The remains of large bridges crossing the San Bois and Little River near their junction with the Canadian have suggested a historical mystery that has baffled much research. It is known that these bridges were destroyed during the Civil War but their earlier history has been shrouded in doubt. It was only with the discovery of the subjoined report of Edward F. Beale that the origin and use of these bridges has been made clear.
Beale's expedition was one of a series undertaken for the purpose of establishing a route from Fort Smith westward to California. The first was that of Capt. R. B. Marcy in 1849. In 1853 Lieut. A. W. Whipple was directed to explore a route for a railroad along the Canadian River as part of the proposed railway from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. The rapid growth of California and the increasing emigration to that region called for better facilities for transportation and a mail contract was let to the Overland Mail Company of which John Butterfield was the president. In September 1858 the first of the Butterfield mail stages departed through Missouri, Arkansas and Indian Territory for California over a route that crossed the Red River near the present Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, and from there proceeded in the direction of El Paso and westward on what was known as the Southern Route.1
Beale was directed to survey a route from Fort Smith westward along the Canadian River for a wagon road which should continue to the Colorado River. He was engaged in this expedition for nearly a year, and from his home at Chester, Pennsylvania, on December 15, 1859 prepared and forwarded to the Secretary of War an interesting report. In compliance with a resolution of the House of Representatives February 15, 1860 this report was submitted to the House. From the reading of the report it appears that Beale was enthusiastic over the possibilities
1For an account of this route see "The California Overland Mail Route through Oklahoma," by Grant Foreman, in Chronicles of Oklahoma, IX, 300.
of the route for a wagon road and he gave many interesting details of what was evidently an enjoyable expedition. During the entire winter, he said, "my men were exposed night and day to the open atmosphere, some of the messes not using for the whole journey their tents, and others but rarely. The winter was said to have been one of uncommon severity, yet, although my men were exposed on their guards at night, and their duties with pickaxe and shovel in cutting down the embankments of creeks, and with the axe and saw in making bridges, during the day, and to the continual discomfort of a daily march, not one of them had occasion to complain of the slightest sickness during the journey. The country over which we passed was one of the most attractive description." Nature had supplied the route "most bountifully with the three great requisites for an overland road, wood, grass, and water."
Beale submitted with his report estimates of the cost of building a railroad over the route covered by him from Fort Smith to Antelope Hills at the western boundary of the present Oklahoma. He estimated "for graduation, masonry, track, engineering, expenses and equipment, $9,311,900." Beale included as part of his report the journal kept by his assistant, F. E. Engle, reading as follows: (G. F.)
"October 28, 1858.—After some ten days' delay at Fort Smith in making our preparations, we started to-day and came with the wagons to Warren's. I passed the day with Mr. John B. Luce,2 whose information on all subjects relating to the 35th parallel is more extensive and thorough than any other with whom I am acquainted. From my conversation with this gentleman I gained much valuable information, besides some excellent maps, and the second volume of Grieg's Commerce of the Prairies,3 the best
2John B. Luce was a former Indian agent whose active and interesting life had given him much information concerning the Southwest. His son, Mr. Will Luce, now living at Fort Smith, Arkansas, inherited his father's interest in the Southwest and has contributed written accounts of his recollections.
3Josiah Gregg; Commerce of the Prairies; or, Journals of a Santa Fe Trader during Eight Expeditions across the great Western Prairies and a Residence of nearly Nine Years in Northern Mexico, 1831-39. On one of his expeditions Gregg left Van Buren and Fort Smith in 1839 and traveled westward on the north side of the Canadian River over the route pursued by Beale and on to Santa Fe.
book ever written on prairie life, and particularly valuable to me, as this gentleman was the first to explore the line over which our road, for the most part, passes.
"About ten days ago I despatched Mr. George Beale to Fort Arbuckle to obtain the services of a guide, or three, if possible. He returned day before yesterday, bringing the disagreeable intelligence that neither of the men for whom I had sent would consent to start out this season, on account of the hostilities existing between our people and the Comanches; Black Beaver4 and Jesse Chisholm5, the one a Delaware and the other a half-breed Cherokee, both agreeing that the Comanches would burn off every blade of grass as we advanced, so that we would soon not have an animal left, and be obliged to return on foot, a prospect by no means agreeable. I shall, however, go on, and trust to luck for a guide, or go without one. After straightening out camp I shall go myself to Arbuckle,6 and see what I can do with the Black Beaver. The country is so well known that it is hardly worth while to say anything of it between our first camp and Fort Smith;7 only one stream is crossed which requires bridging, which is the Poteau. This stream is about a hundred yards wide, and is bold and rapid. Its mouth is at Fort Smith, emptying there into the Arkansas.
4Black Beaver was a celebrated Delaware guide and scout who was born at the present site of Belleville, Illinois, in 1806, and died at Anadarko, Oklahoma, May 8, 1880. From 1934 until his death his services were in constant demand by the government and were invaluable to the military and scientific explorers of the plains and the Rocky Mountains. He was chief of a band of five hundred Delaware Indians living on the Canadian River in the 50s in the vicinity of old Camp Arbuckle northeast of the site on which Pauls Valley is built. He served in the Mexican War at the head of a company of mounted volunteer Shawnee and Delaware Indians.
5Jessie Chisholm was also famous as a guide, scout and trader among the southwestern Indians. He married a daughter of James Edwards, a white man with a Creek family, who conducted a trading establishment on the right bank of Little River southeast of the present Holdenville and about a mile and a half from the Canadian River. Chisholm travelled back and forth between the white settlements and the Colorado River in Texas exchanging goods for skins, peltries and horses. Later, at the time of Beale's exepedition he had moved farther west where he conducted his own establishment.
6Fort Arbuckle referred to in the text is old Camp Arbuckle on the south bank of the Canadian River in the present McClain County, Oklahoma, and where Black Beaver and his band occupied the abandoned log houses erected by the troops under Capt. R. B. Marcy in 1850.
