Wintermute walked out, procured a pistol, and returning, shot Mc-
Cook dead in the ball-room ! I could not join in the cry for venge-
ance which went over the country, for I knew the slayer to be a
naturally inoffensive man, who had been cruelly outraged. Most of
the Federal officials made it a personal matter to assist in the pros-
ecution of Wintermute, but western juries are proverbially lenient
SWINGING 'BOUND THE CIRCLE. 377
in such cases. He was sentenced to a few years imprisonment ; but
his delicate constitution could not survive the beating and the sen-
tence, and consumption soon took him beyond the reach of earthly
courts. I shall ever maintain that he was the real victim of the
tragedy, and should never have been imprisoned.
Our party had various opinions as to the best way to see the
country on the North
Pacific line. The first
plan was to take a team
and go up the eastern
side of the Territory,
by way of the beautiful
valley of James River,
then over the divide and
northward down Red
River. The distance
was three hundred
miles; there were long
stretches of country
without . a settlement,"
and the season was get- "^"-^'^^ ^^ secretary m'oook. .
ting late. So this was in due time reconsidered. The next was to go
up the Missouri to the proposed crossing, and stage it across to the end
of the road. But soon came a steam-boat down the river with word
that navigation was closed for this year, though it was still early in
September ; then we decided to return to Sioux City, and go through
Minnesota. A man can't travel as he pleases in the new North-west,
We had enough of staging, and concluded to try it by steamer
down to Sioux City. The distance by land is sixty-five miles; by
river a hundred and fifty. The time is just as it happens. You
must start when the boat is ready, and take your chances on board,
sometimes getting through in ten hours, sometimes in thirty. We
made splendid time all forenoon, the low clay banks receding so rap-
idly that their natural ugliness was changed to a swiftly gliding view
of something nearly like beauty. The water is a little thicker than
cream, but not quite as thick as plaster, and of a dirty yellow color,
its solid contents consisting of nearly equal parts of fine clay and silt;
but when taken aboard and settled, it is very palatable. Immedi-
ately on the river, the timber is small and scrubby, but a mile or so
back are fin^ foresta of good-sized trees, for a mile or two, and behind
them the richest prairie " bottom '' in the world, varying in width
378 WESTERN WILD8.
from five to twenty miles, and yielding to gentle foot-hills and wooded
bluffs. In three or four places the river spreads to a mile or more in
width, broken by sand-bars and low islands; there the boat usually
stuck fast for awhile, till the hands could " pole off/^ when she would
back out and try other channels till one was found passable.
At such times the captain cheered us with such appropriate remarks
as: " Dâ€” d channel was on that side when I came up. Thought the
river would take a sky-wash round the other way, judgin' from the
set ag'in that bluff. But there's nothing impossible under this admin-
istration. Howsomever, we'll make Sioux City by supper time, if we
don^t &11 down.^' This last was a facetious reference to the system of
sparring off with the " boat's crutches." But we did " fall down "
about noon, running hard aground on the head of a sand island,
located probably where the channel was deepest a month before.
Then oatlis, spars, " nigger-engine " and all the otheravailable machinery
were set in operation ; and after two hours of swearing, bell ringing,
and toil, the stern was got far enough into the current to swing
around ; then all control of it was lost, and that end grounded below.
Then the bow was shoved off, swung around and stuck again ; then
the stern made a half-circle swing, and thus on, in a series of swings
and " drags," over half-sunken trees, the boat groaning through all
her timbers like a thing possessed, we made a final swing off the lower
end of the island, and floated on. When they spar thus at both ends
they are said to "grasshopper" over the difficulty.
Reaching Sioux City, we found there had been a fearful murder,
two robberies and a street fight in which a dozen engaged, all within
twenty-four hours. And still Sioux City was not happy. Thence
WQ traveled north-east by way of the Sioux City & St. Paul Rail-
road, most of the day over a country with the same general char-
acter: a high and gently rolling prairie, without sloughs, with
veiy rich soil and rank grass, but no timber. Having passed the
" divide," we soon entered upon, the system of streams flowing into
the Minnesota River, and left the " Land of the Sleepy " for the
" Blue-water Land." This poetic designation of Minnesota (from the
Sioux minne " water " and sota " blue "), is the most fitting name the
State could have received. In the year 1859, that State was my
residence, and even now my heart thrills at recollection of its sum-
mer beauties: green plains, tasteful groves, crystal lakes and clear
streams lively with fish. But here I ask the reader's permission to
turn back thirteen years. The notes in the next chapter are from ob-
servations both during my residence and later visits.
