The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

John W. Redfield

Commissioner's No. 3,696.
Dowell's 3 Docket, 190.
In the Court of Claims.
To the Hon. W. A. Richardson, Chief Justice of
the Court of Claims.
Petition filed Mar 28th 1891
John W. Redfield
The Rogue River Indians,
The Cow Creek Indians,
and the United States.
    I. Your petitioner, John W. Redfield, by his attorney. B. F. Dowell, states that he is a citizen of the United States, and he resides in Douglas County, Oregon; that his post office address is Glendale, Douglas County, in the state of Oregon.
    II. That at the time of committing the grievances hereinafter mentioned, he was the owner of property which was of the gold cash value herein set forth and described as follows, namely:
3 head of large gentle work oxen at $100 (killed) $300.00
1 large roan Durham cow (killed) 100.00
4 large red American cows at $60 (killed) 240.00
4 two-year-old heifers at $60 (killed) 240.00
1    "       "      "    steer (killed) 60.00
1 hewed log house, 22x20 feet, 12 feet to eaves, one door and one window, covered with clapboards (burned) 200.00
1 frame henhouse, 15x12 feet (burned) 75.00
80 chickens at 50 cents (burned) 40.00
4 augers, one each 2 in., 1½ in., 1¼ in., 1 in. at $1 (burned) 4.00
1 brace and 12 bits (burned) 8.00
1 draw shave (burned) 1.50
1 set gunsmith's tools, such as drills, reamers, countersinks, files, etc. (burned) 20.00
1 table, sugar pine, split out and planed (burned) 5.00
2 bedsteads (burned) 8.00
600 lbs. flour at 15 cents per lb. (carried away) 90.00
50 lbs. coffee at 33⅓ cents per lb. (carried away) 16.66
50 lbs. sugar at 25 cents per lb. (carried away) 12.50
50 gallons syrup at $1.50 (carried away) 7.50
100 lbs. salt at 6 cents (carried away) 6.00
1 dozen plates (carried away) 4.00
½ dozen cups and saucers (carried away) 2.00
½     "      knives and forks (carried away) 2.50
½     "      tin cups (carried away) 1.00
½     "        "   plates      "         " 1.00
½     "      tea spoons     "         " .75
½     "      table spoons  "         " 1.00
1 large wash tub (burned) 3.50
1 pork barrel (burned) 2.50
1 wash board       " .75
9 milk pans at $1 (burned) 9.00
2 brooms (burned) 1.50
2 chopping axes (carried away) 5.00
1 hand ax (carried away) 2.50
1 coffee pot   "         " 1.00
1 tea          "     "         " 1.25
1 butter ladle (carried away) .50
2 buffalo robes     "          " 15.00
1 cast iron bake oven (carried away) 3.00
1 tea kettle (carried away) 3.50
1 coffee mill    "          " 1.25
1 grain cradle   "          " 6.00
2 pitch forks     "          " 3.00
1 garden hoe     "          " 2.00
2 frying pans     "          " 2.00
1 hay rake (burned) 1.00
1 harrow          " 6.00
10 lbs. tea at $1 (carried away) 10.00
600 dozen bundle oats at $3 per dozen (burned) 1,800.00
1 shed covering the oats (burned) 100.00
½ acre of Irish potatoes (destroyed) 100.00
Garden destroyed       40.00
Total $3,565.91
    III. Your petitioner is informed and believes that on or about the 24th day of October, 1855, at Cow Creek, Douglas County, in the state of Oregon, a band of thirty or forty of the Rogue River Indians and Cow Creek Indians stole and carried away, burned, killed and destroyed said property without just cause or provocation on the part of the owner, or his children, or the agent in charge of this property.
    IV. That said property, at the time it was so destroyed, was not on any Indian reservation and the same was near the main traveled road from Portland, Oregon to Yreka, California, and the loss of said property was not caused by any fault or negligence of the owner, and he is informed and believes it was not caused by any of your petitioner's agents.
    V. That at the time said property was destroyed the said tribe of Indians was under treaty stipulations, and in amity with the United States.
    VI. That on the 13th day of February, 1884, your petitioner duly presented said claim for the loss of said property to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, by his own affidavit, and the affidavits of two disinterested witnesses. Your petition has been informed and believes his claim was rejected twice. Afterwards, on the [blank] day of [blank], 18[blank], said claim was examined by the Secretary of the Interior and allowed for the sum of about $3,140.
    VII. That the claim of your petitioner was pending for payment in the Senate and House of Representatives at the time of the passage of an act entitled "An Act to Provide for the Adjudication and Payment of Claims Arising from Indian Depredations," approved March 3, 1891, and the claim had been referred by both houses of Congress to their respective special Committees on Indian Depredations, and it was pending before Congress when the last mentioned act was passed.
    VIII. Your petitioner on the [blank] day of [blank], 18[blank] employed B. F. Dowell to prosecute said claim, and since he has taken a large amount of evidence in the neighborhood where the property was destroyed, and your petitioner is informed and believes that your petitioner's attorney, at great expense, has written, printed and published in many papers arguments to get Congress to pay this class of cases, and he has traveled across the continent twice every year since he was first employed to get evidence and to make arguments, and he did make good arguments, before congressmen and committees of both houses of Congress when this class of cases were under consideration, and he has taken and filed a large amount of evidence in this case. He wrote, printed and distributed 500 copies of it containing sixty-four pages to which was added an appendix, which increased the petition to eighty-three pages. Afterwards, and prior to the Fiftieth Congress, the appendix was increased to ninety-six pages and distributed the same amount. He also wrote and published many articles in various newspapers for the purpose of inducing Congress to assume this class of claims up to the passage of said act. All of this was done on contingent fees at his own expense, except about $60 to pay for the petition and argument which has been referred to the committees at every session of both houses of Congress since June 6, 1887, except I paid for my own affidavits, and a few others for their own affidavits to the notary.
    IX. That no part of said property has ever been returned or paid for to the claimant or to anybody else; therefore he prays for judgment on said facts and said statute against said Indians and the United States for amount of the original claim, and for such other relief as the nature of the case may require.
B. F. Dowell
Attorney for the Claimant.
Beinecke Library   A copy is also preserved in Oregon Indian Wars vol. 3, B. F. Dowell papers, University of Oregon Special Collections Ax 031.

