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


From MARVELS OF ENTERPRISE.




MRS. AUGUSTA TABOR'S STORY.

     The hardships and sufferings of the pioneers in those days, though less than thirty years ago, maybe learned from one of the pioneer women, -- Mrs. Augusta Tabor. Miss Hill narrates the experience of Mrs. Tabor as follows, as she heard it from Mrs. Tabor herself: --

     "My first acquaintance with Horace Austin Warner Tabor came about in this way: my father, a stone contractor, took the train one morning in August, 1853, for Boston, to hire stone-cutters. When about sixty miles from home two young men entered the train, one of them taking a seat by my father. In conversation it was developed that these men were stone-cutters and looking for work. My father employed them. In two years from that time Mr. Tabor, who was one of the men, asked my hand in marriage. Another two years passed, and in January, 1857, we were married in the room where we first met.

     "On the 25th day of February we left my home in Augusta, Me., for our new one in Kansas. We made our way to St. Louis, which was the terminus of the railroads, thence to Kansas City on a five-day boat. At Kansas City we purchased a yoke of oxen, a wagon, a few farming tools, some seed, took my trunks and started westward. My trip was not very pleasant, for the wind blew disagreeably, as it always does in Kansas.

     "We arrived at our destination on the 19th of April at 11 A.M. I shall never forget that morning. To add to the desolation of the place, the wind took a new start. The cabin stood solitary and alone upon an open prairie. It was built of black walnut logs, 12x16 feet; not a building, a stone, or stick in sight. We had brought two men with us, and how we could all live in that little place was a question I asked myself many times. The only furniture was a No. 7 cook stove, a dilapidated trunk, and a rough bedstead made of poles, on which was an old tick filled with prairie grass. I sat down upon the trunk and cried; I had not been deceived in coming to this place. I knew perfectly well that the country was new, that there were no saw-mills near, and no money in the territory. But I was homesick, and could not conceal it from those about me.

     "Mr. Tabor and the two men unloaded the wagon while I tried to clean up the cabin. I found a number of old New York Tribunes in the room, smoothed them out, made a paste of flour, and soon had the black, ugly logs covered, putting the newspapers right side up, that I might read them at my leisure, for I could see that reading matter was likely to be very scarce. Having covered the walls, I unpacked the boxes and made up a decent bed. I took out my table-linen and silver, for I had not left home without the usual outfit, and then began to prepare my first meal. I cannot say that it was very inviting, but I did the best I could, and we were all blessed with good appetites. The two men took rooms near by and boarded with us, thus helping us to money to support the table. Mr. Tabor broke the day's labor with the neighbors to save hiring help. In this way our pioneer farm was started.

     "No rain fell that summer, so that when the harvest came we had nothing to gather. Mr. Tabor went to Fort Riley and worked at his trade, while I remained at home with my babe, and made a little money by raising chickens.

     "Indians and snakes were then numerous in Kansas, and I lived in constant dread of both. I cannot tell which I feared the most. The rattlesnakes crawled into my cabin to get into the shade, and when I sat down it would be upon a three-legged stool with my feet under me.

     "The winter was warm and pleasant. When spring came we tried farming once more. An abundant crop resulted, but there was no market for it; eggs were three cents per dozen, and shelled corn twenty cents per bushel. I kept boarders and made some butter to sel. In February, 1859, Mr. Tabor heard of Pike's Peak, through some one of Green Russell's party who was returning, and at once decided to try his luck in the new Eldorado. I had my choice to return to my parents in Maine or remain with my husband and cast in my lot with him. After canvassing the subject with much reflection, it was settled that I should remain, as the more practicable course to be pursued. The two men decided to go along with us. Mr. Tabor worked at the Fort through March and April.

     "The fifth day of April we gathered together our scanty means, bought supplies for a few months, yoked our oxen and cows, mounted our seats in the wagon, and left the town of Zeandale with the determination of returning in the fall, or as soon as we had made money enough to pay for the one hundred and sixty acres of government land, and buy a little stock.

     "What I endured on this journey only the women who crossed the plains in 1859 can realize. There was no station until we arrived within eighty miles of Denver, via the Republican route; no road and a good part of the way no fuel.

     "We were obliged to gather buffalo chips, sometimes travelling miles to find enough to cook a meal with. This weary work fell to the women, for the men had enough to do in taking care of the teams, and in 'making' and 'breaking' the camp. The Indians followed us all the time, and were continually begging and stealing.

     "Every Sunday we rested if rest it could be called. The men went hunting, while I stayed to guard the camp, wash the soiled linen, and cook for the following week. Quite frequently the Indians gathered around camp, so that I could do nothing all day. They wallowed in the water-sources from which our supplies were obtained, and were generally very filthy. My babe was teething and suffering from fever and ague, so that he required constant attention day and night. I was weak and feeble, having suffered all the time that I lived in Kansas with ague. My weight was only ninety pounds.

