The Breakout of '55
The events of October 9, 1855. For the precipitating events, click here and here and here.
A definitive account:
THE ROGUE RIVER MASSACRE.Sunday Oregonian, Portland, December 20, 1885, page 3
Story of the Killing of Nineteen Persons on October 9, 1855.
A Prominent Episode in the History of Southern Oregon--
Dangers Incident to Frontier Life--Narrow Escape of Judge Deady.
(Written for the Sunday Oregonian.)
"The Indians have broken loose and are killing everybody!" shouted a mud-besplattered and excited horseman as he dashed into the busy town of Jacksonville, in Southern Oregon, on the 9th of October, 1855. [Henry Klippel identifies the horseman as George Anderson, arriving in Jacksonville at midnight of the 9th.]
Dismounting from his foam-flecked and panting steed, he repeated to the crowd which had gathered about him: "The red devils broke out of the reservation last night and killed every man along Rogue River. Yes, and the women and children, too. They've burned all the houses and run off the cattle, and God knows what they haven't done. I just came from Jewett's ferry."
Thus saying, he staggered to a seat, while the excited crowd plied him with questions.
"I was asleep in the old log house (built in 1851 by Perkins, then owner of the ferry, and made bulletproof as a defense against Indians) at Jewett's ferry, and several others were there. Just before day, or maybe at 3 or 4 o'clock, 'whish' went a bullet through the shingles. Then there was a fearful howl, and a lot more guns were fired. We got down on the floor at first, but when lights were got we found we were all right and we began to fire back. We saw through the dark a dozen Indians firing at the house. In about half an hour they left, and we waited till daybreak and looked out and saw a man dead on the ground near the house. His name is Hamilton, and he was camped close to the ferry. We looked for his partner and found him in the bushes, where his groaning drew us. He is terrible bad off--shot four times."
"Is that the Hamilton that's bringing the iron for the new mill?" interrupted a bystander. "Yes, I expect it is, for that's what his train was loaded with," responded the messenger. "Then we looked around, keeping an eye out for Indians until about 10 o'clock. We didn't leave the house before nine, for fear on 'em--and found nothing more, only Robbins come tearing from Evans' and says, 'the whole country is murdered. Jones and his wife are shot; Wagoner and his family are killed, and the Indians have beat Haines' brains out. I want you fellows to go back with me just as soon as you can and look and see who's left alive."
As these disjointed words were repeated about the town, great excitement ensued. Jacksonville was full of people, mainly refugees from the surrounding mining camps and farming settlements, for the whole surrounding country was, and had been for many days, in anticipation of trouble with the Indians, although of less serious nature than that which now cast such a chill over the stoutest hearts. A large number of the inhabitants of Jackson and Josephine counties were "forted up," that is, had collected in strong buildings, bulletproof and large enough to contain several families. A large number of men were required to defend these detached posts, and even in Jacksonville itself some apprehensions of danger to the town were felt, although the number of men there capable of bearing arms was several hundred. Very quickly, however, a volunteer force of about twenty active and fearless men were in the saddle and set off at a swift gallop for the north side of the Rogue River, where the atrocities had been committed. While they ride to succor the helpless victims of savagery, let us examine the route which they followed and the region toward which they directed their headlong steps.
THE COUNTRY AT THAT PERIOD.The railway which in 1885 connects the valley of the Rogue with that of the Willamette passes for nearly eighty miles of its way along the route formerly known as the old California trail, and later as the California and Oregon road. In 1855 and thereabouts, the era of extensive mining in Northern California and Southern Oregon, this trail, then broadened and graded to the actuality of a fair wagon road, was the sole communication between such important mining centers as Jacksonville and Yreka, and was in fact the only means of land communication between the state (then territory) of Oregon and California. Along it at various convenient localities were scattered, as the fashion of the times then was, no small number of eating and lodging houses and drinking saloons, where the wayfarer might refresh himself and his horse. A vast traffic passed over this road, vast if it is considered that the sole means of transportation were heavy wagons and trains of pack mules. By such means the miners were supplied with the necessaries of life and the implements of their trade, from such a distant shipping port as Scottsburg, and even from Portland. The traveler who has the good fortune to pass by daylight over that portion of the Oregon & California Railway which lies between the South Umpqua and Rogue rivers will see a deal of most charming and interesting and even sublime scenery, and he will find, if he seeks opportunity to question the older inhabitants of the stations, that these localities are fruitful in traditionary lore.
Parallel to the railway and not far to the eastward lay the old California trail, where were enacted the scenes which are about to be described. Along the Rogue, from the point where Grants Pass now stands, up as far as the Upper Table Rock, every mentionable locality bears its tale of Indian occupancy and Indian cruelty, or of white man's tyranny and overpowering mastership. In the sands of the Rogue River gold was found worth a king's ransom. The crest of yonder symmetrical hill--Gold Hill, it is fittingly called--bears a vein of quartz, the story of whose wealth rivals the wondrous tales of Aladdin and his lamp. Not far from the track and half-concealed in the brush which kindly nature has sent to heal the scars of man's occupancy, the remains of a military stronghold are to be seen--a stronghold whose use was temporary and whose site is half-forgotten, but whose name is destined to endure, honoring Oregon's first governor and first senator. Not far away, in fact only a score of miles to the northwest, beyond the sandstone-capped [sic] summit of the Lower Table Rock, Gen. Lane fought a severe battle with the Indians and compelled them to a peace with white men--a peace which some of them observed until the day of their death.
At Fort Lane, which was then garrisoned by a few companies of regular troops under Capt. Smith, the volunteer relief party hastening down from Jacksonville were reinforced by fifty-five mounted dragoons, under command of the dashing Major Fitzgerald, a beau sabreur [gallant soldier--literally "handsome swordsman"] of the old regime, a man held in due remembrance by many a rollicking soldier or mirth-loving civilian "Fitz" was educated in war, and was a worthy comrade of Phil Kearny, the hero of Chantilly, who also was a major of dragoons and served for a time in Oregon. Guided by John F. Miller, the combined party swept onward and never drew rein until Evans Ferry was reached, where they were told of the death of Isaac Shelton, a Willamette valley man, who, while on his way to Yreka, was shot by the Indians near the ferry while preparing his breakfast. He received four wounds, poor fellow, and lingered twenty hours. From there the ravaging savages, traveling rapidly away from the reservation, had proceeded along the road, butchering whomever they met and burning every house they came to, as they passed through the thinly settled region. Two men driving a wagon loaded with apples were next met with, whom they pursued and killed, one at a distance of a mile and a quarter from the ferry, the other a mile further.
THE NEXT VICTIM FOUNDWas a man named Jones, one of the few settlers along the road. He had been shot near his house, and his body was partially eaten by hogs before it was found. His wife, fleeing toward the brush when the attack began, was shot at by an Indian and her spinal column fractured by the bullet. Falling to the ground, the poor creature had dragged herself to cover, but was searched for and found by the bloody miscreants, one of whom presented his revolver and in spite of her prayers shot her again, the second bullet passing through her arm. She fell senseless, and the Indians, doubtless imagining her dead, hastily left. She recovered her senses late in the day and being found was taken to Tuft's place near the river and died, for she lived a day only. O. P. Robbins, Jones' partner, happened to be away from home at the time hunting the cows. He saw the house on fire and heard the yelling of the Indians, and surmising the trouble went to Tuft's place for assistance. The Indians had been before him, however, and had fired the house and wounded Mrs. Tuft, who recovered.
Trooping in disorder along the road, the savages next attacked two men who were transporting provisions to the mines. Killing them both, they took the horses from the wagon and turned them loose in the woods, where the relief party found them. The harness they piled upon the wagon and set the whole on fire, and it was consumed. Coming next to J. B. Wagoner's place, they found only Mrs. Wagoner with her little girl May at home, several persons having left but a very short time previous. This house they set on fire and barbarously murdered the lady and dragged her child away, a captive, to their bestial abodes.
The relief party found the body of Mrs. Wagoner lying, charred and almost unrecognizable, amid the ruins of the house. The little girl was taken by the Indians to the Meadows, on lower Rogue River, according to their accounts, but died there some weeks after. According to tradition, Mrs. Wagoner was compelled to remain in her dwelling while it burned, and was last seen by the savages standing before her glass arranging her hair!
As Fitzgerald's forces came in sight of the scene of the Wagoner tragedy some half-dozen men who were in advance caught a view of the burned domicile, with the corpse of the unfortunate woman, and simultaneously became aware of a number of Indians partly concealed in the brush. Seeing the smallness of the force opposed to them, and not being aware of the regulars' proximity, the insolent murderers shouted a challenge to the whites to come and fight them. At the next instant the military burst into view, and giving the astonished redskins no chance to hide, charged them with the utmost vigor and kept them on the jump for two miles, killing six. Then the party returned to the road and proceeded northward to Haines' house, where lay the corpses of the owner and his little son, the latter's brains dashed out and the body perforated by bullets. Haines, lying sick in bed, attended by his wife and their two children, had been surprised by the savages, who shot him and his son, and taking the wife and her daughter with them, passed on to Harris' house, the next settlement north. What they did here appears in the following:
THE MURDER OF HARRIS.As the relief party approached Harris' house, no signs of human occupancy were visible, and an air of desolation lay upon the scene. The outbuildings had been burned, and wreaths of smoke rose slowly from the ruins. Dismounting, some of the party passed within the house. The spectacle that met their eyes was a terrible one. In the room lay the body of the ill-fated owner, pierced by a bullet. The signs of a determined attack and resistance were visible in the bullet-marked doors and walls. Whatever the termination of the contest [was] could not be ascertained, and as the party felt that it would be a waste of time to remain, the order was given to mount and push on. As the cavalcade passed a willow thicket not far from the now-abandoned homestead, a cry was heard, and a woman, begrimed and disheveled, rushed out, leading a wounded child by the hand, and implored the aid of the troops. It was Mrs. Harris who, having with the courage of a lioness, defended her hearth and her family from the attacks of a large party of murderous Indians, had after their withdrawal taken refuge in the willow copse, and there awaited the arrival of succor. When the troops gathered about her house she had watched with anxious eyes, too far off to distinguish whether they were whites sent to relieve or red men bent to complete their horrible work. Her story is one of the most extraordinary in the whole range of frontier narrative, and forms the leading episode of the terrible massacre which is now being recounted. The story of Mrs. Harris has been finely told at great length by Mr. Turner in the Overland Monthly. These details are gathered from the accounts preserved in the recollection of contemporaries.
In the Harris domicile resided five persons--Mr. and Mrs. Harris, their two children, [Sophia], a girl of twelve, and David, somewhat younger. The fifth was Frank A. Reed, a lame man, partner or employee of Harris. When the first alarm of Indians was given, the latter attempted to escape to the woods, but was pursued and killed. His skeleton was found a year afterward. The boy, David, who was at some distance from the house, was last seen running across a field. Subsequent trace of him was never found, but it is supposed that he was murdered and his body concealed. Mr. Harris was a few rods from the house when the redskins appeared, and in attempting to retreat to its shelter was fired at and mortally wounded as he stood upon the threshold of his own door. His wife drew him into the house and closed and barred the door and, obedient to her husband's advice, brought the firearms--a rifle, double-barreled shotgun and revolver--and loading them, began to return the fire of the miscreants, who remained close to the house. Her husband was dying in agony the while, and of the two children, one, the boy, was she knew not where, but supposed with reason that he had already met the cruel fate which impended over them all. The child [Sophia] had been painfully wounded in the arm, and the terrified sufferer climbed the ladder which led to the attic and there remained for several hours, the mute witness of the, to her, terrible conflict. While the Indians remained in the vicinity--a length of time that Mrs. Harris would never after form an approximation to, owing to her state of mind--they kept beyond reach of danger from her fire, but repeatedly attempted to cast burning brands upon the roof over her head, intending thereby to cremate all that the house contained. In an hour, more or less, the husband and father breathed his last, and his bloody corpse with its wide-staring eyes and the expression of agony into which its features were molded added tenfold to the terrific nature of the surroundings which confronted the poor and despairing woman. Through this scene of horror she kept up such an effective resistance as she was able, discharging her firearms in such directions and at such intervals as served to intimidate the savages, but probably not succeeding in any case in hitting any of them. Unfortunately this poor woman, who was suffering so much from
THE CRUELTY OF HER ASSAILANTS,Was not able to revenge herself effectually upon them, for never having even fired a gun before, and gaining her knowledge even of how to load one by the instructions of her wounded husband, given in the first few minutes of the attack, it was as much as she could do to load and fire, hoping that the show of resistance might, as it did, keep her foes at a distance. She steadily loaded her weapons and discharged them through the crevices of the logs of which the house was built, and the Indians, though numerous, dared not attack the building. They burned the outbuildings, however, first removing the horses from their stables. In the afternoon they decamped, leaving the dauntless woman mistress of the field and the savior of her own and her daughter's life. As soon as she was assured of their departure, she called her daughter down from the loft and with her took refuge in the willow copse, and remained there until the arrival of the relief party, as before said. By them she was removed to a place of safety. The heroism of the Puritan women of new England is matched in the account of Mrs. Harris.
The relief party went on to Harkness & Twogood's tavern, at Grave Creek, finding there a company of about twenty armed men from Cow Creek, who had been hastily gathered and led to the scene of hostilities by Capt. Jacob S. Rinearson. On the next day they returned to Jacksonville, as the savages had quite disappeared, and the whites who lived in exposed localities had taken refuge in strongholds.
It happened that on the morning of the 9th Judge Deady, who was returning from holding court at Jacksonville, in company with Dr. J. W. Drew, setting out early on their northward journey, took breakfast at the Wagoner house, a few hours before the arrival of the murderous savages. A Miss Pellet, well known in Oregon at that time as a temperance lecturer, was also at Wagoner's, awaiting a conveyance which was to take her on her way to Crescent City. Judge Deady and his fellow traveler left first, and soon after the lecturer set out for Vannoy's ferry, escorted by Mr. Wagoner. Very soon after their first departure the house was infested, and Mrs. Wagoner, who with her daughter were the sole tenants, fell easy victims to savage brutality. The three travelers escaped narrowly indeed, for so close had been the call that Messrs. Deady and Drew, looking back from the summit of a hill near Grave Creek, saw the smoke of burning buildings, but did not know the cause until overtaken by the news of the dire catastrophe.
The victims numbered nineteen. The first that fell was Wm. Going, or Goin [also spelled Gwin], a Missourian, who was employed by the government as teamster on the Table Rock Reservation. At 2 o'clock on the fateful morning, while it was yet dark, and before the Indians had left the reservation on their way down the river, this man, in conversation with Clinton Schieffelin in a little house on the reserve, stood, or rather leaned, with his elbow upon the rude mantle of a fireplace, and while in the act of speaking a bullet fired from without the house entered his heart. In the darkness Mr. Schieffelin escaped, and crossing the river to his claim on the south side, found in the morning that the savages had stolen several of his horses, as well as some of his neighbor's, Mr. Birdseye. Poor Schieffelin, who, by the way, gave to the writer a great part of the facts incident in this account, went this year to join that silent majority. Of his sons, two were the lucky discoverers of the Tombstone mines in Arizona, and the invincible explorers of the inner wilds, the terra incognita of Alaska. Another son lives philosophically on a farm in Washington County, not twenty miles from Portland--a worthy citizen, sensibly preferring the quiet of agricultural pursuits to the perils and hardships which had characterized his brothers' lives.
The following list, which differs somewhat from others published, shows the names of the victims: Wm. Going, Wm. Hamilton, J. B. Powell, James White, Isaac Shelton, ------ Fox, Harris and son, Frank A. Reed, Haines, Mrs. Haines and two children, Mr. J. B. Wagoner and daughter Mary, Jones and wife, and Bunch. Total, nineteen.
INCIDENTS.Dr. Drew stopped on his way north at Turner's, where ten men were gathered, and offered to assist in the defense of the place. This was on the evening of the 9th. The next night he spent on horseback, pursuing his way to the Umpqua Valley to give the alarm and to write and forward a letter to the papers describing the difficulty and asking help from the people of the Willamette Valley. As soon as the facts became known, the inhabitants of Douglas and Umpqua counties felt the greatest consternation and, like those of the Rogue River Valley, "forted up." Some of the old log houses used in that day as forts still may be seen, ruinous indeed, but thrilling mementos of a time of danger. The best-preserved building of the sort which has come under the writer's notice stands in Flournoy Valley, an offshoot of the Lookingglass Valley, west of Roseburg. Its thick walls are loopholed for musketry, its second and highest story overhangs the lower, and its roof, easily accessible from within, could have resisted the efforts of savage besiegers to fire it.
The first tidings of the calamity which had overtaken the devoted settlers on the beautiful banks of the Rogue were exaggerated in their travel to the Willamette Valley newspapers offices. "Clarenden," writing to his friend Dryer, set the number of slain at thirty-one. Capt. Sheffield, of Cow Creek, one of the first to go to the assistance of the helpless inhabitants of northern Josephine, gave a list of thirty, of whom the names of only half were known. Subsequent investigations have reduced these natural exaggerations to the number given herein. Sheffield spoke of two brothers named Arnett being murdered in Illinois Valley, but of this there is no confirmatory evidence, unless indeed the publication of this article may serve to elicit such.
Wagoner, the bereaved father and husband, returning from Vannoy's, whither he had conducted Miss Pellet, when he approached his home found it on fire and encircled by howling savages. By them he was not observed and, feeling his inability to cope with them, unarmed as he was, he rushed in the utmost haste toward Evans' ferry, to obtain help to rescue his beloved ones. Reaching the Jones place he saw the owner's dead body, and in the road below lay the murdered travelers. Returning as soon as he could obtain even one man to accompany him, he flew rather than ran to his home, only to find his wife's body smoldering among the ruins and his child gone, he knew not whither.
The mail carrier had that morning got as far as Wagoner's, where he was joined by two men. A little way beyond, on the way to Evans ferry, they met a band of ten or fifteen Indians, armed and stripped as for war. Getting past these, they met a second band, a few hundred yards or so beyond, when the two bands began howling and firing on them, they being in the middle. The whites had to take to the woods and, making a detour, got back to Wagoner's only to find the house in flames and Indians surrounding it, yelling and dancing. Taking again to the woods, they traveled northward for some time, passing near Harris', where five or six shots were heard and flames were seen arising. Regaining the road where they adjudged it safe they kept on toward the north, giving the alarm and causing the settlers and travelers on that part of the road to seek safety at the Grave Creek House, where no disturbance had occurred. No murders were perpetrated on that day by the Indians on the remaining portion of the road, but all the inhabitants left their homes as far north as the Canyon, and the vacant tenements were mostly burned. Only two or three buildings were left between Evans' ferry and Turner's station, near the northern boundary of Josephine County. At Turner's a number of men stood guard, while all those who could be spared joined Rinearson and Sheffield, and effectually patrolled the dangerous space on the road. The savages came no further north, but plunged into the rough, mountainous country to the west, and secluded themselves from the whites and for a time delayed the vengeance which was destined to fall upon them eventually. Their hiding place was well chosen. It is a country of craggy mountains, of precipices and steep gorges, of impenetrable jungles and baffling thickets. It contains as many mountains as can find room to stand. The streams, which are numerous, icy cold and crystal clear, flow in narrow canyons, leaving the bases of frowning hills. The sun never penetrates to the bottoms of these wild gorges, which are as wild, gloomy and silent today as they were in the times when red and white men began to glut their immortal hates upon each other. How they fared in these noisome solitudes, and how they felt the approach of famine as their natural enemies encircled their haunts, and how desperation animated them to other and yet other deeds, no historian has ever told. But the account of their subjugation may yet be seen in print.
AN INDIAN OUTBREAK.Francis M. Tibbetts, of East Portland, engineer of the Stark Street ferry, a youthful pioneer of Oregon, who is thoroughly conversant with the troublous times of the early settlers in Southern Oregon, occasioned by the Indian outbreak from Cow Creek southward in 1855, recently submitted the following narrative to the records of Multnomah Camp No. 2, Indian War Veterans:
The Raid from Cow Creek Southward in 1855--Defense of the Settlers.
An Account Written for the Historical Records of Multnomah Camp No. 2,
Indian War Veterans.
