Journey of the Peoria Party


The overall theme of the Peoria Party's diaries and reminiscences is of frequent heavy storms, hunger, and discontentment among the participants in the venture. For the most part I have included only enough bits and pieces to give a general overview of the journey. The dates are often in disagreement from journal to journal, as is the amount of miles traveled and the route taken and the accounts of incidents that occurred. At times, one wonders if they indeed were all in the same party.

21 May 1839
Farnham: arrived at Independence, MO. with sixteen others to finish preparations for our expedition to the Oregon Territory.

Oakley: [May 20] arrived at Colwell's pasture 2 1/2 miles west of Independence where we remained 9 days while we disposed of our wagons and harness and purchased horses and mules, provisions, trinkets to use for barter with the Indians, etc.

Holman: arrived at Independence, MO with a two-horse team and some loose horses. We changed to saddle horses and pack animals.

30 May 1839
Farnham: took road that led SW from Independence toward Santa Fe. Three miles outside of Independence torrential rains forced the party to take cover in a local school-house for the night.

Oakley: [May 29] resumed journey in the rain with 18 in company, two having joined at Independence. Each are mounted on horseback with 7 pack mules, 3 of which are owned in common and 4 by individuals.

30 May 1839
Oakley: two of Q.A. Jordan's horses pulled loose from stakes last night and he has gone to retrieve them. It is suspected that they returned to Colwell's Pasture.

01 Jun 1839
Farnham: the morning was clear and pleasant and the party took an early departure, crossing a stream called Big Blue. Camp that night was at Elm Grove where final arrangements were made for the journey. Officers were chosen, rules were defined and after an inventory of supplies it was decided to send back to the Kauzaus Indian mill for 200 pounds of additional flour.

Shortess: the organization was completed by the election of C. Wood lieutenant, and the division of the company into platoons of four men each, sixteen men and two officers all told.

Oakley: two of Q.A. Jordan's horses pulled loose from stakes again last night. Jordan, accompanied by Sidney Smith, has gone to retrieve them.

03 Jun 1839
Farnham: traveled along Santa Fe trail for 15 miles where camp was set up while two members of the party went in search of horses that had disappeared at the Elm Grove encampment.

05 Jun 1839
Farnham: commenced travel. Supplies drenched by torrential rains during the night.

06 Jun 1939
Oakley: We caught a large snapping turtle which we proceeded to dress at once.
Smith: I shot a Turtle that weighed about 20 lbs. and after supper we boiled him and made him into soup.

07 Jun 1839
Farnham: reached the Osage River at approximately 100 miles SW of Independence. Three of the party left the company to return home with a passing group of Santa Fe traders.

Oakley: met returning party of traders, consisting of 7 wagons and a proportionate number of men. Three of our company, viz: Orin Garrett and Thos. Picket of Peoria, and a young man named Moore of Quincy, accompanied the returning travelers.

08 Jun 1839

Farnham: camped at Council Grove. Its name is derived from the practice among the traders of assembling here for the appointment of officers and the establishment of rules and regulations. After matters are settled, the "council" breaks up and the journey begins. [Note: Hafen Vol III states: "Council Grove was the most famous stopping place on the old Santa Fe Trail. It was named for the council with the Osage Indians, held there on August 10, 1825"]

12 Jun 1839
Farnham: low on food, cold and drenched by the previous evenings thunder storms. At 3:00 in the afternoon the party experienced a thunder storm, the violence of which had seldom been seen. "The plains were converted into a sea; the sky, overflowing with floods, lighted by a continual blaze of electric fire! the creation trembling at the voice of the warring heavens! It was such a scene as no pen can adequately describe." About 6:00 overtook a company of Santa Fe traders led by Capt. Kelly.

