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.


    The Siletz Indian Reservation lies in the northern part of Lincoln County, Oregon, and embraces a territory of 225,000 acres. This body of land comprises some of the finest agricultural and timber land in the state of Oregon. It is well watered by the Siletz River and its tributaries. The former river heads not many miles from the Siletz Bay, into which it empties, but by its devious and winding course it traverses many miles and waters much country before it reaches the bay into which it pours its waters. The entire course of the river is marked by many beautiful and exceedingly fertile valleys, some of them being open prairie land, which can be cultivated with very little preliminary labor.
    The general topography of the reservation differs from other coast localities, in that it has more and larger valleys lying along its streams and the hill land does not appear so rugged. There is a greater percent of agricultural land than can be found in any tract of equal size lying along the coast. The timber on the reservation is much better preserved than adjacent timber, fires having not made so many fierce ravages through it, and magnificent trees rear their lofty crowns to the sky in vast numbers.
    The soil seems to be almost entirely devoid of clay and to consist of a rich, black loam of a semivegetable formation, of unknown depth, and capable of producing anything in fruit or grain that is congenial to the climate.
    On this reservation are about 560 Indians, of all ages. These Indians have been allotted lands in severalty, the allotment being completed in October, 1892. Each man, woman and child was allotted 80 acres each. The principal part of these Indians are now farming their lands and are wholly self-supporting, in fact the aged and sick are about the only ones to whom the government contributes any help, outside of the training school. Those Indians engaged in farming had 2,090 acres of land under fence in 1892, and this year this has been considerably increased. They are improving their lands in a very satisfactory manner. The government has a saw mill on the reservation which saws all the lumber used by both the Indian farmers and the government. The Indians, when wanting lumber, will club together, go to the timber and fell their logs and raft them to the mill and then with the assistance of the foreman who is also engineer, saw up their logs and divide their lumber. The product of the mill in 1892 was over 100,000 feet.
    Last year the Indians had about 1,000 acres on the reservation planted to crops, and the Indian training school at the agency farmed about 100 acres more. The principal products were oats, wheat, potatoes, barley and hay. Off these lands the Indians raised in 1892 about 10,000 bushels of oats and sold over 50 tons of clover and timothy hay. The Indians are also turning considerable attention to livestock raising, owning on December 31, 1892, 200 horses, 348 head of cattle, 483 head of hogs, 240 sheep and 297 domestic fowls. The most of their farms, as seen by the writer, will compare very favorably with many white communities, having well-built and well-painted houses and barns, good fences and a general air of thrift and prosperity.
    The government Indian agent at the Siletz Reservation is Hon. T. Jay Buford, who was appointed to that office by President Harrison in October 1889. Mr. Buford is a high-minded, honorable gentleman and is admirably adopted for the arduous labors to which he has been assigned. He happily has acquired by his integrity and ability the full confidence of both the Indians and the Department at Washington. He is thoroughly interested in his work and since taking charge of the agency has worked many reforms that have proved advantageous to the advancement of the Indians toward civilization. He has been so notably successful in this work that the Siletz Indians present the unusual spectacle of asking that the government throw open for settlement the unallotted lands of the reservation. The last annual report of the Board of Indian Commissioners speaks very highly of the work Mr. Buford has accomplished at the agency, complimenting his work above all others which they inspected.
    The clerical duties pertaining to the agency are performed by W. S. Linville, assisted by such help as is afforded him by one or two educated Indians. Mr. Linville seems to be well fitted to carry on this important department, his papers being executed with neatness and accuracy. In speaking of the agent and clerk, a word as to the magnitude of their labor might be interesting. It is their duty to keep track and record of every pound of freight, every ounce of provisions etc., that comes upon the reservation, and every dollar that is placed in the agent's hands for disbursements. They must make monthly, quarterly and annual reports to the department in triplicate, and these reports must include a detailed statement of the business of agency in all its ramifications. Every article belonging to the government on the reservation must be accounted for, from their large steam saw mill to the last dozen needles. The amount of clerical work thus entailed is enormous. An idea of these reports can be faintly formed from Mr. Linville's statement that it requires the agent and himself to affix their signatures each about 3,000 times to each of these reports. In addition to this they must look after the issue of about 50,000 pounds of flour, 16,000 pounds of beef and other supplies in proportion annually. The agent is also burdened with the entire care and responsibility of all the different branches of the agency and must sit in judgment upon all questions brought to him by these more than 500 people. And still some people think that the position of Indian agent is a sinecure.
