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Kansas Historical Quarterly - Bypaths of Kansas History - February 1939

(Vol. 8, No. 1), pages 104 to 107
Transcribed by Susan Stafford;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.

SANTA FE AND THE WEST IN 1841

From the New York (Weekly) Tribune, November 13, 1841.

From the Evansville (Ia.) Journal.

We are permitted by a gentleman residing in the neighboring county of Gibson to take the following extract from a private letter from a friend, dated Santa Fe, July 20, 1841. The writer says:

"I left Vincennes on the 23d of April for St. Louis, with a view of ascertainng the object of the visit by the company raising for the Pacific Ocean. When arrived at St. Louis, I found I had to proceed to Independence, the upper country on the Missouri river, and adjoining the Indian boundary, four hunIred miles farther. There I found three different caravans busily recruiting. The Rev. Bishop Smidth, with a caravan to establish a mission amongst the Black-feet Indians, in the valley of the Columbia river, who left with the caravan to California, by way of the head waters of the Columbia river, cornmanded by Col. Bartletson and Richma, composed of about 90 persons, male and female. The second to California composed of about 100 men, and about 30 women and children - the yearly caravan composed of merchants to this city, Chewawa and Senora, composed of about 80 men, and 40 wagons, loaded with merchandize, &c. The caravans all left between the 8th and 10th of May. After ascertaining the object of the California caravan, Gov. Boggs and myself having understood positively a caravan was to leave from Santa Fe, to join the same one by the way of Columbia, raised 10 men and agreed to leave in time to overtake the Santa Fe company at or near the Arkansas, but the evening previous to our departure, the governor's wife was taken unwell, and he was compelled to abandon the adventure. Accordingly on the 19th of May, myself with three others, with three little wagons, loaded with provisions and arms, and three riding mules, left the line of Missouri for the Far West. The Indian country as far as the Council Grove, two hundred miles from the line, is perhaps as fine a tract of country as can be found in the world, there is rather a scarcity of timber, but in soil and water none superior. The Council Grove, as it is called, is the ancient site of a once proud and mighty city. It is situated on the main White river, which here forms a crescent or curve of about 9 miles in circumference, and contains more than a hundred mounds, half of which are more than ten times as large as those near Vincennes - those in the centre are in the form of a square, many containing a surface of more than two acres, some in the form of a triangle, and others perfectly round. Here the Pawnee, Arapah[oe], Cumanchee, Loups, and Eutaw Indians, all of whom are at war with each other, meet and smoke the pipe of peace once a year. Every person and thing are sacred for many miles around the peaceful grove.

This ceremony has been handed down for many centuries to the red men by their forefathers, and here their chiefs and great men are brought from hundreds of miles to be interred - one of whom, but a few weeks before we passed, had a proud mound of stones erected to his memory, with a pole painted red and a scalp appended thereto, to show that he had been a great brave. The

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numerous camps every where to be seen around here, at once convince the traveler that here is the great rendezvous of thousands annually. From thence onward for 400 miles, there is nothing to be seen but one eternal desert, without one - even one solitary stick of timber to cheer the eye for thirty days. Nothing here is to be had but buffalo dung to cook the food that is used, but of this the whole prairies are covered, and it is an excellent substitute. We overtook the caravan in sight of the Arkansas, about 400 miles from the line of the U. States, and 800 from St. Louis, without trouble by the Indians, and attached ourselves thereto for duty in crossing the river which is much larger than at the mouth, and always muddy and rolling her quicksands into bars almost every hour, so that fords and crossings are dangerous and uncertain. From the Arkansas river the scarcity of water commences, and even the little that is to be had is so deeply impregnated with salt, sulphur and -, that stern necessity alone brings the traveler to the use of it. On the Simerone river there are one or two good springs, at one of which we met of the Arapahoe Indians 500 warriors, who treated us with a proper friendship, elated with their success ten days before, when in battle they killed seventy-five Pawnees. We gratified them with encamping on the battle-ground, where the unburied bodies were yet almost unbroken. The next day we visited their lodge, six miles from the battleground, where we had a full view of savage life in a perfect state of nature; among 500 women and children there were but few that had ever before seen the dress and equipage of the white man. - After leaving these good and friendly Indians, we were cheered in eight or ten days with the far-distant appearance of the Rocky Mountains. From day to day as we approached them, the beauty of the scenery increased, and when within twenty miles the reflection of the sun through the melting snow, that eternally crowns their highest peaks, is splendid beyond all description. Here the traveler beholds a chain of many hundreds, nay, thousands of miles, piled up, as it were, until they reach to heaven, with stone, uncovered with shrubbery or verdure of any kind; nothing but the white caps of snow, and the rough and terrific precipices varied for the eye to behold, until you reach the crossings of Red river, at the foot of the mountain, and here the pine and cedar tree again on the mountain side and in the valley greets the eye once more; and here on this plain we had to encounter 300 Eutaw warriors, but after repeated skirmishings, they were fain to retreat without effecting any damage of consequence. From here to the good town of Bogas, we found water, wood and good cheer.

