Chief of Scouts
Part 5 out of 5
with them. So we crawled down where they had left the horses to feed,
and I saw that I was right. There was a large band of horses, feeding. I
could not count them they were so scattered, and the darkness hid them,
but I thought there were from a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five
horses in the bunch.
We went back to our comrades and mounted and took the back trail to
where the Capt. was waiting for our return. As soon as we arrived, I
reported to Capt. McKee what we had found. After I had told him the
number of Indians in the band, and the number of horses I thought there
were, he asked me when I thought was the best time to make the attack.
I answered that any time between that moment and daylight would do, for
we had a soft snap before us. He said, "Well, you boys get something
to eat, and we will saddle the horses and go for them and have it over
In a very short time we were all ready and off for the Indian camp.
When we could see the fires, the Capt. asked, "Which way we shall make
the attack, on our horses or on foot?"
I told him that was for him to decide, but that there were so few of
them that I thought it would be to his advantage to make the attack on
"It will be impossible for them to get away, for my scouts and I will be
between them and their horses, and if any of them should get away from
you, we will attend to them before they can get to their horses."
The whole company dismounted, and without making the least noise
they crept down to the Indian camp, and in a few moments the firing
commenced. But it was only a short time before we knew that it was over,
as we heard the boys shouting, and in a moment more we were with them at
the Indian camp. I asked them what they made such a racket about, and
they said that they were shouting for more Indians to come, that there
were not enough of them to go around.
One of the boys said that every time he drew a bead on an Indian,
someone else had got in before him, and that he did not get a chance to
shoot one Indian in the whole fight.
The Capt. and his men now went and got their horses and unsaddled them
and staked them out, and we all turned in for the night.
The next morning the Capt. was up before I was awake, and he and his men
had counted the horses that the Indians had. He came back as I was just
getting up and said, "Guess how many horses there are in the bunch we
"I counted a hundred and twenty-five last night," I answered.
He said, "You are a pretty close guesser. There are just one hundred and
thirty-two in the band, and some of them are as fine work horses as I
ever saw in Texas. It is a mystery to me where the Indians get such nice
horses. Do you think it possible that these wretches have been into
Kansas and robbed the people there?"
I said, "It would be hard to tell, Capt., where they got them, for they
go anywhere that they think there is anything to steal."
After we had eaten breakfast, Capt. McKee proposed that he and I go to
the settlement alone and leave the men in camp until we came back. He
said that the settlement was no more than five or six miles from where
we then were in camp, and perhaps we could get some information in
regard to where the Indians had been stealing stock and doing other
depradations to the settlers.
When the Capt. told the men what we proposed doing, one of them said,
"That just suits me for one, for we are out of meat, and while you are
gone we can go hunting and have a new supply when you get back."
The Capt. said, "All right, but take care of the horses and not let any
of them get away, and don't look for us until we come back."
We mounted our horses and struck out for the settlement. A two-hours
ride brought us there, and we found that Capt. McKee was acquainted with
most of the settlers, and they welcomed us gladly, for at that time
when everyone had to travel on horseback or walk. There was not so much
visiting, and the sight of a friendly face was very pleasing to the
people who lived at those isolated settlements.
When we inquired if the Indians troubled them, they said the Indians
had not raided that place in three months, but about three weeks before
someone saw a band of about twenty-five Indians going towards the east,
and they were the last Indians that had been seen in that neighborhood,
but they had heard that the Apache Indians had been doing considerable
mischief fifty miles or so further south, but they did not know whether
the report was true or not, and they of this settlement had been careful
to have their stock cared for by herders through the day, and at night
they were put in the corral.
The Captain asked if we could make arrangements with them to take charge
of over a hundred head of horses for a month or so, and if so to care
for the same as their own by day and at night. The man we were talking
to said that his son had charge of the stock in the daytime and would
be at the house for dinner, and that we had better stay and have a talk
It was not long before the young man came in, and the Captain asked him
what he would charge to herd a few more than a hundred horses for
a month, or longer. The young man said that he would take them at
twenty-five dollars a hundred, and we could leave them with him as long
as we pleased at that price, and that they should have the best of care
while he had the charge of them.
At this moment the lady of the house came on the porch where we were
sitting and invited us in to eat dinner, and she told the Captain she
had prepared a special dinner for him.
The Captain laughed and said: "Well, my good woman, here is my comrade,
Mr. Drannan; what shall we do with him? I expect he is hungry, too."
She said: "Well, Captain, you may invite him in. Maybe you can spare
enough for him to have a taste. I have only got a gallon of green peas
and a ham of venison roasted and four squash pies and a pan of corn
bread cooked for you, so I reckon you can spare Mr. Drannan a little
As we went into the house the man said, "My wife must think you are a
pretty good eater Capt." to which the lady replied, "I tried him a year
ago, and I have not forgotten how much it took to fill him up then."
We sat down to the table amidst the laughter that followed this remark,
and I can safely say that I never ate a meal that I enjoyed more than I
did that dinner, and I thought that the Capt. had not lost the appetite
the lady gave him credit for having the year before. And what made the
meal more enjoyable was the Texas style of cracking jokes from the time
we sat down until we left the table, and I will say this for Texas that
of all the states I have ever visited from that time until this day
Texas was then and is now the most hospitable.
It is fifty years ago that I ate that meal in the little settlement that
was miles away from the busy cities, and I can with safety say that I
have found in the state of Texas more large hearted people than I have
found in all the other states put together that I have visited.
When we were leaving the house we told the young man that we would come
back the next day and bring the horses for him, to take care of.
We left the settlement and struck the trail for our camp, and we found
that the boys had good success in hunting. They had four deer all
dressed and hanging to the limbs of trees.
That evening I asked the Capt. what course he intended to pursue now. He
said, "We have the horses off our hands for a time at least, and we will
pull south for a month or six weeks, and then if all is well we will
come back and get our horses and pull for Dallas. By that time the
farmers will have disposed of their crops and will have money more
plenty, and I think we can do better in selling our horses than we ever
have done. I think we have crippled the Apache tribe so much that some
of the settlements will not be troubled with them again, and if we are
as successful in our fights with them the balance of the season, they
will be pretty well down, and what a great blessing it will be to the
people of this country that we came to their relief."
The next morning Capt. McKee and I and the whole company broke camp and
struck the trail for the settlement, driving the captured horses before
us. We met the herder coming to meet us. He assisted us to drive them to
his corral and helped us to count them, and there were one hundred and
thirty-eight horses in the band. Nearly everyone in the settlement was
at the corral when we got there. The people had heard that we were
coming, and everybody wanted to see the horses we had fallen heir to
when we killed the Indians.
When we told them what we would sell the horses for, some of the men
said that they wanted horses and would have the money to pay for them
when they disposed of their crops in the fall.
The horses being off our mind, we started for the south, and as we were
passing the house where we dined the day before, the lady came to the
door and called to Capt. McKee, saying, "Captain, when you get ready to
come back this fall, send a runner on ahead, and I will have a square
meal all cooked for you."
All the boys heard this, and thinking it must be a joke on the Captain,
they all cheered and clapped their hands. The Captain took off his hat
and made a bow and thanked the lady, and we all rode on, but the Captain
did not hear the last of this joke all summer. Whenever he complained of
being hungry, some of us would remind him of the square meal that was
waiting for him at the settlement.
We traveled four days, passing through several settlements before we
heard of any Indians. As we were going into camp on the evening of
the fourth day, two men rode in and said that they had seen a band of
Indians a couple of hours before, and there were as many as twenty or
more in the band, and that four of the Indians had chased them several
miles, and that the Indians seemed to be traveling in an easterly
I said to the Captain, "Let's have the men take supper with us and then
go back and show us where they saw the Indians."
He asked them if they were willing to go and show us, and they said they
We struck out as quickly as we could, and I think it was all of ten
miles before we struck the Indian trail. As soon as we found the trail
the Indians had left, Captain McKee thanked the men and told them he
would not trouble them to go any further. They inquired if he intended
to follow the Indians up and make an attack on them. He told them that
was what he expected to do if we found them. They said, "Why, can't
we go with you and help to fight the wretches? We both have guns and
pistols too, and we would like to get even with them for the run they
made us take against our will."
The Capt. said, "I am willing for you to accompany us, but you must
watch my men and do as they do, if you are sure you want to put
yourselves in the same danger of being killed that we do."
