Personal narrative of explorations & incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua, volume 1: Connected with the United States and Mexican boundary commission, during the years 1850, '51, '52, and '53 [Digital Version]

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Bartlett, John Russell, 1805-1886, Personal narrative of explorations & incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua, volume 1 (London ;New York: D. Appleton and Company ;G. Routledge & Co., 1854)

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Title: Personal narrative of explorations & incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua, volume 1: Connected with the United States and Mexican boundary commission, during the years 1850, '51, '52, and '53 [Digital Version]
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Author: Bartlett, John Russell, 1805-1886
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Publication date: 2010-06-07
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Description: Printed document with illustrations, 506 pp. Volume 1.
Source(s): Bartlett, John Russell, 1805-1886, Personal narrative of explorations & incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua, volume 1 (London ;New York: D. Appleton and Company ;G. Routledge & Co., 1854)
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Keywords: Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  • Books
  • Memoirs
Keywords: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Texas--Description and travel
  • New Mexico--Description and travel
  • California--Description and travel
  • Chihuahua (Mexico : State) -- Description and travel
  • United States--Boundaries--Mexico
  • Mexico--Boundaries--United States
  • Sonora (Mexico : State)--Description and travel
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • Texas (state)
  • New Mexico (state)
  • California (state)
  • Sonora (state)
  • Chihuahua (state)
  • United States (nation)
  • Mexico (nation)




DURING THE YEARS 1850, '51, '52, AND '53.





IN submitting to the public an account of my explorations
during the several years that I filled the place
of Commissioner on the part of the United States, for
the Survey of the Boundary between the United
States and Mexico, I have endeavored as far as possible
to confine myself strictly to what is embraced in
the title, viz., a Personal Narrative of Explorations
and Incidents.

Having this idea constantly before me, I have
admitted only such digressions as seemed absolutely
necessary for a full understanding of the subject.
Short descriptions of the towns visited have been
given, as well as general remarks on the country from
time to time. So of the botany and zoology, I have
endeavored to keep before the reader a correct idea
of the character of the country throughout which he


was to follow me, without lists and descriptions, scientific
or otherwise, of every plant, quadruped, bird, and
reptile that came in my way.

As an itinerary giving an accurate description of
the country from the shores of the Atlantic to the
Pacific—of every day's journey—of every stream, lake,
pond, or spring—of all the mountain chains and their
defiles—of every plain and desert—of the towns, villages,
houses, ranchos, and farms where the traveller
may obtain supplies—of spots where he may find grass
for his animals, and where he can find none—of districts
destitute of wood and water—I have endeavored to
make it particular and accurate, in order that my book
may become a useful guide to emigrants and other
travellers. A vast deal of suffering may be saved by
placing in the hands of emigrating parties a guide
across the country to the golden regions of California,
whither so many are now annually wending. The
time is not far distant, either, when crowds as large as
those now pressing on to California and Australia will
be "prospecting" among the mountains of Texas,
New Mexico, Chihuahua, and Sonora, attracted by
similarly rich mineral deposits, and probably with the
like splendid success. This will not be the result of
an accidental discovery, as was the gold in the millrace
near the Sacramento; for the existence of such
treasures is already known, as well as the localities
where they are to be found. My journeys through


Sonora, Chihuahua, and other Mexican States, are given
with much detail on the topics mentioned; which I fear
will render this itinerary dry to many, although to
others it will give the book its chief value.

I have divided my narrative into distinct journeys,
each complete in itself. The first is from Indianola,
on the coast of Texas, where the Commission disembarked,
via San Antonio and the northern route (not
now travelled), to El Paso del Norte, about 850 miles.
A second to the Copper Mines of New Mexico, in the
Rocky Mountains near the Rio Gila, with a residence
there of several months. A third to the interior of
Sonora, and back. A fourth from the Copper Mines
along the boundary line south of the Gila to the Rio
San Pedro, and thence through another portion of
Sonora to Guaymas on the Gulf of California. Fifth,
a voyage from Guaymas to Mazatlan and Acapulco,
and thence to San Diego, and San Francisco. Sixth,
various journeys in California. Seventh, a journey
from San Diego, by the Colorado and Gila rivers, to
El Paso del Norte. And lastly, a journey through the
States of Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, New Leon,
Tamaulipas, and the south-western corner of Texas, to
Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico. These several
journeys embrace an extent of nearly 5,000 miles by

With reference to the aboriginal tribes, I have
described with minuteness only those with which I


remained some time, and whose habits I had a good
opportunity to study. I have also incidentally spoken
of the tribes through whose countries I passed, without
entering into any detail. This subject is so extensive,
and requires so much study, that it can be done justice
to only by being treated as a whole. I was so fortunate
as to obtain vocabularies of more than twenty aboriginal
languages, many of which had never been taken
down before, and none so fully, as by me. These valuable
testimonials of the now fast disappearing red race
who preceded us in the possession of our country, I
consider among the most important of my collections,
and as such, I believe they will be esteemed by the
learned. They each embrace two hundred words, and,
with but two or three exceptions, were all taken down
by myself, with great care, and according to one system.

My further ethnological collections embrace portraits
of many of these tribes, both male and female,
showing the characteristic features of each. Sketches
were also taken which exhibit their manners and customs,
their arts, husbandry, etc. It is my desire to
prepare a report on the ethnology of the Indian tribes
of the extensive region explored by the Boundary
Commission, should the government feel sufficient
interest in the subject to authorize it. Without the
aid of government, I shall be compelled to limit myself
to a brief memoir, embracing merely my philological


From the time of the Commission's landing at
Indianola, during the whole period of its continuance,
every opportunity that offered, without interfering
with the direct object had in charge, was improved
for the purpose of making explorations, and forming
collections in various departments of natural science.

In the department of Botany four gentlemen were
employed in making collections. Dr. J. M. Bigelow,
Surgeon of the Commission, and Mr. George Thurber,
who was most of the time connected with the Quartermaster
and Commissary Departments, in addition to
their other duties, examined the botany of the region
respectively passed over by them, and made very large
collections of plants—the latter over a country extending
from the Gulf of Mexico across the continent to
the Pacific Ocean. Mr. Thurber, who accompanied
me in most of my journeys, was indefatigable in his
exertions to make thorough examinations and complete
collections of every thing belonging to his department,
notwithstanding the numerous obstacles he had to
encounter He, in addition, formed an extensive
herbarium, embracing plants, etc., collected in the
various States of the republic of Mexico visited by us.
Two other botanists, Dr. C. C. Parry and Mr. Charles
Wright, have also made large collections. The former
was connected with the surveying parties under the
immediate direction of Major Emory, and did not
accompany me, so that I am unable to speak from personal


knowledge of his labors; but from his well
known reputation, as well as that of Mr. Wright, I
doubt not they have accomplished much. It is to be
hoped that the government will place a proper estimate
on the labors of these several gentlemen; and I feel
confidence in saying that when they are made known,
they will reflect great credit upon them, and furnish
important accessions to science.

In Zoology our collections are large, and embrace
many new species. The collectors in this department
were Mr. J. H. Clark, Mr. Arthur Schott, and Dr.
Thomas H. Webb. As these collections are unfortunately
scattered, one portion being in the Smithsonian
Institution and another in Boston, I am unable to speak
with precision of their extent. Of the first collection
sent home by Mr. Clark in the spring of 1852, the
naturalists connected with the Smithsonian Institution,
Professors Baird and Girard, remark that, "It will be
perfectly safe to say that one hundred undescribed
species of North American vertebrate animals have
been added to our fauna. The entire annals of
zoological history scarcely present a parallel to this
case." Since that time other collections have been
received by the same institution. It is to be hoped
that this large and valuable accession to the zoology
of the North American continent may be properly
appreciated by our government, and that the distinguished
naturalists now engaged in describing the


specimens, may be authorized to present them to the
scientific world in such a style and form as their value
and interest merit.

From the peculiar geological features of the country
passed over, a valuable report on that subject
might be expected; but I regret that, as Congress
denied me an appropriation for the purpose, I was
unable to secure the services of any geologist competent
to make such investigations as were desirable.
Several gentlemen who filled responsible places, particularly
Dr. Webb, Secretary of the Joint Commission,
contributed their services in collecting such mineralogical
specimens as circumstances would allow. It
was highly desirable to institute a continuous series
of geological and mineralogical researches, and to form
a cabinet illustrative of the structure and mineral
resources of the region along the whole course of the
survey; but both the scientific corps, and the number of
soldiers at my disposal for the purpose of escort, were
too small to admit of this being done. Nothwithstanding,
however, every drawback, a large collection of
minerals was made by Dr. Webb, including silver ores
from New Mexico and Chihuahua, and other ores from
various places along the line, which have reached home
in safety. Among these mineralogical treasures is a
fine specimen of bituminous coal. In connection with
this subject I may add, that we visited and explored
many of the mines in New Mexico, Sonora, Chihuahua,


and California, of gold, silver, copper, and quicksilver,
and obtained specimens of the ores; besides which
much valuable information was collected in reference
to the extent, value, and productions of these mines.

I should do injustice to our accomplished artist and
draughtsman, Mr. Henry C. Pratt, who accompanied
me in my journeys to and from California, did I not
speak of his valuable services. Besides the portraits
of the Indian tribes and illustrations of their manners
and customs, Mr. Pratt has made a series of many
hundred sketches, representing the peculiar character
of the country extending from ocean to ocean along
the boundary line, and in the States contiguous.
Many of these sketches are panoramic views embracing
wide districts of country, and convey to the mind a
better idea of it than the most elaborate description.
I have, therefore, very reluctantly been compelled to
omit the most important of them from the present
work, as it would detract too much from their merits
to reduce them to the size of an octavo page.

There is another topic, one too, which possesses a
deeper interest for the American people and the whole
civilized world, than those to which I have alluded.
This is the adaptation of the country explored by the
Boundary Commission for the purposes of a railway.
The descriptions of the country given in our daily
marches will convey some idea of the advantages presented;
but without the large sketches mentioned,


barometrical profiles, and elaborate maps, I could not
do justice to the subject. In the extensive journeys
of the Commission through Texas to the shores of the
Pacific, by the route south of the river Gila, I was
enabled, with the assistance of the engineers intrusted
with the survey of this portion of the line, to collect
much valuable information on the topography of the
country, for the purpose of enabling the public to
judge whether or not it is practicable to construct a
railway there. It is to be hoped that Congress will see
fit to lay this information, obtained with so much toil
and expense, in a suitable manner before the people.

The maps of the survey, as well as the astronomical,
magnetic, and meteorological observations, with
all that strictly appertains to the running and marking
of the boundary line, were, by the instructions of
the Secretary of the Interior, placed in charge of the
surveyor, Brevet Major W. H. Emory, who alone is
held responsible for the faithful performance of these
duties. From the high character of that officer as an
engineer, the public may expect, in proper season, a
satisfactory account of his labors in these departments.
Some time must elapse before the maps to illustrate the
whole Boundary, from one ocean to the other, can be
completed; I have therefore been compelled to construct
meanwhile the map prefixed to this work from
my own itinerary and from the most authentic information
that could be obtained.


The question has been repeatedly asked, and may
be asked again, why the account of the doings of the
Commission embraced in this narrative was not published
by the government, alike with other reports of
explorations made by its officers. In reply I have to
state that, on my return home, after being superseded
as Commissioner, I was desirous to submit my report
to the Secretary of the Interior, for publication under
his direction. To effect this a resolution was offered
in the Senate by one of its distinguished members,
General Houston of Texas, who takes a lively interest
in the promotion of science, and particularly in the
investigation of the unexplored regions of our country,
to authorize me to prepare and publish a full Report
of the labors of the Commission while under my charge,
including the Natural History, in which so much had
been accomplished. The efforts of the learned Senator
however were unsuccessful, and the resolution was laid
on the table. This decision, a source of lively regret
to me, I trust is not to be regarded as final; and I
cherish the hope that Congress will yet decide to place
the whole results of the Commission before the public
in a suitable manner.



Treaty of Peace between the United States and Mexico—Hon. J. D. Weller
appointed Commissioner to run the new Boundary Line between
the two Republics—Determines the initial point on the Pacific and the
centre of the mouth of the Gila—Col. J. C. Fremont's Appointment and
Resignation—J. R. Bartlett appointed Commissioner—Fitting out and
Organization of the Expedition—Embarcation of main body of Commission
from New-York—Embarcation of Commissioner and others—
Water-Spouts—Havana—New Orleans—Arrival at Indianola
Preparations for the Start—Breaking mules—La Salle and its early History
—Prosperity of Indianola—Commencement of Survey—Route to
Victoria—Shoeing mules—Encampment in grove—Military drilling—
Flourishing condition of Victoria—Primitive legal proceedings—Difficulties
of navigating Espiritu Santo Bay—Description of surrounding
country—Mexican rancho—Observance of the Sabbath—Justice dispensed
in the matter of a calf—Goliad, its early history and ruins—Massacre
of prisoners after the battle of Perdida Creek—Leave Goliad—
Murder of a Mexican by a teamster—Arrival at San Antonio—Another
murder—Preparations for crossing the Plains—Description of San Antonia
—Alamo—Mission Churches


Advancea party formed for the journey to El Paso—Arms and equipments
—Mode of travel—General order—Storm on the Prairie—Guadalupe
river—Refinement among the German settlers on its banks—Terraced
hills of Texas—Mormons in the valley of the Piedernales—Fredericksburg
Projected route through the wilderness—Setting out—Uninviting appearance
of the country—Precarious condition of German settlements on
the Llano River—Leave the Emigrants' Road—Crossing of the San
Saba—Community of prairie dogs—Kickapoo Creek—Hints to future
travellers—The Mezquit—Visit of Lipan Chiefs—Indian dexterity in
mule catching—Regain the Emigrant Road at Concho River—Horse
wounded by a rattlesnake—Character of country and vegetation—Mustang
roads—Scarcity of water—Prairie on fire—Deceptive maps—Castle
Mountains—Stray cattle captured—Pecos River—Chapporal—"Indian
Crossing of the Pecos—Narrow escape from a cold bath—Desolate region
—Prize oxen—Stray mule—Populous biscuit—Toyah Creek—Travellers'
tokens—Rescue of lost mule—Dreariness and monotony of the
Pecos—A horse's somerset—Delaware Creek—Snow-storm, sport, and
Erman's Siberia—Mr. Thurber and others dispatched to El Paso—Letter
to Major Van Horne
Difficulty of proceeding—Set out with a small party in advance—View
of Guadalupe Mountain—Boiling Spring—Deceptive clearness of the
atmosphere—Guadalupe Pass—Descent to the plain—Meet Mr. Coon's
train—Hospitality—Mr. Thurber's note—Take leave of the train—
Cornudos del Alamo—Thorne's Well—Ojos del Alamo—Waco Mountain
Pass—Waco Tanks—Meet Messrs. Thurber and Weems on their
return—Arrival at El Paso—Itinerary of route—Remarks on the country
traversed—Its adaptability to a public road



Losses of Animals—High price of provisions at El Paso—Excursion up the
river—Entertainment given to the officers of the Commission by the
civil authorities—The Bishop of Durango—Pueblo Indians—Meeting
with General Condé, and commencement of the labors of the Joint Commission
—Arrival and disposition of the main body of the United States
Commission—Arrival of ox-train, and death of U. D. Wakeman—Departure
of military escort for the Copper Mines—American desperadoes
in New Mexico—Death of E. C. Clarke—Trial and execution of
Wade, Craig, and Butler—Trial and execution of Young—Dinner and
ball given under difficulties—Excursion to the Sierra Waco—Indian
pictures at the Waco Tanks—Initial Point agreed upon, and Survey in
its vicinity commenced—Depot established at the Copper Mines—Dr.
Webb's report on the same
Early colonization of Mexico—Position of El Paso—Mode of irrigation—
Agricultural productions—Vegetables—Fruits—Extensive culture of
the grape—Wine—Brandy—The Rio Grande—Deficiency of water—
Uncertainty of crops—Houses—How built—Oriental style preserved
—Primitive mode of life—Flour mills—Degeneracy of people—Dress
—Settlement on the American side—Coon's Ranch—Magoffinsville—
Socorro—San Eleazario—Mountain chains—Plants—Current and sinuosity
of the Rio Grande
Observations on the Rio Grande, from El Paso to Doña Ana—Establishment
of the Initial Point, and ceremonies connected therewith—Description
of Doña Ana—Mesilla—Route to Santa Barbara—Visit to ruins—


Mirage—Route to the River Mimbres—Luxuriant vegetation on its
banks—"Giant of the Mimbres"—Ojo Caliente—A broken arm—Arrival
at the Copper Mines—Description and history of the Mines—Value
of the timber in the vicinity—Abundance of game—Scarcity of vegetables
—Visit to Sonora projected


Spring at Pachetehu—Ojo de Vaca—Janos road—Col. Cooke's road—
Scarcity of water—Dry bed of a lake—Mirage—Desert region—Zoology
of the plains—Guadalupe Pass—Difficulties—Bears—Discover footprints
of deserters from Copper Mines—Sycamore trees—Cañon—Luxuriant
vegetation—Descend from the great plateau—Change of climate
—Ruined hacienda of San Bernardino—Wild cattle—Black Water
Creek—Teamster attacked by a bull—Grave of an American deserter.
Leave the California road—Agua Prieta—Send party to look for Fronteras
—Mexican soldiers sent to guide us in—Journey resumed—Strike
a rich valley—Break a wagon—Reach Fronteras—Description of the
place—Abandoned by its people and recolonized—General Carrasco—
Couriers between the frontier posts—Attack by General Carrasco on
Apaches at Janos—Campaign against the Apaches—General Carrasco's
opinion of American officers—The Doctor beset by the sick—Leave
Fronteras—Coquiarachi—Valley of Barbari—Wild turkeys—Mountain
Pass—Gold Mine—Bacuachi—Sonora River—Magnificent cañon—Chinapi
—Curious sandstone formation—Arrival at Arispe


Description of Arispe—Primitive church service—Scarcity of grain and
fruit, and abundance of vegetables—Set out on our return—Broken
down wagon abandoned—Reach Fronteras—A blacksmith's independence
—Celebration of a Saint's day—Manufacture of aguardiente—
Various uses of the Maguay—Doctor's fees—Broken wagon metamorphosed
into a cart—Sorry plight of a wild bull—Strike Cooke's road—
Traces of fire in the Guadalupe Pass—Mexican encampment—Story of
Americans attacked by Apaches—Reach the Copper Mines—Colonel
Graham not arrived—Visit General Condé's camp, and consult with
Lieutenant Whipple—Return to the Copper Mines
Visit from the Apaches—Mangus Colorado—Arrival of Mr. Sanford—11th
Article of the Treaty relating to captives—Arrest of New Mexican
traders—Inez Gonzales, the Mexican captive—Examination of traders—
Story of the captive girl—Pinalenos Indians—General Condé arrives—
The 11th Article of the Treaty enforced—Friendly intercourse with the
Indians—Two Mexican boys taken from them—Excitement in consequence
—Conference and dialogue with the Apache chiefs—Amicable
settlement of difficulties
Intercourse with the Apaches—Mangus Colorado and his new clothes—
Proper mode of treating Indians—Treachery and massacre of Indians
by an Englishman—Tribe of Copper Mine Apaches—Their numbers—
Extent of their incursions—Ethnological position—Inferiority of the
tribe—Dress—Visit from the Navajos—Their fine blankets—An Apache
shot by a Mexican—Alarm—Arrest and examination of prisoner—
Death of the Indian—The murderer demanded by the Apaches—Conference
with the Chiefs, and their talk—Restoration of friendship
Arrival of Mr. A. B. Gray—Meeting of Joint Commission—Objections of
Mr. Gray to Initial Point—Mules missing—Arrival of Colonel Graham


—Mules stolen from Frontera—Descent of the Apaches on the mule
herd—Organization of parties for the Survey—Application to Colonel
Sumner for more troops—Hostile attitude of the Indians—Second incursion
of the Indians—Mules taken—Colonel Craig goes in pursuit—
Arrival of Captain Buford with dragoons to our aid—Indians pursued
by Colonel Craig and Captain Buford—Third incursion of the Indians
—Volunteer party go in pursuit—Indians overtaken and cattle recovered
—Apache chief recognised among the robbers—Determine to set
out for the Gila
Organization of parties for the survey of the Gila—Leave the Copper
Mines—Pack-mules—Mode of packing—Ojo de Vaca—Camp in the
Burro Mountains—Ojo de Inez—Grizzly bear—Violent rain—Heavy
travelling—La Piloncillo, or Sugar-loaf Mountain—Broad plain—Camp
at El Sauce—Man missing—Camp in the Chiricahui Mountains—Boggy
road—Want of water—Dry lake—Reach the Mexican camp—Meeting
of the Joint Commission—Mr. Gray's objection to the boundary—March
resumed—Mules abandoned—Reach San Pedro River—Its character.
The valley of the San Pedro—Decide on going to Santa Cruz for provisions
and mules—Departure of General Condé—Leave the San Pedro—Take
the trail of the Mexicans—Deserted Indian village—Leave the trail—
Wild horses—Santa Rita Mountain—Beautiful valley—Progress arrested
—Critical situation—Mr. Thurber goes in search of Santa Cruz—
Arrival of Colonel Graham—Ruined hacienda of Calabasa—Wild
scenery—On short allowance—Return of Mr. Thurber—Retrace our
steps towards the San Pedro—Mustangs—Camp on the Babocomori—
Arrival of Mexican soldiers—General Condé loses his way—Sufferings
of his party—Mexicans hunting cattle on the San Pedro—The father
and friends of Inez Gonzales arrive—Set out again for Santa Cruz—
Meeting of the captive girl and her mother—Arrival at Santa Cruz
Account of the missing parties—Description of Santa Cruz, and its population
—Departure of Colonel Graham—Set out for La Magdalena—Increase


of party—San Lazaro—Cocospera—Its beautiful valley—The
cañon where Inez Gonzales was taken—First sight of the Cereus Giganteus
—Babasaqui—Wild cattle—Imuris—Terrenati—San Ignacio and its
church—Abundance of pomegranates—Passports demanded—Proceed
to Magdalena—Summoned before the Alcalde—Legend of the origin of
the town—Festival of San Francisco—Religious devotees—Offerings
to the Saint—Consecration of ribbons—Booths—Gambling—Perpetual
fandango—Vegetable productions near the town—Fine scenery—Grand
torchlight procession—Close of the festivities—Description of La Magdalena
Leave La Magdalena—Taken ill—Diary breaks off—Sufferings on the road
—Reach Ures—Poor quarters—Dr. Webb and rest of party visit Guaymas
—Kindness of Dr. Campbell—Description of Ures, the capital of
Sonora—Theatricals—The Yaqui Indians—The Opate Indians—Visit
from Tanori, an Opate chief—Other Indian tribes of Sonora—Exports
—Narrative of an expedition against the Apaches—My party leave me
and go to the Gila—Taken to Dr. Campbell's—Irruption of the Apaches
—Imbecility of the Mexicans—Tanori and the Opate Indians go in pursuit
—Visit from the Coco-Maricopa Indians of the Gila—Good news
from Tanori—He defeats the Apaches and recovers the stock—Entrance
of the victors with the recovered booty into Ures—Death of
General Garcia Condé—His character—An American held in bondage
—Arrival of General Flores—Departure for the coast
Leave Ures—Rich valley—Tapahui—Don Manuel Gandera—His large estates
—Successful farming—Statistics of his haciendas—Silver mine—
Reach Hermosillo—Governor Aguilar—The Ceris Indians—Obtain
their language—Account of the tribe—Mode of poisoning their weapons
—Description of Hermosillo—The Sonora River—Productions of
the valley—Business relations—Sketch of the town—Departure—Meet
French emigrants—Description of the country—Its barrenness—Business-like
mode of milking cows—La Cieneguita—Buena Noche—Reach
Guaymas—Mr. Robinson, the U. S. Consul—Description of Guaymas
and its Campo Santo—Its harbor—Commerce—Intense heat—Departure


Voyage down the Gulf of California in a pilot boat—Barren coast—Island
of Carmen—Loreto—Reach Mazatlan—Its picturesque appearance—
Description of the town—Americans here—Embark for Acapulco—
Land at San Blas—Visit to Mr. Horn, the Captain of the Port—Ride to
the old town—Its beautiful position—Ruined condition—Visit an old
fortress—Leave San Blas—Description of the coast—Volcanoes of Colima
—Land at Manzanillo Bay—Its unhealthy climate—Laguna—Cargo
discharged—Stupidity of Custom House official—Leave without papers
—Reach Acapulco—Chinese hotel—Beautiful harbor—Castle of San
Carlos—Unhealthiness of the place—Extreme heat—Noxious insects—
Description of the town—Ancient commerce—Departure for San Diego
—Crowded state of the steamer—Voyage up the coast—Arrival at
San Diego—Rejoin the Boundary Commission



9. " " " " " 172
10. " " " " " 173





Showing the countries Explored & Surveyed
IN THE YEARS 1850, 51, 52, &53,
Under the direction of
U.S. Comissioner.


Treaty of Peace between the United States and Mexico—Hon. J. B. Weller
appointed Commissioner to run the new Boundary Line between
the two Republics—Determines the initial point on the Pacific and the
centre of the mouth of the Gila—Col. J. C. Fremont's Appointment
and Resignation-J. R. Bartlett appointed Commissioner—Fitting out
and Organization of the Expedition—Embarcation of main body of
Commission from New York—Embarcation of Commissioner and others
—Water-Spouts—Havana—New Orleans—Arrival at Indianola.

THE treaty of peace between the United States and
the Mexican Republic, dated at Guadalupe Hidalgo,
on the 2d February, 1848, requires that "the two
governments shall each appoint a commissioner and surveyor,
who, before the expiration of one year from the
date of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty,
shall meet at the port of San Diego," and proceed to
run and mark the boundary between the two countries
"in its whole length to the mouth of the Rio Bravo
del Norte." These officers are required to "keep
journals and make out plans of their operations; and
the result agreed upon by them shall be deemed a part


of this treaty, and shall have the same force as if it
were inserted therein. The two governments will
amicably agree regarding what may be necessary to
these persons, and also as to their respective escorts,
should such be necessary."

The treaty requires that the starting or initial point
on the Pacific Ocean shall be "one marine league due
south of the southernmost point of the port of San Diego,
according to the plan of said port, made in the year
1782 by Don Juan Pantoja, second sailing-master of
the Spanish fleet, and published at Madrid in the year
1802, in the Atlas to the Voyage of the schooners Sutil
and Mexicana." From this point the line separating
Upper from Lower California was to be "a straight line
to the middle of the Rio Gila, where it unites with the

The Hon. John B. Weller was appointed the first
Commissioner, and Andrew B. Gray, Esq., the first Surveyor
under the treaty. They took with them to San
Diego a corps of engineers and assistants. Major W.
H. Emory, Captain E. L. F. Hardcastle, and Lieutenant
A. W. Whipple, of the U. S. Topographical Engineers,
the first as chief, and the latter as assistant
astronomers, were detailed by the government to aid
the commissioner and surveyor, in carrying out the
stipulations of the treaty. They assembled at San
Diego in the month of June, and entered upon their
duties soon after.

Without going into any detail of the proceedings
of this Commission, it will be sufficient for my purpose
to say, that the two important points referred to, viz.,
the initial point, one marine league south of the Bay


of San Diego, and the middle of the Rio Gila, where
it unites with the Colorado, were determined by means
of an elaborate series of astronomical observations, by
the Topographical Engineers intrusted with these duties.
A considerable portion of the straight line connecting
these points was also run.

In February, 1850, it was found impracticable to
advance eastward beyond the mouth of the Gila, and
towards the frontier of New Mexico, in consequence
of the difficulties attending the fitting out of large
parties for the important service to be performed.
The Commission then adjourned, to meet at El Paso,
in the State of Chihuahua, on the first Monday of November

Soon after the adjournment, Mr. Weller was removed,
and Colonel J. C. Fremont appointed to
his place; but before the latter gentleman entered
upon his duties as Commissioner, he was elected by
the people of California, to represent that State in the
Senate of the United States. Elected to so distinguished
an office, Colonel Fremont did not hesitate to
resign his place as Commissioner on the Boundary,
when I was honored by President Taylor with the
appointment to succeed him.

I received my letter of appointment in June, 1850,
when I immediately set to work, to organize such a
party as would be necessary to carry on the survey,
and to procure the outfit required for the service.
Here was a preparatory labor of several months. But,
as I was required to be at El Paso del Norte, on the
Rio Grande, on the 1st Monday in November, the day
on which the joint Commission was to meet, agreeably


to the adjournment in the preceding February, there
was little time left me for these preparations; for,
making every exertion, I could not expect to reach
that far-distant place, in less than two months after
leaving the Gulf of Mexico. This would leave me
little more than two months, viz., July and August, to
select my assistants, organize the Commission, procure
the necessary outfit, and transport the whole to the most
convenient point on the Gulf of Mexico, from which
the party could start on its long march for the interior.

I immediately set to work to complete the arrangements
previously made for wagons, tents, camp equipage,
arms and ammunition, instruments, stationery,
etc., and to purchase provisions, medical stores, and
such other articles as would be required in a distant
country, where few of the necessaries of life could be
procured, and still less of the supplies required by
surveying parties, except only animals, and the means
of transportation.

Twenty-five wagons were contracted for, in Newark,
New Jersey, including ambulances, or spring wagons,
for the transportation of surveying and astronomical
instruments, and other purposes. Four iron boats,
with their equipments, were constructed, under the
direction of Lieutenant J. G. Strain, U. S. Navy.
Tents for the whole party, camp equipage, harness,
saddles and bridles, pack saddles, mechanics' tools,
fire arms, and the other articles named, were purchased
in New York; in which duty I had the assistance of
the same officer, who was indefatigable in his exertions
to prepare the party for service.

That no time might be lost in the preparations for


the field, I first appointed a Quarter-master and a
Commissary, who immediately entered upon their respective
duties. The former, James Myer, Esq., a
gentleman from Texas, who had been connected with
the Quarter-master's department, under General Taylor,
in the late war with Mexico, proceeded at once to
Texas, with his assistant, Edward Clarke, Esq., for the
purpose of procuring horses and mules, which were to
be brought together at our place of landing. I next
appointed the various engineers, surveyors, and their
assistants, mechanics, laborers, cooks, servants, etc.;
and issued an order to all, to report themselves in
the City of New York, on board the Steamer Galveston,
on the 3d day of August, 1850, having chartered
that vessel to transport the Commission and its
stores to Indianola, in Texas.

In organizing the Boundary Commission, I had in
view other objects, not directly connected with the
survey. By the sixth article of the treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo, provision is made for the collection of
information relative to the construction of a "road,
canal, or railway, which shall, in whole or in part, run
upon the river Gila, or upon its right or left bank,
within the space of a marine league from either margin
of the river."

To make these examinations required an additional
force; but besides this, my intention was to commence
the survey with two parties simultaneously, at El Paso,
and work towards both the Pacific and the Atlantic,
by which means the work would be brought to a much
speedier termination, than if a single party of engineers
should take the field and carry on the work,


from one end of the line to the other. To do all this
required four full parties, two of them being astronomical
and two surveying. The Commission was
therefore organized accordingly. Its chief officers,
when the re-organization took place, after my appointment,
were as follows:

  • JOHN R. BARTLETT, Commissioner.
  • ANDREW B. GRAY, Surveyor.
  • COL. JOHN MCCLELLAN, Chief Astronomer.
  • LIEUT. J. G. STRAIN, U. S. Navy.
  • LIEUT. A. W. WHIPPLE, Assistant Astronomer.
  • CAPT. E. L. F. HARDCASTLE, do. do.

The latter officer remained in California, to finish the
demarcation of the line between the mouth of the
Rio Gila and the Pacific, and did not join the parties
which accompanied me. For the programme of the
Commission, as organized in Washington, in July, 1850,
see Appendix C.

On the third of August following, or about six
weeks after my appointment, the outfit, subsistence,
etc., were so far ready, that the whole Commission,
excepting Lieutenant Whipple, Colonel Chandler, one
of the first assistant engineers, two of the assistants,
and myself, embarked on board the steamer Galveston,
at New York, and set sail the same afternoon for New
Orleans and Indianola, Texas. The whole party, embracing
officers and men, which embarked, numbered
one hundred and five persons, taking with them provisions
for six months. An escort of United States
soldiers, under Colonel Craig, consisting of 3d Infantry,


and embracing eighty-five men, accompanied the

On the 13th of August, having closed up all the
business of the Commission, and procured some astronomical
instruments which could not be got ready
sooner, I embarked on board the steamship Georgia,
Captain Porter, accompanied by the gentlemen before
referred to, for Havana, where we arrived on the morning
of the 19th, after a pleasant voyage. With the exception
of a thunderstorm off Cape Hatteras, and the
unusual sight of five water-spouts at the same time, from
a large heavy cloud about two miles to the leeward,
there were no incidents worth recording. The waterspouts
were interesting on account of the unusual
number seen at the same time. One of these, and
the largest, rose in a direct perpendicular column from
the surface of the ocean to the cloud, funnel-shaped at
either end, or like a huge column, its base on the
ocean, its capital under the cloud. All the others
were spiral, and connected in the middle by an apparently
small column of water. They soon disappeared,
as well as the heavy cloud with which they
were connected. The turbulent ocean, which had
lashed the ship's sides for a couple of hours, soon
became composed, and relapsed into a dead calm.
This continued until we rounded the Moro Castle,
and entered the beautiful harbor of Havana.

In the afternoon of the same day we left the Georgia,
which went no further, and embarked on board the
steamer Falcon for New Orleans. A striking contrast
was presented in these two ships. The former
was sweet and clean in every part; while the filth of


the latter, and the stench arising from her cabin and
hold, resembled that from a hog stye. She had just
arrived from Chagres with a large number of passengers
from California, many of whom were suffering
with fever. One poor creature died during the day,
and was sent on shore for interment. Although we
felt somewhat apprehensive on finding ourselves in Havana
at mid-summer, when foreigners generally leave,
and when all avoid it who can, I suffered no inconvenience
from the heat, which was not more oppressive
than in New York; still we took the precaution to
keep very quiet. A gentle breeze drew in from the
ocean, making it comfortable under the awning. Towards
evening, I went on shore with Lieut. Whipple,
when we took a volante and drove out to the bishop's
palace, and the neighboring public places of resort.

Tuesday, August 20th. At two o'clock P. M., sailed
for New Orleans; the weather pleasant, and not uncomfortably
warm. The boat was not only crowded with
passengers, but, to increase the discomfort, her decks
were filled with crates of pine-apples and other fruits,
so as to leave but little room to move about. When
I went to retire, I learned that there were two passengers
on board with the yellow fever; in fact, I had
arranged my cot near them before I found out what
their illness was. Several of the passengers then, myself
among the number, thought it more prudent to
spread our beds upon the deck, where we had the advantage
of a pure atmosphere. Reached New Orleans
at midnight on the 23d, and proceeded at once to the
Saint Charles Hotel, as did nearly all the rest of the


I here learned that the Galveston had arrived in
safety, and, after a delay of a couple of days, had proceeded
to Indianola. One of the officers had been
taken with a fever, and remained behind; all the
others were in good health.

After remaining at New Orleans two days, we embarked
on board the steamer Portland, for Indianola,
a clean and comfortable vessel, though somewhat
slow. The surface of the gulf was scarcely ruffled
by the breeze; so that no one was sea-sick, and all
seemed to enjoy the voyage. The fourth day brought
us to Galveston, where I found three young men belonging
to the Commission, who had been left by the
Galveston steamer. Remained here long enough to
go to the beach and bathe, which greatly refreshed
us; when we continued our voyage, and came to
anchor the next evening off the town of La Salle, in
Matagorda Bay. Several officers of the Commission,
who had been watching the arrival of the steamer,
came on board late at night, and informed me that all
had arrived in safety, and that they were encamped
at Indianola, about six miles distant.

August 31st. A small government steamer came
off to us early this morning and took us to Indianola,
which we reached at eleven o'clock. Many of the
party met me at the landing, when I took an ambulance
and rode to the camp, on the shore of the bay,
a short distance from the town.


Preparations for the Start—Breaking mules—La Salle and its early History
—Prosperity of Indianola—Commencement of Survey—Route to Victoria
—Shoeing mules—Encampment in grove—Military drilling—
Flourishing condition of Victoria—Primitive legal proceedings—Difficulties
of navigating Espiritu Santo Bay—Description of surrounding
country—Mexican ranch—Observance of the Sabbath—Justice dispensed
in the matter of a calf—Goliad, its early history and ruins—
Massacre of prisoners after the battle of Perdida Creek—Leave Goliad
—Murder of a Mexican by a teamster—Arrival at San Antonio—
Another murder—Preparations for crossing the Plains—Description
of San Antonio—Alamo—Mission Churches.

SINCE the arrival of the Commission, all parties had
been busily occupied in getting ready to move into
the interior; and those only who have had experience
in fitting out a large train of wagons for a journey
across the prairies, or to California, can form an adequate
idea of the preparations required. If the route
were a settled one, or if settlements were to be met
with, even at distances of a hundred miles apart,
where supplies could be procured and repairs made,
much of the labor necessary on setting out, and a vast
deal that is required on the way, might be dispensed
with. At this place it was not necessary to complete


our arrangements for a final start. The town did
not furnish the facilities for so doing. My intention,
therefore, was to proceed to San Antonio, the principal
city of Texas, a hundred and forty miles distant,
and there complete our outfit for the longer march
across the prairies and deserts to El Paso del Norte.

Quarter-master Myer had arrived before the Galveston,
with about one hundred horses and mules; but
these were quite inadequate for the wants of the party.
It was found, too, that the twenty-five wagons brought
out were insufficient to transport the property of the
Commission; in fact, they would little more than
carry the instruments, personal baggage, tents, and
camp equipage. The instruments were packed with
great care, and filled four of the ambulances. It therefore
became necessary to procure at once additional
wagons, mules, and horses for the transportation of
the provisions, of which we had a six months' supply
for one hundred men, as well as for the men to ride
on. But that no time should be lost, it was thought
best, as fast as the wagons could be got ready, to proceed
into the interior, as far as the town of Victoria,
where water, wood, and grass were abundant, and
where greater facilities were to be found for shoeing
our animals than at Indianola. Here there was no
wood, and water could be had only from one or two
wells, and that of so bad a quality that many of the
party had been attacked with complaints of the

The quartermaster and his men occupied themselves
in breaking the mules, very few of which had
ever been in harness before. This was done by making


them draw logs about for a few days, when
they became docile, and could be harnessed to the
wagons with safety. While this was going on, the
mechanics were employed in their various duties.
The blacksmiths and carpenters in making many
small fixtures to the wagons; amongst other things,
all had to be provided with feed-troughs, not a single
one of these necessary appendages being furnished
with them. All the harness and collars had to be reduced,
to adapt them to our Mexican mules, which
were much smaller than the mules of Kentucky and
Missouri, used at the north, and for the transportation
of merchandise for the Santa Fé and New Mexican trade.

La Salle, the place opposite which we came to anchor
in entering Matagorda Bay, is so named in memory
of one of the most remarkable of the early explorers
of the North American continent. This distinguished
Frenchman, with the ardent zeal which characterized
his countrymen in their attempts to penetrate
to the very heart of the continent, had passed the great
chain of the northern lakes, pushed his discoveries to
the head waters of the Mississippi, and traced its course
to the gulf, before the first English colonist had established
himself on the Atlantic coast. Coasting along
the shores of the gulf in search of a spot whereon he
might establish a colony, he landed, against his will, at
or near the spot which now bears his name, where he
remained nearly a year with a little band of adventurers,
facing all the dangers and undergoing all the hardships
to which they could be exposed in a country surrounded
by hostile Indians. In his attempt to extricate
his party, he was murdered by one of them.


This place was selected as the most desirable spot
for a town, on account of its depth of water, and convenience
of approach from the gulf. Vessels drawing
ten feet of water, are said to have passed in without
difficulty; and, to use the words of an enthusiastic admirer
of its position, who doubtless had some interest
in its success, "it seems to have been intended by
nature, to rear and sustain a large commercial city."

From the several examinations which have been
made of Matagorda Bay, it appears that the harbors on
its western shores, the chief of which are La Salle and
Indianola, possess advantages above those of any ports
on the Gulf of Mexico, between the mouth of the Mississippi
and Vera Cruz, with the exception of Galveston.
The whole Texan coast, it is well known, is bordered
by long and shallow lagoons, connected with the
waters of the gulf by narrow openings, whose position
is constantly shifting, and which have not always sufficient
depth of water for the passage of large vessels.
Paso Cavallo, the entrance to Matagorda Bay, is only
second to that which leads to Galveston Bay.

In the contest for superiority, Indianola seems to
have carried away the palm; for while the highly applauded
site for the city of La Salle is almost unoccupied,
the former has grown into a large and thriving
town, second only to Galveston among all the ports of
Texas. Indianola is now the port for the extensive
commerce with Western Texas, Chihuahua, and portions
of New Mexico; a railroad has already been commenced
to connect it with San Antonio, the chief city
of the State, and two lines of steamers plying between
it and New Orleans will continue to add to its prosperity.


Should one of the contemplated railroads to the
Pacific be extended west from San Antonio, with its
terminus here, Indianola will rank second only to New
Orleans among the cities of the gulf in commerce and

The necessity of giving early employment to the
large corps of engineers attached to the Commission,
in the duties which appertained to their profession,
induced me, among other reasons, to make an examination
of the country between Indianola and our place of
destination on the Rio Grande, in order to ascertain the
facilities it afforded for a railroad. With this view I
caused a party to be organized to make a chain and
compass survey, and to carry a line of levels to determine
a profile of the route from this point to El Paso
del Norte. The eyes of the South had long been directed
this way; for whether there might be a more
practicable route or not further north, it was a question
of great importance to the southern section of the
Union, that all the information possible, should be obtained
with reference to the country we were about to
traverse, and its practicability for the purpose of a railroad.

The various engineers, surveyors, and assistants,
were desirous to enter on active duty as soon as possible,
and received with great satisfaction the order to
commence their labors in a field comparatively unknown.

Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, of the Topographical
Engineers, was placed at the head of the party, and
performed the astronomical duties; while Mr. John
Bull was the principal surveyor, in charge of this department


of the work. They selected their assistants,
and entered upon their operations on the 3d of September.

