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himself now upon Red River, within the then assumed bounds of
the United States, he erected a small fortification for his company,
till the opening of the spring of 1807 should enable him to continue
his descent to Natchitoches. As he was within the Mexican ter-
ritory, however, and but sixty to eighty miles from the northern
settlements, his position was soon discovered, and a force sent out
to take him into Santa Fe, which, by a treacherous manoeuvre,
was effected without opposition. The Spanish officer assured him
that the Governor, learning he had missed his way, had sent animals
and an escort to convey his men and baggage to a navigable point
on Red River (Rio Colorado), and that his Excellency desired very
much to see him at Santa Fe, which might be taken on their way.
As soon, however, as the Governor had Captain Pike in his power,
he sent him with his men to the Commandant General at Chihua-
hua, where most of his papers were seized, and he and his party
were sent under an escort, via San Antonio de Bexar, to the United
States.

The narrative of Captain Pike gives a full account of this expe-
dition, both previous and subsequent to its interruption by the Spa-
niards ; but as this work is now rarely met with, the foregoing note
may not be deemed altogether supererogatory. Many will believe
and assert to the present day, however, that this expedition had some
Connecticut with the famous project of Aaron Burr ; yet the noble
and patriotic character of the officer who conducted it, will not
permit us to countenance such an aspersion.



20 MCKNIGHT AND COMRADES. *

Santa Fe in safety. Bat these new adventu-
rers were destined to experience trials and
disappointments of which they had formed
no conception. Believing that the declara-
tion of Independence by Hidalgo, in 1810,
had completely removed those injurious re-
strictions which had hitherto rendered all
foreign intercourse, except by special permis-
sion "from the Spanish Government, illegal,
they were wholly unprepared to encounter
the embarrassments with which despotism
and tyranny invariably obstruct the path of
the stranger. They were doubtless ignorant
that the patriotic chief Hidalgo had already
been arrested and executed, that the roy-
alists had once more regained the ascend-
ency, and that all foreigners, but particularly
Americans, were now viewed with unusual
suspicion. The result was that the luckless
traders, immediately upon their arrival, were
seized as spies, their goods and chattels con-
fiscated, and themselves thrown into the
calabozos of Chihuahua, where most of them
were kept in rigorous confinement for the
space of nine years ; when the republican
forces under Iturbide getting again in the
ascendant, McKnight and his comrades
were finally set at liberty. It is said that
two of the party contrived, early in 1821,
to return to the United States in a canoe,
which they succeeded in forcing down the
Canadian fork of the Arkansas. The stories
promulgated by these men soon induced
others to launch into the same field of enter-



CAPTAIN BECKNELL. 21

prise, among whom was a merchant of Ohio,
named Glenn, who, at the time, had an In-
dian trading-house near the mouth of the
Verdigris river. Having taken the circuitous
route up the Arkansas towards the mountains,
this pioneer trader encountered a great deal
of trouble and privation, but eventually reach-
ed Santa Fe with his little caravan, before the
close of 1821, in perfect safety.

During the same year, Captain Becknell,
of Missouri, with four trusty companions,
went out to Santa Fe by the far western
prairie route. This intrepid little band started
from the vicinity of Franklin, with the origi- r
nal purpose of trading with the latan or Co- (
manche Indians ; but having fallen in acci- )
dentally with a party of Mexican rangers,
when near the Mountains, they were easily
prevailed upon to accompany them to the
new emporium, where, notwithstanding the
trifling amount 'of merchandise they were
possessed of, they realized a very handsome
profit The fact is, that up to this date New
Mexico had derived all her supplies from
the Internal Provinces by the way of Vera
Cruz ; but at such exorbitant rates, that com-
mon calicoes, and even bleached and brown
domestic goods, sold as high as two and three
dollars per vara (or Spanish yard of thirty-
three inches). Becknell returned to the
United States alone the succeeding winter,
leaving the rest of his company at Santa Fe.

The favorable reports brought by the enter-
prising Captain, stimulated others to embark



22 COLONEL COOPER.

in the trade ; and early in the following May,
Colonel Cooper and sons, from the same
neighborhood, accompanied by several others
(their whole number about fifteen), set out
with four or five thousand dollars' worth of
goods, which they transported upon pack-
horses. They steered directly for Taos,
where they arrived without any remarkable
occurrence.