7Beale's tabulated report of his itinerary notes during the first ten miles after leaving Fort Smith: "deer abundant; quail and prairie chickens in great numbers. A few wild turkeys."
"October 29.—We were up at five o'clock this morning, and travelled through a heavy rain all the morning. It has rained every day for the past ten, and apparently not done yet. We have passed through a pretty country to-day, being about equally divided between prairie and wood land. We passed to-day but one stream which will require bridging, and at which place we found considerable difficulty in crossing. Its name was the Yellow Bank.8 Towards evening the rain ceased, and at half-past ten we encamped on a fork of the Yellow Bank, having made fourteen miles. We find here a fine open prairie, skirted with heavy timber. One stony hill was crossed by us to-day, but not a very bad one.
"October 30.—We were off this morning at six and a half o'clock. It rained on us all night, and as our blankets were taken up a pool of water filled the depression our weight had made in the soft soil where we lay. After travelling a few hours in the cold rain it cleared up partially, but soon became overcast again, and we encamped on a little rivulet now running smartly with the recent rains, but I presume never a stream except during rainy weather. Our road to-day has very much resembled that of yesterday, being equally divided with prairie and wood land, and the grass abundant, even in the timber. At the crossing of the San Bois river we found a delay of two hours necessary to make the banks passable for our wagons. We found it fordable at this time, not being much more than belly deep for horses; but there are evidences of its frequently being impassable. I shall therefore bridge it.9 It is about thirty-five yards from bank to bank, and the stream itself in its present low state probably twenty-five.
"October 31.—A drenching rain fell on us all night, accompanied with terrific thunder and lightning, and a heavy gale.
8Yellow Bank Creek appears on modern maps as Red Bank Creek. Here are to be seen the abuttments of the bridge built pursuant to Beale's survey. The crossing is about seven miles northwest of Spiro, Oklahoma.
9An iron bridge was subsequently built here pursuant to Beale's recommendation. Judge Malcolm E. Rosser of Muskogee, told me that during the Civil War after the passage of a contingent of Confederate troops his father was directed to remain behind and burn the bridge, which he did. Part of the iron frame of this bridge is still to be seen in the waters of San Bois Creek and the place acquired the name that appears on modern maps as "Iron Bridge." It is a few miles east of the present Stigler, Oklahoma.
We got up from the mud this morning stiff with our night's unrest, and hitching up our teams, rode nine miles facing the wind and rain, which continues without intermission to the present time, giving the prospect of another wet and stormy night. The country as yesterday. At half-past ten o'clock we encamped near a small creek heavily fringed with timber, and a fine prairie on both sides. We were delayed a short time in repairing the road, which, with the, exception of the place spoken of, was very good.
"November 1.—Rained on us again all night, and all to-day very cloudy, with a cold west wind blowing in our faces. We came fifteen miles and a half, and reached our present camp at ten o'clock, leaving our morning camp at eight o'clock and thirty-five minutes. The road has been excellent all day, in spite of the two weeks rain. Our time made over it with loaded wagons is sufficient proof of this. We passed over the Longtown creek this morning, and were delayed an hour in working the crossing. This stream will require bridging. The country traversed to-day, the same as yesterday; very beautiful to the eye; prairies and wood land. We find abundance of small game such as partridges and prairie chickens; but Delaware Dick finds little for his rifle, as the Indians living here have hunted out the larger game.
"November 2.—Up at four, and off at daylight; the night and day have been clear and almost cold. After travelling some nine miles we came to the Winchester mountain, which we found steep and rocky. The road, following, I suppose, some old Indian trail, took us straight up the hill; a little engineering at this point and a few thousand dollars would make a capital road over the mountains, as the land lies beautifully, and all the necessary material is at hand. A few miles beyond we came to and crossed the Canadian river; here about one hundred and fifty yards wide from bank to bank. On the south side the bank is rocky, but the northern shore sandy. The river was high, and in consequence we ferried it, and swam our loose mules over. It would be difficult to bridge this stream, and as it is fordable for the most part of the year, and only raised now by recent rains, I consider it better to leave it unbridged for the present, and until the necessities of the road demand it. After crossing the Canadian we en-
camped at the town of North Fork,10 which we found an insignificant village. Here we found corn had advanced from its usual rates of two bits to a dollar a bushel; of course, there had been a short crop, a drought, an unusual demand—in fact, a thousand plausible reasons were given for this increased price—but the true one kept far out of sight, which was that a government train and its quartermaster's drafts were on the road. Quitting the town, which had nothing inviting in its appearance, we encamped about half a mile beyond it.
"November 3.—I started this morning in advance in order to try and get corn at a cheaper rate than the agent of the government agent offered it to me, which was one dollar and a half a bushel. After a ride of thirty-five miles I came to Jim Graham's, an Indian, where I was well received, and who, not being a contractor, sold me corn at seventy-five cents a bushel. Being in such good hands, we spent the night with Jim very comfortably.
"November 4.—Arrived at Little river. At this place I found a trading house belonging to Mr. Aird, and was received by him with kindness and hospitality.11 It gives me pleasure to say that we found in him an energetic assistant, eager and willing to promote our enterprise and forward it in every way. He readily sold us corn at a dollar, being a third less than we were offered it by others, and in everything we purchased of him we found the prices a great reduction on those of North Fork.
10North Fork Town was a dense Creek settlement between the main Canadian River and the North Fork of the Canadian and a short distance from their junction. During the gold rush of 1849, 1850 and 1851, many of the emigrants came over substantially the same route travelled by Beale to North Fork Town, and here were located merchants from whom the emigrants purchased horses, cattle, corn and other supplies. Asbury Mission was constructed here in 1849 by the Presbyterian missionaries. The Baptists also were active here. A postoffice named Micco was established here August 4, 1853 with Catlett J. Atkins as postmaster. Upon the construction of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad through the country the merchants abandoned Micco or North Fork Town in the spring of 1873 and removed to the railroad forming the nucleus around which the present city of Eufaula was built. Micco postoffice was discontinued April 21, 1873, and a postoffice was established then at Eufaula, February 6, 1874, with John F. Simpson as postmaster.
