A journey to the rocky mountains in 1839 By F. A. Wislizenus, M. D



Download 452.63 Kb.
Page5/5
Date conversion15.05.2018
Size452.63 Kb.
1   2   3   4   5

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - RETURN TO THE BOUNDARY OF MISSOURI

ON September 7th we left the forts on the South Fork to go southeastwardly to the Arkansas. We went up the South Fork for only half a day. Southwestwardly, beyond the left bank of the Platte, a high mountain chain arose, whose more distant peaks were in part covered with snow, forming a beautiful background for the Platte with its fringe of cottonwood, and for the wide plain that stretched along its right bank. On the fourth day we crossed the divide between the waters of the South Fork and of the Arkansas. The ground was somewhat hilly, with scattered pine groves. In the wide prairie stretching from there toward the Arkansas we saw again our first herds of buffalo. We met here two lodges of Arapahoes, who had just shot a cow, and gave us a hospitable invitation. The squaws were still cutting it up. We smoked the while, and, in the absence of wood, collected buffalo chips whereon to roast the ribs. After our meal we started off in company. The squaws packed their animals with admirable economy. One squaw not only loaded a horse with about three hundred pounds of baggage, but seated herself with some children on the same animal, maintaining the equilibrium with motions of her own body. A dog, too, had to carry about fifty pounds. At evening we camped together on a sandy creek. The Indians were also on their way to the Arkansas; but they traveled too slow for us, so we parted from them on the next morning, and reached in two days the left bank of the Arkansas. The Arkansas with its surroundings bears much resemblance to the Platte. It arises west of the same mountain chain as the Platte, and flows in eastwardly direction toward the Mississippi. Its shores at times are bare, at times have a growth of cotton trees. On either side stretches out a rolling prairie. The water is swift, but shallow, and is here navigable only for small boats. Many catfish are in it. We went down the left bank of the river about sixty miles to Penn's [Bent's] Fort. This country presents little variety. Along the shore we found at times wild grapes. They were larger than I had ever seen them in the United States, and tasted deliciously to us, though they were still quite sour. So also we found the red fruit of a species of cactus with a sweet mucous taste. The grass became constantly drier, only along the water did we find some fresh patches. Whenever set afire the tall parched grass burned like tinder. Through carelessness of one of the company the grass near our camp was once set afire and we could save our baggage only with difficulty. Buffalo became more and more scarce. On September 15th we reached Penn's Fort. It lies on the left bank of the Arkansas, close by the river, and is the finest and largest fort which we have seen on this journey. The outer wall is built of imperfectly burnt brick; on two sides arise two little towers with loop holes. In the ample courtyard were many barn-yard fowl. In addition, they have cattle, sheep and goats, and three buffalo calves that peacefully graze with the rest of the herd. At the time they had no superfluity of horses at the fort, because only a short time before a band of Indians with incredible audacity had driven away a hundred head of horses. The fort is about one hundred and fifty miles from Taos in Mexico, and about three hundred from Santa Fe. Little expeditions go frequently to the former city, to barter for flour, bread, beans, sugar, etc. Then, too, much merchandise is annually transported by ox-teams to this point from the boundary of Missouri, which is only six hundred miles distant. Four miles above, there is a second smaller fort, Peebles' Fort, occupied chiefly by French and Mexicans. We bought here some Spanish flour, which rather deserved to be called bran; but as our appetite was none too squeamish, we enjoyed it immensely. On the 17th we started off again. The many wagons which go each year from Missouri to the forts on the Arkansas have made a tolerably plain road, generally following the river, and uniting about one hundred and fifty miles below with the Santa Fe trail. This was the road we followed. The region was the same monotonous, hilly, treeless, sandy prairie as before. On the second day we reached the so-called big timber, a spot on the Arkansas, some miles in extent, plentifully covered with trees. So much the scantier is the wood lower down. The Comanches, who play in the south a part similar to that of the Blackfeet in the north, are said to rove freely in this vicinity; but we had the pleasure to be spared making their acquaintance. On the fifth day we again came across herds of buffalo. On the sixth we reached the Santa Fe road. This broad road, almost a highway, has been gradually made by the trading expeditions which annually leave Missouri's border with many ox-teams for the Mexican city. The distance from Independence to Santa Fe is estimated at nine hundred miles. The road runs southwestwardly over the prairie. It crosses the Arkansas a little short of half way to Santa Fe. The river at that point is rather shallow, and the crossing is said to be not very difficult. At this ford we came upon the Santa Fe road, and followed it to the boundary of Missouri. The road from here on turned gradually from the river toward little streams that flow from the north into the Arkansas. The first days we went over a wide plateau, where we found countless buffalo, but little water. On September 26th we reached Pawnee Fork; the next day, Ash Creek, near which there is a solitary rock in the prairie, which is accounted as half way between the boundary of Missouri and Penn's Fort, and on which some travelers have marked their names. On the 28th we passed Walnut Creek. An unlucky accident separated me here from my companions. My horse had broken down a good deal of late, and so I had to walk more than was to my liking. As the party were late about starting the next morning, I took my horse by the bridle and started ahead, in the expectation that the mounted party would soon overtake me. Later on I tried to drive my animals before me, but they often ran to one side and probably in this way brought me on a wrong road, which became less marked after a few miles, and finally totally ran out. It was foggy, and I could discover nothing of my companions. So, in order not to lose time unnecessarily, I determined to push on in an eastern direction, hoping in this way to reach the road before long. After I had gone some miles further, I saw a great swamp lying before me. Toward north and south I could see no end to it, but it seemed to extend only a few miles toward the east. The water was not very deep and the ground pretty firm. So I resolved to try at every risk to get through in an eastern direction. I rode my horse forward at the slowest pace, but it often slid down on grass and reeds. My pack animal I led after me with a rope. All sorts of water birds swarmed around from all sides. Never have I seen together such quantities of swans, cranes, pelicans, geese and ducks, as were here. The swamp was fairly covered with them, and they seemed to feel themselves so safe that I could have killed hundreds of them with the shot barrel of my double-barreled weapon. Just at that time, however, I was less interested in hunting than in getting out of the confounded swamp, for my horse was visibly becoming exhausted, and I was making barely a mile an hour. With trouble and difficulty I finally reached what I had thought from a distance to be trees; but it turned out to be only tall reeds, and the second half of the swamp still lay before me. My horse now would not budge for either whip or spur; so I dismounted and dragged it after me by the bridle. The water sometimes reached to my chest. With slow and measured step I moved onward; my dog swam usually in the rear of our stately procession. The sun was sinking when I finally reached the other side of the swamp. Before me lay a little chain of hills and on my side of them was a little creek with some timber. To this I managed to drive my exhausted animals. The solitude in which I was so suddenly placed, would have much disquieted me at the beginning of the journey; but now it had a certain charm for me. I made a fire in a somewhat hidden place, and dried myself out. The next morning, just as I was eating breakfast, a herd of deer visited me. They came quite close to me and gazed at me for quite, a while; but I did not care to take a shot at them, partly because I still had dried meat on hand, and partly because the neighborhood is at times frequented by the Pawnees.

