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.

    During the year 1891, as presiding elder I visited for the first time the Klamath Indian Mission, climbing the rugged steeps of the Cascade Mountains, and crossing them at an altitude of about eight thousand feet, traveling with my own team a distance of one hundred and fifty miles.
    For a number of years there had been no Methodist missionary at the agency, but a few of these Indians, who had been converted many years before, were members of the Methodist Church.
    I arranged to hold a camp meeting among them, and we erected a rude pulpit under some pine trees, gathered a congregation of nearly eight hundred Indians, and on Saturday held two services.
    I had a good Christian Indian as an interpreter, but this being my first attempt to preach by such means, it required a little practice before I felt at ease. But God graciously sustained me, and made powerful the preaching of his word.
    The Sabbath was a beautiful summer morning, and large crowds gathered beneath the graceful pine trees.
    After the manner of Bishop Taylor, I presented first the law, taking as a text the Decalogue. Knowing that the Indian man is especially prone to idleness, I emphasized the "Six days shalt thou labor," and among other things said that many white people were not Christians because they were too lazy.
    I invited those who desired to be Christians to rise to their feet, and scores of them accepted this invitation. Then I asked them to come to the front, and large numbers were soon prostrate and crying for mercy.
    Around the altar petitions went up to our Father, first in English and then in the Indian tongue, and answers came in glorious conversions, as was soon proven by the rejoicing of many of these simple children of nature. I requested my interpreter to make known to me what they were saying. Some cried out, "Praise the Lord," and others declared, "I love Jesus," while many testified that Christ had given them peace in believing. I explained to them the nature and obligations of baptism and Church membership, and then turned to my interpreter and said, "Do they understand?" He looked at me and replied, "They understand it as well as you do."
    Then I said, "All who are going to lead a Christian life, and desire to be baptized, come forward."
    One hundred and seventeen presented themselves for baptism.
    After the morning service I took dinner with the government agent, and just as I was leaving the house for a walk in the open air, before conducting the afternoon service, a large Indian followed me, and cried in broken English, "O, I am so happy. I never heard such good words before in my life. I do wish my wife had been here today. I will never lie no more, never steal no more, and I will work. Will I always be happy?"
    At this question he paused for reply, and I said, "Yes, my brother, you are in the right line."
    The following summer I visited them again, full of anxiety to know what spiritual development had resulted from the year's experience. At the Conference following the revival, I had sent them a missionary, so that some attention had been given to their religious training. To my great joy, I found a large number of them leading consistent Christian lives, and making excellent progress in the knowledge of Christ Jesus.
    I was told of one who went up to the fort on a certain occasion, and while there he heard white men using profane language. He rebuked them.
    "Don't you swear?" they inquired.
    "Didn't you used to swear?" "Yes."
    "When did you quit?"
    "When I got religion."
    "When did you get religion?
    "At the time Elder Jones was out here holding his picnic."
    (The Indians call all outdoor meetings picnics.)
    In the spring following the camp meeting, a number of the Indians went over to Lost River to fish, and during the several weeks they were away none of them would fish on the Sabbath.
    One Sunday, while they were sitting around the camp fire, a peddler came along selling handkerchiefs, cheap jewelry, and other trinkets. He desired to trade with the Indians, but they said, "No, thank you; this is the Sabbath."
    "But," said the peddler, "that makes no difference; everyone around here trades on Sunday."
    They replied, "We belong to the Methodist Church, and do not trade on Sunday, but would like to trade with you some other day."
    The civilized white man responded, "Unless you trade today, I shall go on and not return to your camp."
    "All right," they said, "you may go."
    He went three miles up the river to a place where a number of white people were fishing, and finding no religious scruples in such enlightened company, he did business with them on the Lord's day, and returned on the Monday to trade with the simple red men.
    Many of the young men and maidens in the government school were among the converts, and one of these was a full-bred Klamath Indian girl, sixteen years of age. She graduated soon after the revival, and was married to a good Christian Indian.
T. L. Jones, From the Gold Mine to the Pulpit, Cincinnati 1904, pages 137-142

Klamath Indian Blood Spilled.
    The Indians down about Oak Bar, on the Klamath River, have been making angels out of their "medicine man" and another "good" Indian. The Yreka Journal says the trouble grew out of a superstitious notion that an Indian known as Snelling gave an Indian girl some kind of medicine, under the influence of which she was seduced from the home of her parents. Snelling and another Indian was killed by Sambo and his son, and others who tried to stop the trouble were also seriously wounded. Some Indians from the Oregon reservation made the attack on the Hamburg Bar Indians, and there is likely to be more trouble unless the Oregon reservation Indians skedaddle, as the Scott Valley and Happy Camp Indians, as well as several] half-breeds, are coming to settle the difficulty according to Indian regulations, without the necessity of the county taking any hand in the affair at enormous cost to the taxpayers. The Indians who shot the others have escaped to the mountains, and are no doubt back in Oregon, where they came from.
Valley Record, Ashland, April 23, 1891, page 3

Last revised September 5, 2020