Originally published in: The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society,Vol. 14, No. 3, Sep., 1913

Journal of E. Willard Smith

while with the Fur Traders, Vasquez and Sublette, in the Rocky Mountain Region, 1839-1840

August 6th, 1839. Left Independence. The party at starting consisted of thirty-two persons under the command of Messrs. Vasquez and Sublette. There were four wagons loaded with goods, to be used in the Indian trade, drawn by six mules each. The drivers accompanied the wagons, the rest of the party riding on mules. These men were French, American, Spanish and half breeds.

After leaving the boundary line of Missouri State we lost all traces of civilization. The soil appeared to be very fertile for about one hundred miles, being well watered by streams running south into the Arkansas. On the banks of these streams were many dense groves, while the intervening country consisted of prairies. The grove on the last stream we met with was called Council Grove, one hundred miles from the state line, which place we reached on the 15th of August. It had formerly been a favorite place for the Indian council fires.

On the night of the 15th we had a very severe rain, which was a pleasant introduction to a life on the prairies. Our food consisted of bacon and bread baked in a frying pan. The two gentlemen who had command of the party were old Indian traders, having followed this mode of life for more than ten years, there were also with us Mr. Thompson who had a trading post on the western side of the mountains, and two half breeds employed as hunters. One of them was a son of Captain Clarke, the great Western traveler and companion of Lewis. He had received an education in Europe during seven years.

16th August. Today we saw several antelopes.

17th August. We came in sight of the Arkansas River, quite a large stream about two hundred yards wide. The banks were low and sandy, with a few scattered trees. We continued to travel along its banks for several days at a short distance from the stream. There were a large species of spider whose bite was mortal. We had several moonlight nights to cheer the guard.

21st. Some of the party killed two antelope, an old and a young one, which were prepared for dinner. We found them not very palatable, but still acceptable after having lived so long on bacon alone, our stock of flour being exhausted some days previous. The meat resembles venison somewhat, though not equal to it in flavor. This animal is smaller than the common deer, which it very much resembles in color and quality of hair, but its horns are different, being smaller and less branching. It is very fleet, even more so than a deer, and requires a very swift horse to overtake it. Their great watchfulness renders it difficult to approach them. On this same day we saw seven buffaloes as we were preparing dinner. The sight of them quite enlivened the party, who were most of them strangers to a life in the prairies. Mr. Sublette gave chase to one of them, being mounted on a horse trained for the purpose, and fired several times without effect.

22nd. At noon we saw a large herd of two or three hundred buffalo cows. Some of the hunters gave chase, but returned unsuccessful. Several of them were thrown from their horses, and severely injured, as they were riding over a village of prairie dogs, the horses' feet sinking into the holes. We suffered much today from want of water. Saw also the first village of prairie dogs, which was quite a curiosity. One of the dogs was killed and eaten. They look somewhat like a squirrel, being nearly the same size. Sometimes the same hole is occupied by an owl, rattlesnake and prairie dog. Today the grass begins to be short, and there is little dew. Before the dew has been so heavy as to wet us thoroughly during the night. No buffalo meat today. At evening two of the party went out to hunt and shot a bull, being much pleased with their success. They thought they heard the Indians whoop, but it was nothing more than the howling of wolves. Bulls at this season are poor and unfit to eat. They are therefore rarely killed when cows are to be obtained.

August 23rd. Today all the hunters started after buffalo, and we anxiously awaited their return. Took breakfast this morning at day break, somewhat out of the usual course. We generally arose at break of day, traveled till ten or eleven, then encamped and cooked our breakfast. We then continued our journey till within an hour of sunset, when we encamp;ed for the night, prepared our supper and picketed the horses. This is done by tying a rope, eighteen or twenty feet long, to a horse's neck, and attaching to it a stake driven into the ground, which allows them to feed, without permitting them to wander off. We stand guard by turns at night, each one being on duty three hours. After the night arrangements were made we spread our blankets and courted sleep which speedily came after the fatigues of the day. The canopy of heaven was our only covering. There was a severe storm during the night.

At noon of the 23rd the hunters returned with meat, having, killed three cows. All turned cooks, and ate voraciously of the first buffalo meat we had tasted. I think with most others who have eaten it, that it is preferable to any other meat. We saw several thousand buffalo today, two or three herds containing about three hundred. All feel in good spirits although the water is extremely bad, indeed we have had good water but twice since we started. Towards evening we passed a great number of buffaloes, the prairie being actually alive with them. They extended probably about four miles, and numbered nearly two hundred thousand. We were amazed with a scene so new to us, so strange to one accustomed to cities and civilization.

24th. Today we saw nearly as many buffaloes as yesterday. So many are not generally met at this season so far East. We are now about three hundred miles from Independence. We had grown weary with the monotony of traveling till we met buffalo, but the excitement of hunting soon revived us.

25th. We have met with nothing very interesting today, but have seen a great many buffaloes, and at evening en camped on the banks of the Arkansas. The river here is pretty wide, but not more than two or three feet deep. We shall now continue to travel along the Arkansas for ten or twelve days. The river here is the boundary between Mexico and Missouri Territory.

26th. A pleasant day, but the evenings are becoming cool. We are not as much troubled with mosquitoes as for several nights previously. This has been a long day's journey. We now live on buffalo meat altogether, which requires very little salt. Our party now consists of thirty-six persons, having been joined by four on the sixteenth.

