Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

On Western Trails in the Early Seventies
Chapter XXVII
No word from Mounted Police—Whiskey traders flourishing— Ugly rumors from Old Man's River—Decide to investigate —Encounter violent storms—Fall in with Indians.

It was now about the end of November, and winter in 1874 came early and strong; and listen as we constantly did, there was as yet no word from the Mounted Police. Had they turned back to the Red River? Were they wiped out as they marched? We were growing anxious. The whiskey traders were flourishing, and bolder than ever. Indians were being killed, and killing each other. Some awful orgies had taken place not very far from our vicinity. How long was this to last?

In the meantime, we went on with our preparation for permanent buildings, and the saw and axe and song made the woods ring on the higher hills near our fort. In December, rumors began to come in of a strange arrival on the Old Man's River. It was said, "Men were being hung over there; that there were not sufficient trees on the island to hold the people that were being hung by these strange men who had come fresh upon the scene."

Runners came in to find out what we knew, and as the camps were becoming excited, I concluded to make the trip south and ascertain at first-hand the facts in the case. Spencer, who had come back from locating his cattle on their old range, and now was wintering with us, volunteered to accompany me, and we set out on horseback, with a pack animal carrying our camp equipment and provisions.

As soon as we left the Bow Valley we found the snow deep and travel slow. Corning to the Elbow at the Catholic mission, we were gladly welcomed by all the white people found there. These consisted of the Rev. Mr. Scollin and the famous John LaRue and a trader who was an old friend of ours, Sam Livingstone by name, who had left the North country and come south after the buffalo trade. The reason of our special welcome was that a crowd of very much excited Blackfeet and Bloods were camped in the vicinity, and these were showing signs of mischief.

The rumors from the South were so alarming the Indians reasoned that their time was short here below, and said, "We may as well go in and kill and rob these white men, and have as good a time as we can while we have a change." Coming as we did sort of broke up the spell, and very soon we were in council with the leading men among the Indians, who were delighted because of our proposed trip, and said, "John was brave," and wished us a "Bon voyaqe" in their fashion, and told me they would await with patience and great interest our coming back with news.

That night I saw history repeating itself, and, as of old, the criminal taking refuge in the sanctuary. Spencer had not seen John LaRue since the former had passed himself on him as the Very Rev. Father LaRue, the much-travelled and most philanthropic of missionaries, and under this guise had done him out of his horse and belongings. LaRue, hearing of my arrival, came in to where I was being interviewed byhe Indians in the trader's room, and made aiuis.over me. He was turning to Spencer when Specer recognized him, and pulled his revolver. LaRue bolted into the dark, and I gripped Spencer and told him this would not do at this time. We were all running the risk of our lives, and a fuss might make a general row.

Later on in the evening I went over to call on the Priest Scollin, and found that, up at the head of the one-roomed building, there was the little altar, curtained off, and when I asked Father Scolun where LaRue was, he significantly pointed to the altar. John LaRue had literally taken refuge in the sanctuary, doubtless forgetting that, to men of this day, and especially to one like Spencer, this would not save him were it not for other influences.

Starting out the next morning, we made slow progress, and the snow deepened, and the storm of wind and cold came on, and, do the best we could that night, our camp was one of the most miserable of my very many hard experiences. That very night the lay brother who was the one companion of Father Scollin was frozen to death. This we learned later, but because of our own experience at the time, were not surprised.

Travelling on, we made Sheep Creek for the next night, and found a couple of white men domiciled in the old trading post. These men were also trading, but we saw no signs of whiskey. What I did notice was that their pile of robes was altogether out of proportion to any goods or stock in sight. However, we bunked in with them for the night, and went on our way the next morning. Such was the depth of snow it took us all the next day to make High River, where we camped in the brush. As I was in a hurry, we started out from this camp some time about midnight, and when daylight came were on the ridge, looking down upon Mosquito Creek. The snow was deep, and, of necessity, progress was slow.

Here we saw several herds of buffalo, and almost simultaneous with sighting the buffalo, we saw a party of Indians come out of the hill and dash at them.

Notwithstanding the intense cold of the night and the still colder period of the early morning, and the monotonous progress we had made, we could not but stop on the hill's summit for the moment and watch this scene of natural beauty and genuine primitive life. The clouds and lower atmosphere had passed off, and the clean, cold, crisp, snow-covered crust of mother earth and the heavens above were in complete harmony. White and blue were here in rich measure. The big wealthy plain at our feet, stretching in every direction, and gently undulating even as the ocean's surface when in calmer moods. Yonder, the bolder foothills, with their blending of altitude and timber and plains in graceful shapings, placed as fitting approaches to the greater glory and majestic proportions of the wonderful mountains beyond.

And now the sun touched the distant peaks, and covered, in quick movement, as with a gorgeous garment, the mighty picture. And as we gazed and worshipped, here at our feet were the cattle of God, unbranded, and wild and free; but even as we looked out upon them came the natural children of the Great Father, and the chase began. As the killing would be right in the line of our travel, it became us to wait a bit and watch the hunt. Out from the scattered crowd of men and women who had braved the cold of the early morning came the hunters proper. There may have been from twenty- five to thirty in the little dark spot that moved quickly on the big expanse of solemn white. Presently the herds bunched up and started on the run, and the race began, and the little dot of humanity and horse flesh and blood scattered after them. Most of the killing was done with arrows, and only a shot or two detonated through the keen, frosty air. Very, soon little small black dots could be seen here and yonder, indicating the dying and dead victims of the run.

Wondering how these people might receive us, and who they were, we struck straight through their kill, and as we approached they gathered up and intercepted us. At once several recognized me, "Hah, John!" "Es-koon-a-ta-pi, John"; and they expressed great pleasure at my going south to ascertain what had come to pass. They had heard strange rumors, but now John would bring the news, and they would know the truth. They pressed upon us some tit-bits of their kill, and, with their good wishes, we went on.


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus