Up the Missouri River to Fort Benton - 1862

  In a 10 June 1862 letter to his sister-in-law Ella {WILLIAMS) CLUSKY at Canton, Lewis County, Missouri, William Bradford CRANE (my wife Sally's great-grandfather) told her he was writing an account of his trip up the Missouri River for the "St. Louis Republican." He said he would be signing it as "Bradford," and told her to look for the report in a few weeks. Below is that account, published 3 July 1862. There are three parts to it: an introductory section written by the newspaper editor; three "letters" written by "Bradford" (William B. CRANE); and a resolution by the riverboat passengers, thanking the captain and crew of the "Emilie" for their care and hospitality. The resolution is followed by the names of the passengers. The paper where the account appeared was actually the "Missouri Republican," published in St. Louis, not the "St. Louis Republican," a different publication.

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Return of the Steamer Emilie from Fort Benton -- The Expedition safe at Camp La Barge -- Prospects Good -- Other Mountain Boats -- A Gros Ventures Chief and his Squaw -- Cargo of the Emilie -- Indians Generally Quiet -- Great Flood in the River -- Correspondence, &c.
  The steamer Emilie, Capt. Jo. La Barge arrived frm Fort La Barge, about one mile above Fort Benton, yesterday, at 1 1/2 o'clock P. M. She announced her presence by the firing of cannon, and was soon rounded to and at the landing foot of Washington avenue. The Emilie was just fifty days out on the trip from St. Louis to Fort Benton and back, which is a remarkably quick time. She arrived at Fort Benton on the 17th of June, at noon, and left on the 19th for St. Louis, being thirteen days in making the trip down. She brought down a load of furs, peltries, robes, &c, for Robert Campbell & Co; also one grizzly bear, sold at St. Joseph; a few prairie wolves, a half a dozen buffalo calves, now on board the boat; and for sale. She had other curiosities, too numerous to mention.
  A Gros Ventres chief and squaw came down passengers in the boat. The old chief was in full regalia, and was a great curiosity with the crowd that rushed on board at the landing. He looked solemn and sedate as a monarch, as he stood fanning himself with an eagle's wing -- the other hand grasping his rifle. He had extremely long hair, decorated with paint and eagle's feathers, and was dressed in a garnished buffalo robe, with a smaller calf's robe, garnished, about his shoulders as a cape. He is a large, well-formed man, of about fifty winters. His squaw is a demure looking female, not unhandsome and much younger in appearance than her warrior.
  The old chief is on his first visit to the white settlements -- and his object is merely to satisfy himself if the whites are a very numerous race. He said before he started -- "You say you are very numerous, but I see the same faces up in our country every year. I will go and see for myself." Before he landed here he was perfectly satisfied that he had not been misinformed as to the numerical strength of the white race and expressed himself much pleased with all he had seen. The Emilie met with no accident of detention on the trip, and when she left the mountains all were well on the other boats then up in those regions.
  The Emilie passed the Spread Eagle and Key West just above Fort Berthold, on her trip up -- the Spread Eagle having left this port one week ahead of the Emilie. She overtook the Shreveport at Drowned Man's Rapids, and took her in tow one hundred and fifty miles to Fort Benton, the current being so strong that the Shreveport could not make much headway against it. On her return the Emilie met the Spread Eagle and Key West one hundred and twenty miles below Fort Benton, both getting along well.
  The Emilie left the Shreveport at the camp above Fort Benton, and on the 19th of June the large company of gold hunters which she took up had not left the camp to penetrate the country. They were well satisfied that the expedition would prove successful, and nearly all of them intended to remain. A few would, however, return on the Sheveport, which boat was to leave eight or nine days after the Emilie.
  The Expedition christened a camp Ft. La Barge, situated nearly one mile above Fort Benton, the boats of the Brothers La Barge being the first steamers that had ever ascended the river so high.
The Indians are generally quiet. The Sioux, however, had some trouble among them selves before the arrival of the boats, killing one of their chiefs and two or three of the tribe. They also stole about 350 packs of buffalo robes from the American Fur Company.
  All the tribes were very friendly to the voyagers, and were as usual pleased to see them on their annual visit.
  Capt. La Barge reports the Missouri river very high all the way down from Fort Benton. There is a greater flood coming down the river than has been known for many years. The Emilie will leave for Fort Benton again on Thursday, the 10th instant, and will doubtless be full of adventurers.


