NEAR FIFTY YEARS AGO
REMINISCENCES OF LIFE IN THE UMPQUA.
Gleaned from Tales Told by a Settler Who Is Still Living.
On the 20th of September, 1851, W. H. Riddle and family reached Canyonville, having come across the plains via the Southern Route and Humboldt, and on the 21st Joe Knott took him over to the valley of Cow Creek, only six miles distant, where he built a small foundation of logs on the spot where his son, George W. Riddle, still lives. He took up his residence there the same fall and claimed a donation. The discovery of mines in Southern Oregon caused much of that region to be taken up that same year.
At that time the Cow Creek Indians were in two bands, being on either side of the creek, which is one of the main branches of the Umpqua, the beautiful valley, surrounded by the romantic hills of Umpqua, being scarce a mile wide. In these hills, looking down on the Riddle farm, is the famous nickel mine, on which the future of that region places so many hopes--if it ever gets out of the courts and into operation. Its value is shown by the fact that one of the Douglas County banks had at one time half a million, or more, on deposit to pay for it, if it could be purchased.
The Indians talked the Shasta tongue, which was used by the natives of the Rogue River Valley, adjoining on the south, as well as the Shastas, over the Siskiyous, on the Klamath and waters of that river. Mr. Riddle says the Shasta language is very euphonious, distinctly different from all other Indian languages, and far more pleasing than that of the surrounding tribes--as the Modocs, Klamaths and others. It was so melodious and useful that he learned to speak it, and as he was a boy of some 12 years, he knew the Indians well and often acted as interpreter to his own family, and afterward to Huntington, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, when he held conferences with the natives.
A singular fact, worth keeping in record, was that the Klickitats were often there to trade, coming from their homes on the Columbia, at the Cascades or east of there, on the plains of Klickitat, north of The Dalles. I have written of this tribe and said they were the Yankees of aboriginal days, for they traded far and near. It seems now that they not only took in the Sound country and Western Washington, as well as the Willamette Valley, for they were looking out for chances to profit about Portland 50 years ago--or where Portland now is--but made trading trips to this far south, showing enterprise that belonged to no other of the Columbia River tribes.
In that early time Captain Cowles had a ferry on the Umpqua, near the town site of Riddle, below the junction of Cow Creek with the main stream. In those days they never had trouble with the natives. Miwaleta was chief of the band occupying the west side of Cow Creek, and Quintiousa lorded over the east shore. They were pretty much the same people, but each had his own side. The last named ruled back to Canyonville. The Indians down the Umpqua were the Myrtle Creek kind: each preserved its autonomy. Miwaleta was the most influential chief of all, had the most to say and commanded the implicit obedience of all who came under his control. He had rather a remarkable character, was arbitrary in his rule, yet was so kind and fatherly to them all that his reign was beneficent and his people happy under it. He was between 70 and 80 years old. The two bands were nearly the same in size, and contained 150 to 200 together. The old man had been a great warrior, and when in his war paint and in his majesty wore an elkskin garment that enveloped his body. This had been his protection in the wars, for there seemed to be a great many wars in the previous years, and this elkskin coat was made loose so the arrows could not go through it. All over its surface were scars left by arrow points it had caught, but that could not penetrate the tough hide. The old man was very proud of this coat and those arrow marks; but prouder yet of the many scars that left their record on his arms of wounds received, for while the elkskin coat protected the body the arms had to be free to use, and they were covered with arrow marks received in these fierce conflicts. That coat had been all covered with heraldic emblems painted on its surface, and was a wonderful garment altogether. It is not told that there was another like it. The old chief was eloquent and would sit for hours and tell his young men the legends of their race and the history of his own fighting days--of the time when he had rather fight than eat--and now he fought his battles over again until his eyelids would no longer wag.
In the olden times their enemies were the Shastas--or Rogue Rivers--and his tales of long ago were of raids made to the southward, when they swooped down on their enemies and made mincemeat of them--murdered them, in fact--then cut down oaks and built brush defenses to shield themselves from sudden attacks in reprisal. The coming of the Bostons seemed to let in an era of peace on them all. The Shastas, or Rogue Rivers, had all they could do to hold their own against the miners who possessed their land, and came over to induce the Cow Creek bands to become their allies and let loose the dogs of war all along the line. But Miwaleta had grown old. His elkskin armor was so full of arrow holes as to be covered with glory, and his white neighbors had become his friends; they did not molest the camas fields, drive away the game of the hills or the fish that came up from the ocean. It was in the early days of settlement that these emissaries of war came over the hills and through the canyons to find allies in their old enemies, but Miwaleta was smoking the pipe of peace, and grew eloquent in advocacy of a quiet time. He was for peace. They had powwows for a week at a time, and the old chief had a flow of words that seemed like the lost art of perpetual motion. One time he commenced in a low tone of voice and wound himself into an argument that was so conclusive that it occupied two days and nights to conclude it. Yet the ambassadors of the Shastas sat there on their bear skins and took it all in without a murmur. Finally the old man gave out; his powers were limited. Human nature, even in its wild state, cannot run like a mill tail in perpetuity. So the old chief's voice, that had risen like a cyclone, died away to a whisper, and his weary soul said, "Give us a rest." The Shastas were eloquent, too, after a fashion; but they could not persuade the natives of Cow Creek to go to war. So they wended their way homeward, sadder, but not much wiser men than when they came.
After all, while not willing to go to war with the whites, these same Indians warred much with each other. I am sorry I cannot say the primitive inhabitants of this Eden set a good example for us to follow. They quarreled, they fought. they murdered and robbed each other with a profusion and abandon that was not so romantic as it was antic. Every little band was in constant fear of some other band; they lived in a state of war while they were at peace. They sold their squaws to the detriment of family relations. They believed in witchcraft, and one squaw was killed because she was supposed to be a witch. Somebody died and somebody else laid it to this poor squaw that she caused the death by witchcraft. So Curly, the accuser, killed the squaw for a witch, and one day Mrs. Riddle heard Indian Charley threaten to kill Curly to get even. Without malice prepense, rather in the way of a joke, Mrs. Riddle--who had no great faith in Charley's promise--told him she would give him a calico shirt when he did so. Curly was a desperado, and a week or so later went to Charley's fortified camp, and, standing his gun up in the brush that was piled at the doorway, he walked in. Curly thought himself invulnerable--a very Achilles--for it was claimed that a warrior who should go without meat could not be killed by an arrow. So he walked in fearlessly, but while he was talking inside to others, Charley stepped outside, took the gun, and, poking it through the brush heap, shot Curly dead, and ran for dear life and the calico shirt. It was fully five miles to the Riddle place, but he ran such a race as no tale or song of a shirt ever told or sang. He reached the house out of breath, and lisped that he had earned the shirt. He broke his wind and his life in that race, and died within a month. Such was the fate of Curly and Charley. It is said that Curly, and Big Jim, and Little Ike were three brothers of the Myrtle Creek band, and Myrtle Creek and its beautiful valley lands were not far away--say five or six miles. These brothers were desperadoes and always in mischief or in some murderous work at the expense of the whites and their own people. Little Ike was taken, tied to a tree and shot to death by whites for some deed he or they did not long after.
In 1853 a fever broke out among the Indians, and most of them died. It was called the "mountain fever," but no one knew its real character; old Miwaleta went to his fathers in his old age from this disease, and most of his people went the same road. Several died a day, but none of the whites suffered. When the good old chief was gathered to his sires, then Quintiousa was supreme and reigned in his stead. There were not many to rule over, but there was great grief and deep sorrow among all the people, and they wept sore because Miwaleta could not share his kindness and counsel with them. He must have been a good old savage.
The original inhabitants of Myrtle Creek were a hard lot--I am glad to say the present population are a clever and kindly people--and they tell a story to illustrate their wickedness, that once on a time, when a party of the Cow Creeks were camped on a mountain spur--probably hunting or gathering berries--a lot of the Myrtle Creek scoundrels went there--no doubt in the nighttime--and killed almost every one of that inoffensive race. We can excuse moderate wickedness in people who hadn't modern advantages; but, really, this act seems not to have been justified in any manner. It was a pity that only the two brothers--Curly and Little Ike--were killed off as examples to those murderous Myrtle Creek natives.
In 1855, late in the fall, the Indians joined the Shastas and went on the war path--as Nichols had ill-used them. These were inhuman brutes, who passed for white men, who had killed and ravaged among these people until all the man there was in Quintiousa was roused, and he could stand no more. He or his people never did harm to the whites around them, but went off and joined the Shastas. When it was known that the Indians were roused, George Riddle, then a boy, was sent to them and was glad to get away in good form. Then Mrs. Riddle, whom they all looked on as a friend, went to them herself to try persuasion, but the game was up. Someone had given the old chief a blow. He wanted two hours to pay back that blow; also the murder of the Indians, told of in the recent reminiscences of Mr. Hartin--people that Arrington had gathered in the band of Lookingglass--added fuel to the flame. The war of 1855 had begun before that. They left the country, and few of them were heard of again. With the treaty of 1856 they probably--if any more left--were taken to the Siletz Reservation, and the land that had known them [omission] They left the reservation General Palmer had provided for them, where they had homes secure, for the evil conduct of a few evil men had driven them desperate.
S. A. CLARKE.
Oregonian, Portland, February 26, 1895, page 6
HISTORY OF EARLY DAYS IN OREGON
. By Geo. W. Riddle
For many years I have been solicited by friends and some members of my family to write my recollections of incidents relating to crossing the plains and the early settlement of Southern Oregon.----
I have been reluctant to undertake such a work, feeling that I lacked the ability to do the subjects justice in a literary sense. However, I have concluded to write a series of sketches, but must warn my readers not to expect anything but the plain story of the recollections of 65 years ago, written in the plain language of one whose school education would not amount to a fourth grade in our public schools of today. It may not be amiss to say that I was born near Springfield, Illinois, Dec. 14, 1839. My father, William H. Riddle, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, at a place then known as Riddle Station, and his father, William Riddle, was a native of Michelin County, Pennsylvania. My mother was Maximilia Bouseman. Her parents were of German blood, but were born in the United States, and her father was in the U.S. service during the War of 1812. I have in my possession a copy of a newspaper about half the size of the Enterprise, dated 1818 (just about a hundred years ago), giving an account of a Baptist association of which my mother's father was a member.
My father emigrated from Ohio to Illinois in the year 1838, and settled upon some prairie land across the Sangamon River and about ten miles from Springfield. My father was a blacksmith and had a shop and plied his trade on the farm. My mother, being the better farmer, had much to do with the conduct of the farm, while we boys were put to work as soon as we were able to pull weeds. Corn was our principal crop, and on the virgin soil of Illinois, if my memory is correct, 100 bushels to the acre was only considered a good crop. Our farm consisted of 160 acres, laying in a square, every foot of it arable land, and what we would call level in Oregon. When I revisited this farm a few years ago, after an absence of 65 years, and viewing the splendid crop of corn, I could but exclaim, "What was my father thinking of to leave a farm like this and to brave the hardships and dangers of the plains in search of a better!"
But when I look back over the many stirring events covering the 67 years since we hitched up our ox teams and started for Oregon, I can but be pleased that I have been permitted to take part in the development of a state like our beloved Oregon.
I feel that I am taxing the patience of my readers with the foregoing, but everything has to have a beginning; even the "fiddler" at a country dance (it appeared to me) used to take a long time to tune his fiddle, but that was soon forgotten when the music began, so I hope this beginning may not seem out of the way when the more interesting events of my story are written.
In the fall of 1850, Isaac Constant, a near neighbor, whose farm joined ours, returned from Oregon. He had crossed the plains with ox teams in 1848 and returned with saddle and pack horses. It is needless to say that Mr. Constant was the center of interest for the neighborhood. The glowing accounts he gave of the beauty of the country, of the mildness of the climate, the fertility of the soil, and the fact that a man and wife were entitled to a half section of land to be selected by themselves in a new country where the hand of the white man had not yet made his mark. Mr. Constant also brought some gold dust, which I remember was shown in a glass dish, which excited and fired the imagination. Mr. Constant was a man that commanded the confidence of his neighbors. He was a well-to-do farmer, was the owners of one of the finest farms in the best part of Illinois. His trip to Oregon was to spy out the land. But unlike the Israelites that were sent by Moses to spy out their promised land and brought back a conflicting account of the country, one bunch of grapes, some pomegranates and a few dried figs, Mr. Constant brought gold dust and a truthful account of the fertile valleys, clear-running streams, the wonderful forests and mountains of Oregon.
It is needless to say that in our neighborhood there was great planning to come to Oregon. Farms were offered for sale, but there were few buyers. My father alone succeeded in selling his farm, and no doubt at a great sacrifice. As I remember, my father received about $3000 for 160 acres of finest farming land and 40 acres of timber land in the Sangamon River bottom.
Mr. Constant failed to sell his farm, remained another year, and finally selling out, crossed the plains in 1852 and settled in Jackson County, the town of Central Point being a part of his donation claim.
During the winter of 1850-51 our family was busy preparing for the long trip across the plains. My father no doubt was aided greatly by Mr. Constant's advice. Oxen must be purchased. This was difficult, there being few broken oxen to be had suitable for so long a trip. They must be young, clean steers, preferably four years old, and of the six yoke of oxen we started with, only one pair was well broken. "Bill and John" were a pair of big red steers that never failed us in crossing the plains, and did us good service for several years after, in plowing the new soil and improving our new home.
During that winter my parents worked out every detail of the teams and wagons necessary; what supplies of food and clothing to provide, and how they should be packed; and as many head of young cows and heifers to be purchased as there was money to buy. Firearms were not forgotten. My father purchased two rifles, one for my brother, William, who was two years older than I, and one for me. Mine was a small-caliber squirrel gun with full dark curly maple stock, elaborately ornamented with inlaid German silver, tallow box, etc. It is needless to say that I was about the proudest ten-year-old boy in the state of Illinois, and I was soon shooting at prairie chickens and rabbits. I can well remember my first hit. It was in a hazel thicket bordering the Sangamon River bottom. I succeeded in disabling my rabbit, so dropped my gun, and after a long chase, caught the rabbit but was unable to find my rifle, so went home with my rabbit but minus the gun. I was sent back with a search party and the gun was soon found, and I am sure, in all my hunt experience since, I have never lost my gun.
It was the forepart of April, 1851, that everything was in readiness for our start to Oregon. Of the many of our neighbors who had planned to come, only the following were ready to make the start: Stephen Hussey and family, Samuel Yocum and family, and "Sandy" Yocum, a bachelor. They were all well-to-do farmers who rented their farms and were ready for the great adventure. When ready to make the start our family consisted of my father and mother, sisters and brothers as follow: Artinecia Chapman, a sister whose husband had died a few months before, and her infant son, John Chapman; Isabella, aged 18; William H., aged 13 (died in 1857); myself, aged 11, Abner, aged 9; John Bouseman, aged 7; Anna M., aged 4; F. Stilley, aged 2. In addition to the above my mother's half-sister, Lucinda McGill, aged about 45 years, had made her home with us for several years. She was a maiden lady, but after arriving in Oregon she married Campbell Chrisman, at one time the wealthiest man in Lane County. Also Anna Hall, a cousin, aged 11 years. She is a sister of John Hall of Myrtle Creek, and now Mrs. Thos. Beall of Central Point, Oregon.
It will be seen that our immediate family consisted of thirteen; in addition to the family three young men were employed to drive the ox teams. They were Newt and George Branson, brothers, and Jack Middleton. I think they worked their way for their board. Our outfit consisted of three wagons, each drawn by three yoke of oxen; one large carriage, or "omnibus," for the family, to be drawn by four horses, and about forty head of loose cattle, cows and heifers. One of the wagons and teams was the property of my sister, Mrs. Chapman.
Your readers may think it takes me a long time to get started across the plains, but I am trying to give them an idea of what preparations were required to make a six months journey across the plains in the early fifties. Also the experiences of our family were typical of all others that crossed the plains as we did.
I would also say that these writings are not intended for a history of the Riddle family, but the events of which I shall write are so interrelated with members of our family that it in part shows the relations members of our family had in the early settlement of Southern Oregon. Now that I am through with introductory matter (tuning the fiddle), in my next we will make a start across the plains and give an account of more interesting events.
It was about the 10th of April, 1851, that we made our start for Oregon. Many of our neighbors were on hand to bid us a last goodbye and witness the start, and quite an array it was. Three ox teams hitched to covered wagons. The great covered carriage for the family followed by the loose cattle driven by the younger members of the family. I can at this time only imagine the emotions of our parents and older members of our family at leaving their home and bidding goodbye to friends to brave the dangers of the plains. We younger ones no doubt felt proud and happy that we were so distinguished. We were going to Oregon.----
Our first objective was a school house about five miles from our start, near the home of Stephen Hussey (one of the parties who was to make the trip), and where all were to meet to make the final start.
This first day was beset with many difficulties. Our oxen had been trained during the winter but were not thoroughly broken, but we had skillful drivers and made the first day's journey without serious accident.
Not so with other members of the party, I remember when we reached the home of "Sandy" Yocum, the bachelor, who had been awaiting our arrival and had his green oxen hitched to his wagon (no doubt assisted by friends); when our teams had passed "Sandy" had his barnyard gate thrown open and started his team for Oregon. The oxen made through the gateway, but the wagon brought the gate and one gatepost along. Result, a general mixup in the lane. I do not remember how "Sandy" managed to reach the first camp.
The second day no move was made. The train was organized by electing Stephen Hussey captain. The other members of the train were Samuel and "Sandy" Yocum (Mrs. Hussey was a sister of the Yocums). These Yocums were not related to the pioneer family that now reside at Riddle. The third morning my oldest sister and her husband, Thomas Wilson, came to bid us a final farewell.
I remember few incidents worth relating until we reached Council Bluffs, at the Missouri River, except that I remember more rainy days than there was sunshine. We crossed the Illinois River at Beardstown and the Mississippi River near Warsaw, thus passing through a part of the state of Missouri, where we saw a lot of negroes working in a field and were told that they were slaves. This was my only near view of slavery as it then existed in the Southern states.
When we arrived at Council Bluffs we found the Missouri River at flood. Much of the low ground on the Iowa side was overflowed, making it impossible to proceed until the waters should subside. Then we found other emigrant trains, and during the several days we were held up more arrived, until every available camping ground was occupied. Groups of covered wagons and teams, each representing an emigrant train, gave the appearance of a lot of villages. Here many acquaintances were made that lasted a lifetime. The trains were generally known by the states they were from, such as "Illinois train," "Iowa train" or "Missouri train." Many of them had inscriptions on their wagon covers such as "Oregon or Bust," and various other slogans.
While waiting for the waters to subside, with my father, I visited the little town of Kanesville (now Council Bluffs). My father was looking for some additional supplies, and found that in a recent fire there was a large lot of hams and shoulders slightly damaged. From this lot he selected several hundred pounds at a reduced price, and fortunate it was that we took on this extra supply, for some families were destitute by the time they were half way across the plains. One man who was afterwards attached to our train had been warned that his supplies were not adequate for the journey, but had said, "Well, I am not going to overload my team. There will be lots of people on the road and they will not allow women and children to starve." He guessed right. They did not allow them to suffer, but for the last two months of the trip his family was fed from the supplies of others without money or price from this man, as he claimed to have no funds. I have often heard it said that the plains would test a man's character. If he had a mean streak in him it would be sure to develop, and on the other hand, if he were endowed with patience, benevolence and courage, he would sure have the opportunity to test these virtues.
After several days waiting the muddy waters of the Missouri subsided and the ferry landing could be reached. My recollection is that the trains moved out in the order of their arrival. Our train was ferried across about 12 o'clock, and when we landed we were in the Indian country, and we were made to realize that fact before we slept. Our first camp after crossing the river was about five miles out. (The site of this camp must now be within the limits of the city of Omaha). At the front of a draw or hollow that was surrounded on two sides by a ridge of long, grassy ridges. When camp was made the cattle and horses were turned up the hollow to graze on the rich, abundant grass. Fires were started, supper prepared, and just as the light of day began to fade and all were seated for supper, the cry of "Indians! Indians!" was raised, and there they were, mounted on ponies and armed with long spears, coming over a low ridge. They dashed among our cattle, cutting out eight or ten head, urging them along with their spears, and soon disappeared over the low hills. It is needless to say there was excitement and confusion in our camp. Horses were caught and saddled and pursuit was made, but before the Indians could be overtaken darkness had set in and pursuit was useless. This raid was a complete surprise. The elders of our train were aware that there were Pawnee villages opposite Kanesville and the few we met with were eloquent with their own praise. "Me Pawnee. Heap good Injun. Sioux heap bad."
In after years, in thinking of this cattle raid, I had my doubts about the thieves being Indians, and think they may have been white cattle rustlers dressed as Indians. This episode was no doubt a great lesson to our train managers. Our stock were always guarded afterwards. It was a pioneer maxim that "when there are no Indians in sight, be cautious."
The morning after, my father with three other men mounted horses and followed the trail of the thieves, while the wagon train moved on. My father, with his posse, overtook the train at the end of the second day, but without the lost cattle. They had followed the trail for several miles until they reached the timbered bottom lands along the Missouri River. There the tracks were mingled with the tracks of many other cattle, so after a day of fruitless search they started to overtake the train, and here I must record an accident to the search party. In the night there came on a heavy rain that swelled the creek banks to overflowing, and the party found a temporary pole bridge across "Pappio" Creek almost afloat; the party led their horses across and my father came last; his mare, "Puss," tangled in the loose poles, went under and was drowned; he was not able to recover the saddle. This was an irreparable loss to us youngsters. Puss was our saddle animal that we took turns in riding, following the loose cattle, and many a weary day we had, following the cattle on foot; and later we were obliged to abandon the family carriage, of which I will relate later.
Our losses on the first two days were the only losses of stock on the entire trip.
Our route laid on the north side of the Platte River several hundred miles, part of the time along the banks. During that part of our journey we had little trouble with the Indians. When about one hundred miles out from Omaha--or rather the site where that city now stands--we met a long train of Pawnee Indians returning from a buffalo hunt. Their ponies were loaded with dried buffalo meat and their manner of loading the ponies is worthy of note. On each side of a pony a light pole was fastened to a saddle, the poles trailing on the ground. Six or eight feet behind, the ends on the ground spread out to give the pony freedom of action. On these poles cross pieces were lashed, making a receptacle for all their equipment--tepees, papooses and puppies. This manner of transportation was common to all the plains Indians. They also used these poles in erecting their tepees or tents.