The preparations on the train, the breaking in of
the mules, and obtaining the additional transportation
before alluded to, occupied about a week after my arrival.
I left Indianola on the fifth of September for
Victoria, distant about thirty miles, a portion of the
train having preceded me. Immediately on leaving
the shores of the bay we entered a fine level prairie, unlimited
by hill or any elevation, and covered with the
richest grass. Not a tree or shrub interrupted the
broad expanse that lay before us. Here and there were
gentle undulations, like the long waves of the ocean
when, after a severe blow, its agitated waters are subsiding
into a calm. The prairie fowl, the great curlew,
and flocks of quail arose as we moved along; and being
in advance of the party, I had an opportunity to
test the qualities of my double-barrelled gun. When but
a few miles from the town, we began to observe herds
of deer a short distance from the road, grazing in
quietness among the innumerable cattle which dotted
the plain in every direction, doubtless imagining that
proximity to their tame companions added to their
security: though, in fact, it proved directly the reverse;
for the cunning hunter would take advantage of their
presence to approach the nearer to his game. The young
men who accompanied me, being prepared with rifles,
dashed off to try their hand at this exciting sport, in
which they were more or less successful; so that on
reaching our place of encampment, they were provided
with a fine saddle of venison for their dinner.


The entire distance to Victoria is over the rich
prairie just described. It is occasionally intersected
by bayous, lagoons, or small streams, where the land
is brought into cultivation, giving evidence of its
inexhaustible richness in the luxuriant growth of cotton
and sugar-cane which it bears. Near the water are
clumps of trees; and such spots are eagerly sought
after as places of residence.

On the morning of the 6th, I reached Victoria,
where I found great activity in the camp. Here one
of the most important jobs was to be performed, that
of shoeing the mules. It was believed, that breaking
them in to the harness at Indianola, and two days'
journey with heavily loaded wagons, would render them
more tractable, when the process of shoeing was to
be undertaken. But this rough handling seemed to
have subdued them but little. They were as wild
and skittish as when roaming at large over the broad
prairies, and as repugnant to civilized life, and the
arduous labors attending it, as the untamed mustangs,
which had never been brought under the control of
the teamster's lash.

The first step in this process, was to construct a
frame-work of timber, called the "stocks," consisting
of four upright posts, connected by bars on all sides,
and capable of containing a single mule. Near this was
placed the blacksmith's forge.

The next step was to catch the mules, and place
them in the stocks, a task of infinitely more labor than
that of putting on the shoes. The mules were first
driven into a corral or pen. The animal to be shod
was then selected, and a lasso or rope thrown over his


head, by which he was drawn from the inclosure.
Then commenced a series of kickings, and rearings, and
boltings, a caution to all to keep out of the way, when,
by the aid of several men, the victim was brought up
to the stocks. Now came the most difficult part of
the operation, that of getting him in. A mule is by
nature timid, even when he has been used for years,
and subjected to kind treatment; but if, when only
half tamed, he is violently brought under control, this
timidity is increased to actual fright, and he does not
hesitate to ply his heels pretty vigorously. There is no
species of defence belonging to the horse, no stubbornness
peculiar to the ass, but are concentrated in the
mule. He possesses the bad qualities of his paternal and
maternal progenitors, with the good traits of neither.
The gentleness, docility, and instinct of the horse, are
not found in the race; while the capricious obstinacy
of his paternal ancestor is exhibited to the fullest extent.
There is one trait of his character, however,
that should be noticed, and that is his power of enduring
fatigue and privation, which renders him better
fitted for the long inland journeys, where there is an
insufficiency of food and a scarcity of water, than the

The sight of the stocks, as might be supposed,
would not tend to make a mule more tractable. Then
begins the tug. The rear kick, the side kick, the forward
plunge, are exhibited to the fullest extent. Several
men get hold of the halter, while other ropes are
passed round his rear, and thus he is finally drawn
into the stocks. Bandages or straps are placed under
his body, by which he is raised from his feet. His


head is secured between two wooden bars; and each
foot, after a severe tussle, is fastened, by means of iron
clamps, to the four upright posts or cross-bars. The
victim is now ready for the shoeing process, which is
the most expeditious part of the operation. The shoes
having been previously brought to the size of the small
hoofs, a blacksmith stands ready at each foot, with a
shoe, nails, and hammer in hand. He does not then
pause in order to make a close fit; but the shoe is put
on in less time than a city farrier would spend in
paring a horse's hoof. This part of the job being
over, the finale of the operation is to haul the animal
out, which, owing to the spirit of perverseness inherent
in his nature, is generally attended with as much
difficulty as that of getting him into the stocks. He
is now suffered to go at large, unrestrained by the bars
and rails of the corral. In this manner, about one
hundred and fifty mules were shod; and, as only twelve
at the most could be got through with in one day,
about two weeks were necessarily spent in this portion
of our fitting out for the march. Considerable time
was also occupied in preparing the shoes, which were
made in New York; and being adapted for the larger
American mules, it was found necessary to reduce them
all for the smaller and more delicately formed hoofs of
our Mexican torments.

Believing it would be more advantageous to the
members of the Commission whose presence was not
necessary in the camp where the work alluded to was
going on, and that it would be conducive to their
health, I left Victoria on the 13th, with the larger portion
of the Commission, and formed my camp in a


beautiful grove of live oaks, on the banks of the river
Colette, a tributary of the Guadalupe, six miles distant.
We were here away from the vices and mischief
which invariably attend large parties without employment,
when encamped in or near a town. We here
had fine running water, in which we could bathe, a
practice which greatly tended to promote health. The
trees afforded us a fine shade; and, as the heat was still
great, the mercury rising from 95° to 100° Fahrenheit,
in the coolest places, we found it more comfortable
beneath the trees than to remain in our tents. There
was excellent grass in abundance all around us, where
our animals could feed, and we quietly awaited the
arrival of the train, to continue our journey.

Before setting out from Indianola, it was deemed
advisable, for the safety of the party, in the long and
dangerous march of more than eight hundred miles
through a country infested by hostile Indians, to organize
the members of the Commission, not engaged
on surveying or other duties, into two military companies.
This would place them all under the more
direct control of the officers, and hence lead to a better
subordination. With this view, the engineers and their
assistants were formed into a cavalry corps, under the
command of Lieutenant J. G. Strain, U. S. Navy; and
the mechanics and laborers into a rifle corps, under the
command of Captain Edmund Barry, an officer who
had served in the army during the Mexican war. All
were provided with rifles or carbines, and many of the
cavalry with Colt's revolvers, or six shooters. Lieutenant
Strain, by means of careful drilling at Indianola,
on the march, and during our stay at Victoria,


brought his company into such a state of discipline,
that it made a very respectable appearance. The
saddles, bridles, and trappings, were the same as those
of the U. S. Dragoons; the uniform, blue flannel shirts,
dark pantaloons, and broad-brimmed white felt hats.
The dress of the rifles was scarlet flannel shirts, the
rest of the uniform the same as the cavalry.

The town of Victoria, which we have just left, is
one of the most flourishing inland towns in Texas. It
stands on the banks of the Guadalupe River, and, being
in the midst of a fertile region, possesses a good trade.
At the time of our visit, in September, 1850, it had
three public houses, numerous stores, mechanics' shops
of various kinds, a weekly newspaper, and a courthouse.
The latter edifice always brings with it, in
new countries, numerous accessories. The court was
in session at the time of our visit, and appearances
indicated that a good deal of law and justice was dispensed
here. The house, being of limited dimensions,
could scarcely contain those whom business brought
here, and the numerous idlers who have a propensity
for hanging round country courts. Many were therefore
obliged to spend their time in the shade of the
fences and trees near by; and when required as witnesses,
the constables came outside the building and
called out their names to the full extent of their lungs;
a primitive mode of doing business, though attended
with much more comfort for the witnesses, than if
obliged to be pent up in a closely confined room for
hours and days together. How the juries were disposed
of I did not learn; they could not, at any rate,
carry them out into the high grass, as was customary


in some of the new States of the West, when courts
were first introduced.

Victoria is a place of recent growth, having been
settled within ten years. The Guadalupe River, where
it passes the town, is an insignificant stream; but its
high banks bear witness that it is at times one of considerable
magnitude. Attempts have been made to
navigate it by means of a small steamer, but with
indifferent success; and the difficulties attending the
navigation of Espiritu Santo Bay, into which the river
empties, will prove a serious obstacle to regular communication
with the seaboard. I directed the quartermaster
to transport the property of the Commission to
Victoria by steamer from the coast; but finding it a
very uncertain mode, and one which might be attended
with serious delays, he thought it most prudent to
make use of wagons, and such of our stores as exceeded
our own means of conveyance were drawn with hired
teams. As I did not pass through this place on my
return, I do not know whether the attempt to navigate
the Guadalupe with steamboats has been successful
or not.

September 14th. The weather was extremely warm
to-day, the mercury rising to 102° in the shade. Took
an early breakfast, in order to examine the country
around us before the sun was too high. The banks of
the Colette are overhung with trees, from the branches
of which hang long festoons of moss, waving gracefully
with the breeze. The river is about 150 feet
wide, and near our camp about five feet deep and quite
sluggish. Saw many fine fish, among them the kind
known as the "buffalo fish;" but it would not take the


hook. The largest ones seemed fond of lying near the
surface of the water, which enabled us to shoot them
with a rifle. They proved excellent eating.

The vegetation presents more interesting features
as we proceed inland,—the river bottoms are well
wooded with oaks, pecan, and huck-berry,—and the
minor plants are more numerous. The peach and fig
flourish well in the gardens near Victoria; but the season
is so dry, that we have no vegetables except pumpkins,
—even potatoes have disappeared.

In our walk Mr. Thurber gathered many plants;
we also found the first appearance of rock that we had
seen in Texas, near the banks of the stream. Near by
was a Mexican ranch, which was then an object of
curiosity, being the first of the kind we had met with.
It was built of sticks set upright, the interstices filled
in with mud. The floor was of the same material.
The house contained but a single apartment, which was
occupied by a Mexican, his wife, and several children.
The pigs were rooting near the door. Several fowls
were perched upon projecting sticks, or nestling on
the beds; and we had ocular proof that they sometimes
deposited their eggs there. Bought out the
entire stock of eggs, and all the milk that could be

September 15th, Sunday. Thermometer at 101°.
Announced that I would read the church service at 9
o'clock, and invited all to attend. It was a source of
gratification to find that the whole camp were present
save the two men on guard. The service took place
beneath the branches of a large tree, where we were
sufficiently protected from the sun's rays. The chapter


read on this occasion was from the 20th Corinthians,
giving the narrative of St. Paul's voyage and shipwreck,
which seemed an appropriate one: a hymn was afterwards
sung, in which the greater portion joined. This
being over, all returned to their tents, or beneath the
adjacent trees, and passed the remainder of the day in
quietness. Much satisfaction was expressed at this
observance of the Sabbath, and it was hoped that it might
continue to be thus kept during our long march.

September 16th. The weather continues hot, the mercury
reaching 99° to day, which of course kept us
quietly in camp as before. Early in the day I set off
with my gun in search of game, but was unsuccessful
in finding any thing but a few quails: the prairie fowls
which were so abundant on the great plain between
Victoria and Indianola had disappeared.

A calf was killed and brought into camp by one of
the men, who declared that he took it for a deer; and a
few hours after several claimants appeared demanding
pay for the animal. They did not come together, nor
did either of them know that there were other applicants
besides himself. The first, on my questioning him
as to the color of the calf, said it was black. The next
one said it was red, and a very valuable animal, more
so indeed than a full-grown ox. A third declared it to
be of some other color. I expressed my willingness
to pay for the slaughtered innocent if I could know its
rightful owner, and requested the several applicants to
call on me again towards evening. In the mean time I
sent for the skin, which was not found to correspond
with the description given by either of the claimants,
whom I then dismissed.


The wagons and mules continued to arrive at the
camp; but when I was expecting soon to move, I
learned that Colonel McClellan was seriously ill at his
quarters in Victoria. So ill was he that many feared
he would be unable to continue the journey. Dr.
Bigelow, surgeon of the commission, remained to
attend him.

While we lay here waiting for the remainder of the
party, the wagons were overhauled, reloaded, and some
additional teams added by purchase. Not being able
to get all we wanted, a few were hired to aid in transporting
the stores to San Antonio, where the quartermaster
expected to complete his purchase of wagons
and mules.

September 20th. Colonel McClellan having so far
recovered as to join the camp, I gave orders to move
to-morrow morning at daylight. Every thing, therefore,
not absolutely necessary, was stored in the wagons,
and preparations made for an early start.

September 21st. The bugle sounded at half past three
o'clock; breakfast was dispatched before the sun had
risen; and ere the morning mist, which, arising from
the river, hung over our camp, had disappeared, we
were on our way. The morning was cool and pleasant,
and I was desirous to reach our proposed camping
spot before noon. This was the first day's march of
the whole party; and as the wagons were heavily
laden, I did not think it best to press the animals too
much at the start.

Our route was over a country of alternate prairie
and woodland, with an excellent road. After a march
of fifteen miles, the main body encamped at Manahuila:


while I with a small party rode on five miles further to
Goliad, having some business to transact at that place,
which I reached at 12 o'clock. Here I found Mr. F.
Wheaton and Mr. Scott, assistants in the surveying
party, who had been taken ill and were obliged to remain

Towards evening Judge Lea, a gentleman of enterprise
and a large landholder, called on me and invited
me to his house at Old Goliad about two miles distant.
He took a deep interest in the survey we were then
making from Indianola to San Antonio, and had accompanied
the surveying party when it passed through his
lands a day or two before my arrival. Crossed the river
in a log canoe, and reached the Judge's residence, a
venerable and ruined church, just at sunset. Took a
brief view of the ruins of the ancient town while the
dim twilight remained.

The present town of Goliad is about two miles from
the former town, and at the time of my visit contained
about two hundred inhabitants. The old place, which
is now in ruins, is situated upon a hill directly upon
the west bank of the San Antonio River, at its highest
navigable point, and formerly contained several thousand
inhabitants. It was originally a Spanish Mission,
instituted for the purpose of christianizing the Indians,
and united within one inclosure a church and fort,
while numerous dwellings were clustered under the
protection of its guns. The date of its establishment
is not known with certainty, the accounts varying from
one to two hundred years. The church is the only
building in any tolerable preservation, except two or
three houses which have been restored, provided with


new roofs, and made into very comfortable dwellings—
better, indeed, than modern builders would think of
erecting. The church seems to have been designed for
the double purpose of a church and a castle. Its massive
walls on every side, which measure four feet in
thickness, are cemented with waterlime; and to its
great strength is owing its fine state of preservation.
Its extreme length is 90 feet, its breadth 27 feet.
Its roof is a single stone arch from wall to wall, sustained
by small buildings or cloisters which project
from the sides, and which are connected with the main
edifice; a parapet rises above the roof, behind which
cannon were formerly planted.

In the various domestic wars of Mexico this was an
important place, and frequently changed hands; nor
was its importance lost during the struggle for Texan
independence, when it was occupied by the Mexican as
well as the Texan forces. Its original name was La
Bahia del Espiritu Santo, the Bay Town of Espiritu
Santo, because it was originally the place for collecting
the revenue of the small ports upon the bay. Hence
all persons arriving on the bay with merchandise were
obliged to go forty miles into the interior to find the
officer of the customs, to whom they had to pay their
duties. Similar inconveniences exist at the present
day in Mexico, on the Pacific coast: the collector of the
port of Manzanillo, for instance, resides at the city of
Colima, ninety miles in the interior. This name of La
Bahia was changed by the Spaniards about thirty years
since, when it began to decay as a religious establishment,
to that of Goliad, on account of its great strength.

Around the church are some twenty or more ruined


buildings of stone, with nothing but their walls
standing. One of these extends about 150 feet southward,
and appears, from its small apartments, to have
been constructed for barracks: its walls, like those of
the church, are very massive. A high wall seems once
to have surrounded the church, but much of it now lies
prostrate. The other buildings, which are detached and
of various dimensions, were chiefly used as dwellings.
The whole town is in ruins, and presents a scene of desolation,
which to an American is at once novel and
interesting. Each succeeding capture, of course, impaired
the buildings; and after the decisive battle of
San Jacinto, the Mexicans evacuated it and destroyed
it as far as they were able. The material of these buildings
is a soft white sandstone, which underlays the
town, and which appears to become hardened when
exposed to the air.

We enjoyed the hospitalities of Judge Lea, who is
domiciliated in the old church, the interior being in
good condition. To this gentleman we are indebted
for many facilities for visiting the ruins, and for much
information respecting the country adjacent. He had
partitioned the church with a slight frame-work about
ten feet high, which was covered with calico or brown
cotton, the top being open; making it a very comfortable
place for the greater portion of the year. After tea
we ascended to the roof, to enjoy the cool breeze of the
evening, and the beautiful landscape which there opens
to the view. Situated on an eminence, the country
can be seen for a great distance around. After the
moon arose and cast a deep shadow from the ruined
walls, and the long belt of fire from the burning prairie


shed its red glare on the few clouds that flitted across
it, the scene assumed an aspect of peculiar solemnity
and interest. We lingered long to enjoy the fairy-like
vision, and until the fatigues of the day warned us that
it was time to retire.

The sword has truly given place to the ploughshare
here; and the in closure which has been the scene
of many a bloody fight, is now employed by the Judge
as an experimental garden, in which he has demonstrated
the capacity of the soil and climate to produce any
of the great Southern crops of cotton, corn, and sugar,
as well as the choicest garden vegetables. The church
is especially notorious as having been the place where
Fannin and his men were confined and massacred. We
were fortunate enough to meet with a gentleman,
Judge H., who was one of the prisoners, and whose
singular escape may be worth relating.

After the battle of Perdida Creek, between Fannin
and 275 men on one side, and Urrea with 900 Mexicans
on the other, articles of capitulation were signed,
according to which, those who surrendered were to
be treated as prisoners of war, and either released
on parole or sent to some port upon the bay. The
articles were drawn up within the Texan lines, and all
was arranged in good faith. The prisoners were confined
within the fortress of Goliad, where they met
others of their countrymen, sufficient in number to
make up four hundred. When Santa Anna was informed
of their capture, he sent orders for them to be
shot. The officers in command remonstrated, but the
order was repeated peremptorily. The massacre took
place upon the 27th March, 1836, eight days after the


battle. The prisoners were marched out of the fort in
three divisions, full of high expectations that the time
of their release had arrived, and were shot down
almost simultaneously by the Mexican soldiery. The
gentleman above referred to was in the second division,
and owes his escape to the most wonderful presence
of mind. As his division was marching out, he
heard the report of the muskets, which were fired upon
the preceding division. Instantly the truth flashed
upon his mind, and his course of action was decided.
As he saw the lips of the Mexican officer move to
give the order for the soldiers to fire, he fell upon
his face as if dead. The soldiers stood within six feet
of the prisoners, and fired with fixed bayonets. As
soon as they had fired, they rushed upon the victims
with their bayonets to complete the slaughter. Judge
H. was pierced through the shoulder, bearing the
wound without showing signs of life. After the execution,
the scavengers and camp followers came to rob
the dead. A Mexican, in cutting away his hunting
shirt to get at his coat which was beneath, wounded him
in the neck, at which he let escape some expression of
pain; whereupon the Mexican, finding him still alive,
beat him upon the head with the butt of his escopetto
until he supposed life extinct, and then went on with his
robbery. All this time the Judge retained a consciousness
of his situation; and when all had left the bloody
scene, he crawled, as well as his remaining strength
would allow, to some concealment near the river, and
at dark made his escape. After wandering three days
without food, he obtained assistance from some kindhearted
Mexicans, and finally reached the coast in safety.


As near as can be ascertained, about 375 Texans
fell victims to this treachery. They are all buried in
one common grave, with no other monument than the
prison's ruined walls.

The situation of Old Goliad is well chosen, and
from the top of the old church a view of surpassing
beauty is obtained. The fertile valley of the San Antonio
lies below; and all around the land stretches
away in gentle undulations, not densely enough wooded
to form a wilderness, but bearing here and there
clumps of trees, disposed so regularly as to give the
landscape a rural aspect. So closely do the clusters
of live-oaks resemble orchards, and the recently burnt
prairies, with the newly-springing grass, meadows,
that one finds it difficult to convince himself that he
is not passing through a highly cultivated district.
Upon the opposite side of the river are the ruins of
another mission—the Aranama—named from a tribe
of Indians now extinct. This building, like the
church before described, was surrounded with the
ruins of lesser ones. It is of smaller dimensions than
the one tenanted by Judge H.; but with restored walls,
openings for windows, and a modern roof, it has been
changed into a comfortable dwelling. It is occupied
by a gentleman from New York, who lives in a style
of elegance that we were quite unprepared to meet
with in Western Texas.

Visited to-day the camp of Mr. Bull, a portion
of whose party was near Goliad. They had made
good progress with their survey; but, though they
had met with no serious obstacles, had suffered much
from the intense heat on the open prairies, where


they could obtain no shelter from the mid-day sun.
Joined the train, and moved on six or eight miles, to
the banks of the Cabeza, a small stream, and encamped
in a grove of trees near by.

September 22d, Sunday. Remained in camp. The
grass being excellent, our animals had the advantage
of good feed. Held service beneath a large tree, which
was attended by the greater portion of the Commission.

September 23d. The cooks were called at three
o'clock, and our breakfast dispatched by the break of
day. This enabled us to move by five o'clock, and to
reach our intended place of encampment, known as the
Ojo de Agua, or Water Eye, before noon.

September 24th. Left at five o'clock, and after
travelling over an excellent road, reached the Sebilla
River, a rather diminutive stream to receive the appellation
of river, and encamped upon its banks. Distance
travelled, twenty-one miles.

September 25th. Took an early start, as usual.
More timber appeared, and of a larger growth than
we had observed towards the coast. The live-oak in
particular, which had been of a stunted or dwarfish
appearance, now assumed the stateliness of northern
latitudes. Our ascent was more perceptible to-day
than any day since our departure from the coast.
Reached the San Antonio River at ten o'clock, and
pitched our tents near a cluster of Mexican ranches.
Distance travelled, seventeen miles.

A sad event occurred in camp this afternoon, which
resulted in the death of one of our Mexican neighbors,
who had been furnishing us with meat and other articles.


While sitting in my tent in the afternoon, I
heard the report of a pistol quite near, and immediately
after saw a number of men and women running
towards one of the ranches. I hastened to follow,
and found a man lying on his back with the mark
of a gun shot in his breast, which I was told had been
inflicted by one of our teamsters named Green. The
wounded man appeared to be about thirty years of
age, and was surrounded by his father, mother, wife
and four children. His brothers and sisters were also
around him. Doctors Bigelow and Webb were in immediate
attendance, and rendered all the aid possible.
But as they pronounced the wound a mortal one, but
little could be done for him, and he died in two hours.

The particulars of the murder were briefly these:
While Green, the teamster, was gathering wood, he
attempted to take some portion of a fence; when the
deceased, who owned the farm and wood, ordered
him off, at the same time drawing a jack-knife and
pointing it towards him. Green dropped a portion of
the wood, and returned to his fire with the remainder.
He then took his pistol, a large revolver, and came back
for the wood he had dropped. The man who had
ordered him off was still there, and approached Green
with his knife open. The latter, when within three
feet of him, leisurely drew his pistol and discharged
it at the Mexican's breast. The wounded man ran
towards his ranche, but fell before he had reached the

I immediately caused Green to be arrested; though
I found that during my visit to the ranch, he had
been to my tent to confess the deed. He came forward


at once, and related the facts as previously stated
to me. My intention was now to keep a guard over
the prisoner, and deliver him to the authorities on our
arrival at San Antonio; for which purpose he was
placed in a tent, with two men to guard him.

I stated to the family that the prisoner should be
delivered to the authorities for trial, which in a measure
pacified them. But for this, an attempt would
doubtless have been made to take his life, word
having been sent to the neighboring ranches of the
occurrence. The man, I told them, was not a member
of the Commission, but a Texan teamster, hired at
Indianola. Afterwards, learning the poverty of the
family, that the deceased was its main stay, and that
the expense of the funeral would be great, I gave the
father one hundred dollars.

During the evening, before the guards had been
posted, and while our people were moving to and
fro, the prisoner raised the back of the tent, unseen
by the guard and others who were sitting near the
entrance, crept to the outer lines of the camp, leaped
on a horse which was staked near, and escaped under
cover of the darkness. No more was heard of either
horse or rider, though it was believed that some of
the friends of the teamster had aided him in making
his escape.

September 26th. Our march to-day brought us to
the Cibolo (corrupted by the Texans into Sea-Willow)
River, where we encamped.

September 27th. Took an early start, and reached
the city of San Antonio at two o'clock, distant
twenty-one miles. Having much to attend to in


completing the outfit of the party, I took up my
quarters at the Verandah Hotel, while the rest of the
Commission encamped on the banks of the river, about
four miles from the city. Colonel Craig, with the
escort, had not been with us on the march from Indianola.
As no protection was yet required, he proceeded,
immediately on landing at that place, to his camp
near San Antonio, where his train was preparing for

September 28th. Another sad event took place
to-day. In making up the party for our journey to
El Paso, it was necessary to procure teamsters in Texas,
no men having been engaged at the north for such
duty. When we started from Indianola, four or five
persons who had been engaged for other duties undertook
to drive teams. All the others had to be procured
there or at Victoria; and the quartermaster was
obliged to take such men as he could find, giving in
all cases the preference to such as had been in the
government employ, or who could bring good recommendation.
But with all his care, several desperate
characters were engaged. One of these, named
Turner, had had a quarrel with Mr. Tennant, the
butcher in the employ of the Commission, a very
worthy man who had accompanied us from Washington.
In the camp to-day they were seen having high
words. Turner, it appears, had endeavored on several
occasions to get the former into a fight without
success. To-day Tennant was heard to say that he
had no fears of Turner, if he would lay aside his knife
and other weapons, and fight him fairly; at the same
time drawing a small knife from its sheath and throwing


it from him. No sooner was this done, than
Turner drew his long bowie-knife and rushed upon him,
plunging it into the side of Tennant, and causing his
death in half an hour. The murderer sheathed his
knife, and hastened to a horse which stood near. In
another moment he was mounted, and, riding at full
speed, he disappeared in the thick chapporal, or thorny
bushes, near the camp.

This transaction took place in the very midst of
the camp; but as broils and altercations were not
uncommon among the teamsters, and as no one anticipated
what was to follow, Tennant being a very athletic
man, they did not interfere. In fact, from the
statements made to me, the affair was so sudden that it
scarcely admitted of any interference. But the blow
of the murderer, and his subsequent escape, were witnessed
by many. The whole camp was immediately
in motion; horses were saddled, and several started
in pursuit. The chapporal was high and thick; yet the
pursuers, regardless of the difficulty and danger of riding
through its thorny recesses, dashed on, and soon
caught sight of the object of their pursuit. In a
short time the two foremost of the party, Mr. Robert
E. Matthews, and Mr. J. E. Weems, assistants in the
engineer corps, succeeded in overtaking Turner, when,
presenting their pistols, they compelled him to surrender.
Having been disarmed, and others of the pursuers
coming up, the prisoner was carried in safety to
the camp. Great credit is due to Messrs. Matthews
and Weems for their activity and courage in capturing
this desperate man.

A detachment from the engineer corps brought


their prisoner to me at San Antonio, and I immediately
placed him in the hands of the sheriff of the county.
Soon after, I saw him lodged in jail and handcuffed.

Although this affair did not attract much public
attention, such things being of frequent occurrence at
the time, yet, among the class to which the murderer
belonged, there was much excitement, and threats were
heard that an attempt might be made during the night to
effect his release. The prison being an adobe building
and quite insecure, I deemed it my duty to detail a guard
of six men from the Commission to the jail for the night.

The following day an examination took place before
the mayor, the Hon. J. M. Devine. Many witnesses
were examined; and the result was the committal of
the prisoner, to take his trial for murder. I learnt
some months after that he was found guilty, and sentenced
to fifteen years imprisonment. He remained in
prison about two years; but on my return from the
survey, I heard that he had made his escape.

Murders were common in Texas about the time of
my visit in 1850; and it had been too often the case
that the guilty escaped justice. At this time the laws
were better executed; and now (1853) there is as much
security for life and property as in the older States of
the Union. Frontier States often contain a bad population,
at least such is the case in their early history. At
the time of the annexation of Texas, large numbers of
vicious and worthless men, some of whom had committed
crimes and eluded the hands of justice, had sought
a home here, where law and order had not then
been firmly established: life and property were little
regarded by them. But since the laws have come to be


more rigidly enforced, these desperadoes have found it
necessary either to adopt more honest modes of living,
or to take refuge on the very borders of Texas and New
Mexico, where they can pursue their old courses with
impunity, by crossing over when necessary into Mexico.

My servant who was taken ill on the march up,
here died of fever: several others were attacked, but
soon recovered.

As San Antonio was the last place at which supplies
could be procured, and the train fitted out for the
long march of nearly 700 miles, it was necessary to
make it as complete as possible. We yet required a large
number of mules and many wagons to transport the
public stores, which had been sent forward in hired
wagons. The quartermaster therefore found it necessary
to increase the train to about 56 teams, which included
sixteen Mexican carts, the latter drawn by three yoke
of oxen each: some of the wagons, too, were of the
largest description, and drawn by ten mules or five
yoke of oxen. These, with some additional riding animals,
and their equipments of saddles, bridles, etc., completed
the means of transportation for the Commission
and its stores.

We also procured here about a hundred head of
beef cattle, to be driven with the train, and used on
the march. The draught oxen I also intended to fatten
after our arrival in the field of operations, for a
future supply of beef; so that we were pretty well provided
in this department of our subsistence. A few
barrels of pork and some small stores were also added
to our stock here: some additional arms, ammunition,
tents, and camp equipage, finished our outfit.


From the lateness of the season there was an uncertainty
about grass; furthermore, by the recent arrivals
from El Paso, I learned that the prairies had been
burned by the Indians a considerable portion of the
way, and that it would be absolutely necessary to transport
a considerable quantity of corn to keep the animals
in good trim, and enable them to cross the desert
portions of the route. The quartermaster, therefore,
sent in advance to the military post on the Leona, 90
miles distant, several wagon-loads of corn, and made
arrangements to carry as much in the train as possible,
without overburdening it. In these various preparations,
and the shoeing of the additional animals,
about two weeks were spent. During this time the
party remained encamped at the San Pedro Springs,
about a mile and a half from the town. These springs,
of which there are several, gush out of crevices in the
limestone rock; and their united waters form a small
river, which runs through the town, and unites with the
San Antonio three or four miles below it.

The view of San Antonio from a distance, as it is
approached by the Victoria road, is exceedingly beautiful.
The place seems to be embowered in trees,
above which the dome of the church swells with an
air quite Oriental. But this pleasing impression is
soon dissipated on entering the town, and making
one's way among the filthy buildings of the Mexican
suburbs to the plaza, or public square. The town is a
strange mixture of massive old Spanish buildings and
recent American structures. But upon the plaza the
modern buildings have for the most part superseded
the ancient; though some few remain, seeming lost


and out of place in the company of their smart-looking
neighbors. The old church still occupies its prominent
position in the plaza. This is a building characterized
rather by solidity than beauty, and has as
much the appearance of a citadel as of a church. Indeed,
during one of the battles of the war of Texan
independence, it was occupied by the Mexican troops,
and its tower still bears the scars made by the cannon
balls of the besiegers.

San Antonio is delightfully situated. The rivers
San Antonio and San Pedro run through the place.
The latter is a small stream, and with us would hardly
be dignified with the title of river. The San Antonio
is much the larger of the two. It rises about
three miles from the town, from a number of large
springs, flowing, like those forming the San Pedro,
from the solid rock. The largest of these is worth a
visit. The water rises in a cavity some six or eight
feet in diameter and twelve or fifteen feet deep, and
rushes out in an immense volume. The water of these
springs unite with Olmos Creek, forming a river, which,
in its course towards the sea, receives the Medina,
Salado, Cibolo, and other tributaries, and finally,
uniting with the Guadalupe, empties into Espiritu
Santo Bay. The San Antonio is capable of affording
immense water power. At present, in its course
through the town, it turns but one wheel, and that
simply by the flow of the current.

San Antonio contains about 6000 inhabitants, of
which number it is estimated two thirds are Mexicans,
Germans, and French. Yet, notwithstanding
this preponderance of other nations, the town is essentially


American in its character. Mexican indolence
cannot stand by the side of the energy and
industry of the Americans and Europeans; and the new
comers are rapidly elbowing the old settlers to one
side. Some few of the Mexicans have the good sense
to fall in with the spirit of progress; but the great
majority draw back before it, and live upon the outskirts
of the town in the primitive style of their forefathers.

Situated in the centre of a rich agricultural region,
San Antonio is destined to be a place of much importance.
The necessity of a railroad communication
with the coast is severely felt, and energetic movements
are making to establish it. At present the supplies
of merchandise are brought from the coast by
the slow medium of ox carts. These are driven by
Mexicans, and in a favorable condition of the roads
make the trip in six days. The business of freighting
almost entirely supports the Mexican population of
the city and its vicinity. The American people are
too much imbued with the spirit of progress to
engage in any business that partakes of the past. The
idea of carrying on commerce with ox carts, and
making 130 miles in six days, over an excellent road,
might do for the past century, not for this steam and
lightning age.

Large trains frequently leave here for El Paso,
Eagle Pass, and other points on the Mexican frontier,
and often penetrate to Chihuahua, Parras, and other
Mexican cities. Those engaged in the Mexican trade
are beginning to see the advantages the route through
Texas possesses over the long one from Missouri, by


way of Santa Fé; and doubtless ere long all merchandise
for the northern part of Mexico will pass this

One of the principal objects of interest to the
stranger in San Antonio is the Alamo, memorable for
its brave defence by Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and
others, who only gave up the contest with their lives.
The building was originally a mission. It is now
occupied as a storehouse by the United States Quartermaster's
Department, and retains but little of its former
appearance. The principal doorway, ornamented in
the Moorish style, remains tolerably perfect.

We saw in the County Clerk's office a large collection
of old Spanish documents, which have been
accumulating ever since the first settlement of the town.
Doubtless their careful perusal by some persevering
antiquary would develope many interesting facts connected
with the early history of the country. It is to
be hoped, that measures will ere long be taken by the
enterprising State to which they relate to rescue them
from oblivion and decay, and cause them to be collated
and given to the world. The Northern States have
spent immense sums in sending agents to England,
France, and Holland, to procure similar papers from
the State archives to illustrate their Colonial history.
Texas possesses in her own record offices voluminous
documents of equal value, in which the scholar and
historian of every State feels an interest second only
to that of her own people.

Near the town and upon the banks of the San Antonio
River are the remains of extensive mission establishments.
We found time to pay a short visit to


those of San José, San Juan, and Concepcion. There
is another, La Espeda, which we did not visit.

A ride of about five miles through a mezquit
country brought us to the mission of San José, situated
upon the right bank of the river. This was the largest
and wealthiest mission; and its buildings were constructed
with greater display of art, and still remain in
better preservation, than the others. Entering the inclosure

[Figure] Mission of San José, Texas.

formed by the granary and other out-buildings,
we alighted in front of the main edifice or church.
This is constructed of stone, and plastered. The principal
doorway is surrounded by elaborate carving, which
extends the whole length of the front, and includes
numerous figures, among which San José, the patron of


the church, and the Virgin and Child are conspicuous.
The material of this work has the appearance of stone;
but we found on examination that it was a hard kind
of stucco. The action of the weather has done much
to destroy the figures; and the work of ruin has been
assisted by the numerous military companies near here,
who, finding in the hands and features of the statues
convenient marks for rifle and pistol shots, did not fail
to improve the opportunity for showing at the same
time their skill in arms and their contempt for the
Mexican belief. That portion of the front of the church
not covered with carving, was ornamented with a sort
of stencilling in colors, chiefly red and blue. But few
traces of this have withstood the rain. The most perfect
portion of the church is an oval window in the
sacristy, which is surrounded with scrolls and wreath-work
of exceeding grace and beauty.

The interior presents but little of interest. The
dampness has destroyed the frescoes upon the walls,
and the altar has been stripped of its decorations. It
is now seldom used for religious purposes; as the Mexicans
of the neighborhood are poor, and cannot often
afford the fifty dollars charged by the San Antonio
priests for officiating.

The convent in the rear of the church, as that portion
of the building occupied by the fathers is called,
remains in tolerable preservation, and is at present
inhabited by an American who cultivates the adjoining
lands. A fine view of the surrounding country may
be had by ascending the tower, which is accomplished
in part by means of a spiral staircase, and in part by
a rude ladder, consisting of a stick of timber with


notches cut in its sides. The plan of the building evidently
included two towers; but only one of them was
ever completed.

About two miles below San José, and upon the
opposite side of the river, are the ruins of San Juan.
This was never a building of much pretensions, and is
in a more ruinous state than San José. The interior
shows the remains of some exceedingly rude paintings;
and we noticed that the earthen floor was broken up in
several places where graves had recently been made.

It was late when we reached Concepcion, which is

[Figure] Mission of Concepcion, Texas.

nearer the town than either of the other missions. The
two towers and dome of the church make quite an
imposing appearance when seen from a distance; but


on approaching it, we found it not only desolated but
desecrated; the church portion being used as an inclosure
for cattle, the filth from which covered the floor
to the depth of a foot or more. Myriads of bats flitted
about, which chattered and screamed at our invasion
of their territory; and we found nothing of interest
within the church to repay us for encountering their
disagreeable presence.


Advanced party formed for the journey to El Paso—Arms and equipments
—Mode of travel—General order—Storm on the Prairie —Guadalupe
river—Refinement among the German settlers on its banks—Terraced
hills of Texas—Mormons in the valley of the Piedernales—Fredericksburg.

THE long though necessary delay in getting the train
ready to move, and the slowness with which it would
probably proceed, convinced me that it would not be
possible for it to reach El Paso on the first Monday of
November, the 4th of the month, the day fixed upon
for the meeting of the Joint Commission. After
advising with General Brooke, Colonel Johnston, and
others, as to the practicability and safety of my proceeding
in advance with a small party, I came to the
determination to do so, and announced my intention
to the members of the Commission, requesting to be
notified of such as would volunteer to accompany me.
The whole would willingly have gone, although the
proposed journey would be attended with severer
duties and considerable danger, as we should not have
the advantage of a military escort, which must remain
with the main body of the Commission and its stores.


I selected the following gentlemen for the advance

  • THOMAS H. WEBB, Sec. to the Joint Commission.
  • ROBERT C. MURPHY, Asst. Secretary and Clerk.
  • GEORGE THURBER, Botanist and Commissary.
  • THEODORE F. MOSS, Geologist.
  • JOHN C. CREMONY, Interpreter.
  • EDWARD C. CLARK, Quartermaster.
  • ROBERT E. MATTHEWS, Assistants in the Engineer and
  • JOHN B. STEWART, " " "  Surveying Corps.
  • S. P. SANDFORD, " " "
  • J. THOMAS McDUFFIE, " " "
  • THOMAS DUNN, " " "
  • GEORGE G. GARNER, " " "
  • J. E. WEEMS, JR., " " "
  • CLEMENT YOUNG, " " "
  • C. NEVILLE SIMMS, " " "
  • GEORGE S. PEIRCE, " " "
  • A. P. WILBAR, " " "

R. B. SMITH, Mason; G. W. MILLER, Blacksmith; WM.
GARRATT, Harness-maker; WILLIAM FERGUSON, Carpenter;
THOMAS BRIGGS, Tailor. These with cooks, servants,
, and teamsters, making altogether thirty
persons, constituted the party.

The main body of the Commission, which did not
leave until several days later, intended taking the
Southern route, which had been more travelled and
was better known than the Northern one, by the way
of Fredericksburg. But with the advice of those who
had lately come over the Northern route, I determined
to take that. The distance was said to be about thirty


miles less, and there was a prospect of finding better

October 10th. Although orders had been given to
have every thing in readiness to start early this morning,
on going out to the camp on the San Pedro, I
found the train was not ready. Being determined to
move if I did not get a mile, and the wagons having at
last been geared up, we took leave of our friends at
4 o'clock in the afternoon, and reached a pool of water
four and half miles distant just before dark.

My train now consisted of six wagons, each drawn by
five mules, and my carriage by four: the latter was what
is called in New York a Rockaway. It was a large
vehicle with close sides and windows, and so arranged
that it could in a few minutes be turned into an excellent
sleeping place; it was so occupied by me during the
whole journey to El Paso. It might also with propriety
be termed an armory, and did receive that appellation
from the number of fire-arms contained in it. First,
there was suspended at the top a double barrelled-gun,
while to one of the uprights was affixed my rifle, one
of Sharp's repeaters; a heavy revolver, one of Colt's
six-shooters, was strapped to each door; and Dr. Webb
(who rode with me) and I were both provided with a
pair of Colt's five shooters. My carriage driver carried
a pair of Deringer pistols. We were thus enabled, in
case of necessity, to discharge a round of thirty-seven
shots without reloading; besides which, Sharp's rifle
could be fired at least six times in a minute. I also carried
a spy-glass, barometer, lantern, and a variety of
tools and other articles which we had constant occasion
for on the road. The rest of the party were mounted


on horses or mules, and I occasionally resorted to a
mule by way of variety; for it is a dull mode of travelling
to be dragged slowly along for eight or ten
hours a day cramped up in a carriage. I also made it
a point to walk a few miles every day on starting, which
practice was followed by others.

Every man in my party was well armed, the officers
with Colt's revolvers and a rifle; the mechanics, laborers,
cooks, and servants, with rifles, and the teamsters
with pistols or rifles.

We seldom moved at a faster gait than a walk; as I
did not wish to run the risk of fatiguing the mules or
breaking them down, while the feed was scanty, and
there were no means of making good any losses of animals.
By setting out at 7 o'clock, which was as early
as we could get off on an average, we could make about
twenty miles by two o'clock, which gave the animals time
to graze before night, when it was necessary to bring
them all in. An earlier start might have been made,
but the animals had to be fed first; and when there was
good grazing, they were turned out at daylight for the

On leaving camp, one half the horsemen took the
lead as an escort; for the timid mules are always reluctant
to lead off, and do much better when a horse is in
advance. I followed with my carriage, when not
mounted on my mule; the train of wagons came next,
with a few horsemen alongside; and the cooks, servants,
etc., brought up the rear.