The next effort of Captain Becknell was
attended with very different success. With
a company amounting to near thirty men, and
perhaps five thousand dollars' worth of goods
of various descriptions, he started from Mis-
souri, about a month after Colonel Cooper.
Being an excellent woodsman, and anxious
to avoid the circuitous route of the Upper
Arkansas country, he resolved this time, after
having reached that point on the Arkansas
river since known as the c Caches,' to steer
more directly for Santa Fe, entertaining little
or no suspicion of the terrible trials which
a\vaited him across the pathless desert. With
no other guide but the starry heavens, and, it
may be, a pocket-compass, the party embark-
ed upon the arid plains which extended far
and wide before them to the Cimarron river.

The adventurous band pursued their for-
ward course without being able to procure
any water, except from the scanty supply they
carried in their canteens. As this source of
relief was completely exhausted after two
days' march, the sufferings of both men and
beasts had driven them almost to distraction.



THRILLING INCIDENT. 23

The forlorn band were at last reduced to the
cruel necessity of killing their dogs, and cut-
ting off the ears of their mules, in the vain
hope of assuaging their burning thirst with
the hot blood. This only served to irritate
the parched palates, and madden the senses
of the sufferers. Frantic with despair, in
prospect of the horrible death which now
stared them in the face, they scattered in
every direction in search of that element
which they had left behind them in such
abundance, but without success.

Frequently led astray by the deceptive
glimmer of the mirage, or false ponds, as
those treacherous oases of the desert are call-
ed, and not suspecting (as was really the case)
that they had already arrived near the banks
of the Cimarron, they resolved to retrace their
steps to the Arkansas. But they now were no
longer equal to the task, and would undoubt-
edly have perished in those arid regions, had
not a buffalo, fresh from the river's side, and
with a stomach distended with water, been
discovered by some of the party, just as the
last rays of hope were receding from their
vision. The hapless intruder was immedi-
ately dispatched, and an invigorating draught
procured from its stomach. I have since
heard one of the parties to that expedition
declare, that nothing ever passed his lips which
gave him such exquisite delight as his first
draught of that filthy beverage.

This providential relief enabled some of
the strongest men of the party to reach the



24 THE FIRST WAGONS.

river, where they filled their canteens, and
then hurried back to the assistance of their
comrades, many of whom they found pros-
trate on the ground, and incapable of further
exertion. By degrees, however, they were
all enabled to resume their journey ; and fol-
lowing the course of the Arkansas for several
days, thereby avoiding the arid regions which
had occasioned them so much suffering, they
succeeded in reaching Taos (sixty or seventy
miles north of Santa Fe) without further
difficulty. Although travellers have since
suffered excessively with thirst upon the
same desert, yet, having become better ac-
quainted with the topography of the country,
no other equally thrilling incidents have sub-
sequently transpired.

It is from this period the year 1822 that
the virtual commencement of the SANTA FE
TRADE may be dated. The next remarkable
era in its history is the first attempt to intro-
duce wagons in these expeditions. This was
made in 1824 by a company of traders, about
eighty in number, among whom were several
gentlemen of intelligence from Missouri, who
contributed, by their superior skill and un-
daunted energy, to render the enterprise com-
pletely successful. A portion of this company
employed pack-mules : among the rest were
owned twenty-five wheeled vehicles, of which
one or two were stout road-wagons, two were
carts, and the rest dearborn carriages the
whole conveying some $25,000 or $30,000
worth of merchandise. Colonel Marmaduke,



EVENTFUL ERA. 25

the present Governor of the State of Missouri,
having formed one of the party, has been
pleased to place his diary of that eventful
journey at my disposal ; but want of space
necessarily compels me to pass over the many
interesting and exciting incidents which it
contains. Suffice it to say that the caravan
reached Santa Fe with much less difficulty
than must have been anticipated from a first
experiment with wheeled vehicles. The
route, indeed, appears to have presented fewer
obstacles than any ordinary road of equal
.ength in the United States.

