The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark/Book 2
INTO THE WEST
THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE
"Spain, knowing she cannot hold Louisiana, has ceded it to France!" The winds of ocean bore the message to America.
"Napoleon? Is he to control us also?"
Never so vast a shadow overawed the world. Afar they had read of his battles, had dreaded his name. Instantly colossal Napoleon loomed across the prairies of the West.
Napoleon had fifty-four ships and fifty thousand troops, the flower of his army, sailing to re-establish slavery in Hayti. But a step and he would be at the Mississippi. He was sending Laussat, a French prefect, to take over New Orleans and wait for the army.
"Shall we submit? And is this to be the end of all our fought-for liberty, that Napoleon should rule America?"
The fear of France was now as great as had been the admiration.
Gaily the flatboats were floating down, laden with flour and bacon, hams and tobacco, seeking egress to Cuba and Atlantic seaports, when suddenly, in October, 1802, the Spanish Intendant at New Orleans closed the Mississippi. Crowding back, for twenty thousand miles inland, were the products of the Autumn.
The western country blazed; only by strenuous effort could Congress keep a backwoods army from marching on New Orleans. A powerful minority at Washington contended for instant seizure.
Pittsburg, with shore lined with shipping, roared all the way to the gulf, "No grain can be sold down the river on account of those piratical Spaniards!"
Appeal after appeal went up to Jefferson, "Let us sweep them into the sea!"
What hope with a foreign nation at our gates? Spain might be got rid of, but France—Monroe was dispatched to France to interview Napoleon.
"The French must not have New Orleans," was the lightning thought of Jefferson. "No one but ourselves must own our own front door."
And Jefferson penned a letter to Livingstone, the American minister at Paris:
"There is on the globe but one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market. France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance. Spain might have retained it quietly for years. Not so France. The impetuosity of her temper, the energy and restlessness of her character, render it impossible that France and the United States can continue friends when they meet in so irritating a position. The day that France takes possession of New Orleans—from that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation."
As Jefferson placed that letter in the hands of Monroe he added:
"In Europe nothing but Europe is seen. But this little event, of France's possessing herself of Louisiana,—this speck which now appears an invisible point on the horizon,—is the embryo of a tornado.
"I must secure the port of New Orleans and the mastery of the navigation of the Mississippi.
"We must have peace. The use of the Mississippi is indispensable. We must purchase New Orleans."
"You are aware of the sensibility of our Western citizens," Madison was writing to Madrid. "To them the Mississippi is everything. It is the Hudson, the Delaware, the Potomac, and all the navigable rivers of the Atlantic States, formed into one."
But Napoleon's soldiers were dying at San Domingo, the men with whom he would have colonised Louisiana. At that moment the flint and steel of France and England struck, and the spark meant—war. England stood ready to seize the mouth of the Mississippi.
After the solemnities of Easter Sunday at St. Cloud, April 10, 1803, Napoleon summoned two of his ministers.
"I know the full value of Louisiana!" he began with vehement passion, walking up and down the marble parlour. "A few lines of treaty have restored it to me, and I have scarcely recovered it when I must expect to lose it. But if it escapes from me," the First Consul shook his finger menacingly, "it shall one day cost dearer to those who oblige me to strip myself of it, than to those to whom I wish to deliver it. The English have successively taken from France, Canada, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the richest portions of Asia. They shall not have the Mississippi which they covet. They have twenty ships of war in the Gulf of Mexico, they sail over those seas as sovereigns. The conquest of Louisiana would be easy. I have not a moment to lose in putting it out of their reach. I know not whether they are not already there. I think of ceding it to the United States. They only ask one town of me in Louisiana but I already consider the colony as entirely lost, and it appears to me that in the hands of this growing power it will be more useful to the policy and even to the commerce of France, than if I should attempt to keep it."
He turned to Barbé-Marbois, who had served as Secretary of the French Legation at Philadelphia during the whole war of the American Revolution.
"We should not hesitate to make a sacrifice of that which is about slipping from us," said Barbé-Marbois. "War with England is inevitable; shall we be able to defend Louisiana? Can we restore fortifications that are in ruins? If, Citizen Consul, you, who have by one of the first acts of your government made sufficiently apparent your intention of giving this country to France, to France, now abandon the idea of keeping it, there is no person that will not admit that you yield to necessity."
Far into the night they talked, so late that the ministers slept at St. Cloud.
At daybreak Napoleon summoned Barbé-Marbois. "Read me the dispatches from London."
"Sire," returned the Secretary, looking over the papers, "naval and military preparations of every kind are making with extraordinary rapidity."
Napoleon leaped to his feet and strode again the marble floor.
"Irresolution and deliberation are no longer in season. I renounce Louisiana. It is not only New Orleans that I will cede, but the whole colony without reservation. I know the price of what I abandon. I renounce it with regret. To attempt to retain it would be folly. I direct you to negotiate this affair with the United States. Do not even await the arrival of Mr. Monroe; have an interview this very day with Mr. Livingstone; but I require a great deal of money for this war, and I would not like to commence it with new contributions. I want fifty millions, and for less than that sum I will not treat. To-morrow you shall have your full powers."
The minister waited.
"Mr. Monroe is on the point of arriving," continued Napoleon. "Neither this minister, nor his colleague, is prepared for a decision which goes infinitely beyond anything they are about to ask of us. Begin by making them overtures, without any subterfuge. Acquaint me, hour by hour, of your progress."
"What will you pay for all Louisiana?" bluntly asked Barbé-Marbois that day of the astonished Livingstone.
"All Louisiana! New Orleans is all I ask for," answered Livingstone. So long had Talleyrand trifled and deceived, the American found himself distrustful of these French diplomatists.
"But I offer the province," said Barbé-Marbois.
Surprised, doubtful, Livingstone listened. "I have not the necessary p owers."
The next day Monroe arrived.
"There must be haste or the English will be at New Orleans," said Barbé-Marbois. "How much will you pay for the whole province?"
"The English? Fifteen millions," answered the Americans.
"Incorporate Louisiana as soon as possible into your Union," said Napoleon, "give to its inhabitants the same rights, privileges, and immunities as to other citizens of the United States.
"And let them know that we separate ourselves from them with regret; let them retain for us sentiments of affection; and may their common origin, descent, language, and customs perpetuate the friendship."
The papers were drawn up and signed in French and in English.
"We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our lives!" exclaimed Livingstone, as he and Barbé-Marbois and Monroe arose and shook hands across the document.
"This accession of territory strengthens for ever the power of the United States," said Napoleon, coming in to look at the treaty. And as he affixed that signature, "Napoleon," he smiled,—"I have just given to England a maritime rival, that sooner or later will humble her pride."
And on that day the Mississippi was opened, to be closed by a foreign power no more for ever.
But no sooner had Napoleon parted with Louisiana than he began to repent. "Hasten," the ministers warned Jefferson, "the slightest delay may lose us the country."
The word reached America.
"Jefferson—bought New Orleans? bought the Mississippi? bought the entire boundless West?"
Men gasped, then cheered. Tumultuous excitement swept the land. On July 3, 1803, an infant Republic hugging the Atlantic, on July 4, a world power grasping the Pacific!
"A bargain!" cried the Republicans.
"Unconstitutional!" answered the Federalists.
"The East will become depopulated."
"Fifteen millions! Fifteen millions for that wilderness! Why, that would be tons of money! Waggon loads of silver five miles long. We have not so much coin in the whole country!"
THE KNIGHT OF THE WHITE HOUSE
And Meriwether Lewis was ready to start. The night before the Fourth of July he wrote his mother:
"The day after to-morrow I shall set out for the western country. I had calculated on the pleasure of visiting you, but circumstances have rendered it impossible. My absence will probably be equal to fifteen or eighteen months. The nature of this expedition is by no means dangerous. My route will be altogether through tribes of Indians friendly to the United States, therefore I consider the chances of life just as much in my favour as I should conceive them were I to remain at home. The charge of this expedition is honourable to myself, as it is important to my country. For its fatigues I feel myself perfectly prepared, nor do I doubt my health and strength of constitution to bear me through it. I go with the most perfect pre-conviction in my own mind of returning safe, and hope therefore that you will not suffer yourself to indulge any anxiety for my safety,—I will write again on my arrival at Pittsburg. Adieu, and believe me your affectionate son,
The Jefferson girls had returned to their homes. Dolly Madison and Mrs. Gallatin supervised the needle department, having made "housewives" enough to fit out a regiment. Joseph Rapin, the steward, helped Lewis pack his belongings, Secretary Gallatin contributed a map of Vancouver's sketch of the Columbia mouth, and Madison rendered his parting benediction.
Out of the iron gate in the high rock wall in front of the White House Meriwether went,—fit emblem of the young Republic, slim and lithe, immaculate in new uniform and three-cornered chapeau, his sunny thick-braided queue falling over the high-collared coat,—to meet the Potomac packet for Harper's Ferry. All around were uncut forests, save the little clearing of Washington, and up the umbrageous hills stretched an endless ocean of tree-tops.
The wind blew up the Potomac, fluttering the President's gray locks. "If a superior force should be arrayed against your passage, return, Meriwether," was the anxious parting word. "To your own discretion must be left the degree of danger you may risk."
But Meriwether had no fears.
"Should you reach the Pacific Ocean,—endeavour to learn if there be any port within your reach frequented by sea-vessels of any nation, and to send two of your trusted people back by sea, with a copy of your notes. Should you be of opinion that the return of your party by the way they went will be dangerous, then ship the whole, and return by way of Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. As you will be without money, clothes or provisions, I give you this open letter of credit authorising you to draw on the Executive of the United States or any of its officers in any part of the world. Our consuls at Batavia in Java, at the Isles of France and Bourbon, and at the Cape of Good Hope will be able to supply you necessities by drafts on us."
For where in the world the Missouri led, no man then knew!
"I have sometimes thought of sending a ship around to you," said Jefferson, "but the Spaniards would be certain to gobble it, and we are in trouble enough with them already over this Louisiana Purchase."
Too well Lewis knew the delicacy of the situation. Spain was on fire over the treachery of Napoleon. "France has no right to alienate Louisiana!" was the cry from Madrid. But what could she do? Nothing but fume, delay, threaten,—Napoleon was master.
"Under present circumstances," continued the President, "I consider futile all effort to get a ship to your succour on those shores. Spain would be only too glad to strike a blow. But there must be trade, there is trade,—all through Adams's administration the Russians were complaining of Yankee skippers on that northwest coast.
"Russia has aided us, I may call the Emperor my personal friend." With pardonable pride the President thought of the bust of Alexander over his study door at Monticello. "Though Catherine did send poor Ledyard back, Alexander has proved himself true, and in case any Russian ship touches those shores you are safe, or English, or American. This letter of credit will carry you through.
"And above all, express my philanthropic regard for the Indians. Humanity enjoins us to teach them agriculture and the domestic arts."
And after Lewis was fairly started, the President sent on as a great secret, "I have received word from Paris that Mr. Broughton, one of the companions of Captain Vancouver, went up Columbia River one hundred miles in December, 1792. He stopped at a point he named Vancouver. Here the river Columbia is still a quarter of a mile wide. From this point Mt. Hood is seen twenty leagues distant, which is probably a dependency of the Stony Mountains. Accept my affectionate salutations."
On the Fourth of July the same hand that drew up the Declaration of Independence had drawn for Meriwether Lewis a Letter of Credit, authorising him to purchase anything he needed on the credit of the United States in any part of the world. Was Jefferson thinking of those days when George Rogers Clark gave drafts on New Orleans for the conquest of Illinois? This again was another venture into a dark unwritten West.
The next day Lewis "shot all his guns" at Harper's Ferry, examined extra locks, knives, tomahawks, accoutrements that had been manufactured at his special direction. The waggoner from Philadelphia came jolting by with Indian presents, astronomical apparatus, and tents on the way to Pittsburg.
Pittsburg? A cloud of smoke hung even then over the embryotic city. Two thousand miles inland, it already had a flourishing ship-yard. Several large vessels lay on the stocks and builders were hammering day and night.
"The 'Louisiana,' three hundred tons, is waiting for the next rise of the river," said a strapping tar. "In May a fleet of schooners went out to the Caribbees. You are too late for this summer's freshet."
"Come, gentlemen, gentlemen all,
Ginral Sincleer shall remem-ber-ed be, For he lost thirteen hundred me-en all
In the Western Tari-to-ree."
Captain Lewis took a second look at the singer,—it was George Shannon standing on the dock.
"Why, Captain Lewis! Where are you going?"
George was an old friend of Meriwether's, and yet but a lad of seventeen. His father, one of those "ragged Continentals" that marched on Yorktown, had emigrated to the far Ohio.
Jane Shannon was a typical pioneer mother. She spun, wove, knit, made leggings of skins, and caps and moccasins, but through multitudinous duties found time to teach her children. "To prepare them for college," she said, "that is my dream. I'd live on hoe-cake for ever to give them a chance." Every one of her six boys inherited that mother's spirit, every one attained distinction.
At fourteen George was sent to his mother's relatives on the Monongahela to school. Here he met Lewis, forted in that winter camp. The gallant Virginian captured the boy's fancy,—he became his model, his ideal.
"And can you go?" asked Captain Lewis.
"Go? I will accompany you to the end of the world, Captain Lewis," answered George Shannon. "There is no time for mails,—I know I have my parent's consent. And the pay, that will take me to college!" Shannon enlisted on the spot, and was Lewis's greatest comfort in those trying days at Pittsburg.
The boat-builders were drunkards. "I spent most of my time with the workmen," wrote Lewis to the President, "but neither threats nor persuasion were sufficient to procure the completion before the 31st of August." Loading the boat the instant it was done, they set out at four o'clock in the morning, with John Collins of Maryland, and George Gibson, Hugh McNeal, John Potts, and Peter Wiser, of Pennsylvania, recruits that had been ordered from Carlisle. Peter Wiser is believed to have been a descendant of that famous Conrad Weiser who gave his life to pacifying the Indian.
By this time the water was low. "On board my boat opposite Marietta, Sept. 13," Lewis writes,—"horses or oxen—I find the most efficient sailors in the present state of navigation," dragging the bateaux over shallows of drift and sandbars.
And yet that same Spring, when the water was high, Marietta had sent out the schooners "Dorcas and Sally," and the "Mary Avery," one hundred and thirty tons, with cheers and firing of cannon. When Lewis passed, a three-mast brig of two hundred and fifty tons and a smaller one of ninety tons were on the point of being finished to launch the following Spring, with produce for Philadelphia.
George Shannon was a handsome boy, already full grown but with the beardless pink and white of youth. His cap would not fit down over his curls, but lifted like his own hopes. Nothing would start the boats at daylight like his jolly, rollicking
"Blow, ye winds of morning, Blow, blow, blow,"
rolling across the tints of sunrise. His cheeks glowed, his blue eyes shone to meet the wishes of his captain.
Past the fairy isle of Blennerhassett with its stately mansion half-hid behind avenues of Lombardy poplar and tasteful shrubbery, Captain Lewis came on down to Fort Washington, Cincinnati, where brigs had lately taken on cargoes and sailed to the West Indies.
Bones? Of course Lewis wanted to look at bones and send some to the learned President. Dr. Goforth of Cincinnati was sinking a pit at the Big Bone Li ck for remains of the mammoth, and might not mammoths be stalking abroad in all that great land of the West? Mystery, mystery,—the very air was filled with mystery.
RECRUITING FOR OREGON
"Now that I have accepted President Jefferson's proposal to be associated with Captain Lewis in this expedition, it will oblige me to accept brother Jonathan's offer of ten thousand dollars cash for Mulberry Hill," William Clark was saying at Louisville. "That will help out brother George on his military debts, satisfy his claimants, and save him from ruin."
At the time of sale the old home was occupied by General Clark and William Clark, and their sister Fanny and her children. The departure of William for the Pacific broke up and dispersed the happy family.
The General went back to the Point of Rock, fifty feet above the dashing Ohio. That water was the lowest ever known now, men could walk across on the rocks. Three or four locust trees shaded the cabin, now painted white, and an orchard of peach and cherry blossomed below. Negro Ben and his wife Venus, and Carson and Cupid, lived back of the house and cultivated a few acres of grain and garden.
All of Clark's old soldiers remained loyal and visited the Point of Rock, and every year an encampment of braves, Indian chiefs whom he had subdued, came for advice and to partake of his hospitality.
Grand and lonely, prematurely aged at fifty-one when he should have been in his prime, General Clark sat overlooking the Falls when Captain Lewis pulled his bateaux into the Bear Grass.
Captain Clark and nine young men of Kentucky were waiting for the boat,—William Bratton, a blacksmith, formerly of Virginia, and John Shields, gunsmith, the Tubal Cain of the expedition, John Coalter, who had been a ranger with Kenton, the famous Shields brothers, Reuben and James, William Warner and Joseph Whitehouse, all experts with the rifle, Charles Floyd, son of that Charles Floyd that rode with his brother from the death-stroke of Big Foot, and Nathaniel Pryor, his cousin.
Twenty years had passed since that fatal April morning when John Floyd was laid a corpse at the feet of Jane Buchanan. That posthumous child, ushered so sadly into the world, John Floyd the younger, now a handsome youth, was eager to go with his cousins—but an unexpected illness held him back—to become a member of Congress and Governor of Virginia.
And York, of course York. Had he not from childhood obeyed John Clark's command, "Look after your young master"? With highest elation York assisted in the preparation, furbished up his gun, and prepared to "slay dem buffaloes."
"An interpreter is my problem now," said Captain Lewis, "a man familiar with Indians, trustworthy, and skilled in tongues."
"I think my brother will know the man,—he has had wide experience in that line," said William; and so down to the Point of Rock the Captains betook themselves to visit George Rogers Clark.
"Dignity sat still upon his countenance and the commanding look of Washington," wrote a chronicler of that day.
"An interpreter?" mused General Clark. Then turning to his brother, "Do you remember Pierre Drouillard, the Frenchman that saved Kenton? He was a man of tact and influence with the Indians, and, although he wore the red coat, a man of humanity. He interpreted for me at Fort McIntosh and at the Great Miami. He comes with Buckongahelas."
William Clark remembered.
"That old Frenchman has a son, George, chip of the old block, brought up with the Indians and educated at a mission. He is your man,—at St. Louis, I think."
"Always demand of the Indians what you want, William, that is the secret. Never let them think you fear them. Great things have been effected by a few men well conducted. Who knows what fortune may do for you?" It was the self-same saying with which twenty-four years before he had started to Vincennes. "Here are letters to some of my old friends at St. Louis and Kaskaskia," added the General.
All the negroes were out to weep over York, whom they feared to see no more,—old York and Rose, Nancy and Julia, Jane, Cupid and Harry, from the scattered home at Mulberry Hill.
General Jonathan Clark and Major Croghan were there, the richest men in Kentucky, and General Jonathan's daughters who stitched their samplers now at Mulberry Hill; and Lucy, from Locust Grove, the image of William, "with face almost too strong for a woman," some said. All the city knew her, a miracle of benevolence and duty, and by her side the little son, George Croghan, destined to hand on the renown of his fathers.
William Clark's last word was for Fanny, a widow with children. "It is my desire that she should stay with Lucy at Locust Grove until my return," said the paternal brother, kissing her pale cheek.
"And I want Johnny with me at the Point of Rock," added the lonely General, who, if he loved any one, it was little John O'Fallon, the son of his sister Fanny.
"Bring on your plunder!"
The Kentuckians could be recognised by their call as they helped the bateaux over the rapids and launched them below. George Rogers Clark stood on the Point of Rock, waving a last farewell, watching them down the river.
While Captain Clark went on down the Ohio, and engaged a few men at Fort Massac, Captain Lewis followed the old Vincennes "trace" to Kaskaskia.
In that very September, Sergeant John Ordway, in Russell Bissell's company, was writing home to New Hampshire:
"Kaskaskia is a very old town of about two hundred houses and ruins of many more. We lie on the hill in sight of the town, and have built a garrison here.—If Betty Crosby will wait for my return I may perhaps join hands with her yet. We have a company of troops from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, here."
Captain Lewis came up to the garrison. Out of twenty volunteers only three possessed the requisite qualifications. But Sergeant Ordway was one, Robert Frazer of Vermont, another, and Thomas P. Howard, of Massachusetts, the third.
Oppressed and anxious in mind over the difficulty of finding suitable men, Captain Lewis was one morning riding along when into the high road there ran out a short, strong, compact, broad-chested and heavy-limbed man, lean, sprightly, and quick of motion, in the dress of a soldier. His lively eye instantly caught that of Captain Lewis. Perceiving that the soldier was evidently bent on seeing him, Lewis checked his horse and paused.
With military salute the man began: "Me name is Patrick Gass, sorr, and I want to go with you to the Stony Mountings, but my Commander, sorr, here at the barracks, will not consint. He siz, siz he, 'You are too good a carpenter, Pat, and I need you here.'"
His build, his manner, and the fact that Pat was a soldier and a carpenter, was enough. Men must be had, and here was a droll one, the predestined wit of the expedition.
"I knew you, sorr, when I saw your horse ferninst the trees. I recognised a gintleman and an officer. I saw you whin I met Gineral Washington at Carlisle out with throops to suppriss the Whiskey Rebillion. I met Gineral Washington that day, and I sid, siz I, 'Gineral, I'm a pathriot mesilf and I'll niver risist me gover'm'nt, but I love ould Bourbon too well to inlist agin the whiskey byes.'"
"And have you never served in the field?" roared Lewis, almost impatient.
"Ah, yis; whin Adams was Prisident, I threw down me jackplane and inlisted under Gineral Alexander H amilton, but there was no war, so thin I inlisted under Major Cass."
Patrick glanced back and saw his Captain. "Hist ye! shoulder-sthraps are comin'!"
Lewis laughed. "Go and get ready, Patrick; I'll settle with your Captain." And Patrick, bent on a new "inlistment" and new adventures, hied him away to pack his belongings. For days in dreams he was already navigating the Missouri, already he saw the blue Pacific. As he told the boys afterward, "And I, siz I to mesilf, 'Patrick, let us to the Pecific!' Me Captain objicted, but I found out where Captain Lewis was sthopping and sthole away and inlisted annyhow."
Captain Lewis had made no mistake. Patrick Gass, cheerful, ever brave, was a typical frontiersman. His had been a life of constant roving. Starting from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, when he was five years old, the family crossed the Alleghanies on packhorses. On the first horse was the mother, with the baby and all the table furniture and cooking utensils; on another were packed the provisions, the plough-irons and farming utensils; the third was rigged with a packsaddle and two large cradles of hickory withes. In the centre of these sat little Pat on one side and his sister on the other, well laced in with bed-clothes so that only their heads stuck out.
Along the edges of precipices they went,—if a horse stumbled he would have thrown them hundreds of feet below. On these horses they forded mountain streams, swollen with melting snows and spring rains. Daily were hairbreadth escapes, the horses falling, or carried down with the current and the family barely snatched from drowning.
The journey was made in April when the nights were cold and the mother could not sleep. There was so much to do for the children. As the tireless father kept guard under the glow of the campfire, little Patrick's unfailing good-night was, "Hist, child! the Injuns will come and take you to Detroit!"
There were several of these moves in his chi ldhood. Here and there he caught glimpses of well-housed, well-fed hirelings of the British army watching like eagles the land of the patriot army. At last they turned up at what is now Wellsburg in West Virginia. While yet a boy Gass was apprenticed to a carpenter and worked on a house for a man by the name of Buchanan, while around him played "little Jimmy," the president-to-be. "Little Jimmy was like his mother," said Gass.
In December Lewis and Clark dropped down before the white-washed walls and gray stone parapets of the old French town of St. Louis. With fierce consequential air a Spanish soldier flourished his sword indicating the place to land.
"We will spend the winter at Charette, the farthest point of settlement." That was the town of Daniel Boone.
But the Governor, Don Carlos De Hault De Lassus, barred the way.
"By the general policy of my government I am obliged to prevent strangers from passing through Spanish territory until I have received official notice of its transfer."
Nothing could be done but to go into winter camp opposite the mouth of the Missouri, just outside of his jurisdiction, and discipline the men, making ready for an early spring start.
Beyond the big river was foreign land. Did the Spaniard still hope to stay?
THE FEUD IS ENDED
Hark! Is that the boom of distant cannon? The American troops are falling into line outside the walls of New Orleans on this 20th day of December, 1803. The tri-colour of France floats on the flagstaff; the sky shines irradiant, like the "suns of Nap oleon."
It is high noon; another salute shakes the city. "Ho, warder, lower the drawbridge!"
With chain-pulleys rattling down goes the bridge, never to be lifted again. The fortress bell strikes its last peal under the flag of France, or Spain. With thundering tread American dragoons file under the portcullis of the Tchoupitoulas gate, followed by cannoneers and infantry in coonskin caps and leathern hunting shirts.
Curiously these sons of the forest look upon the old world forts and donjons of masonry. The moat is filled with stagnant water. The ramparts of New Orleans are filled with soldiers from Havre and Madrid. The windows and balconies are filled with beautiful women weeping, weeping to see the barbarians.
Laussat was looking for Napoleon's soldiers, not a sale. Pale as death he hands over the keys. Slowly the tri-coloured flag of France at the summit of the flagstaff in the plaza descends. Slowly the star-spangled banner uplifts; half-way the two linger in one another's folds.
As the flags embrace, another boom, and answering guns reply from ship and fort and battery around the crescent of New Orleans. The flags are parting,—it is a thrilling moment; up, up, steadily mounts the emblem of America and bursts on the breeze.
The band breaks into "Hail, Columbia," amid the roar of artillery and shouting of backwoodsmen. The map of France in the new world has become the map of the United States.
"The flag! the flag!" Veterans of the French army receive the descending tri-colour, and followed by a procession of uncovered heads bear it with funereal tread to Laussat.
"We have wished to give to France a last proof of the affection which we will always retain for her," with trembling lip speaks the flag-bearer. "Into your hands we deposit this symbol of the tie which has again transiently connected us with her."
And Laussat with answering tears replies, "May the prosperity of Louisiana be eternal."
But of all in New Orleans on this historic day, none fear, none tremble like Sister Infelice, in the cloister of the Ursulines. She seems to hear the very sabres beat on the convent wall. When a tropic hurricane sweeps up the gulf at night she falls on the cold stone floor and covers her head, as if the very lightning might reveal that form she loved so well, the great Virginia colonel. To Infelice he was ever young, ever the heroic saviour of St. Louis. That time could have changed him had never occurred to her,—he was a type of immortal youth.
Infelice never speaks of these things, not even to her father confessor; it is something too deep, too sacred, a last touch of the world hid closer even than her heart. And yet she believes he is coming,—that is the cause of all this tumult and cannonading. Her hero, her warrior wants her, and none can stay him.
And when the cession is fairly over and he comes not, the disappointment prostrates her utterly. "He cares, he cares no more! The Virginians? Did you say the Virginians had come?"
From that bed of delirium the Mother Superior of the Ursuline house sent for the Mayor.
"I beg to be allowed to retire with my sisterhood to some point under the protection of His Catholic Majesty of Spain."
"Going!" exclaimed Monsieur le Mayor of New Orleans. "For why? You shall not be disturbed, you shall have full protection."
"Do you stand for France, revolution and infidelity?" gasped the aged mother, denouncing the Mayor.
The people pled, the Mayor went down on his knees. "Do not abandon our schools and our children!" But the Mother Superior was firm.
Twenty-two years had the Donna De Leyba been a nun. The old official records are lost, but out of twenty-five nuns in the establishment we know the sixteen of Spain went away.
All New Orleans gathered to see them depart. When the gun sounded on Whitsunday Eve, sixteen women in black came forth, heavily veiled. The convent gardens were thronged with pupils, slaves knelt by the wayside, the Mayor and populace followed until they embarked on the ship and sailed to Havana.
The old Ursuline convent of New Orleans is now the archbishop's palace. Sister Infelice is gone, but near some old cloister of Cuba we know her ashes must now be reposing. Henceforth the gates were open. The wall decayed, the moat was filled, and over it to-day winds the handsomest boulevard in America.
The flatboatmen came home with romantic tales of the land of the palmetto and orange, luxuries unknown in the rigorous north. The tide of emigration so long held in check burst its bounds and deluged Louisiana.
Among other Americans that settled at New Orleans was the Fighting Parson. His son Charles Mynn Thruston had married Fanny.
THE CESSION OF ST. LOUIS
"Glass we must have, and quicksilver. Wife, let me have the mirror."
The Madame threw up her hands. "The precious pier glass my dead mother brought over from France? What shall we have left?"
"But Rosalie, this is an emergency for the government. The men must have thermometers, and barometers, and I have no glass."
"The President will pay for the glass, Madame; he would consider it the highest use to which it could be put," said Captain Lewis.
"And you shall have a better one by the next ship that sails around from France."
So as usual to everything the Doctor wished, the good woman consented. None had more unbounded faith in Dr. Saugrain's gift of miracles than his own wife.
The huge glass, that had reflected Parisian scenes for a generation before coming to the wilds of America, was now lifted from its gilt frame and every particle of quicksilver carefully scraped from the back. Then the pier plate was shattered and the fragments gathered, bit by bit, into the Doctor's mysterious crucible, making the country people watch and wonder.
So long had Meriwether Lewis been with Jefferson, that he had imbibed the same eager desire to know, to understand. When he met with Doctor Saugrain it was like a union of kindred spirits. Saugrain, the pupil, friend, and disciple of the great Franklin, was often with the American scientist when he experimented with his kites, and drew down lightning to charge his Leyden jars. Three times Dr. Saugrain came to America, twice as guest of Dr. Franklin, before he settled down as physician to the Spanish garrison at St. Louis in 1800. With him he brought all his scientific lore, the latest of the most advanced city in the world. When all the world depended on flint and steel, Paris and Dr. Saugrain made matches. He made matches for Lewis and Clark that were struck on the Columbia a generation before Boston or London made use of the secret.
Bitterly the cheerful, sprightly little Royalist in curls lamented the French Revolution. "Oh, the guillotine! the guillotine! My own uncle, Dr. Guillotine, invented that instrument to save pain, not to waste life. But when he saw his own friends led up to the knife, distressed at its abuse he died in despair!"
Sufficient reason had Dr. Saugrain to be loyal to Louis XVI. For more than two hundred years his people had been librarians, book-binders, and printers for the King. Litterateurs and authors were the Saugrains for six continuous generations, and out of their scientific and historical publications came the bent of Dr. Antoine François Saugrain of St. Louis. But when the Bastile was stormed, Saugrain left France for ever. An emigré, a royalist, with others of the King's friends he came to the land that honoured Louis XVI.
Between the Rue de l'Église and the Rue des Granges, at the extreme southwestern limit of the old village of St. Louis, stood Dr. Saugrain's modest residence of cement with a six-foot stone wall around it and extensive gardens. In his "arboretum" Dr. Saugrain was making a collection of the most attractive native trees he found around St. Louis, and some there, imported from Paris, cast their green shadows on the swans of his swimming pond, an old French fancy for his park.
In this happy home with its great library, Captain Lewis became a welcome guest in that winter of 1803-4 while waiting for the cession. Under the Doctor he pursued his scientific studies, medicine, surgery, electricity, for not even Dr. Barton in Philadelphia could surpass the bright little Frenchman so strangely transplanted here in this uttermost border.
The Doctor's taper fingers were always stained with acids and sulphur; busy ever with blowpipe and crucible, he fashioned tubes, filled in quicksilver, graduated cases, and handed out barometers and thermometers that amazed the frontier.
"Great Medicine!" cried the Indians when he gave them a shock of electricity. How Dr. Saugrain loved to turn his battery and electrify the door-knobs when those bothersome Indians tried to enter! Or, "Here, White Hair, is a shilling. You can have it if you will take it out." The Osage chieftain plunges his arm into a crock of electrified water to dash off howling with affright.
With intense interest Captain Lewis stood by while the chemist-physician dipped sulphur-tipped splints of wood into phosphorus, and lo! his little matches glowed like Lucifer's own. "You can make the sticks yourself," he said. "I will seal the phosphorus in these small tin boxes for safety."
"And have you any kine-pox? You must surely carry kine-pox, for I hear those Omahas have died like cattle in a plague."
"President Jefferson particularly directed me to carry some kine-pox virus," replied Captain Lewis, "but really, what he gave me seems to have lost its virtu e. I wrote him so from Cincinnati, but fear it will be too late to supply the deficiency."
Out of his medicine chest in the corner, the little Doctor brought the tiny vials. "Sent me from Paris. Carry it, explain it to the Indians, use it whenever you can,—it will save the life of hundreds." And other medicines, simple remedies, the good savant prescribed, making up a chest that became invaluable in after days.
Other friends were Gratiot and the Chouteaus, Auguste and Pierre. It was Auguste that had planned the fortifications of St. Louis, towers and bastions, palisades, demilunes, scarps, counter-scarps, and sally ports, only finished in part when the city was handed over.
Long since had Carondelet offered rewards to the traders of St. Louis to penetrate to the Pacific. Already the Chouteau boats had reached the Mandan towns, but freely they gave every information to the American Captain.
"I send you herewith enclosed," wrote Lewis to the President, "some slips of the Osage plum and apple. Mr. Charles Gratiot, a gentleman of this place, has promised that he would with pleasure attend to the orders of yourself, or any of my acquaintances who may think proper to write him on the subject. I obtained the cuttings now sent you from the gardens of Mr. Peter Chouteau, who resided the greater portion of his time for many years with the Osage nation.
"The Osage might with a little attention be made to form an ornamental and useful hedge. The fruit is a large oval plum, of a pale yellow colour and exquisite flavour. An opinion prevails among the Osages that the fruit is poisonous, though they acknowledge they have never tasted it."
The leaders of all the French colonies on the Mississippi were gentlemen of education and talent. They saw what the cession meant, and hailed it with welcome. But the masses, peaceable, illiterate, with little property and less enterprise, contented, unambitious, saw not the future of that great valley where their fathers had camped in the days of La Salle. Frank, open, joyous, unsu specting, wrapped in the pleasures of the passing hour, they cared little for wealth and less for government provided they were not worried with its cares. Their children, their fruits and flowers, the dance—happy always were the Creole habitants provided only they heard the fiddle string. Retaining all the suavity of his race, the roughest hunter could grace a ballroom with the carriage and manners of a gentleman.
