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•^c "^

Redrawn by Miss Martha H. Hoke from portrair
in Ste\ens' Blacl: Hank War.






Edited, with notes and biographical sketches, by


, • • •

Of this book, three hundred and sixty-five copies

have been printed from type, of

which this copy is

No, ?6/



Copyright 1916
By Missouri Historical Society


215 Pine Street, Saint Louis




Introduction— Missouri Fur Company— Terms of Engagement
with them— Departure for the Trapping Grounds— Inci-
dents on the Route— The Pork Meeting— Scenery— Cheek.
A Western Pioneer — His affair with the Irishman — A Hunt-
ing Excursion — The Rickarees — The Mandans — The Gros
Ventres — The Company's Fort— Cheek and Ried — Friends
between the French and Americans — Violation of Contract-
by Company — Departure for Upper Missouri — Wintering —
Trip across the Country — Famine and Cold — Scenery on the
Yellow Stone— Manuel's Fort— Col. Menard and Manuel
Liza — Indian Murders — A Snow Storm in the Mountains —
Blindness— Arrival at the Forks of the Missouri— Prepara-
tions for business ^3


Colter's Race and escapes— Separation for trapping— Descent of
the Missouri — A fine Landscape — Bad luck — Alarm from In-
dians — Retreat to the fort — Death of Cheek — Pursuit of the
Indians — Return — The White Bears — Incidents of hunting
— Return to the Twenty Five Yard river — A party of Gros-
Ventres — Suspected Robbery — Interview with the Crows —
Rapid crossing of the Yellow Stone — Descent to the Fort and
the "Cache" — Robbery made certain — Passage to the Mis-
souri — Indian character and customs — A Spree, ending al-
most tragically — Generosity of the Company — Settlement
with them — A sage reflection 57


Employment from 1810 to 1821 — The First Santa Fe Traders —
Members of the Fourth Santa Fe expedition — Ascent of the
Arkansas — Vaugean — Removal of the Town of Little Rock
— Fort Smith and Major Bradford — Trading with the
Osages — Capt. Prior — Salt River — Salt Plains and Shining
Mountains — Robbery by the Indians — Sufferings from thirst
— Attack by the Indians — Further Robberies — The One Eyed
Chief and Big Star — Indian Council — Critical Situation —
Rescue by Spanish officers — Cordaro — Journey continued —
— San Miguel — Peccas and its Indian inhabitants — Santa
Fe — Farming 94


Interview with Governor Malgaris — Commencement of busi-
ness — Departure of McKnight — Arrival of Cordaro — His
Speech — His visit to Nacotoche — His death and character —
— Hugh Glenn — Celebration of Mexican Independence —
Gambling and dissipation — Mexican Indians — Domestic
manufactures— Visit of the Utahs — Their Horses— Speech
of the Chief Lechat — War with the Navahoes — Cowardly-
murder of their Chiefs by the Spaniards — Militia of Santa
Fe — Attempt to go to Sonera — Stopped by the Governor —
Interview with the Adjutant — Selling out — Hugh Glenn
again — How the Governor paid me a Debt — Spanish Jus-
tice — Departure for home 136


Col. Glenn's conversion — His profits thereby — Avenues to New
Mexico — An instance of Spanish treachery and cruelty —
Glenn's cowardice — Meeting with the Pawnees — Mexican
Indians — Battle between the Pawnees and Osages — Disap-
pearance of Glenn — Chouteau and the Osages — Indian re-
venge—Passage of the Neosho — Singular Ferrying — En-
trance into Missouri — Robbery by the Osages — Interview
with Missionaries — Arrival at St. Louis — More of Glenn —
Home — Still greater troubles with creditors than with the
Indians igj


Endeavors to get out of debt — Proposition of John McKnight —
Preparations for another expedition — Journey to the Arkan-
sas — Ascent of the Canadian and North Fork — Hunting
Bears, Elks, &c. — Fort commenced — Conversation with Mc-
Knight and his departure in search of Camanches — Con-
tinued ascent of the Canadian North Fork — A new Fort —
Return of Potter and Ivy — Robert McKnight goes out in
search of his brother — He returns with Indians — Charges
them with the murder of his brother — I go out to the Ca-
manche village — Incidents there — A council — The One
Eyed Chief — The whole band start for the Fort — A guard
placed over me — Encampment — The One Eyed adopts me
as his brother — He changes my relations with his tribe —
Catching wild horses — Arrival at the Fort — Fright of some
"brave" men — Trade — A robbery — The One Eyed pun-
ishes the thieves — Fate of John McKnight — Mourning
stopped — Indian customs — A dance — A case of arbitration
by the One Eyed — Indian horsemanship — Parting with the
Chiefs — Conversation with Alsarea — The horse Checoba —
A Bucephalus 190


