W. Julian Fessler
The Oklahoma section of Jacob Fowler's journal is disappointingly short. Much is left to be desired both as to a more detailed description of the country passed and about the personages met and those composing the Fowler party. Especially is this true concerning Hugh Glenn and Nathaniel Pryor. These two men have left such a deep impress upon the commercial history of early Oklahoma that we would have been indeed grateful to Major Fowler, if he had only written just a few intimate glimpses of these men as he rode with them during the day and camped with them by night. But he did not. It is all too short, especially since it is the first written record of an overland expedition across the northeast corner of the present state of Oklahoma.
Next to nothing is known of Jacob Fowler, himself. If it were not for a letter from R. T. Durrett of Louisville, Ky., concerning the Major to Dr. Elliott Coues, there would be nothing. Mr. Durrett was the owner of the original journal which is not signed, but is considered by Fowler's descendants to have been written by him. Mr. Durrett came into possession of the manuscript from a great-granddaughter of Jacob Fowler.
The Fowler family was prominent in Kentucky from an early date. They were noted as owners of far-flung acres of land, and one was sent to Congress. It is not known for certain whether Jacob Fowler belonged to this same family of Fowlers, but at least, he had two things in common with them, namely, that he was a Kentuckian by adoption and a large landowner. Among other possessions, he owned two thousand acres of the present site of Covington, Kentucky. He was too kind-hearted though, and his signature to a bad note proved his downfall, wiping away all his lands. Shortly afterward, he went west to enter the Indian trade and recoup his fortune.
Major Fowler was born in New York, in 1765, and settled in Kentucky in early life, a fine specimen of physical manhood, fully equipped for the office and duties of a surveyor. His surveying instruments were the best of their day, and elicited no little envy from his acquaintances. He had
the reputation of being an accomplished surveyor, and did much in this line for the United States government. His surveying extended to the Great Plains and the mountains of the far West, before civilization came to those parts.
While Fowler was away on his surveying trips, his wife would supervise, expertly, their Kentucky farm. She was of French extraction, and the grapes and apples grown on the place were made into wine and cider in accordance with the expert knowledge she had received from her ancestors. Her great-grandchildren of today tell of the life in camp when she was with her husband on one surveying expedition. The tent floor was nicely carpeted; a comfortable bed invited repose after the toil of the day; dainty china, bright cut glass, and shining silverware were used on the camp table.
Major Fowler died in Covington in the year 1850. His life as a surveyor and an explorer of the West subjected him to many hardships, but he remained exceptionally hardy until the very end. He is said to have many descendants in Kentucky and Ohio.
It is disappointing, after reading of Fowler's qualifications, to turn over and peruse his journal, for the spelling is abominable. It is evident that he never would have won a prize in an old-time spelling bee. In order to keep from being too harsh on the old gentleman, in the matter of his spelling vagaries, possibly some allowance should be given for change in spelling forms during the last hundred years. Just how much this allowance should be, it would be hard to tell. An impelling reason for the editing of the Oklahoma part of Fowler's journal was an insatiable desire on the part of the editor to see just where the old gentleman and his friends did go while visiting Oklahoma so many years ago.
W. JULIAN FESSLER.
MEMORANDUM OF THE VOICE BY LAND FROM FORT SMITH TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.
thorsday 6th Sept 1821
We Set out from fort Smith on the arkensaw and Crossing that River pased threw a bottom of Rich Land Well timbered and much Kaine—thence over Low Ridges the land poor and in some places Rockey—at 30 miles crossed the tallecaw1
1This creek, called Tallicaw by Major Fowler, was in reality Sallisaw Creek. It is nearer twenty miles distant from the Illinois than ten, which is the distance given by Fowler. Vian Creek is about ten miles below the Illinois, but could not have possibly been the stream mentioned, since it is very narrow whereas the Sallisaw is much larger and fits the width measurement given in the journal. So apparently, Major Fowler wrote this entry after a considerable lapse of time during which period he forgot the order of crossing the two, or Bayou Viande was so small at that, time of the year as to escape his notice completely.
