like chips and 
in order to be safe, passengers had to remain in their berths, 
where they stayed with some difficulty. Not one officer or 
any of the ship's crew had yet visited us, and we began to 
think we were abandoned to our fate. Sometime late Tues- 
day afternoon, for the purpose of getting a breath of fresh 
air, unknown to any of my fellow passengers, I had ascended 
the stairs leading to the deck where I soon pushed back the 
slide window under the skylight and found myself gazing 
on an awful scene. The rain was still falling. The clouds 
were black and rolling swiftly by and over us. The hurricane 
was still blowing and lashing the sea into huge waves of misty 
foam that dashed madly over our ship, evidently bent on 
smashing her to pieces and sending us to the bottom. Now 
and again the waves would sweep over our vessel from stem 
to stern, now riding the crest of a monster wave, then dashed 
with lightning rapidity into the trough of the sea with such 
force at times that it made us think we had been sent to the 
bed of the ocean never to rise again. The sight and feeling 
of this haunts me still. I had been cautiously working the 
sliding window backwards and forward, dodging approach- 
ing waves as they struck the bow of the ship, for some time, 
when I saw a monster wave coming towards me like an 
avalanche. The sight was grand, majestic and inspiring! 
I could not move when I came to my senses. I found several 
fellow passengers bending over me. I had been forced down 
the stairs by a deluge of water from that wave. My arm, 

30 Trails of Yesterday 

shoulder and side were badly bruised in the fall and my fellow 
passengers gave me a severe scolding for attempting such a 
fool thing. It was estimated that nearly one thousand gallons 
of water had forced and accompanied me down the stairs. 

Tuesday night was a miserable one for every soul aboard. 
My injuries were painful. Every hour in the black darkness 
seemed a day. Men, women and children were at times 
wrenched loose from their tight grips and thrown against the 
berths, barrels and boxes, some weeping, some praying, others 
crying from injuries received from shifting freight by con- 
tinual rolling and pitching of the vessel, and shifting of 
broken timbers and partitions. There were twelve to fifteen 
inches of black, dirty, polluted sea water on a level in the 
cabins and every time the vessel would roll or pitch, this water 
followed it and not only drenched us from head to foot but 
at times nearly strangled us. All were hungry and famishing 
for a drink of pure water. Talk about the Black Hole of 
Calcutta ! Could it be worse than this? To add to our ter- 
rors the force of the wave which struck our vessel amidships 
on Wednesday night smashed down every berth in the ship. 
Some passengers were caught in their berths and pinioned 
down by falling timbers and cried pitifully to be extricated. 
Some were screaming, weeping, praying, others moaning and 
a few, who had given up the fight for life, remained quiet. 
Words cannot paint this sad picture. To add to our fears 
and unbearable misery, some one later in the night cried, 
"Fire ! Fire ! Fire !" In an instant some of the stronger men 
without families were climbing over everything and every- 
body in eager haste to get to the stairs and out on deck. 
Luckily, the first mate, who stood lashed to the capstan near 
the head of the stairs, told the leaders there was no fire and 
to go below quickly or they would be washed overboard. 
What a night this was! I, and others there, will never 
forget it. 

Daylight, Thursday morning, began to peep through the 
open seam in the deck, which was now widened to about six 
inches, through which kept pouring a stream of salt water 

Trails of Yesterday 31 

whenever the ship would roll or pitch, thus increasing that 
which was already in our cabins. Shortly after daylight three 
of the ship's crew came down to us, but brought neither water 
nor food, and gave us no encouragement as to what would be 
our fate. They did condescend to release with ax and saw 
one poor fellow wedged in between two berths. We had tried 
to extricate him but in vain. The poor fellow was fatally in- 
jured internally. These three of the crew, in answer to our 
inquiries, told us that the ship was leaking, the boilers were 
adrift, the rudder chains broken and that we might as well 
prepare for the worst. They said we were somewhere in the 
Gulf of Mexico and on the line where some northern bound 
vessel might pick us up. They told us the rain had ceased, 
the wind was not so strong nor the sea so rough and if these 
favorable things continued we might be picked up yet if the 
vessel could be kept afloat. With these words of consolation 
they left us to our fate, admitting their inability to splice the 
broken rudder chain which they came down to fix. 

The stench of our quarters was sickening. I had fully 
made up my mind that I would rather be washed overboard 
than suffocate in that dreadful hole, with women and chil- 
dren and some men begging and crying for something to eat 
and drink. We had had nothing since Monday night. I 
called for volunteers to assist me in getting food and water, 
if possible, for our fellow passengers, especially the women 
and children. Two Americans and a German responded and 
offered to go with me. We ascended the stairway and 
climbed on deck through the scullery hole. The sun was try- 
ing to peep out. The wind had ceased and the sea was grow- 
ing calmer but at intervals of a few minutes a wave would 
break over the vessel, compelling us to hold on to ropes or 
bullrings in the deck to prevent being washed overboard. The 
deck of the "Victor" presented a fearful sight. One mast 
was left standing at an angle of about sixty degrees but split 
over half way up. The gaffs and spencers and much of the 
canvas and rigging had been carried away. The smoke and 
cook houses, water barrels, and apparently everything mov- 

32 Trails of Yesterday 

able on the deck, including my freight that had been so 
securely wrapped and tied down, had also disappeared. The 
bulwarks of either side of the deck had been tied with heavy 
ropes in order to prevent the further opening of the seam in 
the deck. While contemplating this destruction I was 
startled by a voice yelling, "Hold fast there or you'll be 
washed overboard !" I was hanging on to a large ring in the 
deck when I was suddenly swung aside and buried for a 
time by a large body of water, which partially suffocated 
me and others. Thank God, though salty, the water was 
fresh and invigorating and made me feel like a new man. 
My companions had held on to some guy ropes and came 
out of their salt water bath better and cleaner, like myself, 
than when they went into it. After some time spent in 
dodging passing waves, we finally reached the scullery hole 
where the ship's steward kept the food. We could not find 
him. Some one told us he had been washed overboard. We 
found some crackers and raw ham, all more or less soaked 
with salt water. These after a time we got down to our 
fellow passengers, who grabbed and ate them like a pack 
of hungry wolves. Oh, for a drink of pure water ! "Water, 
water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!" We (the two 
Americans, the German and two other passengers apparently 
Southerners) returned on deck. We found Captain Gates, 
like some of his officers and nearly all of the crew, drunk. 
We found the ship's surgeon and finally persuaded him to 
go below and try to do something for the injured passenger 
and those who were sick. The crew was busy in its maudlin 
way, throwing freight overboard. When they came to a 
basket of wine or barrel of whiskey they would break the 
necks off some of the bottles and knock the head of 
the barrel in and after drinking what they could, would 
heave the rest overboard with a long, wistful look. 
The captain was extremely profane and reeled as he walked. 
I do not see how he and others of his crew escaped going 
overboard. I heard the captain call over the railing to Chief 
Engineer Marcus and inquire what show there was to start 

Trails of Yesterday 33 

the pumps, and what was the condition of things in the fur- 
nace room. The engineer answered that he was trying his 
best to fix the pumps and could get them started if he had 
men to work them; that the ship was leaking; that the 
boilers were adrift and moved with every motion of the ship ; 
and that the water was up to the fire holes. At this news the 
captain threw up his hands and exclaimed excitedly, "My 
God! My God! We are lost!" and immediately gave 
orders to the second mate, who was about the only sober 
officer on the vessel, to prepare to launch the boats. I ten- 
dered my services, as also did my companions, but the captain 
answered excitedly that it was every man for himself and 
yelled the order, "Launch the boats." Not an officer or 
sailor obeyed the order. There were only five boats, includ- 
ing the captain's gig, not enough to carry all the passengers, 
to say nothing of the crew, the majority of whom by this 
time were so dead drunk they were oblivious to danger. 
The men ignored all the captain's orders and some told him 
to launch the boats himself. The second mate set us to work 
making boat pegs, etc., and while getting the boats ready, 
told the captain that the boats would be dashed to pieces 
before they could clear the ship. Such was the impression 
of all sober, intelligent people on board. Even the drunken 
sailors expressed a determination to stay by the ship as long 
as she could float. Hawsers had been stretched across the 
deck to prevent further opening and to hold the ship to- 
gether. Had this not been done the ship would have been 
split in two with the pressure of the two thirty-ton boilers and 
coal in the bunkers sweeping from side to side and pitching 
endwise with every motion of the vessel. 

When the captain gave orders to launch the boats, ending 
with the remark, "It's every man for himself," many of 
the passengers who had followed us on deck commenced to 
seize life preservers. I remember one especially, a minister 
of the Gospel from the state of Mississippi, who put on 
several, including one on each leg. If I should ever be 
called upon to paint or describe a picture of despair, I would 

34 Trails of Yesterday 

have this reverend gentleman in my mind's eye. He appealed 
to me pitifully to go down in the hold of the ship and get 
some valuable papers out of a trunk he had there. I respect- 
fully declined, although he offered me big pay. I had lost 
everything except one leather trunk in which I had some 
papers, bills of the merchandise I had purchased, some rec- 
ommendations, letters of introduction, and the suit of 
clothes for which I paid $175.00 to wear at President Lin- 
coln's funeral. I had made my peace with God and was not 
afraid to die. But that poor minister — I pitied him. I did 
not even put on a life preserver. I felt that if I had to go 
a life preserver would not save me. 

Some time about noon the chief engineer signalled that he 
had the pumps fixed and ready for work but no sailors to man 
them. I told the captain I could pick out sixteen passengers 
and I would agree to keep those pumps going every moment 
if necessary. He told me to select the men and keep the 
pumps working and that I could promise the men I hired 
$5.00 per hour for every hour they worked the pumps and 
that I would receive double that amount for my services. In 
less than twenty minutes I had the men and the pumps going 
at full speed. It was anything but a desirable place down in 
the hold of that ship, standing in over two feet of black water 
covered with a heavy coat of oil when the ship was still, but 
when rocking or pitching the water sometimes went over 
our heads, nearly blinding and suffocating us. The coal in 
the bunkers, like the boilers, moved with every motion of the 
ship. Most of the sailors were still occupied with throwing 
freight overboard except when it came to liquor, when they 
would save what they could of that by drinking it. 

One happy sailor, tired of his duties, sat down in the 
corner between the ship's sides and the coal bunkers and 
sang, "By the soft silver light of the moon." At times he 
would have difficulty in finishing a verse and even a line on 
account of the pitching and rolling of the vessel that sent 
the black, inky coal dust and oily water into his mouth, ears, 
nose and eyes. This would often choke him for a time but 

Trails of Yesterday 35 

we could always depend on his finishing the line or verse 
after ridding himself of the inky and oily water. Such a 
comical scene, may have tended to lighten the terrors of the 
dismal hole in which we were working the pumps. It was 
not the dirty water in the hold alone that continued to satu- 
rate us with every movement of the vessel, but it was also the 
sea water, which, though salty, was clean, that poured down 
on our heads from twenty feet above us, that we had to 
contend with. It was now Thursday afternoon. We had 
gained on the water a little. The second mate, holding a 
signal of distress, had lashed himself to the only mast 

Friday morning dawned. The sun came out bright. The 
sea was much calmer. We had lowered the water nearly two 
inches since starting the pumps. I was working the men in 
eight-hour spells. While I felt weak from lack of food and 
thought I would have to give up, yet the thought of saving 
our lives until some friendly vessel would pick us up gave 
me and a few others courage to continue the struggle. 

About ten o'clock in the morning our mate on the look- 
out called out, "Ship Ahoy." Some of my pumpers left their 
positions and climbed on deck to see the ship but it could not 
be seen with the naked eye and it did not see us. Some 
wreckage floated by us — one piece of a vessel indicated that it 
was what was left of the "Jesse Reeves." The warm water 
and current told us we were in the Gulf of Mexico and in the 
route of northern bound vessels. Even the drunken sailors 
began to show themselves when they heard the glad words, 
"Ship Ahoy." They had defied the captain's commands to 
launch the boats, declaring they would stay by the "Victor" 
until it went down. The captain was much put out at this 
defiance of his authority and threatened to shoot some of the 
sailors on sight. About two o'clock in the afternoon the 
man at the mast shouted again "Ship Ahoy." It was nearly 
an hour later before it could be seen from the deck with the 
naked eye. It finally saw us and steered toward us. Oh, 
the relief from the long suspense ! The joy of being rescued ! 

36 Trails of Yesterday 

Passengers, captain, officers and sailors all shouted and 
cheered as the merchantman hove near us. The vessel turned 
out to be the "Alabama" — not the pirate, but one bearing 
the same name, loaded with cotton from New Orleans to 
New York. Our captain, who was getting a little sober, 
asked the captain of the "Alabama" where we were. This 
answered, our captain offered the captain of the "Alabama" 
$35,000.00 to tow us into the nearest port, which was For- 
tress Monroe. The offer was accepted and before dark many 
of the "Victor's" passengers had been transferred. The 
captain, officers, crew, and what passengers there were on 
the "Alabama" treated us with the greatest kindness, giving 
us food, water and some change of clothing. It was hard 
to tell whether we, who had been working the pumps in that 
frightful hole, were colored or white men, and no wonder. 
A few people on the "Alabama" did not warm up to us as 
they did to the other passengers until they found out what we 
had done. In short, we had saved the "Victor" from going 
to the bottom of the sea. Captain Gates admitted this and 
in giving me the order on Livingstone & Fox, the agents of 
the "Victor" in New York, for payment of the men and 
myself, he was profuse in his thanks for what we had done. 

It was but a short trip from Fortress Monroe to New 
York, and on presenting the captain's order to the agents 
they declined to honor it, giving the excuse that in doing 
what we had we had only tried to save our own lives and 
property. For a time it looked as though we would be kicked 
out of the office or put in jail. I told them that for my own 
part I did not care whether they paid me or not, but that 
I should insist on the sixteen men being paid the amount 
stated in the order. I told the agents they could think the 
matter over and that we would call on them at ten o'clock 
in the morning, which we did. The agents still thought we 
were not entitled to the pay, when I plainly told Mr. Living- 
stone that it was true we were saving our lives and property in 
working those pumps, that we possibly saved the ship also, 
that the captain and nearly all the crew were drunk, and that 

Trails of Yesterday 37 

if the order were not paid by noon I would, if possible, 
prevent them from getting one dollar's worth of insurance. 
This plain language set them to thinking and thinking hard, 
for before noon they had called me into their private office, 
and the amount due each man was paid him and his passage 
money refunded or he was given another pass on their next 
steamer. I was treated with the greatest consideration, the 
amount due me was paid cheerfully and I was offered a first- 
class cabin passage in the next steamer leaving for New 
Orleans. This latter I declined. This company's best 
steamer, the "Atlanta," had been wrecked in a gale on its 
passage to New Orleans a few weeks before and over one 
hundred passengers had been drowned on account of lack of 

I remained in New York a short time resting from the 
terrible ordeal I had passed through. Remember, dear 
reader, I had lost nearly every dollar I had in the world. I 
had not insured my goods as I ought to have done. I thought 
if I got through safely the goods would also. But no matter. 
I was young, unencumbered and willing to try again. I had 
escaped with my life and I felt confident that I would win in 
the end, if grit, energy, honesty and perseverance would bring 
me success. I could have received assistance from home or 
possibly from friends in Chicago had I appealed to either, but 
I would not. I determined to make the trip to New Orleans 
and if possible recuperate my lost, little fortune. 


Re-embark for New Orleans — Homeless, Starving and no Work — 
War Prices — Employment at Last 

IT was near the 20th of November, 1865, when I stepped 
aboard the "Morning Star" destined for New Orleans. 

My belongings consisted of the leather trunk containing 
the suit of clothes worn at President Lincoln's funeral, a few 
other things, a few letters of introduction and recommenda- 
tions, all more or less water logged, a silk umbrella and a plug 
hat. I had a few dollars left after paying my passage money. 
I tried to make some plans for the future but had nothing to 
build on but hope. 

After an uneventful trip I arrived at New Orleans. The 
ravages and effects of civil war were plainly seen in every part 
of the Crescent City. Hundreds of discharged soldiers from 
both armies were drifting into the city daily. I saw some 
business chances if I only had had the money to take advan- 
tage of them. I visited many of the stores and business houses, 
seeking employment, but failed to secure it. A few inquired 
if I had been in the Southern army. When I answered "no," 
I was quickly told they could not help me. 

I was rooming and boarding at a house on Tchoupitoulas 
street kept by a widow lady, who reminded me kindly one 
morning that my board and room rent was due. I gave her all 
the money I had and my silk umbrella, requested permission 
to leave my leather trunk with her and stepped out into the 
cold, cruel world. That day and other succeeding ones I 
went from place to place trying to secure employment, yes, 
and something to satisfy hunger, but I met with no success as 
to getting employment and with but little encouragement in 
getting something to eat. I was ashamed to beg and would 
not steal. I was willing to work for my board, but this was 
denied me. Starvation stared me in the face. I slept 
wherever I could, sometimes on or between the bales of 


Trails of Yesterday 39 

cotton piled up on the levee. Many nights I slept on the 
planks forming the paddle wheels of the steamers and vessels 
lying along the river banks. Sometimes, when on an angle 
of forty-five degrees, I inwardly hoped that before morning 
I would unconsciously roll off and thus end my despair in 
the river, but I could not. Why? Should I write home or 
to friends to help me? No! A thousand times no!! I 
knew the comment would be, "I told you so." If I had to 
die this way, none should know how I had suffered from 
hunger and starvation in my adopted country. Some days I 
got one meal, some days more. I came across others suffering 
similar hardships. Why should I complain? 

I was wearing, during my vain search for work, the 
(dress) suit of clothes I wore at Lincoln's funeral and that 
plug hat. Neither recommended me as a working man. 
I determined to change these, and entered a Jew store near the 
French market, picked out a blue flannel shirt, a pair of pants 
and soft hat and asked the Jew what he would give me to 
boot. He said he had no use for that hat and that kind of 
a suit, but to help me out he would give me $1.50. I accepted 
the bonus and changed clothes in the rear part of the store. 
This done I went over to the French market and bought a 
biscuit and a cup of coffee at an expense of $1.00. I had fifty 
cents left. After this elaborate meal I went down to the 
levee, and among the bales of cotton I rubbed some dirt on my 
. hands, neck and face (I had tried to keep clean by frequent 
washing in the river), to make myself look like a working 
man. This done I picked up a stick, got on top of a pile of 
cotton, stood the stick up and let it fall, noting its course. 
This course, leading up the river, I followed, hoping it would 
bring me luck. I went aboard every boat. I did not secure 
employment, but I got a square meal on one of them, and that 
night I slept on the bales of cotton covered by the canopy of 

I attach here a list of prices that prevailed at this time 
and you can imagine how far the fifty cents I had left would 
go. The following is taken from a newspaper clipping: 

40 Trails of Yesterday 


Quinine was $1,700 an Ounce and Flour $300 a Barrel 

In 1865 an ounce of quinine could not be purchased for less than $1,700 
in the South. Provisions were simply enormous in price. Here are just a few 
instances: A ham weighing fifty pounds sold for exactly $750, or at the rate 
of $5 a pound. Flour was $300 a barrel. 

Fresh fish retailed all over at $5 a pound and ordinary meal was at $50 a 
bushel. Those who lived in boarding houses paid from $200 to $300 a month. 
White beans retailed at $75 a bushel. Tea went for anything from $20 a pound 
to $60 and coffee in like ratio. 

The most ordinary brown sugar was sold for $10 a pound. Ordinary 
adamantine candles were sold for $10 a pound. In a cafe breakfast was 
ordinarily $10. In April rugar went to $900 a barrel and articles of wearing 
apparel sold, coats at $350, trousers at $100 and boots at $250. 

Butter was $15 a pound. Potatoes went for $2 a quart. Tomatoes of the 
size of a walnut sold for $20 a dozen. Chickens varied from $35 to $50 a pair. 

The prices on the bill of fare of the Richmond restaurant in January, 1864, 
were: Soup, $1.50; bread and butter, $1.50; roast beef, a plate, $3; boiled 
eggs, $2; ham and eggs, $3.50; rock fish, a plate, $5; fried oysters, a plate, $5; 
raw oysters, $3 ; fresh milk, a glass, $2 ; coffee, a cup, $2 ; tea, a cup, $2. 

These figures are taken from various sources and have the virtue of 
accuracy, if nothing else. Always was present the fear of famine, and time 
and time again did the soldiers donate a portion of their rations, taken from 
their apportionment in the field, to relieve the pressing necessities. 

The shrinkage of the currency was, of course, responsible, and some idea 
may be gathered from a story that went the rounds at the time. A soldier 
galloped along the country road and a farmer leaning over a fence admired 
the animal. He called to the trooper, offering to buy the horse : 

"Give you $30,000 for him, Johnny," he said. 

"Not much, old man, I just paid $15,000 to have him shod," was the 
reply. — Spare Moments. 

What had I done to merit this punishment? Why had 
God forsaken me — He who cares for the birds? How much 
longer could I stand this? No home, no shelter, nothing to 
eat, without friends — no wonder I was becoming discouraged. 
My usually strong, healthy body had become weak. I almost 
reeled as I walked. Life was becoming daily and hourly a 
burden. Often when near the river I would look at it wist- 
fully and murmur to myself that very soon it would be my 
haven of rest. These sad days had grown into weeks when 
on Saturday, while passing a saloon on the levee front, I 
entered it and began looking at some newspapers lying on a 
table near the door. I picked up one, the New Orleans 
Picayune, and read over its want columns, where my eyes fell 
on an advertisement which read: "Wanted: — One thousand 
men to work on the levee. Apply at No. Canal St. next 

Trails of Yesterday 41 

Wednesday at 9 :oo o'clock A. M." I could scarcely believe 
this good news and read it again. Yes, it was true and no 
doubt I could get work, but how could I live until Wednesday 
and would I be able to do this work? That night I went 
to sleep on the bales of cotton, feeling happier though supper- 
less. I thanked Him who cares for the unfortunate and 
knew He would not make my burden heavier than I could 

I had begged three meals in the interval between Saturday 
and Wednesday morning when I joined the motley crowd 
standing around the address given on Canal street. Most of 
them were laboring men. Some were drunk, some sober, 
some hard lookers like myself, but none more frail. Some 
were wearing the blue, but many were wearing the gray, and 
some were genuine levee men. All seemed to pass the good- 
natured Irish foreman at the window who looked them over, 
asked their names, which he wrote down, and told them to 
be at a certain levee at seven o'clock the next Saturday 
morning. One good-natured, broad-shouldered fellow, 
pointing to me, asked some comrades what they thought I 
wanted to do. "Oh, I suppose he wants to work on the 
levee," was an answer. Another remarked that it would not 
take much ice to keep me from spoiling if I died. While 
waiting my turn at the window I heard many other remarks 
referring to my physical condition, which caused me to lag 
back and lose my turn, preferring to wait until the last, when 
I mustered up courage to present myself at the window and 
ask whether he could not give me something to do; that I 
was willing to do anything at any price he might want to pay; 
that I had been unfortunate, having lost everything I had by 
a late shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico, and that I was 
actually starving. With tears rolling down my cheeks I 
begged him to help me by giving me a chance. After looking 
at me carefully a few moments he asked my name and told 
me I could go along if I got to the boat in time but thought 
I would not be of much use. I need not say that I was on 
that boat early Saturday morning and was not ashamed to 

42 Trails of Yesterday 

visit the cook-house where the cook gave me a large plateful 
of food and when I went back for another he asked me if I 
had thrown it overboard. I told him I had not and that I 
might come back for a third, as the food tasted so good. 

After satisfying my poor, hungry stomach I lay down on 
the deck near the boilers and did not wake up until dark 
when I found the boat was being rushed up the Mississippi 
as fast as steam could send her. Our captain was racing with 
another boat, which at times would be almost alongside our 
craft, when our stokers would throw chunks of tar, bacon and 
rosin in the fire boxes and the old boat would almost heave 
itself out of the water in breasting the swift, heavy current. 
This was kept up the greater part of the night or until we left 
our competitor a long distance behind. At daylight it could 
not be seen. 

We finally arrived at our destination, Morganzie, in the 
bend at the mouth of the Red River, where we disembarked to 
build a levee five miles long, one hundred feet base, thirty 
feet high and twelve feet at the top. The work was under- 
taken by the State of Louisiana. 


Building the Levee at Morganzie — hiving too Close to Nature — Life 
with the Levee Gang — Merit Receives Reward 

ARRIVING at Morganzie we found many shacks north 
of the Red River and south of the Mississippi River 
that General Banks had built for his negro troops 
on his Red River expedition. These were very convenient 
for our men, who numbered nearly seven hundred. I did not 
secure a shanty. I had no bedding; why did I need a shanty? 
There might have been others like me but I did not see them. 
I walked back to the point on the river where we landed, but 
the boat had returned to New Orleans. Finding no place to 
sleep, I followed the river bank north a quarter of a mile 
or more, where I was stopped by a bayou jutting out from 
the river. Here I lay down and slept the sleep of the just. 

This had been my resting place for several nights when 
one evening, shortly after supper, I fell into conversation 
with a young man named Hunter, from Ohio. Like myself, 
he had seen better days. We talked on various subjects and 
when it came time to part he asked me where I slept. I told 
him a short distance up the river; that if he had no objections 
he could go with me and I would show him and it might be 
we could share the quarters together. I thought I had nothing 
to lose on the proposition. It was getting dark by the time 
we arrived at the bayou. Hunter had already asked where I 
was taking him, when I stopped and told him that the wallow 
in the ground at our feet was my bed and my pillow a small 
stick of wood which I had covered with moss and grass. 
This wallow, scraped down the better to fit the projecting 
bones of my emaciated body, made it not the worst kind of 
a bed. One thing, I was out of reach of drunken, foul- 
mouthed companions, many of whom, especially the South- 
erners, did not know that the war was ended and went around 
with a chip on each shoulder, daring any Yankee to knock 
it off. When I told Hunter that this had been my sleeping 


44 Trails of Yesterday 

place, he could hardly believe it and remarked it was a wonder 
I was living. 

As yet I had felt no bad effects, except that my clothes 
failed to dry on me on cloudy days. Some mornings I could 
wring the water out of them, owing to heavy dews that fell 
during the nights. This was probably the latter part of 
December, 1865. I had seen happier Christmas days than 
this one. One night as I lay there, shivering with cold, a 
large alligator struck the side of my head with his tail, mak- 
ing me dizzy for a time and spoiled my rest for the balance 
of the night. Until this happened I had slept peacefully in 
the open. The thought had flashed through my mind, "What 
if one of these ugly monsters should take a notion to bite off 
a leg or an arm ?" But this could not happen. God was my 
protector and would keep me from harm. It did not take 
much coaxing by my new found friend, Hunter, to persuade 
me to accompany him to his fairly decent shanty, through the 
roof of which we could see daylight and the stars at night, 
and share his bunk, which was supplied with two pairs of 
blankets. It is unnecessary to state that I had a good refresh- 
ing sleep that night, feeling as though I were in a palatial 
residence instead of in a clapboard shanty eight by ten. 

It was some ten days after our arrival that the wheel- 
barrows, planks, spades and shovels arrived for the work of 
building the levee. During this time I had learned much 
about my fellow workers, both the whites (termed Yanks and 
Rebs) and some one hundred or more negroes who had come 
more to be fed and cared for than to work. The Yanks and 
Rebs, as the soldiers of the North and the South were desig- 
nated, were continually fighting. They were about evenly 
matched in numbers. The Yanks would constantly remind 
the Rebs that they had been whipped. This the Rebs would 
deny, when both sides would go at it again. The negroes 
would, as a rule, take sides with the strongest in number if 
the fight were easy. If the fight were fierce the colored men 
would take to the brush. We would often be called upon to 
bury one or more after these fights and send a few to the 

Trails of Yesterday 45 

A "jigger" of whiskey was rationed out four to six 
times a day to those who would drink it — one before break- 
fast, one about ten o'clock in the morning, one before dinner, 
one about three o'clock in the afternoon and another before 
supper — and an old "soak" could get one before he turned 
into his bunk. Very often these "sots" would get three 
drinks before breakfast by fooling the "jigger" boy. It 
was amusing to watch these men where they slept in the large 
bunk house. I watched one roll out of his bunk and go to 
the "jigger" boy in his undershirt and drawers. A few 
seconds later he came again, after having added his hat to 
his costume. He came next with his hat off but with his pants 
and overshirt on. Shortly he came back, completely dressed, 
and drank his fourth "jigger," but did not appear very drunk. 
By the time he sat down to breakfast he became noisy and 
wanted to lick somebody. He was accommodated and could 
not work that day. 

It was a common thing to see cups of hot coffee and 
plates of soup flying through the air at different heads. 
Nearly every man carried a dirk, if not a revolver. The dirk 
knife was the most popular. A thrust and a groan and all 
was over in almost an instant. The soul went to its Maker. 

I well remember the day the work commenced, when we 
started out with our wheelbarrows and shovels from camp, 
the planks having been taken out ahead by team. By the 
time I arrived at the work I could keep my barrow going 
straight ahead instead of in a zigzag direction as when 
starting. The planks were laid in lines fifteen to twenty feet 
apart and fifty to seventy-five feet in length. An expert at 
loading wheelbarrows was at the lead of the fifteen to twenty 
men with barrows behind him. This lead man was paid extra 
and when he said, "All aboard," we were all supposed to 
be ready with loaded wheelbarrows to follow him. Well do 
I remember my hard efforts to fill and navigate that wheel- 
barrow on that plank. I was unaccustomed to the work. I 
fell off more than once. I had not noticed that I was wheel- 
ing much more dirt than many of the others. I would bat 

46 Trails of Yesterday 

my shovelful down while the expert leveeman would pile his 
up edgewise and with eight shovelfuls would fill his barrow. 
I would put in twelve. No wonder I felt faint before ten 
o'clock. Large drops of sweat were running down my face. 
Big water blisters were on my hands. When the "jigger" 
boy approached me with a small tin cupful of whiskey I 
declined it, but Hunter, who was behind me, insisted that I 
drink it. After some hesitation I drank it. I soon felt its 
effects and the only wonder in my mind was why the con- 
tractors wanted to work such a large force of men on a small 
job like this. Why, it seemed that I could build that levee 
myself in a short time. Such were my thoughts while under 
the influence of the liquor. This buoyant feeling, however, 
soon vanished. 

It was nearly noon when Mr. O'Hay, one of the 
contractors (the Southerner), came along examining the 
work we were doing. He had stood watching the gang of 
men on our plank. I was conscious that he was watching 
me. Coming up near where I was filling my wheelbarrow, a 
rather pleasant, kindly voice remarked that the work seemed 
to be a little hard for me and asked if I had ever done such 
work before. I told him I had not but that I either had to 
do it or starve; that I had been shipwrecked in the Gulf of 
Mexico and lost all I had except a few letters of recom- 
mendation. He asked what I had been accustomed to do. 
I told him, intimating that I could do clerical work but was 
anxious to do anything. He told me to bring my recom- 
mendations to his office after dinner and he would look them 
over. I did so and that afternoon I was made purchasing 
agent for the camp. 


Experiences as Purchasing Agent — Frazell Kills O'Hay — Floods 
Break the Levee — Freight Checker on a River Boat 

1WAS fast resuming my normal condition and although 
my position was an improvement on what I had been 

doing and the dark clouds that had hung around me were 
beginning to disappear, yet I made up my mind to get away 
from this work and these demoralizing associations as soon 
as I could. Mr. O'Hay gave me full instructions as to my 
new duties. I was to purchase certain lines of provisions at 
the lowest possible prices, either at New Orleans or from 
nearby planters, and to take proper bills for everything I 
purchased, these to be receipted when I paid for them. A 
sum of money was placed to my credit in one of the 
New Orleans banks for this purpose. I was getting along 
nicely and giving satisfaction to my employers and, with the 
exception of the daily fights at the camp as to "whether the 
war was over," the work was progressing as well as could be 
expected. It was no unusual thing to see the cooks cleaned 
out of the kitchen, the waiters on the tables and bosses off the 
dumps two or three times a week. This was tolerated. The 
only question was to keep the work moving, as the river was 
rising rapidly and levees about us were reported to be weak- 
ening. Before the first of February it was reported that some 
levees had gone out. One some twenty miles above us, it 
was claimed, might go out at any time. 

One morning the sad news reached camp that Frazell had 
killed O'Hay in a quarrel in the St. Charles Hotel saloon 
in New Orleans. On receipt of this news our camp became 
a scene of bloodshed. All work stopped. The men de- 
manded their pay. The bosses could not control them. The 
Southerners swore they would kill every Yankee in camp, 
threatened to burn all the buildings and throw the wheel- 
barrows, planks and shovels into the Mississippi. Provisions 
were getting low and it nearly cost me my life because I 


48 Trails of Yesterday 

gave the men soup for breakfast instead of coffee. I re- 
member riding several miles one night to a planter's house 
to get coffee, sugar, syrup and beef from him. I told him 
if he did not help me I would have to abandon the work. 
The Governor of the state sent up the Attorney General, who 
made a speech to the men, telling them that the state would 
see them paid and that ample provisions would be sent us. 
Frazell was liberated under bond, but his presence in camp 
made the Southerners sulky and mean. More than one tried 
to kill him until they heard that the coroner's jury had 
justified Frazell's action in killing O'Hay. 

News reached us that the levee a number of miles above 
our camp had burst in several places and that it would be 
only a question of a short time before we would be surrounded 
by water. Many men were sent up by first boat to repair 
these breaks. Thousands of sacks of sand, trees, etc., were 
thrown into these breaks but without effect. One might as 
well try to stop an ocean. The country around us was flooded 
for twenty miles and it became a serious question as to 
whether we could save ourselves, let alone any of the camp 
equipment. Every boat, going up or down the river, was 
signalled and the men and their belongings were either taken 
up or down the river, the majority of the men returning to 
New Orleans. 

Mr. Frazell had treated me with the greatest kindness 
and begged me to go to Natchez with him. He even offered 
me a partnership with him, but I had been reading about 
the Placer gold mines in the Gallatin valley in Montana 
and I had made up my mind to go there. He left me 
standing on a knoll about two hundred yards square above 
the rushing waters around me, he going on a boat to New 
Orleans and promising to have the first boat he met call for 
me. One, the "Olive Branch," did so before dark. Had it 
not done so, the mound and this writer would have dis- 
appeared before morning in the "Father of Waters." 

I went to St. Louis, arriving there about April i, 1866. 
I found that overland trains of horses, mules and oxen would 
not leave Fort Leavenworth, St. Joseph or Nebraska City, the 

Trails of Yesterday 49 

three principal outfitting points, before the middle of May. 
Having no money to burn and anxious to keep busy I hired 
out to the captain of the "Olive Branch" as freight checker 
for a trip to New Orleans. I did this for the purpose of 
bringing up the leather trunk I had left with my former 
landlady on Tchoupitoulas street. This trunk I secured, 
brought it up to St. Louis, took it across the plains with me, 
and kept it for many years, when finally I gave it to an old 
employee named Coleman. 

This trip to New Orleans on a river steamer gave me a 
chance to observe life on a first-class steamboat on the Missis- 
sippi. Though the luxuries were nothing like they were 
before the war, yet it was a pleasant trip. The boat was 
crowded with passengers and freight. It carried its own 
band. I had plenty to do in keeping account of the freight 
received and discharged. At the same time I was always 
ready and willing to take the lead of a tow line when we had 
to make a landing. I did this at Cairo on our return and 
jumped into the river, holding the head of the line, thinking 
the river was about six feet deep. Instead it was about three 
feet deep, with two feet of very soft mud in which I stuck, 
with the boat fast coming onto me. The pilot saw my 
danger of being smoothed down under the boat and though 
he signalled the engineer to reverse the engine, this alone 
would not have saved me. However several stout deck hands 
lay down on the edge of the boat, grabbed me under the arms 
and pulled and dragged me on to the boat as it reached me. 
I did not do this fool trick any more. 

We finally arrived at St. Louis where, after discharging 
our cargo, I resigned my position as freight checker. I re- 
mained in St. Louis several days and became acquainted with 
a Mr. Swank, formerly a lieutenant in an Ohio regiment. He 
had been shot in the face with a bullet and badly disfigured. 
I found him a good sort of a fellow who, like myself, had 
the Gallatin valley gold fever on the brain. We decided to 
double up and go there together. He had made one trip as 
bullwhacker over the Smoky Hill trail and this experience 
on his part proved quite a help to me later on. 


Gallatin Valley Gold Fever — Destination Fourth Company Post 

(Ft. Phil Kearny) — Nebraska City in the Early Days — 

My Five Resolutions — Life as a Bullwhacker — 

An Enemy — Mr. Bass 

AFTER gathering all the information possible Swank 
and I concluded to take passage on boat to Nebraska 
City where it was said that some ox, mule and horse 
trains were to leave shortly with government freight for 
Fourth Company Post east of Fort C. F. Smith and north- 
west of Fort Reno. Our little "stern wheeler" got stuck 
several times en route up the Missouri River from St. Louis 
to Nebraska City. An old German inland sailor was taking 
the soundings on the bow of the boat and calling them out 
very regularly, when all at once he shouted, "Not very much 
vater here," and when our boat ground on a hidden sandbar, 
the old sailor yelled out, "Didn't I told you so?" 

We arrived at Nebraska City, which had not yet given 
up the thought of becoming the terminal of the Union Pacific 
Railroad. Many horse, mule and ox teams were there, all 
busy getting their outfits together. Swank and the writer 
had no trouble in finding work. We hired out to a Mr. Bass, 
a big, rough, six-foot Missourian, a nephew of the owner of 
the twenty-eight six-yoke ox teams. Our pay was to be $45.00 
per month and board and we were to take our discharge out 
at Fourth Company Post, our destination point. Mr. Bass 
agreed to arm each bullwhacker with gun and ammunition 
when we arrived at old Fort Kearny, better known as 

Nebraska City at this time was not a large place. There 
were a number of well-stocked stores on Main street, several 
forwarding warehouses, many saloons, dance houses and 
gambling dens. Everything was wide open, free and easy, 
like the bullwhackers, mule skinners and horse team drivers — 


Trails of Yesterday 51 

quite a different class of men to my late companions on the 
levee, these being more frank and generous. At the same 
time each carried a chip on his shoulder and perchance it 
were knocked off, an account for it would be called for very 
quickly. Nearly every man carried one or two revolvers on 
the well-filled belt of cartridges around his waist, besides a 
bowie knife sometimes stuck in his belt and sometimes stuck 
in the top of his high-legged boot. 

The city marshal, a man of nerve, tried to keep order; 
but at times, toward midnight, crazed by drink, the men and 
sometimes the women would get too boisterous and too many 
for him and would run the town to suit themselves. At these 
times camp would be the best and safest place, since the fun 
would usually end in a killing. It was these wild scenes in 
the West and others that I had witnessed on the levee that 
caused me to adopt for my future guidance some resolutions : 
one that I would not drink; another that I would not gamble; 
a third that I would avoid swearing; a fourth that I would 
not smoke or use tobacco ; fifth that I would try to be a good, 
moral man. I noticed many young men going down the road 
to destruction at a rapid rate and I determined to avoid this 
if possible. 

I had rigged myself up in bullwhacker's garb — blue 
flannel shirt, pair of pants, belt, cartridges, revolver, bowie 
knife, pair of heavy boots, broad-brimmed hat, and an up-to- 
date bullwhacker's whip — three feet stock and twelve feet 
lash, with extra buckskin to repair the whip lash and make 
new poppers at the end of lash. With two pairs of blankets, 
a war sack (an empty seamless sack) and an old army over- 
coat, I was ready to accompany Swank and join the outfit, 
which was camped some three miles west of the city. 

We arrived at camp shortly before noon and I was 
ordered by the assistant wagon boss to go out to the herd 
and relieve the herder. The herd was a mile or so west of 
camp. This herding was new to me and being afraid that 
some steers might stray away, I made it an unnecessarily hard 
task. But the work was not without interest. While tramp- 


Trails of Yesterday 

ing around the steers I imagined I could pick out friends 
and enemies. These work cattle ! Some had never seen a 
yoke, let alone been worked. Part were native cattle, others 
Cherokee and some Texas. When the two mounted night 
herders came out about dusk to relieve me I thought I had 
put in a faithful half day. I returned to camp but found it 
deserted. Even my friend Swank had gone to the city. I 
went through the cook wagon and tent, thinking I could find 
something to eat but did not, so I spread my blankets under 

Life as a Bullwhacker 

the wagon, lay down and was soon fast asleep. The bull- 
whackers continued to come into camp until towards morning, 
when one of the night herders rode in to wake the cook to 
get breakfast. It consisted of coffee, syrup, fried bacon 
between a thick pancake or thin pone of bread baked in a 
covered skillet. The bread was made from flour and common 
baking soda. The cook said the sugar had not come yet. 

In the morning I was set to work with Swank making ox- 
bow keys and fitting bows to yokes. I began to get acquainted 
with my fellow bullwhackers. A few were good, some 
medium and others very bad. Lack of enforcement of law 
and order seemed to add to their meanness. The men ranged 

Trails of Yesterday 53 

in years from twenty to forty-five and as I seemed to be the 
only one in this crowd of about thirty-three men who did not 
drink, swear, play cards, smoke or chew tobacco, I was soon 
put down for a "goody-goody" or a fool for lacking these 
accomplishments. One remarked that my early education 
had been sadly neglected. I took these jokes good-naturedly. 

On or about May 15, 1866, we broke camp and started 
on our perilous trip. We could not pick up a newspaper that 
did not have something in it about Indian depredations. 
Road ranches, stage stations, emigrant and freight trains, 
stage coaches and pony express riders were being attacked 
daily on the California and other trails. Red Cloud and 
other noted chiefs of the Sioux nation had been invited to a 
conference at Fort Laramie by the Indian commission. The 
Sioux nation at this time was not, as a nation, at war with 
the whites but the depredations were being committed by 
roving bands of Indians belonging to different tribes. 

Each teamster, with a sixty-hundred loaded wagon, con- 
sisting of coffee, sugar, beans, flour, bacon, salt, crackers, 
condensed milk, syrup, desiccated vegetables, boots and 
shoes, etc., etc., was given six yoke of cattle. The wheelers 
and lead cattle were somewhat gentle but the four yoke of 
swing cattle were more or less wild, as this was the first time 
they had been yoked up. It took sometimes a dozen men — 
teamsters, wagon bosses and night herders — to get one team 
started. At times the wild swing cattle would start on a run 
or stampede, getting ahead of the leaders, when all we 
could do was to keep them in the trail. We upset two wagons 
and by the time night came we had made probably a mile. 
We dropped the chains from the yokes of the swing or wild 
cattle and unyoked the gentle cattle only. It took about ten 
to fifteen days before we controlled our wild cattle, but once 
broken they did good work. 

I think we had made nearly sixty miles on our journey 
without my swearing, much to the disgust of my fellow bull- 
whackers, who often scolded me for not doing so, when one 
morning between three and four o'clock, while engaged in 

54 Trails of Yesterday 

yoking up my team, one of my steers stepped on my foot and 
I am sorry to say I said "Damn you." It went through the 
camp in an instant and many of the men cheered and com- 
mended me highly for the start I had made and hoped I 
would keep it up. While my comrades were doing this and 
showering me with bouquets on this mild beginning, I was just 
as busy in the opposite direction, quietly asking God to forgive 
me and asking Him to keep me from it in the future. 

The daily routine of a bullwhacker's life on the trail, 
while a hard one, was not all clouds. It had its sunshine. 
Each day's travel presented something new, as there always 
is in going through a new country. Each day's experience 
would make an interesting chapter if written. We would be 
awakened by the night herders about three to three-thirty 
A. M. with the call, "Cattle in the corral !" This meant for all 
to roll out and the night herders to turn in. It usually took 
from one-half to three-fourths of an hour to yoke up and 
commence moving on the trail, which we would follow about 
eight miles before breakfast, much depending on water and 
feed for the cattle. Our wagon boss or assistant usually would 
go ahead and locate these camping places which had to be 
selected with care, usually on high ground not too close to 
timber, brush, river or creeks, sudden hills or depressions in 
adjoining ground — all with a view to avoid being ambushed 
by Indians. We would try to make these morning camps 
between eight and nine-thirty, forming our wagons into a 
circle, the lead team to right forming left wing of corral 
— second team bowing out in forming right wing of corral, 
bringing the tongues of the two wagons within twenty feet 
of each other. The wagons would follow in their places — 
first to left, next to right and thus alternately, the off front 
wheel coming close to the nigh hind wheel of the wagon ahead 
and vice versa on the right hand wing of the train. After 
a little practice we could make these corrals almost perfect 
and by chaining the front and rear entrance, and any wagon 
wheels that did not come together snugly, we would have a 
solid corral in which to put our cattle and the night herders' 

Trails of Yesterday 


and wagon bosses' horses in case of an Indian attack. The 
gaps all chained, the yokes belonging to each wagon were then 
put on the inside of the corral ready for the next yoke-up. 
The cattle were unyoked and taken by two herders — bull- 
whackers, in their proper term — to graze and water in the 
daytime, usually resting until about one to two P. M., when 
the steers were brought back into the corral and yoked up and 
another drive of about eight miles made before dark, two 
other bullwhackers taking charge of the work steers until the 

Cattle and Wagon Corral 

night herders had their supper, when they would take charge 
of the cattle until time to corral again the next morning. 

The bullwhackers in camp, when there were no wheels 
to fix, tires to tighten, boxes to wedge, oxen to shoe, or clothes 
to wash or mend, could sleep, play cards, write letters or tell 
stories. The stories of one old bullwhacker who had seen 
much of frontier life were quite interesting. He would tell 
about the noted stage company boss, Jack Slade, who caught 
one of his stage tenders listening at a door and who whipped 
out his bowie knife and cut the listener's ear off, telling him 
if he ever caught him doing it again, he would cut his heart 
out — and hundreds of other such bloodthirsty stories. We 
had one bullwhacker in our train who had been scalped by 
the Indians near Fort Larnard. The Indians scalped him, 

56 Trails of Yesterday 

stripped all his clothes off him, and to see whether he was 
dead, stuck sharp pointed arrows between his toes. We had 
another bullwhacker who carried several scars made by 
Indian arrows. But no matter — this is old. Maybe I will be 
given a chance to tell what we saw, which I expect to chronicle 
in this book, without coloring, just as it occurred. 

All our men were strong and healthy, good shots and 
ready for any emergency, even to a fight with Indians. At 
this time had the writer been killed, it would have taken more 
ice to preserve his body than it would had he died in New 
Orleans about the time he hired out to work on the levee. 

Some of the stage coaches we would meet coming from the 
West would show the hard knocks received — some with bullet 
holes in them and some with arrow heads broken off. Often 
the driver would come tearing along with four instead of six 
horses. Some coaches, beside having trunks and mail sacks 
piled high on the hind boot, would have six to ten passengers 
aboard, all well armed as well as the driver. 

By the time we reached "Dobytown" (old Fort Kear- 
ny), even our wild cattle were becoming gentle so we could 
unyoke and give them a better chance to feed and rest. 

In spite of all my sincere resolutions not to swear, I am 
sorry to say that sometimes when I got stuck in a mud hole 
or in heavy sand, I would find myself saying curse words 
before I realized it, when I would resolve again to stop it. 

Arriving at "Dobytown" we learned much about Indian 
depredations. It was said that the Indians had burned every 
ranch between "Dobytown" and Fort McPherson and that 
all stage coaches, and emigrant and freight trains, coming 
or going, were being attacked. The troops at both posts were 
kept hot on the trail of the Indians in trying to protect people 
from being massacred on the trail over which we also had 
to go. Many of these depredations were being committed 
by the Sioux, but it was claimed that other tribes, Cheyennes 
especially, were aiding in these butcheries. 

As stated, our wagon boss, before leaving Nebraska City, 
had agreed to furnish us guns and ammunition on arrival at 

Trails of Yesterday 57 

"Dobytown" but none had arrived. Five of us bullwhackers 
objected to proceeding farther without them. This made 
Mr. Bass very angry and he gave us to understand that he 
could get along without us and that we would receive no pay 
for work done. He said we were leaving because we could 
get more pay here at "Dobytown." True, we could get 
more pay but we all wanted to go to Fourth Company Post 
or farther. A firm by the name of Lydell & Brown kept a 
store at the place and Mr Lydell was Justice of the Peace, 
a very important officer on the frontier. To him I stated 
my case in the presence of Mr Bass and he told Mr Bass that 
if he did not furnish us each with a gun and ammunition as 
agreed at Nebraska City, we need not go with him and he 
would have to pay us for work done. This decision enraged 
him. He wired for guns and ammunition, which reached 
us in a few days, when, after coupling up with three other 
ox trains loaded with government freight and with Mr. Bass 
as captain, we pulled out for the west. Mr Bass gave it out 
cold that he would get even with us, especially with the 

I attach a brief history, taken from a newspaper, of this 
old Fort Kearny, formerly called Fort Childs. 

Among the western forts established by the national government for the 
protection of settlers and travelers to the gold fields of the West, none had a 
more romantic history than did old Fort Kearny, which members of the 
Nebraska delegation are asking to have converted into a national park. 
Located near the geographical center of the country on the second bottom 
lands of the Platte river, on the direct route of the great caravan of gold- 
seekers for the Oregon country, the fort was the center of numerous encounters 
with the Indians as well as the rendezvous of hunters and scouts and other 
picturesque citizens of the west. 

Fort Kearny was established under orders of Secretary of War Marcy, 
in 1848, by Captain Childs of the Missouri volunteers. He intended to 
establish the fort near the present city of Aurora, in Hamilton County, but 
decided on the Kearny location because of the advantage of Carson's Crossing 
of the Platte river, the fording of the Platte farther to the east being dangerous. 
Buildings at the fort were commenced on June 17, 1848, but on July 8, the 
Platte rose rapidly and swept away the buildings partially constructed. The 
troops then moved farther away from the river and continued the construction 
of the fort. Here the fort was eventually completed and its ruins lie there 
to-day with the trenches and embankments plainly showing on the prairie. 
The fort was named from its builder, Fort Childs. 

In February, 1849, Childs was succeeded in command by Major Ruff of 

58 Trails of Yesterday 

the Mounted Rifles, U. S. A., and soon after the name of the post was changed to 
Fort Kearny, Oregon Route. In 1854 the name was again changed to Fort 
Kearny, Nebraska Territory. It was named in honor of General Phil 
Kearny and was known as "New Fort Kearny" on account of the old fort at 
Nebraska City bearing the same name. 

In 1849 Major Ruff was sent to establish Fort Laramie and was relieved 
of his command at Fort Kearny by Colonel Crittenden. He was succeeded 
by General Phil Kearny and, later, General Harney took command of the post. 

Trees were set out and preparations were made to make the fort a 
permanent fixture on the prairies. Gradually the fortifications were strength- 
ened and the fort was made one of great strength. During all the years of 
overland travel, the fort was the point at which travelers stopped to recruit. 
For years the Indians were peaceful but in 1864 the Sioux and Cheyenne 
Indians became hostile. The trouble arose because some owners of strayed 
oxen refused to pay a reward to the Indians who returned them. Receiving 
no reward, the Indians withdrew, taking the oxen with them. A detachment 
of soldiers was sent after them and a fight ensued in which many soldiers were 
killed. The Indians began in earnest to drive the whites back and they 
successfully carried out several massacres. Settlers became frightened and the 
fort was thronged with families fleeing from the redskins. For a short time 
all travel to the West was stopped at Fort Kearny. Then the travelers were 
organized into bands of from fifty to one hundred families, a captain being 
chosen for each, before they would be permitted to proceed. 

Before proceeding on the trail I happened to be in the 
sutler's store where I picked up a "Harper's Monthly," which 
I asked Mr. Bass to purchase for me. He declined, remark- 
ing that he would give me something else to do besides reading 
that damned Yankee book. There was a gentleman in the 
store (I think it was Dr. Miller, later publisher of the Omaha 
Herald) who heard the talk between us. He asked if I 
wanted that "Harper's." I told him I did very much and he 
gave it to me. This kind act on Dr. Miller's part added fuel 
to the flame between Mr. Bass and myself. Some years later 
I met Dr. George L. Miller in Omaha and thanked him for 
this kindness, which he seemed to remember. 


On the Overland Trail — Fort McPherson in 1866 — The Morrow 
Ranch — Other Noted Road Ranches 

EACH day's drive was a repetition of the previous one 
except that it unfolded a new and undeveloped country, 
presenting new and ever changing scenes as we fol- 
lowed the trail along the south bank of the Platte River, on 
which grew more or less brush and timber, the latter mostly 
Cottonwood and elm. Some days we would camp on the river 
bank and sometimes a mile or so distant. Our train had one 
cook and mess outfit. Each driver was supposed to do his best 
to supply fuel, either in wood, buffalo or cow chips. The latter 
made good cooking fuel, if dry, but when wet and no dry 
wood accessible we could drink water and eat crackers and 

Before arriving at the Midway ranch, which had been 
fired by the Indians and was still burning, I discovered that 
Mr. Bass was making his word good about getting even with 
me. I often noticed a little favoritism practiced by him. 
He seemed to take especial delight in keeping me busy while 
many of my fellow bullwhackers were allowed to rest. His 
frequent order was, "Now, Bratt, you do this." We were 
supposed to supply the camp with water in five-gallon kegs 
in our turns but I was often asked to do this before my turn 
came. In case of sickness of one of the night herders or 
drivers I would be requested to take his place or to drive 
two teams. If another driver's wagon wheel needed fixing, 
I would be requested to help him. If some of the steers 
strayed away from the night herders, I would be sent out to 
find them. If some driver's steer became lame, I would be 
requested to exchange one of mine for his. Sometimes my 
best wheel or lead steer would be taken from me and an out- 
law would be given me in place of him. These and many 
other outrages were heaped upon me. Even some of my 


60 Trails of Yesterday 

bullwhacker companions would speak to me about these im- 
positions and advise me to protest against Mr. Bass's treat- 
ment, promising to stand by me no matter what happened. 
I took all good-naturedly and without protest for a long time, 
thinking that after a while he would exhaust his hatred or 
become ashamed of his actions toward me. But no ! The 
farther we went and the more I did for him, the worse he 

We again began to meet east-bound coaches that had 
been savagely attacked by Indians. Sometimes one or more 
horses had been killed and one passed us in which there was 
a dead passenger and another in which a passenger had been 
fatally wounded. So far, owing, no doubt, to precautions 
taken, our trains had escaped attack. Extra day and night 
herders were sent out with the cattle, keeping scouts ahead 
of our trains which we kept well closed up and guarded, 
especially through the hilly country. 

We arrived at Fort McPherson, after having passed 
several road ranches that had been abandoned or burned to the 
ground. Among these may be mentioned those of Peniston & 
Miller, the Gilman Bros., and others, who had taken refuge 
at Fort McPherson ; also John Burke and family, Sam Fitchie, 
E. E. Ericksson and others who barely escaped with their 
lives. Fort McPherson was a large post built principally of 
cedar logs. Officers' quarters were frame buildings located at 
the mouth of Cottonwood canon, accommodating ten or more 
companies of cavalry and infantry, who were kept busy trying 
to keep the Indians off the overland trains, stage coaches 
and settlers. Here we were halted, arms and ammunition 
carefully examined and our force strengthened by two addi- 
tional ox trains loaded with government supplies for Fort 
Laramie, when we were allowed to proceed, with our big 
Mr. Bass still acting as captain and meaner than ever to me. 

The Platte River, at this point said to be a mile wide, at 
this time was bank full of yellowish, muddy water. Much 
driftwood was going down in the current. Some of this we 
caught and slung under our wagons, expecting it to dry out in 

Trails of Yesterday 61 

the course of a few days. We caught some fish. This with 
the deer, antelope and buffalo that we occasionally secured, 
gave us some variety with our beans, coffee, bacon, syrup and 
Dutch-oven bread. 

Some miles west of Fort McPherson we passed what 
was left of the Burke ranch. Like others, they grabbed 
what little they could and fled to Fort McPherson to escape 
being killed by the Indians, who, out of vengeance, because 
they could not overtake the fleeing family, took everything 
of value and then set fire to the buildings. Little did I dream 
at that time that the little blue-eyed daughter, who came so 
near being captured, would one day become my wife. 

A wagon bridge had been constructed by John Burke a 
year or so before this over the South Platte River, about the 
point where it flows into the North Platte River, for the ac- 
commodation of freight and passengers coming and going 
by Platte City, now known as North Platte, a place at that 
time of 300 to 500 people. 

