James Swisher.

How I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience online

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went up-stairs to bed. I have seen better beds in
Ohio. This one was filled with bed-bugs. The walls
of the room were filled; the floor was full. They
were of all sizes and colors. They all wanted to be in
the bed. I could see them, and smell them, and could
hear them falling from the ceiling upon the bed. They
ran all over me. They bit me with an energy that
could only have been inspired by much previous fasting.
I suppose I was a stranger, and they enjoyed a change
of diet. Sleep was out of the question. After I had
lain for, perhaps, half an hour turning and twisting
frantically, trying to keep the bugs out of my ears and
face, I began to wish I had not gone to bed. I re-
gretted that I had come to La Paz. When a restless
hour had been spent with the bugs, I got up and
dressed myself, swearing inwardly at La Paz and the
whole country.

There had been a fire down in the sitting-room. Per-
haps it was still burning. I had brought a small piece
of candle up-stairs with me, but no matches. I opened
my door and groped my way along the passage made
doubly gloomy by the whistling of the night wind.
In feeling for the stairway, I got to the wrong end of
the opening. There was no railing around it, and,
groping along in the darkness, I stepped off into space
and fell down through the opening, hard enough to


have broken every bone in my body. The memory of
that fall makes me laugh even now. I do wonder if other
people ever fall down stairs. It gives one curious feel-
ings, to fall down stairs in a strange house. I picked
myself up as best I could at the foot of the stairs, and
entered the room. I found the fire still burning a
little. I was very much jammed and bruised, and was
bleeding in several places where I had been hurt
by the fall. I stirred the fire up, and, drawing a chair
close to the stove, was just falling into some serious
meditations over my situation, when the door was
opened, and the eldest daughter looked into the room
in a frightened way. She had heard me falling down
stairs, and, wondering what could cause so much dis-
turbance, she had gathered up courage enough to come
down and see. I tried to explain the situation by tell-
ing her that the bed they had given me to sleep in was
already taken with hungry occupants, etc.

We fell into a conversation, and I learned many
particulars from her in reference to the history of the
family. There were only the three of them at home.
They had a sister married, and a brother in the Fresno
Mines, in California. Mr. Pierce, their father, had been
killed in a row two years before at one of the mining
camps north. We talked until I was sleepy. I then
asked her to give me a spare blanket, if they had one.
She gave me a number of them. I then made a bed
on the floor, where I enjoyed as good a sleep, as I ever
had, for I was tired and sleepy. I did not awake until
the sun was shining brightly through the window. I

LA PAZ. 191

remained in La Paz and vicinity for two more days
and nights, when my friends arrived. I slept on the
floor each night, in preference to any of their beds.

Before I leave I will sum up my impressions of the
place briefly. The sun blazes down upon the town
from the cloudless skies day after day in succession,
until one's weary eyes long for relief from the dazzling
light. There can not be found a hotter place on the
American Continent, taking the year around, than
Yuma County, Arizona. The natives of La Paz are
principally Mexican Greasers. Their stock in trade is
horse-racing, whisky, cards, tobacco, cigarettes, a knife,
one and often two revolvers, a lasso or lariat, with a
few other like articles. It may be that it would be
more gracious, and more to my credit, did I not find
so much fault with the natives of Arizona. But I spent
some time there, and all the scenes I have narrated,
and will yet speak of, took place. Consequently, I am
profoundly of the opinion that a good part of the natives
need to be enlightened and civilized.

I went back to the Fort again on the stage, as I
came. We went first to Los Posos, a Spanish town;
then, from there, we went across over the South Granite
Mountains. The next station we halted at was Deep
Well, where we cross the Mass Kampa River, which is
one of the northern tributaries of the Gila River; thence
to White Tanks, and thence to Fort McDowell. Fort
McDowell is situated on the Francisco River. This
stream empties into the Solado River, and the Solado
runs into the Gila. Fort McDowell is hemmed in on


all sides by low, broken hills, much lower than those a
little farther distant. These side hills produce but little
vegetation. Scarcely any grass could be seen on them.
At the foot of these hills, in some places where there
is water, as along the river bottoms, there is some very
good grass; but it is not as plentiful, neither is the soil
as productive, as where the climate is cooler, and there
is less drought. Even if it rains hard in Arizona, the
water soon disappears in the sandy soil. The Fort is
situated midway between Prescott on the north and
Tucson on the south.

