The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1845

Directions by Mr. [Joel P.] Walker
    Be careful to never camp in the timber if it can be avoided. Be careful to never let any Indians come amongst you. Never let the Indian have any ammunition on any account. Keep careful watch both day and night. Never neglect camp guard on any account .
    Never fire a gun after crossing the Umpqua Mountain until you cross the Siskiyou Mountain, perhaps five days' travel. Keep yourselves close as possible in traveling through the brush.
    Never scatter after game or [make] any other division.
    Keep your guns [in] the best firing condition.

    [June 15, 1845] A number of Indians came to our camp late last night and remained in camp during the night, of the Kalapooya and Umpqua tribes. Made an early start, soon crossed a considerable creek running westward, passed through an uneven valley frequently rising up into mountains. At 11 came to the Umpqua River, a rapid stream about 100 yards wide, clear and cool with a solid rock bottom, the [banks] rising into mountains, in many places from the water's edge. Hired an Indian with his canoe to ferry our baggage over; this task he performed to our satisfaction. All got safely over and encamped on the south side of the stream on the open prairie, as this method of encampment is much the most safe for a party as large as ours, being able to defend ourselves best on the prairies or where the enemy would be exposed in making an attack. Made about 10 miles. Two Indians remained in camp last night.
    16  Before leaving the Umpqua I might remark that the Hudson Bay Company have a trading house some 20 miles below, where a small profitable trade is carried on. From information this stream bears the same character from its sources in the snowy buttes of the Cascades, that is, going pitching and tumbling through the rock, until within some 40 miles of its mouth (its waters being nearly doubled), when it becomes still and moves slowly and quietly to the ocean through a thick, impenetrable forest of lofty timber, the prairies terminating where the rapids cease. In about one hour's travel we reached the south branch of Umpqua, a rapid stream much resembling the main river, passed up over some steep bluffs which rise into mountains, the river winding and curving amongst the rocks and hills the most bare of timber which are low, the higher covered in oak and fir. Some beautiful valleys are found that look almost like enchantment, the rapid little river tumbling along one side, rounded hills of oak softening down to a valley bounding the others, all covered in grass and flowers, all wild as nature's dream and covered with the light bounding deer. Made 16 miles.
    17  Left our camp on the river and proceeded up through a rough, rugged country, passed several cliffs of rock closing down to the water's edge, saw the blackened carcass of a dead Indian lying wrapped up in his old worn deerskin habiliments. After considerable winding and turning around hills and precipices we reached a beautiful, level, rich but small valley lying on both sides of the river some 4 miles in length and ½ mile wide. Reaching the head of the valley the mountains closed in so that we had to ford the river three times in less than two miles. The first and second fords were deep, the water rapid and the bottom rocky, so that nearly all our packs got more or less wet. About three o'clock we encamped at the foot of the Umpqua Mountains, having made 16 miles. This mountain looks steep and rugged. Saw a great variety of beautiful flowers in passing through this valley, if valley it can be fairly called. Saw several beautiful young fawns lying in the grass during the day which did not move by being handled.
    18  Arose early. We now have to enter the continual war nations of Indians that inhabit the whole extent of country between here and California. As soon as packed we got on the trail and commenced ascending the mountain by the way of following a dim trail up the steep bluffs and winding around declivities of the mountain. After much fatigue and labor we ascended the tumbling mountain torrent until [it] branched into several smaller streams when we ascended the point of a mountain nearly perpendicular about a mile high traversed its narrow winding summit a short distance and again descended crossed a small mountain brook and scaled another mountain full as steep as the first but not so high followed around through brush and logs a few miles and again descended to a fine small prairie where we encamped having traveled 15 miles of unaccountable tiresome difficult road over a high steep mountain covered with brush and logs, likewise fir and cedar timber. The streams run through a rocky channel, but no rock is found near the summit of the ridges. [This was the ridgetop route just to the west of the Umpqua Canyon.]
    19  Clear & warm. Passed down a handsome brook with a narrow prairie valley running down the north side about 6 miles. Crossed the brook and immediately took [up] the mountain, steep, rugged and brushy. This ridge has several snowdrifts yet visible on its summit a short distance south of the trail. The descent was not quite so steep. Crossed a small brook and ascended another mountain, not quite so high as the first, but very difficult on account of the logs and undergrowth. Some parts of these mountains have beautiful groves of pine, fir and cedar, but apparently too remote to be useful. Partially descended the second to a small cove and then mounted a third high ridge, at the bottom of which opens a small valley of handsome prairie where we encamped, having made about 17 miles, the first six miles being nearly west the latter part S and S.W. Deer does not appear to be abundant.
