The trouble at Gold Beach in 1855-56. See also the 1880 account in the Marshfield Coast Mail.
There are other diggings twenty miles below Port Orford, near the mouth of Rogue River. Until within two weeks there has been only one sluice at work there, belonging to a man named "French Joe." I retorted twenty ounces of gold for him, which he had "taken out" in nine days, a result so flattering as to cause several persons to go down, packing their provisions upon Indians, but they complain much of want of water, and were about to try the "Jenny Lind rocker," instead of sluices--with what success has not been heard.
"The Port Orford Diggings," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, September 2, 1853, page 2
Indian Affairs in Oregon.
Gen. Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon, has gone to the southern portion of the Territory on an official visit to the Rogue River tribes, and those living along the coast from the mouth of the Umpqua River south to the 42nd parallel, including the Coos, Coquille and Port Orford tribes. His object is first to visit those of the Upper Rogue River, who have a reserve of country by the treaty made last fall, near Table Rock, and endeavor to induce them to live together in harmony and commence the cultivation of their lands, and faithfully to observe the treaty, which, we have news from Washington, is about to be ratified. With this view he has taken with him a pack train loaded with seeds of various kinds, agricultural implements, &c. The natives in that section are the most intelligent and vigorous we have seen on the whole coast--mild and tractable when friendly, but in war as fierce as the Scythian, and ruthless as the Gaul. If this policy proves successful, we shall have peace on our southern borders for the future, which is much to be hoped for the good of all. Mr. Culver, the efficient agent for that district, has been very active and persevering in his endeavors to keep our Indian relations there in a satisfactory condition. The Superintendent will also visit the coast for the purpose of endeavoring to settle the existing difficulties between the Indians and the miners. He will explore the country in search of convenient "reserves," and, if possible, induce the wandering tribes to make their habitation within certain bounds. With this object, he has ordered some $20,000 worth of suitable goods to be forwarded to Port Orford on the next steamer, to be used in treating with these Indians. J. L. Parrish, Indian agent, also goes down to Port Orford to support the Superintendent in these movements. We are confident our fellow citizens in the south will render the government officers every assistance they can in establishing a good understanding with all the tribes, and maintaining peace within our borders.--Statesman.
Umpqua Weekly Gazette, Scottsburg, May 5, 1854, page 2
NEW MINES.--Diggings of coarse gold are reported to have been discovered sixty miles further up Rogue River. The beach diggings have in a great measure been abandoned for the new placers.
Crescent City Herald, April 18, 1855, page 2
GOLD BEACH.--The schooner Gold Beach arrived here last week from the mouth of Rogue River. The only item of news from that quarter seems to be a disturbance brought about on the part of Mr. Chevalier and Dr. Dane by taking forcible possession of a certain mining claim. The miners, it is said, then held a meeting and appointed a committee who restored the claim to the former owner, took the arms of the aggressors and notified them to leave that part of the country within a specified time. We are promised a more detailed account of the occurrence.
Crescent City Herald, May 9, 1855, page 2
GOLD BEACH.--Mr. Smith, just from the mouth of Rogue River, informs us that the steam pump received at that place per schr. Rambler has not as yet been up, although everything is in readiness and the lumber on hand for constructing flumes, as soon as the company shall have decided on which side of the river the machinery is to be erected. The pump is said to be of sufficient power to furnish from 25 to 30 tomheads of water.
On the southern side of the river another company have meanwhile been cutting a ditch from a creek some four miles distant, which in the summer season will furnish about eight, and in winter time probably as much as twenty-five tomheads of water. The beach diggings for several miles pay from three to eight dollars per day, to such as have plenty of water.
There are at present but some seventy persons actually engaged in mining, but a rush is anticipated by the time when the arrangements for supply water shall have been completed.
The schr. Rambler is expected to return with an assorted freight of merchandise.
A party is out to explore a trail from the mouth of Rogue River to Illinois Valley.
Crescent City Herald, August 1, 1855, page 2
GOLD BEACH.--the arrival of the schr. Gold Beach, a few days since, we have late advices from the mouth of Rogue River. The steam pump has been put up on the south side of the river. It will be recollected that a race has been dug on the same side to bring the waters of a creek to the beach.
Some time since, we mentioned a party having been sent out to explore a trail to Illinois Valley. The party consisted of Messrs. Tichenor, Holton, Bledsoe, Hubert and Kipp. They have returned, and report that a good trail can be made with comparatively a trifling expense; distance, forty-five miles.
Crescent City Herald, August 22, 1855, page 2
Correspondence of the Herald.
Gold Beach, O.T.Messrs. Editors:--As Mr. James Buford was on his way from this place to Pistol River, last evening, he was shot at by an Indian, the ball taking effect in the top part of the left shoulder, producing quite a wound but not a serious one. He immediately returned to this place, and, in company with some four or five of our citizens, started in pursuit of the Indian, who, I am happy to say, was easily captured at a ranch near where the affair happened, and he is now in charge of Benj. Wright, our Indian agent, who it is hoped will give him such punishment as he justly deserves.
Aug. 20th, 1855
Yours, &c.Crescent City Herald, August 29, 1855, page 2
INDIAN DIFFICULTIES AT THE MOUTH OF ROGUE RIVER--
THREE WHITE MEN KILLED BY THE U.S. SOLDIERS.
We mentioned in a former issue of our paper that Mr. James Buford, on his way to Pistol River, was shot at and wounded by an Indian, on Saturday, the 25th ult., when the Indian was immediately captured and delivered over to the Indian agent, Capt. Ben Wright, for punishment.
The following tragic sequel to this affair we learned several days afterwards from Mr. Kiffry, lately down from the mouth of Rogue River. He states that some U.S. soldiers being near (engaged in making a treaty with the Indians), the Indian was transferred to their custody, and by them taken up the river some four or five miles above the mouth. On Monday following, the same Indian with another one was employed in rowing a canoe with a few soldiers down to the mouth and back again. On the upward trip Buford, with two other men named Wadd and O'Brien, went in pursuit of the Indian, and when within reach shot him dead, upon which the U.S. soldiers fired at the offender, and killed him. Another shot from the pursuing party killed the other Indian in the canoe, and a second volley from the soldiers sealed the fate of Wadd. O'Brien then swam towards the shore, but three balls from the guns of the soldiers prevented his escape and made him a corpse also.
Our informant states that the three bodies were decently buried on the following day.
A writer in the Times and Transcript gives a somewhat different version of this most extraordinary affair, by which it would appear that there was a collision between some sixty citizens on the one part, and the constable with a corporal's guard on the other; but the different accounts agree as to the result of this unfortunate affray, via: Two Indians and three white men being killed.
Crescent City Herald, September 12, 1855, page 2
From Gold Beach.
Messrs. Kingsbury and Miller, who returned a few days since from the mouth of Rogue River, confirm the report contained in our last week's paper, of the killing of three white men by the U.S. soldiers for shooting down two Indians under their charge. Neither does it appear probable that the soldiers will be prosecuted for it.
Business is somewhat dull on Gold Beach. There are on the whole about one hundred miners there, of whom, however, perhaps but one-half are at work. There is also an abundance of vegetables raised in the neighborhood, and salmon of the finest kind can be had at any time for the catching. This fish is very abundant in Rogue River, and with a strong net they are taken by hundreds daily.
The schooner Rambler, with freight from San Francisco, and drawing eight feet water, has been the second time in the river, without accident. The depth of water on the bar, near the mouth, is said to be eight feet at low tide. The channel is very narrow. An effort is now making by the residents at the mouth to cut a trail over the Coast Range into Illinois Valley. Distance to Kirby's ranch estimated at 40 miles, plenty of grass and water. A town is also being laid out and all the etceteras for a thriving business place set in motion. Distance from Crescent City is 63 miles.
For the coming winter a lively time is anticipated. A ditch from Indian Creek, four miles above the mouth, is nearly completed and will immediately furnish eight tomhead of water, which in the winter season will be increased to perhaps 50. The steam pump of twenty horsepower is also in operation, from which, however, for the present but two tomheads of water are used by the owners themselves. Mr. Kingsbury informs us that during his stay one miner after retorting the proceeds of a day's work found 9 oz. amalgam or about 3 oz. clean gold. The chances there would appear to be still fully as good as if not better than at the Colville mines.
Crescent City Herald, September 19, 1855, page 2
THE LATE AFFRAY AT THE MOUTH OF ROGUE RIVER.--The Oregon papers received by the last steamer give us still another version of the unfortunate affair which resulted in the killing of three white men, James Buford, Watt (Henkin) and O'Brien, by the U.S. soldiers on the 27th of August last, and of which we have previously given an account.
The precise circumstances of this sad affair will probably never be ascertained, as the soldiers are the only surviving party present. It has even been rumored that only one Indian was killed by the pursuers and that another Indian in the soldiers' canoe was killed by themselves in the attempt to escape. Be this as it may, the principle of protecting an Indian even at the sacrifice of the lives of three white men cannot be expected to find favor amongst a people that are daily harassed by the depredations of these redskins.
The following remarks of the Oregonian on the subject are to the point and contain a good deal of truth:
"It is a fact well known throughout the country that the citizens generally accuse the government officers with sympathizing with the Indians in all their difficulties with the whites; that the government officers endeavor to prevent the whites, who are constantly suffering from all manner of depredations, murder, rapine, robbery, and crimes of every hue, at the hands of the Indians, from revenge and retaliation. The Indians also understand this to be so. Therefore, whenever they become hard pressed by the citizens who endeavor to chastise them for their depredation, they rush to the government officials and seek protection. The Indians understand and often say that whenever they want ictas ["things"], all they have to do is get up a fight with the 'Bostons,' whereupon a treaty will be made and hiyu ["many"] presents given to them for the purpose of keeping them quiet. Thus the effect is that they are, in some cases at least, rewarded, in place of punished, for crimes committed against the whites."
Crescent City Herald, October 3, 1855, page 2
Mr. [J. W.] Taggett lives at Chetco, and makes in substance the following statement:
On Friday last (the 2nd inst.) Mr. Pearce and another gentleman, well-known citizens of Gold Beach, came down to Chetco in the character of a committee, sent by the citizens to apprise them of the approaching danger. This committee stated that upon hearing of the Indian difficulties up the river, a party of about a dozen men were dispatched to reconnoiter--a second party went out a few days later, and nothing being heard of them a third party went up the river. When in the neighborhood of Big Bend, they saw the Indians sporting about in soldiers' uniforms, from which fact they concluded that the camp must have been attacked and the inmates murdered. It may be supposed that still other circumstances, unknown to us, possibly warranted this conclusion. At any rate they returned to the mouth of the river (Gold Beach), where their report caused great alarm, and a meeting of the citizens thought proper to send messengers to the neighboring settlements and warn them of the impending danger. It was on a similar errand that Mr. Taggett proceeded immediately down the beach and came to this city. . . .
The number of persons now living at the mouth of the river is perhaps 75, and we are informed that they have gathered together in two fortified camps. The intermediate points are but sparsely settled, say at the mouth of Smith River four settlers, between Winchuck and Chetco seven, and at Whaleshead two.
That the Indians have penetrated far down Rogue River is not at all unlikely, but we confess that it is a mystery to our mind how the Indians should have succeeded in destroying so quickly the party commanded by Lieut. Kautz. According to our previous information they were fortifying themselves, assisted by fugitives from up the river, and must at the time have been well provided with arms and ammunition.
We hope the case may eventually prove not quite so bad as is now believed.
It is related that a negro man came down to the mouth of Rogue River, who says that his master and mistress, together with the whole family, were murdered, with the exception of a daughter about 14 years of age, who was carried away a captive.
"Startling News from the Mouth of Rogue River," Crescent City Herald, November 7, 1855, page 2
By the arrival of Lieut. Kautz at this place the report of the massacre at Big Bend, 30 miles above the mouth of Rogue River, is proved to have been premature and without foundation. The subsequent information received here, of signs of hostility amongst the Indians between this and Gold Beach, turns out to be equally groundless. Persons traveling up and down the beach noticed, without exception, only a friendly disposition amongst the Indians.
"The Indian War in Rogue R. Valley," Crescent City Herald, November 14, 1855, page 2
GOLD BEACH.--We learn from Mr. Seevy that on the 23rd inst., John Clevinger and E. Huntley were killed by the Indians about 15 miles above the mouth of Rogue River. Deceased were on their way up the river in a canoe with three Indians, and stepping out of the boat below the rapids were waylaid in the bushes. One of the Indians also was killed. Apprehensions are entertained of a general attack upon the settlement at the mouth of the river.
Crescent City Herald, January 30, 1856, page 2
It was reported late last evening that Mr. Winslow, the expressman from Gold Beach, had been shot at by the Indians above Chetco on his way hither.
"The War in the Interior," Crescent City Herald, February 6, 1856, page 2
(Correspondence of the Crescent City Herald.)
From the Mouth of Rogue River.
(THROUGH WINSLOW'S EXPRESS.)
Messrs. Editors:--As we have a general Indian war throughout Oregon, I wish to publish through your paper an account of our situation at the mouth of Rogue River. It was about the beginning of the month of October last, when we were first alarmed at the probability of the hostile Indians from the Upper Rogue River being driven down this way. Our citizens, aware of their exposed situation, and but poorly provided with arms or ammunition, prepared themselves for defense as well as they could by constructing some forts, and the Indian agent stationed a company of 20 or 25 volunteers at what is known as the "Big Bend" of Rogue River, for the purpose of cutting off communication between the upper Indians and those in this district.
Subsequently, the Indians above being driven to the "Big Meadows," some 25 or 30 miles above "Big Bend," the danger of the Indians along the river joining the hostile bands became more imminent, and recent events would lead us to suppose that our worst fears in this respect are about being realized.
On the 20th of January, Mr. Huntley, one of our citizens, came down from Big Bend for supplies and ammunition, and informed us of the closer approach of the hostile Indians. They had now got to the mouth of Illinois River, but 25 miles above the mouth of Rogue River. Messrs. Enoch Huntley and John Clevinger left again for Big Bend on the following day, and on the morning of the 23rd January were attacked and brutally murdered just as they were leaving their campground. An Indian by the name of Enos, and two other Indians, had also started for Big Bend on the morning of the 22nd, fell in with Huntley and Clevinger, and camped with them the night previous to the attack. One of the Indians was killed in the fray, but Enos and the other escaped, and brought information of the tragedy to the mouth of Rogue River. Enos shortly pretended to return to Big Bend, but has not been heard from since. Some of our citizens suspicioned him as a traitor at that time, but let him go.
Sub-Agent McGuire set out on the 24th of January, arrived at Big Bend on the 25th and with a small party proceeded as far as Illinois River, but without finding any traces of the dead bodies. On returning to their station, they fell in with a band of Indians, had a slight skirmish and killed one. On arriving at the station (Big Bend) they found that the Indians had attacked the house, but had been repulsed by the small garrison. They had also attempted to fire the house. A number of balls went through the roof, and arrows stuck all round the house. No damage was done.
Agent McGuire arrived here on the 28th and arrested an Indian by the name of Ben, said by some to be a Klickitat and partner of Enos, against whom, the agent says, sufficient evidence exists for his being taken and killed by whomsoever he may be found. He is a large man, his hair cut straight round his neck, nearly blind in one eye, has some arrow scars close to one eye, other scars about his person, and is known as one of Col. Fremont's guides in Oregon and California. Ben has been sent to Port Orford.
A small party of soldiers from Port Orford have now accompanied back to Big Bend, the sub-agent, McGuire, who deserves much credit for his diligence and perseverance. There is of course is good deal of excitement here, and the people are again fortifying themselves; business all stopped.
But for these untoward troubles, the mines would now pay exceedingly well. Miners, when allowed to work, make from eight to twelve ounces amalgam per day to the man, worth from four to give dollars per oz.
A man by the name of Christian met with a serious accident by the bursting of a gun on the 14th ult., fracturing very badly his hand, which had to be amputated. This was performed by Drs. Holton and White. The patient is doing well.
Yours, GOLD BEACH.
Crescent City Herald, February 13, 1856, page 1
VOLUNTEERS.--For some days past there has been quite an active demand in this city for volunteers to fill up the companies authorized to be raised by Governor Curry. We are told that eight or ten men enlisted with Capt. O'Neil from Althouse. Capt. J. M. Poland of Company K, 2nd Regiment O.M.V., before leaving, requested us to inform persons wishing to join his company to report to him at the camp, mouth of Rogue River, where the company was expected to be mustered into service, perhaps as early as the 22nd inst.
Crescent City Herald, February 20, 1856, page 2
Rogue River O.T.To Major Reynolds
Feb. 23rd 1856
12 o'clock Sat.
This morning our few troops stationed near the Tututni rancherie about a mile above the mouth were attacked at daybreak this morning and are supposed to be all killed. Among the missing is the Indian agent Benj. Wright & Capt. John Poland.
Those living on ranches or skirting Rogue River we know are killed & have no doubt all are. As soon as I heard at the mouth I immediately dispatched what disposable force I had at hand for the scene of action but they were met by an overwhelming force of Indians and driven back without being able to ascertain the particulars of the battle.
I want you to send me immediately all the troops you can spare. The citizens here are fortifying themselves the best they can, expecting an hourly attack. And they are but few and poorly armed. You will please send a howitzer with the troops.
There is no doubt but the coast Indians have joined the hostile band. It is impossible to particularize more particularly as my time is too much taken up in making arrangements to meet the enemy.
Yours trulyMicrocopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 14; Letters Received, 1856, No. 92.
Especial Sub-Indian Agent
HORRIBLE MASSACRE OF SOME THIRTY PERSONS BY THE INDIANS.
News has just been received, and is no doubt true, of the massacre of some thirty persons near the mouth of Rogue River, by several bands of Indians united.
Not long since, Gen. Palmer, Indian agent for Oregon, learned that there was several small bands of Indians near the mouth of Rogue River that were friendly to the whites, dispatched an agent to bring them away, lest they should be abused by the war parties of Indians, who were not far from them, or that, perhaps, they might be persuaded to join in with those barbarous wretches. The agent had arrived at the place; the Indians were together, and ready to be removed. There was stationed nearby about forty regular troops, about twenty-five of which had left that night and had gone to a ball party not far off. An officer in command, together with the sub-Indian agent, had gone that night to a house nearby, leaving only fifteen soldiers in camp, which was situated not far from the Indian encampment. About 2 o'clock at night, those fifteen soldiers in camp heard an uncommon noise at the house to which their officer had gone; heard no firing of guns, however. They slept no more and proceeded to get an early breakfast; commenced to eat about daybreak, when they were fired upon by said friendly Indians, and all of them killed but two, who escaped and hid themselves, and finally reported the result to Port Orford and the settlement. The house to which their officer and agent had gone the evening before, where they had heard the strange noise, all that was there, family and all, was murdered, and that, too, without firing a gun in order not to arouse the soldiers, who as I have stated afterwards suffered death by their savage hands.
Great excitement was caused among the people in that vicinity. They immediately forted up. Some two companies of regular soldiers were immediately dispatched to the scene of action.
Gov. Curry has again issued a proclamation for two companies of volunteers to operate in connection with others in the Rogue River war.
Respectfully yoursThe Weekly Courier, Alton, Illinois, May 22, 1856, page 1
An Indian Agent Killed.
We learn, says the Philadelphia North American of Saturday, by a private letter from Port Orford, Oregon, that Capt. Ben Wright, Sub-Indian Agent of that district, was murdered by the Indians on the morning of the 23rd of [February]. He was, we believe, a Philadelphian. He died in the performance of his official duties. As the hostilities of the Indians had assumed an alarming character in Southern Oregon, and some of the warlike Indians are not far from the Port Orford settlements, it was feared that the peaceable Indians might be persuaded or intimidated into joining the savage army. Capt. Wright has always had great confidence in his power to control the Indians, and under the influence of this he went amongst the tribe of his charge, apprehending no danger, notwithstanding that a war party was known to be in the vicinity to which he went. On the 23rd of February, having been solicited by some of his own Indians to go among them on business, he went in company with Capt. John Poland, of the volunteers. They slept in a house on the south bank of the Rogue River. At about three o'clock on the morning of the 23rd of [February], the house was surrounded, and Capt. Wright and his companions were murdered by the hostile savages to which his own professedly peaceful Indians had betrayed them. Some of the Indians say that Capt. Wright was called to the door, grappled and killed by a blow from a hatchet, and then cut to pieces. There was a small force of volunteers a short distance off, but the work was done so noiselessly that they heard nothing of it, but were themselves immediately after surprised and cut to pieces.
After this bloody massacre, the treacherous friendly Indians joined the war party in open revolt. They at once made a descent upon the settlements, laying waste all before them between Port Orford and the California line, and murdering all the whites encountered on their way. At the mouth of Rogue River, everything was destroyed except the picket fort, in which the few survivors had assembled. There they were hemmed in by the savages, the communications all cut off, and at the date of the letter alluded to, March 5th, the whole country was in a state of war.
The writer, R. W. Dunbar, Collector of the Customs at Port Orford, says: "We are all forted up and hourly expecting an attack. We are too weak to go out to fight the Indians, so many of our people having been cut off. The unchecked success of the Indians has drawn to their support all the bands on this coast. Our only hope is in the United States government sending us aid." Port Orford, from whence the letter was sent, is a town on the head [of] Tichenor Bay, which is a small sheet of water setting in from the ocean above Rogue River. The Indians north of Port Orford bear the designation of Quatorwaha. Those immediately south of it are called Youquechaes ["Euchres"], while on the Rogue River there is another tribe called Tututnis. All these tribes are now hostile.
American Union, Ellicottville, New York, May 9, 1856, page 2
Port Orford, 10 o'clock nightGeneral:
February 24th 1856
I have just returned from a meeting of the citizens called together by the startling intelligence from Rogue River. The volunteers, having moved down from the Big Bend, were camped near the spot on which we rested last before leaving the treaty ground--a part of them only were in camp; the balance were at the mouth of Rogue River. At the dawn of day on the 22nd inst. the camp was surprised and every man killed, as now believed, but two, one escaping to the mouth and one to Port Orford on foot through the hills--arriving here tonight. The one who came in (Charles Foster) escaped by crawling into the thicket and there remaining until dark, and there had an opportunity to witness unperceived much that transpired: He states that he saw the Tututnis engaged in it, who sacked their camp. The party were estimated by him to number 300. Ben Wright is supposed--with Capt. Poland and others--to be amongst the killed. Ben and Poland had gone over to Maguire's house (our warehouse). He had word from the Mikonotunnes that the notorious Eneas (half-breed) was at their camp & that they wished him to come and take him away, and he was on that business. Foster distinctly heard the yelling and the conflict of arms in the direction of the house at the time of the attack and murder of the camp. * * *
My opinion is that Wright is killed. * * *
Every ranch but Lundy's has been sacked and burned, and all still as death. * * *
Dr. White saw many of the bodies lying on the beach (bodies of white men) and went by Geisel's ranch and found the house burned and the inhabitants killed. * * *
Our town is in the greatest excitement. We are fortifying, and our garrison being too weak to render aid to Rogue River, the major (Reynolds) is making arrangements for protection here, & has sent Tichenor with a request that all abandon R. River and ship to Port Orford. * * *
Many strange Indians have made their appearance, well armed, & have actually committed many depredations. * * *
We build a fort tomorrow, in which all are engaged in good earnest--all have enrolled themselves for self-protection, and a night patrol is set. * * *
Yours in hasteFrames 506-508, National Archives Microfilm Publications Microcopy No. 234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency, 1856. The unedited letter can be found here.
