Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Editor. October 20, 1854. Omaha Arrow 1(10): 2.

Journeyings and Jottings in Nebraska.

Desirous of becoming as thoroughly acquainted, so far as time and opportunity would permit, with the geographical formation, the advantages and disadvantages of this section of our new and beautiful Territory, thereby the better to inform our readers and also to enjoy the real pleasure which is to be derived from a pleasant season's migratory camp life on the prairie and woodland wild, we started from this place on the 7th inst., in company with friends W.N. Byers, H.C. Purple, B.R. Folsom, W.T. Raymond, J. Folsom, S.P. White, W.W. Maynard and J. Young, comfortably prepared for good living in camp, and, if necessary, to repel any attack from such war parties of Indians as might cross our path on our voyage of discovery, cosily stowed away in our vehicles, upon the top of provisions for man and beast.

Passing over that broad and beautiful table land lying between our own chosen and growing place and Florence, and stopping for a few moments at the latter place, we stretched our tent for the first night on its suburbs, upon a ridge commanding a beautiful view of the surrounding country, the Missouri valley, and the wooded scenery upon the Iowa side. After a hearty repast from the good things in store, and attending properly to the care of our lariated horses, we gathered around the camp-fire, smoking our Havanas and pipes, and enjoying the society of Messrs. Howe and Alden-residents of Florence-for a short season. The soft moonlight, struggling at times through fleecy clouds, shed its light upon the surrounding scenery, lending an enchantment which savored more of the fanciful than the real.

Parting with our visiting friends and retiring to our tent, we were gratified by a visit from Mr. J.C. Mitchell, one of the enterprising company claiming the site of Florence, and gathered around our camp-table, spent the evening over a few sociable games of Euchre. The late hours bade us retire to rest, and after parting with our friend, and carefully wrapping in blankets and buffalo-robes, we passed the night-some in tent, and others, partaking of the rich poetry which nature's God seemed to have infused into creation, spread themselves upon the green sward outside.

Next morning's dawning found our camp on the qui vive, and we up tent to drive on a few miles before breakfast. Taking a westerly course across the prairie upon the emigrant road to California and Salt Lake, we passed on over a beautiful country, dotted with woodland. The wind which, during the night had continued to increase, now blew a miniature hurricane, and the dark clouds of smoke ahead told of the Fire God, and occasionally burnt sections over which we passed, marked the scene of his bacchanals. Hearing of our friend, Dr. M.H. Clark, familiarly known as the "Platte Valley Pioneer" of "Pawnee," at a good camping place a few miles on the north-west, we thitherward drove and at about 10 o'clock found him, with his little party, busily engaged in bridging a stream for the purpose of opening a new road to the site claimed by the Nebraska Colonization Company, of Illinois.

In endeavoring to camp here for breakfast, an extra gratuitous "puff" from Boreas spread tent, poles and all, a complete wreck on the prairie. Nothing dismayed, however, we prepared and eat our hasty meal, surrounded by the fire, smoke and ashes from the burning prairie near by. After parting with 'Pawnee' and party, we journeyed on to the Papillion-crossing it with some trouble, passed on over that beautiful country lying between it and the Elk Horn river. The prairie in every direction presented a fire desolated appearance, and huge clouds of dark smoke, curling heavenward, extended far, far away to toward the northwest.

We reached a beautiful camping ground on the prairie bottom of the Elk Horn at about 4 o'clock P.M. During the day a number of prairie-hens and ducks had been killed by our party, and, under the culinary superintendence of Mr. Raymond, a supper from them was prepared which would vie in point of well arranged substantials, with anything in pampered flunkeydom. With songs, tales, &c., &c., we spent the evening. The night was one of those clear cool moonlight nights which tempt the soul's strange wanderings to scenes brighter, purer, holier, nobler, than anything of earth. The Elk Horn river swept silently near by, and the wind now settled into a quiet lull, gently fanned the leaves of the trees above and around us. At eight o'clock, (according to previous regulation that the Company should converse nightly in camp for the transaction of such business as might offer) a meeting was called with Capt. Byers in the chair. Officers for the excursion were chosen, and a committee appointed to arrange the boat at an early hour the following morning for crossing the river. Hundreds of prairie wolves were howling in the immediate vicinity all the livelong night, and our highly respected Orderly Sergeant desirous of making an addition to the honors awarded him by the company, sallied forth from tent about midnight, and mistaking a white handkerchief on the bushes near by for one of our unpleasant serenaders, open a battery, but action and reaction being unequal, the effect became strikingly manifest on the rear of the gun. He however bears the wolfish joke remarkably well, and can place more shot holes in an ordinary sized handkerchief at twenty paces, by moonlight, than we ever before saw.

