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The Adventures of Captain Bonneville by Washington Irving

Part 5 out of 7

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The captain had now saddled his newly acquired steed, and his
foot was in the stirrup, when the affectionate patriarch again
stepped forward, and presented to him a young Pierced-nose, who
had a peculiarly sulky look. "This," said the venerable chief,
"is my son: he is very good; a great horseman--he always took
care of this very fine horse--he brought him up from a colt, and
made him what he is.--He is very fond of this fine horse--he
loves him like a brother-- his heart will be very heavy when this
fine horse leaves the camp."

What could the captain do, to reward the youthful hope of this
venerable pair, and comfort him for the loss of his
foster-brother, the horse? He bethought him of a hatchet, which
might be spared from his slender stores. No sooner did he place
the implement into the hands of the young hopeful, than his
countenance brightened up, and he went off rejoicing in his
hatchet, to the full as much as did his respectable mother in her

The captain was now in the saddle, and about to start, when the
affectionate old patriarch stepped forward, for the third time,
and, while he laid one hand gently on the mane of the horse, held
up the rifle in the other. "This rifle," said he, "shall be my
great medicine. I will hug it to my heart--I will always love it,
for the sake of my good friend, the bald-headed chief.--But a
rifle, by itself, is dumb--I cannot make it speak. If I had a
little powder and ball, I would take it out with me, and would
now and then shoot a deer; and when I brought the meat home to my
hungry family, I would say--This was killed by the rifle of my
friend, the bald-headed chief, to whom I gave that very fine

There was no resisting this appeal; the captain, forthwith,
furnished the coveted supply of powder and ball; but at the same
time, put spurs to his very fine gift-horse, and the first trial
of his speed was to get out of all further manifestation of
friendship, on the part of the affectionate old patriarch and his
insinuating family.


Nez Perce camp A chief with a hard name The Big Hearts of the
East Hospitable treatment The Indian guides Mysterious
councils The loquacious chief Indian tomb Grand Indian
reception An Indian feast Town-criers Honesty of the Nez
Perces The captain's attempt at healing.

FOLLOWING THE COURSE of the Immahah, Captain Bonneville and his
three companions soon reached the vicinity of Snake River. Their
route now lay over a succession of steep and isolated hills, with
profound valleys. On the second day, after taking leave of the
affectionate old patriarch, as they were descending into one of
those deep and abrupt intervals, they descried a smoke, and
shortly afterward came in sight of a small encampment of Nez

The Indians, when they ascertained that it was a party of white
men approaching, greeted them with a salute of firearms, and
invited them to encamp. This band was likewise under the sway of
a venerable chief named Yo-mus-ro-y-e-cut; a name which we shall
be careful not to inflict oftener than is necessary upon the
reader This ancient and hard-named chieftain welcomed Captain
Bonneville to his camp with the same hospitality and loving
kindness that he had experienced from his predecessor. He told
the captain he had often heard of the Americans and their
generous deeds, and that his buffalo brethren (the Upper Nez
Perces) had always spoken of them as the Big-hearted whites of
the East, the very good friends of the Nez Perces.

Captain Bonneville felt somewhat uneasy under the responsibility
of this magnanimous but costly appellation; and began to fear he
might be involved in a second interchange of pledges of
friendship. He hastened, therefore, to let the old chief know his
poverty-stricken state, and how little there was to be expected
from him.

He informed him that he and his comrades had long resided among
the Upper Nez Perces, and loved them so much, that they had
thrown their arms around them, and now held them close to their
hearts. That he had received such good accounts from the Upper
Nez Perces of their cousins, the Lower Nez Perce-s, that he had
become desirous of knowing them as friends and brothers. That he
and his companions had accordingly loaded a mule with presents
and set off for the country of the Lower Nez Perces; but,
unfortunately, had been entrapped for many days among the snowy
mountains; and that the mule with all the presents had fallen
into Snake River, and been swept away by the rapid current. That
instead, therefore, of arriving among their friends, the Nez
Perces, with light hearts and full hands, they came naked,
hungry, and broken down; and instead of making them presents,
must depend upon them even for food. "But," concluded he, "we are
going to the white men's fort on the Wallah-Wallah, and will soon
return; and then we will meet our Nez Perce friends like the true
Big Hearts of the East."

Whether the hint thrown out in the latter part of the speech had
any effect, or whether the old chief acted from the hospitable
feelings which, according to the captain, are really inherent in
the Nez Perce tribe, he certainly showed no disposition to relax
his friendship on learning the destitute circumstances of his
guests. On the contrary, he urged the captain to remain with them
until the following day, when he would accompany him on his
journey, and make him acquainted with all his people. In the
meantime, he would have a colt killed, and cut up for travelling
provisions. This, he carefully explained, was intended not as an
article of traffic, but as a gift; for he saw that his guests
were hungry and in need of food.

Captain Bonneville gladly assented to this hospitable
arrangement. The carcass of the colt was forthcoming in due
season, but the captain insisted that one half of it should be
set apart for the use of the chieftain's family.

At an early hour of the following morning, the little party
resumed their journey, accompanied by the old chief and an Indian
guide. Their route was over a rugged and broken country; where
the hills were slippery with ice and snow. Their horses, too,
were so weak and jaded, that they could scarcely climb the steep
ascents, or maintain their foothold on the frozen declivities.
Throughout the whole of the journey, the old chief and the guide
were unremitting in their good offices, and continually on the
alert to select the best roads, and assist them through all
difficulties. Indeed, the captain and his comrades had to be
dependent on their Indian friends for almost every thing, for
they had lost their tobacco and pipes, those great comforts of
the trapper, and had but a few charges of powder left, which it
was necessary to husband for the purpose of lighting their fires.

In the course of the day the old chief had several private
consultations with the guide, and showed evident signs of being
occupied with some mysterious matter of mighty import. What it
was, Captain Bonneville could not fathom, nor did he make much
effort to do so. From some casual sentences that he overheard, he
perceived that it was something from which the old man promised
himself much satisfaction, and to which he attached a little
vainglory but which he wished to keep a secret; so he suffered
him to spin out his petty plans unmolested.

In the evening when they encamped, the old chief and his privy
counsellor, the guide, had another mysterious colloquy, after
which the guide mounted his horse and departed on some secret
mission, while the chief resumed his seat at the fire, and sat
humming to himself in a pleasing but mystic reverie.

The next morning, the travellers descended into the valley of the
Way-lee-way, a considerable tributary of Snake River. Here they
met the guide returning from his secret errand. Another private
conference was held between him and the old managing chief, who
now seemed more inflated than ever with mystery and
self-importance. Numerous fresh trails, and various other signs,
persuaded Captain Bonneville that there must be a considerable
village of Nez Perces in the neighborhood; but as his worthy
companion, the old chief, said nothing on the subject, and as it
appeared to be in some way connected with his secret operations,
he asked no questions, but patiently awaited the development of
his mystery.

As they journeyed on, they came to where two or three Indians
were bathing in a small stream. The good old chief immediately
came to a halt, and had a long conversation with them, in the
course of which he repeated to them the whole history which
Captain Bonneville had related to him. In fact, he seems to have
been a very sociable, communicative old man; by no means
afflicted with that taciturnity generally charged upon the
Indians. On the contrary, he was fond of long talks and long
smokings, and evidently was proud of his new friend, the
bald-headed chief, and took a pleasure in sounding his praises,
and setting forth the power and glory of the Big Hearts of the

Having disburdened himself of everything he had to relate to his
bathing friends, he left them to their aquatic disports, and
proceeded onward with the captain and his companions. As they
approached the Way-lee-way, however, the communicative old chief
met with another and a very different occasion to exert his
colloquial powers. On the banks of the river stood an isolated
mound covered with grass. He pointed to it with some emotion.
"The big heart and the strong arm," said he, "lie buried beneath
that sod."

It was, in fact, the grave of one of his friends; a chosen
warrior of the tribe; who had been slain on this spot when in
pursuit of a war party of Shoshokoes, who had stolen the horses
of the village. The enemy bore off his scalp as a trophy; but his
friends found his body in this lonely place, and committed it to
the earth with ceremonials characteristic of their pious and
reverential feelings. They gathered round the grave and mourned;
the warriors were silent in their grief; but the women and
children bewailed their loss with loud lamentations. "For three
days," said the old man, "we performed the solemn dances for the
dead, and prayed the Great Spirit that our brother might be happy
in the land of brave warriors and hunters. Then we killed at his
grave fifteen of our best and strongest horses, to serve him when
he should arrive at the happy hunting grounds; and having done
all this, we returned sorrowfully to our homes."

While the chief was still talking, an Indian scout came galloping
up, and, presenting him with a powder-horn, wheeled round, and
was speedily out of sight. The eyes of the old chief now
brightened; and all his self-importance returned. His petty
mystery was about to explode. Turning to Captain Bonneville, he
pointed to a hill hard by, and informed him, that behind it was a
village governed by a little chief, whom he had notified of the
approach of the bald-headed chief, and a party of the Big Hearts
of the East, and that he was prepared to receive them in becoming
style. As, among other ceremonials, he intended to salute them
with a discharge of firearms, he had sent the horn of gunpowder
that they might return the salute in a manner correspondent to
his dignity.

They now proceeded on until they doubled the point of the hill,
when the whole population of the village broke upon their view,
drawn out in the most imposing style, and arrayed in all their
finery. The effect of the whole was wild and fantastic, yet
singularly striking. In the front rank were the chiefs and
principal warriors, glaringly painted and decorated; behind them
were arranged the rest of the people, men, women, and children.

Captain Bonneville and his party advanced slowly, exchanging
salutes of firearms. When arrived within a respectful distance,
they dismounted. The chiefs then came forward successively,
according to their respective characters and consequence, to
offer the hand of good fellowship; each filing off when he had
shaken hands, to make way for his successor. Those in the next
rank followed in the same order, and so on, until all had given
the pledge of friendship. During all this time, the chief,
according to custom, took his stand beside the guests. If any of
his people advanced whom he judged unworthy of the friendship or
confidence of the white men, he motioned them off by a wave of
the hand, and they would submissively walk away. When Captain
Bonneville turned upon him an inquiring look, he would observe,
"he was a bad man," or something quite as concise, and there was
an end of the matter.

Mats, poles, and other materials were now brought, and a
comfortable lodge was soon erected for the strangers, where they
were kept constantly supplied with wood and water, and other
necessaries; and all their effects were placed in safe keeping.
Their horses, too, were unsaddled, and turned loose to graze, and
a guard set to keep watch upon them.

All this being adjusted, they were conducted to the main building
or council house of the village, where an ample repast, or rather
banquet, was spread, which seemed to realize all the
gastronomical dreams that had tantalized them during their long
starvation; for here they beheld not merely fish and roots in
abundance, but the flesh of deer and elk, and the choicest pieces
of buffalo meat. It is needless to say how vigorously they
acquitted themselves on this occasion, and how unnecessary it was
for their hosts to practice the usual cramming principle of
Indian hospitality.

When the repast was over, a long talk ensued. The chief showed
the same curiosity evinced by his tribe generally, to obtain
information concerning the United States, of which they knew
little but what they derived through their cousins, the Upper Nez
Perces; as their traffic is almost exclusively with the British
traders of the Hudson's Bay Company. Captain Bonneville did his
best to set forth the merits of his nation, and the importance of
their friendship to the red men, in which he was ably seconded by
his worthy friend, the old chief with the hard name, who did all
that he could to glorify the Big Hearts of the East.

