Broncho John Sullivan's MemoriesNewspaper article regarding Broncho John's memories of a half century . . . .
The following information concerning John H. Sullivan, more popularly known as Broncho John, has been transcribed from a newspaper article published in the Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana, on July 9, 1935.
SULLIVAN'S MEMORIES OF HALF A CENTURY
As Told To, and Recorded By, His Son, John H. ("Texas Jack") Sullivan
I [first visited] Valparaiso in the summer of 1884.
Almost thirty years of age, I had reached my full maturity, and possessed a rugged health and a constitution of iron. In the style of the Western prairie-land, from where I came, I wore my hair long. It fell in thick loose curls about my shoulders. I stood a trifle over six feet in heighth in my stocking feet. From my earliest boyhood I had known intimately the hardy life of the saddle-trails of the frontier [prairies.]
At the age of ten I possessed first-hand knowledge of the almost unknown vast territory that stretched across what is now the states of Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado. At twelve my services were in demand as a guide by emmigrant prairie-schooner outfits, freighter trains, and by officers in command of U. S. Calvary movements--who were than making pioneer advancements across the vast regions to the west of the Missouri river, that year of 1868. Before I reached my twentieth year my trails had crossed the Rio Grande, the Mohave, the great Salt Desert, the Rockies, the sun-kissed land of the California Don's, and the Oregon Trail to the far Northwest. By then I had given up working for Emigrant-trains, freighter and stage-coach outfits, and the cattle-trails, in favor of service as scout, guide, and courier-dispatch bearer in the service of the U. S. Military.
The life I led was active, free, and wholesome. But the environment was a desperate succession of deadly events that brought death to the weak and to those who made mistakes. But to me at the time it was just life, and a not unhappy existence. As I look back in memory, there was no fear nor anticipation of the ever-recuring tragedies--there was only the realization of the necessity for caution, efficiency and vigilant preparedness. It was the only life I had known.
My connection with the U. S. Calvary, and occasional sojourns at army outposts and forts, brought me into intimate contact with many men who were later destined to be hailed as great figures in American life. The information that I was able to give regarding desert and mountain trails, river-fords and quicksand traps, the safest procedure when traversing hostile Indian country, location of sweetwater springs, streams and buffalo-wallows, and warning against the deadly arsenic-springs and how to know them, made of me an interesting figure to travelers passing through the country. There was no man in all the frontier who had mastered the art of pistol-play, gun-speed, and deadliness with shooting-irons, better than I. Altho it was very seldom, indeed, that I could be induced to give an exhibition with my six-guns, nevertheless there were times when such a request came from some army officer and left me no course except to oblige. In this manner, and also from the publicity attaching to certain events of action that I participated in, the attention and interest of such men as "Wild Bill" Hickol, General Custer, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, and others, was attracted to me.
At Taos, New Mexico, I met Frederick Remington, whose realistic paintings of the West is known to all, and entered his employ as guide on a three-month trip into the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. It was on this trip that he painted his wonderful series of pictures showing the actual coloring that we witnessed. Later when he placed these masterpieces on exhibition he was branded by the art critics of the East, and of Europe, as a nature-faker. They could not believe that he had actually witnessed the gorgeous color-contrasts he had painted. Mighty few white men had ever penetrated the Grand Canyon and the high plateau de;serts of northern Arizona then, and those astonishing and glorious visions of kaliedescopic coloring was quite unknown to the world. Mr. Remington used me many times on this trip, and later, as his model in various poses afoot and ahorseback. In Philadelphia today, down on the Riverpark Driveway, may be seen a massive statue from Remington's painting "The Cowboy," of which I was the model when he painted the picture in the eighties.
The coming of the summer of 1880 had marked the introduction of the beginning of pretty hard times in the far West for the boys who had been making their living as Military scouts and guides, buffalo hunters, trail-drive cowboys, stage and freight-line workers. The Indians had been pretty well subdued and rounded upon reservations; buffalo herds had disappeared; the long drives of the big cattle-herds was about finished for the ranges had become well stocked with Texas cattle all the way to the Canada ling; the railroads had penetrated the West and had taken away the business of the stages and freighters. It was becoming increasingly difficult for the long-haired saddlemen, teamsters, and riflemen to make a living.
