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The Rescue of the "Donner Party."
READERS of "Gabriel Conroy" will remember the following foot-note which occurs in connection with the author's description of scenes in Starvation Camp:
“I fear I must task the incredulous reader's further patience by calling attention to what may, perhaps, prove the most literal and thoroughly attested fact of this otherwise fanciful chronicle. The condition and situation of the ill-famed Donner Party,'-then an unknown, unheralded cavalcade of emigrants-starving in an unfrequented pass of the Sierras, was first made known to Captain Yount of Napa, in a dream. The Spanish records of California show that the relief party which succored the survivors was projected upon this Spiritual information."
In the thorough scrutiny to which everything relating to the Heroic Age of California has been subjected, there are, probably, few beyond the mountains who are not familiar with the details of the above expedition. There are many in the East, however, who will be interested in Captain Yount's own version of this strange occurrence, as related by him to the late Rev. Dr. Horace Bushnell. We quote from "Nature and the Supernatural," pages 475-6:
As I sat by the fire, one stormy November night, in a hotel parlor, in the Napa Valley of California, there came in a most venerable and benignant-looking person, with his wife, taking their seats in the circle. The stranger, as I afterward learned, was Captain Yount, a man who came over into California, as a trapper, more than forty years ago. Here he has lived, apart from the great world and its questions, acquiring an immense landed estate, and becoming a kind of acknowledged patriarch in the country, His tall, manly person, and his gracious, paternal look, as totally unsophisticated in the expression as if he had never heard of a philosophic doubt or question in his life, marked him as the true patriarch. The conversation turned, I know not how, on Spiritism and the modern necromancy, and he discovered a degree of inclination to believe in the reported mysteries. His wife, a much younger and apparently Christian person, intimated that probably he was predisposed to this kind of faith by a very peculiar experience of his own, and evidently desired that he might be drawn out by some intelligent discussion of his queries.
At my request, he gave me his story. About six or seven years previous in a mid-winter's night he had a dream, in which he saw what appeared to be a company of emigrants, arrested by the snows of the mountains, and perishing rapidly by cold and hunger. He noted the very cast of the scenery, marked by a huge perpendicular front of white rock cliff; he saw men cutting off what appeared to be tree-tops, rising out of deep gulfs of snow; he distinguished the very features of the persons, and the look of their particular distress. He woke, profoundly impressed with the distinctness and apparent reality of his dream. At length he fell asleep, and dreamed exactly the same dream again. In the morning he could not expel it from his mind. Falling in, shortly, with an old hunter comrade, he told him the story, and was only the more deeply impressed by his recogniz ing, without hesitation, the scenery of the dream. This comrade came over the Sierra, by the Carson Valley Pass, and declared that a spot in the Pass answered exactly to his description. By this the unsophisticated patriarch was decided. He immediately collected a company of men, with mules and blankets, and all necessary provisions. The neighbors were laughing, meantime, at his credulity. "No matter," said he," I am able to do this, and I will, for I verily believe that the fact is according to my dream." The men were sent into the mountains, one hundred and fifty miles distant, directly to the Carson Valley Pass. And there they found the company, in exactly the condition of the dream, and brought in the remnant alive.
A gentleman present said: "You need have no doubt of this; for we Californians all know the facts, and the names of the families brought in, who now look upon our venerable friend as a kind of a savior." These names he gave, and the places where they reside, and I found, afterward, that the California people were ready, everywhere, to second his testimony.
The Horse-Car Poetry.
