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- The Great Salt Lake Trail - 10/86 -


that they had not slept since they had set out on their flight, nor did they even dare to think of closing their eyes before they should reach the village of the Pawnees. He knew that he would be pursued as long as there was any hope of overtaking him; and he also knew what his doom would be if he again fell into the hands of the Sioux. Having remained, therefore, in the camp scarcely an hour, the two fugitive lovers were again on the wing, flying over the green prairie, guided by the light of a full and beautiful moon, and animated and sustained by the purity of their motives and the hope of soon reaching a place of safety and protection.

Captain Williams' party could not but admire the courage of the Teton beauty, the cheerfulness, and even hilarity that she manifested while in their camp. When ready to start off, she leaped from the ground, unassisted, into her Indian saddle, reined up her horse, and was instantly beside him with whom she was now ready to share any trial and brave any danger. It was an exhibition of female fortitude, that kind of heroism, peculiar to the sex in all races, which elevates woman to a summit perfectly inaccessible to man.

The party moved on the next day, and the utmost caution was necessary to prevent it from being cut off, for the region through which they were now passing was infested with many bands of Sioux—a terror to all other tribes on account of their superior numbers. The several bands were scattered from the waters of the Platte to the Black Hills, and for a number of years resisted all efforts made by various expeditions to push forward to the upper tribes.

One day, after leaving their camp where the Indian lovers had come so suddenly upon them, a large herd of buffaloes was observed feeding very quietly about a quarter of a mile from their line of travel, offering those an opportunity who desired to show their horsemanship and skill in a hunt. Although they had an abundance of meat, and it was the purpose of the captain that there should be no more shooting than was absolutely necessary, the impetuous Carson asked permission to try his hand.

The captain reluctantly granted his request, as it was nearly sundown, and the company had come to its accustomed halt. The more experienced of the men urged Carson not to venture too near the object of his pursuit, nor too far from the camp, as both steps might be accompanied with danger to all. The young man felt it to be the safer plan to undertake the hunt on horseback, and as the heavy rifles of those days were not so easily handled as the modern arm, he armed himself with two braces of pistols. The buffalo very soon observed his approach, became frightened, and incontinently put off at full speed. This made it necessary that the hunter should increase his speed, and immediately horse, hunter, and buffalo were out of sight of the camp.

Having completed their evening meal and grazed their animals, the party would have moved on, but Carson had not yet returned. Night came on rapidly and still he did not make his appearance. Many fears for his safety were now entertained in the camp, and the suspicious circumstance of his prolonged absence generally prevented the men from sleeping at all that night. Early in the morning a party went out to hunt him, and without much difficulty found him. He was sitting on a large rock near the stream, perfectly lost. Some of the men while looking for him had discovered him when about a mile away, and naturally supposed he was an Indian, as they could see no horse, and were very near leaving him to his fate; but the thought that they might be mistaken prompted them to approach, and they recognized him. According to his story he chased the buffalo for five or six miles, and for some time could not induce his horse to go near enough to the animals for him to use his pistols with any effect. After repeated unsuccessful attempts, however, he was enabled to ride up to the side of an immense bull, and commenced to fire at him as he ran. His repeated shots threw the animal into the greatest rage, and as horse, bull, and rider were dashing down the slope of the hill, the infuriated bull suddenly stopped short, turned round, and began to battle. The horse, not trained to such dangerous tactics, following immediately behind the bull, became at the moment perfectly unmanageable, rushed upon the horns of the buffalo, and his rider was thrown headlong to the ground. When he had recovered himself, and got on his feet again, he saw the buffalo running off as fast as his legs could carry him, but found that his horse was so badly wounded as to be of no further use to him. When he gathered his senses, he would have gladly gone back to the camp, but in the excitement of the chase he had paid no attention to the direction he was going, and was absolutely lost. He wandered about, and at last coming to a willow copse crawled in and slept until morning. At the first streak of dawn he crawled out of his hiding-place, and very cautiously examined the prairie all around him to learn whether any Indians had been prowling about. Observing nothing that indicated any danger, he set out with the intention of finding the party, and had tramped around until hunger and fatigue had compelled him to sit down where they had found him. As the party returned to camp they discovered Carson's horse; he was dead, and a pack of hungry wolves had already nearly devoured him. In fact it was the general idea that the horse had been killed by the wolves, as the whole country was infested by them, and, scenting the blood of the wounded animal, soon put an end to his misery. They had commenced upon the saddle, and had so torn and chewed it that it was perfectly useless.

Upon his arrival in camp the crestfallen Carson was asked a hundred questions, but he did not feel like being taunted, as he had gone without a morsel to eat for fifteen hours, had undergone great fatigue, and was considerably bruised from his tumble off his horse.

