My Native Land
by James Cox
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The fort has been of unusual interest of late. In addition to the maneuvers of the school for mounted service, in which the soldiers have been regularly drilled, engaging in sham battles, throwing up mimic fortifications, fording the rivers, etc., the War Signal Service has been conducting some interesting experiments. The Signal Service has had its huge balloon, which was exhibited at the World's Fair, at the post, and its ascensions and the operations put in practice have proved very attractive and instructive.

The new riding hall, or cavalry practice building, makes it possible for the training school to go on the year round, regardless of the weather. It has an open floor space 300 feet long and 100 feet wide, making it an admirable room for the purpose.

The Fort Riley troops are always called on when there is trouble in the West. They have put down a dozen Indian uprisings on the plains, and only a few months ago were sent for to keep order in Chicago during the railway strikes. From this trip, four old members of the post were brought back dead, having met their fate in the bursting of a caisson, while marching along a paved street.

The fort is the great pleasure resort of Kansas. The late commanding officer, Colonel Forsyth, now General Forsyth, is much given to hospitality, and the people of the State take great pride in the post's advancement and its victories. During the summer, on several occasions, the national holidays especially, the soldiers "receive," and excursion trains bring hundreds of visitors from every direction, who are delighted to feast their eyes on real cannon, uniforms and shoulder straps. They are entertained royally. Drills, salutes, sham battles and parades, occupy every hour of the day, and in the evening the drill floor becomes a dancing place for all who enjoy the delights of a military ball.

The history of the fort has been, in a measure, that of the Seventh Cavalry, which for nearly two decades has had its residence there, and become identified with the spot. The Seventh Cavalry dates its glory from before the days of the intrepid Custer, whose memory it cherishes. It has taken part in scores of Indian battles—indeed, there has not, for years, been an uprising in the West in which it has not done duty. Its last considerable encounter was at Wounded Knee and Drexel Mission, where the Custer massacre was in a degree avenged. Here it lost twenty-four of its members, and a magnificent granite monument has been erected at the fort to their memory. It bears the names of those who fell, and tells briefly the story of their bravery.

In the Wounded Knee battle, on the plains of Dakota, during the closing days of 1891, the four troops of the regiment were treacherously surprised by the Sioux, and because, after the attack, Colonel Forsyth ordered a charge, resulting in the killing of many of the savages, he was suspended by his superior officer, General Miles, for disobedience of orders, which were not to fire on the enemy. An investigation, however, amply justified his action, and he was reinstated in charge of his post as before. Early in November, 1894, on the promotion of General McCook to be Major General, Colonel Forsyth stepped up to the Brigadier Generalship, and his place at Fort Riley will be taken by Colonel Sumner. There is a rumor, however, in army circles, that the old Seventh will be stationed in the far Northwest, and the Fifth Cavalry will succeed it as resident regiment here. The post has become so closely identified with the fortunes of the former regiment that it will seem strange to have any other troops call it home.

There are usually at the fort three squadrons of cavalry, of four troops each, and five batteries of light artillery, engaged in the maneuvers of the school for mounted service, which has its headquarters for the entire army here. The principal object of this school is instruction in the combined operations of the cavalry and light artillery, and this object is kept steadily in view. The troops of each arm form a sub-school, and are instructed nine months in the year in their own arm, preparatory to the three months of combined operations. Thus the batteries are frequently practiced in road marching in rapid gaits; the Kansas River is often forded; rough hills are climbed at "double quick," and guns are brought to action on all sorts of difficult ground, with the result that, when the combined operations begin, the batteries may be maneuvered over all kinds of obstacles.

Among the plans of the future is one, which was a favorite with General Sheridan, of making Fort Riley the horse-furnishing headquarters for the entire army. The location being so central, it insures the nearest approach to perfect acclimation of animals sent to any part of the Union. Two plans are being contemplated for the accomplishment of this object. One is to make it a breeding station; the other is to simply make it a purchasing station, which shall buy of the farmers of the West the horses needed by the army, and train the animals for regular use before sending them to the various posts.

Present plans also include an increase in the number of soldiers stationed at Fort Riley to 3,000. If the proposed increase in the standing army is carried out, there may be more than that. The Government evidently has faith in the location of the fort. While it has abandoned and consolidated other stations, it has all the time been increasing its expenditures here, and the estimates for the next year aggregate expenditures of over $500,000, provided the Appropriation Committee does its duty. There are plans of still further beautifying the grounds, and the addition of more turnpikes and macadamized roads.

The State of Kansas, and especially Geary and Riley Counties, in which the fort is situated, reap a considerable benefit from its location. The perishable produce of the commissary department comes from the country around. Hundreds of horses are bought at round prices, while the soldier trade has sent Junction City, four miles west, ahead of all competitors in Central Kansas for volume of business and population. Naturally, Kansas is glad to see Fort Riley a permanency, and hopes that it may be made the Government's chief Western post.

Kansas has been spoken of as the most wonderful State in the Union, and in many respects it is fully entitled to its reputation in this respect. It has had enough discouragements and drawbacks to ruin half a dozen States, and nothing but the phenomenal fertility of the soil, and the push and go of the pioneers who claim the State as their own, has enabled Kansas to withstand difficulties and to sail buoyantly through waves of danger into harbors of refuge. In its early days, border warfare hindered development and drove many most desirable settlers to more peaceful spots. Since then the prefix "Bleeding" has again been used repeatedly in connection with the State, because of the succession of droughts and plagues of grasshoppers and chinch bugs, which have imperiled its credit and fair name. But Kansas remains to-day a great State, with a magnificent future before it. The fertility of the soil is more than phenomenal. Kansas corn is known throughout the world for its excellency, and at the World's Fair in 1893 it took highest awards for both the white and yellow varieties. In addition to this, it secured the gold medal for the best corn in the world, as well as the highest awards for red winter wheat flour, sorghum sugar and apples. Indeed, Kansas soil produces almost anything to perfection, and the State, thanks largely to works of irrigation in the extreme western section, is producing larger quantities of indispensable agricultural products every year.

The very motto of the State indicates the early troubles through which it went, the literal interpretation being "To the stars (and stripes) through difficulties." The State is generally known now as the "Sunflower State," and for many years the sword has given place to the plowshare. But the very existence of Fort Riley shows that t his was not always the condition of affairs. Early in the Eighteenth Century, French fur-traders crossed over into Kansas, and, later on, Spanish explorers were struck with the possibilities of the fertile plains. Local Indian tribes were then at war, but a sense of common danger caused the antagonistic red men to unite, and the white immigrants were massacred in a body. After the famous Missouri Compromise of 1820, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of thirty years later, the slave issue became a very live one in Kansas, and for some time the State was in a condition bordering upon civil war. The convention of 1859, at Wyandotte, settled this difficulty, and placed Kansas in the list of anti-slavery States.

Some ten years ago, after Kansas had enjoyed a period of the most unique prosperity, from an agricultural standpoint, the general impression began to prevail that the State was destined to become almost immediately the greatest in the nation. Corn fields were platted out into town sites, and additions to existing cities were arranged in every direction. For a time it appeared as though there was little exaggeration in the extravagant forecast of future greatness. Town lots sold in a most remarkable manner, many valuable corners increasing in value ten and twenty-fold in a single night. The era of railroad building was coincident with the town boom craze, and Eastern people were so anxious to obtain a share of the enormous profits to be made by speculating in Kansas town lots, that money was telegraphed to agents and banks all over the State, and options on real estate were sold very much on the plan adopted by traders in stocks and bonds in Wall Street.

The greed of some, if not most, of the speculators, soon killed the goose which laid the golden egg. The boom burst in a most pronounced manner. People who had lost their heads found them again, and many a farmer who had abandoned agriculture in order to get rich by trading in lots, went back to his plow and his chores, a sadder and wiser, although generally poorer, man. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands during the boom. Exactly who "beat the game," to use the gambler's expression, has never been known. Certain it is, that for every man in Kansas who admits that he made money out of the excitement and inflation, there are at least fifty who say that the boom well-nigh ruined them.

