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BANCROFT LIBRARY



kqd f'ktriotf of

By JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.



Each one Volume, I2mo., illustrated, $1.50.



DANIEL BO ONE,

MILES STANDISH,

FERDINAND DE SO TO,

PETER STUYVESANT.

KIT CARSON.

Other Volumes in preparation.



KIT CARSON,

THE PIONEER OF THE WEST.




BY

JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.

ILLUSTRATED.

NEW YORK:
DODD & MEAD, No. 762 BROADWAY.



AMERICAN PIONEERS AND PATRIOTS.



CHRISTOPHER CARSON



FAMILIARLY KNOWN



AS



KIT CARSON.







JOHN S^Cf ABBOTT, & &l



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

ELEANOR GREATOREX.



NEW YORK:

DODD & MEAD, No. 762 BROADWAY.
1874.



037-



Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1873, by

DODD & MEAD,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.



LAXC.B, LITTLB A Co.,



NEWBITROH STEREOTYPE Co.

108 TO 114 WOOT 8r**T, N. Y.



, U, C.

OADEMY OF
tQIPIC COAST
HISTORY



PREFACE.



IT is a prominent object of this volume to bring to
light the wild adventures of the pioneers of this conti
nent, in the solitudes of the mountains, the prairies and
the forests; often amidst hostile Indians, and far away
from the restraints and protection of civilization. This
strange, weird-like life is rapidly passing away, before the
progress of population, railroads and steamboats. But it
is desirable that the memory of it should not drift into ob
livion. I think that almost every reader of this narrative
will be somewhat surprised, in its development of the
character of CHRISTOPHER CARSON. With energy and
fearlessness never surpassed, he was certainly one of the
most gentle, upright, and lovable of men. It is strange
that the wilderness could have formed so estimable a
character. America will not permit the virtues of so illus
trious a son to be forgotten.

JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.
Early Training.

PACK

Birth of Christopher Carson. Perils of the Wilderness. Neces
sary Cautions. Romance of the Forest. The Far West.
The Encampment. The Cabin and the Fort. Kit an Ap
prentice. The Alarm. Destruction of a Trading Band.
The Battle and the Flight. Sufferings of the Fugitives.
Dreadful Fate of Mr. Schenck. Features of the Western
Wilderness. The March 9

CHAPTER II.
Life in the Wilderness.

A Surgical Operation. A Winter with Kin Cade. Study of the
Languages and Geography. Return towards Missouri-
Engagement with a new Company and Strange Adven
tures. The Rattlesnake. Anecdote of Kit Carson. The
Sahara. New Engagements. Trip to El Paso. Trapping
and Hunting. Prairie Scenery. The Trapper's Outfit.
Night Encampment. Testimony of an Amateur Hunter. . 29

CHAPTER III.
Among the Trappers.

The Discomfited Trappers. The New Party Organized. A
Battle with the Indians. Trapping on the Colorado.
March to the Sacramento. The Friendly Indians. Cross
ing the Desert. Instinct of the Mule. The Enchanting



VI CONTENTS.

PACK

Valley of the Colorado. The Mission of San Gabriel. Vast
Herds of Cattle. The Mission of San Fernando. Adven
tures in the Valley of San Joaquin. The Meeting of two
Trapping Bands. Reasons for Kit Carson's Celebrity. A
Military Expedition. The Indian Horse Thieves. The
Pursuit and Capture 51

CHAPTER IV.
Conflicts with the Indians.

The American Trapper. The Trapper of the Hudson's Bay
Company. The Return Trip. Polished Life in the Wil
derness. The Spanish Gentlemen. Council of the Trap
pers. Self-possession of Kit Carson. The Camp Cleared
of Intruders. Robbing the Robbers. Sale of the Furs.
Mr. Fitzpatrick's Expedition. Pains and Pleasures of
Rocky Mountain Life. Pursuit of Indian Horse Thieves.
Extraordinary Battle 72

CHAPTER V

Marches and Encampments.

