The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

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

Click here for Superintendency correspondence 1844-1900.

A Klamath Indian Attempts to Clean Out the Country,
But Is Riddled with Bullets After Killing Two People.

    Last Sunday was a day of sensational blood-spilling at the Klamath Indian reservation, Ft. Klamath,  Klamath County. John Major, an Indian, living near Williamson River bridge, about seven miles from Klamath agency, entered his house Sunday morning and deliberately shot his wife twice with a forty-four Winchester rifle, killing her instantly. Major then started up the river, and entering the house of another Indian about two miles from his home, told him he wished to speak with him. The Indian complied, and as he was walking ahead along the trail was shot dead by Major, the ball coming out at his heart. Major then took to the woods, where he was met by another Indian named Frank John, who seeing that something was wrong, refused to talk with him. Major then drew his gun, and John, urging his horse at full speed, managed to escape, though fired at by the mad Indian. As Frank John arrived at Williamson River telling his story, Bob Hook, who had discovered the double murder, reported it to the Indians assembled there. Six policemen and about twenty other Indians started on the trail of the murderer. He was after a time discovered concealed behind a log. Bob Hook, a policeman, who made the discovery, fired twice without effect and rolled off his horse, and the other Indians fairly riddled Major, who continued to shoot until both arms were broke, when he fell back in a sitting posture, where he was dispatched by the Indians. Major was supposed to have been insane. He had always borne a good character.
Valley Record, Ashland, May 1, 1890, page 3

A Bad Indian.
Linkville Star:
    Jonah, an Indian of the Agency, is locked up and sad. The shadow in which he now squats is deep and cool, and it was all along of whiskey. Whiskey make Injun heap fool and white man heap jackass.
    Tuesday as Alex Martin was sitting in the basement of the store of Reames, Martin & Co., he heard a large, soft noise as of a great whale swimming in the gloom. It was not a whale. It was a Jonah, and it was whiskey he wanted. He had crawled in through an invisible hole.
    Alex collared the burglarious aborigine and was taking him to jail when suddenly Jonah made a break for sweet liberty, running with swift moccasins up to the sagebrush wilderness where he had a camp and a gun.
    When next he appeared the gun was in his hands and in his mouth the challenge "Come now and take me!"An Indian policeman followed him but was warned by Jonah not to get too close lest he be shot down like a steer. The act of rushing unawares upon the armed Indian would have been unjust. The man's crime was not a great one, and as he could be easily taken at the agency there was no necessity for surprising and thus frightening him into shooting and being shot at. The authorities wisely concluded to let him drift to the agency and he drifted, gun in hand, until next morning, when Garfield, the Indian policeman, found him at Modoc Point and took him in, gun and all. He will probably be punished at the agency.
Valley Record, Ashland, June 19, 1890, page 2

Fort Klamath Abandoned.
    The lieutenant and detachment of soldiers that were left at Ft. Klamath after the order abandoning the post had been "hung up" at the request of Gen. Miles, left this week with their bag and baggage for the railroad in this valley. This looks as if the post had been permanently abandoned.
    It is said that the Klamath Indian Agency will take charge of the buildings and move from their present poor quarters to the more commodious ones vacated by the soldiery.
Valley Record, Ashland, June 19, 1890, page 3

    Will Q. Brown of Riddles, state enumerator of Indians, went out to Klamath County Tuesday to enumerate Gen. Applegate's big band of siwashes. Mrs. B. stopped off at Medford and is the guest [of] Mrs. Chas. Strang.
"Medford Doings," Valley Record, Ashland, August 7, 1890, page 3