The chief, and all present, listened with profound attention, and
evidently with great interest; nor were the important facts thus
set forth, confined to the audience in the lodge; for sentence
after sentence was loudly repeated by a crier for the benefit of
the whole village.

This custom of promulgating everything by criers, is not confined
to the Nez Perces, but prevails among many other tribes. It has
its advantage where there are no gazettes to publish the news of
the day, or to report the proceedings of important meetings. And
in fact, reports of this kind, viva voce, made in the hearing of
all parties, and liable to be contradicted or corrected on the
spot, are more likely to convey accurate information to the
public mind than those circulated through the press. The office
of crier is generally filled by some old man, who is good for
little else. A village has generally several of these walking
newspapers, as they are termed by the whites, who go about
proclaiming the news of the day, giving notice of public
councils, expeditions, dances, feasts, and other ceremonials, and
advertising anything lost. While Captain Bonneville remained
among the Nez Perces, if a glove, handkerchief, or anything of
similar value, was lost or mislaid, it was carried by the finder
to the lodge of the chief, and proclamation was made by one of
their criers, for the owner to come and claim his property.

How difficult it is to get at the true character of these
wandering tribes of the wilderness! In a recent work, we have had
to speak of this tribe of Indians from the experience of other
traders who had casually been among them, and who represented
them as selfish, inhospitable, exorbitant in their dealings, and
much addicted to thieving; Captain Bonneville, on the contrary,
who resided much among them, and had repeated opportunities of
ascertaining their real character, invariably speaks of them as
kind and hospitable, scrupulously honest, and remarkable, above
all other Indians that he had met with, for a strong feeling of
religion. In fact, so enthusiastic is he in their praise, that he
pronounces them, all ignorant and barbarous as they are by their
condition, one of the purest hearted people on the face of the

Some cures which Captain Bonneville had effected in simple cases,
among the Upper Nez Perces, had reached the ears of their cousins
here, and gained for him the reputation of a great medicine man.
He had not been long in the village, therefore, before his lodge
began to be the resort of the sick and the infirm. The captain
felt the value of the reputation thus accidentally and cheaply
acquired, and endeavored to sustain it. As he had arrived at that
age when every man is, experimentally, something of a physician,
he was enabled to turn to advantage the little knowledge in the
healing art which he had casually picked up; and was sufficiently
successful in two or three cases, to convince the simple Indians
that report had not exaggerated his medical talents. The only
patient that effectually baffled his skill, or rather discouraged
any attempt at relief, was an antiquated squaw with a churchyard
cough, and one leg in the grave; it being shrunk and rendered
useless by a rheumatic affection. This was a case beyond his
mark; however, he comforted the old woman with a promise that he
would endeavor to procure something to relieve her, at the fort
on the Wallah-Wallah, and would bring it on his return; with
which assurance her husband was so well satisfied, that he
presented the captain with a colt, to be killed as provisions for
the journey: a medical fee which was thankfully accepted.

While among these Indians, Captain Bonneville unexpectedly found
an owner for the horse which he had purchased from a Root Digger
at the Big Wyer. The Indian satisfactorily proved that the horse
had been stolen from him some time previous, by some unknown
thief. "However," said the considerate savage, "you got him in
fair trade--you are more in want of horses than I am: keep him;
he is yours--he is a good horse; use him well."

Thus, in the continued experience of acts of kindness and
generosity, which his destitute condition did not allow him to
reciprocate, Captain Bonneville passed some short time among
these good people, more and more impressed with the general
excellence of their character.


Scenery of the Way-lee-way A substitute for tobacco Sublime
scenery of Snake River The garrulous old chief and his cousin A
Nez Perce meeting A stolen skin The scapegoat dog Mysterious
conferences The little chief His hospitality The captain's
account of the United States His healing skill

IN RESUMING HIS JOURNEY, Captain Bonneville was conducted by the
same Nez Perce guide, whose knowledge of the country was
important in choosing the routes and resting places. He also
continued to be accompanied by the worthy old chief with the hard
name, who seemed bent upon doing the honors of the country, and
introducing him to every branch of his tribe. The Way-lee-way,
down the banks of which Captain Bonneville and his companions
were now travelling, is a considerable stream winding through a
succession of bold and beautiful scenes. Sometimes the landscape
towered into bold and mountainous heights that partook of
sublimity; at other times, it stretched along the water side in
fresh smiling meadows, and graceful undulating valleys.

Frequently in their route they encountered small parties of the
Nez Perces, with whom they invariably stopped to shake hands; and
who, generally, evinced great curiosity concerning them and their
adventures; a curiosity which never failed to be thoroughly
satisfied by the replies of the worthy Yo-mus-ro-y-e-cut, who
kindly took upon himself to be spokesman of the party.

The incessant smoking of pipes incident to the long talks of this
excellent, but somewhat garrulous old chief, at length exhausted
all his stock of tobacco, so that he had no longer a whiff with
which to regale his white companions. In this emergency, he cut
up the stem of his pipe into fine shavings, which he mixed with
certain herbs, and thus manufactured a temporary succedaneum to
enable him to accompany his long colloquies and harangues with
the customary fragrant cloud.

If the scenery of the Way-lee-way had charmed the travellers with
its mingled amenity and grandeur, that which broke upon them on
once more reaching Snake River, filled them with admiration and
astonishment. At times, the river was overhung by dark and
stupendous rocks, rising like gigantic walls and battlements;
these would be rent by wide and yawning chasms, that seemed to
speak of past convulsions of nature. Sometimes the river was of a
glassy smoothness and placidity; at other times it roared along
in impetuous rapids and foaming cascades. Here, the rocks were
piled in the most fantastic crags and precipices; and in another
place, they were succeeded by delightful valleys carpeted with
green-award. The whole of this wild and varied scenery was
dominated by immense mountains rearing their distant peaks into
the clouds. "The grandeur and originality of the views, presented
on every side," says Captain Bonneville, "beggar both the pencil
and the pen. Nothing we had ever gazed upon in any other region
could for a moment compare in wild majesty and impressive
sternness, with the series of scenes which here at every turn
astonished our senses, and filled us with awe and delight."

Indeed, from all that we can gather from the journal before us,
and the accounts of other travellers, who passed through these
regions in the memorable enterprise of Astoria, we are inclined
to think that Snake River must be one of the most remarkable for
varied and striking scenery of all the rivers of this continent.
From its head waters in the Rocky Mountains, to its junction with
the Columbia, its windings are upward of six hundred miles
through every variety of landscape. Rising in a volcanic region,
amid extinguished craters, and mountains awful with the traces of
ancient fires, it makes its way through great plains of lava and
sandy deserts, penetrates vast sierras or mountainous chains,
broken into romantic and often frightful precipices, and crowned
with eternal snows; and at other times, careers through green and
smiling meadows, and wide landscapes of Italian grace and beauty.
Wildness and sublimity, however, appear to be its prevailing

Captain Bonneville and his companions had pursued their journey a
considerable distance down the course of Snake River, when the
old chief halted on the bank, and dismounting, recommended that
they should turn their horses loose to graze, while he summoned a
cousin of his from a group of lodges on the opposite side of the
stream. His summons was quickly answered. An Indian, of an active
elastic form, leaped into a light canoe of cotton-wood, and
vigorously plying the paddle, soon shot across the river.
Bounding on shore, he advanced with a buoyant air and frank
demeanor, and gave his right hand to each of the party in turn.
The old chief, whose hard name we forbear to repeat, now
presented Captain Bonneville, in form, to his cousin, whose name,
we regret to say, was no less hard being nothing less than
Hay-she-in-cow-cow. The latter evinced the usual curiosity to
know all about the strangers, whence they came whither they were
going, the object of their journey, and the adventures they had
experienced. All these, of course, were ample and eloquently set
forth by the communicative old chief. To all his grandiloquent
account of the bald-headed chief and his countrymen, the Big
Hearts of the East, his cousin listened with great attention, and
replied in the customary style of Indian welcome. He then desired
the party to await his return, and, springing into his canoe,
darted across the river. In a little while he returned, bringing
a most welcome supply of tobacco, and a small stock of provisions
for the road, declaring his intention of accompanying the party.
Having no horse, he mounted behind one of the men, observing that
he should procure a steed for himself on the following day.

They all now jogged on very sociably and cheerily together. Not
many miles beyond, they met others of the tribe, among whom was
one, whom Captain Bonneville and his comrades had known during
their residence among the Upper Nez Perces, and who welcomed them
with open arms. In this neighborhood was the home of their guide,
who took leave of them with a profusion of good wishes for their
safety and happiness. That night they put up in the hut of a Nez
Perce, where they were visited by several warriors from the other
side of the river, friends of the old chief and his cousin, who
came to have a talk and a smoke with the white men. The heart of
the good old chief was overflowing with good will at thus being
surrounded by his new and old friends, and he talked with more
spirit and vivacity than ever. The evening passed away in perfect
harmony and good-humor, and it was not until a late hour that the
visitors took their leave and recrossed the river.

After this constant picture of worth and virtue on the part of
the Nez Perce tribe, we grieve to have to record a circumstance
calculated to throw a temporary shade upon the name. In the
course of the social and harmonious evening just mentioned, one
of the captain's men, who happened to be something of a virtuoso
in his way, and fond of collecting curiosities, produced a small
skin, a great rarity in the eyes of men conversant in peltries.
It attracted much attention among the visitors from beyond the
river, who passed it from one to the other, examined it with
looks of lively admiration, and pronounced it a great medicine.

In the morning, when the captain and his party were about to set
off, the precious skin was missing. Search was made for it in the
hut, but it was nowhere to be found; and it was strongly
suspected that it had been purloined by some of the connoisseurs
from the other side of the river.

The old chief and his cousin were indignant at the supposed
delinquency of their friends across the water, and called out for
them to come over and answer for their shameful conduct. The
others answered to the call with all the promptitude of perfect
innocence, and spurned at the idea of their being capable of such
outrage upon any of the Big-hearted nation. All were at a loss on
whom to fix the crime of abstracting the invaluable skin, when by
chance the eyes of the worthies from beyond the water fell upon
an unhappy cur, belonging to the owner of the hut. He was a
gallows-looking dog, but not more so than most Indian dogs, who,
take them in the mass, are little better than a generation of
vipers. Be that as it may, he was instantly accused of having
devoured the skin in question. A dog accused is generally a dog
condemned; and a dog condemned is generally a dog executed. So
was it in the present instance. The unfortunate cur was
arraigned; his thievish looks substantiated his guilt, and he was
condemned by his judges from across the river to be hanged. In
vain the Indians of the hut, with whom he was a great favorite,
interceded in his behalf. In vain Captain Bonneville and his
comrades petitioned that his life might be spared. His judges
were inexorable. He was doubly guilty: first, in having robbed
their good friends, the Big Hearts of the East; secondly, in
having brought a doubt on the honor of the Nez Perce tribe. He
was, accordingly, swung aloft, and pelted with stones to make his
death more certain. The sentence of the judges being thoroughly
executed, a post mortem examination of the body of the dog was
held, to establish his delinquency beyond all doubt, and to leave
the Nez Perces without a shadow of suspicion. Great interest, of
course, was manifested by all present, during this operation. The
body of the dog was opened, the intestines rigorously
scrutinized, but, to the horror of all concerned, not a particle
of the skin was to be found--the dog had been unjustly executed!

