Hesperothen; Notes from the West, Vol. 2 (of 2) / A Record of a Ramble in the United States and Canada in the Spring and Summer of 1881

Hesperothen; Notes from the West, Vol. 2 (of 2) / A Record of a Ramble in the United States and Canada in the Spring and Summer of 1881

Sir William Howard Russell
Sir William Howard Russell

Author: Russell, William Howard, Sir, 1820-1907
United States — Description and travel
Hesperothen; Notes from the West, Vol. 2 (of 2)
A Record of a Ramble in the United States and Canada in the Spring and Summer of 1881
Transcriber’s Note:
Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation in the original document have been preserved.
On page 26 Count Fritz Thumb should possibly be Count FritzThumb.
On page 120, Indianopolis should possibly be Indianapolis.
On page 124, General How should possibly be General Howe.





Vol. II.
[All rights reserved.]


Deming—The Mirage—Ruined Cities—American Explorers—Self-Tormentors—Animals and Plants—Yuma—California—Los Angeles—Santa Monica—The Pacific Page 1
A new Land of Goshen—A Jehu indeed—The Drive to Clarke’s—A Mountain Hostelry—Grizzlies—Fascination Point—The Merced—Yosemite Fall—A Salute—Mountain Airs—The Mirror Lake—”See that Rattle?”—A Philosophic Barber 19
The Palace Hotel—General McDowell—Palo-Alto—The “Hoodlums”—The real Sir Roger—Exiles in the Far West—The Chinese Population—For and Against them—The Sand Lot—Fast Trotters—The Sea-Lions—The Diamond Palace—The Coloured Population—”Eastward Ho!” 44
Los Angeles—Mud-geysers—”Billy the Kid”—General Fremont—Manitou, the Garden of the Gods—Desperadoes—Bob Ingersoll—Denver City—Leadville—Grand Cañon 73
Liquor Law—Kansas Academy of Science—An Incident of Travel—A Parting Symposium—Life in the Cars—St. Louis to New York 107
Coney Island—Newport—Bass-fishing—Habit of Spitting—Brighton Beach—Newport Coaching—Extra Ecclesiam—Victories of American Horses—Newport Avenues—Return to New York—Our Last Day in America 122
The “City of Berlin“—The Inman Line—The Service at Roche’s Point—Queenstown Discomforts—A sorry Welcome Home 140
Education—Free Schools—Influence of Money in Politics—Corruption in Public Life—Crime on the Western Borders—The Great Rebellion—Anniversaries—Great Courtesy to Strangers—Manners and Customs 151
Captain Pratt—Carlisle Barracks—An Indian Bowman—The Indian Question—The Pupils’ Gossip—The “School News”—Indian Visitors—The White Mother—The India Office—White and Red—Quo Quousque?—Indian Title Deeds—The Reservations—The Indian Agencies—Missionary Efforts—The Red Man and the Maori 186



