naked, with bows and
arrows and "some sort
of things on their heads,"
which probably means
the way they put up their
b > ^nd suggests that
they were Pawnees. Here
the Turk confessed he
had lied to the Spaniards about the riches of Quivira in
order to lead the army off on the trackless plains where it
would perish. "We strangled him that night so that he
never waked up," is the way one of the Spaniards tells the
story of what happened to the Turk.
, ' -*.* ^ '
A QUIVIRA GRASS HUT. (Courtesy R. B.
Brower, St. Cloud, Minn.)
THE STORY OF CORONADO
Coronado spent a month in Quivira and Harahey. He
wrote that the country was the best he had seen since
leaving Spain, for the land was very fat and black, and well
watered with rivulets and springs and rivers. He found
nuts and plums and very good sweet grapes and mulberries
to eat, and plenty of grass and wild flax and sumach. The
Spaniards held a council and resolved to go back to Mexico,
for they feared trying
to winter in the country
so far from the rest of
the army. So Coronado
raised a great cross, and
at the foot of it he made
some letters with a chisel,
which said that Fran-
cisco Vasquez de Coro-
nado, general of the
army, had arrived there.
The Spaniards then
marched away,in the month of August, 1541, almost four hun-
dred years ago, and left the land of Quivira, with its fat, black
soil, its beautiful rivulets and springs and rivers, its great
prairies of grass and its nuts, plums, good sweet grapes and
mulberries, its queer cows with humped backs and its
Indians living in grass huts and eating raw buffalo meat.
And no one has yet found the great cross the Spaniards
raised with the name of Coronado upon it. Nor has any
one yet found the tree covered with golden bells under which
Tatarrax, the great king of Quivira, sleeps, lulled by the
music of the bells.
1. Are you sorry that Coronado and his army did not find the seven cities
of Cibola, as Fray Marcos had described them? Why?
2. Are the people whom you know as ready to believe big stories as were
Coronado and his army? Account for any difference.
3. Do you know any person who has seen the buffalo roaming over our
Nebraska plains? If so, tell what you have heard him say about them.
4. What are the chief differences between the land of Quivira as described
by Coronado and the part of Nebraska in which you live?
QUIVIRA TOMAHAWKS. (From photograph
by A.E. Sheldon.)
DON DIEGO DE PENALOSA
OUT of the musty old Spanish documents of two hundred
years ago comes to us the strange story of Don Diego
de Penalosa and his wonderful expedition across the plains
to the kingdom of Quivira. It was in the year 1660, so runs
the tale, that Don Diego came to Santa Fe to be governor
and captain general of New Mexico. He drove back the
fierce Apaches who raided the peaceful Pueblos along the
Rio Grande, but his heart was restless and unsatisfied. He
longed to make a great name for himself as did Cortez in
Mexico and Pizarro in Peru. It was a hundred and twenty
years since Coronado marched to Quivira and found there
nothing but straw houses and naked savages. Still the old
story of a kingdom full of gold and silver beyond the great
plains persisted. Still the mystery of the great unknown
region in the north stirred the Spanish love of conquest.
It was on March 6, 1662, that Don Diego de Penalosa left
the province of New Mexico to find and conquer this fabled
land of riches. With him there marched eighty Spanish
knights and a thousand Indian allies, while six cannon, eight
hundred horses, three hundred mules and thirty-six wagons
bore their baggage.
Like Coronado, Penalosa marched north two hundred
leagues, nearly seven hundred miles. On his way he found
the great Indian nation of the Escanzaques with 3,000
warriors starting for war with the people of Quivira. These
joined the Spaniards. Together they traveled northeast un-
til they came to a broad river flowing east. They followed
its southern bank for a day, when the river made a great bend
and flowed from the north. Signal fires blazed from the
hills telling that their approach was seen. They kept on
until they saw another fine river of clear water flowing from
DON DIEGO DE PENALOSA
the north to join the one along whose banks they marched.
Westward of this was a great city in a vast level plain.
There were thousands of houses, some two, some three, some
four stories high, well built of hard wood resembling walnut.
The city extended for leagues westward along the plain to
where another clear flowing stream came from the north to
join the broad river along which they marched.
