Batopilas, Hacienda San Miguel, September 22, 1873.
Left for Chihuahua on my way to New York with 3 cargoes of silver and 10 mules, accompanied by Prejedes Guerre with one cargo of silver, and John Kyrk with 1 cargo of silver and 2 men. Have 5 men of my own, 3 mounted and all well armed, as we expect an attack of robbers, knowing that a band has been prowling about for some time near Batopilas, robbing. They were a band commanded by one Ensureso, who had robbed the town of Mocorito and killed some of its inhabitants a short time ago. Before we arrived at the top of the first mountain, Kyrks baggage mule rolled down the mountain with his baggage, consisting of a big trunk loaded with silver specimens, his bed, and a box of grub, sufficient load for 2 mules, but on account of his penuriousness, he would load all on one, rather than hire two. The last I saw of him, he and his men were on their way after the mule, leaving me in charge of his cargo of silver. We traveled all day ascending the mountain, making about 12 leagues and arrived about dark at an old Indian Mission by name of Yoguivo, nearly abandoned. It is most beautifully located, with an abundance of grass, timber, and a fine stream of water. It was considerable of a town in the time of the Spaniards, but like all other parts of the country, abandoned and in ruins. There still remains the church, a large, stone edifice, in which the few Indians that are left in the vicinity, still worship by kneeling on the cold stones on certain days and tell their beads as they were taught by the Jesuit fathers. The few priests that inhabit the Sierra Madre live in the Mexican villages, and are a most immoral, drunken, and worthless class, that are mixed up with and the cause of most of the revolutions and robberies in the country. Our camp is about 6,000 feet above the Hacienda: climate very cool, and the mountain air delicious, and the scenery the grandest imaginable.
[A league is approximately 3 miles.]
This morning came into camp of one of Kyrk,s men, sent by him to accompany us. Kyrk returned to Batopilas to get a new mule, and will follow in 2 or 3 days. This is no doubt what he wished, as he did not like to help guard the silver and previous to leaving wanted me to take it and leave him to follow. He is a regular nuisance, and is neither a man of ordinary common sense, or capacity and intelligence enough to understand that most ordinary business, and on account of his selfish, brutish manners, unfit to deal with men. Our travel is diversified today with lofty mountains, beautiful, small valleys with running streams of clear, cold water, immense precipices, and peaks towering far above the clouds and us, with deep chasms and gorges where the sun never penetrates, and covered with all classes of pine, cedar, and oak timber, grass, and flowers. We wind our way to the bottom of the Barrancas, cross the little river of Batopilas, much diminished in size, and then ascend again into the clouds, or where they ought to be, as the day is beautifully clear. Our road is so precipitous and rocky that a person, in many places, could scarcely get up or down, yet our mules leap down or up without fear, and you must have a good seat or go over their heads or tails. Camped on the summit in a beautiful valley with plenty of grass and water and an Indian cornfield in sight. The green corn was excellent, roasted at our camp fire. Mrs. Ford had prepared me two chickens and a bag of doughnuts. Finished the last of the chickens, washed down with a tin of coffee which Sundras, my Mexican Friday, made, and then lay down under a pine tree and enjoyed a good nights rest, with the exception of being somewhat cold, although covered with 4 blankets, overcoat, etc.
No disturbance last night, but could not leave at our usual hour on account of 4 mules having strayed. We have 14 in all, 7 cargoes, 6 mounted, and one spare mule. We expect to reach the Indian town of Hosoguschic today. We found our mules and left camp at 11 a.m., and rode very rapidly until after sundown, when we arrived at the Indian Pueblo. It is situated in a most beautiful valley, with a small river of the same name as the town. It is the most picturesque country I ever saw. The mountains on either side rise into fortresses, castles, churches, and singularly grotesque figures that look as if they were the immense ruins of cities, or sculptured idols hundreds of feet in height. Our whole days ride has been over a most interesting country, continually changing, and ever beautiful and grand. What a rich country to lie in such a state of nature so near the United States! Americans really know nothing of Mexico, although it lies at their door.
