And Port Orford's early days. Note the contradictions in the eyewitnesses' accounts.
Battle Rock, 1920s
New Discoveries--A New City.TICHENOR'S BAY.--This is a new harbor on our Pacific coast, discovered by a former citizen of Newark, and by acclamation it has received his name. It has also the melancholy interest of the murder of the first nine white inhabitants who settled a promontory in the bay, one of whom was probably our townsman, Cyrus Hedden, Jr.
It is wonderful how the entire length of the Pacific coast within our lines is rapidly receiving settlements. The bay of San Francisco and the mouth of the Columbia River were the starting points, and good harbors are found where once the coast was considered iron bound, and from San Diego on the south to the Straits of Juan de Fuca on the north, we behold stretching along an almost continued line of new colonies. Their extent nearly equals our whole Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast running through 17 degrees of latitude, and the Atlantic through nearly 20. Below will be found an interesting letter to the California Courier about Tichenor's Bay:
Port Orford, Oregon, June 10th, 1851.Editor of the California Courier:
The subject of exploration, and the announcement of new discoveries, are every day becoming more apparent upon the Pacific coast. Scarcely a year has now elapsed since the discovery of Humboldt and Trinidad bays were first made. The towns located upon these bays are interesting and flourishing, but are identified only as the trading points for the vast extent of mining district in the locality of the Klamath, and Umpqua and Rogue rivers, which are rapidly being made known to the public as being exceedingly rich, yet the extent of which is in a great measure unknown. It is a fact, however, well established, that gold abounds in considerable quantities at the celebrated "Gold Bluff," and extending up the Klamath and its tributaries, far into the interior. This fact, however, is nothing in comparison to the more recent discoveries of gold in the localities of the Umpqua and Rogue rivers, and the still more justly celebrated Shasta Valley, which is more richly impregnated with gold than any mines yet discovered in Oregon or California.
The interior of the locality of these mines is about midway between Humboldt Bay and Portland, O.T., or including the towns in the vicinity of those above named, and about sixty or seventy miles from the coast, and, at the present time, some ten or twelve days are required to pack the provisions from the above-named places, at which they are purchased, to the mines, and a long, tedious and difficult trail at that.
These things were well known to Captain Tichenor, the present commander of the steamer Sea Gull, who, something over one year since, while exploring the coast between the Umpqua and Klamath rivers, discovered a bay which he imagined formed a safe harbor for vessels nine-tenths of the year, and on a recent return trip of the Sea Gull from Columbia River, Captain Tichenor ventured into this bay for the purpose of making some further discoveries, and I am happy to say, to the entire satisfaction of both the captain and his passengers, and after viewing its beautiful and romantic scenery in the vicinity and making the necessary soundings, the passengers without a dissenting voice prefixed to the bay the name of our worthy captain, which is to be known hereafter as Tichenor Bay. The captain and several of the passengers landed on shore and explored the immediate vicinity, and according to the wishes and under the direction of Captain T., the necessary measures were adopted for the commencement of a city, to which was given the name of Port Orford. Messrs. J. M. Kirkpatrick, S. T. Slater, Jas. H. Hussey, Cyrus Hedden, R. H. Broadess, T. J. McKiron, G. W. Ridwert [Rideout?], P. D. Palmer and ------ Eagan were landed, with a sufficient amount of provisions, and the ample means for gardening, together with one cannon, a good quantity of small arms, munitions &c., which afford them sufficient equipments to resist any encroachment of the Indians residing in the vicinity. The pioneers immediately selected a high and commanding promontory, accessible only from two points, which they easily fortified, thereby giving them a position in which they can defend themselves, if necessary, against the attack of a thousand Indians, yet we anticipate no difficulty from them, and during our stay they appeared perfectly peaceable and friendly.
Tichenor Bay (for such in fact we are now bound to call it) is located in Oregon Territory, ten miles north of Rogue River, and eight miles south from Cape Blanco, at a delightful point extending out into the sea, called Cape Orford, and in latitude 42 deg. 44 min. north, consequently it is 44 miles from the line of California. It has sufficient capacity to anchor the whole fleet of San Francisco harbor with as much safety as that of Valparaiso, it being similar in many respects to that place. It has a capacity four times greater than that of Trinidad, and is every way superior in the same ratio. The anchorage is good, and the depth of water ranges from three to twelve fathoms, and the harbor is entirely free from rocks underneath the surface of the water; consequently there is no obstruction in beating out of the bay against a headwind, which would be from the south and southwest, and the "southeasters," so much dreaded on this coast, could affect it but little.
The surface of the soil in the vicinity of the bay is of a crescent form, and judging from the exuberant growth of wild clover, strawberries, and other vegetable matter now growing upon it, it must be a soil unsurpassed in productive qualities. There is in the vicinity, both north and south on the coast, some of the most magnificent prairies that we have yet had the pleasure of seeing, either in California or Oregon, and abound with a profusion of deer and elk. There is an excellent quality of redwood timber, sufficient for building purposes, within one mile from the bay. There are also quite a number of trees growing upon the site chosen for the new city, and the surface is beautifully decorated with flowers of every color, making it one of the most delightful and picturesque landscapes ever drawn by nature.
Adieu, J. F. C. [sic]Newark Daily Advertiser, August 12, 1851, page 2
The Columbia, Capt. LeRoy, arrived on Sunday in 56 hours from Astoria. She brings exciting news relative to the difficulties with the Indians on Rogue River. Several parties of whites have been attacked and a number of persons robbed and killed. Nine men are yet missing, whose names are J. Kirkpatrick, S. T. Slater, James H. Hussey, Cyrus Kidder, R. H. Broadess, T. H. McKiron, T. W. Ridwort, P. D. Palmer and Sumner. These persons were left by Capt. Tichenor at the mouth of the river on the 8th inst., on the last trip of the Sea Gull.J. M. Kirkpatrick
"Late and Important from Oregon," Sacramento Daily Union, July 1, 1851, page 2
PROBABLE MASSACRE.The following account of the probable destruction of a small party of men who went from this place a short time since, by the Rogue River Indians, was furnished by D. S. Roberts, purser of the steamship Columbia to the editor of the Oregonian, from which we copy:
DEAR SIR:--The following account must prove of interest to your readers, and may serve, owing to its being the details of a sad transaction, so far as we can judge in consequence of the mystery yet surrounding it, to put the inhabitants of the Territory on their guard as to the nature and disposition of the Indians in the vicinity of Rogue River. Capt. Tichenor on his last downward voyage in the steamer Sea Gull had landed at a place which he named Port Orford, and which by reason of its being a better harbor than either Trinidad or Humboldt, and also from the nature of the land around, he judged to be a suitable place for establishing a settlement. With this view he left nine men, well armed and provisioned, under the command of Captain Kirkpatrick, and selected as a post for them the summit of a little island, from its nature almost inaccessible to an attack, there being but a narrow and steep path to it, along which two men could hardly advance abreast--and this, too, was raked by a four-pounder, which was left with the party and placed in position for that purpose. Cautioning them to deal carefully with the Indians, who at that time made their appearance in small numbers and were seemingly well disposed, he left there in the Sea Gull, promising to return by the 23d of June, with further supplies and a larger number of men to survey and settle the place.
After the arrival of the Sea Gull at San Francisco, it was found that she would not be able to return by the time appointed, and accordingly it was arranged between Capt. Tichenor and Capt. Knight, the agent of the Mail Steamship Company, that the Columbia should touch at Port Orford on her way up, and land him and two others who were with him, together with further supplies of provisions taken on board for that purpose.
Having touched at Humboldt and Trinidad on our way up, we came in sight of Port Orford at 9 o'clock in the morning of the 23d of June, that being the very day set by Capt. Tichenor for his return. At the distance of six or eight miles we could see through the glasses of the ship the smoke of a fire built at the base of the island spoken of, and from this we concluded that the men were all safe and waiting the arrival of the steamer. As we came up parallel with the shore and at a distance of somewhat more than a mile from it, we noticed three Indians running at full speed along the beach in a direction away from the island, and a canoe containing three more pulling with all speed in the same direction. This first caused us to suspect something wrong had happened, although we felt almost certain that the smoke we saw was rising from a fire kindled by the men as a sign of their presence.
However, the brass six-pounder, which is used in announcing the arrival of the steamer, was fired to give notice to the men, as well as to see what effect the sound of it would produce on the Indians in the canoe, which was then about a mile distant. They all fell flat in the bottom of the canoe as if through fear, but the next moment they sprang up and pulled hurriedly for the shore, which they soon reached and hid themselves in the woods.
In the meantime we were rapidly approaching the island, at which no signs of life presented themselves, except the fire before spoken of. We anchored about a mile off, and the boat containing Capt. LeRoy, Capt. Tichenor, Mr. Catherwood and six or eight others pulled for the island. We landed at the base of it, which was laid bare and in connection with the mainland, it being low tide, but no one was there to welcome us. We first noticed that a great quantity of pilot bread was scattered for several feet along the shore as though washed there by the tide; then we saw several books and broken carpenter's tools lying around still further up on the sand. We placed them in the boat, and then mounted to the top of the island; there we found nothing but signs of destruction, which seemed to tell plainly the fate of those who had been left. A great quantity of potatoes lay scattered about as if the Indians had left them not knowing their use, while fragments of other carpenter's tools together with pieces of chests strewed the ground, evidently broken to pieces for the sake of the iron contained in them.
While looking about this summit which appeared to have been stockaded for defense, but within which were marks of a severe struggle, a memorandum book was found which gave some clue to what had taken place. What relates to the affair is in these words: "Camp Kirkpatrick:--We arrived at our post on the 8th of June. Our company numbered nine men. We made our post on a small island; it was accessible only at one point. The 9th the Indians commenced an attack at about ½ past 7 in the morning. The Indians numbered some 33. We first discharged our four-pounder; it made a sad havoc among them. Then we fought hand to hand; they then retreated to the hills leaving 18 or 20 dead on the field. We had three men wounded, one had an arrow in his breast, another one through his ear, myself had one through the neck. 10th. Today we have had no trouble. 11th. We are prepared to meet them; we expect to have a hard fight in a few hours. These Indians are perfect devils. Yesterday everything went off smooth; today the boys done one thing in which I did not agree, that was by leaving camp with only three men to protect the post. They were in great danger of the Indians getting between them and the camp, but by good luck they did not."
The above account is supposed to have been written by Capt. Kirkpatrick. There is a further account in part like the other and word for word in many places, but containing the following new particulars; after speaking of letting off the four-pounder, it says: "In the meantime the rifles commenced playing among them; Hussey killed two with one ball. The fight lasted about three hours, when the Indians left for the hills. We are at this time making entrenchments; we expect them this night although we have just made a treaty with the chief. We cannot say how many are killed, for one of them ran half a mile with a bullet in him. Capt. Kirkpatrick is busy strengthening our post."
There follows in another hand some Canadian French, also in pencil, which is impossible to decipher wholly, but which evidently alludes to the affair as these detached words show: "Le Capitaine Kirkpatrick--un sauvage--par dieu sacre!" ending with this direction, perhaps his mother's, "Madame Le Monge, Rue de Dauphin, Paris, La Belle France."
We then came down from the top to the base of the island again, where we noticed that the sand was much trampled and that several large stones had been flung upon it, so as to cover a space of about five feet square. It struck us that someone was buried there, and accordingly the sailors forming the boat's crew, using oars as shovels, removed the stones and sand, and at the depth of a foot the dead body of an Indian was found, who had been shot through the head with a rifle ball. There being no other traces to guide us at that spot, Capt. Tichenor, with two others all armed (36 shooters), went up the hills spoken of in the journal to reconnoiter. No traces of Indians were seen, but a letter sheet filled on four sides was found, which gave a more detailed account of the affair, although unfortunately it breaks off in the most interesting part. It is as follows: "We landed this morning and took possession of a small island detached from the mainland by a narrow passage of about 100 yards in width. It is dry and easy of access at low tide. We took our provisions up and made our encampment on the top of the island. We entertained some fears of the Indians, who began to gather along the beach in considerable numbers, so we made preparations to defend our camp. We planted our four-pounder so as to rake the passage to the bottom of the hill, there being but one passage that a person could approach the top of the island by. It rained all day today, which rendered it very unpleasant. The Indians appeared friendly at first, and showed some disposition to trade with us; but when they saw the vessel depart, they grew saucy and ordered us off, and when they found that we would not go, they all vamoosed. We found it necessary to keep up a guard to watch their maneuvers. June 10. We were aroused from our slumbers this morning at an early hour by the guard, with the intelligence that the Indians were collecting on the beach. They came up from towards the mouth of Rogue River, and across the hills. There were about 40 of them on the ground at sunup; they appeared quite saucy. I noticed that they were all better armed than when here the day before. They struck up a fire about 100 yards from our camp; and held a kind of council of war, which consisted in counseling with each other, and frequently there would be from two to three of them dancing and whistling round at a furious rate, snapping their bowstrings at every turn they made. These maneuvers lasted about half an hour; during this time they were joined by several others. They waited a short time, when they were joined by 12 others who came up the coast in a large canoe. There were some few squaws with them, who started and ran off. The men then began to approach us. There were two or three of us went part of the way down the hill and motioned them to keep off, but they were bent for a fight. They came up threatening they would kill us. We then retired to the top of the hill, where we had our gun stationed.
"They still followed us and wanted to break through into camp. One of them who appeared to be a leader among them seized hold of a gun belonging to one of our company and tried to wrest it from him; they--"
Here the journal, which appears to have been regularly kept, beginning at Portland at the date of June 6th, suddenly ends; the remaining leaves having been without doubt scattered about by the Indians, being like the books regarded as worthless by them. Finding it useless to remain on shore any longer, we started for the steamer; but when about half a mile off we saw a person on shore dressed in the clothing of a white man, wearing a California hat, and having a rifle on his back. We instantly put back, supposing that it was one of the party who had chanced to survive, and had come down to the shore to be taken up by us. As soon, however, as we turned our boat towards the shore, he started for the woods. We fired a shot in that direction, and he fell on his face, just as the Indians in the canoe had done. He could not have been hit, for he was beyond the range of a rifle, and besides in a very few seconds he started up and reached the woods. The fact of his being dressed in the complete dress of a white man, together with his having a rifle, convinced us that the party must have been either wholly or partially destroyed. Capt. Tichenor, however, still has hopes of them, and thinks that having expended their ammunition, they have started for the mountains, intending to reach the white settlement of Oregon. If this is the case they have acted very foolishly and rashly for they have a post almost impregnable, either with or without ammunition; against such hostile Indians as those, their little band would not have the slightest chance of escape. It may be they have held a parley with the Indians and agreed to take a canoe and leave their territory, a proposition which the party would probably agree to, after having been harassed some days by continual fighting and watching. If so, however, they ought to have been at Trinidad at the time we touched there, for the distance is only 100 miles, and the winds and the currents, together with rowing, would take a canoe there in 24 hours.
But the most probable supposition is that they have been entrapped into a treaty or truce with the Indians, and having been thrown off their guard, have been cut off.
The Columbia, unless compelled by want of time (she being obliged to connect with the mail steamer of the 1st at San Francisco), will return on her way down, and a strong party will go on shore and remain some hours, when it is hoped that some other traces of the fate of the party may be obtained, or that at least some opportunity may offer for inflicting retribution on the said Indians concerned in the affair. The names of the parties so far as may be remembered are: Capt. Kirkpatrick, Messrs. Hussey, Slater, Hedden, Egan and four others.
The Weekly Times, Portland, July 3, 1851, page 2 A copy of this letter, apparently revised by its author, was printed by the New York Tribune on August 7 (below). Note the revisions to distances.
We publish in another column today an interesting account [the account immediately below, transcribed from the New York Tribune] of the supposed massacre of nine men under Capt. Kirkpatrick, at Port Orford, on Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Capt. Tichenor--who is a native of this city--on his last trip up the coast, in the Sea Gull, had landed at this place, and named it, and, with the view of forming a settlement, on account of its appearing to him to be a better harbor than Humboldt or Trinidad, left these men for supplies, promising to return on the 23rd. Being unable to do so, he sent the supplies by the steamer Columbia, which arrived there on the 22nd, and found none of the men there, but evidence, from fragments of diaries scattered about and trampling of the ground, that the party had undoubtedly been murdered by the savages, who are described as a ferocious tribe, with whom the Oregonians are now fighting inland, Gov. Gaines and Gov. Lane both being absent, heading expeditions against them.
There is a special interest here in this affair on account of a report being current that a former citizen of Newark, now in California, was among the massacred party, but we are glad to say that it cannot be true--although his last name is in one of the lists in the papers--as letters have been received from him dated the 1st of July, in San Francisco. A letter was also received here yesterday from a well-known former citizen of Newark--Mr. James S. Gamble--dated at San Francisco, on the afternoon of the 30th of June, announcing his intention of starting on the following Saturday with a party of 100 men, in the Sea Gull, for this very settlement, but he does not even mention the massacre, as he undoubtedly would if the individual referred to had been one of the victims, and 24 hours had then elapsed between the arrival of the Columbia and the date of his letter, a sufficient lapse of time for him to have known it, had it been the fact. Mr. G. speaks encouragingly of the prospects of the party, and we perceive by the papers that new discoveries of gold have lately been made on Rogue River, which yield remarkably well.
Newark Daily Advertiser, August 8, 1851, page 2
Massacre of Capt. Kirkpatrick's Company at Port Orford.The purser of the steamship Columbia gives the following account of a massacre which took place on the Pacific Coast, north of Trinidad Bay:
Capt. Tichenor, on his last downward voyage in the Sea Gull, had landed at a place named by him Port Orford, which, from the fact of its being a better harbor than either Trinidad or Humboldt, as well as owing to the nature of the land around, he judged to be a suitable place for establishing a settlement.
With this view he left nine men, well armed and provisioned, under the command of Capt. Kirkpatrick, and selected as a post for them the summit of a little island, almost inaccessible to an attack, there being but a narrow and steep path to it, along which two men could not advance abreast, and this was raked by a four-pounder, left for this purpose and placed in position. Cautioning them to deal carefully with the Indians, who at that time made their appearance in small numbers and were seemingly well disposed, he left there in the Sea Gull, promising to return by the 23rd of June, with further supplies and a larger number of men to survey and settle the place.
After the arrival of the Sea Gull at San Francisco, it was found that she would not be able to return by the time appointed, and accordingly it was arranged between Capt. Tichenor and Capt. Knight, the agent of the Mail Steamship Company, that the Columbia should touch at Port Orford on her way up, and land him and two others who were with him, together with further supply of provisions taken on board for that purpose. Having touched at Humboldt and Trinidad on our way up, we came in sight of Port Orford at 9 o'clock in the morning of the 22nd June, that being the very day set by Capt. Tichenor for his return. At the distance of eight miles we could see the smoke rising from the base of the little island, and from this we concluded that the party was all safe and waiting the arrival of the steamer. As soon as we came to the distance of about four miles from the island, we saw through the glasses three Indians running along the shore at full speed, in a direction away from the island, and a canoe containing three more, who were also pulling rapidly in the same direction. This first caused us to suspect that something wrong had happened, although we felt almost certain that the smoke we saw was rising from a fire kindled by the men. However, the brass six-pounder, which is used in announcing the arrival of the steamer, was fired to give notice to the men, as well as to see what effect the sound of it would produce on the Indians in the canoe, then about a mile distant. They all fell flat in the bottom of the canoe as if through fear, but in a moment they sprang up and pulling hurriedly to the shore, they soon hid themselves in the woods. In the meantime the steamer was rapidly nearing the island, at which no signs of life presented themselves, except the fire before spoken of. We anchored about a mile off, and our boat, containing Capt. LeRoy, Capt. Tichenor and six or eight others pulled for the island. We landed at the base of it, which was laid bare and connected with the mainland, it being low tide, but no one was there to welcome us.
The first thing that attracted our notice was a great quantity of pilot bread, which had evidently been flung into the water, and had been broken and scattered along the beach for several yards, by the action of the waves, and on the sand, a little above, we found several broken carpenter's tools lying around. We then mounted the island, and on the top of it we found nothing but signs of destruction, which seemed to tell plainly the fate of those who had been left.
All the potatoes which had been left with the party were scattered around, as if abandoned by the Indians, who were ignorant of their use, while the carpenter's tool chest, planes and other tools had been broken in pieces, evidently for the iron contained in them, for not the slightest particle of that or any other metal could be found. While looking about this summit, which appeared to have been stockaded for defense, but within which the ground was much trampled, as though a severe strife had taken place, a memorandum book was found, which gave some clue to what had occurred. What relates to the affair is in these words:
"Camp Kirkpatrick, June 8."We arrived at our post on the 8th June--our company numbered nine men. We made our post on a small island--it was accessible only at one point.
"9th. The Indians commenced an attack at about half-past seven in the morning; the Indians numbered some thirty-eight. We first discharged our four-pounder; it made a sad havoc among them. Then we fought hand to hand; they then retreated to the hills leaving 18 or 20 dead on the field. We had three men wounded, one had an arrow in his breast, another, one through his ear, and I had one through my neck.
"10th. Today we have had no trouble.
"11th. We are prepared to meet them; we expect to have a hard fight in a few hours. These Indians are perfect devils. Yesterday everything went off smooth. Today the boys did one thing in which I did not agree--that is, by leaving camp with only three men to protect the post. They were in great danger of the Indians getting between them and the camp, but by good luck they did not."
The above account is supposed to have been written by Capt. Kirkpatrick. There was a further account on another page, repeating the other generally, but containing the following new particulars. After speaking of letting off the four-pounder, it says:
"In the meantime the rifles commenced playing among them. Hussey killed two with one ball. The fight lasted about three hours, when the Indians left for the hills. We are at this time making entrenchments; we expect them this night, although we have just made a treaty with the chief. We cannot say how many are killed, for one of them ran half a mile with a bullet in him. Capt. Kirkpatrick is busy strengthening our post."
There follows, in another hand, some Canadian French, in pencil, which it is impossible to decipher, but evidently alluding to the skirmish, as these words show: "Le Capitaine Kirkpatrick * * * un sauvage * * * par dieu sacre!" Ending with this direction, probably that of the mother of the writer: "Madame Le Monge, Rue de Dauphin, Paris, La Belle France." We then came down to the foot of the island again, where we noticed that the sand had lately been trampled, and that several large stones had been flung upon a space of ground about five feet square. It struck us that someone was buried there, and accordingly the sailors forming the boat's crew, using their oars as shovels, removed the stones and sand, and at the depth of a foot the dead body of an Indian was found, who had been shot through the head with a rifle ball. There being no other traces to guide us at that spot, Capt. Tichenor, with two others, all armed with rifles (36 shooters), went up the hills spoken of in the journal to reconnoiter. No signs of Indians were seen, but a letter sheet filled on four sides was found, which gave a more detailed account of the matter, although unfortunately it breaks off in the most interesting part. It is as follows:
"We landed this morning and took possession of a small island, detached from the mainland by a narrow passage of about 100 yards in width. It is dry and easy of access at low tide. We took our provisions up and made our encampment on the top of the island. We entertained some fears of the Indians, who began to gather along the beach in considerable numbers, so we made preparations to defend our camp. We planted our four-pounder so as to rake the passage to the bottom of the hill, there being but one passage that a person could approach the top of the island by. It rained all day today, which rendered it very unpleasant. The Indians appeared friendly at first, and showed some disposition to trade with us; but when they saw the vessel depart, they grew saucy and ordered us off, and when they found that we would not go, they all vamoosed. We found it necessary to keep up a guard to watch their maneuvers.
"June 10. We were aroused from our slumbers this morning at an early hour by the guard, with the intelligence that the Indians were collecting on the beach. They came up from towards the mouth of Rogue River, and in across the hills. There were about forty of them on the ground at sunup; they appeared quite savage. I noticed, too, that they were all better armed than when here the day before. They struck up a fire about one hundred yards from our camp; and held a kind of council of war, which consisted in counseling with each other, and frequently there would be from two to three of them dancing and whirling round at a furious rate, snapping their bowstrings at every turn they made.
"These maneuvers lasted about half an hour. During this time they were joined by several others. They waited a short time, when they were joined by twelve others, who came up the coast in a large canoe. There were some few squaws with them, who started and ran off. The men then began to approach us. There were two or three of us that went part of the way down the hill and motioned them to keep off, but they were bent for a fight. They came up, threatening they would kill us. We then retired to the top of the hill, where we had our gun stationed. They still followed us, and wanted to break through into the camp. One of them, who appeared to be a leader among them, seized hold of a gun belonging to one of our company and tried to wrest it from him; they--"
Here the journal ends abruptly, having reached the bottom of the fourth sheet, and the rest could not be found--having probably been scattered about by the Indians, who regarded it as worthless.
Finding it useless to remain on shore any longer, we started for the steamer, but when about half a mile from the shore we saw a person coming down to the water dressed in the clothing of a white man, wearing a California hat, and having a rifle on his shoulder. We instantly put back, supposing that it was one of the party who had survived, and had come down to the shore to be taken up by us.
As soon, however, as we turned our boat toward him, he started for the woods. We fired a rifle ball in that direction, and he fell just as the Indians in the canoe had done, but he could not have been hit, for he was beyond the range of a rifle, and in a second or two he started up and reached the woods. The fact of his being dressed in the clothing of a white man, together with his having a rifle, convinced us that the party must have been either wholly or partially destroyed.
The Columbia, unless compelled by want of time (she being obliged to connect with the mail steamer of the 1st at San Francisco), will stop on her way down, and a strong party will go on shore, when it is hoped that some further traces of the fate of the party may be obtained, or that at least some opportunity may offer for inflicting a severe punishment on the Indians concerned in their destruction. The names of the party left, as far as may be remembered are: Capt. Kirkpatrick, Messrs. Hussey, Slater, Hedden, Egan, Summers and three others.
June 27.--The Columbia, having landed passengers and mails at Astoria, arrived today at Port Orford again. A strong party went on shore, but no Indians were seen, although they had been there since we left. The four-pounder was found partially buried in sand, having been without doubt flung over the side of the island by the Indians. About a quarter of a mile from the place where the last journal was found, and among the ruins of an old Indian ranch, a further journal was found, a part of which answers as a continuation of the unfinished one, though in a different hand. It is as follows:
"When the council was ended, they drew their knives and sprung their bows and advanced to the foot of the hill and commenced coming toward us. In a moment they let go an immense number of arrows, and the fight began. They were six or seven times our number, and we let off our cannon among them, loaded with about thirty slugs. We fought nearly hand to hand for about twenty minutes, when the Indians broke and ran, leaving twelve or fourteen dead at the foot of the hill, and about double the number wounded. They fled to the high grass, about 200 yards distant, and continued to shoot their arrows until nearly sundown, when they left, leaving six more whom we had shot while they were on the hill. In a short time two of the chiefs gave us a visit, and we made them a little present of a couple of five-franc pieces, in which I made holes and put strings in and hung them around their necks--at which they seemed much satisfied--and went away again. I have seen a great many Indians in the States and crossing the plains, but I have never seen a more perfect set of savage devils than these Rogue River Indians. They will pick your pockets so quick that it would nearly throw a New York pickpocket in the shade, and will steal anything they can lay their hands on. They will stand and fight."
The journal goes on, briefly stating that, during the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th, they remained in their camp, receiving occasional visits from single Indians, expecting an attack. On the 16th they seem to have been occupied in exploring the country for some miles around, and the journal gives a very full and glowing description of it. The 17th was spent in like manner. 18th was spent in hunting. June 19th all stayed in camp, expecting an attack from the Indians. 20th very foggy; all in camp on the lookout for the steamer Sea Gull.
Here the journal ends, and from the whole tone of it only one conclusion can be arrived at, and that is that between the 20th and 23rd they imprudently continued their exploring, and that the Indians, having been for some days concentrating their strength, had attacked them in the woods and cut them off to a man, and the fact that we saw the Indians on the 23rd, dressed in their clothing and having a rifle strengthens the supposition. I have further to add that the Oregonians are now fighting these same Indians further inland, and that Gov. Gaines and Gov. Lane are both absent, heading expeditions against them.
Truly yours,New York Daily Tribune, August 7, 1851, page 7. Compare the first section with that printed in The Weekly Times, Portland, July 3, 1851--transcribed above.
D. S. ROBERTS.
FURTHER FROM THE OREGON MASSACRE.--We have been favored this afternoon with the following extract from a private letter from Capt. Wm. Tichenor, received by the last California steamer, to his brother in this city. We are further informed that Capt. T. has been for some months past engaged in exploring the coast and country, with a view of forming a settlement and taking advantage of the act of Congress appropriating land to settlers, and that he had thoroughly performed it. During one of his voyages he had discovered a new harbor, of uncommon advantages, into which Rogue River empties, which he named "Tichenor's Bay," and, inland, on exploration, found a bed of anthracite coal of extraordinary richness within 50 yards of the bay. We are also informed that the country around proved to be valuable, both in agricultural capacity and gold mining.
It was this that induced him to leave the men on the island in the bay, who have probably fallen victims to their imprudence. Capt. T., as will be seen below, gives the melancholy information that a son of Mr. Cyrus Hedden, of this city, is without doubt one of the party murdered. This is not the individual referred to yesterday, although of the same name:
"I am sorry to state to you that it is my belief that Cyrus Hedden is murdered by those savages, as he was of the party. I will make a thorough examination as I go up this time. All the Indians in that vicinity will now be exterminated immediately. I shall take a company of picked men, as I did before, but more of them. It is the finest climate, country and harbor I ever saw."
Newark Daily Advertiser, August 9, 1851, page 2
More Indian Outrages.
Capt. Tichenor, master of the steamer Sea Gull, on his last trip down the coast, we learn from the Oregonian, landed some nine men on a little island in the Rogue River country. Captain Tichenor proceeded down the coast to California for the purpose of increasing the number of his party, to procure provisions, etc., intending to return immediately and form a settlement here, which he named Port Orford. The Capt. had set the time for returning on the 23rd of June. The Sea Gull being detained, Captain Tichenor boarded the Columbia and returned to Port Orford at the expected time--the 23rd ult.
On nearing the point, no certain visible sign of the whites' safety could be discerned. Captain Le Roy, of the steamer Columbia, and Captain Tichenor, accompanied by six or eight other persons, went in search of the men. The party landed at the head of the island--no men were to be found; the pilot bread, potatoes and some of the carpenter's tools left in possession of the men were found strewed upon the ground. The conclusion by this time was irresistible that the men had been murdered by the Indians. In looking around, a memorandum book was found, from which they received some clue to what had taken place. What relates to the affair is in these words:
"Camp Kirkpatrick:--We arrived at our post on the 8th of June. Our party numbered 9 men. We made our post on a small island; it was accessible only at one point. The 9th the Indians commenced an attack at about 7¼ in the morning. The Indians numbered some 33. We first discharged our four-pounder; it made a sad havoc among them. Then we fought hand to hand; they then retreated to the hills, leaving 18 or 20 dead on the field. We had three men wounded; one had an arrow in his breast, another one through his ear, myself had one through the neck. 10th. Today we have had no trouble. 11th. We are prepared to meet them; we expect to have a hard fight in a few hours. These Indians are perfect devils. Yesterday everything went off smooth; today the boys done one thing in which I did not agree--that was by leaving camp with only three men to protect the post. They were in great danger of the Indians getting between them and the camp, but by good luck they did not."
