George Bird Grinnell.

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correct. It was time to act. Withdrawing cau-
tiously out of sight, I made a circuit to the rear
far enough, as I believed, to circumvent their
designs, took a position in a low swale, and waited.


Hunting at High Altitudes

As they approached at a fast walk, they could
be easily heard sniffing the air for the scent of their
enemy. They looked fearfully big in the moon-
light. Finding my position was sufficiently far
back to circumvent their design, I lay down on
the side of the swale in a position from which I
could quickly rise to a sitting posture and deliver
fire. Sniffing the air audibly, they came rapidly
forward, and as it happened, along the lowest part
of the swale in which I lay, and with the direction
taken, they would soon stumble upon me. They
were approaching so rapidly that something had
to be done soon. It was now "either a fight or a
foot race." I did not hesitate, but rose quickly to a
sitting position with rifle ready for action. At the
change of position the two bears, either from noise
made by my movement or getting a sight of some-
thing unusual in the moonlight, stopped. Almost
as quick as thought, by a careful aim, I delivered
fire at the mass of the foremost bear, and at the
crack of the rifle he fell in his tracks. The other
bear remained motionless, apparently dazed. An-
other cartridge was quickly inserted, but before
aim could be taken he sprung off to the left and was
soon on a full run to the hills near, making fear-
fully long jumps. Before he had gone far, the
first shot was delivered a miss; then a second



A B Route of cattle crossing river.

H Marquee tent (unoccupied that night) and dog.

H B Route of dog when he said bow-wow.

F Where Kate was tied.

E Where hunter lay flat.

C H L M Route of two bears in crossing creek.

M Where the last bears stood.

K Point whence last shots were fired.

M N Route of second bear as he escaped.

G Pile of beeves.

S Camp of U. S. Surveyors.

Memories of a Bear Hunter

shot a miss, and he soon disappeared in the dark-
ness. These shots were fired about half past nine
o'clock. Before their reverberations had ceased
they were answered by the yells and whoops of a
party of United States surveyors, encamped, as I
learned later, across the Grey Bull River, just
above the mouth of the creek.

On examining the carcass, I found that the bullet
had penetrated the skull near the eye, passing
through the brain, and hence the sudden and
motionless death. As the fore-sight was a wad of
white tissue paper bound on the end of the barrel,
this proved a good shot at thirty-seven and one-
half yards, as measured from the carcass the next
day, to the point at which the three empty shells
were found.

I should have secured the other bear, but in
inserting the cartridge in the Sharps rifle it was
not pushed in far enough, there was a hitch in clos-
ing the breech-action, and precious time was lost.

No further attention was paid to the humble
coyote. By his strategy he had earned his good
luck, as for that night at least, he had undisputed
sway over the pile of beef.

After hastily dressing this bear, Kate was hunted
up, mounted, and by midnight I was abed, well
satisfied with the evening's work.


Hunting at High Altitudes

As my ranch had not been occupied until May
30, there had been little preparation for winter's
vegetables. Jay Bradley had gone to a ranch fifty
miles to the north for a thousand pounds of pota-
toes, bought at four cents per pound, and was due
the next morning. I accordingly intercepted him
the next forenoon, the wagon was driven by the
carcasses, they were loaded into it and brought to
the ranch. In passing home we met my neighbor,
Richard Ashworth, who soon after moved to his
new ranch. He stopped and wondered at the
wagon box full of grizzly bear. These bear were
all weighed by a pair of ice scales; the old bears,
350 pounds each after dressing, equivalent to 475
pounds on foot, and the cub 100 pounds, equal to
135 pounds on foot.

As it happened, Mr. Ashworth visited the U. S.
surveyors' camp, and told them of the result of the
firing the night before. As these surveyors were
giving names to all streams for their maps, the
name of this creek, at neighbor Ashworth's sug-
gestion, was changed from Rose to Four Bear
Creek. In after years, when a postoffice was
established in this neighborhood, the name Four
Bears was given it in the petition for its establish-

I have given this night's happenings thus in

Memories of a Bear Hunter

detail, as it was one of the most exciting adventures
I ever had, in an experience of more than seven
years with this big bear, and required the exercise
of the greatest coolness and judgment and knowl-
edge of the habits of this fierce animal.

