Jackson County 1851
SOUTHERN OREGON.This bay [Scottsburg] is destined to be an important point to the southern portion of Oregon; here will be the outlet for the produce of the Umpqua Valley, and, consequently, here will be its commercial city. Many pack trains are already employed in the transportation of goods and provisions from this point to the "gold diggings" on Rogue, Shasta and Scott rivers.
The Settlement of Umpqua Valley--The Seacoast--Umpqua City--
The Valley--Irregularity of the Mails--The Land Bill--
Dr. McLoughlin's Claim--The Military--The Indians--Gold Diggings &c.
Yoncalla, Umpqua Valley, Oregon,To the Editor of the Tribune:
Thursday, Jan. 30, 1851.
Supposing that some information concerning this remote and almost unheard-of portion of our Pacific Territories may not be uninteresting to your readers, I have ventured, presuming upon the favor extended to my last communication, and address you again.
The Umpqua Valley is now filling up with settlers at a most unprecedented rate. The first settlement by whites south of the waters of the Willamette (except a single trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, established in 1836) was made in the fall of 1847, by Capt. Levi Scott and his two sons, who laid the foundation of our present flourishing settlement on Elk River, a tributary of the Umpqua. Voluntarily depriving themselves of the advantages of what little civilization there existed west of the Rocky Mountains, they remained alone in their self-imposed banishment until late in the fall of 1848, when another settler (Mr. Robert Cowan) was added to the list of pioneers of Umpqua. The discovery of the golden treasures of our southern neighbor about this time checked the settlement of this beautiful valley, and no further additions were made to the number of settlers until the next summer, when two or three more families came over from the Willamette.
Capt. Scott, with that spirit of enterprise which has ever been a prominent trait of his character, spent the winter of 1849 and '50 in exploring the country west of the settlement, with a view of finding a practicable land route to connect with the navigable part of the Umpqua River, and having succeeded in his object, early in the spring of 1850 he went to the mouth of the Columbia for the purpose of calling the attention of the officers of the U.S. Surveying Squadron to the importance of the Umpqua, and to induce them if possible to attempt the entrance. He had an interview while there with Capt. McArthur, the officer in charge of the government schooner Ewing, and entered into an agreement with him to explore the harbor, for which service he (Scott) was to pay the sum of $1,000. It appears to me a highly culpable act on the part of an officer of the U.S. government to exact or receive money for the performance of a service included in his duty as an officer. Capt. McArthur, however, failed to perform his part of the contract, thereby saving Capt. Scott the expense.
In August, while Capt. Scott, with two or three others, was encamped at the mouth of the river awaiting the arrival of the Ewing, the schr. Saml. Roberts appeared off the bar, and after a delay of a few hours entered the river in safety. The Samuel Roberts was in charge of a company of explorers who had left San Francisco with the intention of exploring the mouth of the Klamath. Having failed in their object of finding that river, and being unwilling to return emptyhanded to San Francisco, they had pushed on and had finally reached the Umpqua. The schooner immediately proceeded up the river to the head of navigation (about twenty miles from the ocean) without difficulty. The company selected a location for a city at the mouth of the river which they named Umpqua City, and another at the end of navigation to which they gave the name of Scottsburg, in honor of Capt. Scott. After a delay of a few days they returned to San Francisco, and the report they gave of the river and country induced a considerable number of persons to leave for the Umpqua. Several vessels loaded with passengers have since arrived, and our population, which last spring did not exceed twenty-five souls, now numbers between four and five hundred, and is rapidly increasing.
The Umpqua Valley now offers great inducements to emigrants. It is considered by good judges to be one of the richest and most fertile valleys in Oregon, and an opportunity is now offered (by the late act of Congress) to all of securing a home free of cost, in a beautiful region of country, convenient to the seaboard, and in a climate unsurpassed in point of mildness and salubrity by any in the world. There are many thousands in your crowded cities of the East struggling with poverty and living in wretchedness, who might here secure a handsome competence, and become--what they never can while they remain where they are--their own masters. The multitudes who are constantly fleeing from tyranny, misrule and oppression in Europe, and leading a life of beggary and perhaps of crime on the Atlantic shores, would here find an asylum where they might live in honest independence, and provide for their own support in the decline of life.