Deming—The Mirage—Ruined Cities—American Explorers—Self-Tormentors—Animals and Plants—Yuma—California—Los Angeles—Santa Monica—The Pacific.
May 30th.—At an hour as to which controversy might arise, owing to the changes of time to which we have been subjected, the train, which had pulled up but seldom during the night, stopped at Deming Junction, where the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fé Railroad “connects” with the Southern Pacific, on which our cars were to be “hauled” to San Francisco. Jefferson time and San Francisco time differ two hours, so at one end of the station we scored 6 A.M., and at the other 8 A.M. The sooner one gets away from Deming in any direction the better. A year ago—as is usually the case hereabouts—there was not a trace of a town on the dry ugly plain covered with prickly acacias and “Spanish bayonets”; now Deming flourishes in gaming and drinking saloons, express offices, and all the horrors of “enterprise” in the West. The look-out revealed a few tents, wooden shanties, a station, at which workmen were running up a frame-house, ground littered with preserved provision tins, broken crockery, adobes and refuse of all sorts. At the door of one hut, swarming with flies, swung half a carcase of beef; two women were washing, pale-faced, but not uncheerful creatures, who had not a good opinion of Deming and its population. “They carry out a dead man a day, or used to,” said one informant. The lady washerwomen did not quite corroborate the figure; but, remarked the chattier of the two, “there was a considerable shewtin’ about last night!” To the observation of one of the party that he was “going to have a look about,” the other lady made reply, “I guess if you dew it will be ‘hands up’ for ten cents with you.” On the platform was a United States marshal, with a revolver stuck in his belt, but his duties were considered to be punitive rather than preventive. Here Mr. Chase and Mr. Hawley left us to return to Topeka. At the abschiednehmen Sir H. Green was affected by a proof of interest in his welfare of a touching character and very full of local colour; one of our friends beckoned to him, took him aside, and pulling out a revolver (“It is hands up!” thought Sir Henry), fully loaded, pressed it on his acceptance in the kindest manner as a useful compagnon de voyage. As we were not to stay at Deming, the self-sacrifice was not consummated.
The regular train having come up, our special was tacked on to it, and in an hour the locomotive puffed out of the depot, and sped westerly on its way at the rate of twenty miles an hour, across a plain some fifteen miles broad, bordered by jagged, irregular mountain ranges north and south, as dry as a bone—so dry that water for the engine has to be brought to the stations in tanks. A scanty growth of what looked like camel grass, interspersed euphorbias and cactuses of great height, was all that met the eye. We are approaching the great basin of Arizona, and are warned that much dust and great heat must be expected, and that the “scenery” does not improve in point of variety or verdure, both of which are nearly at zero. A vigorous, well-directed campaign against the flies in the saloon gave us comparative repose; then the blinds being pulled down, and the thermometer reduced to 83 deg., society settled itself to study, with results indicated presently by a gentle susurrus on the sofas. A sudden alarm, “Look at the deer!” There sure enough was a herd of antelopes flying over the scrub towards the horizon, which flickered about in the heat in a mirage of islands and uplifted mountain ends—so vanished.
After passing Lordsburgh, a desolate spot in the desert, there appeared a beautiful mirage. The sand became a sheet of water, waveless and mirror-like, and in it we saw reflected in trenchant outline the mountain range beyond. “It must be water! it is water!” exclaimed an unbelieving director. And, lo! as he spoke the “dust devils” rose and danced along the face of the sea; in another minute the vision was gone; the dazzling sand, white, blank and dull, mocked our senses. This was near Stein’s Pass, up which the train of nine carriages was climbing—”the heaviest train that has gone over yet,” said the triumphant conductor. “But we thought we’d try it.” Each waggon weighed 30 tons. The Pass is three miles long, and we were working at a grade of 74 feet with a 19-inch cylinder engine.
Between Pyramid Station and San Simon (stant nomina umbrarum—the names of mere shadows of stations) the western border of New Mexico is crossed, and we enter the great Territory of Arizona, which lies between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.