The above account is supposed to have been written by Capt. Kirkpatrick. There is a further account in part like the other and word for word in many places, but containing the following new particulars: after speaking of letting off the 4-pounder, it says: "In the meantime the rifles commenced playing among them; Hussey killed two with one ball. The fight lasted about three hours, when the Indians left for the hills. We are at this time making entrenchments; we expect them this night although we have just made a treaty with the chief. We cannot say how many are killed, for one of them ran half a mile with a bullet in him. Capt. Kirkpatrick is busy strengthening our post."
We then came down from the top to the base of the island again, where we noticed that the sand was much trampled and that several large stones had been flung upon it, so as to cover a space of about five feet square. It struck us that someone was buried there, and accordingly the sailors forming the boat's crew, using their oars as shovels, removed the stones and sand, and at the depth of a foot the dead body of an Indian was found, who had been shot through the head with a rifle ball. There being no further traces to guide us at that spot, Capt. Tichenor, with two others, all armed with rifles (36 shooters), went up the hills spoken of in the journal to reconnoiter. No traces of Indians were seen, but a letter sheet about filled on four sides was found, which gave a more detailed account of the affair, although unfortunately it breaks off in the most interesting part. It is as follows:
"We landed this morning and took possession of a small island detached from the mainland by a narrow passage of about 100 yards in width. It is dry and easy of access at low tide. We took our provisions up and made our encampment on the top of the island. We entertained some fears of the Indians, who began to gather along the beach in considerable numbers, so we made preparations to defend our camp. We planted our four-pounder so as to rake the passage to the bottom of the hill, there being but one passage that a person could approach the top of the island by. It rained all day today, which rendered it very unpleasant. The Indians appeared friendly at first, and showed some disposition to trade with us; but when they saw the vessel depart, they grew saucy and ordered us off, and when they found that we would not go, they all vamoosed. We found it necessary to keep up a guard to watch their maneuvers.
"June 10. We were aroused from our slumbers this morning at an early hour by the guard, with the intelligence that the Indians were collecting on the beach. They came up from towards the mouth of Rogue River, and across the hills. There were about 40 of them on the ground at sunup; they appeared quite saucy. I noticed that they were all better armed than when here the day before. They struck up a fire about 100 yards from our camp and held a kind of council of war, which consisted in counseling with each other, and frequently there would be from two to three of them dancing and whistling round at a furious rate, snapping their bowstrings at every turn they made. These maneuvers lasted about half an hour; during this time they were joined by several others. They waited a short time, when they were joined by 12 others who came up the coast in a large canoe. There were some few squaws with them, who started and ran off. The men then began to approach us. There were two or three of us went part of the way down the hill and motioned them to keep off, but they were bent for a fight. They came up threatening they would kill us. We then retired to the top of the hill, where we had our gun stationed.
"They still followed us and wanted to break through into camp. One of them who appeared to be a leader among them seized hold of a gun belonging to one of our company and tried to wrest it from him; they--"
Here the journal, which appears to have been regularly kept--beginning at Portland at the date of June 6th, suddenly ends.
The party of nine, supposed to have been murdered, are from Oregon, most of them from about Portland.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, July 3, 1851, page 2
(Correspondence of the Statesman.)
P.M.S.S. Columbia, June 25, 1851.
Editor of the Statesman:
We have just touched at Port Orford with the view of leaving two surveyors who came prepared to lay out a new town at that place, but to our great surprise, the nine men left there by the steamer Sea Gull on her return from the Columbia River were missing; and from the appearance of the Indians, who immediately fled on our approach, we are forced to believe that all is not right. We found upon the ground an imperfect memorandum of an attack, in which some forty Indians were engaged in the contest, and some eighteen paid the forfeit, and three of the men were wounded, and whether mortally or not is impossible to determine. The memorandum also states that they expect a severe attack in a short time, the Indians having retreated after the first engagement. We also found a sheet of paper containing a journal of one of the individuals from the time he left Portland up to the time of the attack, in which he describes the war dance, and some other preliminaries prior to the engagement. We found no dead bodies upon the ground, with the exception of one Indian, who was buried in the sand nearby, yet the Indians whom we saw making their escape as we approached, seemed to be dressed in apparel not in accordance with their customs--yet proving almost beyond a doubt the certainty of a crime which they had perpetrated. The tools and provisions belonging to the pioneers were missing, with very few exceptions, in which articles were destroyed upon the ground.
The first efforts, therefore, to commence a settlement have proved unsuccessful, but it will soon be renewed with much more effectual means, and in a manner too that will not admit of a single doubt as to its completion. The men who are engaged in this enterprise will not falter nor look back. They are men who are determined, and will certainly persevere in an undertaking so laudable, and one so well calculated to promote the commercial interests of the Pacific Coast.
Yours, &c. J.C.F.
Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, July 4, 1851, page 2 "J.C.F." is James C. Franklin.
PORT ORFORD.--This new city which is being laid out on Tichenor Bay, in Oregon, is destined to become a place of much importance. Its location is about midway between Humboldt Bay and the mouth of Columbia River, and being much the nearest point to the mines of Shasta Valley, and to Umpqua and Rogues' rivers, with every facility for making a good trail, it will become the depot on the coast for those mining regions. The settlers there have sent down here to make all necessary purchases and supplies for substantial and permanent improvements with a view to settlement. The agricultural qualities of the surrounding country are unsurpassed, and in that point of view is most valuable. We shall expect to have regular correspondence from Port Orford, giving an account of the progress of improvements there, as the steamer Sea Gull will run in regularly on her trips to and from Oregon. It is intended to open a trail to the mining regions from that place immediately. [Cal. Cour.
New York Daily Tribune, July 19, 1851, page 7
Oregon and California.
Very recent dates were received by the Prometheus, from the Rev. Mr. Roberts, of this city. The following extract of one of his letters will be perused with general interest.
"San Francisco, July 30th, 1851."On Friday, the 18th inst., I left my family in usual health at Salem, and spending the Sabbath at Oregon City, embarked on board the Sea Gull, at Portland, the following Wednesday, bound for this place. We arrived in the harbor last night, after dark, with no accident save the carrying away of our main topmast, smoke pipe &c., by running afoul of the Columbia mail steamer, which was anchored directly in our road. Nobody was hurt on either vessel, and the damage can easily be repaired. I have seldom seen the hand of God more manifest than on this short voyage.
"The season has arrived for heavy weather all along the coast, and it is often difficult to see two ships' lengths through the fog. We are desired to stop at three places--Port Orford, Trinidad and Humboldt. The first of these places is an open roadstead, well protected except on the west and south, about ten miles below Cape Blanco, and nearly twenty north of the mouth of Rogue River. We approached the place on Saturday evening, but a fearful reef of rocks, extending from Cape Blanco, some eight miles into the Pacific, made our approach in the fog perilous. After groping about in the darkness until night, we stood out to sea again. Just at daylight, the fog lifted a few moments, and although it shut in thick, shortly after[wards] we reached the anchoring ground without damage. Several times we were within fifty feet of the rocks, and ascertained, when the fog lifted, at noon, that we had been within thirty yards of the shore, without the least damage whatever. A little over a month ago, nine men were left at this place to explore the adjacent country for coal and gold. They were attacked by the Indians, and after several days' fighting, during which time a number of Indians were killed, and two of the company wounded, they found their ammunition nearly gone, and made their way to the Willamette Valley, overland.
"A reinforcement of seventy-five persons had arrived, and a kind of stockade fort was constructed, for protection, and arrangements are in progress to dig coal and gold, and sell town lots.
"As we proceeded down the coast, little columns of smoke were to be seen rising at suitable distances far in advance of us, intended as signals to telegraph the approach of hostile enemies. The condition of these Rogue River Indians is deplorable. There exists a deadly feud between them and the whites, and as their land has gold in it, and must be explored, contest is inevitable. Not long since, Genl. Lane made a treaty with them. That treaty was broken by the whites. Gov. Gaines is now in that country, and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Dr. Dart, will shortly proceed there to settle the difficulty. The weather continuing thick and hazy, we were unable to get into Trinidad or Humboldt, and after several ineffectual attempts to do so made the best of our way to Point Reyes, off the harbor of San Francisco. On ascertaining our true position on Tuesday evening, we were some forty miles to the westward of our course. This, as we had seen the land at Humboldt, created some alarm, and on examination a hatchet was found in the binnacle attracting the needle from its true position. Had the attraction been eastward instead of westward, such was the state of the weather, shipwreck was inevitable. Thanks be to God for his goodness!
"On Wednesday morning we slowly made our way to the wharf, amid forests of masts and shipping, where, four and a half years ago, the approach of a single vessel was an important event. The two fire which raged so fearfully in this city have not altered the face of things so materially as I had expected. Quite a portion of it is rebuilt, and although business is said to be dull just now, there are unmistakable evidences of greatness about San Francisco."
It will be understood that Mr. Roberts' visit to California was an official one required by his office of Missionary Superintendent. Rev. Mr. Owen, Presiding Elder of California, would return with him to the conference to be held in Oregon the present month.
Newark Daily Advertiser, September 12, 1851, page 2
THE GALLANT NINE.--We were not a little gratified last evening to learn of the safe arrival in the settlements of the nine persons supposed to have been murdered by the Rogue River Indians, who had been left at Port Orford by Captain Tichenor, an account of which we gave in our last paper. A gentleman who traveled in company with one of the nine--the only one who has reached this part of the valley--informed us that the gallant little party stationed at Port Orford maintained their ground manfully, killing, in their encounter with the Indians, some 20 of their number. Seven are said to have been killed by a single fire of the 4-pounder. They are said to have kept possession of their camp up to the day Captain Tichenor had set for returning, but thinking that he might possibly be detained longer than he expected, and having only about nine rounds each in their "lockers," they concluded they had little enough to take them through the forests to the settlements. They accordingly set out, the Indians keeping a close manage on them all the while. They, however, "out-generaled" the Indians, and all of them succeeded in gaining the settlements in safety. They think the Indians very large in size, and a desperate set of fellows, and in a perfect state of nudity. The whites took to the thickets of briars and thorns, the Indians, sparing their garments, gave up the chase; by this means, doubtless, they saved their lives.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, July 10, 1851, page 3
(Correspondence of the Statesman.)
Portland, O.T., July 10, 1851.
Editor of the Oregon Statesman:
DEAR SIR:--Being the captain of the party of nine persons that were left at Point Orford by the steamer Sea Gull on her last trip to San Francisco, I feel it to be my duty to make, through your paper, a plain statement of our transactions while at that point, and also give the reasons why we left.
We were landed at Point Orford, or Erving Harbor, on the morning of the 9th of June. We found the Indians, who made their appearance when we first landed, to be somewhat friendly disposed, manifesting a disposition to trade with us, but this did not last longer than the steamer lay in the bay. As soon as she left, they grew saucy and ordered us off. Finding that we would not go, they all left. In the meantime, we had taken possession of a small island or rock (detached from the main land by a passage of about 100 [sic] yards in width), upon which we made our encampment. We had a four-pounder, which we had brought from the steamer. This we planted in front of our encampment so as to rake the passage to the bottom of the first step or offset in the island. The Indians did not make their appearance again till early the next morning, when they began to gather on the beach in considerable numbers. I noticed that they were better armed than when we first landed. There were about forty of them on the ground. At sunrise they built up several fires, and went through with a regular war dance. They were soon joined by others who came over the hills, and shortly after, by twelve others with a chief, who came in a large canoe. By this time there were about sixty of them. As soon as the chief landed, they began to come upon the island. We met them and made sign that we would shoot them if they did not go back. This had no effect on them; they still came on. We then retired to the top of the island, where we had our gun stationed. They had by this time gained the top of the first step, about forty of them in number. They then made a rush to pitch into the camp among us, the chief leading the way. As he approached the top of the hill, he seized hold of a musket belonging to one of the men, and would have wrenched it out of his hands, had not another man struck him over the hands and knocked his hold loose. In an instant they threw a volley of arrows at us, the most of them passing over us. The great crowd of them were within six feet of the mouth of the cannon. I jerked up a firebrand and discharged the cannon among them, killing some six or eight dead. This threw them into confusion, which we followed up with a discharge from our rifles and pistols. Three of them only got into the camp, and were knocked down with the butts of our guns. The fight lasted about fifteen minutes, when the Indians broke and ran, leaving thirteen dead on the ground. They fled to the hills and rocks and continued to shoot their arrows at us for some time. There were a great many of them wounded, and I learned afterwards from an Indian at the mouth of Umpqua, who could speak jargon, that there were 20 killed and 15 wounded. There were four of our men wounded. The Indians got several rifles and shot at us in the afternoon, but with no effect. But in the afternoon a chief came up the beach and made signs that he wanted to come into the camp. He threw his arms down on the sand, and we let him come up. He made signs that he wanted to take away the dead. This we let him do, and whilst he was in the camp, I made signs to him that in fourteen days from the time that we arrived there, we would go away again. After they had taken away their dead, they fired a few shots at us and then left. We were not troubled by them any more till the morning of the 15th day, when they attacked us again. There were a great many more at the second fight than at the first. There were at least 15 of them to one of us. Their chief came out and urged them in tones that could be heard a half a mile distant, but could not prevail on them to make the second rush on us. They shot their arrows at us, at the distance of three hundred yards, a great many of them falling in the camp, but none of us received the slightest injury. We were at this time in a critical situation. Our ammunition was just about done. We had not more than eight or nine rounds of shot left, and were surrounded by at least 150 Indians. The only alternative left was to take to the woods and make our way to the habitation of white men. Here fortune appeared to favor us. The Indians drew off and went down the coast to the mouth of a small creek and built a number of fires. There still was a number that stayed to watch us. We then went to work to strengthen our breastwork. This movement had the desired effect. In a few minutes they all left and went down to join the others. This gave us an opportunity to make our escape to the woods, which we effected, leaving everything we had but our small arms in the camp. We traveled through the woods for about five miles, and struck out on the beach. We traveled up the beach but a short distance when we met a party of about thirty, all armed with bows and arrows and long knives. We rushed towards them to give them fight in open ground. When they saw that we would attack them, they broke for the timber. We continued up the coast a few miles further, and crossed a large stream of water. We then took to the woods and traveled in the woods two days and nights, and then made out to the coast. When we reached the coast, we discovered a fresh trail where a great many Indians had trailed up the coast. We followed this trail about five miles to the mouth of a small creek; here the trail turned back again. I suppose that they followed us thus far the first night, and the light of morning disclosed to them that we had not traveled on the beach, and they turned back to hunt our trail or gave up the chase. We traveled up the beach about fifteen miles, when we reached the mouth of Rogue River. Here we found two large villages of Indians. As soon as they saw us, they prepared for fight. They appeared to be about 200 of them. They soon kindled up a fire on the top of the highest bluff close to their village. We here had nothing but the river between us, and had to take to the woods again. We traveled up the river about eight miles and effected a crossing by means of some old logs that we lashed together with some small rope. We then kept in the mountains two days, and made the beach again. Here we were four days without eating anything but salmonberries. In the evening of the fourth day we got some mussels to eat, which revived us some. We lived on mussels till we reached the mouth of the [Coquille] River; here we got among some friendly Indians, who gave us something to eat. But we had to give them the shirts off our backs to get them to ferry us over the mouth of this river. When across this river, we thought it was the Umpqua, and continued up it about ten miles, when we discovered it was not the Umpqua. We then struck across the sand hills--waded through a large swamp, and struck for the coast. The next day we made the mouth of Umpqua (it being the eighth day from the camp), where we were greeted by a hearty shake of the hand, and entertained by the settlers in Umpqua City and Gardner. If we had been brothers, we could not have been treated with more kindness than we were at those places. At Scottsburg, we were treated in the same cordial manner. Here I left the company. Some of the boys, being completely worn out with traveling, gladly accepted the invitations of those generous citizens of Scottsburg to stay a few days and rest; I traveled on and reached Portland yesterday evening. Such, sir, is a brief statement of our difficulties with the Indians, of our leaving the camp, and our march to the Umpqua.
I submit these facts to the decision of our fellow citizens, to know whether we acted foolishly and rashly, as has been stated by a certain gentleman in a letter to the editor of the Oregonian, or not. The same person states in his letter that Captain Tichenor, true to his promise, returned at the time he informed us he would return. This is not correct. Captain Tichenor told us when he left us that he would return in fourteen days at the furtherest, and bring us plenty of ammunition and a better supply of arms. This he did not do till the 16th day after we landed. We remained in our camp till the evening of the 23rd, the 15th day of our stay there, when we left. Now, sir, as dead men make no contradictions, this gentleman had smoothed the matter over by making an incorrect statement of the time so as to lay all blame upon us. I am the last man to lay any blame on Captain Tichenor (hearing of the circumstances which detained him in San Francisco) for not returning at the time set, believing as I do that he is a gentleman and meant to do all in his power to help us while we were stationed at the Point. All I ask, then, is a true statement of the matter.
Now, sir, a short description of the country is necessary. The country immediately around the harbor is mostly openings, with small prairies embracing the richest soil, and covered with [the] finest growth of grass of any upland I've seen in Oregon. The country at the northward of Point Orford is tolerably extensive, mostly covered with timber, though it has the appearance when viewed from the sea of being an open country. There is a narrow strip of open land directly on the coast that extends for 25 miles up; at the distance of one mile to the eastward of the harbor is the finest timber that I have seen in Oregon, mostly redwood and cedar. Our party was small and we could not explore the country as we should have liked to, on account of the Indians. We discovered stone coal in several places immediately in the harbor. How extensive it was we had no means of ascertaining, being deprived of our mining tools. But [I] should judge from the appearance of the hills that there is any amount of it. The harbor, I think, is an excellent one. It will in all probability become an important point. The settling of it at this time will be attended with great difficulty on account of the Indians, who are very hostile, and numerous. There is very little country that is worth settling above Rogue River. The entrance of this river is very narrow. It widens to considerable of a bay immediately inside of the bar. There is a splendid entrance and a fine bay at the mouth of the [Coquille] River, but little country of any account worth settling. We noticed indications of gold in many places in the mountains as we came up, but did not take the time to prospect any. Such, sir, is a short account of the expedition to Point Orford.
Yours, respectfully,Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, July 15, 1851, page 2
J. M. KIRKPATRICK.
(Correspondence of the Statesman.)
Steamer Sea Gull, off Klamath RiverJuly 13, 1851
Doubtless you will have heard, prior to the receipt of this communication, that the company landed there by Messrs. Tichenor and Smith have either been massacred or taken prisoners by the Indians, and on a recent return trip of the P.M. Steam Ship Columbia, this fact was made known, together with some important discoveries, which induced the organization of the present expedition against the Rogue River Indians, but more particularly for the purpose of recommencing a settlement at Port Orford.
The present organization consists of some five or six proprietors and sixty-five volunteers, together with four or five agents, speculators &c., making the whole number something over seventy persons, well armed and provisioned. We have six pieces of ordnance, which we intend to place upon new forts to be erected immediately on our arrival. Our men are all young and in the prime of life and calculated to endure hardship, and several of whom have had much experience in Indian warfare. We anticipate considerable difficulty and go prepared accordingly, and we have no man but who knows what he is going for and what he expects to meet. We have in our company some of the greatest rifle marksmen that can be found in the country, and who, we anticipate, are possessed of brave and fearless hearts. Among our arms we have seven rifles that can be fired some two hundred times to the minute; the balance of our arms are principally the United States rifle. With this company and equipment, I anticipate being able to give you some good account hereafter.--More anon.
Yours truly,Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, July 22, 1851, page 3
The steamer Sea Gull arrived at Portland yesterday. Left San Francisco the same day the Columbia left, and consequently brings no later dates. The Sea Gull stopped four days at Port Orford, and left a party of 65 men with 4 cannon and plenty of small arms and ammunition; 24 of the party started immediately for the Rogue River and Shasta mines. The Sea Gull will leave Portland for San Francisco tomorrow, touching at Port Orford, Trinidad and Humboldt. Todd & Co. will dispatch an express per the Sea Gull, and also with the Columbia on next Thursday, the 24th.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, July 22, 1851, page 2
October 1856, Harper's Monthly
The steamship Sea Gull, Capt. Tichenor, arrived here on Monday morning last. On her way up from San Francisco she put in to Port Orford, where she remained four days--having landed 65 men. She left here yesterday, with another party from this city, and will touch at Port Orford and leave them. We observed that our enterprising express man, A. H. Todd, took passage for California. Todd is a noble fellow, and our best wishes attend him.
Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, July 24, 1851, page 2
The principal feature of the Oregon intelligence is an account of the safety of Capt. Kirkpatrick and the party under his command, who were reported to have been missed from Port Orford, under circumstances justifying a suspicion that they had been murdered by the Indians.
It is mentioned that Capt. Tichenor has landed a second party at Point Orford, determined to prosecute his plan of establishing a permanent settlement at that place. It consists of forty well-armed men.
Capt. Kirkpatrick publishes in the Oregon Statesman a full account of his adventures after having been left by the Sea Gull at Point Orford. It is quite interesting, and so much public concern has been manifested for the fate of the party that we are induced to present the narrative entire.
"We were landed at Point Orford or Erving Harbor on the morning of the 9th of June. We found the Indians, who made their appearance when we first landed, to be somewhat friendly disposed, manifesting a disposition to trade with us; but this did not last longer than the steamer lay in the bay. As soon as she left, they grew saucy and ordered us off. Finding that we would not go, they all left. In the meantime, we had taken possession of a small island or rock (detached from the mainland by a passage of about 100 yards [sic] in width), upon which we made our encampment. We had a four-pounder, which we had brought from the steamer. This we planted in front of our encampment so as to rake the passage to the bottom of the first step or offset in the island.
"The Indians did not make their appearance again till early the next morning, when they began to gather on the beach in considerable numbers. I noticed that they were better armed than when we first landed. There were about forty of them on the ground. At sunrise they built up several fires, and went through with a regular war dance. They were soon joined by others who came over the hills, and shortly after by twelve others with a chief, who came in a large canoe. By this time there were about sixty of them. As soon as the chief landed, they began to come upon the island. We met them and made signs that we would shoot them if they did not go back. This had no effect on them; they still came on. We then retired to the top of the island, where we had our guns stationed. They had by this time gained the top of the first step, about forty of them in number. They then made a rush to pitch into the camp among us, the chief leading the way. As he approached the top of the hill, he seized hold of a musket belonging to one of the men, and would have wrenched it out of his hands had not another man struck him over the hands and knocked his hold loose. In an instant they threw a volley of arrows at us, the most of them passing over us. The great crowd of them were within six feet of the mouth of the cannon. I jerked up a firebrand and discharged the cannon among them, killing some six or eight. This threw them into confusion, which we followed up with a discharge from our rifles and pistols. Three of them only got into the camp, and were knocked down with the butts of our guns. The fight lasted about fifteen minutes, when the Indians broke and ran, leaving thirteen dead on the ground. They fled to the hills and rocks, and continued to shoot their arrows at us for some time.
There were a great many of them wounded, and I learned afterwards from an Indian at the mouth of Umpqua, who could speak jargon, that there were 20 killed and 15 wounded. There were four of our men wounded. The Indians got several rifles and shot at us in the afternoon, but with no effect. In the afternoon a chief came up the beach and made signs that he wanted to come into the camp. He threw his arms down on the sand, and we let him come up. He made signs that he wanted to take away the dead. This we let him do, and whilst he was in the camp I made signs to him that in fourteen days from the time that we arrived there we would go away again. After they had taken away their dead, they fired a few shots at us and then left. We were not troubled by them any more till the morning of the 15th day, when they attacked us again. There were a great many more at the second fight than at the first. There were at least 15 of them to one of us. Their chief came out and urged them in tones that could be heard a half a mile distant, but could not prevail on them to make the second rush on us. They shot their arrows at us, at the distance of 300 yards [sic], a great many of them falling in the camp, but none of us received any injury.
"We were at this time in a critical situation. Our ammunition was just about done. We had not more than eight or nine rounds of shot left, and were surrounded by at least 150 Indians. The only alternative left was to take to the woods and make our way to the habitation of white men. Here fortune appeared to favor us. The Indians drew off and went down the coast to the mouth of a small creek and built a number of fires. There still was a number that stayed to watch us. We then went to work to strengthen our breastwork. This movement had the desired effect. In a few minutes they all left and went down to join the others. This gave us an opportunity to make our escape to the woods, which we effected, leaving everything we had but our small arms in the camp. We traveled through the woods for about five miles, and struck out on the beach. We traveled up the beach but a short distance when we met a party of about thirty, all armed with bows and arrows and long knives. We rushed towards them to give them fight in open ground. When they saw that we would attack them, they broke for the timber. We continued up the coast a few miles further and crossed a large stream of water. We then took to the woods and traveled in the woods two days and nights, and then made out to the coast. When we reached the coast, we discovered a fresh trail about five miles to the mouth of a small creek; here the trail turned back again. I suppose that they followed us thus far the first night, and the light of morning disclosed to them that we had not traveled on the beach, and they turned back to hunt our trail or give up the chase. We traveled up the beach about fifteen miles, when we reached the mouth of Rogue River.
"Here we found two large villages of Indians. As soon as they saw us, they prepared for fight. There appeared to be about 200 of them. They soon kindled up a fire on the top of the highest bluff close to their village. We here had nothing but the river between us, and had to take to the woods again. We traveled up the river about eight miles, and effected a crossing by means of some old logs that we lashed together with some small rope. We then kept in the mountains two days and made the beach again. Here we were four days without eating anything but salmon berries. In the evening of the fourth day we got some mussels to eat, which revived us some. We lived on mussels till we reached the mouth of the [Coquille] River; here we got among some friendly Indians, who gave us something to eat. But we had to give them the shirts off our backs to get them to ferry us over the mouth of this river. When across the river, we thought it was the Umpqua, and continued up it about ten miles, when we discovered it was not the Umpqua. We then struck across the sand hills, waded through a large swamp, and struck for the coast. The next day we made the mouth of the Umpqua (it being the eighth day from the camp), where we were greeted by a hearty shake of the hand, and entertained by the settlers in Umpqua City and Gardner. If we had been brothers, we could not have been treated with more kindness than we were at those places. At Scottsburg we were treated in the same cordial manner. Here I left the company. Some of the boys, being completely worn out with traveling, gladly accepted the invitations of those generous citizens of Scottsburg to stay a few days and rest. I traveled on and reached Portland yesterday evening. Such, sir, is a brief statement of our difficulties with the Indians--of our leaving the camp, and our march to the Umpqua."
"From Oregon," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, July 25, 1851, page 2
Dr. Dart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and Messrs. Spaulding and Parrish, agents, returned from Port Orford on the Sea Gull, where they have been engaged in treating with the Indians for their lands. They collected about five hundred men, women and children, from whom they purchased the district of country extending along the coast from the California line to the Coquille River, a distance of about eighty miles, and reaching about fifty miles into the interior. The purchase is said to include some of the finest lands in Oregon.
Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, October 7, 1851, page 2
Port Orford, O.T.Colonel,
October 24th, 1851
I have the honor to report that I arrived at this place safely about 12 p.m. on the 22nd inst. We succeeded in landing everything by 7 o'clock p.m., and by the use of an unfinished store house built by L. Winan, over the roof of which we have placed a tarpaulin, I have managed to have all our stores safely housed.
The rumor that had reached the General of a party of volunteers having left this place for the scene of the murders was a mistaken one. It most probably originated in the fact that a party did leave for the purpose of discovering a road to the Oregon trail. After proceeding about 90 miles, they returned without accomplishing their object, having fell short of provisions. They are of the opinion that they were not far from the trail at the time they turned back. The country in the immediate vicinity of this place is densely wooded, principally with fir, spruce and cedar.
From the report of a reconnoitering party which I sent out and which this day returned, and from other information which I have collected, I am led to believe that a practicable route can be obtained to the Coquille, which is about 35 miles distant.
The Indian agent, Dr. Dart, left here a short time since, the Coquille Indians refusing to meet him.
I regret that I have no interpreter by whom I could communicate with the Indians in question.
No alternative presents itself but to strike them first and then extending to them the olive branch on their submission. I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of Lt. Stanton with the horse, who enter in my plan of attack.
I find the Cape Blanco Indians, about 15 miles from here, apparently friendly, but I think not to be trusted far.
From information gathered from Gov. Gaines, who was a passenger on the Columbia, and from what I can collect from persons about here, I am led to believe that the Coquille are the only hostile Indians on the coast. After chastising them, should the season permit, I will turn my attention to discovering a wagon route to the Oregon trail.
I found with the command four general prisoners, but the order of the general promulgating the proceedings is not here.
Under the circumstances, I have suspended the sentences of Pvt. Johnson [and] Pvt. Marshall and turned them to duty, and have directed Pvt. Michels, who is on the sick report (from a cut finger) to be turned over temporarily in charge of L. Winan.
Very respectfullyBvt. L. Col. J. Hooker
Your obedient servant
Br. Lt. Col. U.S.
Ass. Ad. Gen. 3rd Division
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
TROOPS FOR OREGON.--Major Kearny leaves today in the steamship Columbia with his command for Port Orford, where a military post has been established. The horses, baggage and other effects belonging to the troops will leave in a few days for the same place by the steamer Sea Gull. The Indians in that country have become so troublesome that it is necessary that they should be forced to keep the peace.--Cal. Courier.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, October 28, 1851, page 2
Port Orford, O.T.Colonel,
October 31, 1851
On the 29th inst. the Sea Gull arrived and yesterday finished unloading.
I send off today Lt. Stanton with the horse to take a position in the vicinity of the Coquille. We have been directed if possible to receive the services of the Chief of the Cape Blanco Indians as guide. I feel the more sanguine that his sincere services can be obtained from the fact that within a few days it has been reported that one of his men has been killed, and several wounded by the Indians of the Coquille.
I have directed the A.I.M. to engage the services of the Sea Gull for a short time and shall myself embark tomorrow morning with the [illegible] of the command, and the howitzers, for the purpose of effecting a landing at the mouth of the river. I shall take with me one of the surf boats, with the purpose, if possible, of placing it in the river.
If successful in effecting a landing, I shall make a combined attack on the village of the murderers from both banks of the river.
I regret that no waterproof bags were sent for the purpose of packing our bread, sugar, etc. I have been obliged to cut up ten tents for bags, and a tarpaulin for covers. It has rained almost every day since we arrived and a waterproof covering becomes indispensable for parts of the ration.
I have enclosed a return of the troops for the month of October 1851.
I have also enclosed a roll of the citizens employed in the I. Dept. Brush and [Bruner?] were employed by my order. I think the services of the latter can be dispensed with very shortly.
Very respectfullyBvt. Lt. Col. J. Hooker
Your obt. servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U.S.A.
A. Ad. Gen.
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
Camp at the mouth of the CoquilleColonel,
November 9th, 1851
In my last communication I stated that I was about combining an operation against the enemy by land and water. In pursuance of that object, I left Port Orford on the evening of the 31st of October with Companies A & E, 1st Dragoons, and the two mountain howitzers on board the Sea Gull. About 11 o'clock same day Lt. Stanton with C Troop started by land. I arrived off the mouth of the Coquille River at daylight on the morning of the 1st of November, found a heavy surf beating on the shore, but succeeded in landing Lt. Wright with about 20 men, the six men at the immediate danger of their lives, as the boat capsized in the surf about two hundred yards from the shore and in two fathoms of water. After the capsizing, it was with the utmost difficulty that the sailors could be prevailed upon to make another attempt. In the meantime, the surf having increased, it was found impossible to land any more men.
