The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected. — G. K. Chesterton

Antoine of Oregon - James Otis




Meeting with other Emigrants

We were traveling within two or three miles of the Kansas River, not yet having come to the ford, when at about four o'clock in the afternoon we overtook a company of people who were bound for the Oregon country, having in their train twenty-eight wagons.

At first John Mitchell was eager to join the strangers as they suggested; but he lost much of the desire on being told that two miles in advance was another party having nearly a hundred wagons. I really believe the man grew confused when he learned there were so many people on the Oregon trail.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

When he asked my advice as to joining the larger company, I told him that my father had ever said if he could travel independently of any one else, it was profitable for him to do so, for then he was forced neither to go faster than he desired, nor remain idle when it pleased him to push on.

I asked John Mitchell how much he could gain by forming a small part of such a large company, unless, perhaps, he intended to dismiss me as guide, whereupon he assured me heartily that he had no such idea, but it seemed to him we might join the strangers for mutual assistance.

It was not for me to do more than offer advice, and I told him that unless we came upon hostile Indians, we had best continue on by ourselves, for the time was coming, and not very far in the future, when we should be put to it to find grass for the cattle and fuel with which to cook our food. At such times the smaller the company, the less chance for suffering.

It was Susan who settled the matter, for she said very decidedly that I, who had already traveled over the Oregon trail twice, ought to know more about such affairs than any other in the company.

When she had spoken, her father held his peace as if convinced that her words were wise.

We did not overtake the company of a hundred wagons that night, but camped near a small brook about four miles from the Kansas River, I having led the people off the trail a mile or more so that we might no, be joined by those emigrants in the rear.

Next morning we traveled four miles to the river ford, and there found the water already so high that there was nothing to do but to ferry our wagons over in a flatboat owned by a man named Choteau whom I had already known in St. Louis.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

He was no relative of that famous Choteau of the fur company, but a very obliging Frenchman indeed, who, because of his acquaintance with me, did all he could to hasten our movements. It was necessary we have a friend in such work, for it was a hard task to make the journey back and forth across that muddy stream, which was at least two hundred and fifty yards wide, when we could carry only one unloaded wagon at a time.