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SCENES AM ADVENTURES
IN THE OZARK MOUNTAINS.
FROM THE ORIGINAL NOTES AND JOURNAL.
Very little, it is conceived, is necessary to enable the reader to determine the writer's position on the extreme south western frontiers, in the year lfc«18. He had spent the summer of that year in traversing the mine district, which extends along the right bank of the Mississippi, between the month of the Maromeg and the diluvial cliffs south of Cape Girardeau, extending west and south westward to the sources of the St. Francis. In these mineralogical rambles, which were pursued sometimes on foot, and sometimes on horseback, or wheels, he made acquaintance with many estimable men, amongst whom he may name the Austins, father and son, the late Col. Ashley, John Rice Jones, Esq., and many others who are still living, by all whom, his object in visiting the country was cordially approved and encouraged, at all times. He also became acquainted with practical miners, and persons of enterprize who were not only familiar with the settled frontiers, but who had occasionally penetrated beyond them, into the broad expanse of highlands, now geographically known under the term of, the Ozark Chain. Geologically considered, the mine country is but the eastern flanks of this chain, which extends flush to the banks of the Mississippi, and has its terminus in that elevated range of mural cliffs, which form so striking and often picturesque a display, between St. Genevieve and St. Louis. There was, at the time, a general apprehension felt and expressed, by hunters and others who had penetrated those wilds in quest of deer and buffalo, or of saltpetre-earth in the limestone caves, of the predatory tribe of theOsages.—a people who had for years enjoyed the bad reputation of being thieves and plunderers. All concurred, however, in the interesting character of the country extending in a general course, south-westwardly, from the junction of the Missouri with the Mississippi. He felt an ardent desire to penetrate this terra incognita. He could not learn that any exploratory journey had been made towards the Rocky Mountains, since the well known expeditions of Lewis and Clark, up the Missouri, and of Lieut. Pike, across the upper region of the Arkansas, to Sante Fe and Chihuahua. Breckenridge had subsequently published an account of a trip to Council Bluffs.* But neither of these routes crossed the wide and mountanious tracts referred to, or gave any definite information respecting them. Viewed on the map, these routes formed the general exterior outlines, but they left the interior filling up to be supplied,—or, if supplied at all, it was too often with such vague
phrases as these—" Here are salt mountains." "The is supposed to
take its rise here."- "Volcanic hills," and so forth. The geology of the country furnished no indications whatever of the probability of the latter remark. The kind of pseudo-pumice found floating down the Missouri, in high water, had been stated by Lewis and Clarke, to have a far more remote, and local origin. The description of rock salt, in mountain mass, had long been numbered by popular belief, among the fanciful creations of an exciting political era; and together with western volcanoes, had settled down among those antiquarian rumours, which hold up, as their prime item, the existence of the living mammoth " beyond the big lakes."
If the writer of the notes and journal which furnish these sketches, was not swayed by any particular theories of this nature, yet was he not free from the expectation of finding abundant materials, in the natural productions and scenery and incidents of the journey, to reward him amply for its perils. He had received from hunters several objects of the minerological and geological collection which he made, while living at Potosi, and Mine a Burton: from these wild borders, and, without pretending to estimate the force of each particular object which made up the sum of his motives, he resolved to organize an expedition, with ali tha means he could muster, and explore the region The Austins, who had treated him with marked kindness and attention, from the hour of his first iiindirjg ;n fWiwuin. were then preparing .«*» iheu nisi movement into Texas, and netd out to him a fine the..... ioi cnicrprise; but it was one not suited to his particular means or taste. He recoiled from the subtlety of the Spanish character; and is free to confess, that he deemed it a far more attractive latitude for the zea maize and the cotton plant, than for those pursuits which led him to prefer the more rugged eminences of the Ozarks. They, in the end, founded a republic, and he only made an adventurous journey.
Having thus recalled the era and the motive of the following sketches, the purport of these remarks is accomplished.
New York, 1844.
• The United States government, the very next year, 1819, sent out Col. Long to the Yellow Stone.
Things to be thought of before plunging into the woods—Composition of the party, and reasons why it was not more numerous—First night's encampment—Preliminaries —Sleep in a deserted Indian lodge—A singular variety of the Fox Squirrel—The Pack Horse escapes—Cross the elevation called the Pinery—Reach the outskirts of the settlements in the valley of the Fourche A'Courtois.
