30 April 2010

Planning Underway for Creekway Work at Omaha Parks

The following are comments in regards to the work being planned along Happy Hollow Creek and Wood Creek in midtown Memorial Park and Elmwood Park.

Dr. Sutherland and I have discussed this project and have several comments and concerns. Particular items which we see as needing to be addressed, have been placed on a map available at:

[Online Map]

This map shows the particular items at the top of the list and as indicated with blue markers.

Especially notable is the need to remove limbs, branches, tree trunks and other debris from the creek channel. This material is and has for many years blocked the water flows, causing flooding of the woods along the banks and unneeded erosion. These "channel blocks" need to be removed, and after reviewing the proposed project plan, this particular item obviously did not receive sufficient attention, and in some cases where the worst conditions occur, were not even mentioned. The plan reviewed is targeted to costly engineering solutions, i.e., gabion baskets, rather than having a holistic approach.

Our primary concern is that the project along the creek be done in a manner sensitive to its natural setting and its associated values, especially the flora and fauna. In addition to private bird studies, both botany and ornithology classes use the Elmwood Park area for educational purposes.

We request a reply indicating that our comments have been reviewed and will be actively considered in the project design. We also request a notification of when the final design is being prepared so that we may review this plan before it is finalized.

The creekway - not a drainage ditch as identified by the plan - is a unique resource for the residents of Omaha, and this project needs to be done in a manner that is beneficial to the natural setting, as well as achieving the goal of retaining a safe recreation trail.

Dr. David M. Sutherland, also added his name to this email, sent to Omaha city officials on April 29, 2010.

27 April 2010

Variable Names for Landmarks Along Historic Middle Niobrara Valley

In the decades before maps with names for the places of the Niobrara valley were readily available, the native residents, explorers, and land surveyors designated their own attribution upon places they visited. This all started to change in the mid-1850s when government-sponsored expeditions determined features of the land and prepared maps indicating the geography for United States officials. Additional efforts contributed further insight and another set of names to some of the prominent features along the running water. Then, in the 1870s, land office surveyors toiled to define legal boundaries as the unfettered territory became parcels of government land, with names set and which would last evermore.

During the mid-1850s into the 1870s, a variety of different names were used to depict landmarks, especially the tributary creeks of the river. By evaluating the original written sources - as there are no books or online sources to conveniently reference - and considering their routes or maps in comparison with modern geography, and closely evaluating similarities for the features mentioned, it is readily possible to determine places mentioned by the few essential authors from so many years ago.

In the first years of written history, there were different names given for the different creeks and other water-related places along the middle portion of the ever-flowing Niobrara River. It is a wondrous consideration of people during the times, and how they projected their influence on a land indifferent to labels and miniscule influences on their realm, though invasive forces imposed a stricture of names and designations essential to the progression of time and people across the land of the region.

Military Expeditions in the 1850s

Lieutenant Gouverneur Kemble Warren, of the U.S. Army topographic engineers, received the assignment to determine the optimal route for a military road from Sioux City on the Missouri River, to the South Pass across the Rocky Mountains. This effort started in 1855, and would finish early in the winter of 1857.

The first presence on the river of interest was in August 1855, with the Sioux expedition under the command of Bvt. Brig. General William Selby Harney. During a portion of the journey, the big caravan went southward from Fort Pierre, past the marshlands and creeks of the eastern sandhills on their way to the Platte River and Fort Kearny, then further west to Blue Water Creek and its day of infamy, then to Fort Laramie.

Lt. Warren made daily entries in his journal, which convey the setting as they reached a prominent river on the northern fringe of the "Great Sand Hills" on August 15th.

On the map, it was designated according to the Dacota Indians, as "Mini Tonka or Big Water." Further to the east, the caption was "Niobrarah or L'Eau qui court or Rapid River." Thus, there were five names attributed in 1855, derived from nomenclature of the Indians, French trappers (who formerly had a post at the Snake River confluence), and as interpreted by the first explorers. Notably, none match its modern name.

Lt. Warren's journal has detail of the river crossing vicinity. Once on the south side, the military caravan continued seven miles and encamped on the "Wah-zee hanst kee ya," or "the place where the pine runs far out." This was spelled Wazi-han-skiya on the map. This stream is interpreted as being Long Pine Creek, a name which is still familiar.

"The prevailing wood on the Running Water and the ravines is yellow pine, but the trees are not very good." Warren wrote. "Cotton wood, scrubby oak, small ash and other trees to be found."

"Running Water is clear, .... All the ravines contain springs of clear water. The bottom of the river is hard and when the river is low can be easily forded. We found some Indian had been out a few days before as going towards the north. Our guide said they were Pankas" [Poncas].

The only other waterway of note depicted on the map showing the route of the Sioux Expedition, is the "Wamdashka Wakpi," or Snake River, with a notation of falls on its lower reach, near its confluence with the larger running water river.

Eastward Along the Niobrara Valley

Further experiences associated with the valley of the running water occurred in 1857. The Warren Expedition had finished their arduous journey along the Loup Fork and western sandhills, and after a sojourn at Fort Laramie, continued traveling, going eastward to get to Fort Randall.

The expeditionary party had been split. One group included Lt. Warren and others, including Ferdinand V. Hayden going to investigate the Black Hills and other places in southern Dacotah. Another bunch of men on the government payroll went to explore the Niobrara River valley.

The best account for the latter is given in the words expressed in the journal of topographer J. Hudson Snowden, a prominent man of the caravan, which traversed the river valley, noting its features and mentioning significant daily events.

In reaching the area of interest on September 25th, the first river tributary of interest was denoted on the map of the portion of the route as "Mini-Nape-ho, Ini-sni-he — Stinking Hand Creek" with an additional notation of "Antelope Creek." Some small teal were noted in water holes along the tributary on the 26th. The caravan camped here at its confluence with the Niobrarah, until their departure on the 27th.

"We came to a small creek with clear running water, four feet wide, very little bottom in which the grass was pretty good," Snowden wrote. "The bluffs along the L'eau qui court are similar to those mentioned yesterday and wood in the valley increased in quantity as we descend. Some pine in ravines."

A dramatic clue to the name for the creek was in the topographer's journal: "We saw to day a great many antelope. Two were killed. Before reaching camp one of the soldiers having killed an antelope one of the herders went to assist him in bringing it into camp. His mule, getting restless at the train having ... broke away from him and went back on the road which we came, the man followed him until dark. He returned being unable to catch him."

The caravan remained stationary the next day so the mule could be found, and it was located about ten miles to the west, near an Indian camp. Everything was found except a Colt pistol, which the Indians said was not in the holster when they found the mule. Snowden and Dr. Samuel Moffitt explored the lower portion of the creek, and noted that "the valley of the creek was filled with antelope."

This name remains to this day.

During the next day's travel the caravan went past a running stream which was not named. This is now known as Hay Creek.

The next tributary along the south side of the river, provided a site suitable for a stay from 28-30 September.

It was identified as "Maca sea Wakpa" or "White Earth Creek" in the written words of Snowden's daily diary. His maps, include the names of "Shiftola Wakpala (Bearroot Creek)?" and "Clay Creek." On the 28th, "large flocks of cranes passed over our camp this evening, traveling south."

Departure was at 8 o'clock on the morning of the 30th and the caravan went only three miles before their reached the creek of many names. The night's camp was about a half-mile west of the confluence of this creek at the L'eau qui court, on "a little bottom shut in by hills with good grass and plenty of wood for fuel."

This was to be a camp until October 13th. The Snowden group was awaiting the arrival of the Warren party that was in the Black Hills and southern Dacotah, so there was no great urgency to continue their travels down the river.

The creek, now known as Leander Creek, was six or seven feet wide, with clear running water, that was 18 inches to two feet in depth. The ravines were filled with small pine trees. Also along the L'eau qui court, there were "immense quantities of plum bushes laden with fruit now ripe, and grapes in profusion," Snowden indicated in his journal entry on October 1st. "Many signs of elk in the vicinity and several were seen."

Two mules were gone on October 2nd, so a search ensued. The travel hiatus continuing on the 4th, which slowed any forward progress.

On the 6th, Snowden and Dr. Moffitt went southward to explore southward, thinking they might find the Snake River. They were not successful, but noted on their return ride that they followed the "bottom valley which is narrow and low filled with springs and in many places boggy, a species of cane some fifteen feet high and very thick grow in places. While red willow grow in great profusion on the wet places while the rose and plum and cherry bushes chose higher ground." One of the horses sank in one of the bogs and was extricated, with difficulty.

The next notation, a few days' later, and pertinent to a particular landmark, though not geographic in character, is quite dramatic, and a highlight of the region's history.

For October 11th, 1857, Snowden wrote these words, vividly illustrating the interaction between the government force and the Indian residents: "About 2 p.m. twenty-two Brule Indians crossed the river and charged into the camp with their bows strung and arrows in their hands. They said, they left Snake River this morning, where they left their village and chief 'White Black Bird' who was on his death bed, and who sent his paper, given him by Gen. Harney, by one of those present, who was leading the party. They said one of their young men who was out hunting had seen us on our road and supposing we were French traders they were going to take all our property away from us. They were very indignant at our going through their country, and wanted us to pay for the privilege of passing. The said we were eating all their plums and wild fruit and burning their wood. That our horses were eating and destroying all the grass along the river. That we were killing and scaring away all the game that they met - the buffalo and antelope flying from our approach 100 miles before they reached us. That Gen. Harney has assured them no white men would come into their country without a license from him, and had told them to stop and rob any one who came into their dominion with such a passport. We had some difficulty to make them leave camp at dark, and had to threaten to fire on them before they would leave. They camped near us."

