MISSOURI is the stone which the builders rejected. Under early Spanish rule, Florida, the Land of Flowers, was a vast, indefinite region, stretching north to the Canadian lakes, and westward to the “ Mother Mountains.” Travellers described the portion of it bordering the “ great Yellow River of the Massorites ” as barren and inhospitable.
When it passed under French domination, all Paris, headed by famous John Law, went mad over the fancied gold and silver of “ Upper Louisiana,” but held it worthless for culture and habitation.
Seventy years ago, sanguine, warmhearted, red-haired Thomas Jefferson filled our executive chair. He was sixty ; he was in power ; but he reversed the ordinary rule. Neither age nor official responsibility could make him timid or conservative. Indeed, they increased his daring. As a candidate, he had been the narrowest of strict constructionists. As President, he became the broadest of latitudinarians. Alexander Hamilton was the bugbear of his life. Until the great Federalist lay dying on Weehawken Heights, with Burr’s bullet in his breast, the great Democrat always believed with horror that Hamilton meant to turn our government into a monarchy. Yet Jefferson himself did an act which few constitutional kings would have attempted. He deliberately and confessedly went outside of his legal powers; purchased Louisiana of Napoleon for fifteen million dollars, and more than doubled the area of the young Republic.
Real estate has advanced in price and receded in quality since then. Jefferson was lampooned mercilessly for buying worthless regions which we did not want, and had not the money to pay for, and nobody knew the boundaries of. But the people acquiesced in manifest destiny, as they always will until the tricolored flag shall stream over every acre from the North Pole to the Isthmus of Darien.
Men and women still under forty remember how their school geographies included much of Missouri in the Great American Desert,—just as Plutarch relates that map-makers of his day depicted the regions they knew nothing about as “sand wastes, full of wild beasts and unapproachable bogs.” In 1819 Thomas H. Benton was editing “ The St. Louis Intelligencer.” The struggle for the admission of Missouri to the Union had already begun. Young Benton was on the ground. He was destined to become ihe champion of this embryo State, and of all Western interests. Yet even he wrote : —
“ After you get forty or fifty miles from the Mississippi, arid plains set in, and the country is uninhabitable except upon the borders of the rivers and creeks ! ”
Uninhabitable! We shall see. But first a glance at the geology and history of Missouri.
The ancient convulsions which moulded and modified our great valley are Nature’s romance, — her very Arabian Nights’ Entertainment. With unerring pen their history is written ; but where the unerring linguist to read it? Who can surely decipher the testimony of the rocks, the hills, and the prairies ?
Relatively, the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevadas are of recent origin. Ere yet they had risen from the deep, waves of the Pacific, rolling in from the far Orient, broke on the western foothills of the Alleghanies. How immeasurable the power which, upheaving the spinal column ot the continent, drove back the great ocean for twenty-five hundred miles!
Later in the slow years, while the largest coal basin in the world, and the prairies of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri were forming, the vast valley was again submerged. This time with fresh water. Where St. Louis now displays her linear miles of steamboats, and her square miles of brick blocks huge monsters, scaly and finny, disported in dark, profound depths. A hundred miles further south, the mighty torrent poured in a cataract, far exceeding Niagara. The width of the upper Mississippi covered several degrees of longitude, and its surface was two hundred feet above the present level.
Now the shrunken stream is but a mile wide. Along Missouri and Iowa its channel has greatly deepened. Beside Mississippi, and through Louisiana, mud-deposits have steadily raised its bed, until now, like the Nile, it is far higher than the adjacent land. But for artificial levees, all the river counties would be under water. Steamboat passengers look down into the chimneys of dwelling-houses, and into great fields of cotton, sugar, and rice.
The Iron Mountain country, one hundred miles south of St Louis, was thrown up to its present height by an ancient earthquake. The same convulsion depressed a long strip of land from the mouth of the Ohio to the mouth of the White River, forming the endless swamps and submerged counties of Southeastern Missouri and Northeastern Arkansas.