We start for home — A stampedo — Loss of a hundred horses —
Interview with a Chief and his tribe — Pursued by Indians
— Passage through the Cross Timbers — Death of horses by
flies — Night travelling — Arrival at the Arkansas — Death of
horses by the Farcy — Loss of skins and robes by embez-
zlement — Start for home — Breakfast with a Cherokee Chief
—James Rogers — An old Cherokee — Interview with Mis-
sionaries — Arrival at home — Troubles from debt — An emer-
gence at last — Conclusion 228


Biographical Sketch of the Mandan Chief, Shehaka 248

Biographical Sketch of Nathaniel Pryor 249

Articles of Agreement of St. Louis Missouri Fur Company 250

Biographical Sketches of the Partners in the Fur Company —

Benjamin Wilkinson 256

Pierre Chouteau 256

Manuel Lisa 257

Auguste P. Chouteau 258

Reuben Lewis 260

William Clark 260

Sylvestre Labbadie 261

Pierre Menard 263

William Morrison ^. 263

Andrew Henry 265

Contract to Convey the Mandan Chief to His Home 266

Contract between the Fur Company and Thomas James 271

List of Deserters 272

Biographical Sketch of Ramsay Crooks 273

Letters of Pierre Chouteau to William Eustis, Secretary of

War, 22 November and 14 December, 1809 278

Biographical Sketch of John Colter 278

Biographical Sketch of John Dougherty 279

Letter of Andrew Henry to Francois Valle, 5 June, 1810 282

Biographical Sketch of William Weir 283

Interview with Pierre Menard, July, 1810 283

Biographical Sketch of George Drouillard 285

Notices of the Expedition of Smith, McLanahan and Others to

Santa Fe in 1809, with a Letter of McLanahan's..-. 286

Biographical Sketch of James Baird 292

Biographical Sketch of Jacques Glamorgan " 293

Biographical Sketch of Jules de Mun ^9^

Obituary Notice of Matthew Lyon 295

Bibliography .". ^^^^^^* 297

Index ^-,-



Chouteau, Auguste Pierre Page 176

Chouteau, Pierre Page 39

Clark, William Page 16

Crooks, Ramsay Page 24

Dougherty, John Page 69

James, Thomas Frontispiece

Labbadie, Syl vestre Page 3 8

Lisa, Manuel Page 47

Menard, Pierre Page 91

O'Fallon, Benjamin Page 218

Shehaka (opposite fac-simile title page) Page 11

Valle, Francois Page 70

Map of Mandan Country Page 33


Amongst records of personal adventure this book
of General James' will hold an assured place. The
strange and romantic events which it relates, and the
showing it makes of how the Missourians led the
way into savage territory, which has become the
home of peaceful and prosperous commonwealths,
combine to give to it great and abiding interest. The
incidents here told, though as far removed from
the possibilities of the present day as those of Jason
and the Argonauts on their journey for the golden
fleece, were of a kind which were not uncommon in
the lives of our grandfathers. If the Missourians
who went out from home in those days (and there
were but few who did not go) to the West, the
Northwest and the Southwest, had been skilled in
recording their experiences and their observations,
they could have made up a body of literature which
would have rivalled in interest the collection of Hak-
luyt. Unfortunately, few of the early Missourians
were writers. They mostly combined the qualities
of woodsmen and hunters, farmers and fighters,
trappers and traders; they were brave and resource-
ful, living their lives in the manner which they found
most inviting without much thought beyond the pres-
ent. Their training was in the hard school of ex-
perience and their limitations, as a rule, were nar-

row. There are many sources from which glimpses
of their hves and adventures may be obtained, but
connected narratives like the one here printed are
few in number.

For most of the details of the expeditions of which
he writes, General James is the sole authority, but
some side lights upon them have been found, which
are referred to in the notes or printed in the appen-

The book from which this reprint is made has
been in the library of the Missouri Historical So-
ciety for six or seven years. During that time care-
ful search has been made for other copies without
success. But one was heard of, and that one was
sold in Philadelphia in 19 12; who is its present pos-
sessor has not been learned. The reason for the
extreme rarity of the book will be suggested later.

