J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

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along came dad huntin' for me. An' that girl well, I reckon she
spared nothin' that cabin could aiford to help me get well. She used
to sing the Cherokee songs, and her mother would tell all about the
travels and troubles of the tribe from the time they left the Yemas-


see. in Carolina, till now. And when I was able to go it seemed like
a dream as if I hadn't been there a week. It was over two years
I'd been gone, but every thing was right at home. After that I had
business every two or three months down in the Cherokee Nation, an'
all at once the troubles started up again. The rights of it I no more
understood than I did the other trouble, only that Jackson had
come in President, and took the part of Geawgey and Alabama agin
the Injins, an' swore they'd got to go anyhow, an', then they quar-
reled among themselves agin. Then her father died the little white
Cherokee I mean and her mother was all put out about the troubles,
but finally said she must go with her people, and claim her head-
rights on the land where they was to settle. Then I spoke to the
little girl well, to make a long story short, I've tried for thirty years
to pay up, but I'm still in her debt, an' to me she's just as pretty as
she was the mornin' she found me in the woods."

And now I was sure it was no fancy, for the "old woman" had
crossed the hearth and taken the gray head in her hands; the sad,
dark eye was again lighted with the gleam of youthful love, the
wrinkles gave place to smiles, and the worn face was transformed into
something far beyond the beautiful. It was divine.
"So your troubles ended in joy at last," said I.
"Yes, I reckon you may say so;" then, with his pipe relighted,
he puifed away in silence. He had acquired one habit of his stolid
Indian friends the habit of having fits of silence, waiting on the stim-
ulus of smoke. Two lads of sixteen or seventeen years came in with
the proceeds of a day's hunt.

" Our grandsons," said the hostess, in a half-apologetic tone, " and
about all the dependence we've got now."

This was her first and last observation, and we seemed in a fair way
to smoke the evening away in silence, when one of the young men
threw a fresh knot on the fire. It blazed up brightly, and, with In-
dian suddenness, the old man broke out again :

" It was a bad thing, a bad, mean thing, the way them people was
rooted out. Just think of a whole people, sixteen or eighteen thou-
sand, lots of 'em with good farms, an' houses, an' shops, an' startin'
schools an' newspapers, havin' to pull up whether or no, with soldiers
to prod them along with bayonets, an' go away off to a country they
didn't like, an' where lots an' lots of 'em died ! Well, that's what
they done."

" You mean the Cherokees."

" Yes, my wife's folks all went with 'em. So we bought a place of


a Cherokee that was leaving, an' worked it five years, an' got every
thing fixed beautiful, with lots of stock and grain. But it seemed like
they was no luck in that cussed country ; anyhow, I was turned out
bag an' baggage."

"Turned out! How? Did you lose your land?"

" Well, yes ; it amounted to that finally."

He seemed desirous of giving the story, and yet was reluctant to

" But how did it happen ? " I persisted.

" Well, stranger, I never just got the right of it, an' for a long time
I never liked to think of it, for I always got mad an' swore under my
breath, an' it worried the old woman, an' made me lose sleep, an' so
I've pretty much quit thinkin' about it. You see when the Injins
left, there was a deal of swindlin'. Most of 'em was ignorant, an'
some signed away their land when drunk, an' a few rascally Injins
traveled 'round with the speculators, signin' away others' rights, an'
swearin' they was the ones. A man just come up one day with a
deed to my land, an' the court pow-wowed awhile about it and said
it was his'n, an' I just had to clear."

" But you had your stock."

" Well, no, not exactly. You see I lawed him awhile, an' the court
made me pay for that, an' my lawyer cost something; an' the height
of it was, when the thing was done I just put my wife on the only
hoss we had left, with a little one behind her, an' the baby in her
arms, an' me an' the oldest boy walked, an' we went back to Ten-

"And began again without a cent !"

" Well, not that exactly. I raised some money in a year or two.
But somehow it didn't seem the old thing to me there, an' so we come
over west of the mountains, an' got a little piece of land in Coffee
County, an' that was our home till we come out here. After all we've
got along, an' I've never been in jail but once."

" In jail ! Why you never committed any crime?"

" No, but come mighty nigh it once near enough to be took up an'
mighty nigh hung for it. But that was out in Iowa."

"So you did take another trip, after all."

" Yes ; it was along o' the boys, specially brother Joe him that 1
always sot most store by. Joe married young married an Irish girl
in the neighborhood, though all of us opposed it. I could see she
had temper ; but every feller's got to take his chances on that, anyhow.
You know how that is."