It was not until several years after this ex-
periment, however, that adventurers with
large capital began seriously to embark in
the Santa Fe trade. The early traders having
but seldom experienced any molestations
from the Indians, generally crossed the plains
in detached bands, each individual rarely
carrying more than two or three hundred dol-
lars' worth of stock. This peaceful season,
however, did not last very long; and it is
greatly to be feared that the traders were not
always innocent of having instigated the
savage hostilities that ensued in after years.
Many seemed to forget the wholesome pre-
cept, that they should not be savages them-
selves because they dealt with savages. In-
stead of cultivating friendly feelings with
those few who remained peaceful and honest,
there was an occasional one always disposed
to kill, even in cold blood, every Indian that
fell into their power, merely because some of

3



26 TRICKS OF THE SAVAGES

the tribe had committed some outrage either
against themselves or their friends.

Since the commencement of this trade, re-
turning parties have performed the homeward
journey across the plains with the proceeds of
their enterprise, partly in specie, and partly in
furs, buffalo rugs and animals. Occasionally,
these straggling bands would be set upon by
marauding Indians, but if well armed and of
resolute spirit, they found very little difficulty
in persuading the savages to let them pass
unmolested ; for, as Mr. Storrs very justly re-
marks, in his representation presented by
Colonel Benton, in 1825, to the United States
</ Senate, the Indians are always willing to
compromise when they find that they cannot
rob "without losing the lives of their warri-
ors, which they hardly ever risk, unless for
revenge or in open warfare."

The case was very different with those who
through carelessness or recklessness ventured
upon the wild prairies without a sufficient
supply of arms. A story is told of a small
band of twelve men, who, while encamped
on the Cimarron river, in 1826, with but four
serviceable guns betsveen them, were visited
by a party of Indians (believed to be Arrapa-
hoes), who made at first strong demonstrations
of friendship and good will. Observing the
defenceless condition of the traders, they
went away, but soon returned about thirty
strong, each provided with a lazo, and all on
fo'ot. The chief then began by informing the
Americans that his men were tired of walk-
ing, and must have horses. Thinking it folly



TWO TRADERS KILLED. 27

to offer any resistance, the terrified traders told
them if one animal apiece would satisfy them,
to go and catch them. This they soon did ;
but finding their requests so easily complied
with, the Indians held a little parley together,
which resulted in a new demand for more
they must now have two apiece. "Well,
catch them !" was the acquiescent reply of the
unfortunate band upon which the savages
mounted those they had already secured, and,
swinging their lazos over their heads, plunged
among the stock with a furious yell, and
drove off the entire cabattada of near five hun-
dred head of horses, mules and asses.

The fall of 1828 proved still more fatal to
the traders on their homeward trip ; for by this
time the Indians had learned to form a cor-
rect estimate of the stock with which the re-
turn companies were generally provided.
Two young men named McNees and Monroe,
having carelessly lain down to sleep on the
banks of a stream, since known as McNees's
creek, were barbarously shot, with their own
guns, as it was supposed, in very sight of the
caravan. When their comrades came up, they
found McNees lifeless, and the other almost
expiring. In this state the latter was carried
nearly forty miles to the Cimarron river,
where he died, and was buried according to
the custom of the Prairies.^

* These funerals are usually performed in a very summary
manner. A grave is dug in a convenient spot, and the corpse,
with no other shroud than its own clothes, and only a blanket for
a coffin, is consigned to the earth. . The grave is then usually filled
tip with stones or poles, as a safe-guard against the voraci HIS
wolves of the prairies.



28 MASSACRE OF INDIANS,

Just as the funeral ceremonies were about
to be concluded, six or seven Indians appear-
ed on the opposite side of the Cirnarron.
Some of the party proposed inviting them to
a parley, while the rest, burning for revenge,
evinced a desire to fire upon them at once.
It is more than probable, however, that the
Indians were not only innocent but ignorant
of the outrage that had been committed, or
they would hardly have ventured to approach
the caravan. Being quick of perception, they
very soon saw the belligerent attitude assum-
ed by some of the company, and therefore
wheeled round and attempted to escape.
One shot was fired, which wounded a horse
and brought the Indian to the ground, when
he was instantly riddled with balls ! Almost
simultaneously another discharge of several
guns followed, by which all the rest were
either killed or mortally wounded, except one,
who escaped to bear to his tribe the news of
their dreadful catastrophe !

