On the 24th we moved up the Philanthropy a few miles, and killed numbers of buffalo, which were numerous in all directions. In the afternoon a party of strange mounted Indians came into the plain in pursuit of a herd of buffalo, but discovering our camp fled precipitately to the mountains. We were joined in the evening by twenty-five lodges of Nezperces. For several days nothing of interest occurred. On the 27th we followed the course of the river through a narrow defile of a mile in length, and descended into an open valley which we found covered with buffalo. The old chief immediately encamped and desired that no person should leave camp for that day, but remain and rest the horses, as by so doing they would be able to hunt the buffalo the next morning to much better advantage. His directions were complied with, as it was necessary to lay in a supply of meat for future use, and with fresh horses much greater execution could be done than if they were fatigued. The doomed bisons were therefore allowed a few hours respite.
An Indian about noon brought us a note from Jervais, a partner in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, stating that he was left with three men to trade with the Nezperces; that his partners had gone northwest to hunt the sources of Clark's River, and that Fitzpatrick, one of the partners in that Company, had been killed on his way to St. Louis with one companion the spring previous. Fraeb, who was with Jervais the fall before, left Cache valley in August for St. Louis in order to bring out an equipment next spring. The object of the note was to inform our Freemen where little conveniences could be procured in exchange for furs. In the course of the afternoon a party of horsemen boldly entered the valley, but quickly perceiving the danger fled for their lives. The Flatheads were speedily mounted and in pursuit, but with the exception of one who was overtaken and killed, they gained the mountains in safety. During the night a fire was kindled on the neighbouring mountain, and we heard the reports of several guns in that direction, but the Indians did not approach our camp.
On the 28th we passed the body of an Indian killed the day before, and the squaws agreeable to an ancient custom, gave it repeated blows as they went by. It was totally naked, scalped, and pinned to the ground by an arrow through the heart. Beside it lay a half worn garment, in which we recognized the pantaloons worn by Richards when he was killed in the spring. It was hence conjectured that this Blackfoot had a hand in the murder. If so the bloody deed was in part avenged, for his bones were left to moulder here, as were those of poor Richards near Kamas prairie. A party of our trappers, to day, a few miles from camp, discovered an Indian on the summit of a mound who beckoned them to come to him, and disappeared behind the hill. They wisely declined a more intimate acquaintance, and returned to camp without further investigation. It was probably a decoy to an ambush.
After laying in a sufficient store of dried buffalo meat, we passed southward, over ranges of prairie hills to a small stream that flows into the Jefferson below the Rattle Snake cliffs. There the Indians left us on the third of October, and we, continuing our journey, passed down the stream to its mouth, and thence up the Jefferson through the Rattle Snake Cliffs to the forks where Lewis and Clark left their canoes. One of these streams rises with the sources of the Madison and Kamas Creek, and flows northwestward to its junction with the other, which has its rise in Horse Prairie. Ascending the latter two miles above its mouth, we entered Horse Prairie at a narrow gap between two high points of plains. Here we found the Flatheads from whom we separated on the east fork of Salmon River, with the trader Jervais and several "engages," (hired men.)
On the 8th two of our men accompanied by three or four Indians departed for the Trois Tetons, to meet Mr. Dripps who was expected this fall from the Council Bluffs, with an equipment of men, horses, and merchandise. The same day two Indians came to us from the band which left us on the third. They stated that a large party of mounted Blackfeet came near them on the sixth, but departed without firing a gun, probably awed by their numbers. We left Horse Prairie on the eleventh, and crossed the mountains westward to the east fork of Salmon River, following the same trail that guided Lewis and Clark there so many years before Us. Here we fell in with another village of Nezperces, whom we had not before seen. Accompanied by these Indians we continued down Salmon River to the forks, about twenty miles, and thence six or eight miles to an abrupt bend westward where the river, leaving the valley enters a dark passage through rugged mountains, impassable for horsemen. The valley of the Salmon River is separated from the Big Hole, to which we crossed, by a mountain capped with a succession of bleak points of naked granite, the stern majesty of which makes an impression upon the beholder such as few scenes of earthly grandeur can equal.
On the 29th the Rocky Mountain Fur Company returned, having finished their hunt on the waters of the Missouri without molestation from the Indians. Shortly after leaving Cache valley, however, they were attacked on the Blackfoot by a large party of the enemy. The attack was made at day break, immediately after the horses were turned loose, which was unusually early. It was still so dark that neither party could see the sights on their guns, and hence they overshot each other, doing little mischief on either side. As soon as the firing commenced, the horses broke into camp and were refastened to their pickets. The Indians, finding that they should get nothing by fighting, resolved to try what could be effected by begging. A party then marched coolly up to camp and announced themselves Creas. "They said," says my informant, "that they mistook us for Snakes and professed to be very sorry that they had commenced firing before ascertaining who we really were. Not a few of us raised our guns to punish their unparalleled impudence, but were restrained by our leaders, who believed or affected to believe their improbable story. We ascertained from them that the party was composed of one hundred Blackfeet and thirty-three Creas, and that several of them were slightly wounded in the fray. Our leaders made them a present, and suffered them to depart in peace much against the wishes of some of our exasperated men. Two of our trappers, who were absent from camp at the time of the attack never returned, and were doubtless killed by them. This occurred on the 15th of August."
On the 19th of the same month, four men (D. Carson, H. Phelps, Thos. Quigley and J. M. Hunter) left camp in Gray's Hole, and proceeded down Gray's Creek, in quest of beaver, about fifteen miles; during the time occupied in going this distance, they had set all their traps, and found the day too far spent, to look for a safe encampment, which is a rare thing here at best; however they halted near the brink of the river, where the margin was partially decked with here and there a lone cluster of willows, or birch, with some few intervening rose briars. The bottom or level margin of the river, extended but a few paces from the water's edge, and was there terminated by abrupt rocky hills, of considerable height, overlooking the bottoms, as well as the surrounding country, to a great distance. "We lay as much concealed as possible, in such an open place," says one of these men, whose account was corroborated by all the others; "and passed the night without disturbance; but just at day break, our ears were saluted with the shrill noise of the warrior's whistle, quickly answered by the re-echoing yells of a multitude of Indians, who were rushing upon us. We sprang from our beds, and in a twinkling one of our guns was discharged in their faces, which somewhat dampened their ardour, and they fell back a few paces; at the same time we sprang into the best position, the place afforded; the Indians re-appeared the next instant, and poured showers of lead and arrows around us. We saw no means of avoiding death, but resolved to sell our lives as dearly as possible. We mutually encouraged each other, and resolved if practicable, to fire but one gun at a time and wait until it was reloaded before firing again, unless the Indians should rush upon us, in which case we were to single out each one his man and send them before us to eternity. In short, each time they approached, the foremost was made to bite the dust, and the others fled precipitately; they were recalled, however, by the animated voice of a chieftain, who induced them to charge, time after time, upon us, but each time they advanced, the dying groans of a companion so completely unmanned them, that they fell back, again and again. At length, finding that they could not dislodge us, they fired upon and killed our restless horses, who were fastened a few paces from us, save one, which broke loose, and fell into their hands alive. In the mean time, others commenced throwing stones which fell thick around us, but fortunately did us no injury. After some time they departed, and ascended a high rocky hill some distance from us, where one of them stepped out before the rest, waved his robe five times in the air and dropped it to the ground, he then took it and disappeared with the others behind the hill. We immediately collected our blankets, saddles, &c. together with some articles the Indians had left, and concealed them as well as we could, intending to return for them, and set out for camp, which we reached without accident the same evening."
Early the next morning, a strong party set out with these men, to aid them in collecting their traps and baggage, but the Indians had already carried off every thing. They examined the battle ground and found several places where the ground was soaked with blood, and wads of buffalo wool were strewed about clogged with blood, with which they had stopped their wounds; trains of blood likewise marked the route of the fugitives, to twenty four stone pens where they had slept, which were mostly covered with proofs of the number of dead or wounded, that had lain in them. The persons, who visited the place, say that they cannot conceive how four men could be placed so as to escape death, where they were situated. The ground was literally ploughed up by balls, and all acknowledge that it was one of the most extraordinary escapes, ever heard of. The Indians were the same who attacked camp on the 15th. There were one hundred and thirty-three of them. The battle lasted from day break until ten o'clock, and these men fired about thirty shots, most of which were supposed to have taken effect.
A day or two after the arrival of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, our men who were despatched about a month since to meet Dripps, returned, and reported that he had not reached the place appointed, but that Fraeb, who started for St. Louis last summer, fell in with Fitzpatrick, on the Platte, at the head of thirty men with pack horses. Fraeb immediately headed the expedition, which he was now conducting to this place, whilst Fitzpatrick returned to St. Louis, to bring out an equipment in the spring.
This last enterprising gentleman, departed in the month of February last, though necessarily exposed to every privation and hardship, to cross the whole extent of that immense plain, from the Rocky Mountains to the state of Missouri; which must needs be performed on foot, and a great part of the way on snow shoes, at that dreary season of the year. So hardy was this enterprise esteemed, that it was a matter of considerable speculation, among the brave Mountaineers, whether he would reach his place of destination, or not! He had promised, in case he should reach that place in safety; to bring an equipment to his partners in Cache Valley by or before the first of July. They awaited his arrival a month after the time had expired, and the opinion became universal, that he had been killed, or perished on the way. He reached the settlements, after a series of sufferings, and ascertained that his patrons Smith, Sublette, and Jackson, had left the state of Missouri two days before with a large assortment of goods for Santa Fe.
Notwithstanding the fatigue our traveller had already undergone, he immediately procured a horse, and again entered the uninhabited prairies in pursuit of his friends, whom he overtook after several days hard riding. They persuaded him to go on with them to New Mexico, promising to give him an equipment at Toas, which would not be more than twenty days march from Cache Valley, whither he could arrive in time to meet his companions in the month of July.
Several days after his arrival among them, the party was charged upon by several hundred Comanche Indians; however, they were so terrified at the discharge of a six pounder, that they fled in alarm and adjourned the attack sine die. Shortly after this, one of the leaders of the party, Mr. Jerediah Smith, (a gentleman, whose life for several years in the Rocky Mountains, was a constant series of bold adventures, defeats, narrow escapes, and attendant miseries,) was killed during a lone excursion in search of water, for want of which, the party suffered two days, a thirst rising nearly to madness. A young man, employed by the company as clerk, whose name I did not learn, was likewise killed about the same time.
A few days after the last event, a large party of "Gross Ventry of the Prairie," encamped around them, but betrayed no evil intentions. The Chief said that he had buried all his resentment towards the whites, and should never annoy them any more. Probably the appearance of one hundred men, well armed, in a camp well fortified by the waggons and baggage added to the ever primed big gun continually pointed towards them, produced this salutary, though perhaps temporary effect.
The party reached Toas, on the Rio del Norte; and Fitzpatrick having received his equipment, departed for the mountains; but being unacquainted with the route, and having no guide, he missed his way, and fell on to the Platte, where he met with Fraeb as before mentioned. Fraeb met also on that river with a party of fifty men, led by a Capt. Ghant. They were all on foot, and led about their own number of pack horses, and were destined for the mountains.
Two days after our express returned, three others of our men who were confident that Dripps would come on this fall, set off to meet him. Fraeb arrived one or two days after their departure, and camp presented a confused scene of rioting, and debauchery for several days, after which however, the kegs of alcohol were again bunged, and all became tranquil.
The men provided themselves with lodges, and made preparation for passing the winter as comfortable as possible. We purchased all the dried meat the Indians could spare, together with robes, and "appishimous" (square pieces of robes, used under our saddles in travelling, or under our beds in camp,) in addition to our former stock of bedding. Our arrangements completed, we had nothing to do, but to make the time pass as easily as possible. We assembled at each others lodges, and spent the evening merrily, by listening to good humoured stories, and feasting on the best the country afforded, with the frequent addition of a large kettle of coffee, and cakes.