Had the last bear received any other wound,
however fatal, except the paralyzing shot through
the brain, there might have been not a little trouble
that moonlit night, in which the bear's partner
might have taken a hand.

Wm. D. Pickett.



To many readers the years told of in Colonel
Pickett's Memories will seem a period of romance, and
it is true that they deal with ancient history. Of his
references and allusions to people, places and events,
some or many though matters of common knowl-
edge at the time of which he writes have now long
been forgotten, except by the small number of people
who were familiar with those times. It was not long
after the years referred to in the last chapters of these
Memories that much of the West was overswept by
a tide of immigration, and a new population, occupied
with new and personal affairs, came into the country,
and by their numbers overwhelmed the older popula-
tion, and effaced the memory of a multitude of the
old events.

For this reason, it seemed desirable that some of
Colonel Pickett's chapters should be annotated with
some fullness, and Colonel Pickett received the sug-
gestion with much satisfaction and wholly approved
of it.


Notes on Memories of a Bear Hunter

I was in Montana before, during, and after the
years described by Colonel Pickett, and from my own
knowledge of events, and with the help of others, I
have been able to add to Colonel Pickett's narrative
certain explanations which may be of interest.

T. Elwood ("Billy") Hofer, who was out with
Colonel Pickett for one or more seasons, and who
spent many years in the Yellowstone National Park,
has kindly helped me with a number of suggestions
bearing on events of more than thirty years ago.


1. Fort Abraham Lincoln, N. D., was established
June 4, 1872, by Companies B and C, Sixth Infantry,
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel
Huston, Jr. The post was first known as Fort
McKeen. The name was changed November 19, 1872.

It was from Fort Abraham Lincoln that General
Stanley set out in 1873 for the Yellowstone Expe-
dition, General Custer in 1874 for the Black Hills
Expedition, and again in 1876 for the Yellowstone
Expedition, where the Seventh Cavalry was almost
annihilated. Abandoned September, 1891.

2. The complete story of the Custer fight has never
been written, though a multitude of individual articles
have appeared which describe some of its incidents.
Of all this literature, the best account is that written


Hunting at High Altitudes

by General E. S. Godfrey, and published in the Cen-
tury Magazine in the year 1892. It is understood
that General Godfrey has long been engaged in the
preparation of a book on this campaign, and when
published, this book is likely to give us all that we
shall ever know about the destruction of the old
Seventh Cavalry.

3. Missouri River Steamboat and Freight Traffic.
Steamboat travel on the Missouri in those days was
slow, and sometimes difficult. The boats were of very
shoal draft and were propelled by a single paddle
wheel at the stern. When the water of the river was
low, the vessel was constantly running on newly de-
posited shoals and sand-bars, for the channel of the
river changed from hour to hour. For this reason,
at low stages of water, the boats usually tied up dur-
ing the night.

Each vessel was rigged with two long spars or
poles, one at either side, just a little forward of amid-
ships. One end of each spar was shod with iron,
and through the other, or through a pulley attached
to it, ran a rope, one end of which was fastened to
the frame of the boat, while the other end was free.
If the vessel ran firmly on a sand-bar or could not
find a passage over a bar that seemed to block the
channel, the iron-shod ends of the spars were put
overboard and rested on the bottom the spars stand-
ing vertically the free end of the rope was put about
the drum of a donkey engine and the forward end of
the boat was thus literally lifted up, and by means
of the sternwheel propelled forward, until the bar


Notes on Memories of a Bear Hunter

was passed. If the bar was too wide, the boat was
let down again to rest on the bottom, the spars were
moved forward a few feet, the bow was lifted up
again, and the pushing by the sternwheel renewed.
In that way the steamboat used to frequently "walk"
over the sand-bars. Sometimes it was necessary to
land men and carry forward a line to some point on
the bank where it could be attached to a tree or to a
post set in the ground called a dead man. This line
was then put about the drum of the engine, which
pulled on the line, while the clumsy wheel pushed be-
hind. This operation, in a sense, resembled the old-
fashioned cordelling, where a number of men marched
along the river bank hauling the boat up against the
current by a long line. The donkey engine, which
was so much in use during these periods of low water,
was called the "nigger."