Kansas is as large as Great Britain, larger than the whole of New England combined, and a veritable empire in itself. It is a State of magnificent proportions, and of the most unique and delightful history. Three and a half centuries ago, Coronado, the great pioneer prospector and adventurer, hunted Kansas from end to end in search of the precious metals which he had been told could be found there in abundance. He wandered over the immense stretch of prairies and searched along the creek bottoms without finding what he sought. He speaks in his records of "mighty plains and sandy heaths, smooth and wearisome and bare of wood. All the way the plains are as full of crooked-back oxen as the mountain Serena in Spain is of sheep."

These crooked-back oxen were of course buffaloes, or, more correctly speaking, species of the American bison. No other continent was ever blessed with a more magnificent and varied selection of beasts and birds in forests and prairies than was North America. Kansas in particular was fortunate in the possession of thousands of herds of buffaloes. Now it has none, except a few in a domesticated state, with their old regal glory departed forever. When we read the reports of travelers and trappers, written little more than half a century ago, and treating of the enormous buffalo herds that covered the prairies as far as the eye could reach, we wonder whether these descriptions can be real, or whether they are not more in the line of fables and the outgrowth of a too vivid imagination.

If, thirty years ago, some wiseacre had come forward and predicted that it would become necessary to devise means for the protection of this enormous amount of game, he would have been laughed out of countenance. Yet this extraordinary condition of affairs has actually come to pass. Entire species of animals which belonged to the magnificent fauna of North America are already extinct or are rapidly becoming so. The sea-cow is one of these animals; the last specimens of which were seen in 1767 and 1768. The Californian sea-elephant and the sea-dog of the West Indies have shared a like fate. Not a trace of these animals has been found for a long time. The extinction of the Labrador duck and the great auk have often been deplored. Both of these birds may be regarded as practically extinct. The last skeleton of the great auk was sold for $600, the last skin for $650, and the last egg brought the fabulous sum of $1,500.

Last, not least, the American bison is a thing of the past!

It has been historically proven that at the time of the discovery of America, the buffalo herds covered the entire enormous territory from Pennsylvania to Oregon and Nevada, and down to Mexico, and thirty years ago the large emigrant caravans which traveled from the Eastern States across the Mississippi to the gold fields of California, met with herds of buffaloes, not numbering thousands, but hundreds of thousands. The construction trains of the first Pacific Railroad were frequently interrupted and delayed by wandering buffalo herds.

Today the United States may be traversed from end to end, and not a single buffalo will be seen, and nothing remains to even indicate their presence but the deep, well-trodden paths which they made years ago. Rain has not been able to wash away these traces, and they are counted among the "features" of the prairies, where the bisons once roamed in undisturbed glory. It was a difficult task for the Government to gather the last remnants, about 150 to 200 head, to stock Yellowstone Park with them, and to prevent their complete extinction.

Undoubtedly, the buffalo was the most stupid animal of the prairies. In small flocks, he eluded the hunter well enough; but in herds of thousands, he cared not a whit for the shooting at the flanks of his army. Any Indian or trapper, stationed behind some shrubs or earth hill, could kill dozens of buffalo without disturbing the herd by the swish of the arrow, the report of the rifle, or the dying groans of the wounded animals. A general stampede ensued at times, which often led the herd into morasses, or the quick-sand of the rivers, where they perished miserably. The destruction was still greater when the leader of the herd came upon some yawning abyss. Those behind drove him down into the deep, and the entire herd followed blindly, only to be dashed to death.

The very stupidity of the bison helped to exterminate the race, where human agency would have seemed well nigh inadequate.

Among the large game of the continent, the bison was the most important, and furnished the numerous Indian tribes not only with abundant food, but other things as well. They covered their tents with the thick skins, and made saddles, boats, lassoes and shoes from them. Folded up, they used them as beds, and wore them around their shoulders as a protection against the winter's cold. Spoons and other utensils for the household could be made from their hoofs and horns, and their bones were shaped into all kinds of arms and weapons. The life and existence of the prairie Indian depended almost entirely upon that of the buffalo. There is no doubt that the Indians killed many buffaloes, but while the damage may have been great, there was not much of a reduction noticeable in their numbers, for the buffalo cow is an enormous breeder.

Conditions were changed, however, when the white man arrived with his rifle, settled down on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and began to drive the aborigines of the American continent further and further West. With this crowding back of the Indians began that also of the buffalo, and the destruction of the latter was far more rapid than that of the former.

It was about the middle of the Seventeenth Century when the first English colonists climbed the summits of the Allegheny Mountains. Enormous herds of buffalo grazed then in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, and in the famous blue grass regions of Kentucky. How fast the buffaloes became exterminated may best be illustrated by the fact that, at the beginning of the present century, the bison had entirely disappeared from the eastern banks of the Mississippi. A few isolated herds could be found in Kentucky in 1792. In 1814 the animal had disappeared in Indiana and Illinois. When the white settlers crossed the Mississippi, to seek connection with the territories on the Pacific coast, the buffalo dominion, once so vast, decreased from year to year, and finally it was split in two and divided into a northern and southern strip. The cause of this division was the California overland emigration, the route of which followed the Kansas and Platte Rivers, cutting through the center of the buffalo regions. These emigrants killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and the division became still greater after the completion of the Union Pacific line and the settlement of the adjacent districts.

The buffaloes of the southern strip were the first to be exterminated, particularly when the building of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad facilitated entrance to the southern range.

Aside from the pleasure and excitement from a buffalo hunt, the yield was a rich one, and troops of hunters swarmed over the Western prairies; buffalo hunting became an industry which gave employment to thousands of people. But human avarice knew no bounds, and massacred senselessly the finest game with which this continent was stocked. The dimensions to which this industry grew may best be guessed when it is stated that in 1872 more than 100,000 buffaloes were killed near Fort Dodge in three months. During the summer of 1874, an expedition composed of sixteen hunters killed 2,800 buffaloes, and during that same season one young trapper boasted of having killed 3,000 animals. The sight of such a slaughter scene was gruesome to behold. Colonel Dodge writes of it: "During the fall of 1873 I rode across the prairie, where a year ago I had hunted several herds. At the time we enjoyed the aspect of a myriad of buffaloes, which were grazing peacefully over the prairies. Now we rode past myriads of decaying cadavers and skeletons, which filled the air with an insufferable stench. The broad plain which, a year ago, had teemed with animals, was nothing more than a dead, foul desert."

Mr. Blackmore, another traveler, who went through Kansas at about the same time, says that he counted, on four acres of ground, no less than sixty-seven buffalo carcasses. As was to be expected, this wholesale and, indeed, wanton slaughter brought its own reward and condemnation. The price of buffalo skins dropped to 50 cents, although as much as $3.00 had been paid regularly for them. Moreover, as the number of animals killed was greater than could be removed, the decaying carcasses attracted wolves, and even worse foes, to the farmyard, and terrible damage to cattle resulted.

The Indians also were disturbed. "Poor Lo" complained of the wanton and senseless killing of the principal means of his sustenance, and when the white man with a laugh ignored these complaints, the Indians got on the war-path, attacked settlements, killed cattle and stole provisions, thus giving rise to conflicts, which devoured not only enormous sums of money, but cost the lives of thousands of people. When the locust plague swept over the fields of Kansas and destroyed the entire crop, the settlers themselves hungered for the buffalo meat of which they had robbed themselves, and vengeance came in more ways than one.

The extermination of the buffalo of the southern range was completed about 1875; to the bisons of the northern range were given a few years' grace. But the same scenes which were enacted in the South, repeated themselves in the North, and the white barbarians were not satisfied until they had killed the last of the noble game in 1885. When the massacre was nearly over, a few isolated herds were collected and transported to Yellowstone Park, where they have increased to about 400 during the last few years, protected by the hunting laws, which are strictly enforced. With the exception of a very few specimens, tenderly nursed by some cattle raisers in Kansas and Texas, and in some remote parts of British America, these are the last animals of a species, which two decades ago wandered in millions over the vast prairies of the West.



The Pilgrimage Across the Bad Lands to Utah—Incidents of the March—Success of the New Colony—Religious Persecutions—Murder of an Entire Family—The Curse of Polygamy—An Ideal City—Humors of Bathing in Great Salt Lake.

