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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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   J    Early Western Travels
Volume XX m*^   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 of the Lewis and Clark Expedition," "Hennepin's
New Discovery," etc.
Volume XX
Part II of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, 1831-1839
Cleveland, Ohio
The Arthur H. Clark Company
1905 Copyright 1905, by
ffije TLaktsttit p«g«
u *
Commerce of the Prairies; or, The Journal of a Santa F6
Trader, during Eight Expeditions across the Great Western
Prairies, and a Residence of nearly Nine Years in Northern
Mexico. (Part II: Chapters xii-xvi of Volume I, and all
of Volume II of original.)    Josiah Gregg.
Author's Table of Contents          .....
Text of Part II:    . 	
"Indian Alarm on the Cimarron River" Frontispiece
"Map of the Interior of Northern Mexico"       .       . Facing 21
Medal of Nuestra Sefiora de Guadalupe de Mexico (text cut)     .      40
"Camp Comanche"    .........    123
Mule emerging from a mine; Still Hunting (text cuts in original)      181
"' Dog Town,' or Settlement of Prairie Dogs"   ....    279  Part II of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, or
The Journal of a Santa Fe Trader —1831-1839
Reprint of chapters xii-xvi of Volume I, and all of Volume II of the
second edition:   New York, 1845  CONTENTS
Government of New Mexico — The Administration of Justice —
Judicial Corruption — Prejudices against Americans — Partiality for the English — Anecdote of Governor Armijo and a
Trapper — Outrage upon an American Physician — Violence
suffered by the American Consul and others — Arbitrary Impositions upon Foreigners — Contribution de Guerra — The
Alcaldes and their System — The Fueros — Mode of punishing Delinquents and Criminals — Mexican System of Slavery— Thieves and Thieveries Outrage upon an American
Merchant — Gambling and Gambling-houses — Game of
Monte — Anecdote of a Lady of Fashion — Chuza — Cockpits— Correr el gallo — El Coleo — Fandangoes — Cigarritos,      21
Military Hierarchy of Mexico — Religious Superstitions — Legend of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe — A profane Version
of the Story — A curious Plan for manufacturing Water —
Saints and Images — Processions — How to make it Rain —
The Sacred Host — Fanaticism and Murder — Honors paid
to a Bishop — Servility to Priests — Attendance at Public
Worship — New Mexicans in Church — The Vesper Bells —
Passion Week and the Ceremonies pertaining thereto —
Ridiculous PenitenCia — Wbitewashing of Criminals — Matrimonial Connexions and Mode of Contracting them —
Restrictions upon Lovers — Onerous Fees paid for Marriages and Burials — Anecdote of a Ranchero — Ditto of a
Servant and of a Widow, illustrative of Priestly Extortion —
Modes of Burial, and Burial Ground of the Heretics, .      37
The Pueblos — Their Character for Sobriety, Honesty, and Industry — Traditional descent from Montezuma — Their
Languages — Former and present Population — The Pueblo
of Pecos — Singular Habits of that ill-fated Tribe — Curious
Tradition — Montezuma and the Sun — Legend of a Serpent
— Religion and government — Secret Council — Laws and H
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Customs — Excellent Provisions against Demoralization —
Primitive Pastimes of the Pueblos — Their Architecture —
Singular Structures of Taos, and other novel Fortifications
— Primitive state of the Arts among the Pueblos — Style of
Dress, Weapons, etc. — Their Diet — The Guayave,   .
The wild Tribes of New Mexico — Speculative Theories — Clavi-
gero and the Azteques — Pueblo Bonito and  other Ruins
— Probable Relationship between the Azteques and Tribes of
New Mexico — The several Nations of this Province —
Navajdes and Azteques — Manufactures of the former —
Their Agriculture, Religion, etc. — Mexican Cruelty to the
Indians and its Consequences — Inroads  of the  Navajdes
— Exploits of a Mexican Army — How to make a Hole in
a powder-keg — The Apaches and their character — Their
Food — Novel Mode of settling Disputes — Range of their
marauding Excursions — Indian Traffic and imbecile Treaties — Devastation of the Country — Chihuahua Rodomontades — Juan Jos6, a celebrated Apache Chief, and his
tragical End, etc. — Massacre of Americans in Retaliation —
A tragical Episode — Proyecto de Guerra and a ' gallant'
Display — The Yutas and their Hostilities — A personal Adventure with them, but no Bloodshed — The Jicarillas,
Incidents of a Return Trip from Santa Fe — Calibre of our Party
— Return Caravans — Remittances — Death of Mr. Lang-
ham — Burial in the Desert — A sudden Attack — Confusion in the Camp — The Pawnees — A Wolfish Escort —
Scarcity of Buffalo — Unprofitable Delusion — Arrival —
Table of Camping Sites and Distances — Condition of the
Town of Independence — The Mormons — Their Dishonesty and Immorality — Their high-handed Measures, and a
Rising of the People — A fatal Skirmish — A chivalrous Parade of the Citizens — Expulsion of the Mormons — The
Meteoric Shower, and Superstition, etc. — Wanderings and
Improprieties of the 'Latter-day Saints' — Gov. Boggs'
Recipe — The City of Nauvoo — Contemplated Retribution
of the Mormons,    .... ....
CHAPTER XVII [I of Vol. H, original ed.]
A Return to Prairie Life — Abandonment of the regular Route —
The Start — A Suicide — Arrest of a Mulatto for Debt —
Cherokee  'Bankrupt Law'—Chuly,  the Creek Indian — 1831-1839J     Gregg s Commerce of the Prairies
The Muster and the Introduction — An 'Olla Podrida'—
Adventure of a 'Down-Easter'—Arrival of U. S. Dragoons
— Camp Holmes, and the Road — A Visit from a Party
of Comanches — Tabba-quena, a noted Chief — His extraordinary Geographical Talent — Indians set out for the
' Capitan Grande,' and we through an unexplored Region —
Rejoined by Tabba-quena and his 'suite*— Spring Valley
— The Buffalo Fever — The Chase — A Green-horn Scamper — Prairie  Fuel, ....... 99
CHAPTER XVin [n of Vol. II]
Travelling out of our Latitude — The Buffalo-gnat — A Kiawa
and Squaw — Indian crim. con. Affair — Extraordinary
Mark of confidence in the White Man — A Conflagration —
An Espy Shower — Region of Gypsum — Our Latitude —
A Lilliputian Forest — A Party of Comanches — A Visit to
a ' Dog-Town'— Indian Archery — Arrival of Comanche
Warriors — A ' Big Talk' and its Results — Speech of the
Capitan Mayor — Project of bringing Comanche Chiefs to
Washington — Return of Lieut. Bowman, and our March
resumed — Melancholy Reflections — Another Indian Visit
— Mexican Captives — Voluntary Captivity — A sprightly
Mexican Lad — Purchase of a Captive — Comanche Trade
and Etiquette — Indians least dangerous to such as trade
with them, .........        114
Ponds and Buffalo Wallows — Valley of the Canadian, and
romantic Freaks of Nature — Formation of Ravines — Melancholy Adventure of a Party of Traders in 1832 — Fears of
our being lost — Arrival of a Party of Comancheros, and
their wonderful Stories — Their Peculiarities and Traffic —
Bitter Water, and the Salitre of New Mexico — Avant-cour-
iers for Santa Fe* — Patent Fire-arms and their Virtues —
Ranchero Ideas of Distance, and their Mode of giving Directions — The Angostura, and erroneous Notions of the Texans
— A new Route revealed — Solitary Travel — Supply of Provisions sent back — Arrival at Santa Fe — Gov. Armijo, etc.
— A 'Flare-up' with His Excellency,        .        .        .        .        132
Preparations for a Start to Chihuahua — Ineptness of Married
Men for the Santa F^ Trade — Annoying Custom-house
Regulations — Mails in New Mexico — Insecurity of Correspondence — Outfit and Departure — Derecho de Consumo i6
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
— Ruins of Valverde—'Towns without Houses'—La
Jornado del Muerto — Laguna and Ojo del Muerto — A
Tradition of the Arrieros — Laborious Ferrying and Quagmires — Arrival at Paso del Norte — Amenity of the Valley
— Sierra Blanca and Los Organos — Face of the Country
— Seagrass — Mddanos or Sand-hills — An accidental River
— CarrizaJ — Ojo Caliente — Laguna de Encinillas —
Southern  Haciendas — Arrival — Character  of  the  Route
and Soil, .........       145
Trip from Chihuahua to Aguascalientes, in 1835 — Southern
Trade and Ferias — Hacienda de la Zarca, and its innumerable Stock — Rio Nazas, and Lakes without outlet —
Perennial Cotton — Exactions for Water and Pasturage —
Village of Churches — City of Durango and its Peculiarities
— Fruits, Pulque, etc.— Persecution of Scorpions — Negro-
ship in the ascendant — Robbers and their modus operandi
— City of Aguascalientes — Bathing Scene — Haste to return to the North — Mexican Mule-shoeing — Difficulties
and Perplexities — A Friend in time of need — Reach Zaca-
tecas — City Accommodations — Hotels unfashionable —
Locale, Fortifications, etc., of the City of Zacatecas — Siege
by Santa Anna and his easy-won Victory — At Durango
again — Civil Warfare among the ' Sovereigns'— Hairbreadth 'scapes — Troubles of the Road — Safe Arrival at
Chihuahua — Character of the Southern Country,   .       .        162
Visit to the Mining Town of Jesus-Maria — Critical Roads —
Character of the Town — Losing Speculations — Mine of
Santa Juliana — Curious mining Operations — Different
Modes of working the Ore — The Crushing-mill, etc.—
Barras de Plata — Value of Bullion — The Silver Trade —
Return to Chihuahua — Resumption of the regular Narrative — Curious Wholesales — Money Table — Redundancy of Copper Coin — City of Chihuahua and its Peculiarities— Ecclesiastical Architecture — Hidalgo and his Monument — Public Works, and their present Declension — Fite
in honor of Iturbide — Uliberality towards Americans —
Shopping Mania — Anti-Masonic Auto de Fe, .       .       178
Departure for Santa Fe* — Straitened for Food — Summary Effort to procure Beef — Seizure of one of our Party — Altercation with a Rico — His pusillanimous Procedure — Great 1831-1839]     Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
Preparations in Chihuahua for our Arrest — Arrival of Mexican Troops — A polite Officer — Myself with three of my
Men summoned back to Chihuahua — Amiable Conduct of
Senor Artalejo — Junta Departmental and Discussion of my
Affair — Writ of Habeas Corpus not in vogue — The Matter
adjusted and Passports granted — The Morale — Impunity
of savage Depredations — Final Start — Company of Pasenos
with their Fruits and Liquors — Arrival at Santa F6,   .       193
Preparations for returning Home — Breaking out of the Smallpox — The Start — Our Caravan — Manuel the Comanche
— A new Route — The Prairie on Fire — Danger to be apprehended from these Conflagrations — A Comanche Buffalo-
chase — A Skirmish with the Pawnees — An intrepid Mexican — The Wounded — Value of a thick Skull — Retreat of
the Enemy and their Failure — A bleak Northwester — Loss -
of our Sheep — The Llano Estacado and Sources of Red
River — The Canadian River — Cruelties upon Buffalo —
Feats at' Still Hunting'— Mr. Wethered's Adventure — Once
more on our own Soil — The False Washita — Enter our
former Trail — Character of the Country over which we had
travelled — Arrival at Van Buren — The two Routes to
Santa Fe* — Some Advantages of that from Arkansas —
Restlessness of Prairie Travellers in civilized Life, and Propensity for returning to the Wild Deserts, .        .        .        203
Decline of Prices — Statistical Table — Chihuahua Trade —
Its Extent — Different Ports through which Goods are
introduced to that Market — Expedition between Chihuahua
and Arkansas — The Drawback — The more recent Incidents of the Santa Fe* Caravans — Adventures of 1843 —
Robbery and Murder of Chavez — Expedition from Texas
— Defeat of Gen. Armijo's Van-guard — His precipitate
Retreat — Texan Grievances — Unfortunate Results of indiscriminate Revenge — Want of discipline among the Tex-
ans — Disarmed by Capt. Cook — Return of the Escort of
U. S. Dragoons, and of the Texans — Demands of the Mexican Government — Closing of the Santa Fe* Trade,
Extent of the Prairies — Mountains — Mesas or Table-lands —
El Llano Estacado — Cafiones — Their Annoyance to the Early Western Travels
early Caravans — Immense Gullies — Coal Mines and other
Geological Products — Gypsum — Metallic Minerals — Salines— Capt. Boone's Exploration—'Salt Plain' and 'Salt
Rock'—Mr. Sibley's Visit — Saline Exudations — Unhab-
itableness of the high Prairies — Excellent Pasturage —
Rich border Country sufficient for two States — Northern
Texas — Rivers of the Prairies — Their Unfitness for Navigation — Timber — Cross Timbers — Encroachments of the
Timber upon the Prairies — Fruits and Flowers — Salubrity
of Climate,	
The Mustang or Wild Horse — Capturing him by ' Creasing,'
and with the Lazo — Horse-flesh — The Buffalo — Its Appearance — Excellence of its Meat — General Utility to the
Indian and Traveller — Prospect of its Extinction — Hunting the Buffalo with Bow and Arrows, the Lance, etc.—
'Still-hunting'—The Buffalo ferocious only when wounded
— Butchering, etc.— The Gray Wolf — Its Modes of killing
Buffalo — Their great numbers — A 'Wolf scrape'—The
Prairie Wolf, or ' Jackal of the Prairies'— The Elk, Deer and
Bear — The Antelope — The Bighorn — The Prairie Dog
— Owls and Rattlesnakes — The Horned Frog — Fowls —
Bees, etc.,	
Indian Cosmogony — Traditions of Origin — Identity of Religious Notions — Adoration of the Sun — Shawnee Faith
— Anecdote of Tecumseh — Legendary Traditions — Missionaries, and Success of the Catholics — The Indian's
Heaven — Burial Customs — Ancient Accounts — Depositing the Dead on Scaffolds — Superstition and Witchcraft —
Indian Philosophy — Polygamy and other Matrimonial Affairs — Abhorrence of Incest — Difference in Character —
Indian Hospitality — Traits of the Ancient Asiatics —
Names — Relationship of Different Tribes — Dreadful Decrease of the Indians,	
Causes of Removal West — Annuities, etc.— Dissatisfaction of
the Indians — Their Melioration by the Change — Superiority of their present Location — Lands granted to them 1831-1839]     Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
— Improvements, Agriculture, etc.— Their Slaves — Manufactures — Style of Living, Dress, etc.— Literary Opportunities and Improvements — Choctaw Academy — Harpies and
Frauds — Games — Systems   of   Government — Polygamy
— Ancient Laws arid Customs — Intemperance — Preventive Measures — A Choctaw Enactment — Marriage and
Funeral Customs of the Choctaws — The Creeks — Their
Summary Executions — Mourning — Indian Titles — The
Northern Tribes — Census of the Frontier Nations,       .       299
System of Chiefs — Mode of Warfare — War-Council — The
Scalp-dance — The Calumet or Pipe of Peace — Treaties —
Public News-criers — Arms of the Indians — Bow and Arrows, etc.— Hunting — Dancing — Language of Signs —
Telegraphs — Wigwams or Lodges — Pack-dogs — Costumes —Painting, Tattooing, etc.— Indian Dandies — Manufactures, and Dressing the Buffalo Rug — Indian Diet, Fasting, etc.— Primitive Thomsonians—Their domestic Animals, the Dog and the Horse — Wampum — Their Chronology,       318
i ll
Intermediate Tribes — Their Wigwams and their Hunting Excursions — Dress and Cut of their Hair — The Pawnees —
The Osages — Their Roguery — Matrimonial Customs —
Accomplished Mourners — Their Superstitions — The Indian Figure — The 'Pawnee Picts'— Wild Tribes — Census
— The Comanches — Their Range — Their Sobriety —
Their Chiefs, etc.— Female Chastity — Comanche Marriage
— Costumes — Horsemanship — Comanche Warfare — Predatory Forays — Martial Ceremonies — Treatment of Captives— Burial and Religious Rites,       ....
Containing such Spanish or Hispano-Mexican words as occur
undefined in this work, or recur without definition after
having been once translated	
m  11)1 P"
■MM  rwM
Government of New Mexico — The Administration of Justice —
Judicial Corruption — Prejudices against Americans — Partiality
for the English — Anecdote of Governor Armijo and a Trapper-—
Outrage upon an American Physician — Violence suffered by the
American Consul and others — Arbitrary Impositions upon Foreigners — Contribucion de Guerra — The Alcaldes and their System —
The Fueros — Mode of punishing Delinquents and Criminals —
Mexican System of Slavery — Thieves and Thieveries — Outrage
upon an American Merchant — Gambling and Gambling-houses
— Game of Monte — Anecdote of a Lady of Fashion — Chuza —
Cockpits — Correr el gallo — El Coleo —  Fandangoes —Cigarritos.
Prior to the adoption of the Sistema Central in the Mexican republic, the province of New Mexico was under a territorial government. The executive was called Gefe Politico
(political chief), and the Diputacion Provincial very inefficiently supplied the place of a legislature. Under the
present system, however, New Mexico being a department,
the names of these powers have been changed, but their
functions remain very nearly the same. The Gobernador
(governor) is appointed by the President for eight years.
The legislative power is nominally vested in a Junta De-
partamental, a kind of state council, with very circumscribed
[226] powers, somewhat analogous to, and certainly not more
extensive than, those of a board of aldermen with us. But
even this shadow of popular representation was 'prorogued'
by Gov. Armijo soon after his accession to power (five or
six years ago), and has never since been convened; so that
1 Chapter xii of volume i of the original edition.— Ed.
' * ' ni 22 Early Western Travels [Vol. 20
its functions have been arbitrarily exercised by the governor
ever since.
The administration of the laws in Northern Mexico
constitutes one of the most painful features of her institutions. Justice, or rather judgments, are a common article
of traffic; and the hapless litigant who has not the means
to soften the claws of the alcalde with a * silver unction,'
is almost sure to get severely scratched in the contest, no
matter what may be the justice of his cause, or the uprightness of his character. It is easy to perceive, then, that the
poor and the humble stand no chance in a judicial contest
with the wealthy and consequential, whose influence, even
apart from their facilities for corrupting the court and
suborning witnesses, is sufficient to neutralize any amount
of plebeian testimony that might be brought against them.
The evil consequences arising from maladministration
of justice in New Mexico are most severely felt by foreigners,
against whom a strong prejudice prevails throughout the
South. Of these, the citizens of the United States are by
far the most constant sufferers; an inevitable result of that
sinister feeling with which the 'rival republic' views the
advancement [227] and superiority of her more industrious
neighbors. It is a notorious fact, that while the English are
universally treated with comparative consideration and
respect, the Americans residing in the southern parts of
the republic are frequently taunted with the effeminacy of
their government and its want of decision. So openly has
this preference for British subjects been manifested, and
so thoroughly conscious have the Americans become of
the humiliating fact, that when a mercantile firm, consisting
of an American and an Englishman, has occasion to present
a memorial of any description, or to sue either for an act of
favor or of justice from the nation, the application is sure
I 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
to be made in the name of the latter, knowing it will thus be
more likely to command proper attention.
Few men, perhaps, have done more to jeopard the interests of American traders, or to bring the American character
itself into contempt, than Armijo, the present arbitrary
governor of New Mexico. I am happy to say, however, that
in the midst of his many oppressions, he was once at least
obliged to 'knock under' to one of those bold and daring
spirits of the Rocky Mountains whom obstacles rather
energize than subdue. This was about the year 1828, during
Armijo's previous governorship. A law was then in existence which had been enacted by the general Congress prohibiting foreigners from trapping beaver in the Mexican territory, under penalty of confiscation, etc.; but as there were
no native [228] trappers in New Mexico, Gov. Baca and his
successor (Narbona) thought it expedient to extend licenses
to foreigners, in the name of citizens, upon condition of their
taking a certain proportion of Mexicans to learn the art of
trapping. In pursuance of this disposition, Gov. Narbona
extended a license to one Ewing Young, who was accompanied by a Mr. Sublette, brother of Capt. Wm. Sublette,
and almost equally celebrated for bis mountain adventures.*
2 Both Bartolome" Baca (Vaca) and Narbona were Mexican officers. The
former, whose term of office was from 1823 to September, 1825, belonged to a New
Mexican family, and was one of the captains of the companies organized in 1808.
Antonio Narbona came (1805) from the province of Chihuahua, as lieutenant of
soldiers sent to repel a Navaho raid. He was governor, September, 1825, to May,
1827.   In 1843 he was colonel of an expedition against the Apache in Arizona.
Ewing Young was a native of Knox County, Tennessee. He early went west
for hunting and trapping, having passports for Mexican territory signed at Washington in 1828-29. In these years he made his first overland trip from New Mexico
to California, where he aided the padres of San Jose in an expedition against revolted neophytes. In 1829 he returned to New Mexico, married a Taos woman,
and again (1831) set out for California. There in 1834 he met Hall Kelley, and
was persuaded to accompany him to Oregon, where he formed one of the first
American settlements in the Chehalem Valley, tributary to the Willamette. A
journey to California in 1836, to purchase cattle, resulted in stocking the Oregon 24
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Previous to the return of this party from their trapping
expedition, Armijo had succeeded Narbona in office, and
they were informed that it was his intention to seize their
furs. To prevent this, they deposited them at a neighboring
village, where they were afterwards discovered, seized, and
confiscated. The furs being damp, they were spread out in
the sun before the Guardiar in Santa F6, when Sublette, perceiving two packs of beaver which had been his own property,
got by honest labor, instantly seized them and carried them
away before the eyes of the whole garrison, and concealed
both them and his own person in a house opposite. The
entire military force was immediately put in requisition, and
a general search made for the offender and his prize; but
in vain: indeed, if the truth must be spoken, the troops
seemed to have as little desire to find Sublette as the latter
had of being found; for his character was too well known to
leave any room for hope that his capture could be effected
without a great deal [229] of trouble. In the meanwhile,
Armijo raved, and threatened the Americans for not ferreting out their countryman and delivering him over to justice.
Failing to produce any impression by blustering, however,
he caused a couple of cannons to be pointed at the house
where the offender was supposed to be concealed, declaring
at the same time that he would batter it down; but all to no
purpose. Mr. Sublette finally conveyed his furs in safety
to the frontier, and thence to the United States.
pioneers. Young's Oregon settlement prospered; he erected saw and grist mills,
and upon his death (1841) the administration of his estate was the occasion of the
first tentative experiment in civil government in Oregon. In after years, a son
Joachim came from New Mexico, and laid successful claim to the property, which
was paid by the state.
Milton J. Sublette was a younger brother of William (for whom see our volume
xix, p. 221, note 55, Gregg) and himself a noted trapper and trader, operating chiefly
in the Rocky Mountains. In 1833 he entered into arrangements with Nathaniel
Wyeth (see our volume xxi), but the next year was compelled to retire because of
injury to a leg, which caused his death at Fort Laramie, December 19, 1836.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
The following anecdote affords another illustration of
Armijo's summary mode of dealing with Americans. In
the fall of 1840, a gross outrage was committed upon a
physician from Massachusetts (said to be a gentleman of
unexceptionable deportment), who was travelling through
the country for his health. He had loaned nine hundred
dollars to a person of the name of Tayon, who afterwards
borrowed the same amount of another foreigner and repaid
this debt. The doctor then left for the South, where he
intended to pass the winter, being afflicted with a pulmonary
disease. But the individual who had lent Tayon the money,
being informed that he was insolvent, applied to Gov. Armijo
for an order to compel the doctor to return, expecting thereby to make him reimburse the money. The order overtook
him at the village of Algodones,3 near forty miles from Santa
F£, where he Was at once arrested by the alcalde, and detained
some time, ignorant even of the offence for which he was doing
penance. [230] In the meantime, the American Consul at
Santa Fe, having been informed of what had taken place,
procured a counter-order from the governor for the release
of the prisoner. When the alcalde of Algodones received this
document, he determined at once that so extraordinary an
act of justice should cost the foreigner some trifle. Accordingly, another order was forged on the spot, commanding
that he should be taken to the capital — yet a * gentle hint'
was given, that his liberty might be purchased by the payment of two hundred dollars. Being in a land of strangers,
among whom he had but little hope of receiving fair play,
the doctor resolved to pay the amount demanded, and fly
to Chihuahua, where he would at least be safe from Armijo's
clutches.   Having been informed, however, of the fraud
3 Algodones is a small Mexican town in Sandoval County, about fifteen miles
above Albuquerque. It is now a station on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa F6
Railway, and has promise of becoming a junction with the Santa Fe" Central.— Ed.
w 26
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
practised by the alcalde, before he had proceeded far on his
journey, he returned and made an attempt to bring the
delinquent officer to justice, but altogether without success.
But perhaps the most glaring outrages upon American
citizens were committed in 1841, upon the occasion of the
capture of the Texan Santa Fe" Expedition. In Taos, a
poor deaf and dumb U. S. Creole Frenchman was beaten to
death in open day. In San Miguel, the alcalde, at the head
of a mob, entered the store of a Mr. Rowland, whom he
robbed of a considerable amount of merchandise.4 At the
same time, the greatest excitement raged in Santa ¥6 against
Americans, whose lives appeared in imminent danger; and
a most [231] savage attack was made upon our excellent
Consul, Manuel Alvarez, Esq., who had always taken an
active interest in the welfare of American citizens.5
A few minutes after the governor had departed for San
Miguel, to encounter the Texans, a fellow named Martin, his
nephew and confidential agent, aided by a band of ferocious
sans culottes, and armed with a large knife, secretly entered
the house of the Consul, who perceived him in time, however,
to avert the blow; yet he received a severe wound in the
face during the scuffle that ensued: the rabble running in
at the same time, and vociferating, "S&quenlo ajuerat mdten-
lo!"—Drag him out!   kill him!   Mr. Alvarez doubtless
* Thomas Rowland, a native Pennsylvanian, had been a resident of New Mexico
for a number of years, and had married there. His brother John was accused
of complicity with the Texans, which led to the attack upon Rowland's property.
This was shortly restored to him, as his friends were influential in official circles.
