The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Way to the West, by Emerson Hough

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Title: The Way to the West
       and the Lives of Three Early Americans: Boone--Crockett--Carson

Author: Emerson Hough

Illustrator: Frederic Remington

Release Date: March 15, 2014 [EBook #45143]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


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Transcriber's Note: The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.








Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1903
The Bobbs-Merrill Company


J. B. H.





The customary method in writing history is to rely on chronological sequence as the only connecting thread in the narrative. For this reason many books of history are but little more than loosely bound masses of dates and events that bear no philosophical connection with one another, and therefore are not easily retained in the grasp of the average mind. History, to be of service, must be remembered.

A merely circumstantial mind may grasp and retain for a time a series of disconnected dates and events, but such facts do not appeal to that more common yet not less able type of intellect that asks not only when, but why, such and such a thing happened; that instinctively relates a given event to some other event, and thus goes on to a certain solidity and permanency in conclusions. Perhaps to this latter type of mind there may be appeal in a series of loosely connected yet really interlocking monographs upon certain phases of the splendid 2 and stirring history of the settlement of the American West.

Not concerned so much with a sequence of dates, or with a story of martial or political triumphs, so called, the writer has sought to show somewhat of the genesis of the Western man; that is to say, the American man; for the history of America is but a history of the West.

Whence came this Western man, why came he, in what fashion, under what limitations? What are the reasons for the American or Western type? Is that type permanent? Have we actual cause for self-congratulation at the present stage of our national development? These are some of the questions that present themselves in this series of studies of the manner in which the settlement of the West was brought about.

The history of the occupation of the West is the story of a great pilgrimage. It is the record of a people always outstripping its leaders in wisdom, in energy and in foresight. A slave of politics, the American citizen has none the less always proved himself greater than politics or politicians. The American, the Westerner, if you please, has been a splendid individual. We shall have no hope as a nation when the day of the individual shall be no more. Then ultimately we shall demand Magna 3 Charta over again; shall repeat in parallel the history of France in ’93; shall perhaps see the streets run red in our America. There are those who believe that the day of the individual in America is passing all too swiftly, that we are making history over-fast. There is scant space for speculation when the facts come crowding down so rapidly on us as is the case to-day. Yet there may perhaps be some interest attached to conclusions herein, which appear logical as based upon a study of the manner in which the American country was settled.

As to dates, we shall need but few. Indeed, it will suffice if the reader shall remember but one date out of all given in this book—that when it became no longer profitable to trap the beaver in the West. This date, remembered and understood logically, may prove of considerable service in the study of the movements of the American people.

As to the apparently disconnected nature of the studies here presented, it is matter, as one may again indicate, not of accident. On the contrary, the arrangement of the material is thought to constitute the chief claim of the work for a tolerant consideration.

I shall ask my reader to consider the movements of the American population as grouped under four great epochs. There was a time when the 4 west-bound men were crossing the Alleghanies; a time when they crossed the Mississippi; a time when they crossed the Rocky Mountains. Now they cross the Pacific Ocean. Roughly coincident with these great epochs we may consider, first, the period of down-stream transportation; second, of up-stream transportation; and lastly, of transportation not parallel to the great watercourses, but directly across them on the way to the West. These latter groupings were employed in a series of articles printed in the Century Magazine in the year 1901-1902, the use of this material herein being by courtesy of the Century Company.

I have not hesitated to employ the medium of biography where that seemed the best vehicle for conveying the idea of a great and daring people led by a few great and daring pilots, prophets of adventurings: hence the sketches of the lives of the great frontiersmen, Boone, Crockett, and Carson,—all great and significant lives, whose story is useful in illustrative quality.

I am indebted for many facts obtained from special study by Mr. Horace Kephart, an authority on early Western history, illustrating thoroughly the part that the state of Pennsylvania played in the movement of the early west-bound population. Mr. Warren S. Ely, a resident of 5 historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania, supplements Mr. Kephart’s material with results of local investigations of his own. Mr. Alexander Hynds of Tennessee assists in telling the story of that Frontier Republic whose history blends itself so closely with Western affairs of a hundred years ago. I have quoted freely from Mr. N. P. Langford, a man of the early trans-Missouri, an Argonaut of the Rockies, who has placed at my disposal much valuable material. Mr. Hiram M. Chittenden’s splendid work on the history of the American fur trade has proved of great value.

I am indebted to many books and periodicals for data regarding the modern American industrial development. I am indebted also to many early authors who wrote of the old West, and am under obligations to very many unknown friends, the unnamed but able writers of the daily press.

In regard to the classification of this material, varied and apparently heterogeneous, yet really interdependent, under the four epochs or volume-heads mentioned, I refer to the table given on another page.

As justification of what might be called presumption on the part of the writer in undertaking a work of this nature, he has only to plead a sincere interest in the West, which was his own native land; a love for that free American life now all too rapidly fading away; and a deep admiration for the accomplishments 6 of that American civilization which never was and never will be any better than the man that made it. It has not been the intention herein to write a history of the American people, but a history of the American man.


Chicago, Illinois, June, 1903.




I ask you to look at this splendid tool, the American ax, not more an implement of labor than an instrument of civilization. If you can not use it, you are not American. If you do not understand it, you can not understand America.

This tool is so simple and so perfect that it has scarcely seen change in the course of a hundred years. It lacks decoration, as do the tools and the weapons of all strong peoples. It has no fantastic lines, no deviations from simplicity of outline, no ornamentations, no irregularities. It is simple, severe, perfect. Its beauty is the beauty of utility.

In the shaft of the ax there is a curve. This curve is there for a reason, a reason of usefulness. The simple swelling head is made thus not for motives of beauty, but for the purpose of effectiveness. The shaft, an even yard in length, polished, curved, 8 of a formation that shall give the greatest strength to a downright blow in combination with the greatest security to the hand-grasp, has been made thus for a century of American life. This shaft is made of hickory, the sternest of American woods, the one most capable of withstanding the hardest use. It has always been made thus and of this material.

The metal head or blade of the American ax is to-day as it has always been. The makers of axes will tell you that they scarcely know of any other model. The face of the blade is of the most highly tempered steel for a third or half of its extent. The blade or bitt is about eight inches in length, the cutting edge four and seven-eighths to five inches in width. The curve of this edge could not, by the highest science, be made more perfect for the purpose of biting deepest at the least outlay of human strength. The poll or back of the ax is about four inches in width, square or roughly rounded into such form that it is capable of delivering a pounding, crushing or directing blow. The weight of the ax-head is about four pounds, that is to say from three and one-half to five pounds.

With the ax one can do many things. With it the early American blazed his way through the trackless forests. With it he felled the wood whereby was fed the home fire, or the blaze by which he kept 9 his distant and solitary bivouac. With it he built his home, framing a fortress capable of withstanding all the weaponry of his time. With it he not only made the walls, but fabricated the floors and roof for his little castle. He built chairs, tables, beds, therewith. By its means he hewed out his homestead from the heart of the primeval forest, and fenced it round about. Without it he had been lost.

At times it served him not only as tool, but as weapon; nor did more terrible weapon ever fit the hand of man. Against its downright blow wielded by a sinewy arm the steel casques of the Crusaders had proved indeed poor fending. Even the early womankind of America had acquaintance with this weapon. There is record of a woman of early Kentucky who with an ax once despatched five Indians, who assailed the cabin where for the time she had been left alone.

It was a tremendous thing, this ax of the early American. It cleared away paths over hundreds of miles, or marked the portages between the heads of the Western waterways, which the early government declared should be held as public pathways forever. In time it became an agent of desolation and destruction, as well as an agent of upbuilding and construction. Misguided, it leveled all too soon and 10 wastefully the magnificent forests of this country, whose superior was never seen on any portion of the earth. Stern, simple, severe, tremendous, wasteful—truly this was the typical American implement.



Witness this sweet ancient weapon of our fathers, the American rifle, maker of states, empire builder. Useful as its cousin, the ax, it is in design simple as the ax; in outline severe, practicable, purposeful in every regard. It is devoid of ornamentation. The brass that binds the foot of the stock is there to protect the wood. The metal guard below the lock is to preserve from injury the light set-triggers. The serrated edges of the lock plate may show rude file marks of a certain pattern, but they are done more in careless strength than in cunning or in delicacy. This is no belonging of a weak or savage man. It is the weapon of the Anglo-Saxon; that is to say, the Anglo-Saxon in America, who invented it because he had need for it.

This arm was born of the conditions that surrounded our forefathers in the densely covered slopes of the Appalachian Divide, in whose virgin forests there was for the most part small opportunity for extended vision, hence little necessity for a weapon of long range. The game or the enemy with which 12 the early frontiersman was concerned was apt to be met at distances of not more than a hundred or two hundred yards, and the early rifle was perfect for such ranges.

Moreover, it was only with great difficulty that the frontiersman transported any weighty articles on his Western pilgrimage. Lead was heavy, powder was precious, the paths back to the land of such commodities long and arduous. A marvel of adaptation, the American rifle swiftly grew to a practical perfection. Never in the history of the arms of nations has there been produced a weapon whose results have been more tremendous in comparison to the visible expenditure of energy; never has there been a more economical engine, or an environment where economy was more imperative.

The ball of the American rifle was small, forty, sixty or perhaps one hundred of them weighing scarcely more than a pound. The little, curving horn, filled with the precious powder grains, carried enough to furnish many shots. The stock of the rifle itself gave housing to the little squares of linen or fine leather with which the bullet was patched in loading. With this tiny store of powder and lead, easily portable food for this providentially contrived weapon, the American frontiersman passed on silently through the forest, a master, an arbiter, ruler 13 of savage beast or savage foeman, and in time master of the civilized antagonist that said him nay.

We shall observe that the state of Pennsylvania was the starting point of the westward movement of our frontiersmen. We shall find also that the first American small-bore, muzzle-loading rifles were made in Pennsylvania. The principle of the rifle, the twist in the bore, is thought to have originated in the German states of the Palatinate, but it was left for America to improve it and to perfect its use.

At Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there was a riflemaker, probably a German by birth, by name Decherd or Dechert, who began to outline the type of the American squirrel-rifle or hunting-arm. This man had an apprentice, one Mills, with ideas of his own. We see this apprentice and his improved rifle presently in North Carolina; and soon thereafter riflemakers spring up all over the east slope of the Alleghanies, so that as though by magic all our hunters and frontiersmen are equipped with this long rifle, shooting the tiny ball, and shooting it with an accuracy hitherto deemed impossible in the achievements of firearms.

Withal we may call this a Southern arm, since New England was later in taking up its use, clinging to the Queen Anne musket when the men of North Carolina and Virginia scorned to shoot a squirrel 14 anywhere except in the head. The first riflemen of the Revolutionary War were Pennsylvanians, Virginians and Marylanders, all Southerners; and deadly enough was their skill with what the English officers called their “cursed widow and orphan makers.”

The barrel of the typical rifle of those days was about four feet in length, the stock slender, short and strongly curved, so that the sights came easily and directly up to the level of the eye in aiming. The sights were low and close to the barrel, some pieces being provided with two hind sights, a foot or so apart, so that the marksman might not draw either too fine or too coarse a bead with the low silver or bone crescent of the fore sight. Usually the rear sight was a simple, flat bar, finely notched, and placed a foot or fifteen inches in front of the breech of the barrel, so that the eye should focus easily and sharply at the notch of the rear sight. Such was the care with which the sights were adjusted that the rifleman sometimes put the finishing touches on the notch with so soft a cutting tool as a common pin, working away patiently, a little at a time, lest he should by too great haste go too deep into the rear sight, and so cause the piece to shoot otherwise than “true.”

The delicately arranged set-triggers made possible an instantaneous discharge without any 15 appreciable disturbance of the aim when once obtained; and the long distance between the hind sight and fore sight, the steadiness of the piece, owing to its length and weight, the closeness of the line of sight to the line of the trajectory of a ball driven with a relatively heavy powder charge, all conspired to render extreme accuracy possible with this arm, and this accuracy became so general throughout the American frontier that to be a poor rifle shot was to be an object of contempt.

Each rifle was provided with its own bullet mold, which cast a round ball of such size that when properly “patched” it fitted the bore of the piece tightly, so tightly that in some cases a “starter” or section of false barrel was used, into which the ball was forced, sometimes being swaged in with a mallet and a short starting rod. The ramrod proper was carried in pipes attached to the long wooden stock, which extended to the muzzle of the barrel underneath the piece. One end of this rod was protected with a brass ferrule, and the other was provided with a screw, into which was twisted the “worm” used in cleaning the arm.

The pouch of the hunter always carried some flax or tow for use in cleaning the piece. The rifleman would wind a wisp of this tow about the end of the “worm,” moisten it by passing it between his lips, 16 and then pass the tightly fitting wad of tow up and down the barrel until the latter was perfectly free from powder residue. Then the little ball, nicely patched, was forced down on the powder charge by the slender ramrod, made with great care from the toughest straight-grained hickory wood.

Powder and ball were precious in those early days, and though strong men ever love the sports of weapons, waste could not be tolerated even in sport. Sometimes at night the frontiersmen would gather for the pastime of “snuffing the candle,” and he was considered a clumsy rifleman who but fanned the flame with his bullet, or cut too deeply into the base of the candle-wick, and so extinguished the light. Again the riflemen would engage in “driving the nail” with the rifle ball, or would shoot at a tiny spot of black on a board or a blazed tree-trunk, firing a number of balls into the same mark. In nearly all such cases the balls were dug out of the tree or plank into which they had been fired, and were run over again into fresh bullets for use at another time. Thus grew the skill of the American rifleman, with whose weapon most of the feats of latter day short-range marksmanship could be duplicated.[1]

17 The early American depended upon his rifle in supporting and defending his family. Without it he had not dared to move across the Alleghanies. With it he dared to go anywhere, knowing that it would furnish him food and fending. When the deer and turkey became less numerous near him, he moved his home farther westward, where game was more abundant.

His progress was bitterly contested by the Indian savages all the way cross the American continent, but they perished before this engine of civilization, which served its purpose across the timbered Appalachians, down the watershed to the Mississippi, up the long and winding streams of the western lands, over the Rockies, and down the slopes of the Sierras to the farther sea. Had it never known change it had not been American. An ax is an ax, because a tree is a tree, whether in the Alleghanies or the Rockies; but the rifle met in time different conditions. The great plains furnished larger game animals, and demanded longer range in arms, so that in time the rifle shot a heavier ball.

When the feverish intensity of American life had 18 asked yet more haste, there came the repeating rifle, firing rapidly a number of shots, an invention now used all over the earth. In time there came also the revolving pistol, rapid, destructive, American. These things had not to do with the early west-bound man, this wilderness traveler, himself perforce almost savage, shod with moccasins, wearing the fringed hide tunic that was never in the designs of Providence intended for any unmanly man, and that fits ill to-day the figure of any round-paunched city dweller. Feather or plume he did not wear in his hat, for such things pertained rather to the hired voyager than to the independent home builder. Ornamentation was foreign to his garb and to his weaponry. He had much to do. The way was hard. No matter how he must travel, this long rifle was with him. At his belt, in the little bag of buckskin, were the bullets in their stoppered pouch, the cleaning worm, the extra flint or two, the awl for mending shoon or clothing.

So were equipped the early Americans, gaunt, keen, tireless, that marched to meet the invading forces at the battle of New Orleans; and when the officers of the British army, on the day after that stricken field, found half their dead shot between the eyes, they knew they could lead their troops no more against such weaponry and such weapon bearers. The rifle had won the West, and it would hold it fast.

In a careful test an old squirrel-rifle, for three generations in the author’s family, and now nearly one hundred years old, was fired five times, at a distance of 60 yards, and the point of the finger would cover all five of the balls, which made practically but one ragged hole. The author’s father handled the old weapon on this occasion. Again, in the author’s hands, it shot out in succession the spots or pips of a playing card, the ten of clubs, at such distance as left the spots only clearly distinguishable. This piece was altered from flint lock to pill-percussion lock, and later to the percussion cap lock.



Here is that fairy ship of the wilderness, the birch-bark canoe, the first craft of America, antedating even the arrival of the white man. It is the ship of risk and of adventure, belonging by right to him who goes far and travels light, who is careless of his home coming. It is a boat that now carries the voyager, and now is carried by him. It is a great-hearted craft. You shall take it upon your shoulders, and carry it a mile across the land trail, without needing to set it down; but when you place it on the water it in turn will carry you and your fellow, and yet another, and your household goods of the wilderness up to five times your weight.

Freakish as a woman, as easily unsettled, yet if you be master it shall take you over combing waves, and down yeasty rapids and against steady current, until finally you shall find yourself utterly apart from the familiar haunts of man, about you only the wilderness, the unadventured. This is the ship of the wilderness, the fairy ship, the ship of heroes. To-day it is passing away. With it goes great store of romance and adventure.

20 The red man taught the white man how to build and how to use this boat. He taught how to cut the long strips of toughest bark from the birch-tree, prying it off with sharpened pole or driven wooden wedge. He showed how to build the frame of the boat on the ground, or in a long hole dug in the ground, where stakes hold fast the curves of the gunwales, between which are later forced the steamed splints that serve as ribs and as protection for the fragile skin, soaked soft and pliable, which is presently laid on the frame of gunwale and rib and bottom splint. This covering of bark is sewn together with the thread of the forest, fiber of swamp conifers—“wautp,” the Indians of the North call this thread.

Then over the seams is run the melted pitch and resin taken from the woods. The edges of the bark skin are made fast at the gunwales, the sharply bent bows are guarded carefully from cracks where the straining comes, and the narrow thwarts, wide as your three fingers, are lashed in, serving as brace and as all the seat you shall find when weary from kneeling. The fresh bark is clean and sweet upon the new-made ship, the smell of the resin is clean. Each line of the boat is full of spirit and grace and beauty.

The builder turns it over, and where he finds a bubble in the pitching of a seam he bends down and puts 21 his lips to it, sucking in his breath, to find if air comes through. So he tests it, well and thoroughly, mending and patching slowly and carefully, until at last it pleases him throughout. And then he places his new-made ship on the water, where it sits high and light, spinning and turning at its tether, never still for an instant, but shifting like a wild duck under the willows, responsive to the least breath of the passing airs. It is eager to go on. It will go far, in its life of a year or two. If it gets a wound from the rocks, or from the clumsiness of the tyro that drives it upon the beach instead of anchoring it free, then it is easily mended by a strip of bark and some forest pitch. When at last it loses its youth, and cracks or soaks in water so freely that it takes too long to dry it at the noonday pipe-smoking, then it is not so difficult to build another in the forest.

The canoe is as the ax and the rifle, an agent economical, capable of great results in return for small expenditure of energy. It is American. There was much to do, far to go. It was thus because America existed as it did.

No craft has been found easier of propulsion to one knowing the art of the paddle. The voyager makes his paddle about as long as his rifle, up to his chin in length. He paddles with the blade always on one side of the canoe. As the blade is 22 withdrawn from the backward stroke, it is turned slightly in the water, so that the course of the bow is still held straight. If he would approach a landing sidewise with his boat, he makes his paddle describe short half curves, back and forth, and the little boat follows the paddle obediently. The advance of the canoe is light, silent, spirit-like. It is full of mystery, this boat. Yet it is kind to those who know it, as is the wilderness and as are all its creatures.

This is the boat of the northern traveler, the voyager of the upper ways. In the South, where the birch does not grow in proper dimensions, the bark of the elm has on occasion served to make a small craft. In different parts of the North, too, the birch canoe takes different shapes. In the northeast the Abenakis made it long and with little rake, with low bow and stern and with bottom swelling outward safely under the tumble-home,—this stable model serving for the strong streams of the forested regions of the North. Far to the west, where roll the great inland lakes, the Ojibways made their boats higher at bow and stern, wider of beam, shorter, rounder of bottom, all the better fitted for short and choppy waves.

Then, under the white fur traders’ tutelage, there were made great ships of birch-bark, the canot du Nord of the Hudson Bay trade, such as came down 23 with rich burdens of furs when the brigades started down-stream to the markets; or yet the greater canot du maitre once used on the Great Lakes, a craft that needed a dozen to a dozen and a half paddles for its propulsion. Again, at the heads of the far off Northwestern streams there were canoes so small as to carry but a single person, propelled by a pair of sticks, one in each hand of the occupant, the points of these hand-sticks pushing against the bottom of the stream. But ever this ship of the wilderness was so contrived that its crew could drive it by water or carry it by land.

Thus were the portages mastered, thus did the man with small gear to hinder him get out from home, westward into the wilderness. Down stream or up stream, this boat went far. Paddle or sail or shodden pole served for the wanderer before the trails were made, and before the boats of the white settlers followed where the savage red men and scarcely less savage white adventurers had found the way.

There were other boats for the early traveler, and these were employed by those that had crossed the Alleghanies on foot and would fare farther westward. The dugout, made of the sycamore or sassafras log, ten to twenty feet in length, narrow, unstable, thick-skinned and a bit clumsy, was good enough for one pushing on down-stream, or 24 prowling about in sluggish, silent bayous. This was the boat of the South in the early days. Soon the great flat-boat succeeded it for those that traveled with family goods or in large parties. The wooden boats came later, the flat-boat after the dugout, the keel-boat but following the far trail of the birch-bark to the upper ways, or perchance passing, slipping down-stream, the frail hide coracle of the hunter that had ventured unaccompanied far into unknown lands.

Above all things in these early days must compactness and lightness be studied. This American traveler was poor in the goods of this world; his possessions made small bulk. This ax made him bivouac or castle, or helped him make raft or canoe. This rifle gave him food and clothing. He walked westward to the westward flowing streams, and there this light craft, dancing, beckoning, alluring, invited him yet on and on, proffering him carriage for his scanty store, offering obedience to him who was the master of the wilderness, of its alluring secrets and its immeasurable resources.



Observe here a creature, a dumb brute, that has saved some centuries of time. Indeed, without this American horse, the American civilization perhaps could never have been. Without the ax, the rifle, the boat and the horse there could have been no West.

To-day we would in some measure dispense with the horse, but in the early times no part of man’s possessions was more indispensable. This animal was not then quite as we find him to-day in the older settled portions of the country. In some of our wilder regions we can still see him somewhat as he once was, rough, wiry, hardy, capable of great endeavor, easily supported upon the country over which he passed.

Naturally the early west-bound traveler could not take with him food for his horse, and the latter must be quite independent of grain. Corn, exceedingly difficult to raise, was for the master alone. The horse must live on grass food, and 26 find it where he stopped at night. During the day he must carry the traveler and his weapons, another horse perhaps serving as transportation for food or household goods; or, if there was a family with the traveler, perhaps one horse sufficed for the mother and a child or two. The weak might ride, the strong could trudge alongside. Many women have so traveled out into the West—women as sweet as any of to-day.

We have here, then, one more simple, economical and effective factor in the resources of the early American. Beauty, finish, elegance, were not imperative. Strength, stamina, hardihood, these things must be possessed. The horse must be durable; and so he was. The early settlers on the Atlantic coast brought from over the seas horses of good blood. Virginia was noted as a breeding ground before the yet more famous Blue Grass Region of Kentucky began to produce horses of great quality. The use of the horse in the New World went on as it did in the Old. The French in the North, the English at the mid-continent, the Spanish in the South, all brought over horses; and even to-day the types of the three sections are distinct.

The horse with which we are concerned was the hardy animal, able to find food in the forest glades or laurel thickets of the Appalachians; that served as 27 pack-horse in the hunt near home, as baggage horse in the journey away from home. In those days the horse was rather a luxury than a necessity. All earlier or Eastern America was at short range. The rifle was short in range; the man himself was a footman, and did not travel very far in actual leagues.

For a generation he could walk, or at least travel by boat. But when he came to the edge of the open country of the plains, when he saw above him the vast bow of the great River of the West, across whose arc he needed to travel direct, then there stood waiting for him, as though by providential appointment, this humble creature, this coward, this hero of an animal, now afraid of its own shadow, now willing to face steel and powder-smoke, patient, dauntless, capable of great exertion and great accomplishment. So in the land of great distances the traveler became a mounted man; the horse became part of him, no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

The Spanish contributed most largely to the American holding of that vast indefinite West of ours that they once claimed, when they allowed to straggle northward across the plains, into the hand of Indian or white man, this same lean and wiry horse, carrying to the deserts of America the courage of his far-off Moorish blood, his African adaptability to long journeys 28 on short fare.[2] The man that followed the Ohio and Missouri to the edge of the plains, the trapper, the hunter, the adventurer of the fur trade, had been wholly helpless without the horse. For a time the trading posts might cling to the streams, but there was a call to a vast empire between the streams, where one could not walk, where no boat could go, nor any wheeled vehicle whatever. Here, then, came the horse, the thing needed.

The white adventurer may have brought his horse with him by certain slow generations of advance, or he may have met him as he moved West; at times he captured and tamed him for himself, again he bought him of the Indian, or took him without purchase. Certainly in the great open reaches of the farther West the horse became man’s most valuable property, the unit of all recognized current values. The most serious, the most unforgivable crime was that of horse stealing. To kill a man in war, man to man, was a matter of man and man, and to be 29 regarded at times with philosophy; but to take away without quarrel and by stealth what was most essential to man’s life or welfare was held equivalent to murder unprovoked and of a despicable nature. To be “set afoot” was one of the horrors long preserved in memory by the idiom of Western speech.

The food of this horse, then, was generally what he might gain by forage. In furnishings, his bridle was sometimes a hide lariat, his saddle the buckskin pad of the Indians. Stirrups the half-wild white man sometimes discarded, after the fashion of the Indian, who rode by the clinging of his legs turned back, or by purchase of his toes thrust in between the foreleg and the body of his mount. A fleet horse, one much valued in the chase or in war, might be his master’s pet, tied close to his house of skin at night, or picketed near-by at the lonesome bivouac. He might have braided in his forelock the eagle feather that his white master himself would have disdained to wear as ornament. Of grooming the horse knew nothing, neither did he ever know a day of shelter.

His stable was the heart of a willow thicket if the storm blew fierce. In winter-time his hay was the bark of the cottonwood, under whose gnarled arms the hunter had pitched his winter tepee or built his rough war-house of crooked logs. When all the wide plain was a sheet of white, covered again by the 30 driven blinding snows of the prairie storm, then this hardy animal must paw down through the snow and find his own food, the dried grass curled close to the ground. Where the ox would perish the horse could survive. He was simple, practicable, durable, even under the hardest conditions. The horse of the American West ought to have place on the American coat of arms.

The horse might be a riding animal, or at times a beast of burden. In the earliest days he was packed simply, sometimes with hide pockets or panniers after the Indian fashion, with a lash rope perhaps holding the load together roughly. Later on in the story of the West there came a day when it was necessary to utilize all energies more exactly, and then the loading of the horse became an interesting and intricate science. The carry-all or pannier was no longer essential, and the packs were made up of all manner of things transported. The pack saddle, a pair of X’s connected with side bars, the “saw buck” pack-saddle of the West, which was an idea perhaps taken from the Indians, was the immediate aid of the packer. The horse and the lash rope in combination were born of necessity, the necessity of long trails across the mountains and the plains.

Thus the horse trebled the independence of the Western man, made it possible for him to travel as 31 far as he liked across unknown lands, made him soldier, settler, trader, merchant; enabled him indeed to build a West that had grown into giant stature even before the day of steam.

“Wherever pictographs of the horse appear the representations must have been done subsequent to the advent of Coronado, or the conquistadors of Florida. There are no horse portraits in Arizona and vicinity, nor up the Pacific coast, but they are frequent in Texas and in the trans-Mississippi region. The domestic horse (not Eohippus, the diminutive quaternary animal which was indigenous) was introduced into Florida from Santo Domingo by the Spaniards early in the 15th century, as well as into South America, where it spread in fifteen years as far south as Patagonia.”—Chas. Hallock, the “American Antiquarian,” January, 1902.



On a busy street of a certain Western city there appeared, not long ago, a figure whose peculiarities attracted the curious attention of the throng through which he passed. It was a man, tall, thin, bronzed, wide-hatted, long-haired, clad in the garb of a day gone by. How he came to the city, whence he came, or why, it boots little to ask. There he was, one of the old-time “long-haired men” of the West. His face, furrowed with the winds of the high plains and of the mountains, and bearing still the lines of boldness and confidence, had in these new surroundings taken on a shade of timorous anxiety. His eye was disturbed. At his temples the hair was gray, and the long locks that dropped to his shoulders were thin and pitiful. A man of another day, of a bygone country, he babbled of scoutings, of warfare with savages, of the chase of the buffalo. None knew what he spoke. He babbled, grieved, and vanished.

Into the same city there wandered, from a somewhat more recent West, another man grown swiftly 33 old. Ten years earlier this figure might have been seen over all the farming-lands of the West, most numerous near the boom towns and the land-offices. He was here transplanted, set down in the greatest boom town of them all, but, alas! too old and too alien to take root.

He wore the same long-tailed coat, the same white hat that marked him years ago—tall-crowned, not wide-rimmed; the hat that swept across the Missouri River in the early eighties. His beard was now grown gray, his eye watery, his expression subdued, and no longer buoyantly and irresistibly hopeful. His pencil, as ready as ever to explain the price of lots or land, had lost its erstwhile convincing logic. From his soul had departed that strange, irrational, adorable belief, birthright of the American that was, by which he was once sure that the opportunities of the land that bore him were perennial and inexhaustible. This man sought now no greatness and no glory. He wanted only the chance to make a living. And, think you, he came of a time when a man might be a carpenter at dawn, merchant at noon, lawyer by night, and yet be respected every hour of the day, if he deserved it as a man.

It was exceeding sweet to be a savage. It is pleasant to dwell upon the independent character of Western life, and to go back to the glories of that land and 34 day when a man who had a rifle and a saddle-blanket was sure of a living, and need ask neither advice nor permission of any living soul. Those days, vivid, adventurous, heroic, will have no counterpart on the earth again. Those early Americans, who raged and roared across the West, how unspeakably swift was the play in which they had their part! There, surely, was a drama done under the strictest law of the unities, under the sun of a single day.

No fiction can ever surpass in vividness the vast, heroic drama of the West. The clang of steel, the shoutings of the captains, the stimulus of wild adventure—of these things, certainly, there has been no lack. There has been close about us for two hundred years the sweeping action of a story keyed higher than any fiction, more unbelievably bold, more incredibly keen in spirit. And now we come upon the tame and tranquil sequel of that vivid play of human action. “Anticlimax!” cries all that humanity that cares to think, that dares to regret, that once dared to hope. “Tell us of the West that was,” demands that humanity, and with the best of warrant; “play for us again the glorious drama of the past, and let us see again the America that once was ours.”

Historian, artist, novelist, poet, must all in some measure fail to answer this demand, for each 35 generation buries its own dead, and each epoch, to be understood, must be seen in connection with its own living causes and effects and interwoven surroundings. Yet it is pleasant sometimes to seek among causes, and I conceive that a certain interest may attach to a quest that goes farther than a mere summons for the spurred and booted Western dead to rise. Let us ask, What was the West? What caused its growth and its changes? What was the Western man, and why did his character become what it was? What future is there for the West to-day? We shall find that the answers to these questions run wider than the West, and, indeed, wider than America.

In the pursuit of this line of thought we need ask only a few broad premises. These premises may leave us not so much of self-vaunting as we might wish, and may tend to diminish our esteem of the importance of individual as well as national accomplishment; for, after all and before all, we are but flecks on the surface of the broad, moving ribbon of fate. We are all,—Easterner and Westerner, dweller of the Old World or the New, bond or free, of to-day or of yesterday,—but the result of the mandate that bade mankind to increase and multiply, that bade mankind to take possession of the earth. We have each of us taken over temporarily that portion of the earth and its fullness allotted or made possible to 36 us by that Providence to which all things belong. We have each of us done this along the lines of the least possible resistance, for this is the law of organic life.

The story of the taking over of the earth into possession has been but a story of travel. Aryan, Cymri, Goth, Vandal, Westerner—they are all one. The question of occupying the unoccupied world has been only a question of transportation, of invasion, and of occupation along the lines of least resistance. Hence we have at hand, in a study of transportation of the West at different epochs, a clue that will take us very near to the heart of things.

We read to-day of forgotten Phenicia and of ancient Britain. They were unlike, because they were far apart. The ancient captains who directed the ships that brought them approximately together were great men in their day, fateful men. The captains of transportation that made all America one land are still within our reach, great men, fateful men; and they hold a romantic interest under their grim tale of material things. You and I live where they said we must live. It was they who marked out the very spot where the fire was to rise upon your hearth-stone. You have married a certain Phenician because they said that this must be your fate. Your children were born because some captain said they should be. 37 You are here not of your own volition. The day of volitions, let us remember, is gone.

The West was sown by a race of giants, and reaped by a race far different and in a day dissimilar. Though the day of rifle and ax, of linsey-woolsey and hand-ground meal, went before the time of trolley-cars and self-binders, of purple and fine linen, it must be observed that in the one day or the other the same causes were at work, and back of all these causes were the original law and the original mandate. The force of this primeval impulse was behind all those early actors, and Roundhead Cavalier, praying man and fighting man, who had this continent for a stage. It was behind the men that followed inland from the sea the first prophets of adventure. It is behind us to-day. The Iliad of the West is only the story of a mighty pilgrimage.

When the Spaniard held the mouth of the Great River, the Frenchman the upper sources, the American only the thin line of coast whose West was the Alleghanies, how then did the west-bound adventurers travel, these folk who established half a dozen homes for every generation? The answer would seem easy. They traveled as did the Cimri, the Goths—in the easiest way they could. It was a day of raft and boat, of saddle-horse and pack-horse, of ax and rifle, 38 and little other luggage. Mankind followed the pathways of the waters.

Bishop Berkeley, prophetic soul, wrote his line: “Westward the course of empire takes its way.” The public has always edited it to read the “star” of empire that “takes it way” to the West. If one will read this poem in connection with a government census map, he can not fail to see how excellent is the amendment. Excellent census map, that holds between its covers the greatest poem, the greatest drama ever written! Excellent census map, that marks the center of population of America with a literal star, and, at the curtain of each act, the lapse of each ten years, advances this star with the progress of the drama, westward, westward, ever westward! Excellent scenario, its scheme done in red and yellow and brown, patched each ten years, ragged, blurred, until, after a hundred years, the scheme is finished, and the color is solid all across the page, showing that the end has come, and that the land has yielded to the law!

The first step of this star of empire, that concluded in 1800, barely removed it from its initial point on the Chesapeake. The direction was toward the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. The government at Washington, young as it was, knew that the Ohio River, reached from the North by a 39 dozen trails from the Great Lakes, and running out into that West which even then was coveted by three nations, was of itself a priceless possession. The restless tide of humanity spread from that point according to principles as old as the world. Having a world before them from which to choose their homes, the men of that time sought out those homes along the easiest lines.

The first thrust of the out-bound population was not along the parallels of latitude westward, as is supposed to be the rule, but to the south and southeast, into the valleys of the Appalachians, where the hills would raise corn, and the streams would carry it. The early emigrants learned that a raft would eat nothing, that a boat runs well down-stream. Men still clung to the seaboard region, though even then they exemplified the great law of population that designates the river valleys to be the earliest and most permanent centers of population. The first trails of the Appalachians were the waterways.

Dear old New England, the land sought out as the home of religious freedom, and really perhaps the most intolerant land the earth ever knew, sometimes flatters herself that she is the mother of the West. Not so. New England holds mortgages only on the future of the West, not on its past. The first outshoots of the seaboard civilization to run 40 forth into the West did not trace back to the stern and rock-bound shore where the tolerants were punishing those who did not agree with them.

New York, then, was perhaps the parent of the West? By no means, however blandly pleasant that belief might be to many for whom New York must be ever the first cause and center of the American civilization, not the reflection-point of that civilization. The rabid Westerner may enjoy the thought that neither New England nor New York was the actual ancestor. Perhaps he may say that the West had no parent, but was born Minerva-like. In this he would be wrong. The real mother of the West was the South. It was she who bore this child, and it has been much at her expense that it has grown so large and matured so swiftly. If you sing “arms and the man” for the West, you must sing Southerner and not Puritan, knight-errant and not psalmodist. The path of empire had its head on the Chesapeake. There was the American Ararat.

“The great American journeyings were far under way before New England appeared to realize that there was a greater America toward the West. The musket bearers of the New England states, the fighting men of the South, and the riflemen of what might already have been called the West, had 41 finished the Revolutionary War long before New England had turned her eyes westward. The pilgrimage over the Appalachians was made, the new provinces of Kentucky and Tennessee were fighting for a commerce and a commercial highway of their own, while yet the most that New England, huddled along her stern and rock-bound shore, could do was to talk of shutting off these Westerners from their highway of the Mississippi, and compelling them to trade back with the tidewater provinces of what was not yet an America.

“Canny and cautious, New York and New England were ready to fear this new country in which they refused to believe; were ready to cripple it, although they declined to credit its future. The pioneers of the South fought their way into the West. New England bought her way, and that after all the serious problems of pioneering had been solved. The ‘Ohio Land Company’ of Rufus Putnam, Benjamin Tucker and their none too honest associate, the New Bedford preacher, Manasseh Cutler, were engaged in the first great land steal ever known in the West. They did not fight the Indians for their holdings, but went to Congress, and with practical methods secured five million acres of land at a price of about eight or nine cents an acre; the first offer to Congress being a million dollars for a million and a half acres of what 42 is now the state of Ohio, the payment to be in soldiers’ scrip, worth twelve cents on the dollar.

“The Ohio company took its settlers out to its new land as a railway does its colonists to-day. Reaching the Ohio River, they descended it in a bullet-proof barge, called ‘with strange irony’ the ‘Mayflower.’ They entered the mouth of the Muskingum and anchored under the guns of a United States fort.”[4]

This is how New England got into the West. There is no hero story there. The men of the South, men of North Carolina and Virginia, most of whom had come from Pennsylvania and dropped down along the east slope of the Appalachians, as it were sparring these mountain ranges for an opening until at length they had found the ways of the game trails and Indian trails from headwater to headwater, and so had reached the west-bound streams—these actual adventurers had built Harrodsburg and Boonesborough seventeen years before the Ohio company entered the Muskingum. Already there was a West; even a West far beyond Boonesborough and its adjacent corn grounds.

This actual record of the upper states in the exploration of the West is to-day not generally remembered nor understood. Sometimes an ardent New Englander will explain that the Puritans would have 43 earlier pressed out westward had it not been for the barrier of the Iroquois on their western borders. They read their history but ill who do not know that the Iroquois trafficked always with the English as against the French; whereas Kentucky, the land opened by the Southern pioneers, was occupied by a more dangerous red population, made up of many tribes, having no policy but that of war, and no friends outside of each separate motley hunting party, sure to be at knife’s point with either white or red strangers. The most difficult and most dangerous frontier was that of the South; yet it was the South that won through.

There are two explanations of this incontrovertible historical fact. One lies perhaps in the general truth that early pioneers nearly always cling to the river valleys, perhaps not more for purposes of transportation by water than in obedience to a certain instinct that seems to hold the pathways of the streams as foreordained guidance. The man that is lost in the wilderness hails with delight the appearance of a stream. It will lead him somewhere; it will guide him back again. Near it will be game, near it, too, rich soil. The man that enters the wilderness deliberately does so along the waterways.

All the great initial explorations have been made in this way. The men of Kentucky and Tennessee having 44 reached the headwaters of the Kentucky, the Tennessee, the Holston or kindred riverways, moved out into their promised land along paths, as it were, foreordained. The rivers of the North did not run out into the West, but pointed ever toward the sea. This is one explanation of the somewhat inglorious part of New England in the discovery of the West. It does not explain her narrowness of view in regard to that West after it had been discovered by others; neither does this geographical explanation, in the opinion of many, cover the main phenomena of her timid attitude in regard to Western exploration.

The true reason, in the belief of these students, is to be found in the character of the New England population, as compared to the bolder breed of men who overran the western sections of Pennsylvania and for two generations were in continuous touch with the wilderness and its savagery. This subject is taken up interestingly by Horace Kephart, a scholar of much acquaintance with early American history, in the course of an able paper. It is very much worth while for any one who wishes an actual picture of the march across the Appalachians to read his conclusions.

“In a vague way we think of all the East as old,” says this writer, “and all the West as new. We picture civilization as advancing westward from the 45 Atlantic in a long, straight front, like a wave or a line of battle. But in point of fact it was not so. There was a permanent settlement of Europeans a thousand miles to the west of us before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Cahokia and Kaskaskia were thriving villages before Baltimore was founded; and our own city of St. Louis was building in the same year that New Jersey became a British possession. At a time when Daniel Boone was hunting beaver on the Osage and the Missouri, Fenimore Cooper was drawing the types for future ‘Leatherstocking Tales’ from his neighbors in a ‘wilderness’ only a hundred and fifty miles from New York City.

“American settlement advanced toward the Mississippi in the shape of a wedge, of which the entering edge was first Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, then the Shenandoah valley, then Louisville, and finally St. Louis. When the second census of the United States was taken, in 1800, nearly all the white inhabitants of our country lived in a triangle formed by a diagonal southwestward from Portland, Maine, to the mouth of the Tennessee River, here meeting another diagonal running northwestward from Savannah, with the Atlantic for a base. Central and western New York, northern Pennsylvania, and all the territory north of the Ohio River, save in its immediate vicinity, were 46 almost uninhabited by whites, and so were Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Yet the state of Kentucky had half as many people as Massachusetts, and Tennessee had already been admitted into the Union.

“As a rule, geographical expansion proceeds along the lines of least resistance, following the natural highways afforded by navigable rivers and open plains. It is easily turned aside by mountain chains, dense forests, and hostile natives. Especially was this true in the days before railroads. But the development of our older West shows a striking exception to this rule; for the entering wedge was actually driven through one of the most rugged, difficult, and inhospitable regions to be found along the whole frontier of the British possessions.

“This fact is strange enough to fix our attention; but it is doubly strange when we consider that there was no climatic, political nor economic necessity for such defiance of nature’s laws. We can see why the Mississippi should have been explored from the north, rather than from its mouth, because Canada was settled before Louisiana, and it is easier to float downstream than to pole or cordelle against the current. But why was not the West entered and settled through the obviously easy course of the Mohawk Valley?

47 “Beyond this valley were gentle slopes, and many a route practicable for settlers into the rich country of Ohio. The central trail of the Iroquois, beaten smoother than a wagon-road, ran straight west from Albany, through the fairest portion of New York, to the present site of Buffalo, and thence followed the southern shore of Lake Erie into Ohio. Where it crossed the Genesee, the old war-trail of the Senecas branched off to the south, passing behind the farthermost ramparts of the Alleghanies, to the forks of the Ohio. Moccasined feet traveling over these trails for centuries had worn them from three to twelve inches into the ground, so that they were easy to follow on the darkest night. These were only two of several well-marked routes from ancient Albany to the new West. It was to this easy communication with the country beyond the Appalachians that the Iroquois owed their commanding position on the continent.

“These Iroquois were in the way, to be sure; but with them New York had every advantage over her sister provinces. Her policy toward these powerful Indians was conciliatory. She was allied with them against the French. The Six Nations ravaged the frontiers of all the other colonies, from Massachusetts to Carolina, and carried their conquests to the Mississippi, but they spared New York and even 48 invited her to build forts on their border as outposts against the French. New York had the most influential Indian agent of his time in Sir William Johnson, who had married the sister of the Mohawk chief Brant, and by her had several sons who were war-chiefs of the Iroquois. In 1745 the Iroquois even ceded to New York a strip of land sixty miles wide, along the southern shores of lakes Ontario and Erie, extending to the modern Cleveland. It should have been easy for the Knickerbockers to secure passage for their emigrants into the western country had they chosen to ask it.

“On the other hand, the southern colonies had no easy access to the West. Nature herself had bidden these people to rest content in their tidewater regions, and frowned upon any westward expansion by interposing the mighty barriers of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies, rising tier beyond tier in parallel chains from northern Pennsylvania to Alabama. Few trails crossed these mountains. From base to summit they were clad in dense forest, matted into jungle by luxuriant undergrowth. No one knew what lay beyond them, nor how far through this ‘forest, savage, harsh, impregnable,’ the traveler must bore until he reached land fit for settlement.

“It was well known, however, that the trans-Alleghany region, whatever might be its economic 49 features, was dangerous ground. The Indians themselves could not occupy it, for it had been for ages the common battle-ground of opposing tribes. Any savage met within its confines was sure to be on the war-path against any and all comers. He that entered took his life in his hand.

“Thus the chances of success in any westward movement were in favor of New York and New England, and against Pennsylvania. Yet it was the latter that did the work. Central and western New York remained a wilderness until Missouri was settling with Americans. New England took little or no part in Western affairs until, the West having been won, Massachusetts and Connecticut, calmly overstepping New York and Pennsylvania, laid thrifty hand upon the public domain north of Pittsburg and west to the Mississippi.

“We have seen that the West was actually entered by the most difficult and hostile route, and this in spite of political and economic reasons for choosing a more northerly and easier line of advance. I do not remember that this has ever before been pointed out; but it is a fact of deep significance, for it determined what should be the temper of the great West, and what should be its course of development.

“The wedge of settlement was driven through the heart of the Alleghanies because there dwelt at the 50 foot of the mountains a people more aggressive, more daring, and more independent than the tidewater stock. This people acted on its own initiative, not only without government aid, but sometimes in defiance of government. It won to the American flag not only the central West, but the Northwest and Southwest as well; and it was, for the most part, the lineal descendants of these men that first, of Americans, explored the far West, and subdued it for future settlement.

“This explains why Missouri, rather than the northern tier of new states, became in its turn the vanguard and outpost of civilization, as Kentucky and Tennessee had been before her, and Virginia and Pennsylvania before them. It explains why, when mountain and forest barriers had been left behind, and the vast Western plain offered countless parallel routes of travel to the Rockies, such routes were not used, but all the great transcontinental trails, whether to Santa Fé, California, or Oregon, focused for half a century at St. Louis or Independence. It explains why the majority of our famous scouts and explorers and Indian fighters were men whose strain went back to the Shenandoah valley or the Yadkin, and why most of them could trace their descent still farther back to Pennsylvania, mother of Western pioneers.”

There is much that is convincing in this study of 51 facts and motives; yet perhaps the gentler and broader view is not that of personnel but of geography. I myself am more disposed to believe that St. Louis became great by reason of her situation on the great interior pathways of the waters; though all this may be said with no jot of abatement in admiration for the magnificent daring and determination of those men of the lower slopes of the Appalachians who, as history shows simply and unmistakably, were really the pioneers of the eastern, the middle and the most western portions of the splendid empire of the West. Let us reserve for a later chapter the more specific study of this typical adventurer and his origin, and pass for the present to the general consideration of the figure that we may call the American west-bound man.

We must remember that there had been two or three full American generations to produce him, this man that first dared turn away from the seaboard and set his face toward the sinking of the sun, toward the dark and mysterious mountains and forests, which then encompassed the least remote land fairly to be called the West. Two generations had produced a man different from the Old-World type. Free air and good food had given him abundant brawn. He was tall, with Anak in his frame. Little fat cloyed 52 the free play of his muscles, and there belonged to him the heritage of the courage that comes of good heart and lungs. He was a splendid man to have for an ancestor, this tall and florid athlete that never heard of athletics. His face was thin and aquiline, his look high and confident, his eye blue, his speech reserved. You may see this same man yet in those restricted parts of this country which remain fit to be called American. You may see him sometimes in the mountains of Tennessee, the brakes of Arkansas or Missouri, where the old strain has remained most pure. You might have seen him over all the West in the generation preceding our own.

In time this early outbound man learned that there were rivers that ran, not to the southwest and into the sea, but outward, beyond the mountains and toward the setting sun. The winding trails of the Alleghanies led one finally to rivers that ran toward Kentucky, Tennessee, even farther out into that unknown, tempting land which still was called the West. Thus it came that the American genius broke entirely away from salt-water traditions, asked no longer “What cheer?” from the ships that came from across the seas, clung no longer to the customs, the costumes, the precedents or standards of the past.

There came the day of buckskin and woolsey, of rifle and ax, of men curious for adventures, of homes 53 built of logs and slabs, with puncheons for floors, with little fields about them, and tiny paths that led out into the immeasurable preserves of the primeval forests. A few things held intrinsic value at that time—powder, lead, salt, maize, cow-bells, women that dared. It was a simple but not an ill ancestry, this that turned away from the sea-coast forever and began the making of another world. It was the strong-limbed, the bold-hearted that traveled, the weak that stayed at home.

Thus began the true American aristocracy, the aristocracy of ability. The dashing Cavalier, your high-churchman from England, was not the first over the Appalachians. It was the Protestant, the Quaker, the dissenter, the independent who led the way into another world and into another order of things.

Of this hardy folk who left home when yet there was no need of so doing, and who purposed never to come back from the land they were to discover,—types of that later proverb-making Western man who “came to stay,”—let us seek out one where there were many, some distant Phenician, some master of ways and means, some captain of his time. One man and one community may serve as typical of this epoch.

In 1779 one James Robertson, of the Watauga settlements of North Carolina, a steadfast man, heard certain voices that called him to the West. James 54 Robertson, the steadfast, forming his company for this uncertain, perilous enterprise, said: “We are the advance guard of a civilization, and our way is across the continent.” Simple words,—yet that was in 1779!

Now, for the building of this one town, the town that is now the city of Nashville, and the capital of Tennessee, this leader had gathered three hundred and eighty persons, men, women, and children. All the women and children, one hundred and thirty in number, in charge of a few men, went by boat, scow, pirogue, and canoe, in the winter-time, down the bold waters of the Holston and Tennessee rivers. The rest traveled as best they might over the five hundred miles of “trace” across Kentucky. Of this whole party two hundred and twenty-six got through alive.

The boat party had many hundreds of miles of unknown and dangerous waters to travel, and the journey took them three months, a time longer than it now requires to travel around the world. They ran thirty miles of rapids on the shoals of the Tennessee, pursued and fired upon by Cherokees. Of this division of the party only ninety-seven got through alive, and nine of these were wounded. One was drowned, one died of natural causes and was buried, and the rest were killed by the Indians.


55 Their voyage was indeed “without a parallel in modern history.” Among those who survived the hardships of the journey was Rachel Donelson, later the wife of Andrew Jackson.

The path of empire in America, the path of corn and venison, was a highway that never ran backward. These men would never leave this country now that they had taken it. But what a tax was this that the barbaric land demanded of them! In November of 1780, less than a year after the party was first organized, there were only one hundred and thirty-four persons left alive out of the original three hundred and eighty, but in the settlement itself there had not been a natural death. The Indians killed these settlers, and the settlers killed the Indians. Death and wounds meant nothing to the adults. The very infants learned a stoic hardihood. Out of two hundred and fifty-six survivors, thirty-nine were killed in sixty days. Out of two hundred and seventeen survivors, the next season saw but one hundred and thirty-four left.

The spring of 1781 found only seventy persons left alive. But when the vote was cast whether to stay or return, not one man voted to give up the fight. In that West corn was worth one hundred and sixty-five dollars a bushel, and in its raising the rifle was as essential as the plow. Powder and lead were 56 priceless. Man and woman together, fearless, changeless, they held the land, giving back not one inch of the west-bound distance they had gained!

In 1791 there were only fifteen persons left alive out of the three hundred and eighty that made this American migration. There had been only one natural death among them. In such a settlement there was no such thing as a hero, because all were heroes. Each man was a master of weapons, and incapable of fear. No fiction ever painted a hero like to any one of these. One man, after having been shot and stabbed many times, was scalped alive, and jested at it. A little girl was scalped alive, and lived to forget it. An army of Indians assaulted the settlement, and fifteen men and thirty women beat them off. Mrs. Sally Buchanan, a forgotten heroine, molded bullets all one night during an Indian attack, and on the next morning gave birth to a son.

This was the ancestral fiber of the West. What time had folk like these for powder-puff or ruffle, for fan or jeweled snuff-box? Their garb was made from the skin of the deer, the fox, the wolf. Their shoes were of hide, their beds were made of the robes of the bear and buffalo. They laid the land under tribute. Yet, so far from mere savagery was the spirit that animated these men that in ten years after they had first cut away the forest they were founding a college 57 and establishing a court of law. Read this forgotten history, one chapter and a little one, in the history of the West, and then turn, if you like, to the chapters of fiction in an older world. You have your choice of lace or elkskin.

The Century Magazine, November, 1901.




There was a generation of this down-stream transportation, and it built up the first splendid, aggressive population of the West—a population that continued to edge farther outward and farther down-stream. The settlement at Nashville, the settlements of Kentucky, were at touch with the Ohio River, the broad highway that led easily down to the yet broader highway of the Mississippi, that great, mysterious stream so intimately connected with American history and American progress. It was easy to get to New Orleans, but hard to get back over the Alleghanies. Therefore, out of the mere fact that water runs downhill, arose one of the earliest and most dangerous political problems this country ever knew.

The riflemen of Sevier and Robertson saved Tennessee and Kentucky to the Union only that they might well-nigh be lost again to Spain. The Indian fighters of the West knew little how the scales trembled in the balance for the weak young government of the United States of America, lately come 59 into place as an independent power. The authorities at Washington dared not be too firm with France or Spain, or even, with England. Diplomacy juggled across seas, while the riflemen of the West fought for the opening of that Great River which meant everything for them.

The league of Spain and the Cherokees kept up covert warfare against these early Westerners. The stark, staunch men of Robertson and Sevier hunted down the red fighters and killed them one by one over all the Western hunting-grounds and corn-grounds; and then they rebelled against Washington, and were for setting up a world of their own. They sent in a petition, a veritable prayer from the wilderness, the first words of complaint ever wrung from those hardy men.

“We endured almost unconquerable difficulties in settling this Western country,” they said, “in full confidence that we should be enabled to send our products to the market through the rivers that water the country; but we have the mortification not only to be excluded from that channel of commerce by a foreign nation, but the Indians are rendered more hostile through the influence of that nation.”

To add to the intricacy of this situation, now came one General James Wilkinson, late of a quasi-connection with the Continental army, who early discovered 60 the profit of the trade to the mouth of the Mississippi. Discovering, likewise, the discontent of the West, which was almost wholly dependent upon that river for its transportation, he conceived the pretty idea of handing over this land to Spain, believing that in the confusion consequent upon such change his own personal fortunes must necessarily be largely bettered. The archives show the double dealings of Wilkinson with Spain, Great Britain, and the United States. He played fast and loose with friend and foe, until at length he found his own level and met in part his just deserts.

Meantime the stout little government at Washington, knowing well enough all the dangers that threatened it, continued to work out the problems crowding upon it. Some breathless, trembling years passed by—years full of wars and treaties in Europe as well as in America. Then came the end of all doubts and tremblings. The lying intrigues at the mouth of America’s great roadway ceased by virtue of that purchase of territory which gave to America forever this mighty Mississippi, solemn, majestic, and mysterious stream, perpetual highway, and henceforth to be included wholly within the borders of the West.

The acquisition of this territory was due not so much to American statesmanship or foresight as to 61 either the freakishness or wisdom of Napoleon Bonaparte, then much disturbed by the native revolts in the West Indies, and harassed by the impending war with England. Whether England or France would land troops at New Orleans was long a question. The year that saw the Mississippi made wholly American was one mighty in the history of America and of the world.

The date of the Louisiana Purchase is significant not more in virtue of the vast domain added to the West than because of the fact that with this territory came the means of building it up and holding it together. It was now that for the first time the solidarity of this New World was forever assured. We gained a million uninhabited miles—a million miles of country that will one day support its thousands to the mile. But still more important, we gained the right and the ability to travel into it and across it and through it. France had failed to build roads into that country, and thereafter neither France nor any other foreign power might ever do so.

We who have the advantage of the retrospect understand the Mississippi and its tributaries far better than did the statesmen of a hundred years ago. Indeed, it was then the belief of many of the ablest minds that we ought not to accept this Louisiana Purchase even as a gift. Josiah Adams, in discussing 62 the bill for the admission of Louisiana as a state, said: “I am compelled to declare it as my deliberate opinion that if this bill passes, the bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved; that the states which compose it are free from their moral obligations; and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, to prepare definitely for a separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must.”

This from Massachusetts, later to be the home of abolition and of centralization! It may sit ill with the sons of Massachusetts to reflect that their own state was the first one deliberately to propose secession. Still more advanced was the attitude of James White, who painted the following dismal picture of that West which was to be:

“Louisiana must and will be settled if we hold it, and with the very population that would otherwise occupy part of our present territory. Thus our citizens will be removed to the immense distance of two or three thousand miles from the capital of the Union, where they will scarcely ever feel the rays of the general government; their affections will become alienated; they will gradually begin to view us as strangers; they will form other commercial connections, and our interests will become distinct. These, with other causes that human wisdom may not now foresee, will in time effect a separation, and 63 I fear our bounds will be fixed nearer to our houses than the waters of the Mississippi. We have already territory enough, and when I contemplate the evils that may arise to these States from this intended incorporation of Louisiana into the Union, I would rather see it given to France, to Spain, or to any other nation of the earth, upon the mere condition that no citizen of the United States should ever settle within its limits, than to see the territory sold for a hundred million of dollars and we retain the sovereignty. . . . And I do say that, under existing circumstances, even supposing that this extent of territory was a valuable acquisition, fifteen million dollars was a most enormous sum to give.”

How feeble is our grasp upon the future may be seen from the last utterance. The sum of fifteen million dollars seemed “enormous.” To-day, less than a century from that time, one American citizen has in his lifetime made from the raw resources of this land a fortune held to be two hundred and sixty-six million dollars.

