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The Circle banner. [volume] (Circle, Mont.) 1914-1939, August 11, 1922, Image 7

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053024/1922-08-11/ed-1/seq-7/

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Interwoven closely with the his
tory of the "far west" is the story
of the buffalo of the American
plains, which roamed the prairies
in countless millions a century ago
and became practically extinct
within a few decades after the kill
ing of the animals for their hides
became a commercial industry. It
is believed that no other great ani
mal family was ever wiped out so
The American bison was found
by the first colonists of the Caro
linas, and other of the southern
and middle states, from which parts
of the continent they were soon
frightened away or exterminated.
In the latter part of the 18th cen
tury they were seen in a wild state
in Kentucky. Early in the 19th
century most of these animals in
the region east of the Mississippi
were exterminated or had found
their way to the prairies west of
the great river. The earliest ac
count of buffalo given by white
men is that of Coronado, who saw
great herds of them on his march
northward from Mexico in 1585,
between the Missouri river and the
Rocky Mountains. One of the ear
liest buffalo hunts on a big scale
was that described by M. Nicollet
in the late 30's, which took place
near Fort Pierre, in South Dakota.
in his
across the continent by stage in
1859, encountered herds estimated
to number millions in western Kan
The number of buffalo in the
west in the early 50's was estimated
roughly at from fifteen to twenty
millions. They ranged from Mexi
co north to the Arctic circle as far
as the Great Slave Lake, but their
natural home was on the plains be
tween the Missouri river and the
Rocky Mountains, and not farther
south than the Rio Grande. Out
side the limits of their real habitat
the few small herds that existed
were stragglers.
once found a herd in Kentucky that
numbered 1,000, but that was a
large one for that territory.
Daniel Boone
For years a goodly portion of
the meat consumed by early settlers
in the middle west and west was
cut from the carcass of the shaggy
animal which so long existed as
monarch of the plains. Thousands
of people who crossed the plains in
wagon trains drew their supply of
meat from the same source. Buf
falo trails were followed westward
because it was known that they
would lead to water,
chips" even furnished fuel to the
plainsmen. The hides furnished
many white men with garments and
moccasins, as well as bedding.
Buffalo Made Possible the
Building of Pacific Railroad
The building of the first railroad
to the Pacific was made possible at
so early a date because the buffalo
the army of railroad builders drew
their daily supplies of fresh meat,
and thousands of the animals were
slaughtered for food annually while
the work of laying rails was push
ed forward. For a few years in
the 70's the railroads did an enor
From the mighty herds
No heat with
this summer meal
A DISH of crisp, delicious Grape-Nuts, with cream
or milk (some berries or fresh fruit, too, if you
like) is cooling to serve, cooling to eat and cooling
to digest—with a charm of flavor and goodness that
rouses appetite enthusiasm. No preparation, no
cooking—no heating of the body afterward, as heavy,
starchy meals do—but well-rounded nourishment
for every bodily need.
There's a noticeable feeling of lightness and com
fort after such a meal.
Try this way out of the heat, bother and uncertainty
that usually goes with the midsummer food problem.
Order GfäpC'NlltS from your grocer today,
T here's a Reason
^ I
3 J* cook
?•*■*«* k J.
Made by Postum Cereal Company, Inc.
Battle Creek, Michigan
Çtftxl Comply
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Drawing by
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Early Day White Buffalo Hunters
Civilizations Westward Advance Left the Trails White With the Bones of
the Buffalo, Which Were Slaughtered by the Million for their Hides
mous business carrying train loads
of buffalo hides and bones, which
for a period formed the principal
commercial product of the plains.
Many settlers, beset by crop fail
ures, gathered bones and sold them
to make a living.
The buffalo in color is brown,
but the shade varies as the seasons
: .
peculiar animal, unlike any other,
^ characteristic of the buffalo is
that »t never trots, but either walks
or gallops, and it usually travels
against the wind. Its sense of scent
' s 50 keen that it can smell a foe
advance. It is in every respect a
two miles away to the windward.