27th. Another pleasant day. We are getting along rapidly, traveling about twenty-five miles a day. Our hunters go out again today for meat. There are two ways of hunting buffaloes. One called approaching, the other running. When a hunter approaches he puts on a white blanket coat and a white cap, so as to resemble a white wolf as much as possible, and crawls on his hands and knees towards the buffalo, until he gets within one hundred and fifty yards, then sinks his knife in the ground, lies prostrate, rests his gun on his knife, and fires at the animal. It generally requires more than one shot to kill a buffalo, even if he should be shot through the heart. The way of hunting by running is on horseback. The man mounts a fleet horse trained for the purpose, rides full speed toward the herd, and fires a light fowling piece, which he carries in one hand, while he guides the horse with the other. The moment the hunter fires his piece, the horse springs out of the reach of the buffalo to escape injury from the infuriated animal. This is the most exciting method of hunting, but it is attended with considerable danger, the horse being liable to stumble over the rough ground. The Indians prefer this mode of hunting, substituting the bow and arrow for the gun. This weapon they use with such dexterity as to shoot an arrow entirely through the animal, piercing the ground on the opposite side. It is very difficult for a bullet, at the regular shooting distance to pass through the body.

We saw ten antelopes today. Every night we have a grand concert of wolves, relieved occasionally by the bellowing of buffalo bulls. During the last week we passed several places where men belonging to former parties had been killed by the Indians. The other day we passed a place where Mr. Vasquez had a narrow escape. He and one of his men started for his fort in advance of the party. The man being taken sick, he left him on an island in the Arkansas. He then went back for medicine, having to travel a day and a half. While returning he was chased by a party of Indians on foot, who overtook him while he stopped to drink, and were at his side before he could mount his horse. He presented the muzzle of his gun, and the Indians stepped back, allowing him time to mount his horse, which taking fright, ran away with him. The Indians gave up the pursuit. They were a party of Pawnees. The part of the road we are now traveling runs through the general war ground of the different tribes of Indians.

28th. Nothing very remarkable today. The weather still continues pleasant.

29th. Nothing interesting today. Buffalo have been very scarce for several days. The hunters went out this afternoon and could get nothing but antelope meat, which afforded us a good meal as we were hungry.

30th. We still travel as usual. We had been expecting to overtake Mr. Lupton every day. He is a mountain trader, on his way to the trading post on the river Platte. We overtook him today about noon. His party had stopped to eat dinner and allow their animals to feed. He had six wagons drawn by oxen. They had started about twelve days before us. He mistook us for Indians as we approached, and was somewhat alarmed. We saw three deer today on an island, one of them a buck was very large.

31st. This is the last day of August and of summer. We saw six elk today, one of them being an old one, was quite large. Mr. Lupton encamped with us today as well as last night. He is trying to keep in company with us, but probably will not succeed, as our mules can travel much faster than his oxen. We had a buffalo hunt today. Our men killed one. Mr. Lupton's men another. It is a fine sight to see them running a large herd. This is Saturday. It is difficult to mark the Sabbath as there are no church bells to remind us of it.

September 1st. Today we came in sight of what is called Big Timber, sixty miles from Bent's Fort on the Arkansas. We had no fresh buffalo meat today, and there are no buffalo to be seen.

2nd. Today we left Big Timber at noon. The prairie here is more rolling and sandy than we have seen it before. We had a view of the mountains this afternoon, but they are still one hundred and fifty miles distant. We are enabled to see this great distance on account of the clearness of the atmosphere. There is no dew at night, the atmosphere being very dry and clear. The weather is very warm. No fresh meat today. Buffalo is very scarce.

3rd. Today we passed Bent's Fort which looks quite like a military fortification. It is constructed of mud bricks after the Spanish fashion, and is quite durable. Mr. Bent had seventy horses stolen from the fort this summer by a party of the Comanche Indians, nine in number. There was a party of these Indians, consisting of three thousand lodges, a few miles distant.

4th. Today we passed a Spanish fort about two miles from Bent's. It is also built of mud, and inhabited by a few Spanish and French. They procure flour from Towse [Taos], a town in Mexico, eight days' travel from this place. They raise a small quantity of corn for their own use. We still continue along the Arkansas River. Last night we saw the northern lights very plainly. Three of our party have now left to go in advance to the fort on the Platte.

5th. Today we came in sight of Pike's Peak, which can be seen at a very great distance. It has snow on its summit at present. We have had no fresh meat today. The soil along the river is very sandy. We still continue on its banks. The ground here is covered with prickly pears. There is a shrub growing here called grease wood. It is peculiar to this country. The Indians use it for making arrows. It is very heavy and stiff, and burns quickly. There is also here a plant called Spanish soap plant. The Mexicans use the root as a substitute for soap. We have been obliged to eat bacon today as the stock of buffalo meat is exhausted.

6th. Today our hunters killed two buck deer. They tasted very well. We still keep approaching the mountains, which have a very fine appearance. The Peak is very high, it was discovered by General Pike when in company with Major Long on his expedition to the mountains. Pike and his party were taken prisoners at this mountain by the Mexicans. One of his companions was kept four years in prison.

