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Death Valley in '49 by William Lewis Manly

Part 3 out of 8

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waste. The blood, hide and intestines were all prepared in some way for
food. This meeting lasted till late at night. If some of them had lost
their minds I should not have been surprised, for hunger swallows all
other feelings. A man in a starving condition is a savage. He may be as
blood-shed and selfish as a wild beast, as docile and gentle as a lamb,
or as wild and crazy as a terrified animal, devoid of affection, reason
or thought of justice. We were none of us as bad as this, and yet there
was a strange look in the eyes of some of us sometimes, as I saw by
looking round, and as others no doubt realized for I saw them making
mysterious glances even in my direction.

Morning came and all were silent. The dim prospect of the future seemed
to check every tongue. When one left a water hole he went away as if in
doubt whether he would ever enjoy the pleasure of another drop. Every
camp was sad beyond description, and no one can guide the pen to make it
tell the tale as it seemed to us. When our morning meal of soup and meat
was finished, Bennett's two teams, and the two of Arcane's concluded
their chances of life were better if they could take some provisions and
strike out on foot, and so they were given what they could carry, and
they arranged their packs and bade us a sorrowful good bye hoping to
meet again on the Pacific Coast. There were genuine tears shed at the
parting and I believe neither party ever expected to see each other in
this life again.

Bennett's two men were named Silas Helmer and S.S. or C.C. Abbott, but I
have forgotten the names of Arcane's men. Mr. Abbott was from New York,
a harness maker by trade, and he took his circular cutting knife with
him, saying it was light to carry and the weapon he should need. One of
them had a gun. They took the trail taken by the Jayhawkers. All the
provisions they could carry besides their blankets could not last them
to exceed 10 days, and I well knew they could hardly get off the desert
in that time. Mr. Abbott was a man I loved fondly. He was good company
in camp, and happy and sociable. He had shown no despondency at any time
until the night of the last meeting and the morning of the parting. His
chances seemed to me to be much poorer than my own, but I hardly think
he realized it. When in bed I could not keep my thoughts back from the
old home I had left, where good water and a bountiful spread were always
ready at the proper hour. I know I dreamed of taking a draft of cool,
sweet water from a full pitcher and then woke up with my mouth and
throat as dry as dust. The good home I left behind was a favorite theme
about the campfire, and many a one told of the dream pictures, natural
as life, that came to him of the happy Eastern home with comfort and
happiness surrounding it, even if wealth was lacking. The home of the
poorest man on earth was preferable to this place. Wealth was of no
value here. A hoard of twenty dollar gold pieces could now
stand before us the whole day long with no temptation to touch a single
coin, for its very weight would drag us nearer death. We could purchase
nothing with it and we would have cared no more for it as a thing of
value than we did the desert sands. We would have given much more for
some of the snow which we could see drifting over the peak of the great
snow mountains over our heads like a dusty cloud.

Deeming it best to spare the strength as much as possible, I threw away
everything I could, retaining only my glass, some ammunition, sheath
knife and tin cup. No unnecessary burden could be put on any man or
beast, lest he lie down under it, never to rise again. Life and strength
were sought to be husbanded in every possible way.

Leaving this camp where the water was appreciated we went over a road
for perhaps 8 miles and came to the mouth of a rocky canon leading up
west to the summit of the range. This canon was too rough for wagons to
pass over. Out in the valley near its mouth was a mound about four feet
high and in the top of this a little well that held about a pailful of
water that was quite strong of sulphur. When stirred it would look quite
black. About the mouth of the well was a wire grass that seemed to
prevent it caving in. It seems the drifting sand had slowly built this
little mound about the little well of water in a curious way. We spent
the night here and kept a man at the well all night to keep the water
dipped out as fast as it flowed, in order to get enough for ourselves
and cattle. The oxen drank this water better than they did the brackish
water of the former camp.

The plain was thinly scattered with sage brush, and up near the base of
the mountain some greasewood grew in little bunches like currant bushes.

The men with wagons decided they would take this canon and follow it up
to try to get over the range, and not wait for me to go ahead and
explore, as they said it took too much time and the provisions,
consisting now of only ox meat were getting more precarious every day.
To help them all I could and if possible to be forewarned a little of
danger, I shouldered my gun and pushed on ahead as fast as I could. The
bottom was of sharp broken rock, which would be very hard for the feet
of the oxen, although we had rawhide moccasins for them for some time,
and this was the kind of foot-gear I wore myself. I walked on as rapidly
as I could, and after a time came to where the canon spread out into a
kind of basin enclosed on all sides but the entrance, with a wall of
high, steep rock, possible to ascend on foot but which would apparently
bar the further progress of the wagons, and I turned back utterly
disappointed. I got on an elevation where I could look over the country
east and south, and it looked as if there was not a drop of water in its
whole extent, and there was no snow on the dark mountains that stretched
away to the southward and it seemed to me as if difficulties beset me on
every hand. I hurried back down the canon, but it was nearly dark before
I met the wagons. By a mishap I fell and broke the stock of my gun, over
which I was very sorry, for it was an excellent one, the best I ever
owned. I carried it in two pieces to the camp and told them the way was
barred, at which they could hardly endure their disappointment. They
turned in the morning, as the cattle had nothing to eat here and no
water, and not much of any food since leaving the spring; they looked
terribly bad, and the rough road coming up had nearly finished them.
They were yoked up and the wagons turned about for the return. They went
better down hill, but it was not long before one of Bennett's oxen lay
down, and could not be persuaded to rise again. This was no place to
tarry in the hot sun, so the ox was killed and the carcass distributed
among the wagons. So little draft was required that the remaining oxen
took the wagon down. When within two or three miles of the water hole
one of Arcane's oxen also failed and lay down, so they turned him out
and when he had rested a little he came on again for a while, but soon
lay down again.

Arcane took a bucket of water back from camp and after drinking it and
resting awhile the ox was driven down to the spring.

This night we had another meeting to decide upon our course and
determine what to do. At this meeting no one was wiser than another, for
no one had explored the country and knew what to expect. The questions
that now arose were "How long can we endure this work in this situation?
How long will our oxen be able to endure the great hardship on the small
nourishment they receive? How long can we provide ourselves with food?"

We had a few small pieces of dry bread. This was kept for the children
giving them a little now and then. Our only food was in the flesh of the
oxen, and when they failed to carry themselves along we must begin to
starve. It began to look as if the chances of leaving our bones to
bleach upon the desert were the most prominent ones.

One thing was certain we must move somewhere at once. If we stay here we
can live as long as the oxen do, and no longer, and if we go on it is
uncertain where to go, to get a better place. We had guns and ammunition
to be sure, but of late we had seen no living creature in this desert
wild. Finally Mr. Bennett spoke and said:--

"Now I will make you a proposition. I propose that we select two of our
youngest, strongest men and ask them to take some food and go ahead on
foot to try to seek a settlement, and food, and we will go back to the
good spring we have just left and wait for their return. It will surely
not take them more than ten days for the trip, and when they get back we
shall know all about the road and its character and how long it will
take us to travel it. They can secure some other kind of food that will
make us feel better, and when the oxen have rested a little at the
spring we can get out with our wagons and animals and be safe. I think
this is the best and safest way."

"Now what do you all say?" After a little discussion all seemed to agree
that this was the best, and now it remained to find the men to go. No
one offered to accept the position of advance messengers. Finally Mr.
Bennett said he knew one man well enough to know that he would come back
if he lived, and he was sure he would push his way through. "I will take
Lewis (myself) if he will consent to go." I consented, though I knew it
was a hazardous journey, exposed to all sorts of things, Indians,
climate and probable lack of water, but I thought I could do it and
would not refuse. John Rogers a large strong Tennessee, man was then
chosen as the other one and he consented also.

Now preparations began, Mr. Arcane killed the ox which had so nearly
failed, and all the men went to drying and preparing meat. Others made
us some new mocassins out of rawhide, and the women made us each a

Our meat was closely packed, and one can form an idea how poor our
cattle were from the fact that John and I actually packed seven-eighths
of all the flesh of an ox into our knapsacks and carried it away. They
put in a couple of spoonfuls of rice and about as much tea. This seemed
like robbery to the children, but the good women said that in case of
sickness even that little bit might save our lives. I wore no coat or
vest, but took half of a light blanket, while Rogers wore a thin summer
coat and took no blanket. We each had a small tin cup and a small camp
kettle holding a quart. Bennett had me take his seven-shooter rifle, and
Rogers had a good double barreled shot gun. We each had a sheath knife,
and our hats were small brimmed, drab affairs fitting close to the head
and not very conspicuous to an enemy as we might rise up from behind a
hill into possible views. We tried on our packs and fitted the straps a
little so they would carry easy. They collected all the money there was
in camp and gave it to us. Mr. Arcane had about $30 and others threw in
small amounts from forty cents upward. We received all sorts of advice.
Capt. Culverwell was an old sea faring man and was going to tell us how
to find our way back, but Mr. Bennett told the captain that he had known
Lewis as a hunter for many years, and that if he went over a place in
the daytime he could find his way back at night every time. Others
cautioned us about the Indians and told us how to manage. Others told us
not to get caught in deep snow which we might find on the mountains.

This advice we received in all the kindness in which it was given, and
then we bade them all good bye. Some turned away, too much
affected to approach us and others, shook our hands with deep feeling,
grasping them firmly and heartily hoping we would be successful and be
able to pilot them out of this dreary place into a better land. Every
one felt that a little food to make a change from the poor dried meat
would be acceptable. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett and J.B. Arcane and wife were
the last to remain when the others had turned away. They had most faith
in the plan and felt deeply. Mrs. Bennett was the last, and she asked
God to bless us and bring some food to her starving children.

We were so much affected that we could not speak and silently turned
away and took our course again up the canyon we had descended the night

After a while we looked back and when they saw us turn around, all the
hats and bonnets waved us a final parting.

Those left in the camp were Asabel, Bennett and Sarah his wife, with
three children, George, Melissa, and Martha; J.B. Arcane and wife with
son Charles. The youngest children were not more than two years old.
There were also the two Earhart brothers, and a grown son, Capt.
Culverwell, and some others I cannot recall; eleven grown people in all,
besides a Mr. Wade, his wife and three children who did not mingle with
our party, but usually camped a little distance off, followed our trail,
but seemed to shun company. We soon passed round a bend of the canon,
and then walked on in silence.

We both of us meditated some over the homes of our fathers, but took new
courage in view of the importance of our mission and passed on as fast
as we could.

By night we were far up the mountain, near the perpendicular rough peak,
and far above us on a slope we could see some bunches of grass and sage
brush. We went to this and found some small water holes. No water ran
from them they were so small. Here we staid all night. It did not seem
very far to the snowy peak to the north of us. Just where we were seemed
the lowest pass, for to the south were higher peaks and the rocks looked
as if they were too steep to be got over.

Through this gap came a cold breeze, and we had to look round to get a
sheltered place in which to sleep. We lay down close together, spoon
fashion, and made the little blanket do as cover for the both of us. In
the morning we filled our canteens, which we had made by binding two
powder cans together with strips of cloth, and started for the summit
near by. From this was the grandest sight we ever beheld. Looking east
we could see the country we had been crawling over since November 4th.
"Just look at the cursed country we have come over!" said Rogers as he
pointed over it. To the north was the biggest mountain we ever saw,
peaks on peaks and towering far above our heads, and covered with snow
which was apparently everlasting.

This mountain seemed to have very few trees on it, and in extent, as it
reached away to the north seemed interminable. South was a nearly level
plain, and to the west I thought I could dimly see a range of mountains
that held a little snow upon their summits, but on the main range to the
south there was none. It seemed to me the dim snowy mountains must be as
far as 200 miles away, but of course I could not judge accurately. After
looking at this grand, but worthless landscape long enough to take in
its principal features we asked each other what we supposed the people
we left behind would think to see mountains so far ahead. We knew that
they had an idea that the coast range was not very far ahead, but we saw
at once to go over all these mountains and return within the limits of
fifteen days which had been agreed upon between us, would probably be
impossible, but we must try as best we could, so down the rocky steep we
clambered and hurried on our way. In places the way was so steep that we
had to help each other down, and the hard work made us perspire freely
so that the water was a prime necessity. In one place near here, we
found a little water and filled our canteens, besides drinking a good
present supply. There were two low, black rocky ranges directly ahead of
us which we must cross.