On reaching a camping ground, we formed what is
called on the prairies, and by all overland travellers,
a corral, or inclosure, to serve as a protection for men


and animals. When there is a good number of wagons
in a train, a very large inclosure may be formed, sufficient
to contain the tents and all the animals; but my
small train of seven vehicles was too limited for that:
the wagons were therefore arranged in a semicircle, and
the tents pitched along the base. After the animals had
been "corralled," a stout rope was drawn across in
rear of the tents, to prevent their escaping should any
get loose. When the ground would admit of a large
corral, the animals were staked inside, but they were
generally made fast by halters, or lariats, to the pole
of the wagons for the night; and in this position, corn
was fed to them when we had it. The following order
was issued on leaving San Antonio:

"General Order for the government of the Advance Party
of the U. S. Mexican Boundary Commission, on its
march from San Antonio to El Paso del Norte.

"As this portion of the Commission is entering a
country inhabited by warlike tribes of Indians, where
no resources can be had beyond what the prairies supply,
it is absolutely necessary that a rigid observance
be kept of the following order:

"The same organization of the cavalry company
formed at Indianola, will be continued to El Paso.

"Mr. Geo. S. Peirce, commanding the cavalry, will
act as master of the camp, detailing for the guard whatever
force may be deemed necessary for the safety of
the train.

"Every member of the Commission, the teamsters
and cooks excepted, is expected to do guard duty.

"The train and escort will keep as close together


as possible; and after leaving Fredericksburg, no one
will be permitted to leave the train beyond a short

"Mr. Cremony will take charge of the ammunition,
inspect the arms, and report in what manner every man
is armed. Economy must be used in the ammunition,
as the quantity in the train is limited.

"As there is one jornada of seventy miles without
water, and we may suffer inconvenience elsewhere,
every man who has not already provided himself with
a canteen or gourd, will do so before leaving Fredericksburg.

"In case of any difficulty or accident to the wagons,
it is expected that every one will lend all the aid in his
power to remove it, and hasten the movement of the

"Mr. E. C. Clark, the acting quartermaster, will
arrange the encampments and direct the distribution of
the forage. It is absolutely necessary that there
should be an equal distribution of corn, and no one
will be permitted to take more than is assigned or
delivered to him. On this depends the safety of our
animals, and consequently our own. A limited quantity
of corn can only be taken, and great economy must
be used in its distribution.

"On coming into camp, holes must be dug for the
fires, which must, when the ground permits, be placed
in hollows, or beneath a hill, in order to conceal the
encampment as much as possible.

Commissioner." IN CAMP, NEAR SAN ANTONIO, October 11, 1853.


The weather on the first evening was so warm and
pleasant, that the young men did not pitch their tents,
but bivouacked for the night. One was afterwards set
up for the botanist and geologist, who had some labor
to perform. About midnight, one of those sudden
storms arose, which are so common in this region: the
rain fell in torrents, the wind blew with violence, the
thunder re-echoed from the hills, and the vivid lightning
showed our tentless party in a very sorry plight. A
few sought shelter in the only tent that was pitched;
but scarcely had they got ensconced within, when a
stronger gust than usual drew the pins from their
fastenings and laid the tent flat upon the ground. As
there was no other shelter near, they had no alternative
but to lie soaking in their wet blankets till morning.
I feared that this rude exposure at the outset would
be attended with unpleasant consequences; but all
were up early and ready for the march in the morning.

October 11th. Deferred starting until 9 o'clock, in
order to give the party time to dry their clothing.
The road was exceedingly heavy in consequence of
the rain, which kept falling at intervals during the
morning. The country, since we left San Antonio,
consists of low hills, with broad intervening valleys,
and is covered with rich mezquit grass. Clusters of
live oak abound in the valleys, while the hills are
comparatively bare of trees. Left the road with my
mule and ascended a high conical hill on the left, from
which I had a fine view of the surrounding landscape.
Limestone seems to prevail here, and much of it crops
out of the ground on which the road passes, making it
exceedingly rough for the wagons. A very little labor


would make the road a good one; but most of the
roads in Texas are so good naturally, that the idea of
improving such portions as really need it, seems never
to have been entertained. Reached a well known
watering place called the Comanche Spring, over
which a stone building has lately been erected. Several
German families reside here, who have brought their
lands into a fine state of cultivation.

October 12th. Morning quite foggy. The roads very
heavy and stony, and the country of the same character
as that passed over yesterday. Open grassy plains
occur at intervals, with clumps of live-oak, giving a
cheerful and picturesque appearance to the landscape.
Passed the dry bed of a stream, in following which we
spent an hour waiting for the train to come up. Mr.
Thurber collected some specimens of plants, among
them several species of Euphorbia. First noticed the
Sycamore to-day. The prevailing timber continues to
be live-oak. Reached Sabine Creek at 3 o'clock, P. M.,
where we encamped after a very hard day's march, our
mules showing much fatigue. The margins of the creek
bore cypress trees of large size, and great beauty of
foliage. This is the last place at which we saw the
palmetto. The bright flowers of the Lobelia cardinalis
were abundant.

October 13th. An express from Quarter-master Myer
arrived at midnight, informing me that in consequence
of a further call upon him for horses for the party, and
to meet other demands, he should require more funds.
The messenger waited till after breakfast, when he was
dispatched to the quarter-master with the requisite


Crossed Sabine Creek, and found both the descent
and ascent very bad. The banks being high, we had
to follow the bed of the stream over huge rocks, which
I feared would disable our wagons. But by dint of
pushing and lifting, and hitching horses ahead of the
mules, we succeeded in getting across and on the
opposite bank without accident. Bits of rolling prairie,
covered with luxuriant grass, with here and there a
clump of live-oaks, continued as before. Limestone
frequently appears above the surface. On reaching
the Guadalupe River, we stopped at the log houses of a
small German colony. Among these, I was not a little
surprised to find one occupied by a gentleman of
learning and taste, with a choice library of scientific
books around him. In chemistry and mineralogy, his
collection was particularly rich; and even in other
departments of natural science, as well as in history,
voyages, and travels, it would have been a very
respectable one in our large cities, where books are
easily procured. Some good pictures, including copies
from Murillo, evinced his taste in the fine arts.
There was no floor or glass windows to this humble
dwelling, and as much daylight seemed to come through
the openings in the logs as through the windows. A
plank table, chairs covered with deer skin, and a rude
platform, on which was spread a bed filled with corn
husks, but destitute of bed-clothes, constituted the
furniture. The walls were covered with books, except
one spot, where were arranged twelve rifles and fowling
pieces of various kinds, with other paraphernalia of a
genuine sportsman; while here and there, jutting out
from a projecting corner or log, were sundry antlers,


evidence of the skill of the occupant. For want of
closets and drawers, these antlers served to hang his
clothes on.

On entering this primitive dwelling, we found its
owner, Mr. Berne, busily engaged upon his meteorological
table. He received us with kindness and
suavity of manner; and we found him, as well as several
others of his countrymen who had entered, communicative
and intelligent. They had been here two years,
and formed part of a large colony of Germans, who had
settled in the vicinity. By invitation, we called at an
adjoining house, equally primitive with that before
described. On the rude walls hung some beautiful
pictures, while other articles of taste, and a cabinet of
minerals, had their appropriate places. Here, too, was
a fine harpsichord, from which we were treated to
selections from the most popular composers, played
with an expression and feeling which indicated a
master's hand. In the yard were some fine merino
sheep; and while we were listening to the conversation
of our friends, a tame peccari thrust his long nose
against me to receive my caresses, much as a faithful
dog would. But the propensities of the swinish family,
to which the peccari is closely allied, were so strongly
exhibited in this specimen, that I could only gratify
his affection for me by rubbing his back with a stick,
which seemed to afford him all the pleasure he desired.
It is pleasant to meet such emigrants as these Germans,
who bring with them the tastes of their father-land, and
the means of further cultivating them. They bring
cheerfulness and contentment with them, and impart to
the pioneer population by which they are surrounded


that love for refined enjoyments in which it is so often

Fording the Guadalupe River, which is here about
eighty feet wide and beautifully transparent, we came
to a more open country, though with patches more
closely wooded than any yet observed. The prospect
on every side was broad; the land appeared rich, and
presented the traces of long cultivation. Passed
several fenced inclosures, the first we had seen since
leaving San Antonio.

A species of grape (probably Vitis æstivalis) was
abundant in the bottoms of the rivers; and at the
crossing of the Guadalupe we found the vines in great
profusion, climbing into the tops of lofty trees, and
filled with fruit, of which some of our young men
gathered great quantities, and which proved very

Stopped at the house of Dr. Ernst Kapp, Professor,
as indicated by his card. There was here the appearance
of comfort and taste, though the house was of logs.
I was introduced to his wife and daughter, who both
appeared to be intelligent, and several bright-looking
children. Waited here a couple of hours for a supply
of corn, and then drove to a watering place seven
miles further, where we encamped for the night.

October 14th. Soon after starting this morning, we
ascended an elevated hill, the highest yet met with in
the country. The road had followed up a rich and
narrow valley, studded at intervals with oaks, and
covered with luxuriant grass, when at length it wound
around the base of the hill, and by a zig-zag course led
to a point near its summit. Here I left the road and


walked to the hill-top on the right. It had a conical
shape, with a level surface, scantily covered with low
shrubbery, and was about half an acre in size. A
magnificent prospect here opened to the sight, surpassing
in extent any thing we had seen in Texas. To
the south, the view extended at least forty miles, losing
itself in the distant hills, which were scarcely distinguishable
from the pale blue sky of the horizon. On
the east and west were elevated points, inclosing the
valley through which we had for miles been winding
our way. The hills around us presented a singular
appearance, owing to their terraced sides. These
terraces are formed by layers or strata of limestone,
which jut out from the sides of the hills, the rains
having washed away the soil. This was characteristic,
more or less, of all the hills then in sight, though we
afterwards met more striking ones as we journeyed
westward. This peculiarity of the hills, from the plateau
of Texas to the Missouri, has been noticed by other
travellers, and is represented in many of the scenes
given by Mr. Catlin in his work on the Indians. On
the north side, whither we were directing our march,
lay a broad and deep valley, exhibiting, even from the
distance, a fertility of soil such as we had not before
seen. This valley, as far as I could judge, appeared
to be about twenty miles in length; though I think it
extended further, its termination being concealed from
view by the projecting spurs of the mountains. The
whole was clad in foliage of deep green, so that it
appeared like a dense wood. As we approached, we
found ourselves in an open forest of live-oaks, without
any under-growth of shrubs. The grass was nearly


three feet high, and its strength showed the richness
of the soil. After riding several miles through this
beautiful valley, we forded the river Piedernales, there
about one hundred feet in width, and entered the
village which glories in the name of Zodiac, a Mormon
colony of one hundred and fifty persons, under the
especial care of Elder Wight, as designated by the
faithful, though among worldly sinners he bore the
appellation of "Colonel."

Sending the train forward by a more direct road,
I drove, with twelve of my party, to the house of the
Mormon leader. To a request that dinner might be
served to us, if it was his custom to entertain travellers,
he readily expressed assent, and ordered the
meal to be prepared.

Every where around us in this Zodiacal settlement,
we saw abundant signs of prosperity. Whatever may
be their theological errors, in secular matters they
present an example of industry and thrift which the
people of the State might advantageously imitate.
They have a tract of land, which they have improved
for about three years, and which has yielded profitable
crops. The well built houses, perfect fences, and tidy
door-yards, gave the place a home-like air, such as we
had not before seen in Texas. The dinner was a regular
old-fashioned New England farmer's meal, comprising
an abundance of every thing, served with
faultless neatness. The entire charge here for a dinner
for twelve persons, and corn for as many animals,
was three dollars—a modest demand, which strikingly
contrasted with the Astor House prices of a Mr. McGrew,
and some others, between Indianola and Victoria.


The Colonel said he was the first settler in the
valley of the Piedernales, and for many miles around.
In his colony were people of all trades. He told me
that his crop of corn this year would amount to seven
thousand bushels, for which he expected to realize
one dollar and twenty-five cents per bushel. Finding
that I had not the means to transport the corn I
should absolutely require for my journey, I struck a
bargain with Colonel Wight for another team, consisting
of a wagon and four mules, which he agreed to
deliver to me at Fredericksburg.

Taking leave of our Mormon friends, we rode on
two miles, to an encampment of Delaware Indians.
Stopped to see a chief, whom I was advised to employ
to accompany us to El Paso, where he had been with
other parties, and who, from his acquaintance and
influence with the Indian tribes on our route, might
be of great service. Unfortunately he was absent,
and not expected to return for a week. This people
did not present a flattering appearance, and seemed to
have few more comforts than the wild and unsubdued
tribes we afterwards met. A mile further brought us
to the United States military post, called Fort Martin
Scott, under the command of Colonel Stannaford.
This was the most extreme post on the frontier. We
were kindly received by the officers here, and furnished
by the acting commissary, Lieutenant Blake,
with such provisions as we stood in need of. After
an hour's delay, we rode on, about two miles further,
to Fredricksburg, and pitched our tents on an open
spot in the centre of the village.

This is a flourishing German settlement, founded


about three years before our visit, or in 1847, and has
a population of about five hundred souls. There were
but few Americans to be seen. The stores were filled
with goods adapted to the Indian trade, as the place
is on the very borders of civilization, and resorted to
by numbers of the Indian tribes contiguous.


Projected route through the wilderness—Setting out—Uninviting appearance
of the country—Precarious condition of German settlements
on the Llano River—Leave the Emigrants' Road—Crossing of the San
Saba—Community of prairie dogs—Kickapoo Creek—Hints to future
travellers—The Mezquit—Visit of Lipan Chiefs—Indian dexterity in
mule catching—Regain the Emigrant Road at Concho River—Horse
wounded by a rattlesnake—Character of country and vegetation—
Mustang roads—Scarcity of water—Prairie on fire—Deceptive maps—
Castle Mountains—Stray cattle captured—Pecos River—Chapporal—
"Indian sign."

September 15th. Remained at Fredericksburg today
to procure our supply of corn, and made the
acquaintance of many of the citizens, among them
Captain J. L. Ankrim, since appointed Judge of El
Paso district. I was exceedingly anxious that Judge
Ankrim should accompany us to El Paso. He had
been on the road several times, and directed its construction;
moreover, his intimate acquaintance with
the country and knowledge of the Indian character
were such, that I believed he might be of essential
service. But his engagements were of such a nature
as not to permit his leaving at the time. I felt much
disappointed, and a heavy responsibility resting on
me, in having to conduct such a party across a country


but little known, a distance of more than six hundred
miles. Not one of us had any experience in crossing
the prairies beyond what had been gained in coming
up from the coast. None had ever encountered any
hostile Indians, or suffered the hardships which inevitably
attend a journey in the wilderness like that before
us. I endeavored to procure a guide in San Antonio,
but was unsuccessful, and, in the last emergency, took
a man who had driven a team some months previous
in a train which came to this place from El Paso.
Judge Ankrim gave me much information about the
route we proposed taking, and advised me to leave
the Emigrants' Road, which passes by the old fort on
the San Saba, and take a more northerly course. He
said there had been no rain for several months, so
that the small streams might be dry, and the grass
poor; and that to cross the tributaries of the Colorado
nearer their union with that stream would insure
a greater probability of finding water and grass.
There was no road or trail along the route he recommended,
until we should strike the Concho; but he
marked the courses down on my travelling map, so
that I anticipated no great difficulty in finding my way.
We were to continue on the Emigrants' Road for several
days, until we crossed the Llano River. About
two and a half miles from this stream the Judge said
we would see a mezquit tree close by the road, on
the right, and a broken limb of another tree suspended
from one of its branches. At this tree we
must leave the road, which has a westerly direction,
and strike off to the northwest; soon after which we
would cross the San Saba River. Continuing this


course, we would then meet the south branch of
Brady's Creek, and next the north branch of the
same. The latter we must follow to its source, which
lay in a westerly direction. Here we should find
some small pools or springs. From this point we
were to take a course due west, crossing many streams,
which are laid down on the maps, until we discovered
two conical hills or mounds. Between these we
must pass, when we should see the Concho River
about seven miles distant. Striking that at the nearest
point, we would find the Emigrants' Road once more,
which we had only to follow to its termination on the
Rio Grande.

October 16th. As the corn contracted for was not
delivered until late, the train did not get off before
twelve o'clock. The first watering place was seven
miles distant, beyond which I was advised not to go,
as it was then late, and it was a good day's journey
from that to Hickory Creek. The road was much
better than it had been beyond Fredericksburg; the
country was covered with grass, and wooded, as it had
been since we passed the Guadalupe.

October 17th. Left at 7 o'clock, and a few hours
after came to an old Indian encampment. The country
now assumed a different aspect: ledges of granite
and fragments of quartz appeared, and the entire surface
was much broken; the oaks were fewer and of less
size; mezquit trees were scattered among them, with
here and there a cactus. It was, on the whole, the
most interesting country we had seen since leaving San
Antonio. A reddish sandstone appeared in some
places, the debris of which imparted its own hue to the


soil. Weather oppressively hot, the thermometer at
90° Fahrenheit. Rode eighteen miles and encamped
on Hickory Creek, a small stream at any time, but now
dried up. On a closer search, a few water-pools were
found, which were sufficient for our purpose.

As according to our maps there was a German settlement
on the Llano about fifteen miles from our road,
I determined to send a party there to purchase a load
of corn for our animals. Mr. Thurber and three others
constituted this party. It was small to enter an Indian
country; but being without wagons or other property,
save their animals, and moreover being well armed,
there was no danger of an open attack by the Indians.
A surprise was all they had to fear.

October 18th. Left camp at 6 o'clock; Mr. Thurber
and his party at the same time striking off on a trail
which ran in a northeasterly direction. Thermometer
stood at 60°, with the wind northeast. The country
assumed a more agreeable aspect than yesterday. Live-oaks
prevailed, with a few mezquit; the former large
and in thick groups. Passed several valleys more
thickly wooded. Reached the Llano at 11 o'clock.

Found two deserted houses, with out-buildings and
inclosures. Were informed at Fredericksburg that
the Comanches had attacked this place about six
months before, killed one man, and driven away the
rest: it has not since been occupied. I could conceive
no reason why a few settlers should come so far into
the midst of an Indian country, when land equally good
and cheap might have been had near a settlement. The
situation, it is true, is a very fine one, on the banks of
a clear and beautiful river, with water power in abundance


and timbered land. But all these, even if given
to the occupant, are of little value when life and property
are unsafe. A number of hogs were running
about quite wild, of which a couple were killed, to add
to our stock of fresh meat.

The Llano is the finest stream we have yet met in
Texas, the Guadalupe alone excepted. Where we forded
it, it was two feet deep and one hundred and fifty in
width. At a short distance was a rapid, with fall enough
for mills. On the opposite bank we found the traces of a
large Indian encampment, which, from appearances,
must have been occupied a long time: it was probably
the habitation of those who destroyed the settlement
referred to. Left for Mr. Thurber and his party a note
affixed to a pole, stating that we had passed on. After
getting our teams up the opposite bank, which was very
steep and rocky, and attended with considerable difficulty,
we continued our march nine miles over a fine
country to Comanche Creek, a small stream then nearly
dry. Where we encamped, there was no running
water; the little that remained stood in pools among the
rocks in the bed of the stream. It was, however, clear
and very good. In one of these pools, not exceeding
sixty feet in length and eighteen inches in depth, I saw
a number of mullet from ten to fourteen inches long, and
several gar-pike about two feet in length. There were
no small fish in the pool, the gars having doubtless
devoured them. Some of our men got into the water
with bushes, drove the fish to one end of the pool, and
caught some of the mullet, which proved to be good
eating. The water line on the banks of this stream
showed it to be some six feet below its ordinary height.


At sunset Mr. Thurber and his party rejoined us.
He reported that he had visited the German settlements
as instructed. The first one presented a scene of desolation
seldom witnessed, owing to the predatory incursions
of the Comanches, and was on the point of being
abandoned. The other, called Zastel, contained twenty-six
houses; though but nine families remained, and
the wives and children of most of these had been sent
away to New Braunfels and other places. These people,
living as they do upon the very outposts, are so
completely at the mercy of the Indians, that it is doubtful
if they succeed in braving it out. Their houses are
very small, built of squared logs, and furnished with loopholes
for rifles. The land is poor; and there seemed
no attraction about the place, except the beautiful
Llano, which is a most picturesque stream, now rushing
in rapids over a rocky bed, and now spreading into
broad and quiet lakes.

On their way back the party met a band of Caddo
Indians, a small but mischievous tribe, returning from
a horse-stealing expedition. They spoke some English,
and had a number of fine animals with them, which they
said they had taken by way of reprisal from their enemies
the Wacoes. But the knowing look which one of
them put on when Mr. Thurber expressed a doubt of
the story, and the fine condition of their horses showed
pretty plainly that they had been among the settlements.

About midnight a party of Germans reached camp
with about twenty bushels of corn, which proved a
valuable accession to our stock, and made up what we
had been feeding out.


October 19th. All up before day; dispatched breakfast,
struck tents, and were off at 6 o'clock. The morning
was clear and cold, the mercury standing at 36°
at sunrise. This low temperature affected us sensibly
after the very hot weather we had had. The country
was thinly wooded with live-oak. Passed a range of
high hills, with two conical ones standing directly in
our path, between which we passed. Left my mule
and walked to the summit, whence there was presented
a fine view of the surrounding country, consisting of
an alternation of hills and prairie, with scattering trees,
chiefly mezquit. Leaving this valley we ascended to
a plateau, the surface of which was quite level. We
now looked anxiously for the mark, where Judge
Ankrim directed us to leave the Emigrants' Road, and
soon discovered a broken limb suspended from a tree,
precisely as described to us. Here, with some reluctance
and not a little uneasiness, I left the beaten road
and struck off into a broad and open prairie in a northwesterly
direction, with no trail or path, and no guide
but my compass. The man hired at San Antonio
proving entirely ignorant of localities and destitute of
useful information, I sent him to the rear of the train,
preferring my maps and compass to his doubtful
suggestions. Had the country presented a pleasant
aspect, we would have entered the untrodden field with
more satisfaction; but, unfortunately, a recent fire had
burned off all the grass, destroying every green thing
and leaving only a black stubble, from which slabs of
limestone protruded. The soil appeared good.

We had hoped to meet the San Saba River soon
after leaving the road; but coming to a small stream


at 4 o'clock, with water standing in pools, and a little
patch of grass near, which had escaped the fire, I
deemed it prudent to go no farther, but encamp, rather
than continue our march without knowing the exact
distance to the river. It is always advisable to encamp
early enough to procure wood and water, and make
all the necessary arrangements before dark. We generally
endeavored to get into camp in season to let our
mules graze two or three hours before nightfall; but
in some instances this was impossible, as bur daily
marches were governed by the state of the grass and
facilities for procuring water. If we struck a spot with
these important necessaries by two or three o'clock in
the afternoon, we encamped. In some instances we
even stopped at twelve o'clock, while in others we kept
on our way until dark.

October 20th, Sunday. I would gladly have remained
in camp to-day, agreeably to my original
intention to rest on Sundays; but it was of the utmost
importance that we should push on as fast as possible,
having barely provisions enough for our journey.
Besides, there was scarcely grass enough for another
day's feed on the little spot where we were encamped.
Early in the morning, therefore, I sent off parties to
seek the San Saba River, and a place to cross it. We
were occupied an hour or two in securing some mules
which had got loose during the night; but by the
time the animals were hitched up, reports came in that
the river was within a mile of us, and a fording place
had been found. We soon after got off, and, crossing
some steep and rocky hills, reached the ford. The
horsemen led the way across the stream, which was


very clear, and flowed over a smooth limestone rock.
But the opposite bank was found to be impassable for
wagons. Set all hands at work, some in levelling the
bank, some in bringing logs, boughs, and stones, while
a passage through the thick wood which grew along
the river's margin was opened with axes by others.
In an hour all was ready. The teams were now
brought over singly, and by hard pushing and pulling
they were all got safely up the bank.

Near this crossing, we observed line burr oaks; and
the ground was strewn with their enormous acorns,
with beautifully fringed cups. A gradual ascent over
a rocky surface brought us again to the level of the
table land beyond. We continued our way over
gentle hills, pretty well covered with mezquit and
live-oaks, for about six miles, when we reached Camp
Creek, a small stream, dry in many places. Stopped
an hour to water our animals and take lunch, as it was
my determination to reach Brady's Creek, about sixteen
miles distant.

The ground ascended gradually from this point for
several miles, when we struck a more open country,
on a level plateau, which continued without interruption
during several hours' march. On this plateau we
entered a colony of the misnamed "prairie dogs,"
which extended in every direction as far as the eye
could reach. The ground occupied by this fraternity was
distinctly marked by the shortness of the grass, which
these little creatures feed on, as well as by their hillocks,
some of which contain two or three cart-loads of earth,
brought up by them from their excavated dwellings.
We tried in vain to get one of them as a specimen,


dead or alive. At least twenty shots were fired at
them, both with pistols and rifles, by several individuals
of the party, who considered themselves good
marksmen; but they either dodged at the flash, or,
if shot, fell into their holes, at the mouth of which
they invariably sat. Not one was obtained. On
examination, drops of blood were seen near the holes,
which showed that some of the shots took effect.
In one instance I saw a rattlesnake enter one of the
habitations; but whether he belonged there or was
an interloper it was impossible to tell. Small brown
owls flitted about, and lit on the little hillocks in
the midst of the prairie dogs, with which they
seemed to be upon good terms. For more than three
hours our march continued through the vast domains
of this community, or "dog-town," as they are usually
called, nor did they terminate when we stopped
for the night.

The country passed over to-day was very smooth
and hard, and excellent for wagons in any direction.
The grass was poor. The only trees seen were
mezquit, which we here found for the first time in

The plain suddenly terminated by a steep descent
of about 150 feet, to another, which extended along its
base, and through which ran Brady's Creek (south
fork), where we encamped. Like the other water
courses we had passed, this was nearly dry, and existed
only in pools. Quails were abundant here; and by
the time my cook had his fire ready, I had a dozen of
these delicious birds ready for him. Estimated distance
travelled to-day, twenty-five miles.

[Figure] PRAIRIE-DOG TOWN.—p. 70. vol. i.


October 21st. The night had been quite cold. The
morning was clear and pleasant. Left at half-past six
o'clock. The colony of prairie dogs continued the
whole of this day's march, with scarcely an interruption.
Our course was more westerly, over a level
and open country, covered with short mezquit grass,
and studded with small mezquit trees, uninterrupted
by either hill, rock, or valley. We kept steadily on
by the compass until we struck the north fork of
Brady's Creek, sixteen miles from our last camp.
Stopped on its banks two hours to water and graze
the animals, a longer time than was necessary, or
than could well be spared; but our mules got frisky,
and it was difficult to catch them. I determined not
to make a noon halt again, but to push on until we
should reach our place for encamping. This course
is recommended by all experienced men who have
had charge of trains. A stop cannot be made at
noon, if the mules are taken from the wagons, without
consuming two hours, which cannot be spared, unless
a very long march is to be made, and continued
during a portion of the night. Then it becomes
necessary to stop to rest and feed. Reached what I
supposed to be the head of the creek at half-past three
o'clock; at least my guide stated such to be the case,
and that we should not meet water again for thirteen
miles. We therefore encamped here, though the
grass was very poor, having been recently burnt, and
the new shoots but just appearing above the ground.

October 22d. Delayed this morning until half-past
eight o'clock in searching for four mules, which
got loose during the night and disappeared. Such is


often the case when the grazing is poor; and parties
should take particular care on these occasions to see
that their animals are well secured. Left three or
four men to continue the search after the mules, as we
had no animals to spare. Found Brady's Creek did
not terminate here, as my guide stated, but led
towards the south-west. Followed it three or four
miles, then crossed it, and took a course a little north
of west, and reached a pool of deep water, with excellent
grass on its margin, about four o'clock. Believing
this to be the head waters of the creek we had been
following, and having travelled nine hours pretty
steadily, determined to stop here for the night. The
country passed over to-day has been very flat, and of
the same character as that the two days previous. As
we are now on the high table-land, the trees diminish
in number and in size. A few mezquit trees, stunted,
deformed, and decayed, appear on the prairie, and
occasionally a "mot" of live-oaks. The community
and domain of the prairie dogs, which we entered
two days ago, continues.

The men we left to search for the missing mules
rejoined us, and, greatly to my disappointment, without
the animals. They had scoured the country for
miles around; and having seen "Indian sign," as it is
termed, about a mile from our trail, keeping by us for
many miles, they believed our mules had been stolen,
and that a band of Indians were following us. It is
not necessary that the savage should be seen, to judge
of his presence. He always leaves marks behind him,
which are soon understood by the sagacious travellers of
the prairie, and are as unmistakable as his own red skin.


October 23d. Got off at six o'clock, an early hour
for the season; but it is an advantage for travellers in
this region to push on as far as possible in the early
part of the day. Even now the heat of the sun at
mid-day was great, and the shade of a tree refreshing.
To move at six, it was necessary to call the
cooks at three o'clock, and to take breakfast before
day. After this the cooks and servants had to take
their meal, the cooking utensils were to be washed
and stowed away, the tents struck, and every thing
put in its proper place in the wagons.

Two miles brought us to Kickapoo Creek, and
three miles more to a small pool, with a river running
through it, marked on the map as "Potato Spring,"
where we stopped to water our animals. Continued
our route towards an opening or pass in the elevated
ridge, which stretched across our path, in a direction
from north to south, called "the divide." Noticed a
sudden shelving off on the north side of the highest
portion of the ridge, directly in our front, where we
supposed the pass to be. As we approached we could
discover no opening; and the point towards which
we had been moving was so rocky as to seem utterly
impracticable. To the northward the ridge appeared
less abrupt and rocky, which induced me to deviate
from the prescribed course. The ascent was gradual,
but quite rocky. For six miles or more we held our
way over the dividing ridge, which proved very tiresome
to our animals. The hills were entirely destitute
of trees and shrubs; and as the grass had been
recently burned off, the prospect before us as far as
we could see was extremely barren. North of us, at


a distance of two or three miles, the ridge we were
crossing terminated, and beyond it lay a broad and
open prairie, extending to the river Concho, the
course of which could be distinctly traced by a long
line of dark foliage meandering through the plain.

I would recommend future travellers who may
follow my trail, or any other road passing this way,
to leave the stony ridge we had been crossing to the
south, and keep on the plain, where the soil is hard
and smooth. The distance might be increased a
couple of miles, but it could be accomplished in less
time, and with less fatigue to the mules, than the toilsome
passage of six miles, over steep and rocky hills,
endangering the wagons, and injuring the hoofs of the

Descending the range of hills, we passed the dry
bed of a water-course, and reached a stream called
Antelope Creek, one of the tributaries of the Concho
River, at five o'clock, where we encamped.

Our route to-day had been over a level prairie
country, deficient in wood, save a few scattering mezquit
trees of diminutive size, and light grass, indicating
a poorer soil. We have noticed as we advanced
westward, and ascended the high table-land of Texas,
an inferior soil, and, as a necessary consequence, a
more scanty herbage. The beautiful live-oak, which
abounds in eastern Texas, and which grows luxuriantly
in the valleys as far as the north fork of Brady's Creek,
had now disappeared, save on the immediate banks
of water-courses. The mezquit, too, which grew large
and thrifty on good soil, had now either disappeared
or dwindled into a diminutive tree or mere shrub.


The mezquit (Algarobia glandulosa) is an important
tree in this region, and is mentioned by various travellers
as mezkeet, musquit, muckeet, &c.; it belongs to
the same natural family as our locust, which it very
much resembles in appearance. The foliage is more
delicate than that of the locust. The wood is hard,
fine-grained, and susceptible of a high polish; and
were it not difficult to obtain it sufficiently large and
straight, it would be much sought after for cabinet
making purposes. The tree seems to suffer from the
attacks of insects in a similar manner with the locust.
The mezquit bears a long and narrow pod, which,
when ripe, is filled with a highly saccharine pulp.
Horses and mules are exceedingly fond of these, and
will often leave their corn for a feed of the mezquit
beans. Its great value is for fuel, for which purpose
it is not surpassed by any of our northern woods.
Where the prairies are frequently burned over, the tree
is reduced to a shrubby state, a great number of small
branches proceeding from one root, which goes on
developing and attains a great size, though the portion
above ground may not be more than four or five feet
high. These roots, dug up and dried, are highly
prized for fire-wood, and form, when thoroughly ignited,
a bed of lasting coals, much like those from the hickory
of the North.

The water of Antelope Creek is clear and sweet.
Large oaks and pecans grow upon its banks, from the
latter of which we gathered a quantity of its excellent
nuts. To the north, saw ranges of mountains far
beyond the Concho, a broad plain intervening. To
the south were hills within a few miles, quite barren in


appearance. Passed several communities of prairie
dogs, with the same interlopers before noticed, the
rattlesnake and owl. I also observed rabbits among
them, which took refuge in their underground dwellings.
Flocks of plover were seen to-day on the barren
hills. The jackass-rabbit also crossed our path occasionally;
but it sprang up so suddenly, and darted
through the low chapporal or bushes so rapidly, that I
could not get a shot at one. Some catfish and trout
were taken in the stream within a few rods of our
camp. The men who were out with the mules reported
that they had seen fresh Indian signs near us, which
caused us to keep a diligent look-out.

October 24th. Just as we were leaving camp this
morning, in fact after I had myself started, and was
looking for a place to ford the stream, an Indian
mounted on a mule suddenly appeared from behind a
clump of bushes, and the next moment was in the
midst of the camp. He advanced to the nearest party
with his hand extended, and was received in a friendly
manner. As soon as salutations had been exchanged,
he hastily drew from his pouch a packet, and, after
undoing sundry wrappings of buckskin and paper,
drew forth several documents, which proved to be from
various American officials. The first was from Judge
Rollins, Indian Agent; the others from our military
officers, certifying that the bearer was a Lipan chief
of eminence, named Chi-po-ta, with whom a treaty of
peace and friendship had recently been made, and
asking the protection and kind treatment of all Americans
who should pass through his country.

This chief was about sixty years of age, rather


corpulent, owing to the life of ease which he gave us to
understand he had been leading, and was mounted on a
mule so disproportionately small, as to present a most
ludicrous appearance. He had a pleasant, benevolent
countenance, and bore so striking a resemblance to
the portraits of General Cass, that every one noticed
it. He was well dressed in a suit of deerskin, with his
bow and arrows slung across his back: these were
inclosed in a beautiful case made of the skin of the
American leopard, and he wore a pouch of the same
material by his side.

He spoke Spanish tolerably well, Mr. Cremony
acting as the interpreter, and was immediately brought
to me. He said that he had discovered our trail two
days before, and had since watched us, keeping at a
short distance. That his people were encamped a few
miles off, having removed the day before. Chipota
knew enough of civilization to be aware that when
distinguished gentlemen meet, it was customary to take
a drink; and finding no proffer of such civilities on
my part, he gave me to understand that he would not
object to a glass of whiskey. I told him that we were
Americans who always drank water, and consequently
were not provided with whiskey, an assertion that
he seemed to doubt. I added, however, that if he
would accompany us to our next encampment, I would
give him a shirt and something to eat. As we intended
to encamp after a short march, in order to give our
animals an opportunity to graze, I asked him to take
a seat in my carriage, an invitation which he accepted
with a delight that showed itself in spite of his
endeavors to maintain his gravity. Contrary to the


custom of his race, he manifested much curiosity
respecting all he saw; for the carriage was well filled
with a variety of knick-knacks which were new to him.
The revolvers and other fire-arms interested him
exceedingly. My Sharp's rifle which loaded at the
breech and primed itself, surpassed all his previous
conceptions; and after that, he was prepared for any
thing in the shooting line. Taking up my spy-glass,
which he supposed to be some other contrivance of the
sort, he wished to be shown how it was fired off. The
instrument was adjusted, and a distant tree pointed
out, which he was told to look at with the glass. His
credulity had been overtasked, and it was hard to
convince him that it was the same far-off tree. I told
him that we used that to see the Indians at a distance,
and could always tell when they were about, or had
stolen any mules. In mien and conduct the old chief
was extremely dignified and self-possessed, although
his Indian gravity was not proof against the jovial
conduct and expressions of our little company, all of
whom took an interest in this first specimen of the wild
denizens of the prairie that we had met with. Many
a blithe smile wreathed around his lips; and now and
then a hearty laugh would ring out from the depths of
the old man's heart, with a right good will. Finding
that he had mules, I requested him to bring them to
our camp, and also to let us see his people.

Five miles over a flat country brought us to the South
Fork or Boiling Concho. The stream is deep, clear,
and in many places rapid. Crossed it, after some little
search, over a ledge of rocks, and stopped to water
our animals. The flat country continued, with a few


mezquit and an occasional live-oak. The grass good.
Passed Dove Creek, a small stream filled with rushes;
and a ride of four miles further over a similar country
to that before described, brought us to Good Spring
Creek, a stream of clear cold water. It was yet but
one o'clock; but as the grass was unusually fine, with
wood and water in abundance, I determined to rest
the remainder of the day.

Our course to-day had been due west towards the
Green Mounds, the land-marks alluded to by Judge
Ankrim, the sight of which we all hailed with pleasure,
as they satisfied us that we were in the right track.
To the north we had seen the twin mountains, standing
far and alone in the prairie, which are laid down on
the map. The stream looked so inviting, that the
fishing tackle was got out, and some twenty-five black
bass and catfish taken. These were divided among the
messes, and made an acceptable meal. A few ducks
and quails were also shot here.

An hour or two after we encamped, Chipota returned
with Chiquita, another chief, and several others of his
band. This was a man of some consequence too, as he
gave us to understand; and such was proved to be the
fact by the certificates he presented "defining his
position," which requested kind treatment from all
Americans. He was about the age of Chipota, and
similarly dressed. With them were three others, one
a remarkably fine-looking young man, of athletic form,
which he took pride in displaying. He wore no garment
but a breech-cloth and a necklace of bone, and was
decorated with a few patches of vermilion. At first
he strutted around the camp, with an evident design


of making a sensation, and to convince us that he felt
it a condescension to associate with us; but he afterwards
became quite familiar, particularly with those
who could hold a conversation with him in Spanish,
which he understood well, and spoke a little. He
asked one of our young men if he was married. The
latter, as such happened not to be the case, was somewhat
confused, not liking to acknowledge the fact,
as he feared it would lower him in the estimation of
his savage friend, who moreover might take it into his
head to offer him one of his red-skinned sisters for a
spouse, to refuse which would give mortal offence.
Without replying, therefore, he exhibited a miniature
of a beautiful woman, which he carried around his neck,
and which quite enchanted the red-skin. He expressed
great admiration at the picture, and never seemed tired
of gazing at its mild countenance, with its bright eyes
smiling upon him. The next morning before leaving,
this young Indian made his appearance at the tent
of the owner of the miniature, and endeavored to
purchase it, offering in exchange his bow, arrows, tiger
skin, and finally his horse. Failing to acquire it, the
young man begged one more sight of the enchanting
image, which he was permitted to enjoy; he gave it one
long and affectionate look, leaped upon his horse, and
rode off.

Chipota brought with him one mule, which I bought,
and would gladly have taken more; but whether these
people had them or not, no more could be obtained.
I also offered them ten dollars each, or goods to that
amount, if they would bring in the few mules we had
lost; but they adhered to their first assertion, that they


had not seen them. As they showed no inclination to
leave, we were obliged to give them a supper, after
which they asked permission to remain all night with
us. This I felt reluctant to grant, not knowing but
some treachery or trick might be meditated, such as
running off our animals during the night. On further
reflection, however, I consented, on condition that they
remained by the fires without the encampment—at the
same time warning them, not to come near us in the
dark, lest our guard should take them for Comanches
and shoot them. They obeyed my injunctions, and
remained quietly by the fires. The night was rather
cool, and day had scarcely dawned, when I was
aroused by a tap at the window of my carriage, in
which I slept. Rising up, I found old Chipota there
shivering with cold. On opening the door, he
whispered, "Mucho frio—poco de viskey:" Very cold
—a little whiskey. I was compelled again to deny
the old man, but compromised the matter soon after by
giving him a bowl of hot coffee.

The Lipans are a large and warlike tribe, extending
from Zacatecas, in Mexico, to the Colorado of Texas.
In fact, they rove from the sea-coast to the borders of
New Mexico, and have as wide a range as the
Comanches. During the winter, they remain in the
Bolson de Mapimi, a vast region lying west of the Rio
Grande, which has few inhabitants, except the untamed
Comanches and Lipans. The portion of the tribe in
Texas are at present on friendly terms with the whites,
but are sworn foes of the Comanches, whom they profess
to hold in great contempt. The Lipans, in common
with the Indian tribes of Mexico, and of the States


formerly belonging thereto, speak Spanish, some of
them with tolerable fluency.

October 25th. One of our mules got loose this
morning; and after an hour and a half spent in trying
to catch him, the teamsters gave up the chase. I then
offered the young Indian a red shirt, if he would
perform the job. He leaped on his horse without a
saddle, took a long lasso or rope in his hand, and
dashed off at full speed, followed by several of our
men, after the mule, who, seeing his tormentors
approach, took alarm and ran with his utmost speed.
The race was quite exciting, and for a little while, it
seemed doubtful which side would win. At length
the Indian got within about forty feet, when, with a
vigorous effort he threw the lasso over the mule's head,
and at once brought him to a stand. All seemed to
enjoy the sport much; and the Indians, who had each
received from us presents of shirts and trinkets, parted
from us, apparently delighted with their visit.

The creek was five or six feet deep near our camp,
but after a little search we found a bare rock near a
fall, where we made an easy passage across. An hour
after leaving, reached a branch of the stream we had
left, which we followed in a course to the west-southwest
for five or six miles, before a fording place could be
found. The water was deep, and the banks abrupt.
Crossing this stream, we again pursued a due west
course until we struck Lipan Camp Creek, which, as
well as all the other streams we have crossed since
leaving Brady's Creek, are tributaries of the Concho.
We now made directly for the Green Mounds, which
appeared but a few miles from us up a gradual ascent.


