Francis Hall.

The Century, Volume 11 online

. (page 139 of 163)
Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 139 of 163)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

at that place during the summer of 1874,
when several live fish came through a hole
made in the rock with a crowbar. The
flow of water was so great — at a depth of
eight feet — ^that the workmen were compelled
to cease. As there was no means by which
these fish could have reached this well other


than the one mentioned, it is evident that
it had communication with some subterra-
nean current where fish existed.

At Lake Geneva, in Wisconsin, it is well
known that a fish, known as the Cisco,
comes and departs at regular periods every

Digitized by




year ; it remains but a few days and is gone.
These same fish are found in Lake Superior
only, and it is believed by many that there
is a subterranean passage by which they
come and return.

It is a ^t well known to many who have
visited Northern Wisconsin, that there are
lakes near Superior whose waters rise and
fall with those of Superior. When the wind
is strong from the east, the waters on the
western shore pile up, and a corresponding
rise occurs in these smaller lakes, while a
change of wind brings about a corresponding

All along Lake Michigan, as in the region
of Superior, we find this water springing to
the surface, save where it is checked by a
heavjr substratiun of day. It is reached by
artesian wells at Chicago, Joliet, Morris,
Marseilles, Ottawa, and far down the valley.
At Marseilles it is reached at a depth of
from eighty to one himdred and fifty feet,
and comes in volumes. At Debolt's Springs,
near Ottawa, it comes to the surface in such
quantities that^ were it not for the fact that
the oudet is so near the edge of the river, it
might well be utilized for manufacturing pur-
poses. At Ottawa it supplies a part of the
city, and the railroad stations have their
wellis which flow without ceasing. Here are
located upward of twenty artesian wells,
each seeming to outdo the other in the vo-
luminous dehvery of its pure cr3rstal water.
And here on the bank of the old Illinois,
opposite the junction of the Fox River, are
the celebrated mineral springs of this valley.
Here in this beautifully ornamented spot,
where the old tribes of Indians came so reg-
ularly for their " medicine " from the " Great
Spirit," are springs of more than ordinary
merit, and this spot was also a favorite
resort for deer, in the early days, as though
directed by a kind Providence to follow the
savage, for a health-inspiring beverage.
These waters are somewhat similar to the
waters of Saratoga County New York,
though not so strongly impregnated with
salt, yet sufficiently strong to make it a
pleasant and effervescing beverage, which is
largely sought after by invalids. On many
of the stock fisirms near this valley artesian
wells are bored with great success, while the

natural outcroppings along the valley are

Along the valley, lower down, and near
Peoria, for many miles, vast tracts of land are
rendered useless in consequence of the
great rush of these waters to the surface
trough the supernatant seams of gravel.
Endless swamps, fields of wild rice, and, in
some places, whole tracts of densely matted
bog and Aicket, oftentimes covered with a
sparse growth of timber, are buoyed up by
the gushing waters, and, like floating islands,
remain suspended there ; and, after a hard
winter has left the mass frozen, the heavy
gales of early spring sway the entire tract
back and forth until the winds subside. A
long pole penetrating this tenacious mass
glides down uninterruptedly through several
feet of clear water, imtil finally arrested by
the hard bed of gravel below.

Farther down the valley, and, we think,
in Schuyler County, near the river, the sand-
stone formation crops qut in blufi& of various
altitudes ; and, at a point where a saw-mill
has been in operation for some years, a nat-
ural outcropping of very wonderful charac-
ter is seen. Here, from the very interior of
the rock, comes a torrent of dear, pure
water, falling about seventy-five feet. It
has been used for years as a water power,
and a more valuable one is seldom found.
Aroimd the mouth of this subterranean tor-
rent, which will average some eight cubic
feet of solid water, innumerable specimens
of fossils are foimd, and basketfiils have
been picked up here at one visit ; fix)m this
it is very evident that the subterranean cur-
rent is in the Old Red Sandstone, and, in its
escape to the surface through the fissures
and crevices, it passes through the fossilifer-
ous rocks, which are gradually being disin-
tegrated by the constant flow. Such is the
case at Waukesha, where the Niagara group
of fossiUferous limestones comes to the sur-

To give an account of the many and
peculiarly interesting cases in which these
>yaters make themselves manifest at the sur-
face in this valley, would require a volume;
but these are mere finger-marks of the vast
currents which rush along in this track
through the subterranean channels.