These Indians were very friendly, but as usual told us that the Omahas and Sioux were bad Indians. Further along the Platte we had an experience with Indians that we afterward learned was common to many emigrant trains in 1851. We came to a small creek or slough where trains ahead of us constructed a passageway by spreading willows over soft ground. Here a lot of Indians demanded two head of cattle for crossing. Our train was halted and a parley ensued. There seemed to be no way to evade crossing at this place and some of our party were in favor of acceding to the demands of the Indians, as some time must be spent in repairing the road and more Indians were arriving, one of whom made a great show of what would become of us if we did not pay, and to show us what a great Indian he was, exhibited a paper that had been given him by a white man. It read something like this: "The bearer says he is an Omaha chief. He is an old rascal and a bluffer. Don't give him anything--go ahead." So, after a delay of several hours, our train was lined up, loose cattle brought close up, and with a display of arms the drive was made through the Indians, who made little effort to prevent our passage, which we might have made in the first place had our elders had more knowledge of the Indian character. Our train captain, Mr. Hussey, although an exemplary man, had little knowledge of the Indians and lacked that courage and force that would command the respect of the "untamed savage."
In the first of these articles I gave an account of Mr. Isaac Constant having returned to Illinois from Oregon in 1850. In Mr. Constant's company on the return trip was a young man, Cornelius Hill, whose home was in Iowa. They made the trip with saddle and pack horses, following what was known as the "Lassen Cutoff" trail. They passed through the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys, leaving the Oregon-California Trail at Ashland, crossing the Klamath River about 15 miles below where Klamath Falls is now situated, then by Rhett Lake, Goose Lake, Surprise Valley and connecting with the California Trail on the Humboldt River near where Winnemucca now stands.----
Mr. Constant and Mr. Hill had arranged to recross the plains together on this route in 1851, and when Mr. C. was unable to make the start he advised my father to join with Mr. Hill and come to Oregon by the southern route.
About 200 miles out from the Missouri River, on the banks of the River Loup--a tributary of the Platte River--we overtook the Hill train. They were being ferried across the river and while engaged in this work death claimed a member of their party, a young man named Welch who, from accounts, had been very sick for several days. He was well to do and had a splendid outfit, an ox team with two young men to care for that, a team of horses and light wagon for himself and brother John Welch. This death scene comes very vividly to my mind today. The wagon covers were rolled up showing the dying man supported by his brother, and with groups of sympathizing friends standing around, Welch passed to the beyond.
I have given a more particular account of this first meeting of the Hill train for the reason that we were in close touch and for the last half of the journey were intimately associated with them. With this train was Samuel Briggs and family who were the first settlers in Orchard Valley W. F. Briggs, his son, was one time county surveyor of this county, and his descendants are residents of Canyonville; also Chas. Beckworth, whose donation land claim is now owned by Alex Worthington; Cornelius Hill, who settled on the McKenzie, east of Eugene. Mr. Hill was a son-in-law of Samuel Briggs, and Mrs. Elzie Logsdon of our town is a granddaughter of Cornelius Hill. There was also Elijah and Erastus Hill, younger brothers of Cornelius. I have mentioned these names because they were closely associated with and active in the affairs of the early settlement of Douglas County.
It was near the close of day when the Hill train had crossed the river and but one wagon of our train was ferried over that day. The owner, "Sandy" Yocum the bachelor, had forethought enough to move his wagon to high ground, but out of sight of camp. Turning his oxen loose, he returned to camp, and it happened that Sandy's wagon and team was left to itself for several days. During the night there came a thunder storm with a regular Nebraska cloudburst; in a few hours the river was at full flood and cutting the banks away. Twice during the night our wagons were moved back, and the following morning where our camp had been the evening before was a raging torrent. The three men who were operating the ferry made every effort to save their boat--they had carried the split planks used for decking to a place of safety, but during the night the banks caved off on the boat and swamped it and the current carried it away. The ferrymen, on viewing the situation the next day, gave up the ferrying business and returned to civilization. Here was a situation--an emigrant train on the wrong side of a swollen river, or rather one wagon and team on the right side and the others on the wrong side. The only thing to do was to construct a boat, but how was the question. And here I remember my father took the lead, he being the only mechanic in the train. Some distance down the river stood a grove of large cottonwood trees; three of these were felled and three large canoes were made. When launched they were placed alongside of each other and covered with the planking saved from the old boat, which made a safe but clumsy boat which was all ready by the time the river subsided, which was several days on account of a succession of those Platte River electrical storms that are said not to be equaled anywhere else in the world.
One day during our delay in building the boat, a band of buffalo was reported feeding a few miles from our camp. At once all were excited; horses were mounted and the hunt was soon on. None of our crowd seemed to have any knowledge of how to approach a herd of buffalo. Captain Hussey was mounted on the fleetest horse and armed with a shotgun. From accounts, there was a promiscuous charge on the herd. Captain Hussey succeeded in overtaking an old bull and proceeded to fill his hide with bird shot. It is needless to say that there was no buffalo steak in our camp that night.
The water subsiding, our wagons were safely ferried across the river, the stock was made to swim, and we were again on our way.
Some of our young men remained and operated the ferry for several days and then sold it, and by forced marches overtook our train, and in this way our boat was used through that year.
After crossing the Loup River our route lay along the Platte River; we were seldom out of sight of other trains. Several had passed us while we were detained at the Loup River, building a boat. These trains followed up the river to gain a ford that could be crossed when the river was at moderate stage. In doing this they must travel an extra day to regain the main road. From the records left along the road there were trains 300 or 400 miles ahead of us. These records were mostly written on buffalo heads or bones that were strewn everywhere, and bleached white from the rain and sun. A great deal of valuable information as to distance, grass, or camping place, or the date of a certain train passing, was transmitted in this manner.
Speaking of buffalo, in 1851 there were countless thousands along the Platte River. At times emigrant trains were in great danger if caught in the route of a stampeding buffalo herd. Loose cattle, if enveloped in this rush, would be carried away. At one time our train was in danger.
One day, looking across the Platte, we saw a great herd of buffalo entering the river. At this point the river was about a half mile wide, but shallow. The herd was entering the river some hundred yards higher upstream, but we might be directly in its path by the time it reached the bank on our side.
Ox teams were unhitched and wagons formed into a corral and the loose stock herded inside. When the bison reached our side they were about a quarter of a mile in front--great masses of them--a hundred or more yards wide and miles long. They were several hours in passing, and were moving at a brisk gate, but not stampeding. As I remember, no attempt was made to kill any of them; in fact it might have endangered the train. The buffalo are said to follow their leaders when on the move, but when stampeded will crowd into such irresistible masses that many of them are trampled to death. It is said that Indians of long ago had a plan of capturing buffalo by directing a stampede to a precipice. The leaders, by pressure, were forced over and others would follow to their destruction by the thousands. But gone are buffalo, when 60 years ago tens of thousands of their dark forms could be seen dotting the plains! Now they are practically extinct and only to be found in captivity.
Our travel up the North Platte was uneventful. More rain than dust. Grass and water plentiful, but muddy. Our greatest annoyances were mosquitoes and buffalo gnats.
At a point opposite Fort Laramie we met a band of several hundred Sioux Indians who were crossing the ferry. They spread out over the road with their ponies and forbid us to approach them. Their great fear was smallpox. After some delay they cleared the way for us to pass on. I can remember that the sight of so many Indians created uneasiness in the minds of the elders of our train, but we saw no more of the Sioux and were not molested by them.
After leaving the North Platte, our road laid along the Sweetwater, a clear, cold stream about the size of Cow Creek, and, I believe, the first clear, pure water we found on the trip. On this creek are situated two of the best-known landmarks of the emigrant trail--Independence Rock and the Devil's Gate.
It was a coincidence that we arrived at Independence Rock early on the day of July 4th. We struck camp and celebrated the 4th with a rest and in viewing one of nature's phenomena. The rock is situated on a plain and covers 25 or 30 acres It is from 100 to 200 feet high, and the top can only be reached in a few places.
Another notable thing about this rock was that it marked the halfway point of the emigrant journey.
The Devil's Gate is about 6 miles from Independence Rock in what we would call a box canyon, with the precipitate rock walls several hundred feet high and the rocks having the appearance of having been split apart. The Sweetwater River rushes through the opening in a straight line. This split rock is less than a quarter mile through with a clear view from either end. I would say that although my recollection of Independence Rock and the Devil's Gate is very distinct, I have been aided in the description by that given by Ezra Meeker, when on his trip locating and marking the Oregon Trail.
When I commenced writing my recollections of pioneer days it was not my intention to give a circumstantial account of crossing the plains, but as my mind reaches back over a vista of fifty-seven years, there are so many incidents of our trip across the plains that crowd upon my memory that I have thought their relation would be interesting to those who have not had the experience, and of the few survivors who crossed the plains in the early fifties it may recall to their memories some of their experiences.----
Many people have witnessed the wild flight of a runaway horse team, but it has been the lot of few to see the stampede of ox teams. We had passed the Devil's Gap but a few miles when the loose cattle that we were driving close up behind the wagons (except when allowed to spread out to feed) became frightened and dashed up among the teams and immediately the whole train was in a wild stampede and general mixup. Fortunate it was for us that we were on a perfectly level plain. The result was that one wagon was overturned, several teams tangled up with oxen down, and wagons and teams scattered over the prairies. Fortunately there was no one injured, although there were women and children in almost every wagon. I would say that a frightened ox team is about the most uncontrollable thing in the whole world.
At another time we came near losing control of the ox teams, though not from fright. The camp before reaching Green River was a dry camp, and it was some time after noon that we approached the river, and the oxen and stock were almost famished for water. When we were on the slope and about a quarter of a mile from the river, the loose cattle, no doubt smelling the water, commenced crowding up along the side of the teams, and the drivers would soon have lost control had not a halt been called and the oxen unhooked from the wagons and unyoked, whereupon they made a wild rush for the river. At the foot of the hill, at the river bank, there was a ferry slip, at the foot of which was very deep water. Here it required the efforts of the ferry men to turn the cattle aside to where they could reach where the water was shallow. But just imagine what a catastrophe it would have been had control been lost of the teams and they had plunged over that bank into deep water with women and children, wagons and all.
I have omitted to say that before the occurrences just related we had joined the Hill train, and I have no doubt that it was Cornelius Hill who by his knowledge of conditions at the river bank and quick action saved our train from irreparable disaster. In a former article I stated that Mr. Hill had the year before passed over the trail we were traveling, and for the remainder of the trip we had the benefit of his knowledge and experience, and of which we had the immediate benefit at the Green River crossing. Some men who operated a ferry demanded an exorbitant price for ferrying our wagons across the river and there appeared no other means of crossing. Mr. Hill remembered that his party had crossed with saddle horses the year before at a deep ford about a mile downstream. Upon investigation it was decided to attempt the ford.
Wagon boxes were raised by placing blocks of wood inside the standards to raise the boxes above water and all lashed to the running gear of the wagon to prevent the current carrying them away. A trial trip with horse team crossed in safety, but it was decided that oxen would be swept down with the current, so horse teams were substituted, making several trips, and all were landed safely across. The oxen and loose cattle were made to swim. I remember that many of the cattle were swept down by the current and landed on a little island and someone swam in to drive them off. The above shows only a few of the hardships incident to the journey across the plains.
At the Soda Springs on the Bear River came the parting of the ways. Near that point the California and Oregon Trails separated. Here all our friends who started with us from Illinois took the Oregon Trail by the way of the Snake River and the Columbia River--the Husseys, Yocums and Branson brothers settling in Yamhill County.
Our family joined with the Hill train and came into Oregon by the southern route, following the California Trail until we reached a point on the Humboldt River near where Winnemucca now stands.
On this part of the trail we had trouble with the Indians, which I will relate in my next.
After separating from our Illinois friends and taking the California Trail our train consisted of twelve wagons and about twenty men, and during the remainder of our trip I do not remember meeting or seeing other trains, though there were many ahead of us and no doubt many behind us.----
By common consent Cornelius Hill was accepted as leader or captain.
He had crossed the plains twice before, was then about thirty years old and had been married a short time before starting across the plains to Sophronia Briggs. In addition to an ox team that was shared with two younger brothers, he had a light wagon fitted up for himself and wife and drawn by horses.
The most interesting natural phenomenon encountered on the trip were the Soda Springs on the Bear River, the point where we parted from our Illinois friends.
The Soda Springs were numerous, scattered along a narrow creek bottom near Bear River. Around each spring there had formed a mineral deposit, building up a cone several feet high, from the center of which the water bubbled.
A short distance from the Soda Springs, in the bed of the river, the Steamboat Spring was spouting as regular as a clock, sending up a column of water ten to twenty feet high. The Steamboat Spring ceased its spouting some years ago, but the Soda Springs are said to be a great place of resort.
Upon taking the California Trail we traveled in a westerly direction and about fifty miles north of Salt Lake. The Mormon settlement at Salt Lake City, first established there in 1846-7, was about one hundred miles distant from our line of travel, and we met no Mormons.
At about our third ramp after taking the California Trail, just after daylight, a small band of Indians--six or eight in number--approached our camp on horseback. They were immediately signed to stop. They greeted us with "How! How!" but were not allowed to approach camp. It was said to be a trick of the Indians for a few to approach in a friendly manner. If they found the emigrants weak in numbers or careless other Indians would straggle in until they would take the emigrants at a disadvantage.
The Indians we met up with in Idaho and Nevada are said to have been of the Utes tribe and appeared to have been divided up in small bands. Although armed with rifles they appeared to be of a poor quality.
While Mr. Hill was ever watchful for the safety of the train he would take chances for himself.
It was his custom to drive ahead to select camping places, or during the day he would go out ahead until he would find grass, then stop and let his horses graze.
One day, when the road lay over a level plain with a range of low rocky hills close to our right, we passed Mr. and Mrs. Hill, where they had stopped to allow their horses to graze near a small creek that flowed from a rocky gulch about two hundred yards from their wagon. After the train had passed Mr. Hill about three-fourths of a mile I, being with the loose cattle, heard some shots, and looking back, saw Mrs. Hill coming on horseback screaming "Indians" and lashing her horse to its utmost speed. Some distance before [she] reached where I was she fell from her horse, but the alarm was given.
Nearly every man seized a gun and rushed back to the rescue, leaving the teams just as they were, with women and children practically unprotected.
They found Mr. Hill sheltered by his wagon, exchanging shots with the Indians that appeared upon the top of a rocky hill out of range of rifle fire.
It seems that after the train had passed three Indians appeared about fifty yards from Mr. Hill's wagon. When they found they were discovered they called out "How! How!"
Mr. Hill, not to be fooled by this show of friendship, covered them with his rifle and motioned them back.
Mr. Hill was not to be caught by any "howdy-do" talk, but kept his gun pointed first at one and then another. The Indians gave back by falling in the grass and firing as they ran.
Mr. Hill reserved his fire until they were about to enter the rocky canyon. Then he fired but was not sure that his shot had reached the mark. Soon after a bunch of Indians appeared on a rocky butte, and the reinforcements reaching Mr. Hill, there was a battle at long range in which there was more noise than bloodshed.
Mrs. Hill was not seriously injured by the fall from the horse and immediately ran back to join her husband. I, with other boys, caught the horse and went back to join the war. By the time I arrived at the battlefield the Indians had disappeared behind the rocks. Evidently some of our rifle bullets were coming too close.
About this time it was found that the train had been left unprotected. Almost all our fighting men had rushed to the rescue of Mr. Hill. The horses were hurriedly hitched to the wagon and all started to join the train. At this the Indians jumped out upon the rocks dancing and waving their arms, no doubt claiming a great victory.
Mr. Hill, no doubt, had by his courage and forethought saved his life. If he had fired when the Indians were close to him they would have rushed him before he could reload his muzzle-loading rifle, and by taking shelter behind his wagon he kept the three Indians guessing which one would receive his fire. The Indian is an expert at dodging, so one can imagine these Indians running, falling, and rolling in making their getaway, at the same time firing at Mr. Hill, several of their bullets striking the wagon.
As a result of this scrap with the Indians a conference was held with the elders of our train in which Mr. Hill explained that in the future the train should not be left unprotected in any case, and a better understanding was had of what should be done in case we were attacked.
A few days after our adventure with the Indians we were overtaken late in the afternoon by two men on horseback and a man and woman in a light wagon with horse team. They had been attacked by Indians early in the morning, but had succeeded in standing them off and made an all-day run to overtake our train.----
The driver of the team professed to be an old plainsman and was a great talker. He claimed to be the bearer of dispatches from the Mormon settlement at Salt Lane City to California. From his loud talk and appearance we spoke of him afterwards as the "wild man." It was certainly a hazardous undertaking for three men, encumbered with a wagon and team, through a country infested with Indians. After traveling with us for one day to rest their horses, they passed on to overtake a train somewhere ahead, and these mysterious people were seen no more by us.
Our next Indian trouble was near the Humboldt River. It was the custom for each wagon to take their turn to lead the train on account of the dust. John Welch (an unmarried man, whose brother had died at Loup River as heretofore related) was fastidious about dust and went ahead out of his turn. He said he would keep clear out ahead--that he preferred to take chances on the Indians than the dust.
He found the Indians the first day. He was perhaps half a mile ahead and in plain sight of the train with his two wagons, one with horse team and with the Rhinehardt brothers as helpers, when he was fired upon by Indians at close range. One of the shots shattered the bone of his left arm above the elbow, but he succeeded in managing his team with one hand and to make his escape while the two Germans left the ox team and fell back to the main army. The Indians shot one of the wheel oxen, which tangled up the team, and then looted the wagon of things they could easily carry and made their escape across the river into the willows. The train coming up, Elijah Hill with some others made a search but the Indians had made their getaway.
Mr. Welch had a great hole through his arm and the bone badly shattered. No one with the train having any surgical skill, my oldest sister (afterwards Mrs. Merriman) was called on to dress the wound. Her fingers being slender, she could feel for and extract the shattered bones. I witnessed the operation, and it made such an impression upon my mind that at times I can visualize the operation. My sister Artinecia was a brave girl.
Mr. Welch made a good recovery.
I recall another incident, while traveling along the Humboldt River, that was a near tragedy. My brother, J. B. (Bouse--then six years old) fell from the front of a wagon in such a manner that the forewheel passed over his body diagonally from shoulder to hip. On the opposite side the driver of the team fortunately snatched the boy from under the wagon before the hind wheel reached him. It was some time before the boy regained consciousness. Fortunately no bones were broken, but it was a miraculous escape.
At Black Rock Desert, not far from the sink of the Humboldt River in Nevada, our train left the California Trail, turning northeast across the desert, where we met with the most trying experience of the whole trip.
Our teams had been rested by making short drives, and before leaving the river preparation was made for the trying ordeal of crossing a fifty-mile desert with ox teams, and it was fortunate for us that we had the benefit of the knowledge and good judgment of Cornelius Hill.
At the point where we left the Humboldt River the train was halted while Mr. Hill with his light wagon and horse team and with some men and tools drove out on the desert about ten miles where there were some rush springs. These were cleaned out so that they would fill with water and would afford some relief to the cattle. Every receptacle that would hold water was filled from the river. Our family, and others, had small kegs that they had brought for just such emergencies.
Our first day's drive was out to the springs, reaching there in the afternoon. The cattle found some grass and some water. At about midnight a start was made across the desert.
I might say that long before this time I had been promoted to driver of an ox team. I heretofore stated we started across the plains with a heavy carriage for the family. This, on account of the loss of a horse, was abandoned before we left the Platte River. My father picked up a light wagon to which was hitched our best yoke of oxen, two very large steers, Bill and John, and I, an eleven-year-old boy, was installed as driver, and I brought that outfit through without a mishap of any kind, but the credit should be given to Bill and John, the oxen.
Our night drive across the desert was without incident. Our road lay across a perfectly level plain without growth of any kind, a sandy desert.
Upon the coming of daylight we began to see evidence of disaster that had befell trains in former years. We were seldom out of sight of the carcasses of dead cattle. All appeared to be of a dun color, caused by alkali dust, and in the hot dry air of the desert the carcasses had simply dried up. Most of them had lain there for five years.
It was in the year 1846, just five years previous to our crossing, that the first emigrant train had crossed this desert over the route [by] which we came. They were a large train, consisting of sixty or more wagons. I afterward personally knew some of the men who were with this train: Greenberry Smith, afterward a very wealthy resident of Benton County, and Hon. Tolbert Carter also of Benton County. These men related some of their experiences to me.
All along the road were abandoned wagons [and] household goods of every description. Here would be a cook stove, further on a plow, then the remains of a feather bed. It was remarked that one could find anything they wanted from this abandoned property, and it was surprising to see what absurd things some would bring with them across the plains. On this desert we found a cast iron machine that would weigh almost a ton--evidently some kind of a gold-saving machine that some inventive genius had constructed and imagined that if he could reach a gold field he would make his fortune, but if the poor man had succeeded in bringing his machine through he would only have met with disappointment, for no such machinery ever proved a success.
After the heat of the day came on, our little train of ox teams were scattered along the road. Often some of the oxen would become so exhausted the team would be stopped, and as long as the water lasted their tongues would be sponged. It is characteristic of oxen when they are very hot and thirsty that their tongues hang from their mouths. Many of the incidents of this day on the desert come before my memory at the present time, one of which I will relate.
Crossing the plains was said to be a test of a man's character. If he/was of an overbearing or quarrelsome disposition, a day like that would develop these traits.
In our train was a man that I will call B------ who had quite a family of small children. With him was a young man who had furnished a part of the team and a share of the expenses of the trip across the Plains. On this big, good-natured boy B------ imposed in every way. The boy patiently endured the nagging and abuse. B------ was not popular, and the boy was advised to sever his partnership with him, but this he would not do on account of B's family being left stranded. Other young men advised him to give B a thrashing.
This advice he did not take until that day on the desert. The heat and thirst had no doubt made B more abusive than usual. It also had its effect on the boy, who had endured all he could, and when B, in addition to his abusive language, struck him with his whipstock "the worm turned" and promptly knocked B down and proceeded to wipe the desert sand with him. B called for mercy and when released said: "Darn it, you know I am no fighting man."
This incident caused a great deal of satisfaction to everyone except B perhaps, and made a more amiable man of him for the balance of the trip.
By noon that day all the water we had brought in our wagons was exhausted, and those teams that were able pushed ahead until our train was stretched out for several miles. About this time we could see Black Rock looming up in the distance, and that point meant water and rest.
Some of our teams reached the rock late in the afternoon. Mr. Hill with his horse team returned to meet the delayed teams with water for the thirsty people. I recall that the water was strongly impregnated with mineral and was very unpleasant to the taste, but it was wet and appeased the thirst, and there were no unpleasant results from its use.
At the close of the day all of the teams had reached camp in safety without the loss of a head of stock. This, judging from the wreckage strewn across the desert, was more than former immigrants had done. We were the only train following this route in 1851.