They lay north-east and south-west from each other,
and the train passed directly between them. While the
train moved along I ascended the easterly mound,
accompanied by several others, to see what was the
character of the country before us. These mounds or
hills are about five hundred feet high, and had been
but recently burnt over; hence their color was far
from being green. Not a blade of grass was to be
seen. A few half-burnt bushes and tufts of the yucca
were all the vegetation that remained. From the
summit we saw the line of the Concho River running
in a northeasterly direction, some six or seven miles
distant. Reached it at five o'clock, when, to our
great joy, we again struck the Emigrant Road, which we
had last seen south of the San Saba. Very few trains
had passed over it, so that it was not more distinct than
the roads or paths through a northern meadow.

We had now been travelling eight days over a
district one hundred and fifty miles in extent, with no
other guide than a compass. From the point where
we left Brady's Creek, we had pursued a course as
directly west as the nature of the country would admit,
with no land-mark but the Green Mounds, which
we had seen about forty miles before reaching them.
In this march we had frequently crossed a single wagon
trail, which we took to be that of Major Bryan, of the
United States Topographical Engineers, who, in June
and July of the previous year, had passed this way.*

The character of the country the last three or four


days has varied but little. The soil is poor and the
grass scanty, except near the water-courses, with but
few trees. For a wagon road it is admirably adapted,
and scarcely requires a spade, except at the river
crossings, which might be improved by a little levelling.
No animals, except wolves, antelopes, and rabbits, have
been seen. Along the banks of the streams are pecan
trees, from which we supplied ourselves with this
delicious nut.

An incident occurred to-day which deserves notice.
Soon after leaving the Green Mounds a rattlesnake
was seen in the path, and was passed over by my
carriage. Mr. Cremony, who was riding immediately
behind, discharged his pistol at it; and at the same
moment the snake darted at the hind leg of his horse.
He dismounted, and on examination discovered by a
drop of blood the spot where the reptile had inserted
his poisonous fangs. In less than half an hour after the
horse began to limp and show the effects of his wound;
and his lameness increased until we reached our camp
an hour later, by which time the leg had greatly
swollen as far as the thigh. Dr. Webb now got out
his medicine chest, shaved the hair from the wound,
and applied some remedy. He also scarified the place
and used the air-pump, but nothing seemed to check
the swelling. The horse was now unable to stand,
and thus he was left till morning.

October 26th. From our camp the Concho runs
east for a mile, then north-east for about twenty miles,
and afterwards in an easterly course again for about one
hundred and twenty miles, when it empties into the
Colorado. Near our camp, and for some distance on


either side, the stream flowed between banks about
fifteen feet high, and was very muddy and shallow.
A variety of trees with thick brush grew upon its
immediate banks. There was no valley or bottom
land, and the country for miles adjacent was quite
barren, though it is said that catfish abound here; but
our attempts to capture some were unsuccessful.

Left camp at sunrise and forded the river a few
miles above. Crossed a branch at the south, and
another on the north side of the stream, both quite
small. Passed some deep arroyos, or dry beds of
streams. Sent scouts ahead to look for the last water,
where I intended to encamp and give my animals rest
before attempting the desert that lay beyond. The
stream continued to grow less as we advanced, finally
losing itself in marshes or settling into mere pools. It
also became so salt as to be undrinkable. The scouts on
their return reported that the water grew salter ahead,
and that the banks of the pools were covered with incrustations
of salt. With such a prospect before us, I
thought the more prudent course would be to retrace
our steps a mile, to a pool where the water, though far
from being good, was palatable, and where there was
excellent grass. At half-past two got into camp.

During the whole day we had seen great quantities
of wild ducks, of which twenty-five were shot, also two
large brandt. The whole party feasted on game
to-day, which we relished much, having tasted no fresh
meat since leaving Fredericksburg. I procured a
supply there, which I hoped would last four or five
days; but the great heat had rendered it unfit for use
after the first day.


The river or rather creek followed to-day, ran
through a valley quite barren, save on its immediate
banks, where the grass was good. No trees were seen,
except here and there a small clump near the water-pools.
During the whole day's march ranges of barren
hills lined the valley, which sloped gradually to its
bottom. Estimated distance travelled to-day by the
map, twenty-five miles.

Our wounded horse seemed somewhat improved
this morning, though his leg was still much swollen.
He was led, and, as our movement was slow, kept up
with us without difficulty. On reaching camp, he did
not appear the worse for his march.

October 27th. Continued along the valley of the
Concho for eight or ten miles, and encamped at noon
near a pool of brackish water, which our scouts reported
to be the last they could find; and every appearance
indicated a cessation of this necessary supply. To the
west the valley seemed to terminate with the adjacent
hills, and the open desert or prairie to commence
immediately beyond. Expecting therefore no water
until we should reach the Pecos, sixty-five miles distant,
and knowing that the jornada which we had to cross
furnished little grass, I determined to remain here the
rest of the day, as the grass was very good and abundant.
Our water-kegs were accordingly filled, as well
as all the canteens, jars, bottles, and flasks that we could
muster. Food was cooked; and it was determined
that there should be no stop beyond an hour or two,
to let the animals rest and graze, in case grass should
be found. The wagons were reloaded, so that each
should carry an equal weight. Many ducks were killed


in the water-pools. The road from our last camp has
been good.

October 28th. The camp was aroused early; and
after taking a cup of coffee, we resumed our journey,
about an hour and a half before sunrise. Sent four
men ahead to find the road. The hills extended some
eight or ten miles towards the desert, when they
gradually fell off into the plain. The desert was not,
as I supposed, a level surface, but a succession of slight
elevations. Every thing bore the appearance of extreme
barrenness; not a tree could be seen. Mezquit chapporal,
or bushes from three to five feet in height, were
thinly scattered over the plain. The wild sage and
Larrea Mexicana, the prickly pear and other kinds of
cacti, constituted the vegetation of this desert region.
Grama grass (Chrondosium) grew in some spots, and,
though completely dried up, was eaten with avidity
by our animals. Antelope were seen in great numbers,
but so shy, that in the open plain we could not get
a shot at them. Colonies of prairie dogs were occasionally
observed; and from the numerous burrowing
places of greater or less size, it was evident that other
animals found a dwelling among them. A few rabbits
were also seen bounding over the plain, and disappearing
in their holes or among the bushes. Several
shots were fired at them without success. These barren
regions do not furnish many of the feathered tribe:
a couple of prairie fowls, a flock of large curlews, and
a few meadow larks and sparrows, were all that were

About twenty miles from our last camp we passed
a mud-hole, marked on the map as the "Mustang


Ponds." It was a slight depression in the prairie.
Not a particle of water was to be found, nor did there
appear to have been any for a long time. The earth
was much trampled by deer and mustangs, which had
doubtless resorted here in numbers for water. Made
our breakfast from bits of cold meat and bread which
we had taken with us, and did not stop the train until
three o'clock, P. M. Finding a spot where there was
plenty of dry grass, the train was stopped and the
animals turned out to graze. The poor creatures
seemed much fatigued, having been in harness ten
hours without water or food. They ate the withered
grass and browsed on the twigs of the mezquit bushes
with eagerness. Gave each animal one gallon of water.
They could not have suffered much for want of this,
as the weather had been quite cool during the day.
Built fires with the dry bushes, and made coffee. No
meat was cooked. Our cold pork, and some of the
ducks that remained from yesterday, with hard bread,
gave us a luxurious dinner. At least so it seemed to
us; for on no day since we commenced our journey
had we relished a meal more. The cool and bracing
air of the prairie had given all good appetites.

Had a narrow escape from one of those accidents
which, in spite of every precaution, will sometimes
occur. One of the cooks, contrary to my express
orders, built his fire near the dry grass without digging
a hole. The grass took fire, spreading on all
sides, and advanced with fearful rapidity towards the
wagons, in the direction of which the wind was blow,
ing. All hands ran to the rescue with blankets and
cloths to beat down the fire; and those who could


not in the hurry of the moment get any thing else,
took their coats and hats to battle with the raging
element. Some ran to the wagons to remove them;
but before they could be got out of the way, the
flames were about the heels of the men and the wagon
wheels. The slightly-marked road where the grass
was destroyed, offered a temporary check, and was of
great help to us in bringing the fire under. Had
it had one minute more the start, a hundred men
could not have controlled it; besides, had it extended
fifty feet further—which it would have done in half
a minute—it would have reached our animals, and
caused a general stampede among them, resulting,
doubtless, in the loss of many. We should then have
been in a sad plight, thirty miles from water, and two
hundred and fifty from the nearest settlement.

Such accidents have occurred, which have resulted
in the destruction of trains. During the late war with
Mexico, several wagons were burned by the grass
taking fire.

The place marked "Flat-rock Ponds," where we
were told water was sometimes found, was quite dry,
nor were there any indications that there had been
any there for months.

October 29th. We had kept in motion the whole
of the preceding night. A cold wind blew most of
the time, making it very uncomfortable. It is not a
desirable piece of exercise at any time to ride on
horseback all night; but when a person has been in
the saddle for thirteen hours the previous day, and
continues the journey without rest, it becomes decidedly
disagreeable; and when morning dawned upon


us, all were pretty well used up. Nor could we now
stop to rest. There was yet a long stretch before
us to water, which must be reached at the earliest
moment. During the night we passed the spot marked
on the map as the "Wild China Ponds," which, like the
places before referred to, was destitute of water.
Great mischief is caused by marking such places on
the maps; and had we not been told that it was
doubtful whether water would be found there, we
might have been unprepared with a supply, and have
suffered accordingly.* From the spongy appearance
of the ground near the water-holes, there is no doubt
water might be procured by sinking wells, which
ought to be done if this road is to be traversed.

Soon after daylight we halted the train, let the
mules graze for an hour on the parched grass, made
coffee, and such a breakfast as cold pork and hard
bread would furnish. It was quickly dispatched, and


the few minutes we had to spare before the wagons
were ready to move were seized to have a little rest.
Brief as it was, it was a great relief.

[Figure] Castle Mountain Pass, Texas.

Saw a low line of hills far off on our left, and
immediately in front a range, called the "Castle
Mountains," of considerable elevation. The road led
to a gorge through which it was necessary to pass.
These mountains derive their name from the projecting
cliffs of limestone, which sometimes assume the
appearance of castles. The pass was exceedingly
steep, and the road tortuous, frequently running


between rocky walls, so close together as to render
it impassable for two wagons abreast. These walls
were covered with immense cacti wherever the almost
perpendicular surface would afford them a foothold.
As we entered the pass, we found among the debris
of the limestone rock numerous fossil shells. It became
necessary here to lock the wagon wheels and advance
with great care. We had not proceeded far, when,
at an abrupt turn, one of the wagon tongues snapped
off. Two hours were lost in repairing this injury,
which was effected by lashing two tent-poles to the
broken tongue. I took advantage of the delay, and
strolled about on the summit of the mountain. Portions
of this pass are so narrow, that a few Indians
well armed could keep off a large body of men. In
exploring some of the recesses of this wild and romantic
spot I noticed many caverns, which, from the quantity
of bones within, were evidently the habitations or
resort of wild beasts.

On emerging from these mountains, on the western
side, several moving objects were discovered. They
were at first supposed to be Indians; but on applying
my telescope, they were discovered to be cattle.
Several of the men set off in pursuit, and, soon coming
up with them, drove them to our train. They
proved to be quite fat, and had evidently strayed from
some herd or train which had preceded us.

The road here was so excessively sandy, that our
nearly exhausted animals could scarcely draw the
wagons through it. The sun beat down with fiery
force upon us, and we had not a drop of water to
relieve our thirst, or that of the poor beasts, who


began to manifest their sufferings in the most piteous

A march of twelve miles brought us to the river
Pecos, on the banks of which, near the Horse-head
Crossing, we encamped.

This river, which is the largest tributary of the
Rio Grande, is here about 100 feet in width, and in
the deepest part has four feet of water. Unlike all
the other streams we had passed, the Pecos has not a
single tree or shrub along its banks to mark its course,
nor has it any valley or bottom land near. It runs
with a dark rapid current between high perpendicular
banks, cut through various strata of clay and sand.
On both sides is a vast open prairie, entirely destitute
of trees, though scantily covered with mezquit chapporal,
and other plants of the desert. The soil is clay
and sand, but so blended with saline matter that there
is no vegetation save the plants mentioned. A few
rushes grow on the margin of the river; but these
scarcely appear above its banks, which are here from
six to ten feet above the water. It is charged with
an earthy substance, of a reddish or brown hue, which
imparts its tinge to the water. As we approached,
we looked in vain for the usual indications of a
stream; for, owing to the want of trees or bushes, it
was not seen until we were within a few yards of it.
The Pecos resembles a great canal rather than a

During the latter portion of our route we first came
into the proper chapporal, and met the plants peculiar
to the flora of Mexico in such quantities as to give a
character to the landscape. The term "chapporal,"


probably meaning a plantation of live-oak, is applied
to the growth of shrubbery which forms a striking
feature of the country. We have no similar growth
at the North to which it can be compared. One may
travel for days without seeing a tree higher than one's
head; yet the whole country is covered with a thicket
so dense as to be almost impassable to man or beast.
The shrubs composing these thickets are, for the
greater part, excessively thorny. The principal are
shrubby mezquit; rosin wood, or creosote plant, a
most disgusting, strong-smelling shrub; koeblerinia,
called "junco" by the Mexicans, a plant armed at all
points, every branchlet or twig being sharpened
down to a spear; and various species of yucca. These
last, particularly the kind known as Spanish bayonet,
are truly formidable, their stiff sharp-pointed leaves
being capable of inflicting a dangerous wound. The
thorny shrubs enumerated, with various species of
prickly pear and other cacti, make up an alliance
which one soon learns to treat with proper respect.

We had no sooner got into camp than one of the
fattest oxen we had just secured was killed; and such
a treat of fresh meat as we had, cannot be appreciated
but by those who have lived on salt pork for nearly
three weeks. We made great calculations on having
fresh beef the remainder of our journey, by driving
the other two oxen with us; but during the night they
escaped. We made a diligent search for them the
following day, but they could not be found.

I have omitted to notice an incident that occurred
soon after emerging from the pass in Castle Mountain.
Anxious to find the Pecos, I sent off men to search for


it. They returned much alarmed, declaring that they
had seen "Indian sign," and pointed out to me in the
midst of the vast plain that lay before us the well-known
Indian signal of a puff of smoke suddenly rising from
the earth. This is produced by making a fire in a hole,
and then smothering it with leaves. The hole is suddenly
opened, when the smoke rushes forth in a dense
body, and rises high in the air in a perpendicular
column. Such columns are often seen in traversing
the deserts and plains, and cannot be mistaken. Not
knowing but Indians were near, our arms were got
ready, and every bush and rock we passed was carefully
scrutinized. No Indians, however, were seen by
us; although at the crossing and near our camp there
were fresh tracks of a large number of mules and horses,
with a few moccasin prints, which convinced us that a
party of Indians had crossed within twenty-four hours
of us.


Crossing of the Pecos—Narrow escape from a cold bath—Desolate region—
Prize oxen—Stray mule—Populous biscuit—Toyah Creek—Travellers'
tokens—Rescue of lost mule—Dreariness and monotony of the Pecos—
A horse's somerset—Delaware Creek—Snow-storm, sport, and Erman's
Siberia—Mr. Thurber and others despatched to El Paso—Letter to
Major Van Horne.

October 30th. After our fatiguing march of two
days and one night without rest, we slept pretty late
this morning; even the expectation of a fine beefsteak
for breakfast could hardly induce either officers or men
to turn out. After breakfast, I examined the river with
a view of crossing, intending to devote the day to it,
and recruit our tired animals. Found the water at the
Horse-head Crossing, which was a quarter of a mile
from our encampment, to afford the greatest facilities.
Here there was a bank about half the height of the
main bank, to which there was an easy descent, and
one equally so to the water. It is the place where
other parties seem to have crossed, and hence rendered
easy of access. I noticed a long line of horse or mule
skulls placed along the bank, which probably gave it
the name it bears.


On sounding the river to ascertain its depth, we
found that our ambulances (i. e. wagons mounted on
springs) would pass over without wetting their contents.
We therefore unloaded all the wagons but those
on springs; and placing their contents in the latter,
we succeeded in passing all our provisions, baggage,
etc., over with but little trouble. The west bank
was levelled with our spades, to make the ascent from
the water easy. I remained with Dr. Webb and Mr.
Thurber until all were over, except one empty wagon.
This being quite low, its box would be partly immersed
in the water; an ambulance was accordingly sent back
for us, and for the contents of my carriage. We entered
the stream, which just touched the bottom of the
ambulance, but not without some fears, as experience
had shown that the best and most gentle mules cannot
always be depended upon. When we had reached
about two thirds the distance across, or some thirty
feet from the opposite bank, the mules either lost their
footing, or were swept by the current into deeper water,
a little out of the course taken by those which passed
over before. Unable to contend against the force of
the water, which was almost on a level with their backs,
the leaders turned their heads down stream. The
teamster, who was mounted as usual on one of the
mules next to the wagon, endeavored in vain to bring
them to their places with their heads towards the
shore. The frightened creatures could not maintain
their footing; and in struggling to extricate themselves,
they extended their alarm to the other mules, who
began to rear and prance in the water. Just at this
moment the last wagon, which had been behind,


attempted to pass us, the driver thinking the other
mules would follow his team; but in the attempt, the
current swept his wagon, which was half buried in the
water, against ours. This brought his mules nearly
abreast of mine, and led to greater confusion and
alarm. Every moment we expected to be swept away;
in which case our lives would have been in great
danger, as it would have been no easy matter to extricate
ourselves from the close wagon. I could do
nothing but call for assistance from the party on the
opposite bank, who stood watching our progress and
critical situation with breathless suspense. Mr. Clement
Young, seizing the end of a picket rope which lay
on the bank, sprang into the river without stopping to
divest himself of his clothing, and came to our relief.
With great difficulty he succeeded in attaching the
rope to the leading mules. Several other gentlemen
mounted their horses and sprang into the water at the
same time, some to urge the mules towards the shore,
and others to extricate the two wagons. The picket
rope was now seized by those on the bank, who, pulling
with all their strength, brought the heads of the leading
mules towards it. The teamsters then putting on the
lash, and the horsemen in the water urging our animals
forward, they relieved us from our perilous situation,
and we gained the bank in safety.

My carriage was now brought over by lashing
beneath it a few empty kegs, with two men in the water
to keep it steady. A rope was taken ahead, by means
of which the men on the opposite bank drew it safely
across. We now pitched our tents, corralled the wagons,
and, after a hearty supper, turned in for the night.

[Figure] CROSSING THE PECOS.—p. 98. vol. ii.


October 31st. Struck tents and left camp at 7 o'clock,
following a northwesterly direction, keeping near the
Pecos, the course of which we could occasionally trace
by the rushes which grew on its banks. The country
continues exceedingly barren and destitute of trees or
shrubs, except the thorny chapporal, which generally
grows on desert spots. A short grass appears here and
there, but is now completely dried up, affording but
little nourishment to the animals. Beautiful yuccas
were seen in many places, seeming to thrive in the
barren soil. Our constant companion, the prickly pear,
with other varieties of the cactus family, were content,
too, to flourish in these dreary abodes.

The only living creatures seen to-day were a few
blackbirds sitting on the mezquit bushes, so near the
road that one might have struck them with a cane,
and a herd of antelopes. The latter bounded before
us, and were lost to view before our hunters could
surround them. The ground beneath us seemed
to afford habitations for various burrowing animals,
judging from the numerous holes seen by the road
side; but we had no time or means to discover what
they were. I presume however that they were the
habitations of ground rats and mice, coyotes, polecats,
moles, rabbits, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and other reptiles.
As there are no rocky ledges, no thick bushes, or
decayed logs or stumps in which these animals can
burrow, they must resort to the earth; hence the vast
number of holes which are seen in all such barren and
desolate regions. Every animal here named I have
myself seen, at various times, enter or make its exit from
subterranean abodes. After some difficulty we found


a spot near the river which afforded tolerable grazing
for the animals, where we stopped, pitched our tents,
and formed our corral. The banks of the river being
high and precipitous, it was with difficulty that
we watered our animals. One of the horses, in his
eagerness to reach the stream, fell over the bank, and
was extricated only by the great exertions of the
party. A mule, which had exhibited symptoms of
illness for several days, gave out to-day and was abandoned.
It was a serious loss to us, for we had already
lost four; and although the weight of our provisions
was daily growing less, the weakness of the animals
increased still faster, from their long journeys and
insufficiency of food. The mercury stood at noon to-day
at 82° Fahrenheit.

November 1st. Determined to make an early start
this morning, for which purpose the camp was called
at 4 o'clock. Got breakfast and were off at daylight.
A little rain fell during the night. The wind was north;
but the weather was warm, and our fears of a "norther,"
so much dreaded by all prairie travellers, subsided with
the appearance of a bright sun.

Our march to-day has been through a region as
barren and desolate as that of yesterday. Continued
near the river, avoiding its windings. Noticed large
spots covered with a saline efflorescence; in fact, on
examination, the whole earth seemed impregnated with
it. The water of the Pecos, which here is quite brackish,
doubtless derives this flavor from the soil through
which it passes. Patches of dry grass and stunted
mezquit constitute the chief vegetation. Yuccas
and cacti are thinly scattered over the plain: the


former, sometimes appearing in groups, seemed like
bodies of men; and many were ready to see an Indian
in every resemblance to them which our journey
afforded. Passed the carcasses of five oxen lying about
the road; from which we concluded that they had
belonged to some emigrant train, and had dropped
down from exhaustion, and perished where they fell.
Their lank bodies were dried up with the skins still
adhering to them, showing that even wolves do not
attempt to find a subsistence on this desolate plain. The
remains of wagons were also seen along the road, and
furnished our cook with fire-wood, an article which he
had had much difficulty in procuring since leaving the
Concho River, and particularly since we struck the
region near the Pecos. Small brushwood and the
roots of mezquit bushes had been our resort for firewood
for several days. Perhaps it was well for us that
we had no fine joints of meat or steaks to cook, with
such fuel; but to fry a bit of pork, to boil some beans,
and make coffee, which constituted our chief cooking,
a little dry brush answered very well.

We had another windfall to-day in meeting with
two oxen, which were pursued and taken. They
proved rather lean; nevertheless they were an important
addition to our stock of provisions. Took only
their hind quarters, which would last as long as they
could be preserved. Meat may be kept in this region
by cutting it into strips and drying it in the sun; but
we had not time to do this.

Stopped to water, and to our surprise found a beautiful
fall in the river, eight or ten feet in height.
It flowed between high banks of clay, resting on a


base of conglomerate, over which it dashed with a life
and beauty which contrasted pleasantly with its usual
dark and treacherous flow. The banks near the fall
are high and perpendicular, and expose many thin
strata of various brightly colored deposits of sand and
marl, presenting a singularly beautiful ribbon-like
appearance. A small island or rock, overgrown with
rushes, divided the fall. On tasting the water, it was
found to be less brackish than at the Crossing. This
fall is not noticed on the maps of the country. Passed
a stray mule, which, looking plump and strong, I felt
desirous to transfer to our wagons. Two or three
men went in pursuit of him with lariats; but he outstripped
them all, and disappeared in the chapporal.
At four o'clock, stopped on the bank of the river,
near a rapid, where we found the water accessible,
and excellent grass for our animals.

Finding our stock of provisions was fast diminishing,
I ordered an account taken of them. There
proved to be but three hundred and sixty pounds of
hard bread, or about ten pounds for each man, which
was accordingly divided in this proportion among all.
With the usual allowance of a pound a day for each,
there was bread enough for ten days. As we could
hardly expect to reach El Paso within that time, each
man could govern himself accordingly, and save as
much as possible for an emergency. But scanty as
was our stock, it was unfit to be eaten, being completely
riddled with weevils. Hundreds of these insects
were found in a single biscuit. To remove them was
out of the question; and there was no alternative but
to shut the eyes and munch away. Of salt pork there


was about a half allowance for ten days. The coffee
and sugar was all gone.

November 2d. Our route kept on in a westerly
course, near the river, which we occasionally distinguished
on our right by the rushes and other plants
peculiar to salt marshes, which grew upon its banks.
The same barrenness continues, with scarcely a living
object. A few blackbirds and sparrows are all that
have been seen. Passed five more dried carcasses of
oxen lying by the road. Fell in with a cow and
yearling calf, and after a pretty good chase succeeded
in lassoing the cow. She would not, however, consent
to be driven with the train, when she was tied behind
a wagon; but so furious did she become at being
deprived of her liberty, that it was found necessary to
shoot her. The calf was then followed a mile or more,
and shared the same fate. Both proved very fat, and
a most welcome addition to our supply of food in its
diminished state. Passed several depressions near the
river, which appeared to have been filled with water.
A white efflorescence on their surface showed the extent
of the saline matter with which the soil was impregnated.
Crossed an arroyo or dry bed of a stream,
covered with the salty incrustations before alluded to,
which we took to be the "Toyah Creek" of the maps.
At four o'clock, encamped on the margin of the Pecos,
about two miles from the creek. The shrubbery
to-day exhibits a larger growth than any we have
seen since we crossed the river.

November 3d, Sunday. I was desirous to rest
to-day; and had we been any where except on the
banks of the Pecos, I certainly would have done so.


But a due regard for our safety rendered it necessary
that we should not stop until beyond its waters and
the miserable barren region near it. Should a rain
set in, it would make the roads almost impassable for
loaded wagons, so tenacious is the soil. The grass,
too, but barely sustained life in our worn-out animals.
We saw around us evidence of what the road would
be in wet weather. Some teams seemed to have
passed over it at such a time, leaving ruts six inches
deep in the soft, muddy soil. Every day we noticed the
clouds with fear and trembling, and watched each
change in the weather. The roads are now hard and
smooth, and have been so since we struck the river.

Our route has been over the same flat and desert
plain before described. Not a living thing has crossed
our path, beast, bird, or reptile, except two large
white swans, which were doubtless winging their way
to more attractive regions. They lit on a marshy
place, which I endeavored to approach; but even
in this out of the way spot, which the human foot seldom
treads, they flew at my approach. Scattering
patches of dried grass, with low chapporal, and an
occasional yucca, constituted the vegetation of the
twenty-two miles passed over to-day. In order to
find a good spot for our encampment, two or three of
the party diverged from the road, and succeeded in
discovering a little nook on the river's bank, where
there was good grass. Several hours before stopping,
we got a glimpse of the Guadalupe Mountains, and a
range of hills through which we must pass, although
more than 100 miles off in a direct line, in a north-westerly
direction. Mounts Diavolo and Carrizo, which


had been visible to the westward, seventy or eighty
miles distant, since crossing the Pecos, to-day were
lost to our view.

Passed the carcasses of four cattle by the road
side; and in another place, where there was a slight
depression in the plain, and where water had at some
time accumulated after rains, there lay the carcasses
of five more, which had doubtless mired in endeavoring
to satiate their thirst. Portions of wagons,
boxes, and barrels were also noticed along the road.

November 4th. Still journeying along the river.
Barren plains continue, with fewer mezquit than
before. Dried grass and weeds prevail. Many carcasses
and skeletons of oxen, and several skeletons of
mules, marked our route to-day, as well as the remains
of broken wagons. As the prairie did not furnish us
fuel to make our fires, we gathered up the fragments
of the wagons and carried them with us for the purpose.
Noticed along the road recent tracks of Indians,
horses, and mules; or, in the language of the country,
"Indian sign." The tracks of the animals showed
that they were unshod, which would not have been
the case if it had been an American party. Next we
observed prints of moccasins, which are easily distinguished
from the American shoe, or from the sandal or
moccasin of the Mexicans. Then the freshness of the
foot-prints and of the dung, showed that the party
could not have preceded us more than a few hours. In
this belief we were strengthened by seeing large fires
some fifteen or twenty miles off on the prairie, early in
the evening.

Much sagacity is shown by experienced hunters


and frontier men in detecting "signs" on the prairie,
when and by whom made, the strength of the parties,
their direction, etc., whether Indians, Mexicans, or
Americans. So with the places where there have
been encampments. These the wary traveller on the
prairie inspects with care, to see whether friend or
enemy has preceded him. If Indians, he will find
poles from their wigwams, fragments of skins, scraps
of leather ties, beads, etc.; and a little experience
will enable him to distinguish the tribe, whether
Comanches, Lipans, or Apaches. The principal characteristic,
I believe, is the form of their wigwams.
One sets up erect poles, another bends them over in
a circular form, and the third gives them a low oval
shape. There is also a difference in their moccasins,
and the foot-prints they make. I know not the precise
form of the Comanche and Lipan moccasins; but
the Apaches assured me they could tell the footprints
of the Comanches, the Mescaleros, the Yutas,
the Coyoteros, or the Navahoes, and pointed out the
distinctive marks of several. Different tribes of
Indians have their peculiar fashions as well as civilized
races, which are chiefly shown in their modes of
dressing their hair and their coverings for the feet.
American emigrants or travellers leave many marks to
indicate their nationality and character, such as scraps
of newspapers, bits of segars, fragments of hard bread,
pieces of hempen rope, and other things. Mexicans
would not be likely to have either of the articles
named, but would be detected by the remains of
cigarritos (small paper segars), pieces of raw hide,
which they use instead of rope, etc. Or if they left


any portion of their camp equipage, or cooking utensils,
they would differ from those of Americans. The
remains of their food, too, would differ. Tortillas,
tamaules, frijoles, Chili Colorado, and dried beef would
appear; instead of hard bread, fried pork, beef-steak,
etc.* If a Mexican wears a shoe, it will be very different
in form from an American one.

The extent of a party is shown by the number of
foot-prints. This cannot be told while it is in motion,
as there may be a large number of animals driven in a
herd with but few riders; but when the camp fires are
examined, the number of persons can be detected with
a considerable degree of certainty. The freshness of
the foot-prints, the dung of the animals, and other signs
show how recently a party may have passed; and there
are other marks by which its rate of travelling can be

Many are complaining to-day of illness, from indulging
in fresh meat. It is hard to restrain travellers
who have been living on salt pork, and but a scanty
allowance of that, when a superabundance of fine fresh
beef and veal is placed before them.

I have omitted to mention an incident that occurred,
one of those which help to make up the chapter of
events, and show the difficulties of our mode of travelling.
Soon after we retired, there was a cry from the
guard of "Turn out all hands, a mule in the river." The
men all rushed from their tents, lanterns were lit, and


ropes taken to rescue the animal; for we could not
afford to lose another. It appeared that in grazing
too near the bank, which was here some ten or fifteen
feet above the river, and very precipitous, he had
fallen over. Several men descended by the aid of
ropes, and searched along the bank; but the poor
creature could not be found, and it was supposed
that he had been swept away by the current. When
about to move this morning, a neighing was heard
on the opposite side of the river, which proved to
proceed from our lost mule. One of the men swam
across with a rope, pursued and captured him and
forced him over the steep bank, when he was drawn
across the river. The bank was then levelled, and,
by hard lifting and pulling, the animal was raised up
and brought back in safety.

Encamped at half-past three P. M. after travelling
hours; our mules coming in greatly fatigued.

November 5th. Intended making an early start this
morning; but when we came to hitch up the poor
mules, they looked so lank and miserable, that we
thought it best to turn them out again for a few hours
to graze. Again we pursued our course along the
river for a few miles, when we left it in the hope that
we should not see it again; but we were doomed to
disappointment, in coming plump upon it an hour after.
We had now followed its dreary and monotonous banks
for six days, and longed for a change of scene. Even
the jornada of sixty-five miles presented novelties which
the Pecos had not. The constant fear of being overtaken
by a storm, the brackish water, and that always
difficult to obtain, the miserable grass, and the deficiency


of wood helped to render this portion of our journey
most disagreeable; and but for the broken wagons
that were providentially left in our way, we could not
have procured wood enough to cook our food. The
river and adjacent country here present the same aspect
as below. In width it now varied from fifty to ninety
feet, with steep banks of clay or sand from twelve to
twenty feet in height. Its rapidity may be somewhat
less than at the Horse-head Crossing.

On stopping to water our animals at the last halt
made on the everlasting Pecos, one of our Mexican horses
was suffered to nibble at the scanty grass on the river
bank, while the party were taking a lunch. His dangerous
situation was observed by one of the teamsters, who stepped
forward to lead him away. Resisting the benevolent
intention thus manifested towards him, the animal,
as a matter of course, determined to progress backwards;
and over the bank he went, nearly dragging
the man after him. The bank was here full twenty
feet high, one half being perpendicular, and the other,
formed of the debris, nearly so. We all rushed to
its edge, expecting to witness the last struggle of the
poor beast, when, to our surprise, we saw him on his
feet nearly covered with water. The comical look of
the animal, as he rolled up his eyes at us, and the predicament
he had placed himself in by his stubbornness,
brought forth a hearty laugh from all. A man was let
down by a rope, who succeeded in bringing him back
to the camp none the worse for his fall and somerset.

Leaving the Pecos we took a direction a little north
of west over a range of hills composed of gravel and
marl. The road pursued a winding course among the


hills and across deep ravines. At one place we stopped
to look at some limestone sinks near the road. The
earth and stone had caved in, or sunk, in spots varying
from ten to thirty feet in diameter. The ground for
some distance around appeared hollow and cavernous.
The country since leaving the river was well covered
with grass, but entirely destitute of trees or shrubs.
At 4 o'clock reached Delaware or Sabine Creek, sixteen
miles from the Pecos, and pitched our tents on a spot
where there appeared to have been a very large
encampment a few months before. Besides the fragments,
there was one large Pennsylvania wagon nearly
complete, numerous ox-yokes, boxes, barrels, etc., etc.
These were collected and carried to our camp for firewood;
and very acceptable they proved, for the banks
of the creek did not furnish a bit of wood as large as
one's finger. As the grass was abundant here and of
the best description, with excellent water, I determined
to halt to recruit the animals, and gave orders accordingly.
The poor creatures were much in need of rest,
for several had already given out and had to be removed
from the wagons. Two colonies of prairie dogs were
seen to-day after leaving the Pecos, the first we had
noticed since leaving the great jornada beyond Castle

November 6th. Was aroused in the night by the
whistling of the wind. Feeling a great change in the
temperature. I looked out of my carriage window, and
to my surprise found the ground covered with snow.
There was no sleep after this; and as soon as morning
dawned, I got up to inspect the condition of the party
and the animals, and to see what could be done for


their comfort. The dreaded Norther I had so much
feared when near the Pecos, had now come upon us
with all its fury and in its very worst shape, accompanied
with snow. But bad as our condition was, it
might have been worse. We had escaped the inhospitable
region of the Pecos, where the water was unfit to
drink, scarcely any grazing was to be had for our
animals, and no wood wherewith to cook our food.
Here the grass was excellent and abundant, the water
was pure, and the calamities of others furnished us with
broken wagons and other articles for fire-wood. But
our poor animals had no shelter from the pitiless storm,
there being not a tree to break the force of the keen
blast which seemed to pierce them to the quick. A few
isolated bushes grew near the camp, but nothing that
afforded a covering. During the day, many wandered
off, probably to seek a shelter; and at one time, ten
men were gone in pursuit of them. Some of the horses
had strayed seven miles before they were taken.

The only means to add to our comfort were to bank
the earth around the tents to keep out the snow and
the cold blasts; to bring our overcoats and India-rubber
garments into requisition; and to keep up as large
fires as the broken wagons and boxes would admit of.

Finding it very hard to keep warm even by the
fire, with the cold wind and snow beating on my back,
I laid aside my heavy blanket, put on my India-rubber
cloak and long boots, and took my double-barrelled gun
to see what virtue there was in a little sport by way of
exercise. The result proved to be better than remaining
still, roasting and freezing alternately by the fire.
The excitement and exercise restored the circulation,


and the satisfaction of procuring several brace of
ducks amply repaid the hardship of facing the storm.
Removing my India-rubbers I again wrapped my
blanket around me, seated myself in my carriage
with Dr. Webb, and there spent the remainder of the
long day in reading Erman's Travels in Siberia, a
proper book for the occasion. The young men took it
very calmly, spending the time at the camp fires or in
their tents. So passed the day.

November 7th. In camp, on Delaware Creek.
Passed a cold and sleepless night. The sharp wind
found its way through the openings in the carriage,
which all the blankets I could pile on would not keep
out. The young gentlemen crowded themselves in
their tents, and lay as close as possible; while the
teamsters, laborers, etc., stowed themselves in the
wagons. The morning was sharp and cold; the snow
continued to fall, and the wind remained at the north,
though blowing less than the previous day.

I was desirous to resume our march; but the
teamsters and others, whose experience among mules
was greater than mine, thought it impracticable. To
do so they said would result in our discomfort and
perhaps ruin: for the animals would assuredly give
out and leave us much worse off than we were at present.
I yielded to their representations and determined
to remain a while longer: for we were in a good
encampment with grass and water at hand, and the
flooring of our tents was dry—a consideration of
great importance. No one had taken cold or shown
symptoms of illness. Before leaving San Antonio my
friends told me that at this season of the year we could



hardly expect to escape the Northers, and advised me
if overtaken by one not to move, but encamp at once,
and keep quiet until it had passed. But in determining
to remain I thought it most prudent to send a small
party in advance to El Paso, now about one hundred
and sixty-five miles off, for assistance.

I ordered another inventory to be made of our
provisions, and found nothing remaining but a limited
supply of hard bread and pork; every thing else was
gone. If we kept on, we might reach El Paso by
parching the few remaining bushels of corn and taking
an occasional mule steak; but if compelled to remain
here two or three days we should be reduced to a very
short allowance. Messrs. Thurber, Moss, and Weems
at once volunteered their services to go to El Paso.
No time was lost therefore in fitting them out. They
selected three of the hardiest riding animals; put
up four days' provisions, which they put in bags
and hung to their saddles; fastened their blankets
behind them; and set off in the midst of the storm,
two hours after it was determined to send them. One
of the teamsters named Pratt, a very useful and
energetic man, accompanied them. I gave them the
following letter to Major Van Home, commanding at
El Paso:



I reached this place on the afternoon of the
5th instant with a portion of the United States Boundary
Commission, having left the main body at San Antonio
to follow immediately. My desire being to reach El


Paso as early as possible after the first of November,
we took provisions but for thirty days.

I now find myself overtaken by a Norther and
severe snow-storm; my animals are much reduced by
fatigue, and there is a probability that I shall fall short
of provisions, in case the storm should continue.
Under these circumstances I have deemed it prudent
for the safety of my party to send four of them to
El Paso, to procure aid to enable me to reach there as
soon as possible. In the meantime I shall advance as
soon as the weather will permit, and hope to reach the
Guadalupe Pass in season to meet the return messenger.

I shall be glad if you can send to my aid the
following, viz.: ten mules, to be returned in good
condition; and bread, pork, sugar, and coffee sufficient
for my party for five days: for which I will pay you
on my arrival.

I am, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Commissioner. To Major J. VAN HORNE,
El Paso del Norte, Texas."


Difficulty of proceeding—Set out with a small party in advance—
View of Guadalupe Mountain—Boiling Spring—Deceptive clearness of
the atmosphere—Guadalupe Pass—Descent to the plain—Meet Mr.
Coon's train—Hospitality—Mr. Thurber's note—Take leave of the
train—Cornudos del Alamo—Thorne's Well—Ojos del Alamo—Waco
Mountain Pass—Waco Tanks—Meet Messrs. Thurber and Weems on
their return—Arrival at El Paso—Itinerary of route—Remarks on the
country traversed—Its adaptability to a public road.

November 8th. Camp on Delaware Creek. With
great delight I rose from my carriage bed this morning
at the first peep of day, to find the weather had moderated.
Soon after the sun beamed forth in all his
splendor, and with it the hope that we should be able
to resume our journey. After a few hours delay in
packing the tents, arranging our camp equipage, and
drying the collars of the mules, the pleasing sound was
heard from the teamsters of "All ready!" when we
left camp, and, immediately crossing the creek, emerged
on the more elevated bank beyond. The dry earth
and the warm sun soon absorbed or evaporated the
snow, so that our progress was but little impeded.
But we had not proceeded many miles before the
mules showed symptoms of fatigue and suffering from


the effects of the cold. Several gave out entirely,
hung their heads, and sank to the ground, or refused
to move further. These were necessarily removed
from the teams, so that several of the wagons were
reduced to two feeble mules. As my carriage mules
were in better condition, I had got some distance in
advance, when word was brought me that the animals
were giving out so fast that it would be necessary for
us to encamp at the first place where good grass and
water could be found. A few miles further brought
us again to Delaware Creek, where, finding good grass
as well as fuel, we stopped and encamped. Dr. Webb
and myself walked the entire distance to-day. An
examination of the mules soon showed that in their
present condition our progress must be very slow, not
exceeding twelve or fifteen miles a day; and that it
would be absolutely necessary to give them a couple
of days' rest where there was good grazing. This
delay would destroy all my plans of reaching my place
of destination within the period required, and exhaust
our provisions before the supply sent for could arrive.
I determined, therefore, as my carriage mules were in
good order, to push on myself. With this view I made
up a party consisting of Dr. Webb, Messrs. Murphy,
Cremony, Matthews, Young, and Thompson; these,
with my carriage driver and another, made eight
persons, a party I believed sufficiently strong to go
through in safety. We selected good animals, and
made such preparations as were necessary during the
afternoon and evening, to insure an early start in the
morning. A sack of our remaining corn was lashed to
the axle-tree of my carriage for the mules. Some salt


pork was cooked, which, with hard bread, was stowed
inside, while the unoccupied space inside and out was
filled with bedding. A tent could not be taken, as
the carriage was already too heavily burdened.

November 9th. Up at four o'clock; took a hearty
breakfast, and was ready to move as soon as there
was sufficient light to see the road. Started at a lively
pace, intending to make a good march. The road was
quite tortuous, winding among and over hills, in a
direction nearly west, towards the bold head of the
great Guadalupe Mountain, which had been before us
some eight or ten days. This is a most remarkable
landmark, rising as it does far above all other objects,
and terminating abruptly about three thousand feet
above the surrounding plain. The sierra or mountain
range which ends with it, comes from the northeast.
It is a dark, gloomy-looking range, with bold
and forbidding sides, consisting of huge piles of rocks,
their debris heaped far above the surrounding hills.
As it approaches its termination the color changes to a
pure white, tinted with buff or light orange, presenting
a beautiful contrast with other portions of the range,
or with the azure blue of the sky beyond; for in this
elevated region the heavens have a remarkable brilliancy
and depth of color.

