The story of Mr. Stephen
I started on my career,
about the twelfth day of May, 1863, from Galena, Illinois [age 25 -- margin
notation 1923-1838=85-60=25]. From there I went to St. Louis, with an uncle,
George O. Collins and Newhall Collins his son, a lad about fourteen years
of age. We left St. Louis on the American Fur Company's boat Alone. The boat
was under the charge of Chas. Choteau, and as far as I know now, he must
have been the head of the Fur Company.
On that boat was Father DeSmet, and two Belgian Brothers, Major Dawson in charge of Fort Benton. Major Maldrum in charge of Fort Union, which had been established previously, was also aboard. Malcolm Clark, who was later killed in Montana by the Indians, and his fourteen year old boy Horace was on the boat, coming from St. Louis, who joined us at Council Bluffs, as the son had been going to school at Notre Dame. But one lady passenger on this boat, was Miss Worden, a sister of Frank Worden, later a Mrs. Higgins of Missoula. She was in care of Major Dawson and John Powell. John Powell, for whom Powell county was named, an old pioneer. Malcolm Clark, Major Dawson, Maldrum, and Powell had gone down the river in mackinaws (barges) in the fall of 1862. [Handwritten on side perhaps her name -- Doris]
There was also a great deal of freight on the boat, among which was Twenty-thousand (20,000) buffalo robes, and other pelts for St. Louis, and these men were returning to the Forts.
St. Louis was under martial law owing to the Civil War at that time, and we had taken on a squad of soldiers at Jefferson City with a small cannon. What Choteau was afraid of, was that we might be attacked by guerillas (gorillas) the same parties who had recently held up a boat. The Guerillas had made a raid, and massacred a lot of negroes on the Missouri, just before we had come up, and he was naturally afraid that the same thing might occur again. The banks of the river were heavily wooded in places, and he thought perhaps they were hidden along the banks. We had the cannon on board, and in case they should make another raid on our boat.
There was a Cree and his wife on board, with a little girl, perhaps twelve or thirteen years of age, and she was working on a pair of moccasins and decorated them with porcupine quills, one day she was missing. The alarm was sounded, and the child was searched for everywhere. I do not think a boat was ever more thoroughly searched from top to bottom, as was this boat, but the child could not be found, and it was finally decided that she had fallen overboard and drowned. Her mother claimed that she was a good swimmer, and could not drown in the river, but we who know the Missouri river, know it as a treacherous one, with its swift under currents, and no one could swim very far in it. She was never found.
We finally landed at the mouth of Milk River -- in fact we pulled in there because we could not get any farther up the river on account of low water. MacKenzie, and some of his friends had come down from one of the Forts above, where he was in charge at the mouth of the Marias River. We pitched camp on the river bank, and unloaded the entire cargo in some trees, and had our tent ropes fastened to the cottonwoods. The camp was alarmed by the cry of "Indians" "Indians!" Many of the passengers grabbed their guns and my nephew Newhall Collins, who was only fourteen years of age, got his gun, when his father grabbed him by the collar and held him back. Father DeSmet kept calling to us all "Don't shoot!" "Don't shoot!". He stepped right out in the open -- it seems that the priests are very seldom attacked by the Indians with a black robe -- they knew him by his robe. The Indians were all on horseback, and one came up quite near to our camp. Across the river the bank was lined with them. Father DeSmet talked with them for some time, and then returned to the camp, but we were all given a good scare. George Steele and a man by the name of Davis and a half breed by the name of Jerry Potts came down from Fort Benton on horseback, and the Indians drove them into a wood-chopper's cabin. Jerry stood on one side shooting as fast as he could, and George on the other. They got away from that place during the night, without the Indians seeing them, and came into our camp, with one of the horses belonging to an Indian. We went to work at once and fortified our camp, with the lumber that we had brought on the boat, and stood guard. I remember well the time I was on guard. It was so lonely -- scarce the twitter of a bird, or the rustle of a leaf -- such silence, that the least little noise would make one start, for fear of the Indians who might attack us at any time.
