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Illustrated by more than one hundred half-tones, mostly from old and rare sources

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A. C. McCLURG & CO. 1914

Published June, 1914

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To My Father

HENRY SABIN OF IOWA A Lover of History

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For text and picture in Kit Carson Days I have drawn liberally upon chronicles long out of date, thus essaying to get back close to the sources of our knowledge. Perhaps occasional excerpts may strike the modern reader, and par- ticularly the historian, as exaggerated; but it seems to me that the men who participated in the times herein treated, who wrote while yet the events were fresh, must furnish us with a perspective not only interesting, but valuable. If I have erred upon the side of local color, if the viewpoint of rcOTiance may be charged to have distorted in places the viewpoint of accuracy, if fancy may have intruded upon sober fact and figure, I make only the defense that I have written con amorCj and have emphasized also the side of sympathy.

So, in making mention of the numerous excerpts, I would suggest that the notes to the chapters be not neglected. These notes are not always essential to the text. Indeed, frequently they may lead from the text, inciting to a wide reading which may prove delightful and profitable.

For modem authorities I am chiefly obliged to General H. M. Chittenden's The History of the American Fur Trade of the Fa/r West, an exhaustive, fascinating compila- tion, upon which must be based all succeeding histories of beaver days. At the head of the long line of individuals who are co-authors with me would I place Walter B. Douglas of St. Louis, to whose generosity every writer upon western history is, I imagine, deeply indebted. Ken- neth M. Chapman, of the Museum of American Archae- ology at Santa Fe, stepped aside from his special duties to assist in this, the work of a stranger. J. M. Guinn of Los



Angeles is another kindly partner. Mrs. Teresina Bent Scheurich, who was bom into the very thick of American- Mexican events, has been most patient with my queries upon those persons and times still near and dear to her. Charles C. Harvey, journalist, of St. Louis, has been a constant encourager. Captain Smith H. Simpson of Taos, and Major Rafael Chacon of Trinidad, Colorado, comrade veterans of the same glowing days in southwest history, have given me facts which only a very few persons now alive can recall. To the great assistance of Major Oliver P. Wiggins I have paid especial tribute elsewhere in this narrative. In Valentine Mott Porter of Santa Barbara, California, I found a ready advisor. The Seiiora Petra Beaubien Abreu, through her son, Don Jesus L. Abreu, of Rayado, New Mexico; Mrs. A. L. Slaughter of Kansas City; Mrs. Mary St. Vrain Sopris of Denver; General Asa B. Carey of Orlando, Florida; Colonel John A. Hannay of La JoUa, California; Aloys Scheurich, now with Kit Carson, but late of Taos; Captain George H. Pettis, who also has crossed the Divide, but late of Providence, Rhode Island; Mayor Daniel L. Taylor of Trinidad, Colorado; Sergeant Luke Cahill of Las Animas, Colorado; Ferd Meyer of Costilla, New Mexico ; Robert C. Lowry of New York City ; George H. Carson of Fayette, Missouri ; Albert H. Pf eiffer, Jr., of Del Norte, Colorado; Judge John S. Hough of Lake City, Colorado; Judge Hiram D. Bennet of Denver: pioneers, soldiers, scouts, and traders of brave days, they have willingly enriched with the gold of their memories these printed pages which otherwise would have been poor indeed. To many readers their names may mean little, but they will at least indicate how far and wide the lines of research have led.

To F. J. Francis of Denver and O. T. Davis of Alamosa, Colorado, for photographs, and to Messrs. Tishler & Langer, who copied with much skill and care the yellowed,


difficult lithographs and engraving^ from the brittle pages, I am deeply grateful. The Missouri Historical Society, the Colorado Historical Society, the Historical Society of Southern California and the Iredell County (North Caro- lina) Historical Society have rendered me much aid; and I have applied with satisfaction to the historical societies of Oregon, Nebraska, Montana, and New Mexico. It is unnec- essary, but none the less pleasant, to state that every com- munication addressed to the Bureau of American Ethnology at Washington received full attention. Through Senator George C. Perkins of California, the Smithsonian Institu- tion provided me with data of value. The Adjutant Gen- eral's office and the Bureau of Engineering, of the War Department, have answered my queries with military com- pleteness. The splendid shelves of the Iowa State Library and the Iowa State Historical Library at Des Moines proved a treasure-trove of enlightenment.