A group of men including Nate Salisbury, Ned Buntline, Major Burke, Frank North, and "Buffalo Bill" Cody, had tried a theatre-tour venture in the East and had met with great success. New (sic) Buntline introduced and popularized the long-haired Westerners thru the medium of the dime-novels. This wave of popular interest and the public demand for their appearance on the stages in the East opened for the cowboys a new and remunerative field of endeavor, and they were not slow in annexing the safest, most hilarious, and best paying jobs they had ever had.
At "Buffalo [Bill's"] home at North Platte, Nebraska, in 1883, the first "Wild West" show was organized. It made its first public appearance in Omaha, Neb. "Buffalo Bill" had invited me to become member of his theatre company in '81, and again in '82, but I had stuck to Army Service. But when he wrote me letters urging me to join his "Wild West" in 1883, and requested my presence at his home at North Platte, I accepted his invitation and made the long trip ahorseback from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to the Platte. It was I who lighted the first official campfire at North Platte, at the first round-up of members of the new outfit that became known throughout the world as "Buffalo Bill's Wild West." I was one of the long-hair cowboy riders, ropers and shots, thruout the entire tour of that first season of the great Wild West.
The following season, 1884, Dr. Carver proposed organizing a second Wild West Show to operate independent of the "Buffalo Bill" show. He had been one of the partners in the first show, and had been featured in his wonderful shooting exhibitions. He made me an attractive proposition and I agreed to join his outfit.
I was Dr. Carver's aide, and he placed me in charge of all cowboys, Indians and livestock. We [carried] about thirty-five Indians. Those Indians were not long removed from the bloody war-trails, and were full of queer ideas and ambitions to dig up the tomahawk upon the slightest provocation. I was the only one who could handle them, as they had known me in their own country and trusted me.
Dr. Carver was the greatest American big-game sportshunter, rifle and shot-gun shot that ever lived. He was the champion of all the world. His records have never been beaten, and probably never will be beaten.
In the routine course of our tour the show finally arrived in Valparaiso for a series of exhibitions in the fair-grounds. In those days the use of canvass side-wall had not been introduced, and we always showed in ball-parks, fairgrounds, or parks where there was a walled enclosure and seating arrangements.
This was my first introduction to Valparaiso, and as events occured it happened to be the first Eastern town in which I had occasion to stay long enough to become acquainted and interested in local people and affairs. The difficulties that I found myself in, the friendships that come to me, and the natural beauties of the environs of the town--all had a direct bearing upon my later decision to make this city my future Eastern headquarters.
A day or two after the Wild West Show arrived in Valparaiso, about twenty-five prominent men came out from Chicago to be Dr. Carver's guests. Among them were some very wealthy men with reputations as big-game hunters with African, Australian, South American, and western plains and mountain experience. They had come to witness the shooting skill of the greatest shot of all time--Dr. Carver.
One of these men happened to be a retired army officer, a general, who knew me well. They requested Carver to give them an exhibition of his marvelous fast-shooting ability, with the rifle, at flying objects. He agreed to do so and suggested that the crowd go to some spot in the edge of town--preferably to a place where there would be plenty of bricks that could be thrown into the air as targets. A couple of townsmen who happened to be present at the old Central hotel, where this gathering took place, said they knew just the place and that it was not very far.
As the crowd moved upon their way to the suggested spot, my old army officer friend drew me aside and said:
"Broncho, that gentleman walking with Carver is a very dear friend of mine and a great sports-hunter and gun-enthusiast. I have told him about you many times, and about your speed with revolvers. He does not doubt me; however, he has asked Carver to have you do some six-gun shooting this afternoon. But Carver said it was impossible, that you couldn't be induced to shoot before a crowd. Now, my boy, I want you to load those six guns of yours and have them ready, and when Carver is through shooting we three will slip away some place where no one else will see us--and you shall show my friend some pistol-shooting. Will you do this, John?"