I was born at Manchester, Dearborn County, Indiana, November 21, 1838. My father, Jonathan L. Tibbetts, came from Bangor, Maine. He followed trading on the Mississippi River for several years, and farmed some near Manchester, Indiana. In 1852 he came to Oregon with his family, consisting of my mother and ten children, and settled in the Umpqua Valley, near where Oakland now is. Here my father acquired a donation land claim and raised his family. The land was claimed by an Indian, "Louis," who was bought off for $610, gold coin. and then kept the hotel in Oakland for fourteen years. Afterwards he lived at Eugene City a few years, and died June 23, 1885, in East Portland, at the age of 81 years. All the remainder of my father's family are still living. My father was a Methodist preacher, and the first in the Umpqua Valley, and was the elder brother of Gideon Tibbetts, of Tibbett's addition to East Portland. In the fall of 1855 I was on my father's farm, near Oakland, when Charles Johnson came along the road with two heavily laden freight wagons, on the way from Portland to Southern Oregon. Johnson owned a farm in the Umpqua Valley, near my father's, was a single man, and had engaged in teaming as a more remunerative employment than farming. He was an Ohio man, of very light complexion, weighed about 160 pounds, and was about 25 or 26 years old at the time of which I write. He was a trustworthy and industrious man, and worthy of a better fate than [to] be
KILLED BY AN INDIAN.When he arrived at my father's place he concluded that his wagons were too heavily laden for the trip south, though the then-notoriously bad roads of the "Big Canyon." So he secured an additional wagon and team and divided his two wagonloads so as to make three of them, and employed me as driver for the extra team. The teams and freight, which consisted of stoves, tinware and butter, were all the property of Hiram Smith, then a merchant of Portland, who lately died in East Portland. Frank Stone, who died in Portland last month, was the third man of our freighting caravan. We proceeded southward on our journey, and as we reached the far end of the "Big Canyon" and were hitching up our teams one morning a man came along the road on horseback from the south and gave us information of an Indian outbreak between there and Jacksonville. Notwithstanding there was a feeling of danger from all that we learned, we proceeded on the road about six miles to Smith's place. Here we found travelers and the surrounding settlers congregating and arranging to defend themselves against an attack by the Indians. Smith's farm, or "place," is four or five miles south of the old "Hardy Elliff" station, at the southern end of the "Big Canyon," and is on Cow Creek, which, rising in the Cascade Range of mountains, passes by Hardy Elliff's and, running first westerly, thence northerly, and thence again easterly, makes a complete circuit of a spur of the Cascade Range, through which the "Big Canyon" is a passageway, and empties into the South Umpqua River seven or eight miles northward of Canyonville, at the northerly end of the "Big Canyon." Formerly, when all the travel was by wagon road, it passed up the westerly side of the South Umpqua River from Roseburg to the crossing of the South Umpqua, four or five miles from Canyonville, and there followed up Canyon Creek to Canyonville, where it entered the "Big Canyon" and followed up Canyon Creek, which flows through the canyon, a distance of twelve miles, to Hardy Elliff's.
CANYON CREEKrises in the canyon at a point about two miles northward of Hardy Elliff's. The grade of the canyon is not difficult for a wagon road, but the narrowness of the defile in some places, the swampy and boggy character of the creek in others, the precipitous mountains adjacent, and the dense forest excluding the sun's influence for a very large portion of the year, made the "Big Canyon" difficult of passage for a large portion of the time. A toll road was established through it by a private corporation some years after the time of which I write, but did not improve the opportunities of travel materially, though it, at one time, entered somewhat into the state's politics. The O.&C. Railroad, that has since been constructed as far south as Ashland, on Rogue River, does not passs through the "Big Canyon," but, crossing South Umpqua north of the mouth of Cow Creek, follows up that stream many miles westward of the "Big Canyon." The following are the names of the settlers on Cow Creek, south of the canyon, in 1855: Hardy Elliff, Stephen [Mynatt], ------ Smith, ------ Turner, [John W.] Redfield, who lived at the crossing of Cow Creek and about a mile from Smith's place. All these had families. When we arrived at Smith's Johnson concluded it was unwise to imperil our lives as well as endanger the loss of the team and freight by traveling on the road, and so we put the wagons and freight in Smith's corral, close to the house, and turned the teams into his pasture. In the afternoon of the day that we arrived at Smith's a volunteer company was formed at Turner's store, about half a mile south of Smith's. J. S. Rinearson was chosen captain, Charles Johnson first lieutenant, and Frank Stone and myself
JOINED AS PRIVATES,with about thirty others. Sometime in the latter part of the day a man named Wm. Lawler arrived on foot at Turner's from down on Grave Creek, a short distance below the mouth of Coyote Creek, where he had been mining, and where he had been attacked by the Indians when alone. He had succeeded in making his escape from them, though he was closely pursued for awhile, and fired at several times at close range. But he succeeded in eluding them by devious ways in the brush and timber and had laid out over one night, in the mountains, alone. Lawler presented two phases. He was very well tickled at reaching a place of safety and meeting with his white people again, which he very plainly showed. He was bareheaded, with few clothes, and quite hungry and haggard and worn out, which he also showed. He told me that the Indians attacked him and got between him and his cabin early in the morning, when he saw that his only chance was by taking to the brush close by, which he did. He told us there had been some other miners not far below him on Grave Creek, and he supposed that, in all probability, they had been attacked and killed. Supposing that we might possibly be able to succor these other miners, early on the next morning Capt. Rinearson, with his company, started, with Lawler as guide, to where the other miners were supposed to be. We went by the main road about five miles to what was then known as the "Six Bit" house, and from here we left the main road and followed down Wolf or Coyote Creek to where it empties into Grave Creek. In passing, I might mention that the "Six Bit" house is said to have taken its name from a circumstance connected with the hanging of an Indian. Being asked, when on the scaffold, what he had to say before being hung, [he] replied that a certain white man in the crowd "owed him six bits" that he would like to have.
Before starting from Turner's one of the command, William Ganey provided himself with a supply of the kind of "tarantula juice" then very common in the country. The "Six Bit" house we found deserted by its owner and keeper and occupied by a large number of Chinamen, who had congregated there from remote points, seeking safety. Ganey had become quite boisterous from drinking this poisonous manufactured stuff, called whisky, and made an onslaught upon the
CHINESE IN THE HOUSE,firing several pistol shots in the house where the Chinamen were, who skipped out at the windows and doors and hied away to the brush close by. Ganey become so unruly that he was [as] dangerous to the whole company as a wild man. He was overpowered, by order of the captain, and housed and placed under guard and sent on to the Grave Creek House. A few miles below the mouth of Wolf Creek we came to Lawler's cabin, which had been fired by the Indians, after removing everything of value. We proceeded on down Grave Creek, and when we had gone four or five miles below Lawler's cabin, and when our company was moving along in a quiet pace, we came suddenly, face to face, upon a cavalcade of about fifteen or twenty Indians. The foremost one of our company at the time was a man called Doc Rivers. The Indians, upon discovering the approach of our men, fired hastily and then fled across Grave Creek and up the hillside beyond, leaving their horses, about twenty in number, which we captured. Our men promptly returned the fire, and secured one dead Indian that we knew of. A firing was kept up across the creek for some time but without any injury to our men, whatever the damage was to the Indians, the hillside where the Indians were being mostly covered with timber and brush. Immediately below where we found the Indians, we found two dead miners who had been killed while at work in their mine. They had each been shot several times, and apparently had been dead about two days. Their clapboard cabin had been robbed but not burnt. We set to work to bury the men, and while doing so the Indians upon the opposite hillside yelled and halloed at us and bantered our men to come upon the mountainside to where they were and they would fight us. Some of our men who could talk their language answered for the Indians to come down into open ground and we would fight them. We had intended to go down Grave Creek to its mouth, but Capt. Rinearson calculated that our force was too small for that venture, as it was very probable that there was a large force of Indians at that time in that direction, and our limited supplies and imperfect equipment were such that we concluded to "about face" and proceed up Grave Creek to the main road. We afterwards learned that a few miles below where we turned back there was a big camp of hostiles, who would probably have annihilated our whole command, if we had proceeded down that way. We took the Indian horses with us and
STARTED UP GRAVE CREEKtowards the main road. I think we were about fifteen miles below the Grave Creek House. We traveled up Grave Creek about five miles, and then moved back onto the mountain to a suitable place, and camped over the night, putting out pretty much the whole command for a guard. We marched to the main crossing of Grave Creek the next day and stayed there one night. Up to this time my firearms consisted of two horse pistols furnished me at Turner's. To become familiar with my arms I had fired one of them, with a result that was at least convincing at my end of the apparatus. I should mention that though Lawler had espoused the better part of valor, when, without any arms, he was chased from his cabin and through the brush and into the mountains by the Indians, yet when he returned with us he acted every part of a courageous man. In those times it was customary for every man, wherever he was, to have at least one riding animal with him, and consequently our command was mounted from the first. Ganey rejoined us at the Grave Creek House, a sober and wiser man, and ever afterwards behaved himself in a very proper way. All of our company, so far as I can now recollect, behaved and acted well and courageously at all times. The heavy timber and dense undergrowth over the whole country south of the "Big Canyon" to Rogue River, excepting in a few small spots, and along the streams at different places where there were some narrow strips of clear ground, always gave the Indians every opportunity of concealment. Such was the character of the country in this respect that with a little bit of energy and perseverance their subjugation would have been impossible. Twenty men of courage and determination could subsist in those wilds, even at this time, and defy the world, almost for a lifetime. Apparently the Indians' purpose was not to make any kind of war, but to
MASSACRE THE UNWARYand unguarded and there to evade pursuit. They do not seem even to have made an attempt to ambush any considerable number of the white volunteers or soldiers, though they might have done so effectually in many instances even upon the main traveled, public roads, as well as elsewhere. Between Cow Creek and Grave Creek the main traveled road passes, most of the way, through underbrush of so dense a growth that an individual could conceal himself within a few feet of the roadside and not be seen, and in which pursuit would be wholly impossible. Five well-armed and energetic white men could have completely stopped communication or travel south of Cow Creek, easily enough, during the time of the Indian war.
When our company was organized at Turner's, those who composed it were travelers, settlers in the neighborhood and miners. I do not recollect, if I ever knew, how Capt. Rinearson came to be present, but I think he had returned that far from a trip to Southern Oregon. Most of the men at the time of the organization of the company were strangers to me. James Twogood and [McDonough] Harkness were keeping the Grave Creek House and had enclosed it with a structure of palisades. Harkness was afterwards killed by the Indians while carrying dispatches for Gen. Lamerick.
The next morning, after arriving at the Grave Creek House, we proceeded southward on the main road toward Jacksonville, as far south as Harris'. Along the road we witnessed the remains of the Indians' depredations, that are so well known, and met Captain A. J. Smith's company of regulars. We returned and camped at the widow Niday's place, eight miles south of Grave Creek, as being a convenient point from which to act in any direction that we might be needed. We remained at this place a few days. One night while camped here, two men, Jack Collins, now of East Portland, and Ben Gentry arrived at our camp from Galice Creek, a mining camp on a creek by that name, emptying into Rogue River on the south side, about thirty miles below Jacksonville. The Indians had attacked the miners and they had congregated in a small board shanty, where the Indians had besieged them and killed one man and wounded five others. Collins and Gentry had made
THEIR ESCAPE FROM THE CABINat night. Early next morning a portion of our company, including myself, under Capt. Rinearson, marched for Galice Creek, fording Rogue River with much difficulty, and reached there in the afternoon. The Indians receded into the mountains as we approached. The cabin in which the miners were congregated was filled with bullet holes from the Indians' guns. Among the people there was one white woman, the wife of the man Pickett, whom the Indians had killed. About twenty-five or thirty people had taken refuge in this cabin. We stayed overnight at this place, and early the next morning word reached us that Capt. Smith's company of regulars was close at hand, and they arrived within an hour or two after. As it was more convenient and desirable for the miners and besieged to make their exit with Capt. Smith toward Jacksonville, and as he had come fully prepared to care for the wounded and to convey them all to safety, Capt. Rinearson's detachment started immediately for Niday's place again, where we arrived that afternoon. Lieut. Charles Johnson, who had remained at Niday's in command of a small portion of our company, while the balance made the excursion under Capt. Rinearson to Galice Creek, the next day after our return obtained leave from Capt. Rinearson to come over to Turner's station, as he was desirous of looking after Hiram Smith's property that we had left at Smith's place on Cow Creek. Lieutenant Johnson was to return by a certain time, but we never saw him again alive. Flem. Hill, who now lives at Wilbur, in Douglas County, came past our camp at Niday's from Jacksonville. Capt. Rinearson told Hill that he was apprehensive for the fate of Johnson, as the time for his return had passed, and he felt too much confidence in him to think he would not keep his engagement if possible. Hill departed on the road northward in the afternoon on horseback, and returned to our camp late at night and reported the killing of Bailey near Cow Creek. This solved the mystery of the failure of Johnson to return. Our company was immediately mustered, and in an hour after Hill's return we were mounted and on the road, traveling at a brisk canter toward Cow Creek. We arrived at the scene of Bailey's murder, about one mile south of Cow Creek, a distance of fifteen miles, a little before daylight. Here we found three wagons standing in the road,
THEIR TEAMS SHOT DOWNin their yokes, portions of the wagons' contents scattered about, and numerous of Bailey's drove of hogs, which was in the company of the wagons when attacked, running at large. As we came upon this scene the accidental discharge of a gun by one of our men created a little commotion. Capt. Rinearson gave quick orders, "Halt!" "Dismount!" which were obeyed in good spirit. The captain soon ascertained the cause of the alarm, and all were ordered to remount, and were again soon on the way. Good old Capt. Rinearson may by this time with age have lost some of his usefulness to his fellow men, but I doubt if his spirit is any the less ardent. Then he was a suitable and competent commander for such an occasion, and I believe his men were worthy of him. He was then in the prime of manhood, and is so well known in Oregon that I will not venture to give a detail of the character of the man. Of course, from this scene our anxious thoughts were bent towards the settlers' places--Redfield's, Turner's, Smith's and [Wynatt's]--on Cow Creek, not far distant. We pushed on across Cow Creek and found Redfield's houses burnt down, but the ruins still smoking, so that we knew that we were not long after the onslaught of the Indians, even if we should not be in time to encounter any of it. Turner's station, a half mile distant, we also found burned to the ground. Our anxiety at this was intense, for we had gone from here a few days before to rescue others, whom we had supposed in more imminent danger, and had left numerous families and others at these places, for whose fate we now felt the most serious apprehension. Fortunately the settlers and others in the vicinity of Cow Creek were assembled at Smith's and making a determined defense. The night guard at Smith's was stationed a little beyond (south of) the house in a clump of trees, not far from the road, on a knoll.
AS WE APPROACHED,the guard, supposing that we were Indians, fired on us, but failed of any effect, probably because we were much below them, though we were quite near. By order of the captain we charged up the hill from where the firing came, supposing it was from Indians. Our charge brought out several volleys from the guard, but the firing all missed its aim, and when we were within fifty yards of them, the guard, in the peering dawn of day, discovered who we were. The body of Bailey had been rescued and was at Smith's.
Bailey had been traveling southward with three wagonloads of produce and a drove of hogs, and though warned of the danger continued on the road with his teams and droves, and was attacked by the Indians when about one mile south of the crossing of Cow Creek. He was killed, and perhaps one or two others, and I think some of the men with him were wounded. Finding these at Smith's comparatively safe for the time being, our company pushed on to [Wynatt]'s, three miles distant. Here we found the corpse of Charles Johnson, our first lieutenant, and the place occupied by about ten men, among whom were Stephen [Wynatt], severely wounded, and five or six women and several children. They were glad to give us welcome and we were provided with a sumptuous breakfast, which we much needed after our night's jaunt. Among those at this place, besides Stephen [Wynatt] and his wife, were his father and mother, Hardy Elliff and wife, and preacher Miller and his wife. Several others were also there. The Indians had endeavored for a whole day to carry by assault both Smith's and [Wynatt]'s houses, but had been kept at a distance by the occupants. Each was a two-storied log house, and afforded a pretty strong and convenient defense from the upper stories. Johnson was killed the day before we arrived at [Wynatt]'s. The people at [Wynatt]'s had observed a considerable smoke down the road towards Smith's place, which raised a suspicion that the Indians had captured it and massacred the occupants. This created quite an alarm at [Wynatt]'s, as such a fate at Smith's place would be sure to be followed by a severe assault at [Wynatt]'s. Charles Johnson, Stephen [Wynatt] and a man named Aleck Abbott [probably James Asahel Abbott] had concluded to go to a ridge upon the hillside to discover, if possible,
THE FATE OF THOSE AT SMITH'S,and ascertain whence the column of smoke arose. When they had come nearly to the top of the ridge they were fired on by the Indians from a concealed place under the low-bending boughs of a tree. [Wynatt] was hit the first round, and severely wounded. He fell to the ground; Johnson picked him up and dragged him down the hill, the Indians still firing and following them up. [Wynatt] told Johnson to leave him and save himself, as there was no hope for him. Abbott had reached some trees near the foot of the hill, and was firing back at the Indians. Johnson succeeded in getting [Wynatt] to the foot of the hill, being fired on by the Indians all the while, and then turning to observe the enemy was hit over the left eye by a bullet, which passed through his head, causing instant death. This occurrence was in plain view of those at the house, and not over a half mile from them. Two of those at the house took a horse from the stable and went to bring the men in. They reached the spot where the men were found, [Wynatt] barely wounded and Johnson dead, as stated. Firing was going on all the time, and the horse was wild or scared so that it was difficult to manage him to any use. It was concluded to bring in [Wynatt] first, as he was still alive, and to return for Johnson's body. But when they did so the Indians had stripped the body of clothing, taken the scalp, and mutilated the body in various ways. Nevertheless it was recovered, and in the afternoon of the day of our arrival we buried the remains of Lieut. Charles Johnson about two hundred yards from [Wynatt]'s house, near the foot of the hill, with military salute by his company over his grave. By this time life began to look earnest and real to a boy of 17 summers. [Wynatt] was so badly wounded that he was expected to die, though he afterwards fully recovered. It was then supposed that a sub-chief called "Limpy" was at the head of this marauding party. During the first night after our arrival Hardy Elliff and I were on guard together. Hardy had a Kentucky rifle that he called "Betsy."
DURING THE NIGHTthere was a clear moonlight, and we heard the tramp of horses approaching. Finally three horsemen rode by, about two hundred and fifty yards distant, on the hillside. Hardy said for me to retain my fire for a close engagement if they attempted to attack us, and he would turn "Betsy" loose on them, which he did. But the Indians speedily scampered away. After this the guard was rearranged for the night. Immediately after the arrival of our company the Indians left the neighborhood, and it was supposed that they had gone down Cow Creek and across the divide, on to Rogue River. I was detailed to accompany preacher Miller and his family to Roseburg, while Capt. Rinearson and his company returned southward, and afterwards engaged in the somewhat celebrated battle of Hungry Hill, where both the regulars and several companies of volunteers, under command of Rinearson as major, participated. Rinearson's company was soon disbanded, owing to some jealousies of a political nature. My father had heard that Johnson was killed, but could not hear what had become of me, when I arrived at home one night between 1 and 2 o'clock. The people in the whole Umpqua Valley, and even in portions of the Willamette Valley, were much alarmed of danger from the Indians. Sometime in the early winter W. W. Chapman organized a company of volunteers in the Umpqua Valley for three months' services, in which I enlisted. There were a considerable number of Indians in the Umpqua Valley at that time. We were taken down the Umpqua River to Scottsburg, and from there myself and about ten or twelve others were sent down to and stationed on Winchester Bay, near the mouth of the Umpqua, as a lookout against any body of coast Indians ascending the river. We were at this place a considerable time. While we were here a portion of Capt. Chapman's company passed south through the "Big Canyon" to Grave Creek, and down Grave Creek and Rogue River to the Big Meadows. After their return we were all stationed for awhile at Kellogg's, which is a place about six miles above Elkton, on the Umpqua River.
The three months for which this company was organized having expired, I did not re-enlist, though most of the company did.
