James Swisher.

How I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience online

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of Philadelphia ; Chris. Olten, of Indiana ; George Good-
hall, of Indiana ; D. P. Wheeler, of either Dayton or
Springfield, Ohio ; George Brady, of St. Louis ; Wil-
liam Carlton, and one more, who went by the name of


"Arkansaw," because he had formerly been a resident
of Arkansas. His name I never knew. The four who
escaped with me were : A. Bennett, of Kentucky, still
alive ; George Bales, of Keokuk, Iowa, now living in
Nevada ; J. T. Taylor, now somewhere in California or
Nevada, and John Middleton, now in Leadville, Colo-
rado. From Prescott, Bennett and I went to Pioche,




IT was my fortune to spend three 'months in the
mountains along the Colorado Canon. The Grand
Canon extends from the mouth of the Little Colorado
River down to the mouth of the Yampa. The Colo-
rado River runs through canons from the mouth of the
Dirty Devil, in Utah, to the Rio Virgin, in Nevada. I
am unable to say how far this is in miles; but I know
that from the mouth of the Dirty Devil to the mouth
of the Rio Virgin is twenty days' hard riding by the
shortest trail you can go.

The main Colorado Canon, including all its curves,
is over one hundred miles in length, and the river
runs through canons for over four hundred miles. The
Colorado is the mighty river of the West. The Green,
Grand, Cottonwood, Convulsion, Little Colorado, San
Juan, Uncompahgre, and a large number of other
streams, all pour into it the water from the melting
snows in the mountains, and form a mighty river.

I joined a company of forty-one young fellows (Mr.
Bennett was one of the company), who started out
from Nevada most of the company from Pioche. The
principal object of our expedition was to prospect the
Buckskin Mountains. Most all kinds of stories were
afloat in reference to this locality, among the rest, that



this was where an expedition from California under
Col. Baker had gone and found such vast leads of rich
deposits of gold. But the Indians had killed all the
party except two, Baker himself being among the
missing. The two that did escape did so merely by
accidental circumstances.

One fine morning our company all met together at
a point between the Dry Valley Mill and Bullion City,
and started off to try the chances of newer fields in the
Buckskin country. Some of us were mounted on good
animals; others on hungry, lean looking mustangs and
mules. With our traps and accoutrements, our pack
and riding animals, we formed an ideal group of front-
iersmen off for an expedition, or, a scout after Indians.

I had heard much of the place we desired to reach
and of the kind of country we would have to travel
through; but I afterwards found that I had gained my
information from men who knew nothing about the
matter. There are always a great many ready to tell
you all about the Buckskin Mountains and the Grand
Canon of the Colorado. But nine out of ten of them
never saw that portion of the country.

As for a road, there is none. The only way to go
is to follow trails, sometimes of Indians, at other times
of some wild animals ; and sometimes you must leave
the trails entirely and go across the mountains, which
are so abrupt, barren, and desolate, that you wish
greatly for the land of civilization once more, long be-
fore the day passes into night. After we arrived on
the Muddy River, in Utah, we then changed our time of

136 1IO W I KNO W.

traveling from day to night, as we thought that plan
would be the safest.

Sometimes we were in narrow valleys, at other times
on top of mountain ranges, traveling across them or
lengthwise as the case might be, always keeping to one
course as nearly as we possibly could. In one place
the top of the range was a vast sheet of lava. We
traveled over it for two days without wood or water,
for neither was to be found. After we had gone two
days without water, and were almost perishing from
thirst, Bennett, four others and myself started in search
of water, taking all the canteens with us. We must
have gone fifteen miles when we found a small supply
in a hole in the rocks. There was no way of knowing
how long it had been there. It was alive with little
wigglers. We took a pocket-handkerchief and strained
the water through it from one tin-cup into another,
thus procuring enough to fill our canteens; but at the
same time throwing a larger bulk from the handker-
chief than we were putting into the canteens. I have
tasted a great deal of bad water ; but that supply was
the worst I ever met with. When we arrived back at
camp again, we found there had been a mutiny, and
that fifteen of our party had gone off in another direc-
tion. They had taken, it was claimed, more than their
share of the supplies, and some were growling and
swearing about it. Others were in favor of following
them up and reclaiming a portion of the supplies.
Everything was suggested, but nothing was done.

