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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
Uncle Sam's Camels

Lewis Burt Lesley

Harvard University Press,
Cambridge [Mass.], 1929
As republished by The Rio Grande Press, Inc.
Glorieta, NM 1970

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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January 1858

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

The Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale to the Secretary of War concerning the Wagon Road from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River
April 26, 1858
35th Congress, 1st Session,
House of Representatives
Ex. Doc., No. 124

 p237  p63 October 1. Camp 21. At daybreak we were off, and travelling nine and a half miles west found an excellent camp at the water holes and springs discovered yesterday.

The centre peak of the mountain, spoken of yesterday, bears from our camp east by south.

p64 From Alexander's cañon the road ascended almost imperceptibly to the table land, and descended from the divide almost as gradually. The country and soil is the same as that yesterday described. Several small conical hills are within sight a mile or two to the southward, and directly to the west a large bald hill or mountain, with steep sides, rounded top, and but little timber on it.

The morning was cold but the day has been warm and cloudy, so that we are in hopes of rain.

Our present camp is an excellent one; grass, wood, and water in abundance.

Today is that fixed for the return of Thorburn's party, and we are looking for it with great anxiety, as we are all getting tired of this slow and tedious work, and look to his report of the country ahead, with hope of being able to recommence our old style of travelling. Leaving Alexander's cañon at 6, we arrived here at 9.

A fine black-tailed doe was killed this evening.

October 2 — Camp 22. Thorburn not having returned, I  p238 moved on southwest twelve and a half miles to the mouth of the Pass, (which I have named Pass Dornin, after Captain Dornin, United States Navy), discovered a few days since, while we were reconnoitering ahead.

The morning was cloudy, with a few showers of rain, but only enough to wet our buckskins thoroughly, without doing any other good.

The first three or four miles of the road today was rough and stony, but the latter part excellent; the soil was sand and clay.

On arriving at camp, I ascended a mountain which forms one side of the entrance to the Pass. It was very steep and high; but on reaching the summit I was fully repaid by the extensive view it afforded.

I am now convinced we are near Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Whipple's trail, (probably within fifteen or twenty miles), but all traces of it are so completely obliterated that it is impossible to follow him. I think we are now within twenty-five or thirty miles of his Aztec Pass, and a little to the northward and westward of that point.

From the summit of the mountain, as I looked down, almost directly under was the camp, which was at the mouth of the Pass. Then came the view westward. The pass opened into a wide valley, bounded on the north by a high and precipitous mesa, and on the south by a long range of low mountains, apparently very rugged and broken. The valley itself was level and broad, being six miles at its narrowest part in width, and filled with fine grass. To the westward this valley seemed to stretch out to the full extent of vision. About fifteen miles off, near the centre of it, was a high table land or mesa, apparently unconnected with  p239 any other range, and rising abruptly and squarely out of the plain. Far, very far, in the distance, were dim mountains, which may be the chain running parallel with the Colorado.

To the southward I could see, over the range bounding the valley, another range, or at least the tops of high mountains, showing a valley to exist between, by the difference in the shades of blue. Turning to the eastward, I could see, stretching off to the southeast, an extensive valley, which seemed to contain in its wide spreading p65arms, Bill Williams, San Francisco, Sitgreaves, Kendrick mountains, and a host of hills of lesser note. Into this valley one would think some noble river would enter, to add to the fertility of the soil, as well as to the beauty of the landscape; but I regret to say that only a few meagre streams, containing no running water at present, find their way from the mountains to it, although, doubtless, springs exist throughout these mountains.

The pass at the valley on which we are encamped is approached by so gradual an elevation, that, except on inspection, it seems almost like a continuation of the great valley just mentioned. Its course is northwest, and it seems to be the only road left us, unless we cross the ridge to the mountain valley, which I have mentioned being shown by the difference of shade to exist in that direction. This I will look at tomorrow, as I shall then start on another exploring expedition, if Thorburn should not return. The valley we encamped at the entrance of is the same into which Tucker's Pass, discovered a few days ago, enters, that pass coming in at right angles to the one we are on, about ten miles west of our present camp. Wood at this camp is abundant,  p240 both of cedar and pine, but there is no water. Grass good.