We remained until daylight the morning of the 2nd, awaiting an opportunity to land, but the prospect at the time appearing worse than ever, I directed the Capt. to leave for Port Orford. By the time the imminence of the danger to the vessel had become such that it was only by shipping one anchor, and applying all force possible to the other, that we were enabled (fortunately having a full head of steam) to escape from our anchorage, just as the sea broke in the place where we had laid, and in seven fathoms of water.
We arrived in Port Orford 9 p.m. same day, landed the men that night, and left the next day with A Company and the part of E Company who had not succeeded in landing at the mouth of the river, and arrived at Lt. Stanton's camp (which we found two miles from the mouth of the river) on the afternoon of the 4th.
I had previously sent an express to Lt. Stanton, directing him to concentrate the troops and await my arrival, in the meantime to construct a raft for the purpose of enabling us to cross the river. I found Lt. Wright encamped at the mouth of the river and constructing a raft.
The morning after the landing of Lt. Wright, while walking a short distance from camp, he perceived four Indians behind a rock. On beckoning to them, they approached him. After a little while the Indians, becoming alarmed at some movement of the Lt.'s men, started running. The Indian nearest to Lt. Wright made an effort before leaving to snatch his gun from him. He jerked it from him, and shot the Indian dead as he ran from him.
The Indians showed themselves in number on the opposite side of the river, when the men commenced in making the raft, firing across a number of rifle balls, brandishing their knives, shaking their bows, and evincing every bravado possible.
On the morning of the 5th, I visited Lt. Wright's camp at the mouth of the river. About 50 Indians made their appearance, and went through the performances of the previous day. Soon after my leaving, the numbers increased to 100, who fired several shots across the river.
On the 6th, I sent Lt. Stanton with 30 dismounted dragoons, and with four days' rations in their haversacks, to take a station about ten or fifteen miles above the mouth and on [the] left bank of the river, for the purpose of intercepting any canoes that might pass up. On the morning of the 7th, I crossed the river on a raft, with the two companies of dragoons on foot, with four days' rations in our haversacks, and one blanket, each man.
After marching about 15 miles through marsh and over mountains which were rendered very slippery, and difficult to cross, by the incessant rains, we arrived on the morning of the 8th about 10 o'clock, within sight of fires of an Indian village, directly on the bank of the river.
I made my dispersion to attack, but on entering the place, found that the enemy had fled. We saw but two who were within rifle range. The Indians had evidently taken their salmon and fled up the river.
I should have remarked that the day before I left, an Indian crossed the river and came to my camp. He appeared somewhat alarmed. Whether he came as a spy, or for other purposes, I could not tell, as I have no interpreter. I concluded, however, to keep him a prisoner, believing that should I obtain an interpreter, I could make him extremely useful. Lt. Stanton unfortunately became entangled in the challenges of the country and did not reach the position marked out for him, and consequently did not succeed in intercepting any of the enemy who had been driven from the right bank. At the village (which Mr. Brush recognized as the one where the men were murdered) we found a fishery, the nets extending across the river.
The Indians are frightened, and have fled up the river. I am well satisfied from the few trails leading into the interior that their villages are all on the river. I am also satisfied that their principal means of subsistence is the salmon obtained from the river, and that their principal fisheries are at the mouth, and within a short distance of the mouth. The nature of the country is such that the incessant rain renders the hills near the river very difficult to cross, and by keeping directly upon the river, impassable [rapids?] would be encountered.
Under all the circumstances, I have resolved to operate upon the river in boats. It is 30 miles to Port Orford from this point, and although the road is very difficult at points, I am in hopes I will be able to get through the two surf boats which I have. One of them is now on the road.
The Coquille River is 200 yards wide at its mouth at low water, with probably 9 ft. of water on the bar, but the channel is narrow and leads out among the mouths. The mouth [illegible] is so exposed to the prevailing winds that there are breakers constantly almost quite across its entrance. Once over the bar and it appears to be a large navigable stream affected by the tide water to its forks about 40 miles up.
I am encamped in a fine position at the mouth and on the left bank of the river and shall make here my depot for supplies while operating up the stream. Should I succeed in putting my boat party in open water, I am in hopes now to incline the enemy to peace if they are not so now.
The service of a good interpreter would be invaluable.
I shall endeavor to start the party for the Oregon road soon, although the season is so far advanced that I fear they will not succeed.
I would like to have two or more surf boats, with the necessary articles for repair sent up immediately. Should we not need them, they will be useful in the camp.
Inasmuch as there is an extensive farming country in the vicinity of Port Orford, extending to and up this river, which if an adequate protection was afforded, would I think speedily settle. I suggest that another supply of subsistence stores be furnished to Port Orford.
Very respectfullyBvt. Lt. Col. J. Hooker
Your ob. servant
Ass. Ad. Benicia
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
Camp at the mouth of the CoquilleColonel
November 11th, 1851
One of my surf boats has just arrived safely, and is now launched in the river. Tomorrow the team will start for the other boat and will also bring up a small launch which Lt. Wyman has in possession, provided it can be repaired. I have just had a report of the result of some soundings. The tide at little more than half flood gives but seven feet in the channel at the mouth of the river. Thereby demonstrating that at Port Orford, must be the depot for all supplies required for this portion of the country. As soon as my boats arrive, which will be in a few days, I shall organize a party to operate up the river in boats, with a confident expectation of speedily bringing the Indian to terms. In fact, I believe I could treat with them now, had I an interpreter.
I would respectfully suggest that authority be given me to leave, if it should be necessary, a company of dragoons at this point. By the aid of the boats which will be on the river, they will be able effectually to [curb?] the Indians of this region, and give confidence to settlers, who are inclined, I learn, to come in considerable numbers to this, one of the finest portions of Oregon.
Horses, I have but little doubt, could be subsisted here all winter on the grass alone, but inasmuch as their services would be but little required, I would consider it more expedient that the force here be footmen. The force here could be supplied from Port Orford, either by wagon or pack mule.
I shall tomorrow lay off a government reservation, which will combine good water, plenty of firewood, good land for cultivation, fine timber for building, with [beauty of situation?]. Sufficient log buildings for a company can be put up at trifling expense.
I consider it expedient to make a reservation at once, for by the Oregon land bill, some person would be sure to lay their claim. Should the government not wish to retain, they can but give it up.
Very respectfullyBvt. Lt. Col. J. Hooker
Your obt. servant
Ass. Ad. Gen. Pac. Div.
P.S. Lt. Stanton leaves tomorrow for Port Orford with 30 [horses?], preparatory to starting as an escort to Lt. Williamson, who will leave in a few days on the route for the Oregon trail.
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
There is quite an excitement at this time in the Willamette Valley about the Port Orford country. This excitement, it is thought, will carry off a goodly number of our enterprising men. The spirit of adventure is nearly as rife now as it was at any previous time. While some are seeking fortunes way in the north at Queen Charlotte's Island, comparatively but little known not a few are directing their steps to the mines south, the greater part of whom are of this year's immigration, and the rest of the floating portion still unsettled are taking up their line of march for the Coquille country, down the coast, where the prospects for rapid improvement are very flattering. Thus we go in Oregon--there is a paradise somewhere, but all have not yet found it.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 11, 1851, page 2
Camp Abbeyville, mouth of the Coquille, O.T.Colonel
November 24th, 1851
At the date of my last communication I was at this place awaiting the arrival of my boats.
Being convinced of the impracticability of pursuing the Indians to advantage by land, owing to the dense nature of the undergrowth, and for other reasons, I resolved if possible to organize a boat party, and in continuation of the narrative of my expedition, I have the honor to report as follows.
Having succeeded in obtaining, by land transportation from Port Orford, two boats, and by means of pitch obtained from pine trees rendering them possibly tight, I left this place before daylight on the morning of the 17th inst. with a party 60 strong (including officers) and nine days' provisions.
After crossing up the river about 25 miles, passing a number of lodges which had been dilapidated and abandoned in haste, we perceived a fire on the left bank of the river. The officer in charge of the leading boat saw a canoe with one Indian in it going up the river.
I immediately ordered the boats to land, and attack. We found two large lodges, covered with boards and matting, from which the Indians had just escaped. In one of them salmon was cooking.
They contained large quantities of the different articles used by the Indians, fishing nets etc., together with three or four tons of dried salmon. I again embarked, landed above the lodges about half a mile, and sent back a party of ten men by land, with orders to approach as carefully as possible. I then ordered Lt. Wright to go down in his boat with his company and burn everything except canoes, which I took for our use.
When the land party reached the vicinity of the lodge, they perceived several of the Indians returning to them. They fired, but with what result, I do not know.
Suffice it to say that by the time we reached the forks of the river (about 45 miles from the mouth) on the morning of the 20th inst., we had destroyed a number of lodges and large quantities of their food and implements. On the 21st, I ordered Lt. Stoneman with a scouting party in one of the surf boats to ascend the south fork of the river, and Lt. Wright with a party in the other surf boat to ascend the north fork, with special orders that they both should return the same day. Lt. Wright proceeded up the north fork about ten miles and returned, having perceived no fresh sign.
Lt. Stoneman returned in a few hours and reported that six or seven miles up the fork, he came upon a number of Indians, one of whom commenced talking in a loud voice and motioned him away. They continued to advance, and perceiving one of the Indians loading his rifle, he fired at him. Several shots from guns and a shower of arrows were delivered in return, and replied to by a volley from our men.
Agreeably to the instructions, given by me to the Lt. in case a large party was met, he returned to camp. It was the opinion of Lt. Stoneman, as he reported, that the Indians were in a fork (made by the stream which ascended, and another stream coming into it) in large number awaiting our approach.
I again sent him out with a few men to make a reconnaissance by land, and ascertain if possible the true position of the enemy. He succeeded in approaching within about one mile of their position. His examination at this time (which owing to the density of the woods and undergrowth was of necessity imperfect) rather shook his former opinion that the enemy were in the fork, but now was of the opinion that they occupied the left bank of the stream which he had ascended. The next day, on the 22nd, I resolved to attack the Indians, who were evidently collected in position and awaiting my approach.
Believing that they were in considerable number, and having but 55 men, exclusive of officers (from whom taking ten men, for boat crews, leaving but 45 men for the attack), I directed that the men should leave everything in camp, excepting one day's rations in haversacks, their bivouacs standing, their fires burning, and the remaining boat, and the remaining canoe tied to the bank.
I could not afford one man for guard. I directed Lt. Gibson, with 20 men, in the surf boats to ascend the river and take a position as near the enemy as he could, without being perceived by them, and then await further orders.
With the remainder of the command, I went up by land, and met the boats on the river. I will here mention that on our arrival up, we discovered about one ton of dried salmon, which the Indians had hid on scaffolds.
On joining Lt. Gibson, I directed Lt. Stoneman with his company, who together with Asst. Surgeon Campbell and two hospital attendants, constituted one half of the command, to cross to the left bank of the stream, [creep?] up to the enemy position, and commence the attack.
I directed the boats to ascend the river, keeping in rear of the commands on the banks, take up some safe position out of reach of the enemy fire, then land and protect the boats, awaiting further orders. At the same time with Lt. Wright's Comp. E, I ascended the right bank of the stream, resolving to attack, should the Indians be found on that bank, if not to await the attack of Lt. Stoneman, and take them as they fled from him, or cross the river in the boats to his assistance if necessary.
On arriving near the position of the enemy, I perceived that there was a fork, separated from my bank of the river by a small creek, that the greater portion of the Indians were in the forks, and that from the canoes on the left bank at the junction of the other branch of the fork with the main stream, there was about 20 of the Indians. I took up a position (the river here bending in an arc) admirably commanding the position of the enemy, should they attempt to take their canoes, or to come out of their [coverts?].
I there anxiously awaited for about 15 minutes the attack which I expected to be made by Lt. Stoneman, a number of the enemy being all the time in plain sight, and within the complete command of my fire. Unfortunately the boats at this juncture, mistaking the position of the Indians, commenced advancing until they came within their fire, who it was apparent were wholly unapprised of the dispersion against them by land, and were prepared for a boat attack alone, being placed in such position that they would have completely surrounded the boats, had they advanced.
Immediately, I perceived that we were in the close proximity of about 200 Indians. They raised the war-whoop, and for about 15 minutes contested the ground with us, when the deliberate fire of the men proving too galling, they abandoned their ground and fled in every direction. In the meantime, Lt. Stoneman being detained by the impracticable nature of the thickets from ascending the stream, took a broad trail which he supposed would lead to the position of the enemy. He found, however, that it struck the right stream of the fork about one mile above the junction.
On hearing our firing, he deployed his men as skirmishers and came down to our position, killing a number of the Indians as they fled.
Although but five of the enemy were found dead, I have reason to believe that about 15 were killed. Many were seen to be carried off in the midst of the fight, and we made no search after the engagement. Although a number of my men were struck by the missiles of the enemy, both balls and arrows, they were all grazing shots which merely tore their clothes. Not one man was wounded. We recovered from the enemy one old U.S. musket and several balls which were recognized as having been taken from the party who were murdered last summer. One of the Indians who was wounded was seen to throw a rifle into the river.
I have enclosed a rough sketch of the ground in which the engagement took place, which will probably throw light on the subject. During the operation on the river, we took and destroyed 20 large lodges, with quantities of implements invaluable to them. We destroyed about 2000 feet of boards, which had been split out from logs, some of them three feet in width.
We took 15 canoes, and destroyed about thirteen tons of dried salmon. Both officers and men have been zealous in the performance of their duties. From Lt. Gibson I have received efficient and zealous aid. I feel much indebted to Lt. Stoneman for his practical knowledge of things, and for his zeal and efficiency in the performance of his duties. Although from a mistake he did not participate in the heat of the action, still as soon as the firing commenced he came down with gallantry, and performed good service. Lt. Wright with 22 men sustained the heat of the contest, and for the gallantry and firmness exhibited by him, merits the warmest praise.
The Indians having scattered and fled in all directions, and my supplies being nearly out, [I] resolved to return to the mouth of the Coquille. Should my supplies, however, have been ample, I would still doubt the expedience of pursuing further.
The Indians were evidently on the outskirts of their country, and pursuing further, friendly tribes would be involved. Mr. Brush, who is with me, and was one of the survivors of the massacre, states that he found the Indians a little further up the fork friendly and evidently on bad terms with the Coquille tribe.
I lament every day that I have no interpreter, and feel confident that the Indians would now be glad to make peace. At any rate, before any further steps are taken against them, humanity demands that peace should be offered. I still have the Indian who came in to me.
I am now putting up a few log buildings for the accommodation of a company, which I intend to leave here for the present. Should the Indians not feel disposed for peace, a company at the mouth of the river with a few boats could control them completely, inasmuch as they would hold in their hand their means of subsistence, keeping them from their best and principal fisheries and depriving them of their mussels, which they obtain at the mouth of the river, and which forms their chief subsistence one portion of the year.
I have the honor to beBvt. Lt. Col. U.S.A.
Your obt. servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. J. Hooker
Ass. Ad. Gen. Pac. Div.
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
Port Orford, O.T.Colonel,
November 28, 1851
I have just arrived at this place from the mouth of the Coquille, and find the steamer Columbia just anchored.
I have left temporarily at the mouth of the Coquille Comp. A, commanded by Lt. Stoneman, with direction to complete his quarters to make the men comfortable while remaining. I consider the Indians subdued, and if I had an interpreter, I could treat with them at once.
However, until that event transpires, I would respectfully suggest that the following disposition be made. Let A Comp. be continued at the mouth of the Coquille until the arrival of [C?] Comp. (now mounted) from the Oregon trail. As it will be difficult to get their horses on board without a [float?], [I] would recommend that Comp. be left, and A Comp. relieve. There are now three good boats and six captured canoes at the mouth of the Coquille. Should the Indians refuse to treat, it is the grand strategic [point?] as regards operations against them. It controls their best fisheries, and prevents them from obtaining mussels from the mouth of the river.
The boats offer a cheap transportation to follow the enemy to their places of abode. It is necessary that the Columbia stop here on her next trip up to furnish supplies, and if it should meet with the approbation of the General, I will on my return from Oregon proceed to carry out my suggestion.
I thought of leaving Capt. Kane here for the present. What should be done with Asst. Surgeon Campbell?
Very respectfullyBvt. Lt. Col. J. Hooker
Your obt. servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U.S.A.
Asst. Ad. Gen. Pac.
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
ARRIVAL OF THE SEA GULL.--Yesterday morning at four o'clock the steamer Sea Gull, Capt. Tichenor, arrived in our harbor from Port Orford, Trinidad and Humboldt.
We learn by her that the troops have left for the Coquille River to chastise the Indians that murdered five men belonging to T'Vault's exploring party. The company that had been sent out to search for a trail having been successful, had returned reporting favorably. A road is being cut to join the road from Oregon to California.
From Port Orford we have favorable accounts. The coal mines in that vicinity are attracting considerable attention. Col. Casey had produced some fine specimens. Everything was brisk at the settlement. It was stated that some fifteen or twenty families were to arrive there from Oregon by the next steamer. Houses were building for their accommodation. The land at the north of this port is said to be very fertile.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, December 2, 1851, page 2
The steamer Columbia, Captain Le Roy, had arrived from Oregon, at Port Orford, on the 22nd, landed 121 United States officers and soldiers, under the command of Col. Casey, destined to act against the Indians in the vicinity of Rogue River. The Columbia brings treasure to the amount of $25,000.
"Two Weeks Later from Oregon," Newark Daily Advertiser, December 1, 1851, page 2
Dec. 6th, 1851
In my communication of the 28th ult., I mentioned that I had left A. Comp. at the mouth of the Coquille, and intended that it should remain there for the present. I expected that the Sea Gull, on her return from the Columbia River, would bring down an Indian agent and interpreter. I knew that the mouth of the Coquille would be the best place from which to communicate with [them], and at which to assemble the Indians of that river for a treaty.
The only boat of any description which has touched at this place since the landing of the troops was the Columbia on her return from Astoria, the 28th ult. I then learned that the Sea Gull was still at San Francisco, when she left, and as she has not yet made her appearance, I can make no calculation on her movements.
Two days since, I received information that a wagon which left here with supplies for Camp Abbeyville, on the 1st inst., had gone but 10 miles, being stopped by the high water in the river which empties into the ocean near Cape Blanco.
Yesterday, an experienced rider and horse were unfortunately drowned in attempting to cross that river. Inasmuch as there are three rivers between here and Camp Abbeyville, which at times are [illegible] and from the almost incessant rains, will become more and more difficult to cross. I have considered that the immediate advantages of keeping up that [illegible], are more than counterbalanced by the difficulties of supplying it, and shall consequently abandon it as soon as the public property can be removed.
I have the honor to beBvt. Lt. Col. J. Hooker
Your obt. servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U.S.A.
Asst. Ad. Gen. Pac. Div.
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
Headquarters, Det. Pac. Div.Order No. 22
Fort Orford, Oregon Ter.
Dec. 9, 1851
I.--Unless contrary orders shall be received by the steamer Columbia, which is expected to arrive here on the 10th inst., the following disposition will be made of the troops of this Detachment.
II.--Companies "A" & "C", 1st Dragoons, and Asst. Surgeon S. Campbell, will embark on board the Columbia for Benicia.
III.--First Lt. H. G. S. Gibson will remain at this post until further orders and will report to Lieut. Stanton for duty upon arrival of the latter at Fort Orford. Lt. Gibson will continue in charge of the ordnance and [illegible] stores and will send by the first opportunity one of the mountain howitzers to the ordnance officer at Benicia.
IV.--All the men of "C" Troop Dragoons now at this post with the exception of Sergeant Hill will remain at this post in charge of Lt. Gibson until the arrival of their company.
V.--Captain E. R. Kane, A.Q.M., will remain on duty at this post until further orders. He will secure as soon as possible a supply of forage for the horses of C Troop, 1st Dragoons.
VI.--First Lieut. H. W. Stanton, upon his return from an exploration of a route to the Oregon trail, will remain with his troop at this post until further orders.
VII.--Lieutenant R. S. Williamson, Topographical Engineers, now with Lieut. Stanton, will upon his return to Port Orford proceed by the first opportunity to Benicia, and report in person at the Head Quarters of the Division.
By order of Lt. Col. CaseyTranscribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
(signed) Lt. H. G. S. Gibson
December 12, 1851
I have the honor to report that I have arrived here this afternoon from Port Orford, O.T., with A & E Comp., 1st Dragoons.
I have explained in a former communication the reason for abandoning the mouth of the Coquille. [Ordering] the Companies to leave Port Orford without express orders to that effect, I was actuated by what I considered the good of the service, and for the following reasons.
I considered the object of the expedition as required by my orders fulfilled. In the next place, I had received no orders which conflicted with my act. The troops were exposed to almost incessant rains, without any covering but tents. But the principal reason for my withdrawing the troops without orders to that effect was the fear that our supply of subsistence stores would be exhausted before a new supply could be received.
The Sea Gull, which I understood had left with supplies on the 20th of November, I had reason to believe was lost. I was informed by the A.C.S., Capt. Kane, that but two months' supplies of Subsistence had been brought from Benicia, and that already some of the [parts?] of the ration were gone.
I have enclosed a copy of the order issued by me on leaving.
In conclusion, I can only say that my time and best abilities has been devoted to the good of the service, and if I have erred, it has been an error of judgment alone.
Very respectfullyCapt. F. Steele
Your obt. servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U.S.A.
Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
Benicia, Dec. 12, 1851S. Casey
Bvt. Lt. Col.
Reason for leaving Port Orford
The [illegible] has read the written report with every disposition to put a favorable construction upon the movement of Lt. Col. Casey in returning to Benicia without orders, but is constrained [illegible] that the reasons assigned for the movement are altogether unsatisfactory; and the General is persuaded that Col. Casey himself, had he been sitting in judgment upon the movement instead of having been engaged in it, would be among the first to see the anomaly of an officer assuming to make such a movement on the alleged absence of orders "conflicting" with it--a principle that would disorganize in a very brief period any army whatever, and make it impossible for a general officer to know where to find his troops, after specifically posting them in view of purposes only known to himself; and, in regard to supplies, the apprehension of deficiency had no sufficient foundation. Supplies were shipped to Fort Orford the 4th inst.--while by the reports of the Commissary Dept. there should have been supplies on hand at Fort Orford of the substantial parts of the ration not subject to injury from rain until the 1st, if not the 10th of January. Besides, the return trip of the Columbia might readily have been counted upon by the 20th inst. The discomfort of being in tents is an incident to the profession and ought rather to be considered a convenience, as troops in the field are not always supplied with them.
E.A.H. [Ethan Allen Hitchcock]Transcribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
Benicia 13 Dec., 1851
December 14th, 1851
Yours of yesterday's date with a copy of the endorsement (made by the Brig. Gen. Comm. Pacific Division) on the communication of mine of the 12th inst., has just been received. I would respectfully make a few explanatory remarks to be laid before the General. In my desire promptly to comply with the direction of the General Commanding, calling immediately for my reasons for the movement which was made by me, I did not, it appears, take sufficient time properly to consider the order, and in consequence have been misunderstood in one of the reasons rendered by me.
As a general principle, I do not think that a subordinate officer has a right to make the movement which was made by me on the alleged absence of conflicting orders merely. I did not make it on that ground. It will be admitted, I think by the Commanding General, that circumstances might arise in which a subordinate may be justified in anticipating, or even in disobeying the orders of his superior officer. I sincerely believed that such justifying circumstances had arisen in my case. The Gen. will probably remember that I was placed in command of the expedition at a short notice.
I had no opportunity before leaving to inform myself with regard to the supplies. I looked for information on that subject to the A.Q.M. & A.C.S. Capt. Kane. I was informed by him that two months' supply of subsistence stores had been brought along, which was in agreement with the [illegible] order No. 18, dated Benicia October 16th, 1851. He informed me a short time previous to my issuing the order for the movement that most of the supplies would be out on the 18th or 20th inst., and that the sugar and coffee was already exhausted.
The only vessel of any kind which had touched at Port Orford since the landing of the troops, and before I embarked, was the Columbia on the 18th day of November, then on her way from the Columbia River (I had on that day returned to Port Orford from the Coquille). By the Columbia I learned that the Sea Gull had left San Francisco on the 10th November for Port Orford. I had strong reasons to believe that the Sea Gull was lost.
I accordingly availed myself of the first opportunity and embarked on the 10th inst. with two companies of dragoons for Benicia, fearing that if I waited longer, I might be out of stores.
I knew that the military operation for the season had ceased, inasmuch as the requisitions of that order directing them had been complied with, and consequently that no urgent military reasons existed, which made it expedient to remain longer. Had I known then what I afterwards knew, I should have acted differently, but possessed only of the knowledge which I had at the time, there was then no doubt on my mind that circumstances were such that justified me in anticipating orders, and for doing which I regret much that I have incurred the censure of one for whose military opinion I have the highest regard.
Very respectfullyBvt. Capt. F. Steele
Your obt. servant
BeniciaTranscribed from a typescript pdf in the collection of Mark Tveskov, SOULA. This letter also transcribed, from the same typescript, on orww.org.
RETURN OF THE SEA GULL.--This steamer arrived in our harbor yesterday, having again put back, this time owing to a breakdown in her machinery. The Sea Gull, whose departure for Oregon we noticed a day or two since, is quite an unfortunate vessel. On the 26th instant she experienced a severe gale in lat. 38.05, long. 230 W. She carried away her air pumps and both piston rods during the gale. By the aid of her canvas she reached this harbor, as reported.--Alta [California].
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, December 23, 1851, page 3
Correspondence of the Newark Daily Advertiser.
Life in Oregon.
Port Orford, Oregon, Feb. 1st, 1852.Some time has elapsed since I last wrote to you, but our opportunities of communicating with the rest of the world are few, owing in a great measure to the severity of the weather on the Pacific coast at this season. A vessel left San Francisco for this place one month ago last Thursday, but has not yet arrived, and fears are entertained for her safety. A brother of D. W. Lockwood of your city is on board of her. Such severe weather has not been known on this coast for many years.
Our place is quite dull this winter. The Indians have caused us a good deal of trouble by stealing. Some time ago they entered a ranch while the men who occupied it were in the woods at their work, and stripped it of everything it contained that was worth carrying away. Among the things were four rifles, fourteen blankets, four coats, a broadax, some ammunition, cooking utensils &c. A week ago this morning a party of 14 Indians came to the store just after breakfast. They were all dressed in war costume, their faces painted, their hair tied up and their bows and arrows in their hands. Among them were several who had been engaged in the robbery, and one of them had the broadax and one of the coats with him. The men who owned the property were in the store at the time, and recognized some of them as the same who had been lurking about their tent for some time previous to the robbery. Upon being accused of having stolen the coat and broadax, they became very saucy and drew their bows and one of them a knife. The men then ran for their arms and the Indians left, but several shots were fired and one of them was killed. One of our men was arrested a few days after by the commanding officer of the port for shooting the Indian, and a number of witnesses were examined, but it is impossible that the death of the Indian can be found against any one man. At the time of the affray, I was not at the store, but in my office, which is on the opposite side of the street. Had I been there, I think it would not have occurred, and I much regret that it did, although I think the Indians were entirely at fault for appearing in a hostile attitude. Had they come as they generally do, without arms, nothing would have happened, but I am satisfied it will put a stop to their stealing for some time to come.
My new house or office is 16 ft. square, built entirely by lumber got out at this place. Its furniture consists of a large French bedstead, a sofa, half a dozen curled maple chairs, a mahogany table, wash stand and fixtures, a mirror, Brussels carpet, a stove and a rocking chair. I moved into it last Tuesday week, and for the first time since I arrived at this place did I entirely undress and sleep between sheets. We retire between 9 and 10 and rise at daybreak, and breakfast at sunrise. I have a man cook whom I pay $50 per month, and 9 boarders who pay me $5 a week. Most of them are in my employ getting out timber and cordwood, and they make about $15 to $20 a week. My intention is to put up a couple of small houses between this and spring, and I think I can make good use of them when emigration comes in. Captain Tichenor's family will move here as soon as his house is completed, which will be about the 1st of April.
This is the holy Sabbath, but I regret to say that God is not worshiped here in earthly temples. The voice of prayer and the song of praise is not heard in the sanctuary at Port Orford. When in Portland some time since, I saw and conversed with a reverend gentleman connected with the Methodist Church, and he informed me that it is in contemplation to send a missionary to Port Orford. I have offered to give any Christian society who will erect a house of worship here as much land as they may require for that purpose. I sincerely hope that the time is not far distant when we shall enjoy the stated preaching of the gospel, for I am well assured that no place can prosper without its sacred and hallowing influences.
Yours, &c., J. S. G.Newark Daily Advertiser, May 4, 1852, page 2
The Pacific Mail Steamship Company's steamer Isthmus arrived at San Francisco on the 14th ult., three days' passage from Oregon. Mr. Culver, sub-Indian agent, together with his interpreter, Chilliman, stopped at Port Orford, to appease the disappointed Indians. Capt. William Tichenor and family also stopped there, with the intention of remaining for some time. Capt. Tichenor designs investigating the new road that has been opened by Lieut. Stanton to Rogue River, the success of which is of great interest to the citizens in that region. Lieut. Williamson, who has been residing fifty miles back of Port Orford, was a passenger on the Isthmus, on his way to the States. He says that gold is plenty in that neighborhood.
"Later from Oregon," New York Herald, October 14, 1852, page 2
From Port Orford.Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, October 30, 1852, page 2
We are indebted to Col. McKnight for the following information respecting that point:
"Port Orford is a military post situated on Ewing Harbor, at the north latitude 42 deg. 43 min., 10 miles south of Cape Blanco or Orford, 18 miles north of the mouth of Rogue River, and 43 miles north of the boundary line between California and Oregon. The harbor at Port Orford is the best on the coast between San Francisco and the mouth of the Columbia River, and must be the outlet by sea for Southern Oregon--a region of country rich in mineral and agricultural resources, and containing at this time a majority of the inhabitants of the Territory.
"The government troops have just opened a trail from this place to the California and Oregon road, intersecting the latter near the ferry on Rogue River, distance 70 miles. This trail is the best on the coast, running all the way on the main divide between the waters of the Coquille and Rogue rivers, crossing no stream, canyon or gulch, and with little labor can be made a wagon road."
Correspondence of the Times.
PORT ORFORD, O.T., Oct. 18, 1852.FRIEND WATERMAN--
An exploring party, composed of ten soldiers, Capt. Tichenor and Lieut. Stolman [Stoneman?] in command, started from here on the 17th September, and reached what is called the big bend of Rogue River on the 24th. Found a good trail to connect with the one already found from the bend into Rogue River Valley. On the 25th he commenced his march towards home; traveled a few miles, when he come upon a large body of Indians, stationed behind rocks. Their position was such that he could not get at them; they dared him to fight, but very wisely it was not attempted at that time. It was managed so as to get around and past the Indians before they were aware of it.