About half a century ago one of the most remarkable pilgrimages of modern times took place. Across what was then, not inaptly, described by writers as an arid and repulsive desert, there advanced a procession of the most unique and awe-inspiring character. History tells us of bands of crusaders who tramped across Europe in order to rescue the Holy Land from tyrants and invaders. On that occasion, all sorts and conditions of men were represented, from the religious enthusiast, to the ignorant bigot, and from the rich man who was sacrificing his all in the cause that he believed to be right, to the tramp and ne'er-do-well, who had allied himself with that cause for revenue only.

But the distance traversed by the crusaders six or seven hundred years ago was insignificant compared with the distance traversed by the pilgrims to whom we are referring. In addition to this, the country to be crossed presented difficulties of a far more startling and threatening character. There was before them a promised land in the extreme distance, but there intervened a tract of land which seemed as impassable a barrier as the much talked-of, but seldom inspected, Chinese Wall of old. There was a region of desolation and death, extending from the Sierra Nevadas to the border lines of Nebraska, and from the Yellowstone to the Colorado Rivers. A profane writer once suggested that the same Creator could hardly have brought into existence this arid, barren and inhospitable region and the fertile plains and beautiful mountains which surrounded it on all sides.

Civilization and irrigation have destroyed the most awful characteristics of this region, but at the time to which we are referring, it was about as bad from the standpoint of humanity and human needs as could well be imagined. Here and there, there were lofty mountains and deep canons, as there are now, but the immense plains, which occupy the bulk of the land, were unwatered and uncared for, giving forth volumes of a penetrating alkali dust, almost as injurious to human flesh as to human attire. Here and there, there were, of course, little oases of comparative verdure, which were regarded by unfortunate travelers not only as havens of refuge, but as little heavens in the midst of a sea of despair. The trail across the desert, naturally, ran through as many as possible of these successful efforts of nature to resist decay, and along the trail there were to be found skeletons and ghastly remains of men whose courage had exceeded their ability, and who had succumbed to hunger and thirst in this great, lonesome desert.

That no one lived in this region it would seem superfluous to state. Occasionally a band of Indians would traverse it in search of hunting grounds beyond, though, as a general rule, the red man left the country severely alone, and made no effort to dispute the rights of the coyotes and buzzards to sole possession.

Along the trail mentioned, there advanced at the period to which we have referred, a procession which we have likened, in some respects, to the advance of the crusaders in mediaeval days. Those who happened to see it pass described this cavalcade as almost beyond conception. The first impression from a distance was that an immense herd of buffalo were advancing and creating the cloud of dust, which seemed to rise from the bare ground and mount to the clouds. As it came nearer, and the figures became more discernible, it was seen that the caravan was headed by a band of armed horsemen. The animals were jaded and fatigued, and walked with their heads low down and their knees bent out of shape and form. Their riders seemed as exhausted as the animals themselves, and they carried their dust-begrimed guns in anything but military fashion. Behind them came hundreds, nay, thousands, of wagons, of all shapes and builds, some of them entirely open and exposed, and others protected more or less by canvas tilts. These wagons seemed to stretch back indefinitely into space, and even when there was no undulation of the surface to obstruct the view, the naked eye could not determine to any degree the length of the procession. Near the front of the great cavalcade was a wagon different in build and appearance to any of the others. It was handsomely and even gaudily decorated, and it was covered in so carefully that its occupants could sleep and rest as secure from annoyance by the dust as though they were in bed at home.

Instead of two broken-down horses, six well-fed and well-watered steeds were attached to the wagon, and it was evident that no matter how short had been the supply of food and water, the horses and occupants of this particular conveyance had had everything they desired. The occupant of this wagon was a man who did not look to be more than thirty years of age, but whose face and manner indicated that he was in the habit of being obeyed rather than obeying. A great portion of his time was occupied in reading from a large vellum-bound book, but from time to time he laid it on one side to settle disputes which had arisen among some of his ten thousand followers, or to issue orders of the most emphatic and dogmatic character.

This man was Brigham Young, the successor of Joseph Smith, and the chosen Prophet of the Mormons, who were marching across the desert in search of the promised land, which they were informed had been set aside for their purpose by the Ruler of the Universe.

We need not follow the fortunes and misfortunes of the zealous, if misguided, men and families who followed their leader across the great unwatered and almost unexplored desert. No one knows how many fell by the wayside and succumbed to hunger, exhaustion or disease. The bulk of the column, however, persevered in the march, and, through much sadness and tribulation, finally arrived at a country which, while it was not then by any means up to expectation or representation, at least presented facilities and opportunities for living. When the great valleys of Utah were reached, men who a few months before had been strong and hardy, but who now were lank and lean, fell on their knees and offered up thanksgiving for their deliverance, while the exhausted women and children sought repose and rest, which had been denied them for so many long, wearisome days.

But there was no time to be wasted in rejoicings over achievements, or regrets over losses. The virgin acres before them were theirs for the asking, or rather taking, and the Mormon colony set to work at once to parcel out the land and to commence the building of homes. Whatever may be said against the religious ideas of these pilgrims, too much credit cannot be given them for the business-like energy which characterized their every movement. A site was selected for what is now known as Salt Lake City. Broad streets were laid out, building plans and rules adopted, and every arrangement made for the construction of a handsome and symmetrical city. Houses, streets and squares appeared almost by magic, and in a very few weeks quite a healthy town was built up. Those who in more Eastern regions had learned different trades were set to work at callings of their choice, and for those who were agriculturally disposed, farms were mapped out and reserved.

Fortunately for the newcomers, industry was a watchword among them, and a country which had been up to that time a stranger to the plow and shovel was drained and ditched, and very speedily planted to corn and wheat. So fertile did this so-called arid ground prove to be, that one year's crop threw aside all fears of further poverty, and prosperity began to reign supreme. Had the Mormons confined themselves to work, and had abandoned extreme religious and social ideas, impossible in an enlightened age and country, they would have risen long before this into an impregnable position in every respect.

But polygamy, hitherto restrained and checked by laws of Eastern States and Territories, was now indulged in indiscriminately. The more wives a member of the Mormon church possessed, the greater was his standing in the community. The man who had but two or three wives was censured for his want of enthusiasm, and he was frequently fined heavily by the church, which was not above levying fines, and thus licensing alleged irregularities. Some of the elders had more than a hundred wives each, and these were maintained under relations of a most peculiar character.

At first the polygamous tenents of the church did not cause much comment on the outside, because the Mormons were so shut off from civilization that they seemed to occupy a little world of their own, and no one claimed the right to censure or interfere with them. Gradually, however, there became a shortage of marriageable women, and this resulted in mysterious raids being made on neighboring settlements. Wanderers upon the mountains spoke with horror of mysterious tribes of men who wandered around engaged in acts of plunder, and from time to time strange women appeared in the towns and settlements.

Like so many other bands of persecuted men who had fled from their oppressors in search of liberty, the early Mormons soon adopted the tactics of which they had complained so bitterly. The man who refused to obey the orders of the church, or who was in any way rebellious, was apt to disappear from his home without warning or explanation. He was not arrested or tried; he was simply spirited away, and no mark or sign proclaimed his last resting place. The Danite Band, or the Avenging Angels, came into existence, and some of their terrible deeds have contributed dark pages to the history of our native land.

It is not to be supposed that acts such as these were approved indiscriminately by the newcomers. Occasionally a mild protest would be uttered, but it seemed as though the very walls had ears, for even if a man in the bosom of his family criticised the conduct of the church, his doom appeared to be sealed, and he generally disappeared within a few days. Occasionally a family would attempt to escape from Utah, in order to avoid compliance with laws and orders which they believed to be criminal in character, as well as contrary to their preconceived notions of domestic happiness and right. To make an attempt of this character was to invite death. In the first place, it was almost impossible to traverse the surrounding mountains and deserts, and even if these natural obstacles were overcome, the hand of the avenger was constantly uplifted against the fugitives, who were blotted off the face of the earth, on the theory that dead men tell no tales.

On one occasion, a man left his home in Utah in the way described, because he declined to bring home a second wife. Brigham Young, in the course of his pastoral calls, entered the comfortable house occupied by the family, and called upon the man to introduce to him his wives. He was one of the few men who, while in every other respect a zealous Mormon, had declined to break up his family relations by bringing a young wife into his home. The mother of his children informed the Prophet with much vehemence of this fact, and in words more noble than discreet assured him that no effort of his could disturb the domestic relations of the house, or make her husband untrue to vows he had taken twenty years before.