Amidst the mass of dates and incidents will be found errors, for the writer is but human. Of these errors he doubtless will soon be made aware. In his narrative he has aimed to transcribe boldly, preferring to err rather than to slight

And now, out of data confused and tenuous, and hereto- fore based mainly upon one biography written before the Civil War, and that so frail that the Carson family, even to the hero's father and mother, have been suffered to remain in darkness; out of some six years' work covering by correspondence and interview the country from Los Angeles to New York, from Oregon to Florida, behold Kit Carson Days as it has been evolved.

Edwin L. Sabin. San Diego, California.



I The Carson Family i

II In Old Missouri 1810-1826 5

III The Road TO Santa Fe 1826 13

IV New Mexico and New Mexicans .... 25 V As Fared the Runaway 1826-1829 . . 31

VI The Trapper's Trail 1829 37

VII To the Grand Canyon, and On .... 44

VIII American Trappers in California ... 54

IX The Heart of the Rockies 1830 ... 66

X Adventures of Kit Carson 183 1- 1832 . 80

XI The Fight for Fur 91

Xn Dramatis Personae no

XIII Adventures of Kit Carson 1832-1834 . 123

XIV The American Wedge in Oregon .... 137 XV Adventures of Kit Carson 1834-1835 . 157

XVI Adventures of Kit Carson 1835-1838 . 168

XVII The Forking of the Trail 179

XVIII Bent's Fort of t^e Plains 186

XIX Adventures of Kit Carson 1838-1842. . 195

XX On the Trail with Fremont 1842 . . 206

XXI On the Trail with Fremont 1843-1844 . 218

XXII On the Trail with Fremont 1845 237

XXIII The Year '46 246

XXIV The Mexican War Carson under

Kearny 268

XXV The Mexican War Carson at San Pas-

QUAL 280

XXVI The Re-Conquest of California .... 295

XXVII Carson Across the Continent 1847 . . 301

XXVIII '' A Ride with Kit Carson " 1848 ... 316





XXIX The Ranch at the Rayado 1849-1853 . 338

XXX Carson and the Indian 1853-1861 . . . 358

XXXI Campaigns of the Fifties 375

XXXII The Civil War Carson at Valverde,

1862 394

XXXIII Corralling the Apache 1862-1863 . . 409

XXXIV The Nemesis of the Navajo 1863-1864 . 418 XXXV The Battle of Adobe Walls 1864 . . 440

XXXVI Plains and Mountain Service 1865-

1867 467

XXXVII Carson at Washington 1868 485

XXXVIII Last Days of " The General " 1868 . . 493

XXXIX Kit Carson 503




5 6

7 8

9 10




Captain Jedediah Strong Smith Carson Reports as Indian Agent The Battle of Valverde . . . Carleton Dispatches to Carson The Navajo Campaign .... The Kiowa-Comanche Expedition Kit Carson on the Indian . . . Major Albert H. Pfeiffer's Adventure . Carson Personal Letters to Pfeiffer . Merchant Beuthner to Camp Nichols The Carson Will