Another party of four men from Yreka come in on the 13th Oct. Seven Indians come to them at this "big bend," appeared friendly, and offered to guide them to Port Orford. They paid one of the Indians to do so; three others traveled with them during the day. At night one of them remained up with the guard, motioning out many fine things; among others he explained to the guard how the soldiers maneuvered with their guns. After a little it became necessary to take the guard's gun to do it with, and during the exercise the Indian took aim at the guard's head and pulled [the] trigger, but it missed him. The Indians left in a hurry.
Well, now, I have been provoked several times in my life, but never to such an extent as now. Judge of the reasons. Once each week, or nearly so, the mail steamer has passed within from one to two miles of this place, the sea as smooth as could be, plenty of water, and they know it. We could see her, and they us, as plain as you could see it, if it should pass up by Portland. It would not detain them more than 30 minutes to stop and exchange mails. This line of steamers have stopped at this place ten or eleven times and their average receipts is over two thousand dollars. They have not passed this place either way for the last two months but what if they had put in they would have had some passengers. Still they pass. Of course I have not heard a word from any of you since I left. Am nearly dying to hear from you all. When the mail does arrive, I hope to hear from you by letter and receive a file of the Times. If you have not already written, please do so. I will write to you again soon.
Yours very truly, S.H.C. [Samuel H. Culver]
An elk was killed recently near Port Orford, Southern Oregon, which weighed 830 pounds. His horns were 5 feet and 7 inches in length.
Lancaster Gazette, Lancaster, Ohio, December 23, 1852, page 1
Gold Discoveries in Oregon.From San Francisco Bay you can see in the distance the Farallones Islands; we pass them on the left to stay near the coast, which we follow to the north. After passing the Bodega and Fort Ross, which protected the settlements which the Russians, descending from their icy regions, had founded in 1812 to create an abundant granary in California, and reached the Trinidad River. The sands of this stream, as well as the dunes at its mouth, were found, shortly after the discovery of gold in California, to be completely saturated with the precious metal; so various companies rushed to this Gold Bluff by land, then infested with the worst Indian tribes. Great disasters struck these rash explorers, among whom we counted more than thirty of our compatriots; half did not return. Needless to add that the others, after unheard-of suffering, found only disappointment, and were only too happy to return to San Francisco and the more hospitable placers on the banks of the Sacramento. When I found myself in these parts, it was a little farther north, at a point designated by the geographers Cape Blanco, that attracted the attention of the emigrants. This heading is at 42º50', and therefore outside of California, in Oregon Territory. There is a small bay near the middle of the coast, between Umpqua and Klamath Rivers, where Port Orford has just been founded. It was scarcely two months ago that the first landing was made at this point, hitherto wholly uninhabited by the white race. In August 1851 were constructed two houses and a small fort armed with four pieces of cannon, already revealed to be an indispensable necessity by the attacks of the Indians. At the first arrival of the new emigrants the natives, entirely naked, presented themselves with dispositions more defiant than friendly. They seemed to be completely ignorant of the value of gold and silver. Trade that had been conducted up to then, third and fourth hand, was with the Hudson's Bay Company. Traces of those exchanges were visible in the shreds of woolen blankets for which they had undoubtedly given skins of otters, seals and beavers. They also offered shells, a very abundant species of mother-of-pearl, of which the two sexes offered, and to which they seemed to believe that we would attach a great price.
The following letter from Captain Wm. Tichenor, formerly of this city, communicates some intelligence of new discoveries of gold in Oregon, which we have not seen stated elsewhere. The same letter mentions that J. S. Gamble, also formerly of this city, had previously left Port Orford:
Port Orford, Oregon Territory,This is a beautiful country, and is settling very fast. There are a great number of men employed here in getting out timber for the San Francisco market. It is mostly white cedar, the most beautiful wood I ever saw. There is a great abundance of it in this section of Oregon, but there is very little in the other sections. It surpasses white pine, and sells, in San Francisco, in the square hewn form, for more than the ready-sawed Oregon lumber. There is a very large Indian trade, and there are generally from ten to thirty in one place at a time. Otter skins are worth here from $50 to $100 per skin. A person here with a 50-horse engine, lath and planing machine, two uprights and one circular saw, which would cost about $8,000, could make about $100,000 a year. The price for lumber dressed per M. would not exceed $16, and the freight from here to San Francisco $15, making an expense of $31; the lumber will sell for $90, and thus a profit of $59 will be made per M. If there should be only $30 profit a smart and industrious man could make $75,000 a year. There is no timber on this side of the continent at this time of the kind, and Eastern manufacturers cannot ship it and sell it for less than $85 per M.
March 1st, 1853.
I am now washing out gold at the rate of ten dollars an hour. Two others by the side of me, with the assistance of a squaw (for an Indian man is not worth his food) are making $50 a day. We will have thousands of inhabitants here in a few months, as gold is everywhere in this vicinity. All the soldiers in the garrison are at work making from $20 a day upwards, but none less than $16. No person would work for the gold, until my partner tried, and after two or three hours work he was offered $35 for what was in his machine, which he took. The next day he worked about 1 hour, and again sold his sand for $40. On investigation it was found that he had sold $60 worth of gold for $25 [sic], and $80 worth for $40. We have taken out $80 worth in two hours and forty minutes, and then let escape $10 worth. This was the first mining done here, and now it is ascertained that it will yield a rich reward, everywhere along the beach.
W. T.Newark Daily Advertiser, August 4, 1853, page 2
These Indians, at the sight of the intent to found a settlement, retired with great discontent. They reappeared with reinforcements when there were no more than nine Americans to guard this conquest. The rest had departed to seek reinforcements at San Francisco, and all the necessary provisions. On their return they did not find their companions, who, attacked by insurmountable Indian forces, had to re-embark. It was necessary to act with vigor, to make them feel the effect, as yet unknown to them, of gunpowder, to quickly finish the fort, arm it, and use shells to push them back. This projectile, by the more terrible noise it produces on arrival than at the beginning, is what the savages find most marvelous in the military organization of the whites. It is I believe also the shell which acted most strongly on the Arabs in our wars in Algeria. Since that time, the security of the place has been guaranteed, and it has been able to populate, provision itself and build itself.
The principal residences of the Indian tribes are a few miles to the southeast between a small stream called Savage Creek and Rogue River. In July 1851, twenty-five Canadians and Americans had attempted to drive into the interior to reach these two streams and penetrate thence to the foot of the mountains. The signs of an Indian chief had been understood that, at two suns (two days' march), one would find plenty of yellow metal, like the samples of pure gold which were seen to shine in their hands. In similar cases it is always a race to the steeple--who will arrive first? Under this impression nothing is calculated: farewell prudence and foresight! The little caravan went off lightly. It was composed of inexperienced emigrants. They had scarcely food for a few days. Everything had to be carried to the back; the state of the country offered no other means of transport. Beasts of burden totally absent, I saw myself buying horses in Oregon City to resume the expedition. The first of which I speak, after having traveled about thirty miles, had returned home, dying of hunger and fatigue and shoeless. This first step, however incomplete, had furnished sufficient indications to convince me that a second, better-supplied, attempt would lead to better results, which were not lacking. But it took repeated military expeditions.
The Indians in that country were quite primitive. Fermented liquors seemed so unknown to them that a drop of rum or brandy, which they drink so well today, made them make a grimace. They paint different parts of the body as clothing and wear shells of mother-of-pearl in the nose and ears. Their language was utterly unintelligible, yet a small trading exchange was soon begun with them. For furs, which are just about all they can offer, they willingly accept cotton shirts, wool blankets and jewelry. Between the real jewelry and the false, they know no difference; they do not yet know that only the true is beautiful.
This point on the coast presents another important advantage for communication: steamboats hope to be able to renew their supplies of fuel there. In the vicinity, and nearly at the surface of the earth, there are found shale-like layers of coal of the easiest exploitation. The quality of the fuel had already been tested; the high cost of manpower presented the only obstacle. The materials needed to open these mines were brought in, and a solid wharf was built at Port Orford. I cannot help thinking that if I ever return, I will find an important place where there was only a cradle and swaddling clothes. In addition to the advantages already mentioned, the country has an auriferous character, and the lands in the hands of the squatters* will soon acquire phenomenal values, the reward of the first occupants when they attach their industry to the construction of a successful city. The difficulties with the aborigines did not affect the miners too far from the coast, and those who, adventurous pioneers, always go the farthest to obtain the benefits of new discoveries.
*Squatters are those who seize free land, to legitimize possession as primus occupans, through work and continuous residence. There are undoubtedly great abuses in the exercise of this right, especially as the place is populated, and it is often only the right of the strongest which gives it sanction.
En partant de la baie de San Francisco, on aperçoit dans le lointain les ilots los Farallones; on les laisse à gauche pour serrer la côte, que l'on remonte vers le Nord; après avoir dépassé la Bodega et le fort Ross qui protégeait les établissements que les Russes, descendus de leurs régions glaciales, étaient venus fonder en 1812 en Californie, pour s'y créer un grenier d'abondance, on arrive à la rivière Trinidad. Les sables de ce cours d'eau, ainsi que les dunes à son embouchure, furent signalés, peu de temps après la découverte de l'or en Californie, comme étant complètement saturés du précieux métal; aussi, diverses compagnies se précipitérent-elles vers ce Gold Bluff par la route de terre, infestée alors des plus mauvaises tribus indiennes. De grands désastres frappèrent ces téméraires explorateurs, parmi lesquels nous comptions une association de plus de trente de nos compatriotes; la moitié n'en est pas revenue. Inutile d'ajouter que les autres, après des souffrances inouïes, ne trouvèrent que déception, et furent trop heureux de regagner San Francisco et les placers plus hospitaliers des rives du Sacramento. Quand je me trouvai dans ces parages, c'était un peu plus au Nord, à une pointe désignée par les géographes sous le nom de Blanco, que l'attention des émigrants paraissait attirée. Ce cap est par 42º50', et par conséquent hors de la Californie, sur le territoire de l'Orégon. Il existe à côté une petite baie vers le milieu de la côte , entre Umpqua et Klamath rivers, où les fondements du Port Orford viennent d'être jetés. Il y avait à peine deux mois que l'on avait touché pour la première fois à ce point, jusque-là tout-à-fait inhabité par la race blanche. On y achevait, en août 1851 , la construction de deux maisons et d'un petit fort armé de quatre pièces de canon, dont les attaques des Indiens avaient déjà révélé l'indispensable nécessité. A la première descente des nouveaux émigrants, les indigènes, entièrement nus, se présentèrent avec des dispositions plus défiantes qu'amicales. Ils paraissaient ignorer complètement la valeur de l'or et de l'argent. Les échanges qu'ils avaient pu faire jusque-là, de troisième et quatrième main, provenaient de la Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson. On en reconnaissait les traces aux lambeaux de couvertures de laine pour lesquels ils avaient sans doute donné des peaux de loutres, de phoques et de castors. Ils offraient aussi des coquillages, espèce de nacre très abondante dont les deux sexes se parent également, et auxquels ils semblaient croire que nous attacherions un grand prix.
Ces Indiens, à la vue des dispositions pour fonder un premier établissement, se retirèrent en laissant percer un grand mécontentement. Ils reparurent plus nombreux quand les Américains ne furent plus que neuf pour garder cette conquête. Le reste était reparti pour aller chercher des renforts à San Francisco et toutes les provisions nécessaires. A leur retour ils ne trouvèrent plus leurs compagnons qui, attaqués par des forces indiennes trop considérables, avaient dû se rembarquer. Il fallut agir avec vigueur, leur faire sentir l'effet, qui leur était encore inconnu, de la poudre à canon, achever vite le fort, l'armer, et se servir d'obus pour les écarter. Ce projectile, par le fracas plus terrible qu'il produit à l'arrivée qu'au départ, est ce que les sauvages trouvent de plus merveilleux dans l'organisation militaire des blancs. C'est je crois aussi l'obus qui agissait le plus fortement sur les Arabes dans nos guerres en Algérie. Depuis cette époque, la sûreté de la place a été garantie, et elle a pu se peupler, s'approvisionner et se bâtir.
Les principales résidences des tribus indiennes sont à quelques milles dans le Sud-Est entre un petit ruisseau appelé Savage Creek et Rogue River. En juillet 1851 , vingt-cinq Canadiens et Américains avaient tenté de s'enfoncer dans l'intérieur pour atteindre ces deux cours d'eau et pénétrer de là jusqu'au pied des montagnes. On avait compris aux signes d'un chef indien qu'à deux soleils (deux jours) de marche, on trouverait abondamment du métal jaune pareil aux échantillons d'or pur qu'on voyait briller dans leurs mains. Dans les cas analogoes c'est toujours une course au clocher, à qui arrivera le premier. Sous cette impression on ne calcule rien: adieu prudence et prévoyance! La petite caravane partit tout-à-fait à la légère. Elle était composée d'emigrants inexpérimentés. A peine avait-elle pour quelques jours de vivres. Il fallait tout porter à dos; l'état du pays n'offrait aucun autre moyen de transport. Les bétes de somme manquant totalement, je vis moi-même acheter des chevaux à Orégon City pour recommencer l'expédition. La première dont je parle, après avoir fait une trentaine de milles, était rentrée mourant de faim et de fatigue et n'ayant plus de chaussures. Ce premier jalon, très incomplet, avait fourni néanmoins assez d'indications pour me convaincre que, grâce aux approvisionnements de toutes sortes qu'on accumulait cette fois-ci, une seconde tentative aboutirait à de meilleurs résultats; ce qui n'a pas manqué. Mais il a fallu des expéditions militaires réitérées.
Les Indiens dans cette contrée étaient tout-a-fait primitifs. Les liqueurs fermentées leur semblaient inconnues au point qu'une goutte de rhum ou d'eau-de-vie, qu'ils boivent si bien aujourd'hui, leur faisait faire alors la grimace. Ils se peignent différentes parties du corps en guise d'habillement et portent tous au nez et aux oreilles les longues coquilles de nacre. Leur langage était complètement inintelligible, et cependant on a lié bientôt avec eux un petit commerce d'échange. Pour les pelleteries, qui sont à peu près tout ce qu'ils peuvent offrir, ils acceptent volontiers des chemises de coton, des couvertures de laine et de la bijouterie. Entre la vraie bijouterie et la fausse, ils n'établissent aucune différence; ils n'en sont pas encore à savoir que rien n'est beau que le vrai.
Ce point de la côte présente un autre avantage important pour les communications: les bateaux à vapeur espèrent pouvoir y renouveler leurs approvisionnements de combustible. On y a trouvé, tout-à-fait dans le voisinage et presque à fleur de terre, des couches schisteuses de charbon de l'exploitation la plus facile. La qualité du combustible était déjà éprouvée; la cherté de la main-d'œuvre présentait le seul et unique obstacle. On a apporté les matériaux nécessaires pour ouvrir ces mines, et un solide wharf a été construit à Port Orford. Je ne puis m'empêcher de penser que si j'y repasse jamais, je trouverai une place importante là où il n'y avait encore qu'un berceau et des langes. Outre les avantages déjà signalés, la contrée a tout le caractère aurifère, et les terrains entre les mains des squatters* ne tarderont pas à acquérir de ces valeurs phénoménales, récompense des premiers occupants lorsqu'ils attachent leur industrie à l'édification d'une ville qui réussit. Les difficultés avec les aborigènes ne frappèrent encore quelque temps que sur les mineurs trop éloignés de là côte, sur ceux qui, pionniers aventureux, vont toujours le plus avant pour obtenir les bénéfices de la virginité des découvertes.
*Les squatters sont ceux qui s'emparent des terres libres, sauf à légitimer la possession comme primus occupans, par le travail et la résidence continue. II y a sans doute de grands abus dans l'exercice de ce droit, à mesure surtout que l'endroit se peuple, et ce n'est souvent que le droit du plus fort qui lui sert de sanction.
Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant, Voyages en Californie et dans l'Oregon, Paris 1854, pages 140-144
Loss of the Sea Gull.
This steamer, about which much solicitude has been felt, was wrecked on Humboldt bar, on the 26 ult. The passengers and freight were all saved. We subjoin the particulars of the disaster from the San Francisco Picayune:
By the kindness of Mr. Northeimer, who arrived this morning on the schooner Buena Dea, from Trinidad, we have received the additional painful intelligence of the loss of the propeller Sea Gull. She was wrecked on Humboldt bar, about ten o'clock on Monday morning, the 26th ult. She had arrived in Humboldt Bay, on her voyage from San Francisco to Oregon, at noon the day previous, after a passage of three days from San Francisco, which she left on Friday, the 23rd ult. Having remained in the Bay during Sunday night, she proceeded on her voyage on Monday morning. On crossing Humboldt bar, the weather being very rough, several heavy seas struck her, one of which carried away the steam pipe. The vessel having now become unmanageable, the Captain ordered the anchor to be let go, which was done, and she remained in that position for about an hour and a half. The sea becoming rougher, the anchor began to drag. The Captain, who, it is said, displayed the most praiseworthy skill and judgment throughout the trying emergency, then came to the conclusion that the only chance to save the lives of the passengers and the cargo was to beach the vessel.--Accordingly, he cut away the anchor and headed her for the shore, which was about a mile and a half distant. After a succession of perils which language could but faintly describe--the vessel being almost at the mercy of the waves--she struck a sandy beach some hours afterwards, and at low water that evening, all the passengers, fifteen in number, among whom was a lady and three children, were able to effect a landing without difficulty. No lives were lost. The vessel is a complete wreck, but the cargo and machinery have been saved.
Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, March 2, 1852, page 2
Correspondence of the Oregon Statesman.
Port Orford, O.T., Oct. '52.Editor Statesman--I am about to commence a letter to you for publication, but I am not satisfied that I shall be able to communicate any information that will be entertaining or instructive either to you or your readers. Certainly not any news, in the meaning generally attached to that word, but, if information of this section of Oregon will be acceptable, I will give you whatever I possess. There has been many speculations among the people of the Territory for some months past as to the probable result of the exploring expeditions from this place, in the matter of finding a road or trail from this point to the Rogue River or Shasta mines. I have the pleasure of informing all interested that a trail has been found to those places, which, ere this reaches you, will probably be ready for use, and it is confidently believed by those who discovered it that a good wagon road can and will be found in a short time. It is reported to be an excellent pack trail, capable of being traveled at any and all seasons of the year, without passing over high peaks that, in winter, will offer obstacles to the traveler on account of snow. Starting from this point it leads through bottom land two or three miles, and then ascends a gently rising ridge and follows it until near what is called the "Big Bend" in Rogue River, when the trail leads down a gentle slope, at no place steep or difficult, to the river bottom, coming to the river at a distance from here of about 35 miles; it then follows up the river in broad and handsome valleys, five miles, and here again ascends a gradual rise, which it follows until, when approaching near Grave Creek, in the valley of the Rogue River, it begins to descend gradually until you find yourself gently landed at the crossing of this creek, by the Oregon trail. The distance from the Big Bend of Rogue River to the crossing of Grave Creek is about 35 miles, and therefore the entire distance from this point by the trail, to the crossing, is about 70. There is a great abundance of water and grass on the route, and only two small streams to cross, which, judging by their appearance, never rise high enough to swim a horse.
Exploring parties are yet out, endeavoring to find a wagon road into the Rogue River Valley, and in their previous efforts have succeeded in discovering a first-rate one, excepting the first thirty miles out from this place, and efforts are still being made--with confident hopes of success--to find a route suitable for a wagon road over this part of the distance. But little trouble is anticipated, because of the favorable nature of the country--the high hills and mountains between this place and the Rogue River country being, in almost all cases, easily gained by slow and gradual ascent.
The country for about forty miles back of this point is composed of gently rising oak and fir ridges and open valleys or prairies, running, generally, north and south. East of about this distance they come to the higher mountains, approaching which the country rises gradually until you reach the summit of the Coast Range, and descends the same way into the Rogue River Valley. The mountains contain an abundance of water and grass throughout the entire length of the route. The first-mentioned description of country, which I said extended back from the coast about 40 miles, also extends as far up and down it as has been explored.
A small party composed of four men came in on the 13th inst. from Yreka. They met seven Indians near the Big Bend in Rogue River, who professed great friendship and proposed to pilot them into Port Orford. One of the Indians was paid to guide them through, but after traveling awhile the men became convinced that he was trying to lead them into one of the large Indian ranches, below on the river, and they declined to follow further his directions, and it is probably well for them that they refused. Four of the Indians traveled with them during the day. At night one of them remained up with the guard, and among other efforts to make himself agreeable, and to show how much he knew of the customs of the whites, proceeded to explain to the guard how our soldiers maneuvered "on parade," and during the exercise it became necessary, in order to illustrate the thing clearly, to make use of the guard's gun. When it came to the proper time in the proceedings to "present arms," Mr. Indian took deliberate aim at the guard's head and pulled trigger!--but most fortunately it missed him. At the instant the gun went off, the other Indians, who had feigned sleep, sprang to their feet in order to assist in the feast of butchery promised to themselves, no doubt by previous understanding, but when they saw the guard on his feet and rushing at them their coward hearts quailed and they fled down the mountain. Thus by the accidental missing of the guard's head by the Indian was not only his own life saved, but probably the lives of the other three also, for if he had been killed they would undoubtedly have shared his fate. I mention this incident to show the treacherous disposition of those Indians, and thereby warn all who may hereafter pass over this route not to trust them under any circumstances. The Indians near this place are friendly, and had several "talks" with the Indian agent, which appeared to end quite to their satisfaction.
This is a pleasant and healthy place to live in, and the country surrounding it affords most excellent sport to those fond of "the chase"--the only drawback to our contentment and prosperity being the want of regular mail communication.
Our harbor is at most all times nearly as easy and safe to enter as to navigate the sea, and yet the mail steamer, though passing within gunshot of our town on nearly every trip she makes, seldom stops, and thus our mails are left only once in a long time, and this so irregular that we cannot regular our concerns with any success, and to those who desire to go either to the Columbia or San Francisco on business, the passage of the steamer, so often in sight, is intolerably provoking. We think they ought to stop, at least monthly, for they have received large sums of freight-money from this place--on one trip, some little time since, receiving the snug sum of $10,000 in payment for passage and freight to this town. We do not ask them to earn their money twice, but simply to come and get more that we are desirous of paying them for further services of a like nature. There is hardly a trip made by the steamer but what there are enough persons desiring to go out, for the purpose of making purchases to ship here, to pay her well for all the trouble and expense it would cause. We expect soon to supply the mines east of us. It is bound to be so.
Yours, &c. A. I.Oregon Statesman, Salem, November 6, 1852, page 3
About eleven p.m. we came to our anchor off Port Orford. The steamer had been expected, and a night fire that had been kept burning for her guidance into port was still burning near the beach. Our signal gun was answered from the shore by the bursting of a pine log, the pioneer gun of Oregon! Soon a lighter from the beach was receiving freight from the steamer, while boatloads of shoremen boarded us with news from the mines! The town was deserted, and gold excitement at its height! The El Dorado had at last been found! We said nothing, but laughed in the dark as "Gold Bluff" loomed up in our memory, and Trinidad town lots, once sold at a premium, revived on the ear! [The writer in the previous installment had visited Trinidad, then a ghost town.]
We awoke next morning in the fog again. Before noon, however, its gradual lifting revealed the shore, dim in the distance, and a sail to seaward, bound in to the Umpqua--a great relief to the tedium always experienced the day before a voyage ends. The shore, as we approached it during the afternoon, presented the same range of densely wooded hills, occasionally relieved by an opening of green, and occasionally by a deep winding valley that marked the course of a small mountain stream. Not a house, nor a fence, nor even a curl of wigwam smoke betrayed one dweller in the solitude. But the track of the red man could be traced in the vast leafless and almost limbless forests, scathed and destroyed all along the coast by his mountain fires. The track of a thousand storms, too, and the deep impressions on the tumultuous waves could be traced in the bold bluffs that lifted themselves up to their violence, and in the isolated or associated rocks, of every shape and size, that had been worn and ruptured from the shore.
T.D.H., "Letters from Oregon," The Pacific, San Francisco, August 11, 1854, page 2. The three-part letter began in the July 21 issue, and concludes on August 25.
In 1851 a party of men from Portland, Oregon, selected [Port Orford] for the site of a town, depending upon its roadstead and the facility of communication with the interior for the basis of its success and growth. The discovery of the auriferous sands of Gold Bluff, which were found to extend along the entire coast, from Rogue River to Cape Arago, also augmented the progress of the place. [The gold sands had not yet been discovered in 1851.] The original party consisted of eighteen men, but finding their stock of provisions becoming exhausted, and there being no means of supplying the deficiency, half returned to Portland, leaving nine of their number to await their return. At that time the character of the country between the California line and the Columbia River was unknown. Its deep rivers, bays, tribes of Indians, and topography, were a sealed book, save to a few venturesome old hunters and trappers who had wandered down the coast even to the Humboldt, but their accounts, vague and uncertain, were unknown.
This section of Oregon contained about two thousand Indians, divided into numerous tribes, who soon became aware that the whites had settled their country, and, with savage hostility, determined to crush the band at Port Orford. Their rapidly increasing numbers alarmed our little garrison, who retreated upon what is now known as "Battle Rock"--a natural fort showing three precipitous sides toward the ocean, and only accessible from land by a regular causeway. The parapet of this fortification stands not less than fifty feet above the tide. Here they encamped, and barricading the only vulnerable point, they directed a brass six-pounder field piece from a porthole left for the purpose, and, loading their rifles, prepared for the worst. The precaution was well timed. The day following this removal, the tribes from the Umpqua, Coquille, and Rogue River congregated and mustered nearly a thousand braves. Armed with bows and arrows, and ignorant of the deadly qualities of the American rifle, they advanced up the passageway with yells that made the little band within quail with apprehension. The besieged were under the command of a Tennessean, who restrained the men until their tattooed assailants had approached in an irregular mass, four or five deep, to within a few yards of the field piece, when the order to fire was given. My informant, who was one of the party, described the scene in Texan vernacular, which I regret I am unable to repeat. It would depict the scene a thousandfold more graphically than I could write it.
In loading the gun, which was done with slugs, stones, and bits of iron, to the muzzle, they had exhausted their slender stock of powder to two rounds of pistol and rifle charges. As the eyes of the savages gleamed through the chinks of the brushwood barricade, the death-dealing discharge tore through their ranks. This, followed by a well-directed volley from the rifles and revolvers, of which every shot told, sent such of the Indians as were not wounded pell-mell back. What with the roar of the cannon, the cracking of the firearms, and the yells of the wounded, the whole mass took to their heels and fled affrighted into the forest. Numbers were dashed into the boiling surf below, or killed among the rocks in their descent. This was the first and last volley. No estimate was made of the slain. Indeed they stayed not to count, but after a hurried consultation, and fearful of the return of the Indians in still greater force, and knowing their own want of ammunition, they abandoned the fort, and, taking to the forest, traveled for several weeks, entering the Willamette Valley, and so reaching Portland.
William V. Wells, "Wild Life in Oregon," Harper's Magazine, October 1856, page 590 Better scans are available here.
Early White Treachery.San Francisco Chronicle, May 18, 1873, page 7
The First Scene in the Oregon Indian War.
THE PORT ORFORD MASSACRE.
Some Curious Revelations from Anson Dart.
The following letter--though not of recent date--has never before been published, but has been in the Bureau of Indian Commissioners at Washington since its reception by them:
Washington, October 22, 1871.The Hon. Felix Brunot, Chairman of the Board of Indian Commissioners--Dear Sir: I here, as requested, communicate to you more of the particulars of former Indian troubles in Oregon.
While I was in charge of Indian affairs, covering what is now Oregon, Washington, Idaho and a part of Montana Territories, the impression obtained that peace and good order prevailed throughout that region, and that a Superintendent of Indian Affairs had but little to do as far back as 1850. This erroneous impression is due to the fact of the remoteness of the region and the non-publication of the details of the massacres of peaceable and innocent Indians there by authorized and unauthorized lawless and inhuman whites.
I purpose to relate to you what came within my own observation or was detailed to me on the spot in my official capacity as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and I trust I may be permitted to say I brought to the investigation of the facts no prejudice, partiality or favor, and if, after a lapse of twenty years
THE IMPRESSION OF HORRORstill remains as vivid as ever, you may justly attribute it to a natural repugnance to cruelty and prejudice. In June, 1851, while I was absent on official business in what is known as Upper Oregon, many hundred miles from my official residence--Oregon City--I received a dispatch requesting my immediate return to settle the difficulties arising from an "Indian massacre of an entire white settlement," at a place called Port Orford, on the Pacific coast, about twenty miles north of the California line. [As of yet I have found no contemporary Superintendency correspondence about Battle Rock.] About two weeks from the receipt of this dispatch I was landed from the steamer Sea Gull, at Port Orford, with interpreters, etc. The first fact I learned was, instead of an Indian massacre of a white settlement, it was an atrocious massacre of peaceable and friendly Indians. The following are the facts:
TREACHEROUS RETURN FOR KINDNESS.Some weeks before my arrival there (Port Orford) a party of Californians--some sixty or more in number--landed at Port Orford from a schooner with the avowed intention of laying out and building a town there. There were no Indians located at that point, but some thirty came there during the day and assisted to unload the schooner. The labor of unloading was fatiguing and dangerous, owing to the surf and depth of water. Among other things taken from the vessel were two brass cannon (six-pounders), one of which, with the assistance of the Indians, was taken to the top of a large rock, standing three sides in the water. The only approach to it was a narrow way from the land side. The piece was mounted and pointed down the narrow way; when it was charged or loaded did not transpire [sic]. The Indians, some thirty or more,
AFTER LABORING ZEALOUSLYand usefully in unloading the schooner, were ordered, a little before dark, to go to the big rock to get their pay for their day's work. They proceeded to the rock along the narrow way in single file. When all the Indians were on the narrow way, the piece of cannon was discharged by one of the parties who came up on the schooner. Twenty-two of the Indians were instantly killed; the balance of the Indians, wounded and unwounded, made their escape by jumping into the water, swimming ashore and fleeing into the interior.
When the party from the schooner first landed, a party of eight was dispatched to find a roadway or pass through the mountains to the Rogue River country. [Dart is conflating the Battle Rock story with W. G. T'Vault's expedition of two months later.] This party of eight were engaged in their work of exploration in the interior when the cannon was discharged and the Indians killed. The morning after the massacre more than two hundred Indians, all painted for war, appeared in the vicinity and exhibited unmistakable signs of hostility. This alarmed the California adventurers, and they hastened on board of the schooner and put out to sea, leaving the eight men of the exploring party to take care of themselves.
THE SECOND ACT.You will please to note the doings of these eight men, as the Indian wars in Oregon in 1854-55 had their origin in what followed the doings of these eight men. They did not find their way through to the Rogue River country; after several days' travel they came upon the headwaters of a river which they learned put into the Pacific some thirty miles north of Port Orford. Here they induced some Indians to take them (the eight) in a large boat to the ocean. When the boat party arrived within a mile or so of the ocean they met, on the bank of the river, the tribe of Indians called the Coquilles, that being the name of the river down which they had come. It being in the morning, they concluded to stop there among the Coquille for breakfast, and as they turned their boat to the shore they saw nearly a hundred Indians standing on the bank
APPARENTLY FRIENDLYand glad to see so many white men who, they supposed, had come down from the settlements in Oregon. As the boat approached the shore, an Indian chief stepped into the water and took hold of the side of the boat to pull it up so the men could get out without wetting their feet. This act of the chief was construed by one of the white men as unfriendly. He struck the chief's hand with a paddle, drawing blood from the hand and bruising it considerably, whereupon the chief jumped into the boat. At that instant a white man standing in the stern of the boat fired his rifle, killing the chief; thereupon two more Indians jumped into the boat, and they, too, were shot dead, making three dead Indians in the boat before there had been the slightest demonstration on the part of the Indians of unfriendly feeling, and this, too, while upward of a hundred Indians stood on the bank of the river witnessing the whole transaction--the violence of the white men and murder of their chiefs. It is hardly necessary to say a deadly fight ensued.
