Yellowstone County History



Early Trails – Diary Extracts

[Reference: Journey to the Land of Gold, Susan Doyle’s emigrant diary extractions] 

Revised 6 February 2002

The trails used by early settlers and those wishing to gain “fast-passage” into the gold fields of western Montana Territory had a difficult time once they reached the Badlands and South Hills area of the Crow Indian land. Initially the south hills area [large plateau area south of Billings] was virtually impassable by wagon trains. Fortunately, as they passed through the reservation land, their wagons left significant depressions in the soil that was readily evident when the 1878 & 1879 topographical surveys were initiated. As later surveyors re-examined the land, and added more quarter section markers, they also added many comments, such as fences and homes. The survey notes and the diary extractions together help form a realistic view of where some of the travelers went as they passed through, or hauled freight. Sawyers demanded that all wagons travel in a single file in order to leave deep depressions in the soil (road making). Travelers in his trains were not permitted to spread out across the landscape.

Sawyers Expedition June 13, 1865 [Notes for the route through the Yellowstone Regions, 18 to 26 September Journey]

 

         Sawyers James A. Sawyers, Expedition leader

         Smith Lewis H. Smith, Engineer for the Sawyer Expedition. [Experienced surveyor and clerk, age 30, Capitalization added to his remarks.]

         Lee C. M. Lee, Teamster, with a gunsmith license. [Capitalization and spelling corrections added for clarity]. Refer to Journeys to the Land of Gold for non-capitalized versions.

 

 

Date

Diary

Travel Remarks

[1]Times

Mileage

18 September

Sawyers

Camped on small creek [War Man] at 3 pm, after traveling sixteen miles over rolling country; day very warm. Much heavy grading was required to descend the bluff into valley [of the Big Horn River], but a further reconnaissance made, after arriving in the valley, showed a better place to descend the bluffs, which, however, will have to have considerable work done upon it before it can be traveled.[2] The [Bighorn] valley is about two to three miles wide, and has much fine grass in it, and considerable timber grows in the bends of the stream; immense herds of buffalo and large numbers of antelope range in every direction; white elk, deer, and bears abound and serve to render this country emphatically a hunter’s paradise. The hunters, during the day’s march, killed three bears and a large quantity of other game. No signs of hostile Indians were seen to day.

A 3 pm

16.0

 

Smith

Fine day but very warm. Came 16 miles over very rough country and camped on a small creek [War Man Creek] in Bighorn bottom. Lots of buffalo in sight and many wolves. Three bears shot; soil better and country good but very rough. A hill going down into Bighorn very steep and Big Horn bottom fine.

 

16.0

 

Lee

Monday, warm. Started early. Traveled 16 miles in a northwesterly course over a very rough and hilly country. Within ten miles of mountains and camped within sight of the Big Horn River on a small branch [War Man Creek]. In coming down onto the valley of the river [Big Horn] there is a very long and steep hill to descend. Had to rough lock the wagons [wheels] with log chains. We put part of the teams behind the wagon to assist in holding back. All got down safely [Sawyers new route.] A short time after crossing the branch we are camped on the wagon driven by Nute Hollister was upset. The first one [to upset] for a long time. Between 10 and 11 [am] today we crossed a fine camping stream [West Soap Creek]. The country around here is alive with game, buffalo, deer, antelope, and bear of the cinnamon or brown specie. Some of the soldiers killed one [bear] just at camp. The scent of them is very offensive to me, so much so that I cannot bear the meat at all, though some of the boys expressed a great liking for it. None of the bull whackers are on guard tonight. Crossed water between ten and eleven [West Soap Creek.]

 

16

19 September

Sawyers

Came six miles [up the Bighorn River] over good roadbed in the valley, and grading down the banks, forded the Big Horn River[3]. This stream is about 400 feet wide, and in most places, at the time we were there, would swim a horse, but after repeated trials we found a place with only 3 feet of water. All hands went at work with a will, and at 11 am the teams were all crossed and corralled on the north side of the river. The current runs with great rapidity, and many men were carried some ways down the river by it, but all finally crossed safely. Captain Brown’s orders not permitting him to further than this place with us, as at this place we were considering nearly out of danger, he detailed sergeant James Yoachum [Yoacham], with seven men to proceed with us to Virginia City, and afterwards to report to him at Salt Lake City, while the balance of his command returned with him to General Connor. Sergeant Yoachum performed his duty in a very prompt and energetic manner during the balance of the expedition. To Captain Brown I wish to express my heartfelt thanks, and those also of the rest of the members of the expedition, for the safe and expeditious manner in which he escorted us through the Indian Country. A better officer than himself, or better troops than those under his command, are not to be found in the service.