On the 6th of November, one of the three men who departed sometime since, to meet Dripps; returned, and reported that himself and comrades had been east of Snake River, but, that during their journey, they had seen several war parties of foot Indians who pursued them until they finally resolved to return, fearing that they would discover their encampment some night, and steal their horses, if not their lives. On the evening of the third day of their journey homeward they encamped in a dense thicket of willows, on the east fork of Salmon River, where they imagined themselves quite secure; but the following morning, a rustling of leaves and brushes, betrayed the approach of something unusual. They immediately sprang from their beds, and by this movement, discovered their place of concealment to the wary Indians, who now commenced firing upon them. One of them Baptiste Menard, was soon severely wounded in his thigh, and his groans served to increase the ardour of the enemy, who now pressed forward with resolution; but the first who presented himself was sent to the other world, by a well directed shot, which at once put an end to the action. The Indians lost all their courage with their friend, and immediately departed, taking the horses with them. After they were gone, our men conveyed their wounded comrade a mile or two, to a place of more security, and remained until dark, when my informant departed to get assistance from camp. He had not proceeded far, however, when the Indians discovered him, and gave chase, but he escaped in a thicket of willows; and thence continued his progress, without interruption, until he reached camp, which he did the next evening; having walked fifty miles since he left his companions. The morning after his return, a party of volunteers set out for the wounded man and his companions and returned with them on the third day afterwards. This man Menard, was shot in the hip and the bones so fractured that he remained a cripple for life.
About this time, a large party of Flatheads, and others, departed for buffalo, promising to return in the coming moon. Two or three days after, one of them returned with the news, that they had recovered some stolen horses from a party of Blackfeet, and taken two of their scalps. On the 21st of December, two men from Mr. Work's party, (Hudson Bay Company) arrived and stated that Mr. Work was encamped two day's journey above, on the east fork. They had been to Beaver Head, and were continually harrassed by the Blackfeet, who killed two of them, and severely wounded a third. They killed, however, several of the enemy, and captured a number of horses. They saw the body of a man in the Jefferson River, below Beaver Head, which our hunters believed to be the body of Frazier, whom we had buried there.
On the 23rd we separated from the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and passed southward up Salmon River, to the western extremity of little Salmon River valley, forty miles above the entrance of the east fork.
The river was all the way confined by lofty mountains on either side, and numerous points jutting into it, rendered the journey extremely toilsome, for our jaded horses. However, our difficulties ended when we entered the valley, though we continued twenty miles up it, and encamped with a few lodges of Flatheads, on the 3d of January 1832. In this valley we killed upwards of an hundred head of buffalo, which were numerous for sometime after we arrived. Heretofore the weather has been warm, and pleasant during the day time, but the nights extremely cold. The rivers have been frozen for a month past, but the valleys are still free from snow.
I departed with three others on the 25th, to procure some trifling articles from the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. We returned down Salmon River, and reached a village of Nezperce Indians, late in the evening of the second day, with whom we remained one night. The hospitable Indian I chanced to stay with, treated me with great kindness, and contrary to my expectation refused any remuneration whatever. From him I learned that the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were encamped twenty miles above, on the east fork, together with forty or fifty lodges of Flatheads, and Nezperce's. We continued our journey the next morning, and reached them late in the afternoon. They were encamped opposite to a pass to Horse Prairie, well known to the Blackfeet, who had lately stolen twenty horses, and fled by that route to the Missouri.
The second evening after we arrived, soon after dark, a party of Blackfeet approached camp, and several of them boldly entered, at different points, cutting loose our horses in their way. One of them mounted a beautiful horse, and slowly rode through both encampments. During his progress he was challenged by the guard, but gave the usual Flat Head answer and passed on; soon after his departure, the owner of the horse discovered that he was missing, and imagining that he had broken loose, departed with a companion in quest of him. They proceeded silently about fifty yards from camp, and met a Blackfoot who came running up to them, thinking they were some of his comrades; but quickly discovered his mistake and fled. They brought him to the ground, however, by a well-directed shot, and about twenty others immediately sprang up from the sage, and fled into the woods bordering the river. The Flat Heads raised the scalp of the dead Indian, by cutting around the edge of the hair and pulling off the entire skin of the head from the ears up. The taking, or raising of a scalp is done in this way, by all the mountain tribes. We ascertained next morning that the Blackfeet had taken seven or eight horses. The Indian killed, as stated above, was a tall, bold-featured, handsome fellow, unusually white, and about twenty-two years of age.
Two days after this affair, an express arrived from Mr. Work's party, who were at this time with a large band of Pen-d'oreilles, at Beaver Head; they had lost several horses, which were stolen by the Blackfeet, and had hemmed up a body of those Indians, so that neither party could injure the other; but could yet talk freely on both sides. The Blackfeet stated that the white chief, at the mouth of the Yellow Stone River, (McKensie of the A.M.F. Co.) had built a trading house at the mouth of the Maria; and had already supplied the Blackfeet, with one hundred and sixty guns and plenty of ammunition; and they were now, only awaiting the arrival of a large band of Blood Indians from the north, to commence a general war of extermination of all the whites, Flat Heads and others in this part of the country. The day after the express arrived, I departed with my companions, and reached our own quarters without accident about the third or fourth of February.
The fine valley in which our camp was situated, is thirty miles long, and twelve broad; it is intersected by willowed streams, and large bottoms, covered with rich pasturage, hence it is a favourite resort for both deer and buffalo. The only trees are a few orchard-like groves in the head of the valley, and pines of every variety, on the abrupt sides of the surrounding mountains. The principal stream flows northwestward into Salmon River, which runs northward through the lower extremity of the valley. On the 9th of February, we passed up to the head of the valley and left the Indians, who had hitherto accompanied us behind. Previous to this time, we had scarcely seen a particle of snow in this valley; but we were now detained, by a snow storm of four days continuance, which left the lowlands covered to the depth of one foot. However on the 15th we passed through Day's defile, where we found the snow two feet deep, and covered with an icy crust that cut our horses' legs so that they bled profusely. We proceeded slowly, and employed our best horses successively to break the road, until we reached a small patch of willow on Day's Creek in view of the plains of Snake River. The day was intensely cold, and many of us frost bitten, notwithstanding we had taken the precaution to envelope ourselves with blankets, and buffalo robes. At this evening's encampment, we found nothing but small willows for fuel, and even a scarcity of them. At midnight we were brought to our feet by the cry of Indians, and sprang out to our horses, twenty-five of which were missing. We saw several pairs of snow shoes, and as many packed dogs, but the Indians had vanished with our horses, and the night was so extremely cold, that no person could be induced to follow them, though we had every reason to believe that they could be soon overtaken. Many of our companions intended to set out in pursuit at day break, but the drifting snow so completely erased all trace of the robbers, that no one could designate the course they had taken. After this period, we continued slowly down the extremity of Day's Creek, whence we were in full view of the Trois Tetons; the three buttes of Snake River, and the mountains east of the river. The three buttes of Snake River, are three gigantic, solitary, or isolated mounds, rising from the plains, midway from Snake River, near the mouth of Porteneuf, to the mountains northward. They are fifteen or twenty miles asunder, and the most westerly richly deserve the name of mountain. It is covered with pines, abounds with big horns, and is crowned with snow almost the year around.
From the extremity of Day's Creek, we continued southward in the direction of the middle butte, fifteen miles to Gordiez River, which was quite dry when we reached it. There were several cotton wood trees scattered along the margin, but none of those long grass bottoms, common to other streams are to be found here: in lieu of them a sandy uneven plain appears, covered with black rocks, and wormwood, extending as far as the eye can reach, and likewise covered with pools of water from the melting snow, which is rapidly disappearing. We saw near the margin of the river, the trail of an Indian village that had passed two or three days since to the westward. Fifteen of our party immediately set out in pursuit of them, hoping to hear something of our stolen horses. The following day we passed under the south side of the middle butte, and encamped in a large grove of cedars, two miles from Gordiez River. The next day we continued about the same distance, and halted in the sage on the open plains. We saw large herds of buffalo during our march, and killed several, which to our surprise, were as fat as they generally are in the summer season. In the evening, two hundred Indians passed our camp, on their way to the village, which was situated on the lower butte. They were Ponacks, as they are called by the hunters, or Po-nah-ke as they call themselves. They were generally mounted on poor jaded horses, and were illy clad with shirts and leggins, of dirty torn or patched skins, moccasins made of buffalo skins, and old buffalo robes, half divested of hair, loosely thrown over the shoulders, and fastened by a string around the middle. They were generally ugly, and made a wretched appearance, illy comparing with their bold, handsome and well clad neighbours, the Flatheads. They gave us to understand, that a party of whites were now in Cache valley. On further enquiry, we were satisfied that it could be none other than Dripps, who we supposed had got thus far, on his way to Salmon River last fall, but was prevented from continuing his journey, by the bad condition of his horses, and almost total want of grass on the route.
The next day we reached Snake River, opposite to the mouth of Blackfoot. The same evening the party of fifteen who left us on Gordiez River, returned, having gained no information of their horses. They went to the village of Ponacks at the western butte, and represent them to be miserable, in the superlative sense of the word.
On the 4th of March we crossed the river on the ice, and encamped near the mouth of Blackfoot. The plains are now entirely free from snow, though they are not dry. On the 5th John Gray and David Montgomery, departed for cache valley, to ascertain if Dripps was there, or not. A day or two afterwards, the Ponacks came and encamped a short distance below us. On the 10th we left our thriving neighbourhood, and halted at a spring east of Porteneuf: - the same evening two of our hunters brought in Gray, (one of two men who left us on the 5th) whom they found lying half dead in the cedars, near Porteneuf. He gave us the following account of his unfortunate trip to Cache Valley.
"We proceeded," said he, "by way of the south fork of Porteneuf to Cache Valley, without accident, and sought throughout the northern extremity, for traces of the whites, but were unable to find the least evidence of their having been there at any time during the winter. Hence we concluded, that the story told to us by the Ponacks, was a falsehood invented solely to draw from us a present, which is usually given to Indians on the receipt of good news. This conviction added to numberless traces of foot Indians, that appeared wherever we went, induced us to return back to camp with the least possible delay. In the afternoon of the 8th we discovered a small herd of buffalo, and succeeded in killing one of them, after firing several ineffectual shots. Our appetites had been quickened by two days starvation, which urged the adoption of bold and prompt measures. We quickly secured the tongue, with other choice pieces, and proceeded in quest of fuel, at a rapid pace. During our progress, we saw what greatly resembled an Indian, laying upon the ground, with his buffalo robe thrown over him. We hesitated a moment, but concluded it to be the carcase of a buffalo, and continued on. At length, we reached a small lake, which is the source of the south fork of Porteneuf. It had been frozen over in the early part of the winter, and was since covered with water to the depth of one foot, which was encrusted with a sheet of ice, though not strong enough to bear one. Near the margin, were several clusters of large willows, which were now surrounded by ice and water; they supplied us with fuel, which we conveyed to the bank, beyond the reach of the water, and kindled a fire, by which we roasted and devoured our meat, with tiger-like voracity, until our hunger was allayed.