The earlier freight traffic up the Missouri River
was by means of keel boats. The boatsmen made
their way up the stream in such fashion as was most
convenient, rowing, poling or cordelling, as the case
might be, from starting point to finish. Year by year
the steamboats extended their journeys from St. Louis
further and further up the great river, and as the
journeys of the steamboats lengthened, those of the
keel boats grew shorter, though the mackinaws were
long used in sending furs down stream with the
current. General Chittenden says:

"In the year 1831 the first serious attempt was made
to navigate with steamboats the Upper Missouri River.
The steamer Yellowstone in the summer of that year
reached Pierre, the site of the present capital of South


Hunting at High Altitudes

Dakota. In the following year the same boat reached
Fort Union above the mouth of the Yellowstone River.
The Assiniboine followed in 1833, and the latter boat
in 1834 and 1835 reached Poplar Creek, sixty miles
higher up. In 1850 the mouth of Milk River was
reached. In 1858 the Chippewa was built with special
reference to the difficulties of upper river navigation.
She was a sternwheel boat of light draught, and with
her it was resolved to make a thorough trial of the ex-
treme upper river. The attempt was successful. The
boat reached Fort Brule, twelve miles below Benton,
on the 1 7th of July, 1859, forty years and three months
after the first steamboat entered the mouth of the
Missouri. On July 2, 1860, the Chippewa arrived at
Fort Benton, followed a few hours later by the Spread
Eagle. In July, 1868, the Tom Stevens, taking ad-
vantage of high water, ascended the river to the
mouth of Belt Creek, marking the highest point
reached by any steamboat, and unquestionably the
most distant point from the sea which a large vessel
has ever yet been able to reach by a continuous water
course. This point lacks but a few miles of being
four thousand miles by river from the Gulf of Mexico,
and it has been reached by a single river unaided by
artificial improvements."

After steamboat travel on the Missouri had been
fully established and become commonplace, the boats
pushed as far up the river as they could. Many of
them which took advantage of the June rise reached
Benton, while others might be forced to stop at Cow
Island; or, if the water was low, at Carroll. From
the point where the cargo was landed, it was im-


Notes on Memories of a Bear Hunter

portant that it should reach its destination as soon
as possible, whether that point was Benton or Alder
Gulch, which we now know as Helena. For this work
many freight outfits sprang up. The "Diamond R"
<R> was organized for this purpose at Fort Benton
by John C. Rowe, of St. Louis, and finally passed into
the hands of Montana owners. It was a great and
well organized concern, and did not wholly disappear
until the railroad had begun to put an end to steam-
boat traffic on the Missouri.

That water transportation was threatened had been
long foreseen, yet the blow did not really fall until
the year 1883, when the Northern Pacific Railroad
was completed. When the Union Pacific reached
Ogden in .1869, a freight line was established from
that point to Helena, but the distance was too great
for profit, and the steamboats on the river still carried
most of the freight. Ten years later the narrow gauge
road the Utah Northern R. R. laid its tracks north
from Utah, entering Montana in 1880, and finally the
road, which is now the Great Northern, gave the
last blow to steamboating on the Upper Missouri.

Up to that time Fort Benton had been the greatest
city in all that northwestern country, and there seemed
every promise that it would become a great metropolis,
but with the advance of the railroad and the end of
steamboating came also the end of the buffalo and
the end of the fur trade, on which the existence of
Fort Benton then depended. Henceforth, her only
hope was to rank high as an agricultural center.

4. F.ort Stevenson, N. D., on the Missouri, was

Hunting at High Altitudes

established June 22, 1867, by Companies H and I,
Thirty-first Infantry, under the command of Major
N. G. Whistler. It was abandoned August 31, 1883,
and was afterward used by the Indian Department
for school purposes until about 1903.

5. Fort Berthold, a trading post, established in the
year 1845, an ^ sa id to have been named for Bartholo-
mew Berthold, a Tyrolese, one of the officials of the
American Fur Company.

6. Ankara Indians. The history of the Arikaras
is a long one.

The French fur traders knew them as long ago
as 1770. Lewis and Clark met them in 1804, when
they were friendly and kindly disposed, but in 1823
some of them attacked the boats of the fur trader
Ashley, killing thirteen men and wounding others.
Colonel Leavenworth was sent to punish them, and
after some trouble a peace was finally concluded. This
fighting, the attacks of the Sioux, and two years of
crop failures, led them to abandon their villages on
the Missouri, and to go south and join the Skidi, or
Pawnee Loups, on the Loup Fork in Nebraska. They
did not get along well with the Skidi, and after two
years were requested to leave them. Some of them
did so, but probably not all.