The Encampment Among the Rocky Mountains. The At
tempted Stampede. Retreat and Pursuit by the Savages.
The Alarm. Loss of the Horses. Their Recovery. En
terprise of Kit Carson. Fight with the Indians. The Litter
for the Wounded. Union of the two Trapping Parties.
Successful Return to Tos. Carson joins a Trading
Party. Chivalric Adventures. Attacked by Bears. . . 94

CHAPTER VI.
The Rendezvous.

Fair in the Wilderness. The Encampment. Dispersion of the
Trappers. Hostility of the Blackfeet. Camp on the Big
Snake River. The Blackfeet Marauders. The Pursuit.
The Calumet. The Battle. Kit Carson wounded. The



CONTENTS. Vll

PACK

Rencontre with Shunan. The Defeat and Humiliation of
Shunan. Remarkable Modesty of Carson. Testimony to
Mr. Carson's Virtues 121

CHAPTER VII.
War with the Blackfeet Indians.

Unsuccessful Trapping. Disastrous March to Fort Hall. The
Feast upon Horse-flesh. The Hunting Expedition.- 1 Its
Rare Attractions. Dogged by the Blackfeet. Safe Arrival
at the Fort. All their Animals Stolen by the Indians.
Expedition to the Blackfeet Country. Winter Quarters
with the Friendly Indians. Sufferings of the Animals.
Return to the Blackfeet Country. Battle with the Indians.
Incidents of the Battle 141

CHAPTER VIII.
Encampments and Battles.

The Renewal of the Battle. Peculiarities of the Fight. The
Rout. Encampment in the Indian Village. Number of
Trappers among the Mountains. The New Rendezvous.
Picturesque Scene of the Encampment. The Missionary
and the Nobleman. Brown's Hole. The Navajoes. Kit
Carson Purveyor at the Fort. Trapping at the Black Hills.
Again upon the Yellowstone. Pleasant Winter Quarters.
Signs of the Indians. Severe Conflict. Reappearance of
the Indians. Their utter Discomfiture. . ... . 160

CHAPTER IX.
The Trapper 3 Elysium.

Trapping on the Missouri. Attacked by the Blackfeet. The
Battle. Persevering Hostility of the Indians. The Trap
pers driven from the Country. Repair to the North Fork.
Cheerful Encampments. Enchanting Scene. Village of
the Flatheads. The Blessings of Peace. Carson's Knowl
edge of Languages. Pleasant Winter Quarters on the Big



Vlil CONTENTS.

PAGH

Snake River. Successful Trapping. Winter at Brown's
Hole. Trip to Fort Bent. Peculiar Characters. Williams
and Mitchel. Hunter at Fort Bent. Marriage. Visit to
the States i/Q

'CHAPTER X.
Fremont's Expedition.

Carson's Visit to his Childhood's Home. On the Steamer. In
troduction to Fremont. Object of Fremont's Expedition.
Joins the Expedition. Organization of the Party.i The
Encampment. Enchanting View. Fording the Kansas.
The Stormy Night. The Boys on Guard. The Alarm.
The Returning Trappers. The Homeless Adventurer.
Three Indians join the Party. First sight of the Buffaloes.
The Chase 197

CHAPTER XI.
The Return of the Expedition.

Beautiful Prairie Scene. Fate of the Buffalo Calf. Vast Buffalo
Herds. The Fourth of July on the Plains. Journey up
the South Fork of the Platte. Visit to Fort St. Vrain.
Remonstrance of the Chiefs. Second Marriage of Mr. Car
son. New Engagements. Perilous Ride to Santa Fe.
The Successful Mission. The Noble Mexican Boy. Con
flict with the Savages. Discomfiture of the Indians. Fre
mont's Second Expedition. Carson joins the Party.
Course of the Expedition. Arrival at the Great Salt Lake. . 217

CHAPTER XII.
Marches and Battles.

