Puslapio vaizdai

journey and its many objects of interest. All the first day we ride through brisk Mormon villages, prosperous in their waving cornfields and their heavy trade with the mines. At a distance is the Great Salt Lake, - properly an inland sea, like the Caspian and Sea of Aral, having a large tributary, the Bear River, and no outlet. Crossing Bear River, and the low mountains beyond, we follow down the Portneuf Cañon to Snake River, or Lewis's Fork of the Columbia, along which and its affluents lies the rest of our journey.

Hurrying past the solitary stationhouses, and over here and there a little creek, our fourth night brings us to a low hill, which we need to be told is a pass of the Rocky Mountains. We cross this during the night, and morning dawns upon us in a level prairie among the network of brooks which form the extreme sources of the Missouri. Here, more than sixty years ago, Lewis and Clarke followed the river up to the "tiny bright beck," so narrow that "one of the party in a fit of enthusiasm, with a foot on each side, thanked God that he had lived to bestride the Missouri." It is called Horse Prairie, from the circumstance that they here bartered for horses with the Shoshonee Indians. They had often seen the men, mounted on fleet steeds, watching them like timid antelopes at a distance, but never allowing this distance to lessen. No signs or proffered presents could induce a near approach. One lucky day, however, Captain Lewis surprised a chattering bevy of their squaws and made prisoner a belle of the tribe. Finding all effort to escape hopeless, the woman held down her head as if ready for death. There was among them the same effeminate fear of capture and the same heroic fortitude when death seemed inevitable, that Clive and Hastings found in the Bengalee. But the Captain gallantly painted her tawny cheeks with vermilion, and dismissed her loaded with presents. It is hardly necessary to add, that captures of Shoshonee Sabines were not long matters of difficult accomplishment. Very soon

all the chiefs followed, with a rather exuberant cordiality towards the party, and with forced smiles the explorers "received the caresses and no small share of the grease and paint of their new friends."

Lewis and Clarke called Horse Prairie by the prettier name of Shoshonee Cove. But the names they gave have passed into as deep oblivion as the forgotten great man, Rush, whose pills they publish to the world as a sovereign specific in bilious fevers. Of all the names on their map only those of the three forks of the Missouri, from President Jefferson and his Secretaries Madison and Gallatin, remain. The unpoetical miner has invented a ruder nomenclature; and on the rivers which they called Wisdom, Philosophy, and Philanthropy, he bestows the barbarous names of Big Hole, Willow Creek, and Stinking Water.

A few hours' ride brings us to Grasshopper Creek, another affluent of the Missouri, and, like them all, a crooked little stream of clear cold water, fringed with alders and willows, and with a firm pebbly bed, along which the water tinkles a merry tune. What a pity that these pure mountain children should develop to such a maturity as the muddy Missouri! Parallel with this little stream, where it winds into a narrow chasm between abrupt mountain walls, winds a crooked street, with a straggling row of log-cabins on either side, and looking from the mountain-tops very much like the vertebræ of a huge serpent. This is Bannack, so called from the Indian tribe whose homes were in the vicinity. These were the bravest, the proudest, and the noblest looking Indians of the mountains till the white man came. Yet seldom has there been a stronger illustration of the inexorable law, that when a superior and inferior race come in contact the lower is annihilated. Every step of the white man's progress has been a step of the red man's decay. And now this tribe, once so warlike, is a nation of spiritless beggars, crouching near the white settlements for protection from

their old foes, over whom in times past by the name of "divides." They have they were easy victors.

At Bannack, in the summer of 1862, a party of Colorado miners, lost on their way to Gold Creek in the Deer Lodge Valley, discovered the first rich placer diggings of Montana. A mining town grew up straightway; and ere winter a nondescript crowd of two thousand people-miners from the exhausted gulches of Colorado, desperadoes banished from Idaho, bankrupt speculators from Nevada, guerilla refugees from Missouri, with a very little leaven of good and true men- were gathered in. Few of them speak with pleasant memories of that winter. The mines were not extensive, and they were difficult to work. Scanty supplies were brought in from Denver and Salt Lake, and held at fabulous prices. An organized band of ruffians, styled Road Agents, ruled the town. Street murders were daily committed with impunity, and travellers upon the road were everywhere plundered. Care was not even taken to conceal the bodies of the victims, which were left as food for the wolves by the roadside.