11Beale's party is now traveling in the Creek Nation. Thomas Aird was an Indian trader at the Edward's Trading Settlement on the right bank of Little River. During the gold rush this was the most important settlement and trading post between Fort Smith and Santa Fe and emigrants to California were warned to complete their equipment and purchases before leaving here as there would be no other opportunity to make amends for not doing so until arrival at the Mexican settlements. This trading settlement is described in detail in Foreman, Advancing the Frontier.
"November 5.—This morning, about noon, arrived Mr. Laws. I had sent this gentleman on the south side of the Canadian from Scullyville in order to settle the disputed question as to which is the shortest road, that by the south side, or the one we have followed; until a comparison is made of the readings of the viameters we shall not be able to decide. Little river, which we crossed at this place, will require bridging,12 and is a fine stream about two hundred yards from bank to bank. The bed is rocky; the water, excepting after a rain, clear and abounding in fish, some of such size that they straightened out our largest hooks. Catfish have been caught here weighing a hundred pounds.
"November 6.—Our wagons arrived and encamped near us; we are now awaiting our escort.
"November 7.—Compared distance by Mr. Laws' viameter13 and our own, and find his road three miles shorter; so much for that matter, which has been a bitter dispute between the north siders and south siders ever since I arrived at Fort Smith. Laying by waiting for the escort.
"November 8.—Weather seems to have made up its mind to clear; beautiful morning; still waiting for the escort.
"November 10.—Leaving our hospitable friends at Mr. Aird's we started this morning at nine o'clock, and after travelling seven miles over a very pretty country and a tolerable road, encamped by the side of Little river in a pretty open prairie, covered with fine grass and skirted with abundant timber of ash, elm, hackberry, and oak. I shall now travel slowly until the escort overtakes us. The weather bright, clear, and pleasant.
"November 11.—Started by seven o'clock and travelled over an excellent road and through a beautiful country for fifteen miles, when we encamped in a fine prairie, skirted with oak, and having fine water in a small ravine. It has been a matter of remark with
12The bridge recommended by Beale was accordingly constructed here and was destroyed during the Civil War. At a low stage of the water the abutments may still be seen in place on each side of Little River. This bridge was located between Edwards Trading Settlement on the right side of the river and the site of old Camp Canadian or Fort Holmes on the left side, the latter being near the residence of Mr. Nicholas Bilby.
13A viameter was a wheel with a mark on the measured circumference. By counting the revolutions of the wheel as shown by the mark it was possible to measure the distance traversed by it.
all our party—the amount of mast which this country produces. Everywhere in the timber we find the ground covered with hickory nuts and acorns, and in the bottoms a few pecan trees add to the variety of hog feed. The country today has been the same as that passed through for some days back, excepting that the prairies are getting broader and more frequent, the woodlands separating them being only narrow belts. Our road has been along a high ridge for the most of our day's journey, and has been over limestone, with occasionally gravel and a little sand.14
"November 12.—Started at seven o'clock and travelled until one, making a little over sixteen miles.15 The road excellent and following a divide or ridge all the way. Timber and grass and water abundant. At one we encamped at a pool of water which came from a spring at its head. The pool was large, probably thirty yards in length and half as many in width, with three feet of water in it, and fringed with trees and bushes. We have found to-day on our road an immense amount of fine gravel, mixed with sand. Of the sixteen miles over which we have passed, at least half has been gravel ridge, covered with small oak. Of course, it is impossible to say how much water may be found in this road at dry seasons, but we have found it abundant in every hollow.
"November 13.—We were up at four o'clock and off before sunrise. Shortly after leaving camp we came to the end of the belt of timber in which we had passed the night, and a beautiful stretch of rolling prairie lay before us dotted over in some places with trees, and in every little ravine running from the divide we were travelling upon we found a fringe of timber. Game begins to get more abundant as we approach the verge of the semi-civilized tribes through which we have been passing, and to-day Dick, the Delaware, brought in two fine deer. Wild turkeys and raccoons are also very abundant. Our road to-day has been excellent, and by two and a half o'clock, including a delay on the road of half an hour, we had made seventeen miles, when we encamped in good grass near a small stream. At this camp I notice for the first time on this road the gramma grass of New Mexico, mixed
15This day the expedition passed within a mile of Jesse Chisholm's home south of their route. In his tabulation Beale notes that this was the last settlement they would pass. Chisholm's home was in the southern part of the present Pottawatomie County.
with a good deal of the buffalo grass of the plains, from which it differs but little. Of gramma grass there are many varieties, and all most excellent. That alluded to at present is called 'Gramma de Chino,' or Curly Gramma, by the New Mexicans. This evening, near our camp, I found R. Frank Green, esq., with his mail stages, awaiting my arrival, and intending to take advantage of my escort to pursue their way to New Mexico. Mr. Green has been waiting nearly a month, the late fight of Major Van Dorn, (United States army,) and the hostilities consequent thereon making it impossible for him to pass the Comanche nation unprotected.16 This is a most unfortunate matter, as he had prepared himself at great expense and trouble to carry out a contract which he had entered into with the Postmaster General to carry the mail from Neosho, Missouri, to Santa Fé, New Mexico. Of course, under the circumstances, the government will see that he suffers no loss by reason of its inability to control the Indians with whom we have treaties. Nevertheless, under any circumstances, it frustrates for the time this enterprise, for which the preparation has been expensive, and which has been made with the greatest promptness and energy.