October 3 — Camp 22. We are still looking anxiously for the return of Thorburn, who has now been absent six days. To pass the time more agreeably than lying idly in camp, I started out with Davis and Tucker to explore to the westward. We started at 9 in the morning and returned at 9 at night, never having left the saddle for five minutes since the hour of our departure. Our course was nearly west, and I suppose we could not have travelled less than forty miles, going and returning. Contrary to my expectations, we found the country easy for either wagons or horseback travelling. The mountains were generally lower than I thought from looking at them yesterday, and the ranges all tended to the northwest, with pleasant and wide valleys, filled with excellent gramma grass, on which numerous herds of antelope and deer were grazing. Timber, of cedar and pine, was everywhere abundant. The weather was cool and clear. The soil fertile, and of gravel and clay principally. I saw, in many places, a small black locust tree, but scarcely larger than an ordinary rose bush. We crossed one hill which seemed to be entirely formed of quartz, such as is found to contain gold in California. Towards sundown we found a few rude huts, probably the spring or last winter camp of Indians. A metata, and a few other of their very limited supply of household furniture, had been left to await their return. At this point I thought we had reached a fork of Bill Williams' river, as we were evidently on the head of a ravine, which, some distance beyond, connected with another in a rough deep valley or cañon, and to the southward a range of black serrated mountains looked like those called by Lieutenant Whipple the Black mountains.  p241 I regretted not having time to explore further, but it was nearly sundown, and we had twenty-odd miles before us to camp, and had started without bringing with us any provisions; so turning our backs upon what seemed a very interesting country, we returned, to reach camp at 9 o'clock. Should Thorburn not return p66by tomorrow, I shall make another exploration more to the southward. The weather today has been cool and pleasant.

October 4 — Camp 22. About the time I was preparing for my contemplated exploration to the southeast, to my great delight Thorburn came in. He had discovered a small stream some thirty-five miles distant from our present camp, and, by hard travelling, had explored over a hundred and fifty miles of the country lying west and southwest of King's creek in the seven days of his absence.

This, with the explorations made by us from Floyd's Peak, as I have named the mountain described near Alexander's cañon, leaves only a quadrant lying to our southeast unexplored, within a radius of forty or fifty miles from Floyd's Peak.

Preparations were immediately made for our departure tomorrow at 3 o'clock. At that time we shall leave here, and, travelling through Dornin's Pass and the level valley beyond until midnight, we will encamp until daybreak, and hope to reach the water by 3 in the evening of the next day. Thence, we shall make another exploration, which will take us to the Colorado river.

The weather is mild, clear, and very agreeable.

October 5 — Camp 22. The day has been spent in rest and quiet. The wagons are prepared for our night march. At dark we lett camp, and, ascending a very slight elevation,  p242 which makes the entrance through Dornin's Pass, we came upon the wide plain or valley beyond. This was so level that we travelled it until midnight without a single stoppage, when we encamped in good grass, though without other wood than greasewood bushes.

On the hills to our left was plenty of cedar and pine, but as they were a mile distant, I did not care to go to them, as the men had eaten before leaving our last camp, and required rest more than food.

The night was mild and pleasant — only cool, not cold. The soil of the valley was clay and gravel, and the grass abundant, though young and short.

We made thirteen miles and three-quarters.

October 6 — Camp 23. At daybreak we were up and off again before sunrise. Pursuing the same level valley on a course nearly west northwest, we came some ten miles, the hills on our left gradually diminishing until the range gave out in two small buttes of regular and graceful slopes. Here we crossed a gentle divide, and changed our course to one almost west, in the direction of the water for which we were going, and, travelling five or six miles further, encamped on some limestone hills, near a pool of water in the rocks on the summit. As we passed down the large valley this morning, the range of mesa mountains on our right, which I have called the Aulick range, extended as far as we could see to the northward and westward. In places the perpendicular face of the rock, which I should think full a thousand feet in height, was covered with crimson colored blotches and white spots intermixed, and presented a most singular appearance. The wide valley which we had traversed diagonally continued on, doubtless to a great distance  p243 northwest, at the foot of these cliffs, and as far as we could see, without diminution of its width. Thorburn not having had time to look out a wagon road to the water, I encamped p67some four miles from it, and, the mules having drunk all the water in the pool, they were sent on to the stream this evening under the charge of Mr. Davis.

