Life in the
Rocky Mountains

A Diary of Wanderings on the sources of
the Rivers Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado
from February, 1830, to November, 1835

By W. A. Ferris

then in the employ of the
American Fur Company

Supplementary Articles

NUMBER 1 - Western Literary Messenger, July 20, 1842.


Extract from an unpublished work, entitled

The Colorado a short distance below the junction of Green and Grand rivers, enters the great chanion, which is a canal in many places more than a thousand feet deep, and bounded on either side by perpendicular walls of rock, that bid defiance to horsemen, who would descend to the river; in fact, they are seldom accessible to footmen. From the summit of the walls, a succession of rocky cedar-covered hills, and sandy plains, appear losing themselves in the distance. This chanion confines the river between two and three hundred miles; and even to those, who have seen and for years been familiar with the mightiest productions of nature, presents a scene from which they recoil with terror. Reader have you ever stood on the brink of the precipice, midway between the falls of Niagara and the Whirlpool, and looked down with terror upon the rushing waters beneath you? if so, fancy yourself there at this moment; but suppose the walls to be six hundred feet higher, and in the same proportion, more distant from each other. Let the foaming torrent beneath you vanish, and imagine a beautiful meadow, perfectly level, extending from wall to wall; through this let a calm, unruffled, yet muddy streamlet wind its way; let its borders be decked with a few small shrubs, and dwarf trees. Gaze upon the frowning hills, and burning sands, with which you are to suppose yourself, half surrounded; and you will certainly attempt to descend to the lovely scene beneath, and perhaps may resolve to step over the brook, and recline yourself in the shade of a cluster of willows; alas,! if you succeed, how sadly will you be disappointed. The little brook will gradually enlarge itself as you descend, until it becomes a mighty river, three hundred yards wide; the bushes will increase in size, and stature, until they become giant cotton woods; the narrow strip of meadow land between the walls, will expand into broad fields of verdure; and you will see, kind reader, in imagination, what many a half-starved trapper, has seen in reality, on the Colorado. These walls approach each other so closely, in some places, that the bottoms disappear; and the river being compressed to one fourth of its ordinary width, dashes through with inconceivable fury, like the Niagara, at the point I have chosen, and which renders its navigation impracticable. Its tributaries are likewise confined by walls, from their junctions some distance; which compels caravans, to travel the plains, far from the main river, and depend much upon chance, and rains, for water.

NUMBER 2 - Western Literary Messenger, August 17, 1842.


Extract from an unpublished work, entitled

Traversing the Deer-house Plains with a party of traders, and in company with a band of Flatt-head Indians, on our way to the Buffalo range, we observed one afternoon what might be called an Indian letter, and interesting from its rare novelty, and the ingenuity with which it was devised. As the mountain tribes are not less ignorant of the art of writing than other Indians, it would be difficult to conceive how it was possible for them to effect an interchange of ideas to any considerable extent without a personal interview and by other than oral communication. In this instance, however, though the information conveyed, embodied quite a number of distinct facts, with allusions to past events and present intentions, and combined with warnings, threats and boastings, it required no Solomon to read the characters, and no Daniel to interpret their meaning. This singular document with its date, signature and superscription, excited our astonishment not less from the novelty of its appearance and the skill with which it was prepared, than from the number of ideas it imparted and the unequivocal character of the information it expressed. No learned clerk with all the appliances of letter writing at command, could have couched in more intelligible phrase or told in less doubtful terms, the knowledge intended to be made known, though addressing the Royal Society itself, than had these uncultured savages communicating with another and equally unlettered tribe. But how, methinks I hear you inquire, with a smile of incredulity, could this have been effected? It was in this wise:

In the first place, a small extent of ground was smoothed and a map of the junction of three rivers drawn. Near them were then placed several little mounds, and a small square enclosure made of pointed twigs, planted close together, in the centre of which a stick considerably longer than the others was fixed upright in the ground, having a bit of rag fastened to it at top. A great many little conical heaps of earth were arranged round the enclosure, and red earth scattered profusely among them. At the entrance to the enclosure were the figures of two persons standing, one of whom had on a hat and was represented in the act of smoking. Behind him lay a small bunch of horse-hair rolled up and placed on a piece of tobacco. At the feet of the other were four little wooden pipes, and by his side a bit of dressed skin containing a few grains of powder. Near these persons were two sticks stuck in the ground so as to cross each other at right angles, a small stick was also planted in the ground at the foot of each of the two figures making an angle with the earth of forty-five degrees, and pointing towards the other. There were also a magnitude of little figures of men clustered around them. Eight or ten paces off were thirty little sticks painted red, lying on the ground. Bits of scarlet blankets and cloth were scattered about, and finally, seven small figures representing horsemen facing the north, were arranged at a little distance.

Such was the novel communication referred to, which would probably have puzzled all the academicians of Europe to decipher, but which the Flatt-heads were at no loss to understand, and which even we found little difficulty in comprehending. It was evidently a letter to the Flatt-heads, and had been arranged with great care for their inspection. The date, as we easily ascertained from indications not at all questionable, but impossible to describe in words, was of the day previous. The interpretation of this curious epistle may be rendered thus:

The situation, direction, etc. of the three rivers, and the mounds near them, made it at once certain that they were intended to represent the three forks of the Missouri. The little square enclosure or pen, presented a fort in miniature, the central stick and rag indicating its flag-staff and banner. The little conical mounds gave us at first sight a lively idea of an Indian village with its numerous lodges, and the red earth scattered among them, made it equally evident that the Indians composing the village were of the Blood tribe. The two figures of men, one wearing a hat, represent the Indian Chief and the white trader. The pipes are emblematic of peace and intimacy. The tobacco, horse-hair (for horses,) powder, and skin, show that such articles have been exchanged between them. This is confirmed by the two sticks forming a cross, which represents a sign understood by all the mountain tribes, made by placing the two fore fingers in such a position, and meaning "to trade." The two other sticks pointing from the feet of each to the breast of the other, indicates a sign made by pointing with the fore-finger from the breast obliquely upwards, which is the Indian mode of declaring that it is "the truth." The multitude of little figures show evidently a large number of Indians in attendance; and the numerous bits of cloth, blankets, etc. are offered as incontestible proof of the abundant supplies they have at hand. The thirty small red sticks lying some paces off, represent as many Flatt-heads who were killed last spring, and the seven horsemen are the persons who have prepared this epistle, and who, proceeding northward, have now gone to their own country.