Meanwhile Captain Clark was drilling the men at camp after the fashion of Wayne. Other soldiers had been engaged at Fort Massac and elsewhere,—Silas Goodrich, Richard Windsor, Hugh Hall, Alexander Willard, and John B. Thompson, a surveyor of Vincennes.
Never had St. Louis such days! Hurry, hurry and bustle in the staid and quiet town that had never before known any greater excitement than a church festival or a wedding,—never, that is, since those days of war when George Rogers Clark saved and when he threatened.
But now Lewis and Clark made a deep impression on the villagers of the power and dignity of the United States Government. Out of their purchases every merchant hoped to make a fortune; the eager Frenchmen displayed their wares,—coffee, gunpowder, and blankets, tea at prices fabulous in deerskin currency and sugar two dollars a pound.
But Lewis already had made up his outfit,—richly laced coats, medals and flags from Jefferson himself, knives, tomahawks, and ornaments for chiefs, barrels of beads, paints and looking-glasses, bright-coloured three-point Mackinaw blankets, a vision to dazzle a child or an Indian, who is also a child.
George Drouillard was found, the skilled hunter. There was a trace of Indian in Drouillard; his French fathers and grandfathers had trapped along the streams of Ohio and Canada since before the days of Pontiac, in fact, with Cadillac they had helped to build Detroit.
Every part of America was represented in that first exploring expedition,—Lewis, the kinsman of Washington, and Clark from the tidewater cavaliers of old Virginia, foremost of the fighting stock that won Kentucky and Illinois, Puritan Yankees from New England, Quaker Pennsylvanians from Carlisle, descendants of landholders in the days of Penn, French interpreters and adventurers whose barkentines had flashed along our inland lakes and streams for a hundred years, and finally, York, the negro, forerunner of his people.
Cruzatte and Labiche, canoemen, were of old Kaskaskia. Pierre Cruzatte was near-sighted and one-eyed, but what of that? A trusted trader of the Chouteaus, he had camped with the Omahas, and knew their tongue and their country. Could such a prize be foregone for any defect of eyesight?
Accustomed to roving with their long rifles and well-filled bullet pouches, nowhere in the world could more suitable heroes have been found for this Homeric journey.
News of the sale had reached St. Louis while Captain Lewis was struggling with those builders at Pittsburg.
"Sacre! Diable!" exclaimed the French. Some loved France, some clung to Spain, some shook their heads. "De country? We never discuss its affaires. Dat ees de business of de Commandante."
The winter of 1803-4 was very severe. In November the ice began running and no one could cross until February. Then Captain Amos Stoddard, at Kaskaskia with his troops, sent a letter to Don Carlos De Hault De Lassus by a sergeant going on business to Captain Lewis.
On top of the hill a double stockade of logs set vertically, the space between filled with dirt, a two-story log building with small windows and a round stone tower with a pointed cap of stone,—that was the fort where the Spanish soldiers waited.
Down below, inhabitants in blue blanket capotes and blue kerchiefs on their heads, now and then in red toque or a red scarf to tie up their trousers, wandered in the three narrow lanes that were the streets of St. Louis, waiting. Before them flowed the yellow-stained, eddy-spotted Mississippi, behind waved a sea of prairie grass uninterrupted by farm or village to the Rockies.
Spring blossomed. Thickets of wild plum , cherry, wild crab-apples, covered the prairie. Vanilla-scented locust blooms were shaking honey-dew on the wide verandas of the old St. Louis houses, when early in the morning of May 9, American troops crossed the river from Cahokia, and Clark's men from the camp formed in line with fife and drum, and colours flying. At their head Major Amos Stoddard of Boston and Captain Meriwether Lewis of Virginia led up to the Government House.
Black Hawk was there to see his Spanish Father. He looked out.
"Here comes your American Father," said the Commandant De Lassus.
"I do not want two Fathers!" responded Black Hawk.
Dubiously shaking his head as the Americans approached, Black Hawk and his retinue flapped their blankets out of one door as Stoddard and Captain Lewis entered the other.
Away to his boats Black Hawk sped, pulling for dear life up stream to his village at Rock Island. And with him went Singing Bird, the bride of Black Hawk.
"Strange people have taken St. Louis," said the Hawk to his Sacs. "We shall never see our Spanish Father again."
A flotilla of Frenchmen came up from Kaskaskia,—Menard, Edgar, Francis Vigo, and their friends. Villagers left their work in the fields; all St. Louis flocked to La Place d'Armes in front of the Government House to see the transfer.
In splendid, showy uniforms, every officer of the Spanish garrison stood at arms, intently watching the parade winding up the limestone footway from the boats below.
With its public archives and the property of a vast demesne, Don Carlos De Hault De Lassus handed over to Major Stoddard the keys of the Government House in behalf of France. A salvo of cannonry shook St. Louis.
"People of Upper Louisiana," began De Lassus in a choked and broken voice, "by order of the King' ', I am now about to surrender this post and its dependencies. The flag which has protected you during nearly thirty-six years will no longer be seen. The oath you took now ceases to bind. Your faithfulness and courage in upholding it will be remembered for ever. From the bottom of my heart I wish you all prosperity."
De Lassus, Stoddard, Lewis, Clark, and the soldiers filed up the yellow path, past the log church, to the fort on the hill. The Spanish flag was lowered; De Lassus wept as he took the fallen banner in his hand, but as the Lilies of France flashed in the sun the Creoles burst into tumultuous cheers. Not for forty years had they seen that flag, the emblem of their native land. Cannon roared, swords waved, and shouts were heard, but not in combat.
The gates were thrown open; out came the Spanish troops with knapsacks on their backs, ready to sail away to New Orleans. The old brass cannon and munitions of war were transported down the hill, while the American soldiers in sombre uniforms filed into the dingy old fort of Spain.
Major Stoddard sent for the French flag to be taken down at sunset.
"No, no, let it fly! Let it fly all night!" begged the Creoles, and a guard of honour went up to watch the flickering emblem of their country's brief possession.
All night long that French flag kissed the sky, all night the guard of honour watched, and the little log church of St. Louis was filled with worshippers. All the romance of Brittany and Normandy rose to memory. René Kiercereau the singer led in ballads of La Belle France, and the glories of fields where their fathers fought were rehearsed with swelling hearts. Not the real France but an ideal was in their hearts, the tradition of Louis XIV.
That was the last day of France in North America. As the beloved banner sank the drums gave a long funeral roll, but when, instead, the red, white, and blue burst on the breeze, the fifes struck into lively music and the drums rained a cataract.
"Three cheers for the American flag!" cried Charles Gratiot in the spirit of the Swiss republic, but there were no cheers. The Creoles were weeping. Sobs, lamentations arose, but the grief was mostly from old Frenchmen and their wives who so long had prayed that the Fleur de Lis might wave above San Loui'. Their sons and daughters, truly, as Lucien Bonaparte had warned Napoleon, "went to bed good Frenchmen, to awake and find themselves Americans."
The huge iron cock in the belfry of the old log church spun round and round, as if it knew not which way the wind was blowing. In three days three flags over St. Louis! No wonder the iron cock lost its head and spun and spun like any fickle weather vane.
In the same square with the Government House stood one of the Chouteau mansions. Auguste Chouteau had been there from the beginning, when as a fearless youth with Laclede he had penetrated to the site of the future San Loui' in 1764. He was a diplomat who met Indians and made alliances. He had seen the territory pass under Spain's flag, and in spite of that had made it more and more a place of Gallic refuge for his scattered countrymen. He had welcomed Saugrain, Cerré, Gratiot, in fact,—he and his brother Pierre remembered the day when there was no San Loui'.
A band of Osage chiefs had come in to see their great Spanish father. With wondering eyes they watched the cession, and were handed over to Captain Lewis to deal with in behalf of the United States. A French messenger was sent ahead with a letter to the tribe.
"The Americans taken San Loui'?"
Manuel Lisa, the Spaniard, was disgusted,—it broke up his monopoly of the Osage trade. "We will not haf the Americans!"
The Osages burnt the letter.
SERGEANT ORDWAY WRITES A LETTER
The winter of 1802-3 had been uncommonly severe. Unknown to George Shannon, that winter his father hunting in the dense woods of Ohio lost his way in a snow-storm and was frozen to death. Unaware of the tragedy at home, unaware also of his own inherited facility for getting lost, the boy set out up the winding staircase of the wild Missouri.
An older brother, John, nineteen years of age, became the stay of that widowed mother with her seven small children, the least a baby, Wilson Shannon, twice the future Governor of Ohio and once the Governor of Kansas.
With a pad on his knee every soldier boy wrote home from the camp on River Dubois opposite the mouth of the Missouri. Down through the years Sergeant Ordway's letter has come to us.
"Camp River Dubois, April the 8th, 1804.
"Honoured Parents,—I now embrace this opportunity of writeing to you once more to let you know where I am and where I am going. I am well thank God and in high Spirits. I am now on an expedition to the westward, with Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clark, who are appointed by the President of the United States to go on an Expedition through the interior parts of North America. We are to ascend the Missouri River with a boat as far as it is navigable and then to go by land to the western ocean, if nothing prevents. This party consists of twenty-five picked men of the armey and country likewise and I am so happy as to be one of them picked from the armey and I and all the party are if we live to return to receive our discharge whenever we return again to the United States if we choose it. This place is on the Mississippi River opposite to the mouth of the Missouri River and we are to star t in ten days up the Missouri River, this has been our winterquarters. We expect to be gone 18 months or two years, we are to receive a great reward for this expedition when we return. I am to receive 15 dollars a month and at least 400 ackers of first rate land and if we make great discoveries as we expect the United States has promised to make us great rewards, more than we are promised, for fear of accidents I wish to inform you that [personal matters].
I have received no letters since Betseys yet but will write next winter if I have a chance.
"John Ordway, Segt.
"To Stephen Ordway,
INTO THE LAND OF ANARCHY
The boats were ready, the red pirogue and the white, from St. Louis, fresh painted, trim and slim upon the water, and the big bateau, fifty-five feet from stem to stern, with setting poles, sweeps, a square sail to catch the breeze, and twenty-two oars at the rowlocks.
Down under the decks and in the cabins, had been packed the precious freightage, government arms, rifles made at Harper's Ferry under Lewis's own superintendence, tents, ammunition, bales and boxes of Indian presents, provisions, tools. Into the securest lockers went Lewis's astronomical instruments for ascertaining the geography of the country, and the surgical instruments that did good service in the hands of Clark.
Nothing was forgotten, even small conveniences, candles, ink, mosquito bars. It took half a million to send Stanley to Africa. For twenty-five hundred dollars Lewis and Clark made as great a journey.
To assist in carrying stores and repelling India n attacks, Corporal Warfington and six soldiers had been engaged at St. Louis and nine French boys of Cahokia, inured to the paddle and the camp. Feather-decked and beaded they came, singing the songs of old Cahokia to start the little squadron.
The Americans had knives in their belts, pistols in their holsters, knapsacks on their backs, powder horns and pouches of ammunition, ink horns and quills, ready to face the wilderness and report. Lewis encouraged every one to keep a journal.
"I niver wint to school but nineteen days in me boyhood and that was whin I was a man," said Patrick Gass. But what Pat lacked in books he made up in observation and shrewd reasoning; hence it fell out that Patrick Gass's journal was the first published account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. All honour to Patrick Gass. Of such are our heroes.
The cession was on Wednesday, May 9, 1804, and all the men were there but a few who guarded camp. At three o'clock the following Monday, May 14, Captain Clark announced, "All aboard!" The heavy-laden bateau and two pirogues swung out, to the voyageurs' chanson, thrilling like a brass band as their bright new paddles cut the water:
"A frigate went a-sailing,
Mon joli cœur de rose, Far o'er the seas away,
Joli cœur d'un rosier,
Joli cœur d'un rosier."
And hill and hollow echoed,
"Mon joli cœur de rose"
"San Chawle!" cried Cruzatte the bowsman at two o'clock, Wednesday, when the first Creole village hove in sight. At a gun, the signal of traders, all St. Charles rushed to see the first Americans that had ever come up the Missouri. And straggling behind the Frenchmen came their friends, the Kickapoos of Kaskaskia, now on a hunt in the Missouri.
"Meet us up the river with a good fat deer," said Captain Clark. The delighted Kickapoos scattered for the hunt.
Five days the boats lay at St. Charles, waiting for Captain Lewis who was detained fixing off the Osage chiefs at St. Louis.
Patrick Gass wrote in his journal, "It rained." Sergeant Floyd adds, "Verry much Rain." Captain Clark chronicles, "Rain, thunder, and lightning for several days." But never on account of a flurry of rain did the sociable French of St. Charles fail in polite attentions to their guests on the river bank.
On Sunday, boats were descried toiling up from St. Louis with a dozen gentlemen, who had come to escort Captain Lewis and bid "God speed!" to the expedition. Captain Stoddard was there, and Auguste Chouteau, availing himself of every opportunity to forward the enterprise. Monsieur Labbadie had advice and Gratiot and Dr. Saugrain, little and learned, with the medicine chest.
With throbbing hearts the captains stole a moment for a last home letter to be sent by the returning guests.
"My route is uncertain," wrote Clark to Major Croghan at Locust Grove. "I think it more than probable that Captain Lewis or myself will return by sea."
"Bon voyage! bon voyage, mes voyageurs!" cried all the French habitants of St. Charles, waving caps and kerchiefs to answering cheers from the crew and the guns. "Bonsoir et bon voyage—tak' care for you—prenez garde pour les sauvages." With a laugh the voyageurs struck up a boat song.
The boats slid away into the west, that West where France had stretched her shadowy hand, and Spain, and England. The reign of France fell with Montcalm on the Heights of Abraham, flickering up again only in that last act when Napoleon gave us Louisiana.
"The Kickapoos! The Kickapoos!" Through bush and brier above St. Charles, the bedraggled Indians came tugging down to the shore four fine fat deer. Bacon fare and hardtack were relegated to the hold. Fr om that hour Lewis and Clark threaded the gameland of the world.
"Joost wait onteel dey get ento de boofalo!" commented those wise young voyageurs, Cruzatte and Drouillard, nodding at one another as the cooks served out the savoury meat on the grass, and every man drew forth his long hunting-knife and little sack of salt.
"Where is my old friend, Daniel Boone?" inquired Captain Clark, three days later at Charette, the last settlement on the Missouri border. This, but for Spanish interference, would have been their camping station the previous winter. Colonel Boone, six miles from the Missouri, was holding court beneath his Judgment Tree.
The June rise of the Missouri was at hand. Days of rain and melting snows had set the mad streams whirling. The muddy Missouri, frothing, foaming, tore at its ragged banks that, yawning, heavily undermined, leaped suddenly into the water. Safety lay alone in mid-stream, where the swift current, bank-full and running like a millrace, bore down toward the Mississippi.
To stem it was terrific. In spite of oars and sails and busy poling, the bateau would turn, raked ever and anon with drifts of fallen trees. And free a moment, some new danger arose. Down out of sight, water-soaked logs scraped the keel with vicious grating. And above, formidable battering-rams of snags sawed their black heads up and down defiantly, as if Nature herself had blockaded the way with a chevaux de frise.
Poles broke, oars splintered, masts went headlong, the boat itself careened almost into the depths. It was a desperate undertaking to stem the mad Missouri in the midst of her wild June rise.
But that very rise, so difficult to oppose upstream, was a sliding incline the other way. May 27, two canoes loaded with furs came plunging full tilt out of the north.
"Where from? What news?"
"Two months from the Omaha nation, seven hundred miles up the river," sang out the swiftly passing Frenchmen bound for St. Louis.
Behind them a huge raft,—
"From the Pawnees on the Platte!"
And yet behind three other rafts, piled, heaped, and laden to the water's edge,—
"From the Grand Osage!"
Such alone was greeting and farewell, as the barks, unable to be checked, went spinning down the water.
What a gala for the winter-bound trapper! Home again! home again! flying down the wild Missouri in the mad June rise! They stopped not to camp or to hunt, but skimming the wave, fairly flew to St. Louis. They came, those swift-gliding boats, like visions of another world, the world Lewis and Clark were about to enter.
June 5, two more canoes flashed by with beaver,—
"From eighty leagues up the Kansas river!"
June 8, boats with beaver and otter slid by, and rafts of furs and buffalo tallow,—
"From the Sioux nation!"
Dorion, an old Frenchman on a Sioux raft, engaged to go back with Lewis and Clark to interpret for them the language of his wife's relations.
A thousand miles against the current! Now and then a southwest wind would fill out the big square-cut sail and send the heavy barge ploughing steadily up. Again, contrary winds kept them on the walking boards all day long, with heads bent low over the setting-pole.
Warm and warmer grew the days. Some of the men were sunstruck. The glitter of sun on the water inflamed their eyes. Some broke out with painful boils, and mosquitoes made night a torture.
Now and then they struck a sand-bar, and leaping into the water the voyageurs ran along shore with the cordelle on their shoulders, literally dragging the great boat into safety.
"Mon cher Captinne! de win' she blow lak' hurricane!" cried the voyageurs.
Down came the prairie gale, almost a tornado, snapping the timber on the river-banks, and lashing the water to waves that surged up, over, and into the boats. The sky bent black above them, the fierce wind how led, and the almost exhausted men strained every nerve to hold the rocking craft.
"I strong lak' moose, not 'fraid no t'ing," remarked Cruzatte, clambering back into the boat wet as a drowned kitten.
Hot and tired, June 26 they tied up at the mouth of Kansas River. "Eat somet'ing, tak' leetle drink also," said the voyageurs. On the present site of Kansas City they pitched their tents, and stretched their limbs from the weariness of canoe cramp.
"The most signs of game I iver saw," said Patrick Gass, wandering out with his gun to find a bear. "Imince Hurds of Deer," bears in the bottoms, beaver, turkeys, geese, and a "Grat nomber of Goslins," say the journals, but not an Indian.
"Alas!" sighed the old voyageurs with friendly pity. "De Kansas were plaintee brave people, but de Sac and de Sioux, dey drive 'em up de Kansas River."
Cæsar conquered Gaul, but the mercatores were there before him. Lewis and Clark ascended the Missouri, but everywhere the adventurous Frenchmen had gone before them, peddlers of the prairie, out with Indian goods buying skins.
But now Americans had come. The whippoorwill sang them to sleep, the wolf howled them awake. The owl inquired, "Who? Who? Who?" in the dark treetops at the mouth of the Kansas River.
On, on crept the boats, past grand old groves of oak and hickory, of walnut, ash, and buckeye, that had stood undisturbed for ages. Swift fawn flitted by, and strange and splendid birds that the great Audubon should come one day to study. On, on past the River-which-Cries, the Weeping Water, the home of the elk. Tall cottonwoods arose like Corinthian columns wreathed with ivy, and festoons of wild grape dipped over and into the wave.
The River-which-Cries marked the boundary of two nations, the Otoes and Omahas. Almost annually its waters were reddened with slaughter. Then came the old men and women and children from the Otoe vi llages on the south and from the Omahas on the north and wept and wept there, until it came to be known as Nehawka, the Weeping Water.
July came and the waters were falling. With a fair wind, on the 21st they sailed past the mouth of the great river Platte. In the summer evening Lewis and Clark in their pirogue paddled up the Platte.
"Here I spen' two winter wit' de Otoe," said Drouillard the hunter. "De Otoe were great nation, but de Sioux an' de 'Maha drove dem back on de Pawnee."
"And the Pawnees?"
"Dey built villages an' plant corn an' wage war wid de Osage."
Ten days later preparations were made to meet the Otoes at Council Bluffs. On a cottonwood pole the flag was flying. A great feast was ready, when afar off, Drouillard and Cruzatte were seen approaching with their friends.
"Boom," went the blunderbuss, and the council smoke arose under an awning made of the mainsail of the bateau. Every man of the expedition, forty-five in all, paraded in his best uniform.
Lewis talked. Clark talked. All the six chiefs expressed satisfaction in the change of government. They begged to be remembered to their Great Father, the President, and asked for mediation between them and the Omahas.
"What is the cause of your war?"
"We have no horses," answered the childlike Otoes. "We borrow their horses. Then they scalp us. We fear the Pawnees also. We very hungry, come to their village when they are hunting, take a little corn!"
The Captains could scarce repress a smile, nor yet a tear. Thefts, reprisals, midnight burnings and slaughter, this was the reign immemorial in this land of anarchy. In vain the tribes might plant,—never could they reap. "We poor Indian," was the universal lament.
Severely solemn, Lewis and Clark hung medals on the neck of each chief, and gave him a paper with greetings from Thomas Jefferson with the seals of Lewis and Clark impressed with red wax and attached with a blue ribbon.
"When you look at these, remember your Great Father. You are his children. He bids you stop war and make peace with one another." In 1860, the Otoe Indians exhibited at Nebraska City those identical papers, borne for more than half a century in all their homeless wanderings, between flat pieces of bark and tied with buckskin thongs.
Then gifts were distributed and chiefs' dresses. With more handshakings and booming of cannon, the flotilla sailed away that sultry afternoon one hundred years ago. The chiefs stood still on the shore and wonderingly gazed at one another.
"These are the peacemakers!"
A week later Lewis and Clark entered the Omaha country and raised a flag on the grave of Blackbird. Encamping on a sandbar opposite the village, Sergeant Ordway and Cruzatte were dispatched to summon the chiefs. Here Cruzatte had traded two winters. Up from the river he found the old trails overgrown. Breaking through sunflowers, grass, and thistles high above their heads, they came upon the spot where once had stood a village. Naught remained but graves.
The Omahas had been a military people, feared even by the Sioux, the Kansas, and the far-away Crows. Strange mystery clung to Blackbird. Never had one so powerful ruled the Missouri. At his word his enemy perished. Stricken by sudden illness, whoever crossed the will of Blackbird died, immediately, mysteriously.
Then came the smallpox in 1800. Blackbird himself died and half his people. In frenzy the agonised Omahas burnt their village, slew their wives and children, and fled the fatal spot,—but not until they had buried Blackbird. In accord with his last wish, they took the corpse of the Omaha King to the top of the highest hill and there entombed him, sitting upright on his horse that he might watch the traders come and go.
And one of those traders bore in his guilty heart the secret of Blackbird's power. He had given to him a package of arsenic. Blackbird and Big Elk's father went to St. Louis in the days of the French and made a treaty. A portrait of the chief was then painted that is said to hang now in the Louvre at Paris.
A delegation of Otoes had been persuaded to come up and smoke the peace-pipe with the Omahas. But not an Omaha appeared. And the Otoes, released from overwhelming fear, Big Horse and Little Thief, Big Ox and Iron Eyes, smoked and danced on the old council ground of their enemies, whose scalps they had vowed to hang at their saddle bow.
Sergeant Floyd danced with the rest that hot August night, and became overheated. He went on guard duty immediately afterward, and lay down on a sandbar to cool. In a few moments he was seized with frightful pains.
Nathaniel Pryor awakened the Captains.
"My cousin is very ill."
All night Lewis and Clark used every endeavour to relieve the suffering soldier. At sunrise the boats set sail, bearing poor Floyd, pale and scarce breathing. There was a movement of the sick boy's lips,—
"I am going away. I want you to write me a letter."
And there, on the borders of Iowa, he dispatched his last message to the old Kentucky home. When they landed for dinner Floyd died.
With streaming tears Patrick Gass, the warm-hearted, made a strong coffin of oak slabs. A detail of brother soldiers bore the body to the top of the bluff and laid it there with the honours of war, the first United States soldier to be buried beyond the Mississippi, and on a cedar post they carved his name.
With measured tread and slow the soldiers came down and camped on Floyd's River below, in the light of the setting sun.
Years passed. Around that lovely height, Floyd's Bluff, Sioux City grew. Travellers passed that way and said, "Yonder lies Charles Floyd on the bluff." Relic hunters chipped away the cedar post. Finally, the Missouri undermined the height, and the oakwood coffin came near falling into the river, but it was rescued and buried farther back in 1857. Recently a magnificent monument was dedicated there, to commemorate his name and his mission for ever,—the first light-bearer to perish in the West.
A few days later a vote was cast for a new sergeant in the place of Floyd, and Patrick Gass received the honour. Every day Floyd had written in his journal, and now it was given into the hand of Captain Clark to be forwarded, on the first opportunity, to his people.
"THE SIOUX! THE SIOUX!"
"What river is this, Dorion?" Captain Lewis had thrown open his infantry uniform to catch the cooling gust down a silver rift in the shore.
"Petite Rivière des Sioux. Go to Des Moines country. Pass tro te Lake of te Spirit, full of islands. Lead to Dog Plain, Prairie du Chien, four days from te Omaha country. Des Sioux—"
Dorion drew his forefinger across his throat and lapsed into silence. They were his people, he would not traduce them. But his listeners understood,—the Sioux were "cut-throats," this was their name among the tribes.
The voyageurs trembled, "Bon Dieu! le Sioux sauvage, he keel de voyageur an' steal deir hair!"
The Sioux, the terrible Sioux, were dog Indians, ever on the move, raiding back and forth, restless and unsleeping. Almost to Athabasca their travoises kicked up the summer dust, their dog trains dragged across the plains of Manitoba. On the Saskatchewan they pitched their leather tents and chased the buffalo; around Lake Winnipeg they scalped the Chippeways. At the Falls of St. Anthony they spread their fishing nets, and at Niagara Falls the old French Jesuits found them.
Now they were stealing horses. For horses, down the Mississippi they murdered the Illinois. For horses, the Mandan on the upper Missouri heard and trembled. "The Sioux! the Sioux!" The Ponca paled in his mud hut on the Niobrara, the Omaha retreated up the Platte, the Cheyenne hid in the cedar-curtained recesses of the Black Hills.
More puissant than the Six Nations of the Iroquois, the Sioux Confederacy dominated from the Red River of the North to the Red River of Texas. Wilder than the Comanches they rode, more cunning in theft than the Crows, more bloodthirsty than the Blackfeet. On the red man's triple plea for war,—horses, scalps, and wives,—the Sioux were pirates of the streams and despots of the prairie.
Mettlesome with the bow, fiery in battle, strong, brave, wild, kings of the hills and monarchs of the trails, they ruled the earth in splendid savagery. The buffalo was theirs, the beaver and the deer, and woe betide the rival that poached on their preserves. Did the poor Shoshone venture beyond the Rockies, he was flayed and burned alive. No lake, no stream, no river between the Mississippi and the Rockies remained unstained by their red hatchet.
And what a chapter when the traders came! Unwritten yet are those days of fierce and constant battle.
Even Dorion himself dreaded the daring freebooters into whose tribe he had married. His own offspring partook of the wild fierce spirit of their people. Like eaglets or young panthers, they clutched at him with claws and talons,—with difficulty the little Frenchman held them back as the lion-tamer holds the whelps.
Of Dorion's possessions the Sioux took what they pleased. For the privilege of trading he smiled and gave them all, then in generosity he was heaped with skins. Dorion knew the Sioux, knew their best and worst. Somewhere in this Sioux country his faithful spouse was waiting; he was looking for her now,—a mod el squaw, a tireless slave who dug his roots and made his garments, brought his wood and water, and, neglected, bore his children.
It was the voice of Patrick Gass, beyond the Little Sioux. A low sand island was covered with huge, white, web-footed beauties fishing in the chocolate Missouri.
When the scrimmage was over two handsome birds lay in the bateau, one, the queen of the flock, brought down by Lewis himself. She was a splendid specimen, six feet from tip to tip, pure white with a tinge of rose, and an enormous pouch full of fish under her bill.
"Out with the fish. Let us measure that pouch."
Lewis's enthusiasm was contagious. All hands gathered while he poured in water, five gallons.
"The average capacity is but two," said Captain Clark. "We must preserve this trophy."
To-day that beautiful bird, of strong maternal instincts, is the emblem of the State of Louisiana.
Again Lewis put the question, "What stream, Dorion?"
"Te Great Sioux! Two hundret mile to te Sioux Fall, an' beyont—almost to St. Peters."
A smile relaxed old Dorion's leathern face,—
"Below te Fall, a creek from te cliffs of red rock. All Indian get te peace-pipe. No battle dere, no war."
Of the famous red pipestone quarry old Dorion spoke, the beautiful variegated rock out of which resplendent Dakota cities should be built in the future.
"Te rock ees soft, cut it wit te knife, then hard and shining."
All tribes, even those at war, could claim asylum at the red pipestone. The Sioux came, and the Pawnee, to camp on its banks and fashion their calumets. The soft clay pipes, hardened into things of beauty, were traded from tribe to tribe, emblems and signals of peace. Captain Lewis himself had one, bought in St. Louis, brought down from that quarry by some enterprising French trader.
"Buffalo! buffalo! buffalo!" A grand sho ut arose at sight of the surging herds. "Plaintee boofalo now," said the voyageurs. Upon the led horses along shore, Clark and Joseph Fields dashed away for a first shot.
Again rejoicing cooks went hunting up the kettles, and the whole expedition paused a day for a grand hunt.
"Te Yankton Sioux!" joyfully announced old Dorion, as they neared the familiar chalk bluffs of "des rivière Jaques, tat go almost to te Red Rivière of te Winnipeg." All over these streams old Dorion had trapped the beaver.
With Sergeant Pryor and another, Dorion set out for the Indian camp. The Yankton Sioux saw the white men approaching and ran with robes to carry them in state to camp.
"No," answered the Sergeant, "we are not the commanders. They are at the boats."
Dorion led the way to his wigwam. His polite old squaw immediately spread a bearskin for them to sit on. Another woman killed a dog, cut it up, and boiled it and gave it to them to eat, a token of friendship.
Forty clean and well-kept lodges were in this Yankton village, of dressed buffalo and elk skin, painted red and white and very handsome. And each lodge had a cooking apartment attached.
Under the Calumet bluffs the flag was flying when the Yankton Sioux came down in state and crossed the river to the council. The Yankton Sioux were reputed to be the best of their nation, and brave as any, with their necklaces of bear's claws, paints, and feathers. They were kingly savages, dignified and solemn, with heads shaved to the eagle plume, and arrayed in robes wrought with porcupine quills.
With Dorion as interpreter Captain Lewis delivered the usual speech, and presented flags, medals, and a chief's dress, a richly laced coat, cocked hat, and red feather. The ceremonious Indians withdrew to consider a suitable answer.
The next morning again the chiefs assembled, solemnly seated in a row with enormous peace-pipes of red stone and stems a yard long, all pointing toward the seats intended for Lewis an d Clark.
But the great Indian diplomats did not hasten.
Even the stoic Sioux could not refrain from an ejaculation of admiration as they half rose, pipe in hand, to gaze in awe and wonder as the white chiefs entered the council. No such traders ever came up the Missouri, no such splendid apparitions as the Red Head Chief and his brother, pink and white as the roses on the river Jaques.
Captain Lewis habitually wore his sunny hair in a queue; to-day it was loosened into a waving cataract, and Clark, slipping off his eelskin bag, let his red locks fall, a strange and wondrous symbol. No such red and gold had ever been seen in the Indian country. With pale berries they stained their porcupine quills, with ochre painted the buffalo lodges, with vermilion rouged their faces, but none like these growing on the heads of men!
Seating themselves with all due dignity, Lewis and Clark scarce lifted their eyes from the ground as the Grand Chief, Weucha, extended his decorated pipe in silence. A full hour elapsed before Weucha, slipping his robe to give full play to his arm, arose before them.
"I see before me my Great Father's two sons. We very poor. We no powder, ball, knives. Our women and children at the village no clothes. I wish my brothers would give something to those poor people.
"I went to the English, they gave me a medal and clothes. I went to the Spanish, they gave me a medal. Now you give me a medal and clothes. Still we are poor. I wish you would give something for our squaws."
Then other chiefs spoke. "Very poor. Have pity on us. Send us traders. We want powder and ball."
Deadly as were the Sioux arrows,—one twang of their bowstring could pierce a buffalo,—yet a better weapon had crossed their vision. Firearms, powder, ball, fabulous prices, these problems changed Indian history.
Congratulating themselves on this favourable encounter with the dreaded Sioux, and promising everything, Lewis and Clark went forward with renewed courage.
More and more buffaloes dotted the hills, and herds of antelope, strange and new to science.
"I must have an antelope," said Lewis.
At that moment he saw seven on a hilltop. Creeping carefully near, they scented him on the wind. The wild beauties were gone, and a similar flock of seven appeared on a neighbouring height.
"Can they have spanned the ravine in this brief time?"
He looked, and lo! on a third height and then a fourth they skimmed the hills like cloud shadows, or winged griffins of the fabled time, half quadruped and half bird.
"A cur'ous lill animal here, Captain," said one of the hunters, handing him a limp little body. Its head was like a squirrel's. Lewis stroked the long fine hair.
"What is it?"
Cruzatte, the bowman, paddle in hand, leaned over, peering with his one near-sighted but intelligent eye.
"Ha! ha! ha! le petit chien!" he laughed. "Live in te hole een te prairie. Leetle dog. Bark, yelp, yelp, yelp, like te squirrel. All over te countree, whole towns," spreading his brown hands expressively.
After this lucid explanation the Captains, Lewis and Clark, set out for a prairie-dog town. A few yelps, heels in air, the town was deserted save for the tiny mounds that told where each had hidden.
"Let us drown one out."
Forthwith, every man came puffing up with big brass kettles full of water.
"Five barrels," says Clark in his journal, "were poured into the holes but not a dog came out," and Patrick Gass adds, "Though they worked at the business until night they only caught one of them."
More and more the hills were thronged with buffalo. Even York, Captain Clark's black servant, went out and killed two at one ride.
On the top of a high bluff the men had found the skeleton of a huge fish, forty-five feet long and petrified.
"Blow, ye winds of morning, Blow, blow, blow—"
George Shannon, the boy of the expedition, had enlivened many a sunrise with his jolly, rollicking Irish songs. But Shannon was lost! On the 28th of August he had gone out to look for the strayed horses. It was now September. Captain Lewis was wild, for at his request George had joined the expedition and at his order he had gone after the horses. Hunters had sought in every direction, guns had been fired and the blunderbuss, and smokes had been kindled from point to point.
