D. W. (David W.) Belisle.

The American family Robinson; or, The adventures of a family lost in the great desert of the West online

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THE PRAIRIE ON FIRE.



THE



AMERICAN FAMILY ROBINSON;



OB,





of




LOST IN THE



GREAT DESERT OF THE WEST



BY



$). 3D.



it!) 31 Iluaftr atio us



PHILADELPHIA:
P O R T E E & C O A T E S.





THE lofty mountains, mighty forests, rivers and val-
leys of the West, many portions of which have never
been explored, furnish abundant resources for the gra-
tification of the Naturalist, the Lapidary, and the Anti-
quarian. It is with the view of directing attention
to these sources of information, that the author has
grouped together in this little work, many startling
incidents in prairie life, and alluded to relics of anti-
quity, bearing unmistakable indications of a high order
of civilization and science, in regard to which subse-
quent discoveries have proved the hypothesis he assumes
correct. That this country has been peopled by a
civilized race of sentient beings anterior to the existence
of the present tribes of Indians or their ancestors, is
no longer a matter of uncertainty; for every where
throughout the West, and in many places East of the
Mississippi Valley, incontrovertible evidences attest the
high antiquity of monuments and relics of a people,
whose race, name and customs have been lost in the

deep gloom that hangs over the mighty past. In order

(iii)



iv PREFACE.

more successfully to call attention to these ancient remin
iscences of our own country, and to incite a spirit of
inquiry in the minds of the young, he has incident-
ally alluded to them while following the family of Mr.
Duncan in their toilsome journey and wanderings through
the Great American Desert. To those unacquainted
with the antiquarian characteristics of this continent,
some of the allusions may appear improbable j yet suffi-
ciently competent authority has been consulted in the
preparation of this work to give the allusions reliable
authenticity. If we shall be successful in awakening
such an inquiry, we shall be content, and feel that OBI
labors have not been unrewarded.

Philadelphia, 1853.




CHAPTER I.

Mr. Duncan's Discontentment He starts for the West in
search of a place of Settlement ,...... ..9

CHAPTER II.

The Journey Encampment Buffalo hunt Anne and Edward
lost They discover an old fort Fight with a Wolf Take
refuge in a Tree Rescued by Howe and Lewis Return to
the Camp &

CHAPTER III.

Howe's Story of a singular piece of Metal, resembling a shield
or helmet, found on Lake Superior 36

CHAPTER IV.

Their journey continued Finding a Prairie Encamping for
the Night Singular incident A Mirage on the Prairie
The Prairie on fire Flight to the Sand Hills Their final
escape Finding a stream Encampment 49

CHAPTER V.

Heavy Storm Straggling Indians seen Preparations for
defence A friendly Indian approaches and warns them of
their danger The Camp Attacked Captive of Five in the
Camp Recovery of some of the Captured 62

CHAPTER VI.

Strength of the Tabagauches Attack of their camp Flight
of the Whites Pursuing the Indians Desperate Engage-
ment Taken Prisoners Carried off captives Singular
Springs of Water Kind treatment by the Indians Disco-
Very of Gold 88

CHAPTER VII.

Their continued Captivity They are cautiously watched and
guarded A singular Cave Preparations to escape into it-
Lassoing the Guard Enter the Cavern and close the Door
1* (v)



vi CONTENTS.

noi

They are missed by the Indians They follow the Cavern
Mysterious discoveries Discovery of an outlet They halt
for repose , 100

CHAPTER VIII.

Entering the unknown Wilds Their encampment attacked by
Panthers They save themselves The Panthers kill one
of their pack They continue their journey Whirlwind
becomes lost Everything strange about them Encamp-
ment at the base of a mountain 122

CHAPTER IX.

Encounter with a Wolf Sidney seriously wounded Whirl-
wind procures medicine They Build a Cabin Fears
entertained of Sidney's death Talk of Pow-wowing the
disease Miscellaneous conversation on the matter Their
final consent to the Pow-wow 137

CHAPTER X.

The apparent solemnity of Whirlwind The Pow-wow Its
effects upon Sidney Favourable turn in his fever- -His
health improves They proceed on their way Encamp for
the night Singular trees discovered Preparations for
spending the winter 151

CHAPTER XL

Search for winter quarters Strange Discoveries Works of
the lost people Their search among the Ruins Walls,
roads, and buildings found Their state of Preservation
They prepare to locate themselves A salt spring Their
joy at their discoveries 163

CHAPTER XII.