The communication was clearly intended to terrify the Flattheads, and warn them against hunting on the waters of the Missouri, and had it been expressed in words would have read somewhat as follows:

"Flatt-heads, take notice, that peace, amity and commerce have at length been established in good faith, between the whites and our tribe; that for our benefit they have erected a fort at the three forks of the Missouri, supplied with every thing necessary for trade that our comfort and safety require; that we have assembled in great numbers at the fort, where a brisk trade has been opened, and that we shall henceforth remain on the head waters of the Missouri. You will please observe that we scalped thirty of you last spring, and that we intend to serve the rest of you in the same manner. If, therefore, you consult your own interests and safety, you will not venture on our hunting grounds, but keep out of our vicinity. You may depend upon the truth of what we now tell you. Done by a party of seven Blood horsemen, now on our way home to the Forks."

The Chief of the Flatt-heads, a Brave, in the fullest, noblest sense of the word, after having deliberately examined this strange epistle, and satisfied himself of its signification, drawing his fine form up to its full manly height, and shrugging his shoulders with the air of one scorning their threats and hurling back defiance, while his eye flashed with the fire of inveterate hate and unconquerable courage, pronounced in the emphatic language of his tribe, and in a tone of voice, expressing far more than the simple words, or indeed any other form of phraseology could convey, a brief "ES WHAU!" (maybe!) and, turning upon his heel, gave his attention to the trivial affairs of encampment, as if nothing had occurred.

NUMBER 3 - Dallas Herald, January 11, 1873.


The Flat Head Indians are, by far, the most interesting tribe of Indians in the Rocky Mountains. They number but fifty or sixty lodges; are nomadic in their habits, and range on the head of "Clark's Fork" of the Columbia. They have been from time immemorial, at war with the powerful tribe of the Black Feet, who probably outnumber them twenty fold. Being constitutionally brave, and frequently engaged in battle with their more numerous opponents, they are rapidly diminishing in numbers and will soon be compelled to abandon their wandering habits and settle down near some of the Forts, on the lower Columbia, where they can receive protection, and raise corn, beans, and stock for a livelihood. They derive their name "Galish", or Flat Head from an ancient custom of compressing the heads of their infants between boards so as to cause them to assume a different or unnatural shape, but this crush custom has long since been abandoned, and no living example can be found amongst them. These were the interesting and inoffensive Indians, Capt. Lewis found in Horse Prairie, on the head of the Jefferson, and enticed to his camp by a display of brads, looking glasses and other gew gaws that caught the admiration of these untutored children of the mountains. I have frequently heard "Old Guigneo," the Flat Head Chief, relate minutely, the circumstances that occurred in this, their first interview with the white man, and found that his relation was almost word for word the same as recorded by Capt. Lewis; the only difference being this, an old Shoshony or Snake squaw who was with Capt. Lewis, observing how much he seemed to be interested in these simple and amiable people, claimed them as Shoshoneys, her own people and the greatest rascals to be found in the whole mountain range. The Flat Heads boast that they have never killed a white man, or stolen a horse from any one of them. They are honest and religious. In the two years that I was trading with them, I never had so much as an awl blade stolen. Their religious exercises consist of singing and dancing, in which they all assemble and engage on every sabbath in the open air. Their customs are almost identical with those of the ancient Jews, with the single exception of burnt offerings or sacrifices, in which blood is displayed; they do make offerings to the great Saint, but these are always articles of beauty or use, as tobacco, blankets, beads and other ornaments. These are always deposited in places where they believe the Great Spirit temporarily resides, or visits. To one who has been familiar with their manners and customs, it would seem that in ancient times, they had had a Jewish Jesuit among them, who had instructed them in all the ancient doctrines of the Pentateauch. When any article, however trifling, is lost and found by any one, it is immediately handed to the Chief, who invariably restores it to the right owner. Their females are chaste and modest, and many of them would be considered as pretty anywhere. They are fond of dress, painting, and a display of brilliant colors, which makes the individual Indian when in full dress a very fantastic creature. Their appearance, however, when assembled on a gala day or on that of some annual festival, especially when on a march, is quite animating. I will attempt imperfectly to describe such a scene. We had broke up camp in Horse Prairie, on a lonely day precisely on the spot where Capt. Lewis had formerly met these Indians, and were marching eastward over the wide and beautiful plain in quest of water, grass and convenience to the game. Old Guigneo limped along at the head of the procession, his old wounds preventing him from mounting a horse. He was wrapped in a plain buffalo robe, and nowhere displayed any ornament. Behind him was led a proud war charger, which by the by, he never mounted, bearing his lance, shield, quiver, and tomahawk, and all the paraphernalia of war used in his days of vigor and prime of manhood. This horse was highly ornamented, covered with fringe and tassels of various brilliant colors, but the most prized ornament was several tailfeathers of the American Eagle, highly ornamented with porcupine quills of all colors and fastened securely to the tail of the noble animal. These indicated the number of the gallant deeds his splendid animal had enabled him to perform. His lance, too, had many of these feathers dangling at the outer ends like the small flags attached to lances by our chivalrous ancestors. These were also a record of the deeds of high emprise effected with the aid of this implement. Behind followed many gallant steeds decorated in a similar manner, and bearing the arms of their respective owners. Following these was a scattering crowd of packed horses, bearing their lodges, goods and children. These were driven by squaws, mounted on saddles having the front and rear two feet high. They all rode astride, and their saddles were as abundantly decorated with fringe, tassels, bells, etc. as the war chargers of their gallant husbands. On our left, a cavalcade of fantastic horsemen canter along, their long black hair rising and falling gracefully with the motion of their bodies. Beyond them a score of youths are trying the speed of their horses, and moving with the speed of the Arabs of the desert; beyond these still, are single horsemen at all distances in view; these are acting as spies to get a distant view of any approaching enemy, and to observe the situation, kind and numbers of game. On our right are seen half a dozen horsemen in hot pursuit of a wounded antelope, who runs nearly as fast on three legs as the following steeds do on four. Beyond them is a scattering herd of Buffalo running in all directions with twenty or thirty Indians after them. There, down goes one, then another, and still another, in a few minutes twenty are dead on the field; yonder is an Indian driving his Buffalo towards our line of march, he approaches nearly to Old Guineo, and down goes his Buffalo; this is done to get the assistance of his squaw to help butcher it. Yonder is another driving his Buffalo in the direction we are traveling; this is done to kill him as near camp as possible. Far beyond our line of march, is a single Indian waiving his Buffalo robe to and fro, and still beyond him are several Indians riding at half speed, a short distance back and forth, at right angles to our course; all this is to apprise us that they have discovered strangers. A strong party of Indians instantly depart at full speed to the point of observation always ready for peace or war; in a few moments a party of horsemen are seen far to the Northward galloping towards the distant mountains, but they are so far off that no attempt is made to follow them. We reach a clear and wooded stream where grass is high and plentiful; here a tripod is planted and Old Guineo's arms are suspended from it; other tripods are similarly set up and ornamented. The pack horses are quickly unloaded; in an hour the lodges are pitched and the goods transferred therein; in the meantime the braves are assembled here and there in circles, the calumet goes freely around, while in the midst of each of these assemblages, some old veteran in animated declaration is rehearsing the glorious deeds of their ancestors, and inspiring the listening youths to these illustrious examples.

