Various.

Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 online

. (page 2 of 20)
Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 2 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


possible monotony attending the promenade. If the growth of the town
seems to continue satisfactory, its houses - at least those in or near
its central portions - begin gradually to pass through the next stage in
their development. During this interesting period, which might be called
their chrysalid state, they are twisted and turned, sometimes sawn
asunder, parts lopped off here and applied elsewhere, and all those
radical changes made which would utterly destroy anything possessed of
protean possibilities inferior to those of the common Western frame
house. But, as a final result of this treatment and some small additions
of new material, at last emerges the shapely and often artistic
cottage, resplendent in paint, and bearing small resemblance to the
slab-built barn which forms its framework. If the sometime camp becomes
a city - if Auraria grows into a Denver and Fontaine develops into
Pueblo - the frame houses will sooner or later share a common fate, that
of being mounted on wheels or rollers for a journey suburbward, to make
room for the substantial blocks of brick or stone. By this curious
process of evolution do most of our Western towns rapidly acquire more
or less of a metropolitan appearance.

[Illustration: MEXICAN INTERIOR.]

Pueblo, while not a representative Western town in these respects, yet
in its early days presented some curious combinations, most of them
growing out of the heterogeneous human mixture that attempted to form a
settlement. The famous Green-Russell party, on its way from Georgia to
the Pike's Peak country, had passed through Missouri and Kansas in 1858,
and there found an element ripe for any daring and adventurous deeds in
unknown lands. Many of the border desperadoes, then engaged in that
hard-fought prelude to the civil war, found it desirable and expedient
to leave a place where their violent deeds became too well known; and
these, together with others who hoped to find in a new country relief
from the anarchy which reigned at home, fell into the wake of the
pioneers. Pueblo received its full share of Kansas outlaws about this
time, and, what with those it already contained, even a modicum of peace
seemed out of the question. Here, for instance, was found living with
the Mexicans by the plaza a quarrelsome fellow named Juan Trujillo,
better known by the sobriquet of Juan Chiquito or "Little John," which
his diminutive stature had earned for him. This worthy is represented as
a constant disturber of the peace, and he met the tragic fate which his
reckless life had invited. From being a trusted friend he had incurred
the enmitv of a noted character named Charley Antobees, than whom,
perhaps, no one has had a more varied frontier experience. Coming to the
Rocky Mountains in 1836 in the employ of the American Fur Company, he
has since served as hunter, trapper, Indian-fighter, guide to several
United States exploring expeditions, and spy in the Mexican war as well
as in the war of the rebellion. Antobees still lives on the outskirts of
Pueblo, and his scarred and bronzed face, framed by flowing locks of
jet-black hair, is familiar to all. The frame that has endured so much
is now bent, and health is at last broken, and about a year since an
effort was made by Judge Bradford and others to secure him a pension.
But twenty years back he was in his full vigor and able to maintain his
own against all odds. Whether or not it is true we cannot say, but
certain it is that he is credited with causing the death of Juan
Chiquito. An Indian called "Chickey" actually did the deed, lying in
ambush for his victim. Perhaps few were sorry at the Mexican's sudden
taking off, and in a country where Judge Lynch alone executes the laws
the whole transaction was no doubt regarded as eminently proper.

Among those who came to Pueblo with the influx of 1858 were two brothers
from Ohio, Josiah and Stephen Smith. Stalwart young men were these, of a
different type from the Kansans and Missourians, yet not of the sort to
be imposed upon. They were crack rifle-shots, and even then held decided
opinions on the Indian question - opinions which subsequent experiences
have served to emphasize, but not change. And what with constant
troubles with the savages, as well as with the scarcely less intractable
Kansans, their first years in the Far West could not be called
altogether pleasant. Many a time have their lives been in danger from
bands of outlaw immigrants, who, dissatisfied with not finding gold
lying about as they had expected, sought to revenge themselves upon the
settlers, whom they considered in fault for having led the way. Their
personal bravery went far toward bringing to a close this reign of
terror and transforming the lawless settlement into a permanent and
prosperous town. Still in the prime of life, they look back with
pleasure over their most hazardous experiences, for time has softened
the dangers and cast over them the glow of romance. And while none are
more familiar with everything concerning the early history of Pueblo, it
is equally true that none are more ready to gratify an appreciative
listener, and the writer is indebted for much that follows to their
inimitable recitals.