561 604










Colonel Carson Frontispiece

Santa Fe caravan on the march 22

Santa Fe in sight 22

The Copper mines where Kit Carson worked .... 23

The pueblo of Los Angeles 58

Old Fort Union 58

A Carson letter 59

Independence Rock 76

Devil's Gate 76

Old arms of plains and mountains 77

The West in 1835 (map) 90

The West in 1850 (map) 91

WiUiam Wolf skill no

Joseph Robidoux no

Joseph L. Meek no

"Old" Jim Baker no

Jim Beckwourth . . , iii

Rev. Jason Lee 136

Rev. Samuel L. Parker 136

Rev. Henry H. Spalding 136

Myra Fairbanks Eells 136

Mary Richardson Walker 137

Rev. Francis N. Blanchet 137

Rev. Peter J. De Smet 137

Ceran St. Vrain 137

Dr. John McLoughlin 162

"Old" Jim Bridger 162

Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth 162




Fort Hall 163

Fort Laramie 163

Old Bent's Fort 186

William Bent 187

Taos in 1853 200

Carson's office in Taos 200

Carson's home in Taos 201

Old Fort Massachusetts 201

Hon. Thomas Hart Benton 218

Colonel John C. Fremont 218

The passage of the Sierras 219

Return of Carson and Godey 234

Captain John August Sutter 235

Sutter's Fort 235

Hon. John S. Hough 238

Kit Carson III 239

Battle at Klamath Lake 254

Monterey in 1846 255

Santa Fe in 1846 255

Carson-Beale Tablet 292

Carson in the Mexican War 293

Robert F. Stockton 293

Taos pueblo 308

Crossing the plains 309

Bridger's Fort 309

Carson's commission as second lieutenant 314

Governor Charles Bent 315

Kit Carson's Hawkins rifle 332

Oldtime western rifles 332

Tom Tobin 333

Kit Carson and Master Charley Boggs 368

Lucien R. Maxwell 369

Viejo Cheyenne 369

Captain Smith H. Simpson 392

The Carson plat on Memorial Day 393

Major Oliver Perry Wiggins 393

" Wedding of the East and the West " 414



Captain George H. Pettis 436

Set-Imkia or Stumbling Bear 436

Set-T'Ainte (Satanta) 437

Major Albert H. Pfeiffer 437

Carson in colonel's uniform 466

Carson as Indian agent 467

Carson in 1867 4^

Commission to Washington 484

A reunion picture 490

Last photograph of Kit Carson 491

House where Kit Carson died 496

Thomas O. Boggs 497

First monument to Kit Carson 502

Carson in sculpture at Denver , . 503

Carson monument at Santa Fe 510

William Carson 511

Kit Carson II 511

\* .1 w





THAT " blood will tell " never has been better exempli- fied than in the case of the Carson family in America ; and when he took the danger-trail, youthful Kit Carson swung as true to his instincts as swings the needle to the pole.

The head of the house of Carson in America seems to have been William Carson, of Scotch-Irish strain, who emi- grated from England, possibly Scotland, in the first half of the eighteenth century, to Pennsylvania. Thence moving southward, joining in that impulse which transfused into the Carolinas and Tennessee so much of Scotch-Irish Protestant blood, he laid claim to 692 acres on both sides of Third Creek, in the Loray District of Iredell County, North Caro- lina. The Carson grant to this tract, from Lord Granville, bears date of December i, 1761.

Of this William Carson the First the records run in brief that he was a farmer ; that he married Miss Eleanor McDuff (McDorf?), and that imprudently drinking from a cold spring on a hot day, before the Revolution, he died, leaving a wife and five children Robert, Lindsay (head of the Carson family in Missouri), Andrew, possibly an Alexan- der, Eleanor, and Sarah.

The Carson family, now established in America, pro- ceeded to scatter like quail. An Alexander Carson migrated



to Mississippi ; Robert Carson to Kentucky, where he lived until he died; Lindsay and Andrew to the Hunting Creek settlement in the north of Iredell County. Here Andrew, at twenty, and Lindsay, at twenty-two, proved the Carson metal in the fire of the Revolution.

Andrew became a captain in the command of Marion the Swampf ox ; and while Lord Comwallis was harrying Soutli Carolina he carried dispatches between Marion and Greene. He was in the battle of Camden, and tradition states that he bore out in his arms, from under fire, the fatally wounded Baron DeKalb, stricken while crossing a creek, October i6, 1780.

