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JIM: Ben Carter, Overland to Santa Fe - Part 4 of 5

EARLIER installments in this fascinating narrative written by an Adair Countian :


By JIM

In 1850, Adair County native Ben Carter, then a stripling lad of eighteen, took leave of the familial hearth and home in Breeding, Ky. and went west, briefly settling in Missouri until the spring of 1851, when he embarked on an adventure of a lifetime. Sixty years later, the Adair County News published a series of five letters from Mr. Carter which detailed his journey - an overland trip from Kansas City to Santa Fe.

Your humble transcriber took the liberty of correcting minor typographical errors; correcting and adding minor punctuation for clarification; and in a few instances, adding information in parentheses for clarification. The final installment will include a brief biographical sketch of Mr. Carter.


Part 4 of 5, published in the June 7, 1911 Adair County News.

A Pioneer Journey: Uncle Ben Carter Writes of Wagon Journey to the Southwest, Made in 1851

We traveled up the Cinnamon River 100 miles before we crossed it. There was no timber growing on this river. The valley was from one to two miles in width. North of us we could see the mountain range, though it was 80 miles away. Where there was no timber, we could see the snow-capped peaks. This range extended for hundreds of miles.

One morning the boss called our attention to an object ahead of us, which looked like a covered wagon. We were told we would pass this, but that it would take two or three days to reach it. About twelve o'clock one night, we reached the spot. It proved to be an immense mound. Here we camped and rested our cattle half a day. Six of the boys went to the top of the mound, but I was too tired to go with them, and instead, lay under the wagon and watched them and could see them as they climbed, all the time except twice, in crossing a ravine, they were hidden from my sight.

When they reached the top, they formed a line, took aim at our camp, and fired their guns at us. We could see the smoke, but could not hear the report, and as they looked like small boys, the distance to the top must have been considerable. They reported the circumference at the base to be ten miles and that there was about two acres of level land on top.

Near our camp, we saw a grave where about 14 persons had been buried. It was supposed that these persons had been on the stage which run from Santa Fe to Independence, Mo., and that the Indians killed the entire number. They left the dead, burned the stage and took six horses. The soldiers had buried the bodies several times, as each time wolves disturbed the graves.

From this place we moved on, getting nearer the mountains. The first town we passed was Las Vegas (New Mexico). The road lay between two great mountains for quite a distance. Then, there was another mountain directly across our road and we had to climb it or turn back, so we doubled teams, 12 yoke of oxen on each wagon, and started up. It took just half a day to get our wagon train to the top of this mountain. From this point to Santa Fe, it was said to be 90 miles.

Few people lived in the mountains at that time, though we passed several small villages. One object of interest which we passed was an old castle, built 200 years before, of brick which had been dried in the sun. It was a two-story building, and in ruins, vacated now with no signs of life near it. We came next to a large mountain stream where we stopped long enough to wash our clothes.

The heat of the sun was so intense that it took only a little while for the clothes to dry and also to burn my back, which being bare, while the washing was performed, was burned to blisters, so that I had to sit in a upright position for a week, while sleeping.

One night a wagon was overturned. All the teamsters went to help, but I was ordered to watch my own and another's team. In passing the wagon before mine, I smelled whiskey, so I crawled under and found two places where the whiskey was running almost in a stream. I got a couple of cups and saved it and the boys came back, I had something with which to treat them. When we stopped for the night, I got a dish-pan and set it so the whiskey would be saved. In the morning, I had saved a gallon and a half, and the boss told me to keep it in my water keg.

The next day we drove into the city and began to unload. There was great excitement among the people. The soldiers raised the old flag at headquarters and marched through the streets. They cheered us, and went through several nice drills to show us what they could do.

Copyright 2011.

(End of part four.)


This story was posted on 2012-01-29 05:58:59
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