Thursday, March 24, 2011

Riverboat diary ...

For now, here's one last quote from the diary of James Knox Polk Miller, this one dated June 4, 1867. It was written as Miller rode a Missouri River steamboat downstream from Fort Benton ... a journey with some darker moments, and some nineteenth-century sensibilities.
This morning a negro, one of the boat hands, fell overboard. No effort was made to save him and he sank to rise no more, the crew standing about watching for him to rise. Having discovered the excellence of the view, from the same I spent most of the day in though wheel house. Passed a herd of buffalo & saw hundreds of wild geese with their young. They did not attempt to fly away as our boat approached, but sinking their bodies into the water floated in foolish security, leaving only their heads visible. Passed Fort Hawley, a post erected last year for the purpose of trading with the Indians. Past the point and saw the remains of a trading post directed by steel and burned by the Indians. Passed the “Yorktown” and “Mountaineer” on the last of which I saw Billy Childs and his newly elected wife. The boats, both upward and downward bound, are this year filled with families, some going home to educate their children or flying to the comforts not to be found in the Rocky Mountains. Others are coming up river to meet their husbands who have gone ahead and prepared homes for them. One Jew and his wife came up on the “Waverley” and, after looking about Fort Benton for a week, concluded that Montana was not the place for him. Accordingly he hired himself to the same boat and is at present engaged in packing wood from the flats or peeling potatoes, as the case may be.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it interesting, the tone in this journal? Such...I don't know...matter of fact observance. Yet the fact that he recorded the events tell me that it certainly affected him.
    So many accounts of life, nowadays, are so loaded with emotion. Not that it's a bad thing, but I think we forget how extraordinarily tough these folks had to be, to come West!

    Great post, Mark!