The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Diary of B. F. Dowell
Benjamin Franklin Dowell sporadically kept a diary from June 20, 1851 until April 1868, surviving in his memorandum books among the Dowell papers, Ax 031, in the special collections of the University of Oregon. Sections relating to Southern Oregon are transcribed below. His diary covers these periods:

June 20, 1851, Abiqua Creek, Oregon to August 11, 1851. Dowell teaches school beginning July 28, 1851 "in the neighborhood of John S. Hunt" "on the main road leading from Salem to Hall's ferry." The diary is followed by attendance records through Oct. 1851.

April 10, 1852, Lebanon, Oregon to April 25, 1852, on the banks of the Rogue River. Dowell travels south to the gold fields--transcribed below.

January 1, 1855 to January 21, 1856 and April 7, 1856 to December 30, 1856. Dowell operates a pack train, mostly in Dalles and Yakima Valley area--transcribed below.

January 1, 1857 to July 30, 1857. Dowell travels from Oregon City to St. Helens to San Francisco to Aspinwall to Washington, D.C. and back, ending in transit off the coast of California at Big Sur

January to April 1868. Dowell is in Washington, D.C. again. The diary consists mostly of his notes taken during President Andrew Johnson's impeachment hearings.

B. F. Dowell's Journal, a brother of
Dr. A. Dowell of Memphis, Tennessee
Samuel Dowell of Stony Point, Virginia and
Dr. G. Dowell of Como, Panola County, Mississippi

Lebanon April 8th 1852
Bill of Provisions &c.
Flour of [John S.] Hunt 52½ 209
Bacon 27½ lb.
Coffee 12½ lb.
Sugar 23 lb.
Butter 16 lb.
Saleratus 1 lb.
Salt 3½ lb.
Soap 3½
Coffee little sack 2 lb.
Butter little sack 2=91
April 10th 1852
    This day I left Lebanon, Marion County, O. Territory for the gold mines on Rogue River. Good gravelly roads nearly all day. Stayed all night at McKinney two miles north of Albany. Tolerable good place and good citizens, but they are all
dissatisfied and want to sell their places for what it cost them last fall. They intend going to Rogue River whether they sell or not. If they cannot sell they say they intend leaving their place--26 miles.
Sunday [April 11]
 By directions we left Albany to the right and got into some very bad road in a large prairie lying east of Albany. Traveled 23 miles but only 16 miles on our road.
April 12
    Continued up the bank of the Willamette all day over tolerable good road. Stayed all night at Spose's, at the upper crossing of the Willamette. Good place for ourselves but a bad place for our horses.
    Dr. Fidler [?] is at work on Josephine Creek west of the north fork about 5 miles and then made across towards the south fork over a bald hill [illegible]. Arral's [?] ranch on Smith River below the crossing of Rogue River.
    Came to Mr. James Chapin's at the foot of the Calapooia Mountain. Saw several men from the mines. Dove is on Pecommon Creek 12 miles from Picket's ranch. Traveled 26 miles.
[April] 14
    Came up with 5 men from Oregon City, Mr. Jefferson Howell and John McReynolds, who worked for James Pittman last winter. Camped at the foot of the Calapooia Mountain.
    It being rainy and muddy we concluded to remain with them all day. This is the first time we have ever stopped out of a house where there was no women to get our supper &c.
Swiftly we glide o'er the slippery mud;
Quickly past rivals and mud holes we go;
Oh what is the pleasure with this can compare
When the girls, the dear girls
Our pleasures will not share.
Bright beams the moon,
And yon glimmering star
Shines but to guide us in safety afar
Light are the evenings and fleet is our steed
Few can surpass him in kindness or speed.
Hurrah for the damsels with blushing red face;
Lighten be sorrow and care as when she's nigh;
If there is aught that can cheer and sustain us in woe
To the words of true feeling that from her lips flow
Swiftly we glide &c.
28 miles.
[April] 15
    Crossed the Calapooia Mountain and arrived at Wm. H. Wilson's by 4 o'clock in the evening--16 miles.
[April] 16
    Came in 4 miles up North Umpqua close to a dwelling or house and grocery--26 miles.
[April] 17
    Came over some bad roads and rough hills, but saw the best grass that I have ever seen in any country. Camped on South Umpqua. 27 miles.
[April] 18
    Crossed over South Umpqua and Cow Creek and camped at the mouth of the canon. Good grass and water. Here is a good trading post.
[April] 19
    We remained all day at the canon prospecting gold and we found good coarse gold on to the road towards Cow Creek about one mile west of the canon.
[April] 20
    Came through the canon 8 miles south of the 1st house--20 miles.
[April] 21
    Camped at the old crossing of Rogue River, good grass and water out of the river--30 miles.
[April] 22
    Continued up the river to the gold diggings at the Willow Springs--25 miles.
[April] 23
    Spent the day prospecting, but found but little gold and then returned to the upper crossing of the river--14 miles.
[April] 24
    Came down the river again and crossed the river at the old crossing again, and continued down the river to Perkins' ranch. 25 miles.
[April] 25
    Early this morning we came to where 3 young men were mining on the north side of Rogue River on a bar. The gold fine and we can get some every panful--5 miles.