The Prophet was too astounded to lose his temper, but turning to the happy husband and father, he told him in stentorian tones that unless within one month he complied with the orders of the church, it would have been better for him had he never been born, or had he died while on the terrible march across the Bad Lands and the alkali desert. That the Prophet was in earnest was evidenced by the arrival the following day of some of his minions, who brought with them more explicit directions, as well as the names of certain young women to whom the man must be "sealed" or "married" within the time mentioned by Young.

No idea of complying with this order ever occurred to the head of the house. He knew that his wife would far rather die than be dishonored, and he himself was perfectly willing to sacrifice his life rather than his honor. But for the sake of his four children he determined to make an attempt to escape, and accordingly, a few days later, the family, having collected together all their available and easily transported assets, hitched up their wagon and drove away in the dead of night. Their departure in this manner was not expected, and was not discovered for nearly forty-eight hours, during which time the refugees had made considerable progress over the surrounding mountains. They maintained their march for nearly a week, without incident, and were congratulating themselves upon their escape, when the disaster which they had feared overtook them.

They were camped by the side of a little stream in a fertile valley, and all were sleeping peacefully but the elder boy, who was acting as sentinel. His attention was first called to danger by the uneasiness displayed by the horses, which, by their restless manner and sudden anxiety, showed that instinct warned them of an approaching party. Without wasting a moment's time, the young man hastily aroused the sleepers, who prepared to abandon their camp and seek refuge in the adjoining timber. They had barely reached cover when a party of mounted armed men rode up. Finding a deserted camp, they separated, and commenced to scour the surrounding country. One of the number soon came upon the retreating family, but before he could cover them with his rifle he had been shot dead by the infuriated father, who was determined to resist to the uttermost the horrible fate which now stared them in the face.

The noise was taken by the other searchers as a signal to them that the hunted family had been found, and knowing that this would be so, the man and his sons hurried the woman and younger children to a secluded spot at a little distance, and seeking convenient cover determined to make a desperate effort to protect those for whose safety they were responsible. Unfortunately for the successful carrying out of this plan, the helpless section of the party was discovered first. The avenging party then divided up into two sections, one of which dragged away the woman and her young children, and the others went in search of the man and his two sons. They speedily found them, and in the fight which followed two lives were lost on both sides.

The oldest son of the escaping party was wounded and left for dead. Several hours later consciousness returned to him, and the first sight that met his gaze was the dead bodies of his father and brother. A chance was offered him to escape, but weak as he was from loss of blood, he determined to follow up the kidnaping party, forming the desperate resolve that if he could not rescue his mother and sisters, he would at least save them from the horrible fate that he knew awaited them. This resolve involved his death, for he was no match for the men he was contending against. No grave was ever dug for his remains, and no headstone tells the story of his noble resolution and his intrepid effort to carry it into execution.

There were hundreds, and probably thousands, of similar incidents, and Mormonism proved a sad drawback to the happiness of a people who otherwise had before them prospects of a most delightful character. Brigham Young proved a marvelous success as a ruler. He had eighteen wives and an indefinite number of children, estimates concerning the number of which vary so much that it is best not to give any of them. It is generally stated and understood that the so-called revelation calling upon the chosen people to practice polygamy, was an invention on the part of Young, designed to cover up his own immorality, and to obtain religious sanction for improper relationships he had already built up. However this may be, it is certain that polygamy had a serious blow dealt at it by the death of its ardent champion. Since then stern federal legislation has resulted in the practical suppression of the crime, and in recent years the present head of the church has officially declared the practice to be improper, and the habit dead.

Brigham Young's grave, of which we give an illustration, has been visited from time to time-by countless pleasure and sight-seekers. Like the man, it is unique in every respect. It is situated in the Prophet's private burial ground, which was surveyed and laid out by him with special care. He even went so far as to select the last resting place for each of his eighteen wives, and so careful was he over these details that the honor of resting near him was given to each wife in order of the date of her being "sealed" to him, in accordance with the rites and laws of the church. Most of the Mrs. Youngs have been buried according to arrangements made, but all of the remarkable aggregation of wives has not yet been disposed of in the manner desired. The Prophet's favorite wife, concerning whose relationship to Mrs. Grover Cleveland there has been so much controversy, was named Amelia Folsom. For her special comfort the Prophet built the Amelia Palace, one of the most unique features of Salt Lake City. Here the lady lived for several years.

Let us leave the unpleasant side of Mormon history and see what the zealous, if misguided, people have succeeded in accomplishing. Salt Lake City, which was originally settled by Brigham Young and his followers in July, 1847, is perhaps the most uniform city in the world so far as its plans are concerned. The original settlers laid out the city in squares ten acres large. Instead of streets sixty and eighty feet wide, as are too common in all our crowded cities, a uniform width of 130 feet was adopted, with more satisfactory results. In the original portion of the city these wide streets are a permanent memorial to the forethought of the early Mormons. The shade trees they planted are now magnificent in their proportions, and along each side of the street there runs a stream of water of exquisite clearness. There is very little crowding in the way of house-building. Each house in the city is surrounded by a green lawn, a garden and an orchard, so that poverty and squalor of the slum type is practically unknown. The communistic idea of homes in common, which has received so much attention of late years, was not adopted by the founders of this city, who, however, took excellent precautions to stamp out loafing, begging and other accompaniments of what may be described as professional pauperism.

Within thirty years of the building of the first house in Salt Lake City, which, by the way, is still standing, the number of inhabitants ran up to 20,000. It is now probably more than 50,000, and the city stands thirty-first in the order of those whose clearing-house returns are reported and compared weekly. Hotels abound on every side, and benevolent institutions and parks are common. Churches, of course, there are without number, and now that the Government has interfered in the protection of so-called Gentiles, almost all religious sects are represented.

No description of the Mormon Temple can convey a reasonable idea of its grandeur. Six years after the arrival of the pilgrims at Salt Lake City, or in 1853, work was commenced on this immense structure, upon which at least $7,000,000 have been expended. Its length is 200 feet, its width 100 feet, and its height the same. At each corner there is a tower 220 feet high. The thickness of the walls is 10 feet, and these are built of snow-white granite. So conspicuous and massive is this building, that it can be seen from the mountains fifty and even a hundred miles away.

The Tabernacle, which is in the same square as the Temple, and just west of it, is aptly described by Mr. P. Donan as one of the architectural curios of the world. It looks like a vast terrapin back, or half of a prodigious egg-shell cut in two lengthwise, and is built wholly of iron, glass and stone. It is 250 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 100 feet high in the center of the roof, which is a single mighty arch, unsupported by pillar or post, and is said to have but one counterpart on the globe. The walls are 12 feet thick, and there are 20 huge double doors for entrance and exit. The Tabernacle seats 13,462 people, and its acoustic properties are so marvelously perfect that a whisper or the dropping of a pin can be heard all over it. The organ is one of the largest and grandest toned in existence, and was built of native woods, by Mormon workmen and artists, at a cost of $100,000. It is 58 feet high, has 57 stops, and contains 2,648 pipes, some of them nearly as large as the chimneys of a Mississippi River steamer.

The choir consists of from 200 to 500 trained voices, and the music is glorious beyond description. Much of it is in minor keys, and a strain of plaintiveness mingles with all its majesty and power. All the seats are free, and tourists from all parts of the world are to be found among the vast multitudes that assemble at every service. Think of seeing the Holy Communion broken bread, and water from the Jordan River, instead of wine, administered to from 6,000 to 8,000 communicants at one time! One can just fancy the old-time Mormon elders marching in, each followed by his five or twenty-five wives and his fifty or a hundred children.

Close by is Assembly Hall, also of white granite, and of Gothic architecture. It has seats for 2,500 people, and is most remarkable for the costly fresco work on the ceiling, which illustrates scenes from Mormon history, including the alleged discovery of the golden plates and their delivery to Prophet Smith by the Angel Moroni.

