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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Correspondence of the Oregon Superintendency
1879
Southern Oregon-related correspondence with the Oregon Superintendency for Indian Affairs.


FORT KLAMATH, OREGON.
    Established September 5, 1863. Latitude 42º39'4'' North; longitude 44º40' West; altitude 4200 feet. The post is situated on the east side of Wood River, near the northern end of Klamath Lake Valley, which is about twenty miles in length by seven in width. Two small streams which rise in mountain springs flow through the garrison grounds. The nearest post office is at Linkville, 36 miles distant. The nearest railroad station is at Roseburg, Oregon, on the California and Oregon railroad W.N.W. of the post, distant 190 miles through Rogue River Pass, via Rock Point, a station on the Oregon and California stage route. There are two roads from the post, which connect at Rock Point, one by the Rogue River Pass, which is rendered impassable by snow from about December 1st to July, and the second around the southern extremity of Lake Klamath via Linkville and Klamath River Pass, good in summer, but heavy in winter and often impassable to any but light wagons. The greater part of both roads is mountainous and difficult to travel; the remainder is fair over undulating country. The time consumed in mail transit to Roseburg is about six days when the road is fair; to Redding for eastern mail, five to seven days. Mail leaves the post on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In winter the mail transit is sometimes irregular. It is conveyed from the post to Linkville by contract with the quartermaster's department, and carried on horseback or in light two-horse wagon for two passengers. Thence it is carried by stage to Roseburg, or Redding, according as its destination is, north or south and east. Communications from Department Headquarters at Portland are received in six to ten days, and from Washington, D.C., in about fifteen days. The nearest telegraph station is at Ashland, Oregon, 96 miles S.W. of the post by Klamath Pass. Distance can be traveled on horseback easily in two days.
    Buildings. Barracks. One building for two companies (237'x32') divided by partitions into two equal parts, that for the cavalry being 138' long; walls, one-inch pine; shingle roof, 18' above ground, 10'2" to ceiling. Mess rooms, kitchens, etc., one building 90'x38'; two company bathrooms, one 9'4"x12', the other an octagon--minimum diameter 20'.
    Officers' quarters, one building 50'x80'; four buildings, 40'x29'; quarters for four captains and eight subalterns; mostly one-story balloon frames covered with boards.
    Hospital (78'2"x26'2"), two stories surrounded by verandas ten feet wide; one ward with twelve beds.
    Storehouses--Quartermaster (80'x36') with temporary structure 43'x24'; subsistence, two frame buildings, one 40' square, and one 30'x28'.
    Laundresses' quarters, seven sets in three frame buildings, two 60'x120' and one 32'x30'.
    Guardhouse, log, 32'x32'.
    Bakery, 20'x25'.
    Two stables with capacity for sheltering 100 animals each. Each 324'x32'. The quartermaster's stable is principally used as a storehouse for grain.
    The buildings are in fair condition.
    Supplies. Quartermaster's and subsistence stores furnished as follows: Wood and hay cut in vicinity of post. Meat, flour and vegetables by contract or purchase in open market and brought by wagon train from Rogue River Valley. Other stores from depot at Vancouver by rail to Roseburg and by contract train from Roseburg to the post. Six months' or one year's subsistence kept on hand. Excellent water obtained from Fort Creek by means of wagon. Reservoir dam in process of construction. Best season to supply post from June to November.
    Indians. Mr. L. S. Dyar, U.S. Indian agent at the Klamath agency, reports that by the census of 1875, the Klamaths number 703, head chief Blow; the Modocs 73, Schonchin, chief; Wal-pa-pe Snakes, 174, Choktote, chief. The Modocs and Wal-pa-pe Snakes with about 130 Klamaths are near Yainax, a sub-agency 45 miles distant. The remainder are on Klamath Lake near the agency, five miles south of the post.
    Reservation declared by the President April 6, 1869 (see General Orders No. 30, Headquarters Department of the Columbia, 1869). Area 10,500 square chains or 1.641 square miles. Area of hay reservation 3.308 square miles. Total area of post and hay reservations, 4.95 square miles.
    Description of country, etc. Klamath Valley, in which the post is situated, is for the most part a level, grassy plain, through the center of which flows Wood River, a clear, cold stream of spring water with a temperature of about 40º throughout the year. The valley is bounded on the west by the main range of the Cascade Mountains which rise abruptly from the plain and whose peaks reach the limit of perpetual snow; on the north and east by a spur of the range about 1000 feet in height and on the south by Klamath Lake. The soil of the valley is pumice and loam, exceedingly porous and not very fertile. The surface has but little elevation above the lake, and the parts contiguous to the lake form a vast, impenetrable marsh. The mountains are covered by heavy forests of pine, fir and cedar trees. The principal peaks in view are Mt. Pitt (McLoughlin), 25 miles S.W.; Scotts Peak, 20 miles north, and Mount Shasta, about 100 miles due south. The prairie-like valley furnishes excellent grazing and abundance of nutritious hay but the country is so poorly drained that water from the heavy snows covers it with pools and marshes during several months of the year. The warm season is from June to September inclusive, but no month is free from frost. The prevailing winds are from west and south, and during the spring or early summer, blowing towards the posts over the marshes, bring the germ of miasmatic diseases. However, there is little or no sickness from this cause, the temperature especially at night being too cool. The hospital records show that the garrison has always been exceedingly healthy. In winter a wind from the south is almost invariably accompanied by snow or rain. The average annual rainfall including melted snow is about 20 inches. A few ranches only are in this section. The Indians bring in furs and game at all times of the year for barter at the trader's store. The snowstorms are exceedingly heavy, although some winters are mild with little or no snow or rain until January. Mean temperature, summer 58º, winter 29º. Pine and fir timber abound in unlimited quantities. There is a sawmill in operation at the Klamath Indian agency five miles south. Good sandstone is quarried in some localities eight or ten miles distant. The nearest local civil authorities are a justice of the peace at Linkville, and a civil court at Jacksonville, Oregon. The nearest settlements of importance are in Rogue River Valley, which is very fertile and productive. Teaming over the mountain roads is slow and expensive, especially in winter when the roads are almost impassable on account of mud and deep snow.

