(By James Code, Evanston, Wyo.)
In the year 1860, the village of Balderson’s Corners, as it was called in those days, was not quite so flourishing as it is at present, but it was populated by as whole-souled good lot of people as ever existed on earth. And in the year aformentioned there came a boy to this village, at the age of fifteen years, who was born and raised on the shores of Mississippi Lake, and he engaged himself to James Bothwell, the village blacksmith, as an apprentice or blacksmith’s “divil.” I do not vouchsafe for the origin of the reason for terming an apprentice a “divil,” but the reason may be on account of the fact that the boy should be going to school at so young an age. The fact in our hero’s case is that he never had the opportunity to avail himself of the privilege of attending school. However, the young apprentice started in with a will, and where there’s a will, there’s always a way. He learned to shoe horses and work on waggons, buggies, sleighs, cutters, etc. The old shop changed hands a few years after the apprenticeship was indentured, and the boy made his way to the City of Ottawa, then Bytown, where he engaged himself to Jerry Evans, a blacksmith, who had some small contracts of fancy ironwork for the Parliament Buildings, which at that time, in 1864, were very nearly completed; but owing to the fact that the influx of deserters and bounty-jumpers from the States made it uphill work for the Canadian boys, whether they were “divils,” or not, they could not get any pay for their labor, and the hero of this article made his way to Rochester, N.Y., after promising his mother that he would not join the army or go to war. And he was faithful to his promise.
The Boy was employed by the Erie Canal Company, to shoe horses and travel along the line between Syracuse and Rochester, riding on the boats. He stayed at this about four months, or long enough to find out that the canal company owned all mean animals to shoe; and if he was walking along the street, and someone would sing out “Low Bridge,” he would duck his head. He was often offered big bounties to go to war, but he remained faithful to the word given to his mother. His mind made up he quit the canal service, and engaged himself in an agricultural machine shop in Palmyra until the fall of 1865, and from Palmyra he went to Flint, Mich. Here he was employed by H.H. Crapo, the then governor of that state. The time was in the winter of 1865 and 1866, and the Boy worked faithfully as blacksmith in repairing machinery in one of the governor’s many sawmills; and when spring came, he decided to move further west. I remember well the advice of my employer. He said to me : “My boy, you had better stay with me.”
But the Boy refused and struck out for Chicago, and there engaged himself as watchman on board a steamboat called the City of New York, of the Northern Transportation Line, that plied between Chicago and Ogdensburg. He followed the lakes all of that summer, and that was enough; the boat caught fire one very stormy night, in the month of October, while going west through the Straits of Mackinaw, and at midnight on another trip, while passing west in Lake Huron, with the main deck loaded with horses, a big storm raging, and the night as dark as tar, some of the horses that had too much rope smashed open a gangway and had to be cut loose. The watchman had enough of it, and quit in Chicago, and went to Manistee, Mich., where he settled down for a while to hammering iron.
The next move he made was west to Sioux City, Iowa, where he stayed a year and did well. Here he fell in love with his best girl, and so earnest was he in his intentions that he promised to write her regularly. The Boy is found next jouneying over the Union Pacific early in the spring of 1869, bound for the Sweet Water gold mines of Wyoming. He sailed in and worked and prospected, and did everything in his power to save a little money, for he kept thinking all the time of the girl he loved back east. In 1871, he became quartermaster blacksmith at Camp Stambough, a government military post, at a salary of $100 per month and rations, and living quarters, with good opportunities to make more on the side. Early in the summer of 1873, he started out with two companies of cavalry with packers, hunters, scouts, and guides, to survey the Yellowstone National Park, which is now famous the world over for its spouting geysers, lofty mountains and deep canyons. The Boy was carried on the rolls as veterinary-surgeon, at a salary of $150 per month and rations for himself and two horses, and ranked as cavalry captain. The Indians were very hostile in those days, especially the Sioux and Apaches, and many a white man and woman were seen dead by the Boy, killed and scalped by the red men.
Your author left that part of Wyoming for civilization in February, 1874, and settled down in Evanston. His best girl had a brother in this little town, a conductor on the railroad, and the Boy’s future began to take definite shape. He built for himself a shop and started right into business. He always got his share of the trade. In May, 1875, his best girl came out from Iowa to visit her brother, and of course, reader, you know the sequel — she was made a June bride, and as the Dutchman said, “the fellow was me.”