Boone - the Early Years
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Ernest Bywater
On the Road
The trip to San Francisco, California, goes at a faster pace than Boone likes because Peter, the trader, is pushing to get there and back home. Boone has little choice about matching Peter’s pace if he wants to get the extra money for hauling the goods. At camp on the night after the first full day Boone walks over to Peter and ask, “Is this the pace you’ll be keeping all the way to San Francisco and back to Arizona City?”
Peter looks up at Boone from where he’s sitting as he says, “Only on the way there. The furs are a lot lighter than what I’ll buy so I can go faster. We’ll be a lot slower on the way back. Is there a problem?”
“Not really. We don’t usually push the mules this hard. But then, we usually have a much longer way to go as well. The trip through Iowa from Virginia was a bit long and over rougher ground than this. So we took our time to minimize the risk of damage to our stock or wagons.”
“That makes sense. But this is on an established road and a lot less a risk of damage to the wagons.”
“I see that now. When we get there can I sell my furs first so I can see about buying and loading what I want first. That way we should be ready to load your stuff about when you finish loading your wagons.”
“Good idea. We’ll do it that way. When we enter the city I’ll wave your wagons ahead of mine and I’ll ride in front of you to the store.”
There is a weather related delay along the way, so late on a Sunday afternoon a bit over three weeks after leaving San Bernardino, California, the wagon-train makes camp in a field on the outskirts of San Francisco, California, so they can enter the city at the start of the next business day. All of the Boone contingent laugh when they learn what the day is and thus they’ll be entering a city new to them on a Monday, again.
Selling the Furs
Only an hour after sunrise the wagons are entering the freight yard of A. Bernard and Company commercial fur traders. Peter directs Boone to pull his wagons up alongside the big open porch across the back of the large building. With one of the wagon pairs in place there’s no room for anyone else. Peter rides over and says, “If you unload your furs and stack them near the big doors on the left the company men will examine and value them when they arrive for work. I’ll leave a gap and then stack mine after yours are all stacked.” Boone simply nods his understanding, leaves his reins on Morgan’s neck while he tells him to keep out of the way, and he goes to the first wagon.
Since they left the campsite the ladies have been busy in the wagons putting the bedding gear up out of the way in each wagon as well as lifting the boards covering the furs. Now Heidi and the younger girls wait on the other wagons while they keep guard and the rest get busy dumping the furs onto the porch. The ladies simply open the door on that side, bring the bundles of furs to the front, and drop them over the side of the wagon onto the porch. Boone picks the bundles up, takes them to the wall beside the door, and stacks them up until they’re head high. He carries two bundles at a time with one in each hand while each of the ladies only move one bundle at a time. Although the ladies have a shorter distance to move them than Boone has to go they have to lift them up and move them through the wagon door while he only has to pick them up and walk off with them. Despite the larger number of ladies dumping furs out of the two wagons Boone is able to keep pace with them.
When they finish unloading the furs from one wagon pair most of the ladies stand on the porch while Mary moves the wagons out of the way and Heidi moves the next pair up to the porch as those two change jobs while the others get busy moving furs again. Repeat for the last load.
All of the furs in the wagons of Boone’s party are unloaded and Peter’s first wagon is half unloaded when the store’s back doors open with the official work hours of the business. The man opening the doors must be used to deliveries on the porch before he starts because he simply looks at the pile, shouts to someone inside, and he grabs a bundle of furs. Boone grabs two bundles and follows the man inside the building. The man puts the bundle on a long table and says, “Just toss them there. They’ll be inspected. I’ll get the rest of them in.” He walks to the side for a large barrow and exits the building with it. He soon returns with four bundles of furs stacked on the barrow, unloads them, and goes for more.
Another man walks over to the table and says, “Hello. Welcome to A. Bernard and Company. I’m Paul Glenn, the head valuer.”
The man has his hand out so Boone shakes it while saying, “Boone Nichols. I’ve a lot of furs to sell and I’m told you give fair value.”