At an early breakfast next morning the home committee reported the boat nearly ready for crossing, and at half past eight we ferried it in excellent style, passing over into the Platte Valley country firmly of the belief that "some things can be done as well as others." A short distance from the ferry we passed the old Pawnee Indian camping or village ground, still retaining a degree of its crude originality. After journeying some eight or ten miles up the valley, and finding just as far as the eye could reach, the vast dead level prairie, skirted on the South by a little timber bordering the Platte river, and on the East and North by the Elk Horn apparently well timbered, we returned, crossed the Horn Ferry, and journeyed northward. The prairie fire in every direction, as far as the eye reach on our East seemed to have effected a compromise with the skies. About two miles above the new ferry crossing of the Elk Horn we encamped in a beautiful oak grove for dinner, and amid the smoke and drifting ashes from the burning prairie around us we enjoyed a hearty meal. Northward about ten miles from the last night's camping ground, upon Bell Creek, we pitched out tent for the night, passing during the afternoon a beautiful section of the country bordering on the Elk Horn, dotted with timber and bordered with lovely rolling prairie. The serenades of the previous night were continued, and the evening spent by the party as usual, enjoying the glorious moonlight and pleasures of camp life.

On the following morning while along up the creek after deer two Omaha braves visited camp and after the enjoyment of our hospitality at breakfast continued their journey. Number of deer, duck and prairie hens were around us. Shortly after sunrise we broke up camp, and continued our journey up the Horn arriving at the claim of the Nebraska Colonization Company at about midday, and spent a half hour in company with our friend Dr. C. who had arrived but a short time previous, and was busily engaged in firing the prairie upon the claim. Leaving then in good health and spirits we journeyed on a short distance and camped for dinner hard by a sweet spring strongly impregnated with the oxide of iron and slightly with sulphur.--The site claimed by the N.C. Company is very good, well watered, and possesses rather more than an ordinary share of timber found on the Elk Horn. The country around, although far from being heavily timbered, will support a reasonable number of settlers. A short distance beyond we bridged Byers creek and passing over a very pretty country reached a good camping ground at sunset on Owl creek about 14 miles northward from the Quincy Colony's claim. After discussing the probabilities and improbabilities of being disturbed by any war party of Indians, and variously spending the pleasant hours of night we retired to our buffaloes and blankets, "at peace with all the world and the rest of mankind."

At sunrise next morning we took a stroll upon a neighboring bluff commanding a view of the country, and found and East branch of the Elk Horn stretching far away northward, separating us some three miles from the river proper. The scenery North, South, East and West was beautiful. The Platte Valley country bounded the Southern-Western horizon and the "Big Bend of the Platte" stood there in bold relief against the sky. A general scarcity of timber only upon the immediate vicinity of the Horn was all that appeared undesirable in the country. We returned to camp, and after breakfast five were detailed to bridge if possible the East fork of the Elk Horn. After a walk of three miles through the bottom we reached the stream only to find it impossible to bridge. Returning in a north-easterly direction and running the fire gauntlet we overtook our teams after some five miles further walk. At about 18 miles from our previous night's camp in a piece of prairie bottom we stopped for dinner.--Scarcely however had we finished our hearty lunch when the prairie fire on our rear came with lightning speed before a high wind upon us, barely allowing us time at the top of our speed to vamoose the rancho through clouds of fire and smoke. Unable to proceed but little further up the unwooded country we shaped our course as near a due East line as ravines or sloughs admitted over a wide waste of rich prairie, now blackened and charred by the fire king. Sunset found us approaching a beautiful country, sufficiently timbered to sustain a good population and with the tops of the divides or ridges completely covered with a growth of young oaks, promising timber enough for half the Territory if fire can be kept out. In a beautiful grove of oak, walnut, cottonwood and elm and abounding in deer we camped for the night. Through the trees down upon our cheerful tent and out upon the rolling prairie far, far away came the loveliest moonlight heart could wish. Scarce a breath disturbed the foliage above us, and it seemed more like a fairy land than amid the wilds of the frontier. It was a night for roaming amid the flower garden of fancy, and culling the st?ctest-flowers therein. It was a night, to think of friends and loved ones far away, enjoying the comforts of a pampered life, unreal and unlifelike. We pitied them, for there we were upon the loveliest soil the sun ever shone upon, and that almost as free as the wind which sweeps the prairie, basking in the God-given, glorious moonlight. Yes, we pitied them, and wished them with us to partake of the enjoyment. But the small hours bade us acquire that rest which our exhausted natures required, and away to dream land we went.