FRANK M. TIBBETTS.Oregonian, May 30, 1886, page 2
Shortly after arriving home Mr. Harkness thought we could dispose of a small cargo of groceries & provisions at Galice Creek, 20 miles distant on Rogue River. Jack for some cause would not go with us. We started, arrived there all right on Saturday. This, according to the best of my recollection was the 8th day of October A.D. 1855. Found ready sale for most of the goods and balance left to be sold & sent the train home Sunday 9th, while their Chief Limpy wanted a sack of flour and pay me next time I came in. I told him all right, "Nika hyas kumtux mika klosh tum tum hie." ["I well understand your good heart trade."] This pleased him & was the best sale I made on the creek. Sunday evening I was standing outside the saloon, 5 or 6 feet from Jack Lowry & Charley Beckett, a Cherokee half-breed. They were both intoxicated and having an altercation about some trivial matter. Being a friend to them both [I] tried to pacify them, but no, Jack pulled his shirt and went for him. Charley, being a powerful man, would not strike him but nearly caught him by [the] top of his head, held him at arm's length. But Jack, being crazed with liquor, whisked out a sheath knife & plunged it to the hilt in Charley's bowels, who instantly shoved Jack over & said he was stabbed. Although within 4 or 5 feet of them, it was all done so quick that I did not see the knife. Jack sobered instantly, put on his shirt and went off up the creek. I knew it was fatal for Charley, but next day at noon when I got ready to start home he begged of me to go via Love's ranch, which was 2 miles out of my way & send down Dr. Paxton. I kept a big dun Spanish mule out of the train to ride home. Left the creek and went up 2 miles, forded Rogue River about 2 o'clock Oct. 10th 1855. I had a good Oregon-made saddle, with holsters, between 4 & 5 hundred dollars in one side & a Colt's revolver on the other. Shortly after crossing the river my mule became frantic from some cause unknown to me at the time, but easily explained afterwards. The trail was narrow and up & down steep places & through thick brush. Although I had a good Spanish bit on the mule, he charged up & down & through the gulches like a shot out of a gun, and I had as much difficulty in trying to keep my seat as Horace Greeley in the stagecoach with Hank Monk.
After about 6 miles at a cyclone gait [I] arrived at the mouth of Jumpoff Joe [Creek] and passed up into a more open country, the lower end of R. R. Valley. By this time I was nearly exhausted. The mule was white with lather & foam, the water dripping from him and the blood streaming from his mouth, the effects of a Spanish bit & my muscle. At this point I left our trail, turned to the right and proceed up the valley and soon arrived at the residence of George Miller [and] rode up to the door to inquire for Doc. Paxton. The door was open but no person there. Looked in, saw the straw tick had just been emptied, and nearly everything taken from the house. This explained what was the matter with the mule, for I knew on sight that it was the work of Indians. So I passed on up the valley in quest of Doc Paxton & to find out what was the matter. The valley here is about ¾ of a mile wide, a smooth, nice prairie land; to the left is a rise of 10 or 15 feet, and the land is heavily timbered & covered with a thick growth of underbrush. I rode on for half a mile and thought I saw someone up on the bench or side hill. I put spurs to the mule and rode directly up there and was somewhat taken aback to find a woman & 2 children. The woman I discovered was a Yankee & she had a dirk stuck in her belt and a double-barreled shotgun in her hands and a pr. of blankets the children was sitting upon.
She looked and acted brave--poor, frail woman, she did not realize that herself & children's lives were spared simply because she lived in Timoleon Love's house. Of course I inquired for Paxton and asked for an explanation, when she made the following statement. She said Umpqua Joe (a Cherokee that came out with Fremont [and] was killed near there a year or two ago by his son-in-law) had come down from Jacksonville about 2 hours before in hot haste & reported to them that the Indians had broke out that morning in the Upper Rogue River Valley, and that they were massacring all the whites and burning everything before them, and told Doc Paxton who was there at the house to take her & the children up to Vannoy's and that he, Joe, had a canoe down at the river; [he] would get in that, make a run down to Galice Creek in one hour (river very rapid) and would tell Capt. Belknap, her husband & his partner Mr. White to come right up that night, that Mr. Paxton had taken her & the children & cached them out in the brush and for her to stay there while he went down to the other house and got his horses. This was several hours before, and she was there waiting for him. Poor, frightened man, he never came back. I then told her it was no place for her out there; she must go to the house and that being personally acquainted as I was with nearly every Indian in that part of the country, I did not place much confidence in Joe's report, thought it was only a tease, that our folks would expect me home that night, but under the circumstances I would not desert her till someone came, so we all went to the house. Mr. Love's pack train she said would be in that night. I picketed out my mule; we got supper; waited till 10 o'clock. No one came and so we lay down with our clothes on ready for any emergency. It was a long night. The house was of hewn logs, but not chinked--all open. Daylight came at last; [we] got up and went out but not a living thing was to be seen except my mule. Stayed there all that day, all the second night, but not a soul came to our relief. What did it mean? This was Wednesday morning and I began to get fidgety and nervous, till about 10 a.m. I heard a rumbling noise, looked up the valley, saw bright flashes up & down, and thought it must be Indians coming on horseback. We all got inside; I barricaded the door with sacks of flour and then took a look at them through the sights of a gun. They came swooping down upon us in a dead run. Soon I discovered it to be a party of six white men & I breathed easier. We opened the door. They seemed much surprised to find us living and especially me, for Harkness told them that I was to be home Monday, but that Doc Paxton had come in through the mountains, got to the Grave Creek House about 12 o'clock that night and reported that he barely escaped with his life, that everybody had been murdered, and of course I had been waylaid & killed, that they had just been sent down from Vannoy's to look for the Belknaps, that the Indians, without a moment's notice had begun to shoot the settlers & burn their homes. They named the Jones family, the Wagoners, the Harrises as all killed and the Haines family not heard from. This recital raised my hair, and the boys said I turned white as a sheet. There was no time to be wasted at that stage of the game. I saddled my mule; we packed Mrs. B. & her 2 children onto two of the men's horses with a few articles of clothing. The men leading the horses, they started for Vannoy's 7 or 8 miles up the river. 4 of the men & myself concluded we would go over and look for the Haines family, a distance of 4 miles. Mr. Haines had only settled there that spring, had a house, 2 or 3 yoke of large oxen, wagon, wife & 4 children. The 2 younger ones died during the summer. I having a fresh animal took the lead, found the trail through thick brush & heavy timber. We went single file on a run. Each man had a gun or revolver in hand. We made the run of 4 miles in less than 30 minutes, arrived there safely, found the house still standing. I rode up first, saw blood & brains on corner of house but no living thing around. The door was open. I stepped inside & was horrified at the sight. There was not Indians enough in the country to frighten me then. There lay the boy with the whole top of his head taken off. Mr. Haines was lying with his feet toward the fireplace on his back with a pillow under his head; his shirt was open and I saw a bullet hole square in the center of his breast, looked as though he had died a lingering death. We had not been there more than 20 minutes, were counciling what disposition to make of the bodies. The mother & daughter we knew well enough were captives. About this time we heard a tornado, though of course it was the whole tribe of Indians coming on horseback, for they made a terrible noise. We all got inside the house, our guns ready to give them a warm reception. In a few minutes, however, we were greatly relieved by discovering it to be a cavalry co. of U.S. troops under command of Capt. A. J. Smith [it was Brevet Major Edward H. Fitzgerald] from Fort Lane and a volunteer co. of some 50 men from Jacksonville, all coming as fast as horses could run. We left them to care for the dead & started up the road for home. Soon as we got into the road it was quite dusty & we could plainly see the footprints of a large body of Indians, and bringing up the rear was plain to be seen the footsteps of Mrs. Haines & daughter. We followed on over a mile to [the] crossing of Jumpoff Joe; here they turned square to the left and struck off northwest. We followed on for over a mile when we came to a very thick growth of underbrush and discovered smoke from a dozen or more camp fires. Thought we had found them sure. 2 of us started around on one side & 3 on the other to close in on them, empty our guns and retreat toward the troops. But when we came together we only found camp fires & the remains of 3 or 4 large oxen. Nothing left but the head, hide & bones. We felt sadly disappointed, for we were in want of Indian scalps & meant business. Then we started for home, arrived safely & found them entrenched in a stockade composed of rails set up on end. And the people there looked upon me as one [risen from the grave.]
James H. Twogood, 1886, Silas J. Day Papers, Lilly Library, Indiana University
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -We had hardly left the cañon [on November 1, 1855] when we began to see traces of the Indian devastations. Blackened and smoking ruins, surrounded by the carcasses of domestic animals, marked the places where, but a few days before, the settlers had lived. We passed a team on the road; the oxen lay shot in the yoke, and the dark blood stains upon the seat of the wagon told the fate of the driver. Even the stacks of hay and grain in the fields had been burned. After leaving the cañon, we followed the narrow but fertile valley of Cow Creek for a few miles and then crossing a steep divide between it and Wolf Creek, encamped on the latter stream. Major Martin intended to proceed, in the morning, to join in the battle which was going on among the mountains, at a distance from the road variously estimated to be from five to twelve miles. As he could not spare us an escort, we determined to press forward as rapidly as possible towards Fort Lane, trusting that the Indians would be too busy to attack our party. In the evening, however, stragglers from the fight began to come in. They reported that the provisions were entirely exhausted and the powder nearly gone; that the Indians were numerous and very strongly posted; that several while men had been killed and many wounded and that it had been thought best to fall back for the present and wait for supplies. The regular troops were on their way to Grave Creek, and the volunteers were coming to our camp as fast as they could transport their wounded. The Indians did not follow them, and they all arrived before morning. The forage on the route had been burned, and our animals suffered much from want of food tonight.
For the Oregonian.
Letter from the South.
Canyon, Oct. 10th, 1855.Friend Dryer:--There is now a bloody Indian war raging in Rogue River Valley. Tuesday [Oct. 9th], at 12 m., I arrived at Grave Creek, and there I met a party of a dozen men returning with a woman (Mrs. Niday) and three children. With the party was the mail carrier, going south, who told me that on Tuesday morning, just after he left Wagoner's, in company with two men, he passed a party of ten or fifteen Indians, stripped and well armed. He rode on and soon met another party of about the same number, and as soon as he got within gunshot of the last party, those behind set up a howl and the party in advance fired a volley at them; they turned into the woods, and the Indians pursued on foot and for a short time gave them a very tight race. They came into the road again at Wagoner's; the house was on fire and the Indians yelling furiously. Turned into the woods again, and as they passed Harris' they heard five or six shots fired and saw a volume of smoke ascending. It is supposed that all in the neighborhood are killed. I started back to give the alarm, met several on the road and sent them on to the Grave Creek House.
Last night I stopped at the "Six Bit House." No disturbance. At 3 o'clock this morning Dr. Paxton arrived at the "Six Bit House." Umpqua Jo told him on Tuesday afternoon [Oct. 9th] that the Indians of the Shasta, Klamath, Horse Creek, Grave Creek and Rogue River tribes had combined and fixed upon that day to kill all the whites in Rogue River Valley; that it was their intention to blockade the Crescent City and Siskiyou Mountain and Canyon roads, and to murder all the whites. Dr. Paxton took the first horse he found, which happened to belong to an Indian, and started through the hills for Cow Creek. The Indians followed and fired at him repeatedly, but did not hit him. He had previously hid a woman and child in the mountains. As he passed the house of Mr. Haines, he saw twenty or thirty Indians trying to force an entrance; he supposed that Haines and family had fled to the woods. Soon after, he heard several guns fired about half a mile from Haines' house, and the Indians were howling fearfully. The Dr. thinks that the Indians had found the family and were murdering them. A short time before the firing, two men who were running from the Indians reported having seen [Harris'] little boy running through a field toward the woods.
Umpqua Jo, who is a friendly Indian--was Fremont's guide and has always fought for the whites--told Dr. Paxton that the Indians had killed Vannoy and family and six men; Haines and family; Harris and family, and Evans and family--in all about twenty-two persons. Miss Pellet was at Wagoner's at the time, and undoubtedly was murdered.
I started into the Umpqua Valley with Dr. Paxton, who has been elected captain for the purpose of raising volunteers to battle with these red devils, and aid in preventing them from extending their atrocities any further.
Roseburg, Oct. 11.The people at first did not seem to credit the reports of the Indian disturbances, but I think they are now convinced that these accounts are too true, and that the Indians are really in earnest. But it is not yet too late to give these fiends in human shape the punishment they so richly deserve, and which I have no doubt they will speedily receive.
On my way to this place I met three Willametteites, well armed, returning:
"He who fights and runs away,I will try to learn their names. Send us good men, for they are wanted, and let them be well armed.
Will live to fight another way."
I shall start south this morning, and shall try to pass through the canyon tonight.
The Grave Creek House was guarded by eighteen men, with eight firearms, and they were preparing to defend Turner's, at the crossing of Cow Creek. When I left, there were about thirty-five men there and only about a third of them armed. Mrs. Miller, wife of Rev. J. W. Miller, was lying very sick at Turner's, and it was thought that she could not safely be taken through the canyon. All the women and children that can be moved are being brought through to the valley.
I shall write to you at every opportunity that I have of sending.
Yours, &c.,Oregonian, Portland, October 20, 1855, page 2
Rogue River Correspondence of the Statesman.
EVANS' FERRY, Oct. 11, 1855.
On the 9th inst., an express arrived at Jacksonville bringing information of an attack of the Indians upon the settlers on Rogue River at or below the ferries, and desiring immediate assistance. Accordingly 15 or 20 men immediately left. Another express having been sent to Ft. Lane, Capt. Smith dispatched a detachment of 55 mounted men under the command of Maj. Fitzgerald. The volunteers and regulars joined forces, numbering in all about 85 men. Upon their arrival at the residence of J. B. Wagoner, his house, barns and outbuildings were burned to the ground and the charred remains of Mrs. Wagoner and her child, 4 years old, were found in the ruins. Some five or six of the volunteers being in advance of the main body discovered about 30 of the Indians in the chaparral back of the house, who immediately bantered them for a fight, when the major came up with the main body of his men and charged upon them, killing 6. The Indians fled to the mountains, being well mounted, and were pursued about 2 miles; but from the exhausted condition of the command from the 25 miles march already made, it was found impossible to overtake them. The pursuit was accordingly given up that they might proceed along the road for the protection of travelers and settlers upon it. Arriving at the residence of Geo. W. Harris, which was to appearances deserted, he was found dead within, shot through the breast with a jaeger rifle. Suddenly their attention was directed to Mrs. Harris and her daughter, 11 years of age, rushing from the chaparral near the house to them, blackened with powder and stained with blood. And here we have to report one of the most remarkable instances of female heroism and courage upon record, an account of which should be handed down to posterity as an instance of bravery in woman under the most trying and heart-rending circumstances. I will give the account in Mrs. Harris' own language, as nearly as possible:
At almost 8 or 9 o'clock of the morning of the 9th of October, 1855, as her husband was engaged in making shingles near the house and she was washing at the back of the house, he suddenly entered with the axe in his hand much alarmed, the house being surrounded by Indians, whose countenances and manner indicated that their intentions were not good. He seized his rifle, but in endeavoring to close the door was fired upon by them, the ball taking effect as before stated. Mechanically he discharged the gun twice at them, as she believes with no effect, and passing across the room fell upon the floor. The daughter in the excitement of the moment rushed out the front door, where she was shot through the right arm between the shoulder and elbow. The husband, reviving, encouraged his wife to bar the doors and load the guns of which there were a rifle, a shotgun and two pistols and revolver and holster pistol. She replied that she never loaded a gun in her life. He then proposed to give them presents to induce them to leave; she replied it would not answer, upon which he instructed her in the manner of loading the guns, and shortly after expired. She now was left entirely dependent upon her own efforts--her husband dead--her daughter severely wounded. Not discouraged, she commenced a vigorous discharge upon the savages, who were endeavoring to fire the house, having already burned the outbuildings. She then continued to defend herself and daughter, she watching at one end of the house and the child at the other, for eight hours, and until about sundown, when the savages, being attracted by a firing on the flats about a mile below the house, left to discover from whence it proceeded. She embraced the opportunity and fled to a small, isolated thicket or chaparral near the house, taking with them only the holster pistol. Having barely secreted themselves before the Indians again approached the house, but finding it abandoned, they commenced scouring the thicket, about 18 in number, all armed with rifles. Upon their close approach she discharged the pistol, which produced a general stampede. This was repeated several times and always with the same result until finally surrounding the thicket they remained till daylight. Her ammunition was now exhausted. She heard the approach of horsemen, at which the Indians became alarmed and concealed themselves in the rear of the thicket. She discovering the horsemen to be whites rushed out towards them, but they had advanced so far beyond that they did not discover her. They were the advance of the volunteers. Concealing herself again with the empty pistol in hand, the main body soon approached, when the savages precipitously fled.
Mrs. Harris having sent her little son, 10 years of age, to a neighboring house the evening previous, has not since heard from him, but he is supposed to be murdered. Also Frank Reed, the partner of Mr. Harris, is supposed to have been killed.
This party of Indians escaped to the mountains. The company proceeded as far as Grave Creek, where all was quiet, and it was deemed unnecessary to remain, and they accordingly returned this morning, both men and animals completely exhausted.
Capt. J. F. Miller takes charge of the volunteers tomorrow, to pursue the Indians, by request of Maj. Fitzgerald and the unanimous desire of the volunteers. He has just returned from Table Rock, at which place was fought a desperate battle at daybreak on the 8th. The Indians were completely routed, leaving 31 of their number on the ground. Of the whites, 12 were wounded, two mortally--Maj. J. A. Lupton and one Mr. Shepherd. Maj. L. was shot with an arrow in the left lung and lingered till 10 o'clock of the same day. His obsequies were celebrated at Jacksonville yesterday.
A sufficient force cannot possibly be brought into action on account of the great scarcity of arms [and] ammunition. The greatest patriotism is exhibited generally, and all the necessary resources are afforded most cheerfully by the inhabitants, as far as it is in their power to do so.
Following is the number killed as far as can be learned, and their names in the order in which they were killed. The Indians proceeded directly down the river. The first attacked were at or near Jewett's Ferry, a train loaded with mill irons. Mr. Hamilton was killed, and another, name unknown, wounded in four places. After firing upon Jewett's house, they proceeded to this place, which they reached about daybreak. Here they shot one Isaac Shelton of Willamette, en route for Yreka, who lingering for 20 hours, died this morning, Oct. 10. They next attacked the house of Mr. Jones, who was killed as before stated. From there to Wagoner's, shooting the 4 persons found upon the way, and from thence to Harris'.
Nos. 3 and 4: The men driving the apple wagon were found about 6 miles from the ferry, in the middle of the road; the first lay some 50 yards from the wagon, and the second about 100 yards from the same--wagon and loading burned; harness cut in pieces. Two of the horses supposed to belong to the wagon were recovered today by the volunteers, one a grey and the other a bay mare. A receipt drawn by Mark Abrams & Co. of Deer Creek is now in my possession and can be obtained at the Jacksonville P.O. of S. H. Taylor. A book was found in possession of one of the Indians, which purported to belong to one Geo. B. Miller. Orders, receipt &c. show him to have been a packer. Whether he was one of the deceased interred here we cannot learn. The book can be obtained at the Jacksonville P.O.
No. 3: 6 feet in height, tall, spare built, dark complexion, also dark hair, hazel eyes, large, prominent front teeth; deep blue undershirt, a mixed grey outside of it. Tweed pants with black buttons. Stockings with white feet and mixed grey legs--woolen.
No. 4: Supposed to be a brother of the preceding, also 6 feet in height; description same. Dressed in hickory shirt; mixed satinet coat, red lining, with figures of white. Fish hook and line were found in his pocket.
The two last individuals are supposed to be from Franklin nursery, Marion Co., O.T., as they were connected with teams freighted with apples, and near them was found a contract signed by one George Suttlemire, in favor of Sam Belshaw, the supposed name of the deceased.
No. 2: A middle-aged man, 35 or 40 years of age, 6 feet in height, light complexion, dark auburn hair, thick, heavy whiskers and mustache, large blue eyes, deep blue woolen shirt or frock, grey woolen pants with metal buttons. One shoe, no stockings. One wound just above the heart, passing out at the right of [the] backbone. Not recognized, particularly, but supposed to be a Mr. Cooper, of Albany, O.T.
(The above answers the description of an insane man named Hoag, who has been in Corvallis all summer, and started to the mines about a month ago. It was probably him.)
No. 1 was found about one mile and a quarter from Evans' ferry, fifty feet from road; was identified as being passed in the canyon on the 4th or 5th of this month; was riding a roan cayuse horse, driving ten or twelve head of beef cattle. Supposed to have been killed about 6 o'clock, a.m., Oct. 9.
No. 2 was found about two miles and a quarter from Evans' ferry. Evidently belonged to same party. A hat and whip were found about midway between the last two.