"By this time the sun was disappearing behind the western hills, and being fully aware of the danger of remaining in such an open place all night, I remarked to Montgomery that we had better saddle our horses, and proceed down the creek, until after dark, and pass the night in some of the groves of cedars which were scattered along the entrance of ravines, in our route. He objected to this measure, and added that wiser men than ourselves had encamped in worse places. Finding that remonstrance would be useless, I immediately cut away some of the briars in the centre of a bed of wild rose bushes, and spread down our blankets. At dark we lay down, and my companion slept soundly. For my own part, I was alarmed in the early part of the night by some unusual noise, which might have been occasioned by the trampling of our horses; but which, together with a train of thoughts foreboding evil, effectually prevented me from closing my eyes to sleep at all.
"I arose early in the morning, but it was yet light, and commenced kindling a fire, in the course of which, having occasion for my powder horn, I called to Montgomery to hand it to me. He immediately arose and stepped out, but sprang back to his bed the next instant exclaiming Indians! Indians! At one bound I was with him, and the Indians commenced firing upon us. The rose bushes which surrounded us, only served to conceal us from view but offered no resistence to their balls, one of which grazed my neck. I immediately exclaimed "Montgomery I am wounded." The next instant he arose with his gun to his face, in a sitting posture, but ere he had time to shoot, his gun dropped from his hands, streams of blood gushed from his mouth and nose, he fell backwards uttering a groan, and expired. I sprang up, and presented my gun to the advancing Indians, determined to kill one of them, but they threw themselves down in the grass. I then wheeled and fled through the breaking ice of the lake, and exerted my utmost strength, to gain the opposite bank. Some of the Indians were instantly in close pursuit, whilst others deliberately fired from the bank. One of their balls grazed my thigh and another cut out a lock of my hair, and stunned me so much that I could with difficulty keep my feet; however, I succeeded in reaching the bank, but had the mortification to see the foremost of my pursuers step ashore as soon as I did. At this moment, a thought crossed my mind, to surrender all I had and they would spare my life; but the recollection of the cruelties they have ever practiced upon prisoners, always terminating in death, awoke me to reason, and I redoubled my efforts to gain a ravine, which led into the mountain. As I reached the entrance, the loud, harsh voice of the chief, calling back my pursuers, fell upon my ears like strains of the sweetest music; but I continued running until overcome by exertion, I fell down quite exhausted. After resting a few moments, I ascended the mountains and dragged myself through the snow until dark, in the direction of Snake River, at which time, I descended to the margin of Porteneuf, and followed its course.
"My mocasins became worn out and left my naked feet to be cut and lacerated by the ice and stones, and at the same time, I was drenched by a shower, which chilled me through. I endeavored to kindle a fire, and make use of the powder in my gun for the purpose, but was unsuccessful. There being no alternative, I was compelled to crawl along or freeze. My feet, now became extremely painful, and I found they were frozen. Being no longer able to support myself upon them, I sought a stick with which I hobbled along some distance, but at length found myself in a field of prickly pears, that pierced me to the very soul. Here, for the first time, I wished for death and upbraided myself for running from the Indians. I stopped and plucked the thorns from my bloody feet, proceeded and the next moment was again upon them. At length, I crawled into the willows, bordering the river, and to my great joy found a quantity of bull rushes. Fortunately, I happened to have a pen knife, with which I cut as many as I could grasp in my arms twice, and bound into three separate bundles; these I fastened together with willows, launched it without difficulty, and embarked upon it, allowing it to be carried along by the force of the current.
"In the afternoon of the following day, I reached the nearest point from Porteneuf to camp, and abandoned my floating bed. With a stick in one hand and my gun in the other, I set out; but the torture from my feet was such, that I fell down, unable to proceed farther. In this situation, whilst revolving in my own mind the chances for getting to camp, a distance of twelve miles, I was discovered by the two hunters whose presence gave me a thrilling sensation of joyful deliverence, indescribable. One of them immediately dismounted, and placed me upon his horse, which he slowly led to camp."
When Gray reached his own lodge, his mangled frozen feet were examined; they were swollen to twice their natural size, and were quite black; however, at the expiration of two months, he was quite well, and the circumstances of his so narrow escape almost forgotten. He left his powder horn, shot-pouch, belt, and knife at the field of death, which will account for his want of success, when endeavoring to kindle a fire; and for being compelled to construct his raft with a pen knife, which is a rare instrument in this country, because it is useless, save in such a peculiar case.
After Gray's return, we moved camp over to Porteneuf. This stream rises between Blackfoot, and the Sheep Rock of Bear River, and flows fifty or sixty miles westward, to its junction with Snake River. On the south side, a point of mountains juts down nearly to Snake River; but on the north side, the mountains disappear. Fifteen miles above its mouth, the river enters the plains, through a narrow opening in the mountains, somewhat resembling a huge gate way, hence it is called Porteneuf, (New gate.) The banks of this stream are garnished with impenetrable thickets of willow, briars, and vines, matted together; bluff ledges of rock, where the country has evidently sunk, and here and there near the fork, remains of boiling springs. After this period, we continued to the source of the south fork of Porteneuf, and on the evening of the eighteenth, reached the spot where Montgomery was killed; the blood appeared quite fresh on the grass, where he had lain, but nothing could be found of his remains, save a few small bones. In justice to the memory of a careless, good-natured, brave, but unfortunate comrade, we resolved to call the pass, from Cache Valley to Porteneuf, "Montgomery's Pass."
On the twentieth we reached Bear River in Cache Valley, having seen during our journey, traces of foot Indians. Some of our hunters saw twenty Indians some distance from camp in the valley. On the twenty-third, several hunters arrived from a company of fifty, who had passed the winter in the southern extremity of this valley, and were now encamped a few miles east of us. This party was fitted out at Fort Union, at the mouth of the Yellow Stone; and was led by a Mr. Vanderburgh. Four of their men were killed in Cache Valley, during the winter, and as many others left them in the fall, but never returned. They were well-supplied with meat during the winter, and never had occasion to go down to the lower end of the valley; hence the reason why Gray and Montgomery did not fall in with them. From them we ascertained that a certain district where we intended to make our hunt, had already been trapped by a party from Toas, last fall. This information induced us to join Vanderburgh, and proceed with him forty miles northward, up Bear River, to the Sheep rock. This river was confined all the way, by cedar-covered or prairie-hills, and ledges of black rock.
The "Sheep Rock," is the high, rocky, abrupt termination of a mountain, south of the river, which flows around it, through a deep canal of cut rock, from the southeast. At the Sheep Rock is a beautiful cove or horse-shoe-like valley, two or three miles in diameter, bounded on the north and west by irregular hills, covered with fragments of black rock, and scattering cedars. From south to northeast, it is surrounded by lofty mountains, through which the river meanders, before it reaches the valley. There are groves of cedars in and about the cove, which likewise betrays an unusual volcanic appearance. The plain is covered, in many places, with a substance resembling ashes; the rocks have a black, blistered appearance, as if burnt; and there are the remains of many boiling springs similar to those on Salt River, which have long since exploded. Some of them present little knolls of a beautiful yellow, tasteless substance, several paces in extent; others present the hollow mounds of cement, that were formed by deposits from the waters, which have long since disappeared. There is a spring in the middle of the valley, the waters of which taste precisely like soda water, if drank after the effervescence has ceased. Some of these boiling springs were situated on the highest mounds, and others in the valley. We saw the skeletons of five persons bleaching in the grove of cedars, near the valley, supposed to be Indians. The country here is yet covered with water from the snows, which have just disappeared.
From the Sheep Rock, we followed the zig zag course of the river seventy-five miles, and again entered a beautiful valley, fifteen miles long from north to south, and five or six broad; at the southern extremity, the outlet for the Little Lake enters, and falls into Bear River. The margins of both rivers are here decorated with dense groves of cottonwood and aspen trees, and thick underbrush, and the valley is a great resort for both animals and wildfowl, particularly geese, who always deposit their eggs in the old nests made by hawks and ravens, in the trees; great numbers of eggs are collected by passing trappers, in the spring. We reached this valley on the tenth of April; at this time our trappers branched out in various directions in quest of beaver.
On the thirteenth we continued twelve miles eastward, over prairie hills to Talma's Fork, a small stream that interlocks with the sources of Salt River, and flows southward into Bear River. It receives its name from an Iroquois who discovered it. Bear River has again meandered into a valley, at the mouth of Talma's Fork; thus far it varies from fifty to one hundred yards wide, is rapid and seldom fordable; its naked borders present nothing but an occasional lone cluster of willows, save in Cache Valley, and at the outlet of the Little Lake, where groves of trees beautify its margin.
On the fourteenth we passed eight miles southeastward, to Smith's Fork; this is a large well wooded creek, that rises with the sources of Ham's Fork and Salt River, and flows southeastward into Bear River. It commands a narrow valley until near its junction with the latter, where two high points of mountain, jutting towards it on either side, leave a narrow passage for the water. This stream is noted for the great numbers of beaver taken from it, and receives its name from the late Jerediah Smith, of the firm of Smith, Sublette and Jackson.
On the fifteenth we forded Bear River, at a place unusually shallow, passed twelve miles southeastward and reencamped on its margin. From the south of Smith's Fork, the mountains, which have hemmed up the river more or less, since our departure from Cache Valley, expand, leaving an open plain five or six miles wide, bounded on the east by a high mountain, and on the west by a low one, which is abrupt on the western side, and overhangs the Little Lake. Through this plain, the river forms a gentle curve from east to south; the valley on the east side is apparently as level as the surface of still water; but on the western side, has a very gentle ascent, until it reaches the abrupt base of the mountain. The river is from fifty to eighty yards wide; is deep, and has a gentle current; its borders are in many places naked of bushes; but generally here and there, a solitary cluster of willows afford a resting place for the ravens, or a shelter for the wolves. The plains were graced with hundreds of antelopes, either gamboling about, or quietly feeding in groups, with ever watchful sentinels to apprise them of danger.
On the sixteenth we passed a few miles above the mouth of Muddy, and killed several buffalo from a large herd, which were the first we have seen since we left the valley, at the outlet of the Little Lake. We likewise saw great numbers of geese and ducks, which have just made their appearance in the river. On the twenty fourth we recrossed Bear River, and encamped on its eastern margin; during the afternoon a well known Flathead Indian, named Paseal, who accompanied Fontenelle and Dripps to St. Louis last summer, returned with the agreeable intelligence that Dripps, at the head of forty-eight men, was encamped at the entrance of Muddy. We moved down on the following day, and encamped with him: we now ascertained that he left the council Bluffs about the first of October, but owing to want of grass, and the jaded state of his horses, was compelled to stop, and pass the winter at the foot of the Black Hills. In the mean time he despatched three men and an Indian to us on Salmon River, who ought to have reached that place previous to our departure, but they have not been heard of since. Two or three of the following days were devoted, by many of the men to inebriation; a chilling storm of sleet, attended their out of door revels.
On the twenty-ninth I set out with three others, to raise a small cache of furs we had made on Rush Creek in Cache Valley. We proceeded by way of the Little Lake forty-five miles to the head of Cache Valley, and thence thirty-five, by night, to Rush Creek. This is a small stream (that flows into Bear River, on the south side,) bordered by dense thickets, and at this time was not fordable. I followed the brink several hundred yards, in hopes of finding a shoal, where we could cross without wetting our fur; at the same time one of my comrades who was mounted, entered the brush a short distance above me, for the same object. Soon after, hearing a noise like that of some large animal splashing in the water, I ran to the spot, certain that my comrade had attempted to cross, where the river was deep and his horse endangered. Imagine then my agony and surprise when a formidable grizzly bear came rushing, like a wounded buffalo towards me. I instinctively cocked my gun, and intended to discharge it into his open mouth, when he should rear himself to clasp me; but to my great joy he passed a few feet from me, and disappeared in the neighbouring thickets.