As for Bennett and myself, we had made up our



minds to go to the Colorado Canon at least, or to lose

our scalps on the

way. So I spoke

to the men, telling

them that none 'of

us had ever been

there; that we had

talked the whole

matter over before

we left Pioche; and

at that time we

were all of one

opinion. We were

at the start well

aware that we must

stand together for

the sake of our mu-

tual protection, or

else not go at all. I

acknowledged that

we were then in the

worst country I

had ever seen ; but

I had not known

that it was so bad

before I started. But

I supposed that we

were now over the

worst of the road,

and I t h O U g h t it THE SEARCH FOR WATER.


likely that we would soon arrive where there was
plenty of water and game.

But some of them seemed very much down-hearted,
depressed, and to be feeling very sore about something,
I knew not what. They were growling and complain-
ing, and one of them came to me, and said, if I would
give him rations to last him on his way back, he would
leave us. Then I got mad and told the party, that if
there were any who felt timorous or afraid, or did not
want to go, they were at perfect liberty to take provis-
ions, and leave us in peace. But, if they would leave
a proper share of the provisions for Bennett and four
more of us, we were going through, if such a thing
were possible. Some said they would see us out ;
others could not make up their minds as to what they
wanted to do for a long time; but finally all came
around and were willing to go on.

.Everything went on all right until we had our ani-
mals saddled ready to start, when another mutiny broke
out, which lasted for over an hour. I then gathered
together from the supplies what was my own, and took
care to take my full share. Bennett did likewise.
Some still said they would see us through. "No," I
said, "I* do not wish any man or set of men to see me
out of danger that I voluntarily run into. You all
know that I did not raise this company. Hess and
others were the leaders in raising the company, and
now, if they want to throw the responsibility on a few
who only volunteered to go, I for one will not travel
with them. But I will go through alone, if no one


wishes voluntarily to go with me." Bennett and I had
plainly seen that they were endeavoring to throw the
whole of the responsibility upon our shoulders, when
we really had nothing to do with organizing the expe-
dition at all, having merely volunteered to accompany
it as members.

That evening eleven of us started on, leaving the
balance to go where they pleased, so they did not
travel with us. It was threatened before we left that
we would be fired upon. But we had had our say,
and at the time I fully expected that we would have
a fuss, which would have been very bad for all of us-
The other party outnumbered us, but were divided
among themselves. But we were as determined as
ever men were not to let them get the drop on us, and
if a muss did break out, to put it through in the short-
est possible way.

We got started off, however, without any one being
hurt, and a merry little crowd we were. There was
quite a difference between our little party of eleven, as
we jogged along side by side, and the big, noisy, bois-
terous crowd that started out together at first. The
flying moments passed unheeded by as we rode along,
engaged in mutual exchange of thought and feeling.
And we were just flattering ourselves over having got-
ten rid of the worst part of our crowd so easily, when
five of those whom we had left behind overtook us.
They reported that the others had gone back. But that
they would go with us as long as a button remained to
their coats.


That day we camped in a secluded spot at the foot
of one of the peaks, where we found a little water for
our horses, which did them a great deal of good, for
they had been without water for three days.

I was on guard that morning, in the first watch. I
concluded to go to the top of the peak and make some
general observations of the country. Armed with my
rifle, revolver, knife, and Bennett's spy-glass, I started
to make a circuit of the mountain for some distance,
so as to find some place to climb up. I had not gone
more than a couple of hundred yards, scarcely out of
sight of camp, when I heard a noise, as of a stone
rolling down the mountain. I stopped, and looking in
the direction of the noise I saw a small stone, as large
as my fist, rolling down the slope. Looking up in the
direction from which the rock had come, to ascertain
what had started it, I beheld, not more than twenty
yards to my right, and a little above me, a monstrous
grizzly bear, in the act of raising himself in a sitting
posture. I suppose that he took this attitude in order
to see, think, and determine whether it was best to
hold his position or make a retreat. The old fellow
did not look so wonderfully savage, for he wore more
of a smiling look about his eyes than that of the most
ferocious of wild beasts. He sat perfectly upright,
and not a muscle or a limb did he move. His fore-
arms were drawn up upon his breast, and I could see
his paws, with their tremendous claws drooping in front.
I could see but little to encourage me in my suddenly
perilous situation, when I came to fully appreciate my



danger. He sat there in front of me looking entirely
calm and collected, free from all show of excitement.