In July, 1859, I stood on the banks of Rum River and watched
the long trains of Bois Bniles from Pembina, slowly descending
that stream to St. Paul. Their carts were made entirely of wood,
fiom bed and wheel to lynch-pin, and were drawn by oxen, one to
each cart in most cases ; men, carts and animals splashed and clotted
with the black mud of the many sloughs they had crossed. The dry
soaki n g and
the long journey
through the " di-
vide" and lake
brought the ve-
hicles to a
tion; and the
wheels kept up a
eratcchy, creechyy \
could be heard PBOPM FROH PEMBm a ajcd thkir ox-oabts.
nearly half a mile â€” " a cry for grease," which went to the soul.
The custom of these people, then, was to devote the late autumn and
early winter to hunting and trapping; the rest of the winter was
fcirly divided between merry-making and preparing the furs and pelts
they had taken ; and when the late May sunshine had brought forward
grass enough for their animals the trains departed southward. At St.
Paul they sold the proceeds of their last hunt, and laid in supplies for
the next year. The importance of the trade to St. Paul was great;
380 WESTERN WILDS.
for weeks one or more trains arrived daily, each with from ten to two
hundred carts, and each cart piled high with furs and skins.
Most of the drivers were of the pure Bois Brules ftock, and merely
greeted me with the quick, forward jerk of the head, and the sharp
"bon-jour," which is the universal salutation in the North-west; but
here and there in the train was a cart of more than ordinary preten-
WINTER IN THE MINNBBOTA PTNRRI1E8.
sions, generally drawn by two oxen, and sometimes shielded by a
rude awning, containing one or two white men, factors of the fur
companies, or young Englishmen returning from the posts. Perha|)s
a score of full-blood Chippeways accompanied the train. These are
a tall, well-made race of Indians, with a complexion redder than that
of the Sioux or Arapahoes, not so dark and beastly looking; and their
half-blood descendants share in all these peculiarities.
The words BoU Brulea signify ^^ burnt woods," and happily indicate
the dark-red complexion of the half breeds. They and the Mexicans
constitute, I believe, the only permanent types resulting from the
union* of Europeans with our Aborigines. As near as I can de-
termine from their appearance and history, they are about half white,
half Indian, and have long maintained this blood in a condition of
purity. They live both in our Territory and over the line, number
thousands, and are a polite, gay and hospitable people, more musical
than thoughtful, more lively than intelligent. The neighboring whites
have corrupted the name into " Bob Ruly,'* as their Bens BUinca
(White Woods), slang for white men, has in turn become " Bob Long; '^
so the original population of Pembina is made up of the two classes.
Bob Rulys and Bob Liongs.
These are to be mentioned first, as the original settlers of Minne-
sota. Save the occasional missionary, Indian trader, hunter or gov-
ernment official, the country contained but few white men before 1845.
The Chippeways (Ojibbeways) dominated the northern section, the
Sioux the southern; and the "divide," between the drainage of Red
River and Minnesota, was their border and battle-ground for ages.
At last the whites began to crowd the Sioux, from- the south ; and the
Chippeways, under the lead of the great Pahya Goonsey â€” red Napo-
leon of the North-west â€” drove them beyond Red River, which I'e-
mains the boundary of \he two races. Then French settlements
slowly stretched down from the north, and American up from the
south ; and in 1850-^55 came the great speculative era of Minnesota.
Every new country must have such a rise â€” and, alas ! such a fall.
There was for years the humbug and hurrah of the "glorious free
and boundless West ; " and in 1856 and '57 every thing was selling at
three or four times its actual value, and every third man was a mill-
ionaire in town lots. The crash came, and the wealthy, who had
indorsed for each other, fell like a row of bricks, each knocking down
the next. Every man rushed off to his lawyer to sue his neighbor,
compromise with his creditors, or put his property out of his hands.