We returned the following night to the head of Cache Valley, and were saluted by the barking of several dogs during our route; however the night was dark, and we rode briskly until we were beyond the reach of either dogs or Indians. We suffered from exposure to a snow storm, of two or three days continuance, but at length reached camp at the mouth of Smith's Fork, after a march of five days and two nights.
On the eighth of May, we continued northwestward, down Bear River, and reached the Horse-shoe Cove on the twelfth. A mile or two above the Sheep Rock, and a few yards from the river, is a bed of chalk white substance, called "the white clay," which possesses the cleansing property of soap, and is used by the hunters as well as the natives, instead of that commodity. It is found in various parts of the country, and is sometimes called 'white earth.' On the following day we passed northeastward, through cedar hills, which opened into a plain, decked with groves of cedar, and bluff ledges of rock, where the country, or at least portions of it, have evidently sunk. In the course of our route, we frequently marched several miles over a level plain, and suddenly came to an abrupt precipice, twenty or thirty feet high, where we sought vainly to find a place sufficiently oblique to admit of descending without danger. When safe below, we continued our progress in like manner, over a level country some distance, until another precipice obstructed our progress. High lone mounds, rising out of level bottoms, are not uncommon. We encamped fifteen miles northeast of the Sheep Rock, on one of the sources of Blackfoot.
Near our encampment were found an American riding saddle, and a rifle that was stripped of the lock and mountings. These articles were recognized to have been the property of Alexander, one of four men, who left Vanderburgh near the Big Lake last fall. Heretofore it had been believed that they were killed by some of the Blackfeet, who were lurking about Cache Valley last fall and winter. That opinion was mournfully confirmed by the circumstance of finding these articles, eighty miles indeed from that place, but directly in the route of the Blackfeet to their own country. We likewise saw ten Indian forts in a grove of cedars, that had been but recently evacuated.
On the fourteenth we continued in the same direction, about the same distance, and halted at the brink of another source of Blackfoot. Previous to this time for several days, we have had raw disagreeable weather, but it is now quite pleasant. Buffalo and antelopes, have been continually in sight since we left Smith's Fork. Next day we passed northwestward, through a plain intersected by numbers of small streams, flowing through deep canals of cut rock, which unite and form Gray's Creek, which is likewise confined between barriers of cut rock. This valley, or rather district, is called Gray's Hole, after John Gray, a half breed Iroquois, who discovered it some years since. This person is the same who was with Montgomery when he was killed.
In a narrow bottom beneath the walls of Gray's Creek, we found a party of trappers, headed by Bridger, one of the partners in the R. M. F. Company. Their encampment was decked with hundreds of beaver skins, now drying in the sun. These valuable skins are always stretched in willow hoops, varying from eighteen inches, to three feet in diameter, according to the size of the skins, and have a reddish appearance on the flesh side, which is exposed to the sun. Our camps are always dotted with these red circles, in the trapping season, when the weather is fair. There were several hundred skins folded and tied up in packs, laying about their encampment, which bore good evidence to the industry of the trappers. They found a rifle, as well as ourselves, which was likewise robbed of the lock and mountings. It belonged to one of two men, who disappeared a day or two previous to the battle, in August last. Both of these rifles were unusually heavy, and were doubtless left by the Indians for that reason.
On the nineteenth I departed from camp, accompanied by two Indians, to seek the Flatheads, and induce them to come to the forks of Snake River, where our leaders wished to meet them, for the purpose of trading. We passed ten miles over rocky hills, to the plains of Snake River; thence fifteen, to the mouth of Gray's Creek, and forced our horses to swim over Snake River, which we crossed on a raft ourselves. We halted a short time on the western margin, to bait our horses, and again proceeded northwestward. Six miles from the river, we passed a small lake, which is the termination of Cammas Creek, and has no outlet. We continued our course four miles beyond the lake, and halted in the sage after dark without water. We started at daybreak on the twentieth, and directed our course towards Cotas defile. During our march, we saw great numbers of buffalo running in various directions, which convinced us that they had been alarmed by Indians. This startled us in no small degree for we did not doubt but that they were Blackfeet, and should they discover us in the open plains, escape with our jaded horses would be impracticable. However, after suffering a fever, occasioned by thirst and excitement, and marching thirty-five miles over the heated plains, we reached Cotas Creek, and gladly threw ourselves down to sip the refreshing waters that flow from fields of snow in view. Our minds, however, were not yet free from apprehension, for just before we reached the river, three horsemen appeared coming towards us at full speed; two of whom came near enough to satisfy themselves that we were certainly men, and then turned and fled up the river. We immediately cooked and eat several choice pieces of a buffalo we were fortunate enough to kill in the morning, and remained until dark watching by turns the appearance of Indians, but saw nothing save here and there a veteran bull, quietly feeding around us; or large herds of buffalo in the distance. At dark we saddled our horses, and departed cautiously up the river, carefully avoiding to ride near the margin. Soon after our departure, our horses turned towards the river, and neighed, a certain sign that they saw or smelled horses; we continued, however, without annoyance, about ten miles, and halted to pass the night on the steep side of a hill.
The next morning at daybreak, we were on the march, and passed through a narrow space between two bluff ledges of rock, into a large plain, where Cotas Creek, and the east fork of Salmon River, both take their rise. We continued twenty miles down the plain, when we discovered a large party of horsemen meeting us at full speed. We hastily ascended an eminence, unsheathed our guns, and with no little anxiety awaited their approach. As they came near, we hailed them in Flathead, and they immediately discharged their guns in the air, which relieved our minds at once from apprehension. We followed their example, and descended to them. They were Flatheads, and Nezperces, and had just started for buffalo; but after hearing our mission, they furnished us with fresh horses, and returned with us at half speed, about six miles, to the village. Here we found the men Dripps sent in quest of our party from the Black Hills last winter. They reached the village last spring, a few days after we left Salmon River.
The Indians had had a battle with the Blackfeet three days before I arrived. They lost twelve men killed, and several others severely, if not mortally, wounded; besides upwards of a thousand head of horses, which were taken by the Blackfeet. The latter left sixteen of their comrades dead on the field. The action lasted two days, and was so obstinate at the commencement, that six or eight of the Flathead tents were cut up by their enemies, and several of the latter killed in camp. There were about a thousand of the enemy, who came for the purpose of annihilating the Flatheads, root and branch. Previous to the commencement of the fray, they told the Flatheads that McKensie had supplied them with guns by the hundred, and ammunition proportionate, and they now came with the intention of fighting, until "they should get their stomachs full." After the battle, when as usual in such cases they were crying for the loss of their friends; the Flatheads demanded sarcastically, if they had "got their stomachs full," to which they made no reply, but immediately departed for their own country. Sixteen of their scalps were triumphantly displayed by the Flatheads, who courageously defended their own slain, and prevented the Blackfeet from taking a single scalp. Several of the Flathead horsemen were killed in the spring, previous to the battle, amongst whom was the brother of Pascal, one of the Indians who accompanied me.
On the twenty-second we departed, and bore southeastward up the plain. The wounded Indians were carried on a kind of litter simply constructed, by fastening the ends of two long poles to opposite sides of a pack horse, and tying cross bars six feet assunder, to prevent the long poles from approaching to, or receding from each other. A buffalo robe is then fastened loosely to the four poles, and the wounded person placed upon it. These litters, of which there were eight or ten, were followed by numbers of young men, ever ready to administer to the wants of the sufferers. Among the latter, was a young man who was shot through the knee; - his leg was swelled to an enormous size, yet he would not allow himself to betray the least symptoms of pain, and exultingly gloried in his misfortune.
We reached the narrows at the head of the plain, and the source of Cotas Creek on the twenty-third. Considerable anxiety was now manifested by the Indians. They were without either provisions or ammunition, and were consequently only prevented from pushing forward, to where both could be obtained, by the inability of their wounded companions, to endure the torture occasioned by long marches.
On the twenty-fourth we passed down Cotas defile, and fell in with a party of Flatheads, who left the village previous to the battle. They were well supplied with both dry and fresh meat, and at the same time were surrounded by buffalo, numbers of which were killed by our party. These Indians were probably the same discovered by us, and believed to be Blackfeet, on our way up four days since. After this period we moved slowly down Cotas Creek as far as the mountains jut down into the plain, on either side, and killed numbers of buffalo, which were numerous in all directions. In the meantime three of the wounded Indians died, and were decently buried. They were enveloped in skins lashed around them, previous to interment, and their graves after being filled with earth, were surmounted by little comical heaps of stones, which is the only mark by which the resting place of these heroes may hereafter be designated.
On the 2d of June, a party of hunters arrived from our own camp, which was situated a few miles above the forks of the Snake river. The following morning I departed in company with one of the hunters, for camp; we passed twenty miles North of East, through a sandy plain decked with great numbers of Rocky mounds, which were all cross cracked, at the top, leaving cavities in some cases, large enough to shelter both men and horses, from the balls or arrows of Indians. The largest are one hundred feet high, and overlook the country far, in every direction. They appear a secure asylum to small parties of men, who, if once within them, may bid defiance to hundreds of Indians. A mountain of white sand, thirty miles in extent, is situated six or eight miles north of the forks of the Snake River. I have crossed several points of it, with difficulty, owing to the depth my horse sank into the sand. In most places it is entirely destitute of all herbage, and at a distance resembles a snow clad mountain. We reached camp in the afternoon, and ascertained that nothing worthy of recollection, had occurred since I left it. The trappers were all in camp, having ceased to trap, and the Springs hunt was considered over.
The next day the Indians reached us, and were requested to accompany us to Pierre's Hole, where we expected to meet Fontenelle, with supplies from St. Louis. They agreed to accompany us, if we would remain with them a day or two, to rest their jaded horses. In the meantime the brave Indian who was shot through the knee, died, and was buried on the margin of Henrie's fork. After this period we continued slowly up Henrie's fork, and halted two or three days on the East fork, to dry meat, knowing that we should remain one or two days at rendezvous, and that buffalo would soon be driven far from us. We killed hundreds daily during our stay on Henrie's fork; and continued thirty miles South Eastward over prairie hills, decked with groves of Aspen trees, to the Northern extremity of Pierre's Hole. This pleasant retreat is twenty miles long, and two wide, extending from South-east to North-west; and is surrounded by lofty mountains, save on the west side, where prairie hills appear. It is watered by numbers of small streams, which unite and form Pierre's fork, a fine stream thirty or forty paces in width, which cuts its way out of the valley, in a deep canal of bluff rocks. On the east side of the valley, three majestic peaks of naked rock, rise far above the rest, and are well known to mountain rovers by the name of "The Trois Tetons." The mountains are very abrupt, as far as the pines extend, and the huge pyramids above are absolutely inaccessible. This valley is noted for the large extent of excellent pasturage, along the borders of its waters; and has been selected as a pleasant place for a general rendezvous, by the R. M. F. C., Vanderburgh and ourselves: it receives its name from an Iroquois chieftain, who first discovered it; and was killed in 1827, on the source of the Jefferson River. On reaching this valley, we found the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. already here, awaiting the arrival of Mr. Fitzpatrick, with supplies from Saint Louis. Mr. Vanderburgh expected a Mr. Provenu, with an equipment from fort Union, at the mouth of the Yellow Stone; and we as anxiously looked forward for Mr. Fontenelle, who was expected from the Council Bluffs.
Some days after we entered Pierre's Hole, a party of trappers returned, having made their hunt to the Southward. They saw Captain Ghant, at the head of fifty or sixty men, on Green river; he had procured horses from the Spaniards of New Mexico, and had made his hunt on the sources of the Arkansas, and tributaries of Green river, without molestation by the Indians. Two men were despatched by the R. M. F. Co. about this time, to meet the Saint Louis companies, and six of our men followed a few days afterwards for the same object.
