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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Abel George


Editor
    I thought that a few lines in reminiscence from an old timer might be of interest to some. I herewith jot down a few recollections of pioneer life in Oregon. I crossed the plains in  1845 with Col. Jas. Taylor, who afterward settled on Clatsop Plains.
    General Joel Palmer was captain of our train. Judge A. A. Skinner, Judge L. A. Rice, Orville Risley, Hiram Smith, Amos Harvey, Wm. Buffum and other noted men of pioneer days of Oregon were of our company. It was our train that opened the first wagon road across the Cascade Mountains, the road that has since been known as the Barlow Route. Our wagons were left in the mountains the winter of 1845 and in the spring of 1846 we cut the road through and brought them out, the first wagons that were brought into Oregon, that is, the Willamette Valley by ox teams; all others had come down the Columbia River on rafts from the Dalles.
[pages missing]
    The Indians came that night onto the point of a hill across the river from our camp and built up fires and made the night hideous with their yells and dancing, expecting to have a good time when the light came, taking in that train.
    But just at daylight General Joseph Lane came to us with a small detachment of cavalry. He had been hunting for the Indians to get them in to make a treaty and was attracted to this point by their fires and yells. By request of General Lane Abel George went to the bank of the river and through friendly signs induced the Indians to come to the opposite bank and there through signs and a few words of jargon, which they understood but very little of, got them to collect their people together and go to Governor Gaines' camp for the purpose of making a treaty which was, I believe, the first treaty ever made with the Rogue River Indians.
    This treaty held good until in the fall of 1851 when the Indians killed a packer and Capt. Stuart on Stuart's Creek, Rogue River Valley. [George's timeline is confused. Stuart was mortally wounded on June 17, 1851. Lane did negotiate a treaty in 1850 as Governor, but Gaines was not present.] At the time this occurred Alexander Burns, J. P. Long, Sam Tillard, A. George and two Indians were on the headwaters of Applegate Creek prospecting and came out of the mountains near where these men were killed. They soon discovered there was something wrong and concluded to leave the trail and take a travel through the hills for the lower valley. [We] had gone about two miles when we discovered the Indians trying to head us off. We called a council and decided to separate and come together down the valley. Long & Tillard and the Indians turned back; George & Burns went on and ran the gantlet under fire for about ½ a mile [and] came out at the Willow Springs before day in the morning and found Long and his party there all safe.
    That was the last trouble with the Rogue Rivers until 1852, when the Indians committed some depredations on Klamath, which brought on the fight of Table Rock and the Big Bar in June and July of that year. [The battle of Table Rock was in 1853.] In the fight at Big Bar A. George took Chief Jo prisoner and took him to his ranch and kept him under guard until the Indians called for cessation of hostilities until they could know whether their chief was alive.
    The volunteers were at that time in line of battle under Capt. J. K. Lamerick. Their request was granted. A. George left the ranks and went among them to see what they wanted. They were willing to treat on any terms if the agent, Judge A. A. Skinner, their Chief Jo and some other prisoners that were held were brought there so they could see them, which was done and the treaty of 1852 was signed by the chiefs in presence of the troops and the tribe. [There was no treaty of 1852.]
    There was no further depredations by the Indians except stealing and killing stock until the spring of 1853 when they killed old man Edwards on Stuart Creek near Phoenix, which act inaugurated what was known as the Rogue River War of 1853. The volunteer forces were commanded by General Joseph Lane and the regular forces by Capt. Alden of the regular army. Co. A. Mounted Rifles was commanded by Capt. John F. Miller, First Lieutenant Burrel Griffin, 2nd Lt. A. George. Co. A took part in nearly all of the fighting that was done so soon as the families could be got to places of safety. The families were collected into small communities and stockades thrown up and guards left to protect them. The families of Judge J. C. Tolman, A. Tenbrook, Dr. Coffin and A. George were forted in a blockhouse near Judge Tolman's for some weeks. There was a number of families forted up at Burrel Griffin's and quite a number went into Jacksonville. As soon as the families were provided for, the campaign commenced in earnest at a fight on Williams Creek. In the early part of the campaign Lieut. Griffin was wounded and was not able for further duty during the war. After a good deal of skirmishing and killing small parties of white men the Indians collected in force near the head of Evans Creek. When they were located by the scouts the main body of the troops marched to the attack under General Joseph Lane. In the fight Gen. Lane and Capt. Alden were wounded, and a number of soldiers. Capt. Armstrong and several soldiers were killed. After fighting about two hours the Indians called for an armistice, which was granted them by General Lane for treaty purposes.
