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Logan County Colorado
History and Genealogy

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Source: "A Brief History of Logan County, Colorado
"
With Reminiscences By Pioneers Compiled and Arranged For Elbridge Gerry Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution By Emma Burke Conklin, Assisted by Members of the Chapter Under the Leadership of Past Regents, Mrs. L. W. Davenport, Mrs. Geo. A. Henderson, Mrs. J. E. Youngquist, Mrs. W. W. Brown, Mrs. W. S. Hadfield, Mrs. Felix Ayers, Copyright 1928 by Emma Burke Conklin, Printed by Welch-Haffner Printing Company, Denver, Colorado

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The Indians

Page 19

When Columbus landed in the New World, and at sunrise planted his flag and took possession of the country, it was sunrise for America, but to the aborigines, who looked on in wonder, it meant the going down of the sun. They were pushed back from the coast to make room for the thirteen colonies, and by the end of the eighteenth century, after much resistance and many wars, they had been forced across the Mississippi River. Here they remained for half a century practically unmolested. The whole western country was their domain. Here the early explorers found them.
The main groups which have to do with Colorado were the Utes, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Kiowas and Pawnees. The Utes were found mostly in the mountains. Being known as the fighting tribe, they sought a place where they might secrete themselves, and surprise the unsuspecting enemy. The other tribes were called Plains Indians, and were the ones found here by the early settlers of Eastern Colorado.

Naturally they were jealous for their hunting grounds. Many attempts had been made by the government to make friends with them, but the depredations committed by them continued, in raids upon immigrants, in horse-stealing, in murdering women and children, till in 1864 trouble began in earnest, and the whole country between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains was in a state of war. On Augst 20, the Indians attached simultaneously all the Overland stages between Kansas City and Denver, and the white settlements for 200 miles up and down the front range along the Platte and Arkansas Rivers. Troops were sent out by the government to protect life and property. The time between the years of 1860 and 1870 was a veritable reign of terror on these plains.

There has been much speculation as to the justice or injustice of wresting from the Indian his hunting grounds by the government. From what has been learned of their history during their thousands of years of occupancy of North America, which is very little comparatively, the conclusion has been deduced that when the European

Appeared on the scene, the mission of the Indian had been accomplished. He had had his chance and had not the white man come, self-extermination from the ravages of war, diseases and famine, would have been the outcome. The world belongs to civilization.

Many stories might be written of battles fought and lives lost, but only those of local interest will be recorded here, and most of these are not found in the histories. A few are told in other chapters. The trails leading to the mountains were the scenes of bloody massacres. The commanding officer in charge of the Federal troops in 1865 reported that: “The Indians are bold in the extreme. They have burned every ranch between Julesburg and Valley Station, and nearly all the property at the latter place, and have driven off all stock, both public and private. The stage route from Denver to Julesburg has been devastated every mile of the way. Warehouses and the station at Julesburg have been burned.”

On January 14th of this year (1865), the Godfrey Ranch, west of Merino, was attacked by a large force of Cheyennes. It was defended by the owner, Hollen Godfrey, and three other men and four women who helped in every way they could during the attack which lasted all day. After nightfall one of the defenders, named Perkins, escaped from the fort and rode to an encampment of soldiers, near Fort Morgan, for help. A corporal and four enlisted men accompanied him back to the ranch and succeeded in stealing into the house unmolested. With this reinforcement, Godfrey repelled the Indians, winning for himself the sobriquet of “Old Wicked.” The next day another fight took place at Wisconsin Ranch, south of the river near Atwood, and another on the 25th at the Moore Ranch.

An incident related by Harry Schneider to W. L. Hays and published in the Sterling Advocate occurred about the year 1873. The Sioux to the number of a couple of thousand, perhaps, were gathered on the south side of the river near old Fort Sedgwick, near the present town of Sedgwick while the Utes en masse, were scouring and hunting the territory adjacent to the waters of Beaver Creek. About two weeks before the incident to be narrated occurred, three scouts from the Ute tribe descended the Platte and for a few days stealthily reconnoitered the situation of the Sioux, ascertaining that the latter were herding their ponies on the north side of the river, and that during the night they were left in charge of a young Sioux boy about sixteen years old.

