Scotty Philip: Where’s the gold? | TSLN.com

Scotty Philip: Where’s the gold?

Lonis Wendt

James “Scotty” Philip was probably quite anxious and apprehensive as he packed everything he owned into his bedroll and saddlebags, said “so long” to his brothers and, with the wind in his face, rode west.

James finally arrived in Dodge City, KS; but after just a few weeks, found the town distasteful. Wild Bill Hickok, the most notorious of gunfighters, was the “law and order” Sheriff at the time.

While at Dodge City, James may have realized his first inclination of the impending demise of the buffalo by observing the thousands of buffalo hides loaded on train cars, and from hearing of organized buffalo hunts being planned. He also reckoned that the Continental Railroad workers had a daily need for food and that their army of hunters, by regularly giving chase, had actually split the great hordes of buffalo into “north” and “south” herds. His lifelong concern for buffalo was probably born in the heart of what became “cattle drive” country. His concern for the Indian would come just a couple years later.

James, with the wind still in his face, decided to move on northwest toward the wild, frontier town of Cheyenne where it seemed, every healthy male in Cheyenne was preparing to go to the Black Hills as soon as the snow melted. Wanting no part of the gold rush, James took a job with an area rancher near Chugwater, WY Territory.

However by July 1875, James, though he liked ranching and taking care of livestock, had changed his mind. He would draw his pay, outfit himself, then join a group of prospectors for a trip to the Black Hills. He penned this letter to his brother dated Aug. 27, 1875, Cheyenne, WY:

“My Dear Brother: On the eve of starting out, I did not receive the box you sent. I am taking with me 250 lbs. of flour, 25 bacon, 6 of powder, 20 of sugar, salt, etc, 7 of coffee and tea, $35 for a pony, $5 for ammunition, a whipsaw, strychnine and an overcoat. I don’t know whether I am right or not. However, if this is my last letter, good bye all. With kind love to all, I remain; Your loving brother, Jamie.”

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Following their arrival at a “tent city,” which was in the southern Hills near where the city of Custer is now located, everyone in the party quickly spread out in search of a profitable claim. Scotty was impressed by the grass, the timber and the abundant water.

After just a few days of prospecting they were arrested by soldiers and abruptly escorted back to Ft. Robinson. After a few days the men were released without a trial and ordered to return to Cheyenne. Predictably, by early spring of 1876 the gold fever urge had returned. Scotty made up his mind to chance a return to the Hills. This trip would be different. He decided to partner up with a young man named Boston Smith, and together, the two young men would blaze a dangerous, new route by circling northeast through Sioux country, presuming to avoid military patrols and roving bands of Indians wanting a white man’s scalp.

It took considerable courage to attempt a 240-mile ride through unknown territory. Together they planned to “strike it rich” in the Black Hills of Dakota. The trip went well except for one particular spine-tingling incident on their journey which occurred when Scotty and Boston awoke one morning to find their picket ropes had been cut and their horses gone. They were now afoot a hundred miles from anywhere and were wondering how or why they had survived! After hiding their saddles and other items, the two began tracking the culprits on foot.

Three days later they caught up with a band of warriors and saw their still haltered horses grazing nearby. Avoiding discovery, they formed a plan to get their horses back after darkness had set in. Moving stealthily in the dark, they reclaimed their horses, then, hearing gunshots, they took off in different directions, hoping that at least one of them would make it out alive!*

James “Scotty” Philip was probably quite anxious and apprehensive as he packed everything he owned into his bedroll and saddlebags, said “so long” to his brothers and, with the wind in his face, rode west.

James finally arrived in Dodge City, KS; but after just a few weeks, found the town distasteful. Wild Bill Hickok, the most notorious of gunfighters, was the “law and order” Sheriff at the time.

While at Dodge City, James may have realized his first inclination of the impending demise of the buffalo by observing the thousands of buffalo hides loaded on train cars, and from hearing of organized buffalo hunts being planned. He also reckoned that the Continental Railroad workers had a daily need for food and that their army of hunters, by regularly giving chase, had actually split the great hordes of buffalo into “north” and “south” herds. His lifelong concern for buffalo was probably born in the heart of what became “cattle drive” country. His concern for the Indian would come just a couple years later.

James, with the wind still in his face, decided to move on northwest toward the wild, frontier town of Cheyenne where it seemed, every healthy male in Cheyenne was preparing to go to the Black Hills as soon as the snow melted. Wanting no part of the gold rush, James took a job with an area rancher near Chugwater, WY Territory.

However by July 1875, James, though he liked ranching and taking care of livestock, had changed his mind. He would draw his pay, outfit himself, then join a group of prospectors for a trip to the Black Hills. He penned this letter to his brother dated Aug. 27, 1875, Cheyenne, WY:

“My Dear Brother: On the eve of starting out, I did not receive the box you sent. I am taking with me 250 lbs. of flour, 25 bacon, 6 of powder, 20 of sugar, salt, etc, 7 of coffee and tea, $35 for a pony, $5 for ammunition, a whipsaw, strychnine and an overcoat. I don’t know whether I am right or not. However, if this is my last letter, good bye all. With kind love to all, I remain; Your loving brother, Jamie.”

