Western HISTORY Thread

Discussion in 'The Rockies – It's all downhill from here...' started by Colorado Uli, Feb 26, 2018.

  1. nwcolorider

    nwcolorider NWCOLO

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    We have been lacking here lately so from Museum Monday and the Museum of NW Colorado
    The first written account of the Yampa Valley and NW Colorado is a stark reminder of just how miserable life could be for those who dared to venture away from civilization in the 1800s.

    In 1839, Thomas Jefferson Farnham left Peoria, Illinois leading 19 men on one of the first overland journeys to Oregon. Instead of taking the still-new Oregon Trail route through Wyoming, Farnham hoped to avoid hostile Indians by taking a more southerly route. However, before the party even reached the Rocky Mountains they were near mutiny and many returned home. He was left with just a handful of men and a faithful dog to press on.

    On July 31st, 1839 they officially reached the Yampa Valley near today’s Yampa, CO. Farnham described Egeria Park as, “… a beautiful savannah stretching northwesterly from our camp in an irregular manner. Three hundred yards from us rose Tumbleton's Rock (today’s Finger Rock).”

    On August 4th, while following the Yampa River, they reached the area of Steamboat Springs and explored Sulphur Cave. “About 12 o clock we came upon a cave formed by a limestone and sulphur deposite from a small stream that burst from a hill hard by.” “Near it were a number of warm springs.”

    They were now headed for Fort Davy Crockett in Brown’s Park, CO. However, food became scarce with the more arid climate. After a week with little to eat except 2 grizzly bear cubs that their dog helped catch, they had no choice but to consider every option for food – including their faithful companion.

    On August 11th, near present day Maybell, CO, Farnham wrote, “This morning we tried our utmost skill at fishing. Patience often cried “hold”, but the appearance of our poor dog would admonish us to continue our efforts to obtain a breakfast from the stream. Thus we fished and fasted till 8 o clock. A small fish or two were caught – three or four ounces of food for 7 starving men! Our guide declared the noble dog must die. He was accordingly shot, his hair burnt off, and his fore quarters boiled and eaten!! Some of the men declared that dogs made excellent mutton; but on this point, there existed among us what politicians term an honest difference of opinion. To me, it tasted like the flesh of a dog, a singed dog.”

    Farnham then added, “… we left [the Yampa River] to see it no more, I would humbly hope, till the dews of Heaven shall cause this region of deserts to blossom and ripen into something more nutritive than wild wormwood and gravel.”

    Finally, just two days later and still starving, they arrived at Fort Davy Crockett. Farnham’s relief was palpable. “… the bluffs opened before us the beautiful plain of Brown's Hole. The Fort, as it is called, peered up in the centre upon the winding bank of the Sheetskadee (Green River). The dark mountains rose around it sublimely and the green fields wept away into the deep precipitous gorges more beautifully than I can describe. How glad is man to see his home again after a weary absence. Every step becomes quicker as he approaches its sacred portals and kind smiles greet him and leaping hearts beat upon his and warm lips press his own. It is the holy sacrament of friendship.”

    Here they stayed for a week while regaining their strength and restocking supplies. They left on the 19th to continue to Oregon.

    Farnham’s popular book “Travels in the Great Western Prairies” was published in 1841. In addition to the earliest account of the Yampa Valley, it is also considered one of the first accounts of an overland voyage to Oregon before the true rush began. You can read it in its entirety here: https://tinyurl.com/y5aymumv
  2. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    Oops. Didn't mean to muck up your thread.
  3. Colorado Uli

    Colorado Uli Must I?

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    That ain't an easy thing, to sacrifice your dog. But hunger makes one do things ...
  4. RideFreak

    RideFreak Torque Jockey

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    It's even harder to eat it :lol3
  5. Assfault

    Assfault Exposed Member Supporter

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    Mustard helps, because who puts catsup on a hotdog.
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  6. nwcolorider

    nwcolorider NWCOLO

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    Thing is, it seems that fishing on the lower Yampa even sucked before CPW started managing it!
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  7. no2tracks

    no2tracks Been here awhile

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    No catsup, but ketchup is ok.
  8. ROAD DAMAGE

    ROAD DAMAGE Long timer Supporter

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    Interesting read Norm. Thanks for that. :thumb

    It seems that Mr. Farnham's overland party must not have been well prepared for their undertaking.
    Maybe all their good hunters were the ones that broke off early and returned to Illinois? :scratch :lol3

    It's awfully hard for me to believe that in the Yampa Valley of the 1830/1840s ....... that there was not a HUGE amount of game available.
    I had mentioned Osborne Russell's book "Journal of a Trapper" earlier in this thread. Russell was in this same area at roughly the same time, and he continually noted just how much game was readily available (even though he was mostly interested in beaver).

    Furthermore it stands to reason to me that Farnham's group had already conquered the really difficult part of their journey in getting from Illinois to the Rocky Mountains. That's some hot, dry, barren, hostile country they had already crossed ........... especially compared to most of these valleys and bottomlands in the Rockies. I'm curious now, so I'm gonna get the book.

    Bummer about the dog.
    "Man's Best Friend" ............................... until he's on the menu. :dukegirl
  9. oldmanb777

    oldmanb777 Just say NO to socialism!