When part way down the mountain a valley or depression opened up in that
direction up which it seemed as if we could look a hundred miles. Near
by and a short distance north was a lake of water and when we reached
the valley we crossed a clear stream of water flowing slowly toward the

Being in need of water, we rushed eagerly to it and prepared to take a
big drink, but the tempting fluid was as salt as brine and made our
thirst all the more intolerable. Nothing grew on the bank of this stream
and the bed was of hard clay, which glistened in the sun.

We now began the ascent of the next ridge, keeping a westernly course,
and walked as fast as we could up the rough mountain side. We crossed
the head of a canon near the summit about dark, and here we found a
trail, which from indications we knew to be that of the Jayhawkers, who
had evidently been forced to the southward of the course they intended
to take. They had camped here and had dug holes in the sand in search of
water, but had found none.

We staid all night here and dug around in some other places in the
bottom of the canon, in the hope to have better luck than they did, but
we got no water anywhere.

We seemed almost perishing for want of water, the hard exercise made us
perspire so freely. In the morning we started on, and near the summit we
came to the dead body of Mr. Fish, laying in the hot sun, as there was
no material near here with which his friends could cover the remains.
This Mr. Fish was the man who left camp some two weeks before in company
with another and who carried the long whiplash wound about his body, in
hope he could somewhere be able to trade it for bread. No doubt in this
very place where he breathed his last, his bones still lie.

As we came in sight of the next valley, we could see a lake of water
some distance south of our western course.

We had followed the Jayhawkers trail thus far, but as we found no water
in small holes in the rocks as we were likely to do when we were the
first to pass, we decided to take a new route in the hope to find a
little water in this way, for we had no hope of finding it in any other.
This valley we now crossed seemed to come to an end about ten miles to
the north of us. To the south it widened out, enclosing the lake spoken
of. This valley was very sandy and hard to walk over. When about halfway
across we saw some ox tracks leading toward the lake, and in the hope we
might find the water drinkable we turned off at right angles to our
course and went that way also. Long before we reached the water of the
lake, the bottom became a thin, slimy mud which was very hard on our
mocassins. When we reached the water we found it to be of a wine color,
and so strongly alkaline as to feel slippery to the touch, and under our

This side trip, had cost us much exertion and made us feel more thirsty
than ever.

We turned now west again, making for a canon, up which we passed in the
hope we should at some turn find a little basin of rain water in some
rock. We traveled in it miles and miles, and our mouths became so dry we
had to put a bullet or a small smooth stone in and chew it and turn it
around with the tongue to induce a flow of saliva. If we saw a spear of
green grass on the north side of a rock, it was quickly pulled and eaten
to obtain the little moisture it contained.

Thus we traveled along for hours, never speaking, for we found it much
better for our thirst to keep our mouths closed as much as possible, and
prevent the evaporation. The dry air of that region took up water as a
sponge does. We passed the summit of this ridge without finding any
water, and on our way down the western side we came to a flat place
where there was an Indian hut made of small brush. We now thought there
surely must be some water near and we began a thorough search. The great
snow mountain did not seem far off, but to the south and southwest a
level or inclined plain extended for a long distance. Our thirst began
to be something terrible to endure, and in the warm weather and hard
walking we had secured only two drinks since leaving camp.

We were so sure that there must be water near here that we laid our
knapsacks down by the little hut and looked around in every possible
place we could think of. Soon it got dark and then we made a little fire
as a guide and looked again. Soon the moon arose and helped us some, and
we shouted frequently to each other so as not to get lost.

We were so nearly worn out that we tried to eat a little meat, but after
chewing a long time, the mouth would not moisten it enough so we could
swallow, and we had to reject it. It seemed as if we were going to die
with plenty of food in our hand, because we could not eat it.

We tried to sleep but could not, but after a little rest we noticed a
bright star two hours above the horizon, and from the course of the moon
we saw the star must be pretty truly west of us. We talked a little, and
the burden of it was a fear that we could not endure the terrible thirst
a while longer. The thought of the women and children waiting for our
return made us feel more desperate than if we were the only ones
concerned. We thought we could fight to the death over a water hole if
we could only secure a little of the precious fluid. No one who has ever
felt the extreme of thirst can imagine the distress, the dispair, which
it brings. I can find no words, no way to express it so others can

The moon gave us so much light that we decided we would start on our
course, and get as far as we could before the hot sun came out, and so
we went on slowly and carefully in the partial darkness, the only hope
left to us being that our strength would hold out till we could get to
the shining snow on the great mountain before us. We reached the foot of
the range we were descending about sunrise. There was here a wide wash
from the snow mountain, down which some water had sometime run after a
big storm, and had divided into little rivulets only reaching out a
little way before they had sunk into the sand.

We had no idea we could now find any water till we at least got very
near the snow, and as the best way to reach it we turned up the wash
although the course was nearly to the north. The course was up a gentle
grade and seemed quite sandy and not easy to travel. It looked as if
there was an all day walk before us, and it was quite a question if we
could live long enough to make the distance. There were quite strong
indications that the water had run here not so very long ago, and we
could trace the course of the little streams round among little sandy
islands. A little stunted brush grew here but it was so brittle that the
stems would break as easy as an icicle.

In order to not miss a possible bit of water we separated and agreed
upon a general course, and that if either one found water he should fire
his gun as a signal. After about a mile or so had been gone over I heard
Roger's gun and went in his direction. He had found a little ice that
had frozen under the clear sky. It was not thicker than window glass.
After putting a piece in our mouths we gathered all we could and put it
into the little quart camp kettle to melt. We gathered just a kettle
full, besides what we ate as we were gathering, and kindled a little
fire and melted it.

I can but think how providential it was that we started in the night for
in an hour after the sun had risen that little sheet of ice would have
melted and the water sank into the sand. Having quenched our thirst we
could now eat, and found that we were nearly starved also. In making
this meal we used up all our little store of water, but we felt
refreshed and our lives renewed so that we had better courage to go on.

We now took our course west again taking a bee line for a bluff that lay
a little to the south of the big snow mountain. On and on we walked till
the dark shadow of the great mountain in the setting sun was thrown
about us, and still we did not seem more than half way to the bluff
before us.

All the way had been hill and very tiresome walking. There was
considerable small brush scattered about, here and there, over this
steeply inclined plain.

We were still several miles from the base of this largest of the
mountains and we could now see that it extended west for many miles. The
buttes to the south were low, black and barren, and to the west as far
as we could see there were no mountains with any snow. As the sun got
further down we could see a small smoke curling up near the base of the
mountain, and we thought it must be some signal made by the Indians, as
we had often seen them signal in that way, but we stopped and talked the
matter over, and as we were yet a long way from the bluff which had been
our objective point, we concluded we would investigate the smoke signal
a little closer. So we set off toward it in the dusk and darkness and
when within about a mile we found we were in a tract that had been
somewhat beaten. Feeling with my fingers I was quite sure I could
distinguish ox tracks, and then was quite sure that we had overtaken the
Jayhawkers, or at least were on their trail. And then I thought perhaps
they had fallen among the Indians, who now might be feasting on their
oxen and it became necessary to use great caution in approaching the
little smoke.

We took a circuitous route and soon saw that the persons were on a
little bench above us and we kept very cautious and quiet, listening for
any sounds that might tell us who they were.

If they were Indians we should probably hear some of their dogs, but we
heard none, and kept creeping closer and closer, till we were within
fifty yards without hearing a sound to give us any idea of who they

We decided to get our guns at full cock and then hail the camp, feeling
that we had a little the advantage of position. We hailed and were
answered in English. "Don't Shoot" said we and they assured us they had
no idea of such a thing, and asked us to come in. We found here to our
surprise, Ed Doty, Tom Shannon, L.D. Stevens, and others whom I do not
recollect, the real Jayhawkers. They gave us some fresh meat for supper,
and near the camp were some water holes that answered well for camp

Here an ox had given out and they had stopped long enough to dry the
meat, while the others had gone on a day ahead.

Coming around the mountain from the north was quite a well defined
trail, leading to the west and they said they were satisfied some one
lived at the end of it, and they were going to follow it if it lead to
Mexico or anywhere else. They said that Mr. Brier and his family were
still on behind, and alone. Every one must look out for himself here,
and we could not do much for another in any way.

We inquired of them about the trail over which they had come, and where
they had found water, and we told them of our experience in this
respect. We then related how our train could not go over the mountains
with wagons, how they had returned to the best spring, and that we
started to go through to the settlements to obtain relief while they
waited for our return. We explained to them how they must perish without
assistance. If we failed to get through, they could probably live as
long as the oxen lasted and would then perish of starvation. We told
them how nearly we came to the point of perishing that very morning, of
thirst, and how we were saved by finding a little patch of ice in an
unexpected place, and were thus enabled to come on another days travel.

These men were not as cheerful as they used to be and their situation
and prospects constantly occupied their minds. They said to us that if
the present trail bore away from the mountain and crossed the level
plain, that there were some of them who could not possibly get along
safely to the other side. Some were completely discouraged, and some
were completely out of provisions and dependent on those who had either
provisions or oxen yet on hand. An ox was frequently killed, they said,
and no part of it was wasted. At a camp where there was no water, for
stewing, a piece or hide would be prepared for eating by singeing off
the hair and then roasting in the fire. The small intestines were drawn
through the fingers to clean them, and these when roasted made very fair

They said they had been without water for four or five days at a time
and came near starving to death, for it was impossible to swallow food
when one became so thirsty. They described the pangs of hunger as
something terrible and not to be described. They were willing to give us
any information we desired and we anxiously received all we could, for
on our return we desired to take the best possible route, and we thus
had the experience of two parties instead of one. They told us about the
death of Mr. Fish and Mr. Isham, and where we would find their bodies if
we went over their trail.

In the morning we shouldered our packs again and took the trail leading
to the west, and by night we had overtaken the advance party of the
Jayhawkers, camped in a canon where there was a little water, barely
sufficient for their use. We inquired why they did not take the trail
leading more directly west at the forks, and they said they feared it
would lead them into deep snow which would be impassible. They said they
considered the trail they had taken as altogether the safest one.

We met Bennett and Arcane's teamsters, and as we expected they were
already out of grub and no way to get anymore. When the party killed an
ox they had humbly begged for some of the poorest parts, and thus far
were alive. They came to us and very pitifully told us they were
entirely out, and although an ox had been killed that day they had not
been able to get a mouthful. We divided up our meat and gave them some
although we did not know how long it would be before we would ourselves
be in the same situation.

Thus far we had not seen anything to shoot, big or little although we
kept a sharp lookout.

The whole camp was silent, and all seemed to realize their situation.
Before them was a level plain which had the appearance of being so broad
as to take five or six days to cross. Judging by the look from the top
of the mountain as we came over, there was little to hope for in the way
of water. We thought it over very seriously. All the water we could
carry would be our canteens full, perhaps two drinks apiece and the poor
meat had so little nourishment that we were weak and unable to endure
what we once could.

We were alone, Rogers and I, in interest at any rate, even if there were
other men about. For the time it really seemed as if there was very
little hope for us and I have often repeated the following lines as very
closely describing my own feelings at that time.

Oh hands, whose loving, gentle grasp I loosed.
When first this weary journey was begun.
If I could feel your touch as once I could.
How gladly would I wish my work undone.

_Harriet Keynon_.