The scouts returned up the river, shortly after which a band of Utes, headed by their chief, the celebrated Ouray, descended the Platte, but no one saw or knew of their presence. When they arrived on the north side of the river near only Fort Sedgwick in the night, they discovered the Sioux boy and ponies where the scouts said they would find them. While some of the Utes were rounding up the ponies, others shot, killed and scalped the Sioux boy. About 10 o’clock the next morning Mr. Schneider, whose homestead was the L. P. Cheairs ranch of today, south of Atwood, was a cloud of dust in the east. He discovered that a herd of horses was coming toward his ranch.

Soon the Indians and ponies arrive. Chief Ouray following about an hour later, rode up to Mr. Schneider, with the Indian boy’s scalp dangling at his belt, and started to talk. His English was very broken, but he pointed to where the sun would be at about 2 o’clock, saying: “Sioux come along heap mad!”

Just as Ouray had explained, the Sioux did come along about 2 o’clock. There were an angry lot of redskins. According to Mr. Schneider, the Sioux never recovered their ponies.

About the time the Union Pacific railroad reached Julesburg, a band of Sioux attacked an immigrant train at a point between Julesburg and Sterling, and brutally murdered everyone of the immigrants.

During the Indian troubles of 1864-65 a detachment of troops from the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, under Captain Nicholas J. O’Brien, was sent to guard the road in the neighborhood of Julesburg, and along the Platte River. Some of the experiences of this detachment are given by Eugene F. Ware, one of it officers, in his “Indian War of 1864.” The company was ordered to build a Fort in the fall of that year, and finding the adobe house and corral owned by a man named Bancroft, they purchased it, and with sod and such material as they could muster built a fort near the site of Julesburg, and prepared for an attack from the Indians.

Mr. Ware relates an incident which occurred one night in camp when he, not having a saddle to use for a pillow as many of the soldiers had, used a sack of bacon for this purpose. In the night there was the usual wild chorus of howling wolves. Mr. Ware felt his pillow disappearing from under his head. On investigation he found a wolf making way with it. He had awakened just in time to recover the precious treasure.

The absence of trees and vegetation was noted by these soldiers. They realized the truth of the remark of one of their number, that

Page 22
One could not find a riding switch between Julesburg an a point 70 miles west on the way to Denver. Other observations were that the alkali was dangerous for cattle, and that the water was alkaline to such an extent that it could not be used for drinking or cooking. A point 25 miles east of Julesburg, where this condition appeared, was named “Alkali Station.”

Several times the Indians appeared in the hills around, but not until January 7, 1865, did they make an attack. A thousand or twelve hundred Cheyennes and a band of Arapahoes made an attack on Julesburg. In this battle sixteen men and fifty-six Indians were killed. In another attack, on the second of February, Julesburg was burned.

The Company was ordered on February 11th to follow the Platte toward Denver and repair the telegraph line which had been destroyed, or damaged by the Indians. Captain O’Brien’s orders were always to “push forward rapidly and methodically.” Men were detailed by fours; number four held horses; one and two had picks; number three had shovels. Instead of digging holes for the posts, the order was to pull out the stump fo the old post which had been broken off, and put the new one in its place. Numbers one and two drove their picks into the ground, number three put in his spade, and together they pried the stump out. Then the wagon came along with the post which was put into the hole, tamped down and filled. In this way the company was strung out till the line of fours was a quarter of a mile long. This work was done all through one night and the following day, with guards stationed out, and every precaution taken against an Indian attack.

