Fort Osage, 300 Miles up the Missouri.
At the date of my last letter (early in May) I was just setting out on an excursion to the Indian Country. I did set out for this place on the 11th of May and got back to my post here on the 11th of July, just two months out, during which time I traveled nearly a thousand miles altogether in various directions. Saw a great many Indians of many different tribes, and among other wonders of nature visited and examined the famous Salines beyond the Arkansas River, heretofore unknown except to the Indians.
I received the most friendly and respectful treatment from all the Indians I met with. The weather was generally pleasant and, excepting a few days that I suffered with a fever while at the Pawnees, I enjoyed very good health. On the whole I had an agreeable tour, marked with fewer difficulties than I was prepared to encounter. The following is a brief account of my route, of what I saw and what I did, very nearly so at least
From Fort Osage (Lat. 39 °, 10', 19", Lon. 93°, 51', 5"), I traveled South 60° West, about 75 miles, along the Osage Summer hunting trace, over a country almost entirely prairie, well watered by numerous small rivers, creeks and rivulets, the tributaries of the Osage and Kansas rivers. These all afford more or less of forest growth, consisting of several kinds of oak, hickory, elm, black walnut, cotton wood and some of the larger branches of the Osage afford fine bodies of most excellent kind for cultivation.
This large tract possessed a sufficient variety of surface to render it pleasing, and even delightful to the eye of the mere rambler, and may at no distant period offer inducements even for Christian settlements. At present it abounds with game, deer, elk, some beats and sometimes buffalo.
North 70° West, about 65 miles to the Kansas (or more
properly Konsee) village. This a very wild but extremely beautiful and high prairie country—pretty well watered and variegated with strips of woodland, ranges of lofty rugged, naked hills, overlooking extensive tracts of meadow ground. Deer and elk are plenty, and I observed some antelope skipping among the verdant hills.
On our arrival at the Konsee River opposite the village, the head chief with upwards of an hundred of his warriors came forth on horseback to meet us.
The river was barely fordable, so that they did not cross without some little confusion and derangement of the gaudy trappings of some of the cavalier beaux. We were received in the most respectful manner, in the Indian style, and after getting over the river in which I received all necessary aid, were escorted in considerable state to the town, through an avenue of curious, gaping females, old men, boys and children; a motley multitude. My party (as I should have told you before) consisted of fifteen persons, viz. myself, servant, two interpreters and eleven Osages, my faithful well-tried friend, the spent Osage War Chief Sans Oreille, one of the eleven.
We were all conducted to the House of the Grand Chief Shone-ge-ne-Bare, where we found a feast prepared for us, of which I partook heartily. The Chief and his eldest son (a fine young man of about 32) were unceasing in their kind attention to me, and had everything done in their power to make me and my people comfortable. I was gratified to observe several handsome flags with the stars and stripes, flying in different parts of the town, besides that which gracefully waved over the Chief's Lodge. This marked hospitality was much more than I had expected from these people; for it has been my duty very recently to treat the whole tribe with so much official severity in consequence of some depredations they had committed on some white people, that I had even been advised not to trust myself among them. My friend, Sans Oreille, had cautioned me also, and was really so much concerned for my safety that he scarcely ever left my side during the first day and night of my stay among them. It is due to my friendship for this genuine friend, excellent man, and brave warrior, to state that he accompanied me throughout my whole tour and was never wearied in his watchful care of my person day or night for a moment. More than
once or twice has this friend been the means of rescuing me from great peril, if not destruction. But I do not believe the Konsees (one man perhaps excepted) entertained any other than friendly feelings, towards me.
The Konsee town is seated immediately on the north bank of the Konsee River, about one hundred miles by its course above the junction with the Missouri; in a beautiful prairie of moderate extent, which is nearly encircled by the river; one of its Northern branches (commonly called the Republican fork, which falls in a few hundred paces above the village) and a small creek that flows into the north branch. On the north and southwest it is overhung by a chain of high prairie hills which give a very pleasing effect to the whole scene.
The town contains one hundred and twenty-eight houses or lodges; which are generally about 60 feet long and 25 feet wide, constructed of stout poles and saplings arranged in form of an arbour and covered with skins, bark and mats; they are commodious and quite comfortable. The place for fire is simply a hole in the earth, under the ridge pole of the roof, where an opening is left for the smoke to pass off. All the larger lodges have two, sometimes three, fireplaces; one for each family dwelling in it. The town is built without much regard to order; there are no regular streets or avenues. The lodges are erected pretty compactly together in crooked rows, allowing barely space sufficient to admit a man to pass between them. The avenues between these crooked rows are kept in tolerably decent order and the village is on the whole rather neat and cleanly than otherwise. Their little fields or patches of corn, beans and pumpkins, which they had just finished planting, and which constitute their whole variety, are seen in various directions, at convenient distances around the village. The prairie was covered with their horses and mules (they have no other domestic animals except dogs).
The Konsee River is about 300 ft. wide at the town and is, I believe, always navigable for large keel boats as high as the village. Its main branches flow from the north side, and are received above the town. One or two flow from the south (which interlock with the waters of the Osage) and fall in below, the town. Its mouth is about 30 miles above Ft. Osage. It is a gentle stream and waters a fine, rich, beautiful country
of large extent. The territory claimed by the Konsees is, I believe, all that which is intersected by the waters of their beautiful river. It affords as yet abundance of game, and is supposed to be rich in fine furs.
