The Pattie expedition headed west to trap beaver–They ended up in California where they were imprisoned–Sylvester Pattie died but his son convinced his captors to free him so he could inoculate the citizenry against an epidemic in the land

The Personal Narrative of James O Pattie of Kentucky

During an expedition from St. Louis, through the vast regions between that place and the Pacific Ocean, and then back through city of Mexico to Veracruz, during journeying this of six years, etc.

Edited by Timothy Flint 1833

Edited with notes, introductions, index, etc., by Reuben Gold Thwaites, editor LLD, editor of the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Hennepin’s New Discovery, etc.

Separate publication from Early Western travel: 1748 – 1846, in which series is appeared as            volume XV III

Cleveland Ohio the Arthur H Clark Company 1905




We thence returned down the Helay[Gila], which is here about 200 yards wide, with heavily timbered bottom. We trapped its whole course, from whence we met it, to its junction with the Red River[Colorado]. The point of junction is inhabited by a tribe of Indians called Umene [Yuma]. Here we encamped for the night. On the morning of the 26th, a great many of these Indians crossed the river to our camp, and brought us dried beans, for which we paid them with red cloth, with which they were delighted beyond measure, tearing it into ribbands, and tying it around their arms and legs; for the truth must be told, they were as naked as Adam and Eve in their birthday suits. They were the stoutest men, with the finest forms I ever saw, well proportioned, and as straight as an arrow. They contrived, however, to inflict upon their children an artificial deformity. They flatten their heads, by pressing a board upon their tender scalps, which they bind fast by a ligature. This board is so large and light, that I have seen women, when swimming the river with their children, towing them after them by a string, which they hold in their mouth. The little things neither suffered nor complained, but floated behind their mothers like ducks.



… We resumed our march, and on the sixth arrived at another village of Indians called Mohawa [Mohave]. When we approached their village, they were exceedingly alarmed. We marched directly through their village, the women and children screaming, and hiding themselves in their huts. We encamped about 3 miles above the village. We had scarcely made our arrangements for the night, when 100 of these Indians followed us. The chief was a dark and sulky looking savage, and he made signs that he wanted us to give him a horse. We made us prompt signs of refusal. He replied to this, by pointing first to the river, and then at the furs we had taken, intimating, that the river, with all it contained, belonged to him; and that we ought to pay him for what we had taken, by giving him a horse. When he was again refused, he raised himself erect, with a stern and fierce air, and discharged his arrow into the tree, at the same time raising his hand to his mouth, and making their peculiar yell. Our captain made no other reply, then by raising his gun and shooting the arrow, as it still stuck in the tree, in two. The chief seemed bewildered by this mark of close marksmanship, and started off with his men. We had no small apprehensions of a night attack from these Indians.


At San Diego:

… This is said to be the largest, and most flourishing, and every way the most important mission on the coast. For its consumption 50 beeves are killed weekly. The hides and tallow are sold to ships for goods, and other articles for use of the Indians, who are better dressed in general, then the Spaniards. All income of the mission is placed in the hands of the priests, who give out clothing and food, according as it is required. They are also self constituted guardians of the female part of the mission, shutting up one hour after supper, all those, whose husbands are absent, and all young women and girls above nine years of age. During the day, they are entrusted to the care of the matrons. Notwithstanding this, all the precautions taken by the vigilant fathers of the church are found insufficient. I saw women in irons for misconduct, and men in the stocks. The former are expected to remain a widow six months after the death of a husband, after which they may marry again. The priests appoint officers to superintend the natives, while they are at work, from among themselves. They are called alcaldes, and are very rigid in exacting the performance of the allotted tasks, applying the rod to those who fall short of the portion of labor assigned them. They are taught in different trades; some of them being blacksmiths, others carpenters, and shoemakers. Those, trained to the knowledge of music, both vocal and instrumental, are intended for the service of the church. The women and girls sew, knit, and spin wool upon a large wheel, which is woven into blankets by the men. The alcaldes, after finishing the business of the day, give an account of it to the priests, and then kiss his hand, before they withdraw to their wigwams, to pass the night. This mission is composed of parts of five different tribes, who speak different languages.