We have much reason to complain of the gross irregularity of the mails on the Pacific. Letters to and from the States are frequently three or four months on the way, and often miscarry altogether. More than this, we are compelled to pay four times the amount of postage paid by any other territory. For this there might have been some excuse when the Pacific mail routes were first established in the great expense and comparatively small amount of mailable matter. But this excuse can hold good no longer. Our mails would much more than pay their expenses if the postage was cut down to the uniform rate of ten cents. Utah, Minnesota and New Mexico fall far short of this, and are a burden to the government. Where then is the justice of compelling us to pay forty cents for the transportation of a letter which does not cost the department more than five and exacting from the other territories only ten cents for what costs perhaps fifteen. I trust that the matter will be looked into and remedied by Congress at an early day.
The news of the passage of the Land Bill by Congress was hailed by the most extravagant demonstrations of joy throughout the Territory. The exertions of our delegate, Mr. Thurston, in its behalf, will in the eyes of his constituents counterbalance many of his evil deeds. The bill has, however, in my opinion some objectionable features. The reservation of the "Oregon City claim" for educational purposes can be regarded in no other light than as the act of the most gross injustice to the claimant, Dr. Jno. McLoughlin. The claim was taken up and occupied by Dr. McLoughlin (who was a British subject) as early as 1842, when the country was under the provisions of the treaty of Great Britain, in the joint occupancy of the two countries, and when the number of American citizens in the Territory was by far less than the number of British. As soon as the proper officer was appointed for Oregon, he signified his intention of becoming an American citizen, having already withdrawn from the Hudson Bay Company, and has since in all points complied with the laws of both the provisional and Territorial governments. He has expended a large sum of money in the erection of bills and in making other improvements, and now all his land and improvements are to be taken from him. Any other British subject that has complied with the law in all its points, as he has done, is confirmed in his claim, and why should not he be?
It is to be recognized that no provision has been made in this bill for widows and orphans, or those that have become such on the road and after their arrival in the country. There are a great many of this class in the Territory and of all others are the ones who most need the donation. Yet they are the only ones who are excluded from participating in the benefits.
I consider the amount of land given as too large. We have seen heretofore the evil effects of the large amount of land held by each individual in Oregon, and I had hoped before the passage of the Land Bill that a quarter or at most a half section would be the extent of the donation. Granting, as it does, to each married man 640 acres, and to each single man half the amount, its effect is to prevent the country from settling up closely. A small population is scattered over a large extent of country, and we are, in a measure, compelled to forgo the benefits to be derived from schools, libraries &c. I am aware that the majority of the inhabitants of the Territory are vastly better satisfied with the donation of a section than they would have been with a less amount, but I think that its effect on the country at large will be injurious in the end.
We have a military force stationed here at an expense to the government, of who knows how many hundred dollars a day, which has done, and is doing, absolutely nothing save the establishment of a single military post at the Dalles of the Columbia, where one is but very little needed. The Indians in that quarter (the Cayuses and the Nez Perces) have recently exhibited every evidence of a friendly disposition toward the whites, having delivered up to justice their principal chiefs, the murderers of the late Dr. Whitman and family. A small force is employed in garrisoning that post, and the remainder of the regiment is stationed at Vancouver, where they are of no more use than they would be in New York City. On our southern frontier, where we are daily expecting the commencement of hostilities on the part of the Indians, we are left entirely to our own resources. Col. Loring (the commandant) is aware of the state of things out here, having traveled as far south as the Klamath River last spring in pursuit of some deserters, the bones of some of whom he saw bleaching on the mountains. He has been repeatedly requested to send a force out here, but has uniformly refused, assigning as a reason that the desertion of the troops would be inevitable. There is, without doubt, some plausibility in the excuse, but if they are unable to take the first step toward accomplishing what they were sent here for--to protect us--why are they kept in service at all?
It will, in my opinion, be found necessary to adopt some radically different plan of military organization from that now followed, in order effectually to protect our own frontier, as well as that of our neighbor, California. I have heard the idea advanced of organizing volunteer companies to serve a short period--say six months, or at most one year--to choose their own officers and to receive a bounty of land at the expiration of their term of service. This plan appears to me to be the only feasible one in the existing state of things, and I think that if it were adopted, and a few hundred men kept in the field for one year, we should have after[wards] no fear of Indian depredations. The savages of this country are not as warlike as those on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, and a small force will be sufficient to quell them effectually. The tribes south of the waters of the Willamette are divided into small bands who live in distinct communities, speak in many instances different languages, and each band is always under the control of its own chief. They recognize no chief whose authority extends over the whole nation. In point of intellect they are as near the brute creation as any animal that wears the human form. They have no property (save a few horses stolen from travelers) and seem to have very little desire to acquire any. They live upon fish, acorns and roots, kill little or no game, and are, take them all in all, as low in the scale of creation as any beings in existence. It will be found an unimportant matter to subdue them when it is properly undertaken.
