Excerpts from MARVELS OF THE NEW WEST by William M. Thayer.


THE NEW WEST -- where is it? what is it? That portion of our great country lying between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean, embracing the States and Territories of Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Of itself a mighty empire! This New West contains more than half the territory of our entire country. The territorial measurement of the United States, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, is 3,025,600 square miles. The States and Territories of the New West embrace 1,532,142 square miles of it, which is 19,342 square miles more than one-half. Its magnitude is a marvel. How few people from Maine to Ohio have supposed that more than one-half of the area of their country lies between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean! Without stopping, to consult the map, or the Bureau of Statistics, they have been indulging the thought that "the jumping-off place" was not far west of the Mississippi. Reliable information concerning the New West is of so recent date that the mass of the people in the East are not posted as to the actual facts. "Facts are stranger than fiction" is a sentiment especially applicable to this unsettled, but rapidly settling part of our land. Were some well-posted citizen of the New West to present the actual facts about that domain to the inhabitants of the Eastern States, a multitude of hearers would denounce him as a liar, or pity him for possessing more imagination than judgment. It is because so much of the truly marvellous is interwoven with the history and present status of that Eldorado.

     To recur again to territorial limits. The country east of the Mississippi is divided into States so small, comparatively, that their inhabitants are not prepared to appreciate the magnitude of the States and Territories west of the "Father of waters." They are so accustomed to States containing from two thousand to fifty thousand square miles, that they are quite unprepared to comprehend the more distant ones, three and four times as large. Kansas is almost ten times larger than Massachusetts, nearly seventeen times larger than Connecticut, sixty-five times larger than Rhode Island; and its area more than equals the combined area of all the New England States, with Maryland and Delaware added. Colorado is twelve times larger than Massachusetts, and twenty-six times larger than Connecticut. One hundred Rhode Islands can be set down upon its 104,500 square miles. One of its counties (Gunnison) is larger than Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined. It has four magnificent parks, situated in the mountains, from seven thousand to nine thousand feet above the sea, the smaller of which is equal to two Rhode Islands; and the State of Massachusetts could be set within the larger. These four parks contain as many acres as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island together. Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, Dakota, and California are larger than Colorado. California is twenty-two times larger than Massachusetts, nearly three times as large as all the New England States, and its area exceeds the united area of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Maryland. Eighteen Massachusetts can be put into Dakota, with ample room left to receive the little State of Rhode Island. Montana is almost as large as Dakota, and can spread seventeen Massachusetts and one Rhode Island over its ample surface. New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada are not much behind their gigantic neighbors; for their united territory is equal to is equal to one-tenth of our entire national domain, and more than equal to the combined area of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and South Carolina, together with all the New England States.

     These are marvellous boundaries; and they represent the grand scale upon which our New Western country is laid out, as well as the magnitude of its social, commercial, and educational enterprises. Nothing is done there in a small way. Human plans are as large as the States. Nothing is too large or too difficult to be undertaken. Enterprises are prodigious. The amount of business is almost incredible. Enormous contracts, enormous profits, enormous losses, are the order of the day. "Do you pretend to say that nothing is impossible in the work of constructing railways? "inquired a lawyer in a Colorado court of a witness who was a railroad official. "I pretend to say," replied the witness, "that, give us a starting-point, and the objective point to be reached, with a railroad company having a plenty of money behind, we will reach it." It is on such a magnificent scale that things are done in the New West. Nothing narrow or picayune, but broad and large! "Our railroad company wants to borrow fifty millions," said a railway official in our hearing. FIFTY MILLIONS! That fairly represents the magnitude of Western work. Men make money by the million, and sometimes they lose it by the million, though not often. They aspire to the largest business, the greatest triumphs of human effort, and the quickest possible results. Hence, the handsomest and richest city, the best school system, the finest public buildings, and the most wonderful growth are found on what was but recently "The Great American Desert." Given enterprise on a grand scale, and even the "desert will blossom as the rose!"