They both said together, "That is just what we want to do, Capt. We want
to learn how to fight the Red devils, and this will be a grand chance
for us to learn to do it in style."
Myself and my scouts took the lead on the Indian trail. I told the Capt.
to ride on slowly, and as soon as I came up with the Indians I would
inform him of it.
We three followed the Indian trail until the day was breaking, and when
we first saw their camp fires, we were only a short distance from them,
as they were down in a little narrow valley, and we were almost over
them before we saw them.
We dismounted, and I sent one man back to tell the Capt., and one I left
to care for the horses, and the other I took with me, and we crawled
down the hill through the thick brush to try to see what position the
Indians were in and find out what the best way would be to attack them.
When we had got to within a hundred yards of their camp, I saw an Indian
crawl out of his blanket and go to one of the fires and put more wood on
it. I whispered to my comrade to stop, and I told him we could not go
any nearer now, and in another moment two more Indians got up.
I said, "Now let us get back to our horses as quickly as we can."
As we reached the edge of the brush, I looked around to see where their
horses were, but there was not a horse in sight. We kept on until we
reached our horses.
I said, "Now boys, you both stay here, and I will ride down the ridge a
little way and maybe I can see their horses, and be sure to keep a close
watch on the Indians' movements, and if they appear to be excited,
signal to me at once."
I discovered their horses feeding quietly about a quarter of a mile
below their camp. This seemed very strange to me, and that the horses
were not staked out but allowed to run loose seemed still more strange.
I turned and rode back to my two scouts, and after I had told them what
I had seen, I said, "Boys, I am tempted to make a proposition."
They asked what it was. I said, "It may not work, but I have a mind for
us to go down where the Indians' horses are and get around them and
stampede them and drive them to meet the Capt. and the men with him."
Just as I finished speaking, one of the men said, "Hark, it is too late.
The Capt. and his men are here now," and sure enough there they were in
When I told the Capt. about the Indians and their horses being so far
from them and running loose, he said, "There is something up you may
be sure, for it is a very unusual thing for an Indian to do to leave
himself so unprotected by letting his horses run at large."
He then asked if I had any idea how many there were in the camp below
us. I told him that I had not counted them and could not do so the way
the camp was situated and the fires so dim.
He then asked if I wanted any more help to run the horses off. I
answered, "No sir, if you and your men will attend to the Indians, I and
my scouts will attend to the horses, and you need have no concern but we
will get them away all right. We will run them up on this open ridge and
hold them until you finish the Indians, and you will know where to find
the horses and us."
The Capt. and his men struck out for the Indian camp, and my men and I
to get the Indians' horses. We had not reached the horses when we heard
the sound of the guns. We had just succeeded in getting the horses on a
lope when we heard someone shouting behind us, and turning in my saddle
I saw two Indians coming on a run, and they were running for all they
I said, "Boys, let us wheel our horses and get those Indians," and I had
hardly turned my horse when the report of their guns rang out, and both
of the Indians dropped in their tracks.
In a moment more a cry came from one of the others, and looking in
another direction I saw one of the Capt's. men in full pursuit of two
Indians, and he was shouting at the top of his voice, "Lookout, boys, we
I said, "Now boys, let us get these horses away from here quick, for the
Indians are coming in every direction, and in a few minutes they will
be upon us, and we will have to fight them and perhaps lose half of the
horses, and some of us may get hurt besides."
We spurred our horses and soon had the Indian horses on the dead run up
the hill, and on the prairie where we had told the Capt. to come and
look for us.
When we had got control of the frightened horses and had time to listen,
we could hear the cracking of the guns in every direction, and we knew
that it was a desperate fight that was being fought.
I said, "Boys, let us count the horses, and we can then have some idea
how many Indians the other men have to contend with."
We found that there were fifty-eight in the band, and we knew that they
had all been ridden by the Indians, for each one had a hair rope around
his neck, so we decided that there must have been fifty Indians in the
camp when the Capt. and his men made the attack on them.
It must have been an hour or more before the Capt. and his men began
coming back. When Capt. McKee came back to the hill, he said, "This has
been the hardest fight that I have had with the Indians in years. They
were nearly all up when I struck their camp, and they were all on the
fight. Five of my men are badly wounded, and I don't believe we got near
all of the Indians. We must attend to the wounded men first, and then
we must take a scout around and see if we can find any more of the Red
He asked where I thought was the best place to make our camp. I answered
that there was a level spot a little below where I'd found the Indians'
horses that would make a good camping ground.
He said. "I will go and find the place, and you and your men drive the
horses down where you found them."
We had got about half way down to the valley with the horses when one of
my men said, "Look out. See what is coming."
I looked where he pointed and saw an Indian running from the brush and
making for the horses as fast as he could run. I said, "Let's go for
him, boys, and don't get too close to him before you shoot, for he has
his bow and arrow ready to shoot you if you don't get him first."
I raised my gun as we went for him and fired and broke his leg, and one
of the other boys got close to him and shot him with his pistol and
We now rushed the horses down to the village in a hurry. When we had got
them there, I told the boys that we must watch the horses all the time
and change herders every two hours. I went to where the Capt. had
established his camp, and I found that five of the men were badly
wounded. One was wounded in the hip, and it was the worst arrow wound I
I asked the Capt. what he was going to do with those wounded men. "I
don't see how you are going to get them to a doctor, and I don't believe
they will get well without one. So what are you going to do?"
He said if we could get them back to the settlement where we had left
the horses, they could have a doctor's care.
I said, "Well, but let's get them something to eat as well as ourselves,
for they must be faint for the lack of food and losing so much blood,
and if they are no better by evening, I think you had better send
for the doctor to come here and not try to send the men to him for
treatment." The Capt. agreed to this, and as soon as we had something
to eat, I went to where the wounded men were laying and examined their
wounds myself and was surprised to find the men so cheerful. They were
laughing and talking just as if they were well.
I asked the one that was so badly wounded if he thought we had better
send for a doctor to dress the wound. He said, "No, I don't want any
doctor. If you will get me a plenty of the balsam of fir to put on it,
it will be well in a week." I answered, "If that is all you want, my
friend, I will see that you get all you want of that, for there is
plenty of it all around us."
I will say for the instruction of the reader that this birch taken from
the fir trees as it saps out of cracks in the bark was the only liniment
that the frontiersman had to heal his wounds at that time, and it was
one of the best liniments that I have ever seen applied to a sore of any
I now hunted up the Capt. to have a talk with him. I asked him what he
proposed doing until those men were able to travel, as they didn't want
any doctor and said they could cure their wounds themselves with balsam
The Capt. said, "Well, we will leave enough men to guard the wounded men
and the horses, and we will take the others with us and go and search
for more Indians."
Capt. McKee left ten men to guard the camp, and the balance of us struck
out on a hunt for stray Indians.
We were gone from camp two or three hours, and we only found one Indian,
and he was wounded, but we found a number of dead Indians scattered all
through the timber where the men had shot them down as they ran, or as
they met them in hand-to-hand combat.
After we got back to camp, I asked the Capt. what he was going to do
with those horses.
He said he thought it would be the best plan to stay where we were until
the men were able to travel and then to go back to the settlement and
get our other horses and then pull for Dallas. "For," said he, "I do not
believe that the Indians will make any more raids through this part of
the country until next spring, and they may never come back, for we have
crippled them so that they will shun a place where they have met such
disaster. There has never been a company through here that has had the
success in killing Indians and capturing their horses as we have had
this spring. Just think what we have done, and not one of our men has
We remained in this camp two weeks, and everyone had a good time with
the exception of the wounded men, and even they were more cheerful than
one in health could have thought possible.
Game was plentiful and easy to get, and we had all the fresh meat we
wanted, and it was an ideal place to lay around and rest when we were
tired hunting, and there was a plenty of grass for the horses and a cool
spring of water to quench the thirst of man and beast.
After the first week, the wounded men took more or less exercise every
day, and so kept their strength, and it was surprising how fast their
The day before the one set to start for the settlement, I asked the man
that had the wounded hip if he thought he could ride on horseback. He
answered, "Yes, if I had a gentle horse so I could ride sideways, I
could stand it to ride a half a day without stopping to rest."
I told him that I had a horse that was very gentle and would just suit
That evening the Capt. and I talked the matter over together. He said he
thought we had better pull out in the morning and travel slowly so as
not to tire the wounded men too much, for the farmers would have sold
their crops by the time we got to Dallas, and we could do as well with
our horses as we could at any time of the year.
