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Early western travels 1748-1846 : a series of annotated reprints of some of the best and rarest contemporary… Thwaites, Reuben Gold, 1853-1913 1904

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Early Western Travels
Volume VI
1  Early Western Travels
A Series of Annotated Reprints of some of the best
and rarest contemporary volumes of travel, descriptive of the Aborigines and Social and
Economic Conditions in the Middle
and Far West, during the Period
of Early American Settlement
Edited with Notes, Introductions, Index, etc., by
Reuben Gold Thwaites, LL.D.
Editor of "The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents," "Wisconsin
Historical Colleftions," "Chronicles of Border Warfare,"
"Hennepin's New Discovery," etc.
Volume VI
Brackenridge's Journal up the Missouri, 1811
Franchère's Voyage to Northwest Coast, 1811-1814
Cleveland, Ohio
The Arthur H. Clark Company
Preface.   TheEdUor	
Journal op a Voyage up the River Missouri; performed in
eighteen hundred and eleven.   H. M. Brackenridge
Copyright Notice ......
Author's Preface ......
Author's Table of Contents ....
Appendix (Parts I, II, and IV omitted)
Chapter HI. Extract from " Views of Louisiana"
A table of distances .....
Narrative op a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of
America in the Years i8ii, 1812, 1813, and 1814; or,
the First American Settlement on the Pacific. Gabriel
Franchère, translated and edited by /. V. Huntington
Author's Preface to second edition
Note by the Editor.   /. V. Huntington
Author's Preface to the French edition
Author's Table of Contents   .
Introduction ....
Appendix     .....
Facsimile of original title-page to Brackenridge's Journal       . 21
"Astoria, as it was in 1813" (frontispiece to original of Fran-
chère's Narrative)        .        .        .        .        .        .        . 170
Facsimile of original title-page to Franchère's Narrative         . 171
"View of the Falkland Islands"  205
"Entrance of the Columbia River"  231
In this volume we present reprints both of Brackenridge's
Journal of a Voyage up the Missouri (1811), and of Fran-
chère's Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America (1811-14).
Brackenridge's Journal
Henry Marie Brackenridge, traveller, author, statesman,
jurist, had a long and varied career. Born at Pittsburg in
1786, one of his earliest memories was the Whiskey Rebellion, in which his father, an eminent lawyer of that town,
was a prominent actor. In later years, the son's researches
into his parent's part in this incident, bore fruit in his History of Western Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, commonly called the Whiskey Insurrection, i?Q4 (Pittsburg,
Henry Brackenridge has also given to the world an autobiography, in the work entitled Recollections of Persons and
Places in the West (Philadelphia, 1834), from which we
ascertain that at the age of seven years he was sent to
learn French among the Creoles of Louisiana Territory.
Having spent three years at the village of Ste. Genevieve —
where his French was acquired at the expense of his
English, which for a time was quite forgotten — he returned
to Pittsburg, where his further education was conducted
chiefly under his father's supervision.
At an early age he began to read law, and was admitted
to the bar before he had attained his majority. Acting
upon his father's advice, he attempted to begin practice in
Baltimore; but finding his profession overcrowded in that
city, retired for a year to Somerset, Pennsylvania, thence m
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
migrating to the West. Turning first to his boyhood home,
he opened an office at Ste. Genevieve, but soon drifted to
St. Louis, and there wrote sketches of the new territory,
which were afterwards embodied in his Views of Louisiana.
While at St. Louis in the spring of 1811, Brackenridge,
being fond of adventure, was easily induced by the fur-
trader Manuel Lisa to accompany him on a voyage up the
Missouri. Lisa's party left the settlements three weeks
later than the expedition under Hunt, which carried the
overland Astorians, whose picturesque adventures as far as
the Mandan are detailed in Bradbury's Journal, reprinted
in volume v of our series. There ensued a stern chase up
the Missouri, in which Lisa's keel-boat, manned by twenty-
two oarsmen, made every effort to overtake the advance
party, in order that forces might be joined against the hostile Sioux. It was not until the fourth of June that the
Missouri trader overtook Hunt, nearly thirteen hundred
miles above the mouth of the river. Brackenridge, already
wearying of his long absence from civilization, now preferred to return in two boats which Lisa was sending down
the river, being accompanied upon the home trip by bis
naturalist friend, John Bradbury. In less than two weeks
upon the descending current, they reached the settlements.
Brackenridge left St. Louis in November following, and
on his arrival at New Orleans was chosen deputy attorney-
general for the Territory of Orleans. When Louisiana was
admitted as a state, he was made federal district judge,
with headquarters at Baton Rouge. There he devoted himself to the study of the Spanish law and language, and
became of much use to the newly-organized government.
Before the close of the second war with England, Brackenridge was again in Baltimore, and at the instigation of
his publisher in that city wrote his History of the Late War
between the United States and Great Britain, which passed I8II-I8I4]
through eight editions and was translated into both French
and Italian. The authenticity and impartiality of this
work have been highly praised. The same year (1814)
that he returned from the West, there was issued from a
Pittsburg press his Views of Louisiana, including this
journal of the voyage up the Missouri. Two years later,
there appeared a separate edition of the journal, revised
and enlarged by the author — the book here reprinted.
Brackenridge's later history was replete with adventure,
and brought him in contact with many phases of American
life. In 1817 he wrote a letter to President Monroe, urging
the recognition of the South| American Republics. This
having been translated into Spanish, was by many assumed
to be an official opinion of the United States government,
and as such elicited an elaborate reply from the Spanish
minister. In the same year, Brackenridge was appointed
secretary of a commission sent by the federal government
to visit the revolted states of South America. Upon his
return, he published his Voyage to South America performed by the Order of the American Government in the
Years 181J and 1818 in the Frigate Congress (Baltimore,
1819; London, 1820), which was highly commended by the
great authority of that day, Baron von Humboldt.
Upon the purchase of Florida by the United States,
Brackenridge concluded to cast his lot with that of the new
territory. On his way south, he fell in with a party of the
newly-appointed governor, General Andrew Jackson, and
was invited to become one of the latter's official family.
Brackenridge's knowledge of French and Spanish made his
services especially useful to the Florida executive, whose
public despatches and proclamations during 1821 were
nearly all drawn by the hand of our author. Jackson then
appointed him alcalde of Pensacola, and the following year
secured his selection as judge of the western district of
■ 12
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
Florida — a position which he occupied for ten years.
Through some misunderstanding with Jackson, during the
latter's presidency, Brackenridge was removed from office
in 1832, and returned to his old home at Pittsburg. Here
he re-entered public life, was candidate for Congress, and
in 1841 served as a commissioner to draft a treaty with
Mexico. His later years, spent in retirement, were largely
devoted to literary labors.   He died in Pittsburg in 1871.
The early writings of a man who in maturer years
attained such eminence as that won by Judge Brackenridge,
are interesting for their promise and suggestion. But the
Journal of a Voyage up the Missouri has in itself much intrinsic value. It is a record free from youthful exaggeration, being singularly clear and accurate. Inspired solely
by a desire to describe in simple terms the vast regions
lately become our national possession, Brackenridge gives
us a vivid picture of the great plains of the West, clad in
their summer verdure, with vast herds of wild animals
giving a touch of vitality to the lonely scenes. His descriptions of the marvellous atmospheric effects, and the wide
expanses of sky and plain, are the product of one who possessed keen enthusiasm for wilderness landscape; but he
confesses his disillusion in regard to the simplicity and
charm of the savage in a "state of nature." His accounts
of Indian life and customs, although slight in volume, are
suggestive and valuable; yet he reaches the harsh judgment
that f.1 the world would lose but little, if these people should
disappear before civilized communities." Our author's
remarks upon existing conditions are apposite and often
sound, especially upon the value of the Louisiana Purchase
to the growth of the United States — nevertheless as a
prophet he is not always happy. He thought the region
about Omaha the highest point to which settlement would
extend for many years, and that the Indians would hold I8II-I8I4]
undisputed possession of the Upper Missouri for at least a
century. This was in view of the difficulties of navigation,
which he well described — the changes and rapidity of the
current, the falling in of the banks, the snags, and the
shifting nature of the river bed. Brackenridge lived to see
steam navigation and transportation transform the entire
Missouri Valley into a thriving centre of civilization; on the
sites which his eye had selected for towns, to be established
in a far-distant future, there soon arose large cities. His
opinion that the interests of the West would serve to break
down sectionalism and conserve the Union, was amply justified by the course of events.
Franchère's Narrative
The expedition organized by John Jacob Astor for the
purpose of founding an American fur-trading post at the
mouth of the Columbia, although unhappy in its outcome,
was most fortunate in its historians. The Astoria of Washington Irving is an American classic. The journals upon
which he based his delightful tale are less well known, but
deserving of wide acquaintance. Among the "scribbling
clerks" whose fondness for keeping journals excited the ire
of the "Tonquin's" choleric captain, was a young Canadian, whose narrative is, in charm of style, second only to
that of living's; it has the added advantage of being the
account of one who participated in the adventures which
he describes.
Gabriel Franchère was of an honorable Canadian family.
His grandfather Jacques, early in the eighteenth century,
had come to New France as a ship surgeon. Jacques's
son, the elder Gabriel, established himself in business at
Montreal, where our author was born November 3, 1786.
As a young man, Gabriel fils became a merchant's apprentice, but was easily persuaded to abandon the desk and the
m il
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
counter for the more adventurous life of a fur-trade clerk.
He himself tells us in brief but telling sentences of his
emotions on leaving Montreal to join the contingent of the
American Fur Company which departed thence for New
York, where Astor's sea-going party were to embark for the
Pacific. Leaving New York September 6, 1810, the expedition arrived the following spring at the bar of the Columbia, and after a series of disasters began the construction of
the fort named for the senior partner.
Franchère faithfully narrates the occurrences of the following years, until the sale of the entire property to the rival
North West Company in October, 1813. One of his fellow
clerks (Alexander Ross, whose journal is to be published as
volume vii of this series) intimates that Franchère was
eager to accept employment in the new company. The lat-
ter's narrative, however, and his subsequent movements,
refute this statement. Indeed, Franchère was singularly
loyal to his American employers; and although offered advantageous terms because of his linguistic facuity, remained
with the North West Company only until the first opportunity presented itself to return to Montreal. This occurred
when the trading brigade left the Columbia, April 4, 1814.
After a difficult and perilous trip across the continent,
Franchère reached his father's home in September of the
same year, being received Jthere as one risen from the dead.
Early the following spring the young Canadian married
the maiden who, in alternate hope and despair, had during
four long years waited for his return. He then entered
Astor's employ as his Montreal agent. Several years later,
he removed to Sault Ste. Marie — whose appearance
during the War of 1812-15 he so graphically describes in
his book — and for several years made this his home.
Upon the liquidation of the American Fur Company's
affairs, Franchère was employed by the St. Louis firm of 1811-1814]
which Pierre Chouteau was the head. Later, he removed
to New York, and established a fur-trading firm under
his own name.
Franchère was a loyal citizen of his adopted country, and
naturally much concerned over the Oregon question. Upon
its discussion in the Senate (1846), Thomas Benton invited
him to Washington. After citing, in a famous speech, this
work of our author (not yet translated) as an authority of
value upon the matter in hand, Benton presented him to
his senatorial colleagues. One of Franchère's most cherished
recollections was the deference and honor with which he
was treated by the famous statesmen of that day —
Webster, Clay, and Benton.
In 1853 Franchère revisited his early home at Montreal,
being received there with much respect, both as an author
whose fame contributed to that of his native city, and as a
philanthropist whose interest in young Canadian exiles in
New York had led to excellent practical results. Thus,
amid honors and pleasant associations, his last years wore
away; and he died (1863) at the home of his step-son, John
S. Prince, of St. Paul, Minnesota, in the seventy-seventh
year of his age.
Franchère's character was one of much simplicity and
charm. Physically, he was of medium stature, with a
gentle, kindly face. Gifted with abundant health, cheerful
spirits, a fund of quiet humor, and ability to adapt himself
to changing environments, the verbal recital of his early
adventures became a never-failing source of interest to all
his associates. His experiences were first committed to
writing, merely for his own entertainment and the perusal
of his family circle. As interest in the Great West increased, he was persuaded to publish his narrative in the
original French. Unaccustomed to literary effort, he
secured the collaboration of Michel Bibaud père, a well-
k\> m
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
known Canadian editor, and in 1820 the work appeared
from the Montreal press of C. P. Pasteur.1 The original
manuscript of the journal is now preserved in the Toronto
Public Library. Irving, in Astoria, makes acknowledgment
of his indebtedness to this narrative, and among French
Canadians it at once acquired a considerable popularity.
Much later, when Franchère was a resident of New York,
there arose a demand for an English version, to which
Franchère gave his consent and cordial co-operation. The
translation was made by a Baltimorean, J. V. Huntington,
who incorporated several changes and additions; the whole
being published in 1854 under the title of the present reprint.
Franchère's purpose in this English version was partly to
vindicate the reputation of his compagnons de voyage, whose
characters he considered aspersed by Irving's account;
partly to correct certain errors in the latter; but chiefly to
set before the American public a simple, unvarnished relation by a participant in an important historical event, after
the period of passion and recrimination had passed away.
Aside from the excellent style of the narrative, which its
American editor characterizes as "De Foe-like" in simplicity and clearness, the value of the journal is due to the
historical information it affords. Franchère's sympathies
were evidently with the American party. Although Canadian-born, he does not appear to approve of the Nor'
Westers among the partners — characterizing McDougall
as a "traitor," and describing McKenzie in uncomplimentary terms. His criticisms, however, are as a rule neither
caustic nor severe. Even for Captain Thorn he has a measure of appreciation; and upon the mismanagement of affairs
he comments but casually. A kindly nature is revealed in
remarks upon his fellow clerks; even the Indians are not
1 Relation d'un Voyage à la Côte du Nord-Ouest de l'Amérique Septentrionale
dans les années 1810-1814. (Montreal, 1820). I8II-I8I4]
painted by him in as dark colors as they are set forth by
some of his compeers. Slight mention is made of the hardships through which he passed. While Ross enlarges upon
the tediousness of the voyage, the bad fare and foul water,
and the privations at Astoria and upon the river, Franchère
passes over these with few words. On the other hand, he
exhibits much enthusiasm over the beauties of the Columbia
and the Saskatchewan basins, of verdant prairies, and of
lofty forests.
Aside from the main historical value of the journal, there
are interesting incidental references to the Western events of
the second Anglo-American War. In the fastnesses of the
Canadian wilderness, the news of Perry's victory upon Lake
Erie brings consternation to the minds of British fur-traders.
At Fort William, much anxiety over the fate of the yearly
invoice of furs is manifested; and the flotilla bearing a million dollars' worth of peltries slips silently by the ruins of
Sault Ste. Marie, the voyageurs listening with trepidation
to the bombardment of Fort Mackinac. The wilderness,
also, knew its own wars. Aside from the sharp and sometimes bloody international rivalry on the Northwest Coast,
the struggle between the two Canadian companies was
beginning to reach an acute stage. At the outlet of Lake
Winnipeg, Franchère hears echoes of the strife between the
North West Company and Lord Selkirk's Red River
settlement — a rivalry that was to produce much bloodshed
and hardship before the coalition of Canadian fur-traders
in 1821.
But the main interest of the narrative centers in the
Columbia region. The first white men to penetrate the
interior since the expedition of Lewis and Clark, the testimony of the Astorians, and of Franchère in particular, in
many important details corroborates that of the famous
explorers.   In his description of the native races, Franchère
' i8
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
in many ways supplements the accounts of Lewis and Clark.
His ethnological distinctions are less minute; but his remarks
upon the polity, slavery, marriage, warfare, and religion of
the natives west of the Rocky Mountains are worthy of
attention. His skill in Indian languages, as well as long
residence in the country, gave him unusual opportunity for
acquiring valuable information of every sort. At the present time, when we are celebrating the close of a century
after the expedition of Lewis and Clark, the reprinting of
this journal of one who followed closely on their footsteps,
is of peculiar importance.
As in the previous volumes of the series, Louise Phelps
Kellogg, Ph. D., has given valuable assistance in the preparation of notes; and some further aid has been received
from Edith Kathryn Lyle, Ph. D., and Homer C. Hockett,
R. G. T.
Madison, Wis., July, 1904. brackemidge's journal of a voyage up the rlver
Missouri in i8ii
Reprint of the second edition (Baltimore, 1816).   Parts I, n, and IV
of the Appendix are here omitted, as irrelevant.
Revised and ^Enlarged by the Author.
<4l the Reading-Rooms, JV*o. 204 Market street»
tbmatey & Toy, printer».
1816. 71
BE IT REMEMBERED, that on this eighth day of December, in
the fortieth year of the Independence of the United States
[Seal]    of America, Coale & Maxwell, of the said District, have
deposited  in  this Office, the Title of a Book, the right
whereof they claim as Proprietors, in the words and figures following,
to wit:
"Journal of a Voyage up the River Missouri; performed in eighteen
hundred and eleven, by H. M. Brackenridge, Esq., second edition,
revised and enlarged by the author."
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States,
entitled, "An Act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the
copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of
such copies, during the times therein mentioned;" and also to the Act
entitled, "An act supplementary to an Act, entitled, 'An Act for the
encouragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts,
and Books, to the authors and Proprietors of such copies during the
times therein mentioned,' and extending the benefits thereof to the arts
of Designing, Engraving, and Etching historical and other prints. ' '
Clerk of the District of Maryland.
The following is the Journal of a voyage, of four or five
months, on the Missouri river, beyond the settlements.
The voyage was undertaken in the spirit of adventure,
which characterises so many of our countrymen, and with
little or no expectation of profit or advantage. The accounts
received from different persons had greatly excited my
curiosity. The conversation of Manuel Lisa, a man of an
ardent and enterprising character, and one of the most celebrated of those who traverse the Indian country, had inflamed my mind with the desire of attempting something of
a similar nature. I set off with the intention of making a
summer excursion, as a simple hunter, unprovided with the
means of making mathematical observations, but little [iv]
acquainted with any of the branches of natural history, and
without once imagining that I should ever publish the result
of my observations. Afterwards, having published a volume, under the title of "Views of Louisiana," the present
Journal was placed in the appendix. But having been at
first written in a loose and careless manner, the style, I fear,
notwithstanding the corrections it has undergone, still
retains too much of its original defect. There are certainly
many things which might be omitted; there are also topics,
which the reader will be disappointed in finding untouched :
to this, I must answer, that having already entered into a
variety of details, in something like a regular and systematic work, it would be improper to repeat them here.
