The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Correspondence of the Oregon Superintendency
Southern Oregon-related correspondence with the Oregon Superintendency for Indian Affairs.

Click here for Superintendency correspondence 1844-1900.

Washington City
    August 31 1854
Hon. James Guthrie
    Secretary of the Treasury
            Herewith I propose to furnish you such facts as came within my own knowledge in relation to the services of Genl. Joel Palmer of Oregon in the war with the Cayuse Indians in the years 1847 and 1848. I met with the Genl.in San Francisco in Jany. 1849, and took passage with him on the same ship with him. On our way to Oregon I learned much from him, and other Oregonians, returning home from San Francisco about the Cayuse War. From the Genl. I learned that the war had terminated in the summer of '48, that he had served a quartermaster and commissary, and at the close of the war he found himself encumbered with a large amt. of public property, books and unadjusted accounts, that he had a strong desire to convert the property into the largest sum possible for the payment as far as it would go of the expenses of the war. Consequently when he left home he found it necessary to employ other persons to take charge of the property, books and accounts--to arrange and close them up. This I found to be on my arrival at Oregon City to be the case. From my personal knowledge therefore I am able to state that he had two persons employed a portion of the time, & one, Mr. Clouse [Cloisse?], the entire time of the absence as clerk, & the other to take charge of and dispose of property, and I further know that he paid them for their services out of his own money. And further I can say that I consider
Palmer an honest, conscientious, good man and efficient officer [and] the award allowed to Palmer by Commissioner Wait just and only but a reasonable compensation for his services as quartermaster, and in my judgment ought to be paid without further delay.
[Joseph Lane]
Joseph Lane Papers, OHS Mss 1146, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Brig Henry in the Columbia
    Bound for California March 18th 1848
The Honl. William L. Marcy, Sec. War
Dear Sir
    Herewith you will receive a package which issued from your office addressed to Edward Pickett [Charles Edward Pickett?], Esqr. Mr. Pickett is a resident of California and refuses to accept the appointment conferred upon him. I apprised Mr. Pickett of his appointment soon after my arrival in Oregon in Sept. last. I have recently received an unsatisfactory note from him, and I think perhaps that previous reports will be confirmed that he is not of sound mind. The acting Governor has made demand for the papers. I refuse to give them up & I know of no other means of acting correctly but to send them back to you.
    An express has just arrived from the Cayuse war. They have recently had a battle; the Indians began to fall & took to flight. I should write you in full of this Indian difficulty, but I am sure you have been duly apprised.
    I have the honor to be, sir, with much deference, your most humble & obedient svt.
The Hon. W. L. Marcy
    Sec. War
NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 607 Oregon Superintendency 1842-1852, frames 454-456.

