The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County News: 1834

The Ewing Young expedition.

    In the early occupation of the country, trapping parties were sent into this region. I have learned from some of the gentlemen heading these parties that in their early intercourse with the whites the natives did not appear disposed to shed blood, but were inveterate thieves, their cupidity being only exceeded by their dexterity in gratifying it at the expense of others.
    Though apparently desirous to cultivate the friendship of their visitors, they appeared wholly incapable of resisting their propensity to steal whenever an opportunity presented itself, and according to the stories of the trappers the most dexterous of the Old World were their inferiors in the "act of appropriation."
    From this trait of character the Canadians gave them the very appropriate surname of "rascal," from which the principal stream of the country is now known as the Rascal or Rogue River, and its ancient and far more musical appellation of Tututni is almost entirely disused. Though in many instances where the thief was taken in the fact a summary punishment was inflicted, yet in accordance with their general policy of conciliation I have heard of no instance in which parties belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company inflicted the punishment of death for a crime of less degree than murder.
    The first extreme punishment inflicted on these people for their disregard of the laws of property was by a party headed by Ewing Young Esq., late of Chehalem Valley and the founder of that settlement.
    His party of 18 men were encamped on the Tututni near its mouth; a large number of the natives assembled at his camp, and while in the act of stealing some meat from a scaffold, the party, being under arms, received from Mr. Young the order to fire. A terrible slaughter of the unprepared natives ensued, and the only injury sustained by the assailants was a severe bite received by one of the men while stripping the skin from the head of an Indian not yet dead.
    Mr. Young on the same expedition visited the Klamath Lake, where again a large body of Indians approached his camp, as he believed with hostile intent; he anticipated their attack, killing a number on the land and driving the rest into the lake, where my informant (one of the party) is confident one hundred must have perished.
    These facts were related to me by Mr. George Gay of Yamhill County, an inveterate Indian hater and a justifier of Mr. Young, but as in both instances the whites acted on suspicion only, the Indians making no positive demonstrations of hostility, they can be regarded only as wanton destruction of human life.
    Mr. Young's expedition took place 12 or 15 years ago, and I have gone thus back into the early history of the intercourse of the whites with the southern Indians because in that period I think is found the answer to your inquiry.
    Since that expedition these people have ever been hostile to the whites. Being by nature suspicious and revengeful even if their after treatment by whites had been uniformly friendly, it is doubtful whether these early injuries would yet be forgotten.
Letter of Jesse Applegate to Superintendent of Indian Affairs Anson Dart, dated August 19, 1851, NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 607 Oregon Superintendency 1842-1852, frames 1141-1148.

    The first I learn of is that a small company of whites made the overland journey north in [1834]. This party reached Rogue River in safety, and drove their horses on an island where there was grass, so that they could be kept from roaming abroad, and possibly they had fears of them being stolen by the natives. They camped here several days to rest, and were all taken sick with the ague. While in this condition two Indians visited them, with only friendly pretenses to be sure, but the travelers argued to themselves that there was danger that these would report their condition, and bring their tribe upon them to murder them. They therefore deliberated, and concluded to kill these visitors; and the story told by one of the party is that they did kill them, and then pushed northward.
    The revenge for this act was that the next year, in [1835], another party of emigrants from California, seventeen in number, were attacked by Indians in that same vicinity, and only four escaped. Two of these men are living here now. I believe these stories many be received as authentic, and they serve to show that the first impression made on the Indians of Rogue River Valley and all Southern Oregon was unfavorable.
"Early Modoc History," Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 2, 1873, page 5  This article is attributed to an unnamed New York Tribune correspondent living in Salem.

    Mr. Parrish says that in 1833 or 1834 a party came overland, composed of Webley Hauxhurst, Canady and Ewing Young. There were eight or ten in all, but he cannot recall their names. They had horses to ride and also pack animals. When they reached Rogue River they found the Indians very numerous and exceedingly friendly. Some of the party were taken ill on Rogue River and they stopped there to recruit, moving their stock onto an island in the river, thinking they could not get away and the Indians would not be so apt to steal them, or anything else. One day they received a visit from two friendly Indians who remained a considerable time. They held a council and considered the danger of their position. They were so weak that they could make no strong defense if attacked, as the whole company was then down with the chills and fever and some were very low with it. In this state of body and mind they came to the despicable and cowardly conclusion that their own safety lay in killing their visitors to prevent them from betraying their weakness to their people. The harmless savages were killed and their bodies buried or concealed, and as soon as possible they started on their northward journey. The Indians of course missed their companions, and on searching the abandoned camp found traces of them and at all events became satisfied of their untimely ending. Thus their first meeting with whites, that commenced in all friendliness, ended in their incurring an unending and well-grounded hatred. To them all white men were the same, and they considered it legitimate vengeance to slay them wherever they could be found.
    This tragedy he [Webley Hauxhurst--identified in the Oregonian of June 28, 1885, page 1] kept secret and told to Mr. Parrish in confidence, not to be repeated during his lifetime. The men who committed this dastard deed may have been actuated by the supreme motive of self-preservation, and some excuse must be made for their weakness, helplessness and timidity consequent thereon, but they greatly erred, and their crime reacted on numerous travelers who fell victims to the desire for vengeance that never died away. Hundreds were slain, the valley of Rogue River was devastated, wars succeeded wars, until the peoples wronged were finally subdued and conquered, but that generation and its succeeding one never forgave the crime that turned their proffered friendship into gall. Other outrages were perpetrated by the rude men of early days that fed the flame. Wherever you may find a history of Indian savageness and terror, you will generally find some act by ruthless white men to kindle the savage nature into vindictive hate.