During the evening, I had a talk with Capt. Asa Haines, in which he said
he left a good home in Illinois, where he had everything he could wish
to eat, and every necessary comfort, and even some to spare, and now he
felt so nearly worn out that he had many doubts whether he could live to
reach the mountains, on the other side. He was so deeply impressed that
he made me promise to let his wife and family know how I found him and
how he died, for he felt sure he would never see the California mines. I
said I might not get through myself, but he thought we were so young and
strong that we would struggle through. He said if he could only be home
once more he would be content to stay. This was the general tenor of the
conversation. There was no mirth, no jokes, and every one seemed to feel
that he was very near the end of his life, and such a death as stood
before them, choking, starving in a desert was the most dreary outlook I
ever saw.

This camp of trouble, of forlorn hope, on the edge of a desert
stretching out before us like a small sea, with no hope for relief
except at the end of a struggle which seemed almost hopeless, is more
than any pen can paint, or at all describe. The writer had tried it
often. Picture to yourself, dear reader the situation and let your own
imagination do the rest. It can never come up to the reality.

In the morning, as Rogers and I were about to start, several of the
oldest men came to us with their addresses and wished us to forward them
to their families if we ever got within the reach of mails. These men
shed tears, and we did also as we parted. We turned silently away and
again took up our march.

As we went down the canon we came to one place where it was so narrow,
that a man or a poor ox could barely squeeze through between the rocks,
and in a few miles more reached the open level plain. When three or four
miles out on the trail and not far from the hills we came to a bunch of
quite tall willows. The center of the bunch had been cut out and the
branches woven in so as to make a sort of corral. In the center of this
was a spring of good water and some good grass growing around. This was
pretty good evidence that some one had been here before. We took a good
drink and filled our canteens anew, for we did not expect to get another
drink for two or three days at least.

We took the trail again and hurried on as the good water made us feel
quite fresh. After a few miles we began to find the bones of animals,
some badly decayed and some well preserved. All the heads were those of
horses, and it puzzled us to know where they came from. As we passed
along we noticed the trail was on a slight up grade and somewhat
crooked. If we stepped off from it the foot sank in about two inches in
dirt finer than the finest flour. The bones were scattered all along,
sometimes the bones of several animals together. Was it the long drive,
poison water, or what? It was evident they had not been killed but had
dropped along the way.

It was a dreary trail at best, and these evidences of death did not help
to brighten it in the least. We wondered often where it led to and what
new things would be our experience. After walking fast all day we came
to quite an elevation, where we could stand and look in all directions.
The low black range where we left the Jayhawkers was in sight, and this
spur of the great snowy mountains extended a long way to the south, and
seemed to get lower and lower, finally ending in low rocky buttes, a
hundred miles away. Some may think this distance very far to see, but
those who have ever seen the clear atmosphere of that region will bear
me out in these magnificent distances. Generally a mountain or other
object seen at a distance would be three or four times as far off as one
would judge at first sight, so deceptive are appearances there. The
broad south end of the great mountain which we first saw the next
morning after we left the wagons, was now plain in sight, and peak after
peak extending away to the north, all of them white with snow. Standing
thus out in the plain we could see the breadth of the mountain east and
west, and it seemed as though it must have been nearly a hundred miles.
The south end was very abrupt and sank as one into a great plain in
which we stood, twenty miles from the mountain's base.

To the northwest we could see a clay lake, or at least that was what we
called it, and a line of low hills seemed to be an extension of the
mountain in a direction swinging around to the south to enclose this
thirsty, barren plain before us, which was bounded by mountains or hills
on these sides. To the south this range seemed to get higher, and we
could see some snow capped mountains to the south of our westerly
course. The low mountains as those seen in the northwest direction is
the same place now crossed by the Southern Pacific Railroad, and known
as the Tehachipi pass, the noted loop, in which the railroad crosses
itself, being on the west slope and Ft. Tejon being on the same range a
little further south where the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Coast
Range join. The first mountain bearing snow, south of our course was
probably what is known as Wilson's peak, and the high mountains still
farther south, the San Bernardino mountains. There were no names there
known to us nor did we know anything of the topography of the country
except that we supposed a range of mountains was all that separated us
from California.

We were yet in the desert, and if we kept our due west course, we must
cross some of the snow before us which if steep gave us some doubts
whether we could get through or not.

We did not know exactly what the people left behind would do if we were
gone longer than we intended, but if they started on it was quite plain
to us they would be lost, and as seven days had already passed we were
in serious trouble for fear we could not complete the trip in the time
allotted to us. We surveyed the plain and mountains to learn its
situation and then started, on following our trail. As we went on we
seemed to be coming to lower ground, and near our road stood a tree of a
kind we had not seen before. The trunk was about six or eight inches
through and six or eight feet high with arms at the top quite as large
as the body, and at the end of the arms a bunch of long, stiff bayonet
shaped leaves.

It was a brave little tree to live in such a barren country. As we
walked on these trees were more plenty and some were much larger than
the first. As we came to the lowest part of the valley there seemed to
be little faint water ways running around little clouds of stunted
shrubs, but there was no signs that very much water ever run in them. We
thought that these were the outlet of the big sandy lake which might get
full of water and overflow through these channels after some great

As this low ground was quite wide we lost our trail in crossing it, and
we separated as we went along, looking to find it again, till nearly
dark when we looked for a camping place. Fortunately we found a little
pond of rain water, and some of our strange trees that were dead gave us
good material for a fire, so that we were very comfortable indeed,
having both drink and fire.

Starting on again our course was now ascending slightly, and we came
across more and more of the trees, and larger ones than at first. We saw
some that seemed to have broken down with their own weight. The bayonet
shaped leaves seemed to fall off when old and the stalk looked so much
like an old overgrown cabbage stump that we name them "Cabbage trees,"
but afterward learned they were a species of Yucca. We were much worried
at loosing our trail and felt that it would be quite unsafe to try to
cross the mountain without finding it again, so we separated, Rogers
going northwest, and I southwest, agreeing to swing round so as to meet
again about noon, but when we met, neither of us had found a trail, and
we were still about 10 miles from the foothills. Rogers said he had
heard some of the people say that the trail leading from Salt Lake to
Los Angeles crossed such a mountain in a low pass, with very high
mountains on each side, and he supposed that the high mountain to the
south must be the one where the trail crossed, but as this would take us
fully fifty miles south of our course as we supposed it was we hesitated
about going there, and concluded we would try the lowest place in the
mountain first, and if we failed we could then go and try Roger's route,
more to the south.

So we pushed on, still keeping a distance apart to look out for the
trail, and before night, in the rolling hills, we saw here and there
faint traces of it, which grew plainer as we went along, and about
sundown we reached some water holes and from some old skulls of oxen
lying around the ground showing that it had at some previous time been a
camping ground. We found some good large sage brush which made a pretty
good fire, and if we could have had a little fresh meat to roast we
thought we were in a good position for supper. But that poor meat was
pretty dry food. However it kept us alive, and we curled up together and
slept, for the night was cool, and we had to make the little blanket do
its best. We thought we ought to find a little game, but we had not seen
any to shoot since we started.

In the morning the trail led us toward the snow, and as we went along, a
brave old crow surprised us by lighting on a bush near the trail, and we
surprised him by killing him with a charge of shot. "Here's your fresh
meat," said Rogers as he put it into his knapsack to cook for supper,
and marched on. As we approached the summit we could see, on the high
mountains south of us, some trees, and when we came near the highest
part of our road there were some juniper trees near it, which was very
encouraging. We crossed over several miles of hard snow, but it
moistened up our moccassins and made them soft and uncomfortable. After
we had turned down the western slope we killed a small hawk. "Here's
your meat" said I, as the poor thin fellow was stowed away for future
grub, to cook with the crow.

When we got out of the snow we had lost the trail again but the hills on
the sides were covered with large brush, and on a higher part of the
mountain south, were some big trees, and we began to think the country
would change for the better pretty soon. We followed down the ravine for
many miles, and when this came out into a larger one, we were greatly
pleased at the prospect, for down the latter came a beautiful little
running brook of clear pure water, singing as it danced over the stones,
a happy song and telling us to drink and drink again, and you may be
sure we did drink, for it had been months and months since we had had
such water, pure, sweet, free from the terrible alkali and stagnant
taste that had been in almost every drop we had seen. Rogers leveled his
shot gun at some birds and killed a beautiful one with a top knot on his
head, and colors bright all down his neck. It was a California quail. We
said birds always lived where human beings did, and we had great hopes
born to us of a better land. I told John that if the folks were only
there now I could kill game enough for them.

We dressed our three birds and got them boiling in the camp kettle, and
while they were cooking talked over the outlook which was so flattering
that our tongues got loose and we rattled away in strange contrast to
the ominous silence of a week ago. While eating our stew of crow and
hawk, we could see willows alders and big sage brush around and we had
noticed what seemed to be cottonwoods farther down the canon, and green
trees on the slope of the mountain. We were sure we were on the edge of
the promised land and were quite light hearted, till we began to tell of
plans to get the good people out who were waiting for us beside the
little spring in the desert. We talked of going back at once, but our
meat was too near gone, and we must take them something to encourage
them a little and make them strong for the fearful trip. As to these
birds--the quail was as superb a morsel as ever a man did eat; the hawk
was pretty fair and quite good eating; but that abominable crow! His
flesh was about as black as his feathers and full of tough and bony
sinews. We concluded we did not want any more of that kind of bird, and
ever since that day, when I have heard people talk of "eating crow" as a
bitter pill, I think I know all about it from experience.

There seemed to be no other way for us but to push on in the morning and
try to obtain some relief for the poor women and children and then get
back to them as fast as ever we could, so we shouldered our packs and
went on down the canon as fast as we could. We came soon to evergreen
oaks and tall cottonwoods, and the creek bottom widened out to two
hundred yards. There were trees on the south side and the brush kept
getting larger and larger. There was a trail down this canon, but as it
passed under fallen trees we knew it could not have been the same one we
had been following on the other side of the summit, and when we
discovered a bear track in a soft place we knew very well it was not a
trail intended for human beings, and we might be ordered out almost any

On the high bold grassy point about four hundred yards we saw two horses
that held their heads aloft and gave a snort, then galloped away out of
sight. About 10 o'clock I felt a sudden pain in my left knee, keen and
sharp, and as we went along it kept growing worse. I had to stop often
to rest, and it was quite plain that if this increased or continued I
was sure enough disabled, and would be kept from helping those whom we
had left. Nerved with the idea we must get help to them, and that right
soon, I hobbled along as well as I could, but soon had to say to Rogers
that he had better go on ahead and get help and let me come on as best I
could, for every moment of delay was a danger of death to our party who
trusted us to get them help. Rogers refused to do this, he said he would
stay with me and see me out, and that he could not do much alone, and
had better wait till I got better. So we worked along through the
tangled brush, being many times compelled to wade the stream to get
along, and this made our moccasins soft and very uncomfortable to wear.
I endured the pain all day, and we must have advanced quite a little
distance in spite of my lameness, but I was glad when night came and we
camped in the dark brushy canon, having a big fire which made me quite
comfortable all night, though it was quite cold, and we had to keep
close together so as to use the blanket. I felt a little better in the
morning and after eating some of our poor dried meat, which was about as
poor as crow, and I don't know but a little worse, we continued on our

The tangle got worse and worse as we descended, and at times we walked
in the bed of the stream in order to make more headway, but my lameness
increased and we had to go very slow indeed. About noon we came to what
looked like an excavation, a hole four feet square or more it looked to
be, and on the dirt thrown out some cottonwood trees had grown, and one
of the largest of these had been cut down sometime before. This was the
first sign of white men we had seen and it was evidently an attempt at
mining, no one knows how long ago. It encouraged us at any rate, and we
pushed on through brush and briers, tangles of wild rose bushes and
bushes of every sort, till all of a sudden we came out into an open
sandy valley, well covered with sage brush and perhaps a hundred yards
wide; probably more.

