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Reprint of pp. 1-186, 217-264, of original edition: Philadelphia,
1839. "A Visit to the Sandwich Islands, Chili, &c., with a Scientific
Appendix," also contained in this edition, is here omitted as irrelevant
to the scope of the present series.











Memtfer of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.



ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1839, by


in the Office of the Clerk of the District Court of the Eastern District of



THE Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company was formed
in 1834, by several individuals in New York and Boston. Capt. WYETH,
having an interest in the enterprise, collected a party of men to cross
the continent to the Pacific, with the purpose chiefly of establishing
trading posts beyond the Rocky Mountains and on the coast.

The idea of making one of Capt. Wyeth's party was suggested to
the author by the eminent botanist, Mr. NUTTALL, who had himself
determined to join the expedition across the North American wilderness.
Being fond of Natural History, particularly the science of Ornithology,
the temptation to visit a country hitherto unexplored by naturalists
was irresistible; and the following pages, originally penned for the
family-circle, and without the slightest thought of publication, will
furnish some account of his travels.



Arrival at St. Louis Preparations for the journey Saque In-
dians Their appearance, dress, and manners Squaws
Commencement of a pedestrian tour Sandhill cranes
Prairie settlers Their hospitality Wild pigeons, golden
plovers and prairie hens Mr. P. and his daughters An
abundant repast Simplicity of the prairie maidens A deer
and turkey hunt Loutre Lick hotel A colored charon
Comfortable quarters Young men of the west Reflections
on leaving home Loquacity of the inhabitants Gray
squirrels Boonville Parroquets Embarkation in a
steamboat Large catfish Accident on board the boat
Arrival at Independence Description of the town En-
campment of the Rocky Mountain company Character of
the men Preparation for departure Requisites of a
leader Backwoods familiarity Milton Sublette and his
band Rev. Jason Lee, the missionary A letter from
home Mormonites Military discipline and its conse-
quences, 121


Departure of the caravan A storm on the prairie Arrange-
ment of the camp Kanzas Indians Kanzas river
Indian lodges Passage of the river Buffalo canoes
Kanzas chief Upper Kaw village their wigwams
Catfish and ravens Return of Mr. Sublette Pawnee trace
Desertion of three men Difficulties occasioned by losing
the trail Intelligence of Mr. Sublette's party Escape of
the band of horses Visit of three Otto Indians Anecdote
of Richardson, the chief hunter his appearance and char-
acter White wolves and antelopes Buffalo bones
Sublette's deserted camps Lurking wolves, . . .141

u6 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21


Arrival at the Platte river Wolves and antelopes Anxiety of
the men to see buffalo Visit of two spies from the Grand
Pawnees Forced march A herd of buffalo Elk
Singular conduct of the horses Killing a buffalo Indian
mode of procuring buffalo Great herd Adventure with
an Indian in the tent Indian feat with bow and arrow
Notice of the Pawnee tribes Disappearance of the buffalo
from the plains of the Platte A hunting adventure Kill-
ing a buffalo Butchering of a bull Shameful destruction
of the game Hunters' mode of quenching thirst, . . 157


Change in the face of the country Unpleasant visitation N.
fork of the Platte A day's journey over the hills Poor
pasture Marmots Rattlesnake and gopher Natural-
ist's success and sacrifices A sand storm Wild horses
Killing of a doe antelope Bluffs The Chimney "Zip
Koon," the young antelope Birds Feelings and cogita-
tions of a naturalist Laramie's fork Departure of two
"free trappers" on a summer "hunt" Black hills Red
butes Sweet-water river, and Rock Independence Avo-
ce t s Wind river mountains Rocky Mountain sheep
Adventure with a grizzly bear Rattlesnakes Toilsome
march, and arrival at Sandy river Suffering of the horses
Anticipated delights of the rendezvous, . . . J 73


Arrival at the Colorado The author in difficulty Loss of a
journal, and advice to travelling tyros The rendezvous
Motley groups infesting it Rum drinking, swearing, and
other accomplishments in vogue Description of the camp
Trout Abundance of game Cock of the plains [vi]
Leave the rendezvous An accession to the band A rene-
gado Blackfoot chief Captain Stewart and Mr. Ashworth

Muddy creek More carousing Abundance of trout

Bear river A hard day's march Volcanic country
White-clay pits and "Beer spring " Rare birds and com-