At early light on the following morning, divided our parties of two we journeyed in different directions about camp to view the country, assembling at 8 o'clock around the camp fire to partake of some venison killed by friend Purple in his stroll. Broke up camp at nine o'clock and continued our journey eastward, passing over steep prairie covered with a new growth of scrub oak, and at 11 o'clock after bridging two streams journeyed down through a beautiful bottom upon Arrow creek, finely timbered and well located. After some eight miles ride through this beautiful section we entered upon the table land bordering the Missouri river, between fifty and sixty miles north of Omaha City.-The country around us was lovely in the extreme. On our rear, far far away westward, Arrow creek, hedged in by rock for some three-fourths of a mile, and bordered on either hand by a charming prairie slope extended, whilst on our front and bordering the river was a vast body of large timber capable of supplying half the Territory with firewood and lumber. Possessing advantages for a large and populous place superior in many respects to any thing we had witnessed during our journeying in regard to timber, rock and prairie. the Nebraska Stock Company claimed and are still progressing with the survey and platting.

After dining upon our excellent venison we turned our teams homeward, stopping for night camping on Crystal Lake, with the same quiet, lovely moonlight surrounding us. Wolves in plenty were howling far away on our lea.

Next morning at an early hour we broke up camp, and continued our journey, bridging Folly and Punka creeks, and stopping for dinner in a grove near the latter. After eating our fill of broiled venison away we went bridging Purple creek and passing over a very pretty country-although sparsely wooded-now claimed by an enterprising company from Council Bluff City, Iowa, and camped for the night in Lonely Hollow, a heavily timbered grove upon what has been known as Brigham Young's farm four miles above Ft. Calhoun.

At an early hour we were sleeping 'neath our blankets and daylight again found the camp on the qui vive. A few miles brought us upon one of the prettiest claims north of this place upon which we found its industrious claimant, Mr. Morre, busily engaged in opening an excellent road and improving his desirable location. He deserves much credit and travellers northward will kindly thank him for the improvements he is making upon the road. Another mile brought us upon the site of Fort Calhoun the ruins of which we paid a hasty visit. A portion of the old powder magazine still stands, but the rest of the Fort to ruin has gone and a few pile of building rock, ditches, and parapets, overgrown by weeds and bushes are all that mark the site.

Continuing our journey and leaving Florence or Winter Quarters a few miles upon our left, reached this place late in the same afternoon, in time to greet a number of friends and strangers who were visiting this place.

Quite a progressive change had been effected here during our absence, and rejoicing in the prosperity of the most desirable location in the Territory, we laid aside for a short season our hunting and camping gear.

We have now in connection with previous observations below this point seen really the best part of Nebraska Territory, actual observation tells us so, and this in connection with the evidence of those who have traveled nearly all over it confirms us in the belief that although abounding in rich and beautiful prairie and occasionally dotted with timber, the Missouri river country extending back to an average distance of from fifteen to twenty miles is not only the best portion but will become settled long, long before the remainder. Above this point the country up the Black Bird Hills will be dotted with farm houses and thriving villages-perfect gems of villages, too-long, long before the country on our rear. It is true settlements of a thriving character and excellent farms-the latter equalling if not surpassing any thing on the Territory-will be made up the Elk Horn and perhaps a few good farms on the Loup Fork and farther.-The Platte Valley country can and doubtless will be made an excellent grazing country, but that portion of the Territory up and down the Missouri river will lead the van of civilization in Nebraska and Omaha City will be to the territory and State what New York is to the Union.