The mines at or near Rogue River are in great repute, but as to the certainty of their richness I cannot affirm, but judging from the increase of travel between this place and those mines, and the fact of two new towns having been commenced in that locality, we are led to suppose that something of a remarkable character has prompted the projectors to an enterprise of that character--one of which is called Elizabeth City [Elizabethtown, five miles north of Gold Beach], and the other is called Munsonia. It is said that those places already number several hundred population.
"Letter from Port Orford," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, November 8, 1853, page 3
PORT ORFORD.--Late advices from this place represent it as "gone in." There are some twenty-odd soldiers stationed there; the balance of the population hardly amounts to an equal number. Three stores put up a year ago at a cost of from five to eleven hundred dollars each were recently sold for a gold watch worth about a hundred dollars.
"Later from the North," Empire County Argus, Coloma, California, June 30, 1855, page 3
Dr. White of Rogue River had started up to town, came to Euchre, saw many of the bodies lying on the beach & otherwise & the houses burnt, went by the ranch of Geisels above the mouth of R. River--all were found dead..
Letter of R. W. Dunbar to Joel Palmer, February 24, 1856, frames 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 following is the list of whites missing from the mouth of Rogue River and vicinity. Benj. Wright, Indian agent, Capt. J. M. Poland, B. Castle, H. Lawrence, E. Nelson, Guy Holcomb, McCluskey, Joseph _____, John Chadwick, _____ missing, Joseph Wagoner, Pat McCulloch, Warner, Mr. Tullis, _____ Seaman, _____ Smith, Geisel and family, _____ Bostman [sic--Boatman?], Jas. Crouch and brothers, _____ Johnson, _____ Martin.
Letter of Captain John F. Reynolds, Fort Orford, February 24, 1856, Microcopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 14; Letters Received, 1856, enclosure to No. 89.
LIST OF KILLED.
Crescent City Herald, February 27, 1856, page 2
P.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.
Letter of Capt. Relf Bledsoe, Fort Miners, February 29, 1856, Oregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 566.
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.]
Letter of R. W. Dunbar, Port Orford, March 4, 1856, Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, March 22, 1856, page 1
On the sixth instant [March 6, 1856] 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 [at Fort Miners] 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.
Dr. Rodney Glisan, Journal of Army Life, 1874, pages 282-292
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
Further from Northern California.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 [March 6th]) 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.
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.
Anonymous letter from Port Orford, March 8, 1856, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 21, 1856, page 2
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
Besides three or four, names unknown, Mrs. Geisel and daughter are prisoners, and in the hands of the Micano [Mikonotunne?] band of Indians, about eight miles up the river.
Congressional Globe, Washington, D.C., March 31, 1856, pages 776-779 This speech was circulated as a pamphlet and widely printed in Northwest newspapers.
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
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."
"Soldiering in Oregon," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, September 1856, page 522. Usually credited to Edward O. C. Ord. A lengthier excerpt is here.
[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
LYNCHING IN ROGUE RIVER VALLEY.--A passenger who arrived by the Columbia yesterday informs us that an Indian was hanged at Rogue River last Monday for the murder of Mr. Geisel, committed some two years ago. The murder was a cold-blooded atrocity, and created much feeling at the time. Geisel was married and had three children. He was killed in his bed asleep, and two of the children were murdered. Mrs. Geisel and one child were carried into captivity, but were afterwards exchanged for some Indian prisoners. The perpetrators escaped, but were held in memory, having been recognized by Mrs. Geisel. A few days ago, as they were going by Rogue River, on the way to the reserve, this man was seized and tried, but owing to the absence of Mrs. Geisel, no evidence could be brought against him. The people, however, were satisfied of his guilt as he was well known to them, and on his being released by the legal authorities they seized him and hanged him on a tree. They then got out a warrant for four or five concerned in the murder, and arrested them. They are now awaiting their trial.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 8, 1858, page 2
HUNG BY THE PEOPLE.--The people of Rogue River Valley, says the Alta [California], hung an Indian on the 1st inst., for the murder of Mr. Geisel, about two years ago. The murder was a cold-blooded atrocity, and created much feeling at the time. Geisel was married and had three children. Mrs. Geisel and one child were carried into captivity, but were afterwards exchanged for some Indian prisoners. The perpetrators escaped, but were held in memory, having been recognized by Mrs. Geisel. A few days ago, as they were going by Rogue River, on the way to the Reserve, this man was seized and tried, but owing to the absence of Mrs. Geisel no evidence could be had against him. The people, however, were satisfied of his guilt, as he was well known to them, and on his being released by the legal authorities, they seized him and hanged him on a tree. They then got out a warrant for four or five concerned in the murder, and arrested them. They are now awaiting their trial.
The above occurred at the mouth of Rogue River, we believe.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 27, 1858, page 2
The bill of O. W. Weaver, Justice of the Peace, Rogue River precinct, for costs in the suit Territory of Oregon vs. The Indian Chetco Bill amounting to the sum of ten dollars twenty cents, was ordered laid on the table.
Curry County Commissioners' Journals, session of April 7, 1858, Vol. 1, pages 70-71
Resolved by the Board,
that the bill of O. W. Weaver, Justice of the Peace, for costs in the suit Territory of Oregon vs. The Indian Chetco Bill, action for the murder of John Geisel, which costs were awarded against the County of Curry, as follows, justice's fees two dollars thirty cents, sheriff's fees seven dollars nineteen cents, be allowed, and orders on the treasurer be issued therefor.
Curry County Commissioners' Journals, session of April 22, 1858, Vol. 1, page 77
The bill of Simon Lundry,
for services in suit in case Territory of Oregon vs. Indian "Chetco Bill" guarding prisoner five days at four dollars per day--amounting to twenty dollars--be paid and an order on the treasurer be issued therefor.
Resolved by the Board
that the bill of O. W. Weaver, Justice of the Peace Rogue River precinct, in case Territory of Oregon vs. the Indians known as Tututni Jack, Tom-en-et-sa & Charley Brothers & Tututni Bill--"felony," for costs as follows: justice's fees, one dollar and eighty cents, sheriff's fees, sixty-one dollars--these be and hereby is allowed the sums of justice's fees one dollar and eighty cents, and sheriff's fees, thirty-two dollars, being mileage for one hundred & sixty miles each way at ten cents per mile (being the distance from the justice's court at Rogue River to the Siletz Reservation) amounting to the sum of thirty-three dollars and eighty cents, and that orders on the treasurer be issued therefor.
Resolved by the Board
that of the bill of O. W. Weaver, Justice of the Peace Rogue River precinct, in case Territory of Oregon vs. the Tututni Chief "for felony," for justice fees one dollar and eighty cents and sheriff's fees sixty dollars, there be and hereby is allowed the sums of justice's fees one dollar and eighty cents, and sheriff's fees thirty-two dollars, being mileage for one hundred & sixty miles each way at ten cts. per mile (being the distance from the justice's court at Rogue River to the Siletz Reservation) amounting to the sum of thirty-three dollars and eighty cents, and that orders on the treasurer be issued therefor.
Curry County Commissioners' Journals, session of July 7, 1858, Vol. 1, pages 93-94
Resolved by the Board,
that the bill of J. L. McPherson, Deputy Sheriff, for balance of mileage in case Territory of Oregon vs. Indians Jack and Bill amounting to the sum of twenty dollars be allowed, and an order on the treasury issued therefor.
Resolved by the Board,
that the bill of J. L. McPherson, Deputy Sheriff, for balance of mileage in case Territory of Oregon vs. Tututni Chief amounting to the sum of twenty dollars be allowed, and an order on the treasury issued therefor.
Curry County Commissioners' Journals, Vol. 1, page 120
The Geisel Grave.
On a bluff about five miles north of the mouth of Rogue River and not more than a quarter of a mile from the Pacific Ocean, there is a little white picket fence enclosing a tombstone on which is inscribed the following: Sacred to the memory of John Geisel, also his three sons John, Henry and Andrew, who were massacred by the Indians Feb. 22nd, 1856, aged 45 9-7-5 years respectively.
On this red rocky hill, I'm sitting alone
On a rock gilt with mica, near a red-barked madrone,
The broad ocean's before me
North, south and below me
The rugged bluffs and the rocks near its strand
This scene, though it's wild, is imposing and grand,
Houses are few, only their blue curling smoke can be seen,
To be out of the wind, people build in a gulch or ravine.
Just near where I'm sitting alone
There are little round walls built of stone
In years that are gone, the Indians, with arrow and spear,
Hid inside those walls to wait for the elk and the deer;
Had he but killed game on those hills and done nothing more
Or, ate mussels and piled up their shells on the shore
Today my eye would see nothing to make my heart sore,
But down on yon bluff, 'mid the wind-stunted pines
There once dwelt a German, who owned there the mines,
With his wife and his children, then happy was he.
Where once stood his house, a fence round his tombstone I see.
Now, Reader, I'll tell you the tale his widow told me:
It was Washington's Birthday; there was no one to call,
For the miners had all gone to town for a ball;
That day the Agent called at our house and the Indians seemed as before;
But that night when we were asleep the red fiends broke open the door,
And murdered my husband and sons where they lay
When I heard their shrieks and their groans I fainted away,
I do not remember that my feet touched the floor
And when two girls were all I could find
I have no words to tell you the state of my mind,
The house was on fire, and my husband burning inside
And Oh! how I wished that I too could have died,
When she uttered those words she shuddered and cried.
That widow still dwells in our midst, her infant then tiny and small
Has now grown to womanhood's year, graceful and tall,
But on Washington's Birthday this maid was ne'er seen at a ball.
Often that widow and maiden pass, where I can see them from here
For they visit that grave in the fall or the spring of the year
And every flower they plant there blooms with the dew of a tear
The red savage had long been removed from this place
A lost arrow or spear are the relics we find of the race,
Or, maybe now and then a rude vessel of stone
Or his bones in some gulch with moss overgrown,
For the wrongs of the Indian, people here have no ears,
His friends are rebuked by the old pioneers
Who would sneer with contempt at their tears.
Frau Heloise.Undated 1880s clipping, Geisel file, Curry Historical Society
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." . . .
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
State of Oregon )
County of Curry ) ss.