Of Lindsay Carson's exploits in the Revolution less comes down to us; but so sturdy an Indian fighter must have graven deep his signature. After the war he removed to South Carolina, and married Miss Bradley, to raise another wilderness brood, the flight of which was to reach from Kentucky to the Pacific.

This, the first of his two marriages, added to his race William, b. 1786, who by imion with Millie Boone of the Kentucky Boones, perpetuated around Fayette, Missouri, the Carson name; Sarah, b. 1788, m. Peyton and lived to an advanced age; Andrew, b. 1790; Moses Bradley, b. 1792. The mother did not long survive this last child, but died soon after reaching the new home in Madison County, Kentucky, whither, 1792, the restless Lindsay moved on.

Here, in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1797, he took unto himself a second wife, Rebecca Robinson, of Green- briar County, Virginia, and so resumed the interrupted sequence; for those were wholesome days of large fam- ilies. Six more boys and four more girls arrived, with regularity: i, Elizabeth, m. Robert Cooper of the Missouri (and Kentucky) Coopers; 2, Nancy, m. Briggs; 3, Robert; 4, Hamilton; 5, Christopher; 6, Hampton; 7, Mathilda, m* Adams; 8, Mary, m. Ruby; 9, Sarshel; 10, Lindsay


Second. But this, his namesake, the father never saw, for the birth occurred after the fatality of September, 1818, when Lindsay First died, aged sixty-four, crushed by a falling limb.

Tradition in the Young family, of the Hunting Creek district. North Carolina, asserts that not in Kentucky but in Iredell County the famous Kit was bom, while Lindsay and wife were upon a visit to his brother Andrew. Be that as it may, Iredell County of North Carolina has another claim, in the report, reasonably authentic, that Kit Carson's full given name was Christopher Houston, given out of respect to the Christopher Houston who was prominent in Iredell County during the Revolution.

Of this brave family of fourteen, bom to Lindsay Carson by juncture with the Bradley and the Robinson clans, all lived to manhood or womanhood. And this in itself is remarkable, for the wanderlust was in the veins. The girls, of course, married; but of the sons it is written, by a son of William, the eldest : " Every one, without a single excep- tion, went west in search of the Indian and the buffalo ; now that the Indian is guarded on the reservations and the buf- falo is nearly extinct, I am at a loss to know what their descendants will do for a pastime."

When the first Carson entered the Far West, is not known, but an Alexander Carson (possibly son of that Alexander who was son of the first William) was encountered as a trapper upon the upper Missouri by the Wilson Hunt party of Astorians, in the spring of 181 1. And he and his cc«n- panion turned, with the party of Astorians, for the still farther West. Already he had been two years in the beaver wilderness.

Then with the advent in Missouri of the Lindsay tribe, the Carson family entered into the thick of pioneer affairs. The father and Moses served, with the home guard, against the Indians, in the War of 181 2; Moses was in several


up-river expeditions of the fur trade; a Carson (very likely Andrew, Moses' senior) was with the Ezekiel Williams adventurers who fared into the Southwest, 1811, and were gone two years; William, the eldest of all, was held back in Kentucky by Indian disturbances, imtil the war was over.

William, Andrew, Moses, Robert, Hamilton, and Chris- topher certainly rode the Santa Fe Trail; Lindsay Second is said to have been with Fremont on that heroic but futile fourth expedition to the Rockies in the winter of 1848-49; of Sarshel and Hampton I have no record.



