William Henry Ryus.

The second William Penn; a true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe trail in the sixties online

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the bed out the window and burned it, together
with everything else in the room, and thoroughly
fumigated the premises.

With a face all scarred with smallpox he then
went down to the office and told the proprietor
of the hotel what he had done with the furniture,
bedding, etc., that he had used while he was sick.
He told Dr. Hopkins that he wanted to pay him
for the damage and asked him what price he
should pay for the furniture he had burned. Hop-
kins told him he supposed $50 would cover it. Then
he asked him how much he had damaged his house.
Hopkins again replied that he injured him about
$50. "All right," said Tom Barnum, "I'll pay it,
but let me ask you how many boarders left you
when they heard I was sick in the attic with the
smallpox." Mr. Hopkins told him they all left.
"So I understand, Mr. Hopkins, but will you tell
me how many came in before night how many
empty beds did you have while I lay ill with small-


pox?" Hopkins was hedging, but he had to an-
swer that all his beds were full; that he had no
room for more than came, but he said he felt sure
that his house had been injured at least $50.
Finally Tom Barnum happened to think of the
window pane he had left out of his inventory ot
materials destroyed and mentioned it. Greatly to
Barnum's disgust Hopkins scratched his head and
replied that he guessed that a quarter would cover
the damage to the window.

When this conversation was over and Barnum
had paid for all the "smallpox damage" he said,
"Now, Hopkins, figure up what our company owes
you; I want to pay it, too." "No," said Hopkins,
"I haven't time now, I always make out my bills
the first of the month." "Well," said Barnum,
"you figure our bill up right now and do not in-
clude dinner for any of us, for we are leaving you
right now, and will never bring a customer to this
house again and never come here to get a passen-
ger nor any one's baggage. In fact, our teams will
never come down the hill again to this house, we're

The smallpox had left old Barnum pretty weak
physically, but had evidently not weakened his will.
He left Hopkins in the office figuring up his ac-
count and he jumped a-straddle of a bare-backed
mule and went up on the hill and rented the new
40-room house, "The Bravadere," and sub-rented
enough rooms to pay the expenses of his company.
He also got a porter, bus and team and sent to the
landing to meet every steam boat to carry passen-
gers and their baggage free of charge to his "new
hotel" on the hill. This new hotel got to be all the
rage, and the old levee hotel in the bottoms was



doomed to be a "thing of the past." The old Gillis
hotel on the levee was bought in by the Peet Soap
Factory. The old "Bravadere" still stands in Kan-
sas City, but boasts a new brick front.



Uncle Dick Wooten Erects a Toll Gate. Major

Pendelton Carries Cash in Coach to Pay


In August of 1864 the scenery along the route
from Kansas City, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New
Mexico, was grand. Kansas City at that time was
a very small place. Its inhabitants may have num-
bered two or three thousand. Santa Pe with its
narrow streets looking like alleys was built mostly
of doby (mud bricks). Crowded up against the
mountains, at the end of a little valley, through
which runs a tributary to the Rio Grande, boasted
of healthful climate. Santa Fe had a public square
in the center, a house known as "the Palace."
There were numerous gambling houses there and
these gambling houses were considered as respect-
able as the merchants' store houses. The business
of the place was considerable, many of the mer-
chants being wholesale dealers for the vast terri-
tory tributary. In the money market there were
no pennies, nothing less than five-cent pieces.
The old palace about which I have called your at-
tention is an old land mark of Santa Fe and is to
Santa Fe what "The Alamo" is to Texas. The
postoffice at that time was a small building, 14x24,
with a partition in the center. It was one-story
with a dirt roof, as were all the houses of that old
Spanish city at the time my narrative opens.

On my first trip from Santa Fe to Kansas City
in 1864 there was little to note except that when I
got up on the Raton mountain about thirty miles


from Trinidad, Colorado, Uncle Dick Woolen had
aj large force of Mexicans building a toll road.
Originally the road was almost impassable. Sad-
dle horses and pack mules could get over the nar-
row rock-ribbed pass and around what was known
as the "devil's gate/' but it was next to impossible
for the stages and other caravans to get to Trini-
dad. This was the natural highway to southwest-
ern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico.
Uncle Dick was a man of considerable forethought
and it occurred to him that he might make some
money if he bought a few pounds of dynamite and
blasted the rock at "the Devil's Gate" and hewed
out a good road, which, barring grades, should be
as good as the average turnpike. He expected of
course to keep the roads in good repair at his own
expense and succeeded in getting the legislatures
of Colorado and New Mexico to grant him a char-
ter covering the rights and privileges of his pro-
jected toll road or turnpike.