I was glad enough to arrive back again, where
my companions were awaiting my return. It was
about eleven o'clock at night when the "Jerkey"
wagon drove up. I was tired and hungry. My appe-
tite flourishes with exercise in the open air. But I had
a good supper of venison, fish, potatoes, bread, etc.,
followed by an hour's talk with those who had not yet
retired to sleep, but had been awaiting the arrival of
the mail. The remainder of the night, spent in sound
sleep, put me in good shape again, and I felt better
than I had at any time since I had left there to go to
La Paz. Roughing it is very pleasant, of course; but
I would not advise anyone to try it on. In this expe-
rience you must meet with various, unexpected, and
vexatious misfortunes, seldom thought of or met else-
where. It is only the man of rare good fortune that
in such a life as this meets with sufficient reward to
justify and compensate him for all his loss of comfort
and enjoyment.




AMONG all the various enterprises in the West
stock-raising ranks first. With many of these
western settlers it seems as natural and easy to raise
stock successfully as it is for the farmer of Illinois to
raise corn. Some men are always more successful in an
undertaking than others are who may have equal, if not
better, advantages; and they generally succeed, too, with
more ease, less attention to business apparently, and
with a certain don't-care, go-ahead kind of spirit that
seems, to a beholder, to border closely upon recklessness.
The ease and success with which this business is pros-
ecuted, depends principally upon the number of cattle
one has in the herd, and the locality and situation of
the range. As in other enterprises, the more attention
bestowed upon it, and the greater care exercised, the
greater the profits. To start into the cattle business a man
must have money. He purchases a brand for marking his
stock, which is generally the initials of his name, or some-
times an imitation of some instrument. This brand or
mark is recorded at the nearest county clerk's office.

The man that goes into raising stock must
content himself to live along the frontier, away
from all society, except of a few frontier neighbors.
He is shut off from all communication with the


world at large, away from railroads and post-offices,
sometimes as much as three hundred miles in earlier
days, much further than this, indeed. Stock-raisers gen-
erally go into the foot hills, because there they find past-
urage and water. The foot-hill and mountain bunch
grass is excellent food for stock. The herd consists of
cattle of all kind and all ages. After these are all prop-
erly branded, they are turned loose on their respective
ranges. Some of the stockmen who have been in the
business a long time have enormous herds. These are
left in the hands of herders, or, as they are called in
Texas, " Cow-boys." These herders are a very rough,
uncouth, and untidy class of fellows.

When an animal is sold from a herd, then the former
owner brands it with what is known as a vending brand.
This vending brand is recorded like the former. It is
used to cancel the former brand. When this is applied
to an animal, it indicates that the former owner relin-
quishes all right and title to said animal. When an
owner's whole stock is purchased, then the purchaser
generally buys the brand also, and that saves canceling.
All the animals that can be found bearing the former
owner's brand, belong to the last purchaser. When
animals are bought and driven away, it is customary to
give a bill of sale, which bill is recognized and re-
spected by law.

In early days an owner of cattle could drive his herd
where he liked; but now there are inspectors in nearly
every county in which a large business in stock-raising
is carried on. Before stock is taken from the county,



it is inspected by the County Inspector. Then the
owner is permitted to pass with his stock where he


pleases. When stock is on the ranges that the owners
have assigned for it, it is left entirely in the hands of


herders, or cow-boys. These look after the stock, stand
guard over it, and, if any animals wander away, they
look after and hunt them up. Oftentimes several own-
fers of stock join together, and let their herders run the
same range. Some of the herding grounds are as much
as fifty miles square. The cattle are allowed to run at
will on this large scope of territory. The herders re-
main on the outskirts, where they ride around from post
to post, keeping the stock within the proper bounds.
A good range consists of any territory away from the
settlements, with sufficient room, plenty of good grass,
a supply of water, and plenty of shelter, either timber or
bluffs. The herder is allowed sometimes as many as five
or six ponies, which he rides by turns while herding.