Next year, the discovery of richer mines at Virginia left Bannack a deserted village of hardly two hundred people. It is a dull town for the visitor; but the inhabitants have all Micawber's enthusiastic trust in the future, and live in expectation of the wealth which is to turn up in the development of the quartz lodes. We visited the most famous of these lodes, -- the Dacotah, almost every specimen from which is brilliant with little shining stars of gold. And deep down in the shaft of this lode has been found a spacious cave full of stones of a metallic lustre, sending out all the tints of the rainbow, and many-colored translucent crystallizations, varying from the large stalactites to the fragile glass-work that crumbles at the touch.

Leaving Bannack, the road ascends a very lofty range of mountains, and passes by much wild and picturesque scenery. Mountaineers call these ranges, where they separate two streams,

a scanty but nutritious herbage, and are for many months in the year covered with snow. On many of them a stunted growth of hybrid pines and cedars flourishes in great abundance. These, with the quaking ash and cottonwood along the streams, are the only woods of Montana. None of the harder woods, such as oak or maple, are found. It is inconceivably grand from the top of this range to look out upon the endless succession of vast peaks rolling away on every side, like waves in the purple distance. High above them all towers Bald Mountain, the old Indian landmark of this section, like Saul among his brethren. I have crossed this range in the gray of a February morning, with the thermometer at thirty-five below zero, and I never felt such a sense of loneliness as in gazing out from our sleigh little atom of life as it seemed-upon this boundless ocean of snow, whose winters had been unbroken solitude through all the centuries.

Over this divide we pass among a low range of hills seamed with veins of silver, having already a more than local reputation. The hills embosom a clear little creek called after the yellow rattlesnake, which is almost as plentiful a luxury in these wilds as the grasshopper. It is, however, less venomous than its Eastern brethren, for not even the oldest inhabitant can instance a death from its bite. Nervous people avoid it studiously, but it has many friends among the other animals. The prairie-dog, the owl, and the rattlesnake live a happy family in one burrow, and the serpent has another fast friend in the turtle-dove. These doves are called the rattlesnake's brothersin-law, and there runs a pretty legend, that when an Indian kills one of them, or mocks their plaintive cry, they tell the rattlesnake, who lies in wait and avenges the wrong by a deadly sting. And when one of the snakes is killed, the turtle-doves watch long over his dead body and chant mournful dirges at his funeral.

The road to Virginia passes through

the basin in which lie the tributaries of Jefferson Fork. It is a barren waste. Being in the rich mineral section of the country, its agricultural resources are proportionally deficient. Providence does not sprinkle the gold among the grain lands, but, by the wise law of compensation, apportions it to remote and volcanic regions which boast of little else. Along the water-courses is a narrow belt of cottonwood, and then rise the low table-lands, too high for irrigation, and with a parched, alkaline soil which produces only the wild sage and cactus. Miners curse this sprawling cactus most heartily, and their horses avoid its poisonous porcupine thorns with great care. All through these brown wastes one sees no shelter for the herds, no harvests of grain or hay, and wonders not a little how animal life as well the flocks of antelope, elk, and deer in the mountains, as the cattle and horses of the rancheros is preserved through the deep snows of the Northern winter. But even when the mountains are impassable, there is seldom snow in the valleys; and along the sides of the hills grow stunted tufts of bunch-grass, full of sweetness and nutriment. Horses always hunt for it in preference to the greener growth at the water's edge. And it is not an annual, but a perennial, preserving its juices during the winters, and drawing up sap and greenness into the old blades in the first suns of spring. This bunch-grass grows in great abundance, and it is only in winters of extreme severity that animals suffer from a lack of nourishing food.