"Shannon!" A great shout went up as the forlorn boy, emaciated and weary, came dragging into camp on the 11th of September.
It was a short story, soon told. He found the horses and followed by mistake the trail of recent Indians, which he mistook for footprints of the party. For days he followed the trail, exhausted his bullets, and lived on wild grapes and a rabbit he killed with a stick. But he heard no guns, saw no smoke.
In despair at last he came down to the river, to discover that all this time he had been travelling ahead of the boats! The fatted buffalo-calf was killed and great was the rejoicing, and at daylight next morning, Shannon's
"Blow, ye winds of morning, Blow, blow, blow,"
rang again joyously over the Missouri.
"Danger! Quick! The bank is caving!"
At one o'clock in the night the guard gave the startled cry. Barely was there time to loosen the boats and push into midstream before the whole escarpment dropped like an avalanche over the recent anchorage. Thus in one instant might have been blotted out the entire expedition, to remain for all time a mystery and conjecture.
On the evening of September 24 the cooks and a guard went ashore to get supper at the mouth of the river Teton, the present site of Pierre, South Dakota. Five Indians, who had followed for some time, slept with the guard on shore.
Early next morning sixty Indians came down from a Sioux camp and the Captains prepared for a council. Under the flag and an awning, at twelve o'clock the company paraded under arms. Dorion had remained behind at the Yankton village, so with difficulty, by the aid of Drouillard and much sign language, a brief speech was delivered. Black Buffalo, head chief, was decorated with a medal, flag, laced coat, cocked hat, and red feather, nor were the rest forgotten with smaller gifts, medals, and tobacco.
The Captains would have gone on, but, "No! No!" insisted Black Buffalo, seizing the cable of Clark's departing pirogue.
Finally Clark and several of the men rowed them ashore. But no sooner had they landed than one seized the cable and held the boat fast. Another flung his arms around the mast and stood immovable.
"Release me," demanded Clark, reddening at evidence of so much treachery.
Black Buffalo advanced to seize Clark. The Captain drew his sword. At this motion Captain Lewis, watching from the bateau, instantly prepared for action.
The Indians had drawn their arrows and were bending their great bows, when the black mouth of the blunderbuss wheeled toward them.
At this Black Buffalo ordered his men to desist, and they sullenly fell away, but never was forgotten that time when the Teton Sioux attempted to carry off Captain Clark.
"We wished to see the boat more," said the Indians, by way of excuse. "We wished to show it to our wives and children."
To conciliate and to depart without irritation, Captain Clark offered his hand. The chiefs refused to take it. Turning, Clark stepped into the boat and shoved off. Immediately three warriors waded in after him, and he brought them on board. That night the whole expedition slept under arms, with the Indians as guests. At daylight crowds of Indian men, women, and children waited on shore in the most friendly manner.
Ten well-dressed young men took Lewis and Clark up on a highly decorated robe and carried them up to the council tent. Dressed like dandies, seventy Indians sat in this roomy council hall, the tail feathers of the golden eagle scarce quivering in their topknots. Impressively in the centre on two forked sticks lay the long peace-pipe above a bed of swan's down.
Outside, the redmen were roasting a barbecue. All day they sat and smoked, and ate of buffalo beef and pemmican. After sunset a huge council fire illuminated the interior of the great lodge, and the dance began. Wild Indian girls came shuffling with the reeking scalps of Omahas, from a recent raid. Outside twenty-five Omaha women prisoners and their children moaned in the chill of an icy autumn night. It was their trail that Shannon had followed for sixteen days.
About midnight, fatigued by the constant strain of watchful anxiety, the Captains returned to the boats. But not yet were they safely away. "To oars! to oars! the cable's parted!"
The Indians heard the call.
"The Omahas! the Omahas!" rang the cry up from the Teton camp, that on every wind anticipated the whoop of retaliating Omahas in search of their stolen wives and children.
Then followed pandemonium of rushing Indians and frightened calls. All night, with strained eyes, every man held his rifle ready as they lay unanchored on the water.
At daylight the wily Indians held the ropes and still detained the boats. Resort to force seemed inevitable. Flinging a carat of tobacco, "Black Buffalo," said Lewis, "you say you are a great chief. Prove it by handing me that rope." Flattered, Black Buffalo gave the rope, and thankfully the boats pulled out with no more desire to cultivate the Sioux.
THE ROMANCE OF THE MANDANS
"What will they find?" asked the people of the United States, discussing the journey of Lewis and Clark.
"Numerous powerful and warlike nations of savages, of gigantic stature, fierce, treacherous, and cruel, and particularly hostile to white men."
"The mammoth of prehistoric time feeding from the loftiest forests, shaking the earth with its tread of thunder."
"They will find a mountain of solid salt glistening in the sun with streams of brine issuing from its caverns."
"They will find blue-eyed Indians, white-haired, fairer than other tribes, planting gardens, making pottery, and dwelling in houses."
"Oh, yes," said the Federalists, "Jefferson has invented these stories to aggrandise the merit of his purchase. They never can cross the mountains. Human enterprise and exertion will attempt them in vain."
"It was folly! folly to send those men to perish miserably in the wilderness! It was a bold and wicked scheme of Jefferson. They will never return alive to this country."
Had not Jefferson himself in his anxiety directed Lewis and Clark to have recourse to our consuls in Java, the Isles of France and Bourbon, and the Cape of Good Hope? Heaven alone knew whither the Missouri—Columbia might lead them!
But the white Indians—
In the history of Wales there is a story that on account of wars in Wales a Welsh Prince in 1170 "prepared certain shipps, with men and munition, and sought adventures by seas, sailing west, and leaving the coast of Ireland so farre north, that he came to land unknowne, where he saw many strange things.... This Madoc arriving in the countrey, in the which he came in the year 1170, left most of his people there, and returning back for more of his nation, went thither again with ten sails," and was never again heard of.
Six hundred years later Welshmen in America imagined that they could talk with some tribes, who said "they came from white people but were now Indians," and the legend was related that white people had once lived on the Atlantic coast, but had so many wars they crossed the mountains and made boats and went down the Ohio and up the Missouri, "where to this day live the fair-haired, blue-eyed Mandans."
Our grandfathers believed this story, believed these whites might have been cut off at the Falls of the Ohio and some escaped. This is the excuse that Cornstalk gave to Lord Dunmore for the attack at Point Pleasant:
"Long ago our fathers destroyed the whites in a great battle at the Falls of the Ohio. We thought it might be done again."
As if in proof of this statement, George Rogers Clark and other first explorers at the Falls found Sand Island at low water a mass of hacked and mutilated human bones, whether of Indians or whites, no man could tell.
And here now were Lewis and Clark, in the Autumn of 1804, among the fabled Mandans, and here before them was a Mr. Hugh McCracken, an Irishman, and René Jussaume, a Frenchman, independent traders, who for a dozen winters had drawn their goods on dog sleds over from the British fort on the Assiniboine to trade with the Mandans for buffalo robes and horses. Thirty dogs they owned between them, great Huskies of the Eskimo breed.
Jussaume was immediately engaged as interpreter, and the first Sunday was spent in conversation with Black Cat, head chief of the Mandans. All day the hospitable blue-eyed, brown-haired Mandan women, fairer than other Indians, kept coming in with gifts of corn, boiled hominy, and garden stuffs, raised by their own rude implements. Girls of ten years old with silver-gray hair hanging down to their knees stood around and listened.
Yes, they had earthen pots and gardens, even extensive fields of corn, beans, squashes, and sunflowers, and houses—mud huts. They lived in little forted towns that had been moved successively up, up, up the Missouri.
"I believe what you have told us," said one of the chiefs in the great council on Monday. "We shall now have peace with the Ricaras. My people will be glad. Then our women may lie down at night without their moccasins on. They can work in the fields without looking every moment for the enemy."
"We have killed the Ricaras like birds," said another, "until we are tired of killing them. Now we will send a chief and some warriors to smoke with them."
Thus was the first effort for peace in the Mandan country.
The high chill wind almost blew down the awning over the great council. The men paraded up from the boats, the blunderbuss was fired from the bow of the big bateau, the long reed-stemmed stone-bowled pipes were smoked in amity.
"Here are suits of clothes for your chiefs," said Lewis, handing out of a wooden chest the handsome laced uniforms, cocked hats, and feathers. "To your women I present this iron corn-mill to grind their hominy."
The solemn, sad-faced chiefs took the clothes and put them on. The women flew at the corn-mill. All day long they ground and ground and wondered at "the great medicine" that could make meal with so little trouble. Mortars and pestles were thrown behind the lodges, discarded.
The next day Mr. McCracken set out on his return to Fort Assiniboine, one hundred and fifty miles away, with a friendly letter to the Chief Factor, Chaboillez, enclosing the passport of Lewis and Clark from the British minister at Washington.
Yes, a passport,—so uncertain was that boundary—never yet defined. Where lay that line? To th e sources of the Mississippi? But those sources were as hidden as the fountain of the Nile. No white man yet had seen Itasca.
Since before the Revolution the Chaboillez family had traded at Michilimackinac. They were there in the days when Wabasha descended on St. Louis, and had a hand in all the border story.
While Lewis was negotiating with the Indians, Captain Clark set out with Black Cat to select a point where timber was plenty to build a winter camp.
"Hey, there! are ye going to run aff and leave me all to mesilf?" exclaimed Patrick Gass, head carpenter, busy selecting his tools and equipments. "Niver moind, I can outwalk the bist o' thim."
Strong, compact, broad-chested, heavy-limbed, but lean, sprightly, and quick of motion, Pat was soon at the side of his Captain. "I can show ye a pint or two about cabins, I'm thinkin'."
Clark smiled. He knew something about cabins himself.
The day was fine and crowds of Indians came to watch proceedings as Clark's men began to cut the tall cottonwoods and roll up the cabins.
Every day the Indians came in crowds to watch the wonderful building of the white men's fort, the deer-skin windows and mud-plastered chimneys. Turning loose their horses, all day long the red men lay on the grass watching the details of this curious architecture. At night, gathering an armful of cottonwood boughs stripped from the fort timber, each fed his horse and meandered thoughtfully homeward in the red sunset.
One day two squaws came, a leathery old dame and a captive Indian girl from the Rocky Mountains,—the handsome young Sacajawea, the Bird-Woman.
"She my slave," said Charboneau, a Frenchman in blanket capote and kerchief around his head. "I buy her from de Rock Mountain. I make her my wife." Charboneau lived with the Minnetarees, friends and neighbours of the Mandans.
Shahaka, the Big White Head Chief, came, too, with his squaw packing on her back "one hundred pounds of very fine meat." Whenever Shahaka crossed the river his squaw picked up the buffalo-skin canoe and carried it off on her back. Those canoes were made exactly like a Welsh coracle.
The days grew colder, the frost harder. Ice began to run in the river and the last boats in from the hunt brought thirty-two deer, eleven elk, and buffalo that were jerked and hung in the winter smoke-house.
By November 20 the triangular fort was ready,—two rows of cabins of four rooms each, with lofts above where, snug and warm under the roof next to the chimneys, the men slept through the long cold winter nights on beds of grass, rolled up in their blankets and fuzzy robes of buffalo.
In the frosty weather there came over the prairies from Fort Assiniboine seven Northwest traders, led by François Antoine Larocque and Charles Mackenzie, with stores of merchandise to trade among the Mandans. They immediately waited upon Lewis and Clark.
"We are not traders," said the Americans, "but explorers on our way to the Pacific."
Through Larocque's mind flashed the journey of Sir Alexander Mackenzie and its outcome. That might mean more than a rival trader. "He is distributing flags and medals among the Mandans," came the rumour.
"In the name of the United States I forbid you from giving flags and medals to the Indians, as our Government looks upon those things as sacred emblems of the attachment of the Indians to our country," said Captain Lewis to Monsieur Larocque when next he called at Fort Mandan.
"As I have neither flags nor medals, I run no risk of disobeying those orders, I assure you," answered the easy Frenchman.
"You and all persons are at liberty to come into our territories to trade or for any other purpose, and will never be molested unless your behaviour is such as would subject an American citizen himself to punishment," continued Lewis.
"And will the Americans not trade?"
"We may and shall probably have a public store well assorted of all kinds of Indian goods. No liquors are to be sold."
"A very grand plan they have schemed," muttered Larocque, as he went away, "but its being realised is more than I can tell."
While talking with the Captains, Larocque had an eye on a Hudson's Bay trader who had appeared on the scene.
"Beg pardon. I must be off," said Larocque, slipping out with Charboneau to outwit if possible the Hudson's Bay man and reach the Indians first. But before he got off a letter arrived from Chaboillez that altered all plans.
Unknown to Lewis and Clark, though they gradually came to discover it, hot war was waging in the north. For the sake of furs, rival traders cut and carved and shot and imprisoned each other. For the sake of furs those same traders had held Detroit thirteen years beyond the Revolution. Furs came near changing the balance of power in North America.
The old established Hudson's Bay Company claimed British America. The ambitious, energetic Northwesters of Montreal disputed the right. And now that Sir Alexander Mackenzie, a Canadian bourgeois, had become a famous explorer, knighted by the King, jealousies broke out in the Northwest company itself.
Simon McTavish, lord of the Northwesters, who had done all he could to hold the Lakes for Britain, would rule or ruin. But the Northwesters swore by Mackenzie. So the two factions fought each other, and both fought the Hudson's Bay Company.
"The Northwesters are no better than they ought to be," said the men of Hudson's Bay. "They sent an embassy to Congress in 1776." In fact a little change in the balance might have thrown the Northwesters over to the American side and altered the history of a continent.
"The quarrelling traders of the North are almost as bad as the Indians," said Lewis,—"they demoralise and inflame the Indians."
"Trade with me," said Hudson's Bay. "The Northwesters will cheat you."
"Trade with me," said the Northwester. "Hudson's Bay are bad men."
With troubled eyes the Indians listened, then scalped them both. Some bloody tales that North could tell, around the plains of lovely Winnipeg, out on the lone Saskatchewan, and over to Athabasca.
But now the Americans,—this was a new force in the West.
December 1, the Americans began to cut and carry pickets to complete the high stockade and gate across the front of Fort Mandan. December 6 it was too cold to work, and that night the river froze over in front of the fort with solid ice an inch and a half thick.
At nine o'clock next morning Chief Shahaka, Big White, came puffing in with news.
"De boofalo! de boofalo!" interpreted Jussaume, listening intently to the long harangue of the chief who was making all sorts of sign language and excitedly pointing up the river.
"De boofalo, on de prairie, comin' eento de bottom."
In short order Lewis, Clark, and fifteen men were out with the Indians mounted on horseback. Then came the din and chase of battle, a sight to fire the blood and thrill the calmest heart.
Riding among the herd, each Indian chose his victim, then, drawing his arrow to the last notch of the bowstring, let it fly. Another and another whizzed from the same string until the quiver was exhausted. The wounded beast, blinded by its mane, sometimes charged the hunter. But the swift steed, trained for the contest, wheeled and was gone. The buffalo staggered for a little, then, struck in a mortal part, fell headlong, pawing up the dust and snow in frantic efforts to rise and fly.
Into the midst came the Captains and their men, and every man brought down his buffalo. At twelve degrees below zero and in a northwest wind, Lewis and his men started out again the next morning to chase the herds that darkened the prairie. The air was filled with frosty flakes, the snow was deep and clinging, but all day and until after dark the exciting hunt held them to the saddle, and only when they came to the fire did the participants realise that their hands and feet were frostbitten.
Cold and colder grew the days. Two suns shone in the sky, prognosticator of still deeper frost. Brilliant northern lights glowed along the Arctic, but still they chased the buffalo until the morning of December 13, when Dr. Saugrain's thermometer stood twenty degrees below zero at sunrise. In fur caps, coats, mittens, and double moccasins they brought home horseload after horseload of juicy beef to hang in the winter storehouse. And fortunately, too, for one day they awoke to find the buffalo gone.
Some winters there was great suffering for food among the Mandans, but this was destined to be a year of plenty. Out of their abundance the chiefs, also, came to the fort with their dog sleds loaded with meat for their friends at the garrison.
THE FIRST DAKOTA CHRISTMAS
On Christmas eve the stockade was finished and the gate was shut. With forty-five men and a blunderbuss Fort Mandan stood impregnable to any force the northern savages could bring against it.
But there was no hostility,—far from it. From curiosity or for trade the Indians came in throngs, until on Christmas eve Captain Lewis sent out the announcement: "Let no one visit us to-morrow. It is our great medicine day."
Before daylight the wondering redmen were aroused from their buffalo couches by three volleys fired from the fort. Awe-struck they sat up and whispered: "White men making medicine." At sunrise a flag was floating above the palisade, but no Indian ventured to approach the mysterious newly closed walls of Fort Mandan.
For his Christmas stocking every man received an allowance of flour, dried apples, and pepper, which together with corn, beans, squash, and unlimited buffalo meat and marrow bones made out a Christmas feast.
At one o'clock the gun was fired for dinner. At two came the signal for the dance.
"Play up ole fashion reel. Everybody he mus' dance," said Cruzatte, tuning his fiddle. "We'll do our possible."
Cruzatte and Gibson played, Gass and Shannon led, Clark called the changes; and with crackling fires, and a stamping like horses, away up there under the Northern stars the first American Christmas was celebrated on the upper Missouri.
Three wide-eyed spectators sat ranged around the walls. These were the squaws of the interpreters, Madame René Jussaume, and the two wives of Charboneau, Madame the old dame, and Sacajawea, the beautiful Indian captive stolen beyond the Rockies.
The Indians, in their cheerless winter villages, found much to attract them at the fort of the white men. Soon after Christmas, William Bratton and John Shields set up their forge as blacksmiths, gunsmiths, and armourers. Day after day, with the thermometer forty degrees below zero, a constant procession of Indians came wending in on the well-beaten snow-track, with axes to grind and kettles to mend. It seemed as if all the broken old kettles that had ever drifted into the country, from Hudson's Bay or Fort William or up from St. Louis, were carried to Fort Mandan filled with corn to pay for mending.
Especially the Indians wanted battle-axes, with long thin blades like the halberds of ancient warfare. Some wanted pikes and spears fixed on the pointed ends of their long dog-poles. A burnt-out old sheet-iron cooking stove became worth its weight in gold. For every scrap of it, four inches square, the Indians would give seven or eight gallons of corn, and were delighted with the exchange. These bits of square sheet iron were invaluable for scrapers for hides, and every shred of cutting that fell to the ground was eagerly bought up to fashion into arrow tips. Metal, metal, metal,—the sine qua non of civilisation had come at last to the Mandans.
While Bratton was busy over his forge, and Shields at the guns, some of the men were out hunting, some were cutting wood to keep the great fires roaring, and some were making charcoal for the smithy.
So the days went on. New Year's, 1805, was ushered in with the blunderbuss. By way of recreation the captains permitted the men to visit the Indian villages where crowds gathered to see the white men dance, "heeling it and toeing it" to the music of the fiddles. The white men in turn were equally diverted by the grotesque figures of the Indians leaping in the buffalo dances.
Captain Clark noted an old man in one of the Mandan villages and gave him a knife.
"How old are you?"
"More than one hundred winters," was the answer. "Give me something for the pain in my back."
But a grandson rebuked the old man. "It isn't worth while. You have lived long enough. It is time for you to go to your relations who can take better care of you than we can."
The old man settled back in his robes by the fire and said no more.
"What accident has happened to your hand?" inquired Lewis of a chief's son.
"Grief for my relatives," answered the boy.
It was a Mandan custom to mutilate the body, as a mark of sorrow for the dead, until some had lost not only all their fingers, but their ears and hair. Sacred ceremonies of flagellations, knife thrusts into the flesh, piercing with thorns and barbaric crucifixions,—thirty years later George Catlin found these still among the Mandans, and ascribed them to an effort to perpetuate some Christian ceremonial of a remote ancestry.
Could it have been a corrupted tradition of the crucifixion of Christ? Who can tell? The Welsh of 1170 were Catholic Christians who believed in self-inflicted penance to save the soul. Degraded, misguided, interblent with Indian superstition through generations, it might have come to this.
But everywhere, at feast or council, one walked as conqueror,—Clark's negro servant, York. Of fine physical presence and remarkable stature, very black and very woolly, York was viewed as superhuman.
"Where you come from?" whispered the awe-struck savages.
Grinning until every ivory tooth glistened, and rolling up the whites of his eyes, he would answer, "I was running wild in the wood, and was caught and tamed by my mastah." Then assuming an air of ferocity, York would exhibit feats of strength that to the Indians seemed really terrible.
"If you kill white men we make you chief," the Arikaras whispered in his ear. York withstood great temptation,—he fought more battles than Clark.
"Delay! delay! delay!" was the Indian plea at every village. "Let our wives see you. Let our children see, especially the black man."
From Council Bluffs to Clatsop, children followed York constantly. If he chanced to turn, with piercing shrieks they ran in terror.
"Mighty warrior. Born black. Great medicine!" sagely commented the wise old men, watching him narrowly and shaking their heads at the unheard-of phenomenon. Even his jerks, contortions, and grimaces seemed a natural part of such a monstrosity. York was a perpetual exhibit, a menagerie in himself.
In these holiday visits to the Mandan towns a glimpse was caught of domestic life. Wasteful profusion when the buffalo came, when the buffalo left, days of famine. Then they opened their cellar-holes of corn and vegetables, hidden away as a last resource in protracted siege when the Sioux drove off the game and shut them up in their picketed villages.
So often were the horses of the Mandans stolen, that it had become a habitual custom every night to take them into the family lodge where they were fed on boughs and bark of the cottonwood. All day long in the iciest weather, the wrinkled, prematurely aged squaws were busy in the hollows, cutting the horse-feed with their dull and almost useless knives. On New Year's day Black Cat came down with a load of meat on his wife's back. A happy woman was she to receive a sharp new knife to cut her meat and cottonwood.
It was easy to buy a Mandan wife. A horse, a gun, powder and ball for a year, five or six pounds of beads, a handful of awls, the trade was made, and the new spouse was set to digging laboriously with the shoulder-blade of an elk or buffalo, preparing to plant her corn.
The Indian woman followed up the hunt, skinned and dressed the buffalo, and carried home the meat. Indian women built the lodges and took them down again, dragging the poles whenever there were not horses enough for a summer ramble.
When not at the hunt or the council, the warrior sat cross-legged at his door, carving a bow, pointing an arrow, or smoking, waited upon by his squaw, who never ate until the braves were done, and then came in at the last with the children and the dogs. Wrinkled and old at thirty, such was the fate of the Indian girl.
Sunday, January 13, Charboneau came back from a visit to the Minnetarees at Turtle Mountain with his face frozen. It was fortunate he returned with his life. Many a Frenchman was slain on that road, many an imprecation went up against the Assiniboine Sioux,—"Les Gens des Grands Diables du Nord," said Charboneau.
Touissant Charboneau, one of the old Canadian French Charboneaus, with his brothers had tramped with Alexander Henry far to the north under sub-arctic forests, wintered on the Assiniboine, and paddled to Winnipeg. Seven years now he had lived among the Minnetarees, an independent trader like McCracken and Jussaume, and interpreter for other traders.
Moreover, Charboneau was a polygamist with several wives to cook his food and carry his wood and water. But he had been kind to the captive Indian girl, and her heart clung to the easy-going Frenchman as her best friend. The worst white man was better than an Indian husband.
Captured in battle as a child five years before, Sacajawea had been brought to the land of the Dakotas and sold to Charboneau. Now barely sixteen, in that February at the Mandan fort she became a mother. Most of the men were away on a great hunting trip; when they came back a lusty little red-faced pappoose was screaming beside the kitchen fire.
The men had walked thirty miles that day on the ice and in snow to their knees, but utterly fatigued as they were, the sight of that little Indian baby cuddled in a deerskin robe brought back memories of home.
Clark came in with frosty beard, and moccasins all worn out.
"Sacajawea has a fine boy," said Lewis.
No wonder the Captains watched her recovery with interest. All winter they had sought an interpreter for those far-away tongues beyond the mountains, and no one could be found but Sacajawea, the wife of Charboneau. Clark directed York to wait on her, stew her fruit, and serve her tea, to the great jealousy of Jussaume's wife, who packed up her pappooses in high dudgeon and left the fort. Sacajawea was only a slave. She, Madame Jussaume, was the daughter of a chief!
Poor little Sacajawea! She was really very ill. If she died who would unlock the Gates of the Mountains?
Charboneau was a cook. He set himself to preparing the daintiest soups and steaks, and soon the "Bird Woman" was herself again, packing and planning for the journey.
Busy every day now were Lewis and Clark making up their reports and drawing a map of the country. Shahaka, Big White, came and helped them. Kagohami of the Minnetarees came, and with a coal on a robe made a sketch of the Missouri that Clark re-drew.
But in the midst of the map-making all the Indian talk was of "war, war, war."
"I am going to war against the Snakes in the Spring," said Kagohami.
"No," said Lewis, "that will displease the President. He wants you to live at peace."
"Suffer me to go to war against the Sioux," begged another chief.
"No," answered Lewis. "These wars are the cause of all your troubles. If you do not stop it the Great Father will withdraw his protection from you. He will come over here and make you stop it."
"Look on the many nations whom war has destroyed," continued Lewis. "Think of your poverty and misfortunes. If you wish to be happy, cultivate peace and friendship. Then you will have horses. Then you will grow strong."
"Have you spoken thus to all the tribes?" inquired Kagohami.
"And did they open their ears?"
"I have horses enough," reflected Kagohami, "I will not go to war. I will advise my nation to remain at home until we see whether the Snake Indians desire peace."
One night the hunters came in with the report, "A troop of whooping Sioux have captured our horses and taken our knives."
It was midnight, but Lewis immediately routed up the men and set out with twenty volunteers on the track of the marauding Sioux. In vain. The boasting freebooters had escaped with the horses beyond recovery.
"We are sorry we did not kill the white men," was the word sent back by an Arikara. "They are bad medicine. We shall scalp the whole camp in the Spring."
THE BRITISH FUR TRADERS
The movements of Lewis and Clark were watched by the Northwest Company, who already had planned a house at the Mandans. Jefferson was not an hour too soon.
"Yes," said Larocque, "I will pass the winter there and watch those Americans."
In the midst of the frightful cold, twenty-two degrees below zero, on December 16, 1804, Larocque and Mackenzie came over again from Fort Assiniboine and with them came Alexander Henry.
"Strangers are among us," said the Indians, "Big Knives from below. Had they been kind they would have loaded their Great Boat with goods. As it is they prefer throwing away their ammunition to sparing a shot to the poor Mandans. There are only two sensible men among them, the worker of iron and the mender of guns."
"Amazing long pickets," remarked Larocque, as they came in sight of the new stockade of Fort Mandan.
The triangular fort, two sides formed of houses and the front of pickets, presented a formidable appearance in the wild.
"Cannon-ball proof," remarked Larocque, taking a good squint at the high round bastion in the corner between the houses, defending two sides of the fort. On the top was a sentry all night, and below a sentry walked all day within the fort.
"Well guarded against surprise," remarked Alexander Henry, as he tapped at the gate with the ramrod of his gun.
As the party knocked at the gates of Fort Mandan, in their winter coats of leather lined with flannel, edged with fur, and double-breasted, the lively eye of Patrick Gass peeped out.
"Some more av thim Britishers to ascertain our motives fur visitin' this countery, and to gain infurmation with rispict to th' change o' gov'm't," was the shrewd guess of Pat.
The hospitable Captains were more than glad to entertain visitors. They were there to cultivate international amity.
In their hearts Lewis and Clark never dreamed what a commotion that friendly letter to Chaboillez had stirred up. It had gone far and awakened many. Immediately upon its receipt Chaboillez sent out a runner.
"Lewis and Clark with one hundred and eighty soldiers have arrived at the Mandan village," so the story flew. "On their arrival they hoisted the American flag and informed the natives that their object was not to trade, but merely to explore the country; and that as soon as navigation shall open they design to continue their route across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. They have made the natives a few small presents and repaired their guns and axes free. They have behaved honourably toward my people, who are there to trade with the natives."
Such a message as this was enough to bring Alexander Henry down to investigate. The cottonwood fires at Fort Mandan roared up the chimneys with unwonted splendour that winter night. The thermometer suddenly fell to forty-five degrees below zero; but warm and comfortable beside the blaze they talked, American and British, in this border of the nations.
Charles Mackenzie had been a clerk of the Northwest Company for a year. Of the same rank as himself was Larocque, and both were popular with the redmen. In fact, Mackenzie, a Scot from the Highlands, was already married to an Indian girl, and Larocque was a Frenchman. That was enough. No nation fraternized with the redmen as the Frenchmen did.
Alexander Henry, fur trader among the American Indians and one of the famous Northwesters, bore a great name in the north. There were two Alexander Henrys; the younger was a nephew of the other, and he it was that had now come to visit Lewis and Clark. He knew more of the country than, perhaps, any other man in the northwest. In fact, his uncle, the elder Henry, was at Michilimackinac in the days of Pontiac, and had penetrated to the Saskatchewan before ever there was a Northwest Company.
Henry, Jr., wintered on the Red River the very year that Alexander Mackenzie crossed the continent,—1793. As a bourgeois of the Northwesters, with a fleet of canoes and twenty-one men he had led the Red River brigade of 1800 up into the Winnipeg country.
The scarlet belts, breeches of smoked buckskin, and blue cloth leggings of Alexander Henry's old coureur des bois were known for hundreds of miles.
Yes, he knew the Sioux. Their pillaging bands sometimes plundered his traders. "They are not to be trusted," he declared in positive tone.
"A very sensible, intelligent man," said Lewis and Clark to themselves as the great Northwester talked of the country and the tribes.
But time seemed pressing. Questions of cold or of comfort weighed not with these dauntless Northwesters when the interests of their company were at stake. They had come on horseback. To return that way was out of the question; and so sleds were fitted up with Jussaume's Eskimo dogs, the "Huskies" of the fur traders.
"They seem happy to see us," remarked Mackenzie from under his muffler, as they rode away. "They treat us with civility and kindness, but Captain Lewis cannot make himself agreeable. He speaks fluently, even learnedly, but to me his inveterate prejudice against the British stains all his eloquence."
"Captain Clark is more cordial," rejoined Larocque. "He seems to dislike giving offence unnecessarily. Do you recall his thoughtfulness in sending for our horses when we feared they might be stolen? He let his men guard them with his own."
With the thermometer thirty-two degrees below zero, the dogsleds flew swift across the snow, bearing news not alone to Assiniboine, but to Fort Willi am on the northern shore of Lake Superior where the Northwesters had built their trading centre.
Fort William, built in 1803 and named in honour of William McGillivray, was the great distributing point, where "the lords of the lakes and the forests" came to hold their rendezvous. In front rolled Superior, the great Canadian Sea. Schooners, laden with merchandise, peltries, and provisions, plied between Fort William and Sault Ste. Marie.
One of the honoured names of the Northwest Company was Philip de Rocheblave. Captured by George Rogers Clark at Kaskaskia, sent to Virginia and there let out on parole, he broke faith and fled to New York, to turn up at Montreal in the winter of 1783-4 along with McTavish, McGillivray, the Frobishers and Frasers, founders of the Northwest Fur Company. Pierre de Rocheblave had now succeeded to his uncle's honours. Would he be apt to let the United States get ahead of him? And by means of a Clark at that?
"I must go down to the American fort to get my compass put in order," said Larocque again, in January. "The glass is broken and the needle does not point due north."
He found Captain Clark sketching charts of the country, Lewis making vocabularies; Jussaume and Charboneau, the Frenchmen, interpreting and disputing on the meaning of words.
"They write down our words," whispered the suspicious Indians. "What wicked design have they on our country?"
Captain Lewis spent a whole day fixing Larocque's compass.
"I hardly get a skin when the Hudson's Bay trader is with me," said Larocque. "He is known by all the Indians, and understands and talks their language. I must get Charboneau." And the two went away together.
"Of what use are beaver?" inquired the Indians. "Do you make gunpowder of them? Do they preserve you from sickness? Do they serve you beyond the grave?"
Alexander Henry went to Fort William.
"A new rival has arisen," said the Northwest traders at their hurried conference. "We must anticipate these United States explorers and traders. They may advance northward and establish a claim to ownership by prior right of discovery or occupation. We must build a chain of posts and hold the country."
"But whom can we send on such a monumental enterprise?"
There seemed but one man,—Simon Fraser.
Simon Fraser was the son of a Scottish Tory who had been captured by the Americans at Burgoyne's surrender and had died in prison. His wife, with Simon a babe in arms, removed to Canada, to rear her son beneath the banner of her King. At sixteen, young Fraser became a clerk of the Northwest Company and a bourgeois. But the Frasers were great-brained people; young Simon was soon promoted; and now at the age of twenty-nine he was put in charge of the greatest enterprise since the incomparable feat of Alexander Mackenzie.
"You, Simon Fraser, are to establish trading-posts in the unknown territory, and in this way take possession for Great Britain."
Over at Sault Ste. Marie a young doctor by the name of John McLoughlin would gladly have accompanied his uncle Simon on that perilous undertaking. But his day was to come later. Both of their names are now linked with the Old Oregon.
Young men of the two most progressive modern nations were to be pitted in this race for Empire,—Lewis and Clark, and Simon Fraser.
FAREWELL TO FORT MANDAN
On the first day of March preparations began on the building of new boats. The old ones were pried out of the ice, and the whole party was busy making elk-skin ropes and pirogues, in burning coal, and in making battle-axes to trade for corn. Ducks began to pass up the river; swans and wild geese were flying north.
Old Chief Le Borgne of the Minnetarees, a giant in stature, a brute at heart, had held aloof all winter in his tepee.
"Foolish people! Stay at home!" he cried.
But strange rumours crept within the walls of the sulky Cyclops. Overcome at last by curiosity Le Borgne came down to the fort.
"Some foolish young men of my nation tell me there is a man among you who is black. Is that true?"
"It is," answered Clark. "York, come here."