The Konsees (I call them so, because they call themselves so) are undoubtedly a branch of the Osage (Wasbash) stock, their language is so nearly the same, that the difference is scarcely discernible; and that difference consists almost entirely in a peculiar drawling tone of pronunciation, which the Osages are free from. In their manners and customs they differ from the Osages only in some trifling local peculiarities. At this time the Konsees may number about two hundred and fifty fighting men, with a full proportion of women and children. They are governed by a Chief, and the influence of the oldest and most distinguished warriors. At the present time their councils are very much distracted by ambition and jealousy, though I think the Chief (who is a sensible man), is beginning to effect a reconciliation between the leading partisans. They are seldom at peace with any of their neighbors except the Osages, with whom there appears to be a cordial and lasting friendship, though it is only a few years since they carried on an inveterate warfare against each other. Within the last three or four years they have formed such extensive connections with the Osages by intermarriages that it is scarcely probable that any serious differences will ever again occur between them.
The Konsees are a stout, hardy, handsome race, more active and enterprising even than the Osages, and they are noted for their bravery and heroic daring. They maintain their independence against the Pawnees, Ottoes, Missouris, and other tribes with whom they are continually at war entirely by their bravery. Previously to the cession of Louisiana, the Konsees committed frequent acts of violence upon the French Traders; robbing, beating, and otherwise cruelly treating them; sometimes murdering. One instance is related of their having actually burned some Frenchmen alive.
They were the terror of the country, and were certainly a most abandoned people. But the wholesome and vigorous measures that have been pursued towards them by direction of our Government through my agency, have produced an entire change in them. They are fast reforming from their
brutal state, and judging from what I saw of them "at home" I have no doubt but they will in a few years become a reasonable and orderly tribe.
Their trade is generally allowed to be profitable, but still somewhat hazardous, though far less so than formerly. The traders who venture among them, carry them milled blankets, blue and red strouding, coarse scarlet cloth, brass and copper kettles, fusils, powder and ball, knives, axes, hoes, awls, traps, vermillion, silver ornaments, wampum, beads, tobacco, cotton prints, black silk handkerchiefs, in which they exchanged at very high prices, for beaver, otter, bear, raccoon, fox and deerskin, buffalo, deer and elk tallow, and some few buffalo robes. Sometimes a single trader with an equipment amounting altogether to about $3000 cost at St. Louis, will collect from these people in one season from ten to twenty and twenty-five pack of fine furs (worth at St. Louis about $2.50 per pack) with a large quantity of inferior furs, shaved deerskins, etc. But the next trader who goes there will probably fare very differently. He may be severely taxed by way of remuneration for what was extorted by the cupidity of his predecessor.
North 40 ° West about 120 miles to the Pawnee Towns. The country between the Konsees and the Pawnees is all prairie. For about 25 miles it continued hilly and is well watered; the hills then seem to wear away, and leave an immense level plain, to which the eye can find no other boundary than the horizon and but little to please. There are but few streams of water and those few are so sluggish as to be scarcely drinkable. More than once we were put to some difficulty to find water for ourselves and horses. Wood is also of course scarce and where water and wood are both lacking, game must be scarce. We were fortunate, however, in meeting several herds of elks and buffaloes as they were traversing the plain, from which we made free to take a liberal supply of fine fat beef, marrow-bones, etc. We crossed the Platte about 140 miles above its junction with the Missouri; it is fully s mile wide where we crossed it and so shallow that we forded it easily; in no place did our horses find a depth to the saddle girths and seldom to their knees. It is a turbid stream, very broad, very muddy, and very rapid, full of small islands, banks low, not a tree nor scarcely a shrub to be seen, except on the islands. It is subject to sudden floods, which frequently
remove the islands and sand-bars, and change the currents and channels. It has no certain navigation.
From the Platte, where I forded it, it is ten miles to the Pawnee Republican Town, on the north of Otto fork of the Platte. Immediately on crossing the Platte, I sent an interpreter forward to apprise the Pawnee Chief of our approach, and we then moved slowly onward. About halfway we were met by a troop of about two hundred horsemen, chiefly warriors led by the oldest son of the Great Chief, Chen-a-ta-reesh, who had sent out this escort to conduct us to the Town, and to his august presence. The young Chief acquitted himself in quite a handsome manner, and in considerable style escorted my party (now augmented to twenty by the addition of five Konee warriors), to the town, or rather to the river opposite, which we had to ford. The venerable old Chief met me on the bank, which was crowded with swarms of dirty half-naked children. On reaching the skirt of the town, the Chief desired us to halt. He then divided my party into convenient squads, which he billeted through the village; reserving myself, Sans Oreille, who refused to leave me, and my servant and interpreters, for his own hospitality. This settled, we entered the town and I soon found myself quite comfortably quartered. The day was oppressively warm, and I had been much exposed; so that with a violent headache and some fever (which confined me for two days), I was every way inclined to avail myself of the quiet order of the Chief's family circle.
