The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

General John Ferguson Miller

Testimony of Capt. John F. Miller in Relation to the
Commencement and Termination of the
Rogue River War of 1853.
Territory of Oregon    )
County of Jackson       )  s.s.
    John F. Miller of said county being first duly sworn says--I resided in the Rogue River Valley during the summer and fall of 1853, took part in the Rogue River Indian War of that year. I acted as Captain of Company "A" of Oregon volunteers in that service. I would say from what I know of the circumstances of said war that actual hostilities commenced on or about the 2nd day of August 1853 by certain Indians belonging to "Tipsey's band" so called killing one Edwards, a settler on the public lands in said valley, and shooting cattle &c. Tipsey's band was understood to be acting at that time in concert with the other Indians of the Rogue River Valley in commencing and carrying on an offensive war of extermination against all the whites of said valley.
    Actual hostilities continued from the 2nd day of August mentioned, up to the 10th day of September following, when a formal treaty of peace, and for the purchase of Indian lands, was entered into with said tribe. The hostilities mentioned were characterized by the murder of white settlers, burning their houses and other property, killing and driving off stock &c.
    I am of opinion that all the bands of Indians from Grave Creek to the head of Rogue River Valley were implicated together in their hostilities and were all under the influence and in the council of the Rogue River Tribe of Indians proper, during the period from the 2nd day of August 1853 to the 10th day of Sept. 1853 above mentioned. I have learned the facts here stated relative to the combination of various bands of Indians in said war from conversation with the principal chiefs of said Rogue River Tribe.
John F. Miller
Subscribed and sworn to before me at Jacksonville this 3rd day January A.D. 1855.
Witness my hand and seal
L. F. Grover
(  seal  )                          Notary Public for O.T.
NARA Series M2, Microcopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1872, Reel 28  More of Miller's testimony can be found on the link.

    Prominent among the Democratic politicians of this state, and one who has served his party with earnestness and fidelity, is Gen. John F. Miller, of Salem. He has been intimately associated with the party successes of the past and is today an honored representative of its silent minority. His personal appearance is such as would attract the attention of any one in a crowd, being tall and commanding, with full face, free from whiskers, and a clear, penetrating eye. He was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, near the birthplace of the immortal Lincoln, and received the advantages only of a common school education. He was raised on a farm, and in 1841 moved with his parents to Howard County, Missouri, where he resided until the breaking out of the Mexican war of 1846, when he enlisted as a private in the "Chihuahua Rangers," under Capt. Tom Hudson, which company was attached to Col. A. W. Doniphan's regiment. He participated in the battles of Sacramento and Brazito, and received an honorable discharge at New Orleans in June, 1848. Returning to Missouri, he was, on the 25th day of March, 1849, married to Miss Zerelda Jackson, daughter of Gov. Hancock Jackson, of that state. He came to Oregon "the plains across" in 1851 and settled in Jackson County, where he took up a donation claim. Was elected Captain of Company A, First Regiment of Volunteers, under Gen. Joseph Lane. After several sharp skirmishes with the Indians at Evans Creek and elsewhere, his company was ordered back on the plains to protect immigrants, making their headquarters on Lost River, among the afterwards famous Modoc tribe of Indians. He represented Jackson County in the lower House in 1853 and 1854 and was afterwards appointed Indian Agent at Grande Ronde under President Pierce, and was reappointed by President Buchanan. Moved to Salem in 1862, and, with other capitalists, interested himself in the organization and erection of the Willamette Woolen Mills, being president of the company for two years, and closely identified with its interests for some fifteen years. He received the nomination for Governor at the hands of the Democratic State Convention in 1862, and made a stirring canvass of the state, but was defeated by the Republican, Hon. A. C. Gibbs. In the Legislature of 1866 he received his full party vote for the honorable position of United States Senator, his successful competitor being Hon. Geo. H. Williams. Was also vice president of Willamette Falls and Lock Company at Oregon City, and was actively interested in its construction and completion. Was appointed by the Legislature in one of the commissioners to select the 90,000-acre grant of agricultural college lands, which were by them located in Southern Oregon. Was by Governor Grover appointed one of the Capitol Building Commissioners and was elected chairman of the board. It was under their supervision that by far the greater portion of the work on this building was performed, and its general character is commended by all who have given it a careful examination. During the last few years Gen. Miller has been actively engaged in the stock business, with his headquarters on the range in Lake County, his family meanwhile living on his farm near Salem. He has five children, all daughters, two of whom are married and have families of their own.
Frank E. Hodgkin and J. J. Galvin, Pen Pictures of Representative Men of Oregon, 1882, pages 70-71