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    In those days, the "mountains" didn't contain much game. Remember Louis & Clark starving in the mountains. Elk were a plains animal until driven into the mountain valleys by the white man. So how much game was there? I have no idea. But I would guess where we hunt today is a very different place from what it was then.
    Osborne Russell was a very seasoned Mountain man and trapper by the time he explored some of that area. I can't remember if he hit Browns park or the Yampa area. But his journal is a great read.
  10. nwcolorider

    nwcolorider NWCOLO

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  11. RideFreak

    RideFreak Torque Jockey

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  12. nwcolorider

    nwcolorider NWCOLO

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    Well I know what I am doing after dinner! Wife is away so I have been getting my stuff done. And getting a bunch of stuff read after dinner!
    Right now have to get the forks back on the 990 after new seals.
  13. DittyBag

    DittyBag A bag of dirty stuff

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  14. barko1

    barko1 barko1 Supporter

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    I've been reading some of the info posted before, the BLM mega document. found this 1955 documentary (?) about the uranium boom, entertaining.

    Also interesting to read that a nuclear device was used to try and free up natural gas deposits near Rifle, made for radioactive natural gas so that didn't work too well :lol3. Such practices were banned by the Colorado constitution in 1970.
  15. RideFreak

    RideFreak Torque Jockey

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    I enjoyed that, it was interesting to see Moab in the 1950s and some of the places we ride in an old film. No surprise there's so many dirt roads out there.
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  16. nwcolorider

    nwcolorider NWCOLO

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    Rluison Project was a 40 Kiloton Nuke,39°24′19.0″N 107°56′54.7″W, It was part of a bigger project called Plowshare, the two others were Project Gasbuggy and Project Rio Blanco just west of Meeker.
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  17. Nailhead

    Nailhead Inclusion Rider

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    Project Rio Blanco was one, and I remember it mentioned on the local evening news. Interesting reading can be found online, as well as locations of the wellheads.

    EDIT: A little late on that one...
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  18. nwcolorider

    nwcolorider NWCOLO

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    Museum here in Craig posted a couple then and now pics.
    If you have never seen the Museum of NW Colorado and are in the area see it before Moffat County Looses it.
    Probably will have to shutter the doors next summer, unless funding can be found.
    Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 5.18.33 PM.png Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 5.18.39 PM.png
  19. pprO.R.A.

    pprO.R.A. Hipster Dufass

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    Good stuff ^^^ @nwcolorider , I like those nostalgic kind of examples, the mountain ranges in the background remains the same. Shame about the future of the museum tho.
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  20. nwcolorider

    nwcolorider NWCOLO

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    he time was 1868. South Pass City was booming. The highly productive Clarissa Mine and others like it had the place crawling with miners. Others were attracted by color found in the nearby hills. Even those without gold fever wandered through, South Pass was the perfect rest stop on the Oregon Trail for westbound travelers with a dream of starting over.

    The Bartlett family arrived in South Pass after leaving Cincinnati where Stephen (in some accounts he is referred to as John; in others, still, he is called Jim) ran a rundown bar. He, a son, a relative named Hattie, and daughter Polly first tried Colorado but things didn’t work out there. When they settled in South Pass City, they opened a lodging house of sorts.
    Polly Bartlett was alleged to be the black widow of innkeepers. Seizing on single men for prey, she reportedly poisoned her victims with arsenic-laced steaks (presumable on hand to kill mice) after liquoring them up with a little whiskey and a little frisky. They were easy marks. Loners, drummers, miners, cowboys, deadbeats—if they had some money, Polly knew how to get it fast.

    It was the perfect time and place: a rowdy mining town on the edge of the great frontier. Wyoming was not yet a state. The area was known to old-timers as Dakota country. Some newcomers were beginning to call it Wyoming Territory. They named South Pass City the county seat of Carter County. It would be changed to present-day Sweetwater in 1869.

    All the while, nobody missed the missing in those days. It was not uncommon for people to go astray in 1860s Wyoming. Indian trouble was very real. Highwaymen would rob and kill for a silver dollar or a horse.



    Esther Hobart Morris would be named first female justice of the peace in 1879, and later launch the women’s suffragette movement from a testosterone-fueled town of miners and miscreants. But first, Polly did her work. In the span of no more than a year, she reportedly drugged, robbed and buried more than 20 men with the help of her father.

    Her final victim was a young man named Barney Fountain. The 23-year-old was the son of a wealthy mine owner, Bernard Fountain. After his disappearance, a Pinkerton detective started looking into things and before long the sheriff/marshal of Carter County, a man named Adam Lombardi, posted a $13,000 reward for the Bartlett’s, who had struck out in a hurry, reportedly headed for Oregon.

    Ed Ford ended up collecting the reward after tracking down the Bartletts days later camped along the Hoback River. He shot and killed the father and brought back Polly for her hanging.

    It was fitting Ford be the one to capture Polly. Months before he was almost seduced and poisoned like all her other victims but he did not care for alcohol so Polly’s plans were foiled. Later, when Ed’s brother Sam went missing after staying at the Bartlett Inn, Ed became suspicious. He convinced the sheriff that something wasn’t right at the Bartlett Inn of death.

    As so often happened in those days (Morris even joked once her job was mostly quiet and boring because of vigilante justice) Polly never made it to trial. While being held in jail, a man named Otto Kalkhorst blasted her through a cell window with both barrels of a shotgun on October 7, 1868. Kalkhorst was a foreman at one of the mines owned by Bernard Fountain. He was never tried for the murder.


    Authorities reportedly dug up some 22 bodies from corrals on the Bartlett property. That would make Polly Bartlett the most cold-blooded killer in state history.

    Read the whole story. It is fascinating. Wyoming’s Amazing Poisoner
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