True to my resolution, I continued going on in an eastern direction. The grass in the prairie was often as tall as a man, and made walking very troublesome. Nowhere could a sign of a road be seen. It seemed as if no human being had ever set foot in this country. I passed several brooks, seemingly insignificant, but with such muddy bottoms that my animals sank into them, and I had to unpack my mule on several occasions. In the afternoon I reached a larger creek with much timber, probably Cow Creek, and camped there. My animals were too much fatigued, so I spent also the following day there; dried my baggage; and made reflections upon solitude. The next morning I started early. On the road I saw the last buffaloes of the trip, got mired a few times in little creeks, and camped at night on the Little Arkansas, a creek with terribly steep banks. Only after long search did I find a place to water my animals. The next morning I couldn't find my animals in the high grass. Only on climbing a tree did I discover them at a mile's distance. With a load, it was impossible to get my mule over the creek; so I carried my baggage myself to the other shore, and then drove my animals over. After I had continued some hours steadily in an eastern direction through the prairie, I came suddenly and quite unexpectedly upon the Santa Fe road. My animals were no less pleased than was I. I found traces of my traveling companions. That same day I camped, for want of better water, at a puddle, inhabited by countless frogs. The next morning (it was the sixth since I had been separated from my party), I went twenty-five miles on a stretch to Cottonwood Creek, a wooded stream, that arches at this point into a pleasant semi-circle. I was looking about for a camping place, when I heard a shot in a hollow close by me. Cocking my rifle I rode closer, and found my traveling companions again, who told me that they had waited for me a day at the Little Arkansas, and had finally concluded that I had gone on ahead.