    SALEM, Jan. 24.--Captain John F. Miller has fought Indians, served in the territorial legislature of Oregon, run for Governor on the Democratic ticket, and at the age of 73 weighs upwards of 200 pounds. Captain Miller was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, April 30, 1825, but came to Oregon in 1851, and took up a donation land claim in Jackson County. In 1853 he was elected to represent Jackson County in the territorial legislature. His arrival in Oregon was in good time for the Rogue River Indian War. He took active part in subduing the hostile Indians, and, the war ended, did much toward their pacification. With the character of Chiefs Sam, Jo and Jim, of the Rogues, and Limpy and John, of the Applegates, Captain Miller was familiar. His memory probably covers more incidents of the Rogue River Indian War and of Southern Oregon Indians generally than is held in memory by anyone now living.
    It was John F. Miller who was made captain of the first company of volunteers raised in the Rogue River Valley after the Indian outbreak. It was he who led a company into the vicinity of Humboldt River to protect immigrants from the Modocs. It was he who served as lieutenant when the Umpquas and Calapooias threatened war, and it was he who took part in the campaign against the Modocs. After the memorable battle with the Rogue River Indians, on Evans Creek [in 1853], Captain Miller, together with General Joseph Lane, Colonel Ross, interpreter Metcalfe and other volunteer captains, held a preliminary council with the Indians inside the enemy's lines. The meeting place was on a butte near Evans Creek. The whites were supposed to deposit their arms with a detachment of Indians. Captain Miller, suspicious of Indian treachery, crossed the line with a revolver secreted beneath his coat. At the council lodge [at Table Rock] the whites were assigned places, and the Indian chiefs were surrounded by their armed warriors. During the progress of the council Chief Limpy, less inclined to peace than the rest, delivered an impassioned appeal to his people against the whites. The effect on the Indians was perceptible, and, knowing Captain Miller was armed, one of his companions whispered to him, "Keep your eye on that d--n scoundrel!" General Lane had, however, taken the precaution to secure a son of Chief Jo as hostage, and the party came safely out of a trap similar to the one into which General Canby and his men were led and butchered by the Modocs 20 years later.
    A living picture in Captain Miller's mind is of a scene witnessed on his way to the council lodge. As he crossed the battlefield Indian women were engaged in burning the slain. Captain Miller's attention
was attracted by the writhing of Indian bodies on brush heaps. This he took to be Indians undergoing cremation alive. It was found upon closer investigation, however, that the contortions were due to the heat, and that only dead Indians were being burned.
    At the conclusion of the [1855-56] war the Indians were removed to Grand Ronde Reservation, in Yamhill county. The volunteers, with the exception of Captain Miller's company, were disbanded. There was a report that a party of 25 immigrants had been murdered on the east side of Tule Lake, and that Indians were committing depredations in the Humboldt country. Captain Miller, with his company, hurried into that action. Arrived at Tule Lake, smoke was observed rising out of the tules. Constructing boats of their wagon beds, Miller's men rowed out in the lake, and discovered a fleet of canoes, on which Indians were living in hiding. The squaws and papooses had on blood-stained garments taken from the whites. One party escorted through the country of the hostile Indians, while on this expedition, was that of Rev. T. F. Royal. The night following the meeting of the soldiers and the Royal train a boy was born to the wife of Rev. Mr. Royal. In honor of the captain of the volunteers the boy was named Miller. He grew to manhood, and, having been graduated from the public schools, was given money and wished success by Captain Miller. At the last Democratic convention held in Pendleton Captain Miller was called on by his namesake, who had become a college professor, and was returned the money. Only a few days ago Captain Miller had a pleasure of meeting Rev. Mr. Royal, and recalling the circumstances of their acquaintance in pioneer times.
    In 1856 President Pierce appointed Captain Miller Indian agent for the Grand Ronde Reservation, bringing him into association with the Rogue River Indians with whom he had fought and treated. He held this position six years, resigning when President Lincoln was elected. The winter Captain Miller took charge of the agency was very rainy. Sickness prevailed, and many Indians died. Chiefs Sam, Jo, John, Limpy and George went before him and implored him to allow their people to return to their native haunts. "I shall never forget John's remarks on that occasion," said Captain Miller. "The eloquence of earnestness marked every word of the appeal. 'It is not your wars, but your peace, that kills off my people,' John said." Agent Miller could only answer that he had no authority to grant the request. A plot for an uprising was afterward formed among the Indians. Mary, a daughter of Chief Sam, who never liked the Applegate tribe, told the agent of the Indians' intentions. John and his son Adam were arrested and deported to Merced, Cal. When the steamer on which they were carried reached the mouth of the Rogue River [it was at Humboldt Bay], looking over the forests of their old home, they made an attempt to take the ship and escape. A sailor put a stop to the effort by shooting Adam in the leg. John and his son were afterward returned to the Grand Ronde Reservation, Adam being short one leg, as the effect of the gunshot wound received at the hands of the sailor.
    Captain Miller is informed that all the Indian chiefs and most of their wives, brought up from Rogue River, are dead. The wife of Sam, now old and decrepit, visited him last fall. Upon meeting Captain Miller the old woman wept like a child. All of the old men, she said, and all of the old women but herself, who were transferred from Rogue River Valley were dead.
    After resigning as Indian agent, Captain Miller, in 1862, was given the Democratic nomination for Governor, and canvassed the state against Addison C. Gibbs. He was defeated. His attention since has been chiefly given to farming and looking after other property interests. He has a ranch of 11,000 acres in Klamath County. He spent 15 years on this ranch raising and selling stock. His health became impaired a year ago, and he returned to his Salem home, where he is now living. It is his intention to return to his ranch next spring in a buckboard, passing on his way over the battlefields of his earlier days.
Oregonian, Portland, January 25, 1899, page 10