The low hills we passed are woodless, and sparsely
covered with grass. Limestone occasionally protrudes
from the hills, while the soil is hard and gravelly, with
an occasional patch of sand. Stopped to water the
animals at the headwaters of Delaware Creek, probably
Walnut Creek, about fifteen miles from camp, when we
continued our course towards the head of the Guadalupe


Mountain, reaching a boiling spring about five
o'clock. There are here three fine springs, one of
which tasted strongly of sulphur; the second seemed
impregnated with salts of soda, while the third
was very pure. Found good grazing in the valley
where we stopped, with a little grove of trees, a pretty
place to have spent a day in, had circumstances
rendered it proper; but while our animals were in a
condition to move, I determined to press them to their
utmost. Estimated distance travelled to-day, thirty-five

The Guadalupe had been before us the whole day,
and we all expected to reach it within a couple of
hours after leaving camp. But hour after hour we
drove directly towards it, without seeming to approach
nearer; and finally, after journeying ten hours, the
mountain seemed to be as distant as it was in the
morning. Such is the great clearness of the atmosphere
here, that one unused to measuring distances
in elevated regions is greatly deceived in his calculations.
When this mountain was first discovered
we were more than one hundred miles off. Even
then its features stood out boldly against the blue
sky; and when the rays of the morning sun were shed
upon it, it exhibited every outline of its rugged sides
with as much distinctness as a similar object would in
the old States at one fifth the distance. Often have I
gazed at the Katskill Mountains in sailing down the
Hudson; and though at a distance of but twelve
miles, I never saw them as distinctly, as the Guadalupe
Mountain appeared sixty miles off.

For several miles before reaching the springs we

[Figure] GUADALUPE MOUNTAIN, TEXAS.—p. 118. vol. i.


had in vain tried to pick up wood enough to make a
fire; but none could be found, not even roots or brushwood.
Still the good fortune which had attended us
in our journey did not desert us here. A disabled
wagon, with its large box, lay near the springs. This
not only furnished us with fuel for a fire, but the box,
which was whole, served as a sleeping-place for four
of the party. This was placed on one side of the fire,
and the carriage drawn up on the other. As we were
near one of the notorious lurking-places of the Apaches,
a strict guard was kept up, and relieved every
hour during the night.

November 10th. Two hours before day my carriage
driver was out with the mules to give them an
early feed, while we managed to make a pot of tea
from a canister, which I always carried with me for
such occasions. This, with cold pork and hard bread,
made our breakfast; but meagre as it was, it was
taken with a relish. We then filled our leather water
tank, and were on our journey before the sun peeped
over the adjacent hills to our left. No sunrise at sea
or from the mountain's summit could equal in grandeur
that which we now beheld, when the first rays
struck the snow-clad mountain, which reared its lofty
head before us. The projecting cliffs of white and
orange stood out in bold relief against the azure sky,
while the crevices and gorges, filled with snow,
showed their inequalities with a wonderful distinctness.
At the same time the beams of the sun playing on the
snow produced the most brilliant and ever-changing
iris hues. No painter's art could reproduce, or colors
imitate, these gorgeous prismatic tints.


Five or six miles, over a hilly though very hard
road, brought us to the base of the mountain, where
we noticed a grove of live-oaks and pines, with water
near them; but as it was too early to water our animals,
we did not stop. At this spring a train was
attacked a few months before we passed, and four
men killed. As we now began to descend, I got out
of the carriage, preferring to go on foot. I could
thus the more readily lock and unlock the wheels
when necessary. The road here, after passing through
long defiles, winds for some distance along the side
of the mountain. Now it plunges down some deep
abyss, and then it suddenly rises again upon some
little castellated spur, so that one almost imagines
himself to be in a veritable fortress. Again we pass
along the brink of a deep gorge, whose bottom,
filled with trees, is concealed from our view, while the
evergreen cedar juts forth here and there from the
chasms in its sides. Winding and turning in every
direction, we followed the intricacies of the Guadalupe
Pass for at least six hours; and whenever the
prospect opened before us, there stood the majestic
bluff in all its grandeur, solitary and alone. In one place
the road runs along the mountain on a bare rocky
shelf not wide enough for two wagons to pass, and
the next moment passes down through an immense
gorge, walled by mountains of limestone, regularly
terraced. As we were descending from this narrow
ledge, the iron bolt which held the tongue of the carriage
broke and let it drop. Nothing but iron would
do to repair the injury; and after trying various
expedients, a substitute for the broken bolt was


found in the bail or handle of the tin kettle which
held our provisions. This, being doubled and driven
through the hole previously filled by the bolt, kept it
in its place, while the tongue was supported by cords.
By careful driving, and relieving the weight of the
carriage by alighting when going over bad places,
we got along tolerably well.

I regretted that we were not able to spend more
time in this interesting Pass, the grandeur of which
would, under any other circumstances, have induced
us to linger; but we had too much at stake to waste a
single hour. Many new forms of cacti were seen
here; and upon emerging from it, we observed in
quantities the fouquiera (I know no other name for
it) covering the gravel knolls. This singular shrub
throws up from just above the surface of the ground
numerous simple stems, eight or ten feet high, armed
with sharp hooked thorns.

On reaching the summit of the line of hills, which
completely surround the Guadalupe range on the
western side, we looked down upon a broad plain,
stretching out as far as the eye could reach. The
Sacramento Mountains, which are but the continuation
of the Guadalupe range, extend from east to west for
a distance of more than a hundred miles, terminating,
like the latter, in a bold bluff, when another range
seems to intersect them from the north. Far to the
north-west we could see the Cornudos del Alamo like
two great mounds rising from a vast plain, while to
the south-west the horizon was bounded by a faint blue
outline of mountains, with jagged tops. The plain
appeared level from the height at which we viewed it,


and was interspersed with what looked like silvery
and tranquil lakes, glittering in the sun, seeming, as it
were, to tempt the weary traveller to their brink.
Our young men cried out "Water!" delighted with the
idea of again enjoying this luxury after a long day's
ride. But the whole turned out a delusion; what
appeared to be the glassy surface of a lake or pond,
being nothing but the saline incrustations of a dried
up lake. The vast plain, or desert, as it may with
more propriety be called, as far as the eye could
reach, was dotted with these saline depressions.

Before we had got through this pass we came
upon another broken wagon, and among its iron work
were so fortunate as to find a bolt precisely the size
of the one we had broken. The wire was quickly
knocked out, and the bolt inserted in its place; after
which the driver put on his whip, and we rolled over
the hard and excellent road at a rapid pace.

The summit of the mountain appears to be covered
with heavy pine timber; but its rocky sides exhibit
no foliage, except in the deep chasms which run from
it in every direction. At its base, too, we noticed
large trees of pine, oak, cedar, etc.

We had now ridden the entire day without water
for our animals, not discovering a spring which is
noted on the map as Ojo del Cuerpo, and at which I
had proposed stopping. Our leather tank was empty,
and I began to feel anxious on our own account, as the
next water laid down on the map is at the Cornudos del
, thirty miles distant. The road was now pretty
good, and we went over it on a fast trot. On the left
we passed a range of hills of pure white sand, the


same we saw when the plain first opened to us, and
which we supposed to be water, and a few miles
further the dry bed of a lake, with a white surface,
appearing also like water. It was quite rough and
hilly here. Clumps of bushes grew in the intervening
valleys, which I sent parties to examine, in the hope
of finding water, but without success.

While pondering whether to push on or encamp
where we were, without water, we discovered far off
in the plain, directly before us, what appeared to be
a large encampment. Smoke was curling up from
many fires; and we descried a long line of white
objects. Took my spy-glass, and discovered the white
dots to be so many wagons stretching over the plain;
all which assured us we had nothing to fear. The
pleasant prospect of again meeting with our countrymen
quite raised our drooping spirits. The weary
animals, who doubtless smelt the water, as mules
always do, from a great distance, seemed to rouse
themselves to new exertions. A rapid drive of four
miles brought us to the encampment, which proved to
be a train of about sixty large wagons, with government
stores, bound for El Paso. It belonged to Mr.
Coons, and left Indianola, on the coast, in April, and
San Antonio in June last. After sustaining extensive
losses of wagons and animals, they arrived here fifty-six
days before us, and were forced to remain, as
there was not water between this place and El Paso
for so large a number of animals as they had with
them. The distance was said to be about one hundred
miles. Their wagons were mostly drawn by
oxen, which could not travel more than fifteen miles


a day, and would therefore require six days to reach
their place of destination. The train here was in
charge of Mr. Percy, who, after waiting several weeks
in the hope that there would be rain, had sent a messenger
to the commanding officer at El Paso, informing
him of his situation, and requesting assistance.
Parties were now on their way from the Rio Grande,
bringing water in barrels, which were to be deposited
at several points for the use of the animals, to enable
them to complete their journey.

On approaching the encampment we were surrounded
by sixty or seventy teamsters, who, ragged,
dirty, and unshaven, crowded around us; for, with
the exception of Mr. Thurber and his party, who had
stopped here the day before, they had seen no one
from the "States" since their departure from San
Antonio in June. They had had a long and painful
journey to this place, and suffered much for the want
of water. Their animals had given out in many places,
which had caused hundreds to be left behind; and
many of their wagons had been disabled or rendered
useless for want of means to draw them. Besides
draught animals, a large herd, embracing several hundred
beef cattle, had been driven with the train;
and among these there had been great mortality. The
stray cattle we had seen, and a few of which we had
secured, were doubtless some which had luckily been
left near a spot where there was grass and water,
which enabled them to recover their strength.

Mr. Percy, the gentleman in charge of the wagons,
gave us a warm reception, and kindly offered to let me
have the provisions I was so desirous to procure for the


relief of the party I had left behind, on my giving a
receipt for them to the U. S. Quarter-master on my
arrival at El Paso. Having eaten nothing since daylight,
we feasted with great relish on our cold pork and
biscuit. Our generous host ordered supper for us, but
we were too hungry to wait; though I believe most of
the party accepted his invitation, and did full justice to
a second meal before retiring to their blankets. Mr.
Percy, who had the only tent in his party, gave places
to as many as could stow themselves within it. Estimated
the distance travelled to-day to be thirty-eight

November 11th. In camp at Salt Lake, near Guadalupe
Mountains. The lake, or rather pond, near which
we are encamped, is a small body of water covering
three or four acres, surrounded on all sides by an open
prairie or plain, in which there are scattering bushes,
with patches of pretty good grass: no trees are to be
seen, nearer than the base of the mountain. The pond
is resorted to by wild ducks, plover, and other waterfowl,
in great numbers; but the continued proximity of
so large a body of men as Mr. Percy's party, has made
them less plentiful and quite shy. Still I managed to
shoot a few before breakfast.

The following note left here by Mr. Thurber, gives
the particulars of his journey. It was intended to be
sent to the spring at the Guadalupe Pass.

COON'S CAMP, near Salt Lake,
November 9, 1850.


After leaving you at the camp on Delaware
Creek, we made the best progress the storm would
permit. The snow balled in the feet of our animals so


badly, that we were forced to halt about 11 o'clock at
night. We bivouacked in the snow without fire. On
the morning of yesterday, we were obliged to melt
snow in order to obtain water for our breakfast. We
found the road through the mountain, particularly in
the gorges, much obstructed by snow of such an adhesive
nature, that our animals could work their way but
slowly, although without their riders. We found but
little snow in the most difficult portions of the pass.
Pratt's horse became so completely disabled, that we
had great difficulty in urging him along, and have been
much delayed on his account. We did not succeed in
finding the "Ojo del Cuerpo," which, according to
Ford and Neighbors, "breaks up in the plain;" but
we were obliged to encamp without water for our
animals, and with but a gill for each of ourselves.
This morning we started very early, and soon came in
sight of an encampment, which, on reaching it, we found
to be Coon's train, which left San Antonio on the 10th
June, with government supplies for El Paso. This is
the train whose stray cattle and broken wagons have
so frequently furnished us with food and fuel, since
crossing the Pecos. We were received with great
hospitality by Mr. Percy, who is in command in the
absence of Mr. Coon.

I would suggest the propriety of stopping at the
spring, at the base of the mountain, where there is
good grazing, and to recruit the animals before
attempting the pass. I fear we shall be obliged to
leave Mr. Pratt here, as his horse is utterly unable to
go on.

A party of men are going back as far as the spring


alluded to above, to herd oxen. I shall send this letter
and a small supply of sugar and coffee by them. Mr.
Scallen, the bearer of this, will direct you to watering
places this side of the pass, which we missed, not
knowing where to find them. It will be necessary to
fill up the water kegs here. The water, though smelling
strongly of sulphuretted hydrogen, is not unpalatable.
All kinds of provisions are very high and scarce
in El Paso. Flour is $92 a barrel; coffee, sugar, and
pork, 50 cents per pound. We are all in good spirits,
and move from here at noon.

Very truly, your obedient servant,

After partaking of a hearty breakfast, provided for
us by Mr. Percy, we made preparations to start, determined
to press through, believing that we should find
water enough for our small party at the three springs, or
watering places, between us and the Rio Grande, which
was yet about one hundred and eight miles off. But we
had expectations from another source: as Mr. Daguerre,
who had just arrived from El Paso, informed me that
his wagons were on the way to the camp bringing
water for Mr. Coon's train, which they were depositing
at certain points on the road; and he most generously
gave me permission to use it, if we found none at the
watering places, and should require it for ourselves or
for our animals.

While making our preparations to start, Mr. Percy
filled our kettle with some excellent boiled beef, bread,


coffee, and sugar,—an acceptable addition to our stock
of pork and hard bread, which, though very good,
was not sufficient to carry us to our journey's end.
In fact, but for this assistance, we must have come
on short allowance at once.

After putting up a barrel of pork, with a quantity
of bread, sugar, coffee, etc., which our host undertook
to send back immediately to the spring at the foot
of the mountain, for the party we had left behind,
we took leave of our good friends, and dashed off in
fine spirits for Thorne's Wells, in the mountain, called
the "Cornudos del Alamo," or Horns of the Alamo,
thirty-three miles distant, which I hoped to reach
before dark. The road was most monotonous for the
first twenty miles; the great abundance of yuccas and
cacti giving a strange and striking air to the vegetation.
We saw splendid specimens of a large tree-like
cactus (Opuntia arborescens). This is a much branched
species, with clusters of yellow fruit at the ends of its
long, horrible, spiny arms. Specimens were seen from
six to ten feet high, and twenty to thirty feet in circumference.
The country is slightly undulating, and not
a level plain, as it appeared to be from the hills. The
soil seemed barren, and in many places was covered
with saline incrustations. Several dog-towns were
passed. At noon, saw a great cloud of dust rising from
the plain immediately ahead of us; which, as we drew
near, was found to proceed from ten large wagons of
ten mules each, belonging to Mr. Daguerre, on their
way from El Paso, to relieve the train we had just left.
At 6 o'clock, reached the Cornudos del Alamo, towards
which we had been journeying since our start this


morning; and being unable at this late hour, it being
now dark, to find the wells in the clefts of the rocks,
we encamped without water. This wonderful mountain,
of which it is impossible to convey any adequate
idea by description, is a pile of red granite boulders
of gigantic size, thrown up abruptly into the plain.
The boulders are mostly of an oblong shape, with their
largest diameter vertical; they are rounded and often
highly polished. The interstices between the rocks form
in many places extensive caverns. On the summit I
noticed two projecting piles, or masses, which rose
many feet above the level of the other portions in a
conical form, resembling horns, whence I suppose
originated the name "Horns of the Alamo"—the mountain
itself being known as the Alamo. After building
a fire near a rock (for wood was abundant around us),
four of the party took a lantern and scrambled about
among the rocks in search of water. It seemed a bold
and hopeless undertaking for tiny man, guided by the
dim light of a candle, to be probing the deep recesses
of the mountain, and clambering over these gigantic
boulders, which were piled up to the height of four or
five hundred feet. But, when urged by his necessities,
it is hard to say what he cannot accomplish. Within an
hour, one of the party was so fortunate as to find in a
cavity of a rock water enough to fill our tea-kettle,
which had collected from the melting of the snow a
few days before. After a cup of warm tea and a hearty
supper, the carriage was drawn near the fire, when all
bivouacked around it, and were soon lost in sleep.

November 12th. Being spared the trouble of boiling
coffee, for want of water to make it withal, we did not


wait for breakfast, but set off before daylight. Before
quitting the mountain, we journeyed along it for some
distance, close to its base. We thus found a singular
gorge, or glen, which led some fifty feet into the
mountain, where it opened to the sky. Within this
inner cavern-like place was a deep hole, which appeared
to have contained water, and which we supposed to
be the "Thorne's Well" of which we had been in
search; but at this time, it was perfectly dry. Some
large trees had sprung up in this singular place, and
the rocky walls were highly polished, as if by the hand
of man. There were other deep holes near the
entrance, which we supposed had been dug by California
emigrants in search for water. All around were
indications that it had been a camping place for many
parties. Near the entrance alluded to, were several
carcasses of oxen, which had perished here before the
well was dug.

Resuming our journey we rode ten miles to the
Ojos del Alamo, or Cotton-wood Springs, on a hard and
excellent road. Our landmark for this spring was a
single cotton-wood tree, about five hundred feet up the
side of a mountain, on our left. As the mountain was
otherwise bare of foliage, save a few shrubs, the tree
was easily seen, though from below it looked more like
a bush; still its light yellowish green distinguished it
perfectly from every thing around. Left the carriage at
the base of the mountain, and clambered up to the
springs, of which there are seven. The water was
very good, though but little remained. Upon the
faces of the rocks near were rude sculptures and paintings,
made by the Indians. We led some of the animals


up to the springs; and others, that would not
make the ascent, were watered from the kegs which
our friends had deposited at the base. Found a note
from Mr. Thurber here, stating that his party had preceded
us two days.

Turned our animals out to graze, as the grass was
very good, and took breakfast. The Hueco, or Waco
Mountains, our next landmark, lay before us here at
twenty-five miles distance, and for them we now set
out; but so clear was the atmosphere that they did not
appear more than eight or nine miles off. The road,
which led over a rolling prairie, was excellent. Not a
tree was seen, and scarcely a bush the entire distance.
The grass was poor and thin. At 2 o'clock reached
the mountain, and at once entered the pass. Just before
reaching it, the road divides, one branch leading
to the right, the other to the left of the mountain. I
was advised to take the latter, which was five miles
shorter than the other, as my carriage could be easily
lifted over a very steep place in the defile, which was
impracticable for loaded wagons. The latter invariably
take the longer route. The descent was gradual
and easy, and led through a narrow defile along the
base of the mountain, which lay close on our right.
The road was very tortuous, with small hills and deep
ravines to cross, though unattended with difficulties,
until, after a long descent, we were obliged to follow an
arroyo, or stony bed of a water-course. Here the way
was exceedingly rough, so that I feared every moment
to see the carriage upset or broken in pieces. We
were finally brought to a stand, where the road or path,
if entitled to either appellation, led precipitately over


a ledge of rocks some ten or twelve feet. How any
wheeled vehicle ever got through here it was difficult
to imagine. After an examination of the place, it was
thought most prudent to take out the mules, which were
led around the side of the defile, or through a chasm
in the rock. We then took two ropes, and attached
them to the hind axletree of the carriage. Wells, the
driver, a stout and athletic man, took the tongue and
guided the carriage over the precipice, while we let it
carefully down by the ropes. In this way it was got

[Figure] Waco Mountain Pass.

over in safety, and deposited on the gravelly bed of
the defile. The mules were now hitched up again,
and we continued our journey along the same sort of
road for about a mile. This was an exceedingly grand
and picturesque spot, differing from any thing we had
seen on our route. On both sides the gray limestone


rocks rose perpendicular like walls. From the top
and in the crevices of these, grew a variety of shrubs.
A low range of rounded gravelly hills, covered with
grass, but destitute of trees, bordered the defile; while
about half a mile or less beyond, loomed up the great
mountain, its almost perpendicular sides showing a
dark brown granite from the base to its very summit.
So steep is the mountain that it cannot be ascended
except from the plain above. As we emerged from
the narrow gorge, the same terraced and castellated
rocks which we noticed at Castle Mountain appeared
again, but in more strange and picturesque forms—now
a fortification, and again some ruined town. These
terraced hills opened into a plain or amphitheatre about
three miles across, surrounded by hills and mountains, except
on the north. Passing them, we reached the Hueco
Tanks, and stopped beneath a huge overhanging rock.

The mountains in which these so-called "Tanks"
are found, are two rocky piles of a similar character to
the Cornudos del Alamo before described. The rocks,
however, are thrown together in still wilder confusion,
and are of more irregular forms. One mass extends
about a mile along the amphitheatre above mentioned,
and is about half a mile in breadth. The other, situated
to the south, is separated by a narrow pass from that
described. It, too, extends about a mile from north to
south; but in other respects is very irregular, consisting
of several vast heaps, quite disconnected. Much of
this is granite in place, while gigantic boulders are
piled up like pebble stones at its sides and on its summit.
These piles are from one hundred to one hundred
and fifty feet in height.


After a little search we found water in a great cavity
or natural tank in the rock about twenty feet above
our heads, containing about fifty barrels, pure and
sweet. This tank was covered by a huge boulder,
weighing some hundred tons, the lower surface of
which was but four or five feet above the water.
Searching along the base of the mountain we found
another cavity, where we watered our animals. There
remained yet another hour before dark; and as there
was no grass near, I thought best to push on a few
miles and stop wherever grass should be found.

The road leads between the great rocky masses
described above, when it enters a plain beyond. We
had scarcely passed the mountain when we met Messrs.
Thurber and Weems, who were returning from El Paso,
with ten mules and two men for the assistance of our
train, which had been promptly furnished by Major
Van Horne. We bivouacked together, after learning
that we should find no grass further on. It was poor
here, and only grew in tufts about the roots of the
mezquit chapporal; but with the hope of terminating
our journey on the morrow, we could rest easy. A
supper was cooked with the brushwood of the mezquit;
and the evening was spent in asking a thousand questions
of our friends about what they had seen, and how
civilized people again appeared to them.

November 13th. Breakfasted and resumed our
journey before daylight, having twenty-five miles to
make before its close. About three miles from the
Hueco Tanks we passed a range of hills, when a broad
plain opened upon us in every direction. Here we
first got a glimpse of Mexico, in a range of mountains


which rises ten miles in the rear of El Paso. Northeast
of them were the El Paso Mountains, on the eastern
bank of the river, which unite with the Organ
Mountains or "Sierra de los Organos," whose pinnacles
and jagged summits could be distinctly seen about
sixty miles to the north-west. To the north, at a great
distance, Mount Soledad was dimly seen; while at the
south the long line of horizon was only broken by low
hills, on the Mexican side of the river. A road branched
off just beyond the low hills we had passed, leading to
the town of Isleta, in a southerly direction. Our
course now lay south-west, over a sandy and desert
plain, covered with low mezquit chapporal. Grama
grass grew in tufts or little patches here and there;
which, though dry and apparently without sustenance,
is eagerly eaten by mules. The country was exceedingly
monotonous; and our tired animals could scarcely
drag their loads through the deep sand, which continued
the whole way without interruption. We kept
rising gradually over the undulating table land which
borders the Rio Grande, until at length we reached
its highest level. Here the valley of that long looked-for
river opened upon us. A line of foliage of the
richest green with occasional patches of bright yellow
and brown marked its course. The first autumnal
tinge, which in our northern forests so beautifully indicates
the earliest frost and reminds us of the coming
winter, is here likewise apparent. But there is not
that diversity of hue as with us,—no rich crimson, scarlet
and purple; which is easily accounted for by the want
of variety in the Mexican forest. Here the cotton-wood
alone is found. Soon the houses were seen peeping


from among the trees; but when the "stars and
stripes" were discovered curling in the breeze, a thrill
ran through our veins which must be felt by those
situated as we were to be understood. I had often
read of the delight with which mariners, after a long
absence, greet the sight of their national flag in some
distant port; and this delight I now experienced. It
seemed like a glimpse of home, and reminded us that
we were approaching not only civilization, but countrymen
and friends. We now descended from the
plateau to the valley of the Rio Grande, after which a
ride of half an hour brought us to the military post at
El Paso del Norte. Here we were kindly received by
the Commandant, Major Van Horne, who assigned such
quarters for us all as the place afforded.

Our journey from San Antonio had taken us thirty-three
days, six of which we were detained on the
way, making twenty-seven travelling days in all. I
make my estimates from our rate of travelling, and
from the distances on the map of Ford and Neighbors;
but adopt the measurements made by Major Bryan
with a viameter. Some of his first camps differed from
mine, though our trails could not have been far apart
between Fredericksburg and the head of the Concho
River, where we both struck the Emigrant Road, which
we followed to the Rio Grande.

From San Antonio to Fredericksburg 69·67
" Banon Creek 8·22
" Theudgill's Creek 15·14
" Llano River 15·28
" Comanche Creek 8·65
" Head of Honey Creek 9·54


From San Antonio to San Saba River 11·11
" Head of Camp Creek 4·85
" South Branch of Brady's Creek 14·27
" Brady's Creek 15·18
" Head of Brady's Creek 7·50
" Kickapoo Creek 13·73
" Lipan Creek 11·60
" Antelope Creek 11·20
" South Concho 4·12
" Dove Creek 9·02
" Good Spring Creek 3·43
" Lipan Camp Creek 5·35
" Green Mounds 5·70
" Concho River 7·02
" Crossing of Concho 11·66
" Head Springs of Concho 18·03
" Castle Mountain 55·28
" River Pecos 13·00
" Falls of the Pecos 32·29
" Delaware Creek 94·78
" Independence Spring (three springs) 40·03
" Spring at foot of Guadalupe Mountain 5·54
" Spring Ojo del Cuerpo 28·21
" Cornudos del Alamo 28·15
" Ojos del Alamo 9·14
" Waco Mountains 19·05
" Waco Tanks 6·42
" Rio Grande at El Paso (say) 28·00

The distance by Major Bryan's table from San Antonio
to Isleta on the Rio Grande is 638·02 miles. It
is called 28 miles from the Waco Tanks to El Paso,
which would make the distance from San Antonio to
that place 635 miles. The distance by the southern
route, followed by the main body of the Commission, is
673 miles.


A few general remarks on the country we have
passed over seem proper here. From Indianola to
San Antonio there is an excellent road, with wood,
water, and grass in abundance, except between Indianola
and Victoria, where there is but little wood. Parties
should therefore provide themselves with fuel
before starting. The soil here is admirably adapted
to agriculture. From San Antonio to Fredericksburg,
the road is very stony a portion of the way, the
remainder good. The soil is excellent. Wood, water,
and grass are always found at convenient distances,
and in abundance. The soil continues of a good
quality until the San Saba is reached; from that river
to the north fork of Brady's Creek it is not so good.
The grass is generally light to the latter place, with
less wood and water, though enough for parties travelling.
We now begin to get on the great table-land
of Texas, where there is little rain and a poor soil.
Several small streams emptying into the Colorado or
the Concho here intersect the road, on the immediate
banks of which there are a few trees. But the intermediate
country is destitute of timber, save a very few
small oaks or mezquit. The grass too is poor, except
near the water courses. On leaving the head waters
of the Concho, nature assumes a new aspect. Here
trees and shrubs disappear, except the thorny chapporal
of the deserts; the water courses all cease, nor does
any stream intervene until the Rio Grande is reached,
350 miles distant, except the muddy Pecos, which,
rising in the Rocky Mountains near Santa Fé, crosses
the great desert plain west of the Llano Estacado, or
Staked Plain. From the Rio Grande to the waters of


the Pacific, pursuing a westerly course along the 32d
parallel, near El Paso del Norte, there is no stream of
a higher grade than a small creek. I know of none
but the San Pedro and the Santa Cruz, the latter but
a rivulet losing itself in the sands near the Gila,
the other but a diminutive stream scarcely reaching
that river. At the head waters of the Concho,
therefore, begins that great desert region, which, with
no interruption save a limited valley or bottom land
along the Rio Grande, and lesser ones near the small
courses mentioned, extends over a district embracing
sixteen degrees of longitude, or about a thousand
miles, and is wholly unfit for agriculture. It is a desolate
barren waste, which can never be rendered useful
for man or beast, save for a public highway. It is
destitute of forests, except in the defiles and gorges of
the higher mountains or on their summits. Along the
valley of the Rio Grande, which is from one and a half
to two miles in width, there grow large cotton wood
trees and a few mezquit; but between this river and
the north fork of Brady's Creek there is no timbered

The country is well adapted for a wagon road, and
equally so for a railway, as all desert regions are, unless
they are sandy. From Fredericksburg, all the way to
the Rio Grande, there is a natural road, which as a
whole is better than half the roads in the United States
west of the Mississippi. Very little has been done to
this road of nearly 600 miles to render it what it is;
and a little labor where the streams are crossed, with a
bridge across the Pecos, which could be constructed
with great ease and at a small expense, would make the


whole of it equal to our best turnpikes. Here and
there I would recommend a slight change in its direction;
as for instance, near Kickapoo Creek, to avoid a
rocky ridge; and some improvements might be made
near Fredericksburg: but these are trifles. The most
important consideration is water, without which this
route never can be made available as a great public
highway. There is little doubt that by digging, water
may be found on the desert between the head of the
Concho and the Pecos. At the depressions, called
Mustang Ponds and Wild China Ponds, where, it appears,
water has sometimes been seen, wells might
easily be sunk and water be procured. Two watering
places in this jornada of sixty-nine miles would be
quite sufficient. On the western side of the Guadalupe
Mountain there should be another watering place; but
it is evident from the statements made by the party
which had been so long encamped at the Salt Pond,
that there exists several springs about the base of the
mountain. Next come the Cornudos del Alamo and
the Waco Mountains; where there are springs, but
which, from their not being opened, soon dry up or
disappear. These, being at proper distances for daily
journeys, would be suitable places to sink wells, or,
which would be better, to open the springs already

If it should be determined to make a great highway
through Texas to El Paso, and thence to California,
south of the Gila, neither of the present routes to
El Paso should be adopted until a more complete exploration
has been made. I was told at El Paso, by
Mexicans who had traversed the district east of that


town, that water could be found in the mountains that
separate El Paso from the Pecos, between the routes
now taken. Should such be the case, and no impediment
exist, at least fifty miles of travel might be
saved; and if water is not now found, it may as
easily be obtained, by sinking wells, as on the northern
route. The whole country, after the table-land north
of San Antonio is reached, is well adapted to a wagon
road or a railway; and I doubt whether any district
of the same extent east of the Mississippi would require
fewer embankments and excavations than across the
table-land of Texas.


Losses of Animals—High price of provisions at El Paso—Excursion up the
river—Entertainment given to the officers of the Commission by the
civil authorities—The Bishop of Durango—Pueblo Indians—Meeting
with General Condé, and commencement of the labors of the Joint Commission
—Arrival and disposition of the main body of the United States
Commission—Arrival of ox-train, and death of U. D. Wakeman—
Departure of military escort for the Copper Mines—American desporadoes
in New Mexico—Death of E. C. Clarke—Trial and execution
of Wade, Craig, and Butler—Trial and execution of Young—Dinner and
ball given under difficulties—Excursion to the Sierra Waco—Indian
pictures at the Waco Tanks—Initial point agreed upon, and survey in
its vicinity commenced—Dépôt established at the Copper Mines—Dr.
Webb's report on the same.

ON reaching El Paso, I feared that the ten mules
sent out by Major Van Horne to my assistance would
be insufficient, as so many of our animals had suddenly
given out when I left the train. On making my fears
known to Mr. Magoffin, an American merchant here, he
generously ordered four of his own men to take ten of
his best mules and set off immediately to aid the train
in getting in; and, in consequence, it arrived in safety
five days after.


I have not mentioned the loss of animals, save
on two or three occasions, although several other
instances of this misfortune occurred to us. The fine
horse which was bitten by a rattlesnake died a few
days after. On the last day, two horses which had
been led for several days lay down, and refused to go
farther. They were left within ten miles of our
journey's end. I sent a man back immediately on my
arrival with corn and water; but he was too late, both
were already dead. But though the losses of this kind
were few on the march, they were great after we got
in. There were no sheds or barns in which the animals
could be placed to protect them from the cold winds
which prevailed at this season of the year; and the
grass was very poor. I procured corn for them at
once, and sent them to a grove a few miles above the
town, where they would be better protected than if
running at large over the open plain. But about a
week after my arrival a severe norther came on,
bringing with it the cold blasts from the snowy mountains,
which had such an effect upon the poor creatures,
that twelve or fourteen mules and horses perished.

Provisions of all kinds were exceedingly high at
this time: flour, thirty-two dollars a barrel; pork,
sugar, and coffee, fifty cents a pound; and other articles
in proportion. Corn too, was selling at eight dollars
a fanega of two and five-eighths bushels. The arrival
of my party rather tended to increase prices; for the
population was so limited, that the addition of forty
men and sixty animals, with a knowledge that a large
train with the main body of the Commission and its
escort would soon arrive, led the owners of such property


to keep up the rates. The Government, however,
had given me authority, in cases of necessity, to
call upon the United States Commissaries of Subsistence
for provisions; and hence the immediate wants
of my party were provided for by the officers of this
post. Corn and fodder for the animals, however, had
to be purchased at the market prices.

General Garcia Condé, the Mexican Commissioner,
had not yet reached El Paso, though intelligence had
been received here that he was at the city of Chihuahua;
word was therefore sent to him at once, that the
United States Commission had arrived.

In order to make myself familiar with the country
in the vicinity of El Paso before the Commission
should enter upon its duties, I made an excursion, in
which I was accompanied by Major Van Horne and
several gentlemen of my party, over the mountain
ridge which crosses the Rio Grande a few miles above
the town. We passed up on the Mexican side of the
river, crossing over to the American side at White's
Ranch, a course which we followed in returning. About
a mile above the town is a fall in the river, where a
dam has been constructed, and the water raised about
ten feet, for the purpose of irrigating the valley
below. There are two grist mills here, one on the
Mexican, the other on the American side of the river.
For the distance of eight miles, as it is called, above
El Paso, there is no bottom land, the river breaking
its way through the mountains the whole distance.
The range on the eastern side, called the El Paso
Mountains, rises to a height of about one thousand five
hundred feet. It is a continuation of the Sierra de los


Organos, or Organ Mountains, and approaches within
two miles of the river, where it drops off into spurs
of about two hundred feet in height. These hills or
spurs cross the Rio Grande, and unite with another
range eight or ten miles to the west. It is through
these spurs or lesser range of limestone hills that the
river has forced its way.

November 9th. In company with the officers of
the Boundary Commission, I attended to-day a public
dinner given to us by the civil authorities of El Paso.
The officers of the United States army, stationed opposite
the town, were among the guests, as well as the
principal citizens of the place. The dinner was served
up in true Mexican style, with a great variety of
dishes; and, with the exception of vegetables, of
which there is a great deficiency in the country, the
entertainment would have been creditable even in our
Atlantic cities. The wine drank on the occasion was
Champagne, claret, and vino del pais, or wine of the
country. The latter was an excellent article, the best
I ever found at El Paso. When the cloth was removed,
toasts were drunk, and some songs sung. The best
feeling existed throughout the evening, and the affair
terminated to the satisfaction of all present.

November 23d. Accompanied by Major Van Horne
and several gentlemen of the Commission, I went to
pay my respects to the Bishop of Durango, then on
his return from a visit to New Mexico. He was a
venerable man of about seventy years, with a countenance
exhibiting great benevolence and intelligence.
I found him affable and courteous in his manner, fond
of conversation, and manifesting a deep interest in the


welfare of his people in New Mexico and the northern
states of Old Mexico, all of which are comprised in
his diocese. From the city of Durango, where he
resides, he had been about fifteen hundred miles,
to the north, visiting his churches in the most extreme
points of New Mexico. He was accompanied by Dr.
Rubio, his secretary. In his journey north of El Paso,
when he entered the territories of the United States,
the Bishop received every attention from the civil
and military authorities, and was furnished with
escorts by the latter through such portions of the
country as could not be traversed in safety without.
His gratitude for this kindness was warmly expressed.
He made particular inquiries about the United States
Boundary Commission, the duties intrusted to it, the
character of the country it would have to explore, the
Indian tribes, etc., etc.

The next day we rode over to El Paso, to attend
mass, and hear a discourse from the Bishop. His congregation
was large and attentive. Crowds of well
dressed persons were assembled around the exterior
of the church, unable to gain admission. This was a
fine occasion to see the people, as there was a general
turn out. The women all wore dark rebosos, or scarfs,
around their heads and shoulders, and in general were
gaily dressed. The more genteel appeared in black.
Much attention is paid to costume, and the señoritas
fully appreciate the effect of particular colors on the
complexion; hence, one seldom sees in Mexico those
delicate lilacs, pinks, and sky-blues which are so much
worn by, and are so becoming to, the fair Anglo-Saxon.
Bright colors are mostly worn, which set off the


Mexican brunettes to great advantage. After church
we were invited by Don Guadalupe Miranda to partake
of refreshments at his house. Grapes, apples,
and pears were served up, together with El Paso wine.
The grapes were as fresh and plump as when gathered.
In the afternoon, the Bishop, Dr. Rubio, and Padre
Ortiz, accompanied by several of their friends, called
on me. I served up a collation of such things as my
commissariat could furnish; though the carte was
rather limited, as the train which contained our provisions
had not yet arrived.

November 25th. Crossed the river on horseback to
make some purchases in the town; and while there,
met a party of Pueblo Indians, who were just entering.
The men were chiefly dressed after the manner of the
lower class of Mexicans. They wore short jackets,
decorated with innumerable bell-buttons, and dark
pantaloons with similar buttons, open at the outside
from the hip to the ankle, with large white trowsers
beneath. The women all wore short black dresses,
reaching just below the knees, with a thin white muslin
mantle thrown over their shoulders. A bright red
silk shawl was tied around their waists, and they had
bunches or bows of gay ribbons in their hair. All
their faces were painted alike, with a spot of vermilion
on each cheek, surrounded by a border of small white
dots. The women held in each hand a large turkey
feather, which they moved up and down, keeping time
with their music. The men carried flint muskets, and
one of them a drum, on which he was beating constantly.
All joined in singing a monotonous tune, and,
when they reached the church, stopped and commenced


dancing. They formed lines similar to those made
for a contra dance by us, passing through a variety of
figures and marchings. From the perfect regularity
with which they went through these figures, they must
have followed some established forms. The Indians
belong to the old Piro tribe, and dwell in the same
village of Sinecu which their ancestors occupied two
centuries ago. They are now dwindled to about
eighty souls; and but few of these are pure stock.
Their language is retained by them, though less used
than the Spanish. Another generation will probably
extinguish the language; though the mixed race may
long occupy their present ground, and retain the
manners and customs of their forefathers.

November 28th. About 8 o'clock in the evening,
Captain Barry and Mr. C. J. Sheldon arrived from our
large train, which they left about two hundred miles
behind, having been sent in advance to procure mules
and forage. They had, like ourselves, experienced
very severe weather; and their animals were so much
reduced, that it had been feared they could not reach
the settlements. They also informed me that the wagons
and carts drawn by oxen, being unable to keep up
with the mule train, had been left behind some weeks
earlier, with all the provisions not necessary to bring
the party with the mule train in. I regretted exceedingly
to hear this news, as the military escort under
Colonel Craig was with Colonel McClellan and the mule
train, while the ox train, containing much valuable
property in addition to the provisions, was in charge
of only a wagon-master and a few men. Word was
sent me by the Commissary that it would be necessary


to procure at once some provisions, to be ready on the
arrival of the mule train; as the officer in command had
not taken enough to bring them through, and he had
been compelled to call upon Colonel Craig for a supply
already. By the gentleman alluded to, I received
a mail with important dispatches from the government,
apprising me that Colonel McClellan, the chief astronomer
of the Commission, was removed, and that Colonel
J. D. Graham would be appointed to fill his place.

I made arrangements at once, with the United
States Commissary of Subsistence at El Paso, to furnish
provisions for the expected party, which were placed
at San Eleazario, a town about twenty-five miles below,
where quarters could be procured for them during
the cold weather, or until they entered the field for
active duty. The flour being of a very fair quality
made at El Paso, I contracted for a supply, at ten and
a half cents a pound, about twenty dollars a barrel.
For corn, the Quarter-master was compelled to pay
six dollars and a half a fanega, or about two dollars and
a half a bushel.

December 1st. General Pedro Garcia Condé, with
the other officers of the Mexican Commission, reached
El Paso to-day.

December 2d. Received a note this morning from
General Condé, announcing his presence, and his readiness
to carry out the agreement entered into by the
Joint Commission in California, on the 15th February
last. I replied immediately, congratulating him on
his safe arrival, and stated that I would do myself the
honor of calling upon him at 12 o'clock.

At the appointed time I crossed the river, accompanied


by Major Van Horne, Lieutenant Wilkins, Dr.
Webb, Secretary of the Commission, and Mr. J. C.
Cremony, Interpreter. We met General Condé, with
his officers and engineers; also Colonel Langberg, a
Swedish officer in the Mexican army, who was then in
command of a body of troops just arrived from Chihuahua,
for the protection of the frontier against the
Indians. The interview was an agreeable one, the
engineers connected with the Mexican Commission
being gentlemen of education, and graduates of the
Military School at Chepultepec. The Interpreter was
Don Felipe de Iturbide, the younger son of the
late Emperor.

I expressed a desire to General Condé to proceed
to business as soon as possible, as we had a large
number of engineers and other scientific men in our
party, who were anxious to enter their field of labor.
The General acquiesced in my wishes, and said he
would meet me to-morrow at my quarters.

December 3d. General Condé, with his son Don
Augustin Condé, who acts as his Secretary, and Don
Felipe de Iturbide, called by appointment at 10 o'clock,
A. M., when the first meeting of the Joint Commission to
run and mark the boundary between the United States
and the Republic of Mexico, under the treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo, took place. Two hours and a half were
spent at this first session, when we adjourned to meet at
the quarters of General Condé the following day.