and as firm as a rock. I well knew it would need
only one blow of his paw to knock me into eternity;
for the strength of the grizzly is greater than that of


any other animal of similar size in existence. He is
king of the brute kingdom. The hunting of the grizzly
bear averages more ; disasters than the hunting of any
other animal. Hunting some of the smaller and more
inoffensive animals is followed with enjoyment, and
affords recreation and amusement to thousands, who
are, in pursuing these animals, in no danger of being
killed, crippled, or maimed for life. But there are very
few who desire to hunt for the grizzly bear, and though
often seen by travelers and scouts when passing through
the hills, canons, and forests of the Rocky Mountains,
he is generally left to pursue his journey in peace.

Oftentimes the scout runs up against one as I did
this one, and has no chance to retreat, for a grizzly
can out-run any man. On a mountain side they can
out-run a horse. A horse might out-run a grizzly
in the valley, or in rolling country; but there there is
no grizzly. He is an inhabitant of rougher regions.
In the rough country of California there are hundreds
of them. They subsist principally on acorns, berries,
and toolie roots, of which they are very fond. These
toolies grow around lakes, ponds, marshes, and lagoons,
sometimes higher than a man's head, with roots in the
muck and soil similar in looks, except smaller and
thicker, to the swamp dock of the eastern ponds. Here
the grizzly bear and wild hog feed and keep them-
selves fat. The bear stays in the mountains all day,
and comes down to feed at night. After feeding awhile
on roots the grizzly generally goes out to try to finish
his feast with a young colt, or a calf, pigs, geese, or


anything he can kill and carry away. I have never
known them to molest grown cattle or horses.

Often you will see them chained to posts as pets.
These have generally been caught while young. I have
seen a great many pet grizzlies; but I never saw but
few that I could handle. They are most always cross
to strangers. You cannot strike one, for he will sit
upright, and either take your stick away from you or
knock it out of your hand. When you make your pass
at him he will not show the least fear, but rather the
more determination to thwart your every move. If
you shoot at and only wound him, then the grizzly is
a most dangerous animal. At such a time the most
perfect nerve is required. He will then charge on his
nearest foe, mad with pain, and with more than ordi-
nary strength. I have seen large, rough-barked trees
where they had torn the bark away, clean into the wood,
from a space ten inches square at one single stroke of
the paw, and this, too, in their last dying struggles.
Even after the animal is fatally wounded he often has
strength enough to make an attack. Then all depends
upon courage and coolness, and upon rapid and careful
shooting. The great danger, the renown incident to the
capture of so ferocious, and, when wounded, so blood-
thirsty a beast, the nerve required, all combine to lend
an extraordinary zest to hunting or attacking the grizzly
bear. When a tender-foot first comes West he yearns
to encounter a grizzly. And generally when he does
get sight of one his courage fails him, and Mr. Bruin
is allowed to depart in peace.