Digitized by








**As yet a colt he stalks with loftv pace,
And balances his limbs with flexile grace:
First leads the way, the threatening torrent braves ;
And dares the unknown arch that spans the waves.
Light on his airy crest his slender head,
His belly short, his loins luxuriant spread:
Muscle on muscle knots his brawny breast,
No fear alarms him, nor vain shouts molest
But at the clash of arms, his ear afar
Drinks the deep sound, and vibrates to the war :
Flames from each nostril roll in gathered stream,
His Quivering limbs with restless motion gleam,
0*er nis right shoulder, floating full and fair,
Sweeps his thick mane, and spreads its pomp of hair ;
Swifl works his double spine, and earth around
Rings to his solid hoof tnat wears the ground."


But it is time that this history should
return from tracing the vaiying fortunes of
one of the companies of Philip Nolan's
friends, to look at the fortunes of that other
company, whom he had himself enlisted,
and to whom he had returned when he left
Eunice and Inez, in care of Harrod for the
moment, near the ferry of the Sabine River.

Had we diaries as full of these move-
ments as we have of those of Eunice and
Inez, which have proved of less account
in history, this chapter might take fuller
proportions than those which have brought
those ladies to the waters of the Brassos
River. It proved that the expedition of
young men led by Nolan from Natchez
and Texas, was destined to meet the Span-
ish army in array of battle. Here was the
first of those trials of strength between
the descendants of Cortez and his men on
the one hand, and the descendants of
New Englanders and Virginians on the
other, which were to end in the inde-
pendence of Texas forty years after. But
of this expedition we have now scarcely a
record — none excepting one memoir from
its youngest member, as drawn up by him
after the expiration of a quarter of a century.

As has been already said, the party gath-
ered at Natchez, which was Nolan's home,
so far as a man of affairs like him, a man of
so many languages and so many lands can be
said to have had one. Natchez, a setde-
ment of some six hundred persons, was now
an American town, having passed under the

flag of the United States ' a year or two
before. It had been founded by the French,
however, and the Spanish Government gave
up the administration onl^r after severe
pressure, and indeed with riotous disturb-
ances of the inhabitants. For it was be-
coming the head-quarters of the Western
race of men, and when they suspected that
the Spanish Government was slow in its exe-
cution of the treaty which provided for the
surrender of Natchez to our own sway, their
indignation knew no bounds. In such a
community as this it is not difficult to fancy
the feeling excited by the examination of
Nolan — of which we have already spoken —
when Vidal, the Spanish consul, complained
that he was about to invade the territory of

Nolan had, in fact, enrolled a companv
of more than twenty men on this expedi-
tion — the third which he had undertaken in
his trading for wild horses. It was admitted
on all hands, that under the general restric-
tions which grew out of the hateful policy
of that hateful wretch, Philip the Second
— ^bloody Mary's husband, let it be rever- '
ently remembered in passing — it was ad-
mitted on all hands that this trade was pro-
hibited. But in this case, Don Pedro de
Nava, the Commandant-General of the
North-eastern provinces of New Spain, had
given Nolan a formal permission to carry it
on. On his several returns to Orleans,
Nolan had sent presents of handsome
horses to the Governor, as token of his
success. And when these facts appeared,
on the hearing before Judge Brum, the
American Judge, he said that this could not
be regarded as a hostile expedition against
a friendly power. It was a trading expedi-
tion permitted in form by the authorities of
that power. The United States, he said,
was not bound to intervene, nor would it
intervene in any way.