Specks of gold may be found in a pan of dirt from any of these streams, followed back to the mountain chasm of its source. Upon one of them, in June, 1863, a party of gold-hunters stopped to camp on their return to Bannack, after an unsuccessful trip to the Yellowstone. While dinner was being cooked, one of them washed out a pan of dirt and obtained more than a dollar. Further washings showed even greater richness; and, hurrying to Bannack, they returned at once with supplies and

friends, and formed a mining district. In the absence of law, the miners frame their own law; and so long as its provisions are equal and impartial, it is everywhere recognized. The general principle of such laws is to grant a number of linear feet up and down the gulch or ravine to the first squatter, upon compliance with certain conditions necessary for mutual benefit. In deliberations upon these laws, technicalities and ornament are of little weight, and only the plainest common-sense prevails. Prominent among their conditions was a provision - for the exorcism of drones that every claim must be worked a fixed number of days in each week, or else, in the miners' expressive vocabulary, it should be considered "jumpable." Compliance with law was never more rigidly exacted by Lord Eldon than by the miners' judges and courts, and in the first days of this legislation a hundred revolvers, voiceless before any principle of justice, yet too ready before any technicality, fixed the construction of every provision beyond all cavil.

This was the beginning of Virginia Gulch, from which twenty-five millions of dollars in gold have been taken, and which has to-day a population of ten thousand souls. The placer proved

to be singularly regular, almost every claim for fifteen miles being found profitable. From the mouth of the cañon to its very end, among snows almost perpetual, are the one-storied log-cabins, gathered now and then into clusters, which are called cities, and named by the miner from his old homes in Colorado and Nevada. In travelling up the crazy road, with frowning mountains at our left, and yawning pit-holes at our right, we pass seven of these cities, Junction, Nevada, Central, Virginia, Highland, Pine Grove, and Summit.

Virginia, the chief of the hamlets, has since developed into an organized city, and the capital of the Territory. Its site was certainly not chosen for its natural beauty. Along the main gulch are the mines, huge piles of earth turned up in unsightly heaps. At one


side of the mines, and up a ravine which crosses the gulch at right angles, lies the city. In shape it was originally like the letter T, but its later growth has forced new streets and houses far up the hillsides. Not so much regard was paid, in laying the foundations of the new city, to its future greatness, as Penn gave when he planned Philadelphia. The miner only wanted a temporary shelter, and every new-comer placed a log-cabin of his own style of architecture next the one last built. Where convenience required a street, lo! a street appeared. There were no gardens, for beyond the narrow centre of the ravine only sage-brush and cactus would grow. But the mines thrived, and also grew and thrived the little city and its vices.

Gradually a better class of buildings appeared. What were called hotels began to flourish; but it was long before the monotony of bacon, bread, and dried apples was varied by a potato. And for sleeping accommodations, a limited space was allotted upon the floor, the guest furnishing his own blankets. A theatre soon sprang up. And either because of the refined taste of some of the auditors, or the advanced talent of the performers, the playing was not the broad farce which might have been entertaining, but was confined to Shakespeare and heavy tragedy, which was simply disgusting. This style of acting culminated in the début of a local celebrity, possessed of a sonorous voice and seized with a sudden longing for Thespian laurels. He chose the part of Othello, and all Virginia assembled to applaud. The part was not well committed, and sentences were commenced with Shakespearian loftiness and ended with the actor's own emendations, which were certainly questionable improvements. Anything but a Anything but a tragic effect was produced by seeing the swarthy Moor turn to the prompter at frequent intervals, and inquire, "What?" in a hoarse whisper. A running colloquy took place between Othello and his audience, in which he made good his assertion that he was

rude in speech. Since then, Shakespeare has not been attempted on the Virginia boards. "Othello's occupa

tion's gone"; and all tragic efforts are confined to the legitimate Rocky Mountain drama. "Nick of the Woods" has frequently been produced with great applause, though the illusion is somewhat marred by the audible creaking of the wheels of the boat in which the Jibbenainosay sails triumphantly over the cataract.