7th. We have been going uphill all day and have reached some high ground, which gives us a splendid view of the plain below. We can see at least eighty miles in either direction except where the mountains bound our view at the distance of forty miles. We ate our dinner beside a stream called Fontaine qui bouille, boiling spring, called so on account of the manner in which it boils from the mountains. We found a great quantity of wild plums on the banks of this stream and saw signs of grizzly bears in this vicinity. This is a famous resort in the winter for the Arapahoos and Shian Indians. The traders have houses here for trading with them in the winter.

8th. Today we saw a few scattering buffaloes, we had not seen any in some time, and, with the exception of a little venison, had been living on bacon. Towards evening the hunters came in with some bull's meat, which made our supper, although rather unpalatable. We had a very severe storm of wind and rain last night. The wind is always strong on these plains, like a gale at sea. It is almost impossible to travel here in winter.

9th. Today we met several large herds of buffalo, and the hunters succeeded in getting some good meat, which was quite an agreeable change. We all ate voraciously. It would astonish the inhabitants of the city to drop in upon us at some of our meals, after we had been on short allowance for two or three days. It is incredible what a large quantity of buffalo meat a man can eat without injury.

10th. Today and yesterday we passed through some strips of pine timber, the first I have seen in this part of the country. It is quite a relief after seeing nothing but cottonwood along the prairie streams. As we were about encamping for the night we saw some Indians, who proved to be Arapahoos. One of them immediately galloped off to their village, as their large encampments are called which was about five miles distant, and informed the others that we were in the vicinity. At dusk twenty-two, most of them chiefs, came out to see us. They were all fine looking fellows, rather lighter colored than our Eastern Indians. Two or three squaws accompanied them, pretty good looking. The chiefs seated themselves around the fire, forming a ring with Mr. Vasquez, and commenced smoking their long pipes, which they passed around several times, every one smoking out of the same pipe. They were all well acquainted with Mr. Vasquez, and remained with him two or three hours. Before leaving we presented them with some tobacco and knives. Among their number was one Shian and one Blackfoot.

11th. Nothing new today. We expect to reach the fort soon. We are still eating bull's meat.

12th. Living nearly the same as yesterday and traveling pretty fast. Almost out of provisions. In the evening we arrived at the Platte river and encamped.

13th. Today about four o'clock we passed Mr. Lupton's Fort. A little after five we reached the fort of Messrs. Sublette and Vasquez, the place of our destination. Our arrival caused considerable stir among the inmates. A great many free trappers are here at present. The fort is quite a nice place, situated on the South Fork of the River Platte. It is built of adobies, or Spanish bricks, made of clay baked in the sun. This is the Mexican plan of building houses, and, as the atmosphere is very dry, and there is little rain, the buildings are quite durable. This fort is opposite Long's Peak, and about twenty miles distant. We slept all night at the fort and supped on some very good meat. This is the first time I have slept under cover for thirty-seven days.

14th. Today I moved my quarters to Mr. Thompson's camp, a mile and a half from the fort, and shall remain with him till we start to cross the mountains, which will be in a few days. There are a few lodges of the Shian Indians near us. We have smoked with and embraced two today.

15th. We are still at the camp. Nothing remarkable has happened. The men at the fort have been carousing, etc., having got drunk on alcohol. There are about twelve lodges of Shians encamped at the fort who have been trading with the whites. They had a scalp dance in the fort today, dancing by the music of an instrument resembling the tambourine. They were armed with short bows, about three feet long.

16th. Today we left our encampment, and started to cross the mountains. Our party consisted of eight men, two squaws and three children. One of the squaws belonged to Mr. Thompson, the other to Mr. Craig. They are partners, and have a trading fort at Brown's Hole, a valley on the west of the mountains.

17th. One of our mules was nearly drowned today in crossing the stream, a branch of the River Platte. It was with great difficulty that he was extricated from his perilous situation. The middle of the day is quite warm now, but the mornings and the evenings are cool.

18th. We encamped last night on a small stream Cache la Poudre, called so because powder was hidden there some time since. Our camp was just at the foot of the mountain, in a very pleasant place. During the day we passed several pools and creeks, the water of which were impregnated with salt petre.

19th. Today we began to travel among the hills at the foot of the mountains. The change is very pleasant after the prairies in hot weather. One soon becomes tired of traveling over a prairie, all is so monotonous. The road we are traveling now is surrounded by hills piled on hills, with mountains in the back ground. The water in all the small streams is very good and cold.

20th. Today the road became more rough. We had some very high and steep hills to climb. One would scarcely think from their appearance that a horse could ascend them, but we crossed without any great difficulty. Messrs. Thompson and Craig went before us and killed three buffaloes. Before this we had plenty of fat venison. In the afternoon they killed three deer. At night it was quite cold and frosty.

21st. Today it is quite cold. We have been climbing more hills. At noon the hunters came to us, having killed six buffaloes and a calf. We saw a great many buffalo today. We are encamped in a beautiful valley. It is probably more than sixty miles long, as far as the eye can reach. The view from the surrounding mountains is grand. The valley is surrounded by high hills, with mountains in the back ground. Large herds of buffalo are scattered over it. There is a large stream flowing through it, called Laramie's Fork, tributary to the North Fork of the Platte. It has several small streams flowing into it. The timber on all these hills and mountains is yellow pine, some of it being quite large. In this plain there is a very large rock, composed of red sandstone and resembling a chimney. It is situated on a fork of the Laramie called Chimney Fork.

22nd. Nothing remarkable today except beautiful scenery. We travel more than twenty miles a day. The weather is very pleasant, quite warm at noon while it freezes hard at night.