War Department
    Office Indian Affairs
        August 31st 1848
    I have the honor to inform you that, by direction of the President, J. Quinn Thornton, George C. Preston and Robert Newell of Oregon have been appointed sub-Indian agents to be employed and to reside in that Territory. The appointment and instructions of the first, who is here, have been placed in his hands. Those of the latter I have the honor to transmit herewith, to be communicated to them by you. The copies in the first case, which I enclose, will advise you of the tenor of these papers in each, all being alike.
    You will perceive that these sub-agents are placed under your control and direction, in your capacity of Acting Superintendent of Indian Affairs within the limits of Oregon, and are required to execute such duties and to carry out such instructions as you may find it necessary to assign and to give to them.
    These appointments are to be regarded only as temporary in the absence of authority to appoint full agents, and of any authentic and official information as to the number and localities of the Indians of Oregon, and the number and capacity of the persons absolutely requisite to aid you in efficiently managing our Indian relations in that Territory. Such information on the above and other material points is desired at as early a period as practicable to enable the Department to submit to the President some proper plan for an efficient organization of this branch of the service, and for properly conducting our Indian relations in Oregon. By direction of the Secretary of War I have therefore respectfully to request that, at as early a period as may be in your power, you will give your attention to this subject & report to this office for the information of the President and Congress all the facts it may be in your power to collect on the following and any other points that you may deem to be of interest and importance.
    1st. The number and names of the several tribes and their particular or general locality.
    2nd. The number of each separate tribe or band and the probable number of effective warriors in each.
    3rd. Their general character and disposition, whether warlike or unfriendly or the reverse.
    4th. Their present relations with the white inhabitants of Oregon, and with the Hudson's Bay Company.
    5th. Whether any conventional arrangements, and if so, of what character, exist between them and our white citizens, which should be respected and confirmed by the government, and in what manner this should be done.
    6th. What number of agents and sub-agents will be indispensably necessary for the proper management of our relations and intercourse with them.
    7th. The points at which agencies and sub-agencies should be established.
    8th. The tribe or tribes which should be embraced in each agency or sub-agency, a sub-agency being in no case embraced within an agency, the same being prohibited by law.
    9th. The number of interpreters & other employees that will be necessary.
    10th. The amount that will probably be required for the erection of the necessary agency buildings and fixtures of a plain & cheap but sufficiently substantial character.
    11th. The amount that will probably be required per annum for contingent expenses, embracing fuel, stationery, traveling expenses of agents &c.
    12th. The amount requisite per year for such small presents as it may be necessary occasionally to make to the Indians to conciliate their good will.
    13th. The amount that will probably be necessary annually for provisions for Indians visiting the agents on business.
    14th. What alteration, if any, it may be requisite and proper to make in the present law regulating trade and intercourse with our Indian tribes, so as better to adapt it to the condition & circumstances of our white & Indian population in Oregon.
    Some definite information on these and such other points as you may think necessary to be considered with reference to legislation by Congress for the purpose of placing our Indian affairs in Oregon on a proper basis will enable the President to make appropriate recommendations upon the subject, and it is therefore very desirable that your report be received in season for this to be done prior to the termination of the next session of Congress.
    No appropriation having been made for the purpose of the late session, the Department has no funds which can be applied thereto, except a portion of a balance of a limited amount of a general appropriation applicable to the service generally. Beyond the salaries of the three sub-agents, and the same number of interpreters, but little can be spared for objects of an incidental and contingent character, so that in expenditures of this kind the greatest economy must necessarily be observed. The following sums for the purposes named will be placed in your hands, viz:
    For salary of three sub-agents for six months commencing when they actually enter upon their duties in Oregon $1,125.00
For salary of three interpreters for same time at the rate of $300 per annum, the same being fixed by law $450.00
For incidental & contingent expenses embracing fuel, stationery, actual & necessary traveling expenses in the performance of duty, and provisions requisite for Indians visiting agents       600.00
The above will be accounted for quarterly, if practicable, by regular account abstract and vouchers, under the head of "Current Expenses Indian Department."
    It may not be necessary to employ interpreters continuously, in which case the amount under that head would be applicable to the employment of a greater number than three at broken periods should that be necessary on account of the variety of languages spoken by the Indians.
    In addition to the foregoing amount there will likewise be turned over to you by direction of the President the sum of $4,727.15/100, being the unexpended balance of an appropriation of $10,000 made by Congress for "payment for the services and expenses of such persons as have been engaged by the provisional government of Oregon in conveying communications to and from the United States, and the purchase of presents for such of the Indian tribes as the peace and quietude of the country requires."
    The above balance is the amount left after paying the claims of persons of the character mentioned, and is therefore applicable to the purchase of presents. The Department has no information to enable it to give you specific instructions in respect to the expenditure of this money, and it must therefore be left to the exercise of a sound discretion on your part under the circumstances in which you may find yourself placed in the management of relations with the Indians. The President is confident however that in this you will exercise a just and proper degree of economy. The expenditure must be accounted for as in the case of the other money placed in your hands by this Department, by regular accounts current, abstracts and vouchers, made up quarter-yearly, and transmitted by such safe conveyances to this office as may offer.
    Copies of the material laws and regulations on the subject of Indian affairs accompany this communication for your own information and use, and extra copies of some of them for the use of the sub-agents.
Very respectfully
    Your obt. servt.
        W. Medill.
P.S. Mr. Thornton having left this city, his appointment and instructions are also forwarded under cover to you.
W. Medill.
His Excellency
    Joseph Lane
        Governor & Actg. Supt. Ind. Affairs
Joseph Lane Papers, OHS Mss 1146, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