"November 14.—Leaving our camp at half, past six o'clock, we travelled slowly along, marking our way by cutting down such trees as obstructed the passage of the wagons and blazing others. The country, to-day, has been equally as beautiful as that of yesterday; but the soil reminded me more of that of California, a rich black loam mixed with sand. We crossed several very pretty brooks of clear running water, which made me regret that I was not thirsty. The banks of these pleasant streams were all steep so that we were delayed in cutting them down in order to cross. I noticed that the banks of all of them were of red clay, which, in Virginia, is said to denote limestone. At one o'clock we reached Choteau's creek and found it a fine clear stream, running through a bottom filled with pecan trees, hackberry, and cotton-wood, and
16They are now in Cleveland County. The journalist refers to the unprovoked massacre of a large number of Comanche Indians by Maj. Earl Van Dorn at the Wichita village near the present Chickasha, Oklahoma. Van Dorn, in ignorance of the fact that the Comanche were there on a peace mission, fell upon them with a force of 400 cavalrymen and killed four Wichita and sixty Comanche Indians. The Comanche had been driven out of Texas and smarting under their abuse, they depredated on the white people. For an account of the hostilities of the Indians at this period see Advancing the Frontier.
the finest pasturage we have had since we left Fort Smith. The bottom is covered with wild rye, fresh green grass, and pea-vines, on which our mules soon filled themselves to repletion, and the majority soon lay down, unable to feed longer. The bottom, at this place, is of vast extent, and the common bottom grass covers it waist high. Although detained over two hours, we have made, to-day, from half past six to one o'clock, ten miles and a quarter.
"November 15.—We lay by to-day again waiting for our escort. This morning, getting up before day, Mr. Baker and myself took our guns and strolled into the woods, where we soon secured two wild turkeys each, besides wounding one which escaped us. The bottom abounds in fine food and shelter for them. We have employed most of the day in cutting a road through the timber, and cutting down the banks of the creek, to make it passable for wagons. I also sent a party out to the Canadian, which flows close to us, to cut out a crossing for that river. At this point I have determined to send back my first assistant, H. B. Edwards, esquire, in order to superintend the construction of bridges over the streams we have crossed, the sites having been already selected by myself. I part with this gentleman with great reluctance, having much need of his services, and relying greatly on his calm and deliberate temper and judgment for assistance in all cases of difficulty, especially I shall miss him when it becomes necessary for any reason that I should be absent from camp, which is frequently the case. I rode yesterday with Mr. Green up this stream for about three miles, and discovered on a small tributary of it the remains of old Choteau's trading post;17 looking among the ruins, I found a human skull, which I tied behind my saddle and brought to camp. From the old fort we extended our ride to
17At this point a rough fort was established in 1835 where important treaties were negotiated between Gov. Montfort Stokes and General Arbuckle, representing the United States, and the Wichita and their associated bands or tribes; and between these western Indians and the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw and other immigrant Indians. Shortly thereafter Col. A. P. Chouteau built on the same site a small stockade fort where considerable trade was carried on with the Comanche, Kiowa, Wichita and associated tribes until his death three years later when the place was abandoned. The exact location of this fort was at a spring on a small creek called Chouteau's Creek on the northeast side of the Canadian River about five miles northeast of where now is the town of Purcell. This place was sometimes called Fort Mason for Maj. R. B. Mason who established it, and also bore the name of Camp Holmes, not to be confused with Fort Holmes on Little River. It was better known in later years as Chouteau's Trading Post. Here Beale's party found a number of Kichai Indians living. And here also they killed a number of turkeys.
the Canadian, and crossing it ascended the opposite bank looking for a good crossing. I found the river a broad sandy bottom, but the actual stream of water was not more than fifteen yards in width. The crossing was excellent, and the bed so broad (over half a mile) that bridging here would be entirely unnecessary. The grass had been burned off a day before, but we found a good camp to which we shall move our camp to-morrow. There is abundance of timber of cotton-wood, pecan, walnut, hackberry, ash, and hickory on both the Canadian and this stream.
"November 16.—We were up this morning at four and off at seven o'clock. Following the route I had chosen, we crossed Choteau's creek where we had cut down the banks at our camp, and crossed the Canadian. The slush ice was running down the river, and the edges of it encrusted with ice as thick as a dollar. To cross the Canadian we followed up the bottom, about two miles and a half, and forded the river, which was knee deep only, and the bottom was of fine hard sand. After crossing we encamped on the edge of the bottom, where the hills commence, and found it like Choteau's creek, filled with fine grass and pea-vine; walnut, pecan, ash, and hickory were all abundant. Wild geese, duck, and game of all kinds were plenty. Above our camp was a lake close to the bluffs, with high grass, in which we found geese plenty and a variety of ducks. We moved to-day only three miles, as we are still awaiting our escort, which must now be near. Mr. Edwards left us to-day.
"November 17.—Up at four and off at half-past six o'clock. Leaving the Canadian, we ascend gradually to the divide by a road we had previously cut out. The divide reached, we found the ground firm and hard, and the travelling excellent. The grass on the divide was entirely burned off, leaving it so bare and so desolate in appearance as is possible to conceive. We followed the divide until near noon, our road, consequently, was not a straight one, but the travelling excellent. Many hollows head up towards the top of the divide, the waters drained by them running south into Walnut creek, a tributary of the Canadian. The hollows are all well timbered, but water is seldom found in them. About noon, having no particular reason for hurry, and being desirous of seeing Walnut creek, I turned from our course some
three or four miles, intending to encamp on it for the night, and go back on to the Canadian in the morning. On this account the distance travelled should not be taken into account, in summing up the whole distance to Albuquerque. We are now only moving camp daily a short distance, and waiting for the escort to come up.18 I found the Walnut creek bottom of great fertility, bearing abundant grass, and plentifully timbered with the same wood as growing at Choteau's, on the Canadian. The appearance of the creek is troublesome on account of the thickets and brambles growing near it. The stream itself is clear, cold, three feet and a half deep, and about six yards wide. Fish and turtle seem plenty. Game is here easily taken. Our hunter, the Delaware, brought in three deer and a wild turkey, besides which numerous opossums and raccoons were captured by our men.