a Crick about 150 feet wid Large bottoms on bothe Sides and at ten miles farther Crosed the Illinois River2 about 80 yds Wide and about one mile farther Stoped for the night at Beens Salt Workes3—this is the Second night Since We left the fort4—the Workes one Small Well With a few kittles
2It is not known just how, when, or why the Illinois River was first called by that name. The Osages called it Eng-wah-condah. Its present name comes from the Indian one of, Illiniwek. This was the name of an Algonquian Indian confederacy in the present state of Illinois. This Indian name was changed by the French to Illinois. It doubtless was first applied to this Oklahoma river by a party of French traders from the Illinois settlements of Kaskaskia and Cahokia who were ascending the Arkansas. Similarly, the Canadian River, probably, was named by a party of early French voyageurs, part of whom were from the Canadian settlements along the St. Lawrence. More than likely both rivers were named by the same party; those from Canada reaching the present Canadian River first and calling it the Riviere des Canadian, while the Illinois group reached the Illinois River first and called it Riviere des Illinois. For further information, consult: 1. "The Naming of the Canadian River," by Joseph B. Thoburn, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol 6, pp. 181-5. 2. "Some Geographic Names of French Origin," by Muriel H. Wright, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 7, pp. 188-93.
3Mr. Bean came from a very prominent Tennessee family of Pennsylvania origin. Some of the Bean family played prominent roles in the early history of Arkansas. The Bean's salt works was established on the Illinois River in 1820. It was never very large and a few years later after Mackey had established a much larger one seven or eight miles further up the Illinois, the Bean's salt works was abandoned. The salt works on the site of the Mackey establishment were operated down to the year following the Civil War. Major Long visited Bean's salt works in the same year that it was established. In his journal is found the following description of the place:
In the evening we arrived at Mr. Bean's salt works. These are situated on a small creek about a mile below and are at a distance of about seven miles from the Arkansas. Mr. Bean commenced his operations in the spring, and has already a neat farm-house on the Illinois, with a considerable stock of cattle, hogs and poultry and several acres in Indian corn. Near the springs he has erected a neat log-house and a shed for the furnace; but his kettles, which were purchased from the proprietors of the Neosho establishment, were not yet fixed. He assured us that the water was so saturated as not to dissolve any perceptible quantity of a handful of salt that was thrown into it."
4The first night's camp, after leaving Fort Smith, must have been some four or five miles east of the present Sallisaw Creek. Such a location would have divided the journey between the fort and Bean's salt works into equal distances for each day's travel of about twenty miles each.
about 55 gallons of Watter make a bushil of Salt and the Well affords Watter to boil the kittles about three days in the Weake Been and Sanders Has permission of the govem (government) to Worke the Salt Spring—they sell the Salt at one dollar per Bushil—from Heare We pased over Some High poor Hills Some valleys and Some pirarie lands about twenty miles to a large bottom Weel Covered in parts With Caine and Well timbered—threw Which We pased about Eight miles to grand River or Six bull.5 this is fine bold Streem of Clear Watter about 150 yd Wide Which We forde but not Without Some doupts—the Watter Runing With great force—about one mile above the mouth of this River is the mouth of the virdegrees6—a River of about one Hundred yds Wid deep and muddy at the mouth and up it to the Rapids about four miles Wheare there is a trading House.7 but we Stoped at the trading Hous of Conl Hugh glann8 about mile up the virdegree Wheare We Remained till the 25th Sept makeing a Raingment for our gurney to the mountains—Heare five of our Hunters Left us and Went Home this Sircumstance much dispereted
5It is not known just why the appellation, Six Bull, was given to the Neosho, or Grand, River. Probably, some trader named it for six buffalo bulls that he had either seen or killed along its banks. Or yet again, it might have been named for an Indian chief of that name. The fact that the name has the singular ending instead of the plural one would incline one to believe the latter supposition.
6The Verdigris was variously known to early explorers and others as the Vermilion, Wasetihoge, or Wassuja. It finally came to be called the Verdigris probably by the combination of the two French words vert, meaning "green," and gris, meaning "gray," because of the greenish gray color of the rocks in its channel. This theory is supported by Miss Muriel H. Wright in her article, "Some Geographic Names of French Origin." Chronicles of Oklahoma. Vol. 7, pp. 188-93.