R. W. Dunbar.
From our Extra of Monday.
Arrival of the Schooner Gold Beach.
Indian Hostilities at the Mouth of Rogue River--The Indians at Gold Beach District in Arms--Their Descent upon the Settlement 4 Miles Above the Mouth--Some 20 of the Settlers and their Families Killed--The South Side of the Settlement in Flames--130 Whites Fortified on the North Side.
EXPECTED FIGHT WITH THE INDIANS, NUMBERING OVER 300.
Yesterday (Sunday) morning, as we were favored with the perusal of a letter written by Robert Smith, a settler up the coast, to Mr. Miller, living in the neighborhood of Whaleshead, informing the latter that on the 22nd inst., while Wm. Hensley and Mr. Nolan were driving some horses towards Rogue River, two shots were fired at them by Pistol River Indians. Mr. Hensley had two of his fingers shot off, besides receiving several buckshot wounds in his face. The horses fell into the hands of the Indians.
The letter contains also a request to urge forward from Crescent City any volunteers that may have been enlisted.
----From F. H. Pratt, Esqr., a resident at the mouth of Rogue River, who arrived last night in the schooner Gold Beach, we receive the startling news that the Indians in that district have united with a party of the hostile Indians above and commenced a war of extermination against the white settlers.
The station at Big Bend, some 15 miles up the river, having been abandoned several weeks previous, the Indians made a sudden attack on Saturday morning, Feb. 23rd upon the farms, about four miles above the mouth, where some ten or twelve men of Capt. Poland's company of volunteers were encamped, the remainder of the company being absent, attending a ball on the 22nd, at the mouth of Rogue River.
The fight is stated to have lasted nearly the whole of Saturday, and but few of the whites escaped to tell the story. The farmers were all killed.
It is supposed there are now about 300 hostile Indians in the field, including those from Grave and Galice Creek and the Big Meadows. They are led by a Canada Indian named Enos, who was formerly a favorite guide for Col. Fremont in his expeditions.
LIST OF KILLED.Crescent City Herald, February 27, 1856, page 2
The inhabitants at the mouth of Rogue River have all moved to the north side of the river, where formerly, under the apprehension of a sudden attack, a fort had been erected; they number about 130 men, having less than a hundred guns amongst them.
The schooner Gold Beach left yesterday (Sunday) morning at half past five o'clock, and it is supposed that a fight commenced at daylight, as there was a party going to cross to the south side of the river, where they expected to find the whole body of Indians. At sunrise everything on the south side was in flames.
The stores of Coburn & Warwick, F. H. Pratt and W. A. Upton were probably all destroyed.
Mr. Pratt states that according to the census taken last spring, there are 335 warriors in the district. They were all engaged in the fight, except the Chetcos and Pistol River Indians, who number about 80. The number of Indians from above or out of the district is between 50 and 60.
Upon the death of the Sub-Indian Agent, Capt. Ben. Wright, Mr. J. McGuire assumed the duties of Sub-Indian Agent.
A boat was dispatched as early as Saturday evening to Port Orford to inform Maj. Reynolds, in command of that post, of the occurrences.
As a matter of reference for those not acquainted with the localities, we give the following table of distances up the beach:
An express has just reached here from Crescent City bringing us the sad news that the Indians made an attack upon the miners at the mouth of Rogue River on the 23rd February and killed over twenty persons, among whom was special Indian agent Capt. Benj. Wright. He fell at last by the hands of that foe whom he has fought so long.
The news of this outbreak has created considerable alarm here for the safety of those white people who live along the coast between the mouth of Rogue River and the mouth of the Umpqua. They are in a measure destitute of arms and ammunition, and if these Indians once pass Port Orford I think they will desolate the entire coast, as there are at present no organized troops in that part of the country.
"Miners Fort"To the Adjutant General
Gold Beach O.T. Feby. 29 1856
for the Territory of Oregon
I have the honor to forward to you the accompanying "Roll List" of Company "K" Second Regiment of South Division of Oregon Mounted Volunteers. By reference to the roll list you will observe the death of Lt. Enoch Huntley and Private John Clevinger caused by the treachery of a Canadian Indian named Enos who now commands the entire body of Indians in this district including the bands known as the "Big Meadow." On the morning of the 23rd inst. Capt. John Poland with about fifteen men were attacked by the combined force of Indians while encamped near the Tututni tribe, situated some four miles above the mouth of Rogue River. Capt. Poland and Sgt. B. N. Castle were killed and six privates, one private wounded. All papers in possession of Capt. Poland were destroyed by the Indians including commissions &c. Upon the news reaching this point an order was given for men, women & children to concentrate. This fort, then but partially completed, was immediately put in such a state of defense as the circumstances and time would allow, and by a unanimous vote I was appointed to command. The Indians made an attack upon us on the 25th but were repulsed. Nearly all the guns belonging to the company were lost on the morning of the 23rd; the deficiencies and loss you will clearly understand by reference to Roll List. The recent draft for arms upon the commands at Port Orford was made by the citizens of this beach and are now in their hands. Our company numbers forty-one officers and privates and is fast filling up to its complement of men. In consequence of the casualties of Jany. 20th & Feby. 23rd inst. a new election of officers was ordered by me and the following named gentlemen unanimously elected.
With the highest considerationP.S. About twenty citizens as nearly as can be ascertained have been murdered in this immediate vicinity, also a Mrs. Geisel & her daughter about thirteen years of age have been carried off captive--large numbers of cattle, hogs & horses have either been driven off or destroyed, sixty houses burned, large quantities of merchandise destroyed or carried off. As soon as I receive instructions from you I will have all property destroyed belonging to the company appraised and returns made.
Relf Bledsoe Capt.
R. B. Capt.Oregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 566.
Letter from Oregon.
(Through the kindness of one of our patrons,
we are permitted to copy the following letter from his brother in Oregon.)
Fort Orford, O.T., Feb. 29, 1856.Dear Brother:--In my last letter I expressed our fears of an Indian outbreak in this district unless reinforcements arrived so as to enable us to keep the friendly and hostile Indians separated. The former were induced to move further down the river, whence it was intended to remove them to the Indian reserve set apart for that purpose, as soon as possible. And they expressed their perfect willingness to go. The hostile bands retired, with their women and children, up the Illinois, a tributary of Rogue River, and we hoped that ere they were prepared to make a descent on this district, we should be sufficiently reinforced to repel them.
Captain Poland, whom I spoke of in my last as having assisted Lieut. Chandler of Fort Orford in bringing down the Big Bend Indians, was authorized by the Governor to organize his company and fill it up to 60 men. This he was endeavoring to do, his headquarters being within four miles of the mouth of Rogue River, where all the settlers of the southern part of the district had concentrated.
In consequence of the excitement in the northern part of the district, the detachment of regulars were obliged to leave the mouth of Rogue River to the charge of Capt. Poland's company and our excellent Indian agent, Ben Wright.
We of course placed little reliance upon the professions of the Indians in that neighborhood, unless we could get the anticipated reinforcements. But [we] were not prepared for the enormity of their treachery as developed on the evening of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd inst. when the volunteers and straggling settlers near the mouth of Rogue River were fallen upon by the Indians of that neighborhood, assisted by the hostile bands from above, and, so far as heard from, 26 men killed.
At a ranch half way between this and Rogue River were four men; two of these were killed, the others made a most marvelous escape, one reaching the settlers' fort at the mouth of the river, and the other this place. These two, and one of the volunteers, are all of those attacked who escaped being killed. Among the missing are Capt. Poland and the Indian agent, Ben Wright--two of the best and bravest men in the country. Poor. W. has died a martyr in his untiring efforts to keep peace among the Indians--and has always treated them justly. But the savage, when aroused, knows no mercy--and deep, hellish revenge and treachery are the motive powers of all their actions. The scenes of the last week are enough to erase every spark of sympathy for the Indian race from the bosoms of honorable men.
For the last few days we have been in hourly expectation of an attack on this place and the mouth of Rogue River, for the Indians have an idea that if they can wipe out the few settlers and troops at these two points, it will rid this section of the palefaces altogether. All communication by land between the two places is cut off. But yesterday, ten men left in a rowboat for Rogue River, and we will probably hear from them today.
I would add that about two-thirds of the Indians of this district have already joined the enemy, and the others will do so also, unless Col. Wright sends us reinforcements from upper Oregon. We are cut off from all communication from other settlements, except by the mail steamer, which is due here every two weeks, but rarely stops in winter. She passed here day before yesterday on her upward trip, and would not have stopped had she not caught fire and been compelled to make this as the nearest port. It served her right. I wish she would catch fire every time she neglects touching here when the weather is so favorable.
The Indians are led by Aeneas, a Canadian Indian who, from his constant association with the army and emigrants as guide, is thoroughly acquainted with all our habits and with every part of this country. Before it was known that he had turned traitor, he had succeeded in obtaining large quantities of ammunition from the merchants at the mouth of Rogue River, under the pretense of carrying it to the troops at Big Bend. He was with those men who were killed a few weeks ago, and pretended to have made a narrow escape, whereas he was the accomplice in their massacre. By the late massacre the enemy obtained some 35 guns. They are consequently better armed than the whites.
We have everything to fear from this demon. And he has probably already attacked the fort at the mouth of Rogue River. For all yesterday and today, dark columns of smoke have been seen rising up to heaven--showing that the savage torch is at work. Through a spyglass the fort can still be seen standing. As there are about a hundred men in it, they will probably hold out until the arrival of reinforcements. It is impossible for us to succor them, as our force consists of only thirty-odd men, who will have enough to do in keeping the enemy from the large supply of commissary and ordnance stores at this place, also to protect the distressed citizens now concentrated at Port Orford, who are much fewer in number than those at Rogue River.
You may rest assured we are constantly on the qui vive, especially as the enemy can approach to our very doors unperceived, through the thick forest that bounds our fort on the north and east. In a few days, however, we will have some of this dense growth down, and will be able to give Mr. Redskin a warm reception.
March 1st.Two brave fellows managed to reach here this morning from Rogue River. They represent things there to be in fully as bad a condition as anticipated. The Indians have made several attacks on the fort within the last few days--have burnt and destroyed all the houses and other property in the neighborhood, and it is said the woods are alive with them. All the hostile bands from upper Rogue River are there, together with the six or seven bands who joined them from this district. The citizens, however, are strongly posted on the sand beach a mile or two from any timber, and will doubtless be able to hold out till the steamer returns from the Columbia River, when, if reinforcements have not arrived, they will be taken to Crescent City, California, by the steamer.
The boat which left here day before yesterday was capsized on attempting to land at Rogue River, and eight of the ten men in it met a watery grave.
Government will be compelled to send some thousand men here ere these savages can be properly chastised. If she has not enough regulars, we must have more volunteers. Something must be done, and quickly.
The expressman says that two more of the volunteers made their way into Rogue River, but were nearly dead from severe wounds.
All of the 1,300 Indians in this district who have not yet joined the enemy have come within a few miles of this fort, and express great friendship. But we are satisfied from all the information we can glean that this is a part of their general plan, and that so soon as the enemy arrive they intend to join them. It would probably serve them right were we to pounce upon and kill every man of them. But this is not politic--not humane. Perhaps the best and only thing to be done, under the circumstances, is to let them alone, and should reinforcements arrive in time, they may be deterred from joining the enemy. I have no time to enter into the detail of the origin of the war. You will see from letters to you previous to any outbreak that the Indians have had much to complain of, but so far as those in this district are concerned, they have been kindly and justly treated, so long as the late Indian agent Ben Wright was in office. And yet the rascals pounced upon him as the first victim. Treachery is so predominant a trait in the Indian character that it alloys all others, and now, after more or less intercourse with different tribes for the last six years, I have come to the determination never to rely upon an Indian's good faith, unless circumstances or his passions enjoin him to keep it. My love to all.
Your BrotherFredonia Censor, Fredonia, New York, April 30, 1856, page 2
Monday, Feb. 25th, 1856.-- . . . As the Indians are vastly stronger than the whites, even though the bands between this place and the Coquille do not join them, and as they are elated by almost unprecedented success in upper Rogue River, and led on by that rascal Enas, who, from having been employed so much by the army as guide, has a perfect knowledge of this country and its most assailable points, it is feared an attack will be made on the citizens in the temporary fortifications at the mouth of Rogue River, and perhaps on this place. [page 282]
February 27th, 1856.-- . . . We feel much anxiety to hear from Rogue River, as large columns of smoke are plainly to be seen rising up from the vicinity of the fort erected there by the whites of that place.
February 28th, 1856.-- . . . This morning a rowboat was dispatched to Rogue River, to learn how the settlers, who are there besieged, are getting on. With a spyglass, we yesterday thought we could see their fort still standing; but the shanties all along the coast seemed to have been burnt to the ground. We think that the settlers will be able to hold out till the arrival of assistance, yet it is strange the schooner has not returned.
March 1st, 1856.-- . . . This morning Mr. McGuire and another gentleman reached here from the mouth of Rogue River. They ran a narrow escape, but the critical condition of the citizens there rendered it absolutely necessary for an express to come through. The former states that Captain Tichenor, who left here for that place last Sunday night, was unable to get in, on account of a strong wind blowing at the time. He has probably gone to Crescent City for aid. The boat that left here day before yesterday was capsized in attempting to land, and eight of her ten men met a watery grave. He says the Indians have burnt and destroyed all the houses and other property in that neighborhood, except the fort in which the citizens are now protected. This has been attacked several times, but as it is a good building, and situated on the sand beach, over a mile from any timber, they will probably be able to sustain themselves until the arrival of reinforcements by the next steamer, if any are sent; if not, the steamer may stop there and take them away.
March 4th, 1856.-- . . . The steamer is looked for tomorrow. If she brings troops they will be immediately dispatched to the relief of the besieged garrison at the mouth of Rogue River.
March 7th, 1856.--The steamer from above has not yet arrived. She is two or three days behind her time.
March 8th, 1856.--A rowboat has just arrived from Fort Miner, the temporary fortification of the besieged citizens at the mouth of Rogue River, and brings the following news:--
On the third or fourth instant a party of seventeen men left the fort to bring in some potatoes, about a mile distant. They had no idea that the enemy was near enough to do them any harm. A sentinel was posted in a commanding position, whilst the others put the potatoes in the wagon. Before they had finished loading, a party of Indians made an attack by first shooting the sentinel. A running fight ensued--the whites, being overpowered, were driven to the fort, with the loss of four, and two wounded. They think several of the enemy were killed--one of the chiefs among the number.
On the sixth instant an exchange of prisoners took place, the Indians giving up Mrs. [Geisel] and her two daughters, and the whites four squaws. Mrs. [Geisel] says the Indians put her two sons to death, but treated her and daughters well. From what she was enabled to gather from the Indians, a large number of them were killed in their attack and massacre of the volunteers. The besieged are represented as being still about one hundred strong, and have provisions for two weeks. Their fort consists of two log houses, surrounded by a high embankment of earth. They will, no doubt, be able to hold out till we can reinforce them.
Sunday, 9th, 1856.--The steamer Columbia arrived last night at twelve, and brought us forty-one recruits. Major-General Wool and staff were on board. The General has ordered three bodies of regulars to proceed against the hostile Indians at Rogue River, from three different points.
March 11th, 1856.--The Republic arrived from above on the afternoon of the ninth. She brought Captain C. C. Augur's company, seventy-four men, Fourth Infantry. She was detained three days in crossing the bar of the Columbia. . . .
Tuesday, March 25th, 1856.--In consequence of stormy weather, we are still in camp. Small parties were sent out this morning to bury the bodies of those persons recently murdered; and the little schooner Gold Beach has been chartered to convey the females belonging to the Citizen Fort to Port Orford. She left here at eleven a.m., having on board twenty-two adults and fourteen children.
Dr. Rodney Glisan, Journal of Army Life, 1874, pages 282-292
The inhabitants at the mouth of Rogue River have all moved to the north side of the river, where formerly, under the apprehension of a sudden attack, a fort had been erected; they number about 130 men, having less than a hundred guns amongst them.
"Important from Rogue River," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 1, 1856, page 2
After the issue of the Herald extra of the 25th ult., the schooner Ellen arrived from Port Orford and Rogue River. She reports that at the former place, the inhabitants were at work building a bay fort, and making other preparations to defend themselves from an expected attack of the Indians. The schooner was not able to communicate with the shore at Rogue River in consequence of the entire settlement, with the exception of the fort, being in the hands of the Indians. She reports that every house on the south side has been burned to the ground, and as she left the houses on the north side were in flames. Many persons have been killed whose names have not been enumerated--among them a Mr. Wilson and Jno. Chadwick of San Francisco.
A meeting of the citizens of Crescent City was held on the evening of the 25th ult., when a petition to the Governor of California was submitted to, and signed by nearly every male inhabitant in town, requesting him to call out the volunteer force and to provide other necessary means to enable the citizens to defend the place. There were not arms or ammunition in the town sufficient to equip 25 men. There are 50 U.S. troops stationed at Crescent City, which force, in the opinion of all, is totally inadequate to defend the place against the three or four hundred Indians which have attacked the settlement at the mouth of Rogue River.
We understand that, in compliance with the above petition, Governor Johnson forwarded to Crescent City by the Columbia, on Thursday last, fifty rifles and two thousand rounds of ammunition. Capt. Ord of the U.S. army also left on the Columbia with a small command.
"Hostilities at Rogue River," Sonoma County Journal, Petaluma, California, March 8, 1856, page 2
LATEST FROM THE SOUTH.
Umpqua Correspondence of the Statesman.
Deer Creek, March 12, 1856.
Friend Bush:--An express arrived here through the mountains last night from Port Orford with the news that one hundred men or more were surrounded in their entrenchment at the mouth of Rogue River by the Indians, without any chance of retreat, that the Indians already there number between three and four hundred. A whaleboat left Port Orford for the purpose of communicating with the whites, but was swamped in trying to land, and as fast as the crew came ashore they were killed by the Indians, only two making their escape.
Capt. Tichenor tried to approach them with his schooner Nelly but could not on account of the winds. It was said when my informant left that these men had but about four days provision.
This man says there are about eighty men at Port Orford including 30 U.S. troops. They have erected a fort by setting up planks about six inches apart and filling the space with earth. The people at Port Orford think they can stand a siege but expect the town will be burnt.
A rumor tonight says that the Coquille and Coos Bay bands have left for the mountains with the intention of joining the hostile Indians. If this be true all the property along the coast as far as the mouth of the Umpqua will be destroyed, as it is said the people at Coos Bay have no arms, what few they had being sent down the coast.
The messenger who brought this news here went south this morning to see Gen. Lamerick, hoping he would be able to send some men to the relief of the people on the coast.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, March 18, 1856, page 2
Sylvester Long, the oldest son of Mary and Christopher Long, Sr., was one of the six men who volunteered to answer an urgent call for help from the Miners Fort just north of the Rogue River. No other help could be spared. So the whaleboat was dispatched down the coast to open communication with the fort. They also brought food and ammunition. This was in March, 1856.
The Indians were waiting for them when they attempted to enter the harbor, so they turned around and came back opposite the fort and tried to beach there. They almost made it to shore, but one large wave capsized their boat. Four of the men were drowned. Two of the men made it to shore with the help of the settlers. Later, when the four bodies were washed upon the beach, the Indians hacked their bodies to bits. In the moonlight the settlers gathered up the remains in burlap bags and buried them somewhere near the fort. Sylvester Long was one of the men who died.
Descendant Mary C. Dinsmore, "Sylvester Long, 1835-1856," Curry County Echoes, Curry Historical Society, December 1979-January 1980, page 2
Further from Northern California.On the morning of the 3rd instant, I received letters by express from Port Orford under date of 24 & 25 ult., informing me of an outbreak among the Indians in that district, the substance of which is as follows: That a party of volunteers who had been encamped for some time at the Big Bend of Rogue River, which is distant about thirty miles from its mouth, returned and a part of them encamped near the Tututni village, three miles above the coast, the remaining portion having passed on to the mining village at the mouth of the river. On the morning of the 22nd ult., at daylight, the camp near the Indian village was attacked by a party of Indians supposed to be about 300, and all but two it was supposed put to death, one man making his way to Port Orford, and one to the village at the mouth of Rogue River; with one exception all the dwellings from the mouth of Rogue River to Port Orford have been burned, and the inmates supposed to be murdered. Five persons, however, have made their appearance which at first were supposed to have been killed. I enclose herewith extracts from letters received from R. W. Dunbar, and a copy of a letter from Major Reynolds with a copy of my reply to him. Benj. Wright, the special Indian agent, is supposed to be among the killed. The general impression is that the coast Indians as far north as Humbug Mountain, ten miles south of Port Orford, have united with the hostile tribes.
Our files of the Crescent City Herald to March 12th have been received, but we find little news except the following full particulars of the Port Orford calamity:
Through the politeness of Dr. Holton, who arrived on the Republic from the fort at the mouth of Rogue River, via Port Orford, we learn that in attempting to open a communication between Port Orford and that place by sea, a whaleboat was capsized, containing eight men from Port Orford, six of whom were drowned; the other two succeeded in getting into the fort.
At the time the Doctor left (last Thursday) they had succeeded in redeeming Mrs. Geisel, daughter and infant about five weeks old; her husband and three sons having been killed in the attack of the 22nd February.
On the 2nd inst., five white men and one negro left the fort for the purpose of securing some potatoes that were not destroyed by the fire at the mouth of the river, and although well armed were cut off and every man killed, since which time no persons have ventured to leave the fort; forty men being kept on guard day and night. The whole number of persons at the fort being 96 men (6 wounded), 7 women and 12 children.
Old Enos is the leader of the savages, who boasts with others that they have plenty of ammunition and arms, and only sold Mrs. Geisel and her family to the whites from the fact that they soon expected to take the fort with all its inmates and establish an Indian town upon its ruins.
Only about 60 guns are in the fort, and the supplies are reduced to about six days rations. The Indians have made three attacks, but were repulsed each time, losing some few of their number, but they have not as yet made a general charge; and for the lack of numbers no sally has been made from the fort.
As no communication is kept up between the parties, they learned from Mrs. Geisel (who was a prisoner with the Indians for nine days) all further particulars respecting their views and intentions. She states that the Indians are very sanguine that they will entirely overcome the whites and secure immediate possession of the fort, as it is supplied with a small running stream, which the Indians threatened to cut off, but which, as yet, has not been done. A communication is kept open with the beach, a distance of some fourteen yards, from which place they secure their firewood. The Doctor left the fort as messenger to Port Orford, by means of the whaleboat sent from that place.
The Republic, on her return trip, landed at Port Orford some seventy-two regular troops, which, added to the forty-two landed by the Columbia as she went up, and those already stationed there, amounts to one hundred and seventy-five. These troops are under the command of Maj. Reynolds, who sent a dispatch to Col. Buchanan for the purpose of securing his cooperation.
Mrs. Geisel and her infant were received in exchange for two squaws, who were prisoners in the hands of the whites. Her daughter was purchased at something of a cost. At the time of capturing Mrs. Geisel, on the night of the 22nd inst., her hands were tied behind her, and she was compelled to witness the murder of her husband and children, as well as the most savage mutilation of their bodies after death, when she was conducted to like horrible scenes upon the persons of many of her friends and neighbors.
