From the earliest westward march of civilization, the beautiful valley of the Platte, through which the Salt Lake Trail coursed its way, has been a grand pathway to the mountains, and thence over their snow-capped summits to the golden shores of the Pacific Ocean.

In a little more than a third of a century, through the agency of that grandest of civilizers, the locomotive, the charming and fertile valley has been carved into prosperous commonwealths, whose development from an almost desert waste is a marvellous monument to the restless energy of the American people, and of their power to conquer the wilderness.

In 1842 Lieutenant John C. Fremont travelled up the Blue, on his first exploring expedition, and arrived in the Platte at Grand Island, where the party separated, a portion proceeding up the North Fork of the river, toward Laramie, and another up the South Fork. The following year the great pathfinder ventured on a second expedition by the way of the Kansas and Republican rivers, reaching the Platte at the mouth of Beaver Creek.

In 1847 the Platte Valley became the highway of the Mormons in their wonderful exodus from Illinois to Utah, and ten years later the trails made by that remarkable sect were followed by the rush of pioneers to the newly discovered gold fields of California.

Twelve years later, the beautiful valley was traversed by a greater rush of adventurers than ever before in its history. In the summer of 1850 Mr. Green Russell and his adventurous companions discovered gold on a tributary of the Platte. The report spread so rapidly that the greatest excitement at once developed on the frontier of Missouri, which was then the boundary between civilization and the unknown Far West. In the following spring the exodus to the gold fields began. The old overland route was famed for its picturesque scenery, but as the weary traveller slowly trod the dangerous trail, he was too often in constant dread of attacks by the blood-thirsty savages to allow his mind to dwell upon the details of the magnificent landscape. To-day, however, as the same route is practically shod with iron, the tourist, from the windows of his car on the Union Pacific, may safely contemplate the historic valley. Its beautiful towns and hamlets, its cultivated plains, its watercourses, its skyward-reaching peaks, may be seen in a security which would have passed the very dreams of a pioneer fifty years ago.

The scenery is sufficiently wild to please the most exacting, even to-day; for its isolated buttes, rocky bluffs, lightning-splintered gorges, foaming torrents, fantastically formed bowlders, and towering mountains brook no change at the hands of puny man, and are as firm as the rock itself. Under a sky that nowhere else seems to be of such an intensely cerulean hue, the charm of the region is intensified.

Before a European ever looked upon it, the Platte Valley was for centuries, in all probability, a gateway to the mountains. The prehistoric mound-builders, perhaps, travelled its lonely course, and on through the portals of the great Continental Divide, to the southern sea. The rude, primitive savage of North America, with whom the hairy mammoth and primeval elephant were contemporary, in a geological epoch, whose distance in the misty past appalls, traversed the silent trail across the continent. He packed on his back the furs of the colder regions, where he lived. He carried copper from the mines on the shores of Lake Superior; the horns of the moose, elk, and deer; robes of the buffalo, the wolf, and kindred animals. Among his merchandise were masses of red pipestone from the sacred quarries east of the Missouri. He journeyed with these treasures to the people of the southwest and exchanged them for what to him were equally precious: brilliant feathers of tropical birds; valuable gems, like the revered turquoise; rare metals; woven fabrics, and other commodities foreign to his own wind-swept and snow-bound plains.

The Platte Valley, for untold ages, was a beautiful, awful wilderness, thronged by stately headed elk, and the resort of vast herds of buffalo, deer, and antelope. Until a few years ago their skulls and bones could still be seen in some localities, scattered thick upon the ground between the bluffs and the river. Now all the game has vanished, excepting, perhaps, a few antelope and deer in some favoured mountain recess, where the white man has not invaded the rocky soil with his plough.

Until fifty years ago the whole region watered by the Platte was regarded as a veritable desert, never to be brought under the domain of agriculture, but forever doomed to a hopeless sterility. Its inhabitants were a wild, merciless horde of savages, whose only aim was murder, and an unceasing warfare against any encroachment upon their domain by the hated palefaces.

The river is very shallow, and for that reason was called by the Otoes, whose country embraced the region at its mouth, the Ne-bras-ka, and re-christened the Platte by the French trappers, a term synonymous to that given by the Indians.

The Platte River, nearly three-quarters of a century ago, was called by Washington Irving, The most magnificent and most useless of streams. Abstraction made of its defects, nothing can be more pleasing than the perspective which it presents to the eye. Its islands have the appearance of a labyrinth of groves floating on the waters. Their extraordinary position gives an air of youth and loveliness to the whole scene. If to this be added the undulations of the river, the waving of the verdure, the alternations of light and shade, the succession of these islands varying in form and beauty, and the purity of the atmosphere, some idea may be formed of the pleasing sensations which the traveller experiences on beholding a scene that seems to have started fresh from the hands of the Creator.

The valley is wide, and once was covered with luxuriant grass and dotted with many-coloured flowers. For a great distance along its lower portions, the banks were fringed with a heavy growth of cottonwood, willow, and other varieties of timber.

In its solitude at the beginning of the present century, it might properly be claimed as the arena of the tornado and the race course of the winds. Climatic changes, which follow the empire of the plough, have dissipated such atmospheric phenomena as characterized the vast wilderness in its days of absolute isolation from the march of civilization, as they have elsewhere in the central regions of the continent.