The most work the herder has, is when a herd is
removed from one range to another. Then great dili-
gence is required from the herders, until the animals
become accustomed to their new range. This may
take some time, as some animals are naturally much
inclined to wander. If some start from a herd, a great
many more will follow. If animals leave the herd,
and the direction they have gone is not known, which
is often the case, then the range is circled until their
tracks are discovered, when they are followed up and
brought back. If stock is taken to a new range in the
fall of the year, and is fed and salted occasionally,
until they can get good grass, they do not then incline
so much to rambling. Stock is very seldom fed in the
West, where herded. Work cattle and milch cows
are sometimes fed in bad weather.


The stock-men have certain times when they make
what they call " round-ups." Then all who are inter-
ested in stock-raising, turn out and round in their
stock. The calves are all branded and marked by
their respective owners. This is an exciting time.
The long-horned Texas and Mexican cattle, the full-
bloods of that breed, wild and vicious, come pitching
at horse and rider with all their mad and enraged
strength. They will run right over one, if possible, and
trample and gore him to death.

Here is Mr. Rust's description of the cow-boys,
and their customs: "There are various rules and cus-
toms among stock-men. Some of their practices are
in diametrical opposition to the statutory provisions and
common law. Cow-boys are said, in the way of laud-
ation, to be brave, bold, free-hearted and true to their
friends. In the fulfillment of the above specification,
they take pride, even though not in strict obedience to
law and order. Yet, the services of the expert cow-
boys are indispensable, and they must be tolerated,
although they arrogate to themselves superior powers,
and at times set law at defiance. There is practically
no appeal from their decisions, they being out of the
reach of law. They defend themselves most vigor-
ously against what they may deem any encroachment
upon their sacred rights. Arrests or apprehensions are
seldom made on their grounds. They, like the Mor-
mons, keep the law in their own hands.

>6 When a new cow-boy enters a camp, a few of the
boys propose a hunt. All agree. A part of the


campers, including the new one, wheel into rank for
the hunt. They make a half day's ride out to some
convenient hunting ground, where they prepare a
camp. They leave here a proper number on guard, of
which number the new comer is one. This guard is
to give an alarm, in case of a surprise by Indians.
Another party, from the main camp, in full Indian
costume then comes rushing upon the camp about
midnight. They fire twenty or thirty blank shots, and
give the war whoop. The sleeping hunters awake,
and raise the cry of ' Indians, boys, Indians! Run,
run!' All, Greeny included, rush pell-mell into the
bush, leaving the horses. It often happens that the
new one is never seen again. I do not mean to insin-
uate that there is ever foul play used on such occasions.
The new comer has simply gone off after a stock of

There are many such tricks resorted to, for the
sole purpose of testing the courage of a new hand.
These cow-boys, or stock-herders, are bound by the sa-
crecl ties of brotherhood to defend one another. These,
with the Indians, are about the only neighbors one
has on the frontier.

Often you will find men with small herds, which
they look after themselves; they seldom venture as far
away from the pale of society as those with larger
herds, who have a number of cow-boys in their

The life of the frontier herder is one of continual
danger. Indians are supposed to be either on reserva-



tions and peaceable, or back from the frontier. Yet,
they will often come swooping down like an eagle after


its prey, and kill the herders, and drive the whole
herd away to their retreat. And this is so common an
occurrence, that it happens every day in some part of


the West. Whole settlements have been left destitute
of horses, cattle and sheep, in a short time, as the
principal part of the frontier-man's wealth consists of
stock. When this stock is run off, he is in a very poor
condition. Frequently, hard fights follow, to recover
property from the Indians, where whole settlements
are sometimes either murdered or driven away from
their homes entirely. Of this I will speak again,
further on.