A 11am

6.0

 

Smith

Came north six miles and crossed the Big Horn in good shape, river is about 300 feet wide and three and a half deep in channel. Very Swift. Corralled on west bank of stream and turned out the cattle. Got over at 11 am. All across. Escort camped on east side of river. [We} reloaded the wagons etc. Gave Baptiste [Defond] a statement of account [for] 3 months 13 days amount due him $402.68. Gave him statement of account.

A 11am

6.0

 

Lee

Started early. Got to the bank of the Big Horn River by _____o’clock, and across by one.[4] This is the largest stream we have crossed yet. Most places it will swim a team. We crossed over onto a small island. The water coming up to the hubs. Then passed up the island a short distance and crossed the remaining portion of the stream. Here the water is almost to the wagon bed. Above or below the track it was still deeper and very swift. But all got across safely by having horsemen on each side to keep the cattle straight. Except one of the emigrant wagons. His team swung down stream into deep water and came near drowning his family. But getting assistance promptly succeeded in getting out safely with a wet load. Here our escort is going to leave us except some eight of the 2nd California boys. None of their teams crossed over, but camped on the south side while we camped on the north. Scouts [were] sent out as far as they could go and came back again. [They] report no Indians or Indian signs in the country. Came six miles [to the ford.]

Cross 1 pm

6.0

 

Doyle comment

At the Bighorn crossing Sawyers hired Huber Rouleau, one of Connor’s guides who was with the escort. It was soon apparent, however, that Rouleau was totally unfamiliar with the region, which forced Sawyers to follow Bozeman’s 1864 route west of the Bighorn.

 

 

20 September

Sawyers

Fine day, many buffaloes in sight; crossed one creek [Hay Creek] by bridging and another by fording [Beauvais Creek]; traveled eighteen miles over a country requiring considerable grading in places to make it passable, and camped on a creek [Little Woody Creek] leading into the Big Horn. Grass, water, and wood poor at this camp.

 

18.0

 

Smith

Came 18 miles and camped on a dry creek [Little Woody Creek] with water about in holes. No grass or hardly any. Roads in forenoon fine but quite broken in the afternoon. Country more like the Cheyenne than any we have seen. Some buffalo about. Crossed two small muddy creeks [Hay Creek and Beauvais Creek] with bad bottoms.

 

18.0

 

Lee

Wednesday warm. Started early and traveled 18 miles and camped on a dry branch [Little Woody Creek] in which water stands only in holes at present. No wood and very little grass. During the forenoon the road was very good and level and through a good country. But in the afternoon it was the most miserable rough hilly, crooked, and sideling [road]. The country barren and considerable of alkali. Crossed two branches [Hay Creek and Beauvais Creek] that would make good camping streams but very short drive from Big Horn of eleven miles.

 

18.0

21 September

Sawyers

Cool, cloudy day; came nineteen and a half miles over a fair-lying country, and camped on Pryor’s fork [Pryor Creek] at 6 pm; in two or three places much grading had to be done to render a passage safe for the double wagons of the freight train. Pryor’s fork is about thirty feet wide by two feet deep, with good wood and grass upon its banks, and a swiftly-running current of pure water. Thousands of buffalo, elk, deer, and antelope were seen during the day.

A 6pm

19

 

Smith

Cool cloudy day. Cattle got but little grass in the morning. Drove over good gamma grass. County fair laying land. 19 miles northwest to Pryors Fork [Pryor Creek] where we camped. Buffalo very plenty and antelope seen by thousands. Got in late to camp. Let cattle lie out all night. Fine day for travel but very windy toward night.

A Late

19

 

Lee

Thursday, cool and windy and very dusty. Towards night quite cool. Started a little late and traveled 19 miles and camped at sundown on a fine branch of running water called Pryor’s Fork I believe [Pryor Creek.] The road was tolerably good. The country very rough and hilly, but generally covered with good grass and dotted over in every direction with immense herds of buffalo. Plenty of fresh meat in camp tonight. Buffalo and antelope. The country to day has very much the appearance of having once been under water, at least most of it. The hills for miles being perpendicular clay or rock [sedimentary sandstone] like the banks of most of the streams. Also considerable of scrub pine along the hills and ravines.

