Their knowledge of time seems as accurate as of the place they are to occupy in the line, and even a fullblown thistle will scarce tempt them to straggle or halt until the dinner hour has arrived.It is in the same order, but the evening is far less animated than the morning march; a drowsiness has fallen apparently on man and beast; teamsters drop asleep on their perches and even when walking by their teams, and the words of command are now addressed to the slowly creeping oxen in the soft tenor of women or the piping treble of children, while the snores of the teamsters make a droning accompaniment.The migration of a large body of men, women and children across the continent to Oregon was, in the year 1843, strictly an experiment; not only in respect to the members, but to the outfit of the migrating party.Not so with the large herd of horned beasts that bring up the rear; lazy, selfish and unsocial, it has been a task to get them in motion, the strong always ready to domineer over the weak, halt in the front and forbid the weak to pass them.
Independence Rock on the Sweetwater.In about an hour five thousand animals are close up to the encampment, and the teamsters are busy selecting their teams and driving them inside the corral to be yoked.Before that date, two or three missionaries had performed the journey on horseback, driving a few cows with them, Three or four wagons drawn by oxen had reached Fort Hall, on Snake River, but it was the honest opinion of the most of those who had traveled the route down Snake River, that no large number of cattle could be subsisted on its scanty pasturage, or wagons taken over a country so rugged and mountainous.But here I leave him, for my task is also done, and unlike his, it is to be repeated no more.This brings friends together at noon as well as at night.Next comes a band of horses; two or three men or boys follow them, the docile and sagacious animals scarce needing this attention, for they have learned to follow in the rear of the wagons, and know that at noon they will be allowed to graze and rest.
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The judges being thus made fully acquainted with the case, and being in no way influenced or cramped by technicalities, decided all cases according to their merits.Every one is busy preparing fires of buffalo chips to cook the evening meal, pitching tents and otherwise preparing for the night.The common weal being cared for, it next resolved itself into a court to hear and settle private disputes and grievances.Doctor Whitman to travel near the wagon for the day, is now taken with violent illness.Ten or fifteen young men, not today on duty, form another cluster.We have reached the top of the bluff, and now have turned to view the wonderful panorama spread before us.
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They are people changed in no essential particulars from their ancestors, who have followed closely on the footsteps of the receding savage, from the Atlantic seaboard to the great Valley of the Mississippi.This he does both from inclination and duty, for in times past the camp had been unnecessarily alarmed by timid or inexperienced sentinels, causing much confusion and fright amongst women and children, and it had been a rule that all extraordinary incidents of the night should be reported directly to the pilot, who alone had the authority to call out the military strength of the column, or of so much of it as was in his judgment necessary to prevent a stampede or repel an enemy.Many conjectures are hazarded in regard to this mysterious proceeding, and as to why this lone wagon is to be left behind.DAY WITH THE COW COLUMN IN 1843.AllBright is hosting 24 hours of events and talks to help women with their professional development.
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But as the sun goes down the absent wagon rolls into camp, the bright, speaking face and cheery look of the doctor, w T ho rides in advance, declare without words that all is well, and both mother and child are comfortable.The council was a high court in the most exalted sense.Read before the Oregon Pioneer Association in 1876; reprinted from transactions of that society.The herders pass to the extreme verge and carefully examine for trails beyond, to see that none of the animals have strayed or been stolen during the night.Platte, as the teams are not unyoked, but simply turned loose from the wagons, a corral is not formed at noon, but the wagons are drawn up in columns, four abreast, the leading wagon of each platoon on the left, the platoons being formed with that in view.They are hunting a favorable crossing for the wagons; while we look they have succeeded; it has apparently required no work to make it passable, for all but one of the party have passed on, and he has raised a flag, no doubt a signal to the wagons to steer their course to where he stands.The offender and the aggrieved appeared before it; witnesses were examined, and the parties were heard by themselves and sometimes by counsel.
At length a sentinel hurries to him with the welcome report that a party is approaching as yet too far away for its character to be determined, and he instantly hurries out in the direction in which it was seen.We have been traveling briskly for more than an hour.Doctor Whitman, and it has lifted a load from the hearts of the elders.It is with the cow column that I propose to journey with the reader for a single day.Sixty men start from the corral, spreading as they make through the vast herd of cattle and horses that make a semicircle around the encampment, the most distant perhaps two miles away.The leading wagons follow him so nearly around the circle that but a wagon length separates them.
Before a tent near the river a violin makes lively music, and some youths and maidens have improvised a dance upon the green; in another quarter a flute gives its mellow and melancholy notes to the still night air, which, as they float away over the quiet river, seem a lament for the past rather than a hope for the future.It exercised both legislative and judicial powers, and its laws and decisions proved it equal and worthy of the high trust reposed in it.Cupid here, as elsewhere, has been busy bringing together congenial hearts, and among these simple people he alone is consulted in forming the marriage tie.And we too must leave it, hasten to the front and note the proceedings, for the sun is now getting low in the west and at length the painstaking pilot is standing ready to conduct the train in the circle which he has previously measured and marked out, which is to form the invariable fortification for the night.So extended is the view from the bluff on which the hunters stand, that the broad river glowing under the morning sun like a sheet of silver, and the broader emerald valley that borders it, stretch away in the distance until they narrow at almost two points in the horizon, and when first seen, the vast pile of the Wind River Mountains though hundreds of miles away, looks clear and distinct as a white cottage on the plain.They have been divided into fifteen divisions or platoons of four wagons each, and each platoon is entitled to lead in its turn.