When we were opposite the junction of the North and the 
South Platte rivers we ran against the Jack Morrow dike 
that the noted ranchman had dug to prevent any freighting or 
emigrant wagons from traveling north of his road ranch, 
which at this time was located at the foot of the hills north 
of the Jack Morrow canon about one mile south of Bratt's 
old ranch, now the Turpie ranch. We stayed an hour or so 
trading at the Morrow ranch and I had the privilege of meet- 
ing that noted ranchman, who wore a diamond (said to be 
valued at $1000.00) in his yellow and badly soiled shirt 
bosom. There were several hundred Sioux Indians, squaws 
and papooses camped near the ranch, besides numerous squaw- 
men and others, among whom can be named Jack Sharp, Bob 
Rowland, Tod Randall, Turgeon and some other noted fron- 
tiersmen who could talk the Sioux language fluently. This 
noted ranch had a hard name among emigrants on account 
of its record of Indian thefts. Scarcely a train passed it but 
that lost stock and when the owner of the stolen stock would 
appeal to Morrow, that gentleman would be truly sympathetic 

62 Trails of Yesterday 

and offer to sell him others at a big figure. Morrow or some 
of his crooks would usually have a bunch of work cattle, 
work horses or mules under herd in the hills. This herd was 
kept replenished from emigrants' stolen stock, which he would 
sell "just to help them out." The ranch was well stocked 
with provisions, clothing, firearms, whiskey, tobacco, etc., 
which were sold at very high prices. A squaw offered me a 
little Indian boy, naked save for a string of beads around his 
neck, for a plug of tobacco. I did not make the exchange. 
While here I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Morrow, wife of this 

On the Overland Trail 

noted ranchman. She seemed to be a modest, refined, rather 
neatly-dressed woman and much out of place at this frontier 
road ranch. Had any one told me then that my four 
daughters would be born within a mile of this notorious 
ranch, I would not have believed it. 

Our trading done, we resumed our journey northwe?*- 
toward the south bend of Fremont Creek (now known as 
Fremont Slough) and so named in honor of General Fremont 
when he made his overland trip many years before. Here 
we camped for the night, using every precaution against theft 
by the Morrow Indian raiders. It was probably this doubling 
of guards and night herders that saved us from loss. We 

Trails of Yesterday 63 

next passed the Bishop ranch, later known as the Beers ranch, 
next the well-known Lou Baker road ranch and stage station, 
dreaded on account of its frequent Indian attacks. Mr. and 
Mrs. Lou Baker seemed to be out of place here. They were 
both so good and homelike. The best was never too good for 
any one who stayed at this ranch. It was known as the 
O'Fallon road ranch. Often they had to flee to save them- 
selves from capture by the marauding bands of Indians (both 
Cheyenne and Sioux) whose excuse was to hunt buffalo but in 
reality to hunt scalps and live stock. The daredevil stage 
driver, pony express rider, the freighter and emigrant, if 
living to-day, could tell of some narrow escapes. The Califor- 
nia Trail between Fort McPherson and Fort Sedgwick, if its 
history could be written between the years 1849 an d 1868, 
would reveal the tragic death of many a brave man, both 
civilian and soldier. 

Our next stopping place before fording the South Platte 
River was just east of Fort Sedgwick, at which place several 
companies of soldiers, both cavalry and infantry, were sta- 
tioned under command of Major O'Brien. 


Bass Becomes Intolerable — Stuck in the South Platte River — Red 
Cloud's Threat — A Visit to Spotted Tail's Daughter s 
Grave — My First Chase by Indians — Tender- 
foot Takes a Stand — My Fight 

ALTHOUGH it was nearly 4:00 P. m. when we (the 
lead team) arrived at the crossing, our Mr. Bass, now 
called captain, as head of all the trains traveling with 
us, gave orders to commence crossing. The river was nearly 
one-half mile wide at this point and bank full of dirty, reddish 
colored water. The clouds were dark and low and distant 
rumbling of thunder could be heard, streaks of sharp light- 
ning shot across the sky and the wind blew in short, strong 
gusts. Mr. Bass had not neglected me one moment since 
we left "Dobytown"; I was thinking that now perhaps he 
might overlook me, when a sharp voice yelled to me to go in 
with the first team, twelve yoke of cattle hitched to a wagon, 
loaded heavily with bacon, flour, sugar, coffee, salt, crackers, 
etc. Our captain, two assistant wagon bosses and four bull- 
whackers, two on either side (I had the lower side), started 
the team in the river where we progressed for nearly two hun- 
dred yards, when, owing to the pelting rain which had com- 
menced to fall, our team stopped and tried to turn their 
backs to the rain. We succeeded in getting another pull but 
the cattle could not move the wagon which was fast settling 
in the quicksand. Four more yoke of cattle were added 
and another pull made, when some of the chains parted. We 
then doubled the chains and the next pull they got tangled 
in their chains, fell down and would have drowned had we not 
unhooked the chains and cut the ox-bows. Two of the yokes 
were lost at this time. (Two years ago they were found in the 
river when it was low; the iron rusted and wood rotted, as 
would naturally be expected during a period of fifty years. 
The writer presented these to The Nebraska Historical So- 


Trails of Yesterday 65 

ciety and they may be seen there in Lincoln, Nebraska.) 
Darkness overtook us ; some of the yokes of cattle went across 
the river dragging their chains and some came back to the 
main herd south of the river. When we left the wagon in 
the river the current was running over the top of the end gate 
and it looked as if it might disappear entirely before daylight. 

Nearly all the bullwhackers went up to the Post that night 
and many got drunk. I turned into my blankets wet to the 
skin and supperless. About three o'clock the next morning 
Captain Bass came and wakened me and said he wished I 
would get on the mule tied to the wagon, cross the river and 
bring back all the yoked cattle that had strayed away the night 
before. This order, with some misgivings as to results, I 
obeyed. It was hardly daylight yet and I could not see the 
getting-out place on the opposite side of the river. It was my 
first experience in water on mule-back. I had been told many 
times that a mule, especially if he could not touch bottom 
with his feet and keep the top of his back dry, became the 
greatest of cowards in water and would prefer drowning to 
swimming. I had not proceeded far when I had the time of 
my life to get him past what was to be seen of the top of the 
wagon we left in the river and then my mule went down and 
tried to roll over me and seemed determined to commit suicide 
by drowning. He got his ears full of water and hesitated 
some time as to whether he would proceed or go back to camp. 
The only way I could coax him was to lead him. The water 
most of the way across was up to my breast, but in a few 
places I had to swim. We both often went down in quick- 
sand. Two-thirds of the way across the water became shal- 
lower, averaging about three feet deep, when I again mounted 
and soon got out. I found five yoke of cattle grazing peace- 
fully. After rounding them up and fastening the chains to 
the yokes I soon had a five-yoke team crossing the river, which 
I crossed safely without dismounting, my mule going under 
only once on the return trip. 

Having found the ford in the river, by ten o'clock in the 
morning we had begun in earnest to cross our wagons; and 

66 Trails of Yesterday 

our captain, aided by the good common sense of the different 
wagon bosses and assistants, had learned to send his lightest 
wagons over first, putting perishable goods, such as sugar, 
flour, salt, beans and crackers, on top of canned or wet goods. 
Captain Bass kept me in the river all day. I and three other 
bullwhackers brought seven wagons across — making fourteen 
times that we crossed the river that day. We usually rode 
on the backs of our steers on the return trip. We were not 
through crossing all the wagons in our different trains until 
the night of the third day. 

Out of sympathy for a Mormon family (a poor woman 
and her son) pulling a cart, I allowed the woman to ride 
across the river and hitched the cart behind the wagon, the 
son fording the river with me. For this humane act I received 
a severe cursing from Captain Bass. 

For several days after crossing the South Platte River 
I suffered greatly. The skin on my neck, arms and body was 
so badly sunburned, blistered and irritated by my heavy woolen 
shirt that I was in misery both night and day. Had my flesh 
been seared by a hot iron I could not have suffered more. 

We crossed the twenty-eight mile ridge between the South 
and the North valleys, making a dry camp one night. We 
passed Mud Springs, a telegraph and small stage station. We 
also passed Chimney Rock and Court House Rock, pictures of 
which are here given. Nature seems to have done her work 
well. Court House Rock has quite a history. It is claimed 
that a band of outlaws were followed from the Gallatin 
valley mines by Captain Bailey's company of mountaineers, 
were overtaken, tried and found guilty and twelve of them 
shot to death on the top of this Court House Rock, hence 
its name. Could a true history of it be written it would make 
very interesting reading. The storms of many years have 
beaten upon it and worn much of it away but there is yet much 
left of interest for the traveler, especially if he succeeds in 
climbing to its top. 

We passed "Brown's Road Ranch" west of Scott's Bluff. 
This ranch was kept by "Stuttering Brown," to whom I may 

Courtesy of E. H. Barbour , University of Nebraska 
Chimney Rock 

Courtesy of A. E. Sheldon, Nebraska State Historical Societj 

i House and Jail Rocks 

Trails of Yesterday 67 

refer later in this book. We finally wended our way, through 
a crooked, narrow pass, through Scott's Bluff. 

Two miles west of these bluffs, standing on the south bank 
of the North Platte River, was Fort Mitchell, a two-company 
adobe post. Directly south of this, across the overland trail, 
stood the Mitchell Road ranch and stage station kept at this 
time by John Sibson. This will also be referred to later. 
Twelve miles west of this we passed Horse Creek ranch kept 
by Charles Blunt. Between Blunt's and Antone Reynolds' 
ranch, I remember making a drive late in the night. Some 
of our teams got scared at either a herd of buffalo, a pack 
of wolves or sneaking Indians while we were doubling teams, 
pulling over sand hills at the west end of the Mitchell bottom. 
Never before did I see six-yoke ox-teams stampede on a run 
with loaded wagons containing sixty to seventy hundred 
pounds of dead freight. Some fifteen teams did this for 
nearly half a mile, going faster than their drivers could run. 
I don't see how we escaped being run over. I was sitting in 
my wagon half dozing when my team started with others in 
front and in rear of it. Hanging on to the wagon bow saved 
me from being thrown out of the wagon, from which at the 
first chance I jumped, just clearing the wheels of my own 
wagon and causing the team of the next wagon to shy from me 
as I struck the ground and commenced to scramble to my feet 
to get out of the way. The noise made by this little stampede 
was not unlike the passing of a vigorous cyclone. The only 
damage done was the upsetting of one wagon and the crippling 
of a steer. 

We passed the Reynolds' and the Jules Coffee road 
ranches and many stage coaches that the Indians had chased 
and in some cases attacked. We crossed the Laramie River 
at Fort Laramie. Here the two ox-trains owned by Majors 
Russell and Waddell, that had joined us at Fort McPherson, 
remained. They were loaded with general merchandise and 
provisions — a rush order intended for Red Cloud's band of 
Sioux Indians said to number 2500 warriors who had left 
Fort Laramie a few days before we arrived, swearing venge- 

68 Trails of Yesterday 

ance against the whites; and incoming freight trains, stage 
coaches and pony express riders testified to the fact that they 
were making their word good. Red Cloud's great speech on 
that occasion before the Indian Commission closed with these 
words: "We have given you the buffalo land of the Shallow 
River (the Platte) for your iron horse road and will keep our 
people back and protect you. You have promised to save our 
hunting lands to the north of us but by sending these soldiers 
now on the march into our hunting grounds you are acting 
the lie. I will take my people back. We will fight you every 
mile of the way to the Big Horn. We will let your mile- 
stones be the graves of your dead. You have lied to us and 
have now nothing to expect of us but war ! war ! war ! !" 
Red Cloud then assembled his people of about 2500 to 3000 
and left Fort Laramie that same day. How well he kept his 
promise in giving war is a matter of history. The war began 
immediately and did not end until the white troops were 
driven out of the country. He and many of his followers 
were in active hostilities from the latter part of June, 1866, 
until the fall of 1 87 1. The following is a truthful sketch 
of his career. 


A young Oglala chief of the Sioux nation dashed across the Dakota 
prairie, followed by a band of youthful braves who had chosen him as their 
leader. From the chief's shoulders waved a scarlet blanket. Some poetic 
onlooker, observing the foremost rider's fiery-colored shoulder covering, said: 
"He looks like a flying red cloud." 

The speech pleased the young chief. From that time he was known as 
Maq-pelu-ta — Red Cloud. 

Red Cloud was born in 1818. He was of obscure birth; but by sheer 
genius for warfare and leadership soon made himself a sub-chief. His early 
wars were waged against the Pawnees, Crows and other tribes, who hated 
the fierce Sioux. Then, in 1848, — already a noted warrior — he began a conflict 
with the white men that raged off and on for more than thirty years. During 
much of that period Red Cloud was practically the war lord of Nebraska, 
Dakota, Kansas and large parts of Iowa, Wyoming, Montana and Minnesota. 

Pioneers began to invade his realm. Many of them were white men of 
the most daring, lawless sort and some did not scruple to cheat, rob or even 
kill any Indian who crossed their path. Red Cloud regarded these newcomers 
as a hostile tribe and treated them as such. The white man slaughtered the 
buffaloes and other game and trampled on their ancient customs. Red Cloud 
and his braves retaliated by slaying some of these "undesirable citizens" and 
declaring death-war upon the rest. 


Trails of Yesterday 69 


The government rushed to the protection of its settlers. Red Cloud now 
found himself opposed to trained soldiers instead of lawless frontiersmen. But 
he fought on as fearlessly as ever against these greater odds. 

A body of regulars was sent to garrison Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming. 
On December 22, 1866, Red Cloud, with a band of Sioux, attacked a foraging 
party from the fort. Captain Fetterman, with one hundred soldiers and 
citizens, was sent out to the party's rescue. Red Cloud's savages, in a 
terriffic battle, killed Fetterman and every one of his men. 

Encouraged by this feat, Red Cloud next attacked a detachment of 
soldiers under Major Powell, who were crossing the prairies with a consign- 
ment of metal wagon bodies. Using these wagon bodies for bullet-proof 
fortification, the troops defended themselves so gallantly that Red Cloud could 
make no headway against them. Again and again he led his warriors across 
the open ground in a wild charge against the wagon fort. And every time 
the soldiers' quick, unerring volleys emptied dozens of saddles and sent the 
Indians reeling back. Red Cloud lost more than 300 men in this fight before 
he would consent to withdraw out of reach of the deadly hail of bullets. 

Some of the older Sioux chiefs wanted to yield to the government and to 
sign a peace treaty. Red Cloud was asked to join them. He replied furiously: 
"No! I want war!" The more valiant young warriors echoed his defiant 
shout. And war they had for years thereafter. Red Cloud kept the frontier 
ablaze with excitement. 

Among the famous soldiers who fought against him from time to time 
were Generals Miles, Sheridan, Crook, Terry and Custer. More than once 
he proved too wily for the best of them. But one leader, be he ever so inspired, 
cannot with 6000 savages defy a whole country forever. So, in course of time, 
Red Cloud and his braves were cooped up on a reservation. But again and 
again they broke out, committing fearful ravages among the settlements, and 
were brought back to the agency only to burst forth again at the first chance. 


When Sitting Bull, in 1876, in the campaign which cost Custer's life, 
went on the warpath, Red Cloud prepared to join the renowned Medicine Man ; 
but General Crook swooped down upon his band just as they were making 
ready to start, took away their ponies and made Red Cloud a prisoner. Later 
the government offered to pay $28,000.00 for these ponies and for other 
confiscated weapons if Red Cloud would sign a treaty. 

This was in 1880. Red Cloud was 62 years old. His long, tireless years 
of warfare had resulted in the thinning out of his warrior band and the loss 
of thousands of miles of his territory. Whereas, the white men in the West 
were every year more numerous. He saw the bitter hopelessness of it all and 
consented to sign what he called a "peace paper". 

The old savage had been in 200 pitched battles during his stormy career. 
Now — penniless, old, helpless — he laid down his weapons. Nor did he, out- 
wardly at least, ever break the treaty he had so reluctantly made. In more 
than one subsequent Indian outbreak he was suspected of having stirred up the 
local braves to revolt; but nothing could be proven against him. 

And so he lived on, at government expense, without a shadow of his 
former greatness, becoming at last blind, deaf and almost childish.— Albert 
Pay son Terhune. 

On leaving Fort Laramie strict orders were issued to every 
member of each train to be eternally on the watch against 

70 Trails of Yesterday 

sudden attacks and never to fire a shot night or day unless 
attacked by Indians and that the moment a shot was fired, 
every man must be ready for any emergency. Guards were 
doubled as well as night herders around the cattle. 

While these precautions kept the captain, wagon bosses 
and assistants and every man in camp busy, the captain did 
not relax his supervision over me, making life very uncom- 
fortable. Several times my better nature rebelled against 
carrying out his profane orders. Why not stop it and assert 
my manhood? Better die than lead such a dog's life. I was 
called on in every emergency, no matter whether it was my 
proper turn or not. 

The day after passing Fort Laramie I was called upon 
to find several steers that had strayed from the herd and was 
given the same contrary, stubborn, old mule and told by 
Captain Bass to go and find them and not to come back with- 
out them. After riding down the river a couple of miles 
I came to a quaking asp grove in a bend of the river. Think- 
ing the missing steers might be in there, I dismounted and 
tied the mule to a tree on the edge of the grove, with dif- 
ficulty working my way in afoot through the heavy under- 
brush. I had proceeded some two hundred yards when 
I heard breaking of branches which assured me that I 
was on the trail of the steers. I proceeded farther, when I 
came face to face with a big, black bear. It did not take me 
long to reach my mule and I had scarcely mounted when 
the bear appeared. I can still see that mule trying to get 
away. I could neither guide nor hold him for nearly a mile 
down the river. About an hour later I passed this place 
with the missing steers but "Mr. Mule" had lost all confidence 
in me and must have thought I was putting up a job on him 
in taking him back to where we left the bear. I had great 
trouble in getting him past the spot without going nearly a 
quarter of a mile to the right of it. I finally arrived at camp 
just as it was getting ready to move. 

In crossing the bad lands west of Fort Laramie we broke 
several wagon wheels and I was hurried back to Fort Laramie 

Trails of Yesterday 71 

with a yoke of cattle, hitched to a light wagon containing the 
broken wheels, with strict orders to get the wheels repaired 
as quickly as possible or buy new ones. Being loaded with 
government freight I had no trouble in getting an order from 
General Palmer, the commanding officer, to the blacksmith to 
work all night fixing the wheels, which were ready for me 
by daylight the next morning. 

By sunrise I was passing the cemetery where Shen-tag-a- 
lisk's (Spotted Tail's) daughter, Ah-ho-op-pa, (the Sioux 
name for wheaten flour), had recently been buried. I have 
read several stories of the life and death of this beautiful 
and sensible Indian maiden, who, it is said, died, on the 
Powder River, of consumption but in reality of a broken 
heart. Having fallen in love with a young officer who did not 
return her affection, Ah-ho-op-pa had become so attached to 
the whites that while on her deathbed she exacted a promise 
from her father, Shen-tag-a-lisk, that he would never go to 
war with the whites again. 

I could write an interesting story of this love affair but 
space will not permit. 

Shen-tag-a-lisk, or Spotted Tail, kept this promise and 
some years later, in 1879, saved the writer's life at Rosebud 
Agency, where Spotted Tail later died and where an imposing 
shaft marks this great chief's grave in the Rosebud cemetery 
at that agency. 

Anxious to see where Spotted Tail's daughter was buried, 
I stopped my team in passing the cemetery. I had no trouble 
in finding the grave, which was marked by four posts about 
seven feet high above the ground. A platform was nailed 
to the posts and upon this rested the coffin covered with a red 
blanket. On the blanket were laid many Indian trinkets — 
beads, paints, moccasins, looking glasses, shawls and leggings. 
To the two north posts were nailed the heads of her two white 
ponies and their tails to the south posts. 

While viewing this I was suddenly surrounded by a dozen 
or more Sioux warriors, who angrily asked what I was doing 
there. I told them I was looking at Spotted Tail's daughter's 

72 Trails of Yesterday 

grave. I had picked up a few stones and pebbles lying on the 
ground under the remains and an Indian snatched them out of 
my hands and struck me over the head with his bow. I told 
them as best I could that I meant and had done no harm, 
when several of them commenced to beat me with their quirts, 
bows and arrows. I could not defend myself from the blows 
of so many and jumped into my wagon and started my yoke 
of cattle on a run. They nearly frightened the cattle to 
death, sticking arrows in their sides to see them twist and run. 
At the same time they continued to whip me over the head, 
back and shoulders, tearing my shirt off me. They chased 
me thus over two miles and I believe they would have killed 
me had I not taken refuge in a Mormon train that was on its 
way to Salt Lake City. I meant no disrespect but I could not 
make the Indians see it that way. My fellow bullwhackers 
hardly knew me when I got to camp and the most 
pleased man I ever saw was my constant caretaker, Captain 
Bass. He would have liked to have sent me back on a second 

I could write a big chapter of this Captain Bass's mean, 
brutish ways, which I had made up my mind to tolerate no 

A couple of nights after my whipping by the Indians we 
had just formed corrals for the night. I had unyoked my 
team. Many of the other teamsters had not commenced to 
unyoke theirs. The captain rode up to me and ordered that 
I take the cattle to water before I picked up my yokes and 
chains. I mildly remonstrated and asked him how I could 
do so when many of the teams were not unyoked. He an- 
swered with an oath and told me to do what he said. I made 
no reply but walked to where my lead yoke lay on the ground, 
unhooked the chain and proceeded to pick it up. He was 
watching me and immediately rode up, whipped out his 
revolver, leveled it at my head and with a bad oath accom- 
panied by an expression still common in some parts of the 
West, tried his best to push the end of his revolver into my 
mouth and commanded me to drop that yoke. I threw the 

Trails of Yesterday 73 

yoke to the ground and told the captain what I thought of 
him ; that, although I had done everything in my power to 
please him, there were many things I ought not to have done ; 
that he had imposed on me ever since we left old Fort Kear- 
ny; that although he was captain of the entire outfit, and 
his uncle owned the train, yet — even though he was big enough 
to whip me — I was not afraid of him and was willing to fight 
him any way he chose, with guns, revolvers, knives or in a fair 
fist fight. By this time many of the bullwhackers had gathered 
around us and were urging me on by yelling: "Go for him, 
Bratt ! Go for him, Bratt ! ! We'll stay by you." All the 
outfit, including the wagon masters and assistants, hated him. 
Some of these men pulled him off his mule and took his revol- 
vers and knife from him. This done, I threw my revolvers 
and bowie knife on the ground and in a few seconds we were 
both fighting in "dead earnest" and I was soon getting the 
worst of it. He not only punished me with his fists but jabbed 
his spurs in my neck. He was a giant compared to me. The 
men pulled him off me once but I went at him again and finally 
got the lobe of his left ear between my teeth and, though I am 
sorry to tell it, I did not let go until I spit a part of his ear 
on the ground. He finally got up amid the taunts and jeers of 
the crowd of bullwhackers, picked up his revolvers and knife, 
put a dirty, old, red handkerchief to his bleeding ear and 
started for his wagon, swearing he would fix me yet. I came 
out of the fight badly used up, my face covered with blood, 
some teeth missing, but with many congratulations from my 
fellow bullwhackers who promised to stand by me should he 
tackle me again. This, I think, prevented him from carrying 
out his threat later, since he saw the sympathy of nearly all 
the men was with me, and instead of abusing me, he became 
more considerate and let me alone the rest of the trip. 
Whether this was caused by shame or fear of the further ill 
will of the men in the different outfits, I don't know. For the 
present I shall leave him to heal up his notched left ear. 
Enough to say that I picked up my yokes and chains before 
taking the steers to water. 


Cheyenne Indians Visit our Camp — Dull Knife and his Band become 

Enraged — The Peace Pipe is Smoked — A Quart of Whiskey 

Poured down Tenderfoot — A Herd of Five 

Thousand Buffalo — Attacked by the 


AFTER crossing the North Platte River at Fort Casper, 
we met some returning horse and mule trains and one 
stage coach, the driver of which and remaining two 
passengers turned over to us for burial the body of one dead 
passenger who had been instantly killed that morning while 
fighting a band of Indians who were chasing the coach. We 
dug a hole on a sandy knoll near the trail, wrapped the remains 
in a blanket and laid them gently to rest, marking the head of 
the mound with part of a cracker box lid, on which was written 
in pencil: "John Harrison. Killed by Indians August 2, 
1866, while en route by stage coach to St. Joseph, Missouri." 

We had come this far without being attacked by Indians 
except for the whipping the writer received east of Fort 
Laramie when curiosity got the better of judgment. We were 
still very watchful, both night and day. We might have 
thought this double guard duty unnecessary had it not been 
for what we saw and heard from travelers returning in the 
stage coaches and freighters. 

It was near here that, after breaking camp one morning 
and traveling some three miles, we noticed grazing in the 
hills about a mile distant on the left a bunch of ponies. We 
were ordered to halt, while wagon bosses and assistants, all 
mounted, and some twelve or fourteen of us bullwhackers 
afoot, all well armed, started towards the ponies. The hill 
was not a high one but was bare of sagebrush and greasewood 
and sloped gently toward the trail on which our wagons were 
standing, which caused me to wonder how we afoot could 
defend ourselves in case of an Indian attack. The mounted 


Trails of Yesterday 75 

men were far in the lead of us and it was not very long before 
we saw them reach the top of the hill and return as fast as 
their horses could run. This caused us to beat a hasty retreat 
toward our wagons. On catching up with us the mounted men 
informed us that there were several hundred ponies grazing 
on the other side of the hill and a valley full of Indian tepees 
and Indians, who, as yet, apparently had not discovered us. 
With this knowledge, all in the different outfits, even to our 
friend, the captain, were willing and anxious to resume our 
morning drive, not a few of us frequently casting a watchful 
eye back toward the hill where the same bunch of ponies 
continued grazing. 

We had proceeded some two miles over a rather level 
country when we came to a deep canon (said to be a dry 
branch of the Cheyenne River) , and here the recent high water 
had almost obliterated the trail and left it practically im- 
passable. There was nothing to do but go into camp and 
commence fixing the crossing. About the time dinner was 
called two mounted, fine-looking Indians came within shouting 
distance of the camp and in pigeon English and their native 
language told us they were good Cheyennes; Sioux and Arap- 
ahoes were bad, but they — throwing back their blankets and 
placing their hands over their hearts — were "heap good." 
A short consultation was held between Captain Bass and the 
different wagon bosses. The former favored inviting them 
into camp, while all the latter opposed it. Notwithstanding 
this, Captain Bass went out and shook hands with the two 
Indians and brought them into camp, where they were soon 
surrounded by the bullwhackers who asked them many ques- 
tions as to their camp, tribe, number, where they came from, 
where they were going, whether they had any squaws and 
papooses, ponies, buckskins or moccasins. They said they 
were Cheyennes, were going south to hunt buffaloes and visit 
their people, had their squaws and papooses, heaps of ponies, 
buckskins, robes and moccasins, and pointed toward the bluff 
or hills where we had seen the ponies grazing. On looking 

76 Trails of Yesterday 

through the field glasses in that direction, we noticed many 
objects on the hillsides. These objects were neither ponies, 
sagebrush, greasewood nor rocks and when Captain Bass 
told the two Indians to bring their Indians into our camp, one 
of the Indians went some distance from our wagons, obviously 
to get an unobstructed view. Upon waving his blanket three 
times the objects on the hillside sprang to their feet and 
scattered, some going from us over the hill, presumably for 
their ponies, others coming afoot to our camp into which 
they came stringing in all manner of fashion — some mounted, 
some afoot, and others, squaws and papooses lying or sitting 
on tepee poles dragged by their ponies, until there were about 
eight hundred or more bucks, squaws and papooses. The 
total number of whites in our camp was less than two hundred, 
but all were pretty well armed with revolvers, guns and bowie 
or butcher knives. 

It is seldom one meets a similar bunch of men of this class 
and character without having one or more bad men among 
them. Nearly all drank when they could get liquor, used pro- 
fane language, smoked or chewed tobacco, and gambled. I 
regret to say that I, too, had commenced to swear and this, to- 
gether with my fight with Captain Bass, gave me better stand- 
ing and more respect in the eyes of my bullwhacker comrades; 
still I was looked upon as a tenderfoot because I had not 
adopted their other vices. When invited to join in their games 
or listen to their obscene stories I would beg to be excused 
and steal away to my wagon where I would read again and 
again the "Harper's Monthly" given me at "Dobytown" by 
good Dr. Miller. 

The Indians were enjoying their friendly visit with us, 
after having filled their stomachs with our boiled beans, 
bacon, pone bread and coffee, which the cooks of the different 
outfits had provided in plenty. Much swapping and trading 
had been done in the purchase of buffalo robes, elk and deer 
skins, moccasins, etc., for money and other considerations. 
Everything was going along nicely. By giving him my plate 

Trails of Yesterday 77 

of dinner in addition to what he had already eaten at other 
outfits, I became well acquainted with Dull Knife, the head 
chief of this band of Cheyennes. Suddenly the old chief 
dashed his plate and what little there was on it to the ground, 
mounted his pony, and commenced to talk to his people in 
his own language, the substance of his words was that one 
of these whites had stolen a buckskin from one of the squaws 
and he not only asked the return of the skin but wanted the 
man also. Our brave captain suggested that this request be 
granted, but some others suggested we give up the captain, 
who soon disappeared, to be found later after considerable 
search, pretending to be busy writing in his wagon, with 
cracker boxes piled up in front and rear, thus hiding him from 

I, like some others, had commenced to yoke my cattle but 
our assistant wagon boss, Green, ordered us to stop and pre- 
pare to fight. All was excitement and commotion. It took 
but a short time for the Indians to prepare for us. The 
squaws, papooses and old men were sent to the rear while the 
bucks, nearly all mounted, — some in the corrals, others out- 
side — a number with guns and revolvers but the majority 
with bows and arrows (some arrows poisoned), all strung 
and ready for action — were all eagerly awaiting the word to 
attack. Dull Knife and his sub-chiefs insisted that the man 
who stole the skin be given up and had we not hid him 
under some cracker boxes in one of the wagons, the Indians 
would have killed him quickly and the squaws, young and 
old, standing directly behind the mounted bucks with their 
knives all sharp, would have quickly finished the work of 
scalping and mutilating the body. 

A hasty consultation of the different wagon bosses and 
assistants was held and it was determined to find Mr. Bass 
and make him settle the trouble since he had brought the 
Indians into camp without the consent of the others. After 
pulling away the cracker boxes Captain Bass was soon located 
in his wagon, and ordered to come out and settle the matter. 

78 Trails of Yesterday 

Old Dull Knife, who had six scalps dangling from his belt — 
one of them a woman's — poked his head into Captain Bass's 
wagon and called that gentleman the meanest name he could 
think of, which was "Heap Squaw, big white chief." Bass 
thought his time had come and shook like an aspen leaf in a 
breeze. The captain finally came out of the wagon and ap- 
pealed to the different bosses as to the best way to settle the 
trouble. They frankly told him to settle it himself, seeing 
there was no way out of it, or fight. He suggested giving the 
Indians some provisions, but the other bosses did not concur 
in this, perhaps fearing later complications. The buckskin 
was returned and Bass ordered some of his men to throw 
out a sack of coffee, a sack of sugar, a sack of beans, a sack of 
bacon, a sack of salt and six boxes of crackers. When Dull 
Knife saw him hesitate about throwing out more the old chief 
called out, "Heap more ! Heap more !" and Bass told the men 
to throw out more. They doubled the quantity, but this did 
not satisfy the Indians. They wanted many sacks of flour 
and boxes of canned goods. Bass checked the men up several 
times, but Dull Knife, a good judge of human nature, had 
him scared and occasionally would talk to his warriors, who 
would crowd up closer and put on a bolder front. It was not 
until the Indians had nearly a wagonload of provisions — all 
government property — lying on the ground that they were 

This incident demonstrated how easy it was for a 
boss, using bad judgment, to get his employers into trouble 
and jeopardize the lives of his men. Had Bass followed the 
advice of the other wagon bosses and the majority of the 
men who had crossed the plains and dealt with Indians before, 
he would not have gotten us into this scrape, but he was the 
nephew of the man who owned the train and knew it all. He 
was now letting his hair grow long. The large notch in his left 
ear could be seen when the wind blew his hair back, but he 
was kinder to me. 

After the return of the buckskin and present of the provi- 

Trails of Yesterday 79 

sions to the Indians, they lighted and passed around to any 
one who would smoke it, the pipe of peace and everything 
was again peaceful and harmonious. I shook hands with 
old Dull Knife, who, taking off my hat, gave me to understand 
that after three nights' sleep we would be in the Arapahoes' 
country and must look out for our "Zip," meaning our scalps. 
Two of our steers died at this camp, which gave the Indians 
an additional feast. 

It was late in the afternoon when we pulled out. The 
crossing of the gulch had been fixed and after letting the 
first few wagons down by hand and ropes we did not have 
much trouble, except for the breaking of two wagon wheels. 
It must have been midnight when we got all the wagons 
across. It started to rain shortly after and at daylight the 
gully was a raging torrent, full from bank to bank. It 
drizzled all next day and we remained in camp repairing 
our broken wheels and exchanging visits with the Cheyennes. 
Some of our men went to the Indian camp on special invita- 
tion to dine with them. At this banquet some of the fattest 
and choicest dogs were killed, cooked and served a la mode. 

The next morning we continued our journey, taking a 
northwest course, leaving Pumpkin Butte to our right. For 
three days we had been following a rather indistinct trail. 
We had had three sleeps since leaving the dry fork of the 
Cheyenne and were crossing the dry bed of what, at certain 
seasons of the year, might have been a river very wide and 
extremely sandy, so sandy that we had to double teams to 
cross it. We had all but eight of the wagons across when 
a small party of Indians (maybe twenty), mounted and 
carrying spears in addition to the customary bows and arrows, 
came charging at breakneck speed out of the adjacent hills 
and with a war whoop rode close up to the eight teams and 
commenced to shoot arrows at the teamsters and the cattle, 
sending some of their arrows into the flanks and sides of 
the cattle. This lasted for a few minutes until the men with 
the teams retaliated with guns and revolvers, when the In- 

80 Trails of Yesterday 

dians, whom we took to be Arapahoes, judging from what 
Dull Knife told us, went back to the hills as fast as they came 
and were out of range of the guns of the wagon bosses, 
assistants and quite a lot of bullwhackers who had crossed 
with the other wagons and had come back on a run to the 
aid of the eight teamsters and their wagons. 

This little scare served to make us more vigilant. Fail- 
ing to get water for our stock, we drove the greater part of 
the night. This was hard on our cattle and caused us to lose 
several by death. We remained in camp next day, digging 
quite a few rifle pits for protection against Indian attacks, 
since we saw a number of Indians watching us from nearby 
hills. Extra herders went out with the cattle and night guards 
around the camps were doubled, all having strict orders not to 
fire a gun or revolver except in an Indian attack. 

We finally crossed the Powder River at old Fort Reno, 
which place I shall always remember. I had often expressed 
my disapproval of the gambling and drinking indulged in 
by my fellow bullwhackers and made the remark that I had 
taken two drinks of whiskey in my life — one prescribed for 
me by a physician at Elizabeth Port, New Jersey, the other 
on the levee plank at Morganzie in the bend at the mouth of 
the Red River in Louisiana — and that they would be my last. 
Some of the bullwhackers said they would see that I got a 
third, and they did. Half a dozen bullwhackers seized me 
that night, threw me down and forced down my throat 
between a pint and a quart of the worst old road ranch whiskey 
that I ever smelled. The result was that I had to be hauled in 
the wagon for over a week. For several days it was a serious 
question as to whether I would live or die. The men who 
did this (I knew them all) became alarmed, and were greatly 
relieved when after the sixth day I showed some signs of 
rallying. In many ways they manifested their regrets at 
their action and I forgave them. Talk about Keeley Cure! 
If the worst drunkard ever got a dose like I did, he would 
never taste another drop. 

Trails of Yesterday 81 

At one point, after crossing the Powder River, we had to 
cut one of our ox-trains in two to allow a large herd of 
buffalo, headed southwest, to pass us. I think this herd was 
fully a quarter of a mile wide. We killed several and had 
a feast of buffalo meat for several days. It was interesting 
to observe this herd of buffalo on the march. There were 
fully five thousand in the band which traveled in a flatiron 
shape. They were led by a large male, the cows, calves 
and yearlings on the inside, protected on the flanks by dry 
cows, heifers and males of two years and over, thus dis- 
playing a wonderful instinct in protecting their young. 

Our trail took us through bad and good country, smooth 
and rough. A good quality of soft coal cropped out of the 
banks in many places and there were many indications of 
other minerals and oil. 

The Indians now began to show themselves in larger 
numbers and some continued to follow us in the rear and on 
both flanks. No chances were taken. The cattle were herded 
in separate bunches during the day but thrown into one big 
herd at night with a big force of men around them, both 
mounted and afoot. A strong night and day guard all well 
armed was kept around each outfit camp. Every precaution 
was taken to avoid an ambush or surprise by the Red Skins, 
especially if traveling through a rough or broken country. 
Some of our cattle became footsore and had to be shod. 

We had passed Smeed Lake and were nearing Crazy 
Woman's fork, the valley of which was covered with thick 
brush and considerable timber. The actions of the Indians 
caused us to expect an attack when we attempted to cross 
the Crazy Woman's creek. We camped some distance from 
the creek that night and kept all cattle and horses in the dif- 
ferent corrals formed by the wagons. As soon as it was dusk 
a great number of bullwhackers in charge of wagon bosses 
and assistants went to certain strategic points around the dif- 
ferent trains and dug rifle pits and threw up breastworks 
for defense in case of Indian attacks. Every man in the 

82 Trails of Yesterday 

different camps was on guard duty some part of the night. 
No fires were kept lighted after dark and every man was 
ready to shoot at command, and although this was a long, 
sleepless night, our vigilance probably saved us from attack 
and maybe a bad slaughter. 

The different wagon bosses, while working in harmony, 
had to some extent deposed Captain Bass, whose actions at 
the Cheyenne Dry Fork had shaken their confidence in him 
as a chief. 

It was proposed to cross the Crazy Woman's fork the 
next day. A heavy guard was thrown out along the creek 
bottom to protect the teams and teamsters and we had pulled 
many large stones out of the creek on one side or the other 
so that our wagons would not be impeded while crossing. 
We had crossed probably forty wagons when the Indians 
began to close in on us. Our guards did good work and 
more than one Indian was sent to the "Happy Hunting 
Ground" while attempting to steal his way through the 
brush to pick some of us off. Having some mounted men 
to help us bullwhackers keep the cattle moving briskly, we 
finally commenced to send the teams on a trot through the 
bottom, and even through the creek which was two to three 
and one-half feet deep. By four o'clock in the afternoon we 
had crossed all teams safely except for the breaking of two 
wheels and were out in the open where we spent another 
watchful night. Our casualties were several head of cattle 
wounded and three men struck by arrows. Luckily, the 
arrows were not poisoned. The cattle got well but one of 
the men died from blood poison after three days. We did 
everything possible to save him. His remains were carefully 
wrapped in a blanket and tenderly laid in a deep grave by 
the side of the trail and another piece of box lid had written 
on it: "James Edison. Killed by Indians while crossing 
Crazy Woman's Fork in Jackson Ox-train September 4, 

After a few other exciting events, with no more loss of 

Trails of Yesterday 83 

life, we arrived at our destination "Fourth Company Post," 
at this time being rapidly changed into Fort Phil Kearny, 
by which name it was later better known. 

The poisoned arrow was usually poisoned as follows for 
war purposes: The Indians would take a fresh deer liver, 
fasten it to a long pole, and then go to certain places where 
they knew they would find rattlesnakes in abundance. 

About midday the rattlers are all out of their dens and 
coiled up in the sunshine. The bucks would poke the first 
rattler with the liver. A rattler, unlike common snakes, al- 
ways shows fight in preference to escaping. 

The snake would thus repeatedly strike at the liver with 
its fangs until its poison was all used up, whereupon it would 
quit striking and try slowly to move on. The bucks would 
then hunt up another rattler and repeat the performance, 
keeping up the work until the liver was well soaked with 
snake poison. 

The pole was carried home and fastened somewhere in 
an upright position until the liver became as dry as a bone. 
The liver was then pounded to a fine powder and placed in 
a buckskin bag, to be used as needed for their arrows. This 
powder would stick like glue to any moistened surface. 


Arrival at Fort Phil Kearny — Another Controversy with Bass — 
Mr. Bass under Arrest 

AFTER reporting the arrival of the different trains in 
our outfit to the Commander of the Fort, Colonel 
Carrington, that officer ordered us into camp at a 
certain point on Piney Creek near the fort. All was bustle 
and excitement. Hay, wood and log teams, drawn by horses, 
mules and oxen, came and went, but all under proper cavalry 
escort, since Red Cloud, joined by other hostile Indians, was 
making his threat good. The stockade, built out of pine logs 
twelve feet long, set endwise in the ground about four feet 
and enclosing about forty acres, together with the officers' 
and men's quarters and stables for the horses and mules, was 
being rushed to completion as fast as possible in the face of 
hostile Indians who raided the contractors' teams and camps 
daily and kept the mechanics and carpenters continually in 
hot water, guessing when and where the next attack would be 
made. Men were scarce and commanded big wages. 

The second day after our arrival we commenced to unload 
our train. Mr. Bass's position as captain gave him some 
prestige over the others. By the end of the third day our 
train of supplies was unloaded and my Missouri friend, the 
captain — the nephew of his uncle — with his disfigured ear 
now almost completely hidden by his long hair, informed the 
five of us who had hired to take our discharge here that he 
was ready to settle with us. He left me until the last when 
I was called up to his wagon and upon being informed the 
amount due me he said he would write out an order, or what 
he called a due bill, for the amount. 

He had already settled with the other four men in this 
way. I told him that although he had settled that way with 
the others, I could not accept his due bill; that I wanted and 
must have the cash. I considered that a due bill on Mr. 


Trails of Yesterday 85 

Keith of Lexington, Missouri, over one thousand miles 
distant and much of it through a country infested with hostile 
Indians — unless I could cash it there — was worthless to me. 
He said he could not pay me the money. I told him that my 
contract with him called for the money at destination point 
and not an order to pay. He said he could not help that and 
would give me cattle. These I also declined. He then told 
me that was all he could and would do. I reminded him 
that I had already had a mix-up with him and that I did not 
want others. At this remark I could not help looking at his 
left ear. On leaving him I told him I would expect my 
money by ten o'clock in the morning. 

During the evening he requested the men he had settled 
with to try to get me to accept a due bill like theirs. Ac- 
cordingly, Swank, as spokesman for himself and the others, 
approached me and said he had made several bullwhacking 
trips over the Smoky Hill trail, that he had always been paid 
this way and never lost a dollar by it. I replied that that might 
all be true and asked him to take his due bill into the sutler's 
store and ask what they would give him for it. He did so 
and they told him they could not use it at any price but would 
take it for collection without assuming any responsibility. I 
had sized up the matter rightly and was more determined 
than ever not to accept one of those due bills for my pay. 

All this time Mr. Bass was rushing around and getting 
ready to pull out the following morning. Ten o'clock came. 
He seemed to be busy at the sutler's store and appeared to 
avoid me. 

Determined to stand on my rights I started for Colonel 
Carrington's tent. Before reaching it I heard some one call 
me. Turning around I saw it was Mr. Bass, who had evidently- 
been watching my movements. He asked me to wait for 
him and on joining me, asked what I had decided to do about 
accepting the due bill. I told him that I was going to lay 
my case before Colonel Carrington but he asked me to go to 
the sutler's store with him and told me he would do his best to 
get me my money, even if he had to sell the train. He said 

86 Trails of Yesterday 

if I would promise to work for Mr. Carter in the hay camp 
that gentleman would advance the money on his freight bill 
to pay me. I would promise nothing except to make him 
pay in cash what he owed me. In less than half an hour I 
had my money. The four men he had paid in due bills 
demanded their money but he refused to pay them as he 
had settled with them and held their receipts. This made 
them angry. 

It seems that Mr. Bass had reported to the quartermaster 
that a band of Cheyenne Indians had attacked our train and 
that to make peace with them and save what he had, he had 
given them the provisions and stuff he was short on his bill 
of lading; and this on his statement was allowed by the 
quartermaster on his freight bill and a voucher was issued 
accordingly for about nineteen hundred dollars' worth of 
provisions. Some one told a quartermaster sergeant the facts. 
It might have been one of the four men who had been paid 
off in due bills. At any rate, in a very short time Mr. Bass 
was under arrest and the camp placed under guard. A 
thorough investigation was made, resulting in charging to the 
outfit all shortage on goods, together with eleven cents per 
pound freight on same from the Missouri River to Fourth 
Company Post. 

The last seen of my big Missouri friend, he was on his 
favorite mule, the faces of both turned toward the rising sun. 
He might have been a sadder but no doubt he was a wiser 

"Good-bye! Take care of yourself, Mr. Bass." 


Perilous Times — Employed by Mr. Carter — Indians! Indians! 

Indians! — More Gallatin Valley Gold Enthusiasm — 

My Guardian Angel 

MY stay at Fort Phil Kearny from the middle of Sep- 
tember to the early part of November, 1 866, — nearly 
two months — was the most exciting time I ever 

The firm of Coe & Carter had the contracts for getting 
out logs, wood and several hundred tons of hay, the former 
to build houses for officers and men, and stables for horses 
and stockade purposes. The logs cost $1.00 to $3.00 each, 
depending on size. The wood was $10.00 per load and the 
hay as high as $126.00 or more per ton. The latter was 
mostly cut on Goose Creek three to five miles distant. The 
wood was cut and hauled from the Piney Creek bottom one 
to two miles distant and the logs from patches of timber at 
the foothills six to eight miles distant. Horse and mule 
teams would usually make one trip a day for logs, cattle two 
to three trips a day for wood and one trip a day (usually a 
long day) with loose hay hauled in racks. 

Learning from Colonel Carrington and others that there 
was no possible chance for a few men to make their way to 
the Gallatin Valley mines that fall unless some troops were 
going to that point, I concluded to hire out to Mr. Carter 
at $60.00 per month to help haul hay, logs and wood. 

The job was anything but a pleasant one. The sutlers, 
namely, Judge Kinney, Messrs. Weston, McCrary, Coe and 
Carter, who ran the store and had interest in the hay, wood 
and log contracts, had had several wood choppers, hay 
makers and teamsters killed and wounded by the Indians and 
had suffered serious financial loss in capture, by stampede or 
theft, of horses, mules, oxen and harness. Wagons, hay, tents, 
wood, logs and camp equipage had been burned in raids by 


88 Trails of Yesterday 

hostile bands of Indians headed by the noted chiefs, Man 
Afraid Of His Horse, Red Ribs and Red Cloud. 

These Indians scarcely allowed a day or a night to pass 
without hurling their warriors against what they considered 
to be our weak points at and near this fort with a view to 
destroying it and exterminating all "pale faces" connected 
with it. They had made up their minds to wipe out this 
particular link in the chain of forts across their hunting 
grounds. Runners were sent to the different Sioux tribes 
and many responded. The result was that this post was 
attacked oftener and more fiercely during its existence than 
any post ever built on the frontier. One month it was at- 
tacked fifteen times, another twenty times. For three years, 
or until 1869, it was in a constant state of siege. In the six 
months ending January 31, 1867, the Indians killed in this 
vicinity one hundred fifty-four persons and wounded more 
than two hundred others. Hundreds of oxen, work horses 
and mules were taken and several trains of wagons loaded 
with hay, logs, and wood, also wagons loaded with freight 
for Fort C. F. Smith and the Bozeman trail, were captured 
and destroyed. 

It was about eight o'clock at night before the hay wagons 
on which I was to go to the hay camp were unloaded. It 
was late when we arrived at camp over a somewhat crooked 
trail that was, unknown to me, guarded by mountaineers at 
different points. The camp was on a high flat overlooking 
the Goose Creek Valley. There were a few tents and some 
wagons loaded with hay, under one of which I spread my two 
pairs of blankets and turned in with my boots on. I was 
cautioned by one of the camp guards to place my revolvers 
where I could get at them quickly but not to fire a shot unless 
I was ordered. Supperless and tired I slept soundly until I 
was awakened by one of the night herders a little before day- 
light, calling: "Breakfast ready!" After breakfast, consist- 
ign of bear meat, beans, skillet bread and coffee, I was given 
a pitchfork and told to go with Kellogg who had charge of 
loading the hay wagons. 

Trails of Yesterday 89 

On the way down the hill to the hayfield I soon became 
acquainted with Kellogg, who was a typical frontiersman. 
He feared neither God nor devil, let alone a man. He was 
an old miner who had been to the Gallatin Valley and other 
mining camps and he and another miner had come down 
with Captain Bailey's company to get a grub stake with which, 
when made, they expected to return to those placer diggings. 
He told me these were very rich and easily worked. I told him 
I was on my way to those mines and should be glad to go with 
him at any time. Kellogg said they would like to return that 
fall but the Indians were making things so hot for them that 
they might have to winter at the post unless some troops should 
be going up there or to Fort C. F. Smith, when they would ac- 
company them that distance if possible. 

The miner, who was nearly sixty years old, warmed 
up to me considerably when I told him I would like to go with 
him. He told me confidentially that he could take me to a 
place where all I would need would be a shovel and a sack. 
He said the Indians had run him and a party of forty men out 
of these mines the previous May. He was so earnest and 
frank that I believed him. 

Before parting he gave certain instructions as to my duties 
in helping load the wagons and then pointed out to me a 
certain dark object near the middle of the hayfield. The 
point indicated was some breastworks thrown up and to this 
hurried all the haymakers, mowers, rakers and teamsters, 
with their teams in case the Indians swooped down on them, 
which was often three or four times a day. 

We had loaded two wagons and started them for that 
point when there came a yell from the men: "Indians! 
Indians! Indians! ! !" Not having much hay on the wagons 
we dropped the gooseneck in the tongue from the ring in the 
yoke and started the oxen on a trot towards the place desig- 
nated by Kellogg. Other teams, some with mowers, rakes 
and wagons attached, were coming from different parts of 
the valley to the same place. 

About this time I noticed a large band of horses coming 

90 Trails of Yesterday 

tearing down the hill that we (Kellogg and I) had come 
down that morning, and I started on a run, revolver in each 
hand, intending to stop them. I passed near Kellogg and he 
yelled: "Come back, you d — d fool, or you'll get killed." 
I continued my gait and finally stopped the horses at the creek 
crossing, expecting every moment to be surrounded by Indians. 
I had picked up the trailing lariat of some of the best horses, 
intending to jump on one should the Indians try to surround 
me. After a few anxious moments I was most agreeably sur- 
prised to see a lot of mounted white men gathered around the 
band of horses. One of these men rode up to me, and was soon 
joined by others, who began to ask me questions as to what 
I was doing there. I explained that while running towards 
Kellogg's camp in the field I had noticed this band of horses 
coming over the hills and that I succeeded in stopping them. 

I had by this time picked up the ropes of several and made 
the remark that I had made a killing in securing such a nice 
bunch, thinking all the time they were Indian horses. I was 
soon given to understand that the band belonged to the men, 
who continued to gather around them. Noticing my igno- 
rance they asked when I had come to the camp. I told them 
late the night before. I further told them that if I had done 
them any good in stopping the horses I was glad of it. They 
made me a present of a nice young horse and from that day 
on, while these fifty mountaineers remained in our camps to 
guard us, I was "the white-headed boy." 

Kellogg cautioned me not to take any more chances like 
that as I might take one too many. 

Mr. Carter paid these fifty mounted men $5.00 per day 
each for themselves and ponies to protect the camps and teams 
from Indian raids. These men, the bravest I ever met, were 
kept busy under the charge of Captain Bailey. Not a day and 
scarcely a night passed without Indians attacking us either in 
the hayfield, or on the road to and from the post. Captain 
Bailey maintained strict discipline over the mountaineers. 
His word was law as is shown by the following incident : 

One of the men stole a watch from another. The case 

Trails of Yesterday 91 

was called with Captain Bailey as judge and the other men as 
the jury. The sentence imposed was u To be shot." 

After the sentence was pronounced the unlucky fellow 
gave his horse, saddle, bridle, blankets, gun and revolvers to 
his best friend, bade them all good-bye, pinned a piece of buck- 
skin over his heart, and walking ten steps out of camp, stood 
with hands behind him, and without a tremor told the five men 
detailed to shoot him, that he was ready and for them "not 
to miss the buckskin." 

He fell dead without a murmur. No tears were shed. 
One comrade made the remark as he looked at his dead body, 
"Poor Bill." 

A crumpled letter was found in poor Bill's saddle pocket. 
The letter was dated Chicago, March 3, 1865. It was from 
poor Bill's mother, asking him to come back home. 

"Poor Mother! Bill will never come back." Perhaps 
he committed a crime in taking the watch but he died a hero 
worthy of a better cause. 

I could fill many pages describing the character and habits 
of these brave, generous men. They did not know what fear 
was and were always ready to fight Indians day or night. 
They were divided into squads for night and day. Part 
would escort the hay, wood and log teams hauling to the 
fort, and part would be guarding the haymakers, log and 
woodcutters and the camp. I came across only one who did 
not drink, chew tobacco and swear. His comrades said "he 
was off and batty," and treated him as such. 

Those guarding the haymakers and hay camps would 
usually go in pairs, never more than three, to some high hill 
overlooking the surrounding country, keeping in sight of some 
of their comrades and the haymakers in the valley below, to 
whom they would signal if they saw signs of an intended 
Indian attack, when all would hasten to the weakest point. 
On the contrary, if everything was quiet and no Indians in 
sight, they would dismount, throw the bridle reins over the 
horses' heads and untie the lariats from the saddles, allowing 
the horses to graze a certain distance around them. Guns 

92 Trails of Yesterday 

were within easy reach should they be needed, and after 
looking over the country with a view to avoid any sudden 
attack, they would sit down by their guns and indulge in a 
little game of poker. They would always play for money and 
sometimes for heavy stakes. 

Once while thus engaged, a band of Indians stole up on 
two mountaineers and took their horses without being dis- 
covered until nearly a quarter of a mile distant, when one of 
the scouts grabbed his gun and sent one Indian to the "Happy 
Hunting Grounds." Other Indians carried the dead one away 
and escaped with the two horses. The two mountaineers 
came back angry and swearing. One had a canteen of whiskey 
and $5000.00 in gold coin and nuggets in his saddle pockets. 
He never mentioned the money and nuggets but how he did 
swear at the loss of his whiskey. Whiskey, any kind of bitters, 
alcohol and Jamaica ginger brought any price asked for it 
from $3.00 to $10.00 per bottle. 

Attacks came so thick and fast from the redskins that we 
began to wonder which of us would be the next to go under 
a little mound. One or more were killed every day, besides 
others who were wounded and taken to the Fort hospital. If 
the Indians could not see a favorable chance to steal in on 
the haymakers through the line of guards, they would set fire 
to the long grass and this, fanned by a favorable breeze, 
would cause us to flee for our lives, when they would swoop 
down upon us and stampede our horses, mules and cattle, 
while we were trying to save ourselves and camp outfits. 
Assisted by the mountaineers and often by one or two compa- 
nies of cavalry from the fort, we would make the Reds pay 
dearly for these raids. 

I remember one afternoon the Indians had made several 
attacks on us. They killed three of our men and wounded 
some others, captured nearly all our mowing and rake teams 
and had us all corralled on a high hill where we spent the 
evening and the greater part of the night in digging rifle pits 
and in defending ourselves and the stock we had left. Mr. 
Carter was with us and paid our old stuttering blacksmith, 

Trails of Yesterday 93 

Jose, $500.00 to go to the fort five miles distant to get relief. 
I thought it strange Mr. Carter did not call on some of the 
mountaineers for this hazardous trip; but perhaps it was 
because we needed them with us, since every time they fired 
a shot, down would go an Indian to join others sent to the 
Hunting Grounds. Mr. Carter knew Jose and knew he 
would execute the order or die in the attempt, even if Jose 
was a stuttering German. We estimated that more than one 
thousand Indians had us surrounded and judging from the 
many signal fires being built around us other Indians were 
being told to come and help finish us. Unless we got relief 
before daylight we knew that our chance to escape would be 

It must have been nine o'clock in the evening when Jose 
mounted the best horse we had in camp and started for the 
fort. A few stars were out but the night was rather dark. 
Thin clouds of smoke from the prairie fire the Indians had 
started in the afternoon hung over our camp. The fire was 
still burning in spots. 