I, Christina Edson, being duly sworn, say that I was on the 22nd day of February in the year 1856 the wife of one John Geisel, now deceased. That on the said twenty-second day of February 1856 my said husband and myself were living at our home situated about six miles north of the mouth of Rogue River, on the bluff of the ocean beach in the above-named County of Curry. That we had a family, consisting of five children, three boys and two girls, the oldest being a girl aged about thirteen years, and the youngest being a girl, an infant at the breast, and about two weeks old. That we had been living at our said home for about two years previous to the time above mentioned, my husband being engaged at mining on the ocean beach most of the time, also keeping hotel and a few articles of merchandise for sale to the miners then in that vicinity. That on the night of the 22nd and the morning of the 23rd day of February in the said year A.D. 1856 while we were asleep at our said home, a band of the Rogue River Indians suddenly and unexpectedly went upon the war path and came to our said home, broke open our house and killed my said husband and three boys and wounded me while attempting to save my husband and children's lives, burnt our house, and carried myself, oldest daughter and infant child into captivity amongst the Indians where we remained for about two weeks, until we were ransomed by the people who were in a fort near the mouth of said Rogue River. That said Indians on the said night of February 22nd 1856, and days following, burnt the houses, stole and destroyed the property hereinafter mentioned. That said property is more particularly described and valued as follows, to wit:
I would further state the circumstances and facts connected with the killing of my said husband and sons, the loss of all of our property, and the subsequent captivity of myself and daughter. On the night that my husband and sons were killed, a "tame" Indian, who had been at work for us, and who had been out hunting our hogs the day previous, returned about midnight and knocked at our door for admission. Knowing his voice and not suspecting any treachery or danger, my husband got out of bed and opened the door. As soon as the door was opened the Indian who had been in our employ, and three or four others, rushed in and immediately commenced a murderous assault upon my husband. Though I had not completely recovered from sickness (my youngest child having been born two weeks previous), I rushed to the assistance of my husband and received a painful cut, nearly severing one of my fingers. I was soon overpowered and my husband killed in a very short time. My oldest daughter, then but thirteen years old, was dragged out of her bed, and she and I were securely bound. My little boys were then, one by one, brought out and brutally murdered in my presence, I being compelled to witness the awful deed. My daughter and I were then removed from the house in our nightclothes, and securely tied till the Indians searched the house and removed everything of value therefrom, which they deposited on the ground a short distance from the house. They found and took away with them all our money and gold dust, and the clothing of our family. They then set fire to the house, not permitting my husband and sons being removed from the burning house. Soon after my husband and sons were killed, quite a number of hostile Indians joined them, and they were engaged in burning the other houses and cabins and taking such things as suited them from about the said houses, and place, for about an hour and a half, when they started to return to their camp up Rogue River. My daughter and myself were not permitted to take any clothing with us, nor to put on our shoes, and we passed the remainder of the night in our nightclothes. About a mile from our house we were compelled to halt near a cabin in which lived a settler named McPherson, whom they speedily killed in my presence, and burnt his house, first taking such articles of property as were of any use to them. Not far from there they killed another man in his cabin, I being compelled to witness the inhuman act. It was now daylight, and before we reached the river I saw several dead white people near the trail whose bodies had been fearfully mutilated, their houses burnt and fencing destroyed. We were taken the same day to the Indian camp of the Tututnis, about 12 miles up the river, and held as captives fourteen days. During said time myself and daughter were treated with great brutality by the Indians and were constantly maltreated and compelled to perform the hardest menial labor by the squaws. At the end of fourteen days we were ransomed by the good white people then in the fort near the mouth of Rogue River, whom I have always understood paid quite a large sum in goods and money for our release. When my daughter and I arrived at the fort, we were almost destitute of clothing, were barefooted and suffering greatly from hunger and vermin, which got upon our person and clothing in the Indian camp. That my daughter and myself were supplied with food and clothing until the Indians were driven out of the vicinity by the people in said fort. And as a partial satisfaction and recompense to me and my daughters, I would most respectfully ask Congress to give me the sum of five thousand dollars in addition to the amount of my claim.
Christina EdsonSubscribed and sworn to before me this 25th day of April, A.D. 1887, and I hereby certify that the said Christina Edson is a person of respectability, and that her oath is entitled to full faith and credit.
County Clerk of Curry
State of Oregon )
County of Curry ) ss.
I, M. Riley, being duly sworn, say that I am well acquainted with Mrs. Christina Edson, the person presenting the foregoing annexed claim against the government for the sum of $7975, for property taken and destroyed by the Rogue River Indians in the month of February A.D. 1856, and that I have known her since about the month of June in the year 1855. That she then was, and up to the time her husband was killed, the wife of one John Geisel. That said Geisel, the claimant, and their family resided at their home situated near the ocean beach about six miles north of the mouth of Rogue River in this county, then Coos County, and had been residing at said place for about two years previous. That said John Geisel was then engaged at and about his said home at mining, keeping a wayside inn, and kept a small stock of merchandise and provisions for sale to the miners and settlers. That during the night of the 22nd, and the early morning of the 23rd of February, in the said year, A.D. 1856, the Rogue River Indians suddenly and unexpectedly went on the war path and went to the home of said John Geisel above mentioned, killed him and his three sons, took and destroyed all his property during said night and days following, and carried the said claimant and her infant child then only two weeks old and her daughter then thirteen years old into captivity and detained them as captives in the Tututni village about twelve miles up Rogue River for about fourteen days. That the people, who were then in a fort or stockade which they had hastily constructed near the mouth of Rogue River, on learning that Mrs. Geisel and her daughters were detained as captives, sent word by a captive squaw to the Indians that they would buy the captives, and after considerable parleying finally bought them from the Indians, paying quite a sum in money, blankets and provisions for the said claimant and her daughter. One Charles Brown, at the risk of his life, went alone, unattended, and unarmed amongst the hostile Indians and conducted the negotiations for the surrender of Mrs. Geisel and daughter. That when they, the said claimant and her daughter, arrived at our fort from the hostile Indian camp, they were very poorly clad, were barefooted and suffering from exposure, cruel treatment and hunger and were supplied with clothing and food by the ladies then at our said fort. And I verily believe that she, the said claimant, never at any time afterwards recovered any article of property which was at or about her said house at the time her husband and sons were killed. That it was currently reported at the time and soon afterwards that said Indians burnt and destroyed the houses, mining tools, flumes and mining appliances belonging to said Geisel, as well as his stock, and that they, the said Indians, were engaged several days thereafter in carrying away his said property to their camps. That the bodies of Geisel and his sons were burnt in their house by said Indians, and the bones afterwards found in the ruins. That I have read the foregoing affidavit and claim of Mrs. Christina Edson and believe her said statement to be true. And I further state that I verily believe that said John Geisel was the owner of all the property in said claim mentioned and had the same in his possession at and about his said home at the time he was killed. And I further say that I was well acquainted with the market value of said property at the time and place the same was taken and destroyed and believe that the values set opposite each article in the said claim mentioned is a just and fair valuation of the same. That my means of knowing the above facts are as follows: That I was residing at the mouth of Rogue River for some time before and after the happening of said depredations, that I was frequently at the home of said Geisel, stopping there as I was passing his place a short time before he was killed, and saw his house and remember that they were good, substantial houses for that early period of the settlement of our county, and that he had a considerable amount of clothing for his family, provisions and some other articles of merchandise for sale. And I heard from others, soon after the death of said Geisel, that he had quite a large lot of mining tools, boxes, flumes, copper plates and other articles generally used by miners. That he had a short time before his death bought several mining claims, cabins and tools from other miners and owned and possessed the same at the time of his death. I also heard several men who went to the Geisel place soon afterward, that is, after he was killed, say that the Indians had stolen and destroyed everything of value at and about Geisel's said home. That said Geisel and his family were lawfully in the Indian country at the time he was killed and that the place where his said property was taken or destroyed was not within the boundaries of an Indian reservation set apart by treaty provision or executive order. That I verily believe all the said property in said claim mentioned was at the time said Geisel was killed in his possession that the same was properly guarded and cared for, and that the loss thereof was not occasioned by the negligence of said Geisel or the claimant or of any of their employees, and that I was not during the said period in the employ of said Geisel or the claimant.
That during the outbreak and depredation of the Indians aforesaid, they killed nineteen white people and burnt
M. RileySubscribed and sworn to before me this 25th day of April, A.D. 1887, and I certify that said M. Riley is a person of respectability, and that his oath is entitled to full faith and credit.
County Clerk of Curry County
State of Oregon )
County of Curry ) ss.
I, Maria B. Riley, being duly sworn, say that I am well acquainted with Mrs. Christina Edson, the person making the foregoing affidavit and presenting a claim against the government for the sum of $7975.00 for property destroyed and stolen by the Rogue River Indians in Oregon in the month of February A.D. 1856, and have known her in the county since the early part of the year 1855. That I was present when the claimant was brought into the fort at the mouth of said Rogue River, as stated in her affidavit, and that her condition was then truly pitiable. That she was very poorly clad, was barefooted, and suffering greatly from exposure and harsh treatment by said Indians. That she and her daughter were provided with clothing and properly cared for by the ladies then in our said fort. That said claimant soon after her arrival in said fort related to myself and others the particulars respecting the killing of her husband and sons and the taking and destruction of their property by said Indians, and of her captivity and treatment by said Indians, while herself and daughter were prisoners in the Indian village and that her said statements at the time, while fuller, and perhaps more horrible, substantially agree with her affidavit, which I have read.
That I have also read the foregoing affidavit of my husband, M. Riley, know the contents thereof, and that the same is true and verily believe. My knowledge of said statements was derived from the same sources as those of my husband. That I have no interest whatever in the said claim of Mrs. Edson.
Mrs. Maria B. RileySubscribed and sworn to before me this 25th day of April, A.D. 1887, and I certify that said Mrs. Maria B. Riley is a person of respectability, and that her oath is entitled to full faith and credit.
Clerk of Curry Co., Oregon.
State of Oregon )
County of Curry ) ss.
