else, with the flames so close; so we remained in the buggy, trusting to the fleetness of our nags in getting us out to a place of safety. It was a section of country that neither of us knew anything about. We were total strangers in that part of Kansas. For miles there was not a house visible or any other sign of improvement; still we realized that, if not overtaken and enveloped by the devouring flames, sooner or later we would be "out of the wilderness." It was evident to us that our only hope was to keep the animals on a run. This we did for six miles, when, finally, we suddenly emerged from the rank vegetation and were able to give a sigh of relief. We thanked God that we were safe. Soon we were in sight of a settlement and near quite a body of timber, and bore the great fire had finished its race with us, coming out a close second.
A Funeral on the Plains. In the afternoon of May 3, 1864, there died, at Latham station, Colorado, a young man just out of his teens, named Gustavus R. Hackley, from Kalamazoo, Mich. In company with his brother, who was two years his senior, he had come by railroad to Atchison, where an outfit was purchased; and from there they drove across the country in a spring wagon. The two were bound for the land of gold and silver, in the Rockies beyond Denver. They had arrived two or three days before, but, owing to the sudden illness of Gustavus, a halt was made at the station, in the hope that a few days of rest might possibly restore the sick one so he could continue his overland journey.
There was no extra bed at the station; so the stock tender, a kind-hearted man named Armstrong, who had a bunk on the first floor, freely gave up his bed to the sick man, though a stranger. This kind act was greatly appreciated by both the sick man and his brother; but all that could be done for the unfortunate, who, by the way, received every attention possible, failed to restore him. From the first he steadily grew worse, and was delirious at times and sank rapidly, until death came after two or three days' suffering.
A man by the name of Plowhead, living on a ranch a few miles away on the north side of the Platte river--a Swede by birth--who happened to be at the station and knew something about cabinet-making, was secured to make a coffin. It was arranged, that the funeral should take place the next day, late in the after-
noon. At the station were three ladies: Mrs. W. S. McIlvain, the station agent's wife, Mrs. B. F. Houx, of Nodaway county, Missouri, and Miss Lizzie Trout, who was head cook and had charge of the dining-room. Besides the station keeper and myself, there was Armstrong (the stock tender), and his assistant, Plowhead (the undertaker), and four stage-drivers. I was the youngest one in the crowd, excepting Charley McIlvain, the ten-year-old son of the agent.
The hour set for the funeral was rapidly drawing nigh, and every person appeared to be waiting, or rather expecting that the other fellow would take charge and be master of ceremonies on this solemn occasion. All thought McIlvain, the man of the house, and the oldest person about the premises, the best fitted of all for this duty, and, under the circumstances, the proper one to take charge and administer the last sad rites; but neither he nor any one else at the station appeared to have the nerve to take upon himself such a solemn task.
What was to be done? This was the all-important question, The matter must be decided at once. It was suggested that a vote be taken, as a means of compromise. This was perfectly satisfactory to all. I at once nominated McIlvain and the motion was promptly seconded; but McIlvain then nominated me; yet, as no one seconded his motion, he "exercised a prerogative" and seconded it himself. The vote was by ballot, and I thought everything was going along all right; but when the counting was done I realized at once that a "grave" joke had been played on me. The only ballot that appeared for McIlvain I cast myself; but my feelings can better be imagined than described when I discovered that all the rest of the ballots were for me. I felt like charging them with being "border ruffians" and that there had been "fraud at the ballot-box."
To say that I was perfectly thunderstruck-- fairly dumbfounded--but mildly expressed my feelings on that occasion. I tried to get out of it by insisting that I had no license to perform such a task. But that dodge wouldn't work. Finally I braced up and somewhat reluctantly decided to take charge, much as I regretted it, and do the best I could, since there was no one else about the premises who would take upon himself any such responsibility. The ladies could all sing hymns and some of the stage men could sing a little; but not one of them considered
himself equal to the task of performing the solemn duties of a full-fledged parson on such an occasion.
My Bible was fished out from the bottom of my trunk, and, everything else being arranged, I opened services by reading a few passages from the Scriptures, after which I called on the "brethren" and "sisters," who had the matter arranged, and sang an appropriate hymn. Every one at the station had turned out to the funeral. The exercises at the station were brief, and, when concluded, I then led the way to the grave, which had been dug on the brow of a terrace perhaps 300 yards east of the station, an appropriate spot near the overland-stage road, from which could be seen Long's Peak and at least 100 miles of the summit of the Rockies. At my suggestion, the stage-drivers, with the others employed at the station, acted as pall-bearers.