23d. This morning the road was very rough. At noon we entered a very large valley, called the Park, at the entrance of which we crossed the North Fork of the River Platte, a very fine stream. We saw a great number of buffalo today, probably about two thousand.

24th. Today we are still traveling in the park and surrounded by herds of buffalo. The weather is still pleasant and we have moonlight nights. It is so cold at night that the water freezes. A beaver was caught this morning in a trap set last night by one of the party.

25th. Today we have had a very rough road to travel over, and at evening encamped on a ridge called The Divide. It divides the water of the Atlantic from the Pacific, and ex tends a great distance north and south. On the west side of it are the head waters of the Columbia and the Colorado of the West, the former emptying into the Pacific, and the latter into the Gulf of California. On the east side are the head waters of the Missouri and its tributaries, and also the Arkansas. We had a slight shower in the evening. We have seen no buffalo today.

26th. Today we have traveled only fifteen miles. The scenery is very rough. We saw only a few bulls and no cows. Nearly all the hills and valleys, since we came among the mountains, are covered with wild sage or wormwood, which grows in stiff bushes, seven or eight feet high. The stalks are as large as a man's arm. There are a great many black currants among the mountains, also plums and sarvis [service] and hawthorn berries.

27th. Today we have traveled about twenty miles. The weather still continues very pleasant. At evening just before we encamped for the night we passed a place where the Whites had encamped a few days previous, for the purpose of killing buffalo and drying the meat. From the signs around us, we thought they must have had a fight with the Indians, probably Sioux. We saw the skeletons of four horses killed in the fight. The Whites had thrown up a breastwork of logs for a defence. Tonight we put our horses in an old horse pen we found at our camping place, which is on Snake River, a tributary of the Colorado of the West.

28th. Today we had a good road and got along well. We are still on Snake River. No buffalo have been seen, but the hunters killed an elk out of a herd of about twelve. The meat resembles venison very much in taste, though not quite so tender.

29th. Today we left Snake River and about noon found Indian signs. We supposed there must have been about forty Indians, probably a war party of Sioux, that had passed but two or three hours previous to our coming. If they had seen us we must have had a fight.

30th. Yesterday afternoon my horse gave out and I was obliged to lead him three miles. The day was quite warm and we suffered very much from want of water. We encamped at some sulphur springs. The hunters shot an old buffalo. Today I was obliged to walk and let my horse run loose. I was afraid that he would be unable to travel all day, even in this way. My boots were torn to pieces and I could procure no moccasins. I traveled forty miles in this way over a very rough road, covered with prickly pears. My feet were very much blistered. The day was very warm. After traveling forty miles without water I lost sight of the party who were in advance of me. As it was growing dark and my feet pained me very much, I concluded to stop for the night and encamp by myself on a stream called the Vermilion that we had just reached. I did so and remained there all night alone. I have never suffered so much from thirst as I did this day.

October 1st. I left my lonely camp early and walked rapidly over the gravel and prickly pears that lay in my path, not expecting to see my companions until I arrived at Brown's Hole, but after traveling two miles I discovered them encamped by a small lake in a valley. My pleasure can be easily imagined. They were just eating breakfast of which I partook with delight, having eaten nothing the day before. At evening we arrived at Brown's Hole, our place of destination. This is a valley on Green River in which is a fort.

October 2nd. Today I heard from Kit Carson the particulars of the fight at the breastworks at Snake River, referred to a few days since. It appears that the party was composed of seven whites and two squaws who had come there from Brown's Hole for the purpose of killing buffalo and drying the meat. They had been there several days and had dried a large quantity of meat when they were attacked by a party of Sioux, about twenty in number. The attack was made toward morning while it was yet dark. The Indians fired principally at one man, named Spiller, as he lay asleep outside of the horse-pen, and they pierced him with five balls without wounding anyone else. This awakened the rest of the men, and they began to strengthen a horse-pen they had made of logs, to form it into a breastwork. They digged some holes in the ground for the men to stand in, so as to protect them as much as possible. As soon as it became light, they commenced firing at the Indians, of whom they killed and wounded several. After exchanging several shots the principal Indian chief rode up toward them and made offers of peace. One of the white men went out, and induced him with several others to come toward, them when they were within shooting distance, he fell back behind some trees, and gave the signal to his companions, who fired and killed the head chief. The Indians kept up a firing for a short time and then retreated. When the chief was shot he jumped up and fell down, the others were very much excited, and raved and tore around. He was a distinguished chief.

October 3rd. Still at the fort which is situated in a small valley surrounded by mountains, on Green River, a tributary of the Colorado. This is quite a stream, about three hundred yards wide. It runs through a narrow passage or canyon in the mountains, the rocks forming a perpendicular wall on each side five hundred feet high.

October 6th. We had a snow storm today. It fell about six inches deep. I had intended to go to Fort Hall, a fort belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, situated at the head waters of the Columbia, but the party disappointed me.

10th. I have been at the fort since my first arrival, nothing of importance has occurred. The weather is still very pleasant. Today we started for a buffalo hunt, to make dried meat. There were about thirty in the party, about half of them being squaws, wives of the white trappers. We had sixty horses with us. We were ten days in reaching the buffalo herds, although we met a few scattered animals the second day. We made our first camp for drying meat on Snake River, at the mouth of a creek called Muddy. We had stormy weather for several days, and after remaining at this encampment for three days, we moved farther down the river where we remained several days. During the whole time we were out we killed one hundred buffalo and dried their meat. Some of the party had also killed six grizzly bears quite near the camp. The hunters gave me one of the skins of a beautiful grizzly brown color, and some of the meat very much like pork.