We had our camps all pitched, and were happily surprised on day when Miss Worden (her tent was right near our tent. My uncle was an old Californian -- white whiskers, and bald head, and she no doubt felt much safer there) brought in a Bull Berry pie. It was late in the summer and the bull-berries were getting ripe. It certainly tasted fine. We had some great experiences along the eating line. I often think with regret of the time that I did not eat dog, when I had an opportunity. I have eaten nearly everything but snakes and lizards, and I do wish, now, that I could say that I had eaten dog.
One of the squaws in our camp (you know we had Indians in our camp with us, friendly ones, and a good many of them were particular friends of the American Fur Company), came along and let me know that they had killed a pup and were going to have it that evening, and I was invited to partake of the feast. I had noticed for several days a fat pup running around camp, and she had evidently killed it, for I met her with it in her arms. They had singed the hair off the dog, and its toes were cut off. I was too late that evening to get any of it, although I went with the full intention of eating some, if I had the chance, but it was all gone, and I have always regretted it.
I will say that my uncle, my cousin Newhall, and myself, all faired very well, because I had an opportunity to hear a good deal about what was taking place, in this upper country. I had talked with Major Dawson, Mr. Powell and Malcolm Clark, and we were favored in this way. When there was any fresh buffalo meat, we always had the part that runs down the back bone, and that is considered the choicest. It is the tenderloin, and very tender.
Transportation was send down from Fort Benton to take us after the boat could not go further. Our horses, outfits, and everything was there, at camp and the balance of the trip was overland.
I came over on horseback, over the old road that came into the Prickly Pear Valley, and from there up by Jefferson, thru the valley and across the river which we used to call "Stinking Water", and which is now named the Ruby River. I landed at Virginia City in September 1863. I was there at the time of the "bread riot", or "Flour riot". About a dozen fellows -- mostly miners -- came up from a town called Nevada, with an empty flour sack on a long pole, which was their banner. It was called a "Flour Riot", but it was very peaceable. They entered all the stores, and gathered up all the flour they could find. Searched everywhere, even found some flour hidden under an old hay stack near us, where I was living, and carried it all into an empty building, made of logs, on Wallace Street, (this was in 1865), and from there they distributed it to each family. A single man was only allowed ten pounds, and that is all I could get, and paid twenty-five cents per pound for it. Those who had families, were asked how many children they had, and it was portioned out to them accordingly. I do not know just how it was divided, but each family was allowed so much, in proportion to the number of children they had.
This place was strictly a miners' town, and I really believe it was more law-abiding, more men respected each others rights, than in lots of places today. A more law abiding class of people never populated a strip of country than that miners' town, which numbered about twenty thousand, up and down the gulch.
I went to work there at the mine, shoveling tailings, and only staid there a week, as my hands were blistered (nearly burned off of me). Finally I went to live with my cousin, Edward Collins, who came here in 1862. He was at Bannack, and we prospected some. We bought a claim at Bevins Gulch (this was named for Bill Bevins who discovered it). I remained at Bevins through 1863 and 1864. While I was there, someone came up the Gulch asking if we would tell him who there was that would make a coffin for a lady who had died. They went up to a little town called Bagdad, but could find no one, and when they returned, I asked my Uncle if they had found anyone. He said "No", and said for me to make one, so I asked them if they had any sluice box lumber. That afternoon and evening, I made the coffin, lined it with a sheet, and covered it with an old black riding skirt. I cannot think what the lady's name was who died, but I am under the impression it was Dalton, although I am not positive as to that point. (It is one of those vivid recollections that I recall.)
There was everything in Bevins Gulch that would go to make a small miners' town; saloons, dance houses, etc., it would not be a real healthy camp, if those things did not flourish there. By the way, did you ever hear of the man who danced himself to health? There was a man who had been very poorly, and seemed to be able to get nothing that would help him. Someone told him what he needed to do, was to dance. He started in a good faith, and became an expert jigger, and regained his health, in that surprising manner.
