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Sept 10 

  Our next move was a trip up what was then known as the St. Peter’s river now the Minnesota.  On the up trip we landed at a large Indian village.  The guard of the boat was even with the bank making it very easy to get on and off the boat and soon the entire party and crew, except the engineer and myself, were up in the village.  The Indians were as curious about the boat as our people were about the Indians and large numbers of them-Indians- were on the bank and a few adventurous ones had come on board.  The engineer suggested we have a little fun of our own as there were no duties to keep us busy.  The whistle, which was something of a rarity in those days, was right on top of the boiler and as the engineer gave a blast from it the Indians, probably a hundred or more, made a break for the grass, which was some four or five feet high, like a flock of quail shedding their blankets as they ran.  Many of them were children of all ages and the blanket was the only garment.  It was a surprise to them and about the funniest thing I ever saw.

  We went to what was known as the lower rapids, a few miles above the present village of Carver and returned.  We might have gone farther but as the water was falling we deemed it prudent to return.

  We then went to Stillwater where we entertained visitors and friends as at St. Anthony Falls.  Dancing was the main amusement and the fine string band with the party was busy most of the time.

  It was not all fun however as the mosquitoes were terrific that summer due to the high water, which was now going down leaving the overflow grounds to breed them in clouds. The continued high water had prevented saw mill operations at Stillwater and other places and many were feeling the lack of business activity; in fact there were many failures in the lumber and logging business.  To show how high the water then was at Stillwater will say that we walked off the stage of our boat on to the steps of the Minnesota house, the leading hotel at that time.

   After leaving Stillwater we proceeded leisurely to St. Louis, stopping at various places of interest.  I was very sorry to leave the party as I had been royally treated and had reason to think that the regret was mutual.

  In the winter of 1850-51 I went into the pinery and worked by the day for Greeley and Blake.  During the summer of 1851 beside running the McKusick rafts and remaining in St. Louis while they were hauled out, as was the usual custom, I ran two log rafts to St. Louis for Folsom.  Remained in St. Louis so long during the hot season that I contracted malaria and had chills and fever during the fall.  For a time I shipped as pilot on the Dr. Franklin No. 2 with Captain Smith Harris and returned to Stillwater at the beginning of winter.  I had made arrangements to go into the woods that winter with Henry McLane but I got to Stillwater so late that I sold my interest in the outfit and spent the winter in Stillwater living with my brother.  I took it easy all winter and paid a good deal of attention to the girls and my recollections of that winter are still a pleasure to me.  This leisure was almost a necessity for me as I had not fully recovered from the effects of the chills and fever and I had been working very hard for years and really needed a vacation.

  1852 was cholera year and I am unable to give much detail of my work except that connected with the disease or fear of it.  On one trip we were only a few miles from Stillwater when one of the crew took sick and was dead in a few hours.  Coffins were not easy to obtain in those days, and I got a man named Bohls, who had a mill close by, to come with his tools and make a box from some lumber on the raft.  We then wrapped the body in a blanket placed it in the rude coffin and buried it under a big oak tree on the bluff near catfish on Lake St. Croix.  All the crew, but one or two friends, now left me for fright and I sent for my brother David and some of the Albany boys who were rafting at Cedar bend, above the lake, to come and help take the raft down.  They came and we were fortunate enough to escape the scourge and delivered the raft in good time and order.  On another trip we tied up the raft at the mouth of the Illinois river and I sent all the boys home remaining myself to watch the raft.  It was blackberry time and I remember that I feasted on the fruit during my enforced leisure.  On the home trip there were several deaths on the steamer.  Indeed they were panicky times all around causing a general suspension of business and making a very dull season, exceedingly unprofitable for me.

  Of the St. Peter’s river, the editor says:-“ so crooked was the river, that we seemed all the time to be just at the end of it; but the pilot, who was certainly very skillful, continued to wind the boat along in a labyrinth of interminable twistings, apparently confident that wherever he could direct the bow of the boat he could swing her stern gracefully around and bring up the rear without conflicting with the bank of the river.”

  The Sixe’s village was some twenty miles up the river and here was located the mission of Rev. Samuel Pond.

  The article closes with an eulogy of Captain Abel, the master of the Wayne, a statement that she went to the head of the rapids and returned “as wood, provisions and liquors were running short.”

  This trip created additional interest in the river, and explorations continued according to the same paper in its issue of August 1, 1850 wherein we find the following:- “the first exploration was made three or four weeks ago by Anthony Wayne which boat went to the head of the rapids, some sixty five miles by river, and returned.  Shortly after the Nominee went up still higher, left her shingle on the bank and returned.  The Anthony Wayne on her return trip from below was again chartered by our own people and reached a point within about fifteen miles of the mouth of Blue Earth river where she planted her shingle upon the shore announcing herself as the first steamboat in those waters and then returned.”

  “In the meantime arrangements were made with the Yankee, Captain Harris, to some prepared with fuel and provisions to take a party as far as possible.”  This trip was made, the steamer leaving St. Paul July 22nd, 1850.  The officers of the boat were:- Captain M. K. Harris, clerk, G. W. Girdon; Pilot, J. S. Armstrong; Engineers, G. W. Scott and G. L. Sawyer.  The trip consumed five days and the boat went nearly to the mouth of the Cottonwood river, a point a little over half way between the present cities of Mankato and New Ulm.

F. A. B.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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