The author aims at no higher ambition, than to afford
some amusement to his fellow-citizens, by a simple detail of
the incidents of his tour.   On one subject, however, he
Motives of the voyage — Set off from St. Charles — Navigation
of the Missouri — A militia captain     - 27
Try our sails with success — Account of an extraordinary
female maniac — Adventure of the she-bear — Arrival at
Fort Osage — Gain considerably on Hunt     - 40
Orison of the Osages — Discontents in our party — News of
Hunt — An excursion — Arrival at the river Platte - 61
Council Bluffs — Blackbird Hills — Maha villages — Disappointment in not overtaking Hunt — Floyd's bluff 77
Frightful rapids — News of Mr. Henry — A buffaloe — The
Ponças — Meet the Sioux — Overtake Mr. Hunt    -       - 87
Messrs. Bradbury and Nuttal — An excursion — Rupture between the leaders of our parties — Arrival at the Arikara
villages   ----------       100
[viii]      CHAPTER VH
Arikara villages — An alarm in the village — Manners and
customs ..___----       114
Proceed to the Mandan villages — A buffaloe hunt — Arrival
at the Mandan villages   - 132  BRACKENRIDGE'S JOURNAL
Motives of the Voyage — Set off from St. Charles — Navigation of the Missouri — A militia captain.
Before the memorable expedition of Lewis and Clark,
none was found adventurous enough to penetrate that extensive portion of our continent, more than a few hundred
miles. It was almost as little known to us, as the interior
of New Holland, or the deserts of Africa. After the return
of those celebrated travellers, several Indian traders were
induced to extend the sphere of their enterprise, and one of
them, Manuel Lisa, ascended the Missouri almost to its
source. These enterprising individuals meeting with considerable success, a trading company [2] or association followed,
under the name of The Missouri Fur Company, formed in
the hope of carrying on this business more extensively than
it had hitherto been practised, and, in time, of rivalling even
the British associations in Canada. The company was
composed of twelve persons, with a capital of about forty
thousand dollars. A small sum it is true, but as much as
was necessary for a beginning. The company engaged
about two hundred and fifty men, Canadians and Americans;
1 As Brackenridge followed closely upon the route taken by Bradbury, the
author of the Travels published as vol. v of our series, references to notes in the
latter -will for the most part be made at the beginning of each chapter. For reference to Missouri Fur Company, see note 149 of vol. v; Blackfeet Indians, note 120;
Andrew Henry, note 124; Manuel Lisa, note 64; St. Charles, note 9; Wilson P.
Hunt, note 2; Tavern Rock, note 12; Point l'Abbadie, note 13; La Charette,
note 15; Potawatomi Indians, note 21.— Ed.
ica 28
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
the first for the purpose of navigating the boats, but the
latter as hunters: for it was their intention to hunt as well
as trade. In the spring of 1808, they ascended the Missouri
in barges, and left trading establishments in the Sioux
country, also among the Arikaras and Mandans. After this
they proceeded with the main body to the three forks of the
Missouri; about three thousand miles from its source. The
junction of the three rivers, Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin, are considered as forming the Missouri. The surrounding country, when compared with the bare plains of
the Missouri, may be called woody, and from its situation
is well supplied with mountain streams. That ingenious
and [3] persecuted little animal, the beaver, is found here in
great numbers, and this was the principal inducement for
the company in establishing themselves here. But it is not
in the power of those who adventure in untried paths, to
foresee all the obstacles which lie in the way. It is seldom
the first adventurer, who reaps the profits derived from
opening a new road of enterprise ; it is some one who follows
him, and takes warning from his misfortunes. The country
about the sources of the Missouri, forms a part of the tract
wandered over by a nation of Indians, called the Blackfoot,
a ferocious savage race, who have conceived the most deadly
hatred to the Americans. This hatred is partly owing to an
unfortunate rencontre between one of the natives and captain Lewis. On that gentleman's return from the Columbia,
in pursuing some of these Indians who had stolen some
articles from his camp he killed one of them by a shot from
his rifle. Something may also be ascribed to the instigation
of British traders, and perhaps to the jealousies of the
Indians themselves, on seeing white hunters coming to
establish themselves in their country and to destroy the
beaver. However this may be, [4] it was not long after the
establishment of the company and their building a fort, i8ii]
Brackenridge's "Journal
before the Blackfeet commenced hostilities. A hunting
party of the whites, consisting of ten or twelve, whilst encamped on a small stream, were suddenly attacked, four of
them killed and the rest escaped with difficulty. It was
now found necessary to go out on their hunting parties in
considerable strength, which put them to great inconvenience, and rendered their success in hunting of little or no
account; they were besides subject to frequent attacks,
which harrassed them exceedingly. Instead of three hundred packs, upon which they might have calculated had
they remained unmolested, they hardly procured thirty the
first year: and the second none at all. The party was reduced to about sixty persons, by the detachments left at the
different trading establishments below, and by persons sent
off with such furs as had been collected: add to this, about
twenty had fallen in the different skirmishes with the
Indians. Mr. Henry, one of the members of the company,
who had the command of the party, finding his situation
extremely precarious, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and
established [5] himself on one of the branches of the Columbia, where he remained until the spring of 1811, the period
at which I ascended the Missouri.
In the mean time the establishments at the Mandan and
Arikara nations brought no profit, and at the Sioux establishment, after collecting buffaloe robes and beaver fur to
the amount of fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, the factory
took fire and the whole was.burnt. It was now a prevailing
opinion that the affairs of the company were completely
ruined. Beside their losses it was not known at this time
what had become of Mr. Henry and his party, who had not
been heard of for more than a year. In this state of things,
it was resolved, in the spring of 1811, to make one more
effort, and if possible retrieve their losses. It was moreover
considered as a duty to carry relief to their distressed com- Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
panions, and bring them home. Manuel Lisa was chosen
to undertake this arduous task. A man of a bold and daring
character, with an energy and spirit of enterprise like that
of Cortez or Pizarro. There is no'one better acquainted
with the Indian character and trade, and few are his equals
in [6] persevering indefatigable industry. Possessed of an
ardent mind and of a frame capable of sustaining every
hardship. It would have been difficult for the company to
have found a person better qualified for this enterprise. I
believe there are few persons so completely master of the
secret of doing much in a short space of time; which does
not consist so much in any great exertion, as in the strict
observance of that economy which requires every moment
to be turned to advantage. I feel a pleasure in bestowing
this just praise on Mr. Lisa, whose kindness and friendship
I experienced in so great a degree in the course of the voyage,
and for the entertainment I have received at his hospitable
board at St. Louis. Unfortunately, however, from what
cause I know not, the majority of the members of the company have not the confidence in Mr. Lisa which he so justly
merits; but, on this occasion, he was entrusted with the sole
direction of their affairs from necessity, as the most proper
person to conduct an expedition which appeared so little
short of desperate. The funds of the company were at so
low an ebb, that it was with some difficulty a barge of [7]
twenty tons could be fitted out with merchandise to the
amount of a few thousand dollars, and a patron2 procured.
The members were unwilling to stake their private credit
where prospects were so little flattering. This was also the
last year appointed for the continuance of the association,
and there was no certainty of its being renewed.
With respect to myself, I must own to the reader, that I
had no other motive for undertaking a tour of several thou-
* Patron, a fresh water sailing-master.—Brackenridge. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
sand miles, through regions but seldom marked even by the
wandering footsteps of the savage, than what he will term
an idle curiosity: and I must confess that I might have employed my time more beneficially to myself, and more usefully to the community. Would that I were able to make
some amends, by describing the many interesting objects
which I witnessed, in such a manner, as to enable the reader
to participate in the agreeable parts of my peregrinations.
We sat off from the village of St. Charles, on Tuesday,
the 2d of April, 1811, with delightful weather. The flood
of March, which [8] immediately succeeds the breaking up
of the ice, had begun to subside, yet the water was still high.
Our barge was the best that ever ascended this river, and
manned with twenty stout oars-men. Mr. Lisa, who had
been a sea-captain, took much pains in rigging his boat with
a good mast, and main and top-sail; these being great helps
in the navigation of this river. Our equipage is chiefly composed of young men, though several, have already made a
voyage to the upper Missouri, of which they are exceedingly
proud, and on that account claim a kind of precedence over
the rest of the crew. We are in all, twenty-five men, and
completely prepared for defence. There is, besides, a
swivel on the bow of the boat, which, in case of attack,
would make a formidable appearance; we have also two
brass blunderbusses in the cabin, one over my birth, and
the other over that of Mr. Lisa. These precautions were
absolutely necessary from the hostility of the Sioux bands,
who, of late had committed several murders and robberies
on the whites, and manifested such a disposition that it was
believed impossible for us to pass through their country.
The greater part [9] of the merchandise, which consisted of
strouding, blankets, leadj tobacco, knifes, guns, beads, &c,
was concealed in a false cabin, ingeniously contrived for the
purpose; in this way presenting as little as possible to tempt
Lif.   t>\
jgarR»* 32
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
the savages. But we hoped, that as this was not the season
for the wandering tribes to come on the river, the autumn
being the usual time, we might pass by unnoticed. Mr.
Wilson P. Hunt had set off with a large party about twenty-
three days before us, on his way to the Columbia, we
anxiously hoped to overtake him before he entered the Sioux
nation; for this purpose it was resolved to strain every nerve,
as upon it, in a great measure depended the safety of our
Having proceeded a few miles above St. Charles, we put
to shore, some of our men still remaining at the village. It
is exceedingly difficult to make a start on these voyages,
from the reluctance of the men to terminate the frolic with
their friends, which usually precedes their departure. They
set in to drinking and carousing, and it is impossible to collect them on board. Sometimes they make their carousals
at the expense of the Bourgeois: [10] they are credited by
the tavern keeper, who knows that their employer will be
compelled to pay, to prevent the delay of the voyage. Many
vexatious abuses are practised in these cases. It was found
impossible to proceed any farther this evening — the men in
high glee from the liquor they had drank before starting:
they were therefore permitted to take their swing.
We had on board a Frenchman named Charboneau, with
his wife, an Indian woman of the Snake nation, both of
whom had accompanied Lewis and Clark to the Pacific,
and were of great service.8   The woman, a good creature,
8 Toussaint Charbonneau had been an employé (1793-94) of the North West
Company, at Pine Fort on the Assiniboin. About 1796 he came among the Minitaree (Hidasta) on Knife River, living at their central village, Metaharta. Lewis
and Clark found him among the Mandan, with whom they wintered (1804-05).
They engaged him as an interpreter for their detachment. His chief qualification
for that service was that he had for his squaw a young woman of the Shoshoni (or
Snake) tribe, who some five years previous, when a child, had been captured by a
war party of Minitaree. Her name is given by Lewis and Clark, in their journals,
both as Sacajawea and Sahgahjawea, meaning "bird woman," but modern stu- i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
of a mild and gentle disposition, greatly attached to the
whites, whose manners and dress she tries to imitate, but
she had become sickly, and longed to revisit her native
country; her husband, also, who had spent many years
among the Indians, had become weary of a civilized life.
So true it is, that the attachment to the savage state, or the
state of nature, (with which appellation it has commonly
been dignified,) is much stronger than to that of civilization,
with all its comforts, its refinements, and its security.
[n] The next day, about two o'clock in the afternoon,
having at length succeeded in getting all hands on board,
we proceeded on our voyage. Found an excessive current,
augmented by the state of the waters. Having come about
six miles encamped. In the course of this evening had as
much cause to admire the dexterity of our Canadians and
Creoles, as I had before to condemn their frivolity. I believe an American could not be brought to support with
patience the fatiguing labors and submission which these
men endure. At this season, when the water is exceedingly
cold, they leap in without a moment's hesitation. Their
food consists of lied corn homony4 for breakfast, a slice of
fat pork and biscuit for dinner, and a pot of mush, with a
dents of Indian linguistics state that the proper phonetic spelling is Tsakakawea,
Sakâkawea, Sakagawea, or Sacâgawea — preferably the last. The place of her
capture was Fort Rock, at the Three Forks of the Missouri (Gallatin, Jefferson,
and Madison rivers). Sacajawea — as she has come to be known in historical
accounts — and her infant son accompanied Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, her
services proving valuable both as interpreter and guide. Upon the return journey,
the explorers offered to take Charbonneau and his squaw to the settlements, but
they preferred remaining among the Mandan. Charbonneau was seen (1833) in
the Minitaree villages by Prince Marimilien (see vols, xxii, xxiii, and xxiv of our
series). Five years later Larpenteur encountered him in' the same region, when
he speaks of him as an old man. See Coues (éd.), Forty Years a Fur Trader on
the Upper Missouri (New York, 1898). This is the last known of Charbonneau.
An Indian visiting St. Louis in 1902, claimed to be a great-grandson of Charbonneau and Sacajawea.— Ed.
* "Lied corn" is that from which the skin of the kernels has been stripped by
the use of lye; sometimes called "hulled corn."— Ed. 34
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
pound of tallow in it, for supper. Yet this is better than the
common fare; but we were about to make an extraordinary
voyage, and the additional expense was not regarded.
During the night we were completely drenched with the
rain; the bark itself in a bad condition in the morning.
Weather somewhat cloudy — clearing up. A short distance
from our encampment, the hills approach the river [12]
N. E. side; they are not high, but rocky, and do not continue
more than a mile, when the alluvion again commences.
About eight a fine breeze S. E. sailed until twelve — passed
several plantations S. W. side. The bottoms are very
extensive on the lower part of this river, the banks high, far
above the reach of inundation. Timber, principally cotton
wood; a few of the trees intermixed with it are beginning to
vegetate. The red-bud, the tree which blooms earliest in
our woods, and so much admired by those who descend the
Ohio, early in the spring, appear, in a few places. Passed
an island, where the river widens considerably; the current
rapid, obliged to abandon oars and poles, and take the
towing line. Above the island the bluffs again approach
the river; there is a brownish -'colored rock, with a few dwarf
cedars growing on the top;and in the clefts. In going too
near the shore, we had the misfortune to have our top-mast
broken by the projecting limb of a tree. Encamped some
distance above.
This evening one of the most serene and beautiful I ever
beheld, and the calmness of the water in unison with the
cloudless sky. Several [13] deer, which I descried at a great
distance, stepping through the shoals which separated the
smooth sand bars, seemed to move across this stilly scene,
like the shadows of the phantasmagoria, or Ossian's deer
made of mist. I now felt that we had entered on our voyage
in earnest. He that has not experienced something of these
solitary voyages, far removed from the haunts of civilization,
^* [8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
can scarcely imagine the heaviness which at the moment of
departure weighs upon the heart. We all looked serious.
I could see that some of our poor fellows heaved a sigh at
the prospect before them, and at the recollection of the pleasant homes which they had left behind in the hopes of gaining
a little money; perhaps to support a wife and children. A
fire was kindled on the bank, the pot of mush and homony
were prepared: and after their frugal repast, wrapping themselves up in their buffaloe robes and blankets, they soon forgot their woes in sleep.— I observed on the sand bars, a kind
of scaffold, ten or fifteen feet in height, which I was informed
was erected by the neighbouring settlers for the purpose of
shooting the deer by moon-light; these usually come out of
the [14] thickets at this time, to avoid the moschetoes and to
sport on the smooth beach: the hunter ascends the scaffold,
and remains until the deer approaches. Came this day
about twenty miles; navigation comparatively easy.
Friday ph. Wind S. E. this morning, enabling us to set
off under sail — continued until ten, when it forsook us.
Passed several plantations, and two islands. The bluffs disappear on the N. E. side, and are seen on the S. W. for the
first time since our leaving St. Charles. They rise about
two hundred feet, and are faced with rock, in masses separated by soil and vegetation. These are called the Tavern
rocks, from the circumstance of a cave in one of them affording a stopping place for voyagers ascending, or on returning
to their homes after a long absence. The Indians seem to
have had some veneration for the spot, as it is tolerably well
scratched over with their rude attempts at representing
birds and beasts. From this place, through a long reach, or
straight part of the river, we have a distant view of the terminating bluffs N. E. side. A violent storm of rain, wind,
and thunder, compelled us to put to shore, having passed a
very [15] dangerous and difficult place.   The number of
M 36
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
trees which had lately fallen into the river, and the danger
to be apprehended from others, which seemed to have but
a slender hold, rendered our situation extremely disagreeable.
Towards evening a canoe with six or seven men passed on
the other side, but we were unable to distinguish them. At
this place I measured a cotton-wood tree, which was thirty-
six inches in circumference; they grow larger on the lower
parts of this river than perhaps any where else in America.
The bluffs, in the course of this day appeared higher, but
not so abrupt or rocky.
Saturday, 6th. Having passed a small willow island, we
found ourselves beyond the hills on the S. W. side. At n
o'clock the wind became so high that we were compelled to
stop, as it blew directly down the river. This is Boon's settlement — about sixty miles from St. Charles. A number
of plantations at the edge of the bottom.6 The wind abated
in the evening, we proceeded a few miles further and encamped.
Sunday ph. Water rising. Crossed to the S. W. side,
and encountered a very swift current, [16] at the head of a
willow island. The difficulty of this navigation is not easily
described. Made Point Labadie, so called from a French
trader, who formerly wintered here. Forty years ago this
was thought a distant point on the Missouri, at present there
are tolerable plantations every where through the bottom.
The carcases of several drowned buffaloes passed by us; it
is said that an unusual number of them have been drowned
this year — some have been seen floating on the river at
St. Louis. Upwards of forty were counted on the head of
an island, by a gentleman who lately descended the river
8 This was the settlement known as the Femme Osage, made by the sons and
several friends of Daniel Boone, upon land granted to the latter (1795) by the
Spanish governor, Don Trudeau. The plantations extended for several miles
along the Femme Osage Creek. Bradbury (see vol. v of our series) met Boone
some distance farther up the river.— Ed. i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
from fort Osage. In the spring of the year great numbers
of these animals perish in attempting to pass the river on the
ice, which at this season is easily broken. Immediately
below the Point Labadie the river contracts its breadth, and
is confined to a channel of three or four hundred yards
wide. Passed between an island and the main shore; a
very narrow channel, but the current and distance less.
A channel of this sort is often taken in preference, and it is
one of the means facilitating the ascending of this uncommonly rapid river: but there is sometimes danger of [17] the
upper end being closed with logs and billets of wood matted
together, as it turned out in the present instance; fortunately
for us after the labor of an hour we were able to remove the
obstacles, else we should have been compelled to return.
Opposite the head of the island there is a tolerable log-
house, and some land cleared; the tenant, a new-comer,
with a wife and six children, had nothing to give or sell.
Here the banks fall in very much: the river more than a mile
wide. A great impediment in opening lands on this river
is the dilapidation of the banks, which immediately ensue
when the trees are cut away, from the current acting upon a
soil of a texture so extremely loose. It will be found absolutely necessary to leave the trees standing on the borders of
the river. The river exceedingly crooked in the course of
this day. A number of plantations on both sides. These
usually consist of a few acres cleared, on the borders
of the river, with a small log hut or cabin, and stables
for horses, &c. They raise a little Indian corn, pumpions,
potatoes, and a few vegetables. But they have abundance
of hogs and horned cattle. Having made about fourteen [18]
miles, we put to shore, after passing a very difficult embarras. This word requires some explanation. Independently
of the current of that vast volume of water rolling with
great impetuosity, the navigation is obstructed by various
m 38
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
other impediments. At the distance of every mile or two,
and frequently at smaller intervals, there are embarras, or
rafts, formed by the collection of trees closely matted, and
extending from twenty to thirty yards. The current vexed
by these interruptions, rushes round them with great violence
and force. We may now judge what a boat encounters in
grappling round these rafts. When the oars and grappling
hooks were found insufficient, the towing line was usually
resorted to with success. There is not only difficulty here,
but considerable danger, in case the boat should swing
round. In bends where the banks fall in, as in the Mississippi, trees He for some distance out in the river. In doubling points, in passing sawyers, difficulties are encountered.
