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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 1905

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       Early Western Travels
Volume XXI
ifc  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," "Original
Journals ofthe Lewis and Clark Expedition," "Hennepin's
New Discovery," etc.
Volume XXI
Wyeth's Oregon, or a Short History of a Long Journey, 1832;
and Townsend's Narrative of a Journey across
the Rocky Mountains, 1834
Cleveland, Ohio
The Arthur H.  Clark Company
in Copyright 1905, by
Che Eakreihr */!rr»«
Preface.    The Editor
Oregon; or a Short History of a Long Journey from the
Atlantic Ocean to the Region of the Pacific, by Land;
drawn up from the notes and oral information of . . .
one of the party who left Mr. Nathaniel J. Wyeth, July 28th,
1832, four days' march beyond the Ridge of the Rocky Mountains, and the only one who has returned to New England.
John B. Wyeth.
Author's Motto	
Narrative of a Jotjrney across the Rocky Mountains, to
the Columbia River.   John K. Townsend.
Copyright Clause .       .       .       .       .       .       .112
Publisher's Advertisement 113
Author's Table of Contents 115
Text 121
Facsimile of title-page to Wyeth's Oregon 19
"Hunting the  Buffalo."   From the London edition  (1840)  of
Townsend's Narrative .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .    110
Facsimile of title-page to Townsend's Narrative .       .       .in
"Spearing the Salmon."   From the London edition (1840) of
Townsend's Narrative ........    259  PREFACE  TO VOLUME XXI
With the present volume our series reverts to the far
Northwest, and takes up the story of the Oregon country
during the fourth decade of the nineteenth century.
After the failure of the Astorian enterprise (1811-13),
recounted with so much detail in the narratives of Franchère
and Ross (reprinted in our volumes vi and vii), the Northwest Coast fell into the hands of the British fur-trade companies, who ruled the forest regions with a sway as absolute
as that of a czar. The "Nor'westers" first occupied the
field, sent out their daring "bourgeois" in all directions, and
reaped a rich harvest of pelts. But upon the consolidation
of the rival corporations (1821), the Hudson's Bay Company's men succeeded them, and for the first time law and
order were enforced by the chief factors, and the denizens
of the Northwest, white and red, soon learned to obey and
revere their new masters. Prominent among the factors
was Dr. John McLoughlin, the benevolent despot of Fort
Vancouver, whose will was law not only for savages and
fur-trade employés, but for all overland emigrants, British
and American, who now began swarming to the banks of
the Columbia. For twenty years he governed a province
larger than France, and friend and foe alike testify to his
probity and kindness, from which Americans profited quite
as fully as those from his own land.
To the world at large, during this long period, the land
beyond the mountains remained unknown and almost unknowable. Occasionally a New England skipper ventured
to the mouth of the Columbia, exchanging goods from
Hawaii and the South Seas for the salmon and furs of the IO
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
Northwest Coast; but the inhabitants of the interior of our
country long found the Rockies and their outlying deserts
insurmountable barriers to Western passage.
Fur-traders finally led the way into the heart of the mountains. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company, under General
William Ashley, began in 1822 that series of explorations
and excursions that opened the highland fastnesses to the
men of the West, and paved the way for the tracing of the
Oregon Trail.
But it was bona-fide settlers, not fur-traders or trappers,
that captured Oregon for the United States. Among the
earliest of these were members of the company escorted by
Captain Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth, whose home was in the
shades of academic learning at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Wyeth, however, owed the inception of the enterprise to
another New Englander, his quondam fellow-townsman,
Hall J. Kelley. An enterprising schoolmaster, the narratives of Lewis and Clark and of the Astorian participants
fired his imagination with a desire to behold the Ear West,
while the joint-occupancy treaty with Great Britain (1818)
aroused in him a patriotic desire that the region watered
by the Columbia might be possessed by| his native land.
Throughout more than a decade he published pamphlets
and articles for the local press, glowing with praise of Oregon, and succeeded in organizing the Oregon Colonization
Society, from among whose members he hoped to lead an
expedition to the far-away land of promise.
Among those who hearkened to him was the young Cam-
bridgian, Wyeth, whose mind, more practical than Kelley's,
but as yet uninformed as to the real difficulties of the enterprise, conceived the project of a great commercial enterprise to the Northwest. In the winter of 1831-32, Wyeth
formed his party of pioneers and formulated his plans.
With the opening of the spring a vessel laden with supplies 1832-1834]
was to start around Cape Horn, to meet the overland adventurers at the mouth of the Columbia. Wyeth, meanwhile,
was to lead a company of hale young men across the continent, who should hunt and trap on the way, and be ready
on arrival to provide a cargo of furs for the vessel, and later
to develop the products of the Oregon country.
Wyeth's original plan for the land party included forty
companions, but he finally set forth from Baltimore with
an enrollment of but twenty-four. Arrived in St. Louis,
he learned for the first time of the vast operations that
Western fur-traders were already carrying on among the
mountains — men to whom the experience of a life-time had
taught the conditions and the methods of trade beyond the
frontier. Nothing daunted, however, young Wyeth joined
the yearly caravan of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company,
and under its protection proceeded to that company's
rendezvous at Pierre's Hole. There the majority of his men,
finding the hazard greater than they had anticipated, turned
back; but the leader, with a handful of followers, pressed
on, only to learn in the Oregon country that his vessel had
been wrecked on a Pacific reef, and his cargo of supplies lost.
Received at Fort Vancouver with hospitable courtesy on
the part of the Hudson's Bay people, Wyeth passed the winter
in exploring the region and learning its resources. He became more than ever eager to exploit the great possibilities
lying before him, and returned across the continent to Boston,
making en route the famous journey — commemorated by
Washington Irving in his Scenes in the Rocky Mountains —
down the Bighorn and Yellowstone in a bull-boat. While
still among the mountain men, Wyeth confidentiy entered
into a contract with Milton Sublette and the latter's partner,
Thomas Fitzparrick, to carry out to them their yearly supplies the following season.
Intent on this and other projects, our adventurer hastened
Early Western Travels
on to Boston, organized the Columbia River Fishing and
Trading Company, and secured another vessel to proceed
to Oregon by sea. This time Wyeth's party was trebled,
and with a following of over seventy he started from St.
Louis on March 7, 1834. Among his companions were
the naturalists Nuttall and Townsend, and the missionaries Jason and Daniel Lee, all of whom were seeking the
Oregon country on errands of their own. The fate of
Wyeth's second expedition need not here be recounted,
further than to state that the contract being repudiated
by the Rocky Mountain men, Wyeth established a trading
post in eastern Idaho, which he later (1837) sold to the
Hudson's Bay Company and proceeded on to Oregon.
After indefatigable efforts, and fatigues seldom paralleled,
Wyeth finally (1836) abandoned the country and his ambitious project, and settled down to the humdrum role of
ice-merchant in Cambridge, amassing a moderate fortune
in shipping that useful commodity to the West Indies.
In recent years the journals and correspondence of
Nathaniel J. Wyeth, recounting the experience of his two
expeditions, have come to light and been published by
the Oregon Historical Society. These document's, however,
furnish but terse and bald statements of events, whereas
detailed narratives appeared in works published many
years before. The historian of the first expedition was
a kinsman of its leader — John B. Wyeth, a young man
of eighteen summers, who had previously been to sea and
acquired a taste for adventure. After the long journey
into the mountains, young Wyeth became dissatisfied with
the hardships and ill prospects of the venture, and joined
those malcontents at Pierre's Hole who voted for return,
thus abandoning his leader before the journey was more
than two-thirds completed. Upon arrival at Cambridge,
the  narrative  of  the  younger  Wyeth's  adventures  sped 1832-1834]
around the circle of his acquaintances, and reached the
ear of Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, a well-known local physician and scientist.
Waterhouse desired to discourage the prevalent wild
schemes of Western emigration, and published Wyeth's
experiences as a useful warning against such projects.
The little book as issued from the press bore the title:
Oregon; or a Short History of a Long Journey from the
Atlantic Ocean to the Region of the Pacific by Land, drawn
up from the notes and oral information of John B. Wyeth
(Cambridge, 1833). It is not difficult for the reader to
distinguish the work of the young traveller from that of
the older scientist — the literary finish, the allusions, the
moralizing and animadversions, of this composite book,
are certainly the elder's; the racy adventures, the off-hand
descriptions, surely those of the younger collaborator.1
John B. Wyeth's publication was distinctly annoying
and hurtful to the plans of his cousin, and caused the latter
to characterize it as "full of white lies." It is in the animus
rather than the words themselves that the deceit is to be
found; but disregarding its injudicious criticisms and
comments, Wyeth's book is a readable work of travel,
written in the full flush of health and spirits experienced
by a vigorous youngster on a journey taken more as an
escapade than with serious purpose. How far this motive
carried him, is witnessed by the recitation of practical
jokes in Cincinnati, and by the disasters of the home journey,
when, abandoned by his companions, he was turned adrift
in plague-stricken New Orleans to shift for himself. As
a picture of early life on the plains and in the mountains,
the account is graphic and attractive, as exampled by the
descriptions of the scene at the rendezvous — also that
1 In Harvard University Library, the book is catalogued under Waterhouse as
author. 14
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
at the conference between the Blackfoot chiefs and the
envoys of the whites, previous to the battle of Pierre's
Hole. Vivid pictures of the fur-trade leaders, and swift
glimpses of friendly and hostile tribesmen, jostle the description of what was in effect a New England town-meeting
in Pierre's Hole, and the report of an Indian battle famous
in the annals of the West. The Wyeth narrative was
printed privately, for circulation among friends, and therefore in a small edition. Examples are consequently now
extremely rare, and it is believed that its reprint in the
present series will be welcomed by students of early
Western exploration.
Nathaniel J. Wyeth's second expedition was even more
fortunate in its historian. John K. Townsend, a well-
known Philadelphia physician and naturalist, had long
been desirous of exploring the far western country in the
interests of science. Hearing from his friend, Thomas
Nuttall, then botanist at Harvard College, that he was preparing to join an expedition across the continent, Town-
send made arrangements to accompany him, and obtained
from the American Philosophical Society and the Academy
of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia a commission to search
for birds on their behalf.
The two scientists joined Wyeth at Boonville, Missouri, after a pedestrian journey Jàrom St. Louis to that
point. The adventurers left Independence on April 28,
1834, in company with the annual fur-trading caravan for
the Far West, and late in June arrived at the famous Green
River rendezvous. Thence the Wyeth party proceeded to
the Columbia, where a hearty welcome from Hudson's
Bay officials awaited them both at Walla Walla and Vancouver.
Townsend remained in the Oregon district for nearly
two years.    In the winter of 1834-35 he spent several months *^^l
in the Sandwich Islands, returning in Wyeth's vessel, the
"May Dacre," in March, 1835. The next year he was employed by the Hudson's Bay Company as physician at Fort
Vancouver, of which duties he was relieved by the coming
of one of their own surgeons from the North (March, 1836).
Still the ornithologist lingered in the country, anxious to
complete his collection of native birds. He journeyed up
the Columbia to Walla Walla, made a short excursion into the
Blue Mountains, explored the river's mouth, visited the
ruins of Lewis and Clark's Fort Clatsop, and finally embarked for home, by way of Cape Horn, on November 30,
1836. Three months were passed in Hawaii, en route; his
stay in Chili was prolonged by illness; but at last, after a
tedious voyage, he arrived off Cape Henlopen November
13,1837, having been absent three years and eight months.
Townsend's account of his travels appeared at Philadelphia in 1839, entitled: Narrative of a Journey across the
Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River, and a Visit to the
Sandwich Islands, Chili, àfc, with a Scientific Appendix.
A London edition followed in 1840, bearing the title, Sporting Excursions to the Rocky Mountains including a Journey
to the Columbia River and a Visit to the Sandwich Islands,
Chili, etc. This contains a few insignificant changes. Our
reprint is from the original Philadelphia version, omitting
both the now unessential appendix, and that portion of the
narrative which deals with Hawaii and South Ameica, these
being outside the field of our present interest.
Townsend wrote in an easy, flowing style, and a large
share of his pages bear evidence of closely following his daily
journals. Unlike Wyeth's kinsman, Townsend had much
admiration for the ability and resource of his leader — for
his " most indefatigable perseverance and industry"—and
could only attribute his failure to the mysterious dealings
of Providence.   From the commercial and economic stand- 16 Early Western Travels [Vol.
point, Wyeth's enterprise was a failure; from the historian's
point of view, it was eminently successful. Not only did he
conduct considerable parties of Americans across the continent, but some of these became permanent settlers in the
Oregon country; and his enterprise awakened the country
to the dangers of joint political occupancy.
Lewis and Clark's journals, as paraphrased by Nicholas
Biddle in 1814, had first called popular attention to the
region. John B. Wyeth's book, in 1833, was the first American publication on the subject, after the records of the initial exploration, and aroused a fresh interest in at least a
limited group of influential readers; the spark was further
kindled by the appearance, in 1836, of Washington living's
classic Astoria; and then appeared, three years later, Townsend's admirable narrative, giving to the world some detailed
knowledge of the resources of the Far Northwest. In the
same year with Townsend's publication, Wyeth himself
presented to Congress his "Memoir on Oregon," 2 which
was freighted with information concerning the worth of the
new region. These several works were important influences
in forcing the Oregon question upon the attention of
Congress, and thus paving the way for the final acquisition
of that country by the United States under the Oregon Treaty
of 1846.»
In the preparation of the present volume for the press, the
Editor has had, throughout, the active assistance of Louise
Phelps Kellogg, Ph.D.
R. G. T.
Madison, Wis., October, 1905.
2 House Ex. Reports, 25 Cong., 3 sess., ioi, app. 1.
* See Caleb B. Cushing "Discovery beyond the Rocky Mountains" in North
American Review, 1 (1840), pp. 75-144. Wyeth's Oregon, or a Short History or a
Long Journey
Reprint of original edition: Cambridge, 1833  OREGON;
jMi.r 23th, 1833, four davs   march iiciond thl ridgi: of tax
AND THE ONLY OKB WIÏO HAS RETURNED TO HEW ENGLAND. A contented mind is a continual feast; but entire satisfaction has never been procured by wealth however enormous, or ambition however successful.
True happiness is to no place confin'd,
But still is found in a contented mind. OREGON  EXPEDITION
In order to understand this Oregon Expedition, it is
necessary to say, that thirty years ago (1803), PRESIDENT
JEFFERSON recommended to Congress to authorize competent officers to explore the river Missouri from its mouth
to its source, and by crossing the mountains to seek the best
water communication thence to the Pacific Ocean. This
arduous task was undertaken by Captain M. Lewis and
Lieutenant W. Clarke of the first regiment of infantry. They
were accompanied by a select party of soldiers, and arrived
at the Missouri in May, 1804, and persisted in their novel
and difficult task into the year 1806, and with such success
as to draw from President Jefferson the following testimonial of their heroic services, viz. "The expedition of
Messrs. LEWIS & CLARKE, for exploring the river Missouri, and the best communication from that to the Pacific
Ocean, has had all the success which could be expected;
and for which arduous service they deserve well of their
country." 1
The object of this enterprise was to confer in a friendly
manner with the Indian Nations throughout their whole
journey, with a view to establish a friendly and equitable
commerce with them, on [2] principles emulating those that
marked and dignified the settlement of Pennsylvania by
William Penn. It was beyond doubt that the President
and Congress sincerely desired to treat the Indians with
kindness and justice, and to establish peace, order, and
good neighbourhood with all the savage tribes with whom
1 Quoted from Jefferson's annual message, December 2, 1806. See James D.
Richardson (éd.), Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Washington, 1896), i,
p. 408.— Ed. i
22 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
they came in contact, and not to carry war or violence
among any of them who appeared peaceably disposed.
A few years before the period of which we have spoken,
our government had acquired by purchase the vast and
valuable Territory of Louisiana from the renowned NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, at that time the Chief of the
French Nation. Considering his previous intentions, and
actual preparations under his famous General Bernadotte,2
nothing could be more fortunate for these United States
than this purchase."*! Our possession of Louisiana was so
grievous a sore to the very jealous Spaniards, that they
have, till lately, done all in their power to debar and mislead
us from pursuing discoveries in that quarter, or in the Arkansas, Missouri, or Oregon. Yet few or none of them
probably believed that we should, during the present generation, or the next, attempt the exploration of the distant
Oregon Territory, which extends from the Rocky Mountains to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, or in other words,
from the Missouri and Yellow Stone rivers to that of the
river Columbia or Oregon which pours into the Ocean by
a wide mouth at the immense distance from us of about
four thousand miles; yet one and twenty men, chiefly farmers and a few mechanics, had the hardihood to undertake
it, and that too with deliberation and sober calculation.
But what will not a New-England [3] man undertake when
honor and interest are the objects before him? Have not
the people of that sand-bank, Nantucket, redeemed it from
the ocean, and sailed round Cape Horn in pursuit of whales
2 Referring probably to the fact that Bernadotte had in January, 1803, been
chosen minister to the United States, and tarried in France during the negotiations
for the purchase of Louisiana. After these were concluded, Bernadotte's services
being required in the impending war with England, his projected mission to America
was abandoned. Wyeth has probably confused Bernadotte's mission with the
preparation in Holland of the armament which was, under command of General
Victor, intended to take possession of Louisiana.— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
for their oil, and seals for their skins ? A score of our farmers seeing that Nantucket and New Bedford had acquired
riches and independence by traversing the sea to the distant
shores of the Pacific, deterrnined to do something like it by
land. Their ardor seemed to have hidden from their eyes
the mighty difference between the facility of passing in a
ship with the aid of sails, progressing day and night, by
skilfully managing the winds and the helm, and that of a
complicated wagon upon wheels, their journey to be over
mountains and rivers, and through hostile tribes of savages
who dreaded and hated the sight of a white man.
This novel expedition was not however the original or
spontaneous notion of Mr. Nathaniel J. Wyeth,* nor was
it entirely owing to the publications of Lewis & Clarke or
Mackenzie.4 Nor was it entirely owing to the enterprise
of Messrs. Barrell, Hatch, and Bulfinch, who fitted out two
vessels that sailed from Boston in 1787, commanded by
8 Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth belonged to one of the oldest families of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, his ancestor settling there in 1645, on a place held by his descendants for over two centuries. Nathaniel's grandfather, Ebenezer, in 1751, purchased an estate embracing part of the present Mount Auburn, and extending to
Fresh Pond. There Nathaniel's father, Jacob (1764—1856), built a summer resort
known as Fresh Pond Hotel. Nathaniel, the fourth son, was born January 29,
1802, and was intended for Harvard College, of which his father and eldest brother
were graduates; his ambitious spirit, however, made him impatient to begin commercial life, and to his subsequent regret the college course was abandoned. He
first aided his father in the management of the hotel, but soon'entered the ice trade,
in which he remained until his expedition of 1832-36. In 1824 marrying his cousin
Elizabeth Jarvis Stone, he shortly before the first expedition moved into a new
house on the family estate, in which he resided until his death in 1856. For the
Oregon expeditions, see the preface of the present volume. Returning to Cambridge in 1836, he re-entered the ice traffic, and after 1840 was the head of the
concern. His highly accentuated qualities of activity and enterprise, added to
his strong personality, caused him to be esteemed by his contemporaries.— Ed.
4 In the centennial years of the Lewis and Clark expedition, their original
journals were for the first time printed as written — Thwaites (éd.), Original
Journals 0} the Lewis and Clark Expedition (New York, 1904-05). For an account of the earlier edition of their journals, edited by Nicholas Biddle, see Introduction to the work just cited. On Mackenzie, consult Franchère's Narrative in
our volume vi, p. 185, note 4.— Ed. 24 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
Captains Kendrick and Gray, which vessels arrived at
Nootka in September, 1788.5 They were roused to it by
the writings of Mr. Hall J. Kelly, who had read all the books
he could get on the voyages and travels in Asia, Africa,
Europe, and America, until he had heated his mind to a degree little short of the valorous Knight of La Mancha, that
is to say, he believed all he read, and was firm in the opinion
that an Englishman and an American, or either, by himself,
could endure and achieve any thing [4] that any man could
do with the same help, and farther, that a New-England
man or "Yankee," could with less.6 That vast region,
which stretches from between the east of the Mississippi, and
south of the Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and
Ontario, was too narrow a space for the enterprise of men
born and bred within a mile or two of the oldest University
6 On the expedition of Captains Kendrick and Gray, consult Franchère's
Narrative, in our volume vi, p. 183, note 1.— Ed.
"Hall J. Kelley may properly be called the father of the Oregon■ emigration
movement. Born in New Hampshire in 1790, he left home at the age of sixteen
and engaged in teaching at Hallowell, Maine. In 1814 he was graduated from
Middlebury College, and the following year removed to Boston, where he was
occupied as teacher and philanthropist, assisting in founding the Boston Young
Men's Education Society, the Penitent Female Refuge Society, and the first Sunday
School in New England. He was also a surveyor and engineer, and in 1828 invested his entire patrimony in a canal project at Three Rivers (later, Palmer),
Massachusetts, whither he removed in 1829. This enterprise proved a failure,
and his investment a total loss. For many years he had been interested in the
Oregon country, and soon after the publication of Biddle's version of the journals
of the Lewis and Clark expedition (1814), Kelley began an agitation for the American occupation of the district. He tried to interest Congress, and the first Oregon
bills (1820) bear the impress of his thought — see F. F. Victor, "Hall J. Kelley,"
in Oregon Historical Quarterly, ii, pp. 381-400. Finding his frequent petitions
of no avail, he formed a company in 1829 (incorporated in 1831) known as the
"American Society for encouraging the settlement of Oregon territory." The
winter of 1831-32 was spent in preparation for an emigration movement. Wyeth
was a member of this organization, and at first proposed to accompany Kelley;
but finding the tatter's plans impracticable, organized his own party. Kelley set
out in the spring of 1832 with a small company, who all abandoned him at New
Orleans. Proceeding alone to Vera Cruz, his goods were confiscated by the Mexican government; but although now penniless, he worked his way through to California. There, in the spring of 1834, he met Ewing Young (see our volume xx, p. 23, I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
in the United States.7 Whatever be the true character of
the natives of New England, one thing must be allowed
them, that of great and expansive ideas,— beyond, far beyond the generality of the inhabitants of the small Island
of Britain. I say small, for if that Island should be placed
in the midst of these United States, it would hardly form
more than a single member of our extended republic. That
vast rivers, enormous mountains, tremendous cataracts,
with an extent corresponding to the hugeness of the features
of America, naturally inspire men with boundless ideas,
few will doubt. This adventurous disposition, at the same
time, will as naturally banish from the mind what the new-
light doctrine of Phrenology calls the disposition bump of
Inhabitiveness, or an inclination to stay at home, and in its
place give rise to a reaming, wandering inclination, which,
some how or other, may so affect the organs of vision, and
of hearing, as to debar a person from perceiving what others
may see, the innumerable difficulties in the way. Mr. Hall
J. Kelly's writings operated like a match applied to the combustible matter accumulated in the mind of the energetic
Nathaniel J. Wyeth, which reflected and multiplied the
flattering glass held up to view by the ingenious and well-
disposed schoolmaster.
Mr. Nathaniel J. Wyeth had listened with peculiar [5]
delight to all the flattering accounts from the Western re-
note 2), whom he persuaded to accompany him overland to Oregon. Kelley was
ill, but was treated with slight respect by the British authorities at Fort Vancouver,
and lived without the fort during the winter, exploring the country in the intervals
of his fever. In the following spring (1835) he shipped for Hawaii, and returned
to Boston, determined, notwithstanding his misfortunes, to further Oregon emigration— see report to Congress, House Reports, 26 Cong., 3 sess., i, 101. Kelley's
health became undermined by the hardships which he had endured, his eyesight
was impaired, and he passed his latter years in Palmer, Massachusetts, in poverty
and obscurity, dying there in 1874.— Ed.
7 Harvard College was established by act of the general court of Massachusetts
in 1636.— Ed. 26
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
If: ;
gions, and that at a time when he was surrounded with
apparent advantages, and even enviable circumstances.
He was born and bred near the borders of a beautiful small
Lake, as it would be called in Great Britain; but what we
in this country call a large Pond; because we generally give
the name of Lakes only to our vast inland seas, some of
which almost rival in size the Caspian and Euxine in the
old world. It seems that he gave entire credit to the stories
of the wonderful fertility of the soil on the borders of the
Ohio, Missouri, the river Platte, and the Oregon, with the
equally wonderful healthfulness of the climate. We need
not wonder that a mind naturally ardent and enterprising
should become too enthusiastic to pursue the laborious
routine of breaking up and harrowing the hard and stubborn soil of Massachusetts within four miles of the sea,
where the shores are bounded and fortified by stones and
rocks, which extend inland, lying just below the surface of
the ground, while the regions of the West were represented
as standing in need of very little laborious culture, such was
the native vigor of its black soil. The spot where our adventurer was born and grew up, had many peculiar and
desirable advantages over most others in the county of
Middlesex. Besides rich pasturage, numerous dairies, and
profitable orchards, and other fruit trees, it possessed the
luxuries of well cultivated gardens of all sorts of culinary
vegetables, and all within three miles of the Boston Market-
House, and two miles of the largest live-cattle market in
New England. All this, and more too, had not sufficient
attractions to retain Mr. Wyeth in his native town and
[6] Besides these blessings, I shall add another. The
Lake I spoke of, commonly called Fresh Pond, is a body
of delightful water, which seems to be the natural head or
source of all the numerous underground rivers running be- I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
tween it and the National Navy Yard at Charlestown, which
is so near to the city of Boston as to be connected to it by a
bridge; for wherever you sink a well, between the body of
water just mentioned, you strike a pelucid vein of it at from
nineteen to twenty-two feet depth from the surface. With
the aforesaid Lake or Pond is connected another not quite
so large, but equally beautiful. Around these bodies of
inosculating waters, are well cultivated farms and a number
of gentlemen's country-seats, forming a picture of rural
beauty and plenty not easily surpassed in Spring, Summer,
and Autumn; and when winter has frozen the lakes and
all the rivers, this spot has another and singular advantage;
for our adventurer sold the water of this pond; which was
sent to the West-Indian Islands, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and other places south of this; which is so much of
a singularity as to require explanation.
In our very coldest weather, January and February, the
body of water we spoke of is almost every year frozen to the
thickness of from eighteen inches to two feet,— sometimes
less, and very rarely more. It is then sawed into cubes of
the size just mentioned, and deposited in large store-houses,
and carted thence every month in the year, even through the
dog-days, in heavy teams drawn by oxen and horses to the
wharves in Boston, and put on board large and properly
constructed vessels, and carried into the hot climates already
[7] mentioned. The heavy teams five, or six, or more,
close following each other, day and night, and even through
the hottest months, would appear incredible to a stranger.