The Pawnee Republican Town stands on the north bank of the north branch (commonly called the Otto fork) of the Platte, about 200 miles above its mouth. This branch is here about 160 yards wide, and is only navigable downwards for canoes, periangers and such small craft. It is rapid but not muddy. The town stands immediately on the bank in an elevated level prairie, which is hemmed in on the north side by a range of pretty lofty prairie hills, which run parallel with the river a considerable distance, leaving a strip of beautiful level prairie half a mile wide between the river and hills. There is but very little forest growth anywhere near; what few trees there are, are walnut, willow, and cottonwood. On the hill, there are plenty of dwarf plum bushes that yield very excellent fruit. The soil does not appear to be rich hereabout. This town is now inhabited by three tribes of the Paw-
nees, two of which formerly dwelt on the north branch of the Konsee River, about 50 miles in a direct course, above the Konsee village. The successive incursions of the Konsees obliged them to abandon their old towns about two years ago and seek protection under the celebrated Chief Cher-a-reesh whose authority appears now to be firmly established over them all. At present there are but 170 houses in this town, many families who have lived with their friends and relatives since their removal from the Konsee River are but just preparing to erect dwellings for themselves. The Chief informed me that when completed the town will be very nearly double its present size.
Building with the Pawnees is not as it is with the Konsees and Osages and other Indians, an affair of a few days only, and done principally by the women. It is with them a far more serious and difficult undertaking, the process is very nearly as follows, and if I am not much mistaken the Recaras, Mandans, Itans, and several other tribes build in the same manner
The necessary materials being all provided and on the spot a circle of eighty feet in circumference is sunk two feet below the surface of the ground, entirely excavated and perfectly levelled. Stout forks 6 feet high are then planted about 8 feet apart just on the outer edge or bank of the circle, their tops inclining a little inward. These forks are supported inside by a sufficient number of braces and are then connected by strong poles forming in the whole, a circular scaffold. This is covered from the ground up with smaller poles on which is secured with great ingenuity and neatness, a thick covering of long, dry grass. Thus we have the body of the house. Now for the roof. Eight very stout forks are planted upright about 6 feet apart around the center of the circle and are connected by strong poles at the top. Thus we have two circular scaffolds, one within the other, the inner one is enough higher than the other to afford a sufficient slope for the roof. Long, straight poles the thickness of a man's arm are then placed neatly from one scaffold to the other, the ends extending above the inner frame so as to form a small circular orifice to let out the smoke. These poles are then covered transversely with smaller ones, the whole fastened well together with cords, and covered completely with long,
dry grass, prepared for the purpose. The whole structure is then covered with dirt compactly about eighteen inches and afterwards handsomely sodded over with a sort of perennial prairie grass, presenting in the season of vegetation a pretty cone of verdure.
The entrance is by a covered way connected with and neatly joined to the body and roof and sodded, sufficiently wide and projecting far enough to prevent the rain and snow from beating in. Of course there are no windows, except the skylight that lets out the smoke, but I found light enough to read and write. These buildings are strong and durable, commodious and comfortable. They are usually adorned inside with a neat wicker work that is suspended from the roof just above the lower scaffold extending in some quite around. Behind this curtain are the couches of the family raised about two feet above the floor.
The fireplace is in the center and in the best houses the floor is neatly covered with mats and skins, a very good and comfortable carpeting.
The town is built without much regard to order, the houses are placed near together very much resembling a Virginia sweet potato patch which some unskillful planter had neglected to arrange in straight rows. About 10 miles higher up the river is the village of the Pawnee Loups, (Wolf Pawnees) or as they call themselves Ske-nees. I did not visit this town (though I saw their Chiefs). It is represented to be smaller than that of Cher-a-ta-reesh, is at present built in the same style but much better finished. A good understanding appears to exist between the two tribes. The Ske-nees are a more superstitious people, however, in their idolatrous rites. They sometimes offer living sacrifices of prisoners captured in war. Otherwise they appear to be well disposed, kind and hospitable. My indisposition prevented my going to their village within the time that I had allowed myself for my stay among the Pawnees on this visit. My Osage and Konsee friends were very impatient to return to their people, as soon as I had effected a treaty of peace between them and the Pawnees which I completed on the third day after my arrival and as soon as the Ske-nee Chiefs came down to our Council. My stay among these people was from the 28th of May till the 4th day of June, during which time I was more or less
troubled with fever, occasioned by a violent cold and indigestion. I soon recovered my usual robust health and activity after I left the Pawnees, and fattened apace, when we arrived among the Buffaloes, a few days afterwards.
The four tribes of the Pawnees dwelling in the two towns above described may be safely computed, I think, to contain a thousand warriors or men capable of bearing arms in their native conflicts, which you should bear in mind, requires qualifications far superior to those that entitle our youths to be enrolled as militia soldiers. Their women, girls, lads, and children are very, very numerous in proportion. There are several branches of the same stock on some of the head waters of the Red River of Natchitoches and there is another considerable branch living high up the Missouri not far below the Mandans, known by the name of Recaras.