The revered Father De Smet, who traversed the then dreary wilderness of the Platte Valley, as long ago as fifty-seven years, thus writes in his letters to the bishop of St. Louis, of a tornado he witnessed: -

        However, it happens sometimes, though but seldom, that the clouds, floating with great rapidity, open currents of air so violent as suddenly to chill the atmosphere and produce the most destructive hailstorms. I have seen some hailstones the size of an egg. It is dangerous to be abroad during these storms. A Cheyenne Indian was lately struck by a hailstone, and remained senseless for an hour.

        Once as the storm raged near us, we witnessed a sublime sight. A spiral abyss seemed to be suddenly formed in the air. The clouds followed each other into it with great velocity, till they attracted all objects around them, whilst such clouds as were too large and too far distant to feel its influence turned in an opposite direction. The noise we heard in the air was like that of a tempest. On beholding the conflict, we fancied that all the winds had been let loose from the four points of the compass. It is very probable that if it had approached nearer, the whole caravan would have made an ascension into the clouds. The spiral column moved majestically toward the north, and lighted on the surface of the Platte. Then another scene was exhibited to view. The waters, agitated by its powerful function, began to turn round with frightful noise, and were suddenly drawn up to the clouds in a spiral form. The column appeared to measure a mile in height; and such was the violence of the winds, which came down in a perpendicular direction, that in the twinkling of an eye the trees were torn and uprooted, and their boughs scattered in every direction. But what is violent does not last. After a few minutes the frightful visitation ceased. The column, not being able to sustain the weight at its base, was dissolved almost as quickly as it had been formed.

        In proportion as we proceeded toward the source of this wonderful river, the shades of vegetation became more gloomy, and the brows of the mountain more craggy. Everything seemed to wear the aspect not of decay, but of age, or rather of venerable antiquity.

The broad old Salt Lake Trail to the Rocky Mountains coincided with the Platte River about twenty miles below the head of Grand Island. The island used to be densely wooded, and extended for sixty or seventy miles. The valley at that point is about seven miles wide, and the stream itself, between one and two from bank to bank.

The South Platte was a muddy stream, and with its low banks, scattered flat sand-bars, and pigmy islands, a melancholy river, straggling through the centre of vast prairies, and only saved from being impossible to find with the naked eye by its sentinel trees standing at long distances from each other, on either side.

The Platte of the mountain region scarcely retains one characteristic of the stream far below. Here, it is confined to a bed of rock and sand, not more than two hundred yards wide, and its water is of unwonted clearness and transparency. Its banks are steep and the attrition caused at the time of spring freshets shows a deep vegetable mould reaching far back, making the soil highly fertile. Here, too, the river forces its way through a barrier of tablelands, forming one of those striking peculiarities incident to mountain streams, called by the Spaniards a canyon; that is, a narrow passage between high and precipitous banks, formed by mountains; a common term in the language of the mountaineers describing one of these picturesque breaks through the range.

The scenery of the upper Platte is constantly changing, the river presenting more the appearance of a genuine mountain stream. Its banks are here and there heavily fringed with timber, rich grass grows luxuriantly in the flat bottoms, and the dark bluffs which bound them form a beautiful background, interspersed occasionally by snow-capped peaks.

In little more than the third of a century the vast area of desert-waste comprising the valley of the Platte, and beyond, has been transmuted by that most effective of civilizers the railroad, into great states. On the terra incognita there have appeared large cities and towns, whose genesis is a marvel in the history of nations. Peace has spread her white wings over the bloody sands of the trail, whose sublime silence but a short time since was so often broken by the diabolical whoop of the savage, as he wretched the reeking scalp from the head of his enemy. Where it required many weeks of dangerous, tedious travel to cross the weary pathway to the mountains, now, in all the luxuriance of modern American railway service, the traveller is whirled along at the rate of fifty miles all hour, and where it required many days for the transmission of news, the events of the whole civilized world, as they hourly occur, are flashed from ocean to ocean in a few seconds.

The islands, bluffs, and isolated peaks of the trail have clustering around them many thrilling legends, stories, and events; some of them reaching far backward into the dim light of tradition; others having happened within the memory of men now living. All are strangely characteristic of the region, and are as full of poetry and pathos as the epics of ancient Greece, whose stories are the basis of the literature of the world to-day.

Some traveller, who has visited every picturesque spot on both continents, has truthfully said: "No! Never need an American look beyond his own country for the sublime and beautiful of natural scenery." Nowhere else on the continent is the landscape for such a distance so varied, so distinctly picturesque, beautiful, and sublime, as that which may be viewed from the car windows of the magnificent trains of the Union Pacific Railway. They swiftly course over almost the identical pathway once followed by the overland stage-coach, the pony express, and the slowly plodding ox caravans in the days when the possibility of a transcontinental trail of steel was regarded as a chimera.

Less than a hundred miles from the Missouri River is the famous Loup Fork of the Platte, once celebrated for the great Pawnee Indian village on its south bank, where, long before the white man encroached upon the beautiful region, that once powerful tribe lived in a sort of barbaric splendour. This affluent was so named by the early French-Canadian trappers because of the numerous packs of wolves that haunted the region. Game, consisting of deer, buffalo, antelope, turkeys, and prairie chickens, abounded, while the stream itself was covered with ducks and geese. During the days of travel by the old trail, at the crossing-place was a primitive ferry. The current was always very strong, and when the fork was much swollen, dangerous. The region watered by the Loup Fork is unsurpassed in fertility by any other portion of the valley of the Platte. After crossing the stream, the Union Pacific's track is a perfectly straight line, and when the fields are golden with the harvests, the view from the train is the most marvellous agricultural landscape to be found anywhere on the continent.