Sunday is distinguished from other days in being the great day of business. The mines are not worked and it is the miners' holiday. All is bustle and confusion. A dozen rival auctioneers vend their wares, and gallop fast horses up and down the street. The drinking and gambling saloons and dance-houses are in full blast, all with bands of music to allure the passing miner, who comes into town on Sunday to spend his earnings. The discoverer of Virginia is the miner par excellence, a good-natured Hercules clad in buckskin, or a lion in repose. All the week he toils hard in some hole in the earth for this Sunday folly. The programme for the day is prepared on a scale of grandeur in direct ratio to the length of his purse. The necessity of spending the entire week's earnings is obvious, and to assist him in doing so seems to be the only visible means of support of half the people of the town. The dance-house and the gambling-saloon, flaunting their gaudy attractions, own him for the hour their king. His Midas touch is all-powerful. I must confess, with all my admiration for his character, that his tastes are low. I know that the civilization of the East would bore him immeasurably, and that he considers Colt, with his revolvers, a broader philanthropist than Raikes with his Sunday schools. But he is frank and open, generous and confiding, honorable and honest, scorning anything mean and cowardly. Mention to him, in his prodigal waste of money, that a poor woman or child is in want of the necessaries of life, and the pursestrings open with a tear. Tell him

that corruption and wrong have worked an injury to a comrade or a stranger, and his pistol flashes only too quickly, to right it. Circumstances have made him coarse and brutal, but below all this surface beats a heart full of true instincts and honest impulses. I am certain the recording angel will blot out many of his sins, as he did those of Uncle Toby. His means exhausted, he abdicates his ephemeral kingdom, and, uncomplaining, takes his pick and shovel, his frying-pan, bacon, and flour, and starts over the mountains for new diggings. Yet he gains no wisdom by experience. The same bacchanalian orgies follow the next full purse.

The Road Agents came to the new city from Bannack increased in strength and boldness. Long impunity had made them scarcely anxious to conceal their connection with the band. Life and property were nowhere secure. Spies in Virginia announced to confederates on the road every ounce of treasure that left the city, and sometimes reports came back of robberies of the coaches, sometimes of murder of the travellers, and still more frequently the poor victim was never heard of after his departure. There were no laws or courts, except the miners' courts, and these were powerless. Self-protection demanded vigorous measures, and a few good men of Bannack and Virginia met together and formed a Vigilance Committee, similar in all respects to that which has had such a beneficent influence in the growth of California. It was, of course, secret, and composed of a mere handful. It must be secret, for the Road Agents had so overawed the people that few dared acknowledge themselves as champions of law and order. They had threatened, and they had the power to crush such an organization at its inception, by taking the lives of its members. But moving stealthily and unknown, the little organization grew. Whenever a good man and true was found, he became a link of the chain. At last it tried its power over a notorious desperado named Ives, by calling a public trial VOL. XVIII. -NO. 106.


of the miners. It was a citizens' trial, but the Vigilantes were the leading spirits. Ives confronted his accusers

boldly, relying on the promised aid of his confederates. They lay in wait to offer it, but the criminal was too infamous for just men to hesitate which side to take, and the cowards, as always in such cases, though probably a numerical majority, dared not meet the issue. Ives was hanged without any attempt at rescue.

The proceedings thus vigorously commenced were as vigorously continued. The Road Agents still trusted their power, and the contest was not settled. The Vigilantes settled it soon and forever. One morning their pickets barred every point of egress from Virginia. A secret trial had been held and six well-known robbers sentenced to death. Five of them were one by one found in the city. The quickness of their captors had foiled their attempts at escape or resistance, and their impotent rage at seeing every point guarded sternly by armed Vigilantes knew no bounds. They were all executed together at noon. It was a sickening scene, five men, with the most revolting crimes to answer for, summoned with hardly an hour's preparation into eternity. Yet they are frequently spoken of with respect because they "died game." All of them, drinking heavily to keep up their courage, died with the most impious gibes and curses on their lips. Boone Helm, a hoary reprobate, actually said, as the block was being removed from him, "Good by, boys! I will meet you in hell in five minutes." Harsh measures were these, but their effect was magical. One of the leaders had been hanged at Bannack, and the others as fast as found were promptly executed, — perhaps thirty in all. Α few fled, and are heard of now and then among the robbers of Portneuf Cañon; but under the sway of the Vigilantes life and property in Virginia became safer than to-day in Boston. For minor of fences they banished the guilty, and for grave offences they took life. As their history is now recounted by the people,

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