Their language is unpleasant to the ear (so it was to mine at least) and is rather difficult to attain. The Pawnees are a sober minded and well disposed people naturally. The men are in general rather above the ordinary size of our white people, but they are inferior in this respect to the Konsees and Osages and are also less active and enterprising. The women appeared to me filthy in their persons and with some few exceptions come under that class by the Gankees denominated homely. But I must do them the justice to say that they are industrious and very ingenious and neat in their household economy and I should be ungrateful were I to forget to testify to the motherly, and sisterly kindness and attention of the wife and young daughter of Cher-a-ta-reesh whilst sick in his family and during my whole stay. Their views of a future existence like those of all other "Red Skins" in North America in a state of nature, are dark and confused, and to themselves unsatisfactory. But, like all other of the "Native American Race" that I have known they have a decided religious bias towards a Supreme Being, on whom they depend for all things, and on whom they call daily in fervent prayer for help. Much superstititon and some rank idolatry is mingled with their religious worship, but it seems to me that with judicious means and efforts, the benign light of Christianity may be easily set up not only among the Pawnees, but also among the other North American tribes. Sure, I am, that all efforts to civilize any of these tribes will be of
little or no avail until the religion of Jesus Christ in all its sublime simplicity and beauty shall be fixed in their hearts and understandings and made the grand law of their actions. But few of them have ever yet even heard of the Christian's God.
The Pawnees carry on an unceasing warfare against the Itans (or Hie-tans) from whom they plunder an incredible number of horses and mules, and many of these in turn fall into the hands of the Osages and Konsees, Ottos and Missouris, by theft and purchase.
They sometimes push their predatory excursions to the Spanish settlements of New Mexico. The Loups or Ske-nees committed such serious depredations there a few years ago, as induced the Governor of that province to send a strong detachment of mounted militia to their town to chastise them or, as the old Chief told me, "to kill them all." The commander of this detachment consulted Cher-a-ta-reesh on his arrival at the Republican Town, and was by him (so he told me) persuaded to spare the Ske-nees, which I presume the old warrior found it easy enough to do. In a few days after this Spanish Rabble had left the Pawnees, Lieutenant Z. M. Pike arrived there with his exploring party of about twenty-five men including Lieutenant Wilkinson (son of General Wilkinson) and Dr. John A. Robinson. Lieutenant Pike stayed several days, recruiting his party, purchasing horses and was treated kindly. When he announced his intention of pursuing his journey towards the Spanish settlements, the old Chief promptly objected, and said he had promised the Spanish officer who had just been there to prevent any American party from passing through his country towards New Mexico, and that he must redeem his promise. Pike replied that his Chief had ordered him to go, go he would or die in the attempt.
"Why," said Cher-a-ta-reesh, "you have only twenty-five warriors here, and I can command a thousand and have them here in less than half a day; how then can you go if I forbid it? You are a brave young warrior, and your men are all braves also, but what can so few do? I respect you, I love you, I love you as my own son. I love brave men. Do not oblige me to hurt you, you must not pass." Still Pike persisted and having all things ready, solemnly announced to the Chief that on the following morning he should pursue his
journey to the Mexican mountains, at the same time thanking him for his hospitality. The morning came, and the rising sun found Pike with his men all mounted, well armed and equipped, their broad swords drawn.
The old warrior Chief had summoned his forces also, and there they stood (more than 500 in number) armed with bows and arrows, spears and tomahawk in gloomy silence, each party waiting the order of their Chief.
Cher-a-ta-reesh, unarmed and on foot, approached close to the side of Pike and with much emotion urged him to desist, but in vain, pointing to the sun and to a small blue speck in the sky just above, "Brave Chief," said he, "When the sun reaches yon point in his daily journey, I shall surely set out upon mine. I will start, I and my brave comrades here, and nothing but death can stop us, it is my duty, as I have told you. If you think it yours to obey the Spaniard and to stop me, be it so, but the attempt will cost the lives of some brave men, that you may be sure of."
Not two minutes remained, the Chief stood in thoughtful silence whilst Pike addessed his own men, all was ready, the soldiers were bracing themselves firmly in their saddles, the Indian Warriors had strung their bows, and some had fixed their arrows (more sure and deadly than bullets). Pike's hand grasped his sword hilt, yet in its scabbard (its being drawn was the appointed signal for the onset for his whole party was surrounded by the Pawnees).
What a moment! In a few minutes, perhaps an hundred brave men would bite the dust. One word from the Pawnee Chief was only wanting to prevent this waste of human life. The humanity of the good old Chief prevailed. He ordered his people to open the way, to put up their weapons, and let the little band pass freely and go unmolested in whatever direction their Chief chose to lead them, then turning to Pike, he said, "Brave young Chief, you are free to pursue your journey, were I now to stop you by destroying you, the only way I am convinced that it can be done, I should forever after feel myself a coward. But Cher-a-ta-reesh is no coward, no man alive dare call me so, but the brave love those who are brave. The Spanish Chief with more than 500 men seemed afraid to strike the Ske-nees though they had robbed him. I only whispered in his ear a few words and he went home again
as he came. If he wishes to stop you he may do it himself. Cher-a-ta-reesh will no longer interfere."
After some friendly adieus, Pike and his men set forward in order at a brisk gait and soon left the Pawnees out of sight but not out of mind, for they loved to speak of the brave Americans.