Entering the Lake. Dangerous Navigation. The Return to
Camp. Feast upon Horse Flesh. Meeting the Indians.
Joyful Meeting. Return to Fort Hall. Feasting at the
Fort. The Party Diminished. The Journey down Snake



CONTENTS. IX

PACK

River. Crossing the Sierra Nevada. Caison Rescues Fre
mont. Fort Sutter. Heroic Achievement of Carson. Dis
banding the Party. The third Expedition. Crossing the
Desert. Threatened by the Mexicans. Fight with the
Indians. The Surprise. Chastisement of the Indians. . .236

CHAPTER XIII.
The Dispatch Bearer.

Colonel Fremont. Hazardous Undertaking of Kit Carson.
Carson's Courage and Prudence. Threatened Danger.
Interview with General Kearney, and Results. Severe
Skirmish. Wonderful Escape of Carson. Daring Adven
ture. Fearful Suffering. Lieutenant Beale. Carson's
Journey to Washington. Adventures on his Return. . . 255

CHAPTER XIV.
The Chivalry of the Wilderness.

Injustice of the Government. Heroic Resolve of Mr. Carson.
Indian Outrages. The valley of Razado. Barbaric Mur
ders by Apaches. An Exciting Chase. An Attractive Pic
ture. Plot of Fox Overthrown. Gift of Messrs. Brevoort
and Weatherhead. Adventure with the Cheyennes. . . 272

CHAPTER XV.
Recollections of Mountain Life.

Character of the Native Indian. The Caravan. Interesting
Incident. Effects of Cholera. Commission of Joe Smith.
Snow on the Mountains. Government Appointment.
Adventure with three Bears. Journey to Los Angelos. Mt.
St. Bernardino. The Spring. Character of Men. In
subordination Quelled. Suffering for Water and Relief.
A Talk with Indians. 286



X CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XVI.
Recollections of Mountain Life.

PACK

Position of The Spring. The Cache. Kit Carson's Character
and Appearance. Cool Bravery of a Mountain Trapper.
Untamed Character of Many Hunters. The Surveyor's
Camp in an Indian Territory. Terrors from Indians. Joe
Walker. A Mountain Man. Soda Lake. Optical Illu
sion. Camp on Beaver Lake. The Piyute Chief. Conver
sation with Him. An Alarm. A Battle 306

CHAPTER XVII.
Frontier Desperadoes and Savage Ferocity.

Original Friendliness of the Indians. The River Pirates, Cul-
bert and Magilbray. Capture of Beausoliel. His Rescue
by the Negro Cacasotte. The Cave in the Rock. The
Robber Mason. His Assassination. Fate of the Assassins.
Hostility of the Apaches. Expedition of Lieutenant
Davidson. Carson's Testimony in his Favor. Flight of
the Apaches. 322

CHAPTER XVIII.
The Last Days, of Kit Carson.

The Hunting Party. Profits of Sheep Raising. Governmental
Appointment. Carson's Talk with the Apaches. His
Home in Taos. His Character. Death of Christopher
Carson. 337

CHAPTER XIX.
TJie Last Hours of Kit Carson.



CHRISTOPHER CARSON.



CHAPTER I.

Early Training.

Birth of Christopher Carson. Perils of the Wilderness. Necessary
Cautions. Romance of the Forest. The Far West. The
Encampment. The Cabin and the Fort. Kit an Apprentice.
The Alarm. Destruction of a Trading Band. The Battle and
the Flight. Sufferings of the Fugitives. Dreadful Fate of Mr.
Schenck. Features of the Western Wilderness. The March.

CHRISTOPHER CARSON, whose renown as Kit
Carson has reached almost every ear in the country,
was born in Madison county, Kentucky, on the 24th
of December, 1809. Large portions of Kentucky
then consisted of an almost pathless wilderness, with
magnificent forests, free from underbrush, alive with
game, and with luxuriant meadows along the river
banks, inviting the settler's cabin and the plough.

There were then many Indians traversing those
wilds. The fearless emigrants, who ventured to rear



IO CHRISTOPHER CARSON.

their huts in such solitudes, found it necessary ever
to be prepared for an attack.