Oakley: [June 11] "The weather continuing clear, we started early in the morning and traveled on till about 2 o'clock when the heat became so intense that we were compelled to dismount and lead our almost worn-out horses.....The extreme heat was soon followed by a tremendous storm of rain and wind, accompanied by terrific peals of thunder and the most vivid and blinding flashes of lightning I ever witnessed......." At 4:00 in the afternoon we met up with Capt. Kelly's company, bound for Santa Fe, consisting of 29 men, with a train of 14 wagons. Camped with Kelly's company for night. "Capt. Kelly possesses the manners and feelings of a gentleman..."

13 Jun 1839
Oakley: Shortess, Jordan, Fletcher and myself sent out as hunters. Met a trading party of thirty odd men and ten wagons loaded with pelts under the command of Mr. Bent. We were kindly treated and feasted for the night.

16 Jun 1839
Oakley: met company of traders bound for Santa Fe with 53 wagons and 93 men. We had been four days with only one meal of catfish. Feasted with the traders.

18 Jun 1839
Farnham: The day of the 19th terminated with the encounter of the hunters formerly sent forward from our company. They had fared even worse than ourselves. Four of the seven days that they had been absent they had been without food. On the 18th, however, they overtook Messrs. Walworth and Alvarez's teams, and were treated with great hospitality. On the same day they killed a buffalo bull.

Oakley: Jordan and Fletcher killed a buffalo. Two of the hunters went back with a portion of the buffalo to meet the rest of the company. Overtook the Santa Fe company and traveled with them.

21 Jun 1839
Farnham: one of those petty bickerings, so common among men released from the restraints of society and law, had arisen between two of the most quarrelsome of the company, terminating in the accidental wounding of one of them....A dispute arose between the parties as to their relative moral honesty in some matter or thing, or act in the past. And as this was a question of great perplexity in their own minds, and doubt in those of others, words ran hight and abusive, till some of the men, more regardful of their duty than these warriors, began preparations to strike the tent. The redoubtable combatants were within it; and as the cords were loosed, and its folds began to swing upon the centre pole, the younger of the braves, filled with wrath at his opponent, attempted to let loose among his muscles. For this purpose, it would seem he seized the muzzle of his rifle with every demonstration of might, power, &c. and attempted to drag it from among the baggage. The hammer of the lock caught, and sent the contents of the barrel into his side......During the afternoon the high chief of the Caws also visited us; and by introducing discolored water into the upper oriface, and watching its progress through, ascertained that the ball had not entered the cavity...We were on the hunting ground of the Caws, the Pawnees were daily expected and the Cumanches were prowling around the neighborhood. To remain, therefore, in our present encampment, unti Smith could travel without pain and danger, was deemed certain death to all."

Oakley: "A most dreadful accident occurred this morning. While the tent was being struck, and the company preparing to depart, Mr. Smith, in drawing his gun toward him, the muzzle forward, permitted the trigger to come in contact with some protuberance on his saddle, when it went off immediately in the direction of the bottom of the chest. The ball struck one of his waistband buttons and glanced to the left, penetrating the flesh and severing two of his ribs. He was caught, while in the act of falling, by Mr. Oakley, who on removing his clothing, found the flesh to be dreadfully lacerated and the ball lodged near the spine. The Santa Fe Company in which was a surgeon--Dr. Walworth [Shortess says the doctors name was Waldo], one of the owners, was about five miles ahead, and thither Mr. O. hastened for assistance. Dr. W. returned in his carryall with a bed [Shortess says the doctor came on horseback and the carriage was brought up by Chauncy Wood, who had gone after the doctor] and after extracting the ball and dressing the wound, put Smith in the carriage......"

Traveling into the night, progress was hampered by the herds of buffalo lining the road and covering the prairie. For fifteen miles the buffalo were so numerous as to blacken the ground in every direction.

After setting up camp that night a severe storm struck. The tent poles were broken and the tent blown about as if a feather. The rain fell in sheets and the "thunder pealed louder than the report of a thousand cannon, and the lightning flashing like angry glances of the Almighty in the pauses of the stunning commotion."