A few miles westward, beyond Grand Island, is Wood River, a noted landmark and camping-place for those who followed the tide of immigration to Utah, and to the gold fields of California, in 1849. It was always a pleasant spot, and is now a station on the Union Pacific Railway. As the tourist crosses the bridge over the stream in a palace car, he may look down from his window, and meditate on the brilliancy of the present, and the misty past, with all its adventures and suffering. The march of civilization has made wonderful changes in fifty years. It has forced the Indians, the buffaloes, and the antelopes away from the prairies, and in their places comfortable homes may now be seen on the sites of old camps. The pretty little stream still runs its race to the Platte, and lingering near the bank at the old ford, murmurs its story of the long ago, as the train rushes by.

After passing Grand Island, the next place of importance between the flourishing town of Columbus and North Platte is that known as Brady's.

Brady's Island honours the memory of an old-time trapper, who was brutally murdered by one of his partners in 1847. They were engaged in their vocation as employees of the American Fur Company, on the many tributaries of the Platte, and their camp at the time was on the island that bears the unfortunate man's name. The tradition says that the little coterie of trappers had landed there to pack their accumulation of the season's furs for the market of St. Louis, then the only place where they could be disposed of in the whole West.

The day when everything was about ready for embarkation down the river to the Missouri, in a rude boat which they had constructed of buffalo-hides drawn over a framework of poles, Brady and one of the men were in the camp alone - the others were at work on the bank of the stream. Brady and the one who was left in the camp that morning were ever on bad terms with each other, and more than once had indulged in some severe quarrels.

When the rest of their party returned to the camp preparatory to starting, they found Brady dead, lying in a pool of his own blood. His partner, when questioned as to the cause of his death, affirmed that he was accidentally killed by the premature discharge of his own rifle, which he had been carelessly handling.

The story was not believed by the men, and the cold-blooded murderer escaped lynching by his companions only by the better judgment of the cooler heads of some, who insisted that possibly the tale might be true. The body of the unlucky trapper was buried near the spot where he fell, but was soon dug up by the wolves, and his bones left to bleach in the wintry sun. Portions of them were found eight or ten years afterward by another party of trappers, and when they recognized them as those of a human being, they carefully reinterred them.

The party of trappers, sad at the loss of one of their number, started down the Platte, with their boat-load of furs, but finding the river too shallow to navigate their frail craft, they were compelled to abandon it. They themselves carried what they could of its contents and made the best of their way on foot, two hundred and fifty miles, to the nearest settlement. In a few days their provisions began to run short, and as game became scarce, they separated, after making about one hundred miles of their lonesome journey, each man taking his own trail toward the Missouri. The murderer of Brady happened to be a very indifferent walker, and was soon left many miles behind his comrades.

When the foremost of the party arrived at the Pawnee village, on the Loup Fork of the Platte, they sent back two members of that tribe to bring in the lost man, while they continued on their journey toward the Missouri. A week or more later a small party of trappers belonging to the same fur company, happening to go near the Indian village, were stopped by the head chief, who requested them to go with him, to see a white man who was lying very sick in his teepee.

They complied with the Indian's request, and found the murderer of Brady at the point of death. He confessed to them how Brady came to his end; told of his own sufferings, and believed them to be the justice that was dealt out to him for the unwarranted killing of his partner. He told them, further, that when his companions left him on the road, he had tried to light a fire at night with his pistol, and the charge accidentally entered his thigh bone, tearing it into splinters. In that deplorable condition he was absolutely helpless; to walk was an impossibility. He could hardly move at all, far less dress his wound properly. He managed, by tying a piece of cloth to a stick, to let any passing trapper know where he was lying. He remained there for six days and nights, when at last his ear caught the sound of human voices, and waking up from the stupor which had overcome him from his weakness, to his great delight he discovered two friendly Pawnees leaning over him, their countenances filled with compassion. They gave him some nourishment, tenderly conveyed him to their village, and had kindly cared for him ever since.

He expired while the trappers were conversing with him.

One of the historic places on the left bank of the North Fork of the Platte is Ash Hollow,[39] twelve miles distant from the main stream, famous for a battle between Little Thunder, chief of the Brule Sioux, and the Second Regiment of United States Dragoons, under command of Brevet Brigadier William S. Harney; in which some eighty Indians were slain, and the lives of twelve of our own soldiers lost.

Johnson's Creek was named for a foolish missionary a great many years ago, who was on his way to Oregon, in company with a party of emigrants in charge of John Gray.

As they were breaking camp one morning, a band of Sioux suddenly charged out of the hills, and preparations were immediately made by Mr. Gray and his men to repel them. Against such a course as this Mr. Johnson loudly protested. He declared that it would be a terrible outrage to shed innocent blood, and as the savages neared the camp, he marched out to meet them and have a talk, notwithstanding that he was told by his companions that the Indians would not listen to him for a moment, but would take his scalp.

The deluded fool really believed that the savages would not harm him, because he was a missionary, and had ventured out among them to do their race good. Of course he fell a victim to his own ridiculous credulity; for the moment the Indians came close enough, they incontinently murdered him, and his hair was dangling at the belt of one of the warriors before Johnson had a chance to put in a word.

In the fight which ensued three of the Indians were killed, and were, with the mangled remains of the unfortunate missionary, buried in one grave.