The best meat obtainable in the
early-day frontier towns was buf
falo. The markets of such places
as Atchison, Topeka, Leavenworth
and other Kansas towns, as early as
1857 and for some following
were often supplied with buffalo
meat. The hump upon the should
ers was an especially choice morsel,
as was also the tongue. Rich, juicy
steaks and roasts of the buffalo
were unexcelled by any other meat.
Thousands of tongues were dried
and shipped east to the Boston and
New York markets, where they
were in great demand and brought
fancy prices.
The American bison differs ma
terially from the buffalo of the old
world. At first view his red, fiery
eyes, shaggy mane and long beard,
the long, lustrous hair on his shoul
ders and fore quarters and the com
parative nakedness of his hind
quarters suggest a strong likeness
to the lion. The buffalo carries his
head low and is enormously power
ful in neck and shoulders.
The most prominent distinguish
ing trait of the American bison
from the European buffalo is the
fact that the cow refuses to breed
with the European buffalo, and
such is the aversion between these
creatures that they always keep
separate, even if bred in the same
pasture and raised together. The
American bison, however, breeds
freely with the domestic cattle and
in this manner propagates a new
species that continues its kind.
The sale of buffalo hides reached
vast proportions in the 70's. In St.
Louis one firm bought 250,000
skins in 1871.
trading posts dealing in these and
smaller peltries. In Cheyenne in
1872 there was a shed at the Union
Pacific tracks that measured 175
by 60 feet and 30 feet high that was
literally so packed with buffalo
hides that the walls bulged. Fort
Benton, Montana, sent 80,000 buf
falo hides to market in 1876.
There were many
Toward the end of the 60's the
buffalo had divided into two great
herds—the southern and northern.
The great southern herd was the
first to go, being practically extinct
at the close of 1872. After that
date only a few straggling herds
remained. The northern herd be
came extinct in the early 80's. The
greatest slaughter of the animals
took place in 1872-73-74, when the
number slain ran into the millions.
Hundreds of the most famous
hunters of this country and Europe
visited the plains in the early 70's
to take a farewell hunt before the
The Grand
bison disappeared.
Duke Alexis, youngest son of Em
peror Alexander of Russia, with a
numerous retinue, came with a
party from St. Petersburg and went
on a tour through "Buffalo Land"
in the winter of 1871-72. After a
grand chase on the western plains
in Wyoming under the guidance of
Buffalo Bill and Generals Sheridan
and Custer, they realized that the
buffalo as a wild species was doom
has been a house
Last Buffalo East of the
Mississippi Killed in 1832
The most conspicuous person en
gaged in killing bison was Colonel
William F. Cody, whose soubriquet,
"Buffalo Bill,
hold word for more than half a
century. In 1867 when the Kansas
Pacific was being built across the
plains to Denver, Cody, then a
young man, was employed at $500
a month to keep the army of work
men supplied with meat. He was
engaged in this work for 18 months
during which time he killed on an
average of eight buffalo a day.
After 1860 few buffalo were seen
from the stage lines near enough to
The buffalo soon became
them, although thousands could
often be seen in plain sight out of
shy and kept away from the trav
eled road. The last buffalo killed
east of the Mississippi river was
shot in 1832.
The trading posts, and especially
those along the Platte river, made
enormous profits bartering for buf
falo hides. There were more than
a dozen of these within a distance
of 200 miles between Fort Kearney
and Julesburg, and about half as
many between Julesburg and Den
ver. Many of the shrewdest traders
in the west engaged in that busi
ness and acquired fortunes in a
short time. For a pound or two of
a cheap grade of brown sugar or
an equivalent of cheap coffee they
could buy a buffalo robe worth
from five to ten dollars at the Mis
souri river towns. The finest tan
ned cow robes could be obtained
for twice that amount of sugar or
coffee. Some of these were paint
ed in aboriginal style, with many
hieroglyphics of the red men. East
ern tourists would pay from $50 to
S100 for a fine, painted robe. These
cost the traders perhaps fifty cents.