All around this remarkable city are sights of surpassing beauty. Great Salt Lake itself ought to be regarded as one of the wonders of the world. Although an inland sea, with an immense area intervening between it and the nearest ocean, its waters are much more brackish and salty than those of either the Atlantic or the Pacific, and its specific gravity is far greater. Experts tell us that the percentage of salt and soda is six times as great as in the waters of the Atlantic, and one great advantage of living in its vicinity is the abundance of good, pure salt, which is produced by natural evaporation on its banks. It would be interesting, if it were possible, to explain why it is that the water is so salty. Various reasons have been advanced from time to time for this phenomenon, but none of them are sufficiently practical or tangible to be of great interest to the unscientific reader.

It is just possible that this wonderful lake may in course of time disappear entirely. Some years ago its width was over 40 miles on an average, and its length was very much greater. Now it barely measures 100 miles from end to end and the width varies from 10 to 60 miles. In the depth the gradual curtailment has been more apparent. At one time the average depth was many hundred feet, and several soundings of 1,000 feet were taken, with the result reported, in sailors' parlance, of "No bottom." At the present time the depth varies from 40 to 100 feet, and appears to be lessening steadily, presumably because of the extraordinary deposit of solid matter from the very dense waters with which it is filled.

The lake is a bathers' paradise, and the arrangements for bathing from Garfield Beach are like everything else in the land of the Mormons, extraordinary to a degree. In one year there were nearly half a million bathers accommodated at the four principal resorts, and so rapidly are these bathing resorts and establishments multiplied, that the day is not distant when every available site on the eastern shore of the lake will be appropriated for the purpose. As a gentleman who has bathed in this lake again and again says, it seems preposterous to speak of the finest sea-bathing on earth a thousand miles from the ocean, although the bathing in Great Salt Lake infinitely surpasses anything of the kind on either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts.

The water contains many times more salt, and much more soda, sulphur, magnesia, chlorine, bromine and potassium than any ocean water on the globe. It is powerful in medicinal virtues, curing or benefiting many forms of rheumatism, rheumatic gout, dyspepsia, nervous disorders and cutaneous diseases, and it acts like magic on the hair of those unfortunates whose tendencies are to bald-headedness. It is a prompt and potent tonic and invigorant of body and mind, and then there is no end of fun in getting acquainted with its peculiarities. A first bath in it is always as good as a circus, the bather being his or her own trick mule. The specific gravity is but a trifle less than that of the Holy Land Dead Sea.

The human body will not and cannot sink in it. You can walk out in it where it is fifty feet deep, and your body will stick up out of it like a fishing-cork from the shoulders upward. You can sit down in it perfectly secure where it is fathoms deep. Men lie on top of it with their arms under their heads and smoking cigars. Its buoyancy is indescribable and unimaginable. Any one can float upon it at the first trial; there is nothing to do but lie down gently upon it and float.

But swimming is an entirely different matter. The moment you begin to "paddle your own canoe," lively and—to the lookers-on—mirth-provoking exercises ensue. When you stick your hand under to make a stroke your feet decline to stay anywhere but on top; and when, after an exciting tussle with your refractory pedal extremities, you again get them beneath the surface, your hands fly out with the splash and splutter of a half-dozen flutter wheels. If, on account of your brains being heavier than your heels, you chance to turn a somersault, and your head goes under, your heels will pop up like a pair of frisky, dapper ducks.

You cannot keep more than one end of yourself under water at once, but you soon learn how to wrestle with its novelties, and then it becomes a thing of beauty and a joy for any summer day. The water is delightful to the skin, every sensation is exhilarating, and one cannot help feeling in it like a gilded cork adrift in a jewel-rimmed bowl of champagne punch. In the sense of luxurious ease with which it envelops the bather, it is unrivaled on earth. The only approximation to it is in the phosphorescent waters of the Mosquito Indian coast.

The water does not freeze until the thermometric mercury tumbles down to eighteen degrees above zero, or fourteen below the ordinary freezing point. It is clear as crystal, with a bottom of snow-white sand, and small objects can be distinctly seen at a depth of twenty feet. There is not a fish or any other living thing in all the 2,500 to 3,000 square miles of beautiful and mysterious waters, except the yearly increasing swarms of summer bathers. Not a shark, or a stingaree, to scare the timid swimmer or floater; not a minnow, or a frog, a tadpole, or a pollywog—nothing that lives, moves, swims, crawls or wiggles. It is the ideal sea-bathing place of the world.



A History of the Indian Nation—Early Struggles of Oklahoma Boomer—Fight between Home-Seekers and Soldiers—Scenes at the Opening of Oklahoma Proper—A Miserable Night on the Prairie—A Race for Homes—Lawlessness in the Old Indian Territory.

Oklahoma, the youngest of our Territories, is in many respects also the most interesting. Many people confound Oklahoma Territory with the Indian Territory, but the two are separate and distinct, the former enjoying Territorial Government, while the latter, unfortunately, is in a very anomalous condition, so far as the making and enforcing of laws is concerned.

Up to within a few years Oklahoma was a part of what was then the "Indian Territory." Now it has been separated from what may be described as its original parent, and is entirely distinct. It contains nearly 40,000 square miles, and has a population of about a quarter of a million, exclusive of about 18,000 Indians. It contains more than twice as many people to the square mile as many of the Western States and Territories, and is in a condition of thriving prosperity, which is extraordinary, when its extreme youth as a Territory is considered.

In 1888, Oklahoma was the largest single body of unimproved land capable of cultivation in the Southwest. It was nominally farmed by Indian tribes, but the natural productiveness of the soil, and the immense amount of land at their disposal, cultivated habits of indolence, and there was a grievous and even sinful waste of fertility. To the south was Texas, and on the north, Kansas, both rich, powerful and wealthy States. The Indian possessions lying between disturbed the natural growth and trend of empire.

Seen from car windows only, the country appeared inviting to the eye. It was known, from reports of traders, to have all the elements of agricultural wealth.

And this made the land-hungry man hungrier.

The era of the "boomer" began; and the "boomer" did not stop until he had inserted an opening wedge, in the shape of the purchase and opening to settlement of a vast area right in the heart of the prairie wilderness. When the first opening took place it seemed as though the supply would be in excess of the demand. Not so. Every acre—good, bad, or indifferent—was gobbled up, and, like as from an army of Oliver Twists, the cry went up for more. Then the Iowa and Pottawatomie reservations were placed on the market. They lasted a day only, and the still unsatisfied crowd began another agitation. Resultant of this, a third bargain-counter sale took place. The big Cheyenne and Arapahoe country was opened for settlement. Immigrants poured in, and now every quarter-section that is tillable there has its individual occupant and owner.

But still on the south border of Kansas there camped a landless and homeless multitude. They looked longingly over the fertile prairies of the Cherokee Strip country, stirred the camp-fire embers emphatically, and sent another dispatch to Washington asking for a chance to get in. Congress heard at last, and in the fall of 1893 the congestion was relieved.

The scenes attending the wild scramble from all sides of the Strip are a matter of history and do not require repetition. Five million acres were quickly taken by 30,000 farmers.

The old proverb or adage, which states that the man who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is a public benefactor, would seem to proclaim that Oklahoma is peopled with philanthropists, for the sturdy pioneers who braved hardship and ridicule in order to obtain a foothold in this promised land, have, in five or six years, completely changed the appearance of the country. A larger proportion of ground in this youthful Territory shows that it is a sturdy infant, and it is doubtful whether in any part of the United States there has been more economy in land, or a more rapid use made of opportunities so bountifully provided by nature.

Truth is often much stranger than fiction, and the story of the invasion of Oklahoma reads like one long romance. Many men lost their lives in the attempt, some few dying by violence, and many others succumbing to disease brought about by hardship. Many of the men who started the agitation to have Oklahoma opened for settlement by white citizens are still alive, and some of them have had their heart's desire fulfilled, and now occupy little homes they have built in some favorite nook and corner of their much loved, and at one time grievously coveted, country.

Oklahoma came into the possession of the Seminole Indians by the ordinary process, and remained their alleged home until about thirty years ago. In 1866, the country was ceded to the United States Government for a consideration, and in 1873, it was surveyed by Federal officers, and section lines established according to law.