A great clamor now ensued, but the most clamorous was the party
from across the river, whose jealousy of their good name now
prompted them to the most vociferous vindications of their
innocence. It was with the utmost difficulty that the captain and
his comrades could calm their lively sensibilities, by accounting
for the disappearance of the skin in a dozen different ways,
until all idea of its having been stolen was entirely out of the

The meeting now broke up. The warriors returned across the river,
the captain and his comrades proceeded on their journey; but the
spirits of the communicative old chief, Yo-mus-ro-y-e-cut, were
for a time completely dampened, and he evinced great
mortification at what had just occurred. He rode on in silence,
except, that now and then he would give way to a burst of
indignation, and exclaim, with a shake of the head and a toss of
the hand toward the opposite shore--"bad men, very bad men across
the river"; to each of which brief exclamations, his worthy
cousin, Hay-she-in-cow-cow, would respond by a guttural sound of
acquiescence, equivalent to an amen.

After some time, the countenance of the-old chief again cleared
up, and he fell into repeated conferences, in an under tone, with
his cousin, which ended in the departure of the latter, who,
applying the lash to his horse, dashed forward and was soon out
of sight. In fact, they were drawing near to the village of
another chief, likewise distinguished by an appellation of some
longitude, O-pushy-e-cut; but commonly known as the great chief.
The cousin had been sent ahead to give notice of their approach;
a herald appeared as before, bearing a powder-horn, to enable
them to respond to the intended salute. A scene ensued, on their
approach to the village, similar to that which had occurred at
the village of the little chief. The whole population appeared in
the field, drawn up in lines, arrayed with the customary regard
to rank and dignity. Then came on the firing of salutes, and the
shaking of hands, in which last ceremonial every individual, man,
woman, and child, participated; for the Indians have an idea that
it is as indispensable an overture of friendship among the whites
as smoking of the pipe is among the red men. The travellers were
next ushered to the banquet, where all the choicest viands that
the village could furnish, were served up in rich profusion. They
were afterwards entertained by feats of agility and horseraces;
indeed, their visit to the village seemed the signal for complete
festivity. In the meantime, a skin lodge had been spread for
their accommodation, their horses and baggage were taken care of,
and wood and water supplied in abundance. At night, therefore,
they retired to their quarters, to enjoy, as they supposed, the
repose of which they stood in need. No such thing, however, was
in store for them. A crowd of visitors awaited their appearance,
all eager for a smoke and a talk. The pipe was immediately
lighted, and constantly replenished and kept alive until the
night was far advanced. As usual, the utmost eagerness was
evinced by the guests to learn everything within the scope of
their comprehension respecting the Americans, for whom they
professed the most fraternal regard. The captain, in his replies,
made use of familiar illustrations, calculated to strike their
minds, and impress them with such an idea of the might of his
nation, as would induce them to treat with kindness and respect
all stragglers that might fall in their path. To their inquiries
as to the numbers of the people of the United States, he assured
them that they were as countless as the blades of grass in the
prairies, and that, great as Snake River was, if they were all
encamped upon its banks, they would drink it dry in a single day.
To these and similar statistics, they listened with profound
attention, and apparently, implicit belief. It was, indeed, a
striking scene: the captain, with his hunter's dress and bald
head in the midst, holding forth, and his wild auditors seated
around like so many statues, the fire lighting up their painted
faces and muscular figures, all fixed and motionless, excepting
when the pipe was passed, a question propounded, or a startling
fact in statistics received with a movement of surprise and a
half-suppressed ejaculation of wonder and delight.

The fame of the captain as a healer of diseases, had accompanied
him to this village, and the great chief, O-push-y-e-cut, now
entreated him to exert his skill on his daughter, who had been
for three days racked with pains, for which the Pierced-nose
doctors could devise no alleviation. The captain found her
extended on a pallet of mats in excruciating pain. Her father
manifested the strongest paternal affection for her, and assured
the captain that if he would but cure her, he would place the
Americans near his heart. The worthy captain needed no such
inducement. His kind heart was already touched by the sufferings
of the poor girl, and his sympathies quickened by her appearance;
for she was but about sixteen years of age, and uncommonly
beautiful in form and feature. The only difficulty with the
captain was, that he knew nothing of her malady, and that his
medical science was of a most haphazard kind. After considering
and cogitating for some time, as a man is apt to do when in a
maze of vague ideas, he made a desperate dash at a remedy. By his
directions, the girl was placed in a sort of rude vapor bath,
much used by the Nez Perces, where she was kept until near
fainting. He then gave her a dose of gunpowder dissolved in cold
water, and ordered her to be wrapped in buffalo robes and put to
sleep under a load of furs and blankets. The remedy succeeded:
the next morning she was free from pain, though extremely
languid; whereupon, the captain prescribed for her a bowl of
colt's head broth, and that she should be kept for a time on
simple diet.

The great chief was unbounded in his expressions of gratitude for
the recovery of his daughter. He would fain have detained the
captain a long time as his guest, but the time for departure had
arrived. When the captain's horse was brought for him to mount,
the chief declared that the steed was not worthy of him, and sent
for one of his best horses, which he presented in its stead;
declaring that it made his heart glad to see his friend so well
mounted. He then appointed a young Nez Perce to accompany his
guest to the next village, and "to carry his talk" concerning
them; and the two parties separated with mutual expressions of
good will.

The vapor bath of which we have made mention is in frequent use
among the Nez Perce tribe, chiefly for cleanliness. Their
sweating houses, as they call them, are small and close lodges,
and the vapor is produced by water poured slowly upon red-hot

On passing the limits of O-push-y-e-cut's domains, the travellers
left the elevated table-lands, and all the wild and romantic
scenery which has just been described. They now traversed a
gently undulating country, of such fertility that it excited the
rapturous admiration of two of the captain's followers, a
Kentuckian and a native of Ohio. They declared that it surpassed
any land that they had ever seen, and often exclaimed what a
delight it would be just to run a plough through such a rich and
teeming soil, and see it open its bountiful promise before the

Another halt and sojourn of a night was made at the village of a
chief named He-mim-el-pilp, where similar ceremonies were
observed and hospitality experienced, as at the preceding
villages. They now pursued a west-southwest course through a
beautiful and fertile region, better wooded than most of the
tracts through which they had passed. In their progress, they met
with several bands of Nez Perces, by whom they were invariably
treated with the utmost kindness. Within seven days after leaving
the domain of He-mim-el-pilp, they struck the Columbia River at
Fort Wallah-Wallah, where they arrived on the 4th of March, 1834.


Fort Wallah-Wallah Its commander Indians in its
neighborhood Exertions of Mr. Pambrune for their
improvement Religion Code of laws Range of the Lower Nez
Perces Camash, and other roots Nez Perce horses Preparations for
departure Refusal of supplies Departure A laggard and glutton

FORT WALLAH - WALLAH is a trading post of the Hudson's Bay
Company, situated just above the mouth of the river by the same
name, and on the left bank of the Columbia. It is built of
drift-wood, and calculated merely for defence against any attack
of the natives. At the time of Captain Bonneville's arrival, the
whole garrison mustered but six or eight men; and the post was
under the superintendence of Mr. Pambrune, an agent of the
Hudson's Bay Company.

The great post and fort of the company, forming the emporium of
its trade on the Pacific, is Fort Vancouver; situated on the
right bank of the Columbia, about sixty miles from the sea, and
just above the mouth of the Wallamut. To this point, the company
removed its establishment from Astoria, in 1821, after its
coalition with the Northwest Company.

Captain Bonneville and his comrades experienced a polite
reception from Mr. Pambrune, the superintendent: for, however
hostile the members of the British Company may be to the
enterprises of American traders, they have always manifested
great courtesy and hospitality to the traders themselves.

Fort Wallah-Wallah is surrounded by the tribe of the same name,
as well as by the Skynses and the Nez Perces; who bring to it the
furs and peltries collected in their hunting expeditions. The
Wallah-Wallahs are a degenerate, worn-out tribe. The Nez Perces
are the most numerous and tractable of the three tribes just
mentioned. Mr. Pambrune informed Captain Bonneville that he had
been at some pains to introduce the Christian religion, in the
Roman Catholic form, among them, where it had evidently taken
root; but had become altered and modified, to suit their peculiar
habits of thought, and motives of action; retaining, however, the
principal points of faith, and its entire precepts of morality.
The same gentleman had given them a code of laws, to which they
conformed with scrupulous fidelity. Polygamy, which once
prevailed among them to a great extent, was now rarely indulged.
All the crimes denounced by the Christian faith met with severe
punishment among them. Even theft, so venial a crime among the
Indians, had recently been punished with hanging, by sentence of
a chief.

There certainly appears to be a peculiar susceptibility of moral
and religious improvement among this tribe, and they would seem
to be one of the very, very few that have benefited in morals and
manners by an intercourse with white men. The parties which
visited them about twenty years previously, in the expedition
fitted out by Mr. Astor, complained of their selfishness, their
extortion, and their thievish propensities. The very reverse of
those qualities prevailed among them during the prolonged
sojourns of Captain Bonneville.

The Lower Nez Perces range upon the Way-lee-way, Immahah,
Yenghies, and other of the streams west of the mountains. They
hunt the beaver, elk, deer, white bear, and mountain sheep.
Besides the flesh of these animals, they use a number of roots
for food; some of which would be well worth transplanting and
cultivating in the Atlantic States. Among these is the camash, a
sweet root, about the form and size of an onion, and said to be
really delicious. The cowish, also, or biscuit root, about the
size of a walnut, which they reduce to a very palatable flour;
together with the jackap, aisish, quako, and others; which they
cook by steaming them in the ground.

In August and September, these Indians keep along the rivers,
where they catch and dry great quantities of salmon; which, while
they last, are their principal food. In the winter, they
congregate in villages formed of comfortable huts, or lodges,
covered with mats. They are generally clad in deer skins, or
woollens, and extremely well armed. Above all, they are
celebrated for owning great numbers of horses; which they mark,
and then suffer to range in droves in their most fertile plains.
These horses are principally of the pony breed; but remarkably
stout and long-winded. They are brought in great numbers to the
establishments of the Hudson's Bay Company, and sold for a mere

Such is the account given by Captain Bonneville of the Nez
Perces; who, if not viewed by him with too partial an eye, are
certainly among the gentlest, and least barbarous people of these
remote wildernesses. They invariably signified to him their
earnest wish that an American post might be established among
them; and repeatedly declared that they would trade with
Americans, in preference to any other people.

Captain Bonneville had intended to remain some time in this
neighborhood, to form an acquaintance with the natives, and to
collect information, and establish connections that might be
advantageous in the way of trade. The delays, however, which he
had experienced on his journey, obliged him to shorten his
sojourn, and to set off as soon as possible, so as to reach the
rendezvous at the Portneuf at the appointed time. He had seen
enough to convince him that an American trade might be carried on
with advantage in this quarter; and he determined soon to return
with a stronger party, more completely fitted for the purpose.