 

19

22 September

Sawyers

Fine day; came eleven miles in a northerly direction, and camped on the Yellowstone river at 12 pm [noon]. The last five miles of the road was very rough, and much grading was done to enable us to descend the bluff of the Yellowstone bottom, where we found, on arriving, plenty of wood, water, and grass[5].

A noon

11

 

Smith

Came 11 miles to Yellowstone River. Last five miles very rough and hill going down to river rougher than any we have seen. Course very near north. Got to camp at 2 pm. Grass and water in Yellowstone bottom very good and plenty of wood. Buffalo very plenty. Also wolves and antelope.

A 2pm

11

 

Lee

[Friday] cool. An overcoat was quite comfortable during the morning. Started tolerably early. Traveled 11 miles and camped on the bank of the Yellow Stone River. Our course since leaving the Big Horn has been a little more north than west, I think. The country to day was very rough, and as we neared the river it became worse. Quite a valley along the river on the other side [north] and as we came in sight of it from the top of the bluffs [Sacrifice Cliffs] it was literally covered with buffalo as far as you could see. Also the road to day they [buffalo] were if any odds thicker than ever and frequently ran so close to the train that the drivers could shoot them down as they walked beside their teams. They do not appear to be collected in very heavy droves but are scattered all over the face of the country quietly grazing or lying down.

The descent from the bluffs to the river is very steep and dangerous, at least two hundred feet I should judge. The first half is not very steep, then pass along a descending and sideling ridge barely wide enough for a road for a couple of hundred of yards to the last descent which is at an angle of about 65 degrees and around a curve with only just room for the road. On the left was a steep bank and on the right a high hill. Before starting down this last hill we rough locked both hind wheels with log chains and went ahead trusting to Providence. All got down safely. The river here is quite a respectable stream with a rocky and gravely bottom and a very swift current. Not a great deal of timber. Cottonwood, willow, elm.

 

11

23 September

Sawyers

Traveled up the Yellowstone [east side] eighteen miles, to the mouth of Clark’s fork [Clarks Fork], where we corralled; grass, wood, and water good on the route. Fords were made across two small streams, and ravines were graded down in several places; plenty of game in sight all day; weather very fine[6].

 

18.0

 

Smith

Came 8 miles. Leaving bottom land and going onto bluffs. Coming back to bottomland and traveling up 5 miles to near the mouth of Clarks fork where we camped for Sunday. Day fine and road very crooked but good traveling except going in and out of bottomlands. Buffalo and wolves plenty. Saw a bear. Cut off should be made from Pryors to Clarks fork. Course south to west[7].

 

8.0[8]

 

Lee

[Saturday], cool in morning, but warm during the day. Traveled eighteen miles and camped on the Yellowstone again. Followed up the river five or six miles. Then ascended the bluffs making quite a detour to the south to head some ravines. Part of the time we were not over three or four miles from yesterday’s trail. The road very good. Came down from the bluffs into a dry creek [Duck Creek] a short distance from the river. Which we followed down to the river. Then proceeded up the valley four or five miles and camped on the bank of the stream [Yellowstone River.]

 

18.0

24 September

Sawyers

Sunday; fine day; remained in camp all day.

 

Camp

 

Smith

Fine day; stayed in camp all day. Fixed up goods. Packed cigars etc. Plenty of buffalo on the other side of the Yellowstone. Everything getting ready to move as fast as possible tomorrow.

 

Camp

 

Lee

[Sunday] No entry

 

Camp

25 September

Sawyers

Came southwest nineteen and a half miles, crossing Clark’s fork, and camped on Rocky fork [Rock Creek]. Clark’s fork is about one hundred and fifty feet wide at the crossing, by one and a half foot deep, with very swift current, and the water, at the time of our crossing, was quite muddy, probably from snow melting on the mountains, or from the immense herds of buffalo that were crossing above. From the point where we encamped, a reconnaissance made decided that we should have struck Pryor’s fork more to the west, and thense west across the country, as water could be found on Clark’s fork at convenient places for camping. My guide [Hubert Rouleau], whom I hired on the Big Horn, was an old mountaineer, and pretended to know all about the country when I hired him, yet he could not tell, when at Pryor’s fork, if water could be got on this cut-off or not, and I feared to try it so late in the season without being sure.[9] Had I known at Pryor’s fork what I learned at this camp, I should have come direct, and the road should be made, and thus avoid the Yellowstone bluffs to this place.[10] I am satisfied that a saving of over twenty miles can be made by this cut-off.[11]

 

19

 

Smith

Came southwest 19 miles. Camped on Rocky Creek [Rock Creek] 1 miles above fork with the Clarks creek [Clarks Fork[12]]. Face of country good to travel over and days travel fine. Generally country hazy so that we couldn’t see around much. Grass at camp poor. Wood and water fine.

