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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1874
([1874])

Papers accompanying the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1874,   pp. [85]-[180] PDF (27.0 MB)


Page 94

94     REPORT OF THE        COMMISSIONER       OF INDIAN     AFFAIRS. 
flowers. We enter gorges and ravines, and huge bowlders overhang us or we
are shut 
in by sleep precipices and hills thick with pine-trees. We reach the end
of the valley 
and pa s over the rocks and through narrow defiles into a vast forest of
pine. It is of 
the haid mountain species, and some of the trees are very high. We come to
a beauti- 
fnl val ey having a running stream; along the stream are little parks, and
the grass in 
them, hough scanty, is fresh and green. The stream is dammed by rock or stopped
by 
huge b)wlders, and thus little pools and lakelets are formed, and they are
full of bass 
and other fish. The water is pure and cold and abundant. We camp here. On
every 
side thA hills tower above us. They are tall, sharp cones, covered with pine
to their 
very t s. Their sides are rough and torn with rocks, and covered with fragments
of 
every Q .ze and shape. It is impossible to proceed further with wagons, and
from this 
pleasa t resting-place we explore the hills in every direction. We found
a trail, made 
by Gen ral Custer's party, near our camp, and further on other and larger
ones, lead- 
ing in 3very direction, and many signs of their explorations in almost every
valley 
and r-C vine. Our command was broken up into small parties for purposes of
explor tion, each taking such direction as seemed best to its leader, and
we made a 
very ti orough examination of the hills. We found that we were on the headwaters
of 
French Creek or Running Water. Part of our party traced it to the wild gorge
where 
it breal s through into the foot-hills and bad land below, and part to its
source to the 
rear of Barney Peak. I, with two others, went directly over the sharp range
at our 
camp to that peali, arriving over against it just as the short day was drawing
to a close. 
We fou d everywhere a country mountainous, rough, and ragged, cut up by deep
val- 
leys anI steep ravines, and thickly covered with pine in various stages of
growth. On 
the hill there is barely any soil, and it is a wonder how such giant trees
so firmly root 
themse ves. In the valleys the soil is light and sandy and very thin, and
it bears a 
very li ht and thin grass. At places there have been fires and windfalls,
and here and 
there a e little parks, very pretty to look upon, but too small for grazing
or for farms. 
Surrou ding this mountain, for such it really is, are only barren hills and
broken slopes 
of bad and and clay. All about the central peaks are pine-clad cones aud
spurs. As 
the pea -s lessen to hills toward the west the valleys and parks become larger,
and the 
pine leAs in quantity and smaller in size, till the open plains are reached.
In these 
valleys and parks the soil is very poor and thin, and where they are of any
considerable 
size, it is very much broken up by the upheaval of irregular masses of conglomerate
soil and rock. The rock, aside from the sandstone first found, is hard and
rough gran- 
ite and pebble-stone. We found no seams of quartz, but fragments of white
quartz are 
everyw iere found on the hills. We had no one with us competent to pronounce
upon 
the geo ogy of the region, but I am sure that, aside from tinges of iron
seen in the soil 
and sand1 and stone, we saw no evidence of the existence of any mineral wealth,
and 
we fou d no signs of coal. Several members of our party, citizens and soldiers,
were 
nien ex erienced in mining in California and Colorado, and though they made
frequent 
and faithful examination of the ledges and brook-deposits and sands, they
found no 
trace of gold or other precious metal. 
On otir return to the Cheyenne, we followed our former road to the Indians'
trail, 
just ab ye the foot-hills, and then followed that, along the range westward,
to a point 
just nor h of Spotted Tail agency. Thus we were enabled to view all the country
on 
the southern slope of the hills, and all the gates and passes that lead to
the interior. 
We fou d the country rough, broken, and parched, and nowhere openings large
or good 
enough or settlement. The streams, too, after they break through the hills,
are either 
lost in t ie desert below or in every other case are bitter, the waters becoming
strongly 
mprec ated with the saltz of the earth. At night, though it was hot an4 sultry
on the 
plains, - e found the air very cold and damp, and the day We left the foot-hills
Harney 
Peak w   covered with snow. From the Indian crossing of Cheyenne River we
marched 
directly to the agency, the distance across the prairie here being full 40
miles. 
We h d been absent just a mouth, and now returned safely and well, having
had no 
trouble f any kind, and not having met with mishap or accident. This is largely
ow- 
ing to   e wisdom and skill of the officer in command, and we thankfully
commend 
him an his associates as being soldiers worthy of the name-men of energy,
wisdom, 
and bra ery. During our whole trip of many hundreds of miles we have seen
no In- 
dians, nor had reason to fear trouble from them. For this our thanks are
largely due 
to Spott d Tail and Red Cloud and their agentn in charge. 
We fo. nd no country at all suitable for an agency east of the Big White
Clay, all 
the country toward the Missouri River being either almost, or entirely, destitute
of 
wood or water, or of both. 
The B ack Hills we found to be a bleak, and except for its abundant growth
of hard 
pine a f( rhidding and sterile, mountain. Green fromi its springs and trees,
it is a cool 
and plea ant retreat from the burnimig sun and baked soil of the desert plains
around it, 
alid ouly a garden spot whcn compared to and contrasted with the bad land
and utter 
dlesolati n that surround it. There may, indeed, be ninueral wealth there,
but, if so, 
we belie  e it to be yet undiscovered, and there are no evidences, either
from location, or 
characte of rock, or soil, or sand, to wvarrant any expectation that a more
diligent 


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