Astonishment of the Children The Antiquity of the Ruins
The Chief's contentment Strange discoveries Discovery
of wild horses The chief captures a colt The winter seta
in A series of storms prevail They discover an Indian
woman and her papoose 1/4

CHAPTER XIIL

Jane's reception of the Indian woman Condition of the
party They cannot calculate the day nor month The



CONTENTS. vii



ohief imagines he has found the Arapahoes' hunting grounds
Deer chased by a wild man The chief lassoes him A
desperate struggle The wild man captured and taken into
camp ..................................................................... 193

CHAPTER XIV.

The return of spring their thoughts of home Preparations
to continue their journey Escape of the Wild Man They
suffer from want of water A party of Indians A beautiful
Landscape A terrific storm The chief rendered insensible
by a stroke of lightning- -He recovers and returns to the
camp ....................................................... . ................ 214

CHAPTER XV.

They endeavour to conceal themselves from the Indians
They are discovered A frightful rencounter Escape of
Mahnewe They pursue their journey in the night Disco-
very of a river over which they cross Come to a prairie
Approach a sandy desert They provide themselves with
ample provisions and set out over the cheerless waste ........ 231

CHAPTER XVI.

Encampment in the sand An island discovered Singular
appearance of rocks Human skeletons found Dreary
prospects They arrive at an oasis They come to a lake
They discover a cavern in which they find mysterious im-
plements The cavern supposed to have been an ancient
mine Its remarkable features ....................................... 240

CHAPTER XVII.

Recovery, and continuance of their journey A joyous pros-
pect It changes to gloom Discovered and followed by
Indians They finally escape They wander on unconscious
of their way They meet with friendly Indians who give
them cheering intelligence They rest with them a few days 263

CHAPTER XVIII.

They proceed on their journey Jane bitten by a rattlesnake
Taken back to the Tillage It causes a violent fever to set
in She becomes delirious, but finally recovers A war
party returns having two white prisoners Minawanda :
assists them t escape by a sound imitating that of a whip-
poorwill They proceed on their flight unmolested ............ 281



viii CONTENTS.

PASfl

CHAPTER XIX.

They arrive at a stream of considerable magnitude over which
they cross They ride in the water to elude their pursuers
Jones and Cole give them information relative to their
friends The joyful reception of the news Arrival at the
base of bhe Sierra Nevada Fear of crossing the mountains
in the snow They construct themselves winter quarters.... 298

CHAPTER XX.

Tho cold increases Abundant supplies of game Jones and
Cole tell some of their adventures iii the gold regions
Comfortable condition of the children Howe describes an
adventure he experienced near Lake Superior Whirlwind
relates a circumstance that occurred to himself and Shognaw 30

CHAPTER XXI.

Departure of winter Joy at the fact of knowing which way
they were travelling They reach the first ranges of the
Sierra Nevada mountains Discovery of gold Discovery
of singular ancient walls An engraved slab of granite
They reach the foot of the Sierra in safety They arrive at
the residence of a Spanish Curate They tarry awhile at
his house 319

CHAPTER XXII.

Return to the family of Mr. Duncan Lewis and his father
succeed in getting back to camp Cole and the chief reach
the camp of the Arapahoes They continue their course to
Mr. Duncan's camp Joy at the news they bring They
start again for the west Thirty Arapahoes accompany
them They arrive at the Sierra Nevada 335

CHAPTER XXIII.

The Curate becomes much attached to the Wanderers
Arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Dun?an and family Whirlwind
demands Jane in marriage Jane refuses, and the Indians
take their departure The curate gives an account of the
discoveries be made of a singular road, city and pyramid
Prosperous condition of Mr. Duncan's family The lapse
of twelve years Change of their condition Conclusion...



THE WANDERERS:



OR.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN ^ILDS.



/irst.



Mr. Duncan's Discontentment. He starts for the West.