" No, I can't say as I do. But how did lie get along ?"

" "Well, there was trouble. An' bimeby I persuaded Joe if they'd
get away from both their folks it would be better ; so he went to In-
jeanny, and then to Illinoy. "Well, it seems like when folks get started
that way they keep goin' and goin'. One place is too hot and another
too cold, an' here its sickly an' there they's bad neighbors, and so on.
Leastways it was that way with Joe, and finally he landed in the Half-
breed Tract in Iowa. At first he could not say enough in praise of
the country. Joe was a great scholar; he could write like a school-
master, an' cipher as fast as he could make the figures ; but my wife
had to read the letters an' answer for me. All at once we got no more
letters for two or three years, and then come one with just a few lines,
an' it wound up : ' I've writ so often an' got no answer, I'm discour-
aged, but I'll try once more. Come an' see old Joe before he
dies !'

" Nothin' could a' stopped me after that. I fixed up every thing
snug about home, an' got Ben, my youngest brother, to stay while I
was gone, an' run down the Tennessee an' up the Mississip to St.
Louis. Then I conceited I might need all my money, so I took a job
on another boat to Nauvoo, where I landed all right, but soon found
I'd run right into the trouble.

" It was the year after the Mormon prophet was killed, an' the
whole country was up a boomin'. I only knowed Joe lived back in
the country somewhere on the other side, an' when I asked about roads
they looked at me like I was a pirate. I had to give account of my-
self half a dozen times 'fore I got out of town, an' then like enough
when I'd step off I'd overhear some feller say,/ D n him, he's one of
'em, and a spy at that.' Over the river it was jist as bad. Every
body was afraid of every body else they didn't know. If I went nigh
a house when the men was out, liker'n not the woman 'd bolt the door
an' set a dog on me, or run out toward the fields and holler for the
men. Every body carried a gun, or a club, or a knife, an' I never seed
so many big an' savage dogs one or two at every house ; an' they
looked jist as snappy an' suspicious as the people, an' watched round
close an' stuck by the women whenever a stranger come along. One
man I asked a civil question about the road, an' he only grinned an'
said, 'Your safest road's back towards Nauvoo; they hang horse
thieves over here.' An' that night where I stopped they stood with
the door open about an inch, an' made me answer a hundred questions
'fore they'd let me in. Lord, such a catekismcn I Avas put through !
an' didn't half want to let me in then. It was jist the Cherokee COUD-



try over agin, an' they might as well a been at war for any comfort
they took.

" But next day I found Joe's, and it was the poorest, meanest house
on the Tract. I walked in, an' what do you think I seed? Thar was
my dear Joe sittin' all bent up, an' poor an' thin, an' lookin', though
not over forty, like a man o' sixty. He'd rastled with ager an' room-
atiz time about till nothin' was left for any sickness to tack on to, an'
all the while that Irish wife o' his tormentin' him to death. When I
saw him I never said a word I couldn't but I jist took him in my
arms, an' for the first time in all my troubles I broke down an' cried !
It done Joe no end o' good to see me, but it wa'nt for long. She soon
spilt our comfort. She was a spitfire when he married her, an' you un-
derstand age an' bad luck hadn't improved her any what with bein'
out among such rough people, losin' her children, an' livin' in a cabin
with a sick man, an' mighty little to go on, for they was poor as the
low-wines o' pond-water."

Only the western traveler who has been compelled to suck up moist-
ure from a prairie slough, or lie down and drink out of a wagon track,
can appreciate the force of this simile. It is scarcely possible to con-
ceive of a more unsatisfactory drink.

" She could swear like an ox-driver, an' when
she took a tantrum every thing was ammunition
that come to her hand the poker or an old skil-
let-handle, it was all one to her. But I stood
her off, and was gettin' Joe cheered up right
smart, when one mornin' I \vas everlastingly
took back by seem' a crowd of men with guns
comin' up to the gate. 'What does them men
want?' sez I. 'You, like enough,' sez she, snap-
pin'-turtle style. An', sure enough, it was me.
They snatched me right out of the house, with-
out a word o' why, an' I thought my time had
come. They was all sorts o' talk about an aw-
ful murder, an' two or three o' the lot was hot
to hang me up. But the captain said, ' No ; ev-
ery fellar should have a fair trial Mormon or old settler, it was all
the same.' They took me down to a camp in the woods, where they
was more'n a hundred men, some comin' and goin' all the time, an'
nearly all drinkin', and the drunker they got the more dangered I
felt. One chap stuck his face nearly agin mine, an' sez he, 'Didn't
you help kill Miller and Liecy?' 'No,' sez I. 'Didn't you come



sneak in' along the brush road from Nauvoo t'other day, then?' says he.
1 No/ sez I, and was goin' on to explain, when he yells out, ' You're
a d d lying Mormon, an' I've a mind to shoot the guts out o' you,'
'an the captain stopped him. I noticed the captain didn't touch the
whisky, an' that hoped me a good deal.

