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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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 46 of 62)
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nothing out of a mine. They sold out rather cheap, nobody knows
for how much, and one-half the mine became the property of Abel
D. Breed, Esq., with attorneyship for the other half. Sixty thousand
dollars were spent in development, and erecting house and machinery
for working; but ore enough was taken out meantime to leave a clear
profit of $175,000. This demonstrated its great richness beyond a
doubt, and it was put upon the foreign market. A small corps of
foreign engineers examined and reported upon it, and as a result it
was sold to the mining company Nederland, of Hague, Holland, for
$3,000,000. It was then worked according to scientific principles,
under the superintendency of Mr. Benjamin Rule. Three eight-hour
shifts were employed, and no work was done on Sunday. No man was
allowed about the mine in a state of intoxication ; one appearance in that
character was cause for a discharge. The printed rules, conspicuously
posted, to which every employe subscribes, also forbade all profane,
obscene or abusive language. It is estimated by the best judges that
there are at least twenty-one claims with clearly defined veins, known
to be of some value, on the entire hill. Ore from each of these,
selected at random and mixed, was sent in bulk to Johnson, Matheny
& Co., of Hatton Garden, E. C., London, and yielded a hundred and
ninety-two ounces of silver per ton. Of course so many veins known,
and more suspected, have stimulated the formation of tunnel companies,
and no less than half a dozen tunnels were started into Caribou Hill,
which is very favorably situated for that work. The hill has a


general course east and west. Towards the north (or rather east of
north) it falls away abruptly to a beautiful circular park. In all
other directions than towards Caribou the inclosing walls of the park
rise in gentle rounded hills, closed with heavy forests of pine. From
the various gulches run clear streams to the center of the valley, form-
ing a creek large enough for milling purposes; and far to the north-
east stretch extensive pastures in the vales and timber on the ridges.
In that part is the best locality for a quartz mill which the vicinity
affords, and consequently all the tunnel claims are located on that
side. They lie only a thousand feet apart, as the law allows each one
that space,- and if completed will undermine the entire hill in sections
of a thousand feet each, striking the various lodes at a depth of from
five hundred to a thousand feet. The law allows a tunnel company
five hundred feet on any lode they strike, " not located on the surface
at the date the tunnel site was located." But if the owner of any
mine opened above proposes to dispute title, the burden of proof is on
him to trace connection, which it will obviously take him some time
to do, and for this reason and the greater convenience of shipping ore
through that channel, the interests generally unite.

From Caribou I took the mountain road across to Central City
site of the far-famed Gregory Gulch Diggings, and thence to Idaho
City, and up to Georgetown. The way was over mountain meadows,
mingling the rich green with bright-hued flowers; through dark pine
forests and down lonely gulches, where the indefatigable prospectors
had dotted all the slopes with holes in search of "indications." Some-
times the route lay over levels where one could scarcely believe him-
self on a mountain, though we were from eight to nine thousand feet
above the sea ; and sometimes in depressions we saw heavy crops of
rye and potatoes, ripening in late August, a mile and a half above the
Missouri Valley. Near Central City hundreds of acres of bare gray
rocks show where the surface soil has been " piped off" to get at the
gold dust; and in a few places gangs of Chinese are still at work on
the poorest diggings, long since abandoned by whites. But placer
mining in this vicinity has long yielded to quartz mining, and the few
Chinese at the time of my visit were even worse regarded than in
California. A fire, a few weeks before, had laid a large section of the
city in ruins ; and, as it originated among the Mongolians, they were
for a long time forbidden to come into the upper part of town. But
the poor, pathetically patient race, bided its time and held its own.