The hills on the south side had on them some oak trees and grassy spots,
but the north side was thickly covered with brush. Our beautiful little
brook that had kept us company soon sank into the dry sand out of sight,
and we moved rather slowly along every little while we spoke of the
chances of wagons ever getting through the road we had come, and the
hope that my lameness might not continue to retard our progress in
getting back to the place of our starting, that the poor waiting people
might begin to get out of the terrible country they were in and enjoy as
we had done, the beautiful running stream of this side of the mountain.
If I did not get better the chances were that they would perish, for
they never could come through alone, as the distance had proved much
greater than we had anticipated, and long dry stretches of the desert
were more than they would be prepared for. As it was we feared greatly
that we had consumed so much time they would get impatient and start out
and be lost.

I continued to hobble along down the barren valley as well as I could
and here and there some tracks of animals were discovered, but we could
not make out whether they were those of domestic cattle or elk. Soon, on
the side of a hill, rather high up a pack of prairie wolves were
snarling around the carcass of some dead animal, and this was regarded
as another sign that more and better meat could be found, for these
animals only live where some sort of game can be found, and they knew
better than we that it was not for their health to go into the barren

Before us now was a spur from the hills that reached nearly across our
little valley and shut out further sight in that direction and when we
came to it we climbed up over it to shorten the distance. When the
summit was reached a most pleasing sight filled our sick hearts with a
most indescribable joy. I shall never have the ability to adequately
describe the beauty of the scene as it appeared to us, and so long as I
live that landscape will be impressed upon the canvas of my memory as
the most cheering in the world. There before us was a beautiful meadow
of a thousand acres, green as a thick carpet of grass could make it, and
shaded with oaks, wide branching and symmetrical, equal to those of an
old English park, while all over the low mountains that bordered it on
the south and over the broad acres of luxuriant grass was a herd of
cattle numbering many hundreds if not thousands. They were of all colors
shades and sizes. Some were calmly lying down in happy rumination,
others rapidly cropping the sweet grass, while the gay calves worked off
their superfluous life and spirit in vigorous exercise or drew rich
nourishment in the abundant mother's milk. All seemed happy and content,
and such a scene of abundance and rich plenty and comfort bursting thus
upon our eyes which for months had seen only the desolation and sadness
of the desert, was like getting a glimpse of Paradise, and tears of joy
ran down our faces. If ever a poor mortal escapes from this world where
so many trials come, and joys of a happy Heaven are opened up to him,
the change cannot be much more that this which was suddenly opened to us
on that bright day which was either one of the very last of December
1849 or the first of January 1850, I am inclined to think it was the
very day of the new year, but in our troubles, the accuracy of the
calendar was among the least of our troubles. If it was, as I believe
the beginning of the year, it was certainly a most auspicious one and
one of the most hopeful of my life.

And _now if the others were only here_, was the burden of our thought,
and a serious awakening from the dream of beauty and rich plenty spread
out before us. This ring-streaked and speckled herd might be descended
directly from Jacob's famous herd, blessed of the Lord, and while we
could not keep our thoughts from some sad doubts as to the fate of those
whom we had left behind, we tried to be generally hopeful and courageous
and brightened up our steps to prepare for a relief and return to the
hot dry plain beyond the mountains where they were awaiting us, no doubt
with much tribulation.

I now thought of myself and my failing knee and we sat down under the
shade of an oak to rest, and after a little, better feeling seemed to
come. Down by a deep gully cut by the rains a yearling steer was
feeding, and I took the rifle and crawled down near him and put first
one ball through him, and then another, before he fell dead on the other
side of the wash, when we sprang with all the agility of a deer. We
quickly got some good meat and had it roasted and eaten almost quicker
than can be told. We hardly realized how near starved we were till we
had plenty before us again. We ate till we were satisfied for once, and
for the first time in many long dreary weeks. We kindled a fire and
commenced drying the meat, one sleeping while the other kept the fire,
and changing off every few hours. What a rest that was! One who has
never been nearly worn out and starved, down nearly to the point of
death can never know what it is to rest in comfort. No one can tell. It
was like a dream, a sweet, restful dream where troubles would drown
themselves in sleep. How we felt the strength come back to us with that
food and the long draughts of pure clear water.

The miserable dried meat in our knapsacks was put away and this splendid
jerked beef put in its place. The wolves came to our camp and howled in
dreadful disappointment at not getting a meal. Rogers wanted me to shoot
the miserable howlers, but I let them have their concert out, and
thought going without their breakfast must be punishment enough for
them. As our moccasins were worn out we carefully prepared some sinews
from the steer and made new foot gear from the green hide which placed
us in shape for two or three week's walking.

The morning was clear and pleasant. We had our knapsacks filled with
good food we had prepared, and were enjoying the cool breeze which came
up the valley, when we heard faintly the bark of a dog, or at least we
thought we did. If this were true there must be some one living not very
far away and we felt better. I was still very lame and as we started
along the walking seemed to make it worse again, so that it was all I
could do to follow John on the trail down the valley. As we went along a
man and woman passed us some distance on the left, and they did not seem
to notice us, though we were in plain sight. They were curiously
dressed. The woman had no hoops nor shoes, and a shawl wound about her
neck and one end thrown over her head, was a substitute bonnet. The man
had sandals on his feet, with white cotton pants, a calico shirt, and a
wide rimmed, comical, snuff-colored hat. We at once put them down as
Spaniards, or then descendants of Mexico, and if what we had read about
them in books was true, we were in a set of land pirates, and blood
thirsty men whom we might have occasion to be aware of. We had never
heard a word of Spanish spoken, except perhaps a word or two upon the
plains which some fellow knew, and how we could make ourselves known and
explain who we were was a puzzle to us.

Difficulties began to arise in our minds now we were in an apparent land
of plenty, but in spite of all we went along as fast as my lame knee
would permit me to do. A house on higher ground soon appeared in sight.
It was low, of one story with a flat roof, gray in color, and of a
different style of architecture from any we had ever seen before. There
was no fence around it, and no animals or wagons in sight, nor person to
be seen. As we walked up the hill toward it I told John our moccasins
made of green hide would betray us as having recently killed an animal,
and as these people might be the owners and detain us by having us
arrested for the crime, and this would be especially bad for us just
now. We determined to face the people, and let the fact of our close
necessities be a sufficient excuse for us, if we could make them
understand our circumstances.

As we came near the house no person was seen, but a mule tied to a post
told us there was some one about, and a man soon made an appearance,
dressed about the same style as the one we had passed a short time
before. As we came near we saluted him, bidding him good morning, and he
in turn touched his hat politely, saying something in reply which we
were not able to understand. I showed him that I was lame, and taking
out some money pointed to the mule, but he only shook his head and said
something I could not comprehend. Rogers now began looking around the
house, which was built of sun-dried bricks about one by two feet in
size, and one end was used as a storehouse. As he looked in, a man came
to him and wanted a black, patent leather belt which Rogers wore, having
a watch-pocket attached to it. He offered a quart or more of coarse corn
meal, and Rogers made the trade.

We tried to inquire where we were or where ought to go, but could get no
satisfactory answer from the man, although when we spoke San Francisco
he pointed to the north. This was not very satisfactory to us and we
seemed as badly lost as ever, and where or which way to go we did not
seem very successful in finding out. So we concluded to go on a little
way at least, and I hobbled off in the direction he pointed, which was
down the hill and past a small, poorly fenced field which was sometimes
cultivated, and across the stream which followed down the valley.
Passing on a mile or two we stopped on a big patch of sand to rest.

I told Rogers I did not think this course would lead us to any place in
a month, and just now a delay was ruinous to us and to those who were
waiting for us, and it would not do for us to go off to the north to
find a settlement. While I was expressing my opinion on matters and
things, Rogers had wet up a part of his meal with water and put it to
bake on the cover of his camp kettle. There was a fair sized cake for
each of us, and it was the first bread of any kind we had eaten for
months, being a very acceptable change from an exclusively meat diet.
Looking up the valley we could see a cloud of dust, thick and high, and
soon several men on horseback who came at a rushing gallop. I told
Rogers they were after us, and believed them to be a murderous set who
might make trouble for us. I hastily buried our little store of money in
the sand, telling him that if they got us, they would not get our money.
Putting our guns across our laps in an easy position we had them cocked
and ready for business, and our knives where we could get them handy,
and awaited their arrival.

They came on with a rush until within a short distance and halted for
consultation just across the creek, after which one of them advanced
toward us and as he came near us we could see he was a white man, who
wished us good evening in our own language. We answered him rather
cooly, still sitting in the sand and he no doubt saw that we were a
little suspicious of the crowd. He asked us where we were from, and we
told him our circumstances and condition and that we would like to
secure some means of relief for the people we had left in the desert,
but our means were very limited and we wanted to do the best we could.
He said we were about 500 miles from San Francisco, not far from 100
miles from the coast and thirty miles from Los Angeles. We were much
afraid we would not be able to get anything here, but he told us to go
across the valley to a large live oak tree which he pointed out, and
said we would find an American there, and we should wait there till
morning. He said he would go back and stay at the house we had passed,
and would do what he could to assist us to go to Los Angeles where we
could get some supplies. Then he rode away, and as we talked it over we
saw no way but to follow the directions of our newfound friend.

It seemed now that my lameness had indeed been a blessing. If I had been
able to walk we would now have been well on toward the seashore, where
we could have found no such friend as this who had appeared to us. The
way seemed clearer to us, but the time for our return was almost up and
there was no way of getting back in fifteen days as we had agreed upon,
so there was great danger to our people yet. It seemed very likely to
take us twenty four or thirty days at best, and while they probably had
oxen enough to provide them food for so long a time they might take a
notion to move on, which would be fatal.

At the big live oak tree we found an American camper, who was on his way
to the gold mines. He was going a new route and said the mines could be
reached much quicker than by going up the coast by way of San Francisco.
A new company with wagons was soon to start out to break the road, and
when they crossed the east end of the valley he would follow them. I
think this man's name was Springer. He had come by way of the Santa Fe
route, and the people of Los Angeles had told him this route was an easy
one being often traveled by saddle horses, and if the company could make
it possible for wagons they could have all the cattle they wanted to
kill along the road as their pay for doing the work. Our new friend lay
down early, and as he saw we were scant in blankets he brought some to
us for our use, which were most thankfully received.

As soon as we were alone Rogers mixed up some more of the meal which we
baked in our friend's frying pan, and we baked and ate and baked and ate
again, for our appetites were ravenous, and the demand of our stomachs
got the better of the judgment of our brains.

It was hard to find time to sleep, we were so full of the plans about
the way, which we must manage to get relief for the people. We had many
doubts if animals could ever come over the route we had come over, from
deliberation we decided that by selecting a route with that idea in our
minds, we could get mules and perhaps horses over the country. We
perhaps could go more to the north and take the Jayhawkers trail, but
this would take us fully a hundred miles farther and four or five days
longer, at the best, and every moment of delay was to be carefully
avoided as a moment of danger to our friends.

Thus again, our sleep was troubled from another cause. Being so long
unaccustomed to vegetable food, and helped on, no doubt, by our poor
judgment in gauging the quantity of our food, we were attacked by severe
pains in the stomach and bowels, from which we suffered intensely. We
arose very early and with a very light breakfast, for the sickness
admonished us, we started back for the house we had first passed, at
which our friend on horseback, said he would spend the night and where
we were to meet him this morning. He said he could talk Spanish all
right and would do all he could to help us.

Our suffering and trouble caused us to move very slowly, so that it was
nine or ten o'clock before we reached the house, and we found they had
two horses all ready for us to go to Los Angeles. There were no saddles
for us, but we thought this would be a good way to cure my lameness. The
people seemed to be friends to us in every way. We mounted, having our
packs on our backs, and our guns before us, and with a friendly parting
to the people who did not go, all four of us started on a trip of thirty
miles to the town of Los Angeles.

When we reached the foot of the mountain which was very steep but not
rocky, John and I dismounted and led our animals to the top, where we
could see a long way west, and south, and it looked supremely beautiful.
We could not help comparing it to the long wide, desert we had crossed,
and John and myself said many times how we wished the folks were here to
enjoy the pleasant sight, the beautiful fertile picture.