Mr. Jones was found at his residence, about four miles from the ferry, his house burned to the ground, and he nearly devoured by hogs. From appearances his skull was broken, as but a part of it was found. His wife received two wounds at the same time; is now at Illinois Valley, still alive.
Description of persons found killed upon the road between Evans' ferry and Mr. Wagoner's, and brought in and buried at said ferry Oct. 10, 1855:
No. 1: A young man, apparently about 25 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches in height, light complexion, sandy whiskers and mustache, blue eyes; dressed in a grey woolen undershirt, with linen bosom and collar, blue worsted and satin vest, figured, dark blue satinet coat, black horn buttons, blue neck handkerchief bordered with white, red and black in stripes, cotton socks, much worn, a buckskin glove upon the right hand, a huge scar upon the inside of right leg, just above the ankle, a small ivory-handled knife, with pipe and tobacco, found in his pockets. Supposed to be -------- Abbott, of Sterling.
The following persons vouch for the correctness of the given description of the deceased, and were present at their interment:
John F. Miller,
and 6 others.
J. G. WOODS.
Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, October 20, 1855, page 2 In 1858 B. F. Dowell listed the white casualties of October 9, 1855 as "Mrs. J. B. Wagoner; Mary Wagoner, a little girl; Mr. & Mrs. Jones; Mr. & Mrs. Haines; George W. Harris; David W. Harris; Frank A. Reed, Wm. Gwin, James W. Cartwright, Mr. Powell, Mr. Burch, Mr. Fox & Mr. Hill."
Rogue River Correspondence of the Statesman.
Jacksonville, Oct. 11.I suppose by this time you are deluged with horrible accounts of the Indian war in the south. I have not time to give you many details; there is so little that you hear true; besides I have had Injuns dinned into my ears until the whole thing is disgusting. There will be no more peace with the Indians; there has been too much bad faith and too much bloodshed on both sides, ever to be on terms of amity again. The sooner the poor red devils are put out of the way the better, and when they are, God help some of the worthless demagogues in this vicinity who ride the Indian hobby and can ride nothing else. Their "occupation will be gone," and then they must either steal, starve or work.
About 19 white persons have been killed, a woman and a boy missing. They were all killed on the morning of the 9th, in the first outbreak. Four or five houses have been burned, none of them of much value, and some of them uninhabited. Six Indians of the attacking party have been killed by Maj. Fitzgerald's command since the outbreak. On the morning of the 8th, about thirty Indians, principally old men, squaws and children, were killed while sleeping in their ranches. This preceded the outbreak of the Indians (about 30 hours) and was the immediate cause of it. Lupton was shot in the breast by an arrow in the attack on the ranches on the morning of the 8th. He died of the wound in about two days. He has lately been one of the principal Indian agitators.
Dr. Henry, of Yamhill, has gone to the Umpqua, to purchase supplies, I believe. He is making a desperate attempt to get a seat on the Indian hobby; the result is now doubtful.
My opinion is that no volunteers from the Willamette and Umpqua are needed here, and that it will be an unnecessary and totally useless expense to send any here. All we want is two or three companies of mounted rangers, and we have got plenty of men here to compose them, and the best men we can have, for they are acquainted with the Indians and their haunts. All we want is a moderate quantity of arms, ammunition and supplies. In this I express the opinion entertained by those here who best know the Indians and the manner of fighting them.
SOBER-SENSE.Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, October 27, 1855, page 1
Grave Creek, Friday evening,Editor Statesman--We have received reliable news as far south as Rogue River, and it turns out bad enough. Fifteen men, women and children are known to have been killed on Tuesday last, between Rogue River and this creek. It is feared that all the miners on Galice Creek and mouth of Rogue River have been cut off, as no one has been in from those points.
October 12th, 1855.
A battle was fought at the Buttes by the Jacksonville volunteers, in which 41 Indians were killed, and two of our men killed and nine more wounded. This was on Monday.
I have heard of two instances of heroism on the part of females that surpasses anything in the history of modern times. On Tuesday morning last, the Indians attacked the house of Mr. Wagoner (no one being at home but Mrs. Wagoner and child) and burned it, with Mr. Wagoner and child, their bones being found in the ashes. Mr. Wagoner had gone to a neighbor's, and thus escaped. They then came on to Mr. Harris', and shot him as he stood in the door, he falling into the house, and they also shot a little girl standing near him in the arm. Mrs. Harris drew her husband into the door--Mr. H. rose to his feet, took his rifle and fired at the Indians twice, killing one and wounding another, and fell dead. She then took the rifle, loaded it, and as an Indian advanced toward the house with his burning torch she fired and he dropped his torch and fled. She continued to load and fire during the day, until she had exhausted her last load of powder, when she was fortunately relieved by the Jacksonville volunteers, who fought the Indians the next morning (Wednesday), killing six and losing one man.
A Mrs. Belknap showed equally remarkable cool and deliberate bravery. Five Indians went to the house and threatened to kill her and burn the house. She presented one of Colt's revolvers and told them to "klatawa" ["leave"] or she would shoot them all, and they left, and she and the family were saved. The case of Mr. Jones and family is most heart-rending. Mr. Jones was shot dead in his yard. Mrs. Jones was shot through the body; she ran for the brush and was followed by an Indian, who overtook her. She begged for her life, but he insisted on killing her, and as he fired she threw up her arms and the ball struck her elbow and glanced along the bone to the shoulder. She fell, and the Indians, supposing her dead, left her. A few hours after the Jacksonville volunteers came along and carried her to a house, where she died the next morning.
But the heart sickens at such recitals, and I would not relate them were it not with the hope that they will tend to cure every man, woman and child in Oregon of sympathy for such merciless savages.
I say now that I never will sanction any more treaties with them. Extermination is my motto, and I trust it will be adopted by every man in Oregon that can pull a trigger. I am now here by accident, but I will remain at the risk of my scalp so long as an Indian is known to be above ground south of the Canyon.
So far as I have seen, there is a disposition to carry on the war systematically. There has been a promptness and energy of action thus far remarkable in the history of Indian warfare--and I am happy in having had it in my power to aid in securing the safety of the families from Grave Creek to the Canyon. I entered the valley of Cow Creek on Wednesday last, in the morning, and before night we had a company of 35 men enrolled under Capt. Rinearson, who sent a party to Grave Creek that evening, and by Thursday night he had 10 rifles stationed at the mouth of the Canyon, five at Levens', three miles south, five at Turner's, seven miles, six at the Grave Creek house, eighteen miles south, and this morning (Friday) 30 men set out on a scout down Grave Creek and around the mouth of Rogue River, and on Galice Creek. I am here tonight to arrange for rations and forage for the various squads that are scouting in this vicinity, and who will make this a sort of headquarters during the war. I have been appointed quartermaster and commissary for the time being, and shall continue to act until a better man is sent to take my place. So far as I have anything to do with the matter I intend to conform to the army regulation, so that those who furnish supplies shall not be subjected to those long and vexatious delays that have heretofore resulted from want of form and regularity. If this is done generally, as I presume it will be, I feel every assurance that with the aid of our Delegate's influence at Washington, funds will be placed in the hands of the proper disbursing officer for the payment of the entire expenses of the war before the end of six months, and should the war continue that length of time (as I presume it will, owing to the peculiar character of country, our mountains being equal to the hammocks of Florida as places of concealment for the Indians), every man will be paid for his services when disbanded, and every bill paid on presentation that is properly authenticated.
Messrs. Twogood & Harkness, of this place (Grave Creek), Mr. Turner, Mr. Levens and Mr. Elliff, of South Cow Creek Valley, have very readily placed everything they have that is needed at my disposal--but many of the volunteers are entirely destitute of blankets and other necessaries not to be had short of Jacksonville, if there, and some 12 or 15 of Capt. Rinearson's company have no other arms than common pistols and Colt's revolvers.
If two or three men can be spared from here, in the morning I shall go to Jacksonville and Fort Lane and procure those things if to be had.
It is to be hoped the Governor will lose no time in sending through the Canyon not only provisions and arms, but blankets and other necessary camp equipage, and some thousand volunteers.
There should be at least two thousand men in the valley well armed and equipped, with as little delay as possible. The Indians will soon scatter and hide away. The first snow that falls we should be prepared for a thorough scouring of the whole country from the tops of the Cascade Range to the coast. If this is not done, there will be no security for life or property south of the Canyon. No reasonable man can say this is more men than is necessary for the service, considering the forces that have been called into the field under far less pressing emergencies. When the celebrated Black Hawk chief, with his three hundred warriors, ONLY, was roaming over the open prairie country of northern Illinois and Wisconsin, more than three thousand men were brought into the field, with Major General Scott at their head. Five thousand would be a less force here, considering the natural difficulties to be overcome. Some wise men now seem to think that the citizens of Jackson County should not only furnish all the men needed, but all the supplies, and wait for their pay until the interest is worth more than the debt. The men now under arms in the valley (not over 150, all told) would scalp every Indian south of the Canyon in two hours if they could get them out from their hiding places. We want the 1860 more men to hunt them up for us, or in western phrase, "to corral them."
I have spun out this letter to a greater length than I intended, but I trust the interest felt in the valley in what is going on here will excuse its length. I send it to the Statesman because it is the nearest paper, and not because I like it better than the Argus or Oregonian. Thank God, nothing is said or thought here of Whig, Democrat or Know Nothing, and will not be until the war is over, and then we will quarrel as usual if you please, but until the Indians in this valley are "wiped out," I hope the same unity of sentiment and concert of action will characterize the valley of the Willamette that now exists here.
Yours &c. A. G. HENRY.I shall be very much disappointed if Congress don't grant the heroine, Mrs. Harris, a handsome pension within 24 hours after the news reaches Washington. If they don't, the people of Oregon will.
I open this to say that I learn from the messenger to Gen. Palmer, just in from the Fort, and now here (Evans ferry), that no depredations have yet been committed south of here. He can give you the particulars.
Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, October 20, 1855, page 2
Fort Lane O.T.Major
October 14th 1855
I have the honor to report the following facts for the further information of the Commanding General.
During the summer and fall, ill-disposed whites have been threatening the Indians that belong to this Reserve to commence a war of extermination upon them this fall, and many Indians have questioned me on the subject and wanted to know what they had done to incur the displeasure of the whites. I have invariably told them to pay no attention to what such men would tell them, that they were bad men and would not carry their threats into execution, but when the simultaneous attack was made on three camps on the morning of the 8th the Indians must have been confirmed, in their own minds, that it was the intention of the whites to make good their threats.
As soon as the Indians, Old John's band, on the lower part of the Reserve, and George's band (then encamped on a creek near Mr. Wagner's house) heard of the massacre that had been committed by the whites in the vicinity of this post, they commenced killing unsuspecting whites, burning houses and destroying everything that lay in their course.
On Tuesday morning the 9th they killed nine men, three women and burned three houses, in one of which the wife and daughter of the proprietor perished in the flames.
The Indian agent and myself were on the Reserve in council with chiefs Sam & Elijah when an Indian runner arrived bringing the news of the outbreak below.
Immediately on my return I ordered Bvt. Maj. Fitzgerald with fifty men of his compy. to proceed, in haste, to the scene of the calamity to protect the settlers and punish the murderers when found.
As the Major approached Mr. Wagner's house (in which the wife & daughter perished) he discovered several Indians, mounted, whom he pursued and succeeded in killing five of them.
All we can do yet for a few days will be to furnish protection to the settlers most exposed or until they can arm themselves and get together for mutual protection.
There are but few arms of any description in the hands of the settlers, and I shall have to provide them with such of my old musketoons as I can spare.
A large majority of the Indians are well armed with good rifles of different descriptions procured through their squaws from a reckless class of whites that infest this region.
On the 11th inst. I sent Lt. Sweitzer with a detachment of my company to escort in the train of arms & ammunition supposed to be on its way up from Crescent city; he met the train at Deer Creek and has just arrived with it at this post.
The accoutrements did not come, also one box of the arms.
Chiefs Sam, Elijah & Sambo, with upwards of 300 of their men, women & children, are now at this post, under our protection, and will take no part in the war.
Chiefs John, Limpy & George with all their people are proscribed.
I enclose you a rough sketch of the seat of war; you see we have a very mountainous country to operate in.
I am sirMaj. E. D. Townsend
Your obdt. servt.
A. J. Smith
Asst. Adjt. General
Transcribed from manuscript on National Archives microfilm. Printed in Executive Documents of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Fifty-Third Congress, Second Session, Ex. Doc. No. 113, page 3
Leland, Jackson County, O.T.,Friend Dryer--A party of fourteen men left the Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 11th, for the Rogue River Valley, Saturday arrived at the Grave Creek House. No news from the south. Organized a scouting party of fourteen and started south. Passed Mrs. Niday's, but little damage done. Mr. Bodwin's house was in ashes, searched for Harris' little boy (in my last I stated that Haines' boy was seen running through a field towards the woods--it was Harris' boy), could not find anything that could give us any clue of him. Passed on to Harris'; the floor and casing of the door were bedaubed with blood; Mr. Harris' pants were hanging against the wall, completely covered with clotted blood. The Indians attacked Harris' house on Tuesday morning, Oct. 9; Mr. H. was shot directly at his back door; as he was falling, Mrs. H. caught him and pulled him into the house and barred the door. A girl of Mr. H., fourteen years of age, was shot in the arm by a pet Indian who had been living about Turner's, called Umpqua Jack. There is two bullet holes in the door where Harris was shot. Mrs. H. and the little girl defended the house all day, and at night hid themselves in the bushes; they were taken to Jacksonville by the soldiers. Mr. H.'s old house, in which was a quantity of grain, was burnt down. Mr. Wagoner's house was burned, with Mrs. Wagoner and a child in it; their bones have been found in the ashes. Mr. Wagoner had started off that morning with Miss Pellet, and consequently escaped the horrid death of poor Mrs. W. and child. But who can imagine the grief of that poor man, and what on earth can atone for his loss? We passed on to Haines. The sight there was the most horrible I ever beheld. The house was thrown open, and bedclothes covered with blood were scattered all over the room. What the Indians did not take, they destroyed. There were two bullet holes in the door shot from the outside, and one from the inside. Haines and his little boy were found dead in the house, their bodies terribly mangled; a part of the boy's brains were found near the corner of the house. Mrs. Haines, who was sick, it is supposed escaped from the house that night, with her little girl, and a man by the name of Frank Reed, who was lame, it is supposed was with her. It is now nearly a week since they were attacked, and neither of them could be found. It is supposed that they were found by the Indians and killed. Mrs. H. may be with the Indians, alive.
October 15, 1855.
Among the hills along Jump-off Jo we found goods carelessly thrown down, as if left by the Indians. There were a great number of hogs in this section, and they were wandering in every direction through the woods. The attack appears to have been almost a simultaneous one. The Indians had stolen some liquor from a wagon at Wagoner's, and what of fiendishness their hellish natures lacked before was made up by the liquor.
Mr. Jones, who lives near Evans' Ferry, was killed by a band of pet Indians. Mrs. Jones was wounded and crept into a thicket, but was found by one of the straggling Indians and shot again. Her back was broken at first, and then she received a wound in the arm. She begged of the Indian to kill her to end her sufferings, and the fiend picked up a rock, and as he threw it at her, said, "G-d d--n you, I can kill you!" She sank down exhausted. The Indians, supposing her dead, left her; she was finally taken to Vannoy's, and there died.
The whites, volunteers led by J. W. Miller, attacked a large band of Indians on Butte Creek, and killed forty-one--twenty-five "bucks." Major Lupton was killed on the field, and nine of the whites were wounded, one of them mortally. At Wagoner's six Indians were killed by the "regulars," and one was killed by Mr. Harris, and thirty Indians were killed at Table Rock--making 38 in all.
The following is a list of the whites that are killed and missing:
Harris and boy; Mr. Haines, wife and two children; Mr. Jones and wife; Mrs. Wagoner and child; Frank Reed; Wm. Hamilton; Messrs. Powell, Bunch, Fox, White; six on Evans' Creek, one on Till Bar; Mr. Cartwright; two in road near Wagoner's; two at Jewett's Ferry; and two men by the name of Arnett were killed in Illinois Valley--thirty-one in all.
There has been some dastardly bungling among those whose duty it is to protect the citizens of this valley. The people are in earnest now--they will protect themselves.
Yours, respectfully,Oregonian, Portland, October 27, 1855, page 4
ROGUE RIVER WAR.
Correspondence of the N.Y. Tribune
San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 15, 1855.Having passed through Oregon, from Portland to Jacksonville and out to Crescent City, within the last eighteen days--leaving Jacksonville and Fort Lane a week ago this morning--I may give you as authentic intelligence as you will receive from any source. Before leaving Willamette Valley old residents of the country remarked the smokiness of the atmosphere, telling us it was less smoky in 1853, when the Rogue River war was in progress. They said the mountain atmosphere was very clear when there were no fires in the mountains, and that these fires were kindled by the Indians as war signals, and they feared a general outbreak. But all seemed quiet as we passed on through the Umpqua and out by the cañon--which would be a terrible place to encounter a band of desperate red men, it being the worst pass for a wagon road I ever saw--and on through Rogue River Valley. Yet the people were apprehensive of danger as we neared Jacksonville, for the report of the attack on wagoners in California, near the Oregon line, had reached the valley, and the memory of 1853 revived.