    The Redfield Bros. of Douglas County challenge anyone for a shooting match for any money up to $1000 a side.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, December 27, 1884, page 3

    The four Redfield Bros. of Glendale challenge any like number of marksmen in Southern Oregon to shoot a match of forty shots a side, at a distance of 60 to 500 yards, for any sum of money from $500 to $1000. They are willing to shoot with open sight in any position desired.
"News Summary," Corvallis Gazette, January 9, 1885, page 8

    J. R. Redfield, of Medford, was arrested and taken in charge at that place last Sunday by Deputy Sheriff Smith of Douglas County, on a warrant charging him with seduction. He was taken to Roseburg the same evening.

"Jacksonville Items," Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, August 13, 1886, page 3

    It was on Wednesday afternoon of this week, the 21st day of March 1894, that Rev. T. H. Stephens' services were called to use, the occasion of such services being the performance of the marriage ceremony which linked the heart and hand of Mr. John H. Redfield, of Medford, and Miss Ida Wilcox, of Pleasant precinct, this county.
    The event took place at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. P. Henderson and was attended by only a few relatives and Rev. and Mrs. T. H. Stephens. The relatives present were councilman and Mrs. J. R. Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. P. Henderson, Miss Nettie and Sam'l. Redfield. After the ceremony the company was asked to partake of a very fine dinner, prepared by the adept hand of Mrs. Henderson--substantial evidences of its excellency having been received at this office.
    Mr. Redfield is one of the proprietors of the Medford gun shop; is one of our best young men; a real, live hustler in the business arena and a good, all-round square boy, and if he don't prove a husband worthy of his name, general appearance and over a year's acquaintance have deceived us.
    The bride is a sister of Mrs. J. R. Wilson and Mrs. P. Henderson. She is a highly cultured young lady of pleasant address; a perfect lady in every respect and has friends without number.
    The Mail joins a whole army of friends in wishing this young couple all the prosperity and pleasure that can possibly be crowded into a life of matrimonial unity. They expect to soon begin housekeeping in Medford.
Medford Mail, March 23, 1894, page 2

