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Oliver P. Wiggins, Trail Blazer Pal of Kit Carson
Nevada State Journal, January 7, 1927, page 1

Frontiersman of Days Gone Rests in Denver; Tribute Paid Pioneers


It is but a short cry back to the days of trail blazing, Indian warfare, pioneering, and the canvas-covered schooner with bull teams. In the days when the great prairies were covered with tall buffalo grass, when the antelpe in immense bands roamed the great plains, when the plains rattler and ten-foot bull snake were part of the day's danger, one and on like an ocean, in gentle swells, the immense herds of buffalo wended their way on known trails from north to south and south to north to feeding grounds.

Then followed the thousands upon thousands of cattle herds in movement along the wide expanses of Texas-Montana hoof-marked roads. Af far as the eye could reach were the waving nourishing grasses. All gone now. Gone are the vestiges of buffalo grass; gone are the herds of antelope, and the trails of cattle movements are no longer even faint, across the hundreds of miles from north to south and from south to north.

Bad Men Gone

The frontier settlements have blossomed into great cities. The days of the whiskered bad man and the other frontier characters have passed. In their passing nothing is left, but the memories of the few that had the real luck and wonderful opportunity to know many of these men whose names are interwoven into far western American history. The names of these men forgotten, unknown, uncared for by the new generations that have had their being, and with no thoughts of the men that made their way to their fortunes and peaceful pursuits, who now lie here and there along the steel ribbons, that were nettles of constant death traps.

The pioneer is never heard of any more. No thought is ever given him. The hurly burly of money-making, and a thousand and one intrigues leave no place for the men that cleared the way into the west.

No such characters are to be found in this cycle of life. THe magnificent specimens of manhood, riding, walking, exploring, are gone forever. These men were men of red blood and sinews of the Indians and animals met on prairie and on mountain fastness.

On the Screen

The screen drama trying to depict the early men of the border merely makes a burlesque of the nobleness, gentleness and mannerisms of the true man of long ago. The gunfighter of this movie farce is a sodden bromide as compared with the quickness and deadly accuracy of the trail blazers of the long ago. When men depended upon their cap and ball frontier Colt .45. Then came the revolving Colt .45, and civilization kept marching on to and into the smoke screen made by these old men of the open, where peace and safety was a certainty. The women that had the trails in the covered wagons drawn by bull teams, the women who suckled the men of the following generation of red-blooded pathfinders. These women who were responsible for the peopling of the out-places of the years ago - compared with the thin-shanked motor-riding majority of today - the comparison can be likened unto a watery-eyed fuzzy lap dog, and the lion-hunting Airedale. No such women live today and never will again. Their part of the people and settlement of the great west must be of a fifty-fifty percentage with the stalwart bordermen of the long ago.

On the list, near the head of the small army of adventurers and explorers, comes one whose name is closely linked with that of the outstanding front ranks man, Kit Carson - and this man, Oliver P. Wiggins - scout, guide, all man, borderman, hunter, explorer, Indian fighter, soldier - will forever live in the minds and hearts of those who first came into the wilds of Colorado.

Oliver P. Wiggins, frontiersman.

Oliver P. Wiggins was buried in Denver, December 1, 1913, with all the pomp and ceremony given to bordermen, by the Pioneer Societies, Military and Civic bodies. He was the last, the very last of the old guard that made western history. As he lay in state at his grand niece's home at 3419 Larimer street, one could visualize the early years spent amid danger and hardship. On the body were many scars of tomahaw, obsidian arrow head and musket balls. Six feet four he stood in his stocking feet, and was as straight as a proverbial lance shaft.


Always reticent about his early experiences and about the work of his explorations with Kit Carson, he went into the great beyond with the thrilling, dangerous episodes in his life a sealed book. To a very few, he at times recounted deeds of daring so interesting that it held one spellbound, and breathless with the imagination fired with the wonderful adventure of it all.

Scout Wiggins was the very last of Kit Carson's Indian fighters. Like all of the real, lovable, religiously honest men of the time, he absolutely refused to have any part in self-aggrandizement.