With his one fierce eye, Le Borgne examined York closely. He wet his finger and rubbed the skin to see if the black would come off. Not until the negro uncovered his head and showed his woolly hair could the chief be persuaded that York was not a painted white man.
Convinced against his will, and amazed, Le Borgne arose with a snort, his black hair flying over his brawny shoulders, and stalked out. As he passed along, the Indians shrank back. Over the hill came the wail of a demented mother. Many a fair Indian girl had left her scalp at the door of this Indian Blue-Beard because she preferred some other lover.
The ice was already honeycombed. Larocque came over for a farewell.
"McTavish is dead," he said.
Lewis and Clark scarcely comprehended the full import of that announce ment.
At the foot of the mountain in Montreal the great Northwester was building a palace, fit abode for "the lord of the lakes and the forest," when the summons came in 1804. Up the rivers and lakes the word was carried into the uttermost wilds,—"McTavish is dead." Thus it came to Lewis and Clark, this last news from the outer world.
The meeting at Fort William had been held without him,—McTavish was dead.
He was the head and front of the Northwest Company. Under the King, Simon McTavish ruled Canada, ruled half of British America, making Hudson's Bay tremble on her northern sea.
The quick wit of the American born of Irish parents belonged to Patrick Gass. While others were struggling toward an idea, Pat had already seized it. Brave, observant, of good sense, and hating the British, he kept an eye on Larocque.
"Do not trust that Frinchman."
Larocque had a stock of goods to trade. He lingered around Fort Mandan, and offered to go over the mountains with Lewis and Clark, but they politely declined. Already Larocque knew of the order at Fort William. His own brother-in-law, Quesnel, was to be the companion of Fraser's voyage, and was to leave, like Fraser, his name on the rivers of British Columbia.
Then there was trouble with Charboneau. He became independent and impudent and demanded higher wages. Somebody was tampering with Charboneau. Suddenly flaming with new raiment, gay vests, and yards of blue and scarlet cloth, he announced:
"I weel not work. I weel not stand guard. I eenterpreteur,—do as I pleese, return wheen I pleese."
"We can dispense with your services," coolly answered the Captains. Charboneau stepped back, surprised.
Ignoring his presence, preparations were hurried on. The boats, the troublesome, cracking, warping cottonwood boats, were hauled to the fort and pitched and calked and tinned, until at last they were ready to try the water. No one spoke to the Frenchman, no one noticed him as he lingered expectan tly by.
All the Indian goods were brought out and hung in the open air. Even at the busiest moments, with every man on the jump, no one asked Charboneau to help. Finding he was about to lose his position, the Frenchman came to Captain Lewis, apologised, and was restored to service. In a trice Charboneau was back at the skillets, dishing up the dinner.
The occupants of Fort Mandan had been snow-bound five months when ice began running in the river. All day long now the busy Indians were catching buffalo floating by on the high water. The foolish animals, trying to cross the thin ice, broke through. Others floated away on big cakes that were certain, sooner or later, to launch them into eternity.
The patient, devoted women, too, were in evidence. Slipping out of their leather smocks, they plunged naked into the icy current to secure the floating driftwood for fuel. Across the snow long lines of squaws came dragging home the drift.
The hammers of Shields and Bratton rang merrily at the anvils. Boxes were made and hooped and ironed, to go down in the big bateau that was too unwieldy to carry further.
In those stout boxes were horns of the mountain ram, unknown as yet to science, horns of elk and deer, rare skins, robes and Indian dresses; bow, arrows, and a shield for the President, on which Old Black Cat had spent months of patient carving; samples of the red Arikara corn; sixty-seven specimens of earths, salts, and minerals, and sixty specimens of plants, all carefully labelled; seeds, insects, the skeleton of the big fish from the hilltop, stuffed antelopes and Lewis's pelican, a live prairie dog in a wicker cage, a live prairie hen and four magpies. A new geography was there, a map of the Missouri extending out to the mystic mountains, drawn from Indian description, to be presented by Jefferson to Congress.
In these boxes, too, went letters. There was one of several thousand words from Lewis to his mother. Captain Clark's first and best letter was to his brother at the Point of Rock; with it he enclosed a map and sketches of Indians. Another was to Major Croghan at Locust Grove, with seeds of several kinds of grapes for his sister Lucy.
With the bateau went also the famous Mandan report of Lewis to Jefferson, and Clark's letter to his soldier friend, William Henry Harrison, then Governor of the Indian Territory at Vincennes. Other missives went to Ohio, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania,—wherever a man had a mother at the hearthstone waiting to hear of her distant boy. Saddest of all was the news to Mill Creek, the home of Sergeant Floyd. Part of Clark's journal was transmitted by letter to the President and part was enclosed in a separate tin box, "to multiply the chances of saving something."
The Mandan treasures, with dispatches and presents from the Indians, went down by water to the Gulf and thence by sea to Washington.
"I have little doubt but they will be fired on by the Sioux," says Lewis in his letter, "but they have pledged themselves to us that they will not yield while there is one of them living."
At five o'clock on Sunday afternoon, April 7, 1805, the barge left Fort Mandan for St. Louis with ten men. With it went also Brave Raven of the Arikaras, to visit his Great Father, the President.
At the same moment that the barge left the fort, six small canoes and the two pirogues shot up river, carrying thirty-one men and Sacajawea with her child.
"This little fleet, although not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or Captain Cook, is still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those famed adventurers ever beheld theirs," said Lewis, "and I dare say with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation. We are now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilised man has never trodden.
"Entertaining as I do the most confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which has formed a darling project of mine for ten years, I can but esteem this moment of our departure as among the happiest of my life."
TOWARD THE SUNSET
The Spring days were squally and chill. The air was sharp, and the water froze on the oars as the little party rowed along. Now and then a flurry of snow whitened the April green. Sometimes the sails were spread, and the boats scurried before the wind. Often, however, the sails proved too large, and over the boats lurched, wetting the baggage and powder.
Most of the powder had been sealed in leaden canisters. When the powder was emptied the canister itself was melted into bullets. That was a nightly task,—the moulding of bullets.
"Hio! hio!" The hunters ahead picked a camping spot, beside a spring or by a clump of trees. In short order brass kettles were swung across the gipsy poles. Twisting a bunch of buffalo grass into a nest, in a moment Dr. Saugrain's magical matches had kindled a roaring flame.
Swinging axes made music where axes had never swung before. Baby Touissant rolled his big eyes and kicked and crowed in his mother's lap, while Charboneau, head cook, stuffed his trapper's sausage with strips of tenderloin and hung it in links around the blaze.
Stacks of buffalo meat lay near by, where they had been piled by the industrious hunters. Odours of boiling meat issued from the kettles. Juicy brown ribs snapped and crackled over the flames.
Captain Lewis, accustomed to the cuisine of Jefferson at the White House, laughed.
"How did you dress this sausage so quick, Charboneau? Two bobs and a flirt in the dirty Missouri?"
Sometimes Lewis himself turned cook, and made a suet dumpling for every man. More frequently he was off to the hills with Clark, taking a look at the country.
Nor was Sacajawea idle. With her baby on her back, she opened the nests of prairie mice, and brought home artichokes. Sometimes she brought sprouts of wild onion for the broth, or the pomme blanche,—the peppery Indian turnip. York, too, at his master's direction often gathered cresses and greens for the dinner. But York was becoming a hunter. As well as the best, he "slew dem buffaloes."
Lewis had bought Charboneau's big family tent. Under its leather shelter slept the Captains, with Drouillard and Charboneau and his little family.
Around the twilight fires the men wrote their journals,—Lewis, Clark, Pryor, Ordway, Gass, Fraser, all busy with their stub quill pens and inkhorns, recording the day's adventure.
They were not scholars, any of them, but men of action, pioneers and explorers, heralds of the nation. In their strenuous boyhood they had defended the frontier. Men at sixteen, they took up a man's employment. Lewis, more favoured, prolonged his schooldays until the age of eighteen, then broke away to march with armies.
At last these first civilised sounds that ever broke the silence primeval were hushed. Rolled up like cocoons in their mackinaw blankets, the men were soon snoring in rows with feet to the fires, while a solitary sergeant peered into the lonely night. The high Dakota wind roared among the cottonwoods. Mother Nature, too, kept guard, lighting her distant beacons in the blue above the soldier boys.
In a land of wolves, no wolves molested, though they yelped and barked in the prairie grass. On all sides lay deserted camps of Assiniboine Sioux. Once the expedition crossed the trail of a war party only twenty-four hours old. A dog left behind came to the camp of the explorers and became the pet of Captain Lewis.
"Kip so quiet lak' one leetle mouse," whispered Cruzatte, cautioning silence.
No one cared to meet the Assiniboine Sioux, the "Gens des Grands Diables." Once the smoke of their campfires clouded the north; but the boats sped on undiscovered.
"The river reminds me of the Ohio at this time of year," said Clark.
"The drumming of that sharp-tailed grouse is like that of the pheasants of old Virginia," responded Lewis.
"And the croaking of the frogs exactly resimbles that of frogs in th' Yaunited States," added Patrick Gass.
For days they noted veins of coal burning along the river banks, kindled perhaps by Indian fires. Alkali dust began to rise, blown into clouds, and sifting into their tight double-cased watches until the wheels refused to move more than a few minutes at a time.
Toward the last of April Lewis went ahead to the mouth of the Rochejaune, the Yellow Rock, or Yellowstone River, passing through herds of elk, antelope, and buffalo, so tame they would scarce move out of his way. Beautiful dun deer snorted and pawed the leaves, then half trusting, half timorous, slipped into the thicket. No one but Sacajawea had ever before been over this road.
In May they reached the land where even the beaver were gentle, for they had never been hunted. No white man, so far as they knew, had ever trodden these wilds. They had not heard of the gallant Sieur Verendrye, two of whose intrepid sons reached the "Shining Mountains" on New Year's Day, 1743. Washington was a boy then; George Rogers Clark was not born.
But the Snakes and the Sioux were at war, fierce battles were raging, and they were forced to turn back. The noble Verendrye spent all his fortune, and forty thousand livres besides, in trying to find the River of the West.
Then Jonathan Carver of Connecticut set out about the time Boone went to Kentucky. At the Falls of St. Anthony, he, too, heard of the Shining Mountains.
"The four most capital rivers of North America take their rise about the centre of this continent," said Carver. "The River Bourbon, which empties into Hudson's Bay; the Waters of St. Lawrence; the Mississippi; and the River Oregon, or the River of the West, that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Stra its of Anian."
What little bird whispered "Oregon" in Carver's ear? No such word is known in any Indian tongue. Had some Spanish sailor told of a shore "like his own green Arragon"?
And now Lewis and Clark are on the sunset path. Will they find the Shining Mountains and the River of the West?
At the first large branch beyond the Yellowstone, Captain Lewis went on shore with Drouillard the hunter. Out of a copse suddenly appeared two grizzlies.
Lewis remembered well the awe and absolute terror with which the Mandans had described this king of Western beasts. Never did they go out to meet him without war-paint and all the solemn rites of battle. As with the cave bear of ancient song and saga, no weapon of theirs was adequate to meet this dreaded monster. In parties of six or eight they went, with bows and arrows, or, in recent years, the bad guns of the trader.
With these things in mind, Lewis and the hunter faced the bears. Each fired, and each wounded his beast. One of the bears ran away; the other turned and pursued Captain Lewis, but a lucky third shot from Drouillard laid him low.
And what a brute was he! Only a cub and yet larger than any bear of the Atlantic States, the grizzly, known now to be identical with the awful cave bear of prehistoric time. No wonder the Indian that slew him was a brave and in the line of chieftainship! No wonder the claws became a badge of honour! No man, no foe so fierce to meet as one enraged and famished grizzly. His skin was a king's robe, his tusk an emblem of unflinching valour.
A wind from the east now filled the sails and blew them west! west! More and more tame grew the elk and buffalo, until the men were obliged to drive them out of their way with sticks and stones.
Before them unrolled the great wild garden of Eden. Abounding everywhere were meadows,—beaver meadows and clover meadows, wild rice and rye and timothy, and buffalo grazing on a thousand hills. Prairie fowl scurried in the under-brush, beautiful whi te geese gazed calmly at them, ducks quacked around ponds and streams alive with trout.
Wild gardens were radiant with roses and honeysuckles, morning-glories and wild hops. Whole fields of lilies perfumed the sunrise, strawberries carpeted the uplands, and tangles of blackberries and raspberries interwove a verdant wall along the buffalo trails, the highways of the wilderness.
Mountain sheep sported on the cliffs, the wild cat purred in her forest lair. The yellow cougar, the mountain lion, growled and slunk away. The coyote, the Indian dog, snapped and snarled. But man, man was not there. For four months no Indian appeared through all the Great Lone Land of the Tay-a-be-shock-up, the country of the mountains.
William Bratton, who had been walking along the shore, presently came running to the boats with cries of terror.
"Take me on board, quick!"
It was some moments before Bratton could speak.
"A bear! a bear!" he gasped at last.
A mile and a half back Bratton had wounded a grizzly that turned and chased him. Captain Lewis and seven men immediately started. For a mile they tracked the trail of blood to a hole where the enraged animal was frantically tearing up the earth with teeth and claws. Two shots through the skull finished the grizzly, whose fleece and skin made a load which two men could scarcely carry back to camp.
"More bear-butter to fry me sassage," remarked unsentimental Charboneau.
But now had begun in earnest the days of wild adventure. One evening after another grizzly battle, the men came triumphantly into camp to find disaster there. Charboneau had been steersman that night, and Cruzatte was at the bow. A sudden squall struck the foremost pirogue, Charboneau let go the tiller, the wind bellied the sail, and over they turned.
"De rudder! de rudder!" shouted Cruzatte.
Charboneau, the most timid waterman i n the party, clinging to the gunwales, heard only his own voice in the wind, crying aloud to heaven, "Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!"
"De rudder!" roared Cruzatte. "Seize de rudder instanter and do de duty, or I shoot you!"
Fear of Cruzatte's gun overcame fear of drowning. Charboneau, pallid and trembling, reached for the flying rope. Half a minute the boat lay on the wave, then turned up full of water.
At last, holding the brace of the square sail, Charboneau pulled the boat round, while all hands fell to bailing out the water. But all the papers, medicine, and instruments were wet.
Cruzatte alone was calm, and Sacajawea, who, with her baby and herself to save, still managed to catch and preserve most of the light articles that were floating overboard.
Captain Lewis, watching the disaster from afar, had almost leaped into the water to save his precious papers, but was restrained by the reflection that by such rashness he might forfeit his life.
Two days were lost in unpacking and drying the stores.
At midnight a buffalo ran into the sleeping camp.
"Hey! hey! hey!" shouted the guard, firing on the run and waving his arms. But the distracted beast, plunging close to the heads of the sleeping men, headed directly toward the leather tent.
Suddenly up before his nose danced the little Indian dog, and the buffalo was turned back into the night just as the whole camp jumped to arms in expectation of an attack of the Sioux.
"Fire! Fire!" was the next alarm.
In the high wind of the night one of the fires had communicated itself to a dead cottonwood overhanging the camp. Fanned by the gale the flames shot up the trunk, and burning limbs and twigs flew in a shower upon the leather tent.
"Fire! fire! fire!" again came the quick, sharp cry.
Every man rolled out of his mackinaw. The occupants of the lodge were soon aroused. S trong hands had scarcely removed the lodge and quenched the burning leather before the tree itself fell directly over the spot where a moment before the Captains were sleeping soundly.
And so that stream was named the Burnt Lodge Creek.
THE SHINING MOUNTAINS
Ascending the highest summit of the hills on the north side of the river, on Sunday, the 26th of May, Captain Lewis first caught a distant view of "the Rock mountains—the object of all our hopes, and the reward of all our ambition."
"When I viewed—I felt a secret pleasure,—but when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowy barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific, and the sufferings and hardships of myself and party in them, it in some measure counterbalanced the joy."
Bold and bolder grew the river shores. The current now became too rapid for oars, too deep for poles. Nothing but the tow-line could draw the boats against the swift flow of the mountain torrent. Struggling along shore with the rope on their shoulders, the men lost their moccasins in the clinging clay and went barefoot. Sometimes knee-deep, they waded, sometimes waist-deep, shoulders-deep, in the icy water, or rising on higher benches walked on flinty rocks that cut their naked feet.
Leaping out of the mountains, came down a laughing sparkling river, the clearest they had yet seen. Its valley seemed a paradise of ash and willow, honeysuckles and wild roses. Standing on its bank Clark mused, "I know but one other spot so beautiful. I will name this river for my little mountain maid of Fincastle, the Judith."
Could he then foresee that Judith would beco me his wife, or that the verdant Judith Basin would be the last retreat of the buffalo?
Big horned mountain sheep were sporting on the cliffs, beaver built their dams along its shores, and up the Judith Gap the buffalo had his mountain home. The Indian, too, had left there the scattered embers of a hundred fires.
Lewis picked up a moccasin.
"Here, Sacajawea, does this belong to your people?"
The Bird Woman shook her head. "No Shoshone." She pointed to the north where the terrible Blackfeet came swooping down to shoot and scalp. It was time to hasten on.
Valley succeeded valley for miles on miles, and between valleys arose hills of sandstone, worn by suns and storms into temples of desolated magnificence; ruins of columns and towers, pedestals and capitals, parapets of statuary, sculptured alcoves and mysterious galleries. Sheer up from the river's side they lifted their heads like old Venetian palaces abandoned to the bats.
June 3 the river forked.
"Which is the true Missouri?"
"De nort'ern branch. See it boil and roll?" said Cruzatte. "See de colour? Dat de true Meessouri. De ot'er ees but one leetle stream from de mountain."
But the Captains remembered the advice of the Minnetarees.
"The Ah-mateah-za becomes clear, and has a navigable current into the mountains."
Parties were sent up both branches to reconnoitre. Lewis and Clark ascended the high ground in the fork and looked toward the sunset. Innumerable herds of buffalo, elk, and antelope were browsing as far as the eye could reach, until the rivers were lost in the plain.
Back came the canoes undecided. Then the Captains set out. Clark took the crystal pebbly southern route. Lewis went up the turbid northern branch fifty-nine miles.
"This leads too far north, almost to the Saskatchewan," he concluded, and turned back. In the summer sunshine robins sang, turtle doves, linnets, th e brown thrush, the goldfinch, and the wren, filled the air with melody.
"I will call it Maria's River, for my beautiful and amiable cousin, Maria Wood of Charlottesville," thought Lewis, with a memory of other Junes in old Virginia.
When Lewis drew up at camp, Clark was already there, anxious for his safety. The main party, occupied in dressing skins and resting their lame and swollen feet, looked eagerly for the decision. To their surprise both Captains agreed on the southern route.
"But Cruzatte," exclaimed the men, "he thinks the north stream is the true river, and Cruzatte is an experienced waterman. We may be lost in the mountains far from the Columbia."
"True. Everything depends on a right decision. Captain Clark, if you will stay here and direct the deposit of whatever we can spare, I will go ahead until I know absolutely."
At dawn Lewis set out with Drouillard, Gibson, Goodrich, and Joe Fields.
Under Captain Clark's direction, Bratton, the blacksmith, set up his forge at the mouth of Maria's River and Shields mended all the broken guns. The rest dug a cache, a kettle-shaped cellar, on a dry spot safe from water. The floor was covered with dry sticks and a robe. Then in went the blacksmith's heavy tools, canisters of powder, bags of flour and baggage,—whatever could be spared. On top was thrown another robe, and then the earth packed in tight and the sod refitted so that no eye could detect the spot.
The red pirogue was drawn up into the middle of a small island at the mouth of Maria's River and secured in a copse.
"Boys, I am very ill," said Captain Lewis, when they camped for dinner on the first day out. Attacked with violent pains and a high fever, unable to proceed, he lay under some willow boughs.
No medicine had been brought. Drouillard was much concerned. "I well remember," he said, "when a flux was epidemic at Chillicothe among de white settlers, my fader, Pierre Drouillard, administer on de sick wit' great success."
"What did he use?"
"A tea of de choke-cherry."
"Prepare me some," said the rapidly sinking Captain.
With deft fingers Drouillard stripped off the leaves of a choke-cherry bough, and cut up the twigs. Black and bitter, the tea was brought to Lewis at sunset. He drank a pint, and another pint an hour afterward. By ten o'clock the pain was gone, a gentle perspiration ensued, the fever abated, and by morning he was able to proceed.
The next day, June 12, the mountains loomed as never before, rising range on range until the distant peaks commingled with the clouds. Twenty-four hours later Lewis heard the roaring of a cataract, seven miles away, and saw its spray, a column of cloud lifted by the southwest wind. Like Hiawatha he had—
"Journeyed westward, westward, Left the fleetest deer behind him, Left the antelope and bison, Passed the mountains of the Prairie, Passed the land of Crows and Foxes, Passed the dwellings of the Blackfeet, Came unto the Rocky Mountains, To the kingdom of the West-Wind."
Hastening on with impatient step he came upon the stupendous waterfall, one of the glories of our continent, that hidden here in the wilderness had for ages leaped adown the rocky way. Overwhelmed with the spectacle Lewis sat down "to gaze and wonder and adore." "Oh, for the pencil of Salvator Rosa or the pen of Thompson, that I might give to the world some idea of this magnificent object, which from the commencement of time has been concealed from the view of civilised man."
Joe Fields was immediately dispatched to notify Clark of the discovery of the Falls. Lewis and the other men went on up ten miles, gazing at cataract after cataract where the mighty Missouri bent and paused, and gathering its full volume leaped from rock to rock, sometimes wild and irregularly sublime, again smooth and elegant as a painter's dream.
Lewis, impatient to see and know, hurried on past the rest until night overtook him alone near the head of the series of cataracts. On the high plain along the bank a thousand buffalo were feeding on the short curly grass. Lewis shot one for supper, and leaning upon his unloaded rifle watched to see it fall.
A slight rustle attracted his attention. He turned. A bear was stealing upon him, not twenty steps away. There was no time for reloading, flight alone remained. Not a bush, not a tree, not a rock was near, nothing but the water. With a wild bound Lewis cleared the intervening space and leaped into the river. Turning, he presented his espontoon. The bear, already at the bank, was about to spring, but that defiant espontoon in his face filled him with terror. He turned and ran, looking back now and then as if fearing pursuit, and disappeared.
Clambering out of the water, Lewis started for camp, when, sixty paces in front of him, a strange animal crouched as if to spring. Lewis fired and a mountain lion fled. Within three hundred yards of the spot, three enraged buffalo bulls left the herd, and shaking their shaggy manes, ran pawing and bellowing, full speed upon him. Eluding the bulls, Lewis hurried to camp. Worn out, he fell asleep, only to awaken and find a huge rattlesnake coiled around the tree above his head! Such was earth primeval!
The Great Falls of the Missouri was the rendezvous for all wild life in the country. Thousands of impatient buffaloes pushed each other along the steep rocky paths to the water. Hundreds went over the cataract to feed the bears and wolves below.
Captain Clark soon arrived with the main body and went into camp at a sulphur spring, a favourite resort of buffaloes.
"This is precisely like Bowyer's sulphur spring of Virginia,—it will be good for Sacajawea," said Lewis, bringing her a cup of the transparent water that tumbled in a cascade into th e Missouri.
Sacajawea was sick, very sick, delirious at times as she lay on her couch of skins. The journey had been difficult. The hungry little baby was a great burden, and Sacajawea was only sixteen, younger even than Shannon, the boy of the party.
Clark directed his negro servant, York, to be her constant attendant. Charboneau was cautioned on no account to leave her. Several other semi-invalids guarded the tent to keep the buffaloes away. Every day, and twice a day, the Captains came to see her and prescribe as best they could.
Now came the tedious days of portaging the boats and baggage around the Falls. A cottonwood tree, nearly two feet in diameter, was sawed into wheels. The white pirogue was hidden in a copse and its mast was taken for an axletree.
Opposite the spot where the waggons were made was an island full of bears of enormous size. Their growling and stealthy movements went on day and night. All night the watchful little dog kept up incessant barking. The men, disturbed in their slumbers, lay half-awake with their arms in hand, while the guard patrolled with an eye on the island. Bolder and bolder grew the bears. One night they came to the very edge of the camp and ran off with the meat hung out for breakfast.
At last the rude waggons were done. The canoes were mounted and filled with baggage. Slowly they creaked away, tugged and pushed and pulled up hills that were rocky and rough with hummocks where the buffaloes trod. Prickly-pears, like little scythes, cut and lacerated, even through double-soled moccasins. At every halt, over-wearied and worn out by night watching, the toilers dropped to the ground and fell asleep instantly.
A whole month was spent in making the carriages and transporting the baggage the eighteen miles around the Falls. In another cache at the sulphur spring, they buried Lewis's writing desk, specimens of plants and minerals, provisions, the grindstone brought from Harper's Ferry, books and a map of the Missouri River. The blunderbuss was hid under rocks at the foot of the Falls.
Sacajawea, recovered from her illness, began to look for familiar landmarks. One day Clark took her, together with Charboneau and York, to look at the Falls. He had surveyed and measured the Black Eagle, Crooked Rainbow, and Great Falls. "Come," he said, "Charboneau, bring Sacajawea. Let us go up and look at the Black Eagle." High above the cataract the bird had built its nest in the top of a cottonwood tree.
A dark cloud was rising. Under a shelving rock they took refuge in a ravine, Captain Clark still figuring at his notes.
A few drops of rain fell,—in an instant a torrent, a cloud-burst, rolled down the ravine.
Clark saw it coming. Snatching his gun and shot-pouch, he pushed Sacajawea and the baby up the cliff, while Charboneau above was pulling her by the hand. Up to Clark's waist the water came. Fifteen feet it rose behind him as he climbed to safety.
Compass and umbrella were lost in the scramble. Charboneau had left his gun, tomahawk, and shot-pouch. Sacajawea had just snatched her baby before its cradle went into the flood. After the storm they came down into the plain, to find York in affright lest they had been swept into the river.
On account of the great heat, the men at the waggons had laid aside their leather hunting shirts, when down upon their bare backs came a shower of huge hailstones. Bruised, battered, and bleeding as from a battle, they straggled into camp. Kind-hearted Lewis set to work with linens and medicine, bandaging up their wounds.
The next morning Captain Clark sent two men to look for the articles lost at the Falls. They found the ravine filled with rock, but happily, half-hid in mud and sand, the precious compass was recovered.
Within view of the camp that day Clark estimated not less than ten thousand buffalo. And beyond, rimmed on the far horizon, ran the white line of the mountain crest that is to-day the western boundary of Montana.
The 4th of July dawned, the second since they had left the States. In the hills they heard strange booming, as of a distant cannonade. It almost seemed as if the Rocky Mountains were reverberating back the joyous guns of Baltimore and Boston. The men listened in amaze.
"What can it be?"
"Een de mountain," answered Cruzatte. "De vein of silver burst. De Pawnee and de Rickara hear eet een de Black Hill."
"Ah, yes, the Minnetarees talked of a noise in the mountains. We thought it was superstition."
Again through long silence came the great cannonade. Unconsciously Lewis and Clark trod on closed treasure houses, future mines of unwashed tons of gold and silver. Had they brought back gold then what might have been the effect upon the restless, heaving East? But, no, the land must wait and grow. Other wars must be fought with the Englishman and the Indian, armies of trappers must decimate the bears and wolves, and easier methods of transportation must aid in opening up the great Montana-land.
A WOMAN PILOT
Monday, July 15, 1805, the boats were launched above the Great Falls of the Missouri. Clark followed by land along an old Indian trail, worn deep by the lodge-poles of ages.
Little did he realise that nuggets lay scattered all over that land, where yet the gold hunters should dot the hills with shafts and mounds; that near here a beautiful city, named for Helen of Troy, should arise to become a golden capital.
"My people! My people!" Sacajawea excitedly pointed to deserted wickiups and traces of fires. She read their story at a glance.
"It was winter. They were hungry. There were no buffalo. See!" She pointed to the pines stripped of bark and the tender inner wood, the last resort of famishing Shoshones.
With flags hoisted to notify the Indians that they were friends, the canoes passed within the Gates of the Mountains, where the mighty Missouri breaks through the Belt Range of western Montana. Nothing in Alleghany lands compares with this tremendous water-gap. Through the dark cavern the river ran narrow and rapid and clear. Down through tributary canyons on either side came rifts of light, odours of pine, and the roar of waterfalls.
With unmoved countenance Sacajawea looked upon the weird overhanging grayish granite walls through which she had been hurried in terror by her Minnetaree captors, five years ago.
"We are coming to a country where the river has three forks," said Sacajawea.
Exhilaration seized the men, as they sent the boats up the heavy current that rolled well-deep below. That night they camped in a canyon that is to-day a pleasure resort for the people of Helena.
Again following the Indian trail, on the 25th of July Clark arrived at the three forks of the Missouri, near the present site of Gallatin. From the forks of the far eastern rivers where Pittsburg rises, they had come to the forks of the great river of the West.
For days the swift current had required the utmost exertion. The men complained of fatigue and excessive heat.
"You push a tolerable good pole," said the Kentuckians, when Lewis took a hand.
Captain Clark was worn out. With the thermometer at ninety, for days he had pushed ahead, determined to find the Shoshones.
"Let us rest a day or two," said Captain Lewis. "Here, boys, build a bower for Captain Clark. I'll take a tramp myself in a few days to find these yellow gentlemen if possible."
Camping at the three forks, every man be came a leather dresser and tailor, fixing up his buckskin clothes. Leggings and moccasins had been sliced to pieces by the prickly pear.
"What a spot for a trading post!" the Captains agreed.
"Look," said Lewis, "see the rushes in the bottom, high as a man's breast and thick as wheat. This will be much in favour of an establishment here,—the cane is one of the best winter pastures for cows and horses."
From the heights at the three forks, Lewis and Clark looked out upon valleys of perennial green. Birds of beautiful plumage and thrilling song appeared on every hand. Beaver, otter, muskrat, sported in this trapper's paradise. Buffalo-clover, sunflowers and wild rye, buffalo-peas and buffalo-beans blossomed everywhere.
All the Indian trails in the country seemed to converge at this point. Here passed the deadly Blackfoot on his raids against the Shoshones, the Bannocks, and the Crows. Here stole back and forth the timid Shoshone to his annual hunt on the Yellowstone and the Snake River plains. Hither from time immemorial had the Flatheads and Nez Percés resorted for their supplies of robes and meat. Even from the far Saskatchewan came the Piegans and Gros Ventres to this favoured and disputed spot.
The Blackfeet claimed the three forks of the Missouri, no tribe dwelt there permanently. The roads were deep, like trenches, worn by the trailing lodgepoles of many tribes upon this common hunting ground.
The naming of the rivers,—that was an epic by itself.
The gay Cabinet ladies who had fitted him out at Washington flitted through the mind of Meriwether Lewis,—Maria Jefferson, companion of his earliest recollection, Dolly Madison, whose interest never failed in his adventures, Mrs. Gallatin, the queenly dark-haired wife of the scholarly Secretary of the Treasury. With what pleasure had they gathered at the White House to fashion "housewives," full of pins and needles and skeins of thread, for these wanderers of the West. Not a man in the party but bore some souvenir of their thoughtful handiwork.
Clark's earliest memory was of Jefferson, the friend of his father, of his older brothers, and then of himself. "Jimmy" Madison and George Rogers Clark had been schoolmates in the "old field school" of Donald Robertson.
So then and there the Captains agreed that three great statesmen and their wives should be commemorated here by the Madison, the Jefferson, and the Gallatin forks of the Missouri.
"On this very spot my people camped five years ago. Here were their tents," said Sacajawea, pointing out the embers of blackened fires. "The Minnetarees peered over the hills. We ran up this fork and hid in the thick woods."
The boats were reloaded and the party began to ascend the Jefferson on July 30, to its head in the Bitter Root Mountains. At noon they camped for dinner.
"And here was I captured!" cried Sacajawea. "I was made a prisoner. We were too few to fight the Minnetarees. They pursued us. Our men mounted their horses and fled to the mountains. The women and children hid. I ran. I was crossing this river. They caught me and carried me away."
What a realistic glimpse of daily terror! Fighting, hunting, wandering, famishing, in the land of anarchy. Formerly the Shoshones were Indians of the plains. Now they had been driven by their enemies into almost inaccessible fastnesses.
"The Beaver Head! The Beaver Head!"
Sacajawea pointed to a steep, rocky cliff shaped like a beaver's head, one hundred and fifty feet above the water, an Indian landmark from time immemorial.
"This is not far from the summer retreat of my countrymen. We shall meet them soon, on a river beyond the mountains running to the west."
"We must meet those Indians," said Lewis, "it is our only hope for horses to cross the mountains."
Lewis and Clark camped August 7, 1805, at Beaverhead Rock. There, fifty-seven years later, chased by bears, robbed by Indians, unsheltered, unshod, an d almost starving, the gold hunter stumbled upon the auriferous bed of an ancient river that made Montana. Gold was discovered at Alder Gulch in 1863, ten miles south of Beaverhead Rock, and the next year mining began in the streets of the present city of Helena. The pick and the shovel in the miner's hand became the lamp and the ring in the grasp of Aladdin.
The next morning after passing Beaverhead Rock, Captain Lewis and three of the men slung their knapsacks over their shoulders and set out for the mountains, determined not to return until they met some nation of Indians.
Two days later, August 11, Lewis with his spyglass espied a lone horseman on the hills. The wild-eyed Shoshone, accustomed to scan the horizon, saw him also.
"He is of a different nation from any we have met," remarked Lewis, watching intently through his glass. "He has a bow and a quiver of arrows, and an elegant horse without a saddle."
Like a lookout on the hills, the Indian stood and waited.
"He is undoubtedly a Shoshone. Much of our success depends on the friendly offices of that nation."
Slowly Lewis advanced. Slowly the Indian came forward, until, within a mile of each other the Indian suddenly stopped. Captain Lewis also stopped, and drawing a three-point blanket from his knapsack held it by the corners above his head, and unfolding brought it to the ground as in the act of spreading. Three times he repeated the Indian signal of hospitality—"Come and sit on the robe with me."
Still the Indian kept his position, viewing with an air of suspicion the hunters with Lewis.