On the 29th of June, the two men despatched by the R. M. F. Co. returned in a miserable plight; they had proceeded as far as Laramie's fork, at the foot of the Black hills, and were robbed by a party of Crow Indians, of their horses; after which they retraced their steps to camp, and suffered extremely for want of provisions, or from cold, rain, and fatigue. Throughout the month of June, scarcely a day passed without either rain, hail, or snow, and during the last three days of the month, a snow storm continued without intermission, the whole time, night and day; but disappeared from the earth a few hours after the sun reappeared.
On the third of July, one of our men who was sent in quest of the St. Louis companies returned, and reported that William Sublett, at the head of one hundred men, was now on his way here. This numerous company was composed of fifty hired men; a party of twenty-two men, detached from Ghant's company; a party of thirteen men from the Rio del Norte, and a Mr. Wythe with ten or twelve followers, who was on some secret expedition to the mouth of the Oregon, or Columbia River. We learned that Mr. Fitzpatrick left the company at the Red Hills, with two horses, and set out to reach us, in advance of Sublett; but had not since been heard of. Two or three nights before our express reached them, their camp was fired upon by a party of unknown Indians, but no one injured. Several horses were stolen, however; from Sublett, our express could learn nothing of Fontenelle; and determined to proceed on until they should meet him, but the day after their departure from Sublett's Camp, they were charged upon by a party of mounted Indians, who compelled them to return.
On the 8th Sublett arrived, and halted in the middle of the hole, with the R. M. F. Co., for whom he brought one hundred mules, laden with merchandise. The same evening Mr. Thos. Fitzpatrick, to our great joy, came into camp, though in a most pitiable condition. It appears that this traveller, on his way to Pierre's Hole, came suddenly upon a large Village of Indians, who mounted their horses and immediately gave chase; however, he had fortunately taken the precaution to furnish himself with two horses, previous to his departure from camp, one of which had the reputation of being fleet. This last he led by the halter, ever saddled, and bridled, as a resource in case he should be compelled to seek safety by flight. So soon as he found himself discovered and pursued, he sprang upon his favorite horse, and fled, directing his course towards the mountains, which were about three miles distant. When he reached the mountains, the Indians were so far behind, that he hoped to elude them by concealment, and immediately placed his horse in a thicket, and sought a crevice in the rocks, where he concealed himself. In a few moments the blood hounds came up, and soon discovered his horse; from his place of concealment he saw them searching every nook and crevice, for him, and the search was not discontinued, until the next step would have placed him before the eyes of a blood thirsty set of wretches, whose clemency in the first instance, is yet to be recorded. Fortunately for him, the search was abandoned, and the Indians returned to camp, at the same time he chose a point, whence he could discover any passing object, in the plain beneath him; and determined to remain, until the company should pass, and join them at that time. At the expiration of three days, he discovered six men, passing in the valley, and immediately descended the mountain to join them, but ere he could effect this, a party of Indians appeared from another quarter, and gave chase to the six men, who wheeled and fled; in the meantime, he fled back to his place of refuge. At length he became confident, that the company had passed him without his knowledge, and set out for Pierre's Hole in the night; his moccasins became worn out, and he was forced to make others of his hat, he likewise lost his powder in swimming a river, and suffered from the combined effects of hunger, cold, and fatigue, until he was reduced to a mere skeleton, and could scarcely be recognized when he finally reached camp. He informs us, that the Indians were doubtless a band of Grosvents of the prairie, who passed from the Missouri to the head of the Arkansas three years ago, and were now on their return to their own country. They are the same Indians who encamped with Smith, Sublett and Jackson, on the Arkansas last summer, and there buried their hatchets and animosity together. But it appears from their proceedings this far, that they have raised both since.
On the 17th a party of trappers, of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, having received supplies for the fall hunt, left the company, and passed ten miles up the valley, intending to cross on to Lewis River, near the mouth of Salt River. The following morning they discovered a party of strange Indians near the margin of the stream, some distance above them, and several of the men immediately departed to ascertain who they were. As they approached, the chief advanced to meet them, armed with nothing but the calumet of peace; but he was recognized to be a Grosventre and in a twinkling was sent to eternity. At the same time the Indians, who perhaps numbered fifty men, besides women and children, entered a grove of cottonwood trees, and without loss of time proceeded to make a breastwork, or pen of trees impenetrable to balls. In the mean time an express was despatched to inform us, and in a few minutes the plains were covered with whites, and friendly Indians, rushing to the field of battle. On their arrival, however, the enemy had completed an impenetrable fort, fifty feet square, within which they had fastened their horses. A general fire was immediately opened upon the fort, and was warmly kept up on both sides until dark. In the mean time a plan was formed by the whites to burn them up in their fort, and quantities of dry wood and brush were collected for that purpose; but the Indians on our side objected to this project, on the ground that all the plunder would be lost, which they thought to appropriate to their own use. At length night came on, and the whites, who were provoked at the Indians, for not consenting to annihilate the enemy at once, departed for their respective camps; the Indians soon followed, and left such of the enemy as survived, at liberty to depart and recount their misfortunes to their friends. We lost in this engagement, two men killed, one mortally wounded, and many others either severely or slightly. The Indians on our side, lost five killed, and many wounded, some supposed to be mortally. The following morning, a large party of both whites and Indians returned to the fort. In it were the dead bodies of three Grosventre Indians, a child, twenty-four horses, and several dogs. Our Indians followed the route of the fugitives several miles, and found their baggage, which they had concealed in divers places, as well as the bodies of five more Indians, and two young women, who were yet unhurt, though their heartless captures sent them to the shades, in pursuit of their relations without remorse. Amongst the dead horses were those lost by Mr. Fitzpatrick some days since; but those stolen from Sublett about the same time, were not among the number; hence we supposed that a larger party of Indians were yet behind.
After this period we enjoyed fine weather, and nothing occurred worthy of remembrance, until the 27th. This evening five of seven men who departed for St. Louis, three days since, returned, and informed us that they were attacked yesterday, by a party of Indians in Jackson's Hole, and that two of their number, Moore and Foy, killed. The survivors saved themselves by flight, but one of them was wounded in his thigh.
On the 30th William Sublett departed on his return to St. Louis. He had been detained here much longer than he intended, owing to a wound he had received on the 18th. During the first day's march, Stevens, the person who was wounded in his thigh, several days since, died, and was interred in the southeastern extremity of Pierre's Hole. On the first of August we had a hail storm of one hour's duration. Until this period we had anxiously awaited the appearance of Provenu and Fontenelle; but they came not, and we became apprehensive that they had lost their horses on the way, and were thus prevented from reaching us, according to promise however, Dripps and Vanderburgh resolved to move over to Green River, and learn if possible something definite. We set out on the 2d and reached the head of Pierre's Hole on the 3d. On the 4th we crossed the mountain, and descended into a large prairie valley, called Jackson's Big Hole. It lies due east of the Trois Tetons, and is watered by Lewis River, which leaves the valley through a deep cut in the mountains, impassable for pack horses; hence trappers have to cross the mountains to Pierre's Hole, in order to avoid greater obstacles, which present themselves at any other pass. The waters of this river, in the head of the Hole, expand into a lake of considerable magnitude, which I believe is identical with one attached to the Big Horn River, on the maps of the United States, for I have never heard of any lake on the sources of that river, although our trappers have explored every spring source of it. This lake is called the Teton Lake, from the mountain that overlooks it. The river flows through the valley in a southwest direction, and near the lower end of the hole, a large branch from the southeast falls into it. Those streams are bordered by aspen and cottonwood trees, and groves of cedars, in some parts of the valley. The Hole is surrounded by lofty mountains, and receives its name from one of the firm of Smith, Sublett and Jackson.
We crossed Lewis River at a well known ford, where its waters are separated by several Islands, and are expanded to the distance of several hundred yards; but are fordable at this season for pack horses, if led carefully over, following the bars or shallow places. In the evening we halted on a spring, four miles east of Lewis River, after marching twenty-two miles. On the 5th we passed six or eight miles southeast, and halted on the margin of the stream, flowing from that direction. During our march, some of the hunters saw the bones of two men, supposed to be those killed from a party of seven, in the latter part of July. On the sixth we entered a dark defile, and followed a zig-zag trail along the almost perpendicular side of the mountain, scarcely leaving space in many places for the feet of our horses; we all dismounted, and led our animals over the most dangerous places, but notwithstanding this precaution, three of them lost their footing, and were precipitated sixty or seventy feet into the river below; two were but slightly injured, having fortunately fallen upon their loads, which preserved them from death; but the other was instantly killed. At length we came out into an open valley after a march of fifteen miles, and halted in its eastern extremity. This small valley is called Jackson's Little Hole, in contradistinction to its neighbor, which we left yesterday. It was covered with herds of buffalo, numbers of which fell before our rifles, and supplied us with fresh meat, an article we had not possessed since we came into Pierre's Hole. We saw several encampments of a large village of Indians, who had been in the valley five or six days since. They were doubtless Grosventres of the prairie, and were prevented from passing by way of Pierre's Hole, most likely, by the reception met with by a small party, who reached that Hole in advance of the main village.
On the 7th we ascended a high abrupt hill, covered with dense groves of aspen trees, and came in view of a vast plain, gently descending eastward to Green River, which flows through it southeastward. The plain was literally covered with buffalo, numbers of which we killed, and halted at a spring on the summit of the hill. On the 8th we descended the plain to a stream flowing into Green River, and halted on its margin; during the day we discovered a party of horsemen several miles to the northward, who were supposed by some, to be our long expected company, and by others were believed to be the Grosventres, who we all knew could not be far in advance of us. To our great joy, however, they proved to be the former, headed by our old friend Fontenelle, who had passed from St. Louis to the mouth of the Yellowstone River in a steamboat, and thence with pack horses to this place. He had about fifty men, and three times that number of horses, and was aided by Mr. Provean in conducting the expedition. He fell in with the Grosventres two days since, on Green River and although they numbered five or six hundred warriors, want of ammunition prevented them from making an attack upon him; they denied having any knowledge of whites in this part of the country, notwithstanding we had given them sufficient cause to remember us, at least for a few days. He likewise saw a company of one hundred and twenty men, with twenty covered wagons, and numbers of pack horses, led by one Captain Bonyville from New York, who was at this time constructing a fort on Green River, a few miles below us.
On the 12th all arrangements, for the journey being completed, Mr. Fontenelle departed with thirty men, and the furs we had collected during the past year, for Fort Union at the Yellow Stone; at the same time Messrs. Vanderburgh and Dripps, who were now jointly acting for the American Fur Co., departed at the head of about ten men, intending to hunt on the source of the Missouri. We reached a spring, on the summit of the hill, east of Jackson's Little Hole, in the evening; and halted for the night. On the 14th we passed through the Narrows, between Jackson's Holes; and avoided some of the difficulties we met with on our previous passage, by crossing the river, several times. In the evening we halted for the night near the remains of two men, who were killed in July last. These we collected, and deposited in a small stream, that discharged itself into a fork of Lewis river; that flows from Jackson's Little Hole. On the 16th we reached the head of Pierre's Hole, and found the bones of several Indians, who were supposed to have been killed during the battle in July last; and were transported here by their relations, though several miles from the battle field. Three days after we reached Henrie's Fork amid clouds of dust which rose from our horses' feet, and filled our eyes. The plains were covered with buffalo, in all directions, far as we could discern them.