 

19

 

Lee

Monday, Cool in morning. Traveled 20 miles to day and camped on the main branch of Clark’s Fork [Rock Creek] on the west side. Crossed Clark’s Fork a mile or two from last night’s camp and followed the bluffs between it and Yellowstone during the afternoon. Passed an old trail to the right where Bozeman undertook to reach the Yellowstone and could not get down to the river [and he] had to come back onto this trail.[13] The road very good. [We] are traveling south pretty fast and not much west.

 

20

26 September

Sawyers

Fine day; crossed Rocky fork [Rock Creek] to the south side, and traveled about four miles up the valley, over a beautiful level country, thense recrossed the stream and struck off westerly up Berdan’s fork [Red Lodge Creek], and camped on that stream, after traveling thirteen miles. Rocky fork is a beautiful stream, with considerable timber in the bends, and is about seventy-five feet wide by one and one and a half foot deep, with very swift-running current over rocky bed, and runs into Clark’s fork below our camp of last night. Berdan’s fork is smaller, and runs into Rocky fork from the west; we made good fords over these streams at the crossings.

 

13.0

 

Smith

Fine day. Crossed Rocky fork and traveled a while on east bank. Recrossed and came over to Fork where we camped near where the road leaves it. Days travel southwest about 13 miles. Grass, wood and water good. The country smoother in valleys. Should have made a cut off from Pryors fork to Rocky Fork. [This cut off would be where the Bozeman trail intersected the Bridger trail.]

 

13.0

 

Lee

Tuesday, cool morning. Traveled 12 miles crossing the stream [Rock Creek] upon which we camped last night twice. Then followed up a branch of it [Red Lodge Creek] a few miles. Crossed over and camped on the west bank [where trail left it.] Tolerably good roads, the streams are all very rocky. Considerable of timber along them and some scrub pine along the bluffs. The road very stony in places.

 

12

Sawyers 2nd Expedition Summer 1866 [Notes for the route through the Yellowstone Regions, 26 July to 5 August 1866 Journey]

 

         Sawyers James A. Sawyers, Expedition leader

 

Date

Diary

Travel Remarks

[14]Times

Mileage

26 July

Sawyers

Broke camp at 5 am, weather fine. Traveled 6 7/10 miles to branch of Little Horn [Lodge Grass Creek] – crossed another branch [Rotten Grass Creek] 4 2/10 miles where we nooned – made 6 3/10 miles in the afternoon and corralled on a high table prairie about mile from Indian Creek [Soap Creek] – Here a mule train had evidently been corralled by the Indians, the grass being eaten close inside and mown outside the corral.

The march today has been over a fine rolling country, pure cold water in the streams and an abundance of timber on their banks. As the herders were driving their stock from the water they were fired at by Indians from the ravines and brush – Their fire was promptly returned and they skedaddled through the thick brush up and down the stream. It is strange how the men escaped being hit, as the Indians were in ambush, distant not to exceed 100 to 125 yards. Total distance 17 2/10 miles.

D 5am

17 2/10

27 July

Sawyers

Broke camp at 5 am, fine day- After following the road about 4 miles we turned to the right to avoid a very steep and rocky hill and made a new road through a more level country- Crossed a tributary of the Big Horn [Soap Creek] whose course we followed for some miles and nooned on its banks, 10 5/10 miles. Wood, water, and grass good. Five miles further and we reached the Big Horn at 5 pm. The Big Horn is a rapid turbid stream from 4 to 500 feet in width and from 6 to 10 feet deep in the channel, with quicksand bottom close to the bank, and boulder bottom bed in the current – Timber principally Cottonwood. Total distance traveled 15 5/10 miles. [Spotted Rabbit Crossing[15]]

D 5am

15 5/10

28 July

Sawyers

Spent the morning attempting to find a ford but failed owing to the River being unusually high- Then constructed a good strong raft and attempted to stretch a rope across the River, but failed owing to rapid current and the raft being too unwieldy to manage without a rope was useless- Night coming on closed our labors.