Some very rich deposits of gold are reported to have been recently discovered on our southern rivers--the South Umpqua, Rogue River and the Klamath--particularly the latter, and I fear that but little in the way of improvement will be done here until the placers are exhausted. Oregon is just beginning to recover from the shock which the gold mania has given her, and if the streams south are not as rich as represented, she will continue to rise, and at no distant day take her place as one of the states of our glorious Union, that Union which fanatics and traitors have labored in vain to destroy, and which still stands, as may it ever continue to stand--the pride of our nation and the wonder of the world.
With respects, your most obdt. servt.,
J.W.P.H. [J. W. Perit Huntington]New York Tribune, April 26, 1851, page 8
Rogue River Valley, which takes its name from the river that passes through it, is about seventy miles by the main traveled route from the Umpqua. The valley is well watered by never-failing streams; the soil is generally good, and it is skirted and interspersed with groves of fine timber. As it borders upon a rich gold region, it must eventually become densely populated. As yet, however, it contains no white settlement, but is occupied by the Rogue River Indians, who have rendered it the seat of much trouble and suffering from their depredations.
There is no portion of the Territory, and, indeed, I may almost add of the world, better adapted to grazing than this valley. In extent it is about fifty by thirty miles. Surrounded by mountains, the eye seldom rests upon a more beautiful, picturesque and romantic spot. It extends to within a few miles of the boundary between Oregon and California. These valleys all lie west of the Cascade Mountains, and south of the Columbia.
Joseph Lane, circular dated January 1, 1852, quoted in "Oregon Territory," The Sabbath Recorder, Alfred Center, New York, March 11, 1852, page 156
Umpqua Valley, Oregon, April 22nd, 1851.Gentlemen:--Allow me to call your attention for a moment to Southern Oregon. It is not my intention to dwell upon the fertility of its soil--the beauty of its scenery--the grandeur of its forests--the purity of its waters, or the salubrity of its climate. It is generally allowed, I believe, to possess all these advantages. But in addition to all these, recent disclosures have satisfactorily shown that Rogue River is as rich in gold diggings as the Klamath, and the most intelligent men among us think that the Umpqua will prove equally fertile in gold. The distance from Scott's Bay, the head of schooner navigation on the Umpqua, to the mining regions on Rogue River is from seventy-five to ninety miles, with a fine road through the whole distance. Indeed the route runs through the finest portion of Oregon, almost the entire way being over a level prairie. The mining region of the Umpqua and its tributaries is not more than fifty or sixty miles from Scottsburg. Goods and supplies can be easily transported on the route, and the miner will soon be able to obtain his supplies at a low rate.
Scottsburg is at least 175 miles nearer the Rogue River mines than either Oregon City or Portland, on the Willamette, and the road from this point is as good as the Willamette. Indeed, our road intersects with the road leading from Portland to Rogue and Klamath rivers at a distance of only thirty-five miles from Scottsburg. The demand for goods will be very great during the present season, and mules, horses and cattle are needed for transportation, as the supply in Oregon is not sufficient for the demand.
I believe that all who are competent to form any opinion on the subject say that the entrance to the Umpqua is as safe and easy of access as any that can be found on this coast to the north of San Francisco. There are three and one-half fathoms of water on the bar at low tide, and large vessels find no difficulty in getting in the harbor.
In haste, yours,Alta California, San Francisco, May 15, 1851, page 1
JOSEPH W. DREW.
Shasta Butte City, Cal.Dear Bro.,
Oct. 10, 1851
I left the wilds of Oregon for this city. I visited the rivers of Applegate & Rogue's. The Indians on the latter are shrewd, cunning & hostile. I witnessed a fight between two tribes. It was bloody & desperate. I was anxious to join one side. I want a few of their scalps ere I leave this region. They have taken mules & provision from us and killed a young man that I had with me, & several others with whom I was not acquainted. I do not know what to do. I am well aware that I can do well here this winter by practicing both medicine & dentistry, in which I have been engaged for the last year.