[Warren sketch of the Niobrara River Valley]

On the 12th, "The Indians left early this morning," Snowden wrote, " all of them separating, going in different directions, saying they were going to join Little Thunder when their village moves over from Snake River." Chief Little Thunder was a survivor of the Battle of Blue Water Creek, two years previous.

On the 13th, the caravan crossed the White Earth Creek, having to double the wagon teams and unload some of the wagons to ascend the steep hill.

The caravan then remained in a camp, until the Lt. Warren party arrived on the 15th, with celebration and additional time spent at the place to deal with matters. Provisions were divided and some men wanting to return to Fort Laramie were discharged. The stay continued the next day, especially since it started snowing in the evening, and continued the next day. On the morning of the 18th, there were 4 inches of snow on the ground.

Upon the departure on the 19th, Snowden used the name "Little Rapid River" as the name for what is shown as Reunion Creek on the expedition map for the mid-1850s.

This is the modern-day Bear Creek.

Their route continued along the north side of the river valley, distant enough to avoid the ravines, on the 20th making a "considerable detour to head some ravines which run out a long distance into the prairies passing over low rolling ground." Pine and cedar grew on the bluffs.

The Snake River was mentioned, even though it was not along the direct route of the caravan, bit P.M. Engel, meteorologist went exploring to this notable river, and noted some of its features.

The journey continued, and on October 23rd, the next creek was noted. The map shows it was called the "Mini Chadusa" which is now spelled Minnnechaduza and is the second prominent river in the vicinity of where the settlement of Valentine was established more than two decades later.

On the next day, after leaving the camp along the L'eau qui court, the day's entry by Snowden mentioned the availability of water from springs. On the map for this reach of the river, there is the only indication of a spring for the entire reach of the Niobrara traversed. A spring is indicated, which correlates with Tyler Falls, at the modern day Fort Niobrara NWR.

As the caravan's route subsequently went eastward along the uplands north of the river, there is little information given on features along the Niobrarah valley. Dr. Hayden did travel along the river on the 25th, and Snowden mentioned: "These ravines are filled with scrub oak, ash a few elm, plum and cherry bushes in the beds, while their sides are covered with pine."

Moving to the north, the military force, eventually crossed the Turtle Hill River, beyond the Niobrara valley, thus ending their visitation and any notes about this riverine place.

Sawyer Expeditions of 1865-66

Colonel James A. Sawyer was the commander of an expedition allocated $50,000 to establish a road from Niobrara, Nebraska to the Montana gold fields. The first journey was in the summer of 1865, along a route going east-to-west on the south side of the Niobrarah.

The first note of pertinence in Sawyer's account was on June 23, 1865: "came to Pine creek upon which we camped at 4:00 P.M. This creek has much pine and cedar timber of a second rate quality growing on its banks. Grass, wood and water plenty and good - the weather was cool in the morning but sultry in the middle of the day - Several mules in the escort train gave out during the day."

This is probably Long Pine Creek.

On the "28th. Severe thunder shower last night and some rain this morning. The first two miles of our days travel today were quite rough and broken but at the end of that distance we entered the valley of Bear creek which, running from the west, enabled us to travel up to it for about 9 miles when we made a ford and crossed over and camped on the north side at 2:00 P.M. - The creek valley is about 3/4 of a mile wide level and covered with a most luxuriant growth of grass. - It seemed to be the finest place for farming that we had seen, though for timber one would have to go to the river, distant about 5 miles. The stream is very sluggish, being backed up by a succession of beaver dams. No wood at this camp but plenty of 'buffalo chips'."

The next day, ... "we passed a very fine stream about 6 feet wide, running very swiftly over a rocky bed over which a ford was made without difficulty - below the ford the ledges break off very fast, making a canyon through which the stream races - the sides were composed of lime and sand stone rock embedded in which Dr. Tingley discovered the fossil remains of two huge tortoises, quite perfect and entire. The transverse diameter of each could not have been less than 3 feet."

Early July was torrid. The high mark of the daily temperature exceeded 100o, for several days. A temperature of 103o was noted on July 2nd - "two oxen died from the heat during the day and a soldier was rendered insensible through sunstroke." On the 3rd, it was 100o at 1:00 p.m., according to Sawyer's journal, with 104o to day's high on Independence day.

Further along, Sawyer's journal for August 8th, mentioned a tributary which conforms well with the modern-era Medicine Creek: "arrived at a fine spring stream over which we made a ford and camped on the west side in a very fine site - plenty of grass at camp, and wood on the river half a mile below camp - the surface of the country here very fine to travel over - the river at this point flows in a single channel over a rocky bed and through a canyon 80 to 100 feet in depth though in some places the ground slopes gradually from the plateau to the river bed, alternating on either side - very recent Indian signs were seen and one of the scouts saw where an antelope had been killed by them on yesterday."

In subsequent days, mention was made of Antelope Creek and Rush Creek, well known in Sheridan County today.

There were few additional notes pertinent to this discourse, but in 1866, more facts of interest were presented in the account of the journey to the gold fields of the mountain west..

The account for the middle Niobrara River, comes into focus on June 18th, when Sawyer's caravan nooned at Pine Creek. About 5.4 miles further along, was Harlan Springs, where the group "corralled."

This particular locality cannot be determined with accuracy, but it was certainly a spring-branch canyon on the southern side of the valley.

Further west - on June 19th - was a tributary dubbed Lone Pine Creek. "This beautiful stream is 25 feet wide, cool, clear and rapid with gravel bed - timber typically burr oak and pine," is possibly Plum Creek, based on the distance from Long Pine Creek.

On the 20th, they reached "Bear Creek" after traversing about 14 miles. This is likely Fairfield Creek, based on the distance from the previous landmark, and as it flows straight from the west as mentioned in the travel narrative.

The caravan once again nooned on another creek on June 21st. The name given in the historic account was "Fossil Creek," and was 13 miles west of Bear Creek. This is likely Schlagel Creek, the next prominent creek westward.

Camp on the night of the 21st was further upriver. Sawyer and the many others "corralled at the mouth of Bogus Snake creek on the Niobrara river - the scenery at this camp was very fine, the bluffs along the river rivaling in grandeur the Palisades of the Hudson..." The details of the narrative point to their being at Gordon Creek, since after departure from camp, the next tributary mentioned was the Snake River, well-known to explorers, and mentioned further: "The river here was about 100 feet wide and about 18 inches deep with a rock bottom. The scenery above the crossing is grand, the river descending over numerous falls of from 6 to 25 feet, the nearly perpendicular walls of the canyon being composed of lime, sand stone and marl, among which are many fossil remains. Pine in abundance grows along this stream."

The people on the move continued on their way, and about 25 miles further west, was another prominent flow. It was called Deep Creek, where it was hot, the "mercury at noon 95 degrees in the shade." Details convey that this was most likely Medicine Creek.

There are few additional details of the flowing waters along the Niobrarah, except for a reference to a spring branch on June 27th. This could have been one of the flows from the canyons along the north side of the river, between Medicine Creek and Rush Creek, which was reached on the 28th.

Diary of Dr. Maghee

Dr. Thomas G. Maghee was the physician hired to accompany the Yale University expedition of 1873, in pursuit of ancient bones desired by Othniel Charles Marsh, a professor of the college.

They departed from Fort McPherson in the Platte Valley and reached the Niobrara in latter June, about a half mile below Antelope Creek. One of the notable places mentioned in the Doctor's terse account was a notable boiling spring: "During the day we found and named Fossil Spring," his journal noted. "It springs out of solid rock in a high bluff North bank of river about 19 miles below mouth of Antelope Creek."

This is likely Leander Creek, and it is about this distance eastward from Antelope Creek.

On the 4th of July, his journal with its distinctive misspellings, indicates: "Well when I remember last 4th and realize what my present situation is I exclaim "What hath God Wrought" Believing as I do that there is no luck but pluck and good management I ascribe to the Infinite the praise realizing that only the energy with which he endowed me has enabled me to achieve my present success. We communicate with the 2nd Cavelry tomorrow having marched nearly twelve miles today and camped in the forks of the rapid creek & Niobrara. We are 2700 ft. above the level of the sea at Antelope creek we were 4200. This is a magnifficent Camp and the Rapid Creek is a swift clear stream about ten ft. wide 1 ft. deep. Wooded at its mouth. There is about 5 miles by three between the two rivers flat and pretty over the N. there is a beautiful grove, plenty of timber a nice place for a ranch."

This was likely the Minnechaduza River. This was it for the Niobrara notes by this expedition, as the party then went southward to return to the Platte River.

Land-Office Surveys of the 1870s

The most-detailed renditions of the land were made by the government surveyors, marking lines for the principal meridian lines, townships and individual sections to mark parcels, which would eventually become property to be claimed by homesteaders. The hired men of the land-office were required to denote primary features and accurately mark and map the territory. Their notes indicate the features present during the dates of their work, documented by the myriad of land office surveys. A detailed map and description was prepared for every township.

It was an ongoing progression from south to the north, and east to west.