1833-1834] Townsend's Narrative 117

mon birds Mr. Thomas McKay Captain Bonneville's
party Captains Stewart and Wyeth's visit to the lodge of
the " bald chief " Blackfoot river Adventure with a
grizzly bear Death of " Zip Koon " Young grizzly bears
and buffalo calves A Blackfoot Indian Dangerous ex-
periment of McKay the three " Tetons " Large trout
Shoshone* river Site of " Fort Hall " Preparations for a
buffalo hunt, 189


Departure of the hunting camp A false alarm Blackfeet
Indians Requisites of a mountain-man Good fare, and
good appetites An experiment Grizzly bears Nez
Perce" Indian Adventure with a grizzly bear Hunters'
anecdotes Homeward bound Arrival at " Fort Hall "
A salute Emaciation from low diet Mr. McKay's com-
pany Buffalo lodges Effects of judicious training
Indian worship A " Camp Meeting " Mr. Jason Lee, a
favorite A fatal accident and a burial, . . . 212


Departure of McKay's party, Captain Stewart, and the mission-
aries Debauch at the fort Departure of the company

Poor provision Blackfeet hunting ground Sufferings
from thirst Goddin's creek Antoine Goddin, the trapper

Scarcity of game A buffalo Rugged mountains
More game Unusual economy Habits of the white wolf
" Thornburg's pass " Difficult travelling The captain
in jeopardy among the snow A countermarch Deserted
Banneck camp Toilsome and dangerous passage of the
mountain Mallade river Beaver dams, and beaver
A party of Snake Indians Another Banneck camp " Ka-
mas prairie " Indian mode of preparing the kamas
Racine blanc, or biscuit root Loss of horses by fatigue
Boise*e or Big-wood river Salmon Choke-cherries, &c. 230


A substitute for game, and a luxurious breakfast Expectations
of a repast, and a disappointment Visit of a Snake chief

1 1 8 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21

his abhorrence of horse meat A band of Snake Indians

their chief Trade with Indians for salmon Mr. Ash-
worth's adventure An Indian horse-thief Visit to the
Snake camp A Banneck camp Supercilious conduct of
the Indians Snake river Equipment of a trapping party
Indian mode of catching salmon Loss of a favorite
horse Powder river Cut rocks Grand Ronde Cap-
tain Bonneville Kayouse and Nez Perce Indians An
Indian beauty Blue mountains A feline visit, . .250


Passage of the Blue mountains Sufferings from thirst Utalla
river A transformation A novel meal Columbia river
and Fort Walla-walla A dinner with the missionaries
Anecdote of Mr. Lee Brief notice of the Fort Departure
of the missionaries Notice of the Walla-walla Indians
Departure for Fort Vancouver Wild ducks Indian
graves Visits from Indians Ophthalmia, a prevalent
disease A company of Chinook Indians The Dalles
The party joined by Captain Wyeth Embarkation in
canoes A heavy gale Dangerous navigation Pusillani-
mous conduct of an Indian helmsman A zealous botanist
Departure of Captain Wyeth with five men Cascades
A portage Meeting with the missionaries Loss of a
canoe A toilsome duty Arrival at Fort Vancouver
Dr. John McLoughlin, the chief factor Domiciliation of
the travellers at Fort Vancouver, 275


Fort Vancouver Agricultural and other improvements Van-
couver " camp " Expedition to the Wallammet The
falls A village of [vii] Klikatat Indians Manner of flat-
tening the head A Flathead infant Brig " May Dacre "

Preparations for a settlement Success of the naturalists

Chinook Indians their appearance and costume
Ague and fever Desertion of the Sandwich Islanders
Embarkation for a trip to the Islands George, the Indian
pilot Mount Coffin A visit to the tombs Superstition

Visit to an Indian house Fort George Site of Astoria

1833-1834] T owns end' s Narrative 119

A blind Indian boy Cruel and unfeeling conduct of the
savages their moral character Baker's Bay Cape
Disappointment Dangerous bar at the entrance of the
river The sea beach Visit of Mr. Ogden Passage
across the bar, 297

. . . Arrival at the Columbia, 317


Passage up the Columbia Birds A trip to the Wallammet
Methodist missionaries their prospects Fort William
Band-tail pigeons Wretched condition of the Indians at the
falls A Kallapooyah village Indian cemetery Super-
stitions Treatment of diseases Method of steaming
" Making medicine " Indian sorcerers Death of Thorn-
burg An inquest Verdict of the jury Inordinate appe-
tite for ardent spirits Eight men drowned Murder of
two trappers by the Banneck Indians Arrival of Captain
Thing His meeting and skirmish with the Blackfeet Indians

