Yellowstone County History



Sawyer’s Expedition – Congressional Record

 

Sunday, April 06, 2003

 

These motions form a part of the wagon-road construction granted to Col. James Sawyer in 1865. It is reported in most all publications and books that he received $50,000 from Congress for its construction. The associated documents established that this amount for that portion of the road hasn’t been factually located. The 39th Congress (1st Session) reportedly passed House Executive Document No. 58 establishing the actual construction. It appears that the original funding of $50,000 established on March 3, 1865, was for two roads, and that additional funds be diverted from the Cheyenne Road in Dakota to the Niobrara road being constructed by Sawyer. HR 107 stopped these funding diversions in 1866 for future road improvements. Sawyers didn’t actually build a road, and there is no record of any connecting routes created by Brookings during this time frame.

Sawyer[1] started out from Sioux City and traveled to where Turtle River (Keya Paha River) intersects with the Missouri. From there they went to the mouth of the Niobrara River and started the actual construction. Sawyer was determined to travel into the Powder River area, against advice given by General Connor to stay out of that region. On June 13, 1865 he started out, traveling west along the south side of the Niobrara River. On the 12th of July they left the river and headed northwest towards the Powder River. When he was about 50 miles east of the river his train was attacked. This is where he and his military escort disagreed as to what should be accomplished. They changed direction and were escorted to Fort Connor by Lt. Williford, where a new military escort was assigned to lead them to the Big Horn River. This initial segment was not a very well chosen route, but after he presented his case to the Secretary of the Interior in 1866 (Sawyer’s Diary of the 1865 Wagon Train Travel), he was exonerated. There is no mention in his report that he performed any construction work on the “Branch Road to Omaha” as requested by the Act of March 3rd, 1865, for which he received $50,000. Only the portion where he intersected the Connor’s Road (details provided in main document) from Laramie to Fort Connor and on to Virginia City is considered to be the “Bozeman Trail.” This route went from the Big Horn River to a point across from where Billings was later built (Sacrifice Cliff.) Note: Sawyers’ 1865 Trail is marked #3, the 1866 trail is #4. Original Kimmel map is 4’ x 2’ in size.

 

 

 

The Military Bozeman Trail was created in segments during the summers of 1865 & 1866:

1.      General Connor established the route from Fort Laramie to Fort Connor (later renamed Fort Reno), picking up from where the Platte Road crossed the North Platte River. Jim Bridger was the guide who laid out the route in 1865. [Connor Road]

2.      James A. Sawyer established a route continuing on from Fort Connor in 1865 after being rescued from his funded ill-fated road-building attempt from Niobrara to Fort Reno by Captain Williford and General Connor’s soldiers. [This is not considered to be the Military Route that was created the following year]

3.      Colonel Carrington established the route from Fort Reno to Fort CF Smith in 1866. Jim Bridger was the guide who laid out the route. Superintendent (Col.) James A. Sawyer followed slightly behind this group with his wagon train. He then established portions of the route from Fort CF Smith to Clark’s Fork through the South Hills-Pryor Mountain valley in 1866. This was not a funded road-building effort, but merely the creation of a trail that shortened his previous pathway across the Big Horn area. Jim Bridger followed just behind the Sawyer Train; but took a slightly different route when he reached Pryor Creek. This is the Military Route. The two routes are identical for about 90% of the distance across the valley. Not shown are the various 1863-1865 Bozeman Trails that crisscross the Big Horn Valley area to the Yellowstone River. [Bozeman & Sawyer Trails]

4.      Nelson Story and Perry McAdow, merchants from Gallatin Valley, established a new wagon road in 1866-1867 across the South Hills and on to Fort CF Smith for purposes of trade. This route is not fully documented, but appears to consist of pathway across the southern edge of the South Hills and the valley floor from Pryor Creek to Fort CF Smith. [Route is still under investigation]

5.      Jim Bridger initially established the route from Clark’s Fork to Virginia City before their existence earlier during his trapping days (1830-1831) and again in 1864. John Bozeman established variants in the route (Bozeman Pass) during the 1863 and 1864 time frame leading to Bozeman City, so as to make the trail better suited for wagons. [Bridger Trail] Not shown is the 1864 Bridger Trail that passed through Pryor Gap, and its associated cutoffs.