Arose this morning after an excellent nights rest under the portal of the church. This is a large building, 150 feet in length by 100 feet in width, the front built of limestone, very handsomely sculptured in columns, jutted fluted, and carved in various figures. A bell-tower rises from one corner to the height of 115 feet. The body of the church is built of adobe, and the interior is adorned with large old oil paintings, so discolored by time and dirt that it is not possible to say what they represent. There is one at least 50 feet square, with a number of figures representing different religious ceremonies and scenes from the Bible. The alter-piece has been a magnificent design gorgeously decorated with paintings, and embellished with gold and silver images of our Saviour on the Cross, life size; also the Virgin Mary and other saints adorn the walls. But all this grandeur of the Jesuit fathers is rotting and falling to pieces, and in a few years more, there will be nothing left but the ruins of the walls of the greatness and splendor of the rich churches of Mexico. All passed away with the reign of the Spaniard and nothing is left to tell of their former splendor except the few relics preserved and watched over by the poor Indians, who look on with awe and reverence as long as anything remains, but who have no idea of restoring or doing anything to prevent their going to ruin. I saw several large old books on the altar, and opened an old, worm-eaten Latin Bible, dated 1772. The others seemed much older, but I was afraid to touch them for fear they would fall to pieces. This is the condition of all the churches in Mexico, and in fact with everything in this country of anarchy. After a hearty breakfast of tortillas, eggs, and milk, I walked about waiting for our mules, which are not to be found this morning. The town is nothing more now than a miserable hamlet, consisting of here and there an abode hut, in which reside the Indians. They raise corn and beans principally, with some cattle and mules. Our mules arrived about 2 p.m. The delay in finding them was due to the mules of Kyrk. This mule has already detained us one day. Just to accommodate a man who is anything but a man! We traveled today about 10 leagues in a most delightful valley, watered by a fine stream of water, with grass and timber. The pines are very lofty and straight as arrows. We arrived about sundown at the summit, where the water divides, running to the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is a singular spot, being a hidden lake of over a mile in width and two miles in length, covered with grass. We camped on the Atlantic slope about a league from the summit.
Got a late start. Expect to reach the Indian town of Nonoava by noon. We are now descending the arroyo, quite cool and cloudy. Passed through the town, which is adobe with the inevitable church. The town is built upon a handsome plain, with a small river and the mountains on either side at a distance of 10 miles. It consists of about 50 houses, inhabited mostly by Indians. We ascended the mountains, and camped.
Left early and passed several towns. Made a hard days travel and camped in the mountains.
Left camp early alone, as Juan said there was a milk ranch about 2 leagues ahead. Found the ranch at 3 leagues ahead. Was hot and thirsty. After fighting through a dozen dogs, reached the house and went in. Took a look at the chickens, dogs, and milk crocks, and the woman with a wooden ladle. Called for milk. Si Seρor, and gave me about a quart in an earthen mug. Woman gave me some tortillas and, after a long search, found a piece of a spoon that an Indian baby was digging dirt with. I took a seat and sent in for bread and milk, same as at home. Soon wanted another mug of milk. Finished it. Called for the bill: one bit. Gave the woman 4 bits. It made her handsome - that is if she would wash. Mule train arrived, and we pushed on, passing some 3 or 4 small Mexican towns similarly built to the last, in beautiful valleys. Camped near the town of Santa Isabel, 14 leagues from Chihuahua. Got milk at the ranch. Our grub that we bought from Batopilas is about gone. Have been quite unwell with dyspepsia. The hot sun and rapid traveling have got me out of order.
Set out early, and about 3 oclock (Monday) reached Chihuahua City. No room in the only hotel in the place. Finally obtained a room in the Meson (inn) where my men and mules stop. Was soon visited by Mr. Gosch, our agent, who was sorry his rooms in his house were all occupied. Tried to sleep, but it was impossible. Thought I was covered with prickly heat. After scratching my skin and nails off, rose, lit the candle, called for Juan and let the bugs and fleas have the bedroom. Could not think of killing them. They were too many for us. The bed had been borrowed of a very nice lady living next door.
Next morning I was furnished a room by the kindness of Mr. Henry Miller of the mint. He gave me a nice bed and no bugs, in the mint, where I stayed during the time I was in Chihuahua, and boarded at the hotel.
Had my silver assayed and ordered the coining in time for the conducts, which is to leave on the fourth.
Don Antonio has not yet arrived. I employed myself in making some acquaintances and renewing old ones. Found the city much improved since 1861, the first time I passed through. It has a population of about 15,000. There are some very fine buildings, and a good many foreigners, principally Germans, doing business here. The Cathedral is one of the finest buildings in Mexico, built at about 1750 by the Spaniards, cost about $800,000. The money was raised by assessing 12 and a half cents on every $8.00 worth of silver taken from the mines of Santa Eulalia near here. There is a great number of old Haciendas, and mountains of scaria from the old furnaces all around the city.