A house containing six of the volunteers was attacked at daylight, and not until the afternoon were all the inmates slain.
Five of the volunteers got into the fort, some of them having their feet frozen and existing without food for five days.
The whole loss of the whites is about twenty-six killed and five wounded. The names of the wounded are James Hunt, Edwin Wilson, N. B. Gregory, George Basset, and one name unknown.
Sacramento Daily Union, March 21, 1856, page 1 This account was also printed in the New York Times of April 17, 1856.
Indian War at Port Orford--Letter from Mr. Dunbar.
Port Orford, March 4th, 1856.
Editor Times--Since writing to you under date 24th Feb'y., other developments have taken place. Up to the 28th Feb'y., no news had been received from Rogue River; we were satisfied that all communication was cut off between us and them. With a glass we could see that everything that they could reach was being burned and destroyed by the savages, without our being able to render assistance. Anxious to know the fate of the remnant of our friends there, on the morning of the 28th ultimo a company of eight resolute spirits, good men, took a boat and supplies for twenty-four hours, and with the north wind sailed down. In trying to land opposite the fort, the boat became unmanageable in the surf, capsized, drowning six out of the eight men, with the loss of all their arms and some ammunition for the fort. Capt. Davis of Coquille and Mr. DeFremery swam ashore; H. C. Gerow, boatman, William Thompson, sailor, Felix McCue, John O'Bryan, miner, and Mr. Long, farmer, were drowned. The Indians tried, after the bodies came ashore, to rob and mutilate them, in which three Indians were shot, and compelled to abandon the spoils. The whole country is filled with the war party--having got the assistance of all the coast bands between this and the California line.
The night after the sad accident, two men run the gantlet, came through the lines of the enemy, and reached this town in safety on the following morning, and report in addition to the above, that on the 24th the Indians in force appeared before the fort and made an attack, but were repulsed by the whites with the loss of several Indians, and no damage done to the fort. They, however, pillaged and burned all the buildings, on both sides of the river, and retain possession of the field.
Mrs. Geisel, and little daughter eleven or twelve years old, spoken of in the former communication, were taken prisoners and hurried off into the mountains, instead of being killed. This news was brought to the fort by a volunteer escaping into the brush, by whom they passed on their road, after a day had elapsed. One or two wounded volunteers made their way to the fort and confirm the death of Capt. John Poland of the volunteers and Capt. Ben Wright, sub-Indian agent. Mr. Wright had to the last full confidence in his Indians, who evidently laid the plan for his murder. [Read Wright's correspondence here.]
Capt. Poland and Capt. Wright were on their way to Port Orford with papers relative to the organization of the company, and Capt. Wright had been amongst his Indians and believed them all right; but their plan was to put an end to him--they sent back after him and urged him to come back when he was five or six miles on his way.
From an Indian, the manner of his death is learned to have been by going to the house where Capt. Poland and himself slept, called him to the door on pretense, when a dozen at once grappled him by the arms, hair and body, and as it was necessary to kill him without noise, he was struck in the head with a hatchet, then cut in pieces with knives.
Capt. Poland had a desperate struggle with the Indians--wounded some of them badly. He is said to have nearly cut off the hand of the 2nd chief of the Tututnis; this is, however, Indian intelligence, but is believed.
Major Reynolds, in command of the fort, or garrison of the U.S. troops, has rendered every aid in his power to the citizens and for the protection of this place. Every part of the garrison is being fortified to protect the stores, etc.
Soon as the death of the Indian agent was known here, Maj. R. at once took charge of the Indian Department of this district and set about bringing in all the bands not already implicated in the outrages below, desirous to keep them from taking part, and to gain time for help to arrive. He had the Coquille, Sixes Rivers, Elk River and Port Orford bands put on the military reservation, and is now furnishing them provisions.
The great object is, if possible, to prevent communication between these and the war party at Rogue River; how long it can be done I know not--I fear not long enough to get reinforcements of troops.
Pickets are kept at night. On two occasions they fired upon Indian spies in the night, from below.
I close at half-past ten to attend a call to picket guard.
R. W. DUNBAR.
Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, March 22, 1856, page 1
FORT MINER, GOLD BEACH,At a meeting of the citizens and volunteers held this day the undersigned were appointed a committee this day to draft and present to our fellow citizen, Mr. Charles Brown, a testimonial of the high appreciation of this community for his brave and gallant conduct during the negotiations for the release of Miss Mary Geisel from the Indians. We therefore offer the following preamble and resolutions:
March 7th, 1856.
Whereas, the Indians did, on the night of the 22nd ultimo, enter the house of John Geisel, and did in the most shocking manner murder the said Geisel and three children; and, Whereas, the Indians did then take and carry away the widow of said Geisel and infant three weeks old, and a daughter of thirteen years; and, Whereas negotiations were yesterday opened with the Indians for the release of Mrs. Geisel and her children by means of an exchange of prisoners, which resulted in the release of Mrs. Geisel and her infant child, who were safely returned into this fort, and, Whereas, the Indians with their usual treachery did then refuse to give up Miss Mary Geisel as they had agreed to do; and, Whereas, the said Charles Brown did at this point voluntarily leave the fort and go unarmed at the imminent risk of his life, into a large band of hostile and armed Indians, which gallant act was repeated until he succeeded by skillful negotiations in effecting the release of the said maiden, whom he led in triumph into the fort,
Therefore Resolved, by this community, that we hereby tender our warmest thanks to our fellow citizen, Mr. Charles Brown, for his brave, humane and gallant conduct on the above occasion.
Resolved, That in thus voluntarily risking his life without solicitation, and without the hope of pecuniary reward for the noble purpose of releasing said maiden from captivity, Mr. Charles Brown has won for himself a high place among those whose names shall live when marble monuments shall have crumbled into dust.
Resolved, That while the deeds of the conqueror are handed down to posterity, we claim a place in history for the name of Charles Brown, who, actuated by no mercenary motive, performed an act of true bravery and self-sacrificing intrepidity which stands side by side with the gallant acts of our country.
Resolved, That as soon as possible this community will present to the said Charles Brown some more solid testimonial of our regard for his distinguished services above recorded.
Resolved, That all the newspapers on the coast are requested to give this an insertion.
Wm. J. Berry,
O. W. Weaver,
Crescent City Herald, May 21, 1856, page 2
LETTER FROM PORT ORFORD.
CONTINUED INDIAN DEPREDATIONS--BURNING OF ANOTHER BUILDING--
GENERAL DEVASTATION--NUMBER OF KILLED.
Port Orford, March 9, 1856.By the steamer Columbia, which passed up last evening, we forwarded full particulars of the Indian massacre, which you will receive by the return of said steamer, and if she touches at this place on her return, we will report whatever may transpire.
The Indians are continuing their depredations, and today we have witnessed the burning of another building on the coast, south, towards the mouth of Rogue River. Nearly every building in the vicinity of Rogue River is now burned, and in fact every mark of civilization is destroyed. There has been something over thirty men killed, among whom is the Indian Agent Benj. Wright, and John Poland, captain of the volunteers. It is impossible to tell how many Indians have been killed--probably some thirty in all since the outbreak, which occurred on the 22nd ultimo. Mr. E. A. Wilson of San Francisco, who was reported killed, was only slightly sounded, and is now at the fort at Rogue River. The steamer is now ready to sail, consequently we are compelled to delay a full account of our situation.
Yours &c.,Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 13, 1856, page 2
LETTER FROM PORT ORFORD.
THE INDIAN DIFFICULTIES THERE--PARTICULARS OF THE ROGUE RIVER AFFAIR--
SIX PERSONS DROWNED--SUBSEQUENT MOVEMENTS OF THE INDIANS, ETC.
(The following letter containing fuller particulars of the affair at Rogue River is sent to us from Port Orford with the request of many of the citizens that we should publish it. A portion of the news it contains has been previously published.)
Port Orford, O.T., March 8, 1856.Necessity calls upon me at this moment to record one of the most atrocious outbreaks of the Indians that has ever occurred in this country and the cause of which yet remains a mystery. Difficulties of a serious and disastrous character have for several months past been enacted in other parts of Oregon, but none have reach our vicinity until recently. On receiving the proclamation of the Governor for volunteers, an effort was at once made to raise a company, and after being partially completed it was detailed for service. A tour was taken through the Indian country by the volunteers, who were accompanied by a detachment of U.S. troops from this place. After being absent a few days the troops returned to their quarters, and the volunteers repaired to the mouth of Rogue River, or near that point, for the purpose of filling up their company. This occurred about the first of February, and from this date up to the 22nd ult. no hostile feeling was perceptible among any of the band of Indians residing in the vicinity of the volunteers' encampment, and the agent had the most explicit confidence in their integrity and sincerity of motives. But treachery, the ruling character of the Indian, could not be secreted any longer, and on the evening of Feb. 22 gave vent to its ruling passion. On that evening, the Mikonotunne chief sent word to Capt. Benj. Wright, Indian agent, to "come and take away Eneas, for he was a bad Indian." This Eneas is a Canadian Indian and has been in Oregon for several years, and talks several different languages.
He had professed great friendship for the whites, but sometime during the month of January he deserted the cause of the whites and joined the belligerent band of Indians. Capt. Wright returned the message with a request that Eneas should come and see him, or meet him at a certain place, to which Capt. Wright, accompanied by John Poland, captain of the volunteers, repaired. These communications were exchanged on the afternoon of February 22nd, and at the same time the Indians, some twelve miles distant, attacked the ranch of Mr. J. C. Smith. The Indians came to the house about 5 o'clock p.m., in their usual friendly and peaceable manner, and requested Mr. Warner to go a short distance from the house and look at an otter skin, but he had not gone more than thirty yards from the house before he was shot dead, without any chance of defense. Mr. Smith's attention was about the same moment attracted by the approach of some fifteen or twenty Indians from a different direction from which Mr. Warner had gone. Mr. Smith at once discovered the belligerent appearance of the Indians, and immediately closed the door and prepared for their reception. Mr. Smith and Dr. White (the only occupants) defended the house for thirty or forty minutes, during which time the Indians kept up a continual shooting at the house, and then it was set on fire, and Messrs. Smith and White were compelled to avail themselves of the chances of escape, which they effected amidst continual bad shooting of the Indians. Mr. Smith directed his course for this place, at which he arrived on Monday following, after suffering intense fatigue and hunger, and Dr. White sought the fort at the mouth of Rogue River, at which he arrived on the following day. From thence the Indians commenced their inhuman and atrocious work and directed their course towards Rogue River, killing all the inhabitants except two females, who they retained in capture, and burning every building that fell in their course.
Early in the evening of the same day, Capt. Benjamin Wright, our worthy and efficient Indian agent, and John Poland, of the volunteers, who had according to an agreement above spoken of assembled at a specific place on the south side of Rogue River for the purpose of an interview with Eneas, the Canadian Indian, but sad to tell, they were both massacred as it is supposed by the same Eneas and his band of demons. On the following morning, at daylight, the volunteers were attacked by the combined forces of all the Indians occupying the vicinity of the mouth of Rogue River, and in fact extending some thirty or forty miles up the river. The volunteers were taken wholly by surprise, from the fact that they were among their friends, as they supposed, and several of the company were absent on business for the company, soliciting enlistments &c. Of the volunteers who were present, only four made their escape. Mr. Charles Foster was pursued some distance and finally secreted himself in a small thicket, in which he remained during the day and watched the infernal rejoicings of the Indians over the inhuman and atrocious victory which they had achieved. He witnessed their dancing and division of the property which they had taken. The volunteers were divided in what is called two messes; one was camped in the open air, and the other in a house. Mr. Foster was in the mess which was camped in the open air, and the first camp attacked, and from where he was secreted he could witness the entire attack on the house.
The men who were encamped in the house fired several shots, and from the fact that it is well known that those who occupied the house were good marksmen, several Indians were killed. Mr. Foster judged the Indians to number over three hundred who made the attack, and who continued firing at the house about one hour, and their firing ceased in the house, the goods were then removed, and the house set on fire. Mr. Foster remained secreted until after dark, and then set out for this place, at which he arrived on the following evening. Mr. J. K. Vincent, Mr. Elijah Meservey, and Mr. E. A. Wilson, slightly wounded, also escaped by secreting themselves for six consecutive days, and the Indians were during the whole time all around them, and not unfrequently coming within speaking distance, but finally they made their escape to the fort. Following is a list of those killed, including volunteers and citizens:
Benjamin Wright, Indian agent; John Poland, capt. volunteers; Pat McCullough, Pat McCluskey, John Jolles, Henry Lawrence, Barney Castle, Guy C. Holcomb, Jos. Wilkinson, Jos. Wagoner, E. W. Howe, J. H. Braun, John Geisel and four children; his wife and daughter, thirteen years of age, taken captives; Martin Reid, George Read, Lorenzo Warren, Samuel Hedrick, Nelson Seamans, and a negro, name not known. There are a few more who are missing, and it is supposed that they are also killed, but hoping that they may yet make their appearance we forbear giving their names, but will as soon as their destiny is known.
In addition to this we are compelled to record another misfortune, which is in ratio nonetheless melancholy. On receiving the sad intelligence from Rogue River, expresses were sent out in every direction to solicit all the whites to convene at this place immediately for the purpose of building a fort, and making other and all necessary arrangements for a sure defense, and all the friendly Indians had been gathered in and their arms secured. A whaleboat set out for Rogue River to learn the result of the outbreak, and keep up a communication between the two places. The party consisted of eight persons, via: H. C. Guerin, merchant, and formerly of New York; John O'Brien, miner; Sylvester Long, farmer; Richard Gray, boatman; Felix McCue, miner; William Thompson, boatman; Henry S. DeFremery, farmer, and Capt. Davis, miner, and on going ashore at the landing opposite the Rogue River fort the boat capsized, and all were drowned except Henry S. DeFremery and Capt. Davis. This said intelligence was brought up on Friday evening by Robert Forsyth and Mr. McGuire, who literally ran the gantlet and arrived safe at our place. By this express we learn that the Indians, numbering from three to five hundred, were encamped within one mile from the fort at Rogue River, but the whites are so situated that scouting parties are daily cutting off and adding to the list of Indians killed.
All the Indians, or nearly all, between this and the Coquille River have been convened by order of the commanding officer at this place and their arms secured, yet we are here on the lookout day and night, anticipating an attack.
Yours &c.Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 20, 1856, page 2
LETTER FROM OREGON.
Interesting Facts in Relation to the Rogue River and Coquille War.
Port Orford, March 8, 1856.You have doubtless ere this received the most important items of news from this section of Oregon. The following, however, you may find of sufficient interest to publish. We left Coos Bay on the 5th inst., en route for Port Orford, a distance of about 60 miles by land, with fifteen well-armed men, having heard that the hostile Indians who had committed depredations at Rogue River were on their march to the Empire City, the chief settlement on Coos Bay. After our departure from Empire City, under command of Capt. Wm. H. Harris and Lieut. Wm. Romanes, we followed the ocean beach for two days without encountering Indian or white man, although the traveler along this route usually meets with passengers to and from Coos Bay. On arriving here we found the place under martial law, the citizen force having been on guard all night. Major Reynolds has the greater part of the Coquille Sixes, Floras Creek and Port Orford Indians, on the government reserve, feeding them and keeping them from communicating with the whites or mountain Indians--killing all that are found outside the reserve. All friendly Indians have been notified to come inside the reserve.
The particulars of the capsizing of the whaleboat, by which five lives were lost, have probably already reached you. Capt. Davis, former ferryman at the mouth of the Coquille, was among the crew, but was saved. Mrs. Geisel and daughter, who were captured by the Indians at the time of the Rogue River massacre, have been exchanged for $100 in money and two old squaws in the hands of the whites.
There is now a force of 96 men at the fort at Rogue River, with about 65 guns all told. Ammunition and provisions enough to last about two weeks. Another attack has been made by the Indians, and five white men killed. The next down steamer will have full particulars. There are not men enough here to send to their relief. We have here about 25 men under Major Reynolds, of the regular troops. The Major was sent by the Republic on her up trip to Fort Vancouver for aid, which may reach here after the inhabitants have been massacred. "Tardy Wool" has now become a byword among us. To this might be added "old fogey, imbecile and useless Wool." But we wait and hope.
In haste, truly yours,(The writer of the above letter thinks that the operation of killing off the Indians cannot be too speedily commenced, for "killed off" they must be, or removed from the vicinity of white men. If the department waits much longer, it is liable to be spared the trouble of removing them.)
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 21, 1856, page 2
Later from Oregon.
By the arrival of the steamer Goliah, from Crescent City, we have the Herald extra of the place of the 17th inst.
The Herald contains a long communication from its correspondent at Fort Miner, giving many details of the operations against the Indians, who, it appears, are still in force against the whites. We notice the name of Kirby Miller (Buck Miller), as having been killed, and J. R. Sevan, Thos. J. Sharp, Sergeant Nash, John Mahoney among the wounded. We give a few extracts:
"About one o'clock this morning one of the regular sentinels shot the corporal of the guard, whom he supposed to be an Indian. The man is since dead. He belonged to Capt. Jones' company.
"Between the 21st and 26th ult., we, the volunteers, buried all the dead bodies we could find among the ruined dwellings. Imagination cannot apprehend the horrors we witnessed, nor are they describable.
"We have destroyed much provisions, captured two canoes, and gathered from their hiding places whips, saws, cooking utensils &c., in some quantity. It will be, it must be, a lingering, tiresome business.
"G. S. B." [sic--probably G.S.R., George S. Ramsay]
The Daily True Delta, New Orleans, May 28, 1856, page 1
After the issue of the [Crescent City] Herald extra, on the 25th inst., the schooner arrived from Port Orford and the Rogue River. She reports that at the former place the inhabitants were at work building a log fort and making other preparations to defend themselves from an attack of the Indians. The schooner was not enabled to communicate with the shore at Rogue River, in consequence of the entire settlement, with the exception of the fort, being in the hands of the Indians. She reports that every house on the south side had been burned to the ground, and as she left the houses on the north side were in flames. Many persons have been killed, whose names have not been enumerated. Among them are Mr. Wilson and John Chadwick, of San Francisco.
Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana, April 5, 1856, page 1
Up to the last advices from that quarter, Mr. Wright expressed a confident hope of being able to maintain peace among them, but the extraordinary success of the hostile bands in whipping the forces brought against, and the ease with which they have invariably gained a victory over them, inspired a belief that they were abundantly able to maintain their position and rid themselves of the white population. In every instance where a conflict has ensued between the volunteers and hostile Indians in Southern Oregon, the latter have gained what they regard a victory. It is true that a number of Indian camps have been attacked by armed parties, and mostly put to death or flight, but in such cases it has been those unprepared to make a resistance and not expecting such attacks. This, the lessing the number of Indians in the country, has tended greatly to exasperate and draw into a hostile attitude many that would have otherwise abstained from any acts of violence against the whites. The avowed determination of the people to exterminate the Indian race, regardless as to whether they were innocent or guilty, and the general disregard for the rights of those acting as friends and aiding in the subjugation of one real and avowed enemy, has had a powerful influence in inducing these tribes to join the warlike bands. It is astonishing to know the rapidity with which intelligence is carried from one extreme of the country to another, and the commission of outrages, of which there have been many, by our people against an Indian is heralded forth by the hostile parties, augmented, and used as evidence of the necessity for all to unite in war against us.
Those coast bands, it is believed, might have been kept out of the war if a removal could have been effected during the winter, but the numerous obstacles indicated in my former letter, with the absence of authority and means in my hands, rendered it impracticable to carry it into effect.
It is hoped the condition of things is not really so bad in that district as the letter referred to might seem to imply. Enough, however, is known to convince us that a considerable portion of the coast tribes below Port Orford and extending eastward to Fort Lane, and very likely those on Upper Coquille (for they are adjacent), are hostile and indisposed to come to terms, and doubtless will remain so until they have positive demonstration of the folly of attempting to redress their own wrongs.
Measures have been for some time preparing to remove those bands, and such as still remain friendly will be collected and placed on the military reservation at Port Orford until the requisite arrangements can be perfected for their removal to the Coast Reservation. I have in contemplation the [assignment] of Agent Nathan Olney to the service and, as I propose repairing to the Dalles of the Columbia with the view of perfecting arrangements in Mr. Thompson's district for the removal and settlement of the Indians of that vicinity on their reservation, I shall visit Mr. Olney in person and satisfy myself in regard to certain rumors indicating improper conduct on his part, to which I referred in my letter of 11th of Feby.
Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs Joel Palmer to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington, D.C., March 8, 1856, Correspondence of the Oregon Superintendency 1856
I wrote you some days since in regard to the Indian difficulties around us. No further intelligence has been received from the fort at the mouth of Rogue River, except that in an exchange of prisoners our people recovered Mrs. Geisel, infant and daughter 12 years old! Whether the little band in [the] fort have since been reduced or not we have no means of knowing. They are in a fort built of "grass sods" breast high.
R. W. Dunbar to Joseph Lane, March 15, 1856, Joseph Lane Papers
The following letter was written by Mrs. William Tichenor to her son Jacob, who was in school in the Willamette Valley. The letter was sent to us by Mary Boice Capps.
Port Orford March 17, 1856My Dear Son:
I should have written to you immediately after your father returned from Salem, but owing to the great Indian excitement here and your father leaving home again in less than a week was why I did not write. . . . Now, my boy, I must tell you something about the Indian troubles here. About three weeks ago the Rogue River Indians commenced their hostilities. They have joined the hostile tribes and have destroyed everything at Rogue River, killed a good many of your acquaintance. About one hundred men, nine women and several children saved themselves by getting into a fort which they had prepared which is the only thing standing; it is in Prattsville on the bluff. We have had no news from there for more than a week, when two men ventured out at the risk of their lives by night and arrived here in safety. They say if they keep their position at the fort they are safe. The Indians have made several attempts but did not succeed, but several were killed each time. Troops were sent for immediately, who arrived here by steamer. There were over a hundred started from here yesterday for that place. Ben Wright was killed at [the] Tututnis' village where he had collected the Indians from the mouth of the river and all about to prevent communication with the hostile Indians as he thought. Most of the volunteers were killed who had been staying at Big Bend all winter but were with Ben Wright at the time. I cannot tell the number. Mr. Warner was killed at his house and house burnt and Mr. Seaman was killed; he was there at the time hunting. Mr. Geisel and two sons were killed. His wife and daughters were taken prisoners, but they have succeeded in getting them. They are now at the fort. Mr. Lundry came with the schooner immediately to save himself and it and brought the news. Your father returned with him the same night with a message from the Major to Rogue River if he could not go in the river to go to Crescent City. He could not go in the river on account of the many Indians at the mouth, so he went to Crescent City and sent his schooner to San Francisco with a message. There was a hundred and fifty troops landed at Crescent City by the last steamer. Your father is their guide through the mountains. Don't be uneasy about us, for we have a good fort here up on the hill where the old fort was, and we all go there every night. The Port Orford Indians appear friendly. They have collected them all together the other side of the garrison from Coquille down and taken their arms. Your little sister often speaks of you and would like to see you and then she takes a peep at your daguerreotype. Your father intended writing to you but was called away in such a hurry. I must stop and get ready to go to the fort, for it is almost night. . . .
Get your uncle to please read this to you if he can make it out. Do not be uneasy about us. We will try and come soon, for I cannot stay in Oregon.