I have given you these incidents just as they were related to me by the great Pawnee Chief. He further told me as in connection, that during Pike's stay in his village he had surrendered to him at his request all his Spanish medals and flags, upon his promise that they would be replaced by others from his great American father, but he had not yet seen or heard anything more about them. He feared they were forgotten. All this conversation about Pike, you must understand, took place the morning after I reached the Pawnees, and whilst I lay on my pallet in the Chief's lodge, and before I had entered upon any business, or even told him why I had visited him and his people. Nothing could have suited the occasion better than this previous communication from the Chief about my friend Pike, and his promise of medals and flags, all entirely new to me or to any other agent of the Government. Not one word of the whole story did I doubt the truth of. Now as my main business at the Pawnees was to let them know exactly what were their relations with our Government and that their former dependence on and allegiance to the Spanish authorities in New Mexico was entirely dissolved, I had taken care to provide myself well with American Flags and medals, to make use of, as occasion might seem to require. As soon as the old Chief had concluded his narration, which he wound up by telling me about the medals and flags Lieutenant Pike had promised him, I seized on the coincidence (I think justifiably) not only to aid my own views, but also at the same time to vindicate Pike; and pay his promises. I therefore quickly, informed the Chief that the medals and flags were then actually there, and should be delivered, sick as I was, on that very day if he desired it. He said he was satisfied that I had brought them and would wait till I got over my headache and felt well again, for their delivery. And in the meantime would announce the facts to the Pawnees and so he hid. Criers were sent around to tell the news that the stranger just arrived was the brother of the "brave young
American Chief" (they all knew Pike by that name) and had brought with him the promised medals and flags. Feeling much better in the evening, I unpacked my baggage, selected three handsome flags, one for each tribe in the Town, and presented them to Cher-a-ta-reesh, and they were waving high over the village in a very short time. I also sent one to the Ske-nee Town. On the last day of May I held a grand council with all the Chiefs and head men of both towns, four tribes, and then after due inquiring as to fit persons, distributed a number of medals of various sizes. I fear I have fatigued you with these details, I am desirous of preserving the fact, and have therefore ventured to be thought a little tedious.
It was very natural for the Pawnee Chief to be less reserved towards me after he had identified me with Lieutenant Pike whom he so much admired, when he introduced me to his people, as the brother of Pike, he meant and was so understood, merely to say that I was his countryman, and the old man seemed to think it sufficient honor for any man to, be called the "Countryman of Pike."
He placed all his papers in my hands for examination, and I was then enabled, with some verbal explanations to learn that this Chief had been much courted and flattered by the Spanish Governor of New Mexico. I was not a little surprised to find letters from that functionary, and from the late commandant at Baton Rouge dated in 1807 to Cher-a-tareesh, expressing their satisfaction of his loyalty and adherence to the Spanish King. These letters were accompanied by medals, flags, and, other presents.
The Governor of New Mexico had often invited him to Sta. Fe, but he had always declined the visit. Among these papers was a letter from the same source of the same date and style, addressed to "White Hair" late Chief of the St. Osages, which it seems White Hair refused to receive. Those Spanish officers were either very ignorant or very impudent to be thus tampering with the Indians within our acknowledged limits, so long after the cession of Louisiana, and I did not omit to explain to the Pawnees very fully that the Spanish authorities had no longer any control over them.
These people have been so long dependent on the Spanish Government and have had so little intercourse with our people that it is not at all surprising that they are even yet some-
what biased in favor of their former friends. From what they have recently seen of our people they are evidently impressed with the most exalted opinion of the bravery and power of "Pike's Countrymen," an impression the very reverse of what they feel towards the Spaniards. Certainly it is worth some pains to cultivate a better acquaintance with these people. I distributed some presents among their leading men, and made peace between them and the Konsees and Osages, and left them with a strong desire on their part to become better acquainted with us. I invited Cher-a-ta-reesh and his Chiefs to visit met at Fort Osage, and presume they will do so before the winter sets in.
The Pawnees hunt over a very extensive country, abounding with buffalo, antelope, and elk, some bear, horses, and a few deer, and is supposed to be rich in fine furs. Their trade would be very valuable and profitable if they were located on a navigable river. What few goods they get are to be carried on packhorses an hundred miles overland from the Missouri. The risk and expense of this, deter the traders from visiting them often and then only with a scant supply. From the Spaniards they get no goods at all unless they go for them, which they very seldom do. It takes them from 12 to 15 days to go from their towns to Santa Fe, but they usually travel slowly. It is seldom indeed that they go there to trade. What few goods come from that quarter are presents to the Chiefs and head men. Having so uncertain a market for their furs and peltries, their attention is chiefly confined to the buffalo hunt, which furnishes them an abundant supply of food and clothing and is much the least laborious. They do furnish some fine furs however. Their chief staple is buffalo robes. These they dress and prepare exceedingly well and ornament many of them very handsomely with porcupine quills. They make a composition of a sort of red clay and powdered flint with which they manufacture, with no little skill and neatness, A kind of wide mouthed jar or pitcher of various sizes capable of enduring great heat, which they use as a pretty good substitute for kettles to cook with.