That was in a dim, far-off past. But old settlers still remember the earthquakes of 1811 — 12, — the most violent on our continent within the historic period. Pioneers thought the end of the world had come. It was an era of wonders, natural and mechanical. The great comet had just disappeared. The first steamer of the West was on her way from Pittsburg to New Orleans. The heat was intense ; the air close and stifling. Noonday was as twilight ; and the lurid sun hung in the heavens like a globe of copper.
The country pitched and tossed like a raging sea. The pilot found the river’s bed strangely altered, and its shores unrecognizable. Large islands in mid-channel had sunk out of sight. Acres of trees, with roots upward, were floating down the stream. No breeze stirred the air ; but whole forests were waving and trembling like tali wheat in a strong wind. Great banks came tumbling into the river, overwhelming flat-boats and rafts, whose terrified crews had landed and escaped. The Mississippi gurgled and roared ; and finally its torrent turned and flowed upstream for ten miles, swallowing keelboats and arks, ingulfing houses and farms, and drowning men, women, and children.
New Madrid was the centre of the convulsion. Some of the dismayed inhabitants fled back to the higher lands. Others stood palsied upon the shore, watching their tumbling houses, and praying to be taken on board the passing steamer. The earth opened in long fissures, from which jets of water and mud, and sheets of sand, streamed up into the air. Even the restingplace of the dead was invaded ; the churchyard, with its grassy graves, parted from the shore, and went down into the turbid river. Bones of the gigantic mastodon and icthyosaurus, buried for ages, protruded from the banks of naked loam.
The whole face of the country was changed. Westward for miles the land sank many feetHills and plains of gigantic oaks, cypresses two hundred feet high, gum-trees, walnuts, hickories, and dense canes instantaneously dropped out of sight, as a magic forest goes down through the trap-door of a theatre. They have been submerged ever since, without branch or twig breaking the surface of the dull, stagnant waters.
Even when unconvulsed, our great rivers cut like knives through the soft alluvium of their banks. They roam their broad valleys almost as unrestrained as the sluggish catfish swim their mud-, dy depths. They are here to-day, and there to-morrow, — always forming new channels, always filling up the old.
In 1853 a Missouri River steamer ran upon a sand-bar. The land was increasing so fast that she could not be got off. Night and day it grew apace, until the luckless vessel, a hundred yards from the water, perched high and dry, — a modern ark upon a modern Ararat. In two or three years a thick forest of willows or cottonwoods would have hidden her. But suddenly the river changed its mind a second time, returned to its old channel, cutting away the new-formed soil, released the imprisoned steamer, and bore her safe to the St. Louis levee, after a delay of only a few weeks. The same stream has cut away half of St. Joseph, Mo., deposited a broad sand-bar in front of Weston, and, by finding a new channel. transformed a river town of Nebraska into an interior village of Iowa.
Hardly less erratic is the Mississippi. New Madrid seems to be the favorite neighborhood for the display of its eccentricities. One morning during the late war, the Rebels of that ancient village were startled to find four of General Pope’s steam-transports lying at their landing. Beauregard’s army blockaded the river above ; but Pope’s Illinois Yankees, by turning a portion of the water into a new channel, which they had cut for sixteen miles through bayous, swamps, and cornfields, floated their transports around, took the enemy in the rear, captured Island No. Ten, with its one hundred and twenty-five guns, half a dozen steamers, valuable supplies, and three thousand prisoners, and sent the Rebel lines “ whirling ” down to Fort Pillow.
That was the Mississippi plus man’s ingenuity. But on the same spot the unaided stream has performed exploits almost as wonderful. New Madrid, founded by early Spanish settlers, and named in honor of their stately capital at home, was laid out for a magnificent city. A mile from the river its site embraced a pretty lake, which they designed enclosing to beautify the pleasure-grounds of their future metropolis. But the stream has encroached so ravenously upon its Missouri shore, that the original seat of the town, lake and all, is not only removed into Kentucky, but is nearly two miles back from the Mississippi. At Randolph, Fort Pillow, and other points below, the river has swallowed extensive earthworks, and obliterated every trace of the great Rebellion.