The laws of different legislatures were in conflict ; judges construed
them one way in one court, and in another directly the opposite. The
Democratic administration of 1858 burdened the young State with a
heavy railroad debt, which the next administration, Republican, repu-
diated, and on top of all this came the grasshoppers.
The crop of 1856 was half destroyed; the next year every green
thing was eaten, the insects leaving the country black behind them.
The crop of 1858 did not half pay taxes and debts, and wh^ I
arrived, in May, 1859, the mass of the people were living on corn-
382 WESTERN WILDS.
breads potatoes and ^* green truck/' with an occasional mess of fish
or game. It was a nice country for a delicate young student^ just
removed firom school on account of bad health. I hoed com/ drove
teams^ chopped wood and cultivated muscle. There was plenty to eat,
such as it was, but no luxuries^ and before the close of the year I was
again in sound health. But I have no desire to repeat the experi-
ence. There was too much pure Darwinism in such a country â€” " nat-
ural selection and survival of the fittest.'' The man who could not
accommodate himself rapidly to poverty and hardships, had to die
Better crops came, and the settlers looked forward to the end of
their troubles, when the Sioux war of 1862 suddenly cut off their
hopes, and many of my friends in Blue-earth County were ruined, a
few losing their lives. But the country had natural wealth in abun-
dance, and Yankee energy has triumphed over ail difficulties. After
thirteen years I entered a rich and prosperous county by rail, where
I had tramped, knapsack in hand, through a comparative wilderness.
The Winnebago Reservation, unbroken by the plow when I first
crossed it, is now a populous farming district; and Mankato, then a
straggling village of six or eight hundred, is now a flourishing city of
five thousand people. But the effects of the "hard times" of 1857-
^69 still remain in many places, in the shape of interminable lawsuits,
unsettled titles, broken fortunes, neighborhood feuds, and men whose
energy is gone and their temper soured by disappointments Many a
Minnesota woman is prematurely old from the troubles of that period,
and even in the faces of those I then knew as children I fancy I can
see some pinching lines which ought not to mar the visage of bloom-
ing youth, unpleasing reminders of a childhood passed without its
natural pleasures, and stinted because of parental poverty.
Thence to St. Paul I noted, with the pleasure of a pioneer, the great
improvements of thirteen years. Hamlets have become large towns;
unimportant towns have grown to cities. St. Paul I found nearly
trebled in size, and lively with twenty thousand visitors attending the
State Fair. On the grounds were specimens of vegetation from every
spot for seven hundred miles north and west. Notable among these were
bunches of wild rice from the northern lakes ; monster turnips and beets
from the line of the Northern Pacific ; native grass from Red River
Valley, four feet long, and wheat grown at Fort Grarry, Red River
Settlement, B. A., which yielded seventy bushels per acre. St. Paul
is in the south-eastern corner, and is the natural entrep&t^ of a wheat-
growing region four hundred miles square. Fertile land continues to
a point two hundred miles north of our national boundary; there a
sandy desert sets in, and continues to the Arctic Circle.
This State and Dakota Territory have many features in common.
On the western border of the State, and forming a part of the bound-
ary line between it and Dajkota, are two lakes â€” Big Stone and Traverse.
The southern one, lying north-west and south-east is Big Stone, thirty-
one miles long and only three-fourths to one and a half miles wide,
with bold shores fifty to eighty feet high â€” beautiftil in summer, filled
with fish and abounding in water-fowl. On its shores 50,000 people
could witness a boat race over a course of ten miles or more. About
it linger many curious and wild traditions of the Indians. This lake
is simply a deep, wide river channel, resembling points on the Upper
Mississippi, where there is no valley or low land along the river.
Lake Traverse was originally a part of it â€” a continuation of it north-
ward â€” ^resembling it in all respects. But now they are separated by
about four miles of low valley of the same width.
Into and through this valley runs a creek â€” ^head of the Minnesota
Biver â€” which rises in Dakota and flows close by the south end of
Lake Traverse and into Big Stone Lake, issuing again from its south-
eastern end, and joining the Mississippi near St. Paul. Traverse is
not so large or long as Big Stone, and as one passes along its western
shore, the hills grow lower and recede from it. Its shores become
marshy, and it narrows to a lagoon, and finally into a stream or river
with scarcely a noticeable current. At Breckinridge, Minnesota, or
Wahpeton, Dakota, this stream is joined by the Otter Tail River, a
somewhat rapid stream of considerable volume. Where the two unite
(the one from Traverse is called the Boia des Siouxy or properly the
Sioux Wood River) both names cease, and the Red River of the North
begins. It is a river at once. From this point it flows three hundred
miles, in a right line, to Lake Winnepeg, in British America.