To the westward the country begins to assume a rougher appearance, so that I shall make another exploration in that direction to morrow.

I sent Saevedra this evening to the water with the mules to show the way, and also to endeavor to come to speech with the Indians who have their little corn patch there. In the event of their running off, and of his having no opportunity to speak with them, I sent some calico and other presents to be left in their lodges, and the men had strict orders to touch neither corn nor melons, or to allow their animals to do any damage whatever to the place. Poor creatures! their time will come soon enough for extermination when the merits of this road are made known, and it becomes, as it most assuredly will, the thoroughfare to the Pacific.

The soil today has been clay and small gravel mixed; the grass (gramma) good, though as yet short.

The weather has been windy, but otherwise bright and pleasant. Wood is abundant — cedars and a little pine.

We left this morning at half-past 5, and arrived here at noon.

I rarely think of mentioning the camels now. It is so universally acknowledged in camp, even by those who were most opposed to them at first, that they are the salt of the party and the noblest brute alive, that to mention them at  p244 all would only be to repeat what I have so often said of them before. They have been used on every reconnoissance whilst the mules were resting, and having gone down the precipitous sides of rough volcanic mesas, which mules would not descend until the camels were first taken down as an example. With all this work they are perfectly content to eat anything, from the driest greasewood bush to a thorny prickly pear, and, what is better, keep fat on it.

October 7 — Camp 23. This morning started at 9 o'clock, and crossing a hill to the eastward about a mile from camp descended into a valley running off to the westward. Following this valley, which was nearly half a mile wide, I found it one of many, all of which seemed to drain their waters into one cañon. Here, as I expected, we found water. Two fine springs bursting out of the side of the cañon at the base of its perpendicular sides afforded quite a stream and pool of excellent water. Stripping our saddles and turning our animals loose to graze on the fine grass which abounded thereabouts, we remained near an hour, and then starting again we returned to camp, reaching it at 9 o'clock at night.

On our way back, old Saevedra's mule gave out, which obliged me to leave all of the party to take care of him, excepting Thorburn and Davis. This old wretch is a constant source of trouble to every one, and his entire and incredible ignorance of the country renders him totally unfit for any service. I keep him moving, however, on all occasions, by way of punishment for putting himself upon us as guide.

The valley we descended this morning has a slope to the water discovered, so gradual as to make it difficult to judge from the eye how p68water would run in it. Where we first  p245 struck it, it is bounded on either side by high rough hills and rocky bluffs, which, after following it a few miles, soften into low hills well covered with grass, and on the left a considerable amount of cedar trees. Descending it some ten miles these hills recede, so that it becomes a broad valley of a mile or two in width, and, indeed, the hills become so low that the whole may be taken for a plain of many miles circumference. It seems a basin at the lower or western limit, in which the different valleys, having united their waters, break through a range of low mountains in the cañon where we found the springs. How far this cañon extends, or whether we can pass through it with our wagons, remains yet to be seen. I did not explore it further than the water which we found a mile from the head.

From the head of this cañon, the lowest point reached, from which a view of the ground passed over could be taken, the basin is bounded on all sides apparently by mountains, and is without any outlet, that I could discover, excepting the valley by which we entered, and the cañon which contains the spring.

Our journey of today has convinced us that the water Saevedra found, and to which Thorburn was sent, is not, as we supposed it might be, the head of Bill Williams' river, since the one runs south and the other north. It may probably be Gampia's creek.

The water discovered today, after running south for some distance, turns abruptly to the north, in which direction it finds its outlet into the Colorado.

On going to the springs this morning to water the mules our men found the fresh traces of Indians, and that they had taken the presents left for them.

 p246  The general course of the valley followed today was west 30° south; the soil clay.

