We encamped on the bottoms of this stream, where were located quite a number of Indian lodges and villages.
Grass being abundant here, and two or three of the company being on the sick list, we remained over one day.
The Indians found here are called “Snakes”, and we had many opportunities of observing their character and habits.
They were less dignified and taciturn than the Sioux, and other tribes we had encountered.
They made themselves very familiar, and were such persistent beggars, that it was almost impossible to refrain from giving them all we had.
Their dress was less tasty and complete, than with the other tribes we had seen; a girdle, or sort of skirt, around the waist forming the entire wardrobe of most of the adults, of both sexes, while the younger ones were generally clad in nature’s habiliments alone.
This was probably their summer costume, for I should suppose that the must dress warmer in the winter or freeze to death.
This tribe, however, had contrived to pick up many articles of clothing which had been discarded by the emigrants, and it was amusing, in the extreme, to observe their several styles of wearing them.
A stately old chief would come riding along, wearing a dilapidated bell-crowned hat, minus the top, with his long, coarse hair protruding therefrom, and fluttering in the breeze.
Another would sport a sleeveless shirt; others an old coat, vest or pair of pants.
One strapping fellow had his long arms stuck through the legs of a dilapidated pair of pants with the 371 waistbands fastened about his neck; while a rather good-looking copper-colored damsel had adorned her brow with a brimless and nearly crownless chip hat, and finished her toilet by walking into the sleeves of an old red and white blanket overcoat, and, with a leather thong, tying the skirts about her waist. As soon as our cooking operations commenced, one or two of the maternal “Snakes” with four or five juvenile “Snakes” each, would squat themselves down within a few feet of our camp-fire, and watch our every motion, and if we did not voluntarily give them a liberal portion, the old Snakes would be sure to beg for some before it all disappeared.
Their own habits of living, cooking +c are rather peculiar.
The larger kinds of game was rather scarce in that region, though the streams probably afforded them some fish.
Prairie dogs and gophers, which are nearly identical – being about half way between a squirrel and a rat, and burrowing in the ground, are very numerous, and largely used for food by the Indians.
In fact, when properly dressed and cooked, and seasoned, (and our cook well-knew how to do it) they did’nt go very bad with us.
Holmes went out with his rifle to try for a mess, but being extremely alert and quick to drop out of sight into their holes, on the first click of the hammer, he only succeeded in getting one, which he threw upon the ground as not worth fussing with.
A young Indian soon after came along and by signs begged us to give it to him to which we assented.
Getting permission from Wheeler and Howe to cook it at their camp-fire, raking open the embers, he covered Mr Gopher up, without skinning or removing the entrails, and after letting it smudge for 15 or 20 minutes, took it out and eat it with great apparent gusto.
The Indians of this region also raise large numbers of wolfish-looking dogs, which they make use of for food.
While we were lying by, among the Snakes, several members of our company witnessed the slaughtering and cooking, and partial serving up of one of these gastronomic rarities, by a venerable squaw.
She knocked the savage-looking, but perfectly domesticated canine upon the head with a club, and, before he had fairly done kicking, held him over the fire to singe the hair off, and then, without drawing the entrails, or any further dressing whatever, placed the carcass in a sort of stone kettle to boil.
When it was done I presume they had a right royal 372 feast; though, getting no invitation, I did not stay to dinner! After leaving Ham’s Fork, we passed over a succession of high hills, pretty steep and difficult, called the Bear River Mountains, 25 miles to Bear river.
These mountains on the east, and the Sierra Nevada’s on the west, with transverse ranges on the north and south, form what is called the “Great Basin”, in which the renowned Salt Lake is situated.
This basin is peculiar for having no known outlet for the numerous large rivers and steams which traverse it in almost every direction.
The prevailing opinion seemed to be that these waters find their way to the ocean through whirlpools and subterranean channels, and the sinking of many of the streams seems to warrant this belief.
But upon this point more anon. In passing over one of the mountains, between Ham’s Fork and Bear river, we passed through a large grove of pine, fir and cedar trees, the most beautiful, I then thought, that I ever beheld.
It was, indeed, an oasis upon our long and tedious journey; for we had traveled many a weary mile without the sight of even the smallest bush, and though nothing for a long time that could be dignified with the name of timber.
Those lofty firs! How cheering to the sight, and the hearts, too, of all that beheld them.
And while gazing upon their tall and majestic proportions, a verse of a little poem learned early in life, long since forgotten, came freshly into my memory again: “I remember, I remember, the fir trees dark and high. “I used to think their slender tops were close against the sky; “It was a childish ignorance, but now ‘tis little joy, “To know I’m further off from Heaven than when I was a boy”. And now, even to and adult mind, after so many days and weeks of shadeless sterility, as we toilsomely climed towards the summit of that mountain and that grove, it did indeed seem as if the “slender tops” of those “fir trees dark and high”, were literally “close against the sky”, and whatever may have been the religious sentiments of that vast throng.