Seventy chiefs came from this city to greet Penalosa,
bringing rich presents of fur robes, pumpkins, corn and beans
and fresh fish for food. A great council was held and peace
That night the warriors of the Escanzaque tribe stole away
from the Spanish camp and raided the city of Quivira, kill-
ing, plundering, and burning. In the morning it was in
ashes and thousands of its peaceful people dead or dying.
Among its blackened ruins the Spanish commander sought in
vain for chiefs who met him in friendly council the day be-
fore. The great city was destroyed never to be rebuilt and
its few survivors scattered never to return. On June 11,
1662, Don Diego de Penalosa with his great train marched
sadly back to the Rio
Grande there to relate
the destruction of the
great city of Quivira.
A Nebraska author,
Judge Savage, of Oma-
ha, has traced the route
of Penalosa upon the
map, has measured the
miles marched from
Santa Fe and found that
Penalosa reached the
Platte near Louisville.
He believes that Penalosa marched one day west to the
site of Ashland where the Platte makes a bend and flows
from the north, that the Elkhorn was the first river
A SPANISH STIRRUP FOUND IN NEBRASKA.
(From photograph collection of A. E. Sheldon.)
8 STORIES OF NEBRASKA
flowing from the north to join the Platte and the Loup
the second river, and that between the Loup and the
Elkhorn rivers not far from the present town of Columbus
was the city of Quivira destroyed by the Escanzaques, who
were the Kanzas tribe. The numerous sites between the
Loup and Elkhorn rivers where fragments of pottery and
other Indian relics are found to-day are remains of the great
city of Quivira destroyed two hundred and fifty years ago.
The legend of Penalosa is too wonderful to be true. It
is now known to be a fiction. There was a Governor Don
Diego de Penalosa of New Mexico but no such army as re-
lated was led by him across the plains and there certainly was
no great city of Quivira with houses three and four stories
high covering the plain between the Loup and Elkhorn
rivers. We must part with Penalosa 's expedition as an
historical event, but bid it welcome and give it place in the
realm of romance with other wonder stories of the time when
people knew but very little of the land where we now live
and used their imagination instead of their eyes in describing
1. Why were wonderful stories about this country so long believed which
have since been found to be untrue?
2. Can you tell how to write an untrue story so that all the people shall
always believe it?
BARON LA HONTAN AND MATHIEU SAGEAN
XTEBRASKA remained an unknown land to white men
* for many years after Coronado marched back to the
valley of the Rio Grande. The earliest Frenchmen who
explored the Mississippi Valley did not reach this country.
They heard of it from afar by report of the Indians living
near the mouth of the Missouri. Far to the north and west
stretched the land and the rivers and tribes, they said. No
one knew how far.
This unknown land where Nebraska now is became a
fine field for romantic writers. Two of them, Baron La Hon-
tan and Mathieu Sagean, deserve mention for their books
were for many years taken as true narratives of travels in this
Baron La Hontan was a soldier who came from France to
Canada. In his book, printed at The Hague in 1704, he tells
of a long journey made with companions in a canoe west of
the Mississippi. He tells of a tribe which he calls Essanapes,
who worshiped the sun, the moon, and the stars. Beyond
the Essanapes lived the Gnascitares, who lived on the shore
of a great lake. Upon this lake were canoes rowed by 200
oarsmen. They had buildings three stories high and fought
battles with the Spaniards in New Mexico. The great king
of this country lived in a royal palace waited upon by hun-
dreds of servants. To make this romantic story seem true
La Hontan 's book has a map of the region where are now
Nebraska and South Dakota. He gives pictures of the
Indians who lived there and many words from their lan-
guages. None of these had any existence except in his
Mathieu Sagean 's story was written by another man. It
tells that Sagean was born in the isle of Montreal in Canada,
STORIES OF NEBRASKA
that his father and mother were faithful members of the
Roman Catholic Church, that he could read a little but not
write, and that twenty years before he told his story he left
Montreal in a bark canoe for the lakes and rivers of the great
West. With a party of eleven Frenchmen and several
Indians he journeyed west of the Mississippi until he came
to the country of the Acaanibas, a great nation occupying a
region six hundred miles long. There he found cities with
forts and a king who claimed to be a descendant of Monte-
zuma who went clothed every day in a beautiful robe of
,,r^;ri.:Txx.,rrs, ..,,,,,,,,.;. ^
LA HONTAN'S MAP OF THE NEBRASKA REGION
ermine. In front of the king 's palace were great idols many
feet high. Every morning the king and his people wor-
shiped before these idols, chanting songs from daybreak to the
rising of the sun. The king's palace was three stories high
and built of blocks of solid gold. He had 100,000 soldiers,
three -fourths of them horsemen, who camped around the
city. The women were as white and beautiful as those of
Europe. The people carried on commerce with another
people so far to the west that a journey there required six
months of travel. Sagean saw a caravan of three thousand
cattle loaded with gold and rich furs start on its journey.