These mountain Indians have an unusual language of signs by which any Indian of any tribe can make himself clearly understood by any other Indian of any other tribe, although neither of them may understand a word of their different languages or tongues. These signs are made by graceful movements of the fingers, hands and arms, and are natural and expressive. These signs embrace animate and inanimate things; thought hope, light, darkness, truth, each has its sign, which is well understood as well as all other things, animate or otherwise, that is known to them. These signs are employed to give form and emphasis in their discourses, and a chieftain who is fond of displaying his oratorical powers reminds one of Ulysses or his older confederate in their animate discourses to the ancient Grecians. But these native declaimers introduce hundreds of gestures unknown to such men as Clay, Webster and Adams, that render their discourses much more effective than they would otherwise be, and fully make up for the paucity of their language, when compared with the fullness of ours in which ideas are more numerous but not more clearly expressive than these native effusion.


NUMBER 4 - Dallas Herald, January 27, 1873.


Leaving the rendezvous on Green River, our company was divided into several parties to make a spring hunt; each party choosing its own particular hunting ground. Our party, headed by Fontenelle and consisting of twenty-two men, determined to try our luck in Gray's Hole, a broken valley adjoining Pierre's Hole on the south, and separated by hills of no great elevation from the plains of Snake River. This valley was remarkable from the circumstance, that every stream, however small, was confined to cannons of cut rock, varying from twenty to thirty feet high, and as it was only here and there, that ravines could be found where a horseman could ascend and descend these cliffs, and there were many hiding places for Indians, it was always regarded as a very unsafe locality to trap in, for a trapper once hemmed in between the walls, had little or no chance to escape. Beaver houses was numerous; no Indians made their appearance, and our hunt was quite successful.

