The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County News: 1837

September 12th

Made a long and difficult march, and gained the long wished for Shasta [Klamath] Valley; began to leave in the rear our old acquaintance, the snowy peak [Mount Shasta], with feelings of anything but regret. Lost two horses, one of which was a pack animal with the pack on, was found back at camp. After traveling about 3 miles in the valley, we began to feel some solicitude about Wood and Jim, who had returned in pursuit of the horses, and halted for them. In about 15 minutes they appeared, and we pursued our way. Long march today.

September 13th
Made an early move and halted on a stream--tributary to Rogue's River. We here eat breakfast, gave our animals a few hours to eat, and moved until after sunset, and reached a good encampment--distance, 20 miles. Mr. Young had supposed, on leaving the place at which we halted for breakfast, that the distance to this place was not more than 3 or 4 miles, but it proved to be 8 or 10. Once started, we were obliged to go through.

September 14th
Moved camp about 10 o'clock, and after traveling 5 miles crossed Shasta river. About 5 miles further, encamped; but little grass and water for our animals. About two miles before reaching camp, five or six Indians came to us in a friendly manner, and one, accompanied by a boy about 10 years old, followed us to camp. There had been frequent threats on the way that Indians would be killed as soon as we had crossed Shasta river, and I had heard threats of killing this one while he was following us. It had generally passed as idle braggadocio, and I was hoping that present threats were of the same sort. I, nevertheless, intended telling Mr. Young. In the hurry, however, of unpacking I could not do it unobserved. We had just let loose our horses and sat, when a gun was fired just behind me. [George] Gay and the Indian were sitting within ten feet of each other, when the former shot. The Indian sprang up to run when [Dr.] Bailey also shot at him. The Indian ran about 20 paces and fell dead, down the hill. Some of the scoundrels now hallooed, "Shoot the boy! Shoot the boy!" The little fellow, however, turned a point of rocks, plunged in the brush, and, as he was not pursued, he escaped. They afterwards alleged it was only to prevent his spreading the news. At the sound of the gun, Mr. Young asked vehemently, "What's that?" and began censuring the act. I sprang up, calling it a mean, base, dastardly act, and that such men were not to be depended upon in danger! Bailey retorted, "Are you to be depended upon in danger?" I replied, "Yes." "We'll see," said he. I said, "Yes." Carmichael was one of the first to censure the murder, but he now joined others against me. "We are not missionaries," said he, "we will avenge the death of Americans." Mr. Young and myself soon saw that it was of no use to wrangle. Some of the party were silent--most were in favor of the act. Only one that I recollect spoke against it. Turner, Gay and Bailey were three of four survivors of a party of eight men who had been defeated at the next river, and several of the survivors were much mangled. Turner's wife had also escaped. This they allege as their justification. But the murder was committed four days before reaching the place of their defeat, and the Indians may have been of another tribe. Nor could any consideration of private revenge, allowing its legality in itself, authorize endangering the property of others. We must now prepare ourselves for fighting our way through the hostile Indians. This fool act, as Mr. Young said, "cost us half our animals." One act of barbarity is not to be omitted. Camp and Pat stripped the Indian of his skin clothing, and left him lying naked. The Indian had a bow and about 10 or 15 arrows. Only two arrows in the pouch had stone points.