I, E. H. Meservey, being duly sworn, on oath depose and say that I am well acquainted with Mrs. Christina Edson, the person presenting a claim against the government of the United States for the sum of $7975.00 for property stolen and destroyed by the Rogue River Indians in Oregon in the year 1856, and that I have known her, in said county, since the early part of the year 1855. That she was, during said time, and until the twenty-second day of February in the said year 1856, the wife of one John Geisel. That she, the said claimant, was at that time residing with her said husband, Geisel, and their family, at their home near the ocean beach, about six miles north of the mouth of Rogue River, in this county and state, and had been residing there about two years immediately preceding said date. That said Geisel, then the husband of said claimant, was engaged at mining, keeping a hotel and kept a few articles of merchandise for sale to the miners at said place, and was a peaceable, industrious man. That at or about the time said Geisel was killed by said Indians, as hereinafter more particularly stated, he was the owner of several houses, some cattle, horses, hogs, chickens, mining tools and appliances and some good paying mining claims situated near his said home. That his said dwelling was, at or about the time of his death, well stocked with provisions, household goods and furniture for that period of the settlement of this county. That on the night of the twenty-second day of February, 1856, the Rogue River Indians suddenly and unexpectedly went upon the war path, went to [the] house and home of said John Geisel, in said county and state, broke open his said dwelling house, killed said Geisel and three of his sons, wounded the claimant, his said wife, while she was trying to save the lives of her said husband and sons, burnt the dwelling house and the bodies of her said husband and sons in said house, and carried the said claimant, her infant child, two weeks old, and her daughter, then about thirteen years old, into captivity, and kept them captives till they were ransomed by the white people who were congregated in a fort nearby, in which fort I was at the time. That said Indians did, at or about the time aforesaid, to wit, February 22nd, 1856, burn and destroy all the houses, mining tools and appliances, killed and stole all the stock then owned by said Geisel at said place, and stole or destroyed all his provisions, household goods and everything which he owned at his said house at the time he was killed. That my means of knowing the facts herein by me stated are as follows: That I was a resident of this county at the time and for about two years previous to said date. That the people at and about the mouth of Rogue River at said time were driven from their home and congregated in a fort situated about one mile north of the mouth of Rogue River, I being amongst the people who sought refuge in said fort. That the people in said fort made up by subscription in money and goods enough to ransom the said claimant and her daughters, and one Charles Brown at the risk of his life went amongst said hostile Indians and gave them the money and goods above mentioned and brought the said claimant and her said daughters into said fort. That I was present and saw her, the said claimant, and her daughters when they came into said fort. That they were then poorly attired, and soon after their arrival narrated the facts relative to the killing of said Geisel and sons and the loss and destruction of their property by said Indians and their being taken and detained captives by said Indians. That it was currently reported at the time, and generally understood and believed by all the people at and about the mouth of Rogue River in said County of Curry, that all the property which the aforesaid John Geisel then owned and which was at and about his said home, was destroyed and stolen by said Indians at said time. And I further state that to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, neither the claimant Mrs. Edson, nor her daughters, ever recovered a single article of said property, and never received any compensation therefor. That I have carefully read the foregoing affidavit and examined the said claim of Mrs. Christina Edson, and believe her said statement to be true, and that I verily believe that said John Geisel owned and had in his possession at his said home, at the time he was killed, as aforesaid, all the property in said claim and affidavit mentioned and described. And I further state that I was well acquainted with the market value of said property at the place and time it was stolen and destroyed by said Indians, that the values set opposite each article of property in said claim was a just and fair valuation of the same. That I was not during said period in the employ of said Geisel or the claimant. That said Geisel and his family was at said time lawfully in the Indian country, engaged in lawful pursuits. That I was well acquainted with said Geisel and frequently visited his home and mines a short time before his death above stated. That his dwelling house was a good, substantial house for that early period in the settlement of this county, and was well furnished and stocked with household goods and provisions and there was a small assortment of merchandise for sale in the house at the last time I was there which was but a few days before Geisel was killed. His said dwelling house was worth, at that time, about one thousand dollars, perhaps a little more. His other house, for which $800 is claimed by Mr. Edson, was also a good house, had been used as a store, was well built and I should say was worth about $800. I do not remember much about the mining cabins, but from what I have heard others say who knew the cabins, they were worth over $100 each, at least; it was costly undertaking in those days to build a cabin, owing to the scarcity and high price of lumber and nails. It was also currently reported at the time and
E. H. MeserveySubscribed and sworn to before me this 25th day of April, A.D. 1887, and I certify that said E. H. Meservey is a person of respectability, and that his oath is entitled to full faith and credit.
Clerk of Curry Co., Oregon.
State of Oregon )
County of Curry ) ss.
I, Wm. Pugh, being duly sworn, say that I am well acquainted with Mrs. Christina Edson, the person presenting a claim against the government amounting to the sum of $7975.00 for property destroyed by the Rogue River Indians, in Oregon, in the month of February A.D. 1856, and have known her, the said Christina Edson, since the early part of the year 1855. That she was, when I first became acquainted with her, in the year aforesaid, and up to the 22nd day of February 1856, the wife of one John Geisel. That said Geisel and claimant and their family during the period above stated resided at their home near the ocean beach about six miles north of the mouth of Rogue River in this county and state, then the County of Coos, Territory of Oregon. That said Geisel was, during said period, and up to the time of his death as hereinafter stated, engaged at mining, keeping hotel, and also had a few articles of merchandise for sale at his home aforesaid. That at the time of his [illegible--half a page too light to read] cabins were built of boards [illegible] rock fireplaces, size about [illegible] and were worth about $150 each at the time they were burnt. Said Geisel also owned a large amount of mining tools and mining appliances, such as picks, shovels, gold pans, copper plates, toms, sluice boxes and hose, which was then at and about his cabins and home. This property I believe was worth at that time fully one thousand dollars. Said Geisel also owned and had in his possession at said place a lot of cattle, horses, hogs and chickens, the exact number of which I am unable to state at this late day. That on the night of the twenty-second day of February in the year 1856, the Rogue River Indians went upon the war path, went to the said house of said Geisel, killed him and his three sons and carried his wife the said Mrs. Christina Edson and her infant child and daughter into captivity and detained them captives for about two weeks. That said Indians did, on said night, and during two or three days following, burn all the houses, took and destroyed all the other property then owned by said Geisel at his said place, and I know that neither the claimant or any other persons, except said Indians, ever recovered a single article of said property. That said property was at the time the same was taken and destroyed in possession of said Geisel, and was properly guarded and cared for, and that the loss thereof, I verily believe, was not occasioned by the negligence of said Geisel or the claimant or of any of their employees. That I was not during said period in the employ of said Geisel or the claimant, and that I have no interest directly or otherwise in the said claim.
That my means of knowing the facts in this affidavit stated are that I was a resident of this vicinity at the time said property was destroyed and have lived here ever since. That I was at said Geisel's home a short time before he was killed and saw him and his family at their home and saw his houses and other property. That I was again at his place about three weeks after he was killed and saw his houses in ashes and all his property gone. That I also talked with others about the depredations the said [Indians] committed in this vicinity, at that time, and it was then generally understood by the people that the said Indians destroyed said houses and took all the property belonging to said Geisel and that no part thereof was afterwards recovered from the said Indians.
That I have read the foregoing affidavit and claim of the said Christina Edson, and verily believe that all the property therein mentioned was then owned by said Geisel and was in his possession at the time he was killed. That I am well acquainted with the market value of the articles in said claim mentioned and verily believe that the values set opposite each item is a just and fair valuation of the same at the time the same was destroyed and taken. That a short time before the commission of said depredations by the said Indians, Mr. Ben Wright, the agent of the lower Rogue River Indians, frequently and publicly stated that there was no danger of an outbreak by said Indians. That many of the people relying upon said representations of said Wright did not take the precaution to save or secure their property, and to meet the said outbreak, that they would have done had it not been for the actions and representations of said Wright, and to that cause more than any other I attribute the loss of many lives and a great amount of property by the sudden and unexpected outbreak of said Indians. That the depredations above mentioned were committed by the upper Rogue River Indians under chiefs "John," "Coyote" and "Limpy" and the lower river Indians consisting of the "Tututnis" and "Mikonotunnes" assisted by the coast Indians, generally known as the Rogue River Indians.
W. PughSubscribed and sworn to before me this 7th day of May A.D. 1887, and I hereby certify that the above named Wm. Pugh is a person of respectability and that his oath is entitled to full faith and credit.
Justice of the Peace
[Gauntlett's affidavit certifying Canfield not transcribed]
State of Oregon )
County of Curry ) ss.
I, W. S. Winsor, being duly sworn, depose and say that I am well acquainted with Mrs. Christina Edson, the person presenting a claim against the government for property destroyed and stolen by the Rogue River Indians in Oregon in the month of February A.D. 1856, and have known her, the said Christina Edson, since the early part of the year A.D. 1855. That she, the said Christina Edson, is the identical person who was the wife of one John Geisel during the period above mentioned and up to the time of the death of said Geisel as hereinafter stated. That on the 22nd day of February 1856, and for about two years previous, the said Geisel, his wife, the claimant, and their family, consisting of five children, resided at their home situated near the ocean beach about six miles north of the mouth of Rogue River, in this county and state, then the County of Coos, Territory of Oregon. That said Geisel was then the owner of a considerable amount of property consisting of a dwelling house and a house which he had purchased a short time before his death, and two or three mining cabins, some articles of merchandise, cattle, horses, hogs and chickens, the number of each or the value of which I am unable to state. I frequently passed near the said house of said Geisel, on the trail from Port Orford to the mouth of Rogue River, during the year 1855, and I believe sometime in the winter before the outbreak of the Indians as hereinafter stated, and during the year 1855, and I believe sometime in the winter before the outbreak of the Indians, as hereinafter stated, and saw his houses and stock, but have no distinct recollection of the actual value of said houses or the number of stock, namely, horses, hogs and cattle, which said Geisel then owned.
That during the night and early morning of February 22nd and the 23rd 1856, the Rogue River Indians, consisting of the upper [Rogue] River Indians, under chiefs "John," "Limpy" and "Coyote," assisted by the lower river Indians and a few scattering Indians from the villages along the coast near the mouth of said Rogue River, suddenly and unexpectedly went upon the war path, went to the home of said John Geisel, killed him and his three sons, destroyed and stole all the property which said Geisel then owned and had in possession at his said house and burnt all his houses and mining cabins and carried the wife of said Geisel, the claimant above named, with an infant about two weeks old and her daughter then about thirteen years old, into captivity and held them captives in the Indian village about ten miles up Rogue River about two weeks. That during said night, and the week following the raid, Indians killed about thirteen white people in and about the mouth of Rogue River, burnt all the houses belonging to the settlers and took and destroyed a great amount of property, in fact all the property which the settlers in their hasty flight were compelled to leave behind, and laid the country in waste and held possession of the country for about three weeks. That at the time of said outbreak I was residing at Port Orford and in about three weeks thereafter, in company with another man we went to Rogue River in the night and remained secreted in the woods and brush the next day, not knowing the exact place where the white people were forted up. That during said day I saw no white people moving about, but saw several bands of Indians going and returning from the direction of the place where the white people were forted up near the mouth of Rogue River. I found and entered the said fort in which there were at the time about one hundred white people who had been driven from their homes in and about the mouth of Rogue River. That on or about the 26th day of March 1856, I, in company with about 20 others, left said fort for the purpose of burying the dead bodies of persons who had been killed by said Indians. The same day we went to the place and home of said Geisel, found the bodies and bones of said Geisel and sons in the ruins of his house and buried them. The dwelling house of said Geisel and all his other houses had been burnt by said Indians, and no article of property which said Geisel owned was at or about his said place. And I further state that I do not believe that any article of said property which said Indians took from said Geisel was afterwards recovered from them. That I verily believe that the company with whom I visited the home of said Geisel were the first white people who went to said place after said Geisel was killed. That we buried the dead bodies of eight other white people in the same vicinity on the same day or shortly afterwards, and that [these] persons had been killed by said Indians. That I was informed by many white people at and about the time aforesaid that Ben. Wright, the agent for the lower Rogue River Indians, frequently and publicly stated to the people at and about the mouth of Rogue River aforementioned a short time before the outbreak and massacre above mentioned that there was no danger of an outbreak by said Rogue River Indians and that had it not been for said representations of said Wright the people would have been better prepared to meet said outbreak. That said people attributed the great loss of property and the lives of those killed at said place to the representations and assurances of said Wright.
That I was not during the period aforesaid in the employ of said John Geisel or the claimant, and have no interest whatever in the claim of Mrs. Edson, above mentioned.
Wm. S. WinsorSubscribed and sworn to before me this 14th day of May 1887, and I certify that Wm. S. Winsor, the person subscribing the foregoing affidavit, is a person of respectability and that his oath is entitled to full faith and credit.
[Gauntlett's affidavit certifying Tichenor not transcribed]
[Michael Riley's affidavit certifying Gauntlett not transcribed]
State of California )
County of Del Norte ) ss.