As he stood in need of some supplies for his journey, he applied
to purchase them of Mr. Pambrune; but soon found the difference
between being treated as a guest, or as a rival trader. The
worthy superintendent, who had extended to him all the genial
rites of hospitality, now suddenly assumed a withered-up aspect
and demeanor, and observed that, however he might feel disposed
to serve him, personally, he felt bound by his duty to the
Hudson's Bay Company, to do nothing which should facilitate or
encourage the visits of other traders among the Indians in that
part of the country. He endeavored to dissuade Captain Bonneville
from returning through the Blue Mountains; assuring him it would
be extremely difficult and dangerous, if not impracticable, at
this season of the year; and advised him to accompany Mr.
Payette, a leader of the Hudson's Bay Company, who was about to
depart with a number of men, by a more circuitous, but safe
route, to carry supplies to the company's agent, resident among
the Upper Nez Perces. Captain Bonneville, however, piqued at his
having refused to furnish him with supplies, and doubting the
sincerity of his advice, determined to return by the more direct
route through the mountains; though varying his course, in some
respects, from that by which he had come, in consequence of
information gathered among the neighboring Indians.

Accordingly, on the 6th of March, he and his three companions,
accompanied by their Nez Perce guides, set out on their return.
In the early part of their course, they touched again at several
of the Nez Perce villages, where they had experienced such kind
treatment on their way down. They were always welcomed with
cordiality; and everything was done to cheer them on their

On leaving the Way-lee-way village, they were joined by a Nez
Perce, whose society was welcomed on account of the general
gratitude and good will they felt for his tribe. He soon proved a
heavy clog upon the little party, being doltish and taciturn,
lazy in the extreme, and a huge feeder. His only proof of
intellect was in shrewdly avoiding all labor, and availing
himself of the toil of others. When on the march, he always
lagged behind the rest, leaving to them the task of breaking a
way through all difficulties and impediments, and leisurely and
lazily jogging along the track, which they had beaten through the
snow. At the evening encampment, when others were busy gathering
fuel, providing for the horses, and cooking the evening repast,
this worthy Sancho of the wilderness would take his seat quietly
and cosily by the fire, puffing away at his pipe, and eyeing in
silence, but with wistful intensity of gaze, the savory morsels
roasting for supper.

When meal-time arrived, however, then came his season of
activity. He no longer hung back, and waited for others to take
the lead, but distinguished himself by a brilliancy of onset, and
a sustained vigor and duration of attack, that completely shamed
the efforts of his competitors--albeit, experienced trenchermen
of no mean prowess. Never had they witnessed such power of
mastication, and such marvellous capacity of stomach, as in this
native and uncultivated gastronome. Having, by repeated and
prolonged assaults, at length completely gorged himself, he would
wrap himself up and lie with the torpor of an anaconda; slowly
digesting his way on to the next repast.

The gormandizing powers of this worthy were, at first, matters of
surprise and merriment to the travellers; but they soon became
too serious for a joke, threatening devastation to the fleshpots;
and he was regarded askance, at his meals, as a regular
kill-crop, destined to waste the substance of the party. Nothing
but a sense of the obligations they were under to his nation
induced them to bear with such a guest; but he proceeded,
speedily, to relieve them from the weight of these obligations,
by eating a receipt in full.


The uninvited guest Free and easy manners Salutary jokes A
prodigal son Exit of the glutton A sudden change in
fortune Danger of a visit to poor relations Plucking of a
prosperous man A vagabond toilet A substitute for the very fine
horse Hard travelling The uninvited guest and the patriarchal
colt A beggar on horseback A catastrophe Exit of the merry

As CAPTAIN BONNEVILLE and his men were encamped one evening among
the hills near Snake River, seated before their fire, enjoying a
hearty supper, they were suddenly surprised by the visit of an
uninvited guest. He was a ragged, half-naked Indian hunter, armed
with bow and arrows, and had the carcass of a fine buck thrown
across his shoulder. Advancing with an alert step, and free and
easy air, he threw the buck on the ground, and, without waiting
for an invitation, seated himself at their mess, helped himself
without ceremony, and chatted to the right and left in the
liveliest and most unembarrassed manner. No adroit and veteran
dinner hunter of a metropolis could have acquitted himself more
knowingly. The travellers were at first completely taken by
surprise, and could not but admire the facility with which this
ragged cosmopolite made himself at home among them. While they
stared he went on, making the most of the good cheer upon which
he had so fortunately alighted; and was soon elbow deep in "pot
luck," and greased from the tip of his nose to the back of his

As the company recovered from their surprise, they began to feel
annoyed at this intrusion. Their uninvited guest, unlike the
generality of his tribe, was somewhat dirty as well as ragged and
they had no relish for such a messmate. Heaping up, therefore, an
abundant portion of the "provant" upon a piece of bark, which
served for a dish, they invited him to confine himself thereto,
instead of foraging in the general mess.

He complied with the most accommodating spirit imaginable; and
went on eating and chatting, and laughing and smearing himself,
until his whole countenance shone with grease and good-humor. In
the course of his repast, his attention was caught by the figure
of the gastronome, who, as usual, was gorging himself in dogged
silence. A droll cut of the eye showed either that he knew him of
old, or perceived at once his characteristics. He immediately
made him the butt of his pleasantries; and cracked off two or
three good hits, that caused the sluggish dolt to prick up his
ears, and delighted all the company. From this time, the
uninvited guest was taken into favor; his jokes began to be
relished; his careless, free and easy air, to be considered
singularly amusing; and in the end, he was pronounced by the
travellers one of the merriest companions and most entertaining
vagabonds they had met with in the wilderness.

Supper being over, the redoubtable Shee-wee-she-ouaiter, for such
was the simple name by which he announced himself, declared his
intention of keeping company with the party for a day or two, if
they had no objection; and by way of backing his self-invitation,
presented the carcass of the buck as an earnest of his hunting
abilities. By this time, he had so completely effaced the
unfavorable impression made by his first appearance, that he was
made welcome to the camp, and the Nez Perce guide undertook to
give him lodging for the night. The next morning, at break of
day, he borrowed a gun, and was off among the hills, nor was
anything more seen of him until a few minutes after the party had
encamped for the evening, when he again made his appearance, in
his usual frank, careless manner, and threw down the carcass of
another noble deer, which he had borne on his back for a
considerable distance.

This evening he was the life of the party, and his open
communicative disposition, free from all disguise, soon put them
in possession of his history. He had been a kind of prodigal son
in his native village; living a loose, heedless life, and
disregarding the precepts and imperative commands of the chiefs.
He had, in consequence, been expelled from the village, but, in
nowise disheartened at this banishment, had betaken himself to
the society of the border Indians, and had led a careless,
haphazard, vagabond life, perfectly consonant to his humors;
heedless of the future, so long as he had wherewithal for the
present; and fearing no lack of food, so long as he had the
implements of the chase, and a fair hunting ground.

Finding him very expert as a hunter, and being pleased with his
eccentricities, and his strange and merry humor, Captain
Bonneville fitted him out handsomely as the Nimrod of the party,
who all soon became quite attached to him. One of the earliest
and most signal services he performed, was to exorcise the
insatiate kill-crop that hitherto oppressed the party. In fact,
the doltish Nez Perce, who had seemed so perfectly insensible to
rough treatment of every kind, by which the travellers had
endeavored to elbow him out of their society, could not withstand
the good-humored bantering, and occasionally sharp wit of
She-wee-she. He evidently quailed under his jokes, and sat
blinking like an owl in daylight, when pestered by the flouts and
peckings of mischievous birds. At length his place was found
vacant at meal-time; no one knew when he went off, or whither he
had gone, but he was seen no more, and the vast surplus that
remained when the repast was over, showed what a mighty
gormandizer had departed.

Relieved from this incubus, the little party now went on
cheerily. She-wee-she kept them in fun as well as food. His
hunting was always successful; he was ever ready to render any
assistance in the camp or on the march; while his jokes, his
antics, and the very cut of his countenance, so full of whim and
comicality, kept every one in good-humor.

In this way they journeyed on until they arrived on the banks of
the Immahah, and encamped near to the Nez Perce lodges. Here
She-wee-she took a sudden notion to visit his people, and show
off the state of worldly prosperity to which he had so suddenly
attained. He accordingly departed in the morning, arrayed in
hunter's style, and well appointed with everything benefitting
his vocation. The buoyancy of his gait, the elasticity of his
step, and the hilarity of his countenance, showed that he
anticipated, with chuckling satisfaction, the surprise he was
about to give those who had ejected him from their society in
rags. But what a change was there in his whole appearance when he
rejoined the party in the evening! He came skulking into camp
like a beaten cur, with his tail between his legs. All his finery
was gone; he was naked as when he was born, with the exception of
a scanty flap that answered the purpose of a fig leaf. His
fellow-travellers at first did not know him, but supposed it to
be some vagrant Root Digger sneaking into the camp; but when they
recognized in this forlorn object their prime wag, She-wee-she,
whom they had seen depart in the morning in such high glee and
high feather, they could not contain their merriment, but hailed
him with loud and repeated peals of laughter.

She-wee-she was not of a spirit to be easily cast down; he soon
joined in the merriment as heartily as any one, and seemed to
consider his reverse of fortune an excellent joke. Captain
Bonneville, however, thought proper to check his good-humor, and
demanded, with some degree of sternness, the cause of his altered
condition. He replied in the most natural and self-complacent
style imaginable, "that he had been among his cousins, who were
very poor; they had been delighted to see him; still more
delighted with his good fortune; they had taken him to their
arms; admired his equipments; one had begged for this; another
for that"--in fine, what with the poor devil's inherent
heedlessness, and the real generosity of his disposition, his
needy cousins had succeeded in stripping him of all his clothes
and accoutrements, excepting the fig leaf with which he had
returned to camp.

Seeing his total want of care and forethought, Captain Bonneville
determined to let him suffer a little, in hopes it might prove a
salutary lesson; and, at any rate, to make him no more presents
while in the neighborhood of his needy cousins. He was left,
therefore, to shift for himself in his naked condition; which,
however, did not seem to give him any concern, or to abate one
jot of his good-humor. In the course of his lounging about the
camp, however, he got possession of a deer skin; whereupon,
cutting a slit in the middle, he thrust his head through it, so
that the two ends hung down before and behind, something like a
South American poncho, or the tabard of a herald. These ends he
tied together, under the armpits; and thus arrayed, presented
himself once more before the captain, with an air of perfect
self-satisfaction, as though he thought it impossible for any
fault to be found with his toilet.

A little further journeying brought the travellers to the petty
village of Nez Perces, governed by the worthy and affectionate
old patriarch who had made Captain Bonneville the costly present
of the very fine horse. The old man welcomed them once more to
his village with his usual cordiality, and his respectable squaw
and hopeful son, cherishing grateful recollections of the hatchet
and ear-bobs, joined in a chorus of friendly gratulation.

