14 December 2011

Diary of the Brownville Buffalo Hunters

Brownville, Neb., Jan. 10, '71.

This morning seven wagons and fifteen men of us start for a general hunt on the Republican and Soloman [Solomon] rivers. We made the city of Tecumseh the first day, all in good spirits, the weather being very mild and pleasant.

Jan. 11.— Rolled out of camp bright and early, and traveled to the third crossing of Yankee Creek, and, taking dinner there, we traveled on to the city of Beatrice, situated on the Big Blue, and camped for the night. The weather began to get colder in the night and near morning, it began to snow and kept increasing, so we concluded to lay by that day. We spent the day in getting up wood and making fires. There were six rabbits and several quail killed while in this camp.

Jan. 13.— Got up and had our breakfast so as to start by daylight. It was a very disagreeable day to travel, the snow blowing and drifting so that it made it hard on our teams, we finally reached the Little Sandy a small stream running into the Little Blue river, not stopping at noon to feed. We had plenty of wood, so we had a good comfortable fire.

Jan. 14.— We drove out of camp bright and early, crossed Big Sandy, a very pretty little stream running in to the Blue river. We then drove about three miles and passed through the thriving little village of Meridian, situated on the Little Blue river. We then traveled fifteen miles and crossed the Little Blue at Hebron. We then traveled about four miles and camped on Springs Creek. On going into camp Samuel Summers killed a fine wild turkey, which we had for supper.

Jan. 15.— Got up at 4 o'clock and eat our breakfast and started as soon as it was light. Three of the boys, Wm. Morris, Nate Westfall and Capt. Starry, followed up the stream and succeeded in killing three wild Turkeys and some other small game. We then traveled until we came to a small stream by the name of Oak Creek, where two of our party had a battle on our fall hunt, about some misunderstanding. We celebrated the event by a speech delivered by the Rev. Mr. Brookens, a colored gent who was along with our party.

Jan. 16.— We rolled out of camp early and traveled up the Republican river all day. We passed two stockades on the river, about twelve miles apart; there were eight or ten families at each of them. We also passed several hunting parties going home with fine loads of game. They reported game a good ways off. We drove into camp on the Republican river about 4 o'clock. Upon making fire it caught in the grass and came very near getting the start of us. It raised quite an excitement in camp, and there was some lively kicking and stamping of fire there for some time. We finally succeeded in extinguishing the fire, and prepared our evening repast.

Jan 17.— Got under way about 7 o'clock, and drove four miles and tried to cross the river, but did not succeed, the ice not being solid enough to bear our teams. We then drove about ten miles and then unhitched our teams and drew our wagons across by hand. We then drove up the river five or six miles. We found a small gang of turkeys, on driving to camp and killed five. Wm. Moore, Capt. Starry, John Summers and H. C. Baker brought down one each. We seen several deer but did not get a shot.

Jan. 18.— Traveled all day on the dividing ridge between the Republican and Soloman river. Did not stop for dinner. We met several hunting parties, who reported game very scarce unless we would go a long ways. We pitched camp about four o'clock on one of the tributaries of White Rock; wood and water plenty. Capt. Starry killed three turkeys; John Summers and H.C. Baker killed one grouse each.

Jan. 19.— We kept on the divide all day not stopping for dinner. Seen some pretty fresh signs of Buffalo, but seen none of the beasts themselves. Sam. Summers, Capt. Starry and Hugh Baker started out on their ponies hunting, but seen no game except a gang of turkeys, or which they killed four. Camped on a small stream running into the Soloman, about ten miles west of what is called the Hay Stack Mound, a very high hill that can be seen some twenty-five or thirty miles off.