In my last article I gave an account of crossing the Black [Rock] Desert. The desert no doubt derived its name from a high rock or headland that appeared to be the termination of a range of hills. Near this rock we found several deep pools of water, as I remember them, about twenty feet across and perfectly round.----
The spring nearest the rock was scalding hot. A crust of some substance had formed around the edge of the pool on which we were warned not to venture. There were several of these pools, perhaps two hundred feet apart, the temperature lower in each until the last one was just right for bathing.
We were obliged to guard our stock away from these pools, but there was other water for it. The water from these hot springs was very disagreeable to the taste. Black Rock and the hot springs remain in my mind as the greatest of nature's phenomena met with on our trip across the plains.
Several days after passing Black Rock we passed through what was then known as High Rock Canyon--another marvel of nature. The road followed a small creek for fifteen or twenty miles. There were at places overhanging rocks on both sides with scant room for wagons to pass. In other places there would be small openings. In one of these we camped about noon, in a narrow valley about a fourth of a mile long. Our camp was at the upper end of the valley and our stock was turned to graze down the creek. I am giving a more particular description of this camp on account of a discovery that was made that caused trouble in our train during the remainder of the trip.
After lunch some of our party started out to scale a high rocky point on the west side of the valley. Another quartet were engaged in a game of cards with the only pack of cards in camp, while the stock were feeding peacefully down the creek.
Someone of the men went down the valley to look at some wagons that had been abandoned and discovered what he at first supposed to be a grave that the Indians had dug into, as was their custom. On closer examination he discovered two barrels which the Indians had chopped into which he found contained whiskey.
There was soon great excitement in camp. The mountain climbers came racing down; the card players dropped their cards (I mention this because the cards disappeared and it was thought that they had found their way into my mother's stove); and soon most of the camp was around the cache. When further excavation was made, two more fifty-gallon barrels were found to be intact--one of whiskey and one of brandy. From the fact that a heavy government wagon had been left standing over the cache, the conclusion was reached that it had been abandoned by a government train several years before.
Over this find occurred the only real dissension that marred the harmony of the train. Mr. Hill insisted that the stuff should be left, but this advice was not followed by all, and there was a search for receptacles to carry the booze and water kegs were in demand. The only (near) preacher we had even filled the family churn. He did not want to damn his own soul by drinking, but said it would sell for so much money when he arrived in Oregon, and no doubt the party who would buy it was a hardened sinner anyway. Fortunately [there was] no supply of empty bottles and the teams were too weak to haul a barrel of the stuff so most of it was left behind, but there was some animosity caused by the liquor that lasted the remainder of the trip.
After passing through High Rock Canyon our route laid through what is now known as Surprise Valley. I remember, in this valley, in looking on what appeared to be the bed of a dried-up lake, we saw what appeared to be the most marvelous of monsters--larger than [an] elephant. Some of our men ventured out to investigate and when they approached, the monsters flew up into the air and turned into a flock of crows The effect of the sun's rays on the [illegible line] mirage that had made a common crow appear as grotesque monsters.
From Surprise Valley we crossed a spur of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, then called Plum Creek Mountain, and camped near what is now known as Fandango Creek, said to have taken its name from some emigrants having a dance when they were fired on by Indians.
At this point we found an abandoned wagon that had been loaded with books which had evidently been a law library. The books were scattered in every direction and had been here for several years.
From Fandango Creek to Goose Lake was a comparatively level country. At times the country was so rocky that it was difficult to follow the road, and at other times the only evidence that we were right were the marks on the boulders made by [previous] trains. Our route laid around the east end of Goose Lake, thence west to "Tule" Lake. We had seen no Indians since leaving the California Trail on the Humboldt River.
We approached Tule Lake from the east, coming over a hill about a mile from the lake, a level plain covered with sagebrush intervening. From the south--the direction of the lava beds--we saw a band of Indians approaching at right angles to our road.
The train was stopped and all firearms were inspected. Those that had been loaded for some time were discharged and reloaded and everything was made ready for trouble.
Our train at the time, as I recall, consisted of twelve wagons, about sixty head of loose cattle, sixteen men, not fully armed, and four boys with guns, of whom I was one.
Before we had reached the slope leading to the lake's level the Indians had approached within a hundred yards of the train. We halted and motioned for the Indians to stop. My father, with two other men, went out to meet them. The parley was by signs.
The Indians pointed down to a clear space on the level of the lake that was covered with what appeared to be small haycocks which we understood they did not want disturbed. These apparent haycocks no doubt contained the seeds of a water lily, one of their chief articles of food, which in after years I saw the Klamath Indians gathering in great quantities.
The Indians were motioned to keep back away from the train. Mr. Hill had given Mrs. Hill charge of the horses. The teams moved up close together, with the loose cattle herded in close to the wagons. Every man that could be spared from managing the teams were placed at vantage points, when the train started down the rocky slope. Before we had moved far the Indians appeared on both sides, close up to the wagons. At that time the Modoc Indians were over a hundred warriors strong, and they must have all been there.
They were armed with bows and arrows with one exception. One buck made a great display with a rifle, but on nearer approach it was discovered that it lacked a lock.
The fact that these Indians were all bucks was an indication that they meant mischief, but the only demonstration they made was one of them rushed up to one of our men who was driving a team and grabbed hold of a revolver and tried to take it. Mr. Hill, who was near, called to the man not to shoot and the Indian soon gave up the attempt to be the possessor of a "pepperbox," as the Allen six-shooter of that day was called.
After passing through this band of warriors and reaching the level of the lake our road laid between a tule marsh that surrounded the lake at this point, and an overhanging bluff of rocks for almost a half mile. At places there was barely room for the wagons to pass between the marsh and the rocks. At one of these points a lot of squaws were sitting in a row across the road.
Our teams were in the lead that day, and a young man named "Jack" Middleton was driving the lead and my team was next. The squaws were motioned to move, which they refused to do, and the whole train was halted until Jack stepped to the front with his ox whip and commenced rapidly cracking it close to their faces. The explosions must have sounded to the squaws like artillery fire and they soon scattered into the tules. I might say here that the tules, or rushes, were from four to ten feet high and extended a mile or more from the lake at the season of the year that we were there---its low stage--so that the Indians had an excellent hiding place.
We could see their heads, looking like so many blackbirds.
We reached open ground without being attacked. We had passed what is now known as Bloody Point in safety which, from a knowledge of events of later years, seems a marvelous escape.
The Indians evidently had intended to attack us when they surrounded us as we approached the lake. The absence of squaws was evidence of this design, but our show of preparedness held them in check. No doubt the sight of our men with rifles at "ready" restrained them. The Modocs at that time numbered over a hundred warriors and they must have all been there. It seems at this time, that if they had known their power, they could have stampeded our teams, and with their arrows and numbers could have sent twenty arrows to one shot from our guns. At this time I can visualize our teams stampeded, wagons overturned and confusion generally. But the Indians did not know their power and they overrated our strength, and then the Indian seldom attacks in the open. His tactics are to fire from ambush, or a surprise.
In 1852, the year following our passing under Bloody Point, there was a large emigration by this route and all trains not strongly guarded were attacked at this point, some of them being totally annihilated.
When the news reached Yreka that many trains with women and children were on the road, and their danger, two companies were hastily organized and sent to the rescue. Also a company under Col. John Ross from Jacksonville, Oregon.
When these companies arrived at Bloody Point they found a train surrounded under the rocky bluffs with ammunition about exhausted and two men wounded. These they rescued and in addition they found and buried fifty mutilated bodies, including women and children.
I relate these facts to show how narrow was our escape the year before.
After our experience with the Modoc Indians and passing Bloody Point, our route lay on the east bank of Lost River, near which camp was struck and every precaution to resist a night attack was made.----
Every available man did guard duty at some time during the night. Several times our sentries would hear Indians approaching through the high dry grass, but upon the crack of a rifle the Indian would jump to his feet and run. No doubt the Indians' object was to pick off a sentry or to fire arrows into our cattle.
However, morning dawned without any casualties on our part and we were soon on the move.
At about ten o'clock that day about twenty Indians were discovered approaching us from a hillside on horseback, their horses on the run. This created great excitement with us and we commenced forming a corral with our wagons.
When the Indians were within about two hundred yards of us and discovered our preparations, they all, except two, stopped. These took off their head coverings, made signs of peace and rode into camp. They proved to be a band of Warm Springs Indians, perhaps Umatillas. They could speak enough English to be understood, and when we told them about the Modocs, they said they were looking for them and would see that we were not molested further. These Indians were very friendly and gave us youngsters dried venison.
I might say here that these Indians were several hundred miles from their own country, and I afterwards learned that it was their custom to make forays into the Modoc tribes to capture young boys and girls and adopt them into their tribe.
At the time of which I write the Modocs had neither horses nor guns, and their greatest protection was to hide in the tules or small islands in the lake, and the lava beds which are a labyrinth of caves almost inaccessible and easily defended. It was in these lava beds that they made their last stand in 1872, and although only numbering thirty or forty warriors, they held at bay six or seven hundred regular soldiers and volunteers for several months, until they were starved out.
At one time a detachment of 36 men (regulars) entered the lava beds in search of Capt. Jack and his men. All were killed except one, who escaped by feigning death.
I relate the above to show the desperate character of these Indians. It is a part of the history of the Indian wars of Oregon.
After parting with the friendly Warm Springs Indians we continued our journey, crossing the Lost River at the natural bridge. This so-called bridge was merely a ledge of rocks shoaling the water where it passed over it. Lost River at this point is a deep sluggish, narrow stream with high banks and no trees or brush along its banks. It was at this point that "Ben" Wright inflicted a terrible punishment upon the Modoc tribe. I trust my readers will pardon my giving a synopsis of the event, as related in Victor's History of Indian Wars of Oregon:
Ben Wright was captain of a company of miners volunteered to protect immigrants passing through the Modoc country, in which they rendered splendid service, but were not able to inflict what Wright thought adequate punishment.
Wright was what might be termed an Indian killer. When the season's travel of immigrants of 1852 had passed, Wright returned to Yreka, secured a boat, and with eighteen men well outfitted, returned to the Modoc country. It was rumored and believed that there were two white women held as prisoners by the Indians. Wright, with his boat, was able to reach the islands in Tule Lake where the Indians made their homes. In these raids they captured four Modocs, whom they held as hostages. Wright hoped to find the white prisoners on these islands, but was disappointed. As to what he did find, history relates as follows:
"That which Wright did find were the proofs that many, very many persons, including women and children, had been cruelly tortured and butchered. Here again the men of his company, some of whom had families two or three thousand miles away, burst forth into tears of rage at the sight of women's dresses and babies' socks among the property plundered from the owners. Where now were the men and women who had toiled over these thousands of miles to meet their fate at this place? Where the prattling babies whose innocent feet fitted the tiny socks? Even their bones were undiscovered, but the proofs that they had lived and died were heaped up in the wickiups of these cruel slayers."
Wright, with his eighteen men, after raiding the islands, camped on the high bank of Lost River near the natural bridge. He had held his four prisoners. With these he communicated, using an Indian boy who was part Modoc and spoke their language, as interpreter. (I might say here that Ben Wright had a squaw wife, and the boy was a part of his family.)
One of the prisoners was released and instructed to tell the tribe that if they would bring the white prisoners and all property they had taken from the emigrants Wright and his men would depart and leave their country alone.
The result was that forty-five warriors appeared with a few old broken-down horses. The Indians were insolent and told Wright "You have three Indian prisoners. We outnumber you and can hold your men prisoners."
The Indians camped upon the lower bank between Wright's camp and the river. Wright's position was critical. He felt that a net was spread for him and that only desperate measures would extricate him from his perilous situation. He resolved upon a surprise attack on the Indians at night.
He sent six men, by way of the stone bridge, to the opposite side of the river to await his direct attack at daylight. This arrangement was faithfully carried out, and at daylight next morning Wright himself walked down among the Indians and shot a young warrior dead, and in twenty minutes the battle was over and 42 Indians lay dead.
Another story was that the beef given the Indians to feast upon had been impregnated with strychnine and that many of them were dead or paralyzed from the effects of the poison before they were shot. This version was vehemently denied by Wright's men, but these stories greatly dimmed the fame of Ben Wright. To my mind it seems incredible that eighteen men, armed with the old muzzle-loading rifle, could kill 42 out of 50 Indians in so short a time, knowing as I do what an expert runner and dodger the Indian was.
However this greatly weakened the Modoc tribe and they did not trouble white men for many years.
I again met up with these Modocs in 1864 in this way. It was when I was a soldier during the Civil War and was stationed at Fort Klamath. The state Superintendent of Indian Affairs, J. W. P. Huntington (the grandfather of Ben Huntington, one-time school supervisor residing here in Riddle) came to Fort Klamath to arrange for a great meeting of the Klamath, Modoc, Piutes and Pit River Indians. I was well known to Mr. Huntington, and at his request I was detailed to accompany him and to select another man of our company. I selected James Weaver, a brother of Ed Weaver, our present county commissioner, and with Lieut. D. C. Underwood, a party of four went to meet the Modocs. With us was a party of Klamath Indians headed by LaLake, the head chief.
We met the Modocs on Link River near where Klamath Falls is now situated. At this meeting were the leading braves of the entire Modoc band. Chief Schonchin, a very old Indian, was the only one I learned the name of, but no doubt Captain Jack and Shacknasty Jim, made famous in their outbreak in 1872, were there. I was there as interpreter for the superintendent, and the Klamath Indian for the Modocs.
I would say here that the Klamath Indians and Modocs were inter-related to some extent, but were hereditary enemies.
At this meeting the Modocs were surly and defiant, but arrangements were made for a general meeting of the tribes two months later near Fort Klamath for the purpose of making a general treaty as well between the Indians themselves as between the whites and the Indians, to which the Modocs faithfully complied, and the treaty of 1864 was the result and the Klamath Indian reservation was established, on which Klamath, Modocs and a few of the Pit Rivers and Piutes were established and remained until the Modoc outbreak in 1872 in which the lava beds and the Modocs were made famous and are part of the history of the Indian wars of Oregon.
After leaving Lost River at the stone bridge our route lay around the south end of lower Klamath Lake, crossing Klamath River about six miles below where the town of Keno is now situated. The ford was rocky and deep, with a swift current and I, by the advice of someone, crawled on the back of Bill, my big near ox, and rode across the river. I did that for the reason that the current might catch the light wagon and turn it over. I always remembered that ford for one reason--I broke my whipstock and lost my lash. In later years, in looking at this ford, I wondered how ox teams could safely cross it.----
From Klamath River our route lay over Green Spring Mountain about where the road is now located from Ashland to Klamath Falls. This range of mountains we crossed without incident except that in approaching Jenny Creek we had to descend a long steep hill so steep no kind of lock (wagon brakes were unknown those days) would hold the wagons, so drags were made from tree tops to hold the wagons from crowding the teams. It was quite dark before all the wagons reached camp. Near Ashland we connected with the main road or train from Oregon to California. Here we met pack trains carrying supplies to the mines at Yreka and Northern California. My father bought a side of bacon of the packers at 75 cents a pound. We had started across the plains with more than ample supplies, but other families in our train were destitute by the time they were half way and had to be supplied from the stores of others.
Speaking of pack trains, I would say here that all the supplies for the mines in the early fifties were transported by pack train. These trains. as they were called, consisted of from ten to sometimes more than a hundred mules, and the average load per mule would be 250 pounds. Many of the larger trains were Mexican and they were the best equipped. Their mules were small but well trained.
When camp was made for the night each mule's load was placed to itself and the aparejo (pack saddle) placed in front of the load. When driven in for reloading the "bell mare" was led to the head of the line, and each mule lined up directly in front of its own pack. All mule trains had one horse called the "bell mare" that was ridden by a boy in the lead of the train. The mules would follow the bell. When strung out on the mountain trails they seemed to keep step or step in the same places until the earth on hill trails was pressed down or dug out to resemble stairs.
We met several pack trains as we continued our journey through the beautiful Rogue River Valley. At that time its primitive beauty had not been marred by the hand of the white man. Our home seekers must have regretted that they could not at that time settle upon the fertile soil of Bear Creek Valley, but we were in the Indian country.
At the time we passed through the Rogue River Valley there were no settlements of any kind and we met no prospectors, but later in the fall of 1851 gold was discovered at Jacksonville, which caused that country to settle up rapidly in 1852. We met with very few Indians in the Rogue River country, and those we met were friendly. I recall that at our camp on Rogue River, directly opposite Gold Hill (when I give the name of places in this story, it is the present name), we were visited by Indians that brought some splendid salmon for trade, and we all had a feast of that king of fish.
We forded the Rogue River somewhere above Grants Pass, and our passage over the Grave Creek, Wolf Creek and Cow Creek Hills was uneventful. I remember that it was almost dark when we made camp at Grave Creek. There we saw the grave where a Miss Leland had been buried. I mention this because this grave will be alluded to later in my story.
A Miss Leland with the first emigrant train passing over this road, in 1846, had died at this point, and the emigrants, knowing the habits of the Indians to desecrate graves, had tried to conceal the place, but the Indians had found the grave and exhumed the body, leaving a wide, deep hole.
When we arrived at the south end of the Canyon, we camped by the small creek just south of the Johns' place. Here we met I. B. Nichols for the first time. He was on his way south with his pack train with supplies for the mines at Yreka, California. One of his party had killed a fat buck, and we were generously supplied with venison. I remember that "Nick" brought the head to our camp to show us the antlers, and to the head was an ample share of neck. This found its way into my mother's pot, and to us hungry emigrants was a feast indeed.
In my next I will relate our experiences in passing through the Canyon, which will be a story in itself.
With our train was a man whose eccentricities afterward made him well known to the early settlers of southern Douglas County. When introducing himself he would say, "I am Charles W. Beckwith of York state." His vernacular was of the down east Yankee. No one was ever known to tell a story or make a statement so extraordinary that Beckwith could not exceed it by something that had come under his personal observation, mostly "back in York state."----
Beckwith settled upon the land that is now owned by J. A. Worthington east of Canyonville and many of the Baron Munchausen Beckwith stories are still current in that neighborhood.
Beckwith was nervous or energetic in his movement and had a peculiar manner of driving his ox team. His near wheel ox was named Colonel--an old brindle ox that seemed to be discouraged with life in this world and was in no hurry to arrive at his destination in Oregon. Beckwith would walk up to the leaders of his team, then turn around and walk rapidly back and give Colonel a cut of the whip in the flank, saying, "Gee up, Carnel behind here. What you about?" This he would repeat hundreds of times a day, and in doing so walked about one and a half times across the plains.
He became noted for his Yankee tricks in securing advantages, so on the morning we started through the canyon he was off in the lead, out of his turn, saying that the road would be so narrow that other teams could not pass him, so would be obliged to help him through. At that time the road or trail followed the creek from the south end to the summit, crossing small streams many times, through heavy timber.
Our train had not advanced far until we came upon Beckwith with his team stuck in the mud. "Carnel" was hopelessly mired and refused to make an effort. There was a lot of unprintable language indulged in, not complimentary to Mr. Beckwith. "Carnel" was pulled out of the mud, and his train got around Beckwith some way and made him take his proper place among the hindmost teams. I would say here that by arrangement, in our train, each family took their turn in leading. The last I remember of the poor old "Carnel" he was lying beside the trail. A yoke of oxen was no doubt supplied from other teams to help the Beckwith family through.
Our train made fair progress until we arrived at a point where the south end of the Hildebrand grade connects with the old road. There we passed over a ridge on the north side of the creek, then down a steep hill in the bed of the creek. At this hill ropes were attached to the wagons, with men holding, to prevent the wagons running onto teams or overturning. On reaching the creek bed our route lay right in the bed for one and a half miles, the slope of the mountains coming right down to the water on both sides. Now, do not imagine that the creek bed was a smooth, pebbly bottom. On the contrary, it was covered with boulders from the size of a pumpkin to a haycock. I recall that the lead teams, on being let down onto the creek, moved right on without reference to those behind.
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon that our teams left the creek's bed. We had then made about five miles. At this point we met some men who had come up from Knott's station near Canyonville, to help us through the canyon.
I might say that somewhere on Rogue River an Indian boy about my age had joined our train and had attached himself to me and that during the day one wheel of my light wagon had passed over his foot and I had him ride in my wagon. One of the men, seeing me, a boy, driving a yoke of oxen, thought it a chance to help, took my whip and started Bill and John at a faster gait than usual. The result was the wagon was overturned before he had made a hundred yards and my Indian boy friend was rolled into the creek.
At this point I was sent ahead with the loose stock, arriving at the north end of the canyon after dark. A part of the train had come through and were camped just across the bridge south from Canyonville.
I don't remember where I slept that night, but I am sure I was supperless, but found friends next morning who gave me breakfast.
By noon of the second day our teams had arrived at camp after passing the worst ten miles of road between the Missouri River and civilization in Oregon, for here we found the first house in Oregon.
Some of my readers know of the conditions of this canyon road for the last fifty years--changes that have been made costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many of you know of the improvements that are being made at this time that will be completed within the year, costing over two hundred thousand dollars. When paved it will only be a thirty-minute drive with an automobile over one of the finest scenic roads in the world.----
We arrived at Canyonville September 20. We had made our start from Illinois near the first of April. We had had five months and two weeks continuous travel. We had encountered floods and deserts. We had endured heat, dust, thirst and hunger. We had run the gantlet (as you might say) of hostile Indians, but we had arrived at our destination without loss of any of our family or suffering any serious illness.
When I read the accounts of other immigrants crossing the plains and their sufferings, my story seems tame indeed. But my readers must be impressed with the difference in the manner of traveling across the country from the Missouri River to Oregon then and now. The average time for the emigrant with ox teams was six months. Now, for the tourist traveling in a palace car requires four days; or if by airplane in 20 hours.
It has been estimated that up to 1860 three hundred thousand people had crossed the plains to Oregon and that the route was lined by twenty thousand graves.
As I approach the end of my story of crossing the plains I look back over the 69 years since we started on that memorable journey and many incidents come back to my mind that happened to me personally which I have omitted.
One of my adventures I will relate. I was the owner of a very highly ornamented rifle. Its effective range was about thirty yards, but I, boylike, thought that all I lacked to bag big game was the opportunity. On the Sweetwater we had made an early camp, so here was my opportunity for adventure. I managed to slip away from camp with my squirrel gun and a mile or more from camp, from the top of a rock I fired at some antelope at easy range for our modern guns until my ammunition was exhausted without any effect on the antelope except that some of the herd came closer to me. The shots from the high rock prevented them from locating the sound of the shots. When I told my story I was forbidden to wander from camp in the future.
This ends my story of crossing the plains. I hope I have not taxed my readers' patience too far.
In my next I will relate incidents in connection with the early settlement of Douglas County.
