The Ekalaka Eagle (Ekalaka, Mont.) 1923-current, November 20, 1925, Image 7

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THE EKALAK A EAGI,E 4 • mmeAor ec7131 0=1•111MMEMMISSIMOSIMINMINOSEDEMMINIIIMIIIIMMIESSIMENMEFOu ISIENEMUEESESSEMBIESEEMIEMEMMINIESiMat tEEMMIENtirNpra Bin Williams Led Typical Trapper's Life; ,Out -Fought His Red 40 Years, 13itt Died a Tragic and Lonely Death Enernies for Over %..d3...813EsEsami I T SEEMS strange today to reflect on the fact that a century ago there were white men roaming through the mountains of what we now call Montana, who had, even at that early time in the history of the west, spent a third of a. lifetime in . these wilds, trapping beaver and fighting Indians. These were the race of free trappers. Wily as were the plains Indians, the free trappers were even more crafty. Many of them used to boast that the scalps of a hundred reds were worn at the belts of the trap- pers for every trapper's scalp that used to trim the war legging of the Indians. Trained in the brutal school of plains and mountain warfare, these white pathfinders reverted in some respects toward. the statue of the savages, although it would be unjust to rate them with mere renegades and desperadoes. The trapper, what- ever his faults, was yet every inch a man. Bravest of the brave, cool and sagacious in the strategy of border war, capable in any emergency, faith- ful to his own code of honor, gener- ous without limit to all but his foes, there was something heroic in this fierce and uncouth figure who dom- inated for a time the Rocky Moun- tain region, along its eastern slopes. Of this famous race of adventur- ers there have been handed down to us a few outstanding names of her- oic figures of those dam whose ex- ploits and hair raising escapes thrill the blood of the Montana boy of to- day. One of these was old Bill Williams, whose name, with that of Kit Car- son, William Bent, the Sublettes, Joe Meek, Killbuck, Le Bente and Jim Bridger, was known from St. Louis to the Spanish settlements of California, and the fame of whose exploits ran throughout the moun- tains and ever the plains wherever a few white trappers or traders gath- ered together. Little has come down to us from that almost forgotten period about the early life of old Bill Williams. Most cunning of all the free trap- pers in out-generaling, fighting, or eluding hostile Blackfeet, Sioux, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Utes or GEORGE FRF:DEDICK BUXTON Famous traveler and brilliant Eng- lish author who spent nut* time with the early -day trapperm. Apaches, he always was the recog- nized leader of any party with which he happened to find himself in quest of Beaver pelts, but his usual prac- tice was to hunt and trap alone. One of the last parties he led was in 1842 from St. Louis, and a member of this was Bill Hamilton. famous guide and frontiersman, who died in northern Montana in 1908 at the age of 86— one of the last of the old guard of free trappers of the 40s. Picture of Bill Williams The best description we have of Bill Williams has come down to us from the pen of George Frederick Ruston, that brilliant young English traveler and writer, who spent some time with the free trappers of the Rockies and who died tit St. Louis in 1848 at the age of 28. Ruston was formerly a lieutenant with the 89th regiment of the British army, and was a writer of unusual genius. His brief life was crowded with ad- ventures in many parts of the world. In Blackstone's magazine of 1848 there appeared a serial by this author entitled \Life In the Far West,\ which in the opinion of most western ,historians is the beat story of the free trappers that has ever been put into print, but ivhich, unfortunately, is little known to American readers. Buxton' knew. latimately and had asscoiated in the- mountains with the most famous of these free trappers. He pictures Williams at the head of a band of eight trappers whose hunt- ing ground in the early 40s was about the headwaters of the Yellow- stone% then the _hunting ground of the Blackfeet. In his party were four otber well known trappers—Kil- ibuck, Le Bente, Joe Meek and Mar- celline--whose names were almost as well known in the mountains as his own; seasoned Indian fighters all. After . having trapped all the streams they were acquainted with, it was determined to strike into the mountains, at a point where old Bill Williams affirmed, from the run of the hills, there must be plenty of water, although not one of the party had before explored the coun- try in question, or knew anything of its nature. However, they .packed' their beaver peltry and put out for the land in view—a lofty peak, dim- ly seen above the more regular sum- mit of the chain, being their land- r, EHERSIMIIHEMEESEICIIHMIREI mark. Later events proved that Bill Williams' estimate of the country was correct. For the first aay or two their route lay between two ridges of mountains. Williams always rode ahead, his body bent over his saddle horn, across which rented a long, heavy rifle, his