It is bounded by New Mexico on the east, by Mexico on the south, by Utah and Nevada on the north and north-west, and by California in continuation of the western boundary. It is as large as New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware together. Whom it belonged to first, so far as occupation constitutes possession, I know not; but the Spaniards owned and neglected it for more than three centuries before the Americans possessed it. In 1848 and 1853 the regions now forming Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada were ceded by the descendants of the Spanish conquerors to the conquering Anglo-American. It would need weeks of assiduous travel to explore the portion of Arizona where the most interesting ruins in America, the cities of the Zoltecs or the Aztecs—for the experts differ respecting their origin—are to be found. The weight of authority and of recent investigation leads one to believe that the Aztecs were not the builders of these ruined cities. Humboldt, indeed, believed that they were; but, as Mr. Hinton remarks, in his capital little handbook, which I recommend to prospectors, emigrants, tourists, and travellers, “to suppose such an utter abandonment of settled habitations, it will be necessary to suppose some strange impelling reasons, either in climate or other causes, that must have amounted to a catastrophe. An hypothesis which would leave a whole race able to conquer an empire, and to preserve power enough to abandon without destruction their old homes, implies conditions and forces without a known historical parallel.” The conclusion that many native cities were flourishing when the Spaniards arrived in America may, perhaps, be questioned. There is a distinctive character about them, differing from that of the Mississippi mounds, the Central American pyramids, or the ruined cities of Yucatan.
The site of one of these cities was pointed out to us from the train, and that was all we saw of them. But I heard so much about the mysterious remains that I was induced to procure Mr. Bancroft’s remarkable essay on the native races of the Pacific Coast. Mr. Bancroft believes that the Pueblos and other Indians, in a state of civilisation which they subsequently lost, were the earliest inhabitants of these countries and the builders of the cities; that the Apaches came down upon them, and their work being then aided by the Spaniards, this original agricultural people were swept off the face of the earth. But where the Apaches came from the American ethnologists have not, I believe, determined. For hundreds of miles these ruins cover the country—stone houses, ancient watch-towers, and adobe buildings, around which are quantities of stone implements, masses of crockery and pottery. In some places there are structures of wood and stone, without iron, the masonry consisting of thin plates of sandstone dressed on the edges, and laid in coarse mortar nearly as hard as the stone itself.
The explorers who have discovered the most interesting cities in Arizona and elsewhere were officers of the United States army. They have been the true pioneers of American civilisation in the West, and it is most creditable to them that they have been able to furnish so much scientific and antiquarian observation in the execution of their arduous and often painful duty in Indian warfare. There is no cold shade cast upon the labours of officers who desire to make a little reputation for themselves by contributions to scientific publications, and by papers on natural history and the like in periodical publications or in the daily press.
There is, as might be expected from its position, a very high temperature in Arizona. This lasts from the middle of June to the first of October. During the best part of summer exertion of any kind is impossible. Metal objects cannot be handled without producing blisters; rain scarcely ever falls; and, to keep up the drain of constant evaporation, a man must drink a gallon or two gallons of water a day. Mr. Ross Brown, speaking of the summer, declares that “everything dries. Waggons dry; men dry; chickens dry. There is no juice left in anything, living or dead, by the close of summer. Officers and soldiers creak as they walk; chickens hatched at the season come out of the shell ready cooked. Bacon is eaten with a spoon, and butter must stand in the sun an hour before the flies become dry enough for use. The Indians sit in the river with fresh mud on their heads, and, by dint of constant dipping and sprinkling, manage to keep from roasting, though they usually come out parboiled.” But, although it is recorded that a party encamped on a narrow cañon where the temperature was 120 degrees, there was no sunstroke. And in that respect the climate differs from that on the eastern coast, where, especially this very summer, a great number of deaths were caused by coup de soleil. People, with the thermometer marking 94 degrees, talk of its being agreeably cold. An exceedingly interesting fact, if it be one, connected with residence in this part of the world is the wholesome effect of complete abstinence. Death from want of water was by no means infrequent in the old days before so many wells were dug; but it only occurs when there is a good deal of humidity in the air. Although alcoholic drinks and tobacco have an injurious effect, there is a large consumption of both at all the stations and at the mines.
As in the Orange River Free State, where probably the conditions of temperature are not very dissimilar, pulmonary complaints are cured, so a residence in Arizona, it is said, stops consumption; and there are authentic statements that people who arrived in a rapid decline have experienced almost immediate relief of the principal symptoms, and have been finally cured. Governor Safford, in an official letter, states that his lungs were a good deal diseased, and that he was suffering with a severe cough when he reached Arizona, and that in six months his cough left him. He is satisfied the warm, dry atmosphere acted like a healing balm to diseased lungs, and that, the pores being kept open, the impurities which attack weak organs escape through the skin. Dr. Loryea, of San Francisco, and Dr. Sawyer aver that Arizona is nature’s Turkish bath, and that Yuma, that evil-looking place, contains the fountains of health.