Missouri has fewer antiquities than Ohio or Kentucky. On the Gasconade are caves of singularly pure saltpetre, which settlers have frequently used for the manufacture of gunpowder. But the caves had earlier workers. In their ancient rooms, with arched roofs and white limestone walls, have been found many rude axes and hammers. In the same vicinity are remains of stone towns, and of buildings which seem to have been religious temples.
There are other footprints of the Mound-Builders,— that mysterious race, just as distinct from the red men as the red men from the whites, — which swarmed in our great valley before the Indians, which worked oil-wells in Pennsylvania, and copper-mines on Lake Superior. They were unable to melt the copper, and therefore used it only for ornaments. One of their earth monuments, near New Madrid, was forty feet high, a quarter of a mile in circumference, perlectly level on the top, and surrounded by a deep ditch. St. Louis stands upon the former site of several; hence it is called the Mound City. Cincinnati, too, occupies the ancient seat of an interesting cluster of them.
Dr. Franklin, at eighty, talked of the Mound-Builders with great zest, and declared that if lie were younger he would go and study their works tor himself. Fascinating as the subject is, modern investigation has barely noticed it, and thrown little light upon it. These artificial mounds, often surrounded by curiously complicated earthworks, appear to have been used as fortifications, as temples for worship, and as the tombs of illustrious persons. Some bear the form of enormous serpents. Others, with their outworks, gateways, and covered passages to the water, embrace many acres. Excavations have revealed in them gigantic human skeletons, battleaxes, bucklers of copper thickly overlaid with silver, polished bracelets and rings of silver and brass, many curious utensils of pottery, pipes and money of terra-cotta and slate, and rude sculptures in wood and stone.
Missouri boasts several of these mounds, but none so extensive and striking as those which have given name and interest to Circleville, Ohio. The Buckeye State is full of them; and Kentucky alone is said to have more than five hundred still unexplored. Originally they cost labor as vast and intelligent as the building of the pyramids. Yet the very name of the nation which reared them has passed from human knowledge as utterly as that of an unknown soldier dead on the field, or an unknown passenger swept from the deck of an emigrant ship.
The bluff formations of Missouri contain fossil remains of the mastodon, the American elephant, and other primeval monsters. Even now, according to Draper, we might be enjoying their cheerful company but for the extreme rigor of modern winters. Let churls complain, I remember the fossil skeleton of an Alabama zeuglodon. The reptile was ninety feet long, and in the largest place twice as thick as a sugarhogshead. He was as recklessly adapted to all circumstances as a Yankee invention. He was water proof, with a tail horridly useful for flapping or swimming. He had more legs, and uglier ones, than the most elaborate spider. Into his open jaws a small man might have walked, standing upright, and wearing a stove-pipe hat. Since that enlivening spectacle, I have regarded cold winters and the deprivation they bring with Christian resignation.
Song and story have done little justice to the patience, persistency, and daring of our early explorers. Their journeys were as romantic as that of Jason the Argonaut, — almost as incredible as those of Sinbad the Sailor. Three hundred and twenty-seven years ago, near the present site of Helena, Arkansas, Hernando de Soto reached the Mississippi, the first white man who ever looked upon its waters. Powell’s delineation of the discovery covers many square yards of canvas in the great Rotunda of the National Capitol. As a princess of shoddy once described a strong, dingy, hideous old battle-piece in her own parlor : “ It is called the handsomest picture of the whole collection!” A copy of Powell’s group adorns the backs of our ten-dollar National-Bank notes. It is a wonderful, but, alas ! a fair, specimen of American historical painting. De Soto and his comrades are the prettiest of men. In personal comeliness they are only exceeded by the amiable savages standing about them. True to nature, —for everybody knows what a thing of beauty the American Indian is. The Portuguese and Spanish explorers appear in all the unsullied feathers and gold of a dress-parade. They seem to have been kept in bandboxes. They are gloved, ruffled, and laced, ready to caper nimbly in a lady’s chamber, to the lascivious pleasing of a lute. Of course, they looked exactly thus after wandering three years in the wilderness, having their camps and baggage burned months before, and losing half their numbers in the flames, in deadly Indian battle, and by low fevers caught in pestilential swamps.