These wanton cruelties had a most disas-
trous effect upon the prospects of the trade ;
for the exasperated children of the desert be-
came more and more hostile to the- 4 pale faces/
against whom they continued to wage a cruel
war for many successive years. In fact, this
same party suffered very severely a few days
afterwards. They were pursued by the en-
raged comrades of the slain savages to the
Arkansas river, where they were robbed of
nearly a thousand head of mules and horses.
But the Indians were not yet satisfied. Hav-



WHOLESALE ROBBERIES. 29

ing beset a company of about twenty men,
who followed shortly after, they killed
one of their number, and subsequently
took from them all the animals they had in
their possession. The unfortunate band were
now not only compelled to advance on foot,
but were even constrained to carry nearly a
thousand dollars each upon their backs to the
Arkansas river, where it was cached (concealed
in the ground) till a conveyance was procur-
ed to transfer it to the United States.

Such repeated and daring outrages induced
the traders to petition the Federal Govern-
ment for an escort of United States troops.
The request having been granted, Major Riley,
with three companies of infantry and one of
riflemen, was ordered to accompany the cara-
van which left in the spring of 1829. The
escort stopped at Chouteau's Island, on
the Arkansas river, and the traders thence
pursued their journey through the sand-hills
beyond. They had hardly advanced six or
seven miles, when a startling incident occur-
red which made them wish once more for the
company of the gallant Major and his well-
disciplined troops. A vanguard of three men,
riding a few hundred yards ahead, had just
dismounted for the purpose of satisfying their
thirst, when a band of Kiawas, one of the
most savage tribes that infest the western
prairies, rushed upon them from the immense
hillocks of sand which lay scattered in all di-
rections. The three men sprang upon their
animals, but two only who had horses were



30 MAJOR RILEY.

enabled to make their escape to the wagons ;
the third, a Mr. Lamme, who was unfortu-
nately mounted upon a mule, was overtaken,
slain and scalped before any one could come
to his assistanca Somewhat alarmed at the
boldness of the Indians, the traders dispatch-
ed an express to Major Riley, who immedi-
ately ordered his tents to be struck ; and such
was the rapidity of his movements, that when
he appeared before the anxious caravan every
one was lost in astonishment The reinforce-
ment having arrived in the night, the enemy
could have obtained no knowledge of the
fact, and would no doubt have renewed the
attack in the morning, when they would have
received a wholesome lesson from the troops,
had not the reveille been sounded through mis-
take, at which they precipitately retreated.
The escort now continued with the company
as far as Sand creek, when, perceiving no fur-
ther signs of danger, they returned to the Ar-
kansas, to await the return of the caravan in
the ensuing fall.

The position of Major Riley on the Arkan-
sas was one of serious and continual danger.
Scarce a day passed without his being sub-
jected to some new annoyance from preda-
tory Indians. The latter appeared, indeed,
resolved to check all further concourse of the
whites upon the Prairies ; and fearful of the
terrible extremes to which their excesses
might be carried, the traders continued to
unite in single caravans during many years
afterwards, for *he sake of mutual protection.



SUBSEQUENT ESCORTS, 31

This escort under Major Riley, and one com-
posed of about sixty dragoons, commanded
by Captain Wharton, in 1834, constituted the
only government protection ever afforded to the
Santa Fe trade, until 1843, when large escorts
under Captain Cook accompanied two diffe-
rent caravans as far as the Arkansas river.

Of the composition and organization of
these trading caravans, I shall take occasion
to speak, from my own experience, in the fol-
lowing chapters.



CHAPTER II

Head Quarters of the Santa Fe Trade Independence and its
Locale A Prairie Trip an excellent Remedy for Chronic
Diseases Supplies for the Journey Wagons, Mules and
Oxen Art of Loading Wagons Romancing Propensity of
Travellers The Departure Storms and Wagon-covers
duagrnires Tricks of marauding Indians Council Grove
Fancy vers-iis Reality Electioneering on the Prairies The
Organization Amateur Travellers and Loafers Duties of
the Watch Costumes and Equipment of the Party Timbers
for the Journey.