Steamer Emilie, Fort Benton
June 17th, 1862
It will, perhaps, interest some of your readers to know that the boats of the Miners, and Traders' Line (Messrs. La Barge, Harkness & Co.) have reached Fort Benton in safety, and without accident of importance to either.
  The Emilie left St. Louis on the 14th of May, just fourteen days after the Shreveport, twelve days behind the Key West, and four days after the Spread Eagle. We run night and day until we reached St. Joe, which was four days. Our passengers, including cabin and deck, now numbered one hundred and fifty. We supposed we would continue to run night and day, as the nights were very light. Not so, however; our Captain knew his business too well, and very soon commenced to exercise that caution for which he is so distinguished, and which I will here add, is, perhaps, the most important quality in one who commands a trip of this kind, where to have our boat crippled, or destroyed, would most hopelessly defeat our entire plans for the year.
  We now commenced to lay up at night, and have laid up every night, from St. Joe up. The Captain said, though as anxious, and more interested, to run than any of us, he would take care of us as well as he could, whether we liked it or not.
  At Fort Pierre we were within ten miles of the Spread Eagle, but being heavily loaded, we were detained one full day at the Bar, while the Eagle passed ahead without trouble. At Fort Berthold we again overhauled her, while unloading some freight at that point she started ahead; we soon passed her and some afternoon passed Key West. Late that night they both came up and landed alongside; next morning they started ahead, and we passed them underweigh; they followed close up, and while we were backing out of a dry chute, the Spread Eagle passed again ahead. We soon straightened out, and started to pass on again, but this time they seemed determined to interfere with us, by keeping in our way as much as possible. She finally started out in the river, and our Captain, who was at the wheel, aimed to go up to the shore, and when we were about a half length ahead they sheered off and started for our wheel-house. Had she struck us as we started, we would have been completely disabled, (as the steamer Majors was, by the same boat, near Leavenworth, on this same trip). Our Captain saw the move and slacked up, so that instead of striking the wheel, she struck the fenders forward, breaking three very heavy stanchions. Amid the cracking timbers and the scared passengers, the scene became very animated. Our Pilot raised his rifle and rather than have his boat sink, and our lives and property endangered, would have shot at their pilot. He soon saw this and stopped his wheels, which he had far better done a few minutes sooner, if he valued his reputation. We then passed them, and have not seen them since; they are now probably five days travel from this place. Our next race was to overtake the Shreveport; she had been traveling slow, and waiting for us for over a week. At some places she chopped wood and left it for us on the banks, so we could catch her sooner, and work together over the rapids. When we caught her, she had passed over two rapids and was close to a third. Within 10 miles of Benton a general jollification was held to celebrate so great an event as our meeting. Everybody was happy, even down to the deck sweep. We soon worked over the last rapids, and now here we are safe without a single loss of life, and very little sickness on either boat. 

  We have had three doctors on the Emilie, and one preacher, Rev. Mr. Francis, of Baptist persuasion. He has preached every Sunday, advising us to be honest, virtuous, temperate, &c., and particularly to treat the poor Indian with kindness. He also tells us if we make money, we should take care of it, and not gamble or drink it up.
  Well, about our trip. From St. Joe to Sioux City there was nothing of particular interest. From there to Fort Randall, we saw Indians at several places. At Randall we found there were 300 Iowa volunteers stationed. They were sent to drill, and guard the post while the regulars went off to the wars. Along the shores in this part of the river, appearances indicate a country well suited to farming, mostly rolling prairie, with occasional strips of timber. Above Randall we have seen but little good farming land, but game has been abundant. We have killed from the boat, while they were swimming in the river, twelve buffalo, one elk, six antelope, and two deer. We would then hoist them on board with the derrick, and butcher them on the forecastle.
Buffalo meat is not in general favor with the passengers -- is not liked as well as beef; but elk and antelope fills the bill exactly.
  Every passenger on the boat has killed plenty of game, if you let them tell about it. Of course every one would shoot, and all claim to have hit the game, yet hardly anything was struck by more than three balls, while perhaps fifty shots were fired. It is very difficult to kill game from a moving boat -- Mr. Harkness killed one buffalo the first shot; Mr. Mead killed another. Mr. Crow shot a deer which was on shore.
  We have seen Indians of several different tribes, at the different fortts as we passed up, and found them to be universally a thieving, lazy pack of beggars. I don't think a single admirer of the Indian character could be found on our boat; yet we all started with very romantic notions of the Indian, the wonderful noble red man of the forest.
  Now about our fare on the boat, for that must not be omitted. The officers, in every department, have been very kind and attentive to the interest and wants of the passengers. All have proved themselves efficient and kind hearted men, and have the thanks and good wishes of all their passengers and such is our confidence in the Emilie, and her Captain and crew, that if we were coming up again we would come on her, even if we had to pay $125, rather than pay $100 on any other boat. Our fare at table has been sumptuous, equal to the best St. Louis hotels, and every Sunday a rousing big dinner; even carried a cow along, to be always supplied with good fresh milk. Imagine for a bill of fare, way up in the wilderness, five different kinds of pies, pudding, ice cream, green peas, green corn, asparagus, with elk, antelope, buffalo, fresh fish, &c., &c. Can you best that? and all for $100 per month, including transportation 3,000 miles. 

