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 61 of 62)
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from painful personal experience. But it don't follow that it will be
cheaper still five years from now. Surely " the bottom " is reached by
this time. In the second tier of counties, including Anderson, Allen,
Neosho and Labette, the Leaveuworth, Lawrence and Galveston Rail-
road Company have large tracts of good land for sale; and private
owners a still larger amount.

This region boasts of many advantages: a mild climate, soil of rare
fertility, timber sufficient for all ordinary purposes, rock in abundance,
and easy communication with the rest of the world. Society is unsur-
passed by that of any section, east or west. Churches and school-
houses are within convenient reach of every section of land, and a
man can not settle in so wild a spot that the mail will not bring him
late papers at least twice a week. For seven years this region was
blessed with good crops; then came the "bad year" of 1874, when
drought, chintz-bugs and grasshoppers in succession desolated the
land. In Allen County large streams dried to beds of dust, the fish
literally parching on the rocks; and pools and springs disappeared
which the oldest inhabitant had considered perennial. In 1875 nat-
ure resumed her wonted courses ; but the people had been too poor to
sow wheat, and the country remained in a condition of general pov-
erty. But such a crop otherwise I had never seen. There were miles
on miles of corn-fields, yielding from forty to eighty bushels per acre,
and for sale at twenty cents per bushel ; tens of thousands of tons of
hay, worth two dollars per ton in the stack ; potatoes by millions, and
more feed than the stock could eat. And there was the trouble. The
people had not a sufficiently diversified industry. They had relied al-
most entirely on the sale of grain, and this year there was no sale, and
they remained poor despite their immense crops. I came down from
the mountains on a visit just after the last grasshoppers had left, and
a rural wag gave me this dialect picture of his experience with them :

" You see I bought early in '72 give $2,200 for 240 acres. Could
a bought the same for half that two years after; can buy good land
right alongside o' mine now for a V an acre. Been a deal o' cramp
in real estate in this country. Well, nobody ever makes a crop the
first year in a prairie country think themselves in luck to get fences
built and sod broke. I bought a hundred sheep two blooded rams
and the rest common ewes and put all the rest of my money in im-
provements. Raised a little corn and oats in 1873, and put thirty acres
of the new land, sod broke in 1872, into wheat, and went to work with a


hurrah in 1874 to make a God-awful crop. Every thing come a boom-
ing, and I thought I had the world in a sling. Corn, oats, potatoes
and wheat just got up and laughed, they grew so fine. Thought I
never saw such a country for things to grow. Worked all the week,
and used to set on the fence Sunday and calculate how rich I'd be.
Went out one fine sunny morning about the first of June, and thought,
by jiminy, the whole ground was a moving. Ten million hoppers to
the square yard all chawin' away as if the country belonged to 'em.
Saturday morning they come into my farm from a ridge just south o'
me Sunday noon there wasn't a green thing where the corn, cane and
potatoes had been. Job's luck wasn't a circumstance. My corn lot
looked as if forty bands o' wild Arabs had fell onto it. Not a
smidgeon left just bodaciously chawed up and spit out.

" Well, of course I had the dumps. But I rallied. 'All right/

says I; ( got wheat and tobacco left anyhow.' Professor P said

they wouldn't eat tobacco; but he's a fraud, sir a barefaced fraud.
The hoppers just went up on a ridge north of me and shed their second
coats, and then come back on the tobacco. They eat every leaf clean
to the ground, then dug up the roots and set on the fence and cussed
every man that come along, for a chaw. About that time they got
wings, and sudden as could be rose in the air and went off north a
whirlin', like a shower o' white and yellow paper bits. 'All right.'
says I ; l they've left my wheat anyhow.' Singular enough they didn't
touch it ; it was on t'other side the place, and out o' their track.
Well, I rallied again, and counted on six hundred bushels o' wheat
and wheat's the money crop in this country. About June the middle
I noticed all at once that my wheat looked kind o' sick. Come to ex-
amine, sir, it was completely lined with a little, miserable, black and
yellow, nasty, smelling bug. I took some to a man 'at had been here
ten years. 'Neighbor,' says he, f you're a goner ; thems chintz-bugs,
and every head o' that wheat that an't cut, '11 be et up in forty-eight
hours.' Well, it was Sunday morning, and the wheat nothing like
ripe; but it was a chance, and I got onto my reaper and banged down
every hoot of it before Monday night. It cured in the sun and the
bugs left it, and out o' the lot I got just a hundred and forty bushels
o' shrunk-up stuff. It was a hundred and forty bushels more than
any o' my neighbors got. You bet there was improved farms for sale
in that neighborhood. My sheep had done Avell, and that was all I
was ahead. Taking it by and large, the only sure crop is sheep."