"November 18.—We were up at four and off at twenty minutes past seven. The morning was so cool that most of us took it afoot. The sun was bright and clear, with a slight but keen breeze from the northward. We took a ridge gradually, ascending from Walnut creek to the main divide, and, after travelling nine miles, made camp in an oak grove, a portion of the cross-timbers which extend in a belt varying from five to fifty miles in width for a great distance north and south. Our road was excellent, being on the summit of the divide, and overlooking a great extent of country, with Canadian and Walnut creeks frequently both in sight at one time. We passed an infinite number of hollows on both sides, heading up in the divide and cutting into it so far as to make it very narrow in some places. These hollows are all well wooded, and some carry water. At noon we encamped in the grove of oak timber, having crossed in the bottom, a hundred yards or so, before we came to it, a fine pool of water fed by a perpetual spring, affording abundant water for any number of animals, and unlike the other hollows we have passed, which have steep banks, it is in almost a flat, and very easy of access. The Delaware brought in two fine deer and two raccoons shortly after leaving camp. We saw to-day a buffalo bull, being the first we have met with. We shall now look out for Mr. Indian, as it is generally the case when buffalo are on one side of the hill an In-
18They are now on the south side of the Canadian River and traveling through the present McClain County between the river and Walnut Creek.
than is on the other. In consequence of running off to Walnut creek our road on paper would present quite a crooked appearance.
"November 19.—Determined to remain all day in camp to await Mr. Steen. In looking at this country with a view to building railroads along it, I am convinced that the most feasible is in the valley of the Canadian. The bottom through which this river runs is almost always two miles wide, the stream itself never exceeds twenty feet. The bottom is as level as any other meadow, and offers, as far as my judgment goes, no obstruction to the location of a railroad. On the other hand, the getting up on the divide, or the crossing in a straight line the numerous ravines which have been mentioned as cutting into it almost to the centre, would be too laborious and costly. It snowed on us last night, and this morning is gloomy, with continued snow. The Delaware brought in a fine doe.
"November 20.—Saturday, laying by in camp awaiting our escort. Captain Noland, United States army, and young Ogden left us to return home, having become tired of the journey and somewhat disheartened at the gloomy appearances ahead. I discovered to-day that I was poisoned, and expect for the next two weeks a pleasant time of it.
"November 21.—Left camp at about ten o'clock and moved over to our present camp five miles. A wooded and open prairie country alternately.
"November 22.—Raised camp at nine and came a mile and a half, moving merely to shift our camping places and for fresh grass. We are encamped on the northern and western verge of the Cross Timber,19 and find the black jack decidely the best fire-
19Gregg described the Cross Timbers as "the 'fringe' of the great prairies, being a continuous brushy strip, composed of various kinds of undergrowth; such as black-jacks, post-oaks, and in some places hickory, elm, etc., intermixed with a very diminutive dwarf oak, called by the hunters, 'shin-oak'. Most of the timber appears to be kept small by the continued inroads of the 'burning prairies,' for, being killed almost annually, it is constantly replaced by scions of under-growth; so that it becomes more and more dense every reproduction. In some places, however, the oaks are of considerable size, and able to withstand the conflagrations. The underwood is so matted in many places with grapevines, gree-briars, etc., as to form almost impenetrable 'roughs,' which serve as hiding-places for wild beasts as well as wild Indians; and would, in savage warfare prove almost as formidable as the hammocks of Florida." These Cross Timbers varied in width from five to thirty miles and their remains are to be seen today by the travellers going through that region of country.
wood I ever used. It seems inexhaustible in quantity. The grass here is abundant, and although the late snowstorm covered it to the depth of six inches, it still affords good grazing for our animals. The Delaware killed a fat bear. The day has been bright and warm, and we hope to-morrow the snow will be all gone. I have found it so far much colder on this parallel than I thought it would be. See table of barometer.
"November 23.—The day broke fine and clear and the snow rapidly disappearing. Still waiting for our escort. At half past nine moved camp three miles and a quarter. Wood is now getting scarcer, as we have entirely passed the Cross Timbers, and we find it only in the ravines leading from the divide to the Washita on one side and the Canadian on the other. We are now but a few miles from Marcy's trail of 1849, and expect to strike it tomorrow if we move.20 The Delaware brought in a deer.
"November 24.—Started at ten o'clock and came four and a half miles. Encamped at good water; wood sufficient and grass plentiful. We followed the divide, not leaving it at all, and our present camp is on a tributary of the Little Washita, separated from the waters that fall into the Canadian by a divide scarce a hundred yards wide. Still awaiting the escort, which cannot now be far behind. Mr. Green has just handed me a letter, Mr. Steen, through his adjutant, informing me that he will be up in two days. I was poisoned a few days ago, and to cure the poison used mercurial ointment on the parts affected; this produced salivation, rendering me unfit for anything in the world. The day has been warm and pleasant, with a south wind, and the snow almost entirely gone. The Delaware brought in a deer.