I couldn't very well refuse a request of this nature, coming as it did from a man of high authority who had done many favors for me. I agreed. Loading my two shooting irons with heavy game-ball cartridges I overtook the crowd. We went down the street past the Pennsylvania railroad tracks to old wrecked mill where the high brick smoke-stack stood. It was in the neighborhood where Harry Ball, who was a young boy then, lived in the big red brick home that set well back on a small hill to the west of the road.
I had had considerable experience throwing bricks into the air for Carver's shooting, and could throw them very high and in such way as to place the brick in the air broadside to the shooter. Carver wanted to hit the brick a dead-center on the first shot, breaking it into four pieces--and then register hits on each one of the four pieces before they struck the ground. I had seen him do this many times. However, on this occasion he missed the third piece of broken brick four or five times. Then as I hurled another brick into the air he fired, breaking it into only two pieces, and fired again instantly--but missed the first half-brick. On the spur of the instant I drew my six-gun and threw two quick shots, hitting and breaking each of the halfpieces of brick before they struck the ground.
Of course, I immediately regretted my spontaneous action, realizing that I had heightened the embarrasment that Carver must have felt over his inability to make shots that he usually performed. I had 'horned in' on another's exhibition. I told Carver that I was sorry, to which he answered:
"John, it was great! It saved me! I drank too much wine last night and that shot is beyond me today. This gang thinks it was a put-up job to get you to shoot. They think I missed those shots purposely."
My friend, the general, was highly pleased and satisfied because his intimate friend was greatly impressed. The crowd roared with delight which added to my genuine embarrassment and feeling of guilt at having cut into Carver's exhibition--and I hurried away to the fair grounds where I kept out of sight until the party had returned to Chicago.
From the start Cr. Carver's Wild West Show seemed destined to encounter bad luck and adverse weather conditions. And on the ----- day of -------, 1884, the outfit hit the rocks and stranded in Valparaiso.
In my youth I had always been intensely interested in all manner of wild life, and as my interest was purely friendly and protective there had been a certain reciprocity of understanding and peace between myself and all wild animals. Creatures did not seem to fear me as they did others, and I learned to watch their actions closely when on dangerous trails in hostile country, and I read their sign for warnings of impending danger to myself from many sources. For pets I had, at one time and another, wolves, bears, rattlers, deer, elk, eagles, wild-cat, mountain lion and buffalo. At various times, after I passed my twelfth birthday, I traversed very dangerous country safely by placing a good deal of my dependance in the action and sign of the wild creatures that traveled a parallel trail in fairly close proximity to me and depended upon the leavings from the 'kills' of my gun for their food. Bad whites and hostile Indians usually gave me a wide berth, for the gossip of the trails concerning my fellowship with the wild creatures gave rise to some fear and superstition. This was not extraordinary in those days and I knew a number of white men and Indians who lived on a plane of friendliness with the wild ones. Here in the east I have met but one man who was a member of this fraternity of fellowship and faith between man and animal--and that was old Ben Woodard of Valparaiso.
When the Carver show stranded in Valparaiso I had with me some of these wild animal friends that I had brought east from Wyoming. Among them my real pals were a huge Rocky Mountain Black Bear that I had named 'Uno,' and a very large and majestic bald eagle that I called 'Abe.' I also had a pet deer, and a team of exceptionally large elk with gorgeous spreads of antlers. With several horses, my saddle and gun-trunk, this constituted my personal property on the Carver show. In the breakup in Valparaiso I lost my favorite historical saddle-horse 'Mike,' the big-antlered elk, and my pet deer. I managed to keep the bear and eagle.
Dr. Carver and the rest of the personel of the company followed the lines of least resistance and quickly vamoosed to Chicago. But there were about thirty-five Indians with their squaws and papooses, left behind in Valpo. They were a mighty pathetic crowd and in desperate circumstances. Something had to be done, and somebody had to look out for them--and it seemed to be up to me, for they looked upon me as their friend with the show. I had no choice but to stay and do what I could toward taking care of them and arranging for their transportation back to their reservation.
We camped for nearly three weeks in Indian teepees that we pitched near the Pennsylvania depot. And finally I succeeded in arranging for the government to furnish their transportation. This was in July, 1884.