As the much-vaunted steed, once the joy and pride of this
interesting family, was now nearly knocked up by travelling, and
totally inadequate to the mountain scramble that lay ahead,
Captain Bonneville restored him to the venerable patriarch, with
renewed acknowledgments for the invaluable gift. Somewhat to his
surprise, he was immediately supplied with a fine two years' old
colt in his stead, a substitution which he afterward learnt,
according to Indian custom in such cases, he might have claimed
as a matter of right. We do not find that any after claims were
made on account of this colt. This donation may be regarded,
therefore, as a signal punctilio of Indian honor; but it will be
found that the animal soon proved an unlucky acquisition to the

While at this village, the Nez Perce guide had held consultations
with some of the inhabitants as to the mountain tract the party
were about to traverse. He now began to wear an anxious aspect,
and to indulge in gloomy forebodings. The snow, he had been told,
lay to a great depth in the passes of the mountains, and
difficulties would increase as he proceeded. He begged Captain
Bonneville, therefore, to travel very slowly, so as to keep the
horses in strength and spirit for the hard times they would have
to encounter. The captain surrendered the regulation of the march
entirely to his discretion, and pushed on in the advance, amusing
himself with hunting, so as generally to kill a deer or two in
the course of the day, and arriving, before the rest of the
party, at the spot designated by the guide for the evening's

In the meantime, the others plodded on at the heels of the guide,
accompanied by that merry vagabond, She-wee-she. The primitive
garb worn by this droll left all his nether man exposed to the
biting blasts of the mountains. Still his wit was never frozen,
nor his sunshiny temper beclouded; and his innumerable antics and
practical jokes, while they quickened the circulation of his own
blood, kept his companions in high good-humor.

So passed the first day after the departure from the patriarch's.
The second day commenced in the same manner; the captain in the
advance, the rest of the party following on slowly. She-wee-she,
for the greater part of the time, trudged on foot over the snow,
keeping himself warm by hard exercise, and all kinds of crazy
capers. In the height of his foolery, the patriarchal colt,
which, unbroken to the saddle, was suffered to follow on at
large, happened to come within his reach. In a moment, he was on
his back, snapping his fingers, and yelping with delight. The
colt, unused to such a burden, and half wild by nature, fell to
prancing and rearing and snorting and plunging and kicking; and,
at length, set off full speed over the most dangerous ground. As
the route led generally along the steep and craggy sides of the
hills, both horse and horseman were constantly in danger, and
more than once had a hairbreadth escape from deadly peril.
Nothing, however, could daunt this madcap savage. He stuck to the
colt like a plaister [sic], up ridges, down gullies; whooping and
yelling with the wildest glee. Never did beggar on horseback
display more headlong horsemanship. His companions followed him
with their eyes, sometimes laughing, sometimes holding in their
breath at his vagaries, until they saw the colt make a sudden
plunge or start, and pitch his unlucky rider headlong over a
precipice. There was a general cry of horror, and all hastened to
the spot. They found the poor fellow lying among the rocks below,
sadly bruised and mangled. It was almost a miracle that he had
escaped with life. Even in this condition, his merry spirit was
not entirely quelled, and he summoned up a feeble laugh at the
alarm and anxiety of those who came to his relief. He was
extricated from his rocky bed, and a messenger dispatched to
inform Captain Bonneville of the accident. The latter returned
with all speed, and encamped the party at the first convenient
spot. Here the wounded man was stretched upon buffalo skins, and
the captain, who officiated on all occasions as doctor and
surgeon to the party, proceeded to examine his wounds. The
principal one was a long and deep gash in the thigh, which
reached to the bone. Calling for a needle and thread, the captain
now prepared to sew up the wound, admonishing the patient to
submit to the operation with becoming fortitude. His gayety was
at an end; he could no longer summon up even a forced smile; and,
at the first puncture of the needle, flinched so piteously, that
the captain was obliged to pause, and to order him a powerful
dose of alcohol. This somewhat rallied up his spirit and warmed
his heart; all the time of the operation, however, he kept his
eyes riveted on the wound, with his teeth set, and a whimsical
wincing of the countenance, that occasionally gave his nose
something of its usual comic curl.

When the wound was fairly closed, the captain washed it with rum,
and administered a second dose of the same to the patient, who
was tucked in for the night, and advised to compose himself to
sleep. He was restless and uneasy, however; repeatedly expressing
his fears that his leg would be so much swollen the next day, as
to prevent his proceeding with the party; nor could he be
quieted, until the captain gave a decided opinion favorable to
his wishes.

Early the next morning, a gleam of his merry humor returned, on
finding that his wounded limb retained its natural proportions.
On attempting to use it, however, he found himself unable to
stand. He made several efforts to coax himself into a belief that
he might still continue forward; but at length, shook his head
despondingly, and said, that "as he had but one leg," it was all
in vain to attempt a passage of the mountain.

Every one grieved to part with so boon a companion, and under
such disastrous circumstances. He was once more clothed and
equipped, each one making him some parting present. He was then
helped on a horse, which Captain Bonneville presented to him; and
after many parting expressions of good will on both sides, set
off on his return to his old haunts; doubtless, to be once more
plucked by his affectionate but needy cousins.


The difficult mountain A smoke and consultation The captain's
speech An icy turnpike Danger of a false step Arrival on Snake
River Return to Portneuf Meeting of comrades

CONTINUING THEIR JOURNEY UP the course of the Immahah, the
travellers found, as they approached the headwaters, the snow
increased in quantity, so as to lie two feet deep. They were
again obliged, therefore, to beat down a path for their horses,
sometimes travelling on the icy surface of the stream. At length
they reached the place where they intended to scale the
mountains; and, having broken a pathway to the foot, were
agreeably surprised to find that the wind had drifted the snow
from off the side, so that they attained the summit with but
little difficulty. Here they encamped, with the intention of
beating a track through the mountains. A short experiment,
however, obliged them to give up the attempt, the snow lying in
vast drifts, often higher than the horses' heads.

Captain Bonneville now took the two Indian guides, and set out to
reconnoitre the neighborhood. Observing a high peak which
overtopped the rest, he climbed it, and discovered from the
summit a pass about nine miles long, but so heavily piled with
snow, that it seemed impracticable. He now lit a pipe, and,
sitting down with the two guides, proceeded to hold a
consultation after the Indian mode. For a long while they all
smoked vigorously and in silence, pondering over the subject
matter before them. At length a discussion commenced, and the
opinion in which the two guides concurred was, that the horses
could not possibly cross the snows. They advised, therefore, that
the party should proceed on foot, and they should take the horses
back to the village, where they would be well taken care of until
Captain Bonneville should send for them. They urged this advice
with great earnestness; declaring that their chief would be
extremely angry, and treat them severely, should any of the
horses of his good friends, the white men, be lost, in crossing
under their guidance; and that, therefore, it was good they
should not attempt it.

Captain Bonneville sat smoking his pipe, and listening to them
with Indian silence and gravity. When they had finished, he
replied to them in their own style of language.

"My friends," said he, "I have seen the pass, and have listened
to your words; you have little hearts. When troubles and dangers
lie in your way, you turn your backs. That is not the way with my
nation. When great obstacles present, and threaten to keep them
back, their hearts swell, and they push forward. They love to
conquer difficulties. But enough for the present. Night is coming
on; let us return to our camp."

He moved on, and they followed in silence. On reaching the camp,
he found the men extremely discouraged. One of their number had
been surveying the neighborhood, and seriously assured them that
the snow was at least a hundred feet deep. The captain cheered
them up, and diffused fresh spirit in them by his example. Still
he was much perplexed how to proceed. About dark there was a
slight drizzling rain. An expedient now suggested itself. This
was to make two light sleds, place the packs on them, and drag
them to the other side of the mountain, thus forming a road in
the wet snow, which, should it afterward freeze, would be
sufficiently hard to bear the horses. This plan was promptly put
into execution; the sleds were constructed, the heavy baggage was
drawn backward and forward until the road was beaten, when they
desisted from their fatiguing labor. The night turned out clear
and cold, and by morning, their road was incrusted with ice
sufficiently strong for their purpose. They now set out on their
icy turnpike, and got on well enough, excepting that now and then
a horse would sidle out of the track, and immediately sink up to
the neck. Then came on toil and difficulty, and they would be
obliged to haul up the floundering animal with ropes. One, more
unlucky than the rest, after repeated falls, had to be abandoned
in the snow. Notwithstanding these repeated delays, they
succeeded, before the sun had acquired sufficient power to thaw
the snow, in getting all the rest of their horses safely to the
other side of the mountain.

Their difficulties and dangers, however, were not yet at an end.
They had now to descend, and the whole surface of the snow was
glazed with ice. It was necessary; therefore, to wait until the
warmth of the sun should melt the glassy crust of sleet, and give
them a foothold in the yielding snow. They had a frightful
warning of the danger of any movement while the sleet remained. A
wild young mare, in her restlessness, strayed to the edge of a
declivity. One slip was fatal to her; she lost her balance,
careered with headlong velocity down the slippery side of the
mountain for more than two thousand feet, and was dashed to
pieces at the bottom. When the travellers afterward sought the
carcass to cut it up for food, they found it torn and mangled in
the most horrible manner.

It was quite late in the evening before the party descended to
the ultimate skirts of the snow. Here they planted large logs
below them to prevent their sliding down, and encamped for the
night. The next day they succeeded in bringing down their baggage
to the encampment; then packing all up regularly, and loading
their horses, they once more set out briskly and cheerfully, and
in the course of the following day succeeded in getting to a
grassy region.

Here their Nez Perce guides declared that all the difficulties of
the mountains were at an end, and their course was plain and
simple, and needed no further guidance; they asked leave,
therefore, to return home. This was readily granted, with many
thanks and presents for their faithful services. They took a long
farewell smoke with their white friends, after which they mounted
their horses and set off, exchanging many farewells and kind

On the following day, Captain Bonneville completed his journey
down the mountain, and encamped on the borders of Snake River,
where he found the grass in great abundance and eight inches in
height. In this neighborhood, he saw on the rocky banks of the
river several prismoids of basaltes, rising to the height of
fifty or sixty feet.

Nothing particularly worthy of note occurred during several days
as the party proceeded up along Snake River and across its
tributary streams. After crossing Gun Creek, they met with
various signs that white people were in the neighborhood, and
Captain Bonneville made earnest exertions to discover whether
they were any of his own people, that he might join them. He soon
ascertained that they had been starved out of this tract of
country, and had betaken themselves to the buffalo region,
whither he now shaped his course. In proceeding along Snake
River, he found small hordes of Shoshonies lingering upon the
minor streams, and living upon trout and other fish, which they
catch in great numbers at this season in fish-traps. The greater
part of the tribe, however, had penetrated the mountains to hunt
the elk, deer, and ahsahta or bighorn.

On the 12th of May, Captain Bonneville reached the Portneuf
River, in the vicinity of which he had left the winter encampment
of his company on the preceding Christmas day. He had then
expected to be back by the beginning of March, but circumstances
had detained him upward of two months beyond the time, and the
winter encampment must long ere this have been broken up. Halting
on the banks of the Portneuf, he dispatched scouts a few miles
above, to visit the old camping ground and search for signals of
the party, or of their whereabouts, should they actually have
abandoned the spot. They returned without being able to ascertain

Being now destitute of provisions, the travellers found it
necessary to make a short hunting excursion after buffalo. They
made caches, therefore, on an island in the river, in which they
deposited all their baggage, and then set out on their
expedition. They were so fortunate as to kill a couple of fine
bulls, and cutting up the carcasses, determined to husband this
stock of provisions with the most miserly care, lest they should
again be obliged to venture into the open and dangerous hunting
grounds. Returning to their island on the 18th of May, they found
that the wolves had been at the caches, scratched up the
contents, and scattered them in every direction. They now
constructed a more secure one, in which they deposited their
heaviest articles, and then descended Snake River again, and
encamped just above the American Falls. Here they proceeded to
fortify themselves, intending to remain here, and give their
horses an opportunity to recruit their strength with good
pasturage, until it should be time to set out for the annual
rendezvous in Bear River valley.

