James Swisher.

How I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience online

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about my feet, almost throwing me down. I would
stop and uncoil it, and get it all straightened out, and
then try to swing it over and around my head, but
there was something wrong with the whip, for the
snapper and my head were continually coming in


contact with each other, bringing the water to my eyes.
I was, of course, angry, and out of patience, but I kept
my sufferings to myself. Myself and whip afforded
much amusement to the boys. I was vexed to think I
was outdone. I would steal out with my whip where
I thought I would be unobserved, to practice striking
at some object. But the boys were wide-awake fellows
when there was any prospect for fun. They would
steal a march on me, and lie concealed and watch me
cutting and slashing away with that whip in very dead
earnest. When they had laughed until their sides were
sore, and their cheeks were wet with tears of amuse-
ment (and mine, meanwhile, with tears of anger and
pain), they would then laugh outright, and make their
presence known to me. Then I would invariably wilt.
After our flour was all loaded, we then set to work
to yoke up the cattle. That was another job I
dreaded, and the more so after we had the cattle corral-
ed in a large pen. I was nervous, I have no doubt,
for some of the cattle had horns, and, oh! what horns!
nearly as long as the rest of the body; they looked
frightful. Some of the cattle were wild, very wild,
while others were friendly, in fact, too friendly, for they
would come as far as they could get their horns
through the corral fence to meet us. I do not know
why, but somehow or other, it became an understood
thing, from the start, that I was to help yoke and
tend the cattle. I cannot tell the experience of
others, but my first lesson in yoking up convinced me
of several things. First, that Texas and Mexican cat-


tie have horns, and that they are not particular how
they use them. And, secondly, that each one of them
is in possession of a pair of hind legs that a mule might
be proud of. Probably the only thing that kept me
from using my revolver, which I was carrying in my
belt, was that such action might be fraught with much
more danger to the persons around the corral, watching,
laughing and joking, and to my companions on the in-
side, than to the particular ox which was just then the
object of my ire. Some of these cattle were easy to
yoke. We had to lasso others of them, and draw them
up to a post. We would put a yoke on the one caught,
and then lasso another and draw him up beside that
one. We used the gentle ones for leaders, and would
drive these around in front of t.he wild ones, and fasten
them together by a chain, before we let them loose.
After a long time had been spent in yoking and
hitching up, we drove out, starting back to Manti,
where we expected to get more cattle and more freight.
The roads were very muddy. In the settled portion
of Utah, there is a ditch on either side of every street
and road, and many cross-ditches, so that water is
running in every direction, to be used for irrigating
and other purposes. These ditches are seldom, if ever,
bridged, and the mud is much deeper than the water.
Whenever we came to one of these settlements, we
would put twelve yoke of cattle to one wagon, and
then a number of drivers would range themselves on
each side of the team, and whoop, and cut, and slash,
until we got through town. All the people in the vil-



lage would run to their doors, and stand in groups
through the streets, watching the fun. Sometimes a
chain would break; it was sure to break when the
wagon was in the worst place. Then we would put
on more cattle, sometimes we would have twenty
yoke of cattle to one wagon; and, by this time, if it
was in town, the whole population would be gathered
around, looking at the team and wagon, and laughing
and passing remarks, not the most complimentary.
We would then try again, all hands assisting, by push-
ing the wagon, and endeavoring to roll the wheels.
Everybody not engaged in whipping the cattle or push-
ing the wagon, would assist by shaking their hats, and
yelling at the top of their voices; and the poor cattle
would by this time be so terribly frightened, that,
if a chain did not break, they were sure to run
out with the wagon. In a scene ot this kind, the
drivers were very apt, accidently of course, to let
some of the bystanders feel the weight of their whips,
which action always added not a little to the confusion
ol the moment. I was very Villing at such times to
give up my whip, and go back in the mud and water,
and push, for, had I tried to use the whip, no one else
could have come near the same side of the cattle.
Neither was I safe from a whip in my own hands.