Independence Rock is an isolated mass of clear granite, located a few hundred yards from the right bank of the Sweetwater. Its base covers an area of nearly five acres, and rises to a height of about three hundred feet. There is a slight depression on its summit, otherwise the rock would be nearly oval in shape. In the early days of the trail, a little soil, which had probably been drifted into the depression mentioned, supported a few sickly shrubs and one dwarf tree.

The front face of this ancient landmark, like that of Pawnee Rock, on the old Santa Fe Trail, is covered with the names of trappers, traders, emigrants, and other men who supposed that their rude carvings would immortalize them.

The rock derives its patriotic name from the fact that many years ago one of the first party of Americans who crossed the continent by the way of the Platte Valley, under the leadership of a man named Thorp, celebrated their Fourth of July at the foot of the now historic mass of granite.

The most prominent inscription on the face of the rock is Independence. Father De Smet, the celebrated Jesuit priest, says of it in his letters to the bishop of St. Louis, in 1841: The first rock which we saw, and which truly deserves the name, was the famous rock Independence. At first I was led to believe that it had received this pompous name from its isolated situation and the solidity of its basis; but I was afterward told that it was called so because the first travellers who thought of giving it a name arrived at it on the very day when the people of the United States celebrate the anniversary of their separation from Great Britain. We reached this spot on the day that immediately succeeds this celebration. We had in our company a young Englishman, as jealous of the honour of his nation as the Americans; hence we had a double reason not to cry hurrah, for Independence. Still, on the following day, lest it might be said that we passed this lofty monument of the desert with indifference, we cut our names on the south side of the rock, under initials (I. H. S.) which we would wish to see engraved on every spot. On account of all these names, and of the dates that accompany them, as well as of the hieroglyphics of Indian warriors, I have surnamed this rock "The Great Record of the Desert."

As is the case with nearly all of the prominent bluffs, mountains, and isolated peaks in the romantic valley, Independence Rock has its Indian legend. The story as told by an old warrior is this: -

        A great many years ago, long before any white man had looked upon the valley of the Upper Platte, the chief of the Pawnees, whose big villages extended for some distance along that river, was known as the Crouching Panther. He was one of the bravest warriors that the famous Pawnee nation had ever produced; large in stature, powerful in his strength, yet as lithe and quick as the animal from which he derived his name. He was beloved by his tribe, and none of his many warriors could compete with him for an instant in all the manly games which afford the amusements of the savages, nor with him in the chase after the buffalo or the more fleet antelope. His prowess, too, in battle was far beyond that of any of the great warriors which tradition had handed down; yet he was not envied by any, for he was of a loving and kind disposition. He was equal in feats of horsemanship to the Comanches, which nation excels in that particular over all other Plains tribes.

        In the village there lived a superannuated chief, who possessed a daughter considered the handsomest maiden in all the region which was watered by the great Platte. She was as graceful as an antelope in all her movements, and, as is usual in the strange nomenclature of the savages who take their cognomens from some characteristic of their nature, she was known as the Antelope, because she more resembled that graceful animal than any other of the young maidens in her tribe. She would flit from rock to rock, when out gathering berries, or float down the stream in her birch-bark canoe, catching fish for her aged father's meals. Crouching Panther had for a long time had his eyes riveted upon the Antelope, and would often lie for hours on some high point of rock watching the youthful girl as she attended to the cares of her lodge. He never returned from a successful hunt without sending some choice portion of the buffalo or other animal he had killed to the lodge of the Antelope.

        The arrangements, according to the customs of the tribe, had already been made for a wedding of the favourite young savages, when on the night preceding the ceremony a party of Sioux, the deadly hereditary enemies of the Pawnees, made a night assault upon the village, and after a terrible fight carried off a number of scalps, and many prisoners, among whom was the Antelope.

        The prisoners were hurried off to one of the remote fastnesses of the Sioux up in the mountains, in the vicinity of Medicine Bow River, where, as was the custom of the Indians, they intended to sacrifice their prisoners by the worst methods of torture as ingeniously cruel as they could possibly make it.

        In two days after the return of the warriors to the Sioux village was the sacrifice to be made. The friends and relatives of the Sioux who had been killed in the assault upon the Pawnees were drawn up around the unfortunate captives, who were about to be fastened to stakes and stand the terrible ordeal of death by fire, when suddenly, like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky, the terrible war-whoop of the Pawnees sounded in the ears of the now thoroughly frightened Sioux, who saw, to their dismay, a band of the dreaded Pawnees led by the intrepid Crouching Panther. Dashing down upon them, they fought their way to where the prisoners were already stoically awaiting their terrible fate, and the Crouching Panther, rushing to where the Antelope was standing, after killing half a dozen of his foes, caught her up, and throwing her before him on his saddle, dashed off with his brave little band of followers before the astonished Sioux could recover. It was not long before they recovered their presence of mind, however, and, enraged by the loss of their prisoners, immediately mounted their horses and quickly followed the daring Pawnees on the trail.