" They took me an' five others to a big house, an' kept us all day an'
night, an' then I heard what it was all about. An' no wonder the peo-
ple was excited. It skeered me jist to hear it. It was at the only
house I'd stopped at on the way where the folks was easy an' civil like.
They was a Dutchman named Miller and his son-in-law Liecy lived
there; an' they was jist from some old civil country place in Penn-
sylvany, or some'rs back there, where nobody's afraid or locks their
doors at night ; an' these men had come on the Tract to buy land. It
Avas talked round that the old man had five thousand dollars in a trunk,
an' a job was put up by some fellers in Nauvoo. They spied 'round a
day or two, an' one night three men busted in the door an' fell to
shootin' an' cuttin' every thing they come to. The whole house was
dashed with blood. The old man fit like a tiger. He was a Dunkard
preacher, an' as stout as an ox, an' I mind well it was told 'round for a
fact that he nearly killed one o' the men jist with his naked fists; an'
when they run a long butcher-knife into his breast, he was so big it
didn't go half way through, an' he whipped 'em off an' fell dead in the
yard ! What with the old man's fightig', and the women screamin',
an' the dogs a barkin', the fellers was skeered oif an' never got a cent
o' the money. Then a neighbor galloped to Montrose, a town nigh
there, an' raised the yell, an' in a little while the Hawkeyes, as they
called theirselves, was out, an' that day they sarched every corner in
the county. It was {he roughest time for strangers you ever read of.
If you ever seed a lot o' cattle bellerin' 'round where one had been
shot, you've an idee.

" They was some that even proposed to hang all of us to be sure an
catch the right one; an' what made it worse we was as much skeered
of each other as we was of the Hawkeyes. But they was one man
named Bird in our lot who cheered us up a good deal ; an' pretty soon
they got on the right trail, an' it led straight to Nauvoo ; but the Mor-
mons wouldn't give the fellers up. Then the sheriff took a whole boat
load of men to Nauvoo, an' they had a big meetin', an' threatened
war, but finally he got the men he had writs for, an' got 'em in jail;
but the sheriif had his doubts, an' set up a game on 'em. They was
two brothers named Hodges, an' he took four men of about their
build, an' set 'em altogether, an' had Liecy, who lived some dajs,


carried in to look at 'em. The Hawkeyes had us along, for they was
bound to catch somebody ; an' it was the solemuest time I ever seed.
The two Hodges was as cool as cowcumbers, but the other four men
was skeered nearly to death. Liecy took a long look, an' then
pinted his finger at the Hodges, an' says he : ' There's the man that
shot me, an' there's the man that knifed me ! '

"And that settled their hash. So we was all turned loose, an' Bird
an' me made tracks for Joe's. When we got nigh the house, we heard
an awful racket, an' run in, an' she had Joe down beatin' him with
his own crutch. They'd had another row, an' she'd sort o' got the
best of it. I snatched the weepin' outen her hand ; then she swore at
us, an' lit out on the road with a partin' blessin', an' that's the last
we ever seed o' her."

"Bolted, did she?"

" Rather that way, stranger. But what do you think that woman
done? Went straight to Montrose, an' swore to my havin' bogus
money, an' the very next day they put me in jail socked me right in
with them two Hodges an' I never felt so mean an' streaked in all
my life. I had no learnin' 'cept to read a little, an' that was the first
I ever felt bad about it. One of the sheriff's men, Hawkins Taylor,
was real kind, an' got me some things an' a lot o' copies set. I put,
my whole head to it, an' in jest three weeks, sir, I wrote a nice letter
to the old woman didn't tell her where I boarded, though an' then
I felt easier. If it hadn't been for that, I'd 'agone crazy, shut up so
with them Hodges. I've seen 'em more'n once since, in my sleep.
They swore an' sung an' joked an' held up pretty stiff they had an
idee their friends in Nauvoo would take 'em out but bimeby their
brother there was found one morning with his throat cut, jist after he'd
seen the head Mormons an' raised a row with 'em about givin' up these
two ; an' then they sort o' lost hope. It was no go. Iowa was up then,
an' the Mormons might as well a'tried to take 'em from Gineral Jack-
son's army. I was turned loose finally, the day before they was hung.