On the first of June they descried four men on the other side of
the river, opposite to the camp, and, having attracted their
attention by a discharge of rifles, ascertained to their joy that
they were some of their own people. From these men Captain
Bonneville learned that the whole party which he had left in the
preceding month of December were encamped on Blackfoot River, a
tributary of Snake River, not very far above the Portneuf.
Thither he proceeded with all possible dispatch, and in a little
while had the pleasure of finding himself once more surrounded by
his people, who greeted his return among them in the heartiest
manner; for his long-protracted absence had convinced them that
he and his three companions had been cut off by some hostile

The party had suffered much during his absence. They had been
pinched by famine and almost starved, and had been forced to
repair to the caches at Salmon River. Here they fell in with the
Blackfeet bands, and considered themselves fortunate in being
able to retreat from the dangerous neighborhood without
sustaining any loss.

Being thus reunited, a general treat from Captain Bonneville to
his men was a matter of course. Two days, therefore, were given
up to such feasting and merriment as their means and situation
afforded. What was wanting in good cheer was made up in good
will; the free trappers in particular, distinguished themselves
on the occasion, and the saturnalia was enjoyed with a hearty
holiday spirit, that smacked of the game flavor of the


Departure for the rendezvous A war party of Blackfeet A mock
bustle Sham fires at night Warlike precautions Dangers of a night
attack A panic among horses Cautious march The Beer Springs A
mock carousel Skirmishing with buffaloes A buffalo bait Arrival
at the rendezvous Meeting of various bands

AFTER THE TWO DAYS of festive indulgence, Captain Bonneville
broke up the encampment, and set out with his motley crew of
hired and free trappers, half-breeds, Indians, and squaws, for
the main rendezvous in Bear River valley. Directing his course up
the Blackfoot River, he soon reached the hills among which it
takes its rise. Here, while on the march, he descried from the
brow of a hill, a war party of about sixty Blackfeet, on the
plain immediately below him. His situation was perilous; for the
greater part of his people were dispersed in various directions.
Still, to betray hesitation or fear would be to discover his
actual weakness, and to invite attack. He assumed, instantly,
therefore, a belligerent tone; ordered the squaws to lead the
horses to a small grove of ashen trees, and unload and tie them;
and caused a great bustle to be made by his scanty handful; the
leaders riding hither and thither, and vociferating with all
their might, as if a numerous force was getting under way for an

To keep up the deception as to his force, he ordered, at night, a
number of extra fires to be made in his camp, and kept up a
vigilant watch. His men were all directed to keep themselves
prepared for instant action. In such cases the experienced
trapper sleeps in his clothes, with his rifle beside him, the
shot-belt and powder-flask on the stock: so that, in case of
alarm, he can lay his hand upon the whole of his equipment at
once, and start up, completely armed.

Captain Bonneville was also especially careful to secure the
horses, and set a vigilant guard upon them; for there lies the
great object and principal danger of a night attack. The grand
move of the lurking savage is to cause a panic among the horses.
In such cases one horse frightens another, until all are alarmed,
and struggle to break loose. In camps where there are great
numbers of Indians, with their horses, a night alarm of the kind
is tremendous. The running of the horses that have broken loose;
the snorting, stamping, and rearing of those which remain fast;
the howling of dogs; the yelling of Indians; the scampering of
white men, and red men, with their guns; the overturning of
lodges, and trampling of fires by the horses; the flashes of the
fires, lighting up forms of men and steeds dashing through the
gloom, altogether make up one of the wildest scenes of confusion
imaginable. In this way, sometimes, all the horses of a camp
amounting to several hundred will be frightened off in a single

The night passed off without any disturbance; but there was no
likelihood that a war party of Blackfeet, once on the track of a
camp where there was a chance for spoils, would fail to hover
round it. The captain, therefore, continued to maintain the most
vigilant precautions; throwing out scouts in the advance, and on
every rising ground.

In the course of the day he arrived at the plain of white clay,
already mentioned, surrounded by the mineral springs, called Beer
Springs, by the trappers. Here the men all halted to have a
regale. In a few moments every spring had its jovial knot of
hard drinkers, with tin cup in hand, indulging in a mock carouse;
quaffing, pledging, toasting, bandying jokes, singing drinking
songs, and uttering peals of laughter, until it seemed as if
their imaginations had given potency to the beverage, and cheated
them into a fit of intoxication. Indeed, in the excitement of the
moment, they were loud and extravagant in their commendations of
"the mountain tap"; elevating it above every beverage produced
from hops or malt. It was a singular and fantastic scene; suited
to a region where everything is strange and peculiar:--These
groups of trappers, and hunters, and Indians, with their wild
costumes, and wilder countenances; their boisterous gayety, and
reckless air; quaffing, and making merry round these sparkling
fountains; while beside them lay their weep ons, ready to be
snatched up for instant service. Painters are fond of
representing banditti at their rude and picturesque carousels;
but here were groups, still more rude and picturesque; and it
needed but a sudden onset of Blackfeet, and a quick transition
from a fantastic revel to a furious melee, to have rendered this
picture of a trapper's life complete.

The beer frolic, however, passed off without any untoward
circumstance; and, unlike most drinking bouts, left neither
headache nor heartache behind. Captain Bonneville now directed
his course up along Bear River; amusing himself, occasionally,
with hunting the buffalo, with which the country was covered.
Sometimes, when he saw a huge bull taking his repose in a
prairie, he would steal along a ravine, until close upon him;
then rouse him from his meditations with a pebble, and take a
shot at him as he started up. Such is the quickness with which
this animal springs upon his legs, that it is not easy to
discover the muscular process by which it is effected. The horse
rises first upon his fore legs; and the domestic cow, upon her
hinder limbs; but the buffalo bounds at once from a couchant to
an erect position, with a celerity that baffles the eye. Though
from his bulk, and rolling gait, he does not appear to run with
much swiftness; yet, it takes a stanch horse to overtake him,
when at full speed on level ground; and a buffalo cow is still
fleeter in her motion.

Among the Indians and half-breeds of the party, were several
admirable horsemen and bold hunters; who amused themselves with a
grotesque kind of buffalo bait. Whenever they found a huge bull
in the plains, they prepared for their teasing and barbarous
sport. Surrounding him on horseback, they would discharge their
arrows at him in quick succession, goading him to make an attack;
which, with a dexterous movement of the horse, they would easily
avoid. In this way, they hovered round him, feathering him with
arrows, as he reared and plunged about, until he was bristled all
over like a porcupine. When they perceived in him signs of
exhaustion, and he could no longer be provoked to make battle,
they would dismount from their horses, approach him in the rear,
and seizing him by the tail, jerk him from side to side, and drag
him backward; until the frantic animal, gathering fresh strength
from fury, would break from them, and rush, with flashing eyes
and a hoarse bellowing, upon any enemy in sight; but in a little
while, his transient excitement at an end, would pitch headlong
on the ground, and expire. The arrows were then plucked forth,
the tongue cut out and preserved as a dainty, and the carcass
left a banquet for the wolves.

Pursuing his course up Bear River, Captain Bonneville arrived, on
the 13th of June, at the Little Snake Lake; where he encamped for
four or five days, that he might examine its shores and outlets.
The latter, he found extremely muddy, and so surrounded by swamps
and quagmires, that he was obliged to construct canoes of rushes,
with which to explore them. The mouths of all the streams which
fall into this lake from the west, are marshy and inconsiderable;
but on the east side, there is a beautiful beach, broken,
occasionally, by high and isolated bluffs, which advance upon the
lake, and heighten the character of the scenery. The water is
very shallow, but abounds with trout, and other small fish.

Having finished his survey of the lake, Captain Bonneville
proceeded on his journey, until on the banks of the Bear River,
some distance higher up, he came upon the party which he had
detached a year before, to circumambulate the Great Salt Lake,
and ascertain its extent, and the nature of its shores. They had
been encamped here about twenty days; and were greatly rejoiced
at meeting once more with their comrades, from whom they had so
long been separated. The first inquiry of Captain Bonneville was
about the result of their journey, and the information they had
procured as to the Great Salt Lake; the object of his intense
curiosity and ambition. The substance of their report will be
found in the following chapter.


Plan of the Salt Lake expedition Great sandy deserts Sufferings
from thirst Ogden's River Trails and smoke of lurking
savages Thefts at night A trapper's revenge Alarms of a guilty
conscience A murderous victory Californian mountains Plains
along the Pacific Arrival at Monterey Account of the place and
neighborhood Lower California Its extent The
Peninsula Soil Climate Production Its settlements by the
Jesuits Their sway over the Indians Their expulsion Ruins of a
missionary establishment Sublime scenery Upper
California Missions Their power and policy Resources of the
country Designs of foreign nations

IT WAS ON THE 24TH of July, in the preceding year (1833), that
the brigade of forty men set out from Green River valley, to
explore the Great Salt Lake. They were to make the complete
circuit of it, trapping on all the streams which should fall in
their way, and to keep journals and make charts, calculated to
impart a knowledge of the lake and the surrounding country. All
the resources of Captain Bonneville had been tasked to fit out
this favorite expedition. The country lying to the southwest of
the mountains, and ranging down to California, was as yet almost
unknown; being out of the buffalo range, it was untraversed by
the trapper, who preferred those parts of the wilderness where
the roaming herds of that species of animal gave him
comparatively an abundant and luxurious life. Still it was said
the deer, the elk, and the bighorn were to be found there, so
that, with a little diligence and economy, there was no danger of
lacking food. As a precaution, however, the party halted on Bear
River and hunted for a few days, until they had laid in a supply
of dried buffalo meat and venison; they then passed by the head
waters of the Cassie River, and soon found themselves launched on
an immense sandy desert. Southwardly, on their left, they beheld
the Great Salt Lake, spread out like a sea, but they found no
stream running into it. A desert extended around them, and
stretched to the southwest, as far as the eye could reach,
rivalling the deserts of Asia and Africa in sterility. There was
neither tree, nor herbage, nor spring, nor pool, nor running
stream, nothing but parched wastes of sand, where horse and rider
were in danger of perishing.

Their sufferings, at length, became so great that they abandoned
their intended course, and made towards a range of snowy
mountains, brightening in the north, where they hoped to find
water. After a time, they came upon a small stream leading
directly towards these mountains. Having quenched their burning
thirst, and refreshed themselves and their weary horses for a
time, they kept along this stream, which gradually increased in
size, being fed by numerous brooks. After approaching the
mountains, it took a sweep toward the southwest, and the
travellers still kept along it, trapping beaver as they went, on
the flesh of which they subsisted for the present, husbanding
their dried meat for future necessities.