The meetings of the Joint Commission were held
twice a week after this, though there were interruptions
at times from the ice in the river, which prevented
parties from crossing. Great difficulties were presented,


in consequence of errors in the map to which
the Commissioners were strictly confined; so that I
feared we should not be able to agree upon the
southern boundary of New Mexico. This is a line
connecting the Rio del Norte with the Gila. According
to the treaty map (which is Disturnell's Map of
Mexico, of 1847), the point where the Rio Grande or
Del Norte, strikes the southern boundary of New
Mexico, is in latitude 32° 22′ north. Thence it runs
westward three degrees to 107° 40′ longitude west
from Greenwich.

On the 9th of December, the main body of the
Commission, which I left at San Antonio, reached San
Eleazario, and went into quarters at that place and at
Socorro, a town six miles north of it. It was impossible
to find quarters for all at either place. My official duties
required me at El Paso, where about a dozen officers
and laborers were quartered. Quarter-master Myer,
with the mules, wagons, etc., and Mr. George F.
Bartlett, Commissary, with the subsistence stores, were
established at Socorro, while Lieutenant A. W. Whipple,
who (by order of the Secretary of the Interior) had
been appointed Chief Astronomer, ad interim, had set
up his Astronomical Observatory at San Eleazario.
The officers, mechanics, laborers, etc., were divided
between the two places where their services were most

January 8th. There was quite an excitement
to-day, in consequence of a theft by the Indians of
forty mules belonging to Mr. Magoffin, while they
were grazing in charge of four men on the plateau,
three miles from my quarters (then at Mr. Magoffin's


house), and about the same distance from the military
post. A party of the Commission immediately volunteered
to go in pursuit. The best horses to be had
were procured as soon as possible; and each man,
taking a rifle, a six-shooter, and a blanket, was in the
saddle within two hours after the news of the robbery
reached us. They soon fell on the robbers' trail, which
they followed for some distance towards the Waco
Mountain, when it turned north-west. They continued
on until the trail struck the Santa Fé road, when they
gave up the pursuit and returned the next day.

January 9th. The ox train left behind by Colonel
McClellan arrived at San Eleazario to-day, having
suffered severe hardships on the route. It left San
Antonio, as I have before stated, with the main body
of the Commission, on the 14th of October, and had
therefore been nearly three months on the way. On
the 8th of December a sad event took place, which
resulted in the death of Mr. U. B. Wakeman, the
wagon-master in charge of the train. The circumstances
as related to me are as follows: With the train
there was a Captain Dobbins, formerly of the United
States Army, who had been cashiered for some misconduct.
This individual, being a personal friend of
Colonel McClellan, induced the latter to give him
employment as a kind of guide and hunter for his party;
to which arrangement, being unacquainted with the
man's history and character, I consented. On leaving
the ox train behind, the Colonel directed Dobbins to
remain with it. On the day alluded to, Mr. Wakeman
was occupied in hunting up the oxen, and did not
return till late at night, when he found some parties


gambling. He ordered it to be stopped, and Dobbins
refused to obey. High words arose, when Dobbins
rushed from his tent and discharged his revolver twice
at Mr. Wakeman, both balls taking effect. He died of
his wounds ten days after.

On the arrival of the train, Captain Dobbins surrendered
himself to the authorities, underwent an examination,
and was acquitted on the testimony of some of
the teamsters, who alleged that he had acted in self-defence.*

January 13th. Rode to Doña Ana, a small town
on the eastern branch of the Rio Grande, where we
have a military post, under the command of Major
Shepard. The distance, which is 56 miles, was made
between 9 o'clock, A. M., and 6 o'clock, P. M., in my
carriage, drawn by four mules. The only intermediate
town is Las Cruces, eight miles from Doña Ana.

As Colonel Craig was here with the escort of the
Commission, which he was about to march to the
Copper Mines on account of the advantages which he
believed that region offered as a camping-place, I
requested Dr. Webb, Mr. George Thurber, and Mr.
Cremony to avail themselves of the protection of the
escort, and examine that district of country, and the
old town there, as to their capabilities with reference
to water, wood, grass, buildings, etc. I transferred
my carriage to them, understanding that a good road


would be found most of the way. In addition to these,
a train of twenty large wagons, belonging to S. Hart,
Esq., loaded with corn and provisions for the escort, was
going at the same time, and would open a road wherever
it was necessary. On the 16th, I set out on my
return to El Paso, and arrived there the following day.

During my absence, the Indians made another
descent upon the inclosure near Mr. Magoffin's house
in which he kept his mules, and stole thirty. Several
men were sleeping in the wagons within the corral at
the same time; yet so quietly was the robbery committed,
that the loss was not discovered till morning.

When the Boundary Commission landed on the
shores of Texas in August, 1850, it was necessary to
employ about fifty teamsters, and many laborers, cooks,
etc.; and the Quarter-master, whose duty it was to
engage the former, was obliged to take such as offered
themselves, giving the preference, of course, to such as
could produce testimonials of good character. He
found many who had been in the government employ,
who had good testimonials; but there were others who
possessed no such credentials. Hence several men
who afterwards turned out to be worthless characters
obtained menial places in the Commission. On the
arrival of the several parties at El Paso and San Eleazario,
it was necessary to discharge a large number,
chiefly of the teamsters; and such as were found to be
of bad habits or vicious disposition were paid off and
discharged. There were also many very good men,
who, having families at San Antonio, engaged only for
the trip, and who, on being paid off, returned immediately
to that place.


Other trains which had preceded us, and some that
arrived about the same time that we did from New
Mexico, including emigrant trains bound for California,
were disbanded here, leaving numbers of the outcasts
of society referred to, with little means of support.
But means or money were not of much consequence to
these people: for their habits of gambling were such,
that those who had money soon got rid of it.

The discharging of so many worthless and vagabond
men at Socorro, where the trains usually made it their
rendezvous, threw upon the peaceful inhabitants of that
place a set of ruffians, who, by daily increase of
numbers, had become so formidable, that the life of no
one was considered safe beyond the walls of his own
house. And even within them, there was no security;
for several of these men had actually forced themselves
upon the occupants, and compelled them to give them
a home. Unused to such interlopers, and unable to
obtain redress, several Mexican families abandoned
their dwellings, and sought refuge on the opposite side
of the river, or removed to other settlements.

The first check given to this band of gamblers,
horse thieves, and murderers, was the arrival of the
United States Boundary Commission at Socorro. The
presence of a body of well armed, well disposed, and
spirited young men, tended to make these ruffians more
circumspect for a time; but as the former were gradually
drafted off, to enter upon the duties connected
with the Survey, the latter became more overbearing
and insolent in their conduct. Houses were opened for
the indulgence of every wicked passion; and each midnight
hour heralded new violent and often bloody scenes


for the fast filling record of crime. The peaceable
Mexicans hastened to pack their little store of worldly
wealth, and, with their wives and children, fled from
the rapidly depopulating village. Every new outrage
escaping the notice of those in authority gave additional
boldness to the desperate gang surrounding us.
None dared stir from home without being doubly
armed, and prepared to use their weapons at a
moment's warning; for the turning of a corner might
bring one to the muzzles of a dozen pistols.

After several murders had been committed, and
horror and dismay filled the breasts of the orderly
part of the community, it was resolved to ask for
assistance from the military post at San Eleazario,
six miles distant. A note was written by the Quartermaster
and the engineers, giving a history of what
had occurred, and representing the alarming condition
of things at the time. The messenger returned with
an answer from the commanding officer, declining to
furnish any assistance, on the ground that the application
should first be made to the civil authorities.*

In the evening, a dancing party was given in the
place, an almost nightly amusement in all Mexican and


frontier towns, which, as usual, was attended by quite
a mixed company. As these dancing parties, called
"fandangos," are open to all, the vagabonds prowling
about at the time were numerously represented on the
occasion referred to, and made themselves conspicuous
by their conduct. Pistols were fired over the
heads of the females, who, in their alarm, attempted to
escape from the room; but this was prevented by
ruffians stationed at the door. By this time there was
a great excitement within, and several desperadoes
commenced using their bowie-knives. Mr. Edward C.
Clarke, the Assistant Quarter-master of the Commission,
who was present on the occasion, was the first person
upon whom the ruffians attempted to satiate their
thirst for blood. Four attacked him with their knives,
and he fell near the door dreadfully wounded. He
was immediately taken to the quarters of Dr. Bigelow,
the surgeon of the Commission, who, on examination,
found he had received nine or ten deep wounds,
inflicted with bowie-knives, in his breast and abdomen.
Another man named Gates was also wounded
by a pistol-shot in the leg. Dr. Bigelow at once pronounced
the wounds of Mr. Clarke mortal, and he
died the following morning.

When the startling announcement was made, that
an officer of the Commission had been foully murdered
by the wretches whose lawlessness had before gone
too long unchecked, the question arose, what was to
be done? Aid from the military had been refused.
The alcalde of the village, a weak and sickly imbecile,
had transferred his authority to another even more
timid and less reliable than himself; yet this person


was invested with the powers of a justice of the peace,
by authority of a commission from the State of Texas,
and constituted the entire civil authority at Socorro.

In this alarming condition of affairs, the members
of the Boundary Commission present were compelled
to move in the matter, and resolve upon some plan to
protect not only their own lives and property, but
also those of the trembling and dismayed population
about them. Messengers were immediately sent to
San Eleazario, for assistance from the main body of the
Commission, there engaged in various duties. The
call was promptly responded to; and in about three
hours a party of Mexicans and Americans were collected
together. They hastily armed themselves, and,
joined by members of the Commission, proceeded at
once to Socorro, where many of the citizens were
already assembled awaiting them. The force was now
divided into several parties, and a systematic search
at once commenced to ferret out the murderers.
Every house was examined, and eight or nine persons
arrested; but a man named Young, who had been
most conspicuous in the affray, was not to be found,
having, it was said, escaped from the village in the
morning. The prisoners were immediately conducted
by an armed guard to the house of Justice Berthold,
where a court was instituted to suit the emergencies
of the case. Juries were summoned and sworn, a prosecuting
attorney named, and counsel for the defence
offered to the prisoners, which they declined, treating
the offer as a jest, and making vulgar and obscene
remarks upon their position. Nevertheless, an individual
tendered his services for the defence, and occasionally


cross-questioned the witnesses. The prisoners
were evidently under the impression that nothing
would be done, believing that, by the mutual understanding
between them, they could easily swear themselves
out of the difficulty. The examinations were
conducted with propriety, and the prisoners made to
keep silence by the resolute demeanor of the citizens

In selecting the jury, six were taken from the
Mexican citizens of Socorro, and six from the Boundary
Commission, as there were no other Americans
in the place. The presiding magistrate, Justice, Berthold,
was a highly respectable citizen, long resident
there, of French origin.

It is doubtful whether in the whole history of trial
by jury a more remarkable scene than the one here
presented was ever exhibited. The trial took place
in one of the adobe or mud-built houses peculiar to the
country, which was dimly lighted from a single small
window. Scarcely an individual was present who had
not the appearance and garb of men who spend their
lives on the frontier, far from civilization and its softening
influences. Surrounded as we had been, and now
were, by hostile Indians, and constantly mingling with
half civilized and renegade men, it was necessary to go
constantly armed. No one ventured half a mile from
home without first putting on his pistols; and many
carried them constantly about them, even when within
their own domicils. But, on the present occasion, circumstances
rendered it necessary for safety, as well as
for the purpose of warning the desperate gang who
were now about to have their deserts, that all should


be doubly armed. In the court room, therefore, where
one of the most solemn scenes of human experience
was enacting, all were armed save the prisoners.
There sat the judge, with a pistol lying on the table
before him; the clerks and attorneys wore revolvers
at their sides; and the jurors were either armed with
similar weapons, or carried with them the unerring
rifle. The members of the Commission and citizens,
who were either guarding the prisoners or protecting
the court, carried by their sides a revolver, a rifle, or
a fowling-piece, thus presenting a scene more characteristic
of feudal times than of the nineteenth century.
The fair but sunburnt complexion of the American
portion of the jury, with their weapons resting against
their shoulders, and pipes in their mouths, presented
a striking contrast to the swarthy features of the
Mexicans, muffled in checkered serapes, holding their
broad-brimmed glazed hats in their hands, and delicate
cigarritos in their lips. The reckless, unconcerned
appearance of the prisoners, whose unshaven faces and
dishevelled hair gave them the appearance of Italian
bandits rather than of Americans or Englishmen;
the grave and determined bearing of the bench; the
varied costume and expression of the spectators and
members of the Commission, clad in serapes, blankets,
or overcoats, with their different weapons, and generally
with long beards, made altogether one of the most
remarkable groups which ever graced a court room.

Two days were occupied in the examination and
trial: for one immediately followed the other. In the
mean time, a military guard of ten men had been
promptly sent to our aid by Major Van Home, the


commanding officer at El Paso, on my requisition: so
that the open threats which had been made by the
friends of the prisoners during the first day of the trial,
were no longer heard; for they now saw that the
strong arm of the law would triumph.

The second day, a member of the Commission who
manifested a deep interest in the prisoners, was requested
by one of them to act as his counsel; but his
efforts to prove an alibi, to impeach the testimony of
some of the witnesses, and to establish the previous good
character of the defendant, proved utterly futile. The
prisoners were then heard in their own defence; but
they could advance nothing beyond the mere assertion
of their innocence. At the close of the testimony, an
attempt was made by one of the friends of the prisoners
to postpone the trial, for the purpose, as he stated,
of obtaining counsel and evidence from El Paso. But
the court had been apprised of the existence of a plot
for attempting a rescue that night, and accordingly
the request was refused.

The evidence being closed, a few remarks were
now made by the prosecuting attorney, followed by
the charge of the Judge, when the case was given to
the Jury. In a short time they returned into court
with a verdict of guilty, against William Craig, Marcus
Butler, and John Wade; upon whom the Judge then
pronounced sentence of death.

The prisoners were now escorted to the little plaza
or open square in front of the village church; where
the priest met them, to give such consolation as his
holy office would afford. But their conduct, notwithstanding
the desire on the part of all to afford them


every comfort their position was susceptible of, continued
reckless and indifferent, even to the last moment.
Butler alone was affected. He wept bitterly, and
excited much sympathy by his youthful appearance,
being but 21 years of age. His companions begged
him "not to cry, as he could die but once!"

The sun was setting when they arrived at the place
of execution. The assembled spectators formed a
guard around a small alamo, or poplar tree, which had
been selected for the gallows. It was fast growing
dark, and the busy movements of a large number of
the associates of the condemned, dividing and collecting
again in small bodies at different points around
and outside of the party, and then approaching nearer
to the centre, proved that an attack was meditated, if
the slightest opportunity should be given. But the
sentence of the law was carried into effect.

The entire proceedings were intensely interesting,
and the scene of a character which none present desired
ever again to witness. The calm but determined
citizens on the one side, and the daring companions
of the condemned wretches on the other, remained
throughout keenly on the watch: the first for the
protection of life, and the support of good order in the
community, the other with the malicious eyes of disappointed
and infuriated demons, who, to rescue their
companions, would have been willing to sacrifice a
hundred additional lives.

All three of the criminals had been connected with
the Boundary Commission. Wade was an Englishman,
and had driven one of the teams in my small party.
He was found to be a desperate villain, and I took the


first opportunity to discharge him on my arrival at El
Paso. Craig was a cook in the main body of the Commission,
and a Scotchman by birth. Butler was an
American. He joined the train under Col. McClellan,
after it had left San Antonio, in some menial capacity,
and was discharged on arriving at Socorro. He was
accused of having murdered a Mexican near Eagle
Pass, and was fleeing when he met the train of the

Socorro now resumed its previous quiet and good
order; for the authorities had directed all persons who
were unconnected with the Commission, and were
without any employment, to leave the place within
twenty-four hours. This, however, was hardly necessary:
for the guilty and vagabond throng had already
begun to depart, and before the close of another day
all had left. But there was one other, and he the
principal actor in all the scenes I have related, who
was yet to be apprehended and made to pay the
penalty of his great crimes, before the demands of
justice were answered.

Four hundred dollars were subscribed by the
members of the Commission, and offered as a reward
for the apprehension of Alexander Young, the ringleader
of the gang of desperadoes, and his delivery at
Socorro. Volunteer parties set out in all directions,
tempted by the prospect of gaining the large sum
offered, and at length word was brought that he had
been arrested at Guadalupe. Thus another unpleasant
duty immediately presented itself; but it was impossible
to avoid it.

The prisoner arrived in the evening, and was placed


in confinement, well chained and guarded. During
the night, he was visited in jail. It was observed that
the careless, dogged look had left his eye, and was
replaced by a supplicating glance that told plainly of
a change within. He was anxious to know if either of
the three who had been executed had made a confession,
and said he had given up all hopes of life. Being
asked if he wished to write to any one, he answered
that he would like to have a letter written to his
mother, who had not heard from him for six years past.
The letter was written, and the prisoner appeared much
affected. He confessed the truth of the charges against
him, criminating clearly, and to a still greater extent,
the three who were hung first, besides many others.

At 10 o'clock the following morning, February
12th, the court again met, and a jury was empanelled.
At the opening of the court, a letter of the prisoner,
containing his confession, was read publicly, then
signed by himself, and witnessed by certain members
of the court and other individuals present.

With the testimony already before the court, the
jury could have brought in an immediate verdict: but
it was deemed advisable to present other evidence, to
show still further the unmistakable guilt of every one
who had been punished; especially as one or two
persons, who passed for honest and honorable men,
were interested in upholding the character of their
associates. The prisoner was found guilty, and sentenced
to be hanged. At 4 o'clock, P. M., of the same
day, he was taken to the church; where, with penitent
lips, and on bended knees, he made his final confession,
received the blessing of the priest, and from thence


was taken to the spot where he was to be executed.
His last request for himself was that he might be
buried as respectably as the circumstances of his case
would admit. While standing under the tree, with
the rope around his neck, he begged to be allowed
to say a few words to those around. He exhorted
those both younger and older than himself, to take
warning from his example. They could see what
gambling, swearing, drinking, and an ungovernable
temper, with evil associates, had brought him to. He
had run away from home at the age of fourteen,
and would never see that home again. With other
remarks of like character, he concluded. At half past
4 o'clock, P. M., the law was carried into effect, using
the same tree where the three others were executed.
Young was a native of one of the western States. He
had been several years on the Mexican frontier, and
was well known in Texas as a most desperate character.

The well-merited punishment of these four men
was highly applauded and justified by both the civil
and military authorities of the frontier. Such an
example had been needed for some time. The vicinity
was now rid of gangs of worthless desperadoes; and
as a Mexican citizen of the peaceable old town of
Socorro remarked, "We can now sit in the evening at
the doors of our houses, and not be obliged, as before,
to retire with the sunlight, fix bolts and bars, and
huddle into corners with fear and trembling."

February 22d. In return for the civilities extended
to me and the officers of the Commission by the authorities
of El Paso, I gave a dinner to the Mexican Commission
and the public authorities, which came off yesterday;


several officers of the United States army stationed
here were also among the guests. In the evening, I
invited the principal citizens of the town to a ball
and supper, and was honored by the attendance of
about fifty ladies. Mr. Magoffin, whose house, in
which I had my quarters, was the most spacious on the
river, threw the whole open for the occasion, giving
me thereby ample accommodations for the large party
which had assembled. But as the greater portion of
the company lived on the opposite bank of the river,
it was no easy matter to get them together. I therefore
sent my carriage, and others that were kindly
furnished me, for my guests; and as it was between
three and four miles from my quarters to El Paso,
including the fording of the Rio Grande, it was necessary
to begin fetching them at the unfashionable hour
of four o'clock in the afternoon. The river had to be
forded by daylight, in consequence of the frequent
changes in the channel and the bars.*

I was quite at a loss for furniture and fittings for
my entertainment. Chairs were borrowed of the


neighbors far and near; but even with these I had not
half seats enough for the company. This, however,
proved no great inconvenience; for the Mexican ladies,
preferring to sit à la Turk, formed a double row
around the dancing room. The señoras occupied the
trunks, chairs, and settees, and the señoritas the
carpet in front. My friends in the vicinity kindly
furnished me with tables, lamps, dishes, and such other
necessaries as the occasion required. To light the
large hall properly most tried my ingenuity; but this
difficulty was overcome by means of a new-fashioned
chandelier improvised by one of our gentlemen for
the occasion. Sockets for the candles were first
required; and these were constructed out of the tin
boxes in which sardines had been preserved. Next,
a hoop from a pork barrel was divested of its bark,
and wrapped around with binding of a bright scarlet
hue, which had been brought out to decorate the
heads of the fair Apaches and Comanches, as well as
the tails and manes of their animals. Into this hoop
or frame the tin sockets were fixed, and the whole
supported by several loops of the same elegant material
fastened to a common centre. Such was the style
and origin of our chandeliers, with their dozen burners
each; four of which, suspended from the ceiling, shed
such a ray of light upon the festal hall, as rendered
the charms of the fair señoritas doubly captivating.
The evening passed off pleasantly; and all
danger of crossing the river was obviated by the company
remaining till eight o'clock the following morning.
After treating all to a cup of coffee, the carriages and
other vehicles were ordered up, and the company
conducted safely to their homes.


March 8th. Major Shepard, commanding at Doña
Ana, gave me information to-day that seven soldiers
belonging to Colonel Craig's command, had deserted
from our escort at the Copper Mines, and wished me
to aid him in having them arrested and brought back.
With this view, I rode over immediately to the quarters
of General Condé, at El Paso, accompanied by
Major Van Horne, to ask his co-operation. The General
agreed to send a courier at once to the military
commandant at Chihuahua, three hundred and twenty
miles distant, requesting him to take such measures as
would lead to the capture and restoration of the
deserters, if they should be seen at any of the military
posts on the frontier.

March 28th. Made up a little party of nine persons,
besides a cook and servant, for an excursion to
the Sierra Waco, about thirty miles distant, the last
stopping place on our journey from San Antonio. It
was so interesting a spot, and our stop there was so
short, that I determined at the time to take an opportunity
to revisit it, in order to make a more thorough examination.
We left at eight o'clock, A. M., with my
carriage and one wagon for camp equipage, cooking
utensils, and provisions, all the gentlemen going on
horseback or on mules. After a very tedious ride over
a sandy road, we reached the tanks at four in the
afternoon, and encamped near a natural cavern in the
rocks, where we found excellent water. As this was
a favorite place of resort for the Apaches, we did
not feel safe until we had climbed the rocks which
overhung our place of encampment, and searched for
"Indian sign." We found many traces of visitors,


such as the marks of mules, on the very summit of the
rock, but none recent. A party had evidently been
there some time before us, which, for concealment,
had taken their animals to the top of the rock in preference
to leaving them below.

March 29th. The night had been cold, but to-day
it was quite warm. Rambled over the great rocky
mass to see what could be found of interest. Discovered
several pools or tanks of clear and beautiful water,
where it had collected from rains, or the melting of
snows. The formation here is granite in place, rising
from 100 to 150 feet above the surrounding plain, and
covered with huge boulders piled up in every imaginary
form. Along the sides and base these great
boulders also lie; whence the inference seems natural
that this rocky mass existed before the mountains in
the vicinity were heaved up, as there are no boulders
on the adjacent hills. As might be supposed in such
a heap of gigantic boulders, there are many cavern-like
recesses which seem to have been the abode of Indians.
In many places, too, the rock projects or overhangs;
and in others frightful chasms, as though rent asunder
by some violent concussion, appear: all of which seem
to have been known to the Indians, and in some instances
long used by them as places of habitation. At
one portion of the southern mass, nearly half a mile
from the road, there is an overhanging rock extending
for some distance, the whole surface of which is covered
with rude paintings and sculptures, representing men,
animals, birds, snakes, and fantastic figures. The
colors used are black, red, white, and a brownish
yellow. The sculptures are mere peckings with a


sharp instrument, just below the surface of the rock.
On the shelving portion of the place in question are
several circular holes in the solid granite from twelve
to fifteen inches deep, which the Indians have made
and used as mortars for pounding their corn in; similar
ones being found all over the country where the aborigines
have had their habitations. There were other
places where they had sharpened or ground down their
arrows and spears. The accompanying engravings
show the character of the figures, and the taste of the
designers. Hundreds of similar ones are painted on
the rocks at this place; some of them, evidently of great

[Figure] Indian Paintings on Rocks, Waco Mountains ,Texas

age, had been partly defaced to make room for more
recent devices.
The overhanging rock beneath which we encamped
seemed to have been a favorite place of resort for the
Indians, as it is at the present day for all passing travellers.
The recess formed by this rock is about fifteen


feet in length, by ten in width. Its entire surface is
covered with paintings, one laid on over the other; so
that it is difficult to make out those which belong to

[Figure] Indian Paintings on Rocks, Waco Mountains ,Texas

the aborigines. I copied a portion of these figures,
about which there can be no doubt as to the origin.
They represent Indians with shields and bows, painted

[Figure] Indian Paintings on Rocks, Waco Mountains ,Texas

with a brownish earth; horses with their riders;
uncouth looking animals; and a huge rattlesnake.
Similar devices cover the rock in every part, but are
much defaced. Over these are figures of late travellers


and emigrants; who have taken this means to
immortalize their names, and let posterity know that
they were on their way to California. Near this overhanging
rock is the largest and finest tank or pool of
water to be found about here. It is only reached by
clambering on the hands and knees fifteen or twenty

[Figure] Indian Paintings on Rocks, Waco Mountains ,Texas

feet up a steep rock. Over it projects a gigantic
boulder, which, resting on or wedged between other
rocks, leaves a space of about four feet above the surface
of the water. On the under side of this boulder
are fantastic designs in red paint, which could only

[Figure] Indian Paintings on Rocks, Waco Mountains ,Texas

have been made by persons lying on their backs in
this cool and sheltered spot. One of these, a singular


geometric figure, I copied while resting in the same
position secluded from the burning sun.

In a deep cleft in the rock, on the south side of the
road which we followed for one hundred and fifty feet
into the interior, were many bones of wild beasts.
Near this the hills expand, forming an amphitheatre,
which is celebrated from its being the place where the
Apaches used formerly to hold their councils, and the
scene of a contest between them and the Mexicans.
The Indians had been committing some depredations
and murders in the settlements, and, being pursued,
were traced to the Waco Mountains. A party set off
from El Paso, and surprised them in the narrow space
or amphitheatre alluded to. The besieged retreated
as far as possible; and finding no chance to escape,
they built a wall across the entrance, which is about
one hundred feet from one perpendicular mass of rock
to the other. Here they were kept several days, when
they were finally overcome, and all, to the number of
a hundred and fifty, put to death.

In the afternoon we walked about two miles to the
centre of the plain, which is bounded on the west by
the great Waco Mountain, to some singular piles of
rocks, which attracted our attention when passing
through here in November, but were too far off the
road for us to examine them at the time. At the
distance of half a mile, they appear like the ruined
walls of some great edifice; and when first discovered,
all exclaimed, "Ruins!" On reaching them, we found
them to be upheaved masses of reddish granite,
blackened by the weather, so as to present, in their
detached position in the plain, a strong resemblance


to ruined buildings. There were three groups of these
singular rocks, a few rods apart, entirely disconnected,
yet of the same general character. Their sides were
perpendicular, like walls; their height about sixty feet.
In the crevices at their base, and on their summits,
grew a few bushes, which added to their picturesque
appearance. But the most singular feature about them
was, that many portions of their exterior surface were
as smooth and as highly polished as though they had
been submitted to some artificial process. It was
probably the effect of exposure for ages to the weather.
A similar appearance was observed at Thorne's Wells, in
the Cornudos del Alamo, described on our journey from
San Antonio. I took a sketch of these curious rocks,
which will convey a better idea of their appearance.

March 30th. Accompanied by a party of six, well
armed and mounted on horses and mules, I left camp
early in the morning to visit the great Waco Mountain.
The mountain was about five miles distant, and the
route lay through the very pass which we traversed
on a former occasion. Stopped at the place where
we let the carriage down by ropes, of which I
took a sketch. It was one of the most grand and picturesque
scenes I had witnessed on our journey up.
There was much more vegetation here now, and Mr.
Thurber made many additions to his collection of
plants. It is in the beds of these mountain torrents or
ravines, that the flora presents the greatest variety.
Although the plants found here are adapted by their
nature to these parched and desert regions, they nevertheless
appear to seek the more secluded spots,
which afford them a little protection from the scorching


sun. Very few birds were descried. On reaching the
great plain east of the mountain, we found several
flocks of quails, of a different kind from those seen
near the Rio Grande. These latter were all gray, like
the northern quail; while those on the opposite side of
the mountain are the blue or California quail, with a
top-knot on its head. Got a few as specimens. As
there was time enough to ascend to the top of the
mountain, which is accessible from the east, we went
around and struck the road which passes on the
opposite side. This is the route taken by wagons. It
is four or five miles longer; and although very hilly
and tortuous, the narrow defile and perpendicular
descent of the opposite route is avoided. Yet I would
prefer the latter, even for loaded wagons, if the rock
at the place referred to was cut away, a labor easily
accomplished. After making a circuit of the mountain,
and collecting some specimens of insects, reptiles, and
plants, we reached our camp under the rock at 4
o'clock, P. M., well pleased with our little jaunt. The
following day we returned to El Paso.

This was the only excursion I made from El Paso
during the winter I was detained there, except visits
on business to Doña Ana, Socorro, and San Eleazario.
The Commission was as actively occupied as circumstances
would permit. Lieutenant Whipple established
an astronomical observatory at San Eleazario in December,
and in February at Frontera, a rancho belonging
to Mr. White, on the banks of the river, about eight
miles above El Paso. This was intended for the permanent
astronomical observatory and station, until the
completion of the survey on this portion of the line.


As soon as the initial point of the boundary line,
where the Rio Grande intersects the southern boundary
of New Mexico, had been agreed upon by the Joint
Commission, Lieutenant Whipple entered upon his
duties as Chief Astronomer, to determine the position
of the point on the Earth's surface, taking with him
such assistants from the engineers and surveyors, etc.,
as he required. A second party, first under J. H.
Prioleau, Esq., and subsequently under Thomas Thompson,
Esq., entered the field in January, 1851, and
commenced the survey of the Rio Grande at San
Eleazario, which they continued up to the initial point
at 32° 22' north latitude. I also set a small party at
work to make a survey of the town of El Paso and
district adjacent, including the mountains, the pass,
etc., embraced in a circuit of ten miles. These were
all the parties I could place upon the survey, until the
arrival of the chief astronomer, Brevet Lieutenant
Colonel J. D. Graham, who had been appointed to that
place in October last, but had not yet arrived. Consequently
a large number of the engineers, with their
assistants, could not be occupied; and this I greatly
regretted, as the best season for field operations was
now passing away.

I had given employment, for a few weeks, to John
Bull, Esq., one of the first assistant engineers, with his
party, in making a reconnoissance of the country
between the Rio Grande and the Gila, via the Copper
Mines of New Mexico, a district over part of which
the boundary would run. Mr. Bull explored a new
and more direct route from Doña Ana to the Copper
Mines than that usually travelled; and examined the


country between them and the Gila, as well as that
between them and the Mexican frontier post of Janos,
about one hundred and fifty miles to the south, in the
State of Chihuahua.

As it was necessary, in carrying the survey westward,
to establish depots of provisions at accessible
points, I sent Dr. Webb to the Copper Mines, as I have
before stated, to see what its advantages were, with a
view, too, of making it the head-quarters of the Commission
during the progress of the survey in that
quarter. After an absence of three weeks, that gentleman
returned and made so favorable a report, that I
instructed Quarter-master Myer to remove thither with
the wagons, mules, camp equipage, etc., not needed
by the parties in the field. I also instructed Mr.
Henry Jacobs, acting Commissary, to deposit there at
the same time all the subsistence and other stores in
his department. I annex a brief extract from Dr.
Webb's report:—

"The result at which I have arrived is, that the
Copper Mines are preferable to any other spot in this
section for the establishment of a depot of provisions
and other stores, and for the location of the headquarters
of the Boundary Commission; being nearer
the region which must be the field of labor the ensuing
season; and as both property and person will be as
secure and free from predatory attacks there as they
can be elsewhere, provided a suitable military guard
is furnished for their protection.

The essentials of a good situation for the purposes
had in contemplation present themselves at Santa
Rita (the proper name of the copper mine region), in


greater number than can be found combined in any
other spot within proper limits, of which we have cognizance.
We find there a fine, airy, salubrious spot
for dwellings, with some adobe houses (abandoned
at the breaking up of the settlement on a threatened
excursion of the Indians, in the fall of 1838), which,
with little labor can be made tenantable; good timber,
within a few miles, for building and other purposes,
as also limestone and other useful materials for
similar objects; a great plenty of wood near at hand
for fuel; abundance of excellent grass for the animals,
which will materially lessen the expense now necessarily
incurred by furnishing them with grain; and a
running stream, affording a supply of pure, fresh water,
so essential to the comfort of both man and beast.
The garrison, or fortress, that was erected for the protection
of the former inhabitants of this place, is of
ample dimensions to accommodate all the troops that
will probably at any one time be stationed there, and
can, without much difficulty, be put in good condition
for the purpose; indeed, Colonel Craig is now actively
engaged in directing its reparation.

In addition, though secondary to these, I would
observe, that the soil is good for agricultural and horticultural
purposes; as is indicated by the remaining
vestiges, of the garden plats once cultivated, as well as
by the rank, luxuriant growth of the peach-trees, still
in bearing condition: and it is said that wild game,
bears, deer, turkeys, etc., abound in the vicinity.

The botanist, there is every reason for supposing,
will, in that quarter, find a large and almost unexplored
field, a suitable examination of which will


undoubtedly amply repay him for all the time and
labor devoted to its examination; and the collection
of specimens I made, even on this flying trip, convinces
me that, by proper explorations and well
directed research, a geologist might make discoveries,
and with the industry and perseverance that a true
love of the science will inspire, might make collections,
both geological and mineralogical, that will
prove of interest at home and abroad, and be of permanent
value to the country.

In conclusion, I would suggest, if the decision be
to remove to the Copper Mines, it is important to have
the provisions, etc., sent forward with as little delay
as possible, inasmuch as it will be necessary to cross
the Rio del Norte at San Diego; and this stream is liable
to be so greatly and so suddenly swollen in the
spring, that a very little delay might render it extremely
difficult and dangerous, if not impracticable,
to ford it with the teams, and thus make it necessary
to build boats for the transportation of the property
to the opposite side of the stream."

I remained at El Paso until the 19th of April,
unable to place any other parties on the line, greatly
to the injury of the Commission and the interests of
the Government. The whole astronomical force in
the Commission was with the acting chief astronomer,
Lieutenant Whipple; and I did not feel justified in
sending parties to make the survey of either the Rio
Grande, towards its mouth, or the Gila, until the chief
astronomer, Colonel Graham, should arrive, with the
other officers of the topographical corps, which had
been detailed for duty on the Commission. Six


months had now elapsed since his appointment, and I
had received no letters to explain the cause of this

The astronomers of the two Commissions having
determined the position of the initial point on the Rio
Grande, as before stated, I departed for the place on
the 19th of April, for the purpose of signing the documents
necessary to establish that point, and of attending
to such ceremonies as the importance of the event
seemed to demand; after which I intended to proceed
at once to the new head-quarters of the Commission,
at Santa Rita del Cobre, or the Copper Mines.


Early colonization of Mexico—Position of El Paso—Mode of irrigation—Agricultural
productions—Vegetables—Fruits—Extensive culture of the
grape—Wine—Brandy—The Rio Grande—Deficiency of water—Uncertainty
of crops—Houses—How built—Oriental style preserved—Primitive
mode of life—Flour mills—Degeneracy of people—Dress—Settlement
on the American side—Coon's Rancho—Magoffinsville—Socorro
—San Eleazario—Mountain chains—Plants—Current and sinuosity of
the Rio Grande.

IN a work like the present, which professes to be a
"personal narrative," it can hardly be expected that
much space should be devoted to an historical or geographical
description of the countries visited. Such
digressions are important only as illustrations of the
narrative, and must necessarily be limited. It was my
intention to devote a chapter to these subjects, so far
as they relate to New Mexico; but after looking over
my materials, I find them so ample respecting the
discovery and colonization of this country and the
almost unexplored region between it and California,
that the subject would fill half a volume if I gave it
the attention it really deserved. There is no portion
of the early history of this continent, whether it be that


of the first establishment of the pilgrims in New England,
the labors of the zealous Catholics in Canada, or
the planting of the colonies in Virginia, that can vie
with the extraordinary adventures and sufferings of
the pioneers who first traversed the broad prairies and
deserts of the central portions of our continent. Long
before the consecration of Plymouth Rock, the religion
of Christ had been made known to the Indians of
New Mexico; the country of the buffalo was visited;
the Rocky Mountains were scaled; and the Gila and
Colorado Rivers, which in our day are attracting so
much interest as novelties, were passed again and
again by the persevering and energetic Spaniard.
The broad continent, too, to cross which, with all the
advantages we possess, requires a whole season, was
traversed from ocean to ocean before Raleigh, or Smith,
or the Pilgrim Fathers had touched our shores. The
topic is too prolific to be crowded into a journal of
travels; and requires much study, and a careful examination
of the numerous Spanish manuscripts and early
books in which the remarkable adventures alluded to
are related.

The geography of New Mexico, and of the other
countries visited by the Boundary Commission, is also
a subject of deep interest, and requires more space
than can possibly be given to it at this time. I shall
therefore say no more than is necessary to make the
reader familiar with the prominent features of the particular
region over which he follows us, and of the
towns and villages through which we pass. With
this understanding, I shall give a brief account of El
Paso, and the adjacent district.


The town of El Paso del Norte is situated on the
western bank of the Rio Grande, otherwise known as
the Rio Bravo del Norte, in the north-eastern corner
of the State of Chihuahua. It is compactly built for
the space of half a mile near the plaza; and from there it
extends from five to ten miles along the rich bottom
lands of the river, each house being surrounded by
orchards, vineyards, and cultivated fields. The valley
or bottom land is here from one to two miles in width.
There were regular missionaries here before the year
1600, who traced the valley far to the north; the precise
date of their permanent establishment is not
known, though I think it may with some certainty be
placed in 1585. At the time of the advent of the
Spaniards, the Piro Indians, who occupied the valley
extending as far north as Taos, had a village called
Sinecu, which still exists within the space now allotted
to the town; and it is quite probable that from
a missionary establishment here, arose the present
town of El Paso. Its name is not owing to its being
the pass of the river; for that is fordable at all points,
by levelling its muddy banks, except where its current
is deepened by being contracted within a very narrow
space. Between two and three miles above the plaza,
where the river forces its way through the mountains,
there is a dam, the object of which is to raise the water
and divert it into the acequias, or irrigating canals,
which conduct it through the bottom lands on both
sides of the river. The principal of these canals, called
the acequia madre, is about fifteen feet wide; from it
smaller ones branch off in every direction.

As may readily be supposed, with a rich alluvial


soil, and water at command, the productiveness of
this valley is great. The chief cereals cultivated are
wheat and maize. Oats were first planted the season
I was here, and the experiment was highly successful;
the yield being greater than east of the Mississippi.
Potatoes do not succeed in the El Paso valley. Many
attempts have been made to naturalize them by early
and late planting, as well as varying the quality of
water; but all have proved unavailing. It is true I
have seen very good potatoes raised farther north, in
the vicinity of Santa Fé; but the failures have been so
numerous that they cannot be said to succeed. Onions
and pumpkins are raised to a great extent, the former
yielding enormously. Other vegetables are but little
cultivated; which I think is more owing to the want of
attention than to any fault of the soil or climate. The
fruits are grapes, apples, pears, quinces, peaches, and
apricots. The quinces are quite equal to our own;
but the peaches lack the delicious flavor of the northern
fruit, and the apples and pears are decidedly
inferior. The grape is the most extensively cultivated
of all fruits. It resembles the Hamburgh grape,
though not quite as large, and is said to have been
brought from Spain. There are both white and purple
varieties. Large vineyards of this delicious fruit
are seen within the town and the district adjacent to
El Paso. The vine is never staked or trailed. It is
trimmed close in the fall; and in the spring it throws
out its shoots from the very stump, near which hangs
the fruit. Each vine is kept separate, and the earth
around freed from weeds. Careful cultivators cover
the vines during the winter with straw. With the


first opening of spring the vineyards are irrigated, or
rather inundated; for the water is suffered to flow
over them, and there to remain until the ground is
thoroughly saturated. This is generally all the water
they get. In July, the grapes come to maturity, and
last full three months. As may be supposed from the
abundance of this fruit, it is exceedingly cheap, and
forms a large portion of the food of the inhabitants
during the season.

In order to extract the juice of the grapes, they
are thrown into large vats, and trodden by the naked
feet of men; after which they are put into bags or
sacks of raw ox-hide and pressed. The wine of El
Paso enjoys a higher reputation in certain parts of the
United States than it deserves. I have drank little
that was above mediocrity; and it served me as it
does most others who are not used to it, causing a
severe headache. But I have no doubt that with proper
attention a superior quality of wine may be produced
here; and such is the opinion of those familiar
with grape countries, who have tasted the El Paso
wine. Brandy, or aguardiente, is also made from the
grape. It is of a light color, and is known in New Mexico
as "Pass Whiskey." Both the wine and brandy
are transported to various parts of New Mexico and
Chihuahua; and some even finds its way to Durango.

The Rio Grande valley near El Paso, and generally
in other places, is thickly timbered with cotton-wood.
The trees sometimes grow to a large size. Mezquit is
found on the borders between the plateau and the valley;
on the plateau itself it appears in a shrubby state.
Cotton-wood and the roots of the mezquit constitute
the fuel of the country.


The river near the town varies in width from 300
to 600 feet. It is muddy and sluggish except during
freshets. In no place, between its source above Santa
Fé and its mouth, is it spanned by a single bridge. It
is easily forded at El Paso, and probably for two thirds
its length, the greatest depth of the water where it is
crossed being only from two to three feet. Still, there
are places, even near El Paso, where it is much deeper.
The ford changes more or less every season. In some
places there are quicksands; in which wagons sink so
deep, that they are extricated with the greatest difficulty,
and are sometimes lost. The freshets that take
place are owing to the melting of the snows in the
Rocky Mountains. These are not of yearly occurrence;
for during the summers of 1851 and '52, there
were none. The river not only did not swell or overflow
its banks, but in the former year it became quite
dry near El Paso, all the water being transferred to
the acequias.