About the first work of any note undertaken in connection with the new
town was the building of a bridge across the Arkansas. This was
accomplished in 1860, when a charter was obtained from Kansas and a
structure of six spans thrown across the river. It was a toll-bridge,
and every crossing team put at least one dollar into the pockets of its
owners. But trouble soon overtook the management. While one of the
proprietors was in New Mexico, building a mill for Maxwell upon his
famous estate, the other was so unfortunate as to kill three men, and
was obliged, as Steph Smith felicitously expressed it, to "skip out."
Thus the bridge passed into other hands, where it remained till it was
partly washed away in 1863. The following little matter of history
connected with its palmy days will be best given in the narrator's own
words: "We had a blacksmith who misused his wife. The citizens took him
down to the bridge, tied a rope around his body and threw him into the
river. They kept up their lick until they nearly drowned the poor cuss,
then whispered to him to be good to his wife or his time would be short.
He took the hint, used his wife well, and everything was lovely. That
was the first cold-water cure in Pueblo, and I ain't sure but the last."
This incident serves to illustrate the inherent character of American
gallantry, for, however wild or in most respects uncivilized men may
appear to become under the influence of frontier life, instances are
rare in which women are not treated with all the honor and respect due
them. Indeed, I have sometimes thought that the general sentiment
concerning woman is more refined and reverential among the bronzed
pioneers at the outposts than under the influence of a higher
civilization.

The Arkansas, ever changing its winding course after the manner of
prairie-rivers, has long since shifted its bed some distance to the
south, leaving only a portion of the old bridge to span what in high
water becomes an arm of the river, but which ordinarily serves to convey
the water from a neighboring mill. We lean upon its guard-rail while
fancy is busy with the past. We picture the prairie-schooners winding
around the mesas and through the gap: soon they have come to the grove
by the river-bank; the horses are picketed and the camp-fire is blazing;
brown children play in the sand while their parents lie stretched out in
the shadow of the wagons. They left civilization on the banks of the
Missouri more than a month ago, and their eyes are still turned toward
those grand old mountain-ranges in the west over which the declining sun
is now pouring its transfiguring sheen. The brightness dazzles the eyes,
and the Mexican who rides by on a scarce manageable broncho with nose
high in air might be old Juan Chiquito bent upon some murderous errand.
But no: the rider has stopped the animal, and is soliciting the peaceful
offices of a blacksmith, whose curious little shop, bearing the
suggestive name of "Ute," is seen near the bridge. Here bronchos, mules
and burros are fitted with massive shoes by this frontier Vulcan and
sent rejoicing upon their winding and rocky ways. Our sleepy gaze
follows along Santa Fé Avenue, and the eye sees little that is
suggestive of a modern Western town. But soon comes noisily along a
one-horse street-car, which asserts its just claims to popular notice in
consequence of its composing a full half of a system scarce a fortnight
old by filling the air with direful screeches as each curve is
laboriously described. And later, when the magnificent overland train,
twenty-six hours from Kansas City, steams proudly up to the station,
fancy can no longer be indulged. The old has become new. The great
Plains have been bridged, and the outposts of but a decade ago become
the suburbs of to-day.

[Illustration: OLD BRIDGE.]