    The next morning Lieut. George was ordered to take charge of the escort to take Capt. Alden out to the settlement, which was a very difficult undertaking, as the trail through the mountains was so rough and narrow we had to bring him on a litter made of poles and hung between two mules tandem. He suffered fearfully, but that night we got him to Rogue River near Table Rock. Gen. Lane was able to ride out on a horse; the other wounded were brought out by other detachments. In about one week the Indians came in and a treaty was made with them. When all of the volunteers except Com. A under Capt. J. F. Miller were mustered out, there was a large emigration coming into Southern Oregon & Northern California by the way of Goose, Clear, Tule and Klamath lakes, and the Indians on that route were hostile. Company A was ordered onto the plains to relieve a compy. of cavalry that was stationed on Clear Lake for the protection of the emigration. The volunteers made their headquarters at the Natural Bridge on Lost River. Capt. Miller stayed in charge of camp at Lost River and drove the hostiles back from the road, and Lieut. George took a part of the company and patrolled the road for a distance of one hundred and twenty miles on the emigrant route from headquarters. [We] escorted trains where they were not strong enough to protect themselves, supplied the needy with provisions that was furnished by the citizens on Rogue River Valley for that purpose and done the fighting for the weak when necessary, which in one instance that I will mention was no child's play. Those Indians telegraphed by smokes made on high peaks of mountains. Some of us could read their signs and signals. We were near Goose Lake when we saw from their signals that there was a train coming that they intended to attack. We pushed to rescue, traveled all day and night, halted at sunrise in the morning at a spring of water 15 miles east of what is now known as Bloody Lake, which took its name from the events here related. In a little while the scouts reported a train in sight from a high eminence that they had taken as a lookout. The train came up about noon; it was a heavy stock train, very weak handed and poorly armed, which the Indians no doubt had learned. Lieut. George halted the train at this spring as there was no water on the road nigher than 15 miles. It was soon ascertained that some of the families had very little to eat. As we had no supplies but our rations, the men were called into line and asked if they were willing to give their rations to the woman and children and take the chances on what we could select out of the herd that we could eat. They cheerfully gave up their rations (that beef would have made first-class glue without any further preparation). We were satisfied from observing the signals of the Indians that they intended to make an attack at the next camping place, as the location was favorable for a successful raid on a weak train. Lieut. George sent a part of his command to this place in the night with orders to secrete themselves and horses until the emigrants got there. On the arrival of the train in camp the soldiers' horses were turned loose with the emigrant stock to graze. This move blinded the Indians completely as to the strength of the party that they would have to contend with.
    According to expectation the Indians made an attack that night but were repulsed with considerable loss. None killed on our side. Lieut. George, privates Duke and Watts were wounded. The hostiles were not satisfied with their experience. The night at daylight next morning [they] tried again but were repulsed with no damage to us but some loss to them. It seemed that they had not yet learned that they were fighting volunteers. When the train got ready to move we saw the Indians collecting in force at a point ahead where the hills came down near the lake, which left a narrow pass for the train to go through. It was necessary to teach them [a] lesson and let them know that they had something beside emigrants to fight. We charged them on horseback and drove them into the mountains (hence the name Bloody Lake). In six days we reached Lost River; four days of this time we lived on what we could find among the cattle that had been drove across the plains, an animal that the bones were not protruding. The hide we would call beef, and this without bread, tea or coffee was fat living.
Abel George, unpublished, undated manuscript, Oregon Historical Society Research Library Mss. 1192