Several nights after Carson's escapade, about an hour after dark the party saw before them a light which they thought might indicate the proximity of an Indian camp. As some of the men who had been out to reconnoitre approached it, they discovered they were not mistaken in their surmises, and upon their return to camp and reporting what they had seen, the captain thought it a wise plan to move out as quickly as possible. The Indians whom they had seen numbered about a hundred, and they were seated around about fifteen fires; some of them were women and they appeared to be very busy drying meat; the party had evidently been out on a hunt. A large number of horses were grazing in the vicinity of the camp, and the majority of the warriors were smoking their pipes, while their squaws were hard at work.

Captain Williams pushed ahead all that night and the greater portion of the next day before he dared to go into camp. They continued on for several days more, then made a temporary camp for the purpose of trapping for beaver. In a short time the men and horses recovered from the effects of their toilsome journey. The latter began to get fat, their feet and backs, which had become sore, were healing up rapidly, and they were soon in as fine a condition as when they left St. Louis. The men were having a good time, securing plenty of beaver, and the camp resounded with laughter at the jokes which were passed around.

For several weeks they had seen no signs of Indians, but one morning one of the men discovered that an Indian had been caught in a trap, from which, however, he had extricated himself, as it was found near the spot where it had been set. A day or two afterward, ten of the party left the camp on a buffalo-hunt. At the beginning of the chase the buffalo were not more than a mile from the camp, but they were pursued for more than three or four miles, which led the party into danger. A band of Blackfeet, numbering at least a hundred, suddenly appeared over a divide, and, splendidly mounted on trained ponies, came toward the hunters as fast as their animals could carry them. Five of Captain Williams' men made their escape, and reached the camp, but the remainder were cut off, and immediately killed and scalped. The five who made their escape were chased to within a half-mile of the camp by several of the savages, one of whom, after his comrades had wheeled their horses on seeing the men ready for them, persistently kept on, evidently eager to get another scalp. He paid for his rashness with his life, as one of the hunters who had not yet discharged his rifle sent a bullet after him, which shot him through and through, and he tumbled from his animal stone dead.

The loss of five men from a party which originally numbered only twenty had a very depressing effect upon those who were left, and Captain Williams felt that his situation was very critical. He expected every moment to see a large band of the Blackfeet come down upon him. He was now certain of one thing; he knew that his party had been watched by the savages for several days, as they had noticed several times, during the past week, objects which they believed to have been wolves, moving on the summits of the divides, but after their unfortunate skirmish with the Indians they felt sure that what they had taken to be wolves were in fact savages.

The fight with its disastrous results had occurred late in the afternoon, so that it was not long before the party made their first camp for the night. The horses were all brought in and picketed near, the traps gathered as fast as possible, and everything made ready for a hasty departure as soon as darkness should close in upon them. Large fires were lighted as usual, only more than the usual number were kindled, and at midnight the sorrowful party mounted their animals and set off.

They travelled as fast as their horses could walk for fully twenty-four hours before they dared make another halt, but they soon found themselves in the country of the Crows, who were friendly with the whites. The first village they encountered was a very large one, and the chief induced them to remain with him for nearly a week, during which time they went out on a buffalo-hunt with their newly found friends. They were not satisfied, however, with the region, it being not nearly so fruitful in beaver as the country south of the Crows, so they made a detour to the south.

When about to leave the generous Crows, one of Captain Williams' men, whose name was Rose, expressed his intention to abandon the party and take up his life with the Indians. It appears that while Rose was in the village he was not able to resist the charms of a certain Crow maiden, whom he afterward chose as his wife, with whom he lived happily for several years. When Rose joined Captain Williams' party, his antecedents were entirely unknown to that grand old frontiersman. It turned out that he was one of those desperadoes of the then remote frontier, who had been outlawed for his crimes farther east, and whose character was worse than any savage, with whom even now such men sometimes consort. Rose had formerly belonged to a gang of pirates who infested the islands of the Mississippi, plundering boats as they travelled up and down the river. They sometimes shifted the scene of their robberies to the shore, waylaid voyagers on their route to New Orleans, and often perpetrated the most cold-blooded murders. When the villanous horde of cut-throats was broken up, Rose betook himself to the upper wilderness, and when Captain Williams was forming his company at St. Louis, he came forward and offered himself. Captain Williams was not at all pleased with the sinister looks of the fellow, suspecting that his character was not good, but it was a difficult matter to induce men to join an expedition fraught with so much daring and danger. So the refugee was dropped among the Crows, whose habits of life were much more congenial to the feelings of such a man than the restraints of civilization.[9]


The Great Salt Lake Trail - 10/86

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