November 1st. We arrived at the fort the first of November, and remained there until the eighth. On the evening of the first there were one hundred and fifty head of horses stolen from the vicinity of the fort by a party of Sioux, as we afterwards learned. This was very unexpected as the trappers and Snake Indians had been in the habit of letting their horses run loose in this vicinity, unattended by a guard, as the place was unknown to any of the hostile Indians. This event caused considerable commotion at the fort, and they determined to fit out a war party to go in search of the stolen horses, but next morning this project was abandoned. A party of twelve men went over to Fort Hall, belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, and stole several horses from that company, not withstanding they had been very well treated by the man who had charge of the fort. On their return they stopped at a small encampment of Snake Indians, consisting of three lodges. One of them belonged to a very old man who invited them to eat with him and treated them with great hospitality. At evening the whites proceeded on their journey taking with them all the old Indian's horses. On returning to Green River, the trappers remaining at the fort expressed their displeasure so strongly at this act of unparalleled meanness that they were obliged to leave the party and go to a trading post of the Eutaw Indians. The whites in the valley, fearing that the Snake Indians might retaliate upon them for the loss of their horses pursued the thieves and compelled them to restore the stolen property.

8th. We moved up the river a short distance to a log cabin, built by some young men, who had come to the mountains last spring, intending to remain there until the following spring.

December 17th. There are here now, and have been for some time, about twenty lodges of Indians of the Snake tribe. They call themselves Shoshonies. We obtained a few skins from them in exchange for trinkets. They are very good looking Indians. The men are generally tall and slightly made, the women short and stout. There is a large salt lake in the mountains about four days travel from Brown's Hole. This lake is a hundred miles long from north to south and thirty miles wide. There are islands in the midst of it which have never been explored. These islands have high hills and are well wooded. The water of the lake is very strongly impregnated with salt. Salt of the best quality is found crystalized along the shores in great abundance. There are several fresh water streams running into this lake, one of which is Great Bear River. The surrounding country is rocky and gravelly, and there is considerable timber around the lake. There is also a salt creek near it, the water of which is very similar, where the Indians find beautiful salt. There are a great many salt springs in this vicinity.

Near the headwaters of the Missouri is a valley filled with mounds, emitting smoke and vapor, the ground composing this valley is very soft, so much so that a horse will sink to his girths in the ground. On the west side of the mountains, are streams that seem to ebb and flow like the tide. In the mornings their banks are overflowing, at noon they are perfectly dry, the next morning flowing again. The country around the headwaters of the Yellowstone, a tributary of the Missouri, abounds in natural curiosities. There are volcanoes, volcanic productions and carbonated springs. Mr. Vasquez told me that he went to the top of one of these volcanoes, the crater of which was filled with pure water, forming quite a large lake.

There is a story told by an Arapahoo chief of a petrified buffalo standing in the lake on the east side of the mountains. It was in a perfect state of preservation, and they worship it as a great medicine or charm. There are also moccasin and buffalo tracks in the solid rock along the shore of the lake. Nothing would induce this Indian to tell where this sacred buffalo is to be found. Great presents were offered to him in vain.

There is a party going in boats from this valley in the spring down Grand River, of the Colorado of the West, to California. They will be led by Mr. Walker who was with Bonneville in the mountains. They intend trapping for beaver on the way.

The weather in this valley is extremely pleasant this winter, with scarcely any snow. It is as warm in the middle of the day as in June in New York, the latitude of the place is supposed to be forty-two degrees.

We intended to spend the winter in the valley of Brown's Hole, but soon had reason to fear an attack from the Sioux. The party before mentioned, who had lost their chief in an encounter with some whites had returned to their principal tribe and intended coming in numbers to attack us in the spring. We therefore thought it unsafe to remain until then, but were fearful of crossing the mountains during the winter, a thing never before attempted. But some men arrived at our encampment from the fort on the South Fork and assured us that there was no snow in the mountain passes. Then we concluded to leave the valley immediately, and to re-cross the mountains, preferring the probability of the danger thus before us to the almost certain contest with the Indians.

We left the valley of Brown's Hole on the twenty-fourth of January, 1840, to return to the trading post on the South Fork of the Platte. The weather when we started, as for some time previous, was warm and pleasant. Our party consisted of twenty persons, fourteen men, four squaws, wives of the trappers, and two children. There were two traders in the company, one, Mr. Biggs, who was a trader for Sublette and Vasquez, the other, Mr. Baker, a trader for Bent and St. Varian [St. Vrain]. There were also three free trappers. The others were men hired to the two traders.

On the 26th of January we met a party of Eutaw Indians who had been out hunting buffalo. These Indians are the best marksmen in the mountains, and are armed with good rifles.

On the 27th of January we arrived at Snake River and remained there four days. While there the snow fell two feet deep. We had three Indian lodges with us, in which we slept at night.

On the 2nd of February we encamped at a creek called Muddy. We found considerable difficulty in traveling through the snow during the day. Our hunters killed some buffalo today and provided us with fresh meat.

On the 4th the snow became very deep, and in a few days we found ourselves surrounded by snow six feet deep, and no buffalo to be seen, our stock of provisions was nearly exhausted.