From here on, it was about two hundred miles to the border. United again, we started the next day (October 5) and covered thirty miles before reaching water. My horse was now so exhausted that I could hardly bring it into camp. On the second day we reached Council Grove. That is the name of a dense grove of deciduous trees, extending for some miles along a creek of the same name. The Santa Fe caravans usually stop here to elect their leaders and to organize: hence the name. It is about one hundred and fifty miles from the border. In these woods deer, turkeys and squirrels are found. It rained continuously; so we stayed there several days. We started again on October 9th. On the 11th we reached the Osage, a stream that was almost dried up, with wood in plenty. It was impossible to get my horse to stir from here. He grazed greedily, but from sheer fatigue would not move from the spot. "The horse has stopped," is the technical expression of the mountaineers for this condition. When left to itself the animal usually recovers after a while, but I could not wait for that. I had to abandon this worthy animal which had carried me some thousands of miles. Some weeks before we had abandoned two other horses in the same way. However, one of my companions lent me another horse. The country gradually became more familiar to us. On October 13th we rested at noon at the same place as after our departure from Sapling Grove. Toward night we camped in the vicinity of Sapling Grove. As yet we had seen neither farms nor human beings, but the cow-bells which we heard at evening near us, made sweetest music for us. The next morning we again passed the farms of the Shawnees to our starting point, Westport. Before entering the village we fired a salute from all our guns, which immediately brought out our old acquaintances.

We had passed nearly six months in the wilderness. In that time we had covered under daily hardships about three thousand miles, had slept on the bare ground in all kinds of weather, and had lived almost exclusively on meat. Nevertheless, we all fairly overflowed with health, while the many sallow fever faces we here met sufficiently informed us that the summer had been very sickly. In Westport, we rested for a while. All, even the commonest, pleasures of civilized life had a double charm for us. After eight days I rode with three more of my traveling companions three hundred miles further, to St. Louis, where we made our return on the last day of October.

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN - THE INDIANS

WHEN a nation has perished, it arouses the interest of posterity, and historians and antiquarians exhaust themselves in researches as to the character of such a race. But the existence of a people that is merely near extinction, however characteristic its life may be, and however instructive its history as bearing on the study of the development of the human race, does not seem to call forth similar interest. This may be one of the reasons why we have not as yet, so far as I know, any adequate history of this race of man, once spread so far, which had the whole continent of America in its possession, until the advancing Caucasian race crowded them back. I do not deny the difficulties besetting such an undertaking, on account of our want of knowledge of many Indian languages, their own ignorance concerning their origin and history, the continuing hostility of many tribes toward all whites, and the hardships involved in traveling and living among them; but it is certainly true that on more thorough study of this people a more satisfactory history could be written now than in, say, a hundred years, when mere shadows of this perished race will be moving among us. The United States owe it to themselves and to this expelled race, to collect as soon as may be all that is worthy of preservation as to this people, and transmit it as a momento mori to posterity.