The fertile valley of Red River, is about a hundred and fifty miles
wide, half in the State and half in Dakota. Westward it yields to the
higher lands and soon to the barren couteauy fit for nothing but scant
pasturage. In the valley are now some of the largest wheat farms in
the world. There a dozen or more teams can be seen in early sum-
mer, following each other with successive ftirrows â€” plowing on the
same " land," which is a township. The furrows are six miles long.
They just make two rounds per day, going up and back, taking din-
ner and then repeating. One mounted man commands the whole, and
a cart with a few tools accompanies. If any thing befalls a plow or
team the driver turns out and lets the other pass, starting in again
384 WESTERN WILDS.
when the repair is made. Upon a large wheat field, in 1876, six self-
binding reapers worked in like order.
But there are other novel features. The northern boundary is the
forty-ninth parallels Hence the days in summer are noticeably long,
and the twilight in proportion, so that at Pembina, June 20, it is not
entirely dark much before 10 P. M., and early dawn begins but little
later than 2 A. M. People who desire to sleep, long retire while it is
yet light, and darken the windows, very much as they do in Noru'ay
or Iceland. But winter presents a sharp contrast. Daylight delays
till half-past nine, and dark comes soon after three. At Pembina
one is on the 49th degree north, while the sun in December is 23Â° south
of the equatorâ€” total 72Â°, which from 90Â° leaves 18Â°, the height of the
sun above the horizon at noon. The sky is often brilliantly clear for
weeks at a time, but there is not warmth enough in the sun to loosen
an icicle on the south side of the house.
But it is warm enough in summer. The winter before I was there,
Wright County enjoyed four months continuous sleighing. The next
June a pumpkin-vine I measured grew four and a half inches in
twenty -four hours. The snow is usually gone by the 10th of April;
the ground dries rapidly, and farmers oft^n plow upon the south slope
while the snow still lies on the north slope. The soil has a mixture
of black sand, and fi-eezes so hard in winter that it never clods or
" bakes " in summer. The local records show that the year should be
divided thus : Winter, five months ; spring, one month ; summer, four
months ; autumn, two months. The summer heat- would be very op-
pressive but for the breeze which is almost constant from the west and
south-west. If it changes to the east, there is apt to be a cold, chilly
rain ; if it ceases, which is rare, the heat is so great the natives can
A suggestion to tourists is in order. Through the lakes to Duluth,
thence by the Northern Pacific Railroad to Fargo, thence down the
Red Riverâ€” on which steamers ply all summer â€” to Winnipeg and
Garry, is a summer excursion yielding more variety in men and man-
ners than any that can be taken in the West. The scenery is oflÂ«n
sublime, though not equal to that of the Rocky Mountains, and al-
ways beautifiil. The lakes are alive with fish ; water-fowl are abun-
dant. Here is a highway northward into the heart of the upper coun-
try, all the way easy of passage, and much cheaper than the trip to
California, or even to Colorado. There are splendid hotels at Duluth,
Brainard, Moorehead, Fargo and Glyndon, and tolerably good living
all the way from there down. " Barring '^ the mosquitoes, which you
can guard i^inst by "taking the vail," as the residents do, there is no
physical inconvenience, and the air is ever pure and bracing. You
can enjoy the sensation of a day eighteen or twenty hours long, and
see the sun as low at noon in summer as it is in Ohio in winter.
With this hint I resume my personal narrative.
From St. Paul we took the cars northward along the left bank of
ings," the lat-
very much like
We are rarely
out of sight of
such a charm
to the Minne-
The State con-
tains ten thou-
sand lakes, va-
rying from a
few acres to mxnnehaha in wintm.
many miles in extent. In the angle between the Mississippi and
Minnesota Rivers is a region rich in scenery and historic interest.