Here was a traffic without any drawback, attended with no
other charge than the labor of cutting and transporting the
article; for the pond belonged to no man, any more than the
air which hung above it. Both belonged to mankind. No
one claimed any personal property in it, or control over it
from border to border.   A clearer profit can hardly be
m 28
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
Iv '
imagined. While the farmer was ploughing his ground,
manuring and planting it, securing his well-tended crop by
fencing, and yet after all his labor, the Hessian-fly, the
canker or slug worm, or some other destructive insect, or
some untimely frost, as was the case last winter, might lay
waste all his pains and cut off all his expectations. The
only risk to which the Ice-merchant was liable was a blessing to most of the community; I mean the mildness of a
winter that should prevent his native lake from freezing a
foot or two thick. Our fishermen have a great advantage
over the farmer in being exempt from fencing, walling,
manuring, taxation, and dry seasons; and only need the
expence of a boat, line, and hook, and the risk of life and
health; but from all these the Ice-man is in a manner entirely exempted; and yet the Captain of this Oregon Expedition seemed to say, All this availeth me nothing, so long
as I read books in which I find, that by only going about
four thousand miles, over land, from the shore of our Atlantic to the shore of the Pacific, after we have there entrapped and killed the beavers and otters, we shall be able,
after building vessels for [8] the purpose, to carry our most
valuable peltry to China and Cochin China, our seal-skins
to Japan, and our superfluous grain to various Asiatic ports,
and lumber to the Spanish settlements on the Pacific; and to
become rich by underworking and underselling the people
of Hindustan; and, to crown all, to extend far and wide the
traffic in oil by killing tame whales on the spot, instead of
sailing round the stormy region of Cape Horn.
All these advantages and more too were suggested to
divers discontented and impatient young men. Talk to
them of the great labor, toil, and risk, and they would turn
a deaf ear to you: argue with them, and you might as well
reason with a snow-storm. Enterprising young men run
away with the idea that the farther they go from home, the I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
surer they will be of making a fortune. The original projector of this golden vision first talked himself into the visionary scheme, and then talked twenty others into the same
notion.8 Some of their neighbours and well-wishers thought
differently from them; and some of the oldest, and most
thoughtful, and prudent endeavoured to dissuade them
from so very ardous and hazardous an expedition. But
young and single men are for tempting the untried scene;
and when either sex has got a notion of that sort, the more
you try to dissuade them, the more intent they are on their
object. Nor is this bent of mind always to be censured,
or wondered at. Were every man to be contented to remain
in the town in which he was born, and to follow the trade
of his father, there would be an end to improvement, and
a serious impediment to spreading population. It is difficult to draw the exact line between contentment, and that
inactivity [9] which approaches laziness. The disposition
either way seems stamped upon us by nature, and therefore
innate. This is certainly the case with birds and beasts;—
the wild geese emigrate late in the Autumn to a southern
climate, and return again in the Spring to a northern one,
while the owl and several other birds remain all their lives
near where they were hatched; whereas man is not so much
confined by a natural bias to his native home. He can live
in all climates from the equator to very near the dreary
poles, which is not the case with other animals; and it would
seem that nature intended he should live anywhere; — for
whereas other animals are restricted in their articles of food,
some living wholly on flesh, and others wholly on vegetables,
man is capable of feeding upon every thing that is eatable
by any creature, and of mixing every article together, and
varying them by his knowledge and art of cookery,— a
8 For partial lists of members of this party, consult H. S. Lyman, History of
Oregon (New York, 1903), iii, pp. 101, 108, 254; see also post.— Ed. I^p
30 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
knowledge and skill belonging to man alone. Hence it
appears that Providence, who directs everything for the
best, intended that man should wander over the globe,
inhabit every region, and dwell wherever the sun could
shine upon him, and where water could be obtained for
his use.
So far from deriding the disposition to explore unknown
regions, we should consider judicious travellers as so many
benefactors of mankind. It is most commonly a propensity
that marks a vigorous intellect, and a benevolent heart.
The conduct of the Spaniards, when they conquered Mexico
and Peru with the sole view of robbing them of their gold
and silver, and of forcing them to abandon their native
religion, has cast an odium on those first adventurers upon
this continent and their first [10] enterprises in India have
stigmatized the Dutch and the English; nor were our own
forefathers, who left England to enjoy religious freedom,
entirely free from the stain of injustice and cruelty towards
the native Indians.— Let us therefore in charity, nay, in
justice, speak cautiously of what may seem to us censurable in the first explorers of uncivilized countries; and if
we should err in judgment, let it be on the side of commendation.
Mr. Wyeth, or as we shall hereafter call him, Captain
Wyeth, as being leader of the Band of the Oregon adventurers, after having inspired twenty-one persons with his
own high hopes and expectations (among whom was his
own brother, Dr. Jacob Wyeth,9 and a gun-smith, a blacksmith, two carpenters, and two fishermen, the rest being
8 Dr. Jacob Wyeth, eldest brother of Nathaniel, was born February io, 1779,
at Cambridge, Massachusetts. After being graduated from Harvard (1820),
he studied medicine both in Boston and Baltimore, and settled in New Jersey,
whence he set out to join his brother's expedition. After returning from Pierre's
Hole — as narrated post — Dr. Wyeth settled in the lead-mine region of northwest
Illinois, and married into a prominent family.    He died in his adopted state.— Ed. i83a]
Wyeth's Oregon
farmers and laborers, brought up to no particular trade)
was ready, with his companions, to start off to the Pacific
Ocean, the first of March, 1832, to go from Boston to the
mouth of Columbia river by land.
I was the youngest of the company, not having attained
my twentieth year; but, in the plentitude of health and
spirits, I hoped every thing, believed every thing my kinsman, the Captain, believed and said, and all doubts and
fears were banished. The Captain used to convene us
every Saturday night at his house for many months previous
to our departure, to arrange and settle the plan of our future movements, and to make, every needful preparation;
and such were his thoughtfulness and vigilance, that it
seemed to us nothing was forgotten and every thing necessary provided. Our three vehicles, or wagons, if we may
call by that name a unique contrivance, half boat, and
half carriage, may be mentioned as an instance of our Captain's [n] talents for snug contrivance. It was a boat of
about thirteen feet long, and four feet wide, of a shape partly
of a canoe, and partly of a gondola. It was not calked
with tarred oakum, and payed with pitch, lest the rays of
the sun should injure it while upon wheels; but it was nicely
jointed, and dovetailed. The boat part was firmly connected with the lower, or axletree, or wheel part; — the
whole was so constructed that the four wheels of it were
to be taken off when we came to a river, and placed in the
wagon, while the tongue or shaft was to be towed across
by a rope. Every thing was as light as could be consistent
with safety. Some of the Cambridge wags said it was a
boat begot upon a wagon,— a sort of mule, neither horse
nor ass,— a mongrel, or as one of the collegians said it was
a thing amphibious, anatomically constructed like some
equivocal animals, allowing it to crawl upon the land, or
to swim on the water;  and he therefore thought it ought 32 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
to be denominated an amphibium. This would have gone
off very well, and to the credit of the learned collegian,
had not one of the gang, who could hardly write his own
name, demurred at it; because he said that it reflected
not back the honor due to the ingenious contriver of the
commodious and truly original vehicle; and for his part,
he thought that if they meant to give it a particular name,
that should redound to the glory of the inventor, it ought
to be called a Nat-wye-thium; and this was instantaneously
agreed to by acclamation! Be that as it may, the vehicle
did not disgrace the inventive genius of New England.
This good-humored raillery, shows the opinion of indifferent people, merely lookers-on. The fact was, the generality [12] of the people in Cambridge considered it a
hazardous enterprise, and considerably notional. About
this time there appeared some well written essays in the
Boston newspapers, to show the difficulty and impracticability of the scheme, purporting to doubt the assertions
of Mr. Hall J. Kelly respecting the value and pleasantness
of the Oregon territory. The three vehicles contained a
gross of axes, a variety of articles, or "goods" so called,
calculated for the Indian market, among which vermilion
and other paints were not forgotten, glass beads, small
looking-glasses, and a number of tawdry trinkets, cheap
knives, buttons, nails, hammers, and a deal of those articles,
on which young Indians of both sexes set a high value, and
white men little or none. Such is the spirit of trade and
traffic, from the London and Amsterdam merchant, down
to an Indian trader and a yankee tin-ware man in his jingling go-cart; in which he travels through Virginia and the
Carolinas to vend his wares, and cheat the Southerners,
and bring home laughable anecdotes of their simplicity
and ignorance, to the temporary disgrace of the common
people of the Northern and Eastern part of the Union, i832]
Wyeth' s Oregon
where a travelling tin-man dare hardly show himself,—
and yet is held up in the South as the real New-England
character, and this by certain white people who know the
use of letters !
The company were uniform in their dress. Each one
wore a coarse woollen jacket and pantaloons, a striped cotton shirt, and cowhide boots: every man had a musket,
most of them rifles, all of them bayonets in a broad belt,
together with a large clasped knife for eating and common
purposes. The Captain and one or two more added pistols; but [13] every one had in his belt a small axe. This
uniformity had a pleasing effect, which, together with their
curious wagons, was. noticed with commendation in the
Baltimore newspapers, as a striking contrast with the family
emigrants of husband, wife, and children, who have for
thirty years and more passed on to the Ohio, Kentucky,
and other territories. The whole bore an aspect of energy,
good contrivance, and competent means. I forgot to mention that we carried tents, camp-kettles, and the common
utensils for cooking victuals, as our plan was to live like
soldiers, and to avoid, as much as possible, inns and taverns.
The real and avowed object of this hardy-looking enterprise was to go to the river Columbia, otherwise called the
river Oregon, or river of the West,10 which empties by a very
wide mouth into the Pacific Ocean,, and there and thereabouts commence a fur trade by trafficking with the Indians,
as well as beaver and other hunting by ourselves. We went
upon shares, and each one paid down so much; and our
association was to last during five years. Each man paid
our Leader forty dollars. Captain Wyeth was our Treasurer, as well as Commander;  and all the expenses of our
10 For the origin of the word Oregon, see Ross's Oregon Settlers, in our volume
vii, p. 36, note 4.— Ed. 34 Early Western Travels [Vol. 2r
travelling on wheels, and by water in steam-boats, were
defrayed by our Leader, to whom we all promised fidelity
and obedience. For twenty free-born New-England men,
brought up in a sort of Indian freedom, to be bound together to obey a leader in all things reasonable, without
something like articles of war, was, to say the least of it, a
hazardous experiment. The Captain and crew of a Nantucket whaling ship came nearest to such an association;
for in this case each man runs that great risk of his life, [14]
in voluntarily attacking and killing a whale, which could
not be expected from men hired by the day, like soldiers;
so much stronger does association for gain operate, than
ordinary wages. As fighting Indians from behind trees and
rocks is next, in point of courage, to attacking a whale, the
monarch of the main, in his own element, a common partnership is the only scheme for achieving and securing such
dangerous purposes.
We left the city of Boston, 1st of March, 1832, and encamped on one of the numerous islands in its picturesque
harbour, where we remained ten days, by way of inuring
ourselves to the tented field; and on the nth of the same
month we hoisted sail for Baltimore, where we arrived
after a passage of fifteen days,11 not without experiencing
a snow-storm, severe cold, and what the landsmen considered a hard gale, at which I, who had been one voyage
to sea, did not wonder. It made every man on board look
serious; and glad were we to be set on shore at the fair
city of Baltimore, in which are to be found a great number
of merchants, traders, and mechanics from different parts
of New England, and where of course there are none, or
11 For further accounts of the preparation and voyage to Baltimore on the
brig "Ida," consult F. G. Young, "Correspondence and Journals of Captain
Nathaniel J. Wyeth, 1831-36," in Sources of the History of Oregon (Eugene»
Oregon, 1899), pp. 42-50. Niles' Register xlii, p. 82 (March 31, 1832), notes their
arrival and departure with twenty-two men and all necessary equipment.— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
very few, of those ridiculous prejudices against what they
call Yankees, that are observable in Virginia and the Caro-
At Baltimore our amphibious carriages excited great attention, and I may add, our whole company was an object
of no small curiosity and respect. This, said they, is " Yankee all overX"—bold enterprise, neatness, and good contrivance. As we carefully avoided the expense of inns and
taverns, we marched two miles out of Baltimore, and there
encamped during four days; and then we put [15] our wagons
into the cars on the rail-road; which extends from thence
sixty miles, which brought us to the foot of the Alleghany
mountains.12 Quitting the rail-road at the foot of the Alleghany, we encountered that mountain. Here we expert
enced a degree of inhospitality not met with among the
savages. The Innkeepers, when they found that we came
from New England, betrayed an unwillingness to accommodate Yankees, from a ridiculous idea, that the common
people, so nicknamed, were too shrewd at a bargain and
trading, for a slow and straight-forward Dutchman; for
the inhabitants of this mountainous region, were generally
sons and grandsons of the Dutch and German first settlers;
and it cannot be denied and concealed, that the New England land-jobbers were in their bargains too hard for the
torpid Dutchman, who, it is true, loved money as much as
any people, yet when they, or their fathers had been the
sufferers from a set of roving sharpers, it is no wonder that
an hereditary prejudice should descend with exaggeration and aggravation from father to son, and that their
resentment should visit their innocent sons to the third
a The line of the Baltimore and Ohio railway was first opened for traffic December 1, 1831, when the road extended as far as Frederick, sixty-one miles from
Baltimore. On April r, 1832, it was extended to Point of Rocks, some forty miles
beyond; but by that time the expedition had passed farther west.— Ed.
36 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
and fourth generation. No one pretends to mention any
fact or deed, in which those|Dutch foreigners were defrauded
of their rights and dues; and all that can be, with truth,
said, was, that the land-speculators from Connecticut and
Massachusetts were to New-England what Yorkshire men
are thought to be to the rest of the people of England, a
race more sharp and quick-sighted than their neighbours,—
and with a sort of constitutional good humor, called fun,
they could twist that uneducated progeny of a German
stock around their fingers; — hence their reluctance [16]
to have any thing to do with men, whose grand-fathers
were too knowing for them. You never hear the French or
the English complaining of the over-shrewdness of the New-
England people. They accord very well together, and very
frequendy intermarry. No, it is the Dutch, and the descendants of transported convicts, who sneer at those they
call Yankees, whom their fathers feared, and of course
At one public house on the mountains near which we
halted, the master of it, learning that we came from Boston,
refused us any refreshment and lodging. He locked up
his bar-room, put the key in his pocket, went out, and came
back with four or five of his neighbours, when the disagreement ran so high, that the tavern-keeper and the Yankee
Captain each seized his rifle. The latter pointing to the
other's sign before his door, demanded both lodging and
refreshment, as the legal condition of his tavern-license;18
and the dispute ended in our Captain's sleeping in the house
with three of his party, well armed, determined to defend
their persons, and to insist on their rights as peaceable and
13 Taverners are by law to be provided with suitable bedding for travellers,
and stables and provisions for horses and cattle. Brownsville is a flourishing town
situated on the point, where the great Cumberland road strikes the head of navigation of the Monongahela, and has long been a place of embarkation for emigrants for the West.— Wyeth. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
unoffending travellers, while the rest of the company bivouacked near their wagons, and reposed themselves, like
veteran soldiers, in their tents and wagons.
We gladly departed from the inhospitable Alleghany or
Apalachian mountains, which extend from the river St.
Lawrence to the confines of Georgia, [17] and which run
nearly parallel to the sea-shore from sixty to one hundred
and thirty miles from it, and dividing the rivers, which flow
into the Atlantic on the east, from those that run into the
lakes and into the Mississippi on the west. The part we
passed was in the state of Pennsylvania. Our next stretch
was for the river Monongahela, where we took the steamboat for Pittsburg.14 This town has grown in size and
wealth, in a few years, surprisingly. It is two hundred
and thirty miles from Baltimore ; three hundred from Philadelphia. It is built on a point of land jutting out towards
the river Ohio, and washed on each side by the Alleghany
and Monongahela, which rivers uniting are lost in the noble
Ohio. It was orginially a fortress built by the French,
called Fort du Quesne; being afterwards taken by the English in 1759, it was called fort Pitt, in honor of the famous
William Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham, under whose
administration it was taken from the French, together with
all Canada.15 On this spot a city has been reared by the
Americans, bearing the name of Pittsburg, which has thriven
in a surprising manner by its numerous manufactories in
glass, as well as in all the metals in common use. To call
it the Birmingham of America is to underrate its various
14 The expedition proceeded by way of Brownsville, and arrived at Pittsburg
on April 8, 1832. Pittsburg, as the point of departure for the West, is described by
most early travelers. In particular, consult Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv,
pp. 242-255.— Ed.
15 For Fort Duquesne, see F .A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume iii, p. 156,
note 20; for Fort Pitt, Post's Journals, in our volume i, p. 281, note 107, and A.
Michaux's Travels, volume iii, p. 32, note n.—Ed.
<■ 38 Early Western Travels [Vol. ai
industry; and to call the English Birmingham Pittsburg,
would be to confer upon that town additional honor; not
but what the British Birmingham is by far the most pleasant place to live in. Pittsburg is the region of iron and fossil
coal, of furnaces, glass-works, and a variety of such like
manufactures. This town has somewhat the color of a
coal-pit, or of a black-smith's shop. The wonder is, that
any gendeman [18] of property should ever thmk of building a costly dwelling-house, with corresponding furniture,
in the coal region of the western world ; but there is no disputing de gustibus — Chacun â son gout. The rivers and
the surrounding country are delightful, and the more so
from the contrast between them and that hornet's nest of
busde and dirt, the rich capital. Thousands of miserable
culprits are doomed to delve in deep mines of silver, gold,
and quicksilver among the Spaniards for thier crimes; but
here they are all freemen, who choose to breathe smoke,
and swallow dirt, for the sake of clean dollars and shining
eagles. Hence it is that the Pittsburgh workmen appear,
when their faces are washed, with the ruddiness of high
health, the plenitude of good spirits, and the confidence
of freemen.
From the busy city of thriving Pittsburg our next important movement was down the Ohio. We accordingly
embarked in a very large steam-boat called The Freedom;
and soon found ourselves, bag and baggage very much at
our ease and satisfaction, on board a truly wonderful floating inn, hotel, or tavern, for such are our steam-boats.
Nothing of the kind can surpass the beauty of this winding
river, with its fine back-ground of hills of all shapes and
colors, according to the advancement of vegetation from
the shrubs to the tallest trees. But the romantic scenery
on both sides of the Ohio is so various and so captivating to
a stranger, that it requires the talents of a painter to give
HfekHiiEvSi i832]
Wyeth's Oregon
even a faint idea of the picture; and the effect on my mind
was, not to estimate them as I ought, but to feed my deluded
imagination with the belief that we should find on the [19]
Missouri, and' on the Rocky Mountains, and Columbia
river, object as much finer than the Ohio afforded, as this
matchless river exceeded our Merrimac or Kennebeck:
and so it is with the youth of both sexes; not satisfied with
the present gifts of nature, they pant after the untried scene,
which imagination is continually bodying forth, and time
as constantly dissipating.
The distance from Pittsburg to the Mississippi is about
one thousand miles. Hutchins estimated it at one thousand
one hundred and eighty-eight,— Dr. Drake at only nine
hundred and forty-nine.18 Wheeling is a town of some
importance. Here the great national road into the interior
from the city of Washington, meets that of Zanesville,
Chillicothe, Columbus, and Cincinnati.17 It is the best point
to aim at in very low stages of the water, and from thence
boats may go at all seasons of the year. We passed Marietta, distinguished for its remarkable remains of mounds,
and works, resembling modern fortifications, but doubtless the labor of the ancient aboriginals, of whom there is
now no existing account; but by these works, and articles
found near them, they must have belonged to a race of men
16 Thomas Hutchins (1730-89), born in New Jersey, entered the British army
at an early age. He served in the French and Indian War, and later as assistant
engineer under Bouquet (1764), for whom he prepared a map. In 1779 he was
arrested in London, on a charge of sympathizing with the American cause. Escaping
to Paris, he finally joined the continental army at Charleston, South Carolina, and
was made geographer general by General Greene. The estimate here referred
to is in his Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and
North Carolina (London, 1778), p. 5.
For Dr. Daniel Drake, see Flint's Letters in our volume ix, p. 121, note 6r.
The length of the Ohio from Pittsburg is estimated by the map of the U. S.
corps of engineers, published in 1881, as 967 miles.— Ed.
17 For Wheeling and the National Road, see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume
iii, p. 33, note 15, and Flint's Letters, in our volume ix, p. 105, notes 51, 52.— Ed.
<jît mgm
40 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
farther advanced in arts and civilization than the present
Indian in that region,18 — a people who, we may well suppose, were the ancestors of the Mexicans. Yet we see at
this time litde more than log-houses belonging to miserable
tenants of white people. All the sugar used by the people
here is obtained from the maple tree. Fossil coal is found
along the banks. There is a creek pouring forth Petroleum,
about one hundred miles from Pittsburg on the Alleghany,
called Oil Creek, which will blaze on the application of a
[20] match. This is not uncommon in countries abounding
in bituminous coal. Nitre is found wherever there are
suitable caves and caverns for its collection. The people
here are rather boisterous in their manners, and intemperate
in their habits, by what we saw and heard, more so than on the
other side of the river where slavery is prohibited. Indeed
slavery carries a black moral mark with it visible on those
whose skins are naturally of a different color; and Mr.
Jefferson's opinion of the influence of slavery on the whites-
justifies our remark.19
We stopped one day and night at the flourishing town of
Cincinnati, the largest city in the Western country, although
laid out so recently as 1788.20 It is twenty miles above
the mouth of the Great Miami, and four hundred and sixty-
five miles below Pittsburg. It appears to great advantage
from the river, the ground inclining gradually to the water.
Three of us had an evidence of that by a mischievous trick
for which we deserved punishment.   We were staring about
".For a more extended description of Marietta and its antiquities, consult
Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv, pp. 123-125. The mounds are now believed
to be the work of North American Indians; consult Cyrus Thomas, "Mound
Explorations," in U. S. Bureau of Ethnology Report, 1890-91.— Ed.
19 Referring to Jefferson's account of the degradation of masters under the
régime of slavery, in Notes on Virginia (original edition, ^84), pp. 298-301.— ED;
20 For the early history of this city, see Cuming's Tour, our volume iv, p. 256,
note 166.— Ed. 1832]
Wyeth's Oregon
the fine city that has risen up with a sort of rapid, mushroom growth, surprising to every one who sees it, and who
considers that it is not more than forty years old. In .the
evening we went into a public house, where we treated ourselves with that sort of refreshment which inspires fun,
frolic, and mischief. We remained on shore till so late an
hour that every body appeared to have gone to bed, when
we set out to return to our steam-boat. In our way to it
we passed by a store, in the front of which stood three barrels of lamp-oil, at the head of a fine sloping street. The
evil spirit of mischief put it into our heads to set them a rolling
down the inclined plane to the river. No sooner hinted,
than executed. [21] We set all three a running, and we
ran after them; and what may have been lucky for us, they
were recovered next day whole. Had there been legal inquisition made for them, we had determined to plead character, that we were from Boston, the land of steady habits
and good principles, and that it must have been some gentie-
men Southerners, with whose characters for nightly frolics,
we, who lived within sound of the bell of the University of
Cambridge were well acquainted. The owners of the oil
came down to the steam-boat, and carried back their property without making a rigid examination for the offenders;
without suspecting that prudent New-England young men
would indulge in a wanton piece of fun, where so much
was at stake. But John Bull and Jonathan are queer
From Cincinnati to St. Louis, we experienced some of
those diasgreeable occurrences, that usually happen to
democratical adventurers. Our Captain, to lessen the expenses of the expedition, had bargained with the Captain
of the steam-boat, that we of his band should assist in taking
on board wood from the shore, to keep our boilers from
cooling.   Although every one saw the absolute necessity
.«*# 42 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
of the thing, for our common benefit and safety, yet some
were for demurring at it, as not previously specified and
agreed upon. Idleness engenders mutiny oftener than
want. In scarcity and in danger men cling together like
gregarious animals; but as soon as an enterprising gang can
sit down, as in a steam-boat, with nothing to do but to find
fault, they are sure to become discontented, and discontent
indulged leads to mutiny. Whatever I thought then, I do
not think now that Captain Wyeth was [22] to blame for
directing his followers to aid in wooding; nor should the
men have grumbled at it. I now am of opinion that
our aiding in wooding the steam-boat was right, reasonable,
and proper. Every man of us, except the surgeon of the
company, Dr. Jacob Wyeth, ought, on every principle of
justice and generosity, to have given that assistance.
Our navigation from Cincinnati to St. Louis was attended
with circumstances new, interesting, and very often alarming. Passing the rapids of the Ohio, or falls as they are
called, between the Indiana territory and Kentucky, was
sufficiently appalling to silence all grumbling. These
falls, or rapids are in the vicinity of Louisville, Jefferson-
ville, Clarksville, and Shipping-port, and are really terrific to an inexperienced farmer or mechanic.21 Our Hell-
gate in Long-Island Sound is a common brook compared
with them; and when we had passed through them into
the Mississippi, the assemblage of trees in the river, constituting snags and sawyers, offered themselves as a species
of risk and danger, which none of us had ever calculated
on or dreamt of. We knew that there was danger in great
storms, of huge trees blowing down on one's head;   and
21 Wyeth somewhat exaggerates the difficulties of the navigation of the Falls
of the Ohio. See our volume i, p. 136, note 106; also Thwaites, On the Storied
Ohio (Chicago, 1903), pp. 218-222. For Jeffersonville, see Flint's Letters, in our
volume ix, p. 160, note 80; for Clarksville and Shippingsport, Cuming's Tour, our
volume iv, pp. 259, 260, notes 170, 171.— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
that those who took shelter under them in a thunder-storm,
risked their lives from Hghtning; but to meet destruction
from trees in an immense river, seemed to us a danger of
life, which we had not bargained for, and entirely out of
our agreement and calculation. We had braced ourselves
up only against the danger of hostile Indians, and enraged
beasts, which we meant to war against. Beyond that, all
was smooth water to us. The truth of the matter is,— [23]
the men whom Captain Wyeth had collected were not the
sort of men for such an expedition. They were too much
on an equality to be under strict orders like soldiers. Lewis
& Clarke were very fortunate in the men they had under
them. Major Long's company was, in a great degree,
military, and yet three of his soldiers deserted him at one
time, and a fourth soon after.22
On the 18th of April, 1832, we arrived at St. Louis. As
we had looked forward to this town, as a temporary resting-
place, we entered it in high spirits, and pleased ourselves
with a notion that the rest of our way till we should come
to the Rocky Mountains would be, if not down hill, at least
on a level: but we counted without our host.