    The farm work of the agency is under the supervision of John McCloskey, a practical farmer, who was selected for that position because he had made his own farm a success in every detail. A glance at the cultivated farms which Mr. McCloskey has in charge will convince anyone that he is the right man for the place.
    The health of the people of the reservation is looked after by Eugene S. Clerk, M.D. Dr. Clark is a young man of good ability and has been extremely successful in his practice at this place. He takes interest in his work and it is safe to assert that this department is in good hands.
    The Indians have a court of their own for the settlement of all difficulties that may arise between them. This court is composed of a judge and two associates taken from the Indian police force. The present judge is John Adams. Geo. Harney is captain of the police force and has seven privates under him. Abby Logan is the government teamster and Andrew Smith is the ferryman.
    The educational interests of the young Indians of the reservation are in the hands of an industrial training school. In this school are enrolled 74 pupils. It is under the control of O. V. Hurt, who not only performs the arduous duties of industrial teacher, but is also acting superintendent of the school farm. The remainder of the school force is as follows: Mrs. E. L. Clark, teacher: Mrs. S. M. Hurt, matron; Miss Louise J. Grant, assistant matron; Miss Mellie Dohse, seamstress; Miss Carrie Rains, cook; Mrs. Mollie Selsic, assistant cook; Mrs. Martha Clay, laundress; U. S. Grant, night watch: and Jas. Thompson, teamster. The school house, dormitories, grounds, etc. are models of neatness and cleanliness, and bear high testimony to [the] efficiency of those who have in charge
    The M.E. Church has a resident missionary at the agency, who in addition to expounding the gospel to the people also presides over the agency blacksmith shop. Rev. C. R. Ellsworth occupies this dual position.
    The private enterprises on the reservation at present are the sutler's store presided over by genial, jolly F. M. Stanton, who is also postmaster at Siletz post office; the store of Larkey Logan, and a photograph gallery conducted by T. C. Jackson. It is worthy of note to say of the latter business that Mr. Jackson is a full-blood Indian, and learned the photographic art by his own efforts while attending school at Chemawa, Oregon. He turns out a very creditable work.
    Progression seems to be the motto on the reservation. It seems to be the policy of the agent and employees to keep things moving, and by constantly setting the example of improving, planting, etc., the Indian farmers become emulated thereby and are thus led to be industrious and contented. Mr. Buford informed us that the improvements contemplated on the reservation during the present year consist of a thirty-foot addition to the boys' dormitory, a dwelling house for aged and disabled Indians, a new ferry boat on the Siletz River and a steam engine and wood saw for the school building.
    There were many other very interesting details observed at the agency which cannot be enumerated here. A trip to this reservation will most amply repay any person who takes the least interest in work of this kind. It presents the characteristic of a training school for youth and also a training, or more properly speaking, a civilizing school for the adults. A continual process of grafting or transplanting is going on. The habits and customs of one race are being gradually changed for those of an entirely different race. Upon this reservation can be seen the working out in a practical manner a problem that once was of portentous size--that of civilizing the American Indians. The agent, Mr. Buford, seems to be working on the idea that by bringing into close contact with civilization and surrounding them with good influences and provide the opportunities for a liberal education the Indians will civilize themselves; and the idea is working out most satisfactorily.
Lincoln County Leader, Toledo, Oregon, May 4, 1893, page 1

    In the fall of 1893 my wife accompanied me on one of my tours through the part of my district which included the Indian settlement, and we stopped at the agency to hold a service.