One Western city, located in that despised territory, during the year just past showed sales of grain alone amounting to one hundred and twenty-three million three hundred thousand dollars; of live stock alone, two hundred and sixty-eight million dollars; of wholesale trade, seven hundred and 64 eighty-six million two hundred and five thousand dollars; of manufactures—where manufactures were once held impossible—the total of seven hundred and forty-one million and ninety-seven thousand dollars.

It was once four weeks from Maine to Washington; it is now four days from Oregon. The total wealth of all the cities, all the lands, all the individuals of that once despised West, runs into figures that surpass all belief and all comprehension. And this has grown up within less than a hundred years. The people have outrun all the wisdom of their leaders. What would Daniel Webster, famous New Englander, doubter and discreditor of the West, say, were he to know the West to-day?

Yet the men of that day were not so much to blame, for they were in the infancy of transportation, and as no army is better than its commissary trains, so is no nation better than its transportation. We were still in the crude, primitive, down-stream days. Steam had not yet come upon the great interior waterways. The west-bound mountain roads across the Alleghanies were still only narrow tracks worn by the feet of pack-horses that carried mostly salt and bullets. The turnpikes fit for wagon traffic were Eastern affairs only. The National Road, from Wheeling to the westward, was restricted in its staging possibilities.

65 Between the hardy Western population and its earlier home there rose the high barrier of the Appalachians, to ascend whose streams meant a long, grievous and dangerous journey, a Journey commercially impracticable. The first traffic of the old mountain road was in salt and bullets, and it was a traffic that all went one way. The difficulties of even this crude commerce led to the establishment, as the very first manufacture ever begun in the West, of works for the production of salt. Bullitt’s Lick, on Salt Creek, was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, manufacturing community west of the Alleghanies, and part of the downstream trade of the day was in carrying kettles from Louisville down the Ohio and up Salt Creek to the lick. This route was in hostile Indian country, and every voyage held its own terrors.

We may note, then, the beginning of the commercial West in the local necessities of that West. For the first west-bound generation the problem of transportation had been largely a personal one. The first adventurers, with little baggage but the rifle and the ax, able to live on parched corn and jerked venison, with women almost as hardy as men, neither possessed nor cared for the surplus things of life. They subsisted on what nature gave them, 66 seeking but little to add to the productiveness of nature in any way.

But now we must, presently, conceive of our Western man as already shorn of a trifle of his fringes. His dress was not now so near a parallel to that of the savage whom he had overcome. There was falling into his mien somewhat more of staidness and sobriety. This man had so used the ax that he had a farm, and on this farm he raised more than he himself could use—first step in the great future of the West as storehouse for the world. This extra produce could certainly not be taken back over the Alleghanies, nor could it be traded on the spot for aught else than merely similar commodities.

Here, then, was a turning-point in Western history. There is no need to assign to it an exact date. We have the pleasant fashion of learning history through dates of battles and assassinations. We might do better in some cases did we learn the time of certain great and significant happenings.

It was an important time when this first Western farmer, somewhat shorn of fringe, sought to find market for his crude produce, and found that the pack-horse would not serve him so well as the broad-horned flat-boat that supplanted his canoe. The flat-boat ran altogether down-stream. Hence it led altogether away from home and from the East. The 67 Western man was relying upon himself, cutting loose from traditions, asking help of no man; sacrificing, perhaps, a little of sentiment, but doing so out of necessity, and only because of the one great fact that the waters would not run back uphill, would not carry him back to the East that was once his home.

So the homes and the graves in the West grew, and there arose a civilization distinct and different from that which kept hold upon the sea and upon the Old World. The Westerner had forgotten the oysters and shad, the duck and terrapin of the seaboard. He still lived on venison and corn, the best portable food ever known for hard marching and hard work. The more dainty Easterners, the timid ones, the stay-at-homes, said that this new man of the Western territory was a creature “half horse and half alligator.” It were perhaps more just to accord to him a certain manhood, either then or now. He prevailed, he conquered, he survived, and therefore he was right. There grew the aristocracy of ability.

The government at Washington saw this growing up of a separate kingdom, and sought to shorten the arc of this common but far-reaching sky; it sought to mitigate the swiftness of these streams, to soften the steepness of these eternal hills. Witness Washington’s forgotten canal from the headwaters of the James River—a canal whose beginning or 68 end would puzzle the average American of to-day to define without special study. Witness many other canal and turnpike schemes, feeble efforts at the solution of the one imperishable problem of a land vast in its geography.

Prior to the Louisiana Purchase no man could think of a civilization west of the Mississippi; but there were certain weak attempts made by the government to bind to itself that part of the new lands that lay in the eastern half of the Mississippi valley. The “Ordinance of the Northwest,” done by the hand of Thomas Jefferson himself, makes interesting reading to-day. This ordinance sought to establish a number of states in the great valley “as soon as the lands should have been purchased from the Indians.”

It was proposed that each state should comprehend, from north to south, “two degrees of latitude, beginning to count from the completion of thirty-one degrees north of the equator, but any state northwardly of the forty-seventh degree shall make part of that state next below; and eastwardly and westwardly they shall be bounded, those on the Mississippi by that river on one side, and the meridian of the lowest point on the rapids of the Ohio on the other; those adjoining on the east by the same meridian on their western side, and on their eastern by the meridian of the western cape of the mouth of the Great 69 Kanawha; and the territory eastward of this last meridian between the Ohio, Lake Erie, and Pennsylvania shall be one state.”

The Ordinance even went so far as to propose names for these future states, and quaint enough were some of the names suggested for those that are now Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan. “Sylvania,” “Cherronesus,” “Asenesipia,” “Metropotamia,” “Pelesipia”—these are names of Western states that never were born, and in this there is proof enough of the fact that, though the government at Washington had its eye on the West, it had established no control over the West, and under the existing nature of things had no right ever to expect such control. As a matter of fact, the government never did catch this truant province until the latter, in its own good time, saw fit to come back home. This was after the West had solved its own problems of commercial intercourse.

It may now prove of interest to take a glance at the crude geography of this Western land at that time when it first began to produce a surplus, and the time when it had permanently set its face away from the land east of the Alleghanies. The census map (see Map No. 1) will prove of the best service, and its little blotches of color will tell much in brief regarding the West of 1800.

70 For forty years before this time the fur trade had had its depot at the city of St. Louis. For a hundred years there had been a settlement on the Great Lakes. For nearly a hundred years the town of New Orleans had been established. Here and there, between these foci of adventurers, there were odd, seemingly unaccountable little dots and specks of population scattered over all the map, product of that first uncertain hundred years. Ohio, directly west of the original Pennsylvania hotbed, was left blank for a long time, and indeed received her first population from the southward, and not from the East, though the New Englander, Moses Cleveland, founded the town of Cleveland as early as 1796.

Lower down in the great valley of the Mississippi was a curious, illogical, and now forgotten little band of settlers who had formed what was known as the “Mississippi Territory.” Smaller yet, and more inexplicable, did we not know the story of the old water-trail from Green Bay to the Mississippi, there was a dot, a smear, a tiny speck of population high up on the east bank of the Mississippi, where the Wisconsin emptied.

These valley settlements far outnumbered all the population of the state of Ohio, which had lain directly in the latitudinal path of the star. The West was beginning to be the West. The seed sown 71 by Marquette the Good, by Hennepin the Bad, by La Salle the Bold, by Tonty the Faithful, seed cultivated by Boone and Kenton, by Sevier and Robertson and scores and hundreds of stalwart early Westerners—seed despised by an ancient and corrupt monarchy—had now begun to grow.

Yet, beyond the farthest settlements of the West of that day, there was still a land so great that no one tried to measure it, or sought to include it in the plans of family or nation. It was all a matter for the future, for generations much later. Compared with the movements of the past, it must be centuries before the West—whatever that term might mean—could ever be overrun. That it could ever be exhausted was, to be sure, an utterly unthinkable thing.

There were vague stories among the hardy settlers about new lands incredibly distant, mythically rich in interest. But who dreamed the import of the journey of strong-legged Zebulon Pike into the lands of the Sioux, and who believed all his story of a march from Santa Fé to Chihuahua, and thence back to the Sabine? What enthusiasm was aroused for the peaceful settler of the Middle West, whose neighbor was fifty miles away, by that ancient saga, that heroically done, Homerically misspelled story of Lewis and Clark? There was still to be room 72 enough and chance enough in the West for any and all men.

The progress of civilization, accelerated with the passing of each century, was none the less slow at this epoch. There was an ictus here in the pilgrimage of humanity. It was as though the Fates wished that for a brief time the world might see the spectacle of a land of help and hope, of personal initiative and personal ambition. The slow-moving star of the West trembled and quivered with a new and unknown light, caught from these noble lakes and rivers, reflected from these mountains and these skies.

The stars of a new heaven looked down on another king, a king in linsey-woolsey. France kicked him forth a peasant, and, born again, he scorned the petty limitations of her seigniories, and stood on her rejected empire, the emperor of himself. England rotted him in her mines and ditches, but before the reversed flags of England were borne home from her war which did not subjugate, this same man, under another sky, was offering hospitality, and not obeisance, to her belted earls.

The Century Magazine; Continued.



“If we call the roll of American scouts, explorers, trappers, Indian fighters of the Far West; of men like John Colter, Robert McClellan, John Day, Jim Bridger, Bill Williams, Joe Meek, Kit Carson and their ilk, who trapped and fought over every nook and cranny of the Far West, from the Canadian divide to the ‘starving Gila,’ we shall find that most of them were of the old Shenandoah-Kentucky stock that made the first devious trail from Pennsylvania along and across the Appalachians.”

This statement of a well-advised writer is curious and interesting to any student of the real West. It applies, also, of course, and much more closely, to those earlier pioneers that explored the first West, that of the Mississippi valley; the Boones, Kentons, Harrods, Finleys, Bryans, Stuarts and hundreds of others of the fighting breed of Virginia and North Carolina, the families of nearly all of whom had made one or more pilgrimages to the south or even to the southeastward before the great trek westward over the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies.

74 America owes much of her national character and a vast part of her national territory to the individual initiative of these bold souls, who waited for no policies, no purchases, no leaderships, but pressed on, rifle and ax at hand, to find and hold our West for us. To-day we forget these men. The names of the captains of enterprise are lost in the tawdry modern lists of our so-called captains of industry. To-day, in a time that is fast becoming one of American serfdom, we lose in the haze of a national carelessness the figures of that earlier and more glorious day when the magnificent American West offered free scope and opportunity to a population wholly made up of men of daring, of individuality, of initiative, of self-leadership.

That was the day of the founding of the American aristocracy, of the birth of the American type, of the beginning of the American character. If we would study an actual American history, we can not leave out the American pioneer; and before, in our humble effort to approach the real genius of our America, we follow the strong sweep of the west-bound beyond the mighty Mississippi and toward the western sea, we shall do best to pause for a space and to make some inquiry into the origin and character of these early apostles of the creed of adventure.

75 If we ask chapter and verse in the study of the origin of this American frontiersman, this pioneer whose ambition was an indisputable personal independence, we shall not find the details of his ancestry among the records of wealthy and aristocratic dwellers of the seaboard region. The bone and brawn of the early frontier did not come from the Cavaliers, properly so-called; though it were doing the Cavaliers, the aristocrats, an injustice to say that they were deaf to the summons of adventure.

The man that dared life and fortune in moving to America would dare life and fortune west of the Alleghanies; and the history of many a colony and land grant in the early West is proof enough of this. The Cavalier or aristocrat, however, was not our typical axman or rifleman. The man of accomplished fortune, of stable social connections, dwelt farther back in that East that offered the most settled society of the American continent. The man in linsey-woolsey, the woodsman, the rifleman, was the man at the front, and it is in regard to his origin that we may profitably be somewhat curious. We shall, therefore, for a time be more concerned with the mountains of Pennsylvania than with the shores of Chesapeake Bay or the rich valleys of Maryland and the Old Dominion.

A student of the history of the early settlement 76 of Pennsylvania[6] furnishes data regarding the two great stems of the pioneer stock, the Quaker and the Scotch-Irish, which were most prominent among the many nationalities that flocked to the kindly kingdom of William Penn, where each man was treated as a man, and where independence in thought and action was the portion each claimed as his own.

“In the first half of the eighteenth century,” says this writer, “many thousands of Scotch-Irish, Germans and Welsh landed at Philadelphia and New Castle, and a large majority of them found homes in Pennsylvania. A number of the former turned to the westward from New Castle and established themselves in Maryland and Virginia. Among them were the ancestors of Meriwether Lewis, whose grandfather was born in Ulster, Ireland; and a number of other noted pathfinders of the West.

“A few isolated settlements were also formed in New Jersey and Delaware, but as before stated, the majority of them found homes in Pennsylvania. They swarmed up the valleys of the Delaware, Schuylkill and Susquehanna and their tributaries, and became at once the vanguard of frontier settlement; and they and their progeny continued to merit this distinction until the descendants of the Atlantic seaboard 77 settlements looked down from the summit of the Rockies on the Pacific slope.

“In the last half of the eighteenth century many hundreds of families migrated from Pennsylvania southward into the valleys of the Shenandoah and the south branch of the Potomac, whence numbers of them continued their journey into North and South Carolina. The records of the Society of Friends in Bucks, Lancaster and Chester counties show that hundreds of certificates of removal were granted their members during this period, to remove to Virginia and the Carolinas; and many of these sturdy Quakers eventually found homes west of the Alleghanies, though not a few of them, like Daniel Boone, the great king of frontiersmen, found the exigencies of life on the frontier incompatible with peace principles, one of the cardinal tenets of their faith, and drifted out of the Society.

“During the same period hordes of people of other religious denominations removed from Pennsylvania over the same route. The counties of Augusta and Rockingham, in Virginia, were settled almost exclusively by Pennsylvanians from Bucks and Berks and the Cumberland valley, many of whom found homes farther west or left their bones to bleach in the savage-tenanted wilderness of the frontier.

“Boone himself was a native of Berks County and 78 removed in 1750, when a lad of sixteen, with his family and a host of others, among whom were the Hankses, Hentons, Lincolns and many others whose names became familiar in the drama of the West, first to Virginia and later to North Carolina. William Stewart, a companion of Boone in Kentucky who was killed at Blue Licks, in 1785, was a native of Bucks County, and, it is claimed by relatives of both Boone and Stewart, was also a schoolmate of Boone’s.

“If this be true, it must have been in Virginia, as Boone never lived in Bucks County, though his father was a resident of New Britain township prior to the birth of Daniel. Soon after the death of Stewart, his sister, Hannah Harris, of Newtown, made an overland trip from Newtown, Bucks County, to Danville, Kentucky, to look after the estate bequeathed by Stewart to his sisters, Mary Hunter and Hannah Harris of Bucks County, and after her return made a report of the cost of the trip, which is on record at Doylestown.

“The power of attorney of Mary Hunter to Hannah Harris to proceed to ‘Kaintuckee’ to collect her share of the Estate of William Stewart is dated May seventh, 1787; and the power of attorney given by Hannah Harris to John Dormer Murray to transact her business in Bucks County, dated July twenty-fifth, 1787, states that she is ‘about setting out for 79 Kaintuckee’ and therefore fixes approximately the date of the beginning of her journey.

“Dr. Hugh Shiells, of Philadelphia, who had married Ann, the daughter of Hannah Harris, May thirtieth, 1782, preceded her to Kentucky and took up his residence near Frankfort. He died in 1785, leaving an infant daughter Kitty, who on arriving at womanhood married Thomas Bodley, one of the trustees of Transylvania University.

“Archibald Finley, who, we believe, was the emigrant ancestor of the John Finley who led an exploring party into southern Kentucky from North Carolina in 1767, died in New Britain township, Bucks County, in March, 1749, leaving at least three sons, Henry, John and Alexander, of whom the two former removed to Virginia and later to Kentucky. They are believed to have been members of a party of a score or more families who left Bucks County about 1760 and journeyed to Loudoun County, Virginia, whence a number of them removed soon after to Orange County, North Carolina. Of this party were Robert Jamison and his family and the Fergusons of Plumstead.

“William, James and Morgan Bryan, brothers-in-law of Daniel Boone, who accompanied him from North Carolina to Kentucky, were also natives of Pennsylvania. They were the sons of Morgan Bryan, 80 who came from Ireland prior to 1719, at which date his name appears on the tax list of Birmingham township, Chester County, as a ‘single man.’ He married the following year Martha Strode, and in the year 1734 with fifteen others obtained a grant of a large tract of land on the Opeckon and Potomac rivers near Winchester, Virginia, and removed thereon. From this point he removed with his family to the Yadkin, where Daniel Boone met and married his daughter, Rebecca, in 1755.

“There is an abundance of documentary evidence in Bucks County and in possession of her sons elsewhere, showing that many of the pioneers of Kentucky were natives of Bucks. The wills of many Bucks-countians devise estates to brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, ‘now or late of Virginia,’ or ‘in the county called Kaintuckee, Province of Virginia.’

“Rev. J. W. Wallace, of Independence, Missouri, has in his possession an old account book and diary combined, kept by his great-grandfather, John Wallace, who was born in Warrington, Bucks County, in 1748, and who served with distinction as a lieutenant in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, some of the entries having been made in this book while the owner was in camp with Washington at Valley Forge in the dark winter of 1777-8. Lieutenant John Wallace married into the Finley family 81 and joining them in Loudoun County, removed with them into Kentucky in 1788.

“This remarkable book contains the record of the birth of John Wallace and his eight brothers and sisters, several of whom accompanied him to Kentucky, as well as an account of the journey of the emigrants from Virginia to Kentucky, which was made in wagons from Loudoun County to the Ohio River; from which point a portion of the party went in boats down the Ohio River to Limestone, now Maysville, then overland to Frankfort, while the remainder crossed over the mountains on pack-horses. They had doubtless been preceded by their relative, John Finley, of North Carolina.

“A similar book is in possession of W. W. Flack, of Davenport, Iowa, the great-great-grandson of the first owner. On the fly leaf is endorsed the following: ‘Receipt Book of William Flack, May 20, 1789.’ This William Flack was born in Buckingham township, Bucks County, on May eleventh, 1746, and died at Crab Orchard, Lincoln County, Kentucky, in 1824. He was a son of James and Ann (Baxter) Flack, Scotch-Irish emigrants who came to Bucks County about 1730 and settled near Bushington. William Flack was captain of the Buckingham company of militia during the Revolution, and is said to have been in active service at the battle of 82 Brandywine and at other points. After the close of the war, accompanied by his brother Benjamin and a nephew of the same name, he removed to Kentucky, by way of Virginia.

“One of the memoranda in the old book is as follows: ‘Benjamin Flack was killed by the Indians at the Mouth of Salt River the 1st Day of March 1786.’ William Flack married Susannah Callison in Kentucky, March twenty-first, 1797, and the ‘Receipt Book’ records that event and the births of their six children, two of whom died in infancy. On hearing of the death of his father, which occurred September second, 1802, Captain Flack started for Bucks County, and it is related that his long absence on this tedious journey led his family to believe that he had been captured by the Indians.

“While these Pennsylvanians were wending their way southward, their brethren in the Cumberland and Juniata valleys, augmented by recruits from settlements farther east, were pushing their way westward into Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties, whence they migrated to Kentucky and the Northwest Territory.”[7]

83 As to that war-like breed, the Scotch-Irish, famous in American frontiering, the same historian first quoted goes on in detailed description from which we may take the following:

“History has touched lightly upon the home life of the little colony of Ulster Scots, who settled on the banks of the Neshaminy in the townships of Warwick, Warrington and New Britain, in Bucks County, Pa.; but these people were none the less worthy of a prominent place in the records of the 84 past. Driven by religious persecution from their native Highlands in the seventeenth century, the remnants of many a noble clan sought temporary refuge in the province of Ulster, Ireland, whence, between the years 1720 and 1740, thousands of them migrated to America, and peopled the hills and valleys of Pennsylvania’s frontier with a sturdy, rugged race that was destined to play an important part in the formation of our national character.

“Clannish by nature and tradition, they clung together in small communities of two score or more families, a majority of them related by ties of blood or marriage. They took up the unsettled portions of the new province. Accustomed for generations to the rugged mountain sides of their own native land, the roughness of the new territory did not discourage them. In fact, the steep hillsides on the banks of our rivers and smaller streams, shunned or neglected by the early English settlers, seem to have had an especial attraction for them.

“Possessed of a character as stern and uncompromising as the granite of their native mountains, this little colony did not concern itself in the affairs of its neighbors. Indeed there was no occasion to do so. They had brought with them the things they needed, and had inherent in their nature that which made them a people separate and apart from the 85 communities by which they were surrounded. In their lives and characters was a declaration of independence that in itself nourished the spirit of freedom, which was to carry these people into the thick of the fight when the time arrived to bid defiance to the mother country.

“This spirit was further augmented by their independence and resources in the development of the material affairs of the colony. As previously stated, there were among the first settlers men of every trade and calling calculated to make the colony self-sustaining. There were husbandmen, weavers, smiths, masons, joiners, cord-wainers, millers and tradesmen, whose industry and thrift made it possible for the schoolmaster and preacher to devote himself exclusively to the intellectual and spiritual needs of the community. But with true Scotch economy, the teacher and preacher were often one and the same. As an illustration may be cited the founding of Tennent’s famous Log College as an adjunct to the Neshaminy Church, of which he was pastor.

“The stimulus given to civil and religious freedom by the uninterrupted exercise of these liberties, in strong contrast to the repression and persecution in the old country, cannot be overestimated. Princeton, as well as like institutions elsewhere, had its inception in our own Log College; and Finley, its first 86 president, was akin to those of the same name in Warrington.

“The sons of Bucks County’s sturdy pioneers were constantly pushing on beyond our frontiers, carrying with them the lessons of frugality, piety and independence learned in this primitive community. They formed new colonies and engendered therein the love of freedom, which, when the Revolutionary War broke out, easily made the Scotch-Irish element the dominant party in the struggle for national independence in our state. Independence accomplished, they returned to their homes and again took up the business of self-government, broadened and refined by contact with the outside world, the primitive characteristics of their early life gone, but retaining the independence and courage of their forebears which had developed in them the best elements of citizenship.”

Warren S. Ely, of Doylestown, Pa.

The Pennsylvania historian might also have given us some word of that Col. George Morgan, some of whose descendants reside even now at Morganza, in Pennsylvania. Col. George Morgan had passed westward over the Alleghanies some years in advance of Daniel Boone’s first visit to Kentucky. Mr. James Morris Morgan, of Washington, D. C., in correspondence has this to say in regard to certain early voyagings of his ancestor, which were undertaken while the Quakers of Pennsylvania were still quietly dropping down from the hills of Pennsylvania into the eastern portions of Virginia and the Carolinas:

“Col. George Morgan embarked at the village of Kaskaskia, on the Kaskaskia River, for his voyage down the Mississippi on the 21st of November, 1766. Butler, in his history of Kentucky, gives the credit of being the first American citizen to descend the Mississippi to Col. Taylor, in 1769. Col. Morgan was the first American citizen to found a colony in the Territory of Louisiana. Under a grant of King Carlos IV, he built the city of New Madrid, March, 1789. The grant embraced some 15,000,000 acres of land. (Gayarré; ‘History of Louisiana.’) On June 20, 1788, Congress ordered the annulment of Col. Morgan’s Indian claim to a greater portion of the state of Illinois, ‘claiming the land bordering on the Mississippi, from the mouth of the Ohio to a determined station on the Mississippi that shall be sixty or eighty miles north from the mouth of the Illinois River, and extending from the Mississippi as far eastward as may.’ The treaty meeting held under the auspices of Sir William Johnson at Fort Stanwix, when the Indians deeded the territory of Indiana to George Morgan, his father-in-law John Boynton, and his partner Samuel Wharton, (Boynton, Wharton & Morgan) and several other minor traders whose goods had been despoiled, was held on November 3, 1768. The state of Virginia claimed the territory after the Revolutionary War, and bullied the national government into compliance with her claims, the United States accepting the property as a present from Virginia, immediately after deciding in her favor. (See Journal of Congress, 1784, Feb. 26.)”



In preceding chapters we have taken up in general and in particular the origin, the purpose and the progress of the early American frontiersman. We have seen how this man, impelled by one reason or another, began to push outward on his way over the Appalachian range into the valley of the Mississippi. We have seen that the course of west-bound civilization was at first not wholly along the easiest way, but over barriers that had apparently been established by nature as insurmountable.

From headwater to headwater, among these rugged hills, from one valley into another, ever and ever westward, the early American had won his way, until he struck the waters running into the lower Gulf by way of that great highway of the interior floods, the Mississippi River. We have seen that for a space the early population did not head directly westward, but dropped down from Pennsylvania into Maryland and Virginia, and from Maryland and Virginia into the Carolinas.

Many of the early adventurers seem to have made 88 their halting and rallying ground in North Carolina. Here were some of the men of Watauga, men who were to people Tennessee, men who were to discover and settle the grand state of Kentucky, that steadfast portion of our Western empire whose fidelity was to thwart all of those early efforts at Western sedition and secession that once threatened the unity of the American people.

Having thus dealt in generalizations, we shall perhaps now do well to study some type, some product, of this early civilization, some character that shall indicate the general characteristics of the land and people of that early time. In this desire we fall naturally on the romantic yet pertinent story of that typical and historical frontiersman, Daniel Boone.

Among the great sayings of great men there is one that rings like a trumpet voice through all the press of years. “Here stand I,” said Martin Luther. “Here I stand. I can not otherwise. God help me!” If we should come to comparisons, we might perhaps call Daniel Boone the Luther of frontiering, the evangel of adventure, the prophet of early west-bound daring. Certainly he was the most forward, the most present, the most instant man of his place and time.

If we endeavor to see Daniel Boone, the man, as he actually was, we find ourselves at the outset 89 dealing with a character already approaching the mythical in quality. Thus, in regard to his personality, certain folk imagine him as tall, thin, angular, uncouth. Others will portray to you a man with voice like thunder in the hills, with gore ever in his eye, in his voice perpetually the breathings of insatiate hate and rage. They will insist that Boone was bloody minded, overbearing, a man delighting in slaughters and riotings. Such pictures are utterly wrong; so much we may discover to be absolutely sure from the scant record of Boone’s real life.

He was Quaker-bred, as we have seen. A sweeter soul than his we shall not find though we search all the pages of history. Meeting every species of danger, he remained undaunted. Meeting every manner of adversity, he remained unsoured. With every reason for conceit, he remained unbitten of any personal vanity. To the end of his life it was his belief that he was “an instrument ordained by Providence to settle the wilderness;” yet he lost no time in posing himself in any supposititious sainthood. Nor must we imagine him crude or ignorant in his simplicity, for those who knew him best state that he was “a man of ambition, shrewdness and energy, as well as of fine social qualities and an extreme sagacity.”

He was learned in the knowledge useful at his time, although of books he wist not at all. Deeply 90 religious in the true sense of religion, a worshiper of the Great Maker as evidenced in His works, he was not a church member. There was no vaunting in his soul of his own righteousness; yet never was he irritable even in old age, when the blood grows cold, and the thwarted ambitions come trooping home to roost in the lives of most of us. “God gave me a work to perform,” said he, “and I have done my best.” With this feeling he lived and died content.

Regarding the Boone of early years, we find it difficult to frame a clear picture, but there is more information obtainable regarding his later life, and we can see him then clearly. A man reaching the ripe age of eighty-six, with five generations of his family living at the same time; a man snowy haired, yet still of ruddy complexion, of frame still unbent, with kindly and gentle personal habits—this is the real Daniel Boone: no swearer of oaths, no swashbuckler, no roisterer, but a self-respecting, fearless gentleman, steadfast, immovable from his fixed purpose, inalienable from the mission which he conceived to be his own.

A writer who knew him late in life says that on his introduction to Colonel Boone his impressions were those of “surprise, admiration and delight.” In boyhood he had read of Daniel Boone, the pioneer of Kentucky, the celebrated hunter and 91 Indian fighter, and in imagination he portrayed a “rough, uncouth looking specimen of humanity, and, of course, at this period of life, an irritable and intractable old man. But in every respect,” says this biographer, “the reverse appeared. His high bold forehead was slightly bald, and his silver locks were combed smooth. His countenance was ruddy and fair, and exhibited the simplicity of a child. His voice was soft and melodious, and a smile frequently played over his face in conversation. His clothing was of the plain, coarse manufacture of the family. Everything about him indicated that kind of comfort that was congenial to his habits and feelings, and he evinced a happy old age. Boone was a fair specimen of the better class of Western pioneers, honest of heart and liberal—in short, one of nature’s noblemen. He abhorred a mean action and delighted in honesty and truth. He never delighted in the shedding of human blood, even that of his enemies in war. His remarkable quality was an unwavering and invincible fortitude.”

As to personal description, Boone was neither a tall nor a thin man. He was not angular nor bony. His frame was covered not with cloying fat but with firm and easily playing muscles, and he carried none of the useless tissue of the man of civilization. His weight was “about one hundred and 92 seventy-five pounds.” Audubon, who met him late in his life, says: “He approached the gigantic in stature. His chest was broad and prominent, and his muscular powers were visible in every limb. His countenance gave indication of his great courage, enterprise and perseverance.”

Yet in person Boone did not quite reach the six-foot mark, but was just below five feet and ten inches in stature, some say five feet eight inches, being therefore of exactly that build which good judges of men esteem to be most desirable for combined strength, activity and endurance. He was rather broad shouldered: that is to say, his shoulders nicely overhung his hips. All agree that he was of “robust and powerful proportions.” One historian speaks of his “piercing hazel eye”; yet this is but romancing.

Most portraits of Daniel Boone are the products of imagination. The most authentic, perhaps the only authentic portrait of him, is that painted in 1820 by Chester Harding, “who,” says an early writer, “of American artists is the one most celebrated for his likenesses.” When Harding made his portrait of Boone, the latter was very feeble, and had to be supported during the sittings. This portrait shows a face thin and pale, with hair of snowy whiteness and eye “bright blue, mild and pleasant.” This blue 93 eye is of the best color in all the world for keenness of vision, for quickness and accuracy with the rifle. The Harding portrait does not show the square chin that some writers give to Boone; and certainly it portrays no ferocious looking ruffian, but a man mild, gentle and contemplative, “not frivolous, thoughtless or agitated.”

As to Boone’s appearance early in life, we must to some extent join the others who imagine or presume. It is fair to suppose that in complexion he was florid, with the clear skin, sometimes marked with freckles, that you may see to-day in the mountains of the Cumberland, in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, sometimes in North Carolina and Mississippi. The color of his hair was never that of “raven blackness.” Perhaps it was brown, but not a finely filamented brown. It was more likely blond, and perhaps indeed carried a shade of red. Certainly the ends of his hair were bleached a tawny yellow, that splendid yellow that you may see even to-day in the hair and beard and mustaches of the outdoor men of the American West.

In his younger days he often wore the half savage garb of the early American hunters—the buckskin or linsey hunting shirt, the fringed leggings of the same material, with moccasins made of the skin of 94 the deer or buffalo. His hat was as chance would have it. Perhaps sometimes he wore a cap of fur.

His weaponry we may know exactly, for his rifle can be seen to-day, preserved by his descendants. It is the typical long-barreled, crooked-stocked, small-bore American rifle, with the wooden stock or fore end extending along the full length of the barrel. There are a few rude attempts at ornamentation on this historic arm. The sights lie close to the barrel, after the fashion of those deadly ancient weapons. The wood is rotting a little bit where the oil of long-ago cleaning operations has touched it. Perhaps the spring of the lock is a trifle weak. Yet we may not doubt that, were Daniel Boone alive to-day, he could teach the old piece to voice its music and could show again its ancient deadly art.

In chronology Boone’s time runs back to that of Washington. He was born November second, 1734, the date of Washington’s birth being 1732. His older brother was called Squire Boone, after the first American Boone, who was himself an Englishman, but who came to America early in the history of the lower colonies. The Boone homestead was once located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but Daniel was born after his parents had moved into Berks County, 95 Pennsylvania, near the town that is now Reading. Some historians say he was born in Bucks County.

In his youth Daniel did not seek knowledge through the medium of books.[8] His mind was “not of the most ardent nature.” Before him lay the great book of the Wilderness. Thus he became well acquainted with the habits of wild game animals, not ascribing to these creatures, we may be sure, any of those fanciful qualities which are accorded them in the silly fashion of these days, but knowing them as they actually were, and betimes using them, as was planned in the scheme of nature.

When Boone was eighteen years of age his family heard many stories about the Yadkin River country of North Carolina. Forthwith they moved through the Shenandoah valley into what was then a yet wilder country than that of Pennsylvania. Here we have mythical tales of a fire hunt at night in which Daniel Boone “shined the eyes” of a certain maiden; of a deadly aim miraculously stayed, and a subsequent marriage unceremoniously sped. As to the fire hunt we may doubt, but as to the marriage there is no question. Boone married Rebecca Bryan in 1755. Therefore Daniel must move once 96 more, this time farther up the Yadkin, where the forests were yet more quiet, and neighbors still more distant.

Previously to his marriage Boone had been a hunter,—what we would now call a professional hunter. He sometimes took hides and furs to the more distant Eastern settlements, and so saw some of the Virginia towns. He was, however, not merely a half-savage woods wanderer, although a past master in all woodcraft. The year before his marriage he was with the Pennsylvania militia, who fought the Indians along the border after the French had defeated George Washington and his Virginians at Great Meadows. In the fatal Braddock fight Daniel Boone was a wagoner in the baggage train, and barely escaped with his life in the panic flight.

At twenty-one he was a man grown, matured, acquainted with all the duties and dangers of frontier life, physically fit for feats of strength, activity and endurance, and both mentally and physically a perfect machine for the purposes of vanguard work in the wilderness. His imagination painted him no gloomy picture of peril, but only scenes of things delectable a little farther to the west, across the hills that faced him. His emotions did not prevent his walking forthwith into what might be peril; and having entered perils, he was content if each day 97 found him yet alive, nor did his mind entertain forebodings as to the morrow. The creed of the wilderness, the creed of wild things had entered into his soul.

They call Daniel Boone explorer, hunter, Indian fighter. Let us figure him as philosopher. Temperament and training gave footing for that part of his philosophy that embodied his permanent personal conviction that “God had appointed him as an instrument for the settlement of the wilderness.”

Boone, after his marriage, and after his edging out westward toward the head of the Yadkin, lived much as he had done before. His cabin was no better than his neighbor’s, his little corn farm was much as theirs, albeit his table always had wild meat enough and to spare, and there were hides and furs in abundance. By this time two generations of white men had held this slope of the Appalachians. The buffalo had in all likelihood crossed the mountains to the westward, though one writer says they were “abundant” on the Yadkin at this time. Boone may perhaps have seen an elk now and then along the Yadkin, but even this is not certain. Bear, deer, turkey, small furred animals, he took in numbers. He was content, nor did he differ much from his fellows. He must have been about thirty years of age before he began to evince traits distinctly 98 different from those of his scattered wilderness neighbors; before he began to hear the Voices, whispering yet irresistible, that called him on; those Voices of the West, which for a hundred years called our best and boldest to come out into the unknown and the alluring; those Voices which to-day are perforce stilled forever.

It was in the year 1769, in the month of May, that Boone started out for his first determined exploration of “the far-famed but little-known land of Kentucky.” He had before this time been eager to cross the range and see for himself; indeed, he had made one short hunting trip into what is now the eastern edge of the state of Kentucky. Now, in the prime of life, at thirty-five years of age, he felt that the time had come for him to cross the range and make his abiding place in the West.

We are accustomed to think that Boone was the first explorer of Kentucky, but such was by no means the case. Boone’s first trip across the mountains, to the headwaters of the Holston, was in 1761. John Peter Salling, a West Virginian, crossed Kentucky and Illinois as early as 1738. Doctor Thomas Walker and a party of Virginians had long before deliberately explored a part of Kentucky; and in 1751 Boone’s Yadkin neighbor, Christopher Gist,—the same Gist that accompanied Washington in his dangerous 99 winter trip to the French forts on the Ohio,—made yet fuller explorations.

Some of these early voyagings were not made of intent. Salling crossed Kentucky as a captive of the Indians, who took him as far west as Kaskaskia; and Mary Draper Ingles, “the first American bride west of the mountains,” whose father established the first actual settlement west of the Alleghanies, was in 1755 taken captive by the savages, and carried across Kentucky and parts of Ohio and Indiana, thus being an explorer quite against her will.

Two hunters from Pittsburg, James Harrod and Michael Steiner or Stoner, after pushing out into the Illinois country, crossed the Ohio and traveled quite across Kentucky, as far south as the present city of Nashville, Tennessee. Steiner and Harrod were friends of Boone’s, and Harrod built his stockade of Harrodsburg a year before Boonesborough was begun, his journey with Steiner having been made two years before Boone made his pilgrimage across the Divide.

Kasper Mansker or Mansco, later a famous scout and Indian fighter, went with the Virginian “Long Hunters” into Kentucky in 1769. John Finley or Finlay had traded with the Indians on the Red River of Kentucky in 1752, some years before Boone saw that region. Finley was an associate of Boone’s in the 100 border wars before Boone was married, and it was Finley, in all likelihood, that first set Boone aflame with the desire to see and settle in Kentucky. Yet he might have had the counsel of James McBride, who in 1754 visited the mouth of the Kentucky River, and came back to say that he “had found the best tract of land in North America, and probably in the world.” Finley added to these stories, and clinched it all by saying that game of all kinds was abundant, that the mountains were beautiful beyond description, and that, moreover, salt could be manufactured on the spot.

This last argument had very much to do with the settlement of Kentucky. Salt and lead were essentials. Salt was very heavy. The transportation across these grim mountains was very difficult. If one could have salt in Kentucky, it would not be necessary for one to come back. To-day we can scarcely understand this reasoning, once so cogent.

To strengthen the grasp upon historical facts and dates it is sometimes well to begin at the time close at hand, and go backward. We may therefore make a reversed recapitulation of the explorations of Kentucky, this dark and bloody hunting and fighting ground of many tribes of strong-legged and peppery-headed savages.

In 1770 the “Long Hunters” of Joseph Drake and 101 Henry Skaggs were in Kentucky—indeed, ran across Daniel Boone there; yet Kentucky was then an oldish land. In 1766 James Smith and five others explored much of west Tennessee, and worked north as far as Illinois. The Virginian, John McCullough, with one white companion, saw Kentucky in the summer of 1769, pushed on northward as far as the point where Terre Haute, Indiana, now stands, and later descended the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Uriah Stone took a party of twenty hunters over the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky in the month of June, 1769, one month later than Boone’s journey thither; but Stone had been in Kentucky in 1766.

George Washington was on the Ohio River in 1770 and 1767; John Finley in 1752; Christopher Gist in 1750; Doctor Thomas Walker in 1748; John Peter Salling and John Howard, in 1742, we have noted. Before all these was the French expedition of 1735. Indeed, just one hundred years before Boone’s journey into Kentucky, John Lederer, a Virginian, crossed the Alleghanies and fared westward for some distance; and ninety-nine years previous to Boone’s first glimpse of the delectable land, Thomas Batts and party had “taken possession” of the headwaters of the Great Kanawha in the name of Charles II.

We therefore see, with what will be a certain surprise to the average reader of American history, 102 that Kentucky and the trans-Appalachian land was not wholly unknown but indeed fairly well understood and accurately forecast in possibilities, more than a generation before Daniel Boone ever saw it. Where, then, is Boone’s fame as an explorer? Upon what does his reputation as an adventurer rest? What claim had he to hold himself as an “instrument for the settlement of the wilderness”?

The answer to all these doubts is read in the record of the holding of Kentucky. It is found in the inefficacy of a “taking possession” by means of the temporary planting of a flag and the empty claiming of a territory extending from sea to sea. The flag of Boonesborough was planted never to come down. The stockade of the homebuilders was defended by an “unwavering fortitude.” Kentucky discovered Daniel Boone, not Daniel Boone discovered Kentucky. Read it in this way and all shall be plain.

The birth of a new man in the world, the American, had now taken place. The Old World explorers took possession with a flag, furled it and carried it away again. The new man, the American, flung out a flag that has never yet come down in all the world, and which, please God! never shall so long as we remain like to the first Americans. John Finley guided Daniel Boone across the Cumberland Gap; but he 103 guided him into a land now ready for a Daniel Boone—into a West now ready for the American man.

It was, then, in the month of May, 1769, that Boone left the Yadkin settlements and started westward. He had as companions John Finley, Joseph Holden, James Monay or Mooney, William Coole or Cooley, and John Stewart or Stuart. Of all the different expeditions into the region west of the Appalachians this was the most important. Following its doings, you shall see the long spur of the Anglo-Saxon civilization thrusting out and out into the West—to the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Rockies, the Pacific—and never setting backward foot.

The journey over the mountains was not rapid and not continuous, it being necessary for the party to hunt as well as to explore. The rifle, the ax, the horse, the boat, were their aids and agents, their argument and answer to the wilderness. Evolution had gone on. The American was born.

Boone and his friends seem to have camped on the east side of the Cumberland Mountains, where they remained for “some days.” It was from this camp that they made expeditions, and at length climbed to a certain ridge whence they could see the glorious realm of Kentucky. On this day they saw their first herd of buffalo, the first trail-makers over the 104 Appalachians, of which they killed some numbers. They saw, also, elk, deer and other animals. Boone was delighted. There thrilled in his heart all the joy of the hunter and explorer. Now the little party moved over to the Red River, where Finley had formerly been located. “Here,” said Boone, “both man and beast may grow to their full size.” That was good American prophecy.

For six months this adventurous little party lived and hunted in their new empire. Then, swiftly and without warning, there came a taste of some of the disadvantages of this wild residence. Stewart and Boone were taken captive by the Indians and were carried to the north, a march of seven days. On the seventh night they made their escape and came back to their bivouac on the Red River, only to find that their friends had left them and returned to the settlements. As offset to this unpleasant news came their present discovery by Squire Boone and one companion, Alexander Neeley, who had followed the adventurers all the way into Kentucky. Daniel’s older brother had brought with him some needful supplies, chief of these powder and lead, worth far more than gold and silver.

“Soon after this period,” goes on the simple and businesslike chronicle, “John Stewart was killed by the Indians.” Hence the two Boone brothers were 105 left alone, Squire Boone’s companion having met his fate in some mysterious manner, perhaps at the hands of the Indians, though others state that he was devoured by wolves,—a very unlikely story. The two brothers built themselves a rude cabin of poles and bark, and there they spent the fall and summer of 1769. In May of the following year Squire Boone returned to North Carolina.[9]

It is now that for the first time we may accord justice to the picture that shows us the pioneer, Daniel Boone, alone in the wilderness of Kentucky. He was at this time, so far as he knew, the only white man in that entire section of country. Fearless, adventurous and self-reliant, he extended his wanderings farther to the west, and visited the site of what is now the city of Louisville. His life depended entirely upon his own vigilance. He was without bread or salt, without even a dog to keep him company or serve as guard. Naturally he met 106 the savages. Once when pursued by the Indians, he escaped by the clever artifice of swinging himself far to one side of his trail by means of a depending grape-vine—a stratagem not recorded of any other Western adventurer.

He seems to have been happy, alone in a solitude whose nature one can not understand who has never found himself under conditions at least mildly similar. His consolation came in his communings with the wild things about him, in his readings in the great book of nature. His gallery was the magnificent one of wood and stream and hill. “He stood upon an eminence, whence, looking about in astonishment, he beheld the ample plain and beauteous upland, and saw the river rolling in silent dignity. The chirp of the birds solaced his cares with music. The numerous deer and elk which passed him gave him assurance that he was in the midst of plenty. Cheerfulness possessed his mind. He was a second Adam—if the figure be not too strong—giving names to springs and rivers and places all unknown to civilized man.” Such was the kingdom of the West.

Now came again the faithful Squire Boone, all the way from the far-off Yadkin. These two discovered country of such fertility and such abundance in game that they no longer had any heart 107 left for the more barren region of North Carolina. They determined to bring thither their families, and the fall of that year saw them both back at the old home, making plans for the pilgrimage into the new world beyond the Alleghanies. Restless and ill-content we may suppose Daniel to have been, for it was not until the fall of 1773 that he was able to sell his farm and get together his effects.

Five families left the Yadkin with him for Kentucky, these being joined later by forty men, all of whom traveled under the guidance of Boone. They proceeded westward in pastoral cavalcade, driving their herds and carrying their effects with them. So far, very well, until the tenth of October, when came the first ambuscade of the savage Indians. Six men of the party were killed, among these a son of Daniel Boone. The cattle were scattered or destroyed. No wonder that all lost heart except the steadfast leader. He was content to remain with the retreating party in the settlements of the Clinch River only until June of the following year.

Now, biding his time, and longing for greater adventures, Boone receives a message from the governor of Virginia. It seems there are certain surveyors who have gone down the Ohio River and have lost themselves in the wilderness. Could Daniel Boone discover these surveyors for the governor? 108 Assuredly. And hence he undertakes his first real mission of independent leadership. He has but one companion, Michael Stoner or Steiner, and before them lie many hundred miles of trackless forest, with no road, no path, no trail. Yet the surveyors are found and led safely back to their own.

This act seems to inspire confidence in Boone, and Colonel Henderson, a famous land speculator, employs him as his agent for the purchase from the Southern Indians of certain lands lying south of the Kentucky River. Boone is successful in these negotiations. It is necessary now that there should be a road established between these outlying lands and the door of civilization. Who better than Boone to establish this wilderness trail? He lays out the way from the Holston to the Kentucky River. We are told, without unnecessary flourish, that “in this work four of his party were killed and five wounded.”

It was in April, 1775, that Boone erected a station or palisade on the Kentucky River near a salt lick. We are told that the stockade was built “sixty yards from the south bank of the stream.” This was close to the present site of the town of Frankfort, Kentucky. Another writer says the date of the foundation of Boonesborough—as the station was called—was June fourteenth, 1775. Dates are unimportant. The fact is that Boone during that 109 spring attained his immediate and most cherished ambition. He established his home in the heart of this beautiful land of Kentucky.

Thither he moved his family, his wife and daughter being the first white women willingly and of intent to set foot on the soil of Kentucky. Boone was now in the heyday of life, strong, fearless, tireless, a keen hunter, a cool-headed warrior. The ways of the wilderness were known to him. The imprint on the moss, the discolored water at the fountain, the broken bough, the abraded bark on the tree-trunk—all these things were an open book. No Indian could imitate the chatter of the squirrel, the calling of the crow, the gobbling of the wild turkey in his signals to his fellow savage, so closely that the acute ear of this master hunter did not detect the deceit. If savages crossed the country within a score of miles of his station, Boone knew of them, knew how they were armed, knew what was their purpose in that land. None could have been better equipped than he as “an instrument for the settlement of the wilderness.”

Life went on in Kentucky much as on the Yadkin, on the Clinch or on the Holston. White men began to gather in at the station of Boonesborough, or at one of the two or three other posts that now were established in the land. These white men, shoulder to 110 shoulder, fought the savages cheerfully, continuously, never for a moment thinking of surrendering their hold. The leader of this wild warfare was Daniel Boone, the man of “unwavering fortitude.”

The war of the rebellion against the Old World was now going on apace. Great Britain had given the red savages below the Great Lakes better arms and had deliberately incited a more insatiate enmity against the white man. Whereas the Indians had at first adopted prisoners into their tribe, they now became more savage and implacable, in many more instances killing such prisoners as fell into their hands.

Here we find ourselves again to some extent in the realms of imagination as to the adventures of Daniel Boone. We meet the ancient anecdote of the capture by the Indians of Boone’s daughter, in company with two daughters of the neighboring Calloway family. Some say that the children were out hunting up the cows, others that they were in a canoe on the river, and that the canoe was taken away by a savage who swam out and made them prisoners. We may be sure that Boone and Calloway raised a party in pursuit, and it may be deemed historical fact that they rescued their daughters; though some state that the rescue was effected within a few miles of the post, whereas others place it after 111 a long journey, and state that Boone and Calloway were themselves taken prisoners by the savages, and in turn rescued by their surviving companions only after a bitter struggle. One may suit himself in these matters, yet he must believe that the settlement of Boonesborough was the center of a most savage and relentless warfare.

The civilized necessity for salt was one of the chief causes of danger for these Kentuckians. In 1778 Boone, with twenty-seven companions, was engaged in salt-making at the Blue Licks, when they were surrounded by a large band of Indians. Boone was made captive, with others, and taken north across the Ohio River. These savages were Shawanese, from the Pickaway Plain. Eventually they took Boone as far north as Detroit, where the commandant, Hamilton, pleased with Boone’s manly character, undertook to ransom him from the savages. The latter, however, would not hear to this, and after some parleying concluded to make Boone one of their tribe.

He lived with them for some months, his fate meantime quite unknown to his friends at Boonesborough. At length, discovering a war party of more than four hundred savages preparing to invade the Kentucky frontier, he escaped from his captors, journeyed two hundred miles to the southward, and 112 saved not only Boonesborough but all the infant posts of this new commonwealth beyond the Alleghanies. This, were there naught else to commend him, should establish Boone’s place as one of the great pillars of the west-bound civilization.

After the savages were at last beaten away in this attack, Boone found that he was a man not without a country, but without a family. His wife, supposing him dead, had returned to the old home on the Yadkin. There is a wide hiatus here in the Boone history, regarding which Boone himself is reticent.

It is probable that at this time there began those legal difficulties that later caused the pioneer to leave his chosen land. He had been given a grant of land by the governor of Virginia, but the state of Kentucky had never been surveyed, and it was the fashion and privilege of every holder of one of these loose titles to locate his land as he pleased, and to record it in the simplest and most primitive fashion. Thus there came to be many claimants for the best of the lands, the desirable tracts being sometimes deeply covered by these old-time “shingle titles.”

The courts swiftly followed into these crude little Kentucky communities. It may have been the legal complications in which Boone now found himself that made him unwilling to speak of this period of his career. It is also known that at one time he was 113 custodian of some twenty thousand dollars of money, which he intended to take eastward across the Alleghanies for the purchase of lands. He was robbed, and hence carried to his grave the bitter sense that he had, through no fault of his own, been unable to carry out a trust that had been imposed on him. Yet, be these things as they may, the fact remains that he did again bring his family to his chosen settlement on the Kentucky River.

Meantime the Northern savages, under their own leaders, under the leadership of British officers, under the leadership of the dangerous renegades, Girty and McKee, came down time and again on the Kentucky settlements. The salt parties must go out as before, and in one of these excursions Squire Boone, Daniel’s beloved older brother, fell a victim to the savages. In the celebrated and ill-fated McGary fight—the blackest battle of all Kentucky—a son of Daniel Boone’s fell with the flower of the frontier. Again and again the tribes came raging down, the Cherokees, the Pottawatamies, the Shawanese, all joining hands to wipe these settlements from the face of the earth. In the fight at Bryant’s Station, little as it was, thirty of the savages were left on the field.

The year 1781 was one of wrath for the thin firing line on the western side of the Divide. All the fights and the fighters centered about or came from the 114 “Dark and Bloody Ground.” Clark, Hardin, Harmar—all these started from Kentucky, and by reason of Kentucky. It was General Scott with one thousand Kentuckians that avenged the horrible defeat of St. Clair, killed two hundred of the victorious savages, and took back from them their booty. In the seven years from 1783 to 1790 there were fifteen hundred whites killed or taken captive in the state of Kentucky. In all these affairs, we may be sure, Daniel Boone held his full and manly part. He had drunk the war-drink of the savages during his captivity, and the spirit of the savage had entered into him.

Yet Boone was simple and unpretentious as any leader that ever lived. Once Simon Kenton, himself a hardy soul, set out with some friends on a little hunt from the station at Boonesborough. They were fired upon by Indians from ambush. One man was shot down by the Indians within seventy yards of the stockade. His murderer would have scalped him had not Kenton dropped him, a corpse beside a corpse. Then it was general mêlée until Daniel Boone and ten others came out from the stockade to assist their fighting comrades. Kenton killed another Indian, and then there came a rush. Boone directed a charge upon the savages, but was shot 115 down, a ball breaking his leg. Kenton, brave fellow that he was, shot down Boone’s assailant and carried Boone safely into the fort. As he lay on the couch receiving attention for the leg broken by the ball, Boone sent for Kenton and said: “Well, Simon, you have behaved like a man to-day. Indeed you are a fine fellow.” That was all there was to it. They made no great parade in those days. There was no proclamation in the public places. There were no illustrated newspapers, no gifted war correspondents to describe the heroism of that time. A similar act to-day would have made both participants famous, would perhaps have won for both a Victoria Cross, and would have afforded imaginative correspondents excellent opportunity. The West had no Victoria Crosses, nor needed any.

In times of such continual excitement and danger it is small wonder that there has been but scant record kept of individual deeds of daring. Boone himself was not wont to boast of his own prowess, and regarding his deeds of arms there are not many authentic anecdotes.

One of the best known of his adventures was that in which he met two savages in the forest while he himself was alone. Those were flint-lock days, and Boone was, according to the story, able, by watching the flash of the first savage’s rifle, to throw 116 himself out of the way of the bullet. This manœuver he repeated with the second Indian. Then he calmly shot one Indian dead with his rifle, closed with the other, received a blow of his tomahawk on his own rifle barrel, and killed the savage with his knife. A statue commemorating this feat was later placed above the south door of the rotunda in the Capitol at Washington.

There was need in Boone’s case of fortitude, not only of the physical but of the moral sort. In 1792 Kentucky, which had formerly been a county of the state of Virginia, was set up as a state by itself, with courts, jails, judges, lawyers and all the appurtenances of the artificial civilization that Boone had hoped to leave forever behind him.

Then came lawsuits regarding the lapping titles. Daniel Boone, his blue eyes troubled and bewildered, found himself among the haggling officials of the law courts. It broke his heart. Stunned but not protesting, he gave up that beautiful land he had enabled all these others to find and to hold. He was old now, and had fought the main fight of his life only to find himself the loser.

He left now for the mouth of the great Kanawha, but found the hunting poor. A son of his had crossed the Mississippi River and sent back word that there was still a West, still a 117 country where were buffalo and elk, where were otter and beaver in the streams. There was to be one more pilgrimage for Daniel Boone, a pilgrimage down the Ohio River, ending in the region, still wilderness, not far from the point that is now the city of St. Louis. Bear in mind that this latter point was not within the United States. Daniel Boone was an emigrant from the land he had founded. He was going now out from under the infant Stars and Stripes.

In token of his character, the Spanish governor of Louisiana gave Boone some sort of trifling commission. He was made commandant or syndic, an official with about the same importance as a country justice of the peace to-day. By the terms of his settlement in that country Boone was entitled to a tract of something like ten thousand acres of land. He was wrongly informed that, as he was an officer of the state, he need not settle nor improve his land. Once more a fatal mistake for the man who knew the book of nature better than the printed page.

Late in his life we find the American government, now reaching its control over this trans-Missouri country, taking up the question of Boone’s tract of land and allowing him, with extreme generosity, one-tenth of that which by every right and title of justice ought to have been his own in fee 118 simple in return for what he had done for the civilization of America. This was the poor pittance that Daniel Boone, one of the great Americans, was able to hand down to his posterity.

With this poor heritage go the few incidents of a meager and in some cases uncertain personal history, the main facts of which have been given above. There is even uncertainty, or rather discrepancy, regarding the date of his death. One writer states that he died at the age of eighty-four, in the year 1818. The date of his death was really September twenty-sixth, 1820, he being at that time eighty-six years of age.

In his later years Boone kept up those practices that had endeared themselves to him in his earlier lifetime. In a mild way he was a trapper, and always he was a hunter. Even when he had passed his eightieth year he went regularly each fall in pursuit of the deer, the turkey, the elk or the furred animals, or followed his simple pastime of squirrel hunting, in which he was very expert. It was his custom on these excursions to exact a promise from his attendant that, in case of his death, his body should be properly cared for. He long kept his coffin under his bed at his home, near Charette, Missouri. Once, taken sick in camp, he marked out the place for his grave, and told his negro servant 119 (some say his Indian friend or servant) what should be done with his body.

From this indisposition, however, he recovered, and went on several other hunts later. Failing gradually, though not from any specific disease, Boone met the great and final enemy with the same fortitude that had been with him all his life. He had said farewell to all earthly ambitions, and was ready to die when the time might come. He kept the coffin under his bed not in any bravado, but in a simple wish for complete preparedness. His personal habits remained sweet and simple as of old.

Boone seems to have wandered a little farther to the West than his home near St. Louis. It is said that he “saw the mouth of the Kansas River,” and that he noted, with the impatient longing of an old man, the passing up-stream, into the mysterious Northwest, of those early parties of fur traders, the voyagers who were now heading the far Western American migration. It was now too late in the closing years. It is said that he trapped on the Kaw and the Osage, and he is said to have made one journey “up the Missouri, and to have reached the mouth of the Yellowstone”, whence he was driven back by savages.

His sons and grandsons were figures in Western 120 history, always frontiersmen, travelers. A granddaughter became the wife of a governor of Oregon. His grandson, Kit Carson, was to hold fast the family traditions on many a Western trail; but there were to be no more trails for Daniel Boone. Overtaken once more by America, once more surrounded by the civilization from which he had by choice always alienated himself, he at length lay down peacefully to his final sleep beneath the trees.

Some twenty-five years after his death, the legislature of Kentucky awakened to a sense of the greatness of this man, and to the onerous nature of that debt of gratitude under which he had placed his commonwealth. By virtue of a special enactment, the bodies of Boone and his faithful wife were moved from their Missouri home, eastward across the Mississippi River, and laid at rest in the cemetery of Frankfort, close to that original stockade where, supported by an “unwavering fortitude”, there first flew the hard beset flag of the west-bound. These coffins came garlanded with flowers, heralded with music, surrounded with tardy honors. They were laid away on September thirteenth, 1845. There were effusive speeches in abundance, the chief oration being pronounced by Mr. Crittenden, “the leading orator of his time,” as he is called in the chronicle. Thus 121 at last this primeval patriarch, this Father of the Frontier, this leader of the Western home-builders, came home to sleep on the soil that was by right his own.

