A “tailing tale” of Henry Villard

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To the Pike’s Peak Country in 1859 – Part 3

By Maggie Magoffin

To give your readers an idea of what gold-hunters have been subjected to while crossing the great plains I subjoin the following blood-congealing narrative of the adventures of two individuals. The statement of Mr. Blue is authenticated by Mr. B. D. Williams, the Superintendent of the Leavenworth and Pike’s Peak Express Company, who went back where the Indians had found him and buried whatever was left of the body of the brother that died.

  Statement of David Blue, late of Clyde Township, Whiteside Co., Ill., made on the 12th day of May, 1859, at the office of the Leavenworth and Pike’s Peak Express Company, in the city of Denver.

“On the 22nd day of February last I left my home in company with my two brothers, Alexander Blue and Charles Blue, two other residents of the same county, John Campbell and Thomas Stevenson, for the Pike’s Peak gold regions. We arrived at and left Kansas City on the 6th of March, taking the Smoky Hill route. In the neighborhood of Topeka, we fell in with nine others, also bound for Western Kansas. The company had one horse, which belonged to the original Blue party, and as to carry their provisions. The rest were footmen, carrying their provisions on their backs.

We journeyed together for 16 or 17 days on said Smoky Hill route. Myself and eight other then continued our journey, while the rest remained behind for the purpose of hunting buffalo. Three or four days elapsed after the separation, when we lost our packhorse. Our stock of provisions was then very much reduced, and we packed whatever we had left and pushed onward. After having traveled eight more days, two other members of the company left us. Upon their leaving our provisions became exhausted, and for ten days we laid still, endeavoring to kill a sufficient amount of game for our subsistence. A few hares, ravens and other small game was, however, all that came within our reach. Our only firearm was a shotgun; all other arms having been throw away in consequence of the weakness of their owners.

At about the same time three others parted with us, with the intention of making for the nearest settlement for the purpose of securing relief to the remaining ones—leaving but the three brothers Blue and one man by the name of Soleg, from Cleveland, Ohio—all of the party being very weak and nearly exhausted. After a short effort to continue our journey we were again compelled to lay up, and the next day Soleg died from exhaustion and want of food. Before he breathed his last, he authorized and requested us to make use of his mortal remains in the way of nourishment. We, from necessity, did so, although it was very hard against our feelings. We lived on his body for about eight days. We then were, as I afterwards learned, on Beaver Creek, which empties into the Bijou, one of the tributaries of the South Platte, and about 75 miles east of Denver City.

After the consumption of Soleg’s body, Alexander, my eldest brother, died, and, at his own last request, we used a portion of his body as food on the spot, and with the balance resumed our journey towards the gold regions. We succeeded in traveling but ten miles, when my youngest brother, Charles, gave out, and we were obliged to stop. For ten days we subsisted on what remained of our brother’s body, when Charles expired from the same causes as the others. I also consumed the greater portion of his remains, when I was found by an Arapahoe Indian and carried to his lodge, treated with great kindness, and a day and a half thereafter (that is, on Wednesday, the 4th day of May) brought to the encampment of the Leavenworth and Pike’s Peak Express Company’s train, en route to Denver City, under the charge of Mr. Superintendent B. D. Williams, where I was received and taken care of, and left at station 25 to recover sufficient strength for the continuation of my journey. By direction of Mr. Williams, the second coaches that came along took me up and brought me safely to this point free of charge.

The above statement I make freely, voluntarily, and without compulsion. Knowing that it will reach the eye of the public at large, I wish to give expression to the sincere gratitude I entertain towards the employees of the L. and P. P. Express Company in general, and Mr. Williams in special, for the truly humane treatment received at their hands.

Daniel Blue

Denver City, May 12, 1859

Subscribed in the presence of J. Heywood, Sacramento, Cal.; Wm. T. Carlylee, Saline County, Mo.; M. K. Lane, Leavenworth City, K. T.; Jo. M Fox, Gen’l Agent L. & P. P. Ex. Co.

Mr. Blue came up to this place on the same coaches that I did. He looked like a skeleton, and could hardly use his limbs and his sight was impaired.

From Maggie

Many thanks to Mary Ramstetter for sharing this fascinating story of Henry Villard

The first two books of my Misadventures of the Cholua Brothers series are available at Mountain Menagerie on Main Street in Central City, Colorado; at,, and

For past columns and other information on my speaking engagements, book releases, and events visit me at

I’m always looking for interesting stories about Colorado pioneers and local folk instrumental in the founding and/or development of Gilpin County. If you have stories about family members or friends to share, please contact me at or send snail mail to Maggie Magoffin, P.O. Box 746495, Arvada, Colorado 80003.

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