Date of Motion

Author

Content of Motion

Resolution

February 18, 1864

Mr. A. W. Hubbard, House Journal

Resolved, That the Committee on Roads and Canals be instructed to inquire into the expediency of constructing a wagon-road from the Missouri river, by the way of the Niobrara valley, to Virginia City, in the Territory of Idaho.

By unanimous consent, submitted the following resolution; which was read, considered, and agreed to.

 

 

 

 

March 21, 1864

Congressman Wilson

Presented joint resolutions of the legislature of the State of Iowa, in relation to the location and construction of a wagon road from a point at or near the mouth of the Niobrara, in Nebraska, to Gallatin, in Idaho Territory in which were referred to the Committee on Roads and Canals and ordered to be printed.

 

So ordered

February 4, 1865

Senator Wade

Ordered, That the Committee on Territories be discharged from the further consideration of resolutions of the legislature of Iowa, in favor of the construction of a military and wagon road from the west side of the Missouri river, at or near the mouth of the Niobrara river, in Nebraska Territory, to Gallatin, in Idaho Territory

That it be referred to the Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia.

 

February 9, 1865

Mr. Arnold, from the Committee

Requested that wagon roads (HR 752) be constructed: From Niobrara to mouth of Turtle Hill River, and thence to Virginia City, with branch to Omaha.

From Big Sioux River, via Yankton, &c.
From western boundary of Minnesota to Big Sheyenne River.
From Virginia City to Lewiston, in Idaho.
Appropriation, and apportionment thereof.

Sent to House for Review

February 24, 1865

Mr. Wilkinson, Senator

Introduced a bill (S472) to construct wagon roads:

From Niobrara to mouth of Turtle Hill River, and thence to Virginia City, with branch to Omaha.

From Big Sioux River, via Yankton, &c.
From western boundary of Minnesota to Big Sheyenne River.
From Virginia City to Lewiston, in Idaho.
Appropriation, and apportionment thereof.

Requested that $140,000 be committed

March 3, 1865

Public Acts 38th Congress, Session II

Additional pay to come from unexpended balances.
Certain wagon-roads authorized in Idaho, Montana, Dakota, and Nebraska.
From Niobrara to mouth of Turtle Hill River, and thence to Virginia City, with branch to Omaha.

From Big Sioux River, via Yankton, &c.
From western boundary of Minnesota to Big Sheyenne River.
From Virginia City to Lewiston, in Idaho.
Appropriation, and apportionment thereof.

 

Note: Dakota Territory History 1861-1875 by Weston Goodspeed, 1904:

 

Col. James A. Sawyer was appointed Superintendent of the Niobrara Road and awarded $50,000.

 

W. W. Brookings[2] was appointed Superintendent to construct the route from Minnesota to intersect with the Sawyer route, and was granted $30,000[3]. ($20,000 was initially awarded)

 

Col. Gideon C. Moody was placed in charge of the Sioux City to Big Cheyenne, and awarded $25,000.

Appropriation, and apportionment to roads thereof. (Page 1, Page 2, from 38th Congress, Session II, Chapters 99 & 100, 1865 Published Acts)

$50k Virginia City to Lewiston

$50k Niobrara to Omaha branch and Virginia City[4]

$20k Big Cheyenne to Niobrara

$10k Bridge on Big Sioux River

$Balance as available to improvements to Sioux City and MN to MT roads

 

January 8, 1866

Mr. A. W. Hubbard, Representative

Introduced a bill (H. R. 107) to provide for the improvement of the wagon road from Niobrara to Virginia City, to the Committee on Roads and Canals.

 

Bills were further introduced, read a first and second time, and referred.

