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westward bound, thoroughly fitted out for a campaign on
the open prairies; I manipulating the reins over the four



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120 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

horse team, while my friend sat behind the coachers in the
covered spring wagon.

We traveled out a few miles and went into our first
camp on the prairie. We talked but little; went to bed
early, and I confess, I did not prize my quarters as highly
as I might have done in earlier days.

We were on the road with the first light of the morn-
ing, and camped for the night on the east side of Choteau
Creek. Our next day's travel was through the Yankton
Indian Reservation, over a great deal of rough sideling
road, and at times I was fearful of my ability to keep
my heavy loaded wagon proper side up. There were many
abrupt hills and ravines to pass over, the White Swan
hill being a bad one. White Swan is the name of a place
on the Yankton Indian Reservation, located on the east
side of the Missouri River. I did not know then, nor do
I at the present time, how the name of White Swan orig-
inated, or why it was ever called a place, but I supposed
the name was derived from the family title of some of
the nobility of red birth. I did not see in that vicinity,
and did not think there was at that time a dwelling within
the radius of a half day's travel.

Fort Randall is located on the Military Reservation,—
on the west side of the river, directly opposite White Swan,
and eighty-five miles from Yankton.

Not being accustomed to the kind of teaming I was do-
ing, and my health not the best, having to figure with a
team of four green horses over the rough roads, required



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NUGGBTS OF EXPERIENCE 121

my entire and close attention through the day. When
night came I would be very tired and always willing to
retire early, but after a few days on the road, I found
that being exposed to the open air was doing me good.
Strength was returning, my appetite was of the best, I
could sleep soundly, rise in the morning feeling as fresh
as the merry lark, and I began to enjoy our way of travel-
ing, hugely.

All seemed to be moving smoothly with us, until we
reached a small stream known as Piatt Creek, a tributary
to the Missouri River. On the west side of the creek was
located a ranch, a big log cabin and corral, for an accommo-
dation for freighters and the traveling public. We found
the water had recently been on its bad behavior and the
banks were badly washed away, making the crossing un-
safe for loaded teams.

My friend succeeded in crossing with the spring wa-
gon farther up the stream, while I was compelled to await
the repairing of the crossing. He hitched his team to the
corral, obtained a shovel at the cabin, and in a short time
had completed the crossing. I started my team for the
opposite side, when my friend's horse, that had many a
time run away at sight of a covered vehicle, seeing the
white covered top of my wagon rocking back and forth
as it rolled across the rough creek bottom, became fright-
ened, leaped to the front and broke his bit, turning him-
self and his mate loose on the prairie.



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122 NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE

Away they ran with our nice little spring wagon.
This race was a quarter dash, the trotter on the right hand
or off side, the natural runaway, the left side or the
pole. The trotter proved the faster runner, and they
circled to the left onto* the creek bottom. This was a race
in pure sincerity. I fancy I see them before me now, as
plainly as on the day of the casually, in that hotly con-
tested brush for first place in their semi-circle to the south.
It was a sad accident, but a comical sight. Our bed and
bedding went floating through the air, in all shapes and
directions; our provision box was broken open and sent
whirling about the prairies as if struck by a Missouri cy-
clone. The bread, meat, canned goods, tin pans and dishes
were strewn promiscously about all along the line. Our
little wagon was completely pulverized and distributed
broadcast to the gentle zephyrs of the great Northwest.
Nothing remained attached to the horses at the finish save
the ends of the broken whiffletrees, and when desiring to
discontinue the exhibition of speed, at the sudden appear-
ance of the creek brink, both horses fell to the ground
greatly entangled in the harness, where they quietly
waited extrication.

After releasing and returning them to the stable we
concluded there was business enough for us at that place
for the remainder of the day, and we would tarry for the
night. We began picking up such of our household stuffs
as we could find, with a view to putting them in the big
wagon on top of the load of butter. When they had been



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 125

secured and stuffed under the big cover, we commenced
gathering together the splinters and remains of our much
cherished little wagon, and we laid them carefully in a
neat little heap close by the side of the cabin, and en-
gaged a man with team to carry them to the Missouri
river and ship on a down steamer to Yankton. I did not
know what for, unless for burial.

