CHAPTER VII. EXPLORATIONS AND SURVEYS (Continued).
Since the foregoing was written I have received through the kindness of the Hon. Henry F. Ashurst, a copy of Senate Document No. 42, of the 65th Congress, First Session, which is an article written by Thomas F. Dawson on the Grand Canyon, in which the story of White's adventure is dealt with fully. Here it is shown that Dr. Parry, who was connected with the railroad expedition at that time, wrote the account of White's trip from notes made by Major Calhoun, who says that he obtained the facts from White himself.
The story, as written by Major Calhoun, and printed soon after, is included in a small book entitled Wonderful Adventures, published by W. B. Evans & Co., of Philadelphia, of which city Major Calhoun was a resident. It is the first of a series of adventures of which the work is composed, and bears the title, Passage of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, by A. R. Calhoun.
In this document the story as it deals with White's journey, and as written by Major Calhoun, is published in full, and differs in no material point from that given in the foregoing pages, attributed to Dr. Parry. Here is also printed an account of White's voyage published in the Rocky Mountain Herald under date of January 8th, 1869, about five months before Major Powell began his exploration. It was sent from an obscure place in New Mexico and the writer appears to have been under the impression that Major Powell had already started on his work. The name of the author is not preserved, but the account differs in some respects from the others. Referring to the prospective expedition by Major Powell, the writer says:
JAMES WHITE. In his 80th year.
I trust Mr. Powell's expedition is progressing favorably and that he will be able to furnish a satisfactory report to an expectant public, for I can assure you that should he be entirely successful, he will accomplish a work the magnitude of which—leaving its danger entirely out of consideration—will far surpass that of any former exploration on the American continent.’’
The writer further said that the Canyon had never been traversed before, and in this connection added: ‘‘None of the Indian tribes on the river have either remembrance or tradition that the voyage had ever previously been made.’’
The writer further said that White and his companion, Strole, had little knowledge of the country, and that although they had heard of the Grand Canyon, they had no definite idea either of its locality or its extent. There was but little rough water at first, and for a time all
Having passed the night on the island, our voyagers set out in the morning with their raft in better condition than before, and with renewed hope of soon getting to the end of their journey, or at least of reaching a port. From the size and depth of the stream they argued that Callville must be near. After they had floated for a few hours, however, the sound of falling water was borne to their ears, becoming more and more distinct as they proceeded until they were satisfied that they were approaching a cataract. Meanwhile they had gradually and almost unconsciously drifted into a canyon with high precipitous walls which confined the river within a narrower channel than that in which it had coursed above. A hasty reconnaissance convinced them that they could not escape from the gorge by climbing the walls, while the current was now so swift that it was useless to think of turning back. White took the precaution to lash himself to the raft, but Strole refused to take this precaution.
On swept the raft with rapidly increasing speed; the voyagers silent, with stern, compressed lips and tense nerves boldly facing the peril which they were now powerless to avoid. One moment they were balanced on the brink of the cataract, the next they were plunged sheer 12 feet into the seething waters beneath.
Emerging at length, White found himself alone upon the raft, which an eddy had caught in the rim of its vortex and was whirling around. White had been seriously disturbed by the shock of the fall, but when he recovered his self-possession, he looked around for his companion and quickly descried him in mid-channel some 20 feet distant, buffeting the current with feeble and uncertain stroke. Shouting to him some words of encouragement and hastily freeing himself from his lashings, White prepared to make such efforts as he could to assist and save his comrade. But almost immediately, poor Strole, half strangled, doubtless, and bewildered by his frightful plunge over the cataract, without a cry or a groan, sank and rose no more.
The fate of either of his comrades would have been a merciful one to White in comparison to what befell him. Poor fellow, his troubles had hardly begun, while theirs were ended, at least for this world. The death of Strole fell upon him with crushing weight. Sinking upon the raft, which floated slowly
White no longer doubted that he was in the Grand Canyon. He could neither scale the walls nor return. There was nothing left but to proceed down the stream, and in that direction there seemed not the shadow of a chance that he might succeed and live. He only dared to hope that by carefully tying himself to the raft his body might float through with some portion of it and be identified by means of a pocket memorandum book which he endeavored to secure to his person, so that his fate might become known to his relatives and friends.