At Jacksonville the excitement was intense. The report was believed that Gen. Wool had come up from California for the purpose of prosecuting the war; that he had recommended the organization of volunteer companies, and given the soldiers at Fort Lane permission to volunteer, which they had immediately done to the number of sixty, under command of Col. Alston. At Sterling, the same day, Sunday, Oct. 7, a volunteer company was made up under command of Smiley Harris, and I came to Jacksonville toward evening. They were to meet a company from Bear River, and another from Butte Creek, and before morning attack on Butte Creek some of John's Indians--about twelve in number--who, with others to the number of twenty-five, had been stopping several days in the same place, and could be easily surrounded and cut off. John's men had long been lawless, and it was hoped they would now be destroyed. We breakfasted on Monday at Fort Lane, after a ten miles' morning ride from Jacksonville, and then learned that General Wool was not there, nor was he expected; that the volunteer companies were not authorized by the officers at the fort, and the soldiers were all there--two companies, one hundred and fourteen each. Capt. Smith, our host, pointed to eight or ten Indian women and children, who had come to the fort for protection about daybreak. The men at the fort had heard firing a little while before, and soon learned that the volunteer companies had not found the company of John's tribe, as they expected, for John's men had heard of the intended attack and gone off upon the reservation. The volunteers then went to a rancheria, containing at the time two men, and women and children to make up a dozen, fired into it, killing one old woman and slightly wounding another. [The actual toll of the Lupton massacre was much higher.] The woman killed was Sam's mother, and the company were Sam's Indians. This Sam was chief of perhaps a hundred men, whom the Shasta Indians had long tried to induce to join them against the whites, but Sam had hitherto refused. Whether this outrage would induce him to turn, Capt. Smith did not know. He thought whatever lawlessness the Indians committed, the whites were the aggressors, as in this instance. He said if John's men had been cut off it would have been unjust, for they had been peaceably fishing and drying salmon for several days, and he did not think they had hostile intentions. I left the fort in company with Mrs. Wagoner, from whose house, thirty miles from Jacksonville, she had attended me on Saturday. [Mrs. Wagoner would be killed the next day.] Mr. Rosenstock, our escort, and Dr. Drew of Jacksonville, and Judge Deady, also joined us at the fort, and were going to the Willamette Valley, and the latter to his home. He had been holding court as district judge at Jacksonville. It was his opinion that the movements of the volunteers might arouse the Indians to desperation, and that a general attack was to be feared. We called at the house of Dr. Ambrose, the Indian agent, who had an engagement with the judge to attend him to the Willamette; but when we called he had just received a summons from the fort to go there directly. Judge Deady bid him good morning, and told him to come on to Mr. Wagoner's, where he would spend the night, and go on with him in the morning. As we proceeded we heard a report that one or two hundred Indians, armed and mostly mounted, were on the road down the valley, the way we were going; also that a horse and a keg of whiskey had been stolen on Saturday night from the premises of Mr. Wagoner, and that he had sent after and recovered them by some of George's Indians, whose encampment was near his house. On reaching our destination, and indeed all along the road, we found at every house renewed fear of the Indians. But George's tribe were about Mr. Wagoner's house, nor did he seem to feel in danger. One of these friendly Indians came to him in the night and told him that a keg of whiskey had been stolen, and he hired him to bring it back. Sunday morning he found that a fine horse belonging to a Dr. Carpenter of Sacramento, who was traveling for pleasure through the country, had been taken from the house. One of George's men was hired to go after it, and succeeded in bringing it back, but its shoulders were swollen with hard riding. All was quiet here, however. At 8 next day Dr. Drew and Judge Deady went on. I waited for attendance toward Crescent City, taking my horse, which I had left here to recruit. At 10½ o'clock, Mr. Wagoner could go with me. I had tried to obtain a little Indian girl for guide, but her mother was afraid to let her go, she said. When we left the house, Mr. Wagoner and her little girl, six years of age, were the only whites; but a half dozen of George's Indians were there round the door. They had breakfasted at Mr. W.'s table, which they often did. Mrs. W. could talk the Chinook with them as well as any of them, and did not fear to be left. When we were a half mile or more from the house I heard a musket report, and asked Mr. W. what it meant. He said it was one of George's men shooting game--said they were good shots. I heard another report, but thought no more of it. We rode by a blind trail to Vannoy's ferry, where I was to take a good wagon road and could go alone. We found Mr. Vannoy much excited. A man came past an hour and a half before, saying that he took breakfast at Mr. Jones', four miles from Mr. Wagoner's, on the Jacksonville road, and after breakfast had occasion to go off the track on an errand, and returning in sight of the house it was in flames and the haystacks also, and he heard reports of guns and the cries of women. Mr. Vannoy had sent the half dozen men he had with him to alarm the neighbors and put them on guard. Mr. Wagoner, of course, was in fear lest his house was attacked, but I think did not recall the musket report that we heard. He hastened back. I came on my way. Reaching Sailors Diggings I found that there had been a mule train attacked near there and three Indians had been shot, and all though Illinois Valley the people were preparing to resist. Indeed, the general sentiment was that the Indians must be destroyed. This position they say seems hard, but there is no other way; if an Indian is fed and cared for ninety-nine days and on the hundredth he gets any inattention, he will resent it, and it is those who have been best treated that often do the injury, and there is no trusting any of them. There is considerable bitterness toward the officers at Fort Lane on account of the want of interest manifested, it is charged, in suppressing the robbers and stopping their depredations. The report came by expressman when I was at Crescent City, confirming what I feared, that Mrs. Wagoner and child were killed and the house and barn fired in a few minutes after Mr. Wagoner and myself left. The Indians were a company of Shastas, who had been joined perhaps by John's and Sam's tribes after the Sunday night's work of the volunteers on Butte Creek--for the volunteers had attacked three encampments and killed twenty-four Indians, which Captain Waite and his soldiers buried on Monday, and enough more to make forty. It was supposed after this the Indians had come down Rogue River, burning and murdering all the way. They had attacked wagons, killed the men, and taken horses and whiskey and guns, and whatever else they could appropriate; and a mule train near Mr. Wagoner was left by the men when they saw the Indians firing the house and murdering the inmates. These men, in going to Jacksonville, had seen dead bodies all along the road. The house at Evans' ferry, eight miles from Wagoner's, Jones' house, four miles, and Wagoner's, and two further down toward the Willamette were reported and destroyed. With the scattered position of the people in Rogue River and Illinois valleys there can be no protection on the property, and the only safety of the people is in meeting and placing themselves in condition to defend their lives. The war is one of extermination, designed on both sides; but the Indians will of course be defeated. The government troops were immediately dispatched in chase down Rogue River Valley, under Major Fitzgerald. The Governor of California has ordered three companies sent up to Northern California, and yesterday the Columbia carried up troops to the Oregon.
There is a general combination of the Indians in Washington and Oregon territories, and the war will be a very bloody one, not equaled for atrocity in the annals of the past, perhaps.
New York Daily Tribune, November 14, 1855, page 6 The writer is Sarah Pellet.
The Oregon Indian War.Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, October 27, 1855, page 3
By the Yreka Union of the 20th, we have further particulars of the diabolical acts of the Indians in Rogue River Valley. After finishing their horrible work at Mr. Wagoner's, they attacked the house of Mr. Harris. The Union says:--
"When they began to gather around suspiciously, an Indian who had frequently stopped with the family and been kindly treated come boldly into the house with a gun. Mrs. Harris said to him, 'You are surely not going to help murder us?' The Indian answered 'No,' but almost immediately raised his gun and shot Mr. Harris, who was just coming into the door, through the body, inflicting a mortal wound. He fell forward into the house. Just then their little girl, ten years old, received a wound in the arm from a shot fired by one of the Indians outside, as she ran into the house. This left Mrs. Harris in a most trying and horrible situation, and the heroic manner in which she conducted herself surpasses any of the recorded cases of female courage and fortitude which we have ever read. Her husband lay upon the floor dying, and a large party of infuriated savages without stood ready to rush in and finish the work of death. Mrs. Harris pushed the Indian who had shot her husband out of the door and closed it after him. The floor was covered with blood from the wounds of her dying husband and little girl. Mr. Harris, before he expired, instructed her how to load a small Allen's revolver. This she loaded and fired many times at the Indians, which kept them some distance from the house. Night came, and she watched for an opportunity to escape. The Indians withdrew out of gunshot, to induce her to come out so they could pursue and shoot her without danger to themselves. She took advantage of this and fled into the brush with her little girl, taking the revolver with her. The balls had all given out, but by continuing to load with powder and fire whenever the Indians approached, she managed to keep them from charging into the brush. The next morning a few mounted men came by, and she called to them and the Indians retreated, and she and her little girl were rescued from their perilous position.
'In the same neighborhood the house of a Mr. Jones was attacked, and he and his wife both killed. The particulars of this we have not learned.
'We have no reliable accounts as to the exact number of whites killed. In the Grave Creek region there are probably one or two other families murdered, who had not been heard from up to our last advices from Jacksonville. The number killed on Tuesday--men, women and children--we think was about 25, but some place it as high as 40."
LATER FROM ROGUE RIVER.
The Yreka Union of the 13th, contains the following melancholy intelligence. On Tuesday morning, 9th inst., a large party of Indians collected and started down Rogue River, killing every white man who happened to fall in their way. At Evans Ferry they found two or three men whom they murdered, and then left the river for Wagoner's on Louse Creek. Just before they reached W.'s they were met by a party of packers with a large train, who saw from their appearance that there was something wrong with them. Presently the packers looked back and saw Wagoner's barn on fire, and heard the screams of women and children in the house; they then cut loose their packs and ran for their lives--the Indians pursued them closely, killing one of the mules.
They counted in their flight the bodies of seventeen white men who had been murdered along the road. Many of these were teamsters, and their loads had been scattered in every direction by the Indians, in searching for ammunition and liquor. From Wagoner's it appears that the Indians, now nearly all drunk, again started down Rogue River, burning and murdering as they went. On Wednesday they were overtaken by Major Fitzgerald with eighty men and a battle fought, in which thirty Indians and ten soldiers were reported to have been killed.
Mrs. Wagoner and child were murdered, and five other families along the route pursued by the Indians are said to have shared the same fate. The whole number of whites who have already fallen, from the best accounts, is between 30 and 50.
The Union also contains accounts of another outrage perpetrated by the Rogue River Indians. The party robbed and murdered are Messrs. Wilson & Hudson, of Humbug Bar, a hired man and family, whom they were taking up to open a hotel or boarding house. A Mr. Riley, as he was passing over the summit of the Siskiyou, on the Klamath trail, discovered signs of a conflict, and subsequent search has confirmed the worst fears. Arrows have been found strewn around in every direction, the ground in many places was stained by blood, and on pursuing the trail made by the marauding party, clothes of men, women and children, and finally the body of a murdered man, was discovered. A mule also had been killed; the remainder of the train, ten or twelve mules, are now in the hands of the robbers. A pursuing party saw the fires of the Indians on Monday night. A letter from P. H. Hulin, on Indian Creek, fully confirms the above.
The Weekly Sun, New York City, November 17, 1855, page 2
For the Oregonian.
Letter from the South.
JACKSONVILLE, O.T., Nov. 3, 1855.EDITOR OREGONIAN--Dear Sir: Heretofore I have remained silent, leaving you and other friends of the press to battle for our rights. But of late, such base, willful, and unmitigated falsehoods have been heralded forth in the Oregon Statesman as truth, that I cannot, in justice to myself and those brave volunteers who have so nobly responded to the call of the executive, remain dormant any longer. If our country was in quietude, and nought to disturb, save the usual political war, we might overlook these base and villainous falsehoods, considering the source from whence they came. But sir, inasmuch as we are surrounded by hostile savages, and threatened with annihilation, I cannot pass them by with impunity. The editor of that ill-fated sheet has attained a reputation as being the most cold-hearted and selfish being in the world, devoid of principle or honor, a fiend in human shape, inspired by the evil genius, to work all the iniquity it can. It is equally true, and admitted now by all, that he is
"The extract of baseness! essence of blackness!
Ergot of meanness! concentrated poison!
Spawn of the adder! fuel of hell!
His breath is pestilence: his touch palsy!"
[three paragraphs torn away]affair," they have the assurance that every white man, woman and child in Jackson County approved of their course. This attack is urged by this same editor, as being the immediate cause of the massacres of Harris, Mrs. Wagoner, Mr. Haines and family, Mr. Jones and wife, and others. That it was in revenge for the massacre at or near Table Rock. He might argue from this until doomsday, yet he never would convince the citizens of this valley that such was the cause. The Indians had committed depredations, had threatened the citizens, and appearances indicated that they intended to carry their threats into execution. Families were compelled to flee from their homes and abandon all to the mercy of the savages; yet, their sympathizer and defender, Bush, has urged that they were on the reserve and friendly. Such is false, and the author knew it at the time.
The last issue of the Statesman prior to this outbreak contained communications from these prejudiced partisans--seeking for political capital--assuring the readers of that paper that "all was quiet" and no indications of a war, and that these reckless whites who were inciting the Indians to acts of violence would be disappointed. Oh! shame on the man who is so degraded, lost to sense or honor, that with a full knowledge of impending danger to our citizens would dare to pen such assertions. I say a full knowledge, for at the date of those communications our whole valley was alarmed. Fields and Cunningham had been murdered on the Siskiyou, and the citizens of Butte Creek had abandoned their homes, or were compelled to guard them. Yet "all is quiet and no danger of a war." I will then ask in all candor, if in view of this matter, if all unprejudiced minds are not satisfied that a false face has been put upon this matter, and that the citizens of your section have been misinformed. The course of Bush throughout has been strange indeed. It needs explanation.
His correspondents, some at least, say that we do not want any volunteers from Umpqua or the Willamette; that two hundred men are sufficient to chastise the "Shastas." Now, all that ran in Bush's head is "Shastas, Dr. Henry, reckless whites, expedition to fight immigrants, &c."
I am very happy to inform Mr. Bush that there are other tribes in Southern Oregon besides the Shastas, and that it requires more than two hundred men to chastise those "Shastas." This declaration alone would convince anyone of his ignorance of the country, or the mode of Indian warfare. His aim is to ridicule the whole affair, censure those who are undeserving, laugh at our fears, and place everything in a false light; call our soldiers women, grannies, &c., and this too, knowing as he does, that whole families have been butchered--wives have witnessed their husbands fall by their sides--husbands have witnessed the massacre of their wives and children--brothers have witnessed brothers murdered in the most brutal manner, and yet he ridicules our fears; speaks in a jesting manner of all who even entertain fears. Let him visit the section and witness the destruction of property; let him come and visit the grief-stricken widow and fatherless child, grieving over a brother of tender years whose fate is unknown; let him visit the young and and doting wife who is weighed down with grief, and mourns the loss of a kind and affectionate husband. I say let him visit there--then let him ridicule our fears--let him laugh at our calamities--let him assert his falsehoods--but may God have mercy on his soul. More anon.
PHILEMON.Oregonian, Portland, December 1, 1855, page 2
The Indians at the Meadows, in Rogue River, report the death of the three captive white women they took at the outbreak of hostilities. Two of them died of disease, and the third was killed to avenge the death of a squaw they had heard had fallen at the hands of the whites. The poor creatures are sleeping where "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." Better a thousand times be dead than exposed to the mercy of the savages. We shall always think that Oregon is disgraced and ought to suffer punishment for permitting those women to remain, suffer, and die among the Indians, without making greater efforts to rescue them.
Oregon Argus, Oregon City, March 15, 1856, page 2
In Southern Oregon the Indians are stronger and more bold. In relation to the unfortunate women lately taken prisoners, the following has been learned: Mrs. Wagoner was killed at her residence. The Indians carried away her child, five years old. Mrs. Haines and child they kept some two or three weeks, and they died. They seemed desirous of keeping Mrs. Wagoner's child, but upon learning that the soldiers had taken two squaws, they massacred the child, also a half-breed of their own.
"From Oregon," Los Angeles Star, March 22, 1856, page 2
November 2.--This morning Major Martin, escorted by a volunteer company, went to Grave Creek to see Captain A. J. Smith, 1st Dragoons, commanding the United States troops in the valley. He offered us the benefit of his escort, and we accompanied him accordingly. This gentleman, together with Captain Mosher and other volunteer officers, assisted us in every way in their power, and without this accidental aid our party would have found it very difficult to cross the valley.
Wolf and Grave creeks are separated by high and steep hills, covered with thick timber and underbrush. On reaching Wolf Creek we found Captain Smith in camp, near a house surrounded by a small stockade. His supply of forage had failed, and he was forced, on this account, to prepare to return to Fort Lane as soon as a few men, who had died of their wounds, could be buried. Lieut. Gibson, formerly in command of the escort of our party, was among the wounded. Being compelled by want of forage to press forward as fast as possible, I applied to Capt. Smith for an escort. He gave me one so promptly that in less than fifteen minutes we were again on our way.
Between Grave and Jumpoff Joe creeks the road passed over a steep and heavily timbered divide. The Indians had killed two men in charge of a pack train on this hill, and the half-burned remains of their wagon and packs were still to be seen. Near this place Major Fitzgerald, 1st Dragoons, had overtaken with a scouting party and killed several of the savages. At Jumpoff Joe Creek, a man driving swine had been murdered, and a large number of his animals lay dead in the road. On leaving this creek, we passed through an undulating and fertile country, sometimes open and sometimes thinly covered with a growth of oak, sugar maple and a little pine and hemlock. After traveling until nearly sundown, we encamped at a building which had been preserved from the general ruin by the heroism of a woman named Harris. After her husband had been murdered and her daughter wounded, she had made a desperate and successful defense by shooting at the savages from between the crevices of the log house. The traces of her bullets upon the trees, which had shielded the Indians, and the marks of the tragedy within the dwelling, were plainly visible. Soon after dark a small party under the command of Lieut. Allston, 1st Cavalry, arrived with the wounded and encamped. Captain Smith, with a few men, passed us on his way to Fort Lane. The length of our day's march was about fourteen miles.
Lieutenant Henry L. Abbott, Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, Washington 1857, pages 107-109
Office Indian AgentSir
Rogue River Valley O.T.
February 18th 1856.
I again have time to drop you a few lines before starting. Capt. Judah is expected to arrive this evening, in which event I will be able to start day after tomorrow. I have no doubt of its being necessary to have a large escort till I get through the canyon as well from fear of the whites as from the hostile bands of Indians who are in the vicinity of the roads. On the first inst. I sent two Indians in whom I had confidence to the camp of the hostile party to endeavor if possible to get a correct statement in regard to the massacres of the 9th of Oct. last, and more especially to learn if they held in bondage any white women & if so to try to redeem them.
They returned on the 11th inst. in company with two other Indians belonging to George's band with the following statement, that Old John & eight others [of] his own people did all the mischief that day until their arrival at Wagoner's ranch and at that place they killed Mrs. Wagoner & fired the house before they were observed by the other Indians. Chief George was camped within four hundred yards of the house, but was not at home himself; he had left the day previous to go to Cow Creek. Mrs. Wagoner's daughter, a little girl about eight years of age, was at George's camp and was saved by his woman concealing her. After John had killed these people, captured the teams & burned the houses, he was joined by some other Indians, among whom he divided the cargo that he had captured belonging to Peters & co.; about two thirds of George's people agreed to join him and all the Cow Creeks that were there did the same. The new force was then sent on the road to continue the work of pillage and death begun by Old John.
He and his men here left for Illinois Valley. The house of Mr. Harris was then attacked by this new party. Mrs. Harris, who was rescued by Major Fitzgerald, recognized some Cow Creek Indians & talked to them before they killed her husband, which in a measure corroborates the statement made by the Indians. They both agree as to who shot Mr. Harris. I am not aware that the Indians knew anything of Mrs. Harris' statement previous to making their own. They also remarked they could have killed her but did not wish to kill women. They strove to take her prisoner, hoping her powder would soon become exhausted, when they would be enabled to capture her, from which they were prevented by the timely arrival of Major Fitzgerald. From here they proceeded to the house of Mr. Haines, where he and his son were killed, his wife and daughter taken prisoners. No clue has been had of the fate of Mrs. Haines and daughter except this, and this, being partially corroborated by the evidence of white persons, leaves but little more to doubt its correctness. The Indians aver that Mrs. Haines' daughter lived but three days, when she died with the flux. That her life was despaired of from that disease on the morning of the massacre I know to be a fact. Mrs. Haines lived six days and died of the same disease; she also was sick at the time of her captivity & had lost two children the week previous of the same disease, so I conclude there is no cause to doubt the statement of the Indians on this matter. Mrs. Wagoner's daughter lived near two months and was killed by some of John's boys, who had been sent from Mr. Wagoner's ranch to the Klamath on a recruiting service. Immediately upon their rejoining the Indians at the meadows they shot the little girl & a little half breed girl belonging to an Indian woman, averring at the same time they done it in revenge for some Indian women who had been killed by the whites. These Indians declare they have not killed any women nor did they intend it should be done, that none but John's people were guilty of such atrocious acts. They also state there are a great many Indians at the meadows, some from the coast below the mouth of Rogue River. These are not armed. The entire Klamath tribe & many disaffected Indians from Northern California have joined them, numbering in all near three hundred efficient warriors, that they are strongly fortified, have made excavations underground & arched them over with large rock & will stand a general fight, although their desire is for peace.
Bill, son to Old John, refuses to fight & says he never will. These Indians say he invariably mounts his horse & leaves at the first approach of the whites, and is now living several miles from the main body of the Indians with none but his own family. This is the same Bill spoken of last summer, who was with that party on the Klamath at the time of the massacre there, of which you were informed at the time, and subsequently of the surrender of two of the worst of that party into the hands of the civil authorities of California & of their acquittal and subsequent murder by the populace. He says he still desires peace & that he will do anything, or go anywhere, to obtain it, that he never will war with the whites. I give you his statement from which you can form your own conclusions.
Old John says he desires peace provided the whites are really penitent & want it. Such a peace as he had from the former treaty, which only served to turn his people into a belief of security, on which they were killed for amusement by the whites, he does not want. He considers he has avenged his injuries, for which he was fighting, & has not lost a single man in doing it, and if the whites are willing to make & observe a peace he will do the same. If the whites wish to fight it is all right. He prefers war to a dishonorable peace, that he would rather die fighting for his rights than to have peace for himself & have his people killed for nothing whenever it suited the caprice of some man to do so. Limpy is exceedingly anxious for peace, says he never joined the war party nor never intends to. He was at Fort Lane at the time of the massacre and remained there until after its occurrence, and left to get his family away from danger. He said when he left he would return with them if it was possible for him to do so & if it was not he would go to the coast mountains and spend the winter there, that he would only fight in defense of his life or family, how true he has kept his word. We have no means of knowing more than the statement of the Indians who were sent out as scouts, & one of them being his brother would probably present the fairest side to view. Limpy is the Indian who caused a gun and some other stolen articles to be returned to their owner a short time previous to the war, of which I gave you an account at the time [see Ambrose's letter of Oct. 8, 1855], though without knowing who had done it. The theft was committed by John's people, the articles taken from them & returned to the owner by Limpy.
The two messengers sent to us by them were kindly treated and sent back with the following statement, that the whites were very much exasperated at having their women & children killed & they need not hope for peace so long as these murderers were alive, that George's people and the Cow Creeks had no good cause to engage in the war, indeed every facility was afforded them to keep out of it, that they could return to their people whenever it suited them & tell them to defend themselves as best they could, as peace could not be talked of while those murderers were yet unpunished, that they must first surrender them up unconditionally. They then requested me to make known their views to you and they would await an answer, that if extermination was still the cry and they were forced to fight against their will, that we would be held responsible for the murder of our own people & not them, that the whites never could kill them, while they could kill a great many whites.