"They was people come a hundred miles to see it, an' camped out in
wagons. They had so little fun on the Tract, it was a great treat
to see somebody hung. Joe an' me was there, an' that's the first an'
last sight of that kind I ever took. I've seen plenty killed, but not
that way. We sold Joe's place, an' got him home, an' he picked up
mightily in old Tennessee. For an East Tennessee man no other
place is as good as the mountains. Only place I've seed to compare
vith it was in Californy."

"What! Have you been to California, too?"


"Took a little trip out there."

" Little trip ! It is considered a pretty big one. Did you go for gold ? "

" Some'at, but more on account o' the boys."

"Your brothers again?"

" No, my own boys. You might say I went to keep them from
goin', for I suspicioned it was all foolishness, from the start. I reckon
you don't remember the big excitement. No? Well, it swept all
Tennessee like a fire in prairie grass. I first heard it one day at Man-
chester, when the Whigs had a pole-raisin' along o' the election o' old
Zach Taylor, an' a man jist from Noo York spoke, an' said old Zach
had conquered for us a country with more gold in it than any nation
on earth had. Pretty soon the news come thick. They said men j ust
dug gold out o' the rocks thousands in a day. You ought to
heard the stories that was told for solemn facts. One man said a
feller dug out one lump worth eight hundred thousand dollars, an'
as he set on it, a feller come by with a plate o' pork an' beans, an' he
offered him fifty thousand for it, an' the feller stood him off for sev-
enty-five thousand. It was in the Nashville paper, an' so every
body in our parts believed it.

"Then every loose- footed man wanted to go. Some jist throwed
down their tools an' started ; an' some men that was tied with families,
actually set down an' cried 'cause they couldn't go. My boys was as
crazy as the rest. But they was only sixteen an' eighteen, an' I seed
it wouldn't do. So I said : ' Boys, let me go, an' I'll let you know in
time,' an' then I bound 'em to take care o' their mother till I sent for
'em. It would a' been ruination for them young innocent boys to go
off with such a lot o' men. Jest as soon as the Tennessee was up so
boats could run over Muscle Shoals, a company of forty of us shipped
teams an' started, an' landed at Independence, Missouri, the last o'
March. The whole country was under water, but our fellers was
crazy to git on ; so they hitched up and started right across the Kaw
an' into the Delawares' country. But it was all foolishness to start so
early. Accident after accident we had. The mud was thicker an'
stickier every day, an' all the creeks was up ; but the men kept up a
hoopin' an' swearin', an' often had to double teams, an' sometimes we'd
stick an' pull out two or three wagon tongues 'fore we'd get through.
I never seed men so crazy to git on. They whipped an' yelled, an'
wouldn't listen to reason. They was plenty started three weeks after
us, an' passed us on the road. An' what was strange, the trains that
laid by an' kept Sunday, got to Californy first. You wouldn't believe
it, but I've heard hundreds say the same thing.


" Biraeby we got righted up an' on dryer ground, an' went on after
killin' two or three hosses an' leavin' one wagon. The trains got
strung out all along the trail, so we had grass an' game plenty along
up the Blue River an' over to the Platte. There we struck the Mor-
mon emigration an' all the Californy trains that went that way. The
whole country was et out, an' the Injins threatened, an' the men got
to quarrelin'. I tell you it takes a mighty good set o' men to travel
together three thousand miles an' not fuss. Sometimes it was Whig
and Democrat, an' then it was Tennessee agin Geawgey. I tell you
when men are tired an' dirty they'll quarrel about any thing. About
half a dozen swore Californy was all humbug, an' turned back, an' at
Laramie Forks the company split into two. At South Pass our half
split agin, an' ten of us went off with a company to go the new route,
south of the Salt Lake. We got to the Mormon City all beat out, an'
more'n half a mind not to go a mile further. Plenty got there in
worse humor than us. Some had split up till it was each man for him-
self, an' some actually divided wagons, an' made two carts out o' one,
or finished the trip on hosses. We took a rest, an' traded every thing
with the Mormons, givin' two of our hosses for one fresh one, an'
finally got off in pretty good shape agin.

