He then handed me a letter of recommendation, saying, "If you ever happen to want a position scouting, just show this letter and it will be of some benefit to you," and he assured me that if at any time he could assist me in any manner he would cheerfully do so.
When I was ready to start, Miss Oatman asked Mrs. Jackson what she should say to me. Mrs. Jackson told her to tell me good-bye, and tell me that she was very thankful to me for all I had done for her. But the poor girl could not remember it all. She could only remember the words "Good-bye, I thank you," at the same time shaking hands with me.
This was the last I ever saw of the girl, but have heard various reports concerning her since. I have been told that Mrs. Jackson raised money at the Fort to send her to San Francisco to have the tattoo marks removed from her face by the celebrated Dr. Fuller of that city, but they having been formed with vegetable matter, he was unable to remove them. I was also informed that she was afterwards sent to New York for the same purpose, but with no better success.
Only a short time ago, since coming to Idaho, I heard that she had really found some of her relatives somewhere in the state of Oregon, where she remained and raised a family; while a still later report is that she is married to a rich merchant and is living somewhere in the state of New York.
I have often thought of this poor girl since, and it has always been a question in my mind whether I did right in taking her away from the Indians after she had been with them so long; but if I did do right, and she or any of her relatives should by chance see this work and glance over its pages, I wish to say that to that kind-hearted Indian girl of the Pima tribe, Nawasa by name, and her brother belong the praise of rescuing Olive Oatman from the Apache Indians.
In the first place, had it not been for her and her brother, I would never have known of the girl, and even after I knew she was there, I could not have done anything without Nawasa's assistance, for she could not have worked more faithfully and earnestly if there had been a thousand dollars in the operation for her.
On my return trip I rode the first day to the Pima village and remained there that night.
I hired my young Indian friend to go among the Apaches and trade beads for furs, and he went home with me.
Nawasa was very anxious to know how I got through with the girl, but did not dare say anything while in camp; so the next morning when her brother and I were leaving she caught a horse and rode with us some distance. As soon as we were out of hearing of the other Indians, she and her brother commenced asking all sorts of questions concerning the girl; whether I thought she would be happy with her own people or not.
Those Indians had learned in some way that somewhere, a long distance away, the white people had great villages, and Nawasa asked if I thought the white girl would be taken to the large cities.
The young Indian and I arrived at our camp about four o'clock that afternoon and found Jim Beckwith in a splendid humor, for he was glad to see me. He had given up all hope of ever seeing me again, for he thought the Apaches had followed me up and killed me. I told him what I had brought the young Indian for, and he was well pleased with the arrangement.
We fitted him out with beads that cost us twenty dollars, and tin pans and blankets, agreeing to come to his village in two weeks for our furs.
When the two weeks were up we took our pack-horses and went to the village, and to our surprise he had traded off the beads and blankets to much better advantage than we could have done ourselves.
For this favor we gave him in compensation two pairs of blankets, four brass finger rings and four strings of beads; and the young fellow thought he had been well treated for his trouble.
It was now getting late in the season, and after buying all the furs the Pima tribe had we commenced making preparations to pull out for Taos, as we had about all the furs we could pack on our horses to advantage, having fourteen pack-horses in all.
We packed up and started, and made the trip without anything of consequence happening on the way. We did not see any hostile Indians and had very good success, only losing one pack and horse while crossing a little stream, the name of which I have forgotten; and arrived at Taos in the latter part of June.
It was late in the afternoon when we rode up to Uncle Kit Carson's home. He and his wife and little child were out on the porch, and as soon as we rode up, both recognized Jim Beckwith, but neither of them knew me, for when they had seen me last I was almost a beardless boy, and now I had quite a crop of beard and was a man of twenty-five years of age.
"Hello, Jim!" were Uncle Kit's first words, and he and his wife came out to the gate to shake hands with him.
"Well, how are you, anyhow; and how have you been since you left, and who is this you have with you?" said Uncle Kit, the last in a low tone of voice.
I had dismounted some yards distant, and on the opposite side of the pack-horse from them. Jim told Uncle Kit that I was a discouraged miner that he had picked up in California, saying: "He don't amount to very much, but I needed some one for company and to help me through with the pack-train, so I brought him along."
By this time I had made my way through the bunch of pack-horses and walked up to Uncle Kit and spoke to him, and I think I got the worst shaking up that I had had for a long time, and I don't think there ever was a father more pleased to see his son return than Uncle Kit was to see me.
Our horses were turned over to the hired man, who took care of them, and the next two days were spent in visiting Uncle Kit and his wife. Of course I had to tell them of the hardships I had undergone during my absence from home; my adventures, narrow escapes, etc.
I learned that Mr. Hughes had died during my absence; I also learned that Johnnie West was at Bent's Fort.
After resting two days we packed up again and started for Bent's Fort. Uncle Kit went along with us to assist in making a good sale of our furs, and we arrived there just in time, as the last train was going out for the season, and we sold them for a good price.
Here I met Jim Bridger, Johnnie West and a number of other acquaintances and friends who supposed I had been killed and scalped by the Indians. I was sorry to learn that Johnnie West, like the majority of the old frontiersmen, had fallen into the habit of drinking up every dollar that he earned.
While we were here, Uncle Kit made a proposition that himself, Jim Beckwith, Jim Bridger and myself take a trip to the head of the Missouri river and put in the winter trapping.
He said he wanted to make this trip and then quit the business, saying: "I have business enough at home to attend to, but I have always had an anxiety to take a trip to the headwaters of the Missouri river."
The four of us returned to Taos, arriving there just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July, arriving on the second, and now I was home again in my fine buckskin suit. The night of the fourth we all attended a big fandango, and had a huge time. I was somewhat over my bashfulness by this time, and by the assistance of Mrs. Carson and two or three other ladies present, I was enabled to get through in pretty good shape. After that night's dancing, I felt that if I were back at the Fort, where I tried to dance my first set, I would show them how dancing first began.
A WARM TIME IN A COLD COUNTRY.—A BAND OF BANNOCKS CHASE US INTO A STORM THAT SAVES US.—KIT CARSON SLIGHTLY WOUNDED.—BECKWITH MAKES A CENTURY RUN.
We remained at Taos until August first, then, all being ready for our northern trip, each man taking his own saddle-horse and five pack horses, we made the start for the headwaters of the Missouri river. We crossed the Platte where it leaves the mountains, and the next day we met a band of Arapahoes, who informed us that the Sioux were on the war-path, and that Gen. Harney was stationed on North Platte with a considerable body of soldiers. The day following, after having crossed the Cache-la-Poudre, we reached Gen. Harney's camp. The General, being a good friend of Uncle Kit and Jim Bridger, insisted on our being his guests, so we took supper with him and camped there for the night.
While at the supper table, Jim Beckwith told the General who I was and what I had been doing the last three years, following which I took Lieut. Jackson's letter from my pocket and handed it to the General. I had never seen the inside of the letter myself. The General read the letter the second time, and looking up at me, he said:
"Yes, I'll give you a job; you can start in to-morrow if you like."
Before I had time to answer him, Uncle Kit spoke up, saying: "General, I have employed him for the next six months and I cannot get along without him."
At this the General said: "Mr. Carson, your business is not urgent and mine is, and I insist on the young man taking a position with me for the remainder of the summer."
I said: "General, I did not show you that letter with the intention of asking you for employment, but simply to show you the standing I have with the people where I have been."
"Young man," he replied, "I don't wish to flatter you, but there is not a man in my service that I could conscientiously give such a letter."
When he saw that we were determined to proceed, he tried to persuade us that we could not make it through, "For," said he, "the whole country is full of hostile Indians between here and there, and they are killing emigrants every day." Which was true.
The following morning we pulled out again, aiming to push through and get into the bad lands as quickly as possible, knowing that when once in there we would not be attacked by a large band of Indians, there being no game in that region for them to live on.
The second day out from Gen. Kearney's quarters, about the middle of the afternoon, we were looking for a place to camp for the night, when we saw eleven Indians coming for us full tilt. Jim Bridger was riding in the lead, I being the hindmost one. Jim being the first to see them, he turned as quick as a wink and we all rode to the center. Each man having a saddle-horse and five pack-horses, they made good breastworks for us, so we all dismounted and awaited the impolite arrival. I drew my rifle down across the back of one of the horses when the Indians were two hundred yards away, and Uncle Kit said: "Don't fire yet. All wait until they get near us, and I will give the word for all to fire at once. Each man take good aim, and make sure of his Indian; use your rifles first and then draw your pistols."