John Redfield Gets a Challenge.
    It having come to my knowledge that Mr. John Redfield, of Medford, desired to race me, I hereby signify my willingness to meet him at the Central Point race course, any day he may select, during the continuance of the fair to be held at Central Point next week. For particulars, address
D. L. RICE, Ashland, Or.
Medford Mail, August 31, 1894, page 2

    Ed. Redfield looks as though he had been in a Turco-Greco "scrap" the way his face is swollen, mustache, eyebrows and lids burned off. He was handling some black powder near his stove Tuesday afternoon when the unmannerly stuff puffed up in his face.
"The Week's Jottings," Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, April 22, 1897, page 3

    Redfield individually and personally fixes every watch left to his care. No apprentice is allowed to monkey with timepieces, and so Redfield individually knows the condition of every watch that leaves his establishment and guarantees it.
"The Week's Jottings," Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, April 29, 1897, page 3

    Redfield's ice cream parlors are patronized extensively by ladies and families as well as gentlemen who have a tooth for sweet delicacies. Being most conveniently situated, it is easy for everyone to drop in and partake in the cozy quarters set off for that purpose. Mrs. Redfield has charge of the ice cream making and serving, and patrons can rely on being treated so well that they will "come again."
"The Week's Jottings," Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, May 27, 1897, page 3

John Watrous Redfield Ends Stormy Life.
Born in 1814, He Follows Sea, Afterward Settling in Willamette Valley,
Crossing Plains in 1853 to Oregon.

    John Watrous Redfield, the well-known pioneer of Southern Oregon, who died at the home of his son, William H. Redfield, at Glendale, Or., January 1, was born in Gilford, Conn., December 11, 1814. At an early age he went to sea, employed in the packet service between New York, Charleston, New Orleans and the West Indies. He made four trips to England and was there at the time of Queen Victoria's coronation, in 1837. Upon his return home, he abandoned the sea and removed to Illinois, where he engaged in farming.
    He crossed the plains to Oregon in 1853, intending to settle on Puget Sound, but was induced to make his home in the Willamette Valley. In the following spring he took up a donation land claim on the Umpqua River, where he continued to make his home until two years ago, when he went to live with his son at Goldendale.
    Mr. Redfield is survived by seven sons and one daughter, as follows: Benjamin F. Redfield, of Index, Wash.; Thomas G. Redfield, of North Yakima, Wash.; William H. Redfeld of Glendale, Or.; John H. Redfield, of Denver, Colo.; Samuel H., Edward E., D. Boone and Mrs. Nettie Redfield Levens, of Goldendale, Wash. His wife died about a year and a half ago.
    Two years after the Redfields arrived in Oregon, in the fall of 1855, trouble with the Rogue River Indians broke out. The Indians were killing miners and settlers and burning their property. One morning in October a pack train was fired on by the Indians at the foot of Cow Creek Mountain, a mile from the house, and Holland Bailey was killed. The other members of the party escaped by taking to the woods.
    Daniel Boone (a lineal descendant of the original Daniel Boone, who had crossed the plains with Redfield) went on to watch for the Indians. The two men were the only ones to resist the attack of about 300 Indians. Boone went inside and had his leg, which had been hit, crudely dressed. Soon the Indians came running to surround the men and teams. The ox team became frightened at the firing and ran away. This helped greatly in escaping from the redskins, for the oxen ran up to the house and stopped.
    A week before the outbreak Mrs. Redfield had been shot in the knee by the accidental discharge of a pistol, which inflicted a severe wound, confining her to her bed for months. While she was being carried into the house the Indians fired at the group and a ball passed through her skirt. plowing its way into the porch floor. The Indians made a hard fight, but they were finally obliged to withdraw, after losing a number of their fighting men. The whites escaped with only a few wounded.
    The Indians burned Redfield's house and barn, killed and drove off all of his fine cattle and hogs and destroyed everything else about the place. Then they rejoined the main band fighting down Rogue River, making a final stand in that almost inaccessible region. They were finally subdued by the volunteers and taken to the reservation. After the Indian war Redfield, with his family, moved to the Umpqua Valley, where he continued to reside.
Oregonian, Portland, January 10, 1909, page 8