It was the natural presumption that this expense was incurred with a view to the immediate opening of the Territory for settlement. For various reasons, more or less valid, and more or less the result of influence and possible corruption, the actual opening of the country was deferred for more than twenty years after its cession to the United States Government, and in the meantime it occupied a peculiar condition. Immense herds of cattle were pastured on it, and bad men and outlaws from various sections of the country awoke reminiscences of biblical stories about cities of refuge by squatting upon it, making a living by hunting and indifferent agriculture, and resting secure from molestation from officers of the law.

To remedy this anomaly, and to secure homes for themselves and families in what was reported to be one of the most fertile tracts in the world, Captain Payne and a number of determined men organized themselves into colonies. There has always been a mania for new land, and many people are never happy unless they are keeping pace with the invasion of civilization into hitherto unknown and unopened countries. Many who joined the Payne movement were doubtless roving spirits of this character, but the majority of them were bona fide home-seekers, who believed as citizens of this country they had a right to quarter-sections in the promised land, and who were determined to enforce those rights.

No matter, however, what were the motives of the "boomers," as they were called from the first, it is certain that they went to work in a business-like manner, planned a regular invasion, and formed a number of colonies or small armies for the purpose.

We will follow the fortune of one of these colonies in order to show what extraordinary difficulties they went through, and how much more there is in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our humdrum philosophy. The town of Caldwell, on the southern line of Kansas, was the camp from which the first colonists started. It consisted of about forty men, and about 100 women and children. Each family provided itself with such equipment and conveniences as the scanty means at disposal made possible. A prairie schooner, or a wagon with a covering to protect the inmates from the weather and secure a certain amount of privacy for the women and children, was an indispensable item. When the advance was made, there were forty such covered wagons, each drawn by a pair of horses or mules, and each containing such furniture as the family possessed. The more fortunate ones also had in the wagons certain material to be used in building the little hut, which was to be their home until they could earn enough to build a more pretentious residence.

Eye witnesses describe the starting of the colony as one of the most remarkable sights ever witnessed. The wagons advanced in single file, and some few of the men rode on horseback in order to act as advance guides to seek suitable camping grounds, and to protect the occupants of the wagons from attack. In some cases one or two cows were attached by halters to the rear of the wagons, and there were several dogs which evidently entered heartily into the spirit of the affair. The utmost confidence prevailed, and hearty cheers were given as the cavalcade crossed the Kansas State line and commenced its long and dreary march through the rich blue grass of the Cherokee Strip.

The journey before the home-seekers was about 100 miles, and at the slow rate of progress they were compelled to make, it was necessarily a long and arduous task. Some few of the women were a little nervous, but the majority had thoroughly fallen in with the general feeling and were enthusiastic in the extreme. The food they had with them was sufficient for immediate needs, and when they camped for the night, the younger members of the party generally succeeded in adding to the larder by hunting and fishing.

We have all heard of invading armies being allowed to proceed on their march unmolested only to be treated with additional severity on arriving at the enemies' camp. So it was with the colonists. They got through with very little difficulty, and no one took the trouble to interfere with their progress. Men who had been in the promised land for the purpose, had located a suitable spot for the formation of the proposed colony, and here the people were directed. One of the party had some knowledge of land laws, and after a long hunt he succeeded in locating one of the section corners established by the recent Government survey. This being done, quarter-sections were selected by each of the newcomers, and work commenced with a will. Tents and huts were put up as rapidly as possible, and before a week had passed the newcomers were fairly well settled. They even selected a town site and built castles in the air of a most remarkable character.

That they were monarchs of all they surveyed seemed to be obvious, and for some weeks their right there was none to dispute. Then by degrees the cowboys who were herding cattle in the neighborhood began to drop hints of possible interference, and while these suggestions were being discussed a company of United States troops suddenly appeared. With very little explanation they arrested every man in the colony for treason and conspiracy, and proceeded to drive the colonists out of the country. The men were compelled to hitch up their horses, and, succumbing to force of numbers, the colonists sadly and wearily advanced to Fort Reno, where they were turned over to the authorities. After being kept in confinement for five days they were released, and told to get back into Kansas as rapidly as possible. Government officials saw that the order was carried out, and then left the colonists to themselves.

The men lost no time in making up their minds to organize a second attempt to establish homes for their families, and once more they made the march. A bitter disappointment awaited them, for they found that their cabins had all been destroyed and they had to commence work over again. This they did, and they had scarcely got themselves comfortable when another small detachment of troops arrived to turn them out. The men were tied by means of ropes to the tail-ends of wagons, and driven like cattle across the prairie to the military fort. For a third time they conducted an invasion, and for the third time they were attacked by Government troops.

A spirit of determination had, however, come over the men in the interval, and an attempt was made to resist the onslaught of the soldiers. The Lieutenant in charge was astonished at the attitude assumed, and did not care to assume the responsibility of ordering his men to fire, as many of the colonists were well armed and were undoubtedly crack shots. He, accordingly, adopted more diplomatic measures, and, by establishing somewhat friendly relations, got into close quarters with the settlers. A rough and tumble fight with fists soon afterwards resulted, and the hard fists and brawny arms of the settlers proved too much for the regulars, who were for the time being driven off.

The result of the boomers' victory was the sending of 600 soldiers to dislodge them, and it being impossible to resist such a force as this, the colonists yielded with the best grace they could and sadly deserted the homes they had tried so hard to build up. Some of the men were actually imprisoned for the action they had taken, and the colony for a time was completely broken up. The example set was followed by several others, and for some years a conflict, not particularly creditable to the Government, went on. No law was discovered to punish the boomers and thus put a final end to the invasions. All that could be done was to drive the families out as fast as they went in, a course of action far more calculated to excite disorder than to quell it. Sometimes the soldiers displayed a great deal of forbearance, and even went out of their way to help the women and children and reduce their sufferings to the smallest possible point. Again, they were sometimes unduly harsh, and more than one infant lost its life from the exposure the evictions brought about. The soldiers by no means relished the work given them, and many of them complained bitterly that it was no part of their duty to fight women and babies. Still they were compelled to obey orders and ask no questions.

While the original colonists, or boomers, gained little or nothing for themselves by the hardships they insisted on encountering, they really brought about the opening for settlement of Oklahoma. About the year 1885 it began to be generally understood that the necessary proclamation would be issued, and from all parts of the country home-hunters began to set out on a journey, varying in length from a few hundreds to several thousand miles. The Kansas border towns on the south were made the headquarters for the home-seekers, and as they arrived at different points they were astonished to find that others had got there before them. In the neighborhood of Arkansas City, particularly, there were large settlements of boomers, who from time to time made efforts to enter the promised land in advance of the proclamation, only to be turned back by the soldiers who were guarding every trail. The majority of the newcomers thought it better to obey the law, and these settled down, with their wagons for their homes, and sought work with which to maintain their families until the proclamation was issued and the country opened to them.

It was a long and dreary wait. The children were sent to school, the men obtained such employment as was possible, and life went on peacefully in some of the most peculiar settlements ever seen in this country. Finally the Springer Bill was passed and the speedy opening of at least a portion of Oklahoma assured. The news was telegraphed to the four winds of heaven, and where there had been one boomer before there were soon fifty or a hundred. In the winter of 1888, various estimates were made as to the number of people awaiting the President's proclamation, and the total could not have been less than 50,000 or 60,000. Finally the long-looked-for document appeared, and Easter Monday, 1889, was named as the date on which the section of Oklahoma included in the bill was to be declared open. There was a special proviso that any one entering the promised and mysterious land prior to noon on the day named, would be forever disqualified from holding land in it, and accordingly the opening resolved itself into a race, to commence promptly at high noon on the day named.

Seldom has such a remarkable race been witnessed in any part of the world. The principal town sites were on the line of the Sante Fe Railroad, and those who were seeking town lots crowded the trains, which were not allowed to enter Oklahoma until noon. All available rolling stock was brought into requisition for the occasion, and provision was made for hauling thousands of home-seekers to the towns of Guthrie and Oklahoma City, as well as to intervening points. Before daylight on the morning of the opening, the approaches of the railway station at Arkansas City were blocked with masses of humanity, and every train was thronged with town boomers, or with people in search of free land or town lots.

The author was fortunate in securing a seat on the first train which crossed the Oklahoma border, and which arrived at Guthrie before 1 o'clock on the day of the opening. It was presumed that the law had been enforced, and that we should find nothing but a land-office and a few officials on the town site.