There appeared to be one quite large house in sight, and not far off,
which the man told us was the Mission of San Fernando, a Roman Catholic
Church and residence for priests and followers. The downward slope of
the mountain was as steep as the other side and larger, and John and I
did not attempt to mount till we were well down on the level ground
again, but the other two men rode up and down without any trouble. We
would let our leaders get half a mile or so ahead of us and then mount
and put our horses to a gallop till we overtook them again. We had
walked so long that riding was very tiresome to us, and for comfort
alone we would have preferred the way on foot, but we could get along a
little faster, and the frequent dismounting kept us from becoming too
lame from riding.

We passed the Mission about noon or a little after, and a few miles
beyond met a man on horseback who lived up to the north about a hundred
miles. His name was French and he had a cattle range at a place called
Tejon (Tahone). Our friends told him who we were, and what assistance we
needed. Mr. French said he was well acquainted in Los Angeles and had
been there some time, and that all the travelers who would take the
Coast route had gone, those who had come by way of Salt Lake had got in
from two to four weeks before, and a small train which had come the
Santa Fe Route was still upon the road. He said Los Angeles was so clear
of emigrants that he did not think we could get any help there at the
present time.

"Now," said Mr. French--"You boys can't talk Spanish and it is not very
likely you will be able to get any help. Now I say, you boys turn back
and go with me and I will give you the best I have, I will let you have
a yoke of gentle oxen, or more if you need them, and plenty of beans,
which are good food for I live on them; besides this I can give an
Indian guide to help you back. Will that do?" After a moment we said we
doubted if oxen could be got over the road, and if they were fat now
they would soon get poor, and perhaps not stand it as well as the oxen
which had became used to that kind of life, and of those they had in
camp all they needed. We wanted to get something for the women and
children to ride, for we knew they must abandon the wagons, and could
not walk so far over that dry, rough country. "Well," said Mr.
French:--"I will stop at the place you were this morning--I know them
well--and they are good folks, and I am sure when I tell them what you
want they will help you if they possibly can. This looks to me to be the
most sensible course." After talking an hour our two companions advised
us that the proposition of Mr. French seemed the most reasonable one
that appeared. But for us to go clear back to his range would take up so
much valuable time that we were almost afraid of the delay which might
mean the destruction of our friends. French said he had a pack saddle,
with him taking it home, and we could put it on one of our horses, and
when we came back to Los Angeles could leave it at a certain saloon or
place he named and tell them it belonged to him and to keep it for him.
I have forgotten the name of the man who kept the saloon. We agreed to
this, and bidding our two companions farewell, we turned back again with
Mr. French.

When night came we were again at the Mission we had passed on the way
down. We were kindly treated here, for I believe Mr. French told them
about us. They sent an Indian to take our horses, and we sat down beside
the great house. There were many smaller houses, and quite a large piece
of ground fenced in by an adobe wall. The roof of the buildings was like
that of our own buildings in having eaves on both, sides, but the
covering was of semi circular tiles made and burned like brick. Rows of
these were placed close together, the hollow sides up, and then another
course over the joints, placed with the round side up, which made a roof
that was perfectly waterproof, but must have been very heavy. These
tiles were about two feet long. All the surroundings, and general make
up of the place were new to us and very wonderful. They gave us good
dried meat to eat and let us sleep in the big house on the floor, which
was as hard as granite, and we turned over a great many times before
daylight, and were glad when morning came. We offered to pay them, but
they would take nothing from us, and we left leading our horses over the
steep mountain, and reaching the house again late in the day. They
turned our horses loose and seemed disposed to be very friendly and
disposed to do for us what they could.

We were very tired and sat down by the side of the house and rested,
wondering how we would come out with our preparations. They were talking
together, but we could not understand a word. A dark woman came out and
gave each of us a piece of cooked squash. It seemed to have been roasted
in the ashes and was very sweet and good. These were all signs of
friendship and we were glad of the good feeling. We were given a place
to sleep in the house, in a store room on a floor which was not soft.
This was the second house we had slept in since leaving Wisconsin, and
it seemed rather pent-up to us.

In the morning we were shown a kind of mill like a coffee mill, and by
putting in a handful of wheat from a pile and giving the mill a few
turns we were given to understand we should grind some flour for
ourselves. We went to work with a will, but found it, hard, slow work.

After a little, our dark woman came and gave us each a pancake and a
piece of meat, also another piece of roasted squash, for our breakfast,
and this, we thought, was the best meal we had ever eaten. The lady
tried to talk to us but we could not understand the words, and I could
convey ideas to her better by the sign language than any other way. She
pointed out the way from which we came and wanted to know how many day's
travel it might be away, and I answered by putting my hand to my head
and closing my eyes, which was repeated as many times as there had been
nights on our journey, at which she was much surprised that the folks
were so far away. She then place her hand upon her breast and then held
it up, to ask how many women there were, and I answered her by holding
up three fingers, at which she shrugged her shoulders and shook her
head. Then pointing to a child by her side, four or five years old, and
in the same way asked how many children, I answered by holding up four
fingers, and she almost cried, opening her mouth in great surprise, and
turned away.

I said to Rogers that she was a kind, well meaning woman, and that Mr.
French had no doubt told her something of our story. Aside from her dark
complexion her features reminded me of my mother, and at first sight of
her I thought of the best woman on earth my own far off mother, who
little knew the hardships we had endured. We went to work again at the
mill and after a while the woman came again and tried to talk and to
teach us some words of her own language. She place her finger on me and
said _ombre_ and I took out my little book and wrote down _ombre_ as
meaning man, and in the same way she taught me that _mujer_, was woman;
_trigo_, wheat; _frijoles_, beans; _carne_, meat; _calazasa_, pumpkin;
_caballo_, horse; _vaca_, cow; _muchacho_, boy, and several other words
in this way.

I got hold of many words thus to study, so that if I ever came back I
could talk a little and make myself understood as to some of the common
objects and things of necessary use. Such friendly, human acts shown to
us strangers, were evidences of the kindest disposition. I shall never
forget the kindness of those original Californians. When in Walker's
camp and finding he was friendly to Mormonism we could claim that we
were also Mormons, but the good people though well known Catholics, did
not so much as mention the fact nor inquire whether we favored that sect
or not. We were human beings in distress and we represented others who
were worse even than we, and those kind acts and great good will, were
given freely because we were fellow human beings.

The provisions we prepared were, a sack of small yellow beans; a small
sack of wheat, a quantity of good dried meat, and some of the coarse,
unbolted flour we had made at the mills. They showed us how to properly
pack the horse, which was a kind of work we had not been use to, and we
were soon ready for a start. I took what money we had and put it on a
block, making signs for them to take what the things were worth. They
took $30, and we were quite surprised to get two horses, provisions,
pack-saddles and ropes, some of the latter made of rawhide and some of
hair, so cheaply, but we afterward learned that the mares furnished were
not considered of much value, and we had really paid a good fair price
for everything. To make it easy for us they had also fixed our knapsacks
on the horses.

The good lady with the child, came out with four oranges and pointed to
her own child and then to the East, put them in the pack meaning we
should carry them to the children. With a hearty good bye from them, and
a polite lifting of our hats to them we started on our return, down
toward the gentle decline of the creek bottom, and then up the valley,
the way we came. Toward night we came to a wagon road crossing the
valley, and as we well knew we could not go up the tangled creek bed
with horses we took this road to the north, which took a dry ravine for
its direction, and in which there was a pack trail, and this the wagons
were following. We kept on the trail for a few miles, and overtook them
in their camp, and camped with them over night. We told them we
considered our outfit entirely too small for the purpose intended, which
was to bring two women and four children out of the desert, but that
being the best we could get, we were taking this help to them and hoped
to save their lives. Our mission became well known and one man offered
to sell us a poor little one-eyed mule, its back all bare of covering
from the effect of a great saddle sore that had very recently healed. He
had picked it up somewhere in Arizona where it had been turned out to
die, but it seemed the beast had enough of the good Santa Ana stock in
it to bring it through and it had no notion of dying at the present
time, though it was scarcely more than a good fair skeleton, even then.
The beast became mine at the price of $15, and the people expressed
great sympathy with us and the dear friends we were going to try to

Another man offered a little snow-white mare, as fat as butter, for $15,
which I paid, though it took the last cent of money I had. This little
beauty of a beast was broken to lead at halter, but had not been broken
in any other way. Rogers said he would ride her where he could, and
before she got to the wagons she would be as gentle as a lamb. He got a
bridle and tried her at once, and then there was a scene of rearing,
jumping and kicking that would have made a good Buffalo Bill circus in
these days. No use, the man could not be thrown off, and the crowd
cheered and shouted to Rogers to--"Hold her level."

After some bucking and backing on the part of the mare and a good deal
of whipping and kicking on the part of the man, and a good many furious
clashes in lively, but very awkward ways, the little beast yielded the
point, and carried her load without further trouble.

The people gave us a good supper and breakfast, and one man came and
presented us with 25 pounds of unbolted wheat flour. They were of great
assistance to us in showing us how to pack and sack our load, which was
not heavy and could be easily carried by our two animals which we had at
first. However we arranged a pack on the mule and this gave me a horse
to ride and a mule to lead, while Rogers rode his milk-white steed and
led the other horse. Thus we went along and following the trail soon
reached the summit from which we could see off to the East a wonderful
distance, probably 200 miles, of the dry and barren desert of hill and
desolate valley over which we had come.

The trail bearing still to the north from this point, we left and turned
due east across the country, and soon came to a beautiful lake of sweet
fresh water situated well up toward the top of the mountain. This lake
is now called Elizabeth Lake. Here we watered our animals and filled our
canteens, then steered a little south of east among the Cabbage trees,
aiming to strike the rain water hole where we had camped as we came
over. We reached the water hole about noon and here found the Jayhawkers
trail, which we took. They had evidently followed us and passed down the
same brushy canon while we having taken a circuitous route to the north,
had gone around there. Getting water here for ourselves and horses, we
went back to the trail and pushed on as fast as the animals could walk,
and as we now knew where we could get water, we kept on till after dark,
one of us walking to keep the trail, and some time in the night reached
the Willow corral I have spoken of before. There was good water here,
but the Jayhawker's oxen had eaten all the grass that grew in the little
moist place around, and our animals were short of feed. One of us agreed
to stand guard the fore part of the night and the other later, so that
we might not be surprised by Indians and lose our animals. I took the
first watch and let the blaze of the fire go out so as not to attract
attention and as I sat by the dull coals and hot ashes I fell asleep.
Rogers happened to wake and see the situation, and arose and waked me
again saying that we must be more careful or the Indians would get our
horses. You may be sure I kept awake the rest of my watch.

Next day we passed the water holes at the place where we had so
stealthily crawled up to Doty's camp when coming out. These holes held
about two pails of water each, but no stream run away from them. Our
horses seemed to want water badly for when they drank they put their
head in up to their eyes and drank ravenously.

Thirty miles from here to the next water, Doty had told us, and night
overtook us before we could reach it, so a dry camp was made. Our horses
began now to walk with drooping heads and slow, tired steps, so we
divided the load among them all and walked ourselves. The water, when
reached proved so salt the horses would not drink it, and as Doty had
told us the most water was over the mountain ahead of us, we still
followed their trail which went up a very rocky canon in which it was
hard work for the horses to travel. The horses were all very gentle now
and needed some urging to make them go. Roger's fat horse no longer
tried to unseat its rider or its pack, but seemed to be the most
downhearted of the train. The little mule was the liveliest, sharpest
witted animal of the whole. She had probably traveled on the desert
before and knew better how to get along. She had learned to crop every
spear of grass she came to, and every bit of sage brush that offered a
green leaf was given a nip. She would sometimes leave the trail and go
out to one side to get a little bunch of dry grass, and come back and
take her place again as if she knew her duty. The other animals never
tried to do this. The mule was evidently better versed in the art of
getting a living than the horses.

