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Write it in your heart. Stand by the code, and it will stand by you. Ask no more and give no less than honesty, courage, loyalty, generosity, and fairness.
From A Cowboy's Guide to Life By Texas Bix Bender

July 4, 1803, the nation's twenty-seventh birthday, was a great day for Meriwether Lewis. He completed his preparations and was ready to depart in the morning. He got his letter of credit in its final form from President Jefferson. And the National Intelligencer of Washington reported in that day's issue that Napoleon had sold Louisiana to the United States.

It was stunning news of the most fundamental importance. Henry Adams put it best: "The annexation of Louisiana was an event so portentous as to defy measurement; it gave a new face to politics, and ranked in historical importance next to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution - events of which it was the logical outcome; but as a matter of diplomacy it was unparalleled, because it cost almost nothing."

Napoleon's decision to sell not just New Orleans but all of Louisiana, and the negotiations that followed, and Jefferson's decision to waive his strict constructionist views in order to make the purchase, is a dramatic and well-known story. It is best described by Henry Adams in his History of the United States in the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson, one of the great classics of American history writing.

Napoleon was delighted, and rightly so. He had title to Louisiana, but no power to enforce it. The Americans were sure to overrun it long before he could get an army there-if he ever could. "Sixty million francs for an occupation that will not perhaps last a day!" he exulted. He knew what he was giving up and what the United States was getting-and the benefit to France, beyond the money: "The sale assures forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a rival who, sooner or later, will humble her pride."

When Adams wrote that the Purchase "gave a new face to politics," he meant that it signified the end of the Federalist Party, which was so shortsighted and partisan that many of its representatives criticized the act. Alexander Hamilton was wise to content himself with remarking that Jefferson had just been lucky. The Purchase, he said, resulted from "the kind interpositions of an overruling Providence." But a Boston Federalist newspaper did not like the deal at all: it called Louisiana "a great waste, a wilderness unpeopled with any beings except wolves and wandering Indians. We are to give money of which we have too little for land of which we already have too much." Jefferson was risking national bankruptcy to buy a desert.

Cave-in-Rock nests on the lower banks of the Ohio River, surrounded by fairly dense woodland and numerous cliffs and bluffs. Travelers from the East packed up their family, furniture, farm equipment, and slaves on flat boats to move to new homes in the wilderness. This caused dense traffic in the Cave-in-Rock area and spawned river pirates. Pirates preyed on the boats traveling past the fifty-foot cave known as Cave-in-Rock. Its high elevation gave them a good vantage point to see boats coming down the river. The massive cave also baited travelers to come take a closer look, providing opportunity for the pirates to come out, steal the travelers' boats, and kill them. These activities were the work of three notorious pirate gangs: The Jim Wilson Family, The Mason Gang, and the Harpes.

Around the turn of the nineteenth century a man named Jim Wilson brought his family to the cave. He had discovered this cave before when he was on his flat boat looking for shelter during a heavy storm. He brought many liquors and provisions to start a tavern, and within one night transformed it into "Wilson's Liquor Vault and House of Entertainment." The place became known as a rough spot that attracted many gamblers and thieves. These people formed the basis of Wilson's gang of robbers and murderers. The tavern was used to attract passersby who were robbed and killed by Wilson's gang. As boats came by the cave they were captured, their cargo stolen, and the crew killed. The new pilots would sail the boats to New Orleans where the cargo was converted into cash. Suspicion regarding the cave grew because many valuable cargoes that left the port on the upper Ohio were never heard from or seen again. Speculation regarding the cause of these disappearances caused many of Wilson's men to flee; others were arrested. Wilson himself ended up being killed by his own men in exchange for a reward.

The death of Wilson allowed a second outlaw, Samuel Mason, to take over the tavern and change its name to "Cave-in-Rock." Although he came from a good family, was a former officer in George Washington's army, and was recognized as an intelligent man, Mason nonetheless got caught up in the business of pirating. He used his intelligence to create accidents that intentionally grounded ships. Mason used an eight-mile channel that ran two miles below Cave-in-Rock to his advantage because it was difficult to steer through. Mason's men posed as pilots to help steer ships through the channel, and then grounded the boats and raided them. Women also assisted Mason in his crimes. Wilson had them wait at a place called Diamond Island and ask passersby to pick them up. They then asked to be taken to the tavern where Mason and the gang waited. Mason's career was finally ended when he was killed by some of his gang for a reward of one thousand dollars.