Death of a Klamath Indian.
Yaquina Post.]
    Died, at Siletz Agency, August 5, 1890, of consumption, Maggie Harney, aged 45 years. Deceased was a Klamath woman, and was brought from the Klamath Lake country to the reservation when she was about 16, soon after the close of the Rogue River war, in 1856. The Klamath Indians were noted during the war for their courage and bravery, but when they were conquered they were afterwards true and tried friends of the whites.
    During the early and turbulent times when the Indians ware first brought upon the reservation, it is said the Klamaths, led by their noted chief, Tyee Joe, saved the garrison from being massacred some two or three times. The white people owe the Klamath Indians a debt of gratitude that will long be remembered and appreciated.
    Maggie was once the wife of George Harney, the chief of the Rogue River Indians, during the early history of the reservation. She, with her husband, in company with A. B. Meacham, at that time one of the Peace Commissioners appointed to settle the Modoc difficulties with the whites. While in Washington she was treated with great kindness and respect by the officials of the Indian office. She saw General Grant, talked with him and many other noted men of the nation. She often spoke of her pleasant trip to Washington, and of what a great country the white people had, but thought they had wronged the Indian people a great deal in getting possession of it. She was separated from her husband, and after that spent most of her time with her people, except about one year spent in the family of Dr. Rich. She was one of the best housekeepers in the country.
    Maggie was respected and kindly treated by all the whites who knew her. She was very thoughtful and greatly appreciated the kind treatment she received from the white people of the agency in her last sickness. She gave full directions where and how she should be buried, and said she did not want any of the old and superstitious customs observed at her grave. In regard to a question asked her just before she died, in regard to the future, she said all was bright and she wanted to rest.
    Klamath Anna, who was a lifelong friend of Maggie's, is now left alone. These two are probably the best-known Indian women of the reservation, and their names are intimately connected with its history. Maggie was buried in the beautiful cemetery of the Klamath Nation, near the agency, amid the wild scenes and associations of her girlhood.
Valley Record, Ashland, August 21, 1890, page 3

    Word was received this week that President Harrison, at his summer resort at Crescent Springs, Pa., had on Monday removed Gen. E. L. Applegate as Indian agent of Klamath Reservation, and appointed D. W. Mathews of Salem, formerly in the drug business in Ashland, in his place. Gen. Applegate was appointed a year ago at the instigation of Senator Mitchell and the Oregon delegation, and right from the start became disgusted at the way the administration was conducting Indian affairs. Every week seemed to add more disgust, and the General, being very good with his pen, kept the department at Washington well posted with his views. During Cleveland's administration the Indian Department was regularly divided among the different denominations, and the head of affairs being of a liberal turn of mind, things went smooth. When good Mr. Harrison went in with his infant damnation and can't-go-to-heaven on anything but a Calvinistic shingle doctrine, he appointed to the heads of Indian departments a lot of fanatical sectarian bigots--better grounded in bigotry than himself, if that could be--who have been conducting the department on that narrow line, fighting the Catholic Church with the venom characteristic of sectarian jealousy, and rooting out as near as possible all Christian ideas that do not conform to the hellfire damnation orthodox pattern. Add to this mixture the fact Agent Applegate is generally termed an infidel, and you can see what a monkey and parrot of a time they have been having. Gen. Applegate was asked to resign some time ago by the Indian Commissioner. He was disgusted enough to quit willingly but would not do so if it gave his fanatical enemies any pleasure. He will now expose the administration and its management. He says the department officers who have called there thoroughly ignore the government and conduct themselves as if the church was their guiding star, and that the work now going on will soon produce worse results than the dark ages ever saw.
Valley Record, Ashland, September 18, 1890, page 2