I, Charles Brown, being duly sworn on oath, depose and say I am well acquainted with Christina Edson, the person presenting the annexed claim against the government of the United States for the sum of $7957.00 for property taken and destroyed by the Rogue River Indians in the state of Oregon in the month of February A.D. 1856, and that I have known her since the early part of the year A.D. 1855.
That I was in the year 1855, and thereafter until about the year 1859, a resident of Curry County, state of Oregon, and resided most of the time in the vicinity of the mouth of Rogue River, in said county and state. That the said Christina Edson, claimant above named, was the wife of one John Geisel, that said Geisel resided with his said wife and their family, consisting of five children, at a place near the ocean beach about six miles north of the mouth of Rogue River in Curry County, Oregon. That said John Geisel was, during the month of February 1856, up to the time he was killed as more particularly hereinafter stated, engaged at mining, keeping a hotel, or wayside inn, and had a few articles of merchandise for sale at his said house, and in his said dwelling house. That he was then the owner of several houses of considerable value, also a miscellaneous lot of mining tools and mining appliances, and some horses, cattle and hogs and had the same in his possession at said place at the time aforesaid. That during the night of the twenty-second and the early morning of the twenty-third of February 1856, the Rogue River Indians suddenly and unexpectedly went upon the war path, went to the said home of said John Geisel, killed him and his three sons, burnt their dwelling house, in which were left the dead bodies of said Geisel and his sons, and wounded the claimant in a scuffle in which she was trying to save the lives of her husband and sons. That said Indians thereupon carried the said claimant Mrs. Edson, her infant child, then but two weeks old and her daughter, then about thirteen years old, into captivity and detained them captives about two weeks. That said Indians did, as I was informed, and verily believe, at or about said time, burn all the houses, took and destroyed all the property in and about the same that belonged to said Geisel and this claimant, and I verily believe no part of said property was subsequently recovered by the said claimant or by any person for her. That at said time the said Geisel was lawfully in the Indian country and was a peaceable and industrious man and that the loss of his said property was not occasioned by the negligence of himself or the claimant or of their employees. That about two weeks after the killing of said Geisel the white people near the mouth of said Rogue River subscribed in money and goods enough to pay the said hostile Indians to deliver up Mrs. Geisel (said claimant) and her daughter, and I went among the said Indians, conducted the negotiations and brought Mrs. Geisel and her daughter into said fort. That at said time she and her daughter were poorly clad and were barefooted, and were clothed and fed for some time afterwards by the white people in said fort. That at the time or soon after the arrival of Mrs. Geisel and her daughter at said fort, she related the story of the murder of her husband and sons, the loss and destruction of her husband's property, of her captivity and brutal treatment by said Indians while she was a captive. That about the time aforesaid, and during the said outbreak, said Indians killed nineteen white people, in and about the mouth of Rogue River, burnt all the houses thereabouts and destroyed and took all their property which said people left behind them in their flight. That as soon after said outbreak as the people could with security go about the country, the dead bodies of said Geisel and sons were found in the ruins of their home and buried. All the houses which said Geisel owned at the time of his death were then in ashes, and his stock and other property gone. These facts I relate from my own knowledge, as I visited the place where Geisel lived soon afterwards. And I also heard others at or about the same time state the particulars to some extent of the loss and destruction of said property. That I was frequently at the home of said Geisel and the claimant a short time previous to the depredations above mentioned, and saw that there was quite a lot of provisions, groceries, household goods and such other articles as go to make a home comfortable, in and about said home. That his dwelling house was a good, substantial structure for those early days and was quite valuable, as it cost a good deal in those days to build a house. There was another good house, made of whip-sawed lumber, near his dwelling, which had been used for a store, and was quite a valuable house. Geisel had some mining cabins nearby which he had bought, which were quite comfortable to live in. He also had quite an assortment of mining tools and mining appliances in and about his cabins, home and claims, the exact number of which I am unable to state, but from recollection believe they were worth seven or eight hundred dollars at the time and place they were taken and destroyed. I further state that the said dwelling house of said Geisel was worth about eleven or twelve hundred dollars, and the store house which he had but recently purchased was worth seven or eight hundred dollars and the mining cabins were worth about $150 each. And I further state that I have examined the said claim of Mrs. Edson which is hereto attached, and believe that all the articles therein mentioned and charged for were then owned by said John Geisel, and were in his possession at said place at or about said time he was killed. That I was well acquainted with the market value of the articles and goods therein mentioned and the time and place they were taken and destroyed by said Indians, and that the value of the same claimed by the said Mrs. Edson was a just and fair valuation of the loss, and I further state that I was not during the said period in the employ of said Geisel or the claimant, and that I have no interest in her said claim. That Mr. Ben Wright, the agent for the lower Rogue River Indians, frequently and publicly stated to the people at the mouth of Rogue River, a short time previous to the outbreak and depredations aforesaid, that there was no danger to be apprehended from such Indians.
Chas. BrownSubscribed and sworn to before me this 5th day of May A.D. 1887, and I certify that said Charles Brown is a person of respectability, and that his oath is entitled to full faith and credit.
P. H. PenderCopies of manuscript affidavits donated by Harold Pampinella (son of Anna Geisel), Fountain Valley, California. Geisel file, Curry Historical Society.
[Clerk of Superior Court, Del Norte County, California]
[affidavit of James E. Murphy certifying Pender not transcribed]
BILLS INTRODUCED.--Congressman Hermann has introduced the following bills of a private character: . . . The Indian depredation claims of . . . Christina Edson and personal representatives of John Geisel, deceased, Hardy Elliff, W. C. Mackay, Rev. Jno. W. Miller, heirs of Geo. W. Harris and his wife Mary A. Harris, and their daughter Sophia Love, deceased; B. B. Bishop, I. B. Nichols, Andrew Clarno, Mrs. Caroline Sexton (formerly Mrs. Niday), Robt. Smith, John P. Walker, Dick J. Smith and Veit Schutz.
Roseburg Review, February 17, 1888, page 3
Representative Hermann submitted to the House today from the Committee on Indian Depredation Claims a favorable report on the bill to pay Christina Edson of Ellensburg, Or. $8000 for property destroyed by the Rogue River Indians on February 22, 1856. Mrs. Edson was formerly the widow of John Geisel and is one of the heroines of the Oregon Indian war. Her husband and three children were murdered in her presence, and the house, with the bodies, burned to ashes. Mrs. Geisel and her daughter were securely bound and marched in their bare feet to the Indian village, where, after fourteen days' captivity, coupled with atrocious indignities, they were ransomed by the settlers.
"Pacific Coast Topics," San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 1888, page 1
AN OREGON HEROINE.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.
She Gets a Pension in Her Old Age.
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.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.
An Indian Story from Real Life Told in a Committee Report.
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
A relic preserved in Curry County is the skull of the Indian who is supposed to have murdered the Geisel family at Rogue River. Mrs. Winsor, who was an eyewitness of the hanging of this wretch, which occurred in the spring of 1856, says the whites found a tree near the present graveyard at Gold Beach and placed a rope around the Digger's neck. A barrel was placed beneath his feet, which Mrs. Geisel, now Mrs. Edson, of Gold Beach, promptly kicked from under him, thus ridding the world of a brute who had made desolate a peaceful home.
"Pressed Bricks," Valley Record, Ashland, November 3, 1892, page 1 This is completely unconfirmed and bears no resemblance to the known hangings of Enos and Chetco Bill.
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
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.
"Reminiscences from the Life of M. Riley," Orvil Dodge, ed., Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, 1898, ed. of 1969, page 347
MURDER AT GOLD BEACH
An Aged Lady Killed for Her Money and Her Remains Burned.
Mrs. Edson, better known to pioneers of the coast as Mrs. Christina Geisel, an old lady residing at Gold Beach, was the victim of a foul murder at Gold Beach September 19.
Mrs. Edson, who lived alone, possessed a neat, comfortable home at Gold Beach and was known to have considerable money. Early Tuesday morning it was discovered that her house had been destroyed by fire. An investigation followed, and the charred skeleton of the old lady was found on the springs of the bed in her room.
It is the supposition that the assassin or assassins had been secreted in the house on the previous evening, or entered in some quiet manner during the night, and killed her by some means, whether while she was asleep or whether there was a struggle is not known. The murderer then secured what money there was in the house, brought a can of coal oil into the bedroom, poured it over the victim and started the fire.
In speaking of the deceased the Port Orford Tribune says: "Mrs. Edson was quite aged and a highly respected early pioneer resident of Rogue River. On the 22nd of February 1856, her husband, John Geisel, and her three sons were murdered at their home a few miles north of the mouth of Rogue River in her presence by Indians, the house being set on fire and the bodies of her loved ones being consumed with the house, while herself and two little daughters, one an infant, were made captives. And now after forty-three years of mourning for her dead, always faithful in attending and watching over their last resting place, and seeing that their graves were kept green, she meets an identical fate equally as savage and fiendish as that of which she was a helpless spectator so many years ago."--Myrtle Point Enterprise.
S. C. GILLESPIE ARRESTED.A description of the supposed murderer was furnished the officers at Roseburg Saturday, which information was telegraphed north and south. On receiving this description at Cottage Grove, Constable Warren McFarland in less than fifteen minutes thereafter apprehended and arrested the party wanted, who was making his way north on horseback as possible. His name is S. C. Gillespie, and with other relatives he has resided in Curry County for some time past, where he bears an unenviable reputation.
Constable McFarland delivered his prisoner to this city Saturday night, where he was met by Sheriff Jesse Turner and Deputy Alf Miller of Curry County, who took the prisoner in charge and will soon return with him to Gold Beach. It is said that circumstantial evidence is strong against Gillespie, and some anxiety is entertained by the officers lest he be lynched on their return to the scene of the horrible crime. A reward of $400 is offered for the arrest and conviction of the murderer, which in case Gillespie is convicted will be rewarded to Constable McFarland.
The Plaindealer, Roseburg, October 2, 1899, page 3
CAPTURED BY REDSKINS.
Christina Geisel, now Christina Edson, emigrated in the early years from the Atlantic States to the shore of the Pacific, and with her husband, John Geisel, and their little family settled on 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 the passing travelers for lodgings, constituted their meals and livelihood. A friendly Indian was employed about the premises in occasional services. The village of the Indian tribe of the "Tututnis" was eight 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 assurance that no danger existed.
On the night of Feb. 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 hall, 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 left 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. Mrs. 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.
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 [Skookum House] 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, thirty 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.
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. The 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.
Daily Herald, Delphos, Ohio, November 2, 1899, page 3
DEATH ON GALLOWS
Coleman Gillespie Hanged at Gold Beach Yesterday.
SEEMED LITTLE CONCERNED
Life Extinct in Fifteen Minutes After Fatal Drop--
Made Statement Implicating Another.
GOLD BEACH, Oct. 5.--Coleman Gillespie met death on the gallows here this afternoon at 3 o'clock, and thus is avenged one of the most brutal and fiendish murders to be found in the annals of Curry County.
The murderer dropped about six feet, and died in 15 minutes. Death was due to strangulation. He met his fate with apparent unconcern.