In my last I stated that on our arrival at where Canyonville is now situated we had reached our destination. By that I meant to say we had found the first settler in Oregon.
At this point we parted company with the other families and young men that we had traveled with for five months, and with one exception there had been no friction or dissatisfaction of any kind, and the parting was with mutual friendship and esteem. Toward Cornelius Hill all must have felt a deep sense of gratitude. Without his experience and knowledge of the route we could never have come through without great loss of lives and property. l know that in our family the name of Cornelius Hill was always held in the greatest esteem.
When our train arrived at Canyonville, provisions were about exhausted.
The Hills and Briggs family and in fact all our friends hurried on to the Willamette Valley. Mr. Hill settled on the McKenzie east of Eugene, where he spent a long and useful life. The Briggs family returned early the next year and located in Orchard Valley, their donation claim covering both sides of the river, and Charles W. Beckwith (of York state) located the land where J. A Worthington now lives.
Our family remained at Canyonville two or three days while my father looked the country over for a location. In this he was greatly assisted by Joseph Knott, who had settled on the land where Canyonville now stands during the summer of 1851.
Knott was a man of intelligence and energy but of domineering disposition. He sold out the Canyon location in 1852, settling upon a donation claim near Sutherlin. afterwards moving to Portland where he and his sons owned the first steam ferry on the Willamette River. I give this account of Mr. Knott for the reason of his prominence in the early history of Douglas County and Oregon.
Mr. Knott was very kind in showing my father the country and brought him to Cow Creek Valley. My father was impressed with the beauty of the valley and selected what is now Glenbrook farm.
The black soil, the two mountain branches crossing the little valley, the nearness of the mountains furnishing a splendid outrange for cattle, all impressed him.
My father returned the following day, felled some small pine trees and formed the foundation of a house exactly where the Glenbrook farm house now stands. At that time four logs laid in the shape of a house would hold a claim. The whole country was open to settlement, and jumping a claim was an unpardonable act.
After my father had located his claim we resumed our journey, intending to go to the Willamette Valley for the winter and return the next spring. North of Canyonville we forded the Umpqua River three times within one mile. On reaching the point near where J. J. Johns now lives my mother, on looking over the beautiful valley land, exclaimed, "Oh, here is the place for us to settle." On rounding the hill we came upon a little log house occupied by William Weaver (known as "Uncle Billy"), father of the late John Weaver, whose family now occupy the farm.
The next house was that of John and Henry Adams, who were bachelors at the time, and I think their aged father and one sister were with them.
Our first camp after leaving Canyonville was on the bank of the South Umpqua near Round Prairie. I remember following my father over this beautiful little valley, closely examining the soil by turning it up with a mattock.
Our next day's drive we passed over Roberts Mountain, the road then lying up the small creek as you approach the foot of the mountain from the south, passing over near the residence of the late Plinn Cooper, to Roberts Creek. Here we found the fourth settler in Oregon--Jesse Roberts.
I hope my readers will pardon me for giving brief mention of pioneers as I progress with my story--they were the empire builders.
Jesse Roberts was a man of great energy and natural ability, but without education. He moved from Polk County, Oregon, early in the spring of 1851, settling where we found him, at Roberts Creek. He had brought with him five hundred head of Spanish cattle. These cattle were very wild and fierce--so much so that it was very dangerous for a footman to appear among them, though they were easily managed on horseback, as they seemed to be trained to go [to] the corral when started from the range. There appeared to be an old cow that would take the lead. I have seen Roberts' two sons, George and Nels, aged about twelve and fifteen, on their cow ponies, start several hundred head of these cattle from their range around Greens Station, head them for their corral two miles up Roberts Creek, all going on the run, fairly making the earth shake.
When we arrived at the Roberts place we were treated with the greatest kindness by Mr. Roberts. We were furnished with all the fresh and dried beef we could use, free of cost. This was a great treat to hungry emigrants, especially the dried beef to us boys. The dried beef was cured by cutting the meat in strips, salted, then hung on ropes and dried in the sun, perhaps aided by fire and smoke.
Mr. Roberts persuaded my father to abandon his plans of going to the Willamette Valley for the winter, but to leave the family in camp near his place and go on with the ox teams for supplies, which he did, and on returning, we returned to what was afterward our home at Glenbrook farm--the first donation claim located in the Cow Creek Valley.
Before closing this number of my story I would say that Jesse Roberts, a few years after our arrival, became interested in Canyonville, built the flouring mill now standing there, and engaged in other business. His herds of cattle and donation claim were disposed of, and perhaps for the reason that he was not able to keep accounts, trusting to Tom, Dick and Harry, his fortune was soon dissipated.
Jesse Roberts was a man of fine appearance--generous and likable, and as a stockman was a peer. He had a large family. George Roberts of Canyonville is a son, Mrs. Cyrus Russell is a daughter, and John Arzner a grandson.
In my next will be an account of our first meeting with Miwaleta, chief of the Cow Creek Indians.
In writing a sketch of my recollections of Miwaleta, chief of the Cow Creek Indians, I must necessarily include many of the incidents of the early settlement of Southern Oregon. Our first meeting with the Cow Creek Indians was in the latter part of October, 1851, when my father with his family moved onto his donation claim, or what is now known as Glenbrook Farms. At that time the nearest house was the Wm. Weaver house, eight miles nearer Myrtle Creek, and Canyonville, where Joe Knott was located, and which was the frontier house in Southern Oregon, not a house south of that in the territory.During the sign language conference, an incident occurred which in a way will illustrate the character of Miwaleta, and greatly impressed my mother. A very handsome Indian boy about 11 years old detached himself from the crowd and came near the chief, stretching himself at full length on his stomach near the chief. (This boy, I afterwards learned, was a son of Miwaleta's son, who was dead.) The old man's hand went out and rested on the boy's head. My mother said she knew from that that he was a good Indian. At the close of the sign interview, my father offered the chief food, which he accepted, giving a portion to the boy. The boy, who was named Sam, and myself were afterwards boon companions, and in a few months had learned the Chinook jargon, Sam learning a great many English words while I learned the native Indian, and through this medium, with Sam and myself as interpreters, a perfect understanding was had between the chief and my father, it being understood that any overt act of the Indians should be referred to the chief, but so far as our family was concerned, there never was any trouble of any consequence.
At that time my father's family consisted of my father and mother, three daughters, one a widow with a child two years old, and four sons, one older and two younger than myself, a sister of my mother, a spinster, and an orphaned cousin, a girl eleven years old at that time; and in addition, two young men who drove the ox teams. I was not quite twelve years old then. I remember that we arrived at our destination at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and camped under the oak tree that now stands in the yard immediately north of the Glenbrook farm house. In a very short time our camp was surrounded by Indians who seemed to come from every direction. This caused us no alarm. They came from curiosity--old Indians, squaws, papooses and all came to the number of a hundred or more. They were curious about everything--the children were objects of interest, many of them never having seen a white child. A cook stove was set up and a fire started in it, which excited their wonder and curiosity. One young buck came in contact with the hot stove pipe on his naked shoulder, which caused a leap and yell from the buck, but uproarious laughter on the part of the crowd. The Indians, although friendly and good natured, were crowding so closely about the camp that my mother and sisters were unable to prepare the evening meal, and this situation was becoming embarrassing. At that time we heard the word, "Miwaleta, Miwaleta," a hush fell upon the crowd, and an Indian appeared whose presence and appearance showed that he was one in authority. He was a man between sixty and seventy years old, about six feet tall, of heavy build, with full, round face, at least as I remember him, with none of the marked features of the moving picture Indian. The Indians seemed to regard him with reverence, more than fear. My father advanced to meet him, and by signs made him understand that he wanted the Indians to stand back out of the way, which they did, forming a circle around our camp where they seated themselves upon the ground or squatted upon their heels. My mother offered the chief a chair, which he declined, but seated himself upon his blanket on the ground. My father proceeded to tell him by signs that we had come to live there, that he would build a house. Neither of them could speak a word that the other could understand, but they seemed to arrive at a mutual understanding and liking that endured during the lifetime of Miwaleta.
At the time of which I write, Miwaleta was the chief of five bands of Indians, all of whom comprised about two hundred souls, by far the strongest tribe of the Umpqua Valley. They spoke the same language as the Rogue River Indians, or Indians as far south as the Siskiyous. But the Rogue River Indians were the hereditary enemies of the Miwaletas, and they termed all the southern Indians "Shastas."
The bands were divided about as follows, and each band and chief has the name of the locality where they made their home: All the north side of the creek in Cow Creek Valley was Miwaleta's, and the Indians numbered about 75. The south side of the creek was Quintiousa; the head man took the same name, and was sometimes called Augunsah, the name of the country of the South Umpqua east of Canyonville; the Quintiousas were about fifty strong. The Targunsans were about twenty-five. Their head man was called ''Little Old Man." And in the Cow Creek country east of Glendale was a band of twenty-five or thirty whose head man was named "Warta-hoo." In addition to the above there was a band known as the Myrtle Creek Indians, about forty in number, but who their chief was I never knew. There were three of their number who were always making trouble: Curly, who was a large, powerful young Indian, Big Ike and Little Jim.
All the Indians north of Myrtle Creek spoke a different language, and were considered a different people, although they had more or less intercourse.
Over the Myrtle Creeks, Targunsan, Warta-hoo and Quintiousa bands, Miwaleta was head chief, and although there was often trouble between these bands, they held together against the Shastas and Rogue River Indians.
Sam related to me some of the battles and the mighty deeds of his grandfather, Miwaleta, and at one time the chief showed my father his war dress when I was present. The dress was made of two large elk skins dressed soft, but left as thick as possible, then laced down the sides so as to hang loose about the body and leave the legs and arms free; the thickest part of the skins were back and front and were impenetrable for arrows. This elkskin armor was ornamented with Indian paints forming figures and designs of which I do not remember the meaning. I do not remember seeing the chief wearing a headdress, but have seen the younger Indians wear headdresses that seemed more for ornament than protection. In war times they wore a single white feather from the tail of the bald or white-headed eagle that was snow white.
Miwaleta's war dress showed evidence that it had been of practical use, being pitted all over where arrow points had struck it, and the chief's arms, face and head showed many scars, which they claimed were made in the wars with the Shastas.
It has always been a question in my mind whether Miwaleta had a genuine friendship with the white man or was wise enough to know the hopelessness of opposition. That he always counseled peace and was able to restrain his people from going to war with the whites, we had ample evidence. In the fall of 1852 there were runners from the Rogue River tribes who came to induce the Cow Creek Indians to join them in a war against the whites, and a great council was held. At this council I witnessed a sample of Indian oratory. When I arrived at the scene the Rogue River Indians had evidently submitted their petition and Miwaleta was making a reply. The older Indians were seated in a large circle, squaws and Indian boys forming the outer circle. The chief was also seated and talked without gesture in a moderate but oratorical tone, the Rogue River Indians sitting in perfect silence, and the elders of Miwaleta's people occasionally giving grunts of assent or approval. I, in company with Indian boys of my age, listened to the chief for some time the day he commenced to talk. I was there on the day following; the chief was still talking, and I was informed by the boys that he continued to talk until he fell asleep. Just what the chief could find to say in such a long talk was explained to me by the Indian boys. It appears that the history and legends are committed to memory and handed down from father to son through their chiefs. In this case the chief was reciting to the delegates the history of their tribal wars and remonstrating with some of his own people who were inclined to listen to the Rogue Rivers and join them in a war on the whites. The counsel of Miwaleta prevailed, and when the Rogue River Indians went on the war path, Miwaleta's Indians encamped near our house and remained at peace.
There were many things happened to irritate the Indians and to threaten the peace. There was a class of white men in the country who acted upon the principle that the Indian had no rights that a white man should respect. In the fall of 1852 a young man, a mere boy, wantonly stabbed an Indian boy, who lingered a few weeks and died. The white boy was hastily gotten out of the country and the Indians conciliated. The settlers' hogs rooted up the camas, a bulb upon which the Indians depended largely for food. In settlement of any kind of trouble there would be a "powwow" in which Miwaleta, John Catching and my father would be the mediators. I remember a young Indian, a kind of a runabout among the Indians, broke into the cabin of a settler named Chapin at Round Prairie and stole a lot of clothing. Capt. R. A. Cowles came to Miwaleta's camp and reported the theft. The thief was apprehended with some of the clothing, his arms tied behind a tree, and was given a thorough whipping by the Indians.
At another time an Indian whose home was near Galesville stole a horse and log chain from a traveler, came through the mountains, hid the horse and chain in the timber and chowed up in Quintiousa's camp, the white man coming to our house in search of his horse. My father reported the matter to Chief Miwaleta, who immediately sent his young men out, who soon struck the trail and found the horse and chain, the Indian making his escape to his own band.----
At this time no treaty had been made with these Indians. General Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Territory of Oregon, at the solicitation of the settlers, had paid them a visit and promised to return, but before he did so an epidemic, a kind of slow fever, broke out in Miwaleta's camp and the old chief was among the first to succumb. I well remember my chum Sam and several other Indians who came to our house and said the Indians would soon all be gone, that Chief Miwaleta was dead. They had lost all hope, in fact they were dying so fast that they were unable to bury their dead, but placed them upon driftwood and burned them.
After the death of the chief, the Indians who were not affected with the fever scattered into the mountains, leaving some of the sick who were not able to follow to shift for themselves. More than half of Miwaleta's band died, and of his immediate family I can now recall but three young Indians that escaped the plague, Jackson and Jim, sons of the chief, and John, a grandson of the chief. Sam, my chum, contracted the sickness and attempted to follow, but was unable to do so and was left to die alone, when his condition was reported to me and I prevailed upon my mother to allow me to bring him to our house, and although my parents were afraid of infection, they allowed me to do so. We gave him the best care we could, but after lingering about two months, he died. He was uncomplaining and grateful but seemed to have no hope of recovery. It is said to be characteristic of the Indian that if he makes up his mind that he is going to die that he is pretty sure to do it.
In the fall of 1853 General Joe Lane made a treaty with the remnants of Miwaleta's band of Indians, established a reservation and allowed the Indians to elect their own chief. They chose Quintiousa head chief and his son, Tom, as second chief, thus passing over Jackson, the son of Miwaleta, and hereditary chief, much to the dissatisfaction of the remnant of their band.
When the Rogue River Indians went upon the war path against the whites in the fall of 1855, the wise counsel of Miwaleta was forgotten and the young chief, Tom, carried his people into the war, joining their hereditary enemies, the Rogue Rivers, against the whites. Prom this war of 1855 and 1856 there was not a full-grown Indian man survived the war. One, a boy, John, a grandson of Chief Miwaleta, is said to have acted as messenger between whites in their preliminary arrangements for a treaty at the close of the war.
After the treaty of 1856 the remnant of the Cow Creek Indians were located on the Siletz Reservation.
It was near the first of November 1851 that we settled upon the land now known as Glenbrook Farms. Our tents were pitched under the oak tree now standing just north of the Glenbrook farm house.----
At that time Cow Creek Valley looked like a great wheat field. The Indians, according to their custom, had burned the grass during the summer, and early rains had caused a luxuriant crop of grass on which our emigrant cattle were fat by Christmastime.
We had finally, after six months of travel, reached the promised land, and although we had settled in one of the most beautiful little valleys in the world, our nearest neighbor was eight miles away, and only four homes within twenty-five miles.
This seemed out of the world to my two older sisters, and I remember there were tears and waitings that we had left Illinois and endured all the hardships of the plains to settle down in a place where they would never see anyone and never have any neighbors.
However, the homesickness was soon forgotten and all were busy in arranging a camp for the winter.
One large tent and one small one were set up and two of the wagon boxes were arranged on the ground which with the covers made a sleeping place, and canvas was spread to shelter the cook stove. I would say here that that stove was brought from Illinois with us. There was a compartment arranged in the back part of one of our wagons for the stove and it was lifted out and set up at every camp. This stove must have been a wonder--our family at that time, with two extra men, were fifteen in number and all with outdoor appetites.
Immediately after our camp was arranged the work of preparing a home was begun. A house must be built, fields must be fenced, and all material must be hewn or split from the primitive forest.
Fortunately in our case the land was ready for the plow. There was no grubbing to do. In all the low valleys of the Umpqua there was very little undergrowth, the annual fires set by the Indians preventing young growth of timber, and fortunately there was plenty of material on hand for house and fencing.
On the bench land north of the Glenbrook Farms was a grove of pines from which logs were hewn for a house. We boys, with the ox teams. hauled the hewed logs to the site for the house.
I think I might here, for the benefit of some of the younger readers, explain in what manner and what kind of houses the pioneers built.
The first thing the emigrant did on arriving in Oregon was to select a claim. The next was to build a house. The only material for the house was logs, for at [the] time of which I write there was not a saw mill in Southern Oregon. Many of the houses were built of round logs sufficient to shelter the family. Floors were made of split boards and called "puncheon floor."
In the course of time as the settler required more house room, he would build a second house the same dimensions as the first, sixteen or more feet from the first. This was always called "the other house." The space between the two houses was roofed and was used for various purposes. This style of house was called a Missouri house. It was characteristic of this house, as well as all pioneer houses, for the latch string to always be out. That is to say that the pioneer was noted for his hospitality.
My father was more ambitious than the average pioneer. Our house was made of "hewed" logs, was about 18x30 and a story and a half high with a shed on one side enclosed with shakes full length for a kitchen and dining room, with a great stack of a stone chimney built on the outside at the east end, with a double fireplace, one inside and one outside. The outside fireplace was built with the intention of adding an addition to the house.
It was well along in the spring of 1852 that our house was ready for occupancy. Fortunately for us the winter had been a mild one. Snow had hardly covered the ground, and I remember my mother commenting on winter with no ice thicker than a window pane, so though we had lived the winter through in tents, we were comparatively comfortable.
The Indians had been friendly, bringing us fish and venison which they would exchange for any old thing. Game was in abundance, especially wildfowl, such as geese, ducks, swans and sandhill cranes. All seemed to make the valley their feeding ground during the winter, and later during the spring blue grouse were in abundance.
We were all too busy that first winter to do much hunting. The house must be built, rails must be split and hauled to fence fields. Plowing must be done and crops planted, and we boys had that work to do. Ox teams we had in plenty, but plows had to be provided and fortunately my father was a blacksmith and plow maker, but had neither iron nor steel with which to make a plow, but had the iron for what was called a "Carey" plow, no doubt picked up on the plains. A Carey plow consisted of a small V shaped share or point welded to a short bar land side. All other parts of the plow, moldboard and all, was wood. The steel point would root up the ground, but most of the dirt would stick to the moldboard. This "Carey" plow and a wooden-toothed harrow comprised the farming implements of the early pioneers, but the rich virgin soils of our valleys only needed scratching to produce abundant crops.
Late in the fall of 1851 gold was discovered in Jackson County, and in the spring of 1852 there was a great rush to the mines and the valleys of the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers were rapidly settled up.
In my next I will give an account of the first settlers of our little valley, after some Indian stories.
Early in the spring of 1852 homeseekers began to arrive in Cow Creek Valley. The first was John Catching and family, who located on what is now known as the A. L. King place.----
Soon after they were followed by James Catching, a brother of John, and W. L. Wilson, a brother of Mrs. John Catching, both bachelors. James Catching located and his house was built where Otto Logsdon now lives, and W. L. Wilson where the Henslee farms are now located.
Mrs. Mary F. Riddle is a daughter of the late John Catching and was the first white child born in Southern Oregon, south of Roseburg, and P. A. Wilson is a son of W. L. Wilson.
The farm where Samuel Ball now lives was first located by Green Hearn, a bachelor, who afterward resided on Myrtle Creek and was never married.
I. B. Nichols located where B. F. Nichols now resides. My sister, Isabel, and I. B. Nichols were married in July, 1852. I. B. Nichols had come from Iowa to California in 1848, had later engaged in transporting supplies from Oregon to the mines in Northern California by mule train, had been attacked by Indians on the Rogue River in the spring of 1851, and had met with heavy loss in mules and goods. He had then joined with Gen. Phil Kearny in his attack upon the Indians near Table Rock and in one of these engagements Capt. Stuart was killed. Naturally Nichols did not have a friendly feeling for the Indians and the Indians were quick to discover this unfriendly feeling for them. This caused some trouble that will appear in this story later.
It is not my purpose to give a detailed account of the time and place and name of each settler. Suffice it that during the summer of 1852 locations were made on about all the open lands of Cow Creek Valley. These locations were mere "squatter" claims. The country had not been surveyed and a donation land claim for a man and wife was 320 acres. When surveys were made each donation land claimant could lay his claim to suit himself, but lines must be run north, south, east and west, but was not confined to legal subdivisions. Now, it could seem that where all the desirable land was squatted upon before survey was made that there would be controversies over the final locations but I do not remember that there were any contests and in some cases final locations were arranged to let a later comer have a better claim. Such was the generous spirit of the early pioneers--they were ready to help a neighbor.
The great need of the first settlers was agricultural implements. Early in the year 1852 my father, with two ox teams, made a trip to Oregon City for iron steel to manufacture plows, and so great was the demand for plows that our ox teams were kept busy hauling material and we boys were the teamsters. Sometimes we were accompanied by other teams, but I recall that my brother, Abner, 12, and myself, 14, made a trip to Portland with two ox teams with our mother alone. In these trips we always camped out, turning the oxen loose to graze on the abundant grass. This freighting was kept up through the summers 1852-3-4. We became known along the road as the boy teamsters.
I have often been asked about the privations suffered by the early settlers. I do not remember that we ever went hungry, but our manner of living could not be improved upon by Herbert Hoover, and old H.C.L. would never have made his appearance if the manner of living common among pioneers had continued.
Our first year's crop consisted of wheat, some corn of the flint or hominy variety, and an abundance of potatoes. Our one principal dish was boiled wheat and milk. Good! Of course, it was good. We had venison, fish and wildfowl in abundance, and with side bacon brought from the Willamette for seasoning.
For fruit, berries were in abundance. Strawberries were so plentiful that in their season white horses or cattle were changed to a strawberry color by rolling on the ripe fruit. Wild raspberries and huckleberries were plentiful in their season, and elderberry pie used to taste pretty good.
But it was in clothing that we conserved our resources and old H.C.L. never showed his head. Buckskin suits--the deer skins dressed and smoked to the fashionable tint--were the mode. Each year we boys had a new suit--coat and pants with fringe two inches long or more along the outside seams. These suits were very durable and at the present time would attract a great deal of attention. There was one trouble about the buckskin pants. We often got them wet hunting in the rain, and if we sat by the fire to dry them they would draw up and harden in shape to our knees. However, buckskin pants were worn by all the men and boys while buckskin moccasins were worn by both sexes.