On the 20th I departed with two others, with orders to seek the Flatheads, and induce them to meet the company in Horse prairie, if possible, in eight days from this time. Our leaders intended to cache their goods at that place, and wished to meet the Indians, for the purpose of trading with them. Our company continued onward a north course, whilst we passed north of the sand mountain, and bore a trifle south of west, in the direction of Cota's defile. We reached Kamas creek at sunset, after a march of forty-five miles, during which we suffered extremely, owing to want of water, on the route; but allayed our parching thirst when we arrived; ate a hearty supper of dry meat, hobbled our fatigued horses, and slept in a thicket until sunrise. Next day proceeded on thirty-five miles, to Cota's creek, and halted until dark. During our march we saw traces of horsemen, who had passed by recently. At dusk we passed two miles up the defile, and halted in the logs, near the margin of the creek. On the 22nd we mounted our horses, at day break, and passed the narrows into a rolling plain, where we found several encampments made by the Flat heads twenty days since. At noon, we halted to bait our horses, and demolished a few pounds of dried meat, ourselves. At the expiration of two hours, we again departed; and proceeded down the plain, until near midnight, halting at length near the margin of a small stream. During the night our slumbers were disturbed by the bellowing of a herd of bulls, near us; and by the howling of a multitude of wolves, prowling about the buffalo. We were approached, by a formidable grizzly bear, who slowly walked off, however, after we had made some bustle about our beds. We made during the day and night, about fifty miles.
On the 23d we arose in the morning, and found ourselves in the valley of the east fork of Salmon river. There were large herds of buffalo slowly moving up the valley, which led us to believe, that the Indians were not far below us. One of their encampments appeared to have been evacuated, but five or six days since; and was at this time a rendezvous for wolves, ravens, and magpies. We likewise saw numbers of salmon, forcing their way up the small streams, in this valley - many had so worn out their fins, that they could with difficulty avoid us when we endeavored to catch them, in our hands. With clubs and stones, we killed several of them, with which we regaled ourselves at noon, and my companions, amused themselves, whilst our horses were feeding, by adding to the numberless carcasses scattered along the shore, that had been taken and thrown away by the Indians. We passed through this valley, and halted some time after dark at the mouth of a stream from the south, after travelling forty miles.
On the 24th we passed between two high rocky points jutting into the river, and came out into an open plain two miles wide. Near the entrance, is a bed of stone, which is frequently used as a substitute for soap. It is but little harder than chalk, of the same color, and when manufactured into pipes, and burnt, becomes a fine glossy jet color, and equally hard as stoneware. In this plain we discovered an encampment that appeared to have been made so recently, that we were confident of finding the Indians before night; however, we followed the trail to the forks of Salmon River, passing several other encampments, which were now occupied by bears, wolves, ravens and magpies, which were preying upon the yet undevoured particles of dried meat, and fragments of skins scattered around them. At dark we halted near one of these encampments in the forks of Salmon River, after riding about forty miles. In the night we were serenaded by the growling of bears and wolves, quarelling for the half-picked bones about them.
On the 25th we continued down Salmon River to a high abrupt plain, jutting down on the east side, which leaves a narrow trail along the brink of the river for several hundred yards, over-hung by a frowning precipice some hundred feet high. Through this we passed, and came into a small prairie, decked with huge fragments of rocks, trees, and willows. On the neighboring hills, we discovered a colt that had been left by the Indians, and likewise an encampment on the margin of the river that had evidently been left yesterday; we followed the trail over ranges of prairie hills, and finally found an encampment that had been left this morning, the Indians having crossed the mountains in the direction of Bitter-root River.
Having already exceeded the time alloted us by our leaders, and being aware that they would not wait more than a day beyond the time for us; I was forced to abandon the pursuit, or risk not seeing the company, until the expiration of the fall hunt which would subject me to complaint, as well as danger; and every hour's ride being two from the place of rendezvous, I turned my horse up a small stream, and followed it eight miles into the mountains that separate the valley of Salmon River from the Big Hole. During this jaunt, we killed a grey wolf which was fat, and made us a tolerable supper; we likewise wounded a grizly bear, but in his rage, he broke down bushes and saplings with such ease, that we concluded that it would be imprudent to meddle with him any more. We made about twenty-eight miles today, including deviations.
On the 26th we started at sunrise, and reached the head of a ravine, in the opposite side of the mountains, at sunset; after a toilsome and continual march of five or six miles, including necessary deviations from our general course. The distance attained will be proof enough of the existence of obstacles in this day's march, which was one of the most fatigueing I ever attempted. The sides of the mountains were very steep, and were covered with green or fallen pines, of which the latter were so interlocked with each other, and so numerous, that we were continually forced to leap our horses over them, and were frequently compelled to retrace our steps and seek some other passage. Here, an avalanche of huge rocks, trees, and snows had been precipitated from the summit of the mountains, and the sharp fragments left in the route, if slightly disturbed, would immediately resume their headlong course downward, and presented a barrier not only impassable for horses, but even for men. From this we turned, and sought to wedge our way through the pines in another direction, but suddenly came to the brink of some frightful ravine several hundred feet deep, but so narrow that a mountain goat would over-leap it without hesitation. Here we again turned, and followed the sharp edge of a very narrow ridge, between two dark profound caverns, which yawned in immeasurable depth and obscurity, almost beneath our feet on either side. Continuing our progress, we at length reached a small cove at the head of a ravine above the regions of pine, which was covered with banks of snow, and was nearly surrounded by a naked wall of rock, which forms the base of the huge pyramids that constitute in general the summits of the Rocky Mountains.
With great difficulty we succeeded in gaining the top of the wall between two peaks, and halted beside a vast bank of snow, from which little rills were trickling down either side of the mountains, that fall, both into the sources of the Missouri and Columbia. From this height we surveyed with pleasure, the apparently level prairies and bottoms bordering Salmon River on the one side, and the more extensive and fertile valley of Wisdom River on the other. After refreshing ourselves by a cool draught from a rivulet, which formed a reservoir a few feet from its source, we commenced our descent, which was by far more rapid and dangerous than our ascent, though infinitely less difficult. At dark we reached a cove in the upper region of pines, and gladly threw ourselves down to sleep, overcome by fatigue, having walked and led our horses the whole time, since we set out in the morning.
On the 27th we followed the ravine to a small stream, which flowed several miles with uncontrolable fury, but at length reached a point where the barriers on either side of the ravine expanded, leaving room for a beautiful little lake, two or three miles in circuit, of perfect transparency, which was surrounded by gigantic pines. From this point we continued six or seven miles and reached the open prairie of the Big Hole. During our march we killed a fine black-tailed deer, and saw the trail and an encampment of the R. M. F. company, who had passed through this valley eight or ten days since; in the afternoon we continued fifteen miles up the Hole, killed a white-tailed fawn, and halted for the night in a point of pines.
On the 28th we ascertained that the company had not passed, and chose a situation whence we could discover, any passing object in the southern extremity of this valley. Here we constructed a pen of dry poles, and covered it with branches of the balsam fir, to shelter us from storms, as well as the missiles of Indians, in case of attack, being determined to await the arrival of the company, at this place. We ate to day the small portion we had saved of the buck, and nearly finished the fawn. In the afternoon, it commenced snowing, and continued all night; the following day it snowed without intermission until we lay down to sleep. On the morning of the 30th we arose, and found the prairies covered with snow to the depth of one foot; though the storm had abated, however, the plains are so warm, that it must rapidly disappear.
On the 31st we saddled our horses, and passed two miles across the valley in quest of food, having had nothing to eat, save part of a famished wolf since yesterday morning. The snow disappeared from the plains at noon, and discovered to us traces of buffalo, which we followed into the hills on the east side of the Hole. We found the herd grazing in a narrow bottom; they were so unusually wild, however that we succeeded only in stopping a bull by one of our balls, whilst the other disappeared instantaneously. In the mean time we approached, and opened fire upon the wounded one, but night overtook us and we were obliged to leave him on his legs, after firing at him ten or twelve times. We retired supperless to a neighboring thicket, and passed the night.
September first, early in the morning we departed, hungry as bears, in the direction of the bull we wounded and left last evening. As we approached, the presence of thirty or forty wolves, proved to us, that some of our balls had been well directed; yet we could not find meat enough for breakfast, that was not torn or mangled by them. However our appetites were so well sharpened, that we were not long in cooking some half picked bones, which were quickly fastened to our saddle cords, preparatory to going in quest of firewood. In the mean time the wolves, and the multitudes of ravens, remained a few yards off, politely waiting for us to serve ourselves; hinting, however, by an occasional growl, or scream, for us to be as expeditious as possible. As soon as we departed, they simultaneously sprang or flew to the carcase, with such intimacy, that ravens were seen picking at a bone, in the mouth of a wolf.
Immediately after our departure, three men entered the valley from the eastward, and charged furiously toward us, but as they came from a point we expected the company, we rightly conjectured that they were hunters, in advance of camp. In a few moments they came up, and before we had made our usual brief inquiries, the company appeared, and we passed with them, twelve miles, northward down the valley. Nothing had occurred in camp since our departure worth noticing.
In the two following days we travelled fifty miles, and reached the northern extremity of the Big Hole, in the same part of this valley. We saw two or three bears, antelopes and deer, and great numbers of young ducks, yet unable to fly, in the streams.
On the fourth we passed into the Deer-house plains, and saw the trail, and several encampments, of the Rocky Mountain Fur Co.; but no game, save one antelope.
On the fifth, we passed twenty five mile, west of north, down this valley. In the mean time, our hunters killed three grizly bears, several goats, deer, and two buffaloes; the latter, however, is seldom found in this country; though it abounds in black and white tailed deer, elk, sheep, antelopes, and sometimes moose, and White mountain goats have been killed here.
On the sixth, we left this valley, and bore northward over a low mountain, to a small stream that flows into the Arrow-stone river; the country below us, is a succession of isolated hills, partially covered with pines, and fragments of rock, or extremely small bottoms, intersected by prairie hills. On the seventh, we traversed a low mountain, to a small stream, flowing northwestward, through an irregular plain. During the day we espied a party of horsemen, at the distance of two miles, who immediately ascended an eminence, discharged their guns in the air, and reflected the rays of the sun upon us with a mirror. Some of our party went to them, and ascertained that they were Snakes, who had been on an expedition against the Blackfeet. They had succeeded in capturing a woman, with a young child, whom they put to death; and decamped with twenty horses, which they stole the same day. On the eighth, we continued down the stream fifteen miles, to a large valley, surrounded by mountains; of which those on the north were exceedingly lofty; here we again intersected the trail of the Rocky Mountain Fur Co., and judging from the fresh appearance of their traces, that they were but a short distance before us, we immediately followed, determined to overtake them, and by this means share a part of the game, which is usually found in advance of a company, but never behind. We followed the principal stream, that flows into this valley, called Blackfoot, which flows into the Arrow-stone river, at a place called Hell-gates up into the mountains, about five miles, and halted in a small bottom, for the night.
On the ninth, we continued the pursuit twenty miles farther into the mountains. During our march we saw an encampment, that was left this morning, in which fires were yet burning.
On the fourteenth we crossed the mountains, to the waters of the Missouri, a short distance above the mouth of Dearborn's river; and encamped on a small stream, with the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. From the summit of the mountain, the country presented a vast plain, dotted by table and pointed clay bluffs; which were extremely regular and picturesque, resembling fortresses, or castles, surmounted by towers and domes, which at a distance, appeared so magnificent and perfect, that one could hardly persuade himself, that they were the productions of nature; so strongly did they resemble the works of art. - Those, who have had the pleasure of seeing the elegant and correct representation of scenery on the Missouri, in that splendid collection of paintings, CATLIN'S PICTURE GALLERY, consisting of Indian portraits, views of their Villages, Buffalo Hunts, Religious Ceremonies, Western Landscapes, etc., can form a tolerable idea, of the imposing and romantic prospects, that abound in this section of the country. This extensive plain was bounded by the horison to the north and eastward, but rugged mountains presented themselves in every other direction. The Missouri winds its way through it to the northward, towards the mighty falls, described by Lewis and Clark, in all their terrific grandeur. We found the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. like ourselves, in a starving condition. They reported that a party of Indian trappers, supposed to be Black Feet, had preceded them a few days, and consequently the country was almost destitute of game; some times they had succeeded in killing a grizly bear, or black tailed deer, which divided amongst eighty men, was but a mouthful for each; though generally they had retired to bed supperless. This had been precisely the case with ourselves, since we left the Deer-house Plains. We likewise learned, that a young man named Miller, who belonged to this Company, and who was wounded at Pierre's Hole, during the battle in July last, died a month afterward, and was interred in Cotas defile.