In the morning we left the camp that we had grown to almost love, the
Capt. and I taking the lead with the wounded men at our side, and the
other men brought up the rear, driving the horses who had grown fat and
glossy in the weeks of rest.
When we were mounted, the Capt. said to the wounded men, "Now boys, when
you begin to feel tired, say so, and we will stop and camp at once."
I never heard a word of complaint from one of them, and we had ridden
ten miles or so, when we came to a cool stream of water and a plenty of
grass, and the Capt. said, "This is a good place to stop and give our
sick boys a rest."
So we dismounted and went into camp. After we had our dinner, several of
the men came and asked the Capt. if he was going any further that night,
and he replied that he was not. The boys said, "All right, we will catch
some fish then."
In about two hours they came from the stream, and each man had a string
of good-sized catfish, and the reader may be sure that we all enjoyed
that fish supper.
From the time we left the camp in the valley until we reached the
settlement, we only traveled ten miles a day.
We traveled this way for the benefit of the wounded men, and they
reached the settlement not worse for the journey, but they were much
stronger than when we started.
The morning before we reached the settlement, as we were about to mount
our horses, one of the men said to the Capt., "Say, Cap, haven't you
forgotten to do something?"
The Capt. looked around in a surprised way and said, "I do not remember
anything that I could have forgotten to do. What is it?"
The man said, "Didn't you agree to send a runner on ahead to notify that
lady that you were coming so she could have the grub cooked for your
But the Capt. never answered the question, for before he could speak,
there was such a clapping of hands and laughter from all the men that it
would have been impossible to have heard him if he had tried.
After the boys had stopped cheering, the Capt. said, "You have the laugh
on me now boys, but you wait, and I will get even with you, and he that
laughs last laughs best."
We reached the settlement about the middle of the afternoon and we found
our horses in much better condition than we expected to.
We staid here all the next day as we were told that several of the
farmers near there wanted to purchase horses from us and would come as
soon as they heard that we were there.
Before night we had sold thirty-one horses at a fair price. About noon
of that day the Capt. and I were sitting under a tree having a smoke
when a little girl came to us and said, "Capt., mama says you and Mr.
Drannan come and take dinner with us."
As neither of us knew her, the Capt. asked where she lived and who her
She said, "Come on, and I'll show you," and when we went with her, it
proved to be the same place where we had dined the last time we were at
Their name was "Jones." The man and his wife met us on the porch and
shook hands with us, and the lady said, "Capt., you have been very lucky
in killing Indians and pretty lucky in getting something to eat with us.
You had some of our first picking of peas last spring, and you will have
some of our first turnips today."
The Capt. told her that of all vegetables, he liked young turnips best.
She said that she had enough for dinner and supper too, and that we
might consider ourselves invited to supper too.
We ate dinner with this hospitable family, and then we went back to the
corral and the selling of our horses, which commenced soon after we got
there, as the farmers came early in the day.
That night we paid the herder for his care of the horses, and then we
pulled out for Dallas.
I do not remember how many days it took us to reach Dallas, but it was
in the middle of October when we rode into that city.
This was in the fall of fifty-eight, and the news had just reached
Dallas that gold had been discovered on Cherry creek in the territory
of Colorado, and the excitement was intense. All over the city people
talked of nothing else but gold, and of all the exaggeration stories
about gold mines that I had ever heard, the ones told there were the
most incredible. The parties who brought the news to Dallas had not been
to the mines themselves, but had been told these wonderful stories at
Capt. McKee caught the gold fever right away, and he said to me, "I am
going to get up a company in the spring and go to those new gold mines.
Don't you want to go with me?"
I answered, "No, Capt. I do not, for I know that Cherry creek country,
and I do not believe that there is a pound of gold in all that country.
It is nothing but a desert."
He said, "Have you been to Cherry creek?"
I answered, "Yes sir, a number of times."
"Where is Cherry creek?" he asked. I told him that Cherry creek headed
in the divide between the Arkansas river and the South Platte river, and
emptied into the South Platte river about twenty miles below where the
Platte leaves the Rocky mountains and near the center of the territory
of Colorado. Capt. McKee said, "Well, I am going anyhow. I did not go to
California when I ought to have gone, and maybe this will prove as rich
a country for getting gold as that did."
I laughed and answered, "There may be lots of gold in Colorado, Capt.,
but you or anyone else will never find enough gold in Cherry creek to
make you rich."
He said, "Well, the way to find it is to go there and look for it. We
surely never will if we stay away."
From the way the people talked, one would have thought that everybody in
Dallas was going to the gold fields.
After it was known that I had been through the country where the gold
mines were reported to be, a great many men came to me to make inquiries
about the country, and some of them seemed surprised because I took the
news so coolly and did not seem anxious to go there.
The excitement did not last more than a week before it commenced to die
By this time we had about disposed of our horses, and the wounded men
were able to go to their homes.
The Capt. settled up with the men, and he and I divided the remainder of
After we were square, the Capt. asked what I was going to do. I told him
that I was going back to Bent's Fort. He said, "Well, won't you wait a
few days until I can organize a company to go with me to Colorado, and
we will go with you as far as Bent's Fort?"
I said I certainly would, for the journey would be very lonely for me
to go alone, and I liked company, and besides I was in no hurry to get
The Capt. worked steadily to get recruits for his company for two weeks,
and he succeeded in getting ten men in all that time.
He said, "This beats anything I ever undertook. When we first came to
Dallas, the whole town talked as if they were crazy to go, and now I
can't get anybody to join me, but I will make the effort with the ten
men that will go, and if this is a success and we make fortunes, we will
come back and surprise the city."
I said, "Alright, Capt., but if the people of Dallas are ever surprised,
it will not be from hearing of the great amount of gold you and your
companions took from Cherry creek."
The Capt. now commenced to get ready for the journey to Colorado, the
land of reported gold. Each of his men had to have two saddle horses,
and one pack horse for every two men, and each man had three months
provisions, consisting of flour, coffee, salt and tobacco.
The question of getting meat was never thought of as one could get a
plenty of that anywhere on the journey, and the streams were teaming
with the most delicious fish.
The evening before we were to set out in the morning the Capt said,
"Which way shall we go?"
I said, "Although it is getting late, and we may have some cold weather
to contend with I think our best and most direct route will be by what
is called the Panhandle route. There will be no rivers to cross, and
there is a plenty of grass for the horses, and also there is nice
drinking water in abundance all the way for ourselves as well as the
hordes, and there will be days when we will be in sight of Deer and
Antelope from morning until night."
There were a few scattering settlements along the trail. The place
which is now the city of Childress being the largest, and also the last
settlement we passed through, and the last sign of civilization we saw
until we struck Bent's Fort which was on the Arkansas river below what
is now the city of Pueblo in the state of Colorado which was at that
time a territory just a little north of what is now the city of
We killed our first Buffalo on that trip.
It is surprising to the people who saw that country at that early day
when they travel through it now and see what civilization has done.
There is Amarillo, which has several thousand inhabitants today, and
at the time I am speaking of there was not a house or sign of a living
person there, and a number of other places I could mention that are
thriving cities now were at that time inhabited by wild animals alone.
In the year of forty-eight when Kit Carson and I went across the Rocky
mountains with Col. Freemont, we camped three days where the city of
Pueblo, Colorado, now stands.
Our camp was under a very large pine tree, one of the largest in that
Five years ago I visited the city of Pueblo again, the first time I had
been there since that time.
I imagined I could go right to the spot where our camp was located, and
the morning after I arrived there I took a walk on the main business
street, which I thought was about where our camp had stood. But search
as long as I might, there was nothing to show me a sign of the old
I went to the river, thinking that must look the same, but no, even the
channel of that had been changed.
Amazed at the change civilization had wrought in obliterating everything
that I had thought would be a guide to the old places I sought, I spoke
to a police officer and asked him if be could tell me whether a very
large tree had stood in that neighborhood or not before that street was
He answered, "Yes, that tree stood right under that brick building," and
he pointed to a large building near where we stood, and he continued.
"As long as the tree stood there, it was called 'Freemont's camping
That particular spot is no exception, for every place I have visited in
late years all through the western country has met with the same change,
and the places that I was familiar with in my youth are strange to me
The place that is now called the city of Denver I will take for an
example. At the time I am speaking of, the year of forty-eight, and for
several years later, it was one of the greatest Antelope countries in
all the west, and I think I am safe in saying that there were not fifty
white men in all what is now called the state of Colorado.
