By Sonoe Nakasone, Field Book Project
Handwritten English translation of two pages containing the last entry of Kreutzfeldt's journal, June 18 to October 23, 1853, from Smithsonian Instiution Archives (SIA) Record Unit number 7157. This journal is the only item in Kreutzfeldt’s collection. SIA2011-2257 and SIA2011-2258.
Frederick Kreutzfeldt woke the morning of October 24, 1853 shivering with cold to write:
We continue the Captain’s favorite project and reach at noon the Sevier R. [Sevier River] rolling quietly on between deep banks in a pretty wide valley. Though very good grass, now dry is growing here, some buffalo berries and willow-bushes, yet of trees no trace. […] Tomorrow P.K. Band escorte have to go down the river to look at the Sevier lake and other curiosities.
Kreutzfeldt’s sarcasm is hard to detect, but his feelings toward Captain John W. Gunnison’s “favorite project” of exploring the Sevier River were less than favorable. Kreutzfeldt accompanied the Survey of the Northwest Boundary along the 38th and 39th Parallels, 1853 as a Botanist with previous expedition experience and quickly came to feel that Gunnison was an incompetent leader. Kruetzfeld’s worries were not unfounded: he would die two days later, October 26, 1853, in the Gunnison Massacre.
The entry above may have been Kreutzfeldt’s last. Previous entries further illustrate his concerns regarding the Survey. Yet despite his misgivings about the journey, Kreutzfeldt manages to create a profile of the flora and fauna of the regions he travelled by sprinkling detailed descriptions of natural life between his criticisms.
On October 2nd, Kreutzfeldt scoffs, “Though Sunday, the Captain seems to turn a free-thinker and continues our journey”, but follows this remark with a vivid depiction of the trail:
We follow the Span trail leading through broken mountains, sandy plains, beds of rivulets and square sand-stones until in the evening we find good fresh water running or trickling from out of the sandstones […]. In the low grounds of the creek are now and then found Helianthus, Ruellia, Castelliego and Oenothera, on the sand-hills: Statice, Eriogonum inflatum, Art Lenosyrus and Opuntia. On the willows, clematis viticella is climbing, also glycyrrhiza.
The next day he despairs that “it is no easy matter to understand our at random travelling in a unknown desert and misery to all of us appears very probable” [my bolding], yet records the presence of “Juniper, Art. Lenosyrus, Syringa, Patent, fructicos, with a white flower, Oenothera, Heliotrope, Fremontia and Opunt [sic]”.
October 20th: Gunnison brings three guides to camp. Their stories foreshadow events that will occur six days later:
They tell of bloody conflicts with the Indians having murdered 6 of their men and 200 cattle carried away.
The grim account is strangely juxtaposed with this calm, almost peaceful account of the land:
The bottom land of the river is sometimes pretty broad and must give good pasture at the favorable season. The hilly country is also much better and would produce good corn if it could be enlivened by water conducts. Now only cedar, safe, juniper, mixed with Op. fragilis and cereus coccineus are growing. Of reptiles only now and then a lizard is to be seen, of birds: rave, field larks, snow birds, sparrows and sometimes a mag pie.
On October 24th, second in command Lieutenant Beckwith led the main party northeast, and Gunnison remained with Kreutzfeldt and five others to explore the Sevier River. On the morning of October 26th, they were killed by gun and arrow fire from the Paiutes.
Although Kreutzfeldt’s journey was cut short, the journal he left behind is a valuable contribution both as a historic primary resource of the Survey and as a historical snapshot of the flora and fauna of the area he explored.
National Park Service. “Pacific Railroad Surveys”. http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/shubert/chap6.htm (accessed August 11, 2011)