    Here was employed a bright Indian girl as laundress. She had been converted in our camp meeting. Her name was Irene Johnson.
    In the afternoon we were sitting in the parlor. Irene was one of our company, and an Indian young man came in. It was soon evident that he and Irene understood each other.
    After a pause in our conversation the agent said, "Brother Jones, when will you be back here?"
    I looked at my program, and replied, "On the 17th of October, if not delayed by snowstorms. I have about three hundred miles to drive, but if all connections can be made I shall be here then."
    "Well," he continued, "Jim and Irene here want you to marry them when you come back." The girl dropped her head and perhaps blushed, but her complexion could easily hide such evidence of emotion.
    Next day my wife and I went on our way. Snowstorms came on, and we camped out with our little tent in nine inches of snow, but we carried out our program, and on our return, when within about ten miles from the agency, we saw an Indian horseman on a high point of the hill. When we came up it proved to be the young man, Jim Schonchin.
    "Hello, Jim," I said.
    "Hello, Brother Jones," he responded, "I am glad to see you. I was afraid you would not get back, and I came out to see."
    "Yes, Jim, I am on hand."
    As we parted, Jim said, I'll be over, after awhile," and we went on to the agency.
    Indians came in from all directions. I was announced to preach in the evening, and the marriage was to take place after the sermon.
    Jim came over to the agency some time before evening, and while there the agent said to him, "Well, Jim, you are going to get married like a white man, and get a wife that keeps house like a white woman, and you ought to pay the preacher like a white man."
    "What! Pay the preacher?" said Jim.
    "Yes," replied the agent, "I paid the preacher for marrying me; Brother Jones paid the preacher for marrying him; and that is the way we do."
    "I did not know that," said Jim, "but if that's right, I'll do it. How much ought I to pay him?"
    "Well," responded the agent, "I think you ought to give Brother Jones a horse, and then give me one."
    "All right; if that's right I'll do it."
    After more banter and much laughter, the agent said, "No, Jim, I don't want a horse, but I think you ought to give Brother Jones one."
    After awhile he moved his chair over by me, and said, "Brother Jones, I'll give you a horse."
    "No, no, Jim," I replied, "the agent is joking."
    "Yes, but I think I shall feel better if I give you one."
    "How many horses have you?"
    "About one hundred."
    "All right," I said, "if you have one hundred horses, and desire to give me one you may do so."
    "I shall have to give you a wild one."
    "But I cannot do anything with a wild horse."
    "Well, I have only three gentle horses. I cannot spare my team, and I want to sell the other for cash, so that I can only give you a wild one."
    "Never mind it, Jim; I don't want one."
    This seemed to trouble him, and he gave himself to thought. Suddenly his face brightened, and he said, I'll tell you what I will do--I'll keep the horse for you this winter, and break it, and next summer you can get it."
    "All right," was my reply.
    The church was crowded in the evening. After the sermon, the bride and bridegroom came to the platform. She was dressed in white. Using the beautiful ritual of our Church, I pronounced them husband and wife, and then introduced them to the audience as Mr. and Mrs. Schonchin.
    When the young women came up to congratulate Irene, what weeping! She was a great favorite among them, and, notwithstanding her happiness, they were loath to see her go from among them.
    It was a bright, moonlight night, and at about eleven o'clock Jim said, "Well, it is time to go home."
    He was the owner of a good ranch which was about five miles away, and he had fitted up a house for the reception of his bride.
    The agent told the boys to bring around the horses and hack to the gate. Jim helped his bride into the hack, and, addressing me, said, "Brother Jones, next summer when you come over, be sure to come and see us."
    I said, "I surely will," and he drove off with his wife.
    I thought, "What a blessing is Christianity to this people!" Jim was the nephew of the old man Schonchin, who was executed on the gallows with Captain Jack and Scarfaced Charlie for murdering General Canby and our own dear Dr. Thomas, under a flag of truce.
    Next summer I received my pony.
T. L. Jones, From the Gold Mine to the Pulpit, Cincinnati 1904, pages 146-151

Last revised May 6, 2021