Jan. 20.— Drove out of camp early. Three of the boys, Capt. Starry, Sam. Summers and John Crook rode out on horseback prospecting for game. About noon one of them came to the teams, reporting a herd of buffalo off about three miles. We drove to a suitable place and stopped, unhitched and prepared to make chase. In the mean time we spied, as we supposed, a much larger herd than the first. So the Captain gave orders to hitch up again and drive for the larger herd, about two miles distant. Some of the boys that had never seen buffalo were very anxious to get after them; so much so that they rode a good ways ahead. Just as we were coming out of a draw on higher ground, so we could have a better view of the them, they proved to be a band of Red Skins, numbering about one hundred, with their ponies loaded with buffalo meat, and on the travel. It was amusing to see how quick the boys that were on ahead stopped, when the cry of Indians was raised. We did not make chase after them, that was not the kind of game we wanted to meet. We wheeled around and made chase after the buffalo that we had first seen. After getting as close as we could conveniently with our wagon, we stepped and eight or nine of us started after them; four were mounted; we found we could not get close enough on foot, as they were moving, so the horsemen started on the chase. They run them about a mile and finally got them turned about, and here they came. John Summers, H.C. Baker, John Crook and Hugh Baker started to head them off and stayed down flat on the ground, near where they supposed the buffalo would pass. Capt. Starry separated two from the herd, and drove them toward the footmen and here came the Captain on a the full run with his long hair flying in the air, driving the buffalo in front and heading them straight for the footmen. When about-twenty yards off H.C. Baker and John Summers fired, succeeding in bringing one of them down, and Capt. Starry killed the other one. James Coons also killed one. Several others were crippled but got away. We then dressed our game and drove into camp on the Middle Fork of Soloman. Some small game was also killed.

Jan. 21.— Left camp about half past seven o'clock and traveled five or six miles when we spied a herd of buffalo off about three miles. After driving down and camping on the South Fork of Soloman, seven of the boys mounted and gave chase; while the horsemen were chasing the first herd. Geo. Peabody and H.C. Baker started off on foot and after going four or five miles they found a herd feeding quietly, and crept up on them and fired. H.C. Baker killed a fine cow. Peabody wounded one but did not get it. The horsemen killed eight. Capt. Starry, killed four, Sam. Summers two, and Nate Westfall two. H.C. Baker also killed a jackrabbit.

Jan. 22.— Laid over all day and all have been hunting. John. Summers, H.C. Baker and Geo. Peabody killed one buffalo; John Crook killed one; Capt. Starry, Sam. Summers and Hugh Baker each killed one. They then rode to camp, took two teams and hauled their game into camp.

Jan. 23.— Laid over all day and run buffalo Sam. Summers killed two, Capt. Starry five, and John Crook three, John Gelphart, Wm. Morris each killed. one. They reported large herds of buffalo south of our camp, about ten miles.

Jan. 24.— Got up early and loaded our meat, drove about ten miles and camped on the same stream we left in the morning; killed no game except a couple of prairie dogs.

Jan. 25.— Got up in the morning and found it snowing, it continued until about four o'clock; the snow was about four inches deep on a level. Mr. Brookens, our colored gent amused us most of the day with songs and dances. Hugh Baker and John Crook killed one buffalo. Some grouse were also killed. We decided to start homeward the next day thinking we could finish loading our teams on the road back.

Jan. 26.— Rolled out of camp bright and early; had a very pleasant day after the storm; drove about five miles and Capt. Starry halted the train, he had seen a small herd of buffalo; in company with Sam. Summers and Nate Westfall, he started after them. Westfall and Starry each killed one; they then came to the teams and H.C. Baker took a pony and started down through the breaks, and succeeded in killing one buffalo. After strapping the quarters on the pony he started for the train and found it in camp on a beautiful little stream running into the Republican river, on the south side, by the name of Prairie Dog; wood and water plenty. The timber consists of cottonwood, elm, ash, and also some cedar.

Jan. 27.— We concluded to lay by and hunt turkey, as there were plenty of fresh signs, and we had not killed many. The boys all got ready and started out, except H.C. Baker, he could not go on account of having a lame foot. They had good luck. Samuel Summers killed eight, Capt. Starry nine, John Crook four, James Coons three, John Summers five, Wm. Morris five, Hugh Baker six, Westfall, jr. three, Geo. Peabody went out after buffalo, and killed one and brought it into camp on his horse. When they all got in and gathered around the camp fire the Captain left it to a vote whether we would stay there another day or not. As game was plenty in that vicinity, all voted for staying. So every fellow went to work cleaning and getting his gun in order.