See George W. Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fi Expedition (New York,
1844), i, pp. 271, 272, 332. John Rowland led a party of immigrants to California
(1841), where he became a leading American pioneer.— Ed.
8 Manuel Alvarez was a native of Spain, who showed much enterprise in establishing the trade between the United States and New Mexico. In 1839 he was
appointed United States consul at Santa Fe', an office which he held until the American conquest. In 1849 he took part in the new state movement, and was by the
suffrages of the people elected governor; but Congress having erected New Mexico
into a territory, the state government lapsed.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
owed his preservation partially to the consternation with
which the failure of their clandestine attempt at his life
inspired the cowardly ruffians. Instead of being punished
for this diabolical act, the principal assassin, on the contrary,
was soon after promoted in the army.
The outrage did not end here, however; for on the Consul's demanding his passport for the United States, it was
refused for nearly a month; thus detaining him until the cold
season had so far advanced, that, of his party (about fifteen
in number), two perished from the cold; and not one arrived
without being more or less frost-bitten — some very severely
— besides suffering a loss of about fifty animals from the
same cause.
Although these and other daring outrages have been duly
represented to our Government, [232] it does not appear
that any measures of redress have yet been taken.
With a view of oppressing our merchants, Gov. Armijo
had, as early as 1839, issued a decree exempting all the
natives from the tax imposed on store-houses, shops, etc.,
throwing the whole burden of impost upon foreigners and
naturalized citizens; a measure clearly and unequivocally
at variance with the treaties and stipulations entered into
between the United States and Mexico. A protest was presented without effect; when our Consul, finding all remonstrances useless, forwarded a memorial to the American
Minister at Mexico,8 who, although the vital interests of
American citizens were at stake, deemed the affair of too
little importance, perhaps, and therefore appears to have
paid no attention to it. But this system of levying excessive
taxes upon foreigners, is by no means an original invention of
Gov. Armijo. In 1835, the government of Chihuahua having
levied a contribucion de guerra for raising means to make
• Powhattan Ellis, for notice of whom, see our volume xix, p. 274, note 100
itiM 28
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
war upon the savages, who were laying waste the surrounding
country, foreign merchants, with an equal disregard for their
rights and the obligations of treaties, were taxed twenty-five
dollars each per month; while the native merchants, many
of whom possessed large haciendas, with thousands of stock,
for the especial protection of which these taxes were chiefly
imposed, paid only from five to ten dollars each. Remonstrances were presented to the governor, but in vain. In his
official [233] reply, that functionary declared, "que el gobierno
eree arregiado el reparto de sus respectivas contribuciones,"—
the government believes your respective contributions in
accordance with justice — which concluded the correspondence, and the Americans paid their twenty-five dollars per
The only tribunals of 'justice' in New Mexico are those
of the ordinary alcaldes or justices of the peace; and an appeal
from them is carried to the Supreme Court in the department
of Chihuahua. The course of litigation is exceedingly
simple and summary. The plaintiff makes his verbal complaint or demand before the alcalde, who orders him to
summon the defendant, which is done by simply saying,
11 Le llama el alcalde11 (the alcalde calls you) into his presence,
the applicant acting thus in the double capacity of constable and complainant. The summons is always verbal,
and rarely for a future time —- instant attendance being
expected. Should the defendant refuse to obey this simple
mandate (which, by the bye, is a very rare occurrence), the
alcalde sends his baston de justicia, his staff of justice, an
ordinary walking-cane, distinguished only by a peculiar
black silk tassel. This never fails to enforce compliance,
for a refusal to attend after being shown the staff, wbuld be
construed into a contempt of court, and punished accordingly.
The witnesses are sometimes sworn upon a cross cut on the
baston de justicia, or more frequently, perhaps, upon a cross 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
formed with [234] the finger and thumb. Generally speaking, however, the process of examination is gone through
without a single oath being administered; and in the absence
of witnesses, the alcalde often proceeds to sentence upon the
simple statements of the contending parties. By a species
of mutual agreement, the issue of a suit is sometimes referred
to hombres buenos (arbitrators), which is the nearest approximation that is made to trial by jury. In judicial proceedings,
however, but little, or rather no attention is paid to any code
of laws; in fact, there is scarcely one alcalde in a dozen who
knows what a law is, or who ever saw a law-book. Their
decisions, when not influenced by corrupt agencies, are controlled by the prevailing customs of the country.
In the administration of justice, there are three distinct
and privileged jurisdictions, known as fueros:7 the eclesidstico,
which provides that no member of the clergy, at least of the
rank of curate and upwards, shall ever be arraigned before a
civil tribunal, but shall be tried by their superiors in the order;
the militar, which makes a similar provision in favor not
only of commissioned officers, but of every common soldier
from the ranks; and the civil or ordinary courts, for all cases
in which the defendants are laymen. These fueros have
hitherto maintained the ecclesiastical and military classes
in perfect independence of the civil authorities. The civil, in
fact, remains in some degree subordinate to the other two
fueros; for it can, under no circumstances, [235] have any
jurisdiction whatever over them; while the lay plaintiff, in
the privileged tribunals of these, may, if unsuccessful, have
judgment entered up against him: a consequence that can
never follow the suits of the ecclesiastical or military orders
before the civil tribunals.   The judgments of the latter, in
7 Originally a fuero was any form of charter or privilege granted to a kingdom,
province, town, or person. Fueros played great part in the constitutional development of Spain and her colonies.— Ed.
m^mmm 3°
Early Western Travels
such cases, would be void. It is no wonder, then, that the
cause of freedom in Mexico has made so little progress.
Imprisonment is almost the only sort of punishment resorted to in the North. For debt, petit larceny, highway
robbery, and murder, the usual sentence is "A la c&rcel"
(to jail), where a person is likely to remain about as long for
inability to pay dos reales, as for the worst of crimes: always
provided he has not the means to pacify the offended majesty
of the law. I never heard of but one execution for murder
in New Mexico, since the declaration of independence. The
most desperate and blood-stained criminals escape with
impunity, after a few weeks of incarceration, unless the
prosecutor happens to be a person of great influence; in
which case, the prisoner is detained in the calabozo at will,
even when the offence committed has been of a trivial character. Notwithstanding this laxity in the execution of the
laws, there are few murders of any kind committed.
In case of debt, as before remarked, the delinquent is sent
to jail — provided the creditor will not accept his services.
If he will, however, the debtor becomes nolens vohns the [236]
servant of the creditor till the debt is satisfied; and, serving,
as he does, at very reduced wages, his expenses for clothing,
and other necessaries, but too often retain him in perpetual
servitude. This system does not operate, however, upon
the higher classes, yet it acts with terrible severity upon the
unfortunate poor, whose condition is but little better, if not
worse indeed than that of the slaves of the South. They
labor for fixed wages, it is true; but all they can earn is hardly
sufficient to keep them in the coarsest clothing and pay their
contingent expenses. Men's wages range from two to five
dollars a month, and those of women from fifty cents to two
dollars; in payment of which, they rarely receive any money;
but instead thereof, articles of apparel and other necessaries
at the most exorbitant prices.   The consequence is that the
mmmmmmmm 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
servant soon accumulates a debt which he is unable to pay —
his wages being often engaged for a year or two in advance.
Now, according to the usages, if not the laws of the country,
he is bound to serve his master until all arrearages are
liquidated; and is only enabled to effect an exchange of
masters, by engaging another to pay his debt, to whom he
becomes in like manner bound.
As I have already remarked, capital crimes and highway
robberies are of comparatively rare occurrence in the North,
but in smaller delinquencies, such as pilfering and petty
rogueries of every shade and description, the common classes
can very successfully compete [237] with any other people.
Nothing indeed can be left exposed or unguarded without
great danger of its being immediately stolen. No husbandman would think of leaving his axe or his hoe, or anything
else of the slightest value, lying out over night. Empty
wagons are often pillaged of every movable piece of iron,
and even the wheels have been carried away. Pieces of
merchandise are frequently purloined from the shelves, when
they happen to be in reach. In Chihuahua, goods have
actually been snatched from the counter while being exposed
to the inspection of a pretended purchaser. I once had a
trick of this kind played upon me by a couple of boys, who
made their escape through a crowd of spectators with their
booty exposed. In vain I cried "Agarren d los ladrones!"
(catch the thieves!) not a single individual moved to apprehend them. I then proffered the goods stolen, to any person who might succeed in bringing the rogues to me, but
to no purpose. In fact there seems to exist a great deal of
repugnance, even among the better classes, to apprehending
thieves; as if the mere act of informing against them was
considered dishonorable. I heard a very respectable caballe-
ro once remark that he had seen a man purloin certain
articles of merchandise, but he could not be induced to give
t. 32
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
up his name; observing, "O, I can't think of exposing the
poor fellow!"
The impunity with which delinquencies of this description
are every day committed is [238] perhaps in some degree,
the consequence of those severe enactments, such as the
Leyes de las Indias (the laws of the Indies), which rendered
many thefts and robberies punishable with death.8 The
magistracy contracted the habit of frequently winking at
crime, rather than resort to the barbarous expedients prescribed by the letter of the law. The utmost that can be
gained now by public prosecution, is the recovery of the
stolen property, if that be anywhere to be found, and occasionally a short period of imprisonment for the culprit. This
is more particularly the case when the prosecutor happens
to be a foreigner; while on the other hand, if he be the party
accused, he is likely to be subjected to very severe treatment.
A remarkable circumstance of this kind occurred in Chihuahua in the year 1835. One of our most respectable
Missouri merchants had bought a mule of a stranger, but
the animal was soon after claimed by a third person, who
proved that it had been stolen from him. The Missourian
would have been perfectly satisfied to lose the mule, and end
the matter there; but to the surprise of all, he was directly
summoned before an alcalde, and forthwith sentenced to
jail: the partial judge having labored to fix the theft upon
the innocent purchaser, while the real culprit, who was a
native, was permitted to go at large.
The love of gambling also deserves to be noticed as a
distinguishing propensity of these people. Indeed it may
well be said, without any undue stretch of imagination, that
8The "Laws of the Indies," or the codification of the ordinances, acts, etc.,
passed by the Council of the Indies and other administrative Spanish authorities
for the government of the colonies, was first issued at Madrid in 1681, under the
title RecopUacion de Leyes de los Reynos de Indias. A fourth edition, under the
direction of the Council of the Indies, issued in 1791.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Greggs Commerce of the Prairies
shop-lifting, [239] pocket-picking, and other elegant pastimes
of the same kindred, are the legitimate offspring, especially
among the lower classes, of that passion for gaming, which
in Mexico more than anywhere else — to use Madame
Calderon's language9—"is impregnated with the constitution — in man, woman, and child." It prevails in the
lowly hut, as well as in the glittering saloon; nor is the
sanctity of the gown nor the dignity of station sufficient
proof against the fascinations of this exciting vice. No one
considers it a degradation to be seen frequenting a monte
bank: the governor himself and his lady, the grave magistrate and the priestly dignity, the gay caballero and the titled
senora may all be seen staking their doubloons upon the
turn of a card; while the humbler ranchero, the hired
domestic and the ragged pauper, all press with equal avidity
to test their fortune at the same shrine. There are other
games at cards practised among these people, depending
more upon skill; but that of el monte, being one exclusively
of chance, seems to possess an all-absorbing attraction,
difficult to be conceived by the uninitiated spectator.
The following will not only serve to show the light in which
gambling is held by all classes of society, but to illustrate the
purifying effects of wealth upon character. Some twelve
or fifteen years ago there lived (or rather roamed) in Taos
a certain female of very loose habits, known as La Tules.
Finding it difficult to obtain the means of living in that [240]
district, she finally extended her wanderings to the capital.
She there became a constant attendant on one of those
pandemoniums where the favorite game of monte was dealt
pro bono publico.   Fortune, at first, did not seem inclined
• Madame Frances Erskine Inglis Calderon de la Barca was a Scotchwoman
married to a Spaniard who was minister to the United States, and later to
Mexico. While in the latter country, she published Life in Mexico (London,
J843)» aa interesting, racy series of letters on the manners and customs of Spanish
America.— Ed. 34
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
to smile upon her efforts, and for some years she spent her
days in lowliness and misery. At last her luck turned, as
gamblers would say, and on one occasion she left the bank
with a spoil of several hundred dollars! This enabled her
to open a bank of her own, and being favored by a continuous
run of good fortune, she gradually rose higher and higher in
the scale of affluence, until she found herself in possession
of a very handsome fortune. In 1843, she sent to the
United States some ten thousand dollars to be invested in
goods. She still continues her favorite 'amusement,' being
now considered the most expert 'monte dealer' in all Santa
Fe\ She is openly received in the first circles of society:
I doubt, in truth, whether there is to be found in the city a
lady of more fashionable reputation than this same Tules,
now known as Seiiora Dona Gertrudes Barcel6.
Among the multitude of games which seem to constitute
the real business of life in New Mexico, that of chuza evidently presents the most attractions to ladies; and they
generally lay very heavy wagers upon the result. It is
played with little balls, and bears some faint resemblance
to what is called roulette. Bull-baiting and cock-fighting,
about which so much has been said by every traveller in
Mexico, [241] are also very popular 'amusements' in the
North, and generally lead to the same excesses and the same
results as gaming. The cock-pit rarely fails to be crowded
on Sundays and other feast days; on which occasions the
church, the ball-room, the gambling-house, and the cock-pit
look like so many opposition establishments; for nothing
is more common than to see people going from one place to
another by alternate fits, just as devotional feeling or love of
pleasure happens to prompt them.
One of the most attractive sports of the rancheros and the
peasantry, and that which, more than any other, calls for
the exercise of skill and dexterity, is that called correr el gallo, 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
practised generally on St. John's day. A common cock or
hen is tied by the feet to * some swinging limb of a tree, so as
to be barely within the reach of a man on horseback: or the
fowl is buried alive in a small pit in the ground leaving only
the head above the surface. In either case, the racers,
passing at full speed, grapple the head of the fowl, which
being well greased, generally slips out of their fingers. As
soon as some one, more dextrous than the rest, has succeeded
in tearing it loose, he claps spurs to his steed, and endeavors
to escape with the prize. He is hotly pursued, however,
by the whole sporting crew, and the first who overtakes him
tries to get possession of the fowl, when a strife ensues, during
which the poor chicken is torn into atoms. Should the
holder of the trophy be able to outstrip his pursuers, he
carries [242] it to a crowd of fair spectators and presents it
to his mistress, who takes it to the fandango which usually
follows, as a testimony of the prowess of her lover.
Among the vaqueros, and even among persons of distinction, el coleo (tailing) is a much nobler exercise than the
preceding, and is also generally reserved for days of festivity.
For this sport the most untractable ox or bull is turned
loose upon a level common, when all the parties who propose
to join in the amusement, being already mounted, start off
in pursuit of him. The most successful rider, as soon as he
gets near enough to the bull, seizes him by the tail, and with
a sudden manoeuvre, whirls him topsy-turvy upon the plain —
to the no little risk of breaking his own neck, should his
horse stumble or be tripped by the legs of the falling bull.
Respecting fandangos, I will observe that this term, as it
is used in New Mexico, is never applied to any particular
dance, but is the usual designation for those ordinary assemblies where dancing and frolicking are carried on; baile
(or ball) being generally applied to those of a higher grade.
The former especially are very frequent; for nothing is more
Hat 36
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
general, throughout the country, and with all classes than
dancing. From the gravest priest to the buffoon — from
the richest nabob to the beggar — from the governor to the
ranchero — from the soberest matron to the flippant belle —
from the grandest seilora to the cocinera — all partake of this
exhilarating [243] amusement. To judge from the quantity
of tuned instruments which salute the ear almost every night
in the week, one would suppose that a perpetual carnival
prevailed everywhere. The musical instruments used at
the bailes and fandangos are usually the fiddle and bandolin,
or guitarra, accompanied in some villages by the tombS or
little Indian drum. The musicians occasionally acquire
considerable proficiency in the use of these instruments.
But what most oddly greets, and really outrages most Protestant ears, is the accompaniment of divine service with
the very same instruments, and often with the same tunes.
Of all the petty vices practised by the New Mexicans, the
vicio inocente of smoking among ladies, is the most intolerable; and yet it is a habit of which the loveliest and the most
refined equally partake. The puro or cigarro10 is seen in
the mouths of all: it is handed round in the parlor, and
introduced at the dinner table — even in the ball-room it is
presented to ladies as regularly as any [244] other species of
'refreshment;' and in the dance the senorita may often be
seen whirling round with a lighted cigarrito in her mouth.
The belles of the Southern cities are very frequently fur-
10 The puro is a common cigar of pure tobacco; but the term cigarro or cigarrito
is applied to those made of cut tobacco rolled up in a strip of paper or corn-husk.
The latter are by far in the most general use in New Mexico, even among the men,
and are those only smoked by the females. In this province cigarros are
rarely sold in the shops, being generally manufactured by every one just as
they are needed. Their expertness in this 'accomplishment' is often remarkable.
The mounted vaquero will take out his guagito (his little tobacco-flask), his packet
of hojas (or prepared husks), and his flint, steel, etc.,— make his cigarrito, strike
fire and commence smoking in a minute's lime — all while at full speed: and
the next minute will perhaps lazo the wildest bull without interrupting his
smoke.— Gregg. I-
1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
nished with tenazitas de oro (little golden tongs), to hold
the cigar with, so as to prevent their delicate fingers from
being polluted either with the stain or scent of tobacco;
forgetting at the same time its disagreeable effects upon
the lips and breath.
Notwithstanding their numerous vices, however, I should
do the New Mexicans the justice to say that they are but
little addicted to inebriety and its attendant dissipations.
Yet this doubtlessly results to a considerable degree from
the dearness of spirituous liquors, which virtually places them
beyond the reach of the lower classes.
Military Hierarchy of Mexico — Religious Superstitions — Legend of
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe — A profane version of the Story —
A curious Plan for manufacturing Water — Saints and Images —
Processions — How to make it Rain — The Sacred Host — Fanaticism and Murder — Honors paid to a Bishop — Servility to Priests
— Attendance at Public Worship — New Mexicans in Church —
The Vesper Bells — Passion Week and the Ceremonies pertaining
thereto — Ridiculous Penitencia — Whitewashing of Criminals —
Matrimonial Connexions and Mode of Contracting them —Restrictions upon Lovers — Onerous Fees paid for Marriages and Burials
— Anecdote of a Ranchero — Ditto of a Servant and a Widow, illustrative of Priestly Extortion — Modes of Burial, and Burial Ground
of the Heretics.
The Mexicans seem the legitimate descendants of the
subjects of 'His Most Catholic Majesty;' for the Romish
faith is not only the religion established by law, but the only
one tolerated by the constitution: a system of republican
liberty wholly incomprehensible to the independent and
tolerant spirits of the United States. Foreigners only of
other creeds, in accordance with treaty stipulations, can
worship privately within their own houses.11 The Mexicans,
indeed, talk of a 'union of Church and State:' they should
rather say a 'union of Church and Army;' for, as has [246]
u Religious freedom, and entire separation of church and state, were secured
in Mexico, after a long and bitter struggle, by the constitution of 1873.— Ed. 38
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
already been shown, the civil authority is so nearly merged
in the military and the ecclesiastical, that the government,
if not a military hierarchy, is something so near akin that it is
difficult to draw the distinction. As Mr. Mayer" very
appropriately remarks, you are warned of the double
dominion of the army and the church "by the constant sound
of the drum and the bell, which ring in your ears from morn
to midnight, and drown the sounds of industry and labor."
In the variety and grossness of popular superstitions,
Northern Mexico can probably compete with any civilized
country in the world. Others may have their extravagant
traditions, their fanatical prejudices, their priestly impostures,
but here the popular creed seems to be the embodiment of as
much that is fantastic and improbable in idolatrous worship, as it is possible to clothe in the garb of a religious faith.
It would fill volumes to relate one-half of the wonderful
miracles and extraordinary apparitions said to have occurred
during and since the conquest of the Indian Pueblos and
their conversion to the Romish faith. Their character
may be inferred from the following national legend of La
MaraviUosa Aparicion de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe —
anglice, the marvellous apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe,— which, in some one of its many traditionary shapes,
is generally believed throughout the republic. I have seen
some half a dozen written versions of this celebrated tradition, and heard about as many oral [247] ones; but no two
agree in all the particulars. However, that which has
received most currency informs us, that, on the 12th of
December, 1531, an Indian called Juan Diego, while passing
over the barren hfll of Tepeyacac (about a league northward
12 Brantz Mayer (1809-79), a native of Baltimore, Maryland, historian and
diplomat. In 1843 he was secretary of legation at Mexico, and upon his return
published Mexico as it was and as it is (New York, 1844), to which book Gregg
here refers. Mayer was the author of several other works, both on Mexico and
American history, and founder of the Maryland Historical Society.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
from the city of Mexico), in quest of medicinal herbs, had
his attention suddenly arrested by the fragrance of flowers,
and the sound of delightful music; and on looking up, he
saw an angelic sort of figure directly before him. Being
terrified he attempted to flee; but the apparition calling
to him by name, " Juan Diego," said she, "go tell the bishop
to have me a place of worship erected on this very spot."
The Indian replied that he could not return, as he was
seeking remedios for a dying relative. But the figure bade
him to do as commanded, and have no further care about
his relative — that he was then well. Juan Diego went
to the city, but being unable to procure an audience from the
bishop, he concluded he had been acting under a delusion,
and again set off for his remedios. Upon ascending the
same hill, however, the apparition again accosted him, and
hearing his excuse, upbraided him for his want of faith and
energy; and said, "Tell the bishop that it is Guadalupe, the
Virgin Mary, come to dwell amongst and protect the Mexicans, who sends thee." The Indian, returning again to the
city, forced his way into the presence of the bishop, who,
like a good sensible man, received the messenger with jeers,
and treated him as a maniac; [248] telling him finally to
bring some sign, which, if really the Mother of God, his
directress could readily furnish.
The perplexed Indian left the bishop's presence resolved
to avoid further molestation from his spiritual acquaintance,
by taking another route; yet, when near the place of his first
meeting, he again encountered the apparition, who, hearing
the result of his mission, ordered him to climb a naked rock
hard by, and collect a bouquet of flowers which he would
find growing there. Juan Diego, albeit without faith,
obeyed, when, to his surprise he found the flowers referred
to, and brought them to the Virgin, who, throwing them into
his tilma, commanded him to carry them to the bishop; say-
1 I
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
ing, "When he sees these he will believe, as he well knows
that flowers do not bloom at this season, much less upon that
barren rock." The humble messenger now with more courage sought the bishop's presence, and threw out the blooming credentials of his mission before him; when lo! to the
astonishment of all, and to the entire conviction of his
Senoria ilustrisima, the perfect image of the apparition
appeared imprinted on the inside of the tilma.13
The reverend Prelate now fully acknowledged the divinity
of the picture, and in a [249] conclave of ecclesiastics convened for the purpose, he pronounced it the image of La
verdadera Virgen and protectress of Mexico. A splendid
chapel was soon after erected upon the spot designated in
the mandate, in which the miraculous painting was deposited,
where it is preserved to the present day. In the suburbs of
every principal city in the republic, there is now a chapel
specially dedicated to Nuestra Seflora de Guadalupe, where
coarse resemblances of the original picture are to be seen.
Rough paintings of the same, of various dimensions, are
also to be met with in nearly every dwelling, from the palace
to the most miserable hovel.   The image, with an adapted
13 This is a kind of mantle or loose covering worn by the Indians, which, in the
present instance, was made of the coarse filaments of a species of maguey, and a
little resembled the common coffee sacks. The painting, as it necessarily must be
on such a material, is said to be coarse, and represents the Virgin covered with a
blue robe bespangled with stars,— Gregg.
mn 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
motto, has also been stamped upon medals, which are swung
about the necks of the faithful.14
[250] As a further confirmation of the miracle, it is also
told, that when Juan Diego returned to his home, he found
his relative in good health — that he had suddenly risen
from the last extremity about the time of the former's meeting
with the Virgin.
Now comes the profane version of the story, which the
skeptical have set afloat, as the most reasonable one; but
against which, in the name of orthodoxy, I feel bound to
enter my protest. To the better understanding of this
'explanatory tradition,' it may be necessary to premise that
the name of Guadalupe was already familiar to the Spaniards,
the Virgin Mary having, it is said, long before appeared in
Spain, under the same title; on which occasion an order of
monks, styled Frailes Guadalupanos, had been instituted.
One of these worthy fathers who had been sent as a missionary to Mexico, finding the Indians rather stubborn and
unyielding, conceived the plan of flattering their national
vanity by fabricating a saint suited for the occasion. The
Guadalupano had a poor friend who was an excellent
painter, to whom he said, one day, "Take this tilma"—
presenting him one of the coarsest and most slazy texture
[251] (a sort of manta de guangoche); "paste it upon canvass, and paint me thereon the handsomest effigy of Nuestra
Sefiora de Guadalupe that your fancy can portray."   When
14 The accompanying cut represents both sides of a medal of " Nuestra Senora
de Guadalupe de Mexico," of which, as I have been informed, 216,000 were struck
at Birmingham in the year 1831, designed for the Mexican market. Similar medals
are worn by nearly nine-tenths of the population of Northern Mexico. On one
side, as will be seen, the Virgin is represented in her star-spangled robe, supported
by a cherub and the moon under her feet: a design, which, it has been suggested,
was most probably drawn from Revelation xii. 1. The date, "A. 1805," is that
perhaps of some one of the innumerable miracles, which, according to fame in
Mexico, have been wrought by the Virgin Guadalupe. The motto, "Non fecit
taliter omni nationi" (She "hath not dealt so with any nation") which is found on
the reverse of the medal, is extracted from Psalm cxlvii. 20.— Gregg.
ag^HH| 42
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
this was done according to order, and the tilma separated
from the canvass, the picture appeared somewhat miraculous.