Samuel A. Clarke, "Pioneer Days: Some Interesting Facts Relating to the Languages of the Indians," Oregonian, Portland, April 26, 1885, page 2

    In 1834 Ewing Young and party came overland from California. They were Ewing Young, John McCarty, Carmichael, Webley Hauxhurst, Joseph Gale, John Howard, Kilborn, Brandywine and George Winslow (colored).

Samuel A. Clarke, "Pioneer Days: The First Women Who Crossed the Plains to Oregon," Oregonian, Portland, May 10, 1885, page 2

    That was the company concerning which Webley Hauxhurst made the posthumous confession that I narrated some weeks ago, that being ill on Rogue River they moved to an island in that stream [probably Big Bar, near Lower Table Rock], where all were taken down with chills and fever. During this time they received a friendly visit from two Indians, and for fear these would go away and disclose their weak condition they killed their visitors and concealed their remains, which is considered the first ground of the implacable hate the Rogue Rivers ever after manifested towards Americans. Young's party seems to have had considerable property to lose, and were excusable for having apprehensions, if not for perpetrating that dreadful murder. Young had purchased quite a band of horses in California, besides which he had a trading outfit of some value. They journeyed north slowly and trapped as they went, also trading with the natives for furs and game. Some terrible stories were current concerning Young himself and the conduct of his party towards the Indians. They had some trouble with those of Rogue River, and making a detour to the ocean outlet of that stream seem to have made their way up the coast. A man of as strong native judgment as Young showed would not jeopardize life and so much property by acts of ruthless violence when everything they could desire was purchasable of the Indians, so I receive these hard-featured stories with many grains of allowance and considerable disallowance. No doubt Young's life was a singular one, for a modicum of mystery encircled him always. He was a natural leader and may have done many unscrupulous acts in his time, and so far as his life in Oregon was concerned, from his arrival in 1834 until his death in 1841, he seems to have commanded respect, and to have fully overcome the evil reports that followed him to Oregon, where they arrived in due time, having made a rather successful expedition.
Samuel A. Clarke, "Pioneer Days: The Remarkable Career of Ewing Young, an Immigrant of 1834," Oregonian, Portland, July 19, 1885, page 2

    The story told of Hall J. Kelley's coming from California has all that is important as to Ewing Young's journey. One of his company was Webley Hauxhurst, who lived in early days near Salem, and was a very devout Methodist, converted in 1837, the first fruits of the mission among the white settlers. Hauxhurst told J. L. Parrish, of the mission, an incident of that time that I will give as Mr. Parrish gave it to me in comparatively early days. [Clarke arrived in Oregon in 1850; Parrish died in 1895.] In 1834 the Young and Hall expedition reached Rogue River in very bad condition. The nine "marauders" seem not to have followed them into Oregon. They found the Rogue River Indians friendly and had no trouble, but being many of them down with chills and fever, they remained on an island in the river to rest and recruit until the sick ones could better travel. On this island they thought their horses would not stray and Indians could not steal anything. As they were thus camped they were visited by two friendly Indians, who remained quite a time. They said their people were in the hills nearby; they themselves had started on a hunt to secure meat for camp. Ewing Young, or some one of the company, became alarmed, and one by one the men were consulted as to the situation. They were in bad shape, all feeble and many quite ill; the dastardly suggestion was made that if these two young men went back, told of their sickness and weakness and explained that they had horses and many things of priceless value to their people, the inevitable result would be that the tribe would come and kill them all; therefore, self-preservation required that they kill these visitors, hide their remains, and push on out of their country as far as they could get away.
    This dastardly advice was agreed on; the two young hunters were killed, their remains covered with rocks and brush, and then, as soon as they could get away, they pursued their way northward to the Umpqua. Sick as they were, they stood not on the order of their going, but went at once out of that beautiful but ill-fated region. This story is not told in any of the accounts given of that journey, for no one was proud of it. Years after, when Hauxhurst became religiously inclined, the burden of his part in this, first of all the fearful tragedies that were enacted on that ill-starred river, weighed so on his mind that he unburdened his troubled conscience to one of the church people, and Rev. J. L. Parrish told it to me as it is narrated.
Samuel A. Clarke, Pioneer Days of Oregon History, J. K. Gill, Portland, 1905, pages 296-297

Last revised December 16, 2021