     "We arrived in Denver about the middle of June, and as our cattle were footsore we were obliged to camp there until the first day of July. Then we went up Clear Creek where the town of Golden was being established. A miner came down from the mountains, from whom we inquired the way to Gregory diggings. With the information derived from him, Mr. Tabor concluded to go on a prospecting tour. So, on the morning of the Fourth of July, the men took a supply of provisions on their backs, with a few blankets, and, leaving one of the party to keep me company, pushed forward into the mountains, hopeful of success. They were absent three weeks, and to me they were three very lonely, wearisome weeks, although wagons were camped around and Golden City was a half-mile away. A vast wilderness, whose silence was broken only by the lowing of cattle, stretched out on every side. Even to a pioneer woman, on whom the necessity of such experience was laid, the situation was one of indescribable isolation. On the 26th of July we again loaded the wagon and started into the mountains. The road was a mere trail; every few rods we were obliged to stop and widen it. Many times we unloaded the wagon, and, by pushing it, helped the cattle up the hills. Going down hill was so much easier, that it was often necessary to fasten a full-grown pine tree to the back of the wagon for a hold-back or brake. Often night overtook us where it was impossible to find a level place to spread a blanket. Under such circumstances we drove stakes in the ground, rolled a log against them, and lay with our feet against the log. Sometimes the hill was so steep that we slept almost upright. We were nearly three weeks cutting our way through Russell's Guldch in to Payne's Bar, now called Idaho Springs.

     "Ours was the first wagon through, and I was the first white woman there, if white I could be called, after camping out three months. The men cut logs and laid them up four feet high, then put the 7 x 9 tent on for a roof. Mr. Tabor went prospecting. I opened a 'bakery,' made bread and pies to sell, gave meals, and sold milk from the cows we had brought.

     "Here one of our party, Mr. Maxey, had an attack of mountain fever, and for four weeks he lay very ill at the door of our tent, in a wagon bed, I acting as physician and nurse. A miner with a gunshot wound through his hand was also brought to my door for attention.

     "With the first snow-storm came an old miner to our camp, who told us dreadful stories of snow-slides, and advised Mr. Tabor to take me out of the mountains immediately. Those who know anything of the surroundings of Idaho will smile at the idea of a snow-slide there. But we, in our ignorance of mountains, believed all the old miner said, and left for Denver.

     "I had been very successful with my bakery in that camp, making enough to pay for the farm in Kansas and to keep us through the winter.

     "Arriving in Denver, we rented a room over a store. It was the first roof I had slept under for six months. I took a few boarders, and Mr. Tabor returned to his prospect, which he found had been jumped by the miner who had advised us to leave. 'Might was right' in those days, so he lost all his summer's work, and had to sell the cow to buy the supply for the new camp, which was up the head-waters of the Arkansas.

     "The 19th of February, 1860, I was lifted from a bed of sickness to a wagon, and we started for the new mining excitement. No woman had yet been there.

     "We were seven days going to where Manitou now stands. I made biscuit with the water of the soda springs; they were yellow, and tasted so strongly of soda that even we, with our out-door appetites, could not relish them.

     "We lingered there one week, the men doing a little prospecting, and working on a new road over the Ute Pass.

     "We made such slow progress over this road that every evening, we could look back and see the smoke from the camp-fire of the previous evening,. After two weeks of such wearying travel, we reached South Park. I shall never forget my first vision of the park. The sun was just setting. I can only describe it by saying it was one of Colorado's sunsets. Those who have seen them know how glorious they are. Those who have not cannot imagine anything so gorgeously beautiful. The park looked like a cultivated field, with rivulets coursing through, and herds of antelope in the distance. We camped on the bank of a clear stream, and the men went fishing. We had broiled trout that night for supper, and passed the evening over a game of whist by the light of our camp-fire.

     "The fourth day in the park we came late at night to Salt Creek. Tried the water and found that we could not let the cattle drink it; neither could we drink it. We tied the oxen to the wagon and went supperless to bed. The night was very cold, and a jack came to our tent and stood in the hot embers until be burned his fetlocks off. He stayed with us to the end of our trip, and carried me many miles upon his back.

     "We moved on the next day to fresh water, and camped on Trout Creek. Knowing that a party of men had left Denver a few days before we did, and feeling anxious to come up with them, the men shouldered their rifles and started out in search of footprints, each going in a different direction. The one who came upon the trail was to fire off his gun as a signal to the others. All day long I listened for the report of a gun. The men had not arrived when night's shadows gathered around, and I felt desolate indeed. The little jack came into the tent, and I bowed my head upon him and wept in loneliness of soul.