Slowly we all marched out to the grave and stood with uncovered heads around it. What to do then I did n't know. I realized instantly that I was no more fitted to conduct a funeral than a blind man is to teach astronomy. But I was in for it, and no time must be lost. Accordingly I made a few remarks as appropriate to the occasion as could be expected of "one of my age"; then the last solemn exercises were performed. The young man and brother, the only solitary mourner, more than a thousand miles from home and loved ones, was an object of pity. All there assembled around the last resting-place of the departed could not but sympathize and feel sorry for the young man, who, after getting within two days' drive of Denver, had just lost a devoted brother and companion.
After the young man had left for Denver, the next morning, it seemed that I, for a time, was "the observed of all observers." One of the drivers suggested that I "had missed my calling"; that I "ought to have been a preacher." McIlvain, who had' "played it on me," insisted that no preacher living could have put, on such a sanctimonious and dignified countenance as that I had presented during the solemn ceremonies the afternoon before. Another paid me a compliment by saying that I had made a "No. 1 parson." I don't know what I should or could have done under any other circumstances. No money could have hired me to do what I did; but as I had freely conversed with the dead young man's brother a dozen times or more, what else could I have done? Somehow I felt that it was my duty, when every other
person at the station had positively refused to shoulder the responsibility, to take upon myself the task--unpleasant though it appeared at the time--of conducting the first and only funeral I ever witnessed on the plains.
Bitter Creek. Beadle, who crossed the plains in the '60's and made an extensive tour of the northwest territories, made a considerable of the distance as a mule whacker. In going over the Rookies he went through the Bitter Creek country, a region that everybody despised, and, speaking of it in his book, "The Undeveloped West," says:
"For sixty miles on Bitter creek, Wyoming, the soil is a mass of clay or sand and alkali--a horrible and irreclaimable desert, which has made the place a byword. For a few days our average elevation was 7000 feet above sea-level and the nights were extremely cold. On the 22d we reached Bridger's Pass, and next day entered on the Bitter Creek region--horror of overland teamsters--where all possible ills of western travel are united. At daybreak we rose, stiff with cold, to catch the only temperate hour there was for driving; but by nine A.M. the heat was most exhausting. The road was worked up into a bed of blinding white dust by the laborers on the railroad grade, and a gray mist of ash and earthy powder hung over the valley, which obscured the sun but did not lessen its heat. At intervals the 'Twenty-mile Desert,' the 'Red-sand Desert' and the 'White Desert' crossed our way, presenting beds of sand and soda, through which the half-choked men and animals toiled and struggled, in a dry air and under a scorching sun.
"In vain the yells and curses of the teamsters doubled and redoubled, blasphemies that one might expect to inspire a mule with diabolical strength; in vain the fearful 'blacksnake' curled and popped over the animals' backs, sometimes gashing the skin, and sometimes raising welts the size of one's finger. For a few rods they would struggle on, dragging the heavy load through the clogging banks, and then stop, exhausted, sinking to their knees in the hot and ashy heaps. Then two of us would unite our teams and, with the help of all the rest, drag through to the next solid piece of ground, where for a few hundred yards the wind had removed the loose sand and soda and left bare the flinty and gravelly subsoil. Thus, by most exhausting labor, we accomplished ten or twelve miles a day. Half an hour or more of temperate coolness then gave us respite till soon after sundown, when the cold wind came down, as if in heavy volume, from the Snowy Range, and tropic heat was succeeded by arctic cold with amazing suddenness. On the 27th of August one of my mules fell twice, exhausted from the heat; that night ice formed in our buckets as thick as a pane of glass."
The Bitter Creek country, for a distance of nearly 100 miles, was one of the most-despised regions oil the "Overland" between the eastern and western slopes of the Rockies. All the drivers
HOLDING UP A TREASURE COACH IN THE BITTER CREEK COUNTRY.
who knew anything about that section of the route spoke of it in anything but pleasant words. An amusing incident happened in the later years of staging across the Rockies, while the Pacific railroad was being pushed in both directions. The stage was doing an immense business carrying passengers from the western terminus of the Union Pacific to the eastern terminus of the Central Pacific. A young Eastern college graduate happened to be a passenger on his first trip across the continent, but on account of an accident had to spend a night in this region, at a spot where he chanced to camp with a party of teamsters. Some time afterward he gave his experiences to the Boston Home Journal, as follows:
"The stage broke down on Bitter creek, and the passengers had to walk to the next station. I grew tired of walking before I reached the station, and, coming late in the afternoon to where some teamsters were camped, I concluded to stop with them for the night.
"There were four teamsters and as many wagons, while thirty-two oxen grazed around in the vicinity. In my thoughts I pitied them on account of the hard life they led, and spoke to them in a kind tone, and endeavored to make my conversation instructive. I plucked a flower, and, pulling it to pieces, mentioned the names of the parts-pistil, stamens, calyx, and so on--and remarked that it must be indigenous to the locality and spoke of the plant being endogenous, in contradistinction to exogenous, and that they could see that it was not cryptogainus. In looking at some fragments of rocks, my thoughts wandered off into geology, and I spoke of the Tertiary and Carboniferous periods, and of the pterodactyl, ichthyosaurus, and dinotherium.