He touched the right point in the last sentence ; this is the country
for stock-growing. Corn and hay can -be produced so cheaply that


the cost of bringing a full-grown ox into market is less than half what
it would be in Ohio.' The best of unimproved land, near the railroad,
sometimes sells as high as twelve dollars per acre; from that it ranges
down to four. In 1875 the surplus crop of the State was worth
twelve million dollars. The report for that year showed that the corn
raised in the State, if shelled and put in box-cars, would have
loaded a train sixteen hundred miles long !

The Indian Territory is much talked of, but I would not advise any
one to go there with a view to permanent settlement. Government
can not open the land to immigration without a shameful breach of
good faith, and for one, as an humble citizen, I protest against it.
There is such an abundance of good land elsewhere that we can afford
,to leave this to the civilized Indians for the next fifty years. Then
their progress will have been such that they will themselves throw
it open and invite white settlers. Texas, just south of it, offers a far
better field. Dallas is the center of a region two hundred miles
square, which offers great inducements to Northern men. The win-
ters are sharp enough to insure health and energy ; and the summers
are not, as far as I could observe, any hotter than in Minnesota.
Land through all this section can be had at from four to eight dollars
per acre. There are no Congressional lands in Texas ; it is all State
land. This comes of the State having been an independent republic
when it came into the Union. It reserved the ownership of all lands
within its borders, though there are not wanting lawyers who assert
that the general government might have rightfully taken those lands
from the State after the latter had seceded.

Look out for those beautifully colored maps which divide Texas
into various agricultural sections, and locate the " wheat lands " away
up on the heads of the Brazos, Colorado and Red River. One can
put in his eye all the wheat they will raise up there without an ex-
pansive and expensive system of irrigation, and it will puzzle them to
find water to irrigate with. If half that region is fit for grazing land
it is the best we can expect. Southern Texas is not very suitable for
Northern men. Along the gulf are immense areas of fine sugar and
cotton lands, but the climate is not favorable. Not that the heat is so
great; but the summers are long, the autumns dry, and the winters first
warm, moist and debilitating, and then very chilly. Central and north-
ern Texas are free from these disadvantages. The immigrant from the
North must learn a new system of agriculture, but that he can easily do.

Society ? Well, I found it very agreeable. If there is any special
hostility to Northern men, or Republicans, I never noticed it. The


latter maintain their organization, sometimes elect their candidate, and
always give him a hearty support, though the State has been Demo-
cratic since 1872. Texas may fairly claim to be one of the best gov-
erned States in the Union. Except on the south-western border the
ratio of crimes is very small. In 1873 the law against carrying con-
cealed weapons was strictly enforced in the railroad towns a good
deal more than can be said of any town on the Union or Kansas Pa-
cific Railroads. It is in the "cow counties/' in the extreme west and
south-west, that some lawlessness still prevails. The law as to con-
cealed weapons excepts those counties, it being considered a necessity
that the vacqueros should go prepared for "enterprising Mexicans"
and other cattle thieves. If you like a wild country, that's the place
for you, and if that is not wild enough try the Comanche border.
There the mountainous spurs put out towards the lower country and
cut it up into numerous little valleys. Down these spurs come the
savages, often lying in ambush for days together in the scrubby tim-
ber, watching the ranches below. And all this time the settlers go
about their usual work in assured safety, for there is not the slightest
danger till after the " strike." One might walk within a rod of the
hidden enemy and never be molested. The settlers see signs of
Indians about, but feel no uneasiness ; but once t)ie raid is made, and
the robbers on the run for cover, they kill all they encounter, and even
slaughter stock they can not take away. They can get five or ten
miles more running out of a horse than can a white man ; and five
minutes after they leave him he is so near dead that he can not be
forced to walk. When hard pressed they draw a knife, hastily make
a few incisions in the animal's hide and rub in salt and powder. As
the cow-boys express it, " it puts new life in a hoss."