As early as 1863 the trade in buf
falo robes with the Indians was en
ormous, hundreds of thousands of
the animals being killed annually
along the Platte, and the hides be
came a staple article of commerce.
Every plainsman had one or more
robes and thousands were made in
fo overcoats. Every freighter and
mule or ox skinner also had buf
falo overshoes, made with the hair
During the immense overland
travel in the early 60's portions of
the plains were fairly white with
the bones of buffalo. No one then
seeing the apparently endless mass
of bones in Kansas and Colorado,
as well as farther north, ever
thought that any use could be made
of them, but after the completion of
the Union Pacific railroad and its
branches across the plains, a new
industry was inaugurated in the
collection and shipping of bones.
The trade carried on in that line is
astonishing to contemplate. In ten
years' time sales of bones aggre
gated $3,000,000, at an average
price of $8 per ton. In 1874 alone
there were shipped east over the
Kansas-Pacific and Santa Fe roads
10.000,000 pounds of bones, more
han 1.250,000 buffalo hides, and
00,000 pounds of meat. The bones
were ground up into fertilizer and
'he horns were polished and sold
largely for dwelling and office or
Importance of the Buffalo
To Indians of the Plains
The passing of the buffalo spell
ed disaster to the plains Indians,
for this animal furnished every
thing. practically, that the Indian
needed to live. The hide was dress
ed in a variety of w'ays, each spe
cial treatment having its particular
use. The lodge of the Indian, his
bed and covering when sleeping,
his clothes, his weapons of war,
his shield in battle, kettles for his
food, boats on the rivers, leather
for his saddle and halter, strings
for his whip and bow r , hair for dress
ornament — all these and many
other articles were made from the
buffalo robe. His bones, also, from
the short, curved, strong horns to
the hoofs were manufactured into
endless variety of articles that
entered into every part of the dom
estic life of the Indian.
The methods of capture of the
buffalo by the Indians and whites
were various. With the Indians,
wholesale destruction was common
ly resorted to by driving a big herd
at full gallop to the brink of a
precipice or into the mouth of an
artificial enclosure. The force of
the mass behind crowded those in
advance ahead until they fell on
each other at the foot of the cliff
or in the enclosure, and thus they
were slaughtered by hundreds. A
great deal of skill, as well as favor
ing condition of the wind, made the
success of this maneuver complete.
These hunts were matters of great
ceremony with the Indians. Days
and weeks were devoted to the pre
paration, with the most rigid laws
against individual hunting or
frightening of the herds, and there
was due observance of the estab
lished religious rites of the tribes.
The true sportsman-like attack
was by direct onslaught on horse
back, known as "the surround." It
was managed with the same cere
monious preliminaries that were
observed in all great buffalo hunts
by the Indians. The attack was
made in careful order, under strict
discipline, directly upon the herd
until the latter had fully scented the
danger, when the hunters broke in
to a wild gallop, each free to go
where he chose, chasing and slay
ing amid the thunder of hoofs, the
bellowing of the beasts and the
clouds of dust raised in the mad
rush of so many animals. So com
panic-stricken would these
mighty herds become, and so little
sensible of where to flee, that most
of them fell victims to their pur
suers and the ground would soon
be strewn with dead bodies. Then
for days the women would be busy
gathering the meat, hides and other
fruits of the few hours' hunt.