After leaving Bevins Gulch, we started on the Jefferson River, a tributary of the Madison, and our party was the discoverer of Washington Gulch. We thought after got to the bed rock, which is so prevalent there, that we would find something different than what we had seen. So we camped there, and the others joined us, making six altogether. McClure, George O. Collins, my uncle, and his son, Edward, Newhall, and myself, besides another man whose first name was John, but I can't recall what his other name was. We immediately set to work, and I think that we laid the first bed rock flume ever laid in Montana. McClure and I went into the timber, and whip-sawed the lumber. I remember distinctly as we were working up there, it was up on the mountain, and was hard work. We would change around, first one be on the upper side, and the other on the lower, until we tried to decide who should stay on the upper side. It was by far the hardest work, as that one would really have to guide the saw -- but it finally fell upon me to take that place.
While we were at this place a stampede came, Hugh McQuaid who used to be associated with the Independent, -- the old Gazette, was one of the party. Of course the ground was all staked out, and we were allowed our portion of ground, as discoverers, and mind you, I have not been back there since that time, which was 1864. I was broke and went to work for wages. There was an immense bar between Meadow Creek and Washington Gulch and I am told that the gold was in that bar, and that it has been working ever since, and we fellows missed it.
I left Washington Gulch in the late '64, and then went to Virginia City. I worked underground all that winter. The party broke up, and my Uncle and boy went over to Philipsburg country, on Gold Creek. After I met Miss Luella Fergus (the "frau") who had arrived, I went over there and met them. We came here and went to Confederate Gulch, and from there over on the Thomas Gulch, beyond the Divide.
The Silver Bow stampede came up, and the first thing we knew, McClure and I were ordered to get our belongings as quickly as we could. We did so, and went up there to Confederate, only to find that everything was taken. I have tried my level best to figure out how and why we were told to go up there, but I don't even know how we got the news. These stampedes are rather remarkable inasmuch as they resemble a troop of Ants. Did you ever notice a troop of Ants at work? That is just the way the stampeders do. Some are coming and some are going. Some will tell you to turn back there is nothing left, and still you persist in going on, only to find his statements were true. Great excitement!
My life at Washington Gulch was the same as is that of many others. We have no "blood and thunder" stories to tell. I have heard it said that a woman cannot keep a secret, but I know that I have secrets, and will keep them, of those days of pioneer times.
From Washington Gulch, after I had sunk a shaft, I went over to Virginia City, and spent the winter. Then to Gold Creek, and then came here, and from here to Confederate, and then to Thomas Gulch, working there for a while, and came back here alone. Worked at Dry Gulch for a party, and then I came to town, and went into Oliver's office, which was three doors from Mike Reinig's, on State street. Mr. Bryant was a correspondent for the Post, and was also in that office. (Oliver by the way only had a chair and a table), and over in one corner with his wheel-barrow of stuff was Bryant with some paper, ink and pens. It was during the lull of business, I suppose that Bryant and I got to talking, and we decided to buy that wheel barrow of stuff and go into business for ourselves. That was the origin of the first Book and Stationery Store, in Helena. We of course carried everything, even cinnamon, allspice and ginger. Each man who came into this country carried some articles. Some of them brought tacks, laces, and ribbons. Others bacon, thread, etc., Sometimes, the laces would be lying on top of the bacon, then again the bacon would be over the laces. Everything was carried that was needed along those lines.
The first papers we carried were of course the Post, published in Virginia City. You see Bryant came over here as correspondent and agent for them. We got Fifty cents for one copy of that paper. We had the Daily Virginia Enterprise, of Virginia (Nevada), the paper on which Mark Twain, and some of the greatest western newspaper men worked, and a more interesting paper was never published before nor since, in the west. We used to buy Two Hundred and Fifty copies of the San Francisco Union. The Alta Californian also sold at about One Hundred copies per week. We also sold the Missouri Republican. We had Spanish, French and German papers, and the New Orleans Tribune, from Louisiana, the Illinois News, and Harpers Magazine, as well as Waverley's. These magazines for One Dollar and Twenty-five cents, and One Dollar and Fifty cents, respectively.