NEAR the Cold Springs, in Lafayette county,
Missouri, lived Mr. Duncan, a sturdy woodsman,
who emigrated thither with his father, while the
Mississippi valley was still a wilderness, inhabited
by wild beasts, or the still more savage Indians.
His grandfather was an eastern man ; but had
bared his brawny arm on many a battle field, and
had earned the right to as many broad acres as he
chose to occupy. So, at least, he said, on leaving
his eastern home, after peace had been declared,
for the then verge of civilization the Ohio. Here
the soldier lived to see the wilderness blossom like
the rose, and here he died, grieving that infirmity
prevented his flying from the din of the sledge
hammer, and the busy hum of mechanical life,
Mr. Duncan's father, in the vigor of manhood,
crossed the Mississippi, and settled at the Cold
Springs, a region then isolated from civilization, as



10 THE WANDERERS; OR,

the Ohio was many years before the white man
had planted his foot west of the Alleghanies. But
he lived to see the silent echoes resound to the
shrill whistle of the engine, and luxury with its
still but mighty sway enervate the sons and daugh-
ters of the pioneers, until the one quailed at the
sight of danger and the other dosed away the
morning in kid slippers and curl-papers. Time
claimed its own, and he died ; and then his son,
the Mr. Duncan of our narrative, began to turn
his attention to the west, as his grandfather and

' O

his father had done before him. He had married
a trapper's daughter, twenty years before, and his
family consisted now of four sons a,nd two daugh-
ters, an adopted son, and his brother-in-law, Andy
Howe, who had spent his life in trapping, and
trading with the Indians.

Lewis, his eldest son, nineteen years of age,
was a man in strength, proportion and judgment,
cool and prompt in emergencies, but on ordinary
occasions caring for little else than his dogs, gun
and uncle, whose superior knowledge of all that
pertained to the forest, made him an oracle among
the less experienced.

Edward, a boy of seventeen, passionate and
headstrong, but generous and brave.

Jane, a girl of fifteen, the mother's supporter
and helper, high spirited, energetic and courageous.

Martin, a pleasure-seeking, fun-loving, mischief-
making lad of twelve years.



LIFE IN T i. E WESTERN WILDS. 11

Anne, a timid child of ten years, who went by
the soubriquet of the baby, by all except Lewis, who
understood her better and called her the "fawn."

And last, but not least, the son of his adoption,
Sidney Young, a noble young fellow of eighteen,
whose parents dying left him to the care of Mr.
Duncan, who had reared him with as tender care
as that he bestowed upon his own children.

" Little Benny," or Benjamin more properly, we
must not forget to introduce, a manly little fellow
of eight, who could handle a bow and arrow, or
hook and line, and propel a canoe with as much
dexterity as a young Indian.

Such was the family of Mr. Duncan, when he
resolved to penetrate the almost unknown region
of the west. No hypochondriac papa or aristo-
cratic mamma, can I introduce, but a hale, robust
yeoman, who looks upon himself as in the prime
of manhood, though nearly fifty years of age, and
who boasts of never having consulted a physician
or taken a drug. Mrs. Duncan wore her own
glossy hair at forty-five, without a thread of silver
among it, while her step was as elastic, and eye as
bright, as in her girlhood. Her cheek was less
rounded than it was formerly ; but the matronly
dignity and motherly kindness that characterized
her, amply compensated for its loss. True types
of man and womanhood were they, whom no
dangers or vicissitude could daunt, no trials swerve
from the path of right or inclination. Mr. Dun*



12 THE WANDERERS: OR,

can well knew the undertaking he proposed was
not one to be entered into thoughtlessly, or with-
out due preparation. His habits from earliest
infancy, of daily encountering the perils of border
life, had taught him this, and with it taught him to
love the boundless forest, the dashing waterfalls,
and the deep stillness that retreated as refinement
advanced.

" This is no place for me," he said, as he heard
of some new innovation on old customs, as having
taken place in the vicinity. But when a favorite
haunt by a small stream was taken possession of,
the trees felled, the brooklet dammed, and a
factory set in motion, he for a moment seemed
astounded, his eye wandered inquiringly from one
member of his family to another, and finally rested
upon Howe, as though expecting him to provide
some remedy to stay the hand of innovation.

" It cannot be done, Duncan," said the trapper,
comprehending the unspoken inquiry. " We are
completely ensnared. Don't you see we are sur-
rounded ?"

" Had they only chosen some other spot for thig
last shop, or factory, or whatever else you call it,
I would have tried to borne it. But there no, it
is too much."

" I have news that will be as unpleasant as the
mi!!. The surveyors will pass near here in laying
out a railroad to-morrow," sai'd Lewis.

" I will never see it," said Mr. Duncan. " The



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 13

world is wide enough for all. It may be for the
best, that there should be a general revolution in
the mode of manufactures and commerce, but I
caniiot appreciate it ; I am willing to fall back to
the forest to give place to those who can."