In 1835 the Arikara better known as Rees or
some of them, were camped near the forks of the
Platte. These people, whether a wandering war party
from the Missouri, or a section of the tribe living
far from their own home, were apparently at enmity


Notes on Memories of a Bear Hunter

with many people. They were accused not only of
taking horses from the Delawares, but even of steal-
ing from their friends, the Comanches. Some of them,
however, joined in expeditions with the Pawnees to
make peace with the Cheyennes and the Arapahoes.

In former times the Cheyennes had been on terms
of friendship with the Missouri village tribes, Ari-
kara, Hidatsa and Mandans, and frequently visited
and traded with them. Colonel Henry Dodge speaks
of this, and of a break in the friendship which took
place a little later. He says:

"The Arikaras were formerly on very friendly
terms with the Cheyennes and lived with them for
some time; after the Cheyennes had concluded an
alliance with the Arepahas, the Arikaras commenced
stealing their horses. Still they would not go to
war; they said they did not care for a few horses.
The Arikaras soon after killed several whites who
were trading with Arepahas. They then determined
to declare war against them, and soon after the Are-
pahas, meeting a war party of twenty or thirty Ari-
karas who were coming to steal their horses, they
attacked them and killed them all, not one escaping.
The Cheyennes soon after met a war party of Ari-
karas and killed them all except one; him they told
to go home and tell his people it was the Cheyennes
who had killed the party. Since that period they have
carried on a predatory warfare until the present

After this, a peace was made, but no one knows
very clearly how long it lasted. The Cheyennes de-
clare White Bull being my informant that about


Hunting at High Altitudes

1839 there was an Arikara village on the Beaver or
Wolf Creek in the Indian Territory, and that this
village was attacked by southern Indians perhaps
Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches or Cheyennes and
all its inhabitants killed. On the other hand, for many
years the Cheyennes lived with the Rees or the Man-
dans, the latter of whom they called Earth Lodge
People, for many years. Standing All Night, a Chey-
enne, who died in 1869, supposed to be about a hun-
dred years old, said that he was born in the Mandan
village, and that a great many of his people lived
there in earth lodges, and in all their habits conformed
to the Mandans. At all events their relations with
the Cheyennes, fifty, sixty or seventy years ago were
close. To-day there are many Cheyenne people who
have Ree blood in their veins. Two Moon, the head
chief, is half Ree, and one of his names is Roman
Nosed Ree. There are now living among the North-
ern Cheyennes several old men of pure Ree blood.
These men are far darker in color than the people
among whom they are living, and generally the Ari-
karas have seemed to me dark enough in color to
justify the name sometimes given to them of Black

The last report of their numbers gives only 411
Arikaras at the Ft. Berthold Reservation.

7. Gros Venires Indians. This is a name given to
two different and unrelated tribes of Indians the
Gros Ventres of the Village, or of the Missouri, of
Siouan stock, and the Gros Ventres of the Prairie, or
Atseha, of Algonquin stock. The ones here referred


(See page 314.)

Notes on Memories of a Bear Hunter

to are the Gros Ventres of the Village who have long
been associated at or near Fort Berthold, N. D., with
the Mandan and Arikara. These are a section of the
Crow tribe, but the separation took place long ago.
They are now very few in number. A census taken
in 1910 gives only 466.

In their later ways of life they closely resembled
the Mandan and Arikara, living in earth lodges and
depending for support largely on agriculture. At
present their numbers are about stationary.