There was long known a tree near the Cumberland which bore this quaint inscription: “D. Boon Cilled A Bar on this tree, year 1760.”

There is continual discrepancy among the historians regarding these incidents. Thus another writer states that Boone and Stewart were twice taken prisoners by the savages, but that no northward journey was made by the Indians, who simply kept the prisoners at their camps, and at length dismissed them with a warning to leave Kentucky, as it was their own hunting ground and belonged to the Indians only. Again there seems confusion in the stories of the death of Neeley and Stewart. One account is that Boone saw Stewart shot down and scalped; another states that Stewart disappeared, and that no idea of his fate was obtained until years afterward, when in a hollow tree Boone found a skeleton, near which was Stewart’s powder horn, which had his name inscribed upon it.



If we have been successful in the first of our undertakings, that of investigating the first stage of the American transcontinental pilgrimage, which brought the Anglo-Saxon civilization permanently into the Mississippi valley, we must have gained in our earlier chapters some knowledge of the characteristics of the west-bound men, and of the motives that actuated them.

We shall also have noticed the beginning of a new type of man,—a man born of new problems, new necessities. Obliged to think and act for himself, it was natural that this man should learn to be restive when others thought for him. It was not to be expected that the men of New England and New York should understand this new man. We do not understand the Asiatics to-day; and at the time Daniel Boone reached the Mississippi it was farther from the Mississippi to New York than it is from New York to the Philippines to-day.

The American pilgrimage, whether at times 123 painful, halting, broken, or at other times rapid, feverish, insane, has at the one time or the other been no better than the transportation at hand. The long, hard roads, the slow travel of those early trans-Appalachian days were at the bottom of the greatest national problem of those days.

The men of the East could not believe that loyalty might be expected of the men of the West; and the latter, feeling the force of their geographical position, and feeling also their own ability to take care of themselves, openly talked of all manner of schisms, sectionalisms and governmental speculations. The West talked secession almost before it was a West. Under the conditions of those days it was small crime that it did so; the fact proved no disloyalty of the old type, but the strength and vigor of the new type of American that had now been born, which declared itself able to hold and govern its own new-found world.

It may profit us at this stage of our study to turn for a time from the individual frontiersman and settler, and to take up in more concrete form some of the things that these frontiersmen and settlers did in combination—some of the phases of the Western civilization as affected by the ever present problems of transportation.

The question of geography, which is the same 124 as to say the question of transportation, led to more than one attempt to set up entirely independent governments west of the Allegheny Divide, just as it also much affected the destinies of the unborn states of the Northwest Territory—Asenesipia, Pelesipia, Cherronesus, and others. Of these divers attempts at secession, some were honestly based upon a wish for commercial development that did not seem possible in connection with a government situated far to the east, at the end of impassable mountain roads. Other attempts were mere personal intrigues, carried on with a view to personal advantage, as was the effort of the unspeakable Wilkinson to alienate the population of the Mississippi valley from the standards of the government at Washington. There were other attempts, honest attempts at secession, or more properly speaking, segregation, on the part of considerable communities whose interests, under the conditions of the time, seemed far from identical with those of the tidewater population.

Chief among the records of these movements for an honest Western secession stands the story of the famous Free State of Franklin—the story of an enterprise that to-day we ignorantly call a chimera, an absurdity or worse, though to the men concerned in it the project seemed not less than necessary, just and 125 right. The history of this state, which was born of bad roads and populated by a new breed of Americans, fits nicely with our theme at this stage of its progress.

As to the extent of this state that once was, but is no more, we discover that it once included fifteen counties of Virginia, six of West Virginia, one-third of the state of Kentucky, one-half of Tennessee, two-thirds of Alabama and one-quarter of Georgia, as those states exist to-day. Wherefore it may seem that John Sevier and his friends were dealing with a considerable empire of their own, one much larger than most folk of to-day realize or understand.

It was one of those first republics west of the Alleghanies, one of those first instances of spontaneous self-government that have so often proved the vital strength of the restless yet self-respecting and law-abiding American character. How the men of the Free State of Franklin loved their little empire, how they defended it against the savages that pressed upon its borders, how they held the soil on which they had set the standard of west-bound civilization—all that is a legitimate part of the birth-history of the West.

Tennessee to-day honors John Sevier, founder of the Free State of Franklin, with a shaft recording thirty-five battles and thirty-five victories. This 126 shaft perpetuates the memory of a population that “in fifteen years engaged in three revolutions, organized and lived under five different governments, established and administered the first independent government in America, founded the first church and the first college in the West, put in operation the first newspaper west of the Alleghanies, met and fought the soldiers of King George in half a dozen battles from King’s Mountain to the gates of Charleston, checked and beat back four of the most powerful tribes of America, and left to Tennessee the heritage of a fame founded upon courage and steadfastness.”

In the times just preceding and following the Revolutionary War, the American colonies, even though bold enough to encounter successfully the forces of the mother country, were none the less timid and lacking in self confidence. There was no strong centralized government, nor was the loyalty of the different colonies or the different men of each colony a thing grounded upon reason or even an imperative self interest.

In no thing was America so rich as in big men, by which I do not mean “great” men as the term commonly goes. The characters of those early days stand out clearly and distinctly before us now. It was still the day of individualism. The men of the 127 Free State were the boldest of those bold individuals who headed out from the secure settlements of the seaboard, through gloomy forests, into the unknown wilderness, west of what was then the backbone of the United States, the rugged Alleghany range.

These men made their own trails, and they were more careful with the trails that led westward than with those that connected them with the East that they had left behind. It was no act of disloyalty that caused souls bold as these to cast about them in matters of organization and of government. The day of kings was gone for them. The day of Liberty was dawning. They carried with them, as have their west-bound fellows ever since, the principles of self-government. Where the community was, there arose the Law, there began the state.

With them the community was not the population they had left far behind, but that population close at hand, banded together, experiencing a common danger, and entertaining a common ambition,—the population that had come West and intended to remain. The branches of the Law no longer sheltered them. They were alone. There was no Law. What, then, was to be done except to plant anew the seeds 128 of the Law, and let it blossom here, as it had done before, and has since, on the soil of America?

Yet, poor as was the hold that these people now retained upon the country that bore them, they were not lacking in active loyalty. When they heard of the first battles of the Revolution, the first thought of the men of the “Washington District” was how they might best prove of service in the conflict that was to ensue. So much might be expected, for the name of Washington District was given by reason of Sevier’s friendship with Washington, later to be the first president of the States; and the District had sent from its scanty numbers fifty riflemen, under Captain Evan Shelby, who took part on the Indian battlefield of Point Pleasant, in Virginia, in the fall of 1774.

These men of Washington District were always in the front when the fighting began, and had it seemed practicable to their leaders, they had liked nothing better than to join their forces always with those of the state of North Carolina. There was not one coward in the one hundred and thirteen men that signed Sevier’s petition to the legislature of North Carolina. Yet no formal annexation was made by North Carolina, though John Sevier, Charles Robertson, John Carter and John Hall were seated as delegates in the North Carolina legislature.

129 At this time North Carolina’s state constitution was formed (November, 1776), fixing the western boundary of the state as that named by King Charles, which reached to “the South Seas.” No one knew what so indefinite a description might mean, but John Sevier was wise enough to know that so far from getting the benefit of a stable government and the protection of the laws, his companions west of the Appalachians would be in a land practically without law save of their own making. Therefore, having in view all the time this possibility of a breaking away of a considerable body of West-American population by its own sheer weight, he succeeded in passing a resolution in the North Carolina legislature, stating that the above mentioned limits should not operate as a bar to the “later establishment of one or more governments west of North Carolina, by consent of the legislature of that state.” We might call Sevier another of those great prophets of the West, a prophet who possessed not only personal courage and daring of his own, but a calm and sober intellect that foresaw the growing up in the West of not only one but many governments; albeit not his nor any other mind might at that time see those changes that were to unite all these component parts into one effective whole.

130 There may be interest in tracing from its inception the growth of this little Western republic. We shall find its history lovingly written, and as though to hand, by an inhabitant of the state of Tennessee who has given care in research along those lines.[10] “This lovely mountain section of the old Watauga settlements,” writes he, “being the cradle of Tennessee and in some respects also, of the vast valley of the Mississippi, is rich in historical interest. Here in the month of May, 1772, there was formulated by Sevier, Robertson and others the first written compact of civil government on American soil. It was then they drew up the celebrated Watauga Articles of Association, and set up a government west of the long line of the Blue Ridge and apart from colonial influence.

“These articles set on foot all the machinery of the new state, the future Tennessee; they established courts to be presided over by five commissioners, who had entire control in matters affecting the common good; they provided a government, paternal but simple and moderate, albeit summary and firm. This form of government proved satisfactory and sufficient for a number of years, Sevier and Robertson continuing leading spirits. 131 At this time they probably believed themselves to be on Virginia territory, for there was great question as to the location of the northern boundary line of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, thence west to the South Seas—the vague demarcations of Charles II which were accepted in the legislature of North Carolina.

“It was in 1776 that Sevier drew up his able petition to North Carolina asking to be annexed thereto. Of the one hundred and thirteen signers, all but two wrote their own names, which speaks not so badly for these hardy frontiersmen. Their request was granted, and about April, 1777, Watauga became a part of North Carolina. It still continued to be known as the Washington District, largely on account of geographical situation. At that time it embraced practically all of the present Tennessee.

“To show the rapid progress of civilization in that remote region, it may be stated that in 1778 or 1779 Reverend Samuel Doan, a young graduate of Princeton, came into the Watauga country, organized Salem Presbyterian church, and in 1780 erected a log cabin school-building, the first literary institution in Tennessee, if not the first one in the Mississippi valley, as has been frequently asserted. In the year 1783 this institution was chartered by 132 North Carolina as Martin Academy, and is known now as Washington College.

“The events leading to the formation of the state of Franklin grew out of the effort of the state of North Carolina to pay her share of the thirty-eight millions of the Revolutionary War debt. Congress proposed to sell all the vacant lands in the several states, against the pro rata indebtedness of such states. Therefore, in June, 1784, the (North Carolina) legislature passed an act giving all of Washington District to the United States. This gift was conditioned upon an acceptance within two years, otherwise the act was to be null and void.”

This transfer of the sturdy population of the district brought up questions somewhat in advance of those we argue to-day regarding government without the consent of the governed, and the transfer of territory without the consent of the inhabitants. At first the frontiersmen seemed not to object to the change, but reflection showed them that the act failed to give them any sort of civil or military government during the two years Congress might elect to employ before accepting the gift.

This contingency justly alarmed the population of Washington District. They found themselves inhabitants of a No-Man’s-Land, an outlaw’s land, living neither under a government of their own 133 establishing, nor any other whatsoever. In these unusual and perplexing circumstances it was no wonder that the people of the District called a convention. This meeting was held at Jonesboro, August, 1784, John Sevier himself presiding. Witness now the wisdom of his proviso in the session of the North Carolina legislature, which, in short, contemplated precisely the act that was now taken. It was resolved to set up another government, and these hardy citizens, so capable of self-government, greeted with applause the establishment of a free and independent state. The convention adjourned to meet again in November, to ratify the constitution and further to complete the organization of the state government.

“Meantime,” continues our historian, “North Carolina, becoming alarmed at the state of affairs, repealed the act of cession of Washington District, gave to the secessionists a superior court of their own, and made Sevier brigadier-general of the organized militia. All of this was most probably misunderstood by the people, who proceeded to elect delegates to another convention, over which Sevier presided, though he steadily protested against a separation. A constitution was, however, adopted, an election for representatives was ordered, and when 134 that body met, Sevier was elected governor and all the machinery of the new state set in motion.”

This little Western republic certainly seemed to have trouble in finding itself. Its very name is even to-day a matter of discussion. One writer[11] says: “The Washington District declared itself independent, and organized a government under the name of Frankland. The name was afterward changed to Franklin.” The writer just quoted[12] states: “There was considerable discussion as to the spelling of the name, many insisting in convention that ‘Frankland,’ that is to say ‘Freeland,’ should be the name. Others were for following the name of Benjamin Franklin. The latter spelling carried by a very small majority in the convention, as cited by Ramsey. There is, however, yet extant one letter written by General William Cocke from Frankland.”

The name Franklin was the one officially accepted. Franklin himself did not know of the honor he had received until some eighteen months after it had been conferred. He declined to be caught by this compliment, did not commit himself in favor of the new commonwealth, but advised the citizens of this pseudo-state to submit their claims to Congress, and indeed outlined to them the virtue of that 135 centralized government which was later to be felt on both sides of the Alleghanies.

This new population now had a government and a scheme of education, and indeed a general plan of living and growth and progress, yet it lacked many of the advantages of an older civilization. There must, of course, be revenue, and hence taxes; and since a currency was not forthcoming, the legislature passed an act authorizing the payment of taxes and salaries in articles of trade. Legal tender were beaver, otter and deer skins, each at six shillings; raccoon and fox skins, worth one shilling and three pence each. Beeswax, at one shilling a pound, was also legal tender; and, most remarkable of all, though there were those who wondered not at the precedent, it was provided that taxes and official salaries might also be paid in rye whisky, at three shillings six pence a gallon, or in peach brandy at three shillings a gallon! As to the extent of the reward of practical politics in that day, we may cite an act passed by that same legislature.

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Franklin, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of same, that from and after the first day of January next, the salaries of this commonwealth shall be as follows:

136 “His Excellency, the Governor, per annum, a hundred deer skins.

“His Honor, the Chief Justice, five hundred deer skins.

“The Secretary to His Excellency, the Governor, five hundred raccoon skins.

“County Clerk, three hundred beaver skins.

“Clerk of the House of Commons, two hundred raccoon skins.

“Members of the Assembly, per diem, three raccoon skins.

“Justice fees for serving a warrant, one mink skin.”

Crude enough seem such devices to us to-day, yet we must remember that we are in close chronological touch with those very times. Nor did the new state seem to do ill with its self-established machinery of government. Just as the people of America retained something of the vital and useful customs and standards of old England, discarding the ancient and outworn, so did the people of the state of Franklin cling to the standards of their mother state of North Carolina. The constitution of North Carolina was adopted without very great change.

“For some time,” goes on our writer, “the state of Franklin moved on serenely, until Governor Sevier officially notified Governor Martin of North 137 Carolina that his people would no longer recognize the authority of that state. Governor Martin replied explaining the cession act, and threatening the ‘revolters’ with armed invasion unless they returned to their allegiance. This letter, largely circulated, was not without effect, though in the main the people adhered to the new state.

“North Carolina then passed an act of amnesty for those that cared to avail themselves of it, which provided for the election of members to her own legislature. The same act appointed civil and military officers for the district. Thus there was to be seen the strange spectacle of two sets of officers over one and the same set of people, ‘Hurrah for Franklin!’ being the battle cry of one, and ‘Hurrah for North Carolina!’ the watchword of the other. Great confusion followed. Franklin held courts at Jonesboro, and North Carolina held hers near by, each denying the authority of the other. The rival officials quarreled and fought over their supposed rights. The victors turned the vanquished neck and crop out of doors, and retained possession of the records, such as they were.

“Failing to obtain recognition from North Carolina and an admission of the independence of the state of Franklin, Sevier laid the matter before Congress. Here he failed. He turned to Georgia, and 138 was told by that state that Franklin and the old state of North Carolina must settle their own affairs themselves. Day by day the Franklin party became weaker, and on the expiration of Sevier’s term as governor no election was held, and the state of Franklin therefore ceased to exist. Indeed it is a matter of surprise that it survived four years of such constant and irritating opposition. The explanation, lies in the fact that no other man in Tennessee before or since has had so firm a hold upon the popular heart as did John Sevier. In one instance at least the fickle multitude was constant.

“Soon after Franklin’s downfall, Sevier was arrested by North Carolina officers on the charge of treason, the warrant having been granted by Judge Spencer of the old state, and he was taken over the mountains for trial at Morganton. There he was at once surrounded by many of his old King’s Mountain comrades, and after a short sojourn returned home without trial and without interference. He was soon elected to the North Carolina senate, where he took his seat, that section of the legislature restoring to him all his old-time privileges. Almost immediately thereafter he was elected to Congress (in 1789) from the ‘Washington District of North Carolina,’ thus becoming the first member of that body from the valley of the Mississippi.”

139 All this turmoil as to the bestowal of governmental allegiance was going forward at the same time that the settlers of Kentucky were raising their corn under rifle guard, and constantly fighting back the savage population that hemmed them in. They too were clamoring for national support, or individual independence. Meantime, too, the intrigues of Wilkinson in the Mississippi valley were continuing, and the men of the Free State of Franklin even looked southward for an alliance with the nation holding control of the mouth of the great Mississippi highway.

The formation of the new state was a blow not so much at the government at Washington as at the mother state of North Carolina; and the latter was at first willing enough to have the separation take place, for she was tired of paying war debts for fighting the Indians on her far-off frontier.

The times being so far out of joint, we can scarcely wonder that the hardy Indian fighters under Sevier at one time (September twelfth, 1788) sent word to the Spanish minister Gardoquoi that they wished to put themselves under the protection of Spain—a thing to-day difficult to believe of any part of the American population, yet not wholly irrational for those times and conditions. Nor is this all of the story of these little splits and schisms and secessions, 140 which for a time took place on the Western slope of the Alleghanies.

Another writer[13] describes some of these early transactions. “The settlers of the district of the Columbia River,” says he, “who were under the jurisdiction of North Carolina, gave the name of Miro to the district they had formed; this as evidence of their partiality for the Spanish government. The promise of protection the inhabitants received from Gardoquoi was so modified by Miro that the scheme, though prosecuted for a time with vigor, finally failed from inability of the secessionists to comply with the conditions of recognition. Yet another center of sedition was located in the valley of the Mississippi. A company composed of Alexander Moultrie, Isaac Huger, Major William Snipes, Colonel Washington and other distinguished South Carolinians was formed at Charleston in 1789, which purchased from the state of Georgia fifty-two thousand nine hundred square miles of territory, extending from the Yazoo to the banks of the Mississippi near Natchez, the Choctaws, Chicasaws and Spain each claiming a portion of this territory. The ulterior designs of the company in the purchase and settlement of the country were carefully concealed for some time.”

141 The arch conspirator Wilkinson did his best to assume a position of importance with this little body of malcontents, and freely promised Miro that he would unite all this population under the flag of Spain. He naïvely stirred up the Indian savages of the Mississippi valley to renew their attacks on the Western frontier, in order that the Western settlers might the more quickly realize the inefficiency of the government at Washington to afford them the protection they needed. Meantime also it was quite possible that Great Britain might make an invasion of Louisiana, by way of the water trail from Canada to the Mississippi valley. Assuredly the times were troublous, and fortunate indeed was it that the government at Washington still lived, that good fortune favored the minds and hands in control.

It was not the wisdom of the government, not the ability of the political leaders that solved these perplexing problems. Presently they went far toward solving themselves, as do most American problems to-day. By this time all the mountain roads and water trails were becoming more defined and more frequented; the fighting white men were slowly beating off their savage foes.

Then at last came the time when the frontier, held fast by many braided trails, looked back across the mountains, and resolved to pin fast its allegiance 142 then and forever to the government that had been left behind, the government of Americans under principles established and fully proved on the American soil. The threads that bound fast the new settlements with the old, the threads that grew and strengthened into indissoluble bonds, which in spite of the fears of those who dreaded the accession of any more large territory, held firm the whole wide realm of the West to the mother colonies on the East, were simply the natural and artificial trails, later to be blended into a vast network, intermingling and inextricable, weaving and making permanent the web of a common and unsectionalized civilization.

Such was the still pure Anglo-Saxon civilization, changed, purified and strengthened by some generations of tenure of the American soil, at the time when it reached the great central highway, the mighty Mississippi, there to pause for a time, facing new problems attendant upon the next great journey onward and outward in the pathway of the sun.

Alexander Hynds, of Dandridge, Tenn.

N. P. Langford.

Alexander Hynds.

N. P. Langford.



There is no figure of speech that so exactly describes the westward advance of the American population as that which compares it to the feeding of a vast flock of wild pigeons. These, when they fall on a forest rich with their chosen food, advance rapidly, rank after rank. As those in the front pause for a moment to feed, others behind rise and fly on beyond them, settling for a time to resume their own feeding operations. Thus the progress of the hosts resembles a series of rolling waves, one passing ever on beyond the other, each wave changing its own relative position rapidly, yet ever going forward.

It was so with the American people. The Alleghanies could not stop them in their west-bound march, nor the terrors of a relentless Indian warfare, which endangered lives dearer to the rugged frontiersman than his own. Nothing would do 144 until the pathway of the waters had brought the American settler to the Mississippi River, the great highway that, whether by whim, chance, or design, had now become wholly the property of the growing American government. Having arrived at the Mississippi River, the population could not rest. Those behind pressed ever on.

Once across the Alleghanies the pathways had been pointed out by nature; beyond the Mississippi these pathways were reversed. Man had not wings like the wild bird. His pilgrimage must still be slow, his methods of locomotion clumsy. The paths no longer lay even with the currents of the streams. The adventurer into the West must, for the most part, follow the reversed pathways of the waters. Briefly, the journey of the frontiersman from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi was one of angles, the first leg running to the southwest, thence northwest, thence southwest. The pilgrimage profile from the Mississippi to the Rockies was equally angular. The line of travel did not, for the most part, run directly to the west. It angled out and upward, wherever water transportation led, and where the streams showed the way.

In the story of Daniel Boone we have seen how he moved again and again, seeking ever to edge a little farther to the west than his nearest neighbors. 145 Still another great frontiersman, Davy Crockett, beloved of the American people, gives us instance of this patient progress of the west-bound, halting, advancing, but never tiring. The life of Crockett will afford in itself a good view of the profile of the population movement, and will give as well a notion of the life and customs of those early times.

Davy Crockett, backwoodsman and bear hunter, magistrate, legislator and congressman; a man who at the time of his marriage scarcely knew one letter of the alphabet from the other, yet at middle age was one of the best-known figures of the American political world, and who was even mentioned as a possibility for the presidency of the United States; a man that lived like a savage and died like a hero—one of the uncouthest gentlemen that ever breathed—such a man as this could have been the product of none but an extraordinary day. We shall do well to note the story of his life, for his is one of those colossal figures now rapidly passing into the haze of forgetfulness or the mirage of mere conjecture.

In some fashion the names of Boone and Crockett are often loosely connected. They were in part contemporaneous though not coincident. Showing in common the rugged traits of the typical man of their time, they were yet distinctly unlike in many qualities. A writer who knew both men states that 146 he considered Crockett the mental superior of Boone. After weighing carefully all the evidence obtainable—and there is much more information available concerning Crockett than in regard to Boone—one would be disposed to differ from such an opinion.

Boone was the simpler and sincerer soul, the graver and more dignified figure; Crockett the more magnetic personality, the more plausible, if at times less candid, man. One man was practically as ignorant as the other. Boone had no taste for political life, and his sole wish was to live ever a little beyond that civilization of which he was the pioneer and guide. Crockett, built also of good, common, human clay, for two-thirds of his life seemed animated by no greater ambition.

Then all at once we see him turned politician. He succeeds, and his name grows larger than his neighborhood and country. Not knowing the basis of the tariff, ignorant of the text of the Constitution, master of the practice, but unable to explain the theory, of a caucus or a town meeting, he finds himself owner of a seat in the United States Congress, fairly the central figure of that Congress, the cynosure not only of the South but of the East and North.

He is at this time nothing but a great, 147 good-humored boy, the very type alike of an open-handed generosity, and an open-mouthed and sometimes ill-timed levity. He is the product of political accident. Yet, wonder of wonders, we find this man, quite past the time usually assigned as the limit for the development and fixing of a man’s character, suddenly blossoming out into a second development, a second manhood, more thoughtful and more dignified than that of his early days. Without education when he started for the halls of Congress, he gains that education more rapidly than did ever man before.

Crockett returned to his home a graver and broader man. Even his speech had gained freedom, ease and clarity, though still he delighted, perhaps more in jest than otherwise, to bring in the crudities of expression, the quips and quirks of that language through which he had, to his own surprise and without his own plan, won his sudden notoriety—a notoriety that was later to turn to fame.

There is not to be found in all the history of American statesmanship so swift and sound a ripening into mature thought as that of this backwoodsman, the first political “mugwump” or independent; who engaged in politics for reasons of self-interest, and then all at once grew big enough to set self-interest aside and to do what seemed to him wise 148 and right—a type of statesmanship now well-nigh defunct in America. And yet we see him, in the pang of his first decisive political defeat, growing bitter at his reverses, losing the genial philosophy of his earlier years, even renouncing his country, and forthwith turning away from family, friends and commonwealth to seek a new fortune in an alien land.

Some biographers of Crockett accord to him in this act the motives of bold knight-errantry; yet impartial review of known facts leads one to believe that Crockett’s abandonment of his family and his somewhat erratic journey into Texas were most easily explicable by reasons of a plausible self-interest. He was seeking political advancement along lines of less resistance. Then, finding himself a member of a party of souls as adventurous as himself, souls reckless and unrestrained, ardent, eager, fearless, yet without a leader and without a definite plan, Crockett the backwoodsman, Crockett the thinker, the orator, the statesman, if you please, flings himself with the others into a needless and fatal fight, rages with them in the most glorious struggle yet chronicled in the pages of American history, fights like a Titan, dies like a gallant gentleman, helps write the shining history of that squalid hut in old San Antonio, and makes possible 149 one of the most burning sentences that ever adorned monument above hero’s grave: “Thermopylæ had three messengers of defeat; the Alamo had not one!”

Here are contradictions that might be thought sufficient to give us pause; yet not contradictions large or conclusive enough to rob Davy Crockett of aught of the fame that has been accorded him by the American people. In order to reconcile or explain these contrarieties, and hence to understand this strange early American, we shall do well to review the better known and most authentic incidents of his peculiar career.

Crockett does not go so far back in the history of the west-bound American as does Daniel Boone. The latter died at the age of eighty-six. Crockett, who died about ten years later than Boone, was but fifty years of age. His life falls in the trans-Mississippi period of the Western population movement. He was born August seventeenth, 1786, in Greene County, Tennessee. His grandfather was an Irishman who came to Pennsylvania, thence moved west in order to avail himself of the settlers’ right of four hundred acres of land, which carried the preemption right of an additional one thousand acres. A goodly portion of a goodly earth lay ready to every man’s hand in that day of American opportunity.

150 The second Crockett homestead, on the Holston River, was broken up by the Indians, who killed the parents and several of the children, John Crockett, David’s father, being one of the few that escaped. John Crockett became a Revolutionary soldier, and after the Revolutionary War moved to North Carolina, just as did the father of Daniel Boone.

Following the path of the earlier Argonaut, Boone, John Crockett in 1783 crossed the Alleghanies, but settled in eastern Tennessee, instead of Kentucky. In this wilderness David was born. It was a land without religion, without schools, without civilization. In such an environment the weaker children died. Naked as a little Indian, David Crockett ran about the rude cabin, and lived because he was fit to survive. One of his earliest recollections is that of an incident in which his uncle, Joseph Hawkins, figured. Hawkins accidentally shot one of the neighbors, the ball passing through his body. There was no surgical skill possible, and it was considered the proper thing in the treatment of this wound to pass a silk handkerchief, carried on the end of a ramrod, from one end to the other of the wound. Crockett appears to have seen his father pull a silk handkerchief entirely through the body of this wounded neighbor. It was a strong breed, that of Tennessee a hundred years ago!

151 Of course this settler must move west, and again west. At the fourth move of his life he located on Cove Creek, the boy Davy being now about eight years of age. About this time Crockett’s father lost his grist-mill by fire. Naturally the remedy for this was to move, and he again took up his journey, settling this time on the road between Abingdon and Knowlton, where he opened a rude tavern, patronized mostly by teamsters of the roughest sort,—certainly a hard enough environment for the coming statesman.

The earliest description of Crockett represents him to be “a wiry little fellow, athletic, with nerves of steel.” Even in childhood he was given to fierce encounters, yet he was of an open and generous disposition. He grew up practically without care, his father, if truth be told, being a man of somewhat gross and drunken habits. Davy finally, at the mature age of thirteen, forsook the paternal roof and set out in the world for himself.

He chanced fortune with drovers, driving cattle to the eastward, and learned to be hostler and general utility man, becoming acquainted with the trail that ran between Abingdon, Witheville and Charlottesville, Orange Court House and other points in Virginia. He worked for a few months as a farm hand 152 in Virginia. He wandered into Baltimore, with wonder noticed the shipping there, and came near becoming a sailor, but was rescued from that fate. Buffeted by fortune from pillar to post, he worked one month for a farmer at a wage of five dollars. He went apprentice to a hatter and worked for eighteen months for nothing, at the end of which time the hatter unfortunately failed in business.

Poor Davy spent two years in these wanderings, and was fifteen years old when all at once he again dawned upon the paternal grounds in eastern Tennessee. These two years had been spent in considerable physical discomfort and anguish of spirit, and the journey home was accomplished only after many dangers and difficulties. Crockett admits that at this time he did not know the letters of the alphabet. His father, shiftless as ever, had been lavish with his promissory notes. He offered Davy his “freedom” if he would work six months for a neighbor to whom he had given a note for forty dollars. Davy generously did so, and capped it off by working another six months and taking up another one of his father’s notes, for thirty-six dollars. This last he was not obliged to do, yet in spite of these bitter surroundings, there had flowered in the young savage’s heart a certain feeling of family honor.

Now all at once the boy backwoodsman became 153 conscious of his own infirmities. He went to school six months, the only schooling he ever had in his life. He learned to write his name, to spell to some extent, to perform a few simple sums in arithmetic. Twice blighted in love at eighteen years of age, he married a pretty little Irish girl, a daughter of a neighboring family. “I know’d I would get her,” says he, “if no one else did before next Thursday.”

Crockett was married in his moccasins, leggings and hunting shirt. His bride was dressed in linsey-woolsey. There was no jewelry. The table on which the wedding feast was spread was made of a single slab. The platters were of wood, the spoons of pewter and of horn. In his own abode, as he first entered it, there was no bed and not a chair, a knife or a fork. Yet, after the expenditure of fifteen dollars, which he borrowed, Crockett and his wife “fixed the place up pretty grand,” and found it good enough for them for some years. Here two boys were born to them.

At the ripe age of twenty years, that is to say in the year 1806, Crockett considered it necessary for the betterment of his fortunes that he should remove farther toward the West, this having been the universal practice of his kind. He journeyed for four hundred miles through the Western 154 wilderness, taking his family and household goods with him. Their transportation, as we are advised, consisted of one old horse and two colts. These animals were packed with the household goods. In the wild journey down the Holston the family, children and all, camped out, enduring the weather as best they might. At last they came to a halt on Mulberry Creek, in Lincoln County, in what they took to be the Promised Land. The soil was generously rich, game and fish were abundant, the climate was all that could be asked. Crockett built him a cabin, and here he lived for two years, much as he had lived in eastern Tennessee. Then, in the easy fashion of the time, he moved once more, this time settling in Franklin County, on Bear Creek, still in the wilderness.

Here we find him living in 1813, at which time the call went out for volunteers to serve in the Creek War under General Jackson. Without much ado, Crockett said good-by to his family, joining those wild irregular troops who, amid countless hardships, plodded up and down the region of Alabama and Georgia, meeting the southern Indians, destroying them wholesale or piecemeal as the case might be. Crockett marched, counter-marched, acted as spy and hunter, doing his full share of the work.

155 All the time he was rising in the esteem of his fellow men. He was now a tall, large-boned, muscular man. His hair, we are told, was sandy, his eyes blue, his nose straight, his mouth wide and merry; and so we see Davy Crockett the grown man. Never having known anything but hardship all his life, he has none the less never known anything but cheerfulness and content. The apt jest and catching story are always ready on his lips. He is the life of the camp-fire. Gradually he forges to the front. The qualities of leadership begin to appear.

In all these rude military experiences, although Crockett does not fancy the revolting scenes which in some instances he witnesses at the Indian killings, he shows the ardent nature, the fighting soul. Hence he respects the fighting man and pays his obedience to General Jackson. There is no hint of that fatal falling out between the two men that later is so suddenly to terminate Crockett’s ambitions.

In 1822, after his return from this petty war, Crockett’s fortunes once more needed mending, and the remedy, of course, was to move again. He had previously explored nearly all of Alabama, and later investigated southern Tennessee, finally locating on Shoal Creek, in Giles County. Crockett’s 156 faithful wife, the little Irish woman, had died, and he, ever ready to console himself, now married a widow of the neighborhood, an estimable woman, who added two children to his already growing family. This second wife appears to have been a dignified and able woman. Little is known of her, and she seems to have lived the life of the average frontier woman, patiently and uncomplainingly following her lord and master in all his enterprises and his wanderings. Two pack-horses still served to transport all the family goods on this latest journey.

The greed for land had rapidly sent a turbulent population into the Cherokee country of the “New Purchase” where Crockett now resided, and among these lawless souls restrictions were needed, although the country knew no law and had no courts. Crockett was elected judge, without any commission and without any formal process of law. He served wisely, and although unable to write a warrant, he sometimes issued verbal warrants. He claimed that his decisions were always just and that they “stuck like wax.”

Meantime he had been elected colonel of militia over a bumptious rival. Now, all at once, and perhaps originally more as a matter of jest than anything else, as was the case in his second 157 candidacy, his name came up for the legislature. Crockett inaugurated a canvass on lines of his own. In brief, he talked little of politics, for he knew nothing of such matters. He told a brief story, traded a ’coon skin for a bottle of liquor, treated the crowd, promised to sell a wolf scalp and treat them again, and so passed on to the next gathering. He was elected without difficulty.

But of course misfortune once more must overtake our hero, and he must move again, this time as far as he can go and not cross the Mississippi River. This next home, and the last one he established, was made in the northwestern corner of Tennessee, on the Obion River, near the Mississippi River, not far from what is now known as Reel Foot Lake, and in the heart of that wild country then known as the “Shakes.”

This was near the submerged lands affected by the New Madrid earthquakes, a country naturally rich in many ways. It was a cane-brake country, a heavily timbered but somewhat broken region, crossed now and again by terrific windfalls locally known as “hurricanes.” You may see such country in the Mississippi Delta to-day, two hundred miles south of Crockett’s home. Crockett’s neighbors on the Obion were three in number, respectively seven, fifteen and twenty miles distant.

158 On his trip of exploration he planted his first crop of corn by means of a sharp stick, just as he had broken the earth at each of his earlier homes. He was rejoiced to find that the corn grew excellently, and yet more rejoiced to know that he had found a superb hunting ground. In his early life his game consisted chiefly of deer and turkey. Here bear, deer and turkey were very numerous, and there were also elk occasionally to be seen. The buffalo is never mentioned up to this time in Crockett’s life, and that animal had probably by this time, 1822, become practically extinct in Kentucky and Missouri.

Mr. J. S. C. Abbott, in his biography of Crockett, writes of his station at this time: “Most men, most women, gazing upon a scene so wild, lonely and cheerless, would say, ‘Let me sink into the grave rather than be doomed to such a home as this.’” Such is the point of view of the narrow observer that never knew his America. Not so Davy Crockett. He did not find this region lonely or cheerless. On the contrary, we find him fraternizing with the rude boatmen from points lower down on the Mississippi River, and making himself very comfortable. Presently he goes back after his family, bringing them on to his new home in October of that year. They and their belongings are transported 159 by two horses, this limited cavalcade being still sufficient to carry all the worldly belongings of David Crockett, hunter, warrior, magistrate and legislator. Davy is still poor, but he does not wish to “sink into the grave.” On the contrary, as he journeys along the wild woodland path he sings, jests and whistles, happy as the birds about him, content among the sweet mysteries of the untracked forests. He is the product of wild nature, as savage as the most savage, a man primeval, unfettered, free. He is the new man, the man of the west, the new-American.

As an example of Crockett’s early electioneering methods, we may cite his procedure in his first canvass for the legislature. He says:

“I didn’t know what the government was. I didn’t know but General Jackson was the government;” a statement not wholly the product of sarcasm. He met Colonel Polk, later President Polk, and according to his own story the colonel remarked:

“It is possible we may have some changes in the judiciary.”

“Very likely,” replied Davy, “very likely,” and discreetly withdrew.

“Well,” he comments, “if I know’d what he meant by ‘judiciary,’ I wish I may be shot. I never heard there was such a thing in all nature.”

Yet another electioneering story attributed to 160 Crockett, perhaps authentic as many of those told regarding him, shows well enough the rude temper of his region, if we do not go further, and accord to it a certain hint of that native humor that was later to see its growth in America.

“I had taken old Betsy,” says he, referring to his rifle, “and straggled off to the banks of the Mississippi River, and meeting no game, I didn’t like it. I felt mighty wolfish about the head and ears, and thought I’d spile if I wasn’t kivvered in salt, for I hadn’t had a fight in ten days. I cum acrost a fellow who was floatin’ down-stream, settin’ in the stern of his boat, fast asleep. Said I, ‘Hello, stranger, if you don’t take care your boat will get away from you;’ and he looked up and said he, ‘I don’t value you.’ He looked up at me slantendicular, and I looked down at him slantendicular; and he took a chaw of turbaccur, and said he, ‘I don’t value you that much.’ Said I, ‘Come ashore. I can whip you. I’ve been tryin’ to get a fight all the mornin’;’ and the varmint flapped his wings like a chicken. I ris up, shook my mane, and neighed like a horse.

“He run his boat plump head foremost ashore. I stood still and sot my triggers—that is, I took off my shirt, and tied my gallusses tight around my waist—and at it we went. He was a right smart 161 ’coon, but hardly a bait fer a feller like me. I put it to him mighty droll. In ten minutes he yelled enough, and swore I was a ripstaver. Said I, ‘Ain’t I the yaller flower of the forest? I’m all brimstone but the head and ears, and that’s aquafortis.’ Said he, ‘You’re a beauty, and if I know’d yore name I’d vote for you next election.’ Said I, ‘I’m that same Davy Crockett. You know what I am made of. I’ve got the closest shootin’ rifle, the best ’coon dog, the biggest bear tickler and the ruffest rackin’ horse in the district. I can kill more likker, cool out more men, and fool more varmints than any man you can find in all Tennessee!’ Said he, ‘Good morning, stranger, I’m satisfied.’ Said I, ‘Good morning, sir; I feel much better since our meeting—don’t forget about that vote.’”

Congressmen to-day do not employ language quite so picturesque, or methods of vote-getting quite so crude. The story is a trifle apochryphal; yet Crockett himself, in what is called his autobiography, a work which he no doubt dictated, or at least authorized, gives the following account of one of his speeches to a stranger, at Raleigh, while Crockett was en route to Washington to take his first seat in Congress.

“Said he, ‘Hurrah for Adams!’ and said I, ‘Hurrah for hell, and praise your own country!’ And 162 he said, ‘Who are you?’ Said I, ‘I’m that same Davy Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half horse, half alligator, a little touched with snapping turtle, can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride a streak of lightning, slide down a honey locust and not get scratched. I can whip my weight in wildcats, hug a bear too close for comfort, and eat any man opposed to Jackson.’” Which last remark he fain would qualify largely later in his political career! An innate shrewdness that told him how to avoid committing himself was Crockett’s original capital in politics, as it was in life. His native wit, his good fellowship, his rollicking good humor, his courage and strength, his skill with weapons brought him success. He was fitted for success in those surroundings.

Crockett is always chronicled as one of the great American hunters, and this name he deserves. He was a good rifle-shot. In his cane-brake country he hunted the black bear just as it is hunted to-day in the similar country of the Mississippi Delta, by means of dogs, without which the hunter would only by the remotest chance ever get sight of an animal so shy as the black bear.

Abbott, who seems to apologize for Crockett, needs for himself an apologist, for he displays a lamentable ignorance of the environment of which he writes, as 163 well as of many common facts in natural history. As a matter of fact there was no risk whatever in the pursuit of the black bear, even when the hunter was not accompanied by his dogs, whose presence eliminated the last possible danger of the chase. In those days the rifle was a single-shot muzzle-loader, in no wise so effective as the modern hunting arm, but even thus early in the history of American wild game, the black bear had ceased to be a formidable animal, if indeed he ever was such.[14]

Abbott, with gross and indeed singular inaccuracy, repeatedly speaks of Crockett as killing the “grizzly bear” and he mentions the “shaggy skins” of these “ferocious animals.” In reality Davy Crockett saw nothing but the flat, smooth hides of the common black bear of the South, one of the most cowardly animals that ever lived. He killed numbers of them, and enjoyed the vociferous chase with his hounds. Sometimes he did not need to use the rifle, but killed the bear with the knife, a feat often repeated by men of the present generation in the cane-brake hunting of the South.

Crockett mentions killing one bear that weighed six hundred and seventeen pounds, and he speaks of 164 another that he thinks weighed six hundred pounds. In one hunt of two weeks he killed fifteen bears. Once he killed three bears in half an hour, and at another time six in one day, with an additional four on the following day. In one week the total was seventeen bears, and in the next hunt he speaks of killing ten of the same animals. He states that he killed fifty-eight bears in the fall and winter of that year, and in one month of the following spring he added forty-seven bears to his score, a total of a hundred and five killed in less than one year. In all he killed several hundred bears, very many deer and countless small game. He was a benefactor to all the poor laboring folk that lived anywhere near him, and speaks of giving one poverty-stricken neighbor a thousand pounds of meat, the product of his rifle during a few hours of one afternoon.[15]

There never was a land more fruitful in animal life than this South which supported the early Westerners. In such surroundings life was a simple matter. The chase and the rude field of corn offered sufficient returns to satisfy the frontiersman.

165 One day as Crockett happened to be in a settlement, some forty miles from his home, it was suggested that he run once more for the legislature. He agreed, and forthwith announced himself as candidate. His early methods were again successful. Discovering in himself now certain latent powers whose existence he had not suspected, he later agreed to run for Congress, but was defeated by his late supporter and friend, Colonel Alexander, by the scant margin of two votes. Cotton was high, and Alexander said it was because of the 1824 tariff. Davy did not know what the tariff was, and could not answer!

Crockett at this time is described as a “finely proportioned man, about six feet high, forty-five years of age, of very frank, pleasing and open countenance.” He was dressed in homespun and wore a black fur cap on his head, when seen by a traveler who met him at his house. He now began to show “an unusual strength of mind and a memory almost miraculous.” Uncultured, ignorant, terribly handicapped by lack of training and opportunity, he overcame it all. He got his ammunition from the enemy. He received his sole political education from his opponent’s political speeches, as witness his second campaign for Congress. Cotton dropped in price. Davy promptly found that the tariff 166 argument would work both ways, and he took his advantage. He was elected to Congress, and re-elected, the second victory showing a majority of three thousand five hundred votes.

It is at this stage of his career that we may speak of the birth of the second or real David Crockett. These wild surroundings have now begotten in him a rugged sense of self-reliance and a personal independence that henceforth manifest themselves unmistakably. He is a politician, but an independent politician. “I would as soon be a ’coon dog as to be obliged to do what any man or set of men told me to do,” he says. “I will pledge myself to support no administration.” “I would rather be politically dead than hypocritically immortalized,” he declares; and in yet another instance he says that he “will not submit to the party gee-whoa-haw;” that he will be “no man’s man, and no party’s man.”

In spite of all these personal dicta he is elected. His election costs one hundred and fifty dollars, all in borrowed money. It costs David Crockett, congressman, an additional one hundred dollars, also borrowed, to get to the national Capitol at Washington, where he arrives perhaps the most unique specimen of Congressman ever produced in this broad land of ours. His first act is to pay his debts—which not all Congressmen since then have done so 167 promptly. It is hard for the backwoods congressman at Washington, yet he has good sense, good tact, good-nature and a magnetic temperament. His motto, “Be sure you are right, then go ahead,” wins for him sudden fame. Perhaps it is fame too sudden. Now we must bid good-by to Davy Crockett, bear hunter. He is bitten of the fatal poison of political ambition. From this time on the record of his life is for a while public, plain and well known.

Crockett was a Southerner and, as has been stated, at first a friend of the Jacksonian Democracy. Naturally he should have been expected to prove loyal to the doctrines of the South, and the South at that time was held in the hollow of Old Hickory’s hand. Note now a sudden sternness of fiber in the bear hunter’s character that entitles him to a better name than that of time-serving politician. As a matter of conviction and principle he differs from the autocratic leader then sitting in the president’s chair. He opposes President Jackson’s Indian bill, and the proposition to withdraw the deposits from the United States banks. Indeed, instead of being a follower of Jackson, he comes out boldly as an opponent of his former leader.

The North hails him joyously as a Southerner with a Whig heart. Let Davy make the most of it; none the less he loses the next contest for Congress in his 168 district. Yet he fights again, gets the nomination for the next term, wins once more and hastens rapidly toward the height of a national popularity. Realizing his own ignorance of the North and East, in 1834 he undertakes a journey to those sections. At Baltimore he sees a railroad for the first time in his life, and witnesses the tremendous feat of seventeen miles made by a railway train in the time of fifty-five minutes! At Philadelphia crowds meet him at the wharf and cheer him to the echo. He is banqueted repeatedly, wined and dined times without number, and made the recipient of countless attentions. The young Whigs of Philadelphia come close to his heart when they make him a present of a fine rifle, the very rifle that took the place of “Old Betsy” and was with Crockett in his last fight at the Alamo.

In New York, in Boston and the larger manufacturing towns of Massachusetts, Crockett repeats his Philadelphia triumphs. He is now a national figure. His sayings and doings are quoted throughout the land. If his Northern speeches are correctly reported, he has at this time suddenly become the possessor of an easy and not undignified oratorical style, though all his speeches are still well sprinkled with quaint epigrams and homely illustrations.

169 We see in the Crockett of 1834 a figure not approached by any other American statesman so nearly as by that other rugged Westerner, Abraham Lincoln. These crude, virile, tremendous, human men, product of the soil, born of the hard ground and the blue sky—how they do appeal, how they do grow, how they do succeed.

Crockett is asked to visit Harvard College, but refuses for quaint reasons of his own. Andrew Jackson has been made an LL. D. by Harvard, and Crockett says that “one LL. D. is enough for Tennessee.” He is the guest of Lieutenant-governor Armstrong, and chronicles naïve surprise that Mr. Armstrong “did not charge him anything,” for entertaining him. He states that in New England he found “more liberality than the Yankee generally gets credit for.” He expresses his gratitude for the kindly reception accorded him in New England and chronicles his admiration for the thrift and industry of that country, which seems to have made a vivid impression on his mind, different as these scenes were from the wild surroundings in which he himself had grown up.

This trip into the North wrought epochal change for our bear hunter. He learns now about the tariff, studies and approves the doctrines of protection—rank heresy for a Southerner. Deep water for Davy 170 now! He seems to have had no counsel of prudence, for now he loses no opportunity to chronicle his animosity toward General Jackson.

“Hero—that is a name that ought to be first in war and last in peace,” says he. Commenting on the faithlessness of the government, he flames out: “I had considered a treaty as the sovereign law of the land, and now I hear it considered as a matter of expedience.” This was in reference to the treatment accorded the southern Indians by the United States government.

“This thing of man-worship I am a stranger to,” says he, with personal allusion, of course, to Jackson. In all these sayings he is, it may naturally be supposed, heartily applauded by the Northerners, who rejoice in this notable accession to their own ranks.

Davy Crockett, bear hunter and congressman, has now had his chance. He takes himself seriously, even when he jokes about his being the next president of the United States. Crockett represents now the success of perfect digestion, of the perfectly normal nervous system. Nothing irritates him. The world to him runs smoothly, as it does to any hardy animal. He cares not for the past and has no concern for the physical future. His big brain, so long fallow, so long unstirred, begins 171 now to fill up with thoughts and ideas and comparisons and conclusions. His reason is clear and bright. He presents to the world the startling spectacle of a middle-aged man educating himself to the point of an intelligent statesmanship, and that within the space of a few brief months or years. He displays a clarity of vision nothing short of marvelous. His memory of names, of dates and data is something startling. The world of books remains closed to him, so that he learns by ear, like a child, but he surprises friends and foes alike. The husk of the chrysalis has been broken. The Westerner has been born into the American!

Davy Crockett had thus far never met any danger of a nature to inspire fear, any difficulty he could not overcome, any hardship he could not lightly endure. He now encountered one enemy greater than any to be met with in the wilderness—that great and menacing foe, the political machine. He found to his sorrow that honor and manhood will not always serve, and at the summit of his success he met his first and irremediable defeat.

Crockett, once the politician, now grown into Crockett the eager student, the earnest statesman, had stirred up animosities too great for him to overcome. The relentless hand of Jackson smote hard upon Crockett’s district. There was talk of money, and of 172 votes influenced by its use. Poor Davy, who went into this last campaign of Congress as blithely and as sure of success as ever in his life, learned that he had been defeated by a total of two hundred and thirty votes! Then there arose from the honest and generous soul of this strange child of the wilderness a great and bitter cry. He was among the first to exclaim against the creed of politics pursued as politics, of statesmanship that is not statesmanship—the creed of party and not of manhood.

“As my country no longer requires my services,” he writes, “I have made up my mind to leave it.” Expressing his determination forthwith to leave Tennessee and to start for the distant land of Texas, he says, “I have a new row to hoe, a long and rough one; but I will go ahead.” He adds as quaintly as ever, “I told my constituents they might all go to hell, and I would go to Texas.”

We come now to the third and closing stage of the life of David Crockett, and in order to understand it we must bear in mind the nature of the opinions then current concerning the new land that to the Southerners of that time was “The Great West,” the land beyond the Mississippi. Texas, a magnificent realm eight hundred and twenty-five by seven hundred and forty-five miles in extent, already had an American population of nearly forty 173 thousand; and of all wild populations ever gathered together at any place or time of the world, this was perhaps the wildest and the most indomitable. There was hardly a soul within the borders of that great land who was not a fighting man and who had not come to take his fighting chance. It was fate that Davy Crockett should drift into this far Southwest and take his chances also.

As to the chances of it, they were not so bad. It was almost sure that Texas would ultimately be won from Mexico. In 1813 an expedition of Americans had fought Spain and killed some hundreds of Spaniards, on the strength of the general claim that the territory of Louisiana extended westward as far as the Rio Grande, and not merely to the neighborhood of the Sabine River, as was claimed by Spain. The latter river was in 1819 generally accepted as the boundary line, but this fact did not serve to stop the Americans.

In 1823 Stephen A. Austin was settling his Mexican grant with his new colony. These families drew after them the inevitable train of relatives and friends, so that the great River Road to the South and Southwest soon began to be pressed by the feet of many pilgrims. In 1821 Lafitte made his rough settlement at Galveston, and the pirates of Lafitte were no worse than the average Texas population of that time. 174 There were no schools, no courts, no law. One writer states that he sat at breakfast with eleven men, each of whom had pending against him in another state a charge of murder. Then originated the etiquette of the wild West that demanded that no one should inquire into his neighbor’s past, nor ask his earlier name.

In 1833 there were twenty thousand Americans that wished Texas to have an organization separate from the state of Coahuila. They were not so particular as to what government claimed their state, but they wished to organize and run it for themselves. Meeting a natural opposition from Mexico in this enterprise, in the year 1835 they banded their forces, overturned the Mexican government, and set up a provisional government of their own. Henry Smith was chosen provisional governor and Sam Houston commander-in-chief of this wildest of all American republics.

On December twentieth, 1835, these Texans issued their proclamation of independence, some sixty years after the Declaration of the American Independence. This meant but one thing. Santa Anna, then as much as anybody governor of affairs in Mexico, marched with an army, stated to have numbered seven thousand five hundred men, to besiege the Texans, whose main body was located at 175 San Antonio. No American doubted the ultimate issue. All the South knew that the wild and hardy population of this new region would beat back the weak Latin tenants of the soil. The matter was well discussed and well understood. It was not knight-errantry, therefore, so much as politics, that led Davy Crockett southward into this wild hornets’ nest. Rather should we say that all this movement was part of the mighty, inexplicable, fateful, irresistible Anglo-Saxon pilgrimage across this continent. It was a New World. These new men were those fitted to occupy and hold it.

At this time the historian of Crockett falls on a curious difficulty. There is published what purports to be an autobiography of David Crockett’s life, a linsey-woolsey affair, made up partly of good English and partly of rough backwoods idiom such as we are accustomed to associate with the speech of this singular man. This “autobiography” purports to be continued after Crockett leaves his Tennessee home for far-off Texas. Yet at this point its style and subject matter assume such shape as to lead one inevitably to conclude that Crockett did not write it. There are many contradictions and discrepancies, and much of the detailed story of Crockett’s wanderings in the Southwest is denied by practically the only eye-witness of the time qualified 176 to tell of his experiences—that Jonathan H. Greene (the “Harrington” of Crockett’s correspondence), once gambler and later reformed man, who was with Crockett for a time before the Alamo fight. Greene’s story does not in all points tally with the so-called autobiography of Crockett, nor with many of the popular histories of his life.

In general it may be determined that, with some feeling but without much ado, Crockett said farewell to his wife and family. He had no longer heart for bear hunting. He wished a wider field of life. His journey was down the Mississippi and up the Arkansas River to Little Rock. There he encountered many hail-fellows-well-met, and had several experiences, which are set forth at length in his autobiography. He journeyed then horseback to Fulton, descended the Red River to Natchitoches and thence made his way westward across Texas.

The so-called autobiography of Crockett describes two or three strange characters: the “Bee Hunter,” who might have been the hero of an English melodrama of the time; “Thimblerig,” the sharper whom Crockett reforms and leads on to die a hero’s death; the “Pirate,” who dies in front of the Alamo gate; and so on. There is something strangely unreal in much of this. It does not ring true. Yet we are further told that Crockett crossed the Sabine, that he 177 met the Comanches, that he saw for the first time the tremendous herds of buffalo, that he encountered bands of wild horses, that he saw much wild game, and in a knife fight killed a panther. The feeling is irresistible that many of these pictures are made to order.

At last, however, without much ado and without any adequate explanation of Crockett’s real motives, we find him inside the gates of the San Antonio barracks, one of that little party whose heroic death was to set the whole American nation a-throb, first with vengeful fire, and then with a passionate love and admiration.

The situation was thus: Travis in San Antonio, practically hemmed in at the adobe building known as the Alamo; Fannin at Goliad, with other noble fellows later to fall victims to Mexican treachery; at a distance Sam Houston, apparently irresolute and non-committal. Austin, Fannin, Travis, Rush, James Bowie, the Whartons, Archer of Virginia—what a list of strong names was here, these fighting men, some of whom had come for politics, some for sport, some for sheer love of danger and adventure. Of these, Bowie, Crockett, Fannin and Travis might have been declared opposed to the party of Houston and Austin. Crockett’s authentic letter bitterly accuses Houston, the leader of the Texans. 178 Houston, mysterious, vain, enigmatical, as able as he was erratic, might perhaps, had his followers been less tempestuous and independent, have united them into a harmonious and powerful whole. He could not, or did not. Hence came the Alamo fight.

Of this wild army, half ruffian, half adventurous, most of the men were poor, although they came in many cases from good families. They had behind them an undeniable sentiment in favor of the independence of Texas, and were backed by money raised for that purpose. General Jackson openly and notoriously favored the annexation of Texas, and perhaps even of Mexico, and went so far as to suggest a few practical though unauthorized plans of his own as to how the army might be used to bring about a conflict and later a pax Jacksonii. Thus we find our hero, Davy Crockett, once more falling into the plans of his former chief, his recently victorious antagonist, Old Hickory.

It is possible that Crockett was deceived in his pilgrimage to Texas. There is more than a suspicion that he was used as a cat’s paw in a political movement. He says that “Houston is enjoying the support of the Government, while others are left to do the fighting.” He continues, “Houston has dealt with us in prevarications.” He calls Houston the “agent” and Jackson the “manufacturer.” Yet certainly Crockett 179 was backed by a prevalent and strongly growing sentiment. The records are too vague and insufficient. We shall never fully understand all these complications of early and adventurous politics.

Be all these things as they may, Crockett was one of the devoted little band of a hundred and eighty-three Texans, who in time found themselves besieged by an army of Mexicans from five thousand to eight thousand strong. The peons of Santa Anna’s worthless army came on day after day, the bands playing the Dequelo, which meant “no quarter.” For eleven days the Texans held the Alamo, in that historic fight whose details are so generally and so uncertainly known. These one hundred and eighty-three men killed of the enemy more than one thousand. Worn out by loss of sleep and continuous muscular exertion, their arms simply grew weary from much slaying. Their hands could no longer push down the ladders weighted with the struggling peons goaded forward by the swords of their officers.

At length an assault was lodged. The swart Mexicans, more in terror than in exultation, poured across the broken wall. In the hospital lay forty helpless men, each with his rifle at his side. These, sick and crippled, broken-bodied, iron-hearted, poured their last volley into their assailants as they came in. A cannon was discharged down the room and nearly a 180 score of the crippled and sick were blown to pieces. Outside, in the open space, the lances of the Mexicans reached farther than the clubbed rifles or the bitter, biting knives of the stalwart Americans, now raging in their last tremendous, magnificent and awful Baresark rage.