Viewed very closely, it showed exceedingly dim; but upon
receding to some distance, so that the eye could embrace a
larger field of the open texture, it appeared quite distinct
and beautiful. This effect is often alluded to at the present
day, and easily as it might be accounted for upon philosophical principles, I have heard many an ignorant Mexican
declare, that la Santisima Virgen concealed herself from
such as profaned her shrine by a too near approach, and
only shone forth in all her brilliancy to those who kept at a
respectful distance. But in conclusion, the story relates,
that a suitable damsel being selected and decked out to
represent the Virgin, the affair was played off as it has been
As regards the miracle of the fresh flowers in December
the profanos say, that there was nothing very wonderful about
it, as flowers were known to bloom in the lowlands, and
only a few leagues from the spot where the affair took place,
at all seasons of the year; implying that these had been
engrafted upon the rock for the occasion. There are some
who go so far as to insinuate that the bishop and other
ecclesiastics were privy to the whole affair, and that every
precaution had been [252] taken to see the Indian who
played first fiddle in the matter, provided with a tilma,
similar to the one on which the image of the Virgin was
painted, and that this was artfully slipped in the place of the
former, which the Indian had doffed when he climbed the
rock after the flowers.— I have not seen the original portrait, but most of the copies and imitations I have met with,
represent the Virgin with that peculiarly tawny complexion
which was probably deemed indispensable to conciliate the
prejudices of the aborigines.
k 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
The reader may reconcile the foregoing discrepancies in
the best way he can; all that I have to add is, that the
apparition having been canonized by the Pope, a belief in it
now constitutes as much a part of the religious faith of the
Mexicans, as any article of the Apostolic Creed. To judge
from the blind and reverential awe in which the Virgin
Guadalupe is held by the lowly and the ignorant, one
would suppose her to be the first person in the Divinity,
for to her their vows are directed, their prayers offered up,
and all their confessions made.
Among the many traditions implicitly believed in by the
people, and which tend to obstruct the advancement of
knowledge, there is one equally as amusing and extravagant
as the foregoing, which has been gravely recounted by the
present Vicar of New Mexico and ex-delegate to Congress.
During the memorable insurrection of 1680, the Pueblo of
San Felipe was about the only one that [253] remained faithful to the Spaniards in all the North. It was during that
exciting period that the padre of another Pueblo took refuge
among them. Being besieged by their neighbors and their
communication with the water entirely cut off, they applied
for advice to the reverend padre, who bade them not despair,
as he had it in his power to supply them with water. He
then began to pray very fervently, after which he opened a
vein in each of his arms, from whence there flowed two such
copious streams of water that all fears of being reduced by
thirst were completely allayed !15
16 This story is apochryphal, since the pueblo was besieged neither during the
revolt of 1680 not that of 1696. The pueblo of San Felipe is of Queres origin, and
was known in the seventeenth century. Its first friar was Cristobal Quinones, who
died in 1609. The pueblo was faithful to the Spanish, its people killing none of
that nation during the revolt. It now occupied its fourth site in Sandoval County,
at the foot of a mesa which is crowned with the ruins of an earlier site. It is the
southernmost pueblo of Queres stock, and had (1903) a population of five hundred
and sixteen.— En. 44
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
It is a part of the superstitious blindness of these people
to believe that every one of their legion of canonized saints
possesses the power of performing certain miracles; and their
aid is generally invoked on all occasions of sickness and
distress. The kindest office, therefore, that the friends
of a sick person can perform, is to bring forward the image
of some of those saints whose healing powers have been
satisfactorily tested. The efficacy of these superstitious
remedies will not be difficult to account for, when the
powerful influence of the imagination upon disease is taken
into consideration.
The images of patron saints are never put in such general
requisition, however, as in seasons of severe drought. The
priests, being generally expert at guessing the approach
of a pluvial period, take good care not to make confident
promises till they have substantial [254] reason to anticipate
a speedy fulfilment of their prophecies. When the fitting
season draws nigh, they carry out the image of Nuestra
Senora de Guadalupe, or that of some other favorite saint,
and parade about the streets, the fields and the meadows,
followed by all the men, women, and children of the neighborhood, in solemn procession. Should the clouds condescend to vouchsafe a supply of rain within a week or
two of this general humiliation, no one ever thinks of begrudging the scores of dollars that have been paid to the
priests for bringing about so happy a result.
Speaking of processions, I am reminded of another
peculiar custom so prevalent in Mexico, that it never
fails to attract the attention of strangers. This is the
passage of the Sacred Host to the residence of persons
dangerously ill, for the purpose of administering to them
the Extreme Unction. In New Mexico, however, this
procession is not attended with so much ostentatious display as it is in the South, the paradise of ecclesiastics, where
ii 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
it is conveyed in a black coach drawn by a pair of black
mules, accompanied by armed soldiers and followed by
crowds of leperos of all sexes and ages. During the procession of the Host, two church-bells of different tones are
kept sounding by alternate strokes. Also the carriage
is always preceded by a bell-man tinkling a little bell in
regular time, to notify all within hearing of its approach,
that they may be prepared to pay it due homage. When.
[255] this bell is heard, all those that happen to be within
sight of the procession, though at ever so great a distance,
instantly kneel and remain in that position till it has passed
out of sight. On these occasions, if an American happens
to be within hearing, he endeavors to avoid the cortege,
by turning the corner of a street or entering a shop or the
house of a friend; for although it may be expedient, and
even rational, to conform with the customs and ceremonies
of these countries we are sojourning in, very few Protestants
would feel disposed to fall on their knees before a coach
freighted with frail mortals pretending to represent the
Godhead! I am sorry to say that non-compliants are
frequently insulted and sometimes pelted with stones by
the rabble. Even a foreign artisan was once massacred
in the Mexican metropolis because he refused to come out
of his shop, where he was kneeling, and perform the act
of genuflexion in the street!
This abject idolatry sometimes takes a still more humiliating aspect, and descends to the worship of men in the
capacity of religious rulers. On the occasion of the Bishop
of Durango's visit to Santa Fe" in 1833, an event which
had not taken place for a great many years, the infatuated
population hailed his arrival with as much devotional
enthusiasm as if it had been the second advent of the Messiah. Magnificent preparations were made everywhere
for his reception: the streets were swept, the roads and
mmmWmm 46
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
bridges on his route repaired [256] and decorated; and
from every window in the city there hung such a profusion
of fancy curtains and rich cloths that the imagination was
carried back to those glowing descriptions of enchanted
worlds which one reads of in the fables of necromancers.
I must observe, however, that there is a custom in all the
towns of Mexico (which it would not be safe to neglect),
providing that whenever a religious procession takes place,
all the doors and windows facing the street along which it
is to pass, shall be decorated with shawls, carpets, or fancy
cloths, according to the means and capabilities of the proprietor. During the bishop's sojourn in Santa F£, which,
to the great joy of the inhabitants, lasted for several weeks,
he never appeared in the streets but that 'all true Catholics'
who were so fortunate as to obtain a glimpse of his Seftoria
Ilustrisima immediately dropped upon their knees, and
never moved from that position till the mitred priest had
either vouchsafed his benediction or had disappeared. Even
the principal personages of the city would not venture to
address him till they had first knelt at his feet and kissed
his 'pastoral ring.' This, however, is only a heightened
picture of what occurs every day in the intercourse between
the rancheros and the common padres of the country. The
slavish obsequiousness of the lower classes towards these
pampered priests is almost incredible.
No people are more punctual in their attendance upon
public worship, or more exact [257] in the performance of
the external rites of religion, than the New Mexicans. A
man would about as soon think of venturing in twenty
fathoms of water without being able to swim, as of undertaking a journey without hearing mass first. These religious exercises, however, partake but seldom of the character of true devotion; for people may be seen chattering
or tittering while in the act of crossing themselves, or mut- 1831-1839]     Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
tering some formal prayer. Indeed, it is the common
remark of strangers, that they are wont to wear much
graver countenances while dancing at a fandango than
during their devotional exercises at the foot of the altar.
In nothing, however, is their observance of the outward
forms of religion more remarkable than in their deportment
every day towards the close of twilight, when the large bell
of the Parroquia peals for la oracion, or vespers.19 All
conversation is instantly suspended — all labor ceases —
people of all classes, whether on foot or on horseback, make
a sudden halt — even the laden porter, groaning under
the weight of an insupportable burden, stops in the midst
of his career and stands still. An almost breathless silence
reigns throughout the town, disturbed only by the occasional
sibilations of the devout multitude: all of which, accompanied by the slow heavy peals of a large sonorous bell,
afford a scene truly solemn and appropriate. At the expiration of about two minutes the charm is suddenly broken
by the clatter of livelier-toned bells; and a buenas [258]
tar des (good evening) to those present closes the ceremony:
when presto, all is bustle and confusion again — the colloquial chit-chat is resumed — the smith plies upon his
anvil with redoubled energy — the clink of the hammer
simultaneously resounds in every direction — the wayfarers are again in motion,— both pleasure and business, in
short, assume their respective sway.
Although the Catholics have a saint for each day in the
year, the number of canonized fiestas in which labor is prohibited has been somewhat reduced in Mexico. La Sema-
na Santa, or Passion Week, is perhaps the period when
the religious feeling, such as it is, is most fully excited:
18 The Parroquia, or cathedral of Santa Fe", stands upon the site of, and partially
incorporates the early building of 1627.    It is built of light brown stone, and
flanked by two bell towers.— Ed.
*/ ■ 48
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Viernes Santo (Good Friday), especially, is observed with
great pomp and splendor. An image of Christ large as
life, nailed to a huge wooden cross, is paraded through
the streets, in the midst of an immense procession, accompanied by a glittering array of carved images, representing
the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and several others;
while the most notorious personages of antiquity, who
figured at that great era of the World's history,— the centurion with a band of guards, armed with lances, and apparelled in the costume supposed to have been worn in
those days,— may be seen bestriding splendidly caparisoned
horses, in the breathing reality of flesh and blood. Taking
it all in all, this spectacle,— the ceremonies and manoeuvres
which attend its career through the densely crowded and
ornamented [259] streets,— are calculated to produce impressions of a most confused description, in which regret and
melancholy may be said to form no inconsiderable share.
It has been customary for great malefactors to propitiate
Divine forgiveness by a cruel sort of penitencia, which
generally takes place during the Semana Santa. I once
chanced to be in the town of Tom617 on Good Friday,
when my attention was arrested by a man almost naked,
bearing, in imitation of Simon, a huge cross upon his shoulders, which, though constructed of the lightest wood, must
have weighed over a hundred pounds. The long end
dragged upon the ground, as we have seen it represented
in sacred pictures, and about the middle swung a stone of
immense dimensions, appended there for the purpose of
making the task more laborious. Not far behind followed
another equally destitute of clothing, with his whole body
wrapped in chains and cords, which seemed buried in the
17 Tome" is a town on the east bank of the Rio Grande, some distance below
Albuquerque. It was at one time the seat of Valencia County, and in 1900 had a
population of about eight hundred.— Ed.
mm 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
muscles, and which so cramped and confined him that
he was scarcely able to keep pace with the procession.
The person who brought up the rear presented a still more
disgusting aspect. He walked along with a patient and
composed step, while another followed close behind belaboring him lustily with a whip, which he flourished with
all the satisfaction of an amateur; but as the lash was pointed
only with a tuft of untwisted sea-grass, its application merely
served to keep open the wounds upon the penitent's [260]
back, which had been scarified, as I was informed, with
the keen edge of a flint, and was bleeding most profusely.
The blood was kept in perpetual flow by the stimulating
juice of certain herbs, carried by a third person, into which
the scourger frequently dipped his lash. Although the
actors in this tragical farce were completely muffled, yet
they were well known to many of the by-standers, one of
whom assured me that they were three of the most notorious
rascals in the country. By submitting to this species of
penance, they annually received complete absolution of
their past year's sins, and, thus 'purified,' entered afresh
on the old career of wickedness and crime.
In New Mexico, the institution of marriage changes the
legal rights of the parties, but it scarcely affects their moral
obligations. It is usually looked upon as a convenient
cloak for irregularities, which society less willingly tolerates
in the lives of unmarried women. Yet when it is considered
that the majority of matches are forced and ill-assorted,
some idea may be formed of the little incitement that is
given to virtue. There are very few parents who would
stoop to consult a young lady's wishes before concluding
a marriage contract, nor would maidens, generally, ever
dream of a matrimonial connection unless proposed first
by the father. The lover's proposals are, upon the same
principle, made in writing direct to the parents themselves,
ft r~-*m&*r~
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
and without the least deference to the wishes or inclinations
[261] of the young lady whose hand is thus sought in marriage. The tender emotions engendered between lovers
during walks and rambles along the banks of silent streams,
are never experienced in this country; for the sexes are
seldom permitted to converse or be together alone. In
short, instances have actually occurred when the betrothed
couple have never seen each other till brought to the altar
to be joined in wedlock.
Among the humbler classes, there are still more powerful
causes calculated to produce irregularity of life; not the
least of which is the enormous fee that must be paid to the
curate for tying the matrimonial knot. This system of
extortion is carried so far as to amount very frequently
to absolute prohibition: for the means of the bridegroom
are often insufficient for the exigency of the occasion; and
the priests seldom consent to join people in wedlock until
the money has been secured to them. The curates being
without control, the marriage rates are somewhat irregular,
but they usually increase in proportion to the character
of the ceremonies and to the circumstances of the parties.
The lowest (about twenty dollars) are adapted to the simplest form, solemnized in church at mass; but with the
excuse of any extra service and ceremonies, particularly
if performed at a private house, the fees are increased often
as high as several hundred dollars: I have heard of $500
being paid for a marriage ceremony. The following communication, which [262] appeared in a Chihuahua paper
under the signature of "Un Rancher0,^ affords some illustration of the grievances of the plebeians in this respect.
Literally translated it runs thus:
"Messrs. Editors of the Noticioso de Chihuahua:
"Permit me, through your paper, to say a few words in
print, as those of my pen have been unsuccessfully em-
I 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the JPrairies
ployed with the euros of Allende and Jimenez, to whom I
applied the other day for the purpose of ascertaining their
legal charge to marry one of my sons. The following
simple and concise answer is all that I have been able to
elicit from either of these ecclesiastics:—lThe marriage
fees are a hundred and nineteen dollars.1 I must confess
that I was completely suffocated when I heard this outrageous demand upon my poor purse; and did I not pride
myself on being a true Apostolic Roman Catholic, and
were it not that the charming graces of my intended daughter-in-law have so captivated my son that nothing but marriage will satisfy him, I would assuredly advise him to contrive some other arrangement with his beloved, which
might not be so ruinous to our poor purse; for reflect that
$119 are the life and all of a poor ranchero. If nothing
else will do, I shall have to sell my few cows (mis vaquitas)
to help my son out of this difficulty."—The 'Ranchero'
then appeals to the Government to remedy such evils, by
imposing some salutary restrictions upon the clergy; and
concludes by saying, "If this is not done, I will [263] never
permit either of my remaining three sons to marry."
This article was certainly an effort of boldness against
the priesthood, which may have cost the poor 'Ranchero'
a sentence of ex-communication. Few of his, countrymen
would venture on a similar act of temerity; and at least
nine-tenths profess the most profound submission to their
religious rulers. Being thus bred to look upon their
priests as infallible and holy samples of piety and virtue,
we should not be so much surprised at the excesses of the
'flock' when a large portion of the pastores, the padres
themselves, are foremost in most of the popular vices of
the country: first at the fandango — first at the gaming
table — first at the cock-pit — first at bacchanalian orgies
pft ■"•*J#^
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
— and by no means last in the contraction of those
liaisons which are so emphatically prohibited by their
The baptismal and burial fees (neither of which can be
avoided without incurring the charge of heresy) are also
a great terror to the candidates for married life. "If I
marry," says the poor yeoman, "my family must go unclad
to baptize my children; and if any of them should die,
we must starve ourselves to pay the burial charges."
The fee for baptism, it is true, is not so exorbitant,
and in accordance to custom, is often paid by the padrino
or sponsor; but the burial costs are almost equally extravagant with those of marriage, varying in proportion to the
age and [264] circumstances of the deceased. A faithful
Mexican servant in my employ at Chihuahua, once solicited
forty dollars to bury his mother. Upon my expressing
some surprise at the exorbitancy of the amount, he replied
—' 'That is what the cura demands, sir, and if I do not
pay it my poor mother will remain unburied!" Thus this
man was obliged to sacrifice several months' wages, to
pamper the avarice of a vicious and mercenary priest. On
another occasion, a poor widow in Santa ¥6, begged a little
medicine for her sick child: "Not," said the disconsolate
mother, "that the life of the babe imports me much, for I
know the angelito will go directly to heaven; but what shall
I do to pay the priest for burying it? He will take my
house and all from me — and I shall be turned desolate
into the street!"—and so saying, she commenced weeping
Indigent parents are thus frequently under the painful
necessity of abandoning and disowning their deceased children, to avoid the responsibility of burial expenses. To
this end the corpse is sometimes deposited in some niche
or corner of the church during the night;  and upon being 1831-1839I      Greggs Commerce of the Prairies
found in the morning, the priest is bound to inter it gratis,
unless the parent can be discovered, in which case the latter
would be liable to severe castigation, besides being bound
to pay the expenses.
Children that have not been baptized are destined, according to the popular faith, to a kind of negative existence in the
world of [265] spirits, called Limbo, where they remain for ever
without either suffering punishment or enjoying happiness.
Baptized infants, on the other hand, being considered without sin, are supposed to enter at once into the joys of heaven.
The deceased child is then denominated an angelito (a little
angel), and is interred with joy and mirth instead of grief
and wailing. It is gaudily bedecked with fanciful attire
and ornaments of tinsel and flowers; and being placed upon
a small bier, it is carried to the grave by four children as
gaily dressed as their circumstances will allow; accompanied by musicians using the instruments and playing the
tunes of the fandangos; and the little procession is nothing
but glee and merriment.
In New Mexico the lower classes are very rarely, if ever,
buried in coffins: the corpse being simply wrapped in a
blanket, or some other covering, and in that rude attire
consigned to its last home. It is truly shocking to a sensitive mind to witness the inhuman treatment to which the
remains of the dead are sometimes subjected. There being
nothing to indicate the place of the previous graves, it not
unfrequently happens that the partially decayed relics of a
corpse are dug up and forced to give place to the more
recently deceased, when they are again thrown with the
earth into the new grave with perfect indifference. The
operation of filling up the grave especially, is particularly
repulsive; the earth being pounded down with a large maul,
[266] as fast as it is thrown in upon the unprotected corpse,
with a force sufficient to crush a delicate frame to atoms. I
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
As the remains of heretics are not permitted to pollute
either the church-yard or Campo Santo, those Americans
who have died in Santa ¥6, have been buried on a hill which
overlooks the town to the northward. The corpses have
sometimes been disinterred and robbed of the shroud in
which they were enveloped; so that, on a few occasions, it
has been deemed expedient to appoint a special watch for
the protection of the grave.
The Pueblos — Their Character for Sobriety, Honesty, and Industry
— Traditional Descent from Montezuma — Their Languages —
Former and present Population — The Pueblo of Pecos — Singular
Habits of that ill-fated Tribe — Curious Tradition — Montezuma
and the Sun — Legend of a Serpent — Religion and Government
— Secret Council — Laws and Customs — Excellent Provisions
against Demoralization — Primitive Pastimes of the Pueblos —
Their Architecture — Singular Structures of Taos, and other novel
Fortifications — Primitive state of the Arts among the Pueblos —
Style of Dress, Weapons, etc.— Their Diet — The Guayave.
Allusion has so frequently been made to the aboriginal
tribes of New Mexico, known as Los Pueblos, that I think
I shall not be trespassing too much upon the patience of
the reader, in glancing rapidly at some of the more conspicuous features of their national habits and character.
Although the term Pueblo in Spanish literally means
the people, and their towns, it is here specifically applied
to the Christianized Indians (as well as their villages)—
to those aborigines whom the Spaniards not only subjected
to their laws, but to an acknowledgment of the Romish
faith, and upon whom they forced baptism and the cross
in exchange for [268] the vast possessions of which they
robbed them. All that was left them was, to each Pueblo
a league or two of land situated around their villages, the
conquerors reserving to themselves at least ninety-nine
hundredths of the whole domain as a requital for their
WHIIWI 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
When these regions were first discovered it appears that
the inhabitants lived in comfortable houses and cultivated
the soil, as they have continued to do up to the present
time. Indeed, they are now considered the best horticulturists in the country, furnishing most of the fruits and
a large portion of the vegetable supplies that are to be found
in the markets. They were until very lately the only
people in New Mexico who cultivated the grape. They
also maintain at the present time considerable herds of
cattle, horses, etc. They are, in short, a remarkably sober
and industrious race, conspicuous for morality and honesty,
and very little given to quarrelling or dissipation, except
when they have had much familiar intercourse with the
Hispano-Mexican population.
Most of these Pueblos call themselves the descendants
of Montezuma, although it would appear that they could
only have been made acquainted with the history of that
monarch, by the Spaniards; as this province is nearly two
thousand miles from the ancient kingdom of Mexico. At
the time of the conquest they must have been a very powerful people — numbering near a hundred villages, as existing
[269] ruins would seem to indicate; but they are now reduced
to about twenty, which are scattered in various parts of
the territory.18
There are but three or four different languages spoken
among them, and these, indeed, may be distantly allied
to each other. Those of Taos, Picuris, Isleta, and perhaps
some others, speak what has been called the Piro language.
A large portion of the others, viz., those of San Juan, Santa
18 On the subject of Pueblo Indians, consult T. Donaldson, Moqui Pueblo
Indians of Arizona and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico (Washington, 1893), extra
bulletin of eleventh census; John T. Short, North Americans of Antiquity (New
York, 1880); A. F. A. Bandelier, Archaeological Institute of America Papers,
American Series, i-iv; N. O. G. Nordenskiold, Cliff-dwellers of the Mesa Verde
(Chicago and Stockholm, 1893); C. F. Lummis, Land of Poco Tiempo (New York,
mm 56
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Clara, Nambfj, Pojuaque, Tezuque, and some others,
speak Tegua, having all been originally known by this
general name; and those of Cochitf, Santo Domingo, San
Felipe, and perhaps Sandia, speak the same tongue, though
they seem formerly to have been distinguished as Queres.
The numerous tribes that inhabited the highlands between
Rio del Norte and Pecos, as those of Pecos, Cienega, Galisteo,
etc., were known anciently as Tagnos, but these are now
all extinct; yet their language is said to be spoken by those
of Jemez and others of that section. Those further to
the westward19 [270] are perhaps allied to the Navajoes.
Though all these Pueblos speak their native languages
among themselves, a great many of them possess a smattering of Spanish, sufficient to carry on their intercourse with
the Mexicans.20
The population of these Pueblos will average nearly
five hundred souls each (though some hardly exceed one
hundred), making an aggregate of nine or ten thousand.
At the time of the original conquest, at the close of the
sixteenth century, they were, as has been mentioned, much,
19 Of these, the Pueblo of Zuhi has been celebrated for honesty and hospitality.
The inhabitants mostly profess the Catholic faith, but have now no curate. They
cultivate the soil, manufacture, and possess considerable quantities of stock. Their
village is over 150 miles west of the Rio del Norte, on the waters of the Colorado
of the West, and is believed to contain between 1,000 and 1,500 souls. The "seven
Pueblos of Moqui" (as they are called) are a similar tribe living a few leagues
beyond. They formerly acknowledged the government and religion of the Spaniards, but have long since rejected both, and live in a state of independence and
paganism. Their dwellings, however, like those of Zufii, are similar to those of
the interior Pueblos, and they are equally industrious and agricultural, and still
more ingenious in their manufacturing. The language of the Moquis or Moquinos
is said to differ but little from that of the Navajoes.— Gregg.
Comment by Ed. For the Moki (properly Hopi), see Pattie's Narrative, in our
volume xviii, p. 130, note 64. The articles by Frank H. Cushing in American
Bureau of Ethnology Reports first directed attention to the Zufii; consult also Ban-
delier, "Outline of Documentary History of Zufii Tribe," in Journal of American
Ethnology and Archaeology (Boston, i8gi-94), iii.
20 On the linguistic stocks of the pueblos, consult our volume xix, p. 266, note 90
(Gregg).—Ed. 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
perhaps ten-fold, more numerous.21 Ancient ruins are
now to be seen scattered in every quarter of the territory:
of some, entire stone walls are yet standing, while others
are nearly or quite obliterated, many of them being now
only known by their names which history or tradition has
preserved to us. Numbers were no doubt destroyed during
the insurrection of 1680, and the petty internal strifes which
Several of these Pueblos have been converted into Mexican villages, of which that of Pecos is perhaps the most
remarkable instance. What with the massacres of the
second conquest, and the inroads of the Comanches, they
gradually dwindled away, till they found themselves reduced to about a dozen, comprising all ages and sexes; and
it was only a few years ago that they abandoned the home
of their fathers and joined the Pueblo of Jemez.
Many curious tales are told of the singular habits of this
ill-fated tribe, which must no [271] doubt have tended to
hasten its utter annihilation. A tradition was prevalent
among them that Montezuma had kindled a holy fire, and
enjoined their ancestors not to suffer it to be extinguished
until he should return to deliver his people from the yoke
of the Spaniards. In pursuance of these commands, a
constant watch had been maintained for ages to prevent
the fire from going out; and, as tradition further informed
them, that Montezuma would appear with the sun, the
deluded Indians were to be seen every clear morning upon
the terraced roofs of their houses, attentively watching for
the appearance of the 'king of light,' in hopes of seeing
him 'cheek by jowl' with their immortal sovereign.   I have
21 Bandelier, " Final Report," Archaeological Institute of America Papers,
American Series, iii, pp. 121-136, considers the pueblo population at the time of
the Spanish conquest to have been about twenty-five thousand. The'present
population of New Mexican pueblos, exclusive of the Moki, is about nine thousand.— Ed.
mmm I
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
myself descended into the famous estufas, or subterranean
vaults, of which there were several in the village, and have
beheld this consecrated fire, silently smouldering under a
covering of ashes, in the basin of a small altar. Some
say that they never lost hope in the final coming of
Montezuma until, by some accident or other, or a lack
of a sufficiency of warriors to watch it, the fire became
extinguished; and that it was this catastrophe that induced them to abandon their villages, as I have before observed.