    20  Immediately after leaving camp we ascended a mountain of no great elevation but very brushy and steep. Immediately on the summit the open country commenced, with pine openings and a lengthy descent of dry hard, gravelly soil, which continued until we reached the river. On the whole the county is rough, poor and [forbidding] and of little account. Even the savages that inhabit this region find a scanty subsistence, there being but few roots which are so abundant in the Willamette Valley. On our route today we saw 4 or 5 squaws hunting after roots, which were much surprised to see us so unexpectedly. Early in the afternoon we reached the Klamath or Rogue River, and a number of the savages came to our camp, but as a matter of safety we would not permit them into camp. Made 14 miles. Several men went to examine the river only a short distance ahead. Several parties came to our camp and made every effort and device to come into camp, and nothing short of a cocked rifle would prevent them; however, we succeeded to keep them back without violence and they sang their war songs in hearing of our camp all night.
    Made 16 miles.
    21  Early we were on the move, the Indians close in the rear. We soon unpacked on the bank of Rogue River. This stream is about 100 yards wide, running rapid over a generally rocky bottom. The country we passed over was generally poor, gravelly, hard and dry, the valley narrow and uneven, the mountains dry, parched and covered with shrubby pine and several kinds of evergreen shrubbery, some of a beautiful appearance and would grace a walk in any city. We hired two Indians and their canoes, who soon ferried us over the river while we stood with our guns in our hands for our defense. About 2 in the afternoon we passed a narrow point of rocks jutting in near the river [Rock Point, a favorite ambush spot]. Capt [Green] McMahon and seven or eight men went ahead and examined the premises but found no danger lurking there. Our course today has been east or nearly so up the south side of the river, which came tumbling down impetuously. So far the valley of this stream is thinly covered in pine cedar and oak; a new species of pine is found here having sweet turpentine oozing from it.
    22  Immediately above our camp the [river] passes out from between two high mountains and tumbles down several falls and rapids. Our trail here left the course of the river, and we moved off easterly up a narrow valley which soon brought us in sight of a beautiful valley [the Bear Creek Valley] in which two branches of the river seem to form a junction and likewise in sight of several snowy peaks. One nearly east is high, round & sharp with snow a long way down its sides and a table rock of considerable height, the top level and [said] to contain an Indian village. This is doubtful, but it may be a place of safety in seasons of danger. Eastwardly up this valley we proceeded, and four of us that were ahead, missing the route, rode near the mountain when 4 natives were discovered to our left. We made chase and soon overtook them in the channel of a dry brook, where they crouched down and gave up to be shot, as they expected nothing less. They proved to be an old woman, two boys and one fine little girl. Mr. Frazier dismounted and gave the girl a biscuit, who took it but as soon as we moved our horses so that they had an open way they took to their heels again and we rode on, the valley still widening, and ranges of the wildest and most beautiful hills bounded the north side of the valley. These hills rise in a succession of rounded knolls, one above another, generally covered in grass, but one or two cliffs of rock make their appearance. Traveled about 20 miles and encamped on a small brook [probably Ashland Creek], having several snowdrifts in sight toward the south.
    The natives of this valley seem to have a hard way of living, there being no game and but few roots, and when the oak miss to bear they live on clover not unlike the pigs or domestic animal, but when the oak bears acorns they are plentifully supplied for the time being. In the summer they live on grass and have no clothing except a deerskin or a short apron of plaited grass. They are the sworn enemies of the whites and would be very dangerous had they the use of firearms.
    23  Under way early, and I could not but admire the varied diversity of the hills lying to the north. Some of the advance came suddenly upon a small party of Indians, who all ran but one, supposed to be a chief, who stood and made signs about a minute and put out to the brush. Course still east of south up the valley. About 12 we began to climb the Siskiyou Mountain, which is not difficult nor steep compared with some we have passed. Near the top of this mountain is a bad thicket to pass where nearly all the parties passing this trail have been attacked. Several men with Capt. McMahon went in ahead, and we drove in our packed animals. All came through safe & soon had a view of the country south from the summit, which was wild and awfully sublime. Snow was seen in more than 20 places, some quite nigh and amongst the timber, which goes to show that an unusual quantity has fallen late in the spring. Moved on down the mountain, which is steep but not difficult. Made 25 miles.
    24  Left our encampment under the Siskiyou Mountain and proceeded down an uneven mountainous valley a southeasterly direction, the country gravelly, dry and barren. Passed several old Indian wigwams where quantities of acorns had been gathered last fall. No game is to be seen in this region. Some of our advance pursued a [male] and female native; the male made his escape. The female was taken and her horse taken from her (Mr. Sears & Mr. Owens). Came to the Klamath River, a strong, swift stream running rapidly over a rocky bed. After some search a ford was found a short distance above, when we all crossed over and encamped on the south side. This river is about 80 yards wide and is quite muddy from the thawings of the snow on the mountains, course S.W. and appears to fall into a deep canyon a short distance below. Saw the recent marks of a trapping party supposed to [be] Indians. Travel today about 14 miles.
Charles L. Camp, ed., James Clyman, American Frontiersman, 1792-1881, California Historical Society 1928, pages 153-161

Last revised June 24, 2017