Accordingly the gay young party started,
full of life and hope. I am afraid no man
of them would have turned back had Judge
Bruin addressed them paternally, and told
them that they were violating the neutrality
of the United States by an attack upon the
territory of its friends. I am afraid none of
them loved the King of Spain. But I am
bound to say that, so far as three-quarters

Digitized by




of a century has unlocked the secrets of the
past, there is no evidence that Philip Nolan
spoke untruly that day, or that he had any
foolish notion of invasion or conquest. The
reader will see that his conduct, and that of
his men, show no signs of any such notion,
and neither the archives of Mexico nor of
America have divulged any word to imply

The young fellows crossed the Mississippi
at Walnut Hills,t above Natchez, and rode
westerly. Their route would thus lie
between the posts of Natchitoches and
Washita — both of them old French posts,
now held by Spanish garrisons. The Spanish

* The writer begs to acknowledge the courtesy
with which Mr. Fish and Mr. Jefferson, the accom-
plished keeper of rolls, as well as Gen. Belknap at
the War Office, have made every research in the
national archives which would throw any light on
the darker places of this history. The following let-
ter to Philip Nolan, a copy of which has been pre-
served in the State Department, is so curious, that
even the reader of a novel may pause to look at it

Thomas Jefferson to Philip Nolan.
Philadelphia, June 21, 1798.

Sir : It is some time since I have understood that
there are large herds of horses in a wild state in the
country west of the Mississippi, and have been
desirous of obtaining details of their history in that
state. Mr. Brown, Senator from Kentucky, informs
me it would be in your power to give interesting
information on this subject, and encourages me to
ask it. The circumstances of the Old World have,
beyond the records of history, been such as admitted
not that animal to exist in a state of nature. The
condition of America is rapidly advancing to the
same. The present, then, is probablv the only
moment in the age of the world, and the nerds above
mentioned the only subjects, of which we can avail
ourselves to obtain what has never yet been recorded,
and never can be again, in all probability. I will
add that your information is the sole reliance, as far
as I can at present see, for obtaining this desideratum.
You will render to natural history a very acceptable
service, therefore, if you will enable our Philosophical
Society to add so interesting a chapter to the history
of this animal. I need not speafy to vou the par-
ticular facts asked for, as your knowledge of the
animal in his domesticated, as well as his wild state,
will naturally have led your attention to those par-
ticulars in the manners, habits, and laws of his
existence, which are peculiar to his wild state. 1
wish you not to be anxious about the form of your
information ; the exactness of the substance alone is
material, and if, after giving in a first letter all the
facts you at present possess, you could be so good
-on subsequent occasions as to furnish such others in
addition as you may acquire from time to time, your
communications will always be thankfully received.
If addressed to me at Monticello, and put into any
post-office of Kentucky or Tennessee, they will
reach me speedily and safely, and will be considered
AS obligations on, sir.

Your most obedient, humble servant,

Mr. Nolan. Th: Jefferson.

t Now Vicksburg.

consul at Natchez had sent word to the
commandant at Washita that this band was
coming, ar^.d he sent out a party of dragoons
to meet them. This was the party of which
the reader has heard already. They were
more than twice as numerous as Nolan's
men, but they hesitated to attack him, as
well they might. For whether he had, or
had not, any right to bring horses out from
New Spain, he was not yet in New Spain.
He was still in Louisiana. More than this,
as has been said, he carried with him the
permission of the Spanish governor to
cross the frontier for the purposes of his

The Spanish captain therefore pretended
that he had only come out to himt for some
horses he had lost. But, as Nolan observed,
so soon as he advanced with his friends, the
Spanish soldiers turned and dogged him.
Nor did he lose sight of them till he passed
the garrison to which they belonged. He
declined to go into Washita, and for the
same reason declined to bring his party into
Natchitoches, as we have seen. They
crossed the Washita River, rode merrily on
and on, till they came to the Red River, their
party being diminished only by the absence
of Harrod, Richards, Adams and King.
When Blackburn had joined, Caesar had
joined also, — for Caesar had an enthusiasm
for Captain Nolan, and thought to see wild
life, to collect silver and to return soon to
Miss Inez. Under the Captain's lead, so
soon as he had determined to give Natchi-^
toches the go-by, they kept on the east side
from the Red River till they came to the
village of the Caddoes. Among these good-
natured and friendly people, they staid long
enough to build a raft, and ferry their horses
over, and now the real enterprise for which
they had started was begun.