But very little reliance could be placed even in
the friendly protestations of the vagabond savages,
ever prowling about, and almost as devoid of intelli
gence or conscience, as the wolves which at midnight
weje heard howling around the settler's door. The
family of Mr. Carson occupied a log cabin, which
was bullet-proof, with portholes through which their
rifles could command every appro ich. Women and
children were alike taught the use of the rifle, that
in case of an attack by any blood-thirsty gang, the
whole family might resolve itself into a military
garrison. Not a tree or stump was left, within mus
ket shot of the house, behind which an Indian could
secrete himself.

Almost of necessity, under these circumstances,
any bright, active boy would become a skilful marks
man. A small garden was cultivated where corn,
beans and a few other vegetables were raised, but
the main subsistence of the family consisted of the
game with which forest, meadow and lake were
stored. The settler usually reared his cabin upon
the banks of some stream alive with fishes. There
were no schools to take up the time of the boys ; no
books to read. Wild geese, ducks and other water
fowl, sported upon the bosom of the river or the



EARLY TRAINING. II

lake, whose waters no paddle wheel or even keel
disturbed. Wild turkeys, quails, and pigeons at
times, swept the air like clouds. And then there
was the intense excitement of occasionally bringing
down a deer, and even of shooting a ferocious grizzly
bear or wolf or catamount. The romance of the sea
creates a Robinson Crusoe. The still greater ro
mance of the forest creates a Kit Carson. It often
makes even an old man's blood thrill in his veins, to
contemplate the wild and wondrous adventures, which
this majestic continent opened to the pioneers of
half a century ago.

Gradually, in Kentucky, the Indians disappeared,
either dying off, or pursuing their game in the un
explored realms nearer the setting sun. Emigrants,
from the East, in large numbers entered the State.
Game, both in forest and meadow, became scarce ;
and the father of Kit Carson, finding settlers crowd
ing him, actually rearing their huts within two or
three miles of his cabin, abandoned his home to find
more room in the still more distant West.

Christopher was then the youngest child, a babe
but one year old. The wilderness, west of them, was
almost unexplored. But Mr. Carson, at his blazing
fireside, had heard from the Indians, and occasionally
from some adventurous white hunter, glowing ac
counts of the magnificent prairies, rivers, lakes and



12 CHRISTOPHER CARSON.

forests of the far West, reposing in the solitude and
the silence which had reigned there since the dawn
of the creation.

There were no roads through the wilderness.
The guide of the emigrants was the setting sun.
Occasionally they could take advantage of some
Indian trail, trodden hard by the moccasined feet of
the savages, in single file, through countless genera
tions. Through such a country, the father of Kit
Carson commenced a journey of several hundred
miles, with his wife and three or four children, Kit
being an infant in arms. Unfortunately we are not
informed of any of the particulars of this journey.
But we know, from numerous other cases, what was
its general character.

It must have occupied two or three weeks. All
the family went on foot, making about fifteen miles
a day. They probably had two pack horses, laden
with pots and kettles, and a few other essential
household and farming utensils. Early in the after
noon Mr. Carson would begin to look about for a
suitable place of encampment for the night. He
would find, if possible, the picturesque banks of
some running stream, where there was grass for his
horses, and a forest growth to furnish him with wood
for his cabin and for fire. If the weather were pleas
ant, with the prospect of a serene and cloudless



EARLY TRAINING. 13

night, a very slight protection would be reared, and
the weary family, with a buffalo robe spread on the
soft grass for a blanket, would sleep far more sweetly
in the open air, than most millionaires sleep in
tapestried halls and upon beds of down.

If clouds were gathering and menacing winds
were wailing through the tree-tops, the vigorous arm
of Mr. Carson, with his sharp axe, would, in an hour,
rear a camp which could bid defiance to any ordinary
storm. The roof would be so thatched, with bark
and long grass, as to be quite impenetrable by the
rain. Buffalo robes, and a few of the soft and fra
grant branches of the hemlock tree, would create a
couch which a prince might envy. Perhaps, as they
came along, they had shot a turkey or a brace of
ducks, or a deer, from whose fat haunches they have
cut the tenderest venison. Any one could step out
with his rifle and soon return with a supper.