NEW Year's Day, 1877, found me in San Fran-
cisco, California. I had for some time been deal-
ing in mining stocks, and, like the majority of people
who dabbled in stocks that winter, I had been unsuc-
cessful. I had bought Ophir, Mexican, Union-Consol-
idated and Sierra Nevada stock at a high figure.
The Board of Brokers in the Stock Exchange is
divided into two factions, one the opposite of the
other. These factions are known to the public by
their well-earned titles of "Bulls" and "Bears."
The object of the "Bulls" is to keep stock up to a
good price; while the "Bears" do their best to break
the market by large sales of stock, often going so far
as to sell stock that is not in their possession.

During the Winter both factions had taken a very
active part; but the " Bears " finally won the field, and
the " Bulls " had been compelled to retreat in confusion.
The market had gone down, until mining stock was
a drug. Previous to this time stocks had fluctuated
more or less, and generally stood at fair prices. A
person of shrewd judgment could make fair profits on
quick sales, often doubling the money invested in a
week's transaction of business. I remember that in the
early part of the Winter I made a purchase of several


shares in one of the leading Washoe mines, and in ten
days I sold out for nearly four times what the stock
cost me. But, about January i, there came a depres-
sion. To double up stock now was only to lose, and to
double on a margin was sure destruction. I with hun-
dreds of others found myself losing daily. I could see no
better way out than to sell, and save what I could by
putting it into my pocket. I did so. I then found that
I had lost about two-thirds of the money I had when I
began. Out of the eleven thousand dollars I started in
with, I saved three thousand.

I continued watching the market closely, and often
thought another investment in such and such stock
would prove a splendid speculation. But I was afraid
to invest. This was my situation, when I received a
dispatch from my uncle in Utah Territory to come on
there immediately. He wished me to invest some
money in teams, and to go with him as a partner to Col-
orado with flour. We could buy flour in Utah for
three dollars a hundred. In Ouray, Colorado, flour
was worth fifteen dollars a hundred, and we could
readily get that price for all we might take there. We
would have a good road all the way, but it was through
the Ute and Piute country. The road was traveled but
little, since few persons cared to undertake such a
hazardous journey. My uncle had just come over the
road in company with some others, and thought that
we could make the trip in thirty-five days with freight
teams. Having been a heavy loser in California stocks,
I thought this looked like a big thing for me, and that



I would not be likely to find any better opportun-
ity to redeem my shattered fortunes. I sent a letter to
my uncle, asking for full particulars, and meanwhile
began to settle up all my affairs, preparatory to joining
him. My letter was delayed for some time on the road.
I did not get an answer until near the end of the month.
When the answer did come, it was sufficiently satis-
factory to induce me to make the venture and see
w r hat we could do. So, on the fourth of February, I


left San Francisco for Salt Lake City, which place I
reached two days after. The city of the Latter-Day
Saints presented a bustling, thriving appearance, having
grown from a mere straggling village in 1857 to a
Mormon metropolis of some 15,000 inhabitants in 1874.
I found Uncle there, but by no means ready to start.
Here I met with a number of persons I had known
when I first came West. Some of them I now found


in good circumstances. Others were evidently rather
the worse for hard luck; a great many of them in very
poor circumstances, without money or property of
any kind.

I was there several days, waiting to see what was
to be done, for I had learned on my arrival that there
were to be three partners in the undertaking. I amused
myself by going to the theater in the evenings, and by
hunting up and talking with old acquaintances during
the day. I went one day to see Captain Bogardus kill
his forty-four birds out of a possible fifty. The Cap-
tain gained celebrity in San Francisco in the sport of
shooting. He is considered the crack shot of the
world. The boarding at the Salt Lake House, where
I stopped, was wretched. I could not stand it. I
slept there, and went to the Arcade Restaurant, where
I could get a good meal, for fifty cents, of anything I
called for.