My summer's work was done, and while September heats still lin-
gered on the plains, we left the cool air of Georgetown for the journey


to Salt Lake City. From Denver to Cheyenne the mixed train
jogged along all one bright autumn day : to our left the blue
mountains, the broad plains to our right; sometimes over flats
almost as level as the sea, sometimes through gently rolling val-
leys, and more rarely along the course of creeks long since dried
up. On the level the plains present that uniform gray-brown ap-
pearance which is natural to them at this season; but on some of
the slopes and in all the little valleys were narrow strips of rich
green, and a soil looking as if it might be made productive. As
we progressed broad lakes continually appeared, shone for a few
moments or for hours, then passed out of sight; sometimes to the
eastward but oftener straight ahead, the hills beyond beautifully re-
flected from their mirror like surfaces. But as the train bore down
towards 1 them they shifted again and again ; sometimes moving off
upon the eastern plain, sometimes keeping the same distance ahead,
and yet again rising slowly into the air till lost in the clouds. But
of real honest water, there was not a drop, for where there is
enough of that to make humid the atmosphere the mirage is rarely
seen. These were the "lying waters" of which Spanish explorers
tell, and which, before they were so well known, lured many a voya-
geur from his course and to his death. As the country is settled it
is remarked that this mirage is more and more rare; but the best
time and place to see it is on the dry plains of California, of a hot
afternoon in August.

An hour we stopped at Greeley, the noted "Yankee Settlement,"
now the center of a rich and well cultivated tract. The shade trees
early planted by the colonists already relieve the monotony of the plains ;
the dark mountains furnish a splendid background, and in ten years
more this town will rival in rural beauty the nicest New England
village. Soon after we passed the "Wyoming line ; but a year after I
returned, for further travels in Colorado. The summary in the next
chapter is from notes and careful study during both visits.



DON FRANCISCO VASQUEZ CORONADO, (the chronicle does not give
his other name,) was the first Pike's Peaker. In 1541 he. set out from
the City of Mexico to find and conquer the " Seven Cities of Cibola,"
where, according to the reports of reliable gentlemen and the common
belief of all New Spain, gold was so plentiful that the Cibolans used
it for the manufacture of common utensils, while their houses were
lighted with precious stones, and silver was not accounted of. His
command consisted of some seven hundred cavaliers and gentlemen
of the New Spain nobility, who gladly sold all they had to outfit, as-
suring the reporters of Mexico City that "neither themselves nor
their families would ever need more gold than they should bring back
from the Seven Cities." They marched and fought, and fought and
marched : up the Colorado to the mouth of the Gila, up the Gila to
the Casas Grandes and northward across Arizona to the Rio San Juan.
They penetrated what is now Colorado, then turned south-east to
where Santa Fe now stands, and still their Indian guides assured them
the golden Cibola of their hopes was a little further on. After a brief
rest, having destroyed a few Pueblo towns and temples, and burnt
their idols for the truth's sake, they crossed the mountains and
marched down nearly to the center of the present Indian Territory,
and still found no Cibola, no gold, and no rich kingdom. Then the
inevitable quarrel arose, the expedition broke up, and the cavaliers re-
turned to Mexico, seven years older, considerably poorer, and some-
what wiser than they left it. But they added to Spanish territory, by
the apostolical right of discovery, an area twelve times the size of
Ohio; the same since added to our free Republic by the slaveholder's
right of conquest, and payment of ten million dollars. A fas-
cinating account of Coronado's expedition was written by a Span-
ish gentleman in the party, a Mr. Castenada, who was born three
centuries too soon. He should have lived in our day and
been a "Washington correspondent; he had the requisite fancy and
power of romantic embellishment, and was pious to a fault. He
would have consented to the death of all the heathen in the new ter-



ritory, if they had stood in the way of consecrating the gold to Cath-
olic uses.

Many other expeditions did the Spaniards make, but few of them
came north of the Arkansas. Finally, some two hundred years ago,
Northern New Mexico was settled, and thereafter by degrees the
Spanish outposts extended up to the Raton Mountains and into the
rich parks and valleys where head the affluents of the Rio Grande.
So those who speak of Colorado as so new a country, would do well to
remember that a part of it is older than Ohio. Two hundred years
passed away and under the auspices of President Jefferson, Colonel
Zebulon Pike explored "that part of Louisiana which lieth along the
foot of the Sierra Madre" (Rocky Mountains), and in the summer of
1806, gazed with wonder on the snow-capped summit of Pike's Peak.
This he set, with some hesitation, at 17,500 feet high. Later and
more accurate explorers have reduced his estimate some 3,000 feet.
Proceeding southward he was captured and imprisoned by the sus-
picious Captain-General of New Mexico; and to this day many are
the legends among the Mexicans about the "fair-haired Americano,"
and the gallantry (in its double sense) of his men.

