Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey

Friend's Cabin

Tuesday, January 12th, 1819

We were cordially welcomed at M'Gary's, and congratulated on our perseverance in visiting a region where travelling was, in their estimation, attended with so much hazard from Indian hostility, and our progress to which had been attended with such accumulated difficulties. They had heard of our two weeks' probation at Holt and Fisher's cabins, during which we had been employed upon their habitations, and in chopping wood, etc. and considered it as an unmanly advantage taken of our situation. On learning from us that the Osage Indians had broken up their hunting encampments in the region about James' River, and retired upon the Grand Osage some weeks previous to our arrival, one of the sons of M'Gary manifested a strong inclination to go out upon a hunting excursion into that quarter, which, on further learning that we had found game abundant, he immediately determined upon, and was ready to set out toward that country at the time we embarked in our canoe this morning. Undoubtedly he will be rewarded with as many skins as he can transport back. In our descent this day, we have passed several hunters' cabins on both banks of the river, but met nothing worthy particular note until our arrival at the Bull Shoals, situated twenty miles below M'Gary's. Here the river has a fall of fifteen or twenty feet in the distance of half-a-mile, and stands full of rugged calcareous rocks, among which the water foams and rushes with astonishing velocity and incessant noise. There are a hundred channels, and the strange navigator runs an imminent risk of being dashed upon the rocks, or sunk beneath the waves, whose whirling boiling and unceasing roar warns him of his peril long before he reaches the rapids. There is a channel through which canoes and even large boats pass with a good depth of water, but being unacquainted with it, we ran the hazard of being sunk, and found our canoe drawn rapidly into the suction of the falls, apprehensive of the result. In a few moments, notwithstanding every effort to keep our barque headed downwards, the conflicting eddies drove us against a rock, and we were instantly thrown broadside upon the rugged peaks which stand thickly in the swiftest part of the first schute, or fall. Luckily it did not fill, but the pressure of the current against a canoe thirty feet in length, lying across the stream, was more than we could counteract, and we had nearly exhausted our strength in vain endeavours to extricate and aright it. For all this time we were in the water, at a depth of two, three, and four feet, at a cool January temperature, but at length succeeded in lifting it over a ledge of rocks, and again got afloat. We now shot down the current rapidly and undisturbed for 600 yards, which brought us to the verge of the second schute, where we twice encountered a similar difficulty, but succeeded, with analogous efforts, in passing our canoe and effects in safety. This is the most considerable obstruction to the navigation of the river we have yet encountered, but is said to be perfectly safe in high tides, when the rocks are buried by the vernal and autumnal floods. At these shoals lead ore (galena,) is found in small lumps, adhering to the rocks in the river and on the shores, with some calcareous spar; and the banks are further rendered interesting by some remains of ancient works, which appear to indicate that it has been the seat of metallurgical operations in former ages, and previous to the deposition of the alluvial soil upon its banks, for beneath this soil are imbedded the reliqua in question. Thus imbedded masses of a metallic alloy, manifestly the production of art, with bits of earthen pots, and arrow-heads chipped out of flint, horn-stone, and jasper, are found. The metallic alloy appears, from hardness and colour, to be lead united with silver or tin. It is not well refined, although it may be easily cut with a knife. The earthenware appears to have been submitted to the action of fire, and has suffered no decay. Of all these I procured specimens, of which duplicates are to be seen among the collections of Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill, at New-York.

Having spent some time in our passage over the rapids, and got thoroughly wetted, so that we felt chilly and uncomfortable, we determined to stop at the next cabin which presented itself on the banks of the river. This happened to be the house of Augustine Friend, situated five miles below the shoals, a man of some intelligence, and who has the honour of giving name to a settlement which is forming around him. By him we were treated with much hospitality, and furnished with several facts relative to the geography and productions of the surrounding country. Being an enterprising hunter, as well as a farmer, he has visited the most remote parts of the White River country, and has traversed the region we have just explored. He represents the existence of rock-salt, between the head of the south fork of White River and the Arkansaw; that the Pawnees and Osage Indians make use of it, and that he has seen, and used it, and says it is clear like alum. He is acquainted with the lead-mines on James' River, and represents the bodies of ore as very great; and says that the Pawnee mountains, situated south of the Grand Osage River, afford beautiful black and white marble. Mr. Friend has lately been detained a prisoner by the Osages; but although they stole his beaver traps, and some other articles, he was treated humanely in other respects, and suffered, after a confinement of several weeks, to depart. In relating the particulars of his captivity, and in repeating several anecdotes illustrative of savage life and manners, the time passed imperceptibly away, so that although wet and fatigued on our arrival, it was after ten before we betook ourselves to rest.

-Henry Schoolcraft

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