I do not believe a single emigrant passed through that grove without a devout feeling of gratitude for its cooling shade and its invigorating influences, or emerged therefrom into comparative barrenness without sincere regret. 373 Bear river, where we struck it, runs about northwest, and with the exception of passing over a spur of the mountain, around the base of which the river closely runs, about 16 miles across, we followed down its right bank about 65 miles, when it takes a short turn to the south, and, through a mountainous looking region, finds its way into the Great Salt Lake.
In getting down from the spur of the mountain spoken of, we saw hundreds of dead horses, mules and oxen on every hand, a sure indication that the waters of the streams and springs of the vicinity were poisonous, and we did not let ours drink of them.
I may remark here, that where the hills or mountains were hugged too close by the streams as to prevent the passage of teams between them, the emigrants had no time to stop and excavate a road on an easy grade around the hills, as you would for a railway.
But as it was absolutely necessary for them to “push along, keep moving” they took the most natural road they could find: viz.
Along the valleys where practicable, but when a hill or mountain must be crossed, go right over the summit, in order that their wagons might maintain as nearly as possible a perpendicular.
Winding thus around many of the sharp hills that we passed over, will, of course, obviate many of the difficulties, that would strike the casual observer as insuperable barriers to the graduation and construction of a railroad to the Pacific. The balance of our road along Bear River, 45 or 50 miles, is nearly level, and very good indeed.
Four miles before leaving the river, or rather before the river leaves us, we come to a point fraught with a vast amount of interest.
First, there was a trading post and many Indian lodges, in a fine grove of cedars; the Indians as well as the white traders doing quite a prosperous business, trading horses, mules +c with the emigrants.
We here also met an old hunter, an Englishman called Captain Grant, who had been employed in this region for many years, by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
He was over 60 years of age, still vigorous and active, and seemed to have unbounded influence over the Indians.
The Captain gave us much valuable information about our future route, and unhesitatingly advised us to go the old route, via Fort Hall, instead of taking the new route, called “Sublette’s Cut-off”. ~ 374 A little this side of the trading post, a few rods distant from the road upon the right, was a white mound 12 or 15 rods in diameter, and perhaps 10 or 12 feet higher at the summit than the surrounding plain.
The ascent is gradual, the surface hard and smooth, and similar in appearance to hard-packed saleratus.
On the top of this mound is found a bubbling spring in a circular apperture of five or six feet diameter.
This has been denominated “Soda Spring”, on account of its waters possessing a sparkling effervescent appearance, and a smart soda-like flavor.
There was no regular running outlet, but a gradual oozing over upon all sides of the basin, and it is the constant flow of these mineral waters, and their evaporation and solidification, that has formed the singular white mound in which the spring is found.
There are several other springs near by the waters of which bubble up and foam and sparkle, with sharply pungent taste, and are denominated “Beer Springs”.
Would it not be well for such as as are in the habit of guzzling beer and ale to emigrate to that region? It would not only save them the outlay of a vast amount of three and five cent pieces, but they would also be pretty tolerably sure that a less number of defunct rodents were used in the brewing of this natural beer, than in the fabrication of the common “rat-soup” they drink here. — Acting in the capacity of a self-appointed aides-de-camp to our rather inefficient Captain, while riding ahead of the train in search of a good camping place.
I noticed, in a slight depression upon the left, a slight streak of sand that seemed to me to have been formed by running water.
Following this up about a mile, the sand appeared to be a little moist, growing more so as I advanced, until it finally became a running stream, and was found to emanate from a sort of springy meadow, some 15 or 20 rods in width and nearly a mile in length, and profusely covered with most excellent grass.
Hastening back to the road, I piloted the train to this most desirable location 393 where we encamped over Sunday; and it was here that our sick friend, Sperry, whom we had so cruelly left by the roadside to die, and his faithful companions, came up with us as stated.
The peculiarity of this valley is that the numerous little streams which rise in its borders, sink into the light pourous sands near their sources, to reappear in the lower grounds near the center, in the springs or wells we saw; hence the name, “Thousand Spring Valley”. There was now, July 7th, any quantity of snow to be seen upon the tops of the mountains to the Eastward, between us and Salt Lake, and the nights and mornings were so cold that gloves and overcoats were by no means uncomfortable.
We were now getting into the neighborhood of the Digger Indians, and as we came into the road, on Monday morning, quite a number of them made their appearance among us on horseback.
These were more athletic and savage in their general appearance and actions than any we had yet seen.
The Diggers are very numerous, extending far to the South, covering the Sierra Nevadas, and spreading over a good portion of California.
They are called “Diggers” from the fact that owing to the scarcity of game throughout a large portion of their territory, together with their own inherent laziness and improvidence, vast numbers of them eke out their miserable existence upon roots, bugs, worms, lizzards +c, that they dig out of the ground and from among the rocks.
There is perhaps more of caste among these Indians, than can be found in any other tribe upon the continent.
The better class, it is said, live in communities in the most fertile valleys and most eligible locations in the mountains, where fish and game can be procured; and also laying up large stores of pine nuts, acorns, berries +c for their subsistence during the winter, scouting from among them and looking down upon common “Diggers” with as much contempt, as out own civilized bloods and cod-fish aristocracy do upon us common stock who have to dig for a living here. Thirty miles from Thousand Spring Valley, over passably good roads, brings to the North fork of the Humboldt river, which we forded without trouble, though we soon after came to a slough across which our wagons had to be snaked with ropes by hand.