The Indians differ in so many bodily qualities from the rest of human kind, that they have been assigned a place among the five human races into which naturalists have divided the mammalian family, man. Here is not the place to consider whether these five races are aboriginal, or whether we are descended from a common stock, from which the five races were gradually developed. As little can I decide whether, in the former case, the Indians are to be considered really aboriginal, or descendents of the Mongolian race, emigrating from Northern Asia to America. Passing this by, the characteristic differences, on account of which they are designated as a separate race, the American, are as follows: The skin of the Indian is brown-red, generally tan color, cinnamon brown, or dark copper red, but sometimes bronze colored. His hair black, straight and coarse. The face is broad, but not flattened. The features are strongly marked. The eyes are deep-seated and rather horizontal. The forehead is not high, but compressed from the sides. The facial angle is about eighty degrees. The nose is rather broad and prominent, usually straight, but sometimes with the Roman bend. The cheek bones are very high and prominent, the chin almost square. The beard is thin, the chief reason for which may be their habit of plucking it out early.

There has been much fabulous talk about the Indian character. Some pose them as Roman heroes and unspoiled sons of Nature; others as cowards and the scum of humanity. The truth is between these extremes. First of all, we must differentiate between the Indians with some of the varnish of civilization and the cruder but freer tribes of the Far West. The former have no longer a marked character. The pursuit of agriculture, forced on them by necessity, has eradicated the virile traits of their old hunter's life, without inoculating them with the mild poison of civilization. To get a correct conception of the character of the freer North American Indian tribes, let us consider somewhat more closely the mode of life and customs common to them all.



The Indians inhabiting the western territories of the United States are split into numerous separate tribes, that consider themselves entirely independent of each other. They all live by hunting, especially buffalo hunting; and each tribe claims a wide territory with very vague boundaries as its own. In addition they recognize certain districts, where buffalo usually abound, as common hunting and war ground, where various tribes roam at will, subjecting their conflicting rights to the test of strength. Between the tribes there is perpetual warfare. Each tribe must have an hereditary enemy, whose wrong must be avenged in blood. Their warfare is rarely carried on by open attack or battle; but they stalk each other till one party succeeds in surprising and massacring the other. When attacking, they raise a fearsome shrilling cry, the so-called war whoop. The slain are scalped, that is, the scalp is circularly incised in the hairy part of the head and torn from the skull. The scalp of an enemy is the highest triumph of the Indian. The more scalps an Indian can show, the higher does he stand in the esteem of his tribe. Sometimes, when the animosity is not very fierce, they simply make prisoners of their enemies, and treat them then as slaves. Such is usually the fate of women. The chief weapon of the Indian is the bow and arrow. Through trade with the whites many of them have now obtained firearms, the use of which they have well learned. However, all trading companies sell them only short, poorly-made carbines, and no rifles. Another weapon, peculiar to the Indian, is the tomahawk, a small hatchet which they use in close fight, and likewise purchase at the forts. In former times they made them themselves of pointed stones. Often the tomahawk is made so as to serve also as a pipe for smoking. But commonly they use for this purpose special long pipes, which they esteem as great articles of luxury, and from which the owners will part at no price. The bowl of such pipes is made of a red clay which is found on the Upper Missouri, and which forms an article of commerce between eastern and western tribes. Smoking is a conventional ceremonial of salutation. He who has been admitted to smoke the so-called pipe of peace is in no danger. Ordinarily the Indians smoke only chewing tobacco mixed with various herbs; but if no tobacco is to be had, they smoke sumach and other stupifying herbs. Every Indian tribe has a chief, which honor is heriditary in his family; but for a warlike expedition they often choose special leaders. In all important matters the chief must consult with the warriors of the tribe; but otherwise can act quite arbitrarily, especially if distinguished for bravery. The religious ceremonials are in every tribe under the guidance of a so-called medicine man, who knows how to impose on the people through all kinds of hocus-pocus. The religious ideas of the Indians are still quite crude. Like all people in an immature state, they believe in a good and bad principle, and continued existence after death, in which the brave have unalloyed enjoyment of all the good things of this life. Various wild dances and songs are an important element in their religious ceremonies.