Massacre A narrow escape, . . . . .318


Indians of the Columbia Departure of Mr. Nuttall and Dr.
Gairdner Arrival of the Rev. Samuel Parker his object

Departure of the American brig Swans Indian mode
of taking them A large wolf A night adventure A
discovery, and restoration of stolen property Fraternal

' tenderness of an Indian Indian vengeance Death of
Wask&na, the Indian girl " Busy-body," the little chief
A village of Kowalitsk Indians Ceremony of " making
medicine " Exposure of an impostor Success of legiti-
mate medicines Departure from Fort Vancouver for a
visit to the interior Arrival of a stranger " Cape Horn "

Tilki, the Indian chief Indian villages [viii] Arrival
at Fort Walla-walla Sharp-tailed grouse Commence-
ment of a journey to the Blue mountains, . . . . 332

1 20 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21


A village of Kayouse Indians Appearance and dresses of the
women family worship Visit to the Blue mountains
Dusky grouse Return to Walla- walla Arrival of Mr.
McLeod, and the missionaries Letters from home
Death of Antoine Goddin A renegade white man As-
sault by the 'Walla- walla Indians Passage down the Colum-
bia Rapids A dog for supper Prairies on fire
Fishing Indians Their romantic appearance Salmon
huts The shoots Dangerous navigation Death of
Tilki Seals Indian stoicism and contempt of pain
Skookoom, the strong chief his death Maiming, an evi-
dence of grief Arrival at Fort Vancouver A visit to Fort
George Indian cemeteries Lewis and Clarke's house

A medal Visit to Chinook Hospitality of the Indians

Chinamus' home The idol Canine inmates, . . 349


Northern excursion Salmon Indian mode of catching them

Flathead children A storm on the bay Pintail ducks

Simple 'mode of killing salmon Return to Chinook
Indian garrulity Return to Fort George Preparations
for a second trip to the Sandwich Islands Detention within

the cape, 365



Arrival at St. Louis Preparations for the journey Saque Indians
Their appearance, dress, and manners Squaws Commencement
of a pedestrian tour Sandhill cranes Prairie settlers Their
hospitality Wild pigeons, golden plovers and prairie hens Mr.
P. and his daughters An abundant repast Simplicity of the
prairie maidens A deer and turkey hunt Loutre Lick
hotel Unwelcome bed-fellows A colored Charon Comfortable
quarters Young men of the west Reflections on leaving home
Loquacity of the inhabitants Gray squirrels Boonville
Parroquets Embarkation in a steamboat Large catfish Ac-
cident on board the boat Arrival at Independence Description
of the town Procure a supply of horses Encampment of the
Rocky Mountain company Character of the men Preparation
for departure Requisites of a leader Backwoods familiarity
Milton Sublette and his band Rev. Jason Lee, the missionary
A letter from home Mormonites Military discipline and its

ON the evening of the 24th of March, 1834, Mr. NUTTALL*
and myself arrived at St. Louis, in the steamboat Boston,
from Pittsburg.

On landing, we had the satisfaction to learn that Captain
WYETH was already there, and on the afternoon of the next
day we called upon him, and consulted him in reference to
the outfit which it would be necessary to purchase for the
journey. He accompanied us to a store in the town, and
selected a number of articles for us, among which were
several pairs of leathern [10] pantaloons, enormous over-
coats, made of green blankets, and white wool hats, with

1 For sketch of Thomas Nuttall, see preface to NuttalPs Journal, our volume
xiii. ED.

122 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21

round crowns, fitting tightly to the head, brims five inches
wide, and almost hard enough to resist a rifle ball.

The day following we saw about one hundred Indians
of the Saque tribe, who had left their native forests for the
purpose of treating for the sale of some land at the Jefferson
barracks. 2 They were dressed and decorated in the true
primitive style; their heads shaved closely, and painted
with alternate stripes of fiery red and deep black, leaving
only the long scalping tuft, in which was interwoven a
quantity of elk hair and eagle's feathers. Each man was
furnished with a good blanket, and some had an under
dress of calico, but the greater number were entirely naked
to the waist. The faces and bodies of the men were, almost
without an exception, fantastically painted, the predomi-
nant color being deep red, with occasionally a few stripes
of dull clay white around the eyes and mouth. I observed
one whose body was smeared with light colored clay, inter-
spersed with black streaks. They were unarmed, with the
exception of tomahawks and knives. The chief of the band,