One of the picturesque types of
the early days on the plains was the
white buffalo-hunter. At first
these men used to hunt buffalo on
horseback, much after the manner
of the Indians, using, however,
long-barreled, muzzle-loading guns
and carrying in their hands the
ramrods used to press home the
powder and ball after each shot
had been fired. Later, when the
extermination of the species was
proceeding in full swing, "still
hunting" was practiced. This was
a simple, effective method of
slaughter. The hunter would
crawl from the leeward to within
sure rifle shot without being dis
covered. Then, choosing the best
concealment the ground afforded,
he would begin the work of des
truction by firing at the nearest
animal. The buffalo, seeing noth
ing and hearing only the report,
would usually remain quiet in won
derment. Presently the wounded
animal would fall and the others,
smelling its blood, would gather
round and try to make it rise or
else go on grazing, evidently think
ing that their companion had lain
down to rest. Meanwhile the hun
ter's rifle would be busy. Shot
after shot would bring down victim
after victim until the whole band
had been killed.
The buffalo was a hard animal to
kill. A ball upon its shaggy head
or neck was deflected as though
from a panoply of steel. Wounds
in the rear of the body were seldom
fatal. It was only in the region of
the heart that a bullet was sure,
and the Indians and white hunters
always aimed to strike there.
In the spring of the year, when
the ice was going out, great num
bers of the animals were drowned
in the Missouri river while trying
to cross. In some years their bodies
floated down the stream in such
numbers as to render the air almost
unendurable to boat crews and
passengers on their way up the
river. Indians liked this kind of
buffalo meat better than other
and would tow carcasses ashore to
be cut up.
There are today less than 2,000
buffalo in captivity in the United
States, the largest herd being in the
National Bison reserve in the
southwestern part of the Flathead
Indian reserve in Montana, where
a small herd has grown to several
hundred, and another herd is grow
ing at a normal rate in Yellowstone
The herd in the National Bison
reserve have found a home in a
country of romance and much his
torical interest. Here the Flathead
Indians have dwelt since encroach
ing civilization beat them back
from their once free hunting
grounds. Every gulch and ridge
bears a name preserving a frag
ment of tradition in a tongue that
ever reaches the world in lessening
whispers. The Indian, especially
the old man, feels a warm and lov
ing interest in the buffalo, for the
fate of his race and of the bison
are akin. Both now exist at the
mercy of their old-time foe, the
white man. Had it not been for
the comparatively recent activity in
establishing the two herds amid
suitable surroundings for propaga
tion, the buffalo would in a very
few years have departed from the
face of the earth with the fast-van
ishing Indian and would live only
in the history and tradition of the
western frontiers that have also
gone forever.
(Copyrighted by Cheely-Raban Syndicate.)
After trailing his young wife to
Miles City, F. W. Oapus, clerk of the
district court of Manning county.
North Dakota, was astonished to find
that she had only 48 hours before his
arrival become the bride of another
Upon inquiry Mr. Oapus ascertain
ed that upon arrival here Mrs. Oapus
had assumed her maiden name, Irene
Wilson, and had married Joseph Cog
gins, 24 years of age, an employe of a
Miles City restaurant where she had
secured work. The marriage license
as Issued here gave the woman's age
as 18 and he rhome as Mandan, North
Oapus declared his love for his wife
had not been killed by her action, and
after a conference Mrs. Oapus decid
ed to return with her husband to
their North Dakota home and begin
life over again, leaving Coggins with
out a wife. The latter, it is said, will
seek to have the "marriage" annul
From time to time large fish are
caught in the lakes and streams of
Montana. Big snakes are also found
occasionally—but not so often now
as in pre-prohibition days.
In the days when the Icythosaurus
roamed the land, however, they had
"fish as was fish" and snakes that
were whoppers.
A few days ago workmen excava
ting at the plant of the American
Refining company at Great Falls un
covered a fish—probably the fore
runner of the Rainbow—measuring
six feet In length and with other dim
ensions In proportion. It was petri
fied and with the exception of the
fins and thinner portions of the tail
was as perfectly preserved as though
it had been carved from stone.
At. the same point a snake, 30 feet
long and 18 or 20 inches in girth at
the thickest part, was also unearth
ed by workmen. Geologists who have
inspected the finds say that the
specimens had undoubtedly been cov
ered by the glacial drift and petri

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