    "They called me 'Gent' Redfield, but that's just my nickname," said W. H. Redfield of Glendale. "My father, John Redfield, was born in Connecticut, December 11, 1814. When my mother was a girl her name was Adelia Hall. She was born in Illinois. My father was a widower with one son when he married my mother. My father was tough as a hickory knot. He didn't show his age. He was just beginning to get a little gray over his temples at the time of his death at the age of 94. I am 79 myself and, as you can notice, there are a few gray hairs on my temples.
    "My folks crossed the plains in 1853. They spent that winter on Albany Prairie, in Linn County. In the spring of 1854 my father hitched the oxen to the prairie schooner and headed south. Father took up a place on Cow Creek. I was born on Father's claim on Cow Creek on October 12, 1854."
Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, September 6, 1933, page 6

By Fred Lockley
    "I have lived in Southern Oregon 79 years," said W. H. Redfield when I interviewed him recently at his home at Glendale. "My father, John Redfield, was a gunsmith. He was a great hunter. As far as that goes, I am quite a hunter myself. I have killed over 3000 deer. I killed an elk in the Bitter Root Mountains in Idaho whose antlers had a spread of 52 inches, and I've got the antlers here to prove my statement.
    "When Father settled here in Southern Oregon, in the spring of 1854, he ran stock. He was a blacksmith and gunsmith, so he did blacksmithing for the neighborhood and also made and repaired guns. Just sight this Hawkins rifle, made for my father in St. Louis. It weighs 12 pounds and is .50 caliber. Yes, sir, that Hawkins rifle has killed hundreds of deer and any number of elk, panther and bear as well as a few Indians.
    "During the Rogue River war the Indians attacked our place. Two days before this attack my father had started with the ox team for Roseburg to get supplies. Father was told that the Indians were on the warpath, so he left his wagon and oxen at Canyonville and came back to our place afoot. He cut some portholes in our log cabin in case the Indians attacked the place. This same day a girl who was visiting our place picked up one of Father's pistols and said, 'I wonder if it's loaded.' So she pulled the trigger to see, and shot Mother through the knee. When the Indians attacked our place two days later Mother was in bed. Dan Boone, a grand-nephew of Dan Boone of Kentucky, was at our house.
    "Just before this attack all the Indians left Cow Creek Valley and went to Sams Valley. When the Indians attacked our place two of them slipped behind our log chicken house and shot arrows with blazing pitch pine splinters on the roof of our house, but the blazing arrows rolled off without setting fire to the roof. As the Indians dodged back from behind the chicken house, Father said to Dan Boone, 'I'll take the first one; you get the next.' Both Indians fell. This old Hawkins gun that you have in your hands now was the one Father was using. The Indians kept up a steady fire, and one bullet came through a porthole, wounding Dan Boone in the thigh. Nine of the settlers who were at the Smith place came down to our place, and the Indians, when they saw them, beat it. They found five Indians that Father and Boone had killed.
    "When the Civil War broke out Boone went back to Illinois and enlisted in the Union army. After the war he came back West, and settled at Walla Walla. I believe one of his brothers still lives at Walla Walla and I think one is at the soldiers' home in Roseburg.
    "When I was a boy they started a subscription school five miles from our place. I went to this school two months each year for five years, so altogether I got 10 months of schooling. I learned my trade of blacksmithing and gunsmithing from my father. If I had a dollar for every horse or pack mule I have shod I would be well-to-do.
    "I was married in 1884 to Ella Aytch, who was born in California. We had five children. Here's a picture of two of our boys that was taken about 40 years ago. Lavita, our oldest girl, married Frank Brown of Roseburg. Clara married J. T. Overton, a railroad man, who runs out of Klamath Falls. Erma married Dave Henshaw, who has worked in the Portland post office more than 30 years. My son Frank was killed in the Argonne Forest in France while charging a machine gun nest. He was born June 17, 1889, and died on October 6, 1918. Frank was a crack shot, either at a target or at running deer. He was a little over 29 years old when he was killed. My youngest son, Marlin, I named for my favorite Marlin rifle. He lives at Reedsport."
Oregon Journal, Portland, September 7, 1933, page 8