Whoever would venture into the wilderness, should provide himself with such articles of personal comfort or safety, as habits, forecast, or the particular object of pursuit or observation, require. Every one will think of arms and ammunition, but there are other things required to make life pleasant, or even tolerable in the woods. This, prior excursions had already taught me, but the lesson was repeated by those of greater experience. There were two persons who had agreed to go with me, and stick by me, to the end,—the one a native of Massachussets, and the other, of Connecticut, both like myself, new in the field, and unacquainted with life in the woods. What they lacked in this art, they more than made up, I thought, in intelligence, enterprise and resource. The name of the first was Brigham. The other, I shall allude to, under the name of Enobitti. Some three or four other persons, natives of the region, had consented to go as hunters, or adventurers into a new field for emigration, but it so happened, that when all was ready—when every objection to the tour had been obviated, and every want supplied, and when my two eastern friends came on to the ground, these persons all quietly, and with an easy flow of reasons, backed out. In fact, my friend Brigham, was also obliged to relinquish the journey, after he had reached the point of rendezvous, i. e. Potosi. A residence on the American bottom, in Illinois, the prior summer, had exposed him to the malaria of that otherwise attractive agricultural area, and an intermittent fever, which he had thus contracted, forbade his venturing beyond the settlements. So that when the appointed day arrived, Enobitti and myself and my good landlord, Ficklin—a warm hearted Kentuckian, who had been a hunter and border spy in his youth, were all the persons I could number, and the latter, only went a short distance, out of the goodness of his heart, and love of forest adventure, to set us, as it were, on the way, and initiate us into some necessary forest arts. It was a bright balmy day,—the 6th of November, 1818. The leaves were rapidly falling from the trees, and strewed the road and made a musical rustling among the branches, as we passed the summits of the mine hills, which separated the valley of Mine & Burton from the next adjoining stream. The air had just enough of the autumn freshness in it, to make it inspiring; and we walked forward, with the double animation of health and hope. As we passed through forests where the hickory abounded, the fox and grey squirrel were frequently seen preparing their winter's stores, and gave additional animation to the scene. It was early in the afternoon when we came into the valley of Bates' Creek—it was indeed but a few miles from our starting point, where our kind Mentor told us, it was best to encamp; for, in the first place, it was the only spot where we could obtain water for a long distance, and secondly, and more important than all, it was necessary that we should re-arrange the load of our packhorse, take a lesson in the art of encamping, and make some other preparations which were proper, before we plunged outright into the wilderness. This was excellent advice, and proper not only to novices, but even to the initiated in the woodsman's art. It is always an object, to make, by this initiatory movement, what is technically called a start.
I had purchased at Potosi, a horse—a low priced animal, rather old and bony, to carry our blankets, some light cooking utensils and a few other articles of necessity, and some provisions. He bore the not very appropriate name of "Butcher," whether from a former owner, or how acquired I know not, but he was not of a sanguinary temper, or at least, the only fighting propensity he ever evinced was to get back to Potosi, as quick as possible, for he ran off the very first night, and frequently, till we got quite far west, repeated the attempt. The poor beast seemed to know, instinctively, that he was going away from the land of corn fodder, and would have to sustain himself by picking up his meals out of sere-grass, often in stony places, or in some dense and vine-bound cane bottom, where his hind legs would often be bound fast by the green briar, while he reached for ward in vain, to bite off a green leaf .
Here we took the first lesson in duly hobbling a horse—a very necessary lesson: for if not hobbled, he will stray away, and cause great detention in the morning, and if not well hobbled he will injure his legs. We found, near the banks of the stream, a deserted Indian lodge, which appeared susceptible, by a little effort, of affording us a very comfortable night's lodging, and would furthermore, should it rain, prove an effectual shelter. This arrangement we immediately set about: the horse was unpacked, his burden stowed in the lodge, the horse hobbled and belled, and a fire lit. While my companion arranged the details of the camp, and prepared to boil a cup of tea, I took my gun, and, with but little ado, shot a number of fine fox and grey squirrels—beingthe first fruits of our exertions in the chace. Among them, there was one of decidedly mongrel species. If not, the variety was peculiar. He had a grey body, and a red foxy tail, with the belly, nose, and tips of the ears black, thus uniting characterestics of three varieties. One or two of these were added to our supper, which we made with great satisfaction, and in due time spread out our blankets, and slept soundly till day break.
On sallying out, I found the horse was gone, and set out in pursuit of him. Although his fore feet were tethered, so that he must lift up both together, he made his way back, in this jumping manner, to his former owner's door, in the village of Mine a. Burton. He had not, however, kept the path, all the way, and losing his track after he got on the herbage, my ear caught the sound of a bell far to the left, which I took to be his, and followed. I pursued the sound of this bell, which was only heard now and then, till after crossing hill and dale, without deviation from the line of sound, I came out at a farm yard, four miles below Potosi; where I found the bell to be attached to the neck of a stately penned ox. The owner, (who knew me and the circumstance of my having set out on the expedition,) told me, that Butcher had reached the mines, and been sent back, by a son of his former owner, to my camp. I had nothing left, but to retrace my way to the same spot, where I found the fugitive, and sat down to a breakfast of tea, bread, ham and squirrel. The whole morning had been lost by this misadventure. It was ten o'clock before we got the animal packed and set forward.
Our second day's journey yielded but little to remark. We travelled diligently along a rough mountainous path, across a sterile tract called the Pinery. This tract is valuable only for its pine timber. It has neither Drming land nor mineral wealth. Not a habitation of any kind was passed. We saw neither bird nor animal. The silence of desolation seemed to accompany us. It was a positive relief to the uniform sterility of the soil, and monotony of the prospect, to see at length,, a valley before us. It was a branch of the Maromeg, or Merrimack, which is called by its original French term of Fourche a Courtois. We had travelled a distance of fourteen miles over these flinty eminences. The first signs of human habitation appeared in the form of enclosed fields. The sun sunk below the hills, as we entered this valley, and we soon had the glimpse of a dwelling. Some woodcock flew up as we hastened forward, and we were not long in waiting for our formal announcement in the loud and long continued barking of dogs. It required the stern commands of their master, before they slunk back and became quiet. It was a small log tenement of the usual construction on the frontiers, and afforded us the usual hospitality and ready accommodation. They gave us warm cakes of corn bread, and fine rich milk. We spread our blankets before an evening's fire, and enjoyed a good night's rest. Butcher here, I think, had his last meal of corn, and made no attempt to return. With the earliest streaks of day light, we re-adjusted his pack, and again set forward.