In the spring of 1865 Uncle Tom built him a
tolerably pretentious home on the top of the moun-
tains the house on one side of the road and the
stables on the other and swung a gate across the
road from the house to the stables. I believe some
historians say that Uncle Dick Wooten continued
to live at this place until the year of 1895, the date
of his death. But as to the veracity of this asser-
tion I will not vouch.

The building of this road with great hillsides to
cut out, ledges of rock to blast out and to build
dozens of bridges across the mountain streams,
difficult gradings, etc., was no easy task. Neither
was it an easy task to collect toll from all the trav-
elers. People from the states understood that they


must pay toll for the privilege of traveling over a
road that had been built at the cost of time and
money, but there were other people who thought
they should be as free to travel over Uncle Dick's,
well-graded roadway as they were to follow the
"pig paths" through the forest.

He had no trouble to collect tolls from the stage
company, the military authorities and American
freighters, nor did he experience trouble with the
Indians who pass that way. However, the Indians
who did not understand the matter of toll gener-
ally seemed to see the consistency of reimbursing
the man who had made the road, and the chief oi
a band would usually think it in order to make him
a present of a buckskin or buffalo hide or some-
thing of that sort. The Mexicans, however, held
different views. They were of course pleased with
the road and liked to travel over it, but that toll
gate was as "a dash of cold water in their faces."
They called it Dick Wooten's highway robbery

After Uncle Dick's road was completed and the
stage coaches began to travel over it his house was
turned into a stage station and you can guess that
Uncle Dick Wooten had many a stage story to re-
late to the "tenderfoot" who chose his house to
order a meal or sleep in his beds.

Kit Carson was one of the lifelong friends of
Uncle Dick and two men for whom I have great
respect. They were both friends to the Indians
and both have told me that they would never kill
an Indian. The Arapahoes knew Uncle Dick
Wooten as "Cut Hand" from the fact that he had
two fingers missing on his left hand. This tribe
had a great veneration for the keeper of the toll-


gate, and he was perfectly safe at any time in their
villages and camps. One of the dying chiefs made
as a dying request, that although the nation be at
war with all the whites in the world, his warriors
were never to injure "Cut Hand," but to assist him
in whatever way they could if he needed them.
Uncle Dick Wooten's Christian name was "Richen
Lacy Wooten" and lived at Independence, Mis-
souri, before venturing to the frontier.

Before I leave Uncle Dick to go on to another
journey across the Old Santa Fe Trail I will relate
the story of the death of Espinosa Don Espinosa.
The Mexican aristocracy are called "Dons," claim-
ing descent from the nobles of Cortez' army. We
will see how cleverly Uncle Dick won the reward
of $1000 offered by the governor of Colorado for
the life of the bandit, dead or alive.

Espinosa living with his beautiful sister in his
isolated farm house among his vast herds of cattle,
sheep, goats and other animals lived a life of lux-
ury. There was a government contractor living
in his vicinity buying beef cattle for the consump-
tion of the soldiers. Espinosa came to believe that
he was losing beef steers and thought that the con-
tractor was getting them, and when this contractor
was shot and killed by an unknown at Fort Gar-
land it was generally supposed that Espinosa had
murdered him.

I have heard there was a very rich American liv-
ing at the home of Espinosa and that he was
enamored by the bewitching beauty of the dark-
eyed sister of Espinosa and they were engaged to
be married. The American had told Espinosa that
he possessed considerable money, etc., and one
night after the American had gone to bed he was


awakened by a man feeling under his pillow for
the purpose of robbery, and shot at the intruder,
who was no other than the treacherous Espinosa.
When Espinosa found that he was "caught in the
act" he killed the American with a dirk. His sister
cursed him for having killed her lover, the only
child of a rich New Englander. This deed is said
to have stimulated in Espanosi a desire to reap in
the golden eagles faster and faster, so he deter-
mined to become a bandit, a robber. Several
Denver men met death along- near the home of
the famous Espinosa and the governor accord-
ingly offered a reward of $1000 for his body, dead
or alive.