Your affectionate [mother] Nellie E. TichenorP.S. About two weeks ago eight men started to go to Rogue River in a whaleboat to learn the conclusion of things there. As there is no safety in traveling by land and in attempting to go ashore the boat capsized in the surf and six of them were drowned. One of the drowned was Mr. Gerow, Sylvester Long, old Dick the boatman and little Billy. The others I did not learn their names.
Curry County Echoes, Curry Historical Society, January 1989, page 7
Later from the Coast.
We learn from Mr. Geo. H. C. Taylor, just in from Crescent City, that the whites at the mouth of Rogue River are in a critical position. The Indians had killed some twelve persons since the first attack; six men were killed while out of the fort obtaining supplies to subsist upon; eight others made an attempt to escape in a boat--were attacked by the Indians, six killed or drowned, two only making their escape and bringing the intelligence to Crescent City. The situation of those at the mouth of Rogue River is deplorable. Sixty persons, all told, men, women and children, surrounded by the Indians, with only five or six days' supplies, with very little ammunition, the beach on one side, the river on the other, and about 300 Indians, well armed, and led by a half-civilized chief who is skilled and desperate in scheming and exciting barbarous deeds, occupy the space between the beach and the river. Great fears are entertained that before relief can reach them they will be cut off.
The lady and daughter who were taken prisoners in the first attack have been obtained--the whites giving six prisoners and one hundred dollars for the two--the Indians boasting that in a few days they would have them back again.
On the 15th inst., the U.S. troops that were at Crescent City started to their relief.
Table Rock Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 22, 1856, page 2
Extracts from a letter written by a lady.
Port Orford (O.T.), March 24, 1856.We have just returned from the fort, having slept there every night for four weeks, during which we have lived in great excitement, in consequence of the commencement of hostilities by the Rogue River Indians and their joining the hostile bands. They have destroyed everything there. Not a house is left standing, and many whites have been killed. The Indian agent was one of the first. They cut off his head and sent it up the river. A hundred men, nine women and several children saved themselves by flight to the fort, and are there still. About 100 troops left here a week since, intending to surround the Indians. They will be reinforced by 150 U.S. troops and 50 volunteers from Crescent City. Capt. Wm. Tichenor, formerly of Newark, and now a member of the legislature of the Territory, is their guide. The Port Orford Indians appear friendly. The Major has them all collected on the other side of the garrison, from Coquille down. He has disarmed them, and now feeds them. We have a good fort, and the families having all moved near it feel perfectly safe.
P.S. March 29.--Capt. Tichenor has returned in a schooner, and brought the women and children from Rogue River Fort. Mrs. Geisel, the woman who was taken prisoner by the Indians with her babe of three weeks and a daughter of thirteen years old, are now at our house. Her husband and three sons were killed by the Indians. After cutting him to pieces they took her in to see him, then set fire to the house, and burned all together. The Coquille Indians have run off by night, and a company is in pursuit of them this morning. Capt. T. leaves tomorrow to join his company at Rogue River.
Newark Daily Advertiser, May 19, 1856, page 2
Mrs. Geisel and her two daughters, who were taken captive at the massacre on the 23rd of February, near the mouth of Rogue River, have been exchanged for four squaws and a hundred dollars in money.
Sacramento Daily Union, April 5, 1856, page 1
Fort Miners, Gold BeachTo the Adjutant General
O.T. March 30, 1856
I would respectfully tender to you my resignation as 1st Lieutenant of Company "K" Second Regiment of South Division of Oregon Mounted Volunteers, to take effect from this date.
Please to accept my assurancesOregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 573.
And remain Yours &c.
Oliver M. [sic] Cantwell
The next day [March 20th] the command arrived on the south bank of the mouth of Rogue River, and for want of means to cross, encamped there. In the course of the afternoon the Indians made a hostile demonstration, but a few shots drove them off, without loss on either side. The regulars burnt several of their huts, and destroyed a large quantity of provisions that were stored in them. The arrival of the troops relieved the volunteers and citizens of the neighborhood, who had been cooped up in their fort about a mile above the mouth of the river ever since the murder of Ben. Wright and others on the 22nd of February. They were, it may be imagined, delighted at their release. A few days afterward, Col. Buchanan's command was joined by Capt. Augur with his and Capt. Reynolds' companies, from Fort Orford.
"The Indian War on Rogue River," New York Weekly Herald, May 17, 1856, page 1
Headquarters, Mouth of Rogue RiverSir,
Dist. Southn. Oregon & Northn. Cal.
March 22nd 1856
I have the honor to report my arrival at this point on the evening of the 20th inst. without having encountered any obstacle and with no other casualty than the loss of a mule packed with part of the howitzer ammunition, and those other animals broken down on the route. On the afternoon of our arrival many Indians appeared in the vicinity of the camp--in a mining ditch--from whence they fired upon two individuals strolling a short distance away, which led to a slight skirmish without loss on either side, as far as I am aware. I regret to report that in the course of that night, the corporal of the guard, Corporal Hubert of "F" Comp. 4th Inf., while visiting his sentinels, was mortally wounded by one of a picket, a recruit, who mistook him for an Indian.
Yesterday I caused the ferry boat formerly belonging to the mouth of the river, which had been nearly destroyed, to be repaired, and crossed my command to the north side of the river on which I am at present encamped.
I shall make a combined movement on Tuesday with the force from forts Orford and Lane, now believed to be in position at the mouth of the Illinois and Big Bend of this river, against the main body of the enemy distant from this point about 8 miles, where I think they are prepared to make a stand, and hope to be able to report, in a few days, the successful result of my expedition.
I am sirTo:
Your obt. servt.
Robt. C. Buchanan
Bvt. Lt. Col. Major 4th Inf.
1st Lt. J. C. Bonnycastle
Aide de Camp
NARA M689, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General 1881-1889, Roll 567, Papers Relating to the Death of Mary Wagoner.
Saturday, March 22. At camp, mouth of river Col. sent off dispatch per mountain man named Walker to Capt. Augur. Schooner Gold Beach came in * * * news from last P.M. Orford that Capt. A. was up at mouth of Illinois with 100 men. The people at fort a hardy looking set quite pleased at relief, but Col. wanted schooner to go back, women wanted to go in her & Col. wanted to send squaws. Women wouldn't go with squaws, so there was general burst up, I mean men wanted to keep squaws here to do which Col. said was impossible 2 of them married squaws on the beach so as to keep 'em. The men and the women disgusted with the Col.'s arbitrary decision & positive manners, which by the way is quite enough to disgust them. He is not the man for the people or the emergency. I have concluded to let him slide & as he has no one else to consult with he has taken to Capt. Tichenor, and holds long talks, and to the vol. capt. They are now planning an attack on something. Col. talks of sending a party across river to get him some boards to make a table with, but gave it up he has received express from Augur who is at Ind. village eight miles up river waiting for orders. No news of Capt. Smith. Col. talks of starting the command tonight, 4 A.M. Says he is always lucky, illustrates old proverb.
Recd. advance of $5 from Col. B. & Lt. Ihrie
Sunday, March 23. Capt. Augur came in. Party had hard time ten days since left Orford via mouth of Illinois. Report no Indians seen except these. Maj. Reynolds & Lts. Macfeely & Drysdale with Capt. A remained in camp.
Monday, March 24. Col. sent out party to opposite side of river to kill pigs.
Tuesday, March 25. . . . the schooner Gold Beach got off this A.M. at last. Sent letter by her. Party on opposite beach to protect her as she went out this was my suggestion. Volunteers went up the river today found Tututnis village abandoned and burned it. Col. says I must go up tomorrow and do same by the Mikonotunnes.
* * *Sunday, April 6. In camp writing & went to Fort Miners took a sketch. They gave me little history of place it was very muddy. Making up my returns and a report of Mikonotunne fight.
* * *Saturday, April 12. Got ready. Weather looks clear but off at 8½. 55 men l officer & Capt. Tichenor as guide. As passed Fort Miner some men saddled up to follow. . . .
Diary of Edward O. C. Ord
Click here for one of the soldiers' memories of Fort Miners.
On the 22nd a small party of volunteers from the fort near camp, who had followed Capt. Smith and slept in his camp the night previous, placed themselves in ambush about daylight at the mouth of Lobster Creek to watch for Indians who might be coming down the river in canoes. In a few minutes two canoes, said to have contained 12 men and 3 squaws, made their appearance and came close to the party of 7 men, who fired on them and having first killed the two steersmen, afterwards killed all but 1 man and 2 squaws, who made their escape. 11 men and 1 squaw were killed in all, and the canoe having been upset in the melee, the arms of the entire party were sunk in the river.
Major Robert C. Buchanan, letter of May 1, 1856, NARA M689, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General 1881-1889, Roll 567, Papers Relating to the Death of Mary Wagoner.
No steamer has touched at Port Orford since the 9th March when the Republic went down, and the town is therefore exhausted of supplies, so that the inhabitants, increased by those citizens who were relieved by my commands from their confinement in their fort near the mouth of Rogue River, are nearly in a starving condition.
Letter of April 3, 1856, Major Robert C. Buchanan to the Assistant Adjutant General in Benicia, California
"Fort Miners"To the Hon. Genl Joseph Lane
Gold Beach, O.T. April 7, 1856
We take the liberty to address you at this time in reference to matters pertaining to the interests of all persons who have been sufferers by the recent Indian outbreak in this territory and district, believing that your experience and the deep interest always manifested by you upon all occasions to redress the grievances of its citizens and point out the speediest as well as the most satisfactory course for us to pursue will meet with that prompt and efficient action from you that the case demands. On the 23rd, 24th and 25th Feby. last the Indians of this district raised the war cry of extermination against the whites, massacring large numbers of men and children and carrying helpless females off captive, burning and destroying houses, merchandise and in fact everything that it was feasible for them to destroy, also killing and driving off nearly all our stock, horses, mules, oxen, cows etc. etc. in this section of the country. The Indians were under the supervision of an Indian agent appointed by Genl. Palmer, and a treaty concluded by Genl. Palmer no longer ago than last August bound the Indians to an observance of its requirements. We for a long time apprehended an outbreak and frequently solicited assistance, but our appeals were never responded to. The fearful time came [that] our fears were more than realized, and many, very many, of us are reduced to extreme want, and circumstances require that the speediest as well as the most advantageous course should be pointed out to us. We know of no one so qualified by a long residence with us or so willing to assist us in our misfortunes. And then [illegible--one word's worth of paper missing] is to you we look for advice. Government without an assisting power is tardy in administering justice, yet we believe in her magnanimity. It has been suggested that commissioners would be appointed and selected from the residents of the district when the property was destroyed and supposed to be familiar with the losses sustained, thereby being enabled from their own knowledge of the facts and such other testimony as would be required to render such awards as would indemnify the sufferer for his losses.
Will you have the kindness to give this your early attention and point out to us the speediest manner to bring our claims before the proper tribunal for adjustment.
Please to acceptJoseph Lane Papers
Assurance of high esteem
S. B. Blake
Fort Miners O.T. April 19th 1856To the Adjutant General of Oregon Territory
I hereby tender my resignation of the commission which I have the honor to hold of Third Lieutenant of Company "K" 2nd Regt. of Oregon Mounted Volunteers in the service of the Territory of Oregon--the same to take effect from this date.
John WalkerOregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 574.
2rd Lieut. Compy. "K" 2nd Regt.
FROM THE MOUTH OF ROGUE RIVER.--The steamer Columbia touched here on her downward trip with Gen. Wool and staff on board. We learn from Lieut. Garber that the Indians about the mouth of Rogue River are trying to negotiate a treaty for peace. These, however, are but a small portion, who are now warring against the whites.
As a canoe filled with hostile Indians was passing down Rogue River, containing nine warriors and three squaws, they were fired into by the regular forces under the command of Col. Buchanan, and the whole number killed. This seems to have so terrified them, as it is supposed, against a longer continuation of the hostilities in that immediate vicinity. If so effectual a mode of warfare was carried on in other portions of Oregon and Washington Territories, we doubt not but what a speedy termination of this war with these savages.
Crescent City Herald, May 7, 1856, page 2
Fort Miners O.T. May 9th 1856To the Adjutant General of Oregon Territory
I hereby respectfully tender my resignation of the commission which I have the honor to hold of Second Lieutenant of Company "K" 2nd Rgt. Oregon Mounted Volunteers in the service of the Territory of Oregon, the same to take effect from this date.
E. H. MeserveyOregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 576.
Memorial to Gen. Joseph Lane,Sir
United States Representative from Oregon.
Your memorialists would respectfully inform you that they are volunteers, engaged in the Indian war, now passing in that territory, of which you are so faithful and active a friend. That at the date of these presents, we, your memorialists, are encamped in a small fort, created by ourselves, near the mouth of Rogue River on the north side.
That ever since the 23rd of Feby. of the current year, which was the date of the first Indian outbreak in this vicinity, we have had to be constantly on duty.
That we had gathered into our fort 8 grown-up women, a girl of between 11 and 14, 10 children and an infant; 106 men, and ten friendly Indians.
That we had at first 74 guns, mostly fowling pieces, and the Indians were so numerous that we were, for the most part, obliged to keep within the fort for the protection of the females and those who had no guns.
That on Sunday the 2nd of March 1856 we sallied from the forth to procure beef, and 6 of this number were killed by the Indians, thus depriving us of some of our best men and our best arms. The number of men left in the fort was now just 100, and the number of guns was reduced to 68, and the proportion of fowling pieces to rifles was greatly increased.
That we were so completely hemmed in by the Indians and by stormy weather, that we had no means of communicating with our fellow citizens of our existence, either to solicit their arms or to inform them of our disagreeable and dangerous position.
That we did instead send the schooner Gold Beach to Crescent City, but on returning she dared not enter the mouth of Rogue River.
That although we had sent from us three messengers by other routes, we still remained in the same uncertainty as before. We knew not what steps were being taken for our relief, if any, and we sometimes conjectured that the whole coast might soon be in possession of the savages.
That we remained in this state of uncertainty until Thursday the [illegible--paper chewed away] of March, when a considerable body of men appeared on the side of the river, and we were relieved from our long and painful siege.
That the men proved to be Col. Buchanan with the company of about 160 men and 31 volunteers.
That these last had left Crescent City, previous to the arrival there of the regular troops, for the humane purpose of reaching and aiding us.
That on Tuesday 18th March, this small company of volunteers crossed Pistol River and burnt the Indian village located on the north side of that stream.
That they were there attacked by a very superior number of Indians, and compelled to withdraw to the south side of the river, where they had left their animals.
That here they threw up a breastwork upon a sand hill, carried their provisions into it, picketed their animals on the south side of the mound and kept the Indians at bay.
That as soon as they had re-crossed the river they sent two couriers back to inform Col. Buchanan, who was encamped as they had heard at the mouth of Chetco River, about 20 and not more than 25 miles from Pistol River.
That the regulars did not arrive until about half-past one o'clock p.m. on Wednesday 19th of March, although the courier of the volunteers reached Col. Buchanan's camp about 10 o'clock a.m. on Tuesday 18th. Had he (Col. Buchanan) sent on a detachment or hastened his pace a little he could have come upon the Indians in great numbers around us. We think his forces could have killed many of them, at all events they would have saved our animals, of which we lost 31 mules and horses.
That instead of sending relief to the volunteers this [illegible--paper chewed away] the col. merely vented some oaths against them, said that they ought to have fallen back upon him, and that we would get our animals and our provisions taken, and some of ourselves killed.
That when he did arrive at the breastwork, he blamed everything the volunteers had done, said they had interfered with his plans by [illegible] down the Rogue River Indians to Pistol River where [illegible] not want either to fight or to kill them, and he advised the [illegible] should each go to his home, his farm or his trade, not [illegible] the fact that many of the volunteers had no home; the Indians had destroyed their dwellings and all they possessed.
That when told that he had acted strangely in neither bringing nor sending relief to men who he had every reason to believe were in imminent danger of losing their lives, he replied that he belonged to the government, that such a step would have interfered with his plans, and that the government could not and would not alter its plans to relieve every self-constituted body of men who chose to get themselves into difficulty and that he neither could nor would recognize them in any way, shape nor manner.
Your memorialists (those of them who were present on this occasion) would respectfully lay before you the following comments upon the language of Col. Buchanan, as embodied in the last written paragraph.
1st--That it seems almost incomprehensible, how a little acceleration of power, to reach us sooner, could have interfered with the plans of the government!! The volunteers were literally in Col. B's path.
2nd--That we were not a self-constituted body of men, we were obeying, or rather responding to, a call from the governor of Oregon for volunteers, that we had started from Crescent City before Col. B. arrived there, and before we knew of his coming, and that our object was to reach Rogue River and bring relief to those who were there sustaining a long and murderous siege, some of whom were our wives, our children and our friends.
3rd--That had we been a self-contained body of men, allowing that we had committed a fault in not consulting him when [illegible] heard of his arrival, had we even belonged to a hostile [illegible], had we been criminals of the deepest dye, we think that no civilized government on earth would have refused us succor under the circumstances. We cannot help thinking that no plan except one involving an equal risk of human life could have been of so much importance as the lives of so many citizens whose only alleged faults was their injudicious haste in obeying the impulses of humanity. Dearly we paid for this fault if [illegible] for we not only lost our animals, but one of the best [illegible] of our number was killed. Candor must acknowledge [illegible] Col. B. could scarcely have prevented this last calamity, as [illegible] man, whose name was Kirby Miller, was killed a little after [illegible] on the 18th, and unless Col. B. had sent us a detachment of light infantry, nothing else would have been in time to save our lost companion.
That in looking back upon the 32 hours we spent in fighting the Indians from our breastworks there is one circumstance to which we turn with honest pride. We killed many of the enemy. We cannot exactly tell how many, as those who fell were quickly borne away by squaws and by Indians on their and our animals. The moon was shining brightly. We could take a good aim at 40, 50 and 60 yards distance. We were aware of the importance of making every shot tell. We had some of the very best of marksmen, and we fired just 110 [sic] shots. We think that it would be a low calculation to say that a digger was killed for every 5 shots. This would give diggers killed 42. Prisoners, both squaws and Indians, taken since confirm this calculation, a squaw saying that we killed 44 and [an] Indian that we killed 45.
Your memorialists would now most respectfully direct your attention to the fact that a most unaccommodating spirit exists between the superior officers of the regular army and the volunteers. As far as we are concerned, we have [illegible] formally expressed our readiness to assist in destroying [illegible] in any way Col. B. might deem best, either in hunting [illegible] Indians, or in fighting them when found. Everything of [illegible] we have suggested has been treated not only with abrupt rejection but with a supercilious disdain which is most hurtful to our sensibilities and which we think is unbecoming and altogether out of play in a republican officer.
That such a feeling existing between the two orders of [illegible] engaged in this war, viz., the regulars and volunteers, it is [illegible] evident to us that whatever power or influence Col. Buchanan [illegible] with the government in this connection will be exerted [illegible]. We have nothing to expect from him but the most strenuous opposition, and from all we can learn Col. B. acts in accordance with his instructions from Genl. Wool, viz., not to recognize the volunteers in any way, shape or manner.
That in view of the foregoing facts, we have, sir, taken the liberty to lay before you this memorial, that when our claims come up before the government of the United States you may be our friend. Some of us who now address you have been your soldiers and have fought under you heretofore. And we personally know the interest you take in the welfare of a soldier.
That we should not have troubled you with this long memorial but for the purpose of showing you to what extent the feelings of opposition exist towards us, when those who entertain them would not move a single step out of their way, nor hasten their pace in their way to save us all from being sacrificed.
That in addition to the Indians we killed from our little fort amounting to at least 41, we have since killed 11, a party of us going up Rogue River, in the night, lying in ambush and surprising the enemy in their canoes in the morning. This makes 51 Indians killed by our little party since the 18th of March besides some 35 more or less killed previously. This we think is a number north equalled, and surely not exceeded by any equal number of men, volunteer or regular, in Oregon.
We would be most grateful to you, sir, should you acknowledge [illegible] of this memorial. We would proudly follow any suggestions you might make, either in regard to conducting this war or dispelling this unnatural state of things between those who have the same object in view.
We now commit the advocacy of our cause into your hands, well knowing that if you stand not up for us, influences will be brought to bear against us, which may injure us all and ruin many of us. We were first in the field, called there by stern necessity as well as by the governor of Oregon, and it would be hard indeed if our claims were disregarded.
We see by what appears to be an official article in the San Francisco Herald that Col. Buchanan claims to [illegible] the Tututni rancheria, the Mikonotunne [illegible]. Now the former was destroyed by us, without either his knowledge or order.
Forgive this long draft upon your time and patience. Many of us are absent procuring supplies, else all would sign this memorial.
We are respectfully yours
O. W. Weaver
L. S. Myers
Robert A. Forsyth
G. S. Arnold
I. S. Morrison
Henry R. K. Lockman
James G. Didway
James W. Taggart
J. M. Lewis
John G. Signor
Charles H. Arnold
E. A. Lane
J. W. Wilkinson
S. B. Blake
J. M. Alvord
J. C. McVay
R. J. McKnight
L. J. Pierce
E. H. Meservey
G. S. Ramsay
G. H. Abbott
S. B. McCullough
A. W. Sypher
Fort Miner 11th May 1856
Company K Oregon Mounted Volunteers
R. Bledsoe, Captain
P.S. Col. Buchanan has gone up Rogue River with the whole command. The Indians in this [illegible] seem to be eager to treat and we expect a permanent peace will soon be established. The individual who has been appointed to draw up this memorial was a soldier in the Yreka Mounted Volunteers under Capt. Jordall in the war in which you got wounded. He takes advantage of this postscript to sign his name to it and to state that he remembers with sincere pleasure your address to us when you first came to take the command. Your expression "fellow soldiers" contrasted so agreeably with the neglect and contempt which have lately been conferred upon us. If I can serve Gen. Lane in the territory of Oregon or in northern California, the General has only to make his wishes known.
With much respectP.S. By writing to the care of Dr. Mooney M.D., Crescent City, a letter will always reach me. G.S.R.
I am, sir
Your very obedt humble servt
G. S. Ramsay
Acting surgeon and physician in Company K, O.M.V.
Joseph Lane Papers
NARROW ESCAPE.--The government train loaded with stores for the troops at the mouth of Rogue River, which left our city some few weeks since, escorted by Capt. De. F. Jones' company, U.S. infantry, about two hundred hostile Indians awaited the arrival of the train in ambush between Chetco and Pistol River. Unfortunately for the Indians, when they supposed the train was completely in their power, Capt. Ord's company from the mouth was on its way down to meet and help escort the train up to Col. Buchanan's headquarters, when they discovered two Indian spies looking out for Capt. Jones and his train. Capt. Ord immediately sent out a detachment from his company to cut off the spies, and in a few moments afterwards the company came in contact with the main body of the Indians and succeeded in dispersing and killing six of their number.
Crescent City Herald, May 21, 1856, page 2
10th May Lt. Abbott and escort returned from Port Orford with provisions--12th left camp at Fort Miners en route for Pistol River--13th arrived at Pistol River distance twelve miles, captured twenty prisoners--18th returned to mouth of Rogue River--19th crossed the river in the morning, passed to Fort Miners same day and encamped five miles above towards Port Orford--20th remained in camp in consequence of a severe storm--21st remained [sic] on march, encamped the evening of that day at the half-breed's, about ten miles from Port Orford--22nd reached Port Orford and delivered prisoners to Indian agent--remained at Port Orford until the 28th, took up line of march for Big Meadows, encamped that evening two miles south [of] Port Orford--29th continued march, encamped at oak grove--30th remained in camp--31st continued march en route for Big Meadows.