"Tabba bone, tabba bone," said Lewis, stripping up the sleeve of his shirt to show the colour of his skin,—"white man, white man," a term learned of Sacajawea.
Paralysed the Indian looked, then fled like a frightened deer. No calls could bring him back.
He said to his people, "I have seen men with faces pale as ashes, who are makers of thunder and lightning."
"He is a dreamer!" exclaimed the incredulous Shoshones. "He makes up tales. He must show us these white men or be put to death," and trembling he started back with a body of warriors.
Lewis, disappointed at the flight of the Shoshone, pressed on. Narrower and narrower grew the river.
"Thank God, I have lived to bestride the Missouri!" exclaimed Hugh McNeil, planting a foot on either side of the mountain rivulet.
Two miles farther up they drank from the ice-cold spring at the river's source, and stood on the summit of the Great Divide. A little creek flowed down the ridge toward the west. Stooping, they drank,—of the waters of the Columbia, and slept that night in Idaho. The next morning, following a well-worn Indian trail, Lewis came upon two women and a child. One fled, the other, an old dame encumbered by the child, sat down and bowed her head as if expecting instant death.
Captain Lewis advanced, lifted her, loaded her with gifts.
"Tabba bone, tabba bone." Stripping up his sleeve he showed to the amazed woman the first white skin she had ever seen.
"Call your companion," motioned Lewis toward the fleeing woman.
The old dame raised her voice. As fast as she ran away the young woman came running back, almost out of breath. She, too, was loaded with trinkets, and the cheeks of all were painted with vermilion, the Shoshone emblem of peace.
Without fear now she led him toward sixty mounted warriors, who were advancing at a gallop as to battle.
"Tabba bone! tabba bone!" explained the women, introducing the stranger and exhibiting their gifts.
"Ah hi e! Ah hi e!"—"I am much pleased! I am much pleased!" exclaimed the warriors, leaping from their horses and embracing Lewis with great cordiality.
Lewis drew forth his imposing calumet of red pipestone and lighted it. This was a sign language of all tribes.
Putting off their moccasins as if to say, "May I walk the forest barefoot forever if I break this pledge of friendship," they sat down and smoked.
The chief, too, brought out a pipe, of the dense transparent green stone of the Bannock Mountains, highly polished. Another led him to a lodge and presented a piece of salmon,—then Lewis no longer doubted that he was on waters flowing to the Pacific.
Slowly, Clark, ill with chills and fever, had been coming forward, urging the canoes up the difficult and narrowing stream.
Sacajawea, the little Bird-woman, could not wait. In her anxiety she begged to walk ahead along shore, and with her husband went dancing up the rivulet of her childhood. She flew ahead. She turned, pirouetting lightly on her beaded moccasins, waving her arms and kissing her fingers. Her long hair flew in the wind and her beaded necklace sparkled.
Yes, there were the Indians, and Lewis among them, dressed like an Indian too. The white men had given everything they had to the Indians, even their cocked hats and red feathers, and taken Indian clothes in exchange, robes of the mountain sheep and goat.
An Indian girl leaned to look at Sacajawea. They flew into each other's arms. They had been children together, had been captured in the same battle, had shared the same captivity. One had escaped to her own people; the other had been sold as a slave in the Land of the Dakotahs. As girls will, with arms around each other they wandered off and talked and talked of the wonderful fortune that had come to Sacajawea, the wife of a white man.
A council was immediately called. The Shoshones spread white robes and hung wampum shells of pearl in the hair of the white men.
"Sacajawea. Bring her hither," called Lewis.
Tripping lightly into the willow lodge, Sacajawea was beginning to interpret, when lifting her eyes to the chief, she recognised her own brother, Cameahwait. S he ran to his side, threw her blanket over his head, and wept upon his bosom.
Sacajawea, too, was a Princess, come home now to her Mountain Kingdom.
"We are going through your country to the far ocean," said Captain Lewis. "We are making a trail for the traders who will bring you guns."
"This delights me," answered Cameahwait, with his fierce eyes, and his lank jaws grown meagre for want of food. "We are driven into the mountains, when if we had guns we could meet our enemies in the plains."
All the Shoshone talk was of war, war, war. Their great terror was the roving Indians of the Saskatchewan, who, with guns from the British traders, came down like wolves on the fold. Only flight and wonderful skill with the bow and arrow saved the Shoshones from destruction.
Horses were their wealth. "Most of them would make a figure on the south side of James River," said Lewis, "in the land of fine horses. I saw several with Spanish brands upon them."
Brother to the Comanche, the Shoshone rode his horse over rocks and ravines, up declivitous ways and almost impossible passes. Every warrior had one or two tied to a stake near his willow hut, night and day, ready for action.
"My horse is my friend. He knows my voice. He hears me speak. He warns me of the enemy." Little children played with them, squaws fed them, braves painted them and decorated their manes and tails with eagle-plumes, insignia of the Rocky Mountain Indian. Such horses were a boon to Lewis and Clark, for they were tractable, sure-footed, inured to the saddle and th e pack.
A Shoshone found a tomahawk that Lewis had lost in the grass, and returned it,—now a tomahawk was worth a hundred dollars to a Shoshone. They had no knives or hatchets,—all their wood was split with a wedge of elkhorn and a mallet of stone. They started their fires by twirling two dry sticks together.
Through all the valleys the Shoshones sent for their best horses, to trade for knives and tomahawks. Delighted they watched the fall of deer before the guns of white men. The age of stone had met the age of steel.
How to get over the mountains was the daily consultation. Cameahwait pointed out an old man that knew the rivers. Clark engaged him for a guide:
"You shall be called Toby. Be ready to-morrow morning."
Proud of his new name, old Toby packed up his moccasins.
The Indians drew maps: "Seven days over sheer mountains. No game, no fish, nothing but roots."
Captain Clark set out to reconnoitre the Salmon River route.
"A river of high rocks," said Cameahwait, "all a river of foam. No man or horse can cross. No man can walk along the shore. We never travel that way." Nevertheless Clark went on.
For seventy miles, "through mountains almost inaccessible, and subsisting on berries the greater part of the route," as Clark afterward told his brother, they pushed their way, then—"troubles just begun," remarked old Toby.
Checking their horses on the edge of a precipice, Clark and his companions looked down on the foaming Snake, roaring and fretting and lashing the walls of its inky canyon a hundred feet below, savage, tremendous, frightful.
As Cameahwait had said, the way was utterly impracticable.
"I name this great branch of the Columbia for my comrade, Captain Lewis," said Clark.
Back from the Snake River, Clark found L ewis buying horses. The Shoshone women were mending the men's moccasins. The explorers were making pack-saddles of rawhide. For boards they broke up boxes and used the handles of their oars.
"I have ever held this expedition in equal estimation with my own existence," said Lewis, urging on the preparations. "If Indians can pass these mountains, we can."
Haunched around the fires, the forlorn Indians looked and listened and shook their unkempt heads.
"Me know better route," said the friendly old Shoshone guide. "To the north, another great water to the Columbia."
"No! no! no!" shouted all the Shoshones. "No trail that way."
But Clark believed the faithful old Toby. Evidently the Shoshones wished to detain them all winter.
Unseen by the Indians, at night a cache was dug at the head of the Jefferson, for the last of the heavy luggage, leaving out only Indian gifts and absolute necessities to carry on the pack-horses. The canoes were filled with rocks and sunk to the bottom of the river.
August 30, the expedition was ready. Before setting out the violins were brought and the men danced, to the great diversion of the Indians. Then, when they turned their faces to the Bitter Root, with the old guide and his four sons, the Shoshones set out east for their annual hunt on the Missouri.
From May to September the Shoshones lived on salmon that came up the mountain streams. Now that the salmon were gone, necessity compelled them forth. With swift dashes down the Missouri they were wont to kill and dry what buffalo they could, and retreat to consume it in their mountain fastnesses. The whites had surprised them in their very citadel—led by Sacajawea.
Along the difficult Bitter Root Mountains Lewis and Clark journeyed, meeting now and then Indian women digging yamp and pounding sunflower seeds into meal. Food grew scarce and scarcer, now and then a deer, a grouse, or a belated salmon stranded in some mountain pool. Sometimes they had but a bit of parched corn in their wallets, like the Immortals that marched to the conquest of Illinois.
But those snowy peaks that from a distance seemed so vast,—that like the Alps defied approach to any but a Hannibal or a Napoleon—now, as if to meet their conquerors, bent low in many a grassy glade.
In a pocket of the mountains now called Ross Hole, they came upon a camp of Flatheads, with five hundred horses, on their way to the Missouri for the Fall hunt of buffalo.
Unknown to them the Flatheads had been watching from the timber and had reported: "Strangers. Two chiefs riding ahead, looking at the country. One warrior painted black. The rest leading packhorses. Keep quiet. Wait. They are coming."
York's feet had become lame and he was riding with the Captains.
When the white men came in view the Flatheads looked on their faces. They were shocked at the whiteness. Compassion was in every Indian heart.
"These men have no blankets. They have been robbed. See how cold their cheeks are. They are chilled. Bring robes. Build fires."
All the Indians ran for their beautiful white robes, and wrapped them around the shoulders of the white men. Before the blazing fires the white men's cheeks grew red. Perspiration burst from every pore. The robes slipped off, but the solicitous red men kept putting them back and stirring up the fire.
Then the Captains, touched to the heart, spoke to the kind-hearted Flatheads of a great people toward the rising sun, strong and brave and rich.
"Have they wigwams and much buffalo?" inquired the Flatheads.
"Yes. We have been sent by the Great Father, the President, to bring these presents to his children the Flatheads."
The childlike Flatheads were much impressed. Never did they forget the visit of those first white men. Traditions enough to fill a book have been handed down, and to this day they boast, "the Flathead never killed a white man."
The whites listened in amaze to the low guttural clucking of the Flatheads, resembling that of a chicken or parrot. Voice there was none, only a soft crooning to their gentle chatter, interpreted by Sacajawea and the old Shoshone guide.
The women crowded around Sacajawea and untied her baby from its elkskin cradle. They fed it and gave it little garments. That baby was an open sesame touching the hearts of all. Sacajawea, riding on her horse to the Columbia, found friends with every tribe. Others might pay; she, never. The Indian mother-heart opened to Sacajawea. Her very presence was an assurance of pacific intention.
The women brought food, roots, and berries. To a late hour the white men continued smoking and conversing with the chiefs, when more robes were brought, and the weary ones slept with their feet to the fire.
"Those hongry Injin dorgs ate up me moccasins lasht noight," complained Pat in the morning. "But they're the whoitest Injins I iver saw."
More horses were brought and the lame ones exchanged, so now with forty horses and three colts the Captains and their devoted followers struggled on, "Over the warst road I iver saw," said Pat. "Faith! 'tis warse nor the Alleghanies where I rid whin a bye."
One horse loaded with a desk and small trunk rolled down a steep declivity until it was stopped by a tree. The desk was broken. That night they camped at the snow line and more snow began to fall. Wet, cold, hungry, they killed a colt for supper and slept under the stars.
The horses were failing. Some had to be abandoned. One rolled down a mountain into a creek at the bottom. Some strayed or lost their packs, and the worn-out men, ever on the jump, came toiling through the brush, bearing on their own backs the unwieldy pack-saddles. Up here in the Bitter Root Mountains, the last of Dr. Saugrain's thermometers was broken, which accounts for the fact that from this point on they kept no record of t emperature.
September 9 the expedition journeyed down the main Bitter Root valley, named Clark's River, and crossing it came to a large creek and camped a day to rest their horses.
"Traveller's Rist, is it?" said Pat. "Me fa-a-ther's inn at Wellsburg was the fir-r-st 'Traveller's Rist' in all Wistern Varginny," and Traveller's Rest it remained until some later explorer renamed it the Lolo fork of the Bitter Root River.
Here the boys mended their garments torn and tattered in the mountains, and the hunters went out for game. They returned with three Flatheads.
"Ay! Ay!" clucked the gentle Flatheads, "the river goes to the great lake. Our relations were there and bought handkerchiefs like these of an old white man that lives by himself."
Lame and weary, straight across Idaho they struggled, over seams and streaks of precious metal that they saw not, the gold of Ophir concealed in the rocky chambers of the Idaho Alps,—struggled into the Lolo trail used by the Indians for ages before any whites ever came into the country.
Over the Lolo trail went the Nez Percés to battle and to hunt buffalo in the Montana country. Down over this trail once came a war party and captured Wat-ku-ese, a Nez Percé girl, and carried her away to the distant land of white men,—so-yap-po, "the crowned ones," she called them, because they wore hats.
Still ever Wat-ku-ese dreamed of her Nez Percé home and one day escaped with her infant on her back. Along the way white traders were kind to her. On and on, footsore and weary she journeyed alone. In the Flathead country her baby died and was buried there. One day some Nez Percés came down over the Lolo trail bringing home Wat-ku-ese, weak, sick, dying.
She was with her people at their camas ground, Weippe, when Lewis and Clark came down over the Lolo trail.
"Let us kill them," whispered the frightened Nez Percés.
Wat-ku-ese lay dying in her tent when she heard it. "White men, did you say? No, no, do not harm them. They are the crowned ones who were so good to me. Do not be afraid of them. Go near to them."
Cautiously the Nez Percés approached. The explorers shook their hands. This was to the Indians a new form of greeting.
Everywhere Indian women were digging the camas root, round like an onion, and little heaps lay piled here and there. They paused in their work to watch the strangers. Some screamed and ran and hid. Little girls hid their baby brothers in the brush. Others brought food.
So starved and famished were the men that they ate inordinately of the sweet camas and the kouse, the biscuit root. The sudden change to a warmer climate and laxative roots resulted in sickness, when the expedition might have been easily attacked but for those words of Wat-ku-ese, who now lay dead in her tent.
To this day the Nez Percés rehearse the story of Wat-ku-ese. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with the whites, broken only when Chief Joseph fled over the Lolo trail. But even Chief Joseph found he must give up the vast areas over which he was wont to roam, and come under the laws of civilised life.
As fast as their weakness permitted councils were held, when the Captains told the Nez Percés of the Great Father at Washington, who had sent them to visit his children.
Twisted Hair, the Nez Percé Tewat, a great medicine man, dreamer and wizard and wise one, drew on a white elkskin a chart of the rivers. Admiring redmen put their hands over their mouths in amazement.
No one but Twisted Hair could do such things. He was a learned Indian, knew all the trails, even to the Falls of the Columbia.
"White men," said he, "live at the Tim-tim [falls]."
Thus into Idaho had penetrated the story of Ko-na-pe, the wrecked Spaniard, who with his son Soto had set out up the great river to find white people and tar ried there until he died. Seven years later Astor's people met Soto, an old man dark as his Indian mother, but still the Indians called him white. Twenty years later Soto's daughter was still living on the Columbia in the days of the Hudson's Bay Company.
To save time and trouble, canoes were burnt out of logs. Leaving their horses with the Nez Percés, on October 4 the explorers were glad to get into their boats with their baggage and float down the clear Kooskooske, into the yellow-green Snake, and on into the blue Columbia.
At the confluence of the rivers medals were given and councils held on the present site of Lewiston. Day by day through wild, romantic scenes where white man's foot had never trod, the exultant young men were gliding to the sea.
Ahead of the boats on horseback galloped We-ark-koompt, an Indian express. Word flew. The tribes were watching. At the dinner camp, October 16, five Indians came up the river on foot in great haste, took a look and started back, running as fast as they could.
That night Lewis and Clark were met at the Columbia by a procession of two hundred Indians with drums, singing, "Ke-hai, ke-hai," the redmen's signal of friendship.
DOWN THE COLUMBIA
The arrival at the Columbia was followed by days of councils, with gifts and speeches and smoking. Two Nez Percé chiefs, Twisted Hair the Tewat and Tetoh, introduced the explorers from tribe to tribe, bearing on and on the good words of Wat-ku-ese: "They are crowned ones. Do not be afraid. Go near to them."
All the Indian world seemed camped on the Columbia. Everywhere and everywhere were "inconceivable multitudes of salmon." They could be seen twenty feet deep in the water, they lay on the surface, and floated ashore. Hundreds of Indians were splitting and spreading them on scaffolds to dry. The inhabitants ate salmon, slept on salmon, burnt dried salmon to cook salmon.
With a coal a Yakima chief drew on a robe a map of the river so valuable that Clark afterwards transferred it to paper. That map on the robe was carried home to Jefferson and hung up by him in Monticello. Every trail was marked by moccasin tracks, every village by a cluster of teepees.
In the "high countrey" of the Walla Walla they caught sight of "the Mt. Hood of Vancouver," and were eager to reach it.
"Tarry with us," begged Yellept, the Walla Walla chief.
"When we return," replied the eager men. Then Clark climbed a cliff two hundred feet above the water and spied St. Helens. Very well Clark remembered Lord St. Helens from whom this peak was named. The very name to him was linked with those old days when "Detroit must be taken," for Lord St. Helens and John Jay drew up the treaty that evacuated Detroit.
Captain Clark and a few of the men still continued in advance walking along the shore.
Near the beautiful Umatilla a white crane rose over the Columbia. Clark fired. A village of Indians heard the report and marvelled at the sudden descent of the bird. As with outspread, fluttering wings it touched the ground the white men came into view.
One moment of transfixed horror, and the Indians fled. Captain Clark promptly followed, opened the mat doors of their huts and entered. With bowed heads, weeping and wringing their hands, a crowd of men, women, and children awaited the blow of death.
Lifting their chins, Clark smiled upon them and offered gifts. Evidently they had not met the Indian express.
"All tribes know the peace-pipe," he remarked, and drawing forth his pipestone calumet lit it, as was his wont, with a su nglass.
As the fire kindled from the rays through the open roof, again the people shrieked. In vain Drouillard tried to pacify them. Not one would touch the pipe lit by the sun. Clark went out and sat on a rock and smoked until the boats arrived.
"Do not be afraid. Go to them," began the Nez Percé chiefs.
"They are not men," hurriedly whispered the frightened Indians. "We saw them fall from heaven with great thunder. They bring fire from the sky."
Not until Sacajawea landed with her baby was tranquillity restored.
"No squaw travels with a war party," that must be admitted, and soon they were smoking with great unanimity.
"Tim-m-m-m;—tim-m-m-m!" hummed the Indians at the Falls, at Celilo, poetically imitating the sound of falling waters.
There was salmon at the Falls of the Columbia, stacks of salmon dried, pounded, packed in baskets, salmon heaped in bales, stored in huts and cached in cellars in the sand. Making a portage around the Falls, the boats slid down.
"De rapide! de rapide! before we spik some prayer we come on de beeg rock!" screamed Cruzatte, the bowman.
Apparently a black wall stretched across the river, but as they neared, a rift appeared where the mighty channel of the Columbia narrows to forty-five yards at the Dalles. Crowds of Indians gathered as Clark and Cruzatte stopped to examine the pass.
"By good steering!" said Cruzatte. Shaping up his canoe, it darted through the hissing and curling waters like a racehorse.
Close behind, the other boats shot the boiling caldron, to the great astonishment of Indian villagers watching from above.
At the Warm Springs Reservation there are Indians yet who remember the old dip-net fishing days and the stories of "Billy Chinook," who then saw Y ork, the black man. "I was a boy of twelve. When the black man turned and looked at us, we children fled behind the rocks."
Here at the Dalles were wooden houses, the first that Lewis and Clark had seen since leaving the Illinois country, with roofs, doors, and gables like frontier cabins,—and still more stacks of salmon. "Ten thousand pounds," said Clark, "dried, baled, and bound for traffic down the river."
The ancient Indian village of Wishram stands on that spot still, with the same strong smell of salmon. The houses are much the same, and among their treasures may be found a coin of 1801, bartered, no doubt, by Lewis and Clark for a bale of salmon.
On sped the boats, through mighty mountains, past ancient burial places of the savage dead, to the wild-rushing Cascades. Past these Cascades, five miles of continuous rapids, white with sheets of foam. "We mak' portage," said Cruzatte, his bow grating on the narrow shelf of shore.
On either side, rocky palisades, "green-mossed and dripping," reached the skies. Tiny waterfalls, leaping from the clouds, fell in rainbow mist a thousand feet below. "Mt. Hood stood white and vast."
Below the Cascades great numbers of hair-seals slept on the rocks. Swarms of swans, geese, ducks, cranes, storks, white gulls, cormorants, plover swept screaming by. The hills were green, the soft west wind was warm with rain.
"What a wild delight Of space! of room! What a sense of seas!"
They had come into a new world,—the valley of the lower Columbia, the home of the Chinook wind.
At Hood River alarmed Indians, dressed in skins of the mountain goat, the Oregon mazama, peered after the passing white men. At every house, and among mouldering remains of ancient tombs, lay scattered innumerable images of wood and stone or of burnt clay, household gods of the Columbian Indian.
Flat and flatter grew the heads. Up in the Bitter Root, women alone wore this badge of distinction. Here, every infant lay strapped like a mummy with a padded board across its forehead.
A new sort of boats now glided alongside the flotilla, great sea canoes manned with Chinook paddles. They were long and light, tapering at the ends, wide in the middle and lifting stern and prow into beaks like a Roman galley. And every canoe was laden with salmon, going down river to trade for beads and wapato.
Traces of white men began to appear,—blue and scarlet blankets, brass tea-kettles, and beads. One Indian, with a round hat and a sailor-jacket, wore his hair in a queue in imitation of the "Bostons."
"I trade with Mr. Haley," said one in good English, showing the bow of iron and other goods that Mr. Haley had given him. "And this is his squaw in the canoe."
More and more fertile and delightful grew the country, shaded by thick groves of tall timber and watered by streams, fair as lay unpeopled Kentucky thirty years before. Scarce could Clark repress the recollection of the tales his brother brought home of that first trip to Boonsboro in 1775.
Nothing surprised them more than the tropic luxuriance of vegetation. The moist Japan wind nurtured the trees to mammoths, six, eight, and ten feet through. Shrubbery like the hazel grew to be trees. The maple spread its leaves like palm fans; dogwood of magnolian beauty, wild cherry, crab-apple, interlaced with Oregon grape, blackberries, wild roses, vines of every sort and description, and ferns, ferns, ferns filled the canyons like the jungles of Orinoco.
On November 4, nearly opposite the present Vancouver, they landed at a village on the left side of the river where a fleet of over fifty canoes was drawn up on shore, gathering wapato.
"Wapato? Wapato?" An Indian treated them to the queen root of the Columbia, round and white, about the size of a small Irish potato. This, baked, was the bread of the Chinook Indian.
"In two days," said Indians in sailor jackets and trousers, shirts, and hats, "in two days, two ships, white people in them."
"Village there," said an Indian in a magnificent canoe, pointing beyond some islands at the mouth of the Willamette. He was finely dressed and wore a round hat.
Yes, it might be, villages, villages everywhere, but ships—ships below! They had no time for villages now. Long into the darkness of night the boats sped on, on, past dim forests bending to the wave, past shadowy heights receding into sunset, past campfires on the hills where naked Indians walked between them and the light.
At a late hour they camped. November rains were setting in, the night was noisy with wild fowl coming up the Columbia to escape the storms of ocean. Trumpeter swans blew their shrill clarions, and whistling swans, geese, and other birds in flights of hundreds swept past in noisy serenade, dropping from their wings the spray of the sea.
None slept. Toward morning the rain began.
In a wet morning and a rushing wind they bent to the oar, past St. Helens, past Mt. Coffin, past Cathlamet where Queen Sally in scant garments watched from a rock and told the tale in after years.
"We had been watching for days," she said. "News had come by Indian post of the strangers from the east. They came in the afternoon and were met by our canoes and brought to the village." "There," Clark says in his journals, "we dined on November 26."
But Lewis and Clark were tired of Indians by this time, and moreover, ships were waiting below! It was a moment of intense excitement. Even at Cathlamet they heard the surge of ocean rolling on the rocks forty miles away. Before night the fog lifted and they beheld "the ocean!—that ocean, the object of all our labours, the reward of all our anxieties. Ocean in view! O! the joy."
Struggling with their unwieldy canoes the la ndsmen grew seasick in the rising swells of the up-river tide. For miles they could not find a place to camp, so wild and rocky were the shores.
At last, exhausted, they threw their mats on the beautiful pebbly beach and slept in the rain.
Everything was wet, soaked through, bedding, stores, clothing. And all the salt was spoiled. There was nothing to eat but raw dried salmon, wet with sea water, and many of the men began to be ill from exposure and improper food.
"'T is the divil's own weather," said Pat, coming in from a reconnoitre with his wet hunting shirt glued fast to his skin. Pat could see the "waves loike small mountains rolling out in the ocean," but just now he, like all the rest, preferred a dry corner by a chimney fire.
"Une Grande Piqnique!" exclaimed Cruzatte.
"Lak' tonder de ocean roar!
Blow lak' not'ing I never see,
Blow lak' le diable makin' grande tour!
Hear de win' on de beeg pine tree!"
And all were hungry. Even Clark, who claimed to be indifferent as to what he ate, caught himself pondering on bread and buns. With the peculiar half laugh of the squaw, Sacajawea brought a morsel that she had saved for the child all the way from the Mandan towns, but now it was wet and beginning to sour. Clark took it and remarked in his journal, "This bread I ate with great satisfaction, it being the only mouthful I had tasted for several months."
Chinook Indians pilfered around the camp. "If any one of your nation steals anything from us, I will have you shot," said Captain Clark,—"which they understand very well," he remarked to the camp as the troublers slunk away. A sentinel stood on constant watch.
Captain Lewis and eleven of the men went around the bay and found where white people had been camped all summer, but naught remained save the cold white beach and the Indians camping there. The ships had sailed.
Down there near the Chinook town, facing the ocean, Captain Lewis branded a tree with his name and the date, and a few days later Captain Clark says, "I marked my name on a large pine tree immediately on the isthmus, at Clatsop."
It was two hundred years since Captain John Smith sailed up the Chickahominy in Virginia in search of the South Sea. At last, far beyond the Chickahominy, Lewis and Clark sailed up the Missouri and down the Columbia in search of the same South Sea. And here at the mouth of the Oregon they found it, stretching away to China.
Balboa, Magellan, Cortez, Mackenzie,—Lewis and Clark had joined the immortals.
FORT CLATSOP BY THE SEA
December had now arrived, and southwest storms broke upon the coast with tremendous force. Off Cape Disappointment, the surges dashed to the height of the masthead of a ship, with most terrific roaring. A winter encampment could no longer be delayed.
"Deer, elk, good skin, good meat," said the Chinook Indians, in pantomime, pointing across the bay to the south.
Accordingly, thither the eggshell boats were guided, across the tempestuous Columbia, to the little river Netul, now the Lewis and Clark, ten miles from the ocean.
Beside a spring branch, in a thick grove of lofty firs about two hundred yards from the water, the leather tent was set up and big fires built, while all hands fell to clearing a space for the winter cabins.
In four days the logs were rolled up, Boonsboro fashion, into shelters for the winter. "The foinest puncheons I iver saw," said Patrick Gass, head car penter, as he set to splitting boards out of the surrounding firs.
By Christmas seven cabins were covered and the floors laid. The chinks were filled with clay, and fir-log fires were set roaring in the capacious chimneys that filled an entire end of each cabin. On Christmas day they moved in, wet blankets and all, with rounds of firearms and Christmas salutes.
The leather tent, soaked for days, fell to pieces. The heavy canisters of powder, every one of which had been under the water in many a recent capsize, were consigned in safety to the powder-house.
On New Year's Eve the palisades were done, and the gates were closed at sunset.
The first winter-home of civilised people on the Columbia has an abiding charm, not unlike that of Plymouth or Jamestown.
Back through the mists of one hundred years we see gangs of elk, chased by hunters through cranberry bogs, "that shook for the space of half an acre."
Their soundless footfalls were lost in beds of brown pine needles and cushions of moss. The firing of guns reverberated through the dim gloom like a piece of ordnance.
It was from such a trip as this that the hunters returned on the 16th of December, reporting elk. All hands set to work carrying up the meat from the loaded boats, skinning and cutting and hanging it up in small pieces in the meathouse, to be smoked by a slow bark fire. But in spite of every precaution, the meat began to spoil.
"We must have salt," said Captain Lewis.
In a few days, five men were dispatched with five kettles to build a cairn for the manufacture of salt from seawater.
Already Clark had examined the coast with this in view, and the salt-makers' camp was established near Tillamook Head, about fifteen miles southwest of the fort where the old cairn stands to this day. Here the men built "a neat, close camp, convenient to wood, salt water and the fresh waters of the Clatsop River, within a hundred paces of the ocean," and kept the kettles boiling day and night.
On that trip to the coast, while the cabins were building, Captain Clark visited the Clatsops, and purchased some rude household furniture, cranberries, mats, and the skin of a panther, seven feet from tip to tip, to cover their puncheon floor.
Other utensils were easily fashioned. Seated on puncheon stools, before the log-fire of the winter night, the men carved cedar cups, spoons, plates, and dreamed of homes across the continent.
In just such a little log cabin as this, Shannon saw his mother in Ohio woods; Patrick Gass pictured his father, with his pipe, at Wellsburg, West Virginia; Sergeant Ordway crossed again the familiar threshold at Hebron, New Hampshire. Clark recalled Mulberry Hill, and Lewis,—his mind was fixed on Charlottesville, or the walls expanded into Monticello and the White House.
"Mak' some pleasurement now," begged the Frenchmen, "w'en Bonhomme Cruzatte tune up hees fidelle for de dance."
Tales were told and plans were made. Toward midnight these Sinbads of the forest fell asleep, on their beds of fir boughs, lulled by the brook, the whispering of the pines, and the falling of the winter rain.
This was not like winter rain in eastern climates, but soft and warm as April. The grass grew green, Spring flowers opened in December. The moist Japan wind gives Oregon the temperature of England.
"I most sincerely regret the loss of my thermometer," said Lewis. "I am confident this climate is much milder than the same latitude on the Atlantic. I never experienced so warm a winter."
But about the last of January there came a snow at Clatsop, four inches thick, and icicles hung from the houses during the day.
"A real touch of winter," said Lewis. "The breath is perceptible in our room by the fire." Like all Oregon snow it disappeared in a week—and then it was Spring.
In the centre of the officer's cabin, a fir stump, sawed off smooth and flat for a table, was covered with maps and papers. Books were written in that winter of 1805-6, voluminous records of Oregon plants and trees, birds, beasts, and fishes. They had named rivers and measured mountains, and after wandering more than Homer's heroes, the explorers were ready now to carry a new geography to the States. And here, as everywhere, Lewis was busy with his vocabularies, learning the Chinook jargon.
As never before, all the men became scientists. Even Captain Clark's black man took an interest and reported some fabulous finds.
The houses were dry and comfortable, and within, they had a plentiful supply of elk and salt, "excellent, white, and fine, but not so strong as the rock salt, or that made in Kentucky."
Meal time was always interesting. Very often the Captains caught themselves asking: "Charboneau, when will dinner be ready?"
All day the firelight flickered on Sacajawea's hair, as she sat making moccasins, crooning a song in her soft Indian monotone. This was, perhaps, the happiest winter Sacajawea ever knew, with baby Touissant toddling around her on the puncheon floor, pulling her shawl around his chubby face, or tumbling over his own cradle. The modest Shoshone princess never dreamed how the presence of her child and herself gave a touch of domesticity to that Oregon winter.
Now and then Indian women came to see Sacajawea, sitting all day without a word, watching her every motion.
Sometimes Sacajawea helped Charboneau, with his spits, turning slowly before the fire, or with his elk's tongues or sausage or beaver's tails. Sometimes she made trapper's butter, boiling up the marrow of the shank bones with a sprinkle of salt.
In the short days darkness came on at four o'clock, and the last of the candles were soon exhaust ed. Then the moulds were brought and candles were made of elk tallow, until a heap, shining and white, were ready for the winter evenings.
"We have had trouble enough with those thieving Chinooks," said Captain Lewis. "Without a special permit, they are to be excluded from the fort."
The Indians heard it. Did a knock resound at the gate, "No Chinook!" was the quick accompaniment.
"Who, then?" demanded the sentinel, gun in hand.
"Clatsop," answered Coboway's people entering with roots and cranberries.
Or, "Cathlamets," answered an up-river tribe with rush bags of wapato on their backs. Roots of the edible thistle—white and crisp as a carrot, sweet as sugar, the roasted root of the fern, resembling the dough of wheat, and roots of licorice, varied the monotonous fare.
These supplies were very welcome, but the purchase money, that was the problem.
President Jefferson had given to Captain Lewis an unlimited letter of credit on the United States, but such a letter would not buy from these Indians even a bushel of wapato.
The Cathlamets would trade for fishhooks. The Clatsops preferred beads, knives, or an old file.
No wonder they valued an old file: the finest work of their beautiful canoes was often done with a chisel fashioned from an old file. Lewis and Clark had frequent occasion to admire their skill in managing these little boats, often out-riding the waves in the most tumultuous seas.
Ashore, these canoe-Indians waddled and rolled like tipsy sailors. Afloat, straight and trim as horse-Indians of the prairie, each deft Chinook glided to his seat along the unrocking boats, and striking up the paddlers' "Ho-ha-ho-ha-ho-ha-" went rowing all their lives, until their arms grew long and strong, their legs shrunk short and crooked, and their heads became abnormally intelligent.
Nor were these coast Indians lacking in courage,—they sometimes ventured into the sea in their wonderful canoes, and harpooned the great whale and towed h im in.
When it came to prices for their beautiful skins of sea-otter, almost nothing would do. Clark offered a watch, a handkerchief, an American dollar, and a bunch of red beads for a single skin.
"No! No!" in stentorian tone—"Tyee ka-mo-suck,—chief beads,"—the most common sort of large blue glass beads, the precious money of that country. Chiefs hung them on their bosoms, squaws bound them on their ankles, pretty maidens hung them in their hair. But Lewis and Clark had only a few and must reserve them for most pressing necessity.
Since that May morning when Captain Robert Gray discovered the Columbia River, fourteen years before, the Chinook Indians had learned the value of furs. Once they handed over their skins, and took without a murmur what the Boston skippers chose to give. Now, a hundred ships upon that shore had taught them craft.