I have given you the substance of the interview and as near in their own language as it could be got. I have no doubt it is the desire of a large portion of them to have peace. They are tired of war, but a peace with John's people and the Klamaths would be of short duration, at least until they are well chastised. It does seem to me to be fallacy to talk of peace. I was well satisfied all the while that they were the leading spirit of the whole war & but for them we might still have had peace. It also strikes me very forcibly that it could not be regarded as either very visionary or foolish to make some disposition of about two third of the war party who desire peace, other than trying to exterminate them. I agree with the Indians in that particular that the whites never can do it.
Very respectfully your obt. servt.Joel Palmer Esqr.
G. H. Ambrose
Supt. Ind. Affairs
NARA Series M2, Microcopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 14; Letters Received, 1856, No. 98.
The Yreka Union publishes the following in relation to the Indian war, taken from the Table Rock Sentinel:
"The Indians who were sent to the Meadows bring back some important information. It appears that the force of warriors is about 300, or over--that they are fortified with a view of security against ordnance, and confident of their ability to prosecute the war. The chiefs say they are revenged for the Indians that had been killed by the whites, and are satisfied and willing to treat--that they will suspend hostilities and remain at peace as long as the whites let them alone--and no longer. The warriors are said to be nearly all eager to fight. They had lost but 16 men during the war--six at the Grave Creek, three at the mouth of Jumpoff Joe, six at Wagoner's ranch, and one at the Meadows.
"They were told that Mrs. Haines and her daughter, and Mrs. Wagoner's child were taken prisoners--that the two first died within a week of disease with which they were sick when captured, and that the latter was kept until a few days ago, when, hearing of the murder of the two squaws who had been taken by the whites, she was killed in revenge. At the same time a half Indian child was taken from its mother and shot because it had white blood."
Trinity Journal, Weaverville, California, March 1, 1856, page 3
This war had its origin in Southern Oregon, where the principal difficulties and duties of the regular troops were to protect the Indians from a set of unprincipled and irresponsible white men. For two years previous, reports and complaints were forwarded to the Headquarters, Department of Pacific, commanded by Gen'l. Wool, by the regular officers on duty in that region, setting forth the acts of these white men, many of them quite as brutal and savage as any ever perpetrated by Indians. A petty theft or personal quarrel was deemed a sufficient excuse for killing an Indian on the spot, or making a night attack on an unsuspecting camp. These things fixed the idea in the mind of Gen. Wool that all the difficulties in the two Territories had the same common origin, viz.: the whites themselves.
Finally the wholesale slaughter of women and children by Major Lupton's party drove the Indians of that section to desperation. This party was organized under the false report that the Indians were killing the stock on Butte Creek--a report founded on the fact that a farmer of that section had an ox that died, and he gave the meat to the Indians, and some passersby saw them cutting it up and bore the false report to Jacksonville. This was Jake's band of Indians, who were on a pass from the reservation to procure provisions, and the same day that this intelligence went into Jacksonville they were recalled by the Indian agent. The warriors returned immediately, leaving the women and children to follow the next day. But at daylight Lupton was upon them and killed twenty-seven of them; of this entire party but 3 were capable of bearing arms; the others were old men, women and children. This occurred on the morning of the 8th of October, 1855. The news was immediately borne to the reservation, after killing a young man who was making shingles for the Indians. They proceeded down the Rogue River, killing a man at Evans' ferry early on the morning of the 9th; two miles further on they killed Jones and his wife; a few miles farther several travelers, and finally united with George's band of about thirty, and the war in Southern Oregon was fairly commenced. The causes of these outbreaks in the north and south, though separate and distinct, were confounded both by Gen. Wool and the people of Oregon, each holding their own opinions. The people said it was a combination of all the tribes against the whites, and cited as proof the coincidence of their occurring nearly at the same time. Though, in reality, the first acts of the north were committed in August and September. Gen. Wool said it was the aggressions of the whites themselves. The one making the real cause in the north, the excuse for the outbreak in the south, and the other, the real cause of the outbreak in the south, the supposed cause for hostilities in the north.
"A Page in Military History by an Officer of the Army," Truth Teller, Steilacoom, Washington Territory, February 25, 1858, page 1
Information has been received from the Siletz Reservation to the effect that the Indians there have recently had a "free fight" among themselves, in which five were killed and twelve wounded. One band attempted to kill a "doctor" belonging to another band, when the fight became general upon the merits of the case, and resulted as above. The Tututnis and Rogue Rivers had another fight, in which three of the latter were killed, and one of the former dangerously wounded. Afterward the Tututnis waylaid a party of Rogue Rivers, and killed Sambo, the leader in the murder of Mrs. Wagoner, in 1855.
"Ten Days Later from Oregon," Memphis Daily Appeal, March 30, 1859, page 2
The special agent of the government who was here last week, says the Eugene Register, taking testimony of citizens of this country in claims against the government for Indian depredations, had six claims submitted to him. The largest claim is the Belshaw, which is for about $1500. A brother of George Belshaw of this city, accompanied by another man, obtained a load of apples down the valley and were taking them to Southern Oregon, when they were attacked by the Rogue River Indians and killed and their property destroyed. The claim is for this property.
Times-Mountaineer, The Dalles, April 15, 1893, page 3
On the 9th day of October, 1855--midnight--George Anderson rode into Jacksonville at a breakneck pace. He awakened up the people generally and imparted the news that the Indians were on the warpath and had massacred all the settlers on Rogue River from what was then known as Jewett's Ferry to Grave Creek. That a pack train with full cargo passed Wagoner's that afternoon and was attacked by the Indians. The packers, however, got their mules in hand, cut their cargo off and ran the gantlet safely from Louse Creek to Evans' Ferry on Rogue River; they lost all their cargo and one mule. These people reported that Wagoners, on Louse Creek, had not, up to their passing, been molested. G. Anderson called for volunteers to rescue Mrs. Wagoner and her daughter, a child about five years old. This was the incentive for one of the grandest rides made during that or any other Indian war. Fourteen mounted men responded to the call and were in the saddle en route inside of one hour after Anderson's alarm. This band of patriots were: John McLaughlin, A. J. Long, Charles Williams, Claus Westfeldt, James R. Peters, Wm. Morrison, John Tinnin, Joseph Copeland, George Anderson, Dr. C. Brooke, Angus Brown, Wm. Ballard, Jack Kennedy and Henry Klippel.
We were not encumbered with blankets or provisions. The writer had to borrow a rifle and ammunition from the late Mrs. Jane McCully, who in after years often mentioned the circumstance. We rode the 28 miles before daylight, and found Major Fitzgerald with a company of dragoons from Ft. Lane, about ¾ of a mile this side of Wagoner's. His troop was dismounted, but ready to mount when ordered. We remained with the major about 20 minutes then forged on. The regulars were also in motion--with the order "Forward!" When we arrived on the ground we found the premises all burnt down. Mr. Wagoner, having safely piloted Miss Pellet [temperance lecturer Sarah Pellet] to her destination, returned to find that the Indians were on the rampage; he witnessed the burning of his house and buildings, but still did not realize fully that the savages would murder his wife and child. His last hope was, however, to be shattered. On our arrival we found the fires had burnt out, and on examination found the charred remains of Mrs. Wagoner lying across the stone hearth of the large fireplace, and also the charred remains of the little girl about ten feet off; the Indians had murdered them and then set fire to the house. Major Fitzgerald ordered some of his troopers to collect the remains and improvise a temporary vault out of brick that had been part of the chimney. Whilst this was being done Jack Long had mounted his horse and made a reconnaissance of the immediate vicinity. He gave one of those peculiar yells, which all understood--Indians! In less time than it takes to write it every volunteer was in the saddle and going to Jack Long, who by this time had gained the main traveled road leading to Jumpoff Joe. Riding up, we asked, "Where are they?" to which he answered: "They have gone into that brush (a patch of about 2 acres on the N.W. side of the road) and were on horseback." We put spur to our animals and went around the brush to head them off; we got on the north side with all the speed that was left in our jaded horses; about this time we were greeted with an Indian yell, and on looking found a band of Indians in line ready for battle. We were going so fast that I don't think we had any time to fully weigh the situation; at any rate there was no wavering. George Anderson, as brave a man as as ever lived, checked his horse for a second to shout, but the shout was "Don't stop!" nor we didn't stop. The Indians couldn't stand it any longer, broke their line and started to seek safety in flight. Seven Indians were killed, balance got away. After three or four hours' chase we returned to [the] brush patch, found a ½ barrel of whisky and an ox killed for the occasion. The Indians had undoubtedly arranged for a good time, and it was generally believed by Major Fitzgerald and others that the Indians outgeneraled us. They ran away from the place--we after them. Result was, the Indians who were in that brush patch--probably full of firewater--had time to sober up and skedaddle. When we got back and we were tired, dry and hungry, Fitzgerald lined up his troop and allowed them to take one small cup of the ardent and no more. The troopers, who were supplied with some rations of bread and meat, divided with the volunteers. They were all good soldiers, and their horses were comparatively fresh, which made them effective during the chase of the Indians. After all had partaken of the firewater we headed towards Mr. Harris' place, a few miles north of Wagoner's. We were riding along slowly, feeling about as tired as possible for men to get, when we discovered two horsemen coming toward us at full speed, each with a woman behind him. The horsemen proved to be Claus Westfeldt and Charles Williams; the women Mrs. Harris and her daughter Sophia, the latter wounded in [the] fleshy part of [her] arm, between the elbow and shoulder. The sight of these heroic women made us forget that we had been in the saddle 12 hours or fatigued or hungry.
Westfeldt and Williams[, who had ridden] in advance of [the] main column, found Mrs. Harris and daughter hidden in the willows and took them up on their horses. Mrs. Harris, after 36 hours' vigil and self-reliance, finding rescue an accomplished fact and after telling our boys that the Indians were at the house, then asked to be taken to a place of safety. As soon as they came up to our lines and reported the situation all of the volunteers and part of the regulars rode on to the house and surrounded it. The writer rode up to near the front door, jumped off his mule and pushed the front door open with the muzzle of his gun, and instead of Indians, saw Mr. Harris lying dead on the floor. We investigated further but found no Indians. Some of our men, who were in pursuit of the Indians, had to or did pass the house, stopped for a moment to inspect the premises and then continued to widow Niday's place. Mrs. Harris undoubtedly mistook them for Indians. The History of the Pacific Northwest has given some data of the Indian raid on Rogue River in 1855, and mentions "Levi Knott, A. J. Knott, John Ladd, J. D. Burnett, John Hulse and Alex McKay" as being present at Wagoner's on that eventful October morning. I distinctly remember Levi and Jack Knott, John Ladd, Burnett and McKay. These were interested in the pack train which ran the gantlet the afternoon previous and who returned with Major Fitzgerald. The major arrived near the Wagoner premises between 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning. Our men--the Jacksonville contingent--reached Fitzgerald's position at very early dawn, and remained but a very few minutes as heretofore stated.
Henry Klippel, as dictated to Mabel Prim, photocopy of manuscript in Rogue River Indian War vertical file, Southern Oregon Historical Society. Original in SOHS M35B, Box 5. Written sometime after the 1899 death of Jane McCully. Published in the Medford Enquirer of February 2, 1901, page 4
The Rogue River Indians again opened hostilities on the 10th day of October A.D. 1855.
They first turned themselves loose that morning at Louse Creek, Wagoner's place--12 miles south of Grave Creek House--by capturing Robt. & John Ladd's pack train, loaded with groceries, provisions & liquors. From that time started the most unprovoked scene of brutal carnage that it was ever my lot to witness--they commenced murdering, pillaging and burning everything they came to--Wagoner was [away] from home. The red devils went to the house--Mrs. W. barricaded the doors. She was personally acquainted with nearly all, had fed & sheltered and clothed many of them--they told her to come out--she must go with them. She said no--they then told her if she did not come out they would fire the house. She knew they meant it--and said no no. The red fiends then applied the torch to her home. She went to the looking glass, smoothed out her hair, took her six-year-old daughter on her lap, and perished in the flames.
The Jones family, a few miles south, was murdered and place burned. The Harris family, 3 miles north--the father and son murdered--the mother & daughter barely escaped by freely using an Allen revolver I had given them. The Haines family, consisting of the parents and 4 children--I was the first person there after the brutal fiends had done their work. The mother and daughter were taken prisoners and never heard from afterwards. I never will forget the scene that greeted my sight as I entered that cabin--not one left to tell the dreadful tale--the son had the whole top of his head took off; father had bullet hole in his breast.
James H. Twogood Papers, Newberry Library.
OLDEST INHABITANT OF GREENLEAF, LANE COUNTY
MRS. MARY A. BELKNAP.
GREENLEAF, April 19.--Mrs. Mary A. Belknap, the oldest inhabitant of this section, was born in New Hampshire in 1822. Her maiden name was Smith. In her native state she married R. S. Belknap, who left for California in 1849. In the course of five years he had drifted to the Rogue River mines, where he took up a homestead and sent for his wife, who made the trip around the Horn. The Indian war broke out about this time. Runners warned the settlers of the danger, and left with Mrs. Belknap a pistol, the use of which she knew nothing. Her husband was away, and she had two small children. Six redskins in war paint appeared soon after, but she cowed them with the revolver and a big dog. They passed on, and murdered a family at the next house. After living on the homestead 10 years the Belknaps sold the property and went to Albany. About 1871 they bought what is known as Belknap Springs, on the Mackenzie. They traveled in a wagon, and camped along the route for several weeks, cutting the road. They opened the bathing resort at the springs, and kept the place four years. Mrs. Belknap has three daughters and a son. She is living with her daughter, Mrs. F. R. Pepiot, of this place. Within the past three years she has had three strokes of paralysis. Since the last of these attacks she has not enjoyed the best of health, although she is quite active for one of her years.
Oregonian, Portland, April 21, 1901, page 5
[John W. Noah] was one of the troop who rescued the Harris family, when this family was surrounded by Indians. They were making a gallant defense at the time of the rescue. Mr. Harris, though wounded, was able to handle a rifle, and Mrs. Harris loaded the guns and helped to hold the savages at bay until assistance arrived. He also helped rescue the Niday family, who had a narrow escape from being massacred by the Indians. Mrs. Nellie Owen, of Marshfield, who was a child at the time, was a member of the Niday family.
"Death of John W. Noah," The Plaindealer, Roseburg, December 30, 1901, page 1
GOLD SCATTERED AT TREE ROOTS
A Tidy Sum of the Precious Metal is Going to Waste on Bleak Hillside in Southern Oregon.
Cached by an Indian, Squirrel Gnawed Hole in Sack and Yellow Hoard Ran Out--
Cannot Now Be Found.
(Journal Special Service.)
MEDFORD, Or., Aug. 14.--Up above the little town of Gold Hill, on a barren rocky hillside, lies a fortune for the man lucky enough to find its location. Frequent and futile searches have been made, but so far they have all been unsuccessful. How it came there is thus related by an old pioneer, one of the actors in the stirring scenes of the Indian wars of 1855 and 1856, and personally acquainted with the characters mentioned.
In 1855 a band of Indians robbed a pack train on what is known as the Louse Creek Hill, killing some of the packers and driving off several of the mules. In the loot obtained were several barrels of whisky, which the aborigines did not allow to waste. In searching through the plunder one Indian discovered a buckskin purse containing between $5,000 and $6,000 in gold dust. [At 1855 prices this would weigh about 15 pounds.] He said nothing about the find to his companions, but concealed the purse about his person.
The next February Chief Sam--for whom Sams Valley was named--and "Lige," the chief of the Applegate Indians, having surrendered, orders came to Dr. Ambrose, Indian agent, to collect the straggling Indians for removal to the Siletz Reservation. [Sam was never a combatant, taking shelter at Fort Lane until escorted to Grand Ronde.] The Indians were gathered at old Fort Lane, under the care of Capt. A. J. Smith, as "Limpy" and Chief John were still on the warpath. On February 22, 1856, the company moved down to The Dardanelles, just above Rock Point.
Lo and His Gold.Among the Indians in the cavalcade was the one who had found the purse of gold dust at the loot of the pack train a year before. During the night this Indian stole out of camp, swam Rogue River, climbed the hill on the other side and concealed in the bushy tops of a madrone tree the precious buckskin purse. Then he returned to camp. The next year he got leave after his concealed treasure. Climbing the hill, he found the tree and the buckskin sack, but there was no gold. A squirrel had gnawed the sack, and through the hole the precious metal had run out and spread itself over the hillside.
The disappointed brave returned to the reservation and told John Smith, another Indian, about the loss of his fortune.
Smith Told the Story.Smith made a visit to his old hunting grounds many years afterward and told the story to a white man. Together the two went to the place described, but time and white occupancy had changed the landscape. Where had formerly grown madrone trees were only stumps amid scattered chaparral and brush. The old landmarks were gone.
The searchers had come prepared to carefully wash the dirt beneath the tree of the buckskin purse, but the tree had been cut up for wood, without the woodman dreaming that beneath its outspread branches was a tidy sum in gold. They took pans of dirt from near several of the largest stumps and carried them to the river to wash them out, but were rewarded with nothing. So the search was given up.
Somewhere near a rotting stump and not badly scattered, for the gold was heavy, placer gold on that hillside, the contents of that buckskin sack, whose owner perhaps laid down his life when the pack train was robbed, lie hidden beneath the accumulated debris of nearly 50 years.
It may be found someday. It is in a section where the prospector sees no encouragement to look for the precious metal, so perhaps it may lie there forever undisturbed, but that it is there no doubt exists in the minds of many of the oldtimers acquainted with the facts.
Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, August 14, 1903, page 3
THE STORY OF FORT BIRDSEYE.
A Tale of Thrilling Experiences Undergone by the Earliest Settlers of Jacksonville and Vicinity as Told by One of the Pupils of the Jacksonville High School.
You would probably smile if I were to tell you that less than fifty years ago the well-to-do bridegroom took his bride on horseback on their wedding trip. Nevertheless that was the case with most of the early Oregonians who intended to make their future homes in the southern part of the state.
My grandparents, who were married in Portland in June 1853, started for Southern Oregon the day following their wedding. The route, although over the same ground where all of Western Oregon's most prosperous cities and towns are now, was somewhat different then. Progress was extremely slow, as there was but the faintest trail where now there are a great number of houses and extensive grain fields.
At noon one day while crossing the Calapooia Mountains, when they stopped for lunch they were able to sit down and gather all the wild strawberries they wished, without moving. The wild fruit at that time was unsurpassed in flavor and size.
Just think of the young bride of today riding several hundreds of miles, from the bustle of the city into a country where she would be the only white woman within a radius of several scores of miles, and only being able to take with her such articles as could be packed on one or two small ponies!
When the Indians saw so many whites settling up their lands they became hostile and troublesome, and my grandfather [David Nelson Birdseye], who had bought a homestead right of a man named Mulligan, which was situated on the banks of the beautiful Rogue River, together with the assistance of a few others, were compelled for their own safety as well as that of their families to erect a fort. Previous to this, however [during the 1853 war], the women, who were very few in number and who were scattered along through the valley, had all been taken to Jacksonville, a mining town which had sprung up, and which was the only place in that part of the state at that time, where a company of soldiers had headquarters. [No soldiers were stationed in Jacksonville.] It was necessary to have everything ready in case the treacherous Indians should break out. Some of the women objected when they had to leave their homes. One woman said: "Give me and Mandy a gun and we'll fight Indians. We're not going to leave." But when the time came they were only too glad to go.
Often have I heard my grandmother [Clarissa Fleming Birdseye] tell of her trip to Jacksonville, when she, on horseback and surrounded by a circle of men also on horseback, rode along, expecting at any time to be fired on by the Indians from behind some rock or tree. All along the road they passed the smoldering camp fires which were still burning, the Indians having just within an hour or so before left camp.
Tools which they used to prepare timbers for the fort were very scarce and at the same time very unlike the modern inventions of today, which made it a work of time to put up a building of any great size. The one of which I am going to write was composed of a rudely constructed house or cabin, surrounded by a palisade of huge posts. The logs for the house part were put together very roughly, mud being put in the cracks to keep out some of the cold. [The current house was built in 1856 after the Indians were removed to reservations, reportedly using timbers taken from the palisade.] The floor was made of the same material, only the logs were hewn flat into a kind of plank, which when put together was termed a "puncheon floor." The roof was made of slabs or boards which were split out by hand. For the posts, which were for protection, a deep trench was dug, and the large logs which were sawed about fourteen feet in length were placed in the trench, on end, one beside the other as close as they could be put. This was filled in with earth, which was tramped very solid around the posts, to make them secure. Small holes were cut between the logs at intervals around the wall, for loopholes.