The Caddoes were not yet used to visits
from whites, though they had learned to take
their furs to Natchitoches every year to sell.
The Americans found them in this " month
of turkeys," as they called October, or the
" moon "which filled the greater part of Octo-
ber, enjoying the holiday of an Indian's
life. Their lodges were made by a frame-
work of poles placed in a circle in the
ground with the tops united in an oval
form. This frame-work was tighdy bound
together, and the whole nicely thatched.
Within, every person had a " bunk " of his
own, raised from the ground and covered
with buflfalo skins, — ^not an uncomfortable
house. Many of these youngsters who
visited them here had been bom in log

Digitized by




cabins which had not so much room upon
the floor. For these lodges covered a circle
which was twenty-five feet in diameter.
More than once, as the party went forward,
were the members of it glad to accept the
hospitality which such lodges oflfered, and
more than once glad to build such for their
own quarters.
And, firom this moment, the work and the

the expedition prospered. Six days more
brought them to Trinity River, and across
it. All these young men were used to open
prairie life, with its freedom and adventure.
But only the six Spaniards of the party,
Nolan himself, and one or two of the Ameri-
cans, had ever taken wild horses in fair chase
with the lasso. The use of it was still to be
taught and learned, as the warm days of


play ot the little party began. Nolan was
encouraged so soon as he learned that his
presence and escort for the party of ladies
were no longer needed. One day he was
negotiating with Twowokanies — friendly
people enough when they saw the strength
of the long-knives. He bought from them
some fine horses, and so the business of

October and November passed. While
Eunice and Inez were wending westward
fi-om Nacogdoches, many was the firolic, and
many the upset, the empty saddle, and the
hair-breadth escape by which the green-
horns of this other party, were broken into
their new business. But it was a jolly and
a hearty life, and no man regretted the

Digitized by




adventure while bufialo meat and fine
weather lasted.

As they crossed the divide between the
Trinity and the Brassos, moving on a parallel
line with the smaller party, die supply of
buffido meat gave out, and they had to try
the experiment of horse-flesh. But there
were few of them whose fathers and grand-
fathers had not tried that before them,
though few of them guessed that it was to
be made fashionable in Parisian caf<^s. As
long ago as the days of Philip of Mount
Hope, the savage who entertained Captain
Churdi offisred him his choice of "cow-
beef" or "horse-beef." With the Brassos
River came good iaxt again — elk, antelope,
turkeys, bu&loes, and wild horses by thou-

So the Captain directed that here the
camp should be established — and here
" Nolan's River " still flows, to maintain the
memory of this camp, and of the gallant
pioneer who built it, for a generation, which
has, alas! well-nigh forgotten him. Wild
horses are but an uncertain, shall one
say, a skittish property ? It is said of aU
riches, that " they take to themselves wings
and fly." Of that form of wealth which
Nolan and hb friends were collecting, the
essential and special worth is that they do
not have to take to themselves legs, but are
all ready at any moment to flee. Without
this quality, indeed, it would cease to be
wealth. In this case, moreover, the neighbor-
hood of Twowokanies, Comanches, Apaches,
Lipansy and red-skins without a name, made
the uncertainty of wealth even more uncer-
tain. Whatever else was doubtful, this was
sure, that if these rascals could run qS[ the
horses as fast as they were corralled, they
would do so. And thus, to hunt all day and
to keep watch all night, was the duty of the
little party as the long nights of winter
came on.

The first necessity, therefore, at " Nolan's
River," was to biuld a corral, or pen, of
logs, to be enlarged from time to time, as
the success of hunting warranted. When
the task was over, the himting went forward
with more animation, and as the new year
turned, the young fellows rejoiced in a drove
of three hundred fine horses, which, as they
promised themselves, they should take to a
good market in Louisiana and in the Missis-
sippi territory, as soon as the spring should
open. Camp life had its usual adventures.
But the great occasion of the winter was the
arrival of a party of two hundred Coman-
ches, men, women and children, on their

Vol. XL— 51.

way to the Red River. Several tribes of dif-
ferent names met at this place. A great
chief named Nicoroco had summoned them
together there. The yoimg whites smoked
the pipe of peace with them all, gave them
presents as they could, and thought they
had opened amicable relations with them. -
And so they returned to their corral and
their hunting.