Some very amusing incidents occurred during that period of waiting. We had no funds with which to purchase food, and stark hunger was the lot of the Indian tribe. At the end of the first week it was noticed that a number of the town's pet dogs had mysteriously disappeared. By the middle of the following week dogs were becoming scarce in Valparaiso, and had begun to disappear from farms ten miles away. It became whispered about that the dogs were finding their way into the boiling pots of the Sioux. This may have been true, as dog meat well boiled in a good old-fashioned 'mulligan stew' always has been, and still is, the most prized delicacy to the old-school Sioux Indian. At the time it took a lot of diplomacy on my part to avoid an Indian war in Valparaiso.
One afternoon a couple of town ladies were visiting and sightseeing at the Indian village. A little Indian girl was crying as though her heart was breaking. The ladies asked me why the child was crying and carrying on so tragically. I told them that I did not know but would ask the mother, which I did in the 'sign' language. Briefly, but expressively, the squaw signed to me that her papoose was hungry. I explained this to the ladies and one of them wondered why the mother didn't feed the girl. Again, in sign language, I asked the squaw. She gave me to understand that she had no food that the child could eat. I turned to the ladies and explained to them:
"The mother said that the little girl's teeth are sore, and she cannot eat the kind of food that the rest of the Indians are eating. You see, they are living on flag-root, dandelions, plantweed leaves, and blue-grass, and must have good teeth to chew it well."
"Well, for goodness sakes. Why don't you give the child bread and milk then?" they demanded.
"Because neither they, nor I, have any money with which to buy things," I answered.
These ladies held a brief whispered conversation and quickly departed. But in less than two hours they returned, bringing some men with a wagon-load of excellent food-stuffs. There was bread, milk, vegetables and meat, in plenty to assure a feast for all of the Indians, and to supply their needs for some days. The next day other people drove up to the encampment in carriages and wagons and left food and clothing. A man who had been an agent on the reservation from which some of the Indians hailed, visited the camp. I think his name was Stanton. He was very friendly with them and they liked him. A more congenial feeling sprung up all around as the townspeople and the Indians expressed their friendly interest and curiosity regarding each other.
Arrangements were made to have the Indians appear at the skating rink and present an entertainment of native dances, singing and tom-tom chants. The skating rink was located at that time in a vacant lot at the rear of the present location of the Farmers bank. The entertainment was presented for two nights. I told stories of the chanting, the tom-tom's and the dancing.
This entertainment was quite successful, and the Indians collected enough money these two evenings, to defray the railroad fares of the entire group to Chicago. I conducted them to the city, where we encamped right in the central lobby of the big railroad depot for some days, until transportation was furnished by the government, and the Indians entrained for the reservation.
A screamingly comical episode of that Indian encampment in Valparaiso is still vividly impressed in my mind and I imagine there must be a number of old-timers still here who will remember it too.
When the folks began bringing clothing out to the tribe there was great wonder and excitement among the redskins. Much of the varied apparel was altogether strange to them, and its exact usage was beyond them. One buck in a sweat of anxiety to show his interest and appreciation, and his personal familiarity with all white man's 'medicine' and ability to solve all problems of magic, dressed himself elaborately and carefully, preparatory to taking a stroll along Main street.
His appearance certainly brought down the town, as a crowd-getter he was a regular house-afire, and as a laugh-producer he was an a-No. 1 side-splitter. For upon his feet he had tied on with rawhide whang-leathers a pair of the grand old-time high French-heeled, high-topped ladies dress button-shoes. He had split the tops open all the way to the toes as he could not otherwise get his feet into them. He had donned a pair of flaring ladies lace pantaloons that were adorned with yards of open-pattern lace embroidery at the bottom, of the style of civil war times. About him, from his knees to his chest, he had securely fastened around himself one of the grand and glorious bustle-brand corsets, with a magnificent 'Greecian Bend' propelling him along. Above the corset he was bare with the exception of a lot of beads, a string of bear-claws, a ladies' wide silk garter with huge silk-bow, and a few other gew-gaws and didoes that he wore encircled about his long scrawny neck. To top off this grand ensemble he had placed upon his head a very wide-brimmed velvet ladies' hat adorned with a magnificent, albiet a trifle frayed and moth-eaten, ostrich feather, that flared and swooped in graceful sweeps and bends about his shoulders and back, mingling with his hair which hung in loose profusion down his back. His ludicrous effort to present a dignified bearing, and his too-evident puzzlement and chagrin because of the boistrous merriment his appearance had created, completed the picture.