"The teamsters looked at me, then at each other, but made no response. We squatted down around the frying-pan to take supper, and, as the big fellow with his right hand slapped or sort of larruped a long piece of fried bacon over a piece of bread in his left hand, sending a drop of hot grease into my left eye, he said to the one-eyed man: I Bill, is my Shakespeare in yo' wagon? I missed it to-day.'
"'No; my Tennyson and volume of Italian poets is in thar--no Shakespeare.'
"The lank-looking teamster, biting off a piece of bread about the size of a saucer, said to the big man, in a voice which came huskily through the bread: I Jake, did yer ever read that volum' of po'ms that I writ?'
"' Yer means "Musin's of an Idle Man"?' spoke up the red-headed man, addressing the poet.
"'Hev read every line in it a dozen times,' said the teamster with the red hair, and, as he sopped a four-inch swath with a piece of bread across the frying-pan, he repeated some lines.
"'Them's they,' nodded the poet, 'The emp'ror of Austry writ me a letter highly complimentin' them po'ms.'
"'They're very techin',' added the wiry man.
"I took no part in these remarks. Somehow I did not feel like joining in.
"The wiry man, having somewhat satisfied his appetite, rolled up a piece of bacon rind into a sort of single-barreled opera-glass, and began to squint through it toward the northern horizon.
"'What yer doin', Dave?' asked the stout man.
"'Takin' observations on the north star. Want to make some astronomical calkilations when I git into Sacramenter.'
"'Well, yer need n't ter make that tel'scope. I could er took observation for you, as I hain't but one eye.'
"'Git out dar, you durned old Carboniferous pterodactyl,' yelled the hame-jawed driver to an ox that was licking a piece of bacon.
"'I give a good deal of my time to 'stronimy when I was in Yoorup,' remarked the tall man.
"'Over thar long?' asked one.
"'Good while; was minister to Rooshy. Then I spent some time down to Rome.'
"'Rome!' exclaimed the lank individual; 'was born there. My father was a sculptor.'
"'Well, one would n't er thought it, to look at yer.'
"'I never was in Yoorup,' remarked the one-eyed man. 'When I occupied the cheer of ancient languages at Harvard College my health failed, and the feller that had me hired wanted me to go ter Yoorup for an out, but I concluded to come west, ter look--hold up thar, yer infernal old flea-bitten ichyceverus,' he bawled to an ox that was chewing a cud.
"I felt hot and feverish and a long way from home.
"'I got ready once ter go to Rome--wanted to complete my studies--but give it up,' said the one they called Dave.
"'They wanted me to run for guv'ner in Virginny.
"'Yer beat 'em.?'
"'Why did n't yer stay thar?'
"'Well, when my job as guv'ner gave out they 'lected me 'Piscopal bishop, an' I hurt my lungs preachin'. Come west for my lungs.'
"'Well, I'm improvin'.'
"I did not rest well that night. As day came on, and the men began to turnover in their blankets and yawn, the tall one said: 'Hello, Bill. How yer makin' it?'
"'Oh, I'm indigenous.'
"'An' you, lanky, yer son of a sculptor?'
"'How you feel, Jake?' inquired one of the three.
"'Cryptoganious, sir; cryptogamous.'
"I walked out a few steps to a little stream to get a drink. I felt thirsty
and I ached. Then I heard a voice from the blankets: I wonder if those durned old dinother'uns of ourn are done grazin'?'
"Then a reply: 'I guess they've got to the Tertiary period.'
"I walked a little piece to breathe the morning air. I kept on."
Rough Experiences. Ab. Williamson, in the early days of Colorado staging, was quite a noted "knight of the lines." He drove north from Denver to Church's, Middle Boulder, and St. Vrain's, where Longmont is built. Ab. had a rough time on this route in January, 1865. He was caught in one of the worst storms ever encountered in that section. He pulled out from Middle Boulder at four o'clock, about the time a brisk snow had begun to fall. In a little while there was nothing of the trail visible, as could easily be observed by the jolting of the stage as the wheels passed over the rough surface of the ground. The place was about ten miles from Longmont. Years afterward Ab. delighted to tell of some of the experiences of that night and the following two days, before they found their bearings. In and on the coach were a lieutenant from Fort Laramie; a merchant, with his 18-year-old daughter, from Atchison; two miners; the express messenger; and an agent of the stage company, from Denver, on his way north to buy mules for the line. The team was stopped, and the genial driver got down off the box and, opening the coach door, proclaimed in cheerful tones that they were lost, and might as well know it.