I visited several cities in that state a year ago, and it would be
difficult for the people of this time to understand the feeling of
surprise that I experienced when I saw what civilization had done to
every place I visited.
On the Platte river in the eastern part of the city of Denver where the
large machine shops now stand is the spot where the largest bands of
Antelope were to be found, and it was there that we used to go to get
them every morning as they came down to the river to drink.
From the site where Amarillo is now we had all the Buffalo meat we
wanted, and when we struck what is now the city of Trinidad, Colorado,
we followed the stream known as and called the "Picket Wire," down to
the Arkansas river, and as we were in the heart of the Buffalo country,
we were not out of the sight of herds of Buffalo all the way down to
It would be an impossibility to make this generation understand the
numbers of herds that roamed the western country. While the Buffalo was
the most numerous game of the plains, they were the most strange in
their habits. They made the round trip from Texas to the head of the
Missouri river in Dakota and back again every year. As soon as they
reached one end of their journey, they invariably turned around and
began their journey back. Another peculiarity of this animal was that
the calves never followed their mother, but always preceded her, and in
case of fright, or when she thought them in danger when the herd started
on the run, if the calves could not keep up with the others the mother
would push her calf forward with her nose.
I think I have seen a mother Buffalo throw her calf at least ten feet in
one push, and it would always alight on its feet and not break its run.
When we reached Bent's Fort, Capt. McKee asked Col. Bent how the gold
mines were on Cherry creek. The Col. laughed and said, he had not heard
from them in about three months, and the last news he had from there
were that Cherry creek was deserted, so by that he thought the amount of
gold there must be rather limited, and then Capt. McKee told him that he
had fitted up a company and had come all the way from Texas to dig gold
from Cherry creek.
Col. Bent said, "Well, Capt., there has been another discovery made on
what is called Russel's gulch which is a tributary of Clear creek, and I
have no doubt but there is gold to be found there."
Capt. McKee asked where Clear creek was.
Col. Bent said, "Ask Will. He can tell you better than I can, for he has
trapped all over that country."
I told the Capt. that Clear creek was about ten miles north of Cherry
creek on the north side of Platte river and I said, "Capt., if Russel's
gulch is up on the head of Clear creek, you could not get there this
winter with horses, for at this time in the year the snow is from two to
ten feet deep, and it is the coldest country you ever struck, and your
Texas boys and yourself too would freeze to death before you got half
way to the mines."
The Capt. asked Col. Bent if he had any idea how many miners there were
up in the Russel's gulch mines.
He answered, "Yes, I saw them when they started on their prospecting
trip, and there are six of them. There were seven, but one came back and
went back to his home in Georgia.
"Green Russel was the leader, and the mine was given his name. I expect
there will be a great stampede from the east especially from Georgia
next spring, for the gold excitement always spreads like fire in dry
Capt. McKee said, "Well, I believe I will go there anyway and see what
there is in it. I can live there as cheaply as I can anywhere. There is
plenty of game there, is there not?" he said, turning to me.
I said, "Yes, there is plenty of game all around the Platte river and
Cherry creek, but if you go there, I advise you not to go further than
the mouth of Cherry creek this winter. There is a grove of timber there
that you can make your camp in, and you could put up a shack to protect
you from the weather."
The Capt. and his company pulled out the second day after this talk, but
it was very plain to be seen that the whole company was much discouraged
in regard to the gold mines.
As they were leaving the Fort, I said to Capt. McKee, "When you come
back in the spring, Capt., I hope I shall hear you tell about the grand
success you have had in panning gold on Cherry creek this winter."
He said, "If there is any gold to be found in that country, I shall find
it. That is what I came out here to do."
As soon as the mining company had gone, Col. Bent said to me, "Will, do
you want to go and trade with the Indians for me now, or have you caught
the gold fever too?"
I answered, "Col. I have not had the gold fever as yet, and I do not
think there is any danger of my catching it, so I am ready to go to work
for you trading with the Indians."
Col. Bent laughed and said, "If you haven't got the fever now, Will, I
will bet your best hors, that you will catch it bad when the rush for
the mines comes in the spring."
At that time I had no idea there would be any rush for the gold mines,
for I thought the excitement would die out before spring, because so
many had been disappointed in the fall, but in this I was mistaken, for
by the first of May they commenced to come to the Fort on their way to
the mines, and by the first of June one could see the trains stringing
along for miles, and what was very amusing to me, when I asked them
where they were going, they invariably answered, "Pike's Peak."
I remember one train that I met that spring down on the Arkansas river,
below Bent's Fort. One of the men asked me, if I could tell them how far
it was from there to Pike's Peak. I said, "No sir, I can't tell you how
far it is, but I can show it to you. There is Pike's Peak right before
you," and I pointed to the snowcapped mountain that could be seen for
hundreds of miles.
He said, "Oh, I don't mean that. I want to find out where the Pike's
Peak gold mine is."
I told him that I had never heard of such a mine. This seemed to
surprise him, and in a few minutes the whole outfit was crowding around
me, inquiring about Pike's Peak mine.
Then I told them what the report had been about the discovery of gold at
Cherry creek and Russel's gulch.
One man asked if I could tell them where Denver was, and that was a
question I could not answer, for I had never heard of a place called
I asked him what Denver was. A new mining camp that had just been named,
"Why" he said, "Denver is a city close to Pike's Peak."
I answered, "Strange, you must have made a mistake in the locality of
the city you are seeking. I have traveled all over this country for
years, and I never saw or heard of a place called Denver in my life."
Then they told me that Dr. Russel, one of the discoverers of the gold
mine, had staid all night at the town where they came from in Missouri.
When he, the Dr., was on his way home to Georgia, last fall he had told
them what wonderful gold mines had been discovered up in the mountains,
and there was a large city building in the valley that was going to be
the queen city of the west, and they had named the city "Denver."
I was young then, and of course my experience was limited, so I believed
the story that the man told, not stopping to think that it might be
exaggerated, as an older person might have done.
I was going down the Arkansas river on my last trading trip with the
Indians for that season, and the story of the wonderful gold mines made
me anxious to get back to Bent's Fort. I had very good success in this
trade, and in two weeks I was back to the fort with my pack horses
loaded down with Buffalo robes.
After I had settled with the Col., I said, "I reckon you would have won
the wager if we had made the bet last fall, Col., for I am afraid I have
a touch of the gold fever."
Col. Bent laughed and said, "I thought you would not escape, Will, but
you are not the only one affected. I have news for you. Kit Carson and
Jim Bridger will be here in a few days from Taos, on their way to the
gold mines, and so you are just in time to go with them."
I then told Col. Bent the story the gold seekers had told me when I was
on my way to trade with the Indians this last time.
He said, "You must not believe all the stories that are floating about,
Will. If you do, you will only be disappointed, for in a time when
people are excited, as they are now over the finding of gold, there will
be all kinds of exaggerated stories told. Some of them will be told in
good faith, and some will be to merely mislead too credulous people. So
take my advice, Will, and keep cool and don't get rattled."
The next day, after I had the talk with Col. Bent, Uncle Kit and Jim
Bridger stopped at the Fort on their way to the new gold field. Of
course, Uncle Kit was as glad to see me as I was to see him, and was
rather surprised when I told him that I was all ready to go with him to
Jim Bridger said, "What are you going there for, Will?"
I said, "I am going to help you pick up gold. I haven't any use for it
myself, but I just want to help you, Jim."
Uncle Kit said, "I guess, what gold we pick up won't hurt any of us."
The morning after this we three pulled out, and on the fourth day out we
landed on the ground where the city of Denver now stands.
It was the first of June in the year of fifty-nine, and as near as I can
remember, there were six little log shacks scattered around the west
side of Cherry creek, which at that time was called "Arora," and the
east side of the creek was called "Denver," and this was the Queen city
of the west that I had been told about and had come to see, and it was
amazing to see the number of people that were coming in there every day.
They came in all shapes. They came in wagons, in hand carts and on horse
The hand carts had from four to six men to pull them, and I saw a few
that had eight men pulling one cart.
Uncle Kit, Bridger and I remained there four days, just to see the
crowds that were coming in. We found out the way to Russel's gulch, and
we decided to go up there.
We went by the way that is called "Golden" now, but of course there was
no such place then, that being the general camping place before going up
into the mountains.