But such was far from being the case. Hundreds of people were already on the ground. The town had been platted out, streets located, and the best corners seized in advance of the law and of the regulations of the proclamation.

There was no time to argue with points of law or order. Those who got in in advance of the law were of a determined character, and their number was so great that they relied on the confusion to evade detection. One of their number told an interesting story to the writer, concerning the experience he had gone through. He had slipped into Oklahoma prior to the opening, carrying with him enough food to last him for a few days. He found a hiding place in the creek bank, and there laid until a few minutes before noon on the opening day. When his watch and the sun both told him that it lacked but a few minutes of noon, he emerged from his hiding place, with a view to leisurely locating one of the best corner lots in the town. To his chagrin he saw men advancing from every direction, and he was made aware of the fact that he had no patent on his idea, which had been adopted simultaneously by several hundred others. He secured a good lot for himself, and sold it before his disqualification on account of being too "previous" in his entry was discovered.

As each train unloaded its immense throngs of passengers, the scene was one that must always baffle description. The town site was on rising ground, and men, and even women, sprang from the moving trains, falling headlong over each other, and then rushing up hill as fast as their legs would carry them, in the mad fight for town lots free of charge. The town site was entirely occupied within half an hour, and the surrounding country in every direction was appropriated for additions to the main "city." Before night there were at least 10,000 people on the ground, many estimates placing the number as high as 20,000.

Some few had brought with them blankets and provisions, and these passed a comparatively comfortable night. Thousands, however, had no alternative but to sleep on the open prairie, hungry, as well as thirsty. The water in the creek was scarcely fit to drink, and the railroad company had to protect its water tank by force from the thirsty adventurers and speculators.

The night brought additional terrors. There was no danger of wild animals or of snakes, for the stampede of the previous day had probably driven every living thing miles away, with the solitary exception of ants, which, in armies ten thousand strong, attacked the trespassers. By morning several houses had been erected, and the arrival of freight trains loaded with provisions not only enabled thoughtful caterers to make small fortunes, but also relieved the newcomers of much of the distress they had been suffering. Within a week the streets were well defined, and houses were being built in every direction, and within six months there were several brick buildings erected and occupied for business and banking purposes.

The process of building up was one of the quickest on record, and Guthrie, like its neighbor on the south, Oklahoma City, is to-day a large, substantial business and financial center. Those of our readers who crossed Oklahoma by rail, even as lately as the winter of 1888, will remember that they saw nothing but open prairie, with occasional belts of timber. There was not so much as a post to mark the location of either of these two large cities, nor was there a plow line to define their limits.

In no other country in the world could results such as these have been accomplished. The amount of courage required to invest time and money in a prospective town in a country hitherto closed against white citizens is enormous, and it takes an American, born and bred, to make the venture. The Oklahoma cities are not boom towns, laid out on paper and advertised as future railroad and business centers; from the first moment of their existence they have been practical, useful trading centers, and every particle of growth they have made has been of a permanent and lasting character.

But if the race to the Oklahoma town sites was interesting, the race to the homesteads was sensational and bewildering. All around the coveted land, anxious, determined men were waiting for the word "Go," in order to rush forward and select a future home. In some instances the race was made in the wagons, but in many cases a solitary horseman acted as pioneer and galloped ahead, in order to secure prior claim to a coveted, well-watered quarter-section. Shortly before the hour of noon, a number of boomers on the northern frontier made an effort to advance in spite of the protests of the soldiers on guard. These latter were outnumbered ten to one, and could not attempt to hold back the home-seekers by force. Seeing this fact, the young Lieutenant in charge addressed a few pointed sentences to the would-be violators of the law. He knew most of the men personally, and was aware that several of them were old soldiers. Addressing these especially, he appealed to their patriotism, and asked whether it was logical for men who had borne arms for their country to combine to break the laws, which they themselves had risked their lives to uphold. This appeal to the loyalty of the veterans had the desired effect, and what threatened to be a dangerous conflict resulted in a series of hearty hand-shakes.

A mighty shout went up at noon, and the deer, rabbits and birds, which for years had held undisputed possession of the promised land, were treated to a surprise of the first water. Horses which had never been asked to run before, were now compelled to assume a gait hitherto unknown to them. Wagons were upset, horses thrown down, and all sorts of accidents happened. One man, who had set his heart on locating on the Canadian River near the Old Payne Colony, rode his horse in that direction, and urged the beast on to further exertions, until it could scarcely keep on its feet. Finally he reached one of the creeks running into the river. The jaded animal just managed to drag its rider up the steep bank of the creek, and it then fell dead. Its rider had no time for regrets. He had still four or five miles to cover, and he commenced to run as fast as his legs would carry him. His over-estimate of his horse's powers of endurance, and his under-estimate of the distance to be covered, lost him his coveted home; for when he arrived a large colony had got in ahead of him from the western border, and there were two or three claimants to every homestead.

In other cases there were neck and neck races for favored locations, and sometimes it would have puzzled an experienced referee to have determined which was really the winner of the race. Compromises were occasionally agreed to, and although there was a good deal of bad temper and recrimination, there was very little violence, and the men whose patience had been sorely taxed, behaved themselves admirably, earning the respect of the soldiers who were on guard to preserve order. The excitement and uproar was kept up long after night-fall. In their feverish anxiety to retain possession of the homes for which they had waited and raced, hundreds of men stayed up all night to continue the work of hut building, knowing that nothing would help them so much in pressing their claims for a title as evidence of work on bona fide improvements. They kept on day after day, and, late in the season as it was, many of the newcomers raised a good crop that year.

The opening of other sections of the old Indian Territory, now included in Oklahoma, took place two or three years later, when the scenes we have briefly described were repeated. To-day, Oklahoma extends right up to the southern Kansas line, and the Cherokee Strip, on whose rich blue grass hundreds of thousands of cattle have been fattened, is now a settled country, with at least four families to every square mile, and with a number of thriving towns and even large cities. At the present time the question of Statehood for the youngest of our Territories is being actively debated. No one disputes the fact that the population and wealth is large enough to justify the step, and the only question at issue is whether the whole of the Indian Territory should be included in the new State, or whether the lands of the so-called civilized tribes should be excluded.

The lawlessness which has prevailed in some portions of the Indian Territory is held to be a strong argument in favor of opening up all the lands for settlement. At present the Indians own immense tracts of land under very peculiar conditions. A large number of white men, many of them respectable citizens, and many of them outlaws and refugees from justice, have married fair Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek girls, and these men, while not recognized by the heads of the tribes, are able to draw from the Government, in the names of their wives, the large sums of money from time to time distributed. Advocates of Statehood favor the allotment to each Indian of his share of the land, and the purchase by the Government of the immense residue, which could then be opened for settlement.

Until this question is settled, the anomaly will continue of civilization and the reverse existing side by side. Some of the Indians have assumed the manners, dress, virtues and vices of their white neighbors, in which case they have generally dropped their old names and assumed something reasonable in their place. But many of the red men who adhere to tradition, and who object to innovation, still stick to the names given them in their boyhood. Thus, in traveling across the Indian Territory, Indians with such names as "Hears-Something-Everywhere," "Knows-Where-He-Walks," "Bear-in-the-Cloud," "Goose-Over-the-Hill," "Shell-on-the-Neck," "Sorrel Horse," "White Fox," "Strikes-on-the-Top-of-the-Head," and other equally far-fetched and ridiculous terms and cognomens.

Every one has heard of Chief "Rain-in-the-Face," a characteristic Indian, whose virtues and vices have both been greatly exaggerated from time to time. A picture is given of this representative of a rapidly decaying race, and of the favorite pony upon which he has ridden thousands of miles, and which in its early years possessed powers of endurance far beyond what any one who has resided in countries removed from Indian settlements can have any idea or conception of.



A Much Maligned Class—The Cowboy as he Is, and as he is Supposed to be—Prairie Fever and how it is Cured—Life on the Ranch Thirty Years Ago and Now—Singular Fashions and Changes of Costume—Troubles Encountered by would-be Bad Men.

Among the thoroughly American types of humanity, none is more striking or unique than the cowboy. This master of horsemanship and subduer of wild and even dangerous cattle, has been described in so many ways that a great difference of opinion exists as to what he was, and what he is. We give a picture of a cowboy of to-day, and will endeavor to show in what important respects he differs from the cowboy of fiction, and even of history.