Jan. 28.— All hands that were going hunting rolled out by sun rise. Several turkeys were killed. John Crook went buffalo hunting and killed two.

Jan. 29.— Got under way early. The weather was fair until about eight o'clock, when a heavy fog came up making it very hard for us to keep our course. We lost our course several times and had to turn back, but we finally got straightened up all right. Seen one herd of Buffalo. Starry and Morris gave chase. The teams moved on and went into camp again on Prairie Dog. Starry and Morris got in about eight o'clock at night with three horses packed with buffalo meat. They each killed one.

Jan. 30.— We drove down Prairie Dog until noon, then we fed our teams and, drove to the divide between Prairie Dog and Soloman; we kept on that until camping time, then drove to a small stream that flows into the Soloman and camped; water plenty but wood scarce. Capt. Starry killed wild turkeys.

Jan. 31.— Drove on the divide all day. Seen about two hundred buffalo but did not give chase; also seen some elk but did not get any. Camped on a tributary of Prairie Dog; wood plenty but water very bad. Capt. Starry killed three turkeys, and Nate Westfall killed a Porcupine.

Feb. 1.— Rolled out of camp bright and early; drove on the divide all day, not stopping for dinner. Starry and Coons killed one buffalo and three turkeys. Camped at the head of White Rock; wood and water plenty.

Feb. 2.— Traveled the divide all day again. The wind blew very hard making it disagreeable traveling. We struck the Republican river about six miles above the upper stockade and camped. Captain Starry killed three turkey.

Feb. 3.— Got up early and crossed the river. One of the party broke the coupling pole of his wagon, which delayed us about half and hour. We then started down the river, passing the two stockades, camped on Beaver Creek; wood and water in abundance.

Feb. 4.— Rolled out of camp and traveled until about nine o'clock, when we spied a herd of elk. We drove down to the river and unhitched and prepared to give chase. Sam. Summers, Nate Westfall, John Crook, James Coons, John Clark, Wm. Morris and Capt. Starry then mounted and chased them about ten miles, succeeding in killing nine. They came to camp, and drove out and got them. Then we drove about five mile to Oak Creek, and camped for the night.

Feb. 5.— Rolled out of camp before daylight; traveled until about four o'clock, when we reached the Little Blue river at Hebron. We crossed and camped; wood not very plenty. Coons killed one elk and brought the hams to camp.

Feb. 6.— Traveled all day, passing through Meridian; stopped on Big Sandy for dinner. We then drove to Little Sandy and camped.

Feb. 7.— Drove out of camp before daylight; reached the city of Beatrice stopped there a few minutes, then drove to Bear Creek, five miles from there and camped; wood very scarce.

Feb. 8.— Got up in the morning and found it snowing; we rolled out however, and drove across an eighteen mile ridge suffering considerably with the cold and eat our dinners and fed our teams. We then drove to the last crossing of Yankee Creek, and camped close to the Wild Irishman's. By night it cleared up nice, but was very cold. While we were getting supper, the Irishman came to camp and talked a while, wanting us to come and stay in his house, we declined his offer on account of having our supper most ready, and had our teams fed. He saw that we were pretty short of wood and told us if some of us would go with him he would give us some wood, three of the boys went along, he gave them all they could carry, after they had got to camp, we heard a wagon coming, some one remarked that there was a team out pretty late, he drove up to our camp and stopped, and behold it was the Irishman with a load of wood and hay, it was very acceptable. We acknowledged it by giving him several nice pieces of buffalo meat and a turkey. He certainly was a gentleman in every respect. We can recommend him to any one traveling that way as a gentleman, that has a good place to stop at.

Feb. 9.— Traveled all day hard, and passed through the city of Tecumseh and made home about eight o'clock at night, tired and hungry. The total amount of game killed was 40 buffalo, 10 elk, 105 wild turkey, 3 jack rabbits, 3 porcupines, and a number of grouse.

Anonymous. February 23, 1871. The diary of the Brownville buffalo hunters. Nebraska Advertiser 15(19): 1.