St. Louis was founded by a Frenchman named Peter la
Clade in 1764, eighty-four years after the establishment
of Fort Crève-coeur on the Illinois river; and inhabited
entirely by Frenchmen and the descendants of Frenchmen,
who had carried on for the most part a friendly and lucrative trade with the Indians.23 But since the vast Western
country has been transferred to the United States, its population has been rapidly increased by numerous individuals and families from different parts of the Union; and its
22 See our volumes xiv-xvii for James's Long's Expedition.— Ed.
23 For the foundation of St. Louis, see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume
iii, p. 71, note 138. Fort Crévecœur was La Salle's Illinois stockade, built in r68o.
See Ogden's Letters in our volume xix, p. 46, note 34.— Ed. 44 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
business extended by enterprising mechanics and merchants from the New-England States; and its wealth
greatiy augmented. The old part of St. Louis has a very
different aspect from that of Cincinnati, where every thing
appears neat, and new, and tasteful; as their public buildings, their theatre, and spacious hotels, not forgetting Madam
Trollope's bazar, or, as it is commonly called, "Trollope's
Folly,"24 as well as its spacious streets, numerous coaches,
and other [24] marks of rapid wealth, and growing luxury.
As St. Louis has advanced in wealth, magnitude, and importance, it has gradually changed the French language
and manners, and assumed the American. It however
contains, I am told, many of the old stock that are very
respectable for their literary acquirements and polished
We shall avoid, as we have avowed, any thing like censure of Captain Wyeth's scheme during his absence; but
when we arrived at St. Louis, we could not but lament his
want of information, respecting the best means of obtaining
the great objects of our enterprise. Here we were constrained to sell our complicated wagons for less than half
what they originally cost. We were convinced that they
were not calculated for the rough roads, and rapid streams
and eddies of some of the rivers we must necessarily pass.
We here thought of the proverb, "that men never do a
thing right the first time." Captain Wyeth might have
learned at St. Louis, that there were two wealthy gentie-
24 Frances Milton Trollope (1780-1863), an Englishwoman of note, came to
the United States in 1827 with Frances Wright. She established herself at Cincinnati, and attempted to recuperate the family fortunes by the opening of a bazaar
for the sale of small fancy articles. The experiment failed, and the Trollope
family returned to England (r83r), where Mrs. Trollope issued Domestic Manners
of Americans (London, 1832), a criticism of our national customs that gave great
umbrage to our forebears in the West. She later became a novelist of note, dying
in Florence in 1863. Her sons were Anthony and Adolphus Trollope, well-known
English authors.— Ed.
"•;!-' I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
men who resided at or near that place, who had long since
established a regular trade with the Indians, Mr. M ,
and a young person, Mr. S , and that a stranger could
hardly compete with such established traders. The turbulent tribe, called the Black-foot tribe, had long been
supplied with fire arms and ammunition, beads, vermilion
and other paints, tobacco and scarlet cloth, from two or
three capital traders at, or near, St. Louis, and every article
most saleable with the Indians. Both parties knew each
other, and had confidence in each other; and having this
advantage over our band of adventurers, it does not appear
that Mr. Mackenzie, and Mr. Sublet felt any apprehensions
or jealousy [25] of the new comers from Boston; but treated
them with friendship, and the latter with confidence and
cordiality; the former gentleman being, in a manner, retired from business, except through numerous agents.25   He
25 Kenneth McKenzie was born in Rossshire, Scotland, in 1801, of a good
family, relatives of Sir Alexander Mackenzie the explorer. Coming to America
at an early age, young McKenzie entered the service of the North West Company;
but upon its consolidation with the Hudson's Bay Company (1821), he entered
the fur-trade on his own account. Going to New York in 1822, he secured an
outfit on credit, and for some time traded on the upper Mississippi. Later he
formed a partnership with Joseph Renville in the establishment of the Columbia
Fur Company. This concern was bought out by its rival, the American Fur
Company in 1827, whereupon McKenzie was taken into the latter corporation.
He was soon placed in command of what was known as the "Upper Missouri
Outfit," and built Fort Union at the mouth of the Yellowstone, where for several
years he ruled almost regally. Among his earliest successes — to which Wyeth
here refers — was his acquisition of the Blackfoot trade. This tribe, influenced
by British traders, had long been hostile to Americans; McKenzie had, however,
been known to them in the North West Company, and through one of their interpreters, Berger, he secured a treaty with them and built (1831-32) a post in their
country. McKenzie lost the good-will of the American Fur Company, by erecting
a distillery at Fort Union, in defiance of United States laws. In 1834 he came
down the river, and visited Europe; but at intervals he re-ascended to his old
post, until in 1839 he disposed of his stock in the company. He then made his
home in St. Louis, until his death in 1861. It does not appear that he had considered retirement as early as Wyeth's visit in 1832, for he was then in the full
tide of success. He lived magnificently at Fort Union, ruling over a wide territory, an American example of the "bourgeois of the old Northwest."
For William Sublette, see our volume xix, Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies,
p. 221, note 55.— Ed. mmm
46 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
owns a small steam-boat called the Yellow Stone, the name
of one of the branches of the Missouri river.26 Through
such means the Indians are supplied with all they want;
and they appeared not to wish to have any thing to do with
any one else, especially the adventurous Yankees. These
old established traders enjoy a friendly influence, or prudent command, over those savages, that seems to operate
to the exclusion of every one else; and this appeared from
the manner in which they treated us, which was void of
every thing like jealousy, or fear of rivalship. Their policy
was to incorporate us with their own troop.
We put our goods, and other baggage on board the steamboat Otter, and proceeded two hundred and sixty miles
up the Missouri river, which is as far as the white people
have any settiements. We were obliged to proceed very
slowly and carefully on account of the numerous snags
and sawyers with which this river abounds. They are
trees that have been loosened, and washed away from
the soft banks of the river. They are detained by sandbanks, or by other trees, that have floated down some time
before. Those of them whose sharp branches point opposite the stream are the snags, against which boats are
often impelled, as they are not visible above water, and
many are sunk by the wounds these make in their bows.
The sawyers are also held fast by their roots, while the body
of the tree whips up and down, alternately visible and
concealed beneath the surface. These [26] are the chief
terrors of the Missouri and the  Mississippi rivers.   As
211 The "Yellowstone" was the first steamboat to visit the upper Missouri.
McKenzie and Pierre Chouteau, Jr., convinced of the utility to the fur-trade of
such a craft, persuaded the American Fur Company to secure a steamer. She
was built at Louisville, Kentucky, in the winter of 1830-31, departing from St.
Louis On her first voyage, April 16, 1831, with Captain B. Young as master. This
season she ascended to Fort Tecumseh (near Pierre), and the following year made
her initial trip to the mouth of the Yellowstone River. She had left St. Louis about
a month before the arrival of Wyeth's party.— Ed. Wm
Wyeth's Oregon
to crocodiles they are little regarded, being more afraid
of man than he of them. On account of these snags
and sawyers, boatmen avoid passing in the night, and are
obliged to keep a sharp look out in the day-time. The
sawyers when forced to the bottom or near it by a strong
current, or by eddies, rise again with such force that few
boats can withstand the shock. The course of the boat
was so tediously slow, that many of us concluded to get out
and walk on the banks of the river. This, while it gave
us agreeable exercise, was of some service in lightening
our boat, for with other passengers from St. Louis, we
amounted to a considerable crew. The ground was level,
and free from underwood. We passed plenty of deer,
wild turkeys, and some other wild fowl unknown to us,
and expected to find it so all the way.
We arrived at a town or settlement called Independence.27
This is the last white setdement on our route to the Oregon,
and this circumstance gave a different cast to our peregrination, and operated not a little on our hopes, and our fears,
and our imaginations. Some of our company began to
ask each other some serious questions; such as, Where
are we going? and what are we going for? and sundry
other questions, which would have been wiser had we
asked them before we left Cambridge, and ruminated well
on the answers. But Westward hoi was our watchword,
and checked all doubts, and silenced all expressions of
Just before we started from this place, a company of
sixty-two in number arrived from St. Louis, under the
command of William Sublet, Esq., an experienced Indian
trader, bound, like ourselves, [27] to the American Alps,
the Rocky Mountains, and we joined company with him,
27 For Independence, see Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, in our volume xix,
p. 189, note 34.— Ed.
M 48 Early Western Travels [Vol.21
and it was very lucky that we did. Our minds were not
entirely easy. We were about to leave our peaceable
country-men, from whom we had received many attentions and much kindness, to go into a dark region of savages,
of whose customs, manners, and language, we were entirely
ignorant,— to go we knew not whither,— to encounter
we knew not what. We had already sacrificed our amphibious wagons, the result of so much pains and cost.
Here two of our company left us, named Kilham and Weeks.
Whether they had any real cause of dissatisfaction with
our Captain, or whether they only made that an excuse
to quit the expedition and return home early, it is not for
me to say. I suspect the abandonment of our travelling
vehicles cooled their courage. We rested at Independence
ten days; and purchased, by Captain Sublet's advice,
two yoke of oxen, and fifteen sheep, as we learnt that we
ought not to rely entirely upon transient game from our
fire-arms for sustenance, especially as we were now going
among a savage people who would regard us with suspicion
and  dread,  and  treat us accordingly.    From this place
Lwe travelled about twenty-five miles a day.
Nothing occurred worth recording, till we arrived at the
first Indian settlement, which was about seventy miles
from Independence.28 They appeared to us a harmless
people, and not averse to our passing through their country. Their persons were rather under size, and their
complexion dark. As they lived near the frontier of the
whites, they were not unacquainted with their usages and
customs. They have cultivated spots or little farms, [28]
on which they raise corn and pumpkins. They generally
go out once a year to hunt, accompanied by their women;
28 This appears to have been an insignificant village of somewhat sedentary
Indians, probably of the Kansa tribe, near the northwestern corner of what is now
Douglas County, Kansas.    Joel Palmer notes it in 1845 > see our volume xxx.— Ed . 1832]
Wyeth's Oregon
and on killing the Buffalo, or Bison, what they do not use
on the spot, they dry to eat through the winter. To prevent a famine, however, it is their custom to keep a large
number of dogs; and they eat them as we do mutton and
lamb. This tribe have imitated the white people in having
fixed and stationary houses. They stick poles in the
ground in a circular form, and cover them with buffalo-
skins, and put earth over the whole, leaving at the top an
aperture for the smoke, but small enough to be covered
with a buffalo-skin in case of rain or snow.— We found
here little game; but honey-bees in abundance.
We travelled on about a hundred miles farther, when we
came to a large prairie, which name the French have given
to extensive tracts of land, mostly level, destitute of trees,
and covered with tall, coarse grass. They are generally
dreary plains, void of water, and rendered more arid by the
Indian custom of setting fire to the high grass once or
twice a year to start the game that has taken shelter there,
which occasions a hard crust unfavorable to any vegetable
more substantial than grass. At this unpromising spot,
three more of our company took French leave of us, there
being, it seems, dissatisfaction on both sides; for each complained of the other. The names of the seceders were
Livermore, Bell, Griswell.29 In sixteen days more we
reached the River La Platte, the water of which is foul and
muddy.30   We were nine days passing this dreary prairie.
29 Thomas Livermore was a cousin of Nathaniel Wyeth, whose home was in
Milford, New Hampshire. He was a minor, and his father's consent was essential
that he might join the party.
Bell appears to have been insubordinate from the start, and upon his return
to the East, published letters injurious to Wyeth's reputation; consult Wyeth,
Oregon Expeditions, index.— Ed.
80 For the River Platte, see our volume xiv, p. 219, note 170. The Oregon
Trail from Independence led westward, south of the Kansas, crossing the latter
stream near the present site of Topeka; thence up the Big and Little Blue rivers,
and across country to the Platte, coming in near Grand Island.— Ed.
Iffl r;o Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
We were seven and twenty days winding our way along
the borders of the La Platte, which river we could not
leave on [29] account of the scarcity of water in the dry
and comfortless plains. Here we slaughtered the last of
our live stock, and at night we came to that region where
buffaloes are often to be found ; but we suffered some sharp
gnawings of hunger before we obtained one, and experienced some foretaste of difficulties to come.
The Missouri Territory81 is a vast wilderness, consisting
of immense plains, destitute of wood and of water, except
on the edges of streams that are found near the turbid
La Platte. This river owes its source to the Rocky mountains, and runs pretty much through the territory, without
enlivening or fructifying this desert. Some opinion may
be formed of it by saying that for the space of six hundred
miles, we may be said to have been deprived of the benefits of two of the elements, fire and water. Here were,
to be sure, buffaloes, but after we had killed them we had
no wood or vegetables of any kind wherewith to kindle
a fire for cooking. We were absolutely compelled to dry
the dung of the buffalo as the best article we could procure
for cooking our coarse beef. That grumbling, discontent,
and dejection should spring up amongst us, was what no
one can be surprised at learning. We were at times very
miserable, and our commander could be no less so; but we
had put our hands to the plough, and most of us were too
81 The Territory of Missouri was formed in 1812 of all the Louisiana Purchase
outside the limits of the newly-erected state of Louisiana. In 1819 Arkansas
Territory was cut out, and the following year the state of Missouri. The remaining
region was left with no definite organization; but by an act of 1830 it was defined
as Indian Territory — south of a line drawn from Missouri River at the mouth
of the Ponca, and west to the Rocky Mountains. This vast unorganized region
was indefinitely called Missouri Territory, Indian Territory, Western Territory,
and even (on one map of the period) Oregon Territory — although the latter
name was usually confined to the region west of the Rockies, and north of Mexican
bounds.— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
stuffy to flinch, and sneak off for home without reaching
the Rocky Mountains; still hunger is hunger, and the young
and the strong feel the greatest call for food. Every one
who goes to sea may lay his account for coming to short
allowance, from violent storms, head winds, damaged
vessel, and the like; but for a band of New-England [30]
men to come to short allowance upon land, with guns, powder,
and shot, was a new idea to our Oregon adventurers, who
had not prepared for it in the article of hard bread, or
flour, or potatoes, or that snug and wholesome article,
salt fish, so plenty at Marblehead and Cape Ann, and so
convenient to carry. When the second company shall
march from the seat of science, Cambridge, we would
advise them to pack up a few quintals of salt fish, and a
few pounds of ground sago, and salep, as a teaspoonful of
it mixed with boiling water will make three pints of good
gruel, and also a competent supply of portable soup.
Buffaloes were plenty enough. We saw them in frightful droves, as far as the eye could reach, appearing at a
distance as if the ground itself was moving like the sea.
Such large armies of them have no fear of man. They
will travel over him and make nothing of him. Our company after killing ten or twelve of them, never enjoyed
the benefit of more than two of them, the rest being carried
off by the wolves before morning. Beside the scarcity of
meat, we suffered for want of good and wholesome water.
The La Platte is warm and muddy; and the use of it occasioned a diarrhoea in several of our company. Dr. Jacob
Wyeth, brother of the Captain, suffered not a little from
this cause.— Should the reader wonder how we proceeded
so rapidly on our way without stopping to inquire, he must
bear in mind that we were still under the guidance of Captain
Sublet, who knew every step of the way, and had actually
resided four years in different green valleys that are here 8^^
52 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
and there in the Rocky Mountains. To me it seems that
we must have perished for want of [31] sustenance in the
deserts of Missouri, had we been by ourselves. It may
have been good policy in Sublet, to attach us to him. He
probably saw our rawness in an adventure so ill provided
for as ours actually was. But for him we should hardly
have provided ourselves with live stock; and but for him
we should probably never have reached the American
Alps. By this time every man began to think for himself.
We travelled six days on the south branch of the La
Platte, and then crossed over to the north branch, and
on this branch of it, we travelled eighteen days.82 But
the first three days we could not find sufficient articles of
food; and what added to our distress was the sickness
of several of our company. We noticed many trails of
the savages, but no Indians. The nearer wë approached
the range of the mountains the thicker were the trees.
After travelling twelve days longer we came to the Black
Hills. They are so called from their thick growth of cedar.
Here is the region of rattle snakes, and the largest and
fiercest bears,— a very formidable animal, which it is not
prudent for a man to attack alone. I have known some
of the best hunters of Sublet's company to fire five and
six balls at one before he fell. We were four days in crossing
these dismal looking hills. They would be called mountains, were they not in the neighborhood of the Rocky
Mountains, whose peaks overtop every thing, and elevate
themselves into the region of everlasting frost and snow.
Our sick suffered extremely in ascending these hills, some of
them slipped off the horses and mules they rode on, from
sheer weakness, brought on by the bowel complaint already mentioned; among these was Dr. [32] Wyeth, our
82 The Oregon trail touched the North Platte at Ash Creek, now an important
railway junction in Deuel County, Nebraska.— Ed.
n I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
Captain's brother, who never had a constitution fit to encounter such an expedition. And yet we could not leave
them under the care of a man, or two or three men, and
pass on without them, to follow us, when they were able.
It was to me particularly grievous to think that he, who
was to take care of the health of the company, was the
first who was disabled from helping himself or others, and
this one a blood relation. It required a man of a firmer
make than Dr. Jacob Wyeth to go through such a mountainous region as the one we were in: a man seldom does
a thing right the first time.
From the north branch we crossed over to what was called
Sweet-water Creek.38 This water being cool, clear, and
pleasant, proved a good remedy for our sick, as their bowel
complaints were brought on and aggravated by the warm,
muddy waters of the Missouri territory we had passed
through. We came to a huge rock in the shape of a bowl
upside down. It bore the name of Independence, from,
it is said, being the resting-place of Lewis and Clarke on
the 4th of July; but according to the printed journal of
those meritorious travellers, they had not reached, or entered,
the American Alps on the day of that memorable epoch.34
Whether  we  are to consider the rock Independence as
23 Sweetwater River, a western affluent of the North Platte, rises in the Wind
River Mountains, and for over a hundred miles flows almost directly east. The
name is supposed to be derived from the loss at an early day of a pack-mule laden
with sugar. Wyeth speaks of "crossing over" to this stream, because the trail
abandoned the North Platte, which here flows through a formidable canon, and
reached the Sweetwater some miles above its mouth.— Ed.
84 Lewis and Clark did not pass within hundreds of miles of Independence
Rock, having ascended the Missouri to its source. Independence Rock is a well-
known landmark on the Oregon Trail — an isolated mass covering twenty-seven
acres, and towering 155 feet above Sweetwater River. On it were marked the
names of travelers, so that it became the "register of the desert." Fremont in
1843 says, "Many a name famous in the history of this country, and some well
known to science are to be found mixed with those of the traders and of travelers
for pleasure and curiosity, and of missionaries to the savages."— Ed.
—■— .
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
fairly in the Rocky Mountains, let others determine. We
had now certainly begun our ascent to those lofty regions,
previous to which we had to pass the chief branch of the
river La Platte; but we had no boat whatever for the purpose;
and had we not been in the company of Captain Sublet,
it is hard to say what we should have done short of going
a great way round. Here I, and others were entirely [33]
convinced that we were engaged in an expedition without
being provided with the means to accomplish it. Our
boats and wagons we had disposed of at St. Louis, and
here we were on the banks of a river without even a canoe.
Captain Clarke brought his canoes to the foot of the range
of mountains and there left them. The reader will understand that not only the Missouri river, but the Yellowstone river, the La Platte, and many other smaller ones
commence by small beginnings in the Black Hills, and
in the Rocky Mountains, and increase in size and depth
as they proceed down to join the Arkansa, or the Canadian
river, and finally the Mississippi, and so run into the vast
salt ocean. Whether it was Captain Sublet's own invention, or an invention of the Indians, we know not, but the
contrivance we used is worth mentioning. They called
it a Bull-boat. They first cut a number of willows (which
grow every where near the banks of all the rivers we had
travelled by from St. Louis), of about an inch and a half
diameter at the butt end, and fixed them in the ground
at proper distances from eachother, and as they approached
nearer one end they brought them nearer together, so as
to form something like the bow. The ends of the whole
were brought and bound firmly together, like the ribs of
a great basket; and then they took other twigs of willow
and wove them into those stuck in the ground so as to make
a sort of firm, huge basket of twelve or fourteen feet long.
After this was completed, they sewed together a number I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
of buffalo-skins, and with them covered the whole; and
after the different parts had been trimmed off smooth, a
slow fire was made under the Bull-boat, taking care to dry
the skins moderately; and as [34] they gradually dried,
and acquired a due degree of warmth, they rubbed buffalo-
tallow all over the outside of it, so as to allow it to enter
into all the seams of the boat, now no longer a willow-
basket. As the melted tallow ran down into every seam,
hole, and crevice, it cooled into a firm body capable of
resisting the water, and bearing a considerable blow without damaging it. Then the willow-ribbed, buffalo-skin,
tallowed vehicle was carefully pulled up from the ground,
and behold a boat capable of transporting man, horse,
and goods over a pretty strong current. At the sight of
it, we Yankees all burst out into a loud laugh, whether
from surprise, or pleasure, or both, I know not. It certainly was not from ridicule; for we all acknowledged the contrivance would have done credit to old New-England.
While Captain Sublet and his company were binding
the gunwale of the boat with buffalo-sinews, to give it
strength and due hardness, our Captain was by no means
idle. He accordingly undertook to make a raft to transport our own goods across the river. Sublet expressed
his opinion that it would not answer where the current
was strong; but Captain Wyeth is a man not easily to be
diverted from any of his notions, or liable to be influenced
by the advice of others; so that while Sublet's men were
employed on their Bull-boat, Wyeth and a chosen few
were making a raft. When finished, we first placed our
blacksmith's shop upon it, that is to say, our anvil, and
large vice, and other valuable articles belonging to black-
smithery, bar-iron, and steel traps, and alas ! a cask of powder,
and a number of smaller, but valuable articles. We fixed
a rope to our raft, and with some difficulty got [35] the other
m ■PPM
ri fi
56 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
end of it across the river to the opposite bank by a man
swimming with a rope in his mouth, from some distance
above the spot he aimed to reach. We took a turn of it
round a tree. Captain Sublet gave it as his opinion that
the line would not be sufficient to command the raft. But
our Leader was confident that it would; but when they
had pulled about half way over, the rope broke, and the
raft caught under the limbs of a partly submerged tree,
and tipped it on one side so that we lost our iron articles,
and damaged our goods and a number of percussion caps.
This was a very serious calamity and absolutely irreparable. Almost every disaster has some benefit growing out
of it. It was even so here. Two thirds of our company
were sick, and that without any particular disorder that
we can name, but from fatigue, bad water, scanty food,
and eating flesh half raw. Add to this, worry of mind,
and serious apprehensions of our fate when the worthy
Captain Sublet should leave us; for he was, under Providence, the instrument of our preservation. Our own
individual sufferings were enough for us to bear; but Captain
Wyeth had to bear the like, and more beside, as the responsibility lay heavy upon him. Most men would have
sunk under it. At this point of our journey we were sadly
tormented by musquetoes, that prevented our sleep after
the fatigues of the day. This little contemptible insect,
which they call here a gnat, disturbed us more than bears,
or wolves, or snakes.
The next day after we started from this unlucky place,
we descried a number of men on horseback, approaching
us at full speed. Various were our conjectures. Captain
Sublet had an apprehension that they might be hostile
Indians who fight on [36] horseback; he therefore ordered
every man to make fast his horse as quick as possible, and
prepare for battle on foot.    But on their near approach,
i I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
we found them a body of white men called trappers, whose
occupation is to entrap the beaver and other animals that
have valuable furs. Captain Sublet has, for several years,
had about two hundred of these trappers in his pay, in
and around the Rocky Mountains, and this troop was a
party of them. His place of rendezvous for them is at
Pierre's Hole, by which name they call one of those deep
and verdant valleys which are to be found in the Rocky
Mountains from the eastern boundary of them to their extreme edge in the west, where the Oregon or Columbia
river commences under the name of Clark's river, some
branches of which inosculate with the mighty Missouri
on the east. It is to Pierre's valley or Hole, that his trappers
resort to meet their employer every summer. It is here
they bring their peltry and receive their pay; and this traffic
has been kept up between them a number of years with
good faith on both sides, and to mutual satisfaction and
encouragement. When Sublet leaves St. Louis, he brings
up tobacco, coffee, rice, powder, shot, paint, beads, handkerchiefs and all those articles of finery that please both
Indian women and men; and having established that sort
of traffic with his friends, the Indians on and in the vicinity
of the Rocky Mountains, what chance was there that any
small band from Boston, or even Cambridge, could supplant him in the friendship and confidence of his old acquaintance, the Shoshonees, the Black-feet, or any other
tribe ? He must have seen this at once, and been convinced
that nothing like rivalship could [37] rise up between him
and the New-England adventurers. He therefore caressed
them, and, in a manner, incorporated them with his troop.
This gentleman was born in America of French parents,35
85 Captain William Sublette was born in Kentucky. His maternal grandfather
was Captain Whitby, a noted pioneer of Irish ancestry. The Sublettes were also
of Kentucky stock; and if French originally, came early to America. See our
volume xix, p. 221, note 55 (Gregg).— Ed.
-'I 58
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
and partakes largely of those good-humored, polite, and
accommodating manners which distinguish the nation
he sprang from. The old French war, and wars on this
continent since then, amply prove how much better Frenchmen conciliate the natives than the English. The English
and the Americans, when they come in contact with the
untutored savage, most commonly fight. But not so the
French. They please and flatter the Indian, give him
powder, and balls, and flints, and guns, and make a Catholic
of him, and make out to live in friendship with the red
man and woman of the wilderness. It is strange that such
extremes of character should meet. Some have said that
they are not so very far distant as others have imagined,—
that the refined French people love war, and the women
paint their faces, grease their hair, and wear East India
blankets, called shawls.— Captain Sublet possesses, doubtless, that conciliating disposition so characteristic of the
French, and not so frequendy found among the English
or Americans; for the descendants of both nations bear
strong marks of the stock they came from. The French
have always had a stronger hold of the affections of the
Indians than any other people.
The trappers kept company with us till we came to Pierre's
Hole, or valley, which is twelve miles from the spot where
we first met them. Three or four days after, we were
fired on by the Indians about ten o'clock at night. They
had assembled to about the number of three hundred.
They stole [38] five horses from us, and three from Sublet's
company.38 About the first of July we crossed the highest
part or ridge of the mountains.87   In addition to the moun-
80 This attack was attributed to the same band of Blackfeet with whom the
Battle of Pierre's Hole occurred some days later. See Wyeth, Oregon Expeditions, p. 158; Irving, Rocky Mountains, i, p. 75.— Ed.
87 This is South Pass, so named in contradistinction to the northern passes
undertaken by Lewis and Clark.    It is not known by whom this mountain passage I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
tain composed of earth, sand, and stone, including common rocks, there were certain peaks resembling a loaf
of sugar, from a hundred to two hundred feet high; and
some appeared much higher; I cannot guess their height.