After the Indians left Chicago for the west, I returned to Valparaiso to get my bear 'Uno,' my pet deer, saddle and gun-trunk. They were stolen. With that part of my belongings that I did saave from the show's break-up, I left Valpo and went east where I fulfilled some theatre engagements that had been offered, and was gone about six weeks. However, I had made some very good friends during my brief sojourn here, and I returned after I had fulfilled my engagements.
I remained in town a number of weeks, and this period marked the cementing of friendships that have endured to this day. Art Sager and many of the young fellows around here were splendid lads and made great chums. And though many have gone over the 'great divide' since those summer-days of fifty-one years ago, still a good percentage of my friends of today, with whom I meet and chat about the court house square, are the same boys I met and learned to care for so long ago. Some of their names? Well, let me see--there's Al Heineman, John Sievers, Pete Horn, Pat Clifford, Dan Kelly, Doc Powell, Chan and Charley Sager--oh, there's quite a few whose names slip my memory.
My rocky mountain black bear 'Uno' was a great fellow. His understanding and friendliness became a joy to all who knew him. Uno had a paternal side to his nature, and many's the time he slapped and cuffed me good when I played pranks on him and frightened him by such tricks as throwing up my arms, crying out, and sinking from sight, while in swimming, pretending that I was drowning. Into the water Uno would plunge in great excitement, giving vent to whineing nervousness, and swim to the spot where I had gone down. When I bobbed up the the surface some distance away, where I had paddled under water, and laughingly and reassuringly called to him, Uno would growl furiously, snap his jaws at the water, plow around in circles for moment and then swim back to shore where he would lay and glower and sulk until such time as I incautiously came within his reach, when he would wallop me a whacking big blow with his great hairy pad, and getting me down would maul me around on the ground and growl most fearfully. But he never exposed his great claws on these occasions of chastisement, and was always careful to deliver what was to his great bulk the lightest of blows. But there were times when his larrupings did land too heavily and did me a fairly serious damage. I never used a leash of any kind on Uno, he always was allowed to run loose and followed me exactly as would a well-trained dog, even when I was traveling on trains or in big cities. He was obedient, safe and dependable. At times he proved himself a great protector of my person from the attacks of toughs and foot-pads.
'Uno' was a great hit with all of the young fellows around Valparaiso. Our favorite stamping-grounds in those days was Sager's Pond. On the south shore of the pond just around the point east of the promotory, diagonally across from the old ice house, stood a high young tree at the very water's edge. It was about sixty feet high but only about a foot in diameter, and was very strong and supple growth. I used to climb to the top of this tree and then call 'Uno' to me. He would cautiously climb up the tree toward me, and as he reached a point about half-way to the top the tree would bend into an almost perfect arc. Still 'Uno' would retain his embrace about the trunk and edge along until he was within a few feet of me. Then I would give him the cue to let go and drop the few feet to the ground. When his weight left the tree the rebounding trunk would hurl me far out into the pond where I would strike with a resounding splash.
It was great fun for me and the bear, and when we would perform this feat for the kids they would whoop and cheer with delight. We did this stunt with that tree so many times that the tree finally lost its resilence and elasticity and remained bent in a half-circle, in which shape it grew for many years until it became a very large and beautiful tree and a real attraction to the pleasure-seekers and picnickers to the pond. For thirty or forty years this tree remained, bent in a perfect arc over the water's edge, the delight of all who saw it.
