Author Topic: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt  (Read 2888 times)

Offline Pitspitr

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The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« on: August 14, 2007, 09:10:07 PM »
All of the talk about buffalo hunters camps and reloading techniques promted me to re-read an article written by Thurman A. Smith for a local newspaper. This article was the result of an interview he had with my Great-Great Grandfather. Unfortunately Grandfather Copp doesn't mention lighting (but one might conclude from their concerns about being found by the indians that they didn't use any extra light) nor reloading. In spite of the lack of minute details I found the article quite interesting. I hope you will too. The following is an excerpt from that article which was originally run in the long defunct Brewster News in 1938.

"Henry H. Copp, now in his ninety-ninth year relates the   story of a buffalo hunt in which he participated late in the year l870. "We had to make a long trip to the prairies where the buffalo were to be found in abundance. As near as I can estimate it was about one hundred and fifty miles.   Indians were plentiful, the Sioux and their mortal enemies the Pawnees, and the thieving Omahas.    Me, I was always afraid of the treacherous scamps.    We all were for that matter.    We thought that it was worse to be hungry than afraid of losing our scalps, so hunting we went."  The oldster was lying in his bed in his room, resting from his daily trip to the Brewster (Nebraksa) Post Office.    He narrated the story easily and as clear as though the thrilling adventure had been but the day before.
   "We had a good team of horses, covered wagon, and camping outfit, We reached the buffalo feeding grounds on the head of the Little Blue south-west of where Hastings (Nebraksa) is now located.    Nothing of unusual happened on the trip, unless seeing Indian signs and keeping out of sight for a time, could be called exciting.    We found the big herd of buffalo; all as fat as butter and soon killed as many as we could use.    Like the Indians we dressed only the "hump" or the forequarters of the kill.    This we made into "jerkey."(sic)
"How did you go about making "jerky"?    Well, it's been years, but I recollect as well as though it was yesterday."    The oldster was eager to review those days of adventurous thrills.    "We'd brought with us a barrel and a lot of salt. We cut the hump into long thin strips and placed them in the barrel of salt and creek water strong brine.    Here we left it to cure for about twenty-four hours.
"While it was in the brine pickle, we dug a cave in the creek by a bank and roofed it over with brush and clay.    Not unlike the dugout a lot of Nebraskans lived in, in those days.    Stringing the brine-cured strips of meat on lengths of wire, we hung it from the roof of the smoke and drying house.  After closing the opening with green hides, we kindled a slow-turning, smoke producing fire, or smudge outside in such a manner that the smoke and heat drew into the cave through a trench.    In this way we thoroughly smoked and partially dried the strips of meat.    At intervals during the process sulphur was sprinkled upon the coals and the gasses helped to preserve the stripe of 'hump'.  In the course of a day or two, the jerky was sufficiently dried to remove to our wagon.    We soon learned it must be turned over often to prevent mold.    This we did until we could get it home and hang it up again.    It looked queer hanging from the ridge pole that supported the cabin roof.    Many cabins of those days were hung as thickly as could be with strips of jerky and paper bags of dried fruit and seeds.
 
"Did the Indians bother you?" This question brought a new light to the old pioneer's countenance and quickened his speech, "They sure did and soon. First they drove the buffalo far to the south toward the Republican River. Guess they begrudged us even a few buffalo. Then the dirty beggars came to cur camp and wanted to swap ponies for our team; little runts for our good draft horses. They begged for salt, tobacco, whisky and even wanted the shirts off our backs. We refused all their requests and they were not pleased. Four guns in the hands of crack shots made them wary about any show of force. Their party was not large, half a dozen or so.
"I forgot to tell you that there were but four in our party, my brother Cal. You remember him. He was County Judge of Loup County for more than twenty years. Then there was another brother and a neighbor and myself. Sure we were afraid. Only heroes in books were not afraid of Indians; but there was nothing to do but stand up for our rights. Bluff 'em if we could; They asked if we were camping on the creek for long, and we lied to them. Told 'em we was.
"That evening we loaded our jerky into our wagon and under the cover of a moonless night, quietly started on our homeward trek. We urged our team as fast as they could travel with the heavy load and over the rough trail. Near daybreak we camped at Big Springs on School Creek. Here the stream made a sharp bend and the peninsula formed was protected on three sides by the creek and hidden from any roving bands of Pawnee or Sioux. We slept for hours. Spring Ranch in Clay County was not far distant from where we camped. But we were not hidden for long. Our trail was easy to read.
 
During the late afternoon a band of Pawnee discovered our well hidden camp, I guess they thought we were more numerous than we were for they did not attack. We saw them circling around our camp. They kept out of range for the most part. We were for 'em, laying with our guns. We heard 'em during the night but held our fire and they finally rode away. We were mighty glad to see their dust in the early morning,
"We arrived home safely with our precious load of food. We had not fired a shot at the Indians, though we had held our guns ready. We thought ourselves lucky to escape with our lives and the load of Jerky that had cost us long days of labor, not to mention our bein' scared out of a years growth."
I remain, Your Ob'd Servant,
Jerry M. "Pitspitr" Davenport
(Bvt.)Brigadier General Commanding,
Grand Army of the Frontier
BC/IT, Expert, Sharpshooter, Marksman, CC, SoM
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Offline Delmonico

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Re: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2007, 09:19:41 PM »
Good information, I think that has been re-printed in one of the Nebraska History books, it seems familer.
Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

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The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.

Offline Steel Horse Bailey

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Re: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2007, 10:47:17 PM »
Cool!

Thanks for posting it!
"May Your Powder always be Dry and Black; Your Smoke always White; and Your Flames Always Light the Way to Eternal Shooting Fulfillment !"

Offline ira scott

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Re: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2021, 02:08:59 PM »
Cool!

Thanks for posting it!

Yes Jerry,  fun to read!
It is far better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt!

Offline bear tooth billy

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Re: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2021, 04:36:44 PM »
Nice story, imagine what is was like in north Texas (Comanche territory)
in June 1874, when the battle of adobe walls and several other murders
happened. You would have had to be pretty brave to go 150 miles south
of Dodge City into the heart of their territory. But that's where the buffs were.

             BTB
Born 110 years too late

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Re: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« Reply #5 on: Today at 02:50:36 PM »

Offline Dave T

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Re: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2021, 05:32:32 PM »
Thanks for the post Pitspitr.  Since this was an "excerpt" was there any mention of the guns used on this hunt in the rest of the story?  Were they still carrying percussion plains rifles?  Or perhaps did they have 50-70 Sharps, Rolling Blocks, or Needle Guns?  Or something else like a Springfield musket that was selling cheep on the used gun market?

Inquiring minds want to know,
Dave

Offline Pitspitr

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Re: The story of an 1870's buffalo hunt
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2021, 06:33:56 AM »
Since this was an "excerpt" was there any mention of the guns used on this hunt in the rest of the story?
Sorry, No. If there had been any more information on the hunt I'd have included it. As I recall, it was mostly just an old man reminiscing about people he'd known and such.
I remain, Your Ob'd Servant,
Jerry M. "Pitspitr" Davenport
(Bvt.)Brigadier General Commanding,
Grand Army of the Frontier
BC/IT, Expert, Sharpshooter, Marksman, CC, SoM
NRA CRSO, RVWA IIT2; SASS ROI, ROII;
NRA Patron Life; AZSA Life; NCOWS Life

 

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