In the middle of May, when our hunt was about half over, Fontenelle came to me one day and proposed that I should take one or two men and hunt up the Flat Head Indians. Our hunt, said he, is quite a success, but could we induce the Flat Heads to meet us at the coming rendezvous, we should be able to get from them a considerable increase to our present store of furs, however, he continued, the Gros Ventre's of the Prairie, who have, for the last three years, been associated with the Arrappahoes, on the head waters of the Arkansas River, and south fork of the Platte, are now returning to their old friends and old haunts; the Peagans on the head waters of the Missouri, and we are here directly in the route, it is more than probable that a collision between us will take place, and for this reason it will not do to weaken our small force by sending off a party sufficient for self defense. You must, therefore, endeavor to accomplish this purpose by night traveling and extreme caution. On the following morning, having chosen an Irroquois and a Flat Head to accompany me, and finding them willing to attempt the enterprise, we made our little necessary arrangements, and set out, after bidding adieu to our comrades who did us the honor to declare that we should be seen no more alive! Directing our course across the hills, we soon came in view of the great plains of Snake River, and at the distance of sixty or seventy miles, in the distant mountains across the plain could be seen 'Cotas defile,' to which we directed our march and which would lead us over to Salmon River. The plain of Snake River was covered with wild sage, the only vegetable to be seen, except the cactus plant which was abundant of every variety. At noon, we reached the great river, and having forced our horses to swim over, we made a raft of loose drift wood upon which we placed our clothing and arms, and half pushing half swimming we reached the opposite shore. Here finding some short curly grass that is very neutricious we halted a couple of hours to let our horses graze; ate some of a small stock of dried Buffalo meat, and again proceeded. We now entered the region of the natural fort that I have described in a former article, the wild sage and cactus were still the only vegetation. The country was airid and waterless, and frequently covered with huge black basaltic boulders similar to that, that constitutes the natural forts. The famous Butes could be seen far to the southward and the Tetons that we had left behind us seem to increase in height as we receded from them. After a hard day's ride, we halted at dusk, made no fire, ate some of our dried meat and slept in one of the natural forts. After hobbling out our horses, we suffered some for water, which we had not seen since we left the river. Our repose was undisturbed. The next morning at day-light, we again set out proceeding as rapidly as the nature of the country would admit, in the direction of the defile. Towards evening, we began to see great numbers of Buffalo along the base of the yet distant mountains; these animals were in great commotion, running in all directions, evidently pursued by a large body of Indians; we however continued our course. Late in the evening we discovered three mounted men approaching us from the defile; they came within half a mile, and two of them halted, the other approached within two hundred yards, and examined us for several minutes with great attention, then galloped off rejoining his companions. They all disappeared in the defile we were about to enter, turning our course obliquely so as to strike the small stream that flows from the defile at the nearest point. We soon reached it, and concealing ourselves in the willows that were sufficiently plentiful along its margin, we made a fire and cooked and ate some of the flesh of a Buffalo we had killed during our day's march. As soon as it was dark we took the precaution to cover one of our horses that was a white color, with dark blankets to elude observation and started up the defile. We had every reason to believe that a large body of Indians were encamped in the defile, and consequently avoided going near the stream, but held our course as near the base of the adjacent mountain as the nature of the ground would admit, yet notwithstanding our precautions we had proceeded but three or four miles before all the dogs of a large village of Indians set out after us, filling the air with their yells. We rode for several miles at a break neck gallop and outstripped the dogs, after which resuming our ordinary gait, we continued our course until after midnight; turned loose our horses and slept on the spot. With the morning star we arose, sought our horses and resumed our journey. As soon as it was light enough to see, we found the ground covered with the traces of horsemen, but these diminished as we proceeded, and when we reached the narrows where the pass for several hundred yards is confined between walls of cut rock forty or fifty feet apart the numerous traces ceased to appear, and we began to congratulate ourselves that we should at leat escape the Indians we had left behind us. The pass opened into a large rolling plain which we entered and continued down for some distance. We now again began to find numerous traces of horsemen and footmen increasing in frequency as we proceeded. In a little time we found ourselves in the edge of a battle field; dead Indians killed and scalped, began to make their appearance and increased in numbers as we advanced; we counted sixteen in a few hundred yards. They were not Flat Heads or we should have recognized some of them, they appeared to have been killed only a few hours. Here it was certain that a bloody battle had been fought within a few hours past. It was also evident enough that we had passed one party of the beligerents during the preceding night, and that the other party was necessarily ahead of us, but who are they? Are they hostile or friendly? If the Flat Heads and Black Feet have had a fight, which is more than probable, which of the parties did we pass in the night, and who are we about to meet? These questions were agitated but not solved, we concluded that the chances of our meeting friends or foes were about equal, but we resolved to be extremely vigilant and the moment we should uncover Indians to seek instant concealment until that night, when we would approach them and ascertain who they were. These pleasant resolutions were all suddenly knocked in the head, for we had scarcely made them before a party of over a hundred Indians filed out of a ravine at the distance of three or four hundred yards, and at once came in full view of us. We saw at once that with our jaded horses escape was impossible, and immediately ascended a hill resolved to sell our lives as dearly as possible. The Iroquois and myself dismounted from our horses and quietly awaited the result. The Indian appeared sullen and by his tenacing grasp of his gun, and his look of firm resolve, I know that he intended to kill an advancing foe which was all he could hope to do before being killed himself. I presume my own feelings were similar to his; I had confidence in myself and gun, and believe I could accomplish as much as the Indian. The Flat Head pursued a different course. He rode at half speed back and forth on top of the mound, and in a loud but monotonous tone sung his death song, in which he recounted his deeds of heroism, the scalps he had taken and his utter readiness and contempt for death; he invited the advancing Indians to come and take his worthless life, but assured them that one of their number should accompany him to the bright hunting grounds. I confess that the example of this gallant Indian inspired me with similar feelings and I could plainly see that it had the same effect upon my Irroquois friend. All at once my Flat Head friend stopped his song and gazed intently at the advancing Indians for a moment and then dashed headlong, like a madman, down to them, crying 'Galish!' 'Galish!' All was instantly explained; the Indians were the very ones we were seeking. They had just started on a Buffalo hunt but on meeting us immediately returned to camp. Our jaded horses were turned loose and we were mounted on their war chargers and went in a sweeping gallop six or seven miles to their camp.

As soon as we arrived and had been sufficiently feasted, Guigneo assembled his warriors in council to learn the nature of my embassy. I was instructed to offer them a liberal present of ammunition, blankets, and tobacco if they would meet us at the rendezvous in Pierre's Hole. My arrival proved to be auspicious; the day before they had had a severe fight with the Blackfeet Indians, that lasted all day, and when the parties withdrew from the field of battle, the Flatheads had not a single load of powder and ball left for half of their number, and had the Blackfeet known this, the Flatheads would in all probability have been exterminated. The council at once determined to comply with our wishes, but old Guigueo said he would be compelled to make short and easy marches on account of the forty-odd wounded Indians in his village. Many of his braves had been killed, and some of the severely wounded were dying daily. On the following morning we set out, returning by the same route we had already followed. The wounded Indians were conveyed on litters consisting of two lodge poles fastened on either side of a packhorse with skins stretched on cross bars so as to form a bed for each of the sufferers. These lodge poles were very elastic and passed over rough ground like the springs of a carriage, yet it was a terrible journey to the poor invalids, though perhaps no worse than the carts and ambulances in which our own wounded are usually conveyed. We were three days in reaching the point where we had passed the Indian encampment in the night. The Indians had decamped, and we ascertained that they occupied about three times as much space as the Flatheads, and judged from this that they were about three times as numerous. When we entered the plains at the mouth of the defile, the hostile party could be seen encamped about three miles north of us on a small stream, but they made no demonstration. They had evidently had fight enough and were doubtless as much or more encumbered with wounded Indians than ourselves. We saw many fresh graves about their encampment and believed that their loss had exceeded that of the Flatheads. At the mouth of the defile, all the skins and available vessels were filled with water to supply the wounded whilst crossing the great arid plain. It required three days to reach the river, but some of the young Indians went in advance and brought back water from the river, keeping a sufficient supply on hand for the wounded.