February 16, 1866

Congressman A W Hubbard

Submitted the following resolution (SR27):

Resolved, That the Secretary of the Interior be directed to communicate to the House of Representatives the report of Colonel James A. Sawyers, superintendent of the wagon road from Niobrara to Virginia City, (made in 1865,) of his explorations, survey, and location of said road;

 

By unanimous consent which was read, considered, and agreed to.

March 5, 1866

Speaker of the House

A letter from the Secretary of the Interior, in answer to a resolution of the 16th ultimo, in regard to the report of Colonel Sawyers, superintendent of the wagon road from Niobrara to Virginia City; which was laid on the table

So ordered to be printed.

April 30, 1866

Mr. Hitchcock, Representative

Introduced a bill (HR 539) to provide $50,000 for the survey and construction of a road from Columbus, Nebraska to Virginia City via the most practicable route.

Issued to Committee on the Public Lands

May 4, 1866

Mr Burleigh, House Journal

Submitted the following preamble and resolution;

Whereas an act of Congress was passed March 3, 1865, entitled "An act to provide for the construction of certain wagon roads in the Territories of Idaho, Montana, Dakota, and Nebraska;" and whereas by said act the sum of $20,000 was appropriated for the construction of a wagon road from a point at or near the mouth of the Big Sioux river, via Yancton, Dakota Territory, to a point at or near the mouth of the Big Cheyenne river, thence up said river to its main fork, thence up the north fork to a point of intersection with the road from Niobrara; and whereas the work on said wagon road is reported to have been commenced and far advanced in 1865 by orders from the Secretary of the Interior, during the prosecution of which work treaties are claimed to have been made with the Indian tribes occupying the country through which said road is located, by which the right of way was secured to the United States; and whereas the Secretary of the Interior is represented to have ordered a suspension of work upon said Cheyenne road, and required the superintendent having charge of the construction of the same to turn over all the stock, implements, and money appropriated and purchased for the said road to the superintendent of the Niobrara road, whereby the opening and construction of the Cheyenne road are prevented, to the great injury of the Territory of Dakota.

 

Therefore, Resolved, That the Secretary of the Interior be requested to inform this house whether the work on the said road has been arrested or interrupted by his orders, and if so, for what reason the same has been done; whether any of the moneys appropriated thereto have been diverted to the uses of the Niobrara or any other road mentioned in said act, with the authority, if any, in that case for said diversion

 

June 22, 1866

Congressman Defrees

From the Committee on Roads and Canals, to whom was referred the bill of the House (H. R. 107) to provide for the improvement of the wagon-road from Niobrara to Virginia City.

By unanimous consent reported with a recommendation that it do not pass. So ordered and bill be laid on the table.

 

February 28, 1870

Mr. Spink, House Journal

A bill (H. R. 1394) to amend the act of the 3d of March, 1865, providing for the construction of certain wagon roads in the Territory of Dakota, to the Committee on Railways and Canals and ordered to be printed.

So printed.

February 12, 1872

Mr. Jones, Congressman

Introduced a bill (HR 1512) to construct a road from Laramie to Fort Fetterman, Cost not exceed $10,000.

Sent to Committee on Territories.

 

 

Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved.

 



[1] Reference Sawyer’s 1865 Journal on the Wagon Road.

[2] In 1866 he was nominated as a delegate to Congress by the anti-Johnson branch of the Republican Party, and apparently was no longer constructing the road. On May 4, 1866 he was ordered to turn over all monies and equipment to the government not expended.

[3] A military wagon road from Sioux City to Fort Dakota, laid when the fort was opened in Sioux Falls in 1865. The road entered the county from the south at the present Eden-Norway township line, angled northwest to avoid the Big Timber (Newton Hills) and crossed Nine Mile Creek where South Dakota Highway #11 now crosses the creek southeast of Harrisburg. The road was a rutty trail with no bridges or culverts. http://www.rootsweb.com/~sdlincol/history.htm The full route wasn’t constructed.

[4] This is not the Sawyer’s 1st Expedition funding, as it includes funding for two roads. $20,000 was established for Sawyer’s portion going to Virginia City. See May 4, 1866 resolution that established the funding level portion provided to Sawyer.




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