Jose, armed with two revolvers and a sharp butcher knife 
in his belt, had been gone some ten minutes. The sound of 
his horse's hoofs had died away on the gravel ridge road 
leading to the fort and we were congratulating ourselves that 
he had gotten safely through the line of redskins, when to 
our surprise he came at breakneck speed into camp followed 
by a bunch of Indians, some of whom we tumbled off their 
horses before they escaped. Mr. Carter and others were soon 
at Jose's side asking him what he proposed to do next when 
Jose answered, "I most believe I will try it another way," and 
in less than ten minutes he disappeared in the darkness in an 
opposite direction as though he were going to the Tongue 
River or Big Horn Mountain. 

It is not necessary to say we spent an anxious night. Not 
an eye was closed. Every man who was able was either lying 
in a trench or on the rise of some hill or behind some object, 
with gun or revolver in hand. A detail of men was taking the 
best care possible of the wounded. 

94 Trails of Yesterday 

Just about the peep of day we saw the Indians scattering 
to right and left of a large body of mounted men. It proved 
to be two companies of cavalry with old Jose in the lead. I 
have talked with many of the Indians, even with Red Cloud 
himself, and all assured me that they had enough Indians to 
kill us all and had planned to do this at sunrise had not the 
cavalry come to our rescue when it did. We gathered what 
was left of our camp equipage, horses, mules and cattle that 
were tied, and with our dead and wounded men, came to the 

This finished our haymaking. A wagon trail had been 
cut around a steep hillside, thus saving us nearly three miles 
between our hay camp and the fort. To follow this trail with 
an ox-team with a load of hay took the most careful driving 
to avoid upsetting and rolling down several hundred feet. 
Several wagons and teams had gone over this bluff and lay in 
a heap at the bottom with the oxen dead under the wreck. 
The teamsters escaped this cruel fate. 

A few days later E. C. Miller, an old wagon master 
of Mr. Carter's, was sent with some horse and mule teams, 
men and an escort of cavalry to bring in what he could of 
this wreck that was of any worth. While working at this, 
Miller's party was attacked by Indians. A couple of team- 
sters were killed and some wounded, the others escaping with 
their lives under the protection of the escort of cavalry. An 
Indian shot at Mr. Miller, the ball striking his watch, which 
was smashed to pieces, thus probably saving his life. Mr. 
Miller was cut off from the rest of his men. He hid in the 
hills that night and returned to the post about noon the next 

After finishing the hay contract, on which the firm must 
have lost much money, even if they did receive $125.00 to 
$128.00 per ton, part of the outfit set to work hauling in 
wood from the bottoms on Piney Creek and part were sent 
for logs, principally the horse and mule teams. I was de- 
tailed with the ox-teams to haul firewood although good 
coal cropped out in many places. We made, as a rule, two 

Trails of Yesterday 95 

trips per day for wood when the Indians would not molest us 
for two or three hours a day. We received $10.00 a load for 
the wood. About one-third of the mountaineers guarded us 
and the others guarded the log choppers and haulers. 

At sunrise every morning Colonel Carrington, com- 
mander of the fort, would send a mounted squad to the top 
of the high hill overlooking the fort with a view to guarding 
against Indian raids and surprises. When this guard would 
see Indians approaching they would make certain signals to 
the guard in the fort below and this would be communicated 
to the officer of the day. These signals would give the 
approximate number of Indians in the party and from what 
direction they were coming. This guard would sometimes 
stay at their post until the Indians came very close, when the 
men would come tearing down the steep hill at a breakneck 
speed. Then the Indians would take the places of the guard 
and with a buckskin fastened to their bows, would imitate 
the guard, much to the disgust of Colonel Carrington and 
fellow officers. The mountain howitzer would fail to reach 

Our camp at this time was near the stockade. Wagon 
beds, each by a little crowding, affording sleeping quarters for 
from two to four men, were set on pine logs raised one to 
two feet off the ground, thus making a circle or corral in 
which the work cattle were driven to be yoked. At night 
huge camp fires would be lighted in the corrals, by which those 
inclined to indulge in card games, usually poker, could get 
all light needed. 

These camp fires were also a temptation to the Indians to 
steal through the cordon of guards stationed around the out- 
side of the corrals and spot the card players as they sat on 
the ground deeply interested in the game. 

I have seen as much as $5000.00 in gold and gold dust 
change hands in one night. The men, especially the mountain- 
eers, would stake their money on anything — on the race of a 
worm or bug and very often on the race of vermin. They 
would chalk a small ring on a warmed tin plate and another 

96 Trails of Yesterday 

outside of this near the rim of the plate, when bets ranging 
from $10.00 to $100.00 would be made on the different 
worms, bugs or vermin that would get outside the outer ring 
first. The winner would sometimes clean up $500.00 on 
one race. 

We had a very talkative boy in our camp named Brown 
who was frequently giving advice to some of these mountain- 
eer gamblers about playing cards. One of them resented 
this by picking Brown up gently and setting him on top of a 
hot camp fire. The boy was more scared than burned but he 
never gave any more advice to that mountaineer about cards. 

I had no interest in these games and would usually, 
when not on guard duty, retire to my wagon and if I could 
not obtain a lantern, which was a great luxury, I would read 
and re-read my "Harper's Monthly" or write letters by the 
light of a tallow candle or a light from a rag saturated with 
oil or dirty grease on some old tin plate. 

I was occupied this way one evening, probably about 
nine o'clock, when three shots were fired between my wagon 
bed and another where several men were playing cards. I 
blew out the light as quickly as possible, grabbed both re- 
volvers and aimed at the rear end of the wagon bed. At first 
I thought I had been shot. 

The card players in the next wagon scrambled out of it 
quickly. I recognized my bunkey's (only known name Dick) 
voice, appealing to the others to get their guns quickly as 
three mountaineers out of a party of six, playing cards by 
the camp fire in the corral, had been killed. Dick pushed his 
head in my wagon and grabbed his gun which stood with 
mine in the rear end corner. I challenged him. He answered, 
"It's Dick," and told me to get out quickly as three men had 
been killed and the country around the fort was on fire. 

We found that some Indians had crawled inside our 
guard line without being discovered and shot the three moun- 
taineers as they sat playing cards by the camp fire inside the 
corral. Two were dead and the other was taken to the 

Trails of Yesterday 


fl Q 

98 Trails of Yesterday 

hospital with a bullet hole through him. This man recovered 
later and made many "good Indians." 

Instead of the country around us and the fort being on 
fire, the Indians had built several signal fires around the fort 
and could be seen dancing naked around them and were heard 
yelling their war songs. 

The excitement in the post was intense. Every man was 
called to arms. The women and children were gathered to- 
gether and put in the powder magazine with a good, trusty 
officer, who was told to blow it up if the Indians entered the 
stockade and tried to capture them. Of course, our camp 
was outside the stockade, hence the Indians would have to 
wipe us out before entering the stockade on our side of 
the fort. 

Captain Bailey took charge of the bullwhackers, wood 
choppers, mule skinners, etc., as well as his company of 
mountaineers. Every man had his place and many were lying 
flat in the grass on their stomachs. All had positive orders 
not to fire a shot until ordered. Colonel Carrington con- 
cluded to try his mountain howitzers on the Indian dancers. 
After a few shots the gunners got range on some of the 
Indian fires, and many fires were extinguished and some 
dancers' lives went out with them. 

Our work cattle were being night herded by two Germans, 
one, Fred W. Kracht, who was living at No. 724 North 
Thirtieth street, Omaha, Nebraska, when he called on me in 
April, 1909. Though it was forty-three years after this 
exciting night, we knew each other and had a very pleasant 
visit, reciting our experiences at Fort Phil Kearny during 
those exciting days. 

One night volunteers were called for to go and rescue 
Fred and the other German, who was known by the name of 
Charley, and bring in the work cattle. I was one of the four- 
teen men who responded. Jose and Kellogg were with us. 
We crawled on our hands and knees for over a mile through 
the brush along Piney Creek. Several times Indians rode 
uncomfortably close to us and it seemed that they had dis- 

Trails of Yesterday 99 

covered us. Their ponies shied from us and one Indian 
remarked that "Tagaleska warsiches" were in the brush. 
What Indians we saw were naked. The cattle were grazing 
quietly in the open along the stream until we or some of the 
Indians frightened them. 

On our way up the creek, when we thought no Indians 
were near, Kellogg, who was in charge, would halloo : 
"Fred!" "Charley!" but receiving no response for some time, 
we continued working our way up the creek through the 
brush. Finally we discovered several Indians trying to set 
the brush on fire. Had they succeeded they would have made 
it warm for us, but the Indian method of starting a fire at 
this time was very slow, especially when the grass and brush 
were damp from the dew and light fog. We heard the Indi- 
ans say the herders were in the brush. They guessed rightly. 

After failure to set the grass and brush on fire the 
Indians fired several shots and arrows into the thickest of 
the brush, hoping, no doubt, to kill the herders. Some of 
these shots and arrows came near us. Later we heard a 
pretended wolf howl. A few seconds later the two herders 
dashed out of the brush and shouted, "Hurrah for camp," 
for which they started as fast as their horses could go, chased 
by fully one hundred Indians. We arrived at camp just as 
the company of mountaineers and two companies of cavalry 
were leaving to bring in the cattle, which they finally did 
about two hours later, leaving them between the stockade 
and our camp where we held them the balance of the night, 
expecting the Indians to close in on us before sunrise. 

About four o'clock in the morning a soldier, standing 
guard on the raised platform at the corner of the stockade, 
yelled for the corporal of the guard to come quickly as In- 
dians were trying to lariat him. This was all imagination, 
as we had fully twenty-five well-armed men around the cattle 
and fully seventy-five outside of these guarding camp. The 
picket refused to remain and was marched to the guard house 
and two. other guards took his place. As stated, the cattle 
were being held close to the stockade and it would have been 

100 Trails of Yesterday 

impossible for Indians to get between the stockade and the 
cattle without stampeding them. 

Some one in our camp disobeyed the order not to fire a 
shot until ordered and cruelly shot and killed our old pet 
mule "Lize." She made a rule of coming to the cook wagon 
and bread box every night for a few scraps which the cook 
would usually set aside for her. No doubt some of the night 
guards thought her an Indian. 

The Indians kept up a few signal fires all night but out 
of reach of Colonel Carrington's guns. 

I have talked with many Indians who were at Fort Phil 
Kearny at the time I was there and all told me that the 
night Colonel Carrington used his mountain howitzers on 
them the Indians had planned to destroy the fort and kill 
every white man, woman and child in and near it. This in- 
tention was changed when that grape and cannister shot from 
those mountain howitzers came down among them. Several 
Indians were killed and more wounded and they concluded 
that the Great Father was angry with them in thus dropping 
fire upon them. A council of the head chiefs was held and it 
was concluded to wait until a more favorable time and thus 
the intended massacre was postponed. At this time the red- 
skins had no knowledge that such a murderous fire could be 
discharged from a gun. They evidently had not met General 
Harney or Colonel Chivington, otherwise they would have 
known better. 

All were pleased when daylight came. The Indians had 
disappeared and carried off their dead and wounded, and 
after we had buried our two mountaineers who had been 
killed the night previous we went to work again hauling logs 
and wood for the fort, which the Indians were determined 
that we should not. 

I pause here to say one word of praise for Colonel Car- 
rington, his brave officers, their wives, and soldiers under 
his command. None knew what fear was. Always ready 
for any call to duty night or day, they would rush out any 
time to save us, often when they knew they were going to 

Trails of Yesterday 101 

certain death. Be all honor and glory to American soldiers 
such as Colonel Carrington, his officers and men, and many 
other like heroes, whom I have met and known on the fron- 
tier; the Fettermans, Browns, Crooks, Carrs, Palmers, 
Hayes, Walkers, Miles, Emerys, and scores of others, not 
forgetting their brave wives who went through severe hard- 
ships at these frontier posts. These men helped blaze the 
way for the opening of the Western Empire where untold 
wealth in gold, silver, copper, coal, iron, and many other 
rich minerals cropped out freely here and there from Nature's 
bosom, begging and coaxing the brave and hard pioneer to 
come and help himself. 

Yes, many of us might have claimed our share of this 
wealth had it not been for the pressure of the noble Red Man 
who claimed the earth and counted his wealth in the number 
of buffalo, elk, deer, and other game that he considered his 
to be captured and killed at will. He had fully determined 
to keep all the pale faces out of his country. The Great 
Sioux Chiefs who were at the Fort Laramie Council and 
many others who had joined them since were making that 
threat of Red Cloud good. 

Kellogg, his chum and I had nearly finished our little log 
shack on Piney Creek near the fort. My last thought on going 
to sleep and first thought on awakening was: "Don't stay!" 
"Don't stay!" "Don't stay here but return with the train 
to Fort Mitchell!" Mr. Carter had often urged me to do 
this, intimating that he had special work for me at that fort, 
but I could not do so without breaking faith with Kellogg 
and his partner. I had purchased one-third of the provisions 
to last us through the winter. Flour was $16.00 per sack, 
sugar $1.00 per pound, and other provisions in proportion. 

The work was about done. Snow had begun to fall on 
the high hills around the fort and the nights were getting 
cold and many miles had to be covered by the rather thin 
work cattle, horses and mules before reaching Fort Mitchell. 
I was not superstitious and I would try to banish the thought 
"don't stay" from my mind but could not. 

102 Trails of Yesterday 

Our train was starting and as my wagon passed our little 
log house I rushed in, rolled up my bed and told Kellogg 
and his partner that some impending disaster, that I could not 
explain, was causing me to return with the train to Fort 
Mitchell. I told them they were welcome to all I had in the 
shack, that I hated to leave them, especially Kellogg, who had 
been so kind to me, but I could not resist the unknown power 
that had continued to tell me for some weeks past not to 
remain. Kellogg intimated that I was a fool to notice such 
things when he knew that, once in the Gallatin Valley mines, 
we would all be rich. 

To my Guardian Angel alone I attribute this timely 

I bade Kellogg and his partner an affectionate farewell. 
Tears came into the old miner's eyes as I shook hands and 
said good-bye. This was the last I saw of these two brave 


Experience at Fort Mitchell — Phil Kearny Massacre — Sibson's Road 

Ranch — A Ride for Life — Big Mouth's Threat and 

Deception — A Stranger Crosses my Path — 

Indian s Revenge on an Outlaw 

I HAD lost track of Swank and the three other bull- 
whackers who came to Fort Phil Kearny with me. I 
think they must have returned to the Missouri River with 
some earlier train or have been killed. 

Though disappointed by not being able to go to the mines 
in the Gallatin Valley, I congratulated myself on leaving Fort 
Phil Kearny alive. I could count quite a few chums who 
were not going back. Their bodies were lying in some un- 
marked graves. Citizens living in this part of the Great 
American Republic one hundred years hence will have no 
conception of the hardships experienced by the men who 
blazed this Northwestern trail, which hundreds of times has 
been sprinkled with the blood of the bravest of both men and 
women. If a detailed history of the many murders committed 
by Indians on this trail from 1866 to the Custer Massacre 
could be written, it would blacken all Indian history on the 
American continent; but while condemning their cruel mode 
of warfare, we must not forget the fact that they were savages 
fighting for home and country — yes, for very existence as they 
understood it. 

Part of our wagons were loaded with buffalo hides, elk, 
deer and other skins, besides bales of furs. We worked the 
best and strongest of our ox, horse and mule teams and drove 
the others loose, keeping together as far as Fort Laramie, 
where we arrived the latter part of December, 1866, without 
any serious accidents except for the loss of a few work cattle, 
horses and mules on account of lack of feed. Here that part 
of the train consisting of horse and mule teams, which was 
going to the Missouri River, left us, taking all the bales of 


104 Trails of Yesterday 

buffalo robes, skins and furs. The ox teams, now with empty 
wagons, followed in easy drives to their destination, Fort 
Mitchell, fifty-five miles east of Fort Laramie. 

Before our arrival at Fort Mitchell we heard of the Phil 
Kearny Massacre. Out of seventy-eight men and officers who 
went into that fight not one escaped alive. Poor Kellogg, 
Wheatley, our mining chum, and other civilians who went 
with the troops, shared a similar fate. If I had remained 
at the fort, the fate of these men would have been mine. Like 
some of the officers who went with this company, the civilians 
were scalped, cut and butchered to pieces and their hearts and 
tongues cut out. Some of the hearts were eaten by the savages 
to make them brave. Nearly every bone in the bodies of the 
whites was laid bare by the cruel knife. Large piles of empty 
cartridge shells lay near many of the bodies, especially near 
Major Brown's, Wheatley's and Kellogg's. The Indians 
had led the troops into ambush where they closed in on them, 
allowing none to escape. 

Such was the Phil Kearny Massacre on December 21, 
1866. It was well I obeyed that warning or I would not be 
here writing this autobiography. It makes me sad to think 
how these brave men died. They sold their lives dearly. It 
is said that after killing all the Indians they could and seeing 
their comrades mowed down beside them by a force of nearly 
twenty to one, with no possible chance to escape, some of the 
officers and men shot themselves rather than be captured 
alive by the savages. Long before this I had determined to 
do so rather than be captured by Indians. For some months 
I had carried a sharp dirk, intending to send its keen blade 
into my heart rather than submit to capture by them. I knew 
well the kind of death I would die if my red brothers had the 
management, since I have seen many of the frightfully muti- 
lated bodies of their white victims. 

On one trip from Fort Laramie to Fort Mitchell we saw 
some small bands of Indians between Reynolds' ranch and 
Horse Creek, but the extreme cold weather prevailing had 
apparently congealed their energies, since they made only 

Trails of Yesterday 105 

a weak attempt to harass us. They proved tame compared 
to the Indians around Phil Kearny. 

On arrival at Fort Mitchell, which was then a two com- 
pany adobe fort beside Jack Sibson's stage station and road 
ranch, we overtook the mules and horse teams that left us at 
Fort Laramie. They had been resting and waiting for the 
melting of the snow that had almost blocked the deep and 
narrow trail through Scott's Bluff. The second day after 
our arrival the stage coach from the East and a twelve-wagon 
mule train came through the bluffs and opened the trail so 
our horse and mule trains, with all extra bullwhackers we 
could spare, pulled out for Nebraska City. The wagons were 
formed in a circle near the corral, stripped of bows and 
sheets, and the ox yokes and chains all stored under cover at 
the Sibson road ranch, with the exception of one covered 
wagon with necessary provisions, two yoke of cattle and three 
horses in charge of three men, including Al Hale, the wagon 
boss, who went out to Robideaux Springs with the cattle 
where we intended to winter them. 

After assisting in taking the steers to the winter camp, 
which lay some miles south of Scott's Bluff, Mr. Carter 
instructed me to remain at the ranch and make myself useful in 
any capacity required by Mr. Jack Sibson, who for a time 
seemed to look on me as an intruder. Confidentially, Mr. 
Carter told me that he and General Coe had sold the ranch 
and considerable stock, of which he gave me a list, to Captain 
Childs and Jack Sibson, partly on time, and that Mr. Childs 
had sold his interest in the ranch and stock to Mr. Sibson, 
who was in default in payments of both interest and principal, 
and I was to remain at the ranch to keep tab on the stock 
and merchandise. With these instructions Mr. Carter left 
on the first coach going east for the Missouri River. 

This was not an enviable job and I would like to have 
gotten out of it, but Mr. Carter, whom I learned to like, 
insisted that I remain. I do not think that Mr. Carter had 
told Mr. Sibson why he wanted me to remain but, no doubt, 
Mr. Sibson suspected the reason. I had dropped in as a bull- 

106 Trails of Yesterday 

whacker out of a winter's job and had been recommended by 
Mr. Carter as a good, reliable man. Mr. Sibson agreed to 
pay me $40.00 per month and I was to make myself useful at 

One thing I disliked about the road ranch was that Jack 
Sibson kept a Sioux squaw ostensibly to do the cooking, with 
which Mr. Sibson, the stage tenders and I often helped, 
especially when the stage coaches came in filled with pas- 
sengers, some of whom were very prominent people, who had, 
however, left their frills at home. The road ranch was large, 
built of cedar logs and had seven fair-sized rooms besides the 
store. It had dirt floors and roof. It had a large corral 
built out of cedar logs set closely together, some three or four 
feet in the ground and standing eight feet high above the 
ground, with port holes on all sides. The large log stables 
were built to accommodate the stage stock and emigrant 
travel and were located inside the log corral or stockade. We 
milked a number of cows, butter selling readily from fifty 
cents to seventy-five cents per pound. There was also a good- 
sized bunch of ponies and some work cattle and horses. These 
were kept for trading purposes. 

There were several Indian tepees pitched outside but 
near the corrals. A large one was occupied by John Hunter, 
a white man who had married General Garner's squaw wife, 
by whom Mr. Hunter had several half-breed children. The 
other tepees were occupied by relatives and friends of Mr. 
Hunter's Indian family. The fort across the road was gar- 
risoned by two companies of the Eighteenth Infantry under 
Captain Hughes. One company had been mounted. His 
garrison was kept busy protecting the stage coaches, road- 
ranches between Fort Laramie and Pole Creek, and freight 
and emigrant trains, and keeping up the overland telegraph 
line built by Edward Creighton and others. 

During pleasant days the stock was allowed to graze 
outside in charge of a herder and was corralled at nights. 
The store carried the usual stock of a road ranch — clothing., 
provisions, including canned goods, and plenty of whiskey, 

Brigham Young, Born 1S01, Died i8jj 

Trails of Yesterday 107 

much of which was adulterated behind closed doors by Mr. 
Sibson. He would never let me into this secret but I think, 
from observation, much of the adulteration was tobacco 
juice. We also sold buffalo robes, elk and deer skins, har- 
ness, saddles, guns, revolvers, ammunition, and many other 
articles too numerous to mention. 

I was pleased one day when Mr. Sibson told me he 
had taken a one hundred-cord wood contract to be delivered 
at the fort, and I, another bullwhacker and John Duval, 
a colored man, were set to work filling it. As a rule we 
made two trips a day with horse teams. The wood in dead 
tree lengths was easily obtained and had it not been for the 
bitter cold weather, the work would have been a picnic except 
for the poor food given us. 

Mr. Sibson, without exception, was the stingiest man I 
ever met. For a time the officers at the fort took their meals 
at our ranch, but the food and cooking became so bad they 
had to quit. For transient guests, going through by stage 
coach or otherwise, who desired meals and lodging, the qual- 
ity was some better, canned goods being used more or 
less. Deer, elk, buffalo and bear meat and bacon would be 
fried, and salt, cream of tartar and soda would be used in 
the biscuits. The beds, made on the dirt floors, consisted of 
buffalo, elk and bear skins, with whatever could be found for 
a pillow. Ladies did not mind in the least if their bed cover- 
ing adjoined that of another bed occupied by some strange 
man, especially if their husbands or relatives were along. 

I remember Brigham Young's sharing my bed for two 
nights. He was on his way to Salt Lake by stage coach and 
awaited the arrival at our ranch of a Mormon train that he 
had passed on the other side of Chimney Rock. He was one 
of the nicest and most sociable men I have ever met. No one 
could know him and not like him. 

When the telegraph wires were not working between Fort 
Laramie, our ranch, Mud Springs or Pole Creek, and stage 
coaches were not making their usual trips, I was often called 
upon to carry dispatches to these different points. My trip 


Trails of Yesterday 

to Fort Laramie, fifty-five miles distant, was usually made 
in eight or nine hours, either day or night, the latter being 
preferable. To make these sometimes dangerous rides I 
selected the best horses in our bunch. I could tell of some 
exciting trips that I was called upon to make in this work. 
On the night Mr. Gilman and Mr. Kountz lost their twenty- 
eight four-mule teams while camped within a quarter of a 
mile of our ranch and Fort Mitchell, the stage coach coming 
from Laramie or Reynolds' stage station was chased the last 
five miles of the road up to the door of the ranch by a large 

Stage Coach Chased by Indians 

bunch of Indians, said to be Big Mouth's band of Sioux. 
One dead passenger was in this coach. 

The wires were down and I was called upon to make the 
trip to Fort Laramie that night with a rush message. I 
arrived at Antone Reynolds' Ranch between one and two 
o'clock in the morning. The dogs at the ranch were barking 
loudly. I commenced to whistle, which probably saved 
my life, since on nearing the ranch Mr. Reynolds with gun 
in hand halted me, shouting, "Stop!" I answered, telling 
him who I was, when I was allowed to approach. He won- 
dered how I got there, asking whether I had been attacked 

Trails of Yesterday 109 

by Indians. He said a bunch had been bothering him all 
night and had finally ridden away, driving away all his stock 
after trying their best to burn his ranch. He begged me to 
stay with him until daylight, saying that I would run into 
the Indians and get killed, but I could not remain. I had 
positive orders to get to Laramie by six o'clock that morning 
and I had twenty-eight miles yet to go. A little light was 
peeping out of the eastern horizon as I galloped past Jule 
Coffee's ranch, six miles east of Laramie, and I arrived at 
the latter place and delivered my message to General Palmer 
about forty minutes later. 

On this trip I passed within a quarter of a mile of several 
hundred warriors and was right behind the thieving band who 
cleaned out Mr. Reynolds' ranch. But I missed them all, 
thanks again to my "Guardian Angel." 

Another trip I tried to make to Fort Laramie in June, 
1867, m which I was not so fortunate. Mr. Sibson had sold 
twelve head of work cattle to Ben Mills, clerk of Seth Bullock, 
the sutler, arranging that I should drive them up as soon as 
possible. I was hoping that some ox-train would be coming 
along soon in which I could take the steers but there was none 
reported on the trail between our ranch and Mud Springs, 
hence in order to keep faith with Mr. Mills, there was nothing 
to do but take them. 

The Indians, encouraged by their successes at Fort 
Phil Kearny and other points, began to make it hotter for 
the whites all along the Phil Kearny trail, north and east 
as far down as old Fort Kearny and even on the trail to 
Denver. Unfortunately I had incurred the ill will of Big 
Mouth and a few other Indians living around the Mitchell 
ranch because I would not give them whiskey. Big Mouth 
was a sub-chief under Spotted Tail of the Oglala band. 
When I refused Big Mouth the liquor he became very angry, 
pulled his tomahawk out of his belt and struck at my head. 
My dodging backwards saved my life. He missed my head 
about an inch. He rushed out of the store, saying, "Sichie 
wa sichie," meaning that I was a bad white man and punc- 

110 Trails of Yesterday 

tuated that remark by shouting he would kill me the first 
chance he had and I knew he would do so if he ever got the 
drop on me. 

I tried to keep it quiet that I was going to take twelve 
steers to Fort Laramie and thought I had done so but it 
proved otherwise. About nine o'clock at night I was all 
ready and had one of the stage tenders open the corral gate. 
I was well mounted and armed with a Sharp's carbine, two 
revolvers, a belt full of cartridges, and my usual sharp knife 
stuck in my boot leg. I had a soldier's overcoat tied on the 
back of my saddle. I had some trouble in getting the steers 
to leave the ranch but finally got them on the trail. The 
night was rather warm and somewhat dark. The quarter 
moon was hidden by clouds. On the distant horizon in the 
northwest could be seen an occasional flash of lightning. The 
wind began to rise and before I had traveled five miles the 
clouds became black, and muffled sounds of distant thunder 
could be heard; the wind blew in gusts and the lightning 
became more vivid. The steers were hard to keep on the trail. 
At times they would stop, raise their noses and sniff the rain- 
laden breeze. 

I had probably gone ten miles when the lightning increased 
in vividness and the thunder became louder. The wind blew 
so hard it was difficult to face it. The rain fell in great drops 
and from a distance could be heard the approaching storm, 
which the steers refused to face, but turned their backs and 
commenced to drift slowly with it. Though in front of them 
and doing my best to hold them, it took hard riding to keep 
the steers close to the trail, which I could only see by the 
flashes of lightning. The driver of the stage coach, that 
arrived at the ranch about two hours before I started, had 
warned me of seeing several Indian tepees near the south 
bank of the North Platte River about where the storm struck 
me; this made me cautious in hallooing at the steers while 
driving them. The rain fell in sheets and many streams of 
storm water came rolling down the draws to the left of the 
trail and across it. The rain finally ceased. Although I had 

Trails of Yesterday 111 

put on my overcoat, I was wet to the skin and my long-legged 
boots were full of water. I got cold and dismounted, walking 
to warm me. The little moon began to show itself as the 
clearing clouds swiftly rolled past it. 

I had walked about a mile, when in a small depression of 
the trail, much like the bottom of a saucer, my horse suddenly 
stopped, wheeled around, and with head and ears erect, faced 
to the east and commenced to prance around. His actions 
told me quickly that something was wrong. I soothed him all 
I could and tightened the cinch of my saddle. I tried my two 
revolvers, that were loaded with paper cartridges — all wet 
and worthless. I knew I would have to depend on my carbine 
with its metallic cartridges and my bowie knife. During 
this short interval my horse became more excited and came 
very near breaking away from me. He was an Indian war 
horse. The Cheyennes and Arapahoes had owned him and 
Mr. Sibson had bought him from the Sioux. He had been 
in many a battle between Indians and between Indians and 
whites. Though he was nervous, he was gentle and I could 
guide him with my knees without a bridle. The steers were 
tired and stood resting, but with ears pricked and faces 
towards the east, like the horse. I could see nothing and 
hear only an occasional howl of wolves. 

I finally put my ear to the ground and after listening a 
few moments, I heard a faint noise not unlike the jingling of 
bells, and other Indian trappings, and on rising to my feet 
and looking towards the horizon, I faintly saw the outlines 
of one, two, three and other mounted objects, apparently 
approaching between hill and sky. In an instant I was on 
my horse, attempting to stampede the cattle, but being tired 
they merely stood and looked at me. The next moment I 
was brought to my sense of danger by hearing the war-whoop 
yell. I imagine I can hear that yell as I sit penning these 
lines. It was given in earnest and with vigor. Had I been a 
black-haired man I think my hair would have turned white 
as they came galloping toward me. Fortunately I had 
tightened the cinch on my saddle. I heard one voice, that I 

112 Trails of Yesterday 

recognized as Big Mouth's, yell in Sioux: "Stop, Yellow 
Hair. We have you now!" I had sent my spurs into my 
horse's flanks and was going as fast as I could, lying almost 
flat on my horse's back to avoid the arrows that were drop- 
ping around me. 

I intended, if possible, to reach the Charley Blunt ranch, 
which a few months previous had been abandoned by Mr. 
Blunt on account of frequent Indian raids. Mr. Blunt's road 
ranch, rather a small one, was built near the mouth of a draw 
at the foot hills and had an outlet up the draw by under- 
ground passage. My intention was to get to this and, if pos- 
sible, fight off my pursuers. Before I realized it, my horse 
plunged into Horse Creek, which was bank full and rushing 
its storm water into the North Platte River less than one-half 
mile distant. I came very near being dismounted. The 
strong current threw my horse on his side, forcing me out of 
the saddle for a moment. The Indians, some twelve or more 
in number, were gaining on me. I had fired one shot out of 
my carbine at the Indians, which, if it did not hit, checked 
them for a few moments. While I was struggling to get up 
the bank on the west side of the creek, some of the Indians 
were floundering in the water on the east bank. I saw it 
would be impossible to reach the Blunt ranch, so turned my 
horse's head down the creek on the west side, thinking I 
could get into the brush and maybe save myself. The con- 
tinued yells and flying arrows served to make me urge my 
horse faster and before realizing my danger, I was carried 
over the six-foot bank into the rushing waters of the North 
Platte River. The plunge over the bank into the river, which 
at this point was nearly two-thirds of a mile wide, was a 
surprise to the Indians as well as myself and horse. One of 
the Indians came near following on top of me. Throwing 
his pony on his haunches saved both. The Indians had sent 
one arrow into my horse's left cushion, which I knew pained 
him, judging from the way he favored that leg. On striking 
the water I was instantly lifted out of my saddle as my horse 
went under. I lost my carbine and hat and for a time my 

Trails of Yesterday 113 

horse, who came up several yards from me down stream. 
Though weighted down with two revolvers, a belt full of 
cartridges and a heavy, wet overcoat, it was but a short time 
before I caught hold of my horse's tail and worked my way 
swimming to the stirrups and bridle rein, which, fortunately, 
dropped over the saddle horn. I immediately commenced to 
slacken my cinch, when my horse commenced to swim 
better. It had been about all he could do to keep his 
head above water. Aided by the current, I was carried 
from the bank toward the middle of the river and very 
soon out of reach of the arrows of the Indians, who seemed 
to be still walking their ponies on the bank down stream. 
They called me to come back, saying they would get me yet. 

I had continued swimming along the side of my horse 
until I reached what I thought to be about the middle of the 
river, when the water became shallower. Several times I 
felt like giving up, I became so tired and exhausted. The water 
was now about up to my waist. I took off my overcoat, 
revolvers, belt of cartridges and threw them in the river and 
pulled the arrow out of the horse's cushion, then mounted 
and headed the best I could for the north bank of the river. 
It was not long before I was in swimming water and the 
steep river bank ahead of me began to show itself. I floated 
down stream for a quarter of a mile before I could find a place 
to get out, but my horse could not climb the steep bank and 
fell backwards into the river, pulling me in after him where 
I swam along by his side. My faithful horse seemed to 
realize, like myself, that it was a fight for life for both of us. 
He was willing at all times to obey my slightest wish. 

After swimming for some distance along the north bank 
of the river I came to the mouth of Small Creek, where, 
thank God, I got out. The arrow wound in my horse's 
cushion was yet bleeding slightly and I got a handful of wet 
soil and pressed it over the wound. I took the bit out of his 
mouth and held him by the lariat, allowing him to graze 
while I stood holding him, chilled with cold. 

Do not wonder, kind reader, if I offered up to Him who 

114 Trails of Yesterday 

controls the destinies of nations as well as of men a short 
prayer, thanking Him and that same Guardian Angel for 
bringing me through in safety. 

The last sound from the Indians indicated that they had 
followed down the river. I learned afterwards that some of 
them did this, expecting that I would recross, when they would 
intercept me. Others, I was informed, took the twelve steers 
west to some Indian camp on the La Bonta. 

I began to hear dogs barking and concluded I could not 
be far from the Raw Hide Agency or some band of Indians 
camped close to there. It must have been between one and 
two o'clock and I knew that if I remained there until day- 
break I would be captured by some of the Raw Hide band. 
I finally decided to walk up the river, leading my horse in 
order to keep warm. I had gone nearly two miles without 
finding an inlet into the river. The barking of the dogs 
became louder and made me more anxious to cross the river 
and to hurry matters. I mounted my horse and struck a trot. 
I think I had gone about two and one-half miles when I found 
a sand bar at the mouth of a draw that led into the river, 
which I felt confident I could cross. I was soon in swimming 
water, then shallower. My horse went down in the quicksand 
several times but giving him the rein and his time, he wal- 
lowed out of it. I began to see the bank which was too steep 
to climb. Later I found a place where the bank had caved 
in more or less and by getting off my horse I succeeded in 
getting him up the bank and was once more on terra firma, 
not very far west of the mouth of Horse Creek where the 
Indians ran me into the river. When I crossed the creek, one- 
half mile south of the trail, it had gone down and resumed 
its normal size. 

I was numb with cold with not a dry thread on me and 
had not had any food for nearly six hours. 

Day was peeping as I got fairly into the hills one-half 
mile or more south of the trail. My horse was getting quite 
lame and did not look like the same animal I started out on 
a few hours before. His slow gait told the hardship he had 

Trails of Yesterday 115 

gone through. To ease him and keep myself warm I walked, 
hugging the south tips of the bluffs with a view to looking 
over the Platte Valley for Indians, especially for Big Mouth 
and his band of outlaws. I failed to see any or anything of 
the twelve head of work steers. They had, I presumed, been 
driven off. The sun came up bright and warm, which I ap- 
preciated very much as my clothes were yet wet. 

I reached the ranch about ten o'clock in the morning and 
the first Indian to greet me was Big Mouth. He, like the 
many soldiers that soon surrounded me, wanted to know what 
had happened to me and the cattle. I told them Big Mouth 
well knew what had happened and knew where the cattle 
had been taken. A few days later he told me that I had 
escaped this time but he would fix me yet. 

A short time after this one of the Indians who was in the 
party with Big Mouth told me that Big Mouth led the twelve 
Indians to kill me and capture the cattle, which four of the 
Indians had taken to Black Dog's camp on La Bonta Creek. 
Big Mouth having learned that I had been told that he led the 
attack and knew where the steers had been taken, to save 
himself from arrest, came and told me that it was a joke 
they played on me and that I would find the steers all right 
at Black Dog's camp if I would go and get them, and if the 
steers were not there, I would find them at Jim Bellamy's 
ranch west of Fort Laramie. 

A few days after learning where the steers were I started 
to get them, riding to Fort Laramie the first night and the 
next day to Bellamy's road ranch about fourteen miles west of 
the fort. 

Between the fort and Bellamy's ranch I overtook a very 
interesting specimen of a degenerate white man. He was 
rather short and heavy set, dark complexioned and with long, 
matted hair and beard. His clothes were a combination of 
soldier's clothes, canvas and buckskin. He wore moccasins 
and had two revolvers and a knife fastened to his belt of 
cartridges. Upon overtaking him he wanted to know where 
I was from, where I was going, and many other pertinent 

116 Trails of Yesterday 

questions which I answered evasively. He said I was riding 
a good horse, asked what I would take for her and whether 
I would not let him try her a little ways. I told him I did not 
care to part with her. This horse was a seven-eighths thor- 
oughbred Kentucky mare that I had borrowed from Bob 
Mason, who remained at the Mitchell ranch courting "Puss," 
John Hunter's half-breed stepdaughter, while I went to get 
and turn the steers over to Ben Miles, the sutler's clerk at Fort 
Laramie. I kept my new friend in the best humor I could 

A Degenerate White Man 

and he seemed to appreciate my company by pulling from his 
inside shirt pocket a bottle of whiskey which he offered and in- 
sisted I should drink. I told him I could not drink it as the 
smell of it made me sick. He then asked me what day of 
the week it was, the date and year, which I thought I an- 
swered correctly but he denied it, saying it was a damned lie. 
I eased him up by saying he might be right. He then wanted 
to know if I smoked. I told him I did not. Did I chew? 
I said "no." Did I play cards? I answered that I did not. 
He then asked me, "What kind of a damned man are you 

While carrying on this conversation we walked along the 

Trails of Yesterday 117 

trail, when shortly, to my relief, we met an old Indian and 
his squaw and the three commenced talking in Sioux language. 
I finally broke away from this trio. When I left, the Indian 
had the bottle and my white friend was making eyes at the 
squaw and the squaw was casting one eye at her white friend. 
The other eye was blind. 

I left under protest and was glad to get away. Had I 
continued my journey with him I have every reason to be- 
lieve that he would have killed me and taken the horse. While 
walking with him he tried to keep on my right, while I worked 
every scheme to keep him on my left near the muzzle of the 
gun I carried in front of me. 

I arrived at Bellamy's ranch before dark and received 
information as to where the twelve steers were. Mr. Bel- 
lamy kept a large ranch made out of logs and sod. He had 
two squaws and a large family of papooses, some of them in 
their teens. He had a young man working for him who had 
come from the East some two months before. I think he 
was an outlaw. He told me confidentially that he had bought 
a squaw that day and was celebrating the event by trying his 
best to get drunk and was succeeding to a great extent. I saw 
the young squaw — rather a nice-looking girl, whom I could 
not help but pity. The young man said he had given her 
parents two ponies for her. Her parents came back in the 
evening and wanted some additional presents, but the young 
man refused to give them, when the parents left very angry, 
swearing vengeance against him. 

Mr. Bellamy had shown me a place to spread my buffalo 
robe for the night near the bed of the young man and his 
bride. Mr. Bellamy, his squaws and family slept in the other 
end of the large log room. I had fallen asleep on a pile of buf- 
falo robes in the store when I was awakened by the crying of 
the girl whom I heard that brute of a man striking and curs- 
ing. I waited until all was quiet when I stole into the room 
and lay down on my robe and was soon asleep, only to be 
awakened again by the cursing of that drunken brute who 
again commenced to strike the girl lying beside him. I finally 

118 Trails of Yesterday 

told him what I thought of him and appealed to Mr. Bellamy 
to make him desist. The young man became very angry at 
me, telling me it was none of my business ; that he had bought 
that squaw and he was going to do what he pleased with her. 
The girl rose from her bed and ran out of the ranch. He 
tried to follow but was too drunk. Mr. Bellamy finally told 
him if he struck that squaw again or abused her in any way, 
he would fix him. After that the night passed in quietness. 

When I went to get my horse the next morning I came 
across the poor girl. Her face was swollen and covered 
with blood, and one eye was swollen shut from his heavy 
blows. I did not see him. 

After breakfast I saddled up and started to find the steers, 
Mr. Bellamy giving me directions where he thought I would 
find them. It was nearly an all-day trip but I got them. When 
I returned to Mr. Bellamy's ranch, part of it was in ashes 
and that young man was never seen or heard of afterward. 
It was learned that the girl, known as a "trading squaw," had 
gone back to her people that morning and they, with the help 
of other Indians, came to the Bellamy ranch and caught and 
killed the young man. Mr. Bellamy and family barely 
escaped with their lives, the Indians blaming him for not 
protecting the young squaw. 

I drove the steers to Fort Laramie before daylight and 
later turned them over to Ben Miles, Seth Bullock's clerk, as 
per agreement except as to time. The next day I returned to 
Fort Mitchell with further reasons to thank that "Guardian 
Angel." I was beginning to think an Indian could not harm 


Frontier Justice — Hunter Tries to Bribe the Wrong Man — A Forced 

Confession — Negro John in Love with Puss — Grandma 

Antelope is Active — A White Woman Appears on 

the Scene 

AMONG other incidents that occurred at Fort Mitchell 
during my stay at this road ranch and stage station 
was one that called for frontier justice as usually ad- 
ministered in those lawless days. 

As previously stated, John Hunter lived with his Indian 
half-breed family in one of the tepees near the ranch corral. 
John was cross-eyed, but could shoot straight. He could also 
drink bad whiskey, play poker, swear, and was treacherous 
and cold-blooded as an Indian, yet with all this he had a win- 
ning, persuasive way about him that usually succeeded in 
taking the last dollar from the soldiers, and sometimes the 
officers, the stage-tenders, freighters, bullwhackers and mule 
skinners, whom he would often accompany a day or so on 
the trail. He made friends with the officers and soldiers and 
it was not long before I began to notice that Mr. Sibson's 
friendship with them was on the wane, principally owing to his 
narrowness and stingy ways in doing business and dealing 
with them. 

It happened one day that the Indians had raided a freight 
train between Pole Creek and Mitchell and the commander 
of the Fort, Captain Hughes, had taken what mounted men 
he could scare up of his command and gone in pursuit of this 
thieving band. The morning after the departure of the 
mounted troops, two soldiers came over to the ranch, claiming 
to be sick and begged Mr. Sibson to give them each a drink 
of whiskey, which he did, his sympathy in this case getting 
the better of his judgment. This feigned sickness was a job 
put up on Mr. Sibson by Mr. Hunter and Sergeant H — . 
In about half an hour Sergeant H — came over and handed 


120 Trails of Yesterday 

to Mr. Sibson a telegram the contents of which read as 
follows : 

Fort Laramie, 
John Sibson, 

Fort Mitchell. 

You are hereby notified to leave the Fort Mitchell Military Reser- 
vation immediately. 

(Signed) General Palmer. 

Sergeant H — gave Mr. Sibson ten minutes in which to 
leave. Mr. Sibson gave me a bill of sale of all his personal 
property and delivered to me a power of attorney to act as 
his agent in all matters, and bidding me a hurried good-bye, 
started west on horseback. I never saw or heard of him after- 
wards. I had heard from some source other than Mr. Sibson, 
that Mr. Hunter and Captain Childs had had some dealings 
which were not settled satisfactorily to Mr. Hunter. 

In the afternoon of the day Mr. Sibson was ordered to 
leave Fort Mitchell, little Billy Garner, a step-son of John 
Hunter, came over to the ranch and informed me that some 
of the soldiers had our milk cows in the fort stables and were 
milking them. I went over to the stables and found they had 
saddled some of our horses and mules and that a soldier was 
milking one of our ten cows. I made the soldier stop milking 
the cow, unsaddled the animals and turning them and the cows 
outside, returned to the ranch by way of Sergeant H — 's quar- 
ters but found that gentleman asleep. I had scarcely entered 
the ranch before the sergeant was at my heels reproving me 
severely for what I had done in standing on my rights. 
Luckily, I had a friend in Operator Bundy and immediately 
sent a wire to General Palmer at Fort Laramie, informing 
him what Sergeant H — had done and asking him by whose 
authority he was acting. I signed my name as John Sibson's 
agent. In a short time I received a reply from General Pal- 
mer stating that Sergeant H — had acted without authority 
and had been instructed to turn all of Mr. Sibson's stock 
over to me and not to interfere in civil matters again without 
orders. Sergeant H — received a wire from General Palmer 
that brought him to his senses. I had established my rights 

'Trails of Yesterday 121 

as agent to Mr. Sibson's property but had incurred the deadly 
enmity of the sergeant and some of the soldiers, especially the 
one I knocked off his seat on the milking stool while he was 
milking one of our cows. 

That night John Hunter came over to the ranch and had a 
long, confidential talk with me. Its substance was that Mr. 
Sibson owed him considerable money on contracts and other 
transactions and if I would quietly go away, he would pay 
me $3000.00 in gold. I told him that the proposition had come 
so unexpectedly that I would want some time to consider it. 
He said that was all right if I would not be too long about 
it and intimated that it would be but a short job to put me out 
of the way. I told Operator Bundy what had occurred and 
that night began sending messages to Mr. Carter at Nebraska 
City, Denver and other points and to General Coe, whom I 
had never seen, at Salt Lake City and other Western points, 
telling both that they had better send some one to take charge 
of Mr. Sibson's property as John Hunter with his Indians was 
liable to take it by force. I could get no word from either. 
Mr. Hunter had asked me twice what I had decided to do. 
I told him I was still thinking over his proposition. Yes, 
I was thinking what a deep-dyed, unprincipled scoundrel he 
was to offer me $3000.00 to betray my trust and become a 
thief. "No! John Hunter, never, never 1" 

A few days after this, Billy Garner, referred to before and 
who has since filled the position of Government Inspector at 
Pine Ridge Indian Agency, came to the ranch and stated that 
John Hunter was mean to his mother, brothers and sisters, 
his grandmother and himself; that he often whipped them 
with a quirt ; that he had done this last night and that he would 
not put up with it another minute. Billy was then about 
twelve years old and a manly little boy. He wanted to know 
whether I would not loan him a couple of revolvers and some 
ammunition. I told him I would and gave him two revolvers 
and fifty rounds of cartridges. About 1 130 the next morning 
John Hunter came to the ranch and commenced kicking on 
the door and rapping on the window. I inquired what he 

122 Trails of Yesterday 

wanted and he replied that he wanted me to open the door and 
turn out his family or he would fix me. I informed him that 
his family was not in the ranch and that I knew nothing about 
them. After making many threats and uttering a basketful 
of curses, he at last staggered to his tepee. The next morning 
early I heard him prowling around the ranch and soon saw 
him carry a black leather satchel to the fort and in a few 
minutes return without it. I guessed what all this meant. 
Shortly afterward he mounted his favorite horse and started 
up the trail and judging from the way he watched the trail, 
first on one side of his horse and then on the other, I knew 
he was looking for tracks. He soon put his horse at a fast 
pace. He had evidently found their tracks and was now 
determined to overtake them. Horse and rider were quickly 
lost in the distance and nothing indicated his course except 
the little cloud of dust, which finally disappeared on the trail. 
On the third evening after his departure he returned, armed 
with the same old trusty carbine, two revolvers and bowie 
knife in his right bootleg, but without his family. One of 
the stage drivers told me that he had overtaken his family 
at Antone Reynolds' ranch but they refused to return with 
him. He was angry. 

The next morning after his return and a visit to the fort, 
he came into the ranch and in an appealing way intimated that 
he was in trouble. I inquired what was wrong. He said 
before going after his family he had taken his satchel con- 
taining $900.00 to $1000.00 and left it in the safe keeping 
of Sergeant H — and that, unknown to the sergeant, some one 
had gone through the satchel and taken all the money. He said 
both he and the sergeant suspected Sanders, who had just 
deserted the day he left to hunt his family. I asked him 
what caused him to think that Sanders had taken the money. 
He answered because the sergeant and some of the soldiers 
thought so and his desertion at this particular time seemed to 
confirm it. I told him I did not believe Sanders, whom I 
knew well, had done anything of the kind. Sanders had 
often called on me to write letters to his widowed mother and 

Trails of Y enter day 123 

sisters, who seemed to be very good, honest people, and since 
they had told him they would like to have him come home 
and work the little farm, he had requested me to write them 
that he would do so as soon as his time was out in the army. 
He had about one year yet to serve. I told Hunter that I was 
satisfied that Sanders had not taken a cent of his money but 
that Bundy and I would do all in our power to arrest him 
and bring him back and that I thought I could find his stolen 
money. Bundy, the operator, gladly joined me in the pro- 
posed plan to arrest Sanders. Wires were quickly working 
to Mud Springs, Pole Creek and Laramie, authorizing the 
arrest of Sanders, a recent deserter and accused of robbery 
of nearly $1000.00 at Fort Mitchell. I then determined to 
test Sergeant H — 's nerve and honesty in the matter. Mr. 
Bundy thought the plan I proposed somewhat severe but 
consented to it. Mr. Hunter was in for anything that would 
give him back his money, even to killing the sergeant, to which 
both Mr. Bundy and the writer objected. My idea was to 
scare him and get him to confess that he took the money 

We went out to the log stable and fixed a hangman's 
noose over one of the roof logs and set a box under the noose. 
This done and a gun prepared for an emergency, it was ar- 
ranged that I should go over to the sergeant's quarters at the 
fort and invite him to the ranch, where it was proposed to 
question him closely about the money and if possible, get his 
acknowledgment of the theft — even if we had to put the rope 
around his neck and see some daylight between his feet and the 
box under the noose. Everything arranged and understood, 
I went to get the sergeant, who hesitated at first about coming 
but I told him he ought to try to help us recover Mr. Hunter's 
money. He did not know we had had the wires busy and that 
Sanders had wired us from Mud Springs that he would be 
up on the first coach. 

Once inside the ranch, I locked the door and put the key 
in my pocket and picking up a revolver, I joined Hunter and 

124 Trails of Yesterday 

Bundy who were seated at a table in the dining room, inviting 
the sergeant to a vacant chair in front of us. As soon as 
seated I accused the sergeant of stealing Mr. Hunter's money 
and said that everything pointed to him as the thief. He 
became very excited and said he had never seen or touched 
a dollar of the money and did not know what had become of 
it, but was satisfied that Sanders, the deserter, had taken it. 
We told him that Sanders had wired that he would be up on 
the first coach and that we were satisfied that Sanders had not 
taken the money. This information caused him to become 
more excited, and he said he could take an oath on a stack 
of Bibles as big as the bluff (meaning Scott's Bluff) that 
he was innocent of the charge and thought we were doing him 
a great injustice in accusing him of the theft. We insisted that 
he make a clean breast of it and give it up, or we were pre- 
pared to take extreme measures with him. We gave him a 
severe examination, at the end of which all were satisfied 
that he was the guilty party. Hunter threatened to kill him 
right there, if he did not give him that money, and I believe 
he would have done so had not Bundy and I prevented it. 
This hurried me to open the rear door of the ranch leading to 
the stable and I asked him to follow, which he did, Hunter 
and Bundy bringing up the rear with revolvers leveled on the 
sergeant should he make a break. It was but a moment be- 
fore we had him standing on the box, his arms and legs tied 
and the noose adjusted around his neck. I told him we were 
sorry to have to take such extreme measures with him and 
asked him whether he had any word to say or send to his 
friends before we hung him. He said he had not, and if we 
carried out our plan, we would hang an innocent man, but 
he was prepared to die. With this remark we pulled him 
up and for a few seconds had him swinging with the box 
out from under his feet. He was getting black in the face, 
his eyes bulging out, and apparently strangling, when we 
concluded to let him down. We laid him on the ground and it 
was some time before he revived. As soon as he did we asked 

Trails of Yesterday 125 

him if he wanted to pray or send word to his folks. He an- 
swered "No" and tears rolled down his cheeks. He was 
weakening. We told him he had better pray before we fin- 
ished him. He said he would not and we could finish the job. 
In an instant we had him up again. I had intentionally placed 
a handkerchief around his neck to ease the tightening of the 
rope, especially where the knot was under his ear. It seemed 
for a moment that we had finished him. His face, blacker 
than at first, eyes protruding and tongue out, he struggled hard 
and at last gave us a sign to let him down. It was about half 
an hour before he revived so he could talk, when he told us 
that he had taken the money and that Sanders was innocent. 
He finally took us over to where he had hidden the money in 
a manure pile. It was all there but about $15.00 that he had 
given to some of his soldiers. He was placed under arrest. 

The next day Sanders came in on the eastern coach and 
told us that the sergeant came to him and told him to desert, 
giving him a gun, ammunition and a good lunch, and told 
him not to let him see which way he went. The sergeant 
acknowledged this story to be true. 

The last I saw of Sergeant H — was at Fort Laramie. He 
was wearing a ball and chain and was later sent to Fort 
Leavenworth military prison to serve out a well-deserved 

After this, John Hunter was my best friend and I did not 
turn the ranch or any of its property over to him or receive 
or accept his $3000.00 or any part of it. His family later 
returned to him on his promise to be good and on the strength 
of some presents he distributed among them. 

Bob Mason had been gone for some time on one of the 
coaches, bound for the Missouri River, from where he in- 
timated he was going to Texas with General Coe to buy 
Texas cattle. He had not married Puss Garner, the beautiful 
half-breed stepdaughter of Mr. Hunter, but Bob was very 
much in love with her and promised to come back some day 
and make her his squaw wife. It would have pleased Hunter 

126 Trails of Yesterday 

to have me take Mason's place, but I preferred to have some- 
thing to say about that. I had made no advances or encouraged 
Puss to come to the ranch but she often hung around the store 
with her little brothers and sisters. Imagine my surprise 
when one day our colored man, John Duval, came to me and 
confidentially informed me that he was in love with Puss and 
would like to make her his wife, take her back with him to old 
Missouri and show his old master Duval what a nice girl he 
had for a wife. I frankly told John that she would not marry 
him because the Sioux had no love for the colored people 
and if any were captured the Sioux made slaves of them. 
John remarked that he did not care what the Indians did with 
him if he could buy Puss. He finally asked me to see what 
I could do towards getting her for his wife. I told him I 
disliked very much to have anything to do with it, and that 
he might spend all his money in trying to get her and then 
she might not accept him, when he would blame me. He 
had $600.00 and would give it all to get her and begged me 
to see what I could do. I promised to speak to her folks about 
it and I did. They ridiculed the idea of Puss marrying a 
negro. When they spoke to Puss about it she became very 
angry and her old grandmother threatened to kill him if he 
ever came near Puss, and from that time on she carried a 
sharp butcher knife for John Duval. The old lady was a full- 
blooded Oglala Sioux, small of stature, deeply wrinkled, 
thin, wiry, had a violent temper, and though I judged her to 
be over seventy years old, she was as fleet of foot as a deer. 
Once she had chased me nearly a quarter of a mile with a knife 
because I had dumped the carcass of a steer into the river in- 
stead of allowing her to take the sinews out of it, and it had 
taken some time to regain her good opinion. 

John was persistent and bothered me considerably with 
his love affairs. I told him he might give her and her rela- 
tives every dollar he had and then not get her, but he did not 
care and wanted me to go ahead. I told him he would have 
to present her with two white or spotted ponies, a nice saddle, 

Trails of Yesterday 127 

two red blankets, several dollars' worth of presents — looking 
glasses, beads, paints, moccasins and shawls, and numerous 
presents for her friends and relatives; besides he would have 
to pay for a big feast which might take all his money and 
then not secure her. He did not care if it did and said for me 
to go ahead. He bought the ponies, one white and one 
spotted, a nice saddle, bridle, blanket and lariat, and many 
other presents, as previously enumerated, for Puss and all her 
relatives and friends. Puss hesitated a long time before con- 
senting to even a mock marriage and old Grandma Antelope 
invested in another whetstone to make her knife doubly sharp 
for John. 