His last statement from the scaffold was to the effect that it was Charles Strahan's hand which took aged Mrs. Edson's life, although he did not deny being at the house at the time the deed was committed.
The body was taken charge of by relatives.
History of the Crime.About the middle of September, 1899, Mrs. Christina Edson, a woman over 70 years of age, who lived alone at Gold Beach, was murdered, her house robbed and her body cremated. On September 19, 1899, the mail carrier who passed the place discovered that the house had been burned, and an investigation resulted in finding the charred remains of Mrs. Edson lying across a bed. Circumstances pointed to murder for robbery, and suspicion at once rested upon Coleman Gillespie, a wild and reckless young fellow about 21 years old, who lived in the neighborhood. Soon after the murder, Gillespie went to Myrtle Creek. While there, Gillespie sold Mrs. Edson's pension check for $75 [sic] to C. O. White, and this check when presented at a bank in Roseburg gave the officers, who were trailing Gillespie, their first positive evidence of his guilt. He was arrested at Cottage Grove, September 30, less than two weeks after the murder, and confessed to robbing the old lady of the pension check, but denied that he murdered her. His trial occupied two days, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty after 20 minutes deliberation. Gillespie's people are well known and highly respected in the community where they live.
John Geisel, the first husband of Mrs. Edson, the murdered woman, and their three children were murdered by the Rogue River Indians in February, 1856.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, October 6, 1900, page 4
SURVIVING MEMBER OF GEISEL FAMILY VISITS GOLD BEACH
Making her annual pilgrimage to Southwestern Oregon and Northern California is Mrs. Mary Blake, who arrived here Saturday from her home in Portland to renew her acquaintances and friendships among the oldtimers in the locality that was her home when a girl. Mrs. Blake, although well past the four-score years, is still quite active and enjoying very good health. She visited in North Bend and Port Orford en route here, and goes south from here to Harbor and to Arcata, Calif. She is greatly pleased over the good roads she finds through this section and now comments in a reminiscent mood over the speed with which the trip is now made from Port Orford by auto, where it took at least a day on the roads, by horse stage, when Mrs. Blake lived in Curry County. Mrs. Blake is a pioneer of Curry County, having been a member of the John Geisel family. Her father, together with three brothers, were massacred by the Rogue Indians in 1856, and her mother, herself and an infant sister taken and held captives by the Indians at their camp for several days before their release was secured through bartering, and the maneuvering of one Charley Brown. Following this terrible ordeal the Geisel family moved to Gold Beach, living on what is now known as the flat, north of town, and where some years after Mrs. Blake's mother, living alone, met a tragic death in a fire that destroyed her home, and which, it is believed, was of incendiary origin.
Curry County Reporter, Gold Beach, June 26, 1924, page 1
An Oregon pioneer of 1851 tells Mr. Lockley of the experiences of herself and her mother and baby sister as captives in the hands of Indians at the outbreak of the Indians in Curry County in 1856. The story will be concluded in a second installment.
----I would like to know how many readers of The Journal were ever held captive by Indians. I don't suppose there are more than a few such persons in the state. A day or two ago I visited Mrs. Mary Geisel Blake at her home at 1604 Alameda Drive, and she told me of her captivity among the Indians in 1856.
"My father, John Geisel, was born in Germany, as was my mother, whose maiden name was Christina Bruck," said Mrs. Blake. "They met and were married at Covington, Ky. From there they went to Ohio and thence to Indiana. I was their first child. I was born on St. Valentine's Day, 1843, at Hamilton, Ohio. When I was nine years old we came across the plains by ox team and covered wagon to Oregon. There were six of us--Father and Mother, my three brothers, John, Henry and Andrew, and myself. Father ran a grocery in Indiana, but when we came to Portland there seemed to be enough stores to take care of the trade. We rented a house on Front Street, Portland, where we lived till 1854.
"Father then decided to try his fortune in the newly discovered beach mines in Curry County, near the mouth of the Rogue River. We went aboard a steamer bound for San Francisco. In those days the steamers for San Francisco stopped at Port Orford, a place started in the spring of 1851 by Captain William Tichenor, who left J. M. Kirkpatrick, a Portland carpenter, with eight other young men to start a town there while he went on to San Francisco with his ship, the Sea Gull. These nine men, when attacked by the Indians, took refuge on a rock jutting out into the ocean and defended themselves successfully, which desperate fight gave the rock its name--Battle Rock.
"In 1853 gold was discovered on the beach near the mouth of the Rogue River. The gold was very fine and had to be saved by catching it on blankets in the sluice boxes or on copper plates coated with quicksilver. Father took up a claim on the beach near Elizabethtown, about 30 miles below Port Orford. Other mining towns along the beach were Logtown and Ellensburg, the latter named for Captain Tichenor's daughter, Ellen. Michael Riley, Dr. Holton, Mr. Thorp and my father were among the first to settle at Elizabethtown. There were a store and several cabins at Elizabethtown. The first stores at Ellensburg were run by Gus and John Upton and Huntley & O'Brien. Father had a rich claim and we were doing well.
"Father hired a Rogue River Indian to help with the chores on our place, which was about six miles above the mouth of the Rogue River. Mother had a sow which had a litter of little pigs. The sow and her family of little pigs had wandered off, and Mother was afraid a bear or cougar would get them, so she sent our Indian helper to look for them. This was on February 22, 1856. As it was Washington's Birthday, a dance in honor of the event was given at Ellensburg. In those days when a dance or other entertainment was given usually everyone in the neighborhood attended and of course took their children. Mother had planned for us to go, but she did not feel well that day, so she decided not to go. At midnight I heard a knock on our door. Father asked who was there, and our Indian helper responded. Father opened the door and asked him if he had found the sow and her pigs. I heard Father raise his voice and protest about three other Indians who wanted to come into the house with our hired man. They began struggling. Mother heard them and ran out to help Father. The Indians were trying to kill Father with their knives. Mother grabbed at one of the Indians. She caught his knife, but the Indian pulled the knife out of her hands and the sharp blade nearly severed her little finger. One of the Indians held her while the others finished killing Father. The Indians took Mother and me outdoors and tied us and then went back and killed my three brothers. John was 9 years old, Henry 7 and Andrew 5. My little sister Anna was only three weeks old. The Indians set fire to the house after they had told Mother and me to dress and for her to get her baby. They told us we must go with them to their camp, about four miles away. It was a soft, mild night and the moon was nearly full. [The full moon was February 20.] It was almost as bright as day, though in the moonlight things did not look natural to me. While we were going along the trail to the Indians' camp the Indians stopped near a cabin, and one of them stayed as a guard to see that we did not escape while the others went to the cabin and knocked on the door. A considerable number of other Indians had joined our party, and they told us we must not cry out for fear we would warn the men in the cabin. They went into the cabin and killed Mr. McClusky and the man with him. It made me feel bad to stay there and hear the men cry out and then hear their groans as they were being killed.
"The Indians took us to their village and put us into a tepee and told us to go to sleep, as no harm would come to us. The Indians had captured a colored man, who, when he saw Mother's little finger, which was nearly cut off, bandaged it very skillfully. He was very sympathetic and told Mother he thought we would soon be rescued and for her not to worry. The Indians heard him telling Mother that we would soon be rescued, so one of them came up and told the colored man not to interfere with matters that didn't concern him, and he would cure him of interfering with other people's business. So he drew out his knife and killed the colored man and threw his body into the river. It made Mother and me feel very bad and forsaken, for he was so kindly and sympathetic.
"We didn't know what the Indians were going to do to us nor how soon they might become angry and kill us. They told us to eat all we wanted and not to be worried, for they would see that no harm came to us, and they were very considerate and kind to us, but that didn't bring back my father and my three brothers they had killed. They tried to comfort us by saying that pretty soon they were going to kill all the men in the fort, and they would bring all the women and children here to be company for us. We heard them talking and telling of the settlers they had already killed. They had killed Ben Wright and taken Chetco Jennie, his Indian wife, prisoner. Ben Wright was the Indian agent. They had killed Captain Poland, who was in command of the volunteers. They had killed over 30 people and burned all the settlers' cabins and stores in that part of the country. They had flour, rice, bacon, beans, sugar, tea, coffee and other supplies they had taken from the stores, and they urged us to eat all we wanted of whatever we wanted. Each day we hoped we should be released or that the soldiers would come and rescue us. Finally, after two weeks, we saw that the Indians had decided on some course of action in regard to us, but what it was we did not know."
Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, November 10, 1925, page 4
Mrs. Blake's story of her captivity among the Indians in Curry County is here concluded. To the narrative Mr. Lockley appends a sketch of the hostilities of 1855-56.
----"We were captured by the Indians on the night of Washington's Birthday in 1856," said Mrs. Mary Geisel Blake of Portland when I interviewed her recently. "My father and my three brothers were killed and the house burned. We were taken to the Indian village, where we were held prisoners. The settlers in the fort captured a squaw. One of the settlers, Charley Brown, went out with a flag of truce to see if the Indians would trade Mother and me and the baby for the squaw. They arranged the trade and were taken to a midway point, but the Indians claimed the white men had not kept faith. They were to give the squaw and a certain number of blankets in exchange for Mother, my baby sister Anna and myself. The Indians traded Mother even for the squaw and accepted the blankets brought for the baby, but would not turn me over without additional blankets, so the conference broke up and Mother and my baby sister went to the fort with Charley Brown, and I had to go back with the Indians. I was afraid they would be angry and kill me, but they didn't. As I slept that night all alone in an Indian tepee, my dreams were filled with dread, for I was only 13, all alone in a camp of hostiles who were planning to kill all settlers in the coast country. I was afraid they would start with me. The next day they took me near the fort and liberated me. You can imagine how glad I was to rejoin my mother and how worried she had been when I had to go back with the Indians. Charley Brown had met the Indians again and arranged for my release. We stayed in the fort till the soldiers arrived from Crescent City and Port Orford. We were taken to Port Orford, where the settlers stayed in a big house till the Indian trouble was over. Mother and Anna and I went to Crescent City, where Mother ran a boarding house for the next few years. We came back to Gold Beach and Mother ran a boarding house there. I went to school at Gold Beach to Judge M. B. Gregory and later to Frank Stewart, who later owned and edited the Port Orford Tribune.
"I married Henry G. Blake, a miner from New Hampshire. We were married by Justice of the Peace Gregory, my former teacher. We moved to Placerville, Idaho, shortly after our marriage, where my husband ran a store. The gold at Placerville was not like the gold in the sand at Gold Beach. It was coarse, and there were many nuggets. I was married in January 1863, and in December 1863 my son Fred was born. Fred married Ruby Costello on November 7, 1895. She is a Chetco girl. Her father was one of the early residents of Curry County and taught school there for many years.