De Soto and his men — the flower of the Peninsular chivalry—braved everything, suffered everything, in their search for El Dorado. The hot springs of Arkansas they thought the tabled fountain of perpetual youth. They penetrated Missouri from the south; twice crossed the Ozark Hills, and spent the winter of 1541-42 among them. They found the region swarming with fierce Indians. They fought the Pawnees, who still do a thriving business at scalping surveyors and throwing trains off the track along the Union Pacific Railway in Nebraska ; and the Raws, of whom a miserable remnant yet survive, to raise ponies, and beg tobacco and whiskey, on the fertile bottoms of the Kansas River. They smelted ore, and were disgusted to find it lead instead of silver. V ernon County, Missouri, still contains ruins of old fortifications and furnaces, believed to mark the winter camp ol those gallant, ill-starred soldiers ol fortune.
Their fate served as a warning. For one hundred and thirty years the great river was left undisturbed, unseen, by civilized man. Then Marquette the missionary, with Joliet the explorer, starting from Canada, floated down its silent current to the mouth of the Arkansas. Like later travellers, they were surprised to find the stream, so clear and blue above the mouth of the Missouri, so muddy and turbid below.
Before reaching the Gulf, they turned back from dread of the Spaniards. But after them, also from the north, came La Salle, the fearless. He rode the muddy current until he had planted the lilies of France at the mouth of the Mississippi. Louis XIV. was at the zenith of his glory. In the name of the Great King, the bold explorer took possession of the entire country, baptizing the river “ St. Louis,” and its valley, “ Louisiana.”
Poor La Salle ! He hoped for wealth, fame, and honor from his discoveries. They brought hardship, heart-sickness, and death. For years he faced appalling disasters, with unshaken soul. At last, after long, fruitless endeavors to find again the banks of the Mississippi, a bewildered wanderer in Northern Texas, he fell, assassinated by one of his own soldiers. How great explorers, like great orators, have suffered the most cruel mockery of destiny ! They form the saddest pictures in all history, — Columbus, of the broad brow and majestic frame, in an old age of poverty and chains; Ponce de Leon, feeble and gray-haired, shot to death by savages, even while seeking the immortal fountain; La Salle, the dauntless and tireless, with his thin arms folded, and his tattered cloak wrapped about him, cradled in an unknown grave, among the barren hills of Trinity River; Raleigh, the early darling of fortune, his narrow bald head under the shining axe, his calm lips murmuring, “This is sharp medicine, but it cures the worst disease ” ; De Soto, lowered at midnight to the bottom of the Mississippi, with no audible prayer from his heartbroken comrades, lest the lurking red man learn that the bold leader was at rest after all his wanderings, in peace after all his troubles !
The Illini Indians greeted Father Marquette : “ Fair is the sun, O Frenchman ! when thou comest among us.” To Marquette’s countrymen the Illinois prairie ever stretched under a fair sun. They held it a terrestrial paradise. The Missouri hills and valleys they believed uninhabitable, but filled with exhaustless mines of silver and gold. In 1700 there was not a white settlement west of the Mississippi. But Louis XIV. granted to Anthony Crozat, a wealthy French merchant, a monopoly of the trade of the entire valley for sixteen years. Crozat introduced the statutes and usages of France, copied chiefly from Roman civil law. These were the earliest canons of civilization between the Great Lakes and the Gulf.
The first royal governor was Crozat’s business partner, La Motlc. His first observations disgusted him with the province, and especially with the project for the establishment of trading posts. He wrote back to the Ministry :
“ What! Is it expected that for any commercial or profitable purposes boats will ever be able to run up the Mississippi into the Wabash, the Missouri, or the Red River ? One might as well try to bite a slice off the moon. Not only are these rivers as rapid as the Rhone, but in their crooked course they imitate to perfection a snake’s undulations. Hence, for instance, on every turn of the Mississippi it would be necessary to wait for a change of wind, if wind could be had, because this river is so lined up with thick woods that very little wind has access to its bed.”