 

None

29 July

Sawyers

Sunday. Took four men and went up the river 6 miles to search for a ford, when I discovered on the opposite bank some wagons corralled. On approaching them I ascertained that they had a flat[boat] which would answer to float the wagons over, the stock having to be swam across- For the use of the flat they asked the modest sum of $7.50 per wagon, and allow us to do all the work.

These wagons were surrounded by a high earth work and belonged to Messr [Cyrenius] Beers & Co. His train, which passed here some 12 days before and had an encounter with the Arrapahoes, loosing 60 mules and having one man wounded who still lies inside the corrall in a dangerous condition-[16] Returning to camp I brought the train up, corralling them close to the crossing.

 

66.0

30 July

Sawyers

Weather cloudy & cool- light showers of rain- Commenced crossing the wagons at 4 pm and by 6 pm all the wagons were safely over and the stock with the exception of one ox which was lost.

D 4am

None

31 July

Sawyers[17]

At this point I hired a half breed to guide me through Pryor’s Gap [Devil’s Gap]]- I agreed to pay him $4 per day and board and take him to Bozeman city where he lived.. Broke camp at 4 am- Three miles of level road across the bottom brought us to the bluff up which we made a road, which the teams had no difficulty in ascending- then came to a high level plateau, and after 6 1/10 miles camped on a spring [in a] ravine [Gold Spring]. – Plenty of wood, grass and splendid water- In the afternoon traveled 10 6/10 miles crossing 4 small creeks on all of which we made good crossings, by grading down the banks, and corralled at 6 pm on fork of the Nez Parese [Nez Perce eg, Buster Creek, a fork of Beauvais Creek]- Plenty of wood, and grass good. Total distance traveled 16 7/10 miles.

D 4am

A 6 pm

16 7/10

1 August

Sawyers

Broke camp at 5am. Weather warm- road through broken country, crossed by numerous ravines on which much labor had to be done.- Crossed 4 small creeks, all good camping grounds- Nooned on the Nez Perese River [Beauvais Creek], here a mere creek full of Beaver dams- our camp seems fairly walled in by mountains and Buttes- Made 8 1/10 miles- Mercury 90 in the shade. Started again at 2 pm- road through Pryor’s Gap rough. Emerging from the hills are corralled on a small stream [Hay Creek], swollen by a Beaver dam, which we cut away- A fine Beaver was killed, hence the name Beaver Creek- Made 4 2/10 miles in the afternoon. Total distance 12 3/10 miles.

D 5am

12 3/10

2 August

Sawyers

Broke camp at 5 am. Weather clear and warm- road better- Camped at noon on Pryors Fork [Pryor Creek] of the Yellowstone River, a fine stream with a gravel bed, about 25 feet wide and one and one half feet deep, with fine grass and plenty of fuel- made 9 2/10 miles- Broke camp at 2 pm. Crossed some hills requiring much grading- Made 6 5/10 miles and corralled at 7 pm on Wolf Creek. [Probably camped on Upper Macheta Creek, a few miles east of Wolf Creek] General course west- Total distance 15 7/10 miles.

D 5am

15 7/10

3 August

Sawyers

Broke camp at 5 am. Weather cool and cloudy. 12 1/10 miles brought us to the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River- This is a beautiful stream about 150 feet wide and at present 4 feet deep- gravel bed.

Had to raise our wagon beds about one foot in order to cross without damaging our supplies, which we accomplished and corralled on the opposite side (west) at 7 pm. The road today was through a fine rolling country with some ravines on which we did considerable grading to make good crossings.

D 5am

12 1/10

4 August

Sawyers

Broke camp at 4 am. Weather clear and cool- 5 8/10 miles brought us to Rocky Creek [Rock Creek], a fine well wooded stream, with rapid current, which we crossed striking the old road on the west side [Bridger Trail]- By traveling direct from Big Horn through Pryor’s Gap to this point we saved 26 miles-

Traveled up the creek 4 4/10 miles, again crossed and camped- This stream is full of trout, an abundance of which were caught- Made 4 3/10 miles in the afternoon and corralled on Berdans Fork [Red Lodge Creek] of Rocky Creek. 14 5/10 miles in all.

D 4am

14 5/10

5 August

Sawyers

Sunday, Rainy day.