Our wild-honey hunt with 'Uno' was a favorite event for the crowd. These hunts were always welcome affairs with Uno, for he was inordinately fond of wild-honey. It was not the least difficult for me to make him understand that I wanted honey, and he would start for the high ground of the bluff over the pond. Here he would raise on his hind legs and with a low grunbling of expectancy he would begin sniffing the air. Seldom it was that he failed to detect the scent of honey,--then he would drop to all fours and go lumbering away in the direction from which the wind was blowing. Catching the odor of honey and following it down the wind was only half of Uno's trick of locating bee-trees. He used his eyes as well as his nose. For with those beady sharp little eyes of his he would spot the bees. His hearing was very acute, and I think that he heard the buzzing of the bees and located them in that way. He would learn the direction of flight that the nectar-la-den bees took,--and follow. Stopping at intervals to raise on his hind legs and sniff to get the direction and strength of the scent, he would eventually lead us to a honey-tree. Sometimes these runs were long and pretty fast, and we would come straggling along pretty well winded.
Oftentimes he led us to trees that we had to cut down to get to the honeycomb. Many times we refrained from cutting down too large or too valuable a tree. When it was possible for Uno to reach into the tree and get the honey himself he would usually be extracting great gobs of the sticky sweet-and-wax, and gorging himself, when we arrived on the scene. We would sit on the ground and rest, until he would begin to look in my direction with his piercing little eyes and utter growls in a peculiar low purring tempo--and I knew that he had satisfied his craving for the sweet stuff, and that the moment had arrived for our participation in the feast. But we dared not approach too closely to the tree as the angry swarming bees presented a genuine danger. But like the pigs the bears are immune from the stings and bites of all insects, or from poisonous weeds. I have seen Uno's head so covered with a mass of buzzing infuriated bees that the shape of his head was contorted into a ball twice its ordinary size--but he minded this not at all. Slosing in as near as we dared approach the tree, we would await our turns as Uno made trip after trip from the tree to us, giving each one of us handfulls of the sticky stuff which he would scrape from his fore-pads. He would feed us wild-honey exactly like the wild bear feeds his brood of cubs in the wilderness.
One of our favorite stunts on a hot summer day was to go in swimming with Uno. This always created a lot of interest for the onlookers along the shore too. As Uno entered the water I would take a firm hold of the thick hair on each side of his tail with both hands, and as the bear began to swim I would be drawn along thru the water. The rest of the crowd would stand waist-deep in the water, and as we went by, Art Saeger would catch a firm hold about my ankles. Another would catch Art's ankles, and so on until there would be quite a string of us in the tow. At times as many as ten of us were towed along in this fashion by the bear Uno, gliding down the pond like a powerful tug towing a string of boats.
Oh, we had lots of sport with old Uno, and he had the faculty of enjoying it as much as we did. In these years as my failing memory dims with the piling up of the innumerable events of the many passing years and the shadows grow ever longer, my heart misses a beat and tears dim my eyes when I open a certain trunk. For the opening of this trunk marshalls long half-forgotten memories that rise and envelope me with the mystic charm of fairy-tales. For within this trunk I have preserved cherished mementoes and reminders of the dear dead past--and among these treasures are pictures of 'Uno'; his great silver collar; and (perhaps a grewsome find for you, but to me almost conveying actual contact with the spirit of the past) the tanned thick black-furred coat of 'Uno'; his skull all set with the gleaming white teeth that never harmed anyone; and his curved sabe-like claws from the bee-trees for Valparaiso boys a half a century ago.
When the leaves were turning gold and brown that Fall we went away. But we carried memories of happiness and good-fellowship with us. Memories of new-found friends and a wonderful land of grassy meadows, valley, deep-wooded hills and crystal-clear lakes--the Valley of Paradise. By desert campfires and even during those moments of trying situations in hostile Indian country, those memories beckoned and promised and I dreamed of returning to this happy peaceful community.