The difficulties are that my health is not good by any means & seems to grow worse. I think it is entirely owing to the damp, cold climate of this mountain country. Again, I lost most all of my medicines &c. & it will be impossible to obtain supplies at this late season on account of the difficulties to be overcome. This is 400 miles from Sacramento City, the mountain part of which is 150 miles and can only be passed by pack mules, the remainder by wagons. Also it is very doubtful whether a train of mules can get through, as the snow fell on the hills last week. It will not do to remain here on expense as everything is very high. Cannot get a room for less than 3 or $400 for the winter and board from 25 to $30 per week. If I had medicines & instruments or could get them this fall I would not think of leaving. It would cost me from 5 to $600 to get home from here & I do not wish to spend my money in that way if I can make it yield me anything here. In this country a man cannot calculate what will be the result of a movement or investment. It may make him a fortune, or blast his most sanguine hopes. This city is situated in the N.E. part of Cala. in sight of the Oregon line & near the noted Shasta Butte, forever covered with everlasting snow. Diggings are quite good here, but I tried mining 6 or 8 weeks during spring and summer & am satisfied. I will leave the country ere I ever do another hour's work of that kind. Timber in the valleys, mostly scrubby oaks, on the hills pines, fir, cedar, arbor vitae, spruce, juniper berry and serviceberry. Game common blacktailed deer; black, brown and grizzly bears; mountain sheep, a peculiar animal with hair & color like a deer & shape of a sheep inhabiting the most rocky & craggy mtn. heights, possessing great activity.
I can't write now as I feel uncomfortable both in body & mind. Ere another week passes I will either settle here for another year or leave the country. You shall hear from me in due time. The last news from home was Sept. 1850, and now this is Oct. 1851. I fear I will hear bad news, but I hope not.
Dr. Mathias Lair Harter, letter to his brother Samuel Kyle Harter, Troy, Ohio, as transcribed circa 1890s by Jane Abbott Harter, manuscript in possession of Dr. Harter's great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Tilton, Santa Barbara, California. Harter did leave for home--he was in San Francisco by November 1, 1851.
From Klamath River our route lay over Green Spring Mountain about where the road is now located from Ashland to Klamath Falls. This range of mountains we crossed without incident except that in approaching Jenny Creek we had to descend a long steep hill so steep no kind of lock (wagon brakes were unknown
those days) would hold the wagons, so drags were made from tree tops to hold the wagons from crowding the teams. It was quite dark before all the wagons reached camp. Near Ashland we connected with the main road or train from Oregon to California. Here we met pack trains carrying supplies to the mines at Yreka and Northern California. My father bought a side of bacon of the packers at 75 cents a pound. We had started across the plains with more than ample supplies, but other families in our train were destitute by the time they were half way and had to be supplied from the stores of others.
Speaking of pack trains, I would say here that all the supplies for the mines in the early fifties were transported by pack train. These trains. as they were called, consisted of from ten to sometimes more than a hundred mules, and the average load per mule would be 250 pounds. Many of the larger trains were Mexican and they were the best equipped. Their mules were small but well trained.
When camp was made for the night each mule's load was placed to itself and the aparejo (pack saddle) placed in front of the load. When driven in for reloading the "bell mare" was led to the head of the line, and each mule lined up directly in front of its own pack. All mule trains had one horse called the "bell mare" that was ridden by a boy in the lead of the train. The mules would follow the bell. When strung out on the mountain trails they seemed to keep step or step in the same places until the earth on hill trails was pressed down or dug out to resemble stairs.
We met several pack trains as we continued our journey through the beautiful Rogue River Valley. At that time its primitive beauty had not been marred by the hand of the white man. Our home seekers must have regretted that they could not
at that time settle upon the fertile soil of Bear Creek Valley, but we were in the Indian country.
At the time we passed through the Rogue River Valley there were no settlements of any kind and we met no prospectors, but later in the fall of 1851 gold was discovered at Jacksonville, which caused that country to settle up rapidly in 1852. We met with very few Indians in the Rogue River country, and those we met were
friendly. I recall that at our camp on Rogue River, directly opposite Gold Hill (when I give the name of places in this story, it is the present name), we were visited by Indians that brought some splendid salmon for trade, and we all had a feast of that king of fish.
We forded the Rogue River somewhere above Grants Pass, and our passage over the Grave Creek, Wolf Creek and Cow Creek Hills was uneventful. I remember that it was almost dark when we made camp at Grave Creek. There we saw the
grave where a Miss Leland had been buried. I mention this because this grave will be alluded to later in my story.
