The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1873

Is not as large as the Willamette, which contains about eighty millions of acres, while the Umpqua embraces about ten and a quarter millions. It being further south, it has, of course, a little less rainfall, and more sunny days perhaps in winter. It is made up of a succession of oval hills, covered with nutritious wild grass, and many of them ornamented with beautiful white oak groves, with small valleys of rich prairie land between the hills. I knew many pioneers settled in Umpqua from twenty to twenty-five years ago, owing to what they thought its superior attractions. I have passed through this valley twice. I will tell you what I saw there. Nearly twenty-one years ago, in the early part of May, I came from California to Oregon with pack animals. When I struck the Umpqua Valley, my companion and I stripped the saddles and packs from our jaded horses, and turned them out to graze on grass waist high. This grass, as far as I could see, covered the undulating prairies, and was gently waved by a cool and delightful sea breeze. The soft, clear atmosphere, mellowed with the rays of a warm sun, seemed to have all the golden glory of an Italian climate. I threw myself upon the ground, covered by very large ripe delicious strawberries, and ate to satiety. My rifle soon brought down a deer, out of more than twenty that grazed within a mile of camp. Feasting over, my companion strolled to a clear, rapid mountain stream nearby, and picked up in the crevice of a rock under water a piece of pure gold, about as large as a kernel of corn. I took my tin pan and washed gold from dirt I got from several small brooks running down the hillsides. I washed dirt in many places on brooks down in the level prairie, and never failed to get from ten to thirty particles of gold from every panful washed. Three years ago, last December, I again passed through this valley, now settled up by thriving agriculturists. Instead of deer, I saw sheep, cattle, horses and hogs in all the valleys, and on all the hills. Thriving villages had succeeded to Indian wigwams; villages where church spires and school houses were indices that pointed to the character of the people, and where the flower-skirted paths, adjacent to many a neatly painted residence, give a traveler about as good an idea of the character and tastes of their owners, as any other one thing could. In Roseburg I was presented with ripe strawberries, just gathered on a hillside in the open fields, by a lady who still lives there. Having passed through Umpqua twice, once in May, and again in December, after a lapse of eighteen years, and having seen ripe strawberries both times, I judge that the climate of that valley is not objectionable. The only "drawback" that I ever saw, or ever heard of in this valley, is the soil in places is composed of a very sticky clay which, though black as ink, is no more productive than are our more sandy soils in the Willamette, but more muddy in winter. I have seen stagecoach wheels so filled with this mud that not a spoke could be seen. Now if Umpqua people ever hear that I said this, some of them may possibly be angry because I told it. But I set out to tell the truth, good and bad, and in the language of Old Hickory--"By the Eternal," I will. Umpqua has advantages enough to be able to throw in the mud.

Comes next, south of Umpqua. I judge this valley is some larger than the Umpqua. It has less rain, and is one of the best timbered and watered valleys in Oregon. It suits many people better than any other portion of the state. It produces all the grains, grapes, fruits and vegetables that grow in Umpqua or the Willamette, and is said to be better for corn. It claims to have already produced over fifteen millions from its gold mines, and every little while I hear of something new having been discovered there in the shape of lime, or sandstone, marble, quartz, gold, stone-coal, or an astounding development of some kind that sets us all to wondering, and retires Roseburg to the shade, as the prolific queen of sensation items. On the whole, Rogue River Valley bids fair to become a very valuable and attractive part of Oregon. The "drawbacks" in this valley are, people sometimes get sick and die. If they don't die soon enough, now and then up rises a chap like Stokes and shoots at some fellow. I do not think, however, that they ever kill anybody they shoot at in Rogue River. Whether this poor shooting ought to be reckoned as a "drawback" or not, I cannot now decide.
W. L. Adams, Oregon As It Is, Portland 1873, pages 55-57

    Dear Mrs. Duniway:--If my name is not Peregrine Pickle, it ought to be; for to my peregrinations there is no end, and as for the pickle, I am pretty nearly always in one! When I left Portland-on-Willamette two months ago, it was with the vaguest of ideas about what I should encounter east of the mountains. I had heard of the Modocs, and did not aspire to an encounter with them. There were rumors afloat of Indian Agents scarcely less formidable than their barbarian wards. It was understood that alkali and volcanic ash and scoria constituted most of the territory known as the Lake Country. These several distinct impressions were all that I felt sure of--gained I hardly could tell how--from one and another reckless talker.
    I set out therefore with a lagging sense of anticipation of what was to come--doubting if my summer wanderings in this direction would prove either pleasant or profitable. I wish it distinctly understood that I hadn't any passes, and therefore speak with entire freedom to say what I choose, and if I thank the officers of the O.&C.R.R. train for courteous treatment, and a ride on the locomotive through the most romantic portion of the railroad route, it is for actual politeness from them, and not an acknowledgment of deadhead privileges. The Root of the matter was the conductor, and its branches were baggagemaster Anderson, and "Jimmy," the newsboy.