I had a hard time to get all matters satisfactorily ar- 
ranged. The officers of the Post were taken into the secret 
and entered into it with much zeal. Dr. Cunningham, the 
Post Surgeon, was to perform the ceremony. The ponies, — 
one bearing the saddle, bridle and blanket, were tied to a 
post opposite Puss's tepee and after a time that Indian half- 
breed maiden came out, unsaddled the ponies, carried the 
saddle, blanket and bridle into her tepee and staked both the 
ponies out, which meant she accepted John's good intentions 
and the proposed marriage and festivities were set with the 
understanding that Puss need not live with John or go to Mis- 
souri with him unless she felt like it, since it was only a 
mock marriage, as Duval was given to understand before the 
ceremony took place. 

We put old Fort Mitchell ranch in a blaze of light that 
night. We had no lamps in those days but made the twenty- 
pound candle box look pretty empty before we got through 
lighting up. We also borrowed several lanterns from the 
fort and increased this flood of light by setting fire to rags 
saturated with bacon grease. The ranch presented a lively 

Officers, soldiers, stage drivers and tenders, Indians and 
half-breed, bullwhackers and mule skinners were there, and 
among the noted guests who came in on the coach that evening 

128 Trails of Yesterday 

was the famous stage coach owner, Ben Holladay, who de- 
layed the departure of the west bound coach an hour to 
witness the ceremony. 

Puss was rigged up in all her finery and looked very 
pretty. Her coal-black eyes looked like bright diamonds. 
She wore a beaded buckskin jacket, short skirt, leggings and 
moccasins, with a new red blanket thrown around her 
shoulders. Her long black hair was plaited in one long braid 
which hung down her back. She had several strings of differ- 
ent colored beads hanging around her neck and rather large, 
well-polished brass earrings in her ears. Her features were 
regular, her teeth white and even. She stood between her 
mother and Grandmother Antelope. The latter occasionally, 
to show her disapproval of what she thought was to be a 
real marriage, flourished a large, new butcher knife that 
Duval had given her and which she would have been glad to 
use in taking the sinews out of John's body should she get 
a chance. 

Duval had scared up what was once a white shirt but now 
the color of chrome yellow. This, with some clothes loaned 
him for the auspicious occasion, made him present a rather 
respectable appearance. He was somewhat nervous and ex- 
cited, especially when old Grandmother Antelope made a 
lunge at his yellow shirt bosom with her big knife, hissing 
between the few teeth she had left the words "Sichie! Sichie! 
Sichie!" I finally had to leave John to go to Grandma who 
was getting worked up to fever heat as the time to perform 
the ceremony approached. 

At last, all being ready, the ceremony proceeded. The 
doctor read some lines from one of Shakespeare's plays, 
made John jump several times backwards and forwards over 
a long stick, made him stand on his head, crawl on his knees, 
walk on his hands and feet, bark like a dog, meow like a cat, 
bawl like a cow, howl like a wolf, yell like an Indian, give 
the war whoop, and do many stunts that created much merri- 
ment, but John took for granted it was all a part of the cere- 
mony. After the ceremony came the marriage feast, which 

Trails of Yesterday 129 

all relished, except the whites when it came to dog soup and 
dog meat which the Indians present enjoyed very much. 

The feast over, John insisted on sending a telegram to his 
old "Massa Duval" in Missouri, stating that he had married 
Princess Antelope of the Oglala Sioux nation. Puss was 
anything but sad, but seemed not quite as happy as John. 

It was two o'clock in the morning before the guests 
began to leave the ranch. Puss had slipped quietly away 
without saying one word to John, who became very sad. He 
told me Puss had gone and wanted to know what he should 

Grandma Antelope Becomes Active 

do. Someone suggested that he go to her tepee and if she 
decided to let him enter, they, her folks, would soon inform 
him. John wanted to know if that old grandma did not live 
in that tepee. We told him she did, but that perhaps she 
might not hurt him since he was married to Puss. It was a 
long time before John mustered up courage to raise the tepee 
lid. When he did, Grandma Antelope poked her head out- 
side and then took after John with her large knife, yelling at 
the top of her voice the loudest of Indian yells. John took to 
the prairie as fast as a deer, followed by the old Indian 
woman and a bunch of barking dogs. Had she caught him 

130 Trails of Yesterday 

there certainly would have been one colored man less. He 
came sneaking up a draw to the ranch a little before daylight, 
almost scared to death. He never had the courage to go back 
to the tepee to claim his bride. Neither did the bride Princess 
ever try to claim the colored, would-be husband. We suc- 
ceeded in getting back some of the presents but not all. The 
last seen of John was when he returned to the Missouri River 
with a freight train a few days later, a "sadder and a wiser 
man." He said he did not care and thought he was lucky not to 
have to take a dog-eating Sioux Indian squaw for a wife, and 
that his old Master Duval would have discarded him had 
he done so. 

The Sioux at this time did not take kindly to the negro. 
Any captured ones were made to do all the hard, dirty work 
of the band of Indians that captured them. 

It was while here at Fort Mitchell that I spent nearly 
six months without seeing a white woman. I had nothing to 
read but an almanac and that was for the preceding year. 
I could read it backwards and upside down. I had been 
riding around the stock one day when I was told that a 
fourteen wagon mule and horse train had passed sometime 
that morning en route for Montana and that they had a white 
woman with them. I determined to have a look at that white 
woman. Without waiting for lunch I saddled another horse 
and started in pursuit of that emigrant train and after about 
a seven-mile ride caught up with it. 

I rode along the side of the last wagon, and the driver, 
apparently surprised and somewhat excited when he saw me, 
stopped his team, when I asked him if they had a white 
woman in their train. After looking me over and sizing me 
up, he answered hesitatingly, "We have." I told him I 
meant no harm nor disrespect; that I lived at the Fort 
Mitchell ranch they had just passed and that it had been 
nearly six months since I had seen a white woman and had 
come to take a look at her to see what my mother looked 
like. Convinced that I meant no harm outside of gratifying 
an idle curiosity, he told me she was in the sixth wagon ahead. 

Trails of Yesterday 131 

As I passed the drivers of the wagons they eyed me suspici- 
ously, but when I hallooed "Howdy" they let me pass 
although I think some of them grabbed their guns. I was 
armed with two revolvers, Sharp's carbine, bowie knife and 
carried a field glass. 

Catching up with the driver of the seventh wagon, an 
old man probably sixty years of age, I told him that I heard 
the train had a white woman in it, that I had lived several 
months at the ranch they had just passed and had not seen 
one and if he had no objection, if she was his wife, I should 
like to take a look at her to remind me of what my mother 
looked like. He commenced to laugh and called back in the 
wagon, "Ma, here's a young fellow wants to see you." 
"Ma" crawled up toward her husband. She wore a sun- 
bonnet, and after hearing my story, threw it back on her neck, 
revealing her gray hair and a very kindly face. I thought 
her handsome as I talked with her and her husband riding 
along beside their team a couple of miles, when they went 
into camp and insisted that I take dinner with them. I 
enjoyed my visit with these people, who came from eastern 

When I was ready to leave and bade them good-bye, a 
feeling of sadness came over me as I turned my horse's head 
toward the Fort Mitchell ranch with its responsibilities and 
strenuous life. I thought of home and the loved ones there. 

It was not many days after this that two bullwhackers 
came to the ranch one night and requested supper, lodging 
and breakfast. They had walked from Fort Laramie with- 
out being attacked by Indians. They had due bills given 
them for service by some freighter they had worked for but 
had no money. I gave them supper, lodging and breakfast 
and told them they could stay at the ranch until some coach 
or train came along, but they declined, saying they were 
anxious to get to the Missouri River. I told them they were 
running a great risk and were liable to be killed or captured 
by Indians, but they thought not and would risk it. Taking 
a lunch they bade me good-bye and started up the trail 

132 Trails of Yesterday 

toward Scott's Bluff Gap. Two days later I had some 
business to transact at Brown's ranch about fourteen miles 
east of the bluff and en route about eight miles east of the 
bluffs I came to a pack of wolves feasting on the dead bodies 
of these two men. They had evidently been killed by Indians. 
They had been scalped, ears, nose and other members of the 
body cut off, tongues cut out, hearts laid bare and nearly 
every bone in their bodies exposed — partly by the wolves and 
partly by Indians. I returned to the ranch and went back the 
next day with half a dozen mounted infantry. We gathered 
up what little was left of their bodies, placed them in a 
blanket, buried them in a hole dug by the side of the trail and 
drove down a stake to mark their nameless grave. 

These two men, like many others, took desperate chances 
and paid for it with their lives. Many venturesome frontiers- 
men have met a similar fate. The loved ones at home, no 
doubt, have often wondered why the boys did not write or 
come home. I should have been glad to have told them had I 
known their names, but there was nothing left to identify 
them, not a scrap of paper nor even a stitch of clothing on 
their mutilated bodies. Those two lives were wiped out. 
They were only a short link in the chain of progress and 
civilization in the opening and development of our great 
Western Empire with its billions of hidden wealth. Our 
downeast friend and kind philanthropist thinks the Child of 
the Forest, the untutored savage, is justified in these acts of 
cruelty in the loss of country. Banish the thought. 

Before closing this already long chapter I cannot pass 
unnoticed a very comical incident, that occurred on a trip 
I was making from Fort Mitchell to Fort Laramie between 
Stuttering Brown, proprietor of Brown's ranch located be- 
tween Mitchell and Mud Springs, and Stuttering Bill Smith, 
corral boss at Fort Laramie. Both had killed their man, 
knew no fear and would shoot on the least provocation. 

Brown came to our ranch one evening intending to go to 
Fort Laramie and as I had some despatches to carry to 
General Palmer at that Fort, it was arranged that we go 

Trails of Yesterday 133 

together, starting early the next morning. During my ride 
with him to Reynolds' ranch we became well acquainted. He 
told me of many strange things that had occurred during his 
life, some of which were of no credit to him in my estimation. 
We had scarcely dismounted at the Reynolds' ranch before 
a great, big fine-looking man, weighing nearly two hundred 
pounds, stepped to the ranch door, walked up to Brown, 
pushed the end of a big revolver into Brown's mouth and 
commenced to work the trigger. I expected to see Brown's 
head blown to pieces. Brown tried to talk but could not, 
owing to the end of Bill Smith's (such being the name of the 
good-looking man) revolver being in his mouth. Brown kept 
backing away but Smith followed him, saying loud and 
earnestly: "P-p-p-p-pa-pay me n-n-n-now." Brown tried to 
pull his revolver but Smith took it from him. I appealed to 
Smith to give Brown a chance to explain but Smith told me 
not to "b-bu-butt" in or he would "f-f-fix" me, too. Brown 
did the only thing he could do — put his hand down in his pants' 
pocket and after a few tugs, pulled out a large roll of green- 
backs, probably $1000.00, pushed it into Smith's hands and 
in less than five minutes both were drinking large drinks of 
Antone Reynolds' road ranch whiskey out of the same tin 
cup. Brown finally explained to Smith that he had come up 
on purpose to pay him this money, which I think was for 
mules furnished by Smith through Brown to graders on the 
Union Pacific Railroad, at that time between Columbus and 
Grand Island. 

I parted with them, leaving them the best of friends. 
Smith said he would join me on my trip to Fort Laramie if I 
would wait until morning, but I could not wait. 

Smith had come down to Reynolds' ranch for a double 
purpose. One may have been to pay Brown the money due 
him for mules but another, and principal object, was to make 
love to Antone Reynolds' half-breed daughter, a very comely 
Indian girl, whom he afterwards married. Both Smith and 
Brown later died with their boots on, the latter at Cheyenne 
and the former near Elk Mountain. 

134 Trails of Yesterday 

I could recite many other incidents of interest to the 
reader that transpired while at this noted road ranch and 
stage station, but time and space forbid. 

Shortly after making this trip, when I had almost given 
up all hope of being relieved, I received a telegram from Mr. 
Carter, sent from Mud Springs, stating that he was on his 
way to Fort Mitchell and expected to arrive on the first coach. 
He arrived the next day. Of course, I had much news to tell 
him, especially about Hunter and how he had offered me 
$3000.00 to turn the ranch over to him, his strategy in getting 
Sibson away and of my efforts in helping Hunter to get his 
money back, which had probably been the means of saving 
the ranch and my own life. Mr. Carter kept me awake the 
greater part of the night, asking questions about matters 
connected with the ranch. I had kept a strict account of all 
money I had taken in and of stock bought and sold, which 
Mr. Carter checked up and finding everything correct was 
loud in his praises for the showing I made. Even John 
Hunter said many good words about me to Mr. Carter. 

The two finally agreed on the sale and purchase of the 
ranch, stock and goods, and in less than a week I bade my 
friend Hunter and others at the ranch and fort, good-bye, 
and under instructions from Mr. Carter, who went on to Fort 
Laramie, I started across the country, headed for Pine Bluffs, 
riding the Bob Mason thoroughbred mare and leading a 
pack horse, on which I had all my belongings. I was carrying 
a letter from Mr. Carter to Mr. Sinclair, manager of 
Gilman & Carter's tie and wood camp at that point, which the 
Union Pacific Railroad had passed with its track-laying gangs. 

It took me two days to make the trip of about seventy- 
five miles from Fort Mitchell to Pine Bluffs. It was a lone- 
some ride and rather a long, lonesome night. I saw no 
Indians, but some fresh tracks. I also saw a few buffalo, elk, 
deer, one lone bear, and quite a few wolves and coyotes. I 
was not sorry when I crossed the Union Pacific Railroad track 
at Pine Bluffs station (consisting of a box car), about the 
middle of September, 1867. 

Trails of Yesterday 135 

Few men as young as I, being only in my twenty-fifth year, 
had ever gone through the severe, soul-trying experiences that 
I had while at Fort Mitchell. They were bad enough at 
times to make a devil out of an angel. It took courage to do 
right. I think I was justified in my treatment of Sergeant H. 
It was the means of recovering Hunter's money and the just 
punishment of Sergeant H. for his crime. 

I will leave the verdict to my readers. 


Arrival at Pine Bluffs — In Charge of a Store — Whiskey and Pets 

Must Go — Bibles Placed in Camp — Caught Cribbing — 

A Memorable Night — Gold Dust in a Well — 

More Indian Excitement 

1 REPORTED to Mr. Sinclair, manager of the tie and 
wood camp, but that gentleman did not give me a cordial 
welcome. I found there were two bitter factions in the 
camp — one representing Gilman Bros., the other Coe & 
Carter. Mr. Sinclair belonged to the former faction, hence 
had no use for me, coming as I did from the service of Coe 
& Carter, even though carrying a letter of introduction from 
Mr. Carter, who suggested that I assist in the camp store. 
Mr. Sinclair said he did not need any one. I told him I 
preferred outside work, teaming or anything to make myself 
useful. So I was given a six-yoke ox-team and put under E. 
C. Miller who had seen service with me at Fort Phil Kearny. 
He was wagon boss of about twenty six-yoke ox-teams, part 
of those we had at Phil Kearny. We made a trip a day, 
five to seven miles, hauling wood or ties from the timber to 
the station. The company had about thirty four-mule and 
horse teams. These would haul ties and wood from two to 
four miles farther in the timber than the ox-teams. There 
was a large force of tie and wood choppers at work keeping 
the teams supplied. Many were French Canadians and all 
made big money at this work. 

After being here about a month a telegram was received 
from General Coe at Fort Sanders, requesting that eight five- 
yoke teams, the culls of the cattle outfit, be loaded with corn 
and sent as soon as possible to Fort Sanders under my charge. 
I was soon on the road with this cull outfit of eighty head 
of very undesirable work steers, some setters, wild, lame and 
footsore that I had to shoe before reaching Cheyenne. I 
also had eight of the oldest wagons, yokes, bows, chains and 


Trails of Yesterday 137 

wagon sheets, and nine of the worst, disreputable bull- 
whackers in the Pine Bluffs camps, including one extra to act 
as night herder. To get along with these men, all older than 
I, and get this cull outfit over the Sherman Hill was no picnic. 
I had several breakdowns but finally arrived at the Fort 
Sanders camp about two and one-half miles northeast of 
Laramie City, which was just in its infancy. 

At this Fort Sanders camp, located about a mile north- 
east of the fort, I first met General Isaac Coe, Mr. Carter's 
partner. He asked me many questions about Fort Phil 
Kearny and Fort Mitchell. Mr. Carter had evidently kept 
him fully advised. He also questioned me closely about the 
John Hunter matter at Mitchell, more than once commending 
my action in dealing with him and thanked me for guarding 
Coe & Carter's interests, saying he would try to show his 
appreciation of the service I had rendered. 

He told me he had sent for these eight ox-teams with a 
view to selling them to parties who wished to pay for them by 
getting out three thousand cords of wood on a contract Gil- 
man & Carter had taken to deliver at Fort Sanders, and by 
filling a large tie contract which the same company had taken 
from Credit Mobilier, a sub-company of the Union Pacific 
Railroad Co. Dr. Durant was president of the Credit Mobi- 
lier at this time. 

After unloading the eight loads of corn at Fort Sanders, 
the General instructed me to take off the wagon boxes, 
lengthen out the reaches and prepare to start for eight large 
loads of dead wood the next morning. He was anxious to 
show the would-be buyers of these eight teams just what 
could be done. It was about eight miles to this dead quaking 
asp wood, which lay piled in every conceivable shape, three 
to seven feet deep. We camped for the night on the edge of 
this timber and had no trouble in loading our wagons that 
evening, thus giving us an early start next morning. We 
arrived safely with our load at the fort before noon. This 
trip was the means of selling this cull outfit at a good figure 
and ridding the firm of Gilman & Carter of several unde- 

138 Trails of Yesterday 

sirable bullwhackers, who were offered good wages to remain 
with it. 

Relieved of my position, General Coe requested me to 
accept a clerkship in the camp store but I declined. I had 
found on arrival at the Fort Sanders camp the same old feud 
among employees that existed at the Pine Bluffs camp. In 
addition to this General Coe's selection of the writer to bring 
up the eight-team cull outfit from the Pine Bluffs camp had 
created some jealousy among old wagon bosses. The Gilman 
Brothers older wagon bosses and assistants did not like it 
and showed their spleen at every opportunity. I was classed 
as a Coe & Carter "pet" by the Gilman Brothers "pets." The 
latter usually did what they pleased without regard to results. 
I had been approached and questioned as to what part of the 
firm I was working for and had told them for Gilman & 
Carter, which was the abbreviated name of the company. I 
frankly told General Coe that the work at this camp would 
not proceed harmoniously or with profit until both he and 
John Gilman got rid of their respective pets and that since I 
was classed as a Coe & Carter man I should be allowed to 
go with others. But the General would not listen to this and 
insisted on my going in and taking charge of the store. I 
told him I might consent to take charge of it on certain con- 
ditions; one, that the request must come from Mr. Gilman; 
the other, that every drop of liquor must go out of the store. 
The General thought he had something to say as well as 
Mr. Gilman about who should manage the store. The 
whiskey part of it I could manage as I pleased, but he asked 
what I would do with the old wagon bosses and assistants who 
came in every morning and drank a tin cupful of whiskey 
before sitting down to breakfast. I answered that they would 
sit down to breakfast without any store whiskey if I ran it. 

I hardly knew Mr. Gilman but he said he knew me and 
one day asked if I was the John Bratt who was at Fort 
Mitchell at the time Gilman & Kountz's mules were run off 
by the Indians. I told him I was. He said he had heard 
of the service rendered by me in loaning his men all our 

Trails of Yesterday 139 

horses and mules and accompanying the mule skinners across 
the North Platte River in an effort to recover the stock, from 
the Indians. General Coe must have mentioned this and 
other incidents of my doings at Fort Mitchell, judging from 
the intelligent way in which he talked of matters that occurred 

The Pine Bluffs tie and wood camp was closed shortly 
after I left and everything was transferred to the Fort 
Sanders camp and later to a camp two and one-half miles 
north of Sherman Station and known as Sherman Station 
camp. Other ox, mule and horse teams had been purchased 
and the work of getting out ties and wood and telegraph 
poles was started in earnest. We had several hundred men 
at work getting out these ties, wood, logs and poles. I was 
given charge of an ox-train hauling ties to the siding near 
Fort Sanders and was doing what I thought good work. One 
morning, on starting out, Mr. Gilman handed me a gallon 
keg, telling me to sling it on the end of the reach of the lead 
wagon. Later becoming thirsty and thinking the keg con- 
tained water, I took a good swallow out of it before discover- 
ing it was whiskey. Mr. Gilman joined me before we got to 
the timber. I told him I had taken a drink out of his water 
keg and that it nearly choked me. It amused him greatly 
to think that a drink of whiskey would upset anyone. He 
said he usually took about twenty drinks a day and several in 
the night. His face looked like it, red, blotched and bloated. 
I told him I had had my last drink of whiskey at old Fort 
Reno, nearly a quart, and that poured down my throat. He 
said that was not the way to drink it, to which I agreed. He 
became talkative, especially after he had taken a big drink 
from the keg. 

He requested me to tell him the facts in regard to 
the Indians running off one hundred twenty-eight head of his 
and Mr. Kountz's mules at Fort Mitchell. This I did and 
told also of our efforts to recover them, how we loaned his 
wagon bosses, assistants and mule skinners our herd of ranch 
horses and mules, and how in the chase I rode a barebacked 

140 Trails of Yesterday 

mule that nearly drowned me while crossing the North Platte 
River. He asked me many questions, riding by my side on 
our return trip with our loads. Mr. Gilman treated me very 
kindly and finally asked me whether I would not like to 
take charge of the camp store. He said it would be easier 
work than what I was doing and more money in it. I told 
him I preferred the work I was doing, provided I was giving 
satisfaction. He said my work was satisfactory but that he 
thought I could do good work for them in the store and 
wished I would take that position. Mr. Sinclair had come 
up from Pine Bluffs and had full charge of the store at this 
time but Mr. Gilman said the Company was about to open a 
tie camp at Rock Creek and needed Mr. Sinclair there. I told 
him my method of running a camp would be different from 
Mr. Sinclair's and that it might not suit him, that all old pets, 
both his and Coe & Carter's, would have to go, also that 
the store must be rid of every drop of liquor. 

He stared at me a moment and asked why, and I 
frankly told him that these old men had been with the two 
outfits so long and so much jealousy existed among them, 
that the Company's interests were suffering and no camp 
could be run in this way on business principles. Bosses and 
their favorite teamsters could go to the store any hour of 
the day and night and help themselves to a tin cupful of 
whiskey, even without paying anything for it. Mr. Gilman 
remarked that I was demanding a great deal but believed I 
was right and if I would, I could try it. I am satisfied that 
he thought I could not carry out the plan. No one knew the 
men I had to deal with better than I. Some of them had 
killed their man and looked upon me as a kid. 

Not wishing to force myself I took a few days to decide 
whether I should take the position or not. Both General Coe 
and Mr. Gilman came to me again and I finally consented to 
try it. Some of the old "soak" wagon bosses had heard that 
I was to take charge of the store and that I intended to 
abolish the whiskey part of it and had warned me that I had 

Trails of Yesterday 141 

better not do that or I might follow the whiskey, which they 
had heard I was going to empty on the prairie, so I had 
notice of what I was going to be up against. 

I never saw a worse managed store. The stock consisted 
of groceries, clothing, blankets, boots, shoes, and everything 
necessary at a wood and tie camp, including some seven or 
eight barrels of whiskey — a place for nothing and nothing in 
its place. Sacks of greasy bacon were piled on stacks of 
clothing — no cost mark on anything — all valued at probably 
$25,000.00. Mr. Sinclair was still manager of the store but 
left soon after I took charge to open a tie camp at Medicine 
Bow or Rock Creek. 

One day I called Mr. Gilman's attention to the whiskey 
and asked him what I should do with it. He said, "Roll the 
barrels out and knock the heads in but save a five-gallon keg 
for me." I never saw him drunk but I have seen him take 
twenty big drinks of whiskey a day and get up several times 
in the night to take some. He said it made him sleep better. 

The next day I had a four-mule team brought to the 
store door and loaded all the barrels of whiskey we had, 
reserving the five-gallon keg as requested by Mr. Gilman. 
and went with the driver to Wanlen Brothers' sutler store at 
Fort Sanders, where I sold it. 

While clerking at this store I met and became acquainted 
with Joseph Michael, who later became county clerk of 
Lincoln County, Nebraska. His estimable and respected 
wife, later known as Mrs. Neary, resided in North Platte 
until the time of her death. 

Though not unexpected, it would make very interesting 
reading had all the comments on my act and the many cur- 
sings I received from the old wagon bosses, assistants and 
some of our employees been written. All threatened ven- 
geance on me for thus depriving them of their liquor. Some 
appealed to Mr. Gilman and General Coe, who frankly told 
them it was my doings, not theirs; that I was running the 

142 Trails of Yesterday 

It was not long before General Coe had some Coe & 
Carter pets en route for Texas to assist him in bringing up 
a herd of cattle. It was proposed to buy the cattle north of 
San Antonio. The General insisted that I take a certain in- 
terest in this and offered to finance it for what share I wanted 
to the extent of one-fifth, I to take charge of the books and 
inside work. I saw there was big money in the venture 
provided the cattle could be brought safely through the In- 
dian Territory. The largest kind of four and six year old 
cattle could be purchased for $5.00 in gold and on arrival 
on the Laramie Plains could be sold for $35.00 to $40.00 
each if in fair flesh. The General planned that, while he and 
his pets, Bob Mason, John Knox and Matt Brooks, were 
gone for the cattle, I should locate a range and build a ranch, 
corral, etc., on one of the Laramie rivers, take up several 
hay claims, have the hay put up and everything ready as soon 
as the cattle arrived. I promised to do this or have it done 
but I would not consent to take any interest in the enterprise 
if the men with whom he had started to Texas were to be 
taken into the deal. The General felt rather put out at this 
decision on my part. He thought I was needlessly prej- 
udiced against the three. He said they had been with Coe 
& Carter many years and he had always found them to be 
good, straight men. On bidding him good-bye he said I must 
reconsider my decision as he would like to have me take an 
interest in the deal. I told him I had made up my mind but 
that would not prevent me from locating the ranch and having 
everything ready for the herd when it arrived. 

John Gilman made good his promise and sent away on 
other work several of his pets — Gladdon, Hugh Alley, Sharp, 
Rowland, and others, so that in the course of two months I 
had the camp of some six hundred men working smoothly and 
every man working for the best interest of the company. 
Mr. Gilman spent some time at the camp but more down at 
Laramie City, which had suddenly grown to many hundred 
people. Some of the buildings were of frame, some covered 

Trails of Yesterday 143 

with canvas, some adobes, a few stores, the majority being 
saloons, dance halls and gambling places, all in full blast. 

One day good Mrs. Iverson came to our camp from 
Laramie City, where her husband kept a general store, and 
asked whether I would distribute a boxful of Bibles if she sent 
them up. I told her I would be glad to accept and distribute 
them. The Bibles came and I handed one to every employee 
and to many others who came to our camp. No one can 
tell the good this act did. God bless her! I saw some of 
these men years afterwards and they told me they still had 
their Bibles and prized them very much. 

I always tried to impress upon the minds of the men the 
evil effects of drinking, gambling and immorality. About this 
time I remember Mr. Gilman took a liking to an ex-lieutenant 
who had just received his discharge at Fort Sanders and en- 
gaged him to assist me in outside work in the purchase and 
receiving of ties and wood. One day I gave him, at Mr. 
Gilman's request, $1500.00 to pay down on several thousand 
ties that were offered for sale by a gang of tie choppers. In 
less than two hours afterwards one of our men reported to 
me that this gentleman was busy in a poker game in one of 
the gambling houses in Laramie City. In half an hour I was 
at his side and by persuasion and threats I secured a little 
over $1300.00, — all he had left. The result was that we 
parted with him very quickly. 

Later, General Coe said he had a very good man, an 
intelligent old wagon master living at Nebraska City, whom 
he said was just the man we wanted. He came and within 
sixty days I discovered him steering our unsuspecting em- 
ployees to a house of bad repute in Laramie City and dividing 
profits with the landlady. This smooth, pious-looking gentle- 
man followed the lieutenant. 

My duties were many and exacting. After a hard day's 
ride inspecting and receiving ties in the timber I would return 
to the store and post the blotter kept by one and sometimes 
two clerks. It was no uncommon thing to find me at two or 

144 Trails of Yesterday 

three o'clock in the morning posting the ledger or going over 
the previous day's business by the light of a rag laid in a tin 
plate of grease. Candles at this time were a luxury and coal 
oil lamps had not reached us. This night work under such 
conditions began to affect my eyes and I had to discontinue it. 

We had all classes of men among our several hundred 
employees, some that had fled from the States and were 
using fictitious names to hide their identity. It was no easy 
matter to get along with such men. 

We paid thirty-five to sixty cents each for ties in the 
timber and received from the Credit Mobilier $1.00 to $1.30 
each, delivered on railroad track near Fort Sanders, Sherman 
Station, Tie Siding, etc., and at these points we received from 
$12.00 to $16.00 per cord for wood, which cost us $6.00 to 
$8.00 per cord delivered. This looks like a good profit but 
not enough when we consider the great risk of fire, theft and 
an occasional raid on our live stock by marauding bands of 
Ute and Sioux Indians. At one time we had thirty thousand 
cords of wood ricked up at Sherman Station with a bad fire 
in it. Joseph Millard, the Omaha banker, had an interest 
in this until he heard of the fire and wisely sold his interest to 
other partners, sustaining but little loss. We would let many 
sub-contracts for cord wood, ties, poles, etc., delivered at Fort 
Sanders, Tie Siding, Sherman Station, and other points on 
the line of the Union Pacific Railroad. 

I am reminded of one 500-cord contract let to an ap- 
parently good, straight fellow, to be put in on a contract of 
three thousand cords for the Government at Fort Sanders. 
The same was to be four feet long and piled in ricks eight feet 
high, the contractor agreeing to accept Government measure. 
One day I found the fellow "cribbing" and remonstrated, 
telling him he would get the worst of that trick, as such 
dishonesty would not only injure him, if discovered, but would 
reflect on our honesty. He said he would quit it. His con- 
tract finished, I called on the Quartermaster to measure it. 

The Quartermaster was a young lieutenant, recently from 
West Point, and no doubt wanted to make a record of his 

Trails of Yesterday 145 

thorough business ability. He had his tape line and note book 
carried by orderlies, while others held stakes at the corners. 
He walked along the sides of the eight-foot ricks, looked in 
every suspicious hole, measured many of the sticks and the 
length and height of the outside ricks, then with the aid of 
orderlies climbed on top of the ricks, on which he started to 
walk. It was not many moments before he fell down into 
the wood, evidently where it had been cribbed. I, and 
several orderlies, were quickly doing our best to extricate 
him. His dress parade clothes were torn, the chains attached 
from belt to sword broken and his shoes badly scuffed; no 
wonder he was making the air blue with yells and talk that 
would not be suitable to repeat in a Sunday school. We 
pulled him out and got him on terra firma. He spied the 
chopper who had piled up the wood and the tongue lashing 
he gave him made him very uncomfortable. The following 
day he called out a company of soldiers and had the ricks all 
torn down and repiled as closely as possible. This sub-con- 
tractor acknowledged that I had cautioned him several times 
not to crib. He learned a lesson that he remembered for a 
long time. The lieutenant learned that the sub-contractor 
was to accept and receive pay according to Quartermaster's 
measurement. After this sub-contractor received the lieu- 
tenant's measurement he quietly acknowledged to me that he 
wished he had not done it. 

I shall never forget Christmas day in 1867. I attempted 
to cross the Laramie river with six four-mule teams loaded 
with logs to be used in building the ranch and corrals. I had 
decided to locate near a station on the Union Pacific Railroad, 
to be known as Wyoming. We, the teamsters and I, got stuck 
in the ice in the river. We froze our hands, feet, ears and 
noses very badly. This ranch was the second cattle ranch 
built in Wyoming, Creighton & Hutton, or Alsop, having 
built the first to care for Texas cattle. 

Besides managing the tie and wood camp near Fort 
Sanders, I had superintended opening another tie and wood 
camp at Sherman Station. I had the ranch and corrals built 

146 Trails of Yesterday 

and several hundred tons of hay in stack when the three 
thousand head of Texas cattle, mostly steers, arrived and Gen- 
eral Coe, who came up with the herd in person, was pleased 
with what I had done, especially with the selection of the 
location. The General had discharged two of his pets, Knox 
and Brooks, at the crossing of the Red River. Mason, the 
man I disliked the most, came up with the cattle with the 
General. The cattle were a nice bunch in fair flesh, had been 
bought right and trailed up without great loss or heavy ex- 
pense. I saw big profits in the deal and had it not been for 
Bob Mason's having an interest in the enterprise, under the 
General's continued persuasions, I might have taken the 
interest he desired. When I refused to do so he seemed to 
regret it very much. 

A slaughter house was built and a meat market opened 
in Laramie City under the firm name of Mason & Company, 
and in a very short time Bob Mason was looked upon as a 
great man in Laramie City. Much dressed meat was shipped 
to the tie, wood and grading camps along the Union Pacific 
line. Casement Brothers had been grading, ironing and tie- 
ing two to four miles a day and the iron horse was pushing its 
way through the western part of Wyoming by leaps and 
bounds. The profits in supplying these camps were big. The 
firm of Mason & Company was making money fast out of 
their herd of cattle and had planned to drive up other herds 
the next year. Mason & Company's only competitor at this 
time was Iliff at Cheyenne. Bob could not stand the pros- 
perity and temptations; fast women, drink and gambling took 
him off his feet in less than six months. L. N. Gallup and I 
were appointed receivers to close out the firm of Mason & 
Company. We sold the ranch and what was left of the cattle 
to Creighton & Hutton. At last General Coe realized that 
my opinion of Mason was correct. 

One day in June, 1868, I received a message from Mr. 
Carter in Omaha, asking at what price per ton two thousand 
tons of good hay could be delivered in stack at Fort Sanders. 
Mr. Carter requested a quick answer. 

Trails of Yesterday 147 

I immediately saddled Mr. Gilman's private horse, a 
Kentucky thoroughbred, "Oak Rail," put a lunch in my 
saddle pocket and with my field glasses, compass, revolvers, 
Winchester carbine, bowie knife and a belt full of cartridges, 
was soon scouring the country between Sanders and the Lara- 
mie River and south of there. It must have been nearly five 
o'clock in the afternoon when a sudden thunderstorm sprang 
up. It was accompanied by considerable rain, wind and hail. 
The lightning was vivid and attracted by my brass Winchester 
gun, it once knocked my horse down on his knees. For a 
time I thought it had killed him but he gathered himself up 
and went on but not before I had taken off my overcoat and 
wrapped it around my gun, when I started again, see-sawing 
across the valley. Grass was plentiful but the old, long grass 
predominated. I had not proceeded far before a flash of light- 
ning nearly blinded me and stunned poor "Oak Rail," who 
trembled all over. The lightning seemed to be playing up and 
down his ears and head. The poor horse was so frightened 
from the shock he received that I could scarcely get him out 
of a walk. As for myself, I felt dazed and the smell of 
sulphur was so strong that it made me sick. The storm had 
increased in violence. I finally dismounted, wrapped the 
Winchester in my overcoat and laid it down on the prairie, 
carefully marking the location and taking particular note of 
the surrounding country, after which I slowly continued my 

It was getting dark. I had gone probably two miles from 
the place where I left my gun and overcoat. I had satisfied 
myself that I could get that quantity of hay within fifteen 
miles of the fort and decided to return to camp via the route 
to the gun, which I found after much trouble. By this time 
"Oak Rail" was about all in. He breathed with difficulty. 
His hide was wet, not so much from the rain, which had 
abated, but with sweat. He staggered more or less every step 
he took. After finding my gun and overcoat I walked and led 
him and realized that I was elected to camp with him that 
night on the prairie. This I did, the greater part of 

148 Trails of Yesterday 

the night surrounded by a pack of glistening-eyed, hungry 
wolves, that I had continually to scare way. Occasionally 
they would give a howl that made me feel lonesome. I did 
not want to shoot at them for this would locate me to any 
Ute or other Indians that might be camping on the river. 
I allowed "Oak Rail" to eat what grass he wanted as I coaxed 
him along at the end of the lariat. My clothes were wet and 
I was chilled with cold. 

I arrived at camp about nine o'clock in the morning, 
having made up my mind for what the hay contract could 
be filled. As soon as I had put on some dry clothes I went 
to the Fort and wired Mr. Carter an answer. The reader can 
imagine our chagrin on opening the bids when Edward 
Creighton's bid was found to be three cents per ton less than 
Mr. Carter's. This Edward Creighton, of the firm Creighton 
& Hutton, was the builder of the telegraph line. So much for 
being president of the Overland Telegraph Company; all 
messages sent and received passed over his desk! Could I 
have used a cipher in this instance we might have secured that 
hay contract. 

At this time it was a common thing to see men hung and 
hanging to telegraph poles or other convenient projections 
in Laramie City, Tie Siding, Dale Creek City, Sherman Sta- 
tion and Cheyenne. Some would weaken and confess, others 
die game. 

After opening camps at Tie Siding and Sherman Station, 
I often had to go to Cheyenne to get funds to pay for wood, 
ties and logs. There were two banks at Cheyenne at this 
time, one belonging to Posy Wilson, the other to Harry 
Rogers. I would usually carry back on my person $5000.00 
to $10,000.00 in greenbacks. It was not a comfortable feel- 
ing to have so much money with me since I would often meet 
ex-employees who knew that I always carried more or less 
money with me. I used the greatest caution in not exposing 
my money and in leaving these places I would steal quietly 
from the rear of the barn where I put up my saddle horse. 
Once or twice when I knew I was being shadowed, I waited 

Trails of Yesterday 


3$ iAV^ 

150 Trails of Yesterday 

until dark and had one of Ben Gallagher's clerks ride my 
horse out to a certain point where I would mount and go across 
country to camp. With all this caution, one night, while leav- 
ing the city by a back street, a man sprang at my horse's head 
and grabbed for my bridle rein. Another time some one 
tried to lariat me and pull me off the horse. 

To show how easy it was for some men to go wrong — one 
nice, clerical-looking gentleman, named Leighton, sent out by 
a missionary society to open a mission, took the $600.00 given 
him and opened a dance hall in Cheyenne. He said he could 
make more money that way. 

One night I had business in Cheyenne. I was with Mr. 
Bulen, a preacher, and old Sam Watts, who at that time was 
clerking for Ben Gallagher. I thought I was in the best of 
company. It was proposed to go in McDaniel's dance house. 
I hesitated for a time but it seemed that in company with 
two such reputable citizens I had nothing to fear. Imagine 
my surprise when Reverend Bulen insisted on setting up the 
drinks for Watts and me. I was very nearly kicked out of 
the hall because I refused to drink with them and the pro- 
prietor of the place. Am sorry to say Bulen got so badly in his 
"cups" that we had to almost carry him to his room. He 
made amends for this by preaching a good sermon to the 
men at the camp the following Sunday, the subject being 
"The Evil Effects of Strong Drink." 

I cannot close this chapter without mentioning a joke that 
John Gilman played on the people of Laramie City. While 
the men who were engaged in digging the well at the Union 
Pacific hotel were at dinner, Mr. Gilman scattered about 
$20.00 worth of gold dust in the well, which was probably 
eighteen to twenty feet deep. A party was at the well to see 
the first bucket come up. Noticing the free gold, a pan was 
promptly secured and some of the dirt washed. Surely the 
gold was there ! The news spread fast and in almost less 
time than it takes to tell it, claims were staked off by the hun- 
dreds. The result was that one man was killed and several 
wounded. When the fact became known that Mr. Gilman 

Trails of Yesterday 151 

had salted the well, it came very nearly going hard with him, 
especially on account of the man's death. It cost him many 
dollars for drinks and cigars and the price of a coffin. 

While the Indians were neither so plentiful nor so des- 
perate as around Fort Phil Kearny, yet an occasional band 
of Sioux and Utes would raid us, drive off some of our stock 
and run in our tie and wood choppers working in the fringe of 
the timber near old Fort Walbeck. Gold had been discovered 
in North and South Parks. Mr. Gilman had filed on several 
mining claims. I took one and hired the Shipmans, father 
and son, to work it for me. Unfortunately, the Ute Indians 
discovered this little mining camp of about twenty men, 
surrounded it, and the miners who did not escape in the night 
were hemmed in, starved out and later killed. The Ship- 
mans and some others had sold their lives as dearly as pos- 
sible. When we found them all were dead and badly mu- 
tilated. The Shipmans had even boiled their shoes, shoe 
strings and buckskin shirts and had lived on the soup as long 
as they could. As soon as we heard that the Indians had 
surrounded the miners, we sent out troops but they arrived 
too late. This massacre made us all very sad. We gathered 
up all the remains we could find and properly interred them 
in the Parks, with suitable head boards on the graves. Could 
I have found the home or any kindred of the Shipmans I 
would have sent the remains there, but I could not. 

While hauling ties and wood at our Fort Sanders camp 
on the Laramie plains some of our work cattle died from 
eating loco weed, which is usually the first green forage to 
appear in the spring. It comes ahead of the grass. One 
day our bull wagon boss turned his work cattle into a thick 
patch of loco and about two hundred head became affected 
It took quick work with butcher knives that we stuck near 
their paunches to save them. This was done to relieve them 
of the gas that formed in them. Some very bad cases we 
drenched with hard oil and gunpowder and sometimes with 
a strong dose of warm epsom salts. As a rule, cattle will not 
eat loco unless hungry. Some animals, especially horses, act 

152 Trails of Yesterday 

crazy after eating it, so if a horse or individual acts peculiarly 
it is a common saying that he is "locoed." 

Game and fish were abundant, so our hunters, who were 
paid to supply the camp with fresh meats, had no trouble in 
bringing in deer, antelope, elk, buffalo and bear meat when 
needed. It was reported that General Coe (who won his 
military title by being appointed General of the First Regi- 
ment of Nebraska Volunteers at the time the Civil War broke 
out) , in describing our tie and wood camp near Fort Sanders, 
said that in case a gun was discharged by accident, there would 
lay a dead antelope, and if any one went to the creek for a 
bucket of water, he would get a bucket of fish. Who can 
blame the Indian for not wanting to leave such ideal hunting 
grounds, even if the winters were intensely cold at times? 
It was such a dry cold that its intensity was not felt. The 
air was so light that we would often freeze before knowing it. 


Sherman Station — Tie and Wood Camp — Mr. Nuckoll's First and 

Last Lawsuit — Lost in a Blizzard — Too Quick for the 

Mexican — Honest Mr. Carter 

ABOUT the middle of June, 1868, our firm opened a new 
tie and wood camp about two and one-half miles north 
of Sherman Station and I was placed in charge. Here 
we got out and delivered on the line of the Union Pacific 
Railroad at this station and at Tie Siding several hundred 
thousand ties and probably one hundred thousand cords of 
wood. Later we established tie and wood choppers in the 
timber south of Tie Siding. 

In riding over the country north of Tie Siding and Sher- 
man Station I often wondered why the Union Pacific did 
not follow up the North Platte River valley and thus have a 
river grade instead of climbing the Sherman Hill, and I often 
said this would be done some day. It is being done at the time 
I am preparing this autobiography. The Union Pacific Rail- 
road Company has started to build a river grade line from 
O'Fallons west. This may connect with the old line at Medi- 
cine Bow or Fort Steel. 

About this time Gilman & Carter took a contract to get out 
ties to build the Denver Pacific from Cheyenne to Denver, 
agreeing to take pay for same in Arapahoe County, Colorado, 
bonds. We outfitted a large number of men and teams at our 
Sherman Hill camp and sent some with pack animals across 
country to the head waters of the Cache La Poudre where 
we had planned to get out the ties and float them down that 
river to a point where they could be taken out and hauled to 
the proposed line of road. It took some nerve to bid on this 
contract. While the price was a good one, the difficulties were 
many and great and the pay was not cash but bonds that our 
company, should it need money, might have to discount 
largely. In the space of two miles we had to build about 


154 Trails of Yesterday 

thirty bridges in order to get our teams, men and supplies 
into the thick timber. 

When our party of tie choppers with pack animals was 
ready to start, one particular Irishman, whom I had outfitted 
at Sherman camp, with his pack horse loaded high and heavily, 
grabbed a pair of buckskin gloves, saying he would take them 
to remember me by, and started out of the store on a run. 
I had to halt him with a revolver shot which grazed his boot- 
leg. He dropped the gloves, stopped and said he only took 
them for a joke. Starting the day after the Irishman left, to 
pilot another outfit, we overtook my friend, who had loaded 
up with some bottles of bad whiskey and had been joined by 
other tie choppers with pack animals. The third day out we 
got into the La Poudre canons. The paths were narrow and 
the hills very steep. The Irishman was just a little ahead of 
us, urging his pack horse along over the narrow trail on a 
high ridge along the side of a deep canon. I advised all to 
dismount; and all, except the Irishman, did. He continued 
riding and crowding his pack horse, whose top-heavy load 
caused him to lose his footing and bounce down the side of 
the steep canon from rock to rock until the poor animal 
landed feet up, on the top of a tree. A shot put him out of 
his misery. Every moment we expected to see the Irishman 
follow the beast but he sat his horse, more drunk than sober, 
shouting: "Look at him! Look at him!!" as the poor horse 
rolled over and bounded from rock to rock. He damned his 
"sister's cat," saying, "There was the only property I owned 
in America and gone to h — 1 in a minute." 

We had expended about $5000.00 on roads and bridges 
up the La Poudre when Mr. Gilman found out he had signed 
the contract on Friday. He said he had talked the matter over 
with his wife and brother and they had all agreed that the 
contract would prove a bad one and he wanted to get out of it. 
He requested me to take the matter up with Coe & Carter, 
which I did. Coe & Carter did not want to take any advan- 
tage of the Gilman Brothers and tried to persuade them to 
stay in the deal, but the Gilmans declined. If Coe & Carter 

Trails of Yesterday 155 

would take the entire contract, the Gilmans agreed to lose 
their share of money expended to date. This was agreed to. 
Coe & Carter filled the contract and made $50,000.00 out 
of it. So much for superstition. 

Settlers in that part of Colorado at this time were very 
scarce. There was, however, one great character, known as 
Buffalo Jones, living on the La Poudre where the river came 
out of the hills. He had several charming daughters who 
could lasso and ride the worst bronco or Texas steer that 
ever wore hair. The life history of these frontier people 
would make the most interesting book ever published. It is 
claimed that Buffalo Jones had a standing offer of $5000.00 
to any good man who would marry one of his daughters. 

I was kept busy in looking after the different camps until 
Mr. Emerson relieved me of much of the work on the Cache 
La Poudre. 

I became well acquainted with Ben Gallagher, the mer- 
chant groceryman of Cheyenne, who also operated other 
stores along the Union Pacific Railroad under the name of 
Gallagher & Co., Gallagher & Nuckolls, Gallagher & Mc- 
Grath, and later under the firm name of Paxton & Gallagher 
of Omaha, where both partners later died. 

S. F. Nuckolls was a Nebraska City product and a good, 
clean man. He was later sent to Congress as a delegate from 
Utah. I remember a story told by him. He said he and a 
former friend living at Cheyenne had a misunderstanding 
about a business matter and both decided to test the case in 
court at Cheyenne. Nuckolls hired A. J. Poppleton and his 
friend James M. Woolworth of Omaha. The case was 
called. Mr. Poppleton opened with a brief statement of the 
case and so lauded Mr. Nuckolls as an upright, honest man 
that Mr. Nuckolls was very much elated and had an idea 
that his case was won right there. Finally Mr. Woolworth 
rose and though small in stature, gave Mr. Nuckolls such 
abuse and painted him so black that Mr. Nuckolls could not 
stand it but got up and walked out of the court room. After 
a while he returned. The attorneys had been arguing some 

156 Trails of Yesterday 

law points which the judge was passing on. During this lull 
in the proceedings one of the attorneys wrote a short note and 
passed it over to the other attorney, who, after reading it, 
crumpled it up and threw it under the table. Mr. Nuckolls 
had a curiosity to know the contents of that note and seated 
himself at the table, where, unknown to the attorneys, he 
pushed the paper near his chair with his foot and finally picked 
it up. Unnoticed he put it in his pocket, stole out of the 
court room and read it. It read: "What shall we charge 
these two damn fools ?" He immediately called the man with 
whom he was having the suit, showed him the note and before 
they returned to the court room, they settled their difference, 
much to the disappointment of the two attorneys. Mr. Nuck- 
olls told me this was his first and last lawsuit. 

At Sherman Station I became well acquainted with Mrs. 
Larimer and her son, who kept a general store there, bought 
and sold ties and cord wood, while her husband had a star 
route mail contract from Point of Rocks north. She 
was a very bright, good, business woman. She also had a 
photograph gallery and one day upon my return from the 
timber she insisted upon taking my picture. Her ambition 
was to be the mayor of Sherman Station. There was also a 
Mrs. Kelly living near the station. These two women and 
Mrs. Larimer's son had been captured by the Sioux Indians 
near Fort Laramie. Mrs. Larimer and her son, after two 
weeks' captivity in the lodge of the chief, stole away one 
night and though the Indians hunted them day and night, 
they succeeded in eluding them and got back to the fort, after 
suffering unmentionable cruelties. Mrs. Kelly, not so fortu- 
nate, was taken by the Indians up on the Missouri River and 
kept with the band over six months. The squaws stripped 
her almost nude, appropriating her dress and skirts. She was 
finally captured from the band by a company of United States 
Cavalry after a severe fight. Mrs. Kelly never recovered 
from the shock and ill treatment she received while with the 
Indians. She made a fair living washing the clothes of our 
tie and wood choppers. All pitied and helped her in every 

Photograph of the Writer Taken by Mrs. Lanmei 

Trails of Yesterday 157 

way possible. She was the widow of a soldier killed by In- 
dians near Fort Laramie. 

It was at the Sherman Hill tie camp that I nearly lost my 
life in the winter of 1868. Mr. Gilman had wired from 
Cheyenne that he would be up on the first train and requested 
me to meet him. I had made a hard drive with my team that 
day. One of my horses became lame and at the request of 
Harry Mullison, a sub-tie contractor, I had one of his horses 
hitched up in place of the lame one. I started for the station, 
only two and one-half miles south, in an open spring wagon 
a little before dark. It was snowing and blowing a gale and 
very cold. It was dark when I arrived at the station, having 
experienced much trouble and delay in finding my way 
through the many ricks of cord wood piled thickly four, six 
and eight feet high north of the station. Many of the ricks 
were partially buried in snow and the high drifts of snow 
between the ricks made it very difficult to follow the snow- 
covered road. After waiting about two hours the train pulled 
in with three large engines — one live and two dead ones — 
but Mr. Gilman did not come. I had given orders to our 
stable men to be on the lookout for us, knowing there was no 
place at the station to keep either of us or the team. It was 
ten o'clock when I started from the station for camp. The 
wind, which had increased in violence, was still coming from 
the north and I had to face it. It took me some time to get 
out of the woodpile into the open, where I had to take the 
middle of the three roads. I took careful bearings of the 
wind, got on the right road and had proceeded about one-half 
mile toward camp, when the storm coming to my right con- 
vinced me that I was off the trail. I headed my team to the 
wind but had not gone far before my face and eyes, as was 
also the case with my team, were plastered over with freezing 
snow and ice, making it impossible to see my hand before me. 

Afraid of driving into some of the gulches from ten to 
two hundred feet deep that were filled with snow, I concluded 
it would be best to return to the station if I could and im- 
mediately turned my team's back to the wind. After con- 

158 Trails of Yesterday 

siderable zigzagging, I got back on what I took to be the road. 
This I followed and was soon rewarded by my team's trying 
to wallow through the snow that had drifted on the north side 
of a six-foot woodpile and finally got back to the station. 
Harmon & Teats kept the store and post office at Sherman 
Station at this time. Mr. Teats who had not retired, was not 
much surprised at my return and insisted on my remaining, 
telling me to help myself to a bed on the counter and to make 
use of a pile of blankets and buffalo robes on one end of the 
same, but I could not bear the thought of that poor team's 
standing out all night in such a blizzard. After waiting about 
an hour, I started again. I got clear of the woodpile and 
must have traveled nearly a mile on the right road to camp 
when I again became lost. Had I driven my own team, it 
would have taken me safely to camp, but the Mullison horse 
being a stranger to that road and camp prevented my own 
horse from using his intelligence. I traveled around a long 
time, hoping that I would again cross the trail but did not. 
I became chilled and sleepy but well knew that sleep meant 
death. The storm was still raging. The falling snow was 
swept by a hurricane wind which was bitter cold. It was im- 
possible to face it any longer. My hands and feet were be- 
coming numb and my face was covered with a thick plaster 
of snow and ice. I finally found shelter for my team behind 
a large rock. I got out of the wagon and tied the team to the 
wheels, spreading over them what blankets I had. I then 
commenced and kept up a vigorous gait some twenty paces 
one way and then the other. I beat my hands and arms, 
pinched myself and rubbed my ears and nose and after a time 
succeeded in getting my blood to circulate. I had on heavy 
underwear, fur cap, overcoat, lined gloves and warm, heavy 
overshoes. If I could but keep awake I would come out all 
right. I appealed to Him who cares for the birds and 
imagined I heard a voice, louder than the raging storm around 
me, saying, "I will protect and see you through." It was none 
other than that Guardian Angel that my good mother turned 
me over to when I left home. 

Trails of Yesterday 


160 Trails of Yesterday 

I thought of many things during those long hours waiting 
for daybreak, which finally came but with it no cessation of 
the storm's fury. While well acquainted with the topography 
of the country, I could not tell where I was. It seemed that 
I was enveloped in a cloud of snow and storm. My poor 
team stood with heads down and backs to the storm. I pitied 
the poor, dumb brutes. Once I thought I would get on the 
back of my own driving horse, give him the rein and trust 
to him to take me to camp but I was too numb and stiff with 
cold to mount him. Not a speck of sunshine came out the 
next day, which was Saturday. I traveled and traveled with 
my back to the storm, walking beside the team and wagon, 
not knowing where I was or where I was going. Once in a 
while I would run up against a huge boulder, shy around it, 
then cross some deep gully filled with frozen snow. Several 
times I hallooed, only to be answered by the echo. The storm 
still kept coming but I could not tell from what direction. 
At last night came and found me sheltered with the team 
under a ledge of rock which protected us. As best I could 
I fastened the blankets over the horses, tied them to the 
wheels and put the spare laprobe around myself. I continued 
for a time to walk and stamp my feet, beat my hands, arms 
and limbs, and to rub my face and ears until my blood was 
again in circulation. I stood between the horses, hoping to 
keep warm and depending on them to awaken me should 
sleep overpower me. This must have happened in spite of 
my continued efforts to keep awake by moistening my eyes 
with my wet fingers. I felt myself falling against the Mul- 
lison horse, that had some broncho blood in him. He gave 
a sudden jump that awoke me. My thoughts rambled. What 
was I doing here? What day or night was it? Yes, the 
message said, "Meet me Friday evening." Why could I 
not have something to eat? And I began to beat my hands 
and arms, pinch them and my limbs, cheeks and body and then 
tried to run but could not. My feet and limbs were too stiff 
and numb. 

Trails of Yesterday 161 

This was the longest night I ever spent in my life. Day- 
light came at last but I seemed to be enveloped in misty 
clouds, which, after a long time, broke away and the sun 
began to shine. I had not the faintest idea where I was. The 
hills, rocks and trees were all covered with frozen snow. 

After a long time, owing to my frozen fingers, I managed 
to hitch the team to the wagon and I started, sitting down in 
the bottom of the wagon. Every now and then I tried to 
shout but could not. Much of the time I was unable to guide 
the team and allowed them to take their own course. I crossed 
many gulches and canons filled with frozen snow. 

I had crossed a wide and what must have been a deep 
canon filled with snow when I suddenly saw some glittering 
object ahead but could not make out what it was until I came 
close to it. It must have been the railroad track. This I con- 
tinued to follow until I knew no more. 

