Kit Carson - John S. C. Abbott

The Last Days of Kit Carson


We left Mr. Carson at his farm in Razado. After a short time he organized a pleasure hunting-party of eighteen of his most highly esteemed companions of former years. It was unanimously voted that the excursion should not be one of boy's play but of man's. It was Carson's last trapping excursion. Each trapper felt that he was bidding farewell to the streams and valleys, where in past years, he had encountered so many exciting adventures.

"The boldest and one of the longest routes, known to their experienced footsteps, was selected. It comprised many of the mighty rivers of the Rocky mountains, every one of which was almost a hunting ground by itself. Onward, over the wild and broad plains, this band of stalwart men, brave and kindred spirits, dashed. They soon put several miles between them and the comfortable firesides of Razado.

"In a short time the well remembered waters of the South Platte were descried. Their practiced eyes soon discovered the oft noted 'signs of the beaver.' The beaver had increased in great numbers. The party continued working down this stream, through the plains of Laramie to the New Park; and thence on to the Old Park. They trapped a large number of their old streams, until finally the expedition was terminated on the Arkansas river. The hunt proved very successful. With a large stock of furs, they returned in safety to Razado, via the Raton mountains, which are spurs of the great Rocky chain."

This expedition occupied several months. Mr. Carson now devoted himself assiduously to farming, and especially to raising flocks and herds. In August, 1853, he drove, aided by many well armed attendants, a flock of six thousand five hundred sheep to California, where he sold them for five dollars and fifty cents a head. His knowledge of the country was such, that he was enabled to follow a route which gave them good pasturage all the way.

At San Francisco, Kit Carson found himself an object of universal attention. His renown had preceded him. The steamboats gave him a free pass.

All places of amusement were open to him. Wherever he went he was pointed out as the man to whom California was under the greatest obligations. Still he retained his modesty and integrity unsullied. Soon after his return to Razado, he received the unexpected and very gratifying intelligence, that he had been appointed by the United States Government, Indian Agent.

The duties of this difficult and responsible office he performed with remarkable wisdom and success. Whenever his counsel was followed, it was attended with the desired results. Whenever it was rejected disaster was sure to ensue. His knowledge of Indian customs was such, that more than once he presented himself entirely alone at the council fire of exasperated warriors; and urged upon them peace. On one of these occasions he learned that an angry band of Apache warriors were encamped among the mountains, but about fifty miles from his home. He knew the chiefs. He was familiar with their language. Though he knew that they were in a state of great exasperation, and that they were preparing to enter upon the war-path, he mounted his horse and rode thither, without even an attendant. The chiefs received him with sullen looks; but they listened patiently to his speech.

"The course you are pursuing," said he, "will lead to your inevitable and total destruction. Your tribe will be exterminated. Your Great Father has thousands upon thousands of soldiers. He can easily replace those who fall in battle. It is not so with you. When your warriors are killed, you have no others to place in their moccasins. You must wait for the children to grow up.

"Your Great Father loves his children. He wishes to give you rich presents. I am his servant to bring those presents to you. We wish to live in peace, that we may help one another."

This conciliatory speech softened their hearts for a time, and they all, with seeming cordiality, came forward and professed friendship. The great difficulty, in our intercourse with the Indians, has been that the wilderness has been filled with miserable vagabonds, who were ever perpetrating innumerable outrages, robbing them, and treating them in all respects, in the most shameless manner. Even civilized men, in war, will often retaliate, by punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. It is not strange that untutored Indians, having received atrocious wrongs from one band of white men, should wreak their vengeance on the next band whom they chanced to encounter.

Mr. Carson, in addition to his farm at Razado, had what may be called his city residence in the straggling old town of Taos. It is said that a traveller upon entering these crooked streets, lined with one story buildings of sun-baked bricks, is reminded of a number of brick-kilns, previous to being burnt, all huddled together without any regard to order. As in all Spanish towns, there is a large public square in the centre.

Mr. Carson's house faced this square on the west side. Though but one story in height, it spread over a large extent of ground. It was one of the largest and most commodious houses in the place. Every body who went to Taos, Indians as well as white men, felt bound to call upon "Father Kit," as he was familiarly called. To the Indian, particularly, he was ever a true friend and benefactor. He knew, as no other man knew, how terrible his wrongs,—not from the government,—but from the vagabond desperadoes of the wilderness. Never was his patience exhausted by their long visits, and never was he weary of listening to their harangues. It has ever been with him a constant effort to warn them against the use of intoxicating drink—that "fire water" which has so long been consuming the Indian, body and soul.

Whenever the government had any important or delicate mission to perform among the Indians, the services of Mr. Carson were sure to be called into requisition. Thus he entered upon the evening of his days, honored and beloved by all who knew him. These peaceful hours were probably the happiest of his life. We have no detailed account of his last sickness and death. He breathed his last at Fort Lyon, in Colorado, on the twenty-third of May, 1868, in the sixtieth year of his age. The immediate cause of his death, was an aneurism of an artery in the neck. Thus passed away one of the most illustrious of the "Pioneers and Patriots" of America. His name deserves to be held in perpetual remembrance.