They were to us surprising. Their sides deviated but little
from perpendicular. They looked at a distance like some
light-houses of a conical form, or like our Cambridge glass
manufactories; but how they acquired that form is wonderful. Subsiding waters may have left them so, after washing away sandy materials. But nature is altogether wonderful, in her large works as well as small. How little do
we know of the first cause of any thing ! We had to creep
round the base of these steep edifices of nature. We now
more clearly understand and relish the question of one
of our Indians who was carried to England as a show, who,
on being shown that elegant pile of stone, the cathedral
of St. Paul, after viewing it in silent admiration, asked
his interpreter whether it was made by men's hands, or
whether it grew there. We might ask the same question
respecting these conical mountains. Had the scaffolding
of St. Paul's remained, the surprise and wonder of the
sensible savage had been less.
It was difficult to keep our feet on these highest parts
of the mountains; some of the pack-horses slipped and
rolled over and over, and yet were taken up alive. Those
that did not fall were sadly bruised and lamed in their
feet and joints. Mules are best calculated, as we experienced, for such difficult travelling. They seem to think,
and to judge [39] of the path before them, and will sometimes
put their fore feet together and slip down without stepping.
They are as sagacious in crossing a river, where there is
was discovered, but probably by some of Ashley's parties in 1823. The ascent
is so gradual that, although 7,500 feet above sea-level, its elevation is not perceived,
and in 1843 Fremont could with difficulty tell just where he crossed the highest
point of the divide.— Ed. liBfiB
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
a current. They will not attempt to go straight over,
but will breast the tide by passing obliquely upwards. One
of our horses was killed by a fall down one of these precipices, and it was surprising that more of them did not share
the like fate. Buffaloes were so scarce here, that we were
obliged to feed on our dried meat, and this scarcity continued till after we had gained the head sources of the
Columbia river. For the last five days we have had to
travel on the Colorado of the West, which is a very long
river, and empties into the gulph of California.88
On the 4th of July, 1832, we arrived at Lewis's fork,
one of the largest rivers in these rocky mountains.89 It took
us all day to cross it. It is half a mile wide, deep, and
rapid. The way we managed was this: one man unloaded
his horse, and swam across with him, leading two loaded
ones, and unloading the two, brought them back, for two
more, and as Sublet's company and our own made over a
hundred and fifty, we were all day in passing the river.
In returning, my mule, by treading on a round stone, stumbled and threw me off, and the current was so strong, that
a bush which I caught hold of only saved me from drowning.
This being Independence-Day, we drank the health
of our friends in Massachusetts, in good clear water, as
*8 The upper waters of the Colorado River are now usually termed Green
River, from the "Rio Verte" of the Spaniards. This great stream rises on the
western slopes of the Wind River Mountains; flowing nearly south, gathering
many mountain streams, it next turns abruptly east into the northwest corner
of Colorado, and having rounded the Uintah range trends to the south-southwest
through Utah, until joined by Grand River, when it becomes the Colorado proper.
The first attempt to navigate this formidable waterway was made by Ashley's
party in 1825, although Becknell is known to have visited it the previous year.
Consult Chittenden's Fur-Trade, ii, pp. 509, 778-781, and F. S. Dellenbaugh
Romance of the Colorado River (New York, 1902).— Ed.
'• From Green River the caravan crossed the divide between the Colorado
and Columbia systems, and came upon a branch of Lewis (or Snake) River, probably Hoback's River. They did not reach the main Lewis until July 6, arriving
at the rendezvous on the morning of July 8, after crossing Teton Pass. Consult
Wyeth, Oregon Expeditions, pp. 158, 159.— Ed. I832l
Wyeth's Oregon
that was the only liquor we had to drink in remembrance
of our homes and dear connexions. If I may judge by my
own feelings and by the looks of my companions, there was
more of melancholy than joy amongst us. We were almost
[40] four thousand miles from Boston, and in saying Boston
we mean at the same time our native spot Cambridge, as
they are separated by a wooden bridge only. From the
north fork of Lewis's river we passed on to an eminence
called Teton mountain, where we spent the night. The
next day was pleasant, and serene. Captain Sublet came
in the evening to inquire how many of our company were
sick, as they must ride, it being impossible for them to go
on foot any farther. His kindness and attention I never
can forget. Dr. Jacob Wyeth, the Captain's brother,
George More, and Stephen Burdit40 were too weak to
walk. To accommodate them with horses, Captain Wyeth
was obliged to dig a hole in the earth, and therein bury
the goods which had been hitherto carried on horseback.
In the language of the Trappers this hiding of goods was
called cacher or hidden treasure, being the French term
for 'to hide.' When they dig these hiding-holes they
carefully carry the earth on a buffalo-skin to a distance,
so as to leave no marks or traces of the ground being dug
up or disturbed: and this was done to secure the cache
from being stolen by the Indians or the white men.
The goods so hidden are wrapt up in buffalo-skins to
keep them dry, before the earth is put over them. Nor is
this all; they make a fire over the spot, and all this to prevent the Indians from suspecting that treasure is caché,
or hidden there, while the owner of it takes care to mark
the bearing of the spot on some tree, or rock, or some
40 More was killed by Indians; see post. Captain Wyeth found his powder
flask at Fort Union upon his return in the summer of 1833. Burdett went on to
Oregon, where he resided for some years.— Ed. >ëfl
62 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
other object that may lead him to recognise the place
again. But I have my doubts whether they who hid
the goods will ever return that way to dig up their hidden treasure. We did not meddle with it on our return
with Captain Sublet.
[41] On the 5th of July we started afresh rather low-
spirited. We looked with sadness on the way before us.
The mountain was here pretty thickly timbered down its
slopes, and wherever the ground is level. The pines and
hemlock trees were generally about eighteen inches through.
It had snowed, and we were now at a height where the snow
commonly lies all the year round. Which ever way we
looked, the region presented a dreary aspect. No one could
wonder that even some of us who were in health, were,
at times, somewhat homesick. If this was the case with us,
what must have been the feelings of our three sick fellow
travellers. We passed through a snow bank three feet
deep. We well ones passed on with Captain Sublet to the
top of the mountain, and there waited until our sick men
came up with us. George More fell from his horse through
weakness. He might have maintained his seat on level
ground, but ascending and descending required more
exertion than he could call forth; and this was the case
also with Dr. Wyeth. Burdit made out a littie better. When
we encamped at night, we endured a snow storm. Sublet's
company encamped about two miles from us; for at best
we could hardly keep up with his veteran company. They
were old and experienced trappers, and we, compared
with them, young and inexperienced soldiers, little imagining that we should ever have to encounter such hardships,
in realizing our dreams of making a fortune. Ignorance
of the future is not always to be considered among the
calamities of man.
Captain Sublet's grand rendezvous, or Head Quarters, I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
was about twelve miles from our encampment.41 He had
there about two hundred [42] trappers, or beaver-hunters;
or more properly speaking, skinners of entrapped animals;
or ^e&ry-hunters, for they chased but few of the captured
beasts. To these were added about five hundred Indians,
of the rank of warriors, all engaged in the same pursuit
and traffic of the fur-trade. They were principally the
Flat-heads,a so called from their flattening the heads of
their young children, by forcing them to wear a piece of
wood, like a bit of board, so as to cause the skull to grow
fiat, which they consider a mark of beauty even among the
females. They are otherwise dandies and belles in their
dress and ornaments. This large body of horse made
a fine appearance, especially their long hair; for, as there
was a pleasant breeze of wind, their hair blew out straight
all in one direction, which had the appearance of so many
black streamers. When we met they halted and fired
three rounds by way of salute, which we returned; and
then followed such friendly greetings as were natural and
proper between such high contracting powers and great
and good allies. This parade was doubtless made by
Sublet for the sake of effect. It was showing us, Yankee
barbarians, their Elephants;—like General and Lord
Howe's military display to our commissioners of Congress
on Staten Island, when the British Brothers proposed that
41 Pierre's Hole, known more recently as Teton Basin, is a grassy valley trending northwest and southeast, thirty miles long, and from five to fifteen wide, in
eastern Idaho, just across the Wyoming border. Pierre (or Teton) River flows
through it gathering affluents on the way. The valley was a well-known rendezvous, taking its name from Pierre, an Iroquois employé of the Hudson's Bay
Company, who was here murdered by the Blackfeet. The Astorian overland
expedition passed through this valley both going and returning (1811, 1812). The
most notable event in its history was the battle which Wyeth recounts. It was
not on the regular Oregon trail; see Townsend's Narrative, post.— Ed.
42 For the Flatheads, see Franchère's Narrative, in our volume vi, p. 340, note
145.— Ed.
m iini'imnMin
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
celebrated interview; and when Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams,
and some others of the deputation, whose names I do not
now recollect, assumed all that careless indifference, very
common with the Indians on meeting a white embassy;
for the express purpose of conveying an idea, that we,
though the weakest in discipline and numbers, are not
awe-struck by your fine dress, glittering arms, and full-
fed persons.
[43] It was now the 6th of July,48 1832, being sixty-four
days since we left the settlements of the white people.
Captain Sublet encamped his forces; and then pointed out
to Captain Wyeth the ground which he thought would
be most proper for us; and altogether we looked like a
litde army. Not but what we felt small compared with
our great and powerful allies.
We were overjoyed to think that we had got to a resting-
place, where we could repose our weary limbs, and recruit
the lost strength of our sick. While Sublet was fmishing
his business with his Indian trappers, they delivering their
peltry, and he remunerating them in his way with cloth,
powder, ball, beads, knives, handkerchiefs, and all that
gawdy trumpery which Indians admire, together with
coffee, rice, and corn, also leather, and other articles,—
we, being idle, had time to think, to reflect, and to be uneasy. We had been dissatisfied for some time, but we
had not leisure to communicate it and systematize our
grievances. I, with others, had spoken with Captain
Sublet, and him we found conversable and communicative.
Myself and some others requested Captain Wyeth to call
a meeting of his followers, to ask information, and to know
what we were now to expect, seeing we had passed over
18 According to Nathaniel Wyeth's journal, . it was July 8 before his party
arrived in Pierre's Hole. They found that Drips, the American Fur Company
agent, had, with many independent trappers, reached there before them.— Ed. 183 2]
Wyeth's Oregon
as we supposed the greatest difficulties, and were now
nearly four thousand miles from the Atlantic, and within
four hundred miles of the Pacific Ocean, the end and aim
of our laborious expedition, the field where we expected
to reap our promised harvest. We wished to have what we
had been used to at home,— a town meeting,— or a parish
meeting, where every freeman has an equal right to speak
his sentiments, and to vote thereon. [44] But Captain
Wyeth was by no means inclined to this democratical procedure. The most he seemed inclined to, was a caucus
with a select few; of whom neither his own brother, though
older than himself, nor myself, was to be of the number.
After considerable altercation, he concluded to call a meeting of the whole, on business interesting and applicable
to all. We accordingly met, Captain Wyeth in the chair,
or on the stump, I forget which. Instead of every man
speaking his own mind, or asking such questions as related
to matters that lay heaviest on his mind, the Captain commenced the business by ordering the roll to be called; and
as the names were called, the clerk asked the person if
he would go on. The first name was Nathaniel J. Wyeth,
whom we had dubbed Captain, who answered — "I shall
go on."— The next was William Nud, who, before he
answered, wished to know what the Captain's plan and
intentions were, whether to try to commence a small colony,
or to trap and trade for beaver ? To which Captain Wyeth
replied, that that was none of our business. Then Mr.
Nud said," I shall not go on;" and as the names of the rest
were called, there appeared seven persons out of the twenty-
one, who were determined to return home. Of the number
so determined was, besides myself, Dr. Jacob Wyeth, the
Captain's brother, whose strength had never been equal
to such a journey. His constitution forbade it. He was
brought up at College. Here were discontents on both sides; 66 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
criminations and recriminations. A commander of a band
of associated adventurers has a very hard task. The
commanded, whether in a school, or in a regiment, or
company, naturally combine in feeling against [45] their
leader; and this is so natural that armies are obliged to
make very strict rules, and to pursue rigid discipline. It
is so also on ship-board. Our merchant ships cannot
sail in safety without exacting prompt obedience; and
disobedience in the common seamen is mutiny, and mutiny
is a high crime, and approximates to piracy. It is pretty
much so in these long and distant exploring expeditions.
The Captain cannot always with safety satisfy all the questions put to him by those under his command; and it would
lead to great inconvenience to entrust any, even a brother,
with any information concealed from the rest. There
must be secrecy, and there must be confidence. We had
travelled through a dreary wilderness, an infinitely worse
country than Palestine; yet Moses himself could not have
kept together the Israelites without the aid of miracles;
and the history we have given of our boat-like arks, and the
wreck of our raft, and the loss of our heaviest articles may
lead most readers to suspect that our Leader to his Land
of Promise was not an inspired man. In saying this, we
censure no one, we only lament our common frailty. Reflect a moment, considerate reader! on our humble means,
for an expedition of FOUR THOUSAND miles, compared with the ample means, rich and complete out-fit,
letters of credit, and every thing deemed needful, given
to Captains Lewis and Clarke, under the orders of the
government of the United States; and yet they several
times came very near starving for the want of food, and
of fuel, even in the Oregon territory ! In all books of voyages
and travels, who ever heard of the utmost distress for want
of wood, leaves, roots, coal, or turf to cook [46] with ?   Yet
11'-"-*: I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
all through the dreary wilderness of Missouri, we were
obliged to use the dung of buffaloes, or eat raw flesh. The
reader will scarcely believe that this was the case even at
mouth of the Oregon river. Clarke and Lewis had to
buy wood of the Indians, who had hardly enough for themselves. To be deprived of solid food soon ends in death;
but we were often deprived of the two elements out of
four, fire and water, and when on the Rocky mountains,
of a third, I mean- earth; for everything beneath our feet
and around us was stone. We had, be sure, air enough,
and too much too, sometimes enough almost to blow our
hair off.
But to return to our dismal list of grievances. Almost
every one of the company wished to go no farther; but they
found themselves too feeble and exhausted to think of
encountering the risk of a march on foot of three thousand
five hundred miles through such a country as we came.
We asked Captain Wyeth to let us have our muskets and
a sufficiency of ammunition, which request he refused.
Afterwards, he collected all the guns, and after selecting
such as he and his companions preferred, he gave us the
refuse; many of which were unfit for use. There were
two tents belonging to the company, of which he gave us
one; which we pitched about a quarter of a mile from his.
George More expressed his determination of returning
home, and asked for a horse, which after considerable
difficulty he obtained. This was July 10th. The Captain
likewise supplied his brother with a horse and a hundred
On the 12th of July, Captain Wyeth, after moving his tent
half a mile farther from ours, put himself under the
command of Mr. Milton Sublet,44 [47] brother of Captain
u Milton G. Sublette was a younger brother of William L. — for whom, see
our volume xix, p. 221, note 55 (Gregg).   He was a partner in the Rocky Moun- BT
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
:    1
William Sublet so often mentioned. This Captain Milton
Sublet had about twenty men under his command, all
trappers; so that hereafter as far as I know, it was Wyeth,
Sublet and Co.; so that the reader will understand, that
Dr. Jacob Wyeth, Palmer, Law, Batch, and myself concluded to retrace our steps to St. Louis in company with
Captain William Sublet, while Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth
remained with Milton Sublet, and his twenty men. I
have been unreasonably blamed for leaving my kinsman
beyond the Rocky Mountains with only eleven of his company, and that too when we were within about four hundred
miles of the mouth of the Columbia, alias Oregon river,
where it pours into the boisterous Pacific Ocean, for such
Lewis and Clarke found it to their cost.
The spot where we now were, is a valley, between two
mountains, about ten miles wide, so lofty that their tops
are covered with snow, while it was warm and pleasant
where we pitched our tent. This agreeable valley is called
by the trappers Pierre's-Hole, as if it were a dismal residence; and was the most western point that I visited, being
about,we conjectured, four hundred miles short of the mouth
of the Oregon river, whence the territory derives its name,
which Mr. Hall J. Kelly has described as another paradise !
O! the magic of sounds and inflated words! Whether
Captain Wyeth's expedition was wise or imprudent we are
not prepared to say; but under existing circumstances,
half of his company having left him, and among them his
own brother, the surgeon of the expedition, we cannot see
what better he could have done than to ally himself to an
experienced band of hunters, as a step necessary [48] to
tain Fur Company, and an able trader; but disease in one of his legs obliged him
to abandon the expedition of 1834. See Townsend's Narrative, post. The
ailing leg was twice amputated, but to no avail, and he died at Fort Laramie,
December 19, 1836.— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
his own preservation. He was three thousand and five
hundred miles from the Atlantic Ocean, with only eleven
men, and hah his goods lost or expended, and no resource
of supply short of St. Louis, nineteen hundred miles from
them. Had not the Sublets been with them from that
place through the wilderness of Missouri and La Platte,
it is hardly probable they would have ever reached the west
side of the Rocky Mountains. In passing judgment on
this strange expedition, we must take in, beside facts, probabilities and casualties.
On the 17th of July, Captain Wyeth and Captain Milton
Sublet set out westward with their respective men to go to
Salmon river to winter.45 The former had eleven beside
himself: that river they computed at two hundred miles
distance. Wyeth accordingly purchased twenty-five horses
from the Indians, who had a great number, and those very
fine, and high-spirited. Indeed the Western region seems
the native and congenial country for horses. They were,
however, delayed till the next day. But when they were
about moving, they perceived a drove of something, whether
buffaloes or men they could not determine with the naked
eye; but when aided by the glass, they recognized them
for a body of the Black-foot tribe of Indians, a powerful
and warlike nation.   As this movement was evidently hos-
** The Salmon is entirely an Idaho River — one of the largest and most important affluents of the Lewis (or Snake). Its sources are in the central part
of the state, nearly one hundred and fifty miles west of Wyeth's present position.
It flows north, then directly west, and again makes a long northward sweep before
losing itself in Lewis River. It is a mountainous stream, not navigable for any
great distance. Lewis and Clark (1805) first saw Columbian waters upon the
Lemhi — an eastern affluent of the Salmon. Later, Captain Clark made a reconnaissance some fifty miles down the Salmon, hoping to find the way thence to the
Columbia; but he was turned back by the rocky canons and rapids, and the expedition thenceforth took its way by land across the mountains. On the return
journey (r8o6) a party of Lewis and Clark's men advanced to the lower Salmon
in search of provisions. The river has since been of no te in fur-trading and trapping annals.— Ed.
w Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
tile, Captain Milton Sublet dispatched two men to call on
his brother, who was about eight miles off, for assistance;
when Captain William Sublet ordered every man to get
ready immediately. We had about five hundred friendly
Indian warriors with us, who expressed their willingness to
join in our defence.
[49] As soon as we left Captain Wyeth we joined Captain Sublet, as he said that no white man should be there
unless he was to be under his command; and his reason
for it was that in case they had to fight the Indians, no one
should flinch or sneak out of the battle. It seems that
when the Black-foot Indians saw us moving in battle array,
they appeared to hesitate; and at length they displayed a
white flag as an ensign of peace; but Sublet knew their
treacherous character. The chief of the friendly Flat-heads
and Antoine46 rode together, and concerted this savage
arrangement; to ride up and accost them in a friendly
manner; and when the Black-foot chief should take hold
of the Flat-head chief's hand in token of friendship, then
the other was to shoot him, which was instantly done ! and
at that moment the Flat-head chief pulled off the Black-
foot's scarlet robe, and returned with the Captain to our
party unhurt. As soon as the Black-foot Indians recovered from their surprise, they displayed a red flag, and the
battle began. This was Joab with a vengeance,— Art
thou in health, my brother?
The Black-foot chief was a man of consequence in his
nation. He not only wore on this occasion a robe of scarlet cloth, probably obtained from a Christian source, but
was decorated with beads valued there at sixty dollars.
46 Antoine Godin was a half-breed whose father, of Iroquois origin, had been
killed by Blackfeet upon a creek bearing his name. Antoine went out with Wyeth's
company, that built Fort Hall in 1834; while in camp there, he was enticed across
the river, and treacherously shot (see Townsend's Narrative, post).— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
The battie commenced on the Prairie. As soon as the
firing began on both sides, the squaws belonging to the
Black-foot forces, retreated about fifty yards into a small
thicket of wood, and there threw up a ridge of earth by way
of entrenchment, having first piled up a number of logs
cob-fashion, to which the men at length fell back, and from
[50] which they fired upon us, while some of their party
with the women were occupied in deepening the trench.
Shallow as it was, it afforded a considerable security to an
Indian, who will often shoot a man from behind a tree
near to its root, while the white man is looking to see his
head pop out at man's height. This has taught the United
States troops, to load their muskets while lying on their
backs, and firing in an almost supine posture. When the
Duke of Saxe-Weimer was in Cambridge,47 he noticed this,
to him, novel mode of firing, which he had never before seen;
and this was in a volunteer company of militia.— I do
not mean to say that the Indians fired only in a supine posture; when they had loaded they most commonly rose up
and fired, and then down on the ground again to re-load.—
In this action with the formidable Black-foot tribe, Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth's party had no concern. He himself was in it a very short time, but retired from the contest
doubdess for good reasons. After contesting the matter
with the warlike tribe about six hours, Captain Sublet found
it of littie avail to fight them in this way. He therefore
determined to charge them at once, which was accordingly
done. He led, and ordered his men to follow him, and this
proved effectual. Six beside himself first met the savages
hand to hand; of these seven, four were wounded, and one
killed.   The Captain was wounded in his arm and shoulder-
47 Carl Bernhard, duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1792-1862), visited America,
and published Travels in North America in the years 1825 and 1826 (Philadelphia,
m 72
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
blade. The Indians did not, however, retreat entirely,
so that we kept up a random fire until dark; the ball and
the arrows were striking the trees after we could see the
effects of one and of the other. There was something terrific to our men in their arrows. The idea of a barbed
arrow sticking [51] in a man's body, as we had observed it
in the deer and other animals, was appalling to us all, and
it is no wonder that some of our men recoiled at it. They
regarded a leaden bullet much less. We may judge from
this the terror of the savages on being met the first time by
fire arms,— a sort of thunder and Ughtning followed by
death without seeing the fatal shot.
In this batde with the Indians, not one of those who had
belonged to Captain Wyeth's company received any injury.
There were, however, seven white men of Sublet's company killed, and thirteen wounded. Twenty-five of our
Indians were killed and thirty-five wounded. The next
morning a number of us went back to the Indian fort, so
called, where we found one dead man and two women, and
also twenty-five dead horses, a proof that the Black-foot
were brave men.48 The number of them was uncertain.
We calculated that they amounted to about three hundred.
We guessed that the reason the three dead bodies were left
at the entrenchment was, that they had not enough left to
carry off their dead and wounded. This affair delayed
Captain Wyeth three days, and Captain Sublet ten days.
The names of those who left Captain Wyeth to return
home, were Dr. Jacob Wyeth, John B. Wyeth, his cousin,
William Nud, Theophilus Beach, R. L. Wakefield, Hamilton Law, George More, Lane, and Walter Palmer.49
48 According to Irving {Rocky Mountains, i, p. 85), who had conversed with
several of the participants, the Blackfeet left ten dead in the fort, and reported
their loss as twenty-six. Irving also makes the number of dead and wounded
whites and allied Indians smaller than Wyeth's estimate.— Ed.
48 Of this company William Nudd and George More were afterwards killed
in the mountains; the others reached the settlements.— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
The names of those who remained attached to Captain
Wyeth, and who went on with him to Salmon river, are J.
Woodman,  Smith,  G.  Sargent, Abbot, W. Breck, S.
Burditt, Ball, St. Clair, C. Tibbits, G. Trumbull, and
When they had gone three days journey from us, [52]
as they were riding securely in the middle of the afternoon,
about thirty of the Black-foot Indians, who lay in ambush
about twenty yards from them, suddenly sprang up and
fired. The surprise occasioned the horses to wheel about,
which threw off George More, and mortally wounded one
of the men, Alfred K. Stevens.61   As the Indians knew
50 Three of this number — Solomon Howard Smith, John Ball, and Calvin
Tibbitts — became prominent in Oregon life. Trumbull died at Fort Vancouver
during the winter of 1832-33. Wiggin Abbot accompanied Nathaniel Wyeth
on his return (r833) and aided in preparing for the latter's second expedition.
He was later murdered by the Bannock — see Townsend's Narrative, post.
Solomon H. Smith, from New Hampshire, was employed as school-teacher
at Fort Vancouver, and afterwards settled in the Willamette Valley. Having
married Celiast, daughter of a Clatsop chief, he made his home at Clatsop Plains
with the missionaries, and there lived until his death. His son, Silas B. Smith,
was an attorney at Warrenton, Oregon.
John Ball came from Troy, New York, and remained in Oregon until the autumn
of 1833, teaching at Fort Vancouver, and raising grain on the Willamette. After
returning to the United States, he contributed an article on the geology and geography of the region, through which he had travelled, to Silliman's Journal, xxviii,
pp. 1-16. Ball left Troy in 1836, and removed to Grand Rapids, Michigan. See
his letter in Montana Historical Society Collections, i, (1876), pp. in, 112.
Calvin Tibbitts was a stone-cutter from Maine. He settled at Chemyway
and later removed to Clatsop Plains, where he lived with a native wife, and aided
missionary enterprise. He made two successful journeys to California for cattle,
and later was the judge of Clatsop County.— Ed.
a Alfred K. Stephens had participated in the Santa Fé trade, and had in the
summer of 1831 led a party of twenty-one men in a free trapping excursion along the
Laramie River. Discouraged by ill success, he made an agreement with Fitzpa trick
to serve under the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. After this attack in Jackson's
Hole, Stephens returned to Pierre's Hole, and rejoined Sublette, only to fall victim
to his wound, dying July 30, 1832.
It would appear from John Wyeth's narrative at this point, that he remained
with William Sublette at Pierre's Hole, while More and those more eager to set
forth had gone on under the leadership of Alfred Stephens.— Ed. 74 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
that More could not get away from them, they passed him,
and about twenty Indians were coming up the hill where
they were. Eight or ten Indians followed up while only
five trappers had gained the hill. They were considering
how to save George More, when one of them shot him
through the head, which was a better fate than if they had
taken him alive, as they would have tortured him to death.
We have said that Captain Wyeth and the few who had
concluded to go on with him, were ready to begin their
march for Salmon river. On this occasion Captain Milton
Sublet escorted them about one hundred miles, so as to
protect them from the enraged Black-feet, and then left
them to take care of themselves for the winter; and this is
the last tidings we have had of Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth,
and his reduced band of adventurers.52 If we have been
rightly informed, their chief hope was residing on a pleasant
river where there was plenty of salmon, and probably elk
and deer, and water-fowl; and we hope fuel, for to our
surprise, we learnt that wood for firing was among then-
great wants. I have since been well-informed that in the
valley of Oregon, so much extolled for its fertility and pleasantness, wood to cook with is one among their scarcest and
very dear articles of necessity. From all accounts, except
those given [53] to the public by Mr. Kelly, there is not a
district at the mouth of any large river more unproductive
than that of the Columbia, and it seems that this is pretty
much the case from the tide water of that river to where it
empties into the ocean.