It was Ab.'s custom to carry under the seat a good-sized bottle, and this he placed at the disposal of the male occupants of the stage, took off his horses, and, after making them as comfortable as he could under the circumstances, by invitation took up his quarters among the passengers on the inside. All night the snow continued to fall and the wind to blow. In the morning all that could be seen were the sides of a snowy embankment worn into hollows by the breath of the dejected-looking horses. The storm continued and there was no way out. For another night and a day they stayed there. During all this time the young woman, under these terribly trying circumstances, proved the most cheerful one of the party, entertaining every one by a frequent repetition of all the songs she knew. All the hymns the party knew were sung and repeated, interspersed with a number of patriotic and lively comic songs. There was not much formality at eating, for the scanty contributions to the cupboard were
Ab.'s lunch and a few sandwiches which the daughter had secured at the last station, fearing her father might be overcome with faintness. When the storm subsided, the two miners, in company with the lieutenant, started out in the snow, waist deep, to organize a relief expedition from the interior. They were out for hours, finally getting a sight of St. Vrain's, where they repaired, and secured a posse to dig the stage-coach out; and some time after nightfall of the third day the little party had been rescued, and were calling for round after round of the battery steak served in the cozy interior of St. Vrain's station.
In the summer of 1865 the Indians were very bad, especially on the stage road between Denver and Salt Lake. A number of raids were made, and traffic by stage and wagon-trains was seriously interrupted. So great was the terror the redskins created that often only well-armed, brave and stout-hearted men had the courage to go out and face the hideous yell which invariably went with the red fiends as they swooped down upon wagon-trains, emigrant outfits, and trains of stage-coaches with the mails and passengers.
Bob Spotswood and Jim Stewart, division agents, respectively, on the North Platte and Bitter Creek stretches, were prominent among the most-experienced men on the line. They promptly came to the front as "the bold and reckless navigators of the fleets of mountain corvettes that sailed through the stormy seas of blind Indian warfare." The troubles on these two divisions lasted nearly four years, and both Spotswood and Stewart had abundant opportunities to develop into first-class Indian fighters. It was Holladay's intention to run his stages in spite of the savages, and, with these fearless agents, he came pretty near doing it. Spotswood's headquarters were at Virginia Dale, where the trouble began when a body of Indians swooped down, their intention being to burn the station and outbuildings and get away with the stage stock. In this cleverly planned game they were stood off, but returned in overwhelming numbers, and succeeded in reducing to a charred heap all the stations between Virginia Dale and the Bitter Creek headquarters. The Indians were so cunning that usually they would have all the mischief done before the stage men could mount their horses and go in pursuit.
To be more successful in fighting their way across with the mails, the two superintendents conceived a plan which, while it
did not protect them from attack, still made victory rather difficult for the savages. Each allowed seven days mail to accumulate at the headquarters of his division; the passenger travel, owing to the troubles, being very light. An escort of ten to fifteen cavalrymen, supplied from Fort Collins, went along, and, with this retinue, the seven coaches, and ten or a dozen men about the station, the two trains, west- and east-bound, would forge along towards each other and meet midway. Among the prominent drivers of the coaches were Jim Enos, Bill Opdyke, Jake Hawk, Hank Brown, and several others, all more or less skilled in the "art" of fighting Indians. When everything went smoothly, it would only take a short time to exchange the mail and a few frightened passengers; then the teams and coaches would be turned back. Strange as it may seem, all the traveling in this way was done at night, as it is a custom of the Indians seldom to fight except in the daytime. For over 200 miles all the stations were abandoned, and the stage men congregated for these expeditions at Virginia Dale and Sulphur Springs.
Spotswood was in a fight with Indians one time on his North Platte division. His caravan having been taken by storm, as soon as he could he got the vehicles in as close order as he could under the harassing flight of arrows, and he and his men fell back, to lay in on Little Laramie. The stage-coaches were brought around on the double quick into the barricade, to which these brave men were accustomed. Hostilities began early in the morning, and it was evening when the redskins drew off. The fight was a bitter one and few of the men engaged in it came out without being hit. Two were stretched out; one, Alex. Hardy, a hostler, dead, and Jim Enos, the noted hunter at Virginia Dale, with an Arapahoe arrow protruding from his abdomen. The dying man was carried up to Cooper Creek station, where stood an old blacksmith shop. Accompanying the party was a surgeon, who, being unable to pull out the arrow by hand, found it necessary to use a pair of the blacksmith's tongs. In an instant after the arrow left the wound there was a single convulsion and poor Enos was dead. The party carried his body sorrowfully back to Virginia Dale for burial. Enos for a long time had been a great favorite with all the stage boys. Besides being an old driver he was a noted hunter and trapper, and was kept busy in supplying the station with fresh game. His hunting-ground extended for
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