When we made our camp on the bank of Clear creek, where the city of
Golden now stands, I think we could have counted two hundred wagons in
sight of our camp. Close to us there were four men in camp, and they had
one wagon and two yoke of cattle between them.
The next morning they were up earlier than we were and were eating their
breakfast when we crawled out of our blankets.
As soon as they finished eating, they hooked up their ox teams and drove
down to the creek and stopped at the bank and commenced to throw their
provisions into the water. As soon as Uncle Kit saw the men doing this,
he said, "What do they mean? Are they crazy? I will go and see what is
As soon as he got in speaking distance, he asked them what they were
throwing their provisions to the creek for.
One of the men stopped and answered, "We are going back to Missouri, and
our oxen's feet are so tender that they can hardly walk, let alone pull
Uncle Kit said, "Why don't you throw the stuff on the ground? If you
don't want it yourselves, do not waste it by throwing it in the creek.
Someone else may want it."
One of them said, "I had not thought of that," and they threw the flour
and bacon and coffee and other small packages of food on the ground.
There must have been as much as twelve hundred pounds of provisions
laying on the ground when they got through, and I saw the contents of
two other wagons share the same fate that same day. How long that stuff
lay there I do not know. We left there the next morning, and I noticed
that it had not been touched.
I never saw so many discouraged-looking people at one time as I saw in
those wagons that were camped around Clear creek. I visited a number
of camps where six or eight men would be sitting around a little fire
talking about their disappointment in not finding gold to take home to
their families, and some of them were crying like children as they said
the expense of fitting out their teams and themselves had ruined them
This spot on Clear creek seemed to be the turntable for the
gold-seekers. They either went up the mountain to the mines or became
discouraged and turned around and went home, and I do not believe that
one out of ten ever left the creek to go up the mountain.
The way from Clear creek to the mines at Russel's gulch was through
the mountains, with nothing but a trail to travel on and the roughest
country to try to take wagons over I ever saw.
I do not know how many miles it was, but I do remember that we had a
hard day's ride from Clear creek to Russel's gulch, and we did not ride
a half a mile without seeing more or less wagons that had been left
beside the trail, and in many of the broken wagons the outfit that the
owner had started with was in the wagon.
[Illustration: I bent over him and spoke to him, but he did not answer.]
The night we struck the mines, we camped near the head of Russel's
gulch. The next morning, after we had eaten our breakfast, we started
out to take a look around, and Bridger said, "Where in the name of
common sense do these people come from?" For look in any direction we
would, there was a bunch of men with pick and shovel slung over their
backs, and every little while we came on a bunch of men digging a hold
in the ground.
Later in the forenoon we went to Green Russel's cabin, he being the man
who had discovered the gold in that country. He had never met Uncle Kit
before but had heard a great deal about him. When Carson told him his
name, he invited us into his cabin. After we had talked with him awhile,
he said, "I suppose you all think that I am to blame for all of this
excitement, but if you think so, you are mistaken, so I will clear your
mind and vindicate myself. A year ago last spring my brother, myself,
and five other men came out here to prospect for gold. After we had
prospected all over the country, we discovered this gulch, and we struck
good pay dirt in the first hole we sank. We fixed up a couple of rockers
and went to work, and the first week we took out a hundred dollars to a
rocker. I told the boys that this was good enough for me, so each one of
us staked off a claim, and to prove that each of us had a good claim, we
sank a prospect hole on every claim, and we found that one claim was as
good as another. There was only one of the party who had a family, that
was my brother, the doctor, and as we all thought that we had a good
thing, my brother concluded that he would go home and fix up his affairs
this winter and bring his family out here in the spring, and he agreed
to keep our finding a secret from everyone but his own family, but it
seems that he did not keep his word but spread the news of our luck
broadcast as soon as he struck the first white settlement, and the waste
and destruction which you saw all along the trail from Clear creek to
the gulch are the effects of his folly, although I believe that there
are other mines as good as this in other parts of this country, but
mining for gold is like other kinds of business. Only one man out of a
hundred makes a success out of it."
The next day we were looking around, and we came upon two young men who
said they were brothers, and they were so excited when we came near them
that they could scarcely talk. They had been sinking a prospect hole and
had just struck pay dirt.
We watched them pan out a couple of pans, and they certainly had struck
it rich. After they had staked off their claims, Bridger asked them what
name they would give their new discovery. They said, "There is a
spring at the head of this ravine where we have often drunk and cooled
ourselves, so we shall call our mine 'Spring gulch,'" and I was told by
miners afterwards that these brothers had surely found a rich mine, for
it extended the whole length of the ravine.
I met one of the brothers a number of years after the time I saw them
panning out the gold, and he told me that he and his brother took twenty
thousand dollars apiece out of that mine.
The next day we were knocking around the mining camp, and we ran across
a man whose name was Gregory. He was from Georgia, and he had just
discovered a quartz lead which proved to be very rich in gold.
He showed us some of the quartz that he had taken from it, and we could
see the gold all through the rock. He said that when he sank down a
hundred feet, it would be twice as rich in gold as it was at the top.
There was a town built at this place, and it was called Gregory, and in
two years there were a half a dozen quartz mills built in that vicinity
and quite a number more quartz ledges had been discovered, and they all
We had been in this region about two weeks, when I met one of the men
that came with Capt. McKee. We were both surprised to see each other.
I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was mining. He said the
whole company was mining together on a claim they had taken up on south
Clear creek about twelve miles from Russel's gulch, and they had fifty
feet of sluice boxes and were taking out from five to seven dollars a
day to a man, and had ground enough to last them two years.
He insisted on my going back with him to see the mine and said that I
could have an equal interest with the others of the company if I would
join them, and I have always regretted that I did not go and make them a
visit at least for I never saw Capt. McKee again.
I was told afterwards that he made quite a good stake, and then went
back to Texas and married and bought a home and lived and died on it
about seven miles northeast of where Mineral wells is now, and I will
say here that Capt. McKee was like many of his noble statesmen. He was
brave, kindly, honest and true. One of nature's noblemen. He did not
interfere with any man's business and allowed no one to meddle with his
business, and if he professed to be a friend, he was a friend indeed,
one that could be trusted in foul weather as well as fair.
Carson, Bridger, and I remained at Russel's gulch about three weeks, and
we visited many claims and heard the shouts of the successful and the
groans of those who failed, and we all three decided that we had got
enough of mining by looking on without trying our hand at it, so we left
the mining camp and pulled out for Denver, and from Russel's gulch to
the foot of the mountain.
We were never out of sight of teams of every description, and nearly
every person we met asked us how far it was to Russel's gulch.
We were about ten miles on the trail towards Denver when a man asked us
this question, and Jim Bridger answered that if we were anywhere else in
the United States it would be ten miles to Russel's gulch, but by that
trail he reckoned it was about fifty.
The man said, "Doesn't the road get any better?"
Jim said, "I don't call this path a road, but if you do I will tell you
that it gets worse all the way up."
When we reached the foot of the mountains at the crossing at Clear
creek, we found more campers there than when we had left three weeks
before. As we were riding along, Bridger said, "Where, do you suppose
all these people came from?" Kit Carson answered, "Oh, they have come
from all over the east. This excitement has spread like wild fire all
over the country."
Up to this time we had seen but very few families in the crowds of gold
seekers, but when we got to Denver on our return from the mines, we saw
that a great many of the emigrants had their whole families with them,
and it was surprising to see the number of cabins that had been built in
so short a time, and we saw a number of teams hauling logs from the foot
of the mountains to build more cabins, and there had been several little
buildings built and furnished with groceries and dry goods since we had
The evening we got to Denver we went a little ways up the Platte river
to find a place to camp, and whom should we meet but our old friend Jim
Beckwith. As Carson shook his hand, he said, "Why, Beckwith, I thought
you had more sense than to be caught in a scrape like this."
Beckwith laughed and answered, "Well, Kit, I see I am not the only
durned fool in the country. You seem to be caught in the same scrape
with me," and for the next half hour it was amusing to hear the jokes
these three old friends tossed at each other, for, of course, Bridger
After they had their fun with each other, Carson asked Beckwith what he
was doing there. Beckwith answered, "I have staked off a claim here,
Kit. It is not a claim either. It is a farm," and he pointed to a little
bunch of timber a short distance from our camp. "I intended to build a
cabin in that grove of timber," which he afterwards did, and he lived
there about thirty years and died there about fourteen years ago as I
was informed a year ago, when I was in Denver for the first time since
Carson, Bridger and I camped on his claim.