        The Sioux outnumbered the Pawnees ten to one, but Crouching Panther had just that amount of courage in his nature that numbers did not stop him when bent on such a mission, and he had proceeded a great way on the trail with his warriors and the Antelope toward their native village when they were overtaken by a vastly superior force, and a terrible fight took place. Many a Sioux did the Crouching Panther send to the happy hunting-grounds, notwithstanding that he was handicapped by the living burden in front of him on his horse. He was near the rock, when he found that all his warriors, though having fought bravely, were cut down, and himself alone, death staring him in the face, or what was worse, the torture for himself and the girl with him. He jumped from his animal with the now fainting maiden in his arms, and, rushing up the mountain, followed by a dozen of his foes, sprang to the edge of the dizzy height, and stood for a moment confronting his enemies. The sun was just setting; the valley was flooded with a golden light, and he stood there with the Antelope in his arms at bay for a moment, gazing in disdain upon his pursuers. As one of the Sioux was foremost in his attempt to seize the Crouching Panther, the latter hurled his hatchet with terrible, unerring force, and buried it deep into the presumptuous savage's brain. At the same moment crying out "The spirits of a hundred Pawnee braves will accompany their great chief to the happy hunting-grounds of their fathers," he pressed close to his bosom the beautiful form of the Antelope, sprang out into the clear air, and bounding from rock to rock, the two lovers were dashed to pieces on the stony ground below.

Chimney Rock, on the Platte, was once a famous landmark in the early days of the trail. When he reached it, the pioneer traveller knew that nearly one-half of the journey from the Missouri River and the Great Salt Lake was over. For miles on either side of it, it was plainly visible to the lonely trapper, the hunter, and the western-bound emigrant.

Erosion has worn it to an insignificant pillar, but it at one time was a portion of the main chain of bluffs bounding the valley of the Platte. Denudation through countless ages separated it from them. Fifty years ago it was a conical elevation, about a hundred feet high, from the apex of which another shaft arose forty feet. Its strange formation was caused by disintegration of the softer portions of its mass. It is located on the south side of the river, not far from the boundary line between Nebraska and Wyoming. It looked like a factory chimney, hence its name.

The origin of "Crazy Woman's Creek," according to a legend of the Crows, told by an aged chief to George P. Belden, is as follows: -

        Years ago, when my father was a little boy, there came among us a man who was half white. He said he wished to trade with our people for buffalo-robes, beaver, elk, and deerskins, and that he would give us much paint, and many blankets and pieces of cloth in exchange for furs. We liked him, and believed him very good, for he was rich, having many thousands of beads and hundreds of yards of ribbons. Our village was then built on the river, about twenty miles above where we now are, and game was very plentiful. This river did not at that time have the name of Crazy Woman, but was called Big Beard, because a curious grass grows along its banks that has a big beard. What I am about to relate caused the name of the river to be changed.

        The trader built a lodge of wood and stones, and near it a great, strong house, in which he kept all his immense wealth. It was not long until he had bought all the robes and furs for sale in the village, and then he packed them on ponies, and bidding us good-by, said he was going far to the east where the paleface lives, but that he would soon come back, bring us many presents and plenty of blankets, beads, and ribbons, which he would exchange as before for robes and furs. We were sorry to see him go, but, as he promised to return in a few moons, we were much consoled. It was not long until our spies reported something they could not understand coming into our country, and the whole village was in a great state of alarm. Some of the boldest ventured out, and returned with the joyful intelligence that the strange objects our young men had seen was the trader and his people. All the village ran to meet him, and the sight was strange enough indeed. The Crows had in those days never seen a wagon, horse, or ox, and the trader had brought all these things. The wagons they called teepees on rollers; the horses were giants beside the little ponies, and the oxen, all believed were tame buffaloes. There, also, was a squaw, who was perfectly white, and who could not understand anything that was said to her. She wore dresses down to her feet, of which she seemed to be ashamed, and our women said she tied cords tightly about her waist, so as to make it small. She had very long hair, and did not plait but rolled it, and, instead of letting it hang down, wrapped it tightly about her head.

        It was not long until the trader had all his wagons unloaded and his store open. He had brought all the women beads and ribbons, and the men brass rings. Besides what he sold, he made many presents; so everybody loved him, for no one had ever before seen so rich and generous a man.

        One day he told the Big Chief to come into the back part of the store and he would show him something wonderful. The chief went, wondering what it could be, and when they were alone, the trader drew out a very little barrel and, taking a wooden cup, poured out some black-looking water, which he told the chief to drink. The chief did as desired and immediately felt so jolly he asked for more. The trader promised, if he would never tell any one where he got the black water, he would give him all he wanted. The chief promised, and the trader gave him another cupful. Now the chief danced and sang, and went to his lodge, where he fell down in a deep sleep, and no one could wake him. He slept so long the warriors gathered about the lodge wondering what could ail him, and they were about to go to the trader and demand to know what kind of medicine he had given the chief to make him behave so strangely when the chief woke up and ordered them all to their lodges, and to ask no questions.

