Tuesday, November 21, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Josiah Gregg (1806 – 1850)


Merchant, explorer, naturalist, and author who described his travels and adventures throughout the American Southwest and Northern Mexico.
Josiah Gregg
Although, but a few days' travel above where we now were, the Canadian runs pent up in a narrow channel, scarcely four rods [or 22 yards] across, we here found it spread out to the width of from three to six hundred yards, and so full of sand-bars (only interspersed with narrow rills) as to present the appearance of a mere sandy valley instead of the bed of a river. In fact, during the driest seasons, the water wholly disappears in many places. Captain Boone (Nathan Boone, the youngest son of the noted pioneer Daniel.), of the U. S. Dragoons, being upon an exploring expedition in the summer of 1843, came to the Canadian about the region of our western boundary, where he found the channel perfectly dry. Notwithstanding it presents the face of one of the greatest rivers of the west during freshets, yet even then it would not be navigable on account of its rapidity and shallowness. It would appear almost incredible to those unacquainted with the prairie streams, that a river of about 1500 miles in length, and whose head wears a cap of perennial snow (having its source in the Rocky Mountains), should scarcely be navigable, for even the smallest craft, over fifty miles above its mouth.
Gregg quotes
On the 12th of September we reached the usual ford of the Rio del Norte, six miles above El Paso; but the river being somewhat flushed we found it impossible to cross over with our wagons. The reader will no doubt be surprised to learn that there is not a single ferry on this 'Great River of the North' till we approach the mouth. But how do people cross it? Why, during three-fourths of the year it is everywhere fordable, and when the freshet season comes on, each has to remain on his own side, or swim, for canoes even are very rare. But as we could neither swim our wagons and merchandise, nor very comfortably wait for the falling of the waters, our only alternative was to unload the vehicles, and ferry the goods over in a little 'dug-out' about thirty feet long and two feet wide, of which we were fortunate enough to obtain possession.
Gregg
The silver which is taken from the furnace, generally contains an intermixture of gold, averaging from ten to thirty per cent.; but what is extracted by amalgamation is mostly separated in the washing. While in a liquid state, the gold, from its greater specific gravity, mostly settles to the bottom: yet it usually retains a considerable alloy of silver. The compound is distinguished by the name of oroche. The main portion of the silver generally retains too little gold to make it worth separating.




Gregg Josiah quotes
The origin of the American Indians has been discussed by too many able writers for me to enter into it here: nor will I attempt to show the general traits of similarity that are to be observed in their various languages: yet it may interest an occasional reader, to be informed of the relations of consanguinity which subsist between many of the different Indian tribes. They may be arranged principally under the following heads: i. The Dahcotah stock, which is by far the most extensive of those indigenous west of the Mississippi. It embraces the Arkansas (of which the Quapaws are now the only remnant), the Osages, Kansas or Kaws, Iowas, Winnebagoes, Otoes, Missouries, Omahas, Poncas, and the various bands of the Sioux: all of whom speak a language still traceable to the same origin, though some of them have been separated for several centuries. I call these indigenous to the West, because most of them have been so from the period of the earliest explorers on the Mississippi; yet the tradition among them is that they came from about the northern lakes; which appears corroborated by the fact, that the language of the Naudowessies, Assiniboins, and perhaps others in that quarter, shows them to be of the same family.— 2. The different bands of the Comanches and Shoshonies or Snakes, constitute another extensive stock, speaking one language.— 3. The Blackfeet, Gros Ventres or Minnatarees, Crows and Arrapahoes, speak dialects of another.— 4. The Pawnees and Rickaras of the north, and the Wacoes, Wichitas, Towockanoes, Towyash and Keechyes, of Red River, are of the same origin. The Chayennes, originally from near Lake Winnipeg, and the Kiawas (or Caiguas, according to Mexican orthography), appear unallied to any of the foregoing nations. — 5. Of those from the north and east, the Algonquin stock appears most extensive,— embracing the Potawatomies, Ottawas, Chippewas, Knisteneaux, Crees, Sacs and Foxes; with whom the Delawares have also been classed, though their language would now appear very distinct.— 6. The Wyandots, Senecas, and others of the Six Nations, are of the Huron or Iroquois.— 7. The Shawnees and Kickapoos are of one stock.— 8. The Kaskaskias, Piorias, Piankeshaws and Weaws, are descendants of the Miamies.— 9. The Choctaws and Chickasaws are nearly the same people.— 10. The Creeks and Seminoles — though old authors speak of the Creeks as being akin to the Choctaws, yet there is now but little relationship to be traced in their language; while that of the Cherokees appears entirely sui generis.
Gregg Josiah
In the common trait of hospitality to strangers all the western tribes are alike distinguished. The traveler who is thrown upon their charity, is almost universally received and treated with the greatest kindness; and, though they might pilfer him to the skin, and even place his person in jeopardy, if he show want of confidence in them, and endeavor to conceal his effects, yet his property is generally secure when under their charge: they appear to consider a breach of confidence one of the greatest crimes.