When Jim Beckwith told us that he had taken up land and was going to
build on it and make himself a home there, I wondered what he would do
to make a living. The land seemed to be fertile enough, but I did not
see any chance to sell what he might raise if he tried farming, but I
was told that he cultivated the land for awhile and then it was too
valuable. So he cut it up into lots and sold it, and now it is covered
with business houses and residences, and all this change has taken place
in forty-nine years.
As I stood and looked at the streets and blocks of houses, I found
myself almost doubting that that was the spot where we had camped
forty-nine years ago. When memory called back to my mind what a barren,
desolate country it was at that time, it almost seemed incredible that
such a large city could be built and such a vast change be made in less
than fifty years, and not only in this particular spot but for miles and
miles all through the surrounding country.
While we were in camp, I was down on the banks of Cherry Creek one day,
and there were fifteen or twenty Indians sitting on the bank, and among
them was a squaw who had a pistol in her hand. She seemed to be
playing with it when several white men came along, and one of them was
intoxicated. This one went up to the squaw and, taking hold of the
pistol, tried to wrench it from her hand, and in the struggle the
pistol was discharged and the man dropped dead. Some of his companions
threatened to take vengeance on the Indians, but there were so many
other white men standing around that had witnessed the whole affair and
knew the Indians had done nothing to be molested for, they would not
allow the Indians to be troubled. So the men took the body away, and
that was the end of the affair.
That evening a band of Kiawah Indians came into the town and camped
where the statehouse now stands. I happened to meet some of them, and
being acquainted with them I stopped and talked with them, and they told
me that they were going to have a peace smoke and a dance next day, and
they wanted me to join them, which, knowing it would not be wise to
decline, I promised to do.
When I went back to camp, I told Uncle Kit and the others of the
invitation I had received and accepted. Uncle Kit said, "I guess we are
too old to take a part in the dance, but we can go and look on and watch
the fun." We did not go to the Indian camp until near noon the next
day; and I think there were two or three hundred white men, women and
children standing around the camp when we got there, and the majority of
them had never seen an Indian before.
As Uncle Kit and Bridger and Beckwith did not wish to take a part in the
performance, they kept out of sight of the Indians, and I went into the
camp, and as soon as I arrived the Indians commenced to form the circle
for the peace smoke.
We had all just taken our seats, and the head chief was in the act of
lighting the pipe when he sang out, "O Wah," at the top of his voice,
and in an instant every Indian sprang to his feet and started to run. I
could not think what was the matter until I looked around and saw a man
a short distance from us with a camera in the act of taking a photo of
us, but he never got the picture, for not an Indian stopped running
until his wigwam hid him from view.
The man with the camera looked the disappointment he felt as he came to
me and asked if I were acquainted with those Indians.
He said, "What in creation was the matter with them? What made them get
up and run? I would rather have given fifty dollars than miss taking
I could scarcely answer him I was so choked with laughter. But I managed
to tell him that I reckoned the Indians thought that he had some
infernal machine pointed at them that would blow them all to the happy
He asked me if I would go and tell the chief that the camera would not
hurt them and try to make them understand what he was doing with it. He
said, "If you can persuade them to let me take a photo of them, I will
pay you well for your trouble."
I told him I would try, but I was doubtful of his getting the picture.
So I went to the chief's wigwam and tried to explain to him and to
persuade him to have him and all the band sit for their pictures to be
The chief shook his head and said, "Hae-Lo-Hae-Lo white man heap devil,"
which meant "I will not that the white man would do them some evil," and
then he said he was afraid that the white man with the big gun wanted
to kill all his warriors, and all that I could say would not change his
Carson, Bridger and I staid at Denver three weeks, and then we went back
to Bent's Fort, and when we left Denver, the town and the country in
every direction was covered with wagons belonging to emigrants that
the excitement about gold having been discovered in the mountains had
brought to Denver and the surrounding country.
We reached Bent's Fort late in the afternoon and had not been there over
an hour when three men and a boy came in on foot and brought the news
that the Indians had attacked a train of emigrants and killed them all.
The emigrants were on their way back east, from Cherry Creek, where they
had been led to believe that gold had been discovered.
The men that brought the news of the massacre were so excited that they
could not tell how many people had been killed or how many wagons were
in the train. They said that the train had just broke camp and started
on their way when they heard the report of guns at the head of the
train, and in a moment more the Indians came pouring down upon them,
shooting everyone they met with their bows and arrows. "And," continued
they, "when we saw them shooting and yelling, we broke and run before
they got to us, and we did not stop until we got here." They said all
this in a frightened, breathless way, that showed how excited they were.
Col. Bent sent the men and boy into the dining room to get something
to eat, and Uncle Kit followed them, to try to get some more definite
information regarding the massacre. After awhile Uncle Kit came back,
and Col. Bent asked him what he thought of the news the men had brought.
Carson answered that the men in the dining room did not know anything,
and that he thought they were a party of emigrants who were disappointed
and angry at their luck, and they had tried to vent their spite on some
Indians they had met by firing on them, and had got the worst of the
"You know, Colonel, that the Comanches have not troubled any white
people in a number of years without they were aggravated to do so."
Col. Bent said, "Well, Kit, are you going down there to investigate the
Carson answered, "Yes, and won't you send three men along to bury the
Col. Bent said, "Certainly, Kit, and anything else you want. When do you
want to start?"
Carson said, "We will start now."
Carson, Bridger, myself and three other men left the fort for the scene
of the massacre, which we reached at the break of day the next
morning, and the sight that met our eyes was a horrible one. We found
twenty-three dead bodies close together, apparently where the attack had
commenced, and down near the river, in the brush, we found five more,
and also four living men who were not hurt, but frightened nearly to
After Carson had talked with these men a while and they had recovered a
little sense, they told how the dreadful thing occurred.
They had just pulled out from camp that morning when they met the
Indians. There were several men on horseback riding on ahead of the
wagons. When they met the Indians, they commenced to shout "How-How,"
and the horsemen began to fire on the Indians without the Indians doing
a thing to provoke them, and then the Indians had turned on them and
killed every white person they could find, but that they had not been
seen by the Indians, as they ran down the river and hid in the brush.
We searched thoroughly the brush all around for quite a distance, but we
could find no more living or dead.
We could not find out by these men how many there were in the train any
more than we could of the men that came with the news to the fort.
We began to bury the dead, and the four men commenced to look after the
teams and wagons.
In a little while they came back driving three teams, and said they had
found them hooked together, feeding along quietly, and they found that
nothing had been touched or carried away from the wagons.
After Uncle Kit had learned the cause of the massacre, I think he was
the most out of humor that I ever saw him. He said, "Such men as the
ones who fired on those Indians deserve to be shot, for they are not fit
to live in any country," and turning to Bridger he said, "Jim, it has
always been such men as they that has made bad Indians and caused most
all the trouble the whites have had with them, and still the Indians are
blamed for it all, and have to suffer for it all. I hope I shall live to
see the day when these things will be changed in this respect, and the
Indians will have more justice shown them."
But I am very sorry to say that Uncle Kit did not live to see this
accomplished. It was fifty years ago that Kit Carson expressed that wish
in regard to the Indians, but it has never been gratified, for in all
that time the Indians have been driven from one place to another and not
allowed to rest anywhere long at a time, and in my opinion certainly
have not had justice done them by the white race, and I will say this
from my own experience, that when an Indian professes to be a friend he
is a friend indeed, in storm as well as sunshine.
I will tell an instance that occurred four years ago when I was in
Indian Territory. I was sitting on the street in one of the towns when
an old Kiawah Indian came along, and looked at me quite sharply and
walked on a few steps, then turned and looked at me again, and then he
came back to me and slapped me on the shoulder and said, "A-Po-Lilly,"
which meant "Long time ago me know you." I looked at him and said, "No,
you are mistaken, I do not know you," and then he told me where he
had met me and what I had done for him, and as he recounted what had
happened I remembered the incident.