The following morning we were early to breakfast,
and hitched up our four horse team, leading the runaway
horses behind. My friend lamenting the loss of his spring
wagon, and I with the four in hand, we journeyed on over
the plains.

At Port Thompson we found a good camping place
for a night, and I had the pleasure of meeting my old
friend, Frank Elliott, with whom I enjoyed a pleasant
visit. My acquaintance with Elliot dated some years be-
fore, when he was a soldier in the United States Regular
Army and located at Brule Military Post. I was then vis-
iting Major De-Russy, whose agreeable acquaintance I had
the pleasure to make in my earliest days in Dakota. The
Major was a great horse fancier and I enjoyed visiting
him. He kept a fine Hambletonian stallion, which he had
purchased in Kentucky, and two youngsters that were
promising speed. He had a half mile race track on the
plateau back from the Post, where he and I would go to
amuse ourselves with the horses. The Major was in com-
mand of the Post, and Elliott was Assistant Quartermas-
ter, and as there was but little military duty to be done,
11



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126 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

we enjoyed feasts of amusements. Later, the Major was
assigned to command in Arizona, among the Indians. El-
liott's term of service expired; he was discharged from the
army, and employed at the agency as issuing agent for the
Crow Creek Indians. Fort Thompson was an old mili-
tary post located on the East side of the Missouri River,
on the Winnebago and Crow Creek Indian Reservation,
which is one of the largest Indian Reservations on the Mis-
souri River.

But morning came, as I knew it would, and as the old
adage goes: "The best of friends must sometimes part."
So I parted with my friend Elliott, and we were soon again
winding our way over the wide prairie to the west. We
camped for the night on a pretty piece of level land by
the side of a stream of clear water. When we had finished
our evening meal we sat by the wagon enjoying some
Havana crooks, as my friend called them, which he had
not forgotten to bring along. The night was, reminding
me of the writing of the poet, purely sublime. The
weather was warm, not a cloud to be seen, and the stars
were shining forth in their brightest light. Not a sound
was heard to mar the grandeur of the peaceful night. All
under the azure canopy seemed to be at rest.

I remarked to my friend, "How strange it seems to
me, that white people can content themselves to live among
Indians at an Agency."

"They get used to it," he carelessly replied. Getting
used to living among those copper-faced people, I thought,



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 127

would be a good deal like getting used to being hanged ;
by the time the art was acquired the victim would
be of little value on earth. If a man who is not thoroughly
conversant with the fiendish customs and brutal desires of
those remarkable freaks of the human species, is seeking
information, thinking it would be nice to live among them,
will go to some of the Sioux reservations, go out in a dark
night, get lost and wander around on the banks of the Big
Muddy for the short space of two hours, and hear the
dreary noises, whether he be attentive or not, he can
thoroughly indulge in the unalloyed, dismal unciviliza-
tion to his entire satisfaction.

He is now a thousand miles from home in his loneli-
ness, thinking of his good and faithful wife, who is attend-
ing to his business matters while he is seeking a little recre-
ation in the far West. His darling, blue-eyed babes seem
more dear to him now, and he wonders if the little prat-
tlers lisp the name of Papa when they are repeating their
evening prayers, receiving their good night kisses and being
tucked away in their cosy little beds. He harkens to those
moaning sounds of the rolling waters, the agonizing howls
of the prairie wolves, the startling tumbling of the river
bank, the stealthy approach of the natives' canoe, notes the
rapid hissing noises of the different under-currents, and
sees the Redskin, in the darkness, sneaking up with toma-
hawk in one hand, scalping knife in the other, impatient to
chop him in the back of the head while he is enjoying a few
loving thoughts of home, and he thinks of the customary



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128 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

carelessness of the Sioux, when selecting a memorial in
the form of a tuft of hair— so likely to take the head with
it. If, when found at the expiration of his two hours, he
is still yearning for Indian agencies, he should be judged a
Brave, and permitted to wear the paint.