The water is generally too deep to admit of poling; it would
be absolutely impossible to stem the current further out
than a few yards; the boat usually passes about this distance from [19] the bank. Where the bank has not been
washed steep, which is most usually the case, and the ground
newly formed, the young tree, of the willow, cotton-wood>
&c, which overhang the stream, afford much assistance in
pulling the boat along with the hands.
Monday 8th. The water fell last night as much as it had
risen. About ten, came in sight of a little village N. E. side
called Charette. There are about thirty families here, who
hunt, and raise a little corn. A very long island lies in the
bend in which this village is situated. About this island,
passed under a gentle breeze, some very handsome bluffs,
S. W. side to the isle aux Boeufs; they are about one hundred feet high, and excepting a few places where rocks
appear, covered with oak and other timber. At this place
the river makes a considerable bend- Instead of taking the
main channel, we entered a small one between the island
and the shore, which will shorten the distance; the current
not so strong.   The channel is about fifty yards wide, and i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
very handsome, having clean even banks, and resembling a
small river.   It is about four miles in length.
[20] Through all these islands, and on the Missouri bottoms, there are great quantities of rushes, commonly called
scrub grass.' They grow four or five feet high, and so close,
as to render it very disagreeable, as well as difficult, to pass
through the woods. The cattle feed upon them in the winter, answering the same purpose as the cane on the Mississippi.
At the upper end of the isle aux Boeufs, we were compelled
about five o'clock in the evening to put to shore, on account
of a violent storm, which continued until after dark. In the
badly constructed cabin of our boat, we were wet to the
skin: the men were better off in their tents, made by a
blanket stretched.over twigs.
We have been accompanied for these two days past, by a
man and two lads; ascending in a canoe. This evening
they encamped close by us, placing the canoe under cover
of our boat. Unsheltered, except by the trees on the bank,
and a ragged quilt drawn over a couple of forks, they abode
the "pelting of the pitiless storm," with apparent indifference. These [21] people are well dressed in handsome
home-made cotton cloth. The man seemed to possess no
small share of pride and self importance, which, as I afterwards discovered, arose from his being a captain of militia.
He borrowed a kettle from us, and gave it to one of his boys.
When we were about to sit down to supper he retired, but
returned when it was over; when asked, why he had not
staid to do us the honor of supping with us; "T thank you
gentlemen," said he, licking his lips with satisfaction, "I
have just been eating an excellent supper." He had
scarcely spoken, when the patron came to inform Mr. Lisa,
the boys were begging him for a biscuit, as they had eaten
8 This is the case for several hundred miles up the Missouri.—Brackenridge. 'TMF7/B 4°
Early Western Travels
nothing for two days! our visitant was somewhat disconcerted, but passed it off with "poh! I'm sure they can't be
He resides on the Gasconade; his was the second family
which settled in that quarter about three years ago. He has
at present about two hundred and fifty men on his muster
roll. We were entertained by him with a long story of his
having pursued some Pottawatomies, who had committed
robberies on the settlements some time last summer; he
made a narrow [22] escape, the Indians having attacked his
party in the night time, and killed four of his men after a
desperate resistance. The captain had on board a barrel
of whiskey to set up tavern with, a bag of cotton for his wife
to spin, and a couple of kittens, for the purpose of augmenting his family: these kept up such doleful serenades during
the night that I was scarcely able to close my eyes.
Try our sails with success — Account of an extraordinary
female maniac — Adventure of the she-bear — Arrival at
Fort Osage — Gain considerably on Hunt.
Early the next morning we got under way with a light
breeze, enabling us to carry sail tolerably well. About ten
o'clock, from a change in the course of the river, it was
found necessary to haul down the sail. On turning a point
we found the wind once more [23] favorable, and blowing
quite fresh; we now ascended at the rate of four miles an
hour. The captain of the Gasconade, who had thus far
kept up with us, was now left far behind. We passed in
the course of the day, a number of plantations on both sides
7 Notes upon the following subjects mentioned in this chapter are found in
Bradbury's Travels, vol. v of our series: Isle a la Latre (Loutre Island), note 19;
Côte sans Dessein, note 20; Manitou rocks and Bonne Femme Creek, note 23;
Osage Indians, note 22; Fort Osage, note 31; George Sibley, note 36; General
Clark, note 143; Chief White Hair, note 108.— Ed. i8ii] Brackenridge's Journal 41
of the river. We also passed an island about twelve miles
in length, called isle a la Latre, which is separated from the
northern bank by a very narrow channel. There is a compact settlement on this island.
In the evening we passed the Gasconade river, which
enters the Missouri from the S. W. side, and about ninety
miles from the mouth of the latter river. The Gasconade is
a considerable stream, takes its rise with the Maramek of
the Mississippi, and has been navigated upwards of one
hundred miles in canoes, but its channel is said to be rocky.
The lands on its borders are broken, and hilly, and badly
wooded. Salt petre caves have been discovered in its
vicinity, and there is no doubt that lead ore may be found
in abundance. Before reaching this river, we passed a long
range of bluffs, or low hills, well covered with wood, and
terminating at the entrance of the river, in rocky precipices:
the range appears again on the [24] other side of the Gasconade. The Missouri has a course nearly straight, of fifteen
miles, washing the hills before mentioned the whole of
this distance. The experience of this day satisfied me of
the efficacy of sails in this navigation, and served to
lessen in my estimation the difficulties attending it. Our
men were enabled to repose themselves while we were carried
through places more difficult than any we had seen since
our leaving St. Charles. Six miles above the Gasconade we
put to shore and encamped.
The vicinity of this place recalled to my recollection a
curious story of a female maniac, who is said to be wandering in its neighbourhood. I had made some inquiries of the
militia captain, who told me she had once come to his canoe
whilst he was encamped near the mouth of the river, and
carried away some provision which he gave her. She had
been frequently seen at some of the plantations, but could
not be prevailed upon to stay.   This it was supposed was 42
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
generally during more lucid intervals. When any thing was
given to her, such as food or clothing, she immediately fled
to the wilderness. Her attention to the [25] latter article I
considered as somewhat extraordinary, as unhappy creatures of this description, usually manifest a total disregard
to their apparel. None could tell who she was, or whence
she came, by what means she is able to subsist, or how withstand the winter's cold ; for she was first seen more than two
years ago, shortly after the settlements commenced. I had
heard the story at St. Louis, but regarded it as fabulous.
I have seen an account of a female who was found in the
Pyrennees under circumstances still more extraordinary.8
[26] Wednesday 10th.   We experienced heavy rains last
8 The circumstance gave rise to the following : —
Lines on an unfortunate female maniac, seen on the Missouri, beyond the white
What strange — what spectre shape art thou,
The terror of *hi« savage scene,
That glid'st beneath the poplar bough,
With looks so wild, and haggard mien ?
Far, far, the haunts of men are past,
Mid silent hills, and lonely woods,
Where Nature rules the dreary waste,
Missouri, pours his turbid floods.
Speak — what^er thou art declare —
The spirit of the gloomy groves,
Unreal vision of the air,
Or daughter of the oozy waves ?
And yet, that loose dishevell'd hair,
Those rent and tatter'd weeds, betray
A human form, in deep despair,
Some wretched child of misery.
Ha 1 the sad, the silent tear —
Mayhap, some lost distracted maid,
By anguish torn, pursued by fear,
From friends and dearest home hast stray*d;
Forlorn, amid these dreary shades, ■
The haunt of ev*ry savage thing,
Where death on eVry side invades,
And hope no more may comfort bring? mk
Brackenridge's Journal
night. This morning cloudy. Crossed to the bluffs, N. E.
side, which are high and rocky. Early this morning passed
another resting place for voyagers, called Montbrunt's
tavern.9 Shortly after we encountered the most difficult
embarras, (N. E. side,) that we have seen since the commencement of our voyage. After passing the bluffs, we
found extensive low lands on each side of the river. The
verdure [27] is observed to be rapidly increasing; the smaller
trees and the shrubs, are dressed out in the livery of spring.
The yellowish colour of the water, towards the S. W. bank,
shews that the Osage is paying the annual tribute. It is in
this month that its floods usually happen. Throughout the
whole of this day the wind was against us, which retarded
our progress considerably. Great exertions are made by
Mr. Lisa, he is at one moment at the helm, at another with
the grappling iron at the bow, and often with a pole, assisting the hands in impelling the barge through the rapid current. The superiority of minds is seen in the smallest incidents; on these occasions where the difficulties appeared to
Lo ! see, with hollow shriek she flies —
'Tis the poor maniac of the wild:
Soon, soon, she vanish'd from our eyes,
The lost — the heav*n protected child.—
In wonder, long the shore we gaze,
And still we hear the piercing cry —
Our blood still curdles with amaze,
As when red lightning flashes nigh.
Alas! poor hopeless, phrenzied maid,
Who has thus sadly injur*d thee ?
Perhaps, by falsehood's tongue betray*d,
Or stung by vip'rous cruelty.
Sad maniac of the wilderness,
May heav*n still in safety keep,
And when thy darken'd ray shall pass,
The silent grove o'er thee will weep.
— Brackenridge.
9 Montbrun's Tavern was a large cave upon the north bank of the river, just
above a creek of the same name — that of an early French trader. It is now
known as Big Tavern Creek, in Callaway County.— Ed.
lift 1 44
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
■ x
the rest insurmountable, the presence of this man, his voice,
his orders, and cheering exclamations, infused new energy,
and another effort was crowned with success.
Thursday, nth. A fine morning. It had not been long
after setting off, before we found the current so strong from
the waters of the Osage, that we were compelled to cross to
an island. The upland on the N. E. side. We continued
to be harrassed on this side of the river through the day, on
account of the different [28] embarras and falling in of the
banks. We ascended principally with the cordelle, usually
the last resort: for the close woods and brush which cover
the margin of the river, as well as the trees and logs, along
the edge of the water, render it troublesome for the men to
pass along with the towing line. This is a fine country; the
lands are extremely rich, and covered with a great variety
of fine trees, chiefly the sycamore, cotton wood, (populus
deltoidos,) ash, oak, &c. We stopped a few moments at the
cabin of an old Frenchman, who is beginning to open a plantation, according to the phraseology of the western country.
In company with Charboneau, the interpreter, I proceeded
across a point about two miles to the village of Cote sans
Dessein, where we arrived nearly three hours before the
barge. In coming to this place, we passed through some
open woods, and some good lands. To our eager inquiries
after Mr. Hunt, we were told, that he passed here about
three weeks before. Thus far we have gained about two
days upon him.
Friday, 12th. Weather fine — a gentle breeze from the
S. E. We found it necessary to remain [29] here until
eleven o'clock, while our cabin, which leaked very much,
was undergoing a repair. It was constructed of light
boards elevated on the sides of the boat, and covered with
shingles badly put on. Mr. Lisa here employed a famous
hunter, named Castor, a Kansas Indian, who had been -^
Brackenridge's Journal
much amongst the whites, and spoke French well. I here
learned the cause of Lisa's anxiety to overtake the party of
Hunt. Lisa was apprehensive that Hunt would do him
some ill office with the Sioux bands; that in order to secure
his own passage through these, he would represent the circumstance of their own trader being on his way with goods
for them. Should this happen, we might expect to be
detained in the country, or perhaps robbed. Besides, we
supposed that by this augmentation of Hunt's party, which
consisted of about eighty men, we should be so formidable
as to impose respect upon the savages, and compel them to
relinquish their designs.
The Cote sans Dessein is a beautiful place, situated on the
N. E. side of the river, and in sight of the Osage. It will in
time become a considerable village. The beauty and fertility [30] of the surrounding country cannot be surpassed.
It is here that we met with the first appearance of the
prairie, on the Missouri, but it is handsomely mixed with
wood land. The wooded country on the N. E. extends at
least thirty miles, as far up as this place, and not less than fifteen on the other side. The name is given to this placeirom
the circumstance of a single detached hill, filled with limestone standing on the bank of the river, about six hundred
yards long, and very narrow. The village has been established about three years; there are thirteen French families,
and two or three of Indians. They have handsome fields in
the prairie, but the greater part of their time is spent in
hunting. From their eager inquiries after merchandise, I
perceived we were already remote from the settlements.
We continued under way, with a light breeze, but scarcely
sufficient to waft the barge of itself, without the aid of oars.
— Handsome wooded upland, S. W. side, gently sloping to
the river, and not rocky. For many reasons, I would prefer
these situations to the bottom, where the soil is richer.
< 46
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
Passed the Great Osage river, one hundred and thirty-three
miles [31] from the mouth of the Missouri, and navigable
about six hundred miles. There is much fine land immediately on its borders, but the prairies stretch out on either
side, and to the westward are almost boundless. The
Osage villages are situated about two hundred miles up.
Passed a long island, called V isle a' Cedre, Cedar island.
A number of islands on the Missouri bear this name, from
the growth of cedar upon them, in this particular, differing
from the islands of the Mississippi. In this island all the
largest trees had been cut down, and rafted to St. Louis, to
supply the settlements with this wood, of which there is a
great consumption.
Throughout the course of this day, we found the navigation less arduous and painful; owing principally to the
falling of the waters, and to our having passed one of those
rivers which add to the current of the Missouri. The sand
bars, begin to present a pleasing appearance; several miles
in length, clean and smooth. Instead of ascending along
either side, we pursued the middle of the river, along the
sand bars. Encamped N. E. side, just above the Cedar
island. The bars and the sides of [32] the river are every
where marked with deer tracks.
Saturday, 13th. A fine morning — somewhat cool — set
off with a favourable breeze. Passed hills on the S. W.
side — saw five or six deer sporting on a sand bar. Passed
the Manitoo rocks, S. W. side, and la Bonne Femme creek.
The country here-about, is delightful; the upland sloping
gently to the river, timbered with oak, hickory, ash, &c.
The lands on this stream are said not to be surpassed by
any in the territory.
After having had a favourable wind the greater part of
the day, encamped at the Roche percée, perforated rock; a
t \1 i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
high craggy cliff on the N. E. side.10 This is the narrowest
part of the river I have yet seen; it is scarcely two hundred
yards wide.— Made in the course of this day about twenty-
eight miles, for which we were indebted to the favourable
wind. Some of us considered this good fortune a reward
for the charity which was manifested by us yesterday, in
spending an hour in relieving a poor ox, who was swamped
near the bank. The poor creature had remained here ten
or twelve days, and the sand into which he had [33] sunk
was become hard and solid. The wolves had paid him
friendly visits from time to time, to inquire after his health,
while buzzards, crows, and eagles tendered their salutations
from the neighbouring trees.
Sunday 14th. Violent wind all night — hoisted sail before day fight, in order to take advantage of the wind.
Passed the Manitoo N. E. side, and high rocks. A delightful country. Wind slackened about ten. At twelve, came
in sight of the hills of Mine river, S. W. side. This river is
not navigable more than ten or twelve miles. Valuable salt
works are established here. The whole of this day we
found rich and extensive bottoms, N. E. side, and beautiful
sloping uplands, S. W. On this side of the river, some
beautiful situations for farms and plantations. The hills
rise with a most delightful ascent from the water's edge to
the height of forty or fifty feet; the woods open and handsome. The lands on the Mine river, reputed excellent.
Bottoms on the N. E. side the Missouri, uncommonly fine.
There is a flourishing settlement here. Being Sunday, the
good people were dressed out in their best clothes, and [34]
came in groups to the bank to gaze upon us, as we passed
by under sail.   The sight was no doubt agreeable to them,
10 A considerable stream in Boone County takes its name from this rock —
Rocher Percé River, sometimes called Split Rock.— Ed.
:W m
l!    r 48
Early Western Travels
and we were no less pleased at catching another glimpse of
civilization, after having for a time lost sight of it. We put
to shore at the farm of Braxton Cooper, a worthy man, who
has the management of the salt works." The settlement is
but one year old, but is already considerable, and increasing
rapidly; it consists of seventy-five families, the greater part
living on the bank of the river, in the space of four or five
miles. They are generally persons in good circumstances,
most of them have slaves. Mr. Cooper informed me that
the upland, back, is the most beautiful he ever beheld. He
thinks that from the mouth of the Missouri to this place,
the country for at least forty miles from the river, may bear
the character of rich woodland: the prairies forming but
trifling proportions. This place is two hundred miles up.
We inquired for the party of which we were in chase — they
had passed nineteen days before us.
Monday 15th. Rain last night, but without lightning —
from this it is prognosticated that [35] the wind will continue
favourable to day. Set off with a fair wind, but the course
of the river became unfavourable. At half past seven, again
fair — continued under sail until twelve. Passed handsome
upland S. W. side, and the two Chareton rivers N. E. Had
to oppose in the course of the day some very difficult places
— the river extremely crooked. While the men were towing, they chased a she-bear into a hollow tree; we set about
11 The Coopers were a Virginia family from Culpeper County, who had first
migrated to Kentucky. They arrived in Missouri in the autumn of 1807, when
Braxton, with his cousin Sarshau, settled at Hancock bottom, upon the north bank
of the Missouri, in St. Charles County. There they bought salt of Nathan Boone,
who described to them the Boone's Lick country. In the spring of 1810 they
removed their families thither, and built Cooper's fort, nearly opposite Arrow
Rock Creek. During the War of 1812-15, Boone's Lick settlement suffered
greatly. The Coopers were leaders of the bands that pursued the Indians.
Braxton was shot by them (September, 1814) while cutting logs for a new house.
Sarshall was shot in his fort, the following spring. These facts are found in the
archives of the Wisconsin Historical Library, Draper MSS., 22 S, 118, 142; 23 S,
119, 125.—Ed. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
chopping the tree, while several stood with guns presented
to the hole at which she had entered, about twenty feet up.
In a short time she put out her head and shoulders, but on
receiving a volley, instantly withdrew. The chopping was
renewed; madam Cuff again appeared, and was saluted as
before, but without producing the same effect, as she leisurely crawled down the tree, and attempted to make off,
amidst the shouts of fifteen or twenty barbarians, who were
bent on the destruction of a mother and her little family.
She was killed with the stroke of an axe, having been previously severely wounded. In the hollow sycamore, there
were found three cubs. At five, hoisted sail, and continued
until seven, having this day made twenty-eight [36] miles.
Towards evening, passed beautiful undulating hills, gently
sloping to the river. What charming situations for seats
and farms!
Tuesday 16th. Set off without wind — the river rising.
At eleven, the wind so much against us that we were obliged
to lie by. At three we continued our voyage, and as it was
resolved to tow, I set out with my rifle, expecting to meet
the boat at the head of a long bend. This is the first excursion I have made into the country. I passed through the
bottom with great difficulty, on account of the rushes, which
grow as high as a man's head, and are matted with vines
and briars. The beauty of the upland in some degree compensated. Clean and open woods, growth, oak, hickory,
&c; the grass beginning to appear green. Saw several deer,
and abundance of turkeys. We are now in a country which
abounds with game. I came late in the evening to the boat,
having been supposed lost in the woods. Our hunter had
been more successful than I, having killed a she-bear with
. four cubs. The river very crooked in the course of this
day.— Passed some places of thin woods — not quite
prairie, on the bank of the river.