When, on this morning, I beheld this grizzly so near
at hand, sitting upon his haunches and looking at me,
t l, in a moment, took in the dreadful and dangerous
'character of the predicament I was placed in. I was
sure to be overtaken if I should run. My only safety,
that I could see, was in my rifle. Then I wondered if
I was cool enough to take a steady aim. I thought I
was; but, at the same time, I knew if I failed there
would not be time enough for me to load and shoot
my rifle the second time, since he was above me and
would immediately charge down upon me at such a
rate that I would no doubt get very nervous, and even
did I again shoot, it would be with a poor aim, and I
would only enrage him the more, and no doubt be torn
to pieces by his powerful claws, before assistance could
arrive from camp. I looked at him but a moment,
and in that moment a profound sense of my great
clanger came over me. But I hastily put my fears
aside, and, dropping the glass lightly at my feet, I
brought my rifle down and fired. I used an ounce
explosive ball. My shot was well aimed, and struck
him under the fore leg. As he sat a little quartering
to me, the ball ranged towards his back-bone, com-
pletely smashing it. When the gun cracked I was
certain my ball had taken mortal effect. But to make
assurance doubly sure, I gave him another shot. Then
I heard the boys coming from camp, on double-quick,
as I could tell by the way the stones and gravel were
thundering down the mountain side. But, by the time
they got to me, the fun was over, and Mr. Bruin was


my meat. He was very large. We estimated that he
would weigh nearly or quite eight hundred pounds.

After the usual complimentary remarks of the occa-
sion had been passed, we left our king of the forest,
the boys to return to camp, and I to proceed to the
summit of the peak. After I had gained the summit,
which was through no little exertion, it being very diffi-
cult and hard to climb, I could see a great distance
on all sides of me. The bright sun was shining on
the many different colored peaks. The calm solitude
of the place caused strange feelings, indeed, in my
mind. I sat on that peak for six long hours, viewing
the many different and curious formations of nature. I
noted the many different colors of t % he rocks, as the sun
would reflect upon their surface. I could see wild an-
imals of various kinds in the distance, such as coyotes,
deer in herds, and others which I thought were ante-
lopes. And once I saw a band of Indians; they were
a long distance off; but I could make out that they
were not hunting, but traveling. Perhaps they were
going to new hunting and fishing grounds. I could see
in what direction they were going, and that was all-
important to me. I could not tell how many there
were; I could see a large party.

I was not sorry when I was relieved from the guard,
for the warm sunshine had made me sleepy. I did not
speak to any one of having seen the Indians, for I
considered that they would be none the better off for
knowing it; and there was no need to alarm the lads
any more than was necessary.



I lay down as soon as I arrived at camp, and was
quickly lost in sleep dreaming of the girl in a far-off,
friendly land; or the one whom I had never trusted
enough in my own native home. At such times the
light of the world, for the dreamer, dies out, and only
disappointments crown his efforts until at last he loses
all hope. Alone in a strange place, without one of his
kindred near to know his wants, or to learn even one
of the many different conjectures that pass through the
brain. But, hold on here! I find I arn leaving my
subject entirely. Should I keep on in this strain some
kind-hearted people will think I am in love, or in as
bad a condition as if I were.

Well, when I awoke, the sunlight had become as
dim as twilight, struggling in only here and there,
through the branches of the small trees. When we
had finished supper, which was then ready, and were
sitting around in a circle, lounging against the trunks
of the quaking asps, which grew in great numbers
there, we then gave the subject of our journey a grave
consideration. Each held between his lips a wooden
pipe. The smoke that issued from them went rising
above our heads, forming many-shaped curls to be lost
sight of in the low boughs above. Our plans had been
formed, and the swift darkness of night was falling
around us; already the gulches, hollows, and ravines
were shrouded in impenetrable gloom, and the black
shadows were creeping up the mountain sides when
we emerged from our place of repose, to saddle and
pack, and jog along.


I was riding in the lead, with no trail, no road,
nothing that we could see to follow. So we took a
star to guide us and on we went, over gulches and
gullies, up mountains and down again, to then climb
others, perhaps worse than those already passed over.
We had traveled nearly all night in this way, when^
about three o'clock in the morning, we came to a place,
that baffled us for a long time. It was one of those
places, which are to be found in many parts of the
West, where the water has left standing perpendicular
precipices of rock to fence in the little valleys along
the river bottom. Dismounting, I was leading my
horse along the edge of the precipice that I might find
some place to get down to the valley below. I had
gone in this way as much as a mile, trying to find a
trail leading down, when I found one as I thought. So,
calling one of the boys to hold my horse, I started
down the trail to see where it went, and to discover if
it were possible for a horse to follow it down. I
could see that the bluff was very steep, and if I fell I
would fall a long way without any chance of preserva-
tion. I wished for daylight, for a balloon, or some fly-
ing machine anything to help .me down to the valley
below. I knew there was water there, for I could hear
it. So, continuing on in the little bit of a trail, that
one could scarcely walk in for the unevenness of its
bottom, I had made good progress, and was, I thought,
half way down, when suddenly, just a few feet in front
of me, and a little below on the trail, a wild, terrible
howl or scream rang out through the darkness. I