A mistaken idea prevails in regard to the great
advantage of artificial irrigation over that of natural
rains. It is true that where the cultivator can depend
upon an ample supply of water at all seasons in the
irrigating canals, he possesses an advantage over him
who relies exclusively on nature. But the misfortune
is, that when water is most needed, the supply is the
scantiest. In February and March there is always
enough for the first irrigation. In April and May the
quantity is much diminished; and if the rise, expected
to take place the middle of May, fails, there is not
enough to irrigate properly all the fields prepared for
it. The consequence is, a partial failure of the crop.


In 1851 many large tracts of land near El Paso, which
were planted in the spring, and through which irrigating
canals were dug at a great cost, produced nothing;
and I was told by a gentleman at San Eleazario,
twenty-five miles below El Paso, that the summer of
1852 was the first one in five years when there had
been sufficient to irrigate all the lands of that vicinity
which had been put under cultivation. The value of
lands dependent on artificial irrigation is much lessened
when this fact is known.

Much has been said of the great value of the Mesilla
valley on the Mexican bank, some thirty or forty
miles above El Paso. We have a similar valley on our
side of the Rio Grande, as well situated and equally
productive. We have besides more than two thousand
miles of this river bottom, between the source of the
Rio Grande and its mouth. Where the hills and
mountains approach close to the stream, there is of
course little or no bottom land; while at other places,
it varies from a hundred yards to four miles in width.
But of this fertile land not one tenth part can ever be
regularly and successfully cultivated, owing to the uncertainty
of the supply of water. The Rio Grande receives
no tributary for more than four hundred miles,
reckoning above and below El Paso; and if there
is now found to be not water enough even for the
limited district near that town, what is to be done
with the vast tract along the river below in a time of

The houses at El Paso are all of one story, and
built of adobe, i. e. the mud of the valley formed into
bricks from twelve to eighteen inches long, and four


inches thick, and baked in the sun. This material,
with slight repairs, will endure for centuries. Sometimes
chopped straw and gravel are mixed with it,
which greatly improves its quality. The houses of the
better classes are large, and built in the form of a hollow
square. The walls are from two to three feet in thickness,
and have but few openings. When plastered
and whitewashed they look very neat, and make comfortable
dwellings. All the floors are laid with mud,
concrete, or brick. Such a thing as a wooden floor is
unknown in the country. This mode of building, as
well as the material, is precisely that adopted by the

[Figure] Church and Plaza, El Paso.

ancient Assyrians, and practised at the present day on
the banks of the Euphrates and the Nile. From the


East the style was introduced into Spain by the Moors,
and by the Spaniards was taken to Mexico. Moorish
capitals and ornaments are still visible both in the fine
dwelling and the humble cottage in northern Mexico.
There is a venerable looking church here, constructed
of adobe, which the cura, Ramon Ortiz, informed me
had been built more than two hundred years.

Window glass is not used here. The ordinary
dwellings of the poorer class have no windows. The
larger ones are entered by a large gateway, and have
a few barred openings on the street. The other three
sides present externally an unbroken and prison-like
appearance. To all other parts of the house the light
is admitted through windows or doors opening on
the inner area. As the period is short during which
the weather requires the houses to be closed, the occupants
make them sufficiently warm by covering the
opening with muslin or white cotton. Fires are but
little used, except for cooking; and although it is cold
enough at times, the people manage to get along
somehow through the winter without them.

Until the advent of the Americans after the Texan
annexation and the Mexican war, the Paseños were a
most primitive people. There was no town of any note
nearer than Chihuahua, in Mexico, three hundred miles
distant, and San Antonio, on the eastern side, six
hundred and seventy miles off. Hence they saw few
strangers, and enjoyed few of the luxuries of their
civilized brethren. A metate stone on which to grind
their corn and wheat, and a few articles of coarse
pottery, constituted the utensils of the poorer classes
for eating, drinking, and cooking. At present they


obtain every thing that can be transported thither
by wagons, though, of course, at a greatly enhanced
cost. The price of labor too has doubled, and in
some cases quadrupled. Day laborers (Mexican)
receive five reals (sixty-two and a half cents), and find
themselves. Mechanics, who are chiefly Americans,
command very high wages. Carpenters and blacksmiths
earn three dollars a day, and when they take
jobs, much more. Corn (maize), in the winter of
1850–′51, brought from seven to eight dollars a fanega
of two bushels and five eighths, although the following
year it fell to five dollars.

There are now two flour mills at the falls near El
Paso; one on the Mexican side, belonging to Ponce de
Leon, and one on the American side, belonging to
Mr. E. Hart. The latter is a fine establishment, and
now supplies the United States troops here with
flour. In 1850–51 flour was selling here from ten to
twelve and a half cents per pound.

There are a few respectable old Spanish families at
El Paso, who possess much intelligence, as well as that
elegance and dignity of manner which characterized
their ancestors. Among these may be found many
names which are illustrious in Spanish history and
literature. But there is no great middle class, as in
the United States and England. A vast gulf intervenes
between these Castilians and the masses, who
are a mixed breed, possessing none of the virtues of
their European ancestors, but all their vices, with those
of the aborigines superadded. The Indian physiognomy
is indelibly stamped upon them; and it requires
little sagacity to discriminate between the pure and


the mixed race. The latter are generally very dark,
though some are seen of fairer complexion.

The upper class dress as we do. Among the
inferior classes, the men wear a short jacket with
large white cotton drawers, over which are drawn pantaloons,
open at the outer side, from the hip down.
Along this are rows of gilt buttons and other ornaments.
Around the waist a red silk sash is generally
worn. The whole is covered with a serape or blanket
in cold weather. All the women wear the reboso—a
scarf thrown over the head and around the shoulders:
it is made of silk or cotton, and costs from one to
thirty dollars. The most respectable ladies generally
appear in the street in black, but at evening parties
the richest and most gaudy articles are worn.
Smoking is indulged in by all classes, and by both
sexes. It is not considered proper, however, for
young gentlemen or ladies to smoke before their
parents. I noticed the same respect shown by all
at an entertainment when the Bishop of Durango
was present. After dinner cigars were brought in.
Every gentleman helped himself, and retired to
another room to smoke, leaving his reverence and
myself alone.

El Paso, on the Mexican side of the river, which I
have been describing, contains about five thousand
inhabitants; but the number would be much increased
by including the many ranchos and haciendas below
the town, which properly appertain to it. On the
American side there are but few houses; and these
may be divided into three groups or settlements. The
first is Coons' Rancho. This was the first settlement, and


was the military post for about three years, under the
command of Major Van Home. Many of the buildings
are now unoccupied.

About one and a half miles below is the principal
village, which was established by James W. Magoffin,
Esq., a gentleman from Missouri, and one of the oldest
American settlers in the country. This place is called
Magoffinsville, and was the head-quarters of the Boundary
Commission while in the country. Its enterprising
proprietor has erected around a large open square
some of the best buildings in the country, which are
now occupied as stores and warehouses. This is an
admirable situation for a town, and will, no doubt, be
the centre of the American settlements at El Paso.*
An acequia now runs through the square, and the land
around is of the finest quality. A mile further east is a
large rancho belonging to Mr. Stevenson, around which
is a cluster of smaller dwellings.

About ten miles below El Paso is an island some
twenty miles in length; it is one of the most fertile
spots in the whole valley, and has been cultivated
since the first settlement of the country. On this
island, which belongs to the United States, are the towns
of Isleta, Socorro, and San Eleazario, chiefly inhabited
by Mexicans. Of these San Eleazario, is the larger, and
was the old Presidio or military post on the frontier.
It contains many respectable Spanish families, and some
few Americans. It is now the seat of the county


courts. The church and presidio are in a ruined state;
they were, nevertheless, occupied by our troops for a
couple of years after the Mexican war.

[Figure] Presidio of San Eleazario.

North of the town, after leaving Mr. Hart's mill
and rancho, which are near the dam, the first building is
White's Rancho or Frontera, eight miles above. There
is no valley or bottom land in all this distance, as the
mountain chain here crosses the river. Frontera was
used as an astronomical observatory by the Commission
during its operations in this district. Soon after
we gave it up it was destroyed by the Apaches. It
has nothing as a position to recommend it. Above
this point the valley remains in its natural state.
Some lands were ploughed and sown in 1851; but the


water failed, and with it the crops. At Fort Fillmore,
about forty miles above El Paso, is the next settlement.
Between this and Frontera there is a broad
alluvial bottom of great richness, unsurpassed by the
Mesilla valley opposite, or any portion of the valley
of the Rio Grande.

The mountain chain through which the river has
here worked a passage, is but a spur of a higher
range, which, about two miles east of the river, rises
to the height of 1,500 feet. This range extends in a
northerly direction, but is not continuous. About
twenty miles to the north, it gradually drops off,
leaving a passage of several miles, when it again rises
to a greater height, into the Sierra de los Organos, or
Organ Mountains, so named from their numerous pinacles,
which, at a distance, resemble the pipes of an
organ. Both the Spaniards and the aborigines display
a much better taste in the appellations given by
them to mountains, and other objects of natural
scenery, than is usually exhibited by our people.
Their names are significant of the appearance which
the mountain assumes, while ours are christened after
some military officer or politician, who may have
made a little noise in his day, but may have never
been near the locality which bears his name. The
portion near El Paso is without timber; but the
Organ range, which abounds in deep gorges and
ravines, is covered with heavy pine forests to its very
summit. The valleys, too, and the rounded hills,
which are composed of the debris, present many
groves of oaks. On the opposite side of the river,
arising from the spurs or lesser chain, which connect


it with the range on the eastern side, is another elevated
chain, much broken and very rugged. This is
without timber and quite barren.

Cactaceous plants abound on these mountain sides,
and on the spurs leading from them. The yucca,
Spanish bayonet, mezquit, larrea, and the various
plants peculiar to desert regions, and the great plateau
are found here. The lower spurs and intervening
valleys are, in many places, covered with grama grass.
The bottom lands are not grassy, as many suppose, but
are entirely bare, save in isolated spots; hence it
is necessary to drive mules and cattle to these hills
and valleys to feed. There are, however, some portions
of the higher valley above Frontera where grazing
is to be found.

The height of the valley at El Paso was found
to be 3,800 feet above the level of the sea. At
Doña Ana, sixty miles above, on the river bottom,
4,060 feet. At Albuquerque, about two hundred and
fifty miles above El Paso, Dr. Wislizenus found the
elevation to be about one thousand feet higher; and
supposing the circuitous course of the river through
this distance to amount to four hundred miles, the fall
of its water would be on an average two and a half
feet per mile. But the sinuosities bear a greater proportion
than this to the distance; for, in a direct line
of about thirty miles from El Paso to the initial point,
surveyed by Mr. Radziminski, Principal Assistant Surveyor
of the Commission, the river was found to
measure a fraction less than ninety miles.


Observations on the Rio Grande, from El Paso to Doña Ana—Establishment
of the Initial Point, and ceremonies connected therewith—
Description of Doña Ana—Mesilla—Route to Santa Barbara—Visit to
ruins—Mirage—Route to the River Mimbres—Luxuriant vegetation on
its banks—"Giant of the Mimbres"—Ojo Caliente—A broken arm—
Arrival at the Copper Mines—Description and history of the Mines—
Value of the timber in the vicinity—Abundance of game—Scarcity of
vegetables—Visit to Sonora projected.

April 19, 1851. The members of the Commission not
on duty, the Quarter-master and the Commissary, with
all that appertained to their departments, had already
taken their departure and established themselves at
the Copper Mines. Having made my arrangements to
move this morning, I took leave of my friends with
many regrets. I had now been at El Paso five months,
and departed with the intention of reaching the shores
of the Pacific before my return. A wild and barren
region lay before us, destitute of inhabitants save hostile
bands of Indians which roamed over the deserts or
hid themselves in the fastnesses of the mountains; where
water was exceedingly scarce, where there was but little
sustenance for our animals, and where we could
expect no assistance in case our provisions fell short.


Yet, with these prospects before us, I had every reason
to believe, if the officers we were waiting for should
soon present themselves, that by letting the surveying
parties at once take the field in various sections of the
work, we should be able to complete the survey of the
line which constitutes the southern boundary of New
Mexico, as well as of the River Gila to its junction
with the Colorado, and return to El Paso before winter
set in.

Our first stop was for an hour or two, at the astronomical
observatory at Frontera; soon after leaving
which, one of my mules was attacked with colic,
probably from eating green grass. This delayed us
for some time. Various inward remedies were resorted
to, without apparent effect, when the poor creature
was rolled and pounded by the merciless teamsters,
until I thought there was no life in him; nevertheless,
this rude treatment seemed to answer: for at length
we were enabled to drive him along. We continued
our journey, and encamped in the Alamos, or cotton
woods, twenty-eight miles from El Paso. After leaving
that town, the road winds over a wild, rugged, and
hilly country, for nearly eight miles. These hills are
the spurs of the mountain ranges, through which the
Rio Grande forces its passage. They consist chiefly of
limestone, which often appears above the surface, or
projects from the hill sides. Many organic remains
are here found. There is no bottom land for the entire
distance; nor is there sufficient space by the river's
bank even for a road or mule path: consequently the
way is very difficult and tortuous until the hills are
passed. The bottom land does not appear for some


distance beyond the observatory or, White's Rancho.
The only vegetation on this barren district, is the
mezquit chapporal, the larrea Mexicana, wild sage,
yucca, and Spanish bayonet. In some places, are
patches of grama grass. On the immediate banks of
the river, are cotton-wood trees, but none elsewhere.
All Americans who visit this district, express their
surprise that the Mexicans, when they came out to
intercept the march of the American army, under
Colonel Doniphan, did not fortify this pass, and make
a stand here, instead of facing our troops on the open
plain at Bracito, a few miles beyond.

A large piece of bottom land has just been ploughed
up and put under cultivation, by Mr. Magoffin, about
twelve miles above Frontera, the only cultivated spot
between El Paso and Cruces, a distance of nearly fifty
miles. The first step to be taken in bringing these
lands under cultivation, is to dig a large ditch from
the river some distance above, and bring the water
through the land. This is always kept full, and to
make it available, the surface of the water should be
above the level of the ground, and supported by
embankments. When it is required for irrigating
purposes, the bank is opened, and the water suffered
to overflow the land. The necessary canals were here
dug, the ground ploughed, and the seed put in; but
unfortunately (as I afterward heard), the river did
not rise, the canals and ditches remained dry, no rain
fell, and the whole crop failed. The place was then
abandoned. Such is the uncertainty of crops in the
Rio Grande Valley.


April 20th. Moved from camp at 7 o'clock, and
continued our journey along the bottom. Whenever
we approached the river, there were more trees, fine
groves of large cotton-wood, with occasional mezquit
marking the valley. The road is excellent, and continues
so without any repairs, except after rains, when
it becomes almost impassible. At such times, wagons
pursue a course lying at a distance from the bottom,
and over the edge of the gravelly plateau, which is
never affected by rains. The soil of the whole valley
or bottom of the Rio Grande, is not surpassed for
fertility, in the world. One thing alone is lacking to
render it at all times productive, namely, water. For
the want of this, a large portion of this rich bottom is
destitute of grass, and has but little shrubbery.

Passed the small town of Cruces, a recently established
place, eight miles from Doña Ana, soon after,
where we soon arrived. As the train was still several
miles behind, I accepted the invitation of Captain
Buford of the Dragoons, to take up my quarters with

April 23d. Crossed the Rio Grande to the camp
of Mr. Salazar, the Astronomer of the Mexican Commission,
to learn if General Condé had arrived. Afterwards
rode to the neighboring hills, across which the
line would pass, with the view of selecting a conspicuous
spot for a monument. The bank near the river
not being sufficiently elevated, I determined to place
a small monument with inscriptions there, and to erect
a large pyramidal one on a lofty conical-shaped hill,
which itself appeared like an artificial structure at a


distance. The line passed directly over this, and a
monument upon it would be seen for a great distance
in every direction.

April 24th. The day having arrived upon which
it was agreed that the Initial Point, where the southern
boundary of New Mexico intersects the Rio Grande,
should be established, the documents signed, and the
point marked, it seems proper that I should briefly
relate the history of this important portion of my duties
as Commissioner under the 5th Article of the Treaty of
Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Under the date of December 3d, 1850, I spoke of
the meetings of the Joint Commission, and of the
difficulties that lay in the way of a speedy agreement
as to the boundary between the Rio Grande and the
Gila, in consequence of two gross errors in the map to
which the Commissioners were confined by the treaty.
It was discovered that the Rio Grande was laid down
on this map, more than two degrees too far to the
eastward—the river, where it is intersected by the
southern boundary of New Mexico, being really in
106° 40' west longitude, instead of 104° 40'. The
other error was in the position of the town of El Paso,
which appears on this map to be but seven or eight
minutes below the 32d parallel, while its actual distance
is thirty minutes further south. After several meetings,
involving much discussion, the Joint Commission agreed
to fix the Initial Point on the Rio Grande at the latitude
given by the map, without any reference to its distance
from El Paso; and to extend it westward from that
point three degrees, without reference to where the
line so prolonged should terminate. This being agreed


upon, the acting Chief Astronomer, Lieutenant A. W.
Whipple, on the part of the United States, and Don
José Salazar, the Chief Astronomer on the part of
Mexico, were directed to "measure, according to
Disturnell's Map, edition of 1847, the distance between
latitude 32° and the point where the Rio Grande strikes
the Southern Boundary of New Mexico; and also the
length of the Southern Boundary line of New Mexico
from that point to its extreme western termination,"
and to report the result of their examinations to the
Commissioners at the earliest period practicable.

At the meeting of the Commission held on the 25th
day of December, the following report was presented:

"In accordance with resolutions passed on the 20th
instant, at an official meeting of the United States and
Mexican Boundary Commissioners, we, the undersigned,
have this day met for the purpose therein

With a certified copy of the Treaty Map before
us, we proceeded to make a scale of minutes of latitude,
by dividing into 120 equal parts, the length of that
portion of a meridian laid down upon the map between
the parallels of 32° and 34° of north latitude.

In a similar manner we found a scale of minutes
of longitude for that degree of latitude, which passes
through points of the Southern Boundary of New
Mexico, as indicated upon the same map.

Then measuring the distance from the point
where the middle of the Rio Grande strikes the
Southern Boundary of New Mexico, south to the
parallel of latitude marked 32°, and applying it to our
scale of minutes of latitude, we found the length equal


to 22' of arc. This reduced by Francœur's tables, is
equal to 40,659 metres ═ 25 1/4 English miles ═ 2192
Geographical miles.

Finally, taking the distance from the point aforesaid
to the extreme Western limit of the Southern
Boundary of New Mexico, and applying this distance
to our scale of minutes of arc in longitude, we found it
to be 3°; which in this latitude, according to tables
of Francœur is equal to 2822202 metres ═ 17528
English miles ═ 15414 Geographical miles.

Therefore, according to this determination, the
point where the middle of the Rio Grande strikes the
Southern Boundary of New Mexico, is 22' of arc north
of the parallel of latitude marked 32° upon the map.
From the same point thence the Southern Boundary
of New Mexico extends 3° to its Western termination.

Signed, A. W. WHIPPLE,
Lieut. U. S. Topographical Engineers, JOSE SALAZAR
Paso del Norte, December 23d, 1850."

The Astronomers were now directed to determine
the point referred to by astronomical observation; and
as soon as the weather permitted, they entered on the
performance of their duties. On the 10th of April,
Lieut. Whipple informed me that Mr. Salazar and himself
had agreed upon a point on the Rio Grande, the
result of nearly five hundred observations on eleven
stars, which they recommended to the Joint Commission,


to be adopted as the boundary point, at 32° 22'
north latitude.

The Joint Commission therefore met at the place
referred to, to "establish the point where (according
to the fifth Article of the Treaty), in the Boundary
between the two Republics, the Rio Bravo or Grande,
strikes the Southern Boundary of New Mexico." At
this time the Surveyor, Mr. A. B. Gray, had not arrived,
although fourteen months since the time of the
adjournment in California, and five months after the
time agreed upon for the meeting at El Paso. I then
proposed to General Condé the Mexican Commissioner,
that Lieutenant Whipple should officiate as Principal
Surveyor until the arrival of Mr. Gray. To this arrangement
General Condé signified his assent; whereupon
I addressed the following note to Lieutenant
Whipple, whose camp was then near mine.

April 23, 1851.


The fifth Article of the Treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo, requires that the two Governments
shall each appoint a Commissioner and a Surveyor, to
run and mark the boundary line between the two Republics.

The Surveyor in behalf of the United States has
not arrived; and having received no advice from him,
it is impossible to conjecture when he will be here.
The present is the most propitious period of the year
for field duty; every thing is in readiness for continuing
the operations connected with the survey, and the
Mexican Commissioner is urgent to have the business
proceeded with.


Under these circumstances, being unwilling that
any blame should attach to the United States, by a delay
in the proceedings of the Joint Commission, I have
thought proper, by and with and with the consent of the Mexican
Commissioner, to designate you to act as Surveyor
during the temporary absence of A. B. Gray, Esq.
You are therefore requested to be present at the spot
fixed upon for the Initial Point, to take part in the
ceremonies as acting Surveyor.

I am very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
"Commissioner U. S. Mexican Boundary Survey." "To Lieut. A. W. WHIPPLE, Topog. Engineers,
Acting Chief Astronomer, U. S. B. Com'n.
In Camp, near Initial Point, New Mexico."

Lieutenant Whipple immediately complied with
my request, and the Commission proceeded to the
place which had been designated by the Astronomers
as the Initial Point on the Rio Grande, escorted by
Captain Buford of the 1st Dragoons, with his company.

We found General Condé with the Mexican Commission,
the civil authorities of El Paso, and a body of
Lancers already on the ground awaiting our arrival.
The Joint Commission then held a meeting to agree
upon the order of ceremonies to be observed on the
occasion; after which we assembled around the spot
which was to be marked, where a post had been


planted, and a small excavation made. The document,
of which the following is a copy, confirmatory of these
proceedings, was read aloud in English and in Spanish,
by the Secretaries, after which it was signed by the
Commissioners and Surveyors of the two Commissions,
and witnessed by the Secretaries and other individuals
who had been invited to be present for the purpose.
It was then placed in a bottle, with a list of the members
of the Commission, and a fragment of the Washington
Monument, and was sealed up and deposited at
the place designated.


"Be it remembered, that on the twenty-fourth day
of April, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight
hundred and fifty-one, the Commissioners and Surveyors,
on behalf of the United States and of Mexico,
named to run the Boundary Line between the two Republics
in conformity with the Treaty of Peace, dated
at the city of Guadalupe Hidalgo, on the second day of
February, one thousand eight hundred and forty-eight,
and exchanged at the city of Queretaro, on the thirteenth
day of May of the same year, being fully satisfied with
the operations made, and the results obtained, by the
Chief Astronomers of the two Commissions, do establish
this point, on the right bank of the River Bravo,
or Grande del Norte, in 32° 22' north latitude, which
in accordance with the provisions of the fifth Article of
said Treaty, is 'the point where it [the said river
Bravo or Grande del Norte] strikes the Southern
Boundary of New Mexico'


Be it likewise remembered that the distance
from this point to the centre of the bed where now
actually runs the River, in the direction of the same
parallel, is (219m 4) two hundred and nineteen metres,
and four tenths, following the line east from said

For the greater solemnity of this act, appear as
witnesses, on the part of the United States, Captain
Abraham Buford, of the First Dragoons, and Colonel
Charles A. Hoppin, Aid-de-Camp to His Excellency
James L. Calhoun, Governor of New Mexico: And on
the part of Mexico, Mr. B. Juan José Sanchez, Political
Chief of the Canton of Bravos, in the State of Chihuahua,
as first authority of that place.

Written in duplicate, in English and Spanish, and
sealed, at the point established, on the day of the
month and year aforesaid.

A. W. WHIPPLE, Topog. Engr. Surveyor
and Astronomer."
"Signed in presence of
THOMAS H. WEBB, Secretary.
A. BUFORD, Bvt. Capt. 1st Dragoons.
CHARLES A. HOPPIN, Aid-de-Camp to Governor Calhoun of New

Immediately after the Initial Point had thus been
established, a plan was submitted by the Chief Astronomers
and Surveyors of the two Commissions to carry


on the work and mark the line. This was accepted;
parties were at once organized, and the survey was
commenced two days after.

I have thought it proper, in this my personal narrative,
to relate briefly the principal events which constituted
the main objects of the Commission, and, in
so doing, to give the particulars connected with the
establishment of the initial point on the Rio Grande
and the southern boundary of New Mexico. In so
doing I have spoken merely of the mode of determining
this boundary, without, in any manner, going into
the argument as to its conformity with the treaty. My
readers can be the judges of this. My defence of the
point and line established, with the argument of Mr.
Gray in opposition to them, was presented to the Hon.
Alexander H. H. Stuart, Secretary of the Interior, on
the 7th of February, 1853, on my return from the Survey,
and ordered by the Senate to be printed. This
forms Senate Executive Document No. 41. 32d Congress,
2d Session.

After the establishment of this important point, I
immediately made known the particulars connected
with it to the Honorable Secretary of the Interior.
(See my despatch, No. 15, Senate Document No. 119.
32d Congress, 1st Session, p. 406, which I append.)*


In order to show the views of the government with
respect to my proceedings, particularly with reference
to the appointment of Lieutenant Whipple as Surveyor


ad interim, and that the work should not be delayed
in consequence of Mr. Gray's absence, I also append a
copy of a letter addressed by Mr. Secretary Stuart to
the Honorable Daniel Webster on this subject.*


Doña Ana is a small town of five or six hundred
inhabitants, and stands upon a spur of the plateau,
fifty or sixty feet above the bottom lands, thereby
commanding a wide prospect of the adjacent country.


It has been settled but a few years, and was selected
on account of the broad and rich valley near, and the
facilities that existed for irrigating it. Its houses are
mostly of a class called jacals, i.e. built of upright
sticks, their interstices filled with mud, though a better
class of adobe buildings have just been erected along the
main street, for the occupation of the military, and for
places of business. The central position of Doña Ana,
and its fine lands, led to its selection for a military
post. At the time of my visit there were two companies
of United States troops here under the command
of Major Shepard.

Six or eight miles below Doña Ana, on the opposite
side of the river, is the town of Mesilla, containing
between six and seven hundred inhabitants,* a place
which owes its origin to circumstances growing out of
the late war with Mexico. These circumstances it
may be proper to relate, as well as the origin of its

Mesilla is the diminutive of the Spanish word mesa,
i. e.
, table, also table-land, or plateau, and is applied to
a lesser plateau in the valley of the Rio Grande, beneath
that of the great mesa or table-land, which extends for
several hundred miles in all directions from the Rio
Grande. It is situated on the western side of the Rio
Grande, about fifty miles above El Paso, in latitude
about 32 degrees 18 minutes north, and until the
year 1850 it was without an inhabitant.

Immediately preceding, and after the war with


Mexico, the Mexican population occupying the eastern
bank of the Rio Grande in Texas and New Mexico
were greatly annoyed by the encroachments of the
Americans, and by their determined efforts to despoil
them of their landed property. This was done by the
latter either settling among them, or in some instances
forcibly occupying their dwellings and cultivated
spots. In most cases, however, it was done by putting
"Texas head-rights" on their property. These
head-rights were grants issued by the State of Texas,
generally embracing 640 acres, or a mile square,
though they sometimes covered very large tracts.
They were issued to persons who had served in her
wars, like our military land warrants, and also to original
settlers. Such certificates are still bought and sold
in Texas. The owner of them may locate his land
where he pleases, unless previously occupied, or in
lawful possession of another.

With these land certificates, or "head-rights,"
many Americans flocked to the valley of the Rio
Grande, and in repeated instances, located them on
property which for a century had been in the quiet
possession of the descendants of the old Spanish colonists.
The latter, to avoid litigation, and sometimes
in fear for their lives, abandoned their homes, and
sought a refuge on the Mexican side of the river.
Doña Ana, a modern town on the eastern bank of the
Rio Grande, being a desirable place, and moreover selected
by the United States for one of its military posts,
became an attractive point for speculators, and was in
consequence pounced upon by them, and covered by
the Texan land warrants. Whether the Mexican occupants


of the town and lands adjacent were the lawful
owners or not it is needless to investigate; it is sufficient
to say that they were the first settlers, and had
long been in undisturbed possession. They now became
alarmed. Litigations commenced. Some applying
to the authorities of New Mexico, Texas, or the
United States, for protection. Failing to obtain it,
several hundred abandoned their property and homes
in despair, and sought an asylum in Mexican territory,
preferring the very uncertain protection they could
obtain there to remaining as citizens of the United

With this resolution, a spot was selected on the opposite
or, western side of the river, six or eight miles
below Doña Ana, which, it was believed, would be
within the limits of Mexico. On the 1st March, 1850,
sixty Mexicans, with Don Rafael Ruelas at their head,
most of whom had been domiciled at Doña Ana, abandoned
their homes on account of their many grievances,
and moved to the lands known as the Mesilla,
where they established themselves. To increase the
colony, the government of Mexico offered to give lands
to other actual settlers, which offer induced large numbers
of dissatisfied Mexicans living in New Mexico and
in the small settlements along the Rio Grande, in
Texas, to remove there. More than half the population
of Doña Ana removed to Mesilla within a year.

When the boundary line was established in April,
1851, and it became certain that La Mesilla was south
of the boundary line, according to the treaty map,
their fears were removed, and a day was set apart for
public rejoicing. For the whole population had determined


to abandon the place if the boundary line had
run south of the village, and thus placed them under
the jurisdiction of New Mexico. The day came, and
the event was celebrated by firing of cannon and a
grand ball, which many from El Paso attended. After
this, the population continued to increase; in October,
1852, the Prefect of El Paso estimated it at 1,900

Very few Americans ever settled there—in fact,
none but traders, and it is probable that there never
were twenty altogether.

The lands at La Mesilla are of precisely the same
character as other bottom lands, on the opposite bank
of the river, near Doña Ana and Cruces; and in fact,
as far as the mountain pass above the town of El Paso.

April 27. Left Doña Ana at nine 9 A. M., accompanied
by all the assistants, and others attached to the
Commission, except those whose aid was required by
Lieutenant Whipple in the duty he was about to enter
upon. My train consisted of twelve wagons, drawn
by five or six mules each, and my travelling carriage
with four mules. The assistants rode on horses or
mules. We continued on our course towards the
north, and soon struck the great Jornada del Muerto*
(Deadman's Journey), on the Santa Fé road, which we
followed for nine miles, when we turned off to San
Diego, the old fording place. There is no village nor


even a rancho here, although marked on the map as a
town. A great reddish bluff, composed of a conglomerate
of jasper, quite detached from the adjacent
hills, lay on our left. As we descended into the valley
our eyes were gratified with the sight of trees and
shrubbery, and more grass than we had seen since
leaving El Paso. In fording the river, one of the
wagons, in consequence of diverging a little from the
proper course, got into a quicksand, and was near
being lost. Continued our course eight miles up the
stream, and encamped at half-past 5 P. M., in a beautiful
grove of cotton-woods, having made twenty-six
miles. There was excellent grass here, and in great
abundance. The wagons did not all get up until an
hour after, in consequence of the delay at the ford. A
train of wagons belonging to the Commission, in attempting
to cross a few weeks after, when the water
was somewhat higher, got into the quicksand. The
mules in struggling to free themselves, sank deeper;
and before they could be extricated, all six were

April 28. Moved from camp at 7 A. M., the road
continuing along the river bottom, close to a low range
of gravel hills, when we diverged to the north-west.
Thick groves of cotton-woods occurred at intervals,
and the whole valley was more or less wooded. The
young grass, and the deep foliage of the trees, were
refreshing to our eyes, which for five months had
gazed on little more than stunted mezquit bushes, and
the thorny cactus. From the water marks on the
trees, the river rises about four feet above its banks,
inundating the bottom lands to the base of the hills


which border them, and rendering the valley impassable.
There does not seem sufficient space to carry a
road over the hills, although there may be a practicable
route within, which was not visible to us. At 11
o'clock we reached a new settlement on the river's
bank, called Santa Barbara, where, finding excellent
grass, I determined to encamp. The road had been
quite sandy and rough the fourteen miles we had
come, and as the next water at the mule spring was
twenty miles distant, I thought it prudent to go no
farther. The settlement consisted of a few jacal or
stick houses, part of which were in the process of erection.
A deep acequia was already opened, and large
fields of wheat and corn were now undergoing the
process of immersion. Acres were covered with
water; and the soil is of so spongy a nature that we
found it impossible to cross these overflowed places
with the wagons, so deeply did the wheels sink into it.
Herds of cattle and goats; half-naked Mexicans with
their hoes, peons hooting and yelling as they urged
on their oxen with their long-pointed poles; and the
primitive wooden ploughs, turning up the virgin soil,
exhibited a scene of industry, such as I had not before
witnessed in the valley of the Rio Grande.

We pitched our tents in a thick grove of large
cotton-woods, near which passed the acequia; while
on the opposite side was a pond or laguna, extending
a mile or more. As this body of water was not wider
than the river, and presented many sinuosities, I think
it must have been formerly the channel of the Rio
Grande; for, like the Mississippi and other rivers
which flow through an alluvial soil, it is continually


changing its bed, where great bends occur. The
laguna is now supplied by overflows from the river.
There were many wild fowl in it; but its banks were
so open, that we could not approach the game.

April 29. Hearing that there were traces of an
ancient Indian settlement about half a mile distant,
Dr. Webb went over to examine it, while we were
getting ready to move. He found a good deal of
broken pottery, all of a fine texture. Some of it bore
traces of red, black, and brown colors. He also found
a stone mortar about eight inches in diameter. I have
since understood that this was the seat of one of the
earliest Spanish missions; but it was abandoned more
than a century ago, and no traces remain but a few
heaps of crumbling adobes, which mark the site of its

Our course on leaving camp, was south of west.
After following the valley a couple of miles, we began
to ascend a range of high hills, over and through which,
the road wound for about twelve miles, before we
reached the highest level. In descending, the road
was hard and smooth as a turnpike, and so continued
until we reached our camping ground, at the foot of
the hills. To the south, at some fifty or sixty miles
distant, rose a high mountain, the intervening plain
presenting the most beautiful mirage I ever witnessed.
It seemed like the surface of a broad lake, the mountain
peaks standing detached, like so many islands rising
from the bed of its placid waters. If I had not known
that the region before me was a barren desert, I would
certainly have been deceived.

Reached Mule Spring at one o'clock. Estimated


distance travelled to-day, twenty-three miles. This
spring is in an arroyo or ravine, and contains but a few
barrels of water. Some ash and cotton-wood trees
mark its course from the mountains where it rises.
Colonel Craig, when he passed here with his command
a few months before, opened the spring and sunk a
barrel in it. The water is very good. In the rainy
season, this arroyo is probably filled with water, as the
trees and banks exhibit the marks of it.

[Figure] Approach to Mule Spring. Picacho de Mimbres.

April 30th. On leaving Mule Spring, we turned
nearly south, with a range of mountains on our right.
This was directly out of the general course of our route,
which was to the north-west; but there was no other
way to pass the mountains. The road was excellent,
and we traversed it rapidly, reaching Cooke's Spring,
twelve miles distant, at 11 o'clock, where we stopped


to water. This spring forms a pool, some fifty feet
across, surrounded by rushes. The water is a little
brackish, but the grass in the vicinity is excellent.
Ascended a hill on the south, which was strewn with
fragments of chalcedony, of which some fine specimens
were collected. From this hill the Organ Mountains
were plainly seen, bearing a little south of east.

After waiting an hour to let the mules have the
benefit of the grass, we hitched up and passed through
the cañon or mountain defile, in a south-westerly direction,
for three miles. This pass was quite hilly and
stony, with some steep ravines to cross, but otherwise
attended with no difficulties for wagons. After passing
these mountains, our course was north-west for eight
miles, when we reached the summit of a high table-land
that lay before us. Here a wide view opened. The
east was bounded by the long range of mountains
which we had followed on the opposite side and crossed
in the morning, while on the west, the broad undulating
prairie was only here and there interrupted by
low conical-shaped hills. At the south and south-west,
detached mountains appeared abruptly springing from
the plain, with jagged and picturesque summits, some
of which must have been fifteen hundred feet in height.
In the clear blue atmosphere of this elevated plateau,
every object appeared with great distinctness, so that
mountains could be seen at a distance of more than a
hundred miles.

From the plateau we were traversing, we could
discern, far in the distance, a streak of dark green,
resembling a huge serpent. Far as the eye could
reach, this dark streak wound its way, now expanding


into the plain, and again contracting its dimensions
among the hills, until it finally lost itself in a high
range of mountains to the north. This was the long-talked-of
River Mimbres, the third stream we had seen
since passing the small water-courses which empty into
the Colorado, in our journey from San Antonio to El
Paso, the Pecos and the Rio Grande being the other
two. As we were now on the descent, with a smooth
road, my mules dashed off at full speed in advance of
the train, followed by the young men on horseback;
for all were pretty well tired of the desert, and
longed to feast their eyes on running water again;
and the ten miles which separated us from the bank
above the valley were soon passed over.

When we reached the verge of the hills which bound
the valley of the river, a sight truly refreshing presented
itself. The bottom for nearly a mile in width was
covered with verdure, such as we had not seen since
leaving the rich valleys near Fredericksburg, in Texas.
As we rode rapidly forward, we noticed a herd of
about twenty black-tailed deer quietly grazing on the
luxuriant grass of the valley. Disturbed in their solitude
by the rattling of the carriage and the tramping
of the horsemen, they dashed away over the plain in
single file, led by a large buck. We traced their
course for some distance, as they bounded over the
hills, until lost in the mountain ravines. Nearer the
river, other deer of the same species were seen browsing
upon the willows, which, in like manner, darted
off at our approach.

We pitched our tents beneath a grove of cottonwood
trees, at a short distance from the river, when


all hastened to taste its waters, and plunge into its cool
depths. Great was our disappointment, after the anticipations
we had indulged in, at finding nothing but a
diminutive stream from ten to twenty feet in width,
and in some places even less, which, east of the Mississippi,
would hardly be designated with the name of
"creek." Nevertheless, it was welcomed by us as
heartily as the Ohio or Hudson would be by travellers
in more favored regions; for it answered all our
wants. Its water was soft and delightful to the taste,
surpassing that of the Rio Grande. This stream has
never been traced to either of its terminations. It
rises in the mountains north-east of the Copper Mines,
and when full, empties into Lake Guzman, about one
hundred and thirty miles to the south; but for several
months in the year it exists only in pools, or dries up
entirely after reaching the plains. When the surveying
parties crossed it six weeks later, about fifteen
miles lower down, they found it entirely dry. Another
feature, which is common to other streams in Mexico,
was noticed in the Mimbres, namely, its sudden disappearance
or sinking into the desert, and its re-appearance
some distance beyond.

May 1st. In camp on the Mimbres. As our animals
had been poorly fed since leaving El Paso, I determined
to remain here to-day to give them the benefit
of the fine young grass. All the party seemed to
enjoy the relaxation; and they sallied out after breakfast,
some in search of game, others of the picturesque.
For my part, I took the two together; for when I
went to the hills in search of game I carried my
sketch book with me, as it was only among the wooded


hills, the defiles, and the thick groves along the river
bottom, that game was to be found; and there, too,
was the most picturesque landscape scenery, and the
best field for the exercise of my pencil.

I first walked down the stream about two miles to
a thick grove of large cotton-woods. The bottom was
much contracted here; nevertheless, it was thickly
wooded and forest-like. Ash and oaks were interspersed
among the cotton-woods. Saw many signs of
turkeys, but shot none myself. Some of the party
were more fortunate and brought in several. About
five miles north of our camp the river enters the hills,
and a little further up, is closely hemmed in by lofty
mountains. Noticed wild roses in great profusion,
also wild hops, and the Missouri currant. These, in
some portions of the valley, were so closely entangled
together that it was impossible for one to work his way
through. Found several old Indian encampments,
with their wigwams standing, and about them fragments
of pottery. Many well-marked Indian trails
followed the river on both sides, showing that it had
been, and probably is now, a great thoroughfare and
place of resort for the Apaches.

In the afternoon, Mr. Bausman, one of our most
indefatigable sportsmen, came in from a hunt, and
reported that he had seen some remarkable rocks about
five miles up the river, to the north of our camp, which
were worth visiting. I immediately had my mule
saddled, buckled on my pistols, attached my rifle to
the pummel of the saddle, and taking my sketch book,
accompanied him to the place referred to, which was
about half a mile from the river on the western side.


Arriving at the place, I found some singular masses of
sandstone standing detached from the adjacent hills,
one of them bearing a curious resemblance to a man.
My timid mule was much alarmed at the gigantic
object which stood before it, trembling from head to
foot. We therefore stopped a short distance from it
and hitched our animals to an oak which hid from view
the source of their terror. Around us stood these
singular isolated rocks, some appearing like castles,
others like single pedestals and columns. The one
resembling a human figure, which is shown in the
accompanying sketch, and which I christened the
"Giant of the Mimbres," measured but three feet in
its narrowest part near the ground; while its upper

[Figure] Sandstone rocks. Rio Mimbres.

portion must have been at least twelve feet through,
and its height about fifty. Others of equal height
stood near. All are disintegrated near the earth, and


are gradually crumbling away, several having already
fallen. When I had completed my sketch, we mounted
our mules, and hastened back to camp, which we did
not reach until some time after dark, my long absence
meanwhile causing much uneasiness. Several turkeys
were seen during our ride, and a couple shot. A
number of fish of the trout species were taken here.