The task of tending the sacred fire was, it is said, allotted
to the warriors. It is further related, that they took the
watch by turns for two successive days and nights, without
partaking of either food, water, or sleep; while some assert,
that instead of being restricted to [272] two days, each
guard continued with the same unbending severity of purpose
until exhaustion, and very frequently death, left their places
to be filled by others. A large portion of those who came
out alive were generally so completely prostrated by the
want of repose and the inhalation of carbonic gas that they
very soon died; when, as the vulgar story asseverates, their
remains were carried to the den of a monstrous serpent,
which kept itself in excellent condition by feeding upon
these delicacies. This huge snake (invented no doubt by
the lovers of the marvellous to account for the constant
disappearance of the Indians) was represented as the idol
which they worshipped, and as subsisting entirely upon
the flesh of his devotees: live infants, however, seemed
to suit his palate best. The story of this wonderful serpent
was so firmly believed in by many ignorant people, that on
one occasion I heard an honest ranchero assert, that upon
entering the village very early on a winter's morning, he
saw the huge trail of the reptile in the snow, as large as that
of a dragging ox.
<mw 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
This village, anciently so renowned, lies twenty-five
miles eastward of Santa Fe, and near the Rio Pecos, to
which it gave name. Even so late as ten years ago, when
it contained a population of fifty to a hundred souls, the
traveller would oftentimes perceive but a solitary Indian,
a woman, or a child, standing here and there like so many
statues upon the roofs of their houses, with their eyes fixed
on [273] the eastern horizon, or leaning against a wall or
a fence, listlessly gazing at the passing stranger; while at
other times not a soul was to be seen in any direction, and
the sepulchral silence of the place was only disturbed by
the occasional barking of a dog, or the cackling of hens.32
No other Pueblo appears to have adopted this extraordinary superstition: like Pecos, however, they have all
held Montezuma to be their perpetual sovereign. It would
likewise appear that they all worship the sun; for it is
asserted to be their regular practice to turn the face
towards the east at sunrise.28 They profess the Catholic
faith, however, of which, nevertheless, they cannot be expected to understand anything beyond the formalities; as
22 The pueblo of Pecos was situated thirty miles southeast of Santa F6, and at
the close of the seventeenth century had a population of two thousand, being the
largest pueblo in either New Mexico or Arizona. It was visited as early as 1540
by Alvarado, a lieutenant of Coronado. In 1598, the inhabitants rendered submission to Ofiate, and a mission was established among them for which a large
church was built in the seventeenth century, its ruins being still conspicuous. In
the revolt of 1680 the Pecos remained neutral; but soon thereafter decline in numbers set in, and by 1837 but eighteen adults were left. A fever swept away the
majority of these, when in 1840 the remnant of five men sold their lands to the
government, and retired to their kinsmen at Jemez. A son of the tribe was found-
in 1880 among the Mexicans of the village of Pecos, a small, comparatively modern
town. Bandelier discredits the Montezuma myth, which he considers a Spanish-
Mexican importation. See Archaeological Institute of America Papers, American
Series, i, pp. 110-125. He found among the ruins, however, evidences of the
existence of the sacred fire.— Ed.
28 The Pueblo Indians still cling to many features of aboriginal worship. The
sun-father and moon-mother are revered — not the orbs themselves, but the
spiritual beings residing therein. Consult on this subject, Bandelier, op. cit., iii,
pp. 276-316.— Ed. 6o
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
but very few  of  their Mexican neighbors and   teachers
can boast of more.
Although nominally under the jurisdiction of the federal
government, as Mexican citizens, many features of their
ancient customs are still retained, as well in their civil rule
as in their religion. Each Pueblo is under the control of a
cacique or gobernadorcillo, chosen from among their own
sages, and commissioned by the governor of New Mexico.
The cacique, when any public business is to be transacted,
collects together the principal chiefs of the Pueblo in an
estufa, or cell, usually under ground, and there lays before
them the subjects of debate, which are generally settled
by the opinion of the majority. No Mexican is admitted
to these councils, nor do the [274] subjects of discussion
ever transpire beyond the precincts of the cavern. The
council has also charge of the interior police and tranquility of the village.24 One of their regulations is to appoint a secret watch for the purpose of keeping down disorders and vices of every description, and especially to keep
an eye over the young men and women of the village. When
any improper intercourse among them is detected, the
parties are immediately carried to the council, and the
cacique intimates to them that they must be wedded forthwith.   Should the girl be of bad character, and the man,
24 The office of the cacique is in essence religious; but as religion is interwoven
with the entire life of the Pueblos, he is in a sense a civil official as well. He is
chosen because of fitness, frequently on the nomination of his predecessor, and
his education in the mysteries and secrets of his people is exacting. The office is
for life, unless terminated by improper behavior, when the cacique may be deposed.
The candidate sometimes declines the office because of the severity of the duties,
which involve much fasting and abnegation.
The estufa is not always subterranean. It originated before the introduction
of Christian family life, in a common home for the male members of the pueblo.
It has become the council house of the tribe. Some pueblos contain more than
one; unless rites are in progress, it is a bare, rude room usually unornamented.
For details, consult John G. Bourke, Snake Dance of the Moguls of Arizona (New
York, 1884).—Ed.
«•►- 1831-1839]      Gregg>s Commerce of the Prairies
therefore, unwilling to marry her, they are ordered to
keep separate under penalty of the lash. Hence it is, that
the females of these Pueblos are almost universally noted
for their chastity and modest deportment.25
They also elect a capitan de guerra, a kind of commander-in-chief of the warriors, whose office it is to
defend their homes and their interests both in the field
and in the council chamber.26 Though not very warlike, these Pueblos are generally valiant, and well skilled
in the strategies of Indian warfare; and although they
have been branded with cruelty and ferocity, yet they
can hardly be said to surpass the Mexicans in this respect:
both, in times of war, pay but little regard either to age or
sex. I have been told that when the Pueblos return from
their belligerent expeditions, instead of going directly to
their homes, they always visit their council cell first. Here
[275] they undress, dance, and carouse, frequently for two
days in succession before seeing their families.
Although the Pueblos are famous for hospitality and
industry, they still continue in the rudest state of ignorance,
having neither books nor schools among them, as none of
their languages have been reduced to rules, and very few
of their children are ever taught in Spanish.27 A degree of
primitiveness characterizes all their amusements, which
bear a strong similarity to those of the wilder tribes. Before the New Mexican government had become so much
25 Matrimonial relations among these people have been much modified by the
introduction of Christianity, and the requirements of the friars, so that the monogamous family is now the rule among the sedentary Indians; although there are still
in force certain clan restrictions in the choice of the mate.— Ed.
28 Although the Pueblos have, since the subjugation of the Apache, engaged
in no wars, a war-captain is each year selected by the cacique, who has, as Gregg
relates, certain protective and religious functions.— Ed.
27 Primary schools were established for several pueblos, about 1872, but met
with opposition from priests, who did not desire Indian children to learn English.
There are in the territory at present (1903), about eighteen day-schools, and two
industrial boarding schools.— Ed.
SB 62
Early Western Travels
impoverished, there was wont to be held in the capital on
the 16th of September of every year, a national celebration
of the declaration of Independence, to which the Pueblos
were invited. The warriors and youths of each nation
with a proportionate array of dusky damsels would appear
on these occasions, painted and ornamented in accordance
with their aboriginal customs, and amuse the inhabitants
with all sorts of grotesque feats and native dances. Each
Pueblo generally had its particular uniform dress and its
particular dance. The men of one village would sometimes
disguise themselves as elks, with horns on their heads,
moving on all-fours, and mimicking the animal they were
attempting to personate. Others would appear in the
garb of a turkey, with large heavy wings, and strut about
in imitation of that bird. But the Pecos tribe, already
reduced to seven men, always occasioned most diversion.
[276] Their favorite exploit was, each to put on the skin
of a buffalo, horns, tail, and all, and thus accoutred scamper about through the crowd, to the real or affected terror
of all the ladies present, and to the great delight of the
The Pueblo villages are generally built with more regularity than those of the Mexicans, and are constructed of
the same materials as were used by them in the most primitive ages. Their dwelling-houses, it is true, are not so
spacious as those of the Mexicans, containing very seldom
more than two or three small apartments upon the ground
floor, without any court-yard, but they have generally a
much loftier appearance, being frequently two stories high
and sometimes more. A very curious feature in these
buildings, is, that there is most generally no direct communication between the street and the lower rooms, into which
they descend by a trap-door from the upper story, the latter
being accessible by means of ladders. Even the entrance
to the upper stories is frequently at the roof.    This style of 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
building seems to have been adopted for security against
their marauding neighbors of the wilder tribes, with whom
they were often at war. When the family had all been
housed at night, the ladder was drawn up, and the inmates
were thus shut up in a kind of fortress, which bid defiance
to the scanty implements of warfare used by the wild Indians.
Though this was their most usual style of architecture,
there still exists a Pueblo of Taos, [277] composed, for the
most part, of but two edifices of very singular structure —
one on each side of a creek, and formerly communicating
by a bridge. The base-story is a mass of near four hundred
feet long, a hundred and fifty wide, and divided into numerous apartments, upon which other tiers of rooms are built,
one above another, drawn in by regular grades, forming
a pyramidal pile of fifty or sixty feet high, and comprising
some six or eight stories. The outer rooms only seem to
be used for dwellings, and are lighted by little windows
in the sides, but are entered through trap-doors in the
azoteas or roofs. Most of the inner apartments are employed as granaries and store-rooms, but a spacious hall in
the centre of the mass, known as the estufa, is reserved for
their secret councils. These two buildings afford habitations, as is said, for over six hundred souls.28 There is
likewise an edifice in the Pueblo of Picuris29 of the same
class, and some of those of Moqui are also said to be similar.
Some of these villages were built upon rocky eminences deemed  almost   inaccessible:   witness for instance
28 For a brief sketch of the history of Taos, see our volume xviii, p. 73, note 44.
The Taos communal architecture is of the primitive type; after the Spanish conquest, the separate houses of the other pueblos were gradually adopted.— Ed.
29 Picuries is one of the northern group. Like Taos, it is of Tiguan stock, and
participated in the history of the region, being visited by one of Coronado's party
in 1540. It yielded to Ofiate in 1598, took part in the revolts of 1680 and 1696,
and in the uprising against the Americans in 1848. The pueblo was formerly
much larger than at present, its population now consisting of only about a hundred
poor and rather unprogressive Indians. It is in Taos County about seventy, miles
north of Santa Fe\— Ed.
■*■■ 64
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
the ruins of the ancient Pueblo of San Felipe, which
may be seen towering upon the very verge of a precipice several hundred feet high, whose base is washed by
the swift current of the Rio del Norte. The still existing Pueblo of Acoma also stands upon an isolated mound
whose whole area is occupied by the village, being fringed
all around by a precipitous ceja or cliff. [278] The inhabitants enter the village by means of ladders, and by steps
cut into the solid rock upon which it is based.30
At the time of the conquest, many of these Pueblos
manufactured some singular textures of cotton and other
materials; but with the loss of their liberty, they seem
to have lost most of their arts and ingenuity; so that the
finer specimens of native fabrics are now only to be met
with among the Moquis and Navajoes, who still retain
their independence. The Pueblos, however, make some
of the ordinary classes of blankets and tilmas*1 as well as
other woolen stuffs. They also manufacture, according
to their aboriginal art, both for their own consumption, and
for the purpose of traffic, a species of earthenware not much
inferior to the coarse crockery of our common potters.
The pots made of this material stand fire remarkably well,
and are the universal substitutes for all the purposes of
cookery, even among the Mexicans, for the iron castings
of this country, which are utterly unknown there. Rude
as this kind of crockery is, it nevertheless evinces a
great deal of skill, considering that it  is made   entirely
30 Acoma is a Queres pueblo, built upon a cliff, about seventy miles southwest
of Santa Fe", in Valencia County. Because of its inaccessibility, and the charm
of its situation, it has been much noted. Coronado described it in his journey of
1540 — see George P. Winship, Journey of Coronado (New York, 1904); and here
a great battle was fought between Spaniards and Acomans in 1599. The pueblo
took part in the revolts of 1680 and 1696; but has since lived quietly, and has at
present a population of about six hundred.— Ed.
81 The tilma of the North is a sort of small but durable blanket, worn by the
Indians as a mantle.— Gregg. 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
without lathe or any kind of machinery. It is often fancifully painted with colored earths and the juice of a plant
called guaco, which brightens by burning. They also
work a singular kind of wicker-ware, of which some bowls
(if they may be so called) are so closely platted, [279] that,
once swollen by dampness, they serve to hold liquids, and
are therefore light and convenient vessels for the purposes
of travellers.82
The dress of many of the Pueblos has become assimilated
in some respects to that of the common Mexicans; but by
far the greatest portion still retain most of their aboriginal
costume. The Taosas and others of the north somewhat
resemble the prairie tribes in this respect; but the Pueblos
to the south and west of Santa Fe* dress in a different style,
which is said to be similar in many respects to that of the
aboriginal inhabitants of the city of Mexico. The moccasin is the only part of the prairie suit that appears comr
mon to them all, and of both sexes. They mostly wear
a kind of short breeches and long stockings, the use of
which they most probably acquired from the Spaniards.
The saco, a species of woollen jacket without sleeves, completes their exterior garment; except during inclement
seasons, when they make use of the tilma. Very few of
them have hats or head-dress of any kind; and they generally wear their hair long — commonly fashioned into a queue,
wrapped with some colored stuff. The squaws of the northern tribes dress pretty much like those of the Prairies; but
the usual costume of the females of the southern and western
Pueblos is a handsome kind of small blanket of dark color.
82 Recent authorities do not consider the decline of domestic arts a sign of deterioration among the Pueblos. They taught the Navaho to weave, and now purchase
blankets from the latter. Pottery is still manufactured among the New Mexican
pueblos. See on these subjects Washington Matthews, "Navaho Weavers," in
U. S. Bureau of Ethnology Report, 1881-82, pp. 371-391; and William H. Holmes,
"Pottery of the Ancient Pueblos," ibid., 1882-83, pp. 265-358.— Ed. 66
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
which is drawn under one arm and tacked over the other
shoulder, leaving both arms free and naked. It is generally
[280] worn with a cotton chemise underneath and is bound
about the waist with a girdle. We rarely if ever see a
thorough-bred Pueblo woman in Mexican dress.33
The weapons most in use among the Pueblos are the
bow and arrow, with a long-handled lance and occasionally
a fusil. The rawhide shield is also much used, which,
though of but little service against fire-arms, serves to ward
off the arrow and lance.
The aliment of these Indians is, in most respects, similar
to that of the Mexicans; in fact, as has been elsewhere
remarked, the latter adopted with their utensils numerous
items of aboriginal diet. The tortilla, the atole, the pinole,**
and manv others, together with the use of chile, are from
the Indians. Some of the wilder tribes make a peculiar
kind of pinole, by grinding the bean of the mezquite tree
into flour, which is then used as that of corn. And besides
the tortilla they make another singular kind of bread, if
we may so style it, called guayave, a roll of which so much
resembles a 'hornets''nest,' that by strangers it is often
designated by this title. It is usually made of Tndian
corn prepared and ground as for tortillas, and diluted into
a thin paste. [281I I once happened to enter an Indian
hut where a young girl of the family was baking guayaves.
She was sitting by a fire, over which a large flat stone was
heating, with a crock of prepared paste by her side.   She
"The Pueblos still retain their native dress, which is picturesque, healthful,
convenient, and often relatively costly — a woman's costume sometimes being
worth as much as twenty-five dollars.— Ed.
84 Pinole is in effect the cold-flour of our hunters. It is the meal of parched
TnHia'ri com, prepared for use by stilling it up with a little cold water. This food
seems also to have been of ancient use among the aborigines of other parts of
America. Father Charlevoix, in 1721, says of the savages about the northern
lakes, that they "reduce [the maize] to Flour which they call Forme jroide (cold
Flour), and this is the best Provision that can be made for Travellers."— Gregg. 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
thrust her hand into the paste, and then wiped it over the
heated stone. What adhered to it was instantly baked and
peeled off. She repeated this process at the rate of a
dozen times or more per minute. Observing my curiosity,
the girl handed me one of the 'sheets,' silently; for she
seemed to understand but her native tongue. I found
it pleasant enough to the taste; though when cold, as I
have learned by experience, it is, like the cold tortilla,
rather tough and insipid. They are even thinner than
wafers; and some dozens, being folded in a roll, constitute the laminate composition before mentioned. Being
thus preserved, they serve the natives for months upon
their journeys.
The wild Tribes of New Mexico — Speculative Theories — Clavigero
and the Azteques — Pueblo Bonito and other Ruins — Probable
Relationship between the Azteques and tribes of New Mexico — The
several Nations of this Province — Navajdes and Azteques — Manufactures of the former — Their Agriculture, Religion, etc.— Mexican
Cruelty to the Indians and its Consequences — Inroads of the
Navajdes — Exploits of a Mexican Army — How to make a Hole
in a Powder-keg — The Apaches and their Character — Their Food
— Novel Mode of settling Disputes — Range of.their marauding
Excursions — Indian Traffic and imbecile Treaties — Devastation
of the Country — Chihuahua Rodomontades — Juan Jose", a celebrated Apache Chief, and his tragical End, etc.—Massacre of Americans in Retaliation — A tragical Episode — Proyecto de Guerra and
a ' gallant' Display — The Yutas and their Hostilities — A personal
Adventure with them, but no blood shed — Jicarillas.
All the Indians of New Mexico not denominated Pueblos
— not professing the Christian religion — are ranked as
wild tribes, although these include some who have made
great advances in arts, manufactures and agriculture.
Those who are at all acquainted with the ancient history
of Mexico, will recollect that, according to the traditions
of the aborigines, all the principal tribes of Anahuac descended from the North: and that those of Mexico, espe-
— 68
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
cially the Azteques, emigrated [283] from the north of California, or northwest of New Mexico. Clavigero, the famous
historian heretofore alluded to,35 speaking of this emigration, observes, that the Azteques, or Mexican Indians, who
were the last settlers in the country of Anahuac, lived until
about the year n 60 of the Christian era in Aztlan, a country
situated to the north of the Gulf of California; as is inferred
from the route of their peregrinations, and from the information afterwards acquired by the Spaniards in their
expeditions through those countries. He then proceeds to
show by what incentives they were probably induced to
abandon their native land; adding that whatever may
have been the motive, no doubt can possibly exist as
to the journey's having actually been performed. He
says that they travelled in a southeastwardly direction
towards the Rio Gila, where they remained for some time
— the ruins of their edifices being still to be seen, upon
its banks. They then struck out for a point over two hundred and fifty miles to the northwest of Chihuahua in about
290 of N. latitude, where they made another halt. This
place is known by the name of Casas Grandes™ (big houses),
on account of a large edifice which still stands on the spot,
and which, according to the general tradition of those regions, was erected by the Mexican Indians, during their
35 See our volume xix/p. 293, note 116 (Gregg).— Ed.
38 The Casa Grande ruin in Pinal County, Arizona, just south of Gila River,
has been known to antiquarians since the first discovery of the region. The earliest
detailed description was written after the visit of Father Kuehne (Kino) in 1694.
American explorers noted it during the passage of 1846; Bartlett's description of
1854 was the most faithful. For recent accounts, see Cosmos Mindeleff, in U. S.
Bureau of Ethnology Reports, 1891-92, pp. 295-361; 1893-94, pp. 321-349. In
1889 congress appropriated funds for its preservation and repair, and in 1892 set
it apart as a public reservation. Modern archaeologists discredit any connection
of its builders with Mexican Aztecs. It is a work of Pueblo Indians, probably of
the ancestors of the modern Pima—see our volume xviii, p. 200, note 96. This ruin
should not be confused with one of a like name in Northern Mexico, for which see
volume xviii of our series, p. 155, note 88.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
wanderings. The building is constructed after the plan
of those in New Mexico, with three stories, covered with
an azotea or terrace, and without door or entrance [284]
into the lower story. A hand ladder is also used as a means
of communication with the second story.
Even allowing that the traditions upon which Clavigero
founded his theoretical deductions are vague and uncertain,
there is sufficient evidence in the ruins that still exist to
show that those regions were once inhabited by a far more
enlightened people than are now to be found among the
aborigines. Of such character are the ruins of Pueblo
Bonito, in the direction of Navaj6, on the borders of the
Cordilleras; the houses being generally built of slabs of
fine-grit sand-stone, a material utterly unknown in the
present architecture of the North.37 Although some of
these structures are very massive and spacious, they are
generally cut up into small irregular rooms, many of which
yet remain entire, being still covered, with the vigas or
joists remaining nearly sound under the azoteas of earth;
and yet their age is such that there is no tradition which
gives any account of their origin. But there have been
no images or sculptured work of any kind found about them.
Besides these, many other ruins (though none so perfect)
are scattered over the plains and among the mountains.
What is very remarkable is, that a portion of them are
situated at a great distance from any water; so that the
inhabitants must have depended entirely upon rain, as
is the case with the Pueblo of Acoma at the present day.
The general appearance of Pueblo Bonito, [285] as
well as that of   the existing buildings of   Moqui in the
37 It is uncertain to which ruin Gregg here refers. That of Cebolitta, not far
from Acoma, answers his description as built of sandstone. There is a small ruin
at Ojos Bonitos, not far from Zufii, that may be intended; but the more probable
is the former, on the well-known trace between Acoma and Zufii, and of remarkably good workmanship in stone.— Ed. 7°
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
same mountainous regions, and other Pueblos of New
Mexico, resembles so closely the ruins of Casas Grandes,
that we naturally come to the conclusion that the founders
of each must have descended from the same common
stock. The present difference between their language and
that of the Indians of Mexico, when we take into consideration the ages that have passed away since their separation,
hardly presents any reasonable objection to this hypothesis.
The principal wild tribes which inhabit or extend their
incursions or peregrinations upon the territory of New
Mexico, are the Navajdes, the Apaches, the Yutas, the
Caiguas or Kiawas, and the Comanches.38 Of the latter
I will speak in another place. The two first are from one
and the same original stock, there being, even at the present
day, no very important difference in their language. The
Apaches are divided into numerous petty tribes, of one of
which an insignificant band, called Jicarillas, inhabiting
the mountains north of Taos, is an isolated and miserable
The Navajdes are supposed to number about 10,000
souls, and though not the most numerous, they are certainly
the most important, at least in a historical point of view,
of all the northern tribes of Mexico. They reside in the
main range of Cordilleras, 150 to 200 miles west of Santa
¥6, on the waters of Rio Colorado of California, not far
from the region, according to historians, from whence the
88 For the Navaho, Apache, and Ute tribes, see our volume xviii, p. 69 (note 41),
p. 109 (note 60), p. 140 (note 70); for the Kiowa, volume xv, p. 157, note 48; for the
Comanche, volume xvi, p. 233, note 109.— Ed.
39 The Jicarrilla (Xicarrilla) are of Athapascan stock, but from the similarity
of their language are classed as Apache, although they are not known to have had
any tribal connection with them. Their alliance was more frequently with the
Ute, with whom they intermarried, and whose customs they assimilated.
They were a predatory race, and from their vantage ground on the upper waters
of the Rio Grande, Pecos, and Canadian, caused much annoyance. They are
now located on a reservation in Rio Arriba County, and number about seven hundred and fifty.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg*s Commerce of the Prairies
[286] Azteques emigrated to Mexico; and there are many
reasons to suppose them direct descendants from the remnant, which remained in the North, of this celebrated
nation of antiquity. Although they mostly live in rude
jacales, somewhat resembling the wigwams of the Pawnees,
yet, from time immemorial, they have excelled all others
in their original manufactures: and, as well as the Moquis,
they are still distinguished for some exquisite styles of cotton textures, and display considerable ingenuity in embroidering with feathers the skins of animals, according
to their primitive practice. They now also manufacture
a singular species of blanket, known as the Sarape Navajd,
which is of so close and dense a texture that it will frequently hold water almost equal to gum-elastic cloth. It
is therefore highly prized for protection against the rains.
Some of the finer qualities are often sold among the Mexicans as high as fifty or sixty dollars each. %
Notwithstanding the present predatory and somewhat
unsettled habits of the Navajoes, they cultivate all the
different grains and vegetables to be found in New Mexico.
They also possess extensive herds of horses, mules, cattle,
sheep and goats of their own raising, which are generally
celebrated as being much superior to those of the Mexicans;
owing, no doubt, to greater attention to the improvement
of their stocks.
Though Baron Humboldt40 tells us that some missionaries were established among this tribe [287] prior to the
general massacre of 1680, but few attempts to christianize
them have since been made. They now remain in a state
of primitive paganism — and not only independent of the
Mexicans, but their most formidable enemies.41
,*° For Humboldt, see our volume xviii, p. 345, note 136.— Ed.
41 The Navaho were friendly with the Spaniards until about 1700, when they
began depredations and cattle lifting, and frequent campaigns against them were
pS*** Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
After the establishment of the national independence,
the government of New Mexico greatly embittered the
disposition of the neighboring savages, especially the
Navajoes, by repeated acts of cruelty and ill-faith well
calculated to provoke hostilities. On one occasion, a
party consisting of several chiefs and warriors of the Navajoes assembled at the Pueblo of Cochiti,42 by invitation
of the government, to celebrate a treaty of peace; when
the New Mexicans, exasperated no doubt by the remembrance of former outrages, fell upon them unawares and
put them all to death. It is also related, that about the
same period, three Indians from the northern mountains
having been brought as prisoners into Taos, they were
peremptorily demanded by the Jicarillas, who were their
bitterest enemies; when the Mexican authorities, dreading
the resentment of this tribe, quietly complied with the
barbarous request, suffering the prisoners to be butchered
in cold blood before their very eyes! No wonder, then,
that the New Mexicans are so generally warred upon by
their savage neighbors.
About fifteen years ago, the Navajoes were subjected
by the energy of Col. Vizcarra, who succeeded in keeping
them in submission for [288] some time; but since that
officer's departure from New Mexico, no man has been
undertaken. In 1744 a mission was attempted among them, which was abandoned
after six years' futile efforts. Serious difficulties, however, did not recur until the
beginning of the nineteenth century. The period of Gregg's sojourn in New
Mexico was that of greatest hostility. For over twenty-five years the United
States government had much difficulty with the Navaho. There are yet over
twenty thousand of these tribesmen on the different reservations, chiefly in Arizona.— Ed.