There is little to note about the origins of place name, as the attributes given on the maps match the modern names. This includes Fairfield Creek, Schlagel Creek and Gordon Creek. Snake Creek was the name given for the Snake River. Going westward along the river, the place names noted conform with the names still used in modern times. Medicine Creek was noted as a spring branch.

Leander Creek was identified as a spring-branch creek, based on surveys in the latter 1870s. Antelope Creek kept its moniker, as indicated on the map of the township, and as a name which is still the proper attribution more than 125 years later.

Considering Landmark History

During the first years of history along the Niobrara River, the designated names were based on the perspective of the person writing about them. The Brule Indians did not write history, so their names were known only from what they told trappers and military men intruding into the territory. As the historic period progressed, the place names garnered some consistency as people used a common name again and again to refer to some site, in order to indicate it in a manner that would be readily known.

Indian names with their distinct spelling, distinctive pronunciation and probably because of unwanted memories, fell out of favor. Derivative names held sway, in some cases as the era of settlement descended. Pioneer stockmen with their hired hands used names that eventually came to be the standard of nomenclature for the various localities along the river. Despite the obvious gaps in the maps from the Land Office surveys, names continued in common use and made their way onto maps used to guide settlers to the western frontier.

Despite the near loss of the original names, their distinctive attributions are a profound aspect of the native culture, and should never be forgotten when considering the history of the region.

Along the Loup Fork and Through the Sandhills in 1857

A military party led by Lieutenant Governeur Kemble Warren, topographic engineer, U.S. Army, was ordered to explore the Nebraska and Dacota territories to devise the best route for a military road from Sioux City to the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains. The explorations started with the Sioux Expedition in 1855 with its summer season expedition along the Missouri River and then southward through the eastern sandhills and west to Fort Laramie, and in 1856 to the Yellowstone River region.

The primary object of the military force reconnaissance in 1857 was to was to examine the valley of the Loup Fork and the Niobrara River to determine their character.

It was an ordeal long remembered by men of the expedition, based on the scribbles of the original journals written by topographer J. Hudson Snowden, Edgar W. Warren, and Lt. Warren. Their comments are actually quite brief in their entirety with typically only a single page or a few sentences written for each entry.

Snowden had the best penmanship, as his journal is the most expansive and descriptive, Mr. Warrens words were brief and provided interesting but mundane details. Lt. Warren's wrote in an small notebook, with the text difficult to read, and there were problems due to fading, which tends to make it less possible to determine what the Lieutenant wrote.

Each of these journals are preserved, and available on microfilm - including those from the sandhills and other places visited - as part of the collection of Lt. Warren's papers at the New York State Library in Albany.

Also of importance, Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden was the expedition's geologist and naturalist, responsible for findings relative to these topics. He prepared summary reports after the expedition was over, with a major portion issued as a "Catalogue of the Collections in Geology and Natural History." This includes details on plants and birds, with specimens of the latter still present in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Further details on the birds were noted by Spencer Fullerton Baird, John Cassin and George N. Lawrence in their 1860 tome, "The Birds of North America; the Descriptions of Species Based Chiefly on the Collections in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution." Two particular highlights along the lower Loup Fork, during July, were collected specimens of the Piping Plover and Vesper Sparrow. The bird specimens document the first ever known occurrence of these two types of birds to the scientific world, neither have ever been previously collected or identified anywhere in the United States, or the world, for that matter.

Other principals of the party included a second topographer, P.M. Engel, the meteorologist W.P.C. Carrington, surgeon Dr. Samuel Moffitt. The Second Infantry escort party was under the command of Lieutenant James McMillan.

Highlights are given in the following account which presents unique history from nearly fifteen decades ago.

An Arduous Journey

At the Loup Fork on July 15th, Lieutenant Warren's group recently arrived from Sioux City, met up with the other contingent of men and equipment that had left Omaha City, the supply depot on the Missouri River, on June 28th. The route crossed the Elk Horn River, on to the Platte River, past Fremont City and Columbus, and northwest along the Loup Fork, as the Loup River was called at the time. They paid to use the ferry crossing of the Loup, with one wagon and its team taken across on each float trip.

The military party "Moved up the Loup Fork with the whole command consisting of the escort from the 2nd Inf. under Lt. James McMillan consisting of 16 men and two noncommissioned officers," Lt. Warren described his July 19th journal entry. "Myself and six assistants before mentioned and 24 employees employed in teamster herd, etc. Five of the latter being employed for the Quarter Master dept to drive the teams of the escort." ... "Mr. Johnson is wagon master, Curtis and Lamoureaux are hunters. The train consists of 11 wagons and an ambulance. There are 77 mules 33 of which are Quarter Master and 23 horses. The loads in the wagons do not exceed 1500 lbs. Our whole number of persons is 51 and we have provisions for about one month."

The days of travel through the area of particular interest in the interior sandhills started on the first days of August, with particular attention being given here to the two weeks from August 1 to 13th. At the end of July, the expeditionary force, traveling along the north side of the Loup, passed the confluence of the Sand Hill Fork, now known as the Dismal River.

While the main group continued along the Loup, exploratory parties went forth to explore other nearby areas.

August 1 - Saturday

Snowden indicated that the military force... "Remained in camp on account of one of the teamsters who has been sick several days with a kind of Billious Typhoid fever which has been gradually getting worse and Dr. Moffet expressed his opinion that the man would die if he was not kept quiet until the crisis of his disease had passed. Dr. Hayden who had been out to N of camp came in and reported having seen fresh Indian and horse tracks about one mile distant which must have been made by a war party."

Birds collected and preserved as specimens by Dr. F.V. Hayden, as noted in the historic record: Brown-headed Cowbird, Lark Bunting and Red-winged Blackbird.

August 2

"Mr. Engel went up the river and I proceeded north from the camp," Snowden wrote. "I traveled about 15 miles over sand ridges without seeing any water, when I came to a valley evidently the head of a creek. here I found water in holes. I rode down the valley for about two miles the water holes increasing in number and size and I think I would have soon come to running water when at 2 o'c[lock] pm a violent thunder storm which had been threatening us for some time broke upon us putting an end to the survey, and I returned. I think the valley which I found is the head of the North Fork of the Loup River. Mr. Warren and Dr. Hayden found the fork of Loup River which we passed July 30, about 16 miles south of the camp, running between rocky hills of the Mauvaises terres formation, in which Dr. Hayden found some fossils, Bones turtles etc. Sand hills extend all the way between our camp and this stream. Mr. Engel found wood on Loup F. some 16 miles above. In the valley of the creek which I discovered I found good grass but no wood. I also saw the carcasses of eight or ten buffalo cows, killed within the last ten days some of them were butchered and others seemed not to have been touched. I saw a great many antelope in the Sand hills."

During the day in camp, "it rained and blowed very hard in the afternoon one of the tents was blown down," E.W. Warren noted.

August 3

On Monday, the 3rd, Snowden said there was nothing of importance worth mentioning in his daily journal.

Birds collected: Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Yellowthroat, Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark.

August 4

Departure was at 6:30 a.m. A wild animal caused trouble in the morning, as described by Snowden: "a jack ass rabbit stampeded the herd and the ambulance, which contained the sick man, they ran down the steep hill and the carriage was in danger of being upset several times. This fortunately did not happen, as it might have killed the sick man in his feeble condition." ... "The river to day was tortuous in its course cutting first the bluffs on the right and then those on the left it is about 35 to 40 yds wide, is about five feet deep in channel, with sand bottom and easy to ford." ... "A great many plum and cherry bushes flourish around our camp, the latter being loaded with fruit."

Lt. Warren noted that the coffee and sugar was gone.

Birds collected: Blue Grosbeak, Burrowing Owl and Lark Sparrow.

August 5

"Ascending the bluff we wound around amongst the hills until within 7 miles of our camp where we struck a buffalo trail which led us very straight through a valley between the hills until we came upon the river where a branch comes in from the south," Snowden wrote. "We camped upon the bluffs, not being able to descend into the valley, the hills being very steep and broken of soft clay rock. Some cedar and oak grow in the ravines."

Birds collected: Black-billed Cuckoo, Blue Grosbeak, Common Yellowthroat, Lark Sparrow and Orchard Oriole.

August 6

The narrow character of the river valley caused travel troubles as "being unable to follow along the river we made a detour to the right - around the hills, following a buffalo or Indian trail (I do not know which)," Snowden wrote. "This led us through valleys of ranges of sand and gravelly hills covered with course grass and weeds and all presenting the same appearance." ... "The water in the river rapidly failing, not being more than four feet wide and one foot deep at this place."

"To day we travelled 22 7/10 miles," wrote E.W. Warren, "our road was over sand hills in some places where the road was between the hills the road was quite good our camp today is in the valley where the grass is very good but no wood the Loup Fork River is a short distance from camp.

Birds collected: Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher, Lark Bunting, Lark Sparrow and Western Kingbird.

August 7

Departure from camp at 6 a.m.

"We travelled one mile up the valley of the river when we were forced to leave it and take to the sand hills on the right hand, through which we travelled for about seven miles, when after crossing a ridge we came into the valley of the river where it turns to the north," Snowden wrote. "Here we found the water had given out and we turned down the valley. After proceeding a half mile in this direction we found water in holes. We camped in good grass but no wood. Mr. Engle and one of the men went ahead in a NW direction for nine miles to see what prospect there was of obtaining water. They found several lakes in the hills."