Flour 14 lb.
Bacon 5 lb.
    The piece of gold was weighed by Beekman and it weighs $2.50 cents at 16 dollars an ounce or 2.65⅝ at 17 dollars an ounce.

P. J. Ryan
    Dr. to B. F. Dowell
5 pair shoes 2 10.00
4  do.   do.  1 5.00
1 shirt 1.00
4 pair boots 50
3⅞ yds. silk 1.75
Jacksonville June 27th
Messrs. Walker & Co.
    Dr. to B. F. Dowell
For 1 box cigars 1.50
" 1 keg whiskey 25.00
" 25 lbs. sugar 20 5.00
" 25 lbs. coffee 30    7.50


March 1856
Cost of Meals
19  mules & 1 bell horse of Moore 2500. 00
Bill of Repairs of Brewer
side leather 7. 00
20  g. sacks 2. 00
  Crescent City, April
pr. blankets of Satler 39.
pair blankets of Friedman 12.
blankets of Hillman 4.
keg 1. 50
14  g. sacks 3. 50
27  yds. duck 25 cts. 6. 75
26  yds. sheeting 11 cts. 2. 86
cloth & making 3 ceremonies 13.
red blanket for ceremonies 4.
Allen's bill for aparejo &c. 38. 50
Falk's, Smith River
April 28, 1856
cash in two mule saps 5. 00
cash with Groveland [Graceland?] 50.
mule of Jas. Carson 150. 00
days hire of horse 15.
weeks board at Yreka 14.
mule of Wagoner 126. 66⅔