        Next day the chief went to the trader and said he had had great dreams; that he thought he had slain many of his enemies, and that the black medicine must be very good to make him have such pleasant visions. He begged the trader to give him some more, and he did so. Thus the chief did every day, and all the village wondered; for they believed the trader had bewitched him. In former times the chief had been a very quiet and dignified man, but now he sang, danced in the streets, and publicly hugged the women, so every one thought him crazy. The Crows disliked the conduct of their chief very much, and began to grumble against the trader; for they thought he was to blame for the great change that had come over their chief. Some said he was bewitched, others that the trader had an evil spirit in one of his boxes, and thus they talked, some believing one thing, and some another, but all blaming him. One of the young warriors called a secret council, and the matter was discussed, and it was finally decided that the trader must leave or they would put him to death. A warrior, who was a great friend of the trader, was sent to tell him of the decision of the council, and when he did so, the trader laughed and said if he would come into the back of the store, and never tell anybody, he would show him what ailed the chief. The warrior went, and the trader gave him a ladleful of the black water to drink. Presently he began to sing and dance about, and then went out into the street and sang, which greatly surprised every one, for he had never done so before. The young men gathered about him and asked him what ailed him, but he only said, "Oh, go to the trader and get some of the black water!" So they went to the trader and inquired what kind of black water he had that affected people so strangely; and the trader told them he had only the same kind of water they drank, and brought out his pail, that they all might drink. Each warrior took up the ladle and drank some, and made the trader drink some, and then they sat down to wait and see if it would affect them like the chief and their brother-warrior; but it did not, and they rose up and said, "The trader or our brother lies, and we will see who is the liar." They went to the warrior's lodge and found him sound asleep, nor could they wake him. Two remained to watch by him, and the others went to their teepees. When the sun was up, the warriors rose, and, seeing the others sitting in his tent, said, "Why are you here, my brothers?" And the eldest of the two warriors replied, "You have lied to us, for the trader has no black water." The warrior, recollecting his promise not to tell, said, "It is true that the trader has no black water, and who said he had?" They explained to him his conduct of the day before, at which he was greatly astonished, and he declared if such was the case he must have been very sick in his head and not known what he said. Thereupon the warriors withdrew and reported all to their brethren. The warriors were greatly perplexed, and knew not what to do or think, but decided to wait and see.

        The chief and warrior were now drunk every day, and the young chief called another council. It was long and stormy in its debate, all the wise men speaking, but no one giving such counsel as the others would accept. At last a young warrior rose and said that he had watched, and that it was true that the trader had a black water which he gave the chief and warrior to drink; for he had made a hole in the wall of the trader's store and through it saw them drinking the black water. He advised them to bring the trader and warrior before them, and he would accuse them to their face of what he had seen, and if they denied the truth he would fight them.

        This speech was received with great satisfaction, and the young chief at once sent some warriors to fetch the trader and their brother.

        When they were come into the council and seated, the young warrior repeated all he had said, and asked if it were not true that they would fight him.

        The warrior who was first asked rose up and said the young warrior lied, and that he was ready to fight him; but when the trader was told to stand up and answer, he, seeing there was no use in denying the matter, confessed all. He said the black water was given him by the white people, a great many of whom drank it, and it made them behave as they had seen the chief and the warrior do. He also told them that after a man drank of it he felt happy, laughed and sang, and when he lay down he dreamed pleasant dreams and slew his enemies.

        The curiosity of the warriors was greatly excited and the young chief bade the trader go and bring some of his black water, that they might taste it. He was about to depart when the young warrior who had before spoken rose and desired him to be seated, when he said: "The warriors heard my speech, and it was good. The brother, however, when I asked him if he would tell the council the truth, said I lied, and he would fight me. Let us now go out of the village and fight."

        The young chief asked the drunkard if he had anything to say, when he rose and addressed the council as follows: -

        "Oh, my brethren, it is true that I have drunk of the black water, and that I have lied. When the trader first gave it to me to drink, he made me promise that I would never tell what it was, or where I got it, and he has many times since said if I told any one he would never give me any more to drink. Oh, my brethren, the black water is most wonderful, and I have come to love it better than my life, or the truth. The fear of never having any more of it to drink made me lie, and I have nothing more to say but that I am ready to fight."

        Then the council adjourned, and every one went out to see the warriors fight. They were both men of great skill and bravery, and the whole village came to see the battle. He who drank the black water was the best spears-man in the tribe, and every one expected to see the other warrior killed.

        The spears were brought, and when they were given to the combatants it was seen that the hand of him who had lied shook so he could hardly hold his spear. At this his friends rallied him, and asked him if he was afraid. He replied that his heart was brave, but that his hand trembled, though not with fear, for it had shook so for many days.

        Then the battle began, and at the second throw of the spears he with the trembling hand was clove through the heart, and killed instantly, while the other warrior did not receive a wound.

        After the fight was over, the warriors all went to the trader's lodge, and he brought in a pail more than a quart of the black water, which he gave in small quantities to each warrior. When they had swallowed it, they began to dance and sing, and many lay down on the ground and slept as though they were dead. Next day they came again and asked for more black water; and so they came each day, dancing and singing, for more than a week.

        One morning the trader said he would give them no more black water unless they paid him for it, and this they did. The price was at first one robe for each sup sufficient to make them sleep, but, as the black water became scarce, two robes, and finally three were paid for a sleep. Then the trader said he had no more except a little for himself, and this he would not sell; but the warriors begged so hard for some he gave them a sleep for many robes. Even the body-robes were soon in the hands of the trader, and the warriors were very poor, but still they begged for more black water, giving a pony in exchange for each sleep. The trader took all the ponies, and then the warriors offered their squaws, but there was no more black water, and the trader said he would go and fetch some.

        He packed all the robes on the ponies and was about to set out, when a warrior made a speech, saying that now that he had all their robes and ponies, and they were very poor, the trader was going away and would never return, for they had nothing more to give him. So the warriors said he should not depart, and ordered him to unpack the ponies. The trader told them he would soon return with plenty of black water, and give it to them as he did at first. Many of the warriors were willing that he should depart, but others said no, and one declared that he had plenty of black water still left and was going off to trade with their enemies, the Sioux. This created great excitement, and the trader's store and all his packs were searched, but no black water found. Still the warriors asserted that he had it, and that it was hidden away. The warriors declared that they would kill him unless he instantly told them where he had hid it, and upon his not being able to do so, they rushed into his lodge and murdered him before the eyes of his squaw, tearing off his scalp and stamping upon his body. This so alarmed the white squaw that she attempted to run out of the lodge, and, as she came to the door, a warrior struck her on the head with his tomahawk and she fell down as though she were dead.