keen, gray eyes peering from unde rthe slouched brim of a 'flexible, felt hat, black and shining with grease. His buck- skin hunting shirt, bedaubed until it es, he would forthwith proceed to pack his animals, talking the wihle to an old crop -eared, raw-boned Nez Perce pony, which was his own parti- cular saddle horse. This animal, dogged in temper and iron hardiness, was a worthy companion for his self- willed master. This beast, as Bill seized his buffalo calf skin saddle robe to lay upon its galled back, would express displeasure by hump- ing tis back and shaking its withers with a wincing that always excited equal skill. Wood, water and grass began to fill his thoughts near sun- down, and when these requisites for a camping ground presented them- selves, old Bill sprang from his sad- dle, unpacked his animals, and in a twinkling, had hobbled the horses and mules, struck fire and ignited some chips, leaving the others to pack in the wood. Then he lighted his pipe and enjoyed himself. While with this party of eight trappers on the Yellowstone, a fine •••••:: _ _ • • M . ' - - - • - • •-• -•••., • • . f - teN •-• 4 4; _ j _ek a. ••• • • • -4141.4A 3:5 raf.s. f „:4 •v)., , ...- '''''...M. ....1 ... .0„...........r. , —,-• ..---- ,...: • , .' ............ :72 ,...... ..\.• ... . _ _ ........z....7,.................. , ‘......- , . ...% ... .A . F:r . . *...- ..• ,. .... ---\ 7--\V ''' .0.42.-7.'\\.. ............. ' -, ......• --- -. ---- : 7- .. d r5.0 . 1 . 1 1\ ' =1.1c....„.... -11B THE SUMMER RENDEZVOUS was the annual meeting of all the traders and trappers, when they traded their peltries for merchandise and ammunition, and usuallyai time of prolonged carousal, for the traders from St. Louis always brought with them an ample supply of whiskey for the trade. had the appearance of polished lea- ther, hung in folds over his bony car- cass; his legs being clothed in panta- loons of the same material, which, shrunk with rains and fording streams, clung tightly to his long, spare sinewy shanks. The scattered fringe along the sides of the buck- skin pantaloons had been pretty well thinned to supply \whangs\ for mending moccasins or pack -saddles. Equipment of a Trapper His feet were thrust into a pair of Mexican stirrups made of wood. and as big as coal scuttles; and iron spurs of incredible size, with tinkling drops attached to the row- els, were fastened' to his moccasined heels—a beaded strap, four inches broad, securing them over the in- step. In the shoulder -belt, whtch sustained his powder -horn and bul- let pouch, were fastened the various instruments needed by a trapper. An awl, with deer -horn handle, and the point sheathed by a cherry -wood case carved by himself. hung at the back ot his belt, side by side with a \worm for cleaning his rifle; and under this was a squat and quaint - looking bullet mould, handles guard- ed by strips of buckskin to save his fingers from burning when running balls. Beattie it hung a little bottle made from the point of an ante- lope's horn, scraped tranaparent, which contained the \castor\ taken . from beavers' glands to be used for bait In the beaver traps. Williams' face was sharp and thin. a long nose and chin hob-nobbing each other; and his head was always bent forward, giving him the appear- ance of being hump -backed. He seemed to look neither to the right nor to the left, but in fact, his little twinkling eyes were everywhere. He looked at no one he was addreasing. always 'teeming to be thinking of something else than the aubject of his discourse. He spoke in a whin- ing, thin, cracked voice, and in a tone that left the hearer in doubt whether he was laughing or crying. On the present occasion he had join- ed this band and naturally assumed the leadership, in opposition to hid usual practice. which was to hunt alone. Strategy of William; Old Bill Williams' character was well known. Acquainted with every inch of the far west, and with all the Indian tribes that inhabited it, he never failed to outwit his red enemies and generally made his aP- pearance at the traders' and trappers' rendezvous, from his solitary expedi- tions with galore of beaver, when numerous bands of trappers dropped in on foot, having been robbed of their packs and horses by the very Indians through the midst of whom old Williams had contrived to pass unseen and unmolested. On occasions when he had been in company with others and attacked by Indians, Bill invariably fought manfully, and with all that coolness that perfect indifference to death or danger could.give, but always \en his own hook.\ His rifle cracked away merrily, and never apoke in vain. In a charge on the Indians, if it came to that, his keen -edged butcher knife tickled the fleece of many a Black- foot.. 7- il At th same time, however. if he saw tha iscretion was the better part of v tor, and affairs wore so cloudy an aspect, as to render retreat advisable. he would first express his opinion in Curt terms end decisive; then loading his rifle; he would take hithself off and \cache\ so effectu- ally that to search for him was ut- terly . useless. Thus, when with a large party of trappers, when any- thing occurred that gave him a hint that trouble was coming, and more Indians were about than he con- sidered good for the animals, Bill was in the habit of exclaiming: Bill and His Horse. \Do 'ee hear now, boys, thar's sign about? This hoss feels like caching.