42 Cochiti is one of the smaller Queres pueblos, situated on the west side of the
Rio Grande, almost directly west of Santa Fe\ It was near the same spot, at the
time of the Spanish accession in 1598. The Cochitianos took part in the rebellions
of 1680 and 1696, and part of the mutineers were, about 1699, removed to the
pueblo of Laguna. There are now less than two hundred and fifty inhabitants
of this Indian village.— Ed.
mr 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
found of sufficient capacity to inspire this daring tribe either
with respect or fear; so that for the last ten years they have
ravaged the country with impunity, murdering and destroying just as the humor happened to prompt them. When
the spring of the year approaches, terms of peace are generally proposed to the government at Santa ¥6, which the
latter never fails to accept. This amicable arrangement
enables the wily Indians to sow their crops at leisure, and
to dispose of the property stolen from the Mexicans during
their marauding incursions, to advantage; but the close of
their agricultural labors is generally followed by a renewal
of hostilities, and the game of rapine and destruction is
played over again.
Towards the close of 1835, a volunteer corps, which most
of the leading men in New Mexico joined, was raised for
the purpose of carrying war into the territory of the Navajoes.
The latter hearing of their approach, and anxious no doubt
to save them the trouble of so long a journey, mustered a
select band of their warriors, who went forth to intercept
the invaders in a mountain pass, where they lay concealed
in an ambuscade. The valiant corps, utterly unconscious
of the reception that awaited them, soon came jogging
along in scattered groups, indulging in every kind of
boisterous mirth; when the war-whoop, loud and shrill,
followed by several shots, threw them all into a state of
speechless consternation. [289] Some tumbled off their
horses with fright, others fired their muskets at random: a
terrific panic had seized everybody, and some minutes
elapsed before they could recover their senses sufficiently
to betake themselves to their heels. Two or three persons
were killed in this ridiculous engagement, the most conspicuous of whom was a Capt. Hindfos, who commanded
the regular troops.
43 The only other authority for this campaign is A. R. Thttmmel, Mexiko und
die Mexikaner (Erlangen, 1848), pp. 350, 351.— Ed. 74
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
A very curious but fully authentic anecdote may not be
inappropriately inserted here, in which this individual was
concerned. On one occasion, being about to start on a
belligerent expedition, he directed his orderly-sergeant to
fill a powder-flask from an unbroached keg of twenty-five
pounds. The sergeant, having bored a hole with a gimlet,
and finding that the powder issued too slowly, began to
look about for something to enlarge the aperture, when his
eyes haply fell upon an iron poker which lay in a corner of
the fire-place. To heat the poker and apply it to the hole
in the keg was the work of but a few moments; when an
explosion took place which blew the upper part of the
building into the street, tearing and shattering everything
else to atoms. Miraculous as their escape may appear, the
sergeant, as well as the captain who witnessed the whole
operation, remained more frightened than hurt, although
they were both very severely scorched and bruised. This
ingenious sergeant was afterwards Secretary of State to
Gov. Gonzalez, of revolutionary [290] memory,44 and has
nearly ever since held a clerkship in some of the offices of
state, but is now captain in the regular army.
I come now to speak of the Apaches, the most extensive
and powerful, yet the most vagrant of all the savage nations
that inhabit the interior of Northern Mexico. They are
supposed to number some fifteen thousand souls, although
they are subdivided into various petty bands, and scattered
over an immense tract of country. Those that are found
east of the Rio del Norte are generally known as Mezcaleros,
on account of an article of food much in use among them,
called mezcal,*5 but by far the greatest portion of the nation
is located in the west, and is mostly known by the sobriquet
** For Governor Jose Gonzalez and his exploits during the insurrection of 1837
see preceding volume, ch. vi (Gregg).— Ed.
45 Mescal is the baked root of the maguey {agave Americana) and of another
somewhat similar plant.— Gregg. nw
1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
of Coyoteros, in consequence, it is said, of their eating the
coyote or prairie-wolf.4' The Apaches are perhaps more
given to itinerant habits than any other tribe in Mexico.
They never construct houses, but live in the ordinary
wigwam, or tent of skins and blankets. They manufacture
nothing — cultivate nothing: they seldom resort to the
chase, as their country is destitute of game — but depend
almost entirely upon pillage for the support of their immense
population, some two or three thousand of which are warriors.
For their food, the Apaches rely chiefly upon the flesh of
the cattle and sheep they can steal from the Mexican ranchos
and haciendas. They are said, however, to be more fond of
[291] the meat of the mule than that of any other animal.
I have seen about encampments which they had recently
left, the remains of mules that had been slaughtered for
their consumption. Yet on one occasion I saw their whole
trail, for many miles, literally strewed with the carcasses of
these animals, which, it was evident, had not been killed for
this purpose. It is the practice of the Apache chiefs, as I
have understood, whenever a dispute arises betwixt their
warriors relative to the ownership of any particular animal,
to kill the brute at once, though it be the most valuable of
the drove; and so check all further cavil. It was to be
inferred from the number of dead mules they left behind
them, that the most harmonious relations could not have
existed between the members of the tribe, at least during
this period of their jeurneyings. Like most of the savage
tribes of North America, the Apaches are passionately fond
of spirituous liquors, and may frequently be seen, in times
48 Like the Jicarrilla, the Mescallero were in reality a distinct tribe, and related
to the Apache only by linguistic affinities. Since 1865 they have been confined upon a reservation in southern New Mexico, where about four hundred still
exist. The Coyoteros is one of some dozen tribes or bands among the Apache
proper.— Ed.
if 76
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
of peace, lounging about the Mexican villages, in a state of
helpless inebriety.
The range of this marauding tribe extends over some
portions of California, most of Sonora, the frontiers of
Durango, and at certain seasons it even reaches Coahuila:
Chihuahua, however, has been the mournful theatre of their
most constant depredations. Every nook and corner of this
once flourishing state has been subjected to their inroads.
Such is the imbecility of the local governments, that the
savages, in order to dispose of [292] their stolen property
without even a shadow of molestation, frequently enter into
partial treaties of peace with one department, while they continue to wage a war of extermination against the neighboring
states. This arrangement supplies them with an ever-ready
market, for the disposal of their booty and the purchase of
munitions wherewith to prosecute their work of destruction.
In 1840,1 witnessed the departure from Santa ¥6 of a large
trading party freighted with engines of war and a great
quantity of whiskey, intended for the Apaches in exchange
for mules and other articles of plunder which they had stolen
from the people of the south. This traffic was not only
tolerated but openly encouraged by the civil authorities, as
the highest public functionaries were interested in its success
— the governor himself not excepted.
The Apaches, now and then, propose a truce to the government of Chihuahua, which is generally accepted very
nearly upon their own terms. It has on some occasions been
included that the marauders should have a bond fide right to
all their stolen property. A venta or quit-claim brand, has
actually been marked by the government upon large numbers of mules and horses which the Indians had robbed from
the citizens. It is hardly necessary to add that these truces
have rarely been observed by the wily savages longer than 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies yj
the time necessary for the disposal of their plunder. As soon
as more mules were needed for service or for traffic — more
cattle for beef — more [293] scalps for the war-dance — they
would invariably return to their deeds of ravage and murder.
The depredations of the Apaches have been of such long
duration, that, beyond the immediate purlieus of the towns,
the whole country from New Mexico to the borders of
Durango is almost entirely depopulated. The haciendas
and ranchos have been mostly abandoned, and the people
chiefly confined to towns and cities. To such a pitch has
the temerity of those savages reached, that small bands of
three or four warriors have been known to make their appearance within a mile of the city of Chihuahua in open day,
killing the laborers and driving off whole herds of mules and
horses without the slightest opposition. Occasionally a
detachment of troops is sent in pursuit of the marauders, but
for no other purpose, it would seem, than to illustrate the
imbecility of the former, as they are always sure to make a
precipitate retreat, generally without even obtaining a
glimpse of the enemy.47 And yet the columns of a little
weekly sheet published in Chihuahua always teem with
flaming accounts of prodigious feats of valor performed by
the 'army of operations' against los bdrbaros: showing how
"the enemy was pursued with all possible vigor"— how the
soldiers "displayed the greatest [294] bravery, and the most
unrestrainable desire to overhaul the dastards," and by what
extraordinary combinations of adverse circumstances they
were "compelled to relinquish the pursuit." Indeed, it
would be difficult to find a braver race of people than the
47 It has been credibly asserted, that, during one of these ' bold pursuits,' a band
of Comanches stopped in the suburbs of a village on Rio Conchos, turned their
horses into the' wheat-fields, and took a comfortable siesta — desirous, it seemed,
to behold their pursuers face to face; yet, after remaining most of the day, they
departed without enjoying that pleasure.— Gregg.
ffl 7«
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Chihuahueiios48 contrive to make themselves appear upon
paper. When intelligence was received in Chihuahua of the
famous skirmish with the French, at Vera Cruz, in which
Santa Anna acquired the glory of losing a leg,49 the event was
celebrated with uproarious demonstrations of joy; and the
next number of the Noticioso™ contained a valiant fanfaronade, proclaiming to the world the astounding fact, that one
Mexican was worth four French soldiers in battle: winding
up with a "Condon Patridtica," of which the following exquisite verse was the refrain:
"Chihuahuenses, la Patria gloriosa
Otro timbre a su lustre ha anadido;
Pues la, tuao^'b re f)"BTre nrponreqp
Ax valor mexicano ha eedido."
Literally translated:
Chihuahuenses! our glorious country
Another ray has added to her lustre;
For the invincible, indomitable Gallia
Has succumbed to Mexican valor.
By the inverted letters of "invicta, la Galia indomable,"
in the third line, the poet gives [295] the world to understand
that the kingdom of the Gauls had at length been whirled
topsy-turvy, by the glorious achievements of el valor Mexicano !
From what has been said of the ravages of the Apaches,
one would be apt to believe them an exceedingly brave people;
but the Mexicans themselves call them cowards when compared with the Comanches; and we are wont to look upon
the latter as perfect specimens of poltroonery when brought
48 Or Chihuahuenses, citizens of Chihuahua.— Gregg.
49 During the so-called "Pastry War," for which see  our  volume xix, p. 274,
note 101 (Gregg).— Ed.
*° Noticioso de Chihuahua of December 28, 1838.— Gregg. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
in conflict with the Shawnees, Delawares, and the rest of
our border tribes.51
There was once a celebrated chief called Juan Jose" at
the head of this tribe, whose extreme cunning and audacity
caused his name to be dreaded throughout the country.
What contributed more than anything else to render him a
dangerous enemy, was the fact of his having received a
liberal education at Chihuahua, which enabled him, when he
afterwards rejoined his tribe, to outwit his pursuers, and,
by robbing the mails, to acquire timely information of every
expedition that was set on foot against him. The following account of the massacre in which he fell may not be
altogether uninteresting to the reader.
The government of Sonora, desirous to make some
efforts to check the depredations of the Apaches, issued a
proclamation, giving a sort of carte blanche patent of 'marque
and reprisal,' and declaring all the booty that might be
taken from the savages to be the rightful property of the
captors. Accordingly, in the [296] spring of 1837, a pa^ty
of some 20 men composed chiefly of foreigners, spurred
on by the love of gain, and never doubting but the Indians,
after so many years of successful robberies, must be possessed of a vast amount of property, set out with an American as their commander, who had long resided in the country.62 In a few days they reached a rancheria of about
fifty warriors with their families, among whom was the
n The experience of the United States army with the Apache has not proved
their cowardice. Since the running of the boundary line after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848) up to 1886, one outbreak after another characterized our
relations with the Apache. For fifteen years (1871-86) General Crook watched
the Apache, and after each raid forced them back upon their reservations.
Geronimo's band, which surrendered in September, 1886, was transported to
Florida and Alabama.— Ed.
"The leader's name was James Johnson, who afterwards removed to California, where he died in poverty. See H. H. Bancroft, History of Arizona and
New Mexico, p. 407.— Ed.
mm 8o
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
famous Juan Jose" himself, and three other principal chiefs.
On seeing the Americans advance, the former at once
gave them to understand, that, if they had come to fight,
they were ready to accommodate them; but on being assured by the leader, that they were merely bent on a trading
expedition, a friendly interview was immediately established between the parties. The American captain having
determined to put these obnoxious chiefs to death under
any circumstances, soon caused a little field-piece which
had been concealed from the Indians to be loaded with
chain and canister shot, and to be held in readiness for use.
The warriors were then invited to the camp to receive a
present of flour, which was placed within range of the cannon. While they were occupied in dividing the contents
of the bag, they were fired upon and a considerable number
of their party killed on the spot! The remainder were
then attacked with small arms, and about twenty slain,
including Juan Jos6 and the other chiefs. Those who
escaped became afterwards their own avengers in a [297]
manner which proved terribly disastrous to another party
of Americans, who happened at the time to be trapping
on Rio Gila not far distant. The enraged savages resolved
to take summary vengeance upon these unfortunate trappers; and falling upon them, massacred them every one!53
They were in all, including several Mexicans, about fifteen
in number.54
88 Bancroft {pp. cit.) relates the escape of Benjamin Wilson, who afterwards
narrated the event, and the death of the leader, Charles Kemp.— Ed.
84 The Apaches, previous to this date, had committed but few depredations upon
foreigners — restrained either by fear or respect. Small parties of the latter were
permitted to pass the highways of the wilderness unmolested, while large caravans
of Mexicans suffered frequent attacks. This apparent partiality produced unfounded jealousies, and the Americans were openly accused of holding secret
treaties with the enemy, and even of supplying them with arms and ammunition.
Although an occasional foreigner engaged in this clandestine and culpable traffic, 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
The projector of this scheme had probably been under
the impression that treachery was justifiable against a
treacherous enemy. He also believed, no doubt, that the
act would be highly commended by the Mexicans who
had suffered so much from the depredations of these notorious chiefs. But in this he was sadly mistaken; for the
affair was received with general reprehension, although
the Mexicans had been guilty of similar deeds themselves,
as the following brief episode will sufficiently show.
In the summer of 1839, a few Apache prisoners, among
whom was the wife of a distinguished [298] chief, were
confined in the calabozo of Paso del Norte. The bereaved
chief, hearing of their captivity, collected a band of about
sixty warriors, and, boldly entering the town, demanded
the release of his consort and friends. The commandant
of the place wishing to gain time, desired them to return
the next morning, when their request would be granted.
During the night the forces of the country were concentrated; notwithstanding, when the Apaches reappeared,
the troops did not show their faces, but remained concealed,
while the Mexican commandant strove to beguile the
Indians into the prison, under pretence of delivering to
them their friends. The unsuspecting chief and twenty
others were entrapped in this manner, and treacherously
dispatched in cold blood: not, however, without some loss
to the Mexicans, who had four or five of their men killed
in the fracas. Among these was the commandant himself, who had no sooner given the word, " jMaten d los
car a jos J"  (kill the scoundrels!)  than  the chief retorted,
yet the natives themselves embarked in it beyond comparison more extensively,
as has been noted in another place. This unjust impression against Americans
was partially effaced as well by the catastrophes mentioned in the text, as by the
defeat and robbery (in which, however, no American lives were lost), of a small
party of our people, about the same period, in La Jornada del Muerto, on their way
from Chihuahua to Santa Fe.— Gregg.
1 [Vol. 20
fEntdnces morirds tu primer0, carajol" (then you shall
die first, cairajo!) and immediately stabbed him to the
But as New Mexico is more remote from the usual haunts
of the Apaches, and, in fact, as her scanty ranchos present
a much less fruitful field for their operations than the
abundant haciendas of the South, the depredations of this
tribe have extended but little upon that province. The
only serious incursion that has come within my knowledge,
was some ten [299] years ago. A band of Apache warriors
boldly approached the town of Socorro55 on the southern
border, when a battle ensued between them and the Mexican force, composed of a company of regular troops and
all the militia of the place. The Mexicans were soon completely routed and chased into the very streets, suffering
a loss of thirty-three killed and several wounded. The
savages bore away their slain, yet their loss was supposed
to be but six or seven. I happened to be in the vicinity
of the catastrophe the following day, when the utmost
consternation prevailed among the inhabitants, who were
in hourly expectation of another descent from the savages.
Many schemes have been devised from time to time,
particularly by the people of Chihuahua, to check the
ravages of the Indians, but generally without success.
Among these the notorious Proyecto de Guerra, adopted
in 1837, stands most conspicuous. By this famous 'war-
project' a scale of rewards was established, to be paid out
of a fund raised for that purpose. A hundred dollars
reward were offered for the scalp of a full grown man,
fifty for that of a squaw, and twenty-five for that of every
papoose! To the credit of the republic, however, this
barbarous proyecto was in operation but a few weeks, and
55 For Socorro, consult Pattie's Narrative, in our volume xviii, p. 86, note
52.—Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
never received the sanction of the general government;
although it was strongly advocated by some of the most
intelligent citizens of Chihuahua. Yet, pending its existence, it was. rigidly complied with. I saw myself, on one
[300] occasion, a detachment of horsemen approach the
Palacio in Chihuahua, preceded by their commanding
officer, who bore a fresh scalp upon the tip of his lance,
which he waved high in the air in exultation of his exploit!
The next number of our little newspaper contained the
official report of the affair. The soldiers were pursuing
a band of Apaches, when they discovered a squaw who
had lagged far behind in her endeavors to bear away her
infant babe. They dispatched the mother without commiseration and took her scalp, which was the one so 'gallantly' displayed as already mentioned! The officer concluded his report by adding, that the child had died not
long after it was made prisoner.
The Yutas (or Eutaws, as they are generally styled by
Americans) are one of the most extensive nations of the
West, being scattered from the north of New Mexico to the
borders of Snake river and Rio Colorado, and numbering
at least ten thousand souls. The habits of the tribe are
altogether itinerant. A band of about a thousand spend
their winters mostly in the mountain valleys northward
of Taos, and the summer season generally in the prairie
plains to the east, hunting buffalo. The vernacular language of the Yutas is said to be distantly allied to that of
the Navajoes, but it has appeared to me much more guttural, having a deep sepulchral sound resembling ventriloquism. Although these Indians are nominally at peace
with the New Mexican government, they do not hesitate
to lay [301] the hunters and traders who happen to fall in
with their scouring parties under severe contributions;
and on some occasions they have been known to proceed »4
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
even to personal violence. A prominent Mexican officer1
was scourged not long ago by a party of Yutas, and yet
the government has never dared to resent the outrage.
Their hostilities, however, have not been confined to Mexican traders, as will be perceived by the sequel.
In the summer of 1837, a small party of but five or six
Shawnees fell in with a large band of Yutas near the eastern
borders of the Rocky Mountains, south of Arkansas river.
At first they were received with every demonstration of
friendship; but the Yutas, emboldened no doubt by the
small number of their visitors, very soon concluded to
relieve them of whatever surplus property they might be
possessed of. The Shawnees, however, much to the astonishment of the marauders, instead of quietly surrendering
their goods and chattels, offered to defend them; upon
which a skirmish ensued that actually cost the Yutas several
of their men, including a favorite chief; while the Shawnees
made  their  escape unhurt toward  their eastern homes.
A few days after this event, and while the Yutas were
still bewailing the loss of their people, I happened to pass
near their rancherias (temporary village) with a small
caravan which mustered about thirty-five men. We [302]
had hardly pitched our camp, when they began to flock
about us — men, squaws, and papooses — in great numbers;
but the warriors were sullen and reserved, only now and
then muttering a curse upon the Americans on account of
the treatment they had just received from the Shawnees,
whom they considered as half-castes, and our allies. All
of a sudden, a young warrior seized a splendid steed which
belonged to our party, and, leaping upon his back, galloped
M Don Juan Andres Archuleta, who commanded at the capture of Gen. Mc-
Leod's division of the Texans.— Gregg. 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
off at full speed. Being fully convinced that, by acquiescing
in this outrage, we should only encourage them to commit
others, we resolved at once to make a peremptory demand
for the stolen horse of their principal chief. Our request
being treated with contumely, we sent in a warlike declaration, and forthwith commenced making preparations
for descending upon the rancherias. The war-whoop
resounded immediately in every direction; and as the
Yutas bear a very high character for bravery and skill,
the readiness with which they seemed to accept our challenge began to alarm our party considerably. We had
defied them to mortal combat merely by way of bravado,
without the least expectation that they would put themselves to so much inconvenience on our account. It was
too late, however, to back out of the scrape.
No sooner had the alarm been given than the rancherias
of the Indians were converted into a martial encampment;
and while the mounted warriors were exhibiting their
preliminary [303] feats of horsemanship, the squaws and
papooses flew like scattered partridges to the rocks and
clefts of a contiguous precipice. One-third of our party
being Mexicans, the first step of the Indians was to proclaim a general indulto to them, in hopes of reducing our
force, scanty as it was already. "My Mexican friends,"
exclaimed in good Spanish, a young warrior who daringly
rode up within a few rods of us, "we don't wish to hurt
you; so leave those Americans, for we intend to kill every
one of them.11 The Mexicans of our party to whom this
language was addressed, being rancheros of some mettle,
only answered, "AI diablo\ we have not forgotten how
you treat us when you catch us alone: now that we are with
Americans  who  will defend  their  rights,   expect  ample
%i 86
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
retaliation for past insults." In truth, these rancheros
seemed the most anxious to begin the fight,— a remarkable
instance of the effects of confidence in companions.
A crisis seemed now fast approaching: two swivels we
had with us were levelled and primed, and the matches
lighted. Every man was at his post, with his rifle ready
for execution, each anxious to do his best, whatever might
be the result; when the Indians, seeing us determined to
embrace the chances of war, began to open negotiations.
An aged squaw, said to be the mother of the principal
chief, rode up and exclaimed, "My sons! the Americans
and Yutas have been friends, and our old men wish to
continue so: it is only a [304] few impetuous and strong-
headed youths who want to fight." The stolen horse
having been restored soon after this harangue, peace was
joyfully proclaimed throughout both encampments, and
the capitanes exchanged ratifications by a social smoke.
The little tribe of Jicarillas also harbored an enmity
for the Americans, which, in 1834, broke out into a hostile
rencontre. They had stolen some animals of a gallant
young backwoodsman from Missouri, who, with a few
comrades, pursued the marauders into the mountains and
regained his property; and a fracas ensuing, an Indian or
two were killed. A few days afterward all their warriors
visited Santa Fe in a body, and demanded of the authorities
there, the delivery of the American offenders to their vengeance. Though the former showed quite a disposition
to gratify the savages as far as practicable, they had not
helpless creatures to deal with, as in the case of the Indian
prisoners already related. The foreigners, seeing, their
protection devolved upon themselves, prepared for defence,
when the savages were fain to depart in peace.
M 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
Incidents of a Return Trip from Santa F^ — Calibre of our Party —
Return Caravans — Remittances — Death of Mr. Langham —
Burial in the Desert — A sudden Attack — Confusion in the Camp
— A Wolfish Escort — Scarcity of Buffalo — Unprofitable Delusion
— Arrival — Table of Camping Sites and Distances — Condition
of the Town of Independence — The Mormons — Their Dishonesty
and Immorality — Their high-handed Measures, and a Rising of
the People — A fatal Skirmish — A chivalrous Parade of the Citizens
— Expulsion of the Mormons — The Meteoric Shower, and Superstition, etc.— Wanderings and Improprieties of the ' Latter-day
Saints'— Gov. Boggs' Recipe — The City of Nauvoo — Contemplated Retribution of the Mormons.
I do not propose to detain the reader with an account
of my journeyings between Mexico and the United States,
during the seven years subsequent to my first arrival at
Santa ¥€. I will here merely remark, that I crossed the
plains to the United States in the falls of 1833 and 1836,
and returned to Santa ¥6 with goods each succeeding
spring. It was only in 1838, however, that I eventually
closed up my affairs in Northern Mexico, and prepared
to take my leave of the country, as I then supposed, forever.
But in this I was mistaken, as will appear in the sequel.
The most usual season for the return of the [306] caravans
to the United States is the autumn, and not one has elapsed
since the commencement of the trade which has not witnessed some departure from Santa ¥6 with that destination.
They have also crossed occasionally in the spring, but
without any regularity or frequency, and generally in very
small parties. Even the 'fall companies,' in fact, are
small when compared with the outward-bound caravans;
for besides the numbers who remain permanently in the
country, many of those who trade southward return to
the United States via Matamoros or some other Southern
port. The return parties of autumn are therefore comparatively small, varying in number from fifty to a hundred Ill
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
men. They leave Santa Fe some four or five weeks after
their arrival — generally about the first of September.
In these companies there are rarely over thirty or forty
wagons; for a large portion of those taken out by the annual
caravans are disposed of in the country.
Some of the traders who go out in the spring, return the
ensuing fall, because they have the good fortune to sell
off their stock promptly and to advantage: others are compelled to return in the fall to save their credit; nay, to preserve their homes, which, especially in the earlier periods,
have sometimes been mortgaged to secure the payment of
the merchandise they carried out with them. In such
cases, their goods were not unfrequently sold at great
sacrifice, to avoid the penalties which the breaking of their
engagements at home [307] would involve. New adventurers, too, are apt to become discouraged with an
unanticipated dullness of times, and not unfrequently
sell off at wholesale for the best price they can get, though
often at a serious loss. But those who are regularly engaged in this trade usually calculate upon employing a
season — perhaps a year, in closing an enterprise — in
selling off their goods and making their returns.
The wagons of the return caravans are generally but
lightly laden: one to two thousand pounds constitute the
regular return cargo for a single wagon; for not only are
the teams unable to haul heavy loads, on account of the
decay of pasturage at this season, but the approaching
winter compels the traders to travel in greater haste; so
that this trip is usually made in about forty days. The
amount of freight, too, from that direction is comparatively
small. The remittances, as has already been mentioned,
are chiefly in specie, or gold and silver bullion. The gold
is mostly dust, from the Placer or gold mine near Santa F6:57
For the placer mines, see our volume xix, p. 304, note 128 (Gregg).— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
the silver bullion is all from the mines of the South —
chiefly from those of Chihuahua. To these returns may
be added a considerable number of mules and asses —
some buffalo rugs, furs, and wool,— which last barely
pays a return freight for the wagons that would otherwise
be empty. Coarse Mexican blankets, which may be
obtained in exchange for merchandise, have been sold in
small quantities to advantage on our border.