That night they fried bacon and ”slapjacks” for supper which a tired lot of men relished. They then killed and dressed a stray steer and boiled beef all night, the wolves howling “as if there were a convention.” The next morning they continued the journey, repairing on the way. At three o’clock p.m., fifty-two miles from Julesburg and across the river from the present Sterling, they reached the old “Lee” Henderson place. There they met some people from Denver who had taken refuge in the Valley Stage Station, an old sod shack nearby. An Indian scare was on, twenty-five or so having been seen “prancing” around in the hills. The location of the stage station was such that the soldiers could not fire from the inside of it. Fortunately they found in the station a good supply of corn in sacks, and this the resourceful officer ordered carried out on the prairie, where a large shelled corn bastian was made. The afforded a position of defense,

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Which was absolutely bullet proof, and there were two embrasures from which to fire. The work required just thirty minutes. The Indians stayed in the vicinity till sundown but made no attack. After spending the night at the station, the company started on the return trip to Julesburg.

Another incident which occurred here at the same time was the arrival of two old Germans from Kansas City, who could speak not a word of English. Through an interpreter who happened to be in the Company it was learned that on haering of the immigration to the new country they had conceived the notion of leading their wagon with cans of fresh oyster, by filling the wagon bed with water and freezing the whole combination. Their plan was to haul it to Denver and sell oysters to the settlers. The captain tried to impress them with the danger of Indian attackes during the remainder of their journey, but nothing daunted, they moved on, not however, till they had sold two cans of oysters to two of the officers for five dollars. These oysters proved to be as fresh as when they left the bay.

On the return to Julesburg the company was overtaken by a severe blizzard. The first night was spent at Moore’s ranch, the second at Lillian Springs. The third night found them safe at Julesburg. So far as can be ascertained, this was as near as Sterling ever came to a real Indian fight.

Undoubtedly, the most noted Indian battle which took place in the vicinity of what later became Logan County, was the battle of Summit Springs, known in recent years as Battle Ground Springs.

C. Bernhardt, in his Indian Raids, 1864-1869, in Lincoln County, Kansas, published in 1909, gives an account of an Indian raid in that county in which many colonists were killed. Among these were George Weichell and Thomas Alderdice. Their wives were taken prisoners. Two of the children of Mrs. Alderdice were killed and one wounded. The baby, she was allowed to keep for three days, when its crying annoyed the savages so much that they beheaded it and threw the body into a stream. “Mrs. Weichell and Mrs. Alderdice,” the story continues, “were carried to the South Fork of the Platte River in Colorado, between Julesburg and Sterling. Here they were kept captive by Tall Bull, the Sioux Chief, until the 11th day of July, one month and eleven days after they were taken captive, when, during the battle, Captain Cushing under General Carr, found the two women in Tall Bull’s tent. Mrs. Alderdice was mortally wounded

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And breathed her last as the soldiers entered the tepee. Mrs. Weichell was also wounded, but was able to sit up. The Indians evidently meant to have killed both women, but were so taken by surprise that they had not the time to complete the dastardly deed. Mrs. Alderdice was buried there, Mrs. Weichell was taken care of and lived to tell the tale of their hardships during their captivity.”

The following account of this battle is taken from Major North’s Memoirs, obtained from the Nebraska Historical Society at Lincoln, Nebraska.
 

Pages 24-31
Chapter XII
General Carr’s Campaign – The Battle of Summit Springs
On the 1st of March, 1869, Major North was again called into service with his now somewhat celebrated scouts. He reorganized three companies of the Pawnees, - fifty men in each company, his officers being his brother, Captain Luther North, his brother-in-law Captain Cushing, Captain Morse and Lieutenants Becher, Mathews and Kislandberry.

Marching from Fort Kearney to Fort McPherson Major North reported to General Carr, who was organizing a campaign for the summer. The Fifth cavalry had recently come up from Kansas and Colorado, where they had been campaigning under Major Royal and General Carr had been ordered to take command and prepare for an expedition to the Republican river country.

Only ten days were spent in fitting out the command for the coming campaign. The command consisted of eight companies of the Fifth cavalry and three companies of the Pawnee scoutsl During their stay at Fort McPherson General Augur and some of his officers and Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan, of the Fifth cavalry, visited the post, and on the day before they started out on the expedition reviewed the troops.