On the 17th of February we encamped on a high hill, and one of the horses gave out, being unable to carry the load any farther. Here we encountered one of the most severe storms I ever witnessed. Considerable snow fell, and the wind blew for two nights and a day. During the night one of the lodges blew down, and its occupants were obliged to remove to one of the others to prevent being frozen. We started with thirty nine horses and mules, all in good order. Some of them were now dying daily for want of food and water. We traveled but three or four miles a day, on account of the depth of snow. By this time many of us were on foot and were obliged to go before and break the way for the horses. Our provisions were being exhausted, we were obliged to eat the horses as they died. In this way we lived fifteen days, eating a few dogs in the meantime. In a few days we were all on foot. We suffered greatly from want of wood. There was no timber to be seen on our route. We were obliged to burn a shrub, called sage, a species of wormwood, which one could only obtain in quantities sufficient to keep up a fire for an hour in the evening. We obtained no water except by melting snow. During this time we had some very severe storms of wind and snow. Often one or two of the lodges were thrown down in the night.

We were now obliged to make a scaffold of some trees which we found, and leave our beaver skins on it, with all the furs we had collected. It was made sufficiently high to prevent the bears from reaching it. We were unable to carry them farther, as so few horses remained. All had died except two, and they were so weak as to be almost unable to drag the tents.

On the 23rd our hunters killed a buffalo which was very poor, the meat, however, was very pleasant to us, after having lived so long on poor horse meat.

On the 24th the hunters killed three fat buffalo, which was the first fat meat we had seen for twenty days. All ate a large quantity of the raw tallow, having been rendered voracious by our wretched food and near approach to starvation. On the afternoon of this day we encamped on the North Fork of the, River Platte, which here runs through a small valley surrounded by mountains. At this place there was scarcely any snow to be seen, and the weather is quite warm. We were still one hundred and fifty miles from the trading fort. This valley was filled with herds of buffalo.

After remaining here four days, three of us started on the 29th of February to go to the fort for horses. We traveled until noon the first day without finding any snow. In the afternoon we met pretty deep snow, and towards night it was two feet deep, covered with a very hard crust. We found it very difficult traveling, but went, notwithstanding, fifteen miles that day. About dark we stopped on the summit of a hill which was bare, the wind having blown the snow off. At this place we could find nothing with which to build a fire to warm ourselves. We were very wet, having traveled through the snow all day. We were obliged to lie down on the bare ground, with only a blanket apiece to cover us, and were unable to sleep from the severe cold.

Next morning we started by daylight and found the snow deeper than the day before, the crust was hard but not sufficiently so to bear one, which made walking very fatiguing. Notwithstanding the difficulty we traveled fifteen miles that day. At sundown we came in sight of a stream, the banks of which were covered with timber. We hoped to spend a comfortable night beside a large fire but were again disappointed. Before we had proceeded many steps we saw Indian tracks in the snow, which could have been made but a few hours previous. We judged from the number of these tracks that there must have been a large party of Indians. One of my companions had traveled this same route before with two others, and at this same place had been attacked by a large party of Sioux. One of his companions was killed, while the others were robbed of everything and obliged to walk a hundred and fifty miles to reach a trading post. My companions being both afraid to proceed, we were obliged to return to our party on the North Fork of the Platte.

We concluded to return that same night, although very much fatigued. We were near what was called Medicine Bow Butte, which takes its name from a stream running at its base, called Medicine Bow Creek. We traveled all night and stopped just as daylight was appearing, made a fire and rested half an hour. The next night we found ourselves quite near the encampment on the Platte. Our party was very much disappointed to see us return.

Four days afterwards Mr. Biggs and a half breed started for the fort by another route, where there was very little snow, and no danger of meeting Indians. They took a horse with them to carry their blankets and provisions. In the meantime the party on the Platte were hunting daily, and supplied themselves abundantly with provisions. After waiting thirty days for the return of Mr. Biggs with horses, we began to be fearful that he had been murdered by the Indians, but on the forty-second day from the time of his starting, just as we had given up all hope of seeing him, he and Mr. Vasquez arrived, bringing with them horses sufficient to carry the furs, but not enough to furnish saddle-horses for all the party, consequently some were obliged to walk. They also brought some men with them, increasing our number to twenty-two.

Mr. Biggs immediately started to return for the beaver that had been left some distance back, and was absent five days. When Mr. Biggs started for the fort in search of horses we built a fort of logs on the Platte to protect us from Indians.

We now left this fort on the 14th of April on our way to the fort on the South Fork. On the 16th we ate dinner at the Medicine Bow Creek, and on the 19th arrived at Laramie Fork, a tributary of the Platte. At the junction of this stream with the North Fork of the River Platte the American Fur Company have a large trading fort, called Fort Laramie. We saw a great many buffalo every day as we passed along.

On the 22nd we met a small party of Arapahoo Indians coming to visit their friends the Shoshonies, or Snake Indians. On the 24th of April, in the afternoon, we crossed the South Fork of the Platte with considerable difficulty, as the water was very high. After traveling six miles we arrived at the Fort of Sublette and Vasquez. We remained at the fort nearly two days.

April 26th we started in a mackinaw boat, which had been made at the fort at the foot of the mountains. This boat was thirty-six feet long and eight feet wide. We had seven hundred buffalo robes on board and four hundred buffalo tongues. There were seven of us in company. The water of this river, the South Fork of the Platte, was very shallow and we proceeded with difficulty, getting on sand bars every few minutes. We were obliged to wade and push the boat along most of the way for about three hundred miles, which we were forty nine days traveling. We had to unload the boat several times a day when it was aground, which was very hard work.