As early as 1820, Colorado was traversed in all directions by white
hunters and trappers, and in 1840 the eastern section contained several
trading posts, among which Fort Lancaster, on the Platte, and Bent's
Fort, on the Arkansas, were most prominent. In 1842, twelve Amer-
icans took unto themselves Mexican wives, and employed their dark
relations in erecting a fort, which was the foundation of the present
American city of Pueblo ; and about the same time twenty families of
whites and half-breeds made a settlement on or near the Fontaine Que
Bouille. Thus stood the population for many years. From midsum-
mer till Christmas there was hunting, trapping and fighting Indians;
then the nomadic inhabitants they could not by any stretch of lan-
guage be called settlers gathered to the trading-posts and spent the
proceeds of their season's work. At each post was a medley of
traders, trappers and hunters, white, Mexican and Indian; their
amusements, racing, gambling, dancing and drinking, varied by fre-
quent bloody fights, whereof the accounts are sometimes amusing,
oftener disgusting. These contests were nearly always over dis-
puted property chiefly horses or women, both of which were very
valuable helped in no small degree by the villainous whisky dis-
pensed by the American Fur Company. Almost every prominent
point in Eastern Colorado received its name from some tragic occur-
rence. Instance the following: Fifteen Mexicans from Taos quar-


reled with about an equal number of Americans at Fort Lancaster,
about a trade of horses and furs. The Americans ambushed them and
stampeded all their stock. The Mexicans took arms and advanced on
their foes; then, the commandantes on each side being leaders and
spokesmen, ensued the following:

Mexican " Que quiere caballero!" (What do you want, sir?)

American " Yo tengo lo caballardo porque dicirme esta?" (I have
your horses why do you ask ?)

" Caraho, Americano!" shouted the Mexican, bringing his gun to
his shoulder; but the American was too quick with his pistol and laid
the other prostrate, the ball passing through him just below the heart.
The result was "the survival of the fittest/' and the "superior race"
retired with their booty. An appeal to the trading company at
the fort brought an international council, which resulted in an
amicable settlement. The wounded man recovered in three months,
and the place was thenceforth known as " Greaser's Gulch."

Herring and Beer were mountaineers, companions and friends, who
paid court to the same senorita. Herring married her, and Beer
grossly insulted him, with intent to bring on a quarrel and kill him.
A duel was agreed on, and Beer, who was a crack shot, confidently
expected to kill Herring, who was considered a poor "off-hand marks-
man." They met, attended by their friends, who arranged that the
shooting was to be at any time the principals chose in the count be-
tween the word fire and three. At the word fire, the ball of Beer's
rifle buried in a cottonwood just over Herring's head; at the word
three, Herring's ball pierced the heart of Beer, who was buried in the
gulch where he fell. When I visited it long afterward the gulch was
still known as " Beer's Folly."

Sadder, more bloody and more romantic was the episode of Vaughn
and La Bonte, life long companions and friends, but destined to ex-
emplify the deadly bitterness of "love to hatred turned." Together
they had traversed every trail on the plains and trapped on every
stream in the mountains; at the old Arkansas crossing they had fought
side by side against the murderous Kioways; they had taken beaver
together on Clear Creek, and gnawed the same bone in the extremity
of hunger when overtaken too early by the winter storms. Common
ianger and suffering creates strange friendships. Perhaps it is not the
intelligent social comity which unites men of some cultivation; per-
haps it is more like an exaggeration of that kinship which makes even
dumb animals cling to each other, and in a mysterious way mourn
another's death. Be that as it may, a little cloud, no bigger than a


man's hand or a woman's face, rose on the horizon of their friendship.
Chance expressions were repeated with additions; petulant remarks,
which the speaker was sorry for ere they died upon the air, grew from
lip to lip and reached the other's ears as vile slanders; for "mutual
friends" are as busy and blundering in the wilds as in the city.