Smith: "this day I was Shot the ball entering at the point of the 7th Rib and was taken out at the Root of the 4 falls rib after Cuting off the tips of the same. I was Carried by the Santifee Co. 9 days. they Showed me all the kindness that was in their power..."

Shortess: On the second or third day an accident happened, which caused much suffering to the individual, and detriment to the company. The writer was absent at the time, having gone in search of some mules that had strayed off the night previous, but the statement of eye- witnesses was that a wordy war broke out between the men while packing up in the morning. One of them seized his rifle by the muzzle and drew it towards him with a jerk; the hammer being entangled with his saddle was drawn back and the rifle discharged,, the bullet glancing from a button of his trousers, passing between the skin and rib, fracturing some of them and stopping inside the skin near the back.

25 Jun 1939
Oakley: Smith very weak and suffering much.

27 Jun 1939
Oakley: Waited here today for the Santa Fe company to come up. Dissatisfaction arising from disagreement with the rest of the party has caused Quincy A. Jordan, Chauncey Wood and John Pritchard to join Santa Fe company. One of the Santa Fe company named Blair has elected to join us.

28 Jun 1939
Farnham: "On this day a mutiny, which had been ripening ever since Smith was wounded assumed a clear aspect. It now appeared that certain individuals of my company had determined to leave Smith to perish in the encampment where he was shot; but failing in supporters of so barbarous a proposition, they now endeavored to accomplish their design by less objectionable means.......they would propose that arrangements should be made with the Santa Feans to take him along with them.....but my efforts proved fruitless [the Santa Feans did not want responsibilty for a man not of their own company]...the mutineers were highly displeased with the strong condemnation contained in them, of their intention to desert him; and boldly proposed to leave Smith in the carry-all, and secretly depart for the mountains....But the meanness of the proposition to leave a sick companion on the hands of those who had shown us unbounded kindness, and in violation of the solemn agreement we had all entered into on the frontier of Missouri--"

Oakley: The carryall with Smith arrived and as we are to separate here the carryall must be returned to the Santa Fe company. Some of our company made a horrid proposition to leave Smith on the plain to perish or to take care of himself as he could. "This diabolical suggestion originated with Shortess and one other, who swore that unless it were complied with they would leave the company--shameful and humiliating truth must be spoken--all but five, consisting now of thirteen, joined the two miscreants in this scheme of wickedness! One of them carried his inhumanity so far as to refuse Smith a draught of water from his can! I told them I would sooner die than be guilty of such an act of worse than savage cruelty, and all five determined to carry him forward at all hazards." It was decided to disband the company and divide the property held in common.

Shortess: "Before reaching the crossing, our leader, in consequence of intemperance and neglect of duty, had entirely lost all influence or authority, and every one did that which was right in his eyes. Here we separated from the wagons, they crossing to the southern side, and we continuing up the river to the north...... Before leaving the crossing our leader, being accused of incompetency and waste of funds placed in his hands, saw fit to resign, and narrowly escaped expulsion along with two others, who had become obnoxious to the party."

29 Jun 1939
Oakley: Smith was mounted on horseback, which was very painful and he was compelled to halt for rest frequently.

06 Jul 1939
Oakley: Reached Bent's Fort today. Here we made a division of the common property of the company according to previous arrangement. "Farnham, Smith, Wood, Blair and myself being determined to travel no farther with Shortess and Moore, deeming them persons in whom no confidence could be placed."

Shortess: We remained at Bent's fort about one week, during which time the division of the party was effected......Three, T.J. Farnham, Sydney Smith and O.A. Oakley, were voted out, and W. Blair and Joseph Wood chose to go with them.....The rest of our party, now reduced to eight, followed the Arkansas River about 60 miles, thence north to South Platte and thence down river to St. Vrain's fort. Here we were detained six weeks waiting to join the Green river Party. [as Shortess does not indicate dates, the remainder of his journey can be found at the bottom of this page]

11 Jul 1939
Farnham: started on journey again "with three sound and good men, and one wounded and bad one". Stopped at Fort El Puebla to purchase a horse and hire a guide. Hired Capt. Kelly as a guide.