Return of Capt. Bledsoe's Company K, Second Regiment of Oregon Mounted Volunteers, May 1856, Oregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 563.
On the morning of the 23rd, the Indians made an attack on the camp of the volunteers. It was sudden and unexpected; some of them were at breakfast. Capt. Poland and Ben Wright, the Ind. agent, were killed across the river, opposite the camp, and seven of the volunteers at camp were killed. Seven escaped; one of them was badly wounded. I was among the no. of the volunteers who had a leave of absence from the camp at that time. The citizens got news of the attack up the river, and they soon all assembled at the fort and brought into it all of their arms and ammunition and a quantity of provisions. There were over a dozen women and children at the fort, families of some of the citizens. From the 23rd of February to the 20th of March we were hemmed in by the united force of the Indians. On the 20th of March about 150 soldiers and volunteers arrived at the mouth of Rogue River. The citizens and volunteers at the fort were all glad to see them come, for when, or about that time, the Indians went off up the river.
Granville S. Arnold, letter of June 8, 1856, Oregon Historical Society Research Library MSS 1514 Military Miscellaneous
Saturday, June 14.
This morning we reached Port Orford, where we found all things quiet, so far as Indians are concerned. There had been great excitement. Families had been in the habit of lodging in the citizens' fort, and guard kept round the town. But the circumstances were not such as to justify such wild excitement. It has been generally induced by a set of grog shop dealers and squaw men.
Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs Joel Palmer, Pocket Diary 1856, Oregon Historical Society Research Library MSS 114, folder 1/6
As [the soldiers] approached Rogue River, they now and then got a shot at a redskin. At the mouth of the river they came upon the ruins of the huts and flumes which the miners had deserted. They had been attacked by surprise a month before, and those who had escaped crossed the river and built a mud fort, where they had held out against the savages. All around lay the proofs of attack: mangled and putrefying bodies, half-devoured by crows and gulls. Some had been tied fast, and their throats had been cut; the heads of others had been crushed in by blows from hatchets; the bodies of others were riddled with bullets.
As the soldiers approached the deserted huts, they saw a few Indians running out and making off for the woods, after having set fire to the buildings. They were about to pitch their camp when the fog lifted from the river, and they saw a body of whites on the opposite bank. One of these swam across on a plank, and told the Colonel that it would be dangerous to encamp there, for the adjacent woods were full of Indians, who would be able to pick them off at pleasure. So they moved down to the beach and encamped on the bare shore.
The Sergeant happened to be peering at the distant woods through a spyglass when he caught a glimpse of a couple of dark visages, half a mile off, rising from the bushes, and evidently on the lookout for something in the neighborhood of the camp. They remained as immovable as though cast in bronze, little dreaming that the whites had a "medicine" which brought them in full view. What they were looking at was soon apparent. There was an old miners' ditch running down from the hills to the neighborhood of the camp. This made a capital covered way, and a gang of the Indians had crept down in the hope of picking off a straggler or two, and their friends up in the bush were watching the execution of this plan. One of the whites had strayed off toward the ditch, when three or four simultaneous shots came near finishing him.
"Indians! Indians! Turn out, double quick time!" was the cry, and a party started for the ditch.
"Almost all our men were raw recruits," says the Sergeant, who, being a veteran himself, feels no little contempt for recruits and volunteers; "and when the bullets began to whistle about our head they would dodge. But dodging or no dodging, the Captain cussed us forward, and we ran at full speed for the ditch. But the Indians ran faster than we could, and got off."
"How the ugly, naked red divils run," said a Hibernian soldier to his comrade, as they made their way back to camp.
"An' did ye see that old sinner jump up as high as ever he could, an' make faces at us?"
"Yes, an' I got a pop at him, an' give him something to jump up for."
Night fell, and the only sound was the hollow beating of the surf upon the shore. The sentinels lay crouched under the bushes or in shallow pits dug in the sand. The mist fell coldly, and the Sergeant had given his blanket an extra fold, and was half thinking, half dreaming of a bright fireside and loving faces far away--for peaceful visions will now and then flit before the memory and fancy of the sternest old veteran--when a shot, and another, and another, was heard from the direction of the line of sentries. In a moment one man and then another staggered forward and fell to the ground.
All rushed to arms, expecting an attack; but none came. The fallen men were brought in. The first proved to be the corporal of the guard. He had been making the round of the sentries, one of whom--a raw recruit, as the Sergeant is careful to mention--mistaking him for an Indian, had fired upon him, and given a mortal wound. The other fallen man was one of the sentinels, who had rushed toward the camp as soon as he heard the firing, and had tumbled down in sheer affright.
"So much," comments Sergeant Jones, "for sending recruits fresh from an emigrant ship to fight Indians in the woods. This is the third corporal of the guard whom I have known shot by green sentinels."
The next day, after burying the corporal, the soldiers managed to rig up an old flatboat, and crossed the river to the mud fort where the settlers had taken refuge.
"A queer place it was, and queer people they were in it," says the Sergeant, who was among the first to enter. The children were playing outside, glad of a chance to get out after their month's confinement. There were rough buckskin-clad miners and mule drivers, thick-lipped flabby squaws, delicate-looking American women, and dirty, noisy children, and a general mixture of all the mongrel and nondescript races of the mines, crowded together in the little fort.
Entering the best-looking cabin, he found it full almost to suffocation. The people had evidently got accustomed to close quarters. Some were smoking, some sleeping; one was frying pork over the fire. A pretty young woman in one corner was putting the finishing touches to her toilet. The white women, who had kept the squaws at a respectable distance, in a separate hut, were full of what they had suffered, and eager to tell all the news. There had been a succession of fighting and parleying. At one time a party of fourteen, who had gone out to dig potatoes, fell into an ambuscade, and had lost six of their number. A boat from Port Orford, which had attempted to bring provisions to the fort, had swamped in the surf, and six of the crew were drowned. Among the prisoners who had been taken by the Indians was a Mrs. Geisel and her three daughters--her husband and three sons were killed. They had succeeded in inducing the Indians to give up Mrs. Geisel and her children, though they were loath to part with the eldest, as one of the chiefs wished to keep her as his wife.
Mrs. Geisel was there, a stout buxom woman, with a strong German accent and pronunciation. She and the others--three or four talking at a time--commenced telling what had happened.
"Dey give us blenty to eat, and blenty of hard work to do," said Mrs. G. "Dey kills ever so many cattle--sometimes two, dree in von day."
"Yes, our cattle every one of 'em; and a nice time the rascals had of it, too," chimed in another.
"An' they didn't want to let Mrs. Geisel go," said a third; "an' they wouldn't a-let her darter there off any way, if it hadn't a-been for Charley Brown an' his squaw."
"Charley an' his squaw went right out among 'em; an' the chiefs came up an' shook hands with Charley."
"Yes, an' Charley's squaw had to go out more'n once," broke in another good dame.
"She's a real good squaw, she is," certified a tall raw-boned dame, "a sort of a she-General Jackson in looks"--so the Sergeant describes her--who had seen much of life in the diggings, and hated squaws in general most devoutly. "Yes, she's a real good squaw, if there ever was one; an' Miss Geisel would a-had to stay with the Indians if it hadn't a-been for her."
"They e'en a'most had a fight about it; an' old Josh--he's one of the chiefs--like to got killed 'cause he wanted to let her go, an' the others didn't."
"We had to give 'em ever so much for her--more'n twenty blankets, and lots o' provisions an' clothes."
"Yes, an' a'ter all, they would have that handsome headdress."
"They would have that," said the pretty young woman, who had by this time arranged her attire to her satisfaction. "'Twas a beautiful headdress, with ever so many feathers and ribbons. One of the chiefs took a likin' to it, and wanted to wear it himself."
So the poor women gossiped, as though they had not been for a month shut up, in peril of their lives, in a little mud fort, with hundreds of wild Indians prowling around eager to get a shot at them. There was an aristocracy here as well as elsewhere. The white women were awfully severe upon the five poor squaws who had come to the fort with their mining protectors, who were contemptuously styled "squaw men."
The General Jackson-looking Amazon, who had dropped a word in favor of Charley Brown's squaw, was especially severe upon the poor Indian women; and took an early opportunity to tell the Sergeant that she hoped they "were a-goin' to kill all the squaws and copper-colored young ones." She was hugely disgusted when she was informed that no such measure was in contemplation; and in Lady Macbeth style offered to do the bloody work with her own hands, "if they dasn't."
Before long a little schooner from Port Orford came down, and the Colonel proposed to send all the women and children up by her. The squaws were to be sent to their tribe, who had "come in," and all were to go on a "reservation." Then came a storm. The women wouldn't go in the schooner if the squaws went--the good-for-nothing hussies. The Colonel said the squaws should go at any rate; and if the white women did not choose to go with them, they might stay at the fort.
The "squaw men" were also unwilling to give up their dark favorites, and to suffer them to go back to their tribe. Foremost among these was Charley Brown. "His squaw was a good one--everybody said so; she was, besides, the mother of his child, and before she should go on the reserve, he'd marry her off-hand. If he wouldn't he'd be--" We omit the clincher which honest Charley put to his determination, trusting that the Recording Angel performed for his expletive the same kindly service which he did for Uncle Toby's oath. Charley meant what he said, and did actually marry the woman. We must let the Sergeant describe the wedding:
"The five squaws were brought down to the camp. Three of them were young, and not bad-looking, and had learned to dress in frocks. Two were old and ugly, with blue tattooing around their mouths. One of them--Charley's squaw--had a child in her arms. These seemed sad at the prospect of being sent away; but the younger ones squatted down before the Colonel's tent, chattering and sewing, as though they didn't care whether they stayed or went.
"Charley now made his appearance, accompanied by the guide, who happened also to be a member of the Oregon Legislature, and a justice of the peace. The pair held a short consultation with the Colonel; and then the woman was called forward, and there, on the banks of the Rogue River, by the shore of the great Pacific, with a circle of rough-looking miners standing around, the marriage ceremony was performed. Charley promised to have her, and her only, for his lawful wedded wife, and then translated the words of the ceremony for the benefit of his dusky tattooed bride. She grunted out some rough Indian gutturals in reply, and the knot was tied. There was no kissing the bride, and no wedding feast. Some of the bystanders were inclined to make light of the ceremony; but Charley, growling out an oath or two, dandled his baby, and looked defiance at the mockers and starers. I could not help thinking that his determination to cling to the poor brown woman for better or worse, while the prospect before them was all 'worse' and no 'better,' showed that there was some honest manhood in the rough fellow."
So says Sergeant Jones, and so say we.
After Charley's marriage, another hard-looking fellow stepped forward, looking terribly frightened, and was in like manner wedded to the other old woman. But the men to whom the three younger squaws pertained declared, with more oaths than the occasion demanded, that they "wouldn't marry 'em anyhow."
"Soldiering in Oregon," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, September 1856, page 522. Usually credited to Edward O. C. Ord.
[Enos] commanded in the various little skirmishes that took place in the vicinity of the fort to which the citizens of lower Rogue River retreated, after the morning of the 23rd February, and in negotiating for the exchange of Mrs. Geisel, he acted as their chief.
"Statement of Capt. Floyd-Jones," September 12, 1856, RG 393, Department of the Pacific, Letters Received, 1856
I was at the mines at the mouth of Rogue River last winter when the Indians broke out. I with my wife and five small children barely escaped with our lives, and without a blanket or a change of clothing, and in this condition (with others) were surrounded for thirty-three days by a large body of Indians, we being in a mud fort which we hurriedly constructed. The Indians burned and destroyed our dwelling house and all that we had on earth. I understand that commissioners have been appointed to audit and adjust claims growing out of that war. I merely allude to it to enlist your sympathy and to show you that I have been stripped of all my property, and with a large family am reduced to utter poverty, and most earnestly do crave your influence and assistance to get my Cayuse claim allowed by Congress.
William J. Berry to Joseph Lane, October 30, 1856, Joseph Lane Papers
The murderers of Ben. Wright, late an Indian agent on the coast, had brought with them to the reservation his scalp, over which they held nightly dances. Mr. Metcalfe regarded this as an outrage, and demanded the scalp. Upon their refusal to deliver it up, he took the murderers (two in number) dragged them into his office, in the face of two hundred Indians, and there told them that unless the scalp was delivered in fifteen minutes he would kill them both. One of them was then set at liberty. The Indians continued to gather, and there seemed to be a general determination to kill the agent and the few employees who stood by him. Before the expiration of the allotted time, however, the scalp was delivered and peace restored.
J. Ross Browne, report of November 17, 1857 to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 610 Oregon Superintendency 1857, frame 149.
Newburgh, N.Y.Mr. F. J. Seybolt
Nov. 23rd 1857
Your will please inform me by inquiring at some department; I presume one of the judges of the Court of Claims would be most likely to have the requisite knowledge. However. you will know best where answers to the following questions may be obtained.
First--property owned by me, having been destroyed by Indians, in the Territory of the United States, said Indians at the time having signed a treaty of amity & peace with the United States, whether or not in such case the value of said property would not constitute a legal claim against the general government--provided the destruction of said property did not grow out of any wrong on my part toward said Indian tribes.
And, if the government is holden for the same, what way am I to proceed to recover.
I have been living the last four years in Oregon and in close proximity to the redskins, and have had property destroyed by them. I was making inquiries the other day of your brother-in-law Judge Wilkin, and he thought I had better write you upon the subject, that you would be able to find out through some of the departments.
You will please give me the detail minutely of the modus operandi and much oblige
Your most humble servantNARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 610 Oregon Superintendency 1857, frames 1273-1275.
INDIAN WAR AT THE MOUTH OF ROGUE RIVER.--We learn from a gentleman lately from this coast that about a week or ten days since some thirty Indians attacked three men, in a cabin, where Ben. Wright was killed during the war of 1855-6, and killed one named Taylor, the others making their escape. The settlers are again compelled to leave their houses and property and seek protection in forts. On the coast, all the houses--eight or ten--have been burned, and some of the inhabitants are missing. We hope to be able to give reliable details from there next week.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, May 1, 1858, page 2
INDIANS KILLED ON THE COAST.--We learn from the Crescent City Herald that seventeen of the band of Indians that has been committing murders and depredations about the mouth of Rogue River have been killed, leaving only two bucks. It appears that Indian Agent Tichenor had started to take them to the reserve, but they broke away and refused to go, when an armed party of the citizens of Gold Beach intercepted and killed thirteen of them. A few days later the remaining six bucks of the band came among the Smith River Indians, a few miles from Crescent City, when they were attacked by the friendly Indians and four of the number killed, including the chief.
This, we presume, about ends the Indian difficulties in that quarter. It is well that these Indians have been killed, for they were of a very bad and unreliable character, and have committed a score or so of murders, and many minor depredations, and the people of Gold Beach were only acting in obedience to the law of self-preservation when they killed them.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, July 3, 1858, page 2
Company G left Fort Vancouver on the 4th [of March 1856], and arrived at Fort Orford, Oregon, on the 9th; left there on the 14th, and arrived at the mouth of Rogue River on the 23rd; ascended the river, where the company was the 26th, and returned to the mouth of the river on the 27th.
William Henry Powell, A History of the Organization and Movements of the Fourth Regiment of Infantry, 1871, page 46
THE ROGUE RIVER INDIAN WAR OF 1855–56.The winter of 1855–56, and the spring and summer following, were seasons to be remembered by the settlers of southern Oregon. They had long been familiar with the ordinary hardships and dangers of a frontier life, had schooled themselves to dispense with all of the luxuries and many of the comforts of civilization, and to wrest from the situation such pleasures as are born of activity and hope. But this period brought to their doors the terrors of savage warfare, and merged all minor considerations in a struggle for life against a barbarous foe.
The Indians of the upper Rogue River Valley had been for some months in a state of open hostility, but those of the lower river and of the coast region generally made earnest protestations of friendliness, and begged the protection of the whites against the interior tribe, who, as they alleged, would seek revenge upon them for refusing to join in a campaign for the extermination of the pale-faced intruders. Though fully aware of the treachery of the Indian character, the settlers were encouraged to hope that by a cautious and conciliatory policy they would be able to avert the dreaded calamity that seemed pending, and had already befallen their friends of the interior settlements. Yet they did not neglect such precautions as ordinary prudence would suggest; they organized a company of volunteers, of which John Poland was chosen captain, and Ralph Bledsoe and E. H. Meservey, lieutenants; they carefully husbanded their stock of arms and ammunition, and proceeded to erect a kind of fort on an elevated part of the prairie, immediately north of the mouth of Rogue River, and but for the protection afforded by this rude fortification the outbreak and massacre that followed would probably have sealed the fate of every resident of that region.
The authority and beneficence of the government of the United States, so far as they related to the management of the Indians of that locality, were then vested in an agent named Ben Wright, a man whose natural shrewdness, large experience and consummate knowledge of Indian character well fitted him for that situation. It is said that he kept with him an intelligent squaw of the Rogue River tribe, who acted as his official interpreter, and for whom he drew a salary as such.
He had studied to impress the Indians with the idea that he was possessed of superior powers of self-protection, and that it would be not only useless, but altogether dangerous, for any of them to attempt to kill him--a delusion that the red warriors tragically dispelled.
The 22nd day of February dawned upon the Rogue River settlements and found the hardy pioneers full of that patriotic sentiment which prompts the observance of the anniversary of the birth of the "Father of his Country" by festivity and rejoicing. The day passed in rustic amusements, and in preparations for a night of revelry, and as it drew to a close, the only hotel of the place, kept by Warwick & Coburn, presented a scene of unusual life and gaiety. The miners of the beach had laid aside their implements of labor, donned their holiday costumes, and with wives and sweethearts had met the stock-raisers and their households in a social dance. Though the occasion was not distinguished by the elegance that wealth and refinement gave to more favored assemblages on that same night, it was graced by true womanly worth, and by manhood as honorable and brave as ever courted the smiles of beauty.
Awake to the necessity for "eternal vigilance," which in those times was the only safeguard of life, the men had taken their trusty rifles with them to the dance; and so keen was the sense of impending danger that at the slightest unusual noise outside they seized their weapons, and only laid them aside on being satisfied that the time for action had not arrived. An Indian was there who appeared to observe with more than ordinary interest every movement of those present, and he was no less closely watched in turn. About midnight another Indian came, and the two went away together, making an excuse that a papoose was sick. It was afterward learned that they were spies, and on their finding the settlers fully armed and on the alert, the work of death that was to have begun at midnight was postponed till morning. The party passed off quietly, and toward daylight the guests departed for their homes. Mr. Riley, having urgent business up the river, took his wife and child home, and made an early start in a boat. As he neared the Tututni ranch, a short distance up the river, the report of firearms burst upon his ears, alternating with the yells of exulting savages. They had attacked the camp of the volunteers stationed there, and being in vastly superior numbers achieved an easy victory, and the work of murder and plunder was still in progress. Silently and quickly the prow of Riley's boat was turned downstream, and filled with apprehensions for the safety of his family and friends below he pulled rapidly homeward.
The blow had not yet fallen; there was still hope of escape. The alarm was quietly given and rapidly circulated, and in a short time all those who a few hours before were whirling in the dance were hurrying in terror to seek shelter in the fort. They reached that place of temporary refuge in safety, and at once took steps to place the structure on the best possible footing for defense against assault or siege.
With anxious hearts the occupants of that stronghold saw the smoke of burning dwellings, suggesting the terrible fate of any who had not sought timely refuge. It was evident that by a concerted plan, that morning had been fixed upon for a general massacre of the whites. The camp of volunteers, comprising ten or twelve men, were surprised while at breakfast, and after a gallant but brief struggle against overwhelming numbers, several were dead upon the field, and the survivors, mostly wounded, were fleeing through the surrounding forest in hope of escape. Among the latter was Charles Foster, a mountaineer of iron strength and indomitable energy, who took to the hills, and, keeping well back from the coast, worked his way northward through an unexplored and almost impassable region, and arrived at Port Orford some days afterward in an almost famished condition. He found nothing to eat on his journey except snails, some of which unpalatable diet he still carried in his pocket.
When Warwick and Coburn left their hotel to enter the fort, they were compelled to leave a quantity of pies and other delicacies, the remains of the festival of the previous night. Knowing that the savages would soon be feasting upon these provisions, they removed the crust of some of the pies and inserted strychnine. The Indians came and eagerly devoured the skookum muck-a-muck ["powerful food"], but the quantity of poison taken into their stomachs was so great that it caused immediate vomiting, and no fatal result followed.
On the prairie, some seven or eight miles north of Rogue River, a German named Geisel had located his land claim, and with his family had established a home, where, in the natural order of events, a few years would have found them in the enjoyment of that competence which is the sure reward of honest and well-directed industry. The family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Geisel, three bright boys, aged respectively nine, seven and five years, Mary, a comely girl of thirteen, and an infant daughter.
An Indian had been helping Mr. Geisel for a short time, and that evening, February 22nd, he went out, as was supposed, to hunt some stray hogs. He did not return at evening; but this circumstance caused the family no uneasiness, and they retired as usual. Shortly after midnight a rap was heard at the door. A call at this unseasonable hour, at a time when reports from only across the line of [the] Coast Mountains were rife with Indian murders, was calculated to arouse apprehension in the coolest breast, and the summons was answered with caution. The voice of the Indian who had been working there was recognized, and, as the door was partly opened, three stalwart Indians entered unbidden. The hearts of the anxious parents sunk as they looked upon their sleeping treasures, and then upon the dusky intruders, whose very presence was a well-defined shadow of evil; but before their fears could assume definite form, or suggest a hope of escape, the Indians, armed with knives, made a murderous assault upon Mr. Geisel. The brave wife flew to the assistance of her husband and received a severe cut. It was an unequal conflict, and Mr. Geisel fell an easy victim to his assailants. The mother and daughters were taken out of the house and tied; the boys were one after another killed by the incarnate fiends, and when the work of slaughter was complete the house was set on fire. Who shall tell that mother's anguish, as with reluctant step she moved away under the escort of her captors? One hour before she was a wife, the conscious center and idol of a happy household; now, a widow and a captive, lighted by the flames of her dwelling, as they consumed the scarcely lifeless bodies of those dearer to her than life. She could then have welcomed the fate of her husband, for the horror of the situation filled her with despair, and the future pointed only to a captivity worse than death.
It was supposed by the settlers who sought refuge in the fort that morning that all the Geisel family were killed, but a short time afterward they learned from a squaw that the female part of the family were still alive and were held as prisoners at the Tututni ranch. On learning this, a squaw who was a prisoner in the fort was sent out to propose an exchange. She faithfully performed the duty, and a day or two afterward the Indians came in sight in large numbers, bearing a flag of truce, and Charles Brown, now of Crescent City, was sent out to negotiate the exchange. The Indians agreed that if the whites would surrender the squaws that they held, and give them a certain number of blankets and a certain number of coins, they would return Mrs. Geisel and her daughters. The price was soon made up by subscription, and the next day the mother and babe were sent to the fort, and on the day following Mary, the girl, was also surrendered.