These stories of La Hontan and Sagean are not history.
BARON LA HONTAN AND MATHIEU SAGEAN 11
They are wonder stories of imaginary countries supposed to
have been located in the Nebraska region. They show how
little was really known of our country at the time these
stories were printed and believed.
1 . What things in these stories seem now to be true?
2. What things seem untrue?
3. When a story is partly truth and partly falsehood, how can you separate
one from the other?
THE SPANISH CARAVAN
ONE of the oldest stories of white men on the Nebraska-
Kansas plains is that known as the story of the Spanish
Caravan. This story has always been wrapped in mystery.
The early French writers on the Missouri country tell it in
different forms. It has been handed down in various tribes
of Missouri and Nebraska Indians. The Spanish histories
of New Mexico do not mention it, but the great American-
Spanish scholar, Adolf T. Bandelier, says he found record of
it in the archives of the Franciscan monks and retells it in his
book "The Gilded Man." There is great variation in the
versions of the Spanish Caravan story, but they agree in the
main features, which are these:
In the year 1720, a Spanish army marched out of Santa
Fe to conquer the Missouri valley country. There were
several hundred armed men besides women, children, a
Franciscan monk and a great number of horses and cattle.
Comanche Indians went along as guides and allies. Their
plan was to conquer the Missourias, the Otoes, the Pawnees,
and other Indians living near the Missouri River and to col-
onize the country for Spain. Somewhere in the region of
the Republican or Kansas River the Spanish Caravan was
attacked by the united nations whom they came to destroy.
All of the Spaniards were killed except the Franciscan monk
who was captured and held prisoner. He afterward escaped
to the French forts near St. Louis where he told the story of
his comrades' fate.
Some of the stories of the Caravan say that the Spanish
commander intended to get the help of theOsage tribe, which
was at war with the Missourias and Otoes. By mistake he
reached first a village of the Missourias, whom he thought to
be Osages. He told them of his plan to conquer the Mis-
THE SPANISH CARAVAN
souria tribe, to make their women and children slaves and to
settle in their country. The Missouria chief understood the
mistake. He thanked the Spaniards and told them he would
join the war. Great feasts followed. The Missouria chief
sent messengers to all the friends of the Missouria tribe.
Over two thousand warriors came. After a night of feasting
the Indians fell upon the Spaniards just at daybreak and in
a few minutes killed all except the monk. All the Spanish
horses were captured. As the Indians did not then know
how to use horses, they made the Franciscan mount every
day and show them how to ride. While the Indians were
trying to imitate him, he mounted the best horse and rode
away into the wilderness, finally reaching the French forts.
Afterwards, says one of the French chroniclers, the
Missouri River Indians came to the French forts with the
sacred vestments and chalices of the church which they had
taken from the friar.
Other accounts tell about the plunder of the Spanish camp,
the rich garments, the books, and a map
which was seen in the camps of the Ne-
braska Indians in the years that followed.
Charlevoix, a noted Jesuit father who trav-
eled in this region and wrote an account of
it, tells the story of the Spanish Caravan
and says that he bought the spurs which
the Spanish monk wore when he escaped
from the Indians to the French.
At a great council held by the French
commander Bourgmont with the Indians
of this region in 1724 one of the chiefs
boasted how the Missourias, Otoes and
Pawnees had entirely destroyed the great
Spanish army which had come to con-
quer the Missouri River country.
These are some of the stories of the Spanish Caravan,
wrapped partly in mystery and dispute, but with a core of
A SPANISH SWORD
AND A BASKET
SABER FOUND IN
tion of A. E. Shel-
14 STORIES OF NEBRASKA
agreement and truth. The truth is that an attempt was
made by the Spaniards at Santa Fe to conquer and settle the
rich land of Nebraska and Kansas, which had been discov-
ered by Coronado nearly two centuries before ; and that their
expedition was defeated by the Nebraska Indians.