Following their arrival at a “tent city,” which was in the southern Hills near where the city of Custer is now located, everyone in the party quickly spread out in search of a profitable claim. Scotty was impressed by the grass, the timber and the abundant water.

After just a few days of prospecting they were arrested by soldiers and abruptly escorted back to Ft. Robinson. After a few days the men were released without a trial and ordered to return to Cheyenne. Predictably, by early spring of 1876 the gold fever urge had returned. Scotty made up his mind to chance a return to the Hills. This trip would be different. He decided to partner up with a young man named Boston Smith, and together, the two young men would blaze a dangerous, new route by circling northeast through Sioux country, presuming to avoid military patrols and roving bands of Indians wanting a white man’s scalp.

It took considerable courage to attempt a 240-mile ride through unknown territory. Together they planned to “strike it rich” in the Black Hills of Dakota. The trip went well except for one particular spine-tingling incident on their journey which occurred when Scotty and Boston awoke one morning to find their picket ropes had been cut and their horses gone. They were now afoot a hundred miles from anywhere and were wondering how or why they had survived! After hiding their saddles and other items, the two began tracking the culprits on foot.

Three days later they caught up with a band of warriors and saw their still haltered horses grazing nearby. Avoiding discovery, they formed a plan to get their horses back after darkness had set in. Moving stealthily in the dark, they reclaimed their horses, then, hearing gunshots, they took off in different directions, hoping that at least one of them would make it out alive!*

James “Scotty” Philip was probably quite anxious and apprehensive as he packed everything he owned into his bedroll and saddlebags, said “so long” to his brothers and, with the wind in his face, rode west.

James finally arrived in Dodge City, KS; but after just a few weeks, found the town distasteful. Wild Bill Hickok, the most notorious of gunfighters, was the “law and order” Sheriff at the time.

While at Dodge City, James may have realized his first inclination of the impending demise of the buffalo by observing the thousands of buffalo hides loaded on train cars, and from hearing of organized buffalo hunts being planned. He also reckoned that the Continental Railroad workers had a daily need for food and that their army of hunters, by regularly giving chase, had actually split the great hordes of buffalo into “north” and “south” herds. His lifelong concern for buffalo was probably born in the heart of what became “cattle drive” country. His concern for the Indian would come just a couple years later.

James, with the wind still in his face, decided to move on northwest toward the wild, frontier town of Cheyenne where it seemed, every healthy male in Cheyenne was preparing to go to the Black Hills as soon as the snow melted. Wanting no part of the gold rush, James took a job with an area rancher near Chugwater, WY Territory.

However by July 1875, James, though he liked ranching and taking care of livestock, had changed his mind. He would draw his pay, outfit himself, then join a group of prospectors for a trip to the Black Hills. He penned this letter to his brother dated Aug. 27, 1875, Cheyenne, WY:

“My Dear Brother: On the eve of starting out, I did not receive the box you sent. I am taking with me 250 lbs. of flour, 25 bacon, 6 of powder, 20 of sugar, salt, etc, 7 of coffee and tea, $35 for a pony, $5 for ammunition, a whipsaw, strychnine and an overcoat. I don’t know whether I am right or not. However, if this is my last letter, good bye all. With kind love to all, I remain; Your loving brother, Jamie.”

Following their arrival at a “tent city,” which was in the southern Hills near where the city of Custer is now located, everyone in the party quickly spread out in search of a profitable claim. Scotty was impressed by the grass, the timber and the abundant water.

After just a few days of prospecting they were arrested by soldiers and abruptly escorted back to Ft. Robinson. After a few days the men were released without a trial and ordered to return to Cheyenne. Predictably, by early spring of 1876 the gold fever urge had returned. Scotty made up his mind to chance a return to the Hills. This trip would be different. He decided to partner up with a young man named Boston Smith, and together, the two young men would blaze a dangerous, new route by circling northeast through Sioux country, presuming to avoid military patrols and roving bands of Indians wanting a white man’s scalp.

It took considerable courage to attempt a 240-mile ride through unknown territory. Together they planned to “strike it rich” in the Black Hills of Dakota. The trip went well except for one particular spine-tingling incident on their journey which occurred when Scotty and Boston awoke one morning to find their picket ropes had been cut and their horses gone. They were now afoot a hundred miles from anywhere and were wondering how or why they had survived! After hiding their saddles and other items, the two began tracking the culprits on foot.

Three days later they caught up with a band of warriors and saw their still haltered horses grazing nearby. Avoiding discovery, they formed a plan to get their horses back after darkness had set in. Moving stealthily in the dark, they reclaimed their horses, then, hearing gunshots, they took off in different directions, hoping that at least one of them would make it out alive!*

Editor’s Note: Lonis Wendt is the Verendrye Museum historian and program coordinator for the Scotty Philip Days trail ride.

This is the second of five chapters commemorating Scotty Philip’s life, leading up to the 100th Scotty Philip Day celebration and trail ride, July 16-23. Coming up next, Chapter 3, “Home on the Bad River.”

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