knew at once that I had a panther to contend with,
and that is an animal to be terribly dreaded, for it is
^arge, quick, muscular, and powerful. I brought my
rifle to position as quickly as ever gun was brought to
readiness, I imagine. Scarcely had I done this, when
the animal gave vent to another howl, more terrible
than the first.

What should I do? I could not run had I wished
to. I was then standing on a little, narrow trail of
rocks, with a mighty chasm below me, and a precipice
of rocks above me. I doubled myself down as close to
the trail as I could, and at the same time drew my
knife for further defense. When I got close down to
the trail I could see the panther's eyes glistening like
two coals of fire. I had hesitated for a little spell. I
was afraid to shoot, for in the darkness a shot is un-
certain; and, if the animal should spring upon me
there, I would certainly fall off. I thought of jumping
off; but I did not know the distance down. Then
again I knew, if I did anything I must do it at once.
So I threw my gun forward and pulled, aiming at his
glaring eyes as near as I could. But my gun failed to
go for the first time since I had owned it. I drew my
pistol, which was a Smith & Wesson forty-four. While
I was doing that the beast again gave utterance to a
howl that pierced me through, and made me feel that
my fate was sealed. I thought that he was stealthily
drawing nearer and nearer to me. His eyes were glis-
tening with penetrating brightness. I could feel my-
self shaking from head to foot. I was terribly fright-


ened. I had been on many battle-fields, where men
were falling all around me, and the groans of the
wounded rent the air; I had heard them plead in vain
for assistance that was beyond the power of man to
give; but never before in my life did I feel as I then
felt. I knew my last chance depended upon my pistol.
I could see the long, lithe form settling for the fatal
leap. Then, holding my pistol out, resting the barrel
and cylinder along my finger, I aimed at his eyes, and
pulled the trigger. He bounded into the air, and fell
downward into the darkness below. I heard him when
he struck; it sounded a long way down.

I could hear one of my companions calling to me
from above to know if I was hurt. Answering him
that I was not, I went on down the trail, and found it
about the same thing all the way. So I hallooed for
my companions to come down carefully. When they
had all got down, we pitched camp for the day. We
had not long to wait for the morning, as day was fast
coming out of the sombre darkness. After daylight
we found that we were in a beautiful little park.

I was interested to know whether I had killed my
animal or not. I did not know whether I had hit him,
or only frightened him, and made him jump. Three
of us went to see if we could find any trace of him.
We had not long to look, for we saw him lying on the
slide rock, where he had stopped rolling a good bit be-
fore we reached the place. He was a nice, sleek, large-
looking animal, over seven feet long from the point of
the nose to the end of the tail. He had fallen over



sixty feet from where he was when I shot him. I of-

ten think
and won-
der what
would my
fate have
been had
he made
the spring
upon me.
I f o u n d
that the
reason my
gun would
not go off
was be-
cause I
had got a
very small
twig f a s t
in front of
the ham-
m er , so
the needle
could not
strike the

While at
this place




caught plenty of nice trout. Some of them would
weigh a pound or more. We were all delighted with
the place. After a time I lay down to sleep, but only
fell into a disturbed slumber, which was worse than
wakefulness, for it was haunted by such terrible dreams.
I was dreaming of wild animals howling, and roaming
about all night, or else of the savage Indians, and that
one of these was in the act of lifting what little hair
there was left from the top of my head. I finally
awoke, screaming for the boys to run for their lives, as
the Indians had me and would soon have the balance

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Online LibraryJames SwisherHow I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience → online text (page 8 of 21)