Doubtless Old Si Smith now and then indulges in reveries somewhat
similar, but his retrospections would be of a minute and personal
character. To warm up the average frontiersman, however - and Old Si is
no exception - into a style at once luminous and emphatic and embellished
with all the richness of the border dialect, it is only necessary to
suggest the Indian topic. However phlegmatically he may reel off his
yarns, glowing though they be with exciting adventure, it is the
red-skins that cause his eyes to flash and his rhetoric to become fervid
and impressive. To him the Indian is the embodiment of all that is
supremely vile, and hence merits his unmitigated hatred. Killing
Indians is his most delightful occupation, and the next in order is
talking about it. His contempt for government methods is unbounded, and
the popular Eastern sentiment he holds in almost equal esteem. The Smith
brothers have had a varied experience in frontier affairs, in which the
Indian has played a prominent part. They hold the Western views, but
with less prejudice than is generally found. They argue the case with a
degree of fairness, and many of their opinions and deductions are novel
and equally just. Said Stephen Smith to the writer: "We've got this
thing reduced right down to vulgar fractions, and the Utes have got to
go. The mineral lands are worth more to us than the Indians are" - this
with a suggestive shrug - "and if the government don't remove them from
the reserves, why, we'll have to do it ourselves. There's a great fuss
been made about the whites going on the Indian reserves; and what did it
all amount to? Maybe fifty or sixty prospectors, all told, have got over
the lines, dug a few holes and hurt nobody. But I suppose the Indians
always stay where they ought to! I guess not. Some of them are off their
reserves half the time, and they go off to murder and kill. Do they ever
get punished for that? Not much, except when folks do it on their own
account. But let a white man get found on the Indian reserves and
there's a great howl. I want a rule that will work both ways, and I
don't give much for a government that isn't able to protect me on the
Indian reserves the same as anywhere else. Some years ago Indian
troubles were reported at Washington, and Sherman was sent out to
investigate. Of course they heard he was coming, and all were on their
good behavior. They knew where their blankets and ponies and provisions
came from. Consequently, Sherman reported everything peaceful: he hadn't
seen anybody killed. That's about the kind of information they get in
the East on the Indian question.

"Misused? Yes, the Indians have been misused, badly misused. I know
that. But who have _they_ misused? This whole country is covered with
ruins, and they all go to show that it has been inhabited by a
highly-civilized race of people. And what has become of them? I believe
the Indians cleaned them out long years ago; and now their turn has
come. I find it's a law of Nature" - and here the narrator's tone grew
more reverent as if touching upon a higher theme - "that the weak go to
the wall. It's a hard law, but I don't see any way out of it. The old
Aztecs had to go under, and the Indians will have to follow suit."

Whatever humanitarians and archæologists may conclude concerning these
opinions, they are nevertheless extensively held in the Far West. The
frontiersman, who sees the Indian only in his native savagery, who has
found it necessary to employ a considerable part of his time in keeping
out of range of poisoned arrows, and who must needs be always upon the
alert lest his family fall a prey to Indian treachery, cannot be
expected to hold any ultra-humanitarian views upon the subject. He has
not been brought in contact with the several partially-civilized tribes,
in whose advancement many see possibilities for the whole race. He
cannot understand why the government allows the Indians to roam over
enormous tracts of land, rich in minerals they will never extract and
containing agricultural possibilities they will never seek to realize.
His plan would be to have only the same governmental care exercised over
the red man as is now enjoyed by the white, and then look to the law of
the survival of the fittest to furnish a solution of the problem. The
case seems so clear and the arguments so potent that he looks for some
outside reasons for their failure, and very naturally thinks he
discovers them in governmental quarters. "There's too many people living
off this Indian business for it to be wound up yet a while." Thus does a
representative man at the outposts express the sentiment of no
inconsiderable class.