He did not give the word until they were within about one hundred yards of us, and when he did, we all fired. I saw my Indian fall to the ground. We then drew our revolvers, and I got in two more shots before the Indians could turn their ponies so as to get away.
At the first shot with my revolver I did not see the Indian fall, but at the second shot I got my man.
We killed seven from the little band, only leaving four. They seemed to realize at once that they had bit off more than they could chew, and in about three minutes they were out of sight, and that was the last we saw of them.
We did not get a man wounded, and only one horse hurt, and that very slightly.
This was our last trouble with Indians until we were across the Yellowstone.
The next day after crossing that river we saw on our right, about a quarter of a mile away, twenty Crow Indians coming for us. They gave us chase for five or six miles, until we struck suitable ground. As soon as that was obtained we stopped to make a stand, and as soon as they were in sight around the hill they were within gunshot, and we all fired. I think I wounded my Indian in the leg, and killed his horse. Jim Beckwith said he saw three Indians fall to the ground. This, however, was the last trouble we had with the Crow Indians on that trip.
The next day we arrived at Fort Benton, on the Missouri river. There we met a number of trappers in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company, and not an independent trapper in the outfit. Strange, but true, the trappers in the employ of that Company always hated the sight of an independent trapper.
Here we stayed over two days, trying to gather some information as to our route, and, strange as it may seem, we could not find a man who would give us any information as to the route we wished to go, which was only about two hundred miles from there.
Trapping had never been done in that region, and these men knew that this was because of hostile Indians there. They were not men of sufficient principle to even intimate to us that the Indians were dangerous in that section, but let us go on to find it out for ourselves, hoping, no doubt, that the Indians would kill us and that there would be so many independent trappers out of the way. From here we took the divide between the Missouri river and the Yellowstone, aiming to keep on high land in order to steer clear, as much as possible, of hostile Indians.
Uncle Kit said he was satisfied that there was a large basin somewhere in that country, but did not know just where or how to find it.
It was in the evening of the fifth day when we came upon a high ridge, and almost due west of us and far below we could see a great valley, since known as Gallatin Valley, where Bozeman, Mont., now stands.
When we came in sight of this beautiful region, Uncle Kit said: "Boys, this is the country I have been looking for, and I'll assure you if we can get in there and are not molested, we can catch beaver by the hundred."
We had not been bothered by Indians, nor had we seen any sign of them since we left Fort Benton.
We had been on high ground all of the way, and we thought now when once in this valley we would be entirely out of the way of the Crows, and the Bannocks and Blackfoot Indians would be the only tribes to contend with.
From where we first saw the valley, we started to go down the mountain. The next day, as we got lower, we could see plenty of Indian sign. Striking a canyon, that we thought would lead us down to the valley, we gave it the name of Bridger's Pass, which name it has to-day. As we neared the valley we saw more Indian sign, and from the amount of it, it seemed that the country must be alive with them. When within about five or six miles of the valley, we saw a band of Indians to our right, on the ridge.
Jim Bridger said: "Boys, they are Crows, and we are in for it."
They did not come in reach of us, but kept along the ridge above us. We could see by looking ahead that near the mouth of this canyon there was a high cliff of rocks.
We expected to be attacked from those rocks, and we had to be very cautious in passing this point. But to our surprise they did not make the attack. Here we began to see beaver sign in abundance. I don't think that I ever in my life saw as much of it on the same space of ground as I saw there, for every little stream that emptied into that valley was full of beaver dams.
The Indians kept in sight of us until we struck the valley, which was just at sunset. We traveled until dark, when we stopped and built up a big fire. As soon as our fire was burning good we mounted our horses and rode about one mile on to open ground. Dismounting, we loosened all our saddles, both pack and riding- saddles, and picketed all our horses as close together as we could.
We made our bed in the center, keeping a guard out all night. Jim Beckwith was the first man on duty, and my turn came second. By the time I went to relieve Jim the moon was up, and he told me to keep a keen lookout in the direction of the creek, "For," said he, "I am almost sure I saw an Indian in that direction about half an hour ago."
Of course this put me on my guard, and I kept my eye peeled in great shape. About my second trip around the horses I looked in the direction of the creek and thought I saw an Indian coming on all fours.
He would only come a few steps and then stop. Being below me, I could not get him between me and the moon, so I concluded I would meet him half way. I got down on all fours and watched him, and when he would start I would move ahead, keeping my eye on him, and when he would stop I would stop also.
This I did so that to move at the same time he did, he could not hear the noise made by me. When I was close enough I laid flat on the ground, shut my left hand, and placing it on the ground, resting my gun on my fist, took good aim and I got him.
At the crack of my gun the whole crowd were on their feet, and a moment later were at the scene of war. We went to the place where it lay, and beheld a very large white wolf lying there, "dead as a door nail."
This was the first time I had ever made such a mistake, and it was some time before I heard the last of it.
The next morning when we got up, instead of being one band of Indians in sight, there were two. We made up our minds that we had discovered the finest trapping ground in America, and had a poor show to get away from it, but we went ahead and got our breakfast, just as though there were no Indians in sight of us, but we concluded we had better leave this part of the country, so we pulled out southwest across the valley, having no trouble until we struck the West Gallatin river.
Here the beaver dams were so thick that it was difficult to find a place to cross. After prospecting some little time, we struck on a buffalo trail crossing the river, and we concluded to cross on that trail. I was in the lead, but did not proceed far until we saw the mud was so deep that we had to retrace our steps. When we faced about to come back, of course I was thrown into the rear, and just as we had turned the Indians made an attack on us from the brush. I fired four shots at them at short range with my revolver, the others firing at the same time. Just as we were out of the brush, my favorite horse, Mexico, which was the hindmost horse in my string, was shot down, having five or six arrows in his body. I sprang from my saddle and the other boys halted until I cut my dying horse loose from the others, which was only a second's work, and we made a rush for the open ground, which was reached in a few jumps. The Indians did not show themselves on the open ground, but kept hid in the brush. We rode up and down the stream for an hour and a half, but could not find a place that we could cross for Indians and mud. Every place we would attempt to cross, the Indians would attack us from the brush.
This, however, was all an open country, excepting immediately along the stream, where was an immense growth of underbrush. After making several attempts to cross and being driven back, Jim Beckwith proposed that we put spurs to our horses and ride as fast as they could carry us for three or four miles up the river, that we might be able to cross before the Indians would be able to get there, "For," said he, "this brush seems to be full of redskins."
This being agreed to, we all started at full speed up the river, and after running some distance we saw a large buffalo trail leading across the river. Jim Bridger being in the lead, said: "Here is a big buffalo trail, let's try crossing on it." We were about one-fourth of a mile from the river, and Uncle Kit, who from some cause had dropped behind, sang out: "All right, let's hurry and get across and out of the brush on the other side before them redskins get here."
At this we all made a rush for the river, and just as we were going out on the other side the Indians attacked us from the brush. They shot Uncle Kit's hindmost horse down before he was out of the mud and water, and he had to get off in two feet of mud and water to cut his dying horse loose from the string of horses. We killed two Indians here. Uncle Kit, while he was down cutting his horse loose, shot one who was just in the act of striking him with a tomahawk. We made our way to open ground as quick as possible, rode about a half a mile and then stopped and loaded our pistols.
Uncle Kit said: "Boys, how in the world are we to get out of this? The whole country is alive with Indians."
Jim Bridger said: "Kit, you are the man that got us in here, and we will look for you to get us out."
"All right," said Kit, "mount your horses and let's be off." And he gave orders to ride abreast when the ground would permit.
By riding in this manner we could corral quicker. What is meant by corralling is that each man has his string of horses as we have before stated, and when attacked each man rides to the center, and the horses are a great protection to the men in time of battle. We traveled some four or five miles without seeing an Indian, but all this time we were on open ground.
Finally we came to a little stream, a tributary to the Madison river, and when crossing this we were again attacked by the Indians, who were secreted in the brush.
This was a surprise, for we had not seen an Indian since we left the West Gallatin. Here we had a fight that lasted full twenty minutes. We were about the middle of the stream when they opened fire on us.
Uncle Kit said: "Come ahead, boys;" at the same we commenced firing at the Indians, and every foot of that stream had to be contested, from the middle, where they first opened fire on us, to the shore. I saw two dead Indians in the water, and there might have been more, but I did not have time to stop and look for Indians, either dead or alive. I had seen the time that I was hunting for Indians, but at this particular time I didn't feel as though I had lost any.
Uncle Kit was now in the lead and I was bringing up the rear. Just as we were out of the water and he was removing the saddle from his horse, he got two arrows through his buckskin hunting shirt, and was very slightly hurt.