SAVED BY AN INDIAN.The Indians supposed they had killed all the white men, but it seems an Indian boy with his boat saw two men (while) struggling in the water, a few rods down the river from the scene of the affray. The boy helped them into his boat and carried them to the other side of the river, and signed to them to hide in the bushes out of sight until darkness set in. After dark they crept along the riverside to the ocean beach, and thus they proceeded, hiding by day and traveling by night, until they got within six miles of Port Orford, when they were discovered by the Indians. This was on Sunday, the same day I arrived at Port Orford. [Dart's 1851 correspondence does place him at Port Orford in early October, when T'Vault returned from his aborted expedition.]
POWER OF RED BLANKETS.My first act on landing was to call some ten or twelve Indians who were hovering about the shore to me. I opened a bale of red blankets and gave one to each Indian. They seemed delighted, and after talking to them through my interpreters they started off, some up and some down the coast. Two of those Indians belonged to the band who had discovered the two survivors of the eight explorers who were to make their way to Port Orford. Upon their being discovered by the Indians they were tied hand and foot to a small tree, and their captors were deliberating as to the mode of putting them to death. While thus deliberating, two of the Indians to whom I had given the red blankets came running into the Indian camp, announcing that a good friend of the Indians had arrived at Port Orford from their Great Father, and exhibited the red blankets as gifts from
THEIR GOOD FRIEND,and repeated the talk I had with them. The Indian council at once liberated the two white prisoners, dressed their wounds, fed them bountifully and prepared a bed of bearskins for them. The poor, wounded, half-dead and terrified whites slept in peace and continued to sleep for twenty-four consecutive hours. On awakening they were again washed, their wounds dressed, again fed and brought into Port Orford on litters made by the Indians, and carried by them six miles into Port Orford. Most of the facts in relation to the doings of the exploration party of eight was derived from the two prisoners brought to me at Port Orford. They finally recovered, and always attributed their rescue to the gift of the red blankets and my friendly talk and treatment of the Indians on my landing at Port Orford. [The pair were apparently T'Vault and Brush.]
A WHOLESALE SLAUGHTER.I succeeded in pacifying the Indians, and established friendly relations with all the coast Indians. After I left the country, and after my withdrawal from all participation in Indian affairs in Oregon, troops were sent into the Coquille country to punish the Coquille Indians for killing the exploring party of eight heretofore mentioned in connection with the Port Orford massacre. All the Coquille Indians were killed. Who authorized the butchery, or were responsible for the calamities that followed it, I am unable to state, but I do state most decidedly that the Indian war which followed in 1845-55 was due to the massacre at Port Orford and the subsequent extermination of the Coquille Indians without just cause.
The moral of the above recital seems to me to be plain. Kindness and humanity will effect more good than brutality and butchery, even from a worldly point of view. The Divine Master enjoins: "Do unto others as ye would others should do unto you." The union of worldly wisdom with the divine injunction seems the plainest of duties. I earnestly pray that the policy you have been instrumental in inaugurating will prevail; God grant that it may prevail; future ages will rise up and call you blessed and the Master will reward you with "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Late Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon.
ANSON DART'S ROMANCE.
One Story Is Good Until Another Is Told--
A Different Version of the Port Orford Massacre.
To the Editor of the Chronicle:--Sir: Will you allow me to correct a statement made in your issue of Sunday, May 18th, headed "Early White Treachery." I had an opportunity of knowing the circumstances and the parties who constituted that little party of nine, for there were only nine men in all who were first landed, and their object was to establish a trading post and find a road to the gold mines. They were landed at Port Orford by the steamer Sea Gull on her way from Oregon to this city, and not by any "schooner," nor was there a boat of any kind left for the men to make their escape. The "two brass cannon" were
ONE IRON CANNON.I was at the landing and assisted in carrying the things from the boat, and did not know or hear of any Indians being "employed" with promises to pay them, as stated. But they did assist some, and there was very little to be done. Their help was volunteered, and apparently in a kind of friendly manner. Their whole conduct seemed friendly and kind until after the steamer had left. Then, thinking they had the advantage of the little party, they told the white men they must go. This is where the treachery comes in. The party had no means of leaving, except to walk to Portland, Oregon, a distance of many miles. There was no attack made on the first day at all, but the Indians went off and gathered their forces and returned in larger numbers. Instead of coming into camp in single file, as stated, they made a charge on our party, who tried to keep them back and avoid a fight. But they were determined to take possession by force, and seized hold of the guns and tried to wrench them from the hands of the whites. Quite
A SHARP HAND-TO-HAND FIGHTensued, our boys clubbing them with their guns. The Indians had succeeded in getting into the camp and had nearly overpowered the whites, when one of the party, with great exertion, jumped to the campfire, snatched a brand and touched off the cannon, killing several of the Indians and so terrifying them that they fled in every direction. This act is what saved that little party from being all butchered by those "kind and friendly (?) Indians." Still the fight was kept up at intervals for several days--though at long range, so that none of the little party received any severe wounds--so it is not likely they were "tied to trees, or had their wounds dressed by any Indians." [The pair so treated were apparently T'Vault and Brush, some months after the battle.]
Does it look reasonable to any person that a party of only nine men would go to such a remote and unknown place as early as 1851 and commence war with a tribe of Indians when they could not expect any assistance and no reasonable chance for escape until the steamer returned, which was not expected in less than ten days or two weeks. That small party defended themselves until they had but
FOUR ROUNDS OF AMMUNITIONleft, then escaped under cover of darkness and found their way to Portland, Oregon. They never went one step toward Rogue River, nor was any of them brought in "on litters" by the Indians.
The sixty-odd men mentioned were also landed by the steamer Sea Gull on her way from San Francisco to Oregon some weeks after this fight took place, and the steamer remained there three days.
Their tramp was a long and tedious one, and they only subsisted on roots and berries and occasionally coming out to the beach and finding fish that had been washed on shore by the surf. The big fight at the river Coquille was not heard of at that time, as I talked with the party soon after they got to Portland. The men gave the Indians at the river Coquille everything of value they had with them, even part of the clothing from their backs, in payment for putting them across the river. Not satisfied with that, the Indians
TRIED TO CAPSIZE THE BOATwith the men and to get their guns.
I never saw anything so absurd as the statement I refer to, but no doubt it is as near right as any other articles we read gotten up by some government bilk of an Indian agent.
Pioneer.San Francisco Chronicle, May 26, 1873, page 3
THE STORY OF BATTLE ROCKThe Indians of the southern part of California were at an early date brought under the mild sway of the mission fathers, and taught to some degree the art of winning bread from the soil. Those at the extreme north of Oregon and Washington Territory affiliated with the Hudson's Bay Company, and became hunters for peltry. There was, however, at the time that the incident I am about to relate took place, a certain stretch of coast where the influence of the missionaries had not penetrated from the south, and the Hudson's Bay Company had not introduced their civilization of rum and blankets from the north. It was the policy of this powerful company to keep these tribes as inimical as possible, in order to thwart the advances of the rival Russian company, already established at Bodega Bay, northward. No treaties were, therefore, made with these Indians, and the tribes bordering on their territory were encouraged in a ceaseless warfare.
Within this then debatable ground is the little roadstead of Port Orford, in latitude 44° 44' 28" north, longitude 128° 24' 13" west. It is what is known in nautical parlance as a northwest lee, being protected from the heavy trade winds of summer, but open to winter storms. At this time, the plateau back of the beach was covered with a stately growth of the odoriferous white cedar (Cupressus fragrans), afterward to become famous in the lumber market of San Francisco. This plateau was watered by numerous living springs of cold pure water, and the spaces free from forest were covered with luxuriant wild grasses and flowers, through which roamed elk and deer in great numbers. The little bay was filled with fish at the different seasons of the year when schools swam near the coast, and the rocks were covered with mussels and other shellfish. These advantages made Port Orford a very desirable location for an Indian tribe, and, accordingly, several large villages were to be found here in 1851, the inhabitants of which were inimical to the whites, and prone to theft or war as occasion offered.
It was at this time that an adventurous white man, cruising along the coast in a small schooner, dropped anchor in Port Orford. Charmed with the secure shelter it afforded for his little vessel, and the future possibilities of wealth shadowed forth in the rich soil and groves of cedar, he determined to make a settlement there. Returning to Portland, in the then new territory of Oregon, he engaged nine young men of the class that build up our frontier settlements, expert with either rifle or axe, and, providing provision and ammunition, sailed with them for the port. On arrival, he saw the Indian chiefs, and, through an interpreter, made a treaty in which, by virtue of liberal presents, the natives bound themselves not to molest the strangers for a certain period of time.
In addition to the usual supplies, the captain furnished his nine colonists with an old-fashioned ship's carronade, and a quantity of sheet lead for slugs. His instructions to them were to go on with the construction of the houses, to behave well to the natives, but on the first signs of hostility to betake themselves to a natural fortress, which he pointed out, and await his return, which he promised would be in twelve days, with reinforcements and supplies. The fortress pointed out was "Battle Rock"--afterward so named--a large, isolated crag of metamorphic sandstone, crowned with a few bushes and trees and presenting precipitous faces toward the sea, by which it is surrounded on three sides. Toward the land a narrow ledge affords a footpath to the summit, accessible only at low tides.
The little vessel sailed away and left the adventurers on the morning of the 2nd of June, 1851. Their first camp was on the mainland near a fine spring of water which gushes from the bank, and here they began the construction of their rude wooden houses. The Indians gathering in from their villages were apparently friendly, and desirous only of bartering fish or furs for the trinkets possessed by the men. Women and children mixed freely with the crowd, and the whites flattered themselves that they had by kindness secured a hospitable reception. Lulled into security, therefore, they wandered about looking at the country, and even visited one of the villages some miles distant.
How the first offense was given or taken is not now known, but on the second morning it was evident to the experienced eyes of the whites that trouble was brewing. Although the men yet mingled freely enough with the party, it was noticed that the warriors were all armed, and that the women had disappeared. These aborigines did not at that time possess any firearms, but were well provided with bows of the elastic yew (Taxus brevifolia), with arrows of cedar having tips of jasper and obsidian, with clubs of stone, spears and other weapons. Warned by these signs, and taking advantage of a temporary absence of the major portion of the savages, the whites made a hasty move and succeeded in getting their provisions and effects to the summit of Battle Rock without opposition. A small breastwork was then thrown up across the narrow causeway, and in this was planted the carronade, loaded heavily with slugs. That these preparations had not been begun too soon was evident, as there could now be seen many canoes coming up by the sea from the villages below, and on the spot so lately occupied by the camp of the settlers was an excited crowd of warriors.
As the day waned, the canoes took station round the rock, but still out of gunshot, while evident preparations for an attack were being made by the Indians on shore. With anxious hearts the little band watched these warlike signs, and awaited the storm.
The moon rose slowly from behind the forest ridges on the east, throwing a gleam of silver light across the bay and lighting up the narrow path to the rock, the glistening beach, and the bank beyond with its crowd of dusky figures. Soon, a movement was perceived, and a tall chief, mounting a stone, made a speech full of gesticulation. A prolonged yell was the answer, and the next moment the entire body came tearing down the bank, across the beach, and swarming up the narrow path toward the little breastwork, using their bows briskly as they advanced, and supported by showers of arrows from their friends in the canoes. Despite these arrows and various flesh wounds they were receiving, the whites awaited, coolly, until the foremost Indian was within a few feet of the gun. Then, when the whole path was filled with the yelling assailants, a match was touched to the carronade. There was a thunderous report that echoed back and forth from rock and mountain and died away in the distance. When the smoke cleared away, not a human form was visible in the place which a moment before was crowded with Indians. The beach, however, was strewn, here and there, with dead and dying, and the surf, as it washed up, caught a tinge of blood. One rifle volley at the terrified occupants of the canoes completed this signal victory. Never before had the Indians heard the report of artillery, or known its effect, and a great terror fell on them. Leaving their dead and wounded where they lay, they retreated to the cover of the woods, and in a few minutes all was again still. During the remainder of the night no further attempt was made to storm the rock. When morning dawned, two of the men ventured down and, covered by the rifles of their companions, procured a supply of water. These men counted eight dead Indians lying on the causeway, and noticed a number of wounded wretches crawling up the beach. After a time the Indians came to the help of their wounded, being careful, however, to keep well out of range of the terrible cannon.
So passed, without further attack, that day and the next, but on the third morning the whites discovered that the Indians had erected a breastwork out of the beach drift, and that a number were ensconced behind it. Again was the old carronade brought to bear, and a shower of leaden slugs poured into the drift. The Indians instantly abandoned the spot and ran away, not making their appearance again for several days. Then they began to creep up singly, and, sheltered behind some rock or tree, they discharged arrows into the air so as to drop into the space behind the breastwork on Battle Rock, on the same principle as the parabolic curve described by a shell from a mortar. Occasionally one more daring than the rest would show his head from behind his shelter, when, whiz! would go a rifle bullet from the rock.
This desultory warfare was kept up for seven days, when the whites held a midnight council as to the policy of abandoning the rock. Their provision was growing scanty, and they had nearly exhausted their ammunition. No lead remained to load the carronade with, and if the arrival of succor was long delayed and another attack made by the Indians, they would be unable to defend their position. On a vote being taken, five were in favor of leaving, the remaining four voting to stay; these latter were, however, persuaded to join the others. Leaving their campfire burning and all their effects, on the tenth night of their beleaguerment they stole down the path and crawled up the opposite bank. A dark night favored the escape, and before daylight they were safely hidden away in a dense swampy morass about four miles from the rock. Here they remained, the Indians being as yet ignorant of their escape, until night again approached, when they traveled north toward Coos Bay. With the exception of one or two bloodless brushes, they had no further encounter, and finally crossed the mountains through the virgin forest, and, after many privations arrived in safety in the Willamette Valley. Two or three days after the evacuation, the steamer Columbia arrived in the bay with the promised reinforcements and supplies. They found only the Indian graves on the main shore, and the dismantled carronade and the remains of the breastwork to tell the story of Battle Rock. Subsequently the torn leaves of a journal kept in pencil were found, which narrated the facts up to the final vote, though for a long time the fate of the little band remained an uncertainty.
But, although the little settlement now grew and prospered, yet Battle Rock was destined to be the scene of another tragedy connected with the Indian race, which occurred in this wise: At the time of the breaking out of the Rogue River war, one of the most sanguinary and stubbornly contested of the conflicts of the white and Indian races on the coast, there lived at the little town of Ellensburg, at the mouth of the river, an Indian named Enos. He was from an eastern tribe--I believe the Cherokee--and had come out to the western coast on a whaling vessel, and drifted up to this settlement in Oregon. Dressing after the fashion of the whites, speaking their language fluently, having no intercourse with the natives, and being besides quite industrious, he was regarded with great confidence by our countrymen.
At this time the tribes at the mouth of the river had not broken out in open hostility, although fighting was going on in the Rogue River Valley well up the stream. Two white men, desirous of joining the volunteers on the upper river, engaged Enos to accompany them. They supplied him liberally with ammunition and arms, and expected to find him a useful auxiliary. The three men departed together, and nothing more was heard of them for a long time. Subsequently, to the great surprise of the white men, Enos was discovered as a leader of one of the most warlike and brave of the bands of their enemies. This led to a search, and the skeletons of his two companions were discovered beside the ashes of a campfire--evidently murdered in their sleep by their treacherous ally. After various mutations, the war was closed by the surrender of a large body of Indians, among whom was Enos.
They were removed to the reservation at Vancouver, under the charge of the United States authorities. But Oregon justice was not to be thus easily satisfied. The widows of the two murdered men cried out for revenge. A warrant was sworn out for the apprehension of Enos on the charge of murder committed before actual hostilities had broken out, and therefore rendering him amenable to civil authority.
The sheriff of the county proceeded to the reservation and demanded the body of Enos. The lieutenant in command yielded him up, and he was conveyed in irons to Port Orford, the county seat. Of this journey down, the sheriff, who is still living, relates the following anecdote: Enos wished to exchange the dirty shirt that he wore for a clean one, but his custodian refused to unlock his handcuffs. Nevertheless he is said to have actually accomplished the apparently impossible feat of taking off the soiled garment and replacing it with a clean one, by drawing both through his irons.
Arrived at Port Orford, the criminal was tried before a regular court. There was, however, no evidence to prove that he actually committed the murder, and he was set free. To use the sheriff's words: "Enos was confined in the blacksmith's shop of the village. After the decision I went in, told him that he was free, and unlocked his irons and took them off. I then led him to the door. When I opened it, I found myself suddenly pushed back. Two men stepped forward with cocked revolvers. Each seized an arm of Enos and hurried him down a lane of men, which, formed in double row, extended from the shop down to the beach and up to the summit of Battle Rock. Ten minutes after his lifeless body dangled from the limb of a tree." And with this act of retributive justice ends the story of Battle Rock.
Alexander W. Chase, Overland Monthly, February 1875, pages 179-183
A ROMANTIC CHAPTER.
Thrilling Adventures of the First Port Orford Settlers.
Nine Men Fight and Conquer a Horde of Savages--
The Massacre of a Subsequent Party--Etc., Etc.
(BY S. A. CLARKE.)
The earliest mention of Port Orford in the procurable newspaper files I find in the first volume of the Statesman, July 4, 1851, where a correspondent, who signs "J.C.F." [James C. Franklin], writes from the P.M.S.S. Columbia, under date of June 25, the same year, that the ship had just touched at Port Orford to leave two surveyors, who came prepared to lay out the new town there, but to their surprise the nine men, only lately left there by the Sea Gull, were missing, and from the appearance of the Indians, who fled on the approach of the whites, they were forced to believe all was not right. He says they found upon the ground an imperfect memorandum of an attack, in which some forty Indians were engaged and eighteen paid the forfeit, and three of the whites were wounded. This was only a partial statement of the happenings to Kirkpatrick's company, that we shall soon proceed to give. They found the journal of another man, who described a war dance they witnessed. They found only one dead body, that of an Indian buried in the sand. The Indians, who left as they approached, wore clothing not in accordance with aboriginal habits, and the visitors thought the nine men had been murdered and their effects appropriated. This made it difficult to establish intercourse with the natives, but the persons who were interested in establishing a seaport and commercial point there were not so easily put off.
Two weeks later the Statesman published a communication from J. M. Kirkpatrick, who says he was captain of the nine men who were left at Port Orford by the Sea Gull, and proceeds to give a statement of their adventures there and in escaping from there. This we shall give in detail as gleaned from this communication and from a personal interview had years ago with Mr. John H. Egan, of this city, who was one of the party of nine adventurers whom Capt. Tichenor persuaded to go there in his interest and locate a town.
VOLUNTEERS TO GO THERE IN FORCE.The facts concerning the settlement of Port Orford are not published consecutively in that paper, but come in installments without regularity. The issue of July 22 has a letter dated "Steamer Sea Gull, off Klamath River, July 13," from "J.C.F.," who says the project is to commence a settlement near Cape Blanco, and that Capt. Tichenor, with F. M. Smith, employed eight or nine men to commence a permanent settlement, and that the name "Port Orford" was given to the place selected. That effort having failed, by either the nine being taken prisoners or massacred, as they believed, another expedition was organized with sixty-five men as volunteers and a number of speculators or agents, who were all well armed and provisioned. They had six pieces of ordnance and intended to build a fort. The volunteers were young and toughened to hardships; several were experienced in Indian warfare and some were fine marksmen. Five or six proprietors made up the list, so there were seventy-five men in all. With this preliminary information, to give an idea of the situation, we will now go back to the landing of Kirkpatrick's company of nine, employed by Capt. Tichenor and F. M. Smith, and show what stirring times they had in the preliminary effort to build a city by the sea, to accommodate the mining region of Southern Oregon. We may as well say here that so far as this turning of commerce to a port on the Southern Oregon coast was concerned, it was a failure. The mountains intervening made it impossible to construct roads that could be traversed at all seasons, and the mines of that region have had no Oregon seaport.
NINE MEN HAVE A MISSION.Soon after gold discoveries opened Southern Oregon to commerce and trade, it was deemed important to locate a seaport adjacent to the mines. Capt. Tichenor was commander of a steam propeller named the Sea Gull, a vessel well calculated for the coasting trade. The Sea Gull was at Portland in June, 1851, and when it started early in that month for San Francisco Tichenor took down a small party of men who were to locate at Port Orford and establish a point of trade with the northern mines.
The Sea Gull reached there and anchored on the 9th of June, remaining long enough to see the nine adventurers landed and making peaceful terms with the natives. The Indians there were very civil and agreeable so long as the ship and her numerous passengers were in sight, but no longer. As soon as the Sea Gull got up steam and flew away the Indians commenced to do saucy things and be very impudent and offensive. Fortunately the steamer did not leave until the men were well fixed and had a good defensive camp. At Orford a point puts out to seaward, and the harbor is made by the lee thus afforded. The bay or harbor is exposed to the sea on the south and west, and is sheltered by land on the east and north. In the shelter of the cape an island stands, close by the shore. The mainland has a bluff, a hundred or so feet high, that overshadows the sea beach. There are places where creeks or ravines seek the seashore and break through the bluff, otherwise the sea wall extends around the harbor.
This island [Battle Rock] may be eighty feet wide by three hundred feet long, and stands with its broadside to the shore. The rock wall around it is perpendicular on all sides except at the south, or southeastern end, where a well-worn trail ascends by a fair grade, some rocks projecting and some sharp turns affording protection. The surf pounds around the island and on the harbor beach, except where the island protects the shoreline. Under the lee of this island they first camped on the beach, and afterwards went on the island, when they found the trail that led to the summit. This summit proved to be a plateau 80x300 feet, almost level and inaccessible save by the trail that came up at its southern point. The mainland had a level equal to that of the island plateau. Standing back from the strait that lay between main and isle, it seemed as if it was all mainland, as the summit levels were the same. When they left the ship they persuaded Tichenor to let them take ashore the four-pound iron gun, or carronade, on the Sea Gull's deck. The night previous to the steamer's leaving they took the gun to the island and planted it at the head of the trail, where it could sweep the only approach to their refuge. This trail came down from the mainland where the strait was shallow and fordable at any stage of water, while the approach to the island was bare when the tides were lowest. This was the situation.
INDIANS ASSAIL THE FORTRESS.At first the natives showed a desire to trade and be friendly. When the Sea Gull left they became saucy and impudent and ordered the whites to be off. They found their protected camp on the island a great relief from the savages and experienced no trouble until the morning of the sixth day, when the Indians were seen crowding down the bluff at sunrise and crossing the ford as if to come on the island. Then Kirkpatrick and some others went out to meet them and tried to persuade them to keep back. They were evidently bent on a "scrimmage," for they had crowded the shore at earliest daylight, built fires and had their war dance, which meant business on their part. It was evident, too, that they were better armed than ever before, as well as more numerous. They were constantly being recruited by new parties that came over the hills to join them. A large canoe had made its appearance with a chief and twelve warriors. So, by early morning, they began to be formidable as to number and character. They gave no heed to the orders and motions to return, but crowded across the ford and commenced to climb the trail. Kirkpatrick and the rest retired to their summit refuge, the arrows whistling near them as they went. At least forty Indians rushed after and reached the top of the trail before any stop was made. The savages then tried to pull the men's hats off, and to tear their clothing from them. One of them clutched with Jim Kerrigan and was about to take his rifle from him when some white man pounded his hands and made him let go. Brush had been piled across the head of the trail, and the ship's carronade was a masked battery close behind it. The tents of the party were nearby. Three of these assailants had leaned over the brush wall and were inside the camp when one of the men knocked them down, one after another, he being alone at that point. The blows bent the gun barrel and ruined so much artillery, but laid hors de combat three Indians, two of whom were found to be dead and the other near it. This was all instantaneous, and some of the men called to Kirkpatrick to fire the cannon. That was done as the three Indians inside the camp were receiving the quietus already told of.
A CANNON SHOT THAT TOLD.The situation was extremely critical. Nine men were holding back a furious horde of savages who had been nerving themselves up to the work in hand and had overpowering numbers to do it with. In an instant the men stood aside, and while the three on the left were being clubbed with an old musket, Kirkpatrick seized a brand from the camp fire close by and touched off the cannon. Its charge of iron slugs went like a thunderbolt through the crowd of savages that were massed at the gun's muzzle, but had no idea of its existence. Never was shot more effective in proportion to its caliber. The head of the trail was strewn with corpses. The Indians had opened the battle with a volley of arrows, but they fired uphill, and the arrows nearly all went skywards. They had long knives, like the Mexican and Central American machete, as if a stout piece of hoop iron made the blade and pieces of wood bolted over one end made the handle. They relied chiefly on bows and arrows, and while some were at close quarters others would shoot across from the mainland.
The cannon strewed the way with dead and dying and then laid low in camp. Terrible demoralization seized them, but many remained and fought hand to hand for twenty minutes. The whites followed up the cannon shot by use of their guns and pistols at close quarters. They had four men wounded, but none dangerously; all recovered soon, and there was no poison on the arrowheads. That afternoon two rifle shots were fired at the island from different spots on shore, and the men though the Siwash had someway got the guns, but did not have ammunition to make them available [sic]. When they finally got to the Umpquas, they were told there that the Indians lost twenty men killed and had fifteen badly wounded. Egan, of Portland, told me many years ago that eighteen were found dead about the island and had to be buried. Those who survived stood before rifles and revolvers a little while then fled to the rocks that crowned the beach and paid their compliments in the shape of arrow-shots the remainder of the day.
BURYING THE INDIAN DEAD.It was the middle of July by this time, and the weather was very warm. The island had no native spring to supply water, and the men found fighting to be thirsty business. The dead lay in the camp, and one fellow who got a dose there survived for many a day. Even he was a heartrending subject, with his groans and blood-encrusted locks. It was almost unbearable, especially as four of their own nine were wounded. Toward the middle of the afternoon an old chief was seen on the rocky bluff making signs and holding up his hands to show that he was unarmed. They gave him permission to come to their camp, and he finally did so, moaning pitifully over the dead bodies that were strewn about there. Soon afterward canoes came, and the bodies of the dead were put into them and borne away. The whites assisted in moving the two bodies that lay inside their camp, and helped to move the wounded man, who had revived and was moaning pitifully. Indian treachery was shown to the last, for a hostile arrow--or maybe one of the rifle shots--carried away Joe Hussey's thumb, while he was at this work of mercy.
For several days they saw but few Indians, and were encouraged to think they had all gone away, and themselves left in peace. This emboldened them to prospect the vicinity, and in exploring near camp they found the aromatic white cedar and saw indications of coal. In the creek that put into the ocean nearby they found speckled trout abundant. The discovery of the white Port Orford cedar was made then, and it existed in immense forests. There were great flocks of pigeons; sea otter were seen in the water nearby, while signs of elk, deer and bear were all around them. We forgot to say that for some reason or other the Indians refused to bury or take away one of the dead bodies that lay at the edge of the water. Probably it was the body of a slave, and they would not waste time on it. So the whites covered it up time and again, with rocks and rubbish, but like Banquo's ghost it wouldn't "down," and every high tide threw it about again. This kept up as long as they remained there, and the same sight greeted Capt. Tichenor when he finally was able to reach Port Orford on the Columbia.
THE SECOND INDIAN ASSAULT.On the fourteenth morning they saw Indians in large numbers. They appeared by daylight and made all sorts of insulting motions. They made great fires on the mainland. There were more of them than they had ever seen before and would have counted at least fifteen to one of the Americans. Fortunately, the sea guarded their fortress, and the walls were by nature inaccessible, so the beleaguered party had the vantage. The Indians made false attacks all day long. Their chief was heard haranguing his men with a loud voice, but whenever he would get their courage to the sticking point, so that they put in an appearance as if to rush up the trail and storm that island fortress, someone on the hill would seize a brand or wave a match, as if to touch off the four-pounder, and their courage would ebb as fast as it had mounted; they all dodged behind their rocks again. The gun was only fired one time, and that was at the outset, when it did such deadly work. Arrows flew all day long across the chasm that separated their fortress from the main. They soon got so they stood out and dared their foes to let them fly; they would stand, ramrod in hand, and fend them off if they came too near, an easy thing for a man to do who understands fencing. So they amused themselves while the savages gave vent to their hate by most insulting gestures and pantomime. When an arrow has gone over fifty yards anyone with quick sight can easily fend it off. The only way to get sight of an Indian was to stand out and dare them to fire. To do this the Indian had to step for a moment into the open, and that was the time when the boys got a chance at them. They soon got too wary to be easily caught.
ROMANCE OF WARRIOR EGAN.One of the party was James H. Slater, our ex-senator, another was John H. Egan, the painter, one of the old citizens of Portland. It was Egan who bent his musket barrel in the melee of the first fight and laid low the three who got into camp on his side. The Indian who survived had a mark on the side of his head where the musket barrel scalped him, and carried a bare spot there to his grave. Though this happened on the wild Oregon coast, this Indian was a Piute or Shoshone. Capt. Tichenor afterwards made his home at Port Orford, and recognizing this Indian as the one who survived the battle on the island, called him Egan, after the man who gave his almost fatal blow. Egan afterwards returned to the country he belonged to, and was engaged in the last Bannock raid over the Blue Mountains. He was a notable savage and warrior of note. When they stripped him, after the murder, his body was found to be literally covered with wounds. This was the rather romantic story of "Egan," the hero Indian of the inland empire.
THEY HUMBUG THE INDIANS AND GET AWAY.When the Sea Gull left the nine men to found the beginning of a metropolis at Orford, Capt. Tichenor promised to return in ten days, if possible, or certainly in fourteen. But the steamer Sea Gull was libeled [sic] by due process of law, at "The Bay," and Tichenor could only come back when the Columbia did, and make arrangements for that ship to stop at Orford to see how matters progress. The Columbia arrived on the day after they had deserted the place, for unfortunately they had not waited her coming. The situation was almost desperate. They had more Indians around them every day, and it was only a question of time how soon they must leave the place or leave their bones there. Their powder was scant, and they only had an average of five caps each. There was enough of cannon powder, but it was too coarse for rifle use, and if not they had but a few caps. Matters had come to a crisis; the latest day set for the return of the Sea Gull was not gone by. They held a council, and it was determined that they must go from there. The resolve was to move up the coast. All the shore in front of them was lined with savages, and a large Indian camp was made below the island. To deceive them the men commenced to cut trees and lay them along the rock wall, as if for a more complete defense. They put in a good day's work in this way and watched for developments. As work progressed they could see the heads of inquisitive Indians peering over the rocky height of the main shore, and in this way learned the disposition of their enemy's force. If they could be made to believe that the whites were forting up for a permanent stay, it might--and did--lead to good results. Through the day they saw Indians leave their stations along the wall opposite and go down to the village beyond; later in the day the Indian camp broke up and they all moved away.