It was a senate composed of the ablest and most respected fathers of the emigration.We are full six miles away from the line of march; though everything is dwarfed by distance, it is seen distinctly.From the time he joined us on the Platte until he left us at Fort Hall, his great experience and indomitable energy were of priceless value to the migrating column.They are ready to start on a buffalo hunt, are well mounted and well armed, as they need be, for the unfriendly Sioux have driven the buffalo out of the Platte, and the hunters must ride fifteen or twenty miles to reach them.Through all the long day their greed is never satisfied, nor their thirst quenched, nor is there a moment of relaxation of the tedious and vexatious labors of their drivers, although to all others the march furnishes some season of relaxation or enjoyment.Some dark moving objects have been discovered in the distance, and all are closely watching them to discover what they are, for in the atmosphere of the plains a flock of crows marching miles away, or a band of buffaloes or Indians at ten times the distance look alike, and many ludicrous mistakes occur.Those not encumbered with or having but few loose cattle attached themselves to the light column; those having more than four or five cows had of necessity to join the heavy or cow column.
Many such engagements exist, and much interest is taken in the manner in which this high court, from which there is no appeal, will define the rights, of each party in such engagements.All is hushed and repose from the fatigues of the day, save the vigilant guard and the wakeful leader, who still has cares upon his mind that forbid sleep.There are sixty wagons.Tonight he is at no loss to determine that the approaching party are our missing hunters, and that they have met with success, and he only waits until by some further signal he can know that no ill has happened to them.But from the standpoint of the hunters, the vexations are not apparent; the crack of whips and loud objurgation are lost in the distance.Hence the cow column, being much larger than the other and much encumbered with its large herds, had to use greater exertion and observe a more rigid discipline to keep pace with the more agile consort.They have aided to establish on the broad basis of right and universal liberty two pillars of our great Republic in the Occident.
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But the picture in its grandeur, its wonderful mingling of colors and distinctness of detail, is forgotten in contemplation of the singular people who give it life and animation.To those who have not been on the Platte, my powers of description are wholly inadequate to convey an idea of the vast extent and grandeur of the picture, and the rare beauty and distinctness of the detail.There was but little use for lawyers before this court, for no plea was entertained which was calculated to hinder or defeat the ends of justice.Some of the emigrants had only their teams, while others had large herds in addition, which must share the pasture and be guarded and driven by the whole body.Its sessions were usually held on days when the caravan was not moving.Some of the young men who appeared before them as advocates have themselves sat upon the highest judicial tribunals, commanded armies, been governors of states and taken high position in the senate of the nation.There are anxious watchers for the absent wagon, for there are many matrons who may be afflicted like its inmate before the journey is over; and they fear the strange and startling practice of this Oregon doctor will be dangerous.
The way lies over trackless wastes, wide and deep rivers, ragged and lofty mountains, and is beset with hostile savages.It is on the stroke of seven; the rush to and fro, the cracking of whips, the loud command to oxen, and what seemed to be the inextricable confusion of the last ten minutes has ceased.It is a strong barrier that the most vicious ox cannot break, and in case of an attack of the Sioux would be no contemptible intrenchment.Yet, whether it were a deep river with no tree upon its banks, a rugged defile where even a loose horse could not pass, a hill too steep for him to climb, or a threatened attack of an enemy, they are always found ready and equal to the occasion, and always conquerors.The clear notes of a trumpet sound in the front; the pilot and his guards mount their horses; the leading divisions of the wagons move out of the encampment, and take up the line of march; the rest fall into their places with the precision of clock work, until the spot so lately full of life sinks back into that solitude that seems to reign over the broad plain and rushing river as the caravan draws its lazy length towards the distant El Dorado.
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It is within ten minutes of seven; the corral but now a strong barricade is everywhere broken, the teams being attached to the wagons.But a little incident breaks the monotony of the march.It has been a prosperous day; more than twenty miles have been accomplished of the great journey.Within ten minutes from the time the leading wagon halted, the barricade is formed, the teams unyoked and driven out to pasture.This discontent had its effect in the division on the Blue.His great authority as a physician and complete success in the case above referred to, saved us many prolonged and perhaps ruinous delays from similar causes, and it is no disparagement to others to say that to no other individual are the emigrants of 1843 so much indebted for the successful conclusion of their journey as to Dr.The caravan has been about two hours in motion and is now as widely extended as a prudent regard for safety will permit.
But while we have been gazing at the picture in the valley, the hunters have been examining the high plain in the other direction.Those forming the first watch tonight will be second on duty, then third and fourth, which brings them through all the watches of the night.Even the doctor and the pilot have finished their confidential interview and have separated for the night.ON THE BANKS OF THE BEAR RIVER.The leading platoon today will be the rear one tomorrow, and will bring up the rear unless some teamster, through indolence or negligence, has lost his place in the line, and is condemned to that uncomfortable post.Fortunately every one has been found and every teamster is at his post.
He does not even await their arrival, but the last care of the day being removed, and the last duty performed, he too seeks the rest that will enable him to go through the same routine tomorrow.First, near the bank of the shining river is a company of horsemen; they seem to have found an obstruction, for the main body has halted while three or four ride rapidly along the bank of the creek or slough.Many of these judges have since won honors in higher spheres.From this point, all danger from Indians being over, the emigrants separated into small parties better suited to the narrow mountain paths and small pastures in their front.May we not call them men of destiny?Before the division on the Blue River there was some just cause for discontent in respect to loose cattle.This is not long wanting.
No other race of men with the means at their command would undertake so great a journey, none save these could successfully perform it, with no previous preparation, relying only on the fertility of their own invention to devise the means to overcome each danger and difficulty as it arose.Platte through the highlands near Laramie.