The author, Thomas James, of Welsh descent,
was born in Maryland in 1782. His father, Joseph
Austin James, and his mother, Elizabeth Hosten,
with their family left Maryland in 1803 to look for
a new home in the West. They stopped for a time
in Kentucky and again in lUinois, reaching Missouri
In 1807, where they established themselves near
Florissant. At the time when he enlisted for the
voyage up the Missouri, Thomas James was about
twenty-seven years old. In Chapter III of his book
James tells of his employments after his return from
the upper Missouri.

After his expedition to the Southwest, he engaged
in milling, having bought and rebuilt what was known

as Kinney's Mill on a spring branch a short distance
southwest of the village of New Design in Monroe
County, Illinois. The place was for a time known
as James' Mills and later as Monroe City. In 1825
he was elected a general in the Illinois militia, and
about the same time to membership in the Illinois
legislature, in which he served during the years
1 826-1 828. In 1827 he was appointed postmaster
at James' Mills, which position he held for many
years. In the Black Hawk war he served as a
Major, having under his command a "spy battal-
ion," composed of three companies, led respectively
by Captains Daniel Price and Peter Warren of
Shelby County and Thomas Harrison of Monroe.
In orders signed by Albert Sidney Johnston he is
designated as Colonel James, from which it may be
Inferred that he held an independent command. At
the close of the war he returned to his former em-
ployments, and died at Monroe City in December,


The literary quality of James' book is of a higher
grade than would be expected in the production of a
man whose opportunities for school training were as
scanty as his. The recognition of this fact prompted
a letter of inquiry to Dr. John Francis Snyder, whose
active brain Is a storehouse of information as to the
history of southern Illinois, and of southern Mis-
souri as well, and from his reply the following Is
quoted: "Though I saw General Thomas James
on several occasions, and remember him well, I know
nothing of his history or personahty. He was quite


an ordinary looking man, six feet tall, muscular, and
of the pioneer or coon hunter type. But I do know
something of his book. It was written In Belleville
from his dictation by Judge, or Colonel, Nathaniel
Nlles. NUes was a New Yorker who came to Belle-
ville In 1839 ^^ 1840, a young penniless lawyer. For
a while he taught school. I was one of his pupils
about the time that he acted as amanuensis for Gen-
eral James. NUes In time married and raised a fam-
ily; he was a captain In Blssell's regiment at Buena
Vista in 1847, ^^^ was elected to the legislature, then
County Judge, and was colonel of the Fiftieth (I
think) regiment of Illinois volunteers in the Civil
war. He died at Belleville about six years ago. The
book had barely been issued from the press when it
was severely attacked by several newspapers — and
I think the old Missouri Republican was one of them.
Niles immediately suppressed it, gathered all the
copies he could secure and destroyed them. For a
long time It was a delicate subject to mention to him,
but in later years when it was mentioned, he did not
swear so much but regarded it as a good joke."

The reason for the suppression of the book is not
far to seek. General James was evidently a man of
bitter prejudices and an unbridled tongue. His
statements regarding the gentlemen connected with
the Fur Company and regarding Colonel Glenn, even
had they been true, were, to say the least, ill advised.
But the Chouteaus, Lisa, Labbadie and the others
composing the Fur Company were men of high char-
acter, ranking among the best citizens of St. Louis,

concerning whom James' accusations were entitled
to and could obtain no credence whatsoever. Colonel
Glenn is not so well known, but the mention made of
him by others is always in terms of respect; the
charges here made against him should be considered
as introduced for dramatic effect only. And the Mis-
sionaries, whom James pictures as such undesirable
citizens, are, in default of other evidence, entitled
at the least to a suspension of judgment. Colonel
Glenn was dead when the book was published, but
in St. Louis there were many persons who would
have been quick to resent such statements as James
there made about their kinsmen, and it is not sur-
prising that the book was promptly withdrawn from

Whether or not these statements should preclude
the reprinting of the book, even at this late date, has
been much debated, but it has been decided that the
lapse of years has deprived James' ill-natured ac-
cusations of all power to offend; and that the merits
of the book are such as ensure its vitality.

James' attitude towards the Indians, from whom
he suffered so much, is in surprising contrast to that
which he takes towards the whites. Of the latter,
John McKnight is the only one of whom he speaks
in terms of affection.

For the Indians, whether he looks upon them as
"Chiefs with the dignity of Real Princes, and the
eloquence of real orators, and Braves with the valor
of the ancient Spartans," or as "simple children of
the mountains and prairies," he shows kindness, lik-


ing and admiration. While their faults are not over-
looked, they are mostly attributed to the evil influ-
ences of the whites.