While writing this my mind goes back to those good old days when I would be off to the mountains with my rifle and followed by a half dozen Indian boys. I was the chief. I had the only gun. Sometimes I would allow an Indian boy to shoot a grouse, which would fill him with pride and joy. The boys were a great help. Their keen eyes would spy out the grouse. Their blue color harmonized so well with the green foliage of the fir trees it made them difficult to find and when shot they would flutter down the steep mountainsides, but my boys would retrieve the game in short notice and would carry all the game which would be from ten to twenty birds for a full day's hunt. When we returned home my mother would give the boys some bread and sometimes some of the game. Those were happy days for both white and red boys.
The winter of 1852-3 was a very severe one for Oregon. The snow was two feet deep in the valley and remained for a month or more. Pack trains were held up and miners and settlers in Jackson County were soon without supplies, especially breadstuff. Beef, without salt, was the principal food--salt was said to have been exchanged for its weight in gold dust, while flour was any price that might be demanded. I remember that "Mike" Hanley (father of "Bill" Hanley, the Harney County cattle king) came to our house soon after the snow blockade was over, saying he had lived on poor beef without salt so long that he could not look a cow in the face.----
I might say here that during the summer of 1852 a road had been opened over the mountains to where Glendale is now situated and was used by pack trains in preference to the canyon road for several years and during this snow blockade starved-out miners drifted making their way to the Willamette Valley, and many of them made our house a stopping place. Most of these men were without money but they were all fed and made as comfortable as possible. Some of these men were so exhausted that it was necessary for them to stay with us for several days. Some of them had homes in the Willamette Valley and afterwards amply paid for their entertainment.
Fortunately we had ample supplies of foodstuffs. During the fall before we had traded some of our oxen and an extra wagon for a ton of flour and a lot of bacon, and this was in addition to supplies already provided for the winter.
It was the custom of farmers in the Willamette to haul their produce as near to the mines as possible and there dispose of their flour and bacon to the packers. This trade of my father's was very fortunate for our neighborhood. Many of our neighbors had not provided sufficient supplies to carry them through so long a freight blockade. Flour was rated at $1 per pound, but so far as I remember no one took advantage of the opportunity to profiteer to that extent. My father loaned our surplus to neighbors.
By the summer of 1853 the country began to present the appearance of permanent homes. Fields were fenced, all with split rails laid up in worm fashion; two flouring mills had been established, one at Roseburg and one at Winchester, which were patronized by settlers from forty miles away; also two saw mills, one at Myrtle Creek owned by Moses Dyer, and one at Canyonville owned by David Ransom. These mills were of the up-and-down saw variety but were able to cut enough lumber for flooring for cabins. They filled some of the great needs of the settlers.
Has it occurred to some of my readers what was done by pioneers for schools at the time of which I am writing? There was not a school house in Douglas County. The first school taught in this valley was by Mrs. J. Q. C. Vandenbosch. Her father, John Smith, had located a donation claim first where William Mayes lives but later changed to land that embraces the town of Riddle and the Abner Riddle farm. Smith returned to his home at South Bend, Indiana, and sent his son-in-law, Vandenbosch, out to take the claim. Their house, weatherboarded with shakes, was built on the bank of the river at the lower end of the Aunt Mary Riddle orchard. In this house Mrs. Vandenbosch taught all the children that would come to her. Among the pupils attending this school, now living, are Mrs. Judge Crockett of Grants Pass and my sister, Mrs. R. V. Beall of Central Point.
I trust my readers will pardon me for giving a brief account of the Vandenbosch family. Mr. "Van" was a highly educated Hollander, very fastidious in his habits, and was not suited to the rough life of a pioneer. Mrs. Van was of a wealthy Indiana family. Greenberry Smith, at one time the wealthiest man of Benton County, Oregon, was her uncle. She was an accomplished, brave, helpful pioneer woman and continued to teach for several years at her home. Vandenbosch could not farm. He apparently could not do manual labor. He was county clerk for a time and afterwards conducted a store business at Canyonville. Abner and J. B. Riddle purchased their donation claim and about 1866 they moved to California where Mr. Van's knowledge of metallurgy helped him to formulate a process for the reduction of refractory ores from which he cleared over one hundred thousand dollars.
They then returned to South Bend, Indiana, where they engaged in furniture manufacturing and later a son, Walter, engaged in the manufacture of paper pulp using the same water power with the Studebaker Company. One of the Vandenbosch daughters married a Studebaker.
About 1890 Mr. and Mrs. Vandenbosch visited us at Glenbrook Farm. One object was to investigate the falls of Cow Creek with a view of manufacturing paper pulp, but it was found that pulp wood could not be obtained near enough to the power.
Several years after that one of the Vandenbosch daughters was here and visited the site of their first home on the banks of Cow Creek.
I have given this particular account of the Vandenbosch family for the reason they were the first owners of the townsite of Riddle, and the name will appear on all abstracts of title to Riddle town property as long as time lasts.
I have now arrived in [the stage of] my story where a relation of incidents in which the Indians that we found in possession of the country will bear a large part. There are many things of which the history of the Indian wars make no mention at all, and others of importance that have the slightest mention. There has also been a disposition on the part of historians, especially "Victor's" History of the Early Indian Wars of Oregon, exaggerate and also to excuse the wrongs perpetrated upon the Indians by the whites.----
The Indians that we found in the Cow Creek Valley had not come in contact with the whites, living as they did remote from the line of travel between California and Oregon. Some of them had not seen a white man, and a white child was an object of great interest. They possessed few guns and no horses and but few of the implements or clothing used by civilized peoples, and what they possessed had been traded to them by the Klickitat Indians who had made occasional visits to the Umpqua valleys. The Klickitats were a roving tribe whose home was somewhere north of the Columbia River. They were traders and sometimes called the "Jews of the Indian tribes." The Klickitats had also taught the natives a few words of Chinook jargon, which was soon improved upon by the aid of a Chinook dictionary.
The Indians as we found them were dressed in the skins of wild animals, principally in dressed deer skins, in the tanning of which they were experts. Their process in treating skins so that they would remain soft and pliable may be interesting. The brains of the deer was the only thing used. The brains, when taken from the deer, were mixed with oak tree moss, which was formed into balls and hung overhead in their huts to be smoked and dried to be used at any time. The grain and hair of the deer skin was removed with a sharp edge of a split bone and afterward soaked in a solution of brains and warm water for twenty-four hours or more. The skins were then wrung out and rubbed until thoroughly dry, then smoked until the yellow color desired was obtained. The smoke also prevented the skins from becoming hard when wet. Furs and deer skins were treated with the hair on in much the same manner.
A relation of what the Indians of this country subsisted upon--how they obtained their food and how they prepared it--may be interesting. Nature seems to have furnished the Indians with a great variety of foods such as game fish, camas, acorns, seeds of various kinds. The deer was the principal game, which, before they had guns, were taken with snares. To capture a deer in this manner they must have ropes and good ones. These were made from a fiber taken from a plant--a kind of flag--growing in the mountains. From each edge of the long flat leaves of the flag a fine thread of fiber was obtained by the squaws, stripping it with their thumbnails. This was a slow process and would require the labor of one squaw a year to make a rope five-eighths of an inch thick and fifteen feet long. but the rope was a good one and highly prized by its owner. In order to snare a deer miles of brush fences were made across the heads of canyons. The ropes were set at openings where experience had taught the Indians that the deer would likely go. Then a great drive was organized with Indians strung along the sides of the canyon. Those making the drive, with dogs, [were] making a great racket crying "ahootch, ahootch," and those stationed on the ridges were making the same sound, while their wolf dogs kept up their howling. All the noise was made to direct the deer to where the ropes were located. I never participated in one of these drives, but I have seen their fences, and the manner of making the drives was explained to me by the Indian boys. They also set their snare ropes around salt licks and watering places. I remember at one time a great antlered buck came across the field with a rope around his neck with a piece of root on the end. The deer in plunging through the brush at the river's edge entangled the rope and being in swimming water was unable to pull loose. An Indian soon came running on the track and was greatly pleased at the capture of the buck and recovery of his valuable snare rope.
Grouse and waterfowl were also snared by twine made from the same fiber as the ropes.
The Indians had another method of hunting the deer--with bows and arrows--and in order to approach the deer to make the arrows effective they dressed themselves to resemble the deer by covering themselves with a deer skin with the head and neck mounted to look natural, keeping the deer to the windward and going through the motions of a deer feeding. At fifty yards the Indian arrow was as deadly as a bullet.
On our arrival most of the Indians were armed with bows and arrows. The bows were made of yew wood, the backs covered by the sinews of the deer, held by some kind of glue. The bows were about thirty inches long and very elastic. They could be bent until the ends would almost meet. The quiver holding the bow and arrows was made of the whole skin of the otter or fox and swung across the back so that the feather end of the arrow could be reached over the shoulder. They were so expert in reaching the arrows and adjusting to the bow that they could keep an arrow in the air all the time.
I have written the foregoing thinking that the Indian manner of hunting game might at least interest my young readers. Their primitive methods soon disappeared when the rifle took the place of snare and the bow and arrow.
The Indians' manner of fishing was more simple than snaring deer. The silver salmon came in such multitudes in the fall runs that they were easily taken at the falls of Cow Creek. Dams of sticks were made across the small channels through the rocks, and traps with hazel rods woven together with withes forming a basket about ten feet long and about three feet in diameter at the upper or open end and coming to a point at the closed or lower end. This trap was fastened in the rapid water in the narrow channel with twisted hazel withes fastened to the poles of the dam. The salmon in great numbers would pass up by the side of the trap and, failing to get above the dam, would be carried back into the open end of the trap and the weight of the water would hold them. The Indians would work two such traps, and when the river began to rise in the fall they would take several hundred of a night. When the fall rains came sufficient to raise the river two or three feet the great run of salmon would come day and night, crowding up under the falls, hundreds of them being in sight at one time.----
The successful fishing season of the Indians depended upon the rise of the water. When the river rose above a certain stage the salmon passed over the falls to their spawning grounds. Very few of them ever return to the salt water alive. The only salmon returning are those carried by the currents of winter freshets after they become too weak to resist. The salmon takes no food after leaving salt water.
The foregoing may appear to be something of a fish story. Commercial fishing is carried on at the present day to such an extent that few if any salmon reach the upper waters of our river.
Lamprey eels were highly prized by the Indians. They were a scaleless, snakelike fish which would hold to the rocks with their sucker mouth, and the Indians would dive in the icy water, seize the eel with both hands and, coming to the top of the water, kill the squirming thing by thrusting its head in their mouth and crushing it with their teeth.
Hunting and fishing was the only work that I ever knew an Indian man to do, especially in providing food. The squaws were the workers. The greatest part of their winter food was the "camas"--a small onion-shaped bulb about one inch in diameter and [which] were plentiful in the lowlands of the valley. In the early morning the squaws would be out in the camas field provided with a basket--a cone-shaped affair wide open at the top, swung on the back and carried with a strap across the forehead--a manner in which the Indians carried all their burdens and which left both arms free. Each squaw would be armed with a camas stick made of Indian arrowwood fashioned to a point at one end by burning and rubbing the charred wood off, leaving the point as hard as steel. At the top end was fitted a curved handle, generally a piece of deer horn. Locating the bulb by the seed top above ground, they would insert the stick under the root with the weight of the body, prying up the camas, which they would deftly throw over the shoulder into the basket. In this manner if the expert squaw worked all day she could bring home about one bushel. If she was the mother of a papoose she carried it along strapped on a board.
The camas was cooked by excavating a pit, filling it with wood with rocks on top. After the rocks were sufficiently heated they were covered with dry grass and then a great lot of camas, covering them up with earth for several days. When they came out they would be of a reddish-brown color and were sweet and really good to eat.
The "soap tart," a large bulb with layers of coarse fiber all through, was treated in the same manner as the camas, but was poor food.
The white oak acorn was used as food, but I do not think relished, and perhaps only used to appease hunger. The acorns were pounded in a mortar, the hulls separated, and meat pounded into a meal. It was then spread out on clean sand and water poured over to take out the bitter taste. It was then boiled in a mush or porridge. Some of my readers may wonder how the Indians would boil food when they had neither pot nor kettle made of metal, yet they did boil much of their food.
They had vessels or baskets made of hazel twigs closely woven and lined with a blue clay, making them watertight. The boiling was by dropping hot rocks in the water. The squaws were experts at picking the heated rock from the fires, blowing the ashes from it into the mush pot. The cooled rock were renewed with hot ones until the mess was cooked.
During the summer months the squaws would gather various kinds of seeds, of which the tarweed seed was the most prized. The tarweed was a plant about thirty inches high and was very abundant on the bench lands of the valley, and was a great nuisance at maturity. It would be covered with globules of clear, tarry substance that would coat the head and legs of stock as if they had been coated with tar. When the seeds were ripe the country was burned off. This left the plant standing with the tar burned off and the seeds left in the pods. Immediately after the fire there would be an army of squaws armed with an implement made of twigs shaped like a tennis racket. With their basket swung in front they would beat the seeds from the pods into the basket. This seed gathering would only last a few days, and every squaw in the tribe seemed to be doing her level best to make all the noise she could, beating her racket against the top of her basket. All seeds were ground into meal with a mortar and pestle. The mortar was formed by forming a round hollow in the face of flat boulders, over which was placed a basket with a hole in the bottom to fit the depression in the rock, forming a kind of hopper to hold the seeds, then with a stone fashioned about two inches in diameter at lower end and tapering to the other end to a size easily grasped with the hand the operator would sit upon the ground with the mortar between her knees and would pound the seeds, using the pestle which was usually about ten inches long, and weighing five or six pounds, with one hand and stirring the seeds with the other, often changing hands, using right or left hand for pounding or stirring the seeds with equal skill.
For the Indian to fashion one of those pestles must have required time and patience. They were formed as round, straight and true as if they had been turned in a lathe.
In my last two papers I have given an account of the Indians' manner of hunting, fishing and of their foods and how prepared. We found them living in their primitive manner in the midst of plenty. They were divided up into groups or families and each had their headmen or chiefs, but all seemed to acknowledge Miwaleta as the head chief. His band occupied the north bank of Cow Creek with winter quarters at the falls of Cow Creek, and that part of the valley was called "Mi-wa-letia," the chiefs always taking the name of the locality.----
The second most numerous band made their homes on Council Creek near where Mr. Phillips now lives, and their head man was Quintiousa, who also claimed control of the Indians at Canyonville and South Umpqua. They were called "Tara-gunsau." (All these Indian names were strongly accented on the last syllable.)
A small band that we called Myrtle Creek Indians were closely related to the Quintiousas. These bands would stand together against outside enemies, yet they had feuds among themselves. Minor offenses were often settled by payment of damages.
Revenge appears to be characteristic of all Indians. If an Indian was killed by another it was incumbent upon the near relative of the dead to avenge his death.
Early in the spring of 1852 there were three Myrtle Creek bucks made themselves notorious. They were named Curly, Big Ike and Little Jim. Curly wore long wavy hair and was a large powerful buck and the leader. They would stalk into a settler's cabin and demand food.
Curly wantonly killed a squaw, cut off her head placed it on a stake near the body in the grove on the Gazley place near the Umpqua River. The squaw was a sister of a young Indian we called Charley--a member of the Miwaleta band.
Charley was undersized and weak physically, but it was up to him to kill the big Curly. We often loaned Charley a gun to hunt deer, for which he would bring a share of the venison, but for arms he carried a bow and arrows, while Curly carried a good gun. and had often threatened Charley, making fun of his bow and arrows. Charley related his troubles to us and had aroused my mother's sympathy, but we would not loan him a gun with which to kill Curly.
This Indian Curly, with his two companions, Big Ike and Little Jim, had come to our house at one time when the men were away, and, as was their custom, stalked into the house and demanded food. I was at home with a broken arm caused by jumping from a wagonload of poles to urge my ox team up a steep bank. In jumping my foot had slipped and in falling I had struck my left arm across a rock, breaking the bones above the wrist.
Seeing my arm in splints, the Curly brave seized hold of me, pretending he would break my arm again, and hurting me cruelly. I rushed into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife with which to do battle with the big brute, but my mother stopped me. I was then twelve years old, but I suppose I thought that armed with a dull butcher knife I could fight a whole tribe. So it can be seen that the white settlers did not discourage Charley when he declared that sometime he would kill Curly.
Late that summer Charley, with a small family, including two boys, Sam and John, who were grandsons of the old Chief Miwaleta, were camped on the south bank of Cow Creek near the south approach of the steel bridge at the town of Riddle. The camp was enclosed with willows, leaving an opening for entrance. Curly, coming along alone and in a spirit of bravado, walked into the hut, leaving his gun at the entrance, seated himself and ordered food to be brought him. The two boys were out hunting and Charley was alone except for squaws and children of the family, Curly no doubt holding his weakness in contempt. Charley, burning with his wrongs and the insults that had been heaped upon him for months, succeeded in reaching Curly's gun first and shot him dead. Charley, thinking that Big Ike and Jim, Curly's friends, would be near, ran for his tribe for protection. He reached our house, five miles away, almost exhausted and rushed into the house saying: "Nika memaloose Curly. Kloshe mika potlatch shirt." (I have killed Curly. Give me a shirt). My mother, from kindness or thinking he had earned a calico (trade) shirt, promptly gave him one. I mention this circumstance, for we afterward joked [with] our mother that she had hired Charley to kill Curly.
Within a few hours after the killing, runners had reached all the friends on both sides of the quarrel. Quintiousa's band espoused the cause of the Myrtle Creeks, and we were soon in the midst of a genuine Indian war with Cow Creek dividing the two hostile bands.
The Miwaletas were soon organized under the young Chief Jackson. Their first effort was to find the boys, Sam and John, who would return from their hunt on Ash Creek unsuspecting and would fall into the hands of the enemy. Sam was my chum among the Indian boys and we were very anxious on their account. Night had come on. We could hear the war cries of the Indians with occasional gunshots. It was about eleven o'clock at night that Jackson, with his party, returned with the boys safe, Sam giving his eagle yell to assure me of his safety.
In my next I will conclude the story of the killing of Curly.
At the conclusion of my last article we were in the midst of a genuine Indian war. That is, it was Indian against Indian with the sympathy of the whites strongly in favor of the slayer of Curly.----
Yells of defiance could be heard from both sides all night long. Early next morning the Miwaletas were assembled on the river bank in front of our house and Quintiousas on the high ground on the opposite side of the river. About two hundred yards distant on our side of the river were two round log buildings near the river bank. In one of these I had my gun, ready to engage in the war. Our Indians were in their war paint, with one white eagle feather as a head ornament.
The stage setting appeared to be for a pitched battle, with the river for a "no man's land." The bands appeared about equally divided, forty on a side. A brave on one side would advance in front of his party, go through a war dance challenging the other side to combat individually or collectively and wind up with a war whoop. The challenge would be accepted by a young brave on the opposite side, so far as speech and war dance was concerned.
At one stage of the proceedings "Tom," a young chief of the Curly faction, left his band on the hill, rushed down to the river bank, which brought him within gunshot from our side, and yelled his challenge, which was accepted by my chum Sam, who rushed to the bank, dropped on his knee and proceeded to rest his gun on a stick that all Indian boys carried to steady their guns. Sam shouted in English: "G-- d--- you Tom, I kill you now." Tom, seeing he was about to be shot, dodged behind some brush and ran for it. This was accepted as a great victory for our side and the whole band danced and yelled. (I trust my readers will not think I have copied some of the proceedings of the late Democratic convention.)
At about this stage of the war Chief Miwaleta took the platform (bank) and delivered an oration, no doubt advising peace, and was answered by the old chief from the other side, and a kind of armed neutrality seemed to be patched up. and in a few days afterward Charley, the slayer of Curly, died suddenly from hemorrhage of the lungs, brought on, no doubt, by his five-mile run after shooting Curly.
The Story of "Tipsu Bill"
During the summer of 1851 it was rumored that there was a white child among the Cow Creek Indians. Captain Remick A. Cowles with a party of men visited Quintiousa's camp on Council Creek to investigate, and on making the object of their visit known Tipsu, armed with a rifle and followed by his squaw wife and a girl about eight years old, presented themselves and by sign language stated that the squaw was his wife and that the little girl was their child and, on examination, the white party were satisfied that the little girl, although lighter than the average Indian, was unmistakably Indian.----
Tipsu Bill was not a native of the Cow Creek band, but was adopted by the tribe. His native home was somewhere near Butte Falls in Jackson County and he was likely of the Molalla tribe, and on account of tribal wars had migrated to the Umpqua country. With him had come besides his squaw and papooses a younger brother about fifteen years old that we named "Jack," an old man that we named "Skunk" and a family, about ten in all. I might explain here, nearly all the Indians were given a name, and they were always pleased to have a white man's name. It did not matter how ludicrous the name might be. One prominent Indian was named "Hairpin." One of my sisters had dropped a hairpin which the Indian had picked up and inserted through the hole in his nose and wore as an ornament, so he bore the name of "Hairpin" after that.
"Tipsu Bill" derived his name from having a slight whisker on his chin. ["Tipsu" is Chinook jargon for "hairy."] The name "Tipsu" should not be confused with that of "Tipsu Tyee," mentioned in the history of the Rogue River Indian wars.
Tipsu was a very striking-appearing Indian--tall,, straight, powerful. Captain Cowles, relating the incident of the white child examination, said that Tipsu was the personification of courtesy, coolness and courage, giving the whites the opportunity to look at the child, but giving the impression that "I am here with my gun to defend my family with my life." Tipsu made his home with the Miwaleta band and during the Rogue River war of 1853 was encamped near our house. I relate this fact to show further on how Tipsu lost his life in connection with the massacre of the Grave Creek Indians, of which Walling's history gives an account. It appears that after the treaty had been signed by General Lane and his officers with the Rogue River chiefs Joe and Sam, there developed a class of white men that we may as well call exterminators that generally wreaked their vengeance upon some helpless band of Indians that had no connection with the late war. Walling's history says: "We have the evidence of no less an authority than Judge Deady to prove that a fearful outrage was perpetrated at Grave Creek after the armistice was agreed upon.' He writes:
"At Grave Creek I stopped [to] feed my horse and get something to eat. There was a house there called the Bates House, after the man who kept it. Bates and some others had induced a small party of peaceable Indians who belonged in that vicinity to enter into an engagement to remain at peace with the whites during the war which was going on at some distance from them and by way of ratification of this treaty invited them to partake of a feast in an unoccupied log house just across the road from the Bates House, and while they were partaking unarmed of this proffered hospitality the door was suddenly fastened upon them and they were deliberately shot down through the cracks between the logs by their treacherous hosts. Nearby, and probably a quarter of a mile this site, I was shown a large round hole into which the bodies of those murdered Indians had been unceremoniously tumbled. I did not see them, for they were covered with fresh earth."