It must not be inferred that Mr. Duncan was an
illiterate man. On the contrary, he was well
posted on all the great events that transpired, and
was conversant with many ancient and modern
authors. He had carefully instilled into the minds
of his children, a love of truth and virtue, for the
contentment and nobleness it gave, and to despise
vice as a thing too contaminating to indulge in by
thought or practice. This love of forest life had
become a part of his being, and he could no more
content himself among the rapidly accumulating
population that sprang up around him, than a
Broadway dandy could in the wilderness. When
driven from his accustomed fishing ground by the
demolition of the forest, whose trees shaded the
brooklet with their gigantic arms stretching from
either side, interlacing and forming an arch above
BO compact as to render it impenetrable to the
noonday sun, he wearied of his home, and sighed
for the forest that was still in the west. Here he
had been accustomed to resort to indulge in pisca-
tory amusement; with his trusty rifle, full many a
buck and even nobler game had fallen beneath hia
aim, as lured by the stillness they had come to
quench their thirst at the brook, unconscious of

2



14 THE WANDERERS; OR,

the danger to which they were drawing near,
He had long looked upon this haunt as peculiarly
his own, not by the right of purchase, but by the
possession, which he had actually enjoyed many
years, until he considered it as an essential to his
happiness.

For Mr. Duncan to resolve was to accomplish.
Seconded by his family, his farm was sold, his
affairs closed, and May 10, 1836, saw him properly
fitted out for a plunge into the western wilds.
Three emigrant wagons contained their movables,
each drawn by three yoke of stout oxen. The first
contained provisions and groceries, seeds and grain
for planting, with apparatus for cooking. The
second contained the household furniture that
was indispensable, beneath which lay a quantity
of boards, tent canvass, an extra set of wagon
covers ready for use, twine, ropes &c., and was
also to be the apartments of Mr. and Mrs. Dun-
can, and the girls. The third was loaded with
agricultural and carpenter's tools, and contained
the magazine, and was appropriated to the use of
Andy Howe and the boys. Two saddle horses,
five mules and three milch cows, with six as fierce
hunting dogs as ever run down an antelope, con-
stituted their live stock.

Thus prepared the family bade a glad adieu to
their old home to find a more congenial one. I
say a glad adieu, for certainly the older members
of the family went voluntarily, and the younger



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 15

ones, carried away by the hurry of preparation,
had no time to think, and perhaps knew not of the
dangers they would have to encounter. Youth is
ever sanguine, and they had learned from the older
ones to look upon the forest freed from the Indians
as the Elysium of this world.

Onward to the west the tide of emigration is
still rolling. Three centuries ago, the Massachu-
setts and Virginia colonies were the west to the
European, three thousand miles over the Atlantic
ocean. Brave was the soul, and stout the heart,
that then dared it. A century later Pennsylva-
nia and New York was the west ; the tide was roll-
ing on ; still a century later its waves had swept
over the Alleghanies, and went dashing down the
Mississippi valley, anon dividing in thousands of
rivulets, went winding and murmuring among the
rugged hills and undulating plains. But even the
burden of its murmurings was the west, still on to
the west. And now where is the west? Not the
Mississippi valley but the fastnesses of the Rocky
Mountains. That part we find on sharts as the
"unknown." A valley situated among mountains,
sunny and luxuriant as those of a poet's dream ;
but guarded by a people driven to desperation.
This is now the west.



1C THE WANDERERS; OR,



(tljupbr Inoft.

The Journey Encampment Buffalo hunt Anne and Edward ]ot
They discover an old fort Fight with a Wolf Take refuge in a
Tree Rescued by Howe and Lewis Return to the Camp.

MR. DUNCAN chose the trader's route to Oregon
as the one most likely to lead him to his desired
haven. He was familiar with this route, having
frequently made it some years before. To Andy
Howe, every rock, tree, and river, was like the
face of a friend so often had he passed them.
Mrs. Duncan had no misgivings when they entered
on the forest. She had so often heard the differ-
ent scenes and places described as to recognize
the locality through which they passed, and with
perfect confidence in the forest craft of her brother
and husband, she gave herself no trouble, save
that of making her family as comfortable and
pleasant as circumstances would allow.