Oakley: Shortess and Moore left about noon accompanied by Fletcher, Kilbourn, Homer [Joseph Holman], Fash, Cook and Yates, intending to strike the forks of the Platte on their way to the mouth of the Columbia, a more southern [northern] route than we intended to pursue.

12 Jul 1939
Oakley: Started about 4:00 in the afternoon for Purbulo, a Spanish post where Mr. Kelly, who had engaged to act as a guide, and his assistant, a Spaniard, awaited us. We had seven horses and one mule. Three of the horses were needed for packing leaving two of the party on foot.

Smith: "traveled 4 m to Perbleau or Fort Indipendence. Fort inhabited by french Spaniards Indians half breeds and negroes."

19 Jul 1939
Oakley: Our provisions are entirely exhausted and it began to hail with such violence that we were forced to make camp. It fell two inches and remained on the ground all night. Weather cold and uncomfortable.

20 Jul 1939
Oakley: Killed a buffalo, an antelope and a mountain hen. Traveled 10 miles and killed another buffalo that we made into jerky.

02 Aug 1939
Oakley: At noon we cooked the last of our meat and while we were at dinner we were visited by three men who had discovered us by our trail. They joined us in our scanty meal and after staying two or three hours, returned to their company, consisiting of 10 men, who were camped seven miles from us. The party was under the command of Captain William Craig, one of the partners of Thompson at Brown's Hole. One of the party accosted Smith with "How do you do, Mr. Carroll?" but Smith having called him aside for a moment, he afterwards addressed him by Mr. Smith [Carroll was apparently an alias he had used at some point ]. We resumed our march and about dark two of the above mentioned company--Burns and Ward-- accompanied by a squaw overtook us and we camped together.

Smith: [Aug 1] "this day 3 trappers came to our Camp. One of them I was acquanited with in St. Louis by the name of Charles A. Warfield the other 2 was Craig and Beer" [no mention was made by Smith of being referred to as Mr. Carroll by Warfield]

06 Aug 1939
Oakley: Departed from the trappers this morning. About noon we met four French trappers that had been attacked 2 weeks before by Indians as they left Brown's Hole. Smith exchanged his horse with one of the party for two others.

13 Aug 1939
Oakley: Reached the fort at Brown's Hole on the Green River [Fort Davy Crockett]. The greater part of the garrison was absent, some trapping, others hunting, as they were destitute of provisions at the fort. We bought meat from a Snake Indian for two meals and then purchased three dogs of the same tribe for food.

17 Aug 1939
Farnham: Paul Richardson and three of his companions arrived at Fort Hall today. This old Yankee woodsman had been upon one of his favorite summer trips from St. Louis to the borders of Oregon. Mr. Richardson's descriptions of Oregon had the effect of drawing off two of my companions.

Oakley: Packed up to head for Fort Hall with Capt. Kelly as guide. Were much discouraged by Mr. St. Clair who told us we could not get farther than Fort Hall before winter and that we would be eating our horses before spring. "As we were preparing to leave, a party consisting of Paul Richardson (leader), Dr. Wislizenus, Charles Kline, Mr. Koontz and a French trapper named Eugene arrived. They were returning from escorting a missionary group--Revs. Monger and Griffin and their wives-- to Fort Hall. Mr. Richardson told us what a poor country for farming Oregon was and being much discouraged, Joseph Wood and myself concluded to return with Richardson and his company. On our return we ran into a Sioux village of approximately 10,800 souls and were detained as prisoners for three days. A group of friendly Cheyenne Indians procured our release. We found Shortess and his party on the Platte where they had been for 42 days. All their horses had been stolen by Indians. About two months from the time of leaving it we arrived at Bent's Fort. From there we struck Westport, MO where Wood concluded to stay. At Fort Osage I boarded a steamboat for St. Louis and then on to Peoria, arriving Nov 3."