It was getting dark when I came to my senses and found 
myself in my own room at camp surrounded by kind friends 
who had been working over me several hours, trying to thaw 
out my frozen face, hands and feet. Some of the sixty men who 
had been out hunting for me since Saturday morning, had dis- 
covered the team several miles east of Sherman Station. 
The team was walking west along the railroad track, the lines 
dragging and I was lying unconscious in the wagon. It was 
several days before I was able to attend to business. I had 
again many reasons to think that my Guardian Angel had 
still an interest in my welfare. 

I could fill many pages of this autobiography with very 
interesting reading should I recite all the incidents that oc- 
curred while at this camp, but will mention only one more. 

In order to help Mrs. Larimer, whose husband was away 
much of the time attending to his mail contracts from Point 
of Rocks north, I had agreed to receive and measure for 
her some cord wood and some ties that some Mexicans had 
been getting out on contract. A number of the ties were not 
up to specifications and I rejected them. I also found the 

162 Trails of Yesterday 

cord wood cribbed and some of it very loosely piled, for which 
I docked them. This made them very angry. I told them 
that was the best I could do and if not satisfied, they could 
get some one else to measure and receive them. I gave them 
a statement to take to Mrs. Larimer. On leaving them I saw 
one of the Mexicans start off through the timber, carrying his 
rifle. I was on horseback and hurried along the trail, not 
wishing to let him get ahead of me. I had gone nearly half 
a mile when I suddenly turned my horse's head in a thick quak- 
ing asp grove and awaited results. In a few moments I 
espied through the branches "Mr. Mexican" coming up the 
trail on a run, carrying his rifle in both hands. When nearly 
opposite me I pulled my six-shooter, rode out to the trail, faced 
him and asked "Are you looking for me?" He did not know 
what to say but stammered out that he was chasing a deer. 
I marched him back to his camp at the point of my revolver, 
and turned him over to the boss contractor with instructions 
not to let him follow my trail or I would take him to Chey- 
enne. I am satisfied in my own mind that this Mexican in- 
tended to kill me if he could shoot me in the back. My facing 
him deprived him of his courage. 

We had stripped the hills and canons for many miles 
north of Sherman and Tie Siding Stations of the best of the 
timber, both for ties and wood, and had let many sub-contracts 
for ties, poles and wood to be gotten out of the South Side 
hills, twelve to twenty miles south of Tie Siding. There was 
a large number of tie contractors at work on both sides of 
the railroad, among whom could be mentioned Paxton & 
Turner and Sprague, Davis & Company. 

I remember some tie choppers getting after Sprague, 
Davis & Company with a rope intending to hang all members 
of the firm because they could not get their pay. These con- 
tractors were not entirely to blame for this. Credit Mobilier 
Company was often short of funds. Some moneyed men of 
Wall street in those days looked upon the building of the 
Union Pacific Railroad as a wild undertaking. Its stocks and 
bonds could hardly be given away and it took nerve to get 

Trails of Yesterday 


out ties, poles, logs and wood for a company so noted for slow 
pay as "Credit Mobilier." I, at one time, as cashier for 
Gilman & Carter, had over eleven hundred thousand dollars 
of this company's paper. Our firm did over three million 
dollars' worth of work for this company and to my knowl- 
edge never lost one dollar of it. All honor to the men who 
conceived and built the Union and Southern Pacific Rail- 
roads, thus uniting by the iron horse, the Atlantic and Pacific 
Oceans when the golden spike was driven at Ogden. 

Driving the Golden Spike 

Our company had established tie and wood camps at 
Rock Creek and Medicine Bow, but after Gilman Brothers 
had declined to continue co-partnership in furnishing ties, etc., 
to the Denver Pacific (the railroad planned from Cheyenne 
to Denver) a dissolution of the firm of Gilman & Carter was 
thought advisable. Mr. John Gilman wanted me to go with 
the Gilman Brothers, while Coe & Carter desired that I re- 
main with them. I chose the latter. I had disbursed probably 
two million dollars but had a voucher to show for every 
dollar, except perhaps, postage stamps. All members of the 
firm had implicit confidence in my honesty. General Coe 
still insisted that I join them in the cattle business. 

164 Trails of Yesterday 

During the summer of 1869 Gilman & Carter took a 
2800-ton hay contract to be delivered in stack at Fort Mc- 
Pherson, Nebraska, and I was sent there to fill the contract. 
It was arranged that after this was filled I take an active 
interest with Coe & Carter in the cattle business. General Coe 
had again gone to Texas to buy several thousand Texas cattle. 
The Gilman Brothers were very much disappointed when they 
learned I had decided to take an interest with Coe & Carter. 
All four were good men in their respective ways. 

General Coe was exacting, overbearing at times. If his 
mind was made up, it was very hard to change him. He was 
sharp and shrewd, and knew all the tricks in the trade. At 
this particular time he was more wealthy than Mr. Carter. 

Mr. Carter was plain, unassuming, easy-going, a deep 
thinker, the soul of honor, cool and deliberate and hard to 
change when he had made up his mind, but could be reasoned 
with at all times. 

The Gilman Brothers' business was handled by John Gil- 
man, who was a big-hearted fellow and had the gift of in- 
gratiating himself into our confidence and we could not help 
but like him. He was remarkable for his genuine hospitality, 
frank business ways and sunny good-nature. He always had 
a good story to tell and tried to make people happy. 

Reverting to Mr. Carter I will tell one transaction that 
sheds a flood of light on his true character. He and Mr. 
McDaniels had taken a mixed horse and mule train of flour to 
sell at Denver in i860. On arrival at Denver they found 
the wheat flour market glutted but there was a big demand 
for buckwheat flour. They had been in Denver some time 
but could not get a bid for their flour. Mr. Carter had occa- 
sion to make a trip up Cherry Creek. He had been gone a 
couple of days and on his return Mr. McDaniels met him in 
camp and was elated to inform him that he had sold the flour. 

Mr. Carter was agreeably surprised to learn this and 
anxious to know the name of the buyer. Mr. McDaniels 
told him that, since everybody wanted buckwheat flour, he had 

General Cc 

Levi Carter 

Trails of Yesterday 165 

bought a lot of buckwheat flour sacks and about twenty sacks 
of buckwheat flour. He then put their flour into the empty 
buckwheat sacks with a little buckwheat flour on top in each 
sack and sold it all for buckwheat flour and had the money for 
it in his pocket. At this information Mr. Carter became very 
angry and told him that he would not have his name coupled 
with such a fraud and deception. They divided that night, 
Mr. Carter accepting as his share just what his share of the 
wheat flour was worth and Mr. McDaniels pocketed the 
balance. Mr. McDaniels remained in Denver and became 
very wealthy. Mr. Carter returned to the Missouri River 
where he later became associated with General Coe in freight- 
ing and contracting. 


Experiences at Fort McPherson and Wood River — A Government 

Hay Contract — Buffalo Bill and Other Friends — The Burke 

Family — The Fair Daughter — Embark in the Cattle 

Business — A Compromise with the Pawnees — 

Battle between the Pawnees and Sioux — 

Raw Corn Only on My Menu — 

Again My Guardian Angel 


IN the latter part of July, 1869, I arrived at Fort Mc- 
Pherson, Nebraska, with sufficient horse and mule teams 
and machinery to fill this hay contract. Charles Mc- 
Donald, who kept the same store that we passed at this fort in 
1866, was given a sub-contract by us of several hundred tons 
which he filled according to agreement. 

I remember Mr. McDonald at the time we first passed 
through Fort McPherson. I did some trading in his store 
and saw him sell a stick of cord wood, four feet long and 
about four inches in diameter at the top end, to an emigrant 
for $1.00. The emigrant paid the price so cheerfully that 
Mr. McDonald stood and looked at him several moments 
after receiving his money. It was raining and buffalo chips 
would not burn. Mr. McDonald might have been debating 
in his own mind as to whether he had sold the wood too 
cheap. The emigrant might have paid more if asked, but 
Mr. McDonald wanted to be fair and reasonable. 

While filling this contract here I first met W. F. Cody, 
later better known as Colonel Cody, or Buffalo Bill. He 
was employed at this fort as scout and guide. There were 
several companies of cavalry and some infantry stationed 
here, busy keeping the Indians in line. Indian raids on 
emigrants, freighters, ranchmen, stage coaches and settlers, 
including government stock, were frequent. The Sioux, 
under pretext of hunting buffalo, would often swoop down 
on the peaceful Pawnees, and many horrible, bloody battle- 


Trails of Yesterday 167 

fields between the Platte and Republican rivers resulted when 
these tribes met. The Pawnees usually got the worst of it. 
I remember seeing one of these battlefields near the Re- 
publican River and do not want to see another like it. 

While we were filling this hay contract, many raids were 
made by thieving bands of Sioux on the government herds 
of horses and mules, also on nearby settlers. Among these 
settlers who lost their homes and all their stock may be 
mentioned John Burke, who had for the second time started 
a home about seven miles west of this fort, when thieving 
bands of Sioux swooped down on his ranch and drove off 
all his stock, including a large herd of valuable mules. 

The Burkes were living at the Fitchie Ranch, which they 
later bought, together with the old Ben Holladay Stage 
Station about two miles west of the fort. This they later 
improved and made their home. It was here, seven years 
later that I wooed, won and married Miss Elizabeth Burke. 

A few years before this, Mr. Burke had built a wagon 
bridge near the mouth of the South Platte River where it 
flowed into the North Platte, but high water had carried it 
away, much to the disappointment of the traveling public who 
wanted to go West by the way of what was then known as 
North Platte City. He then built his other bridges over the 
Platte River proper south of McPherson Station and north- 
west of the fort, to accommodate the hauling of freight, 
provisions, and feed for the troops stationed there and for 
which he received forty-five cents per hundred. Mr. Burke 
was an industrious, honest man, with a good wife, the mother 
of eight children — seven boys and one girl. He was a great 
worker, very enterprising, and did not know what fear was. 
He built the first irrigation ditch in Lincoln County, Nebraska, 
taking the water out of the south bank of the Platte River on 
Section 36, Township 13, Range 29, West of the Sixth 
Principal Meridian. He raised good crops of oats and vege- 
tables which brought a big price. Later he built a railroad out 
of logs and ties in what was called Cut Canon, crossing the 

168 Trails of Yesterday 

divide between the Platte River and Medicine Creek, south of 
Fort McPherson, to facilitate the getting out of wood, logs, 
ties and telegraph poles to fill his contract with the Govern- 
ment and Credit Mobilier or the Union Pacific Railroad 

It was about this time that the Indians ran off all his 
horse and mule stock. He followed the trail nearly two 
months alone through Nebraska, Kansas, and Indian Terri- 
tory but did not recover a hoof of the stock. Mr. Harvey, 
who is now engaged in marking the Oregon Trail through 
Nebraska, was engaged by the Union Pacific Railroad Com- 
pany in classifying its lands north of Medicine Creek and saw 
this band of Indians rush by him with Mr. Burke's stock, 
only saving himself and men by remaining hidden in the thick 
brush while the Indians passed. 

Too much credit cannot be given to such pioneers as Mr. 
John Burke, his wife Margratha and family, for the active 
part they have played as early settlers of Lincoln County, 

I became acquainted with some of the officers at this 
Post — all good, genial fellows — one of whom was Major 
Walker, who, I believe, came with General Carr's Fifth 
Cavalry. One Captain Hayes was Quartermaster — very ex- 
acting but always reasonable. There were also several nice 
families at the Post: the McDonalds, Snells, Ericssons, 
Burkes and Codys, including the Colonel's two sisters, both 
fearless riders. There was also the same old, genial Sam 
Watts whom I first saw at Fort Sedgwick as acting Post- 
master, and later at Cheyenne with Preacher Bulen, when he 
took me into the first dance house I ever was in. Later came 
Luke Healey, Maggie Cohen, John Murray, Louis Wooden, 
George Dillard, Charles Hendy, and many other good people. 

I had no time for sociabilities, hence did not go to any 
of the Fort dances, which were said to be very pleasant affairs. 

Among the noted frontier characters I met here was "Old 
Turgeon," the Indian trader and inventor of the famous 

Trails of Y ester dan 169 

"Turgeon Blanket." Turgeon accompanied Frank E. Coe, 
General Coe's son, and me on a buffalo hunt at the head of 
the Stinking Water, where he got mired and we had to pull 
him out with ropes. 

Among other characters I met and grubstaked many 
times were Jimmy Cannon, who claimed to be the only surviv- 
ing child of the Alamo Massacre; Edward Moran, after 
whom Moran canon is named, and whom the Sioux Indians 
called "Iron Legs" because he could outwalk the swiftest- 
footed Sioux; Leon Palladay, a Sioux Indian interpreter, who 
later married one of Mr. Moran's daughters; Tod Randall, 
a squaw man and a recognized Sioux Indian authority; Wil- 
liam Peniston of the firm of Peniston & Miller, proprietors 
of the Midway road ranch until the Sioux burned it, when 
they, like others, had to flee to save their lives and the lives 
of their families. Mr. Peniston was United States Commis- 
sioner and claimed to be a descendant of Lord Peniston of 
England. He was a good, genial fellow. 

The noted Jack Morrow was still at his ranch some 
twelve miles west of McPherson but these thieving bands of 
Sioux never bothered him. He was usually the beneficiary 
of these Indian raids; so much so, that the commander at 
Fort McPherson gave Jack a hint to leave and he did. This 
broke up a bad nest of hard characters, both whites and 

At the Fort lived E. E. Ericsson, Jacob Snell, and others. 
Poor Mr. Ericsson had incurred the displeasure of the 
commanding officer and that autocrat ordered the Ericssons 
to move, and because they did not do so promptly, had some 
soldiers tear the roof off their little home, thus exposing a 
sick wife and some small children to inclement weather until 
kind friends took them in and cared for them. 

Sam Fitchie, about a mile west of the Fort, kept the 
Fitchie ranch, formerly the Ben Holladay Mail Coach 

Over at McPherson Station on the Union Pacific Rail- 
road, about three and one-half miles north of Fort 

170 Trails of Yesterday 

McPherson, lived the Plumers, McCulloughs, Hanrahans, 
Wilsons, and our genial, sometimes dependable, friend 
Rooney who kept a small road ranch near the Station. Emi- 
grants and others could stay at Rooney's, provided Rooney 
took a liking to them, but if he did not, woe be to them ! 

I was often called to the station to receive freight for our 
outfit and would sometimes go over with a team at night to 
receive it, the agent, Mr. Plumer, being very accommodating. 

Sometimes I would stay all night at Rooney's, where I 
was always welcome. I remember staying there one night 
when the other guest, who was an emigrant, had incurred 
Rooney's dislike by kneeling in prayer and talking religion to 
him. After breakfast the emigrant asked what his bill was. 
Rooney told him $10.00, which was about $7.00 too much. 
The emigrant remonstrated against the high price, but to no 
effect. Rooney pulled a wicked-looking revolver from under 
the counter and told the emigrant to put the $10.00 on the 
counter and "skin." He obeyed and soon left, no doubt glad 
that he was living. Before I left, Rooney called Mrs. JRooney 
from the kitchen into the store and begged her to sing the 
song that won him, which she would have done had I not 
excused her at this time. 

While filling the 2800-ton hay contract at Fort 
McPherson, I was suddenly summoned by an orderly to the 
Commanding Officer's quarters. Before reporting to that 
gentleman I thought best to see our wagon boss Robinson, 
who, on being questioned, said he had disobeyed my orders 
and had that morning taken in four loads of slough grass. I 
ordered him back on the trot with four teams and instructed 
him to pick up every particle of that slough grass and dump 
it on the manure pile. He did this before I had a chance to 
explain matters to the Post Commander, to whom I later 
reported. That officer read the riot-act to me and wanted 
to know what kind of hay I was bringing in. He said it 
was not fit for bedding and requested that I accompany him 
to see for myself. I did so, but on arrival at the hay corrals 
all the slough grass had been removed. The Commander 

Trails of Yesterday 171 

was nonplussed and could not explain matters until I told 
him that, on learning that four loads of the poor quality of 
hay had been brought in, I immediately ordered the teams to 
gather it all up and dump it on the manure pile. The 
General stood and looked at me several moments and said he 
could not understand how we had removed it so quickly. I 
invited him to come and see for himself. He did so, and on 
seeing the hay, all bright but a trifle long, dumped among the 
stable refuse, he seemed satisfied and told me that he had 
confidence in me and was willing to allow me from that time 
on, in the absence of the Quartermaster, to pass on the quality 
of hay required. 

Instead of stopping us when we had the 2800 tons in, the 
Commander allowed us to put in 3300 tons, and I was highly 
complimented by both the Commanding Officer and Captain 
Hayes, the Quartermaster, as to the manner in which I had 
filled the contract, which was at $8.45 per ton delivered in 
stack in the hay corrals at the Fort. 

On the close of this contract, the last work I did for the 
firm of Gilman & Carter, I disposed of all the extra stock, 
wagons, harness, ox yokes, and machinery, retaining one span 
of mules, wagon, harness and mess kit, and two old employees, 
the Botkin Brothers, and started them with the outfit to 
"Dobytown" (old Fort Kearny), about the middle of 
October, 1869, to await the arrival of some 2500 Texas 
cattle that General Coe was bringing up. I had agreed to 
embark in the cattle business with General Coe and Levi 
Carter, under the firm name of John Bratt & Co., I purchas- 
ing Jack Wait's interest. 

The outfit started. I took the train to Omaha with a view 
to settling up my. accounts with the firm of Gilman & Carter, 
for whom I had disbursed nearly two million dollars. I am 
pleased to say that my accounts checked out within two cents, 
which proved to be a two-cent stamp for which I had not re- 
ceived credit. Both Mr. Gilman and Mr. Carter gave me 
considerable praise for my faithfulness in caring for their 
interests in the manner 1 had, and Mr. Gilman expressed his 

172 Trails of Yesterday 

regret that I had concluded to cast my lot with Coe & Carter 
instead of with him and his brother Jed. 

The settlement over, I hastened to Fort Kearny or "Doby- 
town," where shortly after I received the herd of Texas 
cattle brought there by General Coe and his Texas men. 

This last herd had received hard usage from the start 
from San Antonio. Bad white men and hostile Indians had 
bothered General Coe en route. They had stampeded the 
cattle several times and a number had gone back (especially 
old brush steers) to the old range. Cattle inspectors had held 
the General up for blackmail and one mean, ugly, desperado 
inspector had been killed by the ranchman who sold General 
Coe the herd of cattle. The evidence at the trial justified the 
killing and the ranchman was acquitted. The result of all this 
delay was that the cattle arrived thin and many of them 

It was decided that five hundred of the poorest ones be 
cut out and wintered near there on the Platte River if sufficient 
feed could be procured to care for them. With one Texas 
man and the two Botkin Brothers I took charge of this bunch 
of "skins" and "crips" and General Coe proceeded with the 
remainder of the herd to the ranch west of Fort McPherson. 
I fortunately ran on to some five hundred or more tons of hay 
that had been put up on the Denman island by James Jackson, 
who kept a general store at Wood River, about three miles 
north of the hay. This hay I purchased and found an ideal 
place — heavy timber, lots of brush and a nice flowing spring — 
on the north bank of the Platte River, where I could feed, 
shelter and water the cattle, safely protected from the storms. 
The location struck me so favorably that on finding it to be 
vacant government land I decided to preempt that 160 acres. 
After getting the cattle on it, making a road through the 
brush and a couple of channels to the hay stacks, and locating 
our camp, one morning I set out on horseback to Grand 
Island, about sixteen miles distant, intending to preempt this 
land, which I did. 

At this time Grand Island was a small place of perhaps 

Trails of Yesterday 173 

four hundred people. Koenig & Webe had a store there, 
which I think was called "The O. K." There were several 

I returned to camp next day. Imagine my surprise and 
chagrin at finding our cattle, horses and men surrounded by 
about seven hundred Pawnee Indians, who insisted on our 
moving at once, claiming that this particular location had 
been their winter camp for many years. I tried to tell them 
through their interpreter that I desired to hold these poor 
cattle here until the grass came in the spring, when I should 
be glad to move them to where our other cattle were near Fort 
McPherson. They objected, hence I was up against a serious 
proposition. Their chief told me I must leave before the 
next sunrise. I sent to the Jackson store for a wagon-load of 
flour, sugar, coffee, beans, syrup, crackers, soda, and other 
provisions, and that night killed two of the fattest cows in the 
bunch and gave the Indians a big feast, which pleased them, 
but they still insisted that I must leave. They said my heart 
was good but I could not stay. I spent a sleepless night on 
horseback watching the cattle with my three men. 

The next morning I moved the cattle out of the brush and 
timber to the open prairie north of the Pawnee camp. I left 
one man in charge of the camp, the other two in charge of the 
cattle and horses, while I went to Wood River Station and 
wired the bank with which we did business in Omaha, to send 
by first express seven hundred ten-cent shin plasters. They 
arrived the next day — all new, crisp and attractive looking. 

As soon as I arrived at camp I told the interpreter to 
have all the Indians — bucks, squaws and papooses — pass by 
the end of the wagon in which I stood and as they filed by I 
gave to each, even to the little babe tied on the mother's back, 
one little ten-cent greenback. This so pleased the Indians that 
after another feast, at which some dogs were killed and eaten 
and a big pow-wow held, I was given to understand I could 
remain there with the cattle until the grass came, on con- 
dition that I build a large log ranch or building, large enough 
to accommodate the squaws, papooses and old warriors in 

174 Trails of Yesterday 

case of a Sioux or Cheyenne Indian attack. I readily agreed 
to this as timber was plentiful around us. I built a log build- 
ing with port holes on all sides and assured them that in case 
of attack we would help fight their enemies, all of which 
pleased them greatly. 

One Pawnee warrior, named "Skitty Butts," was so 
pleased with my action and our mild protests against his help- 
ing himself to our provisions whenever he wanted to, that he 
very generously expressed a willingness to give me his beauti- 
ful sixteen year old sister for a wife, but I courteously 
declined, telling him that I did not need a wife. 

"Skitty Butts" was not the only one to crowd our little 
cook tent at meal times. Sometimes as many as fifty bucks, 
squaws and papooses would be hanging around for something 
to eat. The hatchet was buried. The pipe of peace was 
often passed around to us and in turn smoked. Twice during 
the winter a big feast was held by the Indians. Many dogs, 
skunks, beavers, and musk-rats, were served on these au- 
spicious occasions, to which, as a rule, we were cordially in- 
vited. We dared not refuse to attend or to partake of the 
feast, which was presided over by their head medicine men, 
chanting war songs, praising the valiant deeds of their fore- 
fathers and invoking the aid and good will of the Great Spirit 
in their proposed buffalo hunts on the Republican River. I 
have often been compelled to eat at these feasts when the odor 
alone would make me deathly sick. I dared not refuse, since 
if any bad luck had occurred or anything gone wrong, all 
would have been laid to me and the penalty would have been 
death and the confiscation of our cattle and outfit. 

On one of these buffalo hunts on the Republican River the 
Sioux attacked the Pawnees, killing nearly two hundred bucks 
and squaws, besides some papooses. I went over with a squad 
of cavalry from the "Dobytown" fort or garrison and saw 
the result of this fight, which was a complete victory for the 
Sioux. The Pawnees had sold their lives as dearly as possible, 
but the Sioux had the advantage of position and numbers and 
showed no mercy to the brave little band of Pawnees. Scalps 

Sioux Squatv and Papoc 

Pawnee and Sioux Indians 

Trails of Yesterday 175 

were taken and the bodies frightfully mutilated. Even a 
young squaw mother with a babe at her breast was not spared. 
A pack of hungry wolves and coyotes was feasting on the 
unburied bodies of the victims. 

Be it said to the credit of the officers and soldiers of the 
squad who went over the battle ground, that the bodies were 
carefully gathered up, wrapped in blankets and buried not 
far from where we found them in that silent valley near the 
Republican River. Some posts were set up at the ends of the 
trenches in which the bodies were laid. I am told that noth- 
ing is left to tell the story of this bloody battle. The posts 
have disappeared long ago, the mounds have sunken and the 
battle ground is now a cornfield. 

The Pawnees that remained at our camp and the few 
that got away and returned manifested their sorrow in dif- 
ferent ways; some cried loudly like the Sioux on the death 
of a relative, others would sit for hours with faces covered 
with their blankets, weeping in silence and vowing vengeance 
on their deadly enemies for the brutal butchery of nearly two 
hundred of the flower of their tribe. 

"Skitty Butts" sister, who could shoot an arrow as straight 
as her brother and who, it was said, had killed several buffalo 
and other game, went with this hunting party, was captured 
and carried off by a young Sioux chief. 

Time passed quickly. We were kept busy feeding and 
caring for the cattle, and while much snow fell and the winter 
was a cold one, the cattle went through without much loss. 
We caught some thieving white men driving some of them off 
to an island in the Platte River, where they butchered them, 
took the meat to Grand Island and sold it. 

As stated, we had turned the large log house over to 
the Indians and the men and I lived in the two tents. It was 
an agreeable change when spring came and the grass was 
high enough so the cattle began to leave their hay and 
graze on the open prairie. 

About May 10, 1870, we broke up camp and moved the 
cattle across Wood River to Prairie Creek, bidding adieu to 

176 Trails of Yesterday 

our Pawnee Indian friends, who bade us an affectionate 
good-bye. I met some of these later while supplying their 
agency at Genoa with beef, and others a few years later acting 
as scouts for the Government under Major North. Later, in 
1876, the tribe was removed from Nebraska to a reservation 
of 283,000 acres in Oklahoma, since which time their number 
has greatly decreased. 

We had not been many days in camp on Prairie Creek 
when my three men struck for higher wages. I was paying 
them $45.00 per month and board. They wanted $55.00 per 
month and board. The Sioux had just been making some 
raids on the settlers, mostly cattlemen, on the Loup rivers, 
and my men thought we would be the next to be attacked on 
another raid that the Sioux had planned on the Pawnees. Our 
temporary camp on Prairie Creek would be on the route 
should they carry out this threat. I sent word to the Pawnees 
at our old camp to be on the lookout for this proposed attack, 
which they headed off by all moving back to Genoa on the 
double-quick. This information being sent to the war party 
of Sioux probably saved us from attack. I tried to reason 
with my men. I told them I could not afford to pay them 
the wages demanded and that I did not think the Sioux 
would bother us, but this did not satisfy them. They de- 
manded their time and I paid them. 

Just about this time, 3 :oo p. m., it commenced to rain 
and the cattle started to scatter. Before leaving camp to 
round up the cattle I luckily tied up an extra horse to the 
wagon. It was just getting dark when I returned to camp. 
The rain continued falling. I changed horses, put the one I 
had been riding on a stake rope, then went to the cook tent 
and grub box, thinking I would find a few cold biscuits, 
but the men had taken all the cooked food. I picked up a 
couple of ears of corn and put them in my saddle pockets. 
It is not necessary to state that I had a hard night's ride. The 
cattle kept drifting until I got them in a bend of the creek 
where the banks were steep. Here I succeeded in holding 
them in spite of the rain. About 10:00 A. M. it began to 

Trails of Yesterday 177 

let up. I headed the cattle toward camp and after changing 
horses again, about 2:00 P. M. I rode to Wood River station 
and Jackson's store, where I succeeded in hiring John Smont 
and other men, whom I brought out to camp on extra horses. 

Since the men left I had had no time to cook anything. My 
menu had been the raw corn off of several cobs. The men 
I had just hired cooked a hasty supper consisting of biscuit, 
coffee and bacon, which I enjoyed. With one of the men, 
I then rounded up the cattle and herded them half the 
night, when we were relieved by the other two men. 

It was while holding the cattle on Prairie Creek one 
windy night, that a heavy field desk lid, which I had set up 
against the torn corner of the tent to break the wind, fell on 
my forehead while I was asleep. This must have stunned me, 
for I awakened in a pool of blood. The iron-capped lid had 
struck me on the forehead, which scar I will carry as long as I 

While on Prairie Creek another little accident, which 
nearly cost me my life, befell me. I had gone to Jackson's 
store with a mule team to get provisions. Wood River was 
high and going over one part of the bridge. I got my 
supplies and started back to find the water apparently about 
one foot deep flowing over the bridge. I thought I could 
get across and touched up the mules with my whip. Before 
I realized my danger my mules, the wagon and I plunged 
into about twelve feet of flood water. I cannot tell how I got 
out. The mules were drowned and the wagon recovered 
several days afterward, but the supplies had sunk into the 
mud or been carried away by the current. Again I was 
reminded of that "Guardian Angel." 

At this time there were no settlers on Prairie Creek and 
many of those on Wood River had left on account of Indian 
raids. Some had gone to Grand Island, others to old Fort 
Kearny, or "Dobytown." Among the settlers on Wood 
River I remember, besides Jackson, the Olivers, Lambertsons, 
Dugdales, Charles Walker (whose wife many called Iron- 
sides), Pat Walsh, that Prince of Democrats who used to 

178 Trails of Yesterday 

take pride in carrying the ballot box with its vote to Kearney. 
Some one stuffed the ballot on him once with an obnoxious 
ballot, which made Mr. Walsh very angry. 

I could mention many other good Wood River people 
with whom I became acquainted, among them Otto Legg and 
Sol Rickmond. The last I saw of Legg was when he bor- 
rowed some funds from me to take him to Kearney. I have 
not seen nor heard from him since. 

George Williamson and the McGees had claims near 
mine. The former was a hot-headed fellow, who later 
killed his man and had much trouble in keeping his neck out 
of a rope loop for his crime. 

Here I must close my experience with the cattle wintered 
in 1869 and spring of 1870 at Wood River. 


Life as a Cattleman — The Firm of John Bratt £ff Co. — "Point Look- 
out" — The Home Ranch — Trailing Indian Horse and Cattle 
Thieves — The Cattleman's Life not a Picnic — Moderniz- 
ing the Cattle Business — Origin of the Word 
"Maverick " 

4 BOUT June 10, 1870, grass became good enough so 

/-% the cattle could live and hold their own on the trail 

if handled on easy drives, hence I started my little 

herd of invalid cows and heifers, many of which had calves 

by their sides, necessitating easy drives. 

In passing Stevenson Siding, John Long, the section fore- 
man, bantered me for a trade of twenty head of the light end 
of the herd, mostly yearling heifers. I told him I was afraid 
he was not fixed to handle and care for them and that the 
cattle were Texas cattle and somewhat wild when people 
went around them afoot, but he said he knew his business 
and had quite a number of section men whom he could use 
in handling and herding them. I hesitated about selling him 
the cattle and told him that as fast as the yearlings were cut 
out of the bunch they would be considered his property, to 
which he agreed. The price was $22.00 each, cash as soon 
as cut out. John had six section men employed to hold the 
heifers as fast as cut from the bunch. They simply scared 
the cattle and about the time the twentieth had been cut out, 
the other nineteen had disappeared over the hills. John 
began to realize that he did not want them and asked me to 
take them back. I could find only nineteen of them. Finally 
I sold him an apparently good milk cow with a young calf for 
$50.00. I left Smont at the section house that night to hunt 
up the missing yearling, but he failed to find her. Strange but 
true, we found her three years after in a herd of cattle on 
the South Loup. She had a calf by her side. 

Smont, on his overtaking us, told about John Long's ex- 


180 Trails of Yesterday 

perience with the milk cow. We had tied the calf for him, but 
the poor mother was so wild and scared at those section men 
chasing her afoot that she was much inclined to abandon her 
calf. Long got up at peep of day, thinking he would be able 
to rope the cow while she was near the calf, but on seeing him 
and the men she made for the hills. Mrs. Long and the 
little Longs had anticipated having some milk for breakfast 
and asked John in a very pleasant way if he had "pailed" the 
cow. John answered rather savagely, "Pail h — 1 and dam- 
nation. You might as well try to pail a buffalo." Smont 
finally roped the cow and tied her up near the calf and after 
throwing her down a few times she reluctantly consented to 
be milked. We often did this to break Texas cows for 

Several calves drowned in crossing the Platte River, which 
was swimming in several places. Outside of this we got the 
cattle through in good shape. 

Shortly after my arrival at what we had named Fort 
McPherson Herd Camp, according to prior arrangements 
with Isaac Coe and Levi Carter, I bought out John Wait's 
interest in the cattle, numbering several thousand head, and a 
co-partnership was formed under the name of John Bratt & 
Co. Wait had established a small camp in one of the deep 
pockets of the short canons leading on to what was called the 
Burke Flats, a little east of what was known as "Point Look- 
out" just west of Moran canon, and about midway between 
Fort McPherson and North Platte City. 

I could write a chapter about this particular Point. 
Many a stage coach, freight and emigrant train, soldier and 
cowboy have been chased and shot at, and some captured and 
killed by war parties of the Sioux hiding behind "Point Look- 
out," from which they would swoop down on the unsuspecting 
travelers without a moment's warning. I and some of our 
cowboys had a narrow escape from capture by a small band 
of Sioux, who came charging down on us from "Point Look- 
out." They did their best to cut us off. While on our way 
down the bottom the band split, part going in front and part 

Trails of Yesterday 181 

behind us. We saved ourselves by dashing into the brush and 
fording the river. One of our line riders, William Rix, in 
disobeying orders "never to ride the same line twice in succes- 
sion," received two bullets in his body, one going through him, 
the other lodging near his backbone. He was shot by Indians 
hiding behind "Point Lookout." Rix recovered and finally 
went to Utah. 

Our cattle ranged between the Platte River, Medicine and 
Red Willow creeks, west of Fort McPherson and east of 
O'Fallons' Bluffs. Our ranch brand was an oblong circle on 

Our Ranch Brand 

the left hip and loin and ear mark, thus: OO O ur cattle 
were known among cattle men as the "Circle Herd." 

During the Fall of 1870 we commenced building what 
was later known as The Home Ranch on Section 13, Town- 
ship 14 North, Range 30, just north of the old Jack Morrow 
Road Ranch, south of Fremont slough, being about four miles 
southeast of North Platte City and about fourteen miles west 
of Fort McPherson. We built our ranch house and stables 
out of sod. The walls of the ranch house were four to six 
feet thick and fitted with port holes to enable us to stand off 
an attack by Indians. We built strong corrals, and branding 


Trails of Yesterday 

chutes, out of cedar logs and rails and fenced in Section 13, 
on the east, south and west, with strong cedar mortised posts 
and red cedar rails, four rails to an 8-foot pommel. Many 
of the posts are standing there to-day, the 10th day of July, 
19 1 2, forty-two years, as sound as the day they were put in 
the ground. At this time the canons had plenty of cedar 
trees in them of which we made free use. 

I remember we moved into our ranch house, with its sod 
and dirt roof laid on cedar rails, on Christmas Day, 1870. 

The Home Ranch 

We also completed our stable with its sod walls and hay roof. 
It was quite a relief to myself and men when we had a rail 
pasture to turn our horses into, a stable in which we could tie 
a couple of dozen at night and a good house in which to 
protect ourselves from Indian attacks. This was a great im- 
provement on sleeping out around our horse herd in the open 
v/ith a lariat fastened around a saddle horse's neck and tied 
to our arms. 

Our employees, some twenty or thirty, were mostly 

Trails of Yesterday 183 

Texans or Mexicans. All could swing a lariat, use a revolver 
or ride a broncho, but understood little and cared less about 
buildings or making fence. 

The many little thieving bands of Sioux and Cheyenne 
Indians kept us busy before we finished our ranch, corrals 
and pasture. They would take a sneak on us and drive off 
a few horses every chance they got. About forty Sioux In- 
dians stole up on us one dark night and took seventy-five 
head of horses out of a herd of one hundred twenty-five in 
spite of the fact that some twelve herders were sleeping 
around them with saddle horses tied to their arms, legs or 
bodies. In the stampede some of the men were dragged a 
great distance over the prairie. One man's arm was broken. 
As soon as we could get our forces together I had the men 
take up the trail while I went to Fort McPherson to get a 
squad of cavalry to help us follow the Indians. Lieutenant 
Thomas, a brave little officer, was detailed with a company 
of cavalry to help me follow the Indians with the stolen stock. 
Buffalo Bill went along as guide. We caught up with our 
men about dark near the head of Medicine Creek. They had 
the trail, which was quite fresh. It seemed to lead to the 
head of Red Willow Creek, which we reached a little before 
daylight. At break of day we saw the Indian camp and some 
of the stolen horses. The order was given to surround the 
camp, if possible unknown to the Indians, but this could not 
be done. Many of the Indians had laid down beside their 
ponies, the loose horses apparently grazing in the center of 
the tired and sleeping Indian guard. Before we had sur- 
rounded them, the guards were aware of us and were on their 
ponies, trying to stampede the loose horses. The rough lay 
of the country aided the Indians more than us, but it was not 
long before we had many of them hemmed in a "pocket," 
from which a few escaped. 

I remember one incident that occurred in this fight. One 
of our men, Gokey by name, a half-breed Frenchman with 
some Indian blood in him, was galloping his horse alongside 
of mine, when we spied an Indian trying to hide behind a tree. 

184 Trails of Yesterday 

We stopped. Gokey dismounted, saying, "I shoot you, I 
shoot you." Old Gokey very deliberately took aim at the 
Indian, resting his gun on the side of a tree. The Indian com- 
menced dodging. Old Gokey, getting "a bead" on the In- 
dian, pulled the trigger, but his gun failed to go off. He 
mounted his horse in disgust, saying, "I believe I won't 
either." The Indian, no doubt, was pleased but not for long, 
since a ball coming from another direction, soon sent him to 
join his thieving comrades. 

Enough to say, the fight lasted about two hours. We 
took no prisoners and not many Indians escaped. We brought 
in all of the horses and ponies that were not killed or crippled, 
except some that a few of the Indians got. One of our men 
was killed and four wounded. The papers that loved the 
Indian better than the honest settler and brave soldier, who 
were always ready to do or die, styled this Indian fight a 
needless butchery and brave, gallant Lieutenant Thomas was 
courtmartialed. Scout and Guide W. F. Cody, not as well 
known as he was later, did good work in this fight. We 
recovered most of the horses. The Indians let us alone for 
a few days after this "drubbing," when they came and took 
a few more of our horses, shot our lineman twice through the 
body and stampeded the Government herd of horses and 
mules at Fort McPherson. 

While these roving, thieving little bands of Sioux Indians 
were bad and committed many depredations, yet the Sioux 
Indians, as a nation, were not at war with the whites. Spotted 
Tail, the great Sioux Chief, was keeping his word. He 
promised his daughter before she died of a broken heart at 
Fort Laramie that he would never go to war against the 
whites again. He exacted this promise from many of his sub- 
chiefs and later from Red Cloud. Some of these Sioux 
Chiefs, especially Spotted Tail and his followers, would often 
come to our Home Ranch and stay a couple of days on their 
way to and from their buffalo hunts on the Republican River 
and its tributaries. On these occasions we would make them 
a feast, killing a couple or more "beeves," give them flour, 

Trails of Yesterday 185 

sugar, coffee, syrup and beans, and if winter, hay for their 
ponies. They were familiar with our brands and ear marks, 
both on cattle and horses. I had a list of brands and many 
times animals would be recovered and returned to proper 
owners by this friendly cooperation. 

Spotted Tail showed his honesty and good will toward 
us many times by telling us where certain bunches of our cattle 
were. He and other Sioux Indians, in the spring of 1872, 
told us where we would find the remains of several hundred 
cattle that had been needlessly butchered by several little war 
parties of Sioux Indians, all because they did not happen to 
run across any buffalo. Some of our men and I went over 
in the country indicated by Spotted Tail's band and found the 
carcases of nearly four hundred cattle that had been killed, 
not for the meat but for pure, unadulterated meanness. We 
found scores with their tongues cut out, many others killed 
for the sinew, some for their hearts, others for their brains 
and many had just a little meat taken from the loins. These 
animals had been in good condition. We were out several 
weeks, getting at the facts, numbers, sex, ages and value and 
found our claim footed up to nearly $13,000.00, for which 
we put in a claim to the Government. This was scaled down 
some and then paid, when unprincipled squaw men went to 
the chiefs of these thieving bands and told them that 
the Government, the "Great Father," was going to deduct 
these claims from their annuities and that they could get out 
of paying for the cattle by saying they did not kill them. 
These lies were put in form by unscrupulous agents and 
others to cover their negligence in allowing the thieving 
bands of Indians to leave their reservations. The Indians 
being promised that the money paid us for these cattle 
would be given to them, persuaded many of these Indians to 
tell the basest falsehoods, on the strength of which, though 
we had several hundred Indians testify to seeing these cattle 
after they were killed by the marauding bands, we were 
compelled to pay back a part of this already scaled-down, 
just claim to the Government — all this after our kindness 

186 Trails of Yesterday 

to these untruthful Indians and to many who took pleasure 
in raiding us and destroying our property. We were thus 
defrauded of several thousand dollars justly and honestly 
due us and made to appear in the light of cheating the poor 
Indians. Spotted Tail and other noted chiefs, acquainted 
with the facts, always said that we were cheated out of our 

The life of the cattle man in the days from 1867 to 
1889 was anything but a Sunday-school picnic. We drove 
up many herds from Texas to our range in Nebraska, the 
first herd going to Wyoming, where I built the ranch in 1867, 
near what was later called Wyoming Station. The Texas 
cattle breeder had no use for the money of the Northern 
people, the greenback. They insisted that we pay for the 
cattle in gold, and to get the gold there safely was a difficult 
problem. We would carry all we could in belts around our 
bodies under our heavy shirts. We made double bottoms 
to our wagon beds and carried much of it there. We usually 
took a few picked men with us — men that we could rely on 
in any emergency. Some of these did not know where we 
carried our money. After a few drives we became better 
known to the Texas cattle growers and once gaining their 
confidence, the task of dealing with them was easier. Later 
herds would be counted out to us — so many yearling heifers, 
so many yearling steers, two-year old heifers, two-year old 
steers, so many dry cows, so many cows with calves by their 
sides, so many three-year old and so many four-year old and 
upward steers, so many males at so much per head for each 
class, or the total number at a stated sum for the average, 
nothing under yearlings counted. These herds would 
average in cost, during the years 1867 to 1895, all the way 
from $5.00 per head to $20.00 on the Texas ranches. It 
would cost from $1.00 to $2.50 per head to trail the cattle 
from Texas to "Dobytown" (old Fort Kearny), Fort 
McPherson or Ogallala, Nebraska. The cost would depend 
on what luck we had in getting the herds off their breeding 
grounds, what number of bad white men, Mexicans, half- 

Trails of Yesterday 



188 Trails of Yesterday 

breeds and Indians were encountered on the trail, whether 
feed and water were plentiful, the number of stampedes, the 
luck in crossing swollen streams, and last but not least, the 
number of good, reliable, trusty employees we happened to 
have. No matter how careful in this we would frequently 
hire a man, who, unknown to us, had killed his man, and with 
chips on both shoulders was always ready to drop another 
on the least provocation. In the early days it was hard to 
get one who did not drink, gamble and swear. It took 
courage and some good judgment to handle and get along 
with them. 

We would drive herds of fifteen hundred to twenty-five 
hundred head in a bunch, usually requiring ten to fifteen men, 
who would have from five to seven horses each. The cook 
would drive the mess wagon, usually pulled by two to five 
yoke of cattle. In a big outfit there would be two or more 
horse wranglers for night and day service. 

With an exclusive steer herd the greatest caution would 
have to be taken to avoid stampedes. The approach of a 
pack of wolves, coyotes, elk, deer, buffalo or other game, all 
of which were plentiful in those days, would jump a sleeping 
herd to its feet in an instant and if the night herders did not 
know their duty and act promptly to sooth and pacify the 
frightened animals, a stampede would be certain. A small 
band of Indians or desperate white men could and did some- 
times turn in an instant a docile, sleeping herd into enraged, 
maddened, crazy animals, that, once started on a run or 
stampede, would sound like the noise of a cyclone or tornado. 
The bellowing of the cattle, the knocking of horns, the pound- 
ing hoofs that seem to make the earth tremble, caution the 
experienced cowman to get quickly out of the way and on 
the outside of the stampeding cattle, which he begins to 
circle around and around, thus changing the straight course 
into a milling whirlpool; and after a ride for life, all the 
while singing some soothing song, he and his fellow herders, if 
not thrown by their horses stepping into some prairie dog, wolf 
or badger hole, finally get the herd stopped, if not quieted. 

Trails of Yesterday 189 

As a rule, after such scares and stampedes, the cattle continue 
to be excited and restless the balance of the night and some- 
times for many days and nights thereafter. After a stampede 
the cattle were usually counted the following morning and 
if any were missing, several herders were detailed to scout the 
country and adjacent herds (if any) and to bring back the 
missing cattle, which were picked up on either the ranch 
brand described in the bill of sale or the road brand. We 
found it good judgment to put a road brand on all herds we 
bought — some plain letter or figure — even if only a dim or 
hair brand, as it was usually called. I know of cases where 
coast or brush steers have traveled forty miles or more in one 
night in a stampede and were it not for the road or trail 
brand we could never have recovered them, for they would 
have gone back to the same range where they were bought. 

Another grief to sometimes try the herders' nerves and 
rob the venture of considerable profit would be the crossing 
of swollen creeks and rivers. To do this without loss re- 
quired nerve and good judgment. The most experienced 
men would be placed on both sides of the" cattle, well up 
toward the lead and, once in the river, these men would do 
the pointing, while others behind would keep the swing cattle 
moving, following the lead of the herd. Other herders 
would gently keep the tail of the herd moving along so 
there would be no gaps or chance to break back. All should 
be done without hurrying the cattle or exciting them, or the 
horses in the least. A herd of cattle, excited or frightened 
in crossing a swollen stream, will usually go to milling with 
the result that some are drowned. Experienced cowboys well 
know how to stop this milling by riding into and breaking 
the whirl and getting the cattle strung out again. 

In crossing some rivers quicksand is encountered and 
always dreaded. Many a cow and horse have lost their lives 
in this. I have seen horses with their riders almost disappear 
and have to be pulled out with ropes. 

The most treacherous river I ever crossed on horseback 
was the Snake River near Shoshone Falls in Idaho. We rode 

190 Trails of Yesterday 

into it, seeing the bottom of the river, when in an instant we 
disappeared in water fifty to nearly two hundred feet deep, 
to be almost sucked under in a blind whirlpool. 

One time in crossing the Red River on the Texas Trail 
with a herd of cattle, General Coe discharged two of his old 
foremen, Mate Brooks and John Knox, because they refused 
to swim it prior to crossing the cattle. The General wanted 
to see what kind of a "getting out" place it was. 

It was on this drive and on the banks of this river that 
a couple of herders came into camp for dinner and complained 
about there being no clean plates, cups, knives, forks and 
spoons. Just then the General stepped into camp, and after 
learning the trouble, picked up every plate, cup, knife, fork 
and spoon and dumped them into the river, telling the men 
they could get along without those luxuries, and they did 
until the next store was reached, when each herder bought, 
used and kept his own. 

Another arbitrary and very important, fearless fellow 
that we had to contend with was the brand inspector of some 
of the different counties the Texas Trail went through. Some 
of them were satisfied to be fed and would pass the herd easy 
and allow it to proceed without delay. Others, more mean 
and exacting, would hold up the cattle for all they could get, 
delay the moving for several days under the pretense that 
some of the brands were not plain and distinct. Some met 
their death in this game of bluff. As a rule there was always 
a match for this kind of a fellow. 

Life on the Chislom Trail, beset with dangers on all sides, 
was a hard one. The herds would usually make two drives a 
day of seven to eight miles each, depending on the condition of 
the cattle and whether there was sufficient grass and water. 
In later years, on account of many herds being driven up 
from Texas to the Northern States, feed became very short 
late in the season, resulting in many thin herds arriving and 
consequent losses during the hard Nebraska, Colorado and 
Wyoming winters. Methods changed as the years went by. 

Instead of taking our gold with us in our belts or false 

Trails of Yesterday 


wagon boxes, as we had done, we would take part in gold 
and exchange on St. Louis, Kansas City or New York for 
the balance of the purchase price of the cattle. Later the 
owner of the cattle, or some relative, would come up the trail 
with us and take the pay for the cattle in Eastern exchange 
back with them. Getting better acquainted with the Northern 
cattlemen, the Texas cattle raiser began to drive his own herd 
to Aberdeen and other points in Kansas and later to Ogallala 
and other points along the Union Pacific Railroad in Ne- 
braska, Colorado and Wyoming. 

On the Texas Trail 

Among these Texas drivers, whole-souled and big- 
hearted, could be mentioned Millet and Mayberry, Faut, 
Prior Brothers and Uncle Billy Stevens. They were the soul 
of honor and their statements never questioned. 

Among the pioneer ranchmen in Nebraska, besides us, 
were Keith & Barton, Bent & Evans, Edward Creighton, 
who had cattle interests in Wyoming, Ed. Welch, Ben Gal- 
lagher, Russell Watts, John Burke, Sr., Major Walker, W. 
A. Paxton, Bosler Bros., Sheidley Bros., Iliff, Fussier Bros., 
Bay State Cattle Co., Ira Nichols, and many others who em- 
barked in the business. The first cattle queen near North 
Platte was Mrs. Randall, later Mrs. Ritner. Then came a 
host of small cattle ranches. All prospered and did fairly 

192 Trails of Yesterday 

well in the business until hard winters and lack of feed hit 
some herds hard. 

Our range at this time, 1870 to 1873, was from the 
Platte River to the Republican and from Fort McPherson on 
the east to Fort Sedgwick on the west. The main ranch was 
what we called the "Home Ranch," about four miles south- 
east of North Platte. We had a number of ranches and 
camps on the outside, one at Fox Creek, one at the mouth of 
Curtis Creek, one at the head of the Medicine and Red Wil- 
low creeks, another near Bishop's old ranch and one near 
O'Fallons' Bluffs. Some of these were temporary camps and 
used only at certain seasons of the year or in cases of emer- 
gency. We ranged from ten thousand to fifteen thousand 
cattle at times and about one thousand horses and mares, 
branding three thousand to five thousand calves and two 
hundred to three hundred colts a year. 

My life was a very busy one, full of hardships, sleeping 
wherever night overtook me — sometimes in a ranch but often 
in the open with my saddle for a pillow and slicker and saddle 
blanket for my bed. 

We filled the beef contracts at Fort McPherson for over 
twelve years, the North Platte garrison for several years, 
besides several temporary contracts, to two-company camps 
at the mouth of the Red Willow Creek, also other places 
where troops were stationed to keep the Indians in check. 
We also filled several Indian contracts for beef and breeding 
cattle at the Rosebud and the Pine Ridge Indian Agencies 
and operated a meat market at North Platte. 

These side lines — keeping track of our cattle and horses, 
as well as bunches of thieving Indians and whites, fighting 
prairie fires, following trail herds through our ranges, going 
on round-ups, branding calves, shipping "beeves" and dry 
cows, putting up ten thousand to twelve thousand tons of 
hay annually, building ranches and corrals, kept me and our 
employees rather busy. 

I had to deal with all classes of men from the "goody- 

Trails of Yesterday 193 

goody" fellow (not many of these), to the horse thief, des- 
perado and general, all-round bad man. It was hard to keep 
them in the straight and narrow path. I tried to set them a 
good example and encouraged them to quit their bad habits 
of gambling, drinking, and swearing. I was kind to them 
but firm, and insisted that all orders be carried out. I en- 
couraged them to save their money and to be honest with 
each other. We supplied the different ranches with good, 
wholesome reading matter and each ranch had its Bible. If 
an employee could not be braced up and taught the better way 
after a fair trial, I would finally let him go, rather than 
quarrel with him. When hired I would always tell him what 
his duties would be and that any time when he found he could 
not discharge them faithfully, not to be afraid to tell me, and 
if we could not come to a mutual understanding we would 
part friendly if possible. In event of injury or sickness of 
any employee we would see that he received the best medical 
care and proper nursing until well. Up to 1880 each em- 
ployee carried his gun or revolver with plenty of ammunition 
if going on long trips, also bowie knife and field glasses, as 
a protection against roving bands of thieving Indians and 
wolves, and to supply the camps with game. Such was the 
custom, and to discontinue it the writer had to use much will 
power, especially when going on round-ups, but we finally 
discarded our weapons. 

The ranch or stock business grew rapidly and many 
people engaged in it, even women. I refer to Mrs. Randall, 
widow of Ex-Governor and Postmaster General Randall, 
later Mrs. Ritner, a very intelligent lady. 

The cattle business was not, as many expected, all profit. 
Hard winters and prairie fires would scatter the cattle and 
entail much loss where the hay was scarce. Some cattlemen 
did not put up any hay, and of course these lost heavily. 
Again herds passing through the range would often take some 
of our cattle along, mixing during the night, notwithstanding 
the fact that we had cowboys go through and camp with these 

194 Trails of Yesterday 

outfits. Yet in spite of this care and diligence we would 
occasionally hear of some of our cattle or horses being dis- 
covered in Wyoming, Colorado or Dakota. 

Later came stock associations. I was elected President 
of the first stock association formed in Lincoln County. Other 
counties and Western states soon followed in organizing, and 
in a few years we had a good working mutual system. Brand 
books were published, giving a list of recorded brands and 
marks on cattle and horses in each state. Better stock laws 
were put on our statute books. Round-up districts were 
formed. Date and place of starting and rules governing 
same were published in the different stock papers. Annual 
meetings were held at different places in the different states. 
At these meetings all topics governing or pertaining to the 
stock industry were freely discussed. Many stock growers 
attended these gatherings and took great interest in them. 
Brand inspectors were appointed to watch the different ship- 
ping points and run down cattle and horse thieves, commonly 
called "rustlers." We had an executive committee that 
would think nothing of following a bunch of cattle or horse 
thieves through every state of the Union and into old Mexico 
or farther. This vigorous policy broke up many of the gangs, 
but constant vigilance was necessary. What was done created 
a better feeling among stockmen generally. The ranchman 
who had adopted the brand B 4 was no longer afraid of his 
neighbor's adding the letter U to his animal. At the same 
time we had to be always on the watch. 

Just before beginning a round-up on the east end of our 
range on the Birdwood, I caught one of my neighbors driving 
off our range to his own a bunch of about five hundred mixed 
cattle, for the purpose of securing the unbranded calves, or 
mavericks, in the bunch. I was surprised and angry at his 
doing this and told him so. I gave him a severe quirting for 
about a mile and then took the cattle back to our own range 
west of the Birdwood. The man did not return the next day, 
but his brother did with a Winchester rifle, threatening to 
kill me. I told him these things did not scare me, and that I 

Trails of Yesterday 195 

would serve him the same if I ever caught him doing the same 
dishonorable trick. 

For the information of the reader I will here explain the 
word "maverick." 

In the early history of western Texas, in the forties, there 
lived a shrewd, far-seeing, business man named Samuel Mav- 
erick, whose ambition was to be able to travel from San 
Antonio to El Paso and from El Paso to the mouth of the 
Rio Grande on his own land, and at one time it seemed his 
dream would be realized for he secured title to two million 
acres of this land. A part of this passed out of his hands 
before he died. The remainder was willed to his wife and by 
her to their grandchildren, some of whom are now living near 
El Paso, Texas. 

Once upon a time Samuel Maverick had a debt against 
a stockman which he could not collect, so he accepted four 
hundred cattle at $3.00 per head in full for all demands. He 
placed a trusted negro in charge of the stock and paid no 
further attention to the cattle. At the end of four years he 
sold the original cattle at $6.00 per head but did not take into 
consideration the natural increase. He had branded none of 
the calves and the consequence was that there were on the 
range a large number of unbranded cattle. Therefore, when 
stockmen came across unbranded animals, they would say 
they belonged to Maverick or they are Maverick's. This is 
how the work "maverick" originated and began to be applied 
by cowboys and stockmen to all unbranded stock. 

During the early round-ups it was no uncommon thing 
to have a killing, either of a stock owner or cowboy. Shoot- 
ing at each other on the least provocation was common and 
more than once have I seen a good fist fight. I remember 
Mr. Iliff (one of the old pioneer cattlemen whose range was 
in western Nebraska and eastern Colorado and Wyoming) 
had a fistic encounter with a cowboy who gave him the worst 
of it and in order to prevent his eyes from getting black from 
the punishment received from the cowboy, a young steer was 
killed and some thin slices of beef plastered over both eyes, 

196 Trails of Yesterday 

which, however, did not prevent the flesh above and below the 
eyes from becoming badly discolored. 

I happened to see this fight. Both men were game, 
fought hard and asked no favors. At the end of the fight 
Mr. Iliff shook hands with the cowboy, told him it was all 
right and that he had no hard feelings against him. 