Monday, [April] 7.
    I bought this book for one dollar and fifty cents.
Tuesday, 8.
Crescent City.
    I wrote to G. or S. Gilbert of San Francisco to buy a fine album and forward it to I. Taylor, Yreka Cal. and I endorsed ten dollars to pay of the same.
Wednesday, 9.
    The steamer Columbia arrived and left after dark for Portland O.T.
Thursday, 10.
Crescent City.
    My [pack] train arrived and the little steamer Newport arrived and left.
    I have been very sick all day.
Saturday, 12.
Crescent City.
    Lines inadvertently left by a young lady in her hymnbook in church:
I look in vain--he does not on me
    Dear, dear, what shall I do!
I cannot listen as I ought,
    Unless he listens too!
He might have come as well as not!
    What plagues these fellows are!
I'll bet he's fast asleep at home,
    Or smoking a cigar!
Thursday, 24.
    I received the following packages for John Anderson of Jacksonville O.T.
130  lbs. 155  lbs. And for Taylor
77  lbs. 150  lbs. 136
135  lbs. 154  lbs. 159
127 150 152
117 150 447
114 148
140 145
145 149
168 144
160 143
138 159
132 159
145 157
141   157
  127 2120
Sunday, 27.
    It commenced raining early this morning and we laid in camp all day. The express messenger came in at night from the Klamath and reported that there was a rumor that the Shasta Indians were hostile and that a great battle had been fought and that 25 whites and 75 Indians had been killed. Bill at Morford's $21.25, $10.00 mule swap.
Monday, [May] 5.
    C. C. Beekman can give an account of Cal Ford's horse which he lost last fall.
Saturday 10.
    I stayed all night last night at the Klamath House on the Klamath River.
Sunday, 11.
    I returned to Jacksonville O.T. from Yreka, late in the evening. I stayed all night at Mr. Wait's Mill.
Thursday, 15.
    I had a fight with [blank] Armstrong. He had previous warned me to leave town, and had told Mr. [blank] Richardson that he intended to kill me upon sight. However the fight ensued, but no one was hurt much.
Friday [June] 6.
    Received of P. Howell eleven hundred and forty-eight (1148) dollars for A. H. Whitley of Polk County O.T. forty ($40) dollars for the Messrs. Means [?] of Salem O.T. twelve dollars for W. C. Griswold of Salem O.T. and thirty-five dollars for Jones of the firm of Jones, Cooke & Co. Salem O.T.   
    The dust is six hundred ($600) dollars at 16 30/100 dollars for ounce.
Sunday, 8.
    The Oregonian of January 26th 1856 contains that Indian intercourse law.
Tuesday, 10.
    Letter & money to B. Stark at Portland. Pay $5 to Wm. L. Adams at Oregon City for the Argus & salmodista collection of vocal music for Mrs. Miller.
Wednesday, 11.
    The Jacksonville Sentinel of May 24th 1856 states that Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon, appointed L. F. Grover, A. C. Gibbs and Geo. H. Ambrose a board of commissioners to assess the damages of the Indians in the Rogue River Indian [War] of 1853.
Friday, 13.
    Amount settled on Dove's note to E. Watts one hundred and eleven dollars and seventy eight cents.
Saturday, 14.
    Received three notes on Geer.
Thursday, 19.
    I arrived at Portland O.T. with Dr. McCombs and Dr. Joseph Drew.
Saturday, 21.
    Mr. Blanchard, Joel Palmer's clerk, informs me that Palmer as Indian agent draws his drafts on Department of Interior, Office [of] Indian Affairs, and that the claims are audited by the 2nd Auditor of the Treasury.
Thursday, 26.
    I and Lewis Ward arrived at the Dalles.
    George Snipes wishes to buy a mule.
Sunday, 29.
    287½ dollars for a horse is to be made out in favor of Wm. Jones against Lewis Ward.
Monday, 30.
    McAuliff 11. 00
    Bigelow 6. 50
    Gales about 20.
    Hale for oats 5.
    Cash 5.
    Oats for mare 45.
    Booth    11.    
$103. 50
Tuesday, [July] 1.
    Lewis Ward left. He lost one day and I lost one day up to this date.
Sunday, 6.
Dalles O.T.
    I left here after dinner for Major Layton's command.
    I sent a draft to J. Failing & Co. for four hundred dollars drawn on the Department of the Interior Office of Indian Affairs.
Thursday, 10.
    Captain Goff with 66 men [joined] Major Davis Layton [on John] Day's River.
    Major Layton had 75 men rank & file, making in all 142 men.
Friday, 11.
Dalles O.T.
    I returned from John Day's River to dinner with 40 prisoners which Capt. Layton had taken above the emigrant road on John Day River. They were placed in the charge of the Regulars.
Saturday, 12.
    Capt. Goff's command captured one horse a little below the falls of John Day's River.
Monday, 14.
    The train left the Dalles to join Major Layton's command. It camped on Ten Mile Creek.
Tuesday, 15.