On reaching the river, a stranger not acquainted with the resources of these Indians, would have wondered how so large a force was to be transported across a wide and swiftly flowing river without boats or rafts. He would soon, however, have been undeceived. All the goods and chattels belonging to a lodge were placed in it, it was then rolled up in the shape of a ball, puckered and tied at the top, a cord was fastened to each and they were launched into the river, the squaws and children mounted on these balls, and they were towed across the river by an Indian swimming over with the rope in his mouth. In twenty minutes the river was covered with these novel vessels, and in half an hour all were safely landed half a mile below on the opposite shore. Four of these balls with a platform of lodge poles would convey six or eight wounded Indians, and in one and a half hours from the time of our reaching the river, the tents were all stretched ready for the occupants on the opposite shore. Myself and a few youngsters fastened some drift logs together upon which we placed our clothing and arms and crossed as we had done a few days before. Finding the grass tolerably good, old Guigueo resolved to rest his wounded here for several days. On the following morning I set out accompanied by a half dozen young Indians for Pierre's Hole. Here we found Fontonelle and some other parties of other trappers who had already reached the place of rendezvous. Other parties reached camp daily, and a week later, and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company reached the valley and encamped about a mile from us the same time the two St. Louis companies headed by Dripps and Gubbitt reached the valley. Old Guigueo also made in with his forces and we now altogether numbered one thousand men able to bear arms. The Gros Venues of the prairie, as we anticipated, were passing northward in companies of one hundred lodges or more. One of these lodges fell in with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company but finding the white men abundantly able to defend themselves, they adopted the peaceful policy and opened a trade for fur and skins that was advantageous to both parties. A few days later the same Indians killed seven of our young men who had started for Saint Louis. This took place in Jackson Hole. Still later a party of these Indians numbering about a hundred and fifty warriors with their women and children, entered Pierre's Hole and had proceeded nearly to the middle of the valley before they discovered the extent of their danger. They however then acted with judgment and discretion.

They immediately sought shelter in a dense grove of aspen trees of which they hurriedly built a very substantial pen large enough to contain themselves and their horses; they also dug a trench around the pen on the inside sufficiently capacious to contain the whole party below the surface of the earth. This enabled them to shoot from the bottom of the pen and gave them a great advantage over their assailants. However, in one hour a thousand guns were constantly discharging at every hole in the pen. The party within it made a gallant resistance, and for a while returned bullet for bullet, but late in the evening resistance had almost ceased, and all parties returned to their several encampments. In the morning we visited the pen which was literally full of dead Indians, squaws, children and horses. It is not probable that any escaped. Two young and rather interesting girls, fourteen or fifteen years of age who were out hunting berries when the fight commenced, concealed themselves, and were found and captured the next morning. The Indians kindly offered to save their lives and treat them kindly, but they said that their friends and relations were all killed and they wished only for death. They were importunate, and earnestly begged for death on their knees until an old warrior finding that he could do nothing with them, released them from the bond of life with his tomahawk. Had any of the white men been present their lives would have been saved unless they had committed suicide, which from their despair was highly probable. The next morning we had sixteen Indians and six white men laid out for interment in our camp. Other parties suffered to the same extent. Many were wounded - some mortally. Subbett was shot in the breast and arm, Dripps had a bullet through his hat that took a lock of hair with it. The Indians, however, being most numerous, suffered the most, and Old Gurgueo had quite a company of wounded men to add to those already in this condition. Old Gurgueo was a great favorite with all white men, and received generous presents from all the various companies. In fact he left six weeks afterwards with ammunition and tobacco enough to last his braves for several years. He was also furnished with everything that could be found in any of our camps to alleviate the sufferings of his wounded followers. The old fellow was generous and grateful, and prayed earnestly to the Great Spirit to protect us in all our pursuits.


NUMBER 5 - Dallas Herald, December 14, 1872.