"We have now traversed the river from end to end and found its impracticability for almost any purpose so marked that," wrote Lt. Warren. "It seems like a great waste of time to have made the exertions we have. Our greatest wish is to get away from it as soon as possible and never return."

August 8

After following the dim river for about one-half mile, the military caravan struck through the sandhills, and went in a north, then west direction, preferably following a valley between ranges of sand hills, according to Snowden. They passed a small lake containing fresh water, and from a ridge, saw three lakes in sight in a nearby valley. A few miles further, there were several small lakes scattered about in the valleys, then a pond.

"Passing this we came into a broad opening between the hills following which for six or seven miles without finding water we crossed two ridges and our animals having given out we had to camp without water or wood - grass here is pretty good," Snowden wrote.

They made 29 miles, the greatest distance traveled during a single day while traversing the sand hills, obviously benefiting from the hard ground of the valleys through which they passed.

Birds collected: Black Tern and Solitary Sandpiper.

August 9, Sunday

After indicating a 7 a.m. departure time, Snowden wrote: ..."After proceeding some distance we discovered ahead of us quite a large lake of water. We hastened forward but on arriving at the lake found the water so impregnated with salts as to be unfit for use. One of the men came in here and reported having discovered a lake of fresh water two and half miles to the north. We camped and sent all the animals over to the fresh water lake and one wagon to bring water back for the camp. These salt-water lakes are entirely destitute of vegetation on their banks (except for a salt rush), the water presents a slimy, appearance and the shore for several yards from the water's edge are encrusted with a white deposit of sale. The hills in the vicinity of our camp are sandy containing a growth of scattered course grass, and many sand cherry bushes, which grow to the height of about one foot, and laden with fruit now ripe. The grass in the valley is good, but there is no wood." ... "Many flies and mosquitoes infest these lakes, and they annoy both men and animals a great deal."

The crew sent for water returned with 60 gallons and some bit of ash, found during their foray. They had traveled seven miles for the water and wood.

Bird collected: Sandhill Crane.

August 10

Snowden wrote that a short distance west of camp, a ridge of hills was crossed: ... "came into a valley where there was a salt lake, with many rushes growing around the edges and fine grass upon the banks. Crossing another ridge we came into a valley where there were two fresh lakes, a luxuriant growth of grass, rushes, and weed around them and a few stunted ash trees, gooseberry and cherry bushes on the sides of the hills. A little above these we passed a salt lake and crossing a bad ridge of sand hills, came into a valley, which led to the south west, following this direction, occasionally crossing ridges and passing dry beds of lakes."

Camp was ready to be struck at mid-afternoon, near a brackish lake, but by digging, only a little fresh was obtained, so the caravan continued, and camp was instead made at a lake about two miles further along the westward route.

"The route to day was very sandy and hard on the animals," Snowden wrote, "especially when crossing the ridges between the valleys, where the winds cut the sand out of the sides of the hills, and blows away all the vegetation."

"A good idea of the saltiness of these lakes can be had at a distance from the amount of vegetation in them," Lt. Warren wrote, "those with quite salt being well defined and no rushes and the fresh ones being nearly covered with grass, rushes, flags, etc., and their margins badly defined.

Traveled 22 miles.

Birds collected: Red-winged Blackbird and Solitary Sandpiper.

August 11

No traveling was done this day, as Dr. Moffitt and others were sick, with bilious remittent fevers. Warren did however ride out to see what was ahead on the route.

Snowden's horse ride for the day was going 18 1/2 miles back along the route of the previous days' travel, to look for his lost watch, according to Warren.

Two Brule Indians were discovered by one of the men out hunting. One was induced to come to camp, and reported that there were "60 lodges of the tribe encamped with two miles." They also mentioned buffalo were plenty on the L'eau qui court.

"He seemed frightened," Snowden wrote, "when he saw soldiers in our camp, and would not have come into our camp but he was assured by the men who brought him in there were none with us - he evidently still retained recollection of Blue Water."

It was a good day to not have to tolerate harshness of travel, as the high temperature for the day was 100o at 2 p.m., this being the highest temperature recorded during the 1857 expedition, according to Hayden's account.

"When a storm brought darkness on us unexpectedly and we could not make our way through the sand hills," Lt. Warren wrote, "so we had to stay out the night. A small shower of rain relieved us from heat but did not drive away the mosquitoes which tormented us all night so that we could not rest at all."

Bird collected: American Bittern.

August 12

Expedition remained in camp. Lt. Warren returned in the morning, and reported that the L'eau qui Court was about twenty miles to the northwest.

"They slept near our camp in the hills and in the night a travois and several Indians passed in a very few yards of them evidently frightened by our presence," Snowden indicated, "and were making their escape. The Indian who was in our camp yesterday, came in again bringing two others. We had no good interpreter and could not elicit much information from them, besides they seemed uneasy at to appearance in the country and were reserved. Mr. Warren gave them each a shirt and a knife, when they went upon their way, rejoicing."

Birds collected: Lark Sparrow and Marsh Wren.

August 13

Departure was a little before 6 a.m.

"After travelling around a ridge of sand hills about four and half miles we came into a valley of a large lake 2 1/2 to 3 miles long," Snowden wrote. "Wet sandy bottoms surround this lake with fine grass. After traveling eight miles we passed three lodges belonging to the Indians who were in our camp yesterday. The 60 lodges they spoke of having, dwindled down to these three." ... "Bordering the bottom we followed, a small creek flowed from this lake called Pine Cr. called so probably from the fact there is no pine upon it. Leaving this we followed a Indian lodge trail which brought us to L'eau qui court River. The country here assumes quite a different appearance from that through which we have been travelling for some time. The bluffs along the river being composed of soft white rock cut perpendicular in some places by the river which here winds it way," ... "A few cottonwoods fringe the river." Grass was pretty good.

Overnight "it rained quite hard, we passed an Indian camp to day," wrote E.W. Warren, "we also passed one lake to day our camp is by the L'Eau qui court river grass here is quite good and there is some wood a short distance from where we are camped."

An Eastern Meadowlark specimen was collected during the day.

The military command, after going along Pine Creek, followed an Indian trace northwesterly to reach the L'eau qui court River later in the day. The command had traversed slightly fewer than 150 miles in their arduous journey through the unforgiving hills.

The expedition then continued their march westward along the Niobrara, and onward to Fort Laramie. After a brief respite at the Fort on the North Platte River, the caravan continued its travels, going easterly. Lt. Warren and Hayden, plus others went to the Black Hills, while the Snowden group followed the Niobrara River during the autumn days. Their rendezvous was in mid-October at Reunion Creek, now known as Bear Creek. The entire military expedition then continued to Fort Randall, then to Sioux City, ending the three year's of exploration.

Warren's Summation

In his officially issued government report, Lt. Warren wrote three paragraphs which summarized the reconnaissance travels along the Loup, through the sand hills, and northward to the Niobrara River.

"The united party now set out on their journey westward on the Loup Fork, meeting with no serious difficulties on the route (except the quicksands in crossing the main north branch) till we came to within 50 miles of the source of the stream. Here the river became shut up in a gorge impassable for wagons, and we were forced out among the difficult sandhills which border the bluffs, and which extend north to the Niobrara and south nearly to the Platte. They also extend much further east, but they occasioned us no difficulties till we were forced to leave the bank of the stream.

"We finally came to the source of the Loup Fork, and from this point endeavored to proceed as directly as possible north to the Niobrara, for we were somewhat apprehensive of losing everything, for want of water, by endeavoring to push our way westward through the Sand Hills. These hills, however, were so impracticable for wagons that we were forced much more to the west than we desired, and one day we were unable to find water to camp by. There are numerous lakes in this Sand Hill country, but many of them are too much impregnated with salts to be wholesome. Some of these latter our animals drank out of without injury. On reaching the longitude of 102o 30' we had the good fortune to find an open stretch of country, with a large, well-marked lodge-trail leading between the Platte and Niobrara, which, in one day's travel northward, brought us to the Niobrara. We now proceeded rapidly over an easy route to Fort Laramie.

"During the journey there had been considerable sickness in the camp from fevers, and one of the men was so near the point of death that a halt of several days was made for his benefit. Dr. Moffitt also became so ill as to require a delay of one or two days. These necessary stoppages, the difficulties of the route, rainy weather, together with my being obliged to leave so much of our provisions behind at Sioux City, reduced our supplies to a small amount, and for nearly two weeks we were without sugar or coffee. We had also been very much disappointed in the amount of game; and though the country gave evidence of having recently been occupied by large herds of buffalo, only a few bulls were seen. During the early part of the journey, mosquitoes were abundant, and allowed our animals no rest at night, and immense numbers of flies attacked them by day. These insects, combined, exhausted and worried the animals more than the labor they performed, and the lives of one or two were saved only by covering them with grease and tar to keep the flies and mosquitoes away."

Route in the Western Sandhills

Maps drawn by Mr. Snowden and other historic references can be used to accurately delineate the actual route taken by the military caravan. During the first days of August, the route followed along the main branch of the Middle Loup River, while staying primarily on the north side of the channel, and eventually continuing westward along the North Branch.

On August 2nd, when the exploratory parties went north and south. To the north they reached the lower reaches of Calf Creek, near its confluence with the North Loup River. To the south, they noted the Fork of Loup River as it was then designated, which is now known as the Dismal River.