THE story of Kit Carson days is the story of beaver and of Indians; of mountain, canon, valley, desert, and stream ransacked through and through by the fur hunter ; of white blood and red blood meeting, striving, and mingling

mingling sometimes in friendly union but far of tener in the struggle of mutual hate ; of lonely camp and of boister- ous rendezvous; of thirst, starvation and rude plenty; of the trapper followed close by the trader, of both followed by the explorer, of the explorer followed by the emigrant

colonist, gold seeker, settler; of Santa Fe Trail and Oregon Trail and California Trail ; of a Bent's Fort, a Fort Laramie, a Fort Bridger and of trader and Indian march- ing out, the army marching in ; of Black Robe and of mis- sionary carrying Christianity from St. Louis and Boston overland to the mouth of the Columbia ; of Ute, Apache and Navajo in the Southwest subdued by the bullet; of a Great Britain on the north, and a Mexico on the south, once touch- ing beyond the Rockies, then cleaved a thousand miles asunder by a westward pressing flag; of a Texas, a Califor- nia, a New Mexico, and an Oregon acquired, and of a " Great American Desert " fertilized ; of a vast and savage West awakened and with astounding swiftness made amen- able to the purposes of civilization ; of an unknown country two thousand miles wide becoming known; of the United States expanding in three directions imtil it had reached from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Gulf and the Rio Grande and the mouth of the Colorado to Canada and Puget Sound.



Kit Carson traveled from Kentucky to Santa Fe by ox team and wagon. Before he died he had traveled from Washington City to the Wyoming Rockies by rail ; another year, and he could have journeyed from coast to coast in similar fashion.

Daniel Boone, in 1797, at the age of sixty-five, had moved across the Missouri. Reports from him and his sons fil- tered back. Then in the spring of 181 1, the head of the Lindsay Carson house emigrated from Madison County of Kentucky to this new Boone's Lick district of the even newer American territory of Louisiana. The youngest child (as yet) was Kit, born December 25, 1809.

The Carsons and their southern party settled in what is now Howard County, along the Missouri River, about 200 miles west of St. Louis. Other men and women of the South were here; more arrived; and soon there arose those doughty stockades celebrated in Mississippi Valley his- tory — Forts Hempstead, Cooper, and Kincaid. The name of Linsey (Lindsay) Carson appears upon the roll of old Fort Hempstead, and he is claimed likewise by the descend- ants of the old Fort Cooper garrison.

This was the extreme frontier of the United States; beyond was the " Indian Country," so to be designated, with but slight variation, for thirty years. The population of the Territory of Louisiana, which comprised that section of the old province north of the Territory of Orleans, or the pres- ent state of Louisiana, dwindled speedily as one proceeded northward from the lower Arkansas and westward from the mouth of the Missouri. St. Louis, with its 1800 people, was the metropolis.

Encouraged by the government which was essaying to absorb a continent, the fur trade (the only trade, to date, of this the new West) had increased rapidly. Through many years St. Louis, under domination of the French, had been the headquarters of a fur trade operated mainly by


jMivate individuals, or at most by partners; for St. Louis was French, and from the very outset it was the French who in the new continent sought out the pelt of forest, prairie, and stream. But now, at the time of the Carsons' arrival in the Boone's Lick district, the Missouri Fur Company of St. Louis was organized with good backing, and the energetic John Jacob Astor of New York was pushing his American Fur Company. His ship the Tonquin was en route for the mouth of the Columbia, and up the Missouri River trail from St Louis had hastened the supporting overland party of Himt

In this Louisiana, soon to be rechristened Missouri Ter- ritory, Lindsay Carson continued his Kentucky and Carolina career. He led in many skirmishes with the savages; he and his third son, Moses, were enrolled in the home guards during the War of 1812. In 1814 some fingers of his left hand were shot off during a scrimmage with Indians. In September, 1818, he died by the fall of a limb from a burned tree while he was cutting timber in the forest near home. He left a thriving family, and a rifle of large bore, with the stock (like the fingers of his hand) smashed by an enemy's bullet.

Kit, no longer the youngest in the family, was now almost nine years of age. Two and one-half of these years had been spent under the stockade protection of Fort Hemp- stead ; all had been spent in the shadow of peril by wilder- ness. He had run absolutely unrestrained except for the spasmodic efforts of a tired mother with many other nest- lings. He was thoroughly a settler's child. When he reached fifteen years his mother apprenticed him to a saddler in Franklin, then the chief Missouri frontier settlement.