While Mr. Carson, with his eldest son, was build
ing the camp, the eldest girl would hold the baby,
and Mrs. Carson would cook such a repast of dainty
viands, as, when we consider the appetites, Delmon-
ico never furnished. It was life in the "Adiron-
dacks/' with the additional advantage that those
who were enjoying it, were inured to fatigue, and
could have no sense of discomfort, from the absence
of conveniences to which they were accustomed.



14 CHRISTOPHER CARSON.

If in the darkness of midnight, the tempest rose
and roared through the tree-tops, with crushing
thunder, and floods of rain, the family was lulled to
sounder sleep by these requiems of nature, or awoke
to enjoy the sublimity of the scene, whose grandeur
those in lowly life are often able fully to appreciate,
though they may not have language with which to
express their emotions.

The family crossed the Mississippi river, we know
not how, perhaps in the birch canoe of some friendly
Indian, perhaps on a raft, swimming the horses.
They then continued their journey two hundred
miles farther west, till they reached a spot far enough
from neighbors and from civilization to suit the taste
even of Mr. Carson. This was at the close of the
year 1810. 'There was no State or even Territory of
Missouri then. But seven years before, in 1803,
France had ceded to the United States the vast unex
plored regions, whose boundaries even, were scarcely
defined, but which were then called Upper Louisiana.

Here Mr. Carson seems to have reached a very
congenial home. He found, scattered through the
wilderness, a few white people, trappers, hunters,
wanderers who had preceded him. The Indians, in
numerous bands, as hunters and as warriors, were
roving these wilds. They could not be relied upon,
whatever their friendly professions. Any wrong



EARLY TRAINING. 1 5

which they might receive from any individual white
man, their peculiar code of morals told them they
might rightly attempt to redress by wreaking their
vengeance upon any pale face, however innocent he
might be. Thus hundreds of Indian warriors might,
at any time, come swooping down upon Mr. Carson's
cabin, laying it in ashes, and burying their toma
hawks in the brains of his family.

The few white men, some half a dozen in number,
who had gathered around Mr. Carson, deemed it
expedient for self-defence to unite and build a large
log cabin, which should be to them both a house and
a fort. This building of logs, quite long and but
one story high, was pierced, at several points, with
portholes, through which the muzzles of the rifles
could be thrust. As an additional precaution they
surrounded this house with palisades, consisting of
sticks of timber, six or eight inches in diameter, and
about ten feet high, planted as closely as possible
together. These palisades were also pierced with
portholes.

With a practiced eye, these men had selected a
very beautiful spot for their habitation, in what is
now called Howard county, Missouri, just north of
the Missouri river. It seems that they had much to
fear from the Indians. There were at this time,
frequent wars with them, in the more eastern por-



1 6 CHRISTOPHER CARSON.

tions of the continent, and the rumors of these con
flicts reached the ears of all the roving tribes, and
greatly excited them. It became necessary for the
settlers to go upon their hunting excursions with
much caution.

As the months passed rapidly away, other persons
one after another, came to their fort. They were
glad to find a safe retreat there, and were welcomed
as giving additional strength to the little garrison.
Game began to be scarce around their lonely habita
tion, for the crack of the rifle was almost incessantly
heard there. It thus became necessary to resort
more generally to farming, especially to raising large
fields of corn, whose golden ears could easily be
converted into pork and into bread. With these
two articles of food, cornbread and bacon, life could
be hilarious on the frontier. Keenness of appetite
supplied the want of all other delicacies.

When they went to the cornfield to work, they
first made a careful exploration of the region around,
to see if there were any lurking savages near. Then
with their guns ever ready to be grasped, and keep
ing a close lookout for signs of danger, they ploughed
and sowed and gathered in their harvest.