The man smiles, lets go of Boone’s hand after they shake hands, and he turns to the furs. He sees the thick deer-hide straps and asks, “Will you sell the straps as well as the hides?” Boone nods, and the man calls out for another person. Soon Paul is examining the furs while the other man is examining the straps and other deer-hides in Boone’s fur packs. Both use chalk to make marks and notes on slates on the long table. The examination of all the furs takes a couple of hours then the two write values on their slates and Paul adds the values together.
All of Boone’s furs are taken away after being examined and there’s now a growing pile of Peter’s furs near the table when Paul says, “You have a lot of high quality furs. It’s been years since we’ve seen buffalo hides of that quality here.” He turns the slate around with the final full value on it while saying, “That’s what they’re worth. But I don’t have the full amount on hand in gold coin. So I need to go to the bank to get it.”
Boone smiles at the figure as he says, “I’ll be happy to accept a bank draft if you’re with a reputable bank and have enough there to cover it.”
“Good. I prefer to use bank drafts. They’re so much safer, but most of the people we deal with only want payment in gold coins.”
Peter asks, “What’s this bank draft you talk of, Boone?”
Boone grins while he replies, “The man fills in a special note to his bank for the value of the goods and signs it. I take it to the bank and they give me gold for it, if that’s what I want. However, I’ll be buying a lot of things before I leave and I’ll spend most of it, if not all of it. So I take the bank draft, use it to open an account, and pay the merchants with a bank draft of my own. It saves me having to carry around a heavy bag of gold coins and it means people can’t steal it from me. A much easier and safer way to do business. Now, if I was to be turning around and riding straight out of town, then gold coin would be best. But this is a much better option when I’ll be around buying things for a while.”
“I’ll have to try it out myself. I always worry about thieves when I’ve got a lot of money with me. Thanks for telling me about it,” is Peter’s response to the lesson on using bank drafts. Paul grins about being able to make two major purchases using bank drafts because it means he has to make fewer trips from the bank with a lot of money on him.
Paul completes the form he has and he hands it to Boone while telling him where the Wells Fargo Bank he deals with is located. Boone goes to the wagons and he tells them, “Mary, keep on eye on everyone and go to where Peter’s people go to camp for the night. I’ll take Sam with me to help me if I need to carry anything. I need to go to the bank.” They sit and chat about a few things for a few minutes before Boone goes to tell Peter, “I’m going to the bank and I’ll meet you there later. I’m going to go have a look at a few merchants first.”
Peter says, “I should be another couple of hours yet. So you’ll have plenty of time. Before you go, how do I deal with the bank draft at the bank?”
“You hand them the form, open an account, tell them your plans, and ask for some draft forms of your own. Because you aren’t a known client the drafts you write may require extra work, but it’s better than having to carry all of the gold coins about. When I did all of my big buying back in Harrisburg I had to accompany the seller to the bank to verify the draft was good before they released the goods. It’s easy to do.”
Sam and Boone walk out onto the street and wander along it while looking at what the various warehouses and stores have for sale. The city is big, but the business district isn’t too large for them to walk about for a couple of hours. They stop at a few places to ask about some of the items they wish to purchase, and most are close in price for the same items.
After a light lunch from a commercial eatery they go to the bank. It only takes a few minutes to hand over the bank draft, open an account, and be told which of the businesses the bank manager recommends for them to deal with in the trades Boone has an interest in. Business will be easier if they buy from another of the bank’s clients.
While they wait for Peter to come to the bank Sam and Boone take a closer look at some of the other items the shops near the bank have for sale. Until now they’ve been concentrating on what they think they may need out near Arizona City, now they look at all of what’s available. By the time they see Peter approaching the bank Boone knows he’ll have to bring the ladies back here to do some shopping!
Peter has no trouble with opening an account at the bank and they head to where they’ll be camping for the night. On the way back Boone buys some fresh food, fresh bread, and some meat they don’t normally get on the trail. The ladies take the fresh food from him as soon as they walk into the camp on the edge of the business district.