     Marvels are constantly multiplying in the New West. Surprises are as common there as commonplace is in the East. The rapid increase of its population is as great a marvel as a cañon, or a railroad over Marshall Pass. The time is coming when the population west of the Missouri River will exceed the population east of it. Kansas can accommodate thirty millions of people without being crowded more than Massachusetts will be fifty years from now. Colorado can support more than Kansas; and so can Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico have room for forty millions each. Dakota and Montana can maintain sixty millions each, and California exceed both of them in the number of its inhabitants. Nebraska and Washington Territory will fall little behind Kansas in capacity for population. It is not without authority, then, that some statisticians claim that the United States can support in the future, when her wonderful resources have had time to develop, a population of 3,600,000,000 -- more than twice the number of people now dwelling on the face of the earth! The New West, with its larger territory, its inexhaustible mines of gold, silver, copper, lead, iron, and coal, its richer lands, more genial and healthier climate, its grander scenery and irrepressible spirit of enterprise, must command its full share of these teeming millions. Its influence must become potent to determine, if not to control, the destiny of our great Republic. As will be its domestic, social, intellectual. moral, and Christian character, so will be the power and perpetuity of our national government. The nation will rise or fall with the New West. The latter's increasing wealth and enterprise must exert a controlling influence upon our political history. The minds that manage and drive there, must prove more or less potential at the seat of government. Mind is master everywhere; and mind that is the life and soul of Western enterprise, thrift, and greatness, must become masterful in the councils of the nation. Time only is necessary to settle the matter; and time is always an element of success or failure.

     Large numbers of Eastern people suppose that even now the "Far West," as they call the New West, is a rude, rough, half-civilized frontier, where men who escape the Indian scalping-knife may fall by the shot of the desperado. They are not prepared for the statement that the average society of the New West will compare favorably with that of New England, and that the most dangerous elements of humanity in Western cities, and even in mining towns, is not so bad as the lowest vicious classes of New York and other Eastern cities. But it is even so. That the present population between Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean will compare favorably with that of Eastern States in virtue and intelligence is a marvel; and the cause is to be found in Eastern influences. New England is found throughout the New West ; it is everywhere. Go where he will, the traveller is continually reminded of New England institutions and society. New England laid the foundations there; and New England is rearing the walls and getting them ready for the cap-stone. State capitols, court-houses, hotels, city halls, opera houses, universities, school buildings, and houses of worship are like those of Massachusetts, only better. The children's love and memory of home reproduce the institutions of their childhood, made more conspicuous by modern improvements. So the New West becomes the rival of the East. We have used the phrase "Far West," but really there is no such locality now. We travelled ten thousand miles in "the Rocky Mountain region," but failed to find the "Far West." We scarcely escaped from the East. "Are you from the East?" inquired a stranger of us in Colorado. "Yes, just arrived," we answered. "And so am I from the East," responded my questioner. "May I ask you what part of the East you came from?" we continued. "From Iowa," he said. So I found that "far west" is east out there.

     Over the range on the Pacific Slope, at Gunnison City, a gentleman accosted us in a familiar, genial way, --

     "Stranger, are you from the East?"

     "Yes, sir; and I expect to return there soon."

     "I hope you will carry a good report of us back, for I come from the East," he added pleasantly.

     "Most certainly I shall, for I am really smitten with this new country," we answered. "And what part of the East are you from?"

     "Kansas," he replied, to our surprise. "I came here for my health three years ago. I am not yet well, though much improved; and I may yet find it necessary to go west."

     We gave it up -- there is no West really; the country has become mostly East. The East dogged our steps everywhere; and the West, like some ignis fatuus of the meadow, receded from our view as we journeyed on. The waggish Coloradean was less a wag than he supposed, when he said, "The West! the West! Why the West is kicked 'over the range' into the Pacific Ocean." Whether true or not, we saw no one who admitted that he had reached the West. At the most distant point we struck, men were going West. We can say with another tourist, that the further we went, the more we were strengthened in the belief that the wise men did come from the East. Whether the East is Westernized, or the West Easternized, is a question the reader must settle in his own mind.