There was little grass in the bottom, but abundance on the slopes of the hills. The weather is pleasant and clear.

October 8 — Camp 24. Raised camp at daybreak, and taking our wagons down the rough hill into the valley, we descended the level bottom rapidly towards the water. Where we descended the hill we found on the rocks many hieroglyphics cut by the Indian race who have doubtless once inhabited this region, but have long since passed away. Unhappily, we have no Champollion to decipher these histories of a past race, or much that is interesting in the story of the red man of past times might be brought to our knowledge. The country described yesterday leaves but little to say today. We saw at a distance the black serrated mountain mentioned a few days ago; both yesterday and this morning it bore nearly southwest.

At the springs we found jimpson weed growing luxuriantly. It was pleasant to see even this well-known weed, so common at home, at this distance from everything like civilization.

The banks of the stream running through the cañon of the springs are lined with small willow, and other bushes requiring water, from which I conclude water may be found at all times near the surface.

The two springs are both strong heads of water, and gush out of the rocks in a most refreshing manner to a thirsty man.

p69 The entire day's journey of twenty miles has been down the gentle descent of the valley to the springs, and as smooth as a table the whole distance. At the springs the  p247 cañon is only about two hundred yards in width, but, I presume, widens below. I have called it Engle's Pass, after Captain Engle of the United States navy.

The sides are palisaded at the summit, and in places they must be eight hundred feet in height.

Sufficient timber for fuel and cooking may be found on the banks of the stream, and good grass covers the bottom everywhere. A better place for wintering with stock could not be found, as the turns and winding of the cañon afford a shelter from any winds that blow. The soil is rich loam. The climate today has been pleasant, though this evening the clouds threaten rain.

Our course has been for the day about southwest. We were eight hours travelling time in making the twenty miles.

October 9 — Camp 25. It rained on us nearly all night, wetting our blankets, and making all things uncomfortable, and we crawled out, shivering in the cold morning air. We got off at 8.30 and pursued the course of the cañon, crossing frequently the little stream which turned and twisted in its narrow bed as if anxious to escape. The morning was one of great anxiety to me. We were in the cañon, which narrowed a short distance below the springs, and the walls became almost precipitous from the base to the summit. The course also began to take a more southerly direction, and what with the course and the doubt as to whether the cañon might not close in entirely so as to oblige us to go back, I passed a very anxious morning. A few miles below camp, however, the cañon widened, two or three miles more and its creek ran through a bottom of three quarters of a mile, and cotton-woods (only two it is true) enlivened the  p248 view with their bright green leaves. Further view was shut out by a long point which came down into the valley. I was now well satisfied we could get out; but the course, and how far we would have to go before doing so, still remained to be settled. So far the road down the cañon had been most excellent; no rocks, and the crossings of the stream all so easy as only to require working in one or two places. On our way down and near the long point mentioned, we followed an Indian track, and among the rocks found a good spring of fine clear water. Several others were found by the men on the sides of the cañon.

Passing the point, our doubts were all set at rest most satisfactorily. The stream turned abruptly to the westward, and in that direction a glorious view broke on us. For full sixty miles an immense plain extended to the west, only bounded by a distant range of mountains in that direction, through which we thought we could see such great depressions as to make a passage easy. This, we trust, is the Colorado range. Directly west is a huge mountain, which I called Mount Buchanan, and connected with it by a chain; the roughest we have seen is another which I called Mount Benton. Near this seems an overlapping of the mountain with the range which runs to the northwest, where a pass seems to be easy. Due northwest is a depression in the northwest range which apparently reaches the level of the p70plain. Altogether, the prospect is the finest we have had on the road. This great plain to the northwest must extend to the Colorado, for our distance from that river cannot now exceed by much the distance which we can see.

Much Indian sign is presented about our camp. A few  p249 hundred yards below is a rancheria, deserted, likely, by its people on our approach. It probably contained some thirty or forty savages.

The soil of the valley is excellent; principally of decomposed granite and loam. Grass is very fine.

The day has been threatening, but no rain has fallen. We found no water in the creek where we camped, and I think the descent is so rapid that we are much more likely to find it in pools a few miles below, where it reaches the level of the plain.