The red men became more and more hostile, until it reached a point when if anyone stepped out of his door, he was in danger of his life. At that time (1854 and 1855), old Sam was war chief, and his followers were scattered from what is now known as Sams Valley, named in honor of him, who was previous to this time peace chief, to the present site of the town of Woodville.
When my grandparents bought their right to the old homestead, it was staked out on both sides of the river, in order to get good bottom land, but when the reserve was set aside by the government for the Indians, they compelled the settlers to vacate the land on the left [north] side of the river and take up enough back on the hills to make out their one hundred and sixty acres. That was the reason for old Sam's people being so badly scattered.
Shortly after the fort was completed my grandfather was put in command by the government to serve rations to the soldiers, and to use the fort for the soldiers' headquarters. My grandmother, not having been brought up to do housework, found it very much to her disadvantage to prepare food and lodging for the miners and transients who almost every night filled the old fort. Many times have I heard her tell of her experiences in learning the art of cooking. Everything was very high at that time. Meals brought $1 apiece, and were composed chiefly of beans, bacon, reflector-baked bread, and probably some kind of dried fruit, all of which was brought through from the north by pack trains.
It was not an unusual thing to see several Indians around during the day, but it was always noticed that they never tarried later than sundown. One morning, very early, an old squaw, who was quite a friend of my grandmother, together with her brother, a large, straight, surly-looking Indian, was seen on the premises, but nothing particular was conjectured until night came on and still they loitered. The squaw, whom the whites called "Sally," acted all the while as if she had something on her mind, but when asked what the matter was, she put her hands over her mouth and said: "No can tell, heap afraid," and that was all they could get her to say. Everyone knew that she was one of old Sam's tribe, and having been expecting at any time to be attacked, Mary's [sic--"Sally" is referred to as "Mary" from here on] actions were especially observed. Along in the evening, quite awhile after dark, Mary called her brother to one side, and after quite a long consultation between the two the red man departed. Immediately the neighbors were notified that an attack was expected and for them to congregate at the fort. By 9 or 10 o'clock that evening a large number had arrived, during which time Mary had come in the house crying as if her heart would break and on approaching my grandmother fell in her arms and in a sobbing voice said: "Me go away now; no can stay too long," after which she wrenched herself loose and flew out of the door as if she were bewitched, before anyone could ask any further questions. During the whole night and until late next morning the occupants of the fort, with ready muskets, were momentarily expecting to hear the stealthy tread of the red men, and their final war whoop, which would be the signal of attack. Fires were seen in the distance--probably some of the flames were arising from the homes of those who were in the fort. Other fires were high up on the mountains, while not a spark of fire was seen nor the slightest sound was heard in their vicinity.
When morning came, some of the men concluded they would get on their horses and proceed to find out how many depredations the Indians had perpetrated. On their way to the pasture, for their horses, they could plainly see the tracks of the Indians' Cayuse ponies, which were left by the warriors as they descended the sides of the mountains, having made a circle upon the high lands to get out of range of the fort. When they reached the place where their horses were, they were very much surprised to find that two of them were missing, but when they again saw the familiar tracks of the Indian ponies, they were at once convinced of their whereabouts. They rode down the river, and all that was left of their farm houses was a mass of charred and smoldering timbers.
Not a living piece of humanity met their gaze, until they came to what is now known as the old Schieffelin place. Here the red men had crossed the river and fallen upon an old Frenchman who has taken an Indian woman for his wife. They took the woman prisoner, scalped the Frenchman in his own cabin and beat their child's brains out around the corner of the house. [This most resembles the attack on the Haines house, thirty miles away. The Schieffelins lost some horses, but sustained no further loss.] Below this place where the Indians had crossed, on the right-hand side of the river, what few settlers had escaped the hands of the cruel warriors had found a place of refuge. Pitiful stories came from the lips of those poor creatures, as they told about their escape and of the terrible miseries which either their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters or they themselves had experienced. The women when captured, if they would not give up, were scalped without hesitation, the same as the men.
By this time the government soldiers who were in Jacksonville had been notified as well as the remainder of the volunteers, and were in hot pursuit of old Sam and his bloodthirsty followers. [The government soldiers were stationed at Fort Lane; Sam was not involved in the war of 1855-56.] After an exciting skirmish at what is now known as Bloody Run, the Indians were pursued, captured and compelled to surrender, after which they were put under heavy guard and transferred to headquarters and later to the different reservations. [There was no skirmish at the Jones homestead at Bloody Run; the Indians didn't surrender until nearly eight months later.]
The reason the Indians did not attack Fort Birdseye was not really known until about a month afterward, when one day Mary, whom everyone had reason to believe had been murdered, but who was still at liberty, appeared at the palisade and asked for admission. When she was allowed to come in she could not control herself enough to let them know what she wished. When asked why she did not talk, she shook her head and pointing to her mouth tried to make them understand she could not talk. Finally her speech returned and she laid the whole plot before the listeners. It was as follows: When Mary saw so many white men arriving at the fort, and at the same time having a warm spot in her heart for her white friends, she had gone and told old Sam and the rest of her people that if they attempted to attack the fort they would undoubtedly be outnumbered and captured. Therefore the red men, who feared the large number of whites, although they were not as many as Mary had explained to old Sam, had shunned the fort by circling around the foothills, instead of going directly down the river, for the fort was situated under two massive black oak trees not more than a hundred yards from the edge of the water.
After the Indians were conquered and removed to the reservation, the old fort was of course of little use, but was used as as dwelling until a more suitable habitation could be erected. Anyone who at the present time visits the site were it once stood can plainly see its exact location by the indentations, which mark the place where the huge posts once stood.--George R. Birdseye, Ninth Grade.
Jacksonville Sentinel, May 15, 1903, pages 4-5
Heroes of Rogue River WarCharles Johnson was one of the first, in not the first, hero of the Rogue River war. He gave his life in saving three companions, and I was one of them; therefore I know what a hero Charles Johnson was. He held at bay 30 Indians while I and another were helping away a wounded companion. Johnson and I started in the war together and fought side by side until he fell, but many times later in other fights I wished I had had Johnson and his trusty gun with me.
Men and Women Who Distinguished Themselves in Fights With Indians in Pioneer Days.
BY FRANCIS M. TIBBETTS
It was in October, 1855, and I was a young man and ready for almost any adventure when with Johnson and Frank Stone we left Oakland, Douglas County, for Jacksonville. The ox wagons had been loaded with supplies and provisions for the mines. It was a bright, crisp fall morning when we started out, and as we called the oxen to move on none of us dreamed we were to see the bloodshed that we did before our trip was finished.
When we reached the south end of the big canyon (the old Dan Levens place) and pitched our camp we were paid a call by the late Judge M. P. Deady, who aroused us all and fired my adventurous spirit by telling us the Indians had gone on the warpath. Judge Deady told us what few details had reached him of the outbreak. Riders had come in with reports that the reds were massacring everyone between the big canyon and Jacksonville and burning the homes of the settlers. He urged us to return through the canyon, saying it was the only safe way for us to avoid the Indians.
The next morning, October 10, after a council, we decided to push on. We went three miles to Smith's place on Cow Creek. Here we found a number of miners and settlers who had been driven out. Putting our cattle into pasture and our wagon into the corral, we continued to Redfield's about three miles above where the town of Glendale stands. Here we formed a military company, the first in the Rogue River war. In it were 28 men, who elected Major Jacob Rinearson captain, and the next morning we started to battle.
The First Fight.Word had reached us by a miner who had escaped that two miners on Grave Creek had been attacked. After a hard ride of 15 minutes we encountered a band of Chief Limpy's warriors, and here occurred the first battle of the war. After a short fight, in which one of the Indians was killed and we had captured 10 ponies, the reds withdrew and we continued to the mine.
Upon our arrival there we found the two men dead in their diggings, and buried them in the grave they had themselves prepared. While engaged in this sad duty the Indians were harassing us, and it was necessary to beat them back while part of the men performed the last rites for the dead.
Our company returned to the Harkness place, on Grave Creek, where the settlers had congregated and fortified for protection. We remained there two days, marching south to Widow Niday's place, near Jump-Off Joe Creek, now Merlin. We heard here that the Indians had made a raid on the mines at the mouth of the Galice Creek, this news being brought by a courier, who had managed to get through. A detail of 14 men was sent to their relief, leaving Jump-Off Joe at 12 o'clock on the night of October 19. I was in this detail.
We arrived at Galice Creek at dusk the next day and found 30 men and one woman (Mrs. Pickett) in a split-board house, which they had eintrenched by throwing up earthworks on the inside and digging trenches to the outside for protection when firing. One man (Pickett) was dead and 12 others wounded. The Indians had withdrawn after riddling the house with bullets. The next morning Major Fitzgerald arrived with a company of regular troops and took the wounded to Jacksonville. Our detail returned to Jump-Off-Joe. Johnson and I decided to go to Cow Creek to see about our cattle and outfit.
Upon our arrival at Smith's place we found the settlers congregated there for protection, and went on to Dan Levens' farm, finding our cattle and wagons all right. Returning to Smith's we found the place besieged, and Johnson's horse was killed as we dismounted. That night Johnson, myself and another man crept through the lines, returning to Levens', reaching there without mishap. There was at this place 12 men and about the same number of women, among whom were Rev. J. W. Miller, now of Portland, and his wife.
The next morning, seeing smoke in direction of Smith's place, four of us--Charles Johnson, Alexander Abbott, Stephen Minot and myself--started for the top of the intervening ridge, about half a mile distant, to reconnoiter. When we got within 40 yards of the top of the ridge, about 30 Indians jumped out from behind trees and fired on us at close range, wounding Minot in the body. We started back, Abbott and I carrying Minot and Johnson covering our retreat, and in doing this Johnson sacrificed his life.
We had gone in this way about 200 yards when we saw a party had started from the house with a horse for the wounded man. The Indians were following and firing continuously. Just at this time Johnson fell, shot through the head, and killed instantly. We got Minot in and he eventually recovered. The Indians scalped and mutilated Johnson's body. The siege of the Lewis house (then Minot's) began and continued for three days. We fought them off until the balance of Rinearson's company came from Widow Niday's place to our relief. During this time it was fighting all the time and eternal vigilance to prevent the Indians from firing the house with flaming arrows, which they shot from under the creek bank. We never could tell how many Indians were killed, as they always carried away the dead and wounded. The late Hardy Elliff and Rev. J. W. Miller conducted this defense, and by their heroic conduct and example were largely responsible for its successful issue.
After the Indians were defeated and driven off, I was detailed with John Fortune, Alex. Abbott and one other man to escort Rev. Miller and his family to Roseburg, then a small trading post. Returning to the scene of hostilities and finding Rinearson's company disbanded, I joined Captain W. W. Chapman's company, and served through the war, taking part in the battles of Hungry Hill, Big Meadows and other minor engagements.
While Johnson was probably the first hero, there were others who showed brave hearts during the bitter war with the Indians. Among the first killed was a man named Bailey, of Eugene, who was driving hogs to Jacksonville. Efforts were made to persuade him to stay at Smith's place, but he was determined to push on, and when we first reached Cow Creek we found him and his drover dead. His cattle and hogs had been killed and the bodies of the two men mutilated.
A Heroic WomanOne of the brave women of the war was Mrs. Harris, who lived on Louse Creek, and who after a trying time was rescued by Captain Rinearson and his party. One morning as she and her husband were standing in the doorway of his cabin he was killed by the Indians.
In dragging his body to the house, his daughter was shot through the arm, but this did not prevent her and her mother conducting a heroic defense of the little place. Going into the second story with two guns and plenty of ammunition, they fought off the Indians, the wounded daughter loading the guns as fast as her mother fired them. Mrs. Harris was an excellent shot, and many Indians fell at her hands during the day and night she defended her home. The next morning, feeling she had repulsed the attack, Mrs. Harris and her daughter crept to a willow swamp some distance from the house. There they were found by Captain Rinearson and his party and rescued.
Captain Rinearson was one of those born fighters who had many exciting battles during the war. Once with A. J. Knott, who owned the Stark Street ferry, they got after the Indians. During a skirmish Knott's horse became frightened and ran away, while his rider was behind a tree picking off the Indians. Knowing they would be helpless without the horse, Captain Rinearson gave pursuit. The animal made straight for the Indian line, with Rinearson close behind, but he finally captured him, but not until 15 or 20 Indians had been killed.
The fight of Hungry Hill was one of the largest in the whole war. About 500 white men and something like 800 Indians were engaged in this fight. The fight lasted three days and three nights. We were out of provisions and the Indians cut us from water, but with desperation we cut our way through the line, and eventually captured Chief John, the leader of the Rogue River Indians. [John surrendered--he was not captured--months later.] We took him to Portland and put him aboard a boat for San Francisco, and it was on the ship that he made his sensational fight. One day, freeing himself of his chains, he ran amuck on the ship, and was bent on taking possession of it, when a well-directed blow with a belaying pin rendered him unconscious and he was again chained. [John was taken to San Francisco two years after the end of the Rogue River war.]
Mrs. Haines was taken prisoner near where Grants Pass is now. Several attempts were made to rescue her, but all efforts failed. The last we saw of her was at the battle of Big Meadow, on the opposite side of Rogue River from us, at the time we were fighting, and she waved her hand to us, but we could not rescue her. This was the last we ever heard or saw of her, and we thought, and always did, that she was murdered and her body thrown into the river. Mrs. Wagoner's two children, one about 4 and the other 6 years old, were killed at their home, their brains being knocked out against the side of the house and the bodies left there. Mrs. Wagoner was killed in her house, after which the house was set on fire and burned.
The late Judge M. P. Deady had stopped over one night with them, and as he started to the Umpqua Valley, where Roseburg is now, and had ridden but a short distance, he heard them fire on the house and he turned and looked back and saw the Indians. Then he hastened on, knowing it was no use for him to try to do anything, as the Indians were there and the family murdered, and he came to Roseburg.
Oregonian, Portland, May 23, 1909, page 58
The Commercial Club excursion on its return from Galice on Tuesday of last week reached Merlin at 5 o'clock in the evening, and at once the party were invited to see the old apple tree. We could not help wondering at the time why this kind of a tree is so often connected with historic events. General Robert E. Lee met General U. S. Grant under the famous Appomattox apple tree and a world power was created under its spreading branches. Then there's the old song about hanging Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree, and still another song, "Under the Old Apple Tree," and so on along the line of history this tree comes in for recognition. So in Merlin is another apple tree connected with the history of the locality, for standing in the shade of its spreading branches we listened to its history as told by Chas. E. Short as follows:
"It was only a few years ago that we realized that we had such a magnificent monument to the fertility of our soil standing in our midst. A gentleman from Hood River first called our attention to the fact that it was probably the largest apple tree in the state, and regretted that it did not occupy such a prominent position in his town, where it would undoubtedly be used as an advertisement. A short time afterward its picture appeared in two of Portland's daily papers--the Journal and Telegram--and then we began to look into its history. Among the oldtimers there was considerable variance as to when it was set out. Finally it was suggested that probably Mrs. Caroline Sexton [the former "widow Niday"], who was here even before the beginning of the "early days," could furnish the desired information. I made a special trip to the foot of Sexton Mountain, six miles north of this place, for that purpose. That interesting old lady was sitting in the shade reading and arose gracefully in acknowledgment of an introduction. I sat there several hours listening to a thrilling tale of the early days--of the Rogue River Indian War in 1855, in which she barely escaped with her life. Then I asked her about this tree. Did she remember who planted it?
"'Why, Mr. Short, it seems but yesterday. Mr. Haines settled there on the creek in 1852, and the following year a wagonload of nursery stock was brought down from the Willamette Valley. My husband bought a few trees, Mr. Haines bought some, and a few more were planted near the old Vannoy ferry. Mr. Haines had no fence around his orchard, and two years later commenced to build it--just as the rumors of an Indian outbreak began to spread. The Haines family came here to my house to stay, as I had three men working for me, and Mr. Haines came up every evening. They remained here two weeks, and as there were no signs of an outbreak, Mr. Haines grew tired of his long trip every night and morning and insisted that his family should return home. It was on Sunday morning. Mr. Haines stood right there beside that gate. His wife was afraid to go back, and was crying. He was impatient, and said, "If I had a wife with the spunk of a louse, I could get my orchard fenced." Mrs. Haines finally consented to return, and on the following Tuesday they were all murdered.'
"This is the story as she told it to me, and if you could have heard her--so positive of the small details--you would not doubt of its correctness.
"After the death of the Haines family, a man by the name of Perkins homesteaded the land and a few years later relinquished it to Mr. J. R. Lanterman. Mr. Lanterman cultivated it a few seasons, and then the railroad came through [in 1884], and this land was included in the right-of-way. Since then the only attention it has received was by a small boy who entirely girdled it with a hatchet--the scars still remaining to tell the story. In spite of this neglect--after 56 years--its branches spread over 61 feet; it is 43½ feet high and 6½ feet in circumference--and it is as sound as a dollar. You will admit, after looking at the apples on its branches, that I am within reason when I predict 56 boxes of merchantable fruit as this year's crop."
"Merlin Reception and Banquet," Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, July 2, 1909, page 2
"I think it was on the tenth of October, 1855, that my brother and I came in from hunting the cows [near Canyonville] and saw a white horse covered with blood standing by the front door of our log cabin. We hurried into the house to see what was the matter. We found Father with a big knife working on a man lying on the floor, while Mother was tearing our hickory shirts into bandages. The man was Bill Russell, and he had seven bullet wounds. He told us that the Indians had broken out and killed Weaver, his partner, and a lot of other settlers, between Canyonville and Jacksonville, and around Grants Pass. [Grants Pass didn't exist yet, of course.] Russell stayed all winter with us. Father patched him up, and he got well and is alive yet. He lives at Ashland."
William M. Colvig, quoted in Fred Lockley, "In Earlier Days," Oregon Journal, Portland, August 25, 1913, page 6
Mary Ann Young of TennesseeMedford Mail Tribune, November 23, 1930, page B1 Alice Hanley's account, the basis for this article, can be found here.
By Miles Cannon
This story of the life of Mary Ann Young, well-known pioneer, was written by Miles Cannon and read at the last meeting of Crater Lake chapter, D.A.R., by Mrs. J. H. Cochran.
Mary Ann Young of Tennessee
Overlooking the Rogue River Valley from an eminence on the eastern slope of the Siskiyou Range, the Jacksonville Cemetery--Oregon's repository of unwritten history--seems to have been designed by nature as a haven of rest for the dead and a shrine of beauty for the living. When the dawn breaks to herald the morning of the day of resurrection, the pioneers who sleep there should be able to catch the first glittering rays as they sparkle and play on the faraway summit of the Cascade Range.
To the left of the entrance to the cemetery, at a distance of 50 yards or so, there is a double headstone that seems to rise out of a bed of matted English ivy and with becoming modesty invites attention to the tenants of the tomb below. Chiseled on the weather-stained marble are these words:
"George W. Harris, killed by the Indians October 9, 1855. Age 35 years, 9 months and three days."
To the left:
"Mary A. Chambers, died February 17, 1882. Age 61 years, 11 months and 23 days."
Though it occurred 74 years ago, these inscriptions contain the elements of a tragedy that entitles the actors to a place of prominence in the annals of our country.
The Bible record, which goes back to 1789, was written in Tennessee, and from that we learn that Mary Ann Young was born on Christmas Day, 1821. Also, that George W. Harris was born on January 6, 1820. They were united in marriage February 18, 1843, and to that union there was born, on February 18, 1844, Sofia Ann Harris, and on February 23, 1846, David W. Harris.
The family crossed the plains in 1853 and the following year settled on a donation claim eight miles north of Rogue River on what was then known as the Oregon-California Trail. The Pacific Highway of today crosses Harris Creek one mile west of the Harris home site.
Mr. Harris selected this place on account of some open or prairie land there which he proposed to use in the production of grain and vegetables. The heavy traffic up and down the trail afforded a ready market for all kinds of produce, and there the Harris family set their stakes and went to work to carve a fortune from the wilds of old Oregon.