APPENDIX.
FORT KLAMATH, OREGON.
    Mails. The time consumed in mail transit to Roseburg is about four days; to Redding, four to five days. Mail leaves the post daily, excepting Sunday. Communications from Department Headquarters at Vancouver Barracks are received in six days.
    Buildings. For "
Officers' quarters, one building 50'x80'," substitute 50'x38'; four buildings, 40'x33'.
    Dimensions of subsistence storehouses should be: one building, 40'x32'; and another, 28'x38'.
    Laundresses' quarters, four sets, in two frame buildings, 60'x29'; and three sets, in log building, 16'x29'.
    Bakery, dimension 18'x30'.
    Indians. Under this heading substitute:
    Mr. L. M. Nickerson, U.S. Indian agent at the Klamath agency, reports that by the census of June 30, 1879, the whole number of Indians belonging to that reservation to be 1,023--head chief, Henry Blow--belonging to the following tribes: Klamath, 707; Modocs, 151; Snakes, 165; etc.
Major-General Irvin McDowell, Outline Descriptions of Military Posts in the Military Division of the Pacific, San Francisco 1879, pages 51-52 and 102-103


    Mr. [Edmund A.] Swan is in his 80th year, is a pleasing conversationalist and has had many interesting experiences. He served as Indian agent for the government at the Siletz Reservation in Oregon from 1879 to 1883. There were representatives of 19 different tribes on the reservation who had been brought together from their lands by the fair promises of the government, which in several instances were violated by the men in charge. "Where there is an Indian uprising on a reservation," said Mr. Swan, "it is generally safe to say that there is a white man at the bottom of it." The Indians on this reservation left it in great numbers, and it was his duty to try to win them back to it and he was successful in accomplishing the return of nearly all of them. Among the tribes represented were the Rogue River Indians and the Klamaths, who of the greatest fighters of Oregon. The Rogue River tribe fought the government troops from 1853 to 1857.
    In the Klamaths there was a chief known as Klamath John, who stood six feet two inches in height and was as wiry and supple a man as one could wish to see. Learning that his people were going to lie in ambush and destroy the soldiery as it passed a certain spot, this chief traveled afoot fifty miles in a single night to warn those who otherwise would have gone to their death. For this generous and courageous act the chief was cared for up to the time of his death on the reservation a few years ago. Although in the work as government agent four years Mr. Swan did not remain all the time at the reservation at Siletz, that was his headquarters most of the time. On account of his success with the Indians he was sent to several different places to arrange matters with them.
"A Valuable Letter," Rome Daily Sentinel, Rome, New York, June 6, 1902, page  2




Last revised March 13, 2018