The Apache Indians, under the able and desperate leadership of Chief Nanna, were on the war-path again. Down in the desert wastes of New Mexico and Arizona scenes of frontier fighting and massacre were being re-enacted. The Apache Indian war had heralded in a reign of terror for prospectors, miners, cattlemen, and California-bound emigrant trains. General Crook was in charge of the United States Army forces. My friend, Captain Jack Crawford of Fort Craig, New Mexico, was General Crook's Chief of Scouts. Receiving a telegram from Captain Crawford requesting me to report to him at Taos, New Mexico, to serve under him in the capacity of Lieutenant-Scout, I immediately left Valparaiso enroute to the far Southwest. I served throughout that Indian campaign, experiencing some vivid adventure and encountering some terrifying and extremely dangerous situations. I received a bad wound from a flint-barbed arrow, and was shot twice with fun-fire in engagements with Nanna's Apache Braves.
Many years later Captain Jack Crawford spent ten days in Valparaiso, during his tour as "The Poet Scout." He was featured at the great Lincoln Chautaqua that was presented one summer at Sager's Pond. Many Valparaiso folk will remember him, and his original poetical creations. I sometimes recite his poem "Little Revelie" for young folks when I wish to entertain. It is in my estimation the most vivd frontier-story ever conveyed into poetry. I entertained the son and boy-friends of Byron Smith with this poetry, at Byron's Flint Lake cottage some weeks ago. The large fire-place and low lights in early evening made a wonderful setting for the great "Poet Scout's" poem--and I felt that evening that the spirit of 'Captain Jack' was very near--he was a great lover children, too.
About three years later I returned to Valparaiso. My bear 'Uno' was still with me and his actions upon our arrival plainly showed me that he remembered and recognizzed the scenes of his happy playdays of three years prior. He had been with me almost constantly throughout my service in Southwest. On scouting trips and night-forays he was an invaluable aide. In places where I did not dare to fire a weapon for fear of being located by the sound of the shot by hostiles, Uno would still-hunt and bring rabbits, prairie-dogs, and deser-hens, to me. He could catch the scent of Indians, or an Indian encampment, more than a [mile] further than the Indian dogs could catch my scent. No prowling animal, dog, wolf, or mountain lion, would disturb me when Uno was with me--the very fact that they caught his scent and recognized it as that of the wilderness king, the most ferocious and dangerous of fighters, turned them aside to seek a safer trail. Army officers marveled at my ability to quickly locate the exact positions of hidden Indian villages or ambushes while scouting in the dead of the darkest nights. I never told them my secret of success in this work, and I doubt if they ever learned it. It was because 'Uno' would lead me to the vicinity of Indians exactly as he led me to a bee-tree. And there was another who was a valuable servant of Uncle Sam's military service during these Indian campaigns, and a wonderful true wild-[creature] friend and protector of mine, who deserves to be included in this record. I mean my big Bald-Eagle "Abe". On those scouting trips 'Uno' would not move very much in the day time, but "Abe" would fly to great heights and circle the country for a hundred miles around. Within five or six miles of where I lay, in concealment during the daylight, I could follow the circling and actions of "Abe" with my field glasses, and could judge quite accurately from his actions exactly what manner of creatures were present far below him on the desert floor. I could tell when there were jack-rabbits, wolves, or mountain lion. And of tremendous significance to me--I knew when "Abe" flew far above human beings, and could instantly be certain about whether it was whitemen or Indians. Each living creature upon the ground gives rise to a certain response in the flying action and circling, heighth or swoop, of the hunting eagle. And no living thing, even as small as a field-mouse, is missed by the most perfect vision possessed by any living creature--the eyesight of the Eagle.
When I returned to Valparaiso I brought with me a small herd of about thirty-five highly-trained Oregon wild horses and southwestern mustang ponies. From this time on I made Valparaiso my eastern headquarters. I made arrangements to pasture my herd of horses near town, and settled down to enjoy a period of much-needed rest and relaxation after my strenuous adventures and work of the past three years. Wounds that I had received during the Apache Indian campaign were giving me some trouble and I placed myself in a doctor's care. This was in the fall of 1887.
The Kankakee lowlands, marshes and forested areas was in that day one of the choicest spots in America for sport-shooting, hunting and trapping. It was far-famed, and attracted many noted figures and men of wealth from every part of the world who, when in Chicago while enroute on their travels, were most liable to visit the Kankakee region for a hunt. There were more people who made a living hunting, fishing, trapping and as professional guides for sportsmen, within twenty-five miles of Valparaiso than in any other part of the country. In season the duck-hunting was excellent. Many men, like my friend Hayworth, made a fine living as fur buyers from the trappers of the Kankakee.