During the fourteen years since the Carsons had crossed the Mississippi, government, fur trader, and adventurer had repeatedly assaulted the Indian country. Making a rift in an entirely new spot of the bulwarks of the Northwest, in


1820 Major Stephen Long, of the army, ascended the Mis- souri, past Franklin, in the first steamboat successfully to plough that stream, and from the present site of Omaha proceeded by horse and mule up along the Platte (name already well-known by mouth of voyageur and trapper) to the Rocky Mountains. Then swinging south, he skirted the eastern base of the foothills, passing the present site of the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs, and returned by way of the Arkansas.

The Missouri Fur Company was constantly establishing more posts in that upper Missouri country, and there were half a dozen other companies in the field. William Ashley of St Louis, first lieutenant governor of the new state, gen- eral in the militia and Missouri's leading citizen, had taken up the fur trade as another vocation, to pursue it so indus- triously that within six years he made his fortune. In 1822 he had escorted up the river his first party, under Major Andrew Henry, who in service of the Missouri Fur Com- pany, a dozen years back, had built the first American fur- trading post on the Pacific side of the Stony Mountains, by the Henry Fork of the Snake River in extreme eastern Idaho at the Wyoming line. General Ashley followed his 1822 expedition with others, accompan)ring some of them himself. To young Kit Carson these Ashley expeditions should have been of especial interest, for they at once num- bered upon their rolls Henry Vanderburgh, the ill-fated; Thomas Fitzpatrick, Carson's first mountain employer ; Jim Bridger, discoverer of the great Salt Lake; Jedediah S. Smith, the " knight in buckskin," whose Bible was as close a companion to him as his rifle, and whose trail across the desert into California, Carson would encounter on his initial trip as a trapper; Jim Beckwourth, the mulatto Crow chief; the Sublettes of whom William was the best captain of trappers in the West ; and others whose names figure largely in plains and mountain history, and with whom, in a few


more )rears, Kit Carson, now a boy, mingled as a man, a fellow trapper and an equal.

Moreover, up the river, in the summer of 1823, had passed a punitive expedition sent by government and fur people combined against the fierce Arikaras, who were forcibly obstructing traffic. In the fighting, this " Missouri Legion," as it was styled, had been moderately successful. The way was opened.

So much, briefly, as regards the Northwest. But the Southwest likewise was being exploited. Objective points in the Northwest were the Three Forks cotmtry of the sources of the Missouri River, and the Columbia and Oregon region, on the other side of the mountains. The Southwest spelled Santa Fe that far Mexican metropolis of the " Spanish Settlements.'* Pike had reported upon it; in 1806 he had found there one James Purcell (or Pursley), an American from Kentucky already domiciled At present Santa Fe and the Spanish Settlements were in everybody's mouth, for trade in that direction promised an attractive outlet to those Missourians who were not engaged in the fiu* business of the North.

In June, 1813, Ezekiel Williams had returned to Boone's Lick of Missouri, after a long experience on the upper Arkansas, and had brought back much word of Santa Fe.^ The next year he went out again and his adventures were reported widely.

In 1 82 1 John McKnight passed through Franklin upon quest of his brother Robert who for nine years had not been heard from. He found Robert imprisoned in Chihuahua, but he f oimd also that rumors were true, and that Mexico was free from Spanish rule, unfriendly to Americans, so he was enabled to bring Robert back with him. The return in the summer of 1822 was chronicled in the Missouri Intelligencer of Franklin.

Meanwhile Captain William Becknell of Franklin adver-


tised in the Intelligencer of June lo, 1821, for "seventy men to go westward " on a trading project. He assembled his party at the house of Ezekiel WiUiams (who doubtless could aid with much information about the country), and succeeded in penetrating safely into Santa Fe and in emerg- ing safely therefrom. The following January he arrived in Franklin again, enthusiastic over his profits.