There the Minnehaha plunges down from the prairie level to the Mis-
sissippi by the Minnehaha Falls, so well known to the world through
the genius of Longfellow. On the prairie level are crystal lakes, syl-
van groves and picturesque knolls, among which the tourist may spend
weeks of enjoyment. The railroad ended at Sauk Rapids, where we
halted for a d ly. This is to be the great manufacturing city of this
region, the rapids of the Mississippi furnishing unlimited water-power,
but as yet the citizens have done little beyond the preliminary wind
work. In 1859 this was thought to be the head of all navigation,
and only two little steamers plied above St. Anthony Falls; now
smaller boats run from Sauk Rapids to Brainard, and sometimes
386 WESTERN WILDS.
farther. The Mississippi parts with its greatness slowly. Away up
here it still has the appearauce of a big river.
From Sauk we take the stage-coach â€” a little jerky carrying ten
passengers, among them a Sister and Mother Superior of the Order
of St. Francis. These were on tlieir way to fielle Prairie^ a mission
in the " Big Woods/' to take charge of a frontier academy, and teach
letters, language and religion to little half-breeds and Chippeways.
The Mother Superior was a lady of rare intelligence, just from Eu-
rope, where she had been nursing the sick and wounded of the Franco-
Prussian war. To my remark that I doubted the possibility of con-
verting an Indian, she replied with great feeling : " Oh, perhaps not
in my time, but surely soon, the race will know and accept the truth.
We work for God, and He will take care of it. If we convert one it
will repay us ten thousand fold.*'
Near midnight we left them at Belle Prairie, a hamlet of a few cab-
ins, with a srn^ll school-house, and near by a chapel, its white cross
gleaming in the cold moonlight, fit symbol of tlie Sisters' life and
work. How wonderful is this wide extended power of the Church of
Eome ! Who can travel beyond the reach of her world-embracing
arms? Alike on the banks of the St. Lawrence and the Rio Grande,
I have seen the white cross of her chapels ; and on the wild frontier
and in the hut of the savage have met her hardy missionaries, bronzed
by every sun and weather-beaten by the storms of every sky from
Pembina to Arixoim. Is* it any wonder, considering her celibate
clergy, who make the flock their family and the whole world their
home, and her holy orders of devoted women, to whom suffering and
self-denial are sweet for the sake of the Church â€” is it any wonder that
a quarter of a billion souls attest her power, and, to the reproach of
us Protestants, over half the Christian world still owns allegiance to
Soon after we reached Crow Wing, and remained till near noon
next day. Thence an hour of rapid driving brought us. into the Black
Pine Forest, in the center of which we found the "city" of Brainard â€”
on the Northern Pacific Railroad at last. The streets were lively
with representatives of three great races â€” for it was Sunday â€” and all
the railroad employes were in town to drink and trade. The princi-
pal saloonatic had secured a rare attraction : a band of fifteen Chippe^
ways were performing the " war dance " before his door, to the music
of a drum and buckskin tambourine, and drinks were going as fast as
two men could serve tht crowd. After each dance the only " brave "
who could speak English went around with the hat, exclaiming,
"Teu-n-cen-nt8 a man-n! ten-n-cen-nts a man-n!" the result being
money enough to treat the band to white sugar, of which they are
passionately fond. Near by a white rou^ was trying to strike a bar-
gain with a rather pretty Chippeway girl of fourteen years or so, who
was in charge of an older sister, a withered hag at least thirty years
old, and therefore past all show of comeliness, as is the nature of In-
dian women. Behind stood a half-breed squaw, about as "pretty" as
a wild-cat struck with a club. Ten rods away, afternoon service was
in progress at the Episcopal Church, the only one in the place; and
across the street a maismi de joie kept open doors, its inmates at the
windows with a lavish display of mammiferous wealth. No work was
in progress; most of the men had on clean shirts, and the holy Sab-
bath was strictly kept â€” in Far Western fashion.
The " city " had one great advantage over Union Pacific towns : the
houses were all of lumber, and the native pines still lined the streets.
Here the great Mississippi has at last shrunk to a stream no more
than a hundred yards ^vide and perhaps ten feet deep; a hundred
miles north would bring us into that circle of lakes â€” Itasca, Leech,
Cass and Plantagenet â€” which jointly form its source. Around,
mostly to the east, are ten thousand square miles covered with the
white and yellow varieties of Norway pinQ, constituting the great