    Capt. Abel George is now in town, getting recruits for the mounted volunteer service in Southern Oregon. Capt. George is acting under the authority of the enrolling officer at Jacksonville, W. G. T'Vault, Esq., and in accordance with the General Order No. 25 of the Governor of Oregon, which orders the enrolling of three new companies for the above service, each consisting of one captain, one 1st lieutenant, one 2nd do., four sergeants, four corporals and sixty privates. These companies will be joined to the regiment upon being reported to the Col. or commanding officer, and when the respective muster rolls are transmitted to the adjutant general's office, they will be mustered into service.

"Further Particulars of the Rogue River War," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, February 10, 1856, page 3


    LATER NEWS FROM SOUTHERN OREGON.--The Yreka Union learns from the Jacksonville Sentinel that Capt. Abel George arrived in that place on the 16th, for the purpose of moving his family to a place of safety. He furnishes the following items:
    The report current here some days since that the Indians were camped on a tributary of Illinois River, and that the Southern Battalion had started out to attack them, proves to be false.
    Lieut. Col. Chapman is concentrating the entire force of the Southern Battalion at Hay's, in Deer Creek Valley, and making arrangements to start in pursuit of the Indians as soon as the spies shall report their whereabouts. Efficient spies are out in quest of the enemy, and report that the trail bears towards the Meadows. Capt. Lewis, of the Galice Creek company, 9th regiment, which was disbanded when the mounted volunteers were organized, has received orders to raise a spy company. From his knowledge of Indian tactics and thorough acquaintance with the geography of the country, he is pronounced to be peculiarly fitted for the service.
    The officers and men are well pleased with the course of Lieut. Col. Chapman, and good order and harmony prevails in the ranks. They feel confident that they will soon chastise the Indians.
    They have plenty of supplies, except clothing and forage.
    Col. Kelsey, with the Northern Battalion, is at Grave Creek. Capt. George is not aware what are his proposed operations. But we may rest assured that he will not remain idle.
    Nothing has been heard from Capt. Smith, U.S.A., and his command. It is presumed that he is at or near the mouth of Rogue River. The rumor that has been afloat to the effect that Capt. Smith had an engagement with the Indians and lost twenty-five or thirty men, is supposed to be false.
Sacramento Daily Union, April 28, 1856, page 2



    MORE VOLUNTEERS.--Abel George, who has figured prominently in the Indian border wars north, is in the field, and proposes to enlist a company of mounted volunteers to "serve during the war." His headquarters are at Kerbyville, Oregon.
Sacramento Daily Union, January 7, 1858, page 2


    VOLUNTEERS IN SISKIYOU.--We have lately seen posters about town, informing our good and patriotic citizens that Capt. Abel George, who figured somewhat prominently in our Indian border wars, is also in the field, and proposes to enlist a company of volunteers for the same purpose, to serve "during the war."--Yreka Union.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, January 8, 1858, page 1


COLD SPRING RANCH.
The subscriber wishes to lease the "Cold Spring Ranch," together with the Furniture in the House; also the crop now growing.
    Cold Spring Ranch is one of the best stands on the road between Jacksonville and Canyonville--about one day's travel from either place. Any person wishing to keep a public house cannot find a better location.
ABEL GEORGE.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, January 16, 1858, page 4



BY THE NORTHERN TELEGRAPH LINE.
Stabbing Affray in Jacksonville, Oregon--Reported Indian Massacre.
Yreka, May 10th.
    In Jacksonville, Oregon, on Saturday last, Abel George killed a man named McCasson by stabbing him in the breast with a bowie knife, from the effects of which he died instantly. No just cause is assigned. George is notorious as an Indian hunter. He is now in jail at Jacksonville. He was intoxicated at the time of the affray.
    Five men are reported to have been killed by Indians near Klamath Lake. A party of thirty men, with provisions, have started from Jacksonville in pursuit.
Sacramento Daily Union, May 11, 1859, page 1


Yreka, May 10th.
    In Jacksonville, Oregon, on Saturday last, Abel George killed a man named McCasson by stabbing him in the breast with a bowie knife, from the effects of which he died instantly. No just cause is assigned. George is notorious as an Indian hunter. He is now in jail at Jacksonville. He was intoxicated at the time of the affray.
"Stabbing Affray in Jacksonville, Oregon," Sacramento Daily Union, May 11, 1859, page 1