"November 25.—We left camp this morning between seven and eight o'clock. Last night was pleased to see Dr. Duvall, the surgeon of the escort, who passed the night with us. We came today, in some eleven miles, to a little creek, and encamped on it, with the Canadian about two miles from us. The pulling today has been exceedingly heavy, owing to the melting of the snow, which has now disappeared, excepting under sheltered banks. The wheels cut in almost to the hubs in some places, so that our mules
20When Capt. Marcy came through with his expedition in 1849 he travelled on the south side of the Canadian River and northeast of the present Chickasha his route joined that of Beale.
have had a hard day of it. The soil of these prairies over which we are passing seems very rich, and I should think would produce well. They are entirely unlike those of Arkansas in composition and grasses. Here we have gramma, and bunch, and buffalo grass, than which none are better; there, only a coarse, innutricious grass, and a poor, thin soil. It is a fine running stream we are encamped on, and as it has no name, I shall call it Daught's creek. The bottom land is extensive and rich, and the whole very well timbered, making our present camp very good. It abounds in deer. The Delaware killed one, and also a buffalo, which is the first killed on the journey. We hope to see Mr. Steen here to-morrow evening, and then shall go on together.
"November 26.—We lay by this day, in order that Mr. Steen may overtake us. At noon the welcome sight of the soldiers who formed my escort greeted my eyes, and in a few moments their camp was pitched close to us. Our men look finely, and the two pieces of artillery make our little party of one hundred and thirty men formidable. To this the citizens' number added makes a very fair force, especially as we are not seeking a fight, and only fight if attacked. The day has been warm and pleasant, with a somewhat high wind from the southward, and cloudy. The Delaware brought in a deer. Lieut. Bell killed a snake at our camp to-day. A bee tree was found in the bottom, and the bees at work in the tree. These facts speak well for the weather and temperature of the thirty-fifth parallel.
"November 27.—We left camp at seven o'clock precisely, that being the hour I have fixed, so that the escort may have one steadfast hour to rely on for starting. We came to our present camp at one, having travelled twelve and a third miles. The country this morning has been beautiful, the divide on which we travelled undulating and covered with fine grass, and from prominent points giving grand views of prairie, woodland, and streams. Where we encamped there was a deep hole at the head of a ravine, and near the top of the divide, of some thirty feet in diameter, which was very deep and contained quite a number of fish and bull-frogs. Mr. Breckenridge, one of my men, who went out shooting last evening, did not return last night, and this morning I sent parties out to hunt him; one of them has returned un-
successful. We have passed grass to-day as fresh almost as one would have expected in June. The Delaware killed three buffaloes to-day.
"November 28.—I laid by to-day and intended to have hunted up Breckenridge, who had been lost since night before last. Two Delawares and two Shawnees had left camp a mile or so hunting him where they found and brought him into camp; he had wandered in a bewildered state over about forty miles, and was in a wretched, dilapidated condition; the merest chance had directed his footsteps towards our camp. The country to-day has been beautiful, and the high divide which we are now travelling, between the Washita and the Canadian, makes a road perfect in everything but directness of line. We encamped on an arroyo, well wooded, which leads to the Canadian. The grass all day has been excellent. One of our best men (Laws) was shot by the criminal carelessness of a man named Allen. The latter had been off shooting turkeys, and forgetting to let down the cock of his gun, he approached Laws and it went off, taking off the first joint of his right forefinger, then fortunately striking the barrels of Law's rifle glanced and inflicted but a slight wound in his groin. Dick, the Delaware, killed a fine buck and three turkeys; others also killed turkeys.
"November 29.—Raised camp at four and off at half-past six o'clock. Travelling over a magnificent prairie nine miles, with abundant timber in sight and occasional bands of buffalo, we passed the rock Mary,21 a singular sandstone butte with forked summit, about two miles to our left, and soon after encamped near some curious sandstone buttes, which I called after the commander of my escort, "Steen's Buttes." From the one nearest us, which ascended, the view was magnificent. Off to the south sixty or seventy miles the Witchita mountains were in plain sight, and also many wooded lines marking water-courses and ravines leading to the Washita. To the west the boundless prairie spread out before us, and to the north the timber of the Clear creek could be traced to its mouth in the Canadian, the line of which latter stream was well defined by its timber and banks. Our camp is just at the head of what the Indians call Sugar Tree valley, and
21Rock Mary near Weatherford, was so named for a popular young lady who accompanied one of the emigrant parties to California in 1849.
a point of black jack which seems to have gotten lost from the cross timbers and come close to it. The banks of this valley, or cañon, are precipitous in most places, but in others slope so as to admit of loose animals going down the sides without difficulty. The bottom once reached, after a descent of the banks, which are about fifty yards high, we find a valley of level land grown up with large trees, many of them sugar trees, and a number of fine springs breaking out on all sides, which, uniting a short distance below afford quite a stream of clear, sparkling water. The valley, narrow at first, being only fifty yards or so in width, widens to one of half a mile at some distance below, and contains fine grass and timber throughout. Here would be a charming place for California travellers to come and winter with their stock and start on in the spring. No storm could ever injure their cattle securely sheltered in the valley, while the open prairie would afford an inexhaustible supply of grass for hundreds of thousands of cattle. From this point onward we have no guide, as Mr. Chisholm, who has been with us, knows the country no further; yet his judgment is so mature that I shall endeavor to persuade him to accompany us all the way to Anton Chico. The Delaware killed four buffaloes this morning. After dinner Dr. Floyd and myself took our rifles and went down the stream exploring. We found it widening gradually at two miles from camp; a fork came in on our right; the water of this fork was clear, sparkling and rapid; it was not over two yards in width and about two and a half feet in depth; where the two joined the valley was beautiful. The hills had softened into a gentle ascent on either side, or rather the prairie became an undulating one, and the fine grass was knee high. Timber in the bottom was very abundant and of the usual bottom growth; black jack covered the hills in many places. It is evidently a favorite resort of buffalo, deer, turkeys and raccoons, for their fresh tracks covered the surface, but unfortunately a fire had broken out from the camp of the escort which the wind was carrying with fearful rapidity in the direction of the valley. We found here everything desirable for the location of a first class military post; abundance of wood, water, grass, and game of all description; besides which, it is just on the range of the Comanches, or rather it is about their eastern range. Up to this point three or four could travel in safety from the settlements, and
emigrants collecting here could form in companies large enough to protect themselves through the dangerous Indian country lying to the westward; on this account a post here would be more desirable than one further on; I decidedly prefer it to any other place we have seen for the location of a military post. A raccoon was killed by one of the men weighing twenty-eight pounds.