In the spring of 1822 Captain Becknell led another com- pany, with three wagons, and made a new and shorter trail across the Cimarron desert. The Santa Fe trade was fairly started, and the Missouri Intelligencer was constantly printing items upon it.

So when Kit Carson was put out at saddlery service in Franklin in 1825, it was locking the cat in with the cream. Northwest and Southwest were thrilling with deeds and adventures, the accounts of which focused in Franklin Franklin, still keenly mindful of the great reception ten- dered to Major James and General Atkinson, when in 1819 they had stopped off from their steamboat, en route to the Yellowstone. Ashley was reaping fame and furs. And Santa Fe had come into being.

Thus Kit Carson found Franklin an eddy where two trails joined. Down the river, and up the river to the uttermost sources in the unknown, passed the men of the fur trade; by steamboat, by keel boat, ashore and even afoot, bringing their pelts, their squaws, their scars, and their tales. And here the Santa Fe Trail met the Missouri River Trail. Out of the south of west they came, into the dim south of west they went, those dusty pack trains laden tight with mer- chandise and escorting not only trader, but broadcloth merchant and health-seeking adventurer. Theirs were tales of desert rather than of mountains; of Kiowa, Pawnee, Comanche, and Arapaho ; of the cibolero, or Mexican buffalo hunter; of thirst amidst burning sands; and of a romantic, ancient city, 800 miles away, by horse and mule, across


the hazy " Indian Country " Santa Fe of Neuva Mejico, where American goods and labor sold at great profit, and where American visitors were welcomed by the merry fandango.

As against all this, the saddler's craft must have seemed dull indeed to Kit Carson. In a year he had had enough of it; and the following advertisement, which appeared in the columns of the Missouri Intelligencer of Franklin, indi- cates how he left it :

Notice: To whom it may concern: That Christopher Car- son, a boy about sixteen years old, small of his age, but thick- set, light hair, ran away from the subscriber, living in Frank- lin, Howard Co., Mo., to whom he had been bound to learn the saddler's trade, on or about the first day of September last. He is supposed to have made his way toward the upper part of the state. All persons are notified not to harbor, support, or subsist said boy under penalty of the law. One cent reward will be given to any person who will bring back the said boy.

(Signed) David Workman.

Franklin, Oct. 6, 1826.

Shrewdly enough might it be suspected that he had set face to the north, in the line of the fur trade. This was the easier travel and there were countless invitations for a lad to proceed onward with trader, trapper, or Indian plenty of whom, we may be certain. Kit Carson knew. Anybody who could handle a rifle was free to join any of a hundred wandering bands, white or red; and .Moses Carson, and no doubt others of Kit's brothers, already had traversed the upper Missouri trail.

But the chances for profit were greater on the Santa Fe Trail, and the romance of it was more appealing. So Kit Carson joined a Santa Fe caravan, and, by the irony of events, at the very first opportunity, the next spring, David Workman, saddler, did the same.


Kit never again saw his home, and according to report, he saw few of his kinsfolk for almost two decades. Not until the spring of 1842 did he return to the Missouri fron- tier, and the sixteen years of spectacular progress had wiped out, as would a landslide, both places and people.



OUT pulled the caravan, one of several dispatched this year from Franklin, for the Santa Fe trade was increasing. It was composed in the main of wagons and other vehicles; the year 1826 marked the passing, on the trail, of pack animals, and the employment of wheels entirely, although individuals with pack animals continued to attach themselves to caravans.

