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LETTERS
1850-1900

Letter from George Bergen to the Daily Nonpareil, April 6, 1881.
What a Nonpareil Reader Has to Say of This Part of the Country in the Pioneer Days of '41
A Correspondent Who Witnessed One of the First Burials in the Ancient and
Disturbed Graveyard, Forty Year Ago - An Interesting Letter" - Avoca, April 4




Reading in The Nonpareil the account of the old graveyard at Council Bluffs brought fresh to my mind of seeing one among the first interments in said burying place, nearly forty years ago.

Soon after the Platte Purchase was opened for settlement I, in company with another young man a little my junior, took it in our heads to go west. We left Franklin, Indiana, on the 25th day of August, 1841; came across the state of Illinois on horseback, and sold our horses at St. Louis; took passage on the old steamer "Boldangreene: on the 8th day of September for Ft. Leavenworth. Landed at the fort on the 22nd day of September, having been two weeks making the trip on a steamer from St. Louis to Ft. Leavenworth.

The officers in charge of the fort employed myself and my young traveling companion to carry a dispatch to the fort on the Block House at Council Bluffs. It was considered at that time a dangerous and hazardous undertaking for two boys to make such a trip alone. After the first forty or fifty miles we had to pass through a wild, uninhabited country, except by Indians and wild ferocious animals. No roads except Indian traces. [Did they go the high road in the bluffs, instead of taking the bottom road?--Walter Farrell]

Although we got captured by the Indians near where Hamburg now stands and on several occasions we came near losing our lives by the large gray wolves, we made the trip on foot over two hundred miles in five days and one night and delivered our dispatch at the Council Bluffs Fort on the 2d day of October, 1841.

On the next day we saw a United States soldier buried with great pomp and magnificence with military honors in what is now called the "old burying ground" at Council Bluffs,. There was then only three or four graves in the cemetery. I think it would be well for the Council Bluffs authorities to pay due honor to those bones, for some of them one day carried the best blood of our country.

After stopping at the fort four or five days the government sent a train of wagons drawn by oxen to Heston (sic; should be Weston, MO, opposite Fort Leavenworth?), the biggest town up the Missouri river at that day, for supplies for the fort. We went with the train to Heston (sic), and on the 25th day of October took passage on the steamer "Ocionna" for St. Louis, thinking we had seen enough of the "elephant," and were ready to go home and be good boys.--(Signed) Geo. Bergen.

[W.F.: 1841 would be only 4 years after the Platte Purchase was opened for settlement, but the vanguard of pioneers had poured into this new part of Missouri. By 1846, the Potowatomi head men and chiefs were complaining that many whites had settled just over the line on the south side of them, and were a bad influence on their people. In what would later be Fremont county, French Village was in existence near Hamburg, and The Half Breed Farms were being established near Bartlett....The block house at The Council Bluffs had been erected by a company of dragoons from Fort Leavenworth at the time the Potowatomi had emigrated into The Council Bluffs region in 1837....When that friend of the Mormons, Thomas Kane, came to visit them at Council Bluffs about 1845, he remarked that the sloughs he had to cross in the Missouri bottoms had been "bridged" by the army, which laid tree trunks in the bed of the streams where the bottom road crossed. Kanesville was named after this man...]

One more observation: If the road was but a trace, how could heavily laden wagons of supplies for Fort Croghan have traveled over them?--W.F.

Submitted by Gail Meyer Kilgore


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