We managed to stand them off until he removed the saddle from the dying horse to another, after which we pulled for open ground, all escaping unhurt, excepting the slight scratch Uncle Kit received from the arrow.
The redskins did not follow us away from the creek.
As soon as we were on open ground we stopped and built a fire and dried our clothing, for we were as wet as drowned rats. To build a fire we had to pull small sagebrush that grew here and there in the open prairie in that country. While we were drying our clothing and eating a lunch, we had our horses feeding near us, but did not dare let them scatter for fear of an attack, which we were liable to experience at any moment. After we had our clothing pretty well dried out and having had a little something in the way of refreshments, on looking off to the northeast about two miles distant, we saw a big band of buffalo and a lot of Indians after them.
We concluded that we had remained here long enough, so we mounted and pulled out again.
The balance of the day we kept on open ground, and saw numerous little bands of Indians, but were not molested by them until late in the afternoon.
About sundown, while traveling down a little narrow valley, all of a sudden about fifteen Indians, all well mounted, made a charge on us. We corralled at once. By this time our horses had learned to corral pretty quick, and when they were in gunshot we opened fire on them. I fired at one with my rifle and got him, for I saw him fall to the ground, and I got another with my pistol. I do not know how many were killed, but they went away a much less number than they came. We all escaped unhurt, but Uncle Kit lost another horse, making in all four horses that day.
We moved on again and traveled about five miles and made another camp, but did not build a fire. Our horses were picketed near camp, and that night we stood guard the same as the night before, but I did not see any Indians crawling up on all fours. The morning following we were off very early, and traveled some four miles before we came to water. Coming to a nice little brook, we stopped and took our breakfast. Here we had a chance to have killed an antelope, but did not dare shoot.
After taking something for the inner man, we proceeded on our way. We did not have any more trouble with Indians, not even seeing any until we got to what is known as Stinking Water or Alder creek, near where Virginia City, Mont., now stands. In traveling down this stream, which is quite crooked, and just as we were rounding one of those points of the hill running down to the creek, riding in the lead I saw two Indian wick-i-ups about half a mile ahead, just in the edge of the brush. I at once gave the signal to turn back, and we got out of sight without being discovered by the Indians.
We turned our course, somewhat, making a circuitous route, and when we were just opposite the wick-i-ups, Jim Bridger and Uncle Kit climbed to the top of the hill, taking my glasses with them, and took in the situation. When they returned to where we were they were feeling much more encouraged, saying: "Thank God we are rid of the Blackfoots and Crows; those are the Bannocks. We are now in their country, and they are not so numerous nor so hostile as the Crows and Blackfoots." That night we camped on Stinking Water, near Lone Butte, picketed our horses close around camp and stood guard the same as the two nights previous.
The next morning we were up early and off again, aiming to cross the main divide and go over to Fort Hall, expecting to find there a great many trappers and raise a crowd sufficient to come back and trap on the Gallatin river this winter.
At that time Fort Hall was a great rendezvous for trappers.
Now we were beginning to feel more encouraged and to think our chances were pretty good, but that evening, while traveling up Beaver Canyon, which, I think the railroad runs up now, from Pocatello, Idaho, to Butte City, Mont., the Bannocks attacked us about fifty strong.
They held us there for about an hour, and had it not been for a thunder storm that came up, I don't think one of us would have got out of that canyon, for they had us completely surrounded. They killed two horses from Jim Bridger's string and wounded Uncle Kit in one shoulder severely.
When the thunder storm came up the Indians were gradually closing in on us, and it commenced to thunder and lightning, and it actually rained so hard that one person could not see another two rods before him.
While it was raining so hard, we mounted and rode out of the canyon.
I never saw it rain harder in my life than it did for a half hour. When we were on open ground and it had quit raining, we stopped, and Uncle Kit said: "Now who says the Almighty didn't save us this time by sending that shower of rain just at the right time?"
That night we camped near the summit of the Rocky Mountains, dividing the waters that run into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Uncle Kit suffered all that night from his arrow wound, the arrow going under his shoulder blade, and when we examined the wound we found it much deeper than we had any idea of. This was the last trouble with Indians on that trip.
The next morning we started very early, and were three days making Fort Hall, having no trouble whatever on the way. On arriving at the Fort we were very much disappointed in regard to raising our crowd to go to the head of the Missouri river to trap the coming winter. There were only about twenty trappers at Fort Hall at that time, and they appeared to have no particular objections to living a little while longer. Those of them who had never interviewed the Blackfoot and Crow Indians personally were pretty well acquainted with them by reputation, and they said they did not care to risk their lives in that country. We remained here two weeks, after which time—Uncle Kit's wound getting considerable better—Jim Bridger, Uncle Kit and myself concluded to go on to the waters of Green river and trap the coming winter.
While here, Jim Beckwith fell in with a man by the name of Reese, who said he had trapped on the headwaters of Snake river the winter previous, and that trapping was good there. He induced Beckwith to go to that section of the country, saying it was only one hundred miles from Fort Hall. This trapping ground was immediately across the divide of the Rockies and south of the Gallatin, where the Blackfoot and Crow Indians were so bad, but Reese thought they could get out the next spring before the Indians could get across the mountains.
So he and Beckwith started, and at the same time we pulled out for the head of Green river. They went to the head of Snake river, and I afterwards learned that they trapped there all winter with splendid success, but trapping being so good they stayed too late in the spring. One morning about the last days of April, after they had just eaten their breakfast and were making preparations to go to look after their traps, they were attacked by about one hundred Blackfoot Indians. Reese was killed the first shot, and Jim then saw that his only show was to run, which he did. It was about sunrise when they made the attack. Jim Beckwith fled, with the Indians in hot pursuit. It was claimed to be one hundred miles from there to Fort Hall, and that same evening, before dark, he was in Fort Hall, and he went all the way on foot.
In this run Beckwith burst the veins in his legs in numerous places, making him a cripple for life. The last time I saw him was at his own home, near Denver, Colo., in 1863. At that time he was so badly crippled that he had to walk with two canes, and after telling me the condition he was in, he showed me a number of running sores that were caused by the bursted veins. For Jim Beckwith, now dead and gone, I will say, he was a hero in his day. For bravery he was far above the average, and at the same time he was honorable and upright. He was a man whose word was as good as gold, and one who was possessed of great strength and had a constitution equal to that of a mustang. The worst thing that could be said of Jim Beckwith was that he was his own worst enemy, for he would spend his money for whiskey as fast as he earned it.
Uncle Kit, Jim Bridger and myself wintered on the waters of the Green river and trapped, but had very poor success, this country having been trapped over so much that the beaver were scarce and hard to catch, and Uncle Kit's wound bothered him all winter, and in fact as long as he lived.
After winter had broken up we started for New Mexico, via North Park. Our idea in taking that route was to avoid the hostile Sioux.
We were successful in getting through without having any trouble with Indians, whatever, arriving at Bent's Fort about the first of June. We sold our furs again to Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux. Joe Favor having gone out of business, I engaged with Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux to go among the Arapahoe Indians to trade for furs and buffalo robes.
CARSON QUITS THE TRAIL.—BUFFALO ROBES FOR TEN CENTS.—"PIKE'S PEAK OR BUST."—THE NEW CITY OF DENVER.—"BUSTED."—HOW THE NEWS GOT STARTED.
Uncle Kit Carson pulled out for home and when he was starting he said he had done his last trapping and he was going home to his sheep ranch and take things easy. "For," said he, "I had the wust luck last winter that I ever had in my life, when I had 'lowed to have the best. I'm gittin old enough to quit."
Before he left he told me that whenever I felt like it he wanted me to come to his place and make my home as long as I pleased.
Col. Bent fitted me out with twenty-five pack animals and two Mexican boys to assist me, and I started for the Arrapahoe country, one hundred and twenty-five miles distant. I was supplied with beads, blankets and rings to trade to the Indians for furs and buffalo robes.
On my arrival at the Arrapahoe village I learned that there were not many furs on hand, as the Sioux had been so hostile the past fall and winter that the Arrapahoes had not been able to trap or hunt much, consequently we had to visit all the little hunting parties belonging to that tribe, in order to get furs and robes enough to load our pack train.
After remaining about two weeks I got a fair load and started on my return, making the round trip in little over one month, having had no trouble whatever with Indians or otherwise. On my return to Bent's Fort I found John West, who had been trapping in the Windriver mountains in company with two other men I did not know. They had been successful the past winter and had sold their furs for a good price, and now Johnnie had plenty of money and was having what he termed a glorious good time, spending from ten to forty dollars a day.