No one knows the story of the end. Even the number of the victims is matter of dispute to-day. Some say there were a hundred and eighty-three defenders, some say a hundred and eighty-six. Some say one woman escaped; some say two. Some declare that one negro servant got away; some say two. The state of Texas adopted the “Alamo baby,” but the Alamo baby did not see Crockett fall. There are different reports. Some state that there were six Americans left hemmed up against the wall, and that the Mexican general, Castrillon, called upon them to surrender. They did so, Crockett being one of the six. Confronting the Mexican commander, they were treacherously ordered to be shot down. It is said that Crockett, bowie knife in hand, sprang with all his force for the throat of the Mexican general, but was cut down or shot down with the others, “his face even in death wreathed in an expression of contempt and scorn at such treachery.”

All this is but imagination; and there is all reason 181 to suppose that there never was any surrender of these six last survivors. The commoner story is that Crockett fought to the last with his broken rifle, and was killed against the wall, before him lying the bodies of some twenty Mexicans. The usual impression is that he killed these twenty Mexicans himself before he was cut down, but this is perhaps the result of emotional writing. No one knows how many foes had fallen to his arm. No one can tell how many Mexicans each of these raging, fighting men destroyed before he himself went down. Earlier in the siege Crockett recounts picking off five cannoneers one after the other. He tells how the Bee Hunter and Thimblerig did their sharpshooting, how the Pirate died of wounds received in a sortie, how the Bee Hunter—a most unlikely thing—burst into poesy and song at the hoisting of the Texas flag. Some of these things have too unreal a sound. There is something not quite Crockett, though à la Crockett, in the conclusion of Crockett’s so-called, or rather alleged, diary:

“March 5.—Pop, pop, pop! Bom, bom, bom! throughout the day. No time for memorandums now. Go ahead. Liberty and independence forever!”

These are the last recorded words of dear Davy Crockett. It is probable in the extreme that he 182 never wrote them. It is unlikely to an equal degree that, in all the turmoil of the Alamo fight, he could deliberately have kept a diary, or that it could have been preserved after all the horrible details of that bloody and disastrous conflict. As to the end of Davy Crockett, there is and has been no living human being who could speak with absolute accuracy and authenticity. Bloody San Jacinto, the field where the cry “Remember the Alamo!” was the watchword of a dire and just revenge, left but few Mexican eye-witnesses of the Alamo.

Be that as it may, we know that Davy Crockett died fighting, that he died with his face to the enemy, like the brave man that he was, undaunted, unafraid. No politics now, no statesmanship, no little ambitions now for Davy Crockett. He was once more the child of the wilderness, stark, savage, exultant, dreadful, one more of those Titanic characters that swept away a weaker population, beat down all opposition, conquered the American wilderness and made way for an American civilization.

The study of Crockett’s life shows us an America yet loose and scattered, not knit together into a national whole; and the political problems of that day were still those arising from geography. Backwoods Davy was after all not so poor a thinker, nor so far 183 from getting to the marrow of things. After his visit to the North, and his reconciliation to the doctrines of a protective tariff, he makes one comment which, while it may not settle political argument, ought to teach a national courtesy and a human tolerance on both sides in any national difference.

“If Southerners would visit the North,” he says, “it would give different ideas to them who have been deluded and spoken in strong terms of dissolving the Union.” A trifle ungrammatical this, perhaps, but startling reading, when one remembers that it was recorded in 1834. Again we find our independent thinker discussing freely the questions of transportation, which were then and always have been so important in this country. He was opposed to Jackson in the first place because Jackson “vetoed the bill for the Maysville road.” He was opposed to Van Buren because he “voted against the continuance of the national road through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and against appropriations for its preservation.” He opposed Van Buren further because he “voted in favor of toll gates on the national road, demanding a tribute from the West for the right to pass on her own highways, constructed out of her own money,—a thing never heard of before.”

Crockett’s changes of residence, ever drifting farther to the westward in his native state, and his 184 final long pilgrimage to the Southwest, where he certainly, though his autobiography does not so state, visited different parts of Texas and the Indian nations, is index of the tendency of the times. The West of that day is the South of to-day. Thus, a writer of 1834 states, “The West is settled by representatives from every country, but it is very largely indebted for its inhabitants to Virginia, Georgia and the two Carolinas.” History and our census maps show us that the day of the upper West was yet to come. Boone and his like had led across the Appalachians. Crockett and his like had crossed the Mississippi. The march toward the Rockies was now steadily and determinedly begun, under what difficulties and with what results we shall presently observe.

The black bears which fed on the corpses left on the field of Braddock’s Defeat became for a time bold and somewhat fearless of man.

These stories are not to be doubted, and are not especially wonderful. The writer has often hunted in Mississippi with a planter, Colonel R. E. Bobo, who more than equalled all of Crockett’s records. In one year, soon after his first arrival in Coahoma County, Mississippi, Colonel Bobo killed two hundred and six bears. The writer was present when ten bears were killed in eight days.



In 1810 the Western frontier of the United States slanted like the roof of a house from Maine to Louisiana. The center of population was almost exactly on the site of the city of Washington. The West was a distinct section, and it was a section that had begun to develop an aristocracy. We still wore linsey-woolsey in Kentucky; still pounded our corn in a hollow stump in Ohio; still killed our Indians with the ancient weapon of our fathers; still took our produce to New Orleans in flat-boats; still were primitive in many ways.

None the less we had among us an aristocrat, a man who classified himself as better than his fellow men. There had been born that early captain of transportation, the keel-boatman, the man that could go up-stream. The latter had for the stationary or semi-stationary man a vast and genuine contempt, as nomad man has ever had for the man of anchored habit. There was warrant for this feeling of superiority, for the keel-boat epoch was a great one 186 in American history. Had this clumsy craft never been supplanted by the steamboat, its victories would have been of greater value to America than all the triumphs she ever won on the seas.

As for the keel-boatmen themselves, they were a hardy, wild, and reckless breed. They spent their days in the blazing sun, their heads drooping over the setting-pole, their feet steadily trudging the walking-boards of their great vessels from morning until night and day after day. A wild life, a merry one, and a brief, was that lived by this peculiar class of men, who made characters for one of the vivid chapters in the tale of the early West.

The men of the West had solved in some rude way the problem of getting up-stream, though still they clung to the highways of nature, the water-courses. The men of the ax and rifle had once more broken over the ultimate barriers assigned to them by the men of book and gown. That mysterious land beyond the Mississippi was even then receiving more and more of that adventurous population that the statesmen of the Louisiana Purchase feared would leave the East and never would return.

The fur traders of St. Louis had found a way to reach the Rockies. The adventurous West was once more blazing a trail for the commercial and 187 industrial West to follow. This was the second outward setting of the tide of west-bound travel. We had used up all our down-stream transportation, and we had taken over, and were beginning to use, all the trails that led into the West, all the old French trails, the old Spanish trails, the trails that led out with the sun. No more war parties now from the Great Lakes to the Ohio, from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi. This was our country. We held the roads.

But now there were happening yet other strange and startling things. In 1806, at Pittsburg, some persons built the first steamboat ever seen on the Ohio River. Its first trip was the occasion of much rejoicing, and was celebrated with fervor, which, however, must have received a certain dampening by the outcome of the experiment. The boat, crowded with excited spectators, ran very handsomely down-stream, but when it essayed to return the current proved too strong, and only setting-poles and rowboats saved the day. This, then, was the precursor of an aristocracy in transportation before which even the haughty keel-boatmen were obliged to abase themselves. In 1811 the steamer New Orleans was built at Pittsburg, and following the guidance of “Mr. Roosevelt of New York,” who had previously investigated the matter, successfully ran 188 the riverway to New Orleans.[17] More than that, she proved able to return up-stream.[18] What fate then was left for the keel-boats?

In 1819 a steamboat had appeared as far west on the Great Lakes as Mackinaw. In 1826 a steamboat reached Lake Michigan. In 1828 the first steamboat of the American Fur Company mastered the turbid flood of the Missouri, and ascended that stream as far as the Great Falls.[19] In 1832 a steamboat 189 arrived at the city of Chicago. The West was now becoming very much a country of itself.

The curious fact continued to be fact—that it was the South that was to open, the North and the East that were to occupy. Of the two essential tools, the Southern man might have left at home his ax, the Northern man his rifle. But it was as yet no time for a North or a South. The Northerners and the Southerners both became Westerners, and if the ax followed the rifle, the plow as swiftly came behind the ax.

Thanks to the man that could go up-stream, corn was no longer worth one hundred and sixty-five dollars a bushel anywhere in America. Corn was worth fifty cents a bushel, and calico was worth fifty cents a yard, at the city of Kaskaskia, in the heart of the Mississippi valley. Kaskaskia, the ancient, was queen of the down-stream trade in her day. She was important enough to command a visit from General Lafayette, early in this century; and the governor of Illinois addressed the distinguished visitor with an oratory not without interest, since it was alike full of bombast, of error, of truth, and of prophecy:

“Sir, when the waters of the Mississippi, generations hence, are traversed by carriers of commerce from all parts of the world; when there shall live west of the Father of Waters a people greater in 190 numbers than the present population of the United States; when, sir, the power of England, always malevolent, shall have waned to nothing, and the eagles and stars of our national arms be recognized and honored in all parts of the globe; when the old men and the children of to-day shall have been gathered to their fathers, and their graves have been obliterated from the face of the earth, Kaskaskia will still remember and honor your name. Sir, as the commercial queen of the West, she welcomes you to a place within her portals. So long as Kaskaskia exists, your name and praises shall be sung by her.”

To-day Kaskaskia is forgotten. The conditions that produced her have long since disappeared. The waters, in pity, have literally washed her away and buried her far in the southern sea. Yet Kaskaskia serves admirably as a measuring point for the West of that day. She stood at the edge of civilization on the one hand, of barbarism on the other. Beyond her lay a land as unknown as the surface of the moon, a land that offered alike temptation and promise. Calico was worth fifty cents a yard at Kaskaskia; it was worth three dollars a yard in Santa Fé. A beaver skin was worth three dollars in New York; it was worth fifty cents at the head of the Missouri.

191 There you have the problems of the men of 1810, and that, in a nutshell, is the West of 1810, 1820, 1830. The problem was then, as now, how to transport a finished product into a new country, a raw product back into an old country, and a population between the two countries. There sprang up then, in this second era of American transportation, that mighty commerce of the prairies, which, carried on under the name of trade, furnished one of the boldest commercial romances of the earth. Fostered by merchants, it was captained and carried on by heroes, and was dependent upon a daily heroism such as commerce has never seen anywhere except in the American West. The Kit Carsons now took the place of the Simon Kentons, the Bill Williamses, of the Daniel Boones. The Western scout, the trapper, the hunter, wild and solitary figures, took prominent place on the nation’s canvas.

This Western commerce, the wagon freighting, steamboating, and packing, of the first half of this century, was to run in three great channels, each distinct from the other. First there was the fur trade, whose birth was in the North. Next there was the trade of mercantile ventures to the far Southwest. Lastly there was to grow up the freighting trade to the mining regions of the West. The 192 cattle-growing, farming, or commercial West of to-day was still a thing undreamed.

In every one of these three great lines of activity we may still note what we may call the curiously individual quality of the West. The conditions of life, of trade, of any endurance on the soil, made heavy demands upon the physical man. There must, above all things, be strength, hardihood, courage. There were great companies in commerce, it is true, but there were no great corporations to safeguard the persons of those transported. Each man must “take care of himself,” as the peculiar and significant phrase went. “Good-by; take care of yourself,” was the last word for the man departing to the West.[20]

The strong legs of himself and his horse, the strong 193 arms of himself and his fellow laborers, these must furnish his transportation. The muscles tried and proved, the mind calm amid peril, the heart unwearied by reverses or hardships—these were the items of the capital, universal and indispensable, of the West. We may trace here the development of a type as surely as we may by reading the storied rocks of geology. This time of boat and horse, of pack and cordelle and travois, of strenuous personal effort, of individual initiative, left its imprint forever and indelibly on the character of the American, and made him what he is to-day among the nations of the globe.

There was still a West when Kaskaskia was queen. Major Long’s expedition up the Platte brought back the “important fact” that the “whole division of North America drained by the Missouri and the Platte, and their tributaries between the meridians of the mouth of the Platte and the Rockies, is almost entirely unfit for cultivation, and therefore uninhabitable for an agricultural people.” There are many thousands of farmers to-day who can not quite agree with Major Long’s dictum, but in that day the dictum was accepted carelessly or eagerly. No one west of the Mississippi yet cared for farms. There were swifter ways to wealth than farming, and the wild men of the West of that day had only 194 scorn and distrust for the whole theory of agriculture.

“As soon as you thrust the plow into the earth,” said one adventurer who had left the East for the wilder lands of the West, “it teems with worms and useless weeds. Agriculture increases population to an unnatural extent.” For such men there was still a vast world without weeds, where the soil was virgin, where one might be uncrowded by the touch of home-building man. Let the farmers have Ohio and Kentucky; there was still a West.

There was, in the first place, then, the West of the fur trade, the trade that had come down through so many vicissitudes, legacy of Louis the Grand Monarch and his covetous intriguers. For generations the coureurs du bois, wild peddlers of the woods, had traced the ultimate waterways of the far Northwest, sometimes absent for one, two, or more years from the place they loosely called home, sometimes never returning at all from the savagery that offered so great a fascination, often too strong even for men reared in the lap of luxury and refinement.

Steam was but an infant, after all, in spite of the little steamboat triumphs of the day. The waters offered roadway for the steamboats, and water transportation by steam was much less expensive 195 than transportation by railway; but the head of navigation by steamboats was only the point of departure of a wilder and cruder transportation. Beyond the natural reach of the canot du Nord, the lesser craft of the natives, the smaller birch-barks, took up the trail, and passed even farther up into the unknown countries; and beyond the head of the ultimate thread of the waters the pack-horse, or the travois and the dog, took up the burden of the day, until the trails were lost in the forest, and the traveler carried his pack on his own back.[21]

It is a curious fact, and one perhaps not commonly known, that the Indian sign of the “cutthroat” (the forefinger drawn across the throat), which is the universal name for “Sioux” among all other American tribes, is, in all likelihood, a misnomer. The Sioux were dog Indians of old, before they got horses from the West, and they worked the dog as a draft animal, with a collar about the neck, just as it is now worked over much of the sub-arctic country. The sign of the two fingers across the neck once indicated “dog” as plainly as the single finger across the neck now 196 signifies “cutthroat.” Not only did the native and early white wanderers of the wilderness use the dog as a draft animal, but they packed him as they later packed the horse in the wagonless lands of the West.

This fact is still quite within the memory or practice of man. A dog could draw more on a travois, or pole-frame, than he could carry on his back. It was not unusual to see a great copper kettle lashed to the poles of a travois drawn by a dog, and in the kettle piled indiscriminately moccasins, babies, puppies, and other loose personal property. Hitched to the proper sledge, six dogs could draw a thousand pounds over the snow. Thus ran the earliest stagecoach in the West.

The great canoe, the travois, and the sledge were inventions of the early French fur trade, but we used them as we needed them when the fur country became our own. France ceded her trading posts to England in 1763, and England transferred them to us in 1796. The great Northwest Company had by 1783 extended its posts all along our Northern border, not being too particular about crossing the line; but by 1812 we had made our authority felt, and by 1816 had passed a law excluding foreigners from our fur trade. The old Northwest Company 197 handed over to the younger American Fur Company all the posts found to be within our marches. We heard, for the time, of the Pacific Fur Company, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, the Missouri Fur Company, of the “free trappers” and “free traders” of the West.

It matters not what form or name that trade assumed. The important fact is that we now, by means of this wild commerce, began to hear of such lands as Oregon, of that region now known as Montana, of a thousand remote and unmapped localities, which might ultimately prove inhabitable. Summer or winter, over all these new lands the wild new travel of the West went on, and after fashions it determined for itself. Thus, in the country of the Missouri, the left fork of our great American waterway, there was no birch-bark for the making of the canot du Nord. Hence the keel-boat, the setting pole and the sweep, the sail and the tracking line. Yet the great craft, like the Northern birch-bark ship, must at last reach a land of waterways too small for its bulk. The Montana adventurers had not birch-bark, but they had the buffalo. They made “bull boats” out of the sun-dried hides, and these rude craft served to carry many a million dollars’ worth of furs over gaps that would have seemed full long to a walking man.

198 The outlying posts[22] at the head of the far-off streams received their supplies from the annual caravan of keel-boats, or the later great Mackinaw boats, square-sterned craft fifty feet long, of twelve-foot beam, of four-foot freeboard, and a carrying capacity of fourteen tons.[23] Each of these boats 199 required a crew of twelve men, and it took six months of the hardest labor towing, tracking, poling, and rowing to get the clumsy craft from St. Louis to such a spot as old Fort Benton. The run downstream required only about thirty days, and it was commonly believed that the square stern of the Mackinaw caused it to run faster than the current in taking the rapids of the Missouri.

The labor of this primitive transportation, this wading for hundreds of miles each spring against an icy torrent, was not work for children. It was not children that this wild trade begot, but men. The Titanic region demanded Titanic methods. It made its own laws and customs, struck out for itself new methods. The world beyond never asked the world behind what or how to do. This vast, rude land asked no other country how to perform the tasks that lay before it. Of the wildness and rudeness of 200 this new world there could be no question, but its savagery was met by a savage determination more fearless and indomitable than its own.

The mountain trapper, the prairie freighter and trader, the California miner were great men, tremendous men, fit successors of those that fought their way across the Alleghanies. The fur trade was practically over by 1834, and the Santa Fé trade lasted, roughly speaking, only about twenty years, being practically terminated in 1843 by the edict of Santa Anna. These difficulties in our Western commerce all came to an end with the Mexican War, and with the second and third great additions to our Western territory, which gave us the region on the south as well as the north, from ocean to ocean.

This time was one of great activity in all the West, and the restless population that had gained a taste of the adventurous life of that region was soon to have yet greater opportunities. The discovery of gold in California unsettled not only all the West, but all America, and hastened immeasurably the development of the West, not merely as to the Pacific coast, but also in regard to the mountain regions between the great plains and the coast.

The turbulent population of the mines spread from California into every accessible portion of the Rockies. The trapper and hunter of the remotest range 201 found that he had a companion in the wilderness, the prospector, as hardy as himself, and animated by a feverish energy that rendered him even more determined and unconquerable than himself. Love of excitement and change invited the trapper to the mountains. It was love of gain that drove the prospector thither. Commercial man was to do in a short time what the adventurer would never have done. California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana,—how swiftly, when we come to counting decades, these names followed upon those of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio!

In the new demands for locomotion and transportation, which now arose from these new armies of moving men, the best thinkers of the country could for a long time suggest nothing better than the sea and the rivers as the great highways. Steamboats ran regularly on every Western river where such navigation was possible. Yet at the head of the waters there still existed, and in greater degree than ever before, long gaps between the abodes of the mountain population and their bases of supplies. The demand, moreover, was for transportation of heavy goods.

The trapper that started out into the mountains might take only two or three extra horses. He did not use more than half a dozen traps in those 202 days, and counted always upon living upon wild game. The new population of the mining camps, which spread all through the mountains with incredible rapidity, was made up of an entirely different class of men, and was surrounded by an environment less bountiful. They did not come to hunt, but to dig or to riot; and they must be fed. At this time the necessity brought forth the man. It was the American packer that now saved the day.

The pack-horse idea is as old as America, but in its perfection it is the product of the Spanish Southwest. We read in history of the progresses of royal personages in ancient times in the Old World, where frequent mention is made of the number of sumpter-mules that attended the caravans in those roadless days. The sumpter-mule was the forerunner of the pack-mule, though it is to be doubted if any servant of an old-time king ever learned to do such impossible things with the sumpter-mule as the American packer did as a matter of course with his beasts of burden.

Gradual changes were taking place, about midway of the last century, in the characteristics of Western commerce. The trapper and the hunter had trafficked as individuals. The Santa Fé trade was in control of men who remained at home and sent their goods into another country, just as did 203 the early Phenician merchants. In the trade of the mining towns, the merchant had come to be a resident and not a non-resident, and the transportation of his supplies was in the hands of companies or individuals who had not any ownership in the goods they handled.

The greatest drama of the common carrier had its scene in the Rocky Mountains. The price of staples in any mountain town was something that not even the merchant himself could predict in advance, dependent as it was upon the thousand contingencies of freighting in rude regions and among hostile tribes. Prices that would stagger the consumer of to-day were frequently paid for the simplest necessaries. As in the days of the trappers’ rendezvous everything was sold by the pint, so now the standard of measure became the pound. A common price for sugar in a mining camp was thirty-five to fifty cents a pound. In the San Juan mining camps, as late as 1875, potatoes sold for twenty-five cents a pound. A mule or burro would earn its own cost in a single trip, for there were occasions under certain conditions, such as the packing from Florence into the more remote placer districts, when the pack-master charged as much as eighty cents a pound from the supply point to the camps.

New cities began to be heard of in this mountain 204 trade, just as there had been in the wagon days of the overland trail to Santa Fé: Pueblo, Cañon City, Denver. All were outfitting and freighting points in turn, while from the other side of the range there were as many towns,—Florence, Walla Walla, Portland,—which sent out the long trains of laden mules and horses. The pack-train was as common and as useful as the stage-line in developing the Black Hills region, and many another still less accessible.

Commonly a horse or a mule would carry two hundred to three hundred pounds of freight, a burro one hundred to two hundred, and the price for packing averaged somewhere about five to ten cents a pound per hundred miles of distance, often very much more. It was astonishing what flexibility this old system of carriage had. A good pack-master would undertake to transport any article that might be demanded at the end of his route. It is well known that much heavy mining machinery was packed into the mountains; but this was not really very wonderful, for such machinery was made purposely in suitable sections for such transport.

Somewhat more difficult were other articles, such as cook-stoves and the like, shipped not “knocked down.” A piano was one of the odd articles that went into the earliest of the Cœur d’Alene mining camps more than a score of years ago. It was packed on four 205 mules, the piano resting on a sling of poles, which virtually bound the mules together as well as gave support to their burden, two mules going in front and two behind. When the animals became too tired to climb farther, the weight was temporarily lightened by resting the piano on forked sticks thrust up beneath the load. The strange package was taken through in safety, though at a cost of about a thousand dollars. All sorts of articles were shipped in the same fashion, and packages of glassware, cases of eggs, and many such goods customarily made the long and rough journeys in safety.

The charges were made on the weight of the package, including the case or cover in which it was shipped, and it was poor policy on the part of the shipper to pack his goods too flimsily, for the grip of the “diamond hitch” was never a sparer of things beneath it. The hardest article to pack in the mountains was quicksilver. This commodity was shipped in iron flasks, and the first thing the packer did was to unscrew the tops of these flasks and fill the remaining interior space completely with water, in order to prevent the heavy blow of the shifting liquid contents, which was distressing to the pack-horse. A flask of quicksilver weighed about ninety pounds, and it was customary 206 to pack two flasks on each side of a horse or mule, each pair of flasks being fastened in a board frame, which gave facility for lashing all fast, and prevented the wear of the condensed weight against the back of the animal.

Wood, hay, boxes, trunks, indeed almost anything that could be imagined, were common articles of transport in the mountains, and it was at times a bit odd to see a little burro almost hidden under a couple of Saratoga trunks so big that he could neither lie down nor roll over under them. The pack-train might comprise a score or a hundred horses, and the conduct of such a train was no small matter of skill and generalship.

Oxen were often used as pack-animals, the burden frequently being lashed to the horns. An ox could carry a fifty-pound sack of flour on top of its head, though special saddles were sometimes used for ox-packing. On the overland trail to California, cows were sometimes employed as pack-animals, and were often used in harness as draft-animals. Every one knows the story of the carts and hand-barrows of the great Mormon emigration. Under the old Western conditions of transportation, is it any wonder that horse-stealing was regarded as the worst crime of the calendar?

The transportation of paddle and portage, of 207 sawbuck saddle and panniers, however, could not forever serve except in the roughest of the mountain chains. The demand for wheeled vehicles was urgent, and the supply for that demand was forthcoming in so far as human ingenuity and resourcefulness could meet it. There arose masters in transportation, common carriers of world-wide fame.

The pony express was a wonderful thing in its way, and some of the old-time stage-lines that first began to run out into the West were hardly less wonderful. For instance, there was an overland stage-line that ran from Atchison, on the Missouri River, across the plains, and up into Montana by way of Denver and Salt Lake City. It made the trip from Atchison to Helena, nearly two thousand miles, in twenty-two days.[24] Down the old waterways 208 from the placers of Alder Gulch to the same town of Atchison was a distance of about three thousand miles. The stage-line began to shorten distances and lay out straight lines, so that now the West was visited by vast numbers of sight-seers, tourists, investigators, and the like, in addition to the actual population of the land, the men that called the West their home.

We should find it difficult now to return to stage-coach travel, yet in its time it was thought luxurious. One of the United States bank examiners of that time, whose duties took him into the Western regions, in the course of fourteen years traveled over seventy-four thousand miles by stage-coach alone. It is the strange part of this vivid history of the West that many men who were prominent and active in its wildest and crudest days are living to-day, fully adapted to the present conditions, and apparently almost forgetful that there ever was a different time. Thus one of the more prominent early wagon-train 209 freighters of Montana, now a prosperous banker of his state, gives a brief description of the old-time industry, which is interesting because at first hand. The freighter-banker goes on to say:

“The wagons were large prairie schooners, usually three or four trailed together, pulled by sixteen to twenty head of the largest oxen you ever saw. It cost one cent a pound per one hundred miles to transport freight. Sometimes, of course, we would get five times this. The danger was from Indians (Sioux and Blackfeet) attacking the trains and the drivers. The herders and wagon boss went armed. The earliest freighting point was from Fort Benton, Montana, to the mines in the Rockies.[25] When boats failed to reach Benton, owing to low water, then the teams went below, three to four hundred miles, to haul the freight up. In later times (after the junction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific 210 Railways) we transported freight from Corinne, Utah. There were probably one million dollars invested by individuals and companies in Montana. The largest companies were the ‘Diamond R’ Transportation Company, established by Colonel Charles A. Broadwater and three others, and I. G. Baker & Company. The latter company was owned and managed by the writer, and in the summer of 1879 transported over twenty million pounds of freight on wagons for the United States government, Canadian government, and the merchants of Montana.”

A study of the market reports of the old “Montana Post,” published 1864 to 1868, affords much insight into the life and conditions of that time. Commenting upon these facts, our early western resident, Mr. N. P. Langford, remarks:

“The high prices of merchandise in Montana were the natural outcome of great cost of transportation, combined with large profits, owing to the great risks 211 incurred in taking goods through a hostile Indian country. As population increased, the necessity of procuring from the states a sure supply of the necessities of life was uppermost in the minds of the people. With the fortune of Midas, they feared soon to share his fate, and have nothing but gold to eat. But there was no lack of adventurous traders in the states, who were ready to incur the risks incident to a long overland journey, whose successful termination was certain greatly to enrich them.[26]

“The supplies were brought into the mining camps of Montana by three different routes: the overland route from Omaha or St. Joseph, Missouri, by way of Denver and Salt Lake, a distance of nineteen hundred miles; from St. Louis by way of the Missouri river to Fort Benton; and by pack-train from the Pacific slope, starting from Portland or Walla Walla, Oregon, crossing the Cœur d’Alenes and the main ranges of the Rockies, and coming over the Bitter Root valley.

“The larger part of the merchandise brought to Montana came by the first-named route. The 212 vehicles used in transportation were, for the most part, what were known as ‘Murphy wagons’—vehicles with large wheels and strong bodies, capable of holding eight thousand pounds of general merchandise, and drawn by five or six yoke of oxen, or by as many spans of mules. During the rainy season, and for many weeks after a storm, it was frequently the case that not more than five miles a day of progress could be made with such a wagon train over the alkali plains or along the valley of such a stream as Bitter Creek. An average journey was about one hundred miles a week, and thus an entire season, commencing at the time when the grass of the plains was sufficiently grown to furnish food for oxen and mules, and lasting from eighteen to twenty weeks, was consumed in making the journey.

“One who has never seen the plains, rivers, rocks, cañons, and mountains of the portion of the country traversed by these caravans, can form but a faint idea from any description given of them of the innumerable and formidable difficulties with which every mile of this weary march was encumbered. History has assigned a foremost place among its glorified deeds to the passage of the Alps by Napoleon, and to the long and discouraging march of the French army under the same great conqueror to Russia. If it be not invidious to compare small 213 things with great, we may assuredly claim for these early pioneers greater conquests over nature than were made by either of the great military expeditions of Napoleon. A successful completion of the journey was simply an escape from death.”

The nature of the transportation of passengers over the overland route may be inferred from a trip once made by the above writer by stage from Atchison, on the Missouri River, to Helena, Montana, which is thus described:

“The journey required thirty-one days of continuous staging, and was prolonged by delays occasioned by the incursions of the hostile Sioux, who had killed several stock-tenders at different stations, burned the buildings, and stolen the horses. From their frequent attacks upon the coaches it was necessary for us to be on the constant outlook. On the second day after leaving Atchison, the eastern-bound coach met us, having on board one wounded passenger, the next day with one dead, and the next with another wounded. At Sand Hill station the body of the station keeper was lying by the side of the smoking ruins of the log cabin. As there was no stock to be found for a change of horses, we drove on with our worn-out team, at a slow pace, to the next station. The reports of passengers eastern-bound were also very discouraging. Yet this risk of 214 life did not lessen travel. The coaches were generally full. The fare from Atchison to Helena was four hundred and fifty dollars, and our meals cost each of us upward of one hundred and fifty dollars more.”

These preliminary statements as to the difficulties and dangers of the early transportation will make plainer the somewhat extraordinary prices of merchandise that often ruled. Thus, on December thirty-first, 1864, one will see coal oil quoted in the market reports of Virginia City, Montana, at nine to ten dollars per gallon. On January twenty-eighth, 1865, we read: “Candles: less active in consequence of the decline in coal oil.” Then comes, “Coal oil, nine dollars; linseed oil, ten dollars.” At the head we read that these market quotations are wholesale prices for gold, and that ten per cent. should be added for retail prices. At the bottom we have greenback quotations for gold dust and gold coin, showing that greenbacks were worth not quite forty-five cents on the dollar for gold coin. Even this was more than they were worth in the States, with gold at two twenty-five. Coal oil at nine dollars a gallon in gold, with greenbacks at forty-five cents, would cost twenty dollars a gallon in greenbacks, at wholesale. Add ten per cent., and we have twenty-two dollars as the retail price. Linseed oil at ten dollars a gallon in gold would be twenty-four dollars and twenty cents a gallon in greenbacks, at retail.


215 In the issue of the Post of April twenty-second, 1865, flour was quoted at eighty-five dollars a sack of one hundred pounds on April seventeenth, and it is stated that on April nineteenth, within a few hundred miles, it had sold for five dollars a pound. This was just after the surrender of Lee’s army, when greenbacks were selling for ninety cents for gold dust, and at eighty-two (eight per cent. less) for coin. This was over six dollars a pound for flour, or twelve hundred dollars for a barrel!

On April twenty-ninth, 1865, potatoes were worth forty to fifty cents a pound in gold. At an average price of forty-five cents a pound, a bushel (seventy pounds) cost thirty-eight dollars in greenbacks. On May sixth we read: “Potatoes. Several large loads have arrived, . . . causing a decline of five cents a pound.” So potatoes dropped off in price, in one day, four dollars in greenbacks per bushel.

“On May thirteenth,” comments Mr. Langford further, regarding this interesting commercial situation, “we note that the principal restaurant, ‘in consequence of the recent fall in flour,’ reduced day board to twenty dollars per week for gold. The food of this restaurant was very plain, and dried-apple pies were considered a luxury. At that time I was collector 216 of internal revenue, and received my salary in greenbacks. I paid thirty-six dollars per week for day board at the Gibson House, at Helena. During the period of the greatest scarcity of flour, the more common boarding houses posted the following signs: ‘Board with bread at meals, $32; board without bread, $22; board with bread at dinner, $25.’ Those who took bread at each meal paid about ten dollars per week more than those who took none.”

Here is the story of an incipient bread riot in the ancient West of thirty-five years ago, taken from the columns of the journal previously mentioned:

Virginia City, Montana, April 22, 1865.

“April 16. The flour market opened at an advance of ten dollars per sack, and by eleven o’clock A. M. had reached the nominal price of sixty-five dollars per ninety-eight-pound sack. The day closing, holders asked a further advance of five dollars per sack.

“April 17. The demand for flour is increasing. The market opened firm at yesterday’s prices. Before ten o’clock it had advanced to seventy-five dollars per sack. Eleven o’clock rolls round and finds dealers in this staple asking eighty dollars per ninety-eight-pound sack. A few transactions were made at these figures. Before twelve o’clock 217 transfers were made at eighty-five dollars per sack, and some few dealers were asking a further advance of five dollars per sack. Consumers, having no other resource, were compelled to concede to the nominal price of holders, and paid ninety dollars per sack in gold.

“April 18. Flour is truly on the rampage, no concession from dealers’ prices on the part of the very few holders of considerable quantities, with a still further advance of five dollars per sack, which brings the price of an average lot of flour to the unprecedented figures, in this market, of one dollar per pound.

“April 19. The flour market weakened under the excitement of ‘current reports’ from some new speculators in the market, transfers of small lots being made at eighty dollars per sack.

“Eleven o’clock. Our city is thrown into a state of excitement. Rumors of a bread riot are heard from all quarters.

“Twelve o’clock. Our principal streets are well lined and coated with men, avowedly on the raid for flour.

“Later. Flour is seized wherever found, in large or small quantities, and taken to a common depot. On the pretext under which several lots of flour were confiscated, we do not think that any one would 218 consider it wrong or objectionable to store flour, under the present circumstances, in fire-proof cellars or warehouses.

“We, however, do not indorse the concealing of flour under floors or haystacks when the article is up to the present price. We know of no parties that were holders of flour that could not have realized a handsome profit at seventy-five dollars per sack; but in favor of merchants that have invested in this staple at high figures, we should state that we have known flour to be sold within a circumference of a few hundred miles at the rate of five dollars per pound, and no raiders in the market.”

Virginia City, M. T., May 6, 1865.

“The business of the week is a slight improvement over many weeks past, owing to the fine weather sending miners all to work.

Flour. Still continues very scarce, three small lots, only one hundred and twenty-one sacks in all, having arrived from over the range, and were rapidly sold at seventy-five dollars per sack. The want of this staple is very much felt, as all substitutes for this article are about exhausted.”

These curious and rapidly forgotten records of another day show us clearly that, even as late as the Civil War, there was a vast land beyond the Missouri 219 whose people and whose customs were different from those of the East; which had earned its own right to be different; which was as strong and self-reliant and resourceful as though it were part of another sphere; and which might claim that it had solved its own problems for itself and asked no aid. Yet it was this very aloofness and independence that had always threatened, in one way or another, the secession of the West in fact or in sympathy from the East. Therefore we count that a great day—a day fatal for the West, but glorious for America—when the heads of the streams were reached and the mountains overrun. It was a great day, an important date—though unrecorded in any history of this land—when the West had gone as far away as it could, and at last had turned and begun to come back home!

At the end of the Civil War the West had exhausted all the possibilities of down-stream and up-stream transportation. It had developed its resources to a remarkable degree. But now the time was come for newer, more rapid, and more revolutionary methods. The West was at the beginning of another and not less interesting era, a time of swift and startling change.

If our theory regarding Western transportation and Western emigration has been correct, we should 220 now be able to check back on the census map, and expect to find a certain verification of our conclusions. It is curious to observe that the path of the star, which marks on the census charts the center of population, in reality has followed much the same line as the early west-bound movement with which we have been principally concerned. The star moves slowly westward, across the Alleghanies, as did the first pioneers. Then it follows down the valley of the Ohio, as did the early down-stream population under our theory of the transportation of that day.

In 1860 the center of population is situated on the Ohio River, perhaps a hundred miles east of the city of Cincinnati. In 1860 the colors thicken deeply along the river valleys; and far up the streams, even toward the heads of the Mississippi and the Missouri, the map tells us that the population is denser than it is in regions remote from any waterways. In 1870 the face of the map remains, for the most part, bare west of the Missouri, except where the Indian reservations lie.

On the Pacific coast, in California and Oregon, there is a population in some districts of forty-five to ninety persons to the square mile. Around Helena, Deer Lodge, and other mining towns of Montana, there is a faint dash of color showing a population 221 of two to six souls to the square mile, which is beyond the average of all but a few localities west of the Missouri River. At Salt Lake, at Denver, at Santa Fé, termini of transportation in their day, as we have seen, there are bands of a similar color. The total population of America, which in 1810 was 7,239,881, and in 1820, the beginning of our up-stream days, was 9,633,822, is in 1860 31,443,321 and in 1870 38,558,371.[27] Nearly all of this population shows on the census map as east of the Missouri River. Out in the unsettled and unknown region west of the Missouri there still lay the land that to the present generation means the West, appealing, fascinating, mysterious, inscrutable; and for that West there was to come another day.

The Century Magazine, December, 1901.

Nicholas J. Roosevelt, a great-uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt, was one of the owners of the New Orleans, and commanded her on the historic voyage down the Mississippi, it being the honeymoon trip for Mr. Roosevelt and his bride. Eventful enough it proved, this early voyage. As though in protest at this invasion of its sanctity, the wilderness broke out in cataclysmic revolt. The great New Madrid earthquake, which changed the contour of hundreds of miles of Mississippi valley lands, greeted the vessel upon its first night on the great river. “A strange, weird, thrilling moan or high keyed sigh swept tremulously across the forest and cane-brakes, ending in a tremendous shriek, which again dropped to a long, low moan.” This tremendous warning was followed by the quaking, the upheaval and the subsidence of the earth in such fashion that the course of the mighty Mississippi itself was for the time reversed, and afterward forever altered, while vast forests were sunk like so many ranks of toys. A great tidal wave swept the New Orleans from her moorings, and Roosevelt and his wife barely escaped with life. The end of an older world and the beginning of a new had indeed come.

This first river-steamer was 116 feet over all, with twenty-feet beam, and was of only 400 tons burden; strange precursor of the swift and beautiful river-racers that were soon to follow, whose keen, trim hulls and dazzlingly ornamented superstructures were ere long to house another phase of transportation.

Naturally, the down-stream and up-stream eras overlapped. Thus the cypress rafting of the Mississippi Delta, down the Sunflower and Yazoo rivers and to the port of New Orleans, was at its height in the years 1842-44. The rivers will ever remain the great downhill highways for heavy freight.

The Independence, of Louisville, Ky., ascended the Missouri as high as Booneville, Mo., in 1814.

As witness the following from the record of an early prairie journey: “Our route lay through all that vast extent of country then known as Dakota, including the territories, since formed, of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, and a portion left, still bearing the original name. The greater part of the distance had never been traveled, and we were obliged to pick our way as best we could. There was not even an Indian trail to guide us. We were twenty days in crossing the state of Minnesota to Fort Abercrombie, on the Red River of the North, at that time the last outpost of civilization. Remaining there a few days for repairs, we resumed our journey early in July over the trackless plains, certain of our point of destination, but uncertain as to the distance between us and it, the time to be consumed in getting there, and all the difficulties of the long and tedious travel. Conscious of our exposure to attacks from savages, we were on the lookout every moment. A trip that is now completed in five days and is continuously a pleasure-trip consumed five months of time, every moment filled with care and anxiety.”—(N. P. Langford.)

The pack of the “timber-cruiser,” or “land-looker,” of the lumber trade is made of stout canvas, with shoulder-straps. When the cruiser starts out on his lonely woods voyage, his pack, with its contents of tent, blankets, flour, and bacon, weighs about eighty pounds, exclusive of the rifle and ax which he also carries. He may be absent for a month at a time, and he crosses country impenetrable to any but the footman.

There were in all scores of these rude trading posts, whose history is in some cases obscure. Fort Union was one of the famous early stations, and was built in 1828, near the mouth of the Yellowstone, being known for the first year or so as Fort Floyd. Kipp’s Fort, or Fort Piegan, was erected in 1831 at the mouth of Marias River. Campbell and Sublette’s Fort, or Fort William, was built on the Missouri, at or near the site of the later Fort Buford, in 1833. Fort F. A. Chardon was built in 1842 or 1843 at the mouth of the Judith; it was removed to the north bank of the Missouri in 1844 or 1845, and was rechristened Fort Lewis, in honor of Meriwether Lewis. In 1846 this post was torn down and rebuilt on the south bank of the Missouri, somewhat farther down stream. In 1850 it was wholly rebuilt, this time of adobe and not of logs, and this was the beginning of the famous Old Fort Benton, so long associated with all early memories of the upper Missouri. Fort Van Buren was on the right bank of the Yellowstone, and was built probably in 1835, some say in 1832. Fort Cass was erected in 1832, on the Yellowstone, near the mouth of the Bighorn. Fort Alexander, also on the Yellowstone, was built about 1840, possibly in 1839. It was most flourishing in 1849, and was abandoned in 1850. It was located opposite the mouth of the Rosebud. Fort Sarpy was on the right bank of the Yellowstone, twenty-five miles above the mouth of the Bighorn. It was the last of the important posts to be built (probably about 1850), and was abandoned about 1859. (v. Chittenden, “American Fur Trade;” who, however, differs from others in certain dates; as v. Rocky Mountain Magazine.)

“The principal articles of trade were alcohol, blankets, blue and scarlet cloth, sheeting (domestics), ticking, tobacco, knives, fire-steels, arrow-points, files, brass wire (different sizes), beads, brass tacks, leather belts (from four to ten inches wide), silver ornaments for hair, shells, axes, hatchets. Alcohol was the principal article of trade, until after the passing of an act of Congress (June 30, 1843) prohibiting it under severe penalties. . . . There was a bitter rivalry between the Hudson Bay Company and the American Fur Company. The Hudson Bay Company often sent men to induce the confederated Blackfeet to go north and trade, and the Indians said they were offered large rewards to kill all the traders on the Missouri River and destroy the trading-posts. . . . When the Blackfeet commenced to trade on the Missouri, they did not have any robes to trade; they saved only what they wanted for their own use. The Hudson Bay Company only wanted furs of different kinds. The first season the Americans did not get any robes, but traded for a large quantity of beaver, otter, marten, etc. They told the Indians they wanted robes, and from that time the Indians made them their principal article of trade. The company did not trade provisions of any kind to the Indians, but when an Indian made a good trade he would get a spoonful of sugar, which he would put in his medicine-bag to use in sickness when all other remedies failed.” (“The Rocky Mountain Magazine.”)

In the “Montana Post” for February 11, 1865, there appeared the following advertisement:

Ben. Holladay, Proprietor.
Carrying the Great Through Mail between
the Atlantic and Pacific States.
This line is now running in connection with the daily coaches
between Atchison, Kansas & Placerville, Cal.

Tri-weekly Coaches between Salt Lake City and Walla Walla,
via Boise City, West Bannack, and
Tri-weekly Coaches between Great Salt Lake City and Virginia City,
Montana, via Bannack City.

Carrying the U. S. Mail,
Passengers, and Express Matter.

Also tri-weekly coaches between Virginia City and Bannack City.

Coaches for Great Salt Lake City and Bannack City leave Virginia City
every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday Morning,
connecting at Fort Hall; and coaches to Boise and Walla Walla,
and at Great Salt Lake City, with the daily lines to the
Atlantic States, Nevada, and California.

Express matter carried in charge of competent and trustworthy messengers.
For further particulars apply at office.
Nat Stein, Agent,
Virginia City, Montana Territory.

A large advance over the capabilities of the old Mackinaw boats may be seen recorded in the log of a Missouri River Steamboat:

“Fort Benton, July 14, 1866.

“First trip of steamer Deer Lodge, Captain Lawrence Ohlman, Clerk H. A. Dohrman, Engineer S. G. Hill.

“Left St. Louis March 20, at 6½ o’clock p. m., for Fort Benton, lost 12 days by ice, and arrived at Fort Union May 1, where we laid 4 hours and then started on our way up the river. Reached Fort Benton May 18, at 4½ p. m. Discharged 200 tons of freight, and started on return to St. Louis May 21, and arrived there June 3, having made the trip down in 13 days and 15 hours.

“Trip No. 2. Left St. Louis for Fort Benton Wednesday, June 6, at 6½ p. m., with 210 tons of freight, 60 tons for Randall, Rice, and Sully, 150 tons for Benton. Running time from St. Louis to Fort Sully 16 days; to Fort Rice 21 days; to Fort Union 27 days and 6 hours; to Milk River 29½ days; to the mouth of Judith, or Camp Cook, 35 days 10 hours. Discharged 147 tons of freight and laid there 12 hours, and started again for Benton. Passed Drowned Man’s Rapids in 2½ minutes without laying a line or working a full head of steam. Laid up at Eagle Creek 3 hours, and arrived at Fort Benton July 13, at 4 p. m. Time from St. Louis 36 days and 21 hours.

“The round trip from Benton to St. Louis in 53 days and 12 hours, without setting a spar or rubbing the bottom.” (The “Montana Post.”)

In the sixties the price of wheat was at times so low in Iowa that farmers could not pay their taxes. Many men engaged in freighting flour and bacon from Iowa to Denver, Colorado, via Council Bluffs and the route up the Platte valley, then a part of the buffalo range and a favorite hunting-ground of the Sioux and Pawnees. The father of the writer made such a trading-trip in 1860.

The average density of settlement of the United States was, in 1810, 17.7 persons to the square mile; in 1820, 18.9 persons; in 1860, 26.3; in 1870, 30.3.



In reviewing the life of Christopher Carson, another of our Western leaders in exploration, we come upon the transition period between the time of up-stream transportation and that which led across the waters; the epoch wherein fell the closing days of Western adventure properly so called, and the opening days of a Western civilization fitly so named. Kit Carson, as he was always called, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, on December twenty-fourth, 1809. Thus it may be seen that his time lapped over that of Crockett and even of Boone. It is not generally known, yet it is the case, that Kit Carson was a grandson of Daniel Boone.

Carson’s life, therefore, rounds out the time of the great Westerners. He comes down to the railroad-building day. His was the time of the long-haired men of the American West. John Colter, Jim Bridger, Bill Williams, the mulatto Beckwith or 224 Beckworth; the great generals of the fur trade, Lisa, Ashley, Henry, Smith, Sublette, Fitzpatrick, all that company of the great captains of hazard—these were the men of his day; and among them all, not one has come down to us in more distinct figure or with memory carrying greater respect.

We call Frémont “The Great Pathfinder,” and credit him with the exploration of the Rockies, the Pacific slope, and the great tramontane interior basins. Yet Frémont did not begin his explorations until 1842, and by that time the West of the adventurers was practically an outlived thing. For ten years the fur trade had been virtually defunct. For more than a decade the early commerce of the prairies had been waning. The West had been tramped across from one end to the other by a race of men peerless in their daring, chief among whom might be named this little, gentle, blue-eyed man, of whom that genially supercilious and generally ignorant biographer, J. S. C. Abbott, is good enough to write: “It is strange that the wilderness could have formed so estimable a character!”

This little man—he is described by one who knew him as a small man, not over five feet six inches in height—had, long before he ever heard of Frémont, ridden and walked along every important stream of the Rocky Mountains; had journeyed across the 225 “American Desert” a dozen times, back and forth; had seen every foot of the Rockies from the Forks of the Missouri to the Bayou Salade; had seen all of New Mexico; had visited old Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California as we now know them; had camped at every resting ground along the Arkansas and Platte; had fought and traded with every Indian tribe from the Apaches up through the Navajos, Cheyennes, Comanches, Sioux, and Crows; had even fought the Blackfeet, redoubtable Northern warriors.

In short, Kit Carson and his kind had really explored the West, and by 1842 had rendered it safe for the so-called “exploration” that was to make its wonders public. It is Kit Carson who might better have the title of “pathfinder.” Yet this was something to which he himself would not have listened, for well enough he knew that he was not the first. Ahead of him were other apostles of the fur trade, so that even Kit Carson took the West at second hand, as later we shall see. He would not have vaunted himself as knowing very much of the West. Yet even to-day men of the East are exploring the West, and writing gravely of their “discoveries.”

Five feet six, with twinkling blue-gray eyes, a large and well-developed head, with hair sandy and 226 well brushed back, Kit Carson at his best was the reverse of impressive. He was simple, peaceable and quiet in disposition, temperate and strictly moral in a time and place where these qualities made one a marked man. Yet throughout the length and breadth of the Indian country this little man was more feared, single and alone, than any other trapper or Indian fighter in all the West. He was respected as well as feared. One who knew him well said: “Carson and truth mean the same thing. He is always the same, gallant and disinterested. He is kind-hearted and averse to all quarrelsome and turbulent scenes. He is known far and wide for his sober habits, strict honor, and great regard for truth.”

One of Carson’s historians describes him as five feet nine inches in height, as weighing one hundred and sixty pounds, and as having a “dark and piercing eye.” This “dark and piercing eye” is something that, as we have noted, the average writer on Western themes and Western adventures will not willingly let die. As a matter of fact, however, we are to believe that our hero was a much smaller man than this description makes him out to be, and that, though of well-developed and compact frame, he was by no means of imposing presence.

We shall do better with his raiment, for here we take hold upon the characteristics of the West at its 227 most romantic time. In the garb habitual with him for more than half his life, Carson was clad in a fringed buckskin shirt, with leggings of the same material, also befringed. The shirt was handsomely embroidered with quills of the porcupine, and as much might be said for the moccasins that protected his feet. His cap was of fur, sometimes of fox skin, sometimes of ’coon skin, mayhap in days of great prosperity, of otter.

His rifle was that of Boone or Crockett, improved only to a limited extent, though carrying a ball somewhat larger than that needed in the forests of Kentucky. Otherwise he might have been the typical early American rifleman of the Alleghanies. Under his right arm rested his powder horn and bullet pouch. A heavy knife for butchering hung at his belt, as well as a whetstone to keep it in good condition. At a certain time in his career Carson wore an ornamented belt, with heavy silver buckle, which supported two revolvers and a knife.

He took on in modest sort the picturesque fashions of the wilderness, and, uniting as he did the mountains and the plains in his habitat, at times showed something of the Spanish love of display in the trappings of his horse. His saddle and bridle had trace of Mexico in their gold and silver ornamentation. His horse, be sure, was a good one; for those were 228 times when a man’s safety much depended on the fleetness and soundness of his mount, and the horse was the means of transportation for Carson and his kind.

As to the career of this Western man, if we come to follow it out as it occurred in sequence, we shall arrive at but one conclusion, to wit: that, conditions considered, Kit Carson was the greatest of all American travelers. It is almost unbelievable, the distances he traversed along with his wild fellows during those vivid years in which he forced the wild West to yield him a living. We can not do better than to trace some of his wanderings, more especially those that occurred before the day of the so-called exploration of the West.

Frémont, who knew Carson well, speaks of him as a native of Boone’s Lick County, Missouri; but Doctor Peters, his biographer, states, apparently with Carson’s authority, that Carson was born in Madison County, Kentucky, as above stated, and while but one year of age was brought to Howard County, Missouri, by his parents. The father of Carson was a good farmer, according to the lights of his time, and a good hunter, the life of Missouri during those early times being practically that known by the blockhouse farmers of Kentucky in the time of Boone. Kit grew up sturdy, quiet, self-contained, 229 self-reliant. In his boyhood he was a steady rifle shot, and early acquired a reputation. He “hunted with the Sioux Indians,” we are told, when yet a boy; which means he must have gone north up the Missouri.

At fifteen years of age he was called “old for his age;” he was known to be plucky, prompt, and tenacious of his rights, though not in the least quarrelsome. Just as well-meaning parents tried to send Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone to school, so did the kind parents in this case undertake to instil commercial principles into the mind of Kit Carson. To his father it seemed important that he should be apprenticed to a saddler. From the saddler’s stool Kit promptly fell off. It was the out-of-doors that appealed to him; the West that spoke to him, just as it had to Boone and Crockett. He broke his heart for two years at the saddler’s bench, and that ended both his commercial and scholastic education. In 1826, while still but a boy, he was off and away across the plains, having, without his parents’ consent, joined a party bound for Santa Fé. Thus would the youth seek his fortune.

Carson reached Santa Fé in the month of November, 1826, and went thence to Fernandez de Taos, eighty miles northeast of Santa Fé, and spent the winter with an old mountaineer named Kincaid, 230 or Kin Cade, who taught him something of the lore of the mountains. Perhaps a little homesick, in the spring of 1827 he started back for the East, without a penny in his buckskin pockets. He worked back homeward on the long journey down the Arkansas to a point about four hundred and fifty miles east of Santa Fé, and there, at the ford of the Arkansas, met another band of traders, west-bound, to whom he hired out as a teamster.

He again reached Santa Fé, still without a dollar, and went as teamster thence as far south as El Paso, returned to Santa Fé, and again to Taos. He was learning Spanish and learning New Mexico all this time. He now hired out as cook to Ewing Young, and continued in this interesting capacity until the spring of 1828. Again he started East, again failed to win farther than before, and joined another west-bound party, to reach Santa Fé a third time. Now he could do a bit in Spanish, and hence engaged as interpreter for Colonel Tramell, and wagoned it as far south as Chihuahua, in old Mexico. All this sounds full easy, yet even these few journeyings hitherto covered many, many weary, blistering miles.

In far-off Chihuahua young Carson hired out as a teamster, serving in the employ of Robert McKnight. He went to the Copper Mines, on the Gila River, and thence back once more to Taos, which latter place 231 was to serve as his headquarters all his life. All this time it was Carson’s ambition to be something better than a cook, or a teamster, or even an interpreter. The adventurer’s blood was in his veins. It was April of 1829 when he joined Young’s party of trappers, and soon thereafter he saw his first fight, in which the white men killed some fifteen Indians. It is not known whether or not Carson distinguished himself in this fight, but certainly he remained with the party, and it was no coward’s company.

This band now worked toward the West, trapped down the Salt River, and reached the head of the San Francisco River. They concluded to go over to the Sacramento River of California, then reported to abound in fur. On the seventh day’s journey to the west and southwest, they reached the Grand Cañon of the Colorado, now admitted to be one of the wonders of the world. These trappers always remembered the Grand Cañon of the Colorado; for it was near there that they bought a horse of some wandering Indians, and ate it. They were very hungry.

There were no trails across the interior desert in those days. Hence, although these were not the first adventurers to cross to California, they were in effect pioneers. In some way they succeeded in reaching San Gabriel Mission of California, and thence—by 232 some very wonderful geography on the part of one or two biographers—they reached the Sacramento River. In the San Joaquin valley they met Peter Ogden’s party of Hudson Bay trappers. So we may see that the West was far from being an unexploited country when Kit Carson began his travels.

This early transcontinental party was successful in its trapping, and the leader, Ewing Young, visited San Rafael with the catch of furs and sold it out in entirety to the captain of a trading schooner. He then bought horses for the return East. The Indians of the Sierra foothills promptly stole certain numbers of these horses. Witness augury of the future of Kit Carson, when we read that he was detailed as the leader of a little party sent out in pursuit of the horse thieves. This was his first independent scouting trip. He and his party killed eight Indians and retook the horses. Already his hand was acquiring cunning in the stern trade of Western life.

September of 1829 found Kit Carson back again in New Mexico. It took the party nine days to ride from Los Angeles to the Colorado River. Thence they seem to have descended the Colorado to tidewater, to have crossed over to the Gila, and to have ascended the Gila to San Pedro. There was some more horse stealing, a little exchange on both sides between the whites and Indians in this line. The 233 whites needed horses, for they had no other meat. Yet in some fashion they won up the Gila River to the copper mines of New Mexico; which, we may see, was ground already known to Carson. Here they cached their furs, since these would be contraband under the Spanish law, nearly all of these wanderings having taken place in the Spanish territory that was the western goal of the early commerce of the prairies.

In time the party turned up at Santa Fé, reaching that city in April, 1830, where the leader, Young, disposed of his furs, the net result for eighteen men during a term of one year being twenty-four thousand dollars. Kit Carson was now twenty-one years of age, and he was fully initiated in his calling. We can not appreciate these journeyings except by taking an accurate map of the great Western country, and following, finger by finger, along stream and across mountain, the course of the early voyagers.

This, however, is but the beginning. In the fall of 1830 the noted Western fur trader, Fitzpatrick, organized a strong party, and it was matter of course that Carson would find his way into it. This band visited the Platte River, whose long southern arm reaches so deep down into the heart of the Rockies. Thence, along good beaver waters, they moved over to the Green River, Pacific waters, also historic in the 234 fur trade. We find them later in Jackson’s Hole, east of the range, even today the center of a great game country. Thence they moved west to the Salmon River, into a country still one of the wildest parts of America; and there, much as a matter of fact, they joined others of their party, who had started out slightly in advance of them, and “for whom they had been looking,” as one chronicler naïvely advises us. It was a search and a meeting in the heart of a wilderness many hundreds of miles in extent.

The winter of 1830-1831 was spent by Carson on the Salmon River. Now enter those stern warriors of the North, the Blackfeet. Kit saw four of his companions killed. He was inured to such scenes, and the incident gave him no pause. April of 1831 found him on the Bear River. Moving, always moving, we see him now on the Green River, again in the “New Park” of Colorado, on the plains of Laramie, again on the long South Fork of the Platte, and presently on the Arkansas. Beseech you, let your finger ever follow on the map; and accept warrant that if your following has been honest, your eyes shall stare in wonder at these journeyings. Let one seek to duplicate it himself, even in these civilized days when towns and ranches crowd the West; and then, having restored that 235 West to the day of beaver and Blackfeet, ask himself how had it been with him had he been in Carson’s company!

This winter camp on the Arkansas River furnished a certain amount of interest. A party of fifty Crow Indians raided the camp and stole a number of horses. It was Carson once more, we may be sure, who was elected to lead the pursuit. Twelve Indians were killed by the young leader and his hardy riflemen. Carson was now accepted as one of the captains of the trails. He had fully learned his bold and difficult trade.