The next few days, the route of the wagons continued along the valley of the Middle Loup River. Where the North Branch of the Middle Loup, turns northward - about three miles west of civilization's north Whitman Road, the party followed the diminishing prong until it turned westward, and continued northward, winding through the dunes and valleys.

On the 8th, the route had left the Loup branch, moving in a northwesterly direction, trying to follow an optimal route of travel. The first three group of three lakes they went past, were the currently named Carrico Lakes, then west of School Section Lake and near Bristol Lake. Then the party traversed through Survey Valley, and at near the end of the day's travel, went northward across Ideal Valley and into Waupan Valley, where camp was made.

The excursion after water made on the 9th, was north from Big Hill Valley, and in the direction of Osborne Lakes, which may have been the source of the fresh water and bit of wood for a cooking fire.

The flat valley land was followed westward, and on the 10th, went past Big Hill, and the areas of water in the valley on its south side. Further along, they passed Rucker Lake and then in a couple of miles, Sandoz Lake. The flat lands of western Survey Valley provided a suitable route until camp was reached at the end of the day, at a small unnamed lake, which is about four miles east of the southern end of the expansive Twin Lakes.

Leaving camp on the 13th, the wagons rolled on the east side of the Twin Lakes valley, east of Cravath Lake, continuing for a few miles along Pine Creek, passing Smith Lake WMA, and then northwest until reaching the Niobrara River.

Expedition Considerations

The expedition by the men of the Warren expedition is a vividly interesting view of the dune region of nearly 150 years ago. There are obvious indications that the desolate hills were much drier, as lakes noted which were very alkaline and the sparseness of grass. Blowouts were present and waterways which now retain a flow were in the mid-1850s, dry except for small intermittent pools of water. There was obviously less woody growth than the hordes of trees which currently occur.

The August sighting of a sandhill crane indicates its presence during the breeding season, perhaps having nested in the wetlands of what is now Big Hill Valley. This species not currently known to nest in the western sandhills, and probably hasn't for more than a century.

What is especially perplexing - for a researcher interested in the minutiae of history - is that the set of associated journals, for such a well-documented expedition, has not been issued in their entirety with all the ancillary notations, maps, pictures, figures and the other details which would indicate the times and events in all their glorious perspective. Numerous other historic expeditions have benefited from this sort of thorough transcription. There are a myriad of these accounts of the western frontiers to read, yet this pivotal exploration throughout the Nebraska and Dakota territories is seemingly "lost history" not really available to read, ponder and enjoy.

Perhaps some historian might get be captivated by this pivotal history for the region, and resolve to undertake the ordeal to complete such a task to detail the memories of this great adventure for the Great Sand Hills of Nebraska.

The history of the region is conveyed nowhere else for this period, other than in the descriptive set of journals, maps and reports for the expeditionary force which went forth into an unknown realm in the mid-1850s to document a land not at all known to a nation spreading across the western frontier.

Historic Battle of Blue Creek Attracted Carrion Birds

The mighty Sioux Expedition of the U.S. Army was traversing the western frontier of the Nebraska and Dakota Territories in 1855, dealing with conditions and noting the apparent scenes and situations. Included among the historic record was a particular journal that is a dramatic record for two species along the North Platte River, noted among so many other ancillary entries in a journal from many other places on the frontier.

Lieutenant Gouverneur Kemble Warren was an officer with the Sioux Expedition led by General William Selby Harney, U.S. Army. The caravan, comprised of a few hundred men with associated stock-drawn wagons and equipment, left Fort Pierre, traversed through the eastern sand hills, and after a hiatus at Fort Kearny on the Platte, continuing westward to what would be a day of infamy of the American west.

Lt. Warren's journal conveys the minutiae of events, when after the tragedy of battle, he mentioned of a couple of types of birds, which contribute unique details essential to any consideration of historic ornithology.

Using the original notes written by Warren, the scenario for the scene is best presented as actually experienced by this military officer. The following transcription of the pertinent days is based on the hand-written journal of the Lieutenant, and is derived from an interpretation of a printed copy of the microfilm record and ancillary documents which help with proper spelling of names. Although this is a lengthy account to get a couple of records for birds, the historic context is very profound and conveys a few days in the middle 1850s when military forces were encroaching upon the typicals ways of life on the plains.

To set the scene, the military caravan of the Sioux Expedition was going westward along the lower extent of the North Platte River, west of the Platte River fork in the Nebraska territory.

"Sunday Sept. 2

"The last part of the descent into Ash Hollow is exceedingly bad. I think with 20 men in a week the whole could be made so that teams need not be even doubled in ascending.

"It has been very hot to day and one horse gave out. Two had been left at morning camp. - About noon passed a return train from Laramie. Report 40 Lodges of Brules under Little Thunder encamped opposite Ash Hollow, 2 miles from river. ...

"During the evening no Indians came in from the camp which was plainly visible from the Bluffs about 5 miles distant and the lodges were variously counted between 26 & 33. The guide Lesson said the camp was on a small running stream about knee deep.

"Genl. Harney having concluded to attack them in the morning and sent for most of his officers obtained their opinions and unfolded his plans. The result was that the mounted force / 1 co. of Art. under Capt. Howe, 1 Co. dragoons under Capt. Steele, 1 Co. do under Lieut. Robertson, 1 mounted Inf. under Capt. Heth / under Col. Cooke was to set out quietly at 3 next morning and gain a position in rear of their camp. The Infantry under Maj. Curry (Five companies under Maj. North, Capt. Todd, Capt. Wharton, Lieut. Patterson and Lieut. McCleary) to set out at reveille (4 a.m. their usual hour of march) and proceed directly to the Indian Camp.

"Capt. Van Vliet and Lieut. Clark quartermasters stayed behind to guard the train as did also Lieut. Balch with his stores.

"Monday Sept. 3rd

"The plan made last night was fully carried out, the only exception being that the Infantry were not allowed to cross the river till it was sufficiently light for us to see their lodges, and thus give all the time that could be allowed for the mounted force to get into position.

Genl. Harney and his staff accompanied the Infantry. After crossing the river and advancing about a mile some Indians mounted were seen on the low round hills to our right, and having satisfied themselves set off at a gallop for their villages. As soon as we could see the Indians camp we discovered they were running off up the valley of the stream, and by the time we came opposite it had struck nearly all the lodges and gone. The hindermost kept about a mile in advance. We did not go through the villages but left it about 1/2 mile to our left.

"Capt. Todd's Co. formed the advance as guard, and I having obtained permission from Genl. Harney, accompanied him.

"It soon became evident that we were not going to come up with the enemy, and Genl. Harney was very apprehensive he would escape especially so from the first thrust. Maj. Northrup, who had been sent to the right to reconnoiter had reported that he believed the ground was too bad for the mounted men to reach their position. In order to gain time and to learn something of the desperation of these Indians, Genl. H. sent the Interpreter Campbell forward to propose a talk upon which the Chief Little Thunder came out to meet him and said he would come in if the troops were halted so as not to approach nearer his people. This being done a halt took place on both sides, and the talk began and lasted about half an hour. Both sides being anxious spectators but few knowing it nature and none the result. I heard only a portion, as I was much of the time on a hill to our right, reconnoitering.

"I could see Indians on all the prominent hills, and a large number were on the side of the steep rocky bluffs to our left front. A number of men were immediately in front of us and when they saw me horses went our further to our right to watch me. Not being able on my part to see anything of our mounted force and being apprehensive that my position would lead them to think or suspect what it was waiting for, I came down, and reported.

"The substance of the talk was Genl. H. you sent for me to come and fight you or have a talk and now you are running away. Little Thunder said he did not want to fight and he was afraid to talk with so many soldiers. He acknowledged there were bad men in his party but that he had done all he could for peace. He said if we were bad why would we be here. Why not have gone off like the other Indians. He said the Indian agent had sent for him. I do not know all he said about the agent. Genl. H. told him we did not want him to stay here. That they only did so to steal and plunder. Only the other day they had gone into some emigrants camp, and kicked over his coffee pot. That their great father had paid them to keep off this road and let his white children pass and that as for the Indian agt. He (Genl. H.) did not mind what he said more than the [letters not legible]ing of a prairie day. That they must fight he wanted to fight them They had fallen on 30 of our men at Laramie hundreds at once and wiped them out, and none stood up to help them, now he was ready to fight, he wanted them to come on, he had not come here for nothing.

"This talk was much lengthened till finally a great stir was observed and judging (or as it afterwards proved aright) that they had discovered the mounted force in their rear. Genl. H. told him to go and to tell his young men they must fight, he mounted and was off like an arrow.

"The advance was sounded and by the time the chief had joined his comrades, the firing in our part commenced, with the mini ball. The range being at least 1/3 or half a mile. The Indians at full speed ran in every direction [words not legible] the top of the hills and if any were killed before this was affected they were carried off. The Ind. assembled in a large body on top of the hill which toward us was very steep and cut up with ravines. The creek was also between us and the Indians.

"This creek was an unexpected sight to most of us, beautiful clear water sandy bottom thick grassy on banks 3 to 4 ft. deep 20 to 30 wide and exceedingly crooked.

"The Sioux call it Mee-na To wakh-pah Creek, or Blue Water Creek.

"Capt. Todd as soon as he began ferry crossed the stream and moved up the heights to our left. Majr. Cady with two companies towards the right. The reserve was soon detached to support Capt. Todd. The firing of our troops in the Indians rear was now heard and as this was the first certain information we had of their presence our man sent up portrayed shouts.