We came nearly ten miles today; six on a southerly course, probably south southwest and four west. The fresh Indian sign induces me to believe water may be found quite near us in the morning, but we encamped too late this evening to look for it. There are bushes and small willows enough here for cooking and fuel, but it is all small stuff. The mountains have cedar on their sides.

October 10 — Camp 26. While awaiting in camp for the mules which this morning had been sent up the creek to water, our geologist came into camp, much excited, to inform me that while engaged in cracking stones on the mountain side, three Indians had crept up to his gun a short distance from him, and, after taking it, had drawn their bows upon him, and he was obliged to beat a rapid retreat to camp, which, fortunately, was not over half a mile from him. I immediately sent my three boys, May, Ham and Joe, to look after the thieves and to bring them into camp. They did not succeed in finding them, though they trailed them to the spot. Here they found shoe tracks an extraordinary distance apart, and of large size, coming directly towards camp; but as our geologist says he walked  p250 on his return, these could not have been his, especially as the toe had made deep impressions in the sand. We are at a loss, therefore, to know to what tribe they could belong, as shoes seem to be a luxury only indulged by the most civilized nations. On returning to camp the boys saw two Indians quite near, who immediately fired their arrows at them. This was returned by double-barrelled guns, and hearing this at camp, Mr. Thorburn and I started at once with our guns in the direction of the sound. A few hundred yards from camp, in the bottom of the valley, we saw the Indians running, and the boys hot foot after them, both parties firing as they ran. We immediately joined the chase, which proved very pretty practice for a while, but soon began to tell on the lungs. Some of the men having followed us, I directed them to return to the wagons and mount the horses and mules we had retained. This done, we all continued the chase. In a few minutes the mounted party joined us. I ordered the men by no means to kill the Indians, but to take them alive. Directly opposite camp is a dark red butte very rocky, high and steep. Here we fairly ran them to earth near the top. The first caught was a boy apparently fifteen years of age; but where was the other? We had completely surrounded the conical peak of the hill, and though a minute search had p71been made we had not found him. I was positive I had seen him while balancing myself upon a slippery rock, but in jumping off it I had lost him in an instant. Still I knew he was not over fifty steps from me; so putting Tucker at one point, and stationing others around, some were sent to the top, so as to form a complete cordon around the spot he had disappeared at. At last one of the men looking into  p251 a greasewood bush not larger than an ordinary rose bush, discovered him close to the root, lying apparently coiled around it, and so completely concealed that even within six feet of him he could not be seen. He was dragged from his concealment, roped and carried to camp. Here he was well fed and both of them clothed from head to foot, and they are now sitting quietly at the camp fire. I shall use them as guides to the Colorado, and then either take them on and bring them back next winter or allow them to return from that river.

We are now about sixty-five miles from the river. The weather is clear and pleasant.

This evening the boy appeared so young and unfit for a long journey, that I determined to release him and send him back to his people with all his fine clothes and presents.

We started with the wagons, and, after having gone three miles, encamped on the side of the mountain bounding the valley on the left. Wood is scarce, there being nothing but bushes, and the grass only tolerable.

In the morning the old Indian, our captive, has promised to show me a fine spring on the other side of the valley.

Our road this evening was about a west southwest course, and gravelly and stony in places. We crossed several small arroyos putting out from the mountain. The mountain on the left gives out within a mile of this place, and the wide valley we are in joins another equally wide, running to the southwest.

At dusk the boy was liberated and went off into the darkness rejoicing.

October 11 — Camp 27. This morning the good policy of setting the boy free has been made apparent. Shortly  p252 after daylight an Indian came in bringing the gun stolen from Mr. Williams the day before. I gave them presents — calico, blankets, handkerchiefs, &c, &c, half a sheep — and left them cooking their meat at our camp fire, in excellent humor with both themselves and us.