I remember, the second day of March, w^e had got
to Parley Alfred's place, in San Pete County, Utah. There
we stuck in the mud about noon. We worked until
twelve at night, whipping and slashing, until there
were, I know, as many as three hundred people around,


pulling and pushing, and helping us through a mud
hole that was not over three hundred feet across.
Here I fared roughly, for, in the early part of the after-
noon, I had gone in among the cattle to fix a chain,
when one of them kicked me, knocking me down in the
mud, with which I was completely covered, and, while
I was trying to get out, he struck me another lick,
knocking me back against the off-pointer. He was
an ugly brute. He made a pass at me with his long
horns, but I was so close to him that he only struck
me with the side of them. He knocked me clean out
of time, however. I landed, not as one usually sits
down, but on the flat of my back in the mud. Then
and 'there I swore vengeance upon that ox. To find
myself crawling out of the mud in this pitiable plight,
looking more like a hog that had just been wallowing
in the mire than the well-dressed city lad I had been
but a few days before, was more than human nature
could endure. I rebelled. If I could have had my
money back that I had already invested, I would
have given up the freighting business on the spot, and
would never have tried to drive another ox. But I
was like other men often have been, and will continue
to be; I had got my foot into the mud, and must either
push through or stick fast.

We got back to Manti on the night of the fifth of
March. The roads had been muddy all the way.
Here we remained for two days, buying up more cattle,
to fill out our teams. We also filled out our loads,
making ten thousand pounds of freight to the team.


On the morning of the eighth, we had everything in
readiness, including beds, clothing, guns, provisions for
two months, and a cooking outfit. The . roads were
(heavy, and we made but a short drive the first day.

We were now on the road for San Juan, Colorado.
We intended to follow the old road that Captain Gunni-
son took his soldiers over in 1855. It had never been
traveled over since. It will be my endeavor to describe
the route, as I go along, the best I can. I think that I
have had a better opportunity to view that section of
country than any white ma-n that ever was there
before me.

Our train was arranged as follows: William John-
son Black, of Manti, drove the lead team. I was
second. George B. Kelly, of Salt Lake City, next;
William Stringan, of Manti, fourth; Albert Stevens, of
Salt Lake City, next; Charley Manser, next; Neals
Mortison, of Salina, Utah, next; and one of the young
Taylors, of Utah, last. Each one had his regular duty
assigned to him. Charley Manser did the cooking. I
attended to the cattle when unyoked; saw that they
got water, and were put on feed for the night, when I
could find any. Then Dave Mortison took them off of
my hands, and herded them until morning. Dave
herded at night, and slept in the day-time in one of the
wagons. In the morning I would saddle the horse I used,
and go and help to round up the cattle, and drive them
to camp, preparatory to yoking. The others attended
to getting wood, water, greasing wagons, and other
things that were necessary. Mr. Hess was the " boss,"



or had charge of the outfit, and as he had been over
the road, or part of it at least, he was supposed to
know more about it than the balance of us. I had
never been east of Salina through the country, and it
was all new to me.

The first night we camped at Six Mile Creek, and
the next on the bend of the Sevier River, Wasatch
Mountains. The third night we reached Salina; this
is the last settle- 'C^ Bi6iF=,

ment we will pass
through in Utah.
Salina is a small
place, only a few
Mormon families
living there. There
were at one time
nearly one hundred
families there, but
they were fright-
ened away, or killed
by the Indians. Sa-
lina is in a very
nice location, at the
foot of the Wasatch range. On the south is an elbow
of the range, that shuts off all view from town in
that direction; on the east is the main range; while,
about one-half mile to the west of town, is the Sevier
River, which runs into Sevier Lake, and then dis-

Salina Creek runs through the town in irrigating



ditches. We found a great many of the houses de-
serted, and falling down. There was an old stone
fort near the center of town, at this time used for a
corral. There is a post-office and one small co-oper-
ative store. The houses are well made of adobes,
with dirt roofs. The place presents a gloomy and
dismal appearance. The land all around this place is
sandy, and better adapted to raising potatoes than
anything else. Children do well here, I suppose, for
they are very numerous.