"The Indians immediately fled from the hill. Crossing the valley toward the east receiving a flank fire from Maj. Cady, and direct in their rear from those who had gained the hill all however at great range. They were pursued at full speed by the dragoons for several miles between 8 & 12 and, many killed, all the troops joined in the chase, but those not mounted were soon distanced.

"The mounted Inf. lost precious time from getting entangled in a slough.

"The recall was sound about 9 a.m., and the troops had all returned by 12, bringing in many prisoners and horses.

"I went as far as Genl. Harney's staff went; none of which could get ahead of the Infantry during the fight with getting their fire. I picked up a little Indian girl and took her to Genl. H. and there handed her over the Campbell. At this time the recall having been sounded, I went with others in search of the wounded. The sight on top of the hill was heard rendering - wounded women & children crying and moaning, horribly mangled by the bullets. Most of this had been occasioned by these creatures taking refuge in holes in the rocks, and armed Indians sheltering themselves in the same places. These latter fired upon our men killing 2 men & wounding another of the artillery company. Our troops then fired in upon their retreat. Two Indian men were killed in the whole and two as they came out. 7 women were killed in the hole & 3 children. 2 of them in their mother's arms. One young woman was wounded in the left shoulder the ball going in above and coming out below her arm. I put her on my horse. Another handsome young squaw was badly wounded just above her left knee and the same ball wounded her baby in the right knee. Her case interested me much she cried so much, and was continually turning to her babe and singing in the most distressing tones 'tu-kee-ee-e-e' (chick-a-see-e-e-e) with sobs and sighs. Her words mean o god - my poor child. Her father has also been killed. I had a litter made and put her and her child upon it. I found another girl of about 12 years lying with her head down in a ravine and apparently dead observing her breath. I had a man take her in his arms she was shot through both feet. I found a little boy, shot through the calves of his leg & through his hams. I took in my arms. He had enough strength left to hold me round the neck, with his piteous look we proceeded down the hill and placing them on the bank of the Blue Water. I made a shelter to keep off the sun and bathed their wounds with the stream. This same office has performed for those brought in wounded by the others in the morning. One little girl was shot in the right breast. A boy in the thigh another in his arm. A poor Ogallallah woman was shot badly in the shoulder by a dragoon after the fight was over he saw her concealed in the grass and mistook her for a man. This woman and the one I brought down the hill on my horse were in some way left behind. All the others were brought to Dr. Ridgeley and from him and all his assistants received all the attention that skill and humanity could bestow.

"I did not get back to camp till the last of the command (10 P.M.) at which time it was raining hard. During the morning we had the prospect of a thunder shower to the S.W. and heard the noise. At 9 o'clock P.M. we had a slight one from the N.E.

"After getting to camp I aided in dress their wounds.

"I had endeavored to take a topographical sketch of the scene, but the calls of humanity prevented my doing much.

"The wounds received by our men were very severe. 5 of them mortal ones.

"The Indian men did not fight while running would do but when cornered they defend themselves nobly. The spirit of our men in no instance foiled them in their attack on these desperate savage and all that stopped were killed some it is said with the sword.

"One of the Indian guides ?Desomet who went out with the dragoons armed with my shot gun had a most narrow escape with his life.

"The infantry took him for an enemy and charged upon him, he laid down the gun to show he was a friend (he could not speak English) and the arrival of some one who knew him saved his life. The gun however was captured by a man of Capt. Todd's Co. who claimed to have shot an Indian with his own gun. The hero of this achievement felt very little next morning when I proved the gun was mine and the man who carried it was alive. I was disgusted with the tales of valor on the field, for there were but few who killed anything but a flying foe.

"The feeling of sympathy for the wounded women and children and deep regret for their being so, I found universal. It could not be helped.

"Many papers were picked up belonging to the mail that was robbed at the time 3 men killed, and other evidences showing there were plenty of bad Indians in camp. [word not legible] were also found supposed to have been taken at the Gratton massacre. In fact Little Thunder did not deny that his band were engaged in their affairs. Little Thunder it is thought is not killed and as he impressed us favorably we felt glad he was not.

"Campbell says there is 31 lodges of Brules 11 of Ogallallahs. There were between 60 & 70 prisoners (5 Ogallallahs the squaws & 3 children 2 of the latter wounded, of Chanta Pertan gah - he is probably a good Indian I have his papers). There were horses & mules taken & all the lodges with nearly all their property. The Indian camp was broken up with great haste breakfast was just cooking. Many of them had not eaten. When I gave the little girl I took first, a piece of chocolate, no one could get her to leave me, she was so hungry.

"There were altogether perhaps 80 or 90 men 160 squaws children."

Clouds had filled the sky nearly all day, according to Warren's meteorological report, given in his official government report. "... Showers were in several parts of the horizon with thunder; 9 p.m., commenced raining hard." This would have soon after sunset.

"Tuesday Sept. 4th

"The mounted force under Col. Cooke were sent out this morning to scout and complete the gathering of the plunder.

"I went with him and had an opportunity to perfect my sketch.

"There was no evidence of any Indians having returned. Gen. Harney moved camp from Ash Hollow to mouth of Blue Water. Encamped on north side of Platte.

"Days march, 3 miles.

"The wounded baby died this morning. Its mother does nothing but cry and moan and as my tent is near the hospital tents it distresses me greatly.

"Wednesday Sept. 5

"Genl. Harney having decided to leave a company at Ash Hollow in charge of the wounded I went down with him accompanied by Capt. Todd to lay out a fort for them. It was all done by noon. Genl. H. said it must be a square and enclosed all around. It was so laid out (see sketch) being 100 feet square with sod walls, 3 feet thick at bottom and six feet high. It was right at the edge of the bank in the best way we could to command the bank of the river. The fort was commenced in the afternoon. It is called for Gratton. (All the officers opposed building this fort.)

"I commenced preparing a sketch of the Blue Water Cr. & battleground and my reported completed both in pencil.

"Day warm.

"Thursday Sept. 6

"Completed my sketch and report in and made copies. Wrote to Father, Capt. Humphrey, and St. [name not legible].

"Genl. H. moved camp over the Blue Water, just before sunset we witnessed the passage of grasshoppers in a cloud across the Platte directly over our heads. Had a heavy rain right afterwards.

"Friday Sept. 7

"To day went to examine the progress of Ft. Gratton found one side and one bastion done. One other side and bastion completed during the day.

"Examined Ash Hollow on the west side found no way of getting up superior in its natural state to the one now used.

"Des Coteaux went out to examine the Indian camp and found two women and two children unable to bring them in he left them. Their feet were sore and they had no moccasins. It was reported to Genl. Harney.

"Saturday Sept. 8

"Maj. ?Harve's Co. went out to reconnoitre, Lesson & his squad, Ben & myself. The Indians seen yesterday could not be found. We (Ben & myself) separated a little from the command and got a good fright by afterwards taking them for Indians. We made a wide circuit to avoid them.

"The Ravens, Bussards & wolves have begun their work with the dead and already little but the bones of some of them were left."

"We found considerable property still lying on the ground.

"Sunday Sept. 9

"Genl. Harney started up the Platte having decided to leave an interpreter. My man Ben Cadotte was wanted and the Quarter-master employed him at $100 per m. Genl. H. requesting it and taking also Campbell from the day we left Ft. Kearny. Genl. H. detailed a man to take Ben's place in my cart.

"I paid Ben off giving him $25. I then went to Ft. Gratton. Let Capt. Wharton have a small compass. Saw the tomb marks put up. Left $10 with Capt. W. to expend for the wounded. Day very warm. Reached camp about 3 P.M. Odometer 147.30. Days march 20.34 miles."

Thus ends one military man's original written account of what happened at Blue Water Creek.

News reports were spread across the settled nation.

An article in the St. Louis Republican, as reprinted in the New York Times, started its rendition with this reporting: "Gen. Harney has signalized his advent into the Sioux country by one of the most gallant and complete victories ever obtained over an Indian enemy. The victory is so thorough as to strike terror into the whole of the savage tribes occupying that extended section of country."

The article reported 450 military men were involved, in the battle directed by General Harney. About 70-80 Indians were killed, with fifty women and children taken prisoner.

Losses of the U.S. military were five or six killed, with as many wounded.

"The letters speak of the engagement as a very gallant and well conducted affair, as it undoubtedly was, to be successful in killing so many of the enemy; and the capture of their women and children."

General Harney's official three-page report was published in 1856, as an executive document issued by the U.S. Senate.

Harney left camp at 4:30 A.M., and proceeded towards the Indian camp, he wrote, "with a view to attacking it openly in concert with the surprise contemplated through the cavalry."

The Indians were aware of the confrontation, and were already breaking camp, and after an unsuccessful parlay with Little Thunder, Harney said he ordered infantry to advance as "skirmishers" which soon opened fire.

"The results of the affair were, 86 killed, 5 wounded, about 70 women and children captured, 60 mules and ponies taken, besides an indefinite number killed and disabled. The amount of provisions and camp equipage must have comprised nearly all the enemy possessed; for teams have been constantly engaged in bringing into camp anything of value to the troops, and much has been destroyed on the ground.

"With regard to the officers and troops of my command, I have never seen a finer military spirit displayed generally; and if there has been any material difference in the services they have rendered, it must be measured chiefly by the opportunities they had for distinction."