A Miss Leland with the first emigrant train passing over this road, in 1846, had died at this point, and the emigrants, knowing the habits of the Indians to desecrate graves, had tried to conceal the place, but the Indians had found the grave and exhumed the body, leaving a wide, deep hole.
When ve arrived at the south end of the canyon, we camped by the small creek just south of the Johns' place. Here we met I. B. Nichols for the first time. He was on his way south with his pack train with supplies for the mines at Yreka, California. One of his party had killed a fat buck, and we were generously supplied with venison. I remember that "Nick" brought the head to our camp to show us the
antlers, and to the head was an ample share of neck. This found its way into my mother's pot, and to us hungry emigrants was a feast indeed.
George W. Riddle, History of Early Days in Oregon, Riddle Enterprise, 1920, pages 26-28
IN SOUTHERN OREGON
HOW THAT PART OF THE STATE LOOKED IN 1851.
Reminiscences of Adventure Recalled and Talked Over by Pioneers.
There is particular charm in whatever revives the memories of long ago. To meet someone who formed part of one's early experiences--especially who participated in the early life of this region, those years that were equally full of hardship and romance, when we were full of the pride of life, young, hopeful and ripe for adventure--though both may now be old and sere--is like putting new wine into old bottles.
The other day, at Roseburg, I met J. H. Hartin, who lives on Lookingglass, and was one of the early settlers of that beautiful region. Comparing notes, we discovered that in the spring of 1851 we formed part of the same company of 75 men who went southward prospecting the Rogue River, and finally disbanding at Shasta Butte City--a city of tents and shanties that formed the first settlement of Yreka.
Comparing notes, we remembered that no settler occupied the South Umpqua in May or early June, when we went through there. There was a ferry at Winchester, and the Applegates and Estes, with perhaps one or two more, lived in the romantic regions of Yoncalla and North Umpqua. Southward, to the California line, for over one hundred miles, there was no settler. Through the Rogue River country Indians were hostile, and we stood guard and were always ready for battle. Within four months, before we returned northward, the wave of settlement had passed through there, and scarce a single good land claim was left. All through there the settler had made his beginning, and the work of progress was commenced.
To say no settlement existed does injustice to the enterprise of Joe Knott, for we found him at the foot of the Umpqua Mountains, where Canyonville now stands. It was comforting to find a square meal obtainable in the commodious log structures that made the Knott home so pleasant for wayfarers. Mr. Hartin remembers that the Knott boys asked them as they came up if they saw the carcass of a horse a mile or so back, and told them that at daylight a monster grizzly came regularly to make his matin meal thereof. That was enough for these frontiersmen; they resolved to be up and stirring at daybreak. So the others were, but Hartin overslept, and was much chagrined to be waked at daybreak by the sound of shots, and to find his companions had killed the bear--a grizzly sure enough. Hartin came from some point in the Willamette Valley, and his companions were men well known, and some quite prominent in early times. The Bailey boys lived in Lane County, and Joe and Zeke went for the bear. They got there just in time, for Mr. Bruin had breakfasted--and dined, too, probably--and was starting away for the day when Zeke drew a bead on him. Joe had no rifle, but as the bear turned when Zeke's shot took effect, Joe ran in close and finished him with a small "pepperbox" revolver, that was in use in those days. It was risky, but Joe was recklessly brave, and finished the bear in good shape. There were a few grizzlies about at that time, but as a rule they were but few, none being found north of the Umpqua.
My own small company had gone over the Umpqua Mountains, and were camped beyond, on Cow Creek, when this larger company crossed over. We waited there to make up a respectable force, for the Rogue Rivers were hostile. We elected Pleasant Armstrong of Yamhill County captain, and Joe Bailey lieutenant. Armstrong was a man of substance and character, a man among men, older than most of us, and a veteran among Indians. He was one of those who built the schooner in the Willamette in the '40s, and took her to San Francisco--or rather to Yerba Buena, as it was then called--and made a trade for Spanish cattle to stock the abundant Oregon pastures. He drove--with others--those cattle to Oregon, and afterward made a business of such trips overland, driving stock and trading with the Californians, so was well used to the mountain roads, and also to the fierce Indians who occupied the south land. From the first the Rogue Rivers had been hostile, and he had learned to fight them. Joe Bailey had also been experienced with Indian wars. There were three Baileys--Zeke, Ike and Joe--I think--the last being the youngest. They were all brave as could be--regular frontiersmen--but Joe was a pearl among men, naturally endowed, correct in speech, and with a manliness that all respected. Born on the frontier, he had little schooling, but was a great leader, and acquired knowledge and manners that commanded universal appreciation from educated men.