The above account agrees in most particulars with the account I had from Jack, the brother of Tipsu and two Grave Creek Indian boys, who made their escape and made their home with our Indians for two years afterward.
It appears that after the Grave Creek Indians were rounded up in the log house as related by Judge Deady they were informed that their lives would be spared on condition that they would bring in the head of Tipsu Bill, who was encamped on Grave Creek a few miles below the Bates house with his small band, and engaged in hunting deer, Tipsu being the only able-bodied man of the party. The Grave Creek Indians, thinking to save their own lives, detailed part of their band to bring in Tipsu's head.
They found Tipsu in his camp, who being at peace and unsuspicious of his visitors, they treacherously shot and carried his head to their white captors, supposing they would soon be released, but in this they were soon undeceived, for they were all shot down as related by Judge Deady.
The two Indian boys came in sight while the shooting was going on and, sensing what was going on, ran for it. The exterminators turned their guns on the boys and hit one of them in the heel, but they made their escape.
The number of Indians killed in the log house was nine and was all the able-bodied men of the tribe. Their chief, Taylor, with two others had been hung at Vannoy's ferry in December 1852 on a trumped-up charge of having murdered seven prospectors on lower Rogue River. No evidence of the men being murdered was ever found, and the reasonable supposition is that the prospectors had simply moved on to some other locality. It was claimed that Chief Taylor had in his possession a small amount of gold dust and that when he saw that he was about to be executed confessed to the killing, which was not in keeping with Indian character. [B. F. Dowell asserts that some of the Indians were wearing the dead men's clothes and that a confession was coerced from them.]
The family of Tipsu, after the killing, returned to Cow Creek and made their homes with Miwaleta's band until the beginning of the war of 1855-56.
The supposed white child was named Nellie and was sent to the Grand Ronde Reservation in Yamhill County with a lot of squaws and old Indians that were found hid away in the mountains on the head of Rice Creek. Nellie grew up to be a famous beauty and many stories came back about her connection with prominent men. Jack, the young brother, lived with our family for over a year, doing all kinds of farm work. I have been out hunting with him in the mountains for a week at a time. He seemed to have no animosity against the whites for the death of his brother, but many times said he would have to kill the two Grave Creek boys when he quit work for us; he wanted my father to give him a rifle that he had used hunting while with us. (And by the way the rifle he wanted is now in the possession of my brother, Abner. It was carried by my brother, William, through the war of 1855-56, and also is the rifle that brother Abner and I each killed our first deer with.)
My father refused to give Jack a gun, but gave him a horse instead. I have given this particular account of Jack because he afterwards became the most deadly enemy of the whites, of which more anon.
In my last I gave an account of the massacre of the Grave Creek Indians and the treacherous slaying of Tipsu Bill. Other events of like nature followed.----
The writers of history of the Indian wars of Southern Oregon were too ready to find excuses for the outrages committed upon the Indians. The writer of Walling's history was disposed to be fair, but was often misled into making false statements. Here is a sample:
"Throughout the spring and first part of the summer of 1853 little was heard of the depredations of the savages. Only one incident seemed to mar the ordinary relations of white man and native.
"The event referred to was the murder of two miners, one an American, the other a Mexican, in their cabin on Cow Creek, and the robbery of their domicile, and as a matter of course the deed was laid to Indians and probably justly, for the Indians along that creek had a very bad reputation."
Now I will undertake to say that the killing of the two men as stated above is absolutely false, especially as to being on Cow Creek. Such an event would have been indelibly impressed upon my mind. Another curious circumstance is that the names of the miners were not given.
It seems strange that stories so vague would be written into history. The history further states, referring to the Cow Creek Indians:
"They were of the Umpqua family but had independent chiefs and were far more fierce and formidable than the humble natives of the Umpqua Valley proper. They had committed several small acts of depredation on the settlers in that vicinity, such as attempting to burn grain fields, outbuildings, etc., but had not, it appears, entered upon any more dangerous work until the killing referred to. The unfortunate Grave Creek band allowed themselves to be mixed up in the affair and suffered ill consequences."
Further on the history states: "The total number of Grave Creek Indians who were killed in consequence of their supposed complicity in the acts and in the so-called murder on Galice Creek previously spoken of was eleven. * * * The Grave Creek tribe was rapidly becoming extinct."
And as a matter of fact they were extinct so far as able-bodied males were concerned except the two boys as I related before., that took refuge with our Indians.
It was perhaps about a month after the massacre of the Grave Creek band that a party of men professing to be prospectors, fourteen in number, visited our valley, making their camp across the small creek and about one hundred yards from where the Glenbrook farm house now stands. These men were from Josephine County and no doubt were some of the same persons who participated in the slaughter of the Grave Creeks and other Indians. The day following there arrived a part of their company [who] went up Cow Creek on the south bank of the stream about four miles from our house. They found a small camp of Indians--one very old rheumatic Indian, a brother of the old Chief Miwaleta, one squaw and one little girl about three years old. The old Indian and the squaw were shot down. A sick Indian that was some distance from the camp hid and witnessed the murders. There was also a boy we called John out hunting, returning a short time after the white men had departed and finding his family murdered and their camp burned, made his way to the Indians' main camp on Wilson Creek near where Mr. Henslee now lives. The little girl papoose was brought down alive, of which my mother immediately took charge. The men had found the child's beaded buckskin suit that they insisted on keeping, but were prevailed upon to give up.
These men acknowledged the killing, throwing off all disguise and said they were Indian exterminators from Rogue River, and immediately assumed to take charge of affairs of our valley. They placed a guard at the mouth of the canyon, where they met one of our neighbors, Green Hearn, who with Chief Jackson, attempted to go to the scene of the murder, driving them back, leveling their guns on Hearn as well as the Indian. This killing caused a great deal of indignation and apprehension among the whites. What would the Indians do? Would they retaliate by wreaking vengeance on the settlers during the afternoon? All were notified of the killing and during the night Indian runners had notified all the scattering bands. Myrtle Creeks, Canyonville and the South Umpquas were all assembled. Early next morning the whole band of Indians, about forty or fifty in number, appeared on the opposite side of the river from our house, with our neighbor, John Catching, among them. The white murderers seized their guns and rushed to the bank of the river. My father got ahead of the white men to prevent them firing while John Catching was in front of the Indians, who were wading the river. The white men retired to their camp at the foot of a large pine tree about sixty yards from the river bank. The Indians came straight on and soon completely surrounded the white men, forming a circle within twenty feet of the tree, with John Catching and my father inside the circle. The white men did not seem to have any desire for a pitched battle with so many Indians, who seemed to want to make [a] showing of force, and to demand reparation for the wanton killing of their people. During the "pow-wow" there were tense moments. Young Chief Tom was principal spokesman for the Indians and used every invective at his command in English, Jargon, or his native tongue in denouncing the cowardly acts of the white men. He told them they were cowards--that they could kill an old man and a squaw, but would not fight a warrior. One of the white men retorted: "You can talk brave--you are four to our one." At this Tom called out an equal number of Indians, saying: "Come on, we will fight you man for man."
The Indians held those men from early morning until noon. During the six hours neither side relaxed their hostile attitude for a moment. The white men, although not cowards, knew that their lives would pay for any hostile move, and the Indians also knew that battle with white men would be disastrous to them. The white men agreed to leave the country and not return, and Mr. Catching and my father prevailed upon the Indians to submit their grievances to Indian Agent General Palmer, who was due to arrive in a few weeks to treat with the Indians, which was accomplished during that fall.
The recital of this story will show some of the problems that the early settlers had to meet in connection with their relations with the Indians generally. The settlers could maintain amicable relations with them, but irresponsible outsiders would commit outrages upon the Indians, and then leave the settlers at the mercy of the savages, whose dominating characteristic was revenge.
Late in the afternoon after the Indians had dispersed, the white band of murderers struck camp and departed, going up Cow Creek. The following morning I was allowed to go with Chief Jackson to the scene of the killing. Following the trail of the white men, at "Copper Flat" we came to their campfire still burning. If we had met with the whites there was no doubt but that my Indian companion would have been in real danger.----
We were on foot and I had an opportunity to witness the caution with which an Indian approaches danger. When we saw the smoke of the campfire we took advantage of every clump of brush, scanning every inch of ground ahead of us. Finally we discovered a coyote (wolf) near the camp. Jackson at once straightened up, taking the trail, trusting to the sagacity of the coyote not to be in proximity of the white man.
On arriving at the destroyed Indian camp a gruesome sight presented itself. The dead squaw had been thrown upon a drift heap of logs and was half burned up. The old Indian had made his way into the river before they had finished him and he lay partly out of water on some rocks. I was at this time thirteen years old and looked upon these Indians as our friends. My boyish emotions were expressed in tears. My Indian companion, with the stoicism of his race, viewed the scene without a word, and although this murder was one of the causes of the Cow Creek Indians taking the war path two years later, they never held the settlers accountable.
In September 1853 General Joel Palmer negotiated a treaty with the Indians, meeting them on Council Creek, exactly where Mr. Johnson now lives. The Indians had decreased rapidly in the two years previous. Of the Miwaleta band there was only a remnant left. An epidemic of some kind of fever during the winter of 1852-3 swept away two-thirds of the band, Chief Miwaleta being one of the first victims. I remember my chum Sam with other Indian boys coming to our house and saying "The Chief is dead, the Indians will soon all be gone."
At the treaty all the Indians were assembled from Canyonville, Myrtle Creek and Galesville, and to organize them Gen. Palmer asked them to elect a head chief and a sub-chief. At this election Quintiousa was chosen head chief and his son, Tom, sub-chief, passing over Jackson, the son of Miwaleta, much to the dissatisfaction of the remnant of that band.
In the treaty the land lying west of Council Creek and south of Cow Creek, extending some distance back in the mountains, was set apart as a reservation.
Three log houses were built in the grove where the council was held. These houses were about eighteen feet square of unpeeled fir logs with flue through the center of the roof so that the Indians could live in their primitive style by making a fire in the center. Those cabins were only occupied by Quintiousa's band, the others preferring their huts at their old homes.
A field of about twenty acres was fenced that fall and planted to wheat which the Indians harvested the following summer. The next fall they were furnished oxen and plowed and seeded the field themselves and for two years after the treaty there was nothing occurred to seriously disturb the peace, although there were many small grievances.
The settlers' hogs multiplied rapidly and rooted up the "camas" fields. The Indians' dogs, which followed the squaws, worried the hogs and the settlers shot the dogs, and as is always the case--even among civilized neighbors--the hogs and the dogs were a source of trouble.
In looking back over the time between our arrival in Cow Creek Valley, late in October, 1851, and the date of the beginning of the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1855-56, seems a longer period of time than four years, and I trust my readers will pardon me for relating some of my "boy" experiences of that time.----
On our arrival, we boys were soon on good terms with the Indian boys of our age, of which there were about a dozen, and every minute of our spare time we were engaged playing ball, swimming, hunting or fishing. The Indian boy was an enthusiastic ball player. They had a ball game played something like "lacrosse." In this game they used a wooden ball about one and one-half inches in diameter and played with a stick flattened and crooked at one end to drive the ball. The point in the game was to drive the ball past and between goal posts at opposite ends of the field. The ball was put in play in the center of the field by tossing the ball in the air, and then it could only be played upon with the crooked sticks. This game was mostly played by the older Indians, one tribe or band against another, and on these games they would stake all their worldly possessions and when the ball was put in play, Oh boy! but there was action for you. Talk about football or basketball--both combined would not compare with this Indian game with about twenty young bucks on a side, stripped to the breechclout and scattered over the field to intercept the ball and drive it through their opponents' goal. At times the interference would be terrific and the young bucks' skins would glisten with perspiration. I think I can leave a further description of this game to the imaginations of my readers. It was in the summer of 1852 that the Indians engaged in this game for several days, in which contest the Miwaletas were opposed by the other small bands.
Among the Indian boys was a grandson of Chief Miwaleta, a boy about my age. We were great chums. Sam was my stconaomnt cpanion in my grouse hunts and he soon learned to handle my rifle and was proud of the accomplishment. On one of our trips to Portland with ox teams Sam went with us. Portland at that time was a small town, and we camped on the river bank near Morrison Street, turning our oxen out to graze among the stumps and timber. During the evening we discovered a small steamboat coming down from Oregon City. The boat's engine was [the] high pressure kind and was like one of the kind that Lincoln told about that operated on the Sangamon River that had a ten-horsepower whistle and a six-horsepower boiler. We, including Sam, went to the water's edge to see the boat come down, which with its loud exhaust and shower of sparks presented a terrifying sight to Sam. On its nearer approach he grasped me by the arm trying to get me away. About that time the boat's engineer turned all steam on the siren. This was too much for Sam and he ran for it. We found him in one of the wagons, a badly scared little Indian. After we had explained to him what it was, he wanted to forget it. On his return he had many things to relate to his tribe.
Early in the spring of 1853 the remnants of Miwaleta's band scattered to the hills. More than one half of them had perished of the fever during the winter. We boys were not allowed to go near the Indian camp at the falls of Cow Creek for fear of contagion. It appeared that Sam had contracted the fever before the Indians left their winter quarters and had tried to follow, but was too weak and had been left to his fate. When this was reported to me I obtained permission to go in search of him. I found him on Wilson Creek near where Mr. Henslee now lives, lying by a log and alone. When I reported this to my mother she consented for me to bring him to our home, where we gave him every care, and for a time we thought he might recover, but after lingering about three months he died. Sam during his illness was patient and grateful, but like all his race was a fatalist. He had made up his mind that he would not get well, and it is said that when an Indian loses hope of recovery he is sure to die.
After Sam got so weak and emaciated I would carry him out under the shade of the trees where he could look at the mountains. At one time he said: "We will never hunt up there (pointing to Old Piney Mountain) anymore. I will soon be gone." During Sam's sickness I was nurse, and when he died I was chief mourner; also undertaker and sexton. I buried him under some young pines on the banks of Cow Creek.
Sam was a bright, handsome lad and learned to speak English quickly. While on our hunts we would each give the English and the Indian name for every bird or animal that we saw. I hope my readers will pardon me for giving this sketch of Sam, but his death was my greatest boyhood grief.
I think I have previously mentioned how pleased all Indians were to have "Boston" (American) names, no matter how ludicrous. One old Indian we gave the name of "Pill Shirt" (red shirt) who was named in this way: When our new house was far enough completed for occupancy the upstairs was used in part for storage and was reached by a narrow stairway leading up from one side of the fireplace. One day our Aunt Lucinda was coming down the stairs with a great bowl of flour and slipped and fell, landing on the old Indian, who was sitting on the lower stair. The aged lady was not seriously hurt, the Indian breaking her fall and receiving the flour all over him. The old fellow was fond of "sapolil" (bread) but was not pleased to have it spread over him in that way. He immediately demanded payment, claiming that if Aunt Lucinda had not fallen on him she would have been badly hurt. The matter was settled by giving the Indian a red flannel shirt and also the name "Pill Shirt," by which he was known afterwards.
The Indians also conferred names of their own on the white people. My father was known throughout the country as Lomtu (old man), my mother was Mulagolan (mother), my brother in law, W. H. Merriman, was given the name of Shindonah, which was the Indian for "long nose," and my brother, J. B. (Bouse), was called "Ta-pou-hah" (white eyebrows) while I was called "Jode." This was not Indian, but was my boy nickname. My next will treat of more serious matters.
After the treaty with the Cow Creek Indians in the fall of 1853 there was no serious trouble with them until the final outbreak in October, 1855, when our Indians joined with their hereditary enemies, the Rogue River Indians. Many causes led up to this. One authority gives as the cause of the war as the "encroachment of a superior upon an inferior race."----
Take the Indians of southern Douglas County. In the four years after 1851 their numbers had diminished over one half. The sources of their food supply had been greatly diminished by the settlers' fields and livestock, especially hogs, that ravaged their camas fields. Many of their race had been ruthlessly killed. In 1852 a young Indian, a son of Chief "Wartahoo," was hung at the William Weaver place. It was claimed that he had insulted a young white woman by an indecent gesture. Within four hours he was hung. This might have been considered justifiable from the white man's point of view at the time, but to the Indians, the boy's fault would not compare with the treatment their women had received from drunken white men.
At another time a boy that was with some miners at the Bollenbaugh mines was engaged in wrestling with an Indian boy, and became angered and stabbed him with a knife and killed him. At another time one of our young Indians went south with a pack train and leaving the train was on his way home, when he was stopped by some white men that were at a trading post on Wolf Creek. It is probable that the men were drinking, as there was always plenty of whiskey at these houses along the road. At any rate there was a chance to have some fun by hanging an Indian, so the boy was placed upon a horse, a rope was put around his neck and attached to a limb of a tree. At this point in the proceedings the proprietor of the house, Dr. ------, rushed out, crying: "Hold on, that Indian owes me six bits." The hanging was delayed until the Indian produced the money and paid his debt, and finding he had a dollar left asked that it be sent to "Lomtu" (old man) Riddle. When these business matters were concluded the horse was driven from under the boy and the hanging was completed. When the facts of this affair became known that trading post was given the name of the "Six Bit House," by which it was known afterwards.
These hangings and killings together with the treacherous slaughter of the Grave Creek Indians and the murder of "Tipsu" Bill by the Grave Creeks at the instigation of the whites, also the murder of the old Indian and squaw near our home, and numerous other slaughters of Indians in Josephine County at a time of peace and of Indians not involved in the short war of 1853--all these outrages were known to our Indians and made them ripe to enter into the hostilities against the whites when the general outbreak of the Rogue Rivers came in 1855.
Some of my readers may conclude that my sympathies were with the Indians and insofar as the unjustifiable outrages committed upon a helpless, ignorant people are concerned, I am content to be termed an Indian sympathizer, and I am safe in saying that ninety out of one hundred of the actual settlers--the home builders of the early days in Oregon--were disposed to treat the Indians fairly. There were numerous other persons, especially in the mining districts, that looked upon the Indian as having NO rights that a white man need respect. These men called themselves "exterminators." Right-minded people called them "desperadoes."
To quote from Walling's History of Southern Oregon, speaking of the outrages committed against the Indians, it says: "Public sentiment today admits the truth of the strongest general charges of this nature and the venerable pioneer perhaps on the edge of the grave says sadly: 'The Indians suffered many a grievous wrong at our hands, unmentionable wrongs they were, of which no man shall ever hear more.'"
It is said to be characteristic of the Indian to wreak vengeance indiscriminately upon the white race when he goes upon the war path, but to that trait our Cow Creek Indians must have been an exception. Following the outbreak of the Rogue Rivers in September, 1855, they publicly declared their intention of joining in the war, yet they made no attempt to injure any of the settlers of Cow Creek Valley, and with one exception they expressed no animosity towards any of our neighbors.
During the winter 1854-55 I attended school at Wilbur, Oregon. This school was founded by Rev. J. H. Wilbur, who had solicited subscriptions all over Southern Oregon. It was a modest frame building of one large room, but to me it seemed a magnificent structure. I mention this for the reason that some writers have stated that the school of 1854 that came into history as the Umpqua Academy was a "rough log structure" when in fact it should have the credit of being the first frame school house in Southern Oregon. I attended this school three months and worked for my board in the family of a Mr. Clinkenbeard. My duties were to chop wood for two fireplaces and a cook stove. The manner of getting wood was to fell oak trees, trim up the limbs, and drag them with oxen to a convenient distance from the house, where the wood was chopped for use. Also water had to be carried about 150 yards for the household. These and other duties kept a fifteen-year-old boy busy.----
Miss Sarah Tibbetts, a sister of Mrs. Binger Hermann, was also working for her board. We were up of mornings long before the other members of the household, me to start the fires, and Sarah to cook the breakfast, and strange to say, we would find time to study while the other students slept.
At this school in three months I acquired about all the "book learning" I ever had, and that consisted of the three R's--"Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic, and a simple form of bookkeeping. At school I have never studied grammar; but after I was married and to some extent had entered upon public business, a friend presented me with a textbook, "Quackenbush's Composition and Rhetoric"--a study of which has no doubt been a great help to me; but when I have been called upon to make short addresses before educated people, the fear of making grammatical errors was always in my mind.
I hope my readers will pardon me for this personal history, but it will illustrate the conditions of the pioneer days.
Early in the summer of 1854 my father removed his plow making and blacksmith business from the farm to Roseburg, where he was associated with one John D. Bowen in the plow-making business. Their shop was situated on the corner where the Van Houten House now stands. Their business was quite extensive, with two forges engaged in plow making and one for general blacksmithing. In all six men were employed. After my three months' school at Wilbur my father installed me as cook in a small house almost adjoining the shop, on Main Street, and I was also bookkeeper for the business. I was a great deal better cook than I was bookkeeper. My father had little knowledge of how books should be kept, and John D. Bowen had less. I do not remember any complaints of my work as bookkeeper--perhaps my mistakes were more of omission than they were of commission, and if I failed to charge a customer for work done the chances were that he never would have paid anyway.
But as cook for six men and all the customers that might be in the shop at meal time, I must have been a busy boy. My father was very hospitable, and at times I was called upon to prepare meals for notable people. At one time Governor Gaines, who was making a speaking canvass of the state, was our guest overnight, sleeping in a bunk usually occupied by a blacksmith hand. I was called upon to prepare meals for many other guests not so distinguished or welcome as Governor Gaines.
My father's partner, J. D. Bowen, was a good mechanic but would go on periodical sprees, and the periods were not far apart, and generally he was very disagreeable and irregular in coming to meals. One day he came in with another man about as drunk as himself with two boys and ordered me to prepare dinner. This was after I had just washed up after the noon meal and I would have to commence all over again, which I proceeded to do, but Mr. Bowen became impatient and abusive. I had endured much of his drunken abuse before and I could stand no more, so then and there I went for John D. Bowen with a stick of stove wood. I soon cleared the kitchen of the whole outfit. The result was my father and Mr. Bowen dissolved partnership, my father continuing the business. Mr. Bowen afterwards reformed, at least his sprees were not continuous. He married and settled down, plying his trade in Roseburg for many years, and was quite a useful citizen.
At the time of the above happenings I was a tall boy fifteen years old.
I now approach a time in my story, the fall of 1855, the beginning of the Rogue River Indian war of 1855-6, the most bloody of all the Indian wars of the Northwest Coast. With our Indians but one incident had occurred within the last two years to cause any friction between the reds and the whites. The Indians had cultivated their field on their small reservation and to some extent had worked for settlers in their fields. One young Indian that we called "Ed," a son of Chief Quintiousa, had worked for I. B. Nichols. Some misunderstanding arose and Nick (as we called him) proceeded to give the boy a thumping. Chief Quintiousa interfered to stop the fight, when Wm. Russell, a hired man, seized a club and struck the chief on the head. No one was seriously hurt, but the chief's dignity was wounded and he demanded a horse in payment, which Nick refused to give him. This left an unsettled feud which came near precipitating a disaster later.