September 15th
Moved before sunrise--road brushy and difficult. Had much difficulty in ascending the brushy hill. The cattle were today driven in three bands. The first ascended with little trouble--the second, which I was assisting to drive, with more. Some of the third band were unable to get up and were shot by the drivers. The two first bands of cattle had halted until the arrival of the third. After allowing a half hour for rest, Mr. Young gave orders to march. Some of the drivers, however, had become displeased because he had not stopped in the valley below, and now did not pay any attention to his orders. Here a most horrid quarrel ensued. Curses, guns and knives were bandied for 15 minutes. Turner, Gay, Carmichael and Bailey were the principal speakers against Mr. Young. Myself and DePuis tried to quash the business; others were silent and apparently indifferent. Here we were, in a most difficult pass, where a dozen Indians might have killed the half of us and numbers of our animals before we could gain a good road, and no doubt we would here have been attacked if the Indians had had time to collect. Property of a very exposed nature was to be protected, and besides we were in equal danger from each other. We now had much difficulty in driving through the dense wood down the brushy hill for about a mile. We then gained a prairie, and as there was a gentle declivity, nearly all the afternoon we traveled without much further difficulty, until two hours before sunset, when we encamped; little grass. At night strengthened the guards, putting five men on each instead of four. My station was beyond the brook on which we were camped, to prevent the Indians from firing into camp or among the horses from the brush in that quarter. About an hour after I had taken my place, the moon having just risen, I observed about five Indians stealing along the wood around a small hill to the east, seemingly with the intention of getting into the brush near camp. Having a double-barreled fowling piece, I fired one barrel, which brought them to a halt. The discharge of the second was a signal for their retreat the way they came. I now hastened to reload my gun, but could get no powder out of my horn. Supposing it was empty I hastened to camp to refill it, but could get none in. And now I found that a rag which I had wrapped around the stopple had slipped off and stopped up the horn. The guards were again strengthened by addition of another man to each, which took all the party for the guards of one night except two, which two had no guns. No further molestation during the night. About 2 o'clock p.m., as we were passing a difficult place between the mountains on our left covered with dense brush, and a thick wood on our right, the horses and cattle being scattered along for a mile, hallooing and a shot in the rear announced an attack. I was at this time carrying a young calf before me on the horse, with the forward band of cattle, because its mother would not remain behind. At the above signal I hastened forward to place the calf with its mother, and to acquaint Mr. Young, and then returned to the assistance of the rear. The horses being foremost were not molested, as well as the forward band of cattle. The attack was made from each side of the road. Five or six head of cattle were wounded, but only one killed. This one was able to travel out into the open plain, where she was butchered, and as we needed a beef it happened just at the right time. In this attack the enemy were so well concealed that not one was seen until we had gained the open plain, when a few showed themselves on the hill, but beyond the reach of gunshot. Camped on a small brook, in the edge of the brush--had the same guards as the last night.

September 17th
Moved after breakfast. A few arrows were shot at us from a thick wood on our right. Nothing was injured, however, but the riding horse of B. Williams, into the right hip of which an arrow was shot, but without much injury. Camped in an open plain, where there was no water for our animals; but a small spring about four hundred yards distant supplied our wants.

September 18th
Moved about sunrise. Indians were observed running along the mountains to our right. There could be no doubt that they were intending to attack us at some difficult pass. Our braves occasionally fired on them when there was a mere possibility of doing any execution. About 12 o'clock, as we were in a strong and brushy pass between the river on the right and a mountain covered with wood on the left, firing and yelling in front announced an attack. [Probably at Rock Point, a favorite ambush site.] Mr. Young, apprehensive of an attack at this pass, had gone in advance to examine the brush and ravine, and returned without seeing Indians. On making further search he found them posted on each side of the road. After the firing of four guns, the forward cattle having halted and myself having arrived with the rear, I started forward, but orders met me in front that no others should leave the cattle, Mr. Young, feeling himself able, with two or three men already with him, to rout the Indians. In the struggle Gay was wounded in the back by an arrow. Two arrows were shot into the riding horse of Mr. Young while he was snapping his gun at an Indian not more than ten yards off. To save his horse he had dismounted and struck him on the head, but he refused to go off, and received two arrows probably shot at his master. Having another brushy place to pass, about four or five of us went in advance, but were not molested. Camped on the spot where Turner and party were defeated two years ago. [Near Foots Creek.] Soon after, the men on day guard said they had seen three Indians in a small grove about three hundred yards from camp. About half of the party went, surrounded the grove, some of them fired into it, and others passed through it, but could find no Indians. At night all the horses nearly famished as they were tied up. Night set in dark, cloudy and threatening rain, so that the guards could hardly have seen an Indian ten paces off, until the moon arose about ten o'clock. I was on watch the first half of the night.

Here the diary ends.

Diary of Philip Leget Edwards, 1837. Edwards was on the Ewing Young cattle drive of that year. Gay and Bailey's 1835 attack took place either near the mouth of Foots Creek or on the future Birdseye farm.