 

None

1866 Diaries of Emigrant Trains that Followed After Sawyer’s 2nd Expedition

(Extracted Information)

Only a few of the diarists reported a continuous log of their mileages. Most just used descriptive terms to describe their journey.

 

 

Date

Diary

Travel Remarks

[18]Times

Mileage

15 August

Davis Wilson

Charlie Rich, William Phillips, George & Dick returned from Ft CF Smith just before daylight. Made arrangements to cross with Kirkendahl’s train. Jim Bridger placed in charge of the train. Passed nearly 200 wagons and camped for dinner on little clear stream, [War Man Creek] three miles from the fort. Arrived at fort and waited until next day to cross. 15 wagons ahead of us.

 

 

16 August

Davis Wilson

Ferry was large flat boat, roughly built and had to be rowed across. Current takes it downstream, and mules pull it back. Cost $5 to cross.

 

 

17 August

Davis Wilson

Had to wait for Halderman. Got under way at 2 pm. Traveled until 10:30 pm, and didn’t catch train ahead.

 

 

18 August

Davis Wilson

Left at daybreak. Traveled 1-1/2 mile and found other trains cooking breakfast. Bad roads, bad crossings of ravines. Are in a volcanic region called “Badlands.” Good water, little feed.

 

 

19 August

Davis Wilson

Looked like awful eruption here. Land appears to have lava on it. Rocks piled high on each other. Tablelands covered with grass. Camped at noon on small creek filled with beaver dams. In the afternoon came out of the Badlands. Some table lands on the right (north) but mostly rolling prairie with high bluffs and somewhat mountainous to the left (south.) Saw trains ahead.

 

 

 

 

Benjamin Dailey was with Fox Train

 

 

20 August

Benjamin Dailey

Travel’d til noon. Corraled for dinner by small creek. Stared again at 3 pm. Camped on prairie where there were several springs of cold water north of the road. There are rocks on the prairie that from a distance, look like the ruins of some great temple. Soft sandstone.

 

 

21 August

Benjamin Dailey

Stopped at small creek at noon. James Mauldin’s train went ahead. Camped on bank of creek. Road rough and hilly, steep banks to the creek.

 

 

22 August

Benjamin Dailey

Travell’d two miles and came to Mauldin’s Train. They upset a wagon and broke it. Travell’d another four miles and corralled on bank of a creek. [Thought to be East Pryor Creek] Travelled six miles and camped at some springs. [Millard Springs] Crossed a large creek [earlier] two miles east of where we camped. [Probably Deep Creek; Hay Creek is 3-1/2 miles east] Pass’d through a gap or cut in the hills that looked like it had been cut by the hands of man. The wall of hills on each side is about 20 ft high. Pass’d over a piece of flat prairie. Grass is good. Road generally very hilly and steep.

 

 

23 August

Benjamin Dailey

After five miles corralled on north bank of creek of clear water. Traveled about three miles. Came to small creek that was dam’d by beavers until it resembled a small lake. Dam was 30 ft long and water rose 1-1/2 feet.

 

 

24 August

Benjamin Dailey

Arrived at Clark’s Fork.

 

 

 

 

Thomas Creigh Last Diarist to report Crossing

 

 

5 September

Thomas Creigh

Drove til’ 5 pm. [Probably made it to Gold Springs]

 

 

6 September

 

Corral’d on small creek Drove four [more] miles and crossed three creeks, and corral’d at 6 pm.

 

 

7 September

 

Passed over miserably hilly road and corral’s on creek. Party of Indians passed on bluffs mile distant. Corral’d at 6 pm on creek. Hilly roads. Pass’d through Pryor’s Gap.

 

 

8 September

 

Stayed in camp. Snowing on mountains a few miles from us. Indians stole a mule.

 

 

9 September

 

Roads good except one bad hill. Good spring for men. Corraled on large creek, good grass.

 

 

10 September

 

Drove up creek 5 miles and corralled on dry creek. Making 13-1/2 miles this morning. Crossed Clark’s Fork. Met small party of Crows and escorted us to our camp.