"Why, man," he would say, "the country was full of men those days who wore the buckskin, and the coonskin cap. Men had no fear of their Maker. The carousings I have read about as happening in new towns were all bosh. Men were looking for settlement. New land. Mines. It's true that we all lived off the country. Meat and fish were plentiful. Of course the Indians were bad. Now, isn't it reasonable that they resented having their hunting grounds depleted. It was their own God-given estate. The government said differently, so we came. When a party of emigrants were wiped out, the Indians soon learned that twice as many followed, and that their punishment for rapine and massacre had to be paid for ten fold. The awful things that happened to women and children, through their agencies, created the men that scouted the guided and demanded reparation to the full. Men that in a day turned from their peaceful pursuits and into demons of vengeance. THis made the noted crack shots, keen trailers, and instincts were sharpened by the danger met on every hand.

"Most of the bad men one reads about were the sort that killed the unoffending to gain a reputation as a bad man. When a cout, or, as we were called, Indian fighter, came iwthin his vision, he made off and hid out. We never stood for any foolishness from these characters."

A Strange Life

The actual life history of Oliver P. Wiggins reads like strange and wonderful fiction. He was closely associated for ten years with the illustrious Kit Carson. He was part and parcel of the hardships and many victories of that wonderful "Pathfind." With Carson he met the immortal Fremont, and with Carson was urged to accompany the part to the unexplored west. He helped build the very first house that was constructed in Denver. He rived out the shingles from cottonwoods, that remain to this day upon the roof of that historic little dwelling in Denver. He was a scout for General Heath and the experiences that he had in the wilds of Nebraska would fill many volumes. He was with Carson and the Texas Rangers and saw service in the Mexican war, and was wounded at Monterey.

The story of the life and adventures of this last of the old guard of Indian fighters and bordermen will be assembled, and teh young and the old will be thrilled with the stirring scenes of seventy-five years ago. The many exciting dangerous episodes that took place in those days! The ground over which men fought and died is now thickly settled communities and as far removed from the days of frontier warfare, as were the olden villages in EUrope. But they will all be recognized. At placed where victims of Indian vengeance were tortured and scalped and burned at the stake, remnants today may be found of the wagon trains that were ransacked and partly destroyed, and so the early history goes. There was no sameness. Every day something new developed, some new angle shown where brawn and guts met treachery and native cunning. All gone, all gone, forgotten. Even the men that made the trails into the land of the great west are no more mentioned than are the heroes of the Civil war.

Nevada Left

There is but one primal west left, and that is in the land of Nevada. However peace reigns, dim roads can be found. Trails are made and marked by the forest service and the counties through the great commonwealth, - but unpeopled. Many of the towns and small camps are still primal, although civilized and modern, in the full meaning of the word. Nevertheless this country is the very last of the old west. Many of the later old-timers still live in Nevada. No dangers, no hardships, no Indians, everybody friendly, everybody one meets willing to lend a hand. However, the population compared to the fast peopling of Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado and the other western states, is compared to and paralel to the conditions of the olden days of the border.

But this is a very brief unpublished sketch of the Scout a few days before is death.

Among many of the laws of the Indians that stands out relative to the country in the early days is best told by the words of the famous scout.

Death for Fire

"It is true that the death penalty awaited any Indian who started forest or priarie fire in the olden days. Should it happen that any Indian failed to help fight either a forest or prairie fire he was taken before the Council of Chiefs and forever banished from the associations of men, never again permitted to carry a bow or warrior paraphernalia, and condemned to do work and labor of the squaws. Their one idea was to prevent destruction of nature's gifts and to perpetuate them."

Scout Wiggins, up to the time of his demise, was inordinately proud of the fact that he had never met defeat in either fistic or wrestlign bouts. This was one of the many popular sports of the border day. He would recount with every mark of pleasure how he met this and that unbeaten wonder of the different border towns. His prowess was undeniable, and it was a pleasure to listen to the details of the half to one hour struggles, with worthy opponents with the bearded faces uring them on. Real sport, primal battles that were free from taint or malice, or grudge, or money considerations - just the battle of the strong, and friends always, victor and vanquished alike.

Denver's very first town meeting was held in front of Wiggins' house, under the cottonwood trees.