\ And , without more' words, and stoically deaf to all remonstranc- the ire of the old trapper; and no sooner had he laid the saddle skin an lts back, than a wriggle of the ani mal shook it off. Bill would up- braid the horse, scolding it for its contrariness when he was trying to save it from the Indians. Then. con- tinuing his work and taking no no- tice of the other trappers, who stood about bantering the eccentric old frontiersman, Bill would soliloquize i thus: . \Do 'ee hear now? This nigger sees Injun sign ahead—he dors! He'll be afoot afore long if he don't keep his eye skinned—he will. In- juns is all about, they are--Black- feet at that. They can't come around this nigger—they can't.\ Playa Game Safely. At last, his pack animals securely tied to the tail of his horse, he would mount, and throwing the rifle across the horn of his saddle, and without noticing his companions. would drive the jingling spurs into the horse's sides and ride away. Per- haps nothing would be seen of him for months, when not infrequently his companions, themselves set afoot by an Indian attack that he had fore- seen, would find him located in some solitary valley in his lonely camp with his horses safely picketed near him. However. If he took it into his head to keep company with a party, all felt perfectly safe under his leadership. His iron frame defied fatigue ,and at night his love for safety for himself and his hroses was sufficient guarantee that the camp would be well located and safely guarded. As he rode ahead, his spurs thumping against the sides of his horse, he managed with wonder- ful dexterity to take advantage of the best line of the country to follow. This appeared to be an instinct with him, for he looked neither to the right nor to the left, while continu- ing a course as straight as possible at the foot of the mountains. In se- lecting a camping site he displayed band of buffalo was encountered one day and plenty of fat, tender meat was secured. One of the party was a greenhorn on his first hunt. Bill, lazily smoking his pipe, called to the greenhorn, whose ,name was Mark - head, and told him to butcher off a piece of meat and put it in Bill's pot. Itiarkhead alezed a large piece of meat and began carving off a huge ration when a gasping roar from the old trapper caused him to drop his knife. \Ti-ya growled Bill. \do 'ee hear now, you damned greenhorn, do 'ee spite fat cow like that. Whar you was raised? Them doin's don't shine in this crowd. Boy, do 'ee at seeing \fat cow\ spoiled in that fashioh. 'It was up in the region of Yellow- stone park that the party finally en- countered a band of 'Blackfeet, and after a desperate fight in which two of the trappers were killed and sev- eral of the remaining six badly in- jured, the party was split up, old Bill Williams escaping by himself, as us- ual. His companions believed him to have been killed. It was in this manner, Ruxton says, that one of the most daring and successful bands that ever trapped in the mountains was broken up. Bill Williams Again. It was nearly two years later that two of the trappers fell in with Bill Williams again. Kilibuck and La Bonte, in the meanwhile had trapped together for more than half a year, narrowly escaping death by starva- tion and from Indians a score of times, and finally had joined 14 trappers on an expedition to Cali- fornia where it was planned to steal horses from the Spanish settlements. After many exciting adventurers they had returned with those of their com- panions who had survived the trip, and were on their way to Bent's fort on the Arkansas river in Colorado. They were riding ahead of a band of horses, when they discerned the out- line of a solitary horseman, followed by two loose animals and descending a bluff into the timbered bottom of a stream. They followed the tracks in the sand, when suddenly Killbuck, examining the track of a horse close- ly, shouted: \This sign's as plain as a beaver to me. Look at that hoss- track, boy; did ye ever see that afore!\ \Well I have!\ answered La Bonte, peering down at it. The man that used to ride that hoss is gone under long ago, but the hoss--darn the old critter—is old Bill Williams' I'll swar.\ \Well it ain't nothin' else,\ he continued atter another inspection. It's the old boy's hoss as sure as shootin', n' the Injuns has rubbed him out at last. Ho boy! let's lift the hair of this one ahead.