We know that the Indians of the Nebraska country kept
the Spanish settlements in New Mexico in fear for many
years. And in the year 1824, a hundred years after the time
of the Spanish Caravan, the city of Santa Fe sent an em-
bassy to Fort Atkinson, in our state, to make peace with the
Pawnees and bring to an end the raiding of the Rio Grande
valley by their war parties.
1. What reasons are there for thinking this story of the Spanish Caravan
not wholly a myth?
2. Is a tale apt to grow larger or smaller when retold a number of times?
THE MALLET BROTHERS
IT was almost two hundred years after Coronado and his
thirty Spanish horsemen rode away from the valley of
the Rio Gra"nde to the kingdom of Quivira, and then rode
back again, before we have a sure record of any other white
men in this region.
This time Frenchmen came. They crossed the entire
state of Nebraska, from northeast to southwest, and wrote
the story of their travels in French. This story, which
has only recently been translated into English, is the
first certain account we have of the land that is now
The men who made this journey were Pierre Mallet and
Paul Mallet, brothers, and with them were six other French-
men. All of these except one were from Canada. They
started from the French settlements in Illinois, not far from
where St. Louis now is. In their story they say that they
found it was 100 leagues up the Missouri River to the villages
of the Missouri Indians. From there it was 80 leagues to the
Kanzes Indians who lived not far from where Kansas City
now is. From the Kanzes Indians to the Octotatoes or
Otoes, who lived at the mouth of the Platte, was 100 leagues.
From the Otoe village to the river of the Panimahas, where
they found the Indian tribe of that name, it was 60 leagues
farther up the Missouri. The earliest explorers called the
Skidi Pawnees, Panimahas. This fact together with the
distance given from the mouth of the Platte to the Pani-
maha River makes it probable that these first explorers
of Nebraska found the Panimaha Indians in what is now
From this place the Mallet brothers and their company
set out on May 29, 1739, for the city of Santa Fe. They had
STORIES OF NEBRASKA
THE PLATTE RIVER. (From photograph by
A. E. Sheldon.)
with them a band of horses laden with goods to trade with
the Spaniards and Indians of the Rio Grande region. In the
two hundred years since Coronado had crossed the plains
the Spanish had settled in New Mexico and built
cities, chief among them Santa Fe. So little was then known
about the great plains
country that all the other
Frenchmen who had tried
to reach Santa Fe had
gone up the Missouri
River into the Dakotas.
The Mallet brothers, up-
on the advice of some
Indians, took a different
direction and set out
southwest from the Pan-
imaha Indian villages.
June 2d they reached a river which they named the
Platte, and, seeing that it took a direction not much different
from the one they had in mind, they followed it, going up its
left bank seventy leagues. Here they found that it made
a fork with the river of the Padoucas. On June 13th they
crossed to the right bank of the river they were following, and,
traveling over a tongue of land, they camped on the 14th on
the south bank of the river of the hills which here falls into
the Platte. From this point they traveled south three days
across high plains, during which time they found no wood,
not even for fire. These high plains they said extended as
far as the mountains near Santa Fe. After crossing sev-
eral smaller streams they reached the Arkansas River
on June 20th and lost seven horses loaded with goods
in getting over the river. On July 22d they arrived at
Santa Fe, having traveled 962 leagues from the Panimaha
We have only a very short story of their travels, but it is
full of first things. They named the Platte River. They
THE MALLET BROTHERS 17
were no doubt the first white men to see the forks of the
Platte. They were the first white men to travel over the
entire length of Nebraska and the first traders to bring the
MiGsouri valley and the mountains together.
1. Trace on a map of Nebraska the route these men traveled.
2. Did they take the shortest route from St. Louis to Santa Fe?
3. Is any river or town or county in Nebraska called Mallet? Has any
monument been erected to .these men? How do you account for this?