        The chief made a great speech, saying that now, as the trader was dead, they would burn his lodge and take back all their robes and ponies. So the lodge was fired, and as it burned a Crow squaw saw by its light the white squaw lying before the door, and that she was not dead, and she took her to her lodge, sewed up her wounds, and gave her something to eat. The squaw lived and got well, but she was crazy and could not bear the sight of a warrior, believing that every one who came near her was going to kill her.

        One day the white squaw was missing, and the whole village turned out to look for her. They followed her tracks far down the river, but could not find her. Some women out gathering berries a few days afterward said the white squaw came to them and asked for food, showing them at the same time where she was hiding in the bluffs near by. She begged them not to tell the warriors where she was, or they would come and kill her. The squaws tried to dissuade her from a notion so foolish, but they could not get her to return to the village.

        Every day the squaws went and took her food, and she lived for many months, no one knowing where she was but the women. When the warriors came about she hid away, and would not stir out until they were gone. One day, however, a warrior out hunting antelope came suddenly upon her and she fled away, but he followed her, wishing to bring her to the village. All day she ran over the hills, and at night the warrior came back, being unable to catch her. She was never seen again, and what became of her is not known, although it is likely she died of hunger, or that the wild beasts destroyed her.

        Ever after, when the Indians came here to camp, they told the story of the crazy woman, and the place became known as the "place of the crazy woman," and the name of Big Beard was almost entirely forgotten.

Laramie Plains present a broad bottom on both sides of the river, comprising about twelve hundred square miles, bounded on the north and east by the Black Hills, on the south by a "divide" of arenaceous rock, embedded in marl and white clay, almost barren of verdure, while on the west are the beautiful Medicine Bow Mountains. The southern portion of these plains is watered by a succession of streams which rise in the mountains, some of them discharging their volume into the Laramie River, others sinking in the sand - a characteristic of many creeks and so-called rivers of the central region of the continent.

The northern portion of these vast prairies is a high tableland, devoid of water, its soil mixed with clay and sand, but producing the grass peculiar to the other plains region. Toward the southeastern extremity, at the foot of an isolated mountain, is a salt lake of considerable dimensions, several other sheets of water are also to be seen in the vicinity of the Medicine Bow Mountains, all of which are strongly impregnated with mineral salts. The Laramie River traces its course through the whole extent, rising in the southern extremity of the Medicine Bow Mountains, and empties into the North Platte, at Fort Laramie.

Laramie Peak was the guiding hill that emigrants first saw of the far-famed western mountains - especially its snow-covered crest, a veritable beacon, its summit glistening in the morning sun as its rays fell upon it, the majestic hill ever pointing out the direction which the earnest pilgrims should travel.

The existence of a large lake of salt water somewhere amid the wilds west of the Rocky Mountains seems to have been vaguely known as long ago as two hundred years. As early as May, 1689, the Baron La Hontan,[40] lord-lieutenant of the French colony at Placentia, in New Foundland, wrote an account of discoveries in this region, which was published in the English language in 1735.

In the letter, which is dated at "Missilimakinac," he gives "an account of the author's departure from and return to Missilimakinac; a description of the Bay of Puants and its villages; an ample description of the beavers, followed by the journal of a remarkable voyage upon Long River, and a map of the adjacent country."

        Leaving Mackinaw, he passed into Green Bay, which he calls "the Bay of Pouteoutamois," and arrived at the mouth of Fox River, which he describes as "a little, deep sort of a river, which disembogues at a place where the water of the lake swells three feet high in twelve hours, and decreases as much in the same compass of time."

        The villages of the Sakis, Pouteouatamis, and some Malominis are seated on the side of that river, and the Jesuits have a house, or college, built upon it. Ascending the Fox River, called "the river of Puants," he came to a village of Kikapous, which stands on the brink of a little lake, in which the savages fish great quantities of pikes and gudgeons. [Lake Winnebago?]

        Still ascending the river, he passed through the "little lake of the Malominis," the sides of which "are covered with a sort of oats, which grow in tufts, with a small stalk, and of which the savages reap plentiful crops," and at length arrived at the land carriage of Ouisconsinc, which "we finished in two days; that is, we left the river Puants, and transported our canoes and baggage to the river Ouisconsinc, which is not above three-quarters of a league distant, or thereabouts." Descending the Wisconsin, in four days he reached its mouth, and landed on an island in the river Mississippi.

        So far, the journey of the Baron La Hontan is plain enough; but beyond this point it is rather apocryphal. He states that he ascended the Mississippi for nine days, when he "entered the mouth of the Long River, which looks like a lake full of bulrushes." He sailed up this river for six weeks, passing through various nations of savages, of which a most fanciful description is given. At length, determined by the advance of the season, he abandoned the intention of reaching the head of the river, and returned to Canada, having at the termination of his voyage first "fixed a long pole, with the arms of France done upon a plate of lead." The following is his description of the "Long River": "You must know that the stream of the Long River is all along very slack and easy, abating for about three leagues between the fourteenth and fifteenth villages; for there, indeed, its current may be called rapid. The channel is so straight that it scarce winds at all from the head of the lake. 'Tis true 'tis not very pleasant, for most of its banks have a dismal prospect, and the water itself has an ugly taste; but then its usefulness atones for such inconveniences, for 'tis navigable with the greatest ease, and will bear barks of fifty tons, till you come to that place which is marked with a flower-de-luce in the map, and where I put up the post that my soldiers christened La Hontan's Limit."