From this place we go into Salina Canon, and
follow it to its head, which is the summit of the Wa-
satch range, for we are now wanting to get to Castle
Valley. Six miles before we get to the summit, the
canon w r idens out and rolls gradually away on each
side, for two miles or more, thus forming a small
valley. In front the range becomes more steep. We
find a small stream of water running through this park,
and a small cabin built of quaking asps. This is used
as a shelter and camping-house, by Mr. Jennings' herd-
ers. Mr. Jennings, of Salt Lake City, has taken up and
located land here, and has had others to locate lands
for him, until he claims here a large stock ranch. He
has hundreds of cattle here running wild, including all
ages from sucking calves to old, full-grown animals,
and they are scattered all over the country. We found
two young men here herding for Mr. Jennings.

Here we came to snow, the first we had seen on
the way. It was six miles to the top of the range, and
about the same distance down the other side out of


the snow. The ground was very muddy underneath,
where it was not rocky. In some places the snow was
fifteen feet deep. We had to shovel a road through
the snow. Our hands got wet and soft, and blistered
all over the palms. We were compelled to wade
through snow and mud all day long. None of us
expected such obstructions on the way. It was a
terrible undertaking to work our way over. We took


up one wagon at a time, and the rest of the party, not
needed in keeping the wagons up, were continually
shoveling snow. Our faces were all burned to a
blister, and our eyes presented a frightful appearance.
There was but little feed for our cattle, as the herded
droves had consumed all there was in that region. We
kept teams hauling hay from the settlements by con-
tract, until we passed the summit. Mr. Jennings had a
large corral in the park, to which we drove our cattle

216 HO W I KNO W.

after the day's work was done, and fed them upon
the hay. In this way, for five long, hard weeks, we
labored to reach the summit, Then commenced
another task of getting down, for the snow was as
deep on one side as on the other. But, on the west
side, the mountain was very steep. We rough-locked
all the wheels, then cut pine trees, and chained them
by the top to the hind end of the wagon. We used a
single yoke of heavy-wheel oxen to guide and keep
the tongue straight in the road.

Allow just a word of advice to any who may be
contemplating traveling over that road. Go on horse-
back. Take pack animals and plenty of provisions,
and not too much baggage. You will not go far
before you find baggage a great nuisance, and wish
you were rid of it. Take but few dishes in your
cooking outfit, as they are a nuisance. You will soon
learn that the fewer dishes you have, the fewer you
will need to wash, and, if they are no women in the
party, you will find dish-washing a burden. It is im-
possible to keep warm in camp, on the summit of the
Wasatch in March. The wind is continually blowing,
and the snow flying and drifting, so that you can
not see, and can scarcely stand.

Around our meals we would console ourselves with
the thought that we must expect the bitter with the
sweet. But before we get through with shoveling
snow, pushing wagons, thrashing cattle, and climbing
up and down that mountain, we concluded that we
were getting far more than our share of the bitter.



The clouds had hung low and black nearly all the time
we had been crossing the range. Enough snow kept
falling to make matters still more uncomfortable. We
were six weeks making thirteen miles, and we worked
every day, Sunday not excepted. This was less than
one-third of a mile a day. Our cattle were nearly starved.


They were fat when we started, and already they were
reduced to skeletons. Complimentary remarks would
often be passed about the thinnest ones, such as propos,
als to tie knots in their tails, to keep them from running
through the bows of the yoke. From Gilson's ranch


it was difficult to realize that we were in a straight
line, only twenty miles from Salina. But such was
the case. After passing over the summit and coming
to Gilson's, we saw rolling country ahead of us, as far
as the eye could reach. Upon inquiry, I learned that
we would not go on in that direction, however, but
would turn to the left as soon as we reached the valley
still lower down. There was little snow here, conse-
quently the cattle got plenty to eat. Here was a
splendid stream of water also. We moved on down
the canon to Ivy Creek, and were then sixty-seven
miles from Manti. The country is very dreary, and is
uninhabited, except by straggling bands of half-starved
Shoshonee Indians. It is very seldom that a white
man visits this section. In the following chapter I will
speak further of our experiences on this journey.