THE first Nebraska Indian whose name we know is
Blackbird. He was head chief of the Omaha tribe and
lived more than one hundred years ago in the Omaha coun-
try, which then extended on both sides of the Missouri River
from Bow River in Cedar County to Papillion Creek in Sarpy
Blackbird died about the year 1800, before there were any
white settlements in Nebraska. He left behind him a fame
so fierce and cruel among the Indians that it endures to this
day. During Blackbird 's life Nebraska belonged to France
and Spain and French and Spanish traders came up the river
to deal with the Indians for furs. Blackbird was one of the
first Indian chiefs on the Missouri to do business with the
white traders. He was very shrewd in his dealing. When
a trader came to his village he had him bring all his goods
into the chief 's lodge and spread them out. Blackbird then
selected the things he wished, blankets, tobacco, whisky,
powder, bullets, beads and red paint, and laid them to one
side, not offering any pay for them. Then, calling his herald,
he ordered him to climb to the top of the lodge and summon
all the tribe to bring in their furs and trade with the white
man. In a few minutes the lodge would be crowded with
Indians bearing beaver, buffalo, otter and other skins. No
one was allowed to dispute the prices fixed by the white
trader, who was careful to put them high enough to pay five
times over for all the goods taken by the chief.
Thus Blackbird and the traders grew rich together, but
his people grew poor and began to complain. A wicked
trader noticed this and gave Blackbird a secret by which he
could maintain his power. He taught him the use of arsenic
and gave him a large supply of that deadly poison. After
that the terror of Blackbird and his mysterious power grew
in the tribe. He became a prophet as well as a chief. When
anyone opposed him Blackbird foretold his death within a
certain time and within that time a sudden and violent dis-
ease carried the victim off in great agony. Before long all
his rivals disappeared and the people agreed to everything
Blackbird was also a great warrior. When a boy he was
captured by the Sioux, but escaped and fought them after-
ward until they feared his name. He led his warriors against
the Pawnees and burned one of their large towns. He took
scalps from the Otoes and from the Kanzas tribes. To his
ability as a fighter he added the mysterious art of "making
medicine" which would overcome his enemies. Once when
following the trail of a hostile war party across the prairies he
fired his rifle often into the hoofprints of their horses, telling
his band it would cripple them so that they would be over-
taken. He did overtake and kill them all and his tribe
looked upon the fact as proof of the wonderful effect of his
The Ponca Indians lived at the mouth of the Niobrara
River, in what is now Boyd and Knox counties, and were
neighbors of the Omahas. The two tribes were related and
spoke languages much alike. A party of Ponca young men
made a raid on the Omahas and stole a number of horses and
women. Blackbird gathered all his fighting men and started
to "eat up the Poncas." He drove them into a rude fort
made by throwing up a wall of dirt. The Omahas greatly
outnumbered the Poncas and were about to kill them all.
The Poncas sent a herald carrying a peace pipe. Blackbird
shot him down. Another herald was treated in the same
way. Then the head chief of the Poncas sent his daughter,
a young girl, in her finest Indian suit of white buckskin, with
the peace pipe. Blackbird relented, took the pipe from the
20 STORIES OF NEBRASKA
girl's hand, smoked it and there was peace between the
The Ponca maiden became the favorite wife of Blackbird.
She had great influence over him, but in one of his violent
fits of anger he drew a knife and struck her dead. When he
knew what he had done his rage ended in violent grief. He
covered his head with a buffalo robe and sat down by the
dead body, refusing to eat or sleep. He answered no one.
The tribe feared that he would starve to death. One of them
brought a child and, laying it on the ground, put Blackbird 's
foot upon its neck. This touched the chief's heart. He
threw off his buffalo robe, forgot his deep sorrow and resumed
At last an enemy came against the Omahas which not
even Blackbird with all his medicine and mystery could
withstand. This was the smallpox, the white man 's disease
which the Indians had never known. It came among them
like a curse. They could not understand how it traveled
from lodge to lodge and from village to village. The fever
and the fearful blotches drove them wild. Some of them
left their villages and rushed out on the prairies to die alone.
Others set fire to their houses and killed their wives and
children. Two thirds of the Omaha tribe perished and it
never after recovered its old strength and power.
Blackbird, the great chief, was finally stricken. His
friends gathered about his dying bed to hear his last word.
He ordered them to bury him on the top of the great hill
which rose several hundred feet above the Missouri and from
which one could see up and down the river for thirty miles.
Here the Indians watched for the coming of the white traders,