        A detailed map accompanies this imaginative voyage up this most imaginary river. It is represented as flowing east through twenty-five degrees of longitude, numerous streams putting into it on either side, with mountains, islands, villages, and domains of Indian tribes, whose very names have at this day sunk into oblivion. The map was afterward published, in 1710, by John Senex, F.R.S., as a part of North America, corrected from the observations communicated to the Royal Society at London and the Royal Academy at Paris.

        This discovery of Baron La Hontan excited, even at that early day, the spirit of enterprise and speculation which has proved so marked a feature in the national character. In a work published in 1772, and entitled "A description of the Province of Carolina, by the Spaniards called Florida, and by the French La Louisiane, by Daniel Cox," the then proprietary, the first part of the fifth chapter is devoted to "A new and curious discovery and relation of an easy communication between the river Meschacebe (Mississippi) and the South Sea, which separates America from China, by means of several large rivers and lakes."

The existence of the Great Salt Lake of Utah was known to the early Spanish voyageurs under the intrepid Coronado, through stories told them by the Indians, but there is no trustworthy account of any of them having seen it. To Jim Bridger, the famous mountaineer and scout, must be accorded the honour of having been the first white man to look upon its brackish waters. He discovered it in the winter of 1824-25, accidentally, in deciding a bet. The story of this visit to the Great Salt Lake comes down to us by the most reliable testimony. It appears that a party of trappers, under the command of William H. Ashley, one day found themselves on Bear River, in what is known as Willow Valley, and while lying in camp a discussion arose in relation to the probable course of the river. A wager was made, and Bridger sent out to determine the question. He paddled a long distance and came out on the Great Salt Lake, whose water he tasted and found it salt. Having made the discovery as to where the Bear River emptied, he retraced his lonely journey and reported the result to his companions.

Upon his report of the vast dimensions of the strange inland body of salt water, they all became anxious to learn whether other streams did not flow into the lake, and if so, there were new fields in which to try their luck in trapping beaver. To learn the fact four of them constructed boats of skins, and paddling into the lake, explored it.

Of course, it cannot be clearly proven that Old Jim Bridger was the first white man who saw the Great Salt Lake, but all others who have made claim to its discovery have not satisfied the demands of truth in their particulars, so the honour must and does rest upon Bridger; for no more authentic account of its discovery can be found. His statement is corroborated by such men as Robert Campbell, of St. Louis, and other famous mountaineers of the time.

There is a pretty piece of fiction connected with one of the claimants to its discovery, by the celebrated Jim Beckwourth, that famous Afro-American, who was chief of the Crow Nation. It says: One day in June, 1822, a beautiful Indian maiden offered him a pair of moccasins if he would procure for her an antelope skin, and bring the animal's brains with it, in order that she might dress a deerskin. Beckwourth started out in his mission, but failed to see any antelope. He did see an Indian coming toward him, whose brains he proposed to himself to take to the savage maiden after he had killed the buck, believing that she would never discover the difference, and had pulled up his rifle to fire when he happily saw that his supposed savage was William H. Ashley, of the American Fur Company, and who told him that he had sailed through Green River into the Great Salt Lake.

It may be true that Ashley did sail upon the Great Salt Lake before Bridger; but the story lacks confirmation; it has not that reliable endorsement which Bridger's claim possesses.

Jedediah Smith, another of the famous coterie of old trappers, called the lake Utah, and the river which flows into it from the south after the celebrated Ashley.

Much has been given to the world in relation to the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake and the contiguous part of Utah by the famous author, Washington Irving, in his adventures of Captain Bonneville, but it should be taken cum grano salis; for, as Bancroft truthfully observes: Irving humoured the captain, whose vanity prompted him to give his own name to the lake, although he had not a shadow of title to that distinction. Yet on Bonneville's map of the region, the lake is plainly lettered "Bonneville's Lake."

        Many old maps, dating from 1795 to 1826, have laid down upon them an inland sea, or lake, together with many other strange rivers and creeks, which never had any existence except in the minds of their progenitors, taken from the legendary tales of the old trappers, who in turn got them from the savages.

        The early emigrants to Oregon and California did not travel within many miles of the Great Salt Lake, so but very scanty reports are to be found in relation to the country. General Fremont, too, like a great many explorers, got puffed up with his own importance, and when, on the 6th of September, 1846, he saw for the first time the Great Salt Lake, he compares himself to Balboa, when that famous Spaniard gazed upon the Pacific. Fremont, too, says that he was the first to sail upon its saline waters, but again, as in many of his statements, he commits an unpardonable error; for Bridger's truthful story of the old trappers who explored it in search of streams flowing into it, in the hopes of enlarging their field of beaver trapping, antedates Fremont's many years.[41]

Captain Stansbury, of the United States army, made the first survey of the lake in 1849-50. Stansbury Island was named after him; Gunnison Island after Lieutenant Gunnison, of his command; Fremont's Island, after that explorer, who first saw it in 1843, and called it Disappointment Island.

Members of Captain Bonneville's company first looked upon the lake from near the mouth of the Ogden River, in 1833. His name has been given to a great fossil lake, whose shore line may now be seen throughout the neighbouring valleys, and of which the Great Salt Lake is but the bitter fragment.

The outlet to this vast ancient body of water has been shown by Professor Gilbert to have been at a place now called Red Rock Pass.