Having considered these things with the desperate calmness of a man who regards himself as doomed to speedy and inevitable death, he nevertheless omitted nothing which might tend to the preservation of his life. First, he overhauled his raft and tightened its lashings. Next he stripped the mesquite bushes which grew on the bank of their scanty crop, with which he partially appeased his hunger. Then, with a fervent appeal to the great Father of all, he launched his raft and floated away to encounter unknown dangers and terrors.
Below each fall there was an island formed by the land thrown up by the eddying waters, affording him an opportunity of hauling up his raft for repairs—a very necessary operation, as the ropes by which it was bound were frequently cut upon the edges of the rocks at the head of the falls—and as a place of rest during the nights. At first the mesquite growing upon the islands supplied him with a scanty allowance of food, but after the sixth day he found the islands barren. A rawhide knife scabbard then afforded him some slight sustenance and a good deal of chewing for a couple of days, after which he was without food until he passed the Rio Virgen. One day he saw some lizards, but was too feeble to catch them. To add to his misery, he was stripped by the rocks and water of his hat, pants, drawers, boots and socks; his head, feet, and legs became blistered and raw by the sun's rays.
At length, on the evening of September 6, the raft, with our bruised, battered, and starving voyager, more dead than alive, and yet retaining a great deal of the wonderful vitality which thus far had sustained him, still clinging to it, emerged from the canyon. Again the
Soon after passing the mouth of a considerable stream, the Rio Virgen, he heard voices shouting to him. He could hardly convince himself that the sounds were real, and he gazed in wondering surprise toward the bank. A number of Indians leaped into the water, swam out to him, and pushed the raft ashore. He was roughly treated by the Indians, who tore off his coat tails and seized one of his revolvers. One of the Indians who spoke English told him they were Pah-Utes. They seemed to comprehend the fearful trip White had made and to express some astonishment among themselves that he should have survived it, but his condition excited not the smallest spark of sympathy in their dusky bosoms.
White asked for food, and the Indians agreed to give him a small dog for the remaining pistol. But on securing the weapon, they let the dog escape. He was finally compelled to give them his vest for catching and killing the animal, and even then the Indians appropriated the fore quarters. White ate a hind quarter of the dog raw and without salt for his supper, and then lay down and slept soundly. In the morning he ate the other hind quarter and resumed his voyage to Callville.
It chanced that at this time the barge Colorado, of Fort Mojave, in charge of Capt. Wilburn, with a crew of four or five men, was at Callville, receiving a cargo of lime and salt. Standing on the bank, the captain saw the strange craft passing by on the other side and hailed it.
He looked older, for his long hair and flowing beard were white. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks thin and emaciated, his shrunken legs a mass of black and loathsome scabs from his loins to his toes. As he crawled slowly and painfully toward them, the men, with exclamations of astonishment and pity, went to meet and assist him. They brought him to their camp, gave him food, washed and anointed his sores, and clothed him. White became delirious, but toward evening his wandering senses returned, and he was able to give an account of himself.
When I last heard of White he was carrying the mail between Callville and Mojave. At the latter place Gen. W. J. Palmer saw and conversed with him, and from his statements was satisfied that the length of the Grand Canyon is not less than 500 miles, and that its thorough scientific exploration, while not absolutely impossible, will present difficulties which will not soon be surmounted.’’
