Detachments of Brown and Higgins-Death of Milton Kelley-Houses Completed-Death of Two Children Also John Perkins Brother Scott Arnold Stevens and M. S. Blanchard-Rumors of a Revolt-Visit to Soda Fountain-Description of the Place-Game Killed-Pay Received Also Orders to March to California
Few incidents of importance had occurred with the detachments of Captains Brown and Higgins up to this time since their arrival at Pueblo. One death occurred on the 4th of November, that of Milton Kelley, which was supposed to have been caused by taking cold while upon a hunting expedition. He was a noble and brave soldier, and previous to enlisting in the Battalion had fought in the Blackhawk war. He was also a kind husband, a good neighbor, an excellent traveling companion and a faithful Latter-day Saint. He had been married several years, but had no issue. Soon after his death, however, his wife was delivered of a fine daughter, which was named Malinda Catherine Kelley, and who is now the wife of Benjamin L. Alexander.
Most of the houses built by the detachments were so far completed as to be occupied by the 5th of December. Though only rude cabins, they found them much better than tents to live in. The valley in which they were located was well adapted for winter quarters. What snow fell soon melted, and there was good grazing for their animals. True, they had occasional wind storms, when the dust would be blown through the crevices of their houses, covering their food and everything else, but though unpleasant and annoying, this was so slight an evil, compared with what they had previously suffered from, that they felt to bear it without complaining.
The men and families, too, were tolerably well supplied with food, so that none need suffer from hunger. An occasional hunting expedition would result in securing a supply of venison, which furnished a very acceptable change of diet. Most of the sick were also very much improved since getting rid of the drugs of the inhuman doctor. A few cases of sickness, however, still lingered on.
On the 1st of January, 1847, the twin son of Captain Jefferson Hunt, by his wife Celia, died. The same day Mrs. Fanny Huntington, wife of Dimick B. Huntington, gave birth to a child which also died a few hours afterwards. Both the little innocents were buried in one grave.
On the 15th of January, nine wagons, loaded with sixty days’ rations, for the command, arrived from Bent’s Fort, and the convalescent soldiers and their families were thereby enabled to experience the contrast between short food and hard labor and full rations and no labor.
On the 19th, John Perkins, a fine young man, died, after a lingering illness, and was buried the following day.
About this time the command commenced the practice of squad drills, in which the men became very proficient.
Owing to rumors being freely circulated to the effect that the Mexicans and Indians intended to attack Pueblo, preparations for defense were made, and Captain Brown also called upon the old settlers for assistance, which they promised to render. The people of Bent’s Fort were also alarmed, lest the enemy might make a sudden raid upon them. Communication with Santa Fe had been cut off.
On the 5th of February another death occurred, that of a Brother Scott, a promising young man, after a short but severe illness, from winter fever and liver complaint. He was buried with the honors of war.
On the evening of the 28th, Corporal Arnold Stevens died and was buried the next day, with military honors; and on the 10th of April M. S. Blanchard also departed this life, after a lingering illness. The great number of deaths that occurred among that portion of the Battalion who wintered at Pueblo were doubtless due, mainly, to diseases contracted through the exposure and hardships of the journey and the murderous drugging which they had received from Dr. Sanderson, though the unhealthful ness of Pueblo may partly account for them, as some claim. As many of the Missouri volunteers who were also stationed at Pueblo for the winter, died, it is probable that climatic influences may have been one cause.
Captain Brown, having returned from Santa Fe on the 9th, with only a part of the pay due the men, set out again for that post on the 1st of May, for the purpose of trying to obtain the balance.
On the 2nd of May, John G. Smith and others, with one wagon and three yoke of oxen, started for Soda Fountain, where they arrived two days later. One of the springs at this place is described by Brother Smith as being four feet in diameter. The ground surrounding it is somewhat elevated, except at the outlet, and a kind of shelly incrustation abounds on the margins of the water. Another spring, about the same size, is said to boil up quite strongly and the water is impregnated with soda to such an extent that it is unexcelled for raising bread. A hanging rock, resembling saleratus, probably formed from the little rill that runs from the spring, projects over the creek; it is about six feet thick, thirty feet wide and forty long. There is another small spring, in the vicinity which is only about one foot in diameter, and boils up slowly, passing off in a little rivulet. These springs and their surroundings would be an excellent study for scientists. To see soda or saleratus streaming from the earth, all ready for use, without the aid of man, and that, too, of the best and purest quality, is certainly marvelous. This is one of those facts that are stranger than fiction.
As spring advanced the hunters were quite successful in killing the Rocky Mountain or black-tailed deer, which abounded in the mountains in that region. They do not differ materially from other deer, except that they are larger and darker in winter than those found east of the Rocky Mountains. When fat, their meat has a fine flavor and is preferable to the more eastern species. In fact, this rule holds good with most mountain game, and even domestic animals.
On the 18th of May, Captains Brown and Higgins and others, returned from Santa Fe with the soldiers’ money and orders to march to California.
The wagons were loaded, and the command took up the line of march and crossed the Arkansas river on the 24th of May, 1847, at noon.