After I had settled up with Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux I went to Taos with the determination that I would take it easy the balance of this season.
Col. Bent offered to bet me a horse that I would not stay in Taos one month. He told me that if I would go to Taos and rest up a month and return to the fort and hunt for them the balance of the season he would make me a present of a better horse than the other one he gave me, but I told him that he was mistaken, and that he never owned a better horse than Pinto. I knew that Pinto was getting old and had had many a hard day's ride, but I could get on him to-morrow morning after breakfast, and be in Taos before sundown, which was a distance of eighty miles. I made a bargain with them to return to the fort in a month from that time and hunt for them until something else turned up.
On my arrival at Taos I found Jim Bridger stopping with Uncle Kit, and he made me a proposition that we go and stop with the Kiowa tribe that winter and buy furs and buffalo robes. I agreed to that provided that Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux would agree to buy the furs and robes of us. They were the only traders in that country since Joe Favor had retired from business.
In one month I returned to the fort as per contract and started in hunting.
There was so much stock around the fort that I had to go from ten to twenty miles to find deer, and sometimes further to find buffalo.
After I had hunted about three weeks Jim Bridger came over to try to make a bargain with the company in regard to buying furs and buffalo robes.
Up to this time the Kiowa had not traded any at this fort. In fact, there had been but little trading done among them, yet they were in the heart of the buffalo country in the fall of the year, being located on the Arkansas river, one hundred miles west from the Big Bend. We made a bargain to work for Bent and Roubidoux by the month, they to furnish us.
They thought the best plan would be to buy a load of robes and return with it, and then go back again, for by so doing we would not have to run chances of being robbed by other tribes as we would by waiting until spring to pack over to the fort.
We started about the first of November for the Kiowa village, with thirty-two pack-horses and a Mexican boy to help us. This was just the time of year that the buffalo were moving south for the winter, and they travel much slower and are much harder to frighten than in the spring when they are traveling the other way. I attributed this to their being so much fatter in the fall of the year, for in the fall one would never see a poor buffalo except it was either an old male or one that had been crippled; and their hides are much more valuable than those taken off in the spring.
On arriving at the village we found that the Indians had a new chief, whom neither of us were acquainted with. His name was Blackbird. The old chief, Black Buffalo, who fed us on dog meat when we were on our way from St. Louis to Taos, ten years before, having died, Blackbird was appointed in his place, and we found him to be a very intelligent Indian. He said his people were glad to have us come among them and that they would be pleased to trade with us.
We stayed there about two weeks before offering to buy a hide or fur of them, but would show our goods quite frequently in order to make them anxious, and by doing so we would be able to make a better bargain with them.
After staying there about two weeks we told the chief that on a certain day we would be ready to trade with his people, putting the date off about one week.
When the day arrived the Indians came in from all quarters to trade furs and robes, bringing from one to one dozen robes to the family. The squaws brought the robes, and the bucks came along to do the trading, and we got many a first-class robe for one string of beads, which in St. Louis would cost about ten cents. We traded for enough furs in one day to load our entire pack-train of thirty-two horses.
The next morning we loaded up our furs and pulled out, telling the chief that we would be back in one moon—meaning in their language, one month—which would keep us busy, it being about four hundred miles to Bent's Fort, and as we were heavily loaded we would have to travel slow. The Mexican boy would ride ahead and the pack horses would follow him, while Jim and I brought up the rear. We experienced no trouble in getting all the buffalo meat we wanted, for those beasts were quite tame at this season of the year, and they would often come near our camp. So near, in fact, that we could sit in camp and kill our meat.
Upon our arrival at the fort Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux were well pleased with the success of the trip, and we at once started back after the second load. We found more furs and robes there awaiting our arrival than we could load on our horses. In all we made four trips that winter, and Col. Bent told me some time afterward that they cleared a thousand dollars on each cargo.
When spring came Jim Bridger and I went to Taos and visited Uncle Kit for about a month.
This was now the spring of 1859 and the excitement over the gold mines around Pike's Peak was running high. We all knew where Pike's Peak was, for any day when it was clear we could see it very plainly from Bent's Fort or Taos, but we did not know just where the mines were. Jim proposed that we take a trip out there and see about the mines. So we talked the matter over until I was finally attacked with that disease which was then known as "the gold fever."
About the first of June we made a break for the gold fields. We crossed the Arkansas river near Fountain ca-booyah (or something like that)—(Fountain qui Bouille, Boiling Fountain)—and did not go far from there until we struck a wagon road, which showed there had been much travel, and we could see that it had not been long since a wagon passed.
We were very much surprised at a wagon road in this portion of country, but there it was just the same. We did not travel on this road very far until we overtook a large train of emigrants, and on making inquiry we learned that they were on their way to Pike's Peak.
Jim Bridger laughingly remarked: "If you are not careful you will pass Pike's Peak before you go there, for there is the mountain," pointing to the Peak, the foot of which we were just then passing. At this another man said: "We are going to Cherry creek to the mines. Do you know how far it is?"
I told him it was twenty miles to the head of Cherry creek. He then asked me how far it was to Denver. I told him I had never heard of any creek or river by that name in this country. "But," he said, "I mean Denver City." But Jim and I had never heard of the place. He said Denver City was on Cherry creek in the gold mines.
We passed on, crossing the main divide between the Arkansas and the Platte rivers, striking the head of Cherry creek, then traveled down Cherry creek to the mouth, on a now well-beaten wagon road, the dust in places being six inches deep or more.
When we were within a mile of the mouth of Cherry creek I looked ahead, and for the first time I saw Denver, there being then as I supposed about fifty tents and campers' houses in the place. We stopped to take a look around and saw people coming in, every hour of the day, over the Platte and Arkansas river routes, and could see all kind of conveyances from a hand cart to a six-horse team. While there I saw a number of carts come in drawn by men alone, all the way from two to eight men to the cart.
After stopping around Denver two days and taking in the sights, we pulled out for the mountains to a place called Gregory, about forty miles from Denver, where it was reported they were mining.
The mines were located on North Clear creek and there were only two claims being worked.
Gregory, the man that this little camp was named for, was working a claim and said he was taking out some gold, and a man by the name of Greene Russell was working another claim.
They were both old Georgia miners.
This man Russell told me how the excitement got started. He said that himself, Gregory and Dr. Russell, a brother of his, and three other men had come out there the fall before, and early that season had discovered gold on Cherry creek, and also a little on the mountain stream where they were then at work. Dr. Russell being a man of family, concluded to return to his home that fall. He and the rest of the crowd cautioned him to say nothing about what they had struck, for they did not consider they had found anything to warrant an excitement and a stampede, as it was termed in mining parlance. The Doctor promised he would not mention it even to his most intimate friends. But it seems he did not keep his word, but commenced to spread the news as soon as he struck the settlements, telling wonderful stories of the gold around Pike's Peak, which set the people wild. They seemed to think there had been another California struck which caused a repetition of the stampede ten years before. During the winter the news spread all over the State and they came from every quarter.
Russell continued: "Now you can see the effect of it. If I had known my brother would have told such outrageous stories I would not have allowed him to go home." He said he thought there were a few claims outside of the ones they were working that would pay, but beyond that he did not think it would amount to anything.
After remaining here one week we concluded we had gold mining enough to last us some time, so we started back for the foot of the mountains, and the first night we camped at the place where Golden now stands, the place where South Clear creek flows from the mountains.
At this time there were at least five hundred wagons to be seen at one sight, camped on this creek. We camped near the crossing of Clear creek, and there was almost a constant stream of people coming in.
Late that evening four men came into camp with four yoke of oxen, a wagon, and an outfit for mining and with a good suppy of grub— enough to last them a whole season. They camped that night a few yards from us. On finding that we had just returned from the mines they came over to learn what news we had. We told them what we had seen and what Mr. Russell told us.
After they had heard our story, one of them said. "Well, boys, I'm a goin' back to Missouri. What are the balance of you goin' to do?"
They talked the matter over for some time and finally all concluded that old Missouri was a pretty good country and they would all start back in the morning.
One of the crowd said: "What will we do with our provisions? We can't haul it back for our cattle are so tender footed now that they can hardly travel." Another said: "What we do not want ourselves we will give to those hand-cart men over there." But another one in the crowd who perhaps was more like the dog in the manger that could not eat the hay himself nor would not let the cows eat it, spoke up and said: "No, we will not do any such thing! What we do not want to take along to eat on our way back we will throw in the creek."
The next morning after they had eaten breakfast two of them got up into the wagon and selected what provisions they wanted to take along with them, after which they threw the remainder out on the ground and the other two carried it and threw it into the creek. It consisted of flour, dried fruit, bacon, sugar, and I noticed one ten gallon keg of molasses.