The route of march lay south of the Republican river, which stream they struck near the mouth of Prairie Dog Creek. At this point they marched to the west, following the course of the Republican. Pawnees were well acquainted with this section of the country, over which they had frequently hunted the buffalo

The command, in hunting for Indian trails, proceeded on a westward course up the Republican river. Colonel Royal, with a detachment of cavalry, and Major North, with a squad of Pawnees, scouted along the route, and one afternoon they discovered a small party of Sioux following a large trail. They had evidently been in some fight for there were two or three wounded warriors in the party who were being transported on travois. The Pawnees pursued them for some distance and killed several of them. The Pawnees then went flying over the prairie, with Major North at their head, to General Carr's camp, on the Black Tail Deer fork, and as they were approaching with whoops and yells and swinging their poles and lances, the soldiers at first thought they were a war party of Sioux coming down upon them, and considerable excitement followed. The Pawnees, however, who had remained in camp, did not manifest the least surprise or excitement, nor make any preparations to go out and fight them-e-as they would have done had the party been Sioux-but set up a yell themselves. Captain Luther North explained the situation to General Carr by informing him that the approaching Indians were Pawnees, and that their demonstrations indicated that they had had a fight and been victorious. The Pawnees soon galloped into the camp, and Major North reported the result of their scout. They were soon followed by the balance of the scouting party.

General Carr started the command next morning on this Indian trail and followed it westward up the Republican river for two days. They passed several camp-fires, and it was evident that they were gaining on the Indians. Along the trail the print of a woman's shoo was frequently observed, and this was evidence of the fact that they had a white captive with them. For this reason General Carr was anxious to press on. In the afternoon of the second day after the


discovery of this big trail, the command camped at a vacated Indian camping place where they found numerous fresh antelope heads, showing that the camp had not been abandoned more than twelve or fifteen hours. General Carr concluded to take detachments of the best mounted men from each of the companies with five days' rations, and make a forced march until he overtook the Indians, and leave his wagon train to follow as fast as possible.

Next morning, Sunday, July 11th, the General carried out this plan and got an early start. Major North and ten of his best Pawnee scouts kept in advance, and maintained a sharp look-out for the Indians. The trail led to the north, in the direction of the South Platte river, for a distance of about twenty miles, when Major North suddenly sighted an Indian village from the summit of some sand-hills, near a point that was afterwards named Summit Springs. They made a careful survey of the surroundings and saw that it would be impossible for an attack to be made on the village in the direction in which they were going-which was towards the south-but that the troops would have to leave the trail and bear off to the east, keeping well out of sight, and then turn again to the north, passing the village and making a semi-circuit to the south and west, and then make the charge upon the village from the North. Major North returned with his scouts to the command, which was eight or nine miles in the rear, and reported the result of his observations to General Carr, who seemed very much pleased with the information and the prospect of a fight. He at once ordered the cavalry-men to tighten their saddles and prepare for action. The order was obeyed with alacrity, for the men were all eager for a fight, and soon the command was galloping on towards the doomed village. The circuit described by Major North was made, and the command rode within, perhaps, a mile and a half of the village, and could have crept much closer had it not been for a company on the right flank passing over a rise of ground and thus exposing themselves to the view of the village. General Carr was informed of this fact, and being afraid that the company had been observed by the Indians, he at once ordered the bugler to sound the charge, and instantly the stirring notes of the bugle rang out clear and loud, and away dashed the command toward the village. The Indians were lying in camp that day, and, their horses were grazing over the prairie at some little distance from the village. They were completely surprised, and before they could realize the situation the cavalrymen had ridden into the village, and the Indians became wholly demoralized. It was a warm, pleasant day, and a great many of the Indians were lounging around in the shade of their tents. They precipitately fled leaving everything behind them, only a few succeeding in reaching their ponies. The soldiers and the Pawnees, as they entered the village, fired volley after volley to the front, to the right and to the left, causing the greatest consternation on every hand. The Sioux made no resistance to the attack as no opportunity was given them to do so. Many of them fled on foot in every direction,-some few escaped on their ponies, while a large number, who were unable to get away by running, dodged into ravines and little pockets and washouts in the nearest hills. All this occupied but a few moments, and as the Sioux had been scattered, the soldiers, in squads, began hunting them through the nearest ravines.