White is still living, a resident of Trinidad, Colorado, and has furnished a statement at first hand of his adventure, which is here reproduced. It seems that after remaining a few months on the lower Colorado, and after visiting his old home in Wisconsin, Mr. White returned to Colorado and ultimately located in Trinidad, where he has lived since 1878, and there, in 1916, he prepared this account of his voyage which, as far as known, is the only printed statement made and signed by him, with the exception of a brief account which appeared in a Wisconsin paper soon after the conclusion of his voyage. Mr. White writes:‘‘
I was born in Rome, N. Y., November 19, 1837, but was reared in Kenosha, Wis. At the age of 23 I left for Denver, Colo., later drifting to California, and there enlisted in the Army at Camp Union, Sacramento, in Company H, California Infantry, Gen. Carleton (some doubt as to the correct spelling of his name) being general of the regiment, and the company being under Capt. Stratton. I served in the Army three and one-half years, being honorably discharged at Franklin, Tex., on May 31, 1865. From there I went to Santa Fe, N. Mex., and
Before going further with my story I would like to relate here what I know of Capt. Baker's history. He had been in the San Juan country in 1860 and was driven out by the Indians. He showed me lumber that he had sawed by hand to make sluice boxes. I was only with him about three months, and he spoke very little of his personal affairs. When we were together in Colorado City he met several of his former friends that he had been prospecting with in the early sixties. I cannot remember their names. The only thing I know is that he mentioned coming from St. Louis, but never spoke of himself as being a soldier, and I thought 'Captain' was just a nickname for him. He was a man
After reaching Colorado City, Colo., Baker proposed a prospecting trip to the San Juan. There we got our outfit, and that spring the four of us started on the trip and went over to the Rio Grande. At the Rio Grande Goodfellow was shot in the foot, and we left him at a farm house, and the three of us proceeded on our trip. From the Rio Grande we went over to the head of it, down on the Animas, up the Eureka Gulch. There we prospected one month. We dug a ditch 150 feet long and 15 feet deep. We did not find anything, so we went down the Animas 5 miles, crossed over into the Mancos. At the head of the Mancos we saw a large lookout house about 100 feet high, which was built out of cobblestones. Farther down the canyon we saw houses built of cobblestones, and also noticed small houses about 2 feet square that were built up about 50 feet on the side of the canyon and seemed to be houses of some kind of a bird that was worshipped. We followed the Mancos down until we struck the San Juan. Then we followed the San Juan down as far as we could and then swam our horses across and started over to the Grand River, but before we got to the Grand River we struck a canyon; so we went down that canyon and camped there three days. We could not get out of the canyon on the opposite side, so we had to go out of the canyon the same way we went down. There we were attacked
We travelled all day until about 5 o'clock, when we struck the head of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. There we picked up some logs and built us a raft. We had 200 feet of rope when we first built the raft, which was about 6 feet wide and 8 feet long, just big enough to hold us up. The logs were securely tied together with the ropes. We got on our raft at night, working it with a pole. We travelled all night, and the next day, at 10 o'clock, we passed the mouth of the San Juan river. We had smooth floating for three days. The third day, about 5 o'clock, we went over a rapid, and George was washed off, but I caught hold of him and got him on the raft again.
From the time we started the walls of the Canyon were from two to three thousand feet high, as far as I could estimate at the time, and some days we could only see the sun for an hour, possibly two hours. Each day we would mix
On the fourth day we rebuilt our raft, finding cedar logs along the bank from 12 to 14 feet long and about 8 or 10 inches through. We made it larger than the first one. The second raft was about 8 feet wide and 12 feet long. We started down the river again, and about 8 o'clock in the morning (as to our time, we were going by the sun) we got into a whirlpool and George was washed off. I hollered to him to swim ashore, but he went down and I never saw him again.
After George was drowned I removed my trousers, tying them to the raft, so I would be able to swim in case I was washed off. I then tied a long rope to my waist, which was fastened to the raft, and I kept the rope around my waist until the twelfth day.
About noon I passed the mouth of the Little Colorado river, where the water came into the canyon as red as could be, and just below that I struck a large whirlpool and I was in the whirlpool about two hours or more before I got out.
I floated on all that day, going over several rapids, and when night came I tied my raft to the rocks and climbed upon the rocks of the walls of the canyon to rest. I had nothing to eat on the fourth day.