But when long immunity has made the settlers careless, there some-
times occur tragedies which thrill the country with horror, and are
told for years by the pioneers' hearth-stone, or around the camp-fire,
where rude borderers teach their younger companions eternal hatred
of all the Indian race. In the year 1850, a Mississippian, named
Lockhardt, settled a little farther up the Colorado than was then
usual with families, but still in a region thought to be safe from
Comanche raids; and, in a few years, was surrounded with most of
the comforts of his more eastern home. Wealth and good taste
united to improve the wild beauty of nature; his house, elegant in-
deed for the border, was a temple of hospitality ; his flocks and herds
ranged over the area of a dukedom ; his colored servants scarce knew
had a master, so light was his patriarchal sway ; and far and


near the name of 'Squire Lockhardt was known as that of a natural
nobleman and Texas gentleman. The friendly Indians that passed
that way also partook of his hospitality, and he made the too common
mistake of / supposing that this would shield him against the incur-
sions of their wilder congeners. But, of all his possessions, none was
so widely celebrated as his daughter Minnie. The rude vacqueros
were charmed into unusual courtesy at sight of her; and, from far
and near, young. Texans of more pretensions sought her society. On
the border, a young woman of beauty and accomplishments often ac-
quires a wide-spread fame that would seem impossible to Eastern peo-
ple ; her graces are recounted in such fervid rhetoric that the cold
critic of an older community would think of her as a fabulous being.
Even so the charms of Minnie Lockhardt were sung in a hundred
camps, from the Trinity to the Colorado.

Many other settlers, generally single men, and skillful frontiersmen,
had located between Lockhardt and the staked plain, and he had long
ceased to think of an Indian raid as even remotely possible, when,
suddenly as lightning from a clear sky, the Indian war of 1854-'5
broke out; and, from the settlements on the upper Rio Grande, clear
around to the Canadian, the border was in a blaze. The Utes and
Apaches on the west pressed the Mexicans and whites, while the Co-
manches, from their fastnesses, carried destruction far down into
Texas. The storm broke while Lockhardt was absent from home.
Every settler near him was killed; his servants fled for their lives,
and his daughter, then but twenty years of age, was carried into cap-
tivity. The frenzied father sent an appeal to his fellow-citizens, and
it seemed that the w r hole Texan border was moved by one common
impulse. Every young Texan who could supply himself with horse
and gun was eager to assist in the rescue of Minnie Lockhardt ; and,
as soon as a force of two hundred had assembled, the father led them
towards the high country, leaving word for the others to follow.
Striking the trail of the Comanches, the Texans followed as fast as
the strength of their horses would allow, their furious zeal continually
aroused anew by the sights along the way, where worn out captives
had been ruthlessly murdered. Suddenly, at daylight, the pursuers
came upon the murderers in one of those numerous cafions of upper
Texas, where the savages had thought themselves safe.

Then ensued one of the most desperately contested battles of the
Texan border. The Indian camp was set far back in a grove of
scrubby timber, on all sides of which rose sandy hillocks and de-
tached rocks, furnishing admirable lines of defense, as well as retreat


Again and again did the Texans, led by Lockhardt, penetrate almost
to the camp, only to be driven back ; and, on each advance, they dis
tinctly heard the voice of Minnie calling on them for help, and
dreaded lest their attack should be the signal for her death. But it
appears the savages were bent on preserving their captive if possible.
A double line of warriors surrounded the tent in which she was
bound; and at last the wretched father, bleeding from a dozen
wounds, was forced away by his men, who saw that the attack was
hopeless. Having received reinforcements, they renewed the fight
the second day after, but the Indians had also collected their force
and taken a still stronger position ; and to the father, lying helpless',
with his wounds, the men at last reported that the attack was hope-
less, unless with a force large enough to surround the Comauche
stronghold and reduce it by a regular siege.