ITS TRUE HISTORY
I PURPOSE to write the true and authentic account of the origin, growth, and development of that de
partment of English literature which is known and recognized as "Horse-Car Poetry," wherever that product of American civilization, the daily newspaper with a "humorous" column, exists, or the mother tongue lies bleeding under the club of a 'local editor." I shall trace it from the hour of its birth, in car No. 101 of the Fourth Avenue line, in the dusk of a summer evening of 1875, to its simultaneous appearance in the February numbers of the "Atlantic" and " Harper's" of the present year. I am the more anxious to make this contribution to history now, for the reason that I am in possession of all the facts as gathered from the most trustworthy sources, and I know that it is a subject in which the world is interested, and upon which it has a rapturous longing to learn the uttermost, the frozen truth. Moreover, great misapprehension exists in the public mind upon the whole subject. There is much doubt concerning the original lines, deplorable ignorance concerning the circumstances which gave them birth, and profound mystery as to the author or authors. All this doubt I shall dispel, all this ignorance enlighten, all this mystery unravel. It seems plain that this should be done now. For, if the origin of this school of poetry is even now wrapped in uncertainty and the names of its founders unknown, how insoluble will be the mystery, and how long and profound the discussions, and arguments, and disputes, and citations of authorities, and comparisons of hand-writing, and all that, when posterity gets hold of it, as it is sure to, and investigates it, as it must! Had the author of the "Junius" letters known what trouble he was making for unborn generations, I make no doubt he would have unbosomed himself before he died. No such legacy of contention should be left by the authors-the inventors, I may say-of the horse-car poetry. Understand me. I have no selfish motive in making public the following facts. It is only in the interest of truth, the truth of history, and from a desire that justice may be done the founders of this fresh and unique department of literature, as well as to save trouble for posterity, that I have pursued the investigation and established the truth of the statements I am about to make. It is proper that I should state at the outset that I have consulted with all the authors whose names are given, and, though they were without exception averse to publicity and reluctant to expose themselves to the shafts of the critic and the reviewer, and the storm of detraction, from which even the Lake school of poets did not escape, they finally consented, upon grounds of humanity, that the whole story should be told.
In the cars of the Fourth Avenue line,—a line which charges six and eight cents fare, as will be presently seen, and, in consequence, is patronized by the wealthy and the proud,-there is a notice which runs thus:
"The conductor, when he receives a fare, will immediately punch in the presence of the passenger,
A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
Examine these three lines carefully, and you will observe that it is almost ready-made poetry. It looks like poetry, for each line begins with a capital letter, and that in many cases is the only distinguishing mark of a poem. Then, too, it scans well: it rhymes, it trips, it runs with a skippity-skip, and you can sing it; a man who has music in his soul can't help singing it. I am satisfied that thousands of regular riders on the Fourth Avenue line hummed it to themselves before it ever leaped into print as regulation verse. Mr. Bromley of "The Tribune," and Mr. Brooks of "The Times," were riding down town one night last summer like purse-proud aristocrats in car No. 101 of the Fourth Avenue line, having the whole car to themselves. Brooks was dozing. Bromley's attention was riveted to the notice, which always had a strange fascination for him. At length he started up with:
"It's poetry, by George! Brooks, it's poetry.” Brooks, somewhat startled by the abruptness of the outburst, hastily inquired:
"What's poetry? What are you talking about?" Bromley, as if fearful of losing his discovery, pointed to the card, and, without taking his eyes off it, read it with the omission of but a single word, thus:
"The conductor, when he receives a fare, Will punch in the presence of the passinjare, A blue trip slip," etc.
Brooks mumbled it over in a sleepy way, and said: "That's so," and then tried to look away from it and forget it. He couldn't. He was caught by the strange fascination. Both the gentlemen read it and re-read it, and kept reading and repeating it till they reached Printing House Square, and they both inform me that it haunted them the whole night long.
Still, it must be confessed, there was something unsatisfactory, a sense of incompleteness about it as it stood. The next night when they entered the car, they were overpowered by the same fascination. They hummed it and jingled it, and kept it going. It kept time with the rattle of the car, it made perfect accord with the hoof-boats of the horses, it was a regular Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum sort of thing. At length, Brooks was inspired and burst forth with the additional line that made the song complete. So then it ran :
"The conductor, when he receives a fare, Will punch in the presence of the passinjare, A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a 6 cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a 3 cent fare,
Both then felt that the poem was complete and ready to be set to music, perhaps fitted into an opera. It was very shortly introduced as a hymn in the editorial rooms of "The Tribune," and Mr. Wyckoff, the scientific editor, assisted by Mr. Moses P. Handy, then of "The Tribune" staff, now editor of "The Richmond Enquirer," added to them the following chorus, which it will be observed has the characteristic merits of the original verse, and of this school of metrical composition:
"Punch, boys, punch! punch with care!