The remains of the murdered Geisels were afterward collected and buried where the house had stood, and a marble monument with appropriate inscription marks the place of their rest. The infant daughter, the unconscious witness of the awful tragedy, is now a comely woman, and the mother and elder daughter are esteemed members of society; but the horrors of that dreadful night are graven in their memory, not to be effaced till they shall be called to reunite with the lost ones "on the other side."
Having completed the work of destruction and death upon all that pertained to the white settlement outside the fort, the Indians laid siege to that stronghold, knowing that unless help came from abroad, starvation would soon compel the whites to surrender, or expose themselves to attack outside. The site of the fort had been wisely selected, so that no object could approach it from any quarter without coming in sight and range of the marksmen within.
One morning, in the early part of the siege, the Indians were seen assembling in large numbers on a small hill just out of rifle range. The leader, mounted on a white horse, rode back and forth, making gestures and talking apparently with great earnestness; and all their movements seemed to indicate a determination to storm the fortress without further delay. This state of affairs lasted all day, while the noble women in the fort were busy molding bullets, and the men, rifle in hand, impatiently waited for the expected attack. Toward evening the savages moved in a body down the hill toward the fort, but stopped before reaching a point within range. A young warrior, recognized by the settlers as "Tututni Jack," a son of the chief, becoming impatient of the delay, rode out from the crowd and dashed past the fort at a gallop; leaning on the opposite side of his horse, he discharged his rifle, knocking splinters from the roof of the fort. Another advanced to set fire to a small building which the settlers had begun to move to the fort, but which was still a few hundred yards away. A volley from the fort reminded him that he had ventured too near, and he hurried away to a point where he supposed he was safe, when he again halted and made gestures expressive of defiance and contempt. One J. E. McClure made him a target, and at the crack of the rifle the daring savage fell dead.
At a very early hour one morning the sentinels were driven in under a shower of bullets. The alarm, of course, caused all the men to rush from their sleeping apartment to the post of duty and danger. There was an old lady in the fort named Irwin; full of the fire of youth, in spite of her age, she sprang from her bed upon the first alarm, and rushed, en deshabille, with the foremost of the men, for the narrow passage that led to the outer enclosure. Being less active than the others, she stumbled and fell in the gangway. It was a moment when etiquette as well as toilet was at a ruinous discount, and the crowd of excited and half-naked men hurried over her prostrate form. Notwithstanding this embarrassing accident, she rallied and showed a disposition to remain at the front, which the gallantry of the men, of course, would not permit.
The Indians were accustomed to go to the beach at the mouth of the river to catch the small eels that were to be found there in great numbers. At an early hour one morning, Isaac Warwick, as daring a fellow as ever lived, stole out of the fort and cautiously crept within range of the Indian resort on the beach, where he succeeded in bringing down a prowling savage. He hastened back to the fort, and, finding his friend Riley still in bed, he raised the blankets and threw upon him the reeking scalp of his victim, with the remark: "See what I have been about while you were asleep." This on the part of a man of naturally humane instincts and tender sensibilities illustrates how much "a long communion tends to make us what we are."
Absolute uncertainty as to the duration of their imprisonment suggested the necessity of adding to their meager stock of provisions as opportunity offered. About half a mile distant was the barn of one James Hunt, in which was stored a quantity of potatoes, and it was decided to send a strong party to bring the vegetables within the fort. Accordingly, sixteen men were detailed for the expedition, and a negro called Ned drove the ox team that was to furnish transportation. They drove on the beach as far as possible, and stopped with the wagon at a point not far from the barn, and the party was divided. Eight were sent forward to sack and bring out the potatoes, while an equal number remained to guard the team and wagon. An unusual absence of Indians was noticed in the distant surroundings; but with a keen sense of the peril of the situation the party stationed a sentry--Henry Boland--at an elevated point near by. All was going well, when suddenly, as by a bolt from the heavens, the stillness was broken, and the faithful sentry fell, riddled with bullets. Indians rose from ambush on every hand, and the doom of the entire party appeared to be sealed. The only hope was in instant flight. Some ran for the fort by a route different from that by which they came, and eight succeeded in reaching it. The rest were cut off. Several ran toward the beach, falling by the deadly bullets of the savages as they ran, and one, supposed to be Lewellen Oliver, ran to the surf, threw his trusty rifle ahead of him, and, plunging into the ocean, quenched the spark of life in its waters rather than fall a prey to his merciless pursuers. M. B. Gregory, since a respected citizen of Curry County, was the only man that escaped of the eight who remained with the wagon. He was struck and slightly hurt by two bullets.
At Port Orford (a considerable settlement about thirty miles north), there was much anxiety for the safety of the Rogue River people. News of the massacre had been received, but no intelligence as to the names or number of the survivors had reached them. It was proposed to send a boat by sea to Rogue River, and, if possible, thus to open communication with the beleaguered settlers. A boat was equipped, and eight brave men volunteered to undertake the perilous voyage. The party consisted of Richard Say, Sylvester Long, H. DeFremery, H. C. Gerow, Captain Davis, and three others whose names the writer has forgotten. They left Port Orford with the blessings of anxious friends, and many ardently expressed hopes for their safe return. The passage was without incident. The arrival of the frail vessel off the mouth of the river brought to the occupants of the fort a ray of hope--a hope too soon to be lost in deeper gloom. The point for landing is selected, and the prow of the boat is turned toward the shore; the sturdy oarsmen bend to their work with a will, and the little craft darts forward like a thing of life. Suddenly, the steering oar is unshipped by a wave, the boat swings round into a trough of the sea, and the next breaker that comes combing over buries them for a moment from sight, and when it has passed, eight noble men are seen struggling in the drowning water. Earnestly, but hopelessly, they combat the waves, and one by one they disappear, till only two remain on the surface. Captain Davis was an old sailor; he clung to the keel of the capsized boat with the energy of despair, and, though repeatedly knocked loose by the breakers, by dint of superior endurance was able to regain his hold, and thus drifted near the shore where he was rescued. DeFremery clung to the sail for a while, and after becoming chilled and exhausted, was so wrapped in the canvas that he was prevented from sinking, and was in that condition carried ashore by the waves, where he was picked up by friends, more dead than alive. He recovered and now lives in San Francisco, but six of his companions on that perilous voyage are numbered among the dead of the Rogue River War.
For thirty-one weary days the settlers of Rogue River were thus imprisoned in their comfortless fortress, each day bringing its menace of death, only averted by unremitting vigilance. They hoped for deliverance, but when it would come was beyond rational conjecture. It was almost impossible for those active, daring men to submit to such a life of idleness and restraint, and many a reckless venture was made to find relief from monotony even at the risk of life. But there came a day when the welcome sight of an advancing column of soldiers greeted their vision, and a detachment of two companies of "regulars" halted nearby. The Indians moved up the river to what they regarded as a stronghold. There, after an unimportant engagement, they agreed to lay down their arms. The terms of capitulation were arranged, and the majority of the Indians were soon removed to the Siletz Reservation, about one hundred and fifty miles up the coast. But a considerable number of stragglers remained, including several of those who had been foremost in the treacherous murders of the late outbreak. One of these was seen, and instantly recognized by Mrs. Geisel as belonging to the party that murdered her husband and sons. He was seized by the citizens and taken to a point near the scene of his terrible crime, and there summarily hung to the limb of a tree. Capt. Wm. Tichenor was authorized to gather together these straggling savages, and take them to the reservation. He entered upon the difficult task, and succeeded in collecting some fifteen or twenty men, and a larger number of squaws and papooses, and with these he started north from Rogue River. They had gone but a few miles when the Indians showed signs of insubordination, and, at a point where the road passes near the ruins of the home of the unfortunate Geisels, a halt was ordered, and a number of citizens were summoned to help in keeping the refractory prisoners under control. Other settlers flocked to the place, and, roused to frenzy by the near presence of those whose hands had been so recently dyed with the blood of their kindred and neighbors, they fell upon the savages, and a bloody massacre followed. The squaws and children, in a melancholy train, moved on toward the reservation; but the soil of the prairie drank the blood of the warriors. [This massacre--see letters of June 16 and 17, 1858--was whitewashed in pioneer histories and the official record.]
The conflict of which the incidents here narrated constituted a part was the death struggle of the Rogue River Indians. The present survivors of the tribe are few and widely scattered, and the rugged country where they once held undisputed sway is dotted with prosperous homes of the race that has exterminated them.
G. Webster.Overland Monthly, September 1884, pages 235-240
AN ARGONAUT'S YARN.
A gentleman of this city who spent several years in the Far West as long ago as the '60s, and who has been in many a hair's-breadth escape, related recently an interesting incident of his life in Southern Oregon.
"My partner and I," said he, "were placer mining on the coast. The gold was mixed in with the sand on the beach, and was very hard to work, but we found enough of it to warrant us in going ahead, and so we went to work in earnest. We hired four men to work for us, and paid them each $5 a day and board. I did the cooking and still found time to put in six or seven hours a day at mining. But it was all work and no play with us; placer mining is no child's play.
"The first thing to be done was to make sluices for carrying the water with which we were to work the gravel. We had to carry the lumber for those on our backs a distance of a mile and a half, and before we got through with the job my shoulders were perfectly raw. I could hardly sleep at night on account of them, and we begin to think that it was no picnic, gold mining. When we had enough lumber we made four sluices. These sluices are about twelve feet long, eighteen inches wide and ten inches deep, and slope downward at a gentle angle. The four sluices were joined together, quicksilver placed in the bottom, and a strip of canvas spread at the end to catch the tailings. Then we would shovel in the gravel from the beach and turn in the water. The dross would be carried off by the water, and the quicksilver would collect the gold at the bottom. There was a black sand mixed with the gold which was as heavy as the precious metal itself, and gave us some trouble, but we persevered.
"Well, at our first cleanup, when we collected the gold from the sluices we found that we had made $16 a day for each man of us. This made us feel real good. We got $22 an ounce for our dust when in other localities miners were getting only $17, because our gold was so pure. In fact, I never saw prettier gold. We continued washing gravel for some time, and were making money hand over first. At night the tide would rise or waves would roll in, and we would find the excavations we had made the day before filled up again, so that we could go right on digging over and over in the same place.
"Finally we got it into our heads that our water supply was too small, that we were not making money fast enough, and so we decided to send to 'Frisco for an engine and pumping apparatus. We had the money, and we sent for the engine. It came. We had a hard time getting it where we wanted it, carrying more lumber on our backs and arranging everything to suit us. But at last, one night, we left it all ready for beginning work the next morning. We went to sleep thinking how we would make the gold fly from then on and spending our fortunes we were to make.
"Morning came, and we went down to the shore. Well, sir, there wasn't a d--n thing to be seen of our engine or sluices! Not a board, not a scrap of iron--nothing! A high tide had risen in the night and swept everything away. The oldest Indian in that part of the country said he had never seen or heard of such a tide before. We hadn't even cleaned up the gold dust from the sluices, and as we had invested all our money in the engine and pumping apparatus, we were in a nice fix. We not only lost everything, but even had to go to another place and work out by the day what we owed our men. It was pretty tough.
"After I got through working out my debt, I joined a party of prospectors going into the Rogue River country. There were twenty-eight of us all told, and we were fitted out in good shape, with fine horses, blankets, arms, etc.
"We got into a region where there were a number of ranches, and camped one night on the bank of the Rogue River. I heard there was to be a dance at once of the ranches and wanted to go. When I was young I'd sooner dance than eat, anytime. Seven of us, six besides myself, made up our minds to take it in, and leaving our rifles in camp, so as not to be encumbered with anything but our sidearms, we hopped on our horses and went to the dance. There was no tearing me away from the dance until the last dog was hung, and of course we stayed all night. In the morning we rode back to join our comrades. Everything seemed as usual until we came in sight of the spot where we had left the boys, when a horrible sight greeted us.
"They were all dead. They were shot and mutilated in every conceivable way, and the horses were stolen. We saw at once that it was the work of Indians. We hastily warned the few scattered ranchers, and after banding together we built a sod fort. Fortunately the reds left us unmolested for three days, and we had time to get pretty well fortified. Besides we were old hands at the business and understood how to fight Indians by experience. I said our boys were all killed but the seven of us who went to the dance, but after we built the sod fort two more came in who had escaped. They told us how the massacre took place.
"They had slept peacefully all night, and had got up early for breakfast, not dreaming of any danger, when just as they were seated and eating, down came a band of Indians upon them, firing into them from all sides and taking them completely by surprise. Our boys were knocked over like ninepins, for there were nearly 600 Indians. One of the men who escaped was sitting on the bank of the river with a tin cup of coffee raised to his lips when the Indians fired. A bullet struck his tin cup, glanced and chipped a piece out of the bridge of his nose, and he keeled over, backward, into the river, which he swam and escaped into the brush. You can see what little things sometimes save men's lives. If I had not gone to that dance, doubtless I should have been killed, and if that fellow had not been drinking coffee, the bullet would have gone through his skull. One other man got off with a few slight wounds by jumping into the river, leaving nineteen of our boys dead.
"The Indians soon surrounded our sod fort, and we peppered away at each other for a long time without doing much damage. They would ride up to a point just out of reach of our rifles and dare us to come out, while we would shake our fists at them and curse them in their own tongue. One day, I remember, three chiefs came out in sight and began to jeer at us. One of our men had a globe-sight rifle that would shoot 1,000 yards and he said:
"'Keep talking to them, boys, until I get loaded, and I'll see if I can't settle one of them.'
"When he was ready he took careful aim and fired. One of them tumbled over. The other two were dumbfounded and retired farther back. Our man loaded up again and popped another one when the third took to his heels and got out of sight.
"Troops came to our aid in time, and the Indians retreated. We organized a band of thirty-five frontiersmen, and I can tell you that we were never very far from those Indians. We captured papooses and squaws, and of course the troops helped us, but we kept pegging away, until--well, anyway, I never heard of but fifteen of those 600 Indians getting back on their reservation alive.--Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 16, 1888, page 1
AN OREGON HEROINE.
She Gets a Pension in Her Old Age.
Washington, Feb. 19.--The committee on pensions the other day listened to a speech by Representative Hermann which sounded more like a romance than serious history. It was in behalf of the pension of Christina Edson--formerly Geisel. She was truly the heroine of the early Oregon Indian wars. The representative described to the committee how, on the dreadful night of February 22, 1856, the Geisel family were massacred on the Pacific coast, near the mouth of Rogue River, in Oregon; how the Indians, led by one who had been employed by the family, entered the well-to-do household and struck to death the husband, then, taking captive the mother and her 14-days-old infant and little daughter 9 years of age, they proceeded to butcher the three little boys who were sleeping in an adjoining room and how, when each little fellow was led to the slaughter piteously begging for life, the agonized mother was compelled to witness the awful deed, and then when all was done and the house plundered of its contents, the further sentence was imposed upon her, that of beholding the mansion put to the torch and with the lifeless bodies of husband and children reduced to ashes and cinders. Then the midnight march of the captives to the Indian village of the Tututni Indians was described, and how as one dwelling after another was reached the inmates were massacred and their homes put to the flames. The captivity, the sufferings endured, and the ransom which followed were told, and how by the precious information obtained from the ransomed women as to the plans and preparations of the tribes to march on Port Orford and surprise the inhabitants there, timely warning was conveyed to them and that town on the coast was saved from destruction, and how, by the same information, the volunteers who were forted up at the mouth of Rogue River learned of the only safe approach to the hostile fortification [Skookum House] and by following it effected an entrance which resulted in the complete vanquishment of the Indians there and the conclusion of hostilities in that portion of Oregon. The representative read from affidavits of the present county judge of Curry County, who was a survivor of the terrible conflicts there, also from the statement of the lieutenant who commanded the volunteers when they were first attacked and repulsed with considerable loss of life. It was shown that this Oregon lady was now in old age and in reduced circumstances and without any home of her own, and it was contended that the services she rendered, if not the sufferings she bore, should commend her to the nation as one most worthy to receive a grateful pension recognition in these her declining days.
It is sufficient to say that the committee unanimously recommended the passage of the Hermann bill giving this pioneer woman of Oregon $25 per month for the balance of her life.
Daily Morning Astorian, February 21, 1890, page 1
MORE THRILLING THAN FICTION.
An Indian Story from Real Life Told in a Committee Report.
Hidden away in the numerous committee rooms in the great Capitol building are tons of documents of all descriptions representing the hopes and fears of thousands of claimants for even-handed justice or public bounty. Many of the claims are meritorious, but they slumber just as soundly as the least excusable or most dishonest demand ever made on the public purse. One of the most interesting of these petitions has just been reported from the House committee on pensions with a recommendation that the bill covering the case become a law. As a rule congressional committees are not given to sentiment, but this especial subdivision says that no case has been considered by it which appeals more strongly to the sense of justice than this one. The story as told by Representative DeLano in the report is a most thrilling one.
Christina Geisel, now Christina Edson, emigrated in the early years from the Atlantic states to the shores of the Pacific, and with her husband, John Geisel, and their little family they settled upon the shores of the Pacific Ocean, near the mouth of the Rogue River, in Oregon. Their house was upon the then traveled trail leading from the coast of California into Oregon. They were comfortably fixed when they settled there at that time. John Geisel mined the fine gold dust on the ocean beach, and this, together with his stock upon the prairies and what was received by his family from the passing travelers for lodgings, constituted their means of livelihood. A friendly Indian was employed about the premises in occasional services. The village of the Indian tribe of the "Tututnis" was 8 miles distant up the Rogue River. Very little apprehension existed among the settlers as to any hostile intent on the part of the Indians.
Ben Wright, the Indian agent in the vicinity and known in the Pacific states as a daring Indian fighter, gave positive assurances that no danger existed.
SURPRISED IN THEIR HOME.On the night of February 22, 1856, the settlers for some miles around attended a ball at Rogue River in observance of Washington's birthday. The Indians, expecting to find the country comparatively defenseless, owing to the assemblage at the ball, concluded upon a general massacre of the whites who remained at home. Owing to the illness of one of the children none of the Geisel family attended the ball.
About midnight Mr. Geisel was awakened by a rap upon the door and by hearing their Indian servant saying that he desired to obtain something to eat. Upon this the door was opened, and immediately several stalwart Indians rushed in and commenced their attack, with long drawn knives and tomahawks, upon Mr. Geisel.
Mrs. Geisel, leaving her three-week-old infant in bed and though quite feeble, rushed to her husband's rescue. In the conflict she received a severe wound. Her husband was soon overcome and fell dead in her presence. She was securely bound and, with her infant and a seven-year-old daughter, was forced without. There she witnessed her three boys taken from their little beds in an adjoining room and while piteously begging for life they were, one by one, slaughtered in her presence.
After rifling the house of all such articles as they desired they applied the torch to it, and compelled their captives to witness its destruction, with the burning of the bodies of the slain. Mr. Geisel, barefooted and clad in her thin gown and with her two children, was then marched to the camp of the Tututnis, and while en route witnessed the burning of many houses and the massacre of her neighbors. Great indignities were inflicted upon the captives by the Indians in the village of the hostiles. They were kept prisoners under strict watch for two weeks, when they were exchanged or ransomed by the white people who were forted at the mouth of the Rogue River.
HOW PORT ORFORD WAS SAVED.During her captivity Mrs. Geisel took careful notes and sketches of what she observed. She discovered that several allied tribes were constructing very strong fortifications, from which they proposed making raids upon all the surrounding country in California and Oregon and thus complete the destruction already begun. Mrs. Geisel discovered a concealed approach through the mountain gorges into this fortification and village by which, if it could be assailed in that direction by sufficient force, defense would be without avail. She also learned from conversations among the Indians in their own language, which she interpreted, that great preparations were in progress for a raid on the people of the town of Port Orford, 30 miles distant, where they expressed great confidence of exterminating the men and children and making captives of the women. The time was fixed for their departure and surprise. This information she disclosed to the settlers in the fort immediately upon her ransom and they sent forward to Port Orford a swift-traveling messenger to inform the people of their approaching danger. Port Orford was at once placed in a condition of defense, and when the Indians appeared before it they were repulsed and returned to their camp on Rogue River.
TURNING THE TABLES.Soldiers and volunteers were soon on the ground, and availing themselves of the information communicated by Mrs. Geisel they made a sudden assault upon the Indian fortifications by way of the approaches discovered by the captive woman and after a closely contested battle they completely routed and killed many of the Indian warriors. This defeat so dispirited them that they never rallied again and were afterward the most peaceable Indians on the Pacific coast. The Rogue River war, which extended over a large portion of southern Oregon, was substantially ended at this place. It is a part of the written history of the Pacific coast states and territories. "The testimony of the present judge of the county, who escaped the massacre, and who was in the fort at the time and one of those who assisted in the ransom of the captives, and also the testimony of the commander of the volunteers who dislodged the Indians from their stronghold, as well as the sworn narratives of Mrs. Geisel herself, is all before us."
Evening Star, Washington, D.C., February 27, 1890, page 7
When the alarm was given at Gold Beach, some of the officers of Captain Poland's company were still there, and Relf Bledsoe, first lieutenant, was at once chosen to command. He concentrated the men, women, and children to the number of one hundred and thirty at the unfinished fortification known as "Miners' Fort," which they hastened to complete and to stock with the provisions at hand, and otherwise to prepare to stand a siege--for siege it was likely to be, with no force in that part of the country, either regular or volunteer, sufficiently strong to deliver them.
Charles Foster by using great caution reached Port Orford, carrying the news of the outbreak. But Major Reynolds, in command of the post, dared not divide his handful of men, nor would the citizens of Port Orford, only about fifty in number at this time, consent to the withdrawal of this force. They, however, dispatched a whaleboat down the coast to open communication with the fort, which act of kindness only brought with it further disaster, for the boat was overturned in the surf and the six citizens in it drowned, their bodies being cut to pieces by the savages who were watching their efforts to land, and who would have butchered them had they lived to reach the shore. The men who so generously sacrificed themselves for the consolation of their fellows in misfortune were H. C. Gerow, a merchant of Port Orford, and formerly of New York state; John O'Brien, a miner; Sylvester Long, a farmer; William Thompson and Richard Gay, boatmen, and Felix McCue.
The boat not returning, Captain William Tichenor, the founder of Port Orford, sent his schooner Nelly to bring off the people of Whaleshead, but was prevented by adverse winds from approaching the shore. Again, the schooner Gold Beach, at a later date, left Crescent City with a volunteer company, designing to attack the Indians, but they, too, were prevented from landing, and the inmates of the fort could only, with sinking hearts, witness these repeated failures.
Arms were scarce at the fort, the Indians having captured those of the volunteers, but they kept a careful guard, and after a single attack on the twenty-fifth, the Indians seldom approached within rifle shot, although the rolling sand hills in the vicinity favored by sheltering them from observation. Under cover of darkness, milk for the children was sometimes obtained from the cows feeding near the fort. Once an attempt was made to gather potatoes from a field in daylight, but soon the men employed discovered the wary foe creeping upon them under the shelter of the sand dunes, and were forced to retreat in haste to the fort, one man being killed and four wounded before they reached cover. Whenever after this an Indian's head was discovered peering over the edge of a ridge it was shot at, and the marksmen took true aim.
Ten, twenty, thirty days passed, during which the silence of death brooded over the country. Port Orford was the only place in Oregon to which the news of the massacre had been carried, and to send it to the governor at the capital, or to San Francisco to the military authorities, took time, when steamers made only monthly or bimonthly trips along the coast. The Indians, always well informed of the movements of the volunteers, had seized upon that period when the disbandment of companies and the slow recruiting of them rendered the state soldiery practically useless, so that even after the news of the tragedy had filtered through the Indians' lines and reached the volunteer camps, it found them unprepared to act.