Peter takes his whole group off to eat at a nearby eatery while Mary and Nellie prepare dinner for their group. The others keep busy helping Boone to make changes to the wagons and to repack what’s left in the wagons. Other than the bedding and personal effects they don’t have much left to pack. They remove the boards separating the two large storage areas so they can lay items up to thirteen feet long in the bed of the wagons. The frames for the cover boards are left in place, as are the cover boards and bedding. Most of the remaining purchased goods are packed over the rear access storage of Wagon 3 with the rest of it ready to be packed after the lower storage area is full and the cover boards put in place. The top area of the other wagons are all but empty.
Neither set of jobs takes long to do, so all are soon sitting on their stools around the camp-fire while they eat and talk about what to do. Boone says, “From what I was told about the land around Arizona City there’s some areas of good farmland which isn’t being farmed due to the lack of a good water supply because of the low rainfall in the area. There’s also a lot of people near there due to the gold rush along the Colorado River, so we need to be careful about thieves there.”
Heidi says, “Are you thinking to pipe the water in, Boone?”
“I was, but now I’m not so sure we should buy a huge load of pipe until after we check the place over. We can always come back to buy more pipe. What I’m now thinking of is to load boards and beams we can use to build a place, along with some pipes for the initial irrigation. I also want to load up on flour, coffee, sugar, starch, salt, and the other staples, along with some of the gear they need for gold panning.”
Mary says, “I wouldn’t bother with the gold panning gear because most of the miners will already have that. More gunpowder, balls, and food items will be better if you’re looking at selling to them. I also heard you need to go to Santa Fe to buy the government land in the territory.”
“Damn, I thought we could buy it here. That’s a trip I don’t like the idea of at this time.”
Sam says, “In one of the shops I heard a well dressed man and an Army Major talking about how the federal government recently passed a law creating the Arizona Territory and a governor will be out to take over the new territory. The Major said the new governor won’t be out here and have a working government for another year or more, so the existing government activities will stay in place until then. But what they do will be recognized by the new governor. What I felt was most important was when the Major said the recapture of Tucson late last year has taken the fight out of the Confederate forces and supporters in the New Mexico Territory so the troops are now seeing to it the Indians stay settled down. It seems the whole area is now a lot safer. I also heard the only fighting was in the southern half and around Santa Fe due to how the Confederate government claimed the area.”
Boone shrugs and says, “Well, that’s good to know for the future, but we best plan on the initial land purchase being made in Santa Fe. And we should be careful when we go up there.”
Nellie says, “I don’t think we should all go up to Santa Fe, because it will be too long with the wagons. A few people with pack horses can make a much faster trip.”
Olive says, “Good point. I think we should plan on it that way. We select some land then a quick trip to make the purchase, and build after we get back. If we load up with food supplies those left behind can sell to the locals while living in the wagons.”
“You’ll have to be very careful,” is Boone’s reply. They all nod while they think on their near future. A little later Boone says, “We’ll load the lower storage with boards and beams and load the three lead wagons with items we want plus what we want to sell, then load the rear wagons with whatever Peter wants in them.”
Lee says, “Don’t forget we can also use the space under the driver seats and the actual driver box areas as well. We can cover what we put in there with canvas.” The rest all nod their agreement with her.
After the traders come back from their dinner Boone joins Peter and a few of his drivers for a drink in one of the saloons. Olive and Nellie go with Boone for a drink as well. The saloon is a little down the street and it’s the one the traders usually drink at when in the city.
They enter the saloon and Boone leads the way to the right-hand end of the bar along the back wall of the large room. Boone stands right on the end in a way he can watch the whole room while the rest line up along the main part of the bar with Olive and Nellie closest to Boone. They all order Mexican beer which is a bit dearer than the local beers, but it has a much nicer flavor to it and is a more consistent quality. The barman serves them the beers then he goes down the bar to serve others.