After this reward was offered I was passing
through Dick Wooten's toll gate on my way to
Santa Fe and one of my passengers had a copy of
the Denver Times in which he read of the reward
out for Espinosa in the presence of Uncle Dick.
Uncle Dick fairly groaned with satisfaction and
made this reply, "I will get that man before many
suns pass over his head."

About two weeks later Wooten was hunting and
he heard a shot ring out on the air, and decided he
would go in the direction of the shot and see what
was up. He got on his stomach with his rifle fixed
so he could shoot any hostile intruder and stealth-
fully crawled up to within a few yards of where
he had discovered a small camp smoke. There he
espied Espinosa in company with a small twelve-
year-old boy, ripping the hind quarter out of a beef
steer he had killed. Wooten kept watching and
crawling nearer Espinosa unsuspicious of the
watch of the old trapper, prepared to cook his sup-
per and had beef already over the fire cooking, an-
swering the many questions of the hungry lad near



him, when Wooten, getting a sight on him, sent
out a shot that ended the life of the fearless and
revengeful Mexican bandit, the terror of the Mexi-
can and Colorado border, Espinosa.

The boy hid under a log, but after being assured
by Wooten that he would not be harmed came out
and answered Uncle Dick Wooten's inquiries. The
child said he was a nephew of Espinosa. When
asked what the notches on the gun of the bandit
denoted, he told him they denoted the number of
men killed by his uncle, for whose life he had paid
the forfeit by his own at the hands of Dick Wooten,
the famous trapper of the Rocky mountains and
keeper of the toll-gate of the Santa Fe Trail.

Uncle Dick, a kind-hearted old fogie, in spite of
the fact that he had just killed a bandit, gently
pacified the little lad and finished cooking the sup-
per. When it was all ready they both ate raven-
ously of the beef, bread and coffee; then Uncle
Dick cut off the head of Espinosa and placed it in
a gunny sack, took the rifle of the beheaded rob-
ber and placed the little boy on his horse behind
him and started for the toll-gate; from there they
went to Denver and collected the ransom. Besides
the $1000 reward for the potentate of the Rocky
mountains which Uncle Dick received, he was also
the recipient of a very fine rifle, mounted in gold
and silver, and a small diamond. This rifle was
said to be worth $250. Uncle Dick showed the
"fire-arm" to me and I considered it a very beauti-
ful instrument of its kind. Old Uncle Dick proudly
invited inspection of his beautiful "fire-arm," but
woe to the man who criticised its wonderful
mechanism. I do not know of Espinosa's being
on the Santa Fe Trail but twice during my travels.


The drivers used to have lots of fun with the
passengers and after we left Trinidad they would
solemnly warn the passengers to examine their
Winchesters and revolvers, that it was not un-
likely that we would be accosted by some of the
gang of the Espinosa's robbers, and tell them that
the Texas Rangers would often hide in the moun-
tains and extract money and other valuables from
the passengers crossing over to the states.

Uncle Dick Wooten's wife was a Mexican and
they had a very beautiful daughter who married
Brigham Young. However, this Brigham was not
the great Brigham of Utah and Salt Lake fame.
He was only an employee of the stage company in
charge of the stage station at Iron Springs, about
half way between Bent's Old Fort and Trinidad.
This station was situated in a grove of pinyon trees
and other fine timber and infested by mountain
bear. Sometimes if we were passing along in the
night the mules would smell the bear and become

* * # * *

One time I had a passenger, Joe Cummins, a
marshal of New Mexico, en route to Washington
to get extradition papers for a man who had run
away to Canada, Joe was as full of mischief as a
"young mule." I had three other passengers and
Joe Cummins kept them laughing- all the way into
Bent's Old Fort, the junction of the Denver road
There we were met by Major Pendleton and his
clerk. Major Pendleton was paymaster of the
Union army on their way to Fort Lyon, Fort
Larned and Fort Zara to pay off the soldiers. He
rode with me to Fort Lyon and from there he either
had to go with me by stage or take a Government