Major North and his brother, Captain Luther North, with a party of Pawnees and several soldiers, surrounded one of the ravines into which eighteen Sioux warriors and a squaw and a child had fled for safety. One of the warriors, as was afterwards learned, was the noted chief Tall Bull, to whom the squaw and child belonged. He and they were mounted on a beautiful orange-colored horse, with silver mane and tail. Upon reaching the ravine he placed his squaw and child on the inside where he thought they would be safe, and he then returned to the mouth of the ravine and shot his magnificent steed rather than see him fall into the hands of his enemies.
The mouth of the ravine was very narrow, and the banks were perpendicular, being from fifteen to twenty feet high. The Indians took their butcher knives and cut holes in the banks for their hands and feet, so that they could climb to the top to discharge their guns and shoot their bows and arrows and then drop down again. In this way they kept Major North and his party at bay for some little time. Major North's men, who were stationed about twenty paces from one of the banks of the ravine, kept firing at the Indians as they climbed up on the opposite bank. While this was going on, one of the Indians climbed the bank nearest to the soldiers, and raising his rifle slowly over the top of the bank he laid it down on the ground, and then poking it up sufficiently to take a. sight along the barrel of the weapon he fired directly at Major North but missed him. Captain Luther North, at first, surely thought his brother was killed as he had witnessed the movement which had occupied but a moment, so quickly was it done. Major North marked well the spot where the Indian had dropped his head out of sight, being convinced that as soon as the redskin could reload his gun he would make another attempt.

The Major dropped down on one knee, and taking a rest on the other, aimed his gun at this particular spot, and awaited for the reappearance of the Indian's head. In a few moments he saw the Indian's rifle coming up over the edge of the bank, as it had done before, and soon the Indian raised his head up to take aim, Major North instantly fired, and the Indian dropped without shooting. Major North's bullet had penetrated his forehead, and he fell into the pit a dead man, leaving his rifle, cocked and ready for shooting, on the top of the bank. Later in the day the dead chief, Tall Bull, was found in the ravine directly under the spot where he had climbed up to fire at Major North. Shortly after the killing of this chief Major North saw another head peeping up at the same spot, and upon closer observation he saw that it was the head of a squaw. She crawled to the top of the bank and pulled her little six-year-old girl after her. None of the soldiers fired at her as she made signs indicating that she wanted to talk to some one. She walked straight up to Major North, and rubbed her hands over him from head to foot as an act of blessing and an appeal for mercy. She then knelt down before him and, in her sign language, asked him to save her. The Major replied in similar language, telling her to go to the rear out of danger, and remain there until he should call for her, and then she would be safe. She informed him that there were yet seven Indians alive in the ravine. The firing was kept up from the ravine a while, but finally it ceased altogether. Thereupon Major North, and some of his men, cautiously approached the ravine and looked over the bank, and down at the bottom they saw the eighteen warriors lying dead, some on top of others as they had fallen back from the banks.

The Major and his brother returned to the squaw and taking her and her child across the ravine they joined Company B of the Pawnees, commanded by Captain Cushing, who had, soon after the capture of the village, in accordance with General Carr's instructions, made an active search for the white captives who were supposed to be in the camp. They had succeeded in finding the white women, one of whom had been fatally wounded and the other quite seriously. It appears that while Major North was fighting the Indians in the ravine, Captain Cushing in skirmishing through the village had entered the lodge of Tall Bull, the noted chief, and there found these two wounded women, who were Germans, one being named Mrs. Alderdice, and the other Mrs. Weichel. When the fight commenced Tall Bull, seeing that there was no hope of taking his captives with him, whom he had been keeping as his wives, shot Mrs. Alderdice in the forehead, and then shot Mrs, Weichel. When the Pawnees dashed up to the lodge Mrs. Weichel thought the village had been attacked by Indians hostile to the Sioux, and that she was about to escape from one band only to fall a captive into the hands of another. Therefore, when she discovered Captain Cushing with the Pawnees she manifested the greatest joy imaginable. She was sitting on a mat in the tent, suffering intensely from the wound, but when Captain Cushing stepped up to her she seemed to forget her pain, and grabbing him around the legs she hugged him again and again and wept for joy. She could not speak a word of English and he could not understand what she said. He endeavored, however, by signs and by speaking to her in English, to make her sit still for a little while, and then she would be properly cared for.