In the spring of 1832 Carson’s party moved to the Laramie River; moved again to the headwaters of the South Fork of the Platte, and caught beaver and fought Indians for a few months; from the Laramie to the Bayou Salade, or Ballo Salade, as it was sometimes spelled in those days. These operations were carried on in the heart of the most dangerous Indian country of the West. Heretofore it had been the custom of the trappers to go in parties of considerable size, so that they might successfully meet the Indians, who even thus made affairs dangerous enough. The quality of Carson’s spirit may therefore be seen when we discover him, with only two companions, breaking away for a solitary beaver hunt in the mountains in the heart 236 of the range. Yet these three were fortunate, and returned to Taos in the fall of 1832 well laden with furs.

At Taos, Carson met Captain Lee of the United States Army, a partner of that Bent who founded Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas. Captain Lee had a cargo of goods that he wished to take to the rendezvous of the trapping bands for that year. Kit joined him for the time, and in October of 1832 they pushed on, traveling part of the time on the old Spanish trail to California. They reached the White River, the Green River, the “Windy” River, and here, as though by special plan, they met their band of trappers, erected their skin lodges, and passed the winter. Kit joined the Fitzpatrick party for a time in the next spring, but after his own restless fashion broke away again, with only three companions.

In the summer of 1833 we find the four on the Laramie River, doing independent trapping and taking their chances as to Indians. It was about this time that Kit had his historic adventure with two bears, which chased him up a tree, and which he repelled by beating them over the noses with a branch broken from the tree. The ever-wise biographer Abbott, who gravely informs us that Crockett killed “voracious grizzly bears” in the cane-brakes of Tennessee, with equal accuracy advises us that the “grizzly 237 bear can climb a tree as well as a man.” Herein we find some mystery about Carson’s bear adventure. Carson as a hunter would have been the first to know that a grizzly bear can not climb a tree unless it be a horizontal one. There is no doubt, however, that some such adventure took place with some sort of bears, and that Carson saved his leggings if not his life by a knowledge of the tenderness of a bear’s nose.

All this time our Westerner, our trapper, is fitting himself for his work in the West as guide for “explorers.” We find him with fifty men, pushing up quite to the headwaters of the Missouri River, and later he and some companions turn up along the historic Yellowstone River, a country then well known in the organized fur trade of St. Louis. We do not discover that he ever went into the regular employ of any of the fur traders. No engagé or ordinary “pork eater” he, but a companion nearly always of these independent fur traders, the individual gentry of the wilderness. We find him now becoming acquainted with the Big Horn. He knows also the three forks of the Missouri; and he visits the “Big Snake” River and the Humboldt River, then called Mary’s River, since scientists still were scarce in the Rockies.

He wanders continually back and forth across the upper Rockies. Brown’s Hole, Jackson’s Hole, Henry 238 Lake, the Black Hills, all the upper waters of the great rivers, the Columbia, the Snake, the Green, the Colorado, the Platte, the Missouri, the Yellowstone, the Arkansas,—you shall hardly name any well-known Western region, any remote mountain park, any accurately mapped Western stream which you shall not, providing you have faithfully followed the wanderings of Kit Carson, discover to have been familiar to this man even before geographies were dreamed of west of the Missouri River.

It would be but wearying to go on with the monotonous chronicle of repeated journeys back and forth, of hardships, of toils and dangers, of the round of the trapper’s employment, of the wild life at those wild, strange annual markets of the mountains, the trappers’ rendezvous. It will suffice us and serve us to remember that Carson practically closed his life as a trapper in 1834,[28] this date marking the end of eight years steadily employed by him in trapping and trading and in learning the West. In 1834 he and such companions as Bill Williams, William New, Mitchell, Frederick, and scores of others of his old-time friends, found themselves practically without a calling. When, after one long expedition west 239 of the range, they readied Fort Roubidoux, it was only to discover that furs had gone very low in price.

The advent of the silk hat had caused terror in St. Louis, and gloom throughout the Rockies. The day of the beaver trade was at an end. That animal, of so monstrous an importance in the history of the American continent, was now to assume a place far lower in estimation. Our bold, befringed mountaineers learned that it would no longer pay to pursue it into the remote fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains. Yet the beaver had served its purpose. Following its tooth-marks on the trees, there had pressed on to the head of every Western river a man qualifying for office as guide of the west-bound civilization beyond the Missouri. Kit Carson, type of the graduated trapper and adventurer, had had his schooling.

Yet a man must live, and if there be no price for beaver peltry he must turn his hand to something else for occupation. For eight years Kit Carson served as hunter for the post, well-known as Bent’s Fort, on the Arkansas River. There he fed forty men on the wild meat of the plains, and during his eight years of hunting killed thousands of buffalo, elk, and deer. He saw the plains in all their ancient undimmed splendor, and whether he most loved the mountains or the plains he himself never could tell. Carson at an earlier time had married 240 an Indian girl, and during his engagement at Fort Bent he sent his one child, a daughter, to St. Louis for the purpose of acquiring an education. There the daughter married, went to California, and apparently passes from the scene. Carson’s later marriage was with a Mexican woman very much younger than himself.[29]

If in the year 1834 Carson terminated the first term of his Wanderschaft, in 1842, when he closed his first engagement as hunter for Bent’s Fort, he completed the second season of his Western life and was ready for the third. In that year he joined a wagon train bound eastward, having determined to revisit his old home in Missouri, which he had not seen for sixteen years. The visit was sad and cheerless enough. He returned to find his parents dead and forgotten, the old homestead in ruins, and not a friend left to take him by the hand.

He hastened thence to St. Louis, but ten days of even the capital of the fur trade proved sufficient for him. Soon afterward, as is stated by his most reliable biographer, he by mere chance met young Frémont, then bound West to “explore” the Rocky Mountains, more especially that part of the Rockies in the vicinity of the South Pass. Frémont’s guide 241 did not materialize at the time, and Carson’s modestly proffered services were engaged by the army officer, who needed a guide across country, which to many a Western man was as familiar as his own dooryard.[30]

During his first expedition Carson does not seem to have been much valued by Frémont. Basil Lajeunesse was the favorite, and it was always Basil Lajeunesse here, there, and everywhere; Carson, a man of much greater experience and reliability, having not as yet come into his own as a guide, though forsooth there was small need of guiding on this journey. Frémont engaged Carson at one hundred dollars a month, and he was the twenty-eighth man in the party, which also included two boys, young relatives, who after all were not in so very dangerous an enterprise.

Little of the eventful occurred in the long journey across Kansas to Fort Laramie, and so at last they arrived at the South Pass, having met no Indians at all, although they had feared the Sioux. Frémont rode across the gentle summit so long known to the fur traders, climbed the mountain that was later named for him, and returned to Fort Laramie in September, 1842. Thus ended his first expedition, which began his reputation as a “pathfinder.” Let 242 him who has followed the travels of Kit Carson in the trapping trade state who was the real finder of the paths.

After the first Frémont expedition, Carson returned to Bent’s Fort, and in February of 1843 married the young Mexican woman who remained his faithful companion throughout his life. Carson was sent with a message to Governor Armijo with a warning for the latter, but one hundred of the Mexicans connected with Armijo’s wagon train were killed by the Texans on the historic wagon road up the Arkansas River; we being thus now in touch with the strong and warlike population that, led by Houston, Travis, Fannin, Crockett, had been fighting the Spanish arms to the southward of Carson’s hunting grounds.

Up to this time Kit Carson had been more savage than civilized. He had never cast a vote for any office. He had lived on the product of his rifle. He had learned the habits of the wild men and wild animals of the West. Yet he seems to have gained something of that forcefulness and self-confidence which sooner or later is bound to impress itself upon others; for on May twenty-ninth of 1843 we find Frémont again sending for him, and asking his services as guide for his second expedition.

This time it was Frémont’s purpose to connect his 243 last year’s work with the Pacific Coast surveys which had been begun by Wilkes. All know how Frémont exceeded his orders, how his wife pluckily held back from him the knowledge of his recall, and how this transcontinental expedition, by no means the first, though one of the most widely acclaimed, made its way over grounds new to Frémont but old to Carson. The first part of the journey was among the old trapping grounds along the North Fork of the Platte and on the Sweetwater, thence to Salt Lake—all points fully known to the fur trade many years before. The journey thence ran to Fort Hall and along the perfectly determined trail northwest to the Columbia River. Frémont then pushed on to Tlamath Lake, Oregon, heading thence for California.

This country between the Tlamath Lake and the Sacramento valley was new even to Carson. Everybody supposed[31] that there was a great river, known as the Buena Ventura, which rose on the west side of the Rocky Mountains at a point directly opposite the headwaters of the Arkansas, and flowed westward directly into the Pacific ocean. The little fact of the Sierra Nevada mountain range was wholly overlooked.

Carson honestly did his best, but he was in the 244 hands of a leader who undertook to cross the Sierras with a pack-train where there was six feet of snow, and with a party the total number of which counted only two men that had ever before worn snowshoes in all their lives! Never was there poorer mountaineering or worse leadership than this. But it was not Kit Carson that was responsible.

After very many hardships, the expedition worked to the south and southeast of the Tlamath country, and got down near to what is now known as Pyramid Lake. Then they started across for the Sacramento, not having discovered the fabled Buena Ventura. Carson, quiet, not boasting, openly confessing his ignorance of a country he had never seen, none the less in these hard conditions proved serviceable as a guide. He pushed on ahead, and from a peak of the Sierras got a glimpse of the Coast Range. He had not seen this Coast Range chain for seventeen years, but now he noted two little mountains that seemed familiar to him. He told his leader that if only they could win across the Sierras, they would presently be in a country of warmth and plenty.

The men by that time were eating their saddle leathers, the mules were eating each other’s tails. It was a starving, freezing time, this foolish bit of mountain work, such as in all his trapping experience Carson never saw equalled. Yet at last they did reach 245 Sutter’s Fort, on March sixth, 1844, two thousand miles from Fort Hall. Some of the men were physically ruined and mentally deranged from their sufferings. It was military and not mountain leadership that was responsible for all this.

But our continually traveling man, this little man, Kit Carson, was not to have any rest even in the pleasant valley of the Sacramento. We find the expedition soon starting East again, now by way of the San José valley, over the Sierras to the Mojave River, country long known to the traveling trappers. Here Carson and his friend Godey conducted a little enterprise of their own, undertaken in sheer knight-errantry, in behalf of a party of Mexicans that had been nearly annihilated by the Indians. These two men rode a hundred miles in thirty hours, and alone attacked a large camp of Indians, killing two of them and stampeding the remainder.

The Frémont party arrived at Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas July second, 1844. They had traveled somewhere between thirty-five hundred and four thousand miles, had circumnavigated the mysterious “Great Desert,” and for eight months had never been out of sight of ice and snow. Frémont was able to report upon the great Columbia River, and he and his contemporaries did not hesitate to extol the value 246 of Oregon as a gateway of the Asiatic trade—a line of commerce which for half a century did little to establish the truth of their prophecy.

This, then, was the end of the first exploration of the Rockies accompanied by thermometer and barometer rather than by trap sack and “possible bag.” It was of value. If we were asked what was the most valuable result of this second expedition of Frémont, we should be obliged to answer that it was his mention of the great value of the Western grasses. Frémont was an observer, a chronicler, a writer. It was he that first began to bring back accurate story of the resources of the West.

The mineral wealth of the West, over which the trappers had tramped for a quarter of a century, was as yet unsought and unsuspected by Frémont or any one else. It was to be first the fur trade, then the mining trade, then the cattle trade in the trans-Mississippi West; and after that the agricultural life, followed by the days of swift transportation, of change, of transition and expansion and gourd-like growth in all visible ways.

We are now well forward in the third era of Kit Carson’s career. If at first he was a trapper and hunter in order that he might become fit guide, during the third stage of his life he was to be accepted as the authorized guide of the most important 247 preliminaries for the west-bound movement of the trans-Mississippi population. After the close of the second Frémont expedition, and during the year 1845, Carson tried to be a ranchman or farmer, pitching his tents for the time about fifty miles east of Taos. It was of no avail. Frémont called for him once more. The farm was sold for half its value, and once more Carson set his face toward the West, in company with a Frémont now older, better seasoned and of better judgment. A more direct trail across the Great Basin and into California was desired than that taken either in going or returning on the second expedition.

Carson was the one to go ahead. He traveled alone for sixty miles west of the Great Salt Lake, directly into the desert, and the rest of the party came up to his signal smoke. Thence they pushed on to the Carson River, searching still for a new pass over the Sierras into the valley of the San Joaquin. At last they won across, as did the earlier trappers, and again they reached Sutter’s Fort in due time. A branch of the main party, that headed by Talbott, did not appear at the appointed meeting place. It was Carson, of course, Carson the traveler, who was despatched down the San Joaquin valley to discover the truth of a rumor that Talbott and his 248 party had appeared in that locality. Needless to say the wanderers were found.

Now there broke out the Mexican imbroglio, in which the part of Frémont is well known. For a time Frémont’s party moved north, along the Sacramento, thence toward the Columbia River. They did not know that war had been declared between the United States and Mexico. Lieutenant Gillespie, hot on their trail, brought the message that hostilities had broken out. In Oregon, in the Tlamath country, came the night attack in which Basil Lajeunesse and three others of the party were killed. Carson saw his companion, a brave Delaware Indian, stand up and receive a half-dozen arrows from unseen foes. He joined the pursuit in the dark; and later, on the backward trail to California with Gillespie, helped execute the stern mountain vengeance on the Tlamaths, leading the mountaineers in all their desperate little fights.

The exploring party had now become military, and so the flag, led and backed by American mountaineers, went up above a Western empire. As to the services of this far-traveling mountain man to his leader and to his country, we can scarcely overestimate them. Some idea of the confidence in which he was now held may 249 be gathered from the fact that, after the Frémont operations in California, Carson was sent with despatches to Washington, in order that the government might know what was happening on the far-away Pacific slope.

He started on September fifteenth, 1846, and it was asked of him that he make the entire trip to Washington inside of sixty days; this at a time when there was not a foot of railway west of the Missouri, and when all the country from the Pacific to the Missouri was more or less occupied with hostile savages. None the less Carson started, the first overland rider to bear despatches on a continuous journey of this nature.

By October sixth he was far toward the eastward, across the Rockies, when he met General Kearney’s column. Kearney ordered Carson to turn back and guide him westward to California. Without a murmur the little blue-eyed man remarked: “As the General pleases.” He did not stop to visit his own family at Taos, but went back once more to lead the west-bound flag. By December third the slow column had reached California, and here it met more warlike experiences than it liked or had believed possible. The California Mexicans that fell upon Kearney’s column were fighters. They killed fifty of the Americans, surrounded the 250 remainder, and bade fair to exterminate the entire expedition.

Witness again the service of the scout and guide. Carson and Lieutenant Beale of the Navy were sent out as special messengers to San Diego. In some way they got through the beleaguering lines, and after a perilous journey arrived at San Diego and secured the desired help. This sort of thing was nothing new to Carson. It was so severe for Beale that he went deranged, and it took him two years to recover from his journey, brave man and bold as he was. The Army and Navy had not the seasoning of the American mountain men, the hardiest breed ever grown on the face of the globe.

At Los Angeles Carson finally rejoined Frémont, in time for that tempest in a teapot wherein Frémont and Kearney fell at swords’ points. These things are of no moment, yet it is significant that in March, 1847, Carson was sent once more as despatch bearer to Washington. He went light and speedy as before, met the Indians on the Gila, fought them and won through. This time he reached Washington, after his long and steady ride across New Mexico and down the Arkansas River to the Missouri, arriving in the month of June, after having made four thousand miles in three months. We make it in about three days to-day.

251 In Washington Carson met Jessie Benton Frémont, wife of the “Pathfinder” and daughter of the arch-protector of the fur traders and of Frémont, Thomas Benton. Carson was now appointed lieutenant of the rifle corps of the United States Army; a commission which, by the way, was never ratified, although he did not know this for some months. He was sent back, four thousand miles, to bear despatches in return. He crossed the Missouri River, fought the Comanches at the Point of Rocks, got through them, pushed on west as steadily as ever, and reached the Virgin River, in the dry Southwest, before he met his next Indian fight. He and fifteen comrades here stood off three hundred Indians. In due time he reached Monterey, and after this he took service against the Mexicans on the border for a time.

So energetic a man cannot be allowed to rest, and in the spring of 1848 he is sent back once more to Washington. The physical frame of any other man except Kit Carson had been by all these journeyings too far racked to enable him to make this long and hazardous trip. The souls of most men would have failed them long ere this. Yet this hardy, tough little man, just big enough for steady riding, cheerfully undertakes his third journey across the mountains as despatch bearer for the United States Army.

This time he meets Utes and Apaches, fights them, 252 wins through them, and goes on. He stops on this trip just for a day to see his family at Taos, averaging a visit home about once in three years. It is here that he learns that he is not a lieutenant, after all; but that does not check his loyalty to the flag. He goes east now up the Bijou, and down the Platte to the Republican Fork, in order to dodge certain Indians, who, he hears, are numerous and bad along the Arkansas.

He reaches Washington safe and sound, of course; starts back for New Mexico; and arrives there in October, 1848. Figure yourself, if you like, as chief actor in a quarter of a century of such traveling as was done by Kit Carson. His travels are given thus in detail that we may have just estimate of the man of those days, of the tremendous demands upon his courage and endurance. Only the West could produce such a man.

Now we may picture Kit Carson in the fourth stage of his career, as settler and rancher. He was at home now, but he knew no rest. He fought the Apaches, and guided Colonel Beall against that tribe and the Comanches, in an endeavor to round up all the Mexican prisoners in the hands of the Indians, who were to be returned to their own firesides. After this little expedition Carson was once more a man without an occupation. There was a lull 253 in fighting and scouting. Having no profession except that of trapper and of guide, he cast about him and once more determined to be a ranchman. He and his friend Maxwell established a ranch fifty miles west of Taos, at what is known as Rayado or Rezado. Again he joined an expedition against the Apaches, a day and a half to the southeast, a disastrous expedition, in which he was not leader, but might better have been. At another time he helped chase some Apache thieves, and assisted in the killing of five of them, being always desired in these errands of swift punishment. Our army could never catch the Apaches, the Nez Percés, the Comanches, the Crows, the Blackfeet. Kit Carson always could and did.

This Indian fighting, however, did not bring money to his coffers; therefore in 1850 we find him and a partner taking a band of horses from New Mexico up to Fort Laramie, a journey of five hundred miles.[32] After this followed some more horse stealing on the part of the Indians, yet more punitive expeditions, and considerable amateur sheriffing, for which service Carson had become a necessity in the district. He was not afraid. He could read the signs of the trails. He could ride.

254 In 1851 Carson and Maxwell tried their hands at a bit of the Santa Fé trade themselves, although this was long after the glory of the old-time wagon trade had departed. They got a train load of goods at St. Louis, and started westward up the Arkansas, after the old-fashioned way. They met the Cheyennes, always ambitious to acquire tax title of the plains to such valuable property as this. Carson knew that the protestations of these Cheyennes were not to be believed, and told the Indians that they could neither deceive him nor frighten him; yet with diplomacy equal to his courage, he edged on and on for three doubtful days, farther and farther to the westward, and so at last came safe. Kit Carson was no blusterer and no swashbuckler, but was first and last of all a good business man. He knew that it was good judgment to keep out of a fight whenever possible, which he did.

And now comes one of the most romantic, indeed one of the most pathetic pages in the whole history of this brave man, if not in all Western history. Rebelling at the tameness of ranching and horse trading and wagon trafficking, longing once more for the freedom of the trapping trail, Kit sent word about among his old friends, the free traders of the Rockies. A party of eighteen old-time long-haired men was made up; and thus they sallied forth, with 255 rifle and ax and pack and jingling trap chains, in the fashion of the past, making once more deep into the heart of the Rockies. They visited the Arkansas, the Green, the Grand, all the loved and lovable parks of the mountains. They came back through the Raton Mountains, bearing with them abundant fur. They said that it was their last trail; that they had seen the old streams they loved, in order that they might “shake hands with them and say good-by!” This expedition was made for sheer love of the old life, which they knew had now gone by forever. The settlement of the West was at hand, and this they knew very well. No wonder that it brought them sadness! We to-day may grieve in some measure over the dignity and glory of those days gone by.

We might believe that by this Kit Carson would have had enough traveling, and would have been content to bound his ambitions by the little mountain valleys that lay about him in New Mexico. Not so, however; for we find his next exploit to be the unusual one of a sheep drive to far-off California. He assembled a band of six thousand five hundred sheep, and following by easy stages along the old mountain trails with which he was so familiar, at length arrived with his herd, in August, 1853, at his far-off destination. He sold his sheep at the 256 good price of five dollars and a half a head, this being the most considerable and most profitable speculation in which he had ever engaged in all his life.

He remained for a time in California and looked about him, but he found California no longer a wilderness occupied by wandering and infrequent trappers, but a land overflowing with gold, and tenanted with a restless and swiftly increasing population. He saw a San Francisco of fifty thousand souls spring up as by magic within sight of those two little hills of the Coast Range that had marked the land of salvation for Frémont and his party in their starving journey across the Sierras. He found himself a hero in this new and busy San Francisco; but he was ever unfamiliar with the art of heroing, so presently he left the town and returned again to New Mexico, traveling this time by the old trail to the copper mines, by which he had led Frémont in his first journey east from southern California.

Carson was now living in a West experiencing sudden and general change. The old West was nearly gone, and all its ancient ways. The government at Washington was familiar with the doings of this quiet little man of New Mexico, and it was suggested that he would make a good Indian agent for the district of New Mexico. Witness, therefore, the last 257 stage of Kit Carson’s career, that of counselor and guide to those savage peoples whose enemy and conqueror he had been.

At this time the Utes and the Jicarilla Apaches were rebellious, and one of Carson’s first acts was to ride two hundred and fifty miles into the Ute country. He led the forces that broke up the coalition between the Utes and the Apaches. It was Carson, old Indian fighter, who was one of the first to say that the Indians must be “rounded up and taught to till the soil.” This was his belief even at the time when he acted as guide for Colonel St. Vrain and his New Mexican volunteers, in the expedition that routed the Indians at the Saugache Pass.

The Indians that had feared Carson in the past came at length to trust him, and indeed to love him. He was known as “father” by many a warlike tribe. Thus he became the friend of the Cheyennes, the Arapahoes and the Kiowas, peoples scattered over a wide range of country. Behold now, therefore, our trapper, guide and scout fairly settled in life. Remember also that he was not the guide of Frémont in that last fatal, starving expedition when, blundering foolishly once more into the wilderness of the Rockies in the winter-time, and undertaking the wild project of crossing eight feet of snow with a pack-train, that officer once more came near 258 paying the penalty of his ignorance by his own life and the lives of all his party.

It was Bill Williams who was guide this time, a Bill Williams that had not been trapping on the Del Norte for years, and who might have been forgiven memory less keen than had been Carson’s when he saw the two little peaks, far away in the Coast Range, in that other starving march of this same leader. It was to Taos that the enfeebled survivors of Frémont’s disastrous expedition found their way in search of help. If Kit Carson reproached his former “leader” it is not on record. Never was there a leader whose follies won him greater praise.

Later in his life, leaving the United States service as Indian agent, Carson was made colonel of a regiment of New Mexican volunteers, during the War of the Rebellion. He was brevetted brigadier-general of volunteers. In the closing years of his life he was known as “the general” among his friends, just as he was always known as “father” among the Indians who dwelt about him.

Kit Carson’s death occurred at Fort Lyon, Colorado, May twenty-third, 1869, the immediate cause being an aneurism of the aorta. Eight years before, Carson had sustained a bad fall, and had been dragged for a distance by his horse. From this hurt he never fully recovered. “Were it not for this,” said he, 259 meaning his mishap, “I might live to be one hundred years of age.” Yet, knowing that he was doomed, he lived bravely and sweetly as ever, and to the end remained as unpretentious as during his early days.

“It was wonderful,” says the chronicler who saw his last hours and who heard most of the biography of Kit Carson read in the presence of the hero himself, “it was wonderful to read of the thrilling deeds and narrow escapes of this man, and then look at the quiet, modest, retiring but dignified little man who had done so much. He was one of nature’s noblemen, a true man in all that constitutes manhood, pure, honorable, truthful and sincere, of noble impulses; a knight-errant, ever ready to defend the weak against the strong without reward other than his own conscience. His was a great contempt for noisy braggarts of every sort.”

So, surrounded by his friends, facing the impending end with his customary bravery, Kit Carson passed away. There was a struggle and a fatal hemorrhage. “Doctor—compadre,—adios!” he cried. “This is the last of the general,” said his friend. So passed one of the last of the great Westerners.

It was nearly time now for all the old mountain men to put up the rifle. The day of the plow was following hard upon them.

Pray remember always this date of 1834. It is writ in few histories. It marks the closing scenes of the fur trade, the waning of the wild West, the beginning of the new day. In 1834 the preliminary survey of civilization had been practically completed.

One of Carson’s daughters, after a sad life story, is said to have died in New Mexico, in an insane asylum, in 1902.

V. Chapter III, Vol. III; Early Explorers of the Trans-Missouri. The Oregon trail was then a plain highway.

In spite of the Gallatin map, two years earlier. V. Chapter IV, Vol. III; “Early Explorers of the Trans-Missouri.”

The beginning of the New Mexican branch of the Long Trail, later to become famous in the cattle trade.



To-day we think in straight lines. We believe, ignorantly, that our forefathers moved directly westward from their former homes. We do not ask how they did it, but think that in some way they must have done so. Dwellers in Chicago think of New York, and it means New York in a straight line due east. They think of California, and it implies a straight line due west. To us of to-day all railroads run without curves, and are governed only by time-schedules, which annually grow shorter. Geography is well-nigh a lost art. Indeed, there is but little use for it, since the time-tables of the great railways answer all our questions so conclusively. To-day it matters not to us what may be the course of a journey; the sole question is as to the time that journey will require. The railroad men do our thinking for us. We do not concern ourselves with how those good, but somewhat old-fashioned folk, our ancestors, got about in a country that once was large. We care not at all for matters of down-stream or up-stream.

In a general way, therefore, we are prone to 261 believe that the way from the Alleghanies to the Missouri was in a straight line. It was not so. We think that the way to the Rockies and across them was equally straight, because the railways now make it so easy. Yet as a matter of fact the railways proceeded, without much difficulty as to exploration, to lie sure, for nothing new was left for them to discover, yet in hesitating and halting steps westward, shortening the old trails, destroying the old history, wiping out the old geography of the West.

All America can remember the days when we were agitated by the tremendous problem of a line of rails across the American continent, a feat so long regarded as chimerical. We knew of California and we wished for a road thither, had long wished for it. But many years before we had begun to dream of an iron road, and many years after we had dreamed of it, we made our way from the Missouri to the Rockies, over the Rockies to the Pacific, by the same methods that had brought us to the heads of all our Western rivers. We used the pack-horse and the wagon train. Those were the days of the heroically great transcontinental trails. It is interesting to study these ancient land routes; and for our purposes we shall start the wagon roads at the Missouri River, and shall speak chiefly of the two historic 262 and great Western pathways, that by the Arkansas and that by the Platte.

Of these two great land trails west of the Missouri, one, broken midway, does not deserve actually the name of transcontinental trail. This was the old Santa Fé trail, which could be called continuous only as far as the Spanish province of New Mexico. Commerce got westward even so far as California in some fashion, now and again, from Taos and the old city of Santa Fé, but Spanish trails and the old trapping roads west of New Mexico were commonly concerned with the pack-train and not the wagon.

The other overland trail, and the greatest of all American roads, if we measure length and importance as well, was the ancient Oregon trail up the Platte, over the South Pass and down the Columbia; a trail forgotten by most of the young men of to-day, and existing no more to terrify the young women whom young men marry, as they did in the times of our fathers, when moving West meant tearing out the heart.

As to the theory of straight lines, Lieutenant Pike tells us that the first men to reach Santa Fé did not go straight westward, but also wandered up the aboriginal highway of the Platte valley, over what was later to be the course of the Oregon trail, turning to the southward when far up the stream, and 263 following the South Fork of the Platte down into the Rockies, which would bring the traveler within wilderness-touch of the Spanish settlements. La Lande, the perfidious trader, who so sadly left in the lurch his patron, the merchant Morrison of Kaskaskia, and took up his permanent abode in Santa Fé, is thought to have reached that city, in the year 1804, by this route; and it is known that James Purcell (or James Pursley, as Pike has the spelling) was directed to Santa Fé in the year 1805 by some Indians whom he met on the upper Platte.

This route by the Platte was not, however, either the permanent or the original one. Indeed, the first expedition between the Spanish and the American settlements came, strangely enough, from the west, and not from the east, and was undertaken by the Spaniards as early as 1720. Then, in 1739, the Mallet brothers, Frenchmen from the settlements along the Mississippi, started for New Mexico by the strange route of the upper Missouri River, getting far up into the big bend of the Missouri before they discovered that they were going quite the wrong way! Their belief that the Spanish settlements could be reached by way of the head streams of the Missouri is strange confirmation of our doctrine that early traveling man ever clung to the waterways. The river—it would lead anywhere! The Mallet party 264 returned in 1740, some of them by way of the Arkansas River, which presently brought them out at New Orleans!

We may therefore discover that neither the Missouri nor the Platte could have been called the accepted highway into the lower West at the time Lieutenant Pike set out to find the headwaters of the Red River. There is a shrewd doubt as to Pike’s innocence in getting over on the head of the Rio Grande instead of the Red River. It was at least a lucky mistake; and his captivity among the Spaniards was productive of very good results to the United States later on, one of its most important results being his suggesting the route along the Arkansas, instead of the Platte, for the west-bound travelers. It was strong-legged, stout-hearted Zebulon who told of the profits of the possible Spanish trade, and credit is usually given him for first outlining the historic trail along the Arkansas.

It grew shorter and shorter, this wagon trail to the West, as the traders came to know the country. The government surveyed a fine way for the caravans, which took them around the dangerous Cimarron desert, and clung to the waters a trifle longer; yet the travelers would have none of it, but built their trail so direct from Independence to Santa Fé that not even those air-line lovers, the railway 265 engineers, could so very much improve it when they came to make their iron trail between those two points.

One finds something uncanny when he reflects upon the discoveries of these Western regions. The ancient ways seem to have lain ready and waiting, the lines of travel simply falling into the foreordained plan, so that there remains no extraordinary credit to any venturer, no matter how early. For instance, we know that our hardy young soldiers, Lewis and Clark, to whom we habitually ascribe the credit of being the first white men up the great waterway of the Missouri, were preceded by half a century by the Frenchman, Sieur de la Verendrye, who took his two sons and started west by way of the Great Lakes in 1742, jumped from the Red River of the North to the Mandan villages on the Missouri, and explored the region along the Missouri, the Yellowstone and the Bighorn rivers, just one hundred years before Frémont “discovered” the Rockies!

De la Verendrye is thought to have been the first man of the North to see the Rockies; yet back of him we have Nicollet and Champlain, and all those hardy ancients who sought cheerfully and hopefully for the China Sea by way of the Green Bay portage, and the Wisconsin and Minnesota rivers, in search of the fabled “Asian Strait,” which later was practically 266 materialized in the interlocking Western rivers of America.

As to Pike’s journey across the plains, we must know that the Spaniards had sent out an expedition, under Malgares, to meet him or anticipate him. The Spanish leader who thus ventured boldly so far to the east to head off this dreaded invasion of the Northern whites, and to set the Indians against them, must have traveled somewhat along this same pre-ordained trail of the Arkansas. Not all Spain could keep the feet of the young Anglo-Saxons out of that trail. There were always the adventurers; and there were always the trails there, ready, waiting, expectant, prepared for them. There is no reading so thrilling as the bare truth about our West; and the most thrilling part of it is the awesome feeling that our venturers were after all themselves but puppets in a grim and awful game. There lay the Missouri, the Platte, the Arkansas; and stretching out to meet them reached the Columbia and the Colorado. It was appointed, it was foregone!

Among those to go out early into the unknown Southwest, after Lieutenant Pike had told us some few things regarding the pueblos of old Spain among the mountains of the Rockies, were the fur trader Phillibert, and the traders Chouteau and De Munn, 267 of St. Louis, who bought out Phillibert’s goods and men in the Rockies. Phillibert had planned a rendezvous on Huerfano Creek. This was in 1815, the year following that in which Phillibert had made his first trip into that Western region.

These St. Louis men met the officials of Santa Fé, and were warned out of the country. Naïvely, since they could not trade in New Mexico, they started for the Columbia River, by way of the high mountains of Colorado; and the mountains, of course, stopped them. They fell back on the Arkansas, were caught by the Spaniards, had their goods confiscated, and so lost three years of time as well. Not even this pointed advice as to Spanish preferences served to hold back the west-bound men, and no doubt they sent out some party for Santa Fé every year thereafter, until they had their way, and until the Anglo-Saxon grasp was fixed upon that sleepy old Southwest, which lay winking in the sun a couple of centuries belated by the way.

The Spaniards were suspicious, as are ever the slothful, and they made a practice of imprisoning the whites that got down into their country. They imprisoned Pike, they imprisoned Merriwether, an intrepid trader who reached that country in 1819; and history tells us how, in 1812, they imprisoned the first party of the white traders to venture into 268 New Mexico after the return of Lieutenant Pike, the twelve men who made up the party of Baird, McKnight and Chambers, commonly called the party of McKnight, Beard and Chambers. This gallant little company they kept in the fearsome penitentiary at Chihuahua for nine long and weary years,—a fate terrible enough, one would certainly think, to warn away all other adventurers from a neighborhood so hostile.

As to this first and most unfortunate of the early trading expeditions to the Southwest, that of Baird, McKnight and Chambers, there is first-hand information in the form of a personal letter from J. M. Baird, of Louisville, Kentucky, a grandson of the early trader that helped to lead the way of commerce across the plains. Mr. Baird writes:

“As to the expedition of Baird, Chambers and McKnight, it is often spoken of as that of ‘McKnight, Beard and Chambers.’ Gregg, in his book ‘The Commerce of the Prairies,’ published in 1846 (I think), first mentioned the matter. He derived his information from James Baird’s sons, and they were much disgusted to have him print the name ‘Beard.’ All other writers seem to have derived their particulars from him. James Baird was my grandfather. He was personally known to Lieut. Zebulon Pike, had known him at Fort Duquesne and 269 at Erie. Baird went to St. Louis in 1810, where he again met Lieutenant Pike upon his return from Mexico, and learned from him the possibilities of trade with that country.

“Upon hearing of the success of the Hidalgo revolution, and believing the embargo upon trade with the United States raised, he organized a venture with Chambers and McKnight, left St. Charles, Mo., May 1, 1812, and reached Santa Fé in regular course, to find the embargo rigorously enforced. He was arrested and imprisoned in Chihuahua prison for nine years and three months, until released by Iturbide in 1821. Chambers and McKnight started back at once. McKnight was killed by the Indians on the Arkansas River. Chambers succeeded in getting back to St. Louis. Baird started back two months later, could find no company, and rode alone from Santa Fé to St. Louis. This ride has been credited to Bicknell and one Kennedy or Kendall, but James Baird was the man that did it.

“Baird and Chambers organized a second expedition in 1822. They started too late, and were caught in a blizzard at the crossing of the Arkansas, where their animals froze to death. They were compelled to remain the entire winter upon the island at that place. It was Baird and Chambers’ second expedition that made the caches near there (in 1822), 270 and near where Dodge City now stands. Inman in his ‘Old Santa Fé Trail,’ chapter 3, says Bicknell[33] crossed the river at the Caches in 1812. No other caches were made in that vicinity. Bicknell was a trader with the Iatan Indians and did not go into Mexico until after Baird and Chambers’ second venture, which was made in 1822. However, it was through some of Bicknell’s men writing from Franklin, Mo., to my grandmother, in 1816, that she learned of grandfather’s fate, they saying that they heard of it from the Indians.

“Baird, Chambers and McKnight followed the course marked for them by Lieutenant Pike, and that course became the great Santa Fé trail. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé R. R. follows practically the same course. If any one is entitled to credit for the selection of the route, Lieutenant Pike ought to have it. However, my purpose is to ask you to correct the name Beard to read Baird. If one will refer to ‘American State Papers,’ Vol. 4, folio 207, and Executive Papers, p. 197, 8th Vol., 15th Congress, he will see that it is Baird.”

This communication would seem to a certain extent to discount the claims on reputation of William Becknell, generally known as the “father of the 271 Santa Fé trail.” It ascribes the credit for the original selection of the Arkansas River route to Pike, with what justice we may ourselves determine as well as any. Our venturesome Southerners, of the Baird, McKnight and Chambers party, had lain in jail for nine years before John McKnight, the brother of Robert McKnight, in the year 1821, undertook the long journey to Chihuahua, which seems to have resulted in the setting free of all these Americans. Coming back to the United States over the Arkansas River trail, Baird and the two McKnights met the Ohio man, Hugh Glenn, and his associate or friend, Jacob Fowler, who were already at Taos, regardless of the ill-fortune of their predecessors in the hazardous game of prairie commerce. Becknell himself did not start out until 1821, and he did not intend to trade in Santa Fé, but only went thence after he had met some Mexicans on the headwaters of the Arkansas, who persuaded him to take his goods to Santa Fé instead of trading them among the Indians. Hugh Glenn and Becknell were thus both at Santa Fé during the winter of 1821-22.

That following summer Braxton Cooper and his sons, as well as Becknell, made trips to Santa Fé, and it seems to have been on this second trip that Becknell attained the distinction commonly accorded him. He took three wagons through to Santa Fé, and 272 instead of hugging the Arkansas clear out to the mountains, he struck off southwest toward San Miguel, by way of the Cimarron desert, the risky but shorter route to which the later traders adhered ever after, in spite of surveys and all else. It is really only upon the ground of his wagons and this cutoff angle that Becknell is entitled to the glory of his title as “father of the Santa Fé trail.”

Our prisoners, who nine years before had taken the chance of the far-off Southwestern trade, were willing to take another chance, for no sooner had they reached the States than they outfitted and started back again for the Mexican trade. Their second party, that which made the famous caches referred to in the grandson’s letter above, was made in 1822. By that time there was little glory left for any one; and indeed, when we come to sift it, there was never very much glory in any part of the history of the Santa Fé trail. It was not a pathway of heroes. The true hero trail lay farther to the north, as we shall presently see.

The first mergers, the first combinations of capital ever made in the commerce of America began here on the far-off prairies, when the traders of the Arkansas began to band up and pool their outfits for mutual protection. The strength of these great companies rendered the danger of 273 attack by Indians very slight, and it is a fact that but few lives were ever lost on the Santa Fé trail, scarce a dozen in a dozen years. It was indeed irony of fate that splendid Jedediah Smith, the hero of such tremendous undertakings in the mountains of the Northwest, should meet his fate while hunting for a water hole in the hated desert of the Cimarron, afar down in the dry Southwest.[34]

By 1824 the Santa Fé trade was well organized. The route was proved feasible, and the business assured of profit, wherefore many went into it, and presently the old trail became a great road, later to be very prominent in the history of the West. The Spaniards did their best to keep on both sides of the fence in this matter. They wanted the goods of the Americans, but hated the Americans themselves. They tried to kill the trade with excessive frontier duties, yet allowed smuggling and bribery to any limit; and these latter two industries were accepted as part of the conditions of the trade. The greatest loss of life began to occur when the fighting Texans from below, actuated by a desire for revenge and pillage, began to push up and to harass the commerce which was proving so profitable to Mexico, in spite of Mexico’s vacillation.

274 These fighting Texans traveled far to the north of the trail, indeed, and followed the Mexicans into their villages, where they killed them in numbers. Texas, we must remember, was not yet a state, and little answer was made to the wail of the thrifty traders, who besought the United States government to give them protection against the Texans. The latter did some things not altogether pleasant to recount, but were for the most part serving nearly right the government of the United States, which could so long hesitate in accepting Houston’s gift of Texas, the “bride adorned for her espousal;” which, indeed, so long hesitated to believe that there was or could be a West really great. Small indeed were some of the “great” men of that time; and small are some of our great men to-day.

The common belief is that all the capital engaged in this trade toward the Southwest was American capital, and that the enterprises ran all one way. This was not the case, for by 1843 the Mexican capital embarked in the commerce to the Spanish colonies was about equal to that of the Americans. The trade grew steadily, even subject as it was to the caprice of Mexican governments, and of Texas privateers on the high seas of the prairies.

We learn that in 1831 a party of two hundred persons, with one hundred wagons and two hundred 275 thousand dollars’ worth of goods, started for Santa Fé. This party was notable in that one of its members was Josiah Gregg, a level-headed, shrewd man, who was later to become famous as the historian of the Santa Fé trail. Nearly all the later histories of that highway and its peculiarities are based upon Gregg’s able work; which fact he himself points out with a certain plaintiveness in his later years (1846), stating that pillagers of his papers did not always stop to give him credit. Gregg was a big man, a thinker, a man whose sound sense would succeed in any time. One likens him to the good, sensible business man of to-day, the mainstay of our republic, the practical conductor of affairs.

One detail will serve to show how much in advance he was of his time. In 1846 we find the Easterner, Francis Parkman, and his friend Shaw, killing scores of the great bisons of the plains for no better purpose than the securing of the tail for a trophy. It makes one blush to read of such wasteful barbarity as this, which could kill tons and tons of such creatures and leave the meat to rot on the ground. Our sensitive Eastern writer Parkman, keen mind and able pen as were his, was a very savage in his lust for “sport;” indeed worse than any savage, for the latter never killed for sport alone. Gregg was neither a Parkman nor a modern “lover 276 of nature,” but something much better, a man of forethought and of good sense. His protest at the waste of life and food in the wanton killing of buffalo is one of the most worthy things of his worthy book. He prophesied what Parkman could not see with all his florid pictures of the West that was to be—a West soon to be barren of the great game that did so much to win that West from savagery. The wicked wastefulness of the killing of the buffalo was one of the American national crimes. Stout Josiah Gregg saw it and deplored it, knowing as he did that much of the success of the Southwest trade ever depended upon the buffalo.

As to the distances and the direction of the ancient trail, we may consider it as starting at the old Western town of Independence, on the Missouri River, and extending properly no farther than the town of Santa Fé, in New Mexico. Many traders went on down into Old Mexico, as far as Chihuahua, which city so many of the first adventurers knew against their will. We have heard of Kit Carson, as a teamster, as far to the south as Chihuahua, and know that in 1828 he hired out there to Robert McKnight, one of the long-time prisoners in that city, later prominently identified with the history of the trail. Different Missouri towns outfitted parties for the trading to the Southwest, among these prominently St. 277 Louis, and the less important point of Franklin. We may consider the Missouri River as our frontier at this epoch, and find most of our traders among those who lived near the border or were concerned in business ventures in that neighborhood. Assuredly this talk of the Santa Fé trade was the first Western bee in the Kit Carson bonnet, while he was yet a boy in Missouri.

The course of the old trail was astonishingly direct. It left little to be gained in distance saving, or in the essential qualities of grass and water, except along the cut-off over the Cimarron desert, which the travelers would not forego. The first section of the trail, that from Independence to Council Grove, the place where the wagon trains usually organized and went into semi-military formation, was over a pleasant, safe and easy country, a distance of one hundred and forty-three miles, according to Gregg.

Thence the next stage was to the Great Bend of the Arkansas, in the line of such modern towns as Galva, McPherson and Great Bend, although probably it touched the Arkansas at the top of the bend, near the village of Ellinwood, the first railway station east of Great Bend. This lies in a region now tamed into a wheat country and settled with contented farmers, raising crops that have, by the education of the years 278 themselves, grown fit to endure that high, dry air, on the edge of the once rainless region. It was two hundred and seventy miles out to the Bend of the Arkansas, and two hundred and ninety-three miles to the noted Pawnee Rock, which to-day has a town named for it. Not crossing the Arkansas as yet, the trail kept down the western leg of the Great Bend, passed the islands known as the Caches, kept up-stream for a time to a point twenty miles west of the town now known as Dodge City—the same “Dodge” so famous in the cattle days—and reached then the ford of the Arkansas, which Gregg says was three hundred and eighty-seven miles west of Independence.[35]

This was about half way on the journey, and on the border line between the United States and the Spanish provinces. Gregg makes the jump from the safe Arkansas to the risky Cimarron a distance of fifty-eight miles, two or three days’ travel, and without water, as well as without landmarks. The erstwhile boom town of Ivanhoe, of which one remembers talk in county-seat wars as far back as 1886, a little town far down in the dry country, is near the line of the old trail. Reaching the Cimarron, the trail bent up that doubtful waterway to Cold 279 Spring, five hundred and thirty-five miles from Independence. There it took another leap to the southwest, over a country then fairly well known from the Spanish end of the line, and over a well defined road, which could not be mistaken.


The Wagon Mound was a point of note, situated about six hundred and sixty-two miles west of the starting point. One might depart thence for Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas, located in a country very profitable for traders to keep in view; for above Bent’s famous hostelry on the mountain branch of the trail lay the yet wilder pack-horse commerce of the mountain trappers’ rendezvous, far more romantic and profitable, if less safe and steady than the wagon commerce of the prairies. From the Wagon Mound to the first settlements of the Mexicans, on the Rio Gallinas, was an easy stage, and to Santa Fé by this time all roads of the mountains thereabout pointed. It was seven hundred and eighty miles to Santa Fé, according to Gregg, the more modern chronicles making it seven hundred and seventy-five miles, the latter figures being for a part of the time above, and part of the time under the old Gregg estimates, which are singularly correct in view of Gregg’s facilities. The present Santa Fé railway follows the upper or mountain leg of the old trail, which went on up the Arkansas to Bent’s Fort, and did not take the leap 280 into the desert. From the Wagon Mound on into Santa Fé the railway route is practically identical with the old wagon way.

Thus we may see that this great highway, broken midway and deflected to the southward, was less than one thousand miles in length. There was no connection, except a rude sort of pack route by way of Taos and the Colorado River country, between the end of the Santa Fé trail and the California country. The wagons did not go that way. The later railway drops down along the Rio Grande valley, just as did the Chihuahua wagon road; and bends westward far below the old trails of Walker and Jedediah Smith, who started on their transcontinental voyagings from points higher up in the mountains than Santa Fé or Taos.

The way from Santa Fé to California seems to have been well known, but the trade did not dare to attempt a commerce so distant, and so unprofitable as it must have been, consumed by such necessarily heavy transportation charges. We speak of the Santa Fé trail as one of the great Western highways, but it was a halting and broken and arrested highway. It was not yet quite time for the straight leap across the rivers. The trail clung to the rivers as far as it might, and the attempts to cut loose from the streams, and 281 go straight across from the Red River to Chihuahua, proved to be unprofitable or impracticable.

The total amount of merchandise carried in these picturesque caravans of the prairies was perhaps not so great as we should imagine, though we must remember that a dollar was larger then than it is to-day. The extent of the trade varied from year to year, and did not regularly increase; for though we note one caravan in 1831 taking out two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of goods, we find that in 1841, ten years later, the whole annual trade was but one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The climax was in 1843, when goods to the value of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars were transported.

The pay for this came back partly in specie, partly in furs, sometimes largely in horses and mules, the trade thus bearing a double profit and a double risk. The Indians did not care for gold or silver so much as they did for horses and mules, and diligent enough were their efforts to stampede the live stock of the traders. Upon occasion the United States Army was asked to escort a caravan, but this aid was not generally to be expected, especially since the worst part of the route, that infested by the Comanches, lay west of the then accepted western border of the United States. The average value of the trade was about one hundred and 282 fifty thousand dollars yearly, and the total sum for the duration of this strange branch of American commerce was only about three million dollars.

The goods carried were at first largely prints and drillings, for the Mexicans got such goods from Vera Cruz on the coast, and only at great expense. Later silks, velvets, hardware and the general line of American goods began its first westward way across the American borders. Sometimes the stocks were retailed, sometimes sold at wholesale, the latter more often when the trader was in a hurry. It was a wild, peculiar and fascinating sort of commerce, and strong was the hold it naturally took upon the people of the Western border.

This trade was carried on mostly by our Southern-Western men, our new-Americans, as we may see by the letter of the grandson of James Baird, written from Kentucky. Glenn came from Cincinnati, Fowler from Covington, Kentucky, most of the other familiar figures from St. Louis, Franklin and other Missouri points. Morrison, the merchant of Kaskaskia, was a man who came down-stream. The Northern man, the man of New England or New York, had not yet become very much of a Westerner. The West was not yet safe enough for him. Nor indeed was he to lead the vanguard of the men who, far to the north of the old Santa Fé trail, were building 283 another, a greater and more significant trail, one whose end we do not see even to-day; the men that were tapping all the secrets of the upper Rockies, that were to lead us to the brink of the Western sea and even to point beyond that sea. But for politics, the Southerners of to-day, the sons of the old daring ones, would admit the virtue of that finger pointing over seas.

There is still in New England something of the old timidity, the old unwillingness to see the pointing finger, the same un-American tardiness to recognize the challenge of the West. Had it not been for the fascinations of this upper country, for the allurements of the great trail that was to run across the continent to the far Northwest, there had been more competition in the Southwest trade, and mayhap a swifter crowding of events toward that state of affairs that Parkman saw when he visited the Santa Fé trail on his way home from the Rockies in 1846—the volunteers of Missouri, kindred to the men of Doniphan, who were straggling on out toward Mexico on an errand of justice that had long been overdue. Shuffling, angular, awkward, uncouth we may, with Parkman, admit these Southern-Western men to have been; each man his own commander, reluctant to admit a superior officer, as had been the fathers of 284 these men from the time they left the Atlantic coast; but they did the work in Mexico. They opened the trail forever, and saw to it that the borders stretched and spread and gave us room. It is of no use to talk politics in questions like these, nor is there need to speak of the moralities. It is for the most part a matter of transportation. It was the Arkansas River trail that conquered Mexico.

This, then, was the great thing that the Santa Fé trail did for us, although we have forgotten it. It taught the people of New Mexico that the Americans were a greater and stronger people, a more just and steadfast people, than those to the south, who had done naught in all their lives but butcher and hesitate, butcher again and vacillate. They were not sad to take on the institutions of the United States in exchange for those of Spain. The Old World had not established its ways on the soil of the New World. The greatest of all Monroe doctrines still prevailed, the doctrine of the fit, the doctrine of evolution, of endurance by right, of hardihood got by a sane dwelling close to the great things of nature.

Far to the north, the Oregon trail led to California and the Orient. The Santa Fé trail, broken as it was in its transcontinental flight, points now in the same direction. The only ignoble part of the 285 American story is the history of American politics. All politics aside, is it not easy to see that the old broken trail is a fate-finger pointing to Mexico and the trans-Isthmian canal; to an America wholly American; and to an Orient that again and by another trail is destined to be our West? We may spill our oratory, may deplore utterly and sincerely, yet we shall not prevail to build any wall high enough to stop this thing. The Old World might combine for the time against the New, might for a term of years conspire to put our venturers in prison; but at last it all were futile. Much of the temperate zone of the world belongs to a people whose history is but the history of a West; it will always so belong while the character of that people shall retain the dignity and force of those men who “could not otherwise.”

This people is concerned to-day, as it has always been, not with sentiment but with self interest. Its great movements have been based not on theories but on common sense. Its great policies have been founded on geography and not on polemics. Its great adversities have been those of transportation; its great successes have been those built on transportation problems ably mastered. To-day this American people waxes somewhat flamboyantly boastful, according lightly and cheerfully to itself the title of the greatest nation of the world. It may indeed be such, or 286 potentially such; but it will retain better claim upon that greatness if in all humility it shall remember the slow days wherein that greatness was founded, wherefrom that greatness grew. Therein lies the import of the early Western trails.

The spelling of this name is by most authorities given as “Becknell,” which is thought to be correct.

V. Chapter IV, Vol. III; “Early Explorers of the Trans-Missouri.”

Other authorities, as for instance Chittenden, make it 392 miles.



In the distribution of the population of Western America, the mouths of many great Western rivers, the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Columbia, the Colorado, the Red, the Sacramento, the Arkansas, perhaps even the Ohio, were known before their sources were fully explored. The journey over the Appalachians, and the down-stream movements that followed the Mississippi and its greater tributaries, were the first concerns of our new-American emigrants. The lower reaches of the great Western rivers having been utilized, the first two decades of the century last past were spent in the search for the head waters of these same streams.

Lewis and Clark followed up the tortuous Missouri until they reached at least a practical conclusion as to its sources. Lieutenant Pike mistook the upper Rio Grande for the head of the Red River, and it cost him a long walk to Chihuahua. Yet he was as accurate as the famous Baron von Humboldt, who thought the Pecos River was a tributary of the Red. Major Long, in 1820, dropped down from the South Fork of the Platte to the head waters of the Cimarron, 288 which he traced to the Canadian, also missing the Red River which he sought, and taking the Canadian river to be the Red.

Scores of similar errors were made in those days before the maps, but still the explorations went on. The head waters of the Columbia, of the Green, of the Sacramento or “Buena Ventura,” offered challenge to many bold men, the story of whose exploits forms one of the most glowing chapters of American hero history. These divers pursuits, these evidences of an up-stream travel and traffic, more properly group themselves under our second general head of up-stream transportation. Next there was to come the day of transportation across the waters, from stream to stream.

Among those men who early in the past century pressed out most boldly in the quest for the heads of the upper Western waters, we continue to find our men of the South very prominent, the sons of the men that moved west from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee into Missouri and other parts of the trans-Mississippi. Many of these made the old town of St. Louis their general starting point, and St. Louis was, in those days, much more a Southern or Western town than it is to-day. As in the time of the Santa Fé trail, the Western man was still what we should call to-day a Southerner.

289 The greater number of the leaders of the fur trade were properly to be called Western-born citizens. A few exceptions to this rule are worthy of note. John Jacob Astor was the first of the Eastern merchants to send out a commercial expedition into the far West; but really the first notable Eastern explorer personally to engage in exploring the head waters of distant Western rivers was Nathaniel J. Wyeth, of Massachusetts, who, in 1832, led the first continuous expedition from New England to the mouth of the Columbia, a man whose pluck and energy deserved a better fate than he encountered. It was this same Wyeth who, in 1834, founded one of the first establishments west of the Rockies, that Fort Hall, often mentioned in the story of the fur trade, which was afterward sold to the Hudson Bay Company. Fort Hall was a trading post of much note in earlier times, and it is of interest to us at this juncture, in view of the fact that it was located on that great roadway later to be trod by thousands of feet that had begun their journey farther to the eastward than the valley of the Mississippi—the roadway to be known as the Oregon trail.

There was early need for a trail to Oregon. The first of the hardy trappers of the Northwest told us about Oregon; and had we heeded them, we might to-day have an Oregon of continuous American 290 territory running north to Alaska. Our trappers offered us this empire. Our “leaders” lost it for us. As it was, we nearly lost what Oregon we have to Great Britain and her own hardy trappers. Wyeth and his friends brought back word to the East, which at last the ever hesitating, ever doubting Eastern men believed. At last we summoned together our senses, our halting diplomacy, with the result that we kept our marches intact to the Western sea. This we were able to do simply because of the individual search that had been going on for the head waters of the Western streams, because the Western men had already made for us that Oregon trail, which gave us touch with the far-off American provinces beyond the Rockies.

To-day, to the average resident of the Middle West, Oregon seems farther away than California; but up to the middle of the last century it was much nearer and much better known; and it was so solely because, under the existing conditions of travel, it was more accessible. The Santa Fé trail did not go to California. The Oregon trail did go to Oregon, and over a plain and easy route.

The Oregon trail left the Missouri River, as did the Santa Fé trail, at that early citadel of the trade of the West, the town of Independence. It followed up the ancient valley of the Platte, immemorial 291 highway of the tribes, and led to the head waters of many streams now historic, even then long familiar to many of our early trappers and traders.

We have heard of Andrew Henry, whose name was given to a beautiful lake of the Rockies, as well as to a once famous trading post across the range, the lieutenant whose man, Etienne Provost, probably discovered the South Pass. We know of the trader Jackson, one of General Ashley’s bold mountain family, whose name was left to the beautiful valley below the Yellowstone Park, called even to-day Jackson’s Hole. We have heard of the wanderings of Campbell, Fitzpatrick, Sublette, of Jim Bridger, and of General Ashley himself, prince of early mountain traders, father of a bold crew of young successors. We shall presently speak of Bonneville and his northern wagons, and of Bonneville’s man Walker, bigger than himself. We must also trace a part of the march of the first land party to cross this continent, the Astorians, whose broken journeyings down the Snake and Columbia made part of the earliest trail-history of the West.

All these different leaders and individuals had much to do with the Oregon trail; the trail that was the road of the adventurers, and also the first real road to the Pacific for that traveler properly to be called the home-seeking man. The Missouri River would do 292 for Manuel Lisa and General Ashley and Major Henry, and the Sublettes, and the Chouteaus, and all those others that held the scores of trading posts which dotted the upper waters of the Missouri and the Yellowstone. The Missouri River and its tributaries gave them their natural roadways; but all these scattered posts, all this devious ancient roadway of the waters, lay far to the northward, on the upper curve of a great arc, the winding way traced out by Lewis and Clark, the way of the up-stream wanderers. The streams ever appealed to explorers. Any man going into unknown country instinctively clings to the waterways, near which he always feels safer. Yet it was the way between and across the streams that spoke most loudly to those settlers that came to stay, to till the soil, who brought with them household goods, who brought ax and plow as well as trap and rifle. The ancient highway for footmen and horsemen, which ran up the valley of the Platte River, extended out along the chord of this great Missouri River arc, along the string of this vast bended bow.