 

 

1866 Route Mileage Summary Listing Comparisons[19]

 

Reference

Route Segment Identified

Sawyers’ Diary

Fox –Aug 20th

Blythe – Aug 17th

Land of Gold Averages

 

 

 

Segment

Total

Segment

Total

Segment

Total

Segment

Total

 

Start

Big Horn River Crossing

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

1

Gold Springs (Ox Camp)

6.1

6.1

7.0

7.0

 

 

6.0

6.0

 

1A

East Fork Muddy Creek

 

 

2.0

9.0

 

 

 

 

 

2

Muddy Creek Crossing (Horse & Mule Camp)

 

 

 

 

9.0

9.0

4.0

10.0

 

2A

Local Spring (Un-named)

 

 

4.0

13.0

 

 

 

 

 

3

Point Creek Crossing

 

 

0.5

13.5

 

 

3.0

13.0

 

3A

Buster Creek Crossing (Fork of the Nez Perce - Pryor Creek)

10.6

16.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

East Buster Creek Crossing

 

 

 

 

6.0

15.0

3.0

16.0

 

5

Middle Buster Creek Crossing

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5

17.5

 

6

West Buster Creek Crossing

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5

19.0

 

7

Scott Creek Crossing

 

 

6.5

20.0

5.0

20.0

1.0

20.0

 

8

Push Creek Crossing

 

 

1.0

21.0

 

 

2.0

22.0

 

9

Beauvais Creek Crossing (Divide of Wind River Mountains)

8.1

24.8

3.0

24.0

 

 

2.0

24.0

 

10

East Pryor Creek Crossing [Will James Cabin located here[20]]

 

 

 

 

6.0

26.0

3.0

27.0

 

11

Pryor Gap

 

 

4.0

28.0

 

 

1.0

28.0

 

12

Hay Creek Crossing (Beaver dams in area) [Beaver Creek]

4.2

29.0

 

 

 

 

1.0

29.0

 

13

Deep Creek Crossing

 

 

3.0

31.0

 

 

2.0

31.0

 

14

Millard Springs Rest Stop

 

 

1.5

32.5

 

 

1.5

32.5

 

15

Middle Creek Crossing

 

 

 

 

 

 

0.5

33.0

 

16

Porcupine Creek Crossing

 

 

 

 

 

 

0.5

33.5

 

17

Ice Water Springs Rest Stop (Sulphur Springs)

 

 

 

 

15.0

41.0

3.5

37.0

 

18

Pryor Creek Crossing

9.2

38.2

9.0

41.5

 

 

2.0

39.0

 

19

Macheta Creek Crossing

 

 

 

 

6.0

47.0

7.0

46.0

 

20

Wolf Springs Rest Stop

6.5

44.7

 

 

 

 

3.0

49.0

 

21

Five Mile Creek Crossing

 

 

13.0

54.5

 

 

4.0

53.0

 

22

Clark’s Fork River Crossing

12.1

56.8

2.0

56.5

12.0

59.0

3.0

56.0

 

23

Rock Creek 1st Crossing (Intersected Bozeman’s Old Trail)

5.8

62.6

6.0

62.5

7.0

66.0

6.0

62.0

 

 

Total mileage

 

62.6

 

62.5

 

66.0

 

62.0

 

 

Comments: Sawyers’ route passed through the Pryor Gap on East Pryor Creek for about two or three miles then crosses Hay Creek. The other wagon trains apparently missed this route as it passed southwest through the canyons. They crossed Pryor Gap by passing almost straight across the creek. This cutoff brought them about two miles north of Sawyers’ trail. They continued on this route for about six miles, and rested at Millard Springs [Located in SW corner of Section 31, Tp 5S, Rn 27E.] The current BLM topo maps plot the Bozeman Trail as passing mile south of this spring. The old survey maps show the alternate Bozeman Road used by most of the trains reported in Land of Gold diaries as passing directly through the spring area, and the Sawyers version of the trail passing 2-1/2 miles south of the spring. These two route segments join together about two miles east of the Pryor Creek crossing. Ice Water Springs is located at that juncture. As evident from the mileages reported above, the routes depict different stopping points for the segments; but the total distance traveled is the same. The balances of the route segments are virtually identical. The departure at Pryor’s Gap would imply that Sawyers didn’t do a very good job of road building if the trains that came within two weeks of his passage couldn’t find the trail markings. This is even stranger, since Jim Bridger was leading the first train west after Sawyers made the cutoff.

 

The combined segments 4-7 would provide a trail that leads through the mid-point of the streams. At that location the creeks pass through very steep ravines, about 50 to 80 feet deep, with side slopes about 50 degrees. It wouldn’t be practical to have the wagons traverse that area. According to the old maps, the trail skirts these creeks to the north, and crosses only Buster Creek near its juncture with its southern tributaries.