\ \I'm with you,\ shouted Killbuck, and away they went in pursuit, de- termined to avenge the death of their old comrade. They followed the track through the bottom and into the stream, where they lost it. Puzzled at this, they sought on each side of the river but in vain. Finally they decided to give it up and find a good camping place for -the night. On the left bank, a short distance ahead of them was a heavy growth of timber, near where they determined to camp. The THE BULL -BOAT was an Invention of the Indians, and was used try the trappers many times for tninsporting their packs down stream. hear, damn yell! What! Butcher the meat across the grain! Why, where'll the blood be goin' to. you damned Spaniard? Down the grain I say, and lot your flaps be long or the juice'll run out slick and clean --do 'ee hear now?\ Thls fearful mistake nearly coat the old trapper his appetite. and all night long he grumbled his horror KIT CARSON, one of the most famous of the western frontiersmen, whose experiences as an early -day trapper comprise the most exciting tales of adventure in the mountains from Montana to Mexico. two mountain men rode Into the glade, and jumping from their horses they were about to remove the sad- dles when a shrill neigh came from the thicket close by. A rustling in the bushes followed and presently a man dressed in buckskin and rifle in hand burst out of the tangled brush, exclaiming angrily; \Do 'ee hear now? I was nigh upon shootin' some of 'ee--I was now; thought 'ee was damned Arapahoes. I did, and cached right off.\ Then, recognizing the two trap- pers, he exclaimed, \Damn it now. If hyar ain't them boys a8 was rubbed out by the Blackfeet on Lodgepole creek a time ago,\ and he proceeded to greet them with hearty hand- shakes. Old Bill told La Bente and Kill - buck how he had escaped the Black- foot on that occasion, losing his two pack horses and all his beaver pelts, but managing to get away with his grizzled Nez Perce steed. He follow- ed the Illackfeet and stole two horses, which he used for packing, and ever since he had been trapping in all parts of the mountains. Twice he had visited traders' rendezvous with full packs of beaver. Now he was on his way to Bent's Fort to dis- pose of his skins and enjoy one more good carouse on Taos whisky. and then to return to some hole or corner of the mountains to trap again. Death of Bill Williams It was early in the winter of 1847 that a party of trappers. flecing from an over-powering nuntber of Sioux, found themselves, one moony even- ing in a wild and dismal canyon near the New Park -of the Rockies. What was their astonishment. on breaking through a cedar -covered entrance to a small glade to perceive a solitary horse, standing motionless in the een- tei. Drawing neat,' they found it to be an old grizzled mustatig: with cropped ears and ragged tail. stand- ing doubled up with cold. and at al- most the last gasp frim extreme old age and weakness. Its bones were nearly through the stiffened akin; the legs of the animal were gathered under it, while its forlorn looking head and stretched -oat neck hang listlessly' down, almost over -balanc- ing its tottering body., One of this band et trappers was Marcelline, Who had been with old Bill Williams on k the Yellowstone years before, and a single look from 4 him was sufficient to recognize the miserable animal as the once renown- ed steed of old Bill. That the owner was not far distant, he felt certain, and searching carefully 'around, the men came upon an old camp. Before the blackened logs where the camp fire had been, and leaning with his back against a pine trunk, reclined the figure of the old, mountaineer. His legs were crossed under him and his snow-capped head bent over his breast. His hunting coat of fringed PIERRE CHOUTEAU, who was one of the moat prominent figure. ha the fur trade. elk -skin hung stiff and weather - stained about him, and his rifle, packs and traps were strewn about. A Jagged rent in the skin coat and dark stains about it showed that he had received a wound before his death. The Indians at last had got old Bill Williams. The trappers buried him as well as they were able, and a merciful bullet cut short the few remaining hours of the trapper's -faithful steed. $3,0oo Wagon Load. What is believed to'have been the most valuable load of farm produce ever' seen on the streets of Nashua was a load of Grimm alfalfa seed threshed on the H. A. Simpson ranch, one mile liouth of town, by NV. H. Moecker. The seed was taken to Glasgow to be cleaned, 'tested and registered by County Agent Murray E. Stebbins, under whose supervision the alfalfa was grown. The value of the load was more than $3,000, this being threshed from 26 acres. A Chinese day is divided into twelve parts of two hoiirs each. TIIAT BAKE - DAY Waste! (That's what of women have done with o uvmEr Being uniforms anddependab le It never spoils any of the in. gtedients used on bake day. • Op BEST BY TEST • • • c41 . 11 ., 11 . tkai... 4111 NspoO lj1 Lear talo 0. ..„ \ '''`.72\ 04 4sseesearrolt Sales Vi a Times Those of Anr Other Brand mur vessilertswe. •

The Ekalaka Eagle (Ekalaka, Mont.), 20 Nov. 1925, located at <http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053092/1925-11-20/ed-1/seq-7/>, image provided by MONTANA NEWSPAPERS, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.