We proceeded on our journey, and I look with regret back at that muster roll, for it counted some who have gone to the unknown that I afterwards knew well and had much occasion to care for. There was old Billy Greenwood, of Howell Prairie, as delightful a man as Western prairies ever knew; Lewis Cannon, who had a claim on the prairie near Turner; Michael Cosgrove, of French Prairie, and an Irish mickey who came with him, typical of the Emerald Isle. My own companions were with me from Portland, but none ever returned to Oregon. The Umpqua was represented by Hartin and Dillard, who have resided there now for over 40 years. Dillard was a first-class wagonmaker and Hartin a carpenter, good at tools for almost any job, and had worked at wagonmaking with Dillard. They had a wagon they built together in Missouri.
As a traveling caravan we possessed abundant resources. On Umpqua Mountain Greenwood's wagon met with disaster, for in a tremendous chuckhole one wheel collapsed. He looked on in despair, for every spoke was broken. Dillard said not to worry, for he and Hartin could make a new wheel in two hours, and sure enough, they did. On the mountain were fine white oaks. One of these was felled, chopped in lengths, split and the heart used for new spokes. A roaring fire was made, and as the new spokes were in shape they were put so the heat made the sap boil out of them, and while at the highest possible heat they were driven in the hub. They had tools--Dillard had--a full outfit, and before the oxen--who were turned to grass with their yokes on--had well filled themselves, the wagon was in running order. It is worth saying that that wheel held up for the trip and for all summer, and my informant says it was whole when he saw it two years later. This incident is worth recalling to show the present age how successful their fathers were. The name of Dillard is preserved in the Umpqua and will be handed down by the locality that bears the name. Just such incidents as this show how bravely these oldtimers met and overcame all obstacles.
I remember that my own small party had camped by a beautiful creek and turned our horses and cattle out to crop the rank grass that covered the valley. Our tents were pitched and fires made to cook a meal, for the mountain travel had been wearisome. Canyon Creek came down its deep ravine for weary miles and had to be crossed over 90 times. At one place it leaped a rocky ledge with the greatest ease. It was a delightful little waterfall, or cascade, but it chanced that our only way up was to lift our wagons bodily over that same ledge, which was useful as teaching a lesson in the law of gravitation. It was easy enough to descend the south side, and it seems we were closely followed by another party, wherein were some young fellows who celebrated their climb through the canyon by firing guns and pistols, and uttering all sorts of whoops and yells. Down in the valley below their discordant sounds told of war. We imagined that some party following us was ambushed on the mountain and fighting for life, so we all rushed to arms, and were trying to face the music as bravely as possible when the advance guard came in sight and relieved our fears. We stood guard many a night, through rain and by light of friendly stars; passed by newmade graves where Lieutenant Stuart, of the regulars, and others had been killed in battle only a few days before, and I called to mind a story I had heard in Charleston, where I had lived two years before.
Stuart, pere, was a talented writer and man of decided genius. He had one weakness that frequently overcame him, but his friends all knew that he was very proud of his son in the army, and I thought the news of his death would grieve that father so far way. One day Mr. Stuart was calling at a friend's house, and Charity, a much-valued house servant, was admitting him, when he stumbled and fell, catching hold of the negro woman, who also fell. His native wit was equal to the occasion; tipsy and unbalanced as he was, he stammered: "Ch-Charity, th-thou cov-overeth a m-multitude of sins." There, in that pine forest, on the farthest verge of the continent, recalling the past and sad with the present issue, this incident came to mind.
We missed actual war by a hair's breadth, as it were, kept up discipline and were always ready, but the speck of war under the base of Umpqua Mountain never became more than a threatening cloud. Armstrong had 60 head of fat cattle he was driving to the mines. We found a long string of teams, wagons, carts, pack and saddle animals and of teams, and the savages could have had us at disadvantage had they attacked us among the chaparral and pine forests of those interminable hills. They were a brave set of savages, for we heard of a battle that preceded our coming but a few days and hardly reached Yreka when word came of a fight with regulars near where Phoenix now stands. They were too proud to ambush common travel, but sought battle with the regulars whenever they could find them.
Volunteers were called for, and Armstrong and the Bailey boys raised a company of 100 men, who took the war path. They were gone but a few days and came back covered with glory. It is pitiful to read the story of battle between those red men, who fought in their native heath, armed only with bows and arrows, and whites, who hunted them with arms of precision loaded with powder and ball. The Indians began it, no doubt of that, but they labored under a foolish prejudice that the land was theirs and that these white men were trespassers. When Armstrong's volunteers came up they found the Indians corralled under the bluff of Table Mountain, close to which the river run. They were in the heavy woods that filled the river bottom, while the regulars were drawn up in military array, firing volleys into the woods. Captain Armstrong told the commander that they were not fighting as he would advise. The answer was: "Go in and fight your own way, then." Armstrong said he wouldn't like to be between two fires, so the regulars were drawn off and the volunteers went at it. They were dismounted and formed in line and charged right through the heavy timber. Neither Armstrong nor the Bailey boys were capable of fear; they crowded the Indians so that they ran, and pursued by regulars as well as volunteers, they plunged into the river, where many of them were killed. The river ran red with blood that day. We cannot but feel compassion for these sons of the forest, fighting for their homes, but they had attacked the troops and killed Lieutenant Stuart and two privates, and Armstrong remembered that on every trading trip he made to California they had fought him for years past, so all were animated by a feeling to avenge these wrongs. Zeke found an arrow hole through his hat, but no white man was wounded. Hartin remembers that Armstrong told his story after their return, as they gathered around the evening camp fires. I remember that all the time we traveled together it was interesting to listen those evenings when varied experience was told by these campaigners in the wilderness, especially interesting to one whose life had been spent in great cities.
Armstrong came to Fort Hall with teams in '42, got horses there and came through to the Willamette. Both he and Joe Bailey were afterwards killed in battles with Indians. Each in his way was remarkable, and a natural leader of men. Armstrong, who had a look of sturdy manhood, was much older. Joe was tall, handsome, winning in his way and brave as a paladin. Each of them was actually incapable of fear. The years have swept on and left them behind, but it is a satisfaction, so long after, to give the impression their conduct made on me, that has never been forgotten. Each of them "gave the world assurance of a man!" Ten years later Joe Bailey was killed in battle with the Indians on Pit River. His rash courage may have led him to undervalue a foe he had so often conquered. By that time they had found guns to war with and were more dangerous.
We did not find gold in paying quantity on Rogue River, or any of its tributaries, nor did we find hostile Indians in our way. As we approached the Klamath we met an Oregonian, named Carter Wright, who had taken out considerable gold, including one rugged mass that he afterward sold for $2200, weighing over seven pounds of the precious metal. Some of our people knew him, and he stopped to enable us to look at this treasure trove. He took it out of his saddle bags and we all passed it around--a rough conglomeration of quartz, dirt and yellow dullness that was envious to behold. It is safe to say that we never saw the like again. This man Carter Wright made quite a little raise at Shasta that summer, took this chunk and his other gold to Salem, where he sold it to Riley & Kendall, who were dealers on "the Island" at Salem in the pioneer epoch. Kendall gave him somewhat of a premium for his nugget, as it had become historic. The fame of it had met us halfway to the diggings. The digger proved to be not much better than an ordinary "digger," for he took his winnings back to Missouri and exchanged them--by a gradual, but sure process--to whisky straight, and became so straightened that he never could accumulate the wherewithal to return to Oregon, though that was the ambition of his fruitless life. It is thus that fortune squanders her favors on the unworthy and her successes on the unsuccessful. I remember that the boys, and some of the men, of our expedition seemed to look on that poor devil with envious thoughts of his prodigious success, but it is doubtful if any one of them made so pitiful an ending as did this spoiled favorite of fortune.
We also met Dr. McBride, Barlow and Jesse Barlow, well-known oldtimers, who were with a company that had fought the Rogue River Indians at Willow Springs, near Jacksonville, earlier that year. Like Achilles, in that respect, Barlow got a shot in the heel from an arrow. The Indians attacked them in the early morning, and as they survived in pretty fair shape and hadn't lost any Indians, the party were on their way back from Yreka, homeward bound. There is no doubt that the Rogue River Indians were troublesome and dangerous fellows from very early days, but it is a question if they were not "more sinned against than sinning" from the beginning. They were a high-spirited race, and there was certainly something patriotic in their resentment of intrusion and defense of their land and homes.
Not long ago I told the story how Ewing Young and party, in '34, murdered two young hunters on Rogue River, from a mistaken fear that their own safety was compromised by the presence of these young men in their camp. Mr. Hartin was one of those who could see that a native had some rights, and should at least have been treated with kindness. He told of two desperadoes named Brown and Ballard--or Red--who were cowardly and infamous ruffians, the sort who have caused the massacre of the innocents through all American history. As early as '53 these miscreants went to the Indian camps and shot them down promiscuously. It is satisfactory to know that they were hanged comfortably together in the upper country in '63, but their infamy had to be dearly compensated for by the unhappy settlers of Southern Oregon.
Mr. Hartin related his own remembrances of that fearful time when the wars of '53-56 were raging and the trouble among the Umpquas. These were not disposed to be troublesome. Mr. Arrington had them all camped in the bend of Lookingglass Creek, near his own home, and had but little fear of them. Every winter morning Mr. Arrington went there and called the roll and found them all present, for he had them under good discipline. One day these fellows--Brown and Ballard--came and said they heard a lot of Rogue Rivers were secreted in the Umpquas' camp. Arrington went with them, called his roll, identified them all, and supposed there could be no trouble. But these ruffians went back and reported to people of Rogue River that a lot of hostiles were on Lookingglass, got up a company to exterminate them, and early one morning attacked them sleeping, in the most cowardly manner. At least five were killed, including one woman and one blind old man, and a number were wounded. This lot of friendly Indians were driven to the mountains and scattered; some joined the hostiles and with their neighbors from Cow Creek and Rogue River spread firebrand and tomahawk through the settlements and mining camps, and burned houses and barns on Ten Mile in the Umpqua. In a battle on Ten Mile P. F. Castleman was wounded and seven Umpquas were killed. Thus it will be seen that very much of the trouble with these desperate Indians was caused by white men who were miscreants and enemies of humanity.
Not long after meeting Mr. Hartin I also met Mr. Castleman, just alluded to, who spoke with considerable respect of the Rogue Rivers, and especially Old John, their war chief, who, as I stated in a late sketch, was taken to Benicia to be out of reach, so his influence could not work on his people. I told how Old John captured the steamer on the way to San Francisco and held the deck, leaving the wheelsman at helm unharmed until they brought so many gleaming barrels to bear on him from surrounding points of vantage that resistance was useless, so he surrendered. The story proves to be that Old John and his son--a chip of the old block--acted together. They had roamed the wilds and hunted and fished mountains and streams from the summits of the Cascade Range to the very ocean shore. As the steamer was passing the father and son recognized the headlands of their native shore, and the impulse of patriotism was too much for ordinary prudence. There sprang up a hope in their hearts that they might succeed once more in reaching that native illahee and again roam that mountain wilderness. In the affray on the ship the son's leg was shot, and amputation became necessary. Years after the longing for return became so great that he was allowed to go back to see the Rogue River hills once more. He stumped about there with his wooden leg for awhile; finally crossed the Cascades with the Klamaths, and the last known of him was making his home, in a wooden-legged way, with them. Old John, too, returned to his people after many days, when wars and rumors of Indian wars were over. It is to be hoped they had some happy years as the windup of their fitful lives. Whatever may be said of the savages of that early time, it should never be forgotten that the Indians who lived among these romantic scenes suffered and endured much at the hands of human fiends as white men, and that they fought like brave men, long and well, and were fighting for their native land!
The vales they loved so well are full of homes; villages nestle through them, churches and schools adorn them, the very mountaintops are becoming homelike and fruitful; the records and memories of half a century ago, when the red men lived and loved--when they hunted those mountains and fished these streams, and their women dug the camas and gathered the fruits of valley and mountain--seem as evanescent as the mists that today shroud these valleys and curl about these grand old hills, but to me there remains the romance and fragrance of a past we did not know, and of a people who were driven forth by a civilization they could not understand--whose dregs stifled them and whose outcasts violated their rights as well as desolated their homes. What we call progress has the trail of a serpent too often as its residuum. The whole story of Indian life and early history is made up of such episodes as we read here, as well as of lofty ideals accomplished and civilization achieved. It is a pity we cannot do better grace to the patriotism and worth of a race that produced such heroes and sages as we know in history, and such hard-fighting patriots as old Chief John.
S. A. CLARKE.Sunday Oregonian, February 10, 1895, page 6
Last revised January 22, 2018