On the 11th, hunters were despatched in quest of provisions, and returned in the evening successful; having killed a bull, together with several deer, and antelopes. In the mean time, the trappers went in search of beaver, but generally returned with their traps, of course unsuccessful. On the 12th both companies raised camp, and proceeded together southeastward, over rugged hills, to a small stream flowing eastward, towards the Missouri. During our march, we killed several black tailed deer, which were numerous in the pines, with which the hills were covered. We continued our course next day, over the same description of country, following a road composed of several parallel trails, a few feet asunder, which was evidently much used by the Black Feet, as no other Indians pass here with lodges.
Near the trail on the summit of a hill, we saw a quantity of broken bows and arrows, together with remnants of Indian garments, which induced some of our comrades to believe that a party of Indians had been defeated here a year or two since; not withstanding, bones, which are usually found on battle fields, were not seen. Others, however, inferred that these articles had been sacrificed to the malignant Deity, after some unfortunate expedition, in which they had sustained irrepairable losses.
In the evening of this day we reached a small branch, which unites with others, and is then called Vermillion river from a bed of red earth found near it, which is used by the Indians for painting their faces and clothing. Here we remained the following day, to rest our horses; whilst some of the trappers explored several small streams, in search of beaver.
On the 15th we again continued our course, over a low spur of the mountain, to a small stream that led into a fine prairie valley, eight miles wide, and fifteen in length from north-west to south-east. The Missouri is separated from it by a range of pine covered hills. Its course is marked by a chain of lofty mountains, which extend parallel with it, on the east side, and were distant about fifteen miles from us. Several of our hunters brought in today the flesh of several deer and big horns, both of which are numerous on the hills.
On the 16th, the R. M. F. Co., together with Mr. Dripps, at the head of fifty of our men, directed their course towards the three forks of the Missouri, south-east-ward. During our progress we met a severe storm of sleet, which we were compelled to face, until we reached a suitable place to encamp.
On the 17th we arose, and found the country mantled with snow, which was still rapidly falling; however, we descended the mountain, and crossed a high hill, into the deer house plains, after a long march of twenty-five miles. The storm abated at noon, but the ground was covered with snow to the depth of several inches.
On the 18th we continued twenty miles up the valley, and saw numbers of rabbits, which were pursued in various directions by our dogs, as well as a herd of elk; yet our hunters were unable to kill anything, though the carcass of a wolf would have been acceptable at this time; having killed nothing, save one or two deer, since we separated from Dripps. The following day we reached the mountain, at the head of this valley; but saw no game save a herd of antelopes, whose vigilant sentinels baffled the efforts of our hunters to approach them; and thus we starved in view of plenty.
On the 20th we crossed the mountain, and encamped on the Jefferson, about thirty miles below Beaver Head. Here, our hunters were partially compensated for their bad-less luck previous to this time; for they brought into camp the flesh of one bull, several elk, deer, and antelopes, upon which we feasted fully.
The next day being Friday, some of our catholic comrades conscientiously kept lent, having eaten so much the day before, as to be utterly unable to violate this custom of the church, had they even felt so disposed; they are however, by and by, not often so forcibly reminded of the propriety of compliance with religious observances, though the expediency of those rites is often illustrated in a similar manner.
In the afternoon, accompanied by a friend, I visited the grave of Frasier, the Irroquois, who was killed and buried here last fall, being desirous to ascertain what was generally believed already, namely, that his body had been stolen from the grave, robbed of its covering, and thrown into the Jefferson by the Black foot Indians. This opinion originated from the circumstance of finding the body of a man in the river last fall, and was now fully confirmed by the grave being open.
After this time, we continued southward up to the Philanthropy, and killed elk, deer and antelopes; and caught some beaver, on the route. Fifteen miles below Beaver Head, is a quarry of green stone, that is semi-transparent, and easily cut with a knife. It is highly prized by the Indians, for manufacturing into pipes. It is situated in a bluff, on the west side of the river; over-looking the plain. In the vicinity of the Philanthropy, we saw several fine herds of buffalo, and our hunters reported that the plains were covered with them near Beaver Head.
On the 24th several Black Foot-Indians were seen lurking about the thickets that skirt the river, evidently watching an opportunity to kill some of our trappers, who being aware of their design, always go out in parties of several together, for mutual safety.
After this period we continued southeastward, following the course of the Philanthropy, and trapping it in our route, about twenty miles to the head of this plain, where the river flows from a narrow defile, one or two miles in length. Continuing our course through the narrows, we re-entered the valley - where the Indians with us killed a Black foot last fall - and again reached the mountain, whence the river flows, after a march of fifteen miles.
On the first of October, we left the plain and followed a zig zag course of the river fifteen miles, into the mountains; halting in the evening in a narrow bottom, scarcely large enough to contain ourselves and horses; however, beaver signs were numerous, and we remained two nights, being amply compensated for the inconvenience of our situation, by the numbers of beaver we caught during our stay.
On the 30th we left the river, and ascended the mountain eastward, with inexpressible fatigue, owing to the obstructions that lay in our route, added to the perpendicularity of the ascent; though we succeeded in reaching the summit, without accident, and encamped beside a fountain on the south side, at the base of an enormous peak, that rises majestically far above the rest, is crowned with eternal snow, and overlooks the plains of both the Jefferson and Madison rivers.
On the 4th we arose early in the morning, and found the country covered with snow, to the depth of fifteen inches. Last evening the weather was pleasant, and bade fair to continue so. We halted late, and were nearly overcome by fatigue; hence we neglected our usual precaution, constructing cabins; which otherwise would have deprived us of the laugh we enjoyed, at the expense of our comrades, who successively popped out their heads as they arose, half supported, from the snow, by which they were completely buried, and which tumbling in, reoccupied their beds, the moment they left them. The day was extremely cold, and the snow continued falling so fast, that we were forced to remain; however, we prepared shelters for the coming night, and kindled large fires in the pines, by which we dried our bedding, and passed the day. On the 5th the storm had abated, though the atmosphere was still cloudy and cool; however, we descended the mountain, following a spring source until it increased to a large creek, having a rapid and noisy current. In the evening it recommenced snowing, and continued all night and the following day, without intermission.
On the 7th we raised camp, though the snow was still falling very fast, and the company crossed a low spur of the mountain, in a northeast direction, fifteen miles to a parallel stream. In the mountain I, with several others, in quest of buffalo continued our course eastward ten miles, to the junction of this stream, with the Madison river. This branch of the Missouri is here eighty yards wide, quite shallow, and its bed is composed of smooth round rocks, of a black color. It commands a narrow valley, terminated on either side by abrupt and lofty mountains, through which it flows to the northward. Its borders were decked with a few black willows, of an inferior growth, which appeared to be out of place in their present situation. There are however several small streams flowing into it, whose borders are covered with aspen and pine trees, or thickets of common willows. After we separated from the company this morning, the storm increased so much that we could discover nothing, and with difficulty kept our course; but the cutting winds became less tedious, as we approached the river, and finally abated; in the meantime we discovered a herd of buffalo, lying in a ravine sheltered from the storm, one of which we killed and went to camp. On the 8th the storm continued with fury all the day, yet regardless of its severity, we raised camp and passed over to the mouth of the creek, that we left yesterday; when we sheltered ourselves in a grove of dead aspen trees, which supplied us with an abundance of fuel. The snow is now more than a foot deep, in the bottoms bordering the river.
On the 6th our long absent friend, the sun, reappeared with such lustre, that one, without the gift of prophecy might have foretold, the rapid annihilation of the snow, which followed; leaving the country partially inundated with water. During the day, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company arrived from the three forks of the Missouri and encamped near us; they separated from Mr. Dripps at the forks, who continued up the Jefferson; whilst they trapped the Gallatin, and crossed to the Madison, a few miles below us. They had caught but few beaver, and were several times alarmed by parties of Indians, who were lurking about them, but as yet no person had been injured.
On the 20th the weather was disagreeable, and the prairie wet and muddy, which prevented either company from moving, though both were anxious to proceed. It was passed however, in the various amusements, incident to such a suspension of active operations; in which card playing was the principal; and, as if to illustrate the various subjects of conversation, and give emphatic form to particular photographs, the stentorian voices of the hardy hunters, were occasionally heard, practicing that fashionable folly and crime, profane swearing.
On the 11th the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. raised camp, and departed southward up the river, to accomplish their design of trapping its sources, before proceeding to winter quarters. Though desirous to imitate their example, and be moving, we were yet compelled to remain quiet, and pass this day, as we had the preceding one, in inactivity; as some of our absent trappers had not yet returned.
Oct. 12th. - This morning we raised camp, passed about fifteen miles down the river, and encamped on its margin. It here passes through a narrow valley, flanked on either side by a bold bank fifty or sixty feet in height; from the top of the bluff, however, a gently irregular plain is seen, extending fifteen or twenty miles, in a northeast direction, nearly ten miles in width and bounded on either side by lofty snow covered mountains; through which its channel, a deep canal with perpendicular rocky walls of considerable height, winds its devious way - Near our encampment we discovered a herd of buffalo, and killed five of them. On the succeeding day we travelled over the plains to the mountains, which we likewise crossed at a very low pass, and halted on a small fork, that flows through a range of barren hills, and discharges its waters into the Philanthropy. Our course was north of west, and we made about eighteen miles.
On the 14th we descended from the hills, and encamped near this run, eight miles below the narrows, on a small plain, surrounded by the most imposing and romantic scenery. During our march we had an alarm of Indians from some of our hunters; and myself and others went to ascertain the truth. We proceeded, however, but a short distance when we found the remains of a cow, just butchered, and evidently abandoned in haste, which satisfied us that the butchers had fled for safety or assistance. We returned and reported the discovery to our partizan. In the mean time a rumor was current that a party would go and ascertain more of the matter, after we should encamp. Not doubting that it originated with our leader, previous to unsaddling, I went to him, and inquired if he thought it necessary for some of us to go. "No," said he, "for this reason; if there are many of them, and they are enemies, we shall see them soon enough; but on the contrary if they are but few, they are already far beyond our reach, in the neighboring mountains." I left him without making any reply, and turned out my horse; but observed him soon after in the act of re-saddling his own, which excited my curiosity to ascertain his intentions. I therefore approached him, and was informed that he had again considered the matter, and thought it best for some few of us to go, and gain, if possible, more positive information; as the trappers could not be pursuaded to hunt when danger was apparent.