The Waterloo "War Eagle," at the office of
which James' book was printed, was a weekly news-
paper, edited, published and most likely printed by
Elam Rust at Waterloo, Illinois. Rust issued his
first newspaper at Waterloo in the spring of 1843
under the name of "The Independent Democrat."
In 1845, he changed its name to the "War Eagle,"
but the Eagle was not long lived, and the publica-
tion of the paper ceased about the year 1847.

Grateful acknowledgment and thanks are due to
many friends for valuable and kindly suggestions
and assistance, and especially to Miss Stella M.
Drumm, Librarian of the Missouri Historical So-
ciety, whose store of accurate knowledge has been an
unfailing resource. To Miss Drumm belongs, also,
the credit for the index, which is entirely her work.

W. B. D.

Florissant, 23 September, 19 16.


From McKenney and Hall's
Indian Tribes of North America.











Introduction — Missouri Fur Company — Terms of Engagement With
Them — Departure for the Trapping Grounds — Incidents on the
Route — The Pork Meeting — Scenery — Cheek, a Western Pioneer
— His Affair With the Irishman — A Hunting Excursion — The
Rickarees — The Mandans — The Gros-Ventres — The Company's
Fort — Cheek and Ried — Friends Between the French and Amer-
icans — Violation of Contract by Company — Departure for Up-
per Missouri — Wintering — Trip Across the Country — Famine
and Cold — Scenery on the Yellow Stone — Manuel's Fort — Col.
Menard and Manuel Liza — Indian Murders — A Snow Storm In
the Mountains — Blindness — Arrival at the Forks of the Mis-
souri — Preparations for Business.

I HAVE often amused myself and friends, by re-
lating stories of my adventures in the West, and
am led to believe, by the, perhaps, too partial repre-
sentations of those friends, that my life in the
Prairies and Mountains for three years, is worthy of
a record more enduring than their memories. I
have passed a year and a half on the head vv^aters of
the Missouri and among the gorges of tl e Rocky
Mountains as a hunter and a trapper, and two years
among the Spaniards and Camanches. I have suf-
fered much from the inclemency of nature and of
man, had many "hair breadth 'scapes" and acquired
considerable information illustrative of Indian and
Mexican character and customs. By a plain, unvar-
nished tale of Western life, of perils and of hard-
ships, I hope to amuse the reader who delights in ac-
counts of wild adventure, though found out of the


pages of a novel and possessing no attraction but
their unadorned truthfulness. I am now on the
shady side of sixty, with mind and memory unim-
paired. If my reminiscences, as recorded in the fol-
lowing pages, serve to awaken my countrymen of the
West and South-west, now thank God, including
Texas, to the importance of peaceful and friendly
relations with the most powerful tribe of Indians on
the continent, the Camanches, I shall not regard the
labor of preparing these sheets as bestowed in vain.
In the year 1803, when twenty-two years of age,
I emigrated with my father from Kentucky to Illi-
nois. In the spring of 1807 we removed from Illi-
nois to Missouri, which were then, both Territories,
and settled in the town of St. Ferdinand,^ near St.
Louis. In the fall of this year,^ Lewis and Clark

^ St. Ferdinand (San Fernando) is a village about seventeen miles
northwestwardly from St. Louis. While its legal name is St. Ferd-
inand it is known colloquially as Florissant and the post office bears
that name. A grant of land at this place was made in 1782 to
Francois Dunnegant dit Beaurosier of St. Louis. Col. Auguste Chou-
teau testified in 1808, ''that about the year 1786 Dunnegant was ap-
pointed commandant of St. Ferdinand, and continued so from that
time until the American Government took place; that from 1782 un-
til Dunnegant was appointed commandant the Indians were trouble-
some and there were orders for the inhabitants of this country not to
settle out of the towns."

The settlement of the village seems to have begun, however, in
1785, and the census of 1787 shows a population of forty-one per-
sons; in 1910 there were seven hundred and sixty-five. There were
few of the Florissant Creole families of early days who did not send
representatives to the far west, where they acquired more or less
distinction as "mountain-men," and their names yet survive as place
names in the mountain states.