The greater part of these Indians were brought from their native mountains against their own inclinations, and by compulsion; and then baptized; which act was as little voluntary on their part, as the former had been. After these preliminaries, they had been put to work, as converted Indians.


At Los Angeles:

My next advance was to a small town, inhabited by Spaniards, called the town of the Angels. The houses have flat roofs, covered with bituminous pitch, brought from a place within 4 miles of the town, where this article boils up from the earth. As the liquid rises hollow bubbles like a shell of a large size, are formed. When they burst the noise is heard distinctly in the town. The material is obtained by breaking off portions, that have become hard, and with an ax, or something of the kind. The large pieces thus separated, are laid on the roof, previously covered with earth, through which the pitch cannot penetrate, when it is rendered liquid again by the heat of the sun.



… I consented willingly to this proposal, as I was desirous of crossing the Bay of San Francisco to the Russian settlement called the Bodega.


I proceeded to carry my wish into execution on the 23rd, accompanied by two Coriac Indians, whose occupation was the killing of sea otters by the Russians, who hire them into their service. Those who pursue this employment have water crafts made of sealion’s skins, in the shape of a canoe. Over this spreads atop, completely covered in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of the entrance of any water. An opening is left at the bow and the stern, over which the person who has entered draws a covering of the same material with that of the boat, which fastens firmly over the aperture in such a manner, as to make this part entirely waterproof, as any other portion of the boat. Two persons generally occupy it. No portion can be more secure than they are, from all the dangers of the sea. The waves dash over them harmless. The occupants are stationed, one at the bow, and the other at the stern; the latter guides the boat, while the other is provided with a spear, which he darts into the otter whenever he comes within its reach. Great numbers are thus taken.


At the mission of San Carlos:

… I had often seen similar combats, and in fact worse, having been present when men entered the enclosure to encounter the powerful bull in his wild and untamed fierceness. These unfortunate persons are armed with a small sword, with which they sometimes succeed in saving their own lives at the expense of that of the animal.

I once saw the man fall in one of these horrible shows; they are conducted in the following manner: the man enters to the bull with the weapon, of which he avails himself, in the right hand, and in the left a small red flag, fastened to a staff about 3 feet in length. He whistles or makes some other noise, to attract the attention of the animal, upon hearing which the bull comes towards him with the speed of fury. The man stands firm, with the flag dangling before him, to receive this terrible onset. When the bull makes the last spring towards him, he dexterously evades it, by throwing his body from behind the flag to one side, at the same time thrusting his sword into the animal’s side. If this blow is properly directed, blood gushes from the mouth and nostrils of the bull, and he falls dead. A second blow in this case is seldom required.

Another mode of killing these animals is by men on horseback with a spear, which they dart into his neck, immediately behind the horns. The horse is often killed by the bull. When the animal chances to prefer running from the fight to engaging in it, he is killed by the horseman, by being thrown heels over head. This is accomplished by catching a hold of the tail of the bull in the full speed of pursuit, and giving a turn around the head of the saddle, in such a manner, that they are enabled to throw the animal into any posture they choose.



… The priests are omnipotent, and all things are subject to their power. Two thirds of the population are native Indians under the immediate charge of the spiritual rulers in the numerous missions. It is a well-known fact, that nothing is more entirely opposite to the nature of a savage, then labor. In order to keep them at their daily tasks, the most rigid and unremitting supervision is exercised. No bondage can be more complete, than that under which they live. The compulsion laid upon them has, however, led them at times to rebel, and endeavor to escape from their yoke. They have seized upon arms, murdered the priests, and destroyed the buildings of the missions, by pre-concerted stratagem, in several instances. When their work of destruction and retribution was accomplished, they fled to the mountains, and subsisted on the flesh of wild horses which are there found in innumerable droves. To prevent the recurrence of similar events, the priests have passed laws, prohibiting an Indian to use or possession of any weapon whatever, under the penalty of severe punishment.

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