  The most cordial good will has at all times prevailed among our passengers; there has been very little drinking, and no gambling on the boat. I have never before seen so large a promiscuous crowd so well behaved, for if there are bad points in a man's composition, they will be discovered on a trip like this. Among the prominent citizens of St. Louis, we have with us Mr. G. F. Filley and Mr. E. Jaccard, each seeking for health and pleasure with enough invested in the expedition to be interested in its success. Chancellor Hoyt and lady of Washington University, are also on board. His health is perhaps slightly improved.
  Messrs. La Barge, Harkness & Co. have a very large stock of Indian goods and miner's supplies and if the mines prove as rich as they promise, a rich reward awaits their enterprise; they have already established posts for trading with the Indians at Fort Pierre and Berthold, one at the mouth of the Milk river, and one at Fort Benton, and have bought a large amount of furs and robes to take down the river.

Steamer Emilie, Fort La Barge, above Fort Benton
June 18, 1862
Editor Republican:
We arrived here all well yesterday at noon, making the trip in thirty-three days less four hours, the very high stage of the river enabling us to pass over the falls with but little delay. It is the quickest trip ever made to this point, (near Fort Benton) the third boat that ever came here, and the first side-wheel. We are within forty miles of the first eighty feet high [something missing here?], and at the head of navigation; the country through which we have passed is similar in feature, from the eastern part of Nebraska to this place, it being devoid of timber, except upon the streams, and the "Mauvais Terre," upon which grows scattered pine and cedar, resembling very much the country west of Kansas, the vegetation and Flora being similar. We killed the first buffalo below Fort Clark, which is now abandoned; we obtained wood for the boat from the abandoned wigwams of the Rees. Their camps are constructed like those of the Pawnees, on the Platte, very large, and contain several families, with their dogs. They deposit their dead on scaffolds. We took four Indians of the Gros Ventres on board, who were on their return from a raid on the Sioux, at Fort Pierre. They had neither horses or scalps. On the 5th of this month we overtook the Spread Eagle at Fort Berthold. The passengers were all well; found a large camp of Gros Ventes, and a few Mandans -- the remains of that once powerful tribe. The Gros Ventres deposit their dead and construct their villages after the manner of the Rees. Remaining three hours at Berthold, we overtook the Key West; all well on board. The next evening stopped at a winter camp of the Rees and made wood of the wigwams, the Spread Eagle overtaking us and wooding at the same place; went aboard of her and was entertained with a champagne and oyster supper by Mr. Louthran, of St. Louis, some fifteen of his friends participating; Dr. McKellops, N. Wall, and your correspondent, from the Emilie. We passed a pleasant evening, and drank to wife, children, and friends. Only think of it, Mr. Editor, champagne and oysters, and social gathering, fifteen hundred miles from the settlements. We have had an abundance of fresh meat, killing buffalo, antelope and elk every few days. The great difficulty was to avoid killing too many; our passengers being eager to immortalize themselves as hunters. It is very easy to kill them while crossing the river, as they do in numbers; unable to ascend the steep banks. Two were killed on shore, and much amusement was afforded in dragging them to the boat. One of them being only wounded by the first shots, was chased and brought to bay by a stag hound owned by Mr. G. W. Colburn; it was his first chase, and he acted boldly, catching the buffalo by the nose. The poor animal (a bull) disregarded the approach of man, and continued to battle with the dog until he was killed with shots from a revolver. Our friend, Jerry Sullivan, exercised himself extensively in pursuit of a second one that had been wounded while in the river, and narrowly escaped being left. He was almost as swift and eager as the dog.
  On the 9th we passed the mouth of the Yellow Stone, and reached Fort Union about eight o'clock A.M. No Indians at the Fort. With the exception of a few small bands, we saw no Indians but those collected at the forts. They rarely camp on the river away from the Forts, except in winter, for fuel. We overtook the Shreveport at the foot of the Dauphin Rapids, and took her in tow; passengers all well. Arrived, as heretofore stated, at noon on the 17th, well pleased with our tri, the captain and officers of the boat, and particularly the catering of the steward, Henderson Gocus. Capt. Wall and Col. Galpin left the boat above Milk river for an overland; they will be there in a couple of days.