By Fred Lockley
    "I was 78 years old before I spent any money on doctors," said "Gent" Redfield when I visited him recently at his home at Glendale, in Southern Oregon. "I have lived out of doors ever since I was 7 years old. I was born on Cow Creek in 1854, and when I was 7 years old I started milking and doing the chores on my father's place. By the time I was 12 years old I was a full hand in the hay field. Yes, sir, I can qualify as a farmer. I still own a 240-acre ranch on Cow Creek.
    "I have hunted deer, bear and cougar since I was in my early teens. You will know that I am fond of guns when I tell you that I named my youngest son, Marlin, after my favorite Marlin rifle. Last October I was out in the hills hunting and somehow or other I got a pain in my chest. It couldn't have been from sleeping out, for I have slept out in the hills all my life. Maybe it was because I was getting kind of old. I was 72. In any event, I was in such misery that I took no interest in deer hunting, and you'll know I'd have to be pretty sick to lose my interest in getting wild meat. I came home, and my folks got a doctor for me. And that wasn't the worst of it, for the doctor got a trained nurse. When I was a boy the Indians showed me what roots and herbs to take if I was ailing, but this doctor and nurse didn't hold with roots and herbs, and they wouldn't let me take any, so, naturally, I was sick quite a spell.
    "When General Joe Lane was running for vice president of the United States he stopped overnight at our house. [Lane passed through Glendale in 1859. He campaigned from Washington, D.C. and didn't return to Oregon until after the election.] I knew all of the early-day residents of this part of the country.
    "There were eight of us children--six boys and two girls. I am the oldest. My brother John lives in Denver, Colo. Sam lives here in Glendale. My oldest sister, Amy, married John Wilson. They live at Medford. My sister Nellie married W. C. Levens. They live at Glendale.
    "I struck out for myself when I was 16 years old. I went down to Smith River Valley, in California, and worked on a ranch about six months. Then I bought a good rifle and went over into Coos County. This was in 1872. For the next two years I hunted for a living. I killed deer, bear and elk and sold the meat to the markets in Marshfield. I got 15 cents a pound for the deer hides. I sold the best elk or deer horns at $3 a set. The man I sold them to shipped them East to be used for knife handles. I salted down $300 while I was in the Coos Bay country, so I decided to see something of the world. I took passage on a lumber schooner bound from North Bend to San Diego. From there I went to the Julian country, mined for a while, and then started a blacksmith shop. I came back to Cow Creek Valley and in 1873 drove a band of cattle down into Nevada. The trip took about three months. We lived for the most part on deer meat and antelope.
    "When I was out in the hills some years ago I found the skeleton of one of the volunteers who was killed at the battle of Hungry Hill. That's about seven miles from here. I put the bones in the fork of an oak tree. It seems to me that the Indian war veterans should do something about it. They ought to take his bones and bury them and put up a marker. I will be glad to show them the oak tree in whose fork I stacked the bones.
    "After the fight at Hungry Hill the regulars and the volunteers camped at Bloody Spring. The Indians proved too much for the whites at this battle. Nine of the volunteers were killed and 22 wounded. This battle was fought on October 31, 1855."
Oregon Journal, Portland, September 8, 1933, page 8

Last revised December 4, 2023