The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Coos Bay

Indians Kindly Treated United States Dragoons,
Who Were Wrecked Nearly 50 Years Ago.

    The early pioneers of Oregon have a vivid remembrance that as they pushed forward their plans of settlement they had more or less difficulty with almost every tribe of Indians from the southern boundary of the state to the British possessions. One tribe on the Coast, that became known as the Coos Bay Indians, were friendly to the early settlers, and they even gave protection to their new neighbors when other tribes adjacent to them were on the warpath. The Coquille tribe, whose possessions were only 20 miles away, were not so peaceable. They committed several depredations, one of which was the T'Vault massacre, which took place in 1851, a few miles above the mouth of the Coquille River. Five of the 10 men attacked were killed. T'Vault escaped, and made his way to Port Orford. L. L. Williams and Cyrus Hedden escaped after a fearful, hand-to-hand fight with the savages. The former was dangerously wounded. Making their way to Coos Bay, Williams and Hedden were kindly treated by Doloose, John and George, the three chiefs of that tribe. It is said that the Coos Bay Indians had erected a rock pyramid a few miles south of Cape Arago, and had decreed that no Indian would be permitted to molest white settlers north of that pile of rock. It often happened that white men were glad to reach this place when coming from the south, for they knew that the Coos Bay Indians would not only protect them from violence, but would supply them with food.
    About the time [of] the T'Vault massacre, or soon afterward, Dr. Dart, Spalding and Parrish arrived at Port Orford with two Indian interpreters. Their mission was to look after the tribes along the Coast. Parrish at once proceeded to the scene, being permitted to do so by Superintendent Dart. The chief, Saguami, received him cordially, and gave up the gun and some clothing that he had taken from T'Vault and offered to accompany Mr. Parrish back to Port Orford. On the way the treacherous rascal murdered the unsuspecting Parrish, quartered his body, and, by the aid of his squaw, carried the pieces to the Indian village. [Parrish was unharmed, living until 1895.]
    These depredations soon reached the ears of the government, and troops were sent by water to Port Orford. The schooner Capt. Lincoln, an old craft of about 300 tons, was sent from Benicia, Cal., with Troop C, First United States Dragoons, consisting of 35 men, commanded by First Lieutenant Henry W. Stanton. The schooner was wrecked about two miles north of Coos Bay bar, then known as "Cowes" or "Kowes" Bay. This was January 2, 1852. The vessel was commanded by Captain Naghel, who succeeded in saving his men and a large amount of cargo, which were sent ashore and a camp established. The Indians, led by Doloose and the two other chiefs, visited the wreck and helped the dragoons to carry freight to camp. They gave the men fish, and did everything possible to assist them in their forlorn condition. H. H. Baldwin, now living at Bandon, at the mouth of the Coquille River, was one of the troopers. Though the Indians seemed kind, the white men expected treachery, but the only bad trait shown by the natives was a disposition to steal small articles from the camp. The company got spars and sails ashore and, as Mr. Baldwin says, "In a few days quite a large and handsome sailcloth village raised its head and graced the sands of that wild beach, the terra incognita of the far West."
    After remaining three weeks in camp, and constantly associating with the Indians, the troopers were visited by Patrick and James Flanagan, James Maxey, Edward Breen and Peter Johnson, who were engaged in mining at Randolph. They had heard through the natives of the disaster and went for the purpose of giving relief, if needed, but the relief required could be given only by an order from some military officer for them to abandon property. Until Messrs. Flanagan and company visited them they did not know where they were, but they have always felt grateful that they fell into the hands of the docile and friendly Coos Bay Indians.
    In May, 1854, the Coos Bay Commercial Company was organized at Jacksonville, Or., by P. B. Marple, and a company of about 40 men went to Coos Bay. They first came into contact with the Coquille tribe of Indians, which, though but 20 miles away from Coos Bay, were a distinct tribe. Although they were comparatively friendly, the adventurers saw that it was necessary to watch them closely, as signs of hostility were apparent. As soon as Marple and his associates arrived at their destination they found a better class of natives. Doloose and the other two chiefs were friendly and ready to oblige them, and their friendship continued until, at the close of the Indian war of 1855-56, the Coos Bay tribe was taken to the Siletz Reservation. It is said by the old settlers, who knew the chiefs personally and their tribe, that there are but few of them now living. Some of the young men of the old natives occasionally visit Coos Bay and fish, but they are obliged to obtain permission from those in charge of the reservation. Doloose is still living on Coos Bay.
    Notwithstanding the friendship shown by the Coos Bay tribes, the people feared that they might be induced by the Coquille natives as well as the bloodthirsty Rogue River savages to massacre the whites; therefore, a company was raised and a fort built at Empire City, where the women and children were placed at night. This was about the time of the massacre at the mouth of Rogue River.