[To convert the monetary figures in this diary to present day dollars multiply 20, this will give a reasonably accurate figure, thus the Cathedral cost about $16,000,000 in current dollars. John would sell the Batopilas mines in 1880, buy the Santa Eulalia mines mentioned here, and work them until about 1890.]
Don Antonio arrived today about 2 p.m. Got my coin ready for shipment, and concluded to send to New York $5,000., leaving about $2,000. to pay expenses, and for Sam.
[Sample of coin.]
Visited Don Antonio Ochoa and family this morning. He was extremely glad to see me. I became acquainted with his family, who are pleasant and agreeable people. One of his daughters, about 15 years old, may soon be my niece, in case Sam can arrange matters satisfactorily. The parents seem willing. John Kyrk arrived last night, and like an ass, as he is, would not hear to my advice and send his silver by the train today, but would take it with him in the stage, although I told him they would not let him take it out at El Pasco: He knew better.
[Sam is Samuel M. Wilkinson, John's nephew, who worked as superintendent of the silver mines. He married Carolina Venezuela in Batopilas in 1874, this could be the young woman mentioned here.]
The train left yesterday for Presidio, with the conducta of silver. I visited Don Antonio, and took dinner with him. He was inaugurated yesterday as Governor of the state. There was no public demonstration by the city. He has considerable opposition among the authorities of the city. I arranged our affairs so that he can look after our interests in my absence, and see that our property is protected against robbers. He is to send an officer to Batopilas to look into the situation, and take such measures as are necessary to protect us. I left the Stearns papers with him, and instructions to attend to him in case he presents himself in Chihuahua or Batopilas.
Hired a stage and 6 mules to take Kyrk and myself to El Paso. Kyrk was not ready - fooling around about his silver. I am determined to leave tomorrow, whether he is ready or not.
Kyrk, after all his trouble and delay, was informed by his customhouse officer that he would not give him a pass for his 2 bars, and he was forced to leave them with Gosch and Markt, very much to my desire, as it would be an intolerable nuisance to have to guard the silver on our long journey through the Indian country. Finally we got started at 3 p.m., having wasted all this time for Kyrk, who has no regard for anybodys comfort or convenience but his own.
Stayed at a ranch last night, having made 15 leagues from Chihuahua. Passed Santa Clara Ranch about 9 oclock, belonging to Miller. The country is level, the roads good, and water and grass in abundance all the way. There is a ridge on each side of our valley about 2 miles distant. We made 20 leagues today, camped at a ranch and slept in the stage.
Left at 4 oclock a.m. Stopped at midday at an immense spring of warm water, a fine water power and a most beautiful bathing place formed by the spring in a natural basin. Met Mexican soldiers hunting Apaches. They get 300 pesos a scalp. This has so driven off the Indians that the road and ranches are quite safe from their depredations. The Government have pursued this policy for the last 10 years, after more than 200 years of peace and the entire abandonment of the country to the Apaches, who would come within 2 miles of the city of Chihuahua and kill and rob. The ranches are now being occupied again, and stock raising and agriculture are practiced by the Mexicans on a large scale. Some foreigners have large ranches, and make a big amount of money in raising sheep, cattle, horses, mules, and chivas (goats).
Passed over some very beautiful country with cornfields and wheatfields. Stayed at a small town.
At about 10 a.m. we reached a ranch owned by Sanisessiaga, who was Don Antonio Ochoas competitor. He invited us to take coffee, and was very agreeable, and showed us his farm and stock. It is watered by a warm water spring, so large as to send out a small river. Where the water boils up he has dug out a basin to the depth of about 15 feet. This excavation was completely filled with the bones of a mastodon, which lay around in great heaps, composed principally of the teeth and large bones. I measured one of the grinders. It was 8 inches thick, 1 foot long, and the same in depth where it was inserted into the jaw. At 4 oclock we reached El Paso. Introduced myself to Don Jesus Escobar de Armendassiz, the Collector of the Port, who gave me a pass with examination. He seemed to be well posted about me and our affairs. He was educated in the United States, talks English, and is a good friend of Don Antonio Ochoa. He is very much of a gentleman, and goes in for Americanism and progression. We crossed the river and stayed at the Hotel of Mrs. Roman, who gave us good meals and beds.