Every Indian tribe has its own speech. All these languages seem derived from a common origin; but owing to the segregation of the tribes and the want of any writing, resemblances may often be well nigh obliterated. The Indian's style of speech is a mixture of laconic brevity and picturesque imagery. Their comparisons are taken from surrounding nature, and are generally very appropriate.

Concerning the daily life of the Indians we have often had occasion to make remarks in prior sketches. Most tribes live only in tents and lead a wandering hunter's existence. One family usually lives in every tent. Polygamy is sanctioned in all tribes, but only the wealthier can put it in practice. The squaws as a rule are anything but handsome, but their uncleanliness may serve to hide their charms. The squaws are treated not much better than slaves. There is no appeal from the will of the lord and master. War and the hunt are the only occupations for a man; everything else is for the squaws. The squaw must attend to the horses, set up the tent and take it down, must care for the baggage, must cut up the game, attend to the kitchen, tan leather, make clothes and moccasins, etc. In spite of these multifarious demands on their activity, they are generally indefatigable and good-natured and bear the ill-temper of their masters, oft manifesting itself by blows, with Indian fortitude. Children are soon left to themselves. I have never seen that they were beaten. They usually learn riding before walking; but in the latter, too, they develop great speed and endurance. Although their muscles do not appear especially prominent, they seem to have a degree of toughness which qualifies them for extraordinary exertions. The women are no less hardened than the men, but with them the full development of the body is hampered by too early marriage, often at the age of ten and eleven. These hardy children of nature suffer little from sickness, though contagious diseases, like the small-pox, at times destroy great numbers of them. Their medicines consist simply in herbs. They also have great confidence in steam baths, which they take in so-called sweat lodges, in which water is poured on hot stones.

The wealth of an Indian consists chiefly in horses. Their horses come from Mexico, and are of as hardy stock as the Indians themselves. Whoever owns no horses tries to steal some. All stealing is permissible among the Indians, but horse-stealing is honorable. Such bands of horse thieves will often follow another tribe or a caravan of whites for weeks and months, till they find an opportunity to drive off the whole herd. In addition to horses every Indian usually owns a great number of dogs, useful partly to carry loads, partly, in absence of other meat, for food. In their form and character they are closely related to the wolf, from whom they are probably derived.



The clothing of the Indians usually consists of leathern leggings and a blanket or buffalo robe, to which is added in the case of the women, a garment, also of leather, reaching from the breast to the knee. Their light leather shoes, the so-called moccasins, the squaws make with great skill, using no other tool than the awl and the thread obtained from the sinews of the buffalo. Both sexes have the head uncovered. Vanity and love of finery is more deep-seated with these children of nature - if indeed such a thing is possible - than with the children of civilization. But one can note a vast range from the savage often wholly naked, to the complete Indian dandy, who, with his face painted with cinnabar, his hair decked with feathers, and his body adorned with beads and brass wire, will gaze for hours in a broken bit of mirror, admiring the masterpiece of all creation.