Has Carson Rifle

In 1886, while talking with the famous scout and frontiersman, it developed that he possessed the beautifully chased rifle that Kit Carson had used and had presented to his companion. It was a Kentucky arm, beautifully chased. In the stock were any number of tack heads. Small indentations denoted scalps of Indians taken. The combined record of Kit Carson and Scot Wiggins. He was prevailed upon to present the rifle to the Historical Society of Colorado, and there this rare souvenir now reposes in state in Colorado's Historical building.

Oliver Perry Wiggins was born at Grand Island, New York, July 22, 1823. He was next eldest of a family of nine. When he was an infant the family moved to Gainsborough, Canada. After a short residence there, they again trekked to Niagara, where Wiggins remained until he was fifteen years of age.

About this time stories of Kit Carson, who had been "out west" for about six years, began to trickle through the settlements over the continent. Thrilling fights with the Indians! His wonderful success at trapping for the valuable furs, and the richness of the gold discoveries in the vicinity of Pike's Peak led Wiggins to follow the bent of his adventuresome spirit, and start west.

By the time he was fifteen, he had managed to save the sum of nine dollars. With this sum, and the indomitable courage of his pioneer forebears, he started on his tramp across the continent. By working his way, he managed to obtain passage on a small ship sailing down Lake Erie. He landed at Detroit, then a struggling village, and from thence made his way to Independence, Missouri, the trip taking over a month. At Independence he joined a group of men who were ready to start west, driving a herd of sore-footed cattle for the Santa Fe railroad. Wiggins joined this party, and in another six weeks the men and cattle arrived at the foot of Pike's Peak.

Kit Carson

It was here that Wiggins met Kit Carson. Grain-raising had become the leading industry at this time, and Wiggins, Kit Carson and about forty white men trailed down to Las Animas, then in Arkansas, now Pueblo, Colorado, and begin raising grain. During the winter, this party would hunt buffalo, deer, trap, and prospect for precious minerals. In the summer they would take the dangerous trail and go to St. Joe, Missouri, where they would rest, and give out the flowing information of the new and productive territory where they were engaged in business.

Something like a year after Wiggins had been in the west, Carson received a commission from the government to enlist a group of men familiar with the known and unknown, and go after the Indians who had been committing depredations along the frontier. Wiggins had gained an enviable reputation as a buffalo hunter and crack shot, and an all-around good man, and was recommended by Carson as the best possible man to have charge of the men in his locality. Unimportant raids by Indians were of daily occurrence. He maintained his trapping and hunting business, and raised grain, which sold at 20 cents a bushel. During this time he was becoming a man of means - 'rich' was the word used in those days.

In 1844 he again crossed the plains and went back to Niagar and married his childhood sweetheart, Martha Wardell. For a few months the young couple lived on a farm near Niagara, but the adventures of the great west were now firmly implanted in the blood of Wiggins. He packed upand with wagons and horses started for the great unknown.

Squaw is Bridge

At this time there were no white women in Las Animas. Carson had married a squaw, a Chief's daughter known for her beauty. Wiggins left his wife in St. Joseph, Missouri, where she remained with her brother and a Mrs. Chamberlain, whose husband was a borderman. Wiggins' first child was born here, and was named Amanda.Wiggins was gone scouting for two years and did not know he was a father until his return to St. Joseph. He took his family and trailed back to Las Animas (Pueblo, Colorado), where a camp of white men and two women made up the roster. Mrs. Wiggins made the third white woman in that land of border habitation.

Indian raids were taking place in Montana, and Carson and Wiggins went north to take part in cleaning up the country for safety to the settlers that were fast coming across the great uninhabited country. These two indomitable spirits were then sent by the government down to Santa Fe where the southern tribes were raiding the Santa Fe trains, which were making two trips across the continent at the time.

In 1849, the time of the first gold rush to California, WIggins was details to lead a wagon train to California. Afraid for the safety of his wife and child in the troublesome times, he sent her back to her home in Niagara.

Guide for Train

Wiggins took charge of the train at St. Joe, as guide and leader. Covering the rear of the long line of prairie schooners, drawn by the slow moving oxen, was a man named Ben Goldstein. While crossing the Rockies, Wiggins, during a

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