On the sixth day I started down the river again, and I came to a little island in the middle of the river. There was a bush of mesquite beans on this island, and I got a handful of these beans and ate them. When night came I rested on the walls again.
The seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth days were uneventful, but still going continuously over rapids, and still nothing to eat. So I cut my knife scabbard into small pieces and swallowed them. During the entire trip I saw no fish or game of any kind.
On the eleventh day I went over the big rapid. I saw it before I came to it, and laid down on my stomach and hung to the raft and let the raft go over the rapid, and after getting about 200 yards below the rapid I stopped and looked at a stream of water about as large as my body that was running through the solid rocks of the canyon about 75 feet above my head, and the clinging moss to the rocks made a beautiful sight. The beauty of it cannot be described.
On the twelfth day my raft got on some rocks and I could not get it off; so I waded on to a small island in the middle of the river. On this island there was an immense tree that had been lodged there. The sun was so hot I could not work, so I dug the earth out from under the tree and laid under it until the sun disappeared behind the cliffs. This was about noon. After resting there I got up and found five sticks about as big as my leg and took them
On the thirteenth day I started out again on my newly made raft (leaving the old raft on the rocks), thinking it was daylight; but it was moonlight, and I continued down the river until daylight. While floating in the moonlight I saw a pole sticking up between two large rocks, which I afterwards learned the Government had placed there some years before as the end of its journey.
When daylight came I heard some one talking, and I hollered ‘‘hello,’’ and they hollered ‘‘hello’’ back. I discovered then that they were Indians. Some of them came out to the raft and pulled me ashore. There were a lot on the bank, and I asked them if they were friendly, and they said they were, and I then asked them to give me something to eat, when they gave me a piece of mesquite bread. While I was talking to some of the Indians, the others stole my half-ax and one of my revolvers, which were roped to the raft. They also tore my coat trying to take it from me.
After eating the bread I got on my raft and floated until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when I came upon another band of Indians, and I went ashore and went into their camp. They did not have anything for me to eat, so I traded my other revolver and vest for a dog. They skinned the dog and gave me the two hind quarters and I ate one of them for supper, roasting
Jim Ferry or Perry (not sure as to the first letter of this name) was a mail agent at this place. He was also a correspondent for some newspaper in San Francisco. He took me in and fed me. When I landed all the clothing I had on my body was a coat and a shirt, and my flesh was all lacerated on my legs from my terrible experience and of getting on and off the raft and climbing on the rocks. My beard and hair were long and faded from the sun. I was so pale that even the Indians were afraid of me. I was nothing but skin and bones and so weak that I could hardly walk. Jim Ferry (or Perry) cared for me for three days, and the soldiers around there gave me clothing enough to cover my body.
From Fort Mojave I went to Callville again and there worked for Jim Ferry (or Perry), carrying the mail for three months between Callville and Fort Mojave. Then he sold out to Jim Hinton, and I carried mail for him for a month. He sold out, and we each bought a horse and pack animal and we started from Callville,
These are the plain facts. There are many minor points that could be mentioned, but did not think it necessary to mention here. I have never been through that country since my experience, but have had a great desire to go over the same country again, but have never been financially able to take the trip.
‘‘Indians and trappers have always believed that no man could tread the stupendous gorge, hundreds of miles long, with its unknown cataracts and its frowning rock walls a mile high, and come out alive. But one has done it and lives to tell the tale. * * * What a romance his adventures would make. Let Charles Reade or Victor Hugo take James White for a hero and give us a new novel to hold children from play and old men from the chimney corner.’’
The fact having been established by so many witnesses that White actually made his appearance below the canyon, the case would be complete if it could be shown that he went into the canyon at its head; but obviously such proof is
All that can be done to substantiate White's story regarding the entrance upon his perilous enterprise, is to adduce as much testimony as possible indicating the probability of truthfulness in that connection. Necessarily, in view of the lapse of time and the remoteness of the locality, such proof is scarce. Still it is not entirely lacking. We have at least three witnesses whose testimony shows that White and Baker, with others, were moving toward the head of the canyon in the spring of 1867, and fortunately one of these still lives. He is no other than Hon. T. J. Ehrhart, the present highly regarded chairman of the Colorado State Highway Commission. The other two are S. B. Kellogg and Mrs. Thomas Pollock, both formerly of Lake City, Colo., whom we find quoted in the Rocky Mountain News, of Denver, in its issue of November 14, 1877.