"Binger Hermann while in Congress secured Mother a pension of $25 a month because of Father being killed by the Indians. Two young men at Gold Beach, Coleman Gillespie and Charley Strahan, thought Mother had considerable money hidden in her house. They knew she had saved money and was receiving a pension of $25 a month. One night in  they went to where she lived alone and broke into the house and tried to make her tell where her money was hidden. Because she would not tell they choked her to death, set fire to the house and burned it down. Coleman Gillespie took Mother's pension check and tried to cash it in one of the smaller Willamette Valley towns, so he was apprehended, arrested, tried, convicted and hanged back of the courthouse at Gold Beach. He made a confession implicating Strahan. Strahan started out in a small boat with his brother and a half-breed. The boat tipped over and all were drowned.
"The next time you go to Gold Beach you can see, by the side of the road, where our house stood in 1856, a fence within which is a monument to my father and three brothers who were killed by the Indians. They were cremated when the house was burned by the Indians, so the settlers made four mounds for their graves and put a fence around where the house stood. You can read on the monument their names and the manner of their death."
----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 Flat 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-year-old daughter and 3-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, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, November 11, 1925, page 20
TOMBS RECALL INDIANS' MASSACRE OF MINERS
Ghosts of Romantic Past Sensed by Scribe in Trip to Scene of Redskin Battles;
Geisel Story Recreated in Imagination
By M. SEYMOUR THURSTON
Seven miles north on the Rogue River on the Roosevelt Highway is a sign pointing toward the area, and marked "One mile to the Geisel monument." The dirt road which leads to it is, in some places, almost like a dark tunnel cut through the forest of interweaving myrtle, spruce and fir, with an underbrush of salal, which grows in this region to a height of 10 or 12 feet, and is so dense and matted that a snake hardly could crawl through it.
A square block of the forest, about 20 feet in diameter, has been lifted out, and the space fenced with tall iron pickets. Against this fence the impenetrable forest hurls itself; looking into it from the inside is like looking into the sea from a glass-bottomed boat. In the center of the plot a red granite shaft rises from the head of a cement-covered grave, marked with the names of John Geisel and his three little sons, John, aged 5; Henry, aged 7; and Andrew, aged 9. It is dated February 22, 1856.
Another cement slab close by is marked by the name of Christina Edson, and dated . "Killed in an Indian massacre," someone said. [Christina was murdered by white men.]
Out of the sunlight we had come into the dark and haunted past where lie the ashes of the Geisel family, guarded by the heavy Port Orford cedars, dark and funereal. It was so silent! only the whimper of the gulls, and the wash of the sea, which breaks on a wild and rocky coast. There is a tiny strip of black sand beach, the same black sand, laden with gold, which lured John Geisel here three-quarters of a century ago.
Oldest Witness Alive.The bit of the story was so fascinating that I must know the rest. I got it from two old Curry County histories, from Mrs. Mary Gauntlett, born of parents married at Gold Beach; from A. T. Moores, who carried the mail between Gold Beach and Port Orford 40 years ago, and finally from Mrs. Mary Blake herself, who is the oldest child of John Geisel and who witnessed the massacre. She is a dear and beautifully preserved old lady living at 1604 Alameda Drive, Portland.
As short a time ago as 1856, Curry County was inhabited by ten Indian tribes on the coast and the fierce Shas-te-Koos-tees [Shasta Costas] farther up the Rogue. Now, they say, there is left but one full-blooded Indian, and old Shasta woman living near the Chetco River.
John Geisel and his wife Christina, both born in Germany, had gradually drifted westward across the United States. In 1852, by way of covered wagon and ox team, with their four children, they arrived at Portland, where they lived in a house on Front Street.
In 1853 gold was discovered in the black sand of the beach at the mouth of the Rogue River. John Geisel took his family there in 1854.
The black sand mining excitement was at its height. The Indian villages along the coast at the mouths of the rivers had been generally replaced by white settlements. In the vicinity of the mouth of the Rogue were Elizabethtown, five miles up the coast; Ellensburg, now Gold Beach, and Log-Town, whose populations were made up of several hundred miners, some traders, and a few vegetable-growing farmers, all men in the prime of life. There were only two or three white families. John Geisel's family, located at Elizabethtown, was the second to locate in this section.
At Port Orford, 30 miles up the coast from Gold Beach, was stationed Brevet-Major Reynolds, U.S.A., with his company of the 3d artillery. There was almost no communication from the north or east, only the wagon road south to Crescent City, Cal., and the occasional boats along the coast. Captain Tichenor's historic boat, the Seagull, had been wrecked on the Humboldt Bar in 1852, but he was probably making regular trips at that time between Portland and San Francisco in the Quickstep.
There had been considerable trouble with the Indians, dating from "Miller's Outrage" on the Chetco in 1854. An Indian village had been demolished, and 16 people, including a squaw and her papoose, killed. The whites were usurping their lands; taking the sites of their villages at the mouths of rivers where fish, rock oysters and shellfish were so abundant, killing their herds of elk and deer.
Yet the Tututni tribes, including 11 bands, which extended from the northern limits of Coos Bay to the Chetco River on the south, were apparently peaceful and even friendly.
Among the Tututni tribes was Enos, an educated Indian, half French he was--from Canada, who was greatly in the confidence of Colonel Wright, the sub-agent in charge of Indian affairs at this place.
Enos, although he was much with the whites and fully trusted by them, lived with his squaw up the Rogue, among the Rogue River Indians. He came and went continually among the Indians and the whites.
Warning Is Disregarded.Colonel Wright had been warned that the fighting tribes up the river were trying to involve the lower river tribes--the Tututnis, the Mikonotunne and the Yahsutes--in a war of extermination against the whites. But Colonel Wright knew his Indians, or thought he did, and laughed at the idea of an uprising. Gold Beach, which comprised at that time the whole section, was quiet and peaceful. There was the ringing sound of the ax, and the song of the saw. On the Big Flat, three miles up the Rogue River, men were growing potatoes and other vegetables. All day red-shirted miners worked on the beaches, filtering the black sand through woolen blankets to catch the gold, powder-fine.
John Geisel and his family, at Elizabethtown, were living in domestic peace. They were mining the black sand and raising vegetables. Mrs. Geisel had a fine sow with a litter of pigs. This sow had wandered away with her little ones.
February 22, 1856, Geisel, and a Rogue River Indian employed by him, had gone out to hunt the strayed pigs. Perhaps they had gone south down the wagon road as far as Rogue River, and looked across at Ellensburg, lying peacefully in the flat at the mouth of the river. The sun was shining on this late February day. Across the river a group of Rogue River squaws were taking their daily plunge, and Geisel may have laughed to see one of them supporting her young papoose on her hands, giving him his first swimming lesson.
Their boats, shaped and fire-hollowed logs, were drawn up on the river bank. Dogs and children played. Smoke poured out of the tops of their conical-shaped huts.
There had been rumors of trouble, and John Geisel, with his little flock in mind, had felt uneasy. Now, as he looked at the peaceful Indian village, his heart quieted.
His Indian companion got into a passing canoe with others of his kind. "Me hunt hogs other time," he said. "Come back pretty soon."
Geisel, weary of the search, started home. He met a couple of young miners on their way to Ellensburg.
"Going to the dance on the Big Flat tonight, John?" one of them shouted.
"No," smiled he, "too many little folks."
"Oh, you ought to come and bring your womenfolk," protested the miner. "Women are mighty scarce in these woods."
"Mary is only 13 and my wife has a small baby," Geisel answered as he tramped on home.
That evening, February 22, 1856, most of the people of the whole Gold Beach section departed for the dance on the Big Flat, given in honor of Washington's birthday.
The Geisels covered their ashes, put out their light and went to bed.
"John," Mrs. Geisel may have said, timidly, "they say there's going to be trouble among the Indians."
"Oh, no," would have been his natural answer, spoken comfortably and sleepily. "Ben Wright can handle the Indians. By summer they will all be moved north to the reservation anyway."
No Fear Is Felt.Doubtless he told her of looking across the river at a contented little village that day, and of the squaw teaching her papoose to swim. They laughed and John Geisel, weary of his long tramp, dropped asleep, wondering if his Indian companion had found the hogs and wagering audibly that he wouldn't be seen for a week again.
Perhaps, with her babe on her arm, Mrs. Geisel lay that night fearful and anxious, in spite of her husband's reassurance. She thought of the rumors of trouble, and in contrast of the white population dancing on the Big Flat.
An early flight of migrating geese passed in the sky. She listened to their weird, yearning cries and thought fancifully that they might be lost souls seeking their creator.
Mary lay in the next room. In the trundle bed beside her own she saw by the light of the moon the tousled heads of her three little sons. The 3-week-old baby on her arm stirred, seeking the mother's breast. Her dear ones were all safe, all together. The cabin was locked and barred. She fumbled for her husband's hand, which even in his sleep pressed her reassuringly, and fell asleep at last.
At midnight came a knock on the door, and the familiar face of the Indian helper.
"Yes," answered Geisel, and sprang up to admit him. He threw open the door and was stabbed where he stood. A moment later the little cabin was full of yelling, painted Indians. The Tututnis were on the warpath.
The three little boys were slain in their bed. Mrs. Geisel, fighting to defend herself and her children, received a knife wound in her hand. She and Mary were rushed out of the house and bound to the trunks of trees, where, half fainting, they watched the burning of the cabin in which were the bodies of the father and sons.
Good Fortune Saves Baby.A tall buck had seized the baby, Anna, and dashed her upon the floor. Wrapped in her blankets she neither cried nor died. Thinking that she must be under the care of the Great Spirit himself, he put her into the mother's outstretched arms.
The savages rushed on, yelling, dancing, burning. They destroyed the homes of the absent dancers, all but two or three Frenchmen's cabins. Enos, who it was afterward learned was the instigator of the trouble, was half French, and the Frenchmen were safe through the following weeks of siege and bloodshed.
After the burning little town had ceased to throw its fitful flames against the trees, and the "painted devils" had grown weary of their sport, they forced the mother with her baby in her arms and Mary behind her away on a forest trail to their camp four miles up the river.
An ocean fog rolled in from the Pacific, mingling with the smoke of Elizabethtown, and all was still.
History records that this massacre occurred February 22, 1856, when the Rogue River Indians, including the Tututni, the Mikonotunne, and the Yashute tribes rose up in an endeavor to exterminate the whites. There were 35 persons killed that night; the miners' cabins up and down the coast were destroyed by fire; and all the buildings in Ellensburg (now Gold Beach) were burned.
One night, 17 days after their capture, Mrs. Geisel and Mary had eaten what they could of the bountiful supper of smoked salmon, and bread made of acorn flour ground in a stone mortar, with a stone pestle, and baked in ashes. The flour had been mixed with dried huckleberries and salmonberries and seasoned with some highly flavored herb. A friendly squaw had dropped into Mary's lap a handful of that beloved delicacy, wocus, or pond lily seeds. The diet, wholesome enough, did not appeal to the tastes of white women.
They lay in their bed of skins and blankets, comfortable physically. The hut was dug back into the bank about eight feet. The poles set around against the excavation were covered with grass and dirt. The smoke from the embers of the dying fire escaped, part of it at least, through the hole left for that purpose at the top of the conical-shaped structure.
Hour after hour Mrs. Geisel lay awake. The moon passed through a white cloud in the range of her vision.