1 For the early history of the Sauk Indians, see J. Long's Voyages, in our volume
ii, p.iSs, note 85. By the treaty of 1804 they ceded a large portion of their lands
(in the present Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois) to the United States. Upon re-
moving to the west of the Mississippi, as per agreement with the federal govern-
ment, they broke into several well-defined and often quarrelsome bands. This
division was intensified by the War of 1812-15, w ^en part of the tribe aided the
British against the American border. The so-called Missouri band, dwelling
north of that river in the present state of the name, in 1815 made with the United
States a treaty of friendship, which was kept with fidelity. In 1830 a second land
cession was made by the Sauk, and after the Black Hawk War (1832), in which
the Missouri band took no part, they were desirous of moving to some permanent
home south of the Missouri River. It was in pursuit of this intention, doubtless,
that the visit recorded by Townsend was made. The final treaty therefor was
not drawn until 1836.

Jefferson Barracks, just south of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, were
built for the federal government (1826) on a site secured from the village of Caron-
dolet (1824). General Henry Atkinson was in charge of the erection of the fort
to which the garrison was (August, 1826) transferred from Belief ontaine on the
Missouri. The post has been in continuous occupation since its erection. ED

1833-1834] Townsend's Narrative 123

(who is said to be Black Hawk's father-in-law, 3 ) was a large
dignified looking man, of perhaps fifty-five years of age,
distinguished from the rest, by his richer habiliments, a
more profuse display of trinkets in his ears, (which were
cut and gashed in a frightful manner to receive them,) and
above all, by a huge necklace made of the claws of the grizzly
bear. The squaws, of whom there were about twenty,
were dressed very much like the men, and at a little distance
could scarcely be distinguished from them. Among them
was an old, superannuated crone, who, soon after her arrival,
had been presented with a broken umbrella. The only
use that she made of it was to wrench the plated ends from
the whalebones, string them on a piece of wire, take her
knife from her belt, with which she deliberately cut a slit
of an inch in length [n] along the upper rim of her ear,
and insert them in it. I saw her soon after this operation
had been performed;/ her cheeks were covered with blood,
and she was standing with a vast deal of assumed dignity
among her tawny sisters, who evidently envied her the
possession of the worthless baubles.

2&th. Mr. N. and myself propose starting to-morrow
on foot towards the upper settlements, a distance of about
three hundred miles. We intend to pursue our journey

s Black Hawk whose Indian name was Makataineshekiakiah (black sparrow-
hawk) was born among the Sauk in 1767. A chief neither by heredity nor elec-
tion, he became by superior ability leader of the so-called British band, with
headquarters at Saukenak, near Rock Island, Illinois. He participated in Tecum-
seh's battle (1811),^ and those about Detroit in the War of 1812-15, and made
many raids upon the American settlements, until 1816 when a treaty of amity
was signed with the United States. The chief event of his career was the war
of 1832, known by his name. Consult on this subject, Thwaites, "Black Hawk
War," in How George Rogers Clark won the Northwest (Chicago, 1903). At its
conclusion this picturesque savage leader was captured, sent a prisoner to Jeffer-
son Barracks, and later confined at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. After an extended
tour of the Eastern states, Black Hawk returned to Iowa, where he was placed
under the guardianship of his rival Keokuk, and where in 1838 he died. His
wife was Asshawequa (Singing Bird), who died in Kansas (1846). ED.

124 Early Western Travels [Vol. 21

leisurely, as we have plenty of time before us, and if we
become tired, we can enter the stage which will probably
overtake us.

2gth. This morning our Indians returned from the bar-
racks, where I understand they transacted their business
satisfactorily. I went on board the boat again to see them.
I feel very much interested in them, as they are the first
Indians I have ever seen who appear to be in a state of
uncultivated nature, and who retain the savage garb and
manners of their people. They had engaged the entire
covered deck for their especial use, and were lolling about
in groups, wrapped in their blankets. Some were occu-
pied in conversation, others seemed more contemplative,
and appeared to be thinking deeply, probably of the busi-
ness which brought them amongst us. Here and there two
might be seen playing a Spanish game with cards, and some
were busily employed in rendering themselves more hideous
with paint. To perform this operation, the dry paint is
folded in a thin muslin or gauze cloth, tied tightly and beaten
against the face, and a small looking-glass is held in the
other hand to direct them where to apply it. Two middle-
aged squaws were frying beef, which they distributed around
to the company in wooden bowls, and several half loaves of
bread were circulating rapidly amongst them, by being
tossed from one to another, each taking a huge bite of it.
There were among the company, several younger females,
but they were all so hard favored that I could not feel much
sympathy with them, and was therefore not anxious to cul-
tivate [12] their acquaintance. There was another circum-
stance, too, that was not a very attractive one; I allude to
the custom so universal amongst Indians, of seeking for
vermin in each other's heads, and then eating them. The
fair damsels were engaged in this way during most of the
time that I remained on board, only suspending their de-