We started before sunrise, with our Indian captive as guide, and crossing the spur of the mountain, while the train passed around by the level valley, we found the spring in a narrow ravine high up in the mountain. It was a bold spring, and the tule or catstail growing on it proves it to be permanent water. I rejoined the train some three miles from the spring, and as the plain had been heavy, and the teams had made eight miles, I determined to camp where we met them, and send some men up with the mules and with picks and shovels to make a fine pool at the water. This done, I shall explore ahead again.

Grass (gramma) is pretty good at this place. Wood is indifferent, only bushes, and the soil loose clay, mixed with quartz and granite gravel. The weather is warm, clear, and pleasant. Last night there p72was a heavy dew. Today I have seen a great deal of quartz, like the gold-bearing quartz of California. Some of the veins seemed very large, and were in positions to be easily worked.

The Indian fires were built all around us last night, but they made no attack upon us, nor did they attempt to stampede our mules. After taking a hurried dinner, I started with Thorburn, two or three of the men and my boys, under the guidance of the captive, to whom I promised liberty if he would show us water once more. We rode over the valley, or rather plain, for eleven miles, when we found a well some six feet deep, and apparently containing  p253 a sufficiency of water. It was nearly 10 o'clock when we returned — cold, hungry, and tired — to camp.

I determined to move camp to the well in the morning.

The grass here is pretty good, but no wood except bushes. The soil of the great valley we are in does not seem so rich as the general average of the land we have passed, and the grass appears to grow in large patches, leaving bare intermediate spaces.​1

At the well, we found Indian signs, showing their presence around us; but none came in sight.

October 12 — Camp 28. Starting at dawn we travelled by the easy plain over to the spring. Before leaving camp I started off old Saevedra to look for water, which, he says, he camped at somewhere about here fourteen years ago, but does not remember the exact spot. I sent with him Ham, May, and Joe, and the whole party under the charge of Tucker.

Our camp from the well, which I have called Butler's well, from one of my men, appears to be completely hemmed in by the most rugged mountains. The great valley is bounded on the north by the Buchanan and Benton ranges of mountains, and on the south by a rugged mountain I have named Harry Edwards' mountain. All the intermediate spaces are filled up with rough and ragged ranges of lower elevation. To the northward and eastward is a range of high, frowning, dark mesas, along the base of which and turning to the northward runs the dry stream, on which we encamped in Engle's Pass, (as I have called the cañon down which we came to the great valley); and  p254 where we are to leave the valley is a problem yet to be solved, involving further exploration.

Fresh tracks of Indians at and around the well show them to be quite plentiful in our vicinity.

At 3 o'clock Tucker returned to inform me that Saevedra had found his spring, and that it was a fine running water. I was pleased to hear this on two accounts: In the first place, the supply in the well proved insufficient; and in the next, it was the only thing old Saevedra had found, that he started to look for, since our departure from Albuquerque. Before he went out this morning, he told me that if he could only find this water the direction to three others would come directly back to his mind, and that they lay on a good course for us to the Colorado.

Leaving Butler's well, we journeyed six or seven miles over the p73great valley to the south, and encamped at the head of the cañon in which the spring and little stream rises. The grass is indifferent, and no other wood than bushes.

The road is excellent. The soil is loose and in places covered with volcanic pebbles and gravel.

October 13 — Camp 29. At an hour before daybreak the bugle sounded, and by light we were on the road.

At the head of the cañon we had about fifty steps of rocky road, which delayed us awhile, making it passable for the wagons. This over, we came rapidly down the level bottom of the cañon to the fine clear water of the spring, which we reached in five miles. This place — I refer to the cañon — differs in no particular from that already described as Engle's Pass. The character of the rock, the palisaded sides, are just the same. We found here plenty  p255 of wood for cooking; but the grass is scarce at the spring, though a mile or two above it there is plenty. I have called the spring after Saevedra.

I have no doubt that this pass, like Engle's, will lead to another great valley, or a plain, over which we shall travel without trouble to the Colorado.

The stream from the spring, after running a short distance, sinks into the gravelly bottom of the bed of the stream. It affords abundance of water for any number of animals.

The weather has become warm this evening, recalling the summer weather of the Del Norte.

The mesquite growth also begins again to show itself, and other shrubs that grow in a warmer temperature than we have lately experienced in the more elevated region we have passed over.