I was told that this was an everyday occurrence. As we had seen the elephant and had about all the mining we wanted, for awhile, at least, we saddled up our horses and started for Taos, by the way of Bent's Fort.
Three days' ride took us to Bent's Fort, and we had a thousand and one questions to answer, for this was the first news they had got from the mines around Pike's Peak.
A FIGHT WITH THE SIOUX.—HASA, THE MEXICAN BOY, KILLED.—MIXED UP WITH EMIGRANTS SOME MORE.—FOUR NEW GRAVES.—SUCCESSFUL TRADING WITH THE KIOWAS.
While at Fort Bent we bargained again to go and trade with the Kiowas, on the same terms that we were employed upon the preceding winter, and we could commence at any time we pleased.
We then started for Taos, and when we got there found Uncle Kit suffering very much with his last arrow wound. The doctor had told him that it had never healed inside and that it might be the death of him.
We remained at Taos until time to go to the fort, doing nothing in particular, but hunting a little and occasionally attending a fandango. During this time, however, unbeknown to us and the people at the fort, the Comanches and Sioux had been fighting among themselves, having been so bold as to come on to the Arkansas river and murder a number of white people. Had we known this we should not have made the attempt to go over that country. Or had Bent and Roubidoux known it they would not have asked us to go. But, somehow, it seemed always my luck not to see trouble until I was right in it.
On our arrival at the fort they were anxious to get us fitted out and started as soon as possible. Mr. Roubidoux said: "Last winter you made four trips for us; now every extra trip you make this winter we will give you fifty dollars extra, apiece," which we thought a great layout.
We started out with thirty-two pack animals and the same Mexican boy as assistant that we had the previous winter.
While passing through the Comanche country we met a young man of that tribe with whom I was on good terms, having done him a favor during the war between his tribe and the Utes, for which he felt very grateful to me. After learning where we were going, he said: "Look out for the Sioux, for they have killed lots of white people this fall near Pawnee Rock." But he did not tell us that his tribe and the Sioux were at war.
When we had passed nearly through the Comanche country we thought they were all west of us, for we saw where a large band of Indians had crossed the road going South. This we did not exactly understand, for we well knew that neither the Comanches nor Kiowas had hunt-parties out this time of year, as the buffalo were moving South, and the Indians could kill all they wanted near the villages.
It was about noon when we crossed the Indian trail and that was the general topic of conversation the balance of the day. If they had been on foot we could easily have told what tribe they belonged to by their moccasin tracks, but they all being on horseback left us to guess.
We made an early camp so that if it became necessary we could move that evening, but we built no fire.
As soon as we had decided on our camping place and while Jim and Hasa, the Mexican boy, were unpacking and arranging the camp, I rode about two miles from camp to high ground to look for Indians. When I was on the highest point I could find, I saw a little band of Indians coming from the South, and making their way for the river below us. They were about ten miles away and I could not tell by looking through my glasses just the exact number, but I could see them plain enough to tell they were not Comanches.
On my return to camp I told Jim Bridger what I had seen and he at once declared that they were Sioux, and said we were sure to have trouble with them before long.
We decided to remain there that night, and I agreed that I would stand guard while Jim and Hasa slept. I stood guard until the morning star rose, and I turned in, telling Jim to get an early breakfast and call me, which he did. The boy brought in our horses, saddled them and tied them near camp. The pack animals were also feeding near camp.
Just as we had finished our breakfast and it was getting good daylight, I cast my eyes in the direction of our horses and saw that a number of them had raised their heads and were looking off down the river as though they had seen something. I sprang to my feet and saw nine Indians coming up the river in the direction of our camp, but they were apparently sneaking along slowly. I could see at once by their movements that they did not think they were discovered yet. I said to Jim: "The Sioux are on us," and he sprang to his feet, saying, "Let us mount our horses and meet them before they get among our pack horses," which we did, at the same time telling Hasa to keep the horses together.
We started to meet them on the dead run, and I wish to say here now, that Jim Bridger, though a very brave man, was very exciteable when in an Indian fight, and as we started I said to him: "Now Jim, for God's sake keep cool this time and make every shot count."
When within about a hundred yards of the Indians, and our horses doing their best, I raised my rifle and fired, killing the leader dead. I then drew my pistol and raised the yell. About that time, from some cause, Jim's horse shied off to the right, so when we met the Indians he and I were about thirty or forty yards apart. Jim claimed that his horse scared at something in the sage brush.
Two of the Indians that seemed to be the best mounted made a break for our horses, which I discovered after I had fired two shots from my pistol. I wheeled my horse and made a rush for them, leaving Jim to take care of the other three that we had not yet killed. But the redskins had got too far the start of me, and being on good animals they beat to the pack horses, and before I got in gunshot of them they had killed both the boy and his horse. Had the poor boy kept his presence of mind he might have saved himself, but I think he got excited and did not try to get away.
I got one of them, but the other having the fastest horse, outran me and made his escape. I think he had the fastest horse I ever saw under an Indian in my life. Jim Bridger killed one of the remaining three, and the others got away. Three out of nine escaped, and had it not been for Jim's horse getting scared I don't think they would have killed our Mexican boy.
We dug a grave and buried the poor fellow as best we could under the circumstances, scalped the Indians, packed up and pulled out, leaving the poor unfortunate lad to rest on the lonely banks of the Arkansas river. The Indians we left a prey to the many wild animals that roamed the hills and valleys.
We traveled on with heavy hearts, expecting at any time to be attacked again by another band of these "noble red men," fearing that we might not be so successful the next time.
In the afternoon we came to where the Indians had had another fight with what we supposed, and which afterwards proved to have been emigrants, returning from Pike's Peak. Here we saw four fresh graves, and from the general appearance of things we concluded that the fight had been in the morning, which also proved to be the case.
We were now satisfied that the big trail we had seen the day before was made by Sioux, and that they had split up into small bands to catch small trains of emigrants.
Being satisfied that these emigrants were not far ahead of us, we made up our minds to push on and try to overhaul them, as much for our own protection as anything else.
Jim Bridger told me to take the lead and ride as fast as I wished, and he would make the pack animals keep up; also telling me when on high ground to take my glasses and look for Indians.
After traveling about two hours, putting in our best licks, we came in sight of the train. We then pushed on with new courage and overtook the emigrants just as they were going into camp for the night. I rode up and asked if they had any objections to our camping with them. "Certainly not," replied one of their crowd, "and if you can fight Indians we will be pleased to have you camp and travel with us also."
We dismounted, unpacked and turned our pack animals loose with the emigrants' stock, but picketed our saddle animals near camp. Those people told us of their fight that morning with the Indians. Just as they were hitched up and were in the act of pulling out, the Indians attacked them, about forty strong. They only had twenty- four men and the Indians killed four of their number, and theirs were the graves we had seen that morning.
They didn't have an Indian scalp, nor did they know whether or not they had killed an Indian.
Jim then told them about our fight with the nine Sioux and of losing our Mexican boy. "But," said he, "to show that we got revenge look as this collection of hair," and he produced the six Indian scalps we had taken.
Jim added that if his horse had not got scared upon making the charge, we would have got them all before they could have reached the boy.
They offered to furnish two men to look after our pack-train if we would scout for their train and travel with them as far as we were to go their route, which was about one hundred and fifty miles.
There were eight wagons in the train, composed of two and four horse teams.
When we were ready to start Jim told me to go ahead, saying: "You have a pair of glasses and your eyes are better than mine, and I will bring up the rear, so there will be no danger of a surprise party."
This being agreed to, I started ahead of the train and rode about five miles in advance all the time, keeping my eyes peeled for Indians. In the forenoon I saw a small band of the savages, but they were a long way off and were traveling in the same direction we were. I was sure they could not see us, for I could only see them faintly through my glasses.
That evening we made an early camp at a place we named Horse-shoe Bend, and I am told that the place is mentioned yet by that name. It is a big bend in the Arkansas river almost encircling two or three hundred acres, and where we camped it was not more than a hundred yards across from one turn of the river to the other.
That night we drove all our horses into the bend and did not have to guard them or keep out a camp guard. I remained out in the hills, about three miles from camp, until dark, selecting a high point and with my glasses watching all over the country for Indians. The boys were all well pleased when I returned and told them there were no red-skins anywhere near, and that they all could lie down and sleep that night. They turned in early.
The next morning we broke camp early, and about eleven o'clock came on to four emigrant wagons returning from Pike's Peak. The Indians had stolen the horses.