conveyance, i. e. the militia, which would take him
eight or ten days. He decided to go with me if I
would agree to wait for him until he paid off the
soldiers at Fort Lyon and get an escort of soldiers.
He said he had $96,000. He gave me his package
containing the $96,000 to put in the company's
safe. I was busy with my coach at the time he
handed me the package and I laid it down by the
front wheel. A few minutes later he discovered
the package on the ground by the wheel of the
coach and picked it up and told me he would like
for me to take care of it. I told him I would attend
to it as soon as I got loaded we were fitting up
two coaches with mail and baggage to cross the
Long Route and I would soon be loaded, and I
laid the package down again. Pretty soon the
major came around and picked up the treasured
package and quite sternly asked me, "Are you go-
ing to take care of this?" The third time he en-
trusted it to me, at which time I asked him to come
to the office of the stage company with me. When
I got there I drew an express receipt, signed and
handed it to him, stating that it would take $400
to express it. By paying that amount I told him
that I would place it in the safe. "Oh!" he said,
"the government would not allow me to pay ex-
press." I handed it back to him and told him that
the government then would have to be responsible
for it, not the stage company. Then the major
said he would order a strong escort to go with us
across the long route. I told him that if he rode
with me he would do nothing of the sort, that if
an escort went with me I was the man to order it,
then they would be under me and travel with the
same s^eed I traveled. I told him if he ordered


the escort he would have to stay with them, so the
major told me to "fire away." I went to Major
Anthony and told him that I thought twenty men
would be sufficient, but that the old paymaster
wanted thirty-five men, so I yielded to him in this,
and with thirty-five soldiers we started. At day-
light the next morning I yelled "All aboard," and
the lieutenant in charge of the escort, who was a
regular army officer, told his cook to get break-
fast. I told the lieutenant that we always made a
drive of from ten to fifteen miles before we break-
fasted. He said he wouldn't do it, that the regula-
tions of the army were to make two drives a day
and not over thirty miles without food. The lieu-
tenant said he wouldn't drive the way I wanted
him to and they would have breakfast before th^y
started. I told him "All right, stay and have your
breakfast, I don't object, but then go back to Fort
Lyon." I did not need an escort unless they com-
plied with my orders. I had orders from my head-
quarters and they were supposed to be at "my
service" as escort of the mail and express. Well,
Major Pendelton was in a "pickle" it was a pre-
dicament he did not know how to get out of. He
wanted to get through as soon as possible and
knew that if he went back with the Lieutenant,
he would be delayed. He thought he had too much
money to be left with me without the escort. He
remembered Major Anthony's words to him before
we left the fort. Major Anthony had told him,
"you are safe in Billy's coach, he never has trouble
with Indians." However, while Pendelton pond-
ered, Joe Cummins thought he would fix matters
with the Lieutenant and took him to one side and
told him that he was under the orders of the con-


ductor of the Government Mail and Express, that
I was in the service of the United States Mail and
that my orders would supercede any orders about
traveling. Mr. Cummings told him that I would
make my 50 and 60 miles a day and he would have
to make his mules travel that fast, or go back. "If
you leave," Joe says, "Major Anthony will report
you to headquarters at Leavenworth." The Lieu-
tenant finally decided to go, much to the relief of
Major Pendelton. After we had gotten straight-
ened out and on the road once more, Joe Cummins
thought that the fun had tamed down too much,
so he winked at me, then asked me, "Billy, where
do those Texas rangers hold out along this road,
do ye know?" "Yes," I told him, "they generally
hold out right across the river in the hills, which
afford them such good hiding places where they
can ambush without being discovered." At this,
Major Pendelton suddenly woke up, "what's that,
you fellers are talking about?" Joe, casually re-
marked that they were discussing that band of
robbers that lived on the route across the river
from us. He kept on until Major Pendelton was
feeling "blue." When we camped for breakfast-
dinner as the Lieutenant called it. Cummings told
the paymaster many a bloody tale of the lawless-
ness of that trail, and ended by telling him and his
clerk that while I was getting breakfast ready that
they had better practice up on their marksman-
ship. The clerk had a four-barreled little short
pistol. The first time he shot at the mark he
struck the ground about four feet from it. The
four barrels all exploded at once. The paymaster
jumped about six feet in the air, thinking that we
were surely attacked from the rear. Cummings