     In travelling over the West we found ample proof of the incorrect ideas concerning it prevailing in the East. When news of the massacre of Mr. Meeker and his co-workers, by the Ute Indians, reached the Eastern States, large numbers of terrified fathers and mothers, wives and sisters, and other friends, wrote to their kindred to hasten home. They seemed to think that the country beyond the Missouri River was a narrow belt over which a single tribe of Indians in arms could sweep in bloody triumph. They did not know but that the massacre occurred at the very door of their relatives' habitations. The friends might have been living in Montana or Nebraska, or California; they did not know that it was not all the same as Colorado, where the butchery occurred. An Eastern man sickened and died in Denver, and the tidings of his decease were transmitted to his family friends, the most afflicted of whom immediately wrote to inquire whether there were neighbors to render him necessary aid. The intelligence was returned, "he had about forty thousand neighbors," which was the population of Denver at that time. Friends had no idea that he was dwelling in one of the most marvellous cities on the continent. They appeared to think that, dwell where he might, be must be isolated, and destitute of those comforts which a dying man ought to command. Ten years ago a young man from New England was travelling horseback in the New West for his health. Tramps were in their glory and strength in the East, at that time ; so that, when his letter came describing his journeying alone from place to place, his parents, though intelligent people, were very much alarmed; and they spoiled a whole sheet of paper in communicating to him their fears, closing their well-meant counsel by emphasizing, "Beware of Tramps!" They were not a little surprised to receive an answer, in due time, "No Tramps Here!" As tramps were then the principal scare in New England, they supposed that they must be a greater scare in the "Far West." Four years after the rush to Leadville, a Connecticut gold-seeker cast his fortunes with that crowd. His parents forwarded to him by mail various mailable articles, which they supposed could not be purchased in that distant mining camp. They were very much surprised, however, to receive the following answer to their inquiry, "Can you buy rubber boots there? "YES, PIANOS IF I WANT." Pianos in a mining camp, more than two thousand miles away, was the last thing they had dreamed of; and they very wisely concluded that their knowledge of the Western country was somewhat limited.

     Now, this book is designed to enlighten those who have never visited the New West. To make it "next to seeing," a large number of pictorial illustrations are introduced, without which it is quite impossible for this class to appreciate its marvels. No person can understand a cañon by merely looking at a stereopticon view, unless he has seen a cañon with his own eyes. But transfer that view to a book, by the engraver's art, accompanied by a careful description, and the reader can readily take it in. That is "next to seeing." Therefore, the numerous illustrations in this volume occupy a prominent place in its plan. Indeed, in one sense, we may truly say that more dependence is placed upon the pictorial illustrations than the text, to convey the information intended. They are not designed merely for entertainment, but also for instruction. Through the objects illustrated, the character, thrift, and aims of the people appear. Public buildings exhibit the public enterprise of town or city. Good schoolhouses indicate general intelligence, and the value put upon education by the citizens. Houses of worship are the expression of the noblest and best sentiments of the heart. For this reason, we claim a special mission for the many illustrations in this volume. They are furnished at heavy expense; but are indispensable to the author's purpose. It would be quite impossible to learn what the New West is without them.

     This book does not contain all the marvels of the New West, by any means. It does not contain all of even the marvellous marvels. An octavo volume is quite too limited to admit the record of all such objects, which abound in the Rocky Mountain district. Not all even of the marvels selected especially for this volume are found herein; for our space was filled before the list was exhausted. We furnish marvels enough, however, to satisfy the most incredulous that the New West has been very properly called "WONDERLAND."

     One feature of this volume is the introduction of the opinions of other men -- men of science, explorers, travellers, pleasure-seekers, and sight-seers generally. To risk our own opinion alone, based upon our personal observation and research, was altogether too hazardous. The danger of being stigmatized as the most unscrupulous falsifier of the age or land, was too much for our flesh and blood to face. So we have introduced a large number of descriptions of marvels by other authors, that readers may understand we neither exaggerate nor lie. At least, dear reader, you will find us in excellent company, and quite enough of it, too, whether you are inclined to doubt our veracity or not. We are willing to rest our reputation for truthfulness and honor here, after the foregoing explanation.

     MARVELS! That idea is adhered to throughout the work. Marvels of ancient races; marvels of scenery; marvels of railroading over the highest mountains; marvels of growth; marvels of agriculture; marvels of mining; marvels of stock-raising; and other marvels we need not enumerate here. Nothing but marvels occupy these pages. The most remarkable things of the New West, and not the commonplace -- these are what we lay before the reader, for these express the possibilities of the New West as the commonplace cannot. Such as they are, we commend them to the study of young and old, and commit our humble venture to the considerable judgment of the public.


Enterprise Stock-Raising Agriculture

Contents Books KanColl