Mr. Iliff accumulated a great deal of wealth in the cattle- 
growing business. In addition to his large cattle interests he 
operated a large meat market in Cheyenne. He shipped a 
great deal of fresh meat by the carcass to section houses and 
grading, tie and wood camps east and west on the Union 
Pacific Railroad. 

Mr. Iliff died many years ago, leaving Mrs. Iliff rich. 
Some years afterward, being a great worker in the Methodist 
church, she married Bishop Warren of Colorado. 


The Round-Up — Initiating the Tenderfoot — Dangers of the Cowboy 
— Organization and Management — Tribute to the Cowboy 

A ROUND-UP as conducted in these days was quite inter- 
esting. The time and place of starting the round-up 
for the different sections of range country having been 
agreed upon at the annual meetings of the different stock as- 
sociations held in Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, 
and in other stock-growing states and territories, the owners 
would send their outfits, or representatives, to meet at a cer- 
tain time and place. The route was mapped out and 
thoroughly worked so all owners would get what stock be- 
longed to them, the brands and marks on the animals being 
prima-facie evidence of ownership. If an animal was not 
branded or ear marked, it was known as a "maverick" and 
properly claimed by the owner of the cattle belonging to the 
range being rounded up. The owner of the cattle on said 
range, if competent, would be expected to act as superinten- 
dent of the round-up and boss the work. 

The spring round-up would usually commence between the 
15th and 30th of May, and the fall round-up about the 
10th to 15th of September, at or near the east line of our 
range, commencing on the Dismal River, thence west through 
the Lake country south of Hyannis, thence south, taking in 
the West and East Birdwood creeks, to the north bank of the 
North Platte River. At the mouth of the Birdwood Creek 
we would be joined by small representatives who had worked 
the cattle country on the South Loup and down the Platte 
River as far east as Brady. Other outfits would commence 
work at the forks of the Platte River, working west between 
the rivers, while still others would commence rounding up 
the cattle as far east as Plum Creek, working the cattle country 
west on the south side of the South Platte River. Small 
parties would take in the range country as far south as the 


198 Trails of Yesterday 

Medicine and Red Willow creeks and other outfits would 
cover the range country tributary to the Republican River. 
So that nearly every mile of the range country would be 
ridden and all cattle grazing on these different ranges would 
be rounded up and all cattle or horses bearing other owners' 
brands would be gathered up and if not too many in number, 
would be thrown in a joint herd and moved on with the 
round-up, until they reached the range where they belonged, 
when they would be separated from the other animals and left. 

Initiating the Tenderfoot 

As a rule, I would be chosen superintendent to boss our 
range and usually was asked to boss the round-up through 
adjoining ranges. 

It was no easy job to handle two hundred or more cow- 
boys with nearly a dozen different outfits and one thousand 
to twelve hundred horses, keep the work moving intelli- 
gently, find camping places for each outfit and see that all, 
even the lone representative, had an equal show and a square 
deal, but I had the reputation of doing it. It was difficult 
to secure sufficient experienced cowboys for these round-ups 
and we often had to fill in with what were termed "tender- 

Trails of Yesterday 199 

For these the older experienced cowmen would usually 
have something in cold storage that would, as a rule, take the 
conceit out of them. Should he make the remark that he 
could ride anything, he would be given the chance to ride the 
worst bucking outlaw horse in the bunch. If he stayed in his 
saddle his fellow cowboys would show him more respect but 
should he "pull leather" or get thrown, the cowmen and 
cowboys would joke and ridicule him unmercifully. When 
these practical jokes would be carried too far I would inter- 
fere and protect him. With sympathy and encouragement 
I have seen some of these timid tenderfeet turn out to be some 
of the best riders, ropers and expert cattlemen in the outfit. 

The life of the cowboy, especially on these round-ups, 
was a hard one and full of perils. The percentage of deaths 
and disability on the range at this time was said to be greater 
than in a military campaign. He had to conquer the "out- 
law" and vicious broncho; the pitfalls of the plains — prairie 
dog, wolf and badger holes — were often in his track; he swam 
swollen rivers, crossed wash-outs and quicksand, stopped the 
mad rush of stampeding herds, faced pelting rains accom- 
panied by terrible thunderstorms, the bolts of lightning 
often killing cattle in the bunches he was herding. No wonder 
he suffered the pangs of rheumatism brought on by excessive 
rough-riding and too much sleeping on round-ups (generally 
about four hours out of the twenty-four), under the stars in 
all kinds of weather with sometimes nothing but his slicker 
and saddle blanket to cover him. 

Still there was always enough splash of adventure in the 
life to lend it a charm. He was paid $35.00 to $45.00 per 
month and furnished with board and outfit. He would be 
supplied with five to eight horses, depending on the class and 
condition of the animals and the lay and character of the 
country to be worked. 

The round-up crew consisted of a foreman, a cook, a 
horse wrangler for day and another for night herd, and as 
many cowboys as the occasion demanded. The foreman's 

200 Trails of Yesterday 

authority was absolute. The cowman or cowboy must obey 
his orders in all matters or quit. The horse wranglers had 
charge of the band of cow ponies that accompanied each out- 
fit on a round-up. 

After the night herder had brought the horses at peep 
of day into the rope corral (formed by ropes tied to the 
hind and front wheels of the mess wagons) he was supposed 
to hold them there until all the cowmen present had selected 
their mounts and a change of horses for all the other cowmen 
who might be out with the cattle. These herders were re- 
lieved by others who had had breakfast, when the day 
wrangler took charge of the horse herd, letting it graze on 
the best feed near camp until the mess wagons were ready 
to move, when the horse herd was moved behind them. 

The horse wranglers were supposed to assist the round- 
up cook in making and breaking up camp, setting up and 
taking down the cook and sleeping tents, seeing that the cook 
had wood and water, loading und unloading the rolls of bed- 
ding, stake ropes, etc., always keeping an eye on his loose 
bunch of horses so that they could round them up and bring 
them into camp on a few moments' notice. 

The cook had charge of the cook wagon with its load of 
provisions and camp equipage. Like the cowboys, he got but 
very little sleep, often up at three o'clock in the morning 
and until very late at night. He drove the wagon from point 
to point from six to eight miles at a time, according to in- 
structions given him by the foreman of the outfit, who re- 
ceived his instructions from the superintendent of the round- 
up. The distance of the drives depended upon the number 
of cattle to be rounded up, the lay and character of the country 
to be worked and the supply of water for the men and stock. 
The cook was supposed to be able to rustle a meal in a very 
short time. 

In the early round-up days we would depend much on wild 
game, ham, shoulders and bacon, beans, syrup, sugar, coffee, 
soda bread or biscuits, and sometimes honey. The game con- 

Trails of Yesterday 


202 Trails of Yesterday 

sisted principally of antelope, buffalo, deer and elk. Later 
we fared better, using canned corn, tomatoes, condensed milk, 
potatoes, onions, beans, baking powder biscuits, sugar, syrup, 
and when game was scarce all the fresh beef we needed, to 
say nothing of vegetables and often canned fruit, dried apples, 
prunes, and other dried fruits. 

When the meal was ready the cook hallooed, "Grub pile," 
and each cowboy, without ceremony, grabbed a tin plate, 
cup, knife, fork and spoon and helped himself, then retired, 
either outside or in one corner of the tent. 

A Hasty Meal 

Before the meal was finished the horses were driven into 
the rope corral, ready to be roped by their respective riders, 
or in case of their absence, by the foreman or wrangler, 
and tied to await the arrival of the absent cowmen. 

If cattle were plentiful on the range and not too many 
cows and calves, and brands showed up plainly, we would 
round up, work and separate three thousand to five thousand 
head per day, putting each brand of cattle in its proper herd, 
working two to four bunches of three hundred to five hundred 
head in a bunch at a time. The cows and calves would be 
cut out first. 

After all stray cows and calves were cut out the bunch 

Trails of Yesterday 203 

was turned over to the outfit having the largest number of 
cattle. The duty of the foreman or experienced cowman in 
charge was to see that the bunch was handled quietly — not 
"ginned" around — and that no cattle were cut out except those 
which the parties working the bunch had a right to take, 
especially mavericks, unless following the mother. 

Sometimes disputes would arise over certain brands and 
if the contending parties were hotheads, the contention might 
result in a quarrel and end in a killing, in the early round-up 
days when "might made right." But a killing was an ex- 
ception to the rule. Later nearly all disputes were settled 
by arbitration or an appeal to two disinterested, experienced 
cattle owners on the ground. In this way we got along 

In a subsequent chapter I may refer to one case where 
neighboring cattle owners tried to take advantage of the 

These round-ups would take from three to six weeks in 
the spring and about thirty or more days in the fall. 

All the cattle back on their own range again, then would 
come the branding of calves and mavericks. These we 
would gather together one day and brand the next. The 
cows and calves would be taken to some corral on the range, 
held in the pens during the night, and early the next morning 
the calves would be separated from their mothers, when the 
task of roping, throwing, branding and marking would be 
easy. Eight or ten men and I would brand and mark five 
hundred or more calves in one afternoon. I would inva- 
riably handle the branding irons myself, allowing one of the 
men to do the ear marking and keep tally. Occasionally if 
we found a bunch of cows and calves a long distance from 
one of the corrals, we would rope and brand the calves on the 

In branding large herds of grown cattle we usually used 
the corrals and branding chutes when near. If not we would 
rope, throw and brand them on the prairie. 

204 Trails of Yesterday 

Our flesh brands and ear marks were as follows: Com- 
mon herd, O on left hip and O on ^f t l° m - Ear mark OO 
(crop off the right and slit in the left ear) and in addition 
to the above, for several years we used a horn brand. Our 
native herd was branded OO on ^ e ^ h*P and O on left loin, 
with same ear mark as above. Our thoroughbred herd was 
tagged in left ear and numbered. We also branded about 
three thousand yearlings one year thus : ^ with the regular 
ear mark, i. e., crop off the right and slit in left ear. These 
we shipped to Mountain Home, Idaho. 

A Branding Scene 

The three classes of cattle were kept separate, the com- 
mon herd, north of the North Platte River; the native herd 
of five hundred head or more, at Fox Creek ; and the thorough- 
breds at the Home Ranch. To relieve the congestion on our 
ranges we placed some out on shares with small stockmen, in 
Deuel, Keith, Grant, Cherry, Custer, and other counties, 
giving the parties one-half the increase, they to make good 
the original number except those that died from natural 

Of course, it was impossible for me to keep track of 
every detail. I was extremely fortunate in having good, 

Trails of Yesterday 205 

trusty employees and I at all times appreciated them. I 
would always share their lot, the same bed, the same food 
and the same strenuous hard work, and I would never ask an 
employee to do something that I would not do myself. I 
held their respect and good will. I would say "come," not 
"go," especially if something difficult was to be accomplished. 

In 1885 our company, known as John Bratt & Co., bought 
from the Union Pacific Railroad Company 123,673 acres 
of land, lying west of Birdwood Creek, east of White Tail 
Creek and north of the North Platte River, which we fenced, 
thus enclosing with the government sections nearly 250,000 
acres, but we never built a stick of fence on government land. 

This dispensed with expensive round-ups and gave us a 
better chance to provide feed for our stock in winter. The 
river bottoms were fenced off from the range and divided 
into many hay meadows, in which we put up thousands of tons 
of hay in shock at a cost of not to exceed fifty cents per ton. 
Fire guards around the hay bottoms and around the range 
were plowed and a wide strip burned out and every precaution 
was taken to protect the range from prairie fire. Still the 
fires would come dashing in on us from hunters or other 
careless people despite our precautions. 

Even though beef went to a low price, we made some 
money. We paid our men good wages, gave them good food 
and cared the best we could for their moral and physical 
welfare. We kept them winter and summer, unlike some of 
our Western stock growers, who discharged the most of their 
men in the fall, thus doing more to make horse and cattle 
thieves out of them than anything they could do. The sum- 
mer's wages of a cowboy would often be spent in a night. 
What was he to do through the winter? He had to live, and 
to live he was forced to steal. 

I was a member of the Executive Committee of the 
Wyoming Stock Association for several years. Much thiev- 
ing and rustling was going on. We were following some of 
these rustlers into Texas, and even into old Mexico, and I 

206 Trails of Yesterday 

frankly told the members of this committee that they did 
everything they could, indirectly, to make horse and cattle 
thieves out of their employees. Some agreed with me, and 
later allowed many of these employees to remain at their 
ranches through the winter, boarding them without charge, 
while others paid their men half wages and boarded them for 
the little work they did around the ranches. Later, with 
improved breeds of cattle, ranch improvements, with a mild 
attempt at farming by irrigation, some of these cowboys, 
who at first insisted on doing all the farming on horseback, 
caught on to modern methods, and now do not look with 
contempt on the plow, disc, drill, mower and binder. 

Times are changing, and the old cowman has changed 
also. Not so long ago, when wishing to retire at night, he 
would seek his roll of bedding, sometimes doubling up with 
another cowboy, untie or unbuckle his tarpaulin and spread 
out the bedding on some level place near camp, free from 
cactus and sagebrush. The tarpaulin was laid next to the 
ground and was about twice the length of his bed. The bed 
consisted of one or more pairs of blankets and sometimes 
a pillow. If not, he used his saddle, warsack or boots. The 
bed made, the other half of the "paulin" was pulled over 
the bed, making a shelter from the cold and rain, should any 
fall during the night; then he turned in, when the following 
verses would philosophically describe his feelings : 

When the storm is blowing, 
Do not curse your lot. 
If it wasn't snowing, 
Might be blazing hot. 

When the sun is pelting, 
Fire brand, don't scold; 
If it wasn't melting, 
Might be freezing cold. 

Take life as you find it. 
See, the rainbow's curled. 
Trouble? Never mind it. 
Good Lord runs the world. 

Trails of Yesterday 207 


Last night as I lay on the prairie 
And gazed at the stars in the sky, 
I wondered if ever a cowboy 
Would ride to that sweet Bye and Bye. 

The road that leads to that region 

Is narrow and dim, so they say; 

But the trail that leads down to perdition 

Is staked and blazed all the way. 

Some day there will be a great Round-up, 
When cowboys, like mavericks, shall stand 
To be cut out by those Heavenly riders, 
Who are posted and know every brand. 

I wonder if ever a cowboy 
Was prepared for the great Judgment Day, 
And could say to the boss of the riders, 
"I am ready to be driven away!" 

They say He will never forsake you ; 
That he notes every action and look. 
So for safety you had better get branded 
And have your name in His great tally book. 


I am no profess'n' Christian of the sort the cities hold. 

Haint been gathered with the chosen in the chosen's sacred fold. 

An' I've never grown in spirit while a-thinkin' o' the way, 

That the reckless unbelievers sin around me every day. 

All the creed I try to practice is the ol' time Golden Rule. 

Never hear no sacred music but the breezes fresh and cool ; 

An' the only church o' worship onto which my fancy clings 

Is the outdoor church o' nature whar the Lord's a-runnin' things. 

I can get more soothing comfort from the music o' the brooks 
Than the preachers o' creation ever rassled out o' books; 
An' the sighin' o' the breezes an' the singin' o' the birds 
Brings a sort o' Christian feelin' you can never get from words. 
There is sermons in the sunshine, there's discourses in the flowers. 
There is heavenly baptism in the gentle springtime showers. 
There is life an' inspiration in the brooks an' in the springs, 
Out in nature's sanctuary whar the Lord's a-runnin' things. 

While I'm ridin' on the night herd, every star that gleams above 
Seems a sparkling' gem that's speaking o' the Master's kindly love. 
An' the flashin' o' the lightnin' an' thunder's angry roar 
Tells me o' the power majestic, o' the Being I adore. 

208 Trails of Yesterday 

When the storm in awful fury is a-bawlin' in its wrath, 
Like as if it'd sweep the cattle jes' like feathers from its path, 
I'm contented as the sage chicks underneath their mother's wings; 
Out in nature's big cathedral whar the Lord's a-runnin' things. 

When I hear the final summons, sent to tell me I mus' go 
To the Round-up in the Heavens from the ranges here below, 
Not a song nor not a sermon nor a ceremonious play 
Do I want in the perceedin's, when my body's laid away. 
I would rather far be buried on the ranges all alone, 
With the spot whar I'm sleepin' never marked by board or stone ; 
So's when Gabriel sounds his trumpet I kin rise and spread my wings 
From the grassy slopes of nature, whar the Lord's a-runnin' things. 

James Burton Adams in D. P. 

Whole-souled, generous, big-hearted, fearless and ever- 
faithful cowboy! May your every wish be fulfilled, your 
ashes rest in peace and your soul dwell in happiness and peace 
forever with the faithful who have preceded and will follow 
you to that great and glorious Kingdom, when you will be 
forever safe in the Great Range Master's care. 


Our Cowboys — Characteristics — Adventures 

LEW PARKER was a Texan, who rather than let go of 
the lariat, held on to an outlaw broncho until he pulled 
the thumb off his hand. 

There was Will Rix (mentioned in a previous chapter) 
who rather than go a quarter of a mile out of his way around 
Point Lookout, took his same old trail, contrary to orders, 
and as a result was shot twice through the body by Indians 
lying in wait for him. Rix tore the handkerchief from around 
his neck and as soon as the Indians quit chasing him, plugged 
the bullet holes in his body with bits of his handkerchief to 
stop the bleeding. He had to be lifted off his horse on arrival 
at the Home Ranch. His clothes, saddle and horse were 
almost covered with blood from his wounds. He got well 
in about two months and later went to Salt Lake. 

Little Jim, the Texas horse wrangler, rode a horse from 
Ogallala to our Home Ranch, a distance of sixty miles, in 
five hours, rode up to me and asked for a change of horses. 
I told him to go into the corral and help himself. He did, 
then went to the kitchen, grabbed some biscuits and meat and 
without any explanation, started south as fast as his horse 
could go. Half an hour later the sheriff of Keith County 
came rushing up on a horse covered with foam. The sheriff 
was in hot pursuit of Little Jim, who had shot and killed the 
foreman of Fant's herd because he had blacksnaked him. 
I learned later that the sheriff never caught him. 

Nibsey Meiggs, the son of a rich South American con- 
tractor, was cast adrift by a proud stepfather. He was 
placed aboard a Peru naval vessel by his father. He had no 
taste for that kind of life, and one dark night, while the vessel 
was lying at anchor in San Francisco harbor, jumped over- 
board, swam ashore and worked his way to North Platte and 



Trails of Yesterday 

finally to our Curtis Ranch, where I hired him. Nibsey was 
honest, truthful and afraid of nothing. He worked for us 
several years. In the winter of 1872, on the information of 
Spotted Tail and his band, he rode alone nearly two hundred 
fifty miles to the head waters of the Republican River and 
brought back sixty-six head of our stray cattle. On a dare he 
jumped upon the back of a wild six-year-old Texas steer that 
was being branded in the chute at the Home Ranch and rode 
the steer nearly two miles before he slid off. While corralling 
a bunch of beef cattle one night at the Burke Ranch, in chas- 

Nibsey on a Wild Steer 

ing one that broke away he fell, with his horse, into an old 
abandoned well. We had to dig them out, the well being 
about six feet wide and twelve to fifteen feet deep. The 
horse's neck was broken but Nibsey was unhurt. At Fox 
Creek Ranch he rode a horse so wild that we had to throw 
him to saddle him. With Nibsey in the saddle, the broncho 
dashed through the thick timber and brush, stripped himself 
of the saddle and landed Nibsey, head down, in a five-foot 
snowdrift at the head of a small pocket, where we found him 
with just his feet sticking out of the drift and very nearly 
gasping his last breath. This is the same Nibsey, who, while 

Trails of Yesterday 211 

cooking for six of us when we were building the Curtis Ranch 
near Medicine Creek, made us a batter pudding and finding 
nothing to boil it in, tore the back out of old Gokey's dirty 
shirt and boiled the batter pudding in this. 

"Billy — the Bear" got lost from a round-up in the Lake 
country near Spring Valley, southwest of Hyannis. We 
finally found him after three days' search. He had become 
temporarily insane and was on top of a hill pawing dirt and 
bellowing like a mad steer and came charging at us when we 
surrounded him. We had to rope and tie him down in the 
wagon until we got him to the ranch, where, after a month's 
nursing, he regained his senses. 

This is the country where one cloudy morning on a round- 
up I turned loose sixty cowboys to work the country and drift 
the cattle to Three Mile lake. All the men got lost but 
George Bosler, Jerry Drummer, John Burke, Jr., and myself. 
We happened to have pocket compasses, otherwise we would 
have been lost also. 

Another faithful cowman (a crack shot) whom we kept 
at the outside ranches on range lines, was John Hancock. 
One night while on a round-up he tried to sleep in the Burke 
Grove near Fort McPherson but could not do so on account of 
the numerous mosquitoes. He stood them off for a time by 
smoking but they became so persistent that they did not mind 
tobacco smoke, when John suddenly took off all his clothing, 
ran out into the open, commenced to beat his hands and 
arms and hollered for nearly half an hour: "Come at me 
now! Come at me now! Come and eat me up, you sons 
of guns!" They took him at his word and it was misery for 
Hancock to wear his clothing for some days afterwards. 

He and that prince of cowboys, "Dick Bean," were great 
chums. When the Cheyenne Indians under chief Dull Knife 
came up from the Indian Territory through Kansas and Neb- 
raska, Hancock was holding our west line on the North 
Platte River near White Tail Creek, and Dick was foreman 
at the "Keystone," the Ogallala cattle ranch about a couple 

212 Trails of Yesterday 

of miles west of our ranch. Bean and Hancock saw the In- 
dians coming across the river and kept under cover ahead of 
them until the Indians went into camp on the White Tail 
Creek, when they returned to the Keystone ranch and there 
learned that Major Thornburg and his command, in pur- 
suit of Dull Knife's band, had just formed camp without 
lights on the south bank of the North Platte River. Han- 
cock and Bean, although it was a rather dark night, went 
across the river and told Major Thornburg that they could 
take him to Dull Knife's camp in about one to two hours' 
ride. The Major declined the offer, saying that he was not 
going to tackle Dull Knife's band in an unknown country on a 
dark night like that. The Major waited with his command 
until daybreak and lost the opportunity of his life. He and 
his men rode hard on the trail of Dull Knife and his band for 
several days, only to capture now and then a played-out In- 
dian pony or an old buck, squaw or papoose. They never 
overtook Dull Knife, who with Old Crow, Wild Hog and 
about sixty other warriors, was finally located near the sinks 
of Snake Creek by U. S. Cavalry under Captains Johnson 
and Thompson, aided by some twenty-two Sioux scouts under 
American Horse. 

I may refer again to Dull Knife, whom I first met while 
our ox-train was about to cross a dry fork of the Cheyenne 
River in 1866 and again in 1872 between Medicine Creek 
and Platte River. The story of the capture and death of him- 
self and brave band is one of the most pathetic in Indian 
history and sheds no glory on the humane side of our "Great 
Father's" management of the Cheyenne Indians under Dull 
Knife at Fort Robinson. 

Pardon for digressing, there was Jim Noble, who, while 
herding our thoroughbred cattle near the Home Ranch, re- 
sented some imaginary wrong done him by a nearby home- 
steader, pulled his revolver and tried to shoot him but sent 
the ball through his pony's neck instead. 

Jim's brother, "Faithful Zack," was foreman at our 

Some of the "Circle" Cowboys in 1888 





Cowboys of the "Circle" Outfit 

Trails of Yesterday 213 

Home Ranch for several years. He was one of the best we 
ever had and did not believe in plowing corn on horseback. 
He and his good wife boarded the men, who could not say too 
many kind things about each of them. 

Then we had good, honest Dick Davis and his amiable 
wife. When consulting him about the work at the ranch 
he would sometimes say, "I will talk it over with Ed," mean- 
ing Ed Gentry. Both heads were usually level. Dick later 
was appointed by me as Chief of Police of North Platte dur- 
ing my two terms as Mayor, and a more faithful, efficient 
officer never lived. He made it warm for the gamblers and 
law-breakers, ridding the city of both nearly at the cost of his 

Here I am reminded of faithful Silas Sillasen and his 
brothers Jens and Andrew. The latter died at Birdwood 
ranch from drinking part of the contents of a bottle of car- 
bolic acid which in the dark he mistook for a bottle of medi- 
cine. Everything was done to save his life by good Mrs. John 
Coker and others but without effect. He was given a cowboy 
funeral from the Lutheran Church in North Platte. His 
favorite cow pony, carrying his empty saddle, was led behind 
the hearse. 

The cowboys tell a story about Silas's waking Tom Stowe 
to go on relief herd one night. Silas went quietly up to 
Tom's bed, which was in the open covered by the starry 
canopy, pulled the bed "paulin" back from over his head 
and shook him gently, saying, "Tom! Tom!! Your time 
has come." Tom jumped up, grabbed his gun and answered, 
"The h— 1 it has !" 

I cannot conclude this chapter without referring to Jake 
•Rupp, whom some of the cowboys persuaded to wash his 
head and face in coal oil to make his hair, whiskers and mus- 
tache grow. It did the opposite. Poor Jake, it is claimed, 
later became mentally incapacitated to look after his interests, 
worth several thousands of dollars, accumulated mostly while 
in our employ. Honest Nate Trego, another faithful em- 

214 Trails of Yesterday 

ployee, and others, are looking after Jake's affairs and no 
doubt doing what they deem best for him and his interests. 
Yet I think Jake is perfectly harmless and with a little kind 
supervision could be allowed to manage his own affairs. 
I saw the superintendent of the Sanitarium at College View, 
Nebraska, where Jake is being treated, and he assured me 
Jake was all right and could go home to his ranch. I shall 
try to see that his suggestions are carried out. The actions of 
some mercenary relatives have helped bring about his con- 

Another great cowboy character was Buck Taylor, who 
ate twenty-four biscuits at one meal and told the boys he 
would eat twenty-four more if they did not stop teasing him. 
He later became a prominent rough rider in Buffalo Bill's 

Bill Jackson was a colored cook who came up with one 
of our herds from Texas. I had to sit up with him all night 
in order to prevail upon him to give us an early breakfast. 

Al Raynor, another cook whom I scolded for being so 
slow in getting up, contended that he was quick at that. I 
told him I thought it took him nearly half an hour that 
morning to pull his boots on. This he denied by saying that 
he always slept with his boots on. 

James Jasper, nicknamed "Arkansas," came up with an- 
other of our herds from Texas. He could not tell a copper 
cent from a five dollar gold piece or a one dollar bill from 
a twenty. When I paid him off, after buying his railroad 
ticket to San Antonio and giving him $5.00 for expense 
money, I gave him $428.00, balance due him, in one dollar 
bills, which I made him sew inside the lining of his coat and 
then safely put him on the train with a letter of introduction 
to the conductors of the railroads I routed him over. 

John Miller was another cook. When I came in at the 
Birdwood Ranch unexpectedly one day, Miller was talking 
to himself, saying "Bald-headed and nearsighted! The last 
of a played-out race, and it shall stop right here." Then he 

Trails of Yesterday 215 

went to Frontier County, married a widow and became the 
father of a large family. 

Ed. Coates was another good fellow, who would either 
pour a cup of coal oil on the fire or drop in the stove a 44 
metallic cartridge when he wanted a little more room around 
his cook stove. 

Another cook, Jim Carson, became angry and snapped a 
six-shooter at me six times because I asked him to get up at 
ten o'clock one night to cook supper for a bunch of hungry 
cowboys who had ridden hard all day without anything to 
eat. He frankly told me that he would not get up and cook 
supper and I told him if he did not he must leave the ranch 
that night. He said he would do neither. Carson got up 
and dressed. I made out his account and gave him his check 
and told him he must leave. He pulled his revolver and 
snapped the six chambers at me. I have never been able 
to figure out why they did not go off. Jim's intentions were 
to kill me. He reached for a Winchester standing in a corner 
of the ranch house, but by this time I had my own revolver 
covering him. He tied up his blankets, slung them over his 
shoulder and I escorted him out of the ranch, across the 
slough bridge and bade him good night, to which he replied 
he would get even with me yet. The hungry cowboys got a 
good supper. They approved of what I had done, except 
that they thought I would have been justified in killing 

I would be an ingrate did I not briefly describe some of 
the characteristics of several of our foremen and other faith- 
ful employees before closing this chapter. They show that, 
while cowboys in those days led a hard, rough life with only 
limited chances to better their moral and mental condition, 
yet there was always a high sense of honor among them, 
showing that there were many good hearts beating under those 
woolen shirts — hearts full of sympathy in case of injury or 
death. I saw a large group of cowboys weep when poor 
Tom Lonogan met his death on a round-up on Willow Creek 

216 Trails of Yesterday 

bottom, in trying to stop a cow from going into another bunch. 
The horse and cow came together with such force that all 
went down. Tom's neck was broken. 

Volney Frazier was the "Adonis and Apollo" of the 
cow camp. When I introduced him to his future wife, he 
wanted to know how soon I thought he could win her for 
his wife. It took nearly six months. 

E. W. Murphy, who could do more work on less sleep 
and food than any man I ever knew, when asked to take a 
very nice girl for a horseback ride, hesitated and said he 
had no time to take girls out riding. But he took her and 
finally won her for a wife. They are the proud parents of 
a very nice, happy family. He hated profanity unless suit- 
able to the occasion. He would not be imposed upon. Col- 
burn, who shut up one of Mr. Murphy's cows, discovered 
this when he broke a fence rail across Colburn's back and 
turned the cow out of the corral. 

William Burke, a six-foot, good-looking Missourian, 
when he heard that the city marshal of North Platte had 
mistreated one of the cowboys working under him, came down 
from the Birdwood ranch and broke a chair over the mar- 
shal's head. Burke had no bad habits and was always in for 
fair play. 

Jim Reed was a good-natured fellow but John Challener 
would not allow him to lie down or sit on his bed. Why? 

John Lockwood was always faithful and watched over 
our interests. Grandpa and Grandma Lockwood and 
daughters were good people whom it was a pleasure to meet 
and to know. 

Robert McKnight at the Home Ranch would write on 
the barn and granary doors: "Mr. Bratt says, 'Be sure and 
close the granary door for if you don't the hogs will eat the 
corn.' 'Be sure and water the horses, if not they will get 
thirsty.' " 

Donald McAndrew, or "Scotty," was a good, all-round 
foreman. He knew how to farm to get good results. 

Leonard Cornet 

Trails of Yesterday 217 

Hans Gertler, good old Hans! and Mrs. Gertler, were 
typical Germans. They kept the Home Ranch for several 
years and boarded the men who worked at the ranch. The 
employees thought Hans and his wife were just perfect. They 
liked to call her Minnie until she resented it by asking one 
of the men: "Whose Minnie am I? Yours or Hans's?" I 
remember roping a two-year-old steer in the corral one day. 
I caught him by the foot and "snubbed" him to the fence, 
requesting Hans to get me another rope. This he did and 
I commenced swinging the rope, at the same time walking 
up to the steer, who started for me, having slipped the rope 
off his foot. He came at me so swiftly that I had not time 
to get out of his way. I ducked. The steer went over me 
and struck poor Hans squarely in the stomach, knocking him 
to the ground. If the steer had not had flaring horns he 
would have killed Hans, whom I did not know was behind 
me. For a long time it was a debatable question in Hans's 
mind how I, in front of him, escaped, and he, behind, got 
hurt. Sam Van Doran, then a little boy, was with his father 
looking on through the fence and will vouch for this story. 

Leonard Cornet, who had charge of our share cattle in 
several counties in the northwestern part of Nebraska, could 
be depended upon in every emergency, always honest, un- 
tiring and faithful. He was always ready at a moment's 
notice, and the night was never too dark, the journey too 
long, or the river too wide and deep. As manager of the 
Union Stock Yards here he is still found by his employers to be 
the same trustworthy man as in past years. 

Joe Atkinson, droll, funny, old Joe ! could change a dis- 
couraged camp of cowboys into one of laughter and good 
nature in an instant by his jokes and witticisms, always happy, 
good-natured and full of sunshine. 

John Challener was a typical Englishman, who came to 
America to learn the cattle business. John was red-headed, 
wiry, full of grit and energy and a real good fellow, who 
prided himself in wearing a neat, well-fitting suit of corduroy 

218 Trails of Yesterday 

knee breeches, which some of the cowboys spoiled by drop- 
ping a lighted match in an almost empty nail keg upon which 
John was sitting. It had two pounds of loose gunpowder 
in it and John and the keg went up in the air. The former 
was not presentable on the return trip. To try John's nerve 
and swimming qualities, they had one of their number feign 
sickness and hurried John across the North Platte River, 
which was swimming over half way across, to Paxton for a 
doctor. John came back with the doctor, who balked on cross- 
ing on his horse when he came to the river. He told John what 

The Fate of the Knee Breeches 

to do for the sick cowboy, who was better on John's return. 
This is the same Challener, who, when a thieving band of 
Sioux Indians took our horses from his camp at Bald Hill in 
the Lake country, came out of the camp and, though alone, 
and many miles from other ranches and men, commenced 
shooting at the Indians. They came back to John's camp, bent 
on killing him. John shut and barred the door of the ranch and 
shot at them through the window. The Indians finally got 
on top of the roof of the ranch and sent many bullets through 
it, hoping to kill John, but they did not hurt him, although 
several shots came very close to him. They took his four 

Trails of Yesterday 219 

head of horses. John was game. He sent several bullets 
after them as they rushed the horses up the valley towards 
the head of the Dismal. John finally went into the cattle 
business on the South Loup River. He later sold out and 
went back to England, where I hope he is prospering and 

Next we have Marion Feagin who was never known to 
tell an untruth, chew tobacco, or drink anything stronger 
than coffee or water ( ?). He married a nice Iowa girl and 
brought her to the Birdwood Ranch, which she kept for a 
long time. The first night at the ranch must have been 
strange to her. I happened to be there with some twenty 
cowboys to gather a bunch of cattle. Beds were spread all 
over the dining room floor. I noticed Mrs. Feagin locked 
the ranch door before retiring to her room, a very unusual 
thing to do at a ranch where cowboys are coming in at all 
hours of the night. I got up and unlocked the door to let 
a cowboy in, when Mrs. Feagin came out of her room and 
locked it again. I think about half a dozen more cowboys 
came in before daybreak. I know they kept her busy nearly 
all night locking and unlocking that door. Marion told her 
not to mind it. She told us the next morning that she had 
not been used to sleeping in her Iowa home with the doors 
unlocked. She soon got over that at the Birdwood Ranch. 
Later Feagin went with Isaac Dillon near the Powder River in 
Wyoming where he established a horse and cattle ranch. He 
died there some years ago, leaving his widow and two sons 
considerable property. "Good-bye, Marion. Your name 
will be in the right book on the final round-up, where you 
will meet many good souls like your own." 

Then comes Ed. Richards, one of the best, all-round 
cowboys that ever sat a horse or roped a steer. He could 
sit the worst bucking horse, throw and tie the wildest steer 
or lick the biggest bully in camp. He would think it fun 
to ride twenty to thirty miles to take some nice girl to a dance, 
take her home just before breakfast after dancing all night 

220 Trails of Yesterday 

and be ready for a hard day's ride that day. Ed. finally mar- 
ried a nice girl near Chadron Creek. He started a ranch and 
did well until the Great Herd Master called him. 

Next comes trusty George Potter, who was never happy 
unless in the sight of "Old Baldy." He had charge of our 
herd of some six hundred males where we usually wintered 
them at what we called Mile camp some eight miles west 
of the head of the Dismal River. George could swear once 
in a while, shoot straight and speak his thoughts when neces- 
sary to big or little. I often used to visit George, making 
the drive of seventy-five miles from the Home Ranch to Mile 
camp alone in one day. Sometimes I would never meet a 
soul during the entire trip, going and coming. It gave me a 
chance to commune with nature. Sometimes I would meet 
or see at a distance a pack of wolves or hungry coyotes and 
many deer, elk and occasionally a buffalo. George later 
married a widow in the Lake country, who prevailed upon 
him to sell out a valuable homestead that I had persuaded 
him to take and prove up on. He moved to California, where 
he died some years ago. 

Now a word as to Hank Chestnut, one of the best-hearted 
cowmen that ever lived and one of the kindest to his horses. 
He could go into a corral of bronchos and within an hour 
have the meanest one in the bunch eating out of his hand and 
following him around like a dog. He had just one failing 
that he tried to overcome but could not. I furnished him 
funds twice to take treatment. Under encouragement and 
fatherly advice he quit it for over one year. He married a 
good woman, who was wife and mother to him. He meant 
well and was loved by all who knew him, but his failing finally 
beat him at the game. I could write a chapter on good old 
Hank. I tried hard to make a man of him. I humored, 
petted, pleaded, coaxed and begged him to quit his drinking 
habit. He would promise. The spirit was willing but the 
flesh was weak. Poor Hank ! I think a kind, just God, when 
the books are opened on the judgment day, will say to Hank 

Trails of Yesterday 221 

Chestnut and many other good, unselfish cowmen, "Your 
many good deeds outweigh the bad. All is forgiven." 

We had during our twenty-five years' activity in the cattle 
and horse growing business, hundreds of good, faithful men, 
many whose names I cannot now recall. In addition to those 
herein before referred to I must mention E. C. Miller, for 
whom I worked cattle at Fort Phil Kearny and Pine Bluffs 
in 1866 and 1867; William Burroughs, John Schick, Nate 
Trego, John Wilson, the Burke, Coker and Sillasen Brothers, 
and many others. All were good men. Some are now rich 
and nearly all have all they need of this world's goods. Many 
are married, raising nice families and living in comfortable, 
happy homes. Some (I say it in sadness) have crossed the 
Great Divide where sooner or later we will all join them. 

To the ones who are left I repeat the same old story: 
"Do right, live right and you will die right." The many 
hardships you have endured entitle you to the best, and I 
believe a just God will see that you get it. This is not only 
the wish but the prayer of one who has always been ready to 
share your lot and if possible, lighten your burdens, and who 
has always tried to set before you a good example and en- 
couraged you to be good, moral men, sober, economical and, 
if only a cowboy, respected by all. 


On the Range — A Time When Might Didn't Make Right — Renew 
the Acquaintence of Dull Knife 

STRENUOUS and reliable James Kerr, with a large 
outfit of cowboys, had just returned from a trip as far 
south as the Red River, to which point some of our old 
brush steers, which had been bought in Texas, had drifted 
during the winter of 1871-72 toward their old range. 
Kerr's outfit brought back several thousand. 

In the fall of 1871, about November 10th, we received 
a herd of some fifteen hundred head of mixed Texas cattle 
that had had hard usage on the trail. Mr. Carter, one of 
our partners, had made a trip with me over the Fox Creek 
and Well Canon country and was so favorably impressed 
with it as a country for wintering cattle that he insisted that 
this herd be taken over there. I remonstrated against this 
for the reason that this herd was within a few miles of our 
Home Ranch where we could brand it in two days and turn it 
loose so the cattle would become acquainted with the range, 
feed, water and shelter before the storms came. Mr. Carter 
begged so hard that I consented to gratify his wish, much 
against my better judgment. We had neither corrals nor 
branding chute at Fox Creek and two weeks would be re- 
quired to build them. I went ahead with a force of men to do 
this work, allowing the herd to follow in easy drives. It took 
us nearly two weeks to prepare the corrals and branding 
chute and the day we had them finished there came one of the 
worst snowstorms I ever saw. Mr. Carter struck for the 
Home Ranch and left me and the Texas men to care for the 
cattle. We held the cattle in one of the pockets of Fox 
Creek Canon that night, the next day and the next night. Our 
Texas men were freezing and the cattle commenced to die on 
the bed and herd ground. To save all I gave orders to turn 
the cattle loose without our ranch brand. This made General 


Trails of Yesterday 223 

Coe very angry. He wrote me to gather up the cattle and 
brand all I could of them, which I did (about two hundred 
head), against my better judgment, since I branded perhaps 
twenty-five head belonging to other cattlemen — some of Keith 
& Barton's, some of Bent & Evans', Ed. Welch's, two of Ben 
Gallagher's, one of Burke's and others. 

As soon as I found this out I notified the parties, telling 
them I was afraid I had branded a few of their cattle but 
that we would let the matter rest and not brand any more 
until the round-up in the spring, when we would make it 

In the spring before the cattle had fairly shed off, these 
parties, whose cattle I had unintentionally branded, mustered 
up a good sized outfit, came to the ranch and said they wanted 
to go through our herd. I told them I would rather they 
would wait until the cattle had shed off better. Besides I told 
them that I had a large outfit coming from the south with 
several thousand cattle and they could work these at the same 
time as soon as they arrived. 

All agreed to this except Keith & Barton. They in- 
sisted on working the cattle that were in sight on the bottom 
west of Fort McPherson. 

I had only one cowboy with me at the ranch, John D. 
Jones. We took a couple of good horses and up to six o'clock 
in the evening the combined outfits had picked up some four 
hundred cattle, many of which were ours, and cattle (one 
thousand steers) that we were holding for Post & Redfield 
of Galesburg, Illinois. I had repeatedly called the attention 
of both K. and B. and the twelve men working for them that 
they had many cattle in the bunch that did not belong to them. 
Mr. B. said it would be best to take the bunch across the rivers 
(the Channel and South Platte), which were very high, and 
put it in the stockyards pens that night and I could go 
over in the morning and bring back any that were ours. 
I told him I could do that but instead we would take the bunch 
to the ranch, only a quarter of a mile away, where we 

224 Trails of Yesterday 

would run them through the chute and what belonged to 
them they could have. They would not agree to this but told 
their men to start the bunch. I asked the other cattlemen 
present if my proposition was not fair. The majority said 
it was, but K. and B. insisted on taking the bunch. I told both 
of them and their men also that if they took one animal of 
ours or any that we claimed they would have to do so over my 
dead body. I went to Jones and told him to cut out every 
animal that he thought was ours, not to spare his horse and 
that I would stand by him in everything he did. With that 
I started the ball by cutting out an old cow that was blind in 
one eye and that we had had on the range over two years. 
Mr. B. tried to bring her back but could scarcely keep in 
sight of her. When he returned Jones and I had many 
others out of the bunch, notwithstanding that K. and B. 
forces were trying to prevent us. Inside of an hour we had 
the bunch pretty well cleaned, including some belonging to 
K. and B. 

I saw one large, black, four-year-old steer that belonged 
to Post & Redfield; thinking I would leave him to the last 
as he was very wild, I finally cut him out. K. cut him back. 
I sent him out again. K. tried to bring him back. At this 
I pulled my revolver, intending to kill the steer rather than 
let him return to the bunch, but the steer, fighting mad by 
this time, started for the open prairie, with three of K. and 
B.'s cowmen trying to head him for the river. 

B. had bitten his tongue or lip so the blood ran down his 
chin and K. was very mad. In passing me K. remarked that 
I was losing my reputation. To this I answered, "D — your 
old soul, you never had one to lose," and suiting the action to 
the words, I rode my horse, who now was going on three 
legs, square into Keith's pony and sent both nearly thirty feet 
sprawling on the ground. 

By the time we reached the channel we had all our cattle 
out of the bunch, but I went into the river with them and com- 
menced to mill the bunch, drowning several calves. We let 

Trails of Yesterday 225 

them come out of the channel, cross the island and watched 
them carefully as they went over the bank into the South 

All were in the river when Kerr rode up. He and his 
outfit had seen from the hills the commotion we were making 
and he wanted to know what was the matter. I told him 
nothing except that some of the men present were trying to 
steal our cattle. Kerr yelled, "Show me one," and plunged 
into the river. I told him I thought the bunch was clean 
and to come out and follow me. 

The three men who took the black steer had been doing 
their best to push him into the river, but the steer would not be 
pushed. On the contrary, he was now on the fight. We rode 
up to them and told them we had nothing to say to them, as 
they had done their duty for the men for whom they were 
working, but we would take the steer and we did. 

The next morning I went to North Platte and was sur- 
prised to find Barton in our attorney's office. He had cooled 
down and we frankly talked matters over. The attorney 
told him I was right in demanding that the disputed cattle 
should be run through our chute. 

Heretofore the words and deeds of this strong cattle 
company had always been taken for law. Might made right. 
Had I conceded one inch to these men our brand of cattle 
would have shown up prominently in their herds, and instead 
of being prima-facie evidence of ownership, would have 
been the opposite — a farce. 

I had no further trouble with these gentlemen, who, from 
that time, respected our rights. 

Brave and faithful John Jones did his duty. He helped 
me win this uneven battle for the right. Neither of our 
horses were worth a dollar after that day's work. 

Kerr's outfit had again been absent several months, pick- 
ing up and bringing back cattle, many of which were found 
south of the Republican River. I had received no word from 
them except through bands of Sioux Indians, who occasionally 

226 Trails of Yesterday 

stopped at our Home Ranch on their way to the Rosebud and 
Pine Ridge Agencies from their buffalo hunts. I had be- 
come alarmed for the safety of our men and one Sunday I 
saddled up one of the best horses, buckled on my revolvers 
and bowie knife, and with my Winchester rifle and field 
glasses, I told Jones I was going to take a ride toward the 
Medicine Creek to see if I could see anything of Kerr's outfit. 

I rode within a few miles of the breaks of the Medicine. 
I saw some coyotes and wolves and one lone animal stand- 
ing on a side hill by itself. I could not make out with my 
field glasses whether it was a cow or a buffalo and concluded 
to ride closer. I found it to be a cow and in a little hollow 
below several wolves were devouring her calf. I left the poor 
mother, who seemed to appeal to me to save her offspring. 
I would like to have done so but knew it was useless to drive 
her away. She would come back if I did. 

I rode up on a high hill and looked the country care- 
fully over with my field glasses, when to my joy I saw a 
mounted party of about eight some two miles northeast of 
me. I decided it was part of Kerr's outfit and put my horse 
on a lope towards them and waved my hat at them. They had 
evidently seen me and were waiting for me to come to them. 
When not quite a mile from them I discovered they were 
Indians and not cowboys. This caused me to stop and take a 
quick survey of the surrounding country with a view to secur- 
ing the best position I could in case of an attack. I knew it 
would not do to run away from them or show that I was 
afraid. They being between me and the Home Ranch, it 
would have been an easy matter to cut me off. I finally rode 
up to the top of the highest hill and waited for them to come 
to me. My horse acted foolishly as soon as he scented the 
Indians and would not stand as they tried to approach and 
shake hands. There were six bucks and two squaws. In the 
leader, who could talk a little "Pigeon English," I discovered 
my old friend, Dull Knife. 

He told me he had just come up from his people in the 

Trails of Yesterday 227 

south and was going to visit Red Cloud, Spotted Tail and 
other Sioux with a view to gaining their friendship and per- 
mission to make his home with the Oglala Sioux. He said 
his people did not like it in the south, that quite a few had 
died and if they had to live there, all would die. 

I brought them to the Home Ranch, where Jones and 
I gave them a good supper, fed their ponies and allowed 
the Indians to sleep on piles of hay that we brought in the 

After breakfast the next morning I thought best to take 
Dull Knife and his party to Major Brown, then in command 
of the North Platte Garrison. That officer put them in the 
Guard House and virtually made them prisoners until he 
could get orders from the Department commander at Omaha. 
I told Major Brown that Dull Knife and his party were good 
Indians, going on a friendly visit to the Oglalas and I asked 
that they be given some rations and allowed to proceed on 
their journey, which was done after going through much red 

After being detained a week by Major Brown, they 
were escorted to the south bank of the North Platte River, 
where I bade old Dull Knife good-bye. He said that he re- 
membered my giving him my dinner at the crossing of the 
Dry Fork of the Cheyenne River six years before when on our 
way to Fort Phil Kearny. He remembered all the in- 
cidents and told about one of our bullwhackers stealing a 
buckskin from one of his tribe. Poor old Dull Knife! He 
had a good heart and died a martyr to save his tribe from 
death and starvation. Read Edgar Beecher Bronson's story, 
"A Finish Fight for a Birthright," if you wish to have the 


Hardships of the Cattle Business — The Disastrous Prairie Fire of 

1874 — "Buffalo White" Takes an Icewater Bath — Cattle 

Companies Become Numerous — "Buck" Taylor's 

Threat — How "Sleepy" Was Made an 

Early Riser 

IN the fall of 1874, before we had gathered and shipped 
our beef cattle, the worst prairie fire I ever saw swept 

over our range and adjacent country from Plum Creek 
on the east to Julesburg on the west and from the Republican 
on the south to the Platte on the north. It was said that the 
Indians set the fire to drive the buffaloes north of the Platte 
River. I think it was the work of careless hunters — white men 
hunting buffalo. 

I was out with fifty men with camp outfit for over two 
weeks, trying to stop it. None of us had our clothes off 
during the entire time. We slept by spells. Sometimes the 
men would drop down in their tracks and fall asleep before 
they knew it. We fought the fire from the Medicine Creek 
to Red Willow Creek and back to the Platte River. At one 
time it looked as though we could save a big half of the range, 
but changing winds and back fires springing up behind dis- 
appointed us. At night, with no wind, we could extinguish 
many miles of it. 

I killed two horses, cut their heads off, split them down 
the back and with lariats attached to a hind and a front foot 
of the carcass, two cowboys, one on either side, dragged them 
over the line of fire, with ropes fastened to the horns of the 
saddles. They could put out many miles of fire, when fol- 
lowed up by a couple of men with wet sacks to extinguish any 
little fire that was missed. 

This fire fighting at night in a broken, hilly country 
like Well, Moran and Fox Creek canons was rather dangerous 
work. I remember a German and myself were busily putting 


Trails of Yesterday 229 

out a line of fire one night near the breaks of Moran canon. 
The German was a few feet ahead of me, when he stepped out 
of sight in an instant. He had put out his string of fire to the 
edge of a deep canon. I hallooed to him and after a time a 
faint voice answered back, "I'm here." Yes, he was there, 
some sixty feet below me astride a cedar stump. It was a 
miracle that he had not broken his neck. 

After all this hard work and great expense, the range was 
so solidly burned that I knew it would be impossible to 
winter our cattle on it. I immediately set to gathering all the 
fat steers three years old and upwards, and dry fat cows, 
enough to load four trains of thirty cars each for Chicago, 
going with the first one myself, the others following one day 
apart, one in charge of E. W. Murphy, one in charge of S. P. 
Baker and one in charge of another trusty friend. 

I picked up at Columbus and took with me to Chicago ex- 
State Senator Guy Barnum. We stopped a few moments 
early one morning at Grinnell, Iowa. Mr. Barnum wanted a 
drink to warm him up, ran to the nearest drug store but failed 
to get it and came hurrying back to the train very angry. He 
told the conductor he was nearly dying for a drink. The con- 
ductor directed him to the same drug store and told him 
to ask for "peanuts." He did and came back smiling, with a 
fair-sized bottle and said, in thanking the conductor for hold- 
ing the train for him, that Iowa was not nearly so bad a 
state as he thought it was. 

I fed my train of cattle at Geneseo and told Colonel Flan- 
nigan, who was running the yards, that we had three other 
trains following, and asked him as a special favor to see that 
the cattle were fed and properly rested, especially the third 
train in care of Mr. Baker. I told him that Mr. Baker was 
a very nice gentleman who did not talk much. He said he 
would take the best of care of our shipments and I think he 
did. I saw him on the depot platform on my return and he 
told me he had met the Mr. Baker, who I said was bashful 
and not much of a talker, but that he had talked one man to 
death and the other was in the hospital slowly recovering. 

230 Trails of Yesterday 

At the stock yards in Chicago I ran across Guy C. Barton 
(referred to in the preceding chapter) in a barber shop, 
where I went to have my boots shined. When the young 
bootblack had finished one boot, Mr. Barton paid him half 
a dollar not to shine the other; and he would not, notwith- 
standing that I offered him a dollar to shine it. Mr. Barton 
kept close to me down town and I could not get that dirty boot 
shined for love or money while with him. 

Before leaving Chicago, Mr. Murphy and I had a great 
time with good old Judge Baker, to whom we showed all the 
sights we could. He said he never had such a time in his life, 
and I believed him. 

While I was absent in Chicago disposing of the beef 
cattle, I had the men gather up all our cattle off the burned 
range and hold them on large patches of grass that we had 
saved near the Platte River bottom. I had also sent two of 
our trustiest, most intelligent men to prospect the country on 
the north side of the North Platte River with a view to 
moving our cattle over there, where the Indians were still 
numerous and stealing stock. It was a risky move but im- 
perative. It would mean the loss of all our cattle to remain 
and winter on the burned range. I had made a hurried trip 
into the Birdwood country and made up my mind where to 
take the cattle and where to turn them loose. 

We gathered up all we could and, though it was the early 
part of November, slush ice was floating in the North Platte 
River the day we were ready to cross. We waited until nearly 
noon before attempting to cross the several thousand head 
we had in the bunch. In the first two attempts we failed to 
get the cattle into the river, which was not only cold but deep, 
swimming the small cattle. We finally got a bunch of work 
steers on the lead and into the river and crowded other cattle 
after them as fast as we dared and by sundown we had the 
bunch across. 

It took every man we had mounted to hold the cattle that 
night. This was a long, hard night's work in our wet clothes 
and some of us without overcoats. Some of the cowboys, 

Trails of Yesterday 231 

like myself, had had nothing to eat since breakfast at five 
o'clock the morning before. We managed to get a change of 
horses after crossing the river, but could not leave the cattle 
long enough to eat supper. None of the cattle got away, 
though many of the calves had not found their mothers. 
After grazing the cattle a couple of hours, we started them 
on the trail of the Birdwood Creek country. We camped on 
the west side of the creek that night, which was cold. In fact, 
part of the creek was frozen over the next morning. By 
noon we had the cattle over the big sand-hill and over in the 
Riverside bottom, where the grass was nearly over their 
backs. Here we turned them loose, not knowing but that 
the Indians might drive the cattle off or set fire to the grass 
on the bottom. We noticed several signal fires in the country, 
north and northwest of us. 

We returned to our little camp on the strip of land be- 
tween the Platte River and the Birdwood Creek. Wood was 
very scarce on that part of the Birdwood Creek and had it 
not been for the little we brought with us, we would have 
gone to bed on cold biscuits and water. 

I had sent "Buffalo White," who was a great admirer of 
"Buffalo Bill" (imitating his ways and actions on every pos- 
sible occasion, even to allowing his hair to grow long), to 
the Home Ranch for a load of hay and provisions. White 
arrived at the crossing of the Birdwood Creek late the follow- 
ing night, at which time the creek had frozen over but not 
hard enough to hold the mules and wagons. I told White to 
leave his wagon one side to the wind and tie his mules on 
the leeward side to protect them from the cold wind that 
was blowing. I then told him to follow the creek down to 
a point where we would hold a lantern, and then for him to 
crawl across on his hands and knees but not to get up on his 
feet. I suppose he thought playing snake across the creek 
was neither swift nor manly and not like Buffalo Bill. When 
about three-fourths of the way across and over the deepest 
channel he got up on his feet and went through the ice nearly 
up to his neck. We got some ropes, pulled him ashore and 

232 Trails of Yesterday 

rushed him to the tent where we had to cut his frozen 
clothes off in order to put on dry ones. After a vigorous 
rubbing and a big drink of whiskey from a bottle that he had 
thoughtfully brought back with him, and after drinking two 
cups of hot coffee and eating a good supper he soon became 
himself again. I told him about Buffalo Bill's falling into 
a deeper hole than that at the Home Ranch and of Bill's 
thinking nothing of it. I did not tell White that this ducking 
was in the summer time. This story gave White fresh 
courage and after reciting the incidents of his trip, by the 
time our little Indian camp fire had died out Buffalo White 
had fallen asleep and was sleeping the sleep of the just. I had 
him sleep in my bed and another cowboy on the other side of 
him to keep him warm. 

On the creek bottom we found some sod that was springy 
and not frozen. This we plowed up and commenced the 
erection of a sod stable and in less than two weeks we had a 
comfortable stable, also a small sod shack to cook and sleep in. 

I had certain herders go around the cattle, which had not 
yet drifted out of the bottom to any great extent. 