There were sixteen men in the party and they had been there three days and had not been two miles away from camp. They made some kind of arrangement with the train we were with to haul their things to St. Joe, Missouri, and left their four wagons standing by the roadside.
We had no more trouble while with this train, and everything moved along nicely.
When we were near Pawnee Rock, where we were to leave the train, and some twenty miles from the Kiowa village, I met about thirty Kiowa Indians going out to run the buffalo near there. Of course they all knew me, and after shaking hands we stopped to await the arrival of the train. When it came in sight and the men saw the Indians all around me they thought I had been taken prisoner. They at once corralled their wagons for a fight, and all the talking Jim Bridger could do would not make them believe otherwise, until he rode out to where we were. When he told me this I thought to have a little sport with the boys before leaving the train, and I proposed to Jim that we start to the wagons with the Indians riding on either side of us, so as to make it appear they had taken both of us prisoner. But Jim thought it would not do, as they were so excited they would shoot at our Indians before we were near the wagons. So we rode to the train and told the emigrants that these Indians would not molest them, and that they were my friends.
When I told the Indians the cause of their corralling their wagons, they all had a hearty laugh and called the men squaws. The Kiowas said that their people would be glad to see us at their village, and that they had plenty of robes to trade for beads, rings and blankets. So here we bade the emigrants good-bye, they keeping the Sante Fe trail east, while we turned due south, and in company with the thirty Kiowas, rode that evening to their own village. Chief Blackbird met us at the outer edge of the village and invited us to his wick-i-up. We told him that we had come to trade with his people, and that in four days we would be ready for business.
Jim Bridger and I had talked the matter over concerning this tribe and the Sioux, for we well knew that if they and the Sioux were on friendly terms we would get home safe, if not, we would have a hard time of it.
I proposed to Jim that we make Blackbird a present of something, and while he was in the best of humor I would ask him the question. Jim thought it a capital idea, and before supper I went to our cargo and got three rings and three strings of beads. After supper I gave one string of beads and one ring to Blackbird, one to his wife and one to his eldest daughter, who was about grown. We then sat down and had a social smoke and a friendly chat. By this time Blackbird was beginning to think I was a pretty good fellow, so I asked him if the Sioux were good Indians. He said: "Yes, the Sioux are my friends."
That was all I wanted to know, and I did not ask him any more questions, nor did I tell him of our trouble with the nine Sioux. I told him we wanted to hire four young men from his tribe to go to the fort with us. He said: "All right, I'll see tomorrow."
Our idea in wanting the young Kiowas along, after finding they were on good terms with the Sioux, was that we knew when we were in company with the Kiowas the Sioux would not give us any trouble.
The day following, in the afternoon, Blackbird came to us and told us that there were four young men who wanted to go with us and asked how long we would be gone. We told him we might be gone one moon, perhaps not so long. He wanted to know what Indian country we would pass through. I told him none but the Comanches, for they were terribly afraid of Navajoes. We assured him that we would not pass through their country.
On the day appointed for the sale of our goods, the robes came in by the hundreds. I never saw anything equal it.
We conducted our sale something like an auction. I would hold up a string of beads and show them to the crowd; an Indian would step forward and offer a robe for two strings of beads. Another would offer a robe for one string. This was our idea for appointing a certain day for trading with them, for the more Indians present the better prices we were able to get for our goods.
We went there this time with about the amount of goods we had always taken before to trade for a train load of robes, and we sold our entire stock the first day. We could have traded ten times that amount. Moreover, we got about one-half more than we could pack at one trip.
We knew before we started in to sell that there was a greater number of robes in the village than at any time we had visited it before, as we had been pretty well over the village, and I had never seen the like of robes and dry buffalo meat before, nor have I since. Every wick-i-up was hanging full. The Indians said it had been the best season for buffalo they had seen for years.
I never saw people more busy than the squaws were. All were dressing buffalo hides, and every family had from three to one dozen robes, and this was the best day's sale we ever had, as it seemed that the Indians were crazy for the rings and beads.
I just mention these facts to show the reader how the people took advantage of those Indians, for at that time they did not know the value of money and had no use for it except as ornaments. They would pay a big price for a half dollar, but every one they got hold of they would hammer out flat, punch two holes through it and put it on a string; then the chief or some of his family would wear them on their backs or fasten them to their hair and let them hang down their backs. I have seen strings of flattened out half dollars two feet long worn by the chief or some member of his family.
When we went to pack up we could only get two-thirds of our robes on the animals so we left the remainder in charge of Blackbird, and he agreed to look after them until we returned. I told him if he would take good care of them I would bring him a big butcher knife when I came back.
So we started for Bent's Fort accompanied by four young Kiowas. We had loaded our horses unusually heavy this trip, each animal packing thirty robes.
Two of the Indians rode in front of the pack-train with me and the other two behind with Jim. Our idea in traveling that way was that in case we should meet a band of Sioux, these young Indians would tell them we were their friends, and no matter how bitter they felt toward us they would pass on.
We traveled three days before we saw any Sioux. It was our custom to always stop and unpack and let our horses rest and feed about an hour.
That day we had just unpacked and turned our horses loose to feed and were ready to eat a cold lunch, when we looked up the ridge and saw twenty Sioux Indians coming down the ridge in the direction of our camp. I told one of the Indians that we had better go and meet them. He said he would go and for me to stay in camp. I told him to tell them to come down to camp and get something to eat. So he started off in a trot to meet them, and when he came up to them he stood and talked with them for some time, after which they turned and rode off in another direction. When the Indian boy returned I asked him why they did not come down to camp and have some dinner. He said they had plenty to eat and were in a hurry.
Jim Bridger said to me in our own language: "If we had not had those young Kiowas with us by this time we would have been in a hurry, too." These were the last Sioux we saw on the whole trip.
When we returned to the fort and reported our troubles to Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux, they felt very bad over the loss of the Mexican boy, Hasa, but they complimented us on the way we had managed. They asked me what I had agreed to pay the Indians. I told them I had not made any bargain whatever, and that we had not agreed to pay them anything, nor had they asked it. But we thought that under the circumstances we did not consider it safe to attempt to make another trip that fall or winter without an escort of that kind, and we couldn't expect those Indians to make the trips free of charge. Col. Bent told me to make my own bargain with them, and he would pay the bill whatever it might be.
This was the first time these young Indians had ever been in civilization, so I took them around the place and took particular pains to show them everything. When we had been all around and I had showed them everything out doors, I took them into the kitchen of the hotel. When they saw the cook getting supper on the stove they said it was no good, for they could not see the fire and they did not understand how cooking could be done without it.
After they had seen all there was to be seen I took them in where the two proprietors were, and after telling them that they would hire them all winter, providing they did not ask too much, I asked them what they were going to charge us for the trip they had already made.
The most intelligent one spoke up and said: "Give me one string of beads and one butcher knife for the trip already made, and give me one butcher knife for the next trip." I then asked the others if they were satisfied with that, and they said they were; so I paid them off by giving them a butcher knife that cost about fifty cents in St. Louis and one string of beads that would perhaps cost ten cents. They thought they had been well paid for their trouble, and I could see that they had not expected so much. This was no doubt their first experience in hiring out.
The next morning Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux said to Jim and I: "Now boys, we will make you a present," telling us that their horses were in the corrall, and for us to go and pick out a saddle horse apiece. They told us that all the horses in the corrall were theirs, and we might take our choice, and that we could turn our other horses into the herd for as long as we liked.
I selected a black horse and saddled him, and he seemed to be quiet and gentle.
There were some trappers at the fort who were going to South Park to trap the following winter. When I led the horse out to get on him they asked if it was mine. "Yes," I said. They asked what price I had set on him, and I said one hundred dollars. They said they would give me that for him if I would wait for my money until spring when they returned from South Park. I asked them if they were going to trap for Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux, and they said they were. We then walked into the store and I asked Col. Bent and Mr. Roubidoux if they would go these men's security for one hundred dollars. They said they would, and I told the trappers the horse was theirs. Mr. Roubidoux asked me if it was the horse he had given me. I told him it was and he said: "You did well, for I bought that horse of an emigrant last summer and have never been able to get any money out of him. I think you will have to take a lot of my horses to sell on commission, for I see right now you can beat me selling horses all hollow."
We remained at the Fort three days this time, after which we rigged up and started for the Kiowa nation again with more goods to trade for buffalo robes. We made the trip in eleven days, being the quickest we had yet made over the road.
We found the chief in an excellent humor, and he was as well pleased over his new butcher knife as a boy would be over his first pair of red topped boots.