    To the editor: A matter of very early history in Jackson County has to do with an early battle between whites and Indians in June [1835], near Foots Creek. Invariably those to whom this has been mentioned have questioned the possibility of such an early date. The following facts have come to my attention, and if published may give rise to further data about those early years. "In June [1835], a party of whites including George Gay, well known in early Oregon history, Daniel Miller, Edward Barnes, Dr. Bailey, J. Turner and his squaw, ------ Sanders, and ------- Woodworth and a man known as Irish Tom, were attacked near the mouth of Foots Creek (below Rock Point) on Rogue River, and Miller, Sanders, Barnes and Irish Tom were killed, while the others badly wounded made their escape."--Walling.
    Nesmith says, "The party, under the leadership of Turner, was on a trapping expedition. About the middle of June they encamped at Point of Rocks, on the south bank of the Rogue. Several hundred Indians dropped into camp, no danger expected, no precautions taken, suddenly attacked with clubs, bows and knives. They got possession of three of the eight guns with which the whites were armed, and for a time the trappers fought them with firebrands, clubbed guns, and whatever came handy. Turner, a big Kentucky giant, seized a fir limb from the fire and fought lustily. He released Gay, who was held down by the savages, and finally the assailants were driven from the camp. Dan Miller and another trapper were killed on the spot, while the six survivors were all more or less wounded. The latter took to the brush and without horses and deprived of all guns but two traveled, fighting Indians by day and walking by night, making their way northward. Dr. Bailey was wounded by a tomahawk blow which had cleft his chin. Sanders' wounds disabled him from traveling and he was left on the South Umpqua. The Indians reported to Dr. McLoughlin of the Hudson Bay Company that both men soon died of their wounds where they were left. Turner, Gay, Woodworth and Dr. Bailey ultimately reached the settlement on the Willamette."
    "Two years later, or in 1837, a party of Oregonians proceeded to California to buy cattle to drive to the Willamette. They secured a drove and returning passed through the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys. The party was composed in part of Ewing Young, the leader, P. L. Edwards, who kept a diary of the trip; Hawchurst, Carmichael, Bailey, Erequette, Des Pau, B. Williams, Tibbetts, Gay, Wood, Camp, and about eight others, all frontiersmen of experience. While encamped at the Klamath, Sept. 14, 1837, Gay and Bailey shot an Indian who had come peaceable into camp. This in revenge for the Foots Creek affair, but that locality was far away, and the crime of 1835 was revenged on an individual who had not heard of the event.
    "The act was deeply resented by the Indians throughout the whole section and the party met with the greatest difficulty in continuing their course. On the 17th of the same month they encamped at Foots Creek, and on the next morning sustained a serious attack of savages."
    Edwards' diary: "Moved about sunrise. Indians soon observed running along the mountain on our right. There could be no doubt that they were intending to attack us at some difficult pass. Our braves fired upon them when there was a mere possibility of doing any execution. About 12 o'clock while we were in a stony and brushy pass, between the river (Rogue) on our right and a mountain covered with wood on our left, firing and yelling in front announced an attack. Mr. Young, apprehensive of an attack at this pass, had gone in advance to examine the brush and ravine and returned without seeing Indians. In making further search he found them posted on either side of the road. After firing of four guns the forward cattle halted, and myself (Edwards) having arrived with the rear, I started forward but orders met me from Young that no one should leave the cattle, he feeling able with two or three men to rout the Indians. In the struggle Gay was wounded in the back with an arrow. . . . Camped at the spot where Turner and party were molested two years ago." Some further description of the following night when they were unmolested, and then the diary breaks off.
    There seem interesting historical experiences which claim a battle either in 1835 or 1836. It is an early date, yet it is many years after the beginnings of the Hudson Bay Co. activities and seems altogether credible.
    There may be further unpublished facts that could be brought to light from some of our pioneers still living.
JOHN W. HOYT, Ashland.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 12, 1920, page 5  In the first paragraph the writer had placed the attack in 1836.

Last revised July 9, 2021