He finally broke loose from her, and it was at this time that Major North and his brother, with the Sioux squaw and child, joined the interesting group. Just as they came up the other 'woman, Mrs. Alderdice, who lay unconscious on the ground and weltering in her blood, drew one or two long breaths and then died.

The Pawnees then resumed the hunt for Sioux in the vicinity, and several running fights ensued for some distance beyond the village. After the Sioux had all been driven away from the village, and the fighting was concluded, Mrs. Weichel was taken to the surgeon's tent, where she had her wound dressed, and was otherwise cared for.

The result of the attack on the village was the killing of fifty-two warriors, and the capture of eighteen squaws and children, and besides there were quite a large number of the Sioux wounded. The soldiers at once rounded up the Indian horses and mules roaming at large and scattered over the prairie, and upon counting them they found that they had captured two hundred and seventy-four horses and one hundred and forty-four mules. The village proved to be a very rich one. The Sioux: had an abundance of everything usually found in an Indian camp, besides a great number of articles which they had obtained from the white settlers whom they had killed on the Saline river. Quite a large amount of gold and silver money and considerable jewelry were also found by the soldiers among the plunder.

That night the command camped in the captured village; and, at a late hour, the wagon train arrived. Mrs. Alderdice, the murdered woman, was buried on the battlefield, the burial service being read by one of the officers who was a religious man, there being no chaplain with the command.

General Carr gave the name of Susannah to the place where the battle occurred, that being the Christian name of Mrs. Alderdice, as was learned from Mrs. Weichel. The name was afterwards changed to Summit Springs because there was a fine spring of water on the summit of the sand-hills between the Platte River and Frenchman creek, where nobody would suppose there was any water.

The next morning all the Indian tepees, lodges, buffalo robes, camp equipage and provisions, including several tons of dried buffalo meat, were gathered together in several large piles, and burned, by order of General Carr.

The command moved down the Platte river the next day, about eight miles, and soon after going into camp Mrs. Weichel was brought into the presence of the Indian prisoners. She at once recognized the squaw who had surrendered herself to Major North, as being the wife of Tall Bull. Mrs. Weichel stated that this squaw, had, on many occasions, whipped and pounded her, and treated her most cruelly and shamefully, during the absence of Tall Bull on hunting expeditions. She explained that the cause of the squaw's cruelty was jealousy, and that during their captivity she and Mrs., Alderdice had never been allowed to meet and talk with each other more than half a dozen times, and she, therefore, knew but very little concerning the history of the dead woman.

The Pawnee scouts, who had charge of the prisoners, upon learning of Mrs. Weichel's statement of how badly she had been treated, wanted to kill Tall Bull's squaw then and there, and Major North heard of their intention just in time to prevent it from being carried into execution. However, they said that if she made the slightest attempt to escape, they would kill her on the spot.

At this camp General Carr issued an order that all the money captured at the village should be turned over to his adjutant, whom he directed to give it to Mrs. Weichel, as she had stated that her father, a short time previous to the massacre, had come over from Germany, and that nearly all the gold found in the possession of the Indians had belonged to him.

Major North collected six hundred dollars in twenty dollar gold pieces from his Pawnee scouts, who gave it up without a murmur, and this money he turned over to the adjutant, About three hundred dollars was collected from the soldiers, and the whole sum of nine hundred dollars was then given to Mrs. Weichel. There was about six hundred dollars more found in the village, but it was concealed by the soldiers.

The command now proceeded to Fort Sedgwick, at Julesburg, from which point the first news of the fight was telegraphed to military headquarters and all parts of the country.