One of old King Comcomly's people had a robe of sea-otter, "the fur of which was the most beautiful we had ever seen." In vain Lewis offered everything he had, nothing would purchase the treasured cloak but the belt of blue beads worn by Sacajawea.
On every hand among these coast tribes were blankets, sailor-clothes, guns,—old Revolutionary muskets mended for this trade,—powder and ball, the powder in little japanned tin flasks in which the traders sold it.
In what Clark calls "a guggling kind of language spoken mostly through the throat," with much pantomime and some English, conversation was carried on.
"Who are these traders?" asked Captain Lewis.
Old Comcomly, King of the Chinooks, on the north side, and Tyee Coboway, Chief of the Clatsops, on the south bank of the Columbia, tried to remember, and counted on their fingers,—
"Haley, three masts, stays some time," "Tallamon not a trader," "Callalamet has a wooden leg," "Davidson, no trader, hunts elk," "Skelley, long time ago, only one eye."
And then there were "Youens, Swipton, Mackey, Washington, Mesship, Jackson, Balch," all traders with three-masted ships whose names are not identified by any Atlantic list.
The one translated Washington by Lewis and Clark may have been Ockington of the Belle Savage, 1801, or Tawnington, both of whom are known to have been on the coast in those years.
In fact, no complete record was ever kept of the ships that swarmed around the Horn and up the Pacific, in those infant years of our republic, 1787 to 1820. While Europe clustered around the theatre of Napoleonic wars, every harbour of New England had its fur ships and whalers out, flying the Stars and Stripes around the world.
"What do they say?" inquired Lewis, still pressing investigation. Proud of their acquirements, every Chinook and Clatsop in the nation could recall some word or phrase.
"Musket, powder, shot, knife, file, heave the lead, damned rascal!"
No wonder Lewis and Clark laughed, these mother words on the savage tongue were like voices out of the very deep, calling from the ships.
"One hyas tyee ship—great chief ship—Moore, four masts, three cows on board."
"Which way did he go?"
The Indians pantomimed along the northwest coast.
"From which," says Lewis, "I infer there must be settlements in that direction."
The great desire, almost necessity, now, seemed to be to wait until some ship appeared upon the shore from which to replenish their almost exhausted stores.
Whenever the boats went in and out of Meriwether Bay they passed the Memeloose Illahee, the dead country of the Clatsops. Before 1800, as near as Lewis and Clark could ascertain, several hundred of the Clatsops died suddenly of a disease that appeared to be smallpox, the same undoubtedly that cut down Black Bird and his Omahas, rolling on west and north where the Hudson's Bay traders traced it to the borders of the Arctic.
In Haley's Bay one hundred canoes in one place bespoke the decimation of the Chinooks, all slumbering now in that almost priceless carved coffin, the Chinook canoe, with gifts around them and feet to the sunset, ready to drift on an unknown voyage.
There was a time when Indian campfires stretched from Walla Walla to the sea, when fortifications were erected, and when Indian flint factories supplied the weapons of countless warriors. But they are gone. The first settlers found sloughs and bayous lined with burial canoes, until the dead were more than the living. No Indians knew whose bones they were, "those old, old, old people." Red children and white tumbled them out of the cedar coffins and carried away the dead men's treasures.
"There was mourning along the rivers. A quietness came over the land." Stone hammers, flint chips, and arrows lie under the forests, and embers of fires two centuries old.
The native tribes were disappearing before the white man came, and the destruction of property with the dead kept the survivors always impoverished.
A WHALE ASHORE
"A whale! a whale ashore!"
When Chief Coboway brought word there was great excitement at Fort Clatsop. Everybody wanted to see the whale, but few could go. Captain Clark appointed twelve men to be ready at daylight.
Sacajawea, in the privacy of her own room that Sunday evening, spoke to Charboneau. Now Charboneau wanted her to stay and attend to the "l'Apalois"—roasting meats on a stick,—and knowing that the child would have to be looked after, slipped over to the Captains, discussing by the fire.
"Sacajawea t'ink she want to see de whale. She ought not go."
"Very well," answered the Captains, scarce heeding. "She better stay at the fort. It would be a hard jaunt for a woman to go over Tillamook Head."
Charboneau went back. "De Captinne say you cannot go!"
This was a staggering blow to Sacajawea, but her woman's determination had become aroused and she took the rostrum, so to speak. Leaving the baby Touissant with his father, she in turn slipped over to the Captains.
Sacajawea was a born linguist. "Captinne, you remember w'en we reach de rivers and you knew not which to follow? I show de country an' point de stream. Again w'en my husband could not spik, I spik for you.
"Now, Captinne, I travel great way to see de Beeg Water. I climb de mountain an' help de boat on de rapide. An' now dis monstous fish haf come"—Sacajawea could scarce restrain her tears. Sacajawea was only a woman, and a brave little woman at that.
Captain Lewis was moved. "Sacajawea, you are one of those who are born not to die. Of course you can go. Go and be getting ready, and," he added, "if Charboneau wants to go too, he will have to carry the baby!"
They breakfasted by candle-light. Everybody was ready next morning, but Sacajawea was ahead of them all. Charboneau looked at her out of the corner of his eye, but said nothing. More than once the Captains had reminded him of his duty.
The sun rose clear and cloudless on a land of springtime, and yet it was only January. Robins sang around the stockade, bluebirds whizzed by, silver in the sunlight. Two canoes proceeded down the Netul into Meriwether Bay, on the way to the Clatsop town.
After a day's adventure, they camped near a herd of elk in the beautiful moonlight. At noon, next day, they reached the salt-makers. Here Jo Fields, Bratton, and Gibson had their brass kettles under a rock arch, boiling and boiling seawater into a gallon of salt a day.
Hiring Twiltch, a young Indian, for guide, they climbed Tillamook Head, about thirty miles south of Cape Disappointment. Upon this promontory, Clark's Point of View, they paused before the boisterous Pacific, breaking with fury and flinging its waves above the Rock of Tillamook.
On one side the blue Columbia widened into bays studded with Chinook and Clatsop villages; on the other stretched rich prairies, enlivened by beautiful streams and lakes at the foot of the hills. Behind, in serried rank, the Douglas spruce—"the tree of Turner's dreams," the king of conifers,—stood monarch of the hills. Two hundred, three hundred feet in air they towered, a hundred feet without a limb, so dense that not a ray of sun could reach the ground beneath.
Sacajawea, save Pocahontas the most travelled Indian Princess in our history, spoke not a word, but looked with calm and shining eye upon the fruition of her hopes. Now she could go back to the Mandan towns and speak of things that Madame Jussaume had never seen, and of the Big Water beyond the Shining Mountains.
Down the steep and ragged rocks that overhung the sea, they clambered to a Tillamook village, where lay the great whale, stranded on the shore. Nothing was left but a skeleton, for from every Indian village within travelling distance, men and women were working like bees upon the huge carcass. Then home they went, trailing over the mountains, every squaw with a load of whale blubber on her back, to be for many a month the dainty of an Indian lodge.
These Indian lodges or houses were a source of great interest to Lewis and Clark. Sunk four feet into the ground and rising well above, like an out-door cellar, they were covered with ridgepoles and low sloping roofs. The sides were boarded with puncheons of cedar, laboriously split with elkhorn wedges and stone hammers.
A door in the gable admitted to this half-underground home by means of a ladder. Around the inner walls, beds of mats were raised on scaffolds two or three feet high, and under the beds were deposited winter stores of dried berries, roots, nuts, and fish.
In the centre of each house a fireplace, six or eight feet long, was sunk in the floor, and surrounded by a cedar fender and mats for the family to sit on. The walls, lined with mats and cedar bark, formed a very effective shelter.
Did some poor stranded mariner teach the savage this semi-civilised architecture, or was it evolved by his own genius? However this may be, these houses were found from Yaquina Bay to Yakutat.
In such a house as this Captain Clark visited Coboway, chief of the Clatsops, in his village on the sunny side of a hill. As soon as he entered, clean mats were spread. Coboway's wife, Tse-salks, a Tillamook Princess, brought berries and roots and fish on neat platters of rushes. Syrup of sallal berries was served in bowls of horn and meat in wooden trenchers.
Naturally, Sacajawea was interested in domestic utensils, wooden bowls, spoons of horn, skewers and spits for roasting meat, and beautifully woven water-tight baskets.
Every squaw habitually carried a knife, fastened to the thumb by a loop of twine, to be hid under the robe when visitors came. These knives, bought of the traders, were invaluable to the Indian mother. With it she dug roots, cut wood, meat, or fish, split rushes for her flag mats and baskets, and fashioned skins for dresses and moccasins. Ever busy they were, the most patient, devoted women in the world.
Sacajawea, with her beautiful dress and a husband who sometimes carried the baby, was a new sort of mortal on this Pacific coast.
While they were conversing, a flock of ducks lit on the water. Clark took his rifle and shot the head off one. The astonished Indians brought the bird and marvelled. Their own poor flintlocks, loaded with bits of gravel when shot failed, often would not go off in cold weather, but here was "very great medicine." They examined the duck, the musket, and the small bullets, a hundred to the pound.
"Kloshe musquet! wake! kum-tux musquet! A very good musquet! No! do not understand this kind of musquet!"
Thus early is it a historical fact that the Chinook jargon was already established on the Pacific coast. This jargon, a polyglot of traders' tongues, like the old Lingua Franca of the Mediterranean, is used by the coast Indians to this day from the Columbia River to Point Barrow on the Arctic. And for its birth we may thank the Boston traders.
Chinooks, Clatsops, Tillamooks faced that stormy beach and lived on winter stores of roots, berries, fish, and dried meat. Their beautiful elastic bows of white cedar were seldom adequate to kill the great elk, so when the rush bags under the beds were empty, they watched for fish thrown up by the waves.
"Sturgeon is very good," said a Clatsop in English, peering and prying along the hollows of the beach. But the great whale, Ecola, that was a godsend to the poor people. Upon it now they might live until the salmon came, flooding the country with plenty.
Old Chief Coboway of the Clatsops watched those shores for sixty years. He did not tell this story to Lewis and Clark, but he told it to his children, and so it belongs here.
"An old woman came crying to the Clatsop village: 'Something on the shore! Behold, it is no whale! Two spruce trees stand upright on it. Ropes are tied to those spruce trees. Behold bears came out of it!' Then all the people ran. Behold the bears had built a fire of driftwood on the shore. They were popping corn. They held copper kettles in their hands. They had lids. The bears pointed inland and asked for water. Then two people took the kettles and ran inland. They hid. Some climbed up into the thing. They went down into the ship. It was full of boxes. They found brass buttons in a string half a fathom long. They went out. They set fire. The ship burned. It burned like fat. Then the Clatsops gathered the iron, the copper, and the brass. Then were the Clatsops rich."
One of these men was Ko-na-pe. He and his co mpanion were held as slaves. Ko-na-pe was a worker in iron and could fashion knives and hatchets. From that time the Clatsops had knives. He was too great to be held as a slave, so the Clatsops gave him and his friend their liberty. They built a cabin at a place now known as New Astoria, but the Indians called it "Ko-na-pe," and it was known by that name long after the country was settled by the whites.
February had now arrived. For weeks every man not a hunter stood over the kettles with his deer-skin sleeves rolled up, working away at elkskins, rubbing, dipping, and wringing. Then again they went back into the suds for another rubbing and working, and then the beautiful skin, hung up to smoke and dry, came out soft and pliable.
Shields, the skilful, cut out the garments with a butcher knife, and all set to work with awls for needles and deer sinews for thread.
For weeks this leather-dressing and sewing had been going on, some using the handy little "housewives" given by Dolly Madison and the ladies of the White House, until Captain Lewis records, "the men are better fitted with clothing and moccasins than they have been since starting on this voyage."
Captain Lewis and Captain Clark had each a large coat finished of the skin of the "tiger cat," of which it "took seven robes to make a coat."
With beads and old razors, Captain Lewis bought high-crowned Chinook hats, of white cedar-bark and bear-grass, woven European fashion by the nimble fingers of the Clatsop girls, fine as Leghorn and water-tight.
Patrick Gass counted up the moccasins and found three hundred and fifty-eight pairs, besides a good stock of dressed elkskins for tents and bedding. "And I compute 131 elk and 20 deer shot in this neighbourhood during the winter," he added.
But now the elk were going to the mountains, game was practically unobtainable. Now and then Drouillard snared a fine fat beaver or an otter in his traps; sometimes the Indians came over with sturgeon, fresh anch ovies, or a bag of wapato, but even this supply was precarious and uncertain.
February 11, Captain Clark completed a map of the country, including rivers and mountains from Fort Mandan to Clatsop, dotting in cross-cuts for the home journey, the feat of a born geographer.
February 21 the saltmakers returned, with twelve gallons of salt sealed up to last to the cache on the Jefferson.
While Shields refitted the guns, others opened and examined the precious powder. Thirty-five canisters remained, and yet, banged as they had been over many a mountain pass, and sunk in many a stream, all but five were found intact as when they were sealed at Pittsburg. Three were bruised and cracked, one had been pierced by a nail, one had not been properly sealed, but by care the men could dry them out and save the whole.
The greatest necessity now was a boat. A long, slim Chinook canoe made out of a single tree of fir or cedar was beyond price. Preliminary dickers were tried with Chinooks and Clatsops. Finally Drouillard went up to Cathlamet.
Of all the trinkets that Drouillard could muster, nothing short of Captain Lewis's laced uniform coat could induce Queen Sally's people to part with a treasured canoe. And here it was. Misfortune had become a joke.
"Well, now, the United States owes me a coat," laughed Lewis, as he found his last civilised garment gone to the savages.
"Six blue robes, one of scarlet, five made out of the old United States' flag that had floated over many a council, a few old clothes, Clark's uniform coat and hat and a few little trinkets that might be tied in a couple of handkerchiefs," this was the reserve fund to carry them two thousand miles to St. Louis.
But each stout-hearted explorer had his gun and plenty of powder—that was wealth.
"Now, in case we never reach the United States," said Lewis, "what then?"
"We must leave a Memorial," answered Clark. And so the Captains prepared this document:
"The object of this list is, that through the medium of some civilised person, who may see the same, it may be made known to the world, that the party consisting of the persons whose names are hereunto annexed, and who were sent out by the Government of the United States to explore the interior of the continent of North America, did penetrate the same by the way of the Missouri and Columbia rivers, to the discharge of the latter into the Pacific ocean, where they arrived on the 14th day of November, 1805, and departed the 23d day of March, 1806, on their return to the United States by the same route by which they had come out."
To this document every man signed his name, and copies were given to the various chiefs. One was posted at Fort Clatsop to be given to any trader that might arrive in the river, and thus, in case of their death, some account of their exploration might be saved to the world. On the back of some of the papers Clark sketched the route.
At last only one day's food remained. Necessity compelled removal. In vain their eyes were strained toward the sea. Never were Lewis and Clark destined to see a summer day on the Columbia, when sails of ships flapped listlessly against the masts, and vessels heaved reluctantly on the sluggish waters, rolling in long swells on Clatsop beach.
On Sunday, March 23, 1806, the boats were loaded and all was ready. Chief Coboway came over at noon to bid them good bye.
In gratitude for many favours during the past winter, Lewis and Clark presented their houses and furniture to the kind-hearted old chief.
Chief Coboway made Fort Clatsop his winter home during the remainder of his life. Years passed. The stockade fell down, young trees grew up through the cabins, but the spring is there still, gushing forth its waters, cool as in the adventurous days of one hundred years ago.
A RACE FOR EMPIRE
In this very December of 1805 while Lewis and Clark were struggling with the storms of ocean at the mouth of the Columbia, a thousand miles to the north of them the indefatigable and indomitable Simon Fraser was also building a fort, among the lochs and bens of New Caledonia, the British Columbia of to-day.
On the very day that Lewis and Clark left Fort Mandan, Simon Fraser and his men had faced toward the Rockies. While Lewis and Clark were exploring the Missouri, Fraser and his voyageurs were pulling for dear life up the Saskatchewan and over to Athabasca. On the very day that Lewis and Clark moved into Fort Clatsop, Simon Fraser, at the Rocky Mountain Portage, had men busily gathering stones "to get a chimney built for his bedroom." The icy northern winter came down, but in January mortar was made to plaster his trading fort, the Rocky Mountain Portage at the Peace River Pass.
All that Arctic winter he traded with the natives, killed deer and moose, and made pemmican for an expedition still farther to the west.
All through the stormy, icy April, building his boats and pounding his pemmican, Fraser stamped and stormed and swore because the snows refused to melt—because the rivers yet were blocked with ice.
The boats were at the door, the bales of goods were tied, when the ice began to break in May.
The moment the river was clear all hands were roused at daybreak. Simon Fraser turned the Rocky Mountain Portage over to McGillivray, who had arrived on snow shoes, and pressed on west, discovering McLeod Lake and building Fort McLeod upon its shores. Then he portaged over to the Fraser, which he believed to be the Columbia, and going up the Stuart branch built Fort St. James on Stuart Lake. During the winter and summer, after Lewis and Clark reached home, he built Fort Fraser on Fraser Lake, and Fort George upon the Fraser River, still thinking it was the Columbia.
"Now will I reach the mouth of this Columbia," said Fraser in the Spring of 1808, launching his boat, the Perseverance, upon the wildest water of the North.
"You cannot pass," said the Indians, and they waved and whirled their arms to indicate the mad tumultuous swirling of the waters.
"Whatever the obstacle," said Simon Fraser, "I shall follow this river to the end," and down he went for days and days through turbulent gulfs and whirlpools, past rocks and rapids and eddies, under frowning, overhanging precipices in the high water of May.
The Indians spoke of white people.
"It must be Lewis and Clark," groaned Fraser, redoubling his effort to win another empire for his king.
Daily, hourly, risking their lives, at every step in the Mountains the Indians said, "You can go no further."
But the sturdy Scotchmen gripped their oars and set their teeth, turning, doubling, twisting, shooting past rocky points that menaced death, portaging, lifting canoes by sheer grit and resolution up almost impassable rockways, over cliffs almost without a foothold and down into the wave again. So ran the Northwesters down the wild river to the sea, and camped near the present site of New Westminster. And lo! it was not the Columbia.
Back came Simon Fraser to Fort William on Lake Superior to report what he had done, and they crowned his brow with the name of his own great river, the Fraser.
Travellers look down the frowning Fraser gorge to-day, and little realise why Simon Fraser made that daring journey.
"A SHIP! A SHIP!"
While Lewis and Clark were making preparations to leave Fort Clatsop, all unknown to them a ship was trying to cross the bar into the Columbia River. And what a tale had she to tell,—of hunger, misery, despair, and death at Sitka.
Since 1787 the Boston ships had been trading along these shores. In that year 1792, when Captain Robert Gray discovered the Columbia River, there were already twenty-one American ships in the Pacific northwest.
In May, 1799, the Boston brig Caroline, Captain Cleveland, was buying furs in Sitka Sound, when coasting along over from the north came the greatest of all the Russians, Alexander von Baranof, with two ships and a fleet of bidarkas.
"What now will you have?" demanded the Sitka chief, as the expedition entered the basin of Sitka Sound.
"A place to build a fort and establish a settlement for trade," answered Baranof.
"A Boston ship is anchored below and buying many skins," answered the chief. But presents were distributed, a trade was made, and Russian axes began felling the virgin forest on the sides of Verstova.
The next day Captain Cleveland visited Baranof at his fort building.
"Savages!" echoed Captain Cleveland to Baranof's comment on the natives. "I should say so. I have but ten men before the mast, but on account of the fierce character of these Indians I have placed a screen of hides around the ship, that they may not see the deck nor know how few men I have. Two pieces of cannon are in position and a pair of blunderbusses on the taffrail."
But the land was rich in furs. It was this that brought Baranof over from Kadiak.
In three years Sitka was a strong fort, but in June, 1802, in the absence of Baranof, it was attacked one day by a thousand Indians armed with muskets bought of the Boston traders.
In a few hours the fort, a new ship in the harbour, warehouses, cattle sheds, and a bathhouse were burnt to ashes. The poor dumb cattle were stuck full of lances.
A terrible massacre accompanied the burning. To escape suffocation the Russians leaped from the flaming windows only to be caught on the uplifted lances of the savage Sitkas. Some escaped to the woods, when an English vessel providentially appeared and carried the few remaining survivors to Kadiak.
That autumn two new ships arrived from Russia with hunters, labourers, provisions, and news of Baranof's promotion by the czar.
Tears coursed down the great man's weather-beaten cheeks. "I am a nobleman; but Sitka is lost! I do not care to live; I will go and either die or restore the possessions of my august benefactor."
Then back came Baranof to Sitka on his errand of vengeance, with three hundred bidarkas and six small Russian ships, to be almost wrecked in Sitka Sound. Here he was joined by the Neva just out from Kronstadt, the first to carry the Russian flag around the world.
Upon the hill where Sitka stands to-day, the Indians had built a fort of logs piled around with tangled brush. On this the Russians opened fire. But no reply came. With one hundred and fifty men and several guns, Baranof landed in the dense woods to take the fort by storm. Then burst the sheeted flame. Ten Russians were killed and twenty-six wounded. But for the fleet, Baranof's career would have ended on that day.
But in time ships with cannon were more than a match for savages armed with Boston muskets. Far into the night a savage chant was wafted into the air—the Alaskans had surrendered. At daylight all was still. No sound came from the shore, and when the R visited the Indian hill, the fort was filled with slaughtered bodies of infant children, slain by their own parents who felt themselves unable to carry them and escape. The Indian fort was immediately burned to the ground and on its site arose the Russian stronghold of Sitka Castle.
That new fort at Sitka was just finished and mounted with cannon the summer that Lewis and Clark came down the Columbia. Kitchen gardens were under cultivation and live stock thriving.
At Sitka that same autumn the Elizaveta arrived, with the Russian Imperial Inspector of Alaska on board, the Baron von Rezanof, "Chamberlain of the Russian Court and Commander of all America," he called himself.
"What is this I hear of those Bostonians?" inquired the great Baron, unrolling long portraits of the Imperial family to be hung in Sitka Castle. "Those Bostonians, are they undermining our trade in furs with China?"
"Ah, yes," answered Count Baranof, "the American republic is greatly in need of Chinese goods, Chinese teas and silks, which formerly had to be purchased in coin. But since these shores have been discovered with their abundance of furs, they are no longer obliged to take coin with them, but load their vessels with products of their own country."
"All too numerous have become these Boston skippers on this northwest coast," continued Von Rezanof in a decisive tone. "Frequent complaints have been made to the American President that his people are selling firearms to our Indians, but all to no purpose. It is an outrage. We are justified in using force. I recommend an armed brig to patrol these waters."
Food supplies were low at Sitka that winter. No ship came. The Elizaveta dispatched to Kadiak for supplies returned no more. No flour, no fish, not even seal blubber for the garrisons, could be caught or purchased. They were eating crows and eagles and devil-fish. Just then, when a hundred cannon were loaded to sweep the Yankee skippers from the sea, a little Rhode Island ship came sailing into Sitka harbour.
"Shall we expel these American traders from the North Pacific?" demanded Von Rezanof.
"For the love of God, no!" cried Baranof. "That little ship is our saviour!"
Into the starving garrison the Yankee Captain De Wolf brought bread and beef, and raised the famine siege of Sitka Castle. Baranof bought the little ship, the Juno, with all her cargo, for eight thousand dollars in furs and drafts on St. Petersburg. In addition Rezanof gave De Wolf a sloop, the Ermak, to carry his men and furs to the Hawaiian Islands.
"God grant that they may not have paid dear for their rashness in trusting their lives to such a craft!" exclaimed Von Rezanof, as the gallant Yankee Captain spread sail and disappeared from Sitka harbour.
The Juno, a staunch, copper-bottomed fast vessel of two hundred six tons, built at Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1799, was now fitted out for the Russian trade and dispatched to Kadiak.
The storms that Lewis and Clark heard booming on the Oregon coast that winter, devastated Alaskan shores as well. When the breakers came thundering up the rocks and the winds shook Sitka Castle, Count Baranof in his stronghold could not sleep for thinking, "Oh, the ships!—the ships out on this stormy deep, laden with what I need so much!"
The little Juno returned from Kadiak with dried fish and oil, and news of disaster: "The Elizaveta has been wrecked in a heavy gale. Six large bidarkas laden with furs on the way to you went down. Two hundred hunters have perished at sea. Our settlement at Yakutat has been destroyed by an Indian massacre."
"My God! My God!" Baranof cried, "how can we repair all these disasters!"
But ever and ever the gray sea boomed upon the shore where the wretched inmates of Sitka Castle were dying. The relief from the Juno was only temporary. By February not a pound of bread a day dared they distribute to the men.
Long since Rezanof had declared they must have an agricultural settlement. Now he fixed his eye on the Columbia River. Sitting there in the dreary castle he was writing to the czar, little dreaming that in a hundred years his very inmost thought would be read in America.
Starvation at Sitka was imminent,—it was impossible to delay longer. Into the stormy sea Rezanof himself set the Juno's sail on his way to the Columbia.
While Lewis and Clark were writing out the muster roll to nail to the wall at Fort Clatsop for any passing ship, Rezanof was striving to cross the Columbia bar. None could see beyond the mists. Contrary winds blew, it rained, it hailed.
Rezanof sighted the Columbia March 14, 1806, but the current drove him back. Again on the 20th he tried to enter, and on the 21st, but the stormy river, like a thing of life, beat him back and beat him back, until the Russian gave it up, and four days later ran into the harbour of San Francisco.
In June he returned with wheat, oats, pease, beans, flour, tallow, and salt to the famished traders at Sitka.
But notwithstanding all these troubles, in 1805-6 Baranof dispatched to St. Petersburg furs valued at more than five hundred thousand roubles.
More and more the Boston traders came back to Alaskan waters. Baranof often found it easier to buy supplies from Boston than from Okhotsk.
"Furnish me with Aleutian hunters and bidarkas and I will hunt on shares for you," proposed a Boston Captain.
"Agreed," said Baranof, and for years fleets of bidarkas under Boston Captains hunted and trapped and traded for sea otter southward along Pacific shores.
"These Boston smugglers and robbers!" muttered the Spaniards of California. "Where do they hide themselves all winter? We know they are on our shores but never a glimpse can we get of their fleet." Meanwhile the Boston traders on the coasts of California raked in the skins and furs, and sailing around by Hawaii reached Sitka in time for Spring sealing in t he north.
Some hints of this reached the Russian Directory at St. Petersburg, but no one dared to interfere with Baranof.
Shipload after shipload of furs he sent home that sold for fabulous sums in the markets of Russia. The czar himself took shares and the Imperial navy guarded the Russias of North America.
All honour to Baranof, Viking of Sitka, and builder of ships! For forty years he ruled the Northwest, the greatest man in the North Pacific. His name was known on the coast of Mexico, even to Brazil and Havana. The Boston merchants consulted him in making up their cargoes. In 1810 he went into partnership with John Jacob Astor to exchange supplies for furs.
Above all disaster he rose, though ship after ship was lost. But it must be admitted the Russians were not such seamen as the gallant Boston skippers.
Never again will this land see more hardy sailors than the American tars that travelled the seas at the close of our Revolution. Our little Yankee brigs were creeping down and down the coast and around the Horn, until every village had its skippers in the far Pacific. Some went for furs and some for whales, and all for bold adventure.
In July, 1806, the Lydia, having just rescued two American sailors from the savages at Vancouver Island, came into the Columbia River for a load of spars, the beginning of a mighty commerce. Here they heard of Lewis and Clark, and ten miles up, faithful old Chief Coboway gave Captain Hill the muster roll left at Fort Clatsop. This, sent by way of China, reached the United States in 1807, to find the great explorers safe at home.
With the death of Baranof in 1819 ended the vast plan of Russia to make the northern half of the Pacific its own. Baranof was small and wrinkled and bald, but his eye had life. He would have made a czar like Peter the Great. To him and him alone was due the Russia of America, that for seven million dollars was sold to us in 1870, an empire in itself.
BACK TO CIVILISATION
The canoes were loaded, and at one o'clock in the afternoon of Sunday, the 23d day of March, 1806, Lewis and Clark took final leave of Fort Clatsop.
Back past Cathlamet they came, where Queen Sally still watched by her totem posts; past Oak Point on Fanny's Island, named by Clark, where two Springs later a Boston ship made the first white settlement in Oregon. Slowly the little flotilla paddled up, past Coffin Rock, immemorial deposit of Indian dead, past snowy St. Helens, a landmark at sea for the ship that would enter the harbour.
Flowers were everywhere, the hillsides aglow with red flowering currants that made March as gay as the roses of June. The grass was high, and the robins were singing.
At sunset, March 30, they camped on a beautiful prairie, the future site of historic Vancouver. Before them the Columbia was a shimmer of silver. Behind, rose the dim, dark Oregon forest. The sharp cry of the sea-gull rang over the waters, and the dusky pelican and the splendid brown albatross were sailing back to the sea.
Herds of elk and deer roamed on the uplands and in woody green islands below, where flocks of ducks, geese, and swans were digging up the lily-like wapato with their bills.
With laboured breath, still bending to the oar, on the first of April they encountered a throng of Indians crowding down from above, gaunt, hollow-eyed, almost starved, greedily tarrying to pick up the bones and refuse meat thrown from the camp of the whites.
"Katah mesika chaco?" inquired Captain Lewis.
"Halo muck-a-muck," answered the forlorn Indians. "Dried fish all gone. No deer. No elk. No a ntelope to the Nez Percé country." Hundreds were coming down for food at Wapato. "Elip salmon chaco."
"Until the salmon come!" That had been the cry of the Clatsops. The Chinooks were practising incantations to bring the longed-for salmon. The Cathlamets were spreading their nets. The Wahkiakums kept their boats afloat. Even the Multnomahs were wistfully waiting. And now here came plunging down all the upper country for wapato,—"Until the salmon come."
"And pray, when will that be?"
"Not until the next full moon,"—at least the second of May, and in May the Americans had hoped to cross the mountains. All the camp deliberated,—and still the Cascade Indians came flocking down into the lower valley.
"We must remain here until we can collect meat enough to last us to the Nez Percé nation," said the Captains, and so, running the gauntlet of starvation, it happened that Lewis and Clark camped for ten days near the base of Mt. Hood at the river Sandy. In order to collect as much meat as possible a dozen hunters were sent out; the rest were employed in cutting and hanging the meat to dry.
Two young Indians came into the camp at the Sandy.
"Kah mesika Illahee?—Where is your country?" was asked them, in the Chinook jargon caught at Clatsop.
"At the Falls of a great river that flows into the Columbia from the south."
"From the south? We saw no such river."
With a coal on a mat one of the Indians drew it. The Captains looked.
"Ah! behind those islands!" It was where the Multnomah chieftain in his war canoe had said, "Village there!" on their downward journey to the sea. Clark gave one of the men a burning glass to conduct him to the spot, and set out with seven men in a canoe.
Along the south side of the Columbia, back they paddled to the mysterious inlet hidden behind that emerald curtain. And along with them paddled canoe-loads of men, women, and children in search of food.
Clark now perceived that what they had called "Imagecanoe Island" consisted of three islands, the one in the middle concealing the opening between the other two.
Here great numbers of canoes were drawn up. Lifting their long, slim boats to their backs, the Indian women crossed inland to the sloughs and ponds, where, frightening up the ducks, they plunged to the breast into the icy cold water. There they stood for hours, loosening wapato with their feet. The bulbs, rising to the surface, were picked up and tossed into the boats to feed the hungry children.
Clark entered an Indian house to buy wapato.
"Not, not!" with sullen look they shook their heads. No gift of his could buy the precious wapato.
Deliberately then the captain took out one of Dr. Saugrain's phosphorus matches and tossed it in the fire. Instantly it spit and flamed.
"Me-sah-chie! Me-sah-chie!"—the Indians shrieked, and piled the cherished wapato at his feet. The screaming children fled behind the beds and hid behind the men. An old man began to speak with great vehemence, imploring his god for protection.
The match burned out and quiet was restored. Clark paid for the wapato, smoked, and went on, behind the islands.
As if lifting a veil the boat swept around the willows and the Indian waved his hand.
Before them, vast and deep, a river rolled its smooth volume into the Columbia. At the same moment five snow peaks burst into view,—Rainier, Hood, St. Helens, Adams, and to the southeast another snowy cone which Clark at once saluted, "Mount Jefferson!"
For the first recorded time a white man gazed on the river Willamette.
This sudden vision of emerald hills, blue waters, and snowy peaks forced the involuntary exclamation, "The only spot west of the Rocky Mountains suitable for a settlement!" The very air of domestic occupation gleamed on the meadows flecked with deer and w aterfall. Amid the scattered groves of oak and dogwood, bursting now into magnolian bloom, Clark half expected to see some stately mansion rise, as in the park of some old English nobleman. The ever-prevailing flowering currant lit the landscape with a hue of roses.
A dozen miles or more Clark pressed on, up the great inland river, and slept one night near the site of the present Portland. He examined the soil, looked at the timber, and measured a fallen fir three hundred and eighteen feet as it lay.
Watching the current rolling its uniform flow from some unknown distant source, the Captain began taking soundings.
"This river appears to possess water enough for the largest ship. Nor is it rash to believe that it may water the country as far as California." For at least two-thirds of the width he could find no bottom with his five-fathom line.
Along that wide deep estuary, the grainships of the world to-day ride up to the wharves of Portland. The same snow peaks are there, the same emerald hills, and the bounteous smile of Nature blushing in a thousand orchards.
All along the shores were deserted solitary houses of broad boards roofed with cedar bark, with household furniture, stone mortars, pestles, canoes, mats, bladders of train oil, baskets, bowls, trenchers—all left. The fireplaces were filled with dead embers, the bunk-line tiers of beds were empty. All had just gone or were going to the fisheries.
"To Clackamas nation. Hyas tyee Tumwater. Great Falls. Salmon."
Had Clark but passed a few miles further up, he would have found hundreds of Indians at the fishing rendezvous, Clackamas Rapids and Willamette Falls.
"How many of the Clackamas nation?"