Wise La Motte ! Just as wise as Jefferson, who believed the Erie Canal built fifty years too soon ; as Franklin, who thought steamboats impracticable ; as we, who a few months ago shook our sage heads pityingly at Cyrus Field !
Under La Motte no mines were found, no agriculture was begun ; and in five years Crozat’s monopoly had cost him so much more than it brought, that he returned to Paris, and gave up his charter as worthless.
The region was next granted to the Mississippi Company. “ Corporations,” says the proverb, “ have no bodies to be kicked, and no souls to be damned.” This famous company brilliantly exemplified the great truth. But at least it owned a head to lead, in the person of John Law,—gambler, rake, duellist, and speculator though he was. It is the fashion to decry him ; but our own finances have sometimes been directed by quite as much charlatanry, and a great deal less brains.
His energy endeavored well for “ Upper Louisiana.” He sent out two hundred miners to find gold or silver. The Mississippi Bubble swelled until shares rose to forty times their original value. Then it burst. Law, who had begun it with a fortune of five hundred thousand dollars, counted himself lucky to save his neck, and escape from Paris with eight hundred Louis d’or in his pocket. His miners in the New World found no precious metals. But, with a wisdom miraculous in gold-seekers, they worked the rich veins of lead still existing near Fredericksburg and Potosi, Missouri, and shipped large quantities of the product home to Europe.
For fifty years France had now held the valley. By the customs of that day, it was time for bloodshed about it, particularly as it was deemed almost worthless. So the Spaniards determined to capture and recolonize it.
The French settlers were few and weak; but the Missouri or Mud Indians, who have given name to the river and the State, were their stanch allies. Like all our aboriginals they took kindly to the easy, gay, music-loving Frenchman, but not to the cruel Spaniard or the grasping Saxon.
The Osages, also a powerful nation, were traditional enemies of the Missouris. The Spaniards decided to join them in a war upon their ancient foes. The Missouris once destroyed, the conquest of the feeble white settlements would be sure and easy.
The expedition started from New Mexico in 1720. It was a strange caravan of Spaniards and natives, horses and mules, droves of cattle, sheep, and swine, with women and children, to form new colonies after the armed men should conquer the old.
The crusaders turned their backs upon Santa Fé, in its mountain aerie,— even yet the highest city of North America. They left behind snowy peak and delusive mirage, rolling wastes of sand and grazing herds of spotted antelopes. Down the shining Arkansas, to where its fair valley broadens into the magnificent prairies of Southern Kansas. Thence eastward through a swelling ocean of grass, its billowy green foamy with daisy and phlox, or gorgeous with goldenrod and sunflower. Then northward over rugged hills of gray rock, shaded with groves of chincapin and stunted oak, where, in the world’s morning twilight, the Mound-Builders had toiled, where, two centuries before these soldiers, De Soto had marched and fought, where, on a summer day, a hundred and forty years later, Nathaniel Lyon and a thousand of his young comrades should fall for their country and for freedom.
After a weary march of a thousand miles, these pioneer filibusters approached the Great Yellow River. In its rich valley they found noble elms, black-walnuts, and sycamores, their trunks wreathed and their branches weighed down with luxuriant parasites. Bushes, vines, and trees bent under enormous clusters of black, shining elderberries, snow-white pigeon-berries, purpling grapes, and luscious, strawcolored plums.
But the invaders had little time to wonder at the bountifulness of nature. Their ignorant guides led them, not among the Osages whom they sought, but right into the chief village of the Missouris, whom they had come to destroy. Both tribes spoke the same Language, and the Spaniards were completely deceived. - They told their purpose freely, and distributed arms and ammunition to their wily enemies. The Missouris fooled them to the top of their bent, professing to acquiesce gladly in all their plans. But just at dawn on the third morning the Indians fell upon their deluded visitors, and killed and scalped every man, woman, and child except the solitary priest. Him they kept prisoner ; but in a few weeks he escaped. With wonderful endurance and good fortune, all alone he trod the obscure, dangerous trail back to Santa he, and told the fate of the would-be pirates, hoist upon their own petard.
