Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 35

South Platte about two hundred miles farther up. At the California Crossing the big wagons, many of them being drawn by six mules (these were Government wagons), and having a smaller wagon coupled behind, plunged into the flood and all passed over safely. Fourteen wagons were left to continue our journey, and we had accomplished only one half of the dangerous passage of the Indian ranges. Yet nothing happened to us, although we were obliged to stop and rest out horses for several days at one of the most exposed places. This was near the present site of Sterling, Colorado after we had passed through a series of sandhills. South and east of us were the Frenchman and Republican Rivers, then a favorite hunting ground of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Indians. The weather was rainy and the grass good, so while our horses were resting and feeding, the Indians were probably busy killing buffaloes for their season’s meat supply. We saw no larger game than antelope, but larger game was there in season and the buffalo season was just coming on. At a later date I saw herds of buffaloes so numerous that it was impossible to count them. In fact, I saw them moving along slowly grazing and when the leaders of the herd had passed from sight the rear ones had not come into sight. Now, and for years past, not a buffalo ranges the whole plains.

          At Fort Morgan we left the Platte River to follow the “Cutoff” to Denver. We saved a considerable distance by so doing, but we met with some inconveniences by shortening our journey. We left the region of good water, and found the smaller streams and waterholes contained a strong solution of alkali, a substance we were not familiar with. Its use had a bad effect on both man and beast, and our company had several sick animals and a few humans with disordered digestive tracts. There were, however, no fatalities; at least immediately, but it probably was a contributory factor in the fatal results of subsequent diseases.

          I think it was on the 12th of June that we came to our last camping place before reaching Denver. The place is now called Capitol Hill, and the town was in sight below us from a point somewhere on the present East 18th Avenue, or thereabouts. It was near enough for a walk into the town for sightseeing, but the wagons rested there until the next day. That we were tired and dirty may be imagined, and glad to get to our journey’s end. Matters of clothing and toilet were not considered of much moment on those western plains, and I never was so impressed with the differences those things made upon individuals as when an incident in our own camp brought it home to me. Some of the men had gone into the town, and upon their returning. I noticed an apparent stranger with them. He was clean-shaven, his hair was neatly trimmed, and he wore what would pass now as a new Palm Beach suit. He seemed to act very familiarly about the camp, and I wondered who he was and what his business could be. Not until I came close to him and heard him talk did I recognize 

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