The Flat-head Indians are a brave and we had reason to
believe a sincere people. We had many instances of their
honesty and humanity.    They do not lie, steal, nor rob
62 Nathaniel Wyeth crossed to the Columbia, arriving at the Hudson's Bay
Company post of Walla Walla, October 14, and at Fort Vancouver later in the
same month.   Here the remainder of his men left his service.— Ed. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
any one, unless when driven too near to starvation; and
then any man black, white, or red will seize any thing to
save himself from an agonizing death. The Flat-heads
were well dressed. They wore buck-skin frocks and pantaloons, and moccasins, with seldom any thing on their
heads. They draw a piece of fresh buffalo hide on their
feet, and at night sleep with their feet not far from the fire,
and in the morning find their shoes sitting as snug to their
feet as if they had been measured by the first shoe-maker
in Boston. It is probable that no people have so little shoe-
pinching as these savages. I never heard any one complain of corns, or kibed-heels, severe as the weather is in
winter. The women wear moccasins also, but whether
made in the same extempore method as those of the men, I
know not. I suspect they must experience some shoe-
pinching. They wear a petticoat, and a frock of some sort
of leather, according to fancy, but all decent and comfortable. In rainy weather, or when very cold, they throw a
buffalo-skin over their shoulders, with the fur inside. They
have no stationary wigwams; but have a sort of tent, which
they fix down or remove with facility. In Major Long's
book may be seen an engraved representation of them.58
Their mode of cooking is by roasting and boiling. They
[54] will pick a goose, or a brant, and run a stick through its
body and so roast it, without taking out its entrails. They
are, according to our notions, very nasty cooks.
I know not what to say of their religion. I saw nothing
like images, or any objects of worship whatever, and yet
they appeared to keep a sabbath; for there is a day on
which they do not hunt nor gamble, but sit moping all day
and look like fools. There certainly appeared among
them an honor, or conscience, and sense of justice.   They
58 The reference is to James's Long's Expedition, reprinted as volumes xiv-xvii
of our series.    The illustration here referred to is in our volume xvi, p. 107.—■ Ed.
—- 76
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
would do what they promised, and return our strayed horses,
and lost articles. Now and then, but rarely, we found a
pilferer, but not oftener than among the frontier white people. The Indians of all tribes are disposed to give you
something to eat. It is a fact that we never found an Indian
of any tribe disposed to treat us with that degree of inhos-
pitality that we experienced in crossing the Alleghany
Mountains, in the State of Pennsylvania.
The Black-foot tribe are the tallest and stoutest men
of any we have seen, nearly or quite six feet in stature, and
of a lighter complexion than the rest.
The Indian warriors carry muskets, bows, and arrows,
the last in a quiver. The bows are made of walnut, about
three feet long, and the string of the sinews of the buffalo,
all calculated for great elasticity, and will reach an object
at a surprising distance. It was to us a much more terrific weapon of war than a musket. We had one man
wounded in the thigh by an arrow; he was obliged to ford
a river in his hasty retreat, and probably took a chill, which
occasioned a mortification, of [55] which he died. The
arrows are headed with flint as sharp as broken glass; the
other end of the arrow is furnished with an eagle's feather
to steady its flight. Some of these aboriginals, as we learn
from Lewis, Clarke, and Major Long, especially the last,
have shields or targets; some so long as to reach from the
head to the ancle. Now the question is how came our
North American Indians with bows and arrows ? It is not
likely that they invented them, seeing they so exactly resemble the bows and arrows of the old world, the Greeks
and Romans. They are the same weapon to a feather.
This is a fresh proof that our savage tribes of this continent emigrated from the old one; and I have learned from
a friend to whom I am indebted for several ideas, which
no one could suppose to have originated with myself, that I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
the Indian's bow goes a great way to settie a disputed point
respecting what part of the old world the ancestors of our
Indians came from,— whether Asia or Europe. Now the
Asiatic bow and our Indian bow are of a different form.
The first has a straight piece in the middle, like the crossbow, being such an one as is commonly depicted in the hands
of Cupid; whereas our Indian bow is a section of a circle,
while the Persian or Asiatic bow has two wings extending
from a straight piece in the middle. Hence we have reason
to conclude that the first comers from the old world to the
new, came not from those regions renowned for their cultivation of the arts and sciences. The idea that our North
American Indians came over from Scythia, that is, the
northern part, so called, of Europe and Asia, whether it is
correct to call them Scythians, Tartars, or Russians, I
leave others to determine. We [56] have many evidences
that our Northern Indians have a striking resemblance in
countenance, color, and person to the most northern tribes
of Tartars, who inhabit Siberia, or Asiatic Russia. The
Black-foot Indians who inhabit small rivers that empty
into the Missouri, resemble in mode of living, manners,
and character, the Calmuc Tartars. Both fight on horseback, both are very brave, and both inured to what we
should consider a very hard life as it regards food. Both
avoid as much as they can stationary dwellings, and use
tents made with skins.
On this subject we ought not to omit mentioning that
the Indians on all sides of the Rocky mountains have several customs both among men and the women, which might
lead some to conclude that our Northern and Western Indians descended from the Israelites; and this similarity is
certainly very remarkable; yet there is one very strong fact
against that hypothesis, namely, there is not the least trace
amongst our Indians of the eight-day rite of the Jewish mr/jr'
78 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
males, which sore, and, to us, strange ceremony would hardly
have been forgotten, had it been practiced by our Indians.
If our idea be well-founded on this subject, the custom
could have originated only in warm and redundant climates,
so that had Moses marched first from the shores of the
Baltic, as did the Goths, instead of the shores of the Red
sea, the Jews never would have been subjected to the operation of circumcision.
After all, it is very likely that the Persians came from a
different stock from that which peopled the Western and
Northern parts of America,— I mean from the warmer
regions of Asia. They seem possessed of more delicate
marks of person and of mind [57] than the fighting savages
of the North. There appears to be a strong line of separation between them, as far as our information goes.
To return to our own story. After the battle at Pierre's
Valley, I had an opportunity of seeing a specimen of Indian
surgery in treating a wound. An Indian squaw first sucked
the wound perfectiy dry, so that it appeared white as chalk;
and then she bound it up with a piece of dry buck-skin as
soft as woollen cloth, and by this treatment the Wound
began to heal, and soon closed up, and the part became
sound again. The sucking of it so effectually may have
been from an apprehension of a poisoned arrow. But
who taught the savage Indian that a person may take poison
into his mouth without any risk, as the poison of a rattlesnake without harm, provided there be no scratch or wound
in the mouth, so as to admit it into the blood ?
Three of the men that left Captain Wyeth when I did,
enlisted with Captain Sublet to follow the trapping business for the period of one year, namely, Wakefield, Nud,
and Lane, leaving Dr. Jacob Wyeth, H. Law, T. Beach,
W. Palmer, and myself. We accordingly set out on the
twenty-eighth day of  July,   1832,  with Captain William 1
Wyeth's Oregon
Sublet, for home; and thus ended all my fine prospects
and flattering expectations of acquiring fortune, independence, and ease, and all my hopes that the time had now
come in the order of Providence, when that uncultivated
tract, denominated the Oregon Territory, was to be changed
into a fruitful field, and the haunt of savages and wild
beasts made the happy abode of refined and dignified man.—
Mr. Hall J. Kelly published about two [58] years since a
most inflated and extravagant account of that western
tract which extends from the Rocky Mountains to the shore
of the Pacific Ocean.54 He says of it that no portion of the
globe presents a more fruitful soil, or a milder climate, or
equal facilities for carrying into effect the great purposes
of a free and enlightened nation; — that a country so full of
those natural means which best contribute to the comforts
and conveniences of life, is worthy the occupancy of a people disposed to support a free representative government,
and to establish civil, scientific, and religious institutions,—
and all this and much more to the same effect after Lewis
and Clarke's history of their expedition had been published,
and very generally read;55 yet this extravagant and fallacious account of the Oregon was read and believed by
some people not destitute of a general information of things,
nor unused to reading; but there were circles of people,
chiefly among young farmers and journeymen mechanics,
who were so thoroughly imbued with these extravagant
notions of making a fortune by only going over land to the
other side of the globe, to the Pacific Ocean, that a person
64 Referring to Kelley's Geographical Sketch of that part of North America
called Oregon (Boston, 1830). Subsequent information has justified most of
Kelley's statements, here derided by Wyeth.— Ed.
"What is known as the Biddle version of the Lewis and Clark journals was
issued at Philadelphia in i8t4. For the history of this version consult Thwaites,
Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (New York, 1904-05), i,
introduction.— Ed.
80 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
who expressed a doubt of it was in danger of being either
affronted, or, at least, accused of being moved by envious
feelings. After a score of people had been enlisted in this
Oregon expedition, they met together to feed and to magnify each other's hopes and visionary notions, which were
wrought up to a high degree of extravagance, so that it was
hardly safe to advise or give an opinion adverse to the
scheme. When young people are so affected, it is in vain
to reason with them; and when such sanguine persons are
determined to fight, or to marry, it is dangerous to [59]
attempt to part them; and when they have their own way
and get their belly full of fight, and of matrimony, there
comes a time of cool reflection. The first stage of our reflection began at St. Louis, when we parted with our amphibious wagons, in which we all more or less took a pride.
Every one there praised the ingenuity of the contrivance
and construction of them for roads and rivers such as at
Cambridge, and other places near to Boston; but we were
assured at St. Louis, that they were by no means calculated
for our far distant journey. We were reminded that Lewis
and Clarke carried canoes almost to the foot of the Rocky
Mountains, by the route of Missouri river, but were obliged
to leave them there, and ascend mountains so very steep,
that sometimes their loaded horses slipped and rolled over
and over, down into lower ground sixty or seventy feet.
This may serve to show, among other things, how ill-
informed Captain Wyeth and his company were of the
true condition of the country through which they had to
pass. We expected to support ourselves with game by our
firearms, and therefore powder and shot were the articles
we took the most care to be provided with. Nor were we
followers undeceived before we were informed at St. Louis,
that it would be necessary to take oxen and sheep to be
slaughtered on the route for our support.    We also found l832]
Wyeth's Oregon
it advisable to sell at that place the large number of axes,
great and small, with which we had encumbered our wagons.
All these occurrences, following close after one another,
operated to damp our ardor; and it was this probably that
operated so powerfully on W. Bell, Livermore, and Gris-
wold, that they cut [60] and ran away before we entered
upon the difficulties and hardships of our expedition.
Nothing of importance occurred for the first ten days
after we left Pierre's Valley. Our huntsmen were abroad
in pursuit of buffaloes, when they were alarmed at the
sight of a large body of the Black-foot tribe who had been
watching our movements. Captain Sublet was not a little
alarmed, for he had with him his whole stock of furs, very
large in quantity and valuable in quality, which we were
told would be worth eighty thousand dollars in St. Louis.
But all the world exaggerates; nor even were we of the
Oregon expedition entirely free from it, although not to be
compared with Hall Jackson Kelly, who never stops short
of superlatives, if we may judge by his publications. But
he says, by way of apology, that it is needful that the friends
of the contemplated Oregon colony should possess a littie
of the active and vital principle of enthusiasm, that shields
against disappointments, and against the presumptious
opinions and insults of others. Now the fact is, the sanguine and enthusiastic Mr. Kelly was never in that country,
nor nearer to it than Boston; and his zeal in the colonization of that dreary territory led him to believe what he
wished, and to disbelieve every thing adverse to his
favorite enterprise. He had a right to enjoy his opinion;
but when he took unweary pains to make ignorant people
believe as he did, he was the remote cause of much misery
and lasting regret in more than half the adventurers from
Cambridge. If the blind lead the blind, we know what
will be the consequence.   But our business is not to censure
in m
82 Early Western Travels [Vol.21
from a disposition to find fault, [61] but to warn others from
falling into the errors and difficulties which attended me
and my companions, and chiefly through the misinformation of persons who never saw the country.
Each man, when he left St. Louis, was allowed to carry
but ten pounds' weight of his own private baggage, and not
every one to encumber his march with whatever he chose;
and we adhered to that order on our return. We were ten
days in passing over the Rocky Mountains in going, and
nine in returning; and I repeat it as my fixed opinion, that
we never should have reached the western foot of the
mountains had we not been under the guard and guidance
of Captain Sublet, and his experienced company. He was
acquainted with the best way, and the best mode of travelling. He knew the Indian chiefs and they knew him, and
each confided in the other. An anecdote will illustrate
this. There was a hunters' fort or temporary place of
defence occupied by about a dozen white beaver-trappers
from St. Louis, where were deposited furs, and goods belonging to the troop of trappers, and that to a considerable
amount. One day this small garrison was alarmed at the
sight of about six hundred warriors approaching on horseback. Upon this they barred their gate, and closed every
door and window against the Indians, but with faint hopes
of repelling such a powerful host of well-armed savages;
for they had no other idea but that they had come for their
destruction. But when the Indians saw them shutting
themselves up, they displayed the white flag, and made
signs to the white men to open their fort, for they came to
trade and not to fight. And the little garrison thought
it better to trust to Indian honor [62] than risk savage
slaughter or captivity; and accordingly they unbarred their
doors and let the chiefs in with every expression of cordiality
and confidence.   After remaining nine days, they departed I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
in peace. And what ought to be recorded to their honor, the
white people did not miss a single article, although axes,
and utensils, and many other things were lying about, desirable to Indians. The savages did not consider, as white
men too often do,— that "might is right." When I expressed my surprise at it, one of the white trappers replied,
"Why, the word of these trading Indians is as good as the
We were surprised to find the Indians in the vicinity
of the mountains, and all round Pierre's Valley, and the
Black-foot tribe, and the Shoshonees, or Snake-tribe, so
well provided with muskets, powder and ball, woollen cloth,
and many other articles, until we were informed that Mr.
Mackenzie, an established and wealthy Indian trader, had
long supplied them with every article they desired. Had
the Captain of our band been acquainted with this fact,
and also been informed of the trading connexion between
the Indians and the two brothers, William and Milton Sublet,
before he started from home, we should have avoided a
great deal of trouble, and he escaped a great deal of expense, and for aught I know, suffering; for the last we heard
of him, he was to pass the winter at the Salmon river.
From all I could learn, St. Louis was the depot, or headquarters of the commerce with the Indians. Mackenzie,
I was informed has a steam-boat called the Yellow-stone,
by which he keeps up a trade with the natives inhabiting
the region watered by [63] the river of that name. The
Yellow-stone is a noble river, being eight hundred and thirty-
seven miles from the point where Captain Clarke reached
it to the Missouri, and is so far navigable for batteaux;
and eight hundred and fifty feet wide at its confluence with
the river just named. By all accounts, the superiority of
the Yellow-stone river over the Columbia, or Oregon, for
a settlement of New-England adventurers, in point of fer-
u fjP-^pw
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
tility, climate, and pleasantness, is such as to impress one
with regret that ever we extended our views beyond it; for
the lamentable fact is, that the trade with the Indians all
round the Rocky Mountains, and beyond it to the Oregon
territory and Columbia river, is actually forestalled, or
pre-occupied by wealthy, established, and experienced
traders residing at, or near St. Louis, while we are more
than twelve hundred miles in their rear, and very far
behind them in time. Besides all these considerations, we
may add another of great importance; I mean the fact,
that Mackenzie's and Sublet's white trappers, or hunters,
are a sort of half Indians in their manners and habits, and
could assimilate with them, while we are strangers to the
savages, and they to us, with all the dislikes natural to both
sides. Captain Sublet, who appears to be a worthy character, and of sound judgment, perceived this, and must
have seen, at once, that he had nothing to fear from us, and
therefore he paid us great attention, conciliated and made
use of us, and while he aided us, he benefited his own concern, and all without the least spice of jealousy, well knowing the impossibility, under existing circumstances, that
we could supplant him in the affection of the red men of
Missouri and Oregon.
[64] The white traders, and the Indians have, if we may
so term it, an annual Fair, that has been found by experience profitable to both sides.6* It is true the white trader
barters a tawdry bauble of a few cents' value, for a skin
worth fifty of it. And so have we in our India shawls, and,
a few years since, in Leghorn hats, in which we were taxed
M This was the well-known mountain rendezvous instituted to take the place
of established forts, by General Ashley of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
Each year a caravan went up from St. Louis, carrying articles for trade, while
parties of trappers and their Indian allies gathered at the appointed place. The
first of these gatherings was in 1824; the institution flourished only for about a
decade. — Ed.
Ill i832] Wyeth's Oregon 85
as high as the white merchant taxes the equally silly Indian.
Coffee was sold at two dollars a pound, and so was tobacco.
Indeed some of us gave that price to Mr. Nathaniel J.
Wyeth for the latter article, a luxury more coveted by men
in our situation, anxious and fatigued as we were, than
whisky or brandy. This was the case under Lewis and
Clarke. When deprived of tobacco, they cut up the old
handles of tomahawks, which had been used as pipes, and
chewed the wood for the sake of its smell and smack. It
is not a singular case. It has been experienced among
sailors at sea. They have pined more for the lulling effects
of that nauseous weed than for ardent spirits; and it has
been known that men will mutiny sooner when deprived
of their tobacco, than when deprived of their usual food and
rum. There was no small grumbling on being obliged
to buy tobacco out of what we thought common stock, at
the rate above mentioned, being, as we thought, all members of a commonwealth.
The following may serve to show the knowledge or instinct of horses.
When marching on our return home in the troop of Captain Sublet, not far from the eastern declivity of the Rocky
Mountains, we were met by a large body of Indians on
horseback. Sublet generally kept seven videts about two
miles ahead [65] of his main body. The horses of this
advance guard suddenly refused to go on, and turned round,
and appeared alarmed, but the riders knew not the cause
of it. Captain Sublet rode up, and said, that he knew by
the behaviour of the horses that there was an enemy ahead.
He said there was a valley several miles off where he apprehended we might be attacked. He therefore ordered every
man to examine his arms, and be ready for action. After
riding a few miles we discovered a large moving body of a
living something.    Some of us thought it was a drove of 86 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
buffaloes; but the Captain said no, because they were of
different colors, whereas bisons, or buffaloes appear all
of one color. After viewing them through his glass, he
said they were a body of the Black-foot tribe, who had on
their war dresses, with their faces painted, bare heads, and
other signs of hostility.
Their appearance was very singular, and, to some of us,
terrible. There was a pretty fresh breeze of wind, so as to
blow the long manes and tails of their horses out straight.
Nor was this all : the wind had the same effect on the long
black hair of the warriors, which gave them not only a
grotesque but a terrific appearance. Added to all this,
they kept up a most horrid yell or war-hoop. They rode
up and completely surrounded us; and then all was silent.
Captain Sublet rode up to the chief, and expressed his
hope that all was peace. The savage replied that there
should be peace on their part, on condition that Sublet
should give them twenty-five pounds of tobacco, which was
soon complied with, when the Indian army remounted their
horses, and rode off at full speed as they came on: and we
[66] pushed off with like speed, lest they should repent then-
bargain and return upon us to mend it.
Who will say that this gallant body of cavalry were not
wiser than the common run of white soldiers, to make peace
for a quid? and thereby save their horses and their own
skins? Out of what book did this corps, of savage dragoons learn that discretion was the better part of valor ? —
We answer, From out of that book of Nature which taught the
videts' horses that an enemy was in the wind. The horse
is the dumbest of all beasts. He is silent under torture.
He never groans but once, and that is his last. Did they
roar like bulls, or squeal like hogs, they would be useless
in an army. That noble animal suffers from man a shameful weight of cruel usage in town and country. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
The wild horses are a great curiosity. They traverse
the country, and stroll about in droves from a dozen to
twenty or thirty; and always appear to have a leader, like
a gander to a flock of geese. When our own horses were
feeding fettered around our encampments, the wild horses
would come down to them, and seem to examine them, as
if counting them; and would sometimes come quite up to
them if we kept out of sight; but when they discovered us,
they would one and all give a jump off and fly like the wind.
There is a method of catching a wild horse, that may
appear to many "a traveller's story." It is called creasing
a horse. The meaning of the term is unknown to me.57
It consists in shooting a [67] horse in the neck with a single
ball so as to graze his neck bone, and not to cut the pith of
it. This stuns the horse and he falls to the ground, but he
recovers again, and is as well as ever, all but a little soreness
in the neck, which soon gets well. But in his short state
of stupefaction, the hunter runs up, and twists a noose
around the skin of his nose, and then secures him with a
thong of buffalo-hide. I do not give it merely as a story
related; but I believe it, however improbable it may appear, because I saw it done. I saw an admirable marksman, young Andrew Sublet,58 fire at a fine horse, and after
he fell, treat him in the way I have mentioned; and he
brought the horse into camp, and it turned out to be a very
fine one.   The marvel of the story is, that the dextrous
•' Creasing may be derived from craze, or the French écraser, or the Teutonic
krossa, or the English crush, to bruise, overwhelm, or subdue without killing.
It may be Spanish; for it is said thatjthe modern South Americans practice the same
device. It would seem as if it jarred the vertebrae, or bony channel of the neck,
without cutting any important vessel or nerve. But let the fact be established
before we reason upon it.— Wyeth.
58 Andrew Sublette, younger brother of William and Milton, was born in Kentucky, but early removed to the frontier. After the discovery of gold he emigrated
to California, settling finally near Los Angeles, where he died from wounds received
in an encounter with grizzly bears.— Ed.
'1 88 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
marksman shall shoot so precisely as only to graze the vital
part; and yet those who know these matters better than
I do, say, that they conceive it possible.
After we had made peace with the large body of the Black-
foot Indians, for, as we may say, a quid of tobacco, nothing
occurred worth relating until we arrived at the town of
Independence, being the first white settiement in our way
homewards. I would, however, here remark, that the
warlike body just mentioned, though of the fierce Black-
foot tribe, hunted and fought independently of that troop
with which we had a battie in the Rocky Mountains; and
were most probably ignorant of that affair, in which a
chief was treacherously shot by one Antoine, who was
half Indian and half French, when bearing a white flag,
and with which [68] nefarious deed I believe Captain
Sublet had no concern. But of all this I cannot speak
with certainty, as I myself was half a mile distant, when
the Black-foot chief was shot, and his scarlet robe torn off
of him by the mongrel Indian, as a trophy instead of his
scalp; for the Indians returned their fire so promptly,
and continued fighting so long, even after dark, that there
was no time nor opportunity of his securing that evidence
of his savage blood and mode of warfare.
When we arrived at the town of Independence, Dr.
Jacob Wyeth, Palmer, Styles, and myself bought a canoe,
being tired of travelling by land, and impatient to get on,
and this was the last of my money except a single six-cent
piece. A thick fog prevented our early departure, as it
would be dangerous to proceed on account of the snags and
sawyers in the river. To pass away the tedious time, I
strolled out around the town, and lost my direct way back.
At length the fog cleared off, and after my companions
had waited for me an hour, they pushed off and left me behind!   They, be sure, left word that they would wait for •
Wyeth's Oregon
me at the next town, Boonsville,59 twenty miles' distance.
I hurried, however, as fast I could five miles down the
banks of the river; when, finding that I could not overtake them, and being fatigued by running, I gave over the
chase in despair. I was sadly perplexed, and vexed, at what
I conceived worse than savage usage. In this state of mind,
I saw a small skiff, with a pair of oars, when an heroic idea
came into my half-crazed brain, and feeling my absolute
necessities, I acted like certain ancient and some modern
heroes, and jumped into the boat, cast off her painter, and
pulled away for dear life down the stream. [69] The owner
of the boat discovered me when not much more than a
quarter of a mile on my way. He and another man got
into a canoe and rowed after me, and gained upon me; on
perceiving which, I laid out all my strength, and although
two to one, I distanced them, and they soon saw they could
not overtake me. When I started it was twelve o'clock,
and I got to the next town, Boonsville, the sun half an hour
high,— the distance about twenty miles. When my skiff
struck the shore my pursuers were about twenty rods behind
me. I ran into the first barn of a tavern I could reach.
They soon raised the neighbors, and placed a watch around
the barn, one side of which opened into a cornfield. In
searching for me they more than once trod over me, but
the thickness of the hay prevented them from feeling me.
I knew the severe effects of their laws, by which those who
were too poor to pay the fine were to atone for their poverty
by stripes, which were reckoned to be worth a dollar a stripe
in that cheap country;  and hence I lay snug in the hay
" Boonville was the successor of Franklin as the metropolis of central Missouri.
The site was first settled by the Cole family in r8io, laid out as a town in i8r7,
and made the seat of Cooper County upon the tatter's erection in 1818. Its period
of greatest prosperity was before the building of the railroad (1830-40), when it
was the shipping point for northern Arkansas and southwest Missouri. It had
a population in 1900 of 4,377.— Ed.
■3fc i m '
w ■
!> il
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
two nights and one day without any thing to eat. Hunger
at length forced me from my hiding-place, when I went into
the tavern, where I found Dr. Jacob Wyeth, Walter Palmer, and Styles. I told the landlord I was starving for
want of food, and he gave me supper; and then I went
back into the barn again, where I slept that night.
The next morning I went into the tavern again, and
there I found my pursuers, and they found their prisoner,
whom they soon put under the custody of two constables,
who ordered me breakfast, which having eaten with a good
relish, I watched my opportunity, while they were standing
thick [70] around the bar, and crept unobserved out of the
back-door into the extensive cornfield, and thence into the
barn window out of which they threw manure, and regained
my snug hiding-hole, where I remained one day and one
night more. I now and then could see the constables and
their posse prowling about the barn, through a crevice in
the boards. In the midst of my fears, I was amused with
the solemn, and concernful phizes of the two constables,
and one or two others. In the morning very early, I ventured out again, and ran down to the river; and there spying a boat, and feeling heroic, I jumped into her and pushed
across the river, and landed on the opposite bank, so as to
elude the pursuit of the authorities, who I knew would be
after me on the right bank of the river, while I marched
on the left. When I came to. the ferry near St. Louis, I
had only a six-cent piece, which the ferryman took for his
full fare which was twelve cents, and so I got safe to St.
Louis, but with scarcely clothing enough for decency, not
to mention comfort: and yet I kept up a good heart, and
never once despaired. My companions arrived a day before me; they on Thursday, I on Friday, at four o'clock
in the afternoon; they in the steam-boat, like gentlemen,
while I, the youngest in the whole Oregon company, like I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
a runaway. But I do not regret the difference, seeing I
have a story worth telling, and worth hearing.