Then the hymn and chorus were sung together, and the work pronounced perfect by good judges of both poetry and music. The score is appended to this article:
It was not intended to give the poem to the public; but one night it was taken down in shorthand from the lips of the choir, and the next day printed on an inside page of "The Tribune." It was then the trouble began. Boston broke out with parodies; Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington took up the strain, and in a somewhat rapid and confusing manner rang the changes. It ran west to Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, and Keokuk. It dropped down to New Orleans, swung back by the cities of the Gulf and principal ports of entry, hovered over Key West, and was only hindered from crossing to Havana by the feebleness of the Spanish tongue in reproducing the idioms, and by the suspicion with which all American products are received on the island. It crossed the plains, licking up outlying settlements like a prairie fire in its progress, and filling Denver, Cheyenne, and Laramie with music on its way. Then it swooped down upon the Pacific coast from the Sierras like a song of the sun-lands, and made the heart of the "hoodlum " leap with gladness. It was the one touch of horse-car poetry that made the whole world kin. The continent was one vast eruption of verse. There were addresses, and sonnets, and odes, hexameter, spondee, and dactyl, humorous, descriptive, sentimental, and didactic,everything that jingled, and some things that visibly and painfully limped into this torrent of verse, were hurled, folios upon folios, relating to the onehorse car, the two-horse car, the conductorless car, the car-driver, the car-conductor, the worn car-horse, and the noble mule. The stockholders and directors, the "car-starters" and "spotters," the motive power, and the rolling stock, were all embalmed in verse and immortalized in song.
They sang the car-horse and his load; Sang without any instructor;
Each heart recalled a different road, But all sang the horse-car conductor.
But the introduction of this rare and beautiful style has done more than merely transform the workday world into an aviary, and set the continent asinging. It has promoted peace. Rival journalists have ceased to malign each other for a moment to join in the chorus and pay a passing contribution to the swelling volume. Space that would otherwise have been given to objurgatory prose has been sanctified with the halo of poetry, and devoted to the muse of the horse-car. Political contention ceased, and the able editor, finding that he had pinions and could mount, went flapping upward above the noise of factions and the strife of parties, and sang sweetly in the blue empyrean of the buff trip slip, and the pink trip slip, and of the glad day coming when trip
slips of all colors and denominations should be openly and unreservedly punched in the presence of the passinjare. Physicians have hummed it to their patients; it has hung on the lips of clergymen, even in the midst of funeral discourses and marriage ceremonies; lawyers have felt it trip into their large and learned discourse to Court or jury; mothers have sung it as a lullaby, and there are round-eyed, wondering infants-fortunate babes-in the cradles of to-day who are to be the horse-car conductors and passinjares of the next generation, who will step out by and by into active life so rooted and grounded in the knowledge of the duty of the conductor, with reference to the trip slips, that, in the words of another, "no climate can claim, no country can appropriate, them."
And then for the Centennial year how fit it is! Not epilepsy itself-which it somewhat resemblescould be fitter, or more fit. It has united the peo
blue trip slip for an eight cent fare,
ple; it has promoted harmony; it has brought peace. Specimens of it should be gathered from all quarters of the continent and exhibited under glass, or in a cage or something, at the Centennial. It strikes me it would be something of a surprise to the crowned heads, if any should come over; and if they should not, it will be their own loss. And then, one hundred years from now, when the nation celebrates its Bi-Centennial, when the horse-car poetry shall have been long established, and its place in literature recognized wherever the language is spoken, who knows but the battered remains of car No. 101 of the Fourth Avenue line will be exhibited as a historic relic, of which the Emerson of that day shall write :
pink trip slip for a three cent fare,
SONG OF THE HORSE-CAR CONDUCTOR.*
The con-ductor, when he re-ceives a fare, Must punch in the pres-ence of the pas-sin-jare; A
"Twas here the horse-car company stuck The immortal verse heard round the world."
WINKELRIED WOLFGANG BROWN.