These papers and magazines came to Virginia City by mail, and we then expressed all our stuff, in separate mail sacks, from Virginia City here. At the time we expected the Coach, bringing the mail and express, there some one at the mount on the top of Catholic Hill, watching for it, and the minute the Coach came in to the edge of town, we were there looking for our papers, etc., unloading, throwing aside what we wanted immediately, and the boys whom we had to carry the mail, on horse back, would then carry it through the camps, and the next day, the other mail was sorted out, and they would take them in leather sacks, on horseback, up through the different gulches, where we had many customers.
I remember one time we had a shipment of peanuts coming, and they finally came in on the last trip the boat made, before navigation closed. These peanuts, when they arrived, were worth Two Dollars a pound to us. We had four Five hundred pound sacks, making a ton altogether. We dabbled into everything.
We were batching it, at this time, four of us, as we had the two boys who were carrying the magazines and papers for us, and we bought a stove, and paid One Hundred and Twenty-five Dollars, ($125.00) for it, in gold dust, of course. When we broke up batching, I took the stove, and we have used it ever since. In fact, it this stove has cooked our wedding anniversary every year, for forty-six years, and would have cooked the fiftieth one, which we had recently, had it not been down on the ranch in Fergus County. This relic of old times has been moved nine times, and the last trip it made, was two Hundred and Twenty-five miles.
I was always sorry that Bryant did not stick with the business, for we would have made a bunch of money. He was a very amiable sort of man, with good business ability, and integrity. Was very aggressive. I have tried my best to locate him, since he left in 1865, but I have never been able to find the slightest trace of him. I sold out to him shortly before he left, he taking the stock, and I the property which we had.
In the early days, we had a Club, similar to one which there is now, in Helena, to which such men as Colonel Sanders, Governor Hauser, Colonel Smith, and a good many others, besides myself, belonged. In the late 70's, Major Walsh and Colonel McLeod, came up here, and they were entertained at our Club at that time. A great many such meetings took place, and I have often thought of the difference in regard to drinking intoxicating liquors, at that time, and the present. I have seen a person take one-half a tumbler full of whiskey, and never feel the effects of it, particularly. You take the Canadians, the Norwegians and Swedes, as well as all Scotch people, and they were considered very good authority on liquors, and I am sure that the quality must have been much better at that time, owing to the fact that they did not become intoxicated, as they do now days, on much less.
Talking about books, etc., that have been written about the Vigilantes, and those days, I can't say that I think much of the book which Mr. Langford wrote. I did not care for him personally, and his characteristics were shown in his book. You take a Yankee from Boston or New York, when they come out here, they will only associate with a certain class of people, and Mr. Langford was one who always gave the impression that he was much better than the other fellow. He liked to impress upon people his own greatness. On the other hand the book written by Professor Dimsdale -- also of those times, is much more correct according to the happenings, etc., and besides he was a man whom every one respected. He had a very pleasing personality, -- was a favorite among us.
I was born in June, the eighth day, in the year Eighteen Hundred and Thirty-eight. I was married on the first day of January, New Years Day, 1867.
( This sketch was made by A. J. Noyes (Ajax) and signed A. J. Noyes. It was revised in Stephen Collins Gilpatrick's handwriting from the typescript, but undated. This is the first version of Stephen Collins Gilpatrick's Narrative for "My Sons and Montana Historical Library (Society)". Since there is a substantial difference in the different documents, the original with his changes are here.)
Mr. Gilpatrick was married to Luella Fergus, daughter of James Fergus - David Hilger
Handwritten at side of last of the 10 double spaced legal size pages:
3650 = $14.60.
James R. Dangel
1504 Sawmill Creek Road
Sitka, Alaska 99835 USA