Title: The Big Horn Basin: An American Eden.

Periodical: Success

Date: June 1900

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The Big Horn Basin: An American Eden.

The world's tide of humanity is now at the flood and setting resistlessly toward the Mecca,—Paris.

From Paris the flow will be to the lands of the Old World, European capitals, the Spas and other resorts until the end comes for the travel-surfeited tourist, and they again turn their steps homeward.

To Americans, especially to those who are led by fads, or by fashion's sway, to "do" Europe, it may be well enough to go with the tide and become, for a while, the flotsam and jetsam, as it were, of other lands; but would it not be better far for them to know something of their own country, its gradeur of scenery, its western wonderlands, its climatic advantages, mighty cities, broad rivers, unsalted seas, towering mountains, and health-giving resorts, before going abroad, and acknowledging by silence,—a silence that means ignorance,—that there are fairer worlds than ours and more to see in them than in this favored spot of God's footstool?

Who would prefer the Rhine, its castles and legends thrown in, to our majestic Hudson, the picturesque Penobscot, the mighty Columbia, and a score of other rivers that could be named? Who would go into ectasies over the Alps in comparison with the Rocky Mountains? Who would spea of Switzerland's lakes when the great chain along our northern border dwarfs even some Old-World seas in size?

Can any other than a prejudiced eye for foreign scenes draw a comparison between the German Spas and our western medicinal springs?

Where, the world over, can such scenery be found as that of the cañon of the Colorado River, the cloudland peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the ocean-like plains of the great West, and the valleys and mountains of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and other states?


Can the Old World produce a counterpart of Niagra?

America, and not Europe, will eventually become the paradise of tourists.

Toward the land of the setting sun lie the real wonders of the universe, the marvels wrought by the hand of the Great Supreme. There are the haunts of mystery and silence, where the red man sought refuge when beaten back before the onward march of empire, guided by the star of destiny that beckons the pale face race forward and never backward.

To me, the most poetic spot on earth is that Great Divide which takes in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming, a gigantic pocket of millions of acres in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. The basin was once, beyond doubt, the bed of a mighty inland sea. From its bottom one looks up to the Big Horn and Pryor Mountains to the east, the Snowy Range to the north, the Rocky Mountains to the west, and the Shoshone Mountains to the south. These mountains rise from 5,000 to 8,000 feet above the level of the basin, the bed of which is something over 5,000 feet above sea level; hence a man can picture at a glance its attractiveness, its gradeur and immensity of scenery, for one looks in any direction from one hundred to one hundred and fifty miles.

Whithin a drive of a few miles one can pass through a multiplicity of climates, from warmth in the lowest part of the basin to a frigid atmosphere on the snow-covered summits.

This favored spot, until recently but little known in its perfection of climate, the healing power of its water, and the unsurpassed magnificence of its landscape, was the retreat of the red race alone, for many tribes sought the place. To few white men, indeed, was the basin really known; but to the explorer, perhaps, the men in buckskin, the hunter and the trapper, or the officers and soldiers of the United States army, who had braved the dangers of the trails that led there. Now the Big Horn Basin is awakening in its might. It is beginning to feel its power. It is a world of marvels in itself, and the pulse-beats of civilization are causing its mighty veins to throb with a new life, that is letting the world know all that is within itself. It is the heritage of the people, too, for no one can claim more than the usual limited homestead from the government.


It is no wonder that the untutored Indian called this beautiful valley the "Home of the Great Spirit," while its wild, weird, awe-inspiring mountain caôons were with equal justice termed the abode of the Evil Spirit.

For centuries untold, instinct led the Indians to seek the Big Horn Basin for perfect rest, purity of atmosphere, and to be cured of disease by the magic springs—the Great Spirit's healing waters. There in the basin tribes battled with tribes for mastery, long ages before Columbus discovered this New World. Every acre of its soil hides a red man's grave; and, if the bones of the Indian dead, gathered in Big Horn Basin, were there formed into a monument, the pile would rival the most commanding peaks in height.

There, too, have the pale faces hunted the red man, and it is not a long trail to where Custer and his brave three hundred boys in blue went to death, fighting shoulder to shoulder, falling, bleeding, dying, until the last stand was made, and the gallant chieftain and his men fell, to mark for ages the spot sanctified by the blood of heroes.

To the westward of Big Horn Basin lies Yellowstone Park, also a natural wonderland. In fact, the whole region seems to have been created in some wonderous fancy of the Great Spirit.

From the Big Horn Caôon to its junction with the Big Horn River, the Shoshone runs through the valley, to which it has given its name, and, thus aided by nature, man has seized upon its advantages to irrigate, through the introduction of artificial waterways, the rich lands stretching away from its banks on either side to the beautiful foothills of the encircling ranges.

Were such a magnificent undertaking as the reclamation of this vast arid basin by artifical means attempted in Europe, the European press would teem with articles calling it one of the greatest scientific accomplishments of modern times.


The canals that irrigate this vast area lead down from the rivers fed by countless streams of melted snow, hence there is no overflow, and the supply is inexhausible. Without these irrigated canals, no water could reach this vast expanse of the richest soil in the world. When farming by irrigation, one is assured of success; when depending on rainfall, all is uncertainty. There are no dams to break, for the mountains hold the water, hence there are no overflows, as in other places where irrigation is used.

These lands are not to be held by trusts, or sold to millionaire purchasers, but to the "Man With The Hoe," who can buy and till his forty, eighty, or one hundred and sixty acres, as the case may be, for he is allowed to hold no more.

To this garden spot of creation I went years ago, in the discharge of my duties as a United States army scout. I took in the superb grandeur, the natural marvels, the wonders and the possibilities of the Big Horn Country.

Like the Indians of long ago, who, when they reached the present state of Alabama, cried:—

"Here we rest!"—

and like Brigham Young, when he arrived upon the site of Salt Lake City and exclaimed, as he drove a stake into the ground,—

"Here we build the temple of Zion!"—

I could not refrain from the expression regarding the Big Horn Country:—

"This is my chosen land! Here I want my bones to rest!"

To-day, in Big Horn Basin, there has already sprung up the nucleus of a future great city, called Cody.

Already farms are dotting the hills, valleys, and plains, and Cody, scarcely two years old, has a church, a public school, a court house and a newspaper,—"The Enterprise,"—not to speak of stores, hotels, and many pleasant homes. Near by is the De Maris Spring, the largest sulphur spring in the world, to which invalids are already wending their way to be cured of all the ills to which all human flesh is heir. Nor is this mighty spring the sole curative power in the Big Horn Basin, for their lies Nature's great laboratory in the form of hot springs,—vichy, soda, iron and other medicinal waters,—that are panaceas for many diseases.

Into this country two lines of railroad, the iron arteries of our land, are now making their way, and hence came the prediction before made, that the human tide will soon flow toward the Great Divide, coming from the westward across the Pacific and the eastward across the Atlantic, to behold the mighty heart of our cuntry, which beats beneath the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.

Title: The Big Horn Basin: An American Eden.

Periodical: Success

Date: June 1900

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