The first settlement upon the Missouri was begun in 1762, and named Village clu Cote. It is now St. Charles, a pleasant town of four thousand people, at the crossing of the North Missouri Railway. The next year a party of French trappers and traders ascended the Mississippi, designing to found a post at the mouth of the Missouri. It took them five months to come from New Orleans to the present site of Alton. The same trip by rail now consumes about two days. Not liking the ground at the junction, they dropped down twenty miles, and in the deep wilderness, by the great river, raised their first cabin of poles, bark, and skins.
That was the beginning of St. Louis. The city was founded twenty-four years earlier than Cincinnati, sixty-six earlier than Chicago, and forty-seven later than New Orleans. The pioneers adopted many Indian habits. They strapped their infants to boards like papooses. After they began to raise swine, the mother would leave her baby alone in the cabin for hours ; but, to alleviate bis solitude, she gave him a huge piece of raw pork to suck, first tying it to Ins foot by a string, so that whenever he attempted to swallow it the natural impulse to kick would save him from choking. Perhaps it was trom this custom, extended across the river, that Illinoisans were first called “ Suckers.”
Of course, the babies thrived. That was the golden age of the little folks. Shower-baths were rare, dietetics unknown, Modern hygiene, like Falstaff’s instinct, may be “a great matter”; but somehow, to our children of model rearing, Death gives but little of his hourglass and a great deal of his scythe. And if little tombstones told the truth, I suspect many would proclaim, “ Died of unmitigated carefulness and endless washing.” Our lilycheeked darlings, kept ever tidy in person, spotless in dress, prudent in diet, safe from all exposure, are as fair as young willows, but also as frail. And the tow-headed youngster of the prairie cabin, soaked in the rain, barefoot on the frost, always munching his pork, corn-bread, and molasses, but always in the blessed open air, is a sapling of oak. Happily unconscious of nerves, he is ready to go through life on his muscle, as all of us must in one way or another.
Forty years passed. Louisiana was held of so little worth that she flew like a shuttlecock between the battledores of France and Spain, belonging now to one power, and now to the other. Her settlers increased but slowly. They were isolated from all mankind. They were almost as secluded from the outside world as the dwellers in the Happy Valley of Rasselas.
Children born in St. Louis began to find wrinkles in their faces, and silver in their hair ; yet the town contained less than a thousand people. It was essentially French, and rigidly Catholic. It had no post-office ; but priests were abundant. No Protestant could own a lot, or even enjoy public religious worship. There were one hundred and eighty dwellings, — straw-thatched cabins, built of hewn cedar and cottonwood logs, standing upright. Barns ot the same material stood thick among them, filled with wheat from the common field, and hay from the open prairie beyond. Back of the town, a brief circle of small round towers of sod extended from the river above to the river below ; within this enclosure also were two higher towers for observation, — all defences against Indians. The people crossed the river by canoes, or “dugouts,” lashing two large ones together, and covering them with split planks, when horses and wagons were to be ferried over.
But the little city was neither prosaic nor unimportant. The mercurial Frenchman and his Creole descendants observed freeptent holidays ; the cedar floors creaked with merry dancing to the violin, and the Mississippi learned bv heart the old home songs of the Seine and the Rhone. The public records and judicial proceedings were in French. It was almost the only language spoken on the streets. The citizen wore buckskin moccasins in winter, and often went barefoot in summer. He was averse to hats ; a gay cotton kerchief usually enveloped his head. His loose shirt was of bright red flannel, his pantaloons of fringed buckskin, or colored cotton. He was an inveterate smoker. From his leathern belt hung a seal-skin pouch of tobacco, a clay pipe, — when it was not in his mouth, — a little tinder-box with flint and steel, a butcher knife, and a small hatchet. He looked picturesque and half barbaric ; but his heart was light, kindly, and honest.