    There are but few Indians at the Fort, but we expect a large camp of Pagans, a band of the Black Feet, with plenty of ponies. We are waiting for them, and when we make our purchases, will be off for the mines. We have news of a discovery of rich mines at Lake St. Mary's, two hundred and eighty miles north of this, over the British line, the accounts from Deer Lodge, newly discovered mines, west towards Bitter Root Valley -- and on our way to the Salmon River mines, are good, the yield being from ten to twenty dollars per day to a man. Some forty men are at work there. Some of our passengers will go to the St. Mary's mines, but the most of them to Deer Lodge and the Salmon river. Gold has been found on several tributaries of the Missouri, the prospecting being done by inexperienced parties. It remains to be seen whether it exists in quantities to pay.
  Today our captain entertained the passengers of the Shreveport and Emilie with a fine dinner -- green peas, green corn, tomatoes and asparagus graced the table.
  To-morrow we go into camp and begin on camp fare -- bacon and beans. Oh! What a change.
La Barge, Harkness & Co., intending to establish a trading post at this point, the passengers, in mass meeting assembled, christened it Fort LaBarge.
  I will write again from the mines, and will give you a reliable account of their richness and the condition of things there. H. C. L.

Fort La Barge, June 18, 1862
Editor Republican:
Since closing my letter of yesterday, an event has occurred which must be recorded on the page of history. A new fort has been founded, at the head of navigation, on the noble old stream Missouri, and some distance above Fort Benton. Hereafter, when boats start for the head of the Missouri, they must put up their sign, for Fort La Barge, and stop at Fort Benton as a way point.
  Last night, after our boats had landed, a meeting was called by the passengers, who unanimously names the place Fort LaBarge, in honor of the noble commanders of the two side-wheel steamers then lying at the wharf, and which had been so successfully brought there by their enterprise and energy -- a feat that had never before been accomplished A banner was then raised, bearing the description, "Fort LaBarge." Then followed the raising of the glorious old Stars and Stripes. Next came the salute with Mr. Filleys rifled cannon; then three rousing cheers for Fort LaBarge, three for the Star-spangled Banner, and three for the brothers Captains Jos. and John LaBarge.
  Rev. Mr. Francis then made a very appropriate speech, proclaiming the object of the meeting and predicting the foundations of a large city at this point so soon as the gold fields were more thoroughly developed. He was followed by Chancellor Hoyt, Mr. Edward Mead Jr., Mr. W. F. Barrel, Messrs Lynch and Chapman -- all of whose speeches were full of point and very appropriate.
  The meeting of which Dr. McKellops was Chairman, was then adjourned, with three cheers for the Union, and three for the loved ones at home.
  We have heard by little of the gold mines yet; they tell us here that at Deer Lodge Valley, 180 miles from here, miners are making from fifteen to twenty-five dollars per day. And at Chief Mountain, it is said good diggings have been discovered. The reports from Salmon River are very flattering.
  Would add that we were often told at St. Louis and along the river, that the Emilie never would or could go to Fort Benton; but the captain first told us he would take us through, and then kept his word in fine style -- all praise to him for it; and when any other boat makes the trip in the same time, send me a paper containing the account of it.
  With this I will close; my next will probably be dated from the shores of the Pacific.
Respectfully yours,