19 Aug 1839
Farnham: Determined to reach the Columbia River Farnham hired an Indian Guide whom the whites called "Jim" to pilot Smith and him to Fort Hall. Journey commenced today.

Smith: "Staid at the fort till the morning of the 19 and then started for the Columbia with an Indian for our guide, a Snake or a Shoshone." [no mention is made by Smith of newest split in party. ]

25 Aug 1839
Farnham: met up with a trapper by the name of Madison Gordon who was on his way to Fort Davy Crockett to get his squaw and "possibles", preparatory to descending the Columbia to open a farm in the valley of the Willamette. He said that was also the intention of nearly all his fellow trappers.
Smith: "fell in with a trapper by the Name of Madison Gordon, invited him back to our Camp as he was out of meet. took Supper & Brekfast then [he] left for fort Crockette or Browns-Hole."

28 Aug 1839
Smith: "Just as we ware about to Start we espied a Solitary harsman which proved on our approach to be a Mr. Meaks [Joe Meeks], the man that had the combat with the Grizally Bear, as represented in the museum at St. Louis, Mo. he Stated that he had been in the mo. eleven years, & from Verginia...he is a man full Six feet, Strong and Authletic, & open Countinance has a Squaw."

01 Sep 1839
Farnham: reached Fort Hall
Smith: [31 Aug) "..arived at Fo[rt Hall] whare we ware trated by the utmost politeness by Mr. Walker... [Courtney M. Walker]"

02 Sep 1839
Smith: "Started traveled 10 m and campt on Snake River..."

05 Sep 1839
Smith: "...ware overtaken by a young Swiss who will go down to Wallawalla..."

14 Sep 1839
Smith: "wa are at Fort-Boise we ware Received by Mr. Payette in a very polite and genteel manner and entertained Sumtuously.."

22 Sep 1839
Smith: "we ware at Fort Wallawalla on the River Columbia"

24 Sep 1839
Smith: "this day a boat left for vancoover with 37 Packs of beever and 18 men and wimmen & Children their was no oppertunity for me to obtain a passage; So I am obliged to Stay and go down by land as far as the Rev. Mr. Perkins from their I Shall be able to go to Van-Coover or to Wallhamet as I may think proper"

25 Sep 1839
Smith: "this day Spent at the Fort in an agreeable manner was furnished with Books by Liet V.C. Pemrone [ Lieut. Pierre Chrysologue Pambrun] a fine Sociable and agreeable Gentleman "

26 Sep 1839
Smith: "this day I Shall Start for Rev. Mr. Perkins...I am hear alone to finish my Jurney to the mouth of the Columbia with an Indian for my guide" [Smith reached the Perkins household on the 30th of September and stayed there until the 11th of October. He commenced his journey and arrived at the home of Thomas J. Hubbard 19 Oct 1839. ]

Fort Crockett-Oregon
Shortess: Upon reaching Fort Crockett a heavy snow fall fell and the emigrants, with the exception of the writer, decided to winter at the fort. Newell and Meek being about to start for Fort Hall to sell their furs and lay in a supply of goods for the winter trade, invited the writer to accompany them. Eleven days from the time we started we reached Fort Hall. [At Fort Hall, in order to assist Shortess in continuing his journey, Mr. Ermatinger agreed to send what fur he had to Fort Walla Walla in charge of a Canadian named Sylvertry, Shortess and assisted by two natives. After a particularly severe storm, the Indians deserted, Silvertry and Shortess arrived at Fort Boise about two weeks after leaving Fort Hall, rested one day and resumed the journey. Ten days later they arrived at Fort Walla Walla, where Shortess continued on to the Whitman Mission and wintered with the Whitmans, Asahel Munger and wife and Edwin O. Hall and wife. On the 12th of March Shortess journyed to the mission of Rev. H.K.W. Perkins at The Dalles where he stayed two weeks before continuing down into the Willamette Valley. ]

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