Like modern frontier towns, St. Louis had a trade quite disproportionate to its population. It bought lead from whites and Indians. It shipped venison, buffalo meat, and bear meat to New Orleans. It consumed the surplus wheat of contiguous Illinois. Every year it sent sixty thousand dollars’ worth of Indian goods up the Missouri, and received two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of deer and bear skins, buffalo robes, and furs of beaver and otter. The deer skins alone brought to this straggling log village in the wilderness numbered one hundred and fifty thousand annually.
Already trappers and fur-traders had begun to penetrate the Rocky Mountains. Some were murdered by Indians, some were drowned in the Missouri, some were eaten by grizzly bears. But they loved their hard life with the strange love which pursuits involving adventure and privation always inspire. Their furs were carried to Canada, and thence to Europe ; and it took four years to get returns.
So the last century went out. Then on a May morning, sixty-tour years ago, three frail boats bearing fifty men sailed away from St. Louis up toward the mouth of the Missouri. That little expedition represented the new-born Nineteenth Century. It bore the Stars and Stripes, and the advance guard of the coining Yankee nation. Captains Lewis and Clark, with a volunteer band of sturdy United States soldiers, sent by President Jefferson, under sanction of Congress, had started to explore the vast region stretching to the Pacific, and to learn whether a route for travel and commerce could be opened across the American continent.
The country was as little known as the trackless ocean when Columbus dared it. Trappers and traders could only tell that as far as they had ventured it swarmed with fierce Indians and ferocious beasts. The bold voyagers, starting to face its unknown dangers, had the sympathy and prayers of the frontier population. At long intervals, after they passed out of sight, returning trappers brought tidings of them. At the end of a year came a boat with their messengers and letters, stating that they had passed the first winter two thousand miles up the Missouri, and were just entering the deeper wilderness beyond. Then weeks, months, a year elapsed, and no word from the daring travellers. Hope turned to despair. Friends and relatives mourned them as dead. And, as usual, wise after-prophets shook their heads and averred that the attempt had been foolhardy and mad.
But on a September clay, when the explorers had been gone two years and four months, the people of St. Louis heard a discharge of musketry. Looking up the river, they saw a little fleet of canoes and pirogues just in sight, and rapidly nearing their village. The boatmen were tawny, and clothed in skins. The cry, “ Indians ! ” “ Indians ! ” rang from cabin to cabin, and the alert Frenchmen ran for their muskets. But a few minutes more showed that the visitors were not savages, only sunbrowned, bearded white men. Lewis and Clark had returned ! All the party were back again safe and sound, except one man, who died of disease early on the way out. In their journey of eight thousand miles, through half a hundred savage nations, they had had only one Indian fight, and that a slight skirmish. They came loaded with curiosities, and full of enthusiasm about the wealth of the prairies, the sublimity of the mountains, and the beauty of the great Oregon River, rolling brokenly over many rapids to the far western ocean. They had opened communication from the Mississippi to the Pacific !
St. Louis welcomed them with flying flags and booming guns, and as the news spread by the slow vehicles of that day, the whole country was swift to do them honor. For now Jefferson had bought Louisiana, Congress had paid the bill, and the Stars and Stripes floated over the new domain. It was no longer France or Spain which these pioneers had been exploring, but the United States of America.
The Louisiana purchase revolutionized St. Louis. The French language and modes went out, and the post-office came in. The newspaper followed. In 1808 appeared “ The Louisiana Gazette,” the first journal ever printed west of the Mississippi. It still flourishes as “ The St. Louis Republican,” and the changes in our party names have produced a curious paradox. For years “ The Republican ” has been a zealous Democratic organ, and its neighbor “The Missouri Democrat” a cogent apostle of Republicanism.
Like his good friend the Frenchman, the Indian also went to the wall before the post-office and the newspaper. The once potent Missouris occupied the beautiful valleys of the Grand and the Chariton. In 1810 they fought their last battle with the whites. All were exterminated except a few stragglers, who found homes among the. Osages. their ancient foes.