Where to get a lodging that night I did not know, nor
where to obtain a morsel of bread. I went up to a large
tavern, and asked permission of the keeper to lodge in his
barn that night, but he sternly refused. I then went to the
other tavern, and made the like request, when the landlord
[71] granted it, saying that he never refused a man sleeping
in his barn who was too poor to pay for a lodging in his
house. I wish I knew his name. I turned in and had
a very good night's rest. Should any one enquire how
I came to leave my old companions, and they me, I need
only say that I had a very serious quarrel with one of them,
even to blows; and with that one too who ought to have
been the last to treat me with neglect; "and further the
deponent saith not."
The next morning I went round in search of work, but
no one seemed disposed to hire me; nor do I much wonder
at it; for in truth I was so ragged and dirty, that I had
nothing to recommend me; and I suffered more depression
of spirits during the following six days of my sojourn at
St. Louis, than in any part of my route. The steam-boats
refused me and Dr. Wyeth started off for New Orleans
before I could see him. Palmer let himself by the month
on board a steam-boat running between St. Louis and
Independence, while I was left alone at the former place
six days without employ, victuals, or decent dothing. I
could not bear to go to people's doors to beg; but I went on
board steam-boats and begged for food. I was such a
picture of wretchedness that I did not wonder they refused
to hire me. My dress was buck-skin moccasins, and
pantaloons; the remains of a shirt I put on in the Rocky
Mountains, the remnants of a kersey waistcoat which I
had worn ever since I left Cambridge, and a hat I had
: mim
■**■■   ■- M
■ MU
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
worn all the time from Boston, but without any coat whatever, or socks, or stockings; and to add to the wretchedness
of! my appearance, I was very dirty, and I could not
help it. My looks drew the attention of a great many
spectators. I thought [72] very hard of it then, but I
have since reflected, and must say that when people saw a
strong young man of eighteen in high health, and yet so
miserable in appearance, it was natural in them to conclude that he must be some criminal escaped from justice,
or some vagabond suffering under the just effects of his own
At length, wearied out by my ill fortune, I plucked up
courage, and went to the Constitution steam-boat, Captain
Tufts, of Charlestown, near Boston, and told him my name
and family; and detailed to him my sufferings, and said
that he must give me a passage, and I would work for it.
To my great joy he consented, and he gave me shirt,
pantaloons, &c; and I acted at a fireman, or one who
feeds the fire with pine wood under the steam-boilers.
I forbear narrating the particulars of my sufferings for want
of food during the six days I tarried at St. Louis. Suffice
it to say, that I was in a condition of starvation, and all
owing to my wretched appearance. When I at times
went on board the steam-boats, I was glad to scrape up
any thing after the sailors and firemen had done eating.
At length I obtained employ in the steam-boat Constitution,
and a passage to New-Orleans, on the condition of acting
as one of the firemen, there being twelve in all, with five
men as sailors, and two hundred and forty passengers,
party emigrants, but chiefly men belonging to the settlements on the Mississippi, going down to Natchez, and to
New-Orleans to work. We tarried one night at the Natchez;
but soon after we left it the cholera broke out among the
passengers, eighty of whom died before we reached New- l832]
Wyeth's Oregon
Orleans, and two of our own firemen. A most shocking
scene followed.
[73] I felt discouraged. My miseries seemed endless.
After trying day after day in vain to get a passage in a
steam-boat, I was made happy in procuring Tone, though I
paid for it, by working as a fireman, the hardest and most
disagreeable occupation on board; still I was contented,
as I had victuals enough to eat; and yet, after all, I saw
men perishing every minute about me, and thrown into
the river like so many dead hogs. It is an unexaggerated
fact that I witnessed more misery in the space of eight
months than most old men experience in a long life.
On arriving at New-Orleans, Captain Tufts sent off
every man of the passengers, leaving those only who belonged to the boat. He gave me shirts and other clothing,
and offered me twenty dollars a month, if I would go back
to St. Louis with him. I remained on board about a week;
and so desirous was I to get home, that I preferred going
ashore, although I knew that the yellow fever and black
vomit, as well as cholera were committing great havoc in
the city. The shops, stores, taverns, and even the gambling-
houses, were shut up, and people were dying in-doors, and
out of doors, much faster than they could be buried. More
white people were seized with it than black; but when
the latter were attacked, more died than the former. The
negroes sunk under the disorder at once. When a negro
gets very sick, he loses all his spirits, and refuses all remedies. He wishes to die, and it is no wonder, if he believes
that he shall go into a pleasant country where there are
no white men or women.
I soon got full employ as a grave-digger, at two dollars
a day, and could have got twice that sum had I been informed of the true state of things. In [74] the first three
days we dug a separate grave for each person; but we soon
j-ra-ai mtm
94 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21
found that we could not clear the hearses and carts. I
counted eighty-seven dead bodies uninterred on the ground.
Yet where I worked, was only one of the three grave-yards
belonging to the city, and the other two were larger. We
therefore began on a new plan. There were twenty-five
of us grave-diggers. We dug a trench fifty-seven feet
long, eight feet wide, and four feet deep, and laid them
as compactly as we could, and filled up the vacant spaces
with children. It was an awful piece of business. In
this large trench we buried about, perhaps, three hundred;
and this business we carried on about a month. During
this time, you might traverse the streets of New-Orleans,
without meeting a single person, except those belonging
to the hearses, and carts, loaded with the dead. Men
were picked up in the morning who died after dark before
they could reach their own houses. If you ask me if they
died with yellow fever, or cholera, I must answer that I
cannot tell. Some said the one, and some the other. Every
thing was confusion. If a negro was sent by his master
to a carpenter, for what they called a coffin, which was
only a rough board box, he was commonly robbed of it
before he got home. I myself saw an assault of this kind,
when the poor black slave was knocked down and the rude
coffin taken from him. New-Orleans is a dreadful place
in the eyes of a New-England man. They keep Sunday
as we in Boston keep the 4th of July, or any other day of
merriment and frolic. It is also a training day every other
Sunday for their military companies.
I was in part witness to a shocking sight at the marine
hospital, where had been many patients [75] with the yellow fever. When the doctors, and those who had the
care of that establishment had deserted the house, between
twenty-five and thirty dead bodies were left in it; and these
were so offensive from putrefaction, that when the city I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
corporation heard of it, they ordered the house, together
with the bodies to be burnt up; but this was not strictly
complied with. A number of negro slaves were employed
to remove the bodies, which being covered with wood
and other combustibles, were all consumed together.
At length I was attacked myself with symptoms of the
yellow fever,— violent pain in my head, back, and stomach.
I lived at that time in the family of a Frenchman, who,
among his various occupations, pretended to skill in physic.
He fed me on castor oil. I took in one day four wineglasses of it, which required as much resolution as I was
master of: but my doctor assured me that he had repeatedly
scared away the yellow fever at the beginning of it, by large
and often repeated doses of that medicine. Its operation
was not one way, but every way. I thought I should have
no insides left to go home with. Yet it is a fact, and I
record it with pleasure, that it carried off all my dreadful
symptoms, and in a very few days, I had nothing to complain of but weakness, which a good appetite soon cured.
I therefore recommend a man in the first stage of yellow
fever to take down a gill of castor oil, made as hot as he
can swallow it; and repeat the dose in eight hours.
I remained nine weeks in New-Orleans, a city so unlike
Boston, in point of neatness, order, and good government,
that I do not wonder at its character for unhealthiness.
Stagnant water remains in the streets as [76] green as grass,
with a steam rising out of it that may be smelt at the distance of half a mile. Besides this, their population is so
mixed, that they appear running against each other in the
streets, every one having a different object and a different
complexion. In one thing they seem to be agreed, and
to concur in the same object, namely, gaming. In that
delirous pursuit, they all speak the same language, and
appear to run down the same road to ruin. 96
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
I am glad that it is in my power to support what I have
said respecting the Marine Hospital, by the following
public testimony, published by authority, taken from one
of their newspapers.
"NEW-ORLEANS — The following report from a committee appointed to examine one of the hospitals, will
account, in some degree, for the unprecedented mortality
which has afflicted New-Orleans. The report is addressed
to the mayor.
"The undersigned, standing committee named by the
city council during the prevalence of the epidemic now
desolating the city, have the honor to report, that, in consequence of information given by sundry respectable persons,
relative to the condition of the hospital kept by Dr. M'Far-
lane, they repaired to-day, at half-past one o'clock, to said
hospital; that in all the apartments they found the most
disgusting filth; that all the night vessels were full, and that
the patients have all declared that for a long time they had
received no kind of succour; that in many of the apartments of the building they found corpses, several of which
had been a number of days in putrefaction; that thence
they repaired to a chamber adjoining the kitchen, where
they found the body of a negro, which had been a long
time dead, in a most offensive state. They finally went
to another apartment opposite the kitchen, [77] which
was equally filthy with the other rooms, and that they
there found many corpses of persons a long time dead;
that in a bed, between others, they found a man dying,
stretched upon the body of a man many days dead.
"Finally, they declare that it is impossible for one
to form an idea of what they have witnessed, without he
had himself seen it; that it is indispensably necessary
for the patients to evacuate this hospital, and above all,
to watch lest  the  corpses in a state of putrefaction oc- 1832]
Wyeth's Oregon
casion pestilence in that quarter, and perhaps in the whole
"November 7. The standing committee has the honor
to present the following additional report.
"In one of the apartments where were many living and
dead bodies, they found under a bed a dead body partly
eaten, whose belly and entrails lay upon the floor. It
exhaled a most pestiferous odor. In a littie closet upon
the gallery there were two dead bodies, one of which lay
flat upon the floor, and the other had his feet upon the
floor and his back upon the bed forming a curve; the belly
prodigiously swelled and the thighs green. Under a shed
in the yard was the dead body of a negro, off which a fowl
was picking worms. The number of corpses amounted x
to twelve or fourteen.
"Signed, E. A. CANNON, Chairman.
Alderman,-Second Ward.
Alderman, First Ward''
I took passage in the ship Henry Thomson, Captain
Williams, and arrived in Boston, January 2d, 1833, after
an absence of ten months, having experienced in that time
a variety of hardships.
The lesson to be collected from this short history is the
great danger in making haste to be rich, instead of relying
upon patient industry, which never fails to give a man his
just deserts. Making haste to become rich is the most
fruitful source of the calamities of life; for here cunning,
contrivance, and circumvention, take the place of diligence.
%¥\ mmm
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
After the schemer's plans have all failed, there seems only
one tempting means left to obtain riches in a hurry, and
that is by gaming, the most prosperous invention ever
devised by the arch enemy of mankind; and when that fails,
the next downward step to destruction, excepting drunkenness, is robbery, many instances of which we find recorded
in the annals of Newgate and the records of the Old Bailey
in London. Such atrocities have never, or very rarely,
occurred in our own country, and never will so long as we
are wisely contented with the fruits of patient industry,
and so long as we believe that the diligent hand maketh
rich. These reflections refer to extreme cases, and are
not applicable, or meant to be personally applicable, to
the unfortunate expedition in which we have been concerned. It is not meant to reprehend those enormous
vices and crimes which are known in the old countries,
but only to correct a spirit of discontent in men well situated
and circumstanced. "If you stand well, stand still," says
the Italian proverb.
Some may say this doctrine, if put in practice, would
check all enterprise. Not entirely so, provided the means
and the end were cautiously adjusted. Christopher
Columbus ran a great risk; [79] yet he knew, from the
reasonings of his capacious mind, that there must be "another
and a better world" than that he was born in; and under
that strong and irrestistible impression he tempted the
trackless ocean and found it. But what shall we say of
our Oregon adventurers, who set out to pass over the Rocky
Mountains, and thence down the Columbia river to the
Pacific ocean, in boats upon wheels? and that too with a
heavy load of goods, and those chiefly of iron. What
renders the project more surprising is, that they should
take with them the most ponderous articles of a blacksmith's shop,— anvils, and a large vice.    It is more than
—-j i
Wyeth's Oregon
probable that the old and long established wholesale Indian
traders at St. Louis laughed in their sleeves, when they
saw such a cargo fresh from the city of "notions," paraded
with all the characteristic confidence of the unwavering
Yankee spirit. After assuring them that their ingenious
and well-constructed amphibious vehicles would not answer
for travelling in such a rough country as they must go
through, they purchased all three of them, and advised
our leader to buy sheep and oxen to live on between the
white settlements and the country of the savages, and
not to trust to their guns for food. This turned out very
wholesome advice, as they must have starved without
that provision.
The party under Captains Lewis and Clarke, sent out
by the government of the United States, consisted of nine
young men from Kentucky, fourteen soldiers of the United
States army who volunteered their services, two French
watermen,— an interpreter and hunter,—- and a black
servant belonging to Captain Clarke. All these, except
the last, were enlisted to serve as privates during the expedition, [80] and three sergeants were appointed from
amongst them by the captains. In addition to these, were
engaged a corporal and six soldiers, and nine watermen,
to accompany the expedition as far as the Mandan nation,
in order to assist in carrying the stores, or repelling an attack, which was most to be apprehended between Wood
river and that tribe. This select party embarked on board
three boats. One was a keel-boat fifty-five feet long,
drawing three feet of water, with a large square sail, and
twenty-two oars, with a forecastie and cabin, while the middle was covered by lockers, which might be raised so as to
form a breast-work. There were beside two periogues, or
open boats of seven oars each. They had two horses, for
any purpose, which they led along the banks; and fourteen
ii IOO
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
bales of goods, witii a variety of clothing, working utensils,
locks, flints, ammunition, and richly-laced coats, and other
gay dresses, and a variety of ornaments suited to the taste
of the Indians, together with knives, flags, tomahawks, and
medals.80 Yet all these articles were exhausted, without
any accident or particular loss. The party was led by two
experienced military officers, and the men were under
military regulations; which was not the case with the
Cambridge adventurers, who were upon shares, and all
on a level.
We are unwilling that our readers should rely entirely
on our opinion of the inadequacy of the outfits for such a
formidable undertaking as that of going from the Atiantic
shore of New-England to the shore of the Pacific by land.
We shall therefore subjoin the opinion of a sensible gentleman, who had spent some time in the Missouri territory, and
traversed its dreary prairies, where no tree [8i] appears,
and where there is, during the greater part of the year, no
fuel for cooking, nor water fit to drink. He says: "Do
the Oregon emigrants seek a fine country on the Oregon
river? They will pass through lands [to get to it] of which
they may buy two hundred acres for less than the farther
expenses of their journey." 81 He tells us that a gentleman (Mr. Kelly) has been employing his leisure in advising
schemes to better the condition of his fellow countrymen,
and has issued advertisements, inviting the good people
of New-England to leave their homes, their connexions, and
the comforts of civilized society, and follow him across the
'"These statements in regard to the Lewis and Clark expedition are taken
verbatim from the published edition (Biddle's, 1814) of the journals. For recent
light on the personnel of the party, consult O. D. Wheeler, On the Trail of Lewis
and Clark (New York, 1904).— Ed.
m See New-England Magazine for February and April, 1832, under the signature of W. J. S.— Wyeth.
Comment by Ed. The New England Magasine was published monthly (r83i~
35) by J. T. and E. Buckingham, Boston. I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
continent to the shores of the Pacific.    He tells those who
may reach St. Louis, that they will find there many who
have been to Oregon, and found no temptation to remain
there; — that they may possibly charter a steamboat from
St. Louis to the mouth of the river Platte, but no farther,
as that stream is not navigable for steamboats unless during
freshets.   And after they reach the mouth of the Platte,
they will have a thousand miles to go before they reach the
Rocky Mountains; and the country through which the adventurers must pass is a level plain, where the eye seeks in
vain for a tree or a shrub,— that in some places they must
travel days and nights without finding wood or water, for
that the streams only arefscantily fringed with wood.    Our
Cambridge emigrants actually found this to be the case, as
they had no other fuel for cooking their live stock than buffalo-dung.   The writer says, (and he had been there), that
the ground is covered with [82] herbage for a few weeks
in the year only, and that this is owing to the Indians burning the Prairies regularly twice a year, which occasions
them to be as bare of vegetation as the deserts of Arabia.
The same experienced traveller assures  them  that they
could   not    take   provisions   with    them    sufficient   for
their  wants,   and   that  a dependence  on  their guns for
support was fallacious, and the same uncertainty as to the
buffaloes; — that   sometimes   those   animals  were  plenty
enough, and sometimes more than enough, so as to be dangerous.   When they trot smartly off,  ten thousand and
more in a drove, they are as irresistible as a mountain-
torrent, and would tread into nothing a larger body than the
Cambridge   fortune-hunters.   Their flesh is coarse beef,
and the grisly bear's, coarse pork;   but this kind of bear,
called the horrible from his strength and ferocity, is a most
terrific beast, and more disposed and able to feed on the
hunter than the huntsman upon him.   We can assure the I02 Early Western Travels [Vol.21
emigrants, says the writer already quoted, from our own
experience, that not one horse in five can perform a journey
of a thousand miles, without a constant supply of something
better than prairie-grass.
The journal of Lewis and Clarke to the Pacific ocean,
over the Rocky Mountains, was a popular book in the hands
of every body; and the Expedition of Major Long and company was as much read; and both of 1 these works detail
events and facts enough, one would suppose, to deter men
from such an arduous enterprise; not to mention the hostile
tribes of Indians through which they must pass. It seems
strange, but it is true, that a theoretical man need not despair
of making the multitude believe any thing but truth. They
believed the enthusiastic [83] Mr. Hall J. Kelley, who had
never been in the Oregon territory, or seen the Rocky
Mountains, or a prairie-dog, or a drove of buffaloes, and
who in fact knew nothing of the country beyond some
guess-work maps; yet they would not read, consider, or
trust to the faithful records of those officers who had been
sent by the government to explore the country and make
report of it.
There is a passage in the essay written by W. J. S. which
we shall insert here on his authority, as it cannot be supposed
that we, at this distance, should be so well acquainted
with the affairs in Missouri, as one who had resided on the
spot. We assume not to keep pace with the professed
eulogist of Oregon, of its river, and its territory, its mild
climate, its exuberant soil, and its boisterous Pacific, so
inviting to the distressed poor in the neighbourhood of
Boston; who are exhorted by him to pluck up stakes and
courage, and march over the Rocky Mountains to wealth,
ease, and independence. The passage we allude to reads
thus: — "About twelve years since, it was discovered by a
public-spirited citizen of St. Louis,'that the supply of furs l832]
Wyeth's Oregon
was not equal to the demand. To remedy this evil, he
raised a corps of sharp-shooters, equipped them with guns,
ammunition, steel-traps, and horses, and sent them into
the wilderness to teach the Indians that their right was only
a right of occupancy. They did the savages irreparable
injury. They frightened the buffaloes from their usual
haunts,— destroyed the fur-clad animals, and did more
mischief than we have room to relate." He adds, sarcastically, that "the Indians were wont to hunt in a slovenly
manner, leaving a few animals yearly for breeding. But
that the white hunters were more thorough-spirited, [84]
and made root-and-branch work of it. When they settled
on a district, they destroyed the old and young alike; and
when they left it, they left no living thing behind them.
The first party proving successful, more were fitted out, and
every successive year has seen several armed and mounted
bands of hunters, from twenty to a hundred men and more
in each, pouring into the Indian hunting grounds; and all
this has been done in open and direct violation of a law of the
United States, which expressly forbids trapping and hunting on Indian lands. The consequence has been that there
are now few fur-clad animals this side the mountains."
Lewis and Clarke, and some other travellers, speak of
friendly Indians,— of their kindness and hospitality, and
expatiate on their amiable disposition, and relate instances
of it. Yet after all, this Indian friendship is very like the
affection of the negroes in the Southern States for their
masters and mistresses, and for their children,— the offspring merely of fear. There can be no friendship where
there is such a disparity of condition. As to their presents,
an Indian gift is proverbial. They never give without expecting double in return.
What right have we to fit out armed expeditions, and
enter the long occupied country of the natives, to destroy
HMH io4
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
their game, not for subsistence, but for their skins? They
are a contented people, and do not want our aid to make
them happier. We prate of civilizing and Christianizing
the savages. What have we done for their benefit? We
have carried among them rum, powder and ball, small-pox,
starvation, and misery. What is the reason that Congress,
— the great council of the nation,—| the collected wisdom
of these United States, has turned a deaf [85] ear to all applications for establishing a colony on the Oregon river?
Some of the members of that honorable house of legislation
know that the district in question is a boisterous and inclement region, with less to eat, less to warm the traveller,
and to cook with, than at the mouth of any other known
river in the United States. We deem the mouth of the
river St. Lawrence as eligible a spot for a settlement of peltry
merchants as the mouth of the Columbia. When Lewis
and Clarke were on that river, they had not a single fair
day in two months. They were drenched with rain day
and night; and what added to their comfortless condition
was the incessant high winds, which drove the waves furiously into the Columbia river with the tide; and on its ebb,
raised such commotion, and such a chopping sea, that the
travellers dared not venture upon it in their boats; yet the
Indians did, and managed their canoes with a dexterity
which the explorers greatly admired, but could not imitate.
The boisterous, Pacific was among the new discoveries of
our American adventurers. Had their expedition been to
the warm climate of Africa, or to South America, they would
have been sure of plenty to eat; but in the western region,
between the Rocky Mountains and the great river of the
West, the case is far'otherwise.
It is devoutly to be wished that truth may prevail respecting those distant regions. Indeed the sacred cause of humanity calls loudly on its votaries to disabuse the people I832]
Wyeth's Oregon
dwelling on these Atlantic shores respecting the Oregon
paradise, lest our farmers' sons and young mechanics
should, in every sense of the phrase, stray from home, and
go they know not whither,— to seek they know not what.
[86] Or must Truth wait on the Rocky Mountains until
some Indian historian,— some future Clavigero w shall
publish his annals, and separate facts from fiction? We
esteem the "History of the Expedition under the command
of Captains Lewis and Clarke to the Sources of the Missouri, thence across the Rocky Mountains, and down to the
Pacific Ocean," substantially correct. Their conduct towards the Indians was marked throughout with justice and
humanity; and the journal of that expedition will be a
lasting monument of their judicious perseverance, and of
the wisdom of the government of the United States.
Reader ! The book you have in your hands is not written
for your amusement merely, or to fill up an idle hour, but
for your, instruction,— particularly to warn young farmers
and mechanics not to leave a certainty for an uncertainty,
and straggle away over a sixth part of the globe, in search
of what they leave behind them at home. It is hoped that it
may correct that too common opinion that the farther you
go from home the surer you are of making your fortune.
Agriculture gives to the industrious farmer the riches which
he can call his own; while the indefatigable mechanic is sure
to acquire a sufficiency, provided he "build not his house
too high."
Industry conducted by Prudence is a virtue of so diffusive
a nature that it mixes with all our concerns. No business
can be managed and accomplished without it. Whatever
be a man's calling or way of life, he must, to be happy, be
M The Abbé Clavigero, a native of Vera Cruz, who resided forty years in the
Provinces of New Spain, spoke the language of the natives, and has written the
History of Mexico.— Wyeth. -—*a.>Sl|
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
actuated by [87] a spirit of industry, and that will keep
him from want, from dishonesty, and from the vice of
gambling and lottery-dealing, and its long train of miseries.
The first and most common deviation from sober industry
is a desire to roam abroad, or in one word, a feeling of discontent,— a making haste to be rich, without the patient
means of it. These are reflections general and not particular, as it regards all such high hopes and expectations,
as lead to our Oregon expedition and to its disappointments.
The most that we shall say of it is,— that it was an injudicious scheme arising from want of due information, and the
whole conducted by means inadequate to the end in view.
Oh happy — if he knew his happy state,
The man, who, free from turmoil and debate,
Receives his wh olesome food from Nature's hand,
The just return of cultivated land.
Townsend's Narrative of a Journey Across the
Rocky Mountains, to the Columbia River
Reprint of pp. 1-186, 217-264, of original edition: Philadelphia,
1839. "A Visit to the Sandwich Islands, Chili, &c, with a Scientific
Appendix," also contained in this edition, is here omitted as irrelevant
to the scope of the present series.
I I '
**•** m
:  Bt
MemBer ofthe Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.
1839. 5/
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1839, by
John K. Townsend,
in the Office of the Clerk of the District Court of the Eastern District of
The Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company was formed
in 1834, by several individuals in New York and Boston. Capt. Wyeth,
having an interest in the enterprise, collected a party of men to cross
the continent to the Pacific, with the purpose chiefly of establishing
trading posts beyond the Rocky Mountains and on the coast.
The idea of making one of Capt. Wyeth's party was suggested to
the author by the eminent botanist, Mr. Nuttaix, who had himself
determined to join the expedition across the North American wilderness.
Being fond of Natural History, particularly the science of Ornithology,
the temptation to visit a country hitherto unexplored by naturalists
was irresistible; and the following pages, originally penned for the
family-circle, and without the slightest thought of publication, will
furnish some account of his travels.  CONTENTS
Arrival at St. Louis — Preparations for the journey — Sâque Indians — Their appearance, dress, and manners — Squaws —
Commencement of a pedestrian tour — Sandhill cranes —
Prairie settlers — Their hospitality — Wild pigeons, golden
plovers and prairie hens — Mr. P. and his daughters — An
abundant repast — Simplicity ofthe prairie maidens—A deer
and turkey hunt — Loutre Lick hotel — A colored charon —
Comfortable quarters — Young men of the west — Reflections
on leaving home — Loquacity of the inhabitants — Gray
squirrels — Boonville — Parroquets — Embarkation in a
steamboat — Large catfish — Accident on board the boat —
Arrival at Independence — Description of the town — Encampment of the Rocky Mountain company — Character of
the men — Preparation for departure — Requisites of a
leader — Backwoods familiarity — Milton Sublette and his
band — Rev. Jason Lee, the missionary — A letter from
home — Mormonites — Military discipline and its consequences,         121
Departure of the caravan — A storm on the prairie — Arrangement of the camp — Kanzas Indians — Kanzas river —
Indian lodges — Passage of the river — Buffalo canoes —
Kanzas chief — Upper Raw village — their wigwams —
Catfish and ravens — Return of Mr. Sublette — Pawnee trace
— Desertion of three men — Difficulties occasioned by losing
the trail — Intelligence of Mr. Sublette's party — Escape of
the band of horses — Visit of three Otto Indians — Anecdote
of Richardson, the chief hunter — his appearance and character — White wolves and antelopes — Buffalo bones —
Sublette's deserted camps — Lurking wolves,
141 n6
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
Arrival at the Platte river — Wolves and antelopes — Anxiety of
the men to see buffalo — Visit of two spies from the Grand
Pawnees — Forced march — A herd of buffalo — Elk —
Singular conduct of the horses — Killing a buffalo — Indian
mode of procuring buffalo — Great herd — Adventure with
an Indian in the tent — Indian feat with bow and arrow —
Notice of the Pawnee tribes — Disappearance of the buffalo
from the plains of the Platte — A hunting adventure — Killing a buffalo — Butchering of a bull — Shameful destruction
of the game — Hunters' mode of quenching thirst,     .        .    157
Change in the face of the country — Unpleasant visitation — N.
fork of the Platte — A day's journey over the hills — Poor
pasture — Marmots — Rattlesnake and gopher — Naturalist's success and sacrifices —A sand storm —Wild horses —
Killing of a doe antelope — Bluffs — The Chimney — "Zip
Koon," the young antelope — Birds — Feelings and cogitations of a naturalist — Laramie's fork — Departure of two
"free trappers" on a summer "hunt"—Black hills — Red
butes — Sweet-water river, and Rock Independence — Avo-
cets — Wind river mountains — Rocky Mountain sheep —
Adventure with a grizzly bear — Rattlesnakes — Toilsome
march, and arrival at Sandy river — Suffering of the horses —
Anticipated delights of the rendezvous,      ....