In the early part of the fall we descended Bitter Root River, to the head of navigation. Here the Hudson Bay Company had a trading post which however, was abandoned in the winter. Here on a fine day we enjoyed quite an animating scene. A long line of Mackanaw boats loaded with furs and peltries, were proceeding down the river, the whole surface of which was covered with those light and fragile vessels, birch bark canoes, which of all known craft are, the most easily upset. One is astonished to see with what dexterity and address these topling things are managed by the squaws. We have seen an old squaw pack her canoe on her back two miles across the portage, set it in the water, pile up a wagon load of goods upon it, throw three or four children on top and getting into it, balance the whole by the motions of her body and paddle away with almost the speed of a fish. One is surprised that fear or no accidents occur. After the fleet of canoes had disappeared on their way down the river, a long line of horsemen also proceeded down the river by land intending to winter at Fort Colville, leaving behind a small part of the company assembled here in the morning. Others broke away in small parties, who sought shelter and game in nooks and ravines of adjacent mountains, there to spend a long and dreary winter. I accompanied a half dozen families thirty or forty miles up a small stream to a very small but pretty valley, where we hoped to find game abundant. During the early part of the winter, having a pretty good supply of provisions, and a young half breed Indian managed to keep a pretty good supply of venison on hand. The winter, however, was very severe; snow fell to the depth of five feet over the little surface of the valley and it was impossible to get about, except on snow shoes. Provisions began to grow scarce, and our hunting necessarily became an every day's business, I began to get about as tired of this as I had previously got of fishing. To chase, on snow shoes, half or three fourths of a day over spurs of mountains, kill a deer and pack it on your back to camp two or three miles, might do as an occasional amusement, but when necessity makes it an every day business it becomes rather tiresome. Convinced that we should not be able to supply all the camps, I volunteered to go down the stream where we knew a small party of Indians were stationed and hire one or two hunters to go up and hunt for the party left behind. With my gun, blanket, tomahawk and knife, together with a small scrip of dried venison I set out on snow shoes. My course lay down the narrow valley of the stream, now crossing Rocky Point, now through skirts of pine timber, and frequently over difficult ravines. During the day I saw many deer, but was not yet so lost to humanity as to kill them through mere wantoness. I suffered during the day for water, although I was almost constantly beside a stream; fifteen or eighteen inches of ice must be penetrated before I could hope to get water. Once I attempted to reach the water with my tomahawk but soon found that after penetrating the ice the water was still beyond my reach and I gave it up in despair. I had freely been eating dry snow all day, but snow is but a sorry substitute for water. In the evening I began to look about for some place where I could spend the night. Luckily, I found a cave sufficiently large at the enhance to admit me in a stooping posture. As soon as I entered it, I found it sufficiently capacious being two or three feet wide, as high, and lost in darkness in the interior. I now struck fire, and having supplied myself with a large quantity of pine knots which were sufficiently abundant, I then made myself a comfortable bed of branches of the balsam fir; got thoroughly warmed up, ate my supper of dried venison, and should really have felt quite comfortable had it not been for my inordinate thirst. Directly I heard, or fancied that I he'd, water rippling in the interior of the cave. Making a torch, and taking my gun along, I proceeded to explore the cave, and soon found, to my great joy, one of the most delightful fountains I had ever seen in my life; the water was exquisite, neither too hot or too cold, and beyond the reach of congelation. I drank until I was satisfied, having gone a little beyond the strict rules of temperance. As I sat near the spring, torch in hand, I either saw or imagined I saw a ball of fire in the interior of the cave beyond; perhaps, it was mere fancy. I saw but one and only one imperfect glance at that: Perhaps it was only the reflection of my torch on a drop of water. In any event I cared not as I knew no animal would venture to attack me with my means of keeping up a good fire. Returning to my fire I lay down, but that ball of fire recurring to my mind I took the precaution to place the muzzle of my gun in that direction, placed a knot or two on the fire and fell into a doze; whenever my fire burnt low the intense cold would awake me, some knots were placed upon the fire, and the dozing repeated. The cold was so intense, that the sap vessels of the pine trees were continually bursting with the reports as loud as fire arms. Towards day, finding that I had a much larger quantity of fuel than I should require, I built up a large fire and fell into a deeper slumber than I had yet enjoyed. I was awakened from this by a tremendous clatter and soon found that an enormous Grizzly Bear, who had probably watched me all night from the interior of the cave, most likely in trepidation, finding it impossible to resist his fears and danger had bolted for the mouth of the cave, determined to make his exit in spite of fire. The entrance to the cave was much too small to admit the passage of his body without great exertion. Being convinced that he could not return until I should have ample time to put my gun to his ear and blow his brains out, I could not resist the inclination to stick a fire brand to his long hair. In an instant he was enveloped in flames. The next moment I saw him flouncing and wallowing in the snow having the appearance of a swinged rat. He arose, shook himself, and eyed me as if he had half a notion to attack me and my fire; however, if such were his intentions, he soon changed his mind and galloped off in the direction of a ledge of rocks, no doubt promising himself never again to attempt to pass a night in that infernal cavern. I saw him no more, and never had the opportunity to inquire if he caught cold on this occasion. After eating some of my small store of venison, I went with a lighted torch, to my glorious spring not knowing how many more bears might be stored away in the dark recesses of the cave. I drank freely of the water I had discovered and left it with regret. I now departed from the cave and proceeded on my journey. At the end of three or four miles I began to see tracks of snow shoes, and the same evening reached an encampment of about fifteen Indians. I found all the trees in the neighborhood of the camp full of the carcases of deer that had been dressed but frozen hard as ice. I remained with them all night. The next morning I hired two Indians to go up and hunt for the party I had left alone. I went on down the stream, and passed the residue of the winter with an Indian friend, Payette, who had a small family and a well supplied wigwam. I amused myself by excursions on snow shoes, sometimes killed deer for amusement. Payette killed several Linxes during the winter; these were always fat and I found the flesh excellent.

NUMBER 6 - Dallas Herald, December 14, 1872.