The French had little taste for farming in the wilderness ; they adhered mainly to trading, boating, and trapping. But the Daniel Boone race of American pioneers began to come in,— men who loved the forest, and were cramped for elbow-room if they had a neighbor within a day’s journey. They were long, gaunt settlers from Kentucky, Illinois, Virginia, and Ohio, with a few restless Yankees from the hills of New England. Avoiding towns, they pushed back into the interior. They found the valleys and prairies — reputed worthless and uninhabitable — all ready to yield boundless crops of corn and wheat, fruits and the root vegetables. Forests teemed with game, rivers were choked with fish. By the Missouri, the Osage, and the Gasconade the immigrant from Massachusetts stared at the little horn-pout of his native streams, here developed into the enormous catfish of a hundred or a hundred and fifty pounds. A pioneer of Cole County relates that fish so abounded in Moreau Creek as frequently to clog the wheels and stop the machinery of his saw-mill. Then he used to shut the gate, and beat the water with poles to drive them away!
Another settler, Elisha Ford, is the hero of a story even more fishy. It avers that, finding a young panther asleep, he bent a sapling over the animal’s back, holding him down until he could muzzle him and tie his feet together. Thus secured, Ford bore theamiable whelp home in triumph to his wondering family.
A third, Thomas Stanley, herding cattle and hogs on Grand River, lived in a huge, hollow sycamore log, which lay upon the ground. Here he ate and slept, and through long winter evenings smoked his clay pipe, reading such books and stray newspapers as he could get from the nearest settlement. Sycamore splinters, dipped in raccoon oil, served for candles. Just outside burned his ruddy fire of logs. When the smoke blew into his eyes,—as it usually does in camp, — he would get up, and roll his unique dwelling around on the other side of the blaze. This voluntary Crusoe, tanned, bearded, clothed in furs, smoking his dingy pipe and reading his ragged newspaper, with shining rifle close by, all ready to grasp,
— Eastman Johnson should put him on canvas, to delight our eyes, and illustrate an essential page in American history.
The Boone race is extinct, or has migrated to Walrussia, where alone we have room for it still. But the big trees survive. Parker’s u Missouri in 1867”
— a valuable gazetteer, though without a map of the State, and ten years behind in its statistics of railways and leading towns — describes a standing hollow sycamore, whose chamber is fifteen feet across; a grape-vine three feet in circumference; tupelos, oaks, and cypresses ten feet in diameter, and beeches and elms seven feet.
The earliest steamer upon our Western rivers was launched in the Ohio, at Pittsburg, in 18ir. The first to ascend the Missouri were three little government boats, in 1819. A party of engineers and naturalists kept along near them on the shore. The Pawnees, who can yet almost steal the boots from a man’s feet without his knowing it, pilfered the horses, provisions, and apparatus of the unfortunate savanus, and left them to wander, hungry and half naked, till they found refuge among the friendly Kaws, These early steamers stemmed the current with difficulty, and were greatly delayed by sand-bars ; for this was before steamboats were educated up to walking off on their spars, as a boy walks on his stilts. And they dropped down the river stern foremost, as they were more manageable in that position.
Even in civilized communities, the introduction of the steamboat excited superstitious dread. When Robert Fulton’s Clermont appeared on the Hudson, ships’ crews who saw her approaching at night against wind and tide, with machinery clanking, paddles clattering, and showers of sparks and volumes of dame streaming from her chimneys, jumped overboard, and swam ashore in terror. Three yeafs later, when Nicholas Roosevelt’s Orleans first descended the Ohio, she approached Louisville at midnight. Hundreds of Kentuckians, awakened by her demoniac screechings, rushed down to the bank, and at first believed that the great comet of that year had fallen into the Ohio ! One of the first boats to ascend the Missouri, as if her normal terrors were not enough, carried a figure-head at her prow in the form of a huge serpent. Through this reptile’s mouth steam escaped, and the savages who saw it fled in wildest alarm, fancying that the Spirit of Evil was coming bodily to devour them.