,« i 5°
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
[37] Wednesday 17th. Breakfasted under sail. Passed
the Brand river, N. E. side. It is two hundred yards wide
at its mouth; very long, and navigable six or eight hundred
miles; takes its waters with the river Des Moines. The
traders who were in the habit of visiting the Mahas, six
hundred miles above this on the Missouri, were formerly
compelled to ascend this river in order to avoid the Kansas
Indians, who were then the robbers of the Missouri. There
is a portage of not more than a couple of days, from the
Grand river to the Mahas.
At the confluence on the lower side, there is a beautiful
situation. The bottom is a handsome prairie, which is seen
extending, for the first time on the Missouri, to the water's
edge, and about a mile in width: the upland then rises with
a gentle ascent, with here and there a few clumps of trees.
Immediately at the point of junction, there are about fifty
acres of well timbered land. Here is a delightful situation
for a village:12 the distance about two hundred and fifty
miles from the mouth of the Missouri. There is some beautiful country lying on the Grand river, but deficient in wood.
In fact, this river may almost be considered [38] the
boundary of the wooded upland on that side of the river.
Here the wind failed us. The Missouri very wide — a
large bar in the middle. The beautiful green hills of the
Little Osage in sight. But for the single defect of the dilapidating banks of the Missouri, the country bordering on it,
thus far, would not be surpassed by any in the world.
Spring has already cast her green mantle over the land;
and the scenery every where assumes a more enlivened
appearance. After an arduous navigation, came this day
about twenty miles.
Thursday 18th.   Heavy rain last night, accompanied by
a The town of Brunswick occupies this site, with a population of about one
thousand four hundred.— Ed. *^8^^
Brackenridge's Journal
unusual thunder and lightning. Set off at six, weather
apparently clearing up. About ten, compelled by heavy
rain to put to shore until three, when we again shoved off,
came a few miles and encamped, N. E. side.
Friday içth. Continued our voyage at daylight, and
came through a long channel, between an island and the
shore. The wind S. E. but the course of the river such as
to disable us from profiting by it. A drizzling rain, and the
weather disagreeable. Wind favourable for an hour.
Passed handsome upland and [39] prairie S. W. side.
There was formerly a village of the Little Osage here, but
from the frequent attacks of the Ayuwas, they were compelled to go higher up the river.13 The situation is fine.
At a distance, the deep green herbage on this open ground
had much the appearance of a wheat field. What a strange,
restless, discontented creature is man! When the arts of
civilization bloom around him, nothing is so pleasing as the
glimpse of the wild irregularities of nature; and yet place
him in the midst of the desert, and every object which reminds him of human ingenuity and industry, appears
supremely beautiful, and at once awakens all the affections
of his heart.
Encamped late, after having got through a channel with
considerable difficulty. The slowness with which we have
advanced for several days past, forms a contrast with
those which preceded.   Water rising.
a The Iowa (Ayuwas, Aiouetz) were a Siouan tribe first encountered by French
explorers in the state to which they have given name. This word lacked consonant sounds, hence its great variations in spelling. The Iowa early became allied
with the Sauk and Foxes, and were thus hostile to the French power. They were
a fierce tribe, and raided widely from their villages on the Des Moines River.
Later, they traded with the English on the Mississippi. In 1808 a treaty was
made with them by which the first American post west of the Mississippi River
was erected — Fort Madison, which served in a measure to restrain their ravages.
There are now about three hundred Iowa Indians, upon reservations with the
Sauk and Foxes, in Kansas and Oklahoma.— Ed. S2
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
On Saturday the 20th, we had a cold disagreeable morning; the men completely drenched by the heavy rain which
fell last night. About six o'clock we hoisted sail, but the
wind served us only a short distance. The weather beginning to clear up, we thought it [40] adviseable to put to
shore in order to dry our effects, which had suffered considerably. On the S. W. there are some handsome rising hills.
We remained here until three o'clock, and then continued
our voyage on the N. E. side, along a beautiful tract of land,
covered with a great proportion of walnut, poplar, and
cotton-wood of enormous size. On entering a narrow channel, we espied at the upper end a large flock of pelicans
standing on a shoal; we fired on them at the distance of two
hundred yards, and killed one. These birds are seen in
great numbers on the Missouri, but are shy. We daily kill
wild fowl, ducks, geese, brandt, &c. which, at this season
of the year ascend the river to breed. Their eggs are found
every moment on the sand bars.
Sunday 20th [i. e., 21st.]. A delightful morning, though
somewhat cool. Got under way early—passed through the
channel which we entered yesterday, and at the head of the
island, crossed to the S. W. side. Here we encountered several
difficult embarras, but not much current, in the river. After
breakfast I took my gun and ascended the hill. On the
opposite side, there is an extensive prairie bottom, apparently
four or five miles wide; and a level plain of [41] vast extent
stretching out on either hand, of fertile alluvial soil, as I
supposed, from the rich and luxuriant appearance of the
herbage. I remarked a curious contrast of the yellow
sward, which has remained unburnt, and the extensive
tracts of deep green, where the young grass of this spring
has sprung up unencumbered by the old. Beyond the
plain, the upland rises into irregular and abrupt elevations,
and appears in a thousand fantastic forms, but without
; i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
even a shrub, and covered with a thin coat of vegetation.
The winding river, with its islands, willow bordery, and
groves of cotton-wood trees, the whole scene in fact, had
something magnificent, though melancholy. I was reminded how much I must yet traverse before I can reach
the end of the voyage. On this side (S. W.) I found the
soil of the upland of an excellent quality, and, notwithstanding the ravages of the fire, the marks of which are
every where to be seen, the woods, principally hickory, ash,
oak, and walnut, formed a forest tolerably close.
I did not return until about four in the evening; much
gratified with my excursion. We spent an hour and an half
this evening in passing [42] round a small point, the distance
of a few hundred yards. The current was so swift that oars
and poles could be of no service; we were therefore compelled to grapple round the rocks, by carrying a cable ahead
and fastening it to some object, and then advancing a few
yards at a time. It is about half a mile across the river, its
usual width, and there is a strong current in the bend.
Such is the swiftness of the current that it is found necessary
to cross over at every point. The current being generally
very strong in the centre of the bends. This operation of
crossing and recrossing consumes much time. We encamped this evening above an encampment of Mr. Hunt,
which, according to some of the sagacious is but ten days
old. It is said, these woodsmen shew extraordinary skill
in determining the length of time that a camp has been
abandoned. I have heard of some, who possessed this
sagacity, in a surprising degree; but on this occasion, I was
induced to believe that our augurs were deceived by their
hopes and wishes.
Monday 22d. We proceeded this morning until eleven
o'clock with the towing line or cordelle — the banks being
favourable.   The hills [43] or bluffs are here about one
VJSLt  Hit
/-.--•. 54
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
hundred feet high, and rise abruptly from the river. The
wind from the S. S. W. becoming very strong, we were compelled to lie by until three o'clock. These were usually irksome moments to Lisa. The men composed themselves to
sleep, or strolled along the beach, or engaged in "whetting
the brand,' ' or smoking a pipe. I usually preferred a ramble with my gun when I could escape from the boat. I had
also had the precaution to provide myself with some well
selected books; among the rest, Don Quixotte in Spanish;
and as Lisa who was a Spaniard by birth, and passionately
fond of this work, took pleasure in reading, and hearing it
read, I availed myself of the opportunity of improving my
knowledge of a language, which will one day be important
to a citizen of the United States. Towards evening we
crossed to the N. E. side, and endeavoured to ascend between the shore and an island, but found a sand bar running
entirely across, at the upper end, so that we were obliged to
go back, and encamp nearly opposite the place of starting.
Tuesday 23d. Very high wind this morning. Doubled
the island which had been the scene [44] of so much vexation. Endeavoured to proceed on the outside, but met
with so many difficulties, that we were compelled to cross
tô the S. W. side. Towed to Ibar's channel and island —
then re-crossed to the N. E. side, and found ourselves about
two miles above our last night's encampment. Remained
here until three, when the wind somewhat abated its violence. Having arrived opposite the Wizzard's island,14
(L'isle du Sorcier) crossed over and encamped.   The super-
14 Lewis and Clark, in their original manuscripts, designate the channel which
Brackenridge calls "Ibar's," as Eue-bert, probably a form of the French name
Hubert. Biddle, in his edition of Lewis and Clark, makes this Eau-beau or
Clearwater. James (edition of Long's expedition) has Chney au Barre. This is
now curiously contracted into Sniabar, which is applied to two creeks in Lafayette
County. Wizard's Island is mentioned only by Brackenridge, and has been swept
away in the changes of the river bed.— Ed. i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
stitious boatmen believe that a wizzard inhabits this island;
they declare that a man has been frequently seen on the
sand beach, at the point, but that he suddenly disappears,
on the approach of any one. These few days have been in
a manner lost, from contrary winds, and bad weather.
Heavy rain this evening — Moschetoes begin to be troublesome, for the first time during our voyage.
Wednesday 24th. Attempted a ripple this morning, and
were driven back five times — we had once got within half
the boat's length of being through; the oars and poles were
insufficient; ten of our men leaped into the water with the
cordelle, while the rest of us exerted ourselves with the pole:
and thus by perseverance became [45] conquerors. This
ripple, like all others of the Missouri, is formed by high
sand bars, over which the water is precipitated, with considerable noise. This bar has been formed within two or
three years. The bend formerly almost impassible from
the swiftness of the current, is now tolerable. There is seldom any great current on both sides; the falling in of the
banks indicate the current to be there.— Wherever the river
has a wider channel than ordinary, there is usually a sand
bar in the middle. This extraordinary river sometimes
pursues a straight course for ten or fifteen miles, 'then suddenly turns to every point of the compass: In'other places,
the whole volume of its waters is compressed into a channel
of two or three hundred yards: again suddenly opening to
the width of one, or even two miles, with islands and sand
bars scattered through the space.
Passed a canoe with four men, who had wintered up the
Kansas, about five hundred miles: they had beaver, and
other furs. They could give no information respecting
Hunt's party: — we conclude he must have passed that
river before they came out of it.
[46] From the violence of the wind, which blew from the
I m
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
N. W. our progress was so much impeded, that we were
compelled to lie by the greater part of the day. While in
the woods to-day, I saw a she-bear coming towards me followed by two cubs, and, after waiting until she approached
within a sufficient distance, fired at her head; but, from too
much eagerness, the fault of young hunters, and which prevents them from taking a deliberate aim, I missed her.
She soon disappeared with her family. I am well aware
that I might on this occasion have availed myself of the
privilege of the traveller; but by this proof of self-denial the
reader will be disposed to give some credit for veracity, a
point in which travellers too often fail. While our old
hunter Castor was out, he saw, as he declared to us, a white
turkey, but was not able to kill it. But I am rather inclined
to think it is, (for hunters have nearly the same privileges as
Rara avis in terris, nigroque simmillima cygno.
The wild turkey is invariably black: although, it is possible,
that by some lusus naturce, [47] there may be white. A single
deer, or buffaloe, I am well assured has been met with of
this colour.
Thursday 25th. The contrary winds still continue to-day,
but its violence somewhat abated, so as to enable us to proceed on our voyage tolerably Well. The unwearied exertions of Lisa suffered no moment to remain unemployed,
and his ingenuity was continually exerted in contriving
means of overcoming the difficulties which were constantly
presenting themselves. About eleven o'clock we came in
sight of Fort Osage, at the distance of three miles on the
bluff, and a long stretch of the river before us. We had
now come three hundred miles upon our voyage. And for
the last hundred, had seen no settlement or met with any
one, except a few traders or hunters who passed us in canoes.
With the exception of a few spots where the ravages of fire
il i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
had destroyed the woods, we passed through a continued
forest presenting the most dreary aspect. The undergrowth generally so thick that I had little inclination to
penetrate far beyond the margin of the river. And moreover, to one not well acquainted with the nature of the [48]
ground, it is no difficult matter to become entangled and
lost. Our approach once more to the haunts of civilization,
to a fort where we should meet with friends, and perhaps
find a temporary resting place, inspired us with cheerfulness. The song was raised with more than usual glee; the
can of whiskey was sent round, and-the air was rent with
éhouts of encouragement. The boatmen, from the severe
duty which they had already performed, were much rejoiced
at the circumstance of their having reached a point in the
voyage. We stopped a short time about a mile below the
fort, where Mr. Audrain a settler, had begun to clear a
piece of ground for a farm. I was acquainted with this
gentleman in boyhood, but this was the first place in which I
had met him for many years.16 On approaching the fort
we were met by a number of the Osage Indians of both
sexes, and of all ages. They kept pace with us, strung along
the bank, apparently attracted by curiosity. They were
objects rather disgusting; generally of a filthy greasy appearance, the greater part with old dirty buffaloe robes thrown
over their shoulders; some with their brawny limbs exposed,
[49] and no covering but a piece of cloth girded round their
loins. The women appeared, if possible, still more filthy
than the men. A few were daubed with red, and adorned
with broaches and beads. The men carried their bows,
guns, or war clubs, in their hands. In point of size, they
are larger than the whites. The curiosity which these people manifested in running after us in a crowd, to gape and
16 For notice of Audrain, an early French republican of Pittsburg, see André
Michaux's Travels, vol. iii of our series, note 9.— Ed. Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
stare, struck me as a characteristic very different from the
Indians east of the Mississippi, who observe studied indifference as to every thing strange which transpires around
On landing at the fort, on a very rocky shore, a soldier
under arms, who waited for us at the water side, escorted
Mr. Lisa and myself to the fort, where we were politely
received by the commanding officer. While Mr. Lisa was
transacting some business, accompanied by Mr. Sibly, the
factor, and an interpreter, I went to deliver a pipe to sans
Oreille,1" (a warrior and a principal man of this tribe,)
sent him by general Clark. He received us [50] sitting on
a mat, surrounded by a number of young men, who appeared
to treat him with great respect, and to receive with approbation every thing he said. He ordered his cook, or herald,
(for every great man among these Indians has a domestic
of this description,) a bushy headed, ill-looking fellow, to
bring us a dish of homony. After having eaten of this, the
pipe was sent round. I then presented him the pipe,
which was handsomely decorated with ribbands and beads
of various colours, and told him that it was given at the
request of general Clark, and that it was intended as proof
of the esteem and consideration in which he was held not
only by the general himself, but by all the Americans. He
replied "that he was pleased with this proof of general
Clark's good will towards him, that he was the friend of the
Americans. He declared that he had done much to preserve a proper respect towards us, but that there were many
foolish people amongst the Osages who thwarted his measures, but that every man of sense approved of his conduct.' '
This man though not a chief, is evidently intriguing to be
the head of his tribe, and at this time possesses much influ-
16 Literally, "without ears;" a name given to him in consequence of his being
unwilling to listen to the advice of the sober part of the people.— Brackenridge. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
ence with [51] them: the hereditary chief, young White
Hairs, has but little to entitle him to respect from his own
character, being extremely young, and of a gentle disposition; he is however supported by the reputation of his
father who was a great warrior and a good man. Sans
Oreille, as is usual with the ambitious amongst these people
is the poorest man in the nation; to set the heart upon goods
and chattels being thought to indicate a mean and narrow
soul: he gives away every thing he can get, even should he
rob or beg, to procure it — and this, to purchase popularity.
Such is ambition ! Little know they of this state of society,
who believe that it is free from jealousies, from envy, detraction, or guilty ambition. No demagogue — no Cataline
ever used more art and finesse, or displayed more policy
than this cunning savage. The arts of flattery, and bribery,
by which the unthinking multitude is seduced, are nearly
the same every where, and the passion for power, and distinction, seems inherent in human nature. It is not in the
savage state that we can expect to meet with true liberty,
any more than in settled hereditary aristocracy or monarchy:
it is only in a republican government like ours of [52] a
civilized people where information is generally diffused.
The fort is handsomely situated, about one hundred feet
above the level of the river, which makes an elbow at this
place, giving an extensive view up and down the river. Its
form is triangular, its size but small, not calculated for more
than a company of men. A group of buildings is formed
by the factory, suttler's house, &c. The place is called
"Fire prairie." It is something better than three hundred
miles from the mouth of the river in lat. 380. 40'. The
lodges of the Little Osage, sixty in number, are within gun
shot of the fort; but they are about to remove their village
to a prairie, three miles off. Their lodges are of a circular
form, not more than ten or fifteen feet in diameter, con-
.1 ; 1'
ip -*T*r^
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
structed by placing mats, made of coarse rushes, over forks
and poles.
All three of the Osage bands, together with some Kansas,
were lately encamped here for the purpose of trading; to
the number of fifteen hundred warriors. The officer informed me, that about ten days ago, serious apprehensions
had been entertained from them. A war party, of about
two hundred, having scalped a few [53] women and children,
of the Ayuwas, their enemies, had returned so elated with
this exploit, that they insulted the people of the fort. One
of these warriors defied a centinel on his post; the centinel
was commanded to fire over his head, this producing no
effect, he was seized by a file of men, which he at first treated
with indifference, declaring, that if he were confined, he
would get some of the white men's bread; his tune was
changed, however, by a liberal application of the cat-o'-
nine-tails to his back. Great commotions amongst the
Indians were excited; they rushed forward with their arms;
but the soldiers no sooner paraded and made ready a few
pieces of cannon, than they thought proper to retreat.
They maintained a threatening attitude for some days, and
to give vent to their spite, killed a pair of fine oxen, belonging to Mr. Audrain. The officer sent for the chiefs, and
told them, that unless two horses were given for the oxen,
he would instantly fire upon their village. This spirited
deportment had the desired effect, the chief complied, and
after some counciling, the pipe was smoked, and all matters
[54] These Indians are not to be compared to the nations
east of the Mississippi; although at war with most of their
neighbours, they are a cowardly race. One good trait,
however, deserves to be mentioned; they have rarely, if ever,
been known to spill the blood of a white man: — When a
white hunter is found on their lands, they take away his i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
furs and his arms, he is then beaten with ramrods, and
driven off.
Mr. Sibly informed me, that he was just setting out on a
tour towards the Arkansas, to visit the salines on that river,
and also to the Kansas, and Platte, to see the Pani nation.17
Thus far we have gained about one hundred miles upon
the party of Hunt — we are in good spirits, and will renew
the pursuit with augmented vigor.
Orison of the Osages — Discontents in our party — News
of Hunt — An excursion — Arrival at the river Platte.
Friday, 27th [i. e., 26th] of April. Our situation was
rendered very uncomfortable last night by heavy rains; our
cabin, in spite of all our contrivances, was still in a bad
condition. In the morning, before daylight, we were
awakened by the most hideous howlings I ever heard.
They proceeded from the Osages, among whom this is a
prevailing custom. On inquiry, I found that they were
unable to give any satisfactory reason for it; I could only
learn, that it was partly devotional, and if it be true, as is
supposed by some, that they offer worship only to the evil
spirit, the orison was certainly not unworthy of him. I
much doubt whether any more lugubrious and infernal
" The Pawnee (Pani) Indians were of Caddoan stock, being early encountered
by the French in the Missouri Valley. Lewis and Clark found them in four
separate bands upon Platte River, which continued to be their habitat until
removed to reservations in Indian Territory and Oklahoma. The Pawnee were a
large tribe, numbering ten to twelve thousand in 1832. In warlike qualities they
were somewhat deficient, and being frequently enslaved by their enemies, the term
"Pani" became equivalent to Indian slave. See J. Long's Voyages, vol. ii of our
series, note 53. The Pawnee are steadily declining in population, there now
being but about six hundred.— Ed.