Thus time wore on while the Indians waited for famine and despair to place a hundred victims in their bloody hands.
On the thirty-first day, ah! what sound breaks the painful silence of this tragic solitude? Fife and drum, and the tramp of many feet! To the straining eyes of the imprisoned inmates of the fort was revealed the ravishing sight of two companies of the United States troops marching up from Fort Humboldt to their relief. Instantly the Indians fled to the hills, and the people rushed out into the free air with shouts of gladness.
Frances Fuller Victor, The Early Indian Wars of Oregon, 1894, pages 380-382
Anticipating the outbreak as the natural outgrowth of the war that had been raging for some time with the upper Rogue River Indians, the citizens had already erected a good log fort on the north side of the river about a mile and a half from its mouth. The site was admirably selected, on a level prairie upland and in gunshot of the ocean. Around the fort was a deep, wide ditch which was always full of water and over which was a drawbridge; the fort was therefore literally impregnable against an assault of savages. And now that hostilities had begun, and any moment the Indians might pour down upon the little towns in overwhelming numbers, there was a rush for boats with which to cross from the Ellensburg side, and men with families, and even without, felt thankful for the security of the little fort with only such of their effects as could be carried in their arms, and that too in a "Go as you please race."
Fortunately, the Indians had been slow about attacking the whites at the mouth of the river which was, no doubt, occasioned by their disappointment in not having killed all the volunteers. The delay was of incalculable importance to the citizens, as it enabled them to convey plenty of provisions and clothing to the fort and to cache a great deal more. But the doomed villages, abandoned cabins and forsaken homes were burned by the Indians that evening, so that the next morning there was not a house left in all the country. And while no other section of the United States has experienced such an utter destruction of property, yet this little band of pioneers, who looked out from the fort that memorable evening upon the clouds of smoke and tongues of flame that rose from their burning homes, have never received a dollar on their spoliation claims.
Of the volunteers who escaped, most of them reached the fort on the day of the attack. Charley Foster fled up the coast to Port Orford and very reasonably supposed himself to be the only one "left to tell the tale," while Lieut. Meservey, "Bill" Shully, and Joe Vincenne got into the thick brush west of Flemming's Slough. So certain were they that everybody else had been killed, they remained there until they were in a fair way to perish from starvation. Urged by desperation, one of them at last resolved to reconnoiter the high grounds just north of the river. He discovered the fort, over which the Stars and Stripes were proudly and defiantly floating. Overjoyed at the sight, he hastened back to his comrades and urged them to start with him to the fort. One refused to go, arguing that the fort was in the hands of the Indians who were cunning enough to use the flag as a decoy. The other, however, declared that if the American flag was flying over the fort he should go to that flag, for he could not die at a better place than under it. Two of them, therefore, started, reluctantly leaving their comrade. When in sight of the fort they were discovered by the inmates thereof to be white men, and a party set out at once to meet them. Dr. Holton was mounted and rode on ahead of the party. In riding rapidly up the ridge his hat was blown off and away, and having long hair, which was streaming in the wind and over his swarthy face, he was taken for an Indian by the two volunteers, who took to their heels as fast as their famished but desperate legs would carry them. But the brave doctor took in the situation, put spurs to his horse and actually had to capture them before he could convince them that he was a white man intent upon their preservation rather than their destruction. To run such a desperate race against oneself, and both lose and win, is an anomaly in the life of man seldom experienced. Guided by one of the volunteers, a party soon rescued the one that had been left.
A few days after the whites had forted up, the Indians appeared in great numbers on the hills about a mile to the eastward, evidently intent upon its capture. Enos, a Canadian half-breed, who came to this coast with the Fremont party, and who was afterwards hanged on Battle Rock at Port Orford, was the actual leader of the Indians, and could be readily distinguished from the fort by the aid of spyglasses, as he rode a white horse up and down the lines of the Indians, violently haranguing them. At last he seemed to have worked them up to the storming pitch, for with wild yells and whoops they rushed down the hillsides toward the devoted fort, where all was ready to make as brave and successful a defense as possible, and where as gallant and intelligent a band of men as ever led the vanguard of civilization sternly resolved to die to the last man in defense of those heroic wives and mothers of America's last race of pioneers. It was very gladly noticed, however, that the nearer the fort the Indians approached the slower became their pace, until they at last stopped and fired at long range, whooped and danced, and vented their cowardly rage at a safe distance. The little fort looked too formidable when distance had disenchanted them, and they finally withdrew, never again to appear in force before the place.
The fort made a wonderful impression upon their untutored minds for, they thought, if the whites could build a fort they could not take, why [did] not they build one the whites could not take? Accordingly they constructed one, fifteen miles up the river on the south bank, and called it "Skookum House."
Some of the more daring men grew tired of the monotony of fort life [and] went out one night and stationed themselves in the brush, in easy gunshot of the mouth of the river, and picked off several Indians who were found fishing there when daylight dawned. But a few days after the Indians were more than revenged, and that too from the same ambush.
Fifteen men went down to the river to get a lot of potatoes that had been cached about a half mile above the mouth. Upon reaching the river, they posted a sentinel on the highest ground a few rods west of where the ferry house now stands; five more were left to guard the cart, while the others started down the steep bank for the potatoes. All this time there was a lot of well-armed Indians lying in ambush within a hundred yards of them, watching their maneuvers, and waiting a favorable time to begin the carnival of death. As soon as the main party were two or three hundred yards away, they fired upon the sentinel, who was instantly slain, while the guard, perhaps cut off from joining the main party by the Indians rushing out, ran down toward the mouth of the river, and tried to reach the fort by the way of the beach. The main party, seeing the resistless attack, ran up the steep, open hillside northward, where they were soon seen from the fort, and a party of twenty-five men were sent to the rescue. Fortunately for the main party, there were two unerring marksmen in it, whose courage equaled their skill, and who picked off every Indian who dared pursue. In this party two were slightly wounded, James Hunt and the late Hon. M. B. Gregory. The relief, upon ascertaining the nature of the startling events, and reinforced, by seven of those who had escaped, rushed down to the scene of the first attack.
But all was still; not an Indian in sight; but along the beach were the dead and mutilated bodies of the guard, all save one, who, as the Indians afterwards said, ran, dying with with wounds, into the ocean; sooner than fall into the hands of the more pitiless and merciless savages. Those killed in this unfortunate affair were, L. Oliver, John Bullem, Adolph Schmoldt, Dan Richardson, "Negro Ned," and one whose name the writer has not obtained.
One of the saddest events of the fort life was the capsizing of a boat, manned by six men, which came down from Port Orford with supplies and ammunition. They did not dare run into the mouth of the river on account of the Indians being in possession of the south side, but attempted to run the breakers and beach their boat opposite the fort. They had almost succeeded when their boat capsized, and four of the brave fellows, after a gallant struggle to cling to the boat, were swept off, one by one, and sank to rise no more. The more fortunate were at last rescued, and resuscitated.
Regulars soon arrived from Crescent City and Port Orford and who, aided by the volunteers, drove the Indians from the mouth of the river. The women and children were sent by schooner to Port Orford for safety, while the little fort that had protected them so well was forever abandoned.
Orvil Dodge, Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, 1898, pages 75-
There are but four survivors of those who took refuge at the fort at the mouth of Rogue River at and during the Indian war of 1855-6 now living at that place. Their names are Elisha Meservey, Judge M. Riley, Mrs. Christina Edson, who was the wife of the murdered John Geisel, and Mrs. Blake.
It is a sad and shameful sequel for the historian to record that Charley Brown is now an inmate of a poorhouse, while many of those who were saved from a horrible death by his bravery have prospered and are amply able to provide a comfortable home for the old man, who is now in need of assistance.
Orvil Dodge, Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, 1898, page 347
[Judge Michael Riley] came to the mouth of Rogue River in the fall of '54. Securing a good claim here, he mined with good results until the fall of '55, when he went to San Francisco to meet his wife who, with their little daughter five years of age, made the trip from Geneva, Ill. via. the Isthmus [to] San Francisco. In returning with his family in January, 1856 he found that an Indian outbreak was feared. The Indians were then fighting in Rogue River Valley, and it was feared that the savages all along the coast would take up arms against the whites.
During Mr. Riley's absence in San Francisco, the citizens at the mouth of Rogue River, at the instigation of Capt. Tichenor, who came down from Port Orford, had erected two forts or stockades on the south bank of Rogue River, near where the town of Gold Beach now stands. Just back of Gold Beach is a steep thickly wooded bluff. Within easy rifle shot of this bluff and between it and the river the two stockades were built.
On arriving home from San Francisco in January, Mr. Riley did not like the location of the two forts built during his absence, and at once set about to secure help to erect a fort on the north side of the river. The north bank of the river consists of high rolling hills with but little underbrush and no heavy timber. Mr. Riley could find but one man who viewed the situation as he did, and that man was Dr. D. S. Holton, at present a resident of Grants Pass, Ore. Mr. Riley and Dr. Holton crossed the river and interviewed the miners on the north side of the river, and they heartily agreed with them and at once set to work to aid in the construction of a fort on that side of the river. A site was chosen on a plain about three quarters of a mile from the river and one quarter of a mile from the ocean beach. With the assistance of Dennis Train, who recently died in Del Norte County, Cal., who with his oxen hauled logs from the beach, two large log houses were built in a short time.
On the night of February 22, 1856, nearly all of the miners, with their families, attended a dance in the town of Gold Beach. They carried their guns with them and kept them near at hand during the night. Some of the miners on the way to the dance were met by an old squaw who, weeping bitterly, told them that the Indians were going to break out that night and that they would all be killed. As this squaw had warned them several times before, and as Ben Wright, the Indian agent, repeatedly assured them that no trouble need be expected from the Indians, they paid but little heed to the wailing of the squaw.
Four miles up the river, at what is now know as Bagnell's Ferry, was a large Indian village. These Indians belonged to a separate tribe from those already fighting in Rogue River Valley, and professed friendship to the whites and asked that the whites assist them in protecting themselves from the hostile Indians in the valley. Consequently a small company of volunteers was organized among the miners at the mouth of the river and stationed in the Indian village. Early on the morning of the 23rd and before the break of day, Michael Riley took his wife and little daughter from the dance a mile and a half along the bluff to the rude log house that served as their home, and leaving them returned to town and, in company with two men, started up the river in a small skiff to serve a subpoena on a man living near the Indian village where the volunteers were stationed. Riley was then serving as constable of Coos County. After proceeding up the river a couple of miles, rifle shots and the yells of the Indians could be distinctly heard. Riley at once concluded that the Indians had attacked the volunteers and that a general outbreak along the coast would soon follow. He at once decided to hasten back to town and warn the slumbering and unsuspecting miners and be assured that his wife and child were safe. His companions did not share his alarm and wished to continue on up the river. He therefore put them ashore and then made all possible speed down the river and arrived in town shortly after daylight, when most of the inhabitants were yet soundly sleeping. Arousing them as he passed through town by rapping on the windows and doors and warning them of approaching danger, he hastened on to the home where his wife and child lay quietly sleeping. To awaken them and apprise his wife of their immediate danger, and to hastily fill a small satchel with articles of clothing, was the work of a few minutes, and seizing his musket he hastened with them to town, where the now thoroughly aroused miners were hastening their wives and children into boats and across the river to the forts on the north side. Putting his wife and child into one of the boats, Riley returned alone to their home in the woods, where he filled a trunk with dishes and a few articles of clothing and cached it in the bushes, and lashing some bedding to his back hastened back to town and joined his family in the fort. True to the warning of the old squaw, the Indians had laid their plans well. They killed all of the volunteers stationed at the ferry, excepting five or six who saved their lives by getting into the bushes. The Indians then intended to march down the river and attack the sleeping miners. This they would have accomplished but for Riley's early morning trip up the river. Immediately upon his return with the news of the outbreak, a small company was organized and marched up the river and met the Indians and succeeded in checking their march until the remainder of the miners with their families had time to reach the fort.
One of the five volunteers stationed at the ferry who managed to escape was Charles Foster. He had just prepared his breakfast and as he raised a tin cup of coffee to his lips a bullet struck the cup, knocking it out of his hands. Mr. Foster fell over backward as if killed and crawled into a patch of thick brush, where he lay all day, with the Indians all around him and within a few feet of him. The next night he crawled out and passed within a few feet of an Indian sitting by a small fire gnawing a bone. By traveling by night and concealing himself in the daytime in the bushes he managed to reach the fort at Port Orford, some forty miles distance, where a company' of soldiers were stationed. The four other survivors of the Bagnell Ferry massacre, who a few days later succeeded in making their way to the fort at the mouth of the river, were David Libby, E. H. Meservey, William Shelley and Joseph Vincent. Of all these five men mentioned E. H. Meservey is the only one living. He resides on Rogue River about twelve miles from the mouth. One of the first men killed was Ben Wright, the Indian agent. He and John Poland, who were in a house on the south bank of the river, opposite the ferry, were killed just before the attack was made on the volunteers.
During the five weeks spent by the volunteers in the fort at the mouth of the river, Mr. Riley took part in many exciting incidents which space will not allow us to chronicle here. However, we cannot pass unnoticed one of the saddest scenes that occurred during those exciting days.
Early in the spring of '52, when Mr. Riley left his quiet and happy home in Illinois to seek his fortune in the gold fields of the Pacific Coast, it was in company with Adolph Schmaldt, a young man who was his near neighbor and intimate friend. Together they braved the hardships and dangers of the dreary trip across the plains. Together they sought their fortunes in the mines and together they shared the dangers of life in the fort, until one day a party of ten men went down to a small cabin on the bank of the river with sacks to get potatoes that were stored in the cabin. Schmaldt accompanied this party and upon reaching the river they were attacked by the Indians and compelled to make a hasty retreat to the fort. Several were killed, including Schmaldt. Several days later his body was found a few hundred yards from the fort. When notified of the finding of the body of his friend, Mr. Riley with a few companions proceeded to the spot, taking with him from the fort Schmaldt's blankets in which he carefully wrapped the body while his companions hastily hollowed out a shallow grave in which the remains were buried. Upon leaving the fort Mr. Riley went at once to Port Orford, where he remained for a year. Upon returning to Rogue River his first thought was to decorate and properly care for the grave of his friend and companion, but this he was unable to do as all trace of the grave was obliterated and its location could not be found.
At the time of the Indian outbreak there was a young educated Canadian Indian named Enos residing in Gold Beach, who professed to be true to the whites. A few days before the outbreak he started up the river in company with John Klevener, Huntley and another man whose name is forgotten. In a day or so he returned and reported that he and his companions had been attacked by the Indians and he alone escaped. He reported that two or three miners living on Rogue River at Big Bend bad sent him for ammunition, and he was given all he could carry. He immediately left and joined the Indians, where he became chief. During the captivity of Mrs. Geisel she frequently saw Enos among the Indians and heard him giving orders. This she reported after her return to the fort. He assisted the Indians as long as they fought. Knowing that capture meant death he made his way through the mountains to an Indian reservation in Washington Territory. Here he was captured and taken to the barracks at Vancouver where Lieut. Macfeely commanded, and Sheriff Riley of Curry County was notified. Mr. Riley was appointed sheriff in 1856 by the legislature when Curry County was organized. Mr. Riley made the trip to Vancouver by steamer from Port Orford and secured Enos, who was chained hand and foot. The steamer on returning could not land at Port Orford but landed Riley and his prisoner at Crescent City. As hostile Indians were yet in the woods it was considered dangerous to attempt to make the trip over the trail from Crescent City to Port Orford so Sheriff Riley was obliged to remain with his prisoner in that town until the steamer called for them. Port Orford was then the county seat of this county. The steamer proceeded to San Francisco, from there to Portland and back, and on her way to Portland again before calling in at Crescent City. The first night that Enos was confined in the county jail someone attempted to break in the door and let him out. Every night after that Sheriff Riley occupied one of the rooms of the jail. It was considerably over a month from the time Mr. Riley left Port Orford for Vancouver until he returned with the prisoner. Mrs. Geisel, then residing at Port Orford, was the only witness against Enos, and she could not be found at the the time set for the trial, so the justice ordered Sheriff Riley to turn the prisoner loose. It was necessary to take him to the blacksmith shop to have the chains on his legs cut off. While this was being done a mob surrounded the shop, and the moment Enos stepped out he was seized and taken away. Whiskey was given him and he partly confessed to having assisted in the killing of his three companions mentioned above, on their way up the river. The next morning he was hanged on historical Battle Rock, where his body was buried.
An American flag waved constantly over the fort. A large canvas with the word "Help" upon it was stretched between two sticks on the roof of the fort. A passing steamer saw this and reported the fact at Port Orford, where some U.S. soldiers were stationed, and also at Portland. Finally soldiers came from the north and also from the south to the relief of the fort, both companies arriving on the same day. A small schooner entered the river and took the men who had families and the women and children, while the single men went overland to Port Orford. Immediately after entering the fort the miners dug a circular ditch around the fort, leaving room for a yard inside. This ditch was about six feet deep and the earth wall around it about nine feet high. Portholes were cut in the wall. One morning the Indians collected on the hill above the fort to the number of about one thousand, and all at once made a grand rush upon the fort, yelling and shouting as they came. Some of the balls passed through the shingles on the roof. This frightened the women of the fort terribly and some of them fainted. The miners rushed to the portholes and called on the women to mold bullets. To this call only two women responded. One of these was Mrs. Riley. These heroic women molded bullets at the stove while the Indians yelled and discharged their guns at the fort time and again. No one was killed on either side during this battle as the Indians were very careful to keep out of range of the miner's bullets.
"Reminiscences from the Life of M. Riley," Orvil Dodge, ed., Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, 1898, ed. of 1969, page 347
VETERAN OF INDIAN WAR.
C. H. ARNOLD DIES OF PARALYSIS AT SOUTH SEATTLE.
Served as a Private in Company K, Second Regiment Oregon Volunteers,
During Rogue River Trouble, Oregon--Native of New York.
C. H. Arnold, who served as a volunteer in Company K, Second Regiment, Oregon Military [sic] Volunteers, during the Rogue River Indian trouble in 1855, died at South Seattle yesterday of paralysis. He had been quite feeble for a year or more, and his death was not a surprise, although it was nevertheless a shock to the people who knew him.
Although it was not generally known, he was one of the early arrivals in the Pacific Northwest, his home being in Oregon at the time of the Indian war. When it became apparent that force must be used to keep down the bloodthirsty Indians, he was among the first to volunteer his services. He enlisted November 26, 1855, at the mouth of Rogue River, and served throughout the trouble as a private.
He passed many years of his life in the book business, traveling through the Pacific Northwest. About twelve years ago he came to Seattle and made it his home until his death. His health had been bad here for more than a year past. Unfortunately he was not successful in gathering this world's goods to support him in his declining years, and he passed away a very poor man. He had a fine mind, well stored with knowledge. Those who knew him speak highly of him.
Mr. Arnold was born in New York in 1830. His parents are dead, as are also his wife and children. He leaves a nephew, S. G. Arnold, who is in the employ of the Front Street Cable company, and a brother, Granville S. Arnold, who is at the Seattle General Hospital, very ill with paralysis.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 22, 1898, page 6
RELF BLEDSOE.The days of chivalry and knighthood in Europe cannot furnish more interesting or romantic tales than our own western history. Into the wild mountain fastnesses of the unexplored West went brave men, whose courage was often called forth in encounters with hostile savages. The land was rich in all natural resources, in gold and silver, in agricultural and commercial possibilities, and awaited the demands of man to yield up its treasures, but its mountain heights were hard to climb, its forests difficult to penetrate, and the magnificent trees, the dense bushes or the jagged rocks often sheltered the skulking foe, who resented the encroachment of the pale faces upon these "hunting grounds." The establishment of homes in this beautiful region therefore meant sacrifices, hardships and ofttimes death, but there were some men, however, brave enough to meet the red man in his own familiar haunts and undertake the task of reclaiming the district for purposes of civilization. The rich mineral stores of this vast region were thus added to the wealth of the nation; its magnificent forests contributed to the lumber industries, and its fertile valleys added to the opportunities of the farmer and stock-raiser, and today the Northwest is one of the most productive sections of the entire country. That this is so is due to such men as Captain Relf Bledsoe, whose name is inseparably interwoven with the history of the region. No story of fiction contains more exciting chapters than may be found in his life record, but space forbids an extended account of these.
He who was to become such an important factor in the development of the Northwest was born in Henderson County, Kentucky, on the 16th of August, 1832. His ancestors, natives of Wales, came to America at an early period in the colonial epoch and took an active part in the leading events that affected the colonies. Five of the Bledsoe brothers fought throughout the struggle for independence. A younger brother, not old enough to enter the army, was Jesse Bledsoe, father of our subject. He was born in Canewood, four miles from Frankfort, Kentucky, and married Miss Jane Baylor, daughter of George Wythe Baylor, Jr., and a granddaughter of Colonel Baylor, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He won his title in the war which brought to America her liberty, and was wounded in that great struggle. With the blood of Revolutionary heroes thus flowing in his veins, it is not strange that Captain Bledsoe took so prominent a part in the Indian wars of the Northwest. His father was a lawyer by profession, and in politics was first a Whig and later a Democrat. He held membership in the Christian church. In his family were twelve children, eight of whom are living.
The Captain, the second in order of birth, spent the first seven years of his life in Kentucky, and in 1839 went with his parents to Missouri and thence to Texas, in 1845. In 1850, when eighteen years of age, he traveled through Mexico to California, reaching Los Angeles when it contained only a few adobe houses inhabited by Mexicans, or, as they called themselves, Spanish. In 1852 he went to San Francisco, and in 1854 he was elected superintendent of a mining company in Southern Oregon. On the failure of the well-known firm of Adams & Company, the company with which he was connected was also bankrupt, but soon afterward the Indian troubles of the Rogue River Valley, in Oregon, broke out and Mr. Bledsoe joined a volunteer company to aid in quelling the insurrection and defending the settlers. He became a private of Company K, Second Oregon Infantry, but soon his ability as a soldier was manifest and he was promoted sergeant, second lieutenant and first lieutenant, successively. On the death of the captain, he succeeded to that rank. He then assembled the citizens together and built a fort. On the morning of February 24, 1856. he called for twenty-two men to go with him to hold the Indians in check while the fort was being constructed. After marching some distance they were stationed behind a sharp point and awaited the arrival of the Indians, who soon came into view, five hundred strong. Captain Bledsoe had his men remain quiet until the Indians were within about fifty feet of them, when they poured a deadly fire into their ranks. After their guns were emptied, the white men used their revolvers with dreadful effect and the Indians were largely checked, many of the number having been killed. The Captain then ordered a retreat toward the fort and thus they made their way, contesting every foot of the ground until they reached the fort, at four o'clock in the afternoon. In the meantime the building was completed and the women and children were saved.