No incident disturbed their journey, worthy of
note, day after day as they easily moved along.
It was not Mr. Duncan's policy to exhaust his
teams at the outset by long weary marches ; but
like a skilful general, husband his strength, ia
case of emergencies. The road was smooth and
level, being generally over large extended prairies.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS 17

The fifth day out they crossed the Kansas, when
the country became more broken, and they saw
the first buffalo on their route, which Lewis had
the good luck to kili. With the aid of Howe it
was cut up and the choicest parts brought to camp.
Never was a supper enjoyed with more zest than
that night. Delicious steaming beef stakes, wheat
cakes, butter, cheese, new milk and tea, spread out
on a snow white cloth, on their temporary table,
to which they had converted two boards by nailing
cleets across the back, and resting each end on a
camp stool, made a feast worth travelling a few
days into the wilderness to enjoy.

Their camp was pitched for the night on the
mossy bank of a small stream, overshadowed by
large cotton-woods through which the stars peered,
and the new moon with its silvery crescent gleamed
faintly as the shadows of evening closed around
them.

After night fall the party was thrown into quite
an excitement by the approach of figures which
they supposed to be Indians, but which turned out
to be a herd of deer feeding. Howe laughed
heartily at the fright, for the Indians were to him
as brothers. His father had been known and
loved for many acts of kindness to them, and had
been dignified as the great Medicine.*- Accom-
panying his father on his trapping excursions,
while still a boy, he had spent many a day and

* A name applied by the Indians to their benefactors,
2* B



18 THE WANDERERS; OR,

night in their wigwams, partaking of their hospi-
tality, contending with the young braves in their
games, and very often joining them in their hunts
among the mountains. Hostile and cruel they
might be to others, but Howe was confident that
he and those with him would meet with nothing
but kindness at their hands.

Antelopes were now seen often, and sometimes
numerous buffalo ; but nothing of importance had
been killed for two days. The morning of the
twenty-fifth dawned clear and beautiful. Howe
and Lewis brought the horses, and with Sidney
mounted on a fleet mule, the three set out on a
hunt. They had been tempted to this by a moving
mass of life over the plain against the horizon,
that resembled a grove of trees waving in the
wind, to all but a practised eye ; but which the
hunters declared to be a herd of buffalo. Such a
sight creates a strange emotion of grandeur, and
there was not one of the party but felt his heart
beat quicker at the sight. The herds were feeding,
and were every where in constant motion. Clouds
of dust rose from various parts of the bands, each
the scene of some obstinate fight. Here and there
a huge bull was rolling h the grass. There were
eight or nine hundred buffaloes in the herd
Hiding carelessly the hunters came within two
hundred yards of them before their approach was
discovered, when a wavering motion among them,
ae they started in a gallop for the hills, vrarned



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 19

them to close in the pursuit. They were now
gaining rapidly on them, and the interest of the
chase became absorbingly intense.

A crowd of bulls brought up the rear, turning
every few moments to face their pursuers, as if
they had a mind to turn and fight, then dashed
on again after the band. When at twenty yards
distant the hunters broke with a sudden rush into
the herd, the living mass giving away on all sides
in their heedless career. They separated on enter-
ing, each one selecting his own game. The sharp
crack of the rifle was heard, and when the smoke
and dust, which for a moment blinded them, had
cleared away, three fine cows were rolling in the
sand. At that moment four fierce bulls charged

o

on Sidney, goring his mustang in a frightful man-
ner, and would probably have terminated his hunt-
ing career, had not the sudden shock of the onset
thrown him some distance over his mustang's head.

o

He was not much hurt, and before the buffaloes
could attack him again, they were put to flight by
Howe and Lewis. On examining the animal
they soon saw he could not live, and shot him to
end his suffering.

This they felt was an unlucky incident, and with
saddened hearts turned their faces campward,
which on reaching they found in consternation at
the prolonged absence of Edward and Anne.
They had gone out a few moments after the hunters,
Edward to fish in the brook by which they had



20 THE WANI BRERS; OB,

encamped, and Anne to gather curious plants and
flowers, of which she was passionately fond. Mr.
Duncan had been in search of them and came up
as the hunters were dismounting.

"Have you found them?" was asked by every
one in a moment, as he came up.

" No ! but I found this, and this, about two
miles down the stream," said he, holding up a
fading wreath of wild flowers, and the skeleton of
a fish that Edward had evidently cut away to bait
his hook with.

" It is now nearly noon, and by the looks of that
fish and those flowers, they have laid in the sun
three hours. Give us a lunch, Mary, and now for


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Online LibraryD. W. (David W.) BelisleThe American family Robinson; or, The adventures of a family lost in the great desert of the West → online text (page 1 of 20)