After getting matters in shape so the men and horses 
could be comfortable, I took a couple of men and two pack 
animals and prospected the country up the Platte bottom 
as far as White Tail, where I decided to put a west camp. 
I then went up the Birdwood Creek to its forks, followed the 
west fork to its head, then followed up the east fork into 
what we called the Lake country, over to the heads of the two 
forks of the Dismal River, where I found lots of good cedar 
timber. Numerous springs and little creeks gushed out of 
the foothills in the entire country west of the Birdwood Creek 
up to the White Tail. The two Birdwoods were also fed 
by springs, the water was soft and good, even into the Lake 
country. The country was covered with a heavy growth of 
grass. Game of all kinds was plentiful — deer, elk, buffalo, 
ducks, wild geese, and prairie chicken. It was to me an ideal 
cattle country with plenty of shelter, and I determined, after 
looking it over, that it should be our range. We saw signs 

Trails of Yesterday 233 

of recent Indian camps but happened to come across none. 
Hay could be put up on all the river bottoms and in nearly 
every valley in the Lake country. On this trip I located our 
future ranches in order to control a range about twenty-four 
miles east and west and about sixty to seventy-five miles north 
and south. 

Our cattle went through the winter on their new range in 
good shape without any hay. Small, thieving bands of 
Sioux Indians came down on us during the winter. They 
killed some cattle and took several head of our horses but did 
not kill any of our men. 

The following summer the Keystone Cattle Company with 
W. A. Paxton as president, located a range west of us ranging 
from White Tail Creek on the west. The Bosler Brothers and 
Dennis Sheedy located a range between the Blue Creek and 
Sidney bridge across the North Platte River, and other outfits 
later located a range west of Bosler Brothers; hence ours, the 
Circle outfit, was the pioneer cattle company to locate north 
of the North Platte River. Between the Platte rivers the 
country was easy of access with less danger of Indian depre- 
dations and no Platte rivers to ford or swim. Many cattle 
outfits had established ranges west of the forks of the Platte 
rivers well up to Fort Laramie on the North Platte River 
and nearly to Denver on the South Platte River. 

Among the early cattle outfits between the Platte rivers 
may be mentioned Keith & Barton, Russell Watts, Shiedley 
Bros., Tusler Bros., Iliff and Moore Bros., so that in 1885 and 
later, when the cattle business was in its zenith, nearly every 
foot of range country where stock could secure grass and water 
was made use of. The cattle and horse raising business grew 
immensely until hard winters with no hay to feed the range 
cattle put on the brakes and put some cattle outfits out of 
business. It caused other cattle companies to begin to provide 
hay for winter feeding. These companies made a success, but 
those who did not provide for winter feeding made a failure 
and sooner or later had to quit the business. 

We were among the early cattle companies that put up 

234 Trails of Yesterday 

all the hay they could — some ten to twelve thousand tons on 
our North Platte River bottoms, two to three thousand tons 
at our Home Ranch, besides what we could put up in the 
Fox Creek canons for our native cattle kept in that vicinity, 
and at Big Baldy camp where we wintered our male animals. 

While we did much of this work of putting up hay our- 
selves, we also hired a large quantity put up in stack by the 
ton. Ted McEvoy would usually have charge of our hay 
outfit on the north side. At times he ran twenty-five mowers 
and twelve to fifteen rakes. Much of the hay on the north 
side was put up in two hundred to four hundred ton shocks, 
rounded up with forks. 

Poor old Ted, who has also passed away, would think 
nothing of going into a corral of bronchos and selecting his 
mowing and raking teams out of the wild herd. He would 
often have to throw the horses to harness them. They would 
then be paired off, hitched to a wagon and the next day put 
on a mower or a rake. Runaways would occur and some 
accidents happened, but nothing serious to either man or 
beast. Sometimes a rake team would cause a little excitement 
by rolling the raker, who happened to lose his seat on the 
rake, along the ground and stripping the clothes off him. 
Whenever a team was seen to run off with a mower or a rake, 
a yell would come from the other employees: "Stay with 
him ! Stay with him ! 1" 

The hay put up in shock in this way in the many different 
bottom pastures that were fenced off from the range cost us 
about twenty-five cents to thirty cents per ton. 

After the beef shipment in the fall and branding of all 
the calves, the larger calves would be separated from their 
mothers and, when weaned, would be thrown into one of 
these hay bottom pastures. Any weak cows pulled down in 
flesh by sucking calves during the winter would also be 
gathered and put in other hay pastures. All males would 
be gathered on the last round-up and taken to their winter 
quarters at Mile camp or Ball Bluff camp. The same rule 
would be followed with the native cattle on the Fox Creek 

Trails of Yesterday 235 

ranch. If the winter became severe, we would ride through 
the cattle, pick up any thin ones, then put the calves and other 
cattle picked up earlier into fresh hay pastures and turn the 
last gathered cattle into the hay pasture that the calves were 
taken out of. Toward spring we would rake several hay 
shocks into one, on which we would throw a little salt; 
then the cattle would eat all the hay so the hay meadows were 
kept clean all the time, much to the surprise of Mr. Carter 
(a native of New Hampshire) who argued that the hay 
bottoms would all be ruined on account of the butts of hay 
left on the meadows, but they were not. By this method our 
total losses would not average three per cent. We could, 
with free range at this time, raise a three-year-old steer for 
twelve dollars. Of course we had to contend with severe 
winter storms and sometimes blizzards and prairie fires. 

I remember one blizzard that drifted sixteen hundred 
mixed cattle through several wire fences and over snow banks 
into the North Platte River. Four hundred head, mostly year- 
lings, being unable to climb the high river bank, drowned. 

Again, although we would take every precaution to keep 
fire out of our range by plowing some two hundred fifty miles 
of fire guards of four to six furrows each, about two hundred 
feet apart, and burning off the grass between these fire guards, 
yet sometimes careless white men, trappers and hunters would 
allow fires to get away. Scarcely a night passed when the 
grass on the range was burning, whether at my home or at 
some of our ranches, that I did not get up once or twice 
during the night, if I did not sleep where I could look over 
the horizon fringing our ranges. If there was a light in the 
sky I could tell the locality of the fire, and many times I have 
started out in the middle of the night with a wagon-load of 
men, sacks, water barrels, plows and all the cowboys I 
could mount, putting the team on a lope to head off or put out 
some ditch fire. 

Had we had the telephone over the ranges and connect- 
ing the ranches in those days, what a large amount of work 
and anxiety it would have saved us ! 

236 Trails of Yesterday 

The foremen and men at every one of our ranches had 
positive orders to be always on the lookout for fires and, when 
discovered, to hasten to put them out. 

In the big prairie fire that burned off our range in 1874, 
which started between Willow and Medicine creeks, and was 
driven by a high south wind, I happened to be at our Curtis 
Creek ranch when I saw the fire spring up. After telling one 
man what to do to save the ranches and our stock grazing in 
that section of country, I saddled up the best horse we had 
there and started for our Home Ranch, foolishly without 
matches. The fire jumped the Medicine Creek and crowded 
on the heels of my poor panting horse. Several times the 
fire came so close to me that the intense heat and great clouds 
of smoke almost enveloped me. Sometimes I wished that I 
had climbed a tree and turned my horse loose, but the thought 
of losing our Home Ranch gave me courage and impelled 
me to go on. I got to the ranch a few minutes ahead of the 
tongue of the fire and with the force of men we had at the 
ranch managed to save the buildings but lost some of our 
fences and corrals. I had scarcely broken a lope, except in 
going over deep holes and steep canons, from the Medicine 
to the Platte via the head of Fox Creek and Moran Canon. 

To add to our troubles, the western cattlemen in eastern 
Wyoming and Colorado and western Nebraska, whose 
strong (principally steer) cattle had drifted on us in the 
winter storms, would usually insist on commencing the round- 
up shortly after the first of May, when our cattle, consisting 
of what would be called a "she herd," would be at their 
weakest. To prevent this imposition and damage to our 
cattle in that vicinity, mild remonstrance having failed, I 
swore out over sixty warrants, and had many of our own 
and neighboring cowboys working at adjoining ranches sworn 
in and deputized to serve the warrants under the direction of 
Sheriff Groner of Lincoln County. This action bluffed these 
representatives, with the result that the round-up was post- 
poned twenty days. After this, we cattle owners at the east end 
had something to say as to what date the round-up should 

Trails of Yesterday 


238 Trails of Yesterday 

commence on the east end of the range country without 
damage to our cattle. 

It is said that Buck Taylor and another cowboy rode 
up to a bunch of western representatives, all heavily armed, 
riding near the head of the Dismal River, where the round- 
up was scheduled to commence work, and asked them what 
their business was. They replied that they had come to 
attend the round-up and told what cattle companies they 
represented. Buck told them in very plain language that 
the first man that started to round up a "critter" would be 
killed. The representatives rode away, whispering to them- 
selves: "That's Bratt, that's Bratt." I did not know I had 
such a reputation until I was asked by some of the cattle 
owners who sent these representatives why I had threatened 
to kill them if they started the round-up at that time. I told 
these owners that I was a law-abiding citizen and was only 
seeking to protect our interests and did not remember of 
threatening to kill any one. Later they found out that Buck 
Taylor and not I had told their men that. 

During round-ups we had to cross the North and the 
South Platte rivers occasionally, even when high, the few 
bridges at this time being many miles apart. Desiring to 
attend a round-up between the rivers at a point a few miles 
east of Paxton station, we decided to cross the river, which 
was very high, about one mile east of Cedar Creek, but owing 
to the high, steep banks we could not get our horses into the 
river. We, twelve cowboys and I, were about ready to give 
up the idea of crossing at that particular point when I asked 
the cowboys if they would follow me. They all answered 
they would except one young man, who remarked that he 
was ready and willing to follow but wanted some of us to 
stay by him in event he went under, as he said: "I can't 
swim." We told him we would see that he got through all 
right. I slackened my latigo straps, rode back about one 
hundred fifty yards from the bank and put my horse on a 
fast run and before he knew it, we were both out of sight in 
swimming water. The others followed as fast as they could 

"Buck" Taylor {Later a Rough Rider in 
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show) 

Trails of Yesterday 


come, even the young cowboy who said he could not swim. 
I had put two expert "water dogs" in charge of him and he 
came through without being washed out of the saddle and 
was proud of his achievement. A camera focused on us 
about the time we all struck the water would have made an 
interesting picture. We had to swim about half the width 
of the river, which at the point where we jumped the bank 
was nearly three-quarters of a mile wide. 

We gathered a number of cattle and put them in a bunch 
that was going to be crossed at the mouth of Blue Creek. We 

How Sleepy Was Made An Early Riser 

recrossed the river west of Paxton. The tenderfoot covered 
himself with glory. 

I here relate how we cured a cowboy who would not get 
up when called. 

We were in camp on the West Birdwood Creek, near the 
big spring. All the men were up, had had breakfast and were 
ready for instructions for the day's work except one man, 
nicknamed "Sleepy." He had been called but did not get up. 
I called a couple of mounted cowboys and told them to quickly 
fasten the ends of their lariats, one to each corner of the 
opening of the "paulin," near the sleeper's head, and when 
fastened, proceed on a quick run, with the lariats around the 
horns of the saddles, down the steep bank of the creek, then 

240 Trails of Yesterday 

slowly through the creek in order to give "Sleepy" the benefit 
of a good bath — the water in the West Birdwood Creek at 
this point was two to four feet deep — then pull him gently 
up the creek bank and leave him with his saddle horse. All of 
which was quickly carried out to the disgust of "Sleepy," who 
never had to be called twice to get up after this while working 
for the Circle outfit. 


Citizen Duties in Addition to the Cattle Business — Swim the River to 

Elect a Teacher — A Snake in a Tobacco Pocket — Two 

Hotheads — Ogallala in the Early Days — Honorable 


DURING this strenuous time I was not unmindful of my 
obligations and duties as an American citizen. My 
friends insisted on putting my name on the Democratic 
ticket as a candidate for the legislature. I am afraid I made 
a poor candidate since I did not want the office, neither could 
I discharge its duties, if elected, without neglecting my own 
and those entrusted to me by others. I took no part in the 
canvass of the district, while my competitor went over every 
foot of it. I was pleased when the votes were counted show- 
ing my opponent a twenty-two majority. 

I took interest in our schools and churches, contributing 
liberally towards their establishment and support. I was 
elected a member of the Board of Education of North Platte 
two terms, serving one term with Frank Reardon, James 
Belton, Morgan Davis, James Reynolds and Nels Nicholls. 
The question came up about hiring Miss Graves again as a 
teacher. Miss Graves afterwards became Mrs. Eells. Some 
members of the Board objected to her because she danced. 
To me this objection seemed narrow — very narrow. The 
vote stood three and three. Those who opposed waited until 
James Reynolds was in Texas and the writer one hundred 
twenty-five miles west on the North River round-up, when one 
day M. C. Keith sent me word that there was going to be a 
school-board meeting that night and if I wanted to save Miss 
Graves I must be present. I received the message at 8 :oo 
A. m. The man bringing the word had ridden hard all 
night, changing horses at the Keystone Ranch. I picked the 
best horse in our bunch, turned the work over to our foreman 
and it was not long before I had left McCulligan's Butte, 


242 Trails of Yesterday 

south of the North Platte River, behind me, I do not think 
I broke a lope for ten miles. The river was bank full, 
covered with froth and foam in the many swift, deep chan- 
nels and much driftwood coming down. I rode down 
opposite the Seven Crook Ranch, but the boat was on the 
south side. I came on to the Keystone Ranch to meet with 
the same ill luck — the boat was on the south side, hence there 
was nothing to do but to take to the river. My good, faith- 
ful horse was about all in and no saddle horses in sight at 
the Keystone Ranch. I loosened my cinches and started 
across the water. It was deep in places on the north half 
of the river but became deeper as I neared the south bank. 
Old "Babe" went under twice; the current was too swift 
for him and threw him on his side and me out of the saddle 
for a moment. We both floated down some distance under 
the bank, finally to float in a sand draw, where I was not 
sorry to get on terra firma once more. I urged my horse 
forward all I dared. I was greatly pleased as I clipped off 
the last two miles on the down hill toward Ogallala to see 
a freight train standing on the track ready to pull out. I 
waved my hat to the engineer, who saw me coming. He 
guessed my purpose and after whistling and opening the 
throttle a little, started the train slowly. I rode along the 
side of it, jumped off my horse, turned him loose and swung 
on the side of a freight car. I called to a friend to take my 
horse to the livery barn, climbed upon the freight car and 
walked back to the caboose. I knew the conductor and ex- 
plained to him my haste to reach North Platte and before we 
were six miles out of Ogallala I realized that the little, old 
freight train of nineteen cars, pulled by one of those little 
Giant engines of the 600 class, was in a mad race of about 
thirty miles an hour. Without waiting for anything to eat 
or a change of dry clothes, I rushed down to the board meet- 
ing, entering as they were having the roll called as to whether 
Miss Nellie Graves should be hired as a teacher. I voted 
yes. The tally stood two and two — a tie — with two members 
absent. They had expected one of these to be present but he 

Trails of Yesterday 243 

failed to show up. They did not look for me. I dropped in 
like a clap of thunder from a clear sky. The friends of Miss 
Graves called a mass meeting, at which, while no ink wells 
or law books were thrown at each other as happened some- 
times, some very plain language was expressed. Good Alex 
Stewart was chairman of the meeting, which ended by the 
passage of a resolution instructing the school board to en- 
gage Miss Graves as teacher for the ensuing year, and that 
dancing was no detriment to her as a teacher. This settled, 
I took the first train for Ogallala and leading "Babe," crossed 
the river in a boat, at the Seven Crook Ranch, where a few 
miles above I met the round-up boys returning with our stray 

Colonel E. D. Webster, former editor of the Omaha 
Republican and during the Civil War private secretary to 
William H. Seward, accompanied us on one of these round- 
ups in the interest of himself and Mrs. Randall, who jointly 
owned the "H" brand. 

The different outfits were camped along the North Platte 
River, opposite the mouth of Lost Creek, now better known 
as Oshkosh. 

We were holding about six thousand head of range cattle 
that had been gathered that afternoon out of the Blue Creek 
country, besides many bunches belonging to different owners 
east and west of the Bosler Brothers' range. Thomas 
Lawrence, who was in charge of the Bosler Brothers' outfit, 
was in charge of the round-up work and had arranged for 
night herders for the six thousand head bunch that had not 
been worked, by calling on the different outfits for their quota 
of men to hold this large bunch, consisting principally of 
large steers. This, with their own outfits, put nearly every 
man in the saddle that night. 

About midnight a terrible thunderstorm sprang up, 
followed by a heavy rain that fell for several hours, coming 
down for a time in sheets and swept by a heavy wind. The 
sky became so dark that we could scarcely see our hands if 
held up before us. 

244 Trails of Yesterday 

The result was a big mix-up. I, like many other owners, 
was out with our men all night. By hard, constant riding, 
we held our bunch but could not prevent several hundred other 
cattle from drifting in on us. The lower bottom where our 
camp was, was covered with storm water to a depth of one to 
two feet. Daybreak found us all — every camp — very much 
demoralized. The water was a foot deep or more in our 

Colonel Webster came into our camp. He was all in 
and resembled a drowned mouse. He threw himself down 
on a pile of sacked corn that we had in the tent and fell asleep. 
The Colonel had a great dislike for snakes. Tom Ritchie 
had killed a big rattlesnake at the foothills and put it in 
the pocket of his slicker. Noticing the Colonel sleeping, he 
slipped the rattler into his tobacco pocket. In a few minutes 
a cowboy entered the tent and inquired if any one had any 
tobacco. Some one said the Colonel had, when the inquirer 
went up to him, awoke him and asked if he had any tobacco. 
The Colonel growled at being disturbed and began feeling in 
his pockets, finally putting his hand on the snake. He jerked 
it out of his pocket, gave a high leap, nearly breaking his 
head on the ridge-pole of the tent, his face changing from red 
to purple, then to white, as he leaped off the corn sacks into 
nearly a foot of fast running storm water, swearing a blue 
streak that he would whip the man (calling out a very ugly 
name) who had put that snake into his tobacco pocket. 
Ritchie was bent on licking the Colonel on account of the 
name he had called him but we managed to keep the two 

Much bad feeling existed between the Ritchie Brothers 
and Webster & Randall on account of crowding of ranges, 
and the snake episode was the real cause of an open rupture 
between the two men. I never saw the Colonel smoke or 
chew any more tobacco on that round-up. 

This reminds me of a similar rupture between W. C. 
Irvin, one of the foreman of the Bosler Brothers Cattle Co., 

Trails of Yesterday 245 

who claimed the range from some miles east of Blue Creek 
to west of Brown's Creek, up to Dennis Sheedy's range. 

The Boyd Brothers had come in just east of Blue Creek 
with several thousand cattle, expecting to claim the Blue Creek 
country as a range. The Bosler Brothers, who had a ranch 
at the mouth and west side of Blue Creek, strenuously objected 
to the Boyd Brothers' action and quarrels were constant be- 
tween Sam Boyd, who had charge of the Boyd Brothers' 
cattle, and the Bosler Brothers and their foremen, W. C. 
Irvin and Tom Lawrence. 

In riding up Lost Creek valley on one round-up with Sam 
Boyd and W. C. Irvin, both fighters and hotheads, I dis- 
mounted three times in riding one mile to prevent the two 
men from eating each other up alive. Each continued to 
hand back to the other all sorts of accusations, when both 
men would dismount with a challenge to whip the other. 
I would get between them and order both to get into their 
saddles and quit such boys' play. Both had grit enough to 
fight a buzz saw. 

In these days Ogallala was a wide-awake, wild, and 
sometimes wicked town. For many years it was the distribut- 
ing point of the Texas cattle, but later owners began to bring 
up their own herds to sell to the Northern cattle growers. I 
have many times seen as many as fifty thousand cattle ranging, 
being held in different herds along the bottom and foothills 
on the south side of the South Platte River, strung along from 
ten to fifteen miles east, west and south of Ogallala. Ogal- 
lala had its numerous saloons, dance houses and gambling 
dens, all running in full blast both night and day. The town 
marshal was a brave fellow, but there were times when he 
went to cover, being unable to control the bad ones, not a 
few of whom had to be killed. 

I remember one night, while sitting talking in an upstairs 
room at the Leach House, northeast of the depot, with one 
of the Bosler Brothers, Wm. Paxton, Judge Faut, Uncle 
Billy Stevens, Colonel Mayberry and one of the Sheidley 


Trails of Yesterday 

Brothers, that about fifteen shots were fired through the 
window of our room which faced the street. Our little hand 
lamp, lighted and standing on a wash stand, was shot to 
pieces, as was nearly every pane in the window. I do not see 
how we all escaped being wounded or killed or why the hotel 
did not burn down, but none of us got a scratch. It is un- 
necessary to say that there was quick dodging and scrambling 
to get out of that room. We learned later that the cowboys got 
into a fight in Tucker's saloon and after breaking every 
mirror, bottle and glass in the saloon, came out on the street, 

A Crack Shot 

and the light in our window being the only glim in sight, the 
boys made up their minds that it must go out, and it did. 

I have seen cowboys ride into this saloon and jump their 
horses on to the pool and billiard tables, and some crack 
shot would shoot the glass out of a man's hand while it was 
up to his mouth. Another would see how much he could 
shoot off a cigar in a man's mouth without grazing his nose 
with the bullet. The village authorities tried to maintain 
order but were often powerless. 

Louis Auftengarten kept the principal outfitting store and 

Trails of Yesterday 247 

did an enormous business with the cattle outfits. He had 
their confidence and it was a pleasure to deal with such an 
honorable class of men as the Texas cattle men. I could fill 
a page of this book with their names. We bought many 
cattle and horses from them and I do not know of one single 
instance where they took advantage of us. 

I cannot pass this bunch of good fellows without mention- 
ing the name of James Ware, W. A. Paxton's brother-in-law, 
who had secured an interest in the Keystone Cattle Company 
and become its active manager. It was a pleasure to know 
him. He could never do too much for us. He was always 
frank, honorable and square in his dealings. It was a pleasure 
to be in the cattle business and have such a man as James Ware 
for a neighbor. He retired from the cattle business and set- 
tled with his family near Blair in this state. 

David Hunter is another pioneer cattle man. He was a 
member of the firm of Hunter Bros. & Evans, and was its 
active manager. They were offered at one time $900,000.00 
for their brand of cattle. They wanted $1,000,000 but sold 
for less after that hard winter struck their cattle on Milk 
River. Mr. Hunter belongs in the same gallery of honorable 
cattle men with Mr. Ware, Russell Watts, W. A. Paxton, 
Isaac Dillon, Sheidley Bros., John McShane, Tussler Bros., 
Tracey, and a host of others I could name. Mr. Hunter 
lives happily with Mrs. Hunter on his farm at Glen Burnie 
in summer and on his California fruit farm in winter. 


A Brighter Outlook — Love Creeps In — Marriage — Home Ties 

SOME may have thought me a woman hater for re- 
fusing many invitations to social affairs, but I was 
not. I had become acquainted with a few ladies but 
had seen only one for whom I thought I cared. That was 
Miss Elizabeth Burke, who since her father's accidental 
death, had relinquished many social duties among the 
officers' wives and daughters at Fort McPherson. She 
thought it her duty to assist her widowed mother in home 
duties and in the care of seven little brothers. She was a 
graduate of Brownell Hall in Omaha. She was born in 
Illinois and came with her parents and family to eastern 
Nebraska near Tecumseh, where the Jayhawkers stole nearly 
all of their stock. They finally settled on the California and 
Oregon Trail between Fort McPherson and Platte City. 
Here her father erected a road ranch, which as I have related 
in a previous chapter, was destroyed by a band of Sioux In- 
dians, who took all their live stock except one team, which 
they managed to save with their lives by jumping into the 
wagon with what few things they could grab and running 
the team at break-neck speed to Fort McPherson. The In- 
dians took all their bedding, provisions and clothing except 
what they had on, and burned the ranch. The commander 
of the Fort and the officers' wives furnished the family with 
a house to live in until they could build another. 

At another time, prior to destroying the ranch, while the 
mother and children were alone, two young Indian chiefs 
rode up and asked that the mother give them her little 
daughter. While the mother was driving the best bargain 
she could with the Indians, simply to kill time, expecting re- 
lief every moment, the Indians finally offered thirty ponies for 
the little, blue-eyed, fair-haired girl. Just at this time a squad 


Miss Elizabeth Burke 

Trails of Yesterday 249 

of cavalry came to the rescue, at sight of which the Indians 
broke for the hills and the girl was saved. 

This little story, only one of many that happened in her 
frontier life, will acquaint the reader with some of the hard- 
ships she and her family had gone through in making their 
home on the western Nebraska prairie. 

She had a mind and will of her own, and it was some 
time before I could impress upon her mind my honest and 
earnest intentions. Had she told me I must go and be or- 
dained a bishop, or join the army and become a general, or 
become a millionaire cattle man, before I could win her, I 
might have attempted to gratify her wishes. She did neither, 
but after a certain probation, I was accepted, and on May 
1 8, 1 875, we were married at her home near Fort McPherson 
by the Reverend Hackenberg. 

Four daughters, Elizabeth Margratha, now Mrs. W. A. 
Baldwin of Omaha; Jessie Maud, now Mrs. Charles Hendy, 
Jr., of Denver; Grace Sheldon, now Mrs. E. R. Goodman of 
North Platte, and Nell Edith, now Mrs. Newton E. Buckley 
of North Platte, are our children. They were all born at the 
Home Ranch. 


Later Days — Lost His Ambition to Become a Cowboy — Organization 

of Frontier County — A Life Saved — The North Platte Home 

Guards — Our Last Indian Encounter 

A FTER the stock growing business had been fairly started, 

/-% hundreds and thousands of people were anxious to 

embark in it. We had many applications from young 

men in the East, who had some money and wealthy fathers 

to back them, asking us to allow them to come to our ranches 

with a view to learning the business. 

One young man named John Bradford, of Pennsylvania, 
bounced in on us one day with several trunks, "shooting 
irons," fishing tackle, boxing gloves of all kinds, and a bull- 
dog, insisting that we take him in to learn the cattle business. 
John was an all-round sport. He could shoot, race, swim, 
jump and would box with the best of the boys. It was his 
ambition to be able to ride a broncho and become an expert 
cowboy in riding, roping and handling cattle. 

We took him out with us on a round-up south of the Home 
Ranch. We had worked the Willow and Medicine Creek 
country, and on returning, worked the heads of Well and 
Moran canons and were camped on the Jack Morrow flats. 
We gathered up quite a bunch of cows and calves, intending 
to take them to the Home Ranch to brand them. We were 
night herding this bunch on the flats about seven miles south 
of our Home Ranch. Bradford and I were bunking together. 
John was on the first relief from 8 :oo to 10:00 P. M. I was 
on the second relief from 10:00 to 12 :oo. I had spread our 
bed down in a large swale on account of its being so level, 
for during the rainy season it was usually the bed of a lake. 
I have often seen it covered with two to four feet of water 
for five to ten acres. The weather was warm and cloudy 
and it commenced to rain as I turned in, and it came down 
steadily, so much so that I felt the water flowing under and 


Trails of Yesterday 251 

over my blankets, but I was too tired or lazy to get up and 
pull the bed on higher ground. It was not long before I 
heard a horseman riding, splashing through the storm water. 
He told me it was my relief. I jumped up and pulled on my 
boots, which were full of water, threw on my coat and started 
for my horse picketed near by. John followed, asking where 
he must sleep. I told him there was plenty of room in my 
bed and while there was considerable water under and over 
it, the water was warm. He said he would not sleep in that 
bed but would stand up all night first, and he did. 

She was an Outlaw 

The cattle were restless and I stayed with them, helping 
the other reliefs until daylight. 

Bradford, desiring to be classed as an owner of live 
stock, bought a calico pony from the Indians. She was an 
outlaw. None of the cowboys cared to ride her. Bradford 
said he would ride her if I would mount first. I never took 
a dare. We saddled her and I mounted. She bucked some 
and tried her best to get me oft but failed, when by resorting 
to an old trick — that of falling over backwards — she broke 
the horn of the saddle on my thigh. My back was hurt 
badly as she rolled over on top of me. I was carried into the 
ranch and was under the doctor's care for some two weeks, 

252 Trails of Yesterday 

while some of the cowboys attended to me. Bradford, as 
good as his word, got in the saddle, only to be served the 
same as I had been. The pony reared and fell over on him, 
breaking his left arm in two places. He ordered the animal 
to be shot. 

This accident caused him to lose all ambition to become 
an expert cowboy. He later packed his belongings and with 
his pet bulldog left us, his destination being Montana. The 
last we heard of John, he was floating down the Missouri 
River on a raft near Fort Benton, some distance ahead of a 
party that was anxious to overtake him. 

On January 18, 1872, being anxious to make a stock 
country of the territory south of the Platte, west of Plum 
Creek,* north of the Republican River and east of Julesburg, 
we organized Frontier County. Hank Clifford, W. H. Miles 
and I were appointed by Acting Governor James to be its 
board of commissioners. Levi Carter was treasurer and I 
acted as his deputy. Kirby was appointed county clerk, and 
others, all friendly to the stock interests, were appointed to 
fill the other county offices. Stockville was named the county 

Our organization of Frontier County may be worth re- 
cording in this autobiography. 

I had sent the box of books, commission blanks, etc., on 
to our Fox Creek ranch the day prior to the date the county 
was to be organized; and on that night, as per arrangement, 
I was to call for Kirby, then clerking for Charles McDonald 
at his ranch store at Fort McPherson. I left our Home 
Ranch about eight o'clock at night, riding one saddle horse 
and leading another for Kirby. The night was clear but 
bitter cold. The snow lay in drifts and the bare spots in the 
road were covered in places with ice. 

Thinking our horses would be tired, I had made arrange- 
ments with Lieutenant Hayes, the quartermaster of Fort Mc- 
Pherson, to loan me a couple of saddle horses, on which Kirby 

*Plum Creek is now known as Lexington, Nebraska. 

Trails of Yesterday 253 

and I started to Emil Ericksson's. Mr. Ericksson was justice 
of the peace and lived about three miles east of the Fort. 

After Kirby took the oath of office, we started back to 
the Fort. Kirby was a heavy man, unaccustomed to the saddle, 
and the little ride to Judge Ericksson's had cooled his en- 
thusiasm. He wanted to know why we could not delay the 
trip until morning. I told him we had only until six o'clock 
the next night to organize the county and had fifty miles to 
go to get to the county seat and in case of accident we might 
not make it and could not afford to take the chances. Finally 
he promised to go if we took two canteens of liquor along, 
to which I agreed. 

We started up Cottonwood Canon about i :3c) in the morn- 
ing on two nervy, but not sharp-shod, horses. I was careful to 
give Kirby the gentler horse, which, before we had gone two 
miles up the canon, lost his feet and went down with Kirby 
on an icy stretch of the road. Kirby was angry and refused 
to remount until coaxed with two large drinks out of the 
canteen, when he changed and took my horse, believing him 
to be the better. The fact was that I had had hard work to 
keep my horse on his feet. It was Kirby's way to ride with 
a slack rein and holding to the horn of the saddle. 

After going less than a mile his horse went down but 
he kept his seat in the saddle by "choking" the saddle horn. 
He did much swearing and declared he would go no farther. 
I again made the appeal that all the would-be county officials 
would be waiting for us and would not forgive us if we neg- 
lected to perform this duty. After more canteen, we started 
again, he allowing me to lead his horse until we got out of 
Cottonwood Canon and up on Rattlesnake Ridge (the narrow 
divide between the two canons leading to Fox Creek), when 
he insisted upon possession of one of the canteens. I gave 
him the one with the lesser contents. He also insisted on 
guiding his own horse, which I reluctantly allowed. 

We had gone about three miles down the six-mile ridge, 
which was bare of snow, when we met a small herd of buffalo. 

254 Trails of Yesterday 

Kirby's horse took fright and started to shy and run. I 
started my horse on a fast lope and caught it by the bridle 
rein as it was madly dashing towards the precipice of a canon 
pocket, where both Kirby and horse would have been killed 
had the horse not been stopped. Kirby had let go of the 
bridle rein and was holding to the horn of the saddle. He 
was too much in his "cups" to realize his danger. However, 
he consented to allow me to continue leading his horse, minus 
the canteen, which he had dropped in his efforts to hold to 
the saddle horn. 

We finally arrived at Fox Creek ranch between five and six 
o'clock in the morning, where the cook and cowboys, who 
were to accompany us to Stockville (Hank Clifford's tepee), 
had a good breakfast of buffalo meat, biscuits and coffee 
awaiting us. Breakfast over, I left Kirby dozing in the ranch. 

One horse of the team sent out with the books, commis- 
sion blanks, etc., the day before, had become lame and we were 
compelled to put in his place a wild Texas horse that had never 
been harnessed before. We had to throw him to harness him. 

We loaded into the spring wagon the two boxes of books 
and other materials, awoke Kirby out of his sound sleep and 
got him aboard and settled in the seat beside me, when 
shortly before sunrise I gave orders to the man at the horses' 
heads to turn them loose. The Texas broncho became quite 
active in standing on his hind feet and lunging forward, 
apparently trying to get out of his collar. The new road cut 
through the heavy brush and timber, leading from the ranch 
to the main road around the head of Fox Creek, was not any 
too wide but it assisted materially in keeping "Texas" in 
the trail. The team kept up their lope down the creek and 
up the pocket north of where the Fred Schick ranch was 
later built. We had hard work to keep our seats in going 
up this pocket on account of washouts and buffalo trails. 
Kirby was jolted around considerably and finally grabbed the 
back of the seat to prevent his falling out of the spring wagon. 
We finally reached the head of the pocket and the little neck 

Trails of Yesterday 255 

that we had to cross. The steep hill down which we had to 
travel in order to get into one of the canons that led to the 
divide between Curtis and Fox creek was nearly covered with 
ice. My hands were numb with cold from pulling on the 
reins, which it seemed "Texas" wanted to break. The team 
was covered with lather. 

I asked a couple of the several cowboys accompanying 
us — some of the future county officers of Frontier County — 
to hold the horses' heads while I got out and examined the 
road we had to travel down the pocket into the canon. I 
concluded that I might make it safely with a gentle team, 
but with "Texas" never — and said so to Kirby, who by this 
time had nearly drained the other canteen. At this he seemed 
to think I was questioning his courage. He straightened up in 
his seat, took another drink, looked me in the eye, and said : 
"I am from Missouri. I dare ride where you dare drive. 
Let her go." I did. "Texas" and his mate went off their 
feet. The wagon swung round and turned over, the two 
boxes of books and Kirby rolled down the canon, the dash- 
board came on my neck, and the team became excited, break- 
ing the wagon tongue in two places. I held on to the reins until 
some of the cowboys came to the horses' heads, lifted the 
dashboard off my neck and righted the wagon. As soon 
as I could I went to the assistance of Kirby, who lay in a heap, 
moaning and groaning. I asked him if he were badly hurt. 
The only answer was, "Let me die right here." I told him 
I was surprised to hear a Missourian talk like that after 
telling me that he dared ride where I dared drive. I was 
sorry for making that remark when on examination, I dis- 
covered his collar bone was fractured and his arm was broken 
in two places. We spliced the broken wagon tongue with two 
lariats, using a spade that we had brought along for a splint. 
Leaving the two boxes of books on the ground where they had 
rolled we carried poor Kirby back to the wagon, in which 
I had spread out a roll of bedding and laid him down as 
tenderly as possible. While I took the reins I had a cowboy 


Trails of Yesterday 

Trails of Yesterday 257 

take "Texas" and lead him by the bridle, since I did not know 
what other meanness he had brewing for us. When the 
wagon crowded on him or the doubletrees touched his hind 
legs, he would "let out" at the dashboard with both hind 

We went back to the Fox Creek ranch, into which we car- 
ried Kirby, laying him down easily on a bed of hay, quilts 
and buffalo robes. He had come to his senses and realized 
he was badly hurt. I left him in charge of the foreman of 
the ranch, Lew White, and a couple of ranch boys, with strict 
orders that, after a lunch and some hot coffee, they were to 
load him carefully in a box wagon that I partially filled with 
hay and plenty of bedding, and with the ranch team take 
him into Fort McPherson as easily and quickly as possible 
and turn him over to Dr. Elbry, the Fort doctor. I had him 
administer the oath of office as county commissioner to me, 
and with cheering and encouraging words, telling him how 
I had arranged to send him back to the Fort, I left him. 

With a few bad breaks on the part of "Texas" but without 
serious accident, we found and loaded up the boxes. We 
took the team from the wagon and led it down the steep hill 
to the bottom of the canon by hand, which seemed to satisfy 
"Texas." At about twelve o'clock noon Sol Martin, two 
other men and I (future officials of Frontier County) started 
in good earnest for Hank Clifford's tepee, which we reached 
about six o'clock in the evening, over a trackless road on which 
there was plenty of ice and snow. The Clifford Brothers, 
Miles and other to-be county officials were impatiently wait- 
ing for us. After telling them about Kirby's accident I ad- 
ministered the oath of office, handed them their commissions 
and, when we were to sign our names to the record, there 
was neither pen and ink nor a pencil in the possession of any of 
us! We scraped some soot off the tepee poles, mixed it with 
water, sharpened a stick and dipped it in the mixture. With 
this stick we all wrote our names and Frontier County was 
born, with Stockville named as the county seat. 

258 Trails of Yesterday 

We all stayed at Hank's tepee that night. His squaw 
and her sister cooked our supper and breakfast. After break- 
fast, bidding the new officers good-bye, my men and I started 
back to Fox Creek ranch. "Texas," a grass horse, looked 
and felt like "thirty cents." He had plenty of will power 
left but not the physical force to back it. 

We arrived at the ranch about noon and to my surprise 
and alarm, there lay Kirby where I had left him the day be- 
fore. He had managed to get possession of a revolver, with 
which he threatened to shoot the first man who touched him. 
He had White and the ranch crew treed. I quickly lay down 
on the bed beside him, telling him I was sorry he had not let 
the boys take him to the Fort and that he was endangering 
his life by the delay. I took the revolver away from him 
and told him I was going to have him at Fort McPherson 
that night. I had him there by eleven o'clock and in the hos- 
pital under Dr. Elbry's care. Blood poison had set in and his 
arm and shoulder were nearly twice their natural size. It 
took three months of Dr. Elbry's constant care and the best 
of nursing to save his life. When he was well he left for 
Stockville and filled the duties of his office as county clerk. 
He took up a claim near the county seat, which he later sold 
and returned to old Missouri, where some years later he died 
of yellow fever. If I knew where he was buried and if there 
were room on his tombstone, I would have carved on it the 
words: "I dare ride where you dare drive. Let her go." 
Poor Kirby ! Clever, generous and kind-hearted — a diamond 
in the rough — his only failing was too much "canteen." 

We ranged more or less stock in this county for several 
years. Taxes were light. In fact, there was nothing except 
state and school tax. We had to work roads and build 
bridges across the Medicine, Willow and other creeks, but 
we built these ourselves without charge to the county. I 
charged nothing for services as commissioner and deputy 

Nearly every settler had a few cattle or horses, or ex- 

Trails of Yesterday 259 

pected to have some shortly, to thrive and fatten on the rich, 
native gama and buffalo grass, as did the numerous fat and 
sleek buffalo, elk, deer and antelope that ranged in this 
country both winter and summer. 

Among the worthy early settlers can be named the Rib- 
bons, Bakers, E. W. Murphy, Lockwoods, Sanders, and 
Hank and Monty Clifford. Both had squaw wives and 
each a goodly number of half-breed papooses. There was 
also W. H. Miles and his very intelligent sister, Mrs. Ray- 
mond, who could bring down a buffalo, deer or antelope at 
the first shot. She later married David Ballentine. Then 
came the Daucheys, Schicks (never forgetting good Mother 
Nannie), Gambels, Nesbitts, Kirbys, Sutherlands, Mc- 
Masons, Doings, Berry Bros., Baskins, Cruthers, Dick Sey- 
mour, self-named "Bloody Dick," Webbs and many others, 
all good people, who settled in this county in its younger days 
and assisted in developing its resources, in building its schools 
and churches and in leading it upward and onward to a higher 
civilization. Some of these have crossed the Great Divide; 
others are nearing it, all happy in the thought that they have 
done their duty, unmindful of the many hardships they have 
suffered in changing a barren prairie to a productive and 
beautiful country. 

I shall here tell how I was the means of saving the life 
of Anderson. 

I was returning from a commissioners' meeting at Stock- 
ville. It was winter and some eight to twelve inches of 
crusted snow lay on the ground, making travel with a team, 
even with a light wagon, almost impossible. I had traveled 
about two-thirds of the Curtis Ridge road on my way to Fox 
Creek ranch when I noticed some object, apparently moving, 
about one and one-half miles northeast of me. I stopped 
my team and took out my field glasses, but for a time could 
not make out what the object was. It did not look like an 
animal and did not resemble a human being. Though the 
sun was sinking rapidly in the west, guarded by a fiery sun dog 

260 Trails of Yesterday 

on either side, indicating a cold night and to-morrow, I started 
my team toward the object. On coming closer, I found that 
it was a man trying to walk and crawl on his hands and knees 
over the frozen snow. I asked him his name, where he was 
from and where he was going, but he was so badly frozen he 
could not answer. His face and nose were like white wax. 
I lifted him into the wagon, fastened my lap robe around him 
and started the team for Fox Creek ranch as fast as it could 
go. Once there I got all hands to help thaw out his frozen 
face, hands and feet. We heaped snow and ice on the frozen 
parts and kept up a vigorous rubbing all night. We poured 
hot drinks down the poor fellow and at last he regained his 
senses and burst into a flood of tears. By daylight we had 
removed the frost from his face, arms and hands and as far 
down as the calves of his legs. We made another united 
effort to get it out of his ankles and feet but could not move 
it. The only thing was to get him into the Post surgeon's 
quarters at Fort McPherson. With the help of one of our 
men I got him there by four o'clock in the afternoon of the 
next day. The doctor thought his case hopeless and did not 
think he could save his life. The flesh from the calves of 
his legs down was dead and black. I stayed and saw his 
feet amputated and visited him several times while in the 
hospital. He finally pulled through all right and I got him 
a job as bridge watchman for John Burke, for whom he 
worked many years and saved his money. Everybody was 
kind to Anderson and helped him. He fixed up a pair of 
large warm shoes, in which he fastened his stumps and got 
around very well with a couple of sticks. He explained his 
misfortune by saying that he left a ranch at Plum Creek, in- 
tending to kill some game, but got lost and had no idea where 
he was or what he was doing when I discovered him. He 
finally drifted back to Plum Creek, later called Lexington, 
where he commenced to buy hogs and trade. At last accounts 
he had accumulated' between $30,000.00 and $50,000.00, 
thus showing what a man can do with no feet. Anderson 
always said I saved his life. Maybe I helped. 

Trails of Yesterday 261 

While the settlers and ranchmen of Frontier County and 
adjoining territory would meet with some Indian scares, 
caused by rustling bands of Sioux and Cheyennes that traveled 
through the county under the pretense of hunting buffalo and 
other game, they were not bothered as often as the ranchmen 
and settlers in the Platte Valley west of Plum Creek and east 
of Julesburg on the South Platte and west of North Platte 
City, and east of Fort Laramie on the North Platte River. 
The garrison at Fort McPherson was kept very busy and 
scarcely a day passed that one or more companies of cavalry 
were not called out to protect freight and emigrant trains, set- 
tlers and ranchmen from Indian scares and attacks. Many 
horses were being stolen from the Indians at Pine Ridge and 
Rosebud Agencies by alleged white men, who would bring this 
stolen stock to certain cattlemen. These cattlemen would pay 
these horse thieves a very small price per head for them. To 
get even with these same ranchmen, the thieves would drive off 
a bunch of their horses, take them up and trade them to the 

On discovering what was going on and being afraid that 
this stealing, if not stopped, might lead to an Indian war 
with the cattlemen, I took it upon myself to write to the In- 
dian agents at Pine Ridge and Rosebud Agencies and to the 
prominent chiefs Red Cloud and Spotted Tail, inviting them, 
through their agents, to send a list of all their brands. This 
was done and copies put in the hands of every stock grower in 
the Platte valleys and a list of their brands was made and sent 
to the Indian agents for the benefit of the Indians and squaw 
men. This and the picking up of all stray horses bearing 
these brands and returning them to the Indians led to a better 
feeling between the Indians and the cattlemen. Some of the 
prominent cattlemen (thirteen, to be exact) chipped in 
$100.00 each. This amount was offered as a reward for the 
capture, dead or alive, of the ringleader, which was later 
accomplished. Lewellen got his man after nearly killing 
him. A term in the penitentiary broke up this gang of horse 
thieves for a time. 

262 Trails of Yesterday 

These depredations had incited some of the bad Indians 
to leave the different reservations and raid the cattle ranches 
in the Platte Valley. These raids became so bold and fre- 
quent that it was determined to organize a mounted company 
to be known as the North Platte Guards. Some sixty men 
enrolled. Major North of Pawnee Indian fame was chosen 
captain, the writer first lieutenant and Frank Alexander 
second lieutenant. The company was composed of ranchmen, 
cowboys and others, who were accustomed to frontier life 
and knew how to shoot. 

It was Thanksgiving evening, 1878, when word reached 
us that a band of Indians had stolen Mrs. Randall's and some 
of Major Walker's horses, had taken a bunch of ours, and it 
was rumored that they were killing some of our cattle on the 
Birdwood. I wired the information to Major North at 
Columbus, Nebraska, word coming back that the Major was 
out on a scouting expedition with his company of Pawnees 
and could not be reached. That night I called out every 
member of the company I could reach to report immediately. 
About seventeen responded. Among them was Con Grimes, 
sheriff of the county, Major Walker, Volney Frazier, James 
Reed, Wm. Thompson, Frank True, Laing Brothers, John 
Hinman, W. C. Ritner, John Enlow, Frank Alexander, and 
seven others whose names I cannot now recall. I wired the 
general in command at Fort McPherson for a company of 
cavalry and was wired that Lieutenant Wheeler's company 
would leave the Fort immediately on orders to join us. I wired 
that I would start at once with seventeen men, proceed to the 
forks of Birdwood Creek and then await the arrival of 
Lieutenant Wheeler's company. 

It was about 1 1 130 P. M. when we left North Platte. On 
leaving I counted twenty men, but two dropped out on the 
way and remained at their ranches. 

The night was bitter cold and the falling snow was blown 
into our faces by a strong northwest wind. The snow was 
drifted badly and crusted, making it hard traveling for our 

Trails of Yesterday 263 

We reached the forks of the Birdwood, the Hinman 
ranch, about daylight. Here we ate a little lunch and held 
our horses by the lariat, allowing them to eat the long, strag- 
gling grass that projected above the snow. 

We had been here about an hour when Lieutenant 
Wheeler's company joined us. It was arranged that we 
should proceed up to the east fork, of the Birdwood, locate the 
Indians and make the attack together, the Lieutenant remark- 
ing that he had positive orders not to fire on the Indians, but he 
said: "If you commence it and it is necessary, I may have to 
take a hand in it to defend ourselves." He said that after 
resting his horses a couple of hours he and his company would 
follow our trail. Judging from the reports received from 
our range riders, he concluded we would find the Indians near 
the mouth of Squaw Creek. 

We held a short council of war and it was arranged that 
three men, familiar with the country, should be started up on 
the east side of the creek and seven others, also familiar with 
the country, should be put out as scouts on the west side. 
The bottom of the creek was narrow, very soft in places and 
difficult to cross. Neither of the three parties was to fire a 
shot, and in case either party located the Indians, such party 
would be expected to send a man back to notify me and I 
would do my best to get in touch with Wheeler and his com- 
pany. If the Indians were located, we expected to make 
the attack together. I did not want to have it said that this 
was a cattlemen's or cowboys' Indian fight. Possibly many 
of these Indians were my friends and I did not want to take 
any advantage of them until I knew for a fact that they were 
stealing our or neighbors' stock. 

With this understanding the seven guards in charge of 
Volney Frazier, our Home Ranch foreman, left us with the 
further understanding that in case of an attack, they would 
be expected to drive the Indians from under cover of the 
creek bank so we could get at them. The first shot fired by 
us or the Indians was to be the signal to close in, capture 
all the Indians' horses and take the Indians prisoners, either 

264 Trails of Yesterday 

dead or alive, provided they had stolen stock in their pos- 
session. We did our best to keep in sight of our scouts, at the 
same time keeping one man well in the rear to signal Wheeler 
as to our course up the creek. 

We had followed many Indian tracks leading from the 
creek into the bluffs on the east side, but finally quit this 
since they would invariably return to the creek by a different 

The snow lay on the ground two to ten inches deep but 
drifted. The sun was out bright but the weather was freez- 
ing cold. It was getting past four o'clock. The sun was 
sinking fast under a cloud, yet no Indians and no Wheeler. 
We came within a mile and a half of the mouth of Squaw 
Creek, when, on going to the top of a small hill, we found 
our three scouts on the east side of the creek in a small side 
pocket, awaiting us. They had located the Indians, their 
horses and camp, about a quarter of a mile ahead of us. 

We dismounted and several of us crawled as close as we 
could to the Indian camp. There, grazing on a flat just 
above the bed of the creek, were about forty head of horses, 
most of them loose but guarded by a mounted Indian, who was 
riding around the bunch. We could not locate our seven 
men on the west side of the creek. This left us eleven men, 
counting myself. 

After locating the Indians and their camp by the little 
curl of smoke coming out of the creek bottom, which was 
down between the hills and could not be seen from our posi- 
tion, we retraced our steps to where we had left the horses 
in charge of the other guards. Then we all mounted and 
rode back from the creek under cover of the bluffs, with the 
object of finding a position for attack. We found just what 
we wanted — a great sand blow-out, in which we could hide 
our horses. We quickly turned them over to five of the guards 
while we other six, with our long Springfield rifles and a 
brace of revolvers each, climbed to the top of the sand hole, 
where we made a footing; and six guns were soon pointing 
at the Indians' horses, with a good marksman stooping over 

Trails of Yesterday 265 

each and looking carefully down through the sight at the end 
of the barrel. The eleven of us were within a quarter of a mile 
of the Indians' horses and, by the aid of our field glasses, had 
no trouble in locating certain horses in the bunch that had 
been stolen from Mrs. Randall, our neighbors and us. The 
mounted Indian, suspicious that all was not right, had dis- 
appeared under the creek bank, probably to give the alarm 
to the Indians in camp. A few moments later a big portly 
Indian, wearing a red blanket, came strutting in front of the 
Indian ponies, carrying a Winchester rifle. He had caught 
sight of some of our heads peeping above the rim of the 
sand hole, since he shouted to us in tolerably plain English: 
"Hunter wa sichee," meaning "Go away, cattlemen." With- 
out orders Bill Thompson sent a shot at the Indian. The ball 
went between his legs, causing him to jump several feet into 
the air and run down back of the horses under the creek bank. 
This was the critical moment when the seven guards west 
of the creek could have done good work by driving the In- 
dians from under the bank, thus enabling us to get a fair 
show at them, but they failed to show up. They later stated 
that they had to make a large circle around the head of a 
canon in order to get within range of the Indians. 

Several shots were fired by our party at what were 
thought to be Indian heads peeping above the creek banks. 
The scattering bunch of Indian ponies handicapped us by 
obstructing the view of the creek bank, and Major Walker 
courageously offered to go and surround the ponies, which 
had scented our horses and had come closer. I objected to 
the Major's proposition. It was a brave one, but the Major 
would have been killed the moment he got on the other side 
of the ponies. Nothing could have saved him, as it was 
proven later that there were twenty-two Indians, each having 
a repeating Winchester rifle with magazines full. It would 
have been the same if the Indians had attempted to take the 
ponies. We could have killed a part of them. The Indians 
saw this and that our position covered them as they continued 
to come closer of their own accord. 

266 Trails of Yesterday 

It was getting dark. None of the seven guards on the 
west side of the creek had indicated their location, neither 
had Lieutenant Wheeler and his company, for whose safety 
I was becoming alarmed. The Indians might at that moment, 
in event they had seen his command, be leading them into 
a trap. None of us had any idea how many bands of In- 
dians there were on East Birdwood Creek. The tracks we 
had seen indicated more than we had already discovered on 
the creek. We had our hands full watching the surrounded 
Indian ponies and guarding against any flank movement that 
might be attempted by the Indians. Notwithstanding these 
odds against us, I determined to send one of our guards as 
soon as I could to head off Lieutenant Wheeler and his com- 

At this moment a bunch of cattle came running out of 
the head of a canon that led from the creek bottom where 
the Indians were camped, indicating that the Indians were 
following them up. Here one of our guards, Frank True, 
without warning, started his horse on a fast run toward the 
head of this canon, where for his protection, I thought best to 
follow him. Catching up with True I remonstrated with 
him for taking such desperate chances — that he was liable to 
get killed. He said he did not care. He was going to kill 
an Indian anyway. 

We had reached the edge of the canon, the banks of 
which were somewhat steep. In the bottom of the canon I 
saw several Indians coming on a run, each carrying a 
Winchester in hand. True, on seeing them, jumped off 
his horse, turned him loose, threw his Springfield rifle to 
his shoulder and fired at the approaching Indians. I also 
sent the ball in my gun among the group of Indians. 
These two shots checked their advance and caused them to 
stop and surround one Indian, who, I am satisfied, had been 
wounded. As quickly as I could I grabbed the reins of True's 
horse, urging him to mount quickly, which he did, when both 
of us started across the little, flat valley as fast as our horses 
could carry us. Bullets dropped around us thick and fast and 

Trails of Yesterday 267 

one struck True's horse in the left cushion, knocking him 
off his feet, at which the Indians gave a wild yell, thinking 
they had killed both horse and rider. Another ball struck 
the brim of my hat. 

At this time the guards, left with the Indian horses, com- 
menced to fire at the Indians, causing them to dodge and 
keep hidden under edge of the canon. This timely action 
perhaps saved both of us from certain death. I think it 
taught True a good lesson. A braver boy did not live, but 
he lacked judgment, and the first principle of a good soldier or 
guard is to obey orders. I had cautioned our guards many 
times not to take any chances and for all to adopt the Indian 
method of fighting under cover. 

We soon joined our rescuers. They had surrounded the 
Indian horses and were closely herding them, expecting the 
Indians to make a dash on them every moment and try to 
stampede them. 

As soon as I joined the guards I sent a good man to head 
off Lieutenant Wheeler and his company. The Indians were 
completely routed and lost everything they had except the 
blankets they wore over their shoulders or around their bodies. 
While part of the guards held the horses, others went by the 
Indian camp with a few pack horses, on which we loaded 
everything of value at the camp — blankets, tepees, buffalo 
robes, buckskins, wolf, coyote, beaver and skunk pelts, paints 
and extra moccasins, and just as it was getting dark we started 
our prizes for the Hinman ranch at the forks of the Bird- 
wood creeks. 

We arrived at the Hinman ranch at nearly midnight, 
about which time, we later learned, the Indians passed the 
Cody and North ranches at the head of the South Dismal 
on a brisk walk. Between that point and the North Dismal 
the wounded Indian gave out, dying some time during the 
night. His body was discovered several days later and 

The next morning twenty-one Indians were seen passing 
near Rankin's ranch on the North Loup — all more or less 

268 Trails of Yesterday 

frozen. They arrived several days later at Rosebud Agency, 
frozen, hungry and the most dejected looking Indians that 
were ever seen. 

That night we hobbled many of the horses, and divided 
our force of guards, including the seven that had come in 
from the west of the creek, into three reliefs. Those not 
on herd kept their saddled horses on a stake rope ready for 
emergency. The guards off duty curled themselves up like 
kittens anywhere on the dirt floor of the Hinman ranch and 
dropped asleep. There was but little chance to sleep. Lieu- 
tenant Wheeler and command fared as well as we did, since 
they had tents, hot coffee and hard tack, while we had frozen 
biscuits and Birdwood water. 

Lieutenant Wheeler seemed sorry that he was not able to 
catch up with us. He claimed to have gotten lost while fol- 
lowing Indian trails in the hills east of the Birdwood Creek. 
We will be charitable and give him the benefit of the doubt. 
I know one thing — had he joined us about the time we had the 
Indians in that canon and had helped us just a little, not many 
Indians would have arrived at the Rosebud Agency. He took 
up the Indian trail the next morning. Perhaps he wanted to 
show his willingness to accomplish something personally. I 
thought it a useless trip and hard on both men and horses. 
Much snow was on the ground and the thermometer ten to 
fifteen degrees below zero. I believe the seven guards did 
their best to reach us. 