Vaughn, the elder, was a grizzled mountaineer, with the dry humor
of a " Tennessee Yankee " ; his sarcasm was cutting, and he affected
an indifference to woman's charms. La Bonte, on the contrary, had
all the impetuosity of the Frenchman, which had survived through
all the generations since his forefathers settled in Canada. The life
of a voyageur and trapper had only heightened his mercurial tempera-
ment; he was a backwoods dandy, and adorned his person with the
handiwork of squaws. One fine morning in 1843, they rode into the
Pueblo fort fast friends, as they persuaded themselves, having settled
their little differences; that night they parted rivals, and consequently
enemies. This transformation was affected by the smiles of a brown
mestizo,, who had previously pledged her "punic faith" to Vaughn,
but to-day, seeing La Bonte for the first time, was charmed by his
youthful gallantry and French display. To the older hunter this was
blackest treachery on the part of his friend; to the younger it was
fair emulation. A week after, they met at a trappers' rendezvous.
Hot words ensued and knives were drawn; but there was no liquor on
the ground so early in the season, and friends separated them without
bloodshed. Then spoke the Tennesseean:

" Compadre, seem' what you have been, I don't want none o' your
blood on my weepins. Go you one way, I'll go another. When this
season's over, let the best man win her."

"I'm white on this thing," replied La Bonte ; "my hunt this year is
up the Cache La Poudre."

"Then," was the answer, "I'll go the Sangre de Christo run with
these men. No tricks now you don't turn back to Pueblo?"

It was settled; but unfortunately for Vaughn's resolution his party
lingered, and he was deputed to go to Pueblo for further supplies.
There he learned that La Bonte had returned, and, after a brief court-
ship of two days, taken the mestizo, his own, as Vaughn considered
her to one of the northern posts. In all the solitary hours of that
season's hunt he brooded over his wrong, till hatred possessed his
soul. Meanwhile, as if driven by fate, La Bonte crossed the mount-
ains, having found the season bad on the Cache La Poudre, and
turned southward into the very region he had promised his rival to
avoid. One day, as Vaughn rested his horse in a pinon thicket, he



was suddenly roused by an intruder, and looking up, saw his enemy,
the very man who had robbed him, coming up the gulch. "Off! " he
shouted, bounding on his horse.

"Sacre!" replied the Canadian, construing this as a menace, and
setting his horse at a run. His rifle was already at his shoulder; the
other, in his haste, had dropped his gun, but drew a pistol from his



belt. The spurred animals dashed madly breast to breast; the
weapons cracked simultaneously, and both men fell heavily to the

When Vaughn came to himself, he saw his late enemy and former


friend lying dead near him. In his own breast was a gaping wound,
from which his life had nearly ebbed away; and the little stream into
which he had rolled in his delirious thirst, was vermilion with his
blood. When picked up by his friends he made his first and last al-
lusion to the trouble : " A d d good man killed for a d d bad
woman better stuck to my old idees."

Varied only by such incidents as these, the first half of the century
rolled away with little of historic interest. But the expeditions of
Fremont, the Mexican war, and acquisition of new territory, the gold
hunters' invasion of California, the opening of Kansas to settlement,
and the Mormon war of 1857, caused the whole region to be thoroughly
explored, with a view of finding some shorter and better route to the
Pacific. All who came this way were eager for gold. If gold there
was, it was only an accident who should find it. Traditions of its
presence had been numerous for a hundred years. Many an explorer,
white or Mexican, had returned with specimens which good judges
pronounced gold, but somehow the clue was always lost. At last, in

1858, came the right men. John H. Gregory, Green Russell, and
other Georgians, old miners and familiar with the precious metals,
found what was unmistakably gold; but it was not till the 6th of May,

1859, that Gregory struck the gold diggings on North Clear Creek,
which soon became world renowned as the Gregory Lode, and settled
affirmatively the question as to whether this was a rich mineral region.
But the country could not wait for verification ; nothing was needed
so badly in 18.58 as a new excitement. The Kansas troubles had been
happily settled, the Mormon war was over, and newspaperdom was
dying of ennui. So, soon after a few ounces of gold dust reached
Leaven worth, the whole country was stirred, and for months " Pike's
Peak" glared at us in display type from the head of a thousand news
columns. Along with the prospector went the able-bodied correspond-
ent, and beat the old Spanish chroniclers on their own soil. AVonder
was piled on wonder, and a patient public accepted all as truth ; but at
last, extravagance run mad effected its own cure. Here is a speci-
men from an Iowa paper :

" We learn from a gentleman just returned from the Peak that the gold lies in bands
or strata down the slope. The custom of the best miners is to construct a heavy wooden
float with iron ribs, similar to a stone boat; this is taken to the top of the Peak, where
several men get in and guide it down over the gold strata. The gold curls up on the
boat like shavings, and is gathered in as they progress. This is the usual method of
collecting it."