    Mrs. [Esther M.] Lockhart, the first white woman to settle on Coos Bay, who has filled the chair as president of the Coos County Pioneer and Historical Society, says in one of her interesting reminiscences: "For the first few weeks all went smoothly enough. The Indians were friendly, too friendly in fact, for their calls at the cabin with requests for food became too frequent. Gradually there came mutterings of discontent among them. They looked on us with jealous eyes, and declared we had stolen their illahee (land). Finally, one Sunday, about six weeks after our arrival, a party of 50 or 60 Indians, dressed in war paint and feathers, armed with bows and arrows, with an Umpqua Indian as an interpreter, came to our cabin, demanding that we give up everything and leave at once. We had no right there, they said. We were fighting [sic] the fish from the water, and already there were fewer ducks and geese because of our presence; soon there would be nothing left for the Indian; the paleface would own everything. Mr. Lockhart listened quietly to their threats and complaints and, buckling his revolver about his waist, mounted a stump and addressed them, telling them we had come to stay; that we wanted to help the Indian, and would improve the land so that the country would be better; that the Great Father at Washington had told the white men to come and live there. He finally succeeded in pacifying them, and they said we might stay, but no other people could come. A week afterward the Indians again visited the family, and their demands and insolences caused much anxiety. Mr. Lockhart, who was then living at North Bend, four miles from the fort at Empire, loaded his family and a portion of their supplies into a canoe and paddled down to the fort in the night. The Indians discovered them after they had got well out in the stream, and hallooed, 'Nika clatawa,'  ['I go' in Chinook jargon--apparently an error for 'Wake clatawa,' 'Do not go.'] and fired a few arrows, which fell in the water nearby. This was about the only hostile movement that can be remembered to have taken place with this tribe. Mr. Lockhart had a small family of little girls, and one can easily imagine the heartfelt anxiety that the mother felt for the safety of her dear ones when the awful massacre at the mouth of the Rogue River was fresh in their minds."
    Of the natives along the Coast there were 12 tribes. From their habits and pursuits they were considered as one nation, and were denominated as the To-To-Tin, or Tututni, the latter appellation being applied to them by early visitors. Eight of the bands, or tribes, were located along the coast from the mouth of the Umpqua River to below the mouth of the Rogue River. They had intermarriages, a common language and a common interest. The Nasoma, with Chief John, was located at the mouth of the Coquille River. The Choc-re-le-a-ton band, with Washington as chief, was located at the forks of the Coquille. Each tribe had its villages, hunting and fishing grounds. The whites found these tribes with a kind of patriarchal form of government peculiar to themselves. They were supplied by nature with a liberal hand, and gathered an abundance of subsistence. Wild game was plentiful, and the rivers abounded with fish, and the coast with a great variety of shellfish. They seemed to be free from disease, but showed evident marks of smallpox, as that disease had been among them a decade or two before. Their houses were constructed by excavating a hole in the ground 12 or 16 feet square, and four or five feet deep. Upon the top of these holes boards were placed for the roof. In the gable end a round hole was made sufficiently large for the entrance of one person. The descent was made by passing down a pole upon which rude notches were cut, which served as steps. In the spring they gathered the stalks of wild celery and wild sunflower, and ate them with a relish. Tobacco was the only article cultivated. The Indians spoke of it as having always been cultivated by their fathers; hence it must have been indigenous to the country. They did not seem to have any religious worship. Their idea of a supreme being was extremely vague. They did not seem to know the value of gold and silver. They had shells that traders from the Hudson's Bay Company had traded them for furs, and it was their circulating medium. The shells were of a spiral shape, and their value was calculated by the length or size of the shell. "Hyakwa chick" was the name given to this money. They had no stock, not even the traditional pony. The females of the tribes packed the game from the mountains and dried the fish for winter use.
    An incident occurred at Empire City, the first town built on Coos Bay, the relation of which may not be out of place at the close of this brief article. Some time after Burton and Venable were murdered, on Dead Man's Slough, a tributary of the Coquille, an Indian came into Empire City with a roll of blankets strapped on his back, and one of the murdered men's names was plainly printed on the outside blanket, which was noticed by the white settlers. The Indian went below the town and entered Doloose's camp. A squad of white men was formed, who went down to the camp. After some difficulty, they found the object of their search, who had been covered up by some of the squaws with a lot of old rubbish. They arrested him, and found to their satisfaction that he had the blankets that belonged to the murdered men. Doloose was perfectly willing to give him up when he saw the evidence of his guilt. A jury was impaneled, a trial had, and the prisoner was condemned to the scaffold. The detail appointed to prepare the gallows cut a long pole and placed the large end on the crotch of a tree at a convenient height. The small end of the pole was lifted up in the air. A rope was adjusted around the neck of the Indian and attached to the pole. At a given signal the long end of the pole was rapidly pulled to the ground, and the Indian was hanged. This was the first execution in Coos County. However, two other Indians who were implicated in the same murder were hanged at Randolph, 20 miles south of Coos Bay. The Indians to a great number witnessed the hanging of the one at Empire City. They seemed to flock in from every quarter, and made doleful sounds as the stern reality of the law's power was carried out. They preserved the peculiar gallows for a long time, utilizing it for the purpose of hanging their dogs, at which times they had general gatherings, and seemed to enjoy the proceeding very much.
Sunday Oregonian, March 18, 1900, page 19

Last revised March 10, 2018