The string of this great bow ran four degrees of latitude to the south of the upper curve of the Missouri. Evidently the line of the bow-string was the better way to the Pacific; the more especially since itself followed for so great a distance another 293 preordained pathway of the waters—that of the river Platte, ancient road of the Indian tribes. It was within natural reason, therefore, that the travelers should break away, should leave the upper waterway and start directly overland. This came to pass because there were now horses to be obtained in the West. We are now come to the time of horse transportation; which was the beginning of the day of travel across the streams.

Along this great trail crossing the waters men bent their steps toward Oregon and California, men from the banks of the Missouri, from Illinois, and now even from far-off New England—where at last they had learned the “easy way West” and had begun to travel, as their friends to the southward had been doing for so many years. Thus, then, began the great Oregon trail, this road that might, with justice, have been called an open highway when Frémont “explored” the Rockies, albeit a highway almost unsettled, as it is to-day over much of its length, though peopled thick with mighty memories. The Mormons, the Missourians, the men bound for the placers of Montana, the valleys of California, or the warm slopes of the Oregon ranges—all these helped wear deep into the earth the old roadway, once clear-cut and unmistakable for more than two 294 thousand miles west of that Missouri River which was the first route out into the ulterior West.

It may profit us to fix in sequence a few simple facts in the study of the development of this great trail. At the start, of course, we come to our Frenchman De la Verendrye, who may perhaps have been the first to tread a portion of the later Oregon trail; since we know he forsook the Missouri and started overland, possibly up the Platte, crossing some of the country which the Astorians later saw. We hear also of the trapper Ezekiel Williams[36] in 1807, and some of the advance guards of the Missouri Fur Company, who were cutting loose from the Missouri River, and who were naturally looking for the easiest land routes. Then came Wilson Price Hunt, with his overland Astorians, seeking a way from the mid-Missouri River to the Columbia River.

These established the course of the Oregon trail west of the Rockies, but did not trace it so distinctly on the east of that range. Later Robert Stuart and the returning Astorians were to mark out, east of the Divide, the route of the Oregon trail for much of its length. Then came Ashley, who went up the Platte and across the South Pass; and after Ashley came scores of other flap-hatted trappers and traders, 295 all of whom rode, we may be sure, along the easiest ways; which meant the Sweetwater and the South Pass after the Platte was left behind. These followed the route of the Oregon trail for the compelling reason of topography. Now came Bonneville and his wagons to deepen the trail, in 1832; and two years later than that, in 1834, Robert Campbell and William Sublette built old Fort Laramie, on Laramie Creek, a branch of the Platte.[37] This establishment went far toward developing the Oregon trail into a regular route. It became a well known trading center, so that all the trappers and many Indians rounded up there; and in the days of the emigrants, soon to come, thousands of weary travelers aided in marking deeply the now unmistakable and open roadway that lay across the Rockies.

So practicable was this post of Fort Laramie, and so practicable also the route on which it was located, that in 1849 the United States government bought the old post, and used it as a military establishment, so adding to its long and exciting history. Eight years after the building of Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger was built by Jim Bridger, on a branch of the Green River, over the Divide, farther out to the west, along what had now come to be a universally accepted highway.

296 Jim Bridger, possibly the first discoverer of Great Salt Lake, was, by the year 1842, ready to admit that the old days were over and done with. No more trapping for Jim Bridger. The West was gone. He must thenceforth feed Mormons, or guide government officers in their “explorations.” Bridger gave up the West as a squeezed orange at just the time Frémont was starting out to make his name as the “Pathfinder” of the Rockies. Frémont, and all the other explorers of so late a period, went west as far as the head waters of the Green River over the Oregon trail,—a road a man could have followed in the dark.

The Mormons took over Fort Bridger in 1853, not liking so stable a Gentile institution thus near to their realm; but the Mormons forgot that they could not wipe out the trail that led to Bridger’s old log fortress. The trail brought on an ever-growing stream of travel. In time Fort Bridger, too, became an army post, and remained such from 1857 till 1890. Since the latter date it has been abandoned. We go to Europe to seek for interesting ruins, forgetting Laramie and Bridger and Benton, all spots with significant and thrilling histories.

As to the great trail of the Northwest, considered as a transcontinental trail properly so called, its 297 second stage might be said to begin in 1834,[38] when it was first used as a route straight through to Oregon. After that date the parties of emigrants steadily grew in numbers, among them not only men from Missouri, but farther to the east.

In 1836 there occurred a great and wonderful thing. Two women moved out into the West along the Oregon trail. We keep record of the times when wagons first went up the Platte, and we shall do well also to note this date of 1836, when women of the white race first went over the national road of the West. These two were the wives of Whitman and Spalding, missionaries bound for Oregon. Father de Smet, great man and good, a missionary also, followed in 1840; then more missionaries from New England—always prolific of missionaries; and two years later Frémont, as far at least as the South Pass. Then came the Mormons in 1847, bound for their kingdom of Deseret, and the Oregon Battalion in the same year; these followed soon thereafter by a continuous stream made up of thousands of trappers and 298 explorers and visitors and gold seekers, who began to crowd West after ’49 and the discovery of gold. Those were busy times in the West, we may be sure. The Oregon trail grew deep and wide. No traveler on the north and south line could cross it without being aware of that fact. It was the plain, main-traveled road.

The first agricultural invasion along the old trail might be said to be that of the Mormons, who sent delegations from their settlements to occupy the Green River valley, and who used the trail for a short way. General Albert Sidney Johnston used it for many more miles, when he went out to take care of some of these Mormons, now grown obstreperous.

Even so late as this we are many years in advance of the railways; which indeed do not even to-day occupy the old Oregon trail throughout its entire length, though using much of it on both sides of that easy South Pass country, once so useful to the trappers and wagon travelers, but not so essential to railway engineers looking for more direct lines across the wastes. Perhaps we shall some day see a line of rails follow throughout the two thousand miles of this ancient trail. Even so, our American tourists would still go to Europe in search of ruins and history and memories! We know and care all too little now for this old trail, whose earliest travelers were called by 299 the California Indians the “Whoa-haws”—that being the word most used by the aforesaid emigrants, who had pushed their ox-teams across half a continent. Significant term, this “Whoa-haw” title, though we have now forgotten it.

The emigrants of to-day do not go by the “Whoa-haw” route. On February twelfth of the year 1902, between fifteen hundred and eighteen hundred land hunters left the city of Chicago for the country of the Northwest. Two-thirds of these came from the crowded East, the remaining third, for the most part, from the crowded West of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, now grown very old.

A common carrier, responsible as such for the life and goods of these emigrants, agreed to take them from Chicago to the city of Portland, on the extreme western end of that Oregon trail, for the price per head of thirty dollars. The old “Whoa-haw” route once demanded a year of time and a heart of steel, as part of the essential capital of the traveler, and demanded also that he take his own chances and foot his own losses, which, in the nature of things, might be considerable.

It was expected by one railroad in the year 1902 that it would, within the term of twelve months, carry out fifty thousand persons to settle in the Northwest 300 coast country. There you have the old way and the new. There you have a part of the history of a country two thousand miles west of the Mississippi valley, which even Thomas Jefferson accepted as the very farthest edge of the region that could ever be called America! This is the story of a land that even Thomas Benton, a big man, and always a friend of the West, really in his own conscience thought could never, by any possibility, extend its national and civilized limits west of the Rockies! This is the record of a region which, in the beginnings of the Oregon trail, our ablest men of letters and of statecraft thought could never be aught but the home of wandering tribes of savages! Truly the great men of to-day might profitably learn humility from a study of the things which the American people have done in spite of leaders. Ah! Daniel Webster, and many other Daniels of the little East, could you come to life to-day, what would be your oratory?

Francis Parkman, sometimes querulous, often supercilious, but ever beautiful and splendidly accurate historian of the beginnings of the American West, visited the Oregon trail in 1846, twelve years after Kit Carson had practically ceased to trap beaver, and four years after the first Frémont 301 expedition.[39] He says: “Emigrants from every part of the country were preparing for the journey to Oregon and California;” and adds, “An unusual number of traders were outfitting for the Northwest;” as well as many Mormons. This was before the discovery of gold in California. Independence, the outfitting point, was at the threshold of the later West, the beginning of the way to the Pacific.[40]

Parkman states in the preface to a later edition of his work (1872): “We knew that a few fanatical outcasts were groping their way across the plains to seek an asylum from Gentile persecution, but we did not dream that the polygamous hordes of Mormon would rear a swarming Jerusalem in the bosom of solitude itself. We knew that, more and more, year after year, the trains of the emigrant wagons would creep in slow procession toward barbarous Oregon or wild California, but we did not dream, how Commerce and Gold would breed nations along the Pacific, the disenchanting screech of locomotives break the spell of weird mysterious mountains. . . . The wild cavalcade that defiled with me down the gorges of the Black Hills, with its paint and war plumes, fluttering trophies and savage embroidery, bows, arrows, lances and shields, will never be seen again.”

In no way could Parkman have been more just or 302 thoughtful than in one of his chance statements. “All things are relative,” said he. “The West is either very old or very new, according as we look at it.” From the one point of view he might feel a superiority of his own, for as he traveled over the country a few days’ march west of Leavenworth he saw many antlers of elk and skulls of buffalo, “reminders of the animals once swarming over this now deserted region.” This intervening country between the Missouri River and the plains proper he considers to serve the popular notion of the “prairie.” “For this it is,” he writes, “from which tourists, painters, poets and novelists, who have seldom penetrated farther, derived their conception of the whole region.” There was fell stroke of unwitting justice! Even to-day there are artists and novelists that deal with the West, but have “seldom penetrated farther” than the edge of the real West.

Parkman himself saw the old trail fairly well dotted with the outfits of the west-bound emigrants. He describes the difficulties then existing between the Mormons and their enemies, and the suspicions of the one party against the other. He saw one party of fifty wagons, with “hundreds of cattle,” on his way up the Platte. Far out to the West, on that Horse Creek so frequently mentioned in the history of the mountain trappers’ rendezvous, he 303 witnessed a party of Indian women and children bathing in the stream, while meantime “a long train of emigrants with their heavy wagons was crossing the creek, and dragging on in slow procession by the encampment of the people whom they and their descendants, in the space of a century, are to sweep from the face of the earth.” This was toward the headwaters of the Platte, of course, not far from that Fort Laramie where he met the grandsons of Daniel Boone, still going West, even unto the third and fourth generation. “Great changes are at hand,” says he, “great changes are at hand in all that region. With the stream of emigration to Oregon and California the buffalo will dwindle away. . . . In a few years the traveler will pass in tolerable security.” This was the utmost prophecy of one of the most intelligent and philosophical travelers that ever went from the East into the West!

Yet one of the most vivid conceptions possible of the history of that day, as bearing on the strange impulse that seemed to drive these wanderers west and ever westward, may be gained from a passage of Parkman’s “Oregon Trail.” “It is worth noticing,” says he, “that on the Platte one may sometimes see the shattered wrecks of ancient claw-footed tables, well waxed and rubbed, or massive bureaus of carved oak. These, some of them no doubt the 304 relics of ancestral prosperity in colonial times, must have encountered strange vicissitudes. Brought, perhaps, originally from England; then, with the declining fortunes of their owners, borne across the Alleghanies to the wilderness of Ohio or Kentucky; then to Illinois or Missouri; and now at last fondly stowed away for the interminable journey to Oregon. But the stern privations of the way are little anticipated. The cherished relic is thrown out to scorch and crack on the hot prairie.” What a world of suggestion there lies in this chance picture of the desert—what a world of American history it covers! Perhaps one day the American people will come to take interest in a past so curious and so striking as its own.

There was a time when every Western man, still restless, still unsettled, still under the mysterious west-bound impulse, thought in terms of Oregon and California. No wall could have stopped these men. No political doctrine could have restrained them. As well try to regulate the sweep of the tides of ocean, equally mysterious, equally irresistible. This great road of the prairies and the mountains, more than two thousand miles long, and level, smooth and easy, even though it crossed a continental divide—this unengineered triumph of engineering—lay directly at hand as the natural pathway of the American 305 people. It was the longest highway of the world, unless that may be the trail of the convicts of Siberia, to reach whose terminus in the fullness of time this great trail of the American freemen seems to have been devised. It was the route of a national movement—the emigration of a people “seeking to avail itself of opportunities that have come but rarely in the history of the world, and will never come again.”

As has been stated, the overland trail to Oregon began, as did the Santa Fé trail, at the town of Independence, on the Missouri River. The two trails were the same for forty-one miles, when, as the able historian of the fur trade remarks, a simple sign board was seen which carried the words, “Road to Oregon.”[41] The methods of these old men were very direct and simple. There was small flourish about this little board, whose mission was to point the way across these miles of wild and uninhabited country! There were branch trails that came into the road from Leavenworth and St. Joseph, striking it above the point of departure from the Santa Fé trail; but the Oregon trail proper swung off from this fork, running steadily to the northwest, part of the time along the Little Blue River, until at length it struck 306 the valley of the Platte, which was so essential to its welfare. The distance from Independence to the Platte was three hundred and sixteen miles, the trail reaching the Platte “about twenty miles below the head of Grand Island.” The course thence lay up the Platte valley to the two fords, about at the Forks of the Platte, four hundred and thirty-three or four hundred and ninety-three miles.

Here at the Forks was a point of departure in the old days. If one chose to follow the South Fork of the Platte, he might bring up in the Bayou Salade, within reach of the Spanish settlements and the head of the Arkansas, as we may see in reading of La Lande and of Purcell and of Ashley, and of the later traders; or he might take the other arm and come out on the edge of the continental Divide much higher up to the north.

The Oregon trail followed the South Fork for a time, then swung over to the North Fork, at Ash Creek, five hundred and thirteen miles from Independence. It was six hundred and sixty-seven miles to Fort Laramie, which was the last post on the eastern side of the Rockies. Thence the trail struggled on up the Platte, keeping close as it might to the stream, till it reached the Ford of the Platte, well up toward the mountains, and seven hundred and ninety-four miles out from 307 Independence—nearly the same distance from that point as was the city of Santa Fé on the lower trail.

Yet a little farther on and the trail forsook the Platte and swung across, eight hundred and seven miles out from the Missouri, to the valley of the Sweetwater, now an essential feature of the highway. The famous Independence Rock, eight hundred and thirty-eight miles from Independence, was one of the most noteworthy features along the trail. It marked the entrance into the Sweetwater district, and was a sort of register of the wilderness, holding the rudely carved names of many of the greatest Western venturers, as well as many of no consequence. The Sweetwater takes us below the foot of the Bighorns, through the Devil’s Gate, and leads us gently up to that remarkable crossing of the Rockies known as the South Pass, a spot of great associations. This is nine hundred and forty-seven miles from the Missouri River. Here all the west-bound voyagers felt that their journey to the Pacific was well-nigh completed, though as a matter of fact it was not yet half done. This Western geography, of which most of us know so little, was a tremendous thing in the times before the railways came.

Starting now down the Pacific side of the Great Divide, the traveler passed over a hundred and twenty-five miles of somewhat forbidding country, 308 crossing the Green River before he came to Fort Bridger, the first resting point west of the Rockies, ten hundred and seventy miles from the Missouri. This was a delightful spot in every way, and the station was always welcomed by the travelers. The Bear River was eleven hundred and thirty-six miles from Independence, and to the Soda Springs, on the big bend of the Bear, was twelve hundred and six miles. Thence one crossed over the height of land between the Bear and the Port Neuf rivers, the latter being Columbia water; and, at a distance of twelve hundred and eighty-eight miles from Independence, reached the very important point of Fort Hall, the post established and abandoned by the Easterner, Nathaniel Wyeth. This was the first point at which the trail struck the Snake River, that great lower arm of the Columbia, which came dropping down from its source opposite the headwaters of the Missouri, as though especially to point out the way to travelers, just as the South Fork of the Platte led to the Spanish Southwest. There lay our pathways, waiting ready for us!

At the Raft River was another point of great interest; for here turned aside the arm of the transcontinental trail that led to California. This fork of the road was thirteen hundred and thirty-four 309 miles from the Missouri.[42] Working as best it might from the Raft River, down the Great Snake valley, touching and crossing and paralleling several different streams, the trail ran until it reached the Grande Ronde valley, at the eastern edge of the difficult Blue Mountains, and seventeen hundred and thirty-six miles from the starting point. The railway to-day crosses the Blues where the old trail did. Then the route struck the Umatilla, and shortly thereafter the mighty Columbia, the “Oregon” of the poet, and a stream concerning which we were not always so placid as we are to-day. It was nineteen hundred and thirty-four miles to the Dalles, nineteen hundred and seventy-seven miles to the Cascades, two thousand and twenty miles to Fort Vancouver, and twenty-one hundred and thirty-four miles to the mouth of the Columbia; though the trail proper terminated at Fort Vancouver—the same post, as we shall see, for which the hero Jedediah Smith headed when he was in such dire distress, in the mountains of southwest Oregon.[43]

This was the way to the Pacific, the trail across the Rockies, the appointed path of the heroes that 310 ventured forth into the unknown lands, as well as of the men that followed them safely in later days. It was but a continuation of the way to the Missouri, of the way across the Alleghanies, a part of the path of the strange appointed pilgrimage of the white race in America.

Said to have been the first white man to cross the borders of what is now Wyoming.

Again our useful date of 1834.

Pray you yet again, remember this great American date of 1834, and you shall be quit of all others, all those telling of wars and politics. That was the year when the beaver trapping ceased to be profitable, when the trappers came in, when the wild West began to become the civilized West. This date, remembered philosophically, will prove of the utmost service in retaining a connected idea of the settlement of the West. It has bearings both upon the past and upon the future. It is a milestone marking the parting of the ways.

One of Parkman’s men, the hunter Raymond, perished in the ill-fated Frémont third expedition, among the snows of the lofty mountains far below the South Pass.

V. also Chapter II, Vol. III; “The Santa Fé Trail.”

Footnote A: Chittenden.

The later California trail passed farther to the south, along the upper end of the Great Salt Lake, leaving the main trail at the upper bend of the Bear, to the east of Fort Hall.

V. Chapter IV, Vol. III; “Early Explorers of the Trans-Missouri.”



It is customary to read and to teach history in the time-honored fashion which begins at the beginning and comes on down until to-day, not skipping the battles and not forgetting the tables of dynasties, royal or political. Without wishing to be eccentric or iconoclastic, none the less one may venture to suggest that there may be a certain virtue in beginning with events well within our reach and comprehension, and then going backward, which is to say going forward, in our knowledge of our field. This is especially useful as a method in studying the history of the West of the trans-Missouri.

We have seen that the first Frémont expedition had no feature of discovery attached to it beyond the climbing to the top of a mountain that had been known by many for years, but which no one else had wanted to climb, because of the general knowledge of the fact that buffalo and beaver did not reside on the mountain tops. We know that Frémont, when he stood at the South Pass, was in the middle of a country that had been well known when he was a 312 child. We have seen that his journey across the plains was over a country perfectly understood and fully charted. There were hostile Indians on the plains in those days, to be sure, yet Indians are far simpler as a problem if you yourself know the exact distances between grass and watering places and cover and good game country. All this information Frémont received ready prepared. Frémont commanded; Kit Carson led.

For Kit Carson we may feel a certain reverence as a man of the real West; but shall we believe that even Kit Carson divided with Frémont the experience of setting foot in a new and virgin world? Not so. Kit Carson himself, great man as he was, never claimed to be a great explorer. He is properly to be called a great traveler, not a great discoverer. He perhaps found some beaver streams at first hand, but he himself would have been the first to admit that he got all the great features of the Rockies at second hand. Before him there were discoverers and pseudo-discoverers, actual as well as false prophets of adventure.

If we go by dates alone we shall find ourselves presently concerned with Captain Bonneville, sometime famous as an “explorer” of the Rocky Mountains. Him we may class as one of the pseudo-discoverers. He was an army officer, who discovered 313 nothing, but who obtained a great reputation through the chronicling of his deeds in the Rocky Mountains; so great that, having grossly exceeded his leave of absence, he was eventually reinstated in the Army after he had lost his commission, the president of the United States remarking that he “could not fail so to reward one who had contributed so much to the welfare of his country”! Bonneville was a lucky man. He lost but few mules and but few men. He brought back a map on which was founded the greater part of his reputation, maps and scientific nomenclature having been ever, in the estimation of some, held to surpass any original discoveries in geography and natural history.

Bonneville’s map had a certain value at the time, yet it held little actual first hand information, because it was built upon knowledge derived from Gallatin, from that big man, General Ashley, the fur trader, and from the latter’s gallant associate, Jedediah Smith.[44] As to Bonneville himself, he was, unless we shall except Frémont, the first great example of the class later to be known 314 as “tenderfoot.” A certain glory attaches to him, because he was the first man to take a wagon train through the South Pass, which he did ten years before Frémont “discovered” that country.

Bonneville went West in 1832, two years before Kit Carson stopped trapping beaver for the reason that it no longer paid him. The lucky captain traveled up the Platte valley to Fort Laramie, then broke across on the old mountain road of the West, up the Sweetwater, to the South Pass, thence getting upon the Pacific waters, the headwaters of the Green River; one of the two great arms of the Colorado, and an important stream in fur trading days. Obviously, Bonneville wanted to grow rich quickly in the fur trade, being more intent on that than on exploration for geographical purposes. He discovered that there was already a West beyond him, even then a distinct region, with ways of its own and men of its own. He continued to move about in the mountains for a couple of years more, the South Pass serving as the center of his operations; but really it is of little concern what Bonneville did during the remainder of his long stay in the West. We may, none the less, after a fashion, call Bonneville one of the predecessors of Carson, if we shall date Carson’s earthly existence only from his connection with Frémont. How, then, did the 315 lucky captain indirectly serve as predecessor of quiet and valid Kit Carson?

It was in this way. Bonneville had with him an old Santa Fé trail man named J. R. Walker; for we must remember that in 1832 the Santa Fé trail had really seen its best days. Walker wanted to go to California, and Bonneville was eager to have him do so, for the worthy captain was far more concerned about beaver than about geography; and there was, as we shall presently discover, a very good reason to foresee an abundance of beaver in California. Bonneville and his lieutenant, when these plans first matured, were still on the Green River, this being the year after they had first reached the Rockies. The fur trade was not prosperous; even thus early they found competition in the Rocky Mountains. The country was not new enough. The West, as viewed from the headwaters of the Green River, lay still farther forward in the course of the setting sun. Walker must go to California and bring back from it its beaver peltry.

Walker, therefore, on July twenty-seventh, 1833, left Bonneville on the Green River and started on the tremendous journey toward the Pacific Ocean. He took with him forty men, and perhaps later picked up a dozen wandering trappers or so, who desired to join 316 the California venture. Here, then, was a discoverer who started for California more than a decade before Frémont did; more than sixteen years before any one suspected California to be a land of gold. The trapping of beaver, and not the digging of gold, was the first cause of Californian exploration by the Americans of the upper West. The beaver was a fateful animal.

Walker dropped down the Green River into the valley of the Great Salt Lake, which was at that time a perfectly well known country, though it had not been described in any official reports. Thence he headed westward across the Great Basin, whose terrors had so long held back even the hardy trappers of the mountain region. He gave the name Barren River to the stream now called the Humboldt. He gave his own name to another stream. After some fashion he won across the great desert, and crossed also the Sierra range, accomplishing this latter feat about October twenty-fifth. He was, perhaps, the first man to see the Yosemite valley, though as to that we can not be certain. By the end of November, 1833, he was within view of the Pacific Ocean.

After all, then, it did not seem to be so hard to get across the country in those early times. Nor was it so difficult to return. Walker had fifty-two men and three hundred and sixty-five horses when 317 he started eastward in February, 1834. He had, of course, met that Spanish civilization which first explored the Colorado River and first settled the Pacific slope. Walker now had guides, Indians of the land, who led him eastward across the Sierras, somewhat south of the place where he crossed going west.

Once over the mountains, he headed northward along the eastern edge of the range, until he intercepted his own west-bound trail, which he followed back until he reached what is now known as the Humboldt River. Thence he went north to the Snake River, and so on back to the rendezvous on the Bear River. At the rendezvous he made public what information he could add to the general store. Thus it was, perhaps, that Carson and his confrères learned more than they had known before of the beaver country beyond the Sierras. That rendezvous of the old mountain men—ah! who will one day understand it and immortalize it? That was a great market, a great journal, a great college! There indeed maps were made! There indeed geography grew! That was where the West was really learned ab initio.

This mountain market, this map-making college of a primeval West, was first established in 1824; hence we may say that Walker, in 1834, had no 318 license to be called an old-timer in the West. In 1834 the old West of the adventurers was done.[45] He was before Frémont, before Carson’s leadership of Frémont; but there was some one else before him, a man who had crossed the continent and had seen the western sea even before Kit Carson made his first journey thither with the men of Taos and Bent’s Fort neighborhood; even before Walker’s successful expedition was conceived.

Who was this earlier man, this first man to cross to the Pacific by the land trail? No less than one Smith, Jedediah Smith, a man of no rank nor title, and all too little station in American history. This was the man that first led the trappers from the Rockies west to California. This man, Jedediah Smith, is indeed a hero. Not a boaster but an adventurer; not a talker but a doer of deeds; the very man fit to be type of the Western man to come. Smith himself was the product of a generation of the American West, and though we search all the annals of that West, we shall find no more satisfying record, no more eye-filling picture, nor any greater figure than his own. He is worthy of a place by the side of that other Smith, the John Smith who explored Virginia, near the starting place of the American star of empire. What pity that Washington Irving did not find Jedediah Smith 319 rather than the inconsequent Bonneville, and so immortalize the right man with his beautifying pen! There is a great hero story left untold!

Our Smith was a member of that firm of young men, Smith, Sublette and Jackson, who bought out the business of that first great fur trader, General Ashley. It goes without saying that Smith knew all the upper country of the Yellowstone, the Missouri, the South Pass region, the Sweetwater, the Green, the Bear, long before he first resolved to gratify his love of initial adventure and to head out across that unknown country of the far Southwest.

We are getting close to the first of new-American things when we come to the story of his journey. There had been early Spaniards, there had been Indians perhaps, who knew the way across, but there was none to pilot Smith. He started of his own resolve and traveled under his own guidance. They had not told him, as they had told Kit Carson, of the excellent beaver country of the Sacramento. The vast country beyond the Great Salt Lake had been too forbidding for even that later hardy soul to undertake as yet; and the reaches of the Rockies above and below the eastern edge of that desert had contented all of Bridger’s hardy companions. The more reason, therefore, thought Smith, that he and his little party of fifteen men should cross the desert; and 320 he did so, quite as though it were a matter of course.

Having no guide, he simply went west as well as he could, clinging to grass and water as he went. He left the rendezvous near Salt Lake in 1826, crossed the Sevier valley, struck the Virgin or Adams River, followed the Colorado for a time, and at length broke boldly away over the awful California desert, until, in such way as we can but imagine, he reached at length the Spanish settlements of San Diego. This was in the month of October. Smith crossed the Sierras near the point where runs to-day the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fé Railroad. He was somewhat in advance of the engineers.

Although we do not learn that Smith had any guide or any advance information, it seems that the Spaniards did not appreciate the difficulties under which he had visited them. They bade him leave the country at once. Perhaps Smith was not quite candid with the Spaniards, for, though he promised compliance, instead of starting directly back to the eastward, he went north four hundred miles, put out his traps and wintered on the San Joaquin and Merced rivers. He found there a trapper’s El Dorado.

This information, of course, would be more valuable when imparted to his friends eastward in the Rockies. Hence we observe Smith leaving his party, 321 and taking with him only two men, seven horses and two mules, calmly starting back again to the Rockies, which by this time must have seemed to him an old and well settled country. In the incredible time of twenty-eight days he was back again at the southwest corner of Salt Lake. We can not tell just how he made this journey. Perhaps he crossed the Sierras near the Sonora Pass, thence went east, far to the south of the Humboldt River, and south also of what is now called Walker Lake. We must remember that neither this river nor lake had any name when Smith was there. Jedediah Smith antedated all names, all maps, all geography! Yet all this was not so very long ago, if we reflect that it took three hundred years to find the source of the Mississippi River after its mouth had been discovered. It is not yet one hundred years back to Smith.

Jedediah Smith was no man to waste time. He told his friends what he had found beyond the snowy range. By July thirteenth, 1827, he was ready with eighteen men of a new party to start back for California. Now he began to meet the first of his extraordinarily bad luck, the first of a series of misfortunes that must have stopped any man but himself. The Spaniards seem to have had some notion of Smith’s intentions, and they set Indians to watch 322 the trails down the Virgin and the Colorado. These met Smith near the Colorado River and killed ten of his men. Almost destitute, Smith reached the Spanish settlements of San Gabriel and San Diego only to meet with further misfortune. His native guides—for now he had learned how to secure Indian guides—were imprisoned, and he himself was thrown into jail at San José. He was released on condition that he leave the country; which he proceeded to do after a fashion peculiarly his own. He traveled three hundred miles to the north and wintered on a stream now called, from that fact, the American Fork.

All this time he was finding good beaver country, and the packs of the little party grew heavier and heavier. Why he did not now cross the Sierras and get back home again we do not know; but instead of going east, he struck northwest, until he nearly reached the Pacific Ocean. Thence he turned inland, and headed due north,—which meant Oregon. It is easy to-day, but Smith had no map, no trail, no transportation save that of the horse and mule train. All the time he and his party continued to pick up a greater store of beaver.

At last, on July twenty-fourth, 1828, somewhere near the Umpqua River, they established a temporary camp. On that day Smith left camp for a time, and 323 as he returned he met Indians, who fired upon him. He got back to the bivouac, only to find it the scene of one of those horrible Indian butcheries with which the trapper of that day was all too familiar. Ten men out of his new party had been killed on the Colorado. Here, about the camp in Oregon, lay fifteen more of his men, dead, scalped and mutilated. The horses were gone. Three of his companions had escaped, but these had fled in a panic, each on his own account. The discoverer, Smith, was there alone in the mountains, without map, without guide, without counsel. There was a situation, simple, primeval, Titanic! There indeed was the West!

Smith was a religious man, a Christian. His was an inner and unfailing courage not surpassed by that of any known Western man. Perhaps he sought Divine counsel in this his extremity; at least he lost neither courage nor calmness. He knew, of course, that there was a Columbia River somewhere; for this was in 1828, and by that time the Columbia was an old story. He knew that this great river was north of him, and knew that there were settlements near its mouth, as we shall presently understand. He further knew that the North Star pointed out the north. Alone, with his rifle as reliance, he made that tremendous journey northward which Frémont, with his full party, made in an opposite direction, 324 on a parallel line farther to the eastward, only after untold hardship, though Frémont had men and animals and supplies. Sustained by Providence, as he believed, Smith at length accomplished his journey and reached the Hudson Bay post at Fort Vancouver.

We may now see the strange commercial conditions of that time. We say that Jedediah Smith was the first to cross from the Rockies to the Pacific; but this, of course, means only that he was the first to cross at mid-continent. There had been others on the Columbia before Smith. The Hudson Bay factor, Doctor McLaughlin, a great and noble man, a gentleman of the wilderness, meets the wanderer as a friend, although he is in the employ of a rival company. He sends out a party to recover Smith’s lost packs of beaver at the abandoned camp far to the southward. Almost incredible to say, these men do find the furs.

McLaughlin gives Smith a draft on London for twenty thousand dollars, it is said, in payment for these furs! Strange contrast to the treatment Ashley and his men accorded the Hudson Bay trapper, Ogden, some years earlier, when the latter was in adversity in the Rockies! Strange story indeed, this of the adventures of Jedediah Smith! Survivor of thirty of his men, escaped from a Spanish 325 prison, robbed, nearly killed, after one of the most perilous journeys ever undertaken in the West, Smith emerges from this desperate trip across an unmapped country with twenty thousand dollars, and none of his men left to share it!

In March, 1829, Smith started east from Fort Vancouver to find his partners, Sublette and Jackson. When he reached the Flathead country he was much at home, for he had been there before. Thence he headed to the Snake River, where he met Jackson, “who,” says our historian, naïvely, “was looking for him!” The ways of that time were, after all, of a certain sufficiency. Sublette he finds on the Henry Fork on August fifth, also much as a matter of course. Strange lands, strange calling, strange restoration after unusual and wild experiences—so strange that we find nothing in the life of Crockett to parallel it in valor and initiative, nothing in Boone’s to surpass it, nothing in Carson’s to equal it, and nothing in the story of any adventurer’s life to cast it in the shade.

This was indeed authentic traveling, authentic discovering, and upon this was based the first map of a vast region in what was really the West. After all this was done, the knowledge spread rapidly, we may suppose. This was how Carson’s friends learned of the Sacramento. This is how the discoveries of Frémont were forerun; for the latter, under 326 Carson’s guidance, simply circumnavigated the vast region which Smith both circumnavigated and crossed direct. Readers would not receive the plain story of Jedediah Smith as fit for fiction. It would be too impossible.

We might pause to tell the end of so great a man as this. At last Smith and his historic partners found the fur trade too much divided to be longer profitable. In 1830 the three went to St. Louis to take a venture in the Santa Fé trade, this being two years before Captain Bonneville sallied out into the West. Contemptuous of the dangers of the prairies, after facing so long those of the mountains, these three hardy Westerners started across the plains with a small outfit of their own. Far out on the Arkansas they were beset by the Comanches. Fighting like a man and destroying a certain number of his enemies before he himself fell, Jedediah Smith was killed. He met thus the logical though long deferred end of a life that had always been careless of danger.

Gregg, in his “Scenes and Incidents in the Western Prairies” (the book later known as “The Commerce of the Prairies”), mentions the death of Smith, but of his life and character he seemed to have had but little knowledge. The historian of the Santa Fé trade was just starting West 327 when Smith closed his own career. Smith was dead before Bonneville saw the Rockies. We see that he antedated Walker and Carson and Frémont. The fatal prairie expedition of these great fur traders, Smith, Sublette and Jackson, went on westward up the Arkansas with the mountain trader, Fitzpatrick, who was bound for a rendezvous far to the north of Bent’s Fort—the same Fitzpatrick whom Carson met above Bent’s Fort in one of his own expeditions. Now we may begin to see the trails of our trappers and adventurers interlacing and crossing, and can understand who were the real adventurers, who the actual explorers.

Great and satisfying a figure as Jedediah Smith makes, we may not pause with him too long, and may not believe him to have been at the very first of things. He was the first to cross over the Rockies and the Sierras in mid-America, yet he was not the first white man to stand on the soil of the dry Southwest. Examine the older maps and you shall see along the Virgin and the Colorado the line of the old Spanish trail from California to the mission settlements of New Mexico.

It can not accurately be told who first made this trail, crossing the valley of the Colorado, whose flood drains two hundred and twenty-five thousand square miles of mountain and desert. In 1781 Father Garcés 328 built a mission on the Colorado near the mouth of the Gila. But he was not the first. Cardenas, a fellow-soldier with Coronado, is perhaps the first man to write of the Grand Cañon of the Colorado; but he was not the first to discover it nor the first to see that stream. Alarcon, a member of the party of the sea captain Uloa, was the first man to reach the Colorado. This was in the year 1540, the ship of Uloa reaching the Gulf of California in 1539.

This was a small matter of three hundred years before Frémont saw the South Pass, some three hundred years before Jedediah Smith crossed the desert to California, and something like three hundred years before the upper sources of the Mississippi River were known! So thus we may leave this portion of the West to await the Gadsden Purchase, and the addition of the land won by Houston and Crockett and Fannin and Travis and other hero friends to the south and east of the purchased territory.

As for the transportation employed during these early times, we may repeat a few facts by way of insistence. The Santa Fé trade began with pack trains, but saw wagons used in 1822. In 1826 General Ashley took his little wheeled cannon through the South Pass to his fort on Utah Lake. In 1830 Smith, Sublette and Jackson made the journey from the Missouri River with mule teams and wagons 329 as far as the Wind River; and they said they could have gone on over the South Pass with their wagons had they wished to do so. Poor Bonneville! His distinction of taking the first wagon through the South Pass is as empty as that of Frémont in climbing his mountain peak near that same South Pass. Both accomplishments had been left undone by earlier visitors simply because they did not want to do these things. We see that, before Carson or Walker or Smith, the courses and headwaters of the Yellowstone and the Missouri and the Columbia rivers were all very well known. We have noted that Smith knew of the Columbia settlements. This he knew because he had learned it at the rendezvous. How came these settlements on the Columbia? We shall have to go to New York to find the answer to that question.

Everybody knows the story of Astoria and the beginning of the American Fur Company. John Jacob Astor of New York secured a New York charter for that company April sixth, 1808, very soon after hearing the results of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He had a great purpose in his mind. He had fought out and bought out competitors in the fur trade all along the Great Lakes; had met and gaged the resources of the Northwest Company, then beginning to rival the ancient Hudson 330 Bay Company in the wild race across the continent.

It was Astor’s idea to beat the Northwest Fur Company to the mouth of the Columbia, and hence command what was supposed to be the rich fur trade of that new and unknown region. He intended to send ships laden with trading supplies to the mouth of the Columbia River, there to take on the cargoes of furs caught by his own men or secured in trade with the Indians. These ships, laden with furs, were to go thence across the Pacific to China, and were to return from China to New York, laden with the products of the Orient, which our old-time historian, Henry Howe, thought must some time come across the American continent by rail. Here, then, was a commercial undertaking of no small dimensions.

Mr. Astor attached two strings to his bow. He fitted out one expedition by sea, and one by land, the objective point of each being the mouth of the Columbia River. He relied largely upon men he had known in the fur trade of the Great Lakes for the leadership of his land party, but he made the great mistake of placing three men in practically equal command. Unfortunately, he made another mistake in establishing the leadership of his sea expedition. There was but one leader there, the captain of the ship Tonquin, Thorne by name, a man by no means 331 fitted to command any company of adventurers. The Tonquin left New York September sixth, 1810. It reached the mouth of the Columbia River March twenty-second, 1811. A party was soon thereafter detached for the erection of the proposed post to be known as Astoria. The Tonquin then proceeded northward up the coast. Its commander, domineering, overbearing, not fitted to trade with the Indians, succeeded in exciting the wrath of the Coast Indians. The latter attacked his ship and practically destroyed his crew, one of whom, an unknown fighting man, whose name is lost by reason of events, blew up the ship, killing many savages and destroying all vestige of the encounter. This was about June thirteenth, 1811.

As to the land party under its three leaders, we may say that the winter was spent near St. Joseph, Missouri, but on April twenty-first, 1811, about a month after the ship Tonquin had reached the mouth of the Columbia, this land party started out on its long and arduous western journey. By June twelfth they had traveled thirteen hundred and twenty-five miles up the Missouri River, being then in the neighborhood of the Arickaree villages. There they bought horses and started boldly westward, leaving the waterway of the Missouri, the first of the great 332 companies of transcontinental travelers to proceed along the cord of the great bow of the Missouri.

There were sixty-four of these Astorians, and they had with them eighty-two horses. They must have passed to the north of the Black Hills. They crossed the Big Horns and on September twenty-ninth were on the Wind River, a stream later to be so well known by trappers and traders. They ascended the Wind River about eighty miles, seeking for a place to cross the Rocky Mountains. They had Crow Indians as guides through the Big Horns, and west of the Big Horns the Shoshones had guided them. These Indians detected signs of other Indians on ahead, and hence did not present to these travelers the natural and easy way, through the South Pass,—an ascent so gentle that one can scarcely tell when he has reached the actual summit. The Astorians crossed the mountains probably at what is now known as the Union Pass, a little to the north of the South Pass.

On September twenty-fourth they started from the Green River to the Snake River, and on October eighth, 1811, reached Fort Henry, which, at the time the Astorians reached it, was an abandoned post. It seems that even these early travelers found a West in which there had been some one before them! Thence, scattered and disorganized, on foot and by boat, this party undertook to go down the Snake 333 River to the Columbia. By January first, 1812, they reached the valley known as the Grande Ronde. By January eighth some of them were on the Umatilla River, and some of them reached the Columbia by January twenty-first. Here they met Indians, who told them of the destruction of the Tonquin and the loss of a great number of their associates—an incident that shows well enough the strange fashion in which news travels in the wilderness.

Some parties under Mackenzie, McLellan and Reed separated, came down the Clearwater to the Lewis or Snake River, and thence voyaged on down-stream as best they could. Some of these reached Astoria January eighteenth, 1812, ahead of others of their scattered companions, who seem to have wandered aimlessly about the upper tributaries of the Columbia. The party under Hunt reached Astoria February fifteenth, 1812. Crooks and Day, others of the expedition, did not come in until May eleventh. A party of thirteen trappers, who had been left behind to pursue their calling, did not reach the post until January fifteenth, 1813. The trip, measuring by the time of the first arrivals at the mouth of the Columbia, had required three hundred and forty days. Thirty-five hundred miles of country had been covered. The Northwestern Company had been beaten in the race to the mouth of the Columbia by just 334 three months. It was beaten by a gait of about ten miles a day! We build railroads almost as rapidly as that to-day.

Discovering that, ten years before Jedediah Smith made his journey northward across Oregon to Fort Vancouver, there were well established lines of travel and well established settlements on the Columbia and its tributaries, we may think that by this time we are close to the first of things in Western history. Of course we know that ahead of the Astoria party was the Lewis and Clark expedition. Before Lewis and Clark came the Louisiana Purchase, which offered us this territory for exploration; and the Lewis and Clark expedition will serve as the starting point of our scheme of the history of the trans-Missouri.

We may, perhaps, reinforce these salient points in memory if we go back once more well upon this side of our former starting point, and work to it again upon slightly different lines. For instance, we may ask, who built Fort Henry, the fort that the Astorians found abandoned, west of the Rocky Mountains? The answer is, Major Andrew Henry, some time partner of that energetic early merchant, General Ashley. Henry was at the Three Forks of the Missouri in 1810. He crossed southward through the mountains and built Fort Henry in the fall of that year. This 335 was the first post built west of the Continental Divide. It was erected on what is now known as the Henry Fork of the Snake River.

But was Major Henry himself the first man to penetrate into the Rockies? He was not. Who, then, was ahead of Henry? The answer is, Manuel Liza, that strange character of Spanish, French and American blood, who was perhaps the first of the Western merchants to catch the full significance of the Lewis and Clark expedition. We have heard of one William Morrison, of Kaskaskia, Illinois, who sent a representative to far-off Santa Fé. This same William Morrison was the partner of our strange genius, Manuel Liza, in the first fur trading venture up the Missouri. They fitted out one keel-boat for the Northwest trade in the spring of 1807.

Did Liza and his hardy crew of keel boatmen find an untracked and uninhabited wilderness? Not altogether such; for, as they were ascending the ancient waterway, they met coming down one John Colter, that hardy soul who had left the Lewis and Clark expedition to return to the Yellowstone River for the purpose of doing a little beaver trapping on his own account. Colter, it may be remembered, is thought to have been the first discoverer of the region now included in the Yellowstone National Park. This country was discovered and forgotten, to be later 336 officially “discovered” on the same basis that Frémont discovered other portions of the Rockies. Colter is the last link in this chain. He brings us back again to Lewis and Clark, the first of the up-stream adventurers to penetrate the region of the trans-Missouri.

We may all the better strengthen the backward-running chain by one or two more links extending from comparatively recent dates, to those that we may consider as marking the beginning of things in the West. For instance, we have heard much of General Ashley, that enterprising and fortunate early fur trader, whose success was the first to call the attention of the capital of the East to the enormous profits of the fur trade in the West when properly conducted. Ashley’s first partner was Major Andrew Henry.

The first rendezvous of the mountain men was that arranged in 1824 for Ashley and Henry’s men. Ashley himself undertook to explore the Green River, a stream then thought to empty into the Gulf of Mexico, no less an authority than Baron Humboldt having made this particular error in Western geography. Shipwrecked, Ashley none the less escaped, and somewhere near the point where he met his disaster, he cut his name on a rock, together with the date, 1825. Major Powell, later an official 337 discoverer, in his expedition down the Colorado River, found the place where Ashley was wrecked on that stream just forty-four years earlier. Major Powell read the engraved inscription as 1855 instead of 1825. In his account he sends some of Ashley’s men, survivors of the wreck, over to Salt Lake City, and has them go to work upon the Temple! “Of their subsequent history,” remarks Major Powell, gravely, “I have no knowledge.”

This, as Mr. Chittenden points out in his admirable work, “The American Fur Trade,” is one of the jests of Western history, for Ashley was on the Green River thirty years before the Mormons left Missouri! We shall need to allow a few years to pass before we come to the transcontinental migration of the Mormons and the building of their Temple. Ashley foreran all that. He was at Salt Lake and on the Green River, and quite across the Mormon country, a short time after the first Astorian party had passed on west.

Thus, if we begin to study too closely into the early history of the trans-Missouri, we begin to lose all respect for its mysteries, and come to think of it as a country that was never new, but was always well known. Indeed, there is much warrant for this. Witness again the journeys of that straightforward character, Lieutenant Pike, the first American officer to 338 reach the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and to arrange for the proper respect for the American flag in that far-off country. After Pike had returned down the Mississippi River and had been ordered to explore the country near the Rockies, around the headwaters of the Red River, he began to cross the trails of some of these earlier adventurers of whom we have been speaking. Thus, in 1806, while Pike is making his way across the plains, he hears of Lewis and Clark’s descent of the Missouri. On August nineteenth, 1806, he states that he finds the “place where Mr. Chouteau formerly had his fort.” Chouteau was one of these same early fur traders, as we shall find if we care to go into the minutiæ of history. Lieutenant Pike describes this fort as “already overgrown with vegetation;” so it could not have been new in 1806.

From this point Lieutenant Pike goes to “Manuel Liza’s fort,” which then marked another advance post of the trans-Missouri travel. Next he heads westward, touches the Grand and White rivers and reaches the Solomon Fork. Here he meets the Pawnees, discovers that they are wearing Spanish medals, learns that the Spaniards have sent an expedition into that country from the New Mexican settlements, and finds a “very large road” over which the Spaniards have returned to the westward. Thus 339 it seems that not even good Zebulon was to have a West all his own.

Forsooth, Lieutenant Pike might have gone back more than two hundred years, and have bethought himself of the old Spaniard Coronado, who in the year 1540 journeyed from Mexico across the plains until he stood on the banks of the Missouri River, from which Pike himself started forth. And strange enough, if we seek for coincidences, is the fact that Coronado himself recounts that he met on the Missouri River, that is to say, on the stream that is now called the Missouri, an Indian who wore a silver medal that was evidently the work of a white man. There is something singular for you, if you seek a strange incident! Where did Coronado’s Indian get his medal? This was closer to the first of things. It must have come from the settlements of the whites on the lower Atlantic slope. But by what process of travel? Are we indeed to have any mysteries in the West, and shall we ever be able to set any date in our scheme of transportation properly to be called initial?

If we look at a map of the trans-Missouri as it existed in 1840, prior to the official exploration of the West, we shall indeed find that “hardly one of the great geographical features was unknown.” We shall find the Missouri and the Yellowstone rivers dotted 340 thick with the stockades of the fur traders. We shall find, if we search in the records of those days, that the whites had long lived among the Indians and had come to know their ways. We shall discover, if we care to believe such apochryphal history as that offered by the ostensible Indian captive, John D. Hunter,[46] that the Indian himself has been something of an explorer. Hunter tells of plains Indians, dwellers of the prairie country near the Missouri, who themselves made the transcontinental journey and saw the mouth of the Columbia. He states that this journey was traditional at that time, and adds that he himself, with a party of plains Indians, likewise made this journey to the Columbia, crossing the Rockies at a different pass in coming back from that met with in the western journey.

We may believe his story or not, as we like; but we are bound to believe that these plains Indians antedated the first white men in the discovery of the South Pass and of many other features of the Rocky Mountains. It is doubtful, indeed, whether any party of white men in those early days ever crossed the mountains excepting under the entire or partial guidance 341 of Indians, who took them over country known to themselves.

We may believe, therefore, that the native Indian savages furnished the source of original knowledge to our first explorers. If you be familiar with the Rockies of to-day, you shall now and again see the old Indian trails, overgrown and unused, sinking back into the earth. In the valley of the Two Medicine, on the reservation of those same Blackfeet who once fought the trappers so boldly, the writer once found, high up on the mountain side, a plainly traceable trail that led down to the summit of a high ridge, whence one could look far to the eastward, to where the Sweet Grass hills loomed out of the level sweep of the prairies. There was a hunter with me, a man married among the Blackfeet, of whom I asked regarding this trail. “It is the old Kootenai trail,” said he; “and if you follow this back to the West, it will take you through a pass of the Rockies and into the country of the Flatheads.”

Here, then, was indeed an ancient and historic pathway, one not used to-day by any rails of iron, nor followed even by the pack trains of the “adventurers” of to-day. Here was a pass discovered, no man may tell when, by Indians who wandered eastward and westward across the upper Rockies. Perhaps the old trappers also know this trail; though there are not 342 wanting those who believe that less than a double decade ago the valleys at the headwaters of the St. Mary’s Lake still lay untouched by the foot of white man. Here, along this forgotten mountain trail, came the Kootenais with their war parties against the Blackfeet. Here, perhaps, came, from the upper Pacific coast, the first horses used by the plains Indians in the far North. Be that as it may, my companion and I without doubt stood on one of the original or aboriginal pathways; and he had been dull indeed who did not find an interest in that fact and in the surroundings.[47]

“Who made the first Indian trails?” I asked of my friend, as we stood at the eastern end of this old pathway. He pointed to similar paths crossing the sides of the ridge near to us, and other little paths leading up the valley along the sides of the mountains.

“It was the elk and the deer and the mountain sheep,” said he. “They found the easiest ways to travel; they found the grass and the water.”

All of these maps, by the way, must have been at the disposal of Frémont; yet we do not learn that he believed the east and west course of the Buena Ventura was an impossibility, although Jedediah Smith had long since shown the inaccuracy of this old idea, which later was to cost Frémont so much suffering in the mountains of upper California.

Again, remember this significant date of 1834.

This story of an alleged captivity among the Indians, extending from childhood to young manhood, is by some considered unauthentic. The volume, a curious one, was printed in London, in 1825.

The trail of the white race over the Appalachians was but the trail of the red men. The Sioux Indians, for generations inhabitants of the upper plains country of the West, formerly lived east of the Appalachians. The first settlers of Kentucky and Tennessee simply followed the ancient ways by which the Indians crossed into the valley of the Mississippi. And there, as in the West, the Indians but followed the paths of the wild animals, which clung nearly as possible to the courses of the streams.—V. “The Indians of To-day;” Grinnell.



Twenty-five years ago potatoes were so high in price in certain towns of the Rocky Mountains that the merchants handling them often reserved the right to retain the peelings, which, in turn, were sold, for planting purposes, the eyes of the potatoes thus having a considerable commercial value, obviously in proportion to the distance from the nearest railroad or steamboat line. This situation could not forever endure. There must come a day when we could afford to throw away our peelings, and throw them away cut thick and carelessly. Equally true is it that the time is coming in America when we shall again gather up our potato-peelings and cherish them. There you have the three ages of the West.[49]

344 The early American life was primitive, but it was never the life of a peasantry. Look ahead into the future, the time of the second saving of the peelings. Once there was a time in the West when every man was as good as his neighbor, as well situated, as much contented. It would take hardihood to predict such conditions in the future for the West or for America.

For half a hundred years America looked across the Alleghanies. It was nearer to England than to Iowa. Our standards in fashion, in art, in literature, were yet those of an older world. Then came the age of Americanism, when it mattered not to the women of the frontier what were the modes brought in the latest ship from London or Paris. Under the Monroe doctrine of the frontier the women made their petticoats of elkskin, and found it good. Behold now a day when Iowa is as near as England, and England almost as near as New York. Again the contents of the ships are valid matter of curiosity to the women of the West.

345 We are in the third age, the age of steam. The pack-horse and the sailboat were vehicles of the individual or of the section. Wheeled vehicles afforded a speedier and more flexible intercommunication that made the idea of secession forever impossible, and made us a national America. The common carrier made us and will destroy us as a national entity. The wheels have written epochal record on the surface of the land. Long and devious and delightful, weary and sad and tragic, are the old wheel-tracks of the West, worn deep into a soil red with blood, on paths lined with flowers, and with graves as well.

At the half-way point of the century the early wheels of the West were crawling and creaking over trails where now rich cities stand. The Red River carts from Pembina, their wheels sawn from the ends of logs, and voicing a mile-wide protest of unlubricated axle, crept down to a “St. Paul’s” that had a population of about twelve hundred, mostly halfbreeds.[50] A yard of cloth or a butcher-knife still sold for twenty dollars at old Fort Benton in the beaver country.

346 The Western railroads were only little spurs of iron thrusting out into the prairies. Indeed, they could not always boast rails of iron, as witness the old wooden-railed road from Chicago to Galena. Still eager, still harkening to the Voices of the West, the men who were to make the West pressed on, taking the railway as far as it went, then the stage-coach and the wagon and the horse and the lone path of the farthest venturer.

The man of Virginia heard that the prairies of Iowa would give him a farm for a price per acre less than one-tenth that commanded by the red clay hills of the Old Dominion. He forsook the land of terrapin and peaches, of honeysuckle and sunshine, and started West by rail across the Alleghanies, across Ohio by the early Pennsylvania railway system, beyond the boom town of Chicago, across the Mississippi, and out into the black mud of the prairies for fifty miles or so. Thence by stage he went, the head of his tearful wife against his breast, but in that breast beating a heart whose one thought was the “better chance.” It was the better chance for these babes that tugged at the skirts of their mother—this was what the father wanted, and this was why the mother went with him, grieving, as she yet must, for the home land that she perhaps would never see again.

One such settler, who went West from Virginia 347 into an agricultural state in 1854, said that he came West in order that he might be able to educate his children. He educated them. To-day one child is buried in California, one in Dakota, three live in Iowa, and one in Illinois. Such is the typical record of an American family.

The man of old New England might cross this trail of the Southern man, and find himself betimes in Kansas or Nebraska, forerunner of that day when it was to be said that Massachusetts was west of the Missouri River, as indeed is true to-day. Boston began to build Chicago, and the first of those men went West that were to make the old Red River cart-towns of St. Paul and Minneapolis little else than New England communities—cities of a state which to-day has a permanent school fund of nearly eight million dollars, and a university fund of nearly one million dollars, in securities largely made up of the bonds of other states, among them a large amount of the funding bonds of the ancient state of Virginia. It was a race into the West—a race in which now the North outstripped the South, the commercial outran the heroic, the ax and the plow outstripped the rifle and its creed.

In 1826 arose one Philip Evans Thomas, sometime known as the father of American railroads, son of a Baltimore banker, and living, as we may thus 348 notice as a curious fact, near to that early abiding-place of the star that marked the center of American population, that Ararat from which the Western civilization started outward. Early in his life Philip Evans Thomas saw how excellent it would be if only water could be made to run up-stream. He had seen the use of railroads in England, and had, moreover, noted the beneficial effects upon the trade of Eastern cities of the traffic that was carried by canals. He had the far-reaching mind of the world-merchant, whose problem is ever that of transportation. He saw that railroads can go where canals can not, and he presently resigned his directorship in the Maryland Canal, because he saw that a canal can not climb a hill, and that mankind could not forever go around the hills or up and down the streams.

It was on February twelfth, 1827, that Thomas called together twenty-five of the leading citizens of Baltimore. Comment of the time says that he seemed touched with the spirit of prophecy as he spoke of the enterprise that was to cast aside the mountains, to unite the streams, and to discover what there might be in that mysterious land, the West—the West that was west of the Alleghanies and in or near the Mississippi valley. Beyond the Mississippi, of course, the mind of man might not go! The minutes of this notable railway meeting are 349 preserved in a pamphlet known as “Proceedings of Sundry Citizens of Baltimore, convened for the Purpose of Devising the Most Efficient Means of Improving Intercourse between Baltimore and the Western States.”

There were two opinions as to the wisdom of Mr. Thomas’s project, and these were the opinions of the North and of the South; for again the South was to be the pioneer into the West, and again the North was to follow. The cities of the North made loud outcry against the Baltimore prophet, and said that this railroad, if built, would divert from them forever the traffic that was then coming to them from the West. This was ever the typical attitude of the upper East toward the West.

None the less the enterprise went on, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company was duly organized, an act for its incorporation being passed on February twenty-seventh, 1827. The stamp of success was upon the idea before the ink had dried on the records. By April twenty-fourth of the same year stock was subscribed to the figure of four million one hundred and seventy-eight thousand dollars. The first railway planned for the West—planned because there was a West and because that West was wanted as a part of the East—was promptly elevated into one of the most important commercial 350 enterprises of the time. The stock was coveted by all, and the struggle was for first place in the line of purchasers.

It can not be within the present purpose to particularize as to the railroad development of the West, nor to attempt the unimportant chronological record of first one and then another of the multiplying railways that early began to crowd out into the West from the Eastern centers. The important thing is the tremendous expansion of population that now ensued for the Western states, the blackening of the census maps in spaces once barren, the crossing and interweaving of the Northern and Southern populations, which now occurred as both sections pressed out into the West. There were grandfathers in Virginia now, grandfathers in New England. The subdivided farms were not so large. There were more shops in the villages. There was demand for expansion of the commerce of that day. The little products must find their market, and that market might still be American. The raw stuff might still be American, the producer of it might still be American. So these busy, thrifty, ambitious men came up and stood back of the vanguard that held the flexible frontier. Silently men stole out yet farther into what West there was left; but they always looked 351 back over the shoulder at this new thing that had come upon the land.