Arrival at the Colorado — The author in difficulty — Loss of a
journal, and advice to travelling tyros — The rendezvous —
Motley groups infesting it — Rum drinking, swearing, and
other accomplishments in vogue — Description of the camp —
Trout — Abundance of game — Cock of the plains — [vi]
Leave the rendezvous — An accession to the band — A rene-
gado Blackfoot chief — Captain Stewart and Mr. Ashworth
— Muddy creek — More carousing — Abundance   of   trout
— Bear river — A hard day's march — Volcanic country —
White-clay pits and " Beer spring "— Rare birds and com- 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
mon birds — Mr. Thomas McKay — Captain Bonneville's
party — Captains Stewart and Wyeth's visit to the lodge of
the " bald chief "— Blackfoot river — Adventure with a
grizzly bear — Death of " Zip Koon "— Young grizzly bears
and buffalo calves — A Blackfoot Indian — Dangerous experiment of McKay — the three | Tetons "— Large trout —
Shoshone river — Site of 1 Fort Hall "— Preparations for a
buffalo hunt, .........
Departure of the hunting camp — A false
alarm — Blackfeet
Indians — Requisites of a mountain-man — Good fare, and
good appetites — An experiment — Grizzly bears — Nez
Percé Indian — Adventure with a grizzly bear — Hunters'
anecdotes — Homeward bound — Arrival at " Fort Hall "—
A salute — Emaciation from low diet — Mr. McKay's company — Buffalo lodges — Effects of judicious training —
Indian worship — A " Camp Meeting "— Mr. Jason Lee, a
favorite — A  fatal  accident  and  a  burial,       .        .       .212
Departure of McKay's party, Captain Stewart, and the missionaries — Debauch at the fort — Departure of the company
— Poor provision — Blackfeet hunting ground — Sufferings
from thirst — Goddin's creek — Antoine Goddin, the trapper
— Scarcity of game — A buffalo—Rugged mountains —
More game — Unusual economy — Habits of the white wolf
—i Thornburg's pass "— Difficult travelling — The captain
in jeopardy among the snow — A countermarch — Deserted
Banneck camp — Toilsome and dangerous passage of the
mountain — Mallade river — Beaver dams, and beaver —
A party of Snake Indians — Another Banneck camp — " Ka-
mas prairie "— Indian mode of preparing the kamas —
Racine blanc, or biscuit root — Loss of horses by fatigue —
Boisée or Big-wood river — Salmon — Choke-cherries,  &c.
A substitute for game, and a luxurious breakfast — Expectations
of a repast, and a disappointment — Visit of a Snake chief
m (p^r*'"
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
— his abhorrence of horse meat — A band of Snake Indians
— their chief — Trade with Indians for salmon —Mr. Ash-
worth's adventure — An Indian horse-thief — Visit to the
Snake camp — A Banneck camp — Supercilious conduct of
the Indians — Snake river — Equipment of a trapping party
—Indian mode of catching salmon — Loss of a favorite
horse — Powder river — Cut rocks — Grand Ronde — Captain Bonneville — Kayouse and Nez Percé Indians — An
Indian beauty — Blue mountains — A feline visit,
tt M
Passage of the Blue mountains — Sufferings from thirst — Utalla
river — A transformation — A novel meal — Columbia river
and Fort Walla-walla — A dinner with the missionaries —
Anecdote of Mr. Lee — Brief notice of the Fort — Departure
of the missionaries — Notice of the Walla-walla Indians —
Departure for Fort Vancouver — Wild ducks — Indian
graves — Visits from Indians — Ophthalmia, a prevalent
disease — A company of Chinook Indians — The Dalles —
The party joined by Captain Wyeth — Embarkation in
canoes — A heavy gale — Dangerous navigation — Pusillanimous conduct of an Indian helmsman — A zealous botanist
—Departure of Captain Wyeth with five men — Cascades—
A portage — Meeting with the missionaries — Loss of a
canoe — A toilsome duty — Arrival at Fort Vancouver —
Dr. John McLoughlin, the chief factor — Domiciliation of
the travellers at  Fort Vancouver,      .....
Fort Vancduver — Agricultural and other improvements — Vancouver i camp "— Expedition to the Wallammet — The
falls — A village of [vii] Klikatat Indians — Manner of flattening the head — A Flathead infant — Brig | May Dacre "
— Preparations for a settlement — Success of the naturalists
— Chinook Indians — their appearance and costume —
Ague and fever — Desertion of the Sandwich Islanders —
Embarkation for a trip to the Islands — George, the Indian
pilot — Mount Coffin — A visit to the tombs — Superstition
— Visit to an Indian house — Fort George — Site of Astoria
EMM 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
— A blind Indian boy — Cruel and unfeeling conduct of the
savages — their moral character — Baker's Bay — Cape
Disappointment — Dangerous bar at the entrance of the
river — The sea beach — Visit of Mr. Ogden — Passage
across the bar,     .........    297
.    .    .    Arrival at the  Columbia, 317
Passage up the Columbia — Birds — A trip to the Wallammet —
Methodist missionaries — their prospects — Fort William —
Band-tail pigeons — Wretched condition of the Indians at the
falls — A Kallapooyah village — Indian cemetery — Superstitions — Treatment of diseases — Method of steaming —
" Making medicine "— Indian sorcerers — Death of Thorn-
burg — An inquest — Verdict of the jury — Inordinate appetite for ardent spirits — Eight men drowned — Murder of
two trappers by the Banneck Indians — Arrival of Captain
Thing — His meeting and skirmish with the Blackfeet Indians
— Massacre — A narrow escape, . .        .       ..318
Indians of the Columbia — Departure of Mr. Nuttall and Dr.
Gairdner — Arrival of the Rev. Samuel Parker — his object
— Departure of the American brig — Swans — Indian mode
of taking them — A large wolf — A night adventure — A
discovery, and restoration of stolen property — Fraternal
tenderness of an Indian — Indian vengeance — Death of
Waskéma, the Indian girl —| Busy-body," the little chief —
A village of Kowalitsk Indians — Ceremony of " making
medicine "— Exposure of an impostor — Success of legitimate medicines — Departure from Fort Vancouver for a
visit to the interior — Arrival of a stranger — " Cape Horn "
— Tilki, the Indian chief — Indian villages [viii] — Arrival
at Fort Walla-walla — Sharp-tailed grouse — Commencement of a journey to the Blue mountains,    ....    332
=""= I20
Early Western Travels
A village of Kayouse Indians — Appearance and dresses of the
women — family worship — Visit to the Blue mountains —
Dusky grouse — Return to Walla-walla — Arrival of Mr.
McLeod, and the missionaries — Letters from home —
Death of Antoine Goddin — A renegado white man — Assault by theVWalla-walla Indians — Passage down the Columbia — Rapids — A dog for supper — Prairies on fire —
Fishing Indians — Their romantic appearance — Salmon
huts — The shoots — Dangerous navigation — Death of
Tilki — Seals—Indian stoicism and contempt of pain —
Skookoom, the strong chief—his death—Maiming, an evidence of grief — Arrival at Fort Vancouver — A visit to Fort
George—Indian   cemeteries—Lewis   and   Clarke's   house
— A medal — Visit to Chinook — Hospitality of the Indians
— Chinamus' home — The idol — Canine inmates,
Northern excursion — Salmon — Indian mode of catching them
— Flathead children — A storm on the bay — Pintail ducks
— Simple\mode of killing salmon — Return to Chinook —
Indian garrulity — Return to Fort George — Preparations
for a second trip to the Sandwich Islands — Detention within
the cape,	
Arrival at St. Louis — Preparations for the journey — Sâque Indians —
Their appearance, dress, and manners — Squaws — Commencement
of a pedestrian tour — Sandhill cranes — Prairie settlers — Their
hospitality — Wild pigeons, golden plovers and prairie hens — Mr.
P. and his daughters — An abundant repast — Simplicity of the
prairie maidens — A deer and turkey hunt — Loutre Lick
hotel — Unwelcome bed-fellows — A colored Charon— Comfortable
quarters — Young men of the west — Reflections on leaving home —
Loquacity of the inhabitants — Gray squirrels — Boonville —
Parroquets — Embarkation in a steamboat — Large catfish — Accident on board the boat — Arrival at Independence — Description
of the town — Procure a supply of horses — Encampment of the
Rocky Mountain company — Character of the men — Preparation
for departure — Requisites of a leader — Backwoods familiarity —
Milton Sublette and his band — Rev. Jason Lee, the missionary —
A letter from home — Mormonites — Military discipline and its
On the evening of the 24th of March, 1834, Mr. Nuttall1
and myself arrived at St. Louis, in the steamboat Boston,
from Pittsburg.
On landing, we had the satisfaction to learn that Captain
Wyeth was already there, and on the afternoon of the next
day we called upon him, and consulted him in reference to
the outfit which it would be necessary to purchase for the
journey. He accompanied us to a store in the town, and
selected a number of articles for us, among which were
several pairs of leathern [10] pantaloons, enormous overcoats, made of green blankets, and white wool hats, with
1 For sketch of Thomas Nuttall, see preface to Nuttall's Journal, our volume
xiii.— Ed.
If ■ ILr il
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
round crowns, fitting tightly to the head, brims five inches
wide, and almost hard enough to resist a rifle ball.
The day following we saw about one hundred Indians
of the Sâque tribe, who had left their native forests for the
purpose of treating for the sale of some land at the Jefferson
barracks.2 They were dressed and decorated in the true
primitive style; their heads shaved closely, and painted
with alternate stripes of fiery red and deep black, leaving
only the long scalping tuft, in which was interwoven a
quantity of elk hair and eagle's feathers. Each man was
furnished with a good blanket, and some had an under
dress of calico, but the greater number were entirely naked
to the waist. The faces and bodies of the men were, almost
without an exception, fantastically painted, the predominant color being deep red, with occasionally a few stripes
of dull clay white around the eyes and mouth. I observed
one whose body was smeared with light colored clay, interspersed with black streaks. They were unarmed, with the
exception of tomahawks and knives.   The chief of the band,
* For the early history of the Sauk Indians, see J. Long's Voyages, in our volume
ii, p.185, note 85. By the treaty of 1804 they ceded a large portion of their lands
(in the present Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois) to the United States. Upon removing to the west of the Mississippi, as per agreement with the federal government, they broke into several well-defined and often quarrelsome bands. This
division was intensified by the Wax of 1812-15, when part of the tribe aided the
British against the American border. The so-called Missouri band, dwelling
north of that river in the present state of the name, in 1815 made with the United
States a treaty of friendship, which was kept with fidelity. In 1830 a second land
cession was made by the Sauk, and after the Black Hawk War (1832), in which
the Missouri band took no part, they were desirous of moving to some permanent
home south of the Missouri River. It was in pursuit of this intention, doubtless,
that the visit recorded by Townsend was made. The final treaty therefor was
not drawn until 1836.
Jefferson Barracks, just south of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, were
built for the federal government (1826) on a site secured from the village of Caron-
dolet (1824). General Henry Atkinson was in charge of the erection of the fort
to which the garrison was (August, 1826) transferred from Bellefontaine on the
Missouri.    The post has been in continuous occupation since its erection.— Ed
KEf m 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
(who is said to be Black Hawk's father-in-law,8) was a large
dignified looking man, of perhaps fifty-five years' of age,
distinguished from the rest, by his richer habiliments, a
more profuse display of trinkets in his ears, (which were
cut and gashed in a frightful manner to receive them,) and
above all, by a huge necklace made of the claws of the grizzly
bear. The squaws, of whom there were about twenty,
were dressed very much like the men, and at a little distance
could scarcely be distinguished from them. Among them
was an old, superannuated crone, who, soon after her arrival,
had been presented with a broken umbrella. The only
use that she made of it was to wrench the plated ends from
the whalebones, string them on a piece of wire, take her
knife from her belt, with which she deliberately cut a slit
of an inch in length [n] along the upper rim of her ear,
and insert them in it. I saw her soon after this operation
had been performed ;/ her cheeks were covered with blood,
and she was standing with a vast deal of assumed dignity
among her tawny sisters, who evidently envied her the
possession of the worthless baubles.
2d>th.— Mr. N. and myself propose starting to-morrow
on foot towards the upper settlements, a distance of about
three hundred miles.   We intend to pursue our journey^
3 Black Hawk whose Indian name was Makataineshekiakiah (black sparrow-
hawk) was born among the Sauk in 1767. A chief neither by heredity nor election, he became by superior ability leader of the so-called British band, with
headquarters at Saukenak, near Rock Island, Illinois. He participated in Teçum-
seh's battle (1811), and those about Detroit in the War of 1812-15, and made
many raids upon the American settlements, until 1816 when a treaty of amity
was signed with the United States. The chief event of his career was the war
of 1832, known by his name. Consult on this subject, Thwaites, "Black Hawk
War," in How George Rogers Clark won the Northwest (Chicago, 1903). At its
conclusion this picturesque savage leader was captured, sent a prisoner to Jefferson Barracks, and later confined at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. After an extended
tour of the Eastern states, Black Hawk returned to Iowa, where he was placed
under the guardianship of his rival Keokuk, and where in 1838 he died. His
wife was Asshawequa (Singing Bird), who died in Kansas (1846).— Ed.
:*m 124
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
leisurely, as we have plenty of time before us, and if we
become tired, we can enter the stage which will probably
overtake us.
2gth.— This morning our Indians returned from the barracks, where I understand they transacted their business
satisfactorily. I went on board the boat again to see them.
I feel very much interested in them, as they are the first
Indians I have ever seen who appear to be in a state of
uncultivated nature, and who retain the savage garb and
manners of their people. They had engaged the entire
covered deck for their especial use, and were lolling about
in groups, wrapped in their blankets. Some were occupied in conversation, others seemed more contemplative,
and appeared to be thinking deeply, probably of the business which brought them amongst us. Here and there two
might be seen playing a Spanish game with cards, and some
were busily employed in rendering themselves more hideous
with paint. To perform this operation, the dry paint is
folded in a thin muslin or gauze cloth, tied tightly and beaten
against the face, and a small looking-glass is held in the
other hand to direct them where to apply it. Two middle-
aged squaws were frying beef, which they distributed around
to the company in wooden bowls, and several half loaves of
bread were circulating rapidly amongst them, by being
tossed from one to another, each taking a huge bite of it.
There were among the company, several younger females,
but they were all so hard favored that I could not feel much
sympathy with them, and was therefore not anxious to cultivate [12] their acquaintance. There was another circumstance, too, that was not a very attractive one; I allude to
the custom so universal amongst Indians, of seeking for
vermin in each other's heads, and then eating them. The
fair damsels were engaged in this way during most of the
time that I remained on board, only suspending their de-
A-M-k-M 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
lectable occupation to take their bites of bread as it passed
them in rotation. The effect upon my person was what an
Irishman would call the attraction of repulsion, as I found
myself almost unconsciously edging away until I halted
at a most respectable distance from the scene of slaughter.
At noon, Mr. N. and myself started on our pedestrian
tour, Captain Wyeth offering to accompany us a few miles
on the way. I was glad to get clear of St. Louis, as I felt
uncomfortable in many respects while there, and the bustle
and restraint of a town was any thing but agreeable to me.
We proceeded over a road generally good, a low dry prairie,
mostly heavily timbered, the soil underlaid with horizontal
strata of limestone, abounding in organic remains, shells,
coralines, &c, and arrived in the evening at Florisant,
where we spent the night.4 The next day Captain Wyeth
left us for St. Louis, and my companion and myself proceeded on our route. We observed great numbers of the
brown, or sandhill crane, (Grus canadensis,) flying over us;
some flocks were so high as to be entirely beyond the reach
of vision, while their harsh, grating voices were very distinctly heard. We saw several flocks of the same cranes
while ascending the Mississippi, several days since. At
about noon, we crossed the river on a boat worked by horses,
and stopped at a little town called St. Charles.5
We find it necessary, both for our comfort and convenience, to travel very slowly, as our feet are already becom-
4 Florissant is an old Spanish town not far from St. Louis, founded soon after
the latter. At first it was a trading post and Jesuit mission station, whence it
acquired the name of San Fernando, which still applies to the township. Later
it was made the country residence of the Spanish governors, and in 1793 was by
their authority incorporated and granted five thousand arpents of land for a common. The titles were confirmed by the United States in 1812. In 1823 there
was established at Florissant a Jesuit novitiate, among whose founders was Father
Pierre de Smet, who was buried there in 1873. Florissant had (1900) a population of 732.— Ed.
' 5 For St. Charles, see Bradbury's Travels, in volume v of our series, p. 39,
note 9.— Ed. I2Ô
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 12
ing tender, and that we may have an opportunity of observing the country, and collecting interesting specimens. Unfortunately for the pursuits of my companion, the plants
(of which he finds a [13] number that are rare and curious)
are not yet in flower, and therefore of little use to him. The.
birds are in considerable numbers, among the principal of
which is the large pileated woodpecker, (Picus pileatus.)
Mr. N. and myself are both in high spirits. We travel
slowly, and without much fatigue, and when we arrive at
a house, stop and rest, take a drink of milk, and chat with
those we see. We have been uniformly well treated; the
living is good, and very cheap, and at any house at which
we stop the inhabitants are sure to welcome us to their hospitality and good cheer. They live comfortably, and without
much labor; possess a fruitful and easily tilled soil, for which
they pay the trifling sum of one dollar and a quarter per
acre; they raise an abundance of good Indian corn, potatoes,
and other vegetables; have excellent beef and pork, and,
in short, every thing necessary for good, wholesome living.
315/.— The road to-day was muddy and slippery, rendered so by a heavy rain which fell last night. This morning, we observed large flocks of wild pigeons passing over,
and on the bare prairies were thousands of golden plovers;
the ground was often literally covered with them for acres.
I killed a considerable number. They were very fat, and
we made an excellent meal of them in the evening. The
prairie hen, or pinnated grouse, is also very numerous, but
in these situations is shy, and difficult to be procured.
Towards evening we were overtaken by a bluff, jolly
looking man, on horseback, who, as is usual, stopped, and
entered into conversation with us. I saw immediately
that he was superior to those we had been accustomed to
meet. He did not ply us with questions so eagerly as most,
and when he heard that we were naturalists, and were
r 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
travelling in that capacity, he seemed to take considerable
interest in us. He invited us to stop at his house, which
was only a mile beyond, and as night was almost [14] upon
us, we accepted the invitation with cheerfulness. Upon
arriving at his mansion, our good host threw wide his hospitable doors, and then with a formal, and rather ultra-dignified politeness, making us a low bow, said, "Gentlemen,
my name is P., and I am very happy of your company."
We seated ourselves in a large, and well-furnished parlor.
Mr. P. excused himself for a few minutes, and soon returned,
bringing in three fine looking girls, whom he introduced as
his daughters. I took a particular fancy to one of them,
from a strong resemblance which she bore to one of my
female friends at home. These girls were certainly very
superior to most that I had seen in Missouri, although
somewhat touched with the awkward bashfulness and
prudery which generally characterizes the prairie maidens.
They had lost their mother when young, and having no
companions out of the domestic circle, and consequently
no opportunity of aping the manners of the world, were
perfect children of nature. Their father, however, had
given them a good, plain education, and they had made
some proficiency in needle work, as was evinced by numerous neatly worked samplers hanging in wooden frames
around the room. Anon, supper was brought in. It consisted of pork chops, ham, eggs, Indian bread and butter,
tea, coffee, milk, potatoes, preserved ginger, and though
last, certainly not least in value, an enormous tin dish of
plovers, (the contents of my game-bag,) fricaseed. Here
was certainly a most abundant repast, and we did ample
justice to it.
I endeavored to do the agreeable to the fair ones in the
evening, and Mr. N. was monopolized by the father, who
took a great interest in plants, and was evidently much
'.'■Ml ' &VT:-
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
gratified by the information my companion gave him on the
The next morning when we rose, it was raining, and
much had evidently fallen during the night, making the
roads wet and muddy, and therefore unpleasant for pedestrians. I confess [15] I was not sorry for this, for I felt myself very comfortably situated, and had no wish to take to
the road. Mr. P. urged the propriety of our stopping at least
another day, and the motion being seconded by his fair
daughter, (my favorite,) it was irresistible.
On the following morning the sun was shining brightly, the
air was fresh and elastic, and the roads tolerably dry, so
that there was no longer any excuse for tarrying, and we
prepared for our departure. Our good host, grasping our
hands, said that he had been much pleased with our visit,
and hoped to see us again, and when I bid good bye to the
pretty Miss P., I told her that if I ever visited Missouri
again, I would go many miles out of my way to see her and
her sisters. Her reply was unsophisticated enough. "Do
come again, and come in May or June, for then there are
plenty of prairie hens, and you can shoot as many as you
want, and you must stay a long while with us, and we'll
have nice times; good bye; I'm so sorry you're going."
April 4th.— I rose this morning at daybreak, and left
Mr. N. dreaming of weeds, in a little house at which we
stopped last night, and in company with a long, lanky boy,
(a son of the poor widow, our hostess,) set to moulding bullets in an old iron spoon, and preparing for deer hunting.
The boy shouldered a rusty rifle, that looked almost antediluvian, and off we plodded to a thicket, two miles from
the house. We soon saw about a dozen fine deer, and the
boy, clapping his old fire-lock to his shoulder, brought
down a beautiful doe at the distance of a full hundred yards.
Away sprang the rest of the herd, and I crept round the 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
thicket to meet them. They soon came up, and I fired my
piece at a large buck, and wounded the poor creature in the
leg; he went limping away, unable to overtake his companions; I felt very sorry, but consoled myself with the
reflection that he would soon get well again.
[16] We then gave up the pursuit, and turned our attention to the turkies, which were rather numerous in the thicket.
They were shy, as usual, and, when started from their
lurking places, ran away like deer, and hid themselves in
the underwood. Occasionally, however, they would perch
on the high limbs of the trees, and then we had some shots
at them. In the course of an hour we killed four, and returned to the house, where, as I expected, Mr. N. was in a
fever at my absence, and after a late, and very good breakfast, proceeded on our journey.
We find in this part of the country less timber in the same
space than we have yet seen, and when a small belt appears,
it is a great relief, as the monotony of a bare prairie becomes
Towards evening we arrived at Loutre Lick.6 Here there
is a place called a Hotel. A Hotel, forsooth! a pig-stye
would be a more appropriate name. Every thing about
it was most exceedingly filthy and disagreeable, but no better
lodging was to be had, for it might not be proper to apply for
accommodation at a private house in the immediate vicinity
of a public one. They gave us a wretched supper, not half
so good as we had been accustomed to, and we were fain to
spend the evening in a comfortless, unfurnished, nasty barroom, that smelt intolerably of rum and whiskey, to listen
to the profane conversation of three or four uncouth individuals, (among whom were the host and his brother,) and
• Loutre Lick appears to be the hamlet now known as Big Spring, on Loutre
Creek, in Loutre Township, Montgomery County. The settlement was made
between 1808 and 1810, and was on the highway between St. Charles and Côte
sans Dessein.— Ed.
1 Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
to hear long and disagreeably minute discussions upon
horse-racing, gambling, and other vices equally unpleasant
to us.
The host's brother had been to the Rocky Mountains,
and soon learning our destination, gave us much unsought
for advice regarding our method of journeying; painted in
strong colors the many dangers and difficulties which we
must encounter, and concluded by advising us to give up
the expedition. My fast ebbing patience was completely
exhausted. I told him that [17] nothing that he could say
would discourage us,— that we went to that house in order
to seek repose, and it was unfair to intrude conversation
upon us unasked. The ruffian made some grumbling reply,
and left us in quiet and undisturbed possession of our
bench. We had a miserable time that night. The only
spare bed in the house was so intolerably filthy that we
dared not undress, and we had hardly closed our eyes before we were assailed by swarms of a vile insect, (the very
name of which is offensive,) whose effluvia we had plainly
perceived immediately as we entered the room. It is almost
needless to say, that very early on the following morning,
after paying our reckoning, and refusing the landlord's
polite invitation to "liquorize," we marched from the house,
shook the dust from our feet, and went elsewhere to seek
a breakfast.
Soon after leaving, we came to a deep and wide creek,
and strained our lungs for half an hour in vain endeavors
to waken a negro boy who lived in a hut on the opposite
bank, and who, we were told, would ferry us over. He
came out of his den at last, half naked and rubbing his eyes
to see who had disturbed his slumbers so early in the morning. We told him to hurry over, or we'd endeavor to assist
him, and he came at last, with a miserable leaky litde skiff
that wet our feet completely.   We gave him a pickayune for 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
his trouble, and went on. We soon came to a neat little
secluded cottage in the very heart of a thick forest, where
we found a fine looking young man, with an interesting
wife, and a very pretty child about six months old. Upon
being told that we wanted some breakfast, the woman
tucked up her sleeves, gave the child to her husband, and
went to work in good earnest. In a very short time a capital meal was smoking on the board, and while we were
partaking of the good cheer, we found our vexation rapidly
evaporating. We complimented the handsome young
hostess, [18] patted the chubby cheeks of the child, and
were in a good humor with every body.
6th.— Soon after we started this morning, we were overtaken by a stage which was going to Fulton, seven miles
distant, and as the roads were somewhat heavy, we concluded to make use of this convenience. The only passengers were three young men from the far west, who had been
to the eastward purchasing goods, and were then travelling
homeward. Two of them evidently possessed a large share
of what is called mother wit, and so we had jokes without
number. Some of them were not very refined, and perhaps did not suit the day very well, (it being the Sabbath,)
yet none of them were really offensive, but seemed to proceed entirely from an exuberance of animal spirits.
In about an hour and a half we arrived at Fulton, a pretty
little town, and saw the villagers in their holiday clothes
parading along to church.7 The bell at that moment
sounded, and the peal gave rise to many reflections. It
might be long ere I should hear the sound of the "church-
going bell" again.    I was on my way to a far, far country,
7 Fulton is the seat of Callaway County, laid out in 1825, and originally christened Volney; but its appellation was soon changed in honor of Robert Fulton,
inventor of the steamboat. The first settler and proprietor was George Nichols.