WOODS AND BEACH TRAVEL.In this way they by strategy imposed on their enemy and had a clear field. They could only expect this to last a few days, until their enemy could renew the attack in stronger force. Later in the day they came down from their island camp, only carrying what they must have for food, clothing and arms, and keeping as much as possible out of sight in case that any Indians were near. They struck across the cape that juts seaward above Port Orford, and when they came down on the sea beach kept right along on it northward. Towards evening they camp plump upon a war party of thirty natives, who were evidently making their way down to reinforce the besiegers at Port Orford. Audacity was their only safety, so they dashed forward among the coming warriors, who were taken by surprise, and rushed pell mell into the woods that lined the shore. Ten miles up the beach they came to Cape Blanco, around which there was surf instead of beach. Crossing the cape through the woods they came upon an Indian trail, and by signs in it discovered that while they had been in the woods a large band of Indians had passed them on this trail. Not seeing any signs of white men's tracks they had turned back the way they came. This was fortunate, though it seemed strange that they had not been more correctly followed. There was a good providence on their side. The woods were full of salal berries that were refreshing if not very strengthening. While in the woods they had heard the Indians, who were in search of them, and now had the satisfaction to know they had given up the search.
THEY REACH CIVILIZATION.They came in due time to the mouth of the Coquille River, where there were two large villages on the north side that could muster 200 warriors. As soon as they saw white men these Indians began to get ready for a fight, so the travelers took to the woods again, and eight miles upstream found timber suitable for a raft, which they lashed together with small ropes they had with them, and so crossed the stream. They remained in the mountains two days, living on salmonberries four days of their time. They had no matches, so could only use guncaps to strike a light. Mr. Egan says when they crossed they left the raft to go down the river to find they were on an island, and were after a while relieved of this quandary by Indians who came with a large canoe and earned shirts off their backs by helping them to the north shore.
About two months after the time that this party got away from the Indians who had their villages near the mouth of Rogue River, T'Vault's party, that was going down for the same purpose Kirkpatrick's party went, were attacked and twenty men killed by them. Those Indians were never otherwise than hostile to white men. Cy Hedden, who was with Kirkpatrick, was also with T'Vault, and managed to escape the second time. At the Coquille River friendly Indians gave the wanderers food and also ferried the nine over that stream, earning some of the clothes off their backs by so doing. They never had heard of the Coquille, supposing they had reached the Umpqua, but after going up the river ten miles saw the error of their ways and turned back. They knew of settlements on the Umpqua. They found none, so waded swamps and reached the beach again. The next day they got to Gardiner and Umpqua City, where citizens gave them warm greetings and good food. At Scottsburg the friendly hospitality was repeated. They knew nothing of Coos Bay or the Coquille, and were fortunate in finding the Indians friendly. When they found Coos Bay entrance they got some Indians to ferry them across to the main shore, and from there to the Umpqua was easy, comparatively speaking.
The men who composed the nine who went through all these adventurers were: J. M. Kirkpatrick, who was the leader, a remarkable man in many respects, whose life has been full of adventures; John H. Egan, now and before that time a citizen of Portland, painter by trade; J. D. Palmer, who afterwards lived for many years in Salem, just across the bridge at the head of Commercial Street; Joseph Hussey, James Kerrigan, Cy. Hedden, George Rideout, a man named Summers, and James H. Slater, who lately was in the U.S. Senate from Oregon.
TICHENOR'S GOOD INDIAN.There were a few soldiers in the Umpqua Valley by that time, and a road was made there from the Willamette, so the wanderers pushed on towards civilization and in good time reached the denser settlements. Orford was not easily tamed and made a city of trade and commerce, as the world planned to have it, but in due time Tichenor lived to make his home there and the Indians became friendly. An amusing story is laid of the arrival there of the ladies of the brave captain's family. Tichenor had erected a neat home and furnished it nicely, and when they came it was all ready for them. The tableau, as we heard it, was that mother and daughter, just arrived, were seated in the parlor on a brand-new sofa, when their nerves were shocked by the appearance of one of old Tichenor's "good Indians," who came in with all the aboriginal dignity imaginable--but dressed only in a breechclout of scant dimensions--and seated himself between the two ladies. Of Tichenor himself it is not related that his nerves received any shock. It is said that he took the situation in with a benignant smile.
PORT ORFORD MAKES A START.The steamer Sea Gull made another trip early in August, and left more men. The Umpqua River settlement had made such progress that she landed a collector for the port. Under date of August 6, 'J.C.F." writes that the Indians continue friendly. Gold and stone coal had been found in that vicinity. He refers to the San Francisco papers as giving the latest news from there, so the letter is unsatisfactory. An editorial of August 26, 1851 sums up Port Orford has having for proprietors Capt. Tichenor, of the Sea Gull, T. Butler King, collector at San Francisco, James Gamble, Frederick M. Smith, Isaac M. Hubbard and Col. T'Vault. There was a stockade fort, two large blockhouses, several pieces of artillery and numerous rifles and revolvers. They were looking out wagon roads to the Umpqua Valley, "Chaste" mines, etc., but they never got them in good running order. It was "also thought that this point will ultimately be the principal inlet and outlet of a large portion of California," which shows that people were ignorant of geography, or at least of local facts, in that day, and had very vague and speculative ideas as to where commercial points should be built up.
T'VAULT HUNTS LOST INDIANS.Port Orford matters were quiet, so far at least as newspapers were concerned, until early in October, when the Statesman fairly overflowed with its troubles, or at least those of the party that was journeying there by land. The same issue has an editorial notice that Mr. Dart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and two of his subordinates, had been engaged in treating with the Port Orford Indians for lands. They had collected five hundred, big and little, and had purchased the country along the coast from the California line to the Coquille River, and fifty miles in the interior. It was said to include some of the finest lands in Oregon, which shows how little editors knew of seacoast lands. This issue contains three various accounts of the T'Vault catastrophe, one being by that individual himself, from which I gather that immediately after arriving from Portland, on August 24, [he] with a company of eighteen men started to explore a route to upper Rogue River. For three days they went down the coast to near the mouth of that river; they met many Indians and told them all to be at Port Orford in fifteen to twenty-five days to receive presents and make a treaty for their lands, and small presents were made to those they met. Only in one instance was there any manifestation of hostility.
T'VAULT FINDS HIS LOST ONES.Then they bore northeast a few days, and on August 31 nine of the party started to return. The other nine kept up Rogue River until September 7. They laid by a day to cure elk meat, as their provisions were running short. They went over a very brushy country and only traveled three to eight miles a day. When about thirty miles from the Oregon and California trail they followed a plain trail to the north to reach someplace where supplies were procurable, as they were running very short. On the 12th of September they came to the south branch of the Coquille River. On the 13th, being out of provisions, they abandoned their animals so as to make better progress through the wild mountain region. They engaged Indians and canoes to take them down the Coquille. One of their party was Cy Hedden, who had been with Kirkpatrick's party in June. He recognized that they were on the Coquille, where the Indians had been hostile at that time, and warned T'Vault to be on his guard. They believed they were on the Umpqua and going down to Scottsburg, and were much put out when they found their mistake. On the 14th of September they passed near some Indian village, intending to land, when naked Indians in large numbers rushed into the water, grappled with them, and climbed into their canoes. They tried to rush for the shore. As he tried to draw a revolver, T'Vault was knocked down and found himself floating down the river. On the shore he saw a fierce struggle, heard shouts and screams of agony and groans of the dying. He saw a canoe nearby and an Indian lad in it. The boy helped him in--helped Brush in, whose head had been pounded with an Indian paddle--then pointed to the south side, put a paddle into his hand and jumped overboard. They reached the south side, stripped off their clothing and crawled up the bank.
THE TRAIL TOWARDS HOME.They traveled south in their naked condition, following the beach at night and in and through the woods by day. At Cape Blanco, ten miles from Orford, friendly Indians took care of them and carried them in canoes to Port Orford the next day. Mr. Brush had several inches of his scalp cut off. It is not plain why they left their clothes, unless to deceive the savages, but they could not hide their trail from them. There is some incoherence in this statement, but that of others confirms the T'Vault story. A letter from Gardiner, Umpqua River, says that Cyrus Hedden and L. L. Williams reached that place after eight days' journey in the wilderness. Another one escaped with them, but they lost sight of him afterwards. Hedden was unhurt, but Williams was thought to be mortally wounded, as two arrows entered him, and he was fearfully bruised. They had lived all the time on wild berries and sea mussels.
The regular correspondent, J.C.F., writes on the same topic from Orford. His story is similar, but even more voluminous. Superintendent Dart was then at Port Orford and sent one of his agents with an Indian chief to hold a talk with the villainous Coquilles. In the issue of November 4 the Statesman says another expedition failed to find a good route to the mines. This expedition had to leave one of their men a full week's travel in the wilderness, as he had sprained an ankle. They gave him all the food they had and promised to return for him with a horse, but he met friendly natives who took him home sooner. They had to hunt food, as they had none, but had the good luck to find game. He says:
"Some few days since I went up the coast in company with thirteen others, for the purpose of recovering a rifle. It was taken by members of a tribe near there. They got the rifle and the revolver taken from T'Vault by the Coquilles, who had become very obedient, probably by means of blankets they had received. The steamer Columbia had arrived with two companies of dragoons that were to punish the Indians who had committed the hostilities.
THE REGULARS MEET THE COQUILLES.A correspondent writing from the Umpqua, date November 16, says that Mr. Williams was still at Gardiner and suffering from his wounds, hoping that Tichenor would come along with his Sea Gull and take him to San Francisco, where he could have proper treatment. We suppose this L. L. Williams to be identical with the gentleman so well known in Umpqua, who was for so many years clerk of Douglas County, and a captain of Oregon volunteers during the Civil War.
The San Francisco Herald said, on December 5, 1851, that the steamer Columbia left Port Orford the week previous, and learned there that Col. Casey, U.S.A., had had an engagement with the Coquilles when he went to punish them for the massacre of the T'Vault party. Several were killed, and the rest all dispersed. He also destroyed a large quantity of salmon, stored for winter use, all their weirs and nets, also many canoes. The natives near Port Orford had become very troublesome with their thieving. A military escort was aiding in the survey and location of a road to connect with the main route from the Willamette to the southern mines.
THEY CONQUER A PEACE!The Alta California newspaper of December 9 has a letter from a young soldier--who was accidentally drowned before it was printed--where he says that a party of dismounted dragoons were landed, with infantry, at the Coquille and the Indians gave battle. They had a few guns, and kept it up for an hour. The troops crossed the river on a raft and made four days' pursuit, but found no Indians. They procured boats and started up the river with a force, and the Indians after awhile assaulted them from the banks. After some strategy they succeeded in getting at close quarters with the savages. Two soldiers died of wounds received. Many of the Indians were killed. Lieut. Stoneman, since distinguished in the Civil War, and lately governor of California, was prominent in this fight.
Very soon after the tragedy of T'Vault's party, Superintendent Dart sent an agent with an Indian interpreter to the Coquille River to have a talk with the hostiles and try to bring them to peace, but they were surly, and even the promise of blankets and other ictas ["things"] would not pacify them. The agent returned with his hair on and all--or nearly all--his blankets on hand. The military force that finally scattered them was a terror they had no idea of. Finally they became peaceable, and all along the coast peace soon reigned supreme. The Indians at the Umpqua and Coos Bay, and all north of Coquille River, welcomed the whites and treated them kindly. The incident relating to Port Orford and the Coquilles, as here related, shows how troublesome they were at those places, and how much death and disaster they caused before [they were] finally subdued.
Oregonian, Portland, February 21, 1886, page 2
Comrade J. H. Egan presented the following interesting account of the first attempt to colonize Port Orford in 1851:
Comrades of Camp No. 2 of Oregon Indian War Veterans: In response to a resolution adopted at your last meeting I submit the following account of the first attempt to colonize Port Orford.
On the morning of the 9th of June, 1851, a party of nine men, mostly mechanics, were landed from the steam propeller Sea Gull, Capt. W. Tichenor. The object in view was to open communication with the southern Oregon mines. The party landed on the beach between Point Orford and a small island or large rock lying parallel to it and about 80 yards distant. The top of this rock was selected for our camp as it was adapted for the purpose, being 150 feet high, precipitous and surrounded by the sea on three sides, accessible only by a narrow steep trail on the front or east end. Possession was taken and things arranged satisfactorily before sundown. The names of those composing the party were Joseph M. Kirkpatrick, Joseph Hussey, Cyrus Hedden, George Rideout, James Kerrigan, Edward Somers, J. H. Slater, J. D. Palmer and John H. Egan. In addition to seven (7) rifles and an army musket, we had a small cannon, a four-pounder which we loaded to the muzzle and planted at the head of the trail leading up from the beach. This post, now known as Battle Rock, contains about one acre covered with grass and fir trees, but no water. The view from the top is very fine and extensive, and altogether we had reason to be pleased with our situation.
Next morning the Indians gathered on the beach in considerable numbers, but, unlike their aspect the day before, they were sulky and insolent. A few of our men were down on the beach with them, but their conduct became so hostile that we left them in a hurry. On reaching the top of the rock we saw another body of Indians coming up from the Rogue River. The Indians followed us up the trail and wanted to come into camp. We stopped them at a little plateau about ten feet from the rock and parleyed with them there, where about twenty could stand. Here we determined to stop them. The pressure from behind was too strong, so we fell further back, till they tramped down our brush fence, and there was one step upward between them and us. Here we wrangled with one another for some time, they snatching at our clothes, provisions and other property. One fellow tried to take Kerrigan's gun from him, but failed. Just then one of our men came forward with an armful of our clothes, from the tents, and threw them among the Indians. They scrambled for them, and, like Oliver Twist, they wanted more. Canoes arrived with Indians from Rogue River, and at the same time the party by land arrived; in all about two hundred. As soon as this party came, the others began to yell and jump about, and with a rush they came at us. We met them with the discharge of the cannon and our small arms, and out of all the crowd only three got within the camp, and they were disposed of with the butt of the musket. That was all it was fit for; it would not go off. We soon cleared the rock of living Indians, but the fight was kept up from the surrounding land; that is, on two sides, north and east.
A little before sunset an old Indian held up his hands and shouted to us, and by signs made us understand that he wanted to talk. We encouraged him to come; he went round among the dead and wounded Indians, numbering fifteen on the outside and one within the camp, the other two having been pitched into the sea. He asked permission to take them away, a favor we were very willing to grant, for the sight of them lying there in the sun was anything but pleasant. Canoes came and took all of them but one, which we could not get them to touch. We carried the one that was inside our line to where the others were, he being yet alive, and while myself Joe Hussey were laying the Indian down, we were shot at with rifles from the north side, and Hussey was hit on the thumb. The fight was continued till sundown, when the Indians left. We had a dead Indian on hand; we buried him in the sand, as Moses did the Egyptian.
The Indian would not stay buried and came up every tide and gave us lots of trouble. The hostiles did not appear in the morning, so we explored our surroundings. We found gold, coal and the famous white aromatic cedar. We saw no Indians about and thought we had conquered a peace.
Our dream of security was dispelled. On the morning of the sixth day the Indians began shooting arrows at us from every bush and tree on the north and east side, and others in canoes were hovering round back of the island where the rock shelved a little, but the surf was too much for them, although the day was fine and weather calm. This continued all day without any loss to us, although we made some good Indians. We saw many fall and carried away. They left us at sundown as usual and formed a camp two miles south on the beach, where we could see their fires and hear the noise they made. Some of us thought they were mourning, other gambling or working magic for our overthrow (big medicine). The Indians harassed us every day, and kept us from leaving the rock, and if it had not rained we must have suffered for water. On the morning of the fourteenth day at least 300 Indians came up the coast yelling, and made a stand in front of us on the beach, as if they meant to appall us with a display of numbers. They kept out of gunshot and made a circuit to their old positions. They kept up their fire all the day, if the term can be applied to arrow shooting. There were many speeches made by the chiefs in different parts of their position, and several false starts were made for the rock, but the sight of the cannon, or a motion of firing it, would cause them to crawl back to cover. In order to reach us they had come down a steep trail to the shore, crossed the beach twenty yards or so, then up the steep, narrow face of our rock and over our fence. It was too much to expect from an Indian, so he gave it up. We saw the effect of the one discharge of the cannon and the fear they had of it, so we reserved our fire for close quarters. Familiarity breeds contempt, 'tis said. Had we fired such a piece as we had five or six times, with the usual result of cannon firing at long range, they might have mustered up courage to rush onto us and wipe us out, for what resistance could eight men (for that was all we had that would fight; one of our men was an arrant coward and took no hand in the game) make if the Indians stood one discharge. They could kill us all before we could reload. The Indians returned to their camp at sundown minus many of their comrades.
We dropped a good many this day. Our provisions and ammunition were about exhausted. All we had was ship biscuit and coarse cannon powder. We had been using it in our rifles part of the day. The Sea Gull was long overdue and the Indians were increasing in number and boldness daily. We had to obtain water stealthily at night. With great risk we determined to strike out for the settlements at the mouth of Umpqua River. Taking our arms and axes and augers to make rafts or fell trees across ravines, we filled our pockets with biscuits. Leaving our tents standing and fire burning we started for the settlements. We left nothing behind that could be of service to the Indians that was destructible but our tents and blankets, and that was to induce the belief that we were still there.
One hour's travel across the base of Point Orford brought us face to face on the long straight beach between that point and Cape Blanco with twenty-five or more Indians, armed, and on their way to join the others that we had been fighting. It was a mutual surprise. We recovered first and made a dash at them. They did not wait for the shock, but broke for the woods and left us alone in our glory. You may be sure we did not linger on the way, for we knew they would send the news to the main camp, and we would have the whole pack on our trail before morning. In crossing a creek a few miles further on we got our bread spoiled in wading. That being our only provision, we regarded it as a great loss. For the next seven days we traveled north, sometimes in the woods, sometimes on the beach, with nothing to eat but what we could find on the way. On the morning of the eighth day we entered Umpqua City, tired, hungry and ragged, but still game, having forced our way through two hostile tribes, making rafts and crossing three rivers in the presence of the enemy, passing over eighty miles of unknown country, and eluding the pursuit of the Rogue River nation, all without the loss of a man. Yours respectfully,
JOHN H. EGAN."Interesting Scrap of History from Comrade J. H. Egan," Oregonian, Portland, February 21, 1886, page 5. Compare Egan's account of the firing of the cannon--in response to swarms of Indians wanting gifts--with the clouds of arrows that precipitate the firing in the Kirkpatrick/Dodge version below.
BLOODY BAPTISM OF BATTLE ROCK
THRILLING STORY OF AN OREGON INDIAN FIGHT
IN 1851, AS TOLD BY CYRUS W. HEDDEN
From the mouth of the mighty Columbia down to the California line, fronted by many streams and bays, ribbed by rocky bluffs and promontories, back of which rise range upon range of fir-clad mountains, Oregon's seacoast, especially in the springtime, when the hills are ablaze with the glory of the scarlet-flowering rhododendron, presents truly a fascinating and inspiring aspect.
With what imaginative coloring the early navigators must have viewed this vast, mysterious land wrapped in fog and mist!
Some 20 miles below Cape Blanco there is located the little town of Port Orford, around which center some of the most interesting events in the pioneer history of Oregon. The town stands partly on a plateau terminating on one side in an abrupt promontory against which the fury of the waves is spent in vain, and partly on a gentle slope toward the beach, where, divided by about 20 yards of smooth beach, looms up Battle Rock like a huge whale, head toward the sea, sides perpendicular, to a height of 75 feet. The rock tapers into a narrow ridge toward the shore, from which it can be approached at low tide only. A narrow path, difficult of ascent, leads to the top, where, commanding this approach, there is a flat surface 150 yards in length by 15 yards in width, now mostly covered with a scraggly growth of myrtle and dwarf pine.
How this rock obtained its name had best be told in the words of one of the survivors of that bloody episode. Although it happened over 50 years ago, the venerable pioneer, Cyrus W. Hedden, as the recollection of it revived in his memory, drew a vivid picture of the fight, worthy to be placed alongside the notable deeds of heroism in our country's history.
"I was a young chap then," began the old pioneer, leaning on a hoe in his flower garden, casting a faraway look over the gently heaving waters of the Pacific, "about 26, I guess. Oregon wasn't much known then, but there were many schemes looking toward the building of a large city somewhere along the coast. Captain Tichenor, evidently attracted by the beauty of the harbor, the vast forests back of it, and its favorable geographical location to the Southern Oregon mines, concluded this was a good place to start a colony, lay out a town and build a road to the mines.
"With eight others who became interested in the scheme we left Portland, which was then a small hamlet, June 4, 1851, on the old steam propeller Sea Gull. We chose for our captain J. M. Kirkpatrick. Although the youngest of our party, he possessed a good deal of knowledge and experience of Indian cunning and fighting, having had the benefit of association and training with that most famous Indian fighter, Kit Carson. Stopping at Astoria a few days for provisions, we landed at Port Orford June 9.
"Our entire armament consisted of one United States six-shooting rifle, three old flintlock muskets, one old sword, one .38-caliber revolver, one pair derringers, about 50 pounds of powder and 10 pounds bar lead and one old brass cannon, taken from the Sea Gull. Few Indians were in sight when we landed, and Captain Tichenor continued his voyage to San Francisco, agreeing to return within 14 days with more men and provisions. We set to work at once fixing up our camp--on top of that rock down yonder (Battle Rock).
"Next morning a party of Rogue River Indians, headed by a big chief in a red shirt, came up the coast in a canoe and, landing on the beach, began preparations for an attack. The chief, in advance of the others, started in with a series of preliminary flourishes with his big knife, indicating that he was after our scalps. We lost no time making our preparations. The brass cannon commanding the approach was loaded with two pounds of powder and two handfuls of lead slugs. All at once we heard a terrific yell, and, looking down, we saw the fellow in the red shirt wave his knife over his head, when, with another yell, he, with at least 100 of his braves, made a rush for the rock. I stood by the gun, holding a piece of tarred rope with one end in the fire, ready, as soon as the Indians crowded on the narrow ridge in front of the cannon, to let them have the contents when it would do the most execution. The air was full of arrows, coming from 100 bows. One of our men picked up a pine board, about 15 inches wide and 8 feet long. With this he stood right behind me and held the board in front of us both. Thirty-seven arrows hit the board, and at least half of them showed the points through, though it was 1¼ inches in thickness.
A Dozen Killed with One Shot."Two of the men were disabled; one was shot through the neck and bleeding badly; the other was shot in the breast, the arrow sticking in the breastbone; another, thoroughly scared, ran and lay down in a hole behind the tent. This left only six of us to fight it out with the Indians, who still kept coming. When they crowded on the narrow ridge, the red-shirted fellow in the lead not more than eight feet from the muzzle of the gun, I applied the fiery end of the rope to the priming. The execution was fearful! At least 12 or 13 Indians were killed outright, and such a tumbling of scared warriors I never saw before or since.
"The gun was upset by the recoil, and we never stopped to right it, but rushed out and at them, and soon cleared the rock of live Indians. We counted 17 dead warriors on the rock. And this was the bloody baptism that gave the name Battle Rock to our old camp at Port Orford.
Fierce Hand-to-Hand Encounter."Incredible as it may seem there were two warriors that passed the crowd and were not hit by any of the slugs fired from the cannon. One, a big, strong-looking Indian, made up his mind to have our captain's scalp. He rushed at him with a big knife, but one of our men shot him through the shoulder and another through the bowels, and still he came on. He made a slash at the captain, but with his left hand the captain knocked the knife out of his hand and, while grappling for the knife, pulled one of the derringers with his right hand and shot the Indian in the head, the ball entering one temple and come out at the other. He then turned and ran 20 feet, falling dead among others killed by the cannon.
"The other brave went for a man named Eagan, whose musket missed fire. As the Indian was in the act of fixing an arrow in his bow, Eagan knocked him over the head with the barrel, bending it. Stunned from the blow, Eagan jumped at him, took away his bow, then jumped back, turned his musket and dealt him three or four blows with the butt, knocking him entirely off the rocks into the sea.
Two More Attacks Repulsed."The next day a parley ensued, resulting in a truce. The Indians were permitted to carry off their dead, about 23 in number. They removed all but one, the fellow in the red shirt. An Indian gave the body a kick and with a grunt left it. This excited the curiosity of our party when, on closer inspection, we found the valiant chief was a white man. This startling discovery was, of course, interesting, but it was not until later that we learned something about his history. On the third day the Indians gathered once more in force, and again headed by a big chief made another assault. By this time we had constructed a sort of breastwork by cutting down brush, filling some of our spare clothing with loose dirt, and piling up small stones such as we could get hold of. But our situation was getting critical. Our supply of drinking water exhausted, the wounded suffering from want of attention, and every one of us worn out from want of sleep, for the Indians kept us closely guarded day and night, and we could see their number increasing constantly by new arrivals from the south. It meant a determined siege and bitter fight to the end.
"Well, the Indians came on with a rush, but before the chief had gained a foothold upon our rock a bullet from our unerring rifle cut him down. I believe the Indians supposed their chiefs to be impervious to our arms, because, as soon as their chief fell, they seemed struck with terror and retreated in confusion.
"Later in the day they made another assault, led by a new chief, a splendid, tall, muscular-looking fellow. He harangued the braves for awhile and then came charging like a mad bull. It seemed a pity to kill this brave fellow, but it had to be done. One bullet from our rifle finished him. On seeing him fall the Indians set up a terrible wail and seemed to have become utterly demoralized. They made no further attack that day, but completely surrounded us, and we surmised that they were determined to starve us out.
Saved by Strategy."The next day, which was the fourth of the siege, our situation had become extremely critical. We held a council and determined to make a break for liberty during the night. We worked like beavers during the day, in sight of the Indians, strengthening our defenses. When night came on, and, as luck would have it, it was the dark of the moon, we built a big fire and made as much racket as we could. [This would have been about June 13, 1851--the night of the full moon that month, not the opposite.] The Indians, evidently deceived by our tactics, gathered about their fires on the beach, watching us. Then, one by one, we crawled on all fours down over the rock, the last man remaining still keeping up the racket. Our wounded had to be assisted. When all became still and the Indians supposed we had gone to sleep, we crawled cautiously through the brush and, once clear of them, made a dash into the forest. We traveled all that night through the wilderness, following the coastline, and all we had for food was some sea biscuits. Several times we were discovered and pursued by the Indians, but crossing streams and swamps and crawling through forests by night, we succeeded in eluding the savages. But our wounded were suffering considerably. [From this point on, Hedden is telling the story of the T'Vault expedition, which took place some weeks later. All of the Battle Rock party survived; the party did not separate on its return to civilization.] In a council it was decided to separate our party. Accordingly, three of the men struck out in a southeasterly direction across the mountains in hope of reaching some of the mining camps. The rest of us continued to push our way northward. This was on the fourth day after our escape.
"The next morning we arrived at the south bank of the Coquille River. We saw several Indians on the opposite bank; they had a boat and seemed to be friendly. On making them understand that we wanted to cross, one of them got into a boat and came toward our side. We had no fear of treachery, as these Indians had been known to be friendly. We got into the boat, there being six of us besides the Indian, so she was pretty well loaded. As we approached the opposite bank we noticed the Indians on shore getting into the water, for the purpose, as we supposed, of helping to pull the boat ashore. But they no sooner laid hold of the boat than they began to rock it, when, in a moment, it was upset and we were all thrown into the river. Then began a fight for life and death.
"The Indians used their knives, and some of them would hold our men underwater until they were drowned, for in our weak and exhausted condition we could offer but little resistance.
"I grabbed Wilson, who was helpless from his wound in the breast, and packed him ashore. How we escaped I don't know; it seemed providential. I soon reached the brush, packing Wilson on my back, and, making for the heavy timber, pushed on northward without further pursuit.
"I must have got clear of the Indians without being observed, while they were engaged in the bloody work of murdering my comrades. After untold suffering, living on berries such as we could find, our clothing torn into rags, we reached, on the ninth day after our escape from Battle Rock, half starved and famished, the point on Coos Bay where Empire City now stands. Here we discovered a few white men on the opposite shore, who, launching their boats, took us across to our haven of rest. We were saved."
"Wonderful!" I said: "But what about the fellow with the red shirt?"
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed the old pioneer, reflectively. "I had forgotten about him. Some of the white settlers acquainted with the Rogue River Indians had heard his story. He was a Russian sailor, shipwrecked on the coast some years before. He found refuge among the Indians, and in time became their chief, the red shirt being the only article of civilized clothing he had left. He, no doubt, supposed our cannon to be a piece of bluff, or else he had to make that reckless charge to retain his standing as chief."
This is the story of the venerable pioneer who, save one another, is the sole survivor of the bloody baptism of Battle Rock. [As later accounts below make clear, this isn't true.] He still cultivates the flowers in his garden overlooking the Umpqua. His life work is done. He has been a factor in the upbuilding of a new empire on the Pacific. He can look back over his life's work with the satisfaction of "well done," and serenely await the summons to that other land of mystery beyond the shores of Avernus, from whence no traveler returneth.
After this tragic event and his wonderful escape, Cyrus W. Hedden settled down quietly on the banks of the beautiful Umpqua, where, later on, Scottsburg grew into a flourishing town. Here he has lived over half a century, engaged in business and farming. And here the venerable hero of Battle Rock still lives. But what a change has come over the country! The Indians, then the lords and masters of the country, fighting with valor and stubborn determination the white argonauts, have now dwindled away into a handful of semi-civilized creatures, walking like shadows upon the earth, their spirit crushed, pitiful reminders of the inexorable law of evolution.
It may be mentioned here that the man whose life Mr. Hedden saved lived many years, being well known in Eugene, where he held a county office; also, that he gratefully remembered his preserver.
This heroic incident shows of what stuff Oregon's noble pioneers were made. All honor to the heroes that blazed a trail from the mountains to the sea!
MURIEL GRAY.Oregonian, January 11, 1903, page E1
The Heroes of Battle Rock.
The Miners' Reward.
A Short Story of Thrilling Interest.
How a Small Cannon Done its Work.
Port Orford, Oregon. the Scene of the Great Tragedy.
A Desperate Encounter of Nine White Men with Three
Hundred Indians, Miraculous Escape After
Savages Subdued and Rich Gold Mines Discovered.
EDITED BY ORVIL DODGE.
I gathered together eight young men who were willing to go down on the trip. Their names were J. H. Egan, John T. Slater, George Ridoubt, T. D. Palmer, Joseph Hussey, Cyrus W. Hedden, James Carrigan, Erastus Summers and myself, making nine in all. Captain Tichenor agreed to furnish us arms, ammunition and supplies, and take us down on his steamer. He told us all to get ready to go, as he would sail from Portland on the 4th of June, 1851.