Thus fifteen years passed away. Civilization
made gradual encroachments. Quite a little cluster
of log huts was reared in the vicinity, where the



EARLY TRAINING. I/

inmates in case of necessity could flee to the fort for
protection. Christopher, at fifteen years of age, was
an unlettered boy, small in stature, but very fond of
the solitude of the forest, and quite renowned as a
marksman. He was amiable in disposition, gentle
in his manners, and in all respects a good boy. He
had a strong character. Whatever he undertook, he
quietly and without any boasting performed. With
sound judgment, and endowed with singular strength
and elasticity, he was even then deemed equal to
any man in all the requirements of frontier life.

At a short distance from the fort there was a
saddler, and Mr. Carson, with the advice of friends,
decided to apprentice his son, now called Kit, to
learn that trade. The boy remained in this employ
ment for two weary years. Though faithful to every
duty, and gaining the respect and confidence of his
employer, the work was uncongenial to him. He
longed for the freedom of the wilderness ; for the
sublime scenes of nature, to which such a life would
introduce him ; for the exciting chase of the buffalo,
and the lucrative pursuits of the trapper, floating on
distant streams in the birch canoe, and loading his
bark with rich furs, which ever commanded a ready
sale.

All these little settlements were clustered around
some protecting fort. A man, who was brought up



1 8 CHRISTOPHER CARSON.

in the remote West, furnishes the following interest
ing incident in his own personal experience. It
gives a very graphic description of the alarms to
which these pioneers were exposed :

" The fort to which my father belonged was three-
quarters of a mile from his farm. But when this
fort went to decay and was unfit for use, a new one
was built near our own house. I well remember,
when a little boy, the family were sometimes waked
up in the dead of night by an express, with the
report that the Indians were at hand. The express
came softly to the door and by a gentle tapping
raised the family. This was easily done, as an
habitual fear made us ever watchful, and sensible to
the slightest alarm. The whole family were instantly
in motion.

" My father seized his gun and other implements
of war. My mother waked up and dressed the
children as well as she could. Being myself the
oldest of the children, I had to take my share of the
burdens to be carried to the fort. There was no
possibility of getting a horse in the night to aid us.
Besides the little children we caught up such articles
of clothing and provisions as we could get hold of in
the dark, for we durst not light a candle or even stir
the fire. All this was done with the utmost dis
patch and in the silence of death. The great-



EARLY TRAINING. 19

est care was taken not to awaken the youngest
child.

" To the rest it was enough to say Indian, and
not a whisper was heard afterward. Thus it often
happened that the whole number belonging to a fort,
who were in the evening at their homes, were all in
their little fortress before the dawn of the next
morning. In the course of the next day their
household furniture was brought in by men under
arms. Some families belonging to each fort were
much less under the influence of fear than others.
These often, after an alarm had subsided, in spite of
every remonstrance, would remove home, while their
more prudent neighbors remained in the fort. Such
families were denominated fool-hardy, and gave no
small amount of trouble by creating such frequent
necessities of sending runners to warn them of their
danger, and sometimes parties of our men to pro
tect them during their removal."

While Kit Carson was impatiently at work on
the bench of the harness-maker, feeding his soul
with the stories, often greatly exaggerated, of the
wonders of scenes and adventures to be encountered
in the boundless West, a party of traders came
along, who were on the route for Santa Fe. This
city, renowned in the 'annals of the West, was the
capital of the Spanish province of New Mexico. It



2O CHRISTOPHER CARSON.

was situated more than a thousand miles from Mis
souri, and contained a mongrel population of about
three thousand souls. Goods from the States could
be readily sold there at a profit of one or two hun
dred per cent. Cotton cloth brought three dollars a
yard.

Captain Pike, upon his return from his exploring
tour, brought back quite glowing accounts of Santa
Fe and its surroundings. It was a long and perilous
journey from Missouri. The party was all strongly
armed, with their goods borne in packs upon mules


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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottChristopher Carson : familiarly known as Kit Carson → online text (page 1 of 19)