The statement in the News was a contribution from a correspondent, and the reference to White was incidental to an effort to clear up the fate of Baker, who, as the leader of the first expedition into the San Juan region, was a historical character in Colorado. Kellogg had aided in fitting out the original Baker expedition when it left California Gulch in 1860, and had become a member of the Baker party while it was operating in San Juan during the fall of that year, while Mrs. Pollock had joined the
‘‘In the summer of 1867 Charles Baker returned to Colorado and camped for a short time on Chalk Creek. With several other men he started south from there and wandered through the mountains prospecting. Their number dwindled down until only Baker, a man named White, and another, whose name is forgotten, remained together.’’
The particulars of the futile prospecting trip through the San Juan, the journey to the mouth of the Grand River, the murder of Baker, and White's voyage down the river are then recounted, after which recital the News writer adds:
‘‘In May last White was in Lake City, and it is believed that he is now in the southern part of the State. He is about 35 years of age, a plain, matter-of-fact, practical, adventurous man. There is not a shadow of doubt about his wonderful adventures and his marvellous escape through the Canyon of the Colorado.’’
The writer does not say in explicit words that Kellogg and Mrs. Pollock met Baker while engaged in his new prospecting enterprise, but he gives the impression that they were relating facts of which they were personally cognizant. As a matter of fact, however, Baker's presence
The testimony seems abundant that White did pass the winter in the San Juan country in a futile prospecting tour. Among those who vouch for the correctness of this story is T. J. Ehrhart, Commissioner of State Highways of Colorado, and among those who vouch for the character of Mr. White, who seems to have raised a family and to have always pursued a quiet life, not realizing at any time that he had done anything extraordinary in passing through the Grand Canyon, is Hon. D. L. Taylor, Mayor of the City of Trinidad, who has known White ever since he located in Trinidad; the Hon. S. W. De Busk, State Senator from the Trinidad District; the Hon. Julius Gunter, Governor of Colorado, and Eli Jeffryes, Cashier of the First National Bank of Trinidad, besides a number of others. Mr. Jeffryes said:‘‘
George Wharton James in his work, In and Around the Grand Canyon, says that White subsequently worked for Major Powell. White declares that at no time was he in the employ of the Major, nor did he know him, and that he had never seen the man. In a letter dated "Trinidad, Colo., April 20, 1917," to Mr. Dawson, Mr. White says:‘‘
I have come into knowledge of the fact that a charge has been made that I did not reach the Colorado river above the San Juan, but below it. You will notice from the account that I sent you of my trip that when our party started on our prospecting trip we were headed for the Grand River, as Baker said there was gold in that part of the country; but Baker was killed before reaching the Grand River in a canyon between the San Juan and the Grand. I knew nothing of the country, but Baker did, and he kept a memorandum; but we did not think of it after the Indians attacked us, as we had to make our escape as quickly as possible. Mr. Baker also carried a compass and kept us informed as to the directions we were travelling, and he told us that we were going north to the Grand River; that the Grand River and the Green River formed the Colorado River.
George Strole and I went down the canyon, travelling all that day, reaching the Colorado River just below where the Grand River and the Green River meet, forming the Colorado River, and there we made our raft and began our descent down the Colorado.
In view of this later evidence, as printed in a Senate Document, there seems to be no room to doubt that White actually made the journey, and that he was the first man to traverse the Colorado. Dellenbaugh has contributed several
JOHN WESLEY POWELL. Explorer of the Canyons of the Colorado, Founder, and, till his death, Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and long Director of the U. S. Geological Survey. As he looked during the decade following his two descents of the Colorado. Taken about 1876, in Washington. Major Powell died September 23d, 1902.