May 8th. We saw the body of a Shoshonie squaw which had been placed on a scaffold in the top of a large tree on the bank of the river. This is the usual manner of disposing of the dead among these Indians.

On the 9th, 10th and 11th the wind blew violently, accompanied with heavy rain. We were unable to proceed. On the eleventh three Shian Indians came to us. They belonged to a party which had been out catching wild horses. They had succeeded in taking two hundred. One hundred of them had died in a very severe storm a few days previous. The method adopted by the Indians for catching them is as follows: An Indian mounts a fleet horse, having a rope twenty feet long, with a noose at the end, fastened to his saddle. He rides close to the animal he wishes to catch, and throws the noose, or lasso, over its head. The horse finding the noose over his head, jumps, which chokes him and causes him to stop. As we found no buffalo, we had eaten all of the four hundred tongues we had brought.

On the 12th we killed the first buffalo we had seen since we left the fort.

On the 13th we arrived at the camp of the Shian Indians, the party mentioned before. They consisted of twenty-five men and boys and one squaw. They were headed by a chief called the Yellow Wolf. His brother was of the party having a name which signified in the Indian language Many Crows. We gave them some spirits, in exchange for a little meat, on which they became very much intoxicated.

On the 14th and for many days after we saw a great many dead buffalo calves strewed along the banks of the river. They were about a week old and must have been killed by some disease raging among them, as the wolves would not touch them, although here in great numbers. There were probably two thousands of these calves.

On the 18th it stormed all day and night. Toward evening we saw about three hundred wild horses, who came quite near us. We have seen several large herds of buffalo for several days past.

June 12th. We arrived at the fork of the Platte. The water in the North Fork of the Platte was pretty high, and we were able to proceed quite rapidly. We sometimes traveled fifty miles a day. The main Platte is very wide, and has many islands in it, which were covered with roses as we passed them. In one place this river is four miles wide. One of its islands is one hundred miles long. The country from the forks of the Platte to the Missouri is claimed principally by the Pawnee Indians.

June 14th. We met five buffalo, the last we saw, as we left the country in which they range.

18th. In the morning we arrived at a Pawnee village. It consists of a hundred and fifty lodges, made of poles covered with mud. Each lodge contains three or four families. This village is situated on the south bank of the river. These Indians raise excellent corn. The squaws perform all the labor in the fields. We gave them some dried meat in exchange for corn. This was the first vegetable food we had eaten in eleven months.

19th. We were obliged to lay by on account of a violent wind. At night we were much annoyed by mosquitoes.

20th. We passed the Loup Fork and also Shell Creek.

21st. We passed Horse Creek, a large stream coming in from the north, also Saline, a large stream from the south. The scenery here is very different from that farther up the river. The banks of the Platte from the foot of the mountains to this place have been low and sandy, with scarcely any trees on the banks, but here the river has bluff banks thickly covered with timber. There is a village of Pawnees, called the Pawnee Loups, on the Loup Fork. The Pawnees have their heads shaved closely, with the exception of the scalping tuft in the middle, which gives them a very savage appearance. The river below the Loup Fork is much narrower than above. We are now in the country of the Otoe Indians. On the evening of the 21st we arrived at a missionary station, about fifteen miles from the mouth of the River Platte. There are about twenty Otoe lodges near the missionary station. These lodges are built of mud, in the same manner as the Pawnees. We went up to the missionary houses, expecting to find some whites, and were much disappointed at finding them deserted, the missionaries having removed to another place.

June 22nd. This morning we arrived at the mouth of the river Platte. The Missouri, where we entered it, is rather narrow. This is about eleven hundred miles from St. Louis. In the afternoon we stopped at a log house on the bank of the river. Here we saw the first whites who had gladdened our eyes since leaving the mountains. They were at first afraid of us. At this place was a small encampment of Pottawattamie Indians. They had been drunk a few days before, and several were killed in a fight. This is the part of the country to which they had been removed. The banks of the Missouri here are quite hilly. Some of the shores are composed of limestone.

23rd. In the evening we arrived at a settlement, where we procured some fresh meat, bread and coffee. This place was in the Iowa country and we saw several Indians of that tribe.

24th. We stopped at another settlement in the State of Missouri, in Buchanan county. On the south side of the river is Missouri Territory, and on the north the state of Missouri. We saw some Sacks and Fox Indians today. We now traveled rapidly, sometimes eighty miles a day.

July 3rd. We arrived at St. Louis, having come two thousand miles from the mountains in sixty-nine days.