"November 30.—We were up at four o'clock, and off before sunrise. Travelling over a beautiful country, we came, at half-past eleven, to a small ravine and stream running into the Washita; here we halted, and spent two hours grazing our mules on the fine grass; starting on again, we pursued our way over a vast prairie abounding in buffalo and a few antelope. At four o'clock, having made nineteen miles and a half, we turned off the road a half mile to a little rivulet bearing a scant supply of trees upon its banks, and encamped for the night. We have passed this evening immense deposits of gypsum which seems to be of excellent quality. According to Mr. Chisholm, whom I succeeded in persuading to accompany us, this is one of the heads of Clear creek, a tributary of the Canadian. He says Clear creek is the best stream in the country, and better than the Sugar Tree valley, described yesterday, for a military post, but I cannot conceive that it can be better. To my mind, the great fault of our military posts is, that they are built too permanently, and at too great cost, so that we frequently hold on to them long after they have ceased to be useful, rather than abandon places which have been built at such great expense. With a constantly or yearly extending frontier, we build posts as though our frontiers were permanent. No military posts such as ours should be erected on the frontier; they should be simply temporary camps, which could be abandoned at any time without loss. It is evident that, for the protection of our mails, (I have before mentioned that a contract has been let, and that the contractor is now with us, from Neosho to Santa Fe, on this road,) and emigrants over this route, a post somewhere in this vicinity is imperatively called for. The Delaware killed three buffaloes to-day. I engaged to-day a Shawnee hunter, who had come out with Chisholm. His name is Little Axe, and as a hunter he ranks in the first class.
"December 1.—Up at four and off at half-past six o'clock. Travelling about seven miles over a lovely country brought us to
Gypsum creek, which we found a clear, bright, flowing stream, tributary to the Washita. Here we turned our animals out to graze while we engaged ourselves in preparing the banks of the stream for the passage of the wagons. Having bridged the stream, we crossed it; and after leaving Gypsum creek we came, in five miles, to Bear creek, which we also bridged, but which will require another of a more permanent character. Leaving Bear creek, three miles brought us to Elm creek, on which we encamped, and which we shall either bridge or work the banks sufficiently to pass in the morning. The road all day has been over a rolling prairie, and is excellent throughout. Many buffaloes were seen to-day. The Delaware and Little Axe killed four, but only brought in the meat of one, which was a very fat cow. Gypsum has abounded everywhere to-day, and the soil is without fault. Timber and grass have been abundant at all the streams we have passed, but do not resist elsewhere.
"December 2.—Finding Elm creek required not only a very deep cut, but also a bridge to render it passable, I commenced on it at daylight, with our whole force; and timber being abundant and close at hand, by three o'clock the cut and bridge were both ready. We then crossed it; but before getting over, the day, which had been threatening, turned out a storm norther; and after going a mile or so, we were obliged to seek shelter on our left, where a bend of the Washita, having a high bank before reaching the regular river bottom, afforded us excellent shelter, and good grass for our animals. During the evening snow fell in successive squalls. The Delaware and Little Axe killed a very fine cow buffalo.
"December 3.—The night past has been a hard one. A stiff northwest wind, accompanied by hail, rain, and snow, has rendered it a most unhealthy one for our animals as well as men. The morning looked so threatening that I determined to remain in the camp, as our next move must take us to the divide, where the wind will have a clear sweep at us. Dick, the Delaware, and Little Axe killed a fine buffalo near camp. We dined to-day on buffalo, fat raccoon, venison, and marrow bones. On our wagon was wild turkey, and opossum, and side of bear, and Mr. Baker this evening killed a good bunch of rice birds, or, as we call them
at home, reed birds. The President himself could not sit down to such a table. The country between here and Elm creek is level; one ravine exists, at which a wagon was upset, but by crossing to the left in the bottom that difficulty is avoided.
"December 4.—We left camp this morning on the Washita, and shortly after, in two miles and a half, came to a creek which we supposed to be the Comet creek of Lieut. Whipple, though his distance on the map would have made it some fifteen miles beyond. The morning turned out badly; rain, sleet, and snow fell on us at intervals all day, and the night promises more. Arriving at the banks of the creek, we found them high and the bottom boggy. I immediately set to work to bridge it, which we accomplished by sundown. All the creeks we have passed for the last three days will require permanent bridges of iron, so that the Indians cannot burn them, or else the emigrant must follow the divide to the great loss of time and distance. The valley of the Washita is the widest and most productive we have seen, and in time will afford homes to thousands who are now without them. The whole country abounds in wild turkey, deer, and buffalo. The Delaware killed a fine doe this evening. At this camp a singular thing occurred. The ground was covered with birds resembling reed birds; I think over two hundred of these delicious little fellows were killed with switches by our men. Mr. George Beale alone killed thirty with only a willow switch about eight feet long. Up to this point we have found the road superabundantly supplied with water, wood, and grass, and unquestionably, protected with military posts—the best emigrant road between the frontier of the States and California. Suffering intensely all day with rheumatism. The bottom lands of this creek resemble in fertility those of the Washita, and are well timbered.
"December 5.—We left camp late this morning, (nine o'clock,) and travelled seventeen miles, arriving at five o'clock at a small stream with a thread of water passing between steep banks. There was cotton-wood and ash quite sufficient for fuel, and fine grass in abundance. Our road to-day passed over a high rolling and sometimes a hilly prairie, passing some ravines, but none of them difficult. After coming fifteen miles, we arrived at the dry bed of a stream, at the crossing of which there was no timber, but suf-
ficient for fuel a little below. Here I had intended to camp, being under the impression it was the Silver creek of Lieut. Whipple, but finding, no water in it we came on two miles further to our present camp. On a hill passed to-day many shells were picked up by our party, some of which resembled those of the oyster. Buffalo plenty. The Delaware and Little Axe killed four. Pony tracks have been seen this evening, denoting the presence of Comanches.