The Indians have named the Missouri River the "Big
Muddy" because it is a large and swift running stream and
the water is never clear. The channel is constantly chang-
ing in consequence of continuous forming and reforming
sandbars.

Five miles above Fort Thompson there is a peculiar
turn in the river, known as the "Big Bend." The river
flows in a southeasterly direction, then turns to the north-
east, then makes an abrupt turn to the northwest, again
curves to the northeast, then southeast, again south to the
beginning, and finally southeast, forming a narrow neck
of land between the two curves, and an oblong body of
many acres of rich grazing lands.

Near the small stream chain La-Rush, seven thousand
head of cattle were quietly grazing. These we were in-
formed were the property of Charles Woolworth and Com-
pany of Omaha, Nebraska.

Now being deprived of our little wagon, our sleeping
place was rendered very incomplete. We had a good mat-
tress and a sufficient amount of bedding, and would, when
camping at night, prepare a shake-down on the ground
under the wagon and stretch a tarpaulin around as a wall
against the weather, forming a very comfortable apart-



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 129

ment. I could not resist the thought of rattle-snakes, of
which there was no scarcity, lizards, wolves, and many
other beasts and reptiles that live and move about the
prairies ; but we were soon lost in dreamland enjoying the
sweet repose that so easily comes to the tired traveler in
the soothing breezes of the outdoor air on the western
prairies. Thus we arose each morning refreshed and able
for the duties of the day.

When we reached the river opposite Fort Pierre, we
were informed that we could not cross by reason of high
wind. We therefore moved back near the bluff and went
fnto camp for the day. At this time the birth of contempla-
tion of a town at East Pierre had but recently taken place,
and it was not yet known whether or not the project would
prove a success. A few rough board shanties, one liquor
store, one saloon and a blacksmith shop was all the new
town could boast of. French Joe, the pioneer saloon keeper
of Yankton' in its early career, was the occupant of the
saloon.

The following day when the storm had diminished to
some degree, the Captain thought the sign was right, and
that he would attempt to steer his craft across the Big
Muddy. We drove our team to the river, but could see no
boat. When we inquired as to its whereabouts, the Captain
erected himself to a high commanding attitude, and with
the short, thick finger of his right fist indicated the far
side of the sandbar, saying: "There she lays." I could
not then see a boat, but about a quarter of a mile from us



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130 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

I saw something which I though had the appearance of a
pile of refuse lumber, such as I had seen thrown from a
wornout plank road in the eastern states. However, we got
across the sandbar, and succeeded in boarding the thing,
only to find it had once been a ooal barge. My friend called
it a flat boat, and it might have been one at sometime, but
now was so badly warped that there was nothing flat about
it. The Captain landed us safely on the other shore, and I
did not regret awaiting the abating of the winds.

We were now at Port Pierre, a small village, prin-
cipally of log cabins, located on the west side of the Mis-
souri River. It was once a military post, but abandoned as
such a great many years ago, and at the time of which I am
now writing it was used as a transfer post for all freight
from the Missouri River 'boats, going to the Black Hills
and military posts west, which was hauled across the plains
by mules or cattle trains; thirty-five days for the round
trip to the Hills with cattle being considered a success.
Mules were more active.

We had been so long on the way, camping, eating and
sleeping in the open air, that being in the village seemed al-
most like returning to civilization, and we mutually agreed
not to make coffee; instead we partook of a very good supper
at the village hotel, the proprietor of which, we learned,
was frequently the subject of serious jokes at the pleasure
of the freighters. He was one who will not be forgotten
by the many who chanced to pass his way.



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 131

After visiting some old friends whom we met at this
place, we retired for the night; but did not sleep for the
reason that the cattle trains were ready to move, and the
inexperienced teamsters who had been engaged for the trip
were using the night for rehearsing the whip act.

Our next day's travel was along the north side of the
Wakpa Schicka, as the Sioux have it, or, "Bad River."
The feeders of Bad River, of which there are a goodly lot,
all rise in the north and flow in a southerly direction. The
freight road crosses many of them, &nd all must be forded
as there were no bridges at that time.