[308] On the 4th of April, 1838, we departed from
Santa Fe\ Our little party was found to consist of twenty-
three Americans, with twelve Mexican servants. We had
seven wagons, one dearborn, and two small field-pieces,
besides a large assortment of small-arms. The principal
proprietors carried between them about $150,000 in specie
and bullion, being for the most part the proceeds of the
previous year's adventure.
We moved on at a brisk and joyous pace until we reached
Ocate" creek, a tributary of the Colorado,58 a distance of a
hundred and thirty miles from Santa ¥6, where we encountered a very sudden bereavement in the death of Mr.
Langham, one of our most respected proprietors. This
gentleman was known to be in weak health, but no fears
were entertained for his safety. We were all actively
engaged in assisting the more heavily laden wagons over
the miry stream, when he was seized with a fit of apoplexy
and expired instantly. As we had not the means of giving
the deceased a decent burial, we were compelled to consign
him to the earth in a shroud of blankets. A grave was
accordingly dug on an elevated spot near the north bank
of the creek, and on the morning of the 13th, ere the sun
had risen in the east, the mortal remains of this most worthy
58 Ocat6 Creek is in Mora County, New Mexico, a tributary of the upper waters
of the Canadian, one of the several streams called Colorado by the Mexicans.
Because of this name, it was thought (until Long's expedition in 1820) to be the
headwaters of Red River.— Ed. Mm
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
man and valued friend were deposited in their last abode,
— without a tomb-stone to consecrate the spot, or an
epitaph to commemorate his virtues. The deceased was
from St. Louis, [309] though he had passed the last eleven
years of his life in Santa Fe, during the whole of which
period he had seen neither his home nor his relatives.
The melancholy rites being concluded, we resumed our
line of march. We now continued for several days without
the occurrence of any important accident or adventure.
On the 19th we encamped in the Cimarron valley, about
twelve miles below the Willow Bar. The very sight of
this desolate region, frequented as it is by the most savage
tribes of Indians, was sufficient to strike dismay into the
hearts of our party; but as we had not as yet encountered
any of them, we felt comparatively at ease. Our mules
and horses were 'staked' as usual around the wagons, and
every man, except the watch, betook himself to his blanket,
in anticipation of a good night's rest. The hour of midnight had passed away, and nothing had been heard except
the tramping of the men on guard, and the peculiar grating
of the mules' teeth, nibbling the short grass of the valley.
Ere long, however, one of our sentinels got a glimpse of
some object moving stealthily along, and as he was straining
his eyes to ascertain what sort of apparition it could be, a
loud Indian yell suddenly revealed the mystery. This
was quickly followed by a discharge of fire-arms, and the
shrill note of the 'Pawnee whistle,' which at once made
known the character of our visitors. As usual, the utmost
confusion prevailed in our camp: some, who had been
snatched [310] from the land of dreams, ran their heads
against the wagons — others called out for their guns while
they had them in their hands. During the height of the
bustle and uproar, a Mexican servant was observed leaning
with his back against a wagon, and his fusil elevated at an 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
angle of forty-five degrees, cocking and pulling the trigger
without ceasing, and exclaiming at every snap, "Carajo,
no sirvel11— Curse it, it's good for nothing.
The firing still continued — the yells grew fiercer and
more frequent; and everything betokened the approach of
a terrible conflict. Meanwhile a number of persons were
engaged in securing the mules and horses which were
staked around the encampment; and in a few minutes
they were all shut up in the corral — a hundred head or
more in a pen formed by seven wagons. The enemy
failing in their principal object — to frighten off our stock,
they soon began to retreat; and in a few minutes nothing
more was to be heard of them. All that we could discover
the next morning was, that none of our party had sustained
any injury, and that we had not lost a single animal.
The Pawnees have been among the most formidable
and treacherous enemies of the Santa ¥6 traders. But
the former have also suffered a little in turn from the caravans. In 1832, a company of traders were approached
by a single Pawnee chief, who commenced a parley with
them, when he was shot down by a Pueblo Indian of New
Mexico who happened [311 ] to be with the caravan. Though
this cruel act met with the decided reprobation of the traders
generally, yet they were of course held responsible for it
by the Indians.
On our passage this time across the 'prairie ocean'
which lay before us, we ran no risk of getting bewildered
or lost, for there was now a plain wagon trail across the
entire stretch of our route, from the Cimarron to Arkansas
This track, which has since remained permanent, was
made in the year 1834. Owing to continuous rains during
the passage of the caravan of that year, a plain trail was
then cut in the softened turf, on the most direct route across
I 92
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
this arid desert, leaving the Arkansas about twenty miles
above the 'Caches.' This has ever since been the regular
route of the caravans; and thus a recurrence of those distressing sufferings from thirst, so frequently experienced
by early travellers in that inhospitable region, has been
We forded the Arkansas without difficulty, and pursued
our journey to the Missouri border with comparative ease;
being only now and then disturbed at night by the hideous
howling of wolves, a pack of which had constituted themselves into a kind of 'guard of honor,' and followed in our
wake for several hundred miles — in fact to the very border
of the settlements. They were at first attracted no doubt
by the remains of buffalo which were killed by us upon the
high plains, and [312] afterwards enticed on by an occasional
fagged animal, which we were compelled to leave behind,
as well as by the bones and scraps of food, which they
picked up about our camps. Not a few of them paid the
penalty of their lives for their temerity.
Had we not fortunately been supplied with a sufficiency
of meat and other provisions, we might have suffered of
hunger before reaching the settlements; for we saw no
buffalo after crossing the Arkansas river. It is true that,
owing to their disrelish for the long dry grass of the eastern
prairies, the buffalo are rarely found so far east in autumn
as during the spring; yet I never saw them so scarce in this
region before. In fact, at all seasons, they are usually
very abundant as far east as our point of leaving the Arkansas river.
Upon reaching the settlements, I had an opportunity of
experiencing a delusion which had been the frequent subject of remark by travellers on the Prairies before. Accustomed as we had been for some months to our little
mules, and the equally small-sized Mexican ponies, our 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
sight became so adjusted to their proportions, that when
we came to look upon the commonest hackney of our
frontier horses, it appeared to be almost a monster. I
have frequently heard exclamations of this kind from the
new arrivals:—"How the Missourians have improved
their breed of horses!"—"What a huge gelding!"—"Did
you ever see such an animal!" This delusion is frequently
availed of by the frontiersmen [313] to put off their meanest
horses to these deluded travellers for the most enormous
On the nth of May we arrived at Independence, after
a propitious journey of only thirty-eight days.59 We
found the town in a thriving condition, although it had
come very near being laid waste a few years before by the
59 Having crossed the Prairies', between Independence and Santa Fe- six times,
I can now present a table of the most notable camping sites, and their respective
intermediate distances, with approximate accuracy — which may prove acceptable
to some future travellers. The whole distance has been variously estimated at
from 750 to 800 miles, yet I feel confident that the aggregate here presented is very
nearly the true distance.
From Independence to
Round Grove,
Sand Cr. (leav. Ark. r.)
Cimarron r. (Lower sp.)
no-mile Creek,
Middle spr. (up Cim. r.)
Bridge Cr.,
Willow Bar,
Big John Spring,
Upper Spring,
(crossing se^l Crs.)
Cold spr. (leav. Cim. r.)
Council Grove,
M'Nees's Cr.,
Diamond Spring,
Rabbit-ear Cr.,
Lost Spring,
Round Mound,
Cottonwood Cr.,
Rock Creek,
Turkey Cr.,
Point of Rocks,
Little Arkansas,
Rio Colorado,
Cow Creek,
Arkansas River,
Santa Clara Spr.,
Walnut Cr., (up Ark. r.)
Rio Mora,
Ash Creek,
Rio Gallinas (Vegas),
Pawnee Fork,
Ojo de Bernal (spr.),
Coon Creek,
San Miguel,
Pecos village,
Ford of Arkansas,
Santa Fe,
.-ill 94
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Mormons, who had originally selected this section of the
country for the site of their New Jerusalem. In this they
certainly displayed far more taste and good sense than
they are generally supposed to be endowed [314] with: for
the rich and beautiful uplands in the vicinity of Independence might well be denominated the 'garden spot' of the
Far West. Their principal motive for preferring the
border country, however, was no doubt a desire to be in
the immediate vicinity of the Indians, as the reclamation
of the 'Lost tribes of Israel' was a part of their pretended
Prior to 1833, the Mormons, who were then flocking in
great swarms to this favored region, had made considerable
purchases of lots and tracts of land both in the town of
Independence and in the adjacent country. A general
depot, profanely styled the 'Lord's Store,' was established,
from which the faithful were supplied with merchandise
at moderate prices; while those who possessed any surplus
of property were expected to deposit it in the same, for the
benefit of the mass. The Mormons were at first kindly
received by the good people of the country, who looked
upon them as a set of harmless fanatics, very susceptible
of being moulded into good and honest citizens. This
confidence, however, was not destined to remain long in
the ascendant, for they soon began to find that the corn
in their cribs was sinking like snow before the sun-rays,
and that their hogs and their cattle were by some mysterious
agency rapidly disappearing. The new-comers also drew
upon themselves much animadversion in consequence of
the immorality of their fives, and in particular their disregard for the sacred rites of marriage.
[315] Still they continued to spread and multiply, not
by conversion but by immigration, to an alarming extent;
and in proportion as they grew strong in numbers, they 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
also became more exacting and bold in their pretensions.
In a little paper printed at Independence under their im
mediate auspices,80 everything was said that could provoke
hostility between the 'saints' and their 'worldly' neighbors,
until at last they became so emboldened by impunity, as
openly to boast of their determination to be the sole proprietors of the 'Land of Zion;' a revelation to that effect
having been made to their prophet.
The people now began to perceive, that, at the rate the
intruders were increasing, they would soon be able to command a majority of the country, and consequently the
entire control of affairs would fall into their hands. It
was evident, then, that one of the two parties would in the
course of time have to abandon the country; for the old
settlers could not think of bringing up their families in the
midst of such a corrupt state of society as the Mormons
were establishing. Still the nuisance was endured very
patiently, and without any attempt at retaliation, until the
'saints' actually threatened to eject their opponents by
main force. This last stroke of impudence at once roused
the latent spirit of the honest backwoodsmen, some of
whom were of the pioneer settlers of Missouri, and had
become familiar with danger in their terrific wars with the
savages. They were therefore by no [316] means appropriate subjects for yielding what they believed to be their
rights. Meetings were held for the purpose of devising
means of redress, which only tended to increase the insolence of the Mormons. Finally a mob was collected
which proceeded at once to raze the obnoxious printing
establishment to the ground, and to destroy all the materials
they could lay hands upon. One or two of the Mormon
leaders who fell into the hands of the people, were treated
80 This paper, the first printed in Jackson County, was called The Evening and
Morning Star, the first issue being in June, 1832.— Ed. I:     .
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
to a clean suit of 'tar and feathers,' and otherwise severely
punished.61 The 'Prophet Joseph,' however, was not then
in the neighborhood. Having observed the storm-clouds
gathering apace in the frontier horizon, he very wisely
remained in Ohio, whence he issued his flaming mandates.
These occurrences took place in the month of October,
1833, and I reached Independence from Santa Fe* while
the excitement was raging at its highest. The Mormons
had rallied some ten miles west of the town, where their
strongest settlements were located. A hostile encounter
was hourly expected: nay, a skirmish actually took place
shortly after, in which a respectable lawyer of Independence, who had been an active agent against the Mormons,
was killed. In short, the whole country was in a state of
dreadful fermentation.
Early on the morning after the skirmish just referred
to, a report reached Independence that the Mormons were
marching in a [317] body towards the town, with the intention of sacking and burning it. I had often heard the cry
of "Indians!" announcing the approach of hostile savages,
but I do not remember ever to have witnessed so much
consternation as prevailed at Independence on this memorable occasion. The note of alarm was sounded far and
near, and armed men, eager for the fray, were rushing in
from every quarter. Officers were summarily selected
without deference to rank or station: the 'spirit-stirring
drum' and the 'ear-piercing fife' made the air resound with
music, and a little army of as brave and resolute a set of
fellows as ever trod a field of battle, was, in a very short
time, paraded through the streets. After a few preliminary
exercises, they started for a certain point on the road where
they intended to await the approach of the Mormons.
81 This occurred July 20, 1833.   Bishop Partridge and Charles Allen were the
victims of the punishment.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies 97
The latter very soon made their appearance, but surprised
at meeting with so formidable a reception, they never even
attempted to pull a trigger, but at once surrendered at
discretion. They were immediately disarmed, and subsequently released upon condition of their leaving the country
without delay.
It was very soon after this affair that the much talked
of phenomenon of the meteoric shower (on the night of
November 12th) occurred. This extraordinary visitation
did not fail to produce its effects upon the superstitious
minds of a few ignorant people, who began to wonder
whether, after all, the Mormons might not be in the right;
and whether this was not a sign sent from heaven as a
remonstrance for the injustice they had been guilty of
towards that chosen sect.63 Sometime afterward, a terrible
misfortune occurred which was in no way calculated to
allay the superstitious fears of the ignorant. As some
eight or ten citizens were returning with the ferry-boat
which had crossed the last Mormons over the Missouri
river, into Clay county, the district selected for their new
home, the craft filled with water and sunk in the middle
of the current; by which accident three or four men were
drowned !68 It was owing perhaps to the craziness of the
boat, yet some persons suspected the Mormons of having
scuttled it by secretly boring auger-holes in the bottom
just before they had left it.
After sojourning a few months in Clay county, to the
serious annoyance of the inhabitants (though, in fact, they
82 In Northern Mexico, as I learned afterwards, ihe credulity of the superstitious
was still more severely tried by this celestial phenomenon. Their Church had been
deprived of some important privileges by the Congress but a short time before, and
the people could not be persuaded but that the meteoric shower was intended as a
curse upon the nation in consequence of that sacrilegious act.— Gregg.
88 The following were drowned: James Campbell, George Bradbury, David
Linch, Thomas Harrington, William Everett, Smallwood Nolan»— Ed. 98
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
had been kindly received at first), the persecuted 'Latter
day Saints' were again compelled to shift their quarters
further off. They now sought to establish themselves in
the new country of Caldwell, and founded their town of
Far West, where they lingered in comparative peace for
a few years.64 As the county began to fill up with settlers
however, quarrels repeatedly [319] broke out, until at last,
in 1838, they found themselves again at open war with their
neighbors. They appear to have set the laws of the state
at defiance, and to have acted so turbulently throughout,
that Governor Boggs deemed it necessary to order out a
large force of state militia to subject them: which was
easily accomplished without bloodshed. From that time
the Mormons have harbored a mortal enmity towards the
Governor: and the attempt which was afterwards made
to assassinate him at Independence, is generally believed
to have been instigated, if not absolutely perpetrated, by
that deluded sect.65
Being once more forced to emigrate, they passed into
Illinois, where they founded the famous 'City of Nauvoo.'
It would seem that their reception from the people of this
state was even more strongly marked with kindness and
indulgence than it had been elsewhere, being generally
looked upon as the victims of persecution on account of
84 Far West was begun in 1836; by 1838 there was a Mormon population of
twelve thousand in and around the city.— Ed.
85 Lilburn W. Boggs was born in Kentucky in 1798. Early removed to Missouri,
he became prominent as a trader, pioneer, and political leader. In 1832 he was
elected lieutenant-governor, serving as the acting-governor during part of his term.
At its close (1836) he was chosen governor, and served for four years. During
this term he incurred the animosity of the Mormons, by what was known as his
"extermination order," issued in October, 1838. The attempt to assassinate
him at the close of his term of office, at his home in Independence (1841), was
popularly ascribed to a Mormon fanatic, who was, however, acquitted in the courts.
In 1846 Governor Boggs led an overland party to California, where he assisted in
the American occupation. Removed to Napa Valley in 1852, he died there nine
years later.   His wife was a granddaughter of Daniel Boone.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
their religious belief; yet it appears that the good people
of Illinois have since become about as tired of them as were
any of their former neighbors.68 It seems very clear then,
that fanatical delusion is not the only sin which stamps
the conduct of these people with so much obliquity, or they
would certainly have found permanent friends somewhere;
whereas it is well known that a general aversion has prevailed against them wherever they have sojourned.
Before concluding this chapter, it may be [320] proper
to remark, that the Mormons have invariably refused to
sell any of the property they had acquired in Missouri, but
have on the contrary expressed a firm determination to
reconquer their lost purchases.67 Of these, a large lot,
situated on an elevated point at Independence, known as
the 'Temple Lot,' upon which the 'Temple of Zion' was
to have been raised,— has lately been 'profaned,' by
cultivation, having been converted into a corn-field!
A Return to Prairie Life — Abandonment ofthe regular Route —
The Start — A Suicide — Arrest of a Mulatto for Debt — Cherokee
' Bankrupt Law'— Chuly, the Creek Indian — The Muster and
the Introduction — An OUa Podrida'—Adventure of a 'Down-
Easter'— Arrival of U. S. Dragoons — Camp Holmes, and the Road
—A Visit from a Party of Comanches — Tabba-quena, a noted Chief
— His extraordinary Geographical Talent — Indians set out for
the ' Capitan Grande,' and we through an Unexplored Region —
Rejoined by Tabba-quena and his 'suite'—Spring Valley — The
Buffalo Fever—The Chase—A Green-horn Scamper—Prairie Fuel.
An unconquerable propensity to return to prairie life
inclined me to embark in a fresh enterprise.    The blockade
88 The year in which Gregg's book was published (June, 1844), Prophet Joseph
Smith was killed by a mob in the jail of Carthage, Illinois.— Ed.
87 After the death of the founder there was dissension in the ranks, one wing
being headed by his eldest son, Joseph Smith III. The latter founded what is
known as the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, which repudiates polygamy.
These were the sectarians who returned to Jackson County, Missouri, where a
large number now reside.— Ed.
88 Chapter i of volume ii of the original edition.— Ed.
H mm
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
of the Mexican ports by the French also offered strong
inducements for undertaking such an expedition in the
spring of 1839; for as Chihuahua is supplied principally
through the sea-ports, it was now evident that the place
must be suffering from great scarcity of goods. Being
anxious to reach the market before the ports of the Gulf
were reopened, we deemed it expedient to abandon the
regular route from [10] Missouri for one wholly untried,
from the borders of Arkansas, where the pasturage springs
up nearly a month earlier. It is true, that such an attempt
to convey heavily laden wagons through an unexplored
region was attended with considerable risk; but as I was
familiar with the general character of the plains contiguous
to the north, I felt little or no apprehension of serious difficulties, except from what might be occasioned by regions of
sandy soil. I have often been asked since, why we did not
steer directly for Chihuahua, as our trade was chiefly
destined for that place, instead of taking the circuitous
route via Santa Fe. I answer, that we dreaded a journey
across the southern prairies on account of the reputed aridity
of the country in that direction, and I had no great desire to
venture directly into a southern port in the present state
of uncertainty as to the conditions of entry.
Suitable arrangements having been made, and a choice
stock of about $25,000 worth of goods shipped to Van Buren69
on the Arkansas river, we started on the evening of the 21st
of April, but made very little progress for the first eight days.
While we were yet but ten or fifteen miles from Van Buren,
88 It is said that Major Long first chose the site of Van Buren for the fort afterwards erected at Bellepoint, five miles higher up the river, and known as Fort Smith
— see our volume xiii, p. 197, note 166. The site was not occupied until after the
removal of the Cherokee in 1828; the next year it was made a post-office, and in
1838 the seat for Crawford County, Arkansas. For two decades Van Buren was a
prosperous frontier town, the home of a large Indian trade. Since the War of
Secession it has not regained its prestige.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
an incident occurred which was attended with very melancholy results. A young man named Hays, who had driven
a wagon for me for several months through the interior of
Mexico, and thence to the United States in 1838, having
heard that this expedition was projected, [n] was desirous
of engaging again in the same employ. I was equally
desirous to secure his services, as he was well-tried, and had
proved himself an excellent fellow on those perilous journeys.
But soon after our outset, and without any apparent reason,
he expressed an inclination to abandon the trip. I earnestly
strove to dissuade him from his purpose, and supposed I
had succeeded. What was my surprise, then, upon my
return after a few hours' absence in advance of the company,
to learn that he had secretly absconded! I was now led to
reflect upon some of his eccentricities, and bethought me of
several evident indications of slight mental derangement.
We were, however, but a few miles from the settlements of
the whites, and in the midst of the civilized Cherokees, where
there was little or no danger of his suffering; therefore, there
seemed but little occasion for serious uneasiness on his
account. As it was believed he had shaped his course back
to Van Buren, I immediately wrote to our friends there,
to have search made for him. However, nothing could be
found of him till the next day, when his hat and coat were
discovered upon the bank of the Arkansas, near Van Buren,
which were the last traces ever had of the unfortunate
Hays! Whether intentionally or accidentally, he was evidently drowned.
On the 28th of April we crossed the Arkansas river a few
miles above the mouth of the Canadian fork.70 We had only
proceeded [12] a short distance beyond, when a Cherokee
shop-keeper came up to us with an attachment for debt
70 The caravan crossed the Arkansas, between the embouchment of the Illinois
and Canadian rivers, in what is now the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.— Ed.
Mmmm Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
against a free mulatto whom we had engaged as teamster.
The poor fellow had no alternative but to return with the
importunate creditor, who committed him at once to the
care of 'Judge Lynch' for trial. We ascertained afterwards
that he had been sentenced to 'take the benefit of the bankrupt law' after the manner of the Cherokees of that neighborhood. This is done by stripping and tying the victim
to a tree; when each creditor, with a good cowhide or
hickory switch in his hand, scores the amount of the bill due
upon his bare back. One stripe for every dollar due is the
usual process of 'whitewashing;' and as the application of
the lash is accompanied by all sorts of quaint remarks, the
exhibition affords no small merriment to those present, with
the exception, no doubt, of the delinquent himself. After
the ordeal is over, the creditors declare themselves perfectly
satisfied: nor could they, as is said, ever be persuaded thereafter to receive one red cent of the amount due, even if it
were offered to them. As the poor mulatto was also in our
debt, and was perhaps apprehensive that we might exact
payment in the same currency, he never showed himself
On the 2d of May we crossed the North Fork of the
Canadian about a mile from its confluence with the main
stream. A little westward of this there is a small village of
[13] Creek Indians, and a shop or two kept by American
traders.71 An Indian who had quarrelled with his wife,
came out and proposed to join us, and, to our great surprise,
carried his proposal into execution. The next morning his
repentant consort came into our camp, and set up a most
dismal weeping and howling after her truant husband, who,
notwithstanding, was neither to be caught by tears nor
71 The North Fork of the Canadian unites with the main stream on the boundary
between the Creek and Cherokee nations. The Creek town of Eufaula is near
the site mentioned by Gregg.— Ed. ul
1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
softened by entreaties, but persisted in his determination to
see foreign countries. His name was Echti-eleh-hadjd (or
Crazy-deer-foot), but, for brevity's sake, we always called
him Chuly. He was industrious, and possessed many clever
qualities, though somewhat disposed to commit excesses
whenever he could procure liquor, which fortunately did
not occur until our arrival at Santa Fe\ He proved to be a
good and willing hand on the way, but as he spoke no
English, our communication with him was somewhat
troublesome. I may as well add here, that, while in Santa
¥6, he took another freak and joined a volunteer corps,
chiefly of Americans, organized under one James Kirker to
fight the Navaj6 and Apache Indians; the government of
Chihuahua having guarantied to them all the spoils they
should take.72 With these our Creek found a few of his 'red
brethren'— Shawnees and Delawares, who had wandered
thus far from the frontier of Missouri. After this little
army was disbanded, Chuly returned home, as I have been
informed, with a small [14] party who crossed the plains
directly from Chihuahua.
We had never considered ourselves as perfectly en chemin
till after crossing the Arkansas river; and as our little party
experienced no further change, I may now be permitted to
introduce them collectively to the reader. It consisted of
thirty-four men, including my brother John Gregg and
myself. These men had all been hired by us except three,
two of whom were Eastern-bred boys — a tailor and a silversmith — good-natured, clever little fellows, who had thought
themselves at the 'jumping-off place' when they reached
72 James Kirker, known to the Mexicans as Santiago Querque, was an American
who led an adventurous life upon the plains. Like several others he embarked in
Apache warfare for the government of Chihuahua; and was accused, probably unjustly, of cheating in the delivery of scalps. He retired in bad humor to his hacienda
in Sonora; later removing to California, where he died about 1853. See Kendall,
Texan Santa Fi Expedition, ii, pp. 57-59.— Ed.
"■•- 104
Early Western Travels
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Van Buren, but now seemed nothing loth to extend their
peregrinations a thousand miles or so further, in the hope
of 'doing' the 'Spaniards,' as the Mexicans are generally
styled in the West, out of a little surplus of specie. The other
was a German peddler, who somewhat resembled the
Dutchman's horse, "put him as you vant, and he ish alvays
tere;" for he did nothing during the whole journey but
descant on the value of a chest of trumperies which he carried, and with which he calculated, as he expressed it, to
"py a plenty of te Shpanish tollar." The trip across the
Prairies cost these men absolutely nothing, inasmuch as we
furnished them with all the necessaries for the journey, in
consideration of the additional strength they brought to our
It is seldom that such a variety of ingredients are found
mixed up in so small a compass. [15] Here were the representatives of seven distinct nations, each speaking his own
native language, which produced at times a very respectable
jumble of discordant sounds. There was one Frenchman
whose volubility of tongue and curious gesticulations, contrasted very strangely with the frigidity of two phlegmatic
wanderers from Germany; while the calm eccentricity of
two Polish exiles, the stoical look of two sons of the desert
(the Creek already spoken of, and a Chickasaw), and the
pantomimic gestures of sundry loquacious Mexicans, contributed in no small degree to heighten the effects of the
picture. The Americans were mostly backwoodsmen, who
could handle the rifle far better than the whip, but who
nevertheless officiated as wagoners.