" But all we'd seed was nothin' to the country from there on. Rocks
an' mountains an' sand; an' sand, an' rocks an' mountains miles on
miles of it. Sometimes the water was white as soapsuds with alkali,
an' sometimes as red as brick-dust, not one time in five sweet an'
clean. I reckon I swore a thousand times if I ever got home agin
nothin' stronger 'n cold water should pass my lips. I've drove all day
'thout seein' a spear o' green, or a speck of any thing but sand; an' if
we got grass once a day, we was in luck. Every day the men swore
nothin' could beat this, an' the next day it was always worse. I reckon
God knows what he made that country for he haint told any body,

"At last we got into a region that was the hind end o' creation
seventy miles 'thout a drop o' water or a spear o' grass! Nothin' but
hot sand an' beds of alkali as white as your shirt. The trains used to
start in one afternoon an' drive two nights an' a day, an' get to water
the second mornin'. The whole way was lined with boxes an' beds an'
clothes, an' pieces of wagons, one thing an' another the trains ahead
had left, an' the last ten miles you might a' stepped from one carcass
to another on the dead hosses an' mules an' oxen. Two o' our men got
crazy as loons you can see such strange things on them deserts. My
head was clear as a bell, an' yet half the time I could see off to one



side of us a train jest like our'n, only the men an' bosses ten times as
big, an' jist as like as not they'd raise in the air an' move off upside
down. It was sort o' skeery, an' no mistake. We left four or five
dead bosses on that tract, but when we got to Carson River, it was too
pretty a sight to tell about. There was sweet, clean water an' grass an'
trees an' trains strung along for miles a restin' their stock. Somo of
our men run right into the water an' swallowed an' swallowed till they
staggered like drunk men. All the rest of the way was in the mount-
ains, but grass
and water was
plenty, an' the
trees how I did
admire to see 'em!
Hundreds o' miles
I hadn't seen a
bush as thick as
my thumb.

"Well, we was
into Californy at
last, an' it looked
like heaven to me.
There was big
trees, an' the wind
blowin' soft away
up in their tops;
an' the pretty clear
streams down the
mountain side an'
through the gulch-
es made music all
day. In some
places the air was
jist sweet that
blowed out o' the

"MADE MUSIC A!.,, DAY." p j ne ^^ ^

week after week the sky was so blue, an' the air so soft, it seemed
like a man could stand any thing. An' no matter how hard
you worked in the day, or how hot it was, it was always so
cool an' nice at night; you could sleep anywheres on the ground
or on a pile o' limbs, in the house or out o' doors, an' never catch


" But if the country was like heaven, the folks was like the other
place, I reckon. Such sights such (loins'! I'd never 'a believed
men would carry on so. I went to minin' in the Amador, an' first
they wasn't a woman in a hundred miles. And when one did come in
one day on a wagon, the men all run to look at her as if she was a
show. Better she'd a' stayed away, an' twenty more like her that
come in when the diggins begun to pan out rich. I believe every
woman was the cause o' fifty fights an' one or two deaths. It made
me mad to see men fight about 'em, when they knowed jest what they
was men that had mothers an' sisters back in the States, an' some on
'em sweethearts an' wives. They was mostly Mexican women, an'
some Chilaynos an' South Spainers; an' somehow it was a sort o' com-
fort to me that there was hardly ever an American woman among the

"Bimoby these diggins sort o' worked out, an' I went down on
Tuolumne, an' then mined about Angells an' Murphy's Camp, an'
finally to Sonora. Thjen all sorts o' new ways o' minin' come in, but
they took capital, an' I let 'em alone. Men was all the time runnin'
about from camp to camp so many new excitements no matter how
rich the ground where we was, some feller would come in with a big
story about a new gulch, an' away they'd go. I've seen a thousand
men at work along one creek, an' a big excitement break out, an' before
night they wouldn't be twenty left. Sometimes a man would get title
to big ground, an' hold it at a thousand dollars, an' when the rush
come you could buy him out with two mules an' a pair o' blankets.
Many an' many a time I've seen a man go oif that way with a little
money an' never be seen alive. Like enough his body was found away
down the river, an' like enough it was never found. It got so they
was men there that would cut a throat for ten dollars. It wasn't all
one way, though. More'n once the robbers would tackle some gritty
man that was handy with his ' barkers,' an' he'd get away with two or
three of 'em. Every body carried the irons with him, ready to pop at

Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 4 of 62)