Fort LaBarge; D. T.
Tuesday, June 17, 1862

  At a meeting of the passengers lately composing the Bitter Root Valley Expedition, for the purpose of paying some tribute expressive of our feelings towards Capt. John B. LaBarge, on motion of Mr. Vreeland, of Lt. Louis, Mr. S. R. King of Davenport, Iowa, was called to the Chair to draft resolutions expressive of the objects of the meeting; who, after a few minutes consultation, reported the following:
  Resolved, That we tender our sincere thanks to Capt. LaBarge, of the steamer Shreveport, for his careful attention to the wants and wishes of the passengers on board the said steamer on her passage up from St. Louis to Fort LaBarge.
  Resolved, That in the management of the Shreveport, he displayed rare ability, and proved himself worthy of the confidence reposed in him by the traveling public heretofore.
  Resolved, That the company which he, Capt. John B. LaBarge, represents, has our best wishes for its success.
  Resolved, That we can recommend the steamer Shreveport to our friends and the public as a staunch, safe, and reliable boat, and her officers as accomodating, gentlemen.
  Resolved, That we hereby tender our hearty thanks to Dr. J. C. Clark, of Washington, special vaccinating agent of the Indian Department, for his urbane and gentlemanly conduct to all, and more especially for his efficient aid and untiring efforts on behalf of the few cases of indisposition which occurred on our journey.
  Resolved, That the Chairman of this meeting be requested to present a copy of these resolutions to Capt. Jno. B. LaBarge, and also forward copies to the Republican and Democrat, of St. Louis; Illinois State Journal, Springfield; Democrat and News, Davenport, Iowa; and Passaic Guardian, Patterson, N. J.
S. R. King, Chairman
Asst: J. C. R. Clark, Secretary


Fort Benton, June 17, 1862
To the Editor of the Missouri Republican:
Will you please insert in your paper the following lines, as a tribute of our appreciation of the superior management of the Steamer Emilie in all her departments on her recent trip from St. Louis to Fort Benton, 3,200 miles, accomplished in the short space of thirty-four days -- the quickest on record; and the only first class steamer which has been to this point.
The Captain, Joseph LaBarge, and Pilots, Feete and LaBarge, the efficienct engineer, John G. W. Coonce, and other officers, have ever been faithful in their duties, and their superior skill has overcome the hitherto insurmountable difficulties in navigating the upper part of this river. The gentlemanly clerk, Gilkeson, has been untiring in his efforts to add to the comfort of all.
It is acknowledged by all that this trip, for romantic scenery surpasses anything of the kind in the world, while the country abounds in game of all description.
W. Hunkins, Erastus F. Hall, Chas. L. Young, M.D. (St. Louis), M. H. Rowe, Thos. B. Butchir, Menason Paine, John H. Speddy, J. W. Snyder, W. B. Dance, Edwin J. Darby, Geo. S. Rawlings, Henry Yost, H. W. Renshaw (St. Louis), L. J. Germain, John Griffith, W. Beeman, Felix Schmitt, L. C. Crane, Edward Gill, Wm.S. Arnold, Jno.G. Vail, Will. H. Wood, Jno. P. Cother, John D. Dyer, L. J. Lansing, Capt. Taylor Lynn, J. T. Sullivan, H. A. Bell, Chas. K. Gourley, T. T. Richards, Jne.W. Willson, Wm. H. N. Pettus, J.W. Paeyl, John T. Davis, W. M. Van Wilkle, C. M. Bradford, J. C.Crismar, J. S. Battell, Wm. Battell, B. G. Connor, M. D., Geo. C. Hempstead, W. C. Stamps, Geo. Wiser, Geo. Huber, A. Schneider, A. C. Hawley, James Gourley, Nick Wilsey, T. L. Stote, J. J. Forman, Chas. J. Fox, J. G. Crooks, R. A. Thompson, Chris. Plathe, E. J. Collins, John W. Pilcher, J. Faucetto, Thos. D. Williams, A. C. Melvell, A. S. Gates, T. L. Hauser, D. Richards, T. C. Willard, W. N. Hurlbut, H. B. Bryan, Jos. Swift Jr., Henry C. Lynch, John Neil, Wm. C. Gould and lady, T. S. Goss, Geo. P. King, Henry C. King, Edds, Darby & Co., W. F. Barrell, Geo. McLagan, H. J. McKellops, E. H. Mead, John Francis, F. P. Madison, W. H. Hurlbut, W. H. Bell, Geo. W.Colouru, H. P. Watkins, J. R. Hurlbut, F. M. Thompson.


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