What, then, are the special characteristics of the Indians? Physically they consist, in addition to the racial marks above given, of admirable strength, skill and endurance, together with keenness of senses in highest development. An Indian sees his enemy before the white man discovers him with his spy-glass. His ear upon the ground, he interprets suspicious sounds at great distances. His keen sense of smell scents smoke and traces of the enemy, before the white man has any suspicion thereof. Among the characteristics of the man within this body, we are first struck by the pride with which he looks down upon his surroundings, especially upon the pale face. "The proudest thing in the world is an Indian," an old mountaineer once said to me; and whoever has seen a free Indian going through the streets of a populous city, which he is perhaps seeing for the first time, with firm, self-reliant step and military bearing, gazing straight ahead and seemingly indifferent to all around him, will admit that the opinion just quoted is not without foundation. This pride seems to me nothing more than a consciousness of his self-reliant independence. The Indian, born and nurtured in the broad prairie or in the mountains, familiar from childhood with the dangers of the wild life of the hunter and warrior, choosing his country wherever he can maintain himself by force of arms, and his shelter where the sky arches over him, must naturally have a sense of self-reliance vastly differing from that of the effeminate civilized being, born, nurtured and buried amid a thousand conditions of dependence. The Indian feels himself free, his wants are few, his resources lie within himself. This consciousness fills him with such pride and with such contempt for all civilization. But his indifference is often seeming rather than real, and is based on a marked Indian characteristic, self-control. The passions of the Indian are as stormy, as eager to blaze out as they can be with any human being, but by extraordinary self-control he maintains all the outward appearance of calmness. An Indian will often endure, without the slightest manifestation of pain, the most torturing modes of death, simply to defy his enemy. The Indian who seeks to conceal his feelings or his plans will not let his left hand know what his right hand does; neither kindness nor threats can cause him to break silence. On the other hand, this self-control often serves as a cloak for guile and treachery. But it must be confessed that many acts of treachery toward Indians can be charged against the whites; so much so as to often seem to afford justification for the cruelties of the former. Acquaintance with the whites seems also to have diminished the high esteem in which hospitality was held among them. Still even now it is custom in most tribes that if even an hereditary enemy seeks refuge in the tent of the chief, not a hair of his head is hurt; though, to be sure, if he is found next day in the prairie or on the mountain his scalp is infallibly lost. The question has often been asked whether the Indian has real courage or, is cowardly by nature. Whoever knows the Indian's mode of life must concede if courage is by any means capable of development in a human being, such a life is calculated to inspire a man with fearlessness and contempt of death. That the Indians usually succumb to the weapons of civilization, and the fact that a few determined whites repel their attacks even in greatly superior numbers, is not proof against their courage, often verging on fool-hardiness. Their system of waging war, moreover, often causes us to regard that as cowardice which is really plan and calculation. They consider it, for instance, folly to advance toward the enemy in open battle array; and Black Hawk, the renowned chief of the Sacs and Foxes, when present at a great maneuver in New York, during which several batteries were stormed, could not wonder enough at the idiocy of sacrificing hundreds of warriors in this way, since the batteries might be taken at night by surprise without loss of a man.

The Indian tribes which now rove through the great Missouri territory are chiefly the Kansas, the Sioux, and the Pawnees. In and about the Rocky Mountains and beyond them, in Oregon, live the Crows, the Blackfeet, the Eutaws, the Snakes, the Nez Percés, the Flatheads, the Parmacks, etc. Of these tribes some are friendly to the whites; with others the friendship is dubious; while still others are at open enmity with them. The last is especially true of the Blackfeet, the terror of trappers and travelers. The Blackfeet rove about the headwaters of the Missouri on either side of the Rocky Mountains, and are the sworn foes not only of the whites, but also of all other Indians. They consider themselves the lords of creation, and wage war with all who will not submit to them. Their boldness and audacity causes them to be feared far and near. Most of the whites who perish in the Rocky Mountains are brained by their tomahawks. Small parties of trappers are pursued by them relentlessly; but they also often attack larger groups, and engage them in skirmishes. When on their expeditions they unexpectedly encounter a party they either attack or take to flight, for all whom they meet are sure to be enemies. Through this unrelenting hate toward all who are not of their tribe, which they put in practice to its utmost consequences, the Blackfeet have become a word of terror among the mountaineers; not unlike that which the grizzly bear in the animal kingdom has won for himself. However, through ceaseless warfare, and still more through disease, especially small-pox, which ran its course among them some years ago, the tribe has been much reduced, and has become less formidable.