Next to the Indian himself, the frontiersman holds in slight esteem the
soldiers who are sent for the protection of the border. The objects of
his supreme hatred still often merit his good opinion for their bravery
and fighting qualities, but upon raw Eastern recruits and West-Point
fledglings he looks with mild disdain. Having learned the Indian methods
by many hard knocks, he doubtless fails to exercise proper charity
toward those whose experiences have been less extended; and added to
this may be a lurking jealousy - which, however, would be stoutly
disclaimed - because the blue uniform is gaining honors and experience
more easily and under conditions more favorable than were possible with
him in the early days. "They be about the greenest set!" said an old
Indian-fighter to whom this subject was broached, "and the sight of an
Injun jest about scares 'em to death at first. I never saw any of 'em
_I_ was afraid of if I only had any sort of a show. Why, back in '59 I
undertook to take a young man back to the States, and we started off in
a buggy - a _buggy_, do you mind. When we got down the Arkansas a piece
we heard the red-skins was pretty thick, but we went right on, except
keeping more of a lookout, you know. But along in the afternoon we saw
fifteen or twenty coming for us, and we got ready to give 'em a
reception. We had a hard chase, but at last they got pretty sick of
the way I handled my rifle, and concluded to let us alone for a while.
They kept watch of us, though, and meant to get square with us that
night. Well, we travelled till dark, stopped just long enough to build
a big fire, and then lit out. When those Injuns came for us that night
we were some other place, and they lost their grip on that little
scalping-bee. They didn't trouble us any more, that's sure. And when we
got to the next post there were nigh a hundred teams, six stages and
two companies of soldiers, all shivering for fear of the Injuns. It
rather took the wind out of 'em to see us come in with that buggy, and
they didn't want to believe we had come through. But, like the man's
mother-in-law, we were _there_, and they couldn't get out of it. And,
sir, maybe you won't believe me, but those soldiers offered me
_seventy-five dollars_ to go back with them! That's the sort of an
outfit the government sends to protect us!"

[Illustration: SANTA FÉ AVENUE, PUEBLO, COLORADO.]

We have had frequent occasion since our frontier experiences began to
ponder the untrammelled opulence of this Western word, _outfit_. From
the Mississippi to the Pacific its expansive possibilities are
momentarily being tested. There is nothing that lives, breathes or
grows, nothing known to the arts or investigated by the
sciences - nothing, in short, coming within the range of the Western
perception - that cannot with more or less appropriateness be termed an
"outfit." A dismal broncho turned adrift in mid-winter to browse on the
short stubble of the Plains is an "outfit," and so likewise is the
dashing equipage that includes a shining phaeton and richly-caparisoned
span. Perhaps by no single method can so comprehensive an idea of the
term in question be obtained in a short time, and the proper qualifying
adjectives correctly determined, as by simply preparing for a
camping-expedition. The horse-trader with whom you have negotiated for a
pair of horses or mules congratulates you upon the acquisition of a
"boss outfit." When your wagon has been purchased and the mules are duly
harnessed in place, you are further induced to believe that you have a
"way-up outfit," though, obviously, this should now be understood to
possess a dual significance which did not before obtain, since the wagon
represents a component part. The hardware clerk displays a tent and
recommends a fly as forming a desirable addition to an even otherwise
"swell outfit." The grocer provides you with what he modestly terms a
"first-class outfit," albeit his cans of fruits, vegetables and meats
are for the delectation of the inner man. Frying-pans and dutch-ovens,
camp-stools and trout-scales, receive the same designation. And now
comes the crowning triumph of this versatile term, as well as a happy
illustration of what might be called its agglutinative and assimilating
powers; for when horses and wagon have received their load of tent and
equipments, and father, mother and the babies have filled up every
available space, this whole establishment, this _omnium gatherum_ of
outfits, becomes neither more nor less than an "outfit."

The last five years have witnessed a wonderful material progress in the
Far West. The mineral wealth discovered in Colorado and New Mexico has
caused a great westward-flowing tide to set in. The nation seems to be
possessed of a desire to reclaim the waste places and to explore the
unknown. Cities that were founded by "fifty-niners," and after a decade
seemed to reach the limits of their growth, have started on a new
career. And for none of these does the outlook seem brighter than in the
case of the city of Pueblo, the old outpost whose early history we have
attempted to sketch. Its growth has all along been a gradual one, and
its improvements have kept pace with this healthy advance. Its public
schools, like those of all Far Western towns which the writer has
visited are model institutions and an honor to the commonwealth. A
handsome brick court-house, situated on high ground, is an ornament to
the city, and differs widely from that in which Judge Bradford held
court eighteen years ago - the first held in the Territory, and that,
too, under military protection. Pueblo's wealth is largely derived from
the stock-raising business, the surrounding country being well adapted
to cattle and sheep. The _rancheros_ ride the Plains the year round, and
the cattle flourish upon the food which Nature provides - in the summer
the fresh grass, and in the winter the same converted into hay which has
been cured upon the ground. An important railway-centre is Pueblo, and
iron highways radiate from it to the four cardinal points. These
advantages of location should procure it a large share of the flood of
prosperity that is sweeping over the State. But enterprises are now in
progress which cannot fail to add materially to its importance as a
factor in the development of the country. On the highest lift of the
mesa south of the town, and in a most commanding position, it has been
decided to locate a blast-furnace which shall have no neighbor within a
radius of five hundred miles. With iron ore of finest quality easily
accessible in the neighboring mountains, and coal-fields of unlimited
extent likewise within easy reach, the production of iron in the Rocky
Mountains has only waited for the growth of a demand. This the
advancement and prosperity of the State have now well assured. Many
kindred industries will spring up around the furnace, the Bessemer
steel-works and the rail-mills that are now projected; and a few years
will suffice to transform the level mesa, upon which for untold
centuries the cactus and the yucca-lily have bloomed undisturbed, into a
thriving manufacturing city whose pulse shall be the throb of steam
through iron arms. The onlooking mountains, that have seen strange
sights about this old outpost, are to see a still stranger - the
ushering-in of a new civilization which now begins its march into the
land of the Aztecs.