     "The men had gone farther than they expected, and were somewhat bewildered, and only for the camp-fire that I kept blazing, they could not have found their way back.

     "As they did not find the trail, we concluded to follow the way a stick might fall. It fell pointing southwest, and we went in that direction.

      "Finding what we thought a good fording place in the Arkansas River, we decided to cross, as the road seemed better on the other side.

     "The river was very rapid and full of bowlders, around which clung cakes of ice. Our cattle, thin, weak, and tired, were numb with cold, and halted in the middle of the river. The men plunged into the cold stream, which was waist deep, tied ropes to their horns, went upon the opposite shore, and endeavored to drag them over, but with no success. They then unloaded the wagon, putting the goods upon the ice, which was liable to break off and float away, unyoked the oxen, dragged the wagon over, and carried the goods on their shoulders. The faithful little jack swam the river with me on its back. Upon consulting our watch we found that we had been six hours crossing the Arkansas.

     "We made a fire, dried our clothing on us, and nursed the cattle all night, feeling, that we must save them, for our provision was getting low, and unless game came in from the valley, we should be obliged to eat them.

     "After camping in this place a week, we moved further up the river, where we went to work in earnest. Mr. Tabor and Mr. Maxey whip-sawed some lumber and made sluice-boxes, sawed riffles from a log, put in a ditch from the creek, and commenced washing the bank away. Cleaning the boxes up at night, we found fine gold in an abundance of black sand. I worked hard every day, trying to separate the gold from the iron sand, and at night would have only a few pennyweights of the precious metal. For four weeks we worked there; our supplies were about gone, and we felt discouraged. It had been one long year since we heard from the loved ones at home.

     "One morning a man came to the camp, and said he was one of the party that left Denver a few days in advance of us, and they had found gold in paying quantities. He gave us explicit directions how to reach the rich diggings. We followed his directions, and undertook to cross the river where it looked shallow. When near the opposite bank we came into a deep channel. Our wagon bed, with myself and child in it, raised above the wheels and floated down the stream. It was rapidly filling with water, when it occurred to me to cling to the willows on the bank. I did so, and held with unnatural strength until the men came to my rescue. We reached California Gulch three months after we left Denver. The first thing after camping was to have the faithful old oxen butchered that had brought us all the way from Kansas, --yes, from the Missouri River, three years before. We divided the beef with the miners, for they were without provisions or ammunition.

     "Before night they built me a cabin of green pine logs, without floor, floor, or window. The roof was covered with poles, bark, and dirt, and the wagon was converted into table, sideboard, and three-legged stools. I entered this place happy that I once more had a roof to cover my head, and at once commenced taking boarders, with nothing to feed them except poor beef and dried apples.

     "It was soon noised about that gold was struck in California Gulch, and before many weeks there were ten thousand people there. A mail and express was immediately decided upon, and I was appointed postmistress.

     "With my many duties the days passed quickly. I was called upon to weigh all the gold taken from the upper part of the gulch, as we were the only owners in that section of a pair of gold-scales. The miners would clean up their boxes, get their gold weighed, and go to town (where Leadville now stands), spree all night, and return 'dead broke' in the morning to commence again.

     "Mr. Tabor was then working our mine, which was No. 12 above discovery. We took that because it had a fall; but it was a mistake, for the gold was nearly all washed over the fall into the claim below, from which eighty thousand dollars was taken out during the summer of 1860.

     "I was very happy that summer, and joyfully anticipated a visit to my mother and father in the fall.

     "On the 20th of September Mr. Tabor gave me one thousand dollars in dust. I put my wardrobe -- what there was of it -- in a carpet-bag, and took passage with a mule train that was going to the Missouri River. I was five weeks crossing, and cooked for my board.

     "With that thousand dollars I purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land in Kansas, adjoining the tract we already owned. My folks dressed me up, and in the spring I bought a pair of mules and a wagon in St. Joe to return with, which took about all my money.

     "Mr. Tabor gave me one-fifth of what was made that summer, when I left; the other four thousand he sent to Iowa and bought flour, and in the spring we opened a store in my cabin. He worked in the mine during the day, while I attended to the store. Those were days and years of self-sacrifice, hard labor, and rigid economy, when the foundation of Mr. Tabor's immense wealth was laid. A little less courage, fortitude, and perseverance would have turned us back, and the golden opportunity to amass a fortune been lost forever."

Crossing the Plains Now.     These hardships and perils are found no more in the New West. Where Mrs. Tabor drank deepest of the cup of bitterness, there are now thrifty and wealthy cities, with all the modern attractions of schools, churches, art, and adornment. Over the "Great Plains," where so many became the victims of starvation and the tomahawk, a quarter of a century ago, the tourist rides in luxurious palace cars, with none to molest or make afraid.