18 Notes upon the following subjects mentioned in this chapter are found in
Bradbury's Travels, vol. v of our series: Thomas Nuttall, note 8; Ramsay Crooks,
note 3; Robert.McClellan, note 72; Kansas Indians, note 37; Oto Indians, note
42.— Ed.
\W 62
Early Western Tfavels
[Vol. 6
wailings ever issued from Pandamonium itself. I was also
informed that it proceeded from another cause; when any
one, on awaking in the morning, happens [56] to think of
a departed friend, or even of some lost dog or horse, which
has been prized by the owner, he instantly begins this
doleful howl; no sooner is this heard than the whole
village, hark in, man; woman, and child, and at least a
thousand dogs, with a howling still more horrible. I
never had before, so good a conception of Virgil's fine description of that place of the infernal regions, set apart
for the punishment of the wicked.
It was eleven o'clock before we could leave this place.
The time was spent in procuring some oil-cloth to put over
our cabin, and in purchasing several articles of Indian trade
which the factor was disposed to sell. Having got every
thing ready, and feeling anxious to loose no time, we set
off, although the wind was blowing down the river with
great violence. After exerting ourselves to the utmost, for
an hour or two, we found it necessary to stop, after having
done little more than loose sight of the fort. After remaining here a few hours, the wind abated sufficiently to
enable us to proceed on our voyage. Passed a small encampment of American hunters. Three men were sitting
before a fire, on the edge of the bank, [57] in the midst of
the rushes, having trodden them down for a few yards
around. Upon three slender forks, a few pieces of bark
were placed, which together with the boughs of the poplar
afforded some little shelter from the rain. The remains of
a deer were suspended to a tree, and several skins were
stretched out with the fleshy sides to the fire, for the purpose
of being dried. The Missouri is now, what the Ohio was
once, the Paradise of hunters. The upper part of the
river is still more pleasant, on account of the openness of
the plains, and the greater facility of pursuing the wild i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
animals, which exist in numbers almost incredible. We
found the navigation more easy this evening, from the state
of the river, than it has been for several days past. We
were enabled to make nine miles, chiefly under oars —
weather disagreeably cool.
We have now passed the last settlement of whites, and
probably will not revisit them for several months. This
reflection seemed to have taken possession of the minds of
all. I almost repented of having undertaken this voyage,
without an object of suitable importance. Our men were
kept from thinking too [58] deeply by their songs and the
splashing of the oars, which kept time with them. Lisa
himself seized the helm, and gave the song,19 and at the close
of every stanza, made the woods ring with his shouts of
" The patron usually sings the first couplet, the chorus is then sung by the
whole; the songs are very trifling, but the tunes not disagreeable. The following
are some verses of a favorite song: —
Derrière chez nous, il y a un étang,
Ye, ye ment:
Trois canards s'en vons baignans,
Tous du long de la rivière,
Légèrement ma bergère,
Légèrement, ye ment.
Trois canards s'en vons baignans,
Ye, ye ment:
Le fis du roi s'en va chassant,
Tous du 16ng de la rivière.
Légèrement ma bergère,
Légèrement, ye ment.
Le fis du roi s'en va chassant,
Ye, ye ment:
Avec son grand fusil d'argent,
Tous du long de la rivière,
Légèrement ma bergère
Légèrement, ye ment.
&c. &c.
— Brackenridge.
Comment by Ed.   A translation of this boating song is given in Bradbury's
Travels, vol. v of our series, p. 40.
■ >« 64
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[Vol. 6
encouragement. The -whole was intermixed, with short
and pithy addresses to their fears, their hopes, or their
ambition. Hunt and his party, were at least eighteen days
before us. In the distance of three hundred [59] miles
we had gained five days on him. By great exertions, we
might overtake him at the little Cedar island which was
six hundred miles further. We should then be safe. For
my part I felt great solicitude to overtake him, for the sake
of the society of Mr. Bradbury, a distinguished naturalist
with whom I had formed an acquaintance at St. Louis,
and who had accompanied Mr. Hunt for the purpose of
pursuing his researches in natural history on the Missouri.
In the society of this gentleman, I had promised myself
much pleasure, as well as instruction; and indeed, this
constituted one of the principal motives of my voyage —
there was also in the same company, a young gentleman
of the name of Nuttal, engaged in similar pursuits — my
apprehensions with respect to Mr. Hunt, were not such
as Lisa entertained; but, I was well aware that there existed a reciprocal jealousy and distrust. Hunt might suppose, that if Lisa overtook him, he would use his superior
skill in the navigation of the river to pass by him, and (from
the supposition that Hunt was about to compete with him
in the Indian trade) induce the Sioux tribes, through whose
territory we had to pass for the [60] distance of six hundred
miles, to stop him, and perhaps pillage him. Lisa had
strong reasons, on the other hand, to suspect that it was
Hunt's intention to prevent us from ascending the river;
as well from what has already been mentioned, as from
the circumstance of his being accompanied by two traders,
Crooks and M'Clelland, who had charged Lisa with being
the cause of their detention by the Sioux, two years before;
in consequence of which they had experienced considerable
losses.   The quarrel which took place between these two i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
traders and the Sioux was the principal cause of their present inimical temper to the whites. I fully believed, however, that if we could unite our parties, we should present
so formidable an appearance, that the Indians would not
think of incommoding us. The conduct of the Sioux is
governed by the same motives as those of the barbarous
tribes of the Nile. They are unwilling to let the traders
pass up the river, and carry supplies to the Arikaras, Mandans, and other tribes at war with them; and their country
affording few objects for the trader beside the buffaloe
robe, they are tempted to pillage, or impose terms upon
the trader, which [61] are almost as injurious. Thus much,
that the reader may enter into our feelings; at least form
an idea of the anxiety we experienced in the pursuit of the
party before us.
Now removed beyond the verge of the frontier, not merely out of my country, but almost in .another world; for,
considered in reality, and not according to that imaginary
ownership, which civilization has invented, I was in a foreign land. Thus abstracted, thus removed from my country, I seemed to look back as from an eminence, and fancied
that, I contemplated it, with more accuracy than I could,
while cherished, and protected in its bosom. I heaved a
sigh, when I reflected that I might possibly never see it
again. I felt a thousand affections, linked to the cords
of the heart, of which I had not been aware. These things
are salutary thought I, as they teach a man to know himself. Should I return in safety, the recollection of these
little incidents, will afford pleasure to myself and to others:
and, should my bones be deposited on some dreary spot,
far from my home and the haunts of civilized man, it is yet
certain, that there is no place however distant in this quarter, where I may [62] be buried, but will in time, be surrounded by the habitations of Americans; the spot will be
Iff! Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
marked, it will be approached with respect, as containing
the remains of one of the first to venture into these distant
and unfrequented regions.
Saturday 27th. After a long continuance of bad weather,
we are again somewhat favoured: this is a delightful morning though cool. At daylight we proceeded on our voyage, and about six o'clock had a light breeze from the east.
Passed Vincent's island, above which the river is extremely
narrow; the highlands on the S. W. side. About eleven-
o'clock the sun shone out warm and pleasant, the wind
died away. Shortly after this we met a large party of traders,
in two canoes lashed together, and a platform raised upon
them, constituting what is called a raft. This was heavily
laden with buffaloe robes. They had come from the river
a Jaque, on the country of the Yanktons, the nearest tribe
of the Sioux, where they had remained all winter; they
found the Indians peaceably disposed.20 The party of
Hunt had been passed by them five days before, at the little
Nimaha, and proceeds slowly. The traders [63] being informed of the rate at which we came, were of opinion
that we should overtake them before they would be able
to reach the river Platte, three hundred miles above us.
Our party were much animated by this news.
We passed, towards evening Benito's island, and sand
bar, so called from a trader of that name having been robbed
of his peltry, by a party of the Ayuwa tribe; and not content with this, the trader with four men in his employment,
were forced to carry enormous burdens of it on their backs
to the river des Moines. Instances of such insults were
formerly not uncommon; several spots have been shewn
me where the like acts have been committed, accompanied
20 River à Jaque (Jacque) is the present James or Dakota River, a large-
affluent of the Missouri, in South Dakota. For the Yankton Sioux, who lived,
on this river, see Bradbury's Travels, vol. v of our series, note 55.— Ed.
•^er-—^a*. i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
even with murder. Having approached within two leagues
of the Kansas river, we encamped. Large sand bars now
make their appearance at every point of the river; some of
them a mile or two in length, and a quarter of a mile in
width in the widest place; but they are uniformly in the
shape of a crescent. It is very pleasant to walk on them;
towards the bank there is a border of willows and young
cotton-wood trees; the rest is a smooth sand beach.
[64] Sunday 28th. A cool morning — somewhat foggy on
the river. A light breeze from the east, but not sufficient to
enable us to carry sail. Passed Highland, N. E. side, with
some rocks on the shore; we are constantly delighted with
the gentle hills, or rather elevated upland, of the Missouri.
In this part of the river deer are very numerous; while
out this morning I counted thirty sporting on a sand bar.
This morning we passed the Kansas, a large river, which
enters from the S. W. side. The ground is low and flat
at its mouth, and covered with a profusion of willows;
this tree is observed to become more abundant than below,
but the size is very small. The Kansas takes its rise in
the open plains between the Platte and the Arkansas;
and passes through a country almost devoid of wood. The
patron of our boat informs me, that he has ascended it
upwards of nine hundred miles, with a tolerable navigation. The Kansas tribe live in the country through which
it passes. It has a number of considerable tributary
In the evening we passed the little river Platte, navigable with canoes fifty or sixty miles, and said to abound
with beaver. We [65] encamped near a mile above it, having
made about fifteen miles.
In the course of this day, we find the river, in most places,
extremely narrow, and the sand bars very extensive.
Monday   2çth.   Somewhat   cloudy   this   morning — A 68
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[Vol. 6
light breeze from the S. E. At seven, breakfasted under
sail. At nine, reached a beautiful island, called Diamond
island, fifteen miles above the Kansas. From this, there
is a long reach of six or eight miles. The weather is fine
— the breeze still continuing.
At three o'clock we had made twenty-four miles. The
wind, from the change of the course of the river, could not
serve us. We lost two hours in passing one of the most
difficult places I have seen on the river: after which, we
had a fair wind again, until night.
Passed in the course of this day, some beautiful country
on both sides, the upland chiefly S. W. and a greater proportion of prairie than we have yet seen. The river generally narrow, and the sand bars of great extent.
Having made about thirty miles, we encamped a short
distance below Buffaloe island, opposite a range of hills,
and at the upper end of a [66] long view. During the
whole of the day, we saw astonishing quantities of game
on the shore; particularly deer and turkies. The buffaloe
and elk are not yet seen.
Tuesday 30th. Last night there was much thunder and
lightning, but little rain. At day light embarked with a
favourable wind, which continued until seven, when, from the
course of the river, the wind failed us for an hour. The
river extremely crooked. Mr. Lisa and myself went on
shore, and each killed a deer. There were great numbers of them sporting on the sand bars. There are great
quantities of snipes, of a beautiful plumage, being a curious
mixture of dove color, and white. I saw one of a different
kind, which was scarlet underneath the wings.21
At two o'clock we hoisted sail at the beginning of a long
reach, to the great joy of the whole company.   High prai-
21 Apparently these were the grey and red-bellied snipe (macrorhampus griseus
and scolopaceus).— Ed. w
Brackenridge's Journal
ries S. W. side — continued under sail through another-
long reach, and had a view of the old Kansas village, at
the upper end of it. It is a high prairie; smooth waving
hills, perfectly green, with a few clumps of trees in the
hollows. It was formerly a village of the Kansas nation.
There [67] are many of these deserted villages, on the Missouri, with hardly any traces but the different path-ways
along the side of the hills, and down to the river. There
is a melancholy feeling in viewing these seats, once the
abode of intelligent beings, now lonely and silent. But
for the scarcity of wood this would be a delightful situation for a town.22 At this place, the bend of the river rendered the wind unfavourable. Continued under oars about
three miles further, having in the course of this day made
thirty-three miles.
Wednesday, 1st May. Very high wind all last night.
Embarked this morning about daylight, and continued under
sail until six o'clock. Upland N. E. side, thinly timbered.
It may be remarked, that the hills of the Missouri are not
so high as those of the Ohio, seldom rocky, and rise more
pleasantly from the water's edge. Continued under sail
until eleven, when we were brought up by a considerable
bend in the river. Passed St. Michael prairie, a handsome
plain in front, with variegated hills in the back ground,
and but little wood. At two o'clock we came to a very
great bend in the river, but did not get through until evening. The river [68] from being narrow, changes to an unusual width, and very shallow. We were detained about
an hour, having been so unlucky as to run aground.
Saw but one or two deer to day, as we approached
the open country their numbers will be found to diminish,
there being no thickets to shelter them. They are said to
lessen perceptibly from Nodawa river upwards.
22 About the site of the present city of Leavenworth, Kansas.— Ed. 7°
Early Western Travels
In the evening, the weather, which has been for some
days cloudy, cleared up, and the wind abated entirely:
the Missouri and its scenery appeared in their natural
state. A calm sky and a placid stream, which harmonize
with every other object of nature. The river is falling fast,
approaching to a low stage of water — came to-day twenty-
seven miles.
Thursday 2d. Embarked at daylight, the river unruffled by a breeze; the birds, as if rejoicing that the strife
of the elements had ceased, tuned their sweetest notes.
At seven o'clock, breakfasted opposite some bluffs, N. E.
side. A very large mass appeared at no distant period,
to have slipped into the river, leaving a clay precipice fifty
or sixty feet high. A little above, there are rocks of freestone [69] at the edge of the water. Below this place,
there is an extensive prairie, partly river bottom, and partly
upland, with a considerable rivulet passing through it.
What a delightful situation for a farm, or even a town!
Description of such a country as this, can give no idea of
its peculiar character. The hills, or bluffs, begin to appear,
thinly wooded with dwarf trees, principally oak or ash.
In the evening we reached Nodowa channel, on the N. E.
side, which is about sixty yards in width, the island bordered with willow, but on the main land there is an open
wood, chiefly the cotton tree. The rushes are now seldom
seen, and the variety of trees evidently diminish. This
part of the country is very abundant in deer.
Friday 3d. A delightful sunny morning. As usual we
set off to-day at day-break. Not a moment of our time is
lost: we stop half an hour at breakfast; about the same
length of time for dinner, and continue late at night. It
is by thus taking less time for repose, the skill of Lisa in encountering the currents and difficulties of the navigation,
and the continuing our voyage during the contrary winds,
\ i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
[70] that we gain on the party of Hunt. But our Canadians
are beginning to feel the effects of this effort: they not only
make greater exertions, but continue employed longer than
usual by several hours in the day. It sometimes happens
that during the prevalence of a favourable wind, the veering course of the river suddenly renders it directly contrary; it therefore becomes necessary to make every possible
exertion for a few miles in doubling the point, before we
can again catch the favoring breeze. By this exertion we
are all sometimes nearly exhausted. The strength of our
men begins to fail, and sometimes murmurs escape their
lips, in spite of every reason that can be urged.
About noon passed the wintering ground of .Crooks and
M'Clelland, where there are some log huts. Here they
joined the party of Hunt to proceed up the river. This is
four hundred and fifty miles from the mouth of the Missouri.
Here these men must have led the most solitary lives, with
no companions but a few hunters and an occasional Indian
visitor. Their chief amusement consisted in hunting the
deer, or traversing the plains. M'Clelland was one of
Wayne's runners, and is celebrated for his [71] courage and
uncommon activity. The stories related of his personal
prowess, border on the marvellous. Crooks is a young
Scotchman, of an enterprising character, who came to this
country from the trading associations in Canada.
After passing this place we came in sight of the S. W. side,
more elevated than any we have yet seen: in some places
covered with wood, chiefly dwarf oak; but in others entirely
bare, or overgrown with shrubs. The lands on the opposite
side are fine. Towards evening a breeze springing up, we
hoisted sail, and continued four or five miles. Passing along
a large prairie, in the hollow of the land in the S. W. and
after doubling the woody point with our oars and poles,
encamped at the commencement of another prairie.   Here
: I I/
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
there is not a shrub to the abrupt edge of the bank, and
the bottom stretches from the river at least a mile wide,
covered with dried grass of a very luxuriant growth. From
the first glance its yellowish appearance, is not unlike that
of ripe oats. This is another object to remind us of the
industry of man.
[72] Saturday 4th. Heavy rain last night, and this morning drizzling. Passed the extensive lowland prairie, along
which the men were able to walk with facility, and drag
the boat along with the cordelle. At ten o'clock passed an
encampment of Hunt, where our augurs once more set to
work to find out the length of time which has elapsed since
he was here. After making about twenty miles, with rather
disagreeable navigation, we encamped some distance above
the Nimaha and Tarkio creeks.28
This evening, which was damp and chilly, while warming
myself at the fire, I overheard, With much chagrin, some
bitter complaints on the part of the men. These discontents were not a little fomented by some Thersites of the
party, who took advantage of the state of mind arising from
their sufferings. "It is impossible for us," said they, "to
persevere any longer in this unceasing toil, this over-strained
exertion, which wears us down. We are not permitted a
moment's repose; scarcely is time allowed us to eat, or to
smoke our pipes. We can stand it no longer, human nature
cannot bear it; our bourgeois has no pity onus." I endeavoured to quiet their minds, by representing [73] to them the
importance of the object for which we were exerting ourselves, the safety of their lives probably depended on it:
that great exertions, it is true, had been made, but that we
had already overcome the most difficult part of the navi-
23 Great Nemaha River, in southeastern Nebraska, and Big Tarkio River in
northwestern Missouri, empty into the Missouri River nearly opposite to each
other.— Ed. i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
gation; that on approaching the open country, we might
expect to be carried by the wind : that the weather was now
becoming warmer and more pleasant, and the navigation
less arduous, as they could diversify their labours, when
there would be no wind, with the pole, the oars, or by the
cordelle, at this time, little more than a promenade along
the edge of the prairie, or the smooth sand bars. I exhorted them to cease these complaints, and go to work cheerfully, and with confidence in Lisa, who would carry us
through every difficulty. These admonitions had some
effect, but were not sufficient to quell entirely the prevailing discontent.
Sunday 5th. Passed an encampment of Hunt this morning. The sun shone out, but the air was cold — wind from
N. E. but not so hard as to form any great obstacle. In
the evening hailed two men descending in a bark canoe;
they had been of Hunt's party, and had left him on [74] the
2d of May, two days above the Platte, at Boyer's river. He
had had a fair wind for several days, and ascended with
great rapidity. This information came very unseasonably,
and will tend to dishearten our men.— It thus appears,
that we have not gained upon them as much as was expected.
The weather very fine throughout the day, encamped in
the evening at the upper end of a handsome prairie; opposite a large sand bar.