The time I had first met him I was out hunting and met him in the
forest. It was in the Territory of Wyoming, and he had had a fight with
the Sioux, and they had shot his horse, and he was hungry and tired and
footsore. I took him to my camp and fed him and kept him all night, and
the next morning I gave him a horse so he could ride back to his tribe
in more comfort, and I had not seen him since that morning, and this
happened forty years before I saw him again, and he remembered me. He
shook hands with me, which is a custom the Indians have not outgrown,
and left me, but in a few minutes he returned with at least forty of his
tribe with him, and I had to shake hands with every one of them. Some of
them could speak good English, and they told me the story he had told
them about my being kind to him, and they all called me their friend.
This incident shows that the Indian appreciates kindness.
After we had buried the emigrants, which took nearly two days to do,
Carson asked the men who had escaped being massacred where they were
going and what they intended to do.
One of them answered, "If you men will stay with us all night, we will
talk it over and decide what we had better do."
Carson said we had better stay with them that night, so we made a fire
and prepared supper, and while we were eating we saw several more wagons
coming down the trail near the river.
Uncle Kit said to the men that were with us, "Now is your chance, boys.
You can join this train and go home with them."
When the teams drove up, the three men and the boy we had left at the
fort were with them.
They all camped there with us, and after talking with the men, we found
out that none of them claimed the teams and wagons that had been found.
The owners of them had all been killed. The survivors did not know what
to do with the wagons and their contents, and they appealed to Uncle Kit
for advice in the matter.
Carson said, "I do not see that you can do better than take them along
with you. If you leave them here, somebody will come along and take
them, and they belong as much to you as to anyone."
So the next morning they rigged up five wagons with three yoke of cattle
to a wagon, leaving eight wagons with their contents standing where
their owners had left them when the Indians had killed them.
As they were ready to pull out, Uncle Kit went to them and asked them to
give him their names and where they lived, "for," he said, "if I ever
hear where any of the people lived who owned the property you have
taken with you, I want to write to you so you can give them to their
We then bid them all good bye, and they started on their journey home,
Carson having advised them not to molest the Indians no matter how many
or how few they might meet on their way, and then the Indians would not
molest them, as they were a friendly tribe, and that was the last we
ever saw or heard of that party.
We now turned back to Bent's Fort and reached there just before night.
Col. Bent's herder took care of our horses.
That night Carson, Bridger and I consulted together, and Bridger and I
decided to go with Uncle Kit to his home at Taos, Mexico, and stay a
month with him, but fate seemed to step in and change my plans.
The next morning when the herder went out to get our horses he found a
man crawling along, trying to get to the Fort, who was nearly starved
and so weak that he could hardly speak.
The herder put him on his horse and brought him to the Fort, and we gave
him some food. He said this was the first time he had broken his fast in
four days, and then he went on to tell that he and his comrades, which
were four altogether, had been among the first to come out to Cherry
Creek in search of gold the spring before, and after they got there,
they were so disappointed to find that there was not enough gold there
to pay them to stay that they concluded to go and prospect on their own
hooks. Each of them had taken as much provisions as he could carry, with
his gun and blanket, pick and shovel, and they had struck out into the
mountains. They had kept on at the foot of the mountain until they
passed the Arkansaw river, and here they went up into the mountains and
soon lost their way.
"How long we were traveling or where we went, I do not know," continued
the unfortunate man, "and finally we forgot the day of the week. As long
as our ammunition lasted, we did not lack for something to eat, and
foolishly we sometimes shot game we did not need, and after a while our
ammunition gave out, and when that happened it was not long until all
the other stuff was gone, and we could not tell where we were until we
got out of the mountains and saw Pike's Peak, as we knew what direction
Pike's Peak was from Cherry Creek.
"We knew then what direction to take to get back. The second night after
we left the mountains, one of the boys was taken very sick, and as we
could not think of leaving him to die alone, and we had nothing to eat
for him or for ourselves, and I being the strongest, they picked me to
go and try to get relief. It has been four days and nights since I left
them, and I do not believe I have slept over two hours at a time since I
started, I was so anxious to find help to go to them. And besides, I was
so hungry I could not rest. Many a time I have walked as long as I could
keep my eyes open, and I would drop down beside a log and fall asleep
before I struck the ground and slept an hour or two, and then awoke with
that dreadful gnawing in my stomach. Then I got up again and struggled
on, but I could not have gone much farther when the herder got up to me,
for my strength was nearly gone, and I should have given up and died
very soon. Nobody knows what I have suffered on this trip, except they
that have gone through the same ordeal. We have about one hundred
dollars between us, and we are willing to give it to anyone who will go
and carry something to eat and help my comrades to come here."
The looks of the man and the pleading way he talked and the faithfulness
to his friends in trying to get help to them was more pathetic than any
romance could describe it, and could not help but appeal to the heart of
With the light of deep sympathy in his eyes, Uncle Kit stepped forward
and, stretching out his hand toward the unfortunate, exclaimed, "Do not
worry another moment; your comrades shall have assistance at once, or as
soon as I can reach them," and turning to me, Uncle Kit said, "Willie,
come outside with me a moment," and when I looked at him after I had
followed him, I saw the tears on his cheeks. I had known Kit Carson
several years, but this was the first time I had seen him moved to
tears. He said, "Willie, my boy, can't you find these men as well as
I answered, "Yes, sir; if this man can give me any clue to follow, I
will find them in short order, for I have been all over those mountains
and through the valley several times, and know the country well."
He said, "Well, I thought you could fill the bill if any one could,
Willie; and now go and have three horses saddled, and I will have some
grub fixed up, and by that time the man will have finished eating and
will be more fit to talk to you."
My horses were soon ready, and I went in to see the man. When I went
into the room where he was, I found him lying on a cot, and after I had
talked with him a few moments, I decided in my mind he had left his
comrades not far from where the city of Trinidad now stands. He gave me
the description of nearly all the mountains and streams he had crossed
on his way to the Fort after he had left his friends, and I thought if
he had been correct in his description of his route I could find the
suffering men without much difficulty. When I went out to where the
horses were waiting for me, I found Uncle Kit had packed about forty
pounds of grub on one of the horses. Col. Bent handed me a pint flask of
whiskey, saying, "Now, if these men are alive when you find them, give
them a small quantity of this, but be very careful not to give them too
much at a time, and the same care must be taken in giving them food."
As I was starting, Uncle Kit said, "Now, Willie, if you are successful
in finding the men, I hope to hear from you in two or three weeks. Jim
and I will leave here today for Taos, and you will find us there when
you come home," and he gave me his hand, and with a lingering pressure
said, "Goodbye, and God speed you on your errand of mercy, my boy."
And I mounted my horse and left the Fort, and was off on my long, lonely
journey over trackless prairies and through mountain passes that had
perhaps never been trodden by a white man beforehand. No one can realize
how lonely this journey was. I did not think much about it myself until
I made my camp the first night. After I had staked out my horses and
built a fire, I began to realize what a dreadful state the lost men must
be in, for if I was so hungry, who had eaten a good meal at noon, what
must they be suffering who had had nothing to eat in five days? The
thoughts of the suffering men whom I hoped to rescue from death kept me
awake most of the night, and I fully decided that this was the last time
I would try to sleep until I knew whether they were living or dead. I
was up with the dawn the next morning, and on the way, and I thought if
I did not meet with any bad luck to detain me I would be in the vicinity
of the men I sought by night.
From this time out I knew I must be very careful to look for signs of
the lost men, as hunger might drive them to leave the place where their
comrade had directed me to look for them. When I was a little west
of where the city of Waltzingburge now stands, and the darkness was
beginning to close down, I saw the glimmer of a little fire off to the
right, at what looked about a half mile from me. I thought it might be
an Indian camp and directed my course that way, but when I was within
sight of it and was within a hundred yards or so of the fire, I could
not see a soul stirring around it, but I kept on up to the fire, and
suddenly my horse came near stepping on a man who lay on the ground with
bare feet and nothing under or over him. I sprang from my horse and bent
over him and spoke to him, but he did not answer or move. I then took
hold of his shoulder and shook him gently, and he seemed to rouse up a
little. I said, "What are you laying here for?" and he murmured in a
voice so weak I had to bend my ear close to him to hear, "I have laid
down to die."'
I pulled the flask of whiskey from my pocket and raised him on my arm
and wet his lips with a few drops of the whiskey. I repeated this
several times, as he seemed to have relapsed into unconsciousness, and
I was afraid I was too late to save him or bring him back to
I laid him down and built the fire anew and unpacked my horse and got my
blankets and made a pallet and lifted him on it. Lifting him seemed to
revive him, and the firelight showed me that he had opened his eyes, and
he put his hand on his stomach and whispered, "Oh, how hungry I am."