 

From other diaries it appears that each train took a slight variation of the trail as they passed west. None appeared to have crossed onto the plateaus of the South Hills [by the Twin Monuments], nor did they go below the route established by James Sawyers in 1866. Generally they stayed near the centerline of the Sawyers’ route. Samuel Blythe reported that the Sawyers’ new road was real rough and they made little headway.

 

Examination of the route between the Big Horn River and Pryor Creek, south of the Sawyers’ trail, shows no evidence of extensive rock formations noted by the emigrants. These formations exist north of the Sawyers’ trail, and are in or near to the center divide, Wild Horse Ridge. This area is generally called Badlands on the newer maps. This would mean that the multiple small creeks that these travelers report as having crossed wouldn’t be the tributaries of Buster Creek, but more likely Mott, Point and the two branches of Horse Coulee Creeks that lead directly into the Buster Creek crossing. View of the land indicates that the route they follow appears to be a natural trail. It follows the land contours without having to cross the extensive coulees that line the other southern tributaries. It seems almost impossible for wagon trains to cross the Buster Creek tributaries.

 



[1] A = arrival, D = departure (times)

[2] This was a new route to the Big Horn River. Sawyersturned south off the old Bozeman route somewhere near Soap Creek, descended down a steep bluff to War Man Creek. He followed the creek downstream toward the Big Horn River, camping on the creek. This route later became the “Military” route to the Big Horn after Fort C. F. Smith was established west of War Man Creek in August 1866.

[3] They went six miles up the east side of the river and forded at “Emigrant Trail” crossing. {Also called Spotted Rabbit Crossing}

[4] From their camp of the 18th, they traveled down War Man Creek to the Bighorn River and then turned north and traveled up the east side six miles to the emigrant ford. [Spotted Rabbit Crossing, 8 miles above the opening of the Bighorn Canyon.]

[5] Sawyersfollowed the 1864 Bozeman Trail northwest to the Yellowstone, and camped opposite of present Billings.

[6] Sawyerswent up stream about two miles, then traveled about ten miles away from the from the river and over hills and back to the river, and five miles up the bottom to the mouth of the Clarks Fork.

[7] The cutoff recommended is basically the same route opened by Sawyersthe following year. But instead of going west from Pryor Creek to the Clarks Fork, as Smith suggests, Sawyers went directly west from the Bighorn River to the Clarks Fork in 1866.

[8] Must be typo, Should have been 18.00 miles. Distances are clearly greater than eight miles.

[9] Rouleau was one of Connor’s expedition guides who had been assigned to the escort party that accompanied Sawyers as far as the Bighorn crossing. Although he was a longtime Upper Platte resident employed by John Richard and Joseph Bissonette and was married to a Brule Sioux woman, it soon became clear to Sawyers that Rouleau was totally unfamiliar wit the region west of the Bighorn.

[10] The Yellowstone Bluffs Sawyers wished to avoid are the high bluffs lining the south side of the Yellowstone River [Sacrifice Cliff].

[11] Sawyers added these comments when he wrote his official version, since they do not appear in his original diary.

[12] This must actually be Cow Creek, not Clarks Fork itself.

[13] This is where Bozeman had back-tracked the previous year and left a note telling the trains following him not to turn here.

[14] A = arrival, D = departure (times)

[15] Spotted Rabbit Crossing was located at an old Indian ford, where the Big Horn River is wide and has shifting sandbars in the stream. A ferry was constructed six miles upstream in the summer of 1866.

[16] The Arapahos were blamed for the incident at the time because they were known to live in this area. The responsible Indians were later identified as a band of Sioux from Red Cloud’s camp in a claim made by Cyrenius Beers for the loss of mules in the raids on July 18th & 19th. US Court of Claims, Indian Depredation Claim 474-RG 123; NA.

[17] The small streams that he passed were: East Fork Muddy Creek, Muddy Creek, Point Creek, and Buster Creek. The Land of Gold summary lists the four as: Muddy Creek, Point Creek, East Buster Creek and Middle Buster Creek. The mileages there don’t add up.

[18] A = arrival, D = departure (times)

[19] Extracted from “Land of Gold”

 

[20] The Will James cabin is located in the Four Dances Area (South Rims) across from Billings. This named cabin hasn’t been identified; nor why it was reported in the diary records to be at Pryor Creek..




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Katy Hestand
Yellowstone County Coordinator


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