7This other trading house at the rapids about four miles up the Verdigris from its mouth was the one established by Charles Bougie about the same time that Hugh Glenn and his partner, Nathaniel Pryor, had purchased the little trading post at the mouth of the Verdigris from French and Rutherford, who are believed to have represented the Choteau interests there for a time.
8Hugh Glenn was a very prominent trader of the early days, being about the first one to make a success of the overland trade with Santa Fe. Before coming west, he had engaged in the river trade at Cincinnati, Ohio. He also had been working at St. Louis, where he became acquainted with the Chouteau brothers, and probably he was acting as their agent in purchasing the trading post at the mouth of the Verdigris.
more of our men—tho We Still determined to purced—and on the 25th of Sept 1821 We found our Selves 20 men in all, and under the Command of Conl Hugh glann With mager Jacob Fowler Robert Fowler Roy Battis Peno george Douglas Nat Pryer9 Bono Barbo Lewis Dauson Taylor Taylor Richard Walters Ward Jese vanbeber Slovre Simpson Maxwell Findley Battis moran and Pall a black man the property of mager Fowler we Head thirty Horses and mules Seventeen of Which traps and goods for the Indian traid—and Each man mounted on Horseback—We left the traiding House in the afternoon—North 50 West about five miles to a Small Crick10 Which Runs West in to the virdegree—the Bottom between the Six bull and virdegree is High and Rich Well timbered With Some Caine and is about one and a Half miles Wide to the Hills—from What We Cold Learn there is no Caine above this on the arkensaw—We passed to day Some Pirarie Cirted With Wood land Some timber on the Crick it Rained Hard We Packed up our goods and Covered them With Skins to keep them dry and Piched our tents for the night—Conl. Hugh glann Haveing Left us and gon by the mishenerys,11 and to meet us Some Wheare a Head—
26th We Set out Early along the Road Leading to the osage vilege12 threw fine Pirarie Lands a little Rolling and
9Captain Nathaniel Pryor was a Kentuckian. He accompanied Lewis and Clarke's Expedition to the Pacific. During the war of 1812, he saw much active service, being with General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. At the close of that war, he engaged in trade in the Indian country. Later, he contracted marriage with an Osage woman. Through this marriage some Osages now living trace their lineage back to him. The present town of Pryor, county seat of Mayes County, was named in his honor.
10On the 25th, Major Fowler and his party camped on Coal Creek, three miles northwest of Gibson Station, in southeast Wagoner County.
11These missionaries, referred to by Fowler at this place in. his journal, were those at union Mission which was about twenty miles distant from Union Mission was located on the west bank of the Neosho, west of Murphy, Mayes County. This mission station had been established less than a year at the time of Glenn's visit.
12It is uncertain as to which Osage village was meant by Fowler's reference in indicating the road traveled on the 26th, as there were doubtless several Osage villages at times. The principal village was that of Cashashegra, or Big Track, who was the leading chief of the Osages who had moved from Missouri to the villages of the Neosho, or Grand, and the Verdigris, nearly twenty years before the time of Fowler's visit. The other leading chiefs of this division of the Osage people were Clermont and Black Dog, or Tshongasabbee, who had separate villages at times.
Scirted With Timber the ground is Black and Rich and the vew the most delightful We this day maid 20 miles threw the Rain Which Continued all day at night Camped on a Crick13 about 50 feet Wid Runs West With an Extensive Beed of Stone Coal in its bottom there is Some Wood along the Crick but the Cuntry is mostly Pirarie a little Rolling Scirted With groves of timber Heare the Rain Continued all night—Heare one of our Hunters—Slover Lay out all night but came in in the morning
27th We set out Early along the path threw the Pirarie—timber still to be seen in groves and along the Branches—We maid 20 miles and Camped on a Small Crick14 well timbered—Heare we found Findley He left us 2 days ago—and was Heare for us this day was Clear and pleesent Robert Fowler killed a Large Buck—one Hors gave out was left
28th Sept 1821 Rained all day we Remained in Camp—
29th the Weather Clear We Set out Early and was Soon over taken by Conl glann and soon after in Sight of the Osage vilege.15 Heare We Ware delited With a vew of a nomber of Hills16 or mounds nearely of the Same Hight. from 70 to 80 feet but of different Shapes Some Round and Pointed like a Stack other squair and flat. and the top of one near the vilege Contains about 15 acres of Rich Black land17 and great part of the Bluff faced With a parpendickler Rock—so that with but little labor a few men might keep
13The camp of the 26th was on Bull Creek, close to its intersection of the Rogers-Wagoner County line, or three miles west of Neodosha. The distance of this day's march is nearer fifteen miles than twenty as reported.