"December 6.—Raised camp at a quarter past eight, and, travelling four miles, came to Marcou creek. This we bridged. The bottom was fine, rich land, with timber sufficient, and buffalo were grazing on it as we came up. Crossing the bridge, we travelled five miles to Wood creek, which we found almost dry, but, bridging it, we crossed, and in two miles and a half came to Oak creek. This we found a fine stream, running between steep banks, well fringed with cotton-wood, elm, and a few oak. The creek is exceedingly crooked, making almost islands at every few hundred yards. The bottom lands of this creek are wide. I should suppose on both sides included fully a mile and a half, and very rich, bearing most excellent grasses—mesquit, gramma, and buffalo. Our road to-day has been over high rolling prairie for the most part, and excellent in all respects. The creek we are encamped upon forks about a short half mile above our camp. The fork runs off to the northward, while the stream keeps a more westwardly course. Buffalo have been abundant all day. The Delaware and Little Axe killed two and a Deer. The morning was exceedingly disagreeable, cold, freezing and misty, but it cleared at noon, and the evening was delightfully pleasant, clear and warm. We shall bridge this stream in the morning.
"December 7.—We were engaged until three o'clock in bridging Oak creek, the banks of which are high and steep. The weather has been excessively cold, the thermometer this morning being only ten degrees above zero, and a high north wind blowing all day. At half-past three we raised camp, and, crossing the bridge, came about two miles, and encamped in a sheltered bend of the river on the west side. We passed this evening a broad, well defined wagon trail running north and south, which I supposed to be that of a man named Prole, who a year or two since started
with a large party gold hunting and got lost, and, after twisting and turning in every direction, at last got over to the Washita, and so home. The Delaware and Little Axe killed a buffalo.
"December 8.—We left camp at half-past eight o'clock, crossed the bridge we had made, and in a mile or so arrived at a fork of Oak creek, which we also crossed, leaving behind us a trail we had followed, and supposed to be Whipple's, and took the divide. We found the country on either side cut up into rugged ravines of red clay and sandstone, and frequently curious-looking mounds. At times the divide narrowed and became rough for considerable distances; nevertheless, the road as a whole was good, and travelling fifteen miles, we saw from the top of the divide the Antelope Hills, and to our left the Canadian. Travelling down an affluent of the latter two miles brought us to a fork of it containing water, on which we encamped. The ice was so thick upon it that we had to cut through for our animals to drink, and found the water slightly brackish, though not unpleasant. We passed to-day large patches of dwarf oak, which in places covered the prairies for acres. About three miles from the little fork on which we are encamped was a circle of small oak perfectly round and having a spring in the centre. The morning was bitter cold, but towards noon it became warmer, and the evening was very pleasant. The Delaware and Little Axe killed four buffaloes and a deer. We travelled to-day seventeen miles. Many wooded forks or small tributaries of the Washita and Canadian were seen to-day putting out from the divide; in some water was found, in others none. The Antelope Hills are of the same form, and differ but little in general appearance from the natural mounds described some days back, to which I gave the name of Steen's Buttes. Last night one of Lieut. Steen's sentries shot another, who failed to hear his challenge in the high wind, the wound likely to be severe. Oak creek I think an excellent location for a military post.
"December 9.—Left camp at eight o'clock, and crossed a fork of the stream we had encamped on; and crossing a spur of the divide, and shortly after another, thence by an easy descent we reached the Canadian. We found it very much as described at our previous crossing, excepting that there was less wood upon its banks, and apparently a little more water in the bed. Some distance above, on the opposite bank, was a sugar-loaf shaped
red knob, making a good landmark for our night's camp, as it is nearly opposite the small stream running into the Canadian, on which we encamped for the night. Directly opposite camp another stream empties into the river, and has a large motte of timber at its mouth. From where we struck the river we travelled up the bottom for a mile or two, directly towards the Antelope Hills, which are in plain view, and then going out on hills a mile or two more, came to camp in a sheltered valley tolerably wooded, and having abundance of water in large pools, which tasted of sulphur. To-morrow we shall follow the river bottom for a mile and a half, when we shall go out on the hills and cut off at a bend the river seems to make to the northward. Looking ahead at the country, it seems to promise a more level road than we have lately had. Buffaloes have not been so abundant to-day; nevertheless, the Delaware and Little Axe killed two or three. The more I see of this river, its wide bottom, level surface, soil, clay and sand,) and its evident freedom from overflow, the more I am convinced that it offers decidedly the most level line for a railroad to be found for the same distance between the Pacific and Atlantic. To this point there cannot be urged a single objection, unless it may be that wood does not here seem to be very abundant. The Washita, however, which is not far from it at this point, and which is a finely-timbered stream, might afford all the requisite wood for cross-ties, &c.; and the distance to haul from that river to this is inconsiderable.
"December 10.—Left camp at a quarter past eight, and travelling up the river bottom for about two miles, took to the hillsides, and going west towards the Antelope Hills, crossed several scantily-wooded streams of small size, tributaries of the Canadian, in only one of which we found water; we passed between the Antelope Hills, which we found high mesa or table-top hills of white rotten sandstone; thence over a hilly prairie country, covered with fine grass, we came to camp on a small tributary of the river, pretty well timbered, and containing fine running water, fifteen miles from our former camp. On looking at the river from elevated points, so that I could observe it for some distance, only a few mottes of timber could be seen, and not in such quantities as to admit of a great deal of shelter. Buffalo are becoming scarcer, yet the Delaware and Little Axe killed three and a deer."