The Rogue River Indian war of 1855-6 was caused by the indiscriminate slaughter of a band of helpless Indians on Butte Creek near the banks of Rogue River.----
These Indians were a part of Chiefs Sam and Joe's band who by a treaty with General Joseph Lane in 1853 had been settled upon a reservation on the north bank of Rogue River, around Table Rock, and during the two years after the treaty there had been no authentic charges of wrongdoing on the part of the treaty Indians. But there had been trouble with non-treaty Indians, most of which originated between the miners and Indians in Siskiyou County, California, and small bands of Indians inhabiting the mountains west of Ashland.
On the 7th of October, 1855 a company of white men from the mines around Jacksonville and led by one "Major" Lupton (who had not derived his title from any military service) surprised a helpless band of squaws, old men and children, killing them all. The number killed has been variously stated.
Captain Smith of the regular army stationed at Fort Lane visited the scene of the slaughter on the day of its occurrence and reported to the War Department that there were eighty old men, squaws and children. Others fixed the number at thirty.
Of the whites engaged in this business--about forty--Lupton was mortally wounded by an arrow that penetrated his lungs from which he died, and one other man slightly wounded.
It will seem strange to my readers that forty white men could be so lost to all sense of justice and humanity as to engage in a slaughter of helpless old men, squaws and children.
It is not my purpose to analyze public sentiment at the time of which I write. There was a feeling of insecurity among the white people of the Rogue River Valley and a desire that the Indians might be removed and a fear that the Indians might be aroused to avenge their own wrongs. There was some outspoken sentiment against the outrages committed against the Indians, but when the Indians retaliated within two days by a general slaughter of whites, the Indian sympathizers were very unpopular. One man was compelled to leave his home.
I would say that in relating the foregoing I am indebted to Walling's History of Southern Oregon. The incidents are fresh in my memory. We had many acquaintances residing in Jackson County at the time and I have heard the stories over and over from living witnesses.
The massacre of the Indians on Butte Creek occurred on the morning of the 7th of October, 1855. On the 9th and 10th the country between Gold Hill and Galesville on upper Cow Creek, a distance of fifty miles, was in a blaze. Only a few houses where settlers hastily assembled and defended were left standing. Over thirty white people were killed on the 9th, among whom was the Wagoner family. The Indians had selected the sparsely settled districts on which to revenge the Butte Creek massacre. At the time of these happenings our family was in deep distress at the sickness of my little sister, Clara, the youngest of the family. I was called home from Roseburg.
I am not sure at this date that we had heard of the Indian outbreak at Rogue River. At that time there was no telegraph or phone lines. Not even a daily mail. But on the forenoon of the 10th a messenger, Henry Yocum, arrived with information that the Indians were sweeping north, killing and burning, and had killed two men at Galesville and at that time had that place surrounded. Galesville is only about ten miles on an air line from our house. At once it occurred to us that nothing had been seen of our Indians for the last two days. It is an old axiom that when you don't see Indians, look out for danger. I was sent on Yocum's horse to the Indian camp to ascertain what they were doing. I found their old camp on Council Creek abandoned, but continuing on up the creek to where Mr. Buckingham's house now is, I was met by some Indian boys of my own age. I had not seen the boys for several months and I was really glad to see them and they appeared to be pleased to see me.
The Indians were camped close to the creek further up in the timber. They evidently were holding a council. I could hear that one of them was making a speech and they no doubt at that time were conferring with "runners" from the Rogue Rivers.
In a very short time some of the older Indians came out to where I was talking to the boys and I could see that they were not in a friendly mood. Their first question was whose horse is that. My answer--Henry Yocum. Then "What do you want?" I was prepared for an excuse for being there. I told them my sister, Mrs. Nichols, wanted a squaw to come and do some washing. They then told me to "klatawa" (go).
This was unusual They had always shown the greatest friendliness to our family at their camps They repeated their demand for me to "hyak klatawa" (quick go).
Well, I klatawa'd. When I reported my experience to my parents there were several of our neighbors at our house, and it was concluded that the neighborhood was in imminent danger of an attack by the Indians.
It was certain that there were hostile Rogue Rivers at that time in the valley.
Early in the afternoon my little sister passed away. Immediately afterwards the neighbors who were at our house went hastily to their homes and all loaded what they could of their effects into wagons, abandoned their homes and drove to the Weaver place that afternoon.
It would be difficult to picture the state of alarm that prevailed when the details of the massacres between Gold Hill and Cow Creek were made known, and as to what action the Cow Creek Indians would take was a problem. That there were hostile Rogue River Indians with them was certain. The fact that they would not allow me to enter their camp was proof that they were at that time holding a "pow-wow" with the runners of the hostiles was certain. The settlers of Cow Creek Valley acted upon the principle that "self-preservation is the first law of nature" in deserting their homes. The alarm spread all over Southern and Western Oregon. The people of the Willamette caught the infection, alarmists at Salem and Portland were devising means of defense and in Washington County the Methodists placed a stockade around their church.----
In a history of Indian wars of Southern Oregon appears the following: "A safety meeting was held at Corvallis because three hundred Cow Creek Indians were said to have come north of the Calapooia Mountains and threatened the lives of all." This shows how alarms will spread and how the numbers of Indians were magnified at that time. The Cow Creek Indians (warriors) would not have exceeded twenty-five and perhaps not one of them had been north of the Calapooia Mountains in their lives.
But to get back to my story. As I stated before, all the settlers of Cow Creek Valley left their homes on the afternoon of the 10th of October and assembled at the Wm. Weaver place. On the day following I was sent on to Roseburg to look after affairs there while the family returned to the valley to bury the child. With them went a well-armed escort, among whom was Capt. R. A. Cowles, John and James Weaver. The burial was at Riddle cemetery and was the second grave made there.
After the burial the party went on up to our house at Glenbrook. There they found everything as it had been left the day before, but no Indians in sight.
It seems to have been the prevailing opinion of the neighborhood that there should be an attempt to have a talk with the Indians to prevail upon them not to go into the war, but to come in and camp near our house and under our protection. My mother insisted on this being done. She volunteered to go to the Indian camp to induce them to come to our house for a conference. She told the neighbors that she was sure the Indians would not harm her.
She went on horseback across the river to the camp where I had seen the Indians the day before and found the camp deserted. On her return home, coming out of the timber and crossing Council Creek some Indians, seeing who it was, showed themselves on the side of the mountain toward Hackler Flat. My mother rode up to them and inquired for the old Chief Miwaleta. They told her that the chief was "sick tumtum" (heart sick) and did not want to see a white man. (He had been struck with a club by a white man.)
My mother told them that we wanted to be friends with them and she wanted them to come over and talk with my father and the neighbors, telling them who was there. The Indians had great confidence in Capt. Cowles. They inquired for I. B. Nichols and asked that he come over and talk to them.
I would state here that I. B. Nichols was the only settler that the Indians harbored a grudge against. This was on account of his hired man striking the chief with a club for which he (the chief) demanded a horse which Nichols refused to give, thus leaving the wound to his dignity unhealed--the wound to his head was slight, but to his pride it was immense.
My mother obtained a promise from young Chief Tom to come for a talk and a short time afterward Tom, followed by about a dozen of his young braves in full war regalia and armed, appeared on our side of the river, halting just across the small creek near the stone spring house at Glenbrook, where my father met them. Capt. Cowles, with some of the men, were posted in a log smokehouse and others of the men in our hewed-log dwelling that was a fortress in itself and commanding a view of the council and sixty yards distance. I. B. Nichols was requested to keep out of sight on account of his unsettled difficulty with the old chief and his son, Ed.
I have always regretted that I was not present to hear the Indians state their grievances and fears.
The relation of this last conference with the Indians impressed itself indelibly upon my mind and memory and I can visualize the meeting and the participants: My father stating the desire of the white settlers for the Indians to remain at peace and to camp near our house until the troubles in the Rogue River Valley were over, and offering protection. Chief Tom, a young Indian and son of Chief Miwaleta, was spokesman for the Indians. He did not question the sincerity of my father and admitted that he had always been fair and just with them but questioned his ability to protect them. That they had been promised an agent to protect them but he had never appeared. That they had remained at peace during the Rogue River war (1853), but mesahche (malicious) white men had killed one of their old men and a squaw when they were at peace. In fact Tom, in a quite eloquent manner, recited their grievances since the coming of the white man. The cowardly massacre of the Grave Creek Indians; the killing of "Tipsu Bill"; and many other outrages. He admitted that the Rogue River Indians had been among them and informed them of the massacre of the Rogue River Indians at Butte Creek four days previous and that the Indians believed that the white people meant to exterminate them whether they remained at peace or not; and that they were going to join the hostile Rogue Rivers and die fighting.
Tom did not express animosity towards anyone in the neighborhood but throughout the conference expressed the conviction that the Indians were doomed to be exterminated, but that they would die fighting. In this he was correct so far as the fighting men were concerned.
Tom himself was killed at the Olalla battle and it was reported that out of all the able-bodied young men of the Cow Creek Indians, but one boy, about my age, survived the war. That was John, one of my hunting companions. He was afterwards known on the reservation as Citizen John and lived until a few years ago.
While the conference was proceeding between Chief Tom and my father, I. B. Nichols, although warned not to appear, approached the scene of the "pow-wow." When a short distance from the Indians he was discovered by young Ed, who immediately dropped upon his knees, taking aim at Nichols. Before he could fire Chief Tom seized his gun and commanded him to desist. There is no doubt that Nichols escaped death by a hair's breadth. He saw Ed's attempt to shoot, but did not falter. I. B. Nichols had met with heavy losses at the hands of the Indians--had lost an entire pack train and their loads by the Rogue Rivers and had narrowly escaped with his life. He had never had any trouble with our Indians until the episode with Ed, and his going to the council at the time was to show the Indians that he was not afraid to meet them.----
When Tom and his band retired with the avowed intention of joining the hostiles they were never seen again in the Cow Creek Valley.
Within a few days after the occurrences narrated above, two companies of volunteers were raised in what now comprises Douglas County. Capt. Samuel Gordon's company mustered in at Roseburg, in which I. B. Nichols and my brother, William H. enlisted, and in about ten days after the Indians had disappeared. I. B. Nichols, with a few men, were quartered in our house, and soon after that a stockade was built around a house where Mr. Peter Didtel now lives. For at least ten days the homes in the valley were deserted and property entirely at the mercy of the Indians, yet not one thing was disturbed. This goes to show that they had no desire to harm any one of the white people who had lived here in contact with them through four years.
During the winter of 1855-6 our family lived at Roseburg, my father caring for his blacksmith business and my mother kept boarders, with myself for assistant.
During the winter there were stirring times. Volunteer companies were passing through Roseburg to the Rogue River country. Col. William J. Martin made his headquarters at Roseburg. It was here that he issued his celebrated order to "take no prisoners," yet he soon had a lot of prisoners, but not of Indian warriors.
It appears that when our Indians went on the war path their old men, squaws and children were hidden away in the canyons of the mountains. One band of these--between thirty and forty in number--were hidden on the head of Rice Creek near Dillard. These refugees would steal out to pilfer food from abandoned homes. Finally a few of the settlers assembled and calling Lazarus Wright of Myrtle Creek, a celebrated grizzly bear hunter, to their assistance, tracked the prowlers to their camp. They were so securely hidden that they were in the midst of the camp before they discovered them, and to their surprise they found more Indians than they expected and of a different band from what they expected to find, but found that the Indians were Cow Creeks and quite willing to surrender. These Indians were turned over to Col. Martin who had them brought to Roseburg, where I recognized our old friends. I was then employed as interpreter and instructed to ascertain where the warriors of the tribe were, but they, if they knew, would not tell.
The Indians were housed in an annex to a carpenter shop. I was instructed to spend the night under a work bench where I could listen to their conversation. I could hear the names of absent warriors mentioned, but no locality that I could understand.
I would say here that I had learned a great deal of the Indian language. It was easy to learn, and unlike most Indian languages their words were pronounceable. As a spy I was not able to learn anything of value.
On the following day Col. Martin had two of the Indian girls, aged twelve or fourteen years, brought to a room in the hotel. Among the men present was Capt. Daniel Barnes, aide to Col. Martin. One of these girls was Nellie, daughter of the "Tipsu Bill" murdered by the Grave Creek Indians in the futile attempt to save their own lives and the supposed white child mentioned heretofore. I was directed to ask them where the Indians were, but could get no answer but "wake kumtux" (don't know). The girls could speak jargon and could understand English. Capt. Barnes undertook to put them through the third degree, but could get no information from them.
Col. Martin had with him a sword--the property of Gen. Joseph Lane, one that had been surrendered to him by the Mexican general Santa Anna in the Mexican War. This I remember was a beautiful sword, gold hilt, scabbard elaborately engraved--finally Capt. Barnes pretended to become enraged, seized the little squaw, Nellie, thrust her into the corner of the room, drew the historical sword, assumed his fiercest look (he was a large bewhiskered man), enough to strike terror to the heart of the little savage, and addressed her in jargon, "Kah mika konaway tillicum" (Where are your men folks).
Drawing the sword and rushing at the girl as though to thrust it through her he said "Alta mika wawa pe mika mamook memaloose mika" (Now talk or I will kill you).
The little squaw, isolated in a room with a half dozen of what to them must have looked like fierce white men, with the point of the sword at her breast, did not show fear by the batting of an eye or a quiver of the lips. The well-staged attempt to frighten these girls to tell of the whereabouts of the warriors was an utter failure.
I have related the above story partly to show the stoical character of the Indians. They can be demoralized by a surprise attack, but as a prisoner they cannot be intimidated to confess anything.
The band of old men, squaws and children were finally placed on the Grand Ronde Reservation in Yamhill County.
Stories came back to us that Nellie was the belle of the reservation and her beauty was talked of all over Oregon. My readers will pardon me for relating a true incident that occurred while these Indians were held near Dillard and Roseburg. A bachelor, Mr. McL., became infatuated with the little squaw Nellie and begged with tears to be allowed to adopt or keep her and have her educated, to which Col. Martin turned a deaf ear. McL. made no secret in expressing his grief and genuine attachment for the little squaw, although ridiculed by his associates.
After the battle of "Hungry Hill" Capt. Gordon's company of Douglas County volunteers was stationed near the falls of Cow Creek, and the settlers gradually gained confidence that they would not be molested by the Indians and began to move freely about the valley to look after homes and stock, but most of them remained forted up at our home or at the Flint (Didtel) place.----
Tracks of Indians had been discovered--evidently of squaws who had come in at night to get wheat and food that they had cached before leaving.
At one time some Indians appeared near the home of ------ Russell, who with two sons, Joseph and Cyrus, were at their cabin on Shoestring, on the Blundell place. When the Hussells discovered the Indians they left their cabin and ran for it. The Indians fired their guns and set up a yelling, as they said afterward, to see them run. The elder Russell was a man about seventy years old and very corpulent and was unable to run at any great speed, and it was quite evident the Indians had no desire to injure them. They did not molest the house. The Russells had to run about two miles to safety. The Indians could have easily overtaken the old man, but made no attempt to do so.
Sometime in December a band of Indians composed of Cow Creeks and Rogue Rivers made an attack upon the Rice family near Dillard that was followed by a battle (fight) on the Olalla near the Wells place. Of this Indian raid Victor's history gives the meager account. After narrating the disposition of the volunteer forces, it says:
"But the companies were not permitted to remain in quarters. During the absence of the volunteers early in December some roving bands of Indians were devastating the settlements on the west side of the South Umpqua, destroying fifteen houses whose inmates had been compelled to refuge in the forts.."
Here is a sample of what will pass on down to future generations as history. Not a word of the attack upon the Rices and severe wounding of Harrison Rice, and the battle of Olalla in which Chief Tom was killed. But Mrs. Victor says "destroying fifteen houses," and as a matter of fact no houses were destroyed. At no time did it appear to be the policy of the Cow Creek Indians to burn houses.
The true story of this Olalla raid is as follows:
A man named "Yell," who had some cattle grazing in the Boomer Hill district, went out one day alone to look after his stock, going over the mountain by way of "section four," following the trail around by what was then known as "Pole Corral" (now known as Boomer Hill). On top of the ridge west of the Ledgerwood place, Yell discovered a band of Indians in a grove of small oak trees about three hundred yards away. The discovery was mutual. Yell turned to right and dashed across a steep gulch, while the Indians rushed to head him off. Yell, thanks to his sure-footed horse, reached the top of the ridge leading to the valley ahead of the Indians, who were firing at long range. Yell, urging his horse down a rocky ridge, his saddle slipped onto his horse's withers. No time to stop to adjust his saddle, he got behind the saddle and losing no time he rode to the stockade (Didtel place) a very much demoralized man. It appeared there were none of Capt. Gordon's company available to go in pursuit, so I. B. Nichols immediately organized about eight men to join in the pursuit and was on the Indians' trail next forenoon. In the meantime the Indians had passed over the mountains and camped on Rice Creek within one-half mile of the Rice family residence, on the following morning discovering smoke evidently from the Indians' campfire. The Rice family consisted of Harrison Rice and wife (who was a sister of our townsman, O. L. Willis), one son and five daughters. The oldest was about sixteen years and the son, Sylvester, two years younger, and a brother of the head of the family, Austin Rice. There was also an Indian boy with them about sixteen years old.
On seeing the smoke the Rices were apprehensive of Indians and started the boy, Sylvester, to inform some bachelor neighbors, Robert Phipps, and others residing across the Umpqua River above Dillard. At the same time Austin Rice went to higher ground to get a better view of the smoke. He was fired upon by the Indians, receiving a rifle bullet in his arm, shattering the bone. At the same time the Indians were firing at the boy who was running, the bullets whizzing all around him. After he had gotten well away, he dropped to the ground and removed his shoes that he might run the faster. Austin Rice managed to get into the house, which was a small weatherboarded affair situated near the bank of a creek with lower ground between and the main bank about fifty feet with timber down to the creek on the opposite side from the house.
The Indians soon surrounded the house, firing into it from all sides. Father Rice, aided by the Indian boy, returned the fire and managed to keep the Indians from approaching the house. Several times Indians with torches would rush from the creek side of the house, but would be met with gunfire that sent them back. The Indians had fired the barn, carpenter shop and all outbuildings, and the house was riddled with bullets. That none of the family was hit was on account of the forethought of the Indian boy. All the children were made to lie down and bedding was placed between them and the walls.
After the first fusillade the Indians slackened their firing but remained around the house for several hours, firing occasional shots and attempting to fire the house. Before noon the Indians disappeared. No doubt their lookouts discovered the approach of the Nichols party, who on reaching the Willis farm were informed of the attack.
The Rice family always expressed a deep sense of gratitude to the Indian boy, believing that his help saved their lives. What was remarkable about this boy was that only few weeks before his whole family tribe had been cruelly murdered by a surprise attack of a band of white men. The boy's family was of the Umpqua or Olalla tribe, had no connection with the hostiles, and did not speak the same language. They had assembled near the home of Mr. Arrington and had put themselves under his protection, and their slaughter was bitterly denounced by everyone in the vicinity. The boy was one of the four that had escaped the massacre and, remembering that the Indians had been kindly treated by the Rices, went to them for protection. I have given this particular account of the attack upon the Rice family on account of my connection with them. Anna M., the second daughter, was my first wife, and the third daughter, Alice C., was the wife of my brother Abner, therefore the circumstances are very vivid in my memory
Since writing my last article I have consulted Mr. O. L. Willis, who has given me some additional facts with reference to the attack upon the Rice family. It appears that the boy, Sylvester Rice, who went for help, on arriving at the Umpqua River about one and a half miles from their home, found the canoe was on the opposite side of the river and failing to secure help from that quarter, turned and ran to the home of his grandfather Willis. The Rice and Willis homes were both situated in narrow valleys with a high steep ridge between and about one mile apart on a direct line, but over three miles around by wagon road. After the Willis family had made their preparations for defense one of the sons, Albert Willis, went on horseback to see what the result of the attack had been. Coming in sight of the Rice home from an open hillside he was warned by the Rices to go back, that some of the Indians might still be lurking in the vicinity. Young Willis in returning home by the wagon road was fired upon by the Indians, but rode through a hail of bullets without a scratch.----
Reports of the attack upon the Rices soon reached Roseburg and caused some excitement. The settlers in the Brockway and Olalla districts deserted their homes and concentrated for mutual protection. The sheriff of the county, "Pat" Day, hastily organized a few men and went to the rescue. At Olalla they were joined with the Nichols party and late at night the Indians were located, encamped on the west bank of Olalla Creek.
They had swung around from the Rice-Willis settlement, following about the same route that the road now runs from Dillard to Camas Valley. Finding all houses deserted they had helped themselves to their contents and had secured a lot of horses on which to pack their loot. They evidently did not expect to meet with opposition. Their raid seemed to be for the purpose of foraging more than to kill or destroy. They had chosen a place for their camp between a large fallen tree and the creek, the log being parallel with and about fifty feet from the creek.
Sheriff Day assumed command of the minute men, about twenty in all, and in the vicinity were about the same number of volunteer members of Captain Buoy's company.
During the night a consultation was had and a plan of attack was agreed upon. Capt. Buoy's men were to cross the creek on a footlog and take a position on the opposite side of the creek from the Indian camp and await the attack by the sheriff's men. The plan was a good one, and if it had been carried out to the letter they would have had the Indians between two fires.
Day's men took their position on the hillside in a fringe of young oaks, about two hundred yards from the Indians with open grounds between, where they lay for an hour or more awaiting the coming of daylight to make their surprise attack.
The Indians seemed to be having a jolly time--had big fires and were baking bread by wholesale--their laughter reaching the waiting men on the hillside.
Before it was fairly daylight some of the horses the Indians had rounded up came up near the men. A couple of Indians came up after the horses, one of them coming near Sheriff Day, who became excited on thinking that they would be discovered [and] fired, missing the Indian and spoiling all their plans.
I. B. Nichols, sizing up the situation, called on the men to come on and charge, which the men hesitatingly did. "Nick's" voice was recognized by the Indians and they shouted back "G-- d--- I. B. Nichols." The white men charged down the slope, reserving their fire until they reached the log. The Indians had fired upon the charging whites without reserve, which gave the white men the advantage when the fighting was over the top of the log. One man, Fred Castleman, was wounded in the stomach while running in a stooping position, making an ugly wound, but not penetrating far under the skin.