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CHAPTER XII



BAD RIVER— THE STORM AT PLUM CREEK— INDIANS ON THE
WARPATH— DEAD MAN'S CREEK— CHEYENNE RIVER— A
GREATER MISFORTUNE— THE INDIANS IN SIGHT— THE
PHANTOM HORSE-GUARDS.

Bad River rises in Ziebach County, and contributes its
contents to the Missouri River south of Fort Pierre. We
were blessed with the best of weather for traveling and our
roads were equally as good. The first and only rainfall
during our journey occurred on the night of our camp on
Plum Creek. Major Sharp, United States Army Pay Mas-
ter, with a guard of soldiers, camped near us. He was on
his paying expedition to the military posts along the Mis-
souri River and west to Fort Meade. I think that heavier
rain, louder thunder or sharper lightning I have never ex-
perienced, than we saw and heard that night.

Having camped on the east side, we found the stream
so swollen the next morning, that crossing with a loaded
team was an impossibility, and it was late when we suc-
ceeded in getting to the west side, where a log cabin and a
telegraph station were located. When there, we were in-
formed by the operator that a telegram had been received,
stating that the Indians were on the warpath. They had



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 133

the day before attacked John Dougherty's freight trains,
massacred his teamsters, and stampeded and stolen the
cattle. This was rather a discouraging report for us, but
we considered traveling one way as safe as going the other,
and continued moving towards the setting sun. Our roads
were heavy ; the streams swollen with the late rain and our
team mired in Burnt Creek in three feet of water, detain-
ing us some hours. We were fording the rapidly running
streams and toiling on through the seemingly long day, un-
til darkness fell, compelling us to go into camp for the
night, but a few miles in advance of our breakfasting place.
At ten o'clock the next morning we were entirely outside
of the rain belt, it having extended only over a space of
country about thirty miles from east to west. Our roads
were again in excellent condition.

As we were going quietly along one beautiful and
bright morning, not having been in conversation for some
time, and each of us seeming to be in consultation with his
own thoughts, our attention was drawn to an object in
the grass, a few rods from us and north of the road. We
looked steadily for a few minutes, and as we drew
nearer I thought it looked like a living thing. My friend
remarked: "It is a buzzard," adding, "it has been wound-
ed and cannot fly." As I sat nearer it, he gave me his
revolver, saying: "60 out and shoot it." Carefully I
descended from my seat and started for the buzzard, re-
volver in hand and ready for the attack, creeping along as
slyly as a cat stealing upon a mouse; with eye fixed on my



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134 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

intended game. The thing seemed to be looking directly
at me. My friend was calling to me: "Shoot, shoot." But
I noticed it did not move or change position. When I had
gone one-half the distance, I made a discovery. Quickly
dropping my revolver to my side, I quietly walked back Jo
the wagon. During the time I was returning, my friend
was anxiously inquiring what it was. When I was again
mounted, I said to him: "It is the skull of an ox, partly
covered with grass, with one horn pointing upward."
Then he laughed heartily at me for creeping up so care-
fully to shoot at the head of a dead ox.

Deadman's Creek was a place of our one night's so-
journ. Here was a low rough building, house and barn
combined, used for an exchange station by the Wyoming
Stage Company, and thirty miles east from the Cheyenne
River crossing. One hostler was the Robinson Crusoe of
the place; he also had been informed of the Indians tak-
ing the warpath, and was constantly on the lookout, and
every brush on the creek that contained a red leaf ap-
peared to him to be an Indian in blanket. We had no
lingering desire to remain longer than necessary at Dead-
man's Creek, and we were on the road, as the Ploridian
would have it, "away soon in the morning." I learned
that the name of this creek originated from the cause of
so many white men being killed at and near the crossing.
There was an Indian trail rising at Rosebud Agency, lo-
cated in the southwestern part of the Territory, on the
south fork of the White River. The trail bears away in



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 135

a northerly direction, crossing Deadman's Creek, at this
change station, leading north to Fort Bennett, and to
unite with Sitting Bull's and other hostile tribes in North
Dakota and the British Possessions.