Perhaps these thoughts were occupying our minds as we climbed the
bluffs for a visit to this incipient Pittsburg. The equipage did no
credit to the financial status of the iron company, as it consisted of
a superannuated express-wagon drawn by a dyspeptic white horse which
the boy who officiated as driver found no difficulty in restraining.
Two gentlemen in charge of the constructions, their visitor and two
kegs of nails comprised this precious load. The day was cloudless and
fine, albeit a Colorado "zephyr" was blowing, and the party, with
perhaps the single exception of the horse, felt in fine spirits. The
jolly superintendent, who both in face and mien reminded one of the
typical German nobleman, was overflowing with story, joke and witty
repartee. The site of the works was reached in the course of time.
Excavations were in progress for the blast-furnace and accessory
buildings, and developed a strange formation. The entire mesa seems
built up of boulders packed together with a sort of alkali clay, dry
and hard as stone, and looking, as our _distingué_ guide remarked, as
though not a drop of water had penetrated five feet from the surface
since the time of the Flood. Two blast-furnaces, each with a capacity
of five hundred tons, will be speedily built, to be followed by
rail-mills, a Bessemer steel-plant and all the accessories of vast
iron-and steel-works. With the patronage of several thousand miles of
railway already assured, and its duplication in the near future
apparently beyond doubt, the success of this daring frontier enterprise
seems far removed from the domain of conjecture.

[Illustration: OLD SI SMITH.]

All this was glowingly set forth by the courtly superintendent, who,
though but three months in the country, is already at heart a Coloradan.
That there are some things about frontier life which he likes better
than others he is free to admit. Among the few matters he would have
otherwise he gives the first place to the tough "range" or "snow-fed"
beef upon which the dwellers in this favored land must needs subsist. "I
heard a story once," said he, "about a young man, a tenderfoot, who,
after long wondering what made the beef so fearfully tough, at length
arrived at the solution, as he thought, and that quite by accident. He
was riding out with a friend, an old resident, when they chanced to come
upon a bunch of cattle. The young man's attention seemed to be
attracted, and as the idea began to dawn upon him he faced his
companion, and, pointing to an animal which bore the brand "B.C. 45,"
savagely exclaimed, 'Look there! How can you expect those antediluvians
to be anything but tough? Why don't you kill your cattle before they get
two or three times as old as Methuselah?'"

We took a long ride that afternoon under a peerless sky, with blue
mountain-ranges on one hand, whose ridges, covered with snow, seemed
like folds of satin, and on the other the great billowy Plains, bare and
brown and smooth as a carpet. The white horse, relieved of the kegs of
nails, really performed prodigies of travel, all the more appreciated
because unexpected. A stone-quarry for which we were searching was not
found, but a teamster was, who, while everything solemnly stood still
and waited, and amid the agonies of an indescribable stutter, finally
managed to enlighten us somewhat as to its whereabouts. These adventures
served to put us in excellent humor, so that when the road was found
barricaded by a barbed wire fence, it only served to give one of the
party an opportunity to air his views upon the subject - to argue, in


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 2 of 20)