The stream on which they had thus fallen is called by some, Mary
River, but is more generally known as Ogden's River, from Mr.
Peter Ogden, an enterprising and intrepid leader of the Hudson's
Bay Company, who first explored it. The wild and half-desert
region through which the travellers were passing, is wandered
over by hordes of Shoshokoes, or Root Diggers, the forlorn branch
of the Snake tribe. They are a shy people, prone to keep aloof
from the stranger. The travellers frequently met with their
trails, and saw the smoke of their fires rising in various parts
of the vast landscape, so that they knew there were great numbers
in the neighborhood, but scarcely ever were any of them to be met

After a time, they began to have vexatious proofs that, if the
Shoshokoes were quiet by day, they were busy at night. The camp
was dogged by these eavesdroppers; scarce a morning, but various
articles were missing, yet nothing could be seen of the
marauders. What particularly exasperated the hunters, was to have
their traps stolen from the streams. One morning, a trapper of a
violent and savage character, discovering that his traps had been
carried off in the night, took a horrid oath to kill the first
Indian he should meet, innocent or guilty. As he was returning
with his comrades to camp, he beheld two unfortunate Diggers,
seated on the river bank, fishing. Advancing upon them, he
levelled his rifle, shot one upon the spot, and flung his
bleeding body into the stream. The other Indian fled and was
suffered to escape. Such is the indifference with which acts of
violence are regarded in the wilderness, and such the immunity an
armed ruffian enjoys beyond the barriers of the laws, that the
only punishment this desperado met with, was a rebuke from the
leader of the party. The trappers now left the scene of this
infamous tragedy, and kept on westward, down the course of the
river, which wound along with a range of mountains on the right
hand, and a sandy, but somewhat fertile plain, on the left. As
they proceeded, they beheld columns of smoke rising, as before,
in various directions, which their guilty consciences now
converted into alarm signals, to arouse the country and collect
the scattered bands for vengeance.

After a time, the natives began to make their appearance, and
sometimes in considerable numbers, but always pacific; the
trappers, however, suspected them of deep-laid plans to draw them
into ambuscades; to crowd into and get possession of their camp,
and various other crafty and daring conspiracies, which, it is
probable, never entered into the heads of the poor savages. In
fact, they are a simple, timid, inoffensive race, unpractised in
warfare, and scarce provided with any weapons, excepting for the
chase. Their lives are passed in the great sand plains and along
the adjacent rivers; they subsist sometimes on fish, at other
times on roots and the seeds of a plant, called the cat's-tail.
They are of the same kind of people that Captain Bonneville found
upon Snake River, and whom he found so mild and inoffensive.

The trappers, however, had persuaded themselves that they were
making their way through a hostile country, and that implacable
foes hung round their camp or beset their path, watching for an
opportunity to surprise them. At length, one day they came to the
banks of a stream emptying into Ogden's River, which they were
obliged to ford. Here a great number of Shoshokoes were posted on
the opposite bank. Persuaded they were there with hostile intent,
they advanced upon them, levelled their rifles, and killed twenty
five of them upon the spot. The rest fled to a short distance,
then halted and turned about, howling and whining like wolves,
and uttering the most piteous wailings. The trappers chased them
in every direction; the poor wretches made no defence, but fled
with terror; neither does it appear from the accounts of the
boasted victors, that a weapon had been wielded or a weapon
launched by the Indians throughout the affair. We feel perfectly
convinced that the poor savages had no hostile intention, but had
merely gathered together through motives of curiosity, as others
of their tribe had done when Captain Bonneville and his
companions passed along Snake River.

The trappers continued down Ogden's River, until they ascertained
that it lost itself in a great swampy lake, to which there was no
apparent discharge. They then struck directly westward, across
the great chain of California mountains intervening between these
interior plains and the shores of the Pacific.

For three and twenty days they were entangled among these
mountains, the peaks and ridges of which are in many places
covered with perpetual snow. Their passes and defiles present the
wildest scenery, partaking of the sublime rather than the
beautiful, and abounding with frightful precipices. The
sufferings of the travellers among these savage mountains were
extreme: for a part of the time they were nearly starved; at
length, they made their way through them, and came down upon the
plains of New California, a fertile region extending along the
coast, with magnificent forests, verdant savannas, and prairies
that looked like stately parks. Here they found deer and other
game in abundance, and indemnified themselves for past famine.
They now turned toward the south, and passing numerous small
bands of natives, posted upon various streams, arrived at the
Spanish village and post of Monterey.

This is a small place, containing about two hundred houses,
situated in latitude 37 north. It has a capacious bay, with
indifferent anchorage. The surrounding country is extremely
fertile, especially in the valleys; the soil is richer, the
further you penetrate into the interior, and the climate is
described as a perpetual spring. Indeed, all California,
extending along the Pacific Ocean from latitude 19 30' to 42
north, is represented as one of the most fertile and beautiful
regions in North America.

Lower California, in length about seven hundred miles, forms a
great peninsula, which crosses the tropics and terminates in the
torrid zone. It is separated from the mainland by the Gulf of
California, sometimes called the Vermilion Sea; into this gulf
empties the Colorado of the West, the Seeds-ke-dee, or Green
River, as it is also sometimes called. The peninsula is traversed
by stern and barren mountains, and has many sandy plains, where
the only sign of vegetation is the cylindrical cactus growing
among the clefts of the rocks. Wherever there is water, however,
and vegetable mould, the ardent nature of the climate quickens
everything into astonishing fertility. There are valleys
luxuriant with the rich and beautiful productions of the tropics.
There the sugar-cane and indigo plant attain a perfection
unequalled in any other part of North America. There flourish the
olive, the fig, the date, the orange, the citron, the
pomegranate, and other fruits belonging to the voluptuous
climates of the south; with grapes in abundance, that yield a
generous wine. In the interior are salt plains; silver mines and
scanty veins of gold are said, likewise, to exist; and pearls of
a beautiful water are to be fished upon the coast.

The peninsula of California was settled in 1698, by the Jesuits,
who, certainly, as far as the natives were concerned, have
generally proved the most beneficent of colonists. In the present
instance, they gained and maintained a footing in the country
without the aid of military force, but solely by religious
influence. They formed a treaty, and entered into the most
amicable relations with the natives, then numbering from
twenty-five to thirty thousand souls, and gained a hold upon
their affections, and a control over their minds, that effected a
complete change in their condition. They built eleven missionary
establishments in the various valleys of the peninsula, which
formed rallying places for the surrounding savages, where they
gathered together as sheep into the fold, and surrendered
themselves and their consciences into the hands of these
spiritual pastors. Nothing, we are told, could exceed the
implicit and affectionate devotion of the Indian converts to the
Jesuit fathers, and the Catholic faith was disseminated widely
through the wilderness. The growing power and influence of the
Jesuits in the New World at length excited the jealousy of the
Spanish government, and they were banished from the colonies. The
governor, who arrived at California to expel them, and to take
charge of the country, expected to find a rich and powerful
fraternity, with immense treasures hoarded in their missions, and
an army of Indians ready to defend them. On the contrary, he
beheld a few venerable silverhaired priests coming humbly forward
to meet him, followed by a throng of weeping, but submissive
natives. The heart of the governor, it is said, was so touched by
this unexpected sight, that he shed tears; but he had to execute
his orders. The Jesuits were accompanied to the place of their
embarkation by their simple and affectionate parishioners, who
took leave of them with tears and sobs. Many of the latter
abandoned their heriditary abodes, and wandered off to join their
southern brethren, so that but a remnant remained in the
peninsula. The Franciscans immediately succeeded the Jesuits, and
subsequently the Dominicans; but the latter managed their affairs
ill. But two of the missionary establishments are at present
occupied by priests; the rest are all in ruins, excepting one,
which remains a monument of the former power and prosperity of
the order. This is a noble edifice, once the seat of the chief of
the resident Jesuits. It is situated in a beautiful valley, about
half way between the Gulf of California and the broad ocean, the
peninsula being here about sixty miles wide. The edifice is of
hewn stone, one story high, two hundred and ten feet in front,
and about fifty-five feet deep. The walls are six feet thick, and
sixteen feet high, with a vaulted roof of stone, about two feet
and a half in thickness. It is now abandoned and desolate; the
beautiful valley is without an inhabitant-- not a human being
resides within thirty miles of the place!

In approaching this deserted mission-house from the south, the
traveller passes over the mountain of San Juan, supposed to be
the highest peak in the Californias. From this lofty eminence, a
vast and magnificent prospect unfolds itself; the great Gulf of
California, with the dark blue sea beyond, studded with islands;
and in another direction, the immense lava plain of San Gabriel.
The splendor of the climate gives an Italian effect to the
immense prospect. The sky is of a deep blue color, and the
sunsets are often magnificent beyond description. Such is a
slight and imperfect sketch of this remarkable peninsula.

Upper California extends from latitude 31 10' to 42 on the
Pacific, and inland, to the great chain of snow-capped mountains
which divide it from the sand plains of the interior. There are
about twenty-one missions in this province, most of which were
established about fifty years since, and are generally under the
care of the Franciscans. These exert a protecting sway over about
thirty-five thousand Indian converts, who reside on the lands
around the mission houses. Each of these houses has fifteen miles
square of land allotted to it, subdivided into small lots,
proportioned to the number of Indian converts attached to the
mission. Some are enclosed with high walls; but in general they
are open hamlets, composed of rows of huts, built of sunburnt
bricks; in some instances whitewashed and roofed with tiles. Many
of them are far in the interior, beyond the reach of all military
protection, and dependent entirely on the good will of the
natives, which never fails them. They have made considerable
progress in teaching the Indians the useful arts. There are
native tanners, shoemakers, weavers, blacksmiths, stonecutters,
and other artificers attached to each establishment. Others are
taught husbandry, and the rearing of cattle and horses; while the
females card and spin wool, weave, and perform the other duties
allotted to their sex in civilized life. No social intercourse is
allowed between the unmarried of the opposite sexes after working
hours; and at night they are locked up in separate apartments,
and the keys delivered to the priests.

The produce of the lands, and all the profits arising from sales,
are entirely at the disposal of the priests; whatever is not
required for the support of the missions, goes to augment a fund
which is under their control. Hides and tallow constitute the
principal riches of the missions, and, indeed, the main commerce
of the country. Grain might be produced to an unlimited extent at
the establishments, were there a sufficient market for it. Olives
and grapes are also reared at the missions.

Horses and horned cattle abound throughout all this region; the
former may be purchased at from three to five dollars, but they
are of an inferior breed. Mules, which are here of a large size
and of valuable qualities, cost from seven to ten dollars.