    A PIONEER OF 1845.--One of Oregon's oldest pioneers died at his home in Jacksonville, Tuesday, the 18th, in the person of Colonel J. N. T. Miller, aged 74 years. Col. Miller was a native of Hardin County, Kentucky, where he was born in the year 1826. He came to Oregon among the earliest immigrants in 1845, and settled in Jackson County, where he has since resided, in 1853. In that year he was married to Miss Elizabeth Ann Awbrey, the union being blest with eight children, five of whom have preceded the father to the beyond. Besides his wife Col. Miller leaves three children, Col. Robert A. Miller, of Oregon City; Mrs. Anna Beach, of San Francisco, and W. L. Miller, of Jacksonville; and two brothers, General John F. Miller of Salem, and Emmett Miller of the state of Nevada, to mourn his loss.--Tidings. Col. Miller is a relative of F. J. Miller of this city.
Albany Democrat, September 28, 1900, page 1


    He served during the Mexican War and fought Indians in Southern Oregon.
General John F. Miller died at his residence on Cottage Street last evening at 8:30 o'clock, after a lingering illness of several months.
    General Miller was born in Kentucky, in 1825, where he spent his early manhood. In 1845 he entered the military service of the United States, and served through the Mexican War, taking part in the active campaigns, which resulted in the complete overthrow of the Mexican government. After the war he returned to his native state, but he did not remain there long for in 1853 he was elected a representative to the territorial legislature from Jackson County. About the same time he organized a company to fight the Indians, who had formed a confederacy of all the Southern Oregon tribes and were making attacks upon the settlements. As captain of the volunteer company he did valiant service for the state and the people of the Rogue River country. The Modoc trouble in 1873 found General Miller on the ground taking part in the struggle which banished this treacherous tribe from the state. Later he was appointed United States Indian agent in Southern Oregon, but did not continue long in the service.
    He was president of the first woolen mill company in Salem, and did much to promote this industry in the state. In 1862 he was a candidate for Governor on the Democratic ticket, but was defeated by A. C. Gibbs, a Republican. General Miller was sent as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention that nominated ex-President Cleveland in 1884.
    During the past few years Mr. Miller has been engaged in the cattle business in Southern Oregon. Deceased leaves a wife and three daughters to mourn his demise. They are: Mrs. S. L. Hayden, Mrs. J. H. Coleman of this city and Mrs. Dawson residing in San Francisco.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, February 20, 1901, page 7

    Mrs. James W. Cook lives on Portland Heights. Recently we were speaking of mutual friends in Southern Oregon. "You probably have heard of my
father," said Mrs. Cook. "He was General John F. Miller. He served in the Mexican War. When he came to Oregon in 1851 he took up a donation land claim on Hayden's Island, just opposite Vancouver. He relinquished this and went to the mines in Southern Oregon, where he took up a homestead between Jacksonville and Medford. For a while he and his brothers, William P. and Emmett, ran a pack train between Jacksonville and Portland. When we settled on our farm between what is now Medford and the old-time metropolis of Southern Oregon, Jacksonville, there were only seven families in the whole neighborhood--Dr. Griffith's, William Bybee's, James N. T. Miller's, Bill Hanley's and one or two others.
    "My name was Cully Miller--at least, that is what I have always been called. My real name was Ianthe Miller. I was born October 29, 1852, and I was the first white girl born in Southern Oregon. The first white boy in that whole district was James McCully.
    "In 1855, at the close of the Indian war, my father was appointed agent at Grand Ronde agency. After the close of the Indian war, when the Indians had surrendered, they were moved to the coast, and to Grand Ronde Agency. I was 4 or 6 years old at that time. There was a fort there called Fort Yamhill. Captain Russell, Lieutenant Phil Sheridan and one or two other young officers who later became famous were stationed there. My father was agent for five years. Mother didn't like it there, so she and the family moved to our farm near Amity. Father kept adding to this farm, paying $3 an acre for the land, until he had secured a 3000-acre ranch. He later sold it to W. S. Ladd, the Portland banker, and Simeon Reed, founder of Reed College, for $50,000. In 1862 Father moved to Salem and bought an interest in the Salem woolen mills. Joe Smith was the president of the company. They operated it during the Civil War and made good money.
    "One of my daughters is in France, in charge of a Y.M.C.A. canteen at Nice. My other daughter, Cully, married Captain Crumpacker, organizer of the L.L.L.L.
    "My grandfather, Robert Miller, came to Oregon in 1849. He took up a donation land claim on Sauvies Island. I remember, as a girl, we used to go down to the landing to wait for the steamer for Portland. We have sometimes waited there from 9 o'clock in the morning until 5 o'clock. In these days of rapid transportation it would make a person a little restless to wait all day for a train or automobile, but we had more time in those days, and I don't know but what we were just as happy."
Fred Lockley, "Observations and Impressions of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, June 9, 1919, page 8

Last revised February 19, 2024