The caravan arrived in this city on the 2d July, all in good health, in less than two months; the quickest trip ever made over the desert. Now for Santa Fe or the Holy City. It is situated in a valley 10 miles long, and from 2 to 5 wide, surrounded by immense mountains covered with pine and cedar trees, and affords the most beautiful scene the eye can conceive, or the mind imagine. Santa Fe is the seat of government of New Mexico, and is commanded by a governor general. It is also a military post, port of entry and depository of all the ancient archives of the neighboring states. The houses are built of raw bricks, two feet long, six inches deep, and one foot wide, made with straw and mud, and dried in the sun, and such is their durability that many houses more than two hundred years old are standing and look well; they are only one story high, handsomely whitewashed inside, with dirt floor. Even the place in which his Excellency resides has no other than a dirt floor, but they

106 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

are generally covered with carpets; the houses are covered with stones and dirt, and are flat-roofed and perfectly weather-proof. The city contains six churches, generally richly fitted out. The population is about 8,000 inhabitants, all rigid Roman Catholics. It is situated on a small branch of the Rio del Norte, and about fourteen miles from the main river, which is near the size of the river Wabash at Vincennes. Now for the character &c., of the inhabitants: The ladies certainly are far more beautiful in this country than those of the same ranks in America; their jetty black hair, piercing black eyes, slender and delicate frame, with unusual small ankles and feet, together with their gay, winning address, makes you at once easy and happy in their company. Perhaps no people on earth love dress and attention more than Spanish ladies, and it may be said of a truth that their amorous flirtations with the men are matters to boast of among themselves. They work but little; the Fandango and Siesta form the division of time.

The Fandango is a lascivious dance, partaking in part of a waltz, cotillion and many amorous movements, and is certainly handsome and amusing. It is the National dance. In this the governor and most humble citizens move together, and in this consists all their republican boast.- The men are honest, perhaps more so than those of the same class in the United States, proud and vain of their blood, the descendants of the ancient Spaniards of their pure blood, those of the Spaniards and Pueblo Indians, the descendants of their Great Monarch Montezuma, doubly more so. The pure blood cannot inherit office here; the present governor general and all the officers of state are of the mixed blood of Montezuma. This has been the case since the year 1836. In that revolution fell the most honorable and beloved of all the native Spaniards in Mexico, and all his family were banished. In the city there is but one officer of justice, the alcalde, and he has nothing to do. The commerce of this place is certainly very considerable, and although there is but one gold mine worked here now and one copper mine, yet the daily receipts afford about six or seven hundred dollars net. Generally from one to two hundred and twenty hands are employed at work. The revolution has set every thing back here in the mining departments, as they are generally held by natives of old Spain, and accounted forfeits to the general government after the revolution. This thing will soon be settled, and then the Holy City will appear in all her gaudy plumage again.

I start in two or three days for California; the company consists of about two hundred Americans and Spaniards, to co-operate on the 1st of January, 1842, with the Columbia caravan, at Monterey on the Bay of San Francisco. We expect the governor will allow us to settle and concede to us certain lands, &c.

PORTRAIT OF SUSAN

On or about May 11, 1858, a trunk with contents was allegedly lost at the Shawnee House in Leavenworth. Its owner was one Susan Stone who promptly took legal action to recover a sum of money to satisfy this loss. An inventory of her property has come to light after eighty years in the business papers of the lawyer who

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represented her. The records divulge nothing further about Susan - whence she came or why, or the length of her stay in the territory. But no one whose possessions have been made a matter of public record remains unknown and thus we have a portrait of Susan which may be a fairly accurate picture of any young woman of 1858 setting out for the frontier. The practical and the aesthetic lay cheek by jowl in Susan's trunk. She was prepared for anything that the frontier might offer.

The trunk and contents were listed as follows:

1 Trunk 2.00 1 Pr Mitts .50 1 Shawl 8.00 2 Linen Hdkfs 1.00 1 Delaine Dress "Wool" 9.50 1 Veil 1.00 4 ~items not named] 15.00 1 Rose Wood Work Box 3.00 1 White Basque 3.50 1 Pr Boots 2.50 5 Night Dresses 6.50 1 Bible .75 4 Chemise 6.00 Books 2.00 2 Skirts 2.00 1 Pr Ear Rings 2.00 3 Pr Drawers 4.50 3 Aprons .75 3 Yds Cotton Cloth .38 1 Wool Plaid Dress 8.00 Thread .60 2 Calico 3.00 1 Brush & 2 Combs 1.50 3 Belt Ribbons 1.25 1 Accordian 2.00 3 Daguerreotypes 2.50 1 Finger Ring 3.00 _______ 1 do do 2.00 $98.73 2 Fine Collars 4.00

AN INDIAN BURIAL

From the Dodge City Times, October 5, 1878.

On the Indian trail, five miles west of Cimarron, and two miles north of the river, lying within a few hundred yards of the trail, on Saturday last, was found the dead body of an aged squaw. The body was discovered by a Cimarron party, it being wrapped up in two blankets and covered with a buffalo robe, and placed on two poles or two sticks. Such was an Indian burial by a roving band striking terror wherever they go.