14At evening of the 27th, the party encamped at the confluence of Dog and Panther Creeks, west of Tiawah, Rogers County. Again the distance traveled is barely fifteen instead of the reported twenty miles.
15Cashashegra's village was located five or six miles northwest of the site of Claremore, county seat of Rogers County, and near the station of Sageeyah, on the Iron Mountain Railway, in Rogers County. The site of this village was about a half a mile southwest of Claremore Hill, which was the scene of the battle between the Osages and the Western Cherokees in the late spring or early summer of 1818, and which was so disastrous to the former.
16These hills mentioned in Fowler's entry of the 29th were commonly known as the Blue Mounds on the Verdigris to early traders in that region.
17The hill near the village is now known as Claremore Hill. It is northwest of the present city of Claremore. This hill was the scene of the Osage massacre by the Cherokees during the "strawberry moon" of the year 1818.
off a large army—Heare is one of the most delight full peace of Cuntry I Have Ever Seen—of Rich lime stone land mixed With Wood lands the Pirarie is more Extensive than Woods—
Heare We find not one sole in or about the vilege the Indeans are all gon a buffelaw Hunting and are not Exspected to return till in the Winter. We find our journey to this place one Continued Corse North 50 W Heare we Crossed the virdegree and got on Higher grounds and Nearly Covered With Rocks in Some places and Steered North 70 West 10 miles to a small Crick18 Runing South and Well timbered—Heare We Camped for the night—We Seen this day Some Wild Horses game is scars We this day find our Horses two Heavey loaded and Concluded to leave part (of their loads) 30th Sept 1821
We this morning Berryed or Cashed (cached) as the French Call it 32 Bever traps 2 Cases of tobacco and fifty pounds of Brass Weir on the West Bant of the Creek 200 yds above the large Road and 50 below the small path on Which is a Connu (canoe) marked on an oack
We Setout Early and Stered North 50 West to the little virdegre—19 Wheare a large Indean Road Cross it this River is about 30 yds Wide With Clear Watter and High Banks—and large inCampment on the East Side. Heare we Crossed to the West Side and followed the North forke of the Road about one mile to another Branch of the Same River but not more than ten Steps Wide both Streems Running South With Rich timbered bottom between the boath—after pasing this forke We Stered the Same Corse threw Roling Pirarie ten miles to a mound. to the North and East the Cuntry is a little Rolling mostly Pirarie With timber along the Branches on our left the mountains or High Hills appeer at from four to five miles distance Heare to avoid the Hills Which Continu on our left We Steered N 30 West six mill (miles) and Camped on the little virdegree20— Peno Went off to Hunt in the fore part of this day and did not Return—
19The Little Verdigris is now known as the Caney River. The large Indian road mentioned had doubtless been made by the Osages going to and from the buffalo grounds to the westward.
20This camp of October 1st was on Caney River, a short distance south of the present city of Bartlesville, county seat of Washington County.
2nd October 1821
3rd October 1821
21The camp for the night of October 2nd was still on the Caney north of the previous night's stand. It was located opposite the mouth of Hickory Creek, in present Osage County.
22Camp of October 3rd was at the headwaters of Sand Creek in present Osage County. On the 4th, the party crossed the present Oklahoma-Kansas state line about four miles east of the present site of the Oklahoma town of Frankfort. Camp for that night was made on Beaver Creek, east of Otto, Cowley County, Kansas.