The wounded white woman was cared for in the hospital, and shortly after her recovery she married the hospital steward, her husband having been killed by the Indians.

The Indian prisoners were sent to the Whetstone agency, on the Missouri river, where Spotted Tail and the friendly Sioux were then living, and the captured horses and mules were distributed among the officers, scouts and soldiers.

Tall Bull and his followers had long been a terror to the border settlements, and General Carr and his command were highly complimented in general orders for the gallant service they had rendered.


Page 33-34
The Fur Traders
For over fifty years after the government had purchased the Great Plains region, nothing was done in the way of its development, except to send out occasional explorers to fathom its mysteries. The once commercial attraction which it offered was found in that of fur trading. This fact the fur-trading companies of the east were not long in finding out. The type of men to whom this adventurous life appealed, and which the fur companies used, was necessarily that of the rover and of the lover of a wild life.

They had been given the credit of being the real pathfinders of the unexplored territory, and certainly they and the Indians were the makers of the first paths. They “traced the streams to their sources and penetrated the mountain fastnesses,’ exploring territory heretofore untrod by the foot of the white man. And when the expeditions sent out by the government appeared, it was among these traders and trappers that they found competent and fearless guides.

For the convenience of the travelers connected with the fur trade, trading posts or forts were established, along the trails. There were at one time nearly one hundred and fifty of these between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, twenty of them between the site of Council Bluffs and the mouth of the Platte River. In the later years of the industry, most of these traders operated in the mountains where most of the fur bearing animals were to be found.

The first American trader to enter what is now Colorado was James Purcell, a Kentuckian, who travelled along the Platte and traded with the Indians in 1803. While trapping along this rive, he and his men were attacked by a band of Indians and driven into the mountains. Their trading posts furnished the only community life to be found in the West at that time, not including that of the Indians. Some of them had Indian wives, and with the children to be seen around the posts, it may be said that there was some semblance of home life.

Bent’s Fort in southern Colorado was the largest and most popular of the Rocky Mountain fur-trading stations. This and Fort Laramie were located on a well beaten trail, which led through what is now Fifteenth Street, Denver. The trail was one of the most important of frontier highways, and for some years was a part of a pony express route, which ended at Taos, New Mexico. Other trading posts were Fort Vasquez, near Pattersville, built of adobe; Fort Lupton on the east side of the Platte, near the present town of Fort Lupton; and For St. Vrain. Those trading posts were all established during the years between Pike’s expedition and the discovery of gold in 1858. The ruins of many of them may be seen in Colorado today, land marks on what was then a lonely way, across the lonely plains.

Probably the most noted of the trappers, Indian fighters and guides as they were called, was “Kit” Carson. He was a Kentuckian by birth, the son of Kentucky pioneers and his father a noted hunter. When a young man, the word reached him of the wonderful adventures to be had in the Rocky Mountain country and its possibilities for hunters. He soon acquired a reputation as a brave, soer, shrewd, determined character of good impulses, just in his dealings, quick to act and of sound, common sense. It was said of him that “men of his mold are an irresistible force.” Had he been educated, he might have become eminent in any line of endeavor to which his energies had been directed. Hall characterizes him as “one of the most remarkable men of his time, pre-eminently honest with himself and those who relied on him. His devotion to duty has never been excelled. His judgment and valor distinguished him as a sort of Nestorian Mascot without whom no trying journey should be undertaken.” He married an Indian woman and to them was born a daughter whom he sent to St. Louis to be educated. Later he married a Mexican woman, his first wife having died. He made himself familiar with every part of the West and later became the faithful and efficient guide of General Fremont.

Others prominent in the history of Colorado were “Jim” Baker, noted guide and trapper, Tom Tobin, James Beckwourth, the Bent Brothers, St. Vrain and “uncle Dick” Wootten. Most of these were what were called “free” trappers, who worked independently, having no connection with the Eastern companies. “Jim” Bridger, another noted scout and Indian fighter has been called the Danile Boone of the west. In his wanderings through the mountains, he discovered the Great Salt Lake in 1824.


Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Nancy Piper



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