PEOPLE who reside at a distance, and espe-
cially at the North, have generally considered
St. Louis as the emporium of the Santa Fe
Trade ; but that city, in truth, has never been
a place of rendezvous, nor even of outfit, ex-
cept for a small portion of the traders who
have started from its immediate vicinity. The
town of Franklin on the Missouri river, over
a hundred and fifty miles further to the west-
ward, seems truly to have been the cradle of
our trade ; and, in conjunction with several
neighboring towns, continued for many years
to furnish the greater number of these adven-
turous traders. Even subsequently to 1831,
many wagons have been fitted out and start-
ed from this interior section. But ^s the navi-



TOWN OF INDEPENDENCE. 33

gation of the Missouri river had considerably
advanced towards the year 1831, and the ad-
vantages of some point of debarkation nearer
the western frontier were very evident, where-
by upwards of a hundred miles of trouble-
some land-carriage, over unimproved and
often miry roads, might be avoided, the new
town of INDEPENDENCE, but twelve miles from
the Indian border and two or three south of
the Missouri river, being the most eligible
point, soon began to take the lead as a place
of debarkation, outfit and departure, which, in
spite of all opposition, it has ever since main-
tained. It is to this beautiful spot, already
grown up to be a thriving town, that the prairie
adventurer, whether in search of wealth,
health or amusement, is latterly in the habit
of repairing, about the first of May, as the
caravans usually set out some time during that
month. Here they purchase their provisions
for the road, and many of their mules, oxen,
and even some of their wagons in short,
load all their vehicles, and make their final
preparations for a long journey across the
prairie wilderness.

As Independence is a point of convenient
access (the Missouri river being navigable at
all times from March till November), it has
become the general 'port of embarkation' for
every part of the great western and northern
* prairie ocean. 7 Besides the Santa Fe cara-
vans, most of the Rocky Mountain traders
and trappers, as well as emigrants to Oregon,
take this town in their route. Daring the



34 VALETUDINARIANS.

season of departure, therefore, it is a place of
much bustle arid active business.

Among the concourse of travellers at this
' starting point,' besides traders and tourists, a
number of pale-faced invalids are generally
to be met with. The Prairies have, in fact,
become very celebrated for their sanative
effects more justly so, no doubt, than the
most fashionable watering-places of the North.
Most chronic diseases, particularly liver com-
plaints, dyspepsias, and similar affections, are
often radically cured ; owing, no doubt, to the
peculiarities of diet, and the regular exercise
incident to prairie life, as well as to the purity
of the atmosphere of those elevated unem-
barrassed regions. An invalid myself, I can
answer for the efficacy of the remedy, at least
in my own case. Though, like other valetudi-
narians, I was disposed to provide an ample
supply of such commodities as I deemed ne-
cessary for my comfort and health, I was not
long upon the prairies before I discovered that
most of such extra preparations were unne-
cessary, or at least quite dispensable. A few
knick-knacks, as a little tea, rice, fruits, crack-
ers, etc., suffice very well for the first fortnight,
alter which the invalid is generally able to
take the fare of the hunter and teamster.
Though I set out myself in a carnage, be-
fore the close of the first week I saddled my
pony; and when we reached the buffalo
range, I was not only as eager for the chase as
the sturdiest of my companions, but I enjoy-
ed far more exquisitely my share of the buf-



SUPPLIES FOR THE ROAD. 35

falo, than all the delicacies which were ever de-
vised to provoke the most fastidious appetite.

The ordinary supplies for each man's con-
sumption during the journey, are abotit fifty
pounds of flour, as many more of bacon, ten
of coffee and twenty of sugar, and a little
salt. Beans, crackers, and trifles of that de-
scription, are comfortable appendages, but be-
ing looked upon as dispensable luxuries, are
seldom to be found in any of the stores on the
road. The buffalo is chiefly depended upon
for fresh meat, and great is the joy of the tra-
veller when that noble animal first appears in
sight.

The wagons now most in use upon the
Prairies are manufactured in Pittsburg ; and
are usually drawn by eight mules or the same
number of oxen. Of late years, however, I
have seen much larger vehicles employed,
with ten or twelve mules harnessed to each,
and a cargo of goods of about five thousand
pounds in weight. At an early period the
horse was more frequently in use, as mules
were not found in great abundance ; but as
soon as the means for procuring these
animals increased, the horse was gradu-
ally and finally discarded, except occasion-
ally for riding and the chase.

Oxen having been employed by Major
Riley for the baggage wagons of the escort
which was furnished the caravan of 1829,


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