Josiah Gregg quotes
The only tribunals of 'justice' in New Mexico are those of the ordinary alcaldes or justices of the peace; and an appeal from them is carried to the Supreme Court in the department of Chihuahua. The course of litigation is exceedingly simple and summary. The plaintiff makes his verbal complaint or demand before the alcalde, who orders him to summon the defendant, which is done by simply saying, "Le llama el alcalde" (the alcalde calls you) into his presence, the applicant acting thus in the double capacity of constable and complainant. The summons is always verbal, and rarely for a future time — instant attendance being expected. Should the defendant refuse to obey this simple mandate (which, by the bye, is a very rare occurrence), the alcalde sends his baston de justicia, his staff of justice, an ordinary walking-cane, distinguished only by a peculiar black silk tassel. This never fails to enforce compliance, for a refusal to attend after being shown the staff, would be construed into a contempt of court, and punished accordingly. The witnesses are sometimes sworn upon a cross cut on the baston de justicia, or more frequently, perhaps, upon a cross formed with the finger and thumb. Generally speaking, however, the process of examination is gone through without a single oath being administered; and in the absence of witnesses, the alcalde often proceeds to sentence upon the simple statements of the contending parties. By a species of mutual agreement, the issue of a suit is sometimes referred to hombres buenos (arbitrators), which is the nearest approximation that is made to trial by jury. In judicial proceedings, however, but little, or rather no attention is paid to any code of laws; in fact, there is scarcely one alcalde in a dozen who knows what a law is, or who ever saw a law-book. Their decisions, when not influenced by corrupt agencies, are controlled by the prevailing customs of the country.
Josiah Gregg
It was a war-party of this band of Comanches that paid the 'flying visit' to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas river, to which Mr. Farnham alludes in his trip to Oregon. A band of the same Indians also fell in with the caravan from Missouri, with whom they were for a while upon the verge of hostilities.
Gregg Josiah quotes
Before the end of October, 1839, I had an opportunity of selling out my stock of goods to a couple of English merchants, which relieved me from the delays, to say nothing of the inconveniences attending a retail trade: such, for instance, as the accumulation of copper coin, which forms almost the exclusive currency in petty dealings. Some thousands of dollars' worth are frequently accumulated upon the hands of the merchant in this way, and as the copper of one department is worthless in another, except for its intrinsic value, which is seldom more than ten percent of the nominal value, the holders are subjected to a great deal of trouble and annoyance.
Gregg
As birds mostly incline to the timbered regions, there is but a scant variety to be met with upon the plains. About the Cross Timbers and indeed on all the brushy creeks, especially to the southward, are quantities of wild turkeys, which are frequently seen ranging in large flocks in the bordering prairies. That species of American grouse, known west as the prairie-hen, is very abundant on the frontier, and is quite destructive, in autumn, to the prairie corn-fields. This fowl is rarely seen over two hundred miles beyond the border. Partridges are found about as far west; but their number is quite limited anywhere beyond the precincts of the settlements. About the streams there are different species of geese and ducks, as well as both sand-hill and white cranes: also flocks of a species of plover and curlew. Add to these numbers of hawks and ravens, and we have most of the fowls of the Prairies. Flocks of the latter follow in the wake of caravans with even greater constancy than wolves.
Gregg Josiah
It would appear that they believe everything, both animate and inanimate — beasts, arms, ornaments, etc.— to possess immortal attributes, subject to resurrection in the world of spirits. However, did not their motives seem so well defined by the direct allusions to their notions of futurity, we might suppose, as is frequently urged, that the burying of property, slaves, etc., with the deceased, was only intended as a mark of respect; which, indeed, is hardly more irrational than the custom of interring costly garniture and appendages with the dead among us.
Josiah Gregg
As the forest of Cross Timbers was now beginning to be seen in the distance, and fearing we might be troubled to find a passway through this brushy region, south of the Canadian, we forded this river on the 29th, without the slightest trouble, and very soon entered our former trail, a little west of Spring Valley. This gave a new and joyful impulse to our spirits; for we had been traveling over twenty days without even a trail, and through a region of which we knew absolutely nothing, except from what we could gather from our Comanche pilot. This trail, which our wagons had made the previous summer, was still visible, and henceforth there was an end to all misgivings.




Josiah Gregg quotes
It had been reported in Santa Fé as early as November, 1842, that a party of Texans [the previous year an armed negotiating party had crossed the border] were upon the Prairies, prepared to attack any Mexican traders who should cross the plains the succeeding spring; and as some Americans were accused of being spies, and in collusion with the Texans, many were ordered to Santa Fé for examination, occasioning a deal of trouble to several innocent persons. Than this, however, but little further attention was paid to the report, many believing it but another of those rumors of Texan invasion which had so often spread useless consternation through the country.
Josiah Gregg
This river even when fordable often occasions a great deal of trouble, being, like the Arkansas, embarrassed with many quicksand mires. In some places, if a wagon is permitted to stop in the river but for a moment, it sinks to the very body. Instances have occurred where it became necessary, not only to drag out the mules by the ears and to carry out the loading package by package, but to haul out the wagon piece by piece — wheel by wheel.
