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robbed some church of it. His features showed the profile of the Mexican Indian peon, but the warriors he commanded had the bold aquiline profile of the Kioways and Comanches. I present him as a type of that class of Mexicans who, by affiliation with the wild Indians, have produced such irreparable ruin to the northern States of Mexico.
We heard of many such parties, and encountered many adventures similar to that just narrated, but I shall not trouble the reader with any reference to these rascals, or our adventures with them, except to say that I never trusted them; and during the last year of my experience with them I gave orders to permit none to come into any camp under my orders, and to kill them at sight. By taking this harsh but necessary step, I was the only person passing through this country who did not incur difficulty and loss. The Mexican commission was robbed repeatedly, and on more than one occasion was, in consequence, obliged to suspend its operations.
The Rio Bravo, accommodating itself to the geological formation of the country, makes, between the 100th and the 104th meridian of longitude, two great bends nearly symmetrical, one to the south and the other to the north. The area included in the southern bend is one vast cretaceous bed, upheaved by igneous protrusions, sometimes forming ranges of mountains, as the Limpia range, and at others isolated peaks, like Gomez Peak and San Jacinto. To the east and north of the Leon springs the limestone beds are in repose, and do not appear disturbed until we get to Las Moras.
It is, generally speaking, very destitute of water, and the excess of lime in long continued droughts often destroys vegetation. There are, however, oases of surpassing beauty, such as that described in Lieutenant Michler's journal. There is another on the road which I opened
Site of Fort Davis-Limpia Mountains. from the Presidio del Norte to the Leon springs, called the Puerto del Paisano. This is a valley on the northern slope of the principal range of the Limpia mountains, watered by a limpid stream from crystalline rocks, clothed with luxuriant grass, sufficient to graze a million of
cattle. On the hill-tops overlooking the valley, live oak and pine grow in abundance, but are much distorted and wind-shaken, and generally unfit for building purposes.
This road, which will be found traced on the map, was opened for the double purpose of communicating with my parties on the lower Rio Grande, and of shortening the distance from San Antonio to Chihuahua. The route followed by the merchant trains is by the way of El Paso, a distance greater by 300 miles. It is possible a shorter route may be found, but our explorations led us to believe this was the shortest one where a permanent supply of water could be obtained.
Fort Davis has been established since our survey. There is now a constantly travelled road connecting Fort Davis and Chihuahua, via Presidio del Norte.
Several other roads have been opened through this region-one other by myself, one by Colonel Johnston, and one by Lieutenant Michler; all having for their object a more direct communication with the lower Rio Bravo. A good wagon road is said to exist along the Comanche trail, figured on the map, but this I doubt.
The area included in the southern bend forms of itself a distinct drainage, and is one of those basins peculiar to the interior of the continent. It is called by the Mexicans the Bolson de Mapimi, and its waters run into the Lake Jaqui, the rendezvous and stronghold of the Comanches and Kioways, who annually plunder Durango and the neighboring States of Mexico. It is here they collect and divide the plunder, consisting of women, children, and animals. Here, also, they leave their rifles, depending alone upon the lance in their depredations upon the Mexicans.
The immediate neighborhood of the Presidio del Norte, situated in the southern bend above described, is very dry, owing, I think, in some measure, to the manner in which the mountains recede from the valley at that point. The summer we passed there, clouds, discharging water and electricity copiously, were almost daily seen following the ranges of mountains, about ten miles to the south, while not a drop fell upon the Presidio for some weeks. Indeed, so great . were the rains to the south, that the Conchos was swollen, and about the 10th of August the whole valley of the Rio Bravo, below its junction, was inundated. This is said to occur annually.
There is sometimes an overflow in June, from the melting of the snows at the head of the Rio Bravo, and it is to these two overflows that the country is indebted for the little capacity it possesses for agricultural pursuits. A narrow belt of alluvial soil is moistened, upon which corn and vegetables are raised.
For a description of the valley of the river from the Presidio del Norte to the cañon, where the San Antonio and El Paso road first strikes it, I give an extract from the official report of assistant von Hippel :
“From Presidio del Norte to Vado de Piedras, a distance of twenty-four miles, the valley of the Rio Bravo has a course from southeast to northwest, and is from three to four miles in width. It is a good grazing country, and the soil is of easy cultivation. This valley is enclosed by hills on the American side, and on the Mexican side by a large mountain range.
66 Vado de Piedras is a Mexican military colony, containing some three hundred persons. Here are large cultivated fields, which are watered by acequias, and yield abundant crops of wheat and corn. The place takes its name from the rocky ford of the river opposite the town, which is quite shallow at the ordinary stage of the water.
Vol. I- 12
"Here the river takes a course nearly north, through a valley, varying in width from one-half to one and a half miles, till it comes to Pilaris, forty-five miles from Vado de Piedras. Pilaris was once a military colony, and, from abundant signs still visible, the smelting of silver ore was carried on extensively. It has long been deserted, and I could not learn from what mountains in the vicinity the ore was procured. The river continues the same general course through à valley, bounded by high ridges of mountains, for some eighteen miles, when it enters a large cañon of six miles in length. On emerging from this it changes its course to northwest, through an open valley of eight miles in length, the bearing of which is north and south.
• It now passes between low hills for some eight miles, when it breaks through an immense mountain range, where its banks are of perpendicular rock, of from four to five hundred feet in height. In this cañon are many rapids, and one fall of some six feet, making navigation im- . possible, except at a very high stage of water.
“One mile above the cañon, on the American side, is a level plateau of rock, about one-half mile square, near the centre of which are two warm springs, their cavities having a funnelshape, and of great depth. The temperature of the water in them is about 180° Fahrenheit. From these springs the river continues a northwest course, through a narrow valley, for twentyfour miles, to the cañon where the San Antonio road leaves it.”.
From the cañon up to El Paso, a distance of eighty or ninety miles, the valley of the river will average from six to ten miles in width, and is, almost everywhere within the water-level of the river, capable of cultivation. On the American side, however, there is no settlement
until within a few miles of San Elceario, a distance of sixty miles from the cañon. On the Mexican side there are two small military colonies-Guadalupe and San Ignacio--of about five hundred inhabitants each. From San Elceario up to El Paso, a distance by the sinuosities of