2 Lewis and Clark on their return arrived at St. Louis, 23 Septem-
ber, 1806. James is consistent in adhering to the date here given in
the text, but in other places the liberty has been taken of substituting
the correct date.


returned from Oregon and the Pacific Ocean, whither
they had been sent by the administration of Jefferson
in the first exploring expedition west of the Rocky
Mountains, and their accounts of that wild region,
with those of their companions, first excited a spirit
of trafficking adventure among the young men of the
West. They had brought with them from the Up-
per Missouri, a Chief named Shehaka,^ of the Man-
dan tribe of Indians. This Chief, in company with
Lewis and Clark visited the "Great Father" at Wash-
ington City, and returned to St. Louis in the follow-
ing Spring (1807) with Lewis, who, in the mean
time had been appointed Governor of Missouri Ter-
ritory. He sent the Chief Shehaka up the Missouri
with an escort of about forty United States troops,
under Capt. Prior.* On their arrival In the country
of the Rlckarees,^ a warlike tribe, next East or this
side of the Mandans, they were attacked by the for-
mer tribe, and eight or ten soldiers killed. This
event so disheartened the rest, that they returned
with Shehaka to St. Louis. The Missouri Fur Com-
pany had just been formed, and they projected an
expedition up the Missouri and to the Rocky Moun-

3 For sketch of Shehaka, see Appendix.

* For sketch of Nathaniel Pryor, see Appendix.

^ The Rickaree or Ankara village was situated on the right (or
north) shore of the Missouri, in a bend where the stream runs
nearly westwardly, about six miles above the mouth of the Grand
(or We-tar-hoo) river, in what appears on late maps as Corson
County, South Dakota. A good account of the Arikaras may be
found in Dr. Hodge's Handbook of American Indians. When they
were first visited by white people they were friendly, but the con-
duct of the whites engendered in them a bitter and persistent hostil-
ity. See Journal of Jean Baptiste Trudeau among the Arikara In-
dians in 1795, 4 Missouri Historical Society Collections, 9.


tains, which was to start In the spring of the follow-
ing year, 1809. The company consisted of ten part-
ners, among whom was M. Gratiot, Pierre Menard,
Sam'l. Morrison, Pierre Chouteau, Manuel Liza,
Major Henry, M. L'Abbadeau and Reuben Lewis.
Gov. Lewis was also said to have had an interest in
the concern.^ The company contracted with him to
convey the Mandan Chief to his tribe, for the sum,
as I was informed of $10,000.^ I enlisted in this
expedition, which was raised for trading with the
Indians and trapping for beaver on the head waters
of the Missouri and Columbia rivers. The whole
party, at starting, consisted of 350 men,^ of whom
about one half were Americans and the remainder
Canadian Frenchmen and Creoles of Kaskaskia, St.
Louis and other places. The French were all vet-
eran voyageurs, thoroughly Inured to boating and
trapping. Manuel Liza, called by the men "Esaw''
had enlisted many of them in Detroit for this expe-
dition, and hired them by the year. We Americans

6 The partners in the Fur Company were Benjamin Wilkinson,
Pierre Chouteau, Manuel Lisa, Auguste P. Chouteau, Reuben Lewis,
William Clark, Sylvestre Labbadie, Pierre Menard, William Mor-
rison and Andrew Henry, biographical sketches of whom will be
found in the Appendix. The name of Dennis Fitzhugh of Louisville,
the third husband of Clark's youngest sister, Fanny, is inserted in
the articles of association, but he never became a partner. A copy
of the articles is given in the Appendix.

■^ A copy of the contract for the return of Shehaka is given in the

8 The following letter from Lisa gives the number of men and
boats: "Osage River, 24 June, 1809.

Gen. Clark, St. Louis. This is my last moment to write to you
and inform you of the situation we found ourselves in at the mo-
ment. We are starting with 172 men, nine barges and a canoe. Col-
lins and Cochran have just deserted. My respects to Governor
Lewis. Your humble servant, Manuel Lisa."

From copy, by Albert Rosenthal, of portrait in Independence Hall,
presented to Missouri Historical Society by G. A. Pfeiffer. Esq.


were all private adventurers, each on his own hook,
and were led into the enterprise by the promises of
the company, who agreed to subsist us to the trap-
ping grounds, we helping to navigate the boats, and
on our arrival there they were to furnish us each
with a rifle and suflicient ammunition, six good
beaver traps and also four men of their hired French,
to be under our individual commands for a period of
three years. By the terms of the contract^ each of
us was to divide one-fourth of the profits of our

Online LibraryThomas JamesThree years among the Indians and Mexicans → online text (page 1 of 24)