Above the rough bed of the canon the bottom was gravelly and narrow, and
the walls on each side nearly perpendicular. Our horses now poked slowly
along and as we passed the steep wall of the canon the white animal left
the trail and walked with full force, head first, against the solid
rock. She seemed to be blind, and though we went quickly to her and took
off the load she carried, she had stopped breathing by the time we had
it done. Not knowing how far it was to water, nor how soon some of our
other horses might fall, we did not tarry, but pushed on as well as we
could, finding no water. We reached the summit and turned down a ravine,
following the trail, and about dark came to the water they had told us
about, a faint running stream which came out of a rocky ravine and sank
almost immediately in the dry sand. There was water enough for us, but
no grass. It seemed as if the horses were not strong enough to carry a
load, and as we wanted to get them through if possible, we concluded to
bury the wheat and get it on our return. We dug a hole and lined it
with fine sticks, then put in the little bag and covered it with dry
brush, and sand making the surface as smooth as if it had never been
touched, then made our bed on it. The whole work was done after dark so
the deposit could not be seen by the red men and we thought we had done
it pretty carefully.

Next morning the little mule carried all the remaining load, the horses
bearing only their saddles, and seemed hardly strong enough for that.
There was now seven or eight miles of clean loose sand to go over,
across a little valley which came to an end about ten miles north of us,
and extended south to the lake where we went for water on our outward
journey and found it red alkali. Near the Eastern edge of the valley we
turned aside to visit the grave of Mr. Isham, which they had told us of.
They had covered his remains with their hands as best they could, piling
up a little mound of sand over it. Our next camp was to be on the summit
of the range just before us, and we passed the dead body of Mr. Fish, we
had seen before, and go on a little to a level sandy spot in the ravine
just large enough to sleep on. This whole range is a black mass rocky
piece of earth, so barren that not a spear of grass can grow, and not a
drop of water in any place. We tied our horses to rocks and there they
staid all night, for if turned loose there was not a mouthful of food
for them to get.

In the morning an important question was to be decided, and that was
whether we should continue to follow the Jayhawker's trail which led far
to the north to cross the mountain, which stood before us, a mass of
piled-up rocks so steep that it seemed as if a dog could hardly climb
it. Our wagons were nearly due east from this point over the range, and
not more than fifty miles away, while to go around to the north was
fully a hundred miles, and would take us four or five days to make. As
we had already gone so long we expected to meet them any day trying to
get out, and if we went around we might miss them. They might have all
been killed by Indians or they might have already gone. We had great
fears on their account. If they had gone north they might have perished
in the snow.

The range was before us, and we must get to the other side in some way.
We could see the range for a hundred miles to the north and along the
base some lakes of water that must be salt. To the south it got some
lower, but very barren and ending in black, dry buttes. The horses must
have food and water by night or we must leave them to die, and all
things considered it seemed to be the quickest way to camp to try and
get up a rough looking canon which was nearly opposite us on the other
side. So we loaded the mule and made our way down the rocky road to the
ridge, and then left the Jayhawker's trail, taking our course more south
so as to get around a salt lake which lay directly before us. On our way
we had to go close to a steep bluff, and cross a piece of ground that
looked like a well dried mortar bed, hard and smooth as ice, and thus
got around the head of a small stream of clear water, salt as brine. We
now went directly to the mouth of the canon we had decided to take, and
traveled up its gravelly bed. The horses now had to be urged along
constantly to keep them moving and they held their heads low down as
they crept along seemingly so discouraged that they would much rather
lie down and rest forever than take another step. We knew they would do
this soon in spite of all our urging, if we could not get water for
them. The canon was rough enough where we entered it, and a heavy up
grade too, and this grew more and more difficult as we advanced, and the
rough yellowish, rocky walls closed in nearer and nearer together as we

A perpendicular wall, or rather rise, in the rocks was approached, and
there was a great difficulty to persuade the horses to take exertion to
get up and over the small obstruction, but the little mule skipped over
as nimbly as a well-fed goat, and rather seemed to enjoy a little
variety in the proceedings. After some coaxing and urging the horses
took courage to try the extra step and succeeded all right, when we all
moved on again, over a path that grew more and more narrow, more and
more rocky under foot at every moment. We wound around among and between
the great rocks, and had not advanced very far before another
obstruction, that would have been a fall of about three feet had water
been flowing in the canon, opposed our way. A small pile of lone rocks
enabled the mule to go over all right, and she went on looking for every
spear of grass, and smelling eagerly for water, but all our efforts were
not enough to get the horses along another foot. It was getting nearly
night and every minute without water seemed an age. We had to leave the
horses and go on. We had deemed them indispensable to us, or rather to
the extrication of the women and children, and yet the hope came to us
that the oxen might help some of them out as a last resort. We were sure
the wagons must be abandoned, and such a thing as women riding on the
backs of oxen we had never seen, still it occurred to us as not
impossible and although leaving the horses here was like deciding to
abandon all for the feeble ones, we saw we must do it, and the new hope
arose to sustain us for farther effort. We removed the saddles and
placed them on a rock, and after a few moments hesitation, moments in
which were crowded torrents of wild ideas, and desperate thoughts, that
were enough to drive reason from its throne, we left the poor animals to
their fate and moved along. Just as we were passing out of sight the
poor creatures neighed pitifully after us, and one who has never heard
the last despairing, pleading neigh of a horse left to die can form no
idea of its almost human appeal. We both burst into tears, but it was no
use, to try to save them we must run the danger of sacrificing
ourselves, and the little party we were trying so hard to save.

We found the little mule stopped by a still higher precipice or
perpendicular rise of fully ten feet. Our hearts sank within us and we
said that we should return to our friends as we went away, with our
knapsacks on our backs, and the hope grew very small. The little mule
was nipping some stray blades of grass and as we came in sight she
looked around to us and then up the steep rocks before her with such a
knowing, intelligent look of confidence, that it gave us new courage. It
was a strange wild place. The north wall of the canon leaned far over
the channel, overhanging considerably, while the south wall sloped back
about the same, making the wall nearly parallel, and like a huge crevice
descending into the mountain from above in a sloping direction.

We decided to try to get the confident little mule over this
obstruction, Gathering all the loose rocks we could we piled them up
against the south wall, beginning some distance below, putting up all
those in the bed of the stream and throwing down others from narrow
shelves above we built a sort of inclined plane along the walls
gradually rising till we were nearly as high as the crest of the fall.
Here was a narrow shelf scarcely four inches wide and a space of from
twelve to fifteen feet to cross to reach the level of the crest. It was
all I could do to cross this space, and there was no foundation to
enable us to widen it so as to make a path for an animal. It was forlorn
hope but we made the most of it. We unpacked the mule and getting all
our ropes together, made a leading line of it. Then we loosened and
threw down all the projecting points of rocks we could above the narrow
shelf, and every piece that was likely to come loose in the shelf
itself. We fastened the leading line to her and with one above and one
below we thought we could help her to keep her balance, and if she did
not make a misstep on that narrow way she might get over safely. Without
a moments hesitation the brave animal tried the pass. Carefully and
steadily she went along, selecting a place before putting down a foot,
and when she came to the narrow ledge leaned gently on the rope, never
making a sudden start or jump, but cautiously as a cat moved slowly
along. There was now no turning back for her. She must cross this narrow
place over which I had to creep on hands and knees, or be dashed down
fifty feet to a certain death. When the worst place was reached she
stopped and hesitated, looking back as well as she could. I was ahead
with the rope, and I called encouragingly to her and talked to her a
little. Rogers wanted to get all ready and he said, "holler" at her as
loud as he could and frighten her across, but I thought the best way to
talk to her gently and let her move steadily.

I tell you, friends, it was a trying moment. It seemed to be weighed
down with all the trails and hardships of many months. It seemed to be
the time when helpless women and innocent children hung on the trembling
balance between life and death. Our own lives we could save by going
back, and sometimes it seemed as if we would perhaps save ourselves the
additional sorrow of finding them all dead to do so at once. I was so
nearly in despair that I could not help bursting in tears, and I was not
ashamed of the weakness. Finally Rogers said, "Come Lewis" and I gently
pulled the rope, calling the little animal, to make a trial. She smelled
all around and looked over every inch of the strong ledge, then took one
careful step after another over the dangerous place. Looking back I saw
Rogers with a very large stone in his hand, ready to "holler" and
perhaps kill the poor beast if she stopped. But she crept along trusting
to the rope to balance, till she was half way across, then another step
or two, when calculating the distance closely she made a spring and
landed on a smooth bit of sloping rock below, that led up to the highest
crest of the precipice, and safely climbed to the top, safe and sound
above the falls. The mule had no shoes and it was wonderful how her
little hoofs clung to the smooth rock. We felt relieved. We would push
on and carry food to the people; we would get them through some way;
there could be no more hopeless moment than the one just past, and we
would save them all.

It was the work of a little while to transfer the load up the precipice,
and pack the mule again, when we proceeded. Around behind some rocks
only a little distance beyond this place we found a small willow bush
and enough good water for a camp. This was a strange canon. The sun
never shown down to the bottom in the fearful place where the little
mule climbed up, and the rocks had a peculiar yellow color. In getting
our provisions up the precipice, Rogers went below and fastened the rope
while I pulled them up. Rogers wished many times we had the horses up
safely where the mule was, but a dog could hardly cross the narrow path
and there was no hope. Poor brutes, they had been faithful servants, and
we felt sorrowful enough at their terrible fate.

We had walked two days without water, and we were wonderfully refreshed
as we found it here. The way up this canon was very rough and the bed
full of sharp broken rocks in loose pieces which cut through the bottoms
of our moccasins and left us with bare feet upon the acute points and
edges. I took off one of my buckskin leggins, and gave it to Rogers, and
with the other one for myself we fixed the moccasins with them as well
as we could, which enabled us to go ahead, but I think if our feet had
been shod with steel those sharp rocks would have cut through.

Starting early we made the summit about noon, and from here we could see
the place where we found a water hole and camped the first night after
we left the wagons. Down the steep canon we turned, the same one in
which we had turned back with the wagons, and over the sharp broken
pieces of volcanic rock that formed our only footing we hobbled along
with sore and tender feet. We had to watch for the smoothest place for
every step, and then moved only with the greatest difficulty. The
Indians could have caught us easily if they had been around for we must
keep our eyes on the ground constantly and stop if we looked up and
around. But we at last got down and camped on some spot where we had set
out twenty-five days before to seek the settlements. Here was the same
little water hole in the sand plain, and the same strong sulphur water
which we had to drink the day we left. The mule was turned loose
dragging the same piece of rawhide she had attached to her when we
purchased her, and she ranged and searched faithfully for food finding
little except the very scattering bunches of sage brush. She was
industrious and walked around rapidly picking here and there, but at
dark came into camp and lay down close to us to sleep.

There was no sign that any one had been here during our absence, and if
the people had gone to hunt a way out, they must either have followed
the Jayhawker's trail or some other one. We were much afraid that they
might have fallen victims to the Indians. Remaining in camp so long it
was quite likely they had been discovered by them and it was quite
likely they had been murdered for the sake of the oxen and camp
equipage. It might be that we should find the hostiles waiting for us
when we reached the appointed camping place, and it was small show for
two against a party. Our mule and her load would be a great capture for
them. We talked a great deal and said a great many things at that camp
fire for we knew we were in great danger, and we had many doubts about
the safety of our people, that would soon be decided, and whether for
joy or sorrow we could not tell.