Within one year this region received seventy-five thousand Amer-
icans. The romance and tragedy of this invasion have often beeii


portrayed. I am here chiefly concerned with the genesis and evolu-
tion of civil government. There was no constitutional authority in
the country, and neither judge nor officer within five hundred miles.
The invaders were remitted to the primal law of nature, with, per-
haps, the inherent rights of American citizenship. Every gulch was
filling with red-hot treasure hunters ; every bar was pock-marked with
"prospect holes;" timber, water-rights, and town-lots were soon to be
valuable, and government was an imperative necessity. Here was a
fine field for theorists to test their views as to the origin of civil law.
Poet and political romancer have described in captivating lines, the
descent of civil government as a heaven-born genius, full-grown and
perfect from the mind of Deity. But to the historian of events is left
a far less pleasing task. He can not but see that government is the
most awkward and imperfect of all human inventions. Here, as else-
where, it was a creature of slow, irregular growth, evolved by reason
and experience from the hopes and fears of men, originating in the
instinct of self-preservation, and developed by necessity and concession.
Four different governments sprang up with concurrent jurisdiction.
The favorite theory of Senator Douglas, that local self-government
was inherent in American citizenship every-where in our territory,
seems to have been adopted by a majority of the first comers ; and
they straightway proceeded to organize the " Territory of Jefferson."
On the 6th of November, 1858, an election was held at Denver, and
H. J. Graham chosen without opposition as delegate to Congress. He
went to Washington, and had the pleasure of paying his own expenses
there all winter ; ' for " Jefferson " was not admitted. Nevertheless,
delegates from thirteen precincts assembled the next April, took the
preliminary steps, and called an organizing convention to meet in
August, 1859. One hundred and sixty -seven delegates came together,
tried to construct a State, and failed; but a little later "Jefferson"
was regularly organized. An elected legislature assembled in Novem-
ber, listened to an admirable inaugural from Governor R. W. Stecle,
organized nine counties, granted charters for the new towns, and
passed a very good criminal code and body of mining laws. Mean-
while, Kansas had organized this country into Arapahoe County, and
to make a sure thing of it, a full set of county officers were elected,
who exercised a sort of hop-skip-and-jump jurisdiction, bobbing
around in the mountains, foot-hills, or in Denver, wherever they
could get a foothold. But these might be called governments by am-
bition, rather than by necessity; the latter kind were meanwhile being
organized in the mountains and ranches.


The first comers there were generally in little squads, old friends
and neighbors, and each party amicably divided all the gulch between
them. But ihe next year came sixty thousand more, who wanted a
show; and it is highly creditable to the pioneers that rules were agreed
upon with so little trouble. The example was set in Gregory Gulch
(Central City). A mass meeting of miners was held June 8, 1859,
and a committee appointed to draft a code of laws. This committee
laid out boundaries for the district, and their civil code, after some
discussion and amendment, was unanimously adopted in mass meeting,
July 16, 1859. The example was rapidly followed in other districts,
and the whole Territory was soon divided between a score of local
sovereignties. But these were only laws as to property ; there was so
little crime the first year that none others were needed. The Miners'
Courts, as they were called, were presided over by justices of the
peace, chosen by ballot ; these, as a matter of form, usually took out a
commission, sometimes from the " Territory of Jefferson," sometimes
from Arapahoe County, and often from both.

But now money began to be plenty, and criminals invaded the
country. The civil courts promptly assumed criminal jurisdiction, and
the year 1860 opened with four governments in full blast. The
miners' courts, people's courts, and " provisional government " (a
new name for " Jeiferson,") divided jurisdiction in the mountains;
while Kansas and the provisional government ran concurrent in

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 46 of 62)