Monday 6th. About ten this morning, passed a river
called Nis-na-botona, after which there are some long reaches
very favorable for sailing. At four o'clock arrived at the
little Nimeha, the course of the river here is for a considerable distance nearly N. E.24— Wind being N. W. were
24 The present Nishnabotna River, flowing nearly parallel to the Missouri
River in Iowa and northwestern Missouri. The word is said to signify, ' ' canoe-
making river." Little Nemaha River is a western affluent in a Nebraska county
of the same name.— Ed.
** 74
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
enabled to hoist sail, but having proceeded about a mile, a
squall suddenly springing up from the N. we were compelled with all despatch, to take in sail, and gain the shore
S. W. side. Here a dreadful storm raged during the remainder of the evening, and the greater part of the night,
our boat lay between the shore and a number of trees which
had fallen into the river, and thus sheltered us from the
[75] Our encampment is at the edge of a large prairie,
but with a fringe of wood along the bank of the river. The
greater part of the country, particularly on the S. W. side,
is now entirely open. The new grass is at this time about
four inches high.
Tuesday 7th. Continued our voyage at daylight, the
weather fine, though somewhat cool. Wind still continues
N. W. Passed an island and sand bar, and towed along
a prairie S. side for nearly a mile. This prairie is narrow,
bounded by hills which are somewhat broken and stony.
At ten o'clock arrived at L' isle a beau soleil; the wind
here became so high that we proceeded with great difficulty.28 In the evening, arriving at the head of the island,
were compelled to put to shore. Mr. Lisa seized this opportunity to replace his mast, by a young oak which he found
in the wood along the shore. All hands were set to work
on it, in order that it might be ready the next day. This
was rendered necessary on account of the old one having
given way.
I took this opportunity of making an excursion into the
country — ascended the hills or [76] bluffs, which, though
steep, are not much more than two hundred feet above the
level of the river, and command prospects of great extent.
I could see the meandering course of the stream, between
25 Lewis and Clark translated this term, and called the island "Fair-sun."
is now known simply as Sun Island.— Ed.
\   f
I fër
Brackenridge's Journal
the two ranges of hills, or more properly of high land, for
thirty or forty miles. Some of these hills are cut into precipices forty or fifty feet high, without any appearance of
stone. It is a light yellow colored earth, with a considerable
mixture of sand. There is an immense extent of prairie on
both sides of the river. The hills are not always abrupt,
but in many places rise gently, and are extremely beautiful.
The river hereabout is very crooked: in following the hills,
along which there is an Indian path, I could go to a point
within view, which will most probably be our place of encampment to-morrow night.
On my return to the boat, killed some pigeons and wild
ducks, and saw a flock of turkies. Lisa and his men continued at work by torch light until late at night, every man
who could assist was busily employed.
Wednesday 8th. Last night having finished our mast, we
had it put up this morning before day, and at day break set
off on our voyage. Weather [77] cool, but no wind, and
the sun apparently regaining his empire.
Passed through a country in the course of this day, chiefly
open, with very little wood. The river very wide: in one
place it appeared to me two miles. Encamped at the falling in banks, or grand eboulment. Wind has entirely abated.
In nearly all the bends there are a great many fallen trees,
the bank being acted upon by the current, appears to have
fallen in with every thing growing upon it. We often pass
between these trees and the shore.
Thursday çth. Set off at day light — continued a short
distance under sail with a light breeze.
Several of the men are sick; one has a pleurisy, and others
slight fevers and coughs, from frequent exposure in the
There appear to be no hills or bluffs on the N. E. side,
the whole distance to the Platte.
MVfH 7°
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[Vol. 6
Encamped some distance above a hill, called V oeil aufer,
from an Indian chief who was scaffolded here some years
Friday 10th. A dreadful storm raged during the whole
of last night. Set off this morning under sail, in expectation of reaching the Platte [78] before twelve, but in the
course of an hour it failed us, and changed to N. W. At
ten, it became so violent that we were compelled to put to
shore, where we remained until towards evening, and then
attempted to proceed, but finding the wind too strong,
again landed and encamped, having passed the mouth of
the Platte. At the mouth of this river there is so great a
number of bars and small islands, that its entrance is scarcely
perceptible. It enters by a number of channels or mouths:
the color of its waters is the same with that of the Missouri.
The country hereabouts, is entirely open, excepting in some
spots along the river, where there are groves of cotton-wood,
and on the hills a few scattered dwarf oaks.
Saturday nth. The wind continues too high to proceed.
This morning we advance about three miles, and encamp
until near noon — very cold.
Set off with my gun to take a walk into the country.
Traversed the prairie which had been burnt, and reached
the high land about three miles distant; the ground rises
gradually to the height of about two hundred feet, and then
assumes an irregular surface. The other side of [79] the
Missouri appears extremely bare. I wandered towards the
Platte, or rather to the point of the upland between this
river and the Missouri, which commands a very extensive
prospect. I discovered a great extent of open country,
grounds gently rising, with a soil every where extremely rich.
M Lewis and Clark met hereabouts an Oto chief whom they called Iron Eyes.
There is a bluff on the river still called Iron Eye Hill. On the Siouan custom of
scaffolding the dead, see Bradbury's description of a Mandan cemetery.— Ed. i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
The Platte is full of islands and sand bars, and appears as
wide as the Missouri. On my return, I saw several Indian
On reaching camp I found that the wind had abated, and
that the river was rising fast.
The river Platte is regarded by the navigators of the Missouri as a point of as much importance, as the equinoctial
line amongst mariners. All those who had not passed it
before, were required to be shaved, unless they could compromise the matter by a treat. Much merriment was indulged on the occasion. From this we enter what is called
the Upper Missouri. Indeed the change is perceptible and
great, for the open bare plains, now prevail. A close wood
is not to be seen, but the face of the land so varied as to be
pleasing and picturesque. The river Platte rises in the
same mountains, with the Missouri and is little short of
two [80] thousand miles in length, but affords little navigation, owing to the great number of shoals and quicksands
which its channel contains. Various Indian nations reside
upon it, the Missouris, Ottos, Panis, and others. This river
takes its rise with the Rio del Norte, and with the Colerado
of California, and flows through an open country like the
Council Bluffs — Blackbird Hills — Maha villages — Disappointment in not overtaking Hunt — Floyd's Bluff.
Sunday 13th [i. e., 12th]. Weather pleasant — the river
rising rapidly; the drift wood descends in great quantities,
and the current seems to augment every moment.   We were
27 Notes upon the following subjects mentioned in this chapter are found in
Bradbury's Travels, vol. v of our series: McClellan's (Crooks's) post, note 41;
Registre Loisel (L'Oiselle), note 105; Blackbird, notes 47 and 48; Omaha (Maha)
Indians, note 49; Big Elk, note 52; Ponca Indians, note 63; Sergeant Floyd, note
56.— Ed.
i 78
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
enabled to ascend the greater part of this morning with
the towing line.
[81] In the afternoon, some distance above the old Otto
village, S. W. side, I went on shore, and wandered several
miles through shrubby hills, and saw several elk and deer,
without being able to approach them. Towards evening I
entered a charming prairie, and of the richest soil. Followed
a rivulet until it formed a lake in the river bottom, its banks
for six or eight feet a rich black earth. In pursuing the
upland I might have fallen upon the Missouri six miles
above, in the distance of a mile, the river forming here a
considerable bend. The prairies or meadows to the water's
edge, enabled us to continue the greater part of this day
with the line.
Monday 13th. Water falling — continued with the towing line. At ten, a fine breeze springing up, hoisted sail.
Passed the river a Boyer, and the houses of M'Clelland,
who formerly wintered here. Some woody country hereabouts; but that on the upland is very inferior, chiefly shrubby
oak. A short distance above this place we encountered a
very difficult and rapid current, but being luckily a little
aided by the sail, we passed tolerably well. We have now
reached the highest point to which settlements [82] will
probably extend on the western side for many years. In
the evening passed high clean meadows, called the Council
bluffs, from the circumstance of Lewis and Clark having
held a council with the Otto and Missouri Indians, when
ascending this river.28 It is a beautiful scene. Encamped
four miles above this place on a large sand bar. The Council
bluffs are not abrupt elevations, but a rising ground, covered
with grass as perfectly smooth as if the work of art.   They
28 The original Council Bluffs were on the left bank of the river, above Omaha,
very near the later site of Fort Calhoun, in Washington County, Nebraska. The
name was afterwards transferred to the Iowa city.— Ed. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
do not exceed in height thirty or forty feet above the plain
below. On ascending, the land stretches out as far as the
eye can reach, a perfect level. The short grass, with which
the soil is covered, gives it the appearance of a sodded bank,
which has a fine effect, the scene being shaded by a few
slender trees or shrubs in the hollows. In the course of
this day found the river crooked and narrow: it appeared in
one place almost closed up by drift-wood and sawyers.
Tuesday 14th. Set off with a slight breeze — compelled
by heavy rain to put to shore for some hours; after which
continued under a fine breeze that lasted throughout the
day; but from [83] the winding course of the river we were
not much benefited by it.
At most of the points on the river, the timber, principally
cotton-wood, is large, and tolerably close, but the prairies
and upland are entirely bare of trees. The prairies compose
more than two-thirds of the margin of the stream — the
soil extremely rich: for the three first feet, generally a
light mould, another stratum is a deep black, almost approaching the colour of coal, but not hard or stiff; the lower
stratum is marie. I have no doubt but that these natural
meadows would yield .surprisingly. Encamped at the beginning of a great bend of the river, twelve miles round,
and not more than three hundred paces across.
Wednesday 15th. Although the wind is favourable, it
was of no use to us, from the sudden turns of the river. At
twelve hoisted sail, and passed the Soldier's river, a small
stream.29 After doubling some points we came into a
reach of some extent; wind here became very violent, and
blew almost a tempest; with our sail reduced to half its
size we easily encountered the strongest current. The storm
at length became so serious that it was deemed imprudent
** An Iowa affluent of the Missouri, the origin of whose name is apparently
not now known.— Ed. Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
[84] to continue under way. The air was darkened by
clouds of sand, and we found ourselves at the upper end of
the reach, in the midst of sawyers and planters, our situation dangerous in the extreme. Nothing but our great
anxiety to force our voyage would have justified the running
such a risk. It was almost a miracle that we escaped. Had
our boat struck a sawyer she would have been thrown into
the trough of the sea, and we should inevitably have perished. We fortunately, but not without great exertions,
escaped safely to the shore, where we remained until evening; the wind abating, proceeded a few miles further.
Thursday 16th. A tremendous storm of thunder and
Hghtning last night — being fortunately in a good harbor
we suffered but little. Were not able to get under way this
morning until late. A fine serene morning, strangely contrasted with the turbulence of last night. Came in sight of
the hills, S. W. every one bitterly regretting that the wind
of yesterday could not serve us here, .where there is a view
of twelve miles up the river. There appears to reign an
unusual calm, the sky cloudless, [85] and the river as smooth
as a mirror. Words cannot convey what I feel, and it is
only the lover of nature that could understand me.
The points are tolerably wooded. At the upper end of
the long reach we saw an encampment of Hunt, where the
party seemed to have remained for several days, judging
from the quantity of wood burned, the grass trodden down
by frequent going and coming, and the bones of buffaloe
they had killed, which were strewed about. It also appeared
that oars had been made here. It is conjectured that this
was his encampment during the unfavorable weather we
experienced for several days, near the river Platte, and
against which we had to struggle so severely. If this be
the case, it is not more than six or seven days since Hunt
has left this place.   Our men feel new animation on this i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
unexpected turn of fortune. The rushes before described
are now rarely seen — the woods more free from undergrowth. Encamped before sunset on a sand bar below la
coupe a L' Oiselle.
Friday 17th. A charming morning — slight indication of
wind from the S. E. Passed la coupe a V Oiselle. This name
originated, in [86] the circumstance of a trader having made
a narrow escape, being in the river at the very moment that
this cut-off was forming. It had been a bend of fifteen miles
round, and perhaps not more than a few hundred yards
across; the gorge, which was suddenly cut through by the
river, became the main channel. This was effected in a few
While remaining a short time at a sand bar in the river,
a curious phenomenon occurred; the sand began to dissolve,
and every instant to diminish like the melting of snow, it
was thought prudent to embark immediately. This I am
informed is not unfrequent. Bars are sometimes formed
during the continuance of a single flood, but being principally of loose sand, without anything to unite, as soon as
the waters begin to rise again, are entirely carried off.
At ten passed a similar cut-off called la coupe a Jacque.
At twelve continued under sail, made several long reaches
— passed the Yellow banks, and encamped within a few
miles of the Black-bird hill. Throughout this day the river
border is chiefly wood.
Saturday 18th. A fine breeze S. W. At seven arrived
at the Black-bird hill. As this is [87] one of the curiosities
of the Missouri, a description may be amusing. It rises on
the common range to the height of four or five hundred feet.
The Missouri at its base, begins a strange winding course,
several times returning upon its steps, and at length coming
within nine hundred yards of where the hills first approach;
so that in a course of thirty miles the Black-bird hill is still Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
near us. It takes its name from a celebrated chief of the
Mahas, who caused himself to be interred on the top: a
mound has been erected on the pinnacle, with a branch stuck
in it, a flag was formerly attached to it. He was buried,
sitting erect on horse back; the reason which he gave for
choosing this spot, was that he might see the traders as
they ascended. This chief was as famous in his lifetime
amongst all the nations in this part of the world, as Tamerlane or Bajazet were in the plains of Asia; a superstitious
awe is still paid to his grave. Yet, the secret of his greatness was nothing more than a quantity of arsenic, which
he had procured from some trader. He denounced death
against any one who displeased him, or opposed his wishes:
it is therefore not surprising, that he, who held [88] at his
disposal the lives of others, should possess unlimited power,
and excite universal terror. The proud savage, whenever
this terrible being appeared, rendered the homage of a slave.
The gods and heroes of antiquity, were, perhaps, little better.
We may learn this lesson, that ignorant and savage man,
is most effectually ruled by fear, or superstitious awe; and
in comparison with these, other motives have but little force.
At four o'clock, got through the last bend, and hoisted
sail, with a fine wind — sailed along some hills, S. W. side,
and encamped amongst some cotton wood, in a low bottom.
Sunday içth. We continued our voyage this morning at
daylight where we remained with the hope of reaching the
Maha village in the course of the day. Here we entertained
sanguine hopes of overtaking the party of Hunt, and with
these hopes the spirits of our men, almost sinking under
extreme labor, were kept up; their rising discontents, the
consequences of which I feared almost as much as the enmity of the Indians, were by the same means kept down.
Shortly after starting we passed along some precipitous
bluffs, rising [89] from the edge of the water, and extending i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
for a quarter of a mile. Some of them were faced with a
curious sand rock of variegated fantastic hues; at the first
glance resembling the decorations of a theatre. There were
mimic groves, the representation of castles, of towns, and
landscapes; on more attentive examination it was found that
this deception, was produced by the different colors and
shades of the rock.
We continued, with little interruption from the course of
the river, under sail until twelve o'clock, when we came in
sight of the trading houses near the village. We anxiously
looked towards the place, and endeavoured to descry the
party of Hunt; but as we drew near we found, alas ! they were
not there. On landing we saw several traders, of whom
eager inquiries were made, who informed us that Hunt had
set off under sail four days before our arrival, and that he
must have ascended rapidly. This was calculated to depress our spirits not a little, being now on the borders of
the Sioux territory. To this disappointment was added the
unfriendly temper of those tribes; it seems they have learned
that a number of traders [90] are ascending the river, in
consequence of which, instead of going into the plains as
is usual at this season of the year, they are resolved to remain
on the river, with a determination to let no boats pass: that
they had lately murdered several white traders, and were
exceedingly exasperated at the conduct of Crooks and
M'Clelland. These gentlemen, who had set off for the Upper
Missouri, having been compelled by a party of the Sioux
to stop against their will, affected to be contented, and requested that the warriors, excepting five or six, would go
and bring their tribes, in order to trade; they had no sooner
departed than the traders embarked all their effects, and
pushed into the stream; the Indians who had been left with
them were found by their companions tied. This conduct,
which was unavoidable, exasperated the nation very much, 84
Early Western Travels
and had produced a serious enmity, the consequences of
which we had great reasons to fear. From the intimation
of the traders, we were induced to believe that Hunt would
be glad that we should join his party, and that a sense of
the common danger would induce him to wait for us. It
was therefore deemed adviseable to despatch a messenger
[91] by land, who might overtake him at the Ponças village,
about two hundred miles further by water, and about three
day's journey by land. For this purpose a half Indian was
hired, and set off immediately in company with Charboneau.
As the wind was still favorable, and blowing fresh, we resolved not to lose a moment, and therefore set off without
seeing the Big Elk, the chief of the Maha village ; a piece of
etiquette, which is never omitted without giving offence: a
present was left for him, with a talk, explaining the reasons
for our conduct. The village is situated about three miles
from the river, and contains about three thousand souls.
After having remained here but a few hours we again embarked, the day obscured with clouds, and the wind blowing
with great violence. The clouds of sand which are swept
from the sand bars, incommoded us considerably. Towards
evening, the wind having spent its fury, gradually died
away, and we continued under oars — the current gentle.
The scenery now undergoes an entire change; forests are
seen no more; the wooded portions of the river are composed of small cotton-wood trees, whose slender [92] and
delicate growth have a much more beautiful appearance
than the huge giants on the lower part of the river. The
uplands look like old fields, and the bottoms are rich meadows.
Shortly before sun-down the air became calm, and our disturbed minds, (such is the effect upon our feelings of the
objects which surround us) appeared to grow composed as
the strife of the elements gave way to calmness and serenity. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
We had been suspended between hope and fear, but were
now disposed to think all would be well, and that Hunt
would gladly wait for us.
About a mile below our encampment we passed Floyd's
bluff and river, fourteen miles from the Maha village.
Sergeant Floyd was of the party of Lewis and Clark, and
was highly esteemed by them and his loss much regretted.
The place of his interment is marked by a wooden cross,
which may be seen by navigators at a considerable distance.
The grave occupies a beautiful rising ground, now covered
with grass and wild flowers. The pretty little river, which
bears his name, is neatly fringed with willow and shrubbery.
Involuntary tribute was paid to the spot, by the feelings even
of the most [93] thoughtless, as we passed by. It is several
years since he was buried here; no one has disturbed the
cross which marks the grave; even the Indians who pass,
venerate the place, and often leave a present or offering
near it. Brave, adventurous youth! thou art not forgotten
— for although thy bones are deposited far from thy native
home, in the desert-waste; yet the eternal silence of the plain
shall mourn thee, and memory will dwell upon thy grave !
The appearance of the river is much changed — it continues a handsome width, with a diminished current. The
banks low, and the trees much smaller in size; we now rarely
see a large tree. The bluffs and upland on the N. E. side,
are not high, and without any appearance of trees and shrubs.
Monday 20th. Passed at day light the great Sioux river,
which takes its rise in the plains, between the Missouri,
and the waters of the lake Winipec; it is five or six hundred
miles in length.30 I ascended the bluffs, high clay banks
of sixty or an hundred feet.   The current is here very strong.