WE reached Green River the eighth day of May,
having been exactly two months on the road.
We had now passed through Castle Valley, so named
from the numerous castle rocks that can be seen in all
directions. Hundreds of rocks can be seen rearing
their heads in dome-like or spiral shape, high above
the mountains that encompass the valley. There is
no one living in this valley. Not a house is to
be seen for one hundred and fifty miles west of Green
River. White men are seldom seen here. There were
two brothers, white men, living on Grand River, of
whom I will speak again later. They were killed while
we were on Green River. With their exception, we
were the only white men in this part of the country.
There are a great many little streams running across
Castle Valley into Green River. Ivies Creek has clear,
good water. The next is Salaratus Creek, seven miles
from Ivies Creek. The water in this is not fit for man
or beast to drink; it is so strong of alkali. The next
is Convulsion Creek, eight miles further up. This is a
dangerous stream, narrow, with high banks. The
water runs with a very swift current.

The next stream is the Quickapaw, two miles
further on. This water, like that of Convulsion Creek,


is not good. The next is the Muddy, a very dangerous
stream of muddy water, and where we crossed with a
quick-sand bottom. We had to strain the sand and
mud out of the water, and then allow it to settle before
we could drink it. This is brackish also. From the
Muddy to the Ferrons is nine miles. This stream is
of clear, brackish water, between high banks. From the
Ferrons to the Cottonwood is ten miles. From the Cot-
tonwood to Huntington Creek is three miles. Hunt-
ington Creek is of fresh water, and is a pretty stream,
with high banks and gravelly bottom. We turned to
the right at Huntington Creek, and went on past the
Rock Wells. The first wells are eleven, and the
second fifteen miles from Huntington Creek. From
this point to the Green River is thirty-five miles. It is
one hundred and sixty-four miles to the settlements.

Castle Valley includes an area of several thousand
acres, but it is not very valuable for agricultural pur-
poses. There is some little grass, but it is nearly all
alkali grass. The soil is full of sand and fine gravel.
The mountains on either side (until we get near Green
River), are of sand and sand rock. There are large
bowlders and fragments of sand rock scattered over
the lower end of the valley. Hundreds of sand buttes
are to be seen scattered about here and there. Time,
the rains and the wind have crumbled and washed
down their sides, until they stand up like tall pyramids,
hundreds of feet in height. We could climb to the top
of some of them by a very easy and safe ascent.
Others are so perpendicular that the top cannot be


reached without the aid of some mechanical contrivance.
From some of these giant points of sand rock, we could
look out over the many lower buttes standing in the valley.
The place appeared very much as if you were standing in
the center of the plain, overlooking an immense ruin.

Rock Wells are well named from the place in which
they are located. They are not wells of water fed
from below the ground; they are merely holes in the
naked, black rock, which is found here without dirt
enough on a square mile of it to cover a bushel of
potatoes. It is a large, bare plain of smooth rock,
dipping in all directions up and down. There are
holes in these rocks, from one foot to hundreds of feet
in depth. It sometimes rains very hard here, and these
holes are then filled with water. When we passed
through, we suffered very much for want of good water.
What we got from these holes had to be strained, and
then boiled, before we could use it. It was full of little
animals, from the minutest size up to as large as a man's
thumb. After we strained the water, we had a larger
pile of these than there was bulk of water. The
cattle fared worse than we did. We watered them
from buckets, and then turned them loose, to hunt over
the mountains for what feed they could find growing
out of the crevices in the rocks, w r hich was so very
little that they almost starved.

Going down this mountain, we traveled for miles
over the solid bed rock. Sometimes we would have
all the wheels of the wagons locked. Then we would
go for a little distance with the locks all off, and then


again would be compelled to double up the teams for
a hard pull. After we got over this, we came to an
alkali sand plain. The alkali is so thick that it looks
like snow. This is a wretched place through which to
travel. The sand is so loose that the wagons cut
down to the axles all the time. The dry alkali flying
in the air soon blinds both man and beast. We were
white with dust. Our flesh burned and smarted with
an itching and pain. Of all the alkali plains in the
West, this is the worst I ever traveled over.

