PROSPECTING IN MONTANA. – A Tale of Fearful Suffering.
Mr. James Grant, who arrived yesterday by the Active from Portland, has favored us with the following graphic account of the painful sufferings of a prospecting party of which he was a member in the wilds of Montana Teritory. The story will convey some idea of the hardships and trials to which gold-seekers are sometimes subjected.
On the 10th day of January last Joseph De Shields, Jeremiah Cross, Joseph Woods, Alexander Dorrell and our informant started from the town of Cottonwood – the County Seat of Deer Lodge county, Montana Territory; and after prospecting Carpenter’s Bar they crossed the Rocky Mountains to Helena, where they procured the services of an old Frenchman to act as guide, and proceeded to explore the country about the headwaters of the Mariah – one of the tributaries of the Missouri river. The company were provisioned with six months’ supplies and carried with them all the necessary arms, tools and utensils the miner’s camp and vocation requires. On the 19th they reached the base of the mountains, and not expecting Indians in a section of the country so remote, they turned their animals loose to graze, and after the usual repast, and resting and smoking round their camp fire – feeling every security – they lay down to enjoy that refreshing sleep vouchsafed only to the hardy miner and mountaineer. On the following morning their horses were not to be found; presuming they had strayed, the party – after breakfast – started to find them; and after hours of fruitless search they returned from their several directions to find their camp stripped of everything they had possessed save their buffalo robes. Realizing their situation, that their horses and supplies had been stolen by some wandering band of hostile Indians, they started on the morning of the 21st to retrace their steps. They were then 80 miles above the Mariah among its tributaries. Weary, hungry, and stripped of horses and provisions they began their march – through a drizzling snow, back to the Big Bend of the Mariah. The storm became more severe and violent as the destitute men plodded on their way. On the 28th they reached the Big Bend, where they found wood and built a fire. Thoughts of home crowded upon the mind of Ross, and as the prospect of death at such a place, and under such circumstances appeared inevitable, he wept aloud. De Shields observed that they were “all in the same fix,” that there was “no use crying about it,” that they would “all die together,” and find an “end to their troubles.” The whole company, with the exception of Grant, were helpless. Directed by the old Frenchman, Grant – though badly frozen – started from their camp, determined to find succor and assistance for the party or perish alone in the attempt. He dragged his frozen feet over a distance of thirty-five miles in four days and reached an Indian trading post on the Mariah. One Mexican, accompanied by eleven Indians with horses and supplies started from the post the following day after Grant’s arrival there, to retrieve the starving and frozen men. Nine days elapsed from the time the Indians stole their horses and supplies to the time of the arrival of the rescuing party, and during their interim one prairie chicken, shot by De Shields, was all the food partaken of by the party. None of them were able to walk a step, and had it not been for the unconquerable resolution and perseverance of Ross they must have all perished. Ross would crawl upon his hands and knees and break and gather twigs and sticks, which he would tie together, and taking the string between his teeth would drag them to the fire, which kept warmth and life in his helpless companions. Stormy weather continued from the 25th of January to the 18th of April, and exposed to the severity of the weather, the parties were compelled to remain in camp at the Big Bend. On the 6th of April the frozen men were placed upon trivvors and hauled to St. Peters, or Blackfoot Mission, on the Missouri River, where they were received by Father Jurdey and Father Emenda – Italian priests – who extended to them more than hospitality, and more than humanity. Some groceries, buffalo meat and flour constituted their stock of supplies. They were on allowances of bread, but denied themselves and gave their portions to the invalids. Cross, Woods, Dorrell, the French guide, and De Shields all lost their feet. De Shields sharpened his “butcher knife” on a cobble stone, and cut off his own feet; the feet of the balance of the part were amputated by the Mexican and the Indians. Grant’s feet were badly frozen, and although some bones came out of them he expects the course of time to be able to wear boots again. His feet look as if they had been burned, wounded and crisped with hot iron. De Shields and Grant were pioneers in the Cariboo country, and are well known in British Columbia. The good priests refused all remuneration, but the unfortunate adventurers – liberal as they were fearless and brave – compelled them to accept the sum of $600, and long as those men live – Grant says – they will never cease to feel thankful and grateful to the priests of St. Peter’s Mission for extending such ennobling evidence that all men are brothers. The week after Grant left, the same Indians who had assisted them massacred a party of nine Americans and one negro, engaged at surveying a town sight (sic.) at the mouth of the Mariah.