Breakfast over, Mr. Thorburn, the boys, and myself started ahead to explore, leaving the wagons to follow on our trail. Emerging from the mouth of the pass, which I called the Boys' Pass, after May, Ham, and Joe, who were the first to enter it, we came upon a vast plain.

Directly in front of us stretched a chain of high mountains cut into fantastic peaks and shapes of all kinds, and about fifteen miles from us.

To the northwest and southeast the view was unbounded, only two peaks appearing in the distance about the centre of the plain in the southeast. Directly ahead appeared in the centre of the mountain range a single peak, rising sharp and clear above the surrounding mountains; and here the mountains seemed to form a pass, towards which we directed our steps. The plain appeared to be endless, and travelling towards the opposite mountain until night  p256 we were still at a distance from the base. The plain was barren of grass and bore only a growth of worthless bushes, but the ground was firm and strong and the travelling good. It was covered for the most part with fine gravel, and when beaten down will form an excellent road.

When night overtook us we unsaddled, and, tying up our mules, built a fire and cooked what little we had brought with us. Shortly after our fire was started, another at a long distance, perhaps eight or ten miles off, marked the position of our camp, and near to us, and between us and the mountains, we could see Indian fires. A guard of one man was kept on during the night, and we passed it pleasantly without disturbance from the Indians. In the morning as soon as it p74was light enough to see, we were off again. Turning the point which makes out from the high peak, which I called Frank Murray's Peak, we entered a wide gorge, which seemed to cut the mountain far up towards its centre. It was rough with stones, and overgrown in places with willow and rank weeds, through which Indian trails with fresh tracks and other signs, showing their immediate presence. A few rude lodges, and a patch or two of pumpkins, were also found on the borders of the dry hed of the creek. We found a fine bold spring about three miles from the entrance of the pass, and pursuing our way soon came to a short but steep hill at the end of the gorge, which seemed to be the summit of the pass. Ascending this, the river lay below us. We had arrived at the end of our long journey. So far, without an accident. Only those who have toiled so far, with life, reputation, everything staked upon the result, can imagine the feelings with which I looked down from the heights  p257 of this mountain upon the cotton-woods and shining surface of the river far below us.

At a great distance to the northwest, a snow-capped chain of mountains marked the Sierra Nevada, the mountains of my own State, and my heart warmed as I thought of the many friends beyond that distant chain who were looking anxiously for my arrival, and who would share with me the feelings of gratified pride with which the result of a successful expedition would be crowned. Both the descent and ascent of the hill was sharp, and I therefore determined to pack the loads over on the camels, so as not to distress our mules.

Descending the hill we met the train coming up the pass, and having found another large spring below the first we encamped near it. Here also was a patch of pumpkins and lodges.

In coming down the pass from the summit, I found Indian tracks over those made by our mules in going up, so that they had passed over our trail within an hour, and were doubtless hidden close to us in the bushes as we passed. Poor creatures! if they had known me better, they would scarcely have hidden out of sight, or missed the blankets and shirts I would have given them had they come in. The weather is warm.

In the evening we moved a mile further up the pass to the second spring, where we found, as at the first, a few acres of coarse bottom grass growing luxuriantly, and quite enough for one night's feed for our mules. I sent the boys to the summit to make fires as signals to the Mohaves that we came as friends, and desired to trade.

It is about twelve or fifteen miles yet to the river, and  p258 from the Indians living there, who are a fine, large, bold race of agriculturists, we hope to obtain corn enough to feed our animals all the way from here to California.

I shall go into Fort Tejon to recruit and refit, as we have but ten days' provisions, at half rations, left, which short fare is owing to our having been misled by the miserable Leco, our guide.

October 15 — Camp. This morning we spent in unloading the wagons and packing the camels over the hill. I sent Saevedra ahead with the boys to find a water to encamp at, between the summit and the river. We might easily have avoided this mountain by going on the plain I have described as extending to the northwest, and turning p75the point of the mountain there where it gives out; but my instructions direct me to a point opposite the mouth of the Mohave, and these waters make it easy for emigrants to make the drives, besides which the Mohaves, from whom breadstuffs, vegetables, such as beans, corn and pumpkins, may be obtained, do not live to the northward of this point, and which becomes important for these reasons.