At peep of day we packed our captured articles on the 
backs of several Indian ponies, took the hobbles off our horses 
and started for North Platte, sending some of our men by way 
of the Birdwood Ranch with the stolen horses which we had 
recaptured. Others went with the pack horses and some by 
way of Mrs. Randall's and Major Walker's ranches in order 
to leave the stolen horses belonging to them. 

When turning Mrs. Randall's horses over to her man 
at the ranch he became rather cross because we had not 
brought the halters along. I think the Indians had cut these 
up for belts. 

Trails of Yesterday 269 

On the way to North Platte it was suggested that we 
paint our faces Indian fashion with the paints found in the 
Indians' camp. We arrived at North Platte between three 
and four o'clock that afternoon and assembled in the Court 
House yard, where the local photographer insisted on taking 
our pictures. 

It was a hard trip on the guards and their horses. We 
had been gone two nights and two days. We had been 
thirty-three hours in the saddle, had ridden over one hun- 
dred fifty miles and had each averaged about three hours' 
sleep. Our fare had been scanty — frozen biscuits and ice 
water. Our horses had been without a feed of grain. Many 
of the guards had frozen their hands, ears, noses and feet, 
the first night riding thirty miles facing a furious snowstorm, 
rushed by a strong, bitter cold, northwest wind. This was all 
the glory the North Platte Guards got out of this trip, and 
we were thankful that we were not sent to the Happy Hunt- 
ing Ground by this bunch of thieving Indians, all armed with 
modern guns against our old, Long Tom Springfield rifles 
graciously loaned to us by our state authorities. 

Such is the true story of the last Sioux Indian raid on the 
ranchmen and settlers of the Platte Valley west of North 
Platte and in the neighborhood of the Birdwood Creek. Our 
guards may have lacked discipline, for they had no time to 
drill. They were nearly all cowboys and ranchmen. What 
they lacked in dress parade tactics they made up in courage 
and in deeds. This is not a reflection on that good army 
officer, Major Walker, who accompanied, us and shared our 
hardships. He was always ready to do and dare. "All honor 
to you, Major!" and to all the guards who stayed with us 
and helped to make it one of the most successful, though 
nearly bloodless, victories ever won by a few whites against 
a bunch of thieving Sioux Indians. 


Interesting Developments — A Trip to Pine Ridge and Rosebud 

Agencies — Spotted Tail — A True Friend — The Town of 

Whitman — A Prayer Meeting in a Dance Hall 

THE following spring I determined to go and see the 
Indian agents at Pine Ridge and Rosebud, also to 
have a talk with Red Cloud, Spotted Tail and other 
prominent chiefs of the Sioux nation at those agencies. Ac- 
cordingly I left Sidney in the early part of April, 1879, travel- 
ing by stage coach, which was loaded with passengers — men 
and women — en route to the Black Hills mining camps. I was 
glad to leave the coach at Fort Robinson, from which point 
I traveled by buckboard to Pine Ridge, better known in these 
days as Red Cloud Agency. 

These famous Pine Ridge hills extend for fifty miles 
through Sioux and Dawes counties and all who have viewed 
this region consider it one of the most picturesque places in 

At Pine Ridge I met the agent, also Red Cloud and other 
prominent chiefs, and my young friend, Billy Garner, who 
was interpreter. He was the same Billy Garner, stepson of 
John Hunter, to whom I loaned a couple of revolvers and 
boxes of cartridges in 1867 at Fort Mitchell. I also met 
my old friend, Leon Palladay. Both assisted me greatly in 
explaining my mission to the agent, Red Cloud and the other 
chiefs. I gave them a list of the horse and cattle brands 
owned by the cattlemen in the Platte Valley and in return 
I received a list of their brands. I also told them of the Big 
Turkey raid, what we did to them, and referred them to the 
letters I had written. All of this met their hearty approval. 
My visit created a good feeling between the Pine Ridge or 
Red Cloud agency Indians and the stockmen of the "Shallow 
Water," the Platte Valley. 


Trails of Yesterday 271 

My friend Palladay loaned me a horse and saddle to 
take me to the Rosebud Agency, one hundred twenty-five 
miles distant. The second night my horse played out while 
going down the White River bottom. I tied him to a tree 
and laid down on my saddle blanket, using my saddle for a 
pillow. The next morning I was awakened early by some 
peculiar sensation. I found my horse jerking on his rope 
and on opening my eyes, discovered I was surrounded by eight 
Indians. They asked me many questions in Sioux: Who I 
was ? What I was doing there ? Where I was from ? Where 
I was going? I told them I was "Yellow Hair," a "tagaliska 
wasichi" (a cattleman) from the Shallow Water valley (the 
Platte) , and that I was on my way to see Spotted Tail and the 
"Great Father's" man, their agent at Rosebud, but my horse 
played out where they found me sleeping; that the horse had 
been loaned to me by my friend Palladay, the interpreter at 
Pine -Ridge Agency, and that as soon as my horse had rested 
I was going on to Spotted Tail's camp. 

One of the Indians could speak a little English. He told 
me they were Indian police and were going to Rosebud 
Agency, which they said was about twelve miles distant and 
I could accompany them. 

I had eaten the small sack of "pappa," consisting of 
wild meat and berries, given me by Palladay for lunch the 
day before, and gladly accepted a small chunk of dried an- 
telope from one of the Indians, cutting it into thin slices and 
eating it as we rode along. 

By degrees I learned that these Indians were out looking 
for horse thieves and am satisfied they took me for one when 
they first saw me. The Indian who spoke a little English 
told me a great deal about the white man who had the gold 
tooth. This was the gentleman for whose capture $1300.00 
had been paid. They claimed that many of their horses had 
been stolen. When I showed them a list of their brands and 
told them what we had done, they treated me more kindly. 
I told them what we had done to Big Turkey the previous 

272 Trails of Yesterday 

fall on the Birdwood. They knew about this, also that one 
Indian was killed and the others sent back without any clothes 
on and that later we had sent their captured horses back to 
Rosebud Agency. They also knew that my trip to their agency 
was to have a talk with Spotted Tail and other chiefs, and 
the agent at Rosebud, the same as I had just had with Red 
Cloud, his chiefs and agent, who approved of what we were 
doing and promised to cooperate with us — the stockmen of 
the Shallow Water valley — to break up these gangs of horse 

Before starting they had relieved me of my gun, revolvers 
and knife, also of my field glasses, so I felt that I was not 
only their captive but at their mercy, until I had thoroughly 
explained my mission when they regarded me as a friend and 
treated me as such, but took special care of me until they 
turned me over to the Indian agent with all my belongings. 

The agent treated me very considerately and sent for 
Spotted Tail and other chiefs, many of whom had visited our 
Home Ranch, where I had many times fed them and their 

After shaking hands with the Indians, who appeared glad 
to see me, at the suggestion of the Indian agent we went 
to the Council Chamber where, by the aid of the interpreter, 
Tod Randall, I explained why I had come to talk with them. 
The agent had my letters to him and Spotted Tail read these 
and they were explained to the Indians by Spotted Tail and 
the interpreter. All approved of what we had done and were 
doing to break up the stealing of live stock and all agreed 
to help me and the stockmen of the Platte Valley to put an 
end to it. I told them what we had done with Big Turkey 
and his band who came down to steal our horses and I asked 
that the Indians do the same with all white men who came 
to steal their horses. 

The meeting proved a very satisfactory one. I had 
printed lists of all known horse and cattle brands in Ne- 
braska from Plum Creek west to the Wyoming and Colorado 

Spotted Tail 

Trails of Yesterday 21 Z 

lines. In return I received from the agents at Pine Ridge and 
Rosebud a list of horse and cattle brands claimed by the Sioux 
Indians. Before adjourning the council the pipe of peace 
was lighted, smoked and passed around from one to the other. 
The best of feeling was manifested by all. 

I was invited by the agent to dine with him, but I did 
not like to turn down Spotted Tail's invitation, which was 
also extended to Tod Randall, the interpreter; hence both of 
us accompanied Spotted Tail to his lodge. Here I met several 
other sub-chiefs, No Flesh, Big Crow and some whose names 
I cannot recall. A big feast was prepared for us, consisting 
of a large, fat dog, fried venison, coffee and biscuits. I took 
the venison, coffee and biscuits. 

I was asked to tell the particulars of Big Turkey's raid, 
which I did, and all present said we had done right in treating 
Big Turkey and his followers the way we had, and it would 
have served them right had we retained their horses instead 
of returning them and some others that were said to have been 
run off by "Gold Tooth" and his rustlers. 

That night I slept with Randall in Spotted Tail's tepee 
and before retiring Spotted Tail called us both aside and 
cautioned me to be on the lookout for Big Turkey and the 
relatives of the Indian who died from the effects of the wound 
received that night on the Birdwood. Spotted Tail put a 
guard around the tepee. Nothing disturbed us except the 
barking of many dogs. 

After breakfast the next morning Spotted Tail, Randall 
and I went to the agency and visited the store, the agent's 
office and other buildings. 

I had closed up my business matters with the agent and 
was returning to Spotted Tail's tepee when we were met by 
several squaws, young bucks and papooses, who were crying 
without shedding a tear. I had heard this cry before at other 
places and knew what it meant. Big Turkey and other 
warriors joined them before we reached the lodge. Spotted 
Tail told Big Turkey and those who were in that Birdwood 

274 Trails of Yesterday 

raid that I was one of the cattlemen who sent them back 
without their horses and without any clothes on. He told 
this little band of Indians to stop their noise and return to 
their lodges. Some obeyed, others did not but went on a 
distant hill and cried louder than before until Spotted Tail 
sent some of the Indian police to warn them, when they ceased 
and disappeared. I presume they returned to their lodges. 

I had arranged to return on horseback by way of Valen- 
tine and across country by Whitman to the Birdwood ranch. 
I borrowed a good horse from Randall and sent the Palladay 
horse back to Pine Ridge by the mail carrier. I left Rosebud 
about midnight with an escort of six agency police, who ac- 
companied me several miles on the road, when they returned 
and I proceeded on to Valentine, where I arrived shortly 
before noon. Five days later I arrived at our ranch at the 
mouth of the Birdwood, feeling that although the trip was 
a hard one it had not been made without some good results 
to both the Indians and the cattlemen. 

I cannot mention the town of Whitman, a station on the 
B. & M. Railroad, east of Hyannis, without referring to an 
experience I had there shortly after it was located. 

We were on a spring round-up, ready to commence work 
on the Dismal rivers. We had several representatives of 
Western cattle owners who had come to gather the brands of 
cattle in which they were interested and some of these had 
ridden over to Whitman to participate in the opening of a 
dance house. I sent a trusty man over to tell these men that 
we were ready to commence work and could not wait for them 
much longer. They sent word back that they would return 
in a day or two. I hated to commence the round-up without 
them and thought best to ride over to Whitman myself on 
Friday night. I arrived there late, staked my horse near the 
station and there being no spare beds, I slept in the station 
that night, not caring to mix with the cowboys, graders, and 
others in the dance house, which was going full blast. The 
next morning I rounded up all the cowboys. Some, I regret 
to say, were nearer drunk than sober. They asked me to 

Trails of Yesterday 275 

remain until that night when the expected dance was to come 
off. I reluctantly consented. There were some forty or fifty 
men and probably twenty women. These women at one time 
had been good girls, but now, God pity them ! 

I took a look into the dance hall, which was dimly lighted 
with several coal-oil lamps standing on brackets fastened to 
the sides of the hall. A screeching violin was furnishing the 
music and a half-drunken gambler was calling off the dances, 
which lasted on an average of five to ten minutes, when the 
dancers were expected to go up to the bar and drink. The 
smell of liquor and tobacco smoke, the yelling and cursing, 
the obscenity of language and manner of both men and 
women were sickening and disgusting, and I was sorry I had 
consented to remain. 

The dancers had forced a good old preacher on the floor 
and were making him dance with a lewd, drunken woman. 
Some of the men occasionally took a shot at his feet, bidding 
him to step high. Another knocked the crown of his plug hat 
in and down over his ears. The old man had come up to this 
terminal of the B. & M. Railroad to do missionary work 
among the graders and floating scum of humanity that usually 
follow in the wake of a frontier town. All seemed to be bent 
on giving the good old man the time of his life. He stood 
it all good-naturedly until completely exhausted. He got into 
one corner of the hall and sat down on the floor. After rest- 
ing a while and during a lull in the dancing, the old man got 
upon a gambling table and commenced to talk to the crowd. 
He said he had attended their dances every night and done 
everything they wanted him to do, including many things that 
were not right. "Now," he said, "with your permission and 
God's help, I will hold service in this hall to-morrow, Sunday 
night," and asked them all to come. They told him they 
would be present. I could not help but admire the old man 
and told him I would remain with the cowboys from our 
round-up camp and would personally help him all I could. 

The next morning I skirmished around and found that 
the station agent had an organ and his good wife consented to 

276 Trails of Yesterday 

play for the service. We carried the organ over to the dance 
hall, swept out the hall and secured a promise from the propri- 
etor of the hall not to sell any liquor during the service. The 
old missionary made out a program for the service and that 
afternoon, with the help of a few good people, we practiced 
the singing of the hymns to be used. They were "Rock of 
Ages," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "My Country, 'Tis of 
Thee," and others. 

At the appointed time the hall was nearly filled. On a 
card table stood a coal-oil lamp, the Bible and hymn book 
beside it. The old missionary opened the service with a good, 
kind, fatherly talk, then we sang "Rock of Ages." Tears 
came into the eyes of some of the women and all seemed 
deeply interested, until some one shot the lamp to pieces on 
the table. This mean act incurred the displeasure of nearly 
all present. Another lamp was secured and "Doc" Middleton 
walked up to the side of the old preacher and said, "Whoever 
did that was damn mean and if he does it again, I'll kill him." 
The man who shot the lamp left the hall and the service pro- 
ceeded without further interruption. When the preacher 
finished, I proposed to pass around the hat to take up a col- 
lection for him. I counted some one hundred thirty dollars 
and presented it to the good old man, who thanked his 
audience very earnestly. The next morning he took the first 
train for the East, probably glad that he was living and no 
doubt thinking there was some good in the worst of us. 

The writer was relating this experience and others a few 
years ago to a life insurance agent, Mr. C. K. Huntington of 
Lincoln, Nebraska, who came into his office. Imagine the 
surprise of both to find that Mr. Huntington was the station 
agent at Whitman at that time and it was his good wife who 
played the organ. Mr. Huntington said that he could vouch 
for the truth of every statement in regard to this incident as 
told by the writer. 

The cowboys and I came on to the round-up camp on the 
Dismal River where we had left it. On the way some of the 
boys talked freely and regretted what they had done and 

Doc" Middleton 

Trails of Yesterday 277 

promised to do better. Some of the readers will agree with 
the writer in his estimate of "Doc" Middleton, who may have 
committed some crimes, but nevertheless had a good heart in 
him and his later life seems to prove it. He spent many years 
in Crawford, Nebraska. 

"Shen-tag-a-lisk," my friend, better known as Spotted 
Tail, whose tombstone stands in Rosebud cemetery, should 
have chiseled on it: "Brave in war and faithful to his 
promises in peace." 


Active Men and Strenuous Activities — Colonel W . F. Cody — 

Major North — A Speedy Run — Crooked Tie Inspector — 

Credit Mobilier — A Dangerous Undertaking 

I FIRST met Colonel W. F. Cody, better known as Buffalo 
Bill, at Fort McPherson in 1869, when I was filling a 

twenty-eight hundred ton hay contract for the United 
States Government. 

At this time W. F. Cody was scout and guide and was kept 
busy in leading troops to head off Indian raids on emigrant 
and freighting outfits, stage coaches and settlers going over 
the overland trail and those trying to establish a home in 
western Nebraska. He led a strenuous life and was an all- 
around good fellow, whom everyone liked, not a few taking 
advantage of his generous nature and well-known hospitality. 
His good wife, two sisters and small daughter, Arta, shared 
his little cottage near the McDonald store. His life, prior to 
this, while here, and subsequent doings, have been published 
and are a matter of history and linked with the early settle- 
ment of western Nebraska, Kansas and other states and terri- 
tories. I could tell of many Indian raids where he displayed 
both courage and good generalship, sometimes superior to 
those higher in command. 

Before taking up the Wild West show business he em- 
barked in the cattle business on the head of the South Dismal 
River in company with Major North and other Columbus 
gentlemen. Some years later we bought their stock interest 
and ranches, for $75,000.00, after which the Colonel gave 
his undivided attention to his show business, of which he made 
a grand success. 

As a rule he would spend several days with us on the 
annual round-ups, when there would be something doing be- 
sides actual round-up work. To make things safer and more 
Sunday-school like, all revolvers and guns would be gathered 


Col. W. F. Cody \ Buffalo Bill) 

Trails of Yesterday 279 

up and kept under lock, since some of the cowboys would take 
advantage of the Colonel's hospitality by going to his wagon 
and helping themselves to his cigars and sampling his liquors 
that had been brought along as an antidote against snake 
bites and other accidents. There would be broncho riding, 
roping, racing, riding wild steers, swimming contests, and 
sometimes a friendly poker game to see who would stand on 
night herd the longest. The cowboys were always glad to 
see the Colonel and the cattle owners and foremen would vie 
with each other in showing him a good time, and would pre- 
pare special feasts and meals for him when he came to or near 
their ranches. Nothing was too good for Colonel Cody. 

I remember attending one elaborate ranch dinner given 
for the Colonel by the Laing Brothers at their ranch east of 
the Birdwood. The first course was soup, then came a large 
kettle of boiled beans. All passed off nicely until some of the 
hungry ones, among them George Bosler, James Ware, 
Thomas Lawrence, Dick Bean and Jerry Dummer, passed 
their plates back to Seine Laing, who was doing the serving 
at the head of the table. Seine got pretty well down to the 
bottom of the kettle, which stood before him on the table, 
when he struck something that would not "cup up." Seine 
called the cook whom he called "Squire," to bring him a fork. 
This was done and Seine brought to view out of the bottom 
of the kettle the blackest, dirtiest, greasiest old dish cloth or 
stove rag I ever saw. This ended that choice Delmonico 
dinner rather quickly. 

Nothing pleased the Colonel more than to be allowed to 
go into a bunch of cattle and cut out strays. He was too strenu- 
ous a worker in a bunch of cows and calves. He did better in 
a bunch of steers, dry cows and heifers. As soon as he spotted 
one in "milling and ginning" these around, it would have to 
get out or soon be carrying a lariat around its neck. When I 
was bossing the round-up and the bunch became excited, I 
would call Cody out. All of which he took good naturedly, 
knowing well that rough handling of stock meant loss in flesh 
and shrinkage in value. 

280 Trails of Yesterday 

When he started his Wild West show we sold him a large 
bunch of outlaw cow horses and some of our expert riders 
and ropers joined his show, which was a success and one of 
the best educators of early life on the frontier that the public 
ever saw. 

Another well-known good citizen, a former partner of 
Colonel Cody and a neighbor of the Colonel's in the cattle 
business, was Major Frank North, Commander of the 
Pawnee Scouts, who did great service in heading off and 
chasing down renegade bands of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians 
who would often steal away from their reservations and make 
a business of stealing stock and other property that they found 
unprotected. Major North was also captain of our company 
of North Platte Guards. It was fortunate for Big Turkey 
and his band of twenty-two Sioux that we chastised on the 
east Birdwood, that Captain North and his scouts were not 
along. There would have been no Big Turkey or band to 
march back to Rosebud. The Major was a thorough Western 
man, big-hearted, broad-minded, always on the side of right. 
The hardships he had endured in leading his scouts to victory 
in many campaigns had undermined his strong constitution 
and health but had not dampened his spirit and energy. 
While we would be enjoying his and Colonel Cody's hospital- 
ity in comfortable beds on the ranch floors at the ranch at 
the head of the Dismal River, poor Frank, apparently satisfied 
with his lot, would be sitting propped up in a chair, unable 
to lie down on account of asthma. In Eugene F. Ware's 
work, entitled "The Indian War of 1864," all reference to 
Major Frank North and the work of his scouts will be read 
with interest. For a short period he was associated with 
Colonel Cody in his show business. He died as he had lived — 
unassuming and faithful to every trust — and lies in a grave at 
Columbus, Nebraska, honored and loved by all. 

In addition to buying the Cody and North brand of cattle, 
we shipped in several trainloads of cattle from Kings River, 
Nevada. I had divided our cattle into three separate bunches, 
using the same circle brand but in different places on the ani- 

Trails of Yesterday 281 

mal. We kept the thoroughbred cattle at the Home Ranch in 
winter and summered them east of the Birdwood Creek. The 
native cattle were kept at Fox Creek and the other, or common 
cattle, were kept north of the North Platte River, west and 
north of the Birdwood Creek, in order to better systematize 
our business. 

In shipping the cattle from Kings River I met the first 
train at Winnemuck and came on with it to its destination, 
Ogallala, Nebraska. Everything went smoothly until we 
started to reload at Medicine Bow, where we stopped to graze 
them. The station agent at the Bow had interested himself 
in our shipment and secured me right of way and clear track 
to Laramie, provided we would be ready to leave at a certain 
time. I put what I thought to be two good, competent men 
to count and tally out the number to each car. I took the 
balance of the boys to the loading chutes. Everything worked 
like clockwork until one of the counters came to me and said 
he had about forty head in excess of what he should have for 
the last two cars. I told him I was sorry but it could not be 
remedied now and to push them into the last two cars. They 
went in and were resting their front feet on each other's backs 
and horns. The doors were closed and by that time one of 
the boys returned with six bottles of beer from Trobin's 
store. Three bottles were given to the engineer and fireman 
and three to the conductor and brakeman, with request that 
they get me into Laramie as fast as they could turn the wheels. 
I began to think they were doing it for before we had crossed 
Rock River the twenty-eight cars of cattle were moving like 
a cyclone. The engineer commenced to whistle for brakes. 
The conductor was tempted to set some but hesitated when I 
told him to let go and that we would come out all right. We 
went through the snowsheds like a flash. On a curve the 
wheels hardly touched the track. We flew down the grade 
from Cooper Lake like an avalanche. I had not touched a 
drop of that beer. I had every man in the train scared 
and almost believe that the conductor would have fallen off 
the caboose had I let go of his coat. I was sure I would 

282 Trails of Yesterday 

get to Laramie with that train of cattle. Everyone was 
out of his office, including Ed. Dickinson, the chief dis- 
patcher, who shook his fist at us as we rushed through the 
Laramie yards and passed them nearly two miles before the 
engineer could stop his train. As soon as stopped and we had 
backed up, I told Mr. Dickinson what I had done and if there 
were any damage I would pay for it and assured him the 
crew obeyed my orders. I asked him to have the switch 
engine take off eight cars at the west end of the train so I 
could unload them and level the cattle up, which was done. 
Some of the cattle in the two rear cars were down and badly 
trampled but all got up and walked out of the cars. The engi- 
neer and conductor were laid off for a few days but I paid 
them for their lost time. Mr. Dickinson impressed upon my 
mind very forcibly that in the future I could not run any trains 
over his division but I told him I had no inclination to repeat 
that run. If that train of cattle had gone in the ditch I would 
have been responsible for all damages. 

After leveling up our overloaded cars, Mr. Dickinson 
gave us two fresh engines, with right of way over east bound 
freight to Ogallala. To this point we had another good run. 
The cattle were all unloaded, not much the worse for the bad 
treatment received in the two rear cars from Medicine Bow 
to Laramie. 

Had this incident occurred in these modern days of rail- 
roading, all concerned would have been not only discharged 
but perhaps railroaded to the penitentiary for life. These 
times were hard and very trying to railroad presidents and 
managers of the Union Pacific Railroad company. What 
about the dark days when the pay car would not visit us once 
in three months? Yet, no one ever accused a single Union 
Pacific official, big or little, of doing wrong. 

I will take that back. I do remember a tie inspector's 
going crooked once, not for money but for two bottles of 

I had refused to receive a bunch of about six thousand 
ties gotten out for us on contract by a bunch of Canadian 

Trails of Yesterday 283 

Frenchmen because they did not come up to specifications. 
The Canadians contended I was too exacting. I told them I 
could not help it and that I would pay them for every tie that 
measured up to specifications. They finally asked if I would 
pay for all ties received by the railroad company inspector. 
I told them I was obliged to do so. They finally got the in- 
spector to their tie camp one bitter cold day and with the aid 
of the whiskey got him to spot every tie. Many were short 
and did not have a six inch, let alone an eight inch face. 
When I found out what the inspector had done I remon- 
strated with him for his actions in thus defrauding the 
company. He gave as an excuse the answer that the men 
were poor, that they had been very kind to him in giving him 
whiskey and he thought he would do them a good turn, and 
besides, the Casement Brothers needed the ties badly. He 
asked if I would not put teams enough to haul them so they 
could be loaded the next day. Before the week was out these 
ties had been ironed. The Casement Brothers were building 
two and a half to three and a half miles of railroad at this 
time in a single day and maybe the tie inspector's conscience 
overlooked his idea of right and wrong by blinding it with 
the shadow, "Had to have them." 

We paid the contractor as agreed. He afterwards quit 
the tie-making business and embarked in the cattle and sheep 
business, at which he made over half a million dollars. 

I met this same gentleman some years ago in Salt Lake 
and rode with him to his home station in Wyoming. The 
poor fellow was all in physically. He justified his action in 
giving the whiskey to the tie inspector by saying if he had not 
done so, the inspector might have frozen and would have 
failed to inspect the ties and in that event, his men would not 
have received the money tor the ties, which the Union Pacific 
needed badly, hence it was a blessing all around. This was 
another side to it as told by good-hearted Tom Sims. 

These were dark financial days for Credit Mobilier. It 
took nerve to continue putting money into that hopper to 
build the Union Pacific Railroad. When I was manager for 

284 Trails of Yesterday 

that great tie and wood firm, Gilman & Carter, composed of 
Isaac Coe, Levi Carter, and John and Jed Gilman, we were 
paying out daily five thousand to ten thousand dollars of good 
greenbacks for Credit Mobilier paper of questionable value 
and of which we had already an accumulation of over eleven 
hundred thousand dollars. Heretofore, we had sent these 
accumulations to our bankers in Omaha, but these gentlemen 
told us they had about all they could use for the present. 

General Coe came into camp about this time and asked 
what amount of money it would take to run the camps for 
thirty days. I told him as nearly as I could and he told me to 
keep right along and draw on him. Before leaving, I loaded 
him up with all the Credit Mobilier paper we had and he took 
the first train for New York with a determination to interview 
Thomas C. Durant. A few days afterwards he wired that 
money was tight but he had succeeded in getting a part of 
our claim. 

Many other tie makers were getting cold feet. The men 
of the Sprague & Davis Co. (who had quarters near us) so 
scared that firm with a rope with a noose in it, that they 
pulled out between suns. What would be our fate ? We had 
faith but it took more than faith to pay for ties, logs and 
poles. We followed the line of road along established camps 
on the Laramie, Medicine Bow, Fort Steel, and other points. 

Credit Mobilier had carried out its promises as far as 
able. It had taken no advantage of us and with the present 
management in control we had little to fear. We were getting 
good prices for our material. Union Pacific stocks and bonds 
were being tossed around in Wall street from front door to 
rear. There was no market value for any of them. Jay 
Gould and his trimmers were in control. The pessimists were 
thick and noisy. They gave it out that the road could not be 
built and if built, it would never pay. Not satisfied with this 
dirty work, the would-be "rule or ruin" fellows started a 
government investigation of Credit Mobilier accounts. All 
this was done for spite and to harass the Credit Mobilier Co., 
that had many good defenders both in the House and Senate, 

Trails of Yesterday 285 

also able defenders like George Francis Train and Dr. 
George L. Miller. 

While the Union Pacific had had some good men at its 
head, it also had its Adams. It now had the noblest Roman 
of them all — S. H. H. Clark. He was broken down in health, 
but his name was a talisman in the household of every em- 
ployee on the system. If the pay checks did not show up in 
time, a word from Mr. Clark would set everything right. 
He was loved by all and no other railroad president ever 
lived who carried such loyalty of employees. The humblest 
section hand was always welcome to talk with him and shake 
his hand. 

Credit Mobilier had carried out its obligations with its 
sub-contractors. We had not lost a dollar by it, though our 
Company had backed it with its capital and all of its credit. 
It had accomplished its object — the Union Pacific Railroad 
had been built and the Golden Spike uniting the Atlantic and 
the Pacific oceans had been driven. 

I happened to be in Omaha when rumor had it that the city 
was overrun with United States Secret Service men hunting for 
Credit Mobilier information and its books. I was ap- 
proached by some of these gentlemen and questioned some- 
what closely as to the extent of our Company's business 
relations with Credit Mobilier. I told them frankly that its re- 
lations with us had been strictly honorable, that at one time we 
had carried over eleven hundred thousand dollars of its paper, 
that we had backed it with every dollar of our Company's cash 
and credit, and would not be afraid to do it again. I could 
have told these gentlemen where its books were had I been 
asked, and perhaps have received a valuable remuneration for 
so doing had I desired. Enough to say, that about 8 130 that 
evening a certain trusty man was called to accompany two 
baggage cars, a private car and special engine with right of 
way. Engines were changed at Grand Island, North Platte, 
Cheyenne and other terminals. It is said the little train be- 
came lost near Point of Rocks. The weather became so 
intensely cold that the contents of the boxes had to be burned 

286 Trails of Yesterday 

to prevent the man in charge from freezing. He returned to 
Omaha later but has now passed away. I once talked with 
him about this matter and he told me that the books were 
straight and the only thing they might have possibly revealed 
was the limited holdings of some of the Credit Mobilier stock 
by a few senators and congressmen. It was "much ado about 

In closing this article there are no apologies to make for 
any Union Pacific official. If any crime was committed, it 
was done by others and not by them. 

During the fall of 1884 we sold to Patrick Brothers of 
Omaha some four hundred beef steers to be delivered the 
following February at one of the breweries at Peoria, Illinois. 
When ready to ship there was six to eight inches of drifted, 
frozen snow on the ground, making it impossible to drive the 
steers to North Platte without making their feet and legs sore. 
A few days before the time of shipment arrived, another snow 
of about three inches fell, making it more difficult to drive 
the steers to North Platte for shipment. The Birdwood 
Creek for nearly two miles distant from its mouth and the 
North Platte River in that vicinity, were frozen solid. I had 
crossed the river just above the mouth of the Birdwood many 
times with teams and to test the ice further, had loaded two 
wagons heavily with dirt and crossed them several times, 
which satisfied me of its strength to hold the steers if we 
could keep them strung out, so I ordered the cars sent from 
North Platte to O'Fallons' station, determined to ship from 
there. The day previous to shipping we made several trips 
with teams, loose horses and work cattle, scattering hay on 
the snow, making a very plain trail across about forty to 
sixty feet wide. During the night there blew up a very strong 
wind that swept every particle of snow and hay off the track 
we had made, leaving the ice bare and slippery. At three 
o'clock that morning I had several teams and many men 
sanding the river, making a track as wide as before. By 
noon we had the crossing complete after having driven over it 
many times with teams, loose horses and work cattle. The 

Trails of Yesterday 287 

ice still seemed solid. I knew the risk I was about to take — 
that I might lose a lot of steers — but I had confidence that I 
would come through all right. 

We had an early dinner and when ready to start, I put 
Mike Foster in the lead with a good team hitched to a spring 
wagon. Following this I had a four-horse team hitched to a 
hay rack full of loose hay. Next followed about twenty 
head of gentle work cattle, then the beef steers with a total 
of about sixteen good cowboys for the flanks and rear of the 
steers. All had proper instructions as to places and what to 
do in emergencies in event the steers commenced to crowd or 
bunch up. I took the east or left flank a little ahead of the 
center of the bunch so that I could move quickly to the lead, 
center or drop to the rear, wherever needed. All went 
smoothly for the first quarter of a mile until we reached the 
ice over deeper channels, when the ice began to crack, 
frightening the steers, and they began to bunch. I motioned 
to the driver of the hay team to keep going and to the men to 
close up on the cattle in order to keep them moving. The 
cattle did so, but only when forced vigorously by the cowboys. 
The continued cracking and later the heaving and sagging of 
the ice frightened and excited the steers, which kept on 
bunching, the ice gradually sinking. The hay team was ahead 
and out of danger. Not so with Mike Foster's team, which 
I saw was gradually going down on a large cake of ice. It 
took every man and all his nerve to stay by and hold those 
steers from breaking back. The ice went down and with it 
the steers and every man into four to six feet of water. For 
a time it looked as though many of the steers and riders would 
be sucked under the ice by the swift current. Where I and 
some of the cowboys were on the lower side it looked like 
certain death, as large floating cakes of ice ten to fourteen 
inches thick kept breaking loose by the milling of the steers 
and floating down on to us on the lower side. I realized that 
our only show was to crowd the steers forward. Sometimes 
they were two and three deep, some down on the ice in the 
water, others climbing over and on their backs. In this way 

288 Trails of Yesterday 

they commenced to break and loosen the ice ahead as they 
continued wallowing over it until they got into shallower 
water where the ice was strong enough to hold them up. We 
thus kept them going until we reached the south bank of the 
river with the entire bunch, including the work cattle and 
loose horses, which took their baths more philosophically than 
the steers. Our cowboys were all accounted for and Mike 
Foster, with the little black team but minus the seat on the 
wagon, came as far as he could at the tail end of the cattle. 
We had to pull the wagon out of the broken ice with saddle 
ropes in order to give the team a footing on the icy trail again. 
We experienced some trouble in getting our saddle horses 
out of the water upon the ice. Many of us had to dismount 
in doing so. Every man was wet all over and his clothes were 
frozen stiff on him a few moments after getting out of the 
water. As soon as all were out a couple of men and I went 
ahead to get the loading pens and chutes in readiness. 

We got the steers into the pens all right and in less than 
two hours had them loaded and started on a train for North 
Platte en route to Peoria in charge of faithful Mike Foster 
and another good man. I sent the little team and the four- 
horse hay team to the Home Ranch that night and I returned 
to the Birdwood Ranch with the rest of the cowboys. In re- 
crossing the river with the work cattle and loose horses, we all 
had another cold bath. 

"Negro" Johnson, our broncho buster, and another cow- 
boy, tried to cross the river about four hundred yards above 
us. They got safely across the deep channels by crawling 
over on their stomachs, but their saddle horses went in. 

That night I drove back to the Home Ranch and after 
a change of clothes, took the train east to Council Bluffs, 
where I awaited the arrival of the steers, that we finally un- 
loaded at Peoria. They had had a hard trip and were rather 
gaunt but there were no "crips." 

I cannot close this tale of that remarkable crossing of 
those "beeves" over the frozen North Platte River, without 
a word of praise for our faithful cowboys, among them 

Trails of Yesterday 289 

"Negro" Johnson, who did his part nobly during that thrilling 

Johnson later worked for a well-known cattle and horse 
man residing in North Platte. This gentleman was in the 
habit of swearing at Johnson, which he at last resented, telling 
him that if he had to take these cursings, he would want more 
pay. He was asked how much more he wanted and said it 
was worth $5.00 per month more. The deal was closed and 
the cursing continued more vigorously. 


Many Irons in the Fire — The Birdwood and Blue Creek Canals — 

I am Introduced as "Mr. Kelly" — The Equitable Farm and 

Stock Improvement Company — Dissolution of Partnership 

IN addition to managing our large cattle interests, we 
built, with the aid of proposed water users, the Birdwood 
Canal, some twenty miles long. The water for this canal 
was taken out of the Birdwood Creek and diverted into the 
canal about one mile above its confluence with the North 
Platte River. The Birdwood Creek is fed by springs of soft 
water that evidently come from what is termed the Lake 
Country, ranging from seventy-five to one hundred fifty miles 
north and northwest of the heads of the East and West Bird- 
wood Creeks. These numerous springs remain about the same 
the year round and make a perpetual stream in what may be 
termed the Birdwood proper of about two hundred fifty 
cubic feet per second, one-half of which can be turned into the 
Birdwood Canal and is capable of irrigating some 75,000 
acres of hay and tillable land lying below it. The cost of 
water and of maintaining the canal for years after its con- 
struction was a very trifling sum annually. After we dis- 
posed of our interests in the canal, unfortunately it got into 
the hands of schemers and promoters, who persuaded the 
owners of land under or adjacent to it to form an irrigation 
district and bond it for about $25,000.00. The promoters 
pocketed several thousand dollars of this. 

In order to work this scheme through, a certain per cent 
of the proceeds from the sale of the bonds was paid to those 
having original water rights in the canal. These now realized 
the fact that they had to pay principal and interest on these 
bonds, besides a heavy annual maintenance tax to keep up the 
ditch and pay officers' salaries. The original owners of the 
ditch may have received $3.00 per acre for their equity and 
before they got through the deal might cost them $8.00 per 


Trails of Yesterday 291 

acre. This is high finance. The promoters of this scheme 
must have pocketed $10,000.00 pure velvet. 

There is no better or purer water than that Birdwood 
Creek water. It possesses great medicinal properties and has 
been known to cure several bad cases of Bright's disease and 
kidney troubles. It should be piped to the city of North 
Platte for domestic use and could be made to supply the 
Union Pacific at Hershey, Birdwood Siding and North 
Platte, where it would have a fall of one hundred forty feet, 
giving the best fire protection. The expense of pumping 
could be saved, and North Platte would have one of the best 
water systems in the state. 

We also built the Blue Creek Canal, from seven to nine 
miles long. The water was taken out of the Blue Creek on its 
east side a little north of the town of Lewellen. This stream, 
like the Birdwood, gets its source of supply from the Lake 
Country. The water is pure and soft and no doubt possesses 
similar medicinal properties. This canal is known as the Bratt 
ditch and is one of the best little canals in the state. It waters 
several thousand acres of land that never fails to raise good 

We also made part of the survey to build a canal about 
seventy miles long, taking the water out of the north side of 
the North Platte River a couple of miles west of Oshkosh. 
We spent over $10,000.00 in preliminary surveys for this 
canal, the tail water of which we proposed to turn into the 
West Birdwood Creek. The object of building this canal was 
for the purpose of irrigating what we could of the Ogallala 
Cattle Company's land east of Blue Creek and some of our 
1 23,000 acres that we owned east of White Tail Creek, north- 
east of Ogallala. We would probably have constructed this 
canal had we not disposed of our land. 

I must here tell a little story. 

When I went to file on the location for the water right 
for this proposed canal I took with me our surveyor, Charles 
Walker, and Ed. Richards, our foreman at the Birdwood 
ranch, both well known in that country. I was only known by 

292 Trails of Yesterday 

a few old timers and it was suggested that Walker and 
Richards introduce me as Mr. Kelly, a sheep man, looking 
for a location to place a band of sheep. 

On our route from the Birdwood ranch with team hitched 

to a light wagon, we were lucky to make Mr. and Mrs 's 

ranch for dinner. The gentleman of the ranch was not there, 
but the lady, knowing Richards and Walker well, served us 
a nice dinner. Of course, I as "Mr. Kelly," talked about 
nothing but sheep. When we got through and were ready to 
depart, Richards asked the lady what the bill was. Knowing 
that he worked for us, she innocently inquired whether they 
or Mr. Bratt had to pay it, remarking that if Bratt paid it, 
it would be more than if we three paid it. Richards told her 
that Bratt did not pay for the dinner, so I presume the cost 
was less, which Richards paid with a smile. That night we 
stayed at Bob Graff's, where I was well known, and I think 
the next morning the lady found out that I was Mr. Bratt 
and not "Mr. Kelly." 

I have seen this good lady since. Maybe she remembers 
Richards' deception, as well as my own as "Mr. Kelly," the 
sheep man, and maybe she knows the reason why I should 
pay more for the dinner than the other fellows — I don't. 

Enough to say we located the water right under the name 
of the Midland Irrigation and Land Co., of which Frank 
Murphy, President of the Merchants National Bank of 
Omaha, was president, and Mr. Markell of Omaha was 
another officer. 

In order to handle our business in better shape we in- 
corporated the firm of John Bratt & Co. under the name of 
the Equitable Farm and Stock Improvement Co. 

After disposing of our north side lands we closed out our 
cattle interests. We did not come out with as much money as 
we should have owing to some very unfortunate deals made 
by one of our partners, who seemed bent on a "rule or ruin" 
policy, no doubt due to advanced age and broken-down health. 

Of Mr. Carter I can say none but kindly words except 
that had he felt like protecting our interests, he could have 

John Bratt 

Taken in the year 1892 

Trails of Yesterday 293 

done so, since the two of us held three-fifths of the stock in 
the Equitable Company. Several bad deals could have thus 
been prevented; but family ties, and a dislike to antagonize 
the General, no doubt caused him to acquiesce in the General's 
unfortunate exchange of the Equitable Company's Nebraska 
interests for encumbered Ohio and Kentucky property, in 
which we got the worst of the deal by nearly one hundred 
thousand dollars. I remonstrated many times against these 
deals but to no purpose. After the exchange was made I was 
sent down to look over the property, examine titles, and care 
for other details. The price of every piece of property we re- 
ceived was padded 25% to 50% and some of them were not 
worth the mortgages against them. All of which General 
Coe, as President of the Equitable Farm and Stock Improve- 
ment Co., assumed and agreed to pay. 

But no matter. Both partners are now dead. Let them 
rest in peace. As I sit writing these truthful facts of inside 
history of our copartnership, I am happy in the thought that 
I never took advantage of either of these partners, although 
I could have defrauded them out of thousands of dollars with- 
out their knowing it. For a period of five years neither of 
them saw our stock and ranches. Both had implicit confi- 
dence in my management and honesty. No matter how hard 
the task, often at the risk of my life, I always tried to do my 
duty. Whether I did it or not, the reader can judge. 


Conclusion — Two Terms as Mayor — Real Estate and Insurance 

Business — A Threatening Letter — Brief Review of My 


1HAD closed up company matters with Coe & Carter and 
disposed of my stock in the Equitable Farm and Stock 
Improvement Co., when in the spring of 1898 I was 
urged by many good citizens of both parties to become a 
candidate for mayor of North Platte. 

The city had been mismanaged and exploited for years. 
Both money and credit were gone, not by theft but by reck- 
less mismanagement of its financial affairs. It owed some 
$7000.00, drawn on the general fund without any authority 
of law and no provision made to pay it. All could have been 
repudiated, but it had been the custom to contract debts in this 
manner, hence the holders of this illegal paper were entitled 
to their pay. This was the way I looked at it. In addition 
to this the former city attorney had stipulated all the city's 
rights away and virtually confessed judgment to the North 
Platte Water Company for $11,057.90 for back hydrant 
rental, which Judge Norris, the trial judge, said the city must 
pay, notwithstanding the water company had received every 
dollar that a seven mill levy raised. 

The city was run "loose." Gambling was a recognized 
vocation and drunks on the streets were a common sight. 

Immoral houses were numerous and it seemed that the 
good people of North Platte were helpless. Saloons were 
run without restraint. 

With this picture before me I must have been seeking 
trouble when I consented to become a candidate and told the 
delegation of non-partisan business men who waited on me 
that, while I did not seek the honor, I felt it my duty, as a 
citizen of North Platte, to accept it, on condition that there 
were no strings on me; that although I was a Democrat, I was 


Trails of Yesterday 295 

broad enough to ignore politics; that in any appointments I 
might make, qualities of the man and his ability to serve the 
city's interests would come first; that if elected mayor, many 
radical changes that some might not like would occur; 
gambling would have to cease; saloon keepers must obey the 
law. Drunkenness on the streets would not be tolerated, the 
selling of liquor to minors must stop, nor would they be al- 
lowed in saloons. The city marshal and police would be 
given their orders and obey them or resign. I proposed to 
make mine, if aided by the council, a business administration, 
with the view of lifting the city out of debt, and a dollar's 
value would have to be shown for every one expended. 

Enough to say that my election was nearly unanimous. 
A council of good citizens was elected to aid me. 

After election I called the council together at my office 
for a conference, at which meeting I showed the financial 
condition of the city — the stipulated amount due the water 
company as per judgment rendered, and the $7000.00 of 
floating debt due by the city to our citizens, who were clamor- 
ing for their money. I impressed upon the minds of those 
present our duty to provide payment for same by practising 
the strictest economy in order to pay 30% to 50% of the 
floating indebtedness and 25% of the $11,057.90 due the 
water company during our first year. In order to help this 
proposition along I proposed to cut my salary in two and 
asked the members of the council to do the same, to which 
they all readily agreed. We decided what cut we should 
make on other city officials and employees. There was some 
underground objection to these cuts, but we made them, thus 
saving the city over $750.00 in salaries the first year. 

I had a friendly talk with the saloon men and told them 
that some of them were breaking the law and that they would 
be expected to quit it — then we would get along — but if they 
persisted in these violations I should ask that their license 
be forfeited. 

I also had a talk with the leading gamblers. I told them 
that gambling would not be tolerated for a moment and that 

296 Trails of Yesterday 

I had instructed the marshal and police to stop it, and that 
I hoped the gamblers would not force me to extremes, other- 
wise I should cause them all the trouble they wanted. Tucker 
of Ogallala, of dance house fame and an undesirable citizen, 
who had killed his third man, offered to pay into the city 
treasury $50.00 per month for the privilege of running a 
"quiet little joint," as he called it, and said he would make it 
$100.00 per month and put up a bond of sufficient amount, 
guaranteeing all a square deal and make good any loss from 
robberies or losses that might occur in this place, if we would 
give him some exclusive rights and privileges. I told him 
his proposition would not be considered for a moment and 
that the best thing he could do would be to quit the game or 
leave the city. After a period of thirty days, he concluded 
to pack up and leave. I happened to be over at the depot 
when he boarded the train. He bade me good-bye and said 
he would like to put a bullet through me before he left. 

To show the bankrupt state of the city's funds and its 
credit among our merchants, the street commissioner needed 
a few planks to repair a broken culvert. The lumber dealer 
refused to furnish them unless I personally guaranteed the 
payment of the bill. I did this and we got the planks. 

In justice to the members of the council and every city 
official and every employee, I will give them credit for aiding 
me in protecting the city's interests in every manner they 
could. Our city marshal and police had their hands full in 
watching the gamblers and the hoodlums. They defied the 
marshal and one day all set upon him, intending to kill him, 
but they did not know their man. Honest, fearless Dick H. 
Davis took their abuse and their beating. He could and 
would have been justified in killing the whole gang that set 
on him but did not do so, showing not only his nerve but his 
good judgment. All were arrested and given the full penalty 
of the law. His fearless course not only frightened them 
but public opinion became so strong against this element that 
the ringleaders, like Tucker, left the city. 

Trails of Yesterday 297 

The saloon keepers, with a few exceptions, were keeping 
their promises. 

The churches and good citizens of North Platte assisted 
me and the city officials in our efforts to stamp out these evils 
and it was not many months before our good efforts became 

The Fourth of July of this year was a great day. The 
merchants put heart and soul into the carnival. The secret 
orders also assisted greatly. I believe I am the only mayor 
North Platte ever had, who succeeded in getting all the 
ministers (including the Catholic priest, whom I placed be- 
side the Methodist minister), to ride in one carriage. The 
amusements were all moral and attractive. The fireworks 
in the evening were appreciated by the great crowd that wit- 
nessed them. The Volunteer Fire Department took special in- 
terest in making the celebration a grand success. What pleased 
me most was that everything passed off without accident. 

By the reduction of salaries and the practising of the 
strictest economy, we saved our taxpayers nearly $800.00 the 
first year's administration, enabling us to pay one-fourth of the 
water company's judgment and nearly 50% of the floating 
indebtedness, besides establishing the city's credit. Gambling 
had ceased, hoodlum gangs had been broken up, owing to the 
earnest efforts of the city marshal, Dick Davis, and his aids. 

As the spring election approached, I was again urged to 
become a candidate for the office of mayor. I did not want 
a second term except to complete the work I had mapped 
out: namely, to reduce taxes and to put the city's finances in 
proper business shape, to uplift its moral standards and use 
my every effort to make our city better, bigger and more 
progressive. I tried to be the mayor of the city, seeking the 
welfare of every citizen, and not of a faction or entrenched 
interests. I believed then and believe now and always shall 
believe that the people should own all their utilities that God 
has given them, and if any profit, it should be applied to the 
reduction of taxes. 

298 Trails of Yesterday 

I had neglected my private business* but was urged to 
accept a second term by so many good people that I thought 
it my duty to serve. The result was I was re-elected by a 
good majority. I again called the members of the council 
for a conference and suggested we all serve without pay, the 
same as the members of the school board. This proposition 
was tabled, but the members agreed to cut their salaries 50%, 
the same as the last term. I am ashamed to say they failed 
to do so. I was the only one who made the reduction. 
Although my council did not reduce their salaries, they gave 
the city valuable assistance in the economical management 
of its affairs and at the end of the second term we paid an- 
other one-fourth of the water company's judgment against 
the city and nearly all the floating indebtedness and further 
established the city's credit on a solid basis. Taxes were 
further reduced and the rich and poor got a square deal. 
We made many improvements in our crossings, bettered the 
condition of our streets and alleys, and built up our fire de- 
partment. Not a dollar was wasted or misappropriated. I 
had done my duty fearlessly and without favor to my friends 
or punishment to my enemies. I could have been nominated 
for a third term but I declined the honor. 

I look back upon my two terms as mayor of North Platte 
with some degree of satisfaction. 

To show that I did not please everyone, about this time 
I received a threatening letter, telling me I would be killed 
and my building on Front Street blown up if I did not deposit 
$500.00 in gold by a certain time on a certain night at a certain 
place upstairs in the rear of my building. Not wishing to 
have my life ended and my building blown up so abruptly, 
on the afternoon of the evening I had to make the deposit 

* After the dissolution of the Equitable Farm and Stock Improvement 
Co., the writer opened a real estate office and in the year 1900 went into 
partnership with Edward R. Goodman (later his son-in-law). In a few years 
a prosperous business was established which necessitated taking in a third 
partner. Two years before the writer's death Newton E. Buckley (also a 
son-in-law) was asked to come into the firm under the present name of Bratt, 
Goodman and Buckley. 

Trails of Yesterday 299 

of the $500.00 in gold I went to the bank and carried back 
in my hands, up Dewey Street and into my office on Front 
Street, a sack resembling that amount in gold, which at eight 
o'clock that evening I carried up my hall by the front stairs 
and deposited in the place designated in the letter. That 
afternoon I smuggled into a room three men, who with three 
loaded guns, took their places on an elevated table, from 
which they could easily kill any one who tried to pick up 
that sack of gold. In reality this sack of gold was a sack 
of iron washers. Enough to say, the man did not come for 
the sack of gold. The threat may have been a joke or the 
writer may have meant it. I thought I knew the writer, the 
writing bearing a great resemblance to a signed letter that 
I happened to have in my possession. I had this party 
shadowed for several weeks but failed to get sufficient evidence 
to connect him with writing and mailing me the letter, hence 
I will call it a joke. 

In conclusion, I will state that in writing this autobiog- 
raphy I have endeavored to confine myself to facts recorded 
at the time or shortly after they occurred, the same jotted 
down in notes, memorandum or diary if I happened to have 
that with me. Sometimes these were written under difficulties 
in tent, wagon box, ranch, or on the open prairie, if not on 
my field desk; perhaps on a cracker box, the cook's bread 
board, the end gate or seat of a wagon, the skirts of my 
saddle or on an ox yoke. These facts are what I have seen 
and done in years of earnest activity, often at the risk of my 
life. The night was never too dark or stormy, the distance 
too great, the river too deep, too wide or too swift for me 
to tackle it. Confidence in my ability to make it never left me. 
I knew and felt an Infinite Protector with me always. I be- 
lieved an Indian could not kill me or do me bodily harm. 
The Guardian Angel, often referred to in these chapters, 
always seemed to be with me; filled me with courage and con- 
fidence that I would come through in safety. In leaving 
home both mother and father, in saying the last good-bye, 
whispered to me that their constant prayer would be for my 

300 Trails of Yesterday 

safety. I often thought I heard that earnest prayer when 
things seemed to be going against me. I would hear a voice 
say: "You will come out all right. God is your protector." 
I was not a saint, a "goody-goody" fellow, nor a hypocrite. 
I liked the good and had no use for the bad. I did not drink, 
smoke or gamble. I always thought, and still think, that 
a man ought to be as pure as a woman. I have often been 
criticised for these so-called "shortcomings" in my early educa- 
tion, but it is now too late to make the change. I have passed 
my seventieth birthday and will, no doubt, get through the 
rest of my life without these accomplishments. 

I have met and talked with many of our old employees 
who have made good. Again, I sometimes meet some less for- 
tunate. Drink, cards and other weaknesses have been their 
curses. These often ask me for aid, sometimes a meal, 
a night's lodging or railroad fare. I usually give these, which 
they promise to return, but they forget, poor fellows ! They 
are to be pitied. I listen to their stories, give them the benefit 
of the doubt, and if I cannot find them work, help them to 
their destination. 

If I knew the addresses of these old associates, who have 
shared these hardships with me, I would gladly mail them a 
copy of this book, if printed before I pass "under the wire." 
It would remind them of many familiar scenes. 

While there were many hardships, there were some sunny 
spots in this fascinating frontier life; every day, every hour 
something new and interesting: the beautiful scenery, the 
great rivers stocked with fish, the lofty mountains with peaks 
covered with perpetual snow, the great plains and broad val- 
leys dotted with the antelope, deer, elk, buffalo, often the 
river brush and quaking asp groves being the home of the 
bear, coyotes and wolves. To a lover of nature, it seemed 
sacrilegious to break into this paradise. No wonder the In- 
dian considered the "pale face" his natural enemy, intruder 
and trespasser on his domain. But it is the old story — "The 
survival of the fittest." Progress and civilization were bound 
to conquer. The Indian fought hard and died hard. Spotted 

Trails of Yesterday 301 

Tail expressed his meaning truthfully and vividly on his re- 
turn trip to his people from Washington, D. C, when speak- 
ing of the large number of white people, he picked up a hand- 
ful of sand, saying the whites were like those grains of sand — 
it was impossible to count them. His people would not be- 
lieve him. Some said he spoke falsely, others claimed he had 
been bribed and a few called him a coward because he re- 
fused to continue war on the whites. One of his bands 
threatened to waylay and kill him on his return through 
Scotts bluff. He was sent back to his people in a United 
States ambulance with a military escort, but instead of riding 
through the bluffs, gun in hand he walked over the top of 

In their many years of war with the whites, the Indians 
met with some success as in the Phil Kearny, Custer and 
other massacres, but later they were compelled to surrender. 
Disease and other causes have greatly depleted their number. 
The older Indians have never taken kindly to reservation life. 
When first given the white man's clothes, they cut the seats 
out of the pants. When houses were built for them to live 
in, consumption took them rapidly. The younger genera- 
tions have been and are being educated at schools in the East 
and on the reservations. At first these made little improve- 
ment among them. They, however, are now doing better. 
The government has sent practical farmers and stock raisers 
among them, including many competent, good women teachers 
among the squaws, who are teaching them to properly care 
for their homes and families, teaching them domestic science, 
and since their land has been allotted them, it is wonderful to 
note the progress they are making. Even some of these 
college graduate teachers, sent out by the government to in- 
struct them, are in such love with their work that they have 
condescended to marry full-blooded Indians. A few years 
hence the full-blooded Indian will exist in history only. Prej- 
udice against him is rapidly vanishing. With a little more 
civilization and education, the Indian will take his place 
among our best type of citizens and even to-day they are pref- 

302 Trails of Yesterday 

erable to many illiterate, criminal foreigners who are coming 
to our shores. 

The pioneers and earlier settlers have well and faithfully 
performed their mission. Much honor is due them for the 
important part they have taken in the civilization of the Red 
Man and the settlement of this vast Western empire. Mark 
the change in a few short years. Law and order have taken 
the place of the vigilance committee. The desperado has 
either met his fate or become good. The church and Sunday- 
school have driven out the frontier gambling halls and lewd 
dance houses, and while we have some bad people with us 
yet, I believe the world is growing better. 

I am now taking life easier than I used to, living happily 
with my family, children and grandchildren. I expect to live 
many years yet. My purse has always been open, and ever 
will be, to help fight for the interests of my fellow citizens. 
When the final summons comes I shall be ready to obey it 
without fear for the future. 

With love for all and malice toward none, when death 
shall come, I desire that my brother Sir Knights Templar shall 
take charge of my remains and deposit them tenderly in the 
grave. My spirit will go back to the God who gave it but 
will be with you and the loved ones through eternity. 




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