Successive bands of Texans arrived, and in a few days the father
again urged them to the attack ; but the Indians had managed to re-
treat, carrying Miss Lockhardt with them. With thedevilishness in-
herent in the Comanche nature, they were all the more determined to
keep her when they saw the general anxiety of the whites for her
recovery. But she proved a troublesome prize. The fact of her cap-
tivity nerved every 'Texan to desperate measures, and in a short time
the Indians were attacked at all points, and forced back towards the
Pecos. Then, as afterwards appeared, the band having possession of
Miss Lockhardt, sent her northward, and disposed of her to the
Arapahoes. Convinced that she was the daughter of a great chief, by
the exertions made to recapture her, this tribe opened negotiations
with the commandants at Fort Union and Lancaster. But before
any thing could be accomplished, the Utes and Apaches were raiding
the entire New Mexican border, and the captive girl in some way was
transferred to the former tribe. Despite the awful hardships of a
winter among the savages she survived, and in some way managed to
make known her existence to the American commandant at Fort
Massachusetts, New Mexico. About this time the Territorial Gov-
ernor called out five hundred New Mexican volunteers, who were put
under command of Colonel Ceran St. Vrain ; and, joined by the
First Regiment of United States Dragoons, under Colonel T. T.
Fauntleroy, the whole force marched into the Indian country early in
1855. They defeated the Indians in one general battle and several
minor skirmishes, but no trace of Miss Lockhardt could be found.
The noted Kit Carson was then intrusted with the task of settling with
the Utes and recovering all captives ; but other means were at work.



Worn down by his wounds and mental suffering, Lockhardt re-
turned home in despair; but another party of determined men set out
to find the captive who had, as it appears, been taken by the Arapa-
hoes and Cheyennes from the Utes, with whom they were at war.
Again and again were the whites almost successful, and as often was


the unfortunate girl hurried away to some more hidden fastness, almost
before their eyes. The general Indian war ended, and a nominal
peace was made ; negotiation was again attempted, but the third year
of her captivity came, and still nothing was done. At length a com-
pany of the Texan Rangers, having penetrated almost to the heart of
the Guadaloupe Range, came suddenly upon a village of Comanches,


and despite the hurried flight of the savages, who bad their own women
and children with them, the Rangers saw among them a captive white
woman. They charged desperately upon the savages, who fled in all
directions, but not till one of them had buried his knife in the body of
the girl, who was still breathing when the Rangers came up. It was
Minnie Lockhardt. She was but just able to smile, as if to welcome
the Rangers, then peacefully breathed her last. "And," said the
weather-beaten frontiersman who gave me these facts, as he choked
down his emotions, " it was a God's blessiu' she was dead, an' her
father never seen her." For she had suffered the last terrible indig-
nity savage malice could invent. As is common when a captive
woman is not taken by one Indian, she had became the common prop-
erty of the band ; and loathsome disease had worn her to a skeleton.
Heart-broken and disfigured, death was to her an unmixed gain. Her
afflicted father soon followed her to the grave. The Lockhardt place
is now desolate ; its dwellings burned, its tenants gone. But the
chivalry and hospitality of the father are still the theme of local story,
while the beauty and sorrowful fate of the daughter are still told
around the camp-fires and hearth-stones of Texas, and warm anew the
hearts of its sons to undying vengeance against the Comanches.

Texas ends the list of the border States proper. Observe that in all
these States as one goes west he rises slowly to a higher, dryer and
more barren country, till at last, about longitude 100 or 101 he en-
ters on " the area of corrugation," as geologists call it, where barren-
ness is the rule; and this area includes all the western border of Da-
kota, Nebraska, Kansas, Ocklahoma and Texas, of eastern Washing-
ton, Oregon and California, and all of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming,
Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Let us skip this region
of mountain and desert, and pass at once to the fertile section of the
Pacific coast, lying west of the Sierra Nevadas.