was tickled to death. He handed the paymaster
his revolver, which was a 12-inch Colts, and told
him to shoot toward the board. The paymaster
fired and missed the mark. "Well," Cummings
said, "Billy, it's up to you and me, if we are held
up by the Texas rangers on this trip." "But,"
Cummings said, "the Major here is a first-class
shot, but a little weak in the knees." After we
again resumed the road, the paymaster began to
feel a little easier, and a little like I should think
a "donkey" would feel. He knew now that Joe
Cummins had been "prodding fun at him" and had
no defense. At Ft. Larned the next day, I accom-
modated the paymaster by waiting four hours for
him to pay off the troops. He asked me if we had
better take an escort, but I told him I was sure
we had no use for an escort since it was only a
five hour trip to Ft. Zara, where Larned City now
stands. I told him that the last escort we would
need would be from Cow Creek and that we could
get one from the commanding officer there. When
we reached Kansas City the paymaster took the
steamboat to Leavenworth and Joe Cummins went
to Washington and made application for extradi-
tion papers to go to Canada for a man who had
done some damage in New Mexico. Cummins
told me that Lincoln told him to go on back home
and let the man in Canada alone, that the officers
in New Mexico had all they could attend to with-
out another man.

Joe Cummings went back to Santa Fe with me
and had many a laugh about the old gentleman,
meaning Major Pendelton, getting so "riled up"
over a possible encounter with Indians, Texas
rangers, etc.


The Cold Weather Pinches Passengers Going
Across the Plains.

On one of my wintry trips across the plains, I
took a passenger by the name of Miller who was
going to Santa Fe to buy wool for Mr. Hammer-
slaugh. That Wcj?&one of the most extreme cold
winters I ever expCTienced. When we reached the
long route, that is^rom Ft. Larned a distance of
240 miles to Ft. Lyon with no stations between,
we took two coaches if we had several passengers;
however, this time I only had Mr. Miller. The
first night out I told him he had better sleep on
the ground, he would sleep warmer and be safer
from the elements, but he said he would freeze
to death. I told him that by morning he would see
who had frozen if he slept in the coach. Well, he
had lots of bedding, buffalo robes, buffalo over-,
shoes and blankets. This was in the month of
January and the weather was down below zero
and still a "zeroin'," it being at this time 20 below.
Sixty-five miles from Ft. Lyon I opened the cur-
tains and asked him how he was faring, and he
told me he was frozen to the knees. At Pretty
Encampment I opened the curtains again and told
him we had better put him in cold water and take
the frost out of his limbs. I told him I would cut
a hole in the ice and put his feet in there and he
would get all right, but he would not hear to it, he
said he couldn't stand it. I insisted that it was
the only plausible thing to do. He said that if I
would drive straight to Ft. Lyon as hard as I


could go that he would give me $100. I told him
no, I could not do that, it would kill the mules be-
fore we could get there. At four o'clock, how-
ever, we arrived in Ft. Lyon with our frozen pa-
tient. We got a.4octor as soon as possible who
doped his legs with oil and cotton and kept him

On my next trip in the month of February, I
took a lady passenger, a Miss Withington,
daughter of Charles Withington, who lived ten
miles east of Council Grove, Kansas. She wanted
to go to Pueblo, Colorado. I told her how danger-
ous it was at that time of the year, but she insisted
that she would make it all right, and as luck would
have it, she did make it. John McClennahan of
Independence, Mo., was our driver. On this trip
as on the previous trip, at Pretty Encampment I
opened the curtains and asked Miss Withington
how she was. She told me her feet were frozen.
"Well," I said, "Miss Withington, there is only
one thing to do, and it is a little rough." She
asked me what it was. I told her that I would cut
a hole in the ice and put her feet in the river if she
would consent to it. She was a nervy little woman,
and laughingly told me to "go at it." I went ahead
with blankets and the hatchet and cut a hole in
the ice, and the driver carried her and emersed her
feet in water 15 inches deep. She pluckily stood
it without a flinch. Her feet were frozen quite
hard but after 30 minutes they were thawed and
we took her back to the coach where she ate a
hearty breakfast and proceeded to Ft. Lyon. At
four o'clock we reached the fort. Miss Withington
put on her shoes but her feet were still too badly
swollen to lace her shoes and tie them. She walked

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Online LibraryWilliam Henry RyusThe second William Penn; a true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe trail in the sixties → online text (page 6 of 11)