Of such vast regions a small acquaintance acquired by passing rapidly twice over a line of railway does not entitle one to speak; but, if what we read and heard of Arizona be true, there is within its limits enormous mineral and agricultural wealth. There are carboniferous basins of great extent and richness. The mountains teem with ore. Silver and gold, copper pyrites, zinc, and lead are to be found over a great range, the extent of which is as yet imperfectly known. There are sulphates of nearly all the metals; metallic oxides, chlorides, carbonates, nitrates; agates, amethysts, garnets, and other precious stones. People there are who believe that the diamond, the emerald, and the ruby will turn up in due time. In fact, if one were to be guided by the accounts in the papers or the guide-books, he would think that a sure way of making an immediate fortune would be to settle down on any hillside in this favourite land. Nevertheless, what I saw out of my window gave me reason to suppose that there was poverty in Arizona as well as in the old country. Nor did the buildings which I saw by the way at the sparse stations and infrequent towns give an idea that the in-dwellers were well-to-do in the world. The adobe, or burnt brick, which is a common material in lieu of better, has always a ruinous appearance. The houses built of it yesterday seem tumbling to pieces from the influences of old age.
We take no note of time save by its relation to constant motion, and to the “programme”—a Procrustean bed on which we have voluntarily placed our tortured limbs. Sometimes in the hours of the night, which could not be called still because of the incessant pealing, rattling, and thundering of the train, I thought of the wonderful ways of man with himself in such affairs as we were now engaged in. There is a play of Terence which was a trouble to me in my youth, so long ago that I remember very little more of it than the dismal and elongated name; but Mr. “Heautontimorumenos” never needlessly bound himself up in a programme and delivered his life over to a time-table! It is likely enough, seeing what sort of man he was, that he would have adopted that course had he lived in these days. I admit that programmes are necessary when your movements regulate, or have to be regulated by, those of other people; and that was the case in some measure with us, but the solicitude it occasioned the worthy and valued friends, whose brows I perceived becoming more puckered, and whose faces and spirits were heavy with cares connected with the programme, to come up to time, was beyond belief, and I vowed if ever I had my own way with the ordering of a party I would have no programme at all. And plot and calculate as you will, a gale of wind, or a heated axle, or a broken bridge, or a flood, upsets everything, and your schemes gang aglee utterly! It was admirable to see how we were working out the destiny we had made manifest for ourselves in advance so long ago, but the task was not easy. What curious sounds, by the way, our train made at night! One could now and then compose words to the tune of the wheels, and the regular rhythm forced one at times to hum the words of a song, of which the train seemed to hammer out the music. It seemed so strange to be turning into bed night after night, and waking up to pass the same life day after day, like a log of wood carried on by an interminable, irresistible torrent.
Provided with books and newspapers, and friends to converse with, as well as with sights to see, we had, however, no reason to complain that time hung heavy on our hands as the train sped on. The books were very utilitarian, it is true—Reports of Chambers of Commerce, statistics and papers connected with railway and commercial enterprise and the like. But our directors took to that literature with avidity, and aided by maps and tables, copiously furnished to them, seemed bent on passing with honours in a competitive examination anent the American railway system. There were always, close at hand in the cars, competent authorities to answer questions, or able champions to engage in controversy, and as I heard all the subtle contentions, which I did not understand, concerning signalling and baggage checking, gauges and engines, curves and gradients, freights and fares, I was set to think what the field had been in which all the ingenuity and talent displayed in dealing with such topics were exercised in pre-railway days. These discussions were mostly connected with the consideration of profits and percentages, and that was a neutral ground on which the combatants manœuvred their facts and figures as in a natural “schauplatz“. There were times when such investigations ran down like a clock, and no one wound them up again for a

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Hesperothen; Notes from the West, Vol. 2 (of 2) / A Record of a Ramble in the United States and Canada in the Spring and Summer of 1881
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