We had fourteen road-wagons, half drawn by mules, the
others by oxen (eight of each to the team); besides a carriage
and a Jersey wagon. Then we had two swivels mounted
upon one pair of wheels; but one of them was attached to
a movable truckle, so that, upon stopping, it could be trans-
il 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
ferred to the other side of the wagons. One of these was a
long brass piece made to order, with a calibre of but an inch
and a quarter, yet of sufficient metal to throw a leaden ball
to the distance of a mile with surprising accuracy. The
other was of iron, and a little larger. Besides these, our
party was well supplied with small arms. The Americans
mostly had their rifles and a musket in addition, which [16]
they carried in their wagons, always well charged with ball
and buckshot. Then my brother and myself were each
provided with one of Colt's repeating rifles, and a pair of
pistols of the same, so that we could, if necessary, carry
thirty-six ready-loaded shots apiece; which alone constituted
a capacity of defence rarely matched even on the Prairies.,
Previous to our departure we had received a promise from
the war department of an escort of U. S. Dragoons, as far as
the borders of the Mexican territory; but, upon sending an
express to Gen. Arbuckle at Fort Gibson to that effect,73 we
were informed that in consequence of some fresh troubles
among the Cherokees, it was doubtful whether the force
could be spared in time. This was certainly no very agreeable news, inasmuch as the escort would have been very
serviceable in assisting to search out a track over the unexplored wilderness we had to pass. It was too late, however,
to recede; and so we resolved at all hazards to pursue our
73 Matthew Arbuckle was the son of a Virginia pioneer of the same name, who
participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. The son was born in 1776,
and entered the regular army at the age of twenty-three, passing through all of the
grades until in 1830 he was, for meritorious services, breveted brigadier-general.
He died at Fort Smith June n, 1851.
Fort Gibson was erected in 1824 on the left bank of Neosho River, near its
mouth. The western boundary of Arkansas was in 1825 removed forty miles to
the west, so that this military post fell within its border. Later (1830), the boundary
was again replaced at the original limits, whereupon Fort Gibson fell into Cherokee
territory. Several unavailing efforts were made (1834-38) to have the garrison
removed to Fort Smith; and after numerous protests by the Cherokee against its
maintenance within their borders, Fort Gibson was finally abandoned in 1857.— Ed.
t m
^^ps* io6
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
We had advanced beyond the furthest settlements of the
Creeks and Seminoles, and pitched our camp on a bright
balmy evening, in the border of a delightful prairie, when
some of the young men, attracted by the prospect of game,
shouldered their rifles and wended their steps through the
dense forest which lay contiguous to our encampment.
Among those that went forth, there was one of the 'down-
easters' already mentioned, who was much more familiar
with the interior of [17] a city than of a wilderness forest.
As the shades of evening were beginning to descend, and all
the hunters had returned except him, several muskets and
even our little field-pieces were fired, but without effect.
The night passed away, and the morning dawned upon the
encampment, and still he was absent. The firing was then
renewed; but soon after he was seen approaching, very
sullen and dejected. He came with a tale of perilous
adventures and 'hair-breadth 'scapes' upon his lips, which
somewhat abated the storm of ridicule by which he was at
first assailed. It seemed that he had heard our firing on
the previous evening, but believed it to proceed from a contrary direction — a very common mistake with persons who
have become bewildered and lost. Thus deceived and
stimulated by the fear of Indians (from a party of whom he
supposed the firing to proceed), he continued his pathless
wanderings till dark, when, to render his situation still more
critical, he was attacked by a 'painter'— anglicb, panther —
which he actually succeeded in beating off with the breech
of his gun, and then betook himself to the topmost extremity
of a tree, where, in order to avoid a similar intrusion, he
passed the remainder of the night. From a peculiar odor
with which the shattered gun was still redolent, however, it
was strongly suspected that the 'terrific painter' was not
many degrees removed, in affinity, from a polecat.
We had just reached the extreme edge of [18] the far 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
famed 'Cross Timbers,' 7* when we were gratified by the
arrival of forty dragoons, under the command of Lieut.
Bowman, who had orders to accompany us to the supposed
boundary of the United States.76 On the same evening we
had the pleasure of encamping together at a place known as
Camp Holmes, a wild romantic spot in latitude 350 5', and
but a mile north of the Canadian river. Just at hand there
was a beautiful spring, where, in 1835, Colonel Mason with a
force of U. S. troops, had a 'big talk' and still bigger 'smoke'
with a party of Comanche and Witchita Indians.76 Upon
the same site Col. Chouteau had also caused to be erected
not long after, a little stockade fort, where a considerable
trade was subsequently carried on with the Comanches and
other tribes of the southwestern prairies. The place had
now been abandoned, however, since the preceding winter.
From the Arkansas river to Chouteau's Fort, our route
presented an unbroken succession of grassy plains and fertile
glades, intersected here and there with woody belts and
numerous rivulets, most of which, however, are generally
dry except during the rainy season.   As far as Camp Holmes,
74 For the description of the belt of woodland known as Cross Timbers, see
post, p. 253.— Ed.
76 Lieutenant James Monroe Bowman entered the West Point military academy
from Pennsylvania, was made lieutenant in the mpunted rangers in 1832, and
transferred to the dragoons in 1833.    For his death (July 21, 1839), see post.— Ed.
78 Camp Holmes was at the site later occupied by Fort Holmes, in the Creek
Nation, near its western boundary. In 1849 there was no habitation at this place;
see Senate Doc, 31 Cong., 1 sess., 12.
Richard Barnes Mason was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1797; at the
age of twenty he entered the army as lieutenant, two years later (1819) became
captain, and in 1833 major of the 1st dragoons. He was lieutenant-colonel in
1836, colonel in 1846, and brigadier-general two years later, dying at St. Louis in
1850. He served in the Black Hawk War, and was first military and civil governor of California.
For the Comanche, see our volume xvi, p. 233, note 109. For the Wichita, also
called Pawnee Picts, ibid., p. 95, note 55.
The treaty here alluded to was signed at Camp Holmes, August 24, 1835. If
Colonel Mason was present it was in a subordinate capacity, as General Arbuckle io8
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
we had a passable wagon road, which was opened upon the
occasion of the Indian treaty before alluded to, and was
afterwards kept open by the Indian traders. Yet, notwithstanding the road, this stretch gave us more trouble — presented more rugged passes, miry ravines and steep [19]
ascents — than all the rest of our journey put together.
We had not been long at the Fort, before we received a
visit from a party of Comanches, who having heard of our
approach came to greet us a welcome, on the supposition
that it was their friend Chouteau returning to the fort with
fresh supplies of merchandise. Great was their grief when
we informed them that their favorite trader had died at Fort
Gibson, the previous winter.77 On visiting their wigwams
and inquiring for their capitan,78 we were introduced to a
corpulent, squint-eyed old fellow, who certainly had nothing
in his personal appearance indicative of rank or dignity.
This was Tabba-quena (or the Big Eagle), a name familiar
to all the Comanche traders. As we had frequently heard
that he spoke Spanish fluently, we at once prepared ourselves
for a social chit-chat; but, on accosting him in that tongue,
and inquiring whether he could talk Spanish, he merely
replied ^Poquito1 putting at the same time his forefinger to
his ear, to signify that he merely understood a little — which
proved true to a degree, for our communication was chiefly
and Montford Stokes were the federal commissioners. The treaty was one of
peace and friendship between the Comanche, Wichita, and associated bands
on the one part, and the tribes recently removed to the vicinity — Cherokee,
Creek, Choctaw, etc.— on the other, the government commissioners acting as
mediators.— Ed.
77 Auguste Pierre Chouteau, eldest son of the senior Pierre (for whom see our
volume xvi. p. 275, note 127) and brother of Pierre (cadet), so well known in connection with the Missouri Fur Company, was born at St. Louis in 1786. After
being educated at West Point, he entered the army, where he was ensign of the 1st
infantry. In 1809, he resigned, married his cousin Sophie Labadie, and embarked
in the fur trade* in which he had charge of the Arkansas branch of the business
until his death at Fort Gibson.— Ed.
78 Most of the prairie Indians seem to have learned this Spanish word, by which,
when talking with the whites, all their chiefs are designated.— Gregg. 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
by signs. We were now about to launch upon an unknown
region — our route lay henceforth across that unexplored
wilderness, of which I have so frequently spoken, without
either pilot or trail to guide us for nearly 500 miles. We had
to depend entirely upon [20] our knowledge of the geographical position of the country for which we were steering, and
the indications of a compass and sextant. This was emphatically a pioneer trip; such a one also as had, perhaps,
never before been undertaken — to convey heavily laden
wagons through a country almost wholly untrod by civilized
man, aiid of which we, at least, knew nothing. We were
therefore extremely anxious to acquire any information our
visitors might be able to give us; but Tabba-quena being
by no means experienced in wagon tactics, could only make
us understand, by gestures, mixed with a little wretched
Spanish, that the route up the Canadian presented no
obstacles according to his mode of travelling. He appeared,
however, very well acquainted with the whole Mexican
frontier, from Santa ¥6 to Chihuahua, and even to the Gulf,
as well as with all the Prairies. During the consultation he
seemed occasionally to ask the opinions of other chiefs who
had huddled around him. Finally, we handed him a sheet
of paper and a pencil, signifying at the same time a desire
that he would draw us a map of the Prairies. This he very
promptly executed; and although the draft was somewhat
rough, it bore, much to our astonishment, quite a map-like
appearance, with a far more accurate delineation of all the
principal rivers of the plains — the road from Missouri to
Santa Fe, and the different Mexican settlements, than is to
be found in many of the engraved maps of those regions.
[21] Tabba-quena's party consisted of about sixty persons,
including several squaws and papooses, with a few Kiawa
chiefs and warriors, who, although of a tribe so entirely distinct, are frequently found domiciled among the Comanches.
As we were about to break up the camp they all started for
\ I IO
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Fort Gibson, for the purpose, as they informed us, of paying
a visit to the 'Capitan Grande'— a Spanish phrase used by
many prairie tribes, and applied, in their confused notions
of rank and power, not only to the President of the United
States himself, but to the seat of the federal government.
These they are again apt to confound with Fort Gibson and
the commanding officer of that station.
On the 18th of May, we set out from Chouteau's fort.
From this forward our wagons were marched in two lines
and regularly 'formed' at every camp, so as to constitute a
fortification and a corral for the stock. This is different
from the 'forming' of the large caravans. The two front
wagons are driven up, side by side, with their 'tails' a little
inclined outward. About half of the rest are drawn up in
the same manner, but each stopped with the fore-wheel a
little back of the hind-wheel of the next ahead. The remainder are similarly brought up, but inclined inward behind, so as nearly to close again at the rear of the pen;
leaving a gap through which to introduce the stock. Thus
the corral remains of an ovate form. After the drivers
become expert the whole is performed in a very short time.
[22] On the following day we were again joined by old
Tabba-quena, and another Comanche chief, with five or
six warriors, and as many squaws, including Tab's wife and
infant son. As we were jogging along in the afternoon, I
held quite a long conversation in our semi-mute language
with the squinting old chief. He gave me to understand,
as well as he could, that his comrades79 had proceeded on
their journey to see the Capitan Grande, but that he had concluded to return home for better horses. He boasted in no
measured terms of his friendship for the Americans, and
78 Some of these (principally Kiawas, as I afterwards learned), reached Fort
Gibson, and received a handsome reward of government presents for their visit.—
Gregg. 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies 11 1
promised to exert his influence to prevent turbulent and
unruly spirits of his nation from molesting us. But he
could not disguise his fears in regard to the Pawnees and
Osages, who, he said, would be sure to run off with our
stock while we were asleep at night. When I informed him
that we kept a strict night-watch, he said, "Estd bueno"
(that's good), and allowed that our chances for safety were
not so bad after all.
These friendly Indians encamped with us that night, and
on the following morning the old chief informed us that some
of his party had a few "mulas para swap11 (mules to trade;
for having learned the word swap of some American traders,
he very ingeniously tacked it at the tail of his little stock of
Spanish). A barter of five mules was immediately concluded [23] upon, much to our advantage, as our teams were
rather in a weak condition. Old Tab and his party then
left us to join his band, which, he said, was located on the
Faux Ouachitta river, and we never saw aught of them
After leaving the Fort we generally kept on the ridge
between the Canadian and the North Fork, crossing sometimes the tributary brooks of the one and sometimes those
of the others. Having travelled in this manner for about
eighty miles, we entered one of the most charming prairie
vales that I have ever beheld, and which in the plenitude
of our enthusiasm, we named 'Spring Valley,' on account of
the numerous spring-fed rills and gurgling rivulets that
greeted the sight in every direction;81 in whose limpid pools
swarms of trout and perch were carelessly playing. Much
of the country, indeed, over which we had passed was somewhat of a similar character — yet nowhere quite so beautiful.   I must premise, however, that westward of this, it
80 For this stream, see our volume xvi, p. 138, note 66.— Ed.
81 In Oklahoma, probably not far from the present town of that name.— Ed.
1 : 112
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
is only the valleys immediately bordering the streams that
are at all fit for cultivation: the high plains are too dry and
sandy. But here the soil was dark and mellow, and the
rich vegetation with which it was clothed plainly indicated
its fertility. 'Spring Valley' gently inclines towards the
North Fork, which was at the distance of about five miles
from our present route. It was somewhere along the border
of this enchanting vale that a little picket fort was erected in
[24] 1822, by an unfortunate trader named McKnight, who
was afterwards betrayed and murdered by the faithless
Comanches.** The landscape is beautifully variegated with
stripes and fringes of timber: while the little herds of buffalo
that were scattered about in fantastic groups imparted a
degree of life and picturesqueness to the scene, which it was
truly delightful to contemplate.
It was three days previous that we had first met with these
'prairie cattle.' I have often heard backwoodsmen speak
of the 'buck ague,' but commend me to the 'buffalo fever'
of the Prairies for novelty and amusement. Very few of
our party had ever seen a buffalo before in its wild state;
therefore at the first sight of these noble animals the excitement surpassed anything I had ever witnessed before. Some
of our dragoons, in their eagerness for sport, had managed
to frighten away a small herd that were quietly feeding at
some distance, before our 'still hunters,' who had crawled
towards them, had been able to get within rifle-shot of them.
No sooner were the movements of our mounted men perceived, than the whole extent of country, as far as the eye
could reach, became perfectly animate with living objects,
fleeing and scampering in every direction. From the surrounding valleys sprang up numerous herds of these animals
which had hitherto been unobserved, many of which, in their
indiscriminate flight, passed so near the wagons, that the
"See our volume xix: p. 1761, note 13 (Gregg).—Ed.
y 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
drivers, carried away by the contagious excitement of [25]
the moment, would leave the teams and keep up a running
fire after them. I had the good fortune to witness the
exploits of one of our Northern greenhorns, who, mounted
upon a sluggish mule, and without any kind of weapon,
amused himself by chasing every buffalo that came scudding
along, as if he expected to capture him by laying hold of Ins
tail. Plying spur and whip, he would gallop after one
division till he was left far behind: and then turn to another
and another, with the same earnestness of purpose, until
they had all passed out of sight. He finally came back disheartened and sullen, with his head hanging down like one
conscious of having done something supremely ridiculous;
but still cursing his lazy mule, which, he said, might have
caught the buffalo, if it had had a mind to.
The next day the buffalo being still more numerous, the
chase was renewed with greater zest. In the midst of the
general hurly-burly which ensued, three persons on foot were
perceived afar off, chasing one herd of buffalo and then
another, until they completely disappeared. These were
two of our cooks, the one armed with a pistol, the other with
a musket, accompanied by Chuly (the Creek), who was
happily provided with a rifle. We travelled several miles
without hearing or seeing anything of them. At last, when
we had almost given them up for lost, Frank, the French
cook, came trudging in, and his rueful countenance was no
bad index of the [26] doleful tale he had to relate. Although
he had been chasing and shooting all day, he had, as he
expressed it, "no killet one," till eventually he happened
to stumble upon a wounded calf, which he boldly attacked;
but as ill luck would have it, the youngster took it into his
head to give him battle. "Foutre de varment! he butt me
down," exclaimed the exasperated Frenchman,—"SacreM
me plentee scart; but me kill him for all."    Chuly and the If
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
other cook came in soon after, in equally dejected spirits;
for, in addition to his ill luck in hunting, the latter had been
lost. The Indian had perhaps killed buffalo with his rifle,
but he was in no humor to be communicative in his language
of signs; so nothing was ever known of his adventures.
One thing seemed pretty certain, that they were all cured of
the 'buffalo fever.'
On the night after the first buffalo scamper, we encamped
upon a woodless ravine, and were obliged to resort to' buffalo
chips' (dry ordure) for fuel. It is amusing to witness the
bustle which generally takes place in collecting this offal.
In dry weather it is an excellent substitute for wood, than
which it even makes a hotter fire; but when moistened by
rain, the smouldering pile will smoke for hours before it condescends to burn, if it does at all. The buffalo meat which
the hunter roasts or broils upon this fire, he accounts more
savory than the steaks dressed by the most delicate cooks in
civilized life.
Travelling out of our Latitude — The Buffalo-gnat — A Kiawa and
Squaw — Indian crim. con. Affair — Extraordinary Mark of Confidence in the White Man — A Conflagration — An Espy Shower —
Region of Gypsum — Our Latitude — A Lilliputian Forest — A
Party of Comanches — A Visit to a ' Dog Town'— Indian Archery—
Arrival of Comanche Warriors — A ' Big Talk,' and its Results —
Speech of the Capitan Mayor — Project of bringing Comanche Chiefs
to Washington — Return of Lieut. Bowman, and our March resumed — Melancholy Reflections — Another Indian Visit — Mexican
Captives — Voluntary Captivity — A sprightly Mexican Lad —
Purchase of a Captive — Comanche Trade and Etiquette — Indians
least dangerous to such as trade with them.
As it now appeared that we had been forced at least two
points north of the course we had originally intended to
steer, by the northern bearing of the Canadian, we made an
effort to cross a ridge of timber to the south, which, after
considerable labor, proved successful.   Here we found a 1831-1839]      Greggs Commerce of the Prairies
multitude of gravelly, bright-flowing streams, with rich bottoms, lined all along with stately white oak, black-walnut,
mulberry, and other similar growths, that yielded us excellent
materials for wagon repairs, of which the route from Missouri,
after passing Council Grove, is absolutely in want.
[28] Although we found the buffalo extremely scarce westward of Spring Valley, yet there was no lack of game; for
every nook and glade swarmed with deer and wild turkeys,
partridges and grouse. We had also occasion to become
acquainted with another species of prairie-tenant whose
visits generally produced impressions that were anything
but agreeable. I allude to a small black insect generally
known to prairie travellers as the 'buffalo-gnat.' It not
only attacks the face and hands, but even contrives to insinuate itself under the clothing, upon the breast and arms, and
other covered parts. Here it fastens itself and luxuriates,
until completely satisfied. Its bite is so poisonous as to give
the face, neck, and hands, or any other part of the person
upon which its affectionate caresses have been bestowed,
the appearance of a pustulated varioloid. The buffalo-gnat
is in fact a much more annoying insect than the mosquito,
and also much more frequently met with on the prairie
We now continued our line of march between the Canadian
and the timbered ridge with very little difficulty. Having
stopped to 'noon' in a bordering valley, we were quite surprised by the appearance of an Indian with no other protection than his squaw. From what we could gather by their
signs, they had been the victims of a 'love scrape.' The
fellow, whom I found to be a Kiawa, had, according to his
own account, stolen the wife of another, and then fled to the
thickets, [29] where he purposed to lead a lonely life, in hopes
of escaping the vengeance of his incensed predecessor.
From this, it would appear that affairs of gallantry are not n6
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
evils exclusively confined to civilization. Plausible, however, as the Indian's story seemed to be, we had strong suspicions that others of his band were not far off; and that
he, with his 'better half,' had only been skulking about in
hopes of exercising their 'acquisitiveness' at our expense;
when, on finding themselves discovered, they deemed it the
best policy fearlessly to approach us. This singular visit
afforded a specimen of that confidence with which civilization inspires even the most untutored savages. They remained with us, in the utmost nonchalance, till the following
Shortly after the arrival of the visitors, we were terribly
alarmed at a sudden prairie conflagration. The old grass
of the valley in which we were encamped had not been
burned off, and one of our cooks having unwittingly kindled
a fire in the midst of it, it spread at once with wonderful
rapidity; and a brisk wind springing up at the time, the
flames were carried over the valley, hi spite of every effort
we could make to check them. Fortunately for us, the fire
had broken out to the leeward of our wagons, and therefore
occasioned us no damage; but the accident itself was a
forcible illustration of the danger that might be incurred by
pitching a camp in the midst of dry grass, and the advantages [30] that might be taken by hostile savages in such a
After the fire had raged with great violence for a few hours,
a cloud suddenly obscured the horizon, which was almost immediately followed by a refreshing shower of rain: a phenomenon often witnessed upon the Prairies after an extensive
conflagration; and affording a practical exemplification of
Professor Espy's celebrated theory of artificial showers.83
88 James Pollard Espy (1785-1860), a well-known meteorologist.    TTis collection
of reports on the weather, while occupied in his experiments, contributed towards I
1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
We now continued our journey without further trouble,
except that of being still forced out of our proper latitude
by the northern bearing of the Canadian. On the 30th of
May, however, we succeeded in 'doubling' the spur of the
Great North Bend.84 Upon ascending the dividing ridge
again, which at this point was entirely destitute of timber, a
'prairie expanse' once more greeted our view. This and the
following day, our route lay through a region that abounded
in gypsum, from the finest quality down to ordinary plaster.
On the night of the 31st we encamped on a tributary of the
North Fork, which we called Gypsum creek, in consequence
of its being surrounded with vast quantities of that substance.85
Being compelled to keep a reckoning of our latitude, by
which our travel was partly governed, and the sun being now
too high at noon for the use of the artificial horizon, we had
to be guided entirely by observations of the meridian altitude
of the moon, planets, or [31] fixed stars. At Gypsum creek
our latitude was 360 io'— being the utmost northing we
had made. As we were now about thirty miles north of the
parallel of Santa ¥€, we had to steer, henceforth, a few
degrees south of west in order to bring up on our direct
The following night we encamped in a region covered
with sandy hillocks, where there was not a drop of water
to be found: in fact, an immense sand-plain was now
opening before us,  somewhat variegated in appearance,
the founding of the present United States weather-bureau. His theory was, that
storms could be produced artificially by heating the atmosphere with long-continued
fires.   He published Philosophy of Storms (Boston and London, 1841).— Ed.
84 About the ninety-ninth meridian, the Canadian extends above the thirty-
sixth parallel, forming the Great North Bend. The Oklahoma town of Taloga
is on the southern curve of the bow.— Ed.
85 The Canadian and its North Fork approach very closely at this point. The
region between the North Bend and the one hundredth meridian contains much
gypsum.    See James's Long's Expedition, in our volume xvi, pp. 141-143.— Ed.
iffl n8
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
being entirely barren of vegetation in some places, while
others were completely covered with an extraordinarily
diminutive growth which has been called shin-oak, and a
curious plum-bush of equally dwarfish stature. These
singular-looking plants (undistinguishable at a distance
from the grass of the prairies) were heavily laden with acorns
and plums, which, when ripe, are of considerable size
although the trunks of either were seldom thicker than oat-
straws, and frequently not a foot high. We also met with the
same in many other places on the Prairies.
Still the most indispensable requisite, water, was nowhere
to be found, and symptoms of alarm were beginning to spread
far and wide among us. When we had last seen the Canadian and the North Fork, they appeared to separate in their
course almost at right angles, therefore it was impossible
to tell at what distance we were from either. At last [32] my
brother and myself, who had been scouring the plains during
the morning without success, finally perceived a deep hollow
leading in the direction of the Canadian, where we found a
fine pool of water, and our wagons 'made port' again before
mid-day; thus quieting all alarm.
Although we had encountered but very few buffalo since
we left Spring Valley, they now began to make their appearance again, though not in very large droves; together with
the deer and the fleet antelope, which latter struck me as
being much more tame in this wild section of the Prairies
than I had seen it elsewhere. The graceful and majestic
mustang would also now and then sweep across the naked
country, or come curvetting and capering in the vicinity
of our little caravan, just as the humor prompted him. But
what attracted our attention most were the little dog settlements, or, as they are more technically called, 'dog towns,'
so often alluded to by prairie travellers. As we were passing
through their 'streets,' multitudes of the diminutive inhab- 1831-i839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
itants were to be seen among the numerous little hillocks
which marked their dwellings, where they frisked about, or
sat perched at their doors, yelping defiance, to our great
amusement — heedless of the danger that often awaited
them from the rifles of our party; for they had perhaps never
seen such deadly weapons before.
On the 5th of June, we found ourselves once more travelling on a firm rolling prairie, [33] about the region, as we
supposed,86 of the boundary between the United States and
Mexico; when Lieut. Bowman, in pursuance of his instructions, began to talk seriously of returning. While the
wagons were stopped at noon, a small party of us, including
a few dragoons, advanced some miles ahead to take a survey
of the route. We had just ascended the highest point of a
ridge to get a prospect of the country beyond, when we
descried a herd of buffalo in motion and two or three horsemen in hot pursuit. " Mexican Ciboleros!" we all exclaimed
at once; for we supposed we might now be within the range
of the buffalo hunters of New Mexico. Clapping spurs to
our horses, we set off towards them at full speed. As we
might have expected, our precipitate approach frightened
them away and we soon lost sight of them altogether. On
reaching the spot where they had last been seen, we found a
horse and two mules saddled, all tied to the carcass of a
slain buffalo which was partly skinned. We made diligent
search in some copses of small growth, and among the
adjacent ravines, but could discover no further traces of the
fugitives. The Indian rigging of the animals, however,
satisfied us that they were not Mexicans.
We were just about giving up the pursuit, when a solitary
Indian horseman was espied upon a ridge about a mile from
89 From subsequent observations, this point appears to have been some miles
west of the iooth degree of longitude.— Gregg.
Comment by Ed.    See volume xix, p. 217, note 52 (Gregg). If
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
us. My [34] brother and myself set out towards him, but
on seeing us approach, he began to manifest some fear, and
therefore my brother advanced alone. As soon as he was
near enough he cried out "Amigol11 to which the Indian
replied "Comantzl11 and giving himself a thump upon the
breast, he made a graceful circuit, and came up at full speed,
presenting his hand in token of friendship. Nothing, however, could induce him to return to his animals with us,
where the rest of our party had remained. He evidently
feared treachery and foul play. Therefore we retraced our
steps to the wagons, leaving the Indian's property just as
we had found it, which, we subsequently discovered, was
taken away after our departure.