The group of traders are just starting their second beer while talking about the war and Arizona becoming a territory when four well dressed men walk into the saloon. Unlike most of the people in the saloon each of the four men are armed with a pistol in a low-slung holster tied off just above the knee. Eight men who aren’t as well dressed follow them in, they also have pistols in holsters. However, the group of eight men don’t have their guns as low-slung as the first four. Other than these twelve men Boone is the only other obviously armed man in the saloon.
As soon as he spots them the barman groans and softly says to the man helping him, “Go out the back for Captain White, there’s always trouble when this group of ranch hands comes to town.”
One of the fancy dressed men spots the ladies and nudges the man beside him while saying something. All four men angle toward Olive and Nellie while one of them says, “Mike, how much are your new whores?”
Realizing they’re out to cause trouble Boone decides to deal with it before they get too close and he says, “He doesn’t know because you’ve not yet told him what you charge?”
They all stop where they are and glare at Boone while the talker says, “Do you know who you’re talking to?”
Boone grins as he replies, “No, I don’t know who you are. Nor do I wish to know who you are. It’s enough to know what you are.”
The talker asks, “And what do you think we are?”
“Big mouthed troublemakers looking to get themselves killed by insulting the wives of their betters.”
The talker snarls, “Now,” and all twelve go for their guns. The fancy dressed men are quicker to get their guns out, but not as fast as Boone is at drawing the two at his waist. Boone fires both guns at once as he shoots the middle two in the chest before they get their guns out of their holsters while the other two in the fancy clothes get their guns out before Boone puts a bullet into each of their chests. With those four down he turns toward the other eight.
Because Boone is firing both guns at once they only sound like a single shot, but Boone’s third shot sounds a lot louder and a bit longer. This is due to both Olive and Nellie drawing their guns and firing just a moment after Boone’s third shot. Boone started in the middle of the group and is working his way out while the ladies start on each end. Thus the two in the center of the second group fall at the same time as one on each end of the line. All three of the Nichols clan fire again and the last four men are knocked down with bloody chests.
Everyone else in the saloon is stunned by what happened and how fast it happened. Boone puts one gun away and reloads the other while the two ladies keep their guns out. He swaps guns and reloads his other gun then he switches to his hip gun to keep watch while his ladies reload their guns and put them away before they start to strip the dead.
Just as they finish with the four well dressed men a police captain walks in the door. He looks over the situation and says, “You can put the gun away now, Mister.” Turns to the barman, “OK, Mike, tell me about it.”
The barman replies, “Captain, the Miller hands came swaggering in, as usual. I could tell they were looking for a fight, as usual. They made some rude remarks about the two ladies and this fellow threw their words back in their faces. They went for their guns. I saw their hands moving before his moved. But this fellow beat them to the draw and then all them Miller hands died with guns in their hands, but before any of them could get a shot off. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
The Captain looks around the room and asks, “Anyone got anything different to say?” He waits, but everyone keeps quiet while they shake their heads no. He turns to Boone and asks, “What’s your name for my report, Mister? And where are you from?”
Boone says, “Boone Nichols. Originally from Lexington, Virginia, but been on the move from there since May eighteen sixty-one. Looking for a place to settle out here.” The man gets a small notebook out of his pocket and writes in it, gives Boone a slow nod, turns, and walks out again.
A man in a dark suit approaches Boone and asks, “What sort of burial do you want for them?” Boone frowns at him and he adds, “You killed them so you have to bury them.”
Boone sighs and asks, “How much to dig a big hole to just toss the lot in without any coffins?”
“That’s more than they deserve, but it’ll cost you a dollar a man and two dollars to cart them away.”
While handing him a twenty dollar gold coin Boone says, “Split the extra between the men who do the work for you.” The man takes the coin, smiles, and nods his agreement to do as told.