After a peaceful Buffalo hunt on the plains of Snake River, old Ginquro the Hot Head Chief proposed to lead us over to Salmon River, in order to give us a little recreation in the way of fishing. The first waters of the Salmon River that we reached, was a very small stream issuing from a pond or miniature lake, four or five feet deep and sixty or eighty yards in extent, having a fine pebbly bottom; the water was so clear and pure, that a pin could be seen at its greatest depth. In this pond was one single Salmon of unusual size; we inferred that this fish had selected that place to deposit its spawn to the exclusion of all other fish which it had probably driven away. After encamping, all hands, Indians and white men, surrounded the pond all elated with the idea of capturing the first salmon. Happening to have some knowledge of the habits of this fish I stepped down to the lower edge of the pond and placed myself on the shoal opposite to the deepest part in water a little over shoe mouth deep, and stood gun in hand, watching the appearance of the fish; presently, I saw it swimming down slowly close to the bottom, evidently uneasy at the presence of so many persons. As soon as it reached a depth of one foot, I aimed at his head and fired; a great splash of water followed, enveloping me and my gun. Before I could clear the water out of my eyes my comrades had the fish out on dry land, with a bullet hole through his head; he was a noble fish of the very largest size and in the finest condition. The next day we reached the shoals of Salmon River, and I lost all the glory I had acquired the day before in killing the first Salmon, for I found boys ten years old that would kill with sticks and stones three fish to my one, notwithstanding I had the advantage of a double barrel gun. The women and children were all engaged in this sport with sticks, stones, arrows, guns and lances; of the various instruments the lance seemed to be the most efficient. One old Indian with a lance would pin a fish to the ground, whilst three or four little boys followed him with forked sticks. Whenever he caught a fish, one of the boys who was always ready to place his hook in the gills of the fish and start for shore, the lance was then relieved, and the same thing repeated. Old Guigneo notwithstanding his age and infirmities, was on the shoals tomahawk in hand, and killed several fish. I here saw a trait in the Indian character that was very pleasing. Some of the young and active Indians observing how anxious Guigneo was to enjoy the sport, and how difficult it was for him, to get about with alacrity, over the smooth and slippery rocks managed with great address to draw several fish within reach of his tomahawk and he seldom failed to give the death blow to such as came within his reach. So many fish were killed that we made use of only those in high condition. The squaws split and smoke-dried large quantities. We were compelled every few days to move camp to other shoals, in consequence of the offensive epheria of stinking fish, and in truth we became as tired of fish and fishing as we had before been anxious to engage in the amusement. Some of us fancied that our camps had a fishy smell for months afterwards.


NUMBER 7 - Dallas Herald, November 30, 1872


While quite a youth the writer was frequently employed in raising and conveying the contents of caches (goods and furs) to the summer rendezvous or to Winter quarters. Care, caution and uniform success, elicited the praise of his employers, and induced them to give him frequent employment in expeditions of this kind. The amount of force sent was always determined by the leader of the company, but the partizans of these squads always had the privaledge of selecting his own assistants. On one occasion he was ordered to take five men and ten pack horses and raise a 'cache' of furs about three hundred miles distant. The course lay directly through the country occupied by a powerful tribe of Indians, the Aarrappahoes who were at the time hostile. The value of the pack horses and fur was about fifteen thousand dollars. Having chosen two Delawares, a Shawnee, and two Canadian Frenchmen, all men who had seen death in all its forms and could look it steadily in the face if necessary, yet men of great caution and vigilance who had all shown great presence of mind on trying occasions, the preliminaries being settled, we set out, generally halting at twelve o'clock and remaining until two in order to give our horses ample time to graze. At such times someone of the party was always stationed out on some eminence where he could watch the movements of game or the approach of Indians. At two hours before sun set we again halted and remained until dark, then saddled up our horses and proceeded ten or twelve miles after night, turning loose or hobbling our horses, we slept on the spot where we halted. This course prevented any straggling Indians who might have seen us during the day from following us to our encampments. It also gave us a great advantage of war parties, as we would necessarily see their fires when in the vicinity of our course and determine the extent of our night marches so as to avoid them, altogether. In this manner we proceeded on to the "caches," raised them and returned as far as Salt River, about half way to the main encampment. Three or four days previously, we had crossed the great lodge trail of the Appahoes, going south east into the defiles of the great chain of mountains that were nearly parallel to our course about a half a day's march to the eastward and in which are seen Long's and Pike's peaks and many other conspicuous land marks. The Arrapahoes had hunted out the country leaving little or no game behind them together with small probability of our meeting any considerable party of Indians. After passing the great trail we saw no further sign of Indians and began immediately to greatly relax our vigilance. Salt River some fifty miles west unites with Snake River forming Grand River which last unites with Green River, forming the Colorado of the West which by and by is a muddy stream like the Missouri, the Columbia River being on the contrary as clear as the Ohio. We were encamped on Salt River, Snake River was about thirty miles from our encampment a distance too great for a day's march with pack horses. However, about midway between the two rivers a span of the great mountain chain projected down into the plain, reaching quite to the trail generally followed and near its termination was a famous spring having clusters of willows sufficient for fire wood along its margin. This was a noted place for encamping both by white men and Indians. In the morning it rained heavily for half an hour, cleared off and the sun came out giving promise of a beautiful day; we leasurely packed up our horses intending to proceed as far as the spring and halt there during the following night. So soon as we crossed Salt River we found Buffalo and Antelopes in great numbers that had certainly not recently been disturbed. The strong mist arising after the shower from the hot arid plain rendered distant objects very indistinct and the great refraction caused distant Buffalo to appear as tall as pine trees. We proceeded slowly and killed several fat and fine buffalo; the choice meat was fastened to our pack horses and we proceeded on our march. All at once we discovered eighty or ninety red objects we supposed to be Antelopes far as the eye could reach ahead of us. They were running from us in the direction of the spring. We immediately halted and examined them with great care. I soon ascertained that they did not retain their places as a herd of Deer or Antelopes generally do, but the hindmost would pass up the line another dropping in his place and we soon noticed that they were continually passing each other; more than this, we could see no reason why a herd of antelopes should be running from us at so great distance. The conclusion arrived at, was that they were Indians, and we instantly comprehended their designs. They were so far off that they believed themselves undiscovered. They were running to meet the point of mountain undiscovered; once there, they would be secure from discovery or observation. They knew, from our course, that we were aiming to reach the spring. From this place of concealment they could watch our every movement. After night, when we had gone to rest, they would surround our encampment, secure our horses, and crawl up around our camp, and fire upon us according to their custom at daybreak. All this we instantly comprehended. The question now with us was how should we manage to save our pack horses and furs. After some time spent in consultation, we adopted a course that we believed we could make successful, by good management. We knew too well that if we attempted to save ourselves by changing our course, the Indians would know at once that they were discovered and give chase; that in the course of two or three hours they would certainly overtake us and we should necessarily be compelled to abandon our pack horses to save ourselves. Our course was to proceed on to the spring and encamp as if we were wholly unconscious of the proximity of an enemy; to appear as carelessly as possible; to build fires, cook our supper, keep our riding horses close about camp, so as to throw our saddles upon them and make our escape in case the Indians should attempt to make a raid upon us by daylight; but above all, to place a hawk eyed Indian behind a rock on a neighboring eminence to watch the point of mountain, distant about three hundred yards, with unremitted vigilance. All this was duly accomplished, we reached the spring whilst the sun was yet above the horizon; our packs were thrown off with the greatest apparent carelessness, yet everything was so placed that it could instantly be found and used; our pack horses were permitted to stray some distance from camp yet our riding horses were herded close at hand. We built large fires, cooked and ate as heartily as we should have done had we known ourselves perfectly free of danger, and as soon as it became sufficiently dark to prevent observation from the point of mountain, we hurriedly but securely, packed up our horses and having built our fires and placed some saddle blankets on sticks about the fires, to give them the appearance of men sitting around them. We set out giving the point of mountain a wide berth. As we passed, however, we could plainly see the Indians in a ravine by a small fire stark naked in the act of painting themselves preliminary to their contemplated attack upon us. The next morning at sunrise we were thirty miles away and had so completely out-witted the Indians that they made no attempt to follow us. In due time we reached camp without loss and received undeserved praise for our conduct; whereas we should have been censured for exposing ourselves unnecessarily, for we should with our accustomed vigilance have performed this part of our journey by night with perfect security.


