Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey

Near Gainesville

Saturday, December 5th, 1818

The weather being clear this morning, we got our horse packed at an early hour, and fording the river, pursued a west course for Sugar-Loaf Prairie, on White River. After travelling two miles across a high ridge, we struck a small river, tributary to the Great North Fork, which we followed up seven or eight miles, and encamped in a cane-brake on a low point of land, formed by the junction of two streams, near its head. Travelling had been excessively bad, owing to the hills, the roughness of the country, and the thickets along the margin of the stream. A proportion of cane-brake and swamp has also been encountered, in crossing which, our horse got mired, an accident which cost us great labour, and threatened one of the most serious calamities which has yet attended our journey. An attempt to rescue him seemed fruitless, our exertions only served to sink him deeper in the mire. We at last succeeded in getting off the pack, piece after piece, but after spending two hours in vain endeavours to extricate the horse, gave up the attempt. We now carried our baggage to a contiguous spot of dry ground, and sat down to rest, and to contemplate our own situation, which, deprived of our horse, was truly deplorable. Our skins, our cooking-utensils, axe, some part of our corn, meal, etc. must be abandoned. Without these we could not progress with any degree of comfort, and in resolving to renew our attempts, exhibited, perhaps, less of reasonable perseverance than of desperation, for, on returning to the horse, he was now sunk in soft black mud so deep, that the upper part of his back and head and neck were only visible. Nevertheless we succeeded, with less than an hour's work, in drawing him out, and cleaning the mud from his body, so that we were enabled to re-pack him, and travel on about three miles before encamping. Some tolerably good lands have been observed on the stream we came up, but generally there is a want of timber. Distance nine miles.

-Henry Schoolcraft

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Funding for the Schoolcraft Journey project on Unlock the Ozarks has been provided by the Missouri Humanities Council.