Thirty miles further 394 over a level, but very dusty road, we came to the main branch of the Humboldt river, a pretty deep and rapid stream, though safely forded, by raising our provisions and clothing upon the tops of our wagon beds.
In consequence of the waters of this river being so high this year, we were compelled to traverse its entire length, upon the western side, instead of crossing and recrossing at pleasure, as had been done in years previous.
On this account our journey was rendered far more difficult than it otherwise would have been, being obliged many times, to learn the level of the valley and climb over high bluffs and steep hills, while owing to the wet and miry condition of the river bottoms, we could not safely turn our animals out upon them to graze.
With very few exceptions, along the entire length of this river, 300 miles or more, grass could only be obtained by wading through sloughs and marshes from knee to chin deep, cutting with knives or sickles, and backing if from one half to one and a half or two miles.
In many places, indeed, the river, which, as we proceeded, became much larger and very rapid, had to be crossed by swimming, the grass having to be cut and backed, often long distances to the bank of the river, and the bundles towed across by ropes. Between the two branches of the river spoken of, we saw a fresh grave, and upon the head board was a paper giving an account of the manner in which its occupant had come to his untimely end.
A train having encamped near the road, grazed its stock over night upon the grass found among the sage bushes, about half a mile distant, with a suitable guard for their protection during the night.
All went well until daylight, when all the guards but one went in to arouse the camp and prepare for a start.
Soon after their departure, the remaining sentinel discovered some six or eight Indians in the distance coming towards him.
He immediately commenced gathering up the stock to drive them into camp, when a brawny savage rose up from behind a sage bush, infront of him, and before he could raise his rifle to his shoulder the Indian buried an arrow in his breast with such force 395 as to nearly perforate him through and through.
The sentinel, in return, fired upon the savage and wounded him, upon which, with a loud yell he took to his heels.
The other Indians then rushed up, yelling and whooping, but the brave fellow kept them at bay with his revolver, until his comrads from the camp came to his rescue when they decamped.
His friends extracted the arrow, and dressed his wound as carefully as they could but after lingering in great agony for a day or two the brave fellow died from its effects. The next day we saw a similar notice pinned upon a tree, cautioning the emigrants to keep a bright look out, as 22 horses had been stolen from one train a few nights before.
We also saw many trains lying by in this vicinity, looking for missing stock.
An ox-train, stopping at noon to bait, turned their cattle into a little valley, just out of sight from their camp, and on going for them an hour or so afterwards, found one of them killed and several Indians cutting him up and packing off the meat.
The members of one train, who had lost several horses, started out in different directions to look for them.
One of the men, on rising a small hill, discovered a couple of their horses in possession of three Indians, who were engaged in cutting up an antelope which they had killed.
He approached them, and by signs told them that the horses belonged to him, and made a move to take them.
One of the Indians, by signs, objected, and while this pantomimic controversy was going on, he heard a sound like the click of a pistol, and on looking around discovered that one of the Indians was endeavoring to discharge an old single barrel horse pistol at him.
Drawing his revolver he shot the savage dead in his tracks, and quickly turning, instantly killed another; the third incontinently taking himself off.
Swinging the antelope across one horse, he mounted the other, and made his way back to camp. In many instances, perhaps, the cruelties practiced upon the Indians, incited them to commit depredations upon the Emigrants, by way of retaliation, and revenge.
There was one most horrible story rife among the Emigrants 396 to this affect: A reckless young white man in passing through an Indian Village, fired his rifle at random among a company of the natives, men, women, and children, killing one of their favorite young squaws by so doing.
The Indians in large force followed this train, which was quite small, and coming upon them when encamped alone, compelled them to surrender the murderer to them.
Taking him but a short distance, and in full view of the train, among whom was the young man’s own father, they fastened him hand and foot to the ground, and actually flayed him alive, from the effects of which, of course, he soon afterwards died. We had no difficulty with them, however, from the fact that we did not in any manner molest or annoy them, and kept our own camp and animals well guarded.
One night however, the boys in charge of the stock mistrusted that the wily red-skins were after them, from this circumstance.
We had been obliged to take the animals nearly a mile from camp to feed in quite a extensive meadow there found, and it was thought best to leave them there all night, with a strong guard, instead of bringing them within the enclosure of our camp, in the manner heretofore described.
All went well until far into the night, when all the animals, having eaten their fill, were lying down to rest, and while all was perfectly silent, save the regular tread of the sentinels on their lonely beats upon the outer edge of the meadow, in an instant every animal sprang to its feet and rushed in the same direction the full length of its lariat, the utmost panic and fright having apparently seized upon the entire herd.
They were at length quited down, and after a time resumed their recumbent positions and their “naps”, and were found to be all right in the morning.
It was supposed that the stampede was caused by some Indian strategem, unnoticed by the men, but seen or heard by the keener senses of the animals, with the expectation that in the darkness they would break through the cordon of sentinels, to be picked up at leisure by the Indians; but the scheme was frustrated by the faithful 397
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