Accordingly we equipped ourselves, and sallied out of camp one after another, where we collected to the number of seven, a short distance from it. We proceeded up the river about three miles, and found a fire yet burning, near a cow evidently killed but a short time previous, and also perceived traces of Indians following a buffalo trail up along the margin of the river. The neighboring hills were covered with vast herds of these animals that appeared to be quite unalarmed, and from these favorable appearances, we were confident there were not more than seven or eight Indians in the party. We continued on about three miles further, directing our course towards the only dense grove of timber on this part of the river, where we were certain of finding them unless they had fled to the mountains. About fifty yards from the river, we crossed a deep gully through which a part of its current flows, during the spring tides, and were carefully scrutinizing the grove, on which every eye was fixed in eager curiosity, watching each wavering twig and rustling bough, to catch a glimpse of some skulking savage. Suddenly the lightning and thunder of at least twenty fusils burst upon our astonished senses from the gully, and awoke us to a startling consciousness of imminent danger, magnified beyond conception, by the almost magical appearance of more than one hundred warriors, erect in uncompromising enmity - both before and on either side of us, at the terrifying distance (since measured) of thirty steps. Imagination cannot paint the horrid sublimity of the scene. A thousand brilliances reflected from their guns as they were quickly thrown into various positions, either to load or fire, succeeded the first volley, which was followed by a rapid succession of shots, and the leaden messengers of death, whistled in our ears as they passed in unwelcome proximity. At that instant I saw three of our comrades flying, like arrows, from the place of murder. The horse of our partisan was shot dead under him, but with unexampled firmness, he stepped calmly from the lifeless animal, presented his gun at the advancing foe, and exclaimed "boys don't run;" at the same moment the wounded horse of a Frenchman threw his rider, and broke away towards camp. The yells of these infernal fiends filled the air, and death appeared inevitable, when I was aroused to energy by observing about twenty Indians advancing, to close the already narrow passage, between the two lines of warriors. Dashing my spurs rowel deep into the flank of my noble steed, at a single bound he cleared the ditch, but before he reached the ground, I was struck in the left shoulder by a ball, which nearly threw me off; by a desperate effort, however, I regained my upright position, and fled. A friend (Mr. R. C. Nelson) crossed the gully with me, but a moment after he was called to return. Without considering the utter impossibility of rendering assistance to our devoted partisan, he wheeled, but at the same instant his horse was severely wounded by two balls through the neck, which compelled him to fly; he yet kept his eye for some moments on our friend, who seeing himself surrounded, without the possibility of escape, levelled his gun and shot down the foremost of his foes. The Indians immediately fired a volley upon him - he fell - they uttered a loud and shrill yell of exultation, and the noble spirit of a good and a brave man had passed away forever.
Thus fell Wm. Henry Vanderburgh, a gentleman born in Indiana, educated at West Point in the Military Academy, and, at the time he perished, under thirty years of age. Bold, daring and fearless, yet cautious, deliberate and prudent; uniting the apparent opposite qualities, of courage and coolness, a soldier and a scholar, he died universally beloved and regretted by all who knew him.
The Frenchman, who was thrown from his horse, was also killed; his name was Pilou.
I had not gone above two hundred paces from the ravine, before I heard Nelson calling for me to stop. I did so until he came up exclaiming "our friend is killed! - our friend is killed! let us go and die with him." Believing that I would shortly have to undergo the dying part of the affair, without farther assistance from the Indians than I had already received, I felt little like returning, and we continued our rapid flight. The blood ran freely from my mouth and nose, and down my body and limbs; I became so faint that I reeled on my horse like a person intoxicated, and with extreme difficulty prevented myself from falling. I gave my gun to one of my comrades, the three who first fled having now joined us, and succeeded in getting to camp, where I was taken down, and soon agreeably disappointed with the cheering intelligence that my wound was not dangerous, and I would shortly be a well man. It was probed with a gun stick, by a friend who had some knowledge of practical surgery, and dressed with a salve of his own preparation, by which it healed so rapidly, that after the expiration of a month I felt no inconvenience from it.
We found our comrades in camp greatly alarmed, and so confident that they would be attacked in it, that some of them, more terrified than the rest, openly expressed a determination to flee for safety. They were however, convinced by some of the more daring and sensible, of the propriety and necessity of remaining together, to secure, by a manly defence, the property in camp as well as their own lives; that by a cowardly separation they would not only lose all their effects, and expose themselves to greater insecurity, but would ever after bear the stigma of having basely and cowardly deserted their companions in the hour of peril, when a united and manly effort was alone necessary to insure safety. The timid convinced by these cogent arguments, and all somewhat reassured, it was determined to remain together, and for greater security moved a short distance at sunset, into a point of timber, where we could defend ourselves against thrice our number. Next morning we arose, having passed a very unpleasant night, unrefreshed and haggard, but satisfied that we should escape an attack; and a proposition was made that a party should go and inter the remains of our lamented friends. But few persons could be found willing to risk the chance of finding the bodies, without falling into the same snare; consequently the design was abandoned. However, we determined to go on to the caches, (which had been made in Horse-prairie during my absence, in quest of the Flat Heads, the preceding August.) Accordingly we packed up, and passed from the south side of the river to a point of mountain between this stream and the Jefferson, when we came in view of a large smoke at Beaver Head, towards which we had directed our course.
Aware now of the vicinity of an Indian village, to that place, and having had sufficient reason for believing them enemies, consternation again seized us, and we turned our course toward a grove of cotton wood trees, on the last named river; which we reached and halted at, after a march of fifteen miles. All hands immediately set to work, and soon constructed a strong pen of trees, large enough to contain ourselves and horses, and shelter us from the balls of our foes; which made us feel quite safe and fearless. We however kept a good look out from the trees, and guarded our horses close about camp, ready to drive them into the pen at a moment's warning, in case of the appearance of Indians. But the day passed away without incident, and the night also; yet we determined to remain in our present quarters, till we should be able to ascertain the extent of our danger, and the best means of avoiding it. To accomplish this object, some of our boldest comrades furnished themselves with our fleetest horses, and rode off in the direction of the village. - They had been but a short time absent, when they returned with the welcome intelligence, that the village was composed of about one hundred and fifty lodges of Flat Heads, Pen-d'oreilles, and others, which at once quieted all our fears, and camp again assumed its wonted bustle.
Soon careless groups were idly loitering on the ground in various positions; others trying to excel one another in shooting; some engaged in mending their clothes or moccasins; here one fondling a favorite horse, there another, galloping, in wild delight, over the prairie; a large band of horses quietly feeding about camp; large kettles supported over fires by "trois-pied" (three feet) and graced to overflowing with the best of meat; saddles and baggage scattered about; and to finish the description, fifty uncovered guns leaning against the fort or pen ready for use, at any moment. Such was the aspect of our camp, which was now settled; and a stranger uninformed of the late disastrous occurrences, would not have discovered that anything had happened, to mar our usual tranquility.
Next morning a party went to seek and inter the remains of our murdered friends. In the mean time, we raised camp and moved to the Indian village. I was unable to use my left arm, which I carried in a sling, yet I walked about, and felt no inconvenience from it, except when riding fast, or when my horse stumbled in travelling. There was with the Indians, a "trader" from the Hudson Bay Company, and several "Engages," from whom we learned that Dripps had passed up to the caches a few days previous. In the evening our party returned, and reported that they could find no trace of the body of Mr. Vanderburgh, but had found and buried the Frenchman - Pilou. Having ascertained that these Indians would pass that place in a few days, we promised to give them a present, if they would seek, and inter the remains of the unfortunate Vanderburgh. - We departed southward on the 18th, passed up the plain about twelve miles, and halted in a very fertile bottom on the Jefferson. Continuing our course on the succeeding day, we passed up this river about the same distance, through the Rattle Snake cliffs, and encamped on a very narrow level, at its margin. Above these cliffs the river is confined on either side, by high bald or rocky hills, through which it meanders leaving little or no ground on its borders; some few elk and antelopes are found here, and buffalo in abundance.
Leaving this place on the 20th we crossed several forks of this stream, one of which is nearly as large as the river itself, and rises in the mountains on the east side of the Big Hole. It commands a fine little valley at its head, called by some the "Little Hole" and is separated from Horse Prairie by a bald hill. Having made about the same distance as on the preceding day, we came into the valley, at the forks, where Lewis and Clark left their canoes. Our caches were situated near this place, and we found Mr. Dripps here, awaiting our arrival. We learned from him, that nothing uncommon or serious had occurred, save the loss of a few horses, which were stolen, and camp fired upon, by a party of Blackfeet Indians, during the night of the fifth; but no person was injured, though several trappers were still out hunting. - Here we remained until the 24th, when Mr. Dripps and company set out for Snake river, where he intended to pass the winter. I also departed with two men, and a small equipment for the purpose of trading with the above named Indians. We passed about fifteen miles through Horse Prairie to the "Gates," where I found a party of them, who had left Dripps two days since. These "Gates" are a high rocky conical elevation attached to a plain jutting into the bottom on one side of the river precisely opposite to the bluff rocky termination of a plain of considerable height, on the other side, but three or four hundred yards asunder; which gives to them the appearance of formidable gates, and they were thus named by Lewis and Clark.
We remained several days with the Indians, who were actively employed in hunting, to supply themselves with meat for food, and skins for clothing, against the approach of winter. A day or two after my arrival, a small party of men belonging to Capt. Bonyville's Company, and some few lodges of Flatheads, encamped with us. This party had been out in quest of buffalo meat for the company, the remainder of which, were employed in constructing a fort, on Salmon River. One or two nights previous to their joining us, their camp was boldly entered by several Blackfeet, who were discovered by a squaw; she immediately entered her husband's lodge, and informed him of their presence. Like a true brave, he sprang forth from his lodge, gun in hand, but was shot down at its entrance. All hands immediately flew to arms, but the ever cautious enemy had already disappeared in a neighboring thicket. Nothing deserving of record had happened to this company since we saw them in August on Green River.
Three days afterwards a party of twenty five trappers headed by Capt. Walker, belonging likewise to Bonnyville's expedition, arrived, and informed us that they had a skirmish with a party of Blackfeet some days since, in the Little Hole, but lost nothing except a few horses, and several rounds of powder and ball. About the same period, an express arrived from the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, stating that soon after separating from us, they fell in with a party of trappers, on the sources of the Madison, who had left Dripps on the Missouri below the three forks. They were fired upon by a party of Blackfeet, and lost one man killed, and another severely wounded; a third left them about the same time, to look for a trail, and had not been heard from since; these things occurred near the three forks before named. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company crossed from the Madison, to the head of Pierre's fork of the Jefferson, where they encountered a party of about seventy Pagans, (Blackfeet). Two of their chiefs ventured up to camp unarmed, and were permitted to go in. They expressed a wish to bury all animosity, and establish peace and amity with the whites. - They promised to meet and trade with them on Snake river the coming winter; and sent word to the Flatheads, that they should pay them a visit in the spring, and if possible exterminate their race. They stated likewise that all the Pagan chiefs had resolved in council to kill and rob the whites no more. And at the same time they cautioned them to be on their guard against a party of more than one hundred Blood Indians, who were two days in advance of them, and might possibly "show fight." The Indians departed on the morning following, apparently much pleased with the whites, and particularly with some trifling presents they received.
Agreeable to the intelligence received from the Pagans, the Company fell in with the Blood Indians, and had a skirmish with them. The whites commenced the firing, and the Indians immediately displayed a white signal on a pole, and the firing ceased. Two of the chiefs then went into camp, and said they were sorry the whites had fired on them, as they wished to be friendly. McKenzie at Fort Union, had told them to exhibit a white flag, and the whites would permit them to come unmolested into their camps, and trade with them. They corroborated the statement of the Pagans, and said that they were now going against the Snakes. They also left the whites much pleased with the presents which they received.
The R.M.F. Company arrived soon after the express, and remained with us one day; after which we all departed, and travelled over the mountains to the east fork of Salmon River, about twenty miles; and from thence about the same distance to the forks, and finally, three miles farther to Bonnyville's fortification, situated on the west bank of the river, in a grove of Cottonwood trees. This miserable establishment, consisted entirely of several log cabins, low, badly constructed, and admirably situated for besiegers only, who would be sheltered on every side, by timber, brush etc.