NUMBER 8 - Dallas Herald, January 4, 1873


There are really no Indians in the Rocky Mountains who deserve honorable mention, but two tribes, the Nabahoes and Flat Heads; all others are rascally, beggarly, thieves and rogues generally. The Nabahoes are found in the gulches and canons of the Gila, west of Santa Fe. They are generally at war with the Mexicans, and in most instances, have proved themselves the better soldier of the two. This may in some degree, be imputed to the great national defenses in the country where they reside, consisting of inaccessible canons and precipices to which they can retire when necessary, or from which, by secret pass and outlets, they can at any time issue and attack an enemy when, perhaps, they are wholly unexpected and by these means surprise a force that may greatly exceed their own. The Mexicans have become exceedingly chary in following these Indians to their places of concealment, and in consequence, the Indians, if too weak to make a successful resistance, retired to their hiding places until their enemies depart. These Indians have sheep and cattle; they are not migratory or nomadic, but remain permanently fixed in coves and small valleys surrounded by walls of cut rock or mountains scarcely accessible. They have attained to a high degree of perfection in the art of manufacturing blankets, similar to those made in Mexico, but we are assured that they greatly surpass the Mexicans; both in execution and design. We have seen a Nabaho blanket that was worth five hundred dollars. The texture, was fine and closely woven; colors were very brilliant and the design extremely beautiful. One who has made himself familiar with the history of design as practiced by the silk weavers of Lyons, would be surprised to learn that a tribe of Indians in the Rocky Mountains, had attained to quite as high a degree of perfection in the art, as these French weavers. And why not? Have they not the whole field of nature before them to copy, and where else can we find a higher degree of beauty and perfection than is presented by the vegetable and floral world? I am told that it required two or three years to complete one of the finest blankets. I presume that these Indians if let alone would become harmless and inoffensive. They possess within themselves all that a pastoral people require, and having no knowledge of luxuries have no use for them.



by Warren A. Ferris

The following lines were composed on a dreary Winter day during a surveying excursion remote from habitation or other indications of civilized life whilst the author lay in camp alone and lame where great danger existed.


Very forlorn and weary here
Alone I rest my frame
Far far from friends and Kindred dear
I lie a cripple lame

A streamlet flows beside my lair
Sheltered by lofty cane
Sought to arrest the chilling air
And turn the wintry rain

A thousand warblers cheer the wood
With ever changing lay
But still my mind in irksome mood
Is cheerful as this day

Which line the forests aspect drear
Imparts the unwelcome truth
That Autumn hastening year by year
Succeeds the way of youth

My Comrades gone and I alone
With anxious care opprest
I hear the forrests hollow moan
And start ah! fear exprest
But better reason checks the fault
A fault I blush to own
Tho' sterner spirits often halt
By sudden terror thrown

From reasons cheek when danger's near
As pallid cheeks declare
Yet this to him is short lived fear
Who seeks a warriors fare

With thoughts like these I sink to rest
Morpheus drowns my care
My soul with fleeting visions blest
I dream of fortune rare


Where dark blue mountains towering rise
Whose craggy summits cleave the skies
Whose sides are decked with giant pines
With branch and encircling vines

There thund'ring torrents bounding far
From rock to rock dissolve in air
Or larger streams with lion rage
Burst through the barriers that encage

And sweeping onward to the plain
Deposit ruins and again
Proceed: but mask what force subdued
Their whirlwind terror now not rude

No longer they with fury hurl
Rocks from their beds in Eddies whirl
Tall pines, nor yet with deafening roar
Assail the echoing mountains hoar

But milder than the summer breeze
Flow gently winding through the trees
Or smoothly flow and softly glide
Through woodless plains and valleys wide