MARCH 18, 1880 – I have just learned that I soon will get a first hand
look at the "Wild West." I have been assigned to accompany our Surveying
Engineers into Dakota Territory. The purpose of the expedition is to plot
a route for western extensions of our lines. Apparently it was decided a
company telegrapher would be handy on the trip to send messages which
could not be entrusted to outsiders.
MAY 22, 1880 – Because of business which some members of our party had to transact in Deadwood before beginning our survey, I have had an opportunity to see the famous mining camp which already is legend among tellers of tall tales.
Streets of this picturesque community are so narrow that when two bull trains are in town at the same time, they can hardly get around to unload their goods.
One of the younger members of our party had promised to stand ''treat'' for all of us as soon as we reached Deadwood and he was as good as his word. Six of us entered a saloon and when my friend said he was treating, every man in the saloon and all the girls in the adjacent dance hall lined up at the bar. When he went to pay the bill, he gave the weigher his gold sack, placer gold being the only acceptable money in the camp, and the weigher weighed out 20 dollars, claiming there were 40 men and women at four bits (fifty cents) a drink.
After that we started down the street and came to a dance hall. Some of the men wanted to dance so I accompanied them. They soon had partners, I preferring to be a spectator because of my marital status. Hardly had they started to dance when the caller cried, "All belly up." The girls took their partners to the bar where the men took whiskey and the girls took cigars. I am told that at the end of the evening, the girls turn in the cigars and get money for them.
When it came time to pay, the boys discovered they were being charged one dollar each for one dance. That convinced them they had enjoyed themselves enough for one night and we went back to camp.
JUNE 25, 1880 – Our mission has been completed but not successfully. Before our arrival in the Dakota Territory, the Indian inspector in charge of the Brule Sioux had obtained permission from his charges for our rails to pass through the reservation of their tribe. But beyond that reservation is an area dominated by a Sioux chieftain, Spotted Tail, who has been hostile to any further expansion through Indian territories by the Railway Companies.
At first it was planned that a soldier escort would accompany us but Mr. Carl Schurz, Secretary of the Interior, notified us that he would prefer Indian Police go with us. We agreed and said that about ten would be the right number – two or three to remain about the camp, two or three to accompany us on our explorations ahead of the survey, and some to send back to Fort Hale for our mail. Their principal duties were to tell any bands of redskins we encountered that we had been sent out by authority of the government.
Upon our arrival at the Lower Agency the agent appointed ten Indians to accompany us but it immediately developed that there would have to be a pow wow. After much Indian oratory, we bought our prospective escorts a beef and they killed it and feasted far into the night. The next day they made terms, agreeing to accept $1.50 per day and rations for each brave.
As we were ready to begin our journey a few days later, in came ten more Indians with a note from the agent at Rosebud, saying the government had instructed him to send them to us. A short time later another band of ten Indians arrived with a similar note from the agent at Pine Ridge. Our protests were to no avail so we eventually set out with thirty Indians instead of ten.
Several days later on the single line trail from Rosebud camp to Standing Rock, we encountered scores of Indians returning from Standing Rock and other camps after a Sun Dance. They told our Indians they should not be with us and that Spotted Tail was angry.
This caused so much excitement among our Indians that we had to stop for a council. We told them we would seek out Spotted Tail and get permission for us to continue our work. The Indians agreed and assured us it was only "a little way" to the chief's camp.
The following day we started at sunrise on horseback and after covering fifty miles arrived at the Agency about 9 P.M., all of us exceedingly tired. In the morning we told our troubles to the agent, a Past Brigadier General of the Civil War, who was inclined to be somewhat irascible. He said we had better abandon the survey because Spotted Tail had not been consulted and his dignity had been stepped on. Finally, we succeeded in "borrowing" the Agent's interpreter and went on to see Spotted Tail. The chief was surrounded by many warriors and listened with deaf ears to our arguments.
It has now been decided that we will abandon the survey until matters can be straightened out with the Indians. I will return to St. Paul immediately, anxious to see my wife and son, but nonetheless reluctant to leave the virile life of the west for the staid ways of civilization.
SEPTEMBER 14, 1880 – St. Paul is all agog over the creation of Mr. Herman Saroni. Mr. Saroni has built a "steam wagon", using a light wagon, a steam engine, and an array of chains and gears to propel it. Every time Mr. Saroni appears in the streets with his new-fangled contraption, it creates scenes of wild confusion. Horses, resenting this intrusion on their domain, are inclined to rear and bolt when the snorting monster appears.
JUNE 28, 1881 – In view of my expedition last year into the Black Hills of the Western Dakota Territory and our subsequent failure to win Spotted Tail to the cause of the Railway, I should record here that the difficulty finally has been settled.
A missionary friend of the Railway prevailed upon Spotted Tail and his aides to go to Washington and sell us the land needed for westward expansion of our lines.
Spotted Tail and his aides were taken to the Capital in high style, by private car. Dressed in full Indian regalia, they were royally treated throughout their journey and made no difficulty about concluding the deal for the right-of-way.