Birdly Considerations

The sordid setting of the battle ground was enticing to two types of birds attracted to the forlorn carcasses of unburied Indians lying atop the prairie grasses along lower Blue Creek. The military patrolled the battle field, yet apparently did not bury any of the native people, and certainly kept anyone of Little Thunder's band from returning to provide proper rights for their deceased relatives.

The Common Raven and bustard, or Turkey Vulture, were indifferent to the cause, but took advantage of a macabre source of food, as their presence was noted in Lt. Warren's notes.

There were other indications, beyond a battle field, of some other bird species seen by this officer on the western frontier. A few bird were noted in the Lieutenant's journal for this 1855 expedition, though most of the natural history information was gathered by Ferdinand V. Hayden, the expedition geologist and naturalist.

While steam boating up the Missouri River, after departing from Fort Leavenworth, there was a notation on June 22nd, of having seen a turkey on its banks, near the confluence of the Little Sioux River.

Some large gulls, were shot on July 8th, north from the White River confluence on the Missouri River. Travel troubles due to a sandbar constriction were the primary topic of the day.

A day or so after departing the scene of the massacre, on September 11th, Warren killed six ducks and a curlew, with the latter skinned. They were near the famous Courthouse Rock landmark. Two days later, while near the other prominence of the North Platte, 19 ducks were shot along the route near Scotts Bluff. Nine more were taken on the 14th.

The next few notes of ornithological interest occurred along the White River, in the Mauvaises Terres or Bad Lands district of southern Dacota country.

On October 6th, he shot a large hawk and preserved it. On the 8th, his narrative says: "Shot 3 male owls with long feathers to their ears, skinned two; eyes black surrounded with a narrow yellow rim just at the lashes." The following day, along their route, further down the river: "prairie chickens are numerous on the river bank and live on the wild crax or snow berry. I shot 4 at camp." These would be Sharp-tailed Grouse, not the Greater Prairie-Chicken, as the latter did not occur any further up the river than the mouth of the Vermilion River, Warren noted in his government report, also indicating that quail had not been seen above the mouth of the Running Water.

In the vicinity of Bear Creek, a tributary of the White River, the autumnal abundance of fowl was enticing the shooting desires of Mr. Warren. On the 13th: "Shot 5 teal on this creek." On the 14th: "shot to day 2 large hawks (females) preserved one."

The final bird note made by G.K. Warren was on October 21st. It was a stormy day, with considerable sleet during the day. Scrawled in his journal were these words: "Killed a female horned owl & skinned it, also one male meadow lark one unknown bird one female ?plover (possibly the American-Golden Plover collected by Hayden), one lark prairie chicken."

According to the map for the expedition, they were at Fort Pierre.

Thus ends Lieutenant Warren's journal, and the few but vivid records of distinctive importance to historic ornithology of the western frontier during a time of great turmoil as cultures clashed and claims to land were forever changed.

23 April 2010

American Agriculturist Featured Illustrated Accounts of Birds

As agriculture spread across an expanding country and into new states, a monthly magazine issued from New York thought birds were a subject important enough to include occasional accounts of various species among its pages.

The American Agriculturist - established in 1842 - contained an array of topics for the "farm, garden, and household" as "Agriculture is the Most Healthful, Most Useful, and Most Noble Employment of Man," according to the masthead at the top of each issue's cover page. There were tips, techniques and shared methods. Recipes were provided. Land management considerations and a myriad of pertinent articles dealt with the broad subject of agriculture for an area from the eastern coastal states, and westward across the expanding land, as homesteaders were moving to settle new government and railroad lands of the expanding western frontier.

In 1853, Orange Judd became the editor, starting the job a few years after receiving a college degree from Wesleyan University. He purchased the whole shebang just three brief years later, and was thus also was its proprietor. He made the endeavour a great success, increasing subscriptions from 1000 during 1056 to about 100,000 in 1864, according to historic details.

Undoubtedly, some of the readers enjoyed articles which told of birds, their natural history and relative importance in agricultural production, with indications of their interest to shootists. The years of effort are a grand, illustrated history.

A first account of a bird - based on the online versions of the magazine - was in May 1850, and discussed the great horned owl, which included a "cut" of the species perched grandly on a branch.

This topic became much more pervasive on the pages starting in the issues of 1860, based upon a review of online digital versions available for leisurely perusal.

The first engraving featured three species: the blackbird, song thrush and mockingbird, with a bit of a notation about each. There was no author given, but the next month, "S.L.B.," of Brookdale Farm, Maine, was given the credit for a fine, brief story about the house wren. Notes about this birds' song were taken from the Atlantic Monthly. The snow bird was next to have its biography sent out for the readers to enjoy. The author was L.E. Chittenden, whom also wrote a bunch of words about the Barn Owl - the farmer's friend - for the next month's issue.

Something unique to the brief accounts, and especially worthy of appreciation, are the original illustrations. Usually a particular species was shown in a portrait manner, perched on a branch, or among some foliage. Some were shown in a setting representative of their natural habitat, including bits of flora or other essential aspects. In some instances, different species with a common theme were depicted in a group.

Most of the engravings did not indicate the artist, but occasionally they were credited.

"The Covey" presented in an 1863 issue, by J. Wolf, showed a covey of grouse huddled beneath a sheltering branch, with some other small birds perched on nearby branches.

In the spring of 1864, an article indicated the value of providing homes for birds, illustrating a barn design for martins, a house-like construct for bluebirds and a simple box for the wren.

"... the Agriculturist protests against the destruction of birds," but when the sap-sucker was featured in 1864, it was presented as an enemy of the farmer. There seems to have been some confusion, as the birds was known in different parts of the country as the sapsucker, "and is also known as the yellow-bellied and the red-headed woodpecker" based on its markings.

This obviously refers to two types of woodpeckers, but none-the-less they were harangued for damaging orchard trees, as well as trees in the forest. The article referenced P.B. Hoy, whom studied and reported on birds in Wisconsin, and his recommendation for "small shot and a sharp lookout" in order to protect the trees.

In the autumn of 1864, a grand repose showed the wood duck when it was given its bit of press in Judd's monthly.

Other species featured through the mid-1860s were the:

  • Snowy Owl, or harfang
  • Stricken Mallard, a depiction from a painting by George Lance, showing a contorted duck after it had been struck from the shot of a shootist's gun: "the sight of a fine bird shot, and perhaps dropping almost into his hands, is a very satisfactory one to the gunner."
  • Bald Eagle, shown in a dramatic pose of an adult at the nest with two youngsters awaiting a bit of fresh flesh from a recently taken duck.
  • Feathered Friends, which shows a composite view of seven distinct species, with a short account indicating the usefulness of birds.
  • Flushed Partridge, which shows the ruffed grouse, again for this publication, in a frenzied flight away from an unseen shootist: "Whirr-r-r-r - Bang.-Bang.-Not a feather touched!" were the first words given on the front page of an autumn issue.
  • Cat-bird shown in a sublime rendition of an adult birds amongst its haven, with four nestlings subtly included. This was another illustration presented on the cover of a monthly issue.

An October 1868 article is so interesting in the sketches and details of waterfowl hunting on the Chesapeake Bay, that nothing more can be said here, and the details given need to be presented in their own unique presentation!

In the spring of 1870, the American Dipper, or water ouzel, was the focus, and it was discussed on the same page as the gray rabbit, with both animals illustrated.

As an editor, Mr. Judd knew what was interesting to the subscribers which were the support for his ag monthly. Brief mentions of the natural history of birdlife, were a part of his focus to provide a publication of interest enough for readers to send in enough dollars so they could continue to read all about agriculture and enjoy an occasional presentation of some sort of bird.

In the autumn, grebes and loons were illustrated, with the article considering divers and grebes.

The whole birdly theme continued in the pages issued by Editor Judd ...

In a celebratory manner, the "golden-winged woodpecker" had a spread which covered nearly an entire page in January, 1872, except for an illustration of two Plymouth Rock fowls. Including the paragraphs on the next page, they had an entire page given to their lifestyle and habits. Some particular attention was given to the various names by which this woodpecker was known, including the flicker, yellow-hammer, pint, clape, and high-hole to mention what was given in the monthly magazine. In this month's issue, the snow-bird was once again presented.

A dramatic battle of two birds was shown in the February 1872 issue. Profound in its presentation, it shows two eagles fighting over the feathers of a formerly captive teal which is making its escape. The illustration was drawn and engraved exclusively for the American Agriculturist.

Occasionally the sketches are distinctly different from a rendition of a species in its natural habitat, and depicted in a stolid manner. A mid-summer image, was titled "Out For a Bath" and based upon a painting by F.S. Church. After seeing the original painting, an engraving was made of three young "snipe" as they made "their first acquaintance with water." The image is expressive and unique. One of the snipe is shown daintily dipping its foot into the waters, with the two other fledglings closely watching. Even the features of the flora are finely shown.

In mid-summer, the old field lark got its bit of press, under the title of "meadow-lark or meadow-starling." The engraving was done by Mr. Herrick, and shows a group huddled together among the grass. "The flesh of the young bird when fat is highly esteemed, but the old birds are said to be tough and of a disagreeable flavor. In the fall they are generally to be found in the city markets."

The Belted Kingfisher was also featured in 1872.