Thinking men knew, half a century ago, that there must be an iron way across the United States, though they knew this only in general terms, and were only guessing at the changes that such a road must bring to the country at large. Some of these guesses make interesting reading to-day. Thus, in 1855 it was announced as a settled thing that the continental route could not lie across the Northern Rockies, because in that region the heavy snowfall would block all railway travel. It was concluded that there were only four points on the Pacific coast to which the railway might address itself: San Diego, San Francisco, “some spot to be chosen on the navigable waters of the Columbia,” and another “on the borders of the Strait of De Fuca, in the new Territory of Washington.”

The government of the country was so slow in developing this railway project that some capitalists were for building at once a road of their own, and they chose the route from Charleston to San Diego. What would it have meant to this country had this been the first and only railway across the continent? As to the route up the Platte valley and over the mid-Rockies, that was dismissed as quite impracticable. “The absence of timber on most of this route would 352 prove an insuperable objection to its selection, even were it not ineligible from other considerations,” comments one writer of the day. The same writer[51] says that the route from San Francisco to St. Louis would be geographically preferable, but admits that the “formation of the intermediate country, and the character of the mountain-ranges to be crossed, are deemed to present insuperable difficulties to its construction.”

The bearing of these reflections upon the purpose in hand is not so much one of mere literary curiousness as one of commercial comparison. The logic of that time carried a large non sequitur. “The country intervening between the most western limits of civilization and the recently settled territories of the Pacific,” says the same early historian, “is confessedly little known.” The empire of the Middle West was not dreamed of. This is what the new road was to do:

“Instead of weary months of travel around the capes of Africa and South America, less than a month will suffice to transport the teas and silks of China, the coffee and the spices of Java and Ceylon, to the great Atlantic cities, thence to be distributed as from the world’s depot to the nations of Europe. But not only will this new mode of transit take to 353 itself the best and most remunerative part of the traffic now existing between eastern Asia and Christendom, but it will also create a new traffic, compared with which the trade now existing will bear almost no comparison.

“Instead of here and there a seaport in China holding commercial relations with America, this nearness of access to the best markets of the world will stimulate into an unprecedented activity the raising of all agricultural products, the manufacture of all goods and wares, and the disinterring of all the mineral resources which the three hundred millions of China can furnish us, at a cheaper rate than we can obtain them elsewhere. Japan, with a population almost double our own, now shut out from all intercourse with the rest of the world, must soon be forced by the strength of circumstances to welcome to her ports the merchant fleets of other nations, anxious and eager to distribute to the wide world the rich products of her soil, her climate, and her domestic industry. The tropical fruitfulness of the over-populated islands of the Eastern Archipelago will also pour, in increased abundance, the rich spices of their balmy breezes through this new and rapid conduit.”

Not so bad was this flowery prophecy, though its fulfilment was to run over into another century, and to fall subsequent to a still greater industrial 354 phenomenon, the gourd-like maturing of the trans-Missouri region.[52] This rapid development of the interior region of America was not foreseen by the wisest of the prophets of fifty years ago. Yet unspeakably swift and startling as it has been, it was, after all, the product of an arrested growth, of an advancement upon lines substantially different from those on which it was originally and naturally projected.

As once the West had sought to secede, now at length the South, foster-mother of the West, bethought herself to set up a separate land, even at the very time when there was in progress a great transcontinental project that was to make all this country one, forever and inseparable. It was the Civil War that delayed the construction of the Pacific railway. Had that road been built, had the roads from the North 355 into the South been built half a generation earlier, there could never have been any Civil War. The indissoluble brotherhood of the North and the South would have been established a generation before, and at what untold saving of splendid human life! This war, fatally and fatefully early—early by a quarter of a century, since after that quarter-century it could never have attained importance, or could never have been at all—changed history in America more than any written history has ever shown. Still curiously and intimately connected, it was the South and the West that were to suffer most in that war, cruel as this may sound to that splendid East that poured its blood like water and its treasure with a freedom the West might not equal.

The industrial revolution of the West was subsequent to the Civil War, and was, to large extent, caused by the Civil War, or, rather, was dependent upon the same conditions that had part in bringing forth that war. The vast and virgin West, “confessedly but little known,” lay waiting for a population. The Eastern portion of the Northern States had its own population. The South, under the conditions of that day, offered incalculably more opportunity for crude labor than did the West; but it offered no security for either capital or labor. Therefore it was that the Old World was called upon to 356 furnish the raw labor requisite to subdue this wild land.

It can be only with horror that we reflect that the Old World was called upon also to furnish us a people to replace the more than half-million dead of as grand a population as the world ever knew, the flower of America, North, South, East, and West. It would have been this splendid army of men that would have settled the West, had it not been for the war, which a few years later would have been an impossible thing. Could that half-million dead have arisen from the grave in the decade following that truly cruel war, the nomenclature of many Western cities would be different to-day, and the face of the census maps would show a different story. To-day the whole upper portion of the population chart of the United States is black with the indication of a foreign-born population. The only part of this country that the census map dares call American is a thin, wavering line along the plateaus of Tennessee and Kentucky,—the land that the first adventurers sought out when they crossed the Alleghanies. It is the South alone that is to-day American. It was the South that gave us the new-American, that splendid figure in the history of the world.

Within two months in the year 1899, fifty-seven thousand foreigners were brought to this country 357 to be made over into Americans. Among these were Croatians, Slavs, Armenians, Bohemians, Servians, Montenegrins, Dalmatians, Bosnians, Herzegovinians, Moravians, Lithuanians, Magyars, Jews, Syrians, Turks, Slovaks, with others of the better-known nationalities, such as English, Germans, French, and Scandinavians. Of the total number of these immigrants, less than one-tenth had a capital as great as thirty dollars with which to begin life in the new land. Many of these immigrants from lower Europe linger in the cities of the West, and do not become a part of the agricultural communities; but the indirect tax on the agricultural communities none the less remains. They become only parasites upon the parasitic middlemen, and all these must be supported by the farms.

It must be conceded that the new problems assigned to the West in the way of absorption and assimilation of alien population in these days of rapid transportation are nothing short of serious and perplexing. These new people, brought out in swarms by means of the rapid wheels of steam-locomotion, are like the early Americans who settled first a real America. They are very poor; their fare must be coarse, their garb mean, their opportunities for self-improvement but meager. Yet how different are they, the product of the third age of 358 transportation, from those Argonauts, the Southern riflemen and the Northern axmen, who toiled with oar or slow-moving wheel across this land in the days so recently gone by!

There are three great pictures of the West—one that was, one that is, and one that might have been. This last picture is a sad one to any thinking man not concerned in politics. The West of steam-transportation has not so much impressed itself, and in reason could not be expected so to impress itself, upon its population as did that West reached by slow-moving wheels when the natural difficulties to be overcome were so vastly greater for the individual. The old West begot character, grew mighty individuals, because such were its soil and sky and air, its mountains, its streams, its long and devious trails, its constant stimulus and challenge.

That which was to be has been. The days of the adventurers are gone. There are no longer any Voices to summon heroes out on voyage of mystic conquest. It now costs not so much heroism, but so much money, to get out into the West, and it costs so much to live there. As a region the West offers few special opportunities. It is no longer a poor man’s country, nor is any part of America a country good for a poor man. It is all much alike. Our young men of the West are as apt to go East to seek their fortunes 359 as to try them near at home. There is no land of the free. America is not American. Food must digest before it can be flesh and blood, and our population must digest before it can be called American.

Twelve years ago money brought two per cent. a month west of the Missouri River, and it earned it. To-day you can get a barrelful at five per cent. a year. It is only free men who can afford to pay two per cent. a month—men who still have open lands to settle, much raw wealth to dig out of the earth and a future to discount. There are no more Oklahomas now. We have stolen most of the reservations from the Indians, and a few men have stolen most of the pine,[53] and nothing short of a syndicate will do for a mine to-day. You may search far for eagle faces, such as came from Maine and Carolina, the men that followed the westward course of the young star of America.

Away with the saddle-blanket! The beaver are gone, and the range cattle are all fenced in. Hang up the rifle, for our great game is vanishing. If you seek a pleasant picture, gaze on the accumulating balance-sheets of some monopolist’s millions. If you wish to hear a soothing sound, 360 listen to the wheels that go and come. Content yourself with these things; else you must admit that, however strong, brilliant, and consistent was our Western drama in the more slowly moving days, history has made anticlimax in the days of steam. Carry your conclusions out whimsically if you like, and reflect that in the year 1900 not only our own Western cow-punchers, but also the samurai of Japan, were riding bicycles, and the newspapers of Japan were reporting the prize-fights of America! This is civilization, but the view of it is not altogether comforting.[54]

Augur of what might have been, but for our Civil War, was that long line of white-topped wagons that streamed westward across Illinois, Iowa, across the 361 Missouri River, out into the West, the still glorious and alluring West, immediately upon the close of the war. This was not an influx of foreigners, but a hejira of native Americans, a flood-tide that could not wait for the railroads that were now so swiftly taking up the new and mighty problems of a convalescent country. “By an impulse, providential or evolutionary, but irresistible,” said an American statesman of that decade,[55] “civilization has, during the present generation, moved all at once and in concert, in a process of territorial expansion as sudden and inexplicable as that which at the close of the fifteenth century impelled the nations of Europe to voyages which, resulted in the discovery and occupation of America. . . . The United States will command the greatest part of the trade with the Chinese Orient. We can produce every article that can be sold in this now and limitless market.” Not bad reiteration, this, of the prophecy of our historian of 1855. The latter did not foresee our Civil War, nor could he have foreseen our armies across seas. They are there not so much by reason of political mistakes or political wisdom as by an impulse “providential or evolutionary.” In 1865, upon the plains, or in 1900, in the Asian islands, the army 362 was only the escort. It is not our army that will conquer new provinces and create new opportunities in place of those with which we have been so sadly careless and so lavishly generous; it is our railways and our steamships that are to prove our conquering agencies. Thereby we shall recoup ourselves at the coffers of the world.

We lose all sentimental regrets and superficial reservations when we come to examine closely the tremendous revolutions created by the genius of modern transportation. With the era of steam came a complete reversal of all earlier methods. For nearly a century following the Revolutionary War the new lands of America had waited upon the transportation. Now the transportation facilities were to overleap history and to run in advance of progress itself. The railroad was not to depend upon the land, but the land upon the railroad. It was strong faith in the future civilization that enabled capitalists to build one connected line of iron from Oregon down the Pacific coast, thence east of the mouth of the Father of Waters, in all over thirty-two hundred miles of rail. Then came that daring flight of the Santa Fé across the seas of sand, a venture derided as folly and recklessness.

The proof you may find by seeing the cities that have grown, the fields which bear them tribute. North 363 and south, and east and west the prairie roads run. The long trail of the cattle-drive is gone, and the cattle no longer walk a thousand miles to pasture or to market. Once, twice, thrice, the continent was spanned, the dream of Robertson made manifoldly true, and the path across the continent laid well and laid forever.[56] In the Middle West the Great American Desert was cross-hatched with iron lines and dotted full with homes that never could have been but for those iron lines. In the Northwest lay a land of almost arctic winters, with little or no shelter, with short and torrid summers, the land of the Red River carts, where the fur traders were at last replaced by the raisers of number two hard wheat.

Into this region came a large foreign population, sought out in the Old World by the diligent agents of a common carrier needing business. The hard plains of the North were literally stocked with these people. They came with their tickets bought through to such or such a point in Minnesota or Dakota. It was foreseen that the mere raising of wheat could not build up a permanent civilization, and the railway did the thinking for the blind ones who had taken its word and risked their lives and fortunes in the removal 364 to that America which had so wide and various an interpretation. The railway sent out, free and unsolicited, seed wheat and choice breeding-stock, dropping these contributions wisely, here and there, into such communities as most needed them. The railway was explorer, carrier, provider, thinker, heart, soul, and intellect for this population that in another generation was to be American. No wonder these folk stand and stare when the railway-train goes by. It has been Providence to them. It is a Providence that has given to Europe what America might have had.

To-day towns do not grow merely because of their location, and this factor of location will become less and less important as the years go by. St. Louis was a city of location; Chicago is a city of transportation. Chicago is situated upon the most impossible and unlovely of all places of human habitation. She is simply a city of transportation, and is no better than her rails and boats, though by her rails and boats she lives in every Western state and territory. The same is true now of St. Louis and the vast Southwest.

One railroad recently planned for a Western extension, and laid out along its lines the sites of thirty-eight new towns, each of which was located and named before the question of inhabitants for the 365 towns was ever taken up. Another railway in the Southwest has named fifty cities that are yet to build; and still others have scores of communities that in time are to be the battle-grounds of human lives, the stages of the human tragedy or comedy. The railways have not only reached but created provinces; they have not only nourished but conceived communities. Out of that cold upper land of the Northwest, which was thus fostered and nurtured into strength, there came, in one year, one hundred and ten million bushels of wheat to feed the world, and that in a year when the crop shortage was over one hundred million bushels. This is only a part of the output of that land, for the railway showed these farmers long ago that diversified farming was their hope and their salvation.

Past one of those forts which in 1812 the United States erected to protect her fur traders and to keep out her covetous rivals, there came in the same year from the far Northwest, once home of the buffalo, the Indian, and the scout, twenty-five million two hundred fifty-five thousand eight hundred and ten tons of freight, nearly all of the long-haul sort, and hence to be taken as showing in part the product of the far Northwest itself. Three transcontinental roads, the Northern Pacific, the Union Pacific, and the Southern Pacific, in 1899 carried twenty million one 366 hundred forty-six thousand four hundred and ten tons of freight, with a haul averaging about three hundred miles in length.

Nearly a thousand millions of dollars is represented in the capitalization of these roads—far more than is demanded by the free roadway of the Great Lakes, the modern freight traffic of which is really a development subsequent to that of the railway exploitation of the West. This perhaps suggests a day when Chicago may come to be as closely connected with New Orleans as was the latter city with Kentucky in the day of Wilkinson.[57] It is impossible to study the industrial history of the West without studying also that of the South, for though the two sections are far apart and utterly unlike, they yet have the intercurrent soul of twins. No part of America is less known and more 367 misunderstood than the South, and surely it must be one of the most cheering reflections to conclude that yearly the South comes closer to the North, and the North to the South. Statesmanship could not in a century so fully have accomplished this great and desirable result. The railroads are doing what statecraft could not do.

It is the part of the great captains of transportation to live strenuous lives, to work out great problems faithfully and patiently, to accomplish great results mysteriously, to live, to die, and to be forgotten. The heroes of the hustings, the heroes of our wars, are remembered and immortalized. The man that makes possible their triumphs finds no record on the page of time. His obituary is only the passing chronicle of the daily press, feverishly concerned with what is known as news.

To-day James F. Joy, the father of the Michigan Central Railroad, is little known by the general public, though his was a far greater work than that of 368 seeking public office. John Murray Forbes, father of the great Burlington and Quincy system, is a man too much forgotten. As these lines are written comes the news of the death of Henry Villard, the man that solved so many problems for the Northern Pacific. Dropped for the time out of sight, he will now shortly follow the fate of his compeers, and soon be dropped forever. William Henry Osborn died only a few years ago, yet there are many who make the winter trip to the Gulf coast that do not know who planned the flight of rails that runs from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. It is a duty and a pleasure to mention the names of such great and useful men, if only to ask that their work be held in understanding memory.

Especially significant now is the memory of Mr. Osborn, and we might well speak of him as assistant and coadjutor of such men as Lincoln and Grant, and the statesmen who since the war have sought to unite North and South. As we find that it was the South that first marched westward, and a Southern man who first planned a great highway of iron into the West, we may state with equal pleasure and confidence that it was the East, and an Eastern man, that made the South a portion of the West, and both a part of a united America.

William H. Osborn was a native of Massachusetts, 369 and was by birth of no exalted position in the world. His chief capital was a clear brain and an unclouded purpose, which later ripened into a farsightedness in large affairs that has rarely been equaled in the ranks of practical American men. Sent to the East Indies as the representative of a New York firm, he got a good insight into the trade in spices, and was successful in its operation. Later he married the second daughter of that sterling American merchant, Jonathan Sturges of New York, whose first daughter was the first wife of J. Pierpont Morgan. Mr. Sturges was heavily interested in the young Illinois Central Railroad, the first of the land-grant railways, the original seven hundred and five miles of which were intended to develop the agricultural lands of the great prairie state of Illinois, and to bear the products of that state up to the water-transport of the Great Lakes, which then carried most of the long-haul business from the West to the East.

The original lines of this road were laid out in the form of a large Y, one leg of which ran from Dubuque, Iowa, southward, meeting the other leg, which extended south from Chicago. The two legs of the Y met at what is now Central City, and thence the line ran south to Cairo. This road was one of the earliest attempts to parallel the old water-highways 370 that had once carried the freight of a riparian population. Its first grant was made in 1850, and its first train was run in 1855. During the war this line was of much service in transporting troops and material to the southward.

Yet, in spite of its well-conceived plan, and in spite of the natural wealth of the country it traversed, the road as a property was a source of perpetual anxiety to its shareholders. It needed a great mind to straighten out its problems, and Mr. Sturges thought that his son-in-law had that mind. He therefore despatched Mr. Osborn to Chicago, and gave him full charge of the system. The choice was a wise one. Mr. Osborn brought the property through the panic of 1857, when all securities were falling in ruins, and weathered even an assignment, which was made by the company during his absence in England. He backed his faith in his judgment by negotiating a personal loan of three million dollars, out of which he paid the matured coupons that were pressing for payment. He secured a new loan of five million dollars, paid off all the smaller debts, established the credit of the company, and set its affairs thenceforth upon a secure footing.

All these details were such as might perhaps have been accomplished by another. It was not only in 371 these executive matters that the genius of this captain evinced itself. He saw at once to the marrow of the difficulties that had caused this embarrassment. There had now been built around the foot of Lake Michigan those east-and-west through lines that killed the lake carriage just as his own road had killed the river carriage on the Mississippi trail. These roads reached out after their own business, and did not depend upon the traffic the north-and-south line carried. It was easy to foresee a failing business, but not so easy to name a remedy for it. Mr. Osborn found his remedy in the idea of a north-and-south transcontinental line. Between Cairo and the town of Jackson, Tennessee, there was a gap over which no railroad passed, though from Jackson as far south as New Orleans there ran the rambling lines of a system controlled by H. S. McComb, of Crédit Mobilier fame. Mr. Osborn secured the immature Southern roads, built the connection from Cairo to Jackson, and in 1873 had a completed line from the Lakes to the Gulf.

It all sounds easy, but it took one man’s brain and one man’s life to do it. The story of the road and of the man that made it is not yet told, but it will be written in the development of one of the richest sections of America. It is writing daily in the trains that come from North to South, from South to 372 North, agencies that daily break down and pass through any sectional barrier and bring about the better understanding which makes kin one with the other the sons of the old riflemen and the old axmen who built the West.

Thus are the trails of the two forever interwoven. Beside this trail of commerce runs the old trail of the Mississippi, whose tawny flood still carries its burden of adventure and romance. Robertson, Thomas, Whitney, Osborn,—these are the names of a few of the prophets, forgotten men of the early and the modern days, who blazed the intercurrent trails where now march the feet of those living under a complex civilization.

From these crude studies of early Western history we may gather one very significant fact, which will mean more a hundred years from now than it does to-day. It is that America got her territory first, and then her transportation and her population. She bought on a rising market, and her purchase was of territory, land, the only thing on earth that can not be increased or multiplied. Moreover, her land was such as the earth has never duplicated and can never duplicate. The magnificent American West was a realm unrivaled, and it was originally settled by men who had the most priceless of all possessions, a splendid ancestry. Providence held back the wheels for 373 a hundred years while the Western character was forming.

Let us, even though by dint of effort, fling away the personal plaint. It is un-American to snivel, and as the old-time Western men would not have done so, neither shall we. The West is not dead. It is immortal. We have come upon a century of force. The conflict is to be the bitterest the world has ever known; not the conflict of man with beast, or with savage nature, but the conflict of masses of men, masses of things, one combination against another, one wedge of impact, head on, against another. It is too late to call out for an America like that of Washington or Jefferson; too late to ask for a practical Monroe doctrine; too late to speak of policies or politics gone by.

With Europe in fear of our Western products, and yet dependent upon those products; with America coming each day, by causes “providential or evolutionary,” into the plans of the world, of what possible avail is it to cry out for a West or for an America that is gone forever? Call back the armies if you wish, but you can never call back the wheels. The pathway points now not out into the West, but out into the world. Never doubt that the sons of the West, sons of this Anak, sons whose fathers are in Valhalla to-day, will follow that 374 road as far and as fearlessly as they did the path across the continent. In the veins of these men runs the riot unconquerable, the distillation of the skies and winds. Their feet march now to the rhythm of phantom footfalls, those of the men that marched before from home out into the perilous unknown. Black men, yellow men, peasant men—all these must take their chances. There are no longer any vacant lands. Europe, which sent to the West some of its best and its poorest population, will have more to fear at the hands of the West than China has to dread to-day. Europe has to combat not only the West, but all the heredity of the West.

This, then, is where the eagle-faced pioneers of America will find their last trail. This is how the king will at last come again into his own. Peoples may pass away, monarchies may fall, but above them there will stand the only aristocracy fit to survive; not a false democracy that nominates all men as equal, but the aristocracy of survival. You may abolish many things, and in the future enact many things of which we of to-day may not guess; but never shall there utterly perish the strong blood that got its survival by fitness, and its education by continuous conflict with mighty things. The largest, the most compact, and the most closely knit Caucasian population of the world to-day, is that of America, and 375 to-day America is potentially the most powerful of all the world-powers. Why? Because her unit of population is superior. The reason for that you may find yourself if you care to look into the great movements of the west-bound population of America.

As to the future steps in the development of the West, we may perhaps be indulged in a hazard of opinion, as our fathers were before us. It would seem sure that every inch of our agricultural lands must come under the plow of Belgium, and be tilled inch by inch. The vast Delta of the Mississippi, from Memphis south, the richest soil the world ever saw, will be a continuous garden, supporting a great population of its own, and feeding thousands in the cities, in full verification of the wisdom of the man who foresaw that the South must be joined to the North, even as the West to the East. Perhaps some of the more barren steppe country of the West will ultimately be abandoned in spite of scientific irrigation, just as some of the slashed-off timber-lands of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are now being abandoned, in sequel to the ruinous American lumbering operations.[58]

376 In the great river valleys there will be an enormous thickening of the population; so that it may yet be many years before the center of population, which in 1900 was near the little town of Columbus, Indiana, shall have passed the Mississippi River in its west-bound course.[59] We have yet to learn to save our potato-peelings. We are yet to go more and more under task-masters, are to learn more and more the value of the penny, that coin once so bitterly scorned in all the West. We are to work out the problems bequeathed humanity with the passing years; and in the end we are to ask, as we ask to-day, that unanswered question, Why? Policies and politics can not change these things. The wheels have run too far. Let fall the little words of our talking men; 377 let wave the tiny swords of those who are called our warriors; and let the writers rage. Back and beyond their trivial and transient deeds runs the broad, somber flood of fate. Humanity, not political divisions, is the concern of time. The individual yields to the section, the section to the nation, the nation to the world, the world to the plans of fate, of Providence.

There is another, a lighter and more cheerful side to the conclusions that we may draw from our study of the way in which the West was made—the side that has to do with the growth of the newer portions of this country in all the liberal arts, in that noble flowering of the human imagination, which is most naturally to be expected of an environment of ease and a time of leisure. Art rests ever upon the material, the imagination dates ever back to actual deeds. The gentler days of the West are no better than its ruder times, but the one is as good as the other, since each came in its proper period. It was the railway that developed the West in artistic things as well as in material things. It was as long ago as 1870 that a Western man, Justice Paine of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, found occasion to speak of the vast influence of these civilizing agencies. He said:

“They have done more to develop the wealth and 378 resources, to stimulate the industry, reward the labor, and promote the general comfort and prosperity of the country than any other, perhaps than all other mere physical causes combined. There is probably not a man, woman or child whose interest or comfort has not been in some degree subserved by them. They bring to our doors the productions of the earth. They enable us to anticipate and protract the seasons. They enable the inhabitants of each clime to enjoy the pleasures and luxuries of all. They scatter the productions of the press and of literature broadcast through the country with amazing rapidity. There is scarcely a want, wish, or aspiration of the human heart that they do not in some measure help to gratify. They promote the pleasures of social life and of friendship; they bring the skilled physician swiftly from a distance to attend the sick and the wounded, and enable the absent friend to be present at the bedside of the dying. They have more than realized the fabulous conception of the Eastern imagination, which pictured the genii as transporting inhabited palaces through the air. They take a train of inhabited palaces from the Atlantic coast, and with marvelous swiftness deposit it on the shores that are washed by the Pacific sea. In war they transport the armies and supplies of the government with the greatest celerity, and 379 carry forward, as it were on the wings of the wind, relief and comfort to those who are stretched bleeding and wounded on the field of battle.”

He has not read well the history of his country, has not learned the intricate web of the commercial system of to-day, has surely not studied the developments of the third age of American transportation, who can believe that there exists any longer any considerable difference between the most widely separated parts of America in matters of the gentler life. The publisher of a noble periodical controls an agency the influence of which is as valuable and as much desired in the West as in the East, and which is felt as quickly and as sensitively in the one region as the other. The art and literature of the time belong to the West as much as to the East, and in its due time the West will produce as well as consume in the matters of art and literature. There were Western artists, Western painters, Western sculptors on the plains before the buffalo were gone.

It is a matter of wonder that any American literature could ever speak of the American West in anything but terms of pride and honor. There is a certain literature, color-crammed, superficial, and transient, because wrong, that affects to believe that there is still a West that is a land of crude souls exclusively and of little hope for a hereafter. If the 380 good folk who so believe lack the great privilege of actual American travel, they have at least left for them the resources of an American railroad map. Let them study; and even if they study no deeper than the map, they must come to see that the West is no more as once it was.

Changed unspeakably and utterly, the old West lies in ruins. To pick about among those ruins may, indeed, be to find here and there a bit of local color; but were it not better to reflect that this color may be only the broken bits of a cathedral pane? Restore that cathedral, in recollection, in imagination at least, if it be within the skill of art or literature to do so. Restore it, and write upon its arch the thought that history may be more than a mere recital of wars and religions; that the destruction of human life may be nationally not so great as the development of human character. Give the men of the old West, parents of the men of the new West, this epitaph: They had character. Let the heroes have place of honor in their own cathedral; and so may the Western earth lie light above them, and the Western skies smile over them rememberingly.

The Century Magazine, January, 1902.

Another instance of changed standards in the West may be seen in the revolution as to petty prices. Up to twenty years ago, in most Rocky Mountain communities, the quarter-dollar was the smallest coin in circulation. With the railroads came the dime, the nickel, and at last the penny; but they came to a West that was no more.

A Montana periodical thus comments on these matters as they appeared at the time when the railroad reached Miles City:

“The advent of the Northern Pacific Railroad, in November, 1881, brought about a complete change in the methods and manners of the people. The railroad brought the community at once in touch with the more concise and narrower life of ‘the States’; the ‘nickel’ displaced the ‘quarter’ as the smallest coin in use, and prices shrunk accordingly. . . . This proposed innovation was hotly contested for a while by the adherents of the ‘two-bit’ theory, resulting finally in a compromise that established ‘two-for-a-quarter’ as the going rate. It would be hard to describe the feeling of dejection that overwhelmed the old-timers when this conclusion was reached. It was accepted by them as a pronounced and evident sign of decadence.”

A settler who moved, in 1854, from Virginia to Iowa complained that for a whole year in that frontier country he saw no fruit except a half-peck of crab-apples. It was much the same in Minnesota at that time; yet, in the year 1900, the city of St. Paul alone used one thousand dollars’ worth or grapes each day for fifty days, all imported, and at an average price of only fifteen cents per basket. This fruit was largely imported from the state of New York.

Henry Howe; “The Great West” (1855).

In the year 1900 began the great tendency toward consolidation in railway interests. Nor did the sequence cease at this point. In the same year there were begun, for use upon the Pacific Ocean in connection with this same transcontinental route, five giant ocean-going freight ships, the largest yet known, each to be 750 feet in length, of 74 feet beam, and with a carrying capacity of 22,000 tons. These ships will carry American cotton to Japan, for use instead of the short-staple cotton of India, until recently used by Japan. They will enable the railroad-builders of Japan to figure as exactly on the price of a ton of rails as can the contractor of Kansas or Nebraska. They will lay down a barrel of Minnesota flour in China or the Philippines at a cost for carriage of not over $1.25. All this shows to what extent American commerce, made active by American transportation methods, is invading the markets of the world; for, at this same time, Russia can not lay down a barrel of (an inferior) flour at the seaboard of China for less than $4.25. Surely our prophet of 1855 dreamed more wisely than he knew!

The desecration of America, in the terrible devastation of her forests, is something no observant man can face with composure.

The time is not one for individual optimism, and the old hopefully self-reliant spirit of the West must be content to lose its personal quality in the larger and vaguer, though not less certain, tendencies of modern life. Bearing upon a theme kindred to the above, James Bryce, author of “The American Commonwealth,” recently found occasion to write:

“National ideals to-day tend toward a large and strong state, with vast external possessions, with a huge army and navy, with an extending trade, and great consequent wealth; and the ideal of education is less toward ‘unprofitable culture’ and more toward subjects that enable men to raise themselves in the world. People now talk more about capital and labor. Formerly there seemed rather more faith in the power of reason, rather more hope of progress to be secured by political change. Altogether there seemed rather more of a sanguine spirit formerly. Mankind must never cease to cherish and follow the dream of that golden age, which at one time they believed to lie in the past, but which for some centuries had been supposed to glimmer in the future. They must never forget that hope. But the golden age seemed nearer in 1850 than it does now.”

The late Cushman K. Davis, United States senator from Minnesota.

In 1902 Canada began to emulate the history of the United States, and planned for the building of two more transcontinental railways. She could inflict no greater blow to the United States. V. also Chap. V, Vol. IV; “The Pathways of the Future.”

Engineers disagree as to the possibility of making a ship-canal of the great highway of the Mississippi; but engineers have always disagreed about the doing of great things, and then have always done them. It is likely that the dream of that shrewd merchant-explorer, Louis Joliet, will eventually be realized, and the Chicago drainage-canal will in that case attain a great importance.

Indeed, inland-water transportation may be upon the eve of a great development. Thus, in December, 1900, there was organized a canal company for the purpose of navigating the Red River of the North, of improving the channel by dredging, putting in locks and reservoirs, to regulate that historic stream into conditions virtually those of a canal. Another curious proposition to reach Congress in the same year was a bill for the purpose of building a ship-canal between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, an enterprise which would have great significance in the coal and iron trade. This canal would follow the course of La Salle on his first journey from the Great Lakes—the old south-bound war-trail of the Six Nations. Geography, of all things, seems to repeat itself. No one may tell what new importance this canal proposition may attain, though it may be dormant for a time.

Early in the year 1901 the leading journals of Germany were discussing the prospects of a canal from Chicago to the Atlantic Ocean, and held the enterprise practicable.

As showing the extent of water-transportation on our Great Lakes, it may be stated that more tonnage passes Sault Ste. Marie in seven months of each year than goes through the Suez Canal in three years. The city of Duluth alone, at the head of the water-trail, has a tonnage each year of more than 11,500,000 tons.

The population of Michigan in the decade 1890-1900 drifted rapidly toward the cities. Yet the Michigan railroads are bravely trying to solve the problem of building up a population on the country desolated by the lumbermen, and with great success are developing resources in agriculture and manufactures which for a long time lay unsuspected.

In this connection the census map offers an unfailing interest. Investigation shows that our star, denoting the center of population, has traveled in all only 525 miles since 1790, the greatest west-bound gains being in the decade 1850-60, 81 miles. At no time has the center of population moved back toward the East, though it is nearer to doing so now than ever before—proof that the history of America has been but the history of a West, and also proof that that wayward West may soon bend its footsteps homeward after a century of adventure. The record of the movement of the population center is as follows:

1790, 23 miles east of Baltimore, Maryland; 1800, 18 miles west of Baltimore, Maryland; 1810, 40 miles northwest by west of Washington, D. C.; 1820, 16 miles north of Woodstock, Virginia; 1830, 19 miles west-southwest of Moorefield, West Virginia; 1840, 16 miles south of Clarksburg, West Virginia; 1850, 23 miles southeast of Parkersburg, West Virginia; 1860, 20 miles south of Chillicothe, Ohio; 1870, 48 miles east by north of Cincinnati, Ohio; 1880, 8 miles west by south of Cincinnati, Ohio; 1890, 20 miles east of Columbus, Indiana; 1900, 7 miles north of Columbus, Indiana.



At the time of the discovery of gold in California, there had been built up a splendid Western population, hardy, self-confident, able to shift for itself, wholly distinct from that population that it had for a generation left behind at the old starting places of the trails. These trails across the continent, wavering, tortuous, yet practicable, had been fully established. So far as might be within the horizon of those days, all was now ready for the epoch-making event that was to change all the methods of America, that was to make Westerners by wholesale and to draw them swiftly from every corner of the earth.

The great state of California alone was cause and sufficient reason for the swift development of the remoter American West. There can not be denied the tremendous effect produced by the sudden growth of California, coming as it did hard on 382 the time of the annexation of Texas and the widening of our national territory in the far Southwest. As to the discovery of gold and the swift growth of California being unmixed benefits, there may exist at this later day something of a sober doubt.

California marked the beginning of the feverish, insane, excitable type of American, who wishes to do everything at once—and does it! Without California and the Civil War we should to-day still be settling the West. With California we are settling the islands of the Orient. The high-geared life of to-day is part of the corollary of washing a year’s income out of the ground in an hour’s work, of crossing the continent in a week instead of a season, of tearing down mountains by machinery instead of building up homesteads deliberately. Stimulation and destruction do not go so far apart. California gave to the world the spectacle of a nation drunk with energy, using with maddened zeal for a time powers made three-fold, employing an imagination under whose concept naught under Heaven seemed impossible—or was impossible!

This was revolution. There was a demand for revolution of an even pace in all lines of allied industry. It was time for the railroad, and the railroad must now perforce come swiftly. We built better steamships to get 383 out into our new, feverish, golden West. We used the old trails, but they would no longer serve. We employed the old mountain passes, the old grazing and watering places, but neither would these serve. No time now for hoof or wheel, or for the way of the ship upon the sea! No time now for the wayside ranches along the Platte, for the old posts of Laramie and Bridger and Hall! The golden country clamored all too strongly. Therefore, with a leap, the old trails straightened out and shortened. New passes over the Great Divide were found. The long thin line of rails connected the East with a West now swiftly grown mightier than itself. All American morals and manners underwent swift reconstruction. The United States, plus California, plus the Western railways, became a different nation.

It is not necessary to take up in detail the chronological or geographical study of the building of the transcontinental railways. They have done their work. The commercial history of America is sufficiently well written to-day on the face of every country of the globe. We have built our own railroads, and to-day we build and sell railroads and equipment for the Himalayas and the Sudan. We shall build the railroads that will make Africa another America. We shall build the 384 railroads that will at length bring the Anglo-Saxon face to face with the Slav, in that struggle that shall pit the American West against the Russian East.

The West of the midway district between the Missouri and Pacific was largely settled by reflex. The mines of California spilled back men, great, splendid men, to the eastward again, to exploit all those ranges of the Rockies whose wealth the trappers had not suspected. Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada—all these might be called a part of the scheme of California. New and splendid empires were founded, new standards of civilization were erected in the recent wilderness. The grand and alluring story of the West went on apace for yet a little time.

But these times were not to endure. There came swiftly the Western rush of population, which swept off the map the free lands of all our Western empire. The vast American public, mad with the lust of land, raped the Indian reservations from those that had frail title given them in the honor of a great nation; so that thus one more bar was broken between the East and the West. Home-building, farm-making man came close on the heels of trapper and trader and nomad cattle driver. The hordes of the land seekers held their lotteries even in the desert once dreaded by the travelers of the old Santa Fé trail. Incipient cities were built in that waterless waste 385 where Jedediah Smith, the first transcontinental traveler, lost his life in mid-continent. Never a bit of open land was left in all the West; or if there were such land remaining, it was of a quality that would once have been viewed with contempt.

The story of the swift changes wrought by the iron trails is such as not to afford complete satisfaction in the contemplation; yet we may calmly review the different stages of that story. First we had the day of competitive railway building, when there were not enough railroads for the demands of a vast and unsettled region whose resources appealed to a population. Then we came rapidly to the time of too many railroads; of attempts to adjust an unprofitable competition; of combinations, of arrangements, agreements, mergers; and of popular and governmental action upon such mergers. To-day all America is districted and divided among a few great railway systems. Once we were better than our transportation; now we are not so good. Once we depended upon it; now it rules us almost without argument. The swiftness with which these tremendous changes have been brought about furnishes one of the most remarkable phenomena recorded in the history of the world.

Recently there was erected at Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a monument to a forgotten man, John Fitch, 386 who in the year 1785 was known as one curious in experiments with steam as a motive power. Fitch built a steamboat, and had visions of many things in the way of steam locomotion. The life of this unknown man marks the extent of our backward vision in these matters; yet Fitch lived little more than a century ago. Indeed, the growth of the railroads of America has taken place in less than three-quarters of a century. And yet to-day we have more than two hundred thousand miles of railway, and as each day rolls by, we build from ten to twenty-five miles more. Railroading is a profession perfected in the hard evolution of American necessity. Our first railways were but attempts, guesses, desires, hopes, purely local propositions and not always well conceived as such. Yet they grew and multiplied, and presently, before we had time to think, they had multiplied over much. Then came the days of the railroad receiver. After the receiver there came the combiner. This man, in these bubble days of so-called prosperity, for a time undertakes to do what competition was not able to do. It is only for a time that any man or combination of men can escape the workings of the great natural law of competition. Neither monopolies nor trades-unions, neither the “trust” in capital nor the “trust” in labor can 387 forever evade it. In time there will again be change; and meantime, ruin.

To-day there are five great centralizations or combinations of capital that control the railway situation in America. In these swift times of change these arrangements may not long remain permanent, and it is bootless to mention them specifically. The building of these thousands of miles of railway and the assembling of them together under industrial truce has been the product of a giant game in commerce, a commerce not to be confined wholly by the limits of this continent. The great ships built for the Orient are now an old story, an accepted enterprise that spells Europe on the one hand and Asia on the other.

As for our own marches, Alaska is to repeat at least in part the story of California. The Yukon and White Pass Railway is but a hint, a beginning. It is now upon the question of a railway from Circle City in Alaska to the Bering Sea, to connect there with a railway which shall eventually tap both China and Siberia! It is entirely within possibility that we shall in time see a continuous railway transportation from the Atlantic to the far-off straits that separate this country from Asia. Scientists tell us that over these straits there perhaps came once the ancestors of the aboriginal 388 population of this continent. This population we have destroyed. There will also be destroyed all those nomad tribes of northeastern Asia that seem not useful in this great scheme which we call civilization. Alaska was long thought uninviting; yet railroad building there is feasible, and Alaska is feasible as residence for man; and railroad man is concerned with every corner of this globe that can serve as residence for human beings.

In the course of an address during the year 1901, a modern railway man[60] spoke in part as follows: “The twentieth century has been ushered into existence, and at its very dawn we find a struggle, not for the acquisition of new territory, not for the subjection of foreign countries, not a crusade to introduce a new and better religion, but a struggle between the great nations of the earth for supremacy in industrial pursuits and to supply the markets of the world. The nineteenth century has frequently been referred to as the Age of Transportation. Distribution is the handmaid of production. Bacon said: ‘There are three things that make a country great: fertile fields, busy workshops, easy conveyance for men and goods from place to place.’ The evolution that has taken place in the transportation of this country during the nineteenth century 389 has been remarkable and unparalleled in the history of man. In the year 1800 it cost one hundred dollars to move a ton of wheat from Buffalo to New York. The regular rate is now a dollar and a half per ton, and it has been carried for a dollar. One hundred years ago we paid twenty-five cents per mile, traveling by stage-coach, without baggage; now we carry home-seekers from the East into California for approximately one-twentieth of the old rate.

“Our American railroads were, not a very long time since, owned largely outside the United States, but during the world’s panic that occurred in 1893, our British, German and Dutch friends discovered the necessity of selling something, and the only things in their strong boxes that they could sell without too much sacrifice were their American securities. They dumped them on the American market; and, notwithstanding the financial strain and the depression from which we were suffering, our American financiers mustered pluck, courage and money enough to buy them. They were bought at bargain prices. The advance in them has been stupendous, but it is worth a great deal to feel that we are not only blessed with the most improved and cheapest transportation in the world, but that our railroads are owned by our own people. The value of the railroads of the United States amounts to 390 over one-fifth of the total wealth of the country.”

Another master in transportation,[61] in a public address delivered in 1902, gave yet further details in the vivid story of the extension of the iron trails of America: “While the railroads may have to answer for many mistakes of judgment or of intent,” said he, “on the whole the result has been to create the most effective, useful, and by far the cheapest system of land transportation in the world. In England the average amount paid by the shipper for moving a ton of freight one hundred miles is two dollars and thirty-five cents; in France, two dollars and ten cents; in Austria, a dollar and ninety cents; in Germany, where most of the railroads are owned and operated by the government, a dollar and eighty-four cents; in Russia, also under government ownership, where the shipments are carried under conditions more nearly similar to our own than any other country as respects long haul, a dollar and seventy cents. In the United States the average cost is seventy-three cents, or less than forty per cent. of the average cost in Europe.”

From the above comparisons this captain of transportation concludes that the railroad industries of this country are in a flourishing condition and that they should not be interfered with. Yet he 391 concludes his comment with words that contain a corollary inconsistent with his earlier attitude, as we may later have occasion to note. He says: “For the first time in the history of this country thousands of our farmers are seeking homes in the Canadian Northwest, owing to the cheap lands offered in that country, and to the difficulty of securing such lands in the United Slates.” Earlier in the same address there is this epigrammatic statement: “Land without population is a wilderness; population without land is a mob.” If our Western Americans are leaving the flag of a republican government to seek land elsewhere, is not the inference fair that they do so because they have become a population without land? If this be true, assuredly it is the work of the iron trails.

We have an overgrowth, or, rather, too sudden and rank a growth, of transportation in America. It is attended with sudden changes, attended also with a certain weediness and immaturity, which we should be entitled to call un-American and undesirable, even were it not for the graver features that amount to revolutionary changes and to national menaces. Borne aloft upon a great wave of commercial prosperity, the American people is at the present time taking itself with entire seriousness as the greatest nation of the world. Its rapid industrial expansion 392 has indeed been cause for marvel in the mind of all the world. There is a certain national comfort in these reflections, without doubt, and solace in the almost incomprehensible totals of the figures on which such assertions are grounded. Therefore it must come almost with ill grace to offer in these days of jubilation any word that might seem to indicate that perhaps, in spite of all this superficial prosperity, all may not be well with America as a nation, that all is not really well with our American man.

We are told that these are good times, the best we ever knew. It is triumphantly announced to us that we have in one year invested nearly seventy millions of dollars in foreign securities, largely in railroad bonds of Russia, in German Treasury bills, and English Exchequer loans. This is very good; it sounds well. As an offset to it one should apologize for offering the simple but multifold statements from the columns of the daily press bearing upon the greater cost of living in Western states. It is seven per cent. greater, says one dealer in statistics. It is twenty-five per cent. greater than it ever was, says another. The housewives of America, the best of all statisticians, say that in 1902 it cost thirty-three per cent. more to live than it did in 1899. These prices of bare commodities in these days of super-excellent 393 transportation go well toward comparing with those we have shown as existing in the far-off mountain communities in the days of pack-horse and ox-team transportation. If this be so, is all well with America? The prices are the results of combinations and monopolies. The monopolies are based largely on non-competitive transportation. The iron trails are built over the hearthfires of America. The iron trails must do otherwise than thus.

We are informed that during the last year the balance of trade in favor of the United States was something like seven hundred millions of dollars. “Figures up to March twenty-first (1902), just finished,” says a careful report, “are so stupendous as to be staggering. * * * Nations have generally measured their prosperity by their foreign trade.”

There might perhaps be other ways of measuring that prosperity. As against the above imposing aggregation of figures, I offer a simple newspaper paragraph printed in 1902, which sounds like Kaskaskia, or Alder Gulch, or the end of the Santa Fé Trail: “Potatoes have been selling for a dollar and seventy-five cents a bushel in Chicago this week,” says the item. “A year ago the price was about forty cents. This enormous advance, coupled with the corresponding rise in the prices of nearly all vegetables, presents a serious economic problem for large families with 394 small incomes.” The same paper goes on to say: “The greatest sufferers from the high price of potatoes are the small wage-earners. They have learned to depend upon potatoes almost as much as upon bread. Yet, at a dollar and seventy-five cents a bushel, this staple food is out of the reach of many. The best thing they can do is to fall back on rice, which is an excellent substitute for potatoes and is still reasonable in price. Unfortunately, large numbers of wage-earners are incapable of making a sudden change in their diet. Many women that have depended upon potatoes all their lives do not know how to cook rice or hominy. They are as helpless with these substitutes as were many of the Irish people with the corn meal that was sent to them from America during the potato famine, or as Hindus, who are accustomed to rice, would be when they were given wheat flour to cook. This scarcity of potatoes is likely to cause a good deal of hardship before the proper use of the cheaper staples is learned.”

And this is in America, in the zenith of the Age of Transportation! I fancy my man of pack-horse and cordelle living upon rice! I fancy Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett or Kit Carson using such diet as backing for his deeds! Meat and corn are the diet that built America. Good leaders of 395 America, insist not over-much on this rice fare, as you do at present in these bubble days. Let weediness and immaturity, imported overmuch, be overrun and oppressed by organized rapacity, and then, one day, good leaders, you shall see the American man even yet fall to his well-learned task of leading himself.

This is in America, and in the Age of Transportation! I read of these startling changes and can scarcely believe that they have happened within a lifetime, a part of which was passed in a West where wealth and poverty, arrogance and self-denial, were alike unknown; where, if one hungered, he was free to enter the door of any little cabin he found here or there in the mountains, and to eat freely of whatever food he found, though the owner of the abode himself might be absent and might forever remain unknown; where the thought of price did not enter into the mind of either the uninvited visitor or his unknown host; where herds, wild or tame, covered a country vast, inviting and hospitable; where each man was his own leader; and where the thought of any difficulty in the simple problem of making a living never entered into the heart of man!

Those were days perhaps of not so great and apparent a national prosperity, but there comes a catch in the throat at comparing those days with these. The 396 horror of it, the shameless waste, the destruction, the change, the ruin of it all—these can leave us little comfort as we gaze on the glittering picture of to-day. As a nation we are building for ourselves higher and higher a false castle of prosperity, blowing for ourselves wider and wider a bubble fragile at heart as any that ever met collapse in another day. “Give me back my legions!” cried the Roman general. God grant there may never bitterly rise to the lips of an American leader the unavailing cry, “Give me back my Americans!” God grant there come not too late the cry, “Give us back our America!”

“Taking it all around,” says an unprejudiced writer, “the present generation in the United States reminds one of a young spendthrift just come into a fine property, accumulated by the thrift and carefulness of many ancestors. He thinks he is something out of the ordinary, and intends showing others how things should be done. In the society of flatterers, speculators and gamblers, he soon parts with his ready money and bank stock. He then sells the timber off his land. After that is spent he sells his live stock. Having thus deprived himself of the means for the proper tillage of his soil, he then sells the hay crop from his meadows until they are no longer productive. He next mortgages his property; and 397 the last scene in the final act is the auctioneer’s hammer at the public vendue.”[62]

Another commentator[63] takes up the same trend of thought: “The cry of the people of the West,” says he, “is rising almost to the ominous threat of revolution. The wealth of the country has increased enormously, but it is becoming concentrated in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. Only in the days of the early empire and late republic of Rome was it possible for a few individuals in a few years to amass such enormous fortunes as they do. Having exploited the wealth of the great middle class, we are now drifting into the second stage. Small investments no longer pay. There is no Eastern or Western state that has not a score of stranded towns and villages once prosperous in small industries. The small farmer is no longer able to make a living in the competition which he meets.... All this may be progress, but it is progress over a precipice.”

Still another observer[64] carries his conclusions yet further, and in a public address states: “The work of such men as [this monopolist] and his associates of the big combinations is preparing the minds of our 398 people for socialism. I am not in favor of socialism, but men like these so-called captains of industry, who are opposed to socialism, are preparing the way for the rapid spread of the socialistic idea. Should some able leader take up that idea and advocate it, we shall see it spread with tremendous rapidity in America.”

So much for the accomplishments of the Age of Transportation. It has already shown us the meaning of monopoly and has shown us the abolishment of the individual. It has taught us, or some of us, to believe that the establishment of an expensive university may serve as emendative of an unpopular personal career. It has taught us, or some of us, obsequiously to worship that form of wealth that soothes its conscience by the building of public libraries. Whether or not learning best grows and flourishes that has such foundation heads, library and university alike must to-day admit their impotence to answer the cry of the leader, “Give me back my Americans!”

The America of to-day is an America utterly and absolutely changed from the principles whereon our original America was founded, and wherefrom it grew and flourished. Never was there any corner of Europe, before the days of those revolutions that put down kings, worse than some 399 parts of oppressed America to-day. It is not too late for revolution in America. There is not justice in the belief that America can to-day be called the land of the free. The individual is no more. He perished somewhere on those heights we have seen him laboriously ascending, somewhere on those long rivers we have seen him tracing. He died in the day of Across the Waters.

To-day we have labor unions, organizations that in the old West would have called forth indignant contempt in the mere suggestion. We have associations of managers to fight the unions; we have monopolies, combinations, masses, upon the one side and the other, contending, not working together harmoniously. We have become par excellence the people of castes and grades and classes. The whole theory of America was that here there was hope for the individual; that here he might grow, might prevail. It is degradation to abandon that theory. It is degradation for the American man to say of his own volition: “I am but one cog of a wheel, and my neighbor another. I can not change; I can not rise; I can not progress; I can not grow; I dare not hope.” The degradation of the industry shares the degradation of the individual. The joint degradation, if it be accepted as final, spells a national deterioration and a national ruin which may be gradual and slow, 400 or may, in these swift-moving days, be rapid and cataclysmic in its nature.

We have departed from the careful intent of that government which originally abolished for us even the law of primogeniture, a clause adopted in the state constitutions nearly throughout the Union. Our general public is more absolutely ruled by a few than is the case in any portion of the earth. Offsetting this, we boast of our “prosperity”! Let those that like call this a national prosperity. It is national fate, but there may be those that do not care to call it by the name of prosperity. Times are good when all the people are busy. Most of the people in the South were busy before the war; we called that slavery. It was as nothing compared to the industrial slavery impending over the American people to-day. It was simple by comparison as a problem. Tremendous indeed is the problem this implies, and grave and serious indeed should he be who attempts to solve it. We need statesmen, not politicians, to-day. We need men willing to do their duty in office, without regard to the question of their re-election to office.

We have promised that our study of American transportation should bring us close to the heart of things in our national life. The promise may be made good in the review of the work of the iron 401 trails in the Age of Transportation. It would be but raving to hold the captains of transportation alone responsible for the deplorable changes that are taking place in America and the American character; yet only an equal folly could deny that too little fearless statesmanship, combined with too much politics and too much ungoverned transportation, has been responsible for many of these changes. Any candid student of American transportation and of American politics will find himself irresistibly arriving at the great question of the unrestricted American immigration.

We Americans have claimed this continent for humanity. We say that America is not to be used by the Old World as colonization ground, or for the planting ground of Old World ideas of government; and yet, even as we speak these words, we vitiate doctrine even wider than the Monroe doctrine—the doctrine of common sense. We throw open the gates of America and invite the sodden hordes of worthless peasantry to flock hither and pillage this country, the choicest of the continent, without let or hindrance, without requiring of them the first standard of fitness for American citizenship; without asking of them even the slightest educational test as to their fitness to enter into and enjoy a part of 402 the once splendid heritage of this American people. The only price we ask is a ticket and a vote.

Of a truth, there would be justice in saying that we would better watch not so much South America as Castle Garden. There is where much of the degradation and depression of American life is going on. There is where trades-unionism begins, and indeed must begin. There is where monopolies begin. There is where, indeed, we are being colonized by the European peoples. For those that come here to work, to study, to learn and to grow there may be room yet in this great America. For those that come here to exist as parasites there should be no longer any room. All this is to some extent the act of common carriers in search of commerce. Behind this search there often lies all too certainly the intent of importation of a passive and semi-servile class,[65] content to accept the 403 hardest conditions of life, and content to accept life barren of all hope, of all chance for future betterment.

Such life is un-American. Every one of these foreigners comes here with a vote in his hand. We have long allowed the vote to pay for everything; and, seeing that he had a vote, the poor foreigner though turbulent and discontented, has perforce satisfied himself with an America not much 404 better and not much different from Europe. Assuredly, the time will come, and perhaps presently, when there must be considered with all seriousness this question of a mis-chosen and wrongfully used factor in our commercial fabric. It is not the upper branches of our model system of commerce which are wrong, nor will pruning those upper branches set that wrong right. We must go to the root of things.

Surely we have gone forward far enough in our commercial growth to learn that our country is not exhaustless. Were it so we should not to-day be considering the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars to stretch the shrunken acreage of the once boundless West. Once we had enough for all, but now we no longer have enough for all. Once we could keep open house, but we can now no longer do so. There comes a time even in the question of open house when the doctrine of self preservation, greater than any Monroe doctrine, greater than any constitution, must have its place.

We, as well as Great Britain and other world powers, must eventually come to the doctrine of selfishness. Great Britain herself, a land not offering the inducements held out by America to the penniless settler, seriously contemplates the restriction of immigration along the severest lines. She fears becoming 405 the great almshouse of Europe. Shall we in her stead become the great almshouse of the world? It is suggested by a foreign-born philanthropist, for instance, that America should forthwith throw open her doors to the five millions of persecuted Russian Jews. English authorities cheerfully believe that America could easily assimilate this great mass of new population. There are many American captains of politics and captains of transportation who would cheerfully agree in throwing this task of assimilation upon this country; but this attitude can not long remain indorsed by fearless men and thoughtful men unsodden in the mire of modern American politics, or unsmirched in the grime of headlong and heedless American commerce.

Under all this discussion and all these generalizations there lies, of course, the great, human, individual question. Back of all stands that great, pathetic figure, the man about whose neck fate has hung the destiny of a wife and children. Once there was room in America for that man. Once there was hope and a chance ultimately to be called his own. It is this man, this simple, common, plain American citizen who is to-day most vitally concerned. The man we have with us, the man of America, who has helped win and make America, is the one that ought to be 406 protected by America, rather than the one that still has root in the Old World soil that bore him.

This is selfishness; but it is the only plan that offers hope to humanity in either world. The glory, the pride of America, the beauty and the flowering of her growth, have root in her splendid heritage, the heritage of a virile character born of a magnificent environment; but there exists no heritage which may not be dissipated, there lives no blood forever proof against continuous vitiation.

“The American people,” says the governor of a Western state, “will no more submit to commercial despotism than they would to governmental despotism, and the tendency in the one case can be, and will be, as easily thwarted as the tendency in the other.” Let us leave to an impartial and intelligent judgment of readers the question whether or not there exists or threatens to exist in America a commercial despotism; whether or not there exists any American people; whether or not we have, in the foregoing pages, found any causes for the changes and tendencies toward change that are to-day unmistakable phenomena—changes so rapid and elemental that any true American ought to be ashamed to say, “I belong without thought to this, that or the other political party.” Perhaps we shall be all the better fortified with premises if we delve a trifle 407 deeper into the statistics of this question of foreign immigration; for any writer deals better in undeniable premises than in ready-made conclusions.

The tables compiled by the United States Commissioner of Labor are conclusive. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War four-fifths of the American population could claim English as their native tongue. To-day not half our population can make such claim. There is interest in the story of the statistics.

“The number of immigrants coming into this country between 1820 and June thirtieth, 1900, was nineteen million one hundred and fifteen thousand two hundred and twenty-one. Prior to 1820 the government did not take account of immigration, but the generally accepted estimate of the total immigration between the adoption of the Constitution and 1820 is but two hundred and fifty thousand. This number is not included in the above total.

“The character of the immigration has changed in a most interesting way. From 1821 to 1850, two and three-tenths per cent. of our immigration came from Canada and Newfoundland; during the next decade, 1851 to 1860, the percentage was the same, and during the last decade only one-tenth per cent. of the immigrants was from those sections. From 1821 to 1850, twenty-four and two-tenths per cent. came 408 from Germany, and in the next decade thirty-six and six-tenths per cent., this being the highest percentage reached by the Germans. During the last decade the Germans supplied only thirteen and seven-tenths per cent. of our foreign immigration. During the period first named, 1821 to 1850, Great Britain furnished fifteen per cent. of the immigrants, and in the next decade sixteen and three-tenths per cent. Then came a large increase from Great Britain between 1861 and 1870, the percentage being twenty-six and two-tenths; from 1871 to 1880 it was nineteen and five-tenths, while for the last decade it was but seven and four-tenths. From 1821 to 1850 Ireland furnished forty-two and three-tenths per cent. of our immigrants, and between 1851 and 1860 thirty-five and two-tenths per cent. Since then there has been a rapid decrease, and between 1891 and 1900 Ireland furnished but ten and five-tenths per cent. of our immigrants. Those from Norway and Sweden constituted only six-tenths per cent. between 1821 and 1850. The Scandinavians increased in numbers between 1881 and 1890, when their proportion was ten and eight-tenths per cent.; during the last decade it was eight and seven-tenths per cent.