"Eleven villages, to the snow peak."
"Forty villages, the Callapooias." With ou tstretched hand the Indian closed his eyes and shook his head,—evidently he had never been so far to the south.
Back around Warrior's Point Clark came, whence the Multnomahs were wont to issue to battle in their huge war canoes. An old Indian trail led up into the interior, where for ages the lordly Multnomahs had held their councils. Many houses had fallen entirely to ruin.
Clark inquired the cause of decay. An aged Indian pointed to a woman deeply pitted with the smallpox.
"All died of that. Ahn-cutty! Long time ago!"
The Multnomahs lived on Wapato Island. A dozen nations gave fealty to Multnomah. All had symbolic totems, carved and painted on door and bedstead, and at every bedhead hung a war club and a Moorish scimitar of iron, thin and sharp, rude relic of Ko-na-pe's workshop.
Having now dried sufficient meat to last to the Nez Percés, Lewis and Clark set out for the Dalles, that tragical valley, racked and battered, where the devils held their tourneys when the world was shaped by flood and flame.
Through the sheeny brown basaltic rock, three rifts let through the river, where, in fishing time, salmon leaped in prodigious numbers, filling the Indians' baskets, tons and tons a day. But the salmon had not yet come.
At this season the upper tribes came down to the Dalles to traffic robes and silk grass for sea-shells and wapato. Fish was money. After the traders came, beads, beads, became the Indian's one ambition. For beads he would sacrifice his only garment and his last morsel of food.
In this annual traffic of east and west, the Dalles Indians had become traders, robbers, pirates. No canoe passed that way without toll. Dressed in deerskin, elk, bighorn, wolf, and buffalo, these savages lay now in wait for Lewis and Clark, portaging up the long narrows.
Tugging, sweating, paddling, poling, pulling by cords, it was difficult work hauling canoes up the narrow way.
Crowds of Indians pressed in.
"Six tomahawks and a knife are gone!"
"Another tomahawk gone!"
"Out of the road," commanded Lewis. "Whoever steals shall be shot instantly."
The crowds fell back. Every man toiled on with gun in hand. But from village to village, dishes, blankets, and whatever the Indians could get their hands on, disappeared. Soon there would be no baggage.
It seemed impossible to detect a thief. "Nothing but numbers protects us," said the white men.
Worse even than the pirates of the Sioux, it came almost to pitched battle. Again and again Lewis harangued the chiefs for the restoration of stolen property. Once he struck an Indian. Finally he set out to burn a village, but the missing property came to light, hidden in an Indian hut.
So long did it take to make these portages that food supplies failed. In the heart of a thickly populated and savage country the expedition was bankrupt.
With what gratitude, then, they met Yellept, chief of the Walla Wallas, waiting upon his hills.
"Come to my village. You shall have food. You shall have horses."
Gladly they accompanied him to his village at the mouth of the Walla Walla river. Immediately he called in not only his own but the neighbouring nations, urging them to hospitality. Then Chief Yellept, the most notable man in all that country, himself brought an armful of wood for their fires and a platter of roasted mullets.
At once all the Walla Wallas followed with armloads of fuel; the campfires blazed and crackled. Footsore, weary, half-starved, Lewis and Clark and their men supped and then slept.
Fortunately there was among the Walla Wallas a captive Shoshone boy who spoke the tongue of Sacajawea. In council the Captains explained themselves and the object of their journey.
"Opposite our village a shorter route leads to the Kooskooskee," said Yellept. "A road of grass and water, with deer and antelope."
Clark computed that this cut-off would save eighty miles.
In vain the Captains desired to press on.
"Wait," begged Yellept. "Wait." Already he had sent invitations to the Eyakimas, his friends the Black Bears, and to the Cayuses.
Possibly Sacajawea had hinted something; at any rate with a cry of "Very Great Medicine," the lame, the halt, the blind pressed around the camp. The number of unfortunates, products of Indian battle, neglect, and exposure, was prodigious.
Opening the medicine chest, while Lewis bought horses, Clark turned physician, distributing eye-water, splinting broken bones, dealing out pills and sulphur. One Indian with a contracted knee came limping in.
"My own father, Walla Walla chief," says old Se-cho-wa, an aged Indian woman on the Umatilla to-day. "Lots of children, lots of horses. I, very little girl, follow them."
With volatile liniments and rubbing the chief was relieved.
In gratitude Yellept presented Clark with a beautiful white horse; Clark in turn gave all he had—his sword.
Bidding the chief adieu, the Captains recorded: "We may, indeed, justly affirm, that of all the Indians whom we have met since leaving the United States the Walla Wallas were the most hospitable and sincere."
Poor old Yellept! One hundred years later his medal was found in the sand at the mouth of the Walla Walla. All his sons were slain in battle or died of disease. When the last one lay stretched in the grave, the old chief stepped in upon the corpse and commanded his people to bury them in one grave together.
"On account of his great sorrow," says old Se-cho-wa.
And so he was buried.
As Lewis and Clark with twenty-three horses set out over the camas meadows that April morning a hundred years ago, the world seemed brighter for the kindness of the Walla Wallas.
At the Dalles the forest had ended. Now they were on the great Columbian plains that stretch to the Rockies, the northwest granary of to-day. The dry exhilarating air billowed the verdure like a sea.
Meadow larks sang and flitted. Dove-coloured sage hens, the cock of the plains, two-thirds the size of a turkey, cackled like domestic fowl before the advancing cavalcade. Spotted black-and-white pheasants pecked in the grass like the little topknot "Dominicks" the men had known around their boyhood homes.
And everywhere were horses.
"More hor-r-ses between th' Gr-reat Falls av th' Columby and th' Nez Percés than I iver saw in th' same space uv countery in me loife before," said Patrick Gass. "They are not th' lar-r-gest soize but very good an' active."
"Of an excellent race, lofty, elegantly formed, and durable," those Cayuse horses are described by Lewis and Clark. "Many of them appear like fine English coursers, and resemble in fleetness and bottom, as well as in form and colour, the best blooded horses of Virginia."
A hundred years ago, the Cayuse of the Columbian plains was a recent importation from the bluest blooded Arabian stock of Spain. White-starred, white-footed, he was of noble pedigree. Traded or stolen from tribe to tribe, these Spanish horses found a home on the Columbia. All winter these wild horses fattened on the plain; madly their Indian owners rode them; and when they grew old, stiff, and blind, they went, so the Indians said, to Horse Heaven on the Des Chute s to die.
Following the old Nez Percés trail, that became a stage road in the days of gold, and then a railroad, Lewis and Clark came to the land of the Nez Percés,—Chopunnish.
Thirty-one years later the missionary Spalding planted an apple-tree where Lewis and Clark reached the Snake at the mouth of Alpowa creek, May 4, 1806.
We-ark-koompt, the Indian express, came out to meet them. Over the camp of Black Eagle the American flag was flying. Chiefs vied with one another to do them honour. Tunnachemootoolt, Black Eagle, spread his leather tent and laid a parcel of wood at the door. "Make this your lodge while you remain with me." Hohastilpilp, Red Wolf, came riding over the hills with fifty people.
The Captains had a fire lighted, and all night in the leather tent on the banks of the Kooskooske the chiefs smoked and pondered on the journey of the white men.
Lewis and Clark drew maps and pointed out the far-away land of the President. Sacajawea and the Shoshone boy interpreted until worn out, and then fell asleep. And ever within Black Eagle's village was heard the dull "thud, thud, thud," of Nez Percé women pounding the camas and the kouse, "with noise like a nail-factory," said Lewis. All night long their outdoor ovens were baking the bread of kouse, and the kettles of camas mush, flavoured with yamp, simmered and sweetened over the dull red Indian fires. The hungry men were not disposed to criticise the cuisine of the savage, not even when they were offered the dainty flesh of dried rattlesnake!
Labiche killed a bear. In amazement the redmen gathered round.
"These bears are tremendous animals to the Indians,—kill all you can," said Captain Lewis. Elated, every hunter went bear-hunting.
"Wonderful men that live on bears!" exclaimed the Indians.
Again the council was renewed, and they talked of wars. Bloody Chief, fond of war, showed wounds received in battle with the Snakes.
"It is not good," said Clark. "It is better to be at peace. Here is a white flag. When you hold it up it means peace. We have given such flags to your enemies, the Shoshones. They will not fight you now."
Fifty years later, that chief, tottering to his grave, said, "I held that flag. I held it up high. We met and talked, but never fought again."
"We have confided in the white men. We shall follow their advice," Black Eagle went proclaiming through the village.
All the kettles of soup were boiling. From kettle to kettle Black Eagle sprinkled in the flour of kouse. "We have confided in the white men. Those who are to ratify this council, come and eat. All others stay away."
The mush was done, the feast was served; a new dawn had arisen on the Nez Percés.
Finding it impossible to cross the mountains, a camp was established at Kamiah Creek, on a part of the present Nez Percé reservation in Idaho county, Idaho, where for a month they studied this amiable and gentle people. Games were played and races run, Coalter outspeeding all. Frazer, who had been a fencing master in Rutland, back in Vermont, taught tricks, and the music of the fiddles delighted them.
Stout, portly, good-looking men were the Nez Percés, and better dressed than most savages, in their whitened tunics and leggings of deerskin and buffalo, moccasins and robes and breastplates of otter, and bandeaus of fox-skins like a turban on the brow. The women were small, of good features and generally handsome, in neatly woven tight-fitting grass caps and long buckskin skirts whitened with clay.
Upon the Missouri the eagle was domesticated. Here, too, the Nez Percé had his wicker coop of young eaglets to raise for their tail feathers. Any Rocky Mountain Indian would give a good horse for the black-and-white tail feather of a golden eagle. They fluttered from the calumet and hung in cascades from head to foot on the sacred war bonnet.
A May snowstorm whitened the camas meadows and melted again. Thick black loam invited the plough, but thirty Springs should pass before Spalding established his mission and gave ploughs to the redmen. Twisted Hair saw the advent of civilisation. Red Wolf planted an orchard. Black Eagle went to see Clark at St. Louis and died there.
Captain Lewis held councils, instructing, educating, enlightening the Kamiahs, so that to this day they are among the most advanced of Indian tribes.
Captain Clark, with simple remedies and some knowledge of medicine, became a mighty "tomanowos" among the ailing. With basilicons of pitch and oil, wax and resins, a sovereign remedy for skin eruptions, with horse-mint teas and doses of sulphur and cream-of-tartar, with eye-water, laudanum, and liniment, he treated all sorts of ills. Fifty patients a day crowded to the tent of the Red Head. Women suffering from rheumatism, the result of toil and exposure in the damp camas fields, came dejected and hysterical. They went back shouting, "The Red Head chief has made me well."
The wife of a chief had an abscess. Clark lanced it, and she slept for the first time in days. The grateful chief brought him a horse that was immediately slaughtered for supper. A father gave a horse in exchange for remedies for his little crippled daughter.
With exposure to winds, alkali sand, and the smoke of chimneyless fires, few Indians survived to old age without blindness.
"Eye-water! Eye-water!" They reached for it as for a gift from the gods. Clark understood such eyes, for the smoke of the pioneer cabin had made affections of the eye a curse of the frontier.
But affairs were now at their lowest. Even the medicines were exhausted, and the last awl, needle, and skein of thread had gone. Off their shabby old United States uniforms the soldiers cut the last buttons to trade for bread. But instead of trinkets the sensible Nez Percés desired knives, buttons, awls for making moccasins, blankets, kettles. Shields the gunsmith ingeniously hammered links of Drouillard's trap into awls to exchange for bread.
The tireless hunters scoured the country. Farther and farther had scattered the game. Even the bears had departed. Thirty-three people ate a deer and an elk, or four deer a day. There was no commissariat for this little army but its own rifles. And yet, supplies must be laid in for crossing the mountains.
Every day Captain Lewis looked at the rising river and the melting snows of the Idaho Alps.
"That icy barrier, which separates me from my friends and my country, from all which makes life estimable—patience—patience—"
"The snow is yet deep on the mountains. You will not be able to pass them until the next full moon, or about the first of June," said the Indians.
"Unwelcome intelligence to men confined to a diet of horse meat and roots!" exclaimed Captain Lewis.
Finally even horse-flesh failed. Suspecting the situation, Chief Red Wolf came and said, "The horses on these hills are ours. Take what you need."
He wore a tippet of human scalps, but, says Lewis, "we have, indeed, on more than one occasion, had to admire the generosity of this Indian, whose conduct presents a model of what is due to strangers in distress."
Gradually the snows melted, and the high water subsided.
"The doves are cooing. The salmon will come," said the Indians. Blue flowers of the blooming camas covered the prairies like a lake of silver. With sixty-five horses and all the dried horse meat they could carry, on June 16, 1806, Lewis and Clark started back over the Bitter Root Range on the Lolo trail by which they had entered.
OVER THE BITTER ROOT RANGE
Dog-tooth violets, roses, and strawberry blossoms covered the plain of Weippe without end, but the Lolo trail was deep with snow. Deep and deeper grew the drifts, twelve and fifteen feet. The air was keen and cold with winter rigours. To go on in those grassless valleys meant certain death to all their horses, and so, for the first time, they fell back to wait yet other days for the snows to melt upon the mountains.
"We must have experienced guides." Drouillard and Shannon were dispatched once more to the old camp, and lo! the salmon had come, in schools and shoals, reddening the Kooskooskee with their flickering fins.
Again they faced the snowy barrier with guides who traversed the trackless region with instinctive sureness.
"They never hesitate," said Lewis. "They are never embarrassed. So undeviating is their step that whenever the snow has disappeared, even for a hundred paces, we find the summer road."
Up in the Bitter Root peaks, like the chamois of the Alps, the Oregon mazama, the mountain goat, frolicked amid inaccessible rocks. And there, in the snows of the mountain pass, most significant of all, were found the tracks of barefooted Indians, supposed to have been Flatheads, fleeing in distress from pursuing Blackfeet. Such was the battle of primitive man.
The Indians regarded the journey of the white men into the country of their hereditary foes as a venture to certain death.
"Danger!" whispered the guides, significantly rapping on their heads, drawing their knives across their throats, and pointing far ahead.
Every year the Nez Percés followed the Lolo trail, stony and steep and ridgy with rocks and crossed with fallen trees, into the Buffalo Illahee, the buffalo country of the Missouri. And for this the Blackfeet fought them.
The Blackfeet, too, had been from time immemorial the deadly foe of the Flatheads, their bone of contention for ever the buffalo. The Blackfeet claimed as their own all the country lying east of the main range, and looked upon the Flatheads who went there to hunt as intruders.
The Flathead country was west and at the base of the main Rockies, along the Missoula and Clark's Fork and northward to the Fraser. With their sole weapon, the arrow, and their own undaunted audacity, twice a year occurred the buffalo chase, once in Summer and once in Winter. But "the ungodly Blackfeet," scourge of the mountains, lay in wait to trap and destroy the Flatheads as they would a herd of buffalo.
And so it had been war, bitter war, for ages. But a new force had given to the Blackfeet at the west and the Sioux at the east supremacy over the rest of the tribes,—that was the white man's gun from the British forts on the Saskatchewan.
For spoils and scalps the Blackfeet, Arabs of the North, raided from the Saskatchewan to Mexico. They besieged Fort Edmonton at the north, and left their tomahawk mark on the Digger Indian's grave at the south. The Shoshone-Snakes, too, were immemorial and implacable enemies of both the Blackfeet and the Columbia tribes. They fought to the Dalles and Walla Walla and up through the Nez Percés to Spokane. Their mad raiders threw up the dust of the Utah desert, and chased the lone Aztec to his last refuge in Arizona cliffs.
The Blackfeet fought the Shoshones, the Crows, by superior cunning, fought the Blackfeet, the Assiniboines fought the Crows, and the Sioux, the lordly Sioux, fought all.
It was time for the white man's hand to stay the diabolical dance of death.
BEWARE THE BLACKFEET!
On the third of July, at the mouth of Lolo creek, the expedition separated, Lewis to cross to the Falls of the Missouri and explore Marias River, Clark to come to the three forks and cross to the Yellowstone.
With nine men and five Indians Captain Lewis crossed the Missoula on a raft, and following the Nez Percé trail along the River-of-the-Road-to-Buffalo, the Big Blackfoot of to-day, came out July 7, the first of white men, on the opening through the main range of the Rockies now known as the Lewis and Clark Pass. A Blackfoot road led down to the churning waters of the Great Falls.
Pawing, fighting, ten thousand buffaloes were bellowing in one continuous roar that terrified the horses. The plain was black with a vast and angry army, bearing away to the southwest, flinging the dust like a simoom, through which deep-mouthed clangor rolled like thunder far away. And at their immediate feet, Drouillard noted fresh tracks of Indians dotting the soil; grizzly bears, grim guardians of the cataract, emitted hollow growls, and great gray wolves hung in packs and droves along the skirts of the buffalo herds, glancing now and then toward the little group of horsemen.
In very defiance of danger, again Lewis pitched his camp beside the Falls, green and foamy as Niagara. Again buffalo meat, marrow bones, ribs, steaks, juicy and rich, sizzled around the blaze, and the hungry men ate, ate, ate. They had found the two extremes—want on one side of the mountains and abundance on the other.
While Lewis tried to write in his journal, huge brown mosquitoes, savage as the bears, bit and buzzed. Lewis's dog howled with the torture, the same little Assiniboine dog that had followed all their footsteps, had guarded and hunted as well as the best, had slept by the fire at Clatsop and been stolen at the Dalles.
Hurrying to their cache at the Bear Islands, it was discovered that high water had flooded their skins and the precious specimens of plants were soaked and ruined. A bottle of laudanum had spoiled a chestful of medicine. But the charts of the Missouri remained uninjured, and trunks, boxes, carriage wheels, and blunderbuss were all right.
"Transport the baggage around the Falls and wait for me at the mouth of Maria's River to the first of September," said Captain Lewis, setting out with Drouillard and the Fields boys. "If by that time I am not there, go on and join Captain Clark and return home. But if my life and health are spared, I shall meet you on the 5th of August."
It was not without misgivings that Sergeant Gass and his comrades saw the gallant Captain depart into the hostile Blackfoot country. With only three men at his back it was a daring venture. Already the five Nez Percés, fearful of their foes, had dropped off to seek their friends the Flatheads. In vain Lewis had promised to intercede and make peace between the tribes. Their terror of the Blackfeet surpassed their confidence in white men.
On the second day out Drouillard suddenly pointed, and leaning far over on his horse, examined a trail that would have escaped an eye less keen than his. "Blackfeet!" the vicious and profligate rovers that of all it was most desirable not to meet!
Hastily crossing the Teton into a thick wood, the party camped that night unmolested.
On the eighth day Captain Lewis suddenly spied several Indians on a hilltop intently watching Drouillard in the valley. Thirty horses, some led, some saddled, stood like silhouettes against the sky. Kneeling they scanned the movements of the unconscious hunter below.
"Escape is impossible. We must make the most of our situation. If they attempt to rob us, we will resist to the last extremity. I would rather die than lose my papers and instruments."
Boldly advancing with a flag in his hand, followed by the two Fields brothers, Lewis drew quite near before the Indians perceived these other white men. Terrified, they ran about in confusion. Evidently with them a stranger meant a foe.
Captain Lewis dismounted, and held out his hand.
Slowly the chief Blackfoot approached, then wheeled in flight. At last, with extreme caution, the two parties met and shook hands. Lewis gave to one a flag, to another a medal, to a third a handkerchief. The tumultuous beating of the Indians' hearts could almost be heard. There proved to be but eight of them, armed with two guns, bows, arrows, and eye-daggs, a sort of war-hatchet.
"I am glad to see you," said Lewis. "I have much to say. Let us camp together."
The Indians assented and set up their semi-circular tent by the willows of the river. Here Drouillard, the hunter, skilled in the sign language of redmen, drew out their story.
Yes, they knew white men. They traded on the Saskatchewan six days' march away.
Yes, there were more of them, two large bands, on the forks of this river, a day above.
What did they trade at the Saskatchewan? Skins, wolves, and beaver, for guns and ammunition.
Then Lewis talked. He came from the rising sun. He had been to the great lake at the west. He had seen many nations at war and had made peace. He had stopped to make peace between the Blackfeet and the Flatheads.
"We are anxious for peace with the Flatheads. But those people have lately killed a number of our relatives and we are in mourning."
Yes, they would come down and trade with Lewis if he built a fort at Maria's River.
Until a late hour they smoked, then slept . Lewis and Drouillard lay down and slept with the Indians, while the two Fields boys kept guard by the fire at the door of the tent.
"Let go my gun."
It was the voice of Drouillard in the half-light of the tent at sunrise struggling with a Blackfoot. With a start Lewis awoke and reached for his gun. It was gone. The deft thieves had all but disarmed the entire party.
Chase followed. In the scuffle for his gun, Reuben Fields stabbed a Blackfoot to the heart.
No sooner were the guns recovered than the horses were gone. "Leave the horses or I will shoot," shouted Lewis, chasing out of breath to a steep notch in the river bluffs. Madly the Indians were tearing away with the horses. Lewis fired and killed a Blackfoot. Bareheaded, the Captain felt a returning bullet whistle through his hair, but the Indians dropped the horses, and away went swimming across the Marias.
Delay meant death. Quickly saddling their horses, Lewis and his men made for the Missouri as fast as possible, hearing at every step in imagination the pursuing "hoo-oh! whoop-ah-hooh!" that was destined to make Marias River the scene of many a bloody massacre by the vengeful Blackfeet.
Expecting interception at the mouth of Marias River, the white men rode with desperation to form a junction with their friends. All day, all night they galloped, until, exhausted, they halted at two o'clock in the morning to rest their flagging horses.
That forenoon, having ridden one hundred and twenty miles since the skirmish, they reached the mouth of Marias River, just in time to see Sergeant Gass, the fleet of canoes, and all, descending from above. Leaping from their horses, they took to the boats, and soon left the spot, seventy, eighty, a hundred miles a day, down the swift Missouri.
DOWN THE YELLOWSTONE
As Lewis turned north toward Marias River, Clark with the rest of the party and fifty horses set his face along the Bitter Root Valley toward the south. Every step he trod became historic ground in the romance of settlement, wars, and gold. Into this Bitter Root Valley were to come the first white settlers of Montana, and upon them, through the Hell Gate Pass of the Rockies, above the present Missoula, were to sweep again and again the bloodthirsty Blackfeet.
"It is as safe to enter the gates of hell as to enter that pass," said the old trappers and traders.
More and more beautiful became the valley, pink as a rose with the delicate bloom of the bitter-root, the Mayflower of Montana. Here for ages the patient Flatheads had dug and dried their favourite root until the whole valley was a garden.
As Clark's cavalcade wound through this vale, deer flitted before the riders, multitudinous mountain streams leaped across their way, herds of bighorns played around the snowbanks on the heights. Across an intervening ridge the train descended into Ross Hole, where first they met the Flatheads. There were signs of recent occupation; a fire was still burning; but the Flatheads were gone.
Out of Ross Hole Sacajawea pointed the way by Clark's Pass, over the Continental Divide, to the Big Hole River where the trail disappeared or scattered. But Sacajawea knew the spot. "Here my people gather the kouse and the camas; here we take the beaver; and yonder, see, a door in the mountains."
On her little pony, with her baby on her back, the placid Indian girl led the way into the labyrinthine Rockies.
Clark followed, descending into the beautiful Big Hole prairie, where in 1877 a great battle was to be fought with Chief Joseph, exactly one hundred years after the 1777 troubles, when George Rogers Clark laid before Patrick Henry his plan for the capture of Illinois. Out of the Big Hole, Chief Joseph was to escape with his women, his children, and his dead, to be chased a thousand miles over the very summit of the Rockies!
Standing there on the field of future battle, "Onward!" still urged Sacajawea, "the gap there leads to your canoes!" The Bird Woman knew these highlands,—they were her native hills. As Sacajawea fell back, the men turned their horses at a gallop.
Almost could they count the milestones now, down Willard creek, where first paying gold was discovered in Montana, past Shoshone cove, over the future site of Bannock to the Jefferson.
Scarcely taking the saddles from their steeds, the eager men ran to open the cache hid from the Shoshones. To those who so long had practised self-denial it meant food, clothing, merchandise—an Indian ship in the wild. Everything was safe, goods, canoes, tobacco. In a trice the long-unused pipes were smoking with the weed of old Virginia.
"Better than any Injun red-willer k'nick-er-k'nick!" said Coalter, the hunter.
Leaving Sergeant Pryor with six men to bring on the horses, Captain Clark and the rest embarked in the canoes, and were soon gliding down the emerald Jefferson, along whose banks for sixty years no change should come.
Impetuous mountain streams, calmed to the placid pool of the beaver dam, widened into lakes and marshes. Beaver, otter, musk-rats innumerable basked along the shore. Around the boats all night the disturbed denizens flapped the water with their tails,—angry at the invasion of their solitude.
At the Three Forks, Clark's pony train remounted for the Yellowstone, prancing and curveting along the beaver-populated dells of the Gallatin.
Before them arose, bewildering, peak on peak, but again the Bird Woman, Sacajawea, pointed out the Yellowstone Gap, the Bozeman Pass of to-day, on the great Shoshone highway. Many a summer had Sacajawea, child of elfin locks, ridden on the trailing travoises through this familiar gateway into the buffalo haunts of Yellowstone Park.
Slowly Clark and his expectant cavalcade mounted the Pass, where for ages the buffalo and the Indian alone had trod. As they reached the summit, the glorious Yellowstone Alps burst on their view. At their feet a rivulet, born on the mountain top, leaped away, bright and clear, over its gravelly bed to the Yellowstone in the plains below.
It was the brother of George Rogers Clark that stood there, one to the manner born of riding great rivers or breaking through mountain chains. But thirty years had elapsed since that elder brother and Daniel Boone had threaded the Cumberland Gap of the Alleghanies. The highways of the buffalo became the highways of the nation.
"It is no more than eighteen miles," said Clark, glancing back from the high snowy gap, half piercing, half surmounting the dividing ridge between the Missouri and the Yellowstone, so nearly do their headwaters interlock. In coming up this pass, Clark's party went through the present city limits of Bozeman, the county seat of Gallatin, and over the route of future Indians, trappers, miners, road builders, and last and greatest of all, armies of permanent occupation that are marching still to the valleys of fertile Montana. Up the shining Yellowstone, over the Belt range, through the tunnel to Bozeman, the iron horse flits to-day, on, westerly one hundred miles to Helena, almost in the exact footsteps trodden by the heroic youth of one hundred years ago.
Among the cottonwood groves of the Yellowstone, Clark's men quickly fashioned a pair of dugouts, lashed together with rawhide; and in these frail barks, twenty-eight feet long, the Captain and party embarked, leaving Sergeant Pryor, Shannon, Windsor, and Hall to bring on the horses. All manner of trouble Pryor had with those horses. Lame from continual travel, he made moccasins for their feet. They were buffalo runners, trained for the hunt. At sight of the Yellowstone herds away they flew, to chase in the old wild Indian fashion of their red masters. No sooner had Pryor rounded them up and brought them back than they disappeared utterly,—stolen by the Crows. Not one of the entire fifty horses was ever recovered.
Here was a serious predicament. Down the impetuous Yellowstone Clark's boats had already gone. Alone in the heart of the buffalo country these four men were left, thousands of miles from the haunts of civilised man.
"We must join Captain Clark at all hazards. We must improvise boats," said Shannon.
Sergeant Pryor recalled the Welsh coracles of the Mandans. "Can we make one?"
Long slim saplings were bent to form a hoop for the rim, another hoop held by cross-sticks served for the bottom. Over this rude basket green buffalo hides were tightly drawn, and in these frail craft they took to the water, close in the wake of their unconscious Captain.
And meanwhile Clark was gliding down the Yellowstone. On either bank buffaloes dotted the landscape, under the shade of trees and standing in the water like cattle, or browsing on a thousand hills. Gangs of stately elk, light troops of sprightly antelopes, fleet and graceful as the gazelle of Oriental song, deer of slim elastic beauty, and even bighorns that could be shot from the boat. Sometimes were heard the booming subterranean geysers hidden in the hollows of the mountains, but none in the party yet conceived of the wonders of Yellowstone Park that Coalter came back to discover that same Autumn.
One day Clark landed to examine a remarkable rock. Its sides were carved with Indian figures, and a cairn was heaped upon the summit. Stirred by he knew not what impulse, Clark named it Pompey's Pil lar, and carved his name upon the yielding sandstone, where his bold lettering is visible yet to-day.
More and more distant each day grew the Rockies, etched fainter each night on the dim horizon of the west. More and more numerous grew the buffaloes, delaying the boats with their countless herds stampeding across the Yellowstone. For an hour one day the boats waited, the wide river blackened by their backs, and before night two other herds, as numerous as the first, came beating across the yellow-brown tide.
But more than buffaloes held sway on the magic Yellowstone. Wrapped in their worn-out blankets the men could not sleep for the scourge of mosquitoes; they could not sight their rifles for the clouds of moving, whizzing, buzzing, biting insects. Even the buffalo were stifled by them in their nostrils.
Nine hundred miles now had they come down the Yellowstone, to its junction with the Missouri half a mile east of the Montana border, but no sign yet had they found of Lewis. Clark wrote on the sand, "W. C. A few miles further down on the right hand side."
August 8, Sergeant Pryor and his companions appeared in their little skin tubs. Four days later, there was a shout and waving of caps,—the boats of Captain Lewis came in sight at noon. But a moment later every cheek blanched with alarm.
"Where is Captain Lewis?" demanded Clark, running forward.
There in the bottom of a canoe, Lewis lay as one dead, pale but smiling. He had been shot. With the gentleness of a brother Clark lifted him up, and they carried him to camp.
"A mistake,—an accident,—'tis nothing," he whispered.
And then the story leaked out. Cruzatte, one-eyed, near-sighted, mistaking Lewis in his dress of brown leather for an elk, had shot him through the thigh. With the assistance of Patrick Gass, Lewis had dressed the wound himself. On account of great pain and high fever he slept that night in the boat. And now the party were happily reunited.
THE HOME STRETCH
In the distance there was a gleam of coloured blankets where the beehive huts of the Mandan village lay. A firing of guns and the blunderbuss brought Black Cat to the boats.
"Come and eat." And with the dignity of an old Roman, the chief extended his hand.
"Come and eat," was the watchword of every chieftain on the Missouri. Even the Sioux said, "Come and eat!"
Hospitable as Arabs, they spread the buffalo robe and brought the pipe. While the officers talked with the master of the lodge, the silent painstaking squaws put the kettles on the fire, and slaughtered the fatted dog for the honoured guests.
"How many chiefs will accompany us to Washington?" That was the first inquiry of the business-pushing white men. Through Jussaume the Indians answered.
"I would go," said the Black Cat, "but de Sioux—"
"De Sioux will certainly kill us," said Le Borgne of the Minnetarees. "Dey are waiting now to intercept you on de river. Dey will cut you off."
"We stay at home. We listen to your counsel," piped up Little Cherry. "But dey haf stolen our horses. Dey haf scalp our people."
"We must fight to protect ourselves," added the Black Cat. "We live in peace wit' all nation—'cept de Sioux!"
In vain Captain Clark endeavoured to quiet their apprehensions. "We shall not suffer the Sioux to injure one of our red children."
"I pledge my government that a company of armed men shall guard you on your return," added Lewis.
At this point Jussaume reported that Shahaka, or Big White, in his wish to see the President, had overcome his fears. He would go to Was hington.
Six feet tall, of magnificent presence, with hair white and coarse as a horse's mane, Shahaka, of all the chiefs, was the one to carry to the States the tradition of a white admixture in the Mandan blood. "The handsomest Injun I iver saw," said Patrick Gass.
Arrangements for departure were now made as rapidly as possible. Presents of corn, beans, and squashes, more than all the boats could carry, were piled around the white men's camp.
The blacksmith's tools were intrusted to Charboneau for the use of the Mandans. The blunderbuss, given to the Minnetarees, was rolled away to their village with great exultation.
"Now let the Sioux come!" It was a challenge and a refuge.
The iron corn mill was nowhere to be seen. For scarcely had Lewis and Clark turned their backs for the upper Missouri before it had been broken into bits to barb the Indian arrows.
Sacajawea looked wistfully. She, too, would like to visit the white man's country.
"We will take you and your wife down if you choose to go," said Captain Clark to Charboneau.
"I haf no acquaintance, no prospect to mak' a leeving dere," answered the interpreter. "I mus' leeve as I haf done."
"I will take your son and have him educated as a white child should be," continued the Captain.
Charboneau and Sacajawea looked at one another and at their beautiful boy now nineteen months old, prattling in their midst.
"We would be weeling eef de child were weaned," slowly spake Charboneau. "Een wan year, he be ole enough to leaf he moder. I den tak' eem to you eef you be so friendly to raise eem as you t'ink proper."
"Bring him to me in one year. I will take the child," said Captain Clark.
Captain Lewis paid Charboneau five hundred dollars, loaded Sacajawea with what gifts he could, and left them in the Mandan c ountry.
All was now ready for the descent to St. Louis. The boats, lashed together in pairs, were at the shore. Big White was surrounded by his friends, seated in a circle, solemnly smoking. The women wept aloud; the little children trembled and hid behind their mothers.
More courageous than any, Shahaka immediately sent his wife and son with their baggage on board. The interpreter, Jussaume, with his wife and two children, accompanied them. Yes, Madame Jussaume was going to Washington!
Sacajawea, modest princess of the Shoshones, heroine of the great expedition, stood with her babe in arms and smiled upon them from the shore. So had she stood in the Rocky Mountains pointing out the gates. So had she followed the great rivers, navigating the continent.
Sacajawea's hair was neatly braided, her nose was fine and straight, and her skin pure copper like the statue in some old Florentine gallery. Madonna of her race, she had led the way to a new time. To the hands of this girl, not yet eighteen, had been intrusted the key that unlocked the road to Asia.
Some day upon the Bozeman Pass, Sacajawea's statue will stand beside that of Clark. Some day, where the rivers part, her laurels will vie with those of Lewis. Across North America a Shoshone Indian Princess touched hands with Jefferson, opening her country.