We found the Indians anxious to trade robes for our trinkets and we had no trouble in getting a load and more than we could pack again. We made five trips that fall and winter with the very best success, keeping those same four Indians with us all winter.
A TRIP TO FORT KEARNEY—THE GENERAL ENDORSES US AND WE PILOT AN EMIGRANT TRAIN TO CALIFORNIA.—WOMAN WHO THOUGHT I WAS "NO GENTLEMAN."—A CAMP DANCE.
Jim Bridger proposed that he and I make a trip to Fort Kearney together, and remain there until the emigrants began to come along, thinking that perhaps the Sioux would be so bad on the plains again that summer that we might get a layout scouting for trains going to California. Both of us were well acquainted with a greater part of the country to be traveled over, and there were few other men as well posted as to where the Indians were likely to make attacks, which was one of the most essential requirements in scouting with a train.
About the first of April we started, by the way of Denver City, for Fort Kearney, and as it had been nearly a year since we had seen the first named place we found quite a change there. Instead of a tented town, of shreds and patches, we saw a thriving village that had some quite comfortable wooden houses and an air of distinct civilization. To-day Denver is probably the best built city of its size in the world, but there was a time after this present visit of mine and Bridger's when the place became almost deserted. That was when the Union Pacific railroad was being constructed to Cheyenne, leaving Denver one hundred and eight miles due south. Then, all the people in Denver who could raise any sort of a team, took their household goods and gods, and in some cases the houses, and struck out for Cheyenne. Many who were too poor to get away became enormously rich, afterward, from that very fact, for they became possessed of the ground, and when the Kansas Pacific railroad was projected, and afterward constructed, Denver took on such a boom that real estate nearly went out of sight in value. The poor ones became wealthy, and nearly all of the Cheyenne stampeders returned. Following this, some years afterward, the discovery of silver carbonates in California Gulch, where Leadville now stands, gave Denver another boom that made the place the Queen city of the Plains, for good and all.
We reached Fort Kearney before the emigrants had got that far out, and found Gen. Kearney in command. He was glad to see us, and told us that if we needed any references to send the parties to him and he would give us a send-off that would be likely to fix us all right, and we knew that it would.
"I predict more trouble," said he, "on the plains this summer than there ever has been in any season previous to this, from the fact that the northern Sioux are, even at this early date, breaking up into little bands, and no doubt for the express purpose of capturing small bands of emigrants crossing the plains the coming summer."
The first train that came along was from Illinois and Missouri. It was on the way to California and was composed of sixty-four wagons. The company was made up of men, women and children, nearly all of the men having families. They camped about a mile from the fort, and at near sundown Gen. Kearney proposed that we go over and see the ladies. So we rode over—the General, Jim Bridger and I.
Arriving at the camp we were astonished at seeing that the emigrants had no system whatever in forming their camp or corralling their wagons and stock, all being scattered here and there, hodge-podge.
I remarked to Gen. Kearney that they had certainly not met with any trouble from Indians so far, else they would have been more careful. The General replied that they would learn before they got much further.
When we arrived at their camp quite a crowd gathered around us, and among the balance was one man apparently forty years old, who walked up to Gen. Kearney and said: "How are you, John?" that being the General's first name.
Gen. Kearney looked at him for a moment, then shook hands with him and said: "You seem to know me, but you have the best of me. If I ever saw you before I don't remember when or where."
The gentleman then said: "When we used to go to school together you were the only boy in my class that I could not throw down, but I believe that I could to-day."
They had been schoolmates in Ohio and this was the first time they had met since they quit school. "Of course," said Gen. Kearney, "you had the advantage of me, for you knew I was out here, while I never dreamed of you being in this country."
We soon learned that the emigrants had heard about the hostility of the Sioux Indians, and were dreading them very much.
After the General and his old schoolmate talked over by-gone days for awhile they commenced asking him all sorts of questions relative to the Indians on ahead.
The General gave his views regarding the outlook for the coming summer, and after having "said his say" about the noble red men, a number of the emigrants thought they would turn back the next morning.
Gen. Kearney said to them: "Here are two as good mountaineers as may be found west of the Missouri river and I believe that you could hire them to go the entire trip with you at a reasonable figure, and I feel sure they will be able to render you valuable service, while passing through the Indian country, they being well posted as to where the Indians would be most likely to make an attack. They are also well informed as to water, wood and grass, and the different drives to be made between camping places, &c."
When we were just ready to mount our horses to return to the Fort for supper, a number of the men came to Jim and me and asked how much per month or per day we would take to go with them as scouts through the Indian country. We told them to get their supper over and call their men together, and we would go back to the Fort and get our supper, after which we would come down to their camp again and talk matters over and see if we could make a bargain. By this time a number of ladies had gathered around, and among them was an old lady who said: "You two gentlemen with buckskin coats on can come and take supper with us in our tent."
Gen. Kearney said: "You had better accept the lady's hospitality, for you have a great deal to talk about."
We thought this a capital idea and took supper with the emigrants, and the General returned to his quarters But before going he gave all, both ladies and gentlemen, a cordial invitation to come to the Fort the next day and pay him a friendly visit.
After all were through eating supper, Jim Bridger asked how many men they had in their train, but no one was able to tell. When he asked who their captain was a man replied that they did not know they had to have a captain. Jim with an oath said: "What in the name of God do you think those soldiers over there would do without a captain, or at least an officer of some kind?"
Then he told them they had better form in line and see how many men they had, and elect five men to transact business with us. They formed in line and counted and there were one hundred and forty men in the train, and not one of them had ever been on the plains before, and, of course, not one of them had ever seen a hostile Indian.
They then proceeded to elect the five men to transact the business with us, after which Jim turned to me and said: "Now make your proposition." I suggested that as he was the oldest, he should go ahead and make the bargain, whereupon he said: "All right. Gentlemen, I will make you an offer; if you see fit to accept it all right, and if not there is no harm done. We will scout for you for six dollars per day from here to the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and you board us and herd our horses with yours. We must have charge of the entire train, and we want at least two or three days in which to organize and drill before leaving this camp, and after the lapse of five days if this community is not satisfied with our work, we will quit, and not charge you a cent for what we shall have done at that time, and if our work is satisfactory we will expect our money every Saturday night, for it is the money we are after and not the glory. Now, gentlemen, take the matter under consideration and give us an answer to-morrow morning after breakfast."
On the following morning one of the men from the train came to the Fort very early to inform us that they had decided to accept our proposition.
We told him to go back to camp and have all the teams hitched up and we would be down after breakfast and put in a few hours drilling the teamsters.
We numbered the wagons by putting the figures on the end-gates of the wagons, telling each teamster to remember his number, and when forming a corrall, no matter what the occasion might be, for the even numbers to turn to the right and the odd numbers to the left, forming a circle with the teams inside of the corrall or circle of wagons.
For the benefit of the reader who has not had the fortune—or misfortune, whichever he deems it—to have traveled in an Indian country where the corrals are necessary in order to protect the traveler from the Indians, I will give a more detailed description of how they are formed:
By having each wagon numbered every man knew his place in the train, and when it was necessary to corral, one-half of the teams would turn to the right and the other half to the left. Each would swing out a little distance from the road and the two front teams- -numbers one and two—would drive up facing each other. All the rest of the wagons would drive up forming a circle, with the teams on the inside of the corrall, and the back or hind ends of the wagons pointing outwards. The two hindmost teams would now swing together as in the front, closing the rear gap in the circle. This also served the purpose of a pen in which to run the stock in the event of an attack, thus preventing the possibility of a stampede.
Our object in drilling the teamsters was to teach them how to form a corrall quickly in case of an attack while under way.
After drilling a while we told the committee to select eight men from their train to assist in scouting, we preferring young men with horses of their own or such as could get horses, and those men to be exempt from guard duty except in cases of emergency. They proceeded at once to select the eight men for assistant scouts, after which we told them to appoint a sergeant, or whatever they chose to call him, to command, respectively, every platoon of twenty men, the hundred and forty being organized in such squads.
This was the hardest task, apparently, for the committee, as no one wanted to serve in that capacity, each one having some excuse or other, but they finally completed the appointments and then Jim said to me:
"Now, Will, you take entire charge of the scouts, and I will take charge of the balance of the men," telling me that in the day time on the move he would assist me in scouting all he could, but after the train was corralled to handle the scouts to suit myself.
I told the newly appointed scouts to saddle their horses and we would have a little exercise. I took a piece of pine board box cover, sharpened it and stuck it into a prairie dog hole. This board was about twelve inches wide and two or two and a half feet long. I drew a mark about thirty feet from the board, telling them to fire when they reached this mark. I had them all mount and start about a hundred yards from the board, and when at this mark to fire at the board while at full speed, each taking his turn.