May 2d. Crossed the Mimbres, and soon after
reached the level of the table-land, gradually ascending
toward the high mountainous region wherein the
Copper Mines are situated. Having heard of the Ojo
, a remarkable hot spring two miles from the
road, I determined to visit it, and accordingly struck
off the wagon road, accompanied by all who were
mounted. A ride of three or four miles brought us to
the spot. This spring lies within a crater-like opening,
twenty feet in diameter, on the top of a mound of tufa
about six hundred feet in circumference at its base,
and about thirty feet high, all of which seems to consist
of the deposits made by its waters. The temperature
of the water was 125° Fahrenheit. Its surface was
some six or seven feet below the rim of the basin;
and its depth I judged to be about the same. Dr.
Webb collected the gas which bubbled up from the
bottom, and found it to be neither hydrogen nor carbonic
acid gas. He consequently judged it to be
atmospheric air. The water was not unpleasant to the
taste, and would be palatable if cooled. Lower down,
upon one side of the hill, a small spring burst out, and
at a short distance, where it collected in a pool, the
water was cool enough to bathe in; but even there I
found it literally a hot bath. Mr. Thurber discovered


fresh water plants [algæ] and insects flourishing in
water at this elevated temperature.

Just at the base of the hillock where the water
accumulates, is a cotton-wood tree and a few bushes,
where I hitched my mule before going up to the spring.
On returning to take her, I had loosened the lariat,
and was in the act of mounting, when the mule took
fright at something and rushed into the bushes. I
either fell or was dragged off, and at the same
time, the malicious beast struck out her hind legs,
and hit me on my left shoulder. Several rushed to
my aid, and my left arm was found to be injured.
After lying upon the ground a short time, I managed,
with assistance, to walk about two miles to the road,
where my carriage took me up. We were now about
eighteen miles from the Copper Mines, and the jolting
of the carriage pained me exceedingly; but as no relief
could be got until we reached there, I pushed on
as fast as possible. We reached the Copper Mines at
3 o'clock, P. M. Colonel Craig gave me a warm welcome,
and took me at once to his quarters, when I
immediately retired to my cot.

The following day my arm was examined by Doctors
Bigelow and Webb of the Commission, and Dr.
White of the army, who decided that there was a fracture
near the shoulder. The arm was much swollen
and discolored

I remained an invalid, confined to my cot or chair
for two weeks, taking a little air towards the end of
the second week. During this time my excellent and
lamented friend, Colonel Craig, paid me great attention.
He watched me with the care of a mother, getting


up frequently at night to turn me in my bed,
which for the first week I was unable to accomplish
without assistance. This he preferred doing to my
having a servant in the room with us.

May 5th. General Condé, with the Mexican Commission,
arrived to-day. After remaining three days, he
removed his camp to the banks of the Mimbres, where
he believed he would find sufficient grass for his animals.

Santa Rita del Cobre, as this place is called by the
Mexicans, was for about forty years an active mining
town. The workings were commenced in the year
1804, and proving very profitable, a population of
about 600 souls gathered around them in the small

[Figure] Valley of the Copper Mines from the South.

open space which here exists encircled by lofty
mountains. The valley is so narrow here, as to afford


only a plot of about a couple of acres for cultivation,
and that seems to have been used as a garden. The
hills around furnish excellent grazing for any number
of animals; but for agricultural productions, the population
depended upon the cultivated districts at the
south, in the valley of the San Miguel or Casas
Grandes, from which they received regular supplies of
corn, flour, beans and other articles of subsistence.
These provisions and merchandise were taken to the
mines by large trains of wagons, either on private
account or on account of the establishment. There was
also a considerable trade carried on with the frontier
towns in Sonora. The nearest settlement was the Presidio
of Janos, a frontier military post on the San Miguel
river, 150 miles off; though the trains with their
chief supplies were sent from the city of Chihuahua,
situated at a distance of 400 miles. The return trains
took back copper ore: this was afterwards sent to the
city of Mexico, where, owing to the superior quality of
the metal, it was used chiefly for coinage. It is said
that the owner had a contract with government to
deliver the copper there at 65 cents a pound, and that
sufficient gold was found in it to pay all the cost of
transportation. I do not doubt the truth of this statement,
as Mr. Courcier, who first worked the mine to
advantage, amassed a large fortune from it, and Mr.
McKnight, his successor, also found it very profitable.
In 1838, a large train from Chihuahua, with supplies,
was attacked and overcome by the Apaches in
the cañon leading to the mines. Such of the contents
of the wagons as the savages wanted they took, as
well as the mules and horses, first giving each man


who accompanied the train a mule to carry him away.
At the same time they sent word to the inhabitants at
the Copper Mines, that they would allow no further
supplies to reach them, and, furthermore, would destroy
them whenever an opportunity offered. Thus
cut off from the means of support, and surrounded by
large warlike tribes, the people determined to abandon
the place. It had consequently remained unoccupied
ever since, until taken possession of by the Boundary
Commission in the present year, 1851.

Several deep shafts were sunk by the Mexicans in
the adjoining hills; which, with the vast heaps and extensive
excavations about them, show that an immense
deal of labor has been performed here. One of the largest
shafts has been filled up in consequence of the earth's
caving in; as I was told by a Mexican in the employ
of the Commission, who said he had lived here when
the mines were worked. Others are obstructed by
water, which has accumulated near their entrances.
Some of the excavations are still accessible, and have
been explored by many. If it should again become
an object to work the mines, they might be cleared
without much labor. The rock is mostly felspar, and
the red oxide of copper, intermixed with native metal.
Large quantities of ore are deposited near the smelting-house.

On entering these excavations, one sees the bright
veins of the sulphuret of copper penetrating the rock
in all directions, with here and there small masses of
native copper; and it is evident that all the hills in
the vicinity are quite as rich as those which have been
opened, for the same indications appear on the surface.


But until there is some other mode of transporting the
copper to market, than by wagons for a distance of
nearly a thousand miles, it will hardly pay to work
them. There is no longer a market in the city of Mexico,
as other mines have been found much nearer. It
now costs twenty cents a pound to transport goods
from the coast at Indianola; but as the wagons go
down empty, the owners would, no doubt, be glad to
carry the copper at half price. Labor is cheap and
abundant in Mexico. At El Paso, Mexican laborers
could be had for 62 1/2 cents a day, they finding themselves;
but men could doubtless be procured at even
a less price. They require only the most simple food;
flour, beans, and a very little meat will satisfy their

The district about the Copper Mines might be
made to produce all the food needed for a mining
population. There is no valley or arable land close
to the mines; but eight miles to the eastward the
Mimbres winds its way through the mountains, and
has in many places a broad valley or bottom, which
could be easily irrigated, and made to produce large
crops. Hither we sent our cattle and mules, and in
the driest time found an abundance of grass and
water. Within two or three miles there are fine
valleys, where, I doubt not, corn might be grown
without irrigation, as is the case in some of the mountainous
districts of Mexico; for it often rains here,
when the plains below, but ten or fifteen miles distant,
are parched with drought. We were not prepared
to try the experiment; but, from the appearance of
the soil, the richness of the grass, and general exuberance


of the vegetation, together with the moisture
which prevails in such mountainous regions, I have no
doubt the experiment would be successful.

We reached this district on the 2d of May. Vegetation
was then forward, though there had been no
rain. But it must be remembered that during the
winter there is snow, and hence a good deal of
moisture in the earth when the spring opens. The
months of May and June were moderately warm.
On the third of July the first rain fell. It then came in
torrents, accompanied by hail, and lasted three or
four hours. Many of our adobe houses were deluged
with water, and the mountain sides exhibited cataracts
in every direction. The arroyo, which passes through
the village, and which furnishes barely water enough
for our party and the animals, became so much swollen
as to render it difficult to cross; and by the time
it had received the numerous mountain torrents which
fall into it within a mile from our camp, it became
impassable for wagons, or even mules. The dry
gullies became rapid streams, five or six feet deep, and
sometimes fifty feet or more across. On this day, a
party in coming to the Copper Mines from the plain
below, where there had been no rain, found themselves
suddenly in a region overflowing with water;
so that their progress was arrested, and they were
obliged to wait until the flood had subsided. After
this we had occasional showers, during the months of
July and August.

The weather was not uncomfortably warm any day
while I was here; indeed, on several occasions, directly
after rains, I found a fire quite agreeable. The party


I left informed me, that early in October it became so
cold that fires were necessary every day. The height
of the little valley where the mines are was found to
be six thousand two hundred and fifty feet above the
level of the sea; and the height of the mountain,
which rises abruptly from it, and to which the name
of Ben Moore has been given, is eight thousand feet.
This mountain is the beginning of a range of bold,
rocky bluffs of trap, of a grayish hue, which extend
some twenty miles to the south, and gradually drop
off into the plain. On one side of this bluff, a portion

[Figure] Cañon leading to the Copper Mines, from the South.

of the rock is separated from the mountain, and stands
detached from it like a column. This mountain is a


perfect barrier to a direct road, or even a mule path,
across to Mule Spring, making a difference of thirty
miles in the distance to Doña Ana. Below the mines
the columnar masses crown the summit of the hills
and mountains, often appearing like elevated castles.
The sides of these mountains are well wooded, as are
also the intervening valleys.

Gold is said to have been found here when the
mines were worked; and many stories are told of
large quantities that were buried when the place was
abandoned. About four miles distant, a deep shaft
had been sunk, where it was said a skin containing
more than five thousand dollars worth of gold had
been buried. Several men took their discharge here
for the purpose of clearing out the shaft and getting
the buried treasure. After several weeks labor, they
reached the bottom, and even dug some feet below;
but their search was not rewarded with success. This
shaft was sunk about seventy feet below the surface.
Veins of gold were found, but not sufficient to pay the
cost of working; and the spot was abandoned. I saw
many fine specimens of lead, and one of silver ore,
which were found in the vicinity; but I did not visit
the localities. The Mexicans who had formerly
resided here assured me that the existence of silver
was known to many at the time; but being in the
very heart of the Apache country, it could not be
worked. The Indian Chiefs also said they would show
me where there was plenty of gold, if I would accompany
them, but that they would not disclose the secret
to others. I told them we did not come to their country
for gold, and declined their offer. Whether they


really knew of any or not (and it is my belief that
they did), I thought it best not to put myself in their
hands, but to maintain the position I had taken from
the commencement; namely, that our object was to
survey the boundary between the United States and
Mexico, the meaning of which they had been made
to fully comprehend.

But the great value of the Copper Mine region,
which extends from the Gila eastward about fifty
miles towards the Rio Grande, is in its fine forests of
timber. The principal trees are two species of evergreen
oaks; two cedars, one like our red cedar, the
other with a berry much larger, and several pines,
among them the Pinus edulis, or piñon pine. This
bears an edible nut, which is a favorite article of food
with the Indians. It is quite pleasant to the taste,
but is rather small and troublesome to eat. So rich a
timbered country does not exist between the Mississippi
valley and the Pacific, except in the mountainous
district of Upper California. Should a railway be constructed
across the country south of the Gila, its timber
must be procured from this quarter. The value of
pine timber in this region can be appreciated when
I state, that there is not a single floor made of boards
or plank in the town of El Paso; nor have I ever seen
one in any part of New Mexico, Chihuahua, or Sonora.
In El Paso, I was obliged to purchase a few hundred
feet for doors, tables, and various fittings, for which I
paid one hundred and seventy-five dollars a thousand.
For building purposes, therefore, this timber would
prove immensely valuable.

The buildings at the Copper Mines consist of a


"Presidio" or fort, which commands the approach
from the cañon below. It is of a triangular form, each
side presenting a front of about 200 feet, with circular
towers on the corners. It is built of adobe, with

[Figure] Presidio at the Copper Mines.

walls from three to four feet in thickness, and a single
opening on the eastern side. This building was in so
good a state of preservation on the arrival of Colonel
Craig, that in a few weeks he built up such walls as
had fallen, restored the roof, and made the whole tenantable
for himself and his command, furnishing besides
store-rooms for all his provisions. There were
also some fifty or more adobe buildings, some of them
in good preservation, except the roofs, and others in a
state of complete ruin. The adobes were therefore


taken from those in the worst condition to complete
the others, roofs were added, and comfortable habitations
made for the officers of the commission.

The hills and valleys abound in wild animals and
game of various kinds. The black-tail deer (Cervus
) and the ordinary species (C. virginianus) are
very common. On the plains below are antelopes. Bears
are more numerous than in any region we have yet
been in. The grizzly, black, and brown varieties are
all found here; and there was scarcely a day when
bear-meat was not served up at some of the messes.
The grizzly and brown are the largest, some having
been killed which weighed from seven to eight hundred
pounds. These are dangerous animals to approach,
unless there are several persons in the party
well armed; and even then, it is well to have a place
of retreat in case of emergency. I have known a
grizzly bear to receive twelve rifle or pistol balls
before he fell; though in one instance a huge animal
was brought down by a single shot from a well-directed
rifle, which passing though his entire length,
killed him instantly. Turkeys abound in this region
of a very large size. Quails too are found here; but
they prefer the plains and valleys. While we remained,
our men employed in herding the mules and
cattle near the Mimbres, often brought us the fine trout
of that stream, so that our fare might be called sumptuous
in some respects. But it requires something more
than meat and game to satisfy the appetite and preserve
health and vigor, and we would willingly have
exchanged either or all of these luxuries for a few
vegetables. We had not tasted a potato for a year,


nor any other vegetables except a little wild asparagus
at El Paso. The want of this necessary article of food
was therefore sensibly felt, and some of the men
began to exhibit symptoms of scurvy. Among the
members of the Commission the cases were few and the
attacks slight; but the soldiers exhibited twelve or
fifteen cases, since leaving the coast, some of them
very bad ones. We were well provided with such
anti-scorbutics as citric acid, vinegar, pickles, and
dried apples; but they did not have the desired effect
upon the worst cases, though they doubtless prevented
the spread of the disease. Some plants were found by
Mr. Thurber, which proved very palatable, and were
eaten as long as they lasted with very good effect.
Doctor Bigelow, the Surgeon of the Commission, addressed
me a letter on the subject of the scurvy,
urging upon me the necessity of procuring potatoes.
In consequence of this, Colonel Craig and myself sent
to Santa Fé, a distance of three hundred miles, for
them; but they were not to be had there. With the
exception of this disease, the best health was enjoyed
by every member of the Commission, during our stay
in the region of the Copper Mines. The surveying
party on duty on the plain, or desert, as it may with
more propriety be called, suffered more on account of
the intense heat to which they were exposed, and the
frequent want of water. In another respect they were
badly off, as it was impossible to take fresh meat with
them. My intention was to provide them with sheep,
which could obtain a subsistence on the short grass of
the plains or near the watering-places; but it was
necessary to send to New Mexico for them, and they
were not delivered in season.


Unable to send any more parties into the field, in
consequence of the non-arrival of Colonel Graham, I
determined to make the most of my time by visiting
the frontiers of the State of Sonora. In this trip my
object was fourfold, viz.:

1. To ascertain from personal examination the condition
of the route known as "Cooke's road," from the
Rio Grande to the Pacific, and particularly that portion
of it leading to the River Gila; in order to determine
whether it was practicable to transport by it the
provisions needed for the parties engaged in surveying
this river.

2. To learn if any, and to what extent, supplies of
corn, flour, cattle, sheep, vegetables, &c., could be
furnished to the Commission; and on what terms they
could be delivered here, or to the engineering parties
on the Gila.

3. To induce the people of that State to renew the
trade formerly carried on with the Copper Mines.

4. To obtain a supply of anti-scorbutics—i. e.,
vegetables and fruits, fresh or dry.

The protracted sojourn on the Gila, which the
surveying parties must necessarily make, would require
so large a supply of provisions, and the risk and
expense of transportation by pack-mules would be so
great, that I believe it would tend greatly to the advantage
of the Commission to convey the supplies as
far as possible by wagons. There is no road near
the Gila along its whole course, and that point of
Cooke's road where it strikes the river (midway between
the Copper Mines and its junction with the
Colorado) would furnish a good and central location
for a dépôt of provisions.


Colonel Craig was as desirous as myself to ascertain
these facts, and to do all in his power to promote
the health and comfort of his men. We accordingly
made arrangements to set out on this journey on Friday
the 16th May, I having so far recovered as to be
able to ride in my carriage, although my wounded
arm was still kept in bandages and firmly fastened to
my side.


Spring at Pachetehu—Ojo de Vaca—Janos road—Col. Cooke's road—
Scarcity of water—Dry bed of a lake—Mirage—Desert region—Zoology
of the plains—Guadalupe Pass—Difficulties—Bears—Discover footprints
of deserters from Copper Mines—Sycamore trees—Cañon—
Luxuriant vegetation—Descend from the great plateau—Change of
climate—Ruined hacienda of San Bernardino—Wild cattle—Black
Water Creek—Teamster attacked by a bull—Grave of an American

May 16th. The party for the journey to Sonora consisted
of Colonel Craig, with two teams of six mules;
Dr. Webb, Messrs. Thurber, Moss, Cremony, Steele,
Bausman, Weems, Stewart and myself, also with two
teams of six mules. The wagons were nearly empty,
containing merely our tents, camp equipage, and provisions.
All were mounted on horses or mules except
myself; and I would have much preferred the same
mode of travelling, but my lame arm forbade it. Even
in the carriage the attempt seemed rather hazardous,
not knowing what the roads were, or indeed whether


such things existed at all in the interior parts of

We did not get off until noon, as it was my intention
to go only as far as the first watering-place, called
Pachetehu,* whither I had sent the wagons in advance
to await our arrival. We passed down the cañon in
fine spirits, all being glad to get away from the dull
monotony of a stationary camp. The country was
much parched; for no rain had yet fallen. After
leaving the cañon we diverged towards the right, and
struck the old road leading to Janos, which had not
been passed by a wagon or any train for nearly fourteen
years. Yet the ruts were quite distinct on the
plain. In fact, some portions of it, where the water
had run, were washed out into deep gullies, rendering
it impassable for teams. At three o'clock reached
Pachetehu, a depression in the plain which, in addition
to a spring, received the waters after rains. I traced
the course of the waters for a couple of miles, marked
by rushes and little patches of willows, when it disappeared
in the plain. The grass is abundant for some
fifteen or twenty rods on each side of this spring and
water-course; but there is no wood. Parties must
supply themselves with this before leaving the wooded
district. Distance from the Copper Mines, thirteen

May 17th. Passed an uncomfortable night from the
effects of the jolting on my arm. Roused the cooks
at three o'clock; got our breakfast before day; and
by the time it was light enough to see, we had resumed


our journey. Our course continued due south
on the Janos* road, over a bare and open plain. Not
a tree or shrub was to be seen in any direction; a few
straggling yuccas and cacti alone broke the monotony
of the plain. Grama grass was abundant, and, though
quite dry, and apparently not containing any nourishment,
was eagerly eaten by our animals. The country
consisted of an undulating prairie, with here and there
a solitary hill of a conical form rising from it. In the
far distance were visible short and isolated ridges of
mountains, with abrupt sides and jagged summits.
Passed a yucca of larger size than any we had seen.
Its trunk was about ten feet high; from which arose
four stems of equal height, all crowned with clusters
of white flowers. Reached Ojo de Vaca (Cow Spring),
at half past nine o'clock, distant from our camp nineteen
miles; where we turned out the animals to graze.
This spring is but a depression in the plain surrounded
by a couple of acres of grass, resembling an oasis in a
desert. Several holes had been dug here by passing
emigrants, in which the water had accumulated;
though in some of them it had a disagreeable sulphurous
taste. Nevertheless, not knowing how soon
another opportunity would present itself, it was
thought best to fill our kegs. To the east of this
spring are three hills, of which the most easterly one
is the highest. The westerly one is crowned with
masses of granite. After waiting three hours for the
train to come up and the mules to graze, we proceeded
on our journey.


At this spring, Colonel Cooke's road enters from
the east; it then takes a southwesterly course, which
we are to follow. The road we have pursued from the
Copper Mines continues south to Janos, and thence to
Chihuahua. It is the one taken by the California emigrants
who come by the way of Santa Fé. It was
first opened by Colonel Cooke in his march with his
battalion, and train of wagons to California, in the fall
of 1846. He took this route by the advice of his
guides, though much out of his direct course, in
order to strike the old Spanish trail which leads from
Janos across a spur of the Sierra Madre, to the frontier
settlements in Sonora; because it was known that
water was to be found there, at convenient distances.
But the more direct route due west from Ojo de Vaca
was unexplored; and Leroux, the guide of Colonel
Cooke, did not know whether water could be found on
it or not. Not wishing, therefore, to hazard the lives
of a large body of men by venturing upon an unknown
desert, he took the wiser course of striking the old
Janos road at the Guadalupe Pass.

Travelling rapidly over an excellent hard road, we
reached a pass in a range of hills shortly before sunset,
where Colonel Cooke marks down a small watercourse.
We were not more fortunate than he was, although
there were indications of water in the clumps of bushes,
and the numerous doves that were flitting about.
Several of the party searched for it up and down for a
mile on both sides of the road, but without success.
We then passed the hills and encamped on the plain
beyond. Passed the grave of a man whom we supposed
to be a California emigrant. His name was cut


with a knife on a rude board, supported by a heap of
stones. Antelopes were descried in abundance to-day
bounding over the plain. Of the feathered tribe, we
saw blackbirds, crows, hawks, the Carolina dove, quails,
meadow-larks, and a flock of what appeared to be black
plover; but as they did not alight, and flew beyond
reach of my gun, I was unable to obtain a specimen.

May 18th. We routed the cooks at two o'clock,
breakfasted by moonlight, and were on the move before
the first dawn of day. There being an uncertainty
about water, it was thought best to get over as
much ground as possible before the heat of the day.
As the road passed over an open plain, with short
grama grass and no bushes, and moreover led to a depression
in the mountain range, there was no difficulty
in keeping it. We continued rapidly down a gradual
descent of about twenty miles, with scarcely an undulation.
Not a tree or shrub was seen. After passing
to the west of a low range of hills, and crossing another
plain of about five miles, we entered the defile or
cañon, when we reached a spot marked by Colonel
Cooke, where he found water for 50 animals. This
was a hole in a rock, a few feet to the left of the road,
where we found a few buckets of stagnant and brackish
water, so bad that most of the animals refused to drink
it. The poor creatures having travelled some thirty-six
miles since starting, made repeated trials to drink from
the uninviting pool before them, and as often turned
away in disgust. We rambled over the rocks, and
explored the ravines in this defile, where there were
many indications of running water, but none could be


Again we pushed on, having yet about fifteen
miles between us and the first place where there was a
certainty of finding water. Continuing a few miles
through this defile, which presented no difficulty for
our wagons, we emerged on the opposite plain, where
our eyes were greeted with the sight of a long white
streak, which we would have taken for a lake, had it
not been designated by Colonel Cooke, as Las Playas,
or the dry bed of a lake. Keeping on the same southeasterly
course, we still descended; and as the road
was very smooth, we set the mules on a trot and rolled
over it at a pretty good pace, considering the long
distance we had come. At three o'clock we struck
the playas, which seemed to have an extent of twenty-five
or thirty miles from the north-west to the southeast,
the general course of the mountain ranges and
valleys in this region. The surface of this dry bed
was an indurated clay, so hard that the wheels of our
wagons scarcely made an impression. Its color was
nearly white. After rains, this basin, being surrounded
by high mountains, receives a large amount of water,
which seems to evaporate before vegetation gets a
foothold. From indications along its margin, and
from what I afterwards saw in other places, it never
could have contained more than two or three inches of
water in its deepest place. The width, where we
crossed, was about a mile and a half. As we were
midway across, a beautiful mirage suddenly presented
itself towards the south, which led us to believe that
the further end of the dry surface we were rolling
over, was in reality a body of water. Little clumps of
bushes arose from it like islands; and the very grass


that grew on its banks was reflected from its imaginary
surface.* Some of our party could not be convinced
of the illusion, and rode off at full speed to quench
the thirst of their panting animals. We hardly knew
what course to take here; but seeing some bright
green patches amid the vast plain of gray and parched
grass, we made directly for it; and great was our joy
at finding several large holes, dug by parties who had
preceded us, which were filled to the brim with the
most delicious water. Near these we encamped.

The country passed over in the last three days is
barren and uninteresting in the extreme. As we
toiled across these sterile plains, where no tree offered
its friendly shade, the sun glowing fiercely, and the
wind hot from the parched earth, cracking the lips
and burning the eyes, the thought would keep suggesting
itself, Is this the land which we have purchased,
and are to survey and keep at such a cost?
As far as the eye can reach stretches one unbroken
waste, barren, wild, and worthless. For fifty-two long


miles we have traversed it without finding a drop of
water that our suffering beasts would drink; nor has
there been grass enough since we left the copper mine
region for more than a small number of animals, such
as our own.

The few animals noticed seem to have partaken of
the wildness of the country they inhabit. An occasional
herd of antelopes is seen galloping in the distance,
unapproachable by the hunter for the want of a
tree or shrub behind which he may advance. Lizards
of various hues and graceful shapes glide about with
inconceivable swiftness. A startled hare throws up
its long ears and bounds out of sight. The prairie
dog gives a shrill cry of warning to its fellows, and
drops into its burrow. The only things that do not
seem terror-stricken are the so-called horned frogs.
They, as if conscious of the security afforded by their
own hideous ugliness, sullenly remove themselves out
of the way of the horses' hoofs, and regard the passer
with malicious eye. The vegetable presents scarcely
more of interest than the animal world. The flowers
are almost entirely of that most unbecoming of all hues,
yellow—varying from sulphur color to orange—and
glaring in the bright sunlight. One becomes sickened
and disgusted with the ever-recurring sameness of
plain and mountain, plant and living thing. But if
the day's travel is tedious, it is almost compensated
by the glory of the night. In this clear dry atmosphere,
without cloud or haze, moonlight and starlight
have a splendor of which dwellers upon the sea-side
cannot conceive.

Due north from our camp I noticed a range of lofty


mountains, eighty or a hundred miles distant, extending
towards the west, which I suppose to be a continuation
of the copper mine range along the Gila. West
of this arose another and less distant range. To the
south was an uninterrupted plain, with no mountains,
or even a hill, visible.

May 19th. The weather was very cold this morning;
ice was found in our camp buckets, and we
were all glad to wrap our blankets around us. After
following the edge of the dry lake for a mile, we
came to more springs and water holes, near which the
grass was excellent. From here our course was southwest,
directly for a pass in the mountains, known as
the Sierra de los Animos, about seven miles distant.
The road was good, the pass presented no difficulties,
and we soon reached the plain beyond, where we
turned more to the south. Three or four miles brought
us to the dry bed of a stream, where we stopped the
train, and traced its banks on both sides of the road
for more than a mile, without finding water. Before us
lay a broad valley, bounded on the west by a range
of high mountains; and at some eight or ten miles distance
I noticed a dark line of trees, with similar lines
intersecting it. This indicated a stream; and four or
five miles more brought us to one of its tributaries.
But, alas! it was but a dry bed, though fine, large
trees, with thick shrubbery, grew along its banks,
marking its course for miles. Again we stopped.
Dr. Webb took the rocky bed, determined to follow
it up, while I, with some others, struck across to a
clump of trees near the base of a mountain, the luxuriance
of which gave promise of water. In this we


were not disappointed: a walk of a mile brought us
to a fine spring, from which a rapid brook dashed
over the rocks, dispensing a refreshing coolness,
though it entirely disappeared within four hundred
yards. The grass being good here, we turned the
animals loose, and made a halt of three hours.

On resuming our journey, our course lay across a
plain, gradually descending towards a valley intersected
by several deep gullies, which led to the dry
bed of a stream. We followed this for some distance,
but found no water. Crossed two other beds of
streams also dry. On our right was a large grove of
oaks, which is noted on Colonel Cooke's map; and
about four miles after passing this, we struck the
source of the stream we had noticed so long on our
right, where we found the water standing in large pools.
Here we pitched our tents, and encamped for the
night, after a journey of thirty-two miles.

May 20th. Another cold morning, with ice in our
water buckets. Fires to warm ourselves were quite out
of the question, as not a particle of wood was to be
seen. For cooking purposes, we generally collected
a little where it could be found, and put it into the
wagons. Our course to-day was nearly south, over a
broad valley, from eight to ten miles across, hemmed
in on both sides by high ranges of mountains. So
level was this valley, and so luxuriant the grass, that
it resembled a vast meadow; yet all its rich verdure
seemed wasted, for no animals appeared, except a few
antelopes and several dog-towns. In every other
instance where the prairie dogs were congregated, it
was on the most barren spots, far from water, where


the grass was short, and the soil hard and gravelly.
Here the soil was a rich black loam, as it appeared
where the little creatures had thrown it up, and the
grass was nibbled down to its roots.

After passing a small stream (where we caught
some curious water insects), our course lay direct for
the mountains, which gradually closed in upon us, until
we arrived by an easy ascent at the summit. Here we
struck the old road, leading in a southeasterly course
to Janos; and here our real difficulties seemed to
begin. We had reached what appeared from the plain
below to be the apex of the ridge; but we found ourselves
all at once surrounded by steep hills, steeper
and higher mountains, ravines, gullies, and frightful
cañons. A wide and discouraging prospect was open
before us. First came an ocean of mountain peaks, if
I may so term them; for, from the eminence on which
we stood, we overtopped the whole, looking down
upon them as in a birds-eye view. Beyond these,
looking to the west, arose other mountains, which gradually
receded from the view, until in the dim distance
the horizon was bounded by a faint blue outline
of some range a hundred miles distant. Colonel
Cooke deserves great credit for this bold and successful
undertaking, which has not been sufficiently appreciated
by his countrymen. Here his whole command
was employed in opening this trail, and making it
passable. But, with all his labor, it is still a most difficult
pass, and dangerous for loaded wagons. Although
ours were light, it required great caution to get
through. The first descent is down a long hill, where
the wheels have to be locked. Next the road passes


down a chalky cliff, whose yielding surface crumbles
beneath the hoofs of the animals, making it necessary
not only to lock, but also to restrain the wagons with
ropes. After this it winds over peaks, the declivity
always greater than the ascent, until at length the
valley is reached. Our progress was slow and toilsome.
We were constantly obliged to assist the
wagons, by pushing them when going up, or holding
back in their descent; but the most dangerous
portions were when we had a sideling inclination to
contend with; for here the wagons had to be supported
on one side, as well as held back. According to Colonel
Cooke the descent here is a thousand feet. A perceptible
change of climate was indicated by the vegetation:
besides the greater abundance of plants peculiar to a
warm country, a marked difference was observable in
the same species. Those plants which we saw on the
table-land just in bud, were, in the course of the
descent, seen in flower, and further down with maturing

Two bears were observed to-day after entering the
defile; they were so large as to be taken at first for
mules. When their real nature was discovered, several
of the horsemen gave chase, but without success;
for Bruin gained on them at every leap, and soon disappeared.
All the hills and valleys are covered with
trees, chiefly live-oak and cedar; and in every open
space there is excellent grass.

After four or five hours' hard tugging we reached
a small stream, where the road took a sudden turn to
the south, leading to a frightful cañon. Here we came
to a stand, and waited for the wagons to come up. I


had walked the whole distance through this defile,
which is known as the Guadalupe Pass, reaching this
point in advance. When all had come up, both men and
animals were glad to hear the order to unhitch the
mules and encamp for the night, which we did near a
small rivulet, though our day's journey could hardly
have exceeded twelve miles.

For the last three days we have noticed the tracks
of several mules, all of which were shod, accompanied
by one man on foot. They appear to have been made
several months ago, at a time when the ground was
wet; and as there has been no rain, it must have been
during the winter after a slight fall of snow. As the
Mexicans do not shoe their mules, we believed the
party to have been Americans; and a close inspection
of the print made by the man on foot convinced Colonel
Craig that it was a soldier's shoe, and that the party
consisted of the seven deserters from his command who
left in February. They took with them but six mules,
so that the seventh had to go on foot. We had learned
that they had not reached Chihuahua; and as they had
not been seen at the settlements on the Rio Grande, the
inference was, that they had set out for California.
These foot prints therefore were objects of interest to
us as we watched them from day to day.

The cañon where we are now encamped, is filled
with walnut, oak, ash, and sycamore trees. The last
mentioned, is quite a different tree from that known by
the same name in the United States, and, if it would
bear our nothern winters, would make a fine addition
to our ornamental trees. Its leaves have a graceful
droop, the bark is almost pure white, very clear and


smooth, and contrasts strongly with the foliage. The
fruit instead of being a solitary head, or "button ball,"
like ours, is borne in large clusters of three or five,
strung upon a slender stem. The banks which overhang
this defile are steep and rugged, and present as
great a variety of plants of the cactus family, as the
valley does of trees and shrubs. Besides the various
kinds seen on the plains, new ones were noticed here,
nearly all of them in flower. The beautiful yucca raised
its tall stems of white flowers, while the agave towering
above all, with its brilliant yellow blossoms, completed
the floral array of this wild and romantic pass. Fatigued
as I was with my hard day's walk, and my arm
still bound to my side, I did not wait for dinner, but
clambered up the bank, and seating myself beneath the
shade of a cedar, took two sketches of the place, one
of which looking south exhibits a singularly capped
rock, standing detached in the cañon.

May 21st. A great change in the temperature of
the air, has accompanied our descent from the high
plains. The little stream on which we are encamped
flows west; so that it is now evident we have crossed
the great dividing ridge, or central plateau which extends
from north to south across the whole continent
of North America.

Closely hemmed in on both sides by overhanging
rocks, our route continued along the cañon for five or
six miles, directly in, or near the bed of the stream,
each turn presenting some new scene of beauty and
grandeur. Tall sycamores filled the narrow space
between the walls of the defile, while flowering shrubs
shooting their slender branches from the recesses where



a little earth had given them a hold, formed a complete
canopy over our heads. The various cacti, the agave,
and the yucca also abounded, each flourishing in perfection,
and, as it were, striving for the ascendency. To
these must be added the fouquiera, with its tall leafless
stems and its brilliant scarlet flowers, which shot forth
from every rocky crevice.

On emerging from the cañon our road led up a high
hill where there was a level plateau, of a desert-like
character, about eight miles across, with an excellent
road, which brought us to the rich valley of San Bernardino.
Here was stretched out before us a level
patch of green, resembling a luxuriant meadow, some
eight or ten miles long, by one broad; and directly
beyond, on a little spur of the plateau, lay the ruins of
the hacienda of San Bernardino. Crossing this valley
we stopped on the banks of a little stream, a tributary,
or one of the sources of the Huaqui, which passes within
a few rods of the ruins. As we approached, a flock of
herons arose from the water, alarmed at the unusual
invasion of their quiet haunt. One of them, whom
curiosity had prompted to leave his companions and
take a closer inspection of the intruders, fell a victim
to his boldness, and was added to our ornithological

San Bernardino is a collection of adobe buildings
in a ruined state, of which nothing but the walls remain.
One of these buildings was about one hundred
feet square, with a court in the centre; and adjoining
it were others with small apartments. The latter were
doubtless the dwellings of the peons and herdsmen.
The whole extending over a space of about two acres,


was inclosed with a high wall of adobe, with regular
bastions for defence. Being elevated some twenty or
thirty feet above the valley, this hacienda commands a
fine view of the country around. Vast herds of cattle
were formerly raised here, but the frequent attacks of
the Apaches led to the abandonment of the place.
Some cattle which had strayed away and were not recovered
at the time, have greatly multiplied since, and
now roam over the plains and in the valleys, as wild and
more fierce than the buffalo. Colonel Cooke, in his
march to California, supplied his whole command with
beef from these herds; and the passing emigrants destined
for that country, replenish their stores from the
same source. I saw a number of these cattle when
riding in advance of the party, but having only my
double-barrelled gun and my revolvers with me, did
not dare to shoot at them. These herds were small,
not more than six in each, led by a stately bull. A
wounded bull would be a serious antagonist, more so, I
have been told than a buffalo. This establishment was
abandoned about twenty years ago; since which time,
no attempt has been made to reoccupy it. Such seems
to be the case with all deserted places here; a fatality
or superstitious dread hangs over them, and when they
have been left two or three years, they are not again

After watering our animals, and giving them a
couple of hours to feed on the rich grass here, we resumed
our journey, taking a westerly direction. The
road first entered a thick chapporal of mezquit through
which it continued four or five miles; when we struck
for three mountains, in a line with each other from


east to west; the last of a conical form, crowned by a
perpendicular mass of reddish rock, covered with
green and yellow moss. Here the country was exceedingly
hilly and barren. For two or three miles
the vegetation was limited to a perfect forest of the
fouquieras; some of which grow to the height of
twenty feet, their leafless stems crowned with scarlet
flowers. I would have remained at San Bernardino
for the night, but expected to find water at the base
of these hills, as indicated by Colonel Cooke. We saw
many places where there had been water, and even a
running stream; but all was dried up, and there was
no alternative but to push on some twelve or fourteen
miles to Black Water Creek, the Agua Prieta of the
Mexicans. Emerging from the hills we came upon an
open plain with an excellent road down a gradual descent
for about ten miles; and seeing before us the
bottom of the valley, with a line of bushes which I supposed
to mark the stream we were in search of, I hurried
on in advance of the wagons, in order to select a
good place for an encampment. A couple of hours
brought me to the spot, where to my great disappointment,
I found only a dry ravine without a drop of
water; nor did it appear that there had been any
there for months. Rank grass and weeds had sprung
up in the bed where water had run, had come to maturity,
and shrunk away for the want of further nourishment.
Not a tree was near us, and every thing
around had a most forbidding aspect. For a mile before
reaching this watercourse, we had noticed many
well-beaten trails of wild cattle, some of which were
quite fresh, and directed towards a common centre.


A few miles in advance, following the road, I also perceived
a line of large cotton-woods. I hastened forward
in advance of the party, and when I reached the
spot, I directed Wells, my carriage driver, to look
around among the trees and bushes, whose luxuriance
indicated their proximity to water. He had got but a
few rods when I heard him halloa, and soon after take
to a tree. His red flannel shirt had excited the ire of
a bull, which, with a herd of wild cattle, was browsing
among the bushes. But my party coming up at this
juncture, they all took to their heels in single file, the
bull leading the van, and were soon lost in the high
chapporal. We were again doomed to disappointment.
No water was found. I now hastened back
with all speed to Black Water Creek, where the train
with the rest of the party had arrived. They were
pondering what to do in the dilemma. Their disappointment
being not less than my own. We had now
come about twenty-two miles from the last water, and
nearly forty from our last camping place in the Guadalupe
Pass. So confident had we been on leaving San
Bernardino that we should find water at this place, if
not at two intermediate stations, that we had not taken
the trouble to fill our kegs. We always avoided carrying
kegs of water when not absolutely necessary, on
account of the weight, and the appearance of a river
on the map was a sufficient excuse for omitting to do
so at this time. For the same reason we had collected
no wood. The place where we had stopped was also
entirely destitute of grass, so that we had but a poor
prospect of a meal before us. Two of us had a little
water in our canteens; we put this together, made a


fire with some buffalo chips, i. e., dried cattle dung,
and made a pot of coffee. It was now quite dark, and
too late to look further for water. The mules were,
therefore, fastened to the wagon wheels, and tongues,
without food; when we, all fatigued and supperless;
threw our blankets around us, and without pitching
our tents, crept beneath the wagons, and tried to forget
our unpleasant situation in sleep. The bellowing
of bulls and the incessant yelping of the wolves occasionally
disturbed our slumbers; nevertheless, we
obtained a refreshing night's repose.

Among the incidents of the day, the following
deserves mention. Shortly before we stopped the attention
of the party was attracted by a glittering object,
a few rods from the road. On examination it proved
to be a highly polished bayonet; and Colonel Craig
immediately recognized it as belonging to a U. S. army
musket. Further search disclosed a grave, which appeared
to have been scratched open by the wolves, and
the body carried off. A pair of soldier's pantaloons,
and part of a cotton sheet were also found near. There
was every reason to believe, therefore, that this was
the grave of an American soldier, and probably of one
of those who had deserted from the Copper Mines.

While jogging along to-day, a wolf passed by,
which I shot from my carriage door. Many antelopes
were also seen, but we were in too great a hurry to go
in pursuit of them. For the same reason none of the
wild cattle were shot.

May 22d. As soon as it was light, Colonel Craig,
Mr. Thurber, and others set off in search of water. They
took one of the fresh cattle trails; and, after following


it about two miles, they struck a fine spring, which we
afterwards learned was known to the Mexicans by the
name of Agua Prieta, or Black Water. To this place
we immediately moved the wagons, and encamped for
the day.


Leave the California road—Agua Prieta—Send party to look for Fronteras
—Mexican soldiers sent to guide us in—Journey resumed—Strike
a rich valley—Break a wagon—Reach Fronteras—Description of the
place—Abandoned by its people and recolonized—General Carrasco—
Couriers between the frontier posts—Attack by General Carrasco on
Apaches at Janos—Campaign against the Apaches—General Carrasco's
opinion of American officers—The Doctor beset by the sick—Leave
Fronteras—Ooquiárachi—Valley of Barbari—Wild turkeys—Mountain
Pass—Gold Mine—Bacuachi—Sonora River—Magnificent cañon
—Chinapi—Curious sandstone formation—Arrival at Arispe.

WE had now reached the farthest point to which we
could follow the California road; our destination being
Fronteras, the nearest town in Sonora, which is laid
down on Cooke's map as about fourteen miles to the
south, we must leave it here. But as no wagon road
or trail could be discovered in that direction, I did
not think it prudent to set off with our wagons without
knowing more about the country. Colonel Cooke
does not speak positively as to the distance of this
place, having obtained his information from an Indian.
I therefore despatched Messrs. Thurber, Cremony, and
Stewart to find the place, and ascertain if the country
between it and our camp was practicable for wagons.
They took with them as guide a Mexican, named


Jesus, one of our teamsters, who had visited the place
some years before by another route, and knew the
landmarks. This name is so common among Mexicans,
particularly the lower classes, that one can seldom get
half a dozen of them together without finding a Jesus
in the company. We had two of the name in the
Commission for a year; both of whom, I am sorry to
say, proved entirely unworthy of it.

Remained quietly in our tents during the day, the
mules and horses feeding on the grass near by. Parties
went out in search of wild cattle, many having
been seen at daylight; but they all returned unsuccessful.
For lack of better sport, therefore, we amused
ourselves in firing at wolves which constantly approached
the spring during the day; only one however
was killed. During the night heard the bellowing
of bulls in all directions. Several of our men were on
the alert, but the cattle doubtless scented the danger,
and would not approach.

May 23d. At 6 o'clo