Leaving the Pawnees, on the 4th of June, our course lay south about 16° East to the hunting camp of En-jet-tas (Little Osages) on the bank of the Arkansas, distance 175 miles. We recrossed the Platte some distance higher up than when
on our way to the Pawnees, at a ford where it is one-fourth wider. Our route lay through a very interesting country. From the Platte to the north branch of the Konsee River, about sixty miles the country is rather indifferently watered, but it afterwards assumes a very different character, besides the North branch we crossed two other considerable forks of the Konsee and a number of smaller streams that flow into them. The same range of hills that we crossed fifty miles southeast at the Konsee Town here again intercepted our course. It was fine, pleasant weather. I had entirely recovered from my late indisposition and was in excellent spirits when we traversed this romantic tract, so that I enjoyed with infinite satisfaction the enchanting prospects afforded from these heights( remember we were still in the boundless prairie). From these we overlooked a vast extent of level meadow ground to the North and Northeast, through which were to be traced a great number of rivulets and creeks, glittering in the snshine and hastening to the main branches of the Konsee. Numerous herds of elk and antelope were frisking in the gay flowery plain, giving life and animation to the charming scene. From where we crossed the Konsee to the Arkansas, it is about thirty-five miles and the country is much more level and less interesting. The day before we got to the Arkansas, we passed the Konsee hunting camp and I could not resist the very warm invitation to stop with them a short time. The Konsees were very thankful for my aid in procuring peace for them with the Pawnees and Ottoes, and seemed eager, one and all, to show their gratitude. I found them encamped on a beautiful high spot near a small creek, all busily engaged jerking (drying on scaffolds) the flesh of the buffalo, and as the old Chief said "all getting fat." They had killed just hard by, upwards of one hundred fat buffaloes, feasting and merriment were the order of the day and of the night too, and I promise you I enjoyed myself very well among them, till about 10 o'clock the next morning, when I pursued my route, and at 3 p. m. of the same day, arrived at the Little Osage hunting camp, where I was received with a kind of sober hospitality bordering on affection. Showing that I was not regarded by them as a stranger, but rather as one (as in some sense) belonging to the tribe. They had been encamped where I found them about 10 days and had already killed up—
wards of 200 buffaloes. As they proposed to continue their route towards the Grand Saline in a few days, and my horses were much jaded, I concluded to remain with them till they moved on, and to travel with them for, a few days, in order to witness what I was curious to see, a whole tribe, men, women, and children, horses and dogs, with all their movable effects, enjoying the summer buffalo hunt in the vast prairies of the West, for this great hunt is literally a season of enjoyment with all these roaming tribes. It is whilst they are thus employed that they appear to the best advantage. I passed my time during my sojourn among these, my old friends, very pleasantly. They, one and all, seemed to exert themselves to amuse and make me comfortable. Altogether I was with them in camp and on the march ten days, one object that I had in view (indeed it was with me a prime object) was to organize a party of about one hundred Osages. to go with me to the Rock Saline, after I should return to their camp from the Grand Saline, the latter of which I intended visiting first with a small party of only eight or ten persons. But I was assured that it would be very hazardous to go to the Rock Saline, sometimes called "Jefferson Salt Mountain" with less than 100 active men, organized in all respects as a war party, that no Indians ever thought of visiting that famous spot or region round about it, otherwise than in pretty strong force. I found that with the influence of my friend San Oreille who offered to go himself, that I might accomplish this object, and fearing to lose so good an opportunity that might never occur again, I was the more urgent in making all the necessary preparations. No white man (as San Oreille and the Chiefs assured me) had ever yet been known to have visited either of those Salines, and all that was known of them at all, was through some vague Indian stories, told with much exaggeration by a waggish Spanish trader to Major Stoddard, whose well-known credulity on all that related to the wonderful in the far unexplored West was frequently abused. This story, passing through the medium of the Major's pen to Washington City gave rise to the famous "Salt Mountain" story. The opportunity now presented to me, to look into those things, was too favorable to allow me to omit to profit by it. Having at length, though not without considerable difficulty and expense, arranged all things satisfactorily for a
trip to the "Salt Mountain" as soon as I should return to the Osage camp from the Grand Saline, we all moved on, south 50 ° west about thirty miles to a small prairie creek, south of the Arkansas.
We crossed the Arkansas at the start, at that place it is 200 yards wide, rapid, shallow and red. It is remarkable that the moment you set foot on the Southwest side of this river, you observe a striking difference in the face of the whole country. Its branches that fall in from the northeast side are all clear and fringed with trees, but those from the southwest side are all deeply tinged with red, and are deficient in trees and are slightly brackish. The soil is very red, the country is all prairie, and from its appearance when I passed over it must very recently have been overrun with buffalo, the grass was closely cropped and the whole plain as far as I could see was covered like a cattle pasture with animal excrement. But the buffaloes themselves had fled far away. Leaving the Little Osage camp on the creek already noticed (which they would leave the very next day for a place where they expected me to join them again), I and my little party struck off south 40 ° east thirty miles, and arrived at the hunting camp of the Great Osages, who welcomed me with much kindness. The country traversed in this ride is such as has already been described, we crossed two small rivers, both rapid, shallow, and red. The next day early, we rode 20 miles south 15° east, to the hunting camp of the Arkansas Osages (commonly called the Cha-neers) over the same sort of country, though rather more hilly, crossing two other little rivers like those of yesterday. I was received by the Chief (Clermo) very cordially indeed. I consider myself pretty much at home with any of the Osages. I will note here for your information that the Osages (or as they call themselves War shash-ees) are separated into three distinct tribes. The Chaneers who live on the Arkansas, the Bar-har-the (or Great Osages) and the Eu-jet-to (or Little Osages) who dwell on the Osage River. The terms Great and Little Osages refer only to the size of their towns, and not at all to their personal corporosity. They are all friendly and intimately connected.