Out of eight shots only one hit the board, and that was made by the last one that fired.
I told them that such shooting would never do at all if they expected to fight Indians, so I mounted my horse and asked them which hand I should use my pistol in. All cried out: "Use your left hand!" I said: "All right, I will shoot across my bridle reins." I had one of the boys get on his horse and whip mine down to a dead run, and with my pistol in my left hand I put two bullet holes through the board while passing it.
This was a surprise to all of them, as they had never seen shooting done that way before, but they were all eager to learn.
After practicing this feat awhile I started in to teach them to mount quick. This was the hardest thing for them to learn, and all of their horses were trained to stand perfectly still until they straightened up in the saddle.
And here I will say that in scouting it is very essential to have a horse that is quick to start.
The way we used to train our horses to start was by having some one stand behind them with a whip and strike them just as we jumped into the saddle. This taught both horse and rider to be very agile, as we would have to get on our horses almost on the dead run when in close quarters with the Indians.
That evening near sunset another train drove up from Missouri. There were twenty wagons and they were desirous of joining our train. The committee came to us to see what they thought of letting them in. We told the committee that we were willing to take them in by their paying one dollar a day. This being agreeable to the committee and newcomers agreeing to pay the per diem we took them in.
The morning of the third day, after organizing we pulled out, Jim Bridger staying with the train all day. I dropped four of my men behind the train, telling them to keep about half a mile from it and at the first sight of Indians to get to the train as quick as possible and report to Jim Bridger, who would signal me at once by firing two shots in quick succession, otherwise there was to be no shooting in the train during the time we were in a hostile country.
All went smoothly until the fifth day. We were then on the north side of the South Platte and my new assistant scouts were beginning by this time—or at least some of them were—to be anxious for a little sport with the Indians.
I had told them the day before that they might expect to see Indians at any time now, as we were then in the Sioux country.
The morning of the fifth day I started two scouts ahead of the train, telling them to keep about two miles ahead of the wagons, two to drop behind the train and two south, and to keep on the highest ground they could find. Taking the other two with me I struck out north of the road, this being where I most expected to find Indians. After riding five or six miles we came up on to a high point where I took out my glasses and made a survey of the surrounding country. I saw a large band of Indians traveling almost parallel with the wagon road and moving in the same direction the train was going. I should judge them to have been about ten miles away. Anyway, they were so far that I could not tell their number, but I thought there were in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty in the band.
I showed them to my associates by allowing them to look through my glasses. I then showed them a route to take and designated a certain point for them to go to and remain, until I should come to them, and I started alone after the Indians to try to get closer to them and also get their general course of travel so as to come to some conclusion as to what their intentions were. I succeeded in getting within about four miles of them and at getting a good view of them as they were passing over a little ridge. I saw that they had no squaws with them, and I knew then they were on the war-path.
After taking a good look at the redskins I got back to my two scouts as quickly as possible. Shortly after joining them I saw nine Indians coming toward the road, about three or four miles away from us, we being between them and the road, making them about eight miles from the road.
I started one of my men to the train on a double quick to inform Jim Bridger of what we had seen and also to bring at least four or five good men and horses back with him, telling him where to meet us on his return.
I was thoroughly convinced that these nine Indians we had seen were scouts for the large band ahead of us, and my object was to capture them and not let one of them get back to the big band of warriors that we had seen.
The other scout and I secreted our horses and watched the nine Indians on the sly, until the other man returned bringing three men with him from the train. By this time the Indians were within two miles of the train, and we had swung around so as to come in behind them and were only about a half mile from them. We followed them leisurely until they were passing over a little ridge near the train, when we put spurs to our horses and rode at a lively gait. I told my men to save their ammunition until they were near them and take good aim so that every man would get his Indian the first shot, and to not get excited or scared, for if all would keep cool we would be able to get all of them without much trouble.
It so happened that just as we came on to the ridge that the Indians had passed over a few minutes before, they came in sight of the train, which was then not more than half a mile away. They stopped and were looking at the train.
Jim Bridger's quick eye had caught sight of them, and not knowing but it was the big band coming, he had the wagons corralled to prepare for an attack.
When we came to the top of the ridge mentioned we were not more than three hundred yards away from them and I immediately ordered a charge.
I was on Pinto, and he knowing what was up, was ready for a chase. In fact, I could not have held him had I been so disposed.
The warriors were so engrossed looking at the train, no doubt thinking what a picnic they would have with them, that they did not see us until I was almost ready to fire. I was somewhat in advance of the rest, my horse being the fleeter, and when within about a hundred yards I raised in my stirrups, brought my rifle to my shoulder and fired, killing one Indian, and the boys claimed that I killed a horse from under another one at the same time. They were sure the same bullet killed both, for both fell at the crack of my rifle.
As soon as I had fired I drew my pistol and told them to do likewise, also telling them to be sure and make every shot count.
If ever I saw a horse that enjoyed that kind of sport—if I might call it such—it was old Pinto.
The Indians made an effort to turn to the north, but I was on the left of my men and my horse was fleet enough to head them off. I crowded them so close that they headed straight for the train; in fact, I think they were so scared that they did not know where they were going.
At the first fire with our pistols three of the Indians fell, leaving four yet mounted and one on foot—the one whose horse I had shot at the first fire. I saw the Indian on foot making for some sage brush near by and sang out to a man named Saunders, who was on a fine grey horse, to run that Indian down, which he did, killing him the second shot, so he said afterwards.
About this time I saw Jim coming, with six or eight men following him closely. Then we all commenced yelling at the top of our voices, which excited the Indians still more. Whether they saw our men coming or not I do not know, but two of them ran almost right up to them and were shot down at a distance of thirty or forty yards.
We succeeded in getting the other two, not letting one escape to tell the tale; thereby accomplishing just what I started to do when I first got sight of them.
After the last Indian had fallen, I rode to where Jim was and told him of the big band of Indians I had seen that day, and suggested that we had better go to Barrel Springs that night, which was about four miles further on, as I thought that the best place to be in camp in case we were attacked by the Indians. In this he agreed with me.
By this time my men were all on the battle-field, and most of the men from the train, also a number of the women who had come out to see the dead Indians. I asked one of the boys to go with me to scalp the Indians, after which I would go to the train as I wanted to change horses, but none of them knew how to scalp an Indian, so Jim and I had to teach them how.
One old man, who was looking on, said: "I would not mind shooting an Indian, but I would not like to scalp one of them."
After scalping the nine Indians we rode to the train and showed the scalps to the women. One young lady said to me:
"I always took you to be a gentleman until now."
I said: "Miss, I claim to be only a plain plains gentleman, but that at any and all times."
She said: "I don't think a gentleman could be so barbarous as you are."
"My dear lady," I replied, "the taking of these scalps may be the means of saving the train," and then I explained why we always scalped the Indians when we killed them. I told her that the Indians did not fear death, but hated the idea of being scalped.
About this time Jim Bridger came up and gave a more through explanation of the scalping business, and I did not hear anything more of it at that time. But Jim often teased the young lady spoken of, who had a lovely head of hair, by remarking what a fine scalp it would make for the Indians.
I changed saddle horses and then myself and two assistants rode out north to watch the movements of the main band of Indians.
Before starting out Jim gave us the password of the pickets, which was "Buffalo."
We rode until near sunset before we got sight of the big band of Indians again, they having gone into camp about four miles west of Barrel Springs, where our train was camped, and only about a half mile from the trail or wagon road.
I crawled up as near their camp as I dared to go, and watched them until about nine o'clock that night, at which time a number of them had turned in, apparently for the night, and a number were around their horses all the time, giving us no opportunity whatever, to stampede them, which was my intention, provided they gave us the least show. I told my assistants there would be no danger whatever, until daybreak the next morning, and we would return to camp and sleep until near daylight.
When we got to the train Jim had not gone to bed yet. I told him where we had located the main band, and as near as I could the number of the Indians—about one hundred and fifty—but that I did not anticipate any trouble during the night.
Jim said he would sit up until four o'clock the next morning. "At which time," said he, "I will call you and you can take as many scouts with you as you like and watch every move made by the Indians, and if they start this way telegraph me at once and I will have everything in readiness to receive them, and I think we will be able to give them quite an interesting entertainment."
What we meant by the term telegraphing was sending a messenger as fast as he could ride, as there were no other means of transmitting messages quickly.
The next morning at four, sharp, Jim woke us up. He had our horses there, ready to saddle.
I sent three scouts north of the trail, three south and took the other two with me to look after the Indians.