She guessed where she was, some miles up the Rogue. Could she, dared she, with her baby in her arms, and Mary behind her, climb up the notched pole, creep through the narrow opening out of the hut, steal one of the heavy log canoes on the beach and guide it down to the settlement at the mouth of the river? Or--she shivered, remembering the flaming cabins of Elizabethtown--was there any settlement there now?
She thought with fear of Enos, the educated Indian, who was now the chief of the tribe. Him she knew--smiling, friendly and treacherous. Fortunately she did not know that on the very night her family had been massacred, Enos had smiled into Colonel Wright's face when he entered his cabin at Ellensburg in the guise of a friend, and then murdered him with an axe. But she feared and dreaded him. Even if she could dare the woods and waves, could she dare Enos?
Rumors had got about that Mrs. Geisel and her daughters were alive and held in the Tututni village up the river. Charley Brown and his Indian wife Betsey, and Captain Davis had bargained and traded with Enos, and at last after nearly three weeks of imprisonment Mrs. Geisel, Mary and the infant Anna were exchanged for a captive squaw, some blankets and a handful of gold slugs and Spanish doubloons.
Mrs. Geisel was one born for tragedy. It is almost inconceivable that 40 years afterward she should have shared the identical fate of her husband and sons. She was robbed, murdered, and burned in her house at the edge of Gold Beach in . The pathetic, empty hillock on which her cottage stood is at the left-hand side of the highway just where the road from the ferry across the Rogue starts up the hill into Gold Beach. Her body lies under the second cement slab in the Geisel graveyard.
The Roosevelt Highway is almost completed. Within three years a splendid bridge will span the Rogue between Wedderburn and Gold Beach. Thousands of tourists will rush up and down the smooth pavement, sleeping in modern automobile camps, eating at cheap barbecues and never know of the ghosts that walk in Curry County; of the brave pioneers that haunt the cedar forests; ghosts of miners whom the Indians left lying where they fell; ghosts of murderers swinging from trees; perhaps of the half-breed chief Enos himself who was hanged afterward on Battle Rock at Port Orford; ghosts of Indian braves engaged in the deadly war dance on the smooth, gold-laden, black sand beaches above and below the Rogue River.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, December 15, 1929, page 33
Los Angeles, CaliforniaThe Honorable Mayor
July 1, 1959
City of Independence
My Dear Mr. Mayor:
I have read of your coming celebration of the 100 years of Oregon's statehood and the Westward Ho feature, with the wagon train coming from Independence, Missouri, expected to arrive in Independence, Oregon in mid-August. As a closely related member of one of Oregon's early pioneer families, who traveled over the same Oregon Trail from Boston, Massachusetts in a covered wagon, I would like to attend the celebration if the necessary arrangements can be made.
John Geisel, my grandfather, arrived in Oregon in the year 1852. He went to Port Orford, Curry County in 1854 and built his home. Across the river in Ellensburg (now Gold Beach) he owned and operated the only general merchandise store. [Pampinella is apparently referring to the Elizabethtown store Geisel bought shortly before his death.]
On the night of February 22, 1856, the Rogue River Indians broke out (there was a dance in Ellensburg, well attended by soldiers as well as the citizens), and among those massacred were my grandfather and his three sons. When the citizens took protection in the fort it was believed the entire Geisel family had been killed. However, they took my grandmother, Christina, her 13-year-old daughter Mary and infant daughter, Anna, my mother, as captives and held them at the Tututni Ranch [i.e. village] on the Rogue River.
Later it was learned at the fort, through a squaw, that they were still alive. Through negotiations by a Charles Brown and his wife, Betsey (who was an Indian woman) and a Captain Davis, my grandmother and my mother were returned and later the daughter, Mary, in exchange for squaws held prisoners, blankets, etc. [No Indian women were held prisoner in the fort.] After a long siege the fort was relieved by about 1300 [this figure is vastly inflated] U.S. soldiers sent up the coast after receiving word of the holocaust.
The Geisel Monument and State Park was dedicated in their memory at the site where the house was burned. The property was given by my grandmother, who is also buried there now. This is shown on all of your travel guides I have seen during my many trips through Oregon in the past years. There is a full account of this event in the Oregon history.
On the 20th day of August, 1900, my grandmother, the widow of a man named Edson, and living alone in Gold Beach, was murdered and the house burned down. Yet sufficient clues were found by the sheriff, Jesse Turner, to apprehend the murderer and bring him to justice. In 1935 it was brought to my attention that an article was in a detective magazine (35 years later) called "The Clue of the Caricature." This sheriff had practically nothing to work on, with the home burned to the ground and my grandmother's body burned and charred. That is, evidently, why it was considered a masterful piece of detective work he accomplished.
I have a copy of this magazine, with a picture of my grandmother. Also, I have considerable correspondence with the United States government pertaining to Indian depredation claims by my grandmother, all dating away back in the 19th century. I have a complete list of every article in my grandfather's store and its valuation at the time of the burning. Among my treasured correspondence is a letter from the law offices of "Examiner Bureau of Claims" to my grandmother, soliciting her claim for prosecution--dated February 14, 1894, Washington, D.C., signed by the general manager, John Wedderburn. Then there's even a letter from the House of Representatives, written by hand.
My mother was later married in San Francisco to Salvadore Pampinella, where I and my two sisters (now deceased) were born and reared. We spent every summer vacation though in Oregon. I feel very closely related to Oregon and its pioneer history. Yes, that must have been a very horrible thing for my grandmother to have to witness--the burning of her home, husband and and three sons--with an even greater fear, greater than death itself, as she and her daughter, Mary, tied to a tree, with my infant mother in her arms, were forced to witness.
Back in 1939 I wrote to the Oregon State Library to find the names of books that might be available relating this horrible affair. Of course, they said such books were out of print, but they would be glad to loan some of those they had to a local library for my use. They went to the trouble to give me a copied report from the Secretary of the Interior, taken from a letter by R. W. Dunbar of Port Orford, relating the horrors of that night. My grandfather is mentioned--"Every ranch but Sandy's has been sacked and burned, and all is as 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 all the inhabitants killed," then more and more.
Oregon surely has a history of persons of whom to be proud! I am very proud of my heritage, and while born in California, I feel that I am definitely a part of Oregon.
I shall appreciate it very much if you will have the person in charge of the coming celebrations advise me of the schedule. I hope to meet descendants of some of those fine men who did so much to help my grandmother, maybe of those actually in the fort during that long siege. I wish to attend with my wife and our lovely 25-year-old daughter, who is living in New York City. You see, she is a field instructress for Burroughs and would have to arrange her vacation time accordingly.
With kindest regards and all best wishes for Oregon's centennial!
Sincerely yours,Geisel file, Curry Historical Society
4223 McClung Drive
Los Angeles 8, California
Charley Brown and His Wife, Betsey: Heroes of the Old Days
By Marge Barrett, Brookings
The afternoon sun casts gentle shadows on the graves, and the breeze brings an odor of fresh paint and spring flowers as it sways the tall evergreen trees overhead. It is warm and peaceful as we near the rough wooden fence which protects the marble slab and the two graves. It is nearly deserted except for park crews in the background working to restore the park tables after winter storms have taken their toll.
Geisel Monument is found just off Highway 101, about 7 miles north of Gold Beach. It is the only monument to be erected to settlers killed in the terrible Indian wars of [1855-56] which turned the entire countryside into shambles.
One spring more than 100 years ago it was not peaceful here at the little settlement known as [Elizabethtown]. John Geisel and his three little sons were massacred by the Rogue River Indians, who carried off his wife, Christina, and two daughters as hostages. Only through the heroic efforts of a man known as Charley Brown and his Indian wife, Betsey, were they returned unharmed.
John Geisel and his three sons were buried here in a common grave. Many years later Christina was laid to rest in this same place. Following the Indian wars a monument was erected in "sacred memory" to the Geisel family.
The story began on Feb. 22, , when nearly all the residents of the lower Rogue River settlement were forced to seek refuge in a hastily constructed structure on the north bank of the Rogue River known as "Miner's Fort." In the pre-dawn hours Ben Wright, the Indian agent, and Captain Poland, head of a small group of volunteer soldiers stationed at Bagnell, were killed by the Indians.
Before morning twenty-five others were to die at the hands of the Indians, who were filled with hatred for the white settlers who had taken their land and brought them nothing but disease and a few blankets and beads in return. Stirred by Enos, a Canadian half-breed who had obtained muskets and ammunition from the settlers by some devious means, the Rogue River Indians had declared an all-out war on the settlers.
In their path of destruction and bloodshed stood a rough log cabin, the pioneer home of John Geisel, his wife and their five children. They were awakened by a loud knock on the door. When John opened it a crack and peered out, a tomahawk split open his skull. One by one the boys, John, Henry and Andrew, lay dead. Christina dashed to find the baby, but the Indians captured her and 13-year-old Mary and marched them to a camp up the Rogue River. The cabin was burned.
Word that the Indians were holding the Geisel women as captives leaked back to the fort, where the settlers had been "holed up" for more than a week. Already six men had been killed by the Indians who had gathered in the hills above the fort. They were ambushed when they had tried to sneak out and gather potatoes from a cache nearby to supplement the dwindling food supply. It was clear that the Indians would kill any white man who dared to set foot outside the fort in daylight. Indians attacked from the hillside, and pioneer women molded bullets over the fire as the men manned the portholes above.
Lt. Relf Bledsoe had been chosen to command the little band of 130 persons in the fort, and he had to ask someone to risk his life to try to negotiate for the release of the Geisel women. He sand Sheriff Michael Riley puzzled over the problems. "We'll go . . . Betsey understands the Tututni (Rogue River) language," said Charley Brown in his broken English. He was a Russian trapper who came to settle on the Rogue with his wife, Elizabeth (Betsey), a member of the Yontockett tribe of Indians of northern California. They had sought refuge in the tiny fort along with the others.
Holding a white flag, Charley Brown and Betsey walked unarmed from the fort, and soon they were surrounded by the Indians. Betsey talked with them in their native tongue. Yes, they would exchange the Geisel widow and her two daughters for an Indian woman the settlers were holding hostage in the fort plus a specified number of the white man's blanket. It was agreed, and Betsey and Charley returned to the fort.
The next day they left again with the Indian hostage and the blankets, but returned only with Mrs. Geisel and her infant daughter. The Indians had refused to give up 13-year-old Mary.
Again, Charley and Betsey had to leave the fort carrying the flag of truce. Betsey carefully explained to the Indians that the girl must be returned or the entire tribe would be killed when the white soldiers came. The argument swayed none of the braves, but they did agree to take Betsey and Charley upriver to the camp where the young white girl was being held.
Young Mary was weeping as the two entered the bark-covered tepee. One powerful Indian brave held the girl's arm. He was determined that she should not be returned. He glared at Betsey and her white husband. She spoke to him. Then she pleaded, but with no success.
The time had come to act! Swiftly, Betsey grabbed the girl, tore her free and they all three ran into the forest. Running, Betsey glanced back over her shoulder. Just as she turned her head a thrown tomahawk struck a glancing blow on her lip. They hid in the brush for a time to stop the bleeding and then under the cover of darkness made their way back to the fort.