    Having been over the road in old stagecoach times, I was delighted to find that the charm of novelty still remained, for of course the railroad does not follow the stage road grade altogether. The pass through the Calapooia Mountains into the beautiful Umpqua country is especially fine, passing as it does through a forest of giant timber, and cool, ferny nooks, moist with the trickling of mountain rills. Emerging from this, we came at once into the Yoncalla Valley--a lovely region, and rendered famous from having so long been the residence of one of Oregon's most eminent men and famous pioneers, Jesse Applegate. The old mansion at the foot of Yoncalla Mountain is abandoned by the "Sage" who erst gave dignity to its ready hospitality, and one must look for the proprietor on the borders of Clear Lake in Northern California.
    At Roseburg we leave a comfortable car, and hasten to take a not very comfortable coach. As a tourist must grumble somewhere, I seize upon this opportunity. When one is about to commence a night ride, one wants three-quarters of an hour at the very least to prepare for it, but at Roseburg it is presumed that you can attend to your toilet, take supper, and get into your night wraps in fifteen minutes--all on account of the stage company's enthusiastic intention to make time, and deliver its passengers to the waiting train on the California end of the road at a stated moment. I left out the supper, having been fortified thereto by a private lunch on board the train. Stage-driving in Oregon is good--I find no fault with that. But the stage company probably could afford, if they thought of the sufferings of their passengers, to put in cushions that are a trifle less hard than a rock. On the whole, It would be cheaper than smoothing down the irregularities in the road which make the spring cushions desirable.
    One gets through the night, to one's astonishment, without being reduced to jelly, and after a comfortable breakfast, resumes the journey feeling somewhat refreshed. But no! outraged nature resents the maltreatment the nervous system has undergone, and the digestive organs are undergoing, and insists upon an outside seat after a dose of camphor-and-water. That is a happy suggestion. The driver proves good company, besides being a philosopher, and the bright morning air becomes a tonic. We get on very amicably to the dinner station at Rock Point, and here our sense of justice is offended afresh. After the coach arrives, time is consumed getting dinner on the table, necessarily. By the time we are seated and have swallowed half a meal, the word is given to start again. Of course the horses and driver have had their meal beforehand without hurry. The miserable passenger, whose only business is to pay his fare, is not consulted. On the contrary, he is compelled to consent to be regarded as fast freight; faster when at the stations than when on the road. But it all conduces to make us glad to come to our journey's end, as well as to vow we never will--no, never! take coach through Oregon again. But we shall--of course we shall--and the stage company knows it.
    At Ashland, a charming village in the foothills, my stage ride came to a close, and I was hospitably entertained over Sunday at the house of another of Oregon's pioneers, Lindsay Applegate, brother of Jesse, and father of Gen. E. L. Applegate, of Lane County. From this point I traveled in company with a private party across the mountains, making sixty-two miles in three days! But that was the fun of it. What occasion for hurry "when the world was all before us where (and when) to choose?" It was the most genuine gypsying I ever did, and to my confusion I discovered that on a gypsying excursion I was lacking in some very needful accomplishments. For instance, I have permitted myself to become so effeminate and awkward as not to be able to ride a hard-trotting horse. Palace cars and carriage cushions are demoralizing. But then I could walk--that is something I have not yet given up, and I could laugh heartily at the graceful appearance of the young lady who did venture on the horse with an ugly gait. We had our choice of the hack, the saddle, or afoot, and to redeem my character from the charge of too great luxuriousness, I walked miles in the fragrant shadows of giant pines, conversing meanwhile with a companion of inexhaustible resources, and did not feel in the least punished by my self-imposed penance. But I did regret not being able to keep up with the hunters, who went ahead to choose camp and bring in game. However, I enjoyed the trout if I did not catch them, and enjoyed trying to find comfort in a camp bed. I am a child of Nature, and fond of my mother, but I do rather shrink from reposing on her broad bosom without the interposition of a French bedstead and a good spring mattress; that is to say, I did shrink from it just at first; but that weakness, I hope, is conquered. The second night we had venison for supper, and might have had bear meat, only our hunters had fallen behind to take care of their venison when the great "Cinnamon" [bear] came galloping out of the thicket ahead of us, and hurried off into the forest at our right. Perhaps he heard the rifle and guessed what it meant. I am mourning yet because I did not get that particular bearskin for a rug. As we camped for the night not far from the bear-walks, it was pleasantly exciting to surmise the possibility of an ursine visitor in camp, and terribly disturbing also to be wakened at three o'clock in the morning to see Venus!--just as if Venus was not likely to last one's lifetime, and to be evening and morning star at intervals during the whole of that period. I know of people so insane as to invite you to look at the moon--as if the moon were a novelty!
    Our party arrived at Linkville, the metropolis of Southeastern Oregon, on the 3rd of July, where preparations were being made for celebrating the Fourth. As the young ladies were interested in the festivities of that day, and as I was kindly invited to participate, I became patriotic, and went out to hear the young orator, I. C. Applegate, discourse of our Nation's history from first to last in a manner rather more original than anniversary orators are accustomed to do. The exercises of the day closed with a ball; and if anyone is malicious enough to aver that the grave and reverend author of this letter danced, I should state uncompromisingly that they told the truth.