A Letter by Gen. Applegate that Gives a Faint Idea of the Contempt in Which He Holds Harrison's Puritanical Government.
    The Record is in possession of a copy of the following letter written by Gen. E. L. Applegate, recently removed by President Harrison from the Indian agency at the instigation of Bishop Newman's Methodist conference, because of his non-orthodox opinions. The letter was written to his son:
    A few days ago I received the following letter from Washington:
Dept. of the Interior, Census Office,
    Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 1890.
    My Dear Sir:--I received this day your census return of the Klamath agency. I want to thank you for your most excellent work. Your compensation will be forwarded you in a few days.
Very truly,
        Special Agt. in Charge, 22nd Division.
E. L. APPLEGATE, U.S. Indian Agent,
    Klamath County, Oregon.
    Now he wants to thank me for my most excellent work. The best work I did was in amending the oath furnished me, by curing it of its theoretical impossibilities and bringing it within the range of human possibilities. I reduced the oath, before I took it, to common sense, so that the work could be done in a common-sense way--and he wants to thank me! and pay me! I feel as though I ought to allow him to do so; for it is certainly the first symptom of sense that I have yet seen manifested by this Administration.
    It appears that when the Oregon delegation closely pressed the Department for the charges against me, the Acting Commissioner gave the business away. It was this, my appointment "was a staggering blow to the confidence of many Republicans."
    These staggering Republicans could not have been in Oregon, because after I was appointed we had an election here and the Republicans carried the state by a large majority--I believe, by an increased majority. No, it was not in Oregon. The western Republican does not stagger at trifles. They were undoubtedly eastern Republicans.
    This complaint was put in by Brother Millikins Dorchester, and I am of the opinion that with him and his class it is a species of "blind staggers," and the condition is in the mind and inherited. You know that notwithstanding his great pretense of saintly piety we are able to prove this Brother Millikins to be a liar and a sneak. And why should he not be? The Constitution of the United States forbids the government from propagating any religion, and these officers of the Indian service are sworn to carry out that Constitution; and, therefore, when we find them meddling and practically propagating religion, by their official authority and at the expense of the government, and enforcing religious tests, we see that they are not only capable of lying but are, in reality, not only traitors to the cause of civil liberty, but also perjured knaves.
    Their only defense is their lack of sense. That their lunacy is inherited. That it descends from the fabricators of the blue laws, and the prosecutors of heretics and witches.
    Finding that I belonged to no religious order, that I was a person whose mind was measurably free from the bias of the old superstitions, and in some degree capable of the enjoyment of mental liberty; and was, therefore, in perfect accord with the principles of the Constitution; and that, therefore, I would not be likely to prostitute a government office to the enforcement of any religion--that I would simply let religion be so merely a personal right as the Constitution places it--then, per consequence, these fanatical cranks were staggered--my appointment was a staggering blow!
    Is this what has become of the great Republican Party?
    Are these blind staggerers to set the test of who may be rewarded or honored by this party?
    I am of the opinion that if the Republican Party allows itself to be rode and drove by these blind staggerers, and makes its appeal to the American people in this handicapped situation, it will be liable to receive some staggering blows that will send it to grass; for I am satisfied that the American people are not yet so far degenerated as to quietly allow a few religious cranks to convert the national government into an hierarchy.
    It snowed yesterday and I was out late, giving directions how a guard should be maintained all night on a large coal pit we are burning. As I came home there was quite a blizzard blowing. I was alone and everywhere was dark and shut up; all, except the guard fire and the upper bay window of the agent's house. The sidewalk was covered with snow and the dark and obscure scenes, outlined by streaks and flecks of snow, reminded me of last winter and the awful life and death struggle we had here. Many and vivid were the recollections awakened in my mind. It actually seemed to me that I could hear the voices of my children and friends in the sighings of the wind in the limbs of the trees. Then I keenly missed you, and the rest of the folks; and I couldn't help reflecting on the partiality, injustice and meanness of the inner priesthood of the immortal Indian ring. How that preacher-agents here had been allowed to have a number of the members of their own families employed here in the public service--as many as three or four of them at a time; and how that I could not be allowed one, and how that every stupid technicality was immovably placed across my path to prevent, and did prevent it. These cranks, these fanatics, these inheritors and perpetuators of the barbarisms, superstitions, injustice and meanness of the dark ages recognized that I did not belong to the hierarchy that has already seized upon the Indian department. It seemed to me that I bore the same relation to them that the loyal officer in the army bore to the seceding Confederates--I could surrender, be struck down, or fly! As these dismal thoughts passed through my mind the wind swept over the adjacent pine forest with a yet louder roar, and for the moment I imagined that I was a Siberian exile.
Valley Record, Ashland, October 30, 1890, page 1

    An Indian school was started at Linkville, Oregon, some weeks ago and it now is attended by eighty pupils.
"Coast Items," San Francisco Call, October 31, 1890, page 8

Last revised August 24, 2023