Blackburn had joined, with Caesar. But,
to the surprise of all — that of the Captain
most of all — Harrod and his squad did not

Of all the winter's sojourn there, this
reader need now be delayed only by the fol-
lowing letter, which opens the plaps and
hopes, the annoyances and fiaulures, of Cap-
tain Nolan :

Phiup Nolan to Eunice Perry:
Nolan's River, in the Wilderness, )
4th day of the month of chestnuts. >
Last year of the old century. )

My Dear Miss Perry :

If you think me dead this letter undeceives you.
If you think me faithless let roe try to undeceive
you. If, which is impossible, you think I have
loreotten you or Miss Inez, no words that I can
wnte will undeceive you.

Blackburn joined us safely at the crossing of
Trinity River, and brought us news from you not
three days old. I have to thank you for your letter
and Miss Inez for her little postscnpt,for which I will
repay her yet You were right in tlkinkine that the
news which Will sent of the cordiality of the two
Colonels, and of their determination to provide
escort for you, combined with your own great cour-
tesy in relieving me from my promise to your
brother, were the causes which oianged my plans as
formed when we puted. Nothing but the state-
ment of your own judgment and wish would have
debarred me from the pleasure of seeing you and
your niece soon.

It is very true, as you suspected, that my presence
with my men eives vi^r and unity to their work,
which It must liave if it is to succeed. They are a
good set, on the whole; but boys are^boys, and
rangers are rangers, and Spaniards are Spaniards.
I am sometimes tempted to leave them to cut each
others' throats when they stumble into one of their
quarrels. And then, another day when all has
worked well, and they are dancing or singing or
telling camp-stories round their fire, I wonder that I
have ever thought them anything but a band of

My only anxiety arises from the detention of Will
Harrod and his men, who have not joined me. But
I suppose you know, better than I, the cause of their

Tne great enterprise goes forward happily. I
shall hope to send Mr. Jefferson a valuable letter.
If only I can send him a horse across the AUeghanies!
I have for your brother's own saddle the handsomest
black charger he ever set his eyes upon, the stud
of the First Consul himself, or of your Gradous
Majesty Charles the Fourth, not excepted. If only
the beast escapes ** One Eye," and the distempor
and yellow-water, — which may Castor and Polluz
grant,— are not they the protectors of horses ? An

Digitized by




exciting life is onrs. In the saddle for the whole of
daylight, we do not lose our anxietv when the
night comes on — at least we chiefs oo not. My
bojrs are snoring around this pine-knot fire while I
am writings as if they knew no care. But it is
always so.

" Uneasy lies the head that weare a crown."

But my fair enemv, Miss Inez, will never be satis-
fied, if in the wilaemess here I end bv quoting
.Shakespeare. Tell her it b for her sake mat I end
my letter with an adventure, which she may intro-
duce into her first romance. You must know, and
she must know, that I and half-a-dozen of mv boys
have been on a visit to Nicoroco, the great chief of
chieftains in these regions. The ^eat Wallace
himself was not so bare-leeged as Nicoroco is, nor
did his sway extend nearly so far. Yes, and we
smoked calumets of peace enough to make Miss
Inez sick ten times over, and Miss Perry also, unless
your new waif— Hawk-Eye is her name? — have
taught you faster than I believe, the peaceful habits
of the wilderness. Heavens ! if your royal master's
handsome chief commander, the " Prince of Peace,"
as I am told he is called, could but have presided,
he would never have feared the salvajos Americanos
any more! Ah, well! We returned from these
pacifications to our corral, our buffalo meat and our
norses, and alas! a few pacified Comanches
returned with us !

What faith can you put in man? Early one
morning our dear friends departed, and when we
shook ourselves a few hours after, for our breakfast,
we found that, by some accident not to be explained,
they had taken with them all of our eleven saddle-
horses, and that for the future we were to pursue
the mustangs on foot, and on foot were to drive
them throu^ the deserts to Natchez and Orleans !
This was the interpretation given in effect to all our
padfications !

••What to do? Quien sabe? Certainly I did
not know. But I did know 1 was neither going to
ride a wild mustang home, nor appear on foot in the
presence of my town's folk the other side of the
Fadier of Waters. So I called for volunteers, and
your dear old Caesar stepped forth first. Three

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 139 of 163)