We were ready and sailed from Portland on time. On the 5th we arrived in Astoria. I had been selected by the party as the captain of the expedition, so I went to Captain Tichenor and told him I wanted to see the arms he was going to furnish us to defend ourselves with in case we had to fight. "Oh," he said, "there is no danger from the Indians." We then told him that we would go no further unless he furnished us with arms to defend ourselves. He then went ashore, and bought, at a junk shop, three old flintlock muskets, one old sword that was half eaten with rust, and a few pounds of lead and three or four pounds of powder. We told him that he had certainly brought us a hard-looking outfit of arms to fight Indians with. "You will never need them," said he, ''but having them will make you look dangerous anyway." Just then a young officer from Fort George stepped up to me and told me he had a very good United States rifle he would let me have at cost, viz: $20. I went ashore with him and bought the rifle and also some ammunition. It proved to be a magnificent-shooting gun. Our entire armament consisted now of one U.S. rifle, belonging to myself, one six-shooting rifle belonging to Carrigan, three old flintlock muskets, one old sword, one fine-shooting revolver .38 cal., one pair of deringers loaned to me by a friend in Portland for the trip, about five pounds of rifle powder and ten pounds of bar lead. This constituted our entire outfit to defend ourselves with when we left Astoria on the evening of the 6th of June, 1851. On the morning of the 9th we were landed on the beach just below Battle Rock. There were a few Indians in sight who appeared friendly, but I could see that they did not like to have us there. I told Captain Tichenor that I did not like the looks of things at all and those Indians meant mischief. There was one thing more that we wanted, and that was the old cannon Captain Tichenor had on board the Sea Gull. He laughed at us at first for wanting it, but when we told him we would not stay without it he studied a little bit and then said all right he would send it ashore. He sent his mate with one of my men, Egan, who was an old man-of-wars man, back to the steamer for the gun. They soon returned, bringing the cannon and copper magazine that contained three or four cartridges, each holding two pounds of powder. As soon as the cannon arrived the Captain bid us goodbye and left for San Francisco, saying he would return in fourteen days and bring a better supply of arms and more men to aid him in his enterprise. After he left we lost no time in making our camp on what was to be called Battle Rock as long as Oregon has a history. We hauled the old cannon to the top of the rock and placed it so as to command the narrow ridge where the Indians would have to crowd together before they could get to the top of the rock where we were camped.
About halfway up to the top of the rock there was a bench of nearly level ground about thirty feet wide; from that to the top of the rock the ridge was quite narrow. After getting the gun in place, Egan and I went to work to load it and get ready for the fight that I felt was coming. We put in a two-pound sack of powder and on top of that about half of an old cotton shirt and then on top of that as much bar lead cut up in pieces of from one to two inches in length as I could hold in my two hands,then a couple of old newspapers on top. We then primed the gun with some fine rifle powder and trained it so as to rake the narrow ridge in front of the muzzle and the gun was ready for business. We cleaned up all our other arms and loaded them ready for use. Just as soon as the Indians saw the steamer going away without us they appeared very cross and ordered us away, making signs to us that they would kill us if we did not go. Then they left for their camps down the beach. On the morning of the 10th they were back again in larger numbers and shooting arrows at us from too great a distance to do us any damage. About 9 o'clock a large canoe, containing twelve warriors, came up the coast from the direction of the mouth of Rogue River. Among them was one tall fellow wearing a red shirt who seemed to be their leader. As soon as the canoe touched the sand they all jumped out and carried it out on the beach. The fellow in the red shirt drew a long knife, waved it over his head, gave a terrible yell and, with at least one hundred of his braves, started for us with a rush. I stood by the gun holding a piece of tarred rope with one end in the fire ready, as soon as the Indians crowded on the narrow ridge in front of the cannon to let them have the contents when it would do the most execution. The air was full of arrows coming from at least a hundred bows. James Carrigan had picked up a pine board about 10 inches wide, 8 feet long and 1.3 inches in thickness. He stood right behind me and held the board in front of us both. Thirty-seven arrows hit the board and at least half of them showed the points through it. Two of my men were disabled. Palmer was shot through the neck and was bleeding badly; Ridoubt was shot in the breast, the arrow sticking into the breast bone, making a painful wound, and Slater ran and lay down in a hole behind the tent. This left six of us to fight it out with the Indians, who still kept coming. When they were crowded on the narrow ridge, the red-shirted fellow in the lead and not more than eight feet from the muzzle of the gun, I applied the fiery end of the rope to the priming. The execution was fearful, at least twelve or thirteen men were killed outright, and such a tumbling of scared Indians I never saw before or since. The gun was upset by the recoil, but we never stopped for that but rushed out to them and soon cleared the rock of all the live warriors. We counted seventeen dead Indians on the rock, and this was the bloody baptism that gave the name of Battle Rock to our old camp at Port Orford on the 10th day of June, 1851.
Some incidents that occurred during the battle are worth relating. There were two warriors who passed the crowd and were not hit by any of the slugs of lead fired from the cannon. One of these, a big strong-looking Indian, made up his mind that he wanted my scalp; as soon as the cannon was fired he rushed to me with a big knife. Carrigan shot him in the shoulder and Summers shot him through the bowels and still he came on. He made a lick at me with his knife, which I knocked out his hand with my left; when he grabbed for his knife I pulled one of the deringers from my pocket and shot him in the head, the ball going in at one temple and out at the other. He turned then and ran twenty feet and fell dead among the Indians that were killed by the cannon. The other Indian went for Egan, whose musket missed fire as the Indian was in the act of fixing an arrow in his bow, when Egan hit him over the head with the barrel of his musket, bending it more than six inches. The blow stunned the Indian and as quick as lightning Egan jumped at him and took his bow away, he then jumped back and turned his musket and gave him three or four blows with the butt knocking him entirely off the rock into the ocean.
After the fight was all over probably an hour, an Indian chief came up the beach within hailing distance and laid down his bow, quiver of arrows and knife and then stepped forward and made signs that he wanted to come to our camp. I went down to the beach and met him and brought him up to the camp. He was by all odds the finest specimen of physical manhood that I ever looked at. He made signs to us that he wanted to carry away the dead Indians. I made him understand that he could bring another Indian to help him. He called out for one more to come up to the camp. They would take the dead ones on their back, pack them down from where they lay, across the narrow sandy beach and up a steep trail toward the north and over a ridge and out of sight. They did this eight times, and where they laid the dead was over three hundred yards from our camp. Some of the Indians were quite large, several of them weighing over two hundred pounds. As a feat of strength and endurance it was simply wonderful. They carried away all the dead except the fellow who wore the red shirt. I tried to get the big chief to carry him off but he shook his head and stooped down and tore his shirt in two and then gave him a kick with his foot and turned and walked away. We had to drag the fellow afterwards and bury him in the sand. We all remarked that he was very white for an Indian, he had yellow hair and a freckled face. I pronounced him to be a white man. He turned out to be a white man who had been among the Indians for many years, they having saved him from the wreck of a Russian ship that was lost on the Oregon coast many years ago.
Another incident of our day's battle was this: After the Indian chief and his man had carried away all of the dead warriors we went to work to make a breastwork on each side of our gun. This was to make it a little more difficult for the Indians to get into our camp. I was standing outside on the narrow ridge in front of our gun watching some Indians who were about three hundred yards away. I was leaning on my rifle when Joe. Hussey came out of the camp and laid his right hand on my left shoulder, I turned my head to see what he wanted when spat a bullet hit his thumb cutting it about half off. This was the first rifle shot we had heard from the Indians since the fight began. The Indian with the gun had crawled down, unnoticed by us, into a large pile of rocks about sixty yards away from where I stood when he shot. He was so sure that he had hit me that he jumped out from the rocks and showed himself; then it was my turn. I had a slug ball and five buckshot in my rifle, and in an instant I drew a bead on him, and when my gun cracked he jumped three feet into the air and fell dead. Egan said, "I am going after his gun." I told him to hold on until I had loaded my rifle for, says I, "There may be other Indians in the rocks and I want to be ready." As soon as my gun was loaded he ran down and picked up the gun, and seeing it was of no account he broke the stock and came back bringing the Indian's headdress with him. It was made of seashells of different colors and was quite pretty. He said the bullet from my rifle had broken his right arm and passed through his body and cut his left hand entirely off. He never knew what hurt him. This was the last Indian killed by us in our first day's battle. We could only count twenty Indians that we had killed; but years afterward we learned from the Indians that there were twenty-three killed.
In our talk with the big chief we made him understand that in fourteen days more the steamer would return and take us away and for fourteen days we were not molested by them, in fact we never saw an Indian; but on the morning of the 15th they were there in force, some three of four hundred of them in their war paint. They evidently meant business now as we had lied to them; the steamer did not arrive as we had promised them and we could not make them understand why the vessel did not come. Two or three hundred warriors were going through with a regular war dance on the beach, and every time they would turn around so as to face us they would snap their bow strings at us and make signs that they would soon have our scalps. The big chief was now their leader. He had his warriors all drawn up around him about two hundred and fifty yards from us. He made a speech to them so loud that we could hear every word he said above the roar of the surf, and he did some of the finest acting that I ever saw before or since. When he stopped talking he drew a long knife and waved it around his head, gave a terrible yell and started for us, followed by not less than three hundred warriors. I had called to my side James Carrigan, who was the best rifle shot of any of my men. I told him to take a good rest, draw his lungs full of air, keep cool and wait until they came near enough so as to be sure and kill the leader, for it was either the big chief or us who must go. When he got within about one hundred yards of us I raised my rifle to my shoulder and said, "Fire!" We both fired at the same time and down he dropped, we had both hit him in the breast and one of our bullets had gone through his heart, killing him instantly. Had a hundred thunderbolts dropped among his warriors they could not have stopped them as suddenly as killing their big chief. They gathered around his body and, with a groan that was terrible, picked him up and carried him away to the north out of sight. In about an hour another great tall fellow wearing an old red shirt came up the beach and commenced calling the Indians around him. He soon collected a couple of hundred warriors about him and made a speech to them about five minutes in length. We could see by his frantic gestures and talk that he was urging the Indians to rush on us and wipe us out. When he stopped talking he waved his big knife over his head and started for us, pointing his knife at us and motioning that our heads must be cut off. We were ready for him and when he came close to where the other chief was killed we fired and he dropped dead. This ended all efforts on the part of their chiefs to induce the Indians to rush on us. They had had enough of that kind of business. They drew back to the edge of the woods, about three hundred yards away from our camp, and had a big talk, after which they commenced going down the beach to a place a little over a mile from our camp, where there were a number of fires burning. We could see a number of canoes loaded with Indians coming up from the direction of the mouth of Rogue River and landing near these fires. They were evidently concentrating their forces for a night attack on us. We had now taken note of our situation. We we surrounded on one side by thousands of miles of water and on the other side by at least four or five hundred hostile Indians and one hundred and fifty miles or more from any settlement of white men. We had also taken stock of our ammunition and had little left. About six loads apiece for our rifles. Something had to be done and that before night, for if they made a night attack on us we could not possibly stand them off, so I told the boys that if we could gain the woods and they would stand by me I would take them all through to the settlements. We made up our minds that it was the only chance to save our scalps. We were still watched by ten or twelve Indians not more than two hundred yards away. To get rid of those fellows so that we could gain the woods was the next question we had to solve. "Now," said I, "If they contemplate a night attack on us we must convince those fellows on watch that we have no notion of going away." We all went to work as hard as we could to strengthen our breastwork. We cut down one of the pine trees that grew on Battle Rock, cut off the limbs and piled them on top of our breastworks. As soon as the Indians, who were on watch, saw what we were doing they were sure we were determined to stay. They then started down the beach to join the others. We counted them as they got up out of the grass, and there were one hundred and fourteen. I will say that I never, in all my experience with Indians before or since, saw as fine a body of warriors as those. We were now pretty sure that they had all left, but Egan climbed up to the top of one of the trees and looked in every direction but could see no sign of any Indians except down the beach where they were having a grand war dance. Now was our chance. We left everything we had in camp; our two tents, our blankets and what little provisions we had, and with nothing but our guns and an ax and all the small ropes we had, with two or three sea biscuits apiece, we bid farewell to our old camp on Battle Rock, and started on our fearful retreat through an unknown country. It was now about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. We had determined to keep as near the beach as possible. We traveled with all our might to get as far as we could before night overtook us. When we were about three miles from Port Orford [and] just as we were going around a point of rocks on an old trail, we met about thirty Indian warriors fully armed, going down to join the others. We raised a yell and charged right at them. We never fired a shot, but they ran like scared wolves. We kept right on and just between sunset and dark we came to quite a river and, as good luck would have it, we struck this stream just at the turn of the tide so that by wading out on the bar a little way we were able to get across without any trouble. Fifteen minutes later we would have had to build a raft to cross on. This stream was not down on any map that I had ever seen at that time. I think it is now called Elk River. After crossing this stream we struck into the woods and traveled all night, guiding our steps by the roar of the surf breaking on the rocks. There was no time to lose. We knew that the Indians would follow us so we traveled on as hard as we could, wading streams of water, some of considerable size, and making our way through a dense growth of timber and brush. About 3 o'clock the next day we came to the edge of what seemed to us a large plain. It looked to be miles in extent and was covered with a heavy growth of high grass and proved to be an immense swamp.
We now determined to try and cross this swamp and reach the sea after dark and travel all night. We floundered around in this swamp all night, sometimes in water up to our armpits, until after dark when we found a little island of about an acre of dry land and covered with a thick growth of small fir bushes. Here we lay down and tried to rest and sleep but encountered a new enemy in the shape of clouds of mosquitoes. There was no escape from them, and they were the hungriest lot that I had ever seen. In the morning, as soon as it was light enough for us to see our way out, we struck for the beach again and in about an hour we reached an Indian trail fully twenty feet wide where hundreds of Indians had gone. They were now ahead of us. We followed on their trail a few miles when we came to a stream of water about four rods wide and two feet deep. Here the trail turned up this stream and left the beach. We at once came to the conclusion that the Indians had followed us that far the first night and when daylight came they had found that we had not traveled on the beach, so they struck up this stream, thinking of intercepting us when we reached this stream on our way. We crossed on the beach and were now ahead of the Indians. We now put in our best time traveling as hard as we could. About five o'clock we reached the mouth of the Coquille River where we were confronted by a large stream of water and on the opposite side of the river were three or four hundred Indians all drawn up in line of battle ready to prevent our crossing. They were making signs that they would kill us if we attempted to cross, so there was now no alternative but to keep up on the south side of the river and do our best to prevent coming into collision with these Indians that were so numerous and hostile. We now came to the conclusion that we had better try and cross the mountains and strike the wagon road that led from the settlements in Oregon down to California. About three or four miles from the mouth of the Coquille River, on the south side, rises quite a high mountain, so we determined to go to the top of this mountain in order to study the surrounding country. Three or four hundred Indians kept right opposite watching us, with nothing but the river between them and us. Just as we reached the foot of this mountain the Indians stopped a few minutes and divided their forces. One party of over one hundred turned off to the left and ran up a short ravine toward the north. They soon disappeared over a low pass to the left and went back toward their village at the mouth of the river. Their object was to get their canoes, cross the river, overtake us and kill or capture us. When we had ascended this mountain some distance we could see the Indians crossing the river in their canoes. We hurried on as fast as we could travel and between sundown and dark we reached the top of the mountain, tired, hungry and nearly worn out. Here we determined to rest and get some sleep. We worked our way into the thicket of brush where we found a kind of sinkhole, about twenty feet in diameter and about three feet deep, covered on the bottom with a rank growth of grass with thick brush all around it. Here we all lay down and were soon fast asleep. Just as soon as it began to be light in the morning, notwithstanding there was a thick fog, we were up and off, traveling in a northeasterly direction as hard as we could. In about an hour we struck the river again at a point where the timber came down close to the water. We found a lot of dry driftwood and soon made a raft large enough to carry the three men who could not swim and our guns and the balance of us swimming and pushing the raft ahead of us. The river at this point was about two hundred yards wide. When we reached the opposite bank and landed we supposed that we had crossed the river but we had only landed on an island and did not know it until we had taken all our ropes off of the raft and let the logs go. We had not gone more than three hundred yards when, to our consternation, we discovered that we had another branch of the river to cross nearly as wide as the one we had crossed. There was not a stick of timber on the island to make a raft out of, and as the fog was beginning to break away, there was no time to lose, so one of the men, George Ridoubt, volunteered to swim across with the ax and cut off a dry pine tree that projected out over the water towards us. Our intention was to get the three men who could not swim, on to the tree, let them hold our guns and the balance of us swim along and guide the tree. Just as the tree fell into the water three Indians came around the bend in a canoe. They were busy watching the man that was chopping and did not see us until they were close to us. We hailed them and made signs that we wanted them to land and lake us over the river to where Ridoubt was.
This they refused to do, but when they saw three or four rifles leveled on them they concluded to come to where we were. We all piled into the canoe and they landed us on the mainland just as the sun broke through the fog. We did not tarry long till we were on our weary tramp again. We were now very weak, not having eaten anything for three nights and four days. We saw plenty of game, but did not dare to fire a shot, for it would have brought at least three hundred Indians onto us in ten minutes, and they would have made short work of us. The men who were with me had no knowledge of woodcraft and but little of Indian warfare. They were on an average as brave a company of men as the same number that could be found. There was not one among them who could have taken the lead and kept a course without running around in a circle. When I found this out I saw that their lives as well as my own depended on my keeping in the lead. I had a good knowledge of woodcraft and could take a course and keep it as long as it was necessary. I had also some little knowledge of the cunning and trickery of the Indians, having crossed the Rocky Mountains in company with Kit Carson; and I will here say that of all the men that I ever came in contact with or associated with Christopher Carson knew all the tricks and cunning of the Indians better than any man I ever saw. I hope you will not think me egotistical when I say that I felt equal to the task of leading my party through to a place of safety. After crossing this branch of the river we struck out in a northwesterly direction, through the timber, intending, if we could, to reach the beach by night, and then travel as hard as we could all night if necessary. We traveled on through the thick heavy timber until it got so dark that we could not get along, so we all lay down by the side of a big log and slept until daylight. We then jumped up and were off in the same direction we had been traveling the day before. In about an hour we emerged from the timber and soon got down to the beach. We struck the sea at a point where a long reef of rocks extended quite a ways out into the ocean. These rocks, near the shore, were covered with mussels, which we broke from the rocks and commenced eating them raw. They soon made us sick, so we built up a fire and began roasting them and that made them much better. We were eating our first lot of roasted mussels when one of the Indians, who had crossed us over the north branch of the Coquille River the day before, came down to us. As soon as he got near to us, he commenced talking jargon. He said he had seen me in Portland, that he had kept right behind us in the woods after we left the river, and that he was afraid to come to us in the woods believing we would kill him. He said that the Indians were coming up on the beach from the mouth of the Coquille, and we must hurry as fast as we could. Each one of us took all the live mussels we could carry, but did not stop to cook them, as we intended to roast them when we got to a place of safety. We now struck up the beach as fast as we could go, the Indian in the lead. We traveled on until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon when the Indian called our attention to a white pole about eight inches in diameter and twenty feet high, standing in a great pile of rocks at the edge of the beach. When we passed this pole and monument, the Indian said we were now safe, as the California Siwashes would not dare to come above that pole, for the Coos Bay, Umpqua, Clickatats, and some other tribes he mentioned, would make war on them and drive them back. After resting a little while we traveled on for about two hours and, turning into a little cove, we built up a fire and roasted our mussels and ate them. We then took up our line of march and traveled till it was dark and then turned for to our right where we found some dry sand in another little cove, and all lay down and slept until morning. As soon as it was daylight we were up and away. That afternoon we reached Coos Bay. The Indians met us more than a mile from their camp and brought us dried salmon, dried elk meat and salmon berries. They were extremely friendly and expressed themselves as being very glad that we had not been killed by the California Siwashes. We staid all night with these Indians who seemed to vie with each other in doing everything they could for us. In the morning they took us across the bay and landed us about where Empire City now stands. They told us that we would make the mouth of the Umpqua the next day. We bid our friends goodbye and struck across the sand hills and through swamps, where sometimes the water was three or four feet deep. We floundered around in these sand hills and swamps until we were nearly tired out and struck for the beach again. About an hour before dark we reached the beach. The wind was blowing so hard from the west that it made it difficult and unpleasant to travel against, so we left the beach and sought shelter behind some sand hills that raise to more than a hundred feet above the sea. We found some dry pine logs near a thicket of brush and soon had a big fire going. Here we lay down and slept until morning, notwithstanding we were soaked with the mist that had been driven across the sand hills by the gale in the night. After we had dried ourselves a little by our fire we struck out for the beach. The gale had subsided and the beach, for more than one hundred yards in width and as far as we could see up and down the beach, was literally covered with fish that had been driven ashore the night before by the gale. "Luck at last," cried Egan, "Here is fish enough for a feast for the gods," and each one of us picked up two apiece, weighing 5 or 6 pounds each, and back we went to our old camp where we had left a big bed of coals, where we roasted our fish, eating all we could of one and taking the rest with us. That afternoon we reached the mouth of the Umpqua River. The Indians on watch for us had notified the white men on the other side of the river that the white men who had shot a keg of nails into the Indians at Port Orford, killing many of them, were on the other side of the river. We could see the white men launching their boats at what was called Umpqua City; at that time it consisted of one house built of sheet iron and one tent. In about an hour they had reached us and taken us aboard. Having a fair wind they hoisted sail and just as the sun was setting on the 2d day of July, 1851, we were landed and made welcome in white men's quarters, after having an experience that not soon would we forget. Never did a set of poor, weary, ragged, hungry white men receive a more royal welcome than we did at the hands of Dr. Joseph Drew and his associates at their camp at the mouth of the Umpqua River. We rested there one day and on the morning of the 4th they took us in their boats and, having sailed up the river, they left us at another new town called Scottsburg. Here we landed about 1 o'clock, and after I had eaten some dinner I bade farewell to my comrades and struck out for Portland. The rest were so worn out and footsore that they were compelled to lay by and rest. I traveled as hard as I could and on the night of the fourth I stayed with a man whose name was Wells. I left his house before daylight and, after a hard day's tramp, I reached the hospitable house of the grand old pioneer Jesse Applegate. He had just received his mail from Portland and was busy reading the account of our fight with the Indians. The conclusion drawn from the account was that we were killed and burned up. I did not interrupt him until he got through reading his paper. I then asked him if I could get some supper and a place to stay all night. "I can give you some supper but all my beds and blankets are in use," he said. I told him I was quite hungry and it made very little difference with me whether I had a bed or not as I had been sleeping for some time without a bed or blanket. He then commenced talking about those unfortunate young men that had been lured into the jaws of death by misrepresentation. "Why," said he, ''those Indians down the coast, combined with their brothers, the Rogue River Indians, are the worst Indians on the American continent, and the bravest. Every old settler in Oregon knows that. The man or company that persuaded them to go down with the view of making a settlement at Port Orford was guilty of a great wrong." "Well," said I, "Mr. Applegate, I am happy to inform you that the men were not murdered but escaped, and eight of them I left at Scottsburg yesterday and I am the ninth." I told him my name and then I gave him an account of our retreat and his remark was, after I got through, "Wonderful, wonderful."
Here I must make an explanation. I had written a full account of our first battle with the Indians on Battle Rock and also an account of our last battle, fifteen days afterward, and closed the account with these words, "We are now surrounded by three or four hundred Indians hungry for our scalps, on one side; by thousands of miles of water on the other; and at least 150 miles from any white man's house. We have but little grub and are nearly out of ammunition, and if the Indians should make a night attack and rush on us we certainly could not defend ourselves against so many." This paper I folded up and placed in the back of an old book, went to the stump of the pine tree that we had just cut down, and buried the book in a hole about a foot deep, then scraped off the bark on one side of the stump, just over where the book was, and wrote with a piece of red chalk these two words, "Look beneath,"
When the steamer Sea Gull reached San Francisco, after leaving us at Port Orford, she was embargoed for debt and tied up, so it was impossible for Captain Tichenor to return in fourteen days as he had promised. Col. John B. Ferguson, then U.S. mail agent for California and Oregon, and a friend of mine, learning from Captain Tichenor that he was tied up for debt and could not return on time, and knowing much more about the Indians on the coast than the captain did, went to the captain of the steamer Columbia and dispatched him one day before her regular sailing time, with strict orders to call at Port Orford and take us back to Portland. The steamer stopped at Port Orford the day after we left Battle Rock. The captain and a number of passengers went ashore and found the body of the fellow in the red shirt that we had killed in the first fight and buried in the sand, but the tide had washed him out and he was then as white as could be. They made sure that it was one of us when they went up on the rock where everything showed evidence of a fight. In looking around their attention was called to the words written on the stump and they soon dug up the book and after reading it they were sure that the Indians had wiped us out. As no Indians were to be seen, they concluded to search a little further for more evidence of our fate. They finally found where the big fire had been built and in some of the ashes they found some human teeth and some charred pieces of human bones. This ended their search as they were now sure that we had been killed and burned. What they really found was where the Indians had burned their dead after the first battle with us. They then returned to the steamer in the full belief that we had all been killed and burned, all but the body they found on the beach.
The steamer sailed at once with the account of our trouble up to the time we left Battle Rock. This was published in the Oregonian as soon as possible, and this was the account that Applegate was reading when I reached his house. Nearly all my friends in Portland and all over Oregon really believed that it was all up with me and all my party. Not so with the old mountaineers, Joe Meek, Otway and Wilks. They all said that we would turn up all right yet, and when I reached Portland with the news that my party was all safe they were as happy as men could be. I reached my old quarters in Portland on the 11th day of July, 1851, strong and rugged, having had enough of adventure to do me for one time.
As to my comrades on this expedition. I never saw but two of them afterwards. Egan settled in Portland, married, raised a family. Palmer settled in Salem, had a saloon and was quite well fixed. These two men I saw quite often. In 1866 [sic] Slater was killed by Indians, on Rogue River. In 1855 Cy. Hedden joined a company under Colonel T'Vault and tried to reach Port Orford by land. T'Vault's party consisted of ten or twelve men and when they reached the Coquille River Hedden pointed out our trail to T'Vault and told him he was on dangerous ground and must be cautious. He paid no attention to Hedden's warning, but went into camp on a grassy flat not far from where we crossed the river. In the night the Indians surprised his camp, killing the most of his men. Hedden escaped with a man by the name of Williams, who had been wounded with an arrow, and when the shaft was pulled out the head was left in his body. Hedden and Williams finally reached Scottsburg where Williams suffered for months but the arrow point finally worked itself out. Hedden stayed and waited on him until he got well.
When I look back over this whole affair I think you will agree with me that, take it all in all, the history of the Port Orford expedition is worthy of a place in the history of the early settlements. As to our fight, considering our inexperience and the arms we had, we certainly did well. There is no other battle in Indian warfare that I know of that equals it, except that most glorious defense Mrs. Harris made in 1855 on Rogue River in defending her house and home containing the dead body of her husband and her living child, when for more than ten hours she, all alone, stood off at least one hundred of the bravest Indians that ever lifted a white man's scalp, killing, according to the Indians' own statement, fifteen. To this little woman we must all give the praise of making the grandest fight, against fearful odds, that was ever made on the continent of America.
It was the first time that the Indians of Port Orford had ever been whipped. usually killing more of the white men than they themselves had had killed. Here they had lost 25 warriors and not killed or captured a single white man. It was the old cannon that did the work. It was an entirely new thing to them as they really thought that we were using thunder and lightning against them. The noise and the fearful execution done by the gun demoralized them. They were not only scared but they were terrified, and the killing of their two big chiefs taught them that we were dangerous. I have often thought that our escape was due as much to their fear of us as to our good luck. I can look back over the long stretch of years and feel a generous pride that none of my party were killed.
I know not if any of my old comrades are living now. I was the youngest one in the party and I have passed my three score and ten. If any of them are living, ''God's blessing on them"; if they have crossed the great Divide, then "Farewell."
Nearly all of the old pioneers of Oregon are gone. No braver, bigger-hearted, or truer set of pioneers ever blazed the way for the march of civilization than they who,
"Belonged to the legion that never were listed.My task is done, and I claim no other merit for these recollections than that of truth.
They carried no banner nor crest;
But, split in a thousand detachments,
Were breaking the ground for the rest."
J. M. KIRKPATRICK.
Orvil Dodge, ed., The Heroes of Battle Rock, published January 1904 Kirkpatrick's account was also published in Dodge's Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, 1898, pages 33-50. It includes a photograph of J. H. Egan (page 50) and is bylined "J. M. Kirkpatrick, Oro Blanco, Arizona, Nov. 29, 1897."
IN EARLY DAYS
By Fred Lockley.
"Did you ever hear of Battle Rock?" said Orvil Dodge. We were sitting in his office at the city hall at Myrtle Point.
"In writing the history of Coos County I talked with most of the pioneers of this section of the state," he continued. "Two of the pioneers I particularly enjoyed talking with were Cyrus Hedden of Scottsburg and J. M. Kirkpatrick. Both of them were survivors of the fight at Battle Rock. If you will ask some of the early-day Portlanders, those who were living in Portland in the fall of 1850 or the spring of '51, they will tell you all about Kirkpatrick. He was a carpenter and helped build some of the first buildings in Portland.
"In those days Captain William Tichenor was running the Sea Gull between Portland and San Francisco. Captain Tichenor conceived the plan of starting a town at Port Orford and building a road through to the newly discovered placer mines in Southern Oregon. Butler King, the collector of customs at San Francisco, and Hubbard were partners of Captain Tichenor's in the enterprise.
"In Portland in the latter part of May, 1851, Captain Tichenor met J. M. Kirkpatrick and told him of his plans for starting a town at Port Orford. He promised Kirkpatrick and those who went with him a share in the profits of the enterprise. Kirkpatrick soon enlisted eight young men in Portland. In addition to himself and Cyrus Hedden, there were T. D. Palmer, J. H. Eagan, John T. Slater, Erastus Summers, Jim Carrigan, Joseph Hussey and George Redoubt.
"Tichenor agreed to furnish arms, ammunition and supplies and transportation. They sailed from Portland on June 4, 1851.
"Kirkpatrick, having gotten up the party, was elected captain. When they arrived at Astoria the men found Captain Tichenor had failed to keep his agreement. He had not brought any arms or ammunition. Captain Tichenor assured them there was no danger from Indians, but when they refused to continue the journey unless he kept his agreement he went ashore and bought at a second hand store a rusty sword, three flintlock muskets and 10 pounds of lead and a few pounds of powder.
"Kirkpatrick had borrowed a brace of derringers from a friend in Portland, while Carrigan had brought a six-shooting rifle along. Before leaving Astoria Kirkpatrick paid $20 for a United States rifle, buying it of one of the officers at the fort.
"They left Astoria on June 6 and were landed on the beach near the site of their proposed city three days later. Kirkpatrick insisted that the small cannon aboard the Sea Gull be left with them. Captain Tichenor finally consented and left the cannon and four rounds of ammunition.
"Captain Tichenor left stores sufficient to last the men two weeks. He promised to be back within 14 days and bring more colonists and also stores and ammunition.
"Near where the men were left on the beach there was a flat-topped rock. J. H. Eagan had formerly been in the navy and he installed the cannon on top of the rock so as to command the only trail by which the rock could be scaled. The gun was loaded with a couple of pounds of powder and a double handful of roughly cut chunks of bar lead.