At different times in the year, principally in the
spring time, when the grass began to grow, the Indians
would experience a change of heart, (for the bad), and
would travel this trail, back and forth, skulk in the thick
brush along the creek, and with their rifles pick off the
whites who were migrating to the Black Hills. There
were numerous, nameless little mounds to be seen, the only
mark and resting place of many an honest, industrious
white man, on whom misfortune had fallen in the old
states, and who had risked all to cross the wild and perilous
plains of Dakota, hoping to reach the gold fields of the
West, that he might better fortune for his dear ones, and
had fallen by the hand of the copper-faced American.
Who can say the "noble Redman?" What has ever been
accomplished by the savage that he should appear noble
to the eyes of the civilized world?

After reaching the summit of Peno Hill, we halted
long enough to partake of a cold lunch and feed our horses
grain, then passed on for the south fork of the Cheyenne
River, which we reached when the sun was about one hour
high. Finding no road to the water, the bank high and
almost perpendicular, we set our California break, tied the
wheels with rope, and began to descend the precipice. The
sand was loose and deep ; the horses were in to their knees,



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136 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

the wagon to the hub, and suddenly, horses, wagon and
sand went sliding down the embankment, all together. Af-
ter reaching the base, which we did without damage, we
forded the river at Smithville, and drove up inside the
stockade, where we were to remain for the night.

The south fork of the Cheyenne River rises in Wy-
oming, and flows east around the south foot of the Black
Hills, then in a northeast direction. The north fork of
the Cheyenne, also rises in Wyoming and flows in a south-
easterly direction around the north foothills, then east,
twelve miles north of Smithville, where the two forks unite
their forces and constitute the Big Cheyenne River, which
flows in an easterly direction and contributes its waters
to the Missouri River, north of Fort Bennett. Smithville
consists of one log cabin with log stable adjoining, enclosed
with an eight foot stockade, and is situated on the west
side of the south fork of the Cheyenne River.

At this place my friend met with another and greater
misfortune. Almost immediately after stabling our teams,
one of the wheel horses fell sick. My friend treated him
with such medicine as he had with him. After we had
partaken of the repast prepared at the cabin for us, I
went with him to see his patient. I deemed the chances
against us and inquired if I could be of assistance, but
my friend thought it was not necessary for both of us to
remain, and that I had better retire, assuring me that he
would have the horse right in the morning. I walked to
our wagon and was soon in bed and lulled to rest by the



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 137

rippling waters of the Cheyenne. I did not waken until
the gray light was shining in the east and my friend was
at the wagon calling for me. He had lost all hope of
saving the-life of his horse. I went with him, but we were
only in time to see the faithful servant breathing his last.
We were not detained long at the iranch; it was earlyj
morning and we were determined to move westward. Ar-
rangements were consummated with Mr. Smith, the pro-
prietor of the place, for the disposition of the dead horse.
With the runaway horse harnessed in his place, and my
trotter bringing up the rear, we were soon climbing the
bluff for the open prairie.

We were now fairly in the part of the country where
the Indians were said to be. In fact, we had been on In-
dian ground for the most part of the way, but the Plum
Creek report placed the hostiles west of the Cheyenne
River. We had heard no different report from the first
and were on the lookout for the blood-thirsties. Excellent
weather was favoring us, and as we journeyed on day
after day, feeling that we were nearing our destination,
we grew more bold and traveled with less anxiety, as we
believed ourselves to be so far west as not to be in much
danger of coming in contact with the Indians. True, their
whereabouts was unknown, and the unevenness of the coun-
try offered good opportunities for operating with their
marauding parties, but we were to some degree cheered
by our good fortune in not having been molested thus far.
12



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Suddenly my friend, whose eye rarely missed a mov-
ing object, looked southward and saw something over the
hill several hundred yards from the road. "There are the
Indians," he exclaimed. I turned in the direction he had
indicated, and there beheld, looming before us, the
feathers in the war bonnets on the heads of several red-
skins. They were evidently hiding behind the ridges and
peeping over the edge at us. The Sioux were now in
possession of the field. This was to us sufficient and reli-
able confirmation of the report at Plum Creek. The Sioux


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