Sensational writers have described the cowboy as a thoroughly bad man, and, moreover, as one who delights in the word "bad," and regards it as a sort of diploma or qualification. Travelers over the region in which the cowboy used to be predominant give him a very different character, and speak of him as a hard-working, honest citizen, generous to a fault, courteous to women and aged or infirm men, but inclined to be humorous at the expense of those who are strong and big enough to return a joke, or resent it, if they so prefer.

We have spoken of the cowboy in two tenses: the present and the past. Strictly speaking, we should, perhaps, have only used one, for many of the best judges say that there is no such thing as a cowboy in this day and generation. He flourished in all his glory in the days of immense ranges, when there was an abundance of elbow room for both man and beast, and when such modern interferences with the cattle business as the barb-wire fence did not exist. The work of cattle herding and feeding to-day certainly differs in a most remarkable manner from that of thirty and even twenty years ago, and the man has naturally changed with his work. Now, the cowboy is, to all intents and purposes, a farm hand. He feeds the stock, drives it to water when necessary, and goes to the nearest market town to dispose of surplus products, with all the system and method of a thoroughly domesticated man. Formerly he had charge of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of branded cattle, which ranged at will over boundless prairies, and the day's work was frequently varied by a set-to with some unfriendly Indians or some exceptionally daring cattle thieves.

The very nature of his work used to make the cowboy somewhat desperate in his habits, and apt to be suspicious of newcomers. He was never such a terrible individual as has been frequently stated in print. His work confined him to a few frontier States and Territories, and hence he was a very convenient person to ridicule and decry. The man who met the average cowboy face to face, generally learned to respect him, and speedily appreciated the fact that it paid to be at least civil. Writers who never went within 500 miles of the nearest cattle ranch or cowboy's home, treated him with less courtesy and described him in all sorts of terms.

Dime literature, with its yellow covers and sensational pictures of stage robberies and the like, has always libeled the American cowboy to a most outrageous extent. As a result of the misapprehensions thus created, what is known as cowboy or prairie fever is quite a common disease among youths who are trying to raise a mustache for a first time. The feats of recklessness, the absolute disregard of conventionality and the general defiance attributed to the man who herds cattle on the prairie, seem to create a longing on the part of sensationally inclined youths, and many of these have cut their teeth and learned their lesson in a very different manner from what was expected.

Let us imagine for a moment the experiences of the young man from the East, who has convinced himself, by careful reasoning and reading, that nature intended him to shine in the West. It is probable that he came to this most important conclusion many years before, and it is not unlikely that his first cowboy enthusiasm was fed by attacks upon the cat, with the nearest approach he could obtain to a rawhide whip. From this primitive experience, sensational literature, and five and ten-cent illustrated descriptions of the adventures of "Bill, the Plunger," and "Jack, the Indian Slayer," completed the education, until the boy, or young man, as the case may be, determines that the hour has arrived for him to cast away childish things and become a genuine bad man of the West.

Just how he gets half way across the continent is a matter of detail. Sometimes the misguided youth is too proud to beg and too honest to steal, in which case he probably saves up his pocket money and buys a cheap ticket. The more romantic and strictly correct course to adopt is to start out without a dollar, and to beat one's way across the continent, so as to be thoroughly entitled to recognition on the prairie. Many a young man who has commenced the pilgrimage towards glorified badness, has had the fever knocked out of him before advancing 100 miles, but others have succeeded in getting through, and have arrived in Texas, Wyoming or Montana, as the case may have been, thoroughly convinced of their own ability to hold their own in all company.

The disappointment that awaits the adventurous one is almost too great to be expressed in words. If the cowboys were one-half as bad as they are painted, they would proceed to demonstrate their right to an evil reputation by murdering the newcomer, and stealing his wearing apparel and any money he might happen to have with him. Instead of doing this, the cowboy generally looks with amusement on the individual who has come so many miles to join him. The greeting is not of the exuberant character expected, and frequently the heart of the newcomer is broken by being told to go back to his mammy and spend a few years more in the nursery. A runaway tenderfoot just fresh from school is not wanted on the cattle ranch, and although Western farmers are too good-natured to resent very severely the liberty taken, they never flatter the newcomer by holding out any inducements or making any prophecies as to his future.

The writer met a runaway enthusiast of this character a few years ago. His destination was the extreme West. As he did not know himself the State to which he was bound, he presumed that no one else did. When found, he had got as far as Kansas City, and hunger and lack of a place where he could sleep in comfort had cooled his ardor and inaugurated a vigorous attack of home-sickness. As the ideal cowboy life does not provide for feather beds or meals served in courses, it was suggested to the lad that possibly he was having a good experience in advance, and getting himself accustomed to the privations of the life he had decided to adopt.

This logic did not commend itself at all to the runaway, whose sole ambition now was to borrow enough money to telegraph a message of penitence to his father. A small sum necessary for the purpose was given him, and the dispatch sent. Within an hour an answer was received and money transmitted by wire to supply the lad with a ticket for his home, where it is exceedingly probable what little cowboy fever he had left in him was speedily removed in old-fashioned and regulation manner.

The cowboy must not be confounded with the cattle baron. Ten or twelve years ago, when a great deal of money was made out of raising cattle, there was an invasion of the prairie States by men who knew nothing whatever about cattle raising, but who had made up their minds to secure a fortune by raising steers. They took with them as inconsistent ideas as did the youth in search of adventure. Often they carried large sums of money, which they invested very lavishly in business, and they also took with them ridiculously fine clothes, patent leather boots, velveteen jackets, and other evidences of luxury, which made them very unpopular and very ridiculous in their new homes. Nine-tenths of these called themselves "cattle barons," and about the same proportion obtained a great deal of experience but very little money, while trying to revolutionize the cattle business.

It is not necessary to own cattle at all to be a cowboy, although many members of this interesting profession own a few beasts of their own and are allowed to have them graze with the other stock on the ranch. Generally speaking, the term used to be applied to all those who were engaged in handling the cattle, and in getting them together on the occasion of the annual round-ups. The old-time cowboy did not have a very high reputation, nor was he always looked upon quite as leniently as his surroundings demanded. About twenty years ago, a well-known cattleman wrote the following description of the cowboy and the life he led:

"If any one imagines that the life of a cowboy or ranchman is one of ease and luxury, or his diet a feast of fat things, a brief trial will dispel the illusion, as is mist by the sunshine. True, his life is one of more or less excitement or adventures, and much of it is spent in the saddle, yet it is a hard life, and his daily fare will never give the gout. Corn bread, mast-fed bacon, and coffee, constitute nine-tenths of their diet; occasionally they have fresh beef, and less often they have vegetables of any description. They do their own cooking in the rudest and fewest possible vessels, often not having a single plate or knife and fork, other than their pocket knife, but gather around the camp-kettle in true Indian style, and with a piece of bread in one hand, proceed to fish up a piece of 'sow belly,' and dine sumptuously, not forgetting to stow away one or more quarts of the strongest coffee imaginable, without sugar or cream. Indeed, you would hesitate, if judging it from appearance, whether to call it coffee or ink. Of all the vegetables, onions and potatoes are the most desired and the oftenest used, when anything more than the 'old regulation' is had. Instead of an oven, fireplace or cooking stove, a rude hole is dug in the ground and a fire made therein, and the coffee pot, the camp kettle and the skillet are his only culinary articles used.

"The life of the cowboy is one of considerable daily danger and excitement. It is hard and full of exposure, but is wild and free, and the young man who has long been a cowboy has but little taste for any other occupation. He lives hard, works hard, has but few comforts, and fewer necessities. He has but little, if any, taste for reading. He enjoys a coarse practical joke, or a smutty story; loves danger, but abhors labor of the common kind; never tires of riding, never wants to walk, no matter how short the distance he desires to go. He would rather fight with pistols than pray; loves tobacco, liquor and woman better than any other trinity. His life borders nearly upon that of an Indian. If he reads anything, it is in most cases a blood and thunder story of the sensational style. He enjoys his pipe, and relishes a practical joke on his comrades, or a tale where abounds animal propensity.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse