The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1856

Rogue River Valley, March 31, 1856.
To the Editor of the National Era:
    As I am sending you the names of some new subscribers, with a cash "accompaniment," I avail myself of the opportunity to send you a few lines which may be of interest, if from no other reason, because of the remoteness of the locality from which I write.
    Jackson County, Oregon Territory, in which is embraced Rogue River Valley, contains a population of some three thousand inhabitants. It is the southern extremity of the Territory, and almost isolated from the rest of Oregon.
    Rogue River Valley, which contains the principal portion of the farming community, is completely surrounded by a cordon of almost insurmountable mountains, and is connected with the Umpqua Valley by the main road leading from the Sacramento Valley, California, to the Willamette Valley, Oregon, which, after leaving Rogue River, and for a distance of some forty miles, penetrates a barren mountainous country that only admits of a settler at long intervals, and finally, after defiling through a deep gorge or cañon in the Umpqua Mountain, emerges into the Umpqua Valley.
    The nearest accessible point on the Pacific Coast is Crescent City, California, distant one hundred miles, which is only reached over a rough mountainous pack trail, and over which the heavily laden pack mule groans with his burden of supplies for miners and farmers.
    Now, whilst all eyes in "the States" are turned to Kansas, and her citizens are defending themselves against the attacks of the "border ruffians," we here, thus pent up and isolated, are defending ourselves against the insidious attacks of a merciless savage foe, who are menacing our borders, and destroying the lives and property of our people.
    For the last six months, we have been engaged in an Indian war, during which time scores of our citizens have fallen--some in the conflict of battle, and some when least suspecting danger have been shot from their horses while riding along the highway; families have been butchered, and their horses burned over them. Nor does there seem any more prospect of an end to these troubles now than there did three months ago; in fact, it looks darker, and everything seems to indicate and bid fair for a protracted war. Within the last few days our troops have had several skirmishes with the Indians, but have almost invariably been worsted. In one instance, the Indians captured some forty horses, with their equipments, and within the last few days, they have cut off several large pack trains, which were loaded with supplies, ammunition &c., for the valley.
    The force in the field is entirely inadequate to the successful prosecution of the war. It is, in fact, not more than sufficient for the protection of the settlements. The Indians are well armed--better, indeed, than the whites, and they know how to use them to as good advantage. They have chosen their retreats in the mountain fastnesses almost inaccessible to the whites, and in localities where they can get subsistence easily, and from whence they can sally forth, commit their depredations, and retreat unmolested.
    It is obvious that unless we have a force sufficient to make some offensive demonstrations toward the enemy, that the war must be protracted to a ruinous length. Many of our citizens now have invested their all in furnishing subsistence for the volunteers, and there is scarcely anyone that is not more or less involved. Unless we have help, and that speedily, our country will be ruined--the capital all absorbed, and the war not terminated.
    It would certainly be good policy for Congress immediately to make appropriations to meet the expense of the war. All supplies are only obtained at high rates, for the reason that if the indebtedness is paid at all, it will be twelve or eighteen months, at least. Government is but a tardy paymaster at best, and the people of this country know it to their sorrow, some of them.
    J. W. McCALL.
National Era, Washington, D.C., May 22, 1856, page 2

Last revised December 28, 2017