When we reached Green River, we found a most
beautiful valley. It was so different from any thing I had
ever seen, that I pronounced it at first sight one of
the prettiest places in the West. Beautiful grass was
waving on the river bottoms, and the trees were all out
in leaf and bloom. Green River Valley is narrow at the
point where we entered it. The river runs crosswise
of the first bench lands. The bottom lands are a half
mile in width. On either side of the bench lands, the
river runs through canons, with rugged, rough mount-
ains on either side, towering up higher than the timber
line. The canon is here separated by a valley eight
miles in width, so that the length of Green River Valley
is the width of Salaratus Valley, the valleys crossing
each other. Green River Valley is ninety feet lower
than Salaratus Valley.

When we reached the river, it was so high we
could not ford it. We tried a raft, but failed to get
over in this way, as the swift, running current would
sweep a heavy log raft into the canon below. The river


was eight hundred feet wide between the banks, which
are high and undermined in many places with the
water. They are on this account continually falling in
here and there, making a terrible noise that can be


heard a long distance. After we tried to cross by a raft
and failed, we had to send a man on horseback back to
Manti for a boat, and the rest of us remained to guard


the train and herd the cattle. I passed away part of
the time in hunting up and down the river. We had
a beautiful place for our camp. This was the first
perfect camping place we had found. There were
beautiful groves of large cotton-wood trees along the
river bottom, furnishing plenty of wood for fires; no
mud, some sand, abundance of grass for our cattle,
and plenty of fish and game. This abundance of good
things was enough to repay us for much of the hard-
ship thus far encountered. There were some in the
party who seemed to have no idea of the beautiful.
They might travel all over the country, and see all its
beauties, and after all would pick out a well-filled cup-
board as the prettiest sight they ever met with. They
never could understand how anything was to be gained
by such a journey as this, though through such grand and
beautiful scenery. Their idea of traveling would be to
follow the valley roads, and feast with their Mormon
brothers over night.

We had all started out with bright anticipations of a
two months' trip. We had now been over two months
out, and were not yet across the first river, and there
were several wide rivers yet to cross. But there we were,
and I determined to get all the enjoyment possible out
of this journey. I was very thankful to be out of the
cold and chilly storms of the Wasatch. The skies
were blue, and the days were as warm as in summer.

After having rested a day or two, I concluded to
go up the river to the canon, about five miles distant.
So taking my gun, I started early in the morning.



Near the river were patches of brush, so thick that it
was impossible to pass through. In addition to the brush
were numerous
sloughs full of water,
some of them deep.
These sloughs were
covered with ducks
and geese, which
would fly f r o m
one side to the other
as I approached near
them. I saw deer
and antelope feeding
in large numbers.
They would bound
away upon my ap-
proach. I went back
f a r t h e r from the
river, and got upon
higher ground, out
of the brush. There
I found the ground
cut up with deep gul-
lies. After traveling
a number of miles,
I came to the mouth
of the canon. I found


and rugged mountains on either side of the river, which is
very narrow, and runs with a much swifter current here.



I concluded, as it was yet early, to climb to the top
of the mountain, and take a view of the surrounding
country. I found this a difficult undertaking. I would
climb awhile, and then rest. I could look back and see
the river twisting along in its course to the canon below,
there to be lost sight of in another range ol mountains,
separate from the one I was then climbing. This is an
uninhabited region, and has never been marred by the
hand of civilization. The members of our party are
the only white men on the river. Flowers of the
richest hues, and of endless variety adorned as with a
robe of beauty the extended valley below, while the
distant green groves, dotting the banks of the river
here and there before me, appeared like emerald isles
floating in a sea of glory. I could but gaze with rapture

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Online LibraryJames SwisherHow I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience → online text (page 12 of 21)