We gained the summit without difficulty, and found it only a mile and a half from the spring.

Only a quarter of a mile was steep, and the whole was accomplished without double teaming.

The descent looked so steep that I determined to encamp on the top and make it in the morning. We had a slight shower of rain during the night.

October 16. The whole morning has been employed in getting down the mountain, which, though not over three-quarters of a mile, was difficult to pass over, being steep and rocky.

 p259  Emigrants cannot pass here until the hill is worked. I estimate the expense of making this mountain pass a good one, and a good road for emigrants, at five thousand dollars.

In coming down the mountain, the little buggy used for the carriage of the instruments upset and broke a wheel, which is the first breakage we have had since leaving. As the chronometers had been taken out no harm was done, and as it had fulfilled the purpose for which it was purchased, and our journey was accomplished, I did not care to encamp to repair it, especially as the camels, with the tool chest, by a mistake of the gentleman having charge, had been carried many miles beyond the place I had intended for them; thus, to our regret, separating our party a considerable distance, as they had with them all that remained of our rations.

October 17. At daylight we were at work, and, passing down an arroyo making out of the mountains, encountered a short hill of not over fifty yards, which, on account of the arroyo running through a narrow chasm, we were forced to cross, in order to get back into the arroyo again lower down. The passage of this hill which we were obliged to work down cost us nearly all the morning. Once over this, we descended the dry bed of the arroyo rapidly. Here the Indians began to pour in upon us from the Mohave villages. First, two or three, and then by dozens. They were a fine-looking, comfortable, fat and merry set; naked excepting a very small piece of cotton cloth around the waist, and, though barefooted, ran over the sharp rock and pebbles as easily as if shod with iron. We were soon surrounded on all sides by them. Some had learned a few  p260 words of English from trafficking with the military posts two hundred and fifty miles off, and one of them saluted me with: "God damn my soul eyes. How de do! How de do."

A few miles down the arroyo the growth of a patch of cottonwoods and willows announced the presence of springs; but we did not wait to examine, though some of the party found water there. Shortly after we left the arroyo, and coming out on the left bank, followed an excellent Indian trail leading us directly to the river.

Night overtook us a mile before we reached the river. The plain over p76which we passed bore neither wood, water, nor grass, so that our camp was a rough one, and only enlivened by the Indians who brought some pumpkins, which we purchased, and baking them, we made an excellent supper. Weather during the day has been warm, and the soil barren.

The distance made today has been about eight miles, on a course nearly west.

October 18. This morning the mules were sent off before daybreak to water. We had tried ineffectually to get them to the river last night, but found it impossible on account of the brush wood.

Camp is crowded with Indians again this morning, some bringing melons, others corn, and others beans, &c, to trade for old clothes, worn out shirts, handkerchiefs, or almost anything of ours they fancy. They are shrewder at a bargain, though, than our men, whose keen appetites cannot bear the delay necessary to a successful trade. The watermelons, cantaloupes, and pumpkins, are of excellent flavor and fair size.

 p261  In the river bottom, which is several miles wide, and of very rich soil, we found grass and wood in great abundance. Trading with the Indians, in a day we had secured a hundred bushels of corn and beans, pumpkins, watermelons and cantaloupes, to last us to the settlements. Here my journey, as far as the road is concerned, terminated. My instructions directing me, in the event of a want of provisions, to proceed to Fort Tejon and procure them there.

Crossing my wagons over the river on the common air beds which I had brought for the purpose, and the use of which I recommend to others, I followed the United States surveyor's trail from the river to Los Angelos, my wagons and train taking the right hand road, and coming directly from the Mohave to the Fort Tejon. Here I remained until about the 1st of January, when I commenced my winter journey homeward, arriving at the Colorado January 23, 1858.

The Author's Note:

1 I changed my opinion returning. We found the grass in this valley everywhere abundant.

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Page updated: 7 Mar 16