Gregg quotes
We had fourteen road-wagons, half drawn by mules, the others by oxen (eight of each to the team); besides a carriage and a Jersey wagon [a large wagon with a cloth top]. Then we had two swivels mounted upon one pair of wheels; but one of them was attached to a movable truckle, so that, upon stopping, it could be transferred to the other side of the wagons. One of these was a long brass piece made to order, with a caliber of but an inch and a quarter, yet of sufficient metal to throw a leaden ball to the distance of a mile with surprising accuracy. The other was of iron, and a little larger. Besides these, our party was well supplied with small arms. The Americans mostly had their rifles and a musket in addition, which they carried in their wagons, always well charged with ball and buckshot. Then my brother and myself were each provided with one of Colt's repeating rifles, and a pair of pistols of the same, so that we could, if necessary, carry thirty-six ready-loaded shots apiece; which alone constituted a capacity of defense rarely matched even on the Prairies.
Gregg Josiah
The road we traveled passes down through the settlements of New Mexico for the first hundred and thirty miles, on the east side of the Rio del Norte. Nevertheless, as there was not an inn of any kind to be found upon the whole route, we were constrained to put up with very primitive accommodations. Being furnished from the outset, therefore, with blankets and buffalo rugs for bedding, we were prepared to bivouac, even in the suburbs of the villages, in the open air; for in this dry and salubrious atmosphere it is seldom that travelers go to the trouble of pitching tents (How scant soever our outfit of 'camp comforts' might appear, our Mexican muleteers were much more sparely supplied. The exposure endured by this hardy race is really surprising. Even in the coldest winter weather, they rarely carry more than one blanket apiece — the sarape, which serves as a cloak during the day, and at night is their only 'bed and bedding.'). When traveling alone, however, or with but a comrade or two, I have always experienced a great deal of hospitality from the rancheros and villageois of the country. Whatever sins these ignorant people may have to answer for, we must accord to them at least two glowing virtues — gratitude and hospitality. I have suffered like others, however, from one very disagreeable custom which prevails among them. Instead of fixing a price for the services they bestow upon travelers, they are apt to answer, "Lo que guste," or "Lo que le dé la gana" (whatever you please, or have a mind to give), expecting, of course, that the liberal foreigner will give more than their consciences would permit them to exact.
Gregg Josiah quotes
On our passage this time across the 'prairie ocean' which lay before us, we ran no risk of getting bewildered or lost, for there was now a plain wagon trail across the entire stretch of our route, from the Cimarron to Arkansas river. This track, which has since remained permanent, was made in the year 1834. Owing to continuous rains during the passage of the caravan of that year, a plain trail was then cut in the softened turf, on the most direct route across this arid desert, leaving the Arkansas about twenty miles above the 'Caches.' This has ever since been the regular route of the caravans; and thus a recurrence of those distressing sufferings from thirst, so frequently experienced by early travelers in that inhospitable region, has been prevented.
Josiah Gregg
The baptismal and burial fees (neither of which can be avoided without incurring the charge of heresy) are also a great terror to the candidates for married life. "If I marry," says the poor yeoman, "my family must go unclad to baptize my children; and if any of them should die, we must starve ourselves to pay the burial charges." The fee for baptism, it is true, is not so exorbitant, and in accordance to custom, is often paid by the padrino or sponsor; but the burial costs are almost equally extravagant with those of marriage, varying in proportion to the age and circumstances of the deceased. A faithful Mexican servant in my employ at Chihuahua, once solicited forty dollars to bury his mother. Upon my expressing some surprise at the exorbitancy of the amount, he replied —"That is what the cura demands, sir, and if I do not pay it my poor mother will remain unburied!" Thus this man was obliged to sacrifice several months' wages, to pamper the avarice of a vicious and mercenary priest. On another occasion, a poor widow in Santa Fé, begged a little medicine for her sick child: "Not," said the disconsolate mother, "that the life of the babe imports me much, for I know the angelito [little angel] will go directly to heaven; but what shall I do to pay the priest for burying it? He will take my house and all from me — and I shall be turned desolate into the street!" — and so saying, she commenced weeping bitterly.
Josiah Gregg quotes
We had just reached the extreme edge of the far famed 'Cross Timbers,' when we were gratified by the arrival of forty dragoons, under the command of Lieut. Bowman, who had orders to accompany us to the supposed boundary of the United States.
Josiah Gregg
I prepared to set out for the Chihuahua market, whither a portion of our stock had been designed. Upon this expedition I was obliged to depart without my brother, who was laboring under the 'home fever,' and anxious to return to his family. ...Men under such bonds are peculiarly unfitted for the checkered life of a Santa Fé trader. The domestic hearth, with all its sacred and most endearing recollections, is sure to haunt them in the hour of trial, and almost every step of their journey is apt to be attended by melancholy reflections of home and domestic dependencies.
Gregg Josiah
In default of bow or lance, they chase with the fusil, but seldom so successfully as with the former weapons. The Americans generally prefer 'running' with the horseman's pistol; yet the Indian is apt to kill double as many with his arrows or lance.


© 2009–2013Quotes Privacy Policy | Contact