In the afternoon of the same day, five more Indians
(including a squaw), made their appearance, and having
been induced by friendly tokens to approach us, they spent
the night at our encampment. The next morning, we
expressed a desire, by signs, to be conducted to the nearest
point on our route where good pasturage and water might
be found. A sprightly young chief, armed only with his
bow and arrows, at once undertook the task, while his comrades still travelled along in our company. We had not progressed far before we found ourselves in the very midst of
another large 'dog-town.'
The task of describing the social and domestic habits of
these eccentric little brutes, has been so graphically and
amusingly executed [35] by the racy and popular pen of G.
Wilkins Kendall, that any attempt by me would be idle;
and I feel that the most agreeable service I can do my readers
is to borrow a paragraph from his alluring "Narrative,"
describing a scene presented by one of these prairie commonwealths.87
87 Kendall, Texan Santa Fe Expedition, i, p. 192.— Ed. 1831-1839]      Greggs Commerce of the Prairies
"In their habits they are clannish, social, and extremely
convivial, never living alone like other animals, but, on the
contrary, always found in villages or large settlements.
They are a wild, frolicsome, madcap set of fellows when
undisturbed, uneasy and ever on the move, and appear to
take especial delight in chattering away the time, and visiting
from hole to hole to gossip and talk over each other's affairs
— at least  so  their  actions would  indicate     On
several occasions I crept close to their villages, without being
observed, to watch their movements. Directly in the centre
of one of them I particularly noticed a very large dog, sitting
in front of the door or entrance to his burrow, and by his
own actions and those of his neighbors it really seemed as
though he was the president, mayor, or chief — at all events,
he was the 'big dog' of the place. For at least an hour I
secretly watched the operations in this community. During
that time the large dog I have mentioned received at least a
dozen visits from his fellow-dogs, which would stop and chat
with him a few moments, and then run off to their domiciles.
All this while he never left his post for a moment, and I
thought I could discover a gravity in his deportment [36] not
discernible in those by which he was surrounded. Far is it
from me to say that the visits he received were upon business,
or had anything to do with the local government of the
village; but it certainly appeared so. If any animal has a
system of laws regulating the body politic, it is certainly the
prairie dog."
As we sat on our horses, looking at these 'village transactions,' our Comanche guide drew an arrow for the purpose of cutting short the career of a little citizen that sat
yelping most doggedly in the mouth of his hole, forty or
fifty paces distant. The animal was almost entirely concealed behind the hillock which encompassed the entrance
of his apartment, so that the dart could not reach it in a 122
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
direct line; but the Indian had resort to a manoeuvre which
caused the arrow to descend with a curve, and in an instant
it quivered in the body of the pbor little quadruped. The
slayer only smiled at his feat, while we were perfectly astounded. There is nothing strange in the rifleman's being
able to hit his mark with his fine-sighted barrel; but the
accuracy with which these savages learn to shoot their
feathered missiles, with such random aim, is almost incomprehensible. I had at the same time drawn one of Colt's
repeating pistols, with a view of paying a similar compliment
to another dog; when, finding that it excited the curiosity
of the chief, I fired a few shots in quick succession, as an
explanation of its virtues. He seemed to [37] comprehend
the secret instantly, and, drawing his bow once more, he
discharged a number of arrows with the same rapidity, as a
palpable intimation that he could shoot as fast with his
instrument as we could with our patent fire-arms. This
was not merely a vain show: there was more of reality than
of romance in his demonstration.
Shortly after this we reached a fresh brook, a tributary of
the North Fork, which wound its silent course in the midst
of a picturesque valley, surrounded by romantic hills and
craggy knobs. Here we pitched our camp: when three of
our visitors left us for the purpose of going to bring all the
'capitanes' of their tribe, who were said to be encamped
at no great distance from us.
Our encampment, which we designated as 'Camp Comanche,' was only five or six miles from the North Fork,
while, to the southward, the main Canadian was but a little
more distant.88
After waiting anxiously for the arrival of the Comanche
chiefs, until our patience was well nigh exhausted, I ascended
88 Camp Comanche would appear to have been in Lipscombe or Ochiltree
County, Texas.— Ed. $'.U^f&JH  1831-1839I      &*££'* Commerce of the Prairies
a high knoll just behind our camp, in company with the
younger of the two chiefs who had remained with us, to see
if anything could be discovered. By and by, the Comanche
pointed anxiously towards the northwest, where he espied a
party of his people, though at such a great distance, that it
was some time before I could discern them. With what
acuteness of vision are these savages endowed! Accustomed [38] to the open plains, and like the eagle to look out
for their prey at immense distances, their optical perception
is scarcely excelled by that of the king of birds.
The party, having approached still nearer, assembled
upon an eminence as if for the purpose of reconnoitring;
but our chief upon the knoll hoisting his blanket, which
seemed to say, 'come ahead,' they advanced slowly and
deliberately — very unlike the customary mode of approach
among all the prairie tribes.
The party consisted of about sixty warriors, at the head
of whom rode an Indian of small stature and agreeable
countenance, verging on the age of fifty. He wore the usual
Comanche dress, but instead of moccasins, he had on a pair
of long white cotton hose, while upon his bare head waved
a tall red plume,— a mark of distinction which proclaimed
him at once the capitan mayor, or principal chief. We
addressed them in Spanish, inquiring if they had brought
an interpreter, when a lank-jawed, grum-looking savage
announced his readiness to officiate in that capacity. "Sabes
hablar en Espanol, amigo?11 (can you talk Spanish, friend?)
I inquired. "Si11 (yes), he gruffly replied. "Where are
your people?" "Encamped just above on yonder creek."
"How many of you are there?" "Oh, a great many —
nearly all the Comanche nation; for we are en junta to go
and fight the Pawnees." "Well, can you tell us how far it
is to Santa F6?"—But the surly savage cut short my inquiries by observing — [39] "Ahi platicarimos despues"—
"We will talk about that hereafter."
ii m 126
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
We then showed them a spot a few rods from us, where
they might encamp so as not to intermix their animals with
ours; after which all the capitanes were invited to our camp
to hold a 'big talk.' In a very short time we had ten chiefs
seated in a circle within our tent, when the pipe, the Indian
token of peace, was produced: but, doubting perhaps the
sincerity of our professions, they at first refused to smoke.
The interpreter, however, remarked as an excuse for their
conduct, that it was not their custom to smoke until they had
received some presents: but a few Mexican cigarritos being
produced, most of them took a whiff, as if under the impression that to smoke cigars was no pledge of friendship.
Lieut. Bowman now desired us to broach the subject of
peace and amity betwixt the Comanches and our people,
and to invite them to visit the 'Capitan Grande' at Washington, and enter into a perpetual treaty to that effect; but they
would not then converse on the subject. In fact, the interpreter inquired, "Are we not at war? — how can we go to
see the Capitan Grande?" We knew they held themselves
at war with Mexico and Texas, and probably had mistaken
us for Texans, which had no doubt caused the interpreter
to speak so emphatically of their immense numbers. Upon
this we explained to them that the United States was a distinct government [40] and at peace with the Comanches.
As an earnest of our friendly disposition, we then produced
some scarlet cloth, with a small quantity of vermilion,
tobacco, beads, etc., which being distributed among them,
they very soon settled down into a state of placidness and
contentment. Indeed, it will be found, that, with wild
Indians, presents are always the corner-stone of friendship.
"We are rejoiced," at last said the elder chief with a ceremonious air, "our hearts are glad that you have arrived among
us: it makes our eyes laugh to see Americans walk in our
land.   We will notify our old and young men — our boys 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
and our maidens — our women and children,— that they
may come to trade with you. We hope you will speak well
of us to your people, that more of them may hunt the way
to our country, for we like to trade with the white man."
This was delivered in Comanche, but translated into Spanish
by the interpreter, who, although a full Indian, had lived
several years among the Mexicans and spoke that language
tolerably well. Our 'big talk' lasted several hours, after
which the Indians retired to sleep. The next morning, after
renewing their protestations of friendship, they took their
departure, the principal chief saying, "Tell the Capitan
Grande that when he pleases to call us we are all ready to
go to see him."
The project of bringing some of the chiefs of these wild
prairie tribes to Washington city, has been entertained, but
never yet carried [41] into effect. The few who have penetrated as far as Fort Gibson, or perhaps to a frontier village,
have probably left with more unfavorable impressions than
they had before. Believing the former to be our great
Capital, and the most insignificant among the latter, our
largest cities, they have naturally come to the conclusion
that they surpass us in numbers and power, if not in wealth
and grandeur. I have no doubt that the chiefs of the Comanches and other prairie tribes, if rightly managed, might
be induced to visit our veritable 'Capitan Grande,' and our
large cities, which would doubtless have a far better effect
than all the treaties of peace that could be concluded with
them for an age to come. They would then 'see with their
own eyes and hear with their own ears' the magnificence
and power of the whites, which would inspire them at once
with respect and fear.
This was on the 7th of June. About noon, Lieut. Bowman
and his command finally took leave of us, and at the same
time we resumed our forward march.   This separation was 128
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
truly painful: not so much on account of the loss we were
about to experience, in regard to the protection afforded us
by the troops (which, to say the truth, was more needed now
than it had ever been before), as for the necessity of parting
with a friend, who had endeared himself to us all by his
affable deportment, his social manners and accommodating
disposition. Ah! little did we think then that we should
never see that gallant officer more! [42] So young, so robust,
and so healthy, little did we suspect that the sound of that
voice which shouted so vigorously in responding to our
parting salute in the desert, would never greet our ears again!
But such was Fate's decree! Although he arrived safely
at Fort Gibson, in a few short weeks he fell a victim to disease.
There were perhaps a few timid hearts that longed to
return with the dragoons, and ever and anon a wistful
glance would be cast back at the receding figures in the
distance. The idea of a handful of thirty-four men having
to travel without guide or protection through a dreary wilderness, peopled by thousands of savages who were just as likely
to be hostile as friendly, was certainly very little calculated
to produce agreeable impressions. Much to the credit of
our men, however, the escort was no sooner out of sight than
the timorous regained confidence, and all seemed bound
together by stronger ties than before. All we feared were
ambuscades or surprise; to guard against which, it was only
necessary to redouble our vigilance.
On the following day, while we were enjoying our noon's
rest upon a ravine of the Canadian, several parties of Indians,
amounting altogether to about three hundred souls, including
women and children, made their appearance. They belonged to the same band of Comanches with whom we had
had so agreeable an intercourse, and had brought several
mules in the expectation of driving a trade with us. The
squaws and papooses [43] were so anxious to gratify their 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
curiosity, and so very soon began to give such striking manifestations of their pilfering propensities, that, at the request
of the chiefs, we carried some goods at a little distance,
where a trade was opened, in hopes of attracting their attention. One woman, I observed, still lingered among the
wagons, who, from certain peculiarities of features, struck
me very forcibly as not being an Indian. In accordance
with this impression I addressed her in Spanish, and was
soon confirmed in all my suspicions. She was from the
neighborhood of Matamoros, and had been married to a
Comanche since her captivity. She did not entertain the
least desire of returning to her own people.,
Similar instances of voluntary captivity have frequently
occurred. Dr. Sibley, in a communication to the War
Department, in 1805, relates an affecting case, which shows
how a sensitive female will often prefer remaining with her
masters, rather than encounter the horrible ordeal of ill-
natured remarks to which she would inevitably be exposed
on being restored to civilized life.89 The Comanches, some
twenty years previous, having kidnapped the daughter of
the Governor-General of Chihuahua, the latter transmitted
$1000 to a trader to procure her ransom. This was soon
effected, but to the astonishment of all concerned, the unfortunate girl refused to leave the Indians. She sent word to her
father, that they had disfigured her by tattooing; that she was
married and perhaps enceinte', [44] and that she would be
more unhappy by returning to her father under these circumstances than by remaining where she was.
My attention was next attracted by a sprightly lad, ten
or twelve years old, whose nationality could scarcely be
detected under his Indian guise. But, though quite 'Indian-
ized,' he was exceedingly polite.   I inquired of him in Span-
89 For Dr. John Sibley, see our volume xvii, p. 68, note 60. This anecdote is
found in his report in American State Papers, "Indian Affairs," i, p. 724.— Ed.
I mm
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
ish, "Are you not a Mexican?" "Yes, sir,— I once was."
"What is your name?" "Bernardino Saenz, sir, at your
service." "When and where were you taken?" "About
four years ago, tit the Hacienda de las Animas, near Parral."
"Shan't we buy you and take you to your people? — we
are going thither." At this he hesitated a little, and then
answered in an affecting tone, "No, senor; ya soy demasiado
bruto para vivir entre los Cristianos11 (O, no, sir; I am now
too much of a brute to live among Christians); adding that
his owner was not there, and that he knew the Indian in
whose charge he came would not sell him.
The Hacienda de las Animas is in the department of
Chihuahua, some fifteen miles from the city of Parral, a
much larger place than Santa Fe\ Notwithstanding this,
about three hundred Comanches made a bold inroad into
the very heart of the settlements — laid waste the unfortunate
hacienda, killing and capturing a considerable number —
and remained several days in the neighborhood, committing
all sorts of outrages. This occurred in 1835. I happened
to be in Chihuahua [45] at the time, and very well remember
the bustle and consternation that prevailed. A thousand
volunteers were raised, commanded by the governor himself,
who 'hotly pursued' the enemy during their tardy retreat;
but returned with the usual report—"No les pudimos
alcanzar,11— we could not overtake them.
Out of half a dozen Mexican captives that happened to
be with our new visitors, we only met with one who manifested the slightest inclination to abandon Indian life. This
was a stupid boy about fifteen years of age, who had probably
been roughly treated on account of his laziness. We very
soon struck a bargain with his owner, paying about the price
of a mule for the little outcast, whom I sent to his family as
soon as we reached Chihuahua.   Notwithstanding the in- 1831-1839]     Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
herent stupidity of my protSge, I found him abundantly
grateful — much to his credit be it spoken — for the little
service I had been able to render him.
We succeeded in purchasing several mules which cost us
between ten and twenty dollars worth of goods apiece. In
Comanche trade the main trouble consists in fixing the price
of the first animal. This being settled by the chiefs, it often
happens that mule after mule is led up and the price received
without further cavil. Each owner usually wants a general
assortment; therefore the price must consist of several items,
as a blanket, a looking-glass, an awl, a flint, a little tobacco,
vermillion, beads, etc.
Our trade with the new batch of Comanches [46] being
over, they now began to depart as they had come, in small
parties, without bidding us adieu, or even informing us of
their intention, it being the usual mode of taking leave among
Indians, to depart sans ceremonie, and as silently as possible.
The Santa Fe* caravans have generally avoided every
manner of trade with the wild Indians, for fear of being
treacherously dealt with during the familiar intercourse
which necessarily ensues. This I am convinced is an
erroneous impression; for I have always found, that savages
are much less hostile to those with whom they trade, than to
any other people. They are emphatically fond of traffic,
and, being anxious to encourage the whites to come among
them, instead of committing depredations upon those with
whom they trade, they are generally ready to defend them
against every enemy. Oft
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
Ponds and Buffalo Wallows — Valley of the Canadian, and romantic
Freaks of Nature — Melancholy Adventure of a Party of Traders
in 1832 — Fears of being lost — Arrival of a Party of Comancheros,
and their wonderful Stories — Their Peculiarities and Traffic —
Bitter Water, and the Salitre of New Mexico — Avant-couriers for
Santa Fe" — Patent Fire-arms and their Virtues — Ranchero Ideas
of Distance, and their Mode of giving Directions — The Angostura,
and erroneous Notions of the Texans — A new Route revealed —
Solitary Travel — Supply of Provisions sent back — Arrival at
Santa F€ — Gov. Armijo, etc.— A 'Flare-up' with His Excellency.
The Comanches having all disappeared, we resumed our
march, and soon emerged into an open plain or mesa which
was one of the most monotonous I had ever seen, there being
not a break, not a hill nor valley, nor even a shrub to obstruct the view. The only thing which served to turn us
from a direct course pursued by the compass, was the innumerable ponds which bespeckled the plain, and which
kept us at least well supplied with water. Many of these
ponds seem to have grown out of 'buffalo wallows,'—a
term used on the Prairies to designate a sink made by the
buffalo's pawing the earth for the purpose of obtaining a
smooth dusty surface to roll upon.
[48] After three or four days of weary travel over this level
plain, the picturesque valley of the Canadian burst once
more upon our view, presenting one of the most magnificent
sights I had ever beheld. Here rose a perpendicular cliff,
in all the majesty and sublimity of its desolation;—there
another sprang forward as in the very act of losing its balance
and about to precipitate itself upon the vale below;— a little
further on, a pillar with crevices and cornices so curiously
formed as easily to be mistaken for the work of art; while
a thousand other objects grotesquely and fantastically
arranged, and all shaded in the sky-bound perspective by
the blue ridge-like brow of the mesa far beyond the Canadian, 1831-1839]      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
constituted a kind of chaotic space where nature seemed to
have indulged in her wildest caprices. Such was the confusion of ground-swells and eccentric cavities, that it was
altogether impossible to determine whereabouts the channel
of the Canadian wound its way among them.
It would seem that these mesas might once have extended
up to the margin of the stream, leaving a canon or chasm
through which the river flowed, as is still the case in some
other places. But the basis of the plain not having been
sufficiently firm to resist the action of the waters, these have
washed and cut the bordering cejas or brows into all the
shapes they now present. The buffalo and other animals
have no doubt assisted in these transmutations. Their
deep-worn paths over the [49] brows of the plains, form
channels for the descending rains; which are soon washed
into the size of ravines — and even considerable creeks.
The beds of these continue to be worn down until veins of
lasting water are opened, and constant-flowing streams thus
established. Numerous were the embryo rivulets which
might be observed forming in this way along the borders of
those streams. The frequent isolated benches and mounds,
whose tabular summits are on a level with the adjacent
plains, and appear entirely of a similar formation, indicate
that the intermediate earth has been washed away, or
removed by some other process of nature — all seeming to
give plausibility to our theory.
It was somewhere in this vicinity that a small party of
Americans experienced a terrible calamity in the winter of
1832-3, on their way home; and as the incident had the tendency to call into play the most prominent features of the Indian character, I will digress so far here as to relate the facts.
The party consisted of twelve men, chiefly citizens of
Missouri.   Their baggage and about ten thousand dollars
in specie were packed upon mules.   They took the route of
'li Iff
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
the Canadian river, fearing to venture on the northern
prairies at that season of the year. Having left Santa ¥6
in December, they had proceeded without accident thus
far, when a large body of Comanches and Kiawas were seen
advancing towards them. Being well acquainted with the
treacherous and pusillanimous [50] disposition of those races,
the traders prepared at once for defence; but the savages
having made a halt at some distance, began to approach one
by one, or in small parties, making a great show of friendship
all the while, until most of them had collected on the spot.
Finding themselves surrounded in every direction, the
travellers now began to move on, in hopes of getting rid of
the intruders: but the latter were equally ready for the start;
and, mounting their horses, kept jogging on in the same
direction. The first act of hostility perpetrated by the
Indians proved fatal to one of the American traders named
Pratt, who was shot dead while attempting to secure two
mules which had become separated from the rest. Upon
this, the companions of the slain man immediately dismounted and commenced a fire upon the Indians, which was
warmly returned, whereby another man of the name of
Mitchell was killed.
By this time the traders had taken off their packs and piled
them around for protection; and now falling to work with
their hands, they very soon scratched out a trench deep
enough to protect them from the shot of the enemy. The
latter made several desperate charges, but they seemed too
careful of their own personal safety, notwithstanding the
enormous superiority of their numbers, to venture too near
the rifles of the Americans. In a few hours all the animals of
the traders were either killed or wounded, but no personal
damage was done to the remaining ten men, [51] with the
exception of a wound in the thigh received by one, which
was not at the time considered dangerous. 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
During the siege, the Americans were in great danger of perishing from thirst, as the Indians had complete command of
all the water within reach. Starvation was not so much to be
dreaded; because, in case of necessity, they could live on the
flesh of their slain animals, some of which lay stretched close
around them. After being pent up for thirty-six hours in this
horrible hole, during which time they had seldom ventured
to raise their heads above the surface without being shot at,
they resolved to make a bold sortie in the night, as any death
was preferable to the fate which awaited them there. As
there was not an animal left that was at all in a condition
to travel, the proprietors of the money gave permission to all
to take and appropriate to themselves whatever amount each
man could safely undertake to carry. In this way a few
hundred dollars were started with, of which, however, but
little ever reached the United States. The remainder was
buried deep in the sand, in hopes that it might escape the
cupidity of the savages; but to very little purpose, for they
were afterwards seen by some Mexican traders making a
great display of specie, which was without doubt taken from
this unfortunate cache.
With every prospect of being discovered, overtaken, and
butchered, but resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible,
they at last [52] emerged from their hiding-place, and moved
on silently and slowly until they found themselves beyond
the purlieus of the Indian camps. Often did they look back
in the direction where from three to five hundred savages
were supposed to watch their movements, but, much to their
astonishment, no one appeared to be in pursuit. The
Indians, believing no doubt that the property of the traders
would come into their hands, and having no amateur predilection for taking scalps at the risk of losing their own,
appeared willing enough to let the spoliated adventurers
depart without further molestation.
1 Ill
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
The destitute travellers having run themselves short of
provisions, and being no longer able to kill game for want
of materials to load their rifles with, they were very soon
reduced to the necessity of sustaining life upon roots, and
the tender bark of trees. After travelling for several days
in this desperate condition, with lacerated feet, and utter
prostration of mind and body, they began to disagree among
themselves about the route to be pursued, and eventually
separated into two distinct parties. Five of these unhappy
men steered a westward course, and after a succession of
sufferings and .privations which almost surpassed belief, they
reached the settlements of the Creek Indians, near the
Arkansas river, where they were treated with great kindness
and hospitality. The other five wandered about in the
greatest state of distress and bewilderment, and only two
[53] finally succeeded in getting out of the mazes of the
wilderness. Among those who were abandoned to their
fate, and left to perish thus miserably, was a Mr. Schenck,
the same individual who had been shot in the thigh; a gentleman of talent and excellent family connections, who was
a brother, as I am informed, of the Hon. Mr. Schenck, at
present a member of Congress from Ohio.90
But let us resume our journey. We had for some days,
while travelling along the course of the Canadian, been in
anxious expectation of reaching a point from whence there
was a cart-road to Santa ¥6, made by the Ciboleros; but
being constantly baffled and disappointed in this hope,
serious apprehensions began to be entertained by some of
90 Robert C. Schenck was born at Franklin, Ohio, in 1809, graduated from
Miami University, and practised law at Dayton. After one term in the state
legislature (1841-42), he was sent to Congress (1843-51), which he left to become
American minister to Brazil (1851-53). In the War of Secession he attained a
major-generalship, and resigned to re-enter Congress (1863-70). For six years
(1870-76) Schenck served as minister to Great Britain, being one of the commissioners to adjust the Alabama claims. He died in Washington in 1890. Another
brother was an admiral in the American navy.— Ed.
I ' 1831-1839I      Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies
the party that we might after all be utterly lost. In this
emergency, one of our Mexicans who pretended to be a great
deal wiser than the rest, insisted that we were pursuing a
wrong direction, and that every day's march only took us
further from Santa Fe\ There appeared to be so much
plausibility in his assertion, as he professed a perfect knowledge of all the country around, that many of our men were
almost ready to mutiny,— to take the command from the
hands of my brother and myself and lead us southward in
search of the* Colorado, into the fearful Llano Estacado,
where we would probably have perished.91 But our observations of the latitude, which we took very frequently, as
well as the course we were pursuing, completely contradicted
the [54] Mexican wiseacre. A few days afterwards we were
overtaken by a party of Comancheros, or Mexican Comanche
traders, when we had the satisfaction of learning that we were
in the right track.
These men* had been trading with the band of Comanches
we had lately met, and learning from them that we had
passed on, they had hastened to overtake us, so as to obtain
our protection against the savages, who, after selling their
animals to the Mexicans, very frequently take forcible
possession of them again, before the purchasers have been
able to reach their homes. These parties of Comancheros
are usually composed of the indigent and rude classes of
the frontier villages, who collect together, several times a
year, and launch upon the plains with a few trinkets and
trumperies of all kinds, and perhaps a bag of bread and
may-be another of pinole, which they barter away to the
savages for horses and mules. The entire stock of an individual trader very seldom exceeds the value of twenty dollars,
with which he is content to wander about for several months,
81 Colorado is the usual Spanish term for Red River, which Gregg here intends.
For Llano Estacado, see Ms description post, p. 239.— Ed.
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Early Western Travels
[Vol. 20
and glad to return home with a mule or two, as the proceeds
of his traffic.
These Mexican traders had much to tell us about the
Comanches: saying, that they were four or five thousand in
number, with perhaps a thousand warriors, and that the
fiery young men had once determined to follow and attack
us; but that the chiefs and sages had deterred them, by
stating that our cannons [55] could kill to the distance of
many miles, and shoot through hills and rocks and destroy
everything that happened to be within their range. The
main object of our visitors, however, seemed to be to raise
themselves into importance by exaggerating the perils we
had escaped from. That they had considered themselves
in great jeopardy, there could be no doubt whatever, for,
in their anxiety to overtake us, they came very near killing
their animals.
It was a war-party of this band of Comanches that paid
the 'flying visit' to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas river, to
which Mr. Farnham alludes in his trip to Oregon.92 A
band of the same Indians also fell in with the caravan from
Missouri, with whom they were for a while upon the verge
of hostilities.
The next day we passed the afternoon upon a ravine
where we found abundance of water, but to our great surprise our animals refused to drink. Upon tasting the water,
we found it exceedingly nauseous and bitter;   far more
82 Thomas J. Farnham, Travels in the Great Western Prairie, the Anahuac
and Rocky Mountains, and in Oregon Territory (London, 1843), reprinted in
volume xxvii of our series.
Bent's Fort, sometimes called Fort William for its founder Colonel William
Bent, was situated on the north bank of the Arkansas, between the present towns
of La Junta and Las Animas, Colorado. Founded in 1829, it was an important
fur-trade post, and base of supplies for the mountain trail