Boone turns to Peter and says, “I think I’m going to have to give up drinking in saloons if I can’t get a quiet drink in peace.” Peter laughs, because that’s two saloons in a row Boone has had a shootout in.
Peter and his drivers help the Nichols group carry their plunder to the mercantile store across the road to sell the guns, hats, coats, boots, and pocket contents other than money. Then they lead the horses to the camp to search the saddlebags there, and find all of the saddlebags are empty.
The next morning they take the extra horses to the nearest livery to sell all but the best two horses and saddles before going to the foundry and the lumber yard to load the wagons while Peter and his crew go to the mercantile supplier Peter is buying from.
Loading the Wagons
The ladies take four of the wagons to the lumber yard to load the main storage area of the wagons with boards and beams with a nominal length of twelve feet: the real length is anywhere from twelve feet one inch to thirteen feet. Once they have the covers back in place they put down one more layer of beams that are nominally eighteen feet long. While this is being done Boone has the other two wagons at the foundry loading them with galvanized steel pipes in twelve and six foot lengths plus various fittings for them along with twelve foot lengths of roof sheets. He then goes to the lumber yard for a layer of long beams in these two wagons.
From there they go to the same merchant Peter is buying from to load the back area of two of the lead wagons with the food items they listed the night before. The third lead wagon has its back area reloaded with the previously bought items they still have. The very top of the curved back of each wagon is packed with just purchased bolts of cloth and canvas.
By the time Peter is finished loading his wagons and he’s decided on the stock he wants to store in Boone’s wagons all six of the wagons have the lower storage area full of materials to build with later while the upper back area of Wagon 3 has the millstones, bathtubs, sewing machines, guns, nails, reloading outfits, lead, gunpowder, and the dismantled stove The other lead wagons have lots of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and coffee in the back areas with more under all of the driver seats. The three lead wagons also have bolts of cloth as the top of their load. The driver foot area of the rear wagons are loaded with seed and grain to plant.
Peter smiles when he sees he has the top two thirds of three wagons to load up as he wants, so he proceeds to fill them with coffee, sugar, flour, salt, yeast, gunpowder, balls, lead, wax, nails, and cloth. When they move the wagons out of the way Boone is worried about the load because the wagons are so full. While the wagons are loading the store owner, Peter, and Boone visit the bank to make sure the payments are all settled. Boone pays his total bill and he withdraws the little left. Peter pays most of his bill and he arranges approval for the rest of it. He has a little left over in the bank so he leaves the account open. After Peter’s goods are loaded Boone loads the driver foot areas of the three rear wagons with food and grain items then boards are secured on them to keep any rain off them while the area under the seats of the lead wagons are loaded with food items, some of which will be used by the members of Boone’s group.
When the wagons are fully loaded they return to the campsite for the night. When they pass a livery Boone stops to buy two more mules for each wagon pair, along with the chains and the harnesses for them. He also buys some grain and hay for his stock to eat on the trip.
Boone spends the last few hours of daylight checking the water in the water barrels and he makes sure everything is tied down tight.
Wednesday morning all are up early, eat, and head out on their way to Arizona City, Arizona Territory. Boone sits on Morgan watching all of the wagons when they move out while thinking, Funny how we started out coming here before going to Arizona City, New Mexico Territory, and now we’re on our way to Arizona City, Arizona Territory. The same place but with a slightly different name. Because Boone’s wagons are larger and have a heavier load Peter has them in the lead. So once all of the wagons are on the move Boone takes up the lead scout position, the one he’s so used to, Sam rides with him while the wagons are driven by Mary, Heidi, and Nellie with Elsa and Lee riding with Mary for lessons. Dark Fawn, Light Fawn, and Olive are riding beside a rear wagon each. Peter and three of his people are riding beside his wagons as flankers.
For the first few miles all of the drivers take a careful note of how well the teams are pulling the wagons, and all are happy with how they’re doing. For thirty days they travel the road back to Arizona City from sun up to sun down. The biggest trouble they have along the way is one of the river crossings has a lot more water than normal and they need to take extra care while crossing the river.