There are several excellent ports along this coast. San Diego,
San Barbara, Monterey, the bay of San Francisco, and the northern
port of Bondago; all afford anchorage for ships of the largest
class. The port of San Francisco is too well known to require
much notice in this place. The entrance from the sea is
sixty-seven fathoms deep, and within, whole navies might ride
with perfect safety. Two large rivers, which take their rise in
mountains two or three hundred miles to the east, and run through
a country unsurpassed for soil and climate, empty themselves into
the harbor. The country around affords admirable timber for
ship-building. In a word, this favored port combines advantages
which not only fit it for a grand naval depot, but almost render
it capable of being made the dominant military post of these

Such is a feeble outline of the Californian coast and country,
the value of which is more and more attracting the attention of
naval powers. The Russians have always a ship of war upon this
station, and have already encroached upon the Californian
boundaries, by taking possession of the port of Bondago, and
fortifying it with several guns. Recent surveys have likewise
been made, both by the Russians and the English; and we have
little doubt, that, at no very distant day, this neglected, and,
until recently, almost unknown region, will be found to possess
sources of wealth sufficient to sustain a powerful and prosperous
empire. Its inhabitants, themselves, are but little aware of its
real riches; they have not enterprise sufficient to acquaint
themselves with a vast interior that lies almost a terra
incognita; nor have they the skill and industry to cultivate
properly the fertile tracts along the coast; nor to prosecute
that foreign commerce which brings all the resources of a country
into profitable action.


Gay life at Monterey Mexican horsemen A bold dragoon Use of the
lasso Vaqueros Noosing a bear Fight between a bull and a
bear Departure from Monterey Indian horse stealers Outrages
committed by the travellers Indignation of Captain Bonneville

THE WANDERING BAND of trappers was well received at Monterey, the
inhabitants were desirous of retaining them among them, and
offered extravagant wages to such as were acquainted with any
mechanic art. When they went into the country, too, they were
kindly treated by the priests at the missions; who are always
hospitable to strangers, whatever may be their rank or religion.
They had no lack of provisions; being permitted to kill as many
as they pleased of the vast herds of cattle that graze the
country, on condition, merely, of rendering the hides to the
owners. They attended bull-fights and horseraces; forgot all the
purposes of their expedition; squandered away, freely, the
property that did not belong to them; and, in a word, revelled in
a perfect fool's paradise.

What especially delighted them was the equestrian skill of the
Californians. The vast number and the cheapness of the horses in
this country makes every one a cavalier. The Mexicans and
halfbreeds of California spend the greater part of their time in
the saddle. They are fearless riders; and their daring feats upon
unbroken colts and wild horses, astonished our trappers; though
accustomed to the bold riders of the prairies.

A Mexican horseman has much resemblance, in many points, to the
equestrians of Old Spain; and especially to the vain-glorious
caballero of Andalusia. A Mexican dragoon, for instance, is
represented as arrayed in a round blue jacket, with red cuffs and
collar; blue velvet breeches, unbuttoned at the knees to show his
white stockings; bottinas of deer skin; a round-crowned
Andalusian hat, and his hair cued. On the pommel of his saddle,
he carries balanced a long musket, with fox skin round the lock.
He is cased in a cuirass of double-fold deer skin, and carries a
bull's hide shield; he is forked in a Moorish saddle, high before
and behind; his feet are thrust into wooden box stirrups, of
Moorish fashion, and a tremendous pair of iron spurs, fastened by
chains, jingle at his heels. Thus equipped, and suitably mounted,
he considers himself the glory of California, and the terror of
the universe.

The Californian horsemen seldom ride out without the laso [sic];
that is to say, a long coil of cord, with a slip noose; with
which they are expert, almost to a miracle. The laso, now almost
entirely confined to Spanish America, is said to be of great
antiquity; and to have come, originally, from the East. It was
used, we are told, by a pastoral people of Persian descent; of
whom eight thousand accompanied the army of Xerxes. By the
Spanish Americans, it is used for a variety of purposes; and
among others, for hauling wood. Without dismounting, they cast
the noose around a log, and thus drag it to their houses. The
vaqueros, or Indian cattle drivers, have also learned the use of
the laso from the Spaniards; and employ it to catch the half-wild
cattle by throwing it round their horns.

The laso is also of great use in furnishing the public with a
favorite, though barbarous sport; the combat between a bear and a
wild bull. For this purpose, three or four horsemen sally forth
to some wood, frequented by bears, and, depositing the carcass of
a bullock, hide themselves in the vicinity. The bears are soon
attracted by the bait. As soon as one, fit for their purpose,
makes his appearance, they run out, and with the laso,
dexterously noose him by either leg. After dragging him at full
speed until he is fatigued, they secure him more effectually; and
tying him on the carcass of the bullock, draw him in triumph to
the scene of action. By this time, he is exasperated to such
frenzy, that they are sometimes obliged to throw cold water on
him, to moderate his fury; and dangerous would it be, for horse
and rider, were he, while in this paroxysm, to break his bonds.

A wild bull, of the fiercest kind, which has been caught and
exasperated in the same manner, is now produced; and both animals
are turned loose in the arena of a small amphitheatre. The mortal
fight begins instantly; and always, at first, to the disadvantage
of Bruin; fatigued, as he is, by his previous rough riding.
Roused, at length, by the repeated goring of the bull, he seizes
his muzzle with his sharp claws, and clinging to this most
sensitive part, causes him to bellow with rage and agony. In his
heat and fury, the bull lolls out his tongue; this is instantly
clutched by the bear; with a desperate effort he overturns his
huge antagonist; and then dispatches him without difficulty.

Beside this diversion, the travellers were likewise regaled with
bull-fights, in the genuine style of Old Spain; the Californians
being considered the best bull-fighters in the Mexican dominions.

After a considerable sojourn at Monterey, spent in these very
edifying, but not very profitable amusements, the leader of this
vagabond party set out with his comrades, on his return journey.
Instead of retracing their steps through the mountains, they
passed round their southern extremity, and, crossing a range of
low hills, found themselves in the sandy plains south of Ogden's
River; in traversing which, they again suffered, grievously, for
want of water.

In the course of their journey, they encountered a party of
Mexicans in pursuit of a gang of natives, who had been stealing
horses. The savages of this part of California are represented as
extremely poor, and armed only with stone-pointed arrows; it
being the wise policy of the Spaniards not to furnish them with
firearms. As they find it difficult, with their blunt shafts, to
kill the wild game of the mountains, they occasionally supply
themselves with food, by entrapping the Spanish horses. Driving
them stealthily into fastnesses and ravines, they slaughter them
without difficulty, and dry their flesh for provisions. Some they
carry off to trade with distant tribes; and in this way, the
Spanish horses pass from hand to hand among the Indians, until
they even find their way across the Rocky Mountains.

The Mexicans are continually on the alert, to intercept these
marauders; but the Indians are apt to outwit them, and force them
to make long and wild expeditions in pursuit of their stolen

Two of the Mexican party just mentioned joined the band of
trappers, and proved themselves worthy companions. In the course
of their journey through the country frequented by the poor Root
Diggers, there seems to have been an emulation between them,
which could inflict the greatest outrages upon the natives. The
trappers still considered them in the light of dangerous foes;
and the Mexicans, very probably, charged them with the sin of
horse-stealing; we have no other mode of accounting for the
infamous barbarities of which, according to their own story, they
were guilty; hunting the poor Indians like wild beasts, and
killing them without mercy. The Mexicans excelled at this savage
sport; chasing their unfortunate victims at full speed; noosing
them round the neck with their lasos, and then dragging them to

Such are the scanty details of this most disgraceful expedition;
at least, such are all that Captain Bonneville had the patience
to collect; for he was so deeply grieved by the failure of his
plans, and so indignant at the atrocities related to him, that he
turned, with disgust and horror, from the narrators. Had he
exerted a little of the Lynch law of the wilderness, and hanged
those dexterous horsemen in their own lasos, it would but have
been a well-merited and salutary act of retributive justice. The
failure of this expedition was a blow to his pride, and a still
greater blow to his purse. The Great Salt Lake still remained
unexplored; at the same time, the means which had been furnished
so liberally to fit out this favorite expedition, had all been
squandered at Monterey; and the peltries, also, which had been
collected on the way. He would have but scanty returns,
therefore, to make this year, to his associates in the United
States; and there was great danger of their becoming
disheartened, and abandoning the enterprise.


Traveller's tales Indian lurkers Prognostics of Buckeye
Signs and portents The medicine wolf An alarm An ambush
The captured provant Triumph of Buckeye Arrival of supplies
Grand carouse Arrangements for the year Mr. Wyeth and his
new-levied band.

THE horror and indignation felt by Captain Bonneville at the
excesses of the Californian adventurers were not participated by
his men; on the contrary, the events of that expedition were
favorite themes in the camp. The heroes of Monterey bore the palm
in all the gossipings among the hunters. Their glowing
descriptions of Spanish bear-baits and bull-fights especially,
were listened to with intense delight; and had another expedition
to California been proposed, the difficulty would have been to
restrain a general eagerness to volunteer.

The captain had not long been at the rendezvous when he
perceived, by various signs, that Indians were lurking in the
neighborhood. It was evident that the Blackfoot band, which he
had seen when on his march, had dogged his party, and were intent
on mischief. He endeavored to keep his camp on the alert; but it
is as difficult to maintain discipline among trappers at a
rendezvous as among sailors when in port.

Buckeye, the Delaware Indian, was scandalized at this
heedlessness of the hunters when an enemy was at hand, and was
continually preaching up caution. He was a little prone to play
the prophet, and to deal in signs and portents, which
occasionally excited the merriment of his white comrades. He was
a great dreamer, and believed in charms and talismans, or
medicines, and could foretell the approach of strangers by the
howling or barking of the small prairie wolf. This animal, being
driven by the larger wolves from the carcasses left on the
hunting grounds by the hunters, follows the trail of the fresh
meat carried to the camp. Here the smell of the roast and
broiled, mingling with every breeze, keeps them hovering about
the neighborhood; scenting every blast, turning up their noses
like hungry hounds, and testifying their pinching hunger by long
whining howls and impatient barkings. These are interpreted by
the superstitious Indians into warnings that strangers are at
hand; and one accidental coincidence, like the chance fulfillment
of an almanac prediction, is sufficient to cover a thousand
failures. This little, whining, feast-smelling animal is,
therefore, called among Indians the "medicine wolf;" and such was
one of Buckeye's infallible oracles.

One morning early, the soothsaying Delaware appeared with a
gloomy countenance. His mind was full of dismal presentiments,
whether from mysterious dreams, or the intimations of the
medicine wolf, does not appear. "Danger," he said, "was lurking
in their path, and there would be some fighting before sunset."
He was bantered for his prophecy, which was attributed to his
having supped too heartily, and been visited by bad dreams. In
the course of the morning a party of hunters set out in pursuit
of buffaloes, taking with them a mule, to bring home the meat
they should procure. They had been some few hours absent, when
they came clattering at full speed into camp, giving the war cry
of Blackfeet! Blackfeet! Every one seized his weapon and ran to
learn the cause of the alarm. It appeared that the hunters, as
they were returning leisurely, leading their mule well laden with
prime pieces of buffalo meat, passed close by a small stream
overhung with trees, about two miles from the camp. Suddenly a
party of Blackfeet, who lay in ambush along the thickets, sprang
up with a fearful yell, and discharged a volley at the hunters.
The latter immediately threw themselves flat on their horses, put
them to their speed, and never paused to look behind, until they
found themselves in camp. Fortunately they had escaped without a
wound; but the mule, with all the "provant," had fallen into the
hands of the enemy This was a loss, as well as an insult, not to
be borne. Every man sprang to horse, and with rifle in hand,
galloped off to punish the Blackfeet, and rescue the buffalo
beef. They came too late; the marauders were off, and all that
they found of their mule was the dents of his hoofs, as he had

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