Concluded to go by stage to Austin. Paid $100 fare, and left at 10 oclock, El Paso on the American side, is a dead town of about 1,000 inhabitants, situated in the Rio Grande valley, and is waiting for a railroad, the Texas Pacific and the Narrow Gauge from Denver, which are expected to be built to this point in 2 or 3 years. The valley of the Rio Grande is very rich land, capable of producing all the fruits and grains raised in the district, and is celebrated for its wine and onions, which are grown to a large extent on the Mexican side by irrigation from the river. The distance from El Paso to Austin is 700 miles. Expect to make it in 7 days. Nothing of importance to write about except the usual fatigue attending stage travel night and day. Half the stage was occupied by a sick man by the name of John Fairbanks, who, with his servant, was on his way home to New Orleans. He stopped at Fort Davis, where we arrived on the 14th.
Arrived at Fort Stockton. Found but little change here or at Davis since I passed through here in 61. Met some of my old drivers on the overland, who were glad to see me.
Arrived at Fort Concha after having a night of torment with Kyrk, who is the most filthy beast of a man I ever encountered. He made the stage perfectly horrible with his odor. He has never sat up one hour in the stage since we left Chihuahua, but lies down and tumbles all over the stage without regard to anyones comfort but his own, and although I have done all I could to induce him to be a little more decent, it is no use. He is a brute, and nothing else can be made out of him. It will be Paradise when I can be relieved from him. He sleeps, snores, smokes, eats, smells to Heaven, behaves himself in a filthy manner 15 times a day, and when awake talks, and tries his Spanish on everyone he sees. He is the most disgusting, ignorant ass ever made - ugh!
Left Concha at 12 oclock for Fredericksburg, with stage full of passengers. Traveled 185 miles and arrived Saturday night.
Stayed one night. This is the first town of any note since we left El Paso. It is settled principally by Germans. Left at 8 oclock with a 2 horse coach and four passengers. Two left us at night.
Another beastly night with Kyrk. Arrived at Austin, the capital of Texas and quite a lively and flourishing city. Here we take the railroad, thank God! Bought a ticket for New York, and left at 9:30 for Hempstead Junction by the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, and was told by the ticket agent that we should leave for the North at 8 p.m., but when I arrived at Hempstead I was there told that there would be no train until 12 oclock the next day. I started to find a hotel, and was stopped by the Mayor and police of the city and told to give an account of myself, as they were quarantining against the yellow fever from the towns to the north. This was decidedly unpleasant, as, from what they told me, it was extremely uncertain about our being allowed to go north beyond the yellow fever towns. However, after they ascertained where I came from, I was released. Kyrk had some trouble with them, as they were not willing to believe his yarn.
Expect to leave at 12 oclock today unless new orders arrive. Left at 12, noon, by the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. Passed the towns of Brenham, Hearne, and Calvert. Did not stop at this last place, as the yellow fever is raging here and the people are dying off at the rate of 10 to 20 per day. All are leaving the place that can get away. Passed Dallas in the night, where the Texas Pacific Railroad crosses from Shreveport and Marshall. The yellow fever has about depopulated Shreveport, and has now attacked Marshall.
Passed Sherman about 8 a.m. after passing a night sitting up, as they have no sleeping cars on this road. Arrived at Denison, the terminus of the road and of the P.M.K. & Texas Railroad. Took breakfast here. Had butter, but no milk. In fact, with one or two exceptions, we found no milk or butter in Texas, with all their great herds of cattle. Denison is only one year old, and contains over 4,000 population. Left at 11:45 a.m. in the sleeping car for St. Louis via Sedalia. Crossing the Indian Territory and Kansas I arrived at Sedalia at 9:30 a.m. and took the Missouri & Pacific train for St. Louis. Sedalia is quite a large town of 15,000 population, with a splendid, rich country around it. I arrived in St. Louis at 6 oclock, crossed the river by ferryboat, and took the sleeping car on the Vandalia route for New York. Did not sleep much in an upper berth. Besides I have been afflicted with Neuralgia, having caught a severe cold in a Texas northerner, which drilled me through.
At 7 a.m. we were detained by a freight train off the track, thrown off by a huge bull a short distance east of Indianapolis. This put us 8 hours behind time in New York, where we arrived on the 25th, at 3:50 p.m.