In 1832 the population was about two hundred; by 1900 it had increased to nearly
five thousand.— Ed.
MP 132
Early Western Travels
and I did not know that I should ever be permitted to revisit my own. I felt that I was leaving the scenes of my
childhood; the spot which had witnessed all the happiness
I ever knew, the home where all my affections were centered.
I was entering a land of strangers, and would be compelled
hereafter to mingle with those who might look upon me
with indifference, or treat me with neglect.
These reflections were soon checked, however. We took
a light lunch at the tavern where we stopped. I shouldered
my gun, Mr. N. his stick and bundle, and off we trudged
again, westward, ho! We soon lost sight of the prairie
entirely, and our way lay through a country thickly covered
with heavy timber, the roads very rough and stony, and we
had frequently to ford [19] the creeks on our route, the late
freshets having carried away the bridges.
Our accommodation at the farm houses has generally
been good and comfortable, and the inhabitants obliging,
and anxious to please. They are, however, exceedingly
inquisitive, propounding question after question, in such
quick succession as scarcely to allow you breathing time
between them. This kind of catechising was at first very
annoying to us, but we have now become accustomed to it,
and have hit upon an expedient to avoid it in a measure.
The first question generally asked, is, "where do you come
from, gentlemen?" We frame our answer somewhat in
the style of Dr. Franklin. "We come from Pennsylvania;
our names, Nuttall and Townsend; we are travelling to
Independence on foot, for the purpose of seeing the country
to advantage, and we intend to proceed from thence across
the mountains to the Pacific. Have you any mules to sell?"
The last clause generally changes the conversation, and
saves us trouble. To a stranger, and one not accustomed
to the manners of the western people, this kind of interrogating seems to imply a lack of modesty and common de-
a-fÉ-k-ar-i 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
cency, but it is certainly not so intended, each one appearing
to think himself entitled to gain as much intelligence regarding the private affairs of a stranger, as a very free use of his
lingual organ can procure for him.
We found the common gray squirrel very abundant in
some places, particularly in the low bottoms along water
courses; in some situations we saw them skipping on almost
every tree. On last Christmas day, at a squirrel hunt in
this neighborhood, about thirty persons killed the astonishing number of twelve hundred, between the rising and setting
of the sun.
This may seem like useless barbarity, but it is justified
by the consideration that all the crops of corn in the country
are frequently [20] destroyed by these animals. This extensive extermination is carried on every year, and yet it is said
that their numbers do not appear to be much diminished.
About mid-day on the 7th, we passed through a small town
called Columbia, and stopped in the evening at Rocheport,
a little village on the Missouri river.8 We were anxious
to find a steam-boat bound for Independence, as we feared
we might linger too long upon the road to make the necessary preparations for our contemplated journey.
On the following day, we crossed the Missouri, opposite
Rocheport, in a small skiff. The road here, for several
miles, winds along the bank of the river, amid fine groves
of sycamore and Athenian poplars, then stretches off for
about three miles, and does not again approach it until you
arrive at Boonville.   It is by far the most hilly road that we
8 Columbia, seat of Boone County and of the Missouri State University, was
organized first as Smithton. Later (1820), when made the county seat, the name
was changed, and a period of prosperity began. The location of the university
was secured in 1839.    In 1900 the population was 5,651.
Rocheport, on the Missouri River, at the mouth of Moniteau Creek, was laid
out in 1832 on land obtained on a New Madrid certificate. At one time the place
rivaled Columbia.    Its present population is about six hundred.— Ed. x34
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
have seen, and I was frequently reminded, while travelling
on it, of our Chester county. We entered the town of
Boonville early in the afternoon, and took lodgings in a
very clean, and respectably kept hotel. I was much pleased
with Boonville. It is the prettiest town I have seen in Missouri; situated on the bank of the river, on an elevated and
beautiful spot, and overlooks a large extent of lovely country.
The town contains two good hotels, (but no grog shops,
properly so called,) several well-furnished stores, and five
hundred inhabitants. It was laid out thirty years ago by
the celebrated western pioneer, whose name it bears.9
We saw here vast numbers of the beautiful parrot of this
country, (the Psittacus carolinensis.) They flew around us in
flocks, keeping a constant and loud screaming, as though
they would chide us for invading their territory; and the
splendid green and red of their plumage'glancing in the sunshine, as they whirled and. circled within a few feet of us,
had a most magnificent appearance. They seem entirely
unsuspicious of danger, and after being fired at, only huddle
closer together, as if to obtain protection [21] from each other,
and as their companions are falling around them, they
curve down their necks, and look at them fluttering upon
the ground, as though perfectly at a loss to account for so
unusual an occurrence. It is a most inglorious sort of
shooting;   down right, cold-blooded murder.10
On the afternoon of the 9th, a steamboat arrived, on board
of which we were surprised and pleased to find Captain
Wyeth, and our "plunder." We embarked immediately,
and soon after, were puffing along the Missouri, at the rate
of seven miles an hour.    When we stopped in the after-
• For Boonville, see note 59, p. 89, ante.    Townsend is in error in attributing
its founding to Daniel Boone, although named in his honor.— Ed.
10 For the appearance of paroquets in this latitude, see Cuming's Tour in our
volume iv, p. 161, note 108.— Ed.
S^^^ggggSM 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
noon to "wood," we were gratified by a sight of one of the
enormous catfish of this river and the Mississippi, weighing
full sixty pounds. It is said, however, that they are sometimes caught of at least double this weight. They are excellent eating, coarser, but quite as good as the common
small catfish of our rivers. There is nothing in the scenery
of the river banks to interest the traveller particularly. The
country is generally level and sandy, relieved only by an
occasional hill, and some small rocky acclivities.
A shocking accident happened on board during this trip.
A fine looking black boy (a slave of one of the deck passengers) was standing on the platform near the fly-wheel.
The steam had just been stopped off, and the wheel was
moving slowly by the impetus it had acquired. The poor
boy unwittingly thrust his head between the spokes; a portion of the steam was at that moment let on, and his head
and shoulders were torn to fragments. We buried him on
shore the same day; the poor woman, his mistress, weeping
and lamenting over him as for her own child. She told me
she had brought him up from an infant; he had been as
an affectionate son to her, and for years her only support.
March 20th.—On the morning of the 14th, we arrived
at Independence landing, and shortly afterwards, Mr. N.
and [22] myself walked to the town, three miles distant.
The country here is very hilly and rocky, thickly covered
with timber,  and no prairie within several miles.
The site of the town is beautiful, and very well selected,
standing on a high point of land, and overlooking the
surrounding country, but the town itself is very indifferent; "
the houses, (about fifty,) are very much scattered, composed
of logs and clay, and are low and inconvenient. There
are six or eight stores here, two taverns, and a few tipling
houses.   As we did not fancy the town, nor the society
11 For Independence, see our volume xix, p. 189, note 34 (Gregg).— Ed.
mm 136
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
»"T 1
iv *5'
that we saw there, we concluded to take up our residence
at the house on the landing until the time of starting on our
journey. We were very much disappointed in not being
able to purchase any mules here, all the salable ones having
been bought by the Santa Fee traders, several weeks since.
Horses, also, are rather scarce, and are sold at higher prices
than we had been taught to expect, the demand for them
at this time being greater than usual. Mr. N. and myself
have, however, been so fortunate as to find five excellent
animals amongst the hundreds of wretched ones offered
for sale, and have also engaged a man to attend to packing
our loads, and perform the various duties of our camp.
The men of the party, to the number of about fifty, are
encamped on the bank of the river, and their tents whiten
the plain for the distance of half a mile. I have often enjoyed the view on a fine moonlight evening from the door
of the house, or perched upon a high hill immediately
over the spot. The beautiful white tents, with a light gleaming from each, the smouldering fires around them, the
incessant hum of the men, and occasionally the lively
notes of a bacchanalian song, softened and rendered sweeter
by distance. I probably contemplate these and similar
scenes with the more interest, as they exhibit the manner
in which the next five months of my life are to be spent.
[23] We have amongst our men, a great variety of dispositions. Some who have not been accustomed to the
kind of life they are to lead in future, look forward
to it with eager delight, and talk of stirring incidents and
hair-breadth 'scapes. Others who are more experienced
seem to be as easy and unconcerned about it as a citizen
would be in contemplating a drive of a few miles into the
country. Some have evidently been reared in the shade,
and not accustomed to hardships, but the majority are
strong, able-bodied men, and many are almost as rough 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
as the grizzly bears, of their feats upon which they are fond
of boasting.
During the day the captain keeps all his men employed
in arranging and packing a vast variety of goods for carriage. In addition to the necessary clothing for the company, arms, ammunition, &c, there are thousands of
trinkets of various kinds, beads, paint, bells, rings, and
such trumpery, intended as presents for the Indians, as
well as objects of trade with them. The bales are usually
made to weigh about eighty pounds, of which a horse
carries two.
I am very much pleased with the manner in which Captain W. manages his men. He appears admirably calculated to gain the good will, and ensure the obedience of
such a company, and adopts the only possible mode of
accomplishing his end. They are men who have been
accustomed to act independently; they possess a strong
and indomitable spirit which will never succumb to authority, and will only be conciliated by kindness and
familiarity. I confess I admire this spirit. It is noble; it
is free and characteristic, but for myself, I have not been
accustomed to seeing it exercised, and when a rough fellow comes up without warning, and slaps me on the shoulder,
with, "stranger what for a gun is that you carry?" I
start, and am on the point of making an angry reply, but
I remember where I am, check the feeling instantly, and
submit the weapon to his inspection. Captain W. [24]
may frequently be seen sitting on the ground, surrounded
by a knot of his independents, consulting them as to his
present arrangements and future movements, and paying the
utmost deference to the opinion of the least among them.
We were joined here by Mr. Milton Sublette, a trader
and trapper of some ten or twelve years' standing. It is
his intention to travel with us to the mountains, and we
"M irp
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
are very glad of his company, both on account of his intimate acquaintance with the country, and the accession
to our band of about twenty trained hunters, "true as the
steel of their tried blades," who have more than once followed their brave and sagacious leader over the very track
which we intend to pursue. He appears to be a man of
strong sense and courteous manners, and his men are
enthusiastically attached to him.12
Five missionaries, who intend to travel under our escort,
have also just arrived. The principal of these is a Mr.
Jason Lee, (a tall and powerful man, who looks as though
he were well calculated to buffet difficulties in a wild country,)
his nephew, Mr. Daniel Lee, and three younger men of
respectable standing in society, who have arrayed themselves under the missionary banner, chiefly for the gratification of seeing a new country, and participating in strange
mm vi
t   ■ H
itS f%,\-t.
12 For Milton Sublette, see note 44, p. 67, ante.— Ed.
13 The establishment of the Oregon mission was due to the appeal published
in the East, of a deputation (1831) of Flathead chiefs to General William Clark
at St. Louis for the purpose of gaining religious instruction. The leaders of the
Methodist church, thus aroused, chose (1833) Jason Lee to found the mission to
the Western Indians, and made an appropriation for the purpose. Jason Lee was
born in Canada (1803), of American parents; he had already taught Indians in his
native village, and attended Wesleyan Seminary at Wilbraham, Massachusetts.
After several efforts to arrange the journey to Oregon, he heard of Wyeth's return,
and requested permission to join his outgoing party. Arrived at Vancouver, he
determined to establish his mission station in the Willamette valley, where he
labored for ten years, building a colony as well as a mission. Once he returned
to the United States (1838-40) for money and reinforcements. In 1844, while
visiting Honolulu, he learned that he had been superseded in the charge of the
mission, and returned to the United States to die the following year, near his birthplace in Lower Canada.
Daniel Lee, who accompanied his uncle, seconded the latter's efforts in the
mission establishment. In 1835 he voyaged to Hawaii for his health, and in 1838
established the Dalles mission, where he labored until his return to the United
States in 1843. The other missionaries were Cyrus Shepard, a lay helper and
teacher — who died at the Willamette mission, January 1, 1840 — CM. Walker,
and A. L. Edwards, who joined the party in Missouri.— Ed.   ,
')' 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
My favorites, the birds, are very numerous in this vicinity, and I am therefore in my element. Parroquets are
plentiful in the bottom lands, the two species of squirrel
are abundant, and rabbits, turkies, and deer are often
killed by our people.
I was truly rejoiced to receive yesterday a letter from
my family. I went to the office immediately on my arrival
here, confidently expecting to find one lying there for me;
I was told there was none, and I could not believe it, or
would not; I took all the letters in my hand, and examined
each of them myself, and I suppose that dining the process
my expressions of disappointment were "loud and deep," as
I observed the eyes of a number [25] of persons in the store
directed towards me with manifest curiosity and surprise.
The obtuse creatures could not appreciate my feelings.
I was most anxious to receive intelligence from home, as
some of the members of the family were indisposed when
I left, and in a few days more I should be traversing the
uncultivated prairie and the dark forest, and perhaps never
hear from my home again. The letter came at last, however, and was an inexpressible consolation to me.
The little town of Independence has within a few weeks
been the scene of a brawl, which at one time threatened
to be attended with serious consequences, but which was
happily settled without bloodshed. It had been for a
considerable time the stronghold of a sect of fanatics, called
Mormons, or Mormonites, who, as their numbers increased,
and they obtained power, showed an inclination to lord
it over the less assuming inhabitants of the town. This
was a source of irritation which they determined to rid
themselves of in a summary manner, and accordingly
the whole town rose, en masse, and the poor followers of
the prophet were forcibly ejected from the community.
They took refuge in the little town of Liberty, on the opposite 140
Early Western Travels
side of the river, and the villagers here are now in a constant
state of feverish alarm. Reports have been circulated
that the Mormons are preparing to attack the town, and
put the inhabitants to the sword, and they have therefore
stationed sentries along the river for several miles, to prevent the landing of the enemy.14 The troops parade and
study military tactics every day, and seem determined to
repel, with spirit, the threatened invasion. The probability is, that the report respecting the attack, is, as John
Bull says, "all humbug," and this training and marching
has already been a source of no little annoyance to us, as
the miserable little skeleton of a saddler who is engaged
to work for our party, has neglected his business, and
must go a soldiering in stead. A day or two ago, I tried
to convince the little man that he was of no use to the army,
[26] for if a Mormon were to say pooh at him, it would
blow him away beyond the reach of danger or of glory;
but he thought not, and no doubt concluded that he was
a "marvellous proper man," so we were put to great inconvenience waiting for our saddles.
14 For these Mormon troubles, see Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, in our
volume xx, pp. 93-99.— Ed. 1833-1834]
Townsend' s Narrative
Departure of the caravan — A storm on the prairie — Arrangement
of the camp — The cook's desertion — Kanzas Indians — Kanzas
river — Indian lodges — Passage of the river — Buffalo canoes —
Kanzas chief — Costume of the Indians—Upper Kaw village — Their
wigwams — Catfish and ravens — Return of Mr. Sublette — Pawnee
trace — Desertion of three men — Difficulties occasioned by losing
the trail — Intelligence of Mr. Sublette's party— Escape of the
band of horses — Visit of three Otto Indians — Anecdote of
Richardson, the chief hunter — His appearance and character —
White wolves and antelopes — Buffalo bones — Sublette's deserted
camp — Lurking wolves.
On the 28th of April, at 10 o'clock in the morning, our
caravan, consisting of seventy men, and two hundred and
fifty horses, began its march; Captain Wyeth and Milton
Sublette took the lead, Mr. N. and myself rode beside
them; then the men in double file, each leading, with a
line, two horses heavily laden, and Captain Thing (Captain
W.'s assistant) brought up the rear. The band of missionaries, with their horned cattle, rode along the flanks.
I frequently sallied out from my station to look at and
admire the appearance of the cavalcade, and as we rode
out from the encampment, our horses prancing, and neighing, and pawing the ground, it was altogether so exciting
that I could scarcely contain myself. Every man in the
company seemed to feel a portion of the same kind of enthusiasm; uproarious bursts of merriment, and gay and lively
songs, were constantly echoing along the line. We were
certainly a most merry and happy company. What cared
we for the future? We had reason to expect that ere
long difficulties and dangers, in various shapes, [28] would
assail us, but no anticipation of reverses could check the
happy exuberance of our spirits.
Our road lay over a vast rolling prairie, with occasional
IM \
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
small spots of timber at the distance of several miles apart,
and this will no doubt be the complexion of the track for
some weeks.
In the afternoon we crossed the Big Blue river at a shallow ford.15 Here we saw a number of beautiful yellow-
headed troopials, {Icterus zanthrocephalus,) feeding upon
the prairie in company with large flocks of black birds,
and like these, they often alight upon the backs of our
29^.— A heavy rain fell all the morning, which had
the effect of calming our transports in a great measure,
and in the afternoon it was succeeded by a tremendous
hail storm. During the rain, our party left the road, and
proceeded about a hundred yards from it to a range of
bushes, near a stream of water, for the purpose of encamping. We had just arrived here, and had not yet dismounted,
when the hail storm commenced. It came on very suddenly, and the stones, as large as musket balls, dashing
upon our horses, created such a panic among them, that
they plunged, and kicked, and many of them threw their
loads, and fled wildly over the plain. They were all overtaken, however, and as the storm was not of long duration,
they were soon appeased, and staked for the night.
To stake or fasten a horse for the night, he is provided
with a strong leathern halter, with an iron ring attached
to the chin strap. To this ring, a rope of hemp or plaited
leather, twenty-two feet in length, is attached, and the opposite
end of the line made fast with several clove hitches around
an oak or hickory pin, two and a half feet long. The top of
this pin or stake is ringed with iron to prevent its being
16 Townsend is here in error. It would be impossible to reach the Big Blue
River the first day out from Independence, and before crossing the Kansas. The
former stream is a northern tributary of the latter, over a hundred miles from its
mouth. The Oregon Trail led along its banks for some distance, crossing at the
entrance of the Little Blue.— Ed. 1833-1834]
Townsend' s Narrative
bruised, and it is then driven to the head in the ground.
For greater security, hopples made of stout leather are
buckled around the fore legs; and then, [29] if the tackling
is good, it is almost impossible for a horse to escape. Care
is always taken to stake him in a spot where he may eat
grass all night. The animals are placed sufficiently far
apart to prevent them interfering with each other.
Camping out to-night is not so agreeable as it might be,
in consequence of the ground being very wet and muddy, and
our blankets (our only bedding) thoroughly soaked; but
we expect to encounter greater difficulties than these ere
long, and we do not murmur.
A description of the formation of our camp may, perhaps,
not be amiss here. The party is divided into messes of
eight men, and each mess is allowed a separate tent. The
captain of a mess, (who is generally an "old hand," i. e. an
experienced forester, hunter, or trapper,) receives each
morning the rations of pork, flour, &c. for his people, and
they choose one of their body as cook for the whole. Our
camp now consists of nine messes, of which Captain W.'s
forms one, although it only contains four persons besides
the cook.
When we arrive in the evening at a suitable spot for an
encampment, Captain W. rides round a space which he considers large enough to accommodate it, and directs where
each mess shall pitch its tent. The men immediately unload
their horses, and place their bales of goods in the direction
indicated, and in such manner, as in case of need, to form
a sort of fortification and defence. When all the messes are
arranged in this way, the camp forms a hollow square, in
the centre of which the horses are placed and staked firmly to
the ground. The guard consists of from six to eight men,
and is relieved three times each night, and so arranged that
each gang may serve alternate nights.   The captain of a
tmmE0 144
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 21
If,, ■'
guard (who is generally also the captain of a mess) collects
his people at the appointed hour, and posts them around
outside the camp in such situations that they may command [30] a view of the environs, and be ready to give the
alarm in case of danger.
The captain cries the hour regularly by a watch, and all's
well, every fifteen minutes, and each man of the guard is required to repeat this call in rotation, which if any one should
fail to do, it is fair to conclude that he is asleep, arid he is then
immediately visited and stirred up. In case of defection of
this kind, our laws adjudge to the delinquent the hard sentence of walking three days. As yet none of our poor fellows have incurred this penalty, and the probability is,
that it would not at this time be enforced, as we are yet in a
country where little molestation is to be apprehended; but
in the course of another week's travel, when thieving and
ill-designing Indians will be outlying on our trail, it will
be necessary that the strictest watch be kept, and, for the
preservation of our persons and property, that our laws
shall be rigidly enforced.
May 1st.— On rising this morning, and mquiring about
our prospects of a breakfast, we discovered that the cook
of our mess (a little, low-browed, ill-conditioned Yankee)
had decamped in the night, and left our service to seek for
a better. He probably thought the duties too hard for him,
but as he was a miserable cook, we should not have much
regretted his departure, had he not thought proper to take
with him an excellent rifle, powder-horn, shot-pouch, and
other matters that did not belong to him. It is only surprising that he did not select one of our best horses to carry
him; but as he had the grace to take his departure on
foot, and we have enough men without him, we can wish
him God speed, and a fair run to the settlements.
We encamped this evening on a small branch of the Kanzas 1833-1834]
Townsend's Narrative
river. As we approached our stopping place, we were joined
by a band of Kanzas Indians, (commonly called Kaw Indians.)16 They are encamped in a neighboring copse, where
they have [31] six lodges. This party is a small division
of a portion of this tribe, who are constantly wandering; but
although their journeys are sometimes pretty extensive, they
seldom approach nearer to the settlements than they are at
present. They are very friendly, are not so tawdrily decorated as those we saw below, and use little or no paint. This
may, however, be accounted for by their not having the customary ornaments, &c, as their ears are filled with trinkets
of various kinds, and are horribly gashed in the usual manner. The dress of most that we have seen, has consisted of
ordinary woollen pantaloons received from the whites, and
their only covering, from the waist up, is a blanket or buffalo
robe. The head is shaved somewhat in the manner of the
Saques and Foxes, leaving the.well known scalping tuft; but
unlike the Indians just mentioned, the hair is allowed to
grow upon the middle of the head, and extends backwards in
a longitudinal ridge to the occiput. It is here gathered into
a kind of queue, plaited, and suffered to hang down the
back. There were amongst them several squaws, with
young children tied to their backs, and a number of larger
urchins ran about our camp wholly naked.
The whole of the following day we remained in camp,
trading buffalo robes, apishemeaus," &c, of the Indians.
These people became at length somewhat troublesome to us
who were not traders, by a very free exercise of their begging
16 For the first stretches of the Oregon Trail and the crossing of the Kansas,
see note 30, p. 49, ante. The Kansa Indians are noticed in Bradbury's Travels,
our volume v, p. 67, note 37.— Ed.
17 These are mats made of rushes, used for building wigwams, carpets, beds,
and coverings of all sorts. The early Algonquian term was "apaquois;" see
Wisconsin Historical Collections, xvi, index. "Apichement" is the usual form of
the word.— Ed. 146
Early Western Travels
propensities. They appear to be exceedingly poor and
needy, and take the liberty of asking unhesitatingly, and
without apparent fear of refusal, for any articles that happen
to take their fancy.
I have observed, that among the Indians now with us,
none but the chief uses the pipe. He smokes the article
called kanikanik,— a mixture of tobacco and the dried
leaves of the poke plant, (Phytolacca decandra.) I was
amused last evening by the old chief asking me in his impressive manner, (first by pointing with his finger towards the
sunset, and then raising his [32] hands high over his head,)
if I was going to the mountains. On answering him in the
affirmative, he depressed his hands, and passed them around
his head in both directions, then turned quickly away from
me, with a very solemn and significant ugh ! He meant, doubtless, that my brain was turned; in plain language, that I was
a fool. This may be attributed to bis horror of the Blackfeet Indians, with whom a portion of his tribe was formerly
at war. The poor Kaws are said to have suffered dreadfully in these savage conflicts, and were finally forced to
abandon the country to their hereditary foes.
We were on the move early the next morning, and at noon
arrived at the Kanzas river, a branch of the Missouri.18 This
is a broad and not very deep stream, with the water dark
and turbid, like that of the former. As we approached it,
we saw a number of Indian lodges, made of saplings driven
into the ground, bent over and tied at top, and covered with
bark and buffalo skins. These lodges, or wigwams, are
numerous on both sides of the river. As we passed them,
the inhabitants, men, women, and children, flocked out to
see us, and almost prevented our progress by their eager
greetings.    Our party stopped on the bank of the river,
18 For the Kansas River, see James's Long's Expedition, in our volume xiv,
p. 174, note 140.— Ed.
arm I833-I834]
Townsend's Narrative
and the horses were unloaded and driven into the water.
They swam beautifully, and with great regularity, and
arrived safely on the opposite shore, where they were confined in a large lot, enclosed with a fence. After some difficulty, and considerable detention, we succeeded in procuring
a large flat bottomed boat, embarked ourselves and goods in
it, and landed on the opposite side near our horse pen, where
we encamped. The lodges are numerous here, and there
are also some good frame houses inhabited by a few white
men and women, who subsist chiefly by raising cattle, which
they drive to the settlements below. They, as well as the
Indians, raise an abundance of good corn; potatoes and other
vegetables are also plentiful, and they can therefore live
sufficiently well.
[33] The canoes used by the Indians are mostly made of
buffalo skins, stretched, while recent, over a light frame work
of wood, the seams sewed with sinews, and so closely, as to be
wholly impervious to water. These light vessels are remarkably buoyant, and capable of sustaining very heavy burthens.19
In the evening the principal Kanzas chief paid us a visit in
our tent. He is a young man about twenty-five years of age,
straight as a poplar, and with a noble countenance and
bearing, but he appeared to me to be marvellously deficient
in most of the requisites which go to make the character of
a real Indian chief, at least of such Indian chiefs as we read
of in our popular books. I begin to suspect, in truth, that
these lofty and dignified attributes are more apt to exist in the
fertile brain of the novelist, than in reality. Be this as it
may, our chief is a very lively, laughing, and rather playful
personage; perhaps he may put on his dignity, like a glove,
when it suits his convenience.
" For these skin canoes, see illustration in Maximilian's Travels, atlas, our
volume xxv.— Ed.
a» 148
Early Western Travels
[Vol.  21
We remained in camp the whole of next day, and traded
with the Indians for a considerable number of robes, apishe-
meaus, and halter ropes of hide. Our fat bacon and tobacco
were in great demand for these useful commodities.
The Kaws living here appear to be much more wealthy
than those who joined our camp on the prairie below. They
are in better condition, more richly dressed, cleaner, and
more comfortable than their wandering brothers. The men
have generally fine countenances, but all the women that I
have seen are homely. I cannot admire them. Their dress
consists, universally of deer skin leggings, belted around the
loins, and over the upper part of the body a buffalo robe or
On the 20th in the morning, we packed our horses and
rode out of the Kaw settlement, leaving the river immediately, and making a N. W. by W.