    Abel George has been committed for trail on charge of the murder of McCasson. There is great excitement in Jacksonville, and the populace would certainly have hung George had the result of the examination been otherwise.
"The Late Murders by Indians in the North," San Francisco Bulletin, May 16, 1859, page 1


    A man named McKesson was killed lately, at Jacksonville, by Abel George. It seems that George was on a spree and continued jumping up behind McKesson, who was on horseback. McKesson finally dismounted and asked George "if it was him or his horse he wanted to ride?" when George killed him instantly with a knife. George was examined and committed for trial.
"Southern Oregon," San Joaquin Republican, Stockton, California, May 28, 1859, page 3


    In Jacksonville, Abel George (who killed Hugh H. McCasson), has applied for a change of venue.
Weekly California Express, Marysville, July 9, 1859, page 2



    At the late session of our Circuit Court, which has just closed, there was a great deal of excitement and feeling manifested in the trial of Abel George, for the murder of a man at Jacksonville last spring. George was acquitted upon the plea of temporary insanity, occasioned by delirium tremens. Gen. Crosby, of Yreka, and other distinguished attorneys, defended the criminal. C. P. Sprague and R. Hayden were for the prosecution.
    At the time the murder was committed, there was an overbearing prejudice against George at Jacksonville, and a change of venue was granted, allowing him to be brought home to be tried in his own county, where the general sympathy was in his behalf on account of his wife, who is said to be an excellent woman. The pleading in the case occupied one whole day; the examination, four days. Never was there a case tried in Southern Oregon in which the public seemed so deeply interested, or that elicited one-half the sympathy, though the plea on which he was acquitted was scanty, indeed.

"Letter from Southern Oregon," Daily Alta California, November 10, 1859, page 1


    At Corvallis, six persons are reported drowned--four of them children of Mr. Abel George, living on the island; the other two were men, whose names are not learned.
"Loss at Albany," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, January 3, 1862, page 1


    FLOOD AND SUFFERING NORTH.--We extract the following from the Corvallis (Oregon) Union of Dec. 9th:
    Abel George, whose family lived upon an island about four miles above this town, lost his four children by the upsetting of a skiff while attempting to get to a place of safety. This was a lamentable and heartrending occurrence, as the father and mother were placed in such situations as obliged them to witness the struggles for life of their dear little ones, without being able to render them any assistance. On Monday morning George started with his family to a place of safety in a skiff; while attempting to land near the place of Holtenstall, south of this city, the boat was carried into a boiling eddy opposite a high bluff, and sidling to the current, immediately filled and upset, precipitating the father, mother and four children into the boiling torrent. The little boy, Abel B. George, was lying in the bottom of the boat, wrapped in some clothes hastily thrown in, when the boat was swamped, and was immediately carried down with it and seen no more. His less fortunate sisters and parents caught the brambles of an overhanging alder tree, which were the means of saving the parents, but all the children were lost. The little babe, Sarah E., perished in the mother's arms. While the mother was clinging to a frail brittle alder limb, now with her head out of water and then again submerged into the boiling torrent that came over her, still she clung to her babe as to her own life. George, by some means, reached his wife, and working her up farther on the alder limb, tied her wrist to it with a belt he had round him. In this condition she remained, in deep water, for over three-quarters of an hour, when she was taken by J. C. Alexander and Green B. Smith, the babe, meanwhile, having perished in her arms. But the most rending part of the tragedy was occasioned by the position of the two little girls, Mary Jane, aged upwards of 12 years, and Anna E., aged 10. They caught on the limbs of alders some distance further down than the mother, and in a more in accessible position, and clinging for life to their frail support for nearly a half an hour, their unfortunate parents were obliged to listen to the heartrending cries of their dear little ones for help to save them, without being able to render them a particle of assistance. "God grant," says our informant--who is himself the father of a family--"that I may live long and never look upon such a picture again." George (the father) could not creep out of the frail limb by which they held without breaking it, and thus breaking all hope of saving their lives. He could not reach them by water, for its force was too terrific, and would certainly sweep him pas them. His only hope was in their being able to hold out until assistance came; but alas! before it came they were chilled, let go their hold, and were swallowed up in the remorseless flood!
Marysville Daily Appeal, Marysville, California, January 22, 1862, page 1