Usually the accounts provided little original information, but there an occasional tidbit of interest that was included can convey dramatic details of historic ornithology.

With the first species denoted in May 1873 - the Mocking-Bird - the big, single paragraph included: "In the vicinity of New Orleans and Charleston, the negroes trap young Mocking-Birds and expose them for sale in the market at fifty cents each. These are bought by dealers in birds and shipped in large numbers to our Northern cities, where they are kept until full grown and able to sign, when they are sold at prices ranging from $10 to $40 apiece."

The species for June was the cedar-bird, with the primary focus on whether it was a beneficial insect eater. The "Bittern or Stake-driver" and "Red-wing Blackbird" were featured in July. Features presented included a sense of its general range, coloration, what the eggs looked like and other related details which might have been of interest to an agriculturist. Even the "yellow-breasted rail" was considered.

Occasionally the topic took a turn towards the shooting sports, as in March 1875, when the cover had a multi-image engraving depicting snipe, the shooting scene, and the hunters shooting their guns, with two hounds on the point. Snipe were apparently one of the first game birds that could be shot with the onset of spring.

The snipe shooter, with his pride has an "indifference to rain, mud, and cold, and the fatigue of jumping ditches, crawling out of bog holes, and involuntary baths in spring ditches, finds his game with the aid of his dog; gives it a fair chance, cuts it down clean and suddenly, and does not leave a dozen wounded birds to flutter away and perish."

The Gambel's Quail was featured in the next issue. In July, the stilt and Anhinga were depicted in a fine engraving covering much of a page of the magazine.

insert image

With its handsome colors - though depicted in basic black-and-white - the American Redstart was the next bird mentioned, with another depiction by "Herrick" showcasing a long paragraph of notes about this warbler's natural history.

Hunting grouse or partridge was the illustration on the October issue for the year. It was a splendid composition prominently showing several birds fleeing into the trees, a hound in pursuit and the shootist after game, shown with a background illustrating the features of the landscape.

The image was signed by "Hinkle," or C.H. Hinkle, the engraver with the skills necessary to exquisitely accomplish a depiction of an expansive scene which included various poses for several subjects.

The caption gave credit to Edwin Forbes for the sketch.

As an artist, Forbes was best known for painting action scenes on the western frontier. His career began in 1861, as a staff artist for Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, with his work vividly depicting many scenes of the Civil War, especially showing camp life. John Edwin Forbes did illustrations for many other publications, including the Atlantic Almanac, and would later issue a summary of his military-related work.

His artistic skills were obviously suited for presenting images of birds in their natural setting, as shown in the agricultural magazine.

To accompany this sketch of grouse hunting, there were within the pages, several inches of text giving attention to the Ruffed Grouse.

The theme continued. Among the notable articles to appreciate there are:

  • Some Wild Duck, with engravings of four different species including the long-necked duck, butter-ball, canvas-back and long-tailed duck. The article includes a reference to "methods of shooting" ducks as presented in the October 1868 issue of the American Agriculturist, though that issue could not be reviewed due to it apparently not being among any online archive.
  • American Woodcock and American Snipe: presented together, with both finely illustrated.
  • A songbird, the Scarlet Tanager, was presented as a bird "red as fire."

Completely distinctive was the illustration for the cover of the July 1876, notably in celebration of the independence of the United States of America, a century previously. Various representations were given, showing different manners in which the Bald Eagle was depicted as the nation's national symbol.

The magazine, issued from New York City, cost $1.50 per annum, in advance at this time in the mid-1870s. A single issue cost 15 cents.

Two very untypical species were featured in the same issue: the Varied Thrush (or myrtle robin of Oregon), and the Snow Bunting, which was causing some excitement for its appearance in the New York markets a few months previously. The carcasses - with black wings and tail feathers still present, though otherwise plucked - were bought and "served up at the tables of one of the restaurants as a delicacy," as noted in Turf, Field and Farm. It was readily recognized as being this particular species.

In April, the following year, requests by readers to see a portrait of the "Carolina Parrot" meant the species was prominent on the cover. It was included in a montage on the issue's cover of some birds of the southern United States. Also shown were the white-headed dove and the rowdy mocking bird. An article within the issue, mentioned a sighting in June 1790 near Albany, N.Y., and finished with these words portending the birds' future: "Those who are familiar with their rapid destruction, think that they will, before long, become exterminated."

Other species noted during the year's volumes were the:

  • Steller's Jay, written by Dr. F.S. Matteson, of Coquille City, Oregon, a contributor of the account.
  • Long-legged birds showing the young and old of the Whooping Crane in a dramatic half-page illustration, with the remainder of the page mentioning facets of the distinctive species.
  • Native water-fowl - "two of our most beautiful water-fowl" - were featured in the autumn issue as the two species of teal shown were obviously of great interest to shootists as the time the magazine was mailed to its readers.

To end the year, the Bobolink was noted - with an illustration of its summer and autumn plumage - along with the chickadee, or black-capped titmouse, showing two plump birds on a branch.

The occasional accounts continued.

  • A golden eagle conveyed as eating some sort of migratory fowl was a cover illustration.
  • Two species discussed as "common birds" were the Yellow-headed Blackbird and Pileated or capped woodpecker.
  • The common crow was also presented.

In the final issue reviewed in the early 1880s, another montage showed five species of common winter birds, including the Purple Finch, pine linnet, red-poll linnet, shore lark and Pine Grosbeak.

The popular accounts of birds occasionally presented in the American Agriculturist were bits of information appreciated by the readers, and popular enough for the publishers to have original engravings done to accompany the text. Mixed among the myriad of other subjects important to agriculture, the depictions and details were valuable in educating readers about various species of birds and features unique to different species, with enough information given for people to become familiar with birdlife which they may have known as occurring amidst their local agricultural setting.

The American Argriculturist, though it actually presented little or nothing about birds at a particular place and time, has an distinctive and important role in presenting information to a relatively vast audience. This magazine had an important role in spreading the word - and the educatory value - about the natural history for different kinds of birds, and for its exquisite illustrations. These two features of the a distinctive publication are an important feature of historic ornithology for the U.S.

There is nothing known which is comparable to the ongoing effort by George Judd to convey the wonders of birds during his tenure as an agriculturist and as issued in his monthly publication.

Many of the issues of the American Agriculturist are available online to read and enjoy its accurate and interesting stories of the times. However, not all of the bird stories published could be reviewed due to missing pages in some of the efiles. In several instances, blocks of pages are simply not included for a particular volume. The page numbering is continuous, then there is a sudden multi-page gap. It does not seem that those pages are missing from the originals, though that is a possibility. The other option is that the pages were missed during the scanning process. The value of having the volumes scanned is somewhat diminished because of what is missing.

21 April 2010

Birdstrike Educational Opportunity Missed in Omaha

An Earth Day celebration was held at the Union Pacific Center in downtown Omaha on Wednesday, April 21st. Despite the rain, same time was taken to bicycle down from midtown and see what was being presented.

Tables were setup for use by a variety of companies and others promoting a suitable Earth Day related activity. They included the Omaha Pedalers, Bicycle Club, the Nature Conservancy, Omaha Public Power District, Keep Omaha Beautiful, Lowes, Whole Foods, Sierra Club, the Missouri River Recovery Program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sprint and others.

My particular interest was to see if there would be any information available about what Union Pacific Railroad was doing to address bird strikes at their building, where there have been numerous instances of bird mortality.

Noticed first was a sign near the escalators to the staff work areas, urging employees to turn off unnecessary lights and to keep the window blinds closed. This information is similar to that in an email sent to employees on April 16th.

UP environmental management personnel at a booth were asked if they were providing any handouts on the bird strike issue. The only thing they knew about was the new "bird crossing" signs, which they noted they had nothing to do about putting in place. One comment made was that they "try not to hand out too much."

This was at a table with lots of material to provide to attendees, and where a cloth carry bag was handed out at the doors for people use for the ample amount of material provided at the display tables.

The UP people handing out the bags wore tshirts saying, "Think Globally - Act Locally."

The company should have taken advantage of the opportunity to "Act Locally" and educate the hundreds of visitors about bird strikes and helpful measures. Especially since most of the visitors were workers in other local buildings.

It was certainly a lost opportunity.

There were about 125 people present during the time spent walking about the lobby of the building.

While there, I took the following picture of the west wall of the Union Pacific Center, which according to officials, is comprised of fritted glass. There are some small sections of this type of glass but obviously it was not entirely composed of this type of glass. The glass is not opaque and is still reflective, as noted by the neighboring structures obvious in the photograph.

It is very questionable how UP can claim this is helping to address the bird strike issue, as they did in the company email, since nothing was actually done since the glass was installed during the original construction. There have been instances of bird strikes in this vicinity of the building.

The company is also not taking the initiative and removing interior plants prominently notable on the north side of the building, which has confused many birds and led to their demise.

Anything that can be done to reduce the mortality to migratory birds is helpful, but the company can easily do more.


According to a federal official, the reason that fritted glass would not be put in place was that it was too expensive.

On Earth Day, 22 April 2010, the news reported a company profit of $516 million for the first quarter of 2010.

It is ironic that the millions of profit were announced on this particular day, in a directly opposite perspective of what is being done to protect migratory birds that die at the Union Pacific Center. It seems blatantly obvious that profits are the main concern of the corporation, not doing what is right to avoid bird deaths at their downtown Omaha corporate headquarters!