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Opening the Mojave River Trail

The Chastised Mohave

The chastised Mohave, meanwhile, had less than six months to wait to vent their vengeance on the next body of trappers who happened along: the unfortunate mountain men under Jedediah Smith. Since he had already established friendly relations with the Mohave, the unsuspecting Smith followed about the same route from Utah and arrived at a Mohave village where he exchanged some horses, bought some corn and beans, and gave presents to the Chiefs. This Mohave interpreter informed Smith that a party of Spaniards and Americans from the province of Sonora had been there since Smith's visit. The party, according to the interpreter, had quarreled and separated part going up and part going down the Colorado River. Smith, to be sure, was curious as to which trappers had preceded him.

As Smith and his men started to cross the Colorado River on a raft, the Mohave help them in till the men were divided. Suddenly the Indians fell upon the trappers, killing nine and carrying off two Indian women men who accompanied them. Smith rallied the nine survivors on a sandbar from where they could see their dead comrades in hundreds of Indians who might close in at any time. He threw some of their syncopal possessions into the river, and spread many of the stores across the sand to delay the Indians who would, no doubt, fight over the spoils. Luckily, Smith saved 15 pounds of dried meat. The desperate men then rushed about ˝ mile away before the Indians began to close in around them.

"We were not molested and on our arriving on the bank of the river we took our position in a small cluster of cottonwood trees, which were generally two or 3 inches in diameter and standing verry [sic] close."

They chop some trees down to clear a place to stand, the fallen trees making a slight breastwork. Having only five rifles among the 10 of them,

"We fastened our butcher knives with cords to the end of the light poles so as to form a tolerable lance, and thus poorly prepared we waited the approach of our unmerciful enemies."

Smith directed that only three of their five guns fire any time, and then only at sure shots. The Indians closed in undercover so as not to incur another debacle like the charge on Young's men. Smith ordered the best shots to fire the first salvo and "two Indians fell and another was wounded. Upon this the Indian ran off like frightened sheep…"

The hunters fled at dusk and, traveling all night, reach the first spring the next morning. Since they had no way to carry water, they rested needed out in the day and traveled all night. Smith pointed out the direction to his men and went ahead with a fast walker to find water. They found water and ate some of the dried meat. That day Smith climbed a mountain and ascertained they were only 5 miles off the Mohave Indian Trail. But instead of following the trail, they headed directly for Soda Lake over a very hot and rocky route. Smith's men suffered from thirst and had some relief by chewing slips of "cabbage pear."

About 8 miles up the inconstant (Mojave) River, Smith found two lodges of pauch (Paiutes). With some of the cloth, knives, and beads that the trappers saved, they purchased two horses, some cane grass candy, and some pots for carrying water. He purchased two more horses from the Vanyuma (probably Serrano or Garces' Beneme) near what is now Victorville. He then left the river and went west to the Cajon Pass. Smith's battered trappers were well received at San Bernardino, where he purchased a few supplies, was given a few mounts, and rested for five days.

Leaving the wounded Thomas Virgin and the free trapper, Isaac Galbreith, at San Bernardino, Smith's relief party got to the Stanislaus on September 18, 1827, in a more desperate position than the group they were to relieve. Soon Smith went to San Jose where he was arrested and taken to Monterey. Again with the help from American ship captains, he was able to assure Govenor Echeandia that there was no malice intended. Smith not only was to obtain supplies, but he sold 1568 pounds of beaver and 10 other scans for $4000 area did this time the trappers were given permission to travel north-an unlucky bit of fate for the openers of the Mojave River Trail. Thomas virgin, now recovered, and an Englishman named Richard Leland join the entourage, all trapping their way north. When they reach the Umpqua River in Oregon, they were attacked by Indians. Only Smith, Arthur Black, John Turner, and Richard Leland escaped. Ironically, the archrival Hudson Bay Company befriended these men, and even recovered most of their horses and furs. The Canadians paid $3200 for Smith's furs.

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