     Even now many of the New England people think of the New West as the place where "dug-outs," Indians, and buffalo predominate. But these are things of the past. We do not affirm that so-called "dugouts" cannot be found anywhere in the New West; for that would not be true. But we affirm that where they were common twenty-five and thirty years ago, they exist now only in ruins. Buffalo are unknown to-day in the larger part of the New West. They have become almost extinct. And while Indians make occasional raids upon ranches and white settlements, in some parts of the West, that portion of the New West of which we have been speaking is not troubled by their presence. A New England lady went to Colorado to reside in 1877. At the end of four years she returned, on a visit, with her husband, and one day they were in the city of Boston, where they met on the street several Western Indians, whom a show-man was exhibiting there. Turning to her husband, the lady remarked, "Those are the first Indians I have seen since I left Massachusetts four years ago."

     Fremont describes a herd of buffalo which he saw during one of his exploring expeditions, so large as to cover the country as far as he could see. By count he estimated that there were eleven thousand of them within a certain compass his eye took in; and this was only a part of the herd.

Herd of Buffalo Stopping the Train.     When the Union Pacific Railroad first went into operation, a train of cars was stopped quite a while by a herd of buffalo crossing the track. Colonel Dodge, in his "Plains of the Great West," speaks as follows of the buffalo: --

     "Forty years ago the buffalo ranged from the plains of Texas to beyond the British line; from the Missouri and upper Mississippi to the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

     "In 1872, some enemy of the buffalo discovered that their hides could be sold in the market for a goodly sum. By wagon, on horseback, and afoot, the pelt hunters poured in, and soon the unfortunate buffalo was without a moment's peace or rest. Though hundreds of thousands of skins were sent to market, they scarcely indicated the slaughter. From want of skill in shooting, and want of knowledge in preserving the hides of those slain, on the part of these green hunters, one hide sent to market represented three, four, or even five dead buffalo. The hunter's object is not only to kill, but to avoid frightening the living. Keeping the wind, peeping over hills, crawling like a snake along the bottom of a ravine, he may approach unsuspected to within thirty or forty feet of the nearest. The game is so near that but one shot is necessary for each life. Hiding his every movement, the heavy rifle is brought to bear, and a bullet is sent into the heart of the nearest buffalo. The animal plunges forward, walks a few steps, and stops, with blood streaming from his nostrils. The other buffalo, startled at the report, rush together, but, neither seeing nor smelling danger, stare in uneasy wonder. Attracted by the blood, they collect about the wounded buffalo. Again and again the rifle cracks. Buffalo after buffalo bleeds, totters, and falls. The survivors stare in imbecile amazement.

     "I have myself counted one hundred and twelve carcasses inside of a semi-circle of two hundred yards radius, all of which were killed by one man from the same spot, and in less than three-quarters of an hour. The buffalo melted away like snow before a summer's sun. Congress talked of interfering, but only talked. Winter and summer, in season and out of season, the slaughter went on. In 1871-1872, there was apparently no limit to the number of buffalo.

     "As the game became scarcer, more attention was paid to all details, and in 1874, one hundred skins, delivered in the market, represented one hundred and twenty-five dead buffalo.

     "To avoid overestimating, I have, in every case, taken the lowest figures, and the result is as follows: --

Killed by the Indians in the years
            1872, 1873, and 1874. . . . . . . . . 1,215,000
Killed by the Whites in the years
            1872, 1873, and 1874. . . . . . . . . 3,158,730     
Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . 4,373,730 

     Making the enormous, almost incredible number, of nearly four and a half millions of buffalo killed in the short space of three years. Nor is this all. No account has been taken of the immense number of buffalo killed by hunters who come into the range from New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, and the Indian Territory; of the numbers killed by the Utes, Bannocks, and other mountain tribes, in their fall hunt on the plains. Nothing has been said of the numbers sent from the Indian Territory, by other railroads than the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, to St. Louis, Memphis, and elsewhere; of the immense number of robes which go to California, Montana, Idaho, and the Great West; nor of the still greater numbers taken each year from the territory of the United States by the Hudson Bay Company. All of these will add another million to the already almost incredible mortuary list of the nearly extinct buffalo."

Stage Attacked by Indians.     On a former page we spoke of a stage line opened from Leavenworth, Kansas, to Pike's Peak in May, 1859. In 1864 the Indians committed such depredations that the stage line was discontinued. Not only were wagon trains attacked by the savages, but stages were attacked also. Many wagon trains, containing supplies and machinery for traders and settlers, were captured and burned on the plains. Farmhouses and stage stations shared the same fate. Some stages were captured and passengers massacred. Colonel Chivington's statement, already quoted, did not exaggerate the facts.

     And this was little more than twenty years ago!

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