Recently the writer, accompanied by Charles Sexton, guide, Mr. Hudson, present owner of the land, Alice Hanley, pioneer, and Claire Hanley, granddaughter of Sofia Ann Harris, visited the place where the tragedy occurred. The old Oregon-California Trail, the deep worn tracks of which are plainly outlined in the soil, ran north and south, and the Harris cabin had stood about 40 yards to the west and seemingly faced the east. From the outline of the ruins it was estimated that the cabin was probably 16x20 feet, with a fireplace on the north side of the one-room building. About 10 yards to the north was found the outlines of another building, and 10 yards to the northwest the remains of a well. In the center of the larger outlines is an excavation of some three feet and scattered about are charred bits of wood and rock. Fifty yards to the south there is a small stream now called Harris Creek, and to the south of this and west of the old trail is a willow thicket. These features as they appear at the present time will be woven into the narrative as they were originally.
Probably not more than one in a thousand of the interminable throng that beats up and down the modern highway at a death-defying speed ever heard of Harris Creek or the historic tragedy enacted there.
The Lupton Massacre
J. A. Lupton resided, during the summer of 1855, on a donation claim called "The Mound." The landmark may be seen a short distance southeast of the point where the Crater Lake Highway touches the Owen-Oregon logging road, which is six miles north of the present town of Medford. He had recently been elected to the territorial legislature, and is said to have had political aspirations of a high order. He is characterized by those who knew him as willful, boastful and rash. He seemed to enjoy a reputation of being an inexorable enemy of the Rogue River Indians.
Three miles due north of the Lupton homestead, on the north side of the river and within the boundaries of what was then the Indian reservation, was an Indian village of some 20 lodges which belonged to Sam's band, who were known as "treaty" Indians. They were at peace with the whites, and at the time of the massacre were receiving annuities from the government.
Lupton had seen service in the Mexican War but had had no experience in fighting Indians. Evidently he had decided to adopt the methods of the savage rather than the tactics of the whites. Enlisting a company of probably 40 men who armed and equipped themselves, and himself in command, they left Jacksonville late in the evening of October 7, proceeded to the Bybee Ferry, crossed over and encamped upstream at the identical place where Candidate Hoover fished in 1928.
Leaving their camp equipment behind, these men crawled through the underbrush to a place near the Indian rancheria and, when light enough for their purpose, fired into the silent wickiups of the sleeping savages. When the Indians ran out to see what the commotion was about the whites fell upon them, and neither age nor sex was spared in the carnage that followed. Whether it was known to the attacking party that the village contained only old men, squaws and children is a mooted question, but that proved to be a fact. From all authentic accounts we conclude that for depraved and misguided ferocity, the Lupton affair has few if any parallels in history.
Holding in his hand an empty bow, a 12-year-old boy lay dead by the side of a squaw. From near this place Lupton is said to have been carried away with an arrow penetrating his body, from which he bled to death.
By noon of that day the survivors had commenced to arrive at Fort Lane, and Captain Smith immediately dispatched a platoon of soldiers to survey the battleground. They found there 80 [sic] dead Indians--crushed and mangled. Savage vengeance was now to fall, not upon the guilty but, as too often was the case, upon the innocent.
While Chief Sam steadfastly adhered to the terms of the Table Rock treaty, Joe in the meantime having died, still the officers at the fort exercised every precaution, especially during the night of the 8th, to avoid any retaliatory measures the enraged Indians might undertake. Beyond the dismal wailing of the squaws for the dead, nothing unusual was seen or heard. Sentry posts were doubled, however, and pickets paced the surrounding hills in order to catch the faintest sound or action. As the night wore on there came no warning.
At 2 o'clock on the morning of the 9th an employee of the government, who occupied a cabin about one mile down the river from the fort, was shot and killed as he and a companion stood before their fire. This was approximately 20 hours after the Lupton affair. The next report came from the Jewett Ferry (two miles above the present Savage Dam), where an attack was made, and the third alarm came from Evans Ferry (300 feet below Savage Dam), which was the principal crossing of the river. When the Indians had finished their bloody work there, a courier was sent to Jacksonville. From Evans Ferry the trail meandered towards the foothills and near the present town of Grants Pass, where the Jones family was killed. Next the owners of a pack train encamped three miles to the north were killed and their property taken by the enraged savages, whose thirst for blood was still far from being satiated.
The Wagoner family had taken a donation claim on Louse Creek and established their home near the place where the Oregon-California Trail crossed that stream. Mr. Wagoner was away from home at the time, and his wife and daughter were killed [and] scalped and the buildings, after being looted, were burned.
At the Wagoner place the Indians divided, and probably about one dozed proceeded down Louse Creek to the home of the Haines family. The Haines cabin stood near a cold spring flowing about 100 yards from the railroad crossing in the present town of Merlin.
Mr. Haines was in bed sick when the Indians arrived at his house and unable to make an effective resistance. After killing the father the Indians took the little boy by the feet and swung his head against the corner of the cabin until life was extinct. Mrs. Haines and her little girl were taken into captivity and sent to an Indian encampment on Rogue River. It was learned from the Indians after the war that both were killed within a week and their bodies thrown into Rogue River. After looting and setting fire to the Haines house the Indians returned to the Wagoner place. Mr. Haines and his boy were later buried between two large pine trees across the road from where the house stood. The stumps of these trees may still be seen.
The courier sent from Evans Ferry reached Jacksonville about noon of the 9th, by which time there had been 15 white people killed. The citizens of Jacksonville hardly realized the full import of what was going on north of the river; nevertheless they equipped a company of 20 to go to the relief of any who might be in need of assistance. First they went to Fort Lane and reported to the commanding officer there. The soldiers were held in loath, it would seem, while the officers were sifting the many wild rumors afloat. As a matter of fact the Indians had concealed their movements so successfully that dependable information was hard to get. It was not until late in the afternoon, therefore, when the dragoons, together with the volunteers from Jacksonville, left in pursuit of the bloodthirsty savages.
Before returning to the affairs of the Harris home it may be noted that, in after years, Mrs. Harris was induced by her close friend and neighbor, Miss Alice Hanley, to relate to her the manifold details of the siege and the untimely death of Mr. Harris. The writer is indebted to Miss Hanley for the following authentic account of the tragedy.
In complete ignorance of the series of crimes already committed by the Indians and without the slightest intimation of their impending danger, the family had arisen early that bright and promising morning and set about the duties of the day. They had noticed and remarked about a column of smoke that rose just over the east divide in the direction of the Wagoner home, but that seemed to cause no particular apprehension. Yet Mr. Harris had mentioned the absence of Mr. Wagoner who, two days before, had started to the Sailor Diggings (Waldo) with a Boston temperance lecturer, and he was somewhat perplexed at the sight of so much black smoke ascending into the air at that early hour.
The sun seemed to be a long time in scaling the timbered mountain that morning, thought Mrs. Harris, but when its rays finally fell upon that cabin home all seemed serene and peaceful. Early she had planted her tubs on the puncheon stoop at the front door where she was busily engaged with the family washing. The pack train that passed southward the evening before, she told her husband, must have camped on Louse Creek, and perhaps the men had started a brush fire. Mr. Harris considered that good reasoning and it seemed to dispel an ominous feeling that lingered unbidden in his mind. Now in her 34th year, Mrs. Harris often expressed herself as content to meet the trials and tribulations of a pioneer life, and at no time had she felt more hopeful than on that autumn morning.
It was her custom to dress her wealth of auburn hair and secure it with a tortoiseshell comb that she had treasured for many years, and thus she was adorned upon that particular morning. To add to her matronly beauty, according to Miss Hanley, her hair fell over a shapely head in natural waves, and it requires no stretch of imagination to appreciate the fact that she was to her family a queen in a cabin home. Neither is it difficult to appreciate how an Indian in quest of scalps would look upon that scene.
Sofia, then in her eleventh year, was engaged inside the one-room dwelling which contained the family furniture and utensils. On the north side was the fireplace, where in the absence of a stove all the cooking was done. There the mother had heated the wash water by the use of a crane, but when she poured the water into the tub she found it necessary to use all the cold water in the house to cool it before she could rub her clothing. She could get another bucket of cold water, she thought, from the well when more convenient.
David, then in his ninth year, had been given a pail and sent to the garden, an eighth of a mile away, for potatoes. Mr. Harris had rigged a block for splitting puncheon to fence his crops out in the open north of the storage house, and for an hour or more Mrs. Harris had heard the sound of his mallet as it drove a broad ax into the yielding blocks of yellow fir. It could not have been later than 9 o'clock--probably not more than 8:30.
Suddenly the sound of the mallet ceased, and an instant later Harris reached the stoop and told his wife that there were some Indians down the trail, pointing to the place where the road entered the timber about 75 or 100 yards toward the Wagoner home, and that there was going to be trouble as they had their war paint on. Taken by surprise, Mary Harris was rather slow to appreciate the gravity of the situation, so her husband reinforced his command to get inside by gently pushing her through the open door and shielding her with his body as he followed her in. He had just crossed the threshold when a shot rang out from the direction of the Indians and a bullet pierced his left lung. He closed the door, and as he placed the hardwood bar in a position to secure it he said to his wife that he believed he was mortally wounded. Mrs. Harris then supported him to a bed in a corner opposite the fireplace where a brief but tragic consultation was held.
Harris told his wife that he would be unable to defend her against the Indians whom he was confident were determined upon their destruction; that she must defend herself and children to the best of her ability. When he told her to get the rifle and use it, she protested that she had never fired a gun in her life, much less loaded one, that she knew nothing about a gun, that she simply could not, no, she could not fire a gun.
With an appealing look the wounded man told her that she must defend her home and children. Those two words--home and children--seemed to rouse her from a sort of lethargy that had possessed temporarily her very soul when she realized that her peaceful home had been transformed into a place of carnage. Hardly a minute had passed since they had entered the house and bolted the door before the spirit of Mrs. Harris rose to the situation, and she faltered not again. Taking the trusty rifle down from its hanger she held it while her husband explained hurriedly the mechanism. Sofia brought the powder horn, cap box, bullets and paper wads. These being explained, she loaded the gun, ramming the charge home like a veteran.
Sprawled upon the bed and bleeding profusely, Mr. Harris cautioned her to keep the hammer down until ready to fire, and to use the sights. With that she climbed the ladder to the attic above, where openings in the chinking enabled her to survey the field in all directions. She saw the Indians peering from behind trees in an effort to determine the force that might be in the house and then, with a deadly aim, she opened fire. The smell of powder had its effect, and now she knew of no such thing as fear. Thus the brave woman, who had been reared in the sunshine of culture and refinement, fought her enemies with the courage of a gladiator for a period of 19 consecutive hours.
At first there were only a few Indians present--a scouting party that had ridden over from the Wagoner place to reconnoiter the premises--and these remained well under cover. They appeared to be apprehensive that there was a force in the house, for shots would come from all sides. At intervals a warrior would expose himself in order to draw fire, and dancing about, challenge the besieged to shoot him. They were always accommodated, first from one porthole and then another.
Mrs. Harris was prone, in later years, to bemoan her poor marksmanship, yet with the occasional use of a small revolver she succeeded in impressing upon the savages that there was more than one defender of the fortress. Upon several occasions they endeavored to taunt the inmates to the point where they would come out and give battle, by running into the open air and waving bloody scalps. One of these Mrs. Harris recognized as Mrs. Wagoner's, and another as that of her 4-year-old daughter. The Indians would wave these hideous symbols up and down and from side to side in a fashion designed to create a furious state of mind in the whites, who they supposed had taken refuge in the cabin. After the close of the war the Indians were greatly chagrined to learn that they fought a lone white woman.
Subsequent arrivals from the Wagoner and Haines places brought the total number of Indians about the premises--that is the number that Mrs. Harris was able to count at any one time--up to 21, though she said that it was possible that a greater number were present. She noticed a squaw with the warriors at times, and after a while Mrs. Harris recognized her as a Rogue River Indian whom she had frequently employed to do housework. Having had in her wardrobe an ill-fitting dress, she had given it to the squaw, who now wore it with a savage grace as she aided her kindred in their efforts to murder her benefactress.
During the forenoon a ball entered the lower room through a muslin window and, striking Sofia's arm between the elbow and wrist, broke one of the bones. While she was not wholly deprived of the use of the member, it was exceedingly painful as well as a dangerous wound. Nevertheless the child continued to melt lead bars and mold bullets for her mother, who never left her vigil in the attic until the Indians retired from exhaustion.
As night approached, a bright moon rose over the scene and lighted the open space about the house. This enabled Mrs. Harris to observe every attempt to approach the building with firebrands.
An internal hemorrhage set in after he was shot through the lung, and Mr. Harris fully realized that his hours were numbered. Thirst is one of the direful results of a hemorrhage, but in the case of Mr. Harris his suffering could not be relieved. The open space about the buildings would expose one to a merciless fusillade from all directions, even if Mrs. Harris dared to leave her post.
Shortly after the noon hour the dying man called for his wife to come to him; to bring him water and to relieve his suffering. Soon his calls became ravings, and Mrs. Harris always believed that his suffering was relieved by a delirious condition that developed during the last hours of his life.
Mr. Harris was mortally wounded, and he had so informed his wife when he instructed her to defend her home and children. While the piteous calls for water tore the woman's heartstrings, she fully realized that to leave her post, even for a moment, would only invite irretrievable disaster. Dire extremities indeed, between which she must choose.
From the time she climbed the ladder to the attic during the morning hours Mrs. Harris never saw her husband alive again. When at last she descended from her bullet-torn battlement she made her way in the darkness to the bed and found him cold in death. It was her belief that he died during the last hours of daylight.
With her arm only loosely bandaged, and suffering the most excruciating pain, Sofia continued through the day and night to feed the fire and mold bullets. The supply of wood was soon exhausted, and then she burned everything and anything she could lay hold of. When at last hostilities slackened she gave way to her suffering and cried aloud in anguish. David had not returned, though there was still hope that he might be safe, but the concern which that mother felt for her boy under those circumstances can never be fully realized.
Dame Rumor has had much to say about the number of Indians killed, the fate of David and the captivity of the Wagoners and the Haines, but as to her veracity at least, Rumor is a treacherous character. No one knows what became of the boy. He was never heard of from the time he left the house, nor was there ever found a stitch of clothing or a bone that would suggest a clue. The Indians knew nothing of him, and his fate is still and probably will always remain an unsolved mystery. His mother believed that when he saw the Indians at the house and heard the guns he ran away into the forest and became bewildered and finally was killed by mountain lions.
In response to the question as to whether she killed any of the Indians, Mrs. Harris said that she was not certain that she had, though upon two occasions she had taken deliberate aim and that the two braves at whom she fired did not appear upon the scene again. In early days Indians took delight in being fired at, provided they were not hit, and as it would appear that they did not become furious enough to assault the house en masse the casualties may not have been very great. However, Indians removed their dead and wounded if possible, and any estimate of their loss usually was only a wild guess. It would be interesting to know the result of Mrs. Harris' rifle practice upon that occasion, but beyond the fact that she held the enemy at bay until she was rescued by the troops, the truth will never be known.
The Indians retired between 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning of the 10th and moved down the small creek a short distance where they started fires, probably for cooking food. The mother, now for the first time since morning, ventured to the well for water and then washed and dressed the little girl's wounded arm, covered the body of her dead husband with a blanket and made ready to abandon the house. She surmised the Indians would renew the attack as soon as it was light, and she felt that she could not hold out another day. Any fate was preferable to being taken into captivity, so she decided to take a chance for life in the wilderness. Gathering up her suffering child, who between sobs promised to try not to cry, the poor woman abandoned her home and stole away into the shadows of the night.
After a futile tramp through the nearby timber softly calling for David, she concealed herself in a willow thicket south of the house and near the trail. By this time the torture of the little girl from her wound was being intensified by a raging fever, and it was only with the greatest effort that she could avoid crying out in her distress.
She had but a short time to wait until it was light enough to observe the situation. Scanning the morning mist in the direction of her home, she was horrified to see four savages sitting on the bank of the stream near the house, their bare feet in the water. Apparently they were guarding the place while the remaining members of the band were asleep a short distance away. The slightest sound would attract attention, and it was there that the heroic efforts of Sofia were worthy of commendation.
Suddenly she noticed these Indians duck down under the bank into the shallow water and speedily depart. Furiously they made their way to their sleeping comrades, and within a very short time there was not an Indian to be seen in the vicinity; all had vanished like a shadow. Another mystery now confronted the wretched woman. She heard a sound coming from the south. An ominous sound, no doubt, for she knew of no other kind in that accursed locality. It grew nearer and louder, and then it dawned upon her that it was the sound of galloping horses. Then, making out the sound of rattling sabers, she cried aloud, "It's the soldiers! Please God we are rescued!"
Mrs. Harris had lost her tortoiseshell comb, and her golden tresses refused to stay in place. While bending over the couch of her husband her hair became immersed in the blood that saturated the bed clothing, and in the darkened room this had escaped her attention. In her place of refuge in the thicket, her disheveled hair hung in clotted ringlets without sign of order. Her appearance was the more deceptive by reason of her face being blackened with powder smoke. Sofia's appearance was little if any better. When the mother realized that the troops had arrived, she gathered up her child and ran forward with all her strength. A soldier mistook her for a squaw and, enraged at what he had seen at the Wagoner home, lowered his gun. Just as he was pressing the trigger another discovered that she was white and struck the gun barrel in time to save the woman's life, the ball striking the ground in front of her.
Neither the mother nor child had tasted food since the morning of the 9th, and the soldiers now urged them to return to the house and prepare themselves a meal. Remaining only long enough to acquaint themselves with what had taken place and leaving a detail of four volunteers with the rescued, the soldiers hurried on in pursuit of the Indians.
A part of the puncheon floor was then removed and a grave dug in the center of the room. The body of Mr. Harris was then prepared for burial, and the distracted mother and fatherless child were called for a last look at the features of their fallen protector. The blanketed form was then lowered into the grave and the earth returned to its place. It was apparent that the conflict between the whites and reds would develop into a war; therefore it was deemed advisable to leave nothing about the premises that might prove of value to the enemy. The soldiers carried away the gun with which the defense was made and what ammunition was left. Mrs. Harris retained the family Bible before referred to and a small testament that belonged to David. Written on a flyleaf are these words: "Reward of merit. Presented to David W. Harris by his teacher, F. A. Reed, February 24, 1854."
The crucial test of motherhood came after a fruitless search for David, and Mrs. Harris realized that she must abandon her boy to his fate. Words can convey no conception of her anguish as the curtain fell on the pioneer tragedy.
During the day a number of pack outfits had arrived on the river, and two of these men had ridden out to the Harris home to ascertain the extent of the trouble. One, James D. Burnett, an uncle of Alice Hanley, and who was riding a large mule, invited Mrs. Harris to ride behind him to the river. The other man, George McKay, volunteered to take Sofia in front of him on his horse. The torch was then applied, and as the party rode away under the protection of four volunteers the smoke and flames were leaping high over the erstwhile happy home of the Harris family. At the river crossing the rescued were placed in a wagon and taken to Jacksonville.
From that time to the present day the landscape of that tragic field has changed but little. The furrows of the old Oregon-California Trail are overgrown with grass, and lead horse bells are heard no more, nor is there any sound save the bleating of the sheep that frequent the place. Years later the body of Mr. Harris was exhumed and placed in the family plot in the Jacksonville Cemetery. During the remaining years of her life Mrs. Harris visited the place only once, in 1874.
Sofia was married to John S. Love on the 26th of February, 1860, and to this union there were born four children, the second oldest of whom, Mary Harris Love, married John A. Hanley. Among the children born to this union is Miss Claire Hanley, who retains many of the characteristics of the Harris family.
A victim of an attack of malignant smallpox, Sofia yielded her life January 16, 1869, and was buried by the side of her husband, who had preceded her to the grave by 15 months.
Mrs. Harris married Aaron Chambers February 15, 1863, and from that time until her death she resided at the Chambers home four miles northwest of Medford. Mr. Chambers had been married before, and when he died September 15, 1869 he was buried by the side of his first wife. After his death Mrs. Harris-Chambers assumed the management of the farm, which was heavily mortgaged and run down. She succeeded in improving the estate and clearing it of all indebtedness.
February 17, 1882 she died, and after a separation of 28 years was again assigned a place by her husband's side beneath the tangled ivy in the Jacksonville Cemetery.
"And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things have passed away."
Last revised June 7, 2019