On another occasion Captain Bledsoe, with thirty-two men, was reconnoitering, when they were almost instantly surrounded by four hundred Indians, who rose up around them out of the bushes, which were breast-high, and charged upon the white men from every direction. The Captain instantly formed his men into a hollow square, and in this way awaited the charge. They first fired their guns, then used their revolvers. The chief in command of the Indians jumped on a rock to better give the commands, when Captain Bledsoe ordered John Walker, who stood near him, to fire, and the chief was killed, which caused great disorder among his followers, thus left without a leader. The white men then formed in skirmish line and retreated. Eight of their number had been killed and five wounded. Captain Bledsoe, at another time, with twenty picked men, went up to the mouth of the river in search of the Indians. They discovered a party of about seventy-five and crawled up to the top of a bluff from where they opened fire. Only three of the Indians crossed the river alive! After this, three companies of United States regulars arrived under command of General Buchanan, and thus Captain Bledsoe was relieved of the responsibility of having entire command. Later two other companies of regulars came, and the subject of this review was allowed some respite from his arduous duties. One other incident in which he was concerned, however, is worthy of mention. Near the fort was a dry reservoir into which the Indians frequently crawled at night, firing from that vantage point upon the fort in the daytime. Their object was to pick off anyone that appeared outside the walls. One morning the Captain thought that, with a few men, he would take possession of the reservoir first, and when the Indians came give them a warm reception. He started, gun in hand. It was a double-barreled gun, one side loaded with a ball, the other with buckshot. He had made his way some distance in advance of the men, when a little shepherd dog that had followed him began to sniff and whine, which warned him that the Indians were ahead of him. Putting his gun to his shoulder, he waited until an Indian head appeared on the edge of the reservoir. He then fired, and the Indian fell, but all the other Indians rose and fired at him. Just as he fired, however, he sat down, and their bullets passed over him. He then started on a run for the fort, but in that race for life his clothes were completely riddled, although not a bullet entered his body. He was in twenty Indian battles, always in the thickest of the fight. After the war a chief told him that he had shot at him many times, hoping to kill him, but had failed, and they thought he bore a charmed life.
On the 20th of June, 1856, he participated in the last battle of the war. He and his men were to take their places on the south side of the river and await the Indians, who were to be driven across to them. His men were behind a large log when the Indians came up to them. The Captain with his forty-five men had a desperate encounter with the savages, a hand-to-hand fight, in which one hundred and seventy-five Indians were killed. The next day the remainder of the band surrendered. After the battle. General C. C. Augur embraced the Captain with the remark: "You are the best man to fight Indians at close quarters I ever saw. I could constantly hear your voice above the din of battle clear across the river."
Captain Bledsoe aided in moving the Indians to their reservation, and was for some time the special Indian agent at the mouth of Yaquina Bay. He was also sutler for two years, and then engaged in buying cattle, which he drove to market in Olympia. In 1861 the Oro Fino excitement brought him to Lewiston, [Idaho,] where he arrived in July, 1861. He was the first merchant at Elk City and sold the first goods there, after which he was connected with a large mercantile house in Florence. In 1862 he was elected joint councilman from Idaho and Nez Perce counties. In the fall of that year the Boise Basin was discovered, and he had command of a company of sixty-six men, who traveled across the mountains to that place. When they arrived at Squaw Creek, Lieutenant Standifer and eight men formed an advance guard ahead of the main body. They were attacked by Indians, and Captain Bledsoe then took thirty men, leaving the others with the pack train, and fought the Indians, driving them back across Little Squaw Creek and over Big Squaw Creek to what is now a part of Calvin Beard's ranch. Night ended the fight. The pack train camped on Little Meadows, and captured five squaws and some children, from which incident Squaw Creek received its name. The party afterward continued on their way to the point on the Boise River where the beautiful city of Boise now stands. At that time there was no house nearer than Auburn, Oregon. They drove the Indians from the river and went on to the Boise Basin, where they found Marion Moore and his party, who had arrived four days previously. They located claims, and Captain Bledsoe and Tom Hart washed the first pan of dirt in the vicinity of Placerville, about a half mile below the present site of the town. They secured gold to the value of twenty-five cents out of this first pan. After looking over the country in this vicinity Captain Bledsoe started for Olympia, Washington, to attend the meeting of the legislature. He framed the bill that organized Boise County, and the following year Idaho was separated from Washington. He has held various positions of honor and trust, and was a prominent candidate for governor of Idaho, President Cleveland being strongly urged to appoint him chief executive of the Territory. For the past twenty years he has been extensively engaged in quartz and placer mining, and is a thorough mining expert. His efforts in the development of the mineral resources of the state brought him a handsome competence and at the same time have contributed to the general welfare.
On the 1st of July, 1858, near Corvallis. Oregon, was celebrated the marriage of Captain Bledsoe and Miss Helen Kinney. They have six children--three sons and three daughters: Sadie, who became the wife of L. Vineyard, died August 9, 1893, leaving two children, who are residing with their grandfather; Annie, wife of William F. Galbraith, a druggist of Boise; R. J., a farmer of Boise; Eulalie, wife of W. N. Northrop, a hardware merchant; John M., who is in the engineer corps at Honolulu; and Lloyd, at home. In politics the Captain has been a lifelong Democrat, and the official positions he has filled have been accorded him by reason of his merit and sterling worth. He has been an important factor in the military, political and industrial interests of the state, an honored pioneer who deserves the gratitude of his fellow men for what he has done for the Northwest. When the present shall have become the past, his name will be revered as one of the founders of the state of Idaho, and as one of the heroes who carried civilization into the wild districts of this great region.
An Illustrated History of the State of Idaho, Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, 1899, pages 35-37 None of the battles and ambushes described above bear much resemblance to known events.
PIONEER OF 1854 AND ROGUE WAR VETERAN DIESGOLD BEACH, Or., Jan. 29.--The death has taken place at Port Orford of J. W. Wilkinson, who was born in Henry, Echo County, Virginia, March 1, 1822, and came to Curry County in the spring of 1854. He settled near the mouth of Rogue River. During the following year occurred the memorable war between the whites and the Rogue River Indians. Mr. Wilkinson took part in this war. When the attack was made on Ellensburg (now Gold Beach), he and the greater part of the other settlers found protection in a fort constructed for that purpose on the north side of the river. Their lives were saved, but all else was lost. Following this attack was one made on Skookum House, the fort of the Indians, situated about 15 miles up the river. This attack was one of the best planned and most successfully executed of all recorded in the struggles between the two races, and the power of the red men was completely destroyed. His later years Mr. Wilkinson has been spending quietly at Port Orford.
Oregon Statesman , February 4, 1908, page 8
J. W. Wilkinson, Who Battled with Indian in Early Days.
GOLD BEACH, Or., Feb. 3.--(Special.)--J. W. Wilkinson, who died recently at Port Orford, was born in Henry, Echo County, Va., March 1, 1822, and came to Curry County in the spring of 1854. He settled near the mouth of Rogue River. During the following year occurred the memorable war between the whites and the Rogue River Indians. Mr. Wilkinson took part in this war. When the attack was made on Ellensburg (now Gold Beach), he and the greater part of the other settlers found protection in a fort constructed for that purpose on the north side of the river. Their lives were saved, but all else was lost. Following this attack was one made on Skookum House, the fort of the Indians, situated about 15 miles up the river. This attack was one of the best planned and most successfully executed of all recorded in struggles between the two races, and the power of the red men was completely destroyed.
"Dead of the Northwest," Morning Oregonian, Portland, February 4, 1908, page 8
Idaho Pioneer Relates Incidents of Early-Day Indian Warfare
To the younger generation of today there are no more thrilling tales of adventure than those told by the Idaho and Oregon pioneers of early Indian warfare. Last week two of the state's pioneers, who perhaps have had more thrilling experiences than any two others, met. They are Captain Relf Bledsoe of this city and George H. Abbott, of Soldier. Both were members of the famous Company G, Idaho Volunteers, of which they are justly proud, for at that particular time the regulars would have been very much at a loss had it not been for their timely aid during those exciting days.
One of the stories of the Indian war of 1856 in [Oregon] was taken down as follows, exactly as Mr. Abbott told it when he and Mr. Bledsoe were swapping stories.
"I had joined Captain Bledsoe just a few days before. He had been quartered in a sod fort about a mile and a half up from the mouth of Rogue River, on the coast. He had in the neighborhood of 80 men in the fort and some women and children, and I had raised a bunch of volunteers in the south and gone up there and joined him just a few days before this adventure.
"We determined on an expedition up the Rogue River to a point where the chief hosts of the hostile Indians were at that time quartered. In order to surprise the Indians and show them that white men were equal to them in what might be called bushwhacking, Captain A. J. Smith of the regular army was out in that direction cutting a trail through the country. Captain Bledsoe and myself with 16 men started out in a rainstorm and got to Captain Smith's camp that evening. We arrived there about 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning and went down to Rogue River at a point where a creek called Lobster Creek emptied into the river. There we laid our plans to cut off the Indians either by water, going down the river in canoes, or by trail.
"I suppose we had been in that position about an hour, and the captain and the men on the riverbank were on a ledge of rock that ran away out into the stream, and the current of the stream washed right in under the rock. Three canoes loaded with Indians came down the river. The men who had been selected for this purpose shot the steersman of each canoe. The canoes drifted right against the rock and all the Indian men in the canoes were killed, 12 in number, only one boy and two women escaping. The women, however, came ashore where we were, as they could not get away, and as I could talk to them pretty well, I told them to go back up the river to the Indian camp, which was only two or three miles above there, and tell the Indians that we were going to do that kind of business for them as often as we could catch them, as that was what they had been doing for the whites for over a month.
"We then returned up to where Captain Smith's camp had been, but he had moved on his work. We expected the Indians to follow us, of course, but they did not. We laid in ambush and waited for them two or three hours, but they never came in to us. Then we caught Captain Smith and camped with him the next night, thinking the Indians might possibly attack his camp, and we were there to assist him if necessary. They made no attack on us, however, and we saw no more of them on that trip, but it snowed on us about four inches that night.
"We then went back to the point we had started from, the old sod fort at the mouth of Rogue River, and when the men with us made reports to the others of the success of the expedition it raised their spirits exceedingly high. In a short time ours was the star company in the volunteer service during that war. Nothing could stop them. They would charge through anything where they were led and directed and the Indians could never stand before them, and when they surrendered they did so to Company K of the Oregon Volunteers, which was our company."
Idaho Statesman, Boise, July 25, 1909, page B3
Several days passed after Foster's arrival, but nothing more was heard from Rogue River, so one Gerow, a storekeeper, in company with four or five others, whose names have been forgotten, manned a whaleboat, loaded it with provisions, guns and ammunition, and pulled out for Rogue River to assist the people there, should they find any alive. It was known that a small fort or earthwork had been partially built a short time previous about one mile north of the mouth of the river by some miners who feared an outbreak, and thither the men in a boat directed their course. The boat was spied and hailed by the people in the fort, and in an attempt to make a landing all the occupants of the boat, save one, were drowned in the surf.
The little fort was besieged by hundreds of Indians, who kept at a safe distance, however, as the occupants had good rifles and knew how to use them. With plenty of provisions, a good log fort carefully constructed with loopholes and protected by a wide ditch on the outside, the miners had no fears of their ability to repel any assaults of the Indians. But they needed every man present, so had not tried to send for assistance. Several days passed, and as no word was received from Rogue River or the occupants of the whaleboat, W. S. Winsor and George Wasson, two miners, but experienced Indian fighters, volunteered to go to Rogue River and locate the white people, if any were alive, or learn their fate. . . .
During the day the scouts took careful note of the country beyond and picked out their route to the fort. They believed that the fort was not closely picketed by the Indians during the night and that the quickest and perhaps the safest move on their part was to ride directly to the fort, keeping a close lookout, of course, for Indians.
As the shades of evening fell over hill and valley the scouts saddled their horses and rode down to the little valley below, then to the trail, along which they advanced with more caution till the little fort was visible on the bluff near the ocean beach. As they were apt to encounter the Indian pickets, if any were on duty on the hillside, the scouts dismounted and, leading their horses, moved forward with caution. They frequently paused and anxiously peered into the darkness to catch the least sound of an enemy, if present, but no sound except the occasional bark of a dog in the fort broke the awful stillness. After a long halt the scouts believed that no pickets were on guard on that part of the field at least, so they tied their horses in a thicket nearby, crawled to a friendly knoll about three hundred yards from the little fort and, in a low tone at first, hailed the people in the fort. Receiving no answer, they hailed again in a louder voice, which was soon after answered by someone in the fort. After hurriedly telling the people in the fort who they were, the scouts were directed to come forward slowly. The scouts were now in extreme peril, for should there be lurking pickets in that vicinity to fire upon them, the people in the fort might think it a night attack and fire a volley in the face of the scouts. The scouts, sensible of their peril, lost no time in reaching the fort, where they were met with many guns pointed at them as they crossed the plank laid across the ditch to admit them. The scouts were greeted with many handshakes and were glad that their perilous journey was at an end. Accompanied by men from the fort, they returned and led their horses into the fort.
The scouts found about eighty people, mustering about seventy guns. They had plenty of ammunition and provisions, were full of fight and did not appear to be greatly disturbed by their surroundings. The hostile Indians appeared upon the hillside above the fort the next day but kept at a safe distance. In about a week after the scouts reached the little fort, the siege was raised by the arrival of several companies of regular soldiers from the south. The Indians then withdrew up the river and the war was practically ended.
Jeremiah Huntley, "A Scout to Rogue River in 1856," in James Gaston, ed., Centennial History of Oregon, 1911, vol. 4, pages 1026-1028.
At one time they were surrounded by the savages for thirty days at the mouth of Rogue River, but Mr. Jette became acquainted with the chief of the tribe and although the lives of some of his friends were taken he was saved through the entreaties of Chelsey, the daughter of the chief.
Joseph Gaston, ed., "Adolphe Jette," Centennial History of Oregon, vol. 3, 1912, page 647
James Brooking, last survivor of those pioneers who were in the fort at the mouth of Rogue River in the Indian war of 1855-6, died in Smith River, Cal., Oct. 22, 1913. He was born in New Hampshire in 1828, and was 85 years of age. He came to Del Norte in 1852, being an argonaut of 1849, and the last of our pioneers. He is survived by two sons and two daughters, all residents of California.
"Port Orford Offerings," Coos Bay Times, November 10, 1913, page 3
John Woodman, who died at Abe Logan's near Devils Lake, June 20th, was the oldest Indian living on the reservation. He was one of the warriors that was brought to the reservation in 1857. He was then 25 years old, making him 87 when he died. It is said that John Woodman, who was born and lived near the mouth of the Rogue River, helped to roll a log so near the fort that was occupied with white soldiers that one of the Indians set fire to the fort and drove the soldiers out. This was a scheme of John Woodman's, during the Rogue River war, to keep the Indians from being shot.
"Siletz," Lincoln County Leader, Toledo, Oregon, July 4, 1919, page 1
Many years ago in Curry County I interviewed Orvil Dodge [1839-1914], pioneer resident of Myrtle Point, who told me many interesting details of the Indian troubles in Curry County in 1855-56. At the time of the uprising, February 22, 1856, in Curry County, Ben Wright was Indian agent. Friendly Indians warned Wright that Enos, a Canadian half-breed who had come to Oregon with Fremont, was inciting the Indians to rise, but Wright made light of it. He didn't think the Curry County Indians would join the Rogue River Indians. On the night of the massacre of the whites an Indian chief nicknamed Josh came to one of the settlers, Mike Riley, and told him the Indians were planning to kill the settlers that night. Riley told Josh to go home and sleep it off, for he thought Josh was drunk, he was so excited. A squaw met them and also told them the Indians were to rise that night, and she began to cry, for she had married a white man and she said the Indians were going to kill him. They thought the Indian woman was lying, so paid no attention to her.
Most of the volunteer soldiers as well as practically all the settlers had gone to a dance on the Big Flag that night to celebrate Washington's Birthday, so the Indians took advantage of the opportunity and killed all the settlers they found at home and burned most of their cabins. Wright was visiting Captain Poland of the volunteer forces. The Indians killed both of them, ate Wright's heart so they would be brave like him, threw the bodies into the river and burned the cabin. As the volunteers were returning from the dance the Indians attacked them and killed nine. The settlers took refuge in a log fort about a mile and a half north of the mouth of the Rogue River. They stocked it with supplies from their cabins and stores [and] were besieged for several weeks. Small parties went out at night and picked off Indians as they found opportunity. One day a party of 15 men from the fort went out to dig potatoes. They walked into an ambush and six were killed.
A boat was sent from Port Orford with six volunteers, but in coming in over the Rogue River bar the boat was overturned and four of the six were drowned. In course of time the soldiers arrived from Crescent City under Captains Augur and Ord. The Indians took refuge in what they called "Skookum House," built against the bluff, facing the river. Ord and Augur concealed their men across the river. Captain Relf Bledsoe and Lieutenant E. W. Meservey with the volunteers, in accordance with the plans made by the army officers, attacked the Indians from the land side at daylight. The Indians took to their boats and were met with a volley from the regulars. Many were killed at first fire. The others paddled furiously down the river, only to run, at Lobster Rock, into an ambush of volunteers who shot those who escaped down the river.
Captain Tichenor was commissioned [he was acting under his own authority--see letters of June 16 and 18, 1858] to gather the warriors who had not taken part in the Skookum House fight or the battle of Big Bend and bring them to Port Orford so they could be placed on a reservation. [This event took place two years after those battles, so many of the Indians were those who had left the reservation to return to their ancestral homes.] As he passed with his 19 captives the blackened ruins of the Geisel house a body of settlers concealed in the brush nearby fired at the prisoners and did not cease firing till all of the 19 were killed.
Charley Brown, who had risked his life to rescue Mrs. Geisel and her 13-week-old baby, was given a resolution of thanks by the citizens and later died in the poorhouse. What was everybody's business was nobody's business, so he never received a pension.
Fred Lockley, Oregon Journal, November 10-11, 1925, in Conversations with Pioneer Women, Mike Helm, ed., Rainy Day Press, Eugene, 1981, pages 38-40
Location: This site is in the northwest corner of the large sheep pasture immediately north of .the mouth of the Rogue River between Highway 101 and the ocean.
Classification: Historic site.
Significance: Sustained Indian siege warfare was most unusual in the American West. Fort Miner was the site of probably the longest siege confrontation between whites and Indians in the Pacific Northwest.
With warfare raging in the valley and canyons of the upper Rogue since October, 1855, the coastal natives became restive and fearful. The forming of the Gold Beach Guard, a quasi-legal volunteer militia, and its taking position opposite the largest Indian village on the lower river did not ease tensions.
The Indians attacked on the morning of February 23, 1856. In the initial massacre the Indians killed twenty-eight settlers and miners between Euchre and Hunters creeks. The survivors, more than a hundred people, fled to a rude encampment--Fort Miner--constructed within an earthen embankment in a field of iris and salal north of the river's mouth. For more than thirty days these refugees were besieged in their outpost. One foraging party, journeying to the river bank to dig potatoes, came under heavy attack and lost some of its members.
Fort Miner was the site where Edward O. C. Ord, later a famous Civil War general, authored "Soldiering in Oregon," an article published in Harper's Magazine in 1856. The fort was also the site of two marriages between white settlers and Indian women. These were performed by William Tichenor in March 1856, at the time of the arrival of the U.S. Army contingents from Crescent City.
Fort Miner was U.S. Army headquarters for the coastal campaigns in the lower Rogue watershed in the spring of 1856.
At dawn on February 23, 1856, the coastal Rogue Indians attacked the settlements near the mouth of the Rogue River. John Geisel and his sons John, Henry, and Andrew were slain. Christina and her daughters, Anne and Mary, were taken captive. Held for more than two weeks, they were eventually ransomed and took refuge in Fort Miner. Anne later married a man named Pampanella and Mary became the wife of Harry Blake of Chetco.
Christina Geisel was widowed three more times; her last two husbands were Frank Bugey and Avery Edson. On September 20, 1899, while living near the south bank of the Rogue River on the edge of Gold Beach, she was murdered by Coleman Gillespie. Her murderer stole her $25 pension check awarded by the state legislature. He was hanged in Gold Beach for the crime.
Christina Geisel Edson was buried at the site of the cabin where her first husband and sons were murdered in 1856. The location of their graves, marked by stones and wrought iron fence, is the Geisel Monument.
Current Status: State Park. In 1963 the state owned 4.03 acres at the site.
Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission, Historical and Archaeological Site Inventory, 1973
FORT MINER HAS BEEN PERMANENTLY MARKED. County Surveyor Howard J. Newhouse installed 30-inch iron pipes with brass caps marking the four corners of Fort Miner in Wedderburn. In addition, he is drawing a plat map of the site. This is in preparation for putting up a permanent historical marker along the roadway. Miner's Fort is on the R. M. Knox property. The Curry County Historical Society has received permission from the Knox family to permanently mark the location of the fort.
Curry County Echoes, Curry Historical Society, December 1974
Born in Philadelphia on Christmas Day in 1832, [Michael Henry Wells] settled in San Francisco in 1850, where he helped organize the Pennsylvania #12 Fire Company. Several years later he traveled to Rogue River, Oregon, where he operated a store. In 1856 Wells was a member of a party of 130 at Fort Miner in Oregon when 70 were killed by Indians. Soon afterward he traveled to Butte County, and on November 14, 1856 along with his partners established the 49 & 56 mine.
Yankee Hill Dispatch, Yankee Hill, California, April 2008, page 1
In late February 1856, the surviving coastal bands launched an offensive against white settlements around Gold Beach in a final attempt to expel the outsiders from the region. This offensive included a series of well-organized attacks against settlers, miners and the local Indian Agent Ben Wright, who was killed. The survivors fled across the Rogue River to Fort Miner and remained holed up there until the arrival of regular army troops from California on March 21, 1856. Three separate sources place Adolphe Jette at the fort during the siege, including Gaston's biographical sketch, a petition from the residents at Gold Beach, and a small, frayed newspaper clipping that describes a claim to the federal government made by Adolph Jette. The petition from the Gold Beach residents was an appeal for guns and ammunition. Among the forty-four signatures on the document is one "A. Jetty." Adolphe's claim with the federal government was for $590 worth of goods destroyed in the Natives' offensive of late February 1856, and the claim included items loaned or sold to the local volunteer militia. Thus, although Adolphe was not listed in the Rogue River War records, he apparently served as a supplier to the local settlers fighting in the conflict.
Adolphe was at Fort Miner during the month-long standoff, and it is likely Julie Rogue [his wife, a Rogue River Indian] and their daughter Matilde were there with him. There were at least five white-Indian couples who sought refuge at the fort. Three of the Native women were, according to one soldier, "young and not bad looking and had learned to dress in frocks," while the other two were older and more traditional in their dress and appearance. Edward O. C. Ord, writing in Harper's Weekly under the pseudonym "Sergeant Jones," recounted how the white settlers, especially the white women, mistreated the handful of Native women in the compound. The white women kept the Native women, who were the companions of local Euro-American miners, segregated in a separate dwelling. When the schooner Gold Beach arrived to evacuate the women and children at the end of [the] month-long standoff, only Indian women who had legally married their partners were allowed to join the evacuees. Two of the miners, Charles Brown and Jack Smith, wed their companions, the two older women, while the other three men apparently did not. Ord noted that he could not help thinking that Brown's "determination to cling to the poor brown woman for better or worse, while the prospect before them was all 'worse' and no 'better,' showed that there was some honest manhood in the the rough fellow."
Melinda Marie Jetté, "Betwixt and Between the Official Story," Oregon Historical Quarterly, Summer 2010, pages 168-169.
Last revised May 24, 2019