80 Big Sioux River, which forms the boundary between the present states of
Iowa and South Dakota, heads near the source of the Red River of the North,
which drains into Lake Winnipeg.— Ed.
)ill 86
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
We ascended along the sand bars with difficulty on account
of the wind, which blew the sand in our [94] faces, and our
men suffered much from fatigue. Hailed a trader descending in a large canoe, made of skins of the buffaloe, upwards
of twenty feet in length, who wintered at the river a Jaque.
He met Hunt eight leagues above that river, proceeding
with a fair wind, and is by this time at the Ponças village.
These skin canoes are formed by stretching the skins of the
buffaloe over the red willow, of which a kind of frame is
in the first instance prepared. They require to be frequently
exposed to the sun, and dried, as they would otherwise become too heavy from the quantity of water absorbed.
The water has been rapidly rising for twenty-four hours.
The sand bars are all covered and the banks in many places
Tuesday 21st. This morning fine, though somewhat cool.
Wind increasing from the N. E. Current rapid, but for
the eddies in the bends, it would be almost impossible to
ascend. There are but few embarras, or collection of trees,
&c. The sand bars are fringed with a thick growth of
willows, immediately behind which there are young cotton-
wood trees, forming a handsome natural avenue, twenty
or thirty feet wide. The banks are [95] very low, and must
be inundated every season. Passed in the evening, a rapid
of frightful appearance, the water, in the middle of the
river, foaming and rolling in waves, as if agitated by violent
wind, while on either side it was calm. We were compelled
to pass along the sand bar, and through the willows. It
was with difficulty that we could obtain dry land this evening, the water, in most places, flows into the woods. In
the night, the water had risen so much that the men were
compelled to abandon their encampment, and sleep on board.
Very little prairie in the course of the day, but the timber
of a small size. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
Frightful rapids — News of Mr. Henry — A buffaloe — The
Ponças — Meet the Sioux — Overtake Mr. Hunt.
Wednesday, 23d [i. e., 22â\. A delightful day — the
water has risen to its utmost height, and presents a vast
expanse — the current uniformly rapid, in some places
rolling with the most furious and terrific violence. One of
these places, below Vermillion creek,31 was sufficient to
appal the stoutest heart: the river forms an elbow at the
termination of some bluffs, the water, compressed between
them and the sand bar, dashes against the opposite rocks.
The middle of the river appeared several feet higher than
the sides. The distance to cross, before we could reach
the opposite eddy, was not more than twice the length of
the boat, but we were not able completely to effect it, being
swept down with the rapidity of flight, but fell into the
current of the opposite side, before it had [97] gained its
full force, and were not able, without great difficulty, to
gain the eddy.
The high waters enable us to cut off points, which is no
small saving of the distance. The waters begin to fall,
though great quantities of drift wood descend, and thirty or
forty drowned buffaloes pass by us every day.
I observe a much greater variety of trees and shrubs,
than below, and some altogether new to me. There is a
shrub which the French call graissp difooeuf, bearing a red
berry, of a pungent taste; its leaves, though smaller and
more delicate, bear a resemblance to those of the pear tree.32
In the hollows, clumps of trees are usually found, but what
S1 Lewis and Clark called this the Whitestone River — a translation of its
Indian name, Wassisha. It is now Vermilion River, in South Dakota, with a
town of the same name at its mouth.— Ed.
82 This is the plant called buffalo-berry, also (by Lewis and Clark) rabbit-
berry; scientifically it is shepherdia argentea.— Ed.
M Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
surprises me, they are very low, some of the oaks and ash
are eighteen or twenty inches in diameter, but look like
orchard trees, and have much greater resemblance to regular plantations than wild woods.
Thursday 23d. Water falling rapidly — a fine breeze
S. E. sailed until eleven — passed the Hot, or Burning
bluffs, on the S. W. side. Here I observed enormous masses
of pumice, and other matter, which appeared to have undergone the action of heat, of a very high degree. [98] I saw
what was the fragment of a hill, the greater part at present
composed of pumice. From not being able to discover
other volcanic substances, I concluded these effects to have
been produced by simple ignition, whether of coal banks or
not, I was unable to ascertain. I took several large lumps
of the pumice lying along the shore, and threw them into
the river, and found that they floated. In one place the
soil seemed to have all burnt away, and the remains looked
like some old ruined building. The action of fire was every
where perceptible, and no vegetation could be discovered
for a considerable distance. I observed no volcanic appearances.
About noon, we espied at some distance before us, on
a sand bar, a number of persons, whom we at first took to
be Indians, but on a nearer approach recognised to be
whites. On coming to the spot, we found a Mr. Benit,
the Missouri Company's factor at the Mandan village.33
He was descending in a small batteaux, loaded with peltry,
with five men. From him we learn, that with the exception of the Mandans, Arikaras, and one or two small tribes,
all the nations of the Missouri are inimical to [99] the whites,
83 Probably this was Francis M. Benoit (Benoist), a prominent fur-trader of
St. Louis, who had formerly maintained a post among the Oto and Pawnee. He
was born in Canada in 1768, came to St. Louis in 1790, and was occupied with
Indian trade until his death in 1819. His son, Louis C. Benoist, was a leading
St. Louis banker.— Ed. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
and that the Sioux have broken out into open hostilities.
Mr. Benit, about eleven o'clock last night, in passing by
some fires below the Ponças village, was fired on as he supposed by a party of the Yankton band of Sioux, which was
returned by him. Benit saw nothing of the party of Hunt,
having probably passed it in the night time. He also informed us that Mr. Henry is at this time over the mountains, in a distressed situation, that he had sent word of
his intention to return to the Mandan village in the spring,
with his whole party.
Proceeded on our voyage at three o'clock, not a little disheartened at this intelligence. A gloom overspread every
countenance except that of Lisa, who seized the helm, made
an encouraging speech, sent round the grog, and then raised
the song. My thoughts, to say the truth, were rather unpleasant, but I was inclined to believe that if the danger
was such as we were led to believe, the party of Hunt would
wait for us; or if an attack should be made upon him, or
he compelled to descend the river, we should hear of it in
time to save ourselves. Mr. Benit and an American hunter
[ioo] were persuaded to return with us. Passed some beautiful upland N. E. side, but without wood; after a beautiful
regular rise of twenty or thirty feet, resembling a sodded
bank, an immense level plain stretches out, bounded only
by the horizon. The hunter informs me that it extends
nearly an hundred miles with little variation. Here we
remarked a Sioux lodge, or tent, made of the dressed skins
of the elk, of a conical shape. It appears to be the custom
of these people to leave their dead in tents like these, in
the course of their migrations, until it is convenient for them
to gather up their remains.
Friday 24th. Set off early — weather warm. The water
is falling very fast — there is still a very strong current.
Passed bluffs of a chalky appearance, perhaps limestone.
f !-*-%—
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
A piece of ice floated by us this morning, probably from
the breaking up of some of the northern rivers, which have
contributed to the present rise. In putting off from a bluff
on the S. W. side, to cross over, my attention was called to
an object which attracted the notice of the company. A
huge buffaloe bull made his appearance on the top of the
bluff standing almost at the edge [101] of the precipice, and
looking down upon us. It was the first we had seen. Long
and matted wool hung over his head, and covered his huge
shoulders, while his body was smooth, as also the tail, except a turf at the end. It was a striking and terrific object:
he eyed us with the ferocity of the Hon, seemed at length
to "snuff the tainted breeze:" threw his head into the air,
wheeled round and trotted off. It was fifteen minutes before he disappeared entirely, and I continued to follow him
with my eyes, with a kind of delight. I was told he had
gone to join his comrade; the males at this season of the
year always go in pairs, a singular fact in the natural history
of the animal.
Had a fine breeze towards evening — which enabled us
to make five or six miles more than we expected.
Saturday 23th. This morning ran aground, and were
detained several hours. Passed the river a Jaque; the
principal rendezvous of the traders with the Yankton Sioux.
It is a large handsome stream, navigable several hundred
miles, with more wood on its borders than is generally
found in this part of the country. [102] Immediately at
the mouth there is an open wood, of ash and cotton
Sunday 26th. At daylight, discovered a canoe descending with two men, who prove to be those sent by us,
to Hunt. They bring us the pleasing information, that
Hunt, in consequence of our request, has agreed to wait
for us, at the Ponças village. i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
Saw some buffaloe to day, and with Mr. Lisa, went several miles in pursuit of them, but without success.
Passed a beautiful island L' isle a bon homme, upon which
there are the remains of an ancient fortification.34 In the
evening our hunter killed a buffaloe, upon which we all
It is becoming very warm in the middle of the day, and
our men suffer considerably from the heat of the sun. As
we had no wind this morning, and ascended with the cor-
delle, I made my escape from the boat with my rifle. Passed
through a most delightful prairie, the grass short and close,
of a deep blue, and intermixed with a great variety of
beautiful flowers. With what delight could I roam over
these lovely meads, if not under restraint from the fear
of meeting some party of Indians, who [103] may be lurking about. The plain was strewed with the ordure of the
buffaloe, which gave it the appearance of an immense pasture field. We discovered this morning, a great deal of
smoke up the river, which we suppose to have been made
by the Indians, in order to give notice of our approach;
some of their scouts having probably discovered us. This
is the usual mode of giving warning; the ordure of the buffaloe is gathered up in heaps, and fire set to it; and such
is the clearness of the atmosphere, that this smoke can be
easily discerned at the distance of ten or twenty miles.
The scenery this evening is beautiful beyond any thing
I ever beheld. In spite of every injunction to the contrary,
I could not help wandering a few miles from the boat. The
sky as clear as that represented in Chinese painting.
The face of the country enchanting. The flowery mead,
the swelling ground, the romantic hill, the bold river, the
** Bon Homme Island retains its name, and this has been extended to a South
Dakota county and town. The fortification which Brackenridge mentions Lewis
and Clark described in much detail. For drawings thereof, see Original Journals
of Lewis and Clark Expedition (New York, 1904).— Ed.
fi 1 02
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
winding rivulet, the groves, the shrubberies, all disposed
and arranged in the most exquisite manner. No idea can
be conveyed to the mind, but by recurring to one which
would be as sad as this is pleasing. Suppose for a moment,
the most [104] beautiful parts of France or Italy should at
once be divested of their population, and with it their dwellings and every vestige of human existence — that nothing
but the silent plains and a few solitary groves and thickets
should remain, there would then be some resemblance to the
scenery of the Missouri; though the contemplation would
produce grief instead of pleasure. Yet even here, I could
not but feel as if there existed a painful void — something
wanting—"a melancholy stillness reigns over the mtermin-
able waste "-
no animated beings
 scarce an insect moves
Its filmy wing — and o'er the plain, naught breathes
But scouling blasts, or th' eternal silence
Breaks — save when the pealing thunder roars.
In fact, I saw no Hving thing in the course of my evening
ramble, except a few buzzing insects. But there is a pleasure in giving wing to fancy, which anticipates the cheerful
day when this virgin soil will give birth to millions of my
countrymen. Too happy, if my after fame might but survive on the plains of the Missouri. If the vast expanse of
ocean is considered as a sublime spectacle, this is even
[105] more so; for the eye has still greater scope, and, instead of its monotony, now reposes upon the velvet green,
or feeds on the endless variety of hill and dale. Instead
of being closed up in a moving prison, deprived of the use
of our limbs, here we may wander at our will. The mind
naturally expands, or contracts, to suit the sphere in which it
exists — in the immeasurable immensity of the scene, the
intellectual faculties are endued with an energy, a vigor,
a spring, not to be described.
■i i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
The water has fallen considerably, and the current is
much lessened.
Monday 27th. Had to oppose a contrary wind until
eleven. While exerting ourselves to pass a difficult and
dangerous rapid, Lisa who was at the head of the boat,
with the grappling hook, fell overboard, and narrowly escaped being drowned. Our boat floated down the stream.
When we renewed the attempt, strange to tell, it was my
turn to fall over, while exerting myself with a pole, in the
afterpart: I was near being swept away by the swiftness
of the current, but by good luck seized the steering oar,
and drew. myself into the [106] boat, before the accident
was perceived by more than two or three.
At one, arrived at the Ponças village. On our approach
we found all the inhabitants crowded to the bank, and
several had waded into the water up to the waist. The
greater part of the men were naked; the women and children filthy and disgusting. Two of the chiefs came on board,
and immediately began to beg; — "Take pity on us, strangers — we are very poor — we have no knives to cut our
meat, but are obliged to tear it with our nails — we have
no guns — we have no powder — or lead — take pity on
us, we are very poor." This is the contemptible whine
of nearly all the nations of the Missouri. We made a few
presents; the principal chief then begged for some whiskey,
a small dram was given him, which we afterwards regretted,
for in a few moments he became troublesome — looked
like a mad monkey, his teeth chattered, his tongue moved
incessantly, and his countenance underwent a thousand
ridiculous contortions and grimaces. It was with much
difficulty we could get him out of the boat; when he was
led to the edge, he appeared to be afraid to step off, though
the [107] boat was almost touching the shore; his limbs
quaked, he burst into tears, and bellowed like an ox; it
1(1 94
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
was found absolutely necessary to lift him out and set him
on the ground. He had no sooner touched it, than this
babe, was converted into a ferocious demon: he seized a
huge limb of a tree, and fell on the crowd of warriors,
women, and children, and laid about him with the utmost
fury; these stumbled over each other, and ran off h el ter
skelter, exhibiting a scene truly ludicrous.
We could obtain no information here, further than, that
Hunt had gone off three days before, but we suppose in
order to wait for us a short distance above. Proceeded on
our voyage and encamped at the mouth of the Qui Courre,
four miles above the village."1 In the evening, two men
who proved to be deserters from the party of Hunt, came
to us with very unwelcome intelligence. It seems that
Hunt, was much astonished to find from our messengers
that we were so near; but fearing to be passed, had sent
us a feigned answer in order to conceal his real design,
which was to make all possible haste to keep out of our
reach. In order to affect this, he was now making every
possible 1108] exertion. Our suspicions are now fully confirmed — Hunt is apprehensive that Lisa will endeavour to
pass, and then induce the Sioux to stop him, or he is himself resolved upon securing his passage by the same means.
Such is the effect of this unhappy distrust; this want of
mutual confidence, I fear, may in the end, prove equally
injurious to us all. Nothing is now left for us, but to push
our voyage with greater vigor than ever.
Tuesday 28th. Weather smoky, and extremely warm.
High land on both sides of the river, with some dwarf trees
in the hollows, principally cedar. At ten, a fine breeze
springing up, we continued under sail the rest of the day,
and determining to strain every nerve, in order to overtake
N The French name of the present Niobrara River was L'eau qui court (rapid*
running water).— Ed. i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
Hunt, we resolved to run the risk of sailing after night,
and fortunately it happened to be moonlight. We continued under way until eleven o'clock. As the water was
in a middling stage, there was danger of running aground,
and being detained several days. But little confidence can
be placed in the soundings, on account of the bends of the
river, and the sudden changes from deep to shoal water.
[109] There is scarcely any lowland from the Qui Courre —
the country hilly.
Wednesday 2çth. After lying by a few hours, at one
o'clock, again continued under sail — but the moon disappearing, and it becoming dark, it was thought adviseable
to lie by until day-light. The hills hereabout, high and
broken, and little or no river bottom on either side. At
two o'clock, arrived at a beautiful island, called Little
Cedar island, on which grows fine cedar, the trees uncommonly large.3* This is a delightful spot, the soil of
the island is rich, and it may contain about three thousand
acres — the middle of the island is a beautiful prairie,
but the adjacent country is bleak and barren. At the point
of the island, discovered an encampment of Hunt, and on
examination, we discovered,[to the great joyîof the company
that the fire was not yet extinguished; it is therefore but
a few days since he was here. Continued under sail until
eleven at night, having in little better than twenty-four
hours, made seventy-five miles.
Thursday 30th. This morning, favoured with a continuance of fair wind. The country is exceedingly rough
and broken — the greater [no] part without the least vegetation. The hills have a very singular appearance. Near
the top they look black, and seem to have been burnt.
38 This was the first of the islands bearing this name, which is still retained.
It is in Gregory County, South Dakota. The second is near Chamberlain. See
Bradbury's Travels, vol. v of our series, note 67.— Ed.
v&. \
Ml Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
About noon, saw some tracks, which we supposed to be
of yesterday.
In the evening, passed a very fine stream, called White
river, about three hundred yards wide at the mouth.37
Here there is some bottom land, and wood points; the hills
covered with grass. Heard several gun shots, which we
supposed to have been from the party of Hunt. This
evening the wind abated.
Friday 31st. This morning, a contrary wind, and some
rain. Proceeded with the cordelle. In the course of the
day, saw a large flock of antelopes — they appear to be
numerous in this part of the country. Observed in the sand,
a number of Indian tracks, and a place, where it appeared
that the boats of Mr. Hunt had stopped with the Indians
some time. One of our men discovered a curious place,
contrived by the Indians, for taking fish; it was something
like a fish basket — we found two fine catfish in it.
When about to put into the river, to cross to a point,
we discovered three buffaloes, swimming [in] towards us,
and contrary to the precautions we had agreed to observe,
in making no noise, (lest we should be discovered by the
Indians, who were probably in the neighborhood) a firing
was commenced upon the poor animals, which continued
half an hour. The report of the guns, as might have been
foreseen, brought an Indian to the top of the hill, but
we were too far in the river, to return to him, or to be
Towards evening, the boat having received some injury,
were compelled to stop — I went in pursuit of a buffaloe
calf — on my return, found the party somewhat uneasy
on account of the length of my stay, having been drawn
by the eagerness of pursuit to a considerable distance.   Set
" White River rises in northeastern Nebraska and flows through South
Dakota, emptying into the Missouri in Lyman County.— Ed. i8n]
Brackenridge's Journal
off again, and continued to drag the boat along until late
at night.   The men much fatigued.
Saturday, June ist. At daylight we heard the firing of
guns on the hills below us, on the other side of the river;
and concluded that all our precautions and extraordinary
exertion had been vain; that we should be robbed and
killed, or at least compelled to return; for it was in vain to
think of ascending the river if these [112] people were determined to oppose us. In a short time they made their appearance on the opposite sand beach, hoisted an American flag, and fired a few shots. There was but one thing
to be done, which was to cross over to them at once, and
meet the worst, every man preparing himself for defence.