    Mr. [Ephraim] Catching, with his two brothers, came to Oregon overland from Missouri in 1846 and settled in the Willamette Valley. In 1848, on the first intimation of the discovery of gold in California that reached Oregon, he resolved at once to cast his fortune there. A vessel arriving from San Francisco had brought the sensational tidings, and while many were skeptical with regard to its correctness, Mr. Catching had faith to warrant him in making the effort to reach the new gold field. Enlisting a score or more of adventuresome companions, a party was soon equipped and ready for the journey.
Murdered an Indian.
    Their course lay through the valleys of Umpqua and Rogue rivers--a region as yet in a manner unexplored and inhabited by tribes of Indians whose disposition toward the encroachment of the white man was an unsettled proposition. The trip as far as the Rogue River country was made without incident or happening worthy of mention. There was, however, enacted a tragedy which--though a reproach to our boasted civilization, and even to our race--is entitled to a place in history as the inceptive prompting of the Rogue River Indian War: One of the party shot and instantly killed an unoffending old Indian. The Indians had been entirely harmless, and the victim of that most hellish perfidy had visited the camp of the white men with seeming friendship and good will. Standing with folded arms and unmindful of the, to him, strange implement leveled at his breast, he fell the victim of a species of vandalism which, in its degree, is undefinable by invective provided by the English language.
    Mr. Catching was in favor of giving the miscreant over to the Indians to be dealt with accordingly as they should determine, but other counsels prevailing, the wretch was permitted to go unpunished and with the immunity so afforded to vaunt, in after years, his dastardly act as a mark of heroism. Thenceforth the enmity of the Indians toward the white settler, or wayfarer, was of marked intensity, till at length it culminated in the memorable Rogue River War, in which Mr. Catching participated and for which service his surviving widow is now entitled to a pension. Though recognizing the primary injustice done to the Indians, in defense of his own race and his own fireside he joined the ranks of the illustrious pioneer soldiers.
"First Man at Coos Bay," Sunday Oregonian, Portland, May 24, 1903, page 15

Office Supt. Ind. Affairs
    St. Louis Sept. 11, 1848
    I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 2nd inst. directing the sum of $6,902.85 to be turned over to Govr. Jos. Lane on account of the Oregon sub-agency, and to inform you that he left here about the 1st instant for Fort Leavenworth, at which place I have just learned from the clerk of the steamer Mandan he was on the 6th last and making his preparations to start on the 9th for Oregon. From another gentleman I learn that there was some uncertainty about his starting so soon, and have accordingly written to him this day by mail and steamboat, informing him that the money, instructions, blanks, commissions &c. are on hand here for him.
With great respect I am sir
    Yr  most obt. svt.
        John Haverty
            Clerk Ind. Affairs
NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 607 Oregon Superintendency 1842-1852, frames 414-415.

    GOV. LANE.--The steamer Martha arrived from Weston last night. We learn from her officers that Gov. Lane left Fort Leavenworth with an escort of 25 men, under the command of Lieut. Hawkins, on Sunday, the 10th inst., for Oregon, via Santa Fe and California. The officers also report that Gen. Price was expected to arrive in Santa Fe on the second of last month.
Unidentified clipping marked "Sept. '48," pasted onto letter below. Weston is a town in Ohio; the Martha plied the Ohio River.
Office Supt. Ind. Affairs
    St. Louis Sept. 28, 1848
    On the 11th inst. the clerk of this office had the honor to inform you of the departure of Govr. Jos. Lane from this city for Fort Leavenworth on or about the first of this month, and of his having written to him by steamboat & mail, advising him of the amount of funds &c. These letters have since been returned by the postmaster at Fort L. to this office, the Governor having left there on the 10th instant on his way to Oregon.
    The remittance of $6,902.75, advised by your letter of 2nd inst. for the use of Govr. Lane, was recd. here on the 13th. It being no longer available here for the purpose intended, I have respectfully to ask your instructions to redeposit it to the credit of the Treasurer of the United States.
    The documents recd. from your office for Govr. L. have been returned here up to this time, in the hope that an opportunity would occur of forwarding them to Oregon; none such having presented itself, I have this day returned them as directed by the postscript of your letter above referred to.
I have the honor to be sir
    Yr  most obt. svt.
        T. H. Harvey
            Supt. Ind. Affairs
Hon. W. Medill
    Comr. Ind. Affrs.
NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 607 Oregon Superintendency 1842-1852, frames 416-417.

Last revised October 25, 2017