1833-1834] Townsend's Narrative 125

lectable occupation to take their bites of bread as it passed
them in rotation. The effect upon my person was what an
Irishman would call the attraction of repulsion, as I found
myself almost unconsciously edging away until I halted
at a most respectable distance from the scene of slaughter.

At noon, Mr. N. and myself started on our pedestrian
tour, Captain Wyeth offering to accompany us a few miles
on the way. I was glad to get clear of St. Louis, as I felt
uncomfortable in many respects while there, and the bustle
and restraint of a town was any thing but agreeable to me.
We proceeded over a road generally good, a low dry prairie,
mostly heavily timbered, the soil underlaid with horizontal
strata of limestone, abounding in organic remains, shells,
coralines, &c., and arrived in the evening at Florisant,
where we spent the night. 4 The next day Captain Wyeth
left us for St. Louis, and my companion and myself pro-
ceeded on our route. We observed great numbers of the
brown, or sandhill crane, (Grus canadensis,) flying over us;
some flocks were so high as to be entirely beyond the reach
of vision, while their harsh, grating voices were very dis-
tinctly heard. We saw several flocks of the same cranes
while ascending the Mississippi, several days since. At
about noon, we crossed the river on a boat worked by horses,
and stopped at a little town called St. Charles. 5

We find it necessary, both for our comfort and conven-
ience, to travel very slowly, as our feet are already becom-

4 . Florissant is an old Spanish town not far from St. Louis, founded soon after
the latter. At first it was a trading post and Jesuit mission station, whence it
acquired the name of San Fernando, which still applies to the township. Later
it was made the country residence of the Spanish governors, and in 1793 was by
their authority incorporated and granted five thousand arpents of land for a com-
mon. The titles were confirmed by the United States in 1812. In 1823 there
was established at Florissant a Jesuit novitiate, among whose founders was Father
Pierre de Smet, who was buried there in 1873. Florissant had (1900) a popu-
lation of 732. ED.

For St. Charles, see Bradbury's Travels, in volume v of our series, p. 39,
note 9. ED.

126 Early Western Travels [Vol. 12

ing tender, and that we may have an opportunity of observ-
ing the country, and collecting interesting specimens. Un-
fortunately for the pursuits of my companion, the plants
(of which he finds a [13] number that are rare and curious)
are not yet in flower, and therefore of little use to him. The
birds are in considerable numbers, among the principal of
which is the large pileated woodpecker, (Picus pileatus,)

Mr. N. and myself are both in high spirits. We travel
slowly, and without much fatigue, and when we arrive at
a house, stop and rest, take a drink of milk, and chat with
those we see. We have been uniformly well treated; the
living is good, and very cheap, and at any house at which
we stop the inhabitants are sure to welcome us to their hos-
pitality and good cheer. They live comfortably, and without
much labor; possess a fruitful and easily tilled soil, for which
they pay the trifling sum of one dollar and a quarter per
acre; they raise an abundance of good Indian corn, potatoes,
and other vegetables; have excellent beef and pork, and,
in short, every thing necessary for good, wholesome living.

3i5/. The road to-day was muddy and slippery, ren-
dered so by a heavy rain which fell last night. This morn-
ing, we observed large flocks of wild pigeons passing over,
and on the bare prairies were thousands of golden plovers;
the ground was often literally covered with them for acres.
I killed a considerable number. They were very fat, and
we made an excellent meal of them in the evening. The
prairie hen, or pinnated grouse, is also very numerous, but
in these situations is shy, and difficult to be procured.

Towards evening we were overtaken by a bluff, jolly
looking man, on horseback, who, as is usual, stopped, and
entered into conversation with us. I saw immediately
that he was superior to those we had been accustomed to
meet. He did not ply us with questions so eagerly as most,
and when he heard that we were naturalists, and were

1833-1834] Toivnsend's Narrative 1 27

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Online LibraryJohn Kirk TownsendTownsend's Narrative of a journey across the Rocky Mountains, to the Columbia River → online text (page 1 of 21)