When traveling down the River Platte in our mackinaw boat, as before stated, we often ran aground on sand bars, and were obliged to unload the boat to lighten, push it off the bar, and then reload. This occurred several times in the course of each day, and of course kept us wading in the water most of the time. We seldom found it more than waist deep. One afternoon we tied up our boat about four o'clock, as was our custom, to hunt buffaloes, as we were in want of provisions. This would give us time to kill, and get the meat to the boat before dark. It was usual for one of the party to remain with the boat while the rest went to hunt. This afternoon it was my turn to remain, which I accordingly did, and the rest of the party went off about three miles from the boat in search of game. This was rather a dangerous practice, as we were in the Pawnee country, and very much exposed. The day was quite pleasant with a strong breeze, and I was lounging on the piles of furs in the boat, with my coat off. Alongside of me lay a fine buffalo robe, that was damp, exposed to the sun to dry. The wind blew it off into the river. I jumped off the boat into the stream, ran down some distance so as to get beyond the floating robe, which was rapidly going down the stream, and jumped into the river, which I supposed was not more than waist deep, but very much to my surprise, I found the water over my head. This was an awkward predicament, for I could not swim, but my presence of mind did not forsake me, I knew sufficient of the theory of swimming to keep perfectly still, conscious that if I did so, I would float, and the result proved that I was right. As I before stated, the current was quite swift, and I was carried down stream rapidly. Finding that I floated, I paddled with my hands, keeping them under water, and found that I could swim quite readily, I paddled out toward the robe, and secured it with some difficulty, as it had become partly soaked with water and was quite heavy. At last I succeeded in dragging it on shore, and crawled out of the water well saturated, and feeling most grateful for my deliverance. It was rather a lonely adventure, as all my companions were several miles distant. On their return they congratulated me on my narrow escape.

As we were coming down the River Platte, and had nearly gotten out of the range of buffaloes, which they frequent, it occurred to me that, as I had not yet killed any, I should try what I could do. On my journey out across the plains, I had broken my rifle, and had substituted a fusee, or short gun, from which we fire balls. This was a very rude specimen of fire arm, and of very little use for hunting, but useful in case of an attack from Indians.

This afternoon we had, as usual, tied up our boat and the hunter, Mr. Shabenare, went out a short distance from the river bank to shoot a buffalo for his meat. At the time there were several large buffalo bulls near us. After killing one we assisted the hunters in butchering it, and in carrying portions of the meat to the boat. It was at this time that I concluded to try my luck, so taking up my gun, which was loaded, and slinging my powder horn and pouch on my shoulder, I started off toward the range of low hills running parallel to the shore and about a quarter of a mile distant. Several bulls were grazing quietly at the foot of these hills. I intended to walk up stealthily to within five hundred yards of one of the largest and then crawl up to within one hundred and twenty yards of him before I fired. For unless you approach as near as that to them your ball takes no effect. I had reached to within five hundred yards of him when he noticed me and becoming alarmed started, off up the hill on a run. It was a damper on my prospects, for they run quite fast, generally as fast as a horse can trot, but as he had to run up hill, I thought I would give chase, and I accordingly did so, and after running a short time I found that I gained upon him and felt quite encouraged.

After running him about a mile and a half I came to a valley where I found several buffaloes grazing. The bull I was chasing finding these buffaloes quietly grazing, stopped also and began to eat grass. Finding him so quiet I also stopped to rest for a minute. I examined my gun and found the priming all right. I then approached cautiously to within fifty feet of him, which I could not have done if he had not been very tired from the long chase up hill. I then kneeled down and resting my ramrod upon the ground to support the gun took deliberate aim at his heart and fired. He jumped at me with great ferocity, but I sprang on one side and avoided him. The ball had evidently taken effect.

I loaded the second time and approached somewhat nearer, to within about forty feet of him and took deliberate aim in the same manner and fired. The second ball also took effect and seemed to weaken him. He jumped at me again with the same ferocity, and I avoided him in the same way. After loading my piece the third time I found that my powder was exhausted and that this must be my last shot.

I approached to within the same distance and took aim and fired in the same manner as before. Again he jumped at me ferociously and then laid down panting and apparently in great pain. Having no powder my gun was now useless. I did not like the idea of losing my game after all the trouble I had had with him, I therefore determined to try my knife, which was a butcher knife six inches long, I crawled up cautiously toward his hind legs and attempted to cut his ham strings with my knife thereby disabling him so that I could stab him. I had no sooner cut through the thick skin of his leg when smarting with pain the infuriated animal arose and plunged at me and would probably have killed me if it had not been for the miraculous arrival of our bull dog Turk. I had left him at the boat asleep, but finding that I had gone he followed me and arrived at the spot just in time to take the bull by the nose and prevent his injuring me. I now despaired of being able to secure my game. I took my powder horn and shook it in desperation and succeeded in obtaining enough powder from it for half a charge, with this I loaded my gun, using grass for wadding around my bullet instead of patches, as these as well as my stock of powder had become exhausted. The bull was now lying down with his head erect, and panting violently. I walked up to him, and putting the muzzle of my gun to his mouth, I fired down his throat. This was too much for him and he rolled over in his last struggle. I jumped upon him and stabbed him several times in the heart.

It had now grown dark. A large circle of white wolves had formed around and were yelling in a most hideous manner, old Turk keeping them at bay. I cut out the tongue of the bull, and part of his meat and prepared to return to the boat, but on looking about I was at a loss which way to go, in the confusion and excitement I had forgotten from which direction I had come. I chose my direction and after a walk of about twenty minutes came to the river, much to my relief. I was again at a loss which way to go to find the boat, but finally walked down the stream, and in half an hour reached the boat, at which I was very much rejoiced. My companions had become very much alarmed at my absence, but knew not where I had gone. We were in the Pawnee country and I was liable to meet some of them at any time and I was without ammunition or any means of defending myself. Old Turk after fighting the wolves off until he could eat some of the bull, returned, and was ever after considered the Lion of the party. Thus ended my first and my last buffalo hunt.