    Linkville is well situated to catch the travel and business of the country, but in the least attractive spot of the whole Lake region. It lies at the base of the mountains on the east side, and at the foot of the Upper Klamath Lake, just where Link River, which connects the two lakes, runs out of it. The rolling land about it is destitute of timber, which want is so great a one in any landscape, especially one destitute of green grass. Hot springs and ashen soil attest the volcanic origin of its peculiar features. Yet Mr. Nurse has a fine garden on the river bottom, and near town I saw wheat being harvested.
    Thirty-one miles to the north of Linkville is Klamath Agency. Six miles further north, Fort Klamath, both handsomely located among pine groves of great beauty, and furnished with the most deliciously pure and cold water. About half that distance south, on Link River, is the place of Capt. Jack's camp, where the first fight occurred on the 29th of November, and an equal distance beyond takes one down to the scenes of those massacres of settlers which led to the war, and on to Tule Lake, now rendered forever historical, first by unprovoked murders of immigrants, and lastly by an unheard-of act of treachery on the part of the murderers toward a Commission which only dealt too leniently with them. The history of the events which led to the Modoc War will hardly be written in this generation, and the unwritten facts will be those possessing the intensest interest, even when something like a history shall be produced. It is not the fault of interviewers, be it understood, if no account of these things is furnished to the public in proper form. One of this uncanny tribe myself, I felt some compunctions of conscience when I beheld the rapacity of my kind. Be it known that Job's patience would scarcely have been sufficient to meet the exigencies of the quizzing which the officers of the Agency, particularly, had to undergo. The courtesy and kindness extended to us is, and always will remain, a wonder to my mind.
    It is so much the fashion to berate Indian Agents that I shall most likely astonish a majority by taking their side against their maligners. Everybody knows of what they are accused--stealing, peculation, unfairness to the Indians, cruelty, lying and the rest of the decalogue of sins. It is curious to me how the Agents on the Klamath Reservation contrived to make anything out of a position where the appropriations were so small and so slowly remitted; so small, in fact, even now, that it is impossible to carry on the improvements stipulated in the treaty to any degree of perfection. And then the salaries behind, too. At this rate an Indian Agent may be looked upon as an underpaid and suffering rather than a money-making individual. The duties required of one are anything but agreeable, the servant of, rather than the master of his wards--attending to every want from a gunlock to a baby's shroud. An Indian likes or dislikes, very much like any other ignorant and narrow-minded person. Everybody knows how much more difficult to deal with is ignorance than intelligence. Add bad propensities and savage ideas to a total lack of all valuable knowledge and you have the character of many of the Indians with whom an Agent has to deal. But the government ignores the wrongs of its employees, and in its surpassing sympathy for the Indian forgets to "be just before being generous." I am satisfied that the affairs of the Klamath Agency would bear the strictest investigation, and that the tales afloat concerning the provocation given to Jack and his band are both false and foolish. Having an opportunity to observe the administration of the present Agent, and being acquainted with the man who formerly managed affairs on the Reservation, I feel competent to say that there was not only no ground of complaint against them, but that they seem to have acted with singular manhood and good faith towards the Indians and the Department. Yet in California, and even in Oregon, the contrary opinion is recklessly stated by people totally uninformed of the facts in the case.
    I did not set out to defend anybody; that last paragraph slipped in unawares. What I meant to tell you of was the many pleasant excursions I enjoyed while stopping at Klamath Agency--from going to take notes of Jack's trial, to visiting the wonderful Crater Lake. But I cannot tell you everything in one number of your paper--I don't know that I want anybody to know the half I enjoyed on this summer voyage. Suffice it for the present that to travel in Eastern Oregon requires you to wear stout shoes, a linen duster, a dust cap, an immense hat; to carry a field glass and a carbine; to know how to make a hemlock bed, or sleep on a haystack, and to talk jargon. With these accoutrements and accomplishments, if you are a good and indefatigable rider, you will get along.
    NOTE.--Eastern Oregon is settled by cattle-raisers, and for that purpose the country is first best--and good for little else than good beef, butter and cheese.
    MORAL.--If you are well enough off, stay where you are. If you want to raise cattle, and can find two or three thousand acres of unclaimed land with a splendid spring on it, and a magnificent pine grove adjoining, why, go take it; there is nothing to hinder, except, perhaps, capital to stock it.
    P.S. I had nearly forgotten the postscript, the most important part of a true woman's letter--and I wish to be true womanly, of course. I will just say here that the only reason I do not put some real information about the country, etc., into my letter, is because I do not resemble Mark Twain, who cannot help being sensible and wise when he only means to be amusing. If I fail of being either sensible or amusing, so much the worse for me.
The New Northwest, Portland, September 5, 1873, page 1

Last revised August 31, 2018