Each rower had his gun by his side, and Lisa and myself
beside our knives and rifles had each a pair of pistols in
our belts. On reaching the shore, we discovered twelve
or thirteen Indians seated on a log of wood, but we supposed
the principal body of them were concealed in the woods,
so as to be at hand if required. Lisa and I leaped ashore,
and shook hands with them. Having no interpreter at
this critical juncture, we were fearful of not being understood: however, with the aid of certain signs which form
a kind of universal language amongst the Indians, and with
which Lisa was acquainted, he was enabled to hold a conversation. He told them that he was their trader, but that
he had been very unfortunate, for all the peltries which he
had collected among them, as they well knew, had been
burnt the year before; while his young men, who had passed
up to [113] the head of the river, had been greatly distressed
by the natives of those parts, who were bad people. That
he was now poor and much to be pitied, and was on his way
to bring back bis young men, having resolved to leave the
upper country. He concluded, by requesting the chief to
give notice to all the Sioux bands that in three months he
m . f
m Early Western Travels
would return and establish a trading factory for them at
the Cedar island. This speech, together with a handsome
present, had the desired effect; though not without apparent
reluctance. Remaining as short a time as possible, we re-
crossed the river. The chief is a fine looking Indian, the
others were very young men, nearly naked, with long braids
of hair hanging over their foreheads, and confined in small
tubes. They have all fine features, and are well formed. I
observed a singular appendage to their moccasins; a fox's
tail was fastened to the heel, and which trailed along the
ground as they walked. It is two days since Hunt passed
We experienced a momentary relief, but did not by any
means, consider ourselves yet safe. It is possible we may
have passed the principal body of the Sioux in the night,
while under [114] sail, in which case, they will be able to
overtake us by this evening, or to-morrow morning. We
therefore resolved not to remit our exertions.
About twelve o'clock we reached the great bend, twenty
miles round, and but one mile and an half across the gorge.
A remarkable part of the river. In the evening there was
every appearance of an approaching change in the state of
the atmosphere; and the wind, as usual, veered gradually
round to the different points of the compass, from south to
east, from east to north, and from north to west; and what
appeared almost miraculous, shifted with the course of the
river so as to enable us to sail with a favourable wind, nearly
the whole way round the bend. In this, however, we were
exposed to considerable danger, and suffered much from a
very heavy rain. Thus favoured, we have gained a day
upon Hunt.
Sunday 2d. Set out with my gun early this morning
on the S. W. side of the river — walked about four miles
along the hills, and at length approaching in sight of the i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
point where the great bend terminates, I descried on the
opposite side, with much satisfaction, the boats [115] of
Mr. Hunt. I immediately returned to give the joyful intelligence to our people. On coming opposite the place
where I had seen the boats, we discovered a great number
of Indians, who beckoned to us to cross; but supposing
them to be Sioux, we determined to continue on until we
should overtake the party before us. We suffered them to
shout, to gallop their horses, and to wave their robes unnoticed. Some distance above, two men came to us, who
had been with Hunt; the Indians we had just passed, were
a party of three hundred Arikaras, who, on hearing of our
approach, had come for the purpose of enabling us to ascend.
It appears also, that we have passed all the Sioux bands,
who had been seen by Hunt, but probably finding his party
too strong, they had resolved to stop and plunder ours;
that we must have passed them in the night, or under sail,
as they did not expect to hear of us so soon.
At eleven o'clock we overtook Hunt's party, to the satisfaction of our little company. It was with real pleasure I
took my friend Bradbury by the hand; I had reason to believe our meeting was much more cordial than that of [116]
the two commanders. Continued under sail in company
the rest of the day, forming a handsome little fleet of five
sail. Encamped in the evening opposite the larger Cedar
island, twelve hundred miles from the mouth of the
88 This was the Cedar Island upon which Loisel's fort stood; see Bradbury's
Travels, vol. v of our series, note 105.— Ed.
\ .,*
Early Western Travels
Messrs. Bradbury and Nuttal — An excursion — Rupture
between the leaders of our parties — Arrival at the Arikara villages.
Hitherto the rapidity of our movements, and the continual anxiety which prevailed amongst us, precluded the
possibility of making any distant excursions, or of observing the different objects which came under our notice, with
the attention I could have wished. These inconveniences
were now all passed, and I now promised myself much
pleasure in the examination [117] of the country, and of its
productions; as well as much information from the society
of two scientific men. I had little or no practical knowledge of natural history myself, and thus far we had passed
through a district affording little else to excite attention.
The surface of the land — its shape — its appearances —
was all that I could pretend to note with accuracy, and this
only on the immediate borders of the river. We are now
twelve hundred miles from the mouth; the last six hundred,
with little variation composed of grassy stepps, with open
groves at intervals along the margin of the river, and on the
uplands and hollows at a distance from it, a few copses of
wood and shrubberies. The hills of no great elevation,
scarcely exceeding those on the Ohio, and like that through
which this beautiful river holds its course, a region entirely
calcareous. The shores of the river are seldom bound by
rocks; and where the bluffs or higher banks are precipitous, we seldom see any thing but enormous masses of bare
clay, often sixty or an hundred feet in height, which is constantly crumbling into the river. The limestone, freestone,
or sandstone, but rarely shews itself on "the river.   [118]
39 Notes upon the following subjects mentioned in this chapter are found in
Bradbury's Travels, vol. v of our series: Arikara Indians, notes 76 and 83; Chey-
.enne River, note 81; Surwarcarna River, note 82.— Ed.
-méàm^-' i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
From this it will be seen, that to the mineralogist, few objects
of interest are found. The masses of pumice, and the burnt
bluffs in the country of the Ponças, are to be attributed
most probably to the burning of coal banks; for it is a well
known fact, that such have been known to burn for several
years without being extinguished; and why may not the
same thing have occurred here. In one place above the
Ponças village, the river is bounded on both sides by bills
of no great elevation, bare of vegetation, and the earth
from the effects of burning, in nearly the whole of this distance, of a dark color, quite hard and heavy, as if containing a portion of iron. Emetites are observed in considerable quantities, from which it is probable that iron ore
Mr. Bradbury has met with but little on the subject of
mineralogy; but has been very successful in his botanical
researches. He has encountered nearly an hundred unde-
scribed plants, many very beautiful and curious. Within
a few days he finds a great number which he calls Mexican.
We have now in fact reached that mçlined plain over which
the rivers of the Provincias Internas, run into the [119] Gulf
of Mexico. There are also many alpine plants, by which
he conjectures, that we have already attained a much greater
height, than any part, of the Eastern section of the valley
of the Mississippi. Mr. Bradbury, in company with some
Indians and hunters has made an excursion from the river
Platte, to the Otto villages on that river, to the mouth of
Elkhorn, which he describes as a deep navigable stream,
containing nearly as much water as the Thames at London
bridge, but this water is swallowed up in the shoals and
quicksands of the river, into which it is discharged. He
passed for one hundred and fifty miles, through a delightful
champaign country, of rich, open, smooth meadows, the
borders of the streams fringed with wood: within eight or
\i m Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
ten miles of the Missouri, the country is more broken and
hilly, and with a still smaller proportion of wood.
There is in company a gentleman of whom I have already
spoken, Mr. Nuttal, engaged in similar pursuits, to which
he appears singularly devoted, and which seems to engross
every thought, to the total disregard of his own personal
safety, and sometimes to the [120] inconvenience of the
party he accompanies. To the ignorant Canadian boatmen, who are unable to appreciate the science, he affords
a subject of merriment; le fou is the name by which he is
commonly known. When the boat touches the shore, he
leaps out, and no sooner is his attention arrested by a plant
or flower, then every thing else is forgotten. The inquiry is
made ou est le fou ? where is the fool ? il est après ramassée des
racines, he is gathering roots. He is a young man of genius,
and very considerable acquirements, but is too much devoted
to his favorite pursuit, and seems to think that no other study
deserves the attention of a man of sense. I hope, should
this meet his eye, it will give no offence; for these things,
often constituted a subject of merriment to us both.
The day after this fortunate junction, we continued our
voyage, but were opposed by a strong wind from the N.
E. which, compelled us, after we had proceeded a few miles,
to encamp for the remainder of the day.
Took my gun, and set off to make an excursion. The
country is altogether open, excepting some groves of cotton-
wood in the bottom. [121] The upland rises into considerable hills, about one third covered with a very short grass,
intermixed with a great variety of plants and flowers,
the rest consists of hills of clay, almost bare of every kind
of vegetation. On the tops of the higher hills, at some distance from the river, there are masses of granite, of several
tons weight, and great quantities of pebbles. In the course
of my ramble, I happened on a village of barking squirrels, i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
or prairie dogs, as they have been called. My approach
was announced by an incessant barking, or rather chirping, similar to that of a common squirrel, though much
louder. The village was situated on the slope of a hill,
and appeared to be at least a mile in length; the holes were
seldom at a greater distance from each other than twenty
or thirty paces. Near each hole, there was a small elevation of earth, of six or eight inches, behind which, the little
animal posted himself, and never abandoned it, or ceased
the demonstrations of alarm, 'insignificantly fierce,' until
I approached within a few paces. As I proceeded through
the village, they disappeared, one after another, before me.
There was never more than one at each hole. I had [122]
heard that the magpie, the Missouri rattle snake, and the
horn frog, were observed to frequent these places; but I
did not see any of them, except the magpie. The rattle
snake of the prairies, is about the same length with the common rattle snake, but more slender, and the color white
and black.
In the course of the evening, I had an opportunity of
seeing the manner in which the antelope is taken in these
open plains, where there is no possibility of approaching
by insidious means. A handkerchief is placed on the end
of a ramrod, and waved in the air, the hunter lying flat on
the ground. If any of the animals be in sight, they run
instantly to the place, and perform a circuit around, approaching often within twenty or thirty yards, which gives
an opportunity of firing on them. This is the most swift
and beautiful little animal on our continent.40 The description of the gazel of Africa, the favorite theme of Arabian poetry, might be applied to the antelope of the Missouri.
10 The American antelope (Antilocapra americâna) was first made known to
the scientific world by the description of Lewis and Clark. It is frequently called
"cabra," from the Spanish word for goat.— Ed. io4
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
It is perhaps, the most swift of all animals; and the most
timid. Its course over the country is more like flight, than
the movement of a quadruped. Its color is that of the deer,
but [123] in shape it bears a greater resemblance to the goat,
though larger, and of a form much more delicate; I often
amuse myself with watching the motions of this little animal.
The party of Mr. Hunt consists of about eighty men,
chiefly Canadians, the rest are American-hunters.
Tuesday 4th. Set off at seven — wind contrary, though
not so strong as yesterday. After doubling a point, we
found that from the course of the river, the wind would be
favorable, and accordingly sailed for eight or ten miles.
We saw at the mouth of a small creek, a herd of buffaloe of
all sizes, crowded together, to the number of several hundred. We immediately debarked, but they disappeared
before we succeeded in killing any of them. The appearance of the country has varied but little for several days
past. Bleak and dreary — the bottoms narrow; in some
places none at all, and clay bluffs.
Wednesday 3th. This morning after proceeding a short
distance we were compelled, by rain, to put to shore, where
we continued until towards evening, and seeing no probability that the weather would clear up, crossed [124] over
to the S. W. side, where Hunt and his party were encamped.
On the side we had left, the hills approach close to the river,
and bare of vegetation; the earth a stiff clay, which being
now moistened by the rain is exceedingly slippery. On
the other side there is a handsome plain, with a row of trees
along the margin of the river, and a handsome wood along
the borders of a little rivulet which flows across the plain.
The upland rises at the distance of a quarter of a mile, to
the height of sixty or seventy feet, in a number of projecting points, or hills. On ascending this ground we found
ourselves on an extended plain, upon which at the distance i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
of a few miles the hills rose in strange, irregular broken
masses. Mr. Bradbury and I took a stroll from the camp,
in quest of specimens and adventures. Before reaching
the upland we observed on the river bottom a large encampment of Sioux, where they had probably remained during
winter, from the traces of tents, the quantity of bones,
and the appearance of the ground. Their position was well
chosen; the wood of the Missouri, and that of the streamlet
I have just mentioned, at [125] right angles with it, formed
two sides of the camp, on the other sides there is an open
plain. In this place it would have been difficult to have
attacked them by surprise. On coming to the upland we
found the points of the hills stony, and large masses of detached rock here and there on the more elevated places.
The grass short, intermixed with many beautiful small
flowers, but no weeds. A few prickly pears (cactus) were
seen, but of a small size, not exceeding a few inches in
length, and the thorns not strong. The upland was at
every little distance, indented with ravines, or hollows,
some of them bare of soil and still subject to the washing
of the rains, others well covered with grass. Upon one of
these projecting points, we observed at some distance a
small group of buffaloes lying down. Stealing along the
brow of the bill, we ascended from a ravine, approached
within thirty or forty yards, and taking aim together, fired
at a cow that happened to be nearest to us; she started up
and bellowed, the others seemed to be but little alarmed,
until we rose up and advanced towards them, when they
trotted off slowly to the hills,-leaving the cow who went [126]
off in a different direction. The wounded buffaloe, or deer,
always leave the herd. I pursued her for some distance,
but found that she was not mortally wounded. The flight
of these alarmed other herds which were feeding at a distance; there was something picturesque in the appearance of Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
these herds of buffaloe, slowly winding round the sides of
the distant hills, disappearing in some hollow and again
emerging to view. Wide and beaten roads formed by the
passing of the buffaloe, may every where be seen. While
Mr. Bradbury was engaged in collecting specimens, I ran
to a point at the distance of a mile, where I saw some antelopes, and had the good fortune, by ascending a ravine to
approach mthin sixty yards. They proved to be six females
and one male ; the latter at every instant performed a circuit
in a small trot, and then suddenly stopped short, as if to
see that nothing came near. The tail like that of the goat,
and perfectly white, the limbs small and delicate, the horns
like those of the deer, with several prongs, but they are
never shed, and the female has them as well as the male,
though of a smaller size. On shewing myself they flew
off, and I [127] had scarce time to reach the spot they left,
until they reappeared upon another point, as far off as when
I first saw them. We saw in the course of the evening,
several wolves, villages of prairie dogs, a herd of elk, and
a hare of the species called lepus variabilis, its color was at
this time grey, but becomes white in winter.
On our return, I found that a disagreeable misunderstanding had taken place between the two chiefs of the parties:
The interpreter of Mr. Hunt, had improperly relinquished
the service of the company, to which he was still indebted.
Mr. Lisa had several times mentioned to him the impropriety of his conduct, and perhaps had made him some offers,
in order to draw him from his present service. This was
certainly imprudent, and placed him in the power of a
worthless fellow, who, without doubt, retailed the conversation to his master, with some additions. This evening,
while in Hunt's camp, to which he had gone on some business, he was grossly insulted by the interpreter, who struck
him several times, and seized a pair of pistols belonging i8ii]
Brackenridge3 s Journal
to Hunt; — that gentleman did not [128] seem to interest
himself much in the affair, being actuated by feelings of
resentment, at the attempt to inveigle his man. On my
return to our camp, I found Mr. Lisa furious with rage,
buckling on his knife, and preparing to return: finding that
I could not dissuade, I resolved to accompany him. It
was with the greatest difficulty I succeeded in preventing
the most serious consequences. I had several times to
stand between him and the interpreter, who had a pistol
in each hand. I am sorry to say, that there was but little
disposition on the part of Mr. Hunt to prevent the mischief
that might have arisen. I must, in justice to him declare,
however, that it was through him that Mr. M'Clelland
was induced not to put his threat41 in execution, having
pledged his honour to that effect. I finally succeeded in
bringing Lisa off to his boat. When it is recollected that
this was at a distance of a thousand miles from all civil
authority, or power, it will be seen that there was but little
to restrain the effects of animosity. Having obtained, in
some measure, the confidence of [129] Mr. Hunt, and the
gentlemen who were with him, and Mr. Bradbury that of
Mr. Lisa, we mutually agreed to use all the arts of mediation in our power, and if possible, prevent any thing serious.
Thursday 6th. Weather clearing up. The water rising
very fast — supposed the annual flood. This morning
passed the ruins of an Indian village, there were great piles
of buffaloe bones, and quantities of earthen ware. The
village appears to have been scattered round a kind of citadel, or fortification, enclosing four or five acres, and of an
oval form. The earth is thrown up about four feet, there
are a few cedar palisadoes remaining. Probably, in cases
of siege, the whole village was crowded into this space.
a That if ever he fell in with Lisa, in the Indian country, he would shoot him.—
!    it
i M.
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
Friday 28th [i. e., 7th.]. Continued under way as usual.
All kind of intercourse between the leaders has ceased. In
the evening, passed several old villages, said to be of the
Arikara nation. The bottoms, or points, become wider, and
the bluffs of a less disgusting appearance; there are but few
clay hills, the country being generally covered with grass.
[130] Saturday 8th. Contrary wind to-day,,though delightful weather. This morning, passed a large and handsome
river, called the Chienne, S. W. side. It appears as large
as the Cumberland or Tennessee. Saw at this place, the
ruins of an old village and fortification. The country hereabouts is fine, and better wooded than any I have seen for
the last three hundred miles. A tolerable settlement might
be supported here. Game is very abundant — elk, deer,
and buffaloe without number. We observed this evening,
forty or fifty skin canoes, which had been left by some war
party which had crossed here. Such is the wanton destruction of the buffaloe, that, I am informed, the Indians will
kill them merely for the purpose of procuring their skins for
these canoes.
Encamped a few miles above the Chienne river, in a
beautiful bottom. No art can surpass the beauty of this
spot; trees of different kinds, shrubs, plants, flowers, meadow,
and upland, charmingly dispersed. What coolness and
freshness breathes around! The river is bordered with
cotton-wood, and a few elms, there is then an open space
of thirty or forty paces, after which begins a delightful
shrubbery [131] of small ash trees, the graisse de beouf,
the gooseberry, currant, &c. forming a most delightful
avenue. We all remark, that the singing of the birds is
much sweeter than in the forests of the states. This is
fancifully accounted for by Mr. Bradbury, from the effects
of society; from the scantiness of woods, they are compelled
to crowd on the same tree, and in this way impart improve- i8ii]
Brackenridge's Journal
ment to each other. Assuming it as a fact, that the birds
of Europe sing better than those of America, he asks, can
it be owing to any other reason than this ? There are great
numbers of the common field lark; the black bird, thrush,
martin, and wren, are also numerous. Turkeys, patridges,
or pheasants, are not to be seen beyond the Maha village.
The moschetoes have been exceedingly troublesome for
several days past. They disappear in the evenings, which
are cool, or with the slightest wind.
Sunday çth. Got under way this morning, with fine
weather. Discovered great numbers of buffaloe; on the
N. W. side, an extensive level meadow. Numbers began
to swim across the river, as Hunt whose party was before
us, [132] was passing along; they waited and killed as many
as they wanted; a number which were started from an
island, swam towards us, and we killed several also.
Mr. Bradbury and I went out on the N. W. side, where
the buffaloe had been first seen, and walked several miles.
A very beautiful and extensive meadow, at least a mile
wide, but without a tree or shrub—the upland bare. Passed
a Sioux encampment of last fall — from appearance there
must have been three or four hundred here. Amongst
other things, our curiosity was attracted, by a space, about
twenty feet in diameter, enclosed with poles, with a post
in the middle, painted red, and at some distance, a buffaloe
head raised upon a little mound of earth. We are told,
this is a place where an incantation for rendering the buffaloe
plenty, had been performed. Amongst other ceremonies,
the pipe is presented to the head. I started several elk and
departed from Mr. Bradbury to go in pursuit of them —
I ran several miles along the hills, but without success.
I had wandered about a mile from the river, but could distinctly see it. The country rises in steps, each step an extensive plain.   Herds [133] of buffaloe could be seen at €
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 6
such a distance as to appear like black spots or dots. How
different are the feelings in the midst of this romantic
scenery, from those experienced in the close forests of the
At four o'clock hoisted sail with a fair wind. From the
moment of our departure, we