    I left the Dalles soon after breakfast and joined the back [sic] train at the springs between the Deschutes River and John Day's.
    We have only a guard of eight men and eight packers. 22 miles.
Wednesday, 16.
Spring 2 miles east John Day's.
    Yesterday I passed Mr. Hughes, the express messenger for the Washington Territory volunteers.
    25 miles.
Thursday, 17.
Willow Creek.
    Major Layton is still up John Day's River and Capt. Goff & company has joined him.
    20 miles.
Friday, 18.
Butter Creek.
    An express messenger from Olympia came to our camp night before last and traveled with [us] up until late this evening. He left us at this place.
    25 miles.
Saturday, 19.
5 miles above Fort Henrietta.
    We can see no signs of Major Layton nor Goff.
    Goff's command must have left this part several days ago.
    16 miles.
Sunday, 20.
    I took John Daley with me and rode above Wm. McKey's [William McKay?] place, but saw no new signs of the company or the Indians. We traveled about 40 miles and returned to camp, where we expect to wait for Major Layton.
Saturday, 26.
Camp Mill Creek, Walla Walla.
    I left McKey's place early this morning for Major Layton's command. I found him at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
    I left him and came with Capt. Goff to this camp.
Sunday, 27.
Camp Mill Creek, Walla Walla.
    I found two of my mules in the possession of the Washington volunteers and one O.T. mule which they captured in Grand Ronde Valley.
    Battle on Powder River and the Grand Ronde Valley.
Monday, 28.
    I learned from Major Layton, Capt. Goff and Col. Shaw that the command of Major Layton and Capt. Goff found on the 15 of this month a large body of hostile Indians on the head of Burnt River in a deep canyon. Early in the action Lieutenant John Estes of Polk County O.T. who joined the Washington volunteers on the 5th day [of] June, and Daniel Smith, a private, Company K of the Washington volunteers, were both killed, and on the 16th James Cherry of the same company and from Linn County was severely wounded in the right thigh.
    The command captured a horse with a pack containing corn, rice and dried apple, a little sugar.
Thursday, 31.
Battle of Grand Ronde.
    On the 7th ult. Col. Shaw estimates that 40 Indians were killed & a number wounded
250 animals
150 packs of camas and couse
horses, tents & all things of the kind were burnt up.
    Wm. Tooley
    Co. K Wm. Holmes
    Thos. Como
    Charles Ensigne
    T. N. Lilley of Cap. Miller's Co.
    Wm. Downey
Sunday, [August] 10.
    I arrived at Portland. Left Capt. Haley & Co. at Philip Foster's.
Wednesday, 13.
    I wrote to L. J. Gates at the Dalles and forwarded it by John Baker. He will arrive there tomorrow evening, if he is not detained at the Cascades.
    I left Portland after dinner for Salem.
Thursday, 14.
    I arrived at Salem with [omission] to supper.
Saturday, 16.
B. Doves, Polk County.
    I left here ten months ago with one bell horse & twenty-four mules and one bay mare. L. M. Morris brought from Linn County one sorrel mare and two mules. I afterwards purchased two mules of Lieutenant Abbott and one from Robt. Allen and Col. Hurd placed in the service the two that was at his house, making in all one horse, two mares and twenty-nine mules.
    Twenty-nine mules and three horses of these were taken to the Dalles.
Monday, 18.
    I now have eight mules and the sorrel mare which leaves a balance of one mare, one horse and twenty-one mules which have been taken by the Indians. The other two are south.
Friday, 29.
Bought of M. Sharp
1140 ½ lbs. bacon 12½ $142.56
Of T. H. Wilkerson
  777 ½ lbs. bacon $  97.18
1918 ½ lbs. bacon 12½   239.64
Paid Sharp by Ward 143.
Paid Watson for Sharp 20.
Paid Watson for Sharp   97. 18
Saturday, 30.
Wm. Maples.
    Rode my mule from Jacksonville to Salem, and he says he forwarded him to me at Jacksonville O.T. by a brother of John Murphy.
[September] 24.
Bills at Butler's, Dove order 185.00
Dove order 7.30
Alpaca .75
Socks .25
Cash Kight 5.00
Cash Self   25.00
Ward note 27.    
Bill about 7.25
Thursday, 25.
    S. Roberts at Corvallis has my trunk.
Friday, [October] 17.
    Brewer's bill against Wm. Sharp, which I paid, is seventeen dollars and fifty cents.
Tuesday, [November] 4.
    Left Jacksonville at two o'clock for Yreka.
Wednesday, 5.
    The bird had flown or flew on my arrival.
Wednesday, 26.
    I left Jacksonville O.T. for the Atlantic States by Salem O.T.
    Stayed all night at Rosenstock's on Rogue River.
Memorandum books 2 and 20, B. F. Dowell Papers, University of Oregon Special Collections Ax031

Last revised March 7, 2019