The ultimate destiny of these wild tribes, now hunting unrestrained through the Far West of the United States, can be foretold almost to a certainty, from the fate, already accomplished, of the eastern Indian tribes, where in the contact of races, true civilization collides with crude forces of nature, the latter must succumb. Civilization, steadily pressing forward toward the West, has driven the Indians step by step before it. Where war with the whites and with each other was not enough to reduce their numbers, the result was brought about by disease and ardent spirits. Whole tribes, that formerly dwelt in States where civilization is now permanently established, whose names perhaps were then as terrifying to the pioneers of the West as is now the word Blackfeet to the mountaineer, have entirely disappeared, leaving scarce a trace of their name behind. Some few have accommodated themselves to agriculture, and still live among us, the shadows of a vanished race. The western tribes still have, as yet, a bulwark against the advance of civilization in the boundless, generally sandy prairie, which extends for about a thousand miles from the boundary of the State of Missouri to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, in those mountains themselves, and in the broad sandy plains beyond them. But those obstacles are not insurmountable. At least half of the great prairie is capable of cultivation; and the want of wood, attributable less to the nature of the soil than to the frequent prairie fires and to the quantities of game, especially the herds of buffalo, will be less sensibly felt with the gradual progress of civilization. Illinois in former days had many treeless tracts that became wooded by natural means as the soil was cultivated. But the greatest danger threatens the Indians from the West; from the settlements on the Columbia. Along the Columbia River various Indian tribes have already perished; the rest live in entire dependence on the whites.

So the waves of civilization will draw nearer and nearer from the East and from the West, till they cover the sandy plains, and cast their spray on the feet of the Rockies. The few fierce tribes who may have maintained themselves until that time in the mountains, may offer some resistance to the progress of the waves, but the swelling flood will rise higher and higher, till at last they are buried beneath it. The buffalo and the antelope will be buried with them; and the bloody tomahawk will be buried too. But for all that there will be no smoking of the pipe of peace; for the new generation with the virtues of civilization will bring also its vices. It will ransack the bowels of the mountains to bring to light the most precious of all metals, which, when brought to the light, will arouse strife and envy and all ignoble passions, and the sons of civilization will be no happier than their red brethren who have perished.

 

POSTSCRIPT.

In the foregoing sketches I submit to the public some off-hand observations on a journey that was made off-hand. I make no claim to a scientific treatment of my subject. Neither my time, nor my means, nor my knowledge in the natural sciences, of which I never made a specific study, would permit of this. My purpose in writing these sketches was solely to give the reader an appreciable picture of the unknown west of the United States with the pecularities of the country and the still greater peculiarities of its inhabitants, and to present in suitable groups, as it were through a panorama, those objects which passed one by one before my eyes, with often fatiguing slowness. With romantic trimmings the picture might perhaps have been made more attractive to some readers, but I have preferred to copy nature and life as faithfully as possible, and to give due heed to the shades as well as the lights. If I have accomplished this purpose, however imperfectly, I shall feel adequately compensated for the fatigues and dangers of such a trip.

As an aid for following the geography I have appended a little map of my journey, in which are indicated the trend of the Rocky Mountains and of the streams arising in them, filled in with more detail at the point where I crossed the Rockies. As there are no maps of these parts of the United States based on accurate measurements, I of course cannot vouch for the geographical correctness of my plat. Still it may serve the purpose of giving a better idea of the country. By the way, in all probability we shall have in a few years a geographically correct map of the, Missouri Territory and the Oregon Territory of the United States, since the Congress of the United States by a resolution only recently adopted has authorized the President to cause a scientific exploration of that region, and to take measures adequate for securing the country. It is reported that in consequence of this resolution three military forts are to be erected between Missouri and the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and that a scientific expedition, calculated for several years' stay, is to be sent out there. Such measures will soon afford travelers in these regions greater security, will increase our knowledge of the country, and will thus open a road for civilization.

A transformation of this remarkable country seems then at hand. It is perhaps only a few years until the plow upturns the virgin soil, which is now only touched by the lightfooted Indian or the hoof of wild animals. Every decade will change the character of the country materially, and in a hundred years perhaps the present narratives of mountain life may sound like fairy tales.



1   2   3   4   5


The database is protected by copyright ©dentisty.org 2016
send message

    Main page