In this year, 1826, all that vast West of today, from Missouri and Iowa to the Pacific Ocean, bore scarcely a name save here and there the title of Indian tribe, of lake, stream, peak and range, and desert; and, principally along the Missouri River and upper tributaries, of trading post or fur company's " fort." One army post had been estab- lished, at Council Bluffs Fort Atkinson. The heart of this country, comprising what are now fertile Kansas, Nebraska, and the Colorado plains, was labeled ** Great American Desert." It was presumed to be worthless except for buffalo and uninhabitable by civilized man. Thus had Major Long, in 1820, reported it. He had pronounced it a providential barrier against the westward spread of humanity, and a bulwark, equally providential, against aggression by other nations from that direction. The geog- raphies of a generation ago were still clinging stanchly to this black-shaded patch the " Great American Desert."

There was not a settlement between New Mexico and the mouth of the Columbia in Oregon. Indians, more or less hostile, buffalo, antelope, wild horses, elk, deer, bear, wolves, beaver, the eagle, hawk, buzzard, other birds and quadru-



peds, and many reptiles, made up the citizenship, aside from the trappers and traders. Fur, feather, buckskin, and painted nakedness was the garb in vogue.

The boundary of that territory acquired as the Louisiana Province, from France, was yet rather obscure to the people at large, and even to the authorities. The United States extended to the indefinite Rocky Mountains, on the west; on the south to the Red River, and at the undefined line of the looth meridian of longitude, in present Kansas, only to the Arkansas. Below, all was Mexico and uneasy Texas

which also was Mexican territory. Across the Rockies

then known as the " Shining Mountains " and the " Stony Mountains," and toward their southern extremity as the " Anahuac " all was Mexico, generalized as Cali- fornia, up to the northern line of the present Utah. North of Utah everything was Oregon, shared temporarily by the United States and Great Britain, whose representative was the Hudson Bay Company.

Kit Carson's entrance into this unplotted West which he soon would help map was not, we may be certain, heroic. He arrived, beyond any reasonable doubt, at the tail of the horse herd or " cavvy," as many another character promi- nent in western history has done. Herding this " cawy " is the boy's and the new hand's job in the West, and always has been.

Chroniclers have given Kit Carson a place from the out- set as official hunter for the caravan his duty being to supply the camp with meat But he was just a boy of six- teen, undersized, of the gritty but nondescript Scotch-Irish type sandy-haired, sandy-complexioned, tanned and freckled, with full forehead and wide-set, blue-gray tyts. He was a good shot, self-reliant, wise in woodcraft and pioneer expedients, but these were not exceptional qualities, and regularly appointed "hunters" were not the rule in these early caravans.


The caravan itself is recorded very clearly by Captain Gregg and by Thmnas J. Famham of the same era. The course to Santa Fe lay not as one traveled road, but as a number of chance selected trails, for the most part only dis- cernible to the keenest eyes/ The country was, as a rule, flat and bare, and travelers kept a general direction from water to water, from camping spot to camping spot. Like any other long trail, the Santa Fe was merely a succession of convenient or necessary stages. Vehicles traversing it usually took a formation of four abreast, but sometimes they stretched out in single file for a mile and more. How- ever, the column of fours, and later of twos> was imperative in the Indian country, where compactness was a condition of defense.

The journey out usually occupied fifty or sixty days ; the journey back, when the wagons traveled lighter, could be made in forty days. The distance was about 780 miles, and a well-laden wagon traveled on an average fifteen miles a day. But in 1826, the time of Kit Carson's first trip, the travel was less systematized, more haphazard, and therefore less expeditious.

From Franklin the Kit Carson caravan would strike away from the muddy river, and leaving Missouri through the green prairie of the then friendly Osage Indians, now aiming for the Arkansas River would cross into the Kansas of today. In addition to the great, heavy, flaring-topped Conestoga wagons, of Pittsburg pattern, each drawn by eight mules, there were a few stylish Dearborn carriages, the conve)rances of city merchants and of invalids ; for both wealth and health were to be found upon the old Santa Fe Trail. Outriders were before and upon either flank of the column. In the dust of the rear followed the " cawy," and on his mule. Kit Carson.

As the caravan proceeded, exchanging the green prairies of western Missouri for the arid plains of Kansas, discipline

16 KIT