From this place, as we walked along, we had a wagon road to follow, in
soft sand, but not a sign of a human footstep could we see, as we
marched toward this, the camp of the last hope. We had the greatest
fears the people had given up our return and started out for themselves
and that we should follow on, only to find them dead or dying. My pen
fails me as I try to tell the feelings and thoughts of this trying hour.
I can never hope to do so, but if the reader can place himself in my
place, his imagination cannot form a picture that shall go beyond

We were some seven or eight miles along the road when I stopped to fix
my moccasin while Rogers went slowly along. The little mule went on
ahead of both of us, searching all around for little bunches of dry
grass, but always came back to the trail again and gave us no trouble.
When I had started up again I saw Rogers ahead leaning on his gun and
waiting for me, apparently looking at something on the ground. As I came
near enough to speak I asked what he had found and he said--"Here is
Capt. Culverwell, dead." He did not look much like a dead man. He lay
upon his back with arms extended wide, and his little canteen, made of
two powder flasks, lying by his side. This looked indeed as if some of
our saddest forebodings were coming true. How many more bodies should we
find? Or should we find the camp deserted, and never find a trace of the
former occupants.

We marched toward camp like two Indians, silent and alert, looking out
for dead bodies and live Indians, for really we more expected to find
the camp devastated by those rascals than to find that it still
contained our friends. To the east we could plainly see what seemed to
be a large salt lake with a bed that looked as if of the finest, whitest
sand, but really a wonder of salt crystal. We put the dreary steps
steadily one forward of another, the little mule the only unconcerned
one of the party, ever looking for an odd blade of grass, dried in the
hot dry wind, but yet retaining nourishment, which she preferred.

About noon we came in sight of the wagons, still a long way off, but in
the clear air we could make them out, and tell what they were, without
being able to see anything more. Half a mile was the distance between us
and the camp before we could see very plainly, as they were in a little
depression. We could see the covers had been taken off, and this was an
ominous sort of circumstance to us, for we feared the depredations of
the Indians in retaliation for the capture of their squashes. They had
shot our oxen before we left and they have slain them this time and the
people too.

We surely left seven wagons. Now we could see only four and nowhere the
sign of an ox. They must have gone ahead with a small train, and left
these four standing, after dismantling them.

No signs of life were anywhere about, and the thought of our hard
struggles between life and death to go out and return, with the
fruitless results that now seemed apparent was almost more than human
heart could bear. When should we know their fate? When should we find
their remains, and how learn of their sad history if we ourselves should
live to get back again to settlements and life? If ever two men were
troubled, Rogers and I surely passed through the furnace.

We kept as low and as much out of sight as possible, trusting very much
to the little mule that was ahead, for we felt sure she would detect
danger in the air sooner than we, and we watched her closely to see how
she acted. She slowly walked along looking out for food, and we followed
a little way behind, but still no decisive sign to settle the awful
suspense in which we lived and suffered. We became more and more
convinced that they had taken the trail of the Jayhawkers, and we had
missed them on the road, or they had perished before reaching the place
where we turned from their trail.

One hundred yards now to the wagons and still no sign of life, no
positive sign of death, though we looked carefully for both. We fear
that perhaps there are Indians in ambush, and with nervous irregular
breathing we counsel what to do. Finally Rogers suggested that he had
two charges in his shot gun and I seven in the Coll's rifle, and that I
fire one of mine and await results before we ventured any nearer, and if
there are any of the red devils there we can kill some of them before
they get to us. And now both closely watching the wagons I fired the
shot. Still as death and not a move for a moment, and then as if by
magic a man came out from under a wagon and stood up looking all around,
for he did not see us. Then he threw up his arms high over his head and
shouted--"The boys have come. The boys have come!" Then other bare heads
appeared, and Mr. Bennett and wife and Mr. Arcane came toward us as fast
as ever they could. The great suspense was over and our hearts were
first in our mouths, and then the blood all went away and left us almost
fainting as we stood and tried to step. Some were safe perhaps all of
those nearest us, and the dark shadow of death that had hovered over us,
and cast what seemed a pall upon every thought and action, was lifted
and fell away a heavy oppression gone. Bennett and Arcane caught us in
their arms and embraced us with all their strength, and Mrs. Bennett
when she came fell down on her knees and clung to me like a maniac in
the great emotion that came to her, and not a word was spoken. If they
had been strong enough they would have carried us to camp upon their
shoulders. As it was they stopped two or three times, and turned as if
to speak, but there was too much feeling for words, convulsive weeping
would choke the voice.

All were a little calmer soon, and Bennett soon found voice to say:--"I
know you have found some place, for you have a mule," and Mrs. Bennett
through her tears, looked staringly at us as she could hardly believe
our coming back was a reality, and then exclaimed:--"Good boys! O, you
have saved us all! God bless you forever! Such boys should never die!"
It was some time before they could talk without weeping. Hope almost
died within them, and now when the first bright ray came it almost
turned reason from its throne. A brighter happier look came to them than
we had seen, and then they plied us with questions the first of which
was:--"Where were you?"

We told them it must be 250 miles yet to any part of California where we
could live. Then came the question;--"Can we take our wagons?" "You will
have to walk," was our answer, for no wagons could go over that unbroken
road that we had traveled. As rapidly and carefully as we could we told
them of our journey, and the long distance between the water holes; that
we had lost no time and yet had been twenty six days on the road; that
for a long distance the country was about as dry and desolate as the
region we had crossed east of this camp. We told them of the scarcity of
grass, and all the reasons that had kept us so long away from them.

We inquired after the others whom we had left in camp when we went away,
and we were told all they knew about them. Hardly were we gone before
they began to talk about the state of affairs which existed. They said
that as they had nothing to live on but their oxen it would be certain
death to wait here and eat them up, and that it would be much better to
move on a little every day and get nearer and nearer the goal before the
food failed. Bennett told them they would know surely about the way when
the boys returned, and knowing the road would know how to manage and
what to expect and work for, and could get out successfully. But the
general opinion of all but Mr. Bennett and Mr. Arcane and their families
was, as expressed by one of them:--"If those boys ever get out of this
cussed hole, they are d----d fools if they ever come back to help

Some did not stay more than a week after we were gone, but took their
oxen and blankets and started on. They could not be content to stay idly
in camp with nothing to occupy their minds or bodies. They could see
that an ox when killed would feed them only a few days, and that they
could not live long on them, and it stood them in hand to get nearer the
western shore as the less distance the more hope while the meat lasted.
Bennett implored them to stay as he was sure we would come back, and if
the most of them deserted him he would be exposed to the danger of the
Indians, with no hope of a successful resistance against them.

But the most seemed to think that to stay was to die, and it would be
better to die trying to escape than to set idly down to perish. These
men seemed to think their first duty was to save themselves, and if
fortunate, help others afterward, so they packed their oxen and left in
separate parties, the last some two weeks before. They said that Capt.
Culverwell went with the last party. I afterward learned that he could
not keep up with them and turned to go back to the wagons again, and
perished, stretched out upon the sand as we saw him, dying all alone,
with no one to transmit his last words to family or friends. Not a
morsel to eat, and the little canteen by his side empty. A sad and
lonely death indeed!

There was no end to the questions about the road we had to answer, for
this was uppermost on their minds, and we tried to tell them and show
them how we must get along on our return. We told them of the great snow
mountains we had seen all to the north of our road, and how deep the
snow appeared to be, and how far west it extended. We told them of the
black and desolate ranges and buttes to the south, and of the great dry
plains in the same direction. We told them of the Jayhawkers trail; of
Fish's dead body; of the salt lake and slippery alkali water to which we
walked, only to turn away in disappointment; of the little sheets of ice
which saved our lives; of Doty's camp and what we knew of those gone
before; of the discouraged ones who gave us their names to send back to
friends; of the hawk and crow diet; of my lameness; of the final coming
out into a beautiful valley, in the midst of fat cattle and green
meadows, and the trouble to get the help arranged on account of not
knowing the language to tell the people what we needed. They were deeply
impressed that my lameness had been a blessing in disguise, or we would
have gone on to the coast and consumed more time than we did in walking
slowly to favor the cripple knee. Our sad adventures and loss of the
horses in returning was sorrowfully told and we spoke of the provisions
we had been able to bring on the little mule which had clambered over
the rocks like a cat; that we had a little flour and beans, and some
good dried meat with fat on it which we hoped would help to eke out the
poorer fare and get them through at last. They were so full of
compliments that we really began to think we had been brought into the
world on purpose to assist some one, and the one who could forecast all
things had directed us, and all our ways, so that we should save those
people and bring them to a better part of God's footstool, where plenty
might be enjoyed, and the sorrows of the desert forgotten. It was
midnight before we could get them all satisfied with their knowledge of
our experience.

[Illustation: Leaving Death Valley.--The Manly Party on Foot After
Leaving Their Wagons.]

It was quite a treat to us to sleep again between good blankets,
arranged by a woman's hand, and it was much better resting than the
curled up, cramped position we had slept in while away, with only the
poor protection of the half blanket for both of us, in nights that were
pretty chilly.

We had plenty of water here, and there being no fear of the mule going
astray we turned her loose. As the party had seen no Indians during our
absence we did not concern ourselves much about them. At breakfast we
cautioned them about eating too much bread, remembering, our own
experience in that way.

They said they had about given up our coming back a week before, and had
set about getting ready to try to move on themselves. Bennett said he
was satisfied that they never could have got through alone after what we
had told them of the route and its dangers. He said he knew it now that
not one of them would have lived if they had undertaken the journey
alone without knowledge of the way.

They had taken off the covers of the wagons to make them into houses for
the oxen, so they could be used as pack animals. The strong cloth had
been cut into narrow strips and well made into breast straps and
breeching, for the cattle were so poor and their hide so loose it was
almost impossible to keep anything on their backs. They had emptied the
feathers out of the beds to get the cloth to use, and had tried to do
everything that seemed best to do to get along without wagons. The oxen
came up for water, and the mule with them. They looked better than when
we left, but were still poor. They had rested for some time and might
feel able to go along willingly for a few days at least. I was handy
with the needle, and helped them to complete the harness for the oxen,
while Bennett and John went to the lake to get a supply of salt to take
along, a most necessary article with our fresh meat. I looked around a
little at our surroundings, and could see the snow still drifting over
the peak of the snowy mountain as we had seen it farther east, where we
were ourselves under the burning sun. This was now pretty near February
first, or midwinter. The eastern side of this great mountain was too
steep to be ascended, and no sign of a tree could be seen on the whole
eastern slope. The range of mountains on the east side of this narrow
valley were nearly all the volcanic, barren in the extreme, and the
roughest of all the mountains we had ever seen. I had now looked pretty
thoroughly, and found it to be pretty nearly a hundred miles long, and
this was the only camp I had seen where water could be had.

When Mrs. Bennet was ready to show me what to do on the cloth harness,
we took a seat under the wagon, the only shady place and began work. The
great mountain, I have spoken of as the snow mountain has since been
known as Telescope Peak, reported to be 11,000 feet high. It is in the
range running north and south and has no other peak so high. Mrs.
Bennett questioned me closely about the trip, and particularly if I had
left anything out which I did not want her to know. She said she saw her
chance to ride was very slim, and she spoke particularly of the
children, and that it was impossible for them to walk. She said little
Martha had been very sick since we had been gone, and that for many days
they had expected her to die. They had no medicine to relieve her and
the best they could do was to select the best of the ox meat, and make a
little soup of it and feed her, they had watched her carefully for many
days and nights, expecting they would have to part with her any time and
bury her little body in the sands. Sometimes it seemed as if her breath
would stop, but they had never failed in their attentions, and were at
last rewarded by seeing her improve slowly, and even to relish a little
food, so that if no relapse set in they had hopes to bring her through.
They brought the little one and showed her to me, and she seemed so
different from what she was when we went away. Then she could run about
camp climb out and in the wagons, and move about so spry that she
reminded one of a quail. Now she was strangely misshapen. Her limbs had
lost all the flesh and seemed nothing but skin and bones, while her body
had grown corpulent and distended, and her face had a starved pinched
and suffering look, with no healthy color in it.

She told me of their sufferings while we were gone, and said she often
dreamed she saw us suffering fearfully for water, and lack of food and
could only picture to herself as their own fate, that they must leave
the children by the trail side, dead, and one by one drop out themselves
in the same way. She said she dreamed often of her old home where bread
was plenty, and then to awake to find her husband and children starving
was a severe trial indeed, and the contrast terrible. She was anxious to
get me to express an opinion as to whether I thought we could get the
oxen down the falls where we had so much trouble.