I gave him a small sup of whiskey, and, taking a piece of buffalo meat
from my pack, I soon had it broiled, and with some bread I began to feed
him in small morsels. I continued to do this for perhaps half an hour,
as he was too weak to swallow much at a time, and I had to wait some
moments before giving him another morsel, and between times I gave him
a taste of the whiskey. Up to now I had no idea he was one of the men I
was hunting for.
It was perhaps an hour from the time that I commenced to feed him when
he seemed to come to himself, and I thought that he was strong enough
to answer me, so I asked him how he came to be here in the weak, almost
dying condition that I had found him in, and then he told me who he was
and how he came to be there, and I knew he was the only survivor left
alive of the three whom I had started out to find.
He said that he had not had a bite to eat in seven days, only what
nourishment he could get by chewing his moccasins.
He had soaked them in water until they were soft and then broiled them
on the coals and eaten them.
I told him how his comrade had been picked up near Bent's Fort in an
exhausted condition, and how he had begged someone to go to the relief
of those he had left starving, and that I had started out to find them
if I could.
He said the one who first fell sick died the same night their comrade
left them to get help, and that the other one and himself were not
strong enough to dig a grave to bury him in, so they left him just as he
had died and crawled away, and they kept on together until near the next
night, when the one that was with him took sick and could go no further.
"And," said he, "I built a fire and we lay down, and I was so weak that
I fell asleep and slept until morning, and when I awoke my companion was
dead and cold. So I was all alone. I could do nothing for him any more
than he and I could for the other one. I left him also and started on
alone, but I could not go far, for I grew so weak. Then the thought came
to me that I could eat my moccasins if I soaked them soft and broiled
them over the coals. After I had eaten them, I was a little stronger and
kept on until I reached this place, when my strength gave out again, and
I built a fire, as I thought for the last time, for I did not expect to
ever leave here. When you came, I heard your voice, but I thought I was
After I had listened to his sad story, I gave him some more to eat and
more whiskey, which seemed to revive him, and he gained strength very
fast, and when the morning came he could sit up and seemed quite
composed, although he was no more than the shadow of a man. But by noon
he could walk around and seemed very anxious to be moving. Late that
afternoon I saddled the horses and assisted him to mount one of them,
and we left the place. He said he had thought that place would be his
last resting place.
We had ridden slowly for about five miles when we came to a stream of
cool water, and where we could have a shady place to lie down and
rest, and I made a camp there and spread a blanket for my sick man and
prepared some supper for us both. I had to remind him many times to be
careful and not eat too much in his weak state, for he was so hungry and
the food tasted so good that he found it difficult to restrain himself
from eating more than was good for him.
For two days it seemed almost impossible for him to get enough to eat,
and although I pitied him, I knew I must not give him all he would have
The morning of the third day after I found him, he seemed more rational
than he had since I had been with him. That morning he asked where we
were going, and when I told him we were going to Bent's Fort, where his
comrade was waiting for us, he seemed surprised. He did not remember
that I had told him how the herder at the Fort had found him, and that
it was through his faithful struggle to get help for his starving
friends that I had started out to find them. When I told it all to him
again, he sat and cried like a child.
He said: "How can I ever pay this friend for suffering so much for
me, and you, a stranger, for seeking to find me in the trackless
And then he told me what each of his comrades said before they died.
He said they were all raised together in one town in Missouri and were
as dear to each other as though they had been brothers, and all their
parents were in Denver, Colorado, where the four sons had left them when
they started out prospecting for gold, and he said with tears in his
eyes, "How can I ever tell their mothers what we all suffered, and how
the two died and their bodies left laying unburied?"
After we had talked as long as I thought was best for him to dwell on
the sad events, I cheered him up as well as I could. I assisted him to
mount the horse I had selected for him to ride, and we pulled out on the
trail for the Fort.
He was so weak that we could not ride over ten miles a day, and we were
seven days going back the same distance that I had traveled in two when
I struck out to find them.
The day before we reached Bent's Fort, I shot a young deer just as we
were going into camp, and as he was eating some of it, he said it was
the sweetest meat he'd ever eaten.
We landed at Bent's Fort on the evening of the seventh day after I
started back with him. His comrade was sitting outside of the Fort when
we came in sight, and when he saw us he hurried to meet us, and when we
were in speaking distance of each other he said:
"Bill, I had given up all hope of ever seeing you again," and he did not
wait for his friend to dismount, but reached up and took him off in his
arms, and men who were used to all kinds of sights turned away with
tears in their eyes at the sight of that meeting.
After they were seated together in the Fort and were more composed, they
began talking about how they should tell the parents of the comrades who
had died in the mountains.
One said, "I can never tell them," and the other said, "We must, for
they will have to be told, and who else will do it?"
They now turned to me and asked if I would take them to Denver, and what
I would charge them for doing it. I said, "Boys, I will take you to
Denver, and when we get there you can pay me whatever you can afford to
pay, be it much or little."
So it was decided that we should leave the Fort in the morning, and, as
we were nearly ready to start, the man who had brought the news and had
remained at the Fort while I went to find his comrades asked Col. Bent
how much his bill would be for the time he had staid there. Col. Bent
said, "You do not owe me a cent," and taking a twenty-dollar gold piece
from his pocket, the Colonel handed it to one of the men, saying as he
did so, "But you can give this to Mr. Drannan, for he is the one that
deserves this and more for what he has done." We mounted our horses and
left the Fort and struck the trail for Denver.
Nothing occurred to impede our journey, and we arrived at Denver on the
third day after we left Fort Bent.
We camped on Cherry Creek on the edge of town.
I said: "Now, boys, I will take care of the horses and cook supper, and
you two can strike out and see if you can find your folks, and if you
have not found them by dark, come back here and get your supper and stay
with me tonight."
They had not been gone more than half an hour when I saw them coming
back, and an elderly man and woman and a young lady were with them.
When they came to me, the man whom I had found unconscious in the
"Father and mother, this is the man who sought and found me and saved my
The father took my hand, and, in a voice that trembled with emotion,
said, "I can never thank you enough for what you have done for my boy
and his mother and me, for he is our only son, and I think our hearts
would have broken if he had shared the sad fate of his two comrades."
The mother gave me her hand without speaking, but her tear-stained face
and smiling lips thanked me more than words could have done. The young
girl, whom the elder man presented as his daughter, thanked me in a
sweet voice for bringing her brother back to them, and when all got
through, I felt almost overpowered with their gratitude.
They insisted on my going home with them to stay all night, which I did,
and the next morning I had the pleasure of meeting the father and mother
and two brothers of the other man.
After I had talked with them all a while, one of the young men asked me
what they should pay me for all the trouble I had taken upon myself in
I told them that I would take the twenty dollars that Col. Bent had
given him for me, and as the morning was wearing away, I bid them good
bye and left them and started on my journey to Taos, New Mexico, and my
much-looked-forward-to visit to Uncle Kit, and that was the last time
I ever saw any of these people. But a year ago I was at Denver and had
occasion to call at the office of _The Rocky Mountain News_, which, by
the way, is the oldest newspaper published in the state of Colorado, and
while I was talking with the editor, he alluded to the incident I have
just spoken about and said that the man whom I had found unconscious at
the camp fire in the mountains lived and died at Denver, and that he was
always called "Moccasin Bill," from the fact that he ate his moccasins
while trying to find his way out of the mountains, and that for several
months before he died he seemed to dwell upon that event and always
mentioned how I'd rescued him from certain death on that to him
When I arrived at Taos, I found Uncle Kit and his family all in good
health, and I found Jim Bridger there having what he called a grand good
As soon as I had been greeted by Uncle Kit and the others of the family,
he asked me how I had succeeded in my quest of the lost, and when I told
him all the particulars, he said:
"Willie, my boy, that was one of the best things you have ever done, and
it is something for you to be proud of doing, and I am proud of having a
share in directing you what to do, and I am very proud of my boy."
I answered, "Uncle Kit, you have always taught me to do my duty on every
occasion, as I have noticed you always do yourself, and it has been the
example you have set before me as well as the instruction you have given
me from my boyhood until now that has made me what I am, and I should be
very sorry to do anything to make you ashamed of or cause you to regret
that you took the little homeless, wandering orphan and gave him a
father's care and protection, and I shall always try to make you love me
whether I can do what will make you proud of me or not."
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