They can’t all fit on the ferry across the Colorado River at once so Peter takes his wagons across first. While he waits Boone goes to Fort Yuma to get information on the land between the river and Santa Fe. He buys a good copy of the military map of the area while he’s there.
Note: Arizona City, Arizona Territory, is now Yuma, Arizona.
Fort Yuma, California
Boone and Sam ride up to the fort and they stop to look at a small group of Indians camped just to the side of the main gate to the fort. The group consists of an older brave, ten young braves, and two women. It’s clearly not a war party or a family group so he wonders about why the Indians are there. Everyone in their group has learned to speak Pawnee, Cheyenne, and Lakota from Light Fawn and Dark Fawn. Boone is about to try his Cheyenne on the Indians when a soldier says, “Don’t worry about them, Mister. They’re waiting for one of the scouts to return so they can speak to the Colonel. What brings you to the fort?”
After turning to face the soldier guarding the gate Boone says, “I was hoping to get some information and maps on what the trails are like from here to Santa Fe. Is there anyone in the fort who can help me?”
“Sorry, I don’t know. But if you go to the Company Headquarters, it’s the bigger building straight ahead of you, and ask for Sergeant Wallace he’ll know if anyone has what you’re after.”
Boone thanks him and walks Morgan into the fort. They stop in front of the building with a sign of Company Headquarters and dismount. Both Boone and Sam drop the reins on the ground beside a water trough before walking to the front door of the building. Both horses are drinking before Boone can walk on the steps to the building’s porch. Boone opens the door and leads the way in while asking, “Is Sergeant Wallace here?”
Two sergeants, a corporal, and a lieutenant all turn to look at Boone while the Sergeant with the most stripes says, “Yes, I am. Why?”
“The Trooper at the gate said you may be able to tell me where I can find some information and maps about the trails between here and Santa Fe. I want to find out what I can because it looks like I’ll have to make a trip there to the government land office to buy land here.”
The Sergeant smiles as he says, “The best map available is the one we use. It’s an eighteen fifty-seven map of the New Mexico Territory with a lot of the military exploration trails marked on it. The Colonel had three hundred printed up last year. I can sell you a copy for two dollars. Most of the information is from seven to twenty years old, but it’s all we’ve got. Do you want a copy?” Boone smiles while reaching into his pocket. It’s a dear price for a map, but he figures they’re recovering private money for the printing of the maps.
After handing over two silver one dollar coins Boone unrolls and looks at the map he’s given. All of the formal roads either go through the southern part of the territories to the Rio Grandé River and then go north or they go through the northern part of the territories. There are no roads between the two east-west roads until the Rio Grandé. However, there are a number of military exploration trails from 1849 to 1854 that link the two roads. Boone points at an area on one of the trails and asks, “Are the Apache in this area friendly or hostile right now?”
Sergeant Wallace looks at the area Boone has his finger on and says, “Well, it looks like you can follow the mail road to the Pima Villages then go north on the Leroux trail to the Salt River and follow it to the end of the Beckwith trail to take you up to the Beale’s Wagon Road and on into Albuquerque. It’s a good plan, but I don’t think anyone has been on those trails in the last ten years or more. There are no reports of problems with the Indians from that area for some years, but the Navajo further north are causing some trouble right now. You’ll need a local Indian guide if you don’t want to get lost in there. If you make it there and back let us know because we could use the same trail for troop movements.”
“Would the Indians waiting outside the fort have any knowledge of that area and be able to guide me through the area?”
“Probably, as they’re from the area.”
The Lieutenant joins in with, “Black Horse and his tribe are from the area you’re looking at so they could help you. However, they’re camped on the other side of Arizona City. It’s part of an agreement with the Army to keep them out of the War and the current Navajo troubles. You’ll need the Colonel to agree to Black Horse sending some braves with you and you’ll have to wait until the scouts get back to talk with Black Horse.”