All the chiefs had gathered to see the boats start. "Stay but one moment," they said.
Clark stepped back. Black Cat handed him a pipe, as if for benediction. The solemn smoke-wreaths soon rolled upward.
"Tell our Great Fader de young men will remain at home and not mak' war on any people, except in self-defence."
"Tell de Rickara to come and visit. We mean no harm."
"Tak' good care dis chief. He will bring word from de Great Fader."
It was a promise and a prayer. Strong chiefs turned away with misgiving and trepidation as they saw Shahaka depart with the white men.
Dropping below their old winter quarters at Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark saw but a row of pickets left. The houses lay in ashes, destroyed by an accidental fire. All were there for the homeward pull but Coalter. He had gone back with Hancock and Dickson, two adventurers from Boone's settlement, to discover the Yellowstone Park.
On the fourth day out three Frenchmen were met approaching the Mandan nation with the message,—
"Seven hundert Sioux haf pass de Rickara to mak' war on de Mandan an' Minnetaree." Fortunately, Shahaka did not understand, and no one told him.
The Arikara village greeted the passing boats. Lewis, still lame, requested Clark to go up to the village. Like children confessing their misdeeds the Arikaras began:
"We cannot keep the peace! Our young men follow the Sioux!"
The wild Cheyennes, with their dogs and horses and handsome leathern lodges, were here on a trading visit, to exchange with the Arikaras meat and robes for corn and beans. They were a noble race, of straight limbs and Roman noses, unaccustomed to the whites, shy and cautious.
"We war against none but the Sioux, with whom we have battled for ever," they said.
Everywhere there was weeping and mourning. "My son, my son, he has been slain by the Sioux!"
Between the lands of the warring nations surged seas of buffalo, where to-day are the waving bonanza wheat fields of North Dakota.
From an eminence Clark looked over the prairies. "More buffalo than ever I have seen before at one time,"—and he had seen many. "If it be not impossible to calculate the moving multitude that darkens the plains, twenty thousand would be no exaggerated estimate."
They were now well into the country of the great Sioux Indian Confederacy. Arms and ammunition were inspected.
The sharp air thrilled and filled them with new vigour. No wonder the Sioux were never still. The ozone of the Arctic was in their veins, the sweeping winds drove them, the balsamic prairie was their bed, the sky their canopy. They never shut themselves up in stuffy mud huts, as did the Mandans; they lived in tents. Unrestrained, unregenerate, there was in them the fire of the Six Nations, of King Philip and of Pontiac. Tall, handsome, finely formed, agile, revengeful, intelligent, capable,—they loved their country and they hated strangers. So did the Greeks. An effeminate nation would have fallen before them as did the Roman before the Goth, but in the Anglo-Saxon they met their master.
As anticipated, Black Buffalo and his pirate band were on the hills. Whether that fierce cry meant defiance or greeting no man could tell.
The whole band rushed down to the shore, and even out into the water, shouting invitations to land, and waving from the sand-banks.
But too fresh in memory was the attempt to carry off Captain Clark. Jubilant, hopeful, and full of the fire of battle as the white men were, yet no one wished to test the prowess of the Sioux.
Unwilling to venture an interview, the boats continued on their way. Black Buffalo shook his war bonnet defiantly, and returning to the hill smote the earth three times with the butt of his rifle, the registration of a mighty oath against the whites.
Leaving behind them a wild brandishing of bows, arrows, and tomahawks, and an atmosphere filled with taunts, insults, and imprecations, the boats passed out of sight.
Wafted on the wind followed that direful "Whoop-ah-ho-o-oh!" ending with the piercing shrill Indian yell that for sixty years froze the earliest life blood of Minnesota and Dakota.
Here in the land of the Teton Sioux was to be planted the future Fort Rice, where exactly sixty year s after Lewis and Clark, there crossed the Missouri one of the most powerful, costly, and best equipped expeditions ever sent out against hostile Indians,—four thousand cavalry, eight hundred mounted infantry, twelve pieces of artillery, three hundred government teams, three hundred beef steers, and fifteen steamboats to carry supplies,—to be joined here on the Fourth of July, 1864, by an emigrant train of one hundred and sixty teams and two hundred and fifty people,—the van guard of Montana settlement. The Sioux were defeated in the Bad Lands, and the emigrants were carried safely through to Helena, where they and their descendants live to-day.
Already sweeping up the Missouri, Lewis and Clark met advancing empire. Near Vermilion River, James Aird was camping with a license to trade among the Sioux.
"What is the news from St. Louis?"
There on the borders of a future great State, Lewis and Clark first heard that Burr and Hamilton had fought a duel and Hamilton was killed; that three hundred American troops were cantoned at Bellefontaine, a new log fort on the Missouri; that Spain had taken a United States frigate on the Mediterranean; that two British ships of war had fired on an American ship in the port of New York, killing the Captain's brother.
Great was the indignation in the United States against Jefferson and the impressment of American seamen.
"The money spent for Louisiana would have been much better used in building fighting ships."
"The President had much better be protecting our rights than cutting up animals and stuffing the skins of dead raccoons."
"Where is our national honour? Gone, abandoned on the Mississippi."
And these coureurs on the Mississippi heard that the conflict foreseen by Napoleon, when he gave us Louisiana, was raging now in all its fury, interdicting the commerce of the world.
To their excited ears the river rushed and rocked, the earth rumbled, with the roar of cannon. To the mselves Lewis and Clark seemed a very small part of the forces that make and unmake nations,—and yet that expedition meant more to the world than the field of Waterloo!
The next noon, on ascending the hill of Floyd's Bluff they found the Indians had opened the grave of their comrade. Reverently it was filled again.
Home from the buffalo hunt in the plains of the Nebraska, the Omahas were firing guns to signal their return to gather in their harvest of corn, beans, and pumpkins. Keel boats, barges, and bateaux came glistening into view,—Auguste Chouteau with merchandise to trade with the Yanktons, another Chouteau to the Platte, a trader with two men to the Pawnee Loupes, and Joseph La Croix with seven men bound for the Omahas.
Through the lessening distance Clark recognised on one of the barges his old comrade, Robert McClellan, the wonderful scout of Wayne's army, who had ridden on many an errand of death. Since Wayne's victory McClellan had been a ranger still, but now the Indians were quieting down,—all except Tecumseh.
"The country has long since given you up," he told the Captain. "We have word from Jefferson to seek for news of Lewis and Clark. The general opinion in the United States is that you are lost in the unfathomable depths of the continent. But President Jefferson has hopes. The last heard of you was at the Mandan villages."
With a laugh they listened to their own obituaries. On the same barge with McClellan was Gravelines with orders from Jefferson to instruct the Arikaras in agriculture, and Dorion to help make way through the Sioux.
"Brave Raven, the Arikara chief, died in Washington," said Gravelines. "I am on my way to them with a speech from the President and the presents which have been made to the chief."
How home now tugged at their heart strings! Eager to be on the way, they bade farewell to McClellan.
Down, down they shot along, wind, current, and paddle in their favour, past shores where the freebooting Kansas Indians robbed the traders, past increasing forests of walnut, elm, oak, hickory.
The men were now reduced to a biscuit apiece. Wild turkeys gobbled on shore, but the party paused not a moment to hunt.
On the twentieth a mighty shout went up. They heard the clank of cow bells, and saw tame cattle feeding on the hills of Charette, the home of Daniel Boone. With cheers and firing of guns they landed at the village.
"We are indeet astonished," exclaimed the joyful habitants, grasping their hands. "You haf been given up for det long tam since." The men were scattered among the families for the night, honoured guests of Charette.
"Plaintee tam we wish ourself back on ole San Loui'," said Cruzatte to his admiring countrymen.
To their surprise Lewis and Clark found new settlements all the way down from Charette. September 21, firing a tremendous salute from the old stone tower behind the huts, all St. Charles paid tribute to the Homeric heroes who had wandered farther than Ulysses and slain more monsters than Hercules.
Just above the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers loomed the fresh mud chimneys of the new log Fort Bellefontaine, Colonel Thomas Hunt in command, and Dr. Saugrain, surgeon, appointed by Jefferson.
The Colonel's pretty little daughter, Abby Hunt, looked up in admiration at Lewis and Clark, and followed all day these "Indian white men" from the north. Forty years after she told the story of that arrival. "They wore dresses of deerskin, fringed and worked with porcupine quills, something between a military undress frock coat and an Indian shirt, with leggings and moccasins, three-cornered cocked hats and long beards."
Standing between the centuries in that log fort on the Missouri, pretty little Abby Hunt herself was destined to become historic, as the wife of Colonel Snelling and the mother of the first white child born in Minnesota.
After an early breakfast with Colonel Hunt, the expedition set out for the last stretch homeward. They rounded out of the Missouri into the Mississippi, and pulled up to St. Louis at noon, Tuesday, September 23, 1806, after an absence of nearly two years and a half.
THE OLD STONE FORTS OF ST. LOUIS
It was noon when Lewis and Clark sighted the old stone forts of the Spanish time. Never had that frontier site appeared so noble, rising on a vast terrace from the rock-bound river.
As the white walls burst on their view, with simultaneous movement every man levelled his rifle. The Captains smiled and gave the signal,—the roar of thirty rifles awoke the echoes from the rocks.
Running down the stony path to the river came the whole of St. Louis,—eager, meagre, little Frenchmen, tanned and sallow and quick of gait, smaller than the Americans, but graceful and gay, with a heartfelt welcome; black-eyed French women in camasaks and kerchiefs, dropping their trowels in their neat little gardens where they had been delving among the hollyhocks; gay little French children in red petticoats; and here and there a Kentuckian, lank and lean, eager,—all tripping and skipping down to the water's edge.
Elbowing his way among them came Monsieur Auguste Chouteau, the most noted man in St. Louis. Pierre, his brother, courtly, well-dressed, eminently social, came also; and even Madame, their mother, did not disdain to come down to welcome her friends, Les Américains.
It was like the return of a fur brigade, with shouts of laughter and genuine rejoicing.
"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! eet ees Leewes an' Clark whom ve haf mournt as det in dose Rock Mountain. What good word mought dey bring from te fur countree."
With characteristic abandon the emotional little Frenchmen flung their arms around the stately forms of Lewis and Clark, and more than one pretty girl that day printed a kiss on their bearded lips.
"Major Christy,—well, I declare!" An old Wayne's army comrade grasped Captain Clark by the hand. What memories that grasp aroused! William Christy, one of his brother officers, ready not more than a dozen years ago to aid in capturing this same San Luis de Ilinoa!
"I have moved to this town. I have a tavern. Send your baggage right up!" And forthwith a creaking charette came lumbering down the rocky way.
"Take a room at my house." Pierre Chouteau grasped the hands of both Captains at once. And to Chouteau's they went.
"But first we must send word of our safe arrival to the President," said Lewis, feeling unconsciously for certain papers that had slept next his heart for many a day.
"Te post haf departed from San Loui'," remarked a bystander.
"Departed? It must be delayed. Here, Drouillard, hurry with this note to Mr. Hay at Cahokia and bid him hold the mail until to-morrow noon."
Drouillard, with his old friend Pascal Cerré, the son of Gabriel, set off at once across the Mississippi. The wharf was lined with flatboats loaded with salt for 'Kasky and furs for New Orleans.
Once a month a one-horse mail arrived at Cahokia. Formerly St. Louis went over there for mail,—St. Louis was only a village near Cahokia then; but already Les Américains were turning things upside down.
"We haf a post office now. San Loui' haf grown."
Every one said that. To eyes that had seen nothing more stately than Fort Mandan or Clatsop, St. Louis had taken on metropolitan airs. In the old fort where lately lounged the Spanish governor, peering anxiously across the dividing waters, and whence had lately marched the Spanish garrison, American courts of justice were in session. Out of the old Spanish martello tower on the hill, a few Indian prisoners looked down on the animated street below.
With the post office and the court house had come the American school, and already vivacious Fren ch children were claiming as their own, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
Just opposite the Chouteau mansion was the old Spanish Government House, the house where George Rogers Clark had met and loved the dazzling Donna.
Aaron Burr had lately been there, feted by the people, plotting treason with Wilkinson in the Government House itself; and now his disorganised followers, young men of birth and education from Atlantic cities, stranded in St. Louis, were to become the pioneer schoolmasters of Upper Louisiana.
New houses were rising on every hand. In the good old French days, goods at fabulous prices were kept in boxes. Did Madame or Mademoiselle wish anything, it must be unpacked as from a trunk. Once a year goods arrived. Sugar, gunpowder, blankets, spices, knives, hatchets, and kitchen-ware, pell-mell, all together, were coming out now onto shelves erected by the thrifty Americans. Already new stores stood side by side with the old French mansions.
"Alas! te good old quiet times are gone," sighed the French habitants, wiping a tear with the blue bandana.
And while they looked askance at the tall Americans, elephantine horses, and Conestoga waggons, that kept crossing the river, the prices of the little two-acre farms of the Frenchmen went up, until in a few years the old French settlers were the nabobs of the land.
Already two ferry lines were transporting a never-ending line through this new gateway to the wider West. Land-mad settlers were flocking into "Jefferson's Purchase," grubbing out hazel roots, splitting rails, making fences, building barns and bridges. Men whose sole wealth consisted in an auger, a handsaw, and a gun, were pushing into the prairies and the forests. Long-bearded, dressed in buckskin, with a knife at his belt and a rifle at his back, the forest-ranging backwoodsman was over-running Louisiana.
"Why do you live so isolated?" the stranger would ask.
"I never wish to hear the bark of a neighbour's dog. When you hear the sound of a neighbour's gun it is time to move away."
Thus, solitary and apart, the American frontiersman took up Missouri.
Strolling along the Rue Royale, followed by admiring crowds, Lewis and Clark found themselves already at the Pierre Chouteau mansion, rising like an old-world chateau amid the lesser St. Louis. Up the stone steps, within the demi-fortress, there were glimpses of fur warehouses, stables, slaves' quarters, occupying a block,—practically a fort within the city.
Other guests were there before them,—Charles Gratiot, who had visited the Clarks in Virginia, and John P. Cabanné, who was to wed Gratiot's daughter, Julia. On one of those flatboats crowding the wharf that morning came happy Pierre Menard, the most illustrious citizen of Kaskaskia, with his bride of a day, Angelique Saucier. Pierre Menard's nephew, Michel Menard, was shortly to leave for Texas, to become an Indian trader and founder of the city of Galveston.
At the board, too, sat Pierre Chouteau, the younger, just returned from a trip up the Mississippi with Julien Dubuque, where he had helped to start Dubuque and open the lead mines.
Out of the wild summer grape the old inhabitants of St. Louis had long fabricated their choicest Burgundy. But of late the Chouteaus had begun to import their wine from France, along with ebony chairs, claw-footed tables, and other luxuries, the first in this Mississippi wild. For never had the fur-trade been so prosperous.
There was laughter and clinking of glasses, and questions of lands beyond the Yellowstone. Out of that hour arose schemes for a trapper's conquest along the trail on which ten future States were strung.
"The mouth of the Yellowstone commands the rich fur-trade of the Rocky mountains," said Captain Clark. Captain Lewis dwelt on the Three Forks as a strategic point for a fort. No one there listened with more breathless intent than the dark-haired boy, the young Chouteau, who was destined to become the greatest financier of the West, a king of the fur trade, first rival and then partner of John Jacob Astor.
No wonder the home-coming of Lewis and Clark was the signal for enterprises such as this country had never yet seen. They had penetrated a realm whose monarch was the grizzly bear, whose queen was the beaver, whose armies were Indian tribes and the buffalo.
Gallic love of gaiety and amusement found in this return ample opportunity for the indulgence of hospitable dancing and feasting. Every door was open. Every house, from Chouteau's down, had its guest out of the gallant thirty-one.
Hero-worship was at its height. Hero-worship is characteristic of youthful, progressive peoples. Whole nations strive to emulate ideals. The moment that ceases, ossification begins.
Here the ideals were Lewis and Clark. They had been west; their men had been west. They, who had traced the Missouri to its cradle in the mountains, who had smoked the calumet with remotest tribes, who had carried the flag to the distant Pacific, became the lions of St. Louis.
Such spontaneous welcome made a delightful impression upon the hearts of the young Captains, and they felt a strong inclination to make the city their permanent home.
The galleries of the little inns of St. Louis were filled with Frenchmen, smoking and telling stories all day long. Nothing hurried, nothing worried them; the rise of the river, the return of a brigade, alone broke the long summer day of content.
But here was something new.
Even York, addicted to romance, told Munchausen tales of thrilling incidents that never failed of an appreciative audience. Trappers, flat-boatmen, frontiersmen, and Frenchmen loved to spin long yarns at the Green Tree Inn, but York could outdo them all. He had been to the ocean, had seen the great whale and sturgeon that put all inland fish stories far into the shade.
Petrie, Auguste Chouteau's old negro, who cam e with him as a boy and grew old and thought he owned Auguste Chouteau,—Petrie, who always said, "Me and the Colonel," met in York for the first time one greater than himself.
Immediately upon their return Lewis and Clark had repaired to the barber and tailor, and soon bore little resemblance to the tawny frontiersmen in fringed hunting-shirts and beards that had so lately issued from the wilderness.
In the upper story of the Chouteau mansion, the Captains regarded with awe the high four-poster with its cushiony, billowy feather-bed.
"This is too luxurious! York, bring my robe and bear-skin."
Lewis and Clark could not sleep in beds that night. They heard the watch call and saw the glimmer of campfires in their dreams. The grandeur of the mountains was upon them, cold and white and crowned with stars, the vastness of the prairie and the dashing of ocean, the roar of waterfalls, the hum of insects, and the bellowing of buffalo.
They knew now the Missouri like the face of a friend; they had stemmed its muddy mouth, had evaded its shifting sandbanks, had watched its impetuous falls that should one day whirl a thousand wheels. Up windings green as paradise they had drunk of its crystal sources in the mountains.
They had seen it when the mountains cast their shadows around the campfires, and in the blaze of noon when the quick tempest beat it into ink. They had seen it white in Mandan winter, the icy trail of brave and buffalo; and they had seen it crimson, when far-off peaks were tipped with amethystine gold.
In the vast and populous solitude of nature they had followed the same Missouri spreading away into the beaver-meadows of the Madison, the Jefferson, and the Gallatin, and had written their journals on hillsides where the windflower and the larkspur grew wild on Montana hills.
An instinct, a relic, an inheritance of long ago was upon them, when their ancestors roved the earth untrammelled by cities and civilisation, when the rock was man's pillow and the cave his home, when the arrow in his strong hand brought the fruits of the chase, when garments of skin clad his limbs, and God spoke to the white savage under the old Phœnician stars.
In their dreams they felt the rain and wind beat on their leather tent. Sacajawea's baby cried, Spring nodded with the rosy clarkia, screamed with Clark's crow, and tapped with Lewis's woodpecker.
"Rat-tat-tat!" Was that the woodpecker? No, some one was knocking at the door of their bed chamber. And no one else than Pierre Chouteau himself.
"Drouillard is back from Cahokia ready to carry your post. The rider waits."
This was the world again. It was morning. Throwing off robes and bear-skins, and rising from the hardwood floor where they had voluntarily camped that night, both Captains looked at the tables strewn with letters, where until past midnight they had sat the night before.
There lay Clark's letter to his brother, George Rogers, and there, also, was the first rough draft of Lewis's letter to the President, in a hand as fine and even as copperplate, but interlined, and blotted with erasures.
In the soft, warm St. Louis morning, with Mississippi breezes rustling the curtain, after a hurried breakfast both set to work to complete the letters.
For a time nothing was heard but the scratching of quill pens, as each made clean copies of their letters for transmission to the far-off centuries. But no centuries troubled then; to-day,—to-day, was uppermost.
York stuck in his head, hat in hand. "Massah Clahk, Drewyer say he hab jus' time, sah."
"Well, sir, tell Drouillard the whole United States mail service can wait on us to-day. We are writing to the President."
Before ten o'clock Drouillard was off to Cahokia with messages that gave to the nation at large its first intimation that the Pacific expedition was a consummated fact.
There were hurried days at St. Louis, a village that knew not haste before. The skins were sunned and stored in the rooms of Cadet Chouteau. Boxes of specimens were packed for the Government. Captain Lewis opened his trunk and found his papers all wet. The hermetically sealed tin cases that held the precious journals alone had saved these from destruction.
The Captains had their hands full. The restless men must be paid and discharged. Nine of the adventurers within a week after the return to St. Louis sold their prospective land claims for a pittance. Seven of these claims were bought by their fellow soldiers; Sergeant John Ordway took several of the men and settled on the site of the present city of New Madrid.
Robert Frazer received two hundred and fifty dollars for his claim, and prepared to publish his travels,—a volume that never saw the light. In addition to land grants, the men received double pay amounting altogether to eleven thousand dollars.
A grand dinner, given by St. Louis, a ball and farewell, and the Captains were on the way with their Mandan chief, Big White, and his Indians, and Gass, Shannon, Ordway, Pryor, and Bratton.
"The route by which I propose travelling to Washington is by way of Cahokia, Vincennes, Louisville, the Crab Orchard, Fincastle, Staunton, and Charlottesville," Captain Lewis had written in that letter to Jefferson. "Any letters directed to me at Louisville will most probably meet me at that place."
With well-filled saddle-bags, the returning heroes crossed to Cahokia and set out across Illinois in the Indian summer of 1806.
Governor Harrison was at Vincennes, and Vigo, and a hundred others to welcome.
"Hurrah for old Kentucky!" cried Clark, as he caught sight of its limestone shores. On many a smiling hilltop, the log cabin had expanded into a baronial country seat, with waxed floors and pianos. Already the stables were full of horses, the halls were full of music.
Clark, Lewis, and Big White climbed the cliff to the Point of Rock. Who but chiefs should visit there?
With newspapers around him, sat George Rogers Clark, following the career of Napoleon. That calm and splendid eye kindled at sight of his brother. His locks had grown longer, his eye a deeper black under the shaggy brows, but the Revolutionary hero shone in every lineament as he took the hands of the two explorers.
With the dashing waters at their feet, upon the lonely Point of Rock, above the Falls of the Ohio, William Clark stopped first to greet his brother from the great expedition. Painters may find a theme here, and future romancers a page in drama.
Without delay, taking his rusty three-cornered chapeau from its peg, and donning his faded uniform, the conqueror of Illinois accompanied the explorers to Locust Grove, ablaze that night with welcome.
Lucy, Fanny, Edmund were there; and Jonathan from Mulberry Hill; Major Croghan, the courtly host of old; and the lad, George Croghan, now in his fifteenth year. All too quickly fled the hours; the hickory flamed and the brass andirons shone not brighter than the happy faces.
Spread around for exhibition were Mandan robes, fleeces of the mountain goat, Clatsop hats, buffalo horns, and Indian baskets, Captain Clark's "tiger-cat coat," Indian curios, and skins of grizzly bears,—each article suggestive of adventure surpassing Marco Polo or the Arabian nights. Another huge box, filled with bones for the President, had been left with George Rogers Clark at the Point of Rock.
Louisville received the explorers with bonfires and cannonry. A grand ball was given in their honour, in which the Indians, especially, shone in medals and plumage.
The next day there was a sad visit to Mill Creek, where lamenting parents received the last token and listened to the final word concerning their beloved son, Sergeant Charles Floyd.
A cold wind and a light fall of snow warned them no time must be lost in crossing the Kentucky mountains; but encumbered with the Indian retinue they made slow progress along that atrocious road, on which the followers of Boone had "sometimes paused to pray and sometimes stopped to swear."
A few days beyond Cumberland Gap, Clark's heart beat a tattoo; they had come to Fincastle! Among its overhanging vines and trees, the Hancock mansion was in holiday attire,—Harriet Kennerly had just been married to Dr. Radford of Fincastle.
Colonel Hancock had been proud to entertain George Rogers Clark, still more was he now delighted with the visit of the famous explorers.
"La!" exclaimed Black Granny at the announcement of Captain Clark. "Miss Judy?" Black Granny had nursed Miss Judy from the cradle.
Sedately Miss Judy came down the long staircase,—not the child that Clark remembered, but a woman, petite, serious. The chestnut brown curls with a glint of gold were caught with a high back comb, and a sweeping gown had replaced the short petticoats that lately tripped over the foothills of the Blue Ridge.
"My pretty cousin going to marry that ugly man?" exclaimed Harriet, when she heard of the early engagement.
There was nothing effeminate about Clark, nor artificial. His features were rugged almost to plainness; his head was high from the ear to the top, a large brain chamber.
"Absolutely beautiful," said Judy to herself, associating those bronzed features with endless winds that blew on far-off mountains.
Behind the respectable old Hancock silver, Judy's mother turned the tea and talked. Turning up his laced sleeves to carve the mutton, Colonel Hancock asked a thousand questions regarding that wonderful journey.
"We passed the winter on the Pacific, then cr ossed the mountains, and my division came down the Yellowstone," Clark was saying. "By the way, Judy, I have named a river for you,—the Judith."
A peal of laughter rang through the dining-room.
"Judith! Judith, did you say? Why, Captain Clark, my name is Julia."
Clark was confounded. He almost feared Judy was making fun of him.
"Is it, really, now? I always supposed Judy stood for Judith."
Again rang out the infectious peal, in which Clark himself joined; but to this day rolls the river Judith in Montana, named for Clark's mountain maid of Fincastle.
"That I should live to see you back from the Pacific!" was Aunt Molly's greeting at "The Farm," at Charlottesville. "I reckoned the cannibal savages would eat you. We looked for nothing less than the fate of Captain Cook."
But Maria, whose eyes had haunted Lewis in many a long Montana day, seemed strangely shy and silent. In fact, she had another lover, perhaps a dearer one.
Uncle Nicholas was sick. He was growing old, but still directed the negroes of a plantation that extended from Charlottesville to the Fluvanna.
It was sunset when Captain Lewis reached the home at Locust Hill, and was folded to his mother's bosom. With daily prayer had Lucy Meriwether followed her boy across the Rocky Mountains.
Meriwether's little pet sister, Mary Marks, had blossomed into a bewitching rose.
"Here is a letter from the President."
Captain Lewis read his first message from Jefferson in more than two years and a half.
Turning to Big White, the chief, who at every step had gazed with amazement at the white man's country,—
"The President says 'Tell my friend of Mandan that I have already opened my arms to receive him."
"Ugh! Ugh!" commented Big White, with visions of barbaric splendour in his untutored brain.
That afternoon the entire party rode over to Mon ticello to show the chief the President's Indian hall, where all their gifts and tokens had been arranged for display. The next day, by Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria, the party set out for the national capital. Every step of the way was a triumphal progress.
THE PLAUDITS OF A NATION
It was well into January before both Captains reached Washington. Workmen were still building at the Capitol, rearing a home for Congress. Tools of carpentry and masonry covered the windy lawn where Jefferson rode daily, superintending as on his own Virginia plantation.
Never had Captain Lewis seen his old friend, the President, so moved as when black Ben, the valet, with stentorian call announced, "Captains Mehwether Lewis and William Clahk!"
In silk stockings and pumps they stood in the Blue Room. At sight of that well-known figure in blue coat faced with yellow, red plush waistcoat, and green velveteen breeches, Meriwether Lewis bounded as a boy toward his old friend.
The gray-haired president visibly trembled as he strained the two sons of his country to his heart. Tears gushed from his eyes, "The suspense has been awful." Then pausing, with difficulty he controlled his emotion. "But the hopes, the dreams, the ambitions of twenty years are now vindicated, and you are safe, boys, you are safe. I felt that if you were lost the country would hold me responsible."
If others had asked questions about the route, Jefferson now overwhelmed them with an avalanche, put with the keenness of a scholar and the penetration of a scientist. For with the possible exception of Franklin, Thomas Jefferson was the most learned man of his time.
Into the President's hands Lewis placed the precious journals, obtained at such a cost in toil and travel. Each pocket volume, morocco-bound, had as soon as filled been cemented in a separate tin case to prevent injury by wetting. But now Lewis had slipped the cases off and displayed them neat and fresh as on the day of writing.
On rocking boats, on saddle pommels, and after dark by the flickering campfire, had the writing been done. T's were not always crossed, nor i's dotted, as hurriedly each event was jotted down to be read and criticised after a hundred years. Written under such circumstances, and in such haste, it is not remarkable that words are misspelled and some omitted. A considerable collection of later letters gives ample evidence that both the Captains were graceful correspondents.
And the vocabularies, the precious vocabularies gathered from Council Bluffs to Clatsop, were taken by Jefferson and carefully laid away for future study.
Big White and his Indians were entertained by Jefferson and the cabinet. Dolly Madison, Mrs. Gallatin, and other ladies of the White House, manifested the liveliest interest as the tall Shahaka, six feet and ten inches, stood up before them in his best necklace of bear's claws, admiring the pretty squaws that talked to them.
"And was your father a chief, and your father's father?" Mrs. Madison inquired of Shahaka. She was always interested in families and lineage. "And what makes your hair so white?" But Shahaka had never heard of Prince Madoc.
Never had the village-capital been so gay. Dinners and balls followed in rapid succession, eulogies and poems were recited in honour of the explorers. There was even talk of changing the name of the Columbia to Lewis River.
In those days everybody went to the Capitol to hear the debates. The report of Lewis and Clark created a lively sensation. Complaints of the Louisiana Purchase ceased. From the Mississippi to the sea, the United States had virtually taken possession of the continent. Members of Congress looked at one another with dilated eyes. With lifted brow and prophetic vision the young republic pierced the future. The Mississippi, once her utmost border, was now but an inland river. Beyond it, the Great West hove in sight, with peaks of snow and the blue South Sea. The problem of the ages had been solved; Lewis and Clark had found the road to Asia.
The news fell upon Europe and America as not less than a revelation.
Congress immediately gave sixteen hundred acres of land each to the Captains, and double pay in gold and three hundred and twenty acres to each of their men, to be laid out on the west side of the Mississippi. On the third day of March, 1807, Captain Lewis was appointed Governor of Louisiana; and on March 12, Captain Clark was made Brigadier General, and Indian Agent for Louisiana.
Tall, slender, but twenty-nine, Henry Clay was in the Senate, advocating roads,—roads and canals to the West. He was planning, pleading, persuading for a canal around the Falls of the Ohio, he was appealing for the improvement of the Wilderness Road through which Boone had broken a bridle trace. His prolific imagination grasped the Chesapeake and Ohio canal and an interior connection with the Lakes.
Henry Clay—"Harry Clay" as Kentucky fondly called him—had a faculty for remembering names, faces, places. As yesterday, he recalled William Clark at Lexington.
And Clark remembered Clay, standing in an ox-waggon, with flashing eyes, hair wildly waving, and features aglow, addressing an entranced throng. The same look flashed over him now as he stepped toward the heroes of the Pacific.
The young men smiled at their new titles.
Another was there, not to be forgotten, strong featured, cordial, cheerful, of manly beauty and large dark eyes, endeavouring to interest Congress in his inventions,—Robert Fulton of the steamboat.
Wherever they went, a certain halo seemed to hang around these men of adventure. They were soldiers and hunters, and more. Through heat and cold, and mount and plain, four thousand miles by canoe, on foot and horseback, through forests of gigantic pines and along the banks of unknown rivers, among unheard-of tribes who had never seen a white man, they had carried the message of the President and brought back a report on the new land that is authority to this day.
"What did you find?" Eager inquirers crowded on every side to hear the traveller's tale. At Louisville, men drove in from distant plantations; at Fincastle their steps were thronged along the village walks; in Washington they were never alone.
"What did we find? Gigantic sycamores for canoes, the maple for sugar, the wild cherry and walnut for joiner's work, red and white elm for cartwrights, the osage orange for hedges impenetrable, white and black oak for ship and carpenter work, pine for countless uses, and durable cedar.
"What did we find? All sorts of plants and herbs for foods, dyes, and medicines, and pasturage unending. Boone's settlers on the Missouri frontier have farms of wheat, maize, potatoes, and little cotton fields, two acres sufficient for a family. Hemp is indigenous to the soil. Even in the Mandan land, the Indians, with implements that barely scratch the earth, have immense gardens of corn, beans, pumpkins, and squashes.
"What did we find? Oceans of beaver and seas of buffalo, clay fit for bricks and white clay for pottery, salt springs, saltpetre, and plaster, pipestone, and quarries of marble red and white, mines of iron, lead and coal, horses to be bought for a song, cedar, and fir trees six and eight feet in diameter, enormous salmon that block the streams."
No wonder the land was excited at the report of Lewis and Clark. All at once the unknown mysterious West stood revealed as the home of natural resources. Their travels became the Robinson Crusoe of many a boy who lived to see for himself the marvels of that trans-Mississippi.
Sergeant Gass received his pay in gold and went home to Wellsburg, West Virginia, to find his old father smoking still beside the fire. With the help of a Scotch schoolmaster Patrick published his book the next year, immortalising the name of the gallant Irish Sergeant. Then he "inlisted" again, and fought the Creeks, and in 1812 lost an eye at Lundy's Lane. Presently he married the daughter of a Judge, and lived to become a great student in his old age, and an authority on Indians and early times. John Ordway went home to New Hampshire and married, and returned to live on his farm near New Madrid. William Bratton tarried for a time in Kentucky, served in the War of 1812 under Harrison, and was at Tippecanoe and the Thames. He married and lived at Terre Haute, Indiana, and is buried at Waynetown. George Gibson settled at St. Louis, and lived and died there. Nathaniel Pryor and William Werner became Indian agents under William Clark; Pryor died in 1831 among the Osages. George Drouillard went into the fur trade and was killed by the Blackfeet at the Three Forks of the Missouri. John Coalter, after adventures that will be related, settled at the town of Daniel Boone, married a squaw and died there. John Potts was killed by the Blackfeet on the river Jefferson. Sacajawea and Charboneau lived for many years among the Mandans, and their descendants are found in Dakota to this day. Of the voyageurs who went as far as the Mandan town, Lajaunnesse accompanied Fremont across the mountains; and two others, Francis Rivet and Philip Degie, were the earliest settlers of Oregon, where they lived to a great old age, proud of the fact that they had "belonged to Lewis and Clark."