I talked to her as encouragingly as I could, but she did not cheer up
much and sobbed and wept over her work most all the time. It was not
possible to encourage her much, the outlook seemed so dark. Mrs. Arcane
sat under another wagon and said nothing, but she probably heard all we
had to say, and did not look as if her hopes were any brighter. Bennett
and Rogers soon returned with a supply of salt and said the whole shore
of the lake was a winrow of it, that could be shoveled up in enormous

We now in a counsel of the whole, talked over the matter, and the way
which seemed most promising. If we went by the Jayhawkers trail, there
was a week of solid travel to get over the range and back south again as
far as a point directly opposite our camp, and this had taken us only
three days to come over as we had come. The only obstacle in the way was
the falls, and when we explained that there was some sand at the bottom
of them, Bennett said he thought we could get them over without killing
them, and that, as we knew exactly where the water was, this was the
best trail to take. Arcane was quite of the same opinion, the saving of
a week of hard and tiresome travel being in each case the deciding
reason. They then explained to me what they had decided on doing if we
had not come back. They had selected two oxen for the women to ride one
to carry water and one to carry the four children. There were no saddles
but blankets enough to make a soft seat, and they proposed to put a band
or belt around the animals for them to hold on by, and the blankets
would be retained in place by breast and breeching straps which we had
made. They had found out that it was very difficult to keep a load of
any kind upon an ox, and had devised all this harness to meet the

Bennett had one old bridle ox called Old Crump, which had been selected
to carry the children, because he was slow and steady. How in the world
do you expect it to keep the children on?--said I. "Well"--said Bennett,
with a sort of comical air, about the first relief from the sad line of
thought that had possessed us all--"We have taken two strong hickory
shirts, turned the sleeves inside, sewed up the necks, then sewed the
two shirts together by the tail, and when these are placed on the ox
they will make two pockets for the youngest children, and we think the
two others will be able to cling to his back with the help of a band
around the body of the ox to which they can cling to, with their hands."
Now if Old Crump went steady and did not kick up and scatter things, he
thought this plan would operate first rate. Now as to the mule they
proposed as we knew how to pack the animal, that we should use her to
pack our provisions so they would go safe.

From a piece of hide yet remaining John and I made ourselves some new
moccasins, and were all ready to try the trip over our old trail for now
the third time, and the last, we hoped.

Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Arcane had taken our advice, and in cooking had
not put too much of the flour or beans into the soup for the children
and they had gotten along nicely, and even began to smile a little with
satisfaction after a full meal. They got along better than John and I
did when we got hold of the first nutritions after our arrival on the
other side.

We must leave everything here we can get along without. No clothing
except that on our backs. Only a camp kettle in which to make soup, a
tin cup for each one, and some knives and spoons which each happen to
have. Each one had some sort of a canteen for water, which we must fill
up at every opportunity, and we decided to carry a shovel along, so we
might bury the body of Capt. Culverwell, and shovel up a pile of sand at
the falls to enable us to get the oxen over. Every ox had a cloth halter
on his head, so he might be led, or tied up at night when we had a dry
camp, and they would most assuredly wander off if not secured. Old Crump
was chosen to lead the train, and Rogers was to lead him. We had made an
extra halter for this old fellow, and quite a long strip of bed ticking
sewed into a strap to lead him by.

This packing business was a new idea, and a hard matter to get anything
firmly fixed on their backs.

We had made shoulder straps, hip straps, breast straps and breeching as
the correct idea for a harness. The only way we could fasten the band
around the animals was for one to get on each side and pull it as tight
as possible then tie a knot, as we had no buckles or ring in our

The loads of the oxen consisted of blankets and bedding and a small,
light tent of their sheeting about four by six feet in size. We rose
early and worked hard till about the middle of the forenoon getting all
things ready. They had been in a state of masterly inactivity so long in
this one camp that they were anxious to leave it now forever. Only in
progress was there hope, and this was our last and only chance. We must
succeed or perish. We loaded the animals from the wagons, and some of
the oxen seemed quite afraid at this new way of carrying loads. Old
Crump was pretty steady, and so was the one with the two water kegs one
on each side but the other oxen did not seem to think they needed any
blankets on these warm days.

Mrs. Arcane was from a city, and had fondly conveyed thus far some
articles of finery, of considerable value and much prized. She could not
be persuaded to leave them here to deck the red man's wife, and have her
go flirting over the mountains with, and as they had little weight she
concluded she would wear them and this perhaps would preserve them. So
she got out her best hat and trimmed it up with extra ribbon leaving
some with quite long ends to stream out behind. Arcane brought up his ox
Old Brigham, for he had been purchased at Salt Lake and named in honor
of the great Mormon Saint.

Mrs. Arcane also dressed her little boy Charlie up In his best suit of
clothes, for she thought they might as well wear them out as to throw
them away. She made one think of a fairy in gay and flying apparel. In
the same way all selected their best and most serviceable garments, for
it was not considered prudent to carry any load, and poor clothes were
good enough to leave for Indians. We set it down as a principle that we
must save ourselves all we could, for it would be a close contested
struggle with us and death, at the very best, and we wanted to get all
the advantage for ourselves we could. As we were making the preparations
the women grew more hopeful, as it seemed as if something was really
going to be accomplished.

Bennett and Arcane were emphatic in their belief and expressions that we
would succeed, "I know it--Don't you Sally?" said Bennett very
cheerfully, but after all Mrs. Bennett could not answer quite as
positively, but said "I hope so."--Mrs. Bennett's maiden name was Sarah
Dilley, which I mention here as I may otherwise forget it afterward. She
realized that hers was no easy place to ride, that they would have hard
fare at best, and that it must be nearly or quite a month before they
could reach a fertile spot on which to place her feet. One could easily
see that the future looked quite a little dark to her, on account of her
children, as a mother naturally would.

High overhead was the sun, and very warm indeed on that day in the fore
part of February 1850, when the two children were put on Old Crump to
see if he would let them ride. The two small children were placed in the
pockets on each side, face outward, and they could stand or sit as they
should choose. George and Melissa were placed on top and given hold of
the strap that was to steady them in their place. I now led up Mrs.
Bennett's ox and Mr. Bennett helped his wife to mount the animal, on
whose back as soft a seat as possible had been constructed. Mrs. Arcane
in her ribbons was now helped to her seat on the back of Old Brigham and
she carefully adjusted herself to position, and arranged her dress and
ornaments to suit, then took hold of the strap that served to hold on by
as there were no bridles on these two.

Rogers led the march with his ox; Bennett and I started the others
along, and Arcane followed with Old Crump and the children. Bennett and
Arcane took off their hats and bade the old camp good bye. The whole
procession moved, and we were once more going toward our journey's end
we hoped. The road was sandy and soft, the grade practically level, and
everything went well for about four miles, when the pack on one of the
oxen near the lead got loose and and turned over to one side, which he
no sooner saw thus out of position, then he tried to get away from it by
moving sidewise. Not getting clear of the objectionable load in this way
he tried to kick it off, and thus really got his foot in it, making
matters worse instead of better. Then he began a regular waltz and
bawled at the top of his voice in terror. Rogers tried to catch him but
his own animal was so frisky that he could not hold him and do much
else, and the spirit of fear soon began to be communicated to the others
and soon the whole train seemed to be taken crazy.

They would jump up high and then come down, sticking their fore feet as
far as possible into the sand after which, with elevated tails, and
terrible plunges would kick and thrash and run till the packs came off,
when they stopped apparently quite satisfied. Mrs. Bennett slipped off
her ox as quick as she could, grabbed her baby from the pocket on Old
Crump, and shouting to Melissa and George to jump, got her family into
safe position in pretty short order. Arcane took his Charley from the
other pocket and laid him on the ground, while he devoted his own
attention to the animals. Mrs. Arcane's ox followed suit, and waltzed
around in the sand, bawled at every turn, fully as bad as any of the
others, but Mrs. Arcane proved to be a good rider, and hard to unseat,
clinging desperately to her strap as she was tossed up and down, and
whirled about at a rate enough to to make any one dizzy. Her many fine
ribbons flew out behind like the streamers from a mast-head, and the
many fancy fixin's she had donned fluttered in the air in gayest
mockery. Eventually she was thrown however, but without the least injury
to herself, but somewhat disordered in raiment. When I saw Bennett he
was standing half bent over laughing in almost hysterical convulsion at
the entirely impromptu circus which had so suddenly performed an act not
on the program. Arcane was much pleased and laughed heartily when he saw
no one was hurt. We did not think the cattle had so much life and so
little sense as to waste their energies so uselessly. The little mule
stepped out one side and looked on in amazement, with out disarranging
any article of her load.

Mrs. Bennett, carrying her baby and walking around to keep out of the
way, got very much exhausted, and sat down on the sand, her face as red
as if the blood were about to burst through the skin, and perspiring
freely. We carried a blanket and spread down for her while we gathered
in the scattered baggage. Then the oxen were got together again, and
submitted to being loaded up again as quietly as if nothing had
happened. Myself and the women had to mend the harness considerably, and
Arcane and his ox went back for some water, while Rogers and Bennett
took the shovel and went ahead about a mile to cover up the body of
Capt. Culverwell, for some of the party feared the cattle might be
terrified at seeing it. All this took so much time that we had to make a
camp of it right here.

We put the camp kettle on two stones, built a fire, put in some beans
and dried meat cut very fine, which cooked till Arcane came with more
water, which was added, and thickened with a little of the unbolted
flour, making a pretty good and nutritious soup which we all enjoyed. We
had to secure the animals, for there was neither grass nor water for
them, and we thought they might not be in so good spirits another day.

We had little trouble in packing up again in the morning, and concluded
to take a nearer route to the summit, so as to more quickly reach the
water holes where Rogers and I camped on our first trip over the
country. This would be a hard rocky road on its course leading up a
small rocky canon, hard on the feet of the oxen, so they had to be
constantly urged on, as they seemed very tender footed. They showed no
disposition to go on a spree again and so far as keeping the loads on,
behaved very well indeed. The women did not attempt to ride but followed
on, close after Old Crump and the children who required almost constant
attention, for in their cramped position they made many cries and
complaints. To think of it, two children cramped up in narrow pockets,
in which they could not turn around, jolted and pitched around over the
rough road, made them objects of great suffering to themselves and
anxiety and labor on the part of the mothers.

Mrs. Bennett said she would carry her baby if she could, but her own
body was so heavy for her strength that she could not do it. Bennett,
Rogers and myself hurried the oxen all we could, so that we could reach
the water, and let Bennett go back with some to meet the rest and
refresh them for the end of the day's march, and he could take poor
little Martha from the pocket and carry her in his arms, which would be
a great relief to her. Arcane also took his child when he met them,
throwing away his double barrel gun, saying:--"I have no use for you."

When the women reached camp we had blankets already spread down for
them, on which they cast themselves, so tired as to be nearly dead. They
were so tired and discouraged they were ready to die, for they felt they
could not endure many days like this.

We told them this was the first day and they were not used to exercise
therefore more easily tired than after they became a little used to it.
We told them not to be discouraged, for we knew every water hole, and
all the road over which we would pilot them safely. They would not
consent to try riding again, after their circus experience, and Mrs.
Arcane said her limbs ached so much she did not think she could even go
on the next day. They had climbed over the rocks all day, and were lame
and sore, and truly thought they could not endure such another day. The
trail had been more like stairs than a road in its steep ascent, and our
camp was at a narrow pass in the range. The sky was clear and cloudless,
as it had been for so long for thus far upon this route no rain had
fallen, and only once a little snow, that came to us like manna in the
desert. For many days we had been obliged to go without water both we
and our cattle, and over the route we had come we had not seen any signs
of a white man's presence older than our own. I have no doubt we were
the first to cross the valley in this location, a visible sink hole in
the desert.

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