“The immigration from the whole group just named, Canada and Newfoundland, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, and Norway and Sweden, shows a 409 marked relative decrease. While the immigrants from these countries constituted seventy-four and three-tenths per cent. of the whole number of immigrants during the entire period under discussion, they furnished between 1821 and 1850 eighty-four and four-tenths per cent. of the total, and during the next decade ninety-one and two-tenths per cent., since which time there has been a rapid decrease, this group of countries during the last decade furnishing but forty and four-tenths per cent.

“These figures enable us to bring into direct and sharp comparison the immigration from countries that fifty years ago furnished hardly any increment to our population. From 1851 to 1860 Austria-Hungary sent no immigrants to this country, or not enough to make any impression upon the statistics, but between 1861 and 1870 the immigration from that country was four-tenths per cent., during the next decade two and six-tenths per cent., from 1881 to 1890 six and seven-tenths per cent., while during the last decade it was sixteen and one-tenth per cent.

“Italy, beginning with two-tenths per cent. during the period from 1821 to 1850, increased to two per cent. between 1871 and 1880, and to nearly six per cent. during the next decade, while during the last 410 decade that country furnished seventeen and seven-tenths per cent. of our total number.

“The proportions for Russia and Poland are almost identical with those of Italy. Those two countries, taken together, beginning with only one-tenth per cent. of our total number of immigrants between 1821 and 1850, increased but slightly until between 1881 and 1890, when they contributed five per cent., and during the last decade sixteen and three-tenths per cent. These three sections—Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia and Poland—taken together, contributed during the last decade fifty and one-tenth per cent. of our immigrants, as against forty and four-tenths per cent., as stated, for the group of five countries first named; nine and five-tenths per cent. came from elsewhere.

“It is interesting to know how many of the nineteen million one hundred fifteen thousand two hundred and twenty-one immigrants coming to this country since 1821 are now living. The recent census, by its classification of population into native and foreign born, answers the question, and we find that of the total number of immigrants fifty-four and seven-tenths per cent. were living in June, 1900. In 1880 sixty-two per cent. of the whole number of immigrants at that date were living, while in 1850 forty-four and four-tenths per cent. were still in existence.

411 “... The conclusion unfortunately is unavoidable,” says the statistician, “that our immigration is constantly increasing in illiteracy, and the immigrants themselves are showing higher percentage of illiteracy. Nearly one-half of our steerage immigration now presents an illiteracy of from forty to over fifty per cent. Of the three hundred eighty-eight thousand nine hundred and thirty-one steerage aliens who arrived during the year, the following totals are given for the principal countries”:

Southern Italian86,92924,396
Northern Italian16,2024,158

And fifty per cent. of them are illiterate! Shall we let them come? Shall we perhaps teach them to eat rice with the rest of us? Shall we divide our inheritance with them? Shall we remember only that each of them has a vote? The leveling methods of the Age of Transportation, the day of the iron trails, have made possible, and have made imperative, these very questions. Their answer lies in the future, yet perhaps no very distant future. There 412 are not lacking those, and they constantly increase in numbers, who believe that the answer must be the putting up of the bars against all future immigration except of a closely selected sort, and preferably that bred upon this continent. America has eaten overmuch; she may yet assimilate, but she must gorge no more. We can now rear actual Americans enough to feed the world, and to defeat the world when the time shall come for the fatal shock of arms, and under a system of rest and recuperation we may become a united and strong America; while under the system of the past, and the system that now prevails, we must presently become a warring and divided, hence a weakening, land.

Mr. Paul Morton, of the Santa Fé Railroad.

Mr. James J. Hill, of the Great Northern Railroad.

Wm. F. Flynn, in “Forest and Stream.”

Prof. Benjamin F. Terry, of the University of Chicago.

Rev. George C. Lorimer.

Since the above lines were written the following editorial comment appeared in a leading American daily newspaper:

“Almost every nation in the world is sending an increasing number of immigrants to the United States. Last month (April, 1903) the new-comers numbered 126,200, being 30,000 more than for April of 1902. The total for the year may reach 1,000,000, or half the population of Chicago, the second largest city in the country.

“Is so great an influx of foreigners natural or desirable? Many in a condition to know say that immigration is promoted largely by mine-owners and railroad managers, who wish to be kept supplied with cheap labor, and who do not care particularly whence it comes or whether it will be desirable material out of which to make American citizens, or whether its presence may not contribute to social or industrial disorder.

“Many of the great railroad systems approve of unrestricted immigration because it swells their profitable emigrant business. They have their agents in Europe soliciting that kind of business. The greater the number of men and women that can be induced to come to this country and to buy tickets to interior points, the more money the roads make. They offer low ocean and rail rates, which tempt the emigrant and yet are profitable to the roads.

“While some great employers favor unrestricted immigration because it gives them cheap labor, the labor unions may reach the conclusion that for that very reason unrestricted immigration must be harmful to their interests, because it will lead inevitably to a reduction of wages. When the supply of labor is much in excess of the demand the maintenance of a high wage scale becomes impossible.

“While a large percentage of the immigration is unskilled labor, it must be remembered that many unions are composed of men who do that kind of labor. Moreover, some of them will learn trades and increase the number of skilled workers. When times grow dull there will be an excess of workers and wages will go down. The labor organizations belonging to the American Federation of Labor asked the last Congress to bar out illiterate immigrants. The object was to keep down the undesirable cheap labor immigration. The steamship companies, which make money off their steerage passengers and drum up business throughout eastern Europe, and some western railroads which are extending their lines, protested against and defeated the legislation ‘organized labor’ petitioned for. Considering the swelling tide of immigration, much of it of an undesirable nature, the labor leaders probably will ask the next Congress in emphatic language to order the exclusion of illiterates to protect American labor and the high standard of American citizenship.”



The open and abounding West is no more. From California, from all the interior regions of the great dry plains rises the same cry, that the government should take measures to give the people more land; that by means of irrigation it should restore, in some measure at least, the opportunities which allured the men who in the old days followed in the pilgrimage “out West.” This changed and restricted region has problems entirely different from those of the West that was.

Once we wished a population to embrace the opportunities that abounded in the West. Now we wish to increase the opportunities for a population clamoring for a better chance than is offered anywhere in America. It is demanded that the government shall bring about reclamation of the arid lands, and their actual settlement in small tracts. “The political party that shall boldly advocate a great national irrigation appropriation will receive the support of millions of people, now homeless and discontented, who desire homes and an opportunity to make a living by 414 honest labor.” This is the statement of a master in transportation, who has assisted in the importation of hundreds of thousands of these homeless and discontented people into an America too suddenly gone small. He would scarcely care to see our railroads under government control, but he can suggest a method by which the government could be immensely helpful to the Western people, and perhaps to the Western railroads!

In yet another prominent railroad office, the conversation lately turned upon the future of the carrying trade in the West, when another of these captains of transportation swept his hand in a large circle on a map that hung on the wall. Within his circle was included a good portion of Montana and Wyoming, with other parts of the great Western interior. “All this region must go under irrigation,” said he. “It is worthless to-day for farming purposes, but there exists no richer soil when once you get water on it. There is no county or state government, there is not even the richest railroad corporation, that can afford to put this vast acreage under the ditch. It is a problem for the national government of the United States; and, mark my words, that government will one day be obliged to solve that problem. Of course, the interest of our railroad in the matter is purely a business one. 415 We want this country settled up, not by a few scattered grazers, but by many producing farmers. We want this country filled full of small land holders, not that we may carry their products to the East on our railway, but so that we may carry them west to the Pacific, and thence across the ocean to the Asiatic market. There must be a new West, and for that West the market must be found in Asia.”

The common carriers, therefore, tell us that our West is now beyond the Pacific; that the East has come into the West; that the Old World has come into the New; that the Latin methods of farming must supplant the Anglo-Saxon ways. Perhaps; but this will take some time. As against the likelihood of any early and sweeping national action in the matter, there remains chiefly the vis inertiæ of mental habit in the American farmer, who hitherto has not been acquainted with the doctrine of irrigation and reclamation. Vast tracts of California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas—large regions in what was once considered the irreclaimable desert of America, go to show that the Western-American can learn irrigation and can successfully carry on farming of that nature; but none the less, for the average American farmer, who has been accustomed to the wide-handed methods of his forefathers, this proposition will carry no immediate appeal.

416 The proof of this latter statement lies in that very emigration into Canada to which attention has been called, and which constitutes one of the most remarkable phenomena ever known in the history of the American West. These dwellers under the Stars and Stripes, these citizens of the land of the free, of the land supposed to offer the greatest extent of human opportunity to-day, are flocking across her borders with the purpose of establishing homes in an alien land, and under a flag from which in a century gone by they made deliberate and forcible desertion!

They want the cheap lands, the wide acres, the great horizon of a West, even if they must find that West in land other than that which bore them! They do not want irrigated land that is worth one hundred dollars an acre, even though there be an unchanging and pleasant climate as an attraction thereto. They prefer a cold, bleak environment, a rude, hard life, with poorer markets, a looser touch with civilization, but with a bolder, a wider and freer individual horizon. There has been nothing in our history more pathetic than this. There has been nothing more cheerlessly disheartening in our history than the thought that we are exchanging thousands of men of this bold and rugged type, men who are willing and able to go out into the savage 417 wilderness and lay it under tribute, for an equal number of thousands of shiftless and unambitious incoming population, who are willing to live on the droppings of the American table.

As to the extent of this American emigration northward into Canada, the figures are great enough to cause consternation in the mind of more than one railroad man, and to set on foot all possible measures of checking the outgoing stream. Within the year 1902 more than fifty thousand American citizens, some say seventy-five, even a hundred thousand, are thought to have taken up homes on the soil of Canada. These American emigrants took with them twenty million dollars out of the banks of Iowa alone. Great syndicates, in part made up of American capitalists and in conjunction with American and Canadian masters of transportation, have undertaken the settlement of large tracts of these cheap Canadian lands.

The settlers of the remoter West, the men from Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and so forth, largely move into Manitoba or other western British provinces. Farther to the east, in what is known as New Ontario under the new railroad industrial policy, an equally determined effort is making to influence American citizens to settle on lands subject to the rigorous climate north of Lake Superior. If only 418 the settler shall come here he may have land at any price he likes, on terms of payment that shall suit himself. In all the large Canadian cities, whether under government countenance or not, there are emigration bureaus. In the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis there are yet other emigration offices, proclaiming as flamboyantly as they ever did for the lands of the United States, the attractions of a home in the far Northwest, across the borders of the United States.

Canada lost one-fifth of her population to the United States. She is regaining much of it to-day, because she still has a West, and we have none. There is systematic, deliberate and highly differentiated effort going on toward the influencing of this American emigration. To offset it we have nothing to offer except the incoming stream of city dwellers from Europe, and the possible policy of national irrigation, subject always to the dubious methods of American politics. Gaze now once more, if you like, on the picture of the old West and of the new!

England fears, and in some portions of Canada that fear is shared, that these Americans will not become good Canadian subjects; that, in short, Canada will become Americanized. Only the years will tell. These great popular movements are matters of individual self-interest. The day of the individual is 419 indeed passing, yet it is not to pass without a fight to the last gasp upon the part of that individual himself. It would lie ill to suggest that the American government has not always properly treated its people, in spite of that vast modern meshwork of monopolies and combinations which has brought about practically an industrial slavery, and has gone so far toward bidding our once free American to hope for freedom no more. Yet the answer as to the patriotism of the American people lies silent before us in the records of the ticket offices of these railways that run from America into Canada.

In a view of the past American transportation methods, and of that natural Monroe doctrine whose basis lies in the abundant natural richness of the environment of the American temperate zone, it is no unbiased prophecy to suggest that this question will eventually be settled, not by the government of the United States, not by the government of England, not by the government of Canada, but by the people themselves. If the transportation of the future shall make Canada and the United States alike, then assuredly the people will attend to the rest, and care not what may be the politics or the government of either the one land or the other. The eventual settlement of the West may mean a country in which there shall be small distinction between Canada and the United States, small distinction between the 420 latter and the more desirable parts of the republic of Mexico on the south. If these questions shall be settled in Washington or Ottawa, it is safe prophecy to believe that it will be in the railroad offices and not the governmental offices of those respective cities. It takes more than politics to suppress the instinct that seeks individual well being. It takes more than politics to prevent water from running down-hill.

The reply to such prophecy or foreboding, or guessing, as one may choose to call it, which has been provided by the government of England, is not apt to take any form different from the ancient policy of England, which after all is military. England is old and is, or presently will be, decadent. Her bigotry is that of age, her unprogressive slowness of change is senile. She has been the great colonizer; and in so far as the development of transportation facilities has brought her colonies closer home to her, it has given England hope—her only hope—that of existing in the future of her robust children. Yet we find the concern of England to-day to be that of securing military touch with all the corners of the world, rather than that of establishing a flexible and durable system of transportation methods that shall make for the individual well-being of all her widely scattered subjects.

421 England, concerned with this American invasion of settlers, is to-day planning a great trans-Canadian road, whose western head shall lie somewhere within striking distance of Asia. “This,” says one commentator, “is England’s answer to Russia and the trans-Siberian railway.” To a humble observer it might seem far safer were England concerned, not so much in answering Russia, as in answering the United States.

The best answer to Russia would be multitudes of farms in Western Canada, which one day we may call Western America. She can make that answer only by learning the methods of the United States. Till in some measure she shall have done so, she can not be safe as against the inroads of the American citizens. She can not restore the level of the waters by the building of railroads with military reasons under them. There may be a time in the history of the North American mid-continent when Canada and the United States will agree that it is better to get along comfortably together than it is to aid a far-off and somewhat mythical government to fight its battles somewhere at the end of military roads.

Our little Western secessionists, our little frontier republics cleaved to the government at Washington as soon as the pathways thereto made such loyalty a possible thing. It is nearer from Quebec and 422 Ottawa to Washington, than it is to London. Patriotism is much a matter of transportation. The faster the ocean steamships, the better the telegraphic communication, the nearer Canada is to England; yet at the same time relatively she grows still nearer to the United States.[66]

Germane to these questions are those that rise as to the opening of additional avenues of industry at the other end of those pathways that stretch out across the Pacific Ocean. In the mad race for the gates of the imperial city of China, America had no real friends at her side. That was the time when the covetous powers of Europe, owners of lands overpopulated and industries overcrowded, conceived that they had at length opportunity to 423 urge quarrel on a weaker land, with the result of a war in which the weaker power would inevitably be obliged to pay the penalty of unsuccessful resort to arms. England and Germany wished to do what England had been doing in South Africa and elsewhere for some time. They wanted a quarrel and a war, therefore a dismemberment and a division. Water transportation is cheap. The coal and iron of China lie close to water transportation. It had excellently well served the designs of England and Germany to parcel out this land, so full of raw material fit for manufacturing purposes. It had excellently well suited the powers to wipe the barbarians off the map, as has been done in so many South Asiatic and South African transactions of a similar nature. The secret of the Christian indignation at the barbarity of the heathen Chinese is none too much a secret in the frank vision of commercial desire.

The part of America in this game was well played. It is too late now to cry out for an America for Americans. We have squandered our substance, wasted our heritage, played the spendthrift royally as we might. Now it is too late. We may shut our gates on the East, but we must some time take our part in the great game of going abroad in the West. We have not yet felt that time to be near at hand; 424 but it was splendid statesmanship on the part of America that kept China intact for yet a while, and got the armies off her soil.

The blandishments of England and Germany ought not to appeal to America. There is no nation that loves us unselfishly, or that would aid us unselfishly were we in need of help;[67] but if it shall one day come to the last bitter game among the nations, there will be none then so well equipped as we. We shall not need to call for aid. An English journal deems it “crude vulgarity” for the United States to think of wresting the maritime supremacy from Great Britain. It may be such, though we are not sure. It was perhaps crude vulgarity when we took America from Great Britain, when we took for ourselves a country so full of natural wealth, a country so perfect for the upbuilding of an aggressive and self-reliant national character. It might be crude vulgarity if we took this whole American continent as our own. Let us hope that this same character may still abide with us when we find need for the farther crude vulgarity of going abroad into the world. That we are meantime going abroad is without question true; not at the direction of our “leaders,” not by 425 reason of our politics, but by reason of our transportation.

The South, always the leader into the West, exclaims politically against the look toward Asia. It is but politics. The Tennessee troops fought well in the Philippines. Not all the world can stop us from thus going abroad. Whether we shall come home again at a later date remains yet to be seen. Whether we shall then have left a home worth the name remains yet to be proved.

Such are some of the localities and situations into which our trails have nationally led us; such some of the problems into which our vaunted Age of Transportation is carrying us. There are new equations, new questions, new problems constantly confronting us with an ever growing urgency. It is not in any wise certain that a dispassionate study of this nature can leave us with a national vanity wholly untouched. It is not altogether sure that the conclusions framed upon our chosen premises, inevitable as they are, can leave the student wholly convinced of either our universal success or our universal happiness.

Yet we shall do best to dismiss forebodings, and to cling, as still we may, to the faith and hope that was part of the American birthright. Indeed, we find it difficult to study even our grim 426 columns of figures, our unimaginative records of events, without still retaining the curious and awesome feeling that heretofore the settlement of the American West, the birth and growth of the American man, has been a matter of fate, of destiny. There seemed to be a mighty west-bound tide of humanity of which we were but spectators, if indeed we were not part of the tide’s burden of hurried flotsam, carried forward without plan or aim or purpose.

We go on apparently still without plan, apparently still borne forward in a throng resistless as of yore. Perhaps in the forefront of our ranks we carry trump of Jericho for other lands; if not in the bugle note of our armies, at least in the humming of our commerce. Let us hope that we do not invite a trumpet call at our own walls.

A million dead men are forgotten. Our wars are as nothing. But a million live men, taken up bodily from one environment, and set down bodily in another environment in any antipodal quarter of the world—that means history; that spells questions in forethought; that bids rise an American statesmanship big and honest, not selfish, not corrupt, and not afraid! These questions are such as must be approached wholly without reference to party or to politics.

It has been hitherto in America not so much a 427 question of politics as of roads; but now the roads are builded that shall lead us to our City of Desire or to our Castle of Despair. Steam will establish our doctrines and our tariffs. But steam has no soul. To it, our flap-hatted frontiersman, our new-American, our product of a noble and unparalleled evolution, is but the same as the wrinkled-booted foreigner that puts down his black box in the middle of a Dakota prairie or in the heart of a crowded Eastern city. Steam has no care for the real glory of our flag. It cares naught for character. It does not love humanity. In it dwells no ancient love for the history of an America which at least might once have been dear to the heart of all humanity. Steam is an equalizer. It breaks down the lines between nations. It makes America like unto Europe, causing us to change to meet the changes of the Old World. If we be not careful we shall see going forward that equalizing of humanity that is brutalizing. And then in the good time of the ages we shall see cataclysm, revolution, change.

Whatever the product of that change after the revolutions that are yet to be, no man of all the future will ever again behold a land like that American West which is now no more. That was indeed a land rich in the bounty of nature, rich in opportunity for humanity. It was a land where 428 a man could indeed be a man; where indeed he might live honestly and cleanly and nobly, unshrinking from his fate, unfearing for his own survival, helpful to his neighbor, independent as to himself.

Now we have seen our old rider going far, our flap-hatted man, the fearless one. He has strange company to-day, at home and abroad. In all reverence, let us hope that God may prosper him! In all reverence, let us hope that there may never arise from the great and understanding soul of any leader of this country that sad and bitter cry, “Give me back my Americans!”

Canada does not lack a fearless view in some of these matters. In 1902 a prominent journal of Halifax, N. S., boldly compared British and American institutions: “Had our forefathers thrown in their lot with the other American colonies at the time of the Revolution,” says this journal editorially, “Nova Scotia would now be a greater Massachusetts. The Dominion of Canada would have five-fold its wealth and population.” Per contra, American emigrants face some facts which to-day are not wholly satisfactory. Taxation in Canada in 1901 was $10 per capita, and but $7.50 per capita in the United States. To-day the debt of the Dominion is $66 per capita, whereas that of the United States figures but $14.52. In proportion to population, Canada has twice as much foreign trade as the United States; yet much of her foreign trade is with the United States. The Dominion of Canada clings still to the mother country, but in these modern days, the lines between states and provinces and governments become annually more faint. Life bases itself upon the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. The interdependence of a mutual self interest makes the strongest bonds between peoples, between governments, or between government and people.

Unless it might perhaps be the republic, France, from whom took the difficult doctrine that all men are “free and equal.”


Abbott, J. S. C.: 158, 162-3, 224, 236.

Abenakis: 22.

Adams, Josiah: opinion on admission of Louisiana as a state, 61-2.

Alabama: few whites there in 1800, 46;
  part included in Free State of Franklin, 125.

Alamo, The: no messengers of defeat, 149;
  Travis hemmed in, 177;
  battle of, 179.

Alamo baby”: 180.

Alarcon: 328.

Alaska: 387.

Alexander, Colonel: defeats Crockett for Congress, 165.

Allegheny mountains: barrier formed by, 48.

America: her debt to her early explorers, 74;
  population of, 221;
  gets her territory first, 372;
  potentially most powerful of all world powers, 375;
  utterly changed from original America, 398;
  a look into the future, 424-428.

American, The: his birth, 103.

American frontiersmen: dress of, 18.

American Fur Company: first steamboat, 188;
  gets posts of Northwest Company, 197;
  beginning of, 329.

Appalachians: first trails were waterways, 39.

Archer, of Virginia: 177.

Armijo, Governor: 242.

Armstrong, Lieutenant-Governor: 169.

Asenesipia: 69, 124.

Ashley, General: goes up the Platte, 294;
  takes cannon through South Pass, 328;
  undertakes exploration of Green River, 336-7.

Astor, John Jacob: 289;
  expedition to Astoria, 329-333.

Astoria: 329.

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé Railroad: 270.

Austin, Stephen A.: 173.

Austin: 177.

Austria-Hungary: emigration to the United States, 409-410.

Ax, The American: description and uses, 7-10.

Bacon, quotation from: 388.

Baird, J. M.: 268.

Baird, McKnight & Chambers: 268-271.

Baker and Company, I. G.: 210.

Balance of trade: 393.

Baltimore: 45, 168.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co. organized: 349.

Bank examiner: distance traveled by one, 208.

Batts, Thomas: 101.

Beale, Lieutenant: 250.

Bear, black: 163.

Beaver, skin: price of, 190.

Becknell, William: 270-272.

Bee Hunter, The: 176, 181.

Benton, Thomas: 300.

Benton, Fort: 209.

Bering Sea: 387.

Berkeley, Bishop: 38.

Bicknell, William: 270.

Big Men: America rich in, 126-7.

Birch-bark: absence of in Montana, 197.

Birch-bark canoe: description of, 19-24.

Blackfeet, The: 341-2.

Blue Ridge mountains: barrier formed by, 48.

Boarding: cost of in the West, 215.

Boat, The American: description of, 19-24.

Bob, Col. R. E.: foot-note, 164.

Bodley, Thomas: 79.

Bonneville, Captain: 312-315, 329.

Boone, Daniel: 45;
  leaves Society of Friends, 77;
  moves from Bucks county, 77-8;
  brothers-in-law, 79;
  marriage, 80;
  called Luther of frontiering, 88;
  personality, 89-90;
  personal description, 91-94;
  birth, 94;
  second marriage, 95;
  with Braddock as a wagoner, 96;
  determines to explore Kentucky, 98;
  where is his fame as an explorer, 102;
  departure from the Yadkin settlement for the West, 103;
  left alone in the wilderness, 105;
  moves family to Kentucky, 107;
  undertakes discovery of surveyors, 107-8;
  lays out road from the Holston to the Kentucky, 108;
  knowledge of woodcraft, 109;
  capture of his daughter by the Indians, 110;
  captured by Indians and taken to Detroit, 111;
  life saved by Kenton, 114-15;
  adventure with two Indians, 115-16;
  leaves Kentucky, 116;
  granted a commission by Spanish governor of Louisiana, 117;
  land taken from him by the government, 117;
  date of death, 118;
  his late years, 118-19;
  his body and that of his wife moved to Kentucky, 120;
  compared with Davy Crockett, 145-6.

Boone, Squire: 104;
  family moves to Kentucky, 106;
  death, 113.

Boonesborough: 42, 99;
  founding of, 108;
  saved by Boone, 111-112.

Bore, in rifle: 13.

Bowie, James: 177.

Braddock: 96.

Brandywine, battle of: 82.

Brant, Mohawk chief: 48.

Bread riot: 216-218.

Bridger, Fort: 295-6.

Bridger, Jim: 295-6.

Britain, ancient: 36.

Broadwater, Colonel Charles A.: 210.

Bryan, James: 79.

Bryan, Morgan: 79-80.

Bryan, Rebecca: 80, 95.

Bryan, William: 79.

Bryant’s Station, fight at: 113.

Buchanan, Mrs. Sally: 56.

Buena Ventura: 243.

Buffaloes: first seen by Boone, 103.

Bullboats”: 197.

Bullitt’s Lick: 65.

Burro: price of, 203.

Caches” of Baird and Chambers: 269.

Cahokia: 45.

Calico: price of, 190.

California: discovery of gold in, 200;
  density of population in 1870, 220;
  discovery of gold, and its effect on the West, 381-385.

Callison, Susannah: 82.

Calloway family: 110.

Canada: emigration to, and cause, 391;
  emigration to the United States 1821-1850, 407;
  emigration to, 416-418;
  will it be Americanized, 418-422.

Canal, Washington’s: 67.

Cañon of the Colorado: 231, 328.

Canot du Maître: 23.

Canot du Nord: 22, 195, 197.

Caravan trade: its extent, 281;
  goods carried, 282;
  carried on by Southern-Western men, 282.

Cardenas: 328.

Carolina: 47; rallying ground for adventures, 88.

Carolina, North: its relations with the Washington District, 128;
  annexes Watauga, 131;
  gives Washington District to the United States, 132;
  repeals act of cession of Washington District, 133;
  appoints officers for state of Franklin, 137.

Carson, Kit: grandson of Daniel Boone, 120;
  birth, 223;
  description, 225;
  dress and equipment, 227;
  greatest of American travelers, 228;
  dispute concerning birth place, 228;
  boyhood days, 229;
  wanderings from 1826 to 1834, 229-238;
  first marriage, 239;
  hunter for Bent’s Fort, 1834-1842, 239-240;
  guide for first Frémont expedition, 241;
  second marriage, 242;
  guide for second Frémont expedition, 242-245;
  guide for Frémont a third time, 247-9;
  messenger to Washington three times, 249, 250, 251;
  appointed lieutenant in the U. S. A., 251;
  expedition with eighteen old friends, 254;
  sheep drive to California, 255;
  Indian agent and counselor, 257;
  death, 258.

Carter, John: 128.

Castrillon: Mexican general, 180.

Caucasian population: largest is that of America, 374.

Cavalier: 37, 53, 75.

Census: second of the U. S., 45.

Center of population in 1860: 220.

Central Pacific Railroad: 209.

Chambers, Baird and McKnight: 268-271.

Champlain: 265.

Cherokees: 54; League with Spain, 59.

Cherronesus: 69, 124.

Chicago: a city of transportation, 364.

Chicasas: 140.

China: struggle of the nations for its commerce, 422-424.

Chittenden: 337.

Choctaws: 140.

Chouteau: 266, 338.

Church: first in the West, 126.

Civil government: first written compact of, 130.

Civil War, The: causes and results, 354.

Clark: 71, 287.

Cleveland: founded, 70.

Cleveland, Moses: 70.

Coahuila: 174.

Coal oil: price of, 214.

Coast Indians: 331.

Cocke, General William: 134.

College: first in the West, 126.

Colorado, Grand Cañon of: 231, 328.

Colter, John: 335.

Commerce, Western: 191.

Commerce of the Prairies, The”: 268.

Commercial West: its beginning, 65-6.

Congress: sells land to Ohio Land Company, 41;
  proposes to sell vacant lands, 132;
  does not recognize independence of Franklin, 137.

Coureurs du bois: 194.

Coole, William: 103.

Cooley, William: 103.

Cooper, Braxton: 271.

Cooper, Fennimore: 45.

Corn: price of in early days, 189.

Coronado: 339.

Cost of living: greater to-day than in 1899, 392.

Courts: follow swiftly into Kentucky, 112.

Crittenden: orator at Boone’s burial in Kentucky, 120.

Creek War: 154.

Crockett, Davy: 145;
  compared with Boone, 145-4;
  his rapid change after going to Congress, 147;
  birth, 149;
  leaves home, 151;
  works for his freedom, 152;
  goes to school, 153;
  marriage, 153;
  moves toward the West, 153-4;
  serves in the Creek War, 154-5;
  wife dies and he marries a second time, 156;
  elected to the legislature, 157;
  moves to the Mississippi, 157;
  electioneering stories, 159-163;
  skill as a bear hunter, 163-4;
  defeated by Alexander for Congress, 165;
  elected to Congress, 166;
  changes from bear hunter to politician, 166-7;
  opposes Jackson, 167;
  motto, 167;
  makes a trip through the North and East, 168-9;
  result of northern trip, 169;
  open animosity toward Jackson, 170;
  his experience with the political machine, 171-2;
  determines to move to Texas, 172;
  “autobiography,” 175;
  route of journey to Texas, 176;
  accuses Houston, 178;
  death, 180;
  alleged diary, 181.

Crockett, John: 150;
  opens a tavern, 151.

Crooks: 333.

Cutler, Manasseh: 41.

Cutthroat: sign for, 195.

Danger of a stage trip: 213.

Dark and Bloody Ground,” The: 114.

Davis, Cushman K.: 361.

Day: 333.

Dechard: 13.

Dechert: 13.

De Munn: 266.

Dequelo, The: 179.

Detroit: 111.

Development of the West: influenced by difficult route of entry, 49-50.

Diamond hitch”: 205.

Diamond R” Transportation Company, The: 210.

Difficulties of Western travel: 212.

Doan, Reverend Samuel: 131.

Dogs: use of in packing, 196.

Donelson, Rachel: 55.

Doylestown, Pennsylvania: 385.

Drake, Joseph: 100.

Dress of American frontiersmen: 18.

Driving the nail”: 16.

Dugout, The: 23.

East, The: occupies Western territory the South opens, 189.

Easterner, The: his idea of the Westerner, 67.

Ely, Warren S.: 76.

Emigration to Canada: cause, 391, 416-418.

Empire, Westward the course of, takes its way: 38.

England: 61, 72;
  transfers trading posts to United States, 196;
  fears Canada will be Americanized, 418-422;
  answer to Russia, 421;
  wished division of China, 423.

Europe: must combat the West, 373.

Expansion, geographical: how it proceeds, 46.

Explorations by men of Kentucky and Tennessee: 43-44.

Fannin: 177.

Fare, from Atchison to Helena: 214.

Farms: not wanted West of the Mississippi, 193.

Father of the Santa Fé trail”: 272.

Fergusons, The: 79.

Finley, Alexander: 79.

Finley, Archibald: 79.

Finley, Henry: 79.

Finley, John: 79, 81;
  president of Log College, 85;
  traded with Indians on Red River, 99;
  on the Ohio River, 101;
  goes West with Boone, 103.

Finley family, members of: 79.

Fitch, John: 385-6.

Fitzpatrick, noted fur trader: 233.

Flack, Ann (Baxter): 81.

Flack, Benjamin: 82.

Flack, James: 81.

Flack, William: birth, 81;
  marriage, 82.

Flack, W. W.: 81.

Flat-boat: its use carried men away from the East, 66.

Flour, price of: 215.

Forbes, John Murray: 368.

Fowler, Jacob: 271.

France: 61, 72;
  cedes trading posts to England, 196.

Frankfort, Kentucky: Boone erects palisades near present site of, 108;
  Boone buried here, 120.

Frankland: 134.

Franklin, Benjamin: 134.

Franklin, Free State of: beginnings of, 124-5;
  legal tender in, 135;
  salaries of officers, 136;
  clings to standards of North Carolina, 136;
  ceases to exist, 138;
  looked southward for an alliance, 139.

Free State of Franklin: 124-5.

Freight rates: comparative costs in Europe and America, 390.

Frémont: 224;
  first expedition, 241;
  second expedition, 242-245;
  hunts a more direct trail to California, 247-9;
  last expedition, 257-8;
  shall he share honors with Carson, 312.

Frémont, Jessie Benton: 251.

French, The: 47-8;
  expedition of 1735, 101.

Friends, Society of: 77.

Frontier, Western: question of gradually solves itself, 141-2;
  in 1810, 185.

Frontiersman, American: outline of his westward progress, 87.

Fur trade: its home in the West, 194;
  end of, 200;
  end of the beginning of a new day, foot-note, 238.

Fur trade, The American”: 337.

Fur-traders: find a way to the Rockies, 186;
  many in the trans-Missouri before 1840, 339.

Garces, Father: 327.

Gardoquoi: Spanish minister, 139, 140.

Geography, a lost art: 260.

Georgia: few whites there in 1800, 46;
  part included in Free State of Franklin, 125;
  refuses to interfere in North Carolina-Franklin controversy, 137-8;
  sells a portion of its territory, 140.

Germans, The: 76.

Germany: emigration from to the United States, 408;
  wished division of China, 423.

Gibson House, Helena: 216.

Gillespie, Lieutenant: 248.

Girty: 113.

Gist, Christopher: 98, 101.

Glenn, Hugh: 271.

Gold: discovery of in California and its effect on the West, 200, 381-383.

Governor of Louisiana: grants Daniel Boone a commission, 117.

Grape vine: use of by Daniel Boone, 106.

Great Britain: arms savages below the Great Lakes, 110;
  emigration to the United States, 408.

Great Meadows: 96.

Green River: exploration of by Ashley and Henry, 336.

Greenbacks: value of in the West, 214.

Greene, Jonathan H.: 176.

Gregg, Josiah: 268, 275, 326.

Hall, Fort: 289.

Hall, John: 128.

Hamilton: commandant of Detroit, 111.

Harrington”: 176.

Harris, Ann: 79.

Harris, Hannah: 78.

Harrod, James: 99.

Harrodsburg: 42, 99.

Harvard College: 169.

Hawkins, Joseph: 150.

Helplessness of trapper without a horse: 28.

Henderson, Colonel: 108.

Henry, Fort: 332, 334.

Henry, Major Andrew: builds Fort Henry, 334;
  undertakes exploration of Green River, 336.

Hill, James J.: 390.

Holden, Joseph: 103.

Horse, The American: aid r=endered Western explorer, 25-31.

Horse stealing: a serious crime, 28.

Houston, Sam: 174, 177.

Howard, John: 101.

Howe, Henry: 352.

Huger, Isaac: 140.

Hunt: 333.

Hunt, Wilson Price: 294.

Hunter, John D.: 340.

Hunter, Mary: 78.

Hynds, Alexander: 130.

Illinois Central Railroad: 369-371.

Illinois, Governor of: 189.

Immigration: caused by Civil War, 356;
  its effect on the West, 357;
  an argument against unrestricted immigration, 401-412;
  restriction contemplated by Great Britain, 404;
  statistics for, 407-411.

Independence: starting point of Santa Fé trail, 276.

Indians: could not occupy trans-Alleghany ground, 49.

Individual, The: losing his grip in America to-day, 399.

Industrial revolution of the West: 355.

Ingles, Mary Draper: 99.

Inman: 270.

Iroquois, The: trafficked with the English, 43;
  allied with New York, 47.

Irrigation of the West: 413-416.

Italy: emigration to the United States, 409, 410.

Jackson, General Andrew: 55;
  serves in Creek War, 154;
  opposed by Crockett, 167;
  denounced by Crockett, 170;
  favors annexation of Texas, 178;
  opposed by Crockett because of veto for Maysville road, 183.

Jamison, Robert: 79.

Jefferson, Thomas: 68, 300.

Jews, Russian: 405.

Johnston, General Albert Sidney: 298.

Johnson, Sir William: Indian agent, 48;
  foot-note, 83.

Jonesboro, meeting at: 133;
  courts held at by Franklin, 137.

Joy, James F.: 367.

Kaskaskia: 45; visited by General Lafayette, 189.

Kearney, General: 249.

Keel-boat, The: 185.

Kenton, Simon: 114.

Kentucky: fights for a highway over the Appalachians, 41;
  occupied by dangerous Indian tribes, 43;
  outpost of civilization, 50;
  saved to the Union, 58;
  pioneers of, 80;
  by whom settled, 88;
  explored by Salling and Walker, 98;
  recapitulation of explorations, 100-101;
  separated from Virginia and set up as a state, 116;
  pays debt to Daniel Boone and his wife, 120;
  part included in Free State of Franklin, 125.

Kentucky settlements: 58.

Kephart, Horace: 44.

Kin Cade: 230.

Kincaid: 229.

Kootenai trail, The: 341.

Labor unions: 399.

Lafayette, General: 189.

Lafitte: 173.

Lajeunesse Basil: 241, 248.

La Lande: 263.

Langford, N. P.: 134, 140, 210.

Laramie, Fort: 295.

Law: position of the West in regard to, 127-128.

Leatherstocking Tales”: 45.

Lederer, John: 101.

Lee, Captain U. S. A.: 236.

Lee’s army: 215.

Lewis, Meriwether: 76.

Lewis and Clark: 71, 287.

Linseed oil: price of in Montana, 214.

Liza, Manuel: 335.

Log College: 85.

Long, Major: report of his Platte expedition, 193;
  seeks the Red River, 287.

Long Hunters”: 100.

Louis the Grand Monarch: 194.

Louisiana: settled after Canada, 46;
  evils likely to arise from its incorporation into the Union, 63;
  dispute with Spain over Sabine as boundary of, 173.

Louisiana Purchase: 60-61;
  significance of, 61.

Luther, Martin: 88.

McBride, James: 100.

McComb, H. S.: 371.

McCullough, John: 101.

McGary fight: 113.

McKee: 113.

Mackenzie: 333.

Mackinaw boats: 198.

McKnight, John: 271.

McKnight, Robert: 230.

McKnight, Baird and Chambers: 268-271.

McLaughlin, Doctor: 324.

McLellan: 333.

Malgres: 266.

Mallet brothers, The: 263.

Man, The West-bound American: 51.

Mansco, Kasper: 99.

Mansker, Kasper: 99.

Maritime supremacy: struggle for, with Great Britain, 424.

Markets of the world: a struggle for to-day, 388.

Martin, Governor of North Carolina: 136-137.

Martin Academy: 132.

Maryland Canal: 348.

Massachusetts: part played in the development of the West, 347.

Mayflower,” The: 42.

Maxwell: establishes ranch with Carson, 253.

Maysville road: bill for, 183.

Merriwether: 267.

Metropotamia: 69.

Mexican capital: in western trade, 274.

Michigan, Lake: 188.

Militia, The Pennsylvania: 96.

Mills: improvement of rifle by, 13.

Minneapolis: emigration offices in, 418.

Mississippi: few whites there in 1800, 46.

Mississippi Territory”: 70.

Mississippi River: why explored from the North, 46;
  control of secured, 60;
  little understood by statesmen a hundred years ago, 61;
  as a boundary of civilization, 68;
  a boundary of states in “Ordinance of Northwest,” 68;
  descended by John McCullough, 101;
  first explorers, 73.

Missouri: becomes outpost of civilization, 50;
  first steamboat on, 188.

Missouri Fur Company: 197.

Monay, James: 103.

Montana, routes to: 211.

Montana Post”: 210.

Mooney, James: 103.

Morgan, Colonel George: foot-note, 82-83.

Morgan, J. Pierpont: 369.

Mormons, The: 296.

Morrison, William: merchant of Kaskaskia, 282, 335.

Morton, Paul: 388.

Mother of the West: 40.

Moultrie, Alexander: 140.

Murphy wagons: 211.

Murray, John Dormer: 78.

Napoleon Bonaparte: 61, 212.

Nashville, Tennessee: settlement, 54-57;
  in touch with the Ohio River, 58.

National road: 64, 183.

Neeley, Alexander: 104.

Neshaminy Church: 85.

New England: not the mother of the West, 39;
  realization of the West, 40;
  character of population compared to that of western Pennsylvania, 44;
  explanation of her part in discovery of the West, 44;
  chances in favor of it in western movement, 49;
  gives a cordial reception to Crockett, 169.

Newfoundland: emigration to the United States, 407.

New Madrid earthquakes: 157.

New Orleans: easy to reach from Kentucky, 58;
  visited by John McCullough, 101;
  the steamer, 187.

New Purchase”: 156.

Newspaper: first in the West, 126.

New York, parent of the West: 40;
  her policy toward the Indians, 47;
  spared by Six Nations, 47;
  influence with Indians due to Sir William Johnson, 48;
  gains lands from the Iroquois, 48;
  chances in favor of it in westward movement, 49.

Nicollet: 265.

North, The: occupies Western territory;
  the South opens, 189.

North Carolina: men from, built Harrodsburg and Boonesborough, 42.

Northern Pacific Railway, The: 365.

Northwest, The: its rapid settlement to-day, 299.

Northwest Company: extends posts along our Northern border, 196;
  rival of Hudson Bay Company, 329.

Northwestern Company, The: 333.

Northwest Territory, The: 124.

Norway: emigration to the United States, 408.

Occupation of the West: a study of transportation, 36.

Ohio: receives first population from New England, 70.

Ohio Land Company”: 41.

Ohio River: known in early days, 38;
  center of population on, 220.

Ojibways: 22.

Old Betsy”: 168.

Ordinance of the Northwest”: 68.

Oregon: density of population in 1870, 220;
  should extend to Alaska, 289-290.

Oregon trail: greatest of all American roads, 262;
  early need for, 289;
  early makers, 291;
  its beginning, 293;
  early adventurers along, 294;
  a second stage begins, 297;
  first agricultural invasion along, 298;
  distance and direction, 305-310.

Oregon Trail,” Parkman’s: 303.

Osborn, William Henry: 368-372.

Oxen: used as pack animals, 206.

Pacific: first man to reach it by land trail, 318.

Pacific Fur Company: 197.

Pacific railway: delayed by the Civil War, 354.

Pack horse: 202.

Packing, flexibility of charges for: 204.

Paine, Justice of Wisconsin: 377.

Panniers: 30.

Parkman, Francis: 275, 300-304.

Pastimes of frontiersmen: 16.

Pathfinder, The Great: 224.

Pawnees, The: wear Spanish medals, 338.

Pax Jacksonii: 178.

Pelesipia: 69, 124.

Penn, William: 76.

Pennsylvania: starting point of the westward movement, 13;
  chances against it in westward movement, 49;
  first trail from, 73;
  migrations from in last half of eighteenth century, 77.

Peters, Doctor: 228.

Petition of Robertson and Sevier’s men: 59.

Phenicia: 36.

Philadelphia: 76, 168.

Phillibert: 266-7.

Physical strength: its importance in the West, 192.

Piano taken to a mining camp: 204.

Pike, Lieutenant Zebulon: marches to the Colorado, 71;
  theory of straight lines, 262;
  seeks headwaters of Red River, 264;
  opposed by the Spaniards, 266;
  selects route of Santa Fé trail, 270;
  mistakes Rio Grande for Red River, 287;
  journeys of, 337-339.

Pioneers of Kentucky: 80.

Pirate, The: 176, 181.

Plains, Indians: 340.

Platt River: ancient road of the Indians, 293.

Poland: emigration to the United States, 410.

Polk, Colonel: 159.

Population: center of in 1860, 220;
  of America, 221.

Post, The: 215-216.

Potatoes: price of in San Juan mining camp in 1875, 203;
  in Montana, 215;
  in Chicago in 1902, 393.

Powell, Major: 336.

Prices: high in the Rockies, 203;
  in Virginia City, Montana, 214-216.

Princeton: 85, 131.

Proceedings of Sundry Citizens of Baltimore”: 349.

Prosperity: a false condition of to-day, 395-401.

Protestant, The: 53.

Purcell, James: 263.

Puritans: 42-3.

Putnam, Rufus: 41.

Quakers: 53; stem of pioneer stock, 76;
  find homes west of the Alleghanies, 77.

Quicksilver: hard to pack in the mountains, 205.

Railroads: wooden-railed road from Chicago to Galena, 346;
  idea of Philip Evans Thomas, 348-9;
  routes suggested to the Pacific, 351-2;
  prophecy of what a road to the Pacific would do, 353;
  to the Pacific delayed by Civil War, 354;
  part played by them in the development of the West, 362-367;
  changes wrought by them, 385;
  their growth in America, 386;
  formerly owned largely outside the U. S., 389;
  an overgrowth to-day, 391;
  will settle future of the West, 420.

Ramsey: 134.

Receipt-book of William Flack: 81.

Red River carts: 345.

Reed: 333.

Remember the Alamo”: 182.

Rifle, The American: description, 11-18.

Rio Grande: 173.

Robertson: rebellion of his men against Washington, 59;
  formulates first written compact of civil government, 130.

Robertson, Charles: 128.

Robertson, James: 53-4.

Rocky Mountain Fur Company: 197.

Roosevelt, Mr.: of New York, 187.

Roundhead: 37.

Routes suggested to the Pacific: 351-2.

Routes to Montana: 211.

Rush: 177.

Russia: emigration to the U. S., 410;
  England’s answer to, 421.

Sabine River: 173.

St. Clair: defeat of, 114.

St. Louis: became great by reason of her situation, 51;
  depot for fur trade, 70;
  a city of location, 364.

St. Paul: emigration offices in, 418.

St. Vrain, Colonel: 257.

Salem Presbyterian Church: 131.

Salling, John Peter: 98-9, 101.

Salt: its importance in early days, 100.

San Antonio: Texans at, 175;
  Crockett inside the gates of, 177.

San Francisco: 256.

San Jacinto: 182.

Santa Anna: marches on San Antonio, 174;
  his peons march toward the Alamo, 179.

Santa Fé railway: 279-280.

Santa Fé Trail, Old”: 270.

Santa Fé trail: not a transcontinental trail, 262;
  extent of, 276;
  distances and directions of, 276-280;
  a fate finger pointing to Mexico, 285.

Saw Buck,” The: 30.

School-building: first one in Tennessee, 131.

Scotch-Irish: stem of pioneer stock, 76.

Scott, General: 114.

Secession: position of the West in regard to, in early days, 123-4.

Settlement: advanced toward the Mississippi in the shape of a wedge, 45.

Sevier, John: rebellion of his men against Washington, 59;
  honored by Tennessee, 125;
  friend of Washington, 128;
  a member of the North Carolina legislature, 128-9;
  formulates first written compact of civil government, 130;
  part taken in annexation of Watauga to North Carolina, 131;
  presides at Jonesboro meeting, 133;
  elected governor, 134;
  arrested on charge of treason, 138;
  elected to Congress, 138.

Sevier and Robertson: riflemen of, 58.

Shakes,” The: 157.

Shawnee Indians capture Daniel Boone: 111.

Shelby, Captain Evan: 128.

Shenandoah—Kentucky stock: 73.

Shiells, Dr. Hugh: 79.

Shiells, Kitty: 79.

Sierra Nevada mountains: 243-4.

Sioux Indians, The: 195.

Six Nations: 47.

Skaggs, Henry: 101.

Smet, Father de: 297.

Smith, Henry: 174.

Smith, James: 101.

Smith, Jedediah: meets his fate on Sante Fé trail, 273;
  goes to the Pacific by land trail, 318-327.

Snipes, Major William: 140.

Snuffing the candle”: 16.

Socialism: captains of industry likely to cause the spread of, 398.

Society of Friends”: records of, 77.

South, The: mother of the West, 40;
  opens Western territory, 189;
  is to-day American, 356;
  little understood, 366.

South Seas, The”: 129.

Southern Pacific Railway, The: 365.

Southern riflemen: their skill, 14.

Spain: league with the Cherokees, 59;
  claims portion of Georgia, 140;
  claims Sabine as a boundary, 173.

Spaniards: result of letting their horses struggle over the plain, 27;
  interfere with Jedediah Smith, 321.

Spencer, Judge: 138.

Stage lines: 207.

Stage trip: description of, 213.

Star of empire: 38.

Steam, era of: causes great change in America, 362.

Steamboat: first one built on the Ohio River, 187;
  run regularly on western rivers, 201.

Steiner, Michael: 99, 108.

Stewart, John: 103;
  killed by Indians, 104.

Stewart, William: 78.

Stone, Uriah: 101.

Stoner, Michael: 99, 108.

Streams: their appeal to explorers, 292.

Strode, Martha: 80.

Stuart, John: 103.

Stuart, Robert: 294.

Sturges, Jonathan: 369, 370.

Sublette, William: 295.

Sugar: price of in running camps, 203.

Sumpter mule: 202.

Supplies: how received by outlying posts, 198;
  taken to Montana mining camps, 211.

Sweden: emigration to the United States, 408.

Sylvania: 69.

Taylor, Colonel: foot-note, 83.

Tennessee: saved to the Union, 58;
  by whom peopled, 88;
  part included in Free State of Franklin, 125;
  honors John Sevier, 125;
  early form of government, 130;
  first literary institution in, 131.

Tennent: 85.

Texans: harass western commerce, 273.

Texas: size, 172;
  population, 174;
  declared independent, 174;
  situation in after declaration of independence, 177.

Thermopylæ: 149.

Thimblerig: 176, 181.

Thomas, Philip Evans: 347-349.

Thorne, captain of the Tonquin: 330-331.

Timber lands: being abandoned, 375.

Tonquin: ship of Astor, 330-331.

Trade, caravan: its extent, 281;
  goods carried, 282;
  carried on by southern-western men, 282.

Trail: the Iroquois, 47;
  the Santa Fé, 260;
  the Oregon, 287.

Tramell, Colonel: 230.

Transportation: in its infancy, 64;
  difficulty of, leads to attempts of secession, 124;
  its importance in early days, 191;
  means employed in early times, 328.

Transylvania University: 79.

Travel: difficulties of in the West, 212.

Travis: 177.

Travois, The: 196.

Tucker, Benjamin: 41.

Two Medicine: The valley of, 341.

Ulster, Ireland: 84.

Ulster Scots: 83-86.

Union Pacific Railroad: 209, 365.

Van Buren: 183.

Verendrye, Sieur de la: explores the West in 1742, 265;
  one of the first to tread the Oregon trail, 294.

Victoria Cross: 115.

Villard, Henry: 368.

Virginia City, Montana: market reports, 214.

Virginia: noted as a breeding ground for horses, 26;
  men from built Harrodsburg and Boonesborough, 42;
  part included in Free State of Franklin, 125.

Virginia, West: part included in Free State of Franklin, 125.

Von Humboldt, Baron: 287.

Wagon train: description of, 209.

Walker, J. R.: goes to the Pacific, 315-318.

Walker, Doctor Thomas: 98, 101.

Wallace, John: 80.

Wallace, Rev. J. W.: 80.

Washington, George: canal, 67;
  birth, 94;
  defeated at Great Meadows, 96;
  on the Ohio River, 101;
  friend of Sevier, 128, 140.

Washington: authorities at, unable to be firm with France, Spain
  and England, 59.

Washington College: 132.

Washington District: men of offer their services in the Revolution, 128;
  becomes part of North Carolina, 131;
  given to the United States, 132;
  takes steps to establish a government, 133.

Washington, government at: Wilkinson stirs up dissatisfaction against, 141.

Watauga: 130;
  annexed to North Carolina, 131.

Watauga Articles of Association: 130.

Water trail: from Green Bay to the Mississippi, 70.

Wautap”: 20.

Webster, Daniel: 64, 300.

Welsh: 76.

West, The: indebted to southern states for its inhabitants, 184;
  either old or new, 302;
  a prediction of its development, 375-377;
  little difference between it and the East, 379.

West-bound man: The American, 51.

Western man, The: his reliance and development, 67.

Westward movement: starting point, 13;
  compared to flock of wild pigeons, 143;
  one of angles, 144.

Wharton, Samuel: foot-note, 83.

Whartons, The: 177.

Wheat: cost of moving a ton in 1800, 389.

White, James: opinion on future of Louisiana after its purchase, 62.

White people: portion of country inhabited by them in 1800, 45.

Whoa-haw”: 299.

Widow and orphan makers”: rifle so called, 14.

Wilkinson, General James: plans to hand over the West to Spain, 59-60, 124;
  continues his intrigues, 139.

Williams, Bill: guide for Frémont, 258.

Williams, Ezekiel, 294.

Wills of Bucks countians: 80.

Women: two go West along Oregon trail, 297.

Wyeth, Nathaniel J.: 289.

Yazoo: 140.

Yellowstone National Park: 335.

Young, Ewing: 230.

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for a complete catalog.

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for every mood and for every taste.


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  The life story of “Buffalo Bill” by his sister Helen Cody
Wetmore, with Foreword and conclusion by Zane Grey.



Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.


A story of the Royal Mounted Police.


Thrilling adventures in the Far Northland.


The story of a bear-cub and a dog.


The tale of a “quarter-strain wolf and three-quarters husky” torn between the call of the human and his wild mate.


The story of the son of the blind Grey Wolf and the gallant part he played in the lives of a man and a woman.


The story of the King of Beaver Island, a Mormon colony, and his battle with Captain Plum.


A tale of love, Indian vengeance, and a mystery of the North.


A tale of a great fight in the “valley of gold” for a woman.


The story of Fort o’ God, where the wild flavor of the wilderness is blended with the courtly atmosphere of France.


The story of Thor, the big grizzly.


A love story of the Far North.


A thrilling tale of adventure in the Canadian wilderness.


The story of adventure in the Hudson Bay wilds.


Filled with exciting incidents in the land of strong men and women.


A thrilling story of the Far North. The great Photoplay was made from this book.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.


When two strong men clash and the under-dog has Irish blood in his veins—there’s a tale that Kyne can tell! And “the girl” is also very much in evidence.


Donald McKay, son of Hector McKay, millionaire lumber king, falls in love with “Nan of the Sawdust Pile,” a charming girl who has been ostracized by her townsfolk.


The fight of the Cardigans, father and son, to hold the Valley of the Giants against treachery. The reader finishes with a sense of having lived with big men and women in a big country.


The story of old Cappy Ricks and of Matt Peasley, the boy he tried to break because he knew the acid test was good for his soul.


In a little Jim Crow Republic in Central America, a man and a woman, hailing from the “States,” met up with a revolution and for a while adventures and excitement came so thick and fast that their love affair had to wait for a lull in the game.


This sea yarn recounts the adventures of three rapscallion sea-faring men—a Captain Scraggs, owner of the green vegetable freighter Maggie, Gibney the mate and McGuffney the engineer.


A story fresh from the heart of the West, of San Pasqual, a sun-baked desert town, of Harley P. Hennage, the best gambler, the best and worst man of San Pasqual and of lovely Donna.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.


The story of a strong man’s struggle against savage nature and humanity, and of a beautiful girl’s regeneration from a spoiled child of wealth into a courageous strong-willed woman.


A college professor sets out with his daughter to find gold. They meet a rancher who loses his heart, and become involved in a feud. An intensely exciting story.


Encircled with enemies, distrusted, Steve defends his rights. How he won his game and the girl he loved is the story filled with breathless situations.


Dr. Virginia Page is forced to go with the sheriff on a night journey into the strongholds of a lawless band. Thrills and excitement sweep the reader along to the end.


Judith Sanford part owner of a cattle ranch realizes she is being robbed by her foreman. How, with the help of Bud Lee, she checkmates Trevor’s scheme makes fascinating reading.


Wayne is suspected of killing his brother after a violent quarrel. Financial complications, villains, a horse-race and beautiful Wanda, all go to make up a thrilling romance.


A reporter sets up housekeeping close to Beatrice’s Ranch much to her chagrin. There is “another man” who complicates matters, but all turns out as it should in this tale of romance and adventure.


Beatrice Waverly is robbed of $5,000 and suspicion fastens upon Buck Thornton, but she soon realizes he is not guilty. Intensely exciting, here is a real story of the Great Far West.


No Luck Drennan had grown hard through loss of faith in men he had trusted. A woman hater and sharp of tongue, he finds a match in Ygerne whose clever fencing wins the admiration and love of the “Lone Wolf.”

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.


Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.


A fascinating story in which love and jealousy play strange tricks with women’s souls.


Can a woman love two men at the same time?

In its solving of this particular variety of triangle “A Bachelor Husband” will particularly interest, and strangely enough, without one shock to the most conventional minded.


With fine comprehension and insight the author shows a terrific contrast between the woman whose love was of the flesh and one whose love was of the spirit.


Here is a man and woman who, marrying for love, yet try to build their wedded life upon a gospel of hate for each other and yet win back to a greater love for each other in the end.


The heroine of this story was a consort of thieves. The man was fine, clean, fresh from the West. It is a story of strength and passion.


Jill, a poor little typist, marries the great Henry Sturgess and inherits millions, but not happiness. Then at last—but we must leave that to Ruby M. Ayres to tell you as only she can.


In this story the author has produced a book which no one who has loved or hopes to love can afford to miss. The story fairly leaps from climax to climax.


Have you not often heard of someone being in love with love rather than the person they believed the object of their affections? That was Esther! But she passes through the crisis into a deep and profound love.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.


The tale of a loveable boy and the place he comes to fill in the hearts of the gruff farmer folk to whose care he is left.


A compelling romance of love and marriage.


Stanley Fulton, a wealthy bachelor, to test the dispositions of his relatives, sends them each a check for $100,000, and then as plain John Smith comes among them to watch the result of his experiment.


A wholesome story of a club of six girls and their summer on Six Star Ranch.


The story of a blind boy whose courage leads him through the gulf of despair into a final victory gained by dedicating his life to the service of blind soldiers.


Short stories of our own kind and of our own people. Contains some of the best writing Mrs. Porter has done.


In these stories we find the concentrated charm and tenderness of all her other books.


Intensely human stories told with Mrs. Porter’s wonderful talent for warm and vivid character drawing.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York

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