It is a fact that Porter county, Indiana, is richer in history of Indian nations of ages ago than any other part of North America. The Lake Michigan Dunes, and the forests, wild rice, wild onion, papermint and ginseng, beds of the Kankakee are marked in the legends of the Sioux, Crow and Blackfeet, Indians of the northwest as well as in the folklore of the Ojibwas, Mohawks and Potawatomies, and other tribes of Canada and the east. Serious effort at geological and historical research in the form of deep excavations has not yet occurred in this region, but I am of the belief that some day discoveries of historical significance will be made in this vicinity. The vegetation growth is very luxuriant in this territory and the top-soil builds rapidly, soon covering deeply the signs of past occupation--and the finds and specimen will be discovered at a considerable depth in the sandstone and limestone bedrock, for they will be records of a people who lived many thousands of years ago.
I was astonished at the vastness of the wilderness and the breadth and heaviness of the timbered lands around the Kankakee when I went in for my first hunt in 1887. The game was plentiful and the sport was diversified. I spent several weeks in the marshes and woods on that first trip and became well aacquainted with many of the professional hunters, trappers and river rats, of the section. Ben Woodard, an old-time frontier plainsman and stagecoach driver who had settled in Valparaiso and knew the Kankakee region intimately was my first guide--and we had some great times together. I came to know many of the men of the swamps--Bill Sharpe, the Butterfields, Bill Richey and others whose names I have forgotten.
In 1888 I was making Valparaiso my eastern headquarters and home. I had married, and my wife and I first lived at the old Ball residence. Later I bought the home on East Erie street where I now reside, and where my son John (who is authoring this chronicle for me) was born. But through the years we have spent a great deal more of our time away from town than we did in Valparaiso. I had my Wild West Show operating during the summer and fall months and my stage drama, "47, Or, The Miner's Daughter" entour playing opera houses during the winter seasons. Some of the old timers will remember the drama--we presented it at the old opera house which was located upstairs in the building that stood across the alley from the present site of the postoffice.
Al Heineman was manager of the old opera house, as well as the operator and manager of the Memorial Opera House of later years which served, through Al's excellent managerial ability and willingness to take a venture in his effort to present to his town the best entertainment obtainable, many of the greatest attractions direct from their Broadway runs in New York City. Mr. Heineman was also the sold proprietor of a fine drug store--quite a gathering place for the young people of the town.
It was about this time that I brought to Valparaiso the three Concord Overland Stage Coaches that are identified with western frontier history prior to the penetration of the railroads. They are each the heavy-duty, long-distance, mountain-travel type of very heavy coach. One of them is the stage-coach that was leased by Horace Greely for his long tour of investigation to California and return during the early land-grabbing and vigiliante troubles on the heels of the gold rush of '49. Hank Monk was the stage-coach driver of this vehicle on that famous trip. Another one of them has never been used enough to scratch the steel tires on the wheels, the original leather upholstery inside is just as it was when delivered from the Concord factories, and the original glass is still in the windows--in fact it is, I think, the finest preserved specimen of the old-time Concord stage-coach in the world. I have never used these two stage-coaches, desiring to preserve them for the future historical value they will represent long after I am gone. The other one is the stage-coach so familiar to those many, many Valparaiso boys and girls who have had such good times riding in and upon it.
Long ago we used to organize parties and make long coach trips to neighboring cities, and to Lake Michigan shores. Thirty years ago I carried some great parties, who were certainly happy, jovial groups, out to the Crow's Nest Clubhouse that stood on the south shore of Flint lake, near Turner's cottage.
Yes, there is history attached to my old stage-coaches. History that speaks of happiness and youth and of frontier adventure, hopes, terror and sudden death. For the oldest coach bears the marks of arrows and bullet scars. I used one of them as a stage-coach line between the loop and the fair grounds during the world's fair in Chicago in 1893, and had all three of them on exhibition on my son John's location at the "Days of '49" historical exhibit at the recent Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 1933.