"As soon as the Sea Gull had sailed the Indians came around the rock and ordered the men to leave the country. The men refused and prepared to fight. Next morning a considerable number of Indians gathered around the rock where the men were camped and began shooting at them with arrows. A canoeload of Indians soon came up the coast from the mouth of Rogue River. They landed and their leader, a powerfully built man wearing a red shirt, called on the Indians to charge. There were about 100 who responded. Carrigan picked up a piece of board seven or eight feet long, something over a foot wide and an inch and a half thick, and standing back of Kirkpatrick, held it upright in front of the cannon. Kirkpatrick held a burning fuse ready to fire when the Indians came up the natural trail on the rock. The Indians shot their arrows at close range. One of the arrows went through Palmer's neck. Redoubt was struck in the chest. Slater ran and hid in a hollow in the rocks. When the Indians with their knives drawn and yelling over their anticipated victory were about 10 feet from the mouth of the cannon Kirkpatrick touched the burning tarred rope to the priming powder. There was a terrific report, the cannon turned a somersault and the Indians who could ran or fell from the rock. Kirkpatrick and his men ran down and killed the wounded Indians. Seventeen Indians had been killed on the rock by the bar lead from the cannon. The board that Carrigan had held in front of Kirkpatrick had 37 arrows embedded in it. Two of the Indians on the rock who were not struck by the bar lead missiles from the cannon came on in place of running away as the rest did. One of them slashed at Kirkpatrick with his knife. Carrigan shot him in the shoulder. Still he struck at Kirkpatrick. Summers shot him in the stomach. Even that did not stop him. Kirkpatrick knocked the knife from his hand, and as the Indian tried to close with him, Kirkpatrick shot him in the temple with his derringer.
"Eagan knocked the other Indian senseless by striking him over the head with his flintlock gun and then threw him in the ocean.
"The Indians came back in a little while, made peace signs and asked to be allowed to have their dead. They carried them all away but their leader, the man with the red shirt. They tore his shirt off, kicked him contemptuously and left him on the sand. When the Indians had gone Kirkpatrick and the others came down and buried their red-shirted leader. He had brown hair, fair skin and was freckled. He was a Russian sailor and had lived with the Indians for many years. That is how Battle Rock got its name."
Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, August 6, 1913, page 8
IN EARLY DAYS
By Fred Lockley.
"You were telling me about the fight at Battle Rock," I said to Orvil Dodge of Myrtle Point, in Coos County. "You told me how Battle Rock was christened and how the men defeated the Indians. What became of the men? Did Captain Tichenor return from San Francisco within two weeks as promised with more colonists and stores to found the town of Port Orford?"
Mr. Dodge leisurely filled his pipe and lighted it.
"No. He didn't," he said. "After the fight in which J. M. Kirkpatrick, Cyrus Hedden and the seven other white men killed over 20 Indians, one of the Indian chiefs came out and held a council with the party of whites. The white men told him the Sea Gull with more men would be back in 14 days. The Indian chief said: 'For 14 days you are safe. I will not let my people bother you. If you are lying and the boat does not come to get you by the fourteenth day, then I will come and kill you.'
"The Indians kept their promise. They did not molest the white men in any way. On the fifteenth day the Indians assembled and held a big council. There were nearly 400 of them. The white men had, as usual, failed to keep their word, the chief told his followers, so he must keep his word and kill them. The white men did not know why Captain Tichenor had failed to keep his promise. The reason, they learned later, was that the vessel had been attached for debt in San Francisco and tied up until the debts were paid. Colonel John B. Ferguson, the mail agent for California and Oregon, learning of the matter, had the steamer Columbia stop at Port Orford for the party, but the Columbia arrived the day after the men left Battle Rock.
"The men on Battle Rock had strengthened their fort on Battle Rock during the two weeks' truce. They had put up a rock breastwork and were protected from the arrows. The chief led his 300 warriors, clad in their war paint, toward the rock. Carrigan and Kirkpatrick, who were the best shots in the party, waited till the Indians had come within easy range. They both fired at the chief, who was leading the charge. Both bullets struck him in the breast. He fell forward on the sand, dead. The Indians stopped and, starting up the death wail, they carried him away. In a little while the Indians returned and a subchief made an impassioned oration. Taking out his knife, he led them and they again started on the run toward Battle Rock. Carrigan and Kirkpatrick, with the only two serviceable guns, again waited till the Indians had approached the trail leading up the rock when they fired together at the chief and killed him. Again the Indians retired. There was only enough powder left for 12 more shots. It was evident the Indians were waiting for darkness, when they would rush the fortress and kill all its defenders.
"Over 100 Indians surrounded the rock on the land side to prevent the escape of the white men. When they saw the men on Battle Rock strengthening the breastworks they decided they were going to stay, so the Indians left to join the main body who were holding a war dance. Leaving the rock the men crept off, gained the woods and started on their northward trip. They finally reached the mouth of the Coquille River where the city of Bandon is now located. Here several hundred Indians were drawn up on the north side of the river to prevent the white men crossing the river. A number of the Indians crossed the river in their canoes to capture the white men, but they escaped and made their way up the south side of the river, hiding by night and crossing the river on a raft of driftwood. Finally they passed the boundary tree above which the Rogue River Indians would not come, on account of being attacked by the Coos Bay and Umpqua Indians. The Coos Bay Indians met the white men, took them to their camp and fed them salmon, elk meat and berries. The Indians had carried word to the white men at Umpqua City at the mouth of the Umpqua River. Umpqua City at that time consisted of one house. Dr. Joseph Drew lived there. He and several of his comrades took Kirkpatrick and his party by boat to Scottsburg, where they arrived on July 4. J. M. Kirkpatrick went back to Portland, later moving to Arizona. J. H. Eagan also returned to Portland, where he married and raised a family. some years later J. T. Slater was killed by the Rogue River Indians. Cyrus Hedden settled at Scottsburg, where he lived for the next 60 years or more, until his death two years ago. T. D. Palmer moved to Salem, where for many years he ran a saloon. The others scattered, and I presume they are now all dead."
Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, August 7, 1913, page 8
Our Port Orford Correspondence.
Through the politeness of Gregory's Express, we are in receipt of the annexed correspondence:
Port Orford, O.T., Aug. 14, 1851.Messrs. Editors:--I am of the opinion that the readers of the Alta are somewhat anxious to know how things prosper at this place, and knowing as I do that much interest is felt in San Francisco and other places for our safety and prospects, I impart such information as may be deemed interesting and important. Subsequent to my previous communication and prior to the date of this, some few incidents have occurred worthy of note, which has caused a mystery that has not as yet been solved by the wisdom of our camp. Some few days after the departure of the Sea Gull, which left here on the 27th ult., some six or eight of the Rogue River Indians came into our camp; they appeared perfectly friendly and [in] every way well disposed. They remained until evening, and when we closed the gates leading to our enclosure, the Indians went a short distance from the palisades, kindled a fire, and apparently encamped for the night. Our guards were posted as usual, and towards eleven o'clock one of the guards observed two of the Indians secretly making their way towards him, for what purpose he could not conceive. The evening was sufficiently light [July 28, 1851 was a new moon] so that he could easily discern them, and accordingly made motions for them to keep away, not knowing whether they were armed or not. They refused to comply with the second and third entreaty, and the guard fired upon them, wounding one. They then disappeared. On the following morning three of the same company returned, and appearing friendly and not being armed, were admitted to our camp. On this as well as on all other occasions, we did not allow them to make any satisfactory discoveries within the enclosure of our encampment. We adopted this course from the commencement, believing that it would be to our advantage to keep them ignorant, as much as possible, of our strength and means of defense, and I have no doubt but what it has intimidated them to a great extent and perhaps may prevent an attack hereafter.
A few days after the occurrence above related, another company of ten or twelve, including a chief, came from the direction of Cape Blanco. They apparently belonged to a different tribe from those inhabiting or occupying the vicinity of Rogue River, and judging from their maneuvers, they were on a similar mission. About the same time of the evening two of the company were observed by the guard looking into one of the forts, through the port, and after being warmly treated left our camp. This occurred on the evening of the 9th, since which no Indians have come near us.
The transactions thus related, as enacted by the Indians, have caused some considerable anxiety in the minds of many of our company. Although there may have been no intention derogatory to the peace and quietness that now pervades this section of the Indian territory, yet the affair has caused us to keep a good lookout, both day and night, and by so doing we shall not be taken by surprise. We expect that the Indian agent for Oregon, Dr. Dart, will be here within a few weeks, to form treaties with the tribes in this vicinity, and then no further trouble with the Indians will be expected, and in fact we do not even now have any satisfactory intelligence that anything of a belligerent character is soon to be enacted.
The term of service agreed upon between the proprietors of the Port Orford enterprise and the volunteers has now expired; consequently the public works are suspended, having progressed however sufficiently to render our position secure. As a general thing, the men have resorted to industrious pursuits and engaged themselves in the manufacturing of shingles, cutting and preparing piles for shipment, and prospecting the country in the vicinity of all the small streams for gold. In the latter, as well as in other pursuits, success has favored their efforts with quite satisfactory results, and judging from present appearances there will be some very respectable gold diggings made available in this vicinity. Yet, for the present, we are not willing to become responsible for any positive assurance that they will prove unbounded and inexhaustible. This kind of employment will continue for a few days longer and then another expedition for opening a trail to the Shasta mines will be fitted out, under the direction of Mr. T'Vault. This gentleman was employed by the United States government as guide for the company of rifles under the command of Captain Stuart, who recently marched through the Indian country from Oregon to California. We have the utmost confidence in the ability of Mr. T. as being [in] every way qualified to conduct a party in an enterprise of this character. It is the intention of the party to prospect all the streams over which they pass, and I have no doubt but what they will make some discoveries that will comprise no small degree of interest. In my next I anticipate imparting something of more importance.
For the present, adieu. CLINTON.Daily Alta California, San Francisco, August 26, 1851, page 2
The steamer Columbia, Capt. LeRoy, arrived from Oregon yesterday, about two o'clock p.m. She made a very quick passage up and back. Leaving this port on Oct. 20 at 11 a.m., she arrived at Port Orford at noon on the 22nd, and landed 121 U.S. officers and soldiers, under the command of Colonel Casey, destined to act against the Indians in the vicinity of Rogue River.
"Arrival of the Columbia," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, October 28, 1851, page 2
Indian Fight in Oregon.
Col. Casey, with a small detachment of United States troops, made an expedition against the Coquille Indians living back of Port Orford, and chastised them severely for their murderous attack, made some months since, upon Mr. T'Vault and his party. . . . Col. Casey, soon after arriving at Port Orford, proceeded thence to the mouth of the Coquille, and, encamping on the right bank, proceeded to construct rafts with which to cross. For two days the Indians kept firing from the left bank. Having embarked the whole command of sixty men, the expedition proceeded up the Coquille.
Arrived at the forks of the river (sixty miles up), having burned all the rancherias on both banks, together with the provisions and fishing implements, they found the Indians, to the number of two hundred, encamped, awaiting their approach. They had sent their women and children to a place of safety, and had made preparations for a fight. Giving the command of one party to Lieutenant Stoneman, and heading the other himself, the Colonel made the attack; at the same time the Indians were firing into the boats. The fight continued for about twenty minutes, and at the end of that time the savages fled. A portion of them were intercepted by Lieut. Stoneman, and some six or seven killed. In all there were about fifteen killed, and many who were wounded were dragged off the field by the savages in their flight. Several of the men had their clothes cut by bullets and arrows, but none were hurt.
A large quantity of provisions found in the rancheria was destroyed, and the rancheria razed to the ground. Returning, the Colonel left Lieut. Stoneman encamped at the mouth of the river with forty-five men and a howitzer. As all their winter provisions had been destroyed, and their canoes taken, the Indians will be compelled to sue for peace, and the severe chastisement they have received will cause them to refrain hereafter from molesting the whites.
The Indian who was captured gave, by signs, such information as confirms the belief that five of T'Vault's men were murdered, and two of the Indians were shot at the conflict. The savages were under the impression that Mr. Brush had been drowned in crossing the river. Colonel Casey was about proceeding to Rogue River, 21 miles below Fort Orford, the Indians on that stream having recently harassed the white settlers, and requiring chastisement almost as much as those living on the Coquille.
"Further California News," The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, January 3, 1852, page 1
The Port Orford Gold Diggings.Daily Alta California, San Francisco, September 2, 1853, page 2
For the accuracy of the annexed statements we cannot vouch, the name of the author not accompanying the communication. If the writer furnishes this information for no interested purposes, and it certainly has the appearance of truth, it will be valuable to persons who may have projected a trip to the mines in question.
Messrs. Editors:--As statements in relation to the gold at Port Orford continue to appear in the papers, it may save those who cannot afford the expense of the price of passage there and back by describing things as they actually exist.
The writer returned from the above port on the steamer Columbia, and having resided there about a month, has had a good opportunity of understanding the capabilities of the place.
At the town of Port Orford there are only four or five available claims, and these are already taken up. Gold has been found at Hubbard's Creek, three-quarters of a mile distant. A company of six persons built a dam and turned the stream, but owing to the sandy nature of the soil they were unable to manage the water, and consequently have failed in taking out anything.
The principal diggings are thirty-five miles beyond Port Orford, and six miles above the Coquille River. Seven sluices were at work at the time of my visit, and several more in preparation. Some of these sluices were yielding two hundred dollars a day per man; others as low as thirty or forty dollars. The whole were supplied by one stream of water. The claims on either side of this stream were richest, and of course worked at least expense. The gold diminishes in proportion to the distance from the stream, and the expense of working increases, owing to the necessity of making ditches or troughs to conduct water to the sluices. In this vicinity "the color of gold" has been found several miles along the beach, but there is great scarcity of water. About twenty miners are settled there. They pack their provisions up from Port Orford, on mules, at a cost of ten cents per pound, which, added to the high prices charged at Port Orford, makes living very expensive. A few hired laborers were receiving one hundred and fifty dollars per month, "and found." Cowan Bay is fifteen miles further north, and it would be an advantage to the miners if goods could be landed there instead of at P.O., thus saving twenty miles of land carriage.
There are other diggings twenty miles below Port Orford, near the mouth of Rogue River. Until within two weeks there has been only one sluice at work there, belonging to a man named "French Joe." I retorted twenty ounces of gold for him, which he had "taken out" in nine days, a result so flattering as to cause several persons to go down, packing their provisions upon Indians, but they complain much of want of water, and were about to try the "Jenny Lind rocker," instead of sluices--with what success has not been heard.
A party had also gone out to search for placer diggings. They returned the day the steamer Columbia left, and if they found anything, were very silent about it.
Most of the miners who left San Francisco per Cecil and Thos. Hunt have been disappointed; some have returned. If any others intend going up, I should advise them to take their own provisions. The beach diggings will not be good for more than two months more, after which time the high tides prevent labor.
Yours respectfully, W.W.W.
At Crescent City there is new excitement about the "beach diggings" from the mouth of Rogue River to Port Orford. Big strikes are reported--from $25 to $100 per day, all out of the black sand. Quicksilver, is, of course, in great demand.
"Mining Intelligence," Sacramento Daily Union, October 22, 1853, page 2
For the Oregonian.
Port Orford Mines.
PORT ORFORD, April 3, 1855.Editor Oregonian, Sir: Hoping my letter may do some good to some of the unemployed men in your vicinity, and some information to your numerous readers, I send you this line. I fear that the letter-writers from this place, last year, caused so much trouble that I fear there will be some that may think I have some design in writing, but I have no other than this: Myself and several others want men to work, and are willing to pay good wages for them. Upon Cape Blanco beach there are wanted from 35 to 50 men to work by the mouth at from $40 to $60 per month, mining, and their pay sure. I will give you a statement of the diggings there. The beach is about one mile long that has been prospected, and will pay from $5 to $50 per day to the man, every foot. (Don't anyone start thinking to get a claim, for they are all claimed now and have been for a year.) Claims are held at from $50 to $1,000. There have been but four claims worked this winter, and they have paid very well. The tides have prevented the rest from working, but as they are getting less every day, as soon as men can be had every claim will be worked. Cobern & Backenstow's claim is paying $16 per day to the hand; they work five men. Mr. Blakely's has paid all winter, and is paying now $25 per day to the man. He works two and three men. He has taken out $3,600 since last fall, and says that had he have had the drop riffle he would have taken out $1,000 more. Mr. Worden & Co. have water about three hours each day, and take out from $10 to $20 per day. Mr. Coffee and his two boys, the youngest is about ten years old, pump their water and take out about $40 per day, and have done the same all winter. Above here there is a large amount of the beach that will pay with the drop riffle. This is a new method for saving gold with quicksilver, and by far the best that has ever been used here. It was got up and brought to its present perfection by the miners on the beach in this vicinity, and is no patent and can be had for the making. If there are any men that are out of employment in your vicinity, they, as I said before, can get employment, and as there are claims for sale, they can buy by paying a good price. By the way, I have no claims for sale. There is about a mile of beach below Port Orford that will pay from $3 to $5 per day; but little of it is taken. But it costs something to get started. No one can begin at all without getting a tom and drop riffle, shovel and quicksilver. The miners on the beach at Rogue River are doing well; some of the claims are paying as high as $50 per day to the man. At Coquille, those that are working are doing well, and many more of the miners will be at work in the course of this month. We have had no new diggings struck, nor any excitement this winter, and I hope we will not have any of the latter again.
Yours, respectfully,Weekly Oregonian, Portland, May 12, 1855, page 1
JOHN W. SUTTON.
SOME EARLY HISTORY OF CURRY COUNTY TOLD
William Tichenor Operated Boat Between San Francisco and Port Orford Years Ago
(Fred Lockley in Oregon Journal)
"My grandfather, Captain William Tichenor, took command of the Sea Gull in March, 1851," said Frank B. Tichenor of Port Orford, when we took dinner together recently. "The Sea Gull plied between San Francisco and Portland. In the spring of 1851 he took a company of nine men from Portland to make a settlement at Port Orford. When he returned to San Francisco the Sea Gull had to be repaired, so additional recruits were sent, on board the Columbia, one of the Pacific Mail Company's boats. The men who were camped on Battle Rock were J. H. Eagan, John P. Slater, T. D. Palmer, Joseph Hussey, James Carrigan, Erastus Summers, J. M. Kirkpatrick, George Ridoubt and Cyrus W. Hedden.
"The men on the rock loaded the ship's cannon that my grandfather let them have, with two pounds of powder and a lot of bar lead. A canoe with a number of Indian warriors came up the coast from toward the mouth of the Rogue River. One of the men in the canoe, apparently their leader, was a tall man wearing a red shirt. The Indians in the canoe joined the other Indians on shore and, led by the man with the red shirt, they charged the nine men on Battle Rock. There were about 100 Indians who made the charge. Carrigan held a board about 8 feet long, 15 inches wide and about an inch and a half thick, in front of Kirkpatrick, who had a tarred rope with a lighted end ready to fire the cannon when the Indians came up on the rock. Thirty-seven arrows buried their heads in that board. Palmer was shot through the neck with an arrow and Ridoubt was shot in the breast. When the Indians, who had climbed the rock, were about eight feet from the mouth of the cannon, Kirkpatrick touched the lighted tar rope to the priming. About 12 or 15 of the Indians were killed outright and a large number wounded. Later the men on the rock picked up 17 dead Indians on the rock. The other Indians jumped into the ocean, and about an hour later one of the chiefs came and made signs that he wanted to gather up their dead. They took away all of their dead except the man in the red shirt. They refused to take him. The chief tore off his shirt and kicked him in the ribs. The nine men on the rock later buried him in the sand. They found he was a white man, and it later developed that he was a Russian whose vessel had been wrecked on the coast. He had joined this tribe and became a chief.
"This battle occurred on June 10, the day after the men were landed on the rock. Kirkpatrick told the chief when he came to carry away the dead Indians that the Sea Gull would return in 14 days. On account of the Sea Gull being delayed by being repaired in San Francisco it was not able to come back as soon as expected, so on the morning of the 15th day several hundred Indians in war paint came back to kill the men camped on the rock. The chief with whom Kirkpatrick had talked led the Indians in this attack. When the chief was about 100 yards from the rock James Carrigan and J. M. Kirkpatrick both fired at him, both of their bullets hitting him in the chest and one of the bullets going through his heart, killing him instantly. This stopped the charge. The Indians picked him up and carried him back up the beach. Once more the Indians gathered, and another chief, brandishing a long knife and yelling ferociously, attacked the men on the rock. He also was killed when he approached the rock, and once more the Indians stopped and carried him away.
"The Indians, supposing they had the men surrounded, withdrew and had a war dance. While this was going on the nine men, leaving their tents and all supplies on the rock, quietly withdrew and started for the settlements, which they eventually reached. Two or three days after the men had escaped from the rock the Columbia anchored off Port Orford. They fired a gun on board the ship to attract the attention of the men on the rock. No answer coming from Battle Rock, a small boat was sent ashore, and it was discovered that the men were gone, and it was supposed they were killed by the Indians.
"My grandfather returned to San Francisco on the Columbia, reaching there on July 10. The Sea Gull was ready for sea, so he recruited 67 men and landed them at Port Orford on July 14, 1851. They built two blockhouses of heavy logs, as a protection from the Indians. My grandfather went on to Portland, where he purchased some horses, some hogs and other supplies, and engaged W. G. T'Vault, who had been the first editor of the Oregon Spectator when it was started in Oregon City in 1846. My grandfather and Phil Kearny had been schoolmates at Newark, N.J., and Colonel Kearny recommended T'Vault as a good man to find a practicable road between Port Orford and the Oregon Trail, leading from Portland to San Francisco. My grandfather filed his donation claim at the land office at Oregon City. At that time General Preston was surveyor general for Oregon. My grandfather returned to Port Orford on July 26, 1851. He found that some of the men he had recruited at San Francisco were worthless as settlers. They were turbulent, lazy and unwilling to take orders, so he shipped 14 of them back to San Francisco.
"A few weeks later Dr. Anson Dart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, with the Rev. Mr. Parrish and the Rev. H. H. Spalding, came to Port Orford. H. H. Spalding had been an associate of Dr. Whitman, having crossed the plains with him in 1836. On September 3, Lieutenant Whyman, with a mountain howitzer and some soldiers, arrived at Port Orford. My grandfather sent out Colonel T'Vault with a party of men to cut a trail between Port Orford and the Oregon Trail. He sent another party out under M. Nolan. Not far distant was a high peak, known as Sugar Loaf Peak. The men thought this was the hogback of the range, so they tried to cross it, thinking they were crossing the range of mountains. As a matter of fact, it is an isolated peak, one of the highest on the Oregon coast, bordering the sea. After climbing through ravines and brush for a week, all they had done was to climb all around the mountain, so they returned to Port Orford and named this mountain Tichenor's Humbug, which name it still bears.
"Colonel T'Vault's party had a still more disastrous time. They had to abandon their horses, and the men became so disgusted with Colonel T'Vault that they were going to leave him, but Cyrus Hedden, who later settled at Scottsburg, persuaded them not to leave T'Vault.
"About two miles above the mouth of the Coquille River they had a fight with the Indians, on September 14, 1851. Five of the party--Patrick Murphy of New York, A. S. Dougherty of Texas, Jeremiah Ryland of Maryland, J. P. Pepper of New York, and John P. Holland of New Hampshire--were killed. Those who survived were Colonel T'Vault, Gilbert Brush, T. J. Davenport, L. L. Williams and Cyrus Hedden. Williams was badly wounded by an arrow, and Brush also was wounded."
Myrtle Point Herald, May 30, 1929, page 6
Story of Battle Rock Told by Indian Attorney
By Elwood Alfred Towner, Attorney for Oregon Indians, Myrtle Point, Oregon
A great many people from Myrtle Point and the [Coos] Bay district will journey to Gold Beach and the Curry County country to participate in the Rogue River bridge dedication this weekend, and many will be interested in the historical traditions surrounding Port Orford and Battle Rock. Many versions of the early troubles among the whites and Indians have been written, and unfortunately the Indian point of view relative to the trouble at Battle Rock has never been told, only amongst the Indians themselves.
The writer was raised among the Indian people whose ancestors lived on Rogue River, and in the Curry County country, and he is familiar with their language, customs and traditions. The writer has also spent a great deal of time studying the problems of the red men in Alaska, the greater part of the United States, and Canada. I am also familiar with the major disturbances or wars of the whites and Indians the country over, and much time was devoted to the causes of said troubles.
Many educators and historians have pictured the red men as a cruel and savage race of people, and they have blamed the Indians in every instance for the early troubles, and unfortunately the average American mind has become poisoned and warped concerning the Indian people. The writer can safely state in fairness to all that it was crime, greed, liquor, disease and corruption brought by the whites to the Indians that caused most of the trouble in the early days. The Indian people objected to the taking and destruction of their homes by the whites, and most of all they resisted the practice of debauchery and seduction of their women and maidens. Can the Indian be persecuted, condemned and murdered for protecting the honor and virtue of their women? The early settlers, or many of them, had no moral code, and they saw fit to debauch and seduce [omission] who were honorable people and, unfortunately, many people of sterling worth and character were killed by the Indians because a few degenerates and perverts persisted in said practices. I think I can safely say that the American people would take the same course, should an unknown race come among us and resort to such practices.
I understand that nine men, namely, J. H. Eagan, John T. Slater, Geo. Ridoubt, T. D. Palmer, J. Hussey, Cyrus W. Hedden, Jas. Carrigan, Erastus Summers and Captain Kirkpatrick, comprised the little colony on Battle Rock on June 10, 1851. None of the above men were familiar with the Indians, their language or customs, and in fact none of them ever lived among the red men until they reached Port Orford on the morning of June 9, 1851. When word reached Rogue River that the Sea Gull, commanded by Captain Tichenor, landed at Port Orford on the above date, the chiefs of the Tututni tribes and many others journeyed to Port Orford to pay their respects to Captain Tichenor and to exchange presents with the party, which was the Indian custom with friends, for Captain Tichenor was and always had been friendly with the Indians. When the Rogue River welcoming or reception committee reached Port Orford the Sea Gull and Captain Tichenor had pulled anchor, or the mud hook as it were, and were bound for San Francisco.
The Indians held a dance around a large bonfire on the beach as a part of their ceremony as they had done in the past, and later a group of braves, chiefs, women and children started to the camp of Captain Kirkpatrick on Battle Rock. As above stated, Captain Kirkpatrick and his party knew practically nothing of the Indians or their customs and misunderstood the visit of the Indians to his camp, and through fear and the excitement of the occasion, he and his men fired on the Indians when they were in range of the small cannon, and many of the Indians were killed, literally murdered, and that was the start of the trouble at Port Orford between the whites and the Indians. Thus the reward to our people for their gesture of friendship toward the whites resulted in murder and bloodshed among our men, women and children, and to the present time the property and rights of the Indians have been exploited under the disguise of religion and other agencies.
I trust that many people of intelligence and understanding will pause for a moment at the historic Battle Rock at Port Orford this weekend and appreciate the Indian in his nobler sense, and too that they can hear that faint echo or call for justice by a vanishing race. Whence cometh our help?
The government purchased all the land west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon from the Indians by treaty, and the Indians have never received compensation for the same to the present time. The Indians, however, in Oregon did not sell their hunting and fishing rights, and they still retain the same. The Americans have broken faith with the once-noble red man on every hand, and this is the part the Indians played in the tragedy of the past and present civilization; and Battle Rock at Port Orford, Oregon, to the American Indian is a monument to the most terrible and gruesome murder among the once-powerful Tututni tribes of Rogue River Indians, and this, my friends, is just an illustration of the plight of our people, and we pride ourselves on being members of a great and glorious, Christian, democratic government.
Myrtle Point Herald, May 26, 1932, page 1 *The note is that of the Herald editor.
Indians' 100-Year Curse Expired
BY BOB FRENETTE
Staff Writer, The World
PORT ORFORD--The lifting of an old Indian curse may be one of the blessings Port Orford can count during its Battle Rock celebration the weekend of July 4.
Fantastic? Maybe, but history makes one wonder.
Legend has it that the Port Orford Indians laid a curse on the land after their heavy losses in the Battle of Battle Rock 108 years ago. It was to last 100 years.
The community celebrated the end of the jinx on June 9, 1951. Since then, the town has had an unusual spurt of growth.
Why would the Indians curse the land? From their point of view the nine whites in the landing party were invaders, and it cost the tribe many braves and two chiefs to dislodge the beachhead.
Maybe they had even stronger reason for moral indignation. The historical reappraisal going on this centennial year has raised this question: Who started the Battle of Battle Rock?
The often-told story of the battle goes, briefly, like this:
Port Orford was the first land in Coos and Curry counties to be settled by whites. The first attempt, leading to the battle, was made by eight men and Capt. J. M. Kirkpatrick, a onetime Indian scout with Kit Carson.
Captain William Tichenor brought the party down from Portland on the little steam schooner Sea Gull. Gold was apparently the main inducement.
Tichenor, who got along well with the Indians, told the party it would not need many guns, but the men refused to proceed with the plan unless they were well armed, including an old brass cannon.
"On the morning of the ninth of June 1851 we were landed on the beach just below Battle Rock," Kirkpatrick wrote later. "There were a few Indians in sight who appeared to be friendly, but I could see that they did not like to have us there. . . . We lost no time in making our camp on what was to be called Battle Rock."
Captain Tichenor sailed for San Francisco, promising to return with more men and supplies in two weeks. The landing party set up its cannon commanding the narrow ridge, the only approach to the camp.
The Indians began assembling and on June 10 approached the rock, which lies--as Binger Hermann described it--like a sleeping lion on the beach.
At this point, there are two versions of what happened. Grover Tichenor, grandson of Port Orford's founder, lives today on part of the captain's old donation land. He maintains his grandfather later discovered, and believed, that the Indians were approaching to trade, the whites got panicky, fired the cannon, and the battle was on.
Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, later maintained the Indians were without doubt coming for scalps. True, he was there, but he also had a vested interest in justifying himself.
Maybe there is no way of definitely answering this historical question.
Anyway, Kirkpatrick's account continues: "When a red-shirted fellow in the lead was not more than eight feet from the muzzle of the gun, I applied the fiery end of the rope to the priming. . . . At least twelve or thirteen men were killed outright, and such a tumbling of scared Indians I never saw before or since. . . . We counted seventeen dead Indians on the rock, and this was the bloody baptism that gave the name of Battle Rock to our old camp at Port Orford."
The Indians sued for peace, but agreed to it only on the grounds that the whites would leave when the ship returned, as they had been told, in 14 days.
Steamer Did Not Come"And for 14 days we were not molested. . . . But on the morning of the 15th day they were there in force. . . . Now we had lied to them. . . . The steamer had not arrived as we had promised. . . . We could not make them understand why the steamer did not come."
After a war council, the Indians attacked. Their big chief and others were killed. "They gathered around his body and with a groan that was terrible picked him up and carried him away to the north out of sight."
Then the whites pretended to be strengthening their position for a siege. As night fell they slipped off the rock and set out for the mouth of the Umpqua, which they reached July 2.
Captain Tichenor returned July 4, 1851 and founded a permanent settlement.
Indian wars followed, which Tichenor attributed to the Battle of Battle Rock. As a military post, Port Orford grew.
But in 1895 it was practically deserted. In 1868 it was struck by a devastating forest fire. As late as 1950 its population was listed as only 674.
Is there something to this legend of the curse? Who knows? But it's a fact that in 1958, seven years after the termination of the jinx, population soared 95.8 percent over 1950--to 1,320.
Maybe Port Orford has more reason than meets the eye to cheer this Independence Day.
Coos Bay World, June 11, 1959, page 5
Last revised March 11, 2019