California ? Well, I should not be in a hurry to recommend it to
any man of moderate means. The worst objection is the oppressive
land monopoly. "A little ranche of twenty thousand acres " is a com-
mon expression. A dozen men each own a dukedom all but the in-
habitants. They will own them after awhile, unless this thing is
remedied. The beginning of this system was in the Mexican grants.
The old Spanish custom was to grant a county of land to an impresario,
on condition that he should settle a certain number of families on it.
The Mexicans continued the system with some modifications, and in
due time the inferiors became peons to the lord. These titles were
all confirmed by treaty when the United States took possession, and


have been sustained by the Supreme Court. Again, when the miners
took the country they supposed the land to be worth but little except
for grazing, and many of them took up claims and sold them for a
trifle to speculators, and thus the best land in California is now held
in immense tracts by an aristocracy. Of course these men are in fa-
vor of "Chinese cheap labor," and equally of course the poorer whites
are unanimously opposed to it. Some have thought that, as our coun-
try grew older, all the lands would be held in the same way ; but it is
somewhat reassuring to note that there is less land monopoly in Mas-
sachusetts than in Ohio, and far less in Ohio than in California. In
some of the oldest States the land is most equally distributed, thanks
to our wise laws of descent and distribution of estates ; and in the
course of fifty or a hundred years the attrition of a free society will
wear out this evil in California.

It is now very difficult for one to get a small piece of land in that
State ; and it would be better for intending emigrants to organize in
some way, and buy out a grant, of which there are always a few for sale.
There are a few places very few I am afraid where the best land is not
in the hands of monopolists, and it is already noticeable that such com-
munities improve faster than others. But for many years to come Cal-
ifornia will continue to be a land of the beggar and the prince.

In Oregon this evil is not so great, but still great enough. Land in
the Willamette Valley is not much cheaper than in Ohio and Indiana,
and I can not think that enough is gained to make it worth while to
go so far. I do not see how a man, wife and five children average
Western family can get to Oregon comfortably for 'less than five or
six hundred dollars, which amount would buy eighty acres of first-
class land in Kansas or Nebraska, or a hundred acres in Texas ; and,
having got to Oregon, you must pay more for land than in the other
States named, with a moral certainty that the country will develop
more slowly. Oregon began to be settled by white men as early as
1830; before 1848 it contained 10,000 Americans; its population now
is about 100,000. Kansas was thrown open to settlement only twenty-
three years ago; it now contains a population of at least 600,000. It
strikes me that's the sort of a country to go to, if you want your future
to hurry up. But if you like a romantic border country one that
is likely to stay border for a long time go to Oregon. Oregon
climate? Well, some people like it. I don't. True, it is mild and
moist; but I am just Yankee enough to prefer the cold, dry winter to
the warm, wet, muggy, and muddy. No five months' rain for me, if
you please. I'd rather freeze than smother. In California it's differ-


ent. There is no more rain there during the so-called "rainy season"
than in Ohio, and half the time not as much. In fact, there never is
too much rain in California, though there is sometimes too little. The
summers in Oregon are delightful enough more pleasant than in
California ; but, as at present advised, I would not recommend either
State to the class of emigrants just now going West.

Let us now turn to the great interior, and see if we can pick out
any oases inviting to settlement between longitude 100 and the Sierra
Nevadas. Nevada is not an agricultural State at all; and, for aught
we can now see, never will be. It contains 98,000 square miles, and less
good land than three average counties in Ohio. It has population
enough for one-third of a member of Congress ; but our " paternal "
government has granted the State one Representative and two Sen-
ators. Nobody need think of going there to engage in farming. In
the far distant future, when land is in much greater demand than now,
some way will perhaps be found to redeem those arid tracts. Trees
will be planted wherever they will grow ; the Australian eucalyptus
may flourish even on the desert, and thus in a few centuries a moister
atmosphere be created. But for the present the population must con-
sist of capitalists and laboring miners, and their congeners. And here
I might indulge in wearying words on the romance and hardship of
a miner's life, had I not given him a chapter to himself. Strange it is
that he should be the most imaginative of men, with a life of such
prosaic toil ; but it is, doubtless, because his ways are in a path, as Job
says, "which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not
seen : the lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed

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 61 of 62)