It was a joyful reunion at the fort, and in order to express their gratitude a proclamation was drafted which paid tribute "to our fellow citizen Mr. Charles Brown for his brave, humane and gallant conduct."
The settlers remained in the fort several more weeks until finally they were rescued by U.S. Army troops marching from Fort Humboldt and the 4th Infantry, which came down the coast from Vancouver.
But the Geisel family still seemed marked for tragedy. Many years later, Christina, who had remarried, was murdered in Gold Beach for her pension money. The younger girl died early in life [incorrect--see 1959 letter above], and only Mary survived. She married Harry Blake and lived on a fine ranch near the Chetco River. Blake later served for several years in the state legislature.
And what about Charley Brown? He sent his wife Betsey back to her people in northern California and later joined her. They made their home in Crescent City for many years, and he became a naturalized citizen on Nov. 2, 1864. They had a large family and many of their descendants still live in the area. Brown's daughter-in-law, Amelia, a 102-year-old Tolowa Indian woman, makes her home in Orick, California.
After the settlers were freed from the fort, many of the men joined the troops and marched up the Rogue River to engage in several bloody battles with the Indians. In one attack, literally hundreds [a vast exaggeration] of the natives were murdered near Lobster Rock when they attempted to come downriver in canoes. It was these battles which defeated the Indian nation. Those who were not killed were rounded up and marched to reservations.
Oregonian Northwest Magazine, Portland, June 1, 1969, page 19
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.
"Fort Miner," Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission, Historical and Archaeological Site Inventory, 1973
Christina (Bruck) Geisel: Curry County Pioneer
By Stephen Dow Beckham
The Geisel Monument at old Elizabethtown, north of the mouth of the Rogue River, marks the site where tragedy struck the family of John and Christina Geisel. On February 22, 1856, the local Indians, fearful of the spreading Indian war in the Rogue River Valley and the actions of local volunteers, attacked the white settlements. The Indians murdered John Geisel and his three sons. Christina and two daughters, Mary and Ann, were taken captive and spent two weeks among the Indians before their ransom and release.
In the early 1890s, when Congress authorized payments for Indian "depredations" nearly 40 years before in Oregon, Christina filed an affidavit to present her claim for settlement. She had experienced a difficult life. Following the death of Geisel she married on July 10, 1858 to Frank Bugey. On December 11, 1869 she married James Pate. On March 12, 1879, she married Avery J. Edson. Her affidavit, telling in her own words her experiences during the Indian war of 1856, follows:
"State of Oregon
"County of Curry
"I, Christina Edson, of the above named county and state, being duly sworn, say that in the month of February 1856, and up to the commission of the depredations hereinafter mentioned, I was the wife of one John Geisel. That we were then residing at a place on the ocean beach, about six miles north of the mouth of Rogue River, and had a family consisting of three boys and two girls, the eldest being a girl about fourteen years old, and the youngest girl, a babe about two weeks old. That we had a good comfortable house and considerable property consisting of money, stock, chickens and our dwelling house, provisions, clothing, etc.
"That a short time previous to the outbreak and depredations of the Indians, hereinafter mentioned, the people who resided in our neighborhood, and those who came to our house, and passed our place, were apprehensive of danger from an outbreak of the Indians, and the subject was pretty thoroughly discussed, some holding that there was a danger from an outbreak of the Indians. Ben Wright, the Indian agent, was at our house on the day previous to the outbreak, and on being questioned by me about the danger of an outbreak assured our family that he had taken every precaution to prevent the Indians from killing the people. He was so positive in his assurances of our safety and knowing that we lived in a place that was the least exposed in the whole neighborhood, we almost dismissed the subject from our minds. The Indian agent lived on the river, about three miles distant, and a company of volunteers were camped nearby, and several settlers lived on ranches adjoining ours, so that we thought if there should be an outbreak, we would have time to reach the fort on the north bank of the river before the Indians could come to our house.
"Sometime after midnight on the night of February 22 and 23rd, 1856, we were awakened by a rap on our door. Fearing that something was wrong, my husband declined to open the door, though we kept a public house, until he was convinced there was no danger. To an inquiry by my husband of who was at the door, an Indian, whom we recognized as an Indian who worked for us, answered that it was him, and he wanted something to eat, or made some such remark. My husband, feeling assured that there was no danger, opened the door. Several Indians then rushed in and attacked my husband with knives. I jumped out of bed, though I was quite feeble at the time, and ran to the assistance of my husband and little boys, whom the Indians also attacked. In my attempt to save them, I received a severe cut which I thought was accidental at the time. The Indians soon overcame me, and compelled me to witness the killing of my husband and my little boys, who of course could offer little if any resistance. My daughter and myself and babe were then taken outside, without being allowed to take any clothing except what we had on at the time--our nightclothes.
"The Indians then rifled the house of all such articles as they wanted, and with the bodies of my husband and little sons left therein set fire to the house, compelling me to witness its burning and the complete destruction of our home. We were then ordered to march away to the river, and at one house were compelled to witness the killing of our of our neighbors, and the burning of their houses. When we got near the river, where the volunteers had been camped, I could see the burnt houses of our neighbors and many of their dead bodies, as well as some of the volunteers, by the side of the trail. We were treated with great personal indignities by the Indians, and with much abuse by the squaws. My daughter and I were taken up the river seven or eight miles to the Tututni village, where we received treatment even worse than when we were on the way.
"We were kept prisoners under strict watch for two weeks, at the end of which time we were exchanged or ransomed by the white people in the fort at the mouth of Rogue River. While I was a captive, I heard the Indians telling about the fort or "Big Skookum House" that they were building near the village, which they claimed would be so strong that the whites could not take [it] when they had it completed. I heard so much about it that I determined to steal out and examine the fort so that I could give my people a good description of it, should I ever see them again. I succeeded after several attempts in getting a tolerable good view of the place and fortifications and saw that it was not only in a very strong natural position, but was made stronger by logs and stones carefully laid together. The position, as I thought at the time, could be approached from the northeast through trees and over rocks that would afford good shelter for soldiers assaulting the fortification, while from any other direction the soldiers would be exposed to the fire from the Indians which I thought no ordinary attacking force would care to face.
"I also learned from one Enos, a renegade half-breed, who had formerly pretended to a friend of the white people, but who then appeared to be a great leader among the Indians, that the Indians were making great preparations for a raid on the people at Port Orford, about 30 miles distant, and that they expected to surprise the people, and would murder the men and children and bring the women captives to keep me company. I could see every evidence of the preparations that were being made by the Indians for the proposed raid, such as running bullets, the preparing [of] provision, etc., and thought that the Indians would soon start out on the raid.
"After I had reached the fort, as above stated, I at once gave the people there such information concerning the proposed raid upon the people at Port Orford, and the location of the "Skookum House," as I had been able to learn while a prisoner. A scout was sent to Port Orford to inform the people of their danger, who succeeded in eluding the Indians. Thus warned, they prepared for the expected attack, and the Indians, as I afterward learned, went in great numbers to Port Orford to massacre the people, but finding them prepared and strongly fortified they returned to their camp on Rogue River.
"The soldiers and volunteers afterwards went and attacked the Indians, who retreated to their "Skookum House." From the information which I had given them of the location of the big fort, or "Skookum House," the soldiers soon attained a position from which they could, and did, deliver such an effective and destructive fire upon the Indians that the latter soon abandoned the place in confusion and were set upon by soldiers in waiting for them, and a great many Indians were killed. This last attack, as I now remember, dislodged the Indians from their chosen stronghold, and virtually ended the war.
This Curry County pioneer was born March 20, 1824, in Germany. She emigrated to the United States with her parents, the Brucks, and married at age 18 at Covington, Kentucky, to John Geisel. The Geisels lived for a time at Hamilton, Ohio, then moved to Indiana where John ran a store. They emigrated overland to Oregon in 1852 and lived for two years in Portland before locating at Elizabeth town in 1854 near the newly discovered black sands mines at the mouth of the Rogue River.
Ransomed in negotiations carried out by Charles Brown, Christina Geisel and her daughters found refuge at Fort Miner in the meadows about a mile north of the river's mouth. On March 22, 1856, Lt. Edward O. C. Ord of the U.S. Army reached this site and wrote:
"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 gives us blenty to eat, and blenty of hard work to do,' said Mrs. Geisel. 'Dey kills ever so many cattle--sometimes two, dree in von day.'"
Geisel's second husband, Frank Bugey, was a miner. Following his death she lived for a time in Crescent City, where she operated a boarding house. She returned to Gold Beach upon her third marriage, to James Pate. Following the death of Avery Edson, her fourth husband, who was buried on Edson Creek near Elizabethtown, Christina purchased a house on the south bank of the Rogue River near the original R. D. Hume cannery site.
During the night of September 20, 1899, Coleman Gillespie and Charles Strahan, young men intent upon robbery, entered her home but failed to find the large sums of money they believed hidden there. They only found the old woman's pension check, perhaps the result of her affidavit given earlier that decade. The ransacking of her home awakened her, and when she came to investigate, Gillespie strangled her. As the two robbers fled, they dashed a kerosene lamp to the floor, setting fire to the residence. Gillespie was apprehended in a few weeks in the Willamette Valley when he attempted to cash the $25 pension check. Returned to Gold Beach, he implicated Strahan, who drowned in the Rogue River when his boat overturned as he attempted to escape. For Gillespie justice came swiftly. He was tried and hanged in Gold Beach on October 5, 1900.
Today the lonely site of the Geisels' cabin stands on the west side of Highway 101. The State of Oregon maintains the Geisel Monument in memory of these pioneers. Christina Geisel led the rugged life, suffered more than a heavy share of its burdens, but persevered in spite of adversity as one of Oregon's pioneer women.
Sources:Curry County Echoes, Curry Historical society, January/February 1986, pages 6-9
Bournes, Dorothy (great-granddaughter of Christina Geisel), 1965. Interview with Stephen Dow Beckham, Coos Bay, Ore.
Colvin, Frank, 1969. Letter of April 24 to Wallace Wade, in possession of Stephen Dow Beckham
Edson, Christina, 189?. Deposition. Manuscript, Case 1831, Entry 31, RG 123; Records of the Court of Claims, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Jones, Sgt. (Edward O. C. Ord), 1856. "Soldiering in Oregon," Harper's Magazine 13: 522-526.
Lockley, Fred, 1925. Interview with Mary [Geisel] Blake, Southwestern Oregon Daily News, Marshfield, Nov. 19
PAMPINELLA--In this city, June 29, Anna, beloved wife of S. Pampinella and devoted mother of Ruby, Harold and Doris Pampinella, a native of Oregon, aged 56 years and 6 months.
Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral Wednesday, July 2, at 1:30 o'clock, from the parlors of Samuel McFadden, 1070 Haight Street, near Baker. Interment, Cypress Lawn Cemetery, by automobile.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1913, page 16
San Francisco Births.
PAMPINELLA--To the wife of Harold S. Pampinella, [illegible] Mallorca Way, June 2, a daughter.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 1934, page 13
Last revised January 1, 2018