The third and most atrocious group of bandits to haunt the Cave-in-Rock area were the Harpe brothers. They were infamous for the multitudes of unprovoked murders they committed in the Cave-in-Rock area. Micajah, the oldest, was known as Big Harpe, and his younger brother, Wiley, was known as Little Harpe. Originally from Tennessee, the brothers were imprisoned for murder. However, they managed to escape and sought refuge at Cave-in-Rock. Waiting for them were sisters Susan and Betsy Roberts, along with the babies they bore while the brothers were in prison. The Harpes joined the other outlaws in robbing travelers; however, the brothers were much more violent. They were always ready for bloodshed and were armed even while they slept. They took great pleasure in hurting others and once pushed a couple of travelers off a cliff just for the fun of it. The Harpes later went back to the cave to joke about their "prank" but the other outlaws were not amused. The Harpes also captured some travelers going down the Ohio on a flat boat. They killed most of them; however, the two or three travelers who were not killed in the robbery were brought ashore. The Harpes took one of the captives, blindfolded him, and tied him to a horse. They then scared the horse off a bluff more than a hundred feet high. The family got to stay just a few days because the other outlaws drove them out of the cave for being so horrid. The outlaws would have probably killed them if it had not been for their wives and children. However, Big Harpe was eventually killed and beheaded while attempting to flee from jail.

Marcus Whitman had constructed a larger mission house, one and a half stories high, out of sun-dried adobe brick; he had set up a gristmill and blacksmith shop, and built a number of outbuildings. A school had been started for Indian children. The mission seemed to be thriving. But the whole missionary enterprise had a major flaw - its continuing failure to Christianize the Indians. The Cayuse had seemed eager at first to learn about the white man's God; but the lessons never seemed to stick.

Whitman picked up his King James Bible and hurried through the gloom to the mission burial ground after an Indian appeared at the kitchen door with the disturbing news that three more measles deaths had occurred-one of them thought to be a child of Chief Tiloukaikt. Two of the chief's other children had already succumbed to the disease.

The grieving Tiloukaikt himself arrived at the mission with several other Indians, one of them named Tomahas, and asked to speak to the doctor. Whitman met the men in the kitchen. While Tiloukaikt engaged him in conversation, Tomahas stepped behind the doctor and brought a bronze tomahawk thudding down on his skull. Tiloukaikt hacked and slashed at his face. Then another Indian pressed a rifle against Whitman's neck and fired. Jim Bridger's daughter, Mary Ann, whom the Whitmans had adopted, was also in the kitchen. She ran from the room, crying "They're killing Father!" But Whitman was still breathing when Narcissa rushed in a moment later.

Indians elsewhere on the grounds were murdering the miller, the teacher, the tailor and the three butchers. People were fleeing in all directions, some to the main house where they barricaded themselves in the upstairs bedroom, some to other hiding places, some off into the fog of darkening afternoon. Even as Narcissa watched her husband lapse into unconsciousness, a bullet fired into the house through a window struck her in the breast. Badly wounded, she staggered upstairs to the attic bedroom and began to pray for the children and Indians. Presently, more Indians broke into the house and ordered the people huddling in the bedroom to come downstairs. An old Indian friend of the Whitmans then appeared, telling them that the house was about to be burned down and offering to help them get away. Faint from loss of blood, Narcissa allowed herself to be carried outside on a settee. Suddenly a fusillade of bullets struck her body, and she was shoved off into the cold mud. The Indian friend had led the whites into an ambush, and another Indian, who once had attended mission church services, dragged Narcissa's corpse upright and whipped the lifeless face with a riding crop.

Throughout that night and the next few days the Cayuse warriors picked off the white survivors until the death toll numbered 11 men, one woman and two children. Three other sick children, bereft of attention, died of the measles. A Cayuse brave sexually assaulted several of the surviving women and older girls. About a month later officials at a Hudson's Bay Company outpost 20 miles away on the Columbia River were able to ransom the 47 remaining captives. When they and all other missionaries in eastern Oregon had been escorted down the Columbia to safety, the Cayuse first set fire to the buildings at the Place of the Rye Grass, then, to avoid reprisals, left their tribal land - and children's graves - and dispersed into the mountains.

The pioneer militia of about 500 men had pursued the remnants of the Cayuse into the mountains. The hunt was to last for two years, off and on. Then, to buy peace for the tribe, five Cayuse warriors - including Tiloukaikt and Tomahas - gave themselves up. All five were summarily tried and hung.

Nevada owes a lot to mining. Largely a pass-through for emigrants heading to California, the region began attracting interest after the discovery of large gold and silver deposits in 1859 near Virginia City. Within a short time, prospectors were making tracks for Nevada. Other rich mining strikes in places like Austin, Elko, Tonopah, and Goldfield helped sustain the state during the next half-century.


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