On Thursday, the i5th, we went to Lowell & Co., in
Salt Lake City, and bought wagons, and a complete out-
fit of everything pertaining to them, as bows, covers, etc.
The next day we shipped these, via the Utah Southern
Railroad, to York, at that time the terminus of the road. It
is nearly one hundred miles south of Salt Lake City. We
went to York the same day, unloaded our wagons, and
set them up. They were all large, four and one-half
inch thimble, Fish Brothers' wagons, made at Racine,
Wisconsin, with high beds and broad tread. We staid
in York over night, and the next morning hired a
man to take the wagons to Fountain Green, a settle-


ment in the northern part of San Pete County. We
went to Salt Creek by stage, and staid all night at a
Gentile hotel, owned and managed by a Mr. Seely.
There were a great many miners and others there, all

Mr. Seely being a Gentile, the Mormons would not
put up with him. They preferred to stop with Mr.
Foot, who kept a Mormon house. He is the man who
has attained considerable notoriety from having taken
so active a part in sheltering and deceiving the two
wounded men who had escaped and made their way to
his place, more dead than alive, from the horrible
butchery of their party on the banks of the Sevier
River, south of Salt Creek, by Brigham Young's in-
famous "destroying angels." After these two poor
fellows had remained some days with Foot, they en-
deavored to procure transportation to Salt Lake City.
An old wagon was furnished them by one man, and
after a little time they found a Mormon, who agreed to
hitch his team to the wagon and take them to the city.
Foot had taken possession of their revolvers, and would
not give them up. He, by the way, has one of them
yet in his possession, a very handsome revolver,
mounted in gold. When they had gone a short dis-
tance from town, the driver halted under the pretense
of watering his horses. The two poor fellows were
again immediately set upon by some of these hellish
rascals, who were lying in wait for them, and shot with
doubled-barreled shot-guns. One of them fell dead in
the wagon, and the other on the outside. Their bodies


were then taken to what is known as the Bottomless
Spring, close by the scene of the tragedy, and there
weighted with rocks, and thrown in; the cold-blooded
murderers thus hiding in this spring the evidences of
another of their most foul deeds. This same Foot is
still keeping a hotel in Salt Creek, or was when I was
there, and the rest of the perpetrators of that deed are
running at large.

At Mr. Seely's, I met with a number of persons I
had formerly known. Among the rest were the Gilson
brothers, owners of a large herd of California horses,
which they kept in Castle Valley. Sam Gilson was
United States Marshal in Utah. These brothers are
large, strong, daring and resolute men, each standing
over six feet in height. They are very well liked by the
Gentiles, but feared and held in dread by the Mormons,
who repeatedly make assaults on them. They are all
scarred and cut in many places on their persons, but,
like cats, they are very tenacious of life.

The next day we hired a man to take us to Manti.
This is a settlement in San Pete County, and entirely
Mormon. The Mormons are erecting at this place
another temple, similar to the one in Salt Lake City.
Here we went to buying work-oxen of the Mormons.
We wanted fifty yoke of cattle, so that we could work
six yoke to the team, and have two yoke as extras.
Six yoke of cattle and two wagons constitute a team,
with one driver. We were in Manti until the morning
of the twenty-fifth. We had not yet bought a suffi-
cient number of cattle. We took twenty-four yoke


and went to Fountain Green, to Mr. Dougall's flour-
ing mill, and loaded up fifty thousand pounds of flour.
There was no trouble in driving the cattle up to
Fountain Green, for they were all loose, and traveled
as fast as we wanted to go.

I had never driven cattle in my life, but I did not
see anything to hinder me from driving. I thought
about all there was to do was to walk along and keep
them in the road, and, if an ox shirked a little, to touch
him up with the whip. But that word "whip" brings
to my memory the many painful cuttings and slashings
that I inflicted upon myself. I had a whip with a lash
eighteen feet long, near two inches in diameter at the
largest part, and a stock about four feet long. This whip
worried me. I could not crack it like other ox drivers
did. I was continually trying. I wondered how they
could make their whip crack so. I thought there
must be some slight in it. My companions in the pro-
fession had been driving before; they had had experience.
They tried to teach me. I would try, try again; I
kept trying, and all I could accomplish would be to
slash the tail end of my whip around my head and
neck. I would then try the under hand lick; would
succeed in cutting myself most unmercifully around the
legs, or else in getting the lash all coiled and entangled

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Online LibraryJames SwisherHow I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience → online text (page 11 of 21)