The Indians fell back to the creek bank, but made several desperate charges to gain the log. The whites did not dare to show their heads above the log, and most of their firing was at random.
There were two boys about my age with the whites, Eugene Flint and. Benton Kent. These boys persisted in exposing themselves in order to get a shot at the warriors, but they were pulled down by older men.
This battle continued for over thirty minutes. But where were Capt. Buoy's men? They should have been on the opposite bank of the creek, firing into the Indians' backs, but not a rifle cracked from that direction. Finally the Indians gave way, wading the creek, which was at flood and came up to their armpits. One white man had reached the opposite bank of the creek just as the Indians made their dash across, but said there were too many Indians for him to tackle alone, so he flattened himself out in the brush while they passed on every side of him.
Capt. Buoy's men did not arrive until the Indians had all made their escape except one, Chief Tom, who was found dead in the edge of the creek, and no doubt there were several wounded Indians.
During the summer following, I found rags tied on bushes where trails parted that we believed to be to inform stragglers what direction to take. This would be for wounded Rogue River Indians not familiar with the country.
The hasty firing of Sheriff Day before it was light enough to shoot accurately, and the failure of Capt. Buoy's men to reach the designated point in time, saved the Indians from almost total annihilation.
During the day of the Olalla battle the Indians fired upon "Burb" and "Doc" Brockway at their cabin on Thompson Creek, but did not persist in the attack. They were making their way to their main camp in the big bend of Cow Creek, where they were discovered a few months later.
Among the efficient organizations of 1855-6 was Capt. James Burns' infantry company.----
This was a small company. Capt. Burns was employed scouting through the mountains, usually with four or five men. Their business was to locate the Indian camps that were hidden away in the mountains.
About six weeks after the battle of Olalla Capt. Burns, with three or four men, located the Indian camp at a point now known as "Camp B" in Cow Creek Canyon. At that time Cow Creek Canyon was almost an unexplored country, yet there was a well-defined Indian trail from Cow Creek Valley over the mountain to Middle Creek and over another to the Indian camp.
When Capt. Burns discovered the Indians early in the morning, a dense fog covered the canyon. He was so close to them that he could hear their voices and smell the smoke from their fires.
When Capt. Burns made his report Col. Martin immediately assembled all the available forces at Glenbrook--in all about four hundred men, composed of Capt. Gordon's, Capt. W. W. Chapman's, Capt. Jos. Barley's and some detachments of other companies. Something over three weeks was spent in assembling this small army, and much of this time was spent in drilling the men, which was, to say the least, highly absurd. With his own old "nose"-loading gun and the manual of arms [drilling] was no benefit to him.
During the assembling of this army our family moved back from Roseburg to our home, my father remaining in Roseburg to conduct his blacksmith business.
I would say here that a stockade had been placed on two sides of our log house, the stockade projecting past a corner on each side so as to have a clear view on every side, and holes were made between the logs upstairs, from which to fire our rifles.
From the preparations made by Col. Martin he must have thought that he was going out to attack the whole hostile tribes, and their numbers were always greatly exaggerated. The Indians at the camp at Camp B at that time might have numbered forty, judging from the number of huts left by them. (I spent the summer of 1857 at the same place and used some of the material from their camp to prepare me a camp or store house in supplying Chinese miners.)
When Col. Martin's preparations were finally made his army was marched over the mountains to Middle Creek, the first day about eight miles, and on the next day they marched over the mountains from Middle Creek to the Indian camp. They found the camp, but no Indians. With all the preparations and noise of two days' march, the Indians were fully advised of their approach and simply faded away into the many timbered rocky gulches of the mountains.
Col. Martin had marched his army down the mountain to the deserted Indian camp and there was nothing left to be done but to march his army back up the mountain the way he had come. But the volunteers were not to get out of the mountains without casualties.
About one mile from the Indian encampment there is a beautiful little prairie of a few acres, almost level land on the side of the mountain and with convenient water. Capt. Bailey obtained permission to encamp there during the night and pitched his camp under some pine trees, the ground dropping off into a steep timbered gulch immediately from the camp.
Capt. Bailey took no precautions but allowed his men to build up bonfires, around which they were engaged in wrestling and having a good time. The Indians approached the camp from the timbered side of the bluff [and] fired into the crowd of men assembled around the fire. John L. Gardner was instantly killed and Thomas S. Gage mortally wounded, expiring the day following.
I well remember the return of the expedition. The two dead boys were carried upon litters and were left at our house. Gardner was interred in our cemetery. His was the third grave made there and is now unmarked. Young Gage's body was taken to Brockway for interment. His father was the first owner of the land on which the town of Brockway is now situated.
During the evening after the return several of the officers were stopping at our house, and discussing the events; some of them suggested that it was too dangerous for families to remain where we were. Some of the officers were engaged in political discussions. My mother lost patience and addressed them about as follows: "You gentlemen seem to forget that those two boys back there are lying dead through your incompetence, and as to leaving my home again, all I ask of you is to leave my boys with me and we will take care of ourselves."
A few days after the above occurrences Capt. Gordon's company were discharged and a new company was organized with Edward Sheffield as captain, in which my brother, William H. Jr. and myself were enrolled.
The events narrated above have no mention in either of the histories that I have--Victor's and Walling's--although the entire Northern Battalions were engaged for nearly one month. If they could only have exchanged a few shots with Indians "Victor's" history could have described a great battle in which several hundred Indians were engaged and uncounted savages killed etc.
After the return of the expedition to the big bend of Cow Creek the volunteers were mostly sent to the meadows on Rogue River. About twenty of Capt. Sheffield's men were assigned to Cow Creek Valley under command of Lieut. S. S. Bunton. With this detachment were my brother William and myself.----
Lieut. Bunton pitched his camp about two hundred yards northeast of the present residence of Mr. A. L. Aikins. Two very large oak trees were felled and the limbs cut and arranged to enclose the camp. This camp is mentioned in the history of the Indian Wars of Oregon as Fort Sheffield.
My brother William and I were detailed to stay at home for the protection of the family and were allowed to assist in planting crops, but this arrangement did not last long.
Indians were reported to be in .the vicinity of Olalla. Lieut. Bunton immediately called his scattered army of twenty men to assemble at Fort Sheffield and made his detail for the expedition. From this detail, much to my disgust, I was omitted. We were not informed who would be left at camp until a few minutes before the start, then I was informed that I would be left behind because I had left my horse at the farm.
When the party left camp I resolved that I would not be left behind, so I ran to the farm, about two miles, and on arriving home I found that the horse I expected to get was in use by someone and away from home, so, knowing the trail the party would take, I started to overtake them on foot, and knowing the most direct route, I ran up through Hannum Gulch over Jerry Flat and on to the east end of Nickel Mountain.
I overtook the party just as they approached the top of the mountain. When I came in sight I was completely exhausted. When my brother saw me he came back and allowed me to ride his horse to the top of the mountain where Lieut. Bunton had halted, and on my coming up he proceeded to "bawl" me out, which I refused to do [sic]. The men pleaded for me and Bunton finally yielded and the men throughout the trip gave me rides on their horses.
I was then sixteen years old, very tall for my age, and as a mountaineer I felt myself the equal of anyone in the volunteer service.
Our first camp was made on the ranch of John Byron on the south fork of Olalla Creek. Here we found the Indian signs which consisted of some squaw tracks where they had been digging some potatoes that had been left.
Our camp was under an open shed. That is, there was a roof, but no side walls. In this shed a large fire was built, while I was placed on guard about one hundred yards from camp. It was raining and half snowing. I was thinly clad without an overcoat and I envied the boys around the fire. The horses were grazing between me and the fire and the night was very dark. The horses were grazing near the creek bank some distance from where I was stationed, when all at once there was a snort and a stampede. The men around the fire went out from the circle of light and threw themselves on the ground thinking there were Indians, and calling to me to know what caused the stampede. I had not seen anything, but thought it might be Indians. At any rate there was no more fire that night. I was left on guard for several hours, Bunton saying that he would teach me to obey orders.
This Lieut. Bunton was an illiterate man, incompetent as an officer, a big bluffer, and there was little discipline in his detachment.
On the following day we went over some mountains to a point south of Camas Valley. We found no Indians, but the hunting was excellent. Elk and deer were plentiful. Here we camped several days, killing plenty of deer, but no elk, and if there were any Indians in the vicinity they were kind enough to not molest us, and if it had not rained so continuously we would, as the saying goes, "have had a very pleasant trip."
On this trip my shoes entirely gave out and I made me moccasins out of fresh deer skins, hair side in. I knew how to make moccasins and they did fine, except in walking on hillsides in the wet grass the bottoms would turn to the top etc.
The expedition returned to Fort Sheffield without casualties, for which I have always thought we were indebted to an old mule smelling the Indians as they were sneaking up to fire into the men that were sitting around that big fire. At any rate I will always think the old mule. "Lizzie" had more sense than Lieut. Sam Bunton. (I was not fond of Sam Bunton.)
During the month of May, 1856, the hostile Indians had concentrated in the mountains on lower Rogue River, and after several days of fighting with two companies of regular soldiers, in which the Indians were getting the best of it, several companies of volunteers coming to the relief of the beleaguered regulars, the Indians finally agreed to surrender.
At one of the preliminary meetings, before the arrival of the volunteer forces, Chief John is reported to have addressed the regular officers as follows:
"You are a great chief," said John to Colonel Buchanan. "So am I. This is my country. I was in it when those large trees were very small--not higher than my head. My heart is sick with fighting, but I want to live in my country. If the white people are willing, I will go back to Deer Creek (Josephine County) and live among them as I used to do. They can visit my camp and I will visit theirs but I will not lay down my arms and go with you on the Reserve. I will fight. Goodbye."
Whereupon he took his departure unrestrained, as had been agreed upon.
A few days afterward messengers (squaws) came in saying the Indians would surrender, which they did, stacking their rifles against a rock, Chief John being the last one. Thus ended the Rogue River Wars of 1855-56. The result was that all the Indians of Southern Oregon were removed to the Siletz Reservation, including the remnant of our Cow Creek Indians. This was a great relief to the white settlers. There was always a feeling of insecurity and a fear that the Indians would avenge their great wrongs. Fair-minded people must admit that they were made the victims. I have always thought that if the Cow Creek Indians had been awarded fair treatment some of them would have made useful citizens. They went into the war with conviction that the Indian race was doomed to extinction. They expressed no animosity against the whites that they had lived in peace with for five years, but claimed that they would be murdered by "mesahche" (bad) white men from the south. They preferred to die fighting and so far as I was able to ascertain, all adult males of the Cow Creek tribe perished during the war.
During the Civil War I was a soldier, a member of Co. C, First Oregon Cavalry. During the summer of 1861 our company in passing through the Willamette Valley encamped on Mary's River, near Corvallis. There was a camp of Indians nearby, and some boys came to our camp. I soon discovered that they spoke the language of the Cow Creeks. When I addressed them in their native tongue they expressed surprise: "Kan-ta nan-ka quita-gin-a-gut?"
(Who are you, where come from?)
I told them I was "Jode" from Miwaleta. They said they were too young when they had left their old home to remember me, but that they knew about Miwaleta. They darted away to their camp and soon returned with some squaws that I at once recognized as being of our Cow Creek Indians.
One of them fell on her knees in front of me, crying. This one proved to be the widow of Chief Tom who was killed in the Olalla battle, and one of the boys was Tom's son who was about three years old when they went into the war five years before, and we had named him "Shiner."
These squaws begged to be taken back to Mi-wa-le-tah. I was in cavalry uniform and they seemed to think I was a "tyee" (officer) and could have them returned to their old home. They were human and were homesick.
I questioned them about the Indian men. Their answer would be "Memaloose, konaway memaloose." (Dead, all dead).
That was the last I saw of the Cow Creek Indians.
There were so many small bands of Indians placed on the Siletz reservation that in the sixty-four years of their residence there they have lost knowledge of their former tribal relations.
This concludes my story of the early days. I have told the story without exaggeration, and in the same manner that I would if I were conversing with my neighbors around the fireside. If my story has impressed upon the minds of my readers the conditions and problems met by the pioneer settlers of this country, then I will be repaid for my efforts. In two months more I will be eighty-one years old. Sixty-nine of those years I have resided in this small valley. During that time I have witnessed the development of Southern Oregon and this great state of ours, and in some measure had a part. It has been my privilege to see this country in its primitive beauty, before the hand of the white man had made his mark, but that is a part of the story. In the beginning of these sketches I had no thought that they would be published in pamphlet form. They were written for our local paper. Afterwards the publisher asked the privilege of publishing my writings in pamphlet form. They have all been written hastily, without any revision whatever, the publisher using the same type that was used in his newspaper, and my pencil copy was not always legible.
"Alta nika kopet an-kutty papeh wawa."
(Now I quit writing of long ago.)
George W. Riddle, History of Early Days in Oregon, Riddle Enterprise, 1920. Part of this narrative is an address Riddle gave before the Douglas County Historical Society January 22, 1912, printed in the Roseburg Review of March 1, 1912, page 2.
FOUNDER OF RIDDLE CROSSES DIVIDEJ. B. Riddle, Southern Oregon's first landlord of the Nash Hotel in this city, and founder of the town of Riddle, whose family home has been a household word in Southern Oregon for half a century, died at his home at Riddle Saturday night, aged 70 years. Among the old pioneers of this section, he was well known. Two sisters, Mrs. A. Merriman, mother of George Merriman of this city, and Mrs. R. B. Beall, living near Central Point, are sisters. He is an uncle of Mrs. Charles Strang.
It was in the early '80s that Mr. Riddle managed the Nash Hotel. He was prominent with two brothers in the political affairs of the state. At the time of his death he owned large business interests at Riddle and was a member of the Elks, Masons, Pythians and other fraternal organizations.
Mr. Riddle was born in Sangamon County, Illinois, November 9, 1844. He crossed the plains with his parents in 1851 with ox teams, locating in Cow Creek Valley, the first white family to settle in that section. At the age of 19 he became owner of a farm on which the town of Riddle was afterward platted. When the railroad was being constructed Riddle followed the construction camps, conducting small eating houses along the way, among them the Nash Hotel at Medford, which he conducted for three years. He then returned to Riddle, built the first hotel there and operated it for twenty-five years.
Mr. Riddle's business career was active and varied. He founded the Riddle State Bank and was its first president. He erected many of the best buildings in Riddle. He was twice married, his first wife being drowned in the Umpqua with her child in 1865. Two years later he married Miss Mary F. Catching, the first white child born in this section of Oregon.
Five children survive Mr. Riddle--Jennie, wife of D. W. Crosby of Riddle; Millie, wife of Charles Stauffer of Riddle; Frances, now Mrs. Geo. Frater of Riddle; Ira B., court reporter at Roseburg, and Edward of Riddle.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 12, 1914, page 2
OBSERVATIONS AN IMPRESSIONS OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
(Interesting incidents in the career of the newly appointed head of the soldiers' home at Roseburg are here related by Mr.. Lockley. The narrative embraces the long trek of a large family from the Middle West to Oregon in 1851, and reviews the Rogue River Indian War of the middle '50s.)
----George W. Riddle of Riddle, in Douglas County, newly appointed commandant of the soldiers' home at Roseburg, will take charge November 1. Judge Riddle saw service in the Rogue River War and also in the First Oregon Cavalry during the Civil War. He was born on a farm on the Sangamon River, 10 miles from Springfield, Ill., December 14, 1839. His father, William H. Riddle, was a native of Kentucky, and divided his time between his farm and working at the forge. In 1843 a neighbor, Isaac Constant, crossed the plains to Oregon. In 1850, with a saddle horse and a pack horse, he returned to dispose of his farm on the Sangamon bottom. His stories of the fertility and beauty of the Willamette Valley fired the imaginations of his neighbors, many of whom determined to go to the land of promise beyond the Rockies.
* * *Selling their farm that winter and securing oxen and other equipment, the Riddle family started in April, 1851, for Oregon. The party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Riddle, their eldest daughter, a widow, Artenicia Chapman, with her baby son John; Isabella, who was 16; William H., 13; George, 11; Abner, 9; John B., 7; Anna, 4, and Stilley, the baby, who was 2. Lucinda McGill, Mrs. Riddle's half-sister, and Anna Hall, an 11-year-old cousin of the Riddle children, also came with them. Three young men, Newt and George Bramson and Jack Middleton, came along to help drive the wagons for their board. The Riddles started with three wagons drawn by oxen and a large omnibus drawn by four horses, and in addition they brought along 40 head of loose cattle. Stephen Hussey and his family, Sam Yokum and family and "Sandy" Yokum, all neighbors, were also of the party.
* * *Driving to Kanesville, now called Council Bluffs, they waited to be joined by other emigrants so as to form a large party for protection from the Indians. The first night out a party of white men dressed as Indians stole some of the cattle. A day or two later a party of Indians tried to make them pay for using an Indian bridge of poles and willows across a stream. The Indian chief presented a testimonial of character to impress them with his importance, which read: "The bearer claims to be an Omaha chief. He is a rascal and a bluffer. Don't give him anything. Go ahead." The party waved the chief and his followers out of the way and went ahead, the chief wondering meanwhile what was wrong--with his "big medicine writing," which was supposed to impress the white men with his importance.
* * *Stampeding buffalo, high water, violent rainstorms, muddy roads, mosquitoes, buffalo gnats, bad water, stampeding ox teams, dry camps and other annoyances kept the trip from being one of unalloyed pleasure, though pleasures there were, and experiences that made lifelong friendships. they reached Independence Rock, the halfway point of their journey across the plains, on July 4. At Soda Springs, on Bear River, the Husseys, Yokums and Bransoms kept to the northern trail by way of the Snake and Columbia rivers, while the Riddles, with Cornelius Hill, took the southern route, by way of Winnemucca, the Humboldt River and across the "desert" to Surprise Valley, Goose Lake, and from where the city of Klamath Falls now is across the mountains by the Green Spring Mountain road to where the city of Ashland was later located. They passed through the Rogue River Valley shortly before gold was discovered on Rich [Gulch], near where the town of Jacksonville now stands. They arrived at Canyonville September 30. At that time it had but one house, the home of Joseph Knott, who had taken up the site of Canyonville that summer. He sold his claim the next year, moving to what is now Sutherlin. Not long thereafter he moved to Portland and started Knott's steam ferry, across the Willamette. The Riddles took up a claim on Cow Creek, known as the Glenbrook farm, the first donation land claim to be taken in the Cow Creek Valley.
* * *During the winter of 1854-55 George Riddle attended Wilbur Academy, at Wilbur. The academy building was the first frame house built in Southern Oregon. Young Riddle while attending the academy worked for his board at the home of a man named Clinkenbeard. Sarah Tibbits, a sister of Mrs. Binger Hermann, was also working for her board in this family, doing the cooking, while George did the chores. In the summer of 1854 the senior Riddle moved to Roseburg to start a blacksmith shop and to make plows. He became a partner of John D. Bowen, and soon they had six men at work.
* * *In 1855 the whites killed a band of peaceful Indians on [Little] Butte Creek, near Rogue River. This slaughter of defenseless squaws, old men and papooses led to the Rogue River Indian War. Forty white men from Jacksonville were responsible for the murder of these Indians. The white settlers were very indignant, for these Indians were on their own reservation and were inoffensive. The Indians were killed October , 1855. [One day] later the other Indians started on the warpath, and more than 30 white settlers were killed. Young Riddle, then 16, joined Lieutenant Sam Bunton's company. At the close of hostilities the Indians were removed to the Siletz Reservation. During the fighting all adult males of the Cow Creek Indians had been killed.
* * *In 1861 Mr. Riddle became a member of Company C, First Oregon Cavalry, where he did good service. Later he became county judge of Douglas County. Like many of the white men familiar from firsthand knowledge with the facts, he believed that had we treated the Indians fairly there would have been no war between the whites and Indians in 1855-56, but when the aggressions of the whites made war inevitable he shouldered his gun and did his part in bringing it to a successful conclusion.
Oregon Journal, Portland, October 21, 1921, page 10
Only 5 Survive Out of Roseburg Company of 104Roseburg News-Review, July 30, 1925, page 1
That Built Klamath Fort
Judge G. W. Riddle, commandant of the Oregon Soldiers' Home, was stirred to reminiscence today upon reading a Goldendale, Wash. news item of recent date, telling of the meeting there, after a period of nearly 60 years, of James C. Hartley of that city, and William M. Colvig, of Medford, Oregon, two of the surviving members of Company C, 1st Oregon Cavalry. This company was mustered into service in Roseburg during the first year of the Civil War. Though officially designated as a unit of the federal army, its service was confined exclusively to state patrol against possible depredations by Indians, and for that reason its personnel was commonly referred to as "Indian war veterans."
Out of the company's original roster of 104 men, only five are now living. These are, besides Hartley and Colvig, Judge Riddle, his brother, Abner, residing at Riddle, and A. M. Beatty. now a member of the Soldiers' Home. The company was enrolled in a store building owned by the pioneer mercantile firm of Bradbury and Wade and situated where the Douglas National Bank now stands. Its first captain was Remick A. Cowls, original owner of the John L. Arzner farm near Riddle, and who later became clerk of Douglas County.
Judge Riddle recalled that while on special recruiting service it was he who procured Colvig's enlistment. "While other companies of the regiment experienced considerable Indian fighting in the northern and eastern parts of the state, Company C did not encounter any hostile red men," said Judge Riddle today. recounting the career of the unit. "We were assigned to the southeastern part of the state, which was inhabited by the Klamath tribe, estimated at about 1000 in number and considered very prosperous, as prosperity was reckoned in those days. There was no outbreak on their part against the whites during the three-year period that the company was in commission, but we did not idle our time away by any means. We built several buildings that comprised the original Fort Klamath, situated a mile and a half from the site of the present habitation that bears that name. Those buildings were constructed of lumber produced by a portable sawmill, brought from Jacksonville, then the chief town and trading center of Southern Oregon. To transport the sawmill, we built 40 miles of road from Rancheria Prairie, in the Big Butte district, to the site of the fort, routing by way of Pelican Bay. At Rancheria Prairie, the road connected with the existing link extending 20 miles to Jacksonville.
"It took the company two months to build the 40-mile link to the fort," continued Judge Riddle, "but we had plenty of horses and an ample equipment of such road implements as the time afforded. The men also received a modicum of wages from the town of Jacksonville, which, with an eye to business, was not blind to the increased trading possibilities created by a new avenue of travel into the prosperous Klamath region. Not a building is left at this date to mark the old fort, however. I recently visited the site and easily marked the various building spots, but every stick of timber has vanished."
Judge Riddle dwelt for a little time upon Indian tragedies that occurred subsequent to the time his company was mustered out, but the details of these affairs will be reserved for his own pen at later dates.
Last revised January 24, 2021