The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, June 08, 1899, Page 10, Image 10

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    10 The Conservative *
FIIKMONT. TIVE is interested
iii the movements
of Captain J. O. Fremont , of Georgia ,
who traveled in the West in the summer
of 1843 and in the two succeeding years ,
but is in some doubt as to the degree of
credit , in the history of the develop
ment of the Western country , to which
those travels may entitle him. The
prevalent belief , among persons only
generally informed on the subject ,
places Fremont in the same category of
explorers with Columbus ; but this is
wholly incorrect. With the exception
of a few eccentric spots , such as the
islands in the Great Salt Lake and
the summit of Fremont's Peak , he vis
ited no part of the country with which
white men had not long been familiar.
In fact , the Reverend Samuel Parker's
book , "An Exploring Tour beyond the
Rooky Mountains , " with a large map ,
was iu its third edition hi 1842 ; and
Fremont simply followed through the
greater part of his course the trail of
the Oregon emigrants , which was so
well-defined that he calls it a road.
"The road led along a ridge , " "the road
kept the valley , " he says frequently.
Even before this migration began , the
country had been pervaded by hunters
and trappers , who were estimated as
early as 1885 to number "a few thous
and. "
Another current impression is that
Fremont selected a route for the Pacific
railroad. This is
The Railroad.
equally erroneous.
Except that in crossing the plains he
went up the valleys of the Platte and
the Republican , which neither he nor
the railroads could avoid , his route was
widely separated from that afterward
followed by them. Three out of his
four crossings of the Rocky Mountains
were effected by way of the South Pass ,
which is as innocent of railroads today
as it was then. Nor , so far as THE CON
SERVATIVE has been able to discover , do
his journals contain a single reference
to railroads. The Presbyterian'mission
ary above mentioned , however , had this
to say seven years before : "There
would be no difficulty iu the way of
constructing a rail road from the Atlan
tic to the Pacific ocean ; and probably
the time may not be very far distant ,
when trips will be made across the con
tinent , as they have been made to the
Niagara Falls , to seeNature's wonders. "
THE CONSERVATIVE would not deprive
any candidate for the presidency , living
or dead , of his just meed of honor ; but
it can neither perceive wherein Path
finder Fremont deserved that appella
tion , nor why ho is entitled to more
credit for his explorations than a thous
and other men , who had not the govern
ment behind them. Nor does it con
sider his account of his travels espec
ially diverting. In fact , one can hardly
follow his coffee-pot , his barometers and
his unhappy German topographer
-V ftt
through all their xips and downs , with
out becoming somewhat weary of the
narrator's personality ,
If to come upon a route one has not
previously traveled and travel it , mak
ing use of the most
ratliflii < lor.s. . . , „ . . .
to date facilities
upto -
ties , is to be a pathfinder , then the mem
ber of THE CONSERVATIVE staff dele
gated to look into Fremont has as good
a right to the title as that explorer him
self. Fremont started with a menag
erie of oxen and asses , an arsenal , an
astronomical observatory , a rubber boat ,
22 Frenchmen , one German topographer ,
one Illinois hunter , one Kit Carson and
two boys. THE CONSERVATIVE started
with an old hat , a toothbrush , a map ,
a volume of Fremont's travels and
some four hundred entire strangers , on
the morning train from Omaha over the
Union Pacific. Three days later THE
CONSERVATIVE was back in Omaha ,
after having eaten dinner in Salt Lake
City ; while Captain Fremont had just
reached the ford of the Kansas , near
Topeka , and was preparing to swim it.
The two routes do not converge for
some 200 miles. Meantime there is
plenty to see from our special rear-plat
form. The first token of Fremont is a
town named after him ; just why is not
apparent , for though he passed down
the left bank of the Platte in returning
from his first expedition , there is no re
cord of his having halted at that point.
He gives a bare minute of an observa
tion for latitude at the mouth of the
Loup , and another three days later at
the mouth of the "Elk Horn. " It must
have been near the site of Fremont ,
however , that he met a messenger re
turning from Mr. P. Sarpy's trading-
post at Bellevue , with a "welcome sup
ply of provisions and a very kind note. "
We pass through many towns , with
elevators and stockyards at each ; the
_ . country between is
Change * . . . .
one great farm ,
with a powerful outcropping just at
present of spring green. Our hungry
predecessors found one village , and that
on the south bank ; it was the village of
the Grand Pawnees , who it seems were
agriculturists , for they had vegetables
for sale. When Fremont passed they
were shucking their corn , or whatever
was the Grand Pawnee equivalent for
that operation. If the Indians raised
regular crops at that date , how could
the sweeping negation of the fertility of
Nebraska soil have gained currency ?
Here we cross the Loup ; three pictur
esque river-names thus far , the Butter
fly , the Elkhoru and the Wolf. But for
sheer suggestiveness , a very recent sign
post at a bare crossing outdoes them all :
"Portal , " it says ; throwing open to you
at a sweep the vastest of human theat
ers , the Great Plains and the Rocky
Mountains. This crossing of the Loup
fork , has , however , unique associations
of its own , for hero , according to the
theory worked out by the late Judge
Savage , stood the great city of Quiviraj
visited by an explorer from Mexico in
1GG2. It was miles in exten't autl con
tained houses in
many-storied plenty *
The case is stated at length in Volume
II of the State Historical Society's pa
pers , and is highly plausible ; unfortun
ately it rests at bottom on the word of a
Spanish adventurer , a class who were ,
like a certain famous Rose , "happy and
blest to lie on" every possible topic. It
is curious , however , to note that ho too
said that the Indians brought him corn ,
beans and pumpkins.
The marvelous beauty of the land
scape , one of the points in the argument ,
seems to have been somewhat over
praised. It is a green plain , without
apparent limit in any direction , having
a fair stream of clear water flowing
through it. This has been the charac
ter of the Platte Valley from the start ,
the bluffs merely suggested by a faint
roll iu the distance , and that never vis
ible save on one side the stream at a
time. And hero it is shown that two
valleys can be flatter than one.
If this should really have been the
center of a great Indian population , it is
passing strange that George Francis
Train should have selected it indepen
dently , as he did , for the spot to which
ho proposed to have the national capital
Wo come to the city of Grand Island ,
and for an hour and more are passing
, , the formation that
„ i . . .
Navigation. , . .
gives it its name.
A little way below the head of the
island we come to Fremont and
his path , though he was on the south
side of the river. We are live hours
from the Missouri , he is sixteen days.
A few miles above , he met one John
Lee with a party of the American Fur
Company's men , who had left Fort
Laramie for St. Louis two months be
fore with their winter's catch , meaning
to make the journey in boats , which
drew only nine inches ; but had been
obliged to abandon , first their boats ,
then their furs , and were now plodding
down stream with what they could
carry on their backs.
We pass Kearney , which is too much
of a subject , iu pioneer affairs , to be
treated cursorily ; the place , about op
posite Lexington , where Fremont met
the first of the buffalo ; and come to the
forks of the Platte , whore ou his return
he attempted navigation himself in a
boat which ho constructed for the pur
pose , with brazen studs and tough bull-
hide. As this craft was only large
enough for the intrepid explorer to stow
himself in , with the German topog
rapher and a few other necessaries ,
it drew only four inches and the pros
pects for a voyage seemed bright ; but
four inches is a great deal for the Platte.
Captain Fremont ( now doubly a cap
tain ) respected his boat enough to call
it she , but had little satisfaction from it
otherwise. "We dragged her over the