I spent the night among the Cha-neers, and left them about noon the next day. We now steered very nearly due
west and in that direction traveled about thirty-two miles over broken prairie crossing a number of creeks, all red and rapid, and on most of them found some scattering elm trees. Under one of those we camped for the night, having now arrived at a sandy region by which the Grand Saline is entirely circled. In the morning pretty early we pursued our way still west eight miles to the Grand Saline. These last eight miles lay for the most part over a range of barren sand hills (not red sand) on the sides of which are here and there a few dwarf plum bushes not over thirty inches high, from which we gathered abundance of very large delicious red plums. A number of small rivulets of fine crystal water pass along among these sand-hills in deep beds affording on their margins a few scattering clumps of dwarf plum bushes and cotton trees.
From the last ridge of these hills in our course, I had an imperfect view of the Saline, interrupted however, by an intervening skirt of cotton trees, extending through a low flat prairie nearly parallel with the Saline and hills for some miles. My Indian guides were quite on the alert as we traversed this wood, there might be some lurking danger there. Some of their people had been waylaid and killed by a band of Padorcas in that very wood, near where we were passing. But we passed through without seeing or hearing any danger. At the farther side of the wood we came to a small river, running pretty rapidly from the southwest to the Arkansas, through the edge of a plain of hard red sand. This stream is divided by sandbars into three channels, each about twenty yards wide. Its water was of a deep red color and quite brackish. We forded it without difficulty or danger, save that the bars between the channels and the banks on both sides were a good deal quaggy (quicksand) causing us to be in a hurry.
Being now safely landed over this curious looking river, I found myself on a level hard sandy plain, the southern side or extremity of the Grand Saline and I had leisure quietly to contemplate the wonderful scene before me, far surpassing anything that I had ever pictured to my mind from the descriptions I had obtained from Indians. It is a perfectly smooth and nearly level plain of red sand, so hard on the surface that our horses made no impression with their hoofs, except on the thin crust of salt with which it was en-
tirely covered. As our horses moved about, the idea of riding over ground covered with sleet occurred to us all and we remarked with one voice in the same breath, the very striking similitude. I endeavored to ascertain as nearly as it was possible, circumstanced as I was, the probable extent of this vast salt plain. My eye is pretty well practiced in making estimates of distance in the prairies, but here it was impossible from the nature of the surface (white and shining) to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion from mere visual observation. I had no instruments. I questoined my intelligent friend Sans Oreille as to how long it would take to travel around it on the outer sandy margin of the plain. He has never been around it, but made a guess, as did the other Osages present. Finally, I believe I am safe within the mark, when I state as I now do, that the Grand Saline is fully thirty miles in its circumference. I mean the sandy plain that I saw covered entirely with salt, about the 24th of June last.
Its figure is an irregular one, much the widest at the southwestern extremity, and narrowing towards the northeastern arm, where I crossed it, at which point it is certainly more than 3 miles wide.
The salt crust that covered the whole of this plain when I saw it, was pretty uniformly of the thickness of a wafer, in some places nearly thrice that thickness, and was the production of less than twenty-four hours of sunshine interrupted by frequent intervals of cloudiness, and its temperature reduced very much by a prevailing breeze from the southwestward. For ten days previous to my arrival at the Saline, till two days before, it had been excessively rainy. Such torrents had fallen that the two small rivers, that run, one on each side of the plain (nearly encircling it) were after two days cessation of rain, nearly swimming to our horses, and had evidently inundated the whole plain, as appeared from the drift wood that lay scattered over it and still more evident from a little fish that I picked up more than two miles from either stream. Sans Oreille at once affirmed that the Saline had been all inundated very recently and that the two streams seldom contain as much depth of water as would swim a dog.
If then I had arrived two days sooner than I did I should have found but a very slight appearance of salt, probably none
at all, and the whole plain flooded. But if we had got there twelve or fifteen days earlier, we would have found it entirely covered with a beautiful clean white crust of salt, from two to six inches in thickness, of a quality quite equal, I think, to the imported "blown salt" perfectly clean, and fit for use. In this state the Grand Saline bears a striking resemblance to a brilliant field of snow, with a crust on it after a rain. Had we arrived the day after the overflow, we should have found vast quantities of much salt, so to call it, collected in the hollows and furrows formed in the sand near the lower angle of the plain. I saw a specimen of this, consisting I should guess of some thousands of bushels, but it was of a reddish tinge, from a slight mixture of red sand. These conclusions, drawn on the spot from what I saw and from what I was told on the spot by Sans Oreille and afterwards by other Osages, who had often visited the Saline, and seen it in all its various stages of operation, may be relied on for their accuracy.
Although I was not so fortunate as to find the Grand Saline in its most perfect condition, for the reasons that I have mentioned, yet I was highly gratified to find such incontestible evidence of the rapidity and vast extent of its operations. The whole plain (equal in its area to a circle thirty miles in circumference) was perfectly covered with a brilliant white crust of excellent salt. So that so far as respects the general appearance to the view it was very nearly the same, as if it had been in its highest state of perfection. So the Osages assured me and my own observations confirmed.