8. Bullboat. The Century Dictionary defines a
bullboat as a shallow crate, covered with the hide of
a bull elk certainly a very bad definition. The bull-
boats used on the upper Missouri up to the time of
the disappearance of the buffalo there were deep bowl-
shaped craft, covered, as Colonel Pickett remarks,
with buffalo hide stretched over a frame of willow
twigs. The bullboat was not used for traveling, but
for transporting articles one might say freight if
this term could be used about the possessions of In-
dians across the Missouri River. The woman who
paddled it plunged the paddle into the water as far
as possible ahead of the boat, and drew the paddle
toward herself. Progress was slow, but the women
became skillful in managing these craft, and they
were extremely useful to the Village Fort Berthold

9. Woodyards. In the old days of steamboat travel
on the Upper Missouri, fuel for the engines was ob-
tained at woodyards, so-called. These woodyards


Hunting at High Altitudes

were commonly on points or bottoms where there was
a good growth of cottonwood timber, and their estab-
lishment by woodchoppers was speculative. In winter
or early spring two or three men would go to this
place, chop many cords of wood and pile it at a con-
venient landing place, in the hope of selling it to the
steamboats at a good price during the following sum-
mer. The men who engaged in this business were
commonly known as "wood-hawks." They led lives
of adventure and often of considerable danger. Hos-
tile Indians and in those days all Indians were hos-
tile were likely at any time to discover the location
of these "wood-hawks" and to try to kill them. On
the other hand, the "wood-hawks" were aware of
their danger and kept a sharp lookout for Indian
sign. Often they were provided with field glasses,
and often they made a business of proceeding each
day by some safe route to a high lookout point from
which the neighboring country might be viewed.
Still, these men were occasionally killed, and an
occasion is recalled when six men, who had started
out to do this work, were not heard of again until
some traveler along the river found their dead bodies
and their half burned cabin.

10. Fort Buford was a military post at the site of
old Fort Union at the mouth of the Yellowstone River.
It was established June 13, 1866. Fort Union, accord-
ing to Maximilian, was begun in 1829. It was a large
post, said by Chittenden to have been 240 x 220 feet,
the shorter side facing the river, and was surrounded
by a palisade of squared logs about a foot thick and


Notes on Memories of a Bear Hunter

20 feet high. The bastions were at the southwest and
northwest corners, and were square houses 24 feet
to the side and 30 feet high. They were built of
stone in two stories, the lower pierced for cannon,
while the upper had a balcony. Across the square
from the entrance stood the house of the bourgeois.
Around the square were the houses for the employees,
the storehouses, workshops, stables, a powder maga-
zine and a reception room for the Indians. In the
midst of the square was a flagstaff, and clustered
about this were the lodges of some of the employees.
Cannon directed toward the entrance of the fort stood
near the flagstaff.

Fort Union was visited by Maximilian, Catlin and
Audubon, the latter in 1843. He gives in his journal
Audubon and His Journals, Vol. II. , p. 180 an
elaborate description of the fort. Among the old-
time bourgeois of this post were Mackenzie, James
Kipp and Alexander Culbertson. Joseph Kipp, a well-
known resident of Northwestern Montana, was at
Fort Union as a boy for many years. His father was
James Kipp and his mother a Mandan woman.

11. Assiniboine Indians. The Assiniboines, or
"stone boilers" as they used to be called, are the
northernmost tribe of the Sioux, or Dakota. The
name by which they are called comes from two Chip-
pewa words, u sin'i or a sin' i, and a pwaw'a, he
cooks with or by stones. The reference is obviously
to the boiling of food by the use of hot stones, a
practice which was, of course, common over much
of the continent, and in which the Assiniboines were


Hunting at High Altitudes

by no means peculiar. The Assiniboines separated
from the Sioux before probably a long time before
the coming of the whites, and moved north and
joined the Crees, living about the Lake of the Woods
and Lake Winnipeg. Alexander Henry was one of
the early white men to visit camps of the plains
Assiniboines in 1775, and at that time the people there
were so little familiar with white men that women
and children followed the traders about the camp,
staring at them with the greatest curiosity. The As-
siniboines were formerly regarded as one of the last
tribes of the north to have procured horses. They
.were reported to declare that they did not want horses,
which were only a trouble to them, as well as a
danger. Horses, they said, constantly wandered away
and had to be sought for, and were a continual temp-
tation to their enemies to attack them. They pre-
ferred dogs, which were as useful as beasts of burden,
and always remained with their owners, instead of
running away. I saw the dog travois in use among
them as late as 1895.

i. The Assiniboines in the United States are chiefly
on the Missouri River near the mouth of Milk River,
and at the Little Rocky Mountains in Montana. In
Canada there are a number of small groups on streams

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Online LibraryGeorge Bird GrinnellHunting at high altitudes: the book of the Boone and Crockett club → online text (page 13 of 27)