    Mr. Abel George, of Douglas County, has filed a caveat for a patent on a grubbing machine, which promises to be a sine qua non for all those who have land to clear. The machine is built up on a cart with two large wheels, which are connected with the lever which pulls the stumps by a series of cog wheels and pulleys. A bearing wheel works under the rear to assist in pulling. It is claimed that two men with one span of horses will clear an acre a day.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, May 20, 1873, page 1


    Abel George, an old resident of this place, and now superintendent of the Esther quartz mine on Grave Creek, was in town this week.
"Local Brevities," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 12, 1876, page 3


    Abel George, well known in this section, is in town canvassing for a new patent pump.
"Brief Mention," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 16, 1877, page 3


    At Lafayette, Yamhill County, Thursday, Abel George put a pistol to John Clark's breast. Henry Moore, standing nearby, knocked up the murderer's hand, and the ball passed through Clark's hat. Clark fired three times at George, who had taken to flight, missing him. The trouble originated in a scandal. Blood will be shed, as both men are determined. George has already killed two men.
"Advices from Oregon," Sacramento Daily Union, November 25, 1878, page 1


    AGAIN IN TROUBLE.--Abel George, well known to the older residents of this place in consequence of his trial under charge of murder for killing ------ Cassiday, is again in the clutches of the law for attempting to shoot a man named Clark at Lafayette, Yamhill County, one day last week. The ball passed through Clark's hat, just grazing the top of his head. After firing, George ran and Clark fired three shots after him, without either taking effect. George was arrested and held to answer under heavy bonds.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 29, 1878, page 3


    Another statement from Lafayette, in relation to the Abel George-Clark affair, announces that the former was not so much in the wrong as at first represented.
"Brief Mention,"
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 6, 1878, page 3


Abel George in Further Trouble.
    The Portland Bee says on last Wednesday Abel George, formerly of this county, was arrested on a charge of obtaining money under false pretenses in Baker City. The deputy sheriff, after formally arresting his prisoner, allowed him his freedom until Thursday morning, when they were to start for Baker City together. During Wednesday afternoon, however, the bondsmen of George, who is under indictment for attempted murder, surrendered him to Sheriff Kelly of Yamhill County, and he was locked up; so that the deputy sheriff of Baker lost his prisoner while under arrest.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 14, 1879, page 2

FIRST VISIT FOR 22 YEARS
    Abel George, Pioneer of 1845, Recalls the Early Days.

    Abel George, a pioneer of 1845, and his wife, who have been visiting Portland and other places for about a week past, left yesterday for their home at Ferndale, Wash. Abel George is a cousin of Judge M. C. George, and has many old-time friends in Portland who were much pleased to meet him. It was his first visit here in 22 years, and he arranged it so as to be here during the pioneer and Indian War Veterans' gatherings. Mr. George is 78 years of age, his wife is 75, and they have been married 55 years. He says that the first time he was in Portland was in February, 1846, when he passed through on his way from Oregon City to the Cascades. He only saw one house, but cannot now place its exact location.
    Mr. George says he opened the first wagon road across the Cascade Mountains, which has since become known as the Barlow route. In the party were General Joel Palmer, Colonel James Taylor, Orville Risley, Judge L. A. Rice, Judge A. A. Skinner, William Buffum and others. Mr. George settled in Yamhill County, and afterwards lived in Rogue River Valley. He fought the Rogue River Indians, Shastas, Klamaths and Modocs, in command of companies. Alluding to the Heppner disaster, the old pioneer said it recalled to him a very painful memory, the loss of four of his own children by drowning in a flood on December 2, 1861. Mr. George lived at that time with his family on an island, near Corvallis. The water in the Upper Willamette rose suddenly in the night, and Mr. George and family took to the barn on higher ground for safety. In the morning they tried to escape in a small boat, intending to reach a ferry, but found it had been carried away. The boat was carried under the limb of an alder tree, drowning two of the children. The other two children were drowned in view of people on the river bank, who were powerless to save them. Three persons, however, succeeded later on in assisting Mr. George and his wife to dry land.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, June 26, 1903, page 8




Last revised June 7, 2019