This beautiful white dazzling surface (bordered by a fringe of verdant green) has the effect of looming, as the sailors call it, producing to the unpracticed eye, much delusion. The plain was sprinkled over, with numerous small herds of buffaloes, only one of which appeared to be at all disturbed, the one consisting of some thirty or forty, seemed to my vision, to be so near that I was unable to resist the temptation for a chase. My horse was fleet though somewhat tired, however, I called to a young Osage, who was well mounted on a trained buffalo horse and equipped with bow and arrows (far better than any other weapons) to accompany me. At first he declined, saying the buffaloes were too far off, but seeing me resolved on the chase, and willing I supposed to let me convince myself how much I was deceived as to
the distance we should have to run, we set out. The buffaloes were crossing our course, at right angles and were going at their utmost speed. What I had supposed would prove about five hundred yards to intercept them, turned out to be more than a mile. We met our chase, to speak nautically, exactly at right angles from where we started and the Osage dispatched two of them in the most graceful style, whilst I uselessly shot two others with my pistols. I am sure we saw the rest of the drove running in the same direction full half an hour, and yet they appeared almost within gun-shot, so great and deceptive is the looming on the salt plain. In estimating its area, I have made allowance for this, but probably too little. As soon as Sans Oreille and the rest of the party had joined the young Osage and me at the dead buffaloes, and we had helped ourselves to some nice cuts for our supper, we pursued our way leisurely over the crusty plain. We crossed a narrow neck, in a southwesterly direction which judging from out time, I think would measure more than three miles over. The great body of the Saline lay on our left, and presented an almost boundless prospect, terminated by a range of hills, dimly seen slightly tinged with green. Leaving the Saline, now late in the day, we crossed a flat marshy prairie more than a mile over, and came to a branch of the Arkansas, about 600 feet wide, running in a pretty deep channel. It was evidently much above its usual depth, though not quite swimming. This stream runs parallel with the northwest extremity of the Saline, and united with that (already mentioned) which passes on the opposite side a short distance below the Eastern point of the Saline. So I was informed by Sans Oreille, for I did not take time to examine into it myself. Relying on the intelligence of Sans Oreille, I desired him to draw me a map of the Saline and its environs, according to what he knew of it, which he very readily did, on the crust, at the two dead buffaloes, from which I give you the following sketch:
From this you may be able to form some tolerably correct idea of the locality of the Saline.
The Grand Saline is probably not exceeding eighty or at most one hundred miles from a navigable part of the Arkansas, and I am of the opinion that a good wagon road may be easily made, from one to the other in a pretty direct line. The
land is generally pretty level and smooth, and the streams easily bridged where they cannot be forded. Whether an attempt will ever be made to draw this inexhaustible store of ready made salt into the channels of commerce, or not I will not now inquire, but if it should ever be found desirable to do so, I do not entertain a doubt of its practicability. And so I leave it.
Our scouts (for we had to be much on the alert) reported that they had seen some horsemen in the hills southwest of us, and thought it probable that there was a band of Padoncas or Comanches over in that direction, towards the Rock Saline, which lays as near as I could find out, about sixty to eighty miles south abt. 70 ° W. from where I crossed the Grand Saline, (an Osage can point with great accuracy, the course from one place to another where he has ever been; and can estimate distances pretty well also).
My party was entirely too weak, (there were only nine of us, six of whom were Osages), to allow of my risking our safety by remaining here any longer against the decided counsel of Sans Oreille. Therefore we struck off Northwest towards where Sans Oreille expected his people were then encamped, and on the next day, having rode thirty-six miles from the Saline, over a very broken prairie, we arrived at the Little Osage hunting camp, on a beautiful stream in the prairie where they intended to remain for some weeks. They were living most luxuriously on fat buffalo beef, tongues, marrow bones, hominy, dried pumpkins, plums, and other dainties. All was mirth and merriment. I never witnessed so much apparent happiness, so generally pervading an Indian nation. And being pretty much at home among them (you know I speak Waw-shash tolerably well) I entered into the spirit of their enjoyments, so far at least as was not inconsistent with my station, a consideration that I made it invariably a point of duty never to lose sight of, for I have ever held it to be very wrong for any white man having the advantages of a Christian education (and much more so if he occupies an official station among them) so far to forget himself in presence of the Indians, on any occasion, as to compromise his proper dignity of character by any frivolity of conduct or conversation. I may say with truth, that my own influence with the tribes
within my agency has been very much increased by a scrupulous adherence to this rule.
When I returned to the Osage camp from the Grand Saline, I found my war party ready. Waw-be-soon-je, a warrior of some celebrity, was the partizan leader, supported by Shinga-wos-sa, a son of Sans Oreille. The party consisted altogether of ninety-four active Osages, very well eqiupped. They set out on their march (all on foot) the day after my return. I was to overtake them the next day at a place appointed. I had seen the Osages in all situations I believe; except their military character, and now behold me as a sort of supernumerary volunteer about to join Captain Waw-be-soonje in his expedition to the "Salt Mountain." Sans Oreille, and my servant Henderson accompany me in the same capacity of volunteers. We overtook the army at the appointed time and place, and were soon on our march. Sans Oreille